Staring up at the ceiling, Alice's hand gropingly found Tarrant's in the sheets between then. "Was that all right?" she asked a little breathlessly, as she squeezed his fingers.

He rolled on the pillow and fixed her with a serious look, "You need ask?"

Alice could not help but smile just slightly. "I mean to ask…was I…acceptable?"

"Acceptable," Tarrant repeated flatly.

"Terrible?" Alice inquired quietly.

He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her towards him. Leaning over her he whispered, "I will not have you speak poorly about my Alice."

"Well, I did not know…anything," she explained.

"Now you do," he said, grinning briefly before bestowing a kiss upon the tip of her nose.

"Yes," Alice agreed, feeling a laugh in her belly that wanted to spill forth in uncontained happiness. "I was given very poor advice, you know."

"What was that?" he asked, gently tracing her features with his index finger.

"Suffer and be still," Alice admitted, finally dissolving into laughter.

His eyes grew round.

She bit her lower lip, smiling. "I believe I failed in that."

"Sounds like right rotten advice, Alice."

"Indeed," she conceded. "I can't imagine Mrs. Ellis was all that fond of her husband," she said, reaching up to touch the sparse ginger hair on his chest. "Not as I am of mine."

"Quite fond of the fellow?" he asked, brushing her hair away from her face onto the pillow.

"Dreadfully," Alice responded solemnly.

"Lucky chap," he mused. His hand stilled, "Your husband loves you more than anything, you know, Alice."

She pressed her hand to his heart. "I like the sound of that so much."

"Alice? I am excessively attached to Alice too."

Alice beamed, "No, not my own name. Husband. Or rather, You as My Husband."

"When you use a word, it is best to have it mean just what you choose it to mean—nothing less, nothing more," he agreed.[1]

"I didn't want just any husband," she explained, running her hand along his collarbone. "I'm very particular."

The feel of his fingers shifting through her hair was giving her the chills. The memory of his hands… "Can we try again?" she asked, her voice sounding thick.

"If you find your task is hard,
Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again."[2]

He paused, as his fingers left her hair and lightly caressed the crook of her neck. "Try what exactly?" he inquired.

Sliding her hand down his chest to rest on his hip, she swallowed, saying tentatively, "You and I, like this, again?"

Tarrant tucked his chin, chuffing. "I'm an old man, Alice," he finally said, looking back up at her. "You'll be the death of me."

"Hardly," she said, wrinkling her nose. "I intend on keeping you in the best of shape."

Her words made her blush, and he arched a brow at her in response. Was it very wicked to want him again so soon? Was it wanton to want to be with him, divested of the rest of her underclothes and in more light? She trailed her fingers over his chest, contemplating boldly asking him to remove her chemise and knickers; or doing the unrigging herself.[3]

"You'll be sore," he said, licking his lips with a small frown.

Alice nodded: she was slightly, but she had feared it would be worse.

Her hand slipped from his hip and settled on her middle. "Mirana told me something this morning."

Tarrant blinked, seemingly confused by the change in subject.

"She said…we would have a large family. She said the Hightopps…always did."

His eyes, already a brilliant green, became a dark emerald. He raised a trembling hand to her cheek. "We can have whatever you like, Alice." His lips met hers for the gentlest of kisses, a promise of things to come, a promise of a life before them. "The world is our oyster," he murmured against her lips.

Alice frowned, "Anything but an oyster, Tarrant. I always felt quite sorry for those poor oysters."[4]

He nipped her lower lip and slipped his hand beneath the hem of her chemise. "Oysters are an aphrodisiac," he teased, as he inched the chemise up her torso.

"I don't believe we shall ever lack for…I don't think we shall have need of…" Alice sighed, unable to compose her thoughts due to the distraction of the sensation of his hand against her flesh.

"No, I don't believe we shall."


[1] Alice engages in a similar discussion about semantics with Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass.

[2] The short poem Try (try) again was often quoted in nineteenth-century children's literature. It is popularly attributed to W. E. Hickson, who quoted it in his Moral Songs (1857), but T. H. Palmer's use is earlier. Tarrant quotes from the fifth verse.

[3] unrigged – undressed (Victorian slang)

[4] "The Walrus and the Carpenter" poem appears in Through the Looking Glass, and the pair trick and then eat all the poor little oysters. Alice found them "both to be very unpleasant characters."