Bobbing for Adam's Apples is rather uncomfortable, he thinks as his nervously brushes the cravat round his throat for the twenty-seventh time. Said speckled knot of fabric twitches as if in agreement.
"Hatter, are you well?"
He sighs dreamily. Despite being tinged with a trace of worry, her voice is like a grateful breeze caressing his skin. A balm, soothing to his typically frenetic nerves. His heart leaps at her concern, despite himself.
"Quite," he fibs with a ready smile.
A trembling hand rises to discreetly pat the breast pocket of today's maroon brocade waistcoat. He's been keeping a Secret stuffed in there for weeks, and his inattentiveness has caused it to fidget restlessly. He would rather have simply put his lips in there, but as one needs a pair of lips for all manner of daily activities (speaking, smiling, whistling, you know) he'd decided to put the urge, the Secret, there instead. He supposes he could have put it in his trouser pocket, but these things are best kept near the heart. At any rate, as long as it stays there, away from his lips, he's less likely to be tempted to use them while in a befuddlement. Which, goes without saying, is often.
Across the blanket on the grass, she pours another cup of tea. The chink of porcelain draws his attention, and he stares at her teacup perched upon its saucer before her. How delicately it sits in its little alabaster circle. A teacup's foot meant so purposefully for its shoe-saucer perch; how perfectly they fit. Compliment. Both distinctly different, yet made to benefit the other; the former holds myriad ingredients to form one satisfying whole; the latter holds the former. It catches the occasional spill. Offers unflagging support.
He looks up at her. Alice is like a teacup. Graceful, elegant but practical. Why, she's even as fair. He would wind flowers through her curls to mimic the oft-painted design that graces so many bits of china at his table. His Secret burns away in his pocket, reminding him that like a teacup, his lips could kiss hers.
He would have her fit him like a saucer.
"You're staring again."
Tarrant startles to attention.
"Something is troubling you." she states pointedly, and slides a hand across to his. "I insist you tell me."
His Adam's Apple sours.
"Ah," he squeaks. The cravat at his neck lightly fluffs in a show of support, and he smoothes it with a flutter. "The thing about shoes and feet, Alice," he stammers, looking down to her teacup. "And saucers... they fit a cup so well, don't you think?"
She cocks her head, her eyes crinkle with affection.
"Oh, no," he tries again, brushing his words away with stained hands. "I mean to say, what is a teacup without its saucer?"
Alice follows his gaze and studies the porcelain vessel at her knees. "Lost, I suppose."
A breath of air rushes out from between vivid lips. "Yes, exactly."
She smiles her friendly, inviting smile. "Are you in need of a saucer, Hatter?"
"No, no, a teacup."
She reaches down. "You may have mine, if you like."
Bright green eyes dart up in wonder. His Secrets pulses near his heart. "You would simply give me your teacup, Alice?"
It could be that the sun is particularly warm and has singed her pale cheeks, but he swears they're just a bit rosier.
"I would give you anything you wish, Hatter."
The Secret burns like flame against his chest. His heart leaps up to his throat, adding to the chaos of the bobbing Apple and tightened cravat.
"You simply have to ask," she finishes delicately. Reaching across, Alice hands Tarrant her half-full cup of tea with a shy grin.
His fingers brush the tops of hers in the exchange, and seeing a Moment present itself, he sets the object aside, capturing her hands before she can pull them away. Tarrant notices with delight that her lips part at the gesture, and she stares down at their joined hands with what might be intrigue.
The Secret writhes within his pocket, his cravat constricts in frustration. She has given him her teacup. Perhaps, in turn, he should give her his Secret?
"I have only a saucer, now," she muses aloud, still focusing on their entwined fingers.
He licks his lips and leans forward. "That's quite all right, Alice, because I have a teacup."
Brown eyes meet green, and she's likewise drawn towards him."Then, together we have a pair."
Their noses brush, and her sweetly spiced breath rolls in puffs against his cheeks. "Alice?" he whispers, as her eyelashes flutter closed. "May I give you my Secret?"
She nods and tilts her chin up just so and breathes, "Is it a teacup?"
The blood in his veins sings in triumph, and his lips claim hers, finally succumbing to his deepest, privately held desire.
When they pull away, Alice's smile and bleary, blinky gaze leave him nearly breathless, and he answers her whispered question with a brush of his thumb across her lower lip. "Something much better."
A/N: Thanks as ever for the lovely beta and once-over by just_a_dram.