All Characters belong to the amazing artists and writers of When Curiosity Met Insanity (curiousinsanecomic on tumblr. Seriously, go read it.) Criticism of all kinds are welcome. Please enjoy.
The story takes place after WCMI Part 27 - A Certain Understanding Pt 3.
Belle stifled a disappointed sigh and shook her head. "Is that really what you want, Alice?"Alice pressed her lips into a hard, thin line. It was good advice, pushing the ardent Hatter away, protecting herself from heartbreak. It was practical, and it was necessary. But that small ache in her chest didn't go away, no matter how many days had passed. Alice walked alone in the dawn of a quiet morning. It was calm and still, but hardly peaceful here. It seemed as if the entire world was holding its breath, waiting expectantly.
The bookstore came into view. Belle would be arriving not long after her. A few precious moments to savor before the awkwardness of her best friend's disapproval and worry would begin to fill the building. The books that gave her so much pleasure before no longer distracted her from the quiet sighs and the quick glances away from, not only Belle's eyes, but everyone else's. Alice shoved the key roughly in the lock and counted to ten.
Time. It will all go away in time.
She walked inside and made herself busy with the morning tasks. There were book orders to fill and new merchandise to catalogue. Busy work pushes out unwelcome thoughts of… Him.
Her breath escaped suddenly with a hiss. A papercut. How could she be so careless?
The sound of the bell chiming at the door heralded Belle's arrival and her bright greeting followed. The sounds of the town waking rolled in with her and were just as quickly shut out by the door closing. Pleasantries exchanged, the two got to work, neither fooled by the cheerful banter. The tension still hung in the air, thick enough to breathe in the small bookshop, where the lingering scent of aging paper and binding leather, once a favorite smell, was slowly becoming cloying and sharp.
This was unbearable.
"Oh? This is addressed to you." Belle said, breaking the silence. She held up an envelope. Alice opened it and found a bookmark inside.
"Does it say who its from? There's nothing else written on it."
"Couldn't you tell?" Alice replied with a sigh. "There are tea stains on it."
The bookmark was hand-woven with a beautiful design of a cricket on it. Alice felt that ache return. If she were to be honest with herself, it had never left. She closed her eyes and remembered. It was good advice.
Reginald L. Theophilus the Third was at a loss. Her words still floated in the air, stinging and pricking like tiny darts. The walk home and remaining night was the longest he had ever had, but somehow the world was still right-side-up when he woke.
The days turned into weeks. He saw her in passing, but she had never left his thoughts. She began to appear in his work: A golden thread the color of her hair in a gentleman's bowler, a periwinkle button the color of her eyes, mistakenly sewn onto a red bolero. He carefully checked his handiwork repeatedly to make sure she hadn't invaded any of his other works.
"GET OFF MY HATS!" He yelled, startling a customer, who quickly shuffled out the door in fear.
He fell roughly into a chair and sunk his face into his hands. He felt wrung out. Defeated.
"Its just not the same…" He said aloud to no one. "The days are grey without her now. How long do I have to wait until the doe finally comes to me?"
The shop remained silent.
"I bet she's found the bookmark by now." He mused, "I wonder if she likes it." His mouth curved into a lazy smile. "What else can I make to tempt my sweet Cricket…"
And with that, his smile faded. That small voice was back: The one that he ruthlessly crammed back into the back of his mind whenever he heard it.
She said that she isn't going to stay here….
"I am not from here, Reginald. I was not born here, I was not raised here, and I did not intend my stay to be permanent. I am only a visitor, and you know what everyone here says about visitors." "Oh, of course. They always go back." "Yes! They always do - we always do, I should say. There has never been one who spent a lifetime here, did you know that? I don't see how I will be any different, and I have family in England, after all. So it's best that we settle this now and agree to remain friends and only friends, yes?
"Oh, of course. They always go back."
"Yes! They always do - we always do, I should say. There has never been one who spent a lifetime here, did you know that? I don't see how I will be any different, and I have family in England, after all. So it's best that we settle this now and agree to remain friends and only friends, yes?
The word darts were back. He swatted at the air angrily with his hand. When that didn't work, he picked up a flyswatter and began to chase them around the shop. The customers stared, as they usually did, muttering to themselves, knowingly. He paused and stared back, daring them to say anything. They wisely went back to shopping.
He spotted Ears in the doorway and waved cheerfully, word darts forgotten for the moment. His hand raised in greeting froze in place, his smile fading while fear crept into his eyes. Ears had that look on his face. His ears, already tied in a knot under his chin, framed a face that held a look of despair.
"Reg…" Ears whispered, "Alice, she's…."
Reginald was over the counter and moving before the word escaped his mouth. Like still frames of film, he saw the scene as he flew past and out the door: Customers looking dumbstruck, Ears still standing by the door, paws clenched painfully tight at his side and agony in his eyes, People outside, exchanging worried and sympathetic looks. His vision narrowed to a single spot as he ran.