In the world known as Underland little is known about what lays beyond the Outlands. Some say it's a massive jungle, filled with only the worst kinds of creatures, others believe that the barren desert of the Outlands go on forever and ever. This implying Underland is the only world on thier layer of worlds. Yet there is another group that believe there is another land on the outskirts of their own, with only the hot dusty desert to separate the two kingdoms. It is a land full of fey, or so the legend claims. Goblins inhabit the main city and the castle and the only way to reach the sole city is to complete a treacherous maze. They said that a creature, a faerie or some other humaniod, stood as a cruel, beautiful, and devious king.
Tarrant had never took much stock in that, choosing to believe a happy medium between the two more popular theories. That there was some kind of population out there but certainly that it wasn't completely savage. Still, it was always fun to tell the legend of the world called the Underground, especially to one who had never heard it before. So as they sat by the newly restored windmill, sipping while he chattered on and on, they had no idea how this one story would effect thier lives. Maybe Alice would've been better prepared if she had heard the story before, maybe not. No one will ever know.
She'd been listening to him tell the story, sipping her tea as she watched her husband. Really, she was only half listening, the other half of her mind was remembering and musing about the time they'd spent together. It had been a few of the best years of her life. It'd taken her a whole two months in China to realize she'd made a mistake, and it'd taken another two before she was free of all burdens and able to return to her true home. Where she'd recieved a more than warm welcome by a pair of more than warm arms and several of thier animal friends.
Things with her and Tarrant moved fast after that for they'd seen no reason to slow down. They hadn't needed the time of courtship to know for a fact that it'd work out, and before the first year was up they were married. She'd never been so happy, life was absolutely never boring and tea had soon become her favorite time of the day if only to watch the madness in Tarrant at a bubbly level that only tea with Thackery could bring out (she naturally assumed it had to do with the fact that both were utterly insane). Normally they'd have their usual company and noise, but as this was their third anniversary their friends gave them the day to themselves. And for that she was grateful.
She got up with the intention of seducing her husband, watched him as she sat on his lap, her arms wrapped around his neck and she nuzzled his cheek. His breath caught, the story he'd been telling died in his throat. He'd just gotten to the part about wishing people away, but now it seemed he would no longer be able to finish it. When she nipped at his ear he bit back the groan that threatened to escape. "Ya know, lass, interruptin' a story ain't the best way ta get what ya want."
"Then you must not know what I want." She straddled his lap, watched his eyes darken to a shade of green he reserved just for her, it was a rather lusty color and sent anticipating shivers down her spine. Her fingers started unbuttoning his shirt, one small button at a time. By time she was done, she didn't want any sanity left in him.
"Really?" His accent got even thicker. "And what is i' a bonnie lass could be af'r tha' 'as 'er so riled?"
"Hatter." She whispered his name in ear, grinned when his breath caught. She still called him that when they were being intimate (whether in the bedroom or just during conversation) or when she spoke of him fondly, though she'd known his real name for a long time. So did everyone else in Underland And she loved his real name. Tarrant sounded so respectable but fascinating, strange and exhilarating, everything she thought he was. But she called him Hatter with the rest of the population, so he probably didn't realize that the real reason she still called him Hatter was that she'd fallen in love with him whilst riding his hat. That was an adventure she'd never forget, not that she'd try..
But she did want him to finish, or he'd find it in his mind to pout about it later, and she'd hear about it around two o'clock in the morning when he remembered and she was trying to sleep. So she straightened, patted his chest. "I really would not mind hearing the rest of your story and I promise to be on my best behavior until you are done, then I can not promise much. What were the words that they say to wish people away?"
"I think, and I could be very wrong." He wasn't in his best judgment, thanks to his special Alice, or else he'd have distracted her from the question. But he thought about it for a second or two, his eyes slowly returned to their brilliant green. He smiled when she rested her head in the crook of his neck while she waited. Eventually, he spoke. "That it's something like 'Goblin King, Goblin King, wherever you may be, take this child of mine far away from me.' Or something like that."
"No, no, no, of course not." Another voice sprang into the conversation. Alice rolled her eyes with a smile as he continued onward. It would be fitting that the only person to interrupt them all day would be him. "Those aren't the words at all."
Chess appeared at Alice's side. "Don't you just look cozy." She blushed, ducked her head against her husband's warm shoulder, and Tarrant glared at him. He floated in circles around Tarrant, playing mischief was his favorite past time. And he had a lot of fun planned for these two, they were just getting a little too comfortable in the life they were living for their own good. "You know the words, don't you, Tarrant. I'd hate for you, our esteemed hero, to have forgotten the words to one of the most important legends in our world."
"Of course I do." He straightened, forgetting about Alice and almost knocking her out of her lap. He grabbed her waist, held tightly as she laughed against his shoulder. He loved her laugh."So sorry, luv."
"So why don't you tell us, dear Hatter, what are the words? Better yet..." He floated directly behind Alice. "Instead of telling both of us, why don't you just tell Alice. After all, she is the one who asked the question."
This was the last bit of encouragement he needed, to stare into her eagerly waiting eyes. He couldn't lie to her, not ever. And he had to believe that it wasn't real. It wasn't real, it wasn't real, it wasn't real, he repeated to himself before he continued. Later he'd scold himself and make it clear that if he worried about doing something then it was best not to do it."The words are..." He didn't notice the cat disappear, he'd already lost himself in Alice's eyes. "I wish the Goblin King would come and take you away..." He only barely payed attention to the dangerously dark clouds that were pulling together directly over them. Just long enough to think that it was going to storm and ruin thier tea. "...right now."
It all happened so fast. Lightning struck the table, causing Alice to fall out of his lap rather suddenly. Before he could react a white barn owl swooped over his head, dangerously close to Tarrant's hat. He leaped out of his suddenly rather empty chair and pulled Alice under one of the larger tables. She was shaking like a leaf, but she couldn't bring herself to feel fear, just shock from the lightning. He covered her with his body, did his best to comfort her, mistaking her shivers for that fear, as his eyes turned a shade Alice had never seen before. This was because she'd never once seen him afraid. Sad, brave, happy, silly, angry, yes, but never scared. His brogue was whispering words of comfort into her ear, but she couldn't make any of them out.
Suddenly he fell to the ground and there was no more Alice beneath him. For a moment he wasn't sure what to think. When he peeked out of the table cloth, he could see the bottom of her dress and her shoes along with a pair of man's boots. That's when it hit him, the Goblin King was taking his Alice. He'd done this and he'd have to be the one to do something about it. He rose, reached for the sword he kept hidden in the high grass. He swung the huge thing menacingly. "Get your slurvish mitts off my woman."
But then, he wasn't touching Alice, she was just standing there, almost frozen. If she could, she'd have told him it was alright just to see his eyes calm the way they always did, but it felt like some kind of haze over her mind. The Goblin King looked at him with a bored but amused glance. "Forget about her and go back to your tea, she's in good hands now."
"He didn't mean it." At his statement, she broke free of whatever hold he had on her, lurched forward toward Tarrant but stopped when she saw the colors in his eyes switch from almost black to deep orangish red. She couldn't just hide behind him and let him talk to the Goblin King, because that was the last thing that would actually end up happening. She had to talk both men down, she knew, before something happened. She'd never seen the Goblin King in action, but she knew Tarrant. Things would get nasty. "He was telling me a story, I made him say the words."
"You're not from here, are you." Jareth smiled charmingly at the woman, took a step toward her. "If you were, you'd know the legends a little bit better. You'd know that it makes no difference what excuses you give, someone's still got to run my Labyrinth and if they fail I still have to keep my prize."
"Run your Labyrinth? What on earth for?" Alice asked and Tarrant didn't bother to say anything through his haze of red, he hadn't gotten to that part yet.
"You are not mine until won through sport or surrendered, in most cases running through my labyrinth." He looked at Tarrant. "However, it looks like there's nobody to run it for you."
"An Underlander, by law, can not by law step through the gates of the labyrinth." Tarrant told her as if that meant there was absolutely nothing they could do, then had a idea, whether it was mad or brilliant he couldn't tell. But it was an idea none the less. "But we can get a champion, can't we. That is how it works, right?"
"Yes," Jareth sighed, glanced at Alice who was wearing a strange kind of smile now, proud, happy, hopeful, longing, and sad all at the same time. She was definitely going to be one of the odd ones. One of the few he didn't turn into goblins and he kept in different places of the Underground as advisors and companions. Little did he know that it was her confidence in Tarrant and their odd gang of friends that made her grin like such a fool. If he had, he'd certainly of laughed. "You may chose a runner from Aboveground, however it cannot be her."
As his eyes were completely back to that wonderful, though faded and not exuberant, green, Alice knew it was safe to approach him. She kissed his mouth sweetly, placed her hands on his cheeks, and looked at him with a meaning that he translated almost perfectly. This would be the last time she talked to him for a while, hours for her. And while she had all the confidence in the world in the man she loved, Tarrant was always one to not see the good in himself. She wanted him to know she trusted and believed in him before she left. "Go find me a champion, I'll be alright."
"All of Underland will not rest until it's champion has a champion of her own." His whisper was saddened, his eyes were closed, and it brought tears to her eyes. She kissed him again, the last kiss before she'd leave him and go with the Goblin King. He embraced her, tried to capture that passion they'd been feeling just a few minutes ago before she would disappear. Her sigh was enough to bring him hope and a kind of relief. "Fairfarren, Alice." He whispered in her ear as he had done once before. Then it had broken his heart, this time he might lose all of himself if he lost her. He'd no longer be able to keep his madness at bay.
The tears ran down her cheeks. "Don't say goodbye, Tarrant." She didn't want it to be goodbye, it couldn't be a final parting. "You will come for me, I know it. So don't say goodbye, my love."
"Alright." He smiled, wiped the tears away with his thumbs, just so they could be replaced by more. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "No goodbyes then."
"I believe in you, and I will be back before you know it, drinking tea again with our friends." she wanted that picture in his head, because it would be the picture that was in her head.
"I love you, my Alice." He smiled, stepped out of the embrace but took her hands in his. "Do not lose your muchness while you are gone. I so love your muchness."
"I have to go now." She stepped away, wiped at her eyes. "Or I will have to embarrass myself and make a scene."
And she turned to walk away, the long dress she wore was billowing in the breeze as she accepted the hand Jareth offered her.
Tarrant turned away before they disappeared, unwilling to go through that part of again, and headed toward the white castle of Mamorial.
Alice looked back one more time, watched him walk away, his hat straight on his head and an odd spring in his step. It was his way of proving that he would handle this, that he would face whatever came next. "I won't be with you long too long, he'll do what it takes."
Jareth smirked, and the next moment they were standing on the outskirts of the labyrinth. He didn't bother to crush her hopes by telling her it was hopeless, she'd come to that conclusion on her own soon enough. "We'll see."