Inter-dimensional transport, Alice finds, leaves a great deal to be desired, indeed.
"Hatter, I think I'm going to be…"
"Ye gods woman, mind ye elbows!"
Alice scrambles for the nearest receptacle in the wake of their haphazard arrival and subsequent sprawl across the thankfully forgiving carpet of Time's chambers. The suddenly violent and pressing need to eject her stomach contents propelling her somewhat indelicately from the Hatter's lap towards the coal bucket. Tarrant himself barely having time to gather his wits let alone her hair lest it join yesterday's breakfast amidst the coal dust.
"I'm sorry." She heaves. Ever thankful for the cool press of his palm against her forehead.
"Don't be." Hatter's murmur is soft and ever so slightly weary. The steady trickle of magic that begins to flow back and forth between them soon soothing her upset stomach.
"Travelling as we did can be a little unsettling for those unaccustomed to it. Though in future, love, some warning might be nice."
"Urgh, I didn't know it would be like that. How naïve that I thought the transition between worlds was unpleasant." A bone deep exhaustion settling in and Alice leans against him for support.
"I can barely move."
"That trinket drew an absurd amount of power from us both. Any other time it would not have proved even the slightest bit irksome, however your reserves were already depleted. My own virtually non-existent after- well, everything."
"And here you are wasting what little you have on me?" She scolds him.
"That's not how our magic works, Alice," He offers her a far too enigmatic lift of his brow, "In a way, you and I are sustained by one another. If you understand my meaning…"
"Are you propositioning me, Mister Hightopp?" She smirks, a twinkle in her eye as she moves towards his lips only to be halted by a pale finger pressed to their puckered pinkness.
"Now there'll be none of that, thank you very much," He tuts imperiously, "Especially since I'm not entirely sure whether I should be quite angry at you or impressed after a feat like that."
"I have a preference if you're asking?" She quips. His eyes rolling indulgently at her teasing.
"So, it is true," A familiar voice suddenly utters with a wistful sigh, "Love is indeed, blind."
"And deaf too, apparently." Comes the wry agreement. Alice ignoring the latter remark to grin, albeit weakly, at the deity sat observing them from his desk.
"We're not late, are we?"
"Quite the contrary."
A lop-sided grin curls Time's thin lips. The former tyrant perched at his elbow offering a fond little smirk before offering out a small vial of amber liquid. Several seconds passing where Alice isn't quite sure just what to do at the seemingly helpful gesture from a being whose temper tantrum had once seen this world fall to ruin. Not that Alice could talk mind.
"Well don't just stare at it, silly girl," She huffs when time presses on, "Take it. It will help with the disequilibrium."
"Oh, yes. Silly me." Alice blinks, uncorking the liquid with Hatter's assistance and downing its contents without question. The elixir soon soothing over the upset the Hatter's own depleted magic could not.
"Yes, much. Thank you."
"You're very welcome," Iracebeth raises a brow as she peers down at the pair, "Now, perhaps you'd be so kind as to tell me just what exactly you're doing strewn about the floor at such an ungodly hour?"
Alice sobers in that moment. The reality of their arrival here bringing Mirana's situation to the forefront of her mind.
"Marmoreal is under siege."
Time appears stricken at her words though not surprised. Iracebeth's voice dropping to a whisper as her eyes narrow in disbelief.
"So, it has begun." Time murmurs wearily. "I should have expected as much."
"Should've expected what, Tik Tok?" Iracebeth turns from Alice and rounds on him with a furious expression, "What aren't you all telling me?! And you-!"
She points across the room at them.
"Fat lot of good the both of you are," She scoffed, "Champions, indeed. Where's my sister? Where's Mirana?!"
"Well, I should certainly hope so for all our-"
"Calm yourself, my dear." Time soothes, coming to rest a hand upon her shoulder. The despair clearly writ upon both Alice and the Hatter's face in turn at having left their beloved friend behind prompting the infinite being into action. Hatter finally drawing himself to his feet and lifting Alice from the floor and into his arms.
"Hat man, please?" Iracebeth bid finally, almost gently, "Mirana, is she-"
"In the end there was little we could do once Keres chose to enact her vengeance," Tarrant lisped sombrely, "Mirana and the demons the creature unleashed sealed away behind Marmoreal's enchantments might the rest of Underland be spared what the White Court was not."
"My sister's one the most powerful being in the entire realm," Iracebeth murmurs in disbelief, "That there is any power capable of triggering such a response is-"
"Keres commands a legion of shadow against the Queen." Alice murmured, steadily losing the battle with her own exhaustion. Head lulling against the Hatter's shoulder before suddenly gasping in anguish.
"What kind of a champion does that make me that I left her to suffer on her own?"
"One that's lucky she has friends in such high places."
Alice lifts her head as she registers the familiar cadence and the weight of Dreams magic as it settles around them and he swirls into focus.
"Oh, Dream, please you must help us," Alice hates how weak her voice has become. How it breaks much like the tears against her cheeks, "It's Mirana, she- we couldn't-"
"It's alright, Pet. I know." He soothes, "But take your rest now, little champion. And don't you worry we'll have your Queen home in time for tea, you'll see."
"You made a rhyme." She grinned.
"Well, I did learn from the best." Dream smirked, glancing up at the Hatter. "Good to see you again, old boy. Especially now you're almost your right proper self again."
"And you," Tarrant agreed, "Though I do wish it were under better circumstances."
"Couldn't be helped I'm afraid. You know how these things go, mind."
"Aye, that I do." The milliner replies with a sigh.
"Wilkins!" Iracebeth calls not unkindly into the corridor. The small butler appearing not a moment later.
"Yes, my Queen?"
"Be a good little minion won't you and prepare our company a place to rest and recuperate?" She bids gently, "Then summon what seconds you can spare to Marmoreal. Reconnaissance is vital. If we've a chance at going after my sister, we'll need as much information as we can get."
"Of course. At once, your Grace."
"Thank you, your Majesty." Alice reached out to the former Queen as Hatter moved to follow Wilkins.
"You and I have had our differences in the past, Alice, just as your Hightopp and I have done. That's behind us now," Iracebeth offered gently, "You say my sister is in trouble, then we will both do what we can and come to Marmoreal's aid. Don't you agree, Tik Tok?"
"We're going to need an army." Time mused with a considering nod.
"Let me worry about that."
"Then to war we go." Dream murmured. "Until the battle plans are drawn, however, we regain our strength. Go now, Tarrant. Take Alice and recoup what you might. Time, Iracebeth, you too."
"We'll get her back," Tarrant promised suddenly and vehemently, "Your Queen will return to your side, have no fear."
"Thank you, old friend." Dream smiled. Alice suddenly gaping as Tarrant strode from the room after Wilkins.
"Wait, Dream and Mirana are-"
"Well, obviously. How did you not-"
"There's a great deal I've still yet to grasp, trust me," She scoffed, "Though that one in particular does indeed make more sense now."
She lifts her gaze to Hatter's face with a smirk, "How foolish I must have looked in hindsight to have ever thought that you and Mirana were-"
"I beg your pardon?" She almost laughs, suddenly squealing as he almost drops her in his disgust at the mere thought, "I think not."
"You must forgive me dear man," She soothed, "Though admittedly you do quite have a thing for fair skinned maidens."
She laughs at his snort of objection.
"Wee skinny, yella haired laddies like you, ye mean?"
"Aye," She agrees with a weak smirk, "That's exactly what I mean."
"Best regain ye strength quick, Lass," He whispers in a voice that makes her shiver, "Ye'll be needin' it soon enough."
"Is that a threat or a challenge?" She murmurs against his throat.
She feels his rumbling chuckle vibrate through her and wishes she was anything but completely incapable of following through with any of the lewd little suggestions that pop into her mind, or his, and she growls in frustration as her exhaustion wins the day.
"I'll have you, Tarrant Hightopp, make no mistake." She warns as he eases her gently onto the soft down of a mattress. Divesting her of her coat, vest and shoes before repeating the motion upon himself and crawling into bed behind her.
"Indeed, you shall," He agrees pressing a kiss to her hair as he curls around her, "I'm quite looking forward to it in fact. Until then, my love. Sleep."
"I love you." She whispers as she slips away, held contentedly in the Hatter's warm embrace. Her sleep blissfully absent the nightmares that usually plague her mind. The demons held at bay by the gentle caress of magic and the rhythmic steady beating of a heart beneath her ear.