Title: Assuming the Crown

Rating: PG (miss it if you blink, vague allusions to mild adult concepts)

Written in response to LJ's aiw_big_bang clichéd phrase prompt.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction, for which the author receives no compensation.

Assuming the Crown

"Stay the day," Tarrant suggested lightly, as he watched Alice fidget with her hair in the looking glass. All it would take is a step forward and Alice would be gone again through that glass. 'Stay' was the only thing he could think of to prevent the unwanted departure.

Alice sighed, "I would, but we're trading for silk this afternoon. Very costly, very important. At least, I think that's what we're doing. I've lost track."

"I'll help you find it. Where was the last place you saw it?" he asked with a smile. "In a daybook would be most helpful, you know."[1]

She turned to face him, "You're teasing me." She tucked her hair behind her ears. "But, I can't stay: my duties Above have to come first."

"What about your duties Below?" he asked, raising his brows.

She narrowed her eyes at him, "What exactly are you calling a Duty?"

"Queenly duties," he quickly clarified. It would not do to have Alice angry with him. He quite dreaded fights with those he cared for, cherished, loved. Particularly when they meant an end to Pleasant Things.

She blinked several times. "Queenly duties?" she repeated in confusion.

"Well, yes. You did become a queen. We were celebrating your assumption of the crown, when you very abruptly disappeared. Not the first time either, Alice, dear, and not the last. Always popping in and out, aren't you?"[2]

She shook her head, "I only half recall what happened when I was here as a child. You don't mean to say that you think I'm still a queen of Underland, do you?"

"Certainly. Red, White, and Alice. Now more properly: White and Alice," he explained, as he counted first three queens and then two on his fingers, pulling back one of his extended fingers with a pleased grin. Bluddy Behg Hid.

"No, I think that ship has sailed."

Tarrant's brows drew together in confusion. "The sea can be pleasant in its own way, but I very much doubt you will want to spend the whole of your reign sailing on it."

Alice chuckled, "There is no reign to speak of, Tarrant. Champion perhaps…"

"Champion Absolutely," he interrupted. "You've slain, Alice. I was there." Both a joyous and terrifying moment and memory fixed forever in his muddled mind.

"Well, if it is indeed a permanent position…"

"The honor cannot be set aside," he argued, interrupting her once again.

She crossed her arms. "Champion, then, but not Queen. I think Mirana would have thought to mention it if she and I were both Queens of Underland."

"People don't always speak everything that comes into their minds, you know. One shouldn't carelessly say any manner of pointless things that spring to mind. That would be ill-advised."

"The question of being royalty or not does not seem in the least pointless," Alice responded with a smirk.

"True enough, but the Queen—in all her kindness—might not have wanted to embarrass you about your…lapse in memory. You'd think your brain was made of cheese, lass." He took a step towards her and tapped her forehead lightly with a thimbled finger. "Swiss cheese," he qualified.

"I prefer Stilton," she informed him, lifting her chin in defiance.[3]

He tilted his head, contemplating. "A nice Double Gloucester can be quite satisfying."[4] He patted his empty stomach, which could stand for a breaking of the fast after a late, vigorous evening. "Thackery has a lovely recipe you know…"

He cleared his throat, having lost his train of thought for a moment. He wondered if Alice could hear the conductor urging him to get back aboard in the strictest tone. If he delayed, the train would leave without him. Tickets were not refundable.

Alice stood watching him for several beats, no doubt waiting to see if he had anything else to add on the subject of cheese. Finally, she smiled at him, stating, "So, yes, I must return to my real duties, because my duties here Below—if ever there were any—surely have expired after these many years."

"You refuse to take up your crown?" he asked, straightening his shoulders to give the appearance of being affronted. "You intend to reject this inimitable honor?"

Alice's smile faded, as she assumed her Quite Serious Expression. He imagined that she must have often bestowed it on quarrelsome businessmen for it to have acquired this state of near perfection.

"I do, indeed. Consider it abandoned. Only one Queen of Underland from this point forward—Mirana, not me."

He sniffed, "If you change your mind, which you will, you'll have to go back to square one."

Alice spun on her heel, her hair flipping over her shoulder as she tossed a look back at him, "Shows how much You know. Even the first time around I began at the second square."[5]

Tarrant pulled his hat further down on his head as Alice stepped through the looking glass. Alice—the willful blonde—had refused her Underlandian crown without much consideration at all. Despite the quickness of her decision, he knew Alice was rather fond of having her way, and it did not seem as if there would be any changing her mind about the title, despite his words to the contrary.

There was, however, an unclaimed throne that he wished fervently she would assume should he ever have the nerve to offer it to her. That crown hung immaterially before him, waiting for her alone, for it could never belong to anyone else.

[1] Victorian gentlemen in business had daybooks that contained the day's scheduled business dealings. Following completion of business deals, the numbers would be recorded in this book as well, so they could be later transferred into large leather ledger books.

[2] Alice disappears from Wonderland at the conclusion of Through the Looking-Glass, when at the dinner Hatter describes she picks up the Red Queen and gives her a shake until she becomes her kitten. Alice wakes up from a court trial just as cards are attacking her in Adventures in Wonderland. Of course, she drinks the Jabberwocky blood, disappearing from Underland in Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

[3] Stilton is an English blue cheese made in three counties in England, where it has been made since the eighteenth century.

[4] Double Gloucester is a traditional cheddar like cheese made in Gloucestershire, England, since the sixteenth century.

[5] In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice meets with the Red Queen, who assigns her the rank of White Pawn and she begins her journey to becoming a queen on the Second Square.