Written for the Alice in Wonderland 2010 Holiday Exchange (aiwxchange2010 LJ)

Water Becomes Bone

"What is this about?" Alice asks, as her Hatter—she believes she can safely think of him as such now—spins her about by her shoulders, wrapping her into her scarf as opposed to her scarf about her.

"We had five nights together last night," Hatter explains, giving the scarf a tug, as he tucks the ends into her wool cape.

"Have the seasons changed?" Alice asks, taking the mittens from him that he is holding out with a look of great anticipation. "Is it winter?"

"Yes, quite," he nods, obviously pleased at her quickness—quickness of mind and quickness of dressing. There must be something he is Desperate to show her.

"I thought the benefit of having the nights together was for the warmth." It is illogical to begin with, so there is no real point in arguing the matter, but Alice has a contrary streak. Her Hatter has assured her that the streak is a Blue satin ribbon running up her left leg. Shapely leg, he said. Alice blushes at the memory, pinkening before the cold can get the chance to perform the function for her.

He is pushing her towards the door, having already tossed a scarf over his own shoulder and tugged fingerless gloves onto his hands, when he responds, "Five times as warm."

"Then I don't suppose we'll need all these clothes," she wagers, as her fingers grip the doorknob.

"Don't go around supposing things, Alice," he warns her. "It is five times as cold today. Best to get it over with, you know."

Alice smirks, as she pulls the door open. Her Hatter is very good with riddles without answers. He even knows some with answers too.

"Unless you are merely looking for excuses to remove clothes, which is…Scandalous," he lisps, teasing her.

She thinks he is teasing her.

Her train of thought is interrupted by the crunch of something beneath her feet. Alice looks down.

Snow.

Underland has been blanketed in snow while she slept in her Hatter's bed and he dozed before his hearth. Ten Hatter sized paces away from her bedside. Fourteen Alice sized paces. They had both checked, for Accuracy's sake.

"Snow," he whispers against her ear.

His warm breath puffing against her already cooling skin causes her breath to hitch, bringing memories to the surface. Recent memories. Just last night he had very purposefully set her on the other side of bedroom door. Shut the door. Placed wood between the two of them after a very nice, increasingly improper, impolite, irrepressible kiss had him scrambling against her.

"Tarrant?" she whispered, her palms reaching up to press the door that had closed him off from her.

"Goodnight, Alice."

She should be relieved that her Hatter is a gentleman. Wetting her lips and scanning the whitened horizon, she acknowledges to herself silently that she is not so much relieved as disappointed. The disappointment spills over her, making her blink as his hand skates down her arm until it finds her mittened hand and squeezes.

"It's beautiful."

"Come, come," he says, pulling her from the doorway of his house. His cozy, somewhat ramshackle house. A place where she has begun to imagine herself living, rather than visiting.

"The snow isn't what you were going to show me?" she asks, hurrying after him, happy that she is dressed in trousers and boots, much like her Hatter, and not heavy skirts that would already be getting wet with this snow.

"Oh, no!" he says, tossing her a look over his shoulder, since she is a step behind. He sounds somewhat scandalized. "Think bigger, better, Alice. Think imaginatively."

"There is no guessing," Alice mumbles. Underland is a world of surprises. How is she to guess what her Hatter has in mind? "Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?" she poses, hoping he will rise to the bait of a game.

He does not disappoint. "Mineral. A fearsome mineral!"

Alice laughs. She has finally caught up the step that separated them and playfully bumps his shoulder with her own.

"Truly," he says with great sincerity. "It has the power to smash ships and crush roofs."

"Fearsome indeed," Alice agrees.

With his free hand, Tarrant pulls his hat down a bit further over his brow. "To be fair…" he hedges. "It is also afraid of the sun."

"Hmm…" Alice ponders, but she has very little Time to come up with an answer to what she now realizes is a riddle, because he rushes in, interrupting her thoughts.

"On the way, a miracle,

Water becomes bone."[1]

Alice has now figured the meaning to his riddling, but she cannot souse out why he would want to show her ice. She cannot imagine why this would be bigger or better than snow. The snow is already very pretty, and there are all sorts of interesting things they could be doing with it—snowball fights, snow angels, and castle or snowman building—instead of trudging through it. But she allows herself to be pulled up a hillside, her Hatter taking a hold of her arm as he scurries up and through some frozen brambles. They skid to a halt at the top of the hill as Hatter's field of ice comes into view.

The lake—a lake she was unaware existed until this moment—has frozen over.

He turns to her, all grins and bright green eyes.

"Just think what five nights together can accomplish," she marvels. Yesterday it was fair. She barely needed a shawl, and now there is a vast frozen lake before them. "How did you know?"

"A little bird told me."

Alice is unsure whether this is the Truth or merely a turn of phrase. Either is perfectly Possible in Underland.

She bites her lower lip and ponders the ice just begging to be enjoyed. "If only we had skates."

He tilts his head slightly to the left, indicating inquisitiveness. He matches her in terms of curiosity.

"Ice skates, for skating on the ice," Alice explains, as she now becomes the one pulling along the other, down towards the ice. Alice enjoys skating on ponds a great deal.

"Ice skates," he repeats, as they reach the bottom of the hill and pick their way towards the edge of the white, stone-like water.

"For gliding," Alice states, sticking a boot out over the ice. "Is it safe?" she asks.

"Is it too fearsome for us?" he asks, stepping out onto the ice without so much as a second thought.

"Spare a second thought!" she heartily urges him, holding onto his arm in case she needs to pull him back to land.

"I haven't Time enough for that," he insists, dragging her out onto the ice with him.

Her father always cut a chunk to make sure the ice was thick enough to hold them—herself and Margaret. This is rather an act of Faith.

"We've all the Time in the world," she assures him. She has promised him that she is not going to leave: not tomorrow, not the next day, but there is an urgency about him that leads her to believe that he is not Fully Convinced.

"Are you sure we need skates?" he pants, as he slips unintentionally on the ice and succeeds in gliding several feet further, although to call it gliding is rather generous.

"No," she lies. She would not want him to think anything wanting, anything not quite right. For everything is, here with him. Together.

His grip on her was torn free during the windmilling and slip sliding that has just occurred, so she takes two careful steps out further onto the ice and reaches out to him once more. The leather on the soles of her boots feel inadequate on this slick surface and Alice fears that her bottom will meet with this looking glass like surface before all is said and done.

He giggles, gripping his hat and her thick mittened hand. She can see his tongue through the gap in his teeth. She felt that tongue against hers last night, she remembers. If it is possible, she flushes brighter, her cheeks rosy with the cold and burning from within.

"Further?" he questions, and Alice has a moment of Revelation.

She would follow him anywhere. She would follow him into uncharted waters, frozen or otherwise; she will lose things with him, find others. Yes, there will be a Fall before it is all over. She cannot bring herself to care. What can be so bad about Experience? Why cherish a state of being?

'tis too cold a companion; away with 't![2]

Yes, she will go further with him.

Only, the fall comes sooner than she expected; except that it is not hers, it is his. His heel loses purchase and he reels back. He is already half up, half down, when Alice realizes that his Fall is to be hers as well. They are a pair. He holds tight to her and down they tumble.

He grunts as the seat of his trousers meets the ice. Recovering quickly, his arms are already wrapping around her as she falls face forward into his lap. Alice blinks, swallowing as she takes note that his hat has skidded away from him, having been jarred from his head by the impact. The impact of her meeting him in a most Personal and Private manner.

"Excuse me," she whispers, feeling as if some Apology must be made, for she is still pressed against him, his arms about her waist and the fingers of one of her hands threading into his hair of their own accord. This is a most unusual position to be in!

Suddenly there is a boldness in his gaze, in the way he rakes his eyes over her and Alice braces herself for something, just as she was bracing herself for a fall.

"You're Alice," he says, seemingly awed by that fact. "Here. A right, proper Alice."

Yes, Alice thinks. Not just here in Underland. Here in your lap. She would get up, she promises herself, but his gaze holds her there as much as his hands do. It is a weak promise, for she knows the secret desire of her heart.

"A miracle: Water becomes bone," he states once more.

This time the words are spoken against her mouth, and Alice finds that she prefers them infinitely more that way.

Thank heavens, he is kissing heragain. It feels as if she has been holding her breath ever since he stopped last night. It is the most pleasant relief to feel him pressed against her. From where their thighs meet to his lips against hers, Alice feels alive in a way that one does not normally feel aliveness. His mouth is warm, and Alice thinks there is no need for hot cider with kisses like this to be had. She can not feel the cold of the air or the ice beneath her knees, as he presses his hand into the small of her back and pulls insistently at her lower lip. Not at all.

Her heart hammering in her chest, though—that she can amply feel.

"I am awash in miracles, Alice."

His voice rumbles in his chest. If she could only get closer, it occurs to her, she might have felt it there before it ever left his lips. But there are layers of clothes in the way. Propriety demands it, but Alice parted ways with Propriety some time ago, and she finds herself wishing that she could divest him of some of these garments.

His lips have left hers for too long to murmur these words and stroke her cheek with breathy kisses that feel like silent promises. Full of Greed, Alice uses the leverage of her fingers in his hair to draw him back to her lips, mouthing his name on a puff of white air as she does. Her eager insistence or his name on her lips brings him back to kissing her with renewed vigor.

She shifts in his lap and is rewarded for her rocking motion with a moan, which makes something tighten in her stomach. As his tongue begs entry once more, a shiver runs up her body, warming places she has never had much cause to contemplate. This, this is what she would like to do all day. Unless there are even bigger, better things to do, which Alice suspects there are. Things with her Hatter.

Her fingers work at his neck, trying to part scarf and coat and collar from what she is certain must be warm flesh beneath all these layers. "I want," she whispers against his neck, having worked at least some layers apart.

"Yes?" he responds, his lips brushing the shell of her ear.

She vaguely registers that his hands are shaking against her back. She may be quite content exploring the territory beyond the last signpost for Propriety, spilled atop him on the ice, but he is actually splayed over the ice in what no doubt is a very chilly position. He may be rather uncomfortable if still enthusiastic.

She pulls away to see his face even as he attempts to chase her lips with his own. Preternaturally pale, it is difficult to tell if he is paler with the cold. For that matter, she is unsure whether it was cold that was making him shake. Whatever the cause, she has made up her mind.

"S'cold," she says, sitting back on her heels and offering him her hand. "Let's go home."

"Home?"

With someone else a statement such as hers might have been presumptuous, but Alice knows, she feels, she is certain that Tarrant wants his home to be hers as well. For it to be theirs. He only repeats it to be assured that he has not heard wrong. For her Hatter is full of self doubt. To convince him that no doubt is necessary when it comes to her will be a pleasant task.

"Shall we?" she asks brightly, as she carefully gets her feet under her and he follows suit.

"You would like to go home?"

"Yes, with you, where there are warmer, softer places for us to rest together, hmm?" she says with a saucy smile. She has not had much practice in flirting, but the color flooding Tarrant's cheeks and the green of his eyes seem to indicate that she has hit her mark despite her lack of experience.

He blinks at her, as if she has spoken Greek to him, before straightening his back with resolve. "Home again, home again, jiggety-jig," he says with a nod, bending down to reach for his escaped hat.[3] "Only," he pauses, having set his hat upon his head and taken her hand once more. "Perhaps given the ice and snow, Alice…we might postpone our jigging until the sun has made it quite safe again to frolic."

"I can wait," Alice agrees, holding back with great effort a laugh that would potentially spoil the mood. It is not a jig for which she yearns. The twitch of her Hatter's mouth tells her that despite his carefully lisped words, it is not jigs that crowd his mind either.

She glances over her shoulder, looking out over the frozen expanse. "Will it still be like this tomorrow?"

"There's no telling," he admits. "Hare today, gone tomorrow, you know."

She could feel disappointed about that (not the pun! she hears the pun and appreciates it greatly), but she does not. She puts her mind to bigger and better things. She uses her Imagination to think of all the things that await her, and they are Marvelous.


[1] This riddle is taken from The Exeter Book, also known as the Codex Exoniensis, which is a tenth-century book of Anglo-Saxon poetry. There are over 90 riddles in the codex, which are all written in the style of poetry.

[2] Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, Act I, Scene 1.

The full verse is:

"Virginity by being once lost

may be ten times found; by being ever kept, it is

ever lost: 'tis too cold a companion; away with 't!"

[3] "To Market, To Market" is a nursery rhyme that was first recorded in 1598, and by the 19th century the rhyme had taken shape as:

"To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,

Home again, home again, market is done."