I don't own Alice in Wonderland or any of its characters. Based on the 2010 Tim Burton film.

Rated M for explicit adult content.

Alice returns to Tarrant only to find him with another woman. Has she been gone too long? Or had Tarrant never loved her?

Too Long Away?

"I'll be back before you know it!" Alice had told Tarrant, just after drinking the Jabberwocky blood.

He had given the slightest shake of his head, his eyes turning grey and his expression stoic.

He leaned forward and whispered into her ear. "Fairfarren, Alice," he said only.

As Alice saw Underland begin to vanish the last thing she saw was Tarrant's gleaming haunted eyes.

"But I am going back!" Alice said to herself as she brushed her hair and gazed at her reflection in her vanity mirror in her bedroom. "And I didn't forget!"

She had been gone for almost two years; but she had succeeded in everything she had set out to do. She and Lord Ascot had fulfilled her late father's dream by expanding the trading company all the way to China.

Now, upon returned home for two months, she had handed control of the company over to Lord Ascot. She had explained to her mother and Margaret that she would continue to travel and would be leaving in the morning.

Alice set down the silver hairbrush and gazed into her own eyes. "Tarrant, I'll be with you soon!"

The next morning Alice woke early. She hurriedly penned a note to her mother and sister and told them she had decided to leave during the night as she was afraid she would waver in her resolve to travel the world. In truth, she was not wavering at all in her chosen destination, but she wanted her family to feel that she was not leaving them out of any desire to escape them.

No, she was only ready and desirous to leave them because of Tarrant Hightopp. She and Tarrant had never exchanged words of love; but she remembered every moment their eyes would meet, or their hands would brush, and especially that lovely night on the balcony when she had, from the corner of her eye, saw him approach her with his top hat under his arm, in the fashion of courtship and admiration.

Well, now she was ready to return to him and never leave him again. Alice picked up her large suitcase and shoulder bag and hoped that the looking glass would take her to him. She hated the thought that perhaps it would not and she would have to take that dreadful fall down the rabbit hole. What if she lost her items? Well, she didn't them need so much as she wanted them. He shoulder bag was filled with gifts of teas and ribbons and exotic laces for Tarrant. And her suitcase held only a few items for herself; the rest held as much fabric as she could fit into them for him. Many were so exotic and different from anything she had ever seen him use that she was certain he would adore them!

Alice stepped before the looking glass and asked it the boon she desired. "Please," she whispered, "take me to Tarrant!"

Alice closed her eyes and stepped forward, tentatively pressing her head forward. She gasped, but managed to keep her eyes closed as she felt the almost ice-cold of the glass ripple over her face, gently pulling at her flesh. She stepped forward, turning her body to allow for her luggage and suddenly she felt herself pitch forward flat onto her face.

Her eyes flew open and she saw a wooden floor beneath her. She allowed her suitcase and bag to slip from her grasp and pushed herself upwards with her palms. She had come through the mirror in Tarrant's Work Room at the Palace!

Pulling her foot carefully from the bottom of the rim she had stumbled over, she hurriedly stood and looked around. Tarrant was nowhere to be seen. However, the room obviously was seeing a great deal of use.

"Tarrant?" she called, "are you here? It's me, Alice!"

No response. Well, perhaps he was at lunch. The windows allowed for copious amounts of sunlight to filter into the room and it was quite bright so lunch was likely. Alice looked around and saw the perfect place to hide her luggage. She did so want to surprise Tarrant when he returned! At the back of the room was a door to her left, which she knew was a sparse bedroom in the event the Hatter would work through most of the night. To her right was a table that was covered with boxes and excess fabrics that draped over the sides. She slid her suitcase and shoulder bag beneath it and pulled some orange fabric down over the front of the table to conceal them.

Just as she was finishing she heard Tarrant's voice from the hallway. Alice rushed to the door and then stopped cold. He wasn't alone!

"Oh, my dear, dear Terry!" she heard a woman say, "why can't we ever go to your house? You've never once had me there!"

Alice couldn't move. The woman's voice implied things that stabbed through her heart like a dagger. Alice wasn't so naive that she could not understand her meaning.

With shock, surprise, and dread filling her, Alice didn't know what else to do but rush into the bedroom. She hurried inside, desperate to find a place to hide. She certainly did not want to be seen by Tarrant and that...other woman!

"I don't have to explain, Alana. Suffice it to say I would rather confine such...activities...to my room here."

Alice looked around frantically. The room held only a few items of furniture, as it was obvious that Tarrant did not spend much time here. But...yes! There was a wardrobe! Knowing what she was about to witness, yet not wanting to be seen by Tarrant, her instincts; terrible advisers as they were at the moment, compelled her to fling open the doors and be relieved that she could fit inside. The top shelf was low down, thank goodness. She had to hurriedly move a few items off of it, place them on the lower shelves, and scurry up, which was not easy. Thankfully the shelf was strong and seemed quite willing to accommodate her slight weight.*

She pulled the doors closed and was not certain whether she was relieved or horrified that there was just enough of a crack allowed by the closed doors to have a clear view of nearly the entire room.

"Very well, Terry, but I do wish you'd change your mind! Perhaps another time?"

"Perhaps," Tarrant replied.

The couple entered the bedroom and Alice gasped softly. Tarrant's head whirled around.

"Did you hear that?"

"Hear what, my randy Hatter?"

Tarrant listened for a few more moments, then shrugged. "Nothing. I just thought I heard something."

Alice swallowed nervously. Tarrant was as handsome as ever! The only change in his appearance was that his hair was longer and smoother. It was combed out and tied in a ponytail in the back. It was really quite a becoming look for him, Alice thought, but then her heart ached again. He was with someone else! And that someone else was very pretty!

The woman he had called Alana was a young woman about Alice's age. But what startled Alice were the similarities in their appearances. Alana had long, wavy blonde hair, as did Alice. She also had blue eyes, as did she, and their heights and weights seemed very close. Their faces were different, of course, but both did have enough of a likeness in their noses and cheeks that they could easily be mistaken for sisters. Of course, Alice lamented, Alana would be the prettier sister.

And she also wore blue! The same blue Alice wore now and that Tarrant had always called 'Alice Blue!'

The only striking difference was that this woman was wearing makeup, which Alice never did. Her mouth was painted pink and her eyelids shaded with blue shadow. Her cheeks were rouged pink and her nails were painted a brighter pink.

And she was...amorous! Even now, as soon as they stopped near the bed the woman was pressing herself against Tarrant's chest and tilting her face up for a kiss. Tarrant embraced the woman and the two kissed.

Alice felt faint with horror, sickness, and grief. He had either moved on from her or he had never loved her to begin with! But despite all this, she couldn't stop looking at them.

Tarrant was facing the wardrobe and Alice saw that his eyes were open as he kissed the woman. They weren't the emerald green she had grown so accustomed to seeing, but a lighter green. Almost a lime or moss green. What did that mean?

For a brief, sickening moment, Alice thought that Tarrant saw her. But apparently he did not, for he stepped back from the woman and smiled.

"We don't have all afternoon, Alana. I have many orders to fill."

"Well," she purred, then fill me first!"

Tarrant began to undress and nodded for Alana to do the same. "I intend to. But you'd best get out of those clothes first."

I hope you enjoyed this first chapter of "Too Long Away?" I decided to try my hand at a bit of angst for Alice and Tarrant. All comments welcome!

Of course, this isn't part of my Alice/Tarrant connected stories. This is completely separate.

*The wardrobe I picture for Alice's hiding place was inspired by an antique one I spotted at -

http : / www . rubylane . com/ item/ 151744 - 162003NM4280 / 18th - Century - French - Antique - Louis

Of course, remove the spaces. This place hates links! I do think our heroine could squeeze herself in there!