MarchMouse: That’s not a bathtub…
((Here is the 12th story. Not as awesome as the last one but it was time. =) Please enjoy. Warning: Text will be wonky!))
Thackery slapped his hands against Mally’s face, pushing him away while staring at the door as it swung open, Absolem leaning into the room. The caterpillar raised his eyes to them and paused in the door frame, his expression not even flinching at the sight but he did stand there in a displeased silence. Mally turned his head, Thackery’s fingers still splayed across his face enough to allow him to see. The dormouse’s eyebrows furrowed, equally unhappy but for different reasons all together. Thackery flushed even more when he tried to speak and his lips moved against his palm.
“Wud iz id?”
“You’ve made your conquest, Mally, we heard all about it the other morning.” Absolem stated; pushing his colored glasses down the bridge of his nose. He watched them with an unamused gaze over the frames. “Now could you leave his pants on for a little while and come talk to Tarrant? He won’t listen to me; Chess is too busy having a good laugh at his expense, and Alice won’t answer her door so it’s down to you two.”
“What’s wrong with Tarrant?” Thackery asked, though he probably looked silly still lying there continuing to hold Mally away. At this point it seemed like a practiced action that he had perfected with the number of times he had used it since Mally first started to eye him differently on stage and off. The dormouse rolled his eyes beyond his fingers. He released Thackery, holding his hands up in surrender. Satisfied he was disgruntled but done, Thackery lowered his own hands and drummed his fingers over his chest while he waited for Mally to climb off the bed. Before he was fully standing, he leaned forward again, taking Thackery by the arm and helping him sit up. When Thackery wanted to thank him for the assistance, Mally’s eyes were clearly telling him that this wasn’t over. He winced, looking to Absolem for help but the caterpillar was as helpful as a jar of mustard at a tea party.
“He can’t be doing anything too bad if Chesshur is spending his time laughing about it.” Mally shrugged. Thackery grimaced at the disgruntled tone in his voice. He was pouting because he had been interrupted again. Such was their life since the night of his accident. Thackery couldn’t help it if the band had their own problems that they had neglected in Mally’s attempt to woo him.
“Just come and find out for yourself.” He sighed, stepping out of the door frame and waving them on with a sweep of his arm. The two exchanged a puzzled glance before Mally led the way into the hall. Thackery trailed behind until Mally backtracked, reached over and with a hand against his lower back, scooted him up to walk alongside him. They followed Absolem to the bathroom where the door was standing open. There was a definite wet sound when they walked into a puzzle and Thackery could see water on the floor, a rippling pool of it, actually, with a wet floor sign leaning against the wall. Thackery looked to Absolem for an explanation but the caterpillar shook his head, unwilling to say what was going on and instead he indicated that they go inside. Mally nudged him in, following close behind but they hesitated just inside of the small bathroom, Mally bumping against Thackery when he froze.
Tarrant was in there alright. He was sitting in the sink, his body parallel to the wall it was attached to while his legs dangled over the side and his back leaned against the wall where the door was located. He was maneuvering a toothbrush behind his lips while staring off at the shower wall, scrubbing away absently. The faucet was still running and the shallow basin could not contain the flow as it spilled over the sides, the agitated water thankfully hiding his nether regions, as he was naked in the sink.
“He’s been in here for two hours.” Absolem stated, leaning against the door jam. “One of the staff found him this way and nearly had a heart attack. I sent Chess in here earlier to try and get him out but he didn’t want to get his feet wet.”
Thackery’s eyes were drawn to Chesshur crouched upon the toilet seat lid, his ever-present grin even wider than usual as he wiped tears from his eyes. He seemed to have just caught his breath from the ordeal as he indicated Tarrant with a thumb then shook his head and covered his face while resisting laughing again. For being afraid of that water pooling in the floor to the point of crouching up on that toilet like that, he certainly was amused. Mally blinked at the hatter, his lips twitching with the idea of a laugh but Thackery nudged him with his elbow, shaking his head. He rolled his eyes to the ceiling but still smiled up at it. Shaking his head, Thackery sloshed through the water toward the oblivious hatter still brushing away at his teeth.
“Um…Tarrant?” he reached out and tapped his shoulder.
The Mad Hatter blank his eyes at the wall he had been watching until this moment and he popped the toothbrush out of his mouth, looking at is as if he had forgotten he had even been using it. Still puzzled, he slowly turned his head and raised his eyes up to Thackery, raising an eyebrow. “Thackery, what are you doing in here?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“Taking a bath.” He shrugged. “That’s what a bathroom is for, isn’t it?”
“In the sink?” he nodded down and Tarrant looked down at the small vessel he had barely occupied.
“Oh, when did that happen?” he asked, finally noticing he was barely even fitting in the basin of the sink. He wriggled a little, trying to sit up while he reached for the taps.
A hand shot over Thackery’s eyes before he even though about looking away for modesty’s sake. Out of instinct, he tried to push it away, confused by the gesture but the hand pressed over his eyes firmly and a possessive arm pulled him back a few steps while he could hear the squeak of the knobs for the water being turned off. Thackery patted at the arm, trying to move it but it resisted him and he felt the corner of his mouth begin to curve up. It had to be Mally blocking his vision. Apparently he wasn’t allowed to see another man naked as long as he was around and the gesture was almost sweet. He resisted the smile, holding up his hands and leaving the protective arms alone.
“Have some decency, Tarrant.” Chesshur chuckled. There were a few more wet footsteps and the sound of fabric flapping around. It had to have been Tarrant trying to towel himself since Mally finally removed his hand from Thackery’s eyes.
Tarrant stood clad in a towel about his waist, scratching at his head as he turned to face the other males crowding the bathroom. From what Thackery could see, he appeared just as lost as to why he had tried to take a bath in the sink as they were. Perhaps it was because he missed the regularity of a bath back home and the little shower didn’t serve the same satisfaction for him? Or was it for another reason? Alice had normally been keeping an eye on him during their hours before the sets but with her now with Nivens, maybe Tarrant was beginning to notice the lack of her presence? This could have been a way of seeking attention that he had forgotten even thinking about while he was sitting there. Thackery looked to Mally and he shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t know anymore than you do, Thack.” He confessed.
It didn’t look like the others were going to try and help Tarrant out so it was all down to him making the gesture of concern in the end. Which was alright because he really was worried about how he had been acting recently. The whole thing with his new relationship, however, had been a little more heavy on his mind and he had been neglecting his old friend. Guilt flooded through him and he decided to put his own worries aside and focus on helping this man who brought the band together in the first place. That was certainly more important. Taking a deep breath, the hare approached his old friend and rest his hand over his shoulder, “Come on Tarrant, we’ll get you dressed and get you some tea.”
“Tea sounds good.” He sighed, rubbing at his face. “Tea sounds very good.”
The best thing for Tarrant was probably to be away from the stage for a little while. Thackery had retrieved the park map from their own park adventure from his room and they had poured over it while Tarrant was getting dressed until they agreed to stay close to their spot but far enough away that Tarrant would be able to leave some of his problems behind. Taking a mad man on rides was just asking for trouble so Mally opted that tea would have been the best thing at a time like this even though Thackery pouted from not being allowed to go find the rides again.
Once Tarrant had clothed himself, Thackery tucked his ears under a newsboy cap at his insistence. While most of the characters were in Disneyland, Mally didn’t want to tempt fate and rick coming across another grabby one again. He would keep Thackery’s ears safe this time around and it just looked cute on him in the end. Thackery didn’t know what to do with his hands now that his ears had been tucked away and they twisted together in front of him while Tarrant was whipping his head side to side, taking in the sights. Mally had to pull the hatter along by his wrist at first to make sure he was even following them.
Finding the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café wasn’t too hard, considering its close proximity to the Mad T Party. Mally had to ask one of the park employees where they served tea in this place and they pointed it out on Thackery’s map as the closest spot. Tarrant, who was looking around at the shops with a childish enthusiasm, lagged a little behind them while Thackery held onto his wrist to make sure the man stayed with them. Mally was beginning to understand why Alice always held his hand whenever they first came to this place. He would have gotten lost on his own.
The café was a nice, open area with a few strategic pictures on the walls along with stained glass pictures that revealed musical instruments. Funny how this was the place they chose even though the name should have been a dead giveaway. The three of them exchanged looks at one another, wondering what they were supposed to do next. Tarrant suddenly began to stride forward and went between two booth sections where a line had formed in front of a long counter divided by a display case of different kinds of sweets. Thackery followed him while Mally ended up bringing up the rear, sticking his hands into his pockets as he moseyed over to the line where Tarrant was staring at the menu overhead.
“Where’s the tea?” he asked, his eyebrows beginning to lower as he squinted at the menu and then wrinkled his nose. “All I see is dirt water.”
“Dirt water?” Thackery asked.
“Coffee.” Mally explained flatly.
“Oh, I didn’t know that it had dirt in it.” He scrunched up his own nose and Mally felt his face crack into a smile at the sight of it. Apparently Thackery had never really tried coffee before; he had always been a tea drinker like the rest of them. Mally, heh, Mally had become well acquainted with the beverage when he was trying to break out of his sleepy stupor back in the old days. Someone had offered him some one afternoon and the jolt of the extra caffeine had him bouncing off the walls quite literally for several hours afterward. He had grown used to the effects and could handle the drink without a fuss but he did wonder what would have happened if he made Thackery drink some one day.
Oh the ideas…
“It’s not dirt,” he explained patiently, “They boil ground up coffee beans in water and filter it to make coffee. Tarrant calls it dirt water because it’s dark and he thinks it smells like someone burnt something.”
“I tastes like dirt.” He grumbled, folding his arms but continuing to search the menu for his beloved tea.
“They have a lot of options for tea, Tarrant.” Mally offered, “This is where the staff that babysits us gets it.”
Thackery eyed the menu, “I see tea!” his eyes widened and he grinned while pointing it out for Tarrant who leaned in close to follow where his arm pointed. Mally wriggled himself in between them, steering the hatter further up since he had neglected to follow the line. Well, that was his excuse anyway. In all honesty, he just felt that irritable twang of jealousy when he saw the other male getting closer to Thackery. Surely he needed to get over that. Thackery was a very loveable creature, no one could resist wanting to be closer to him even if he got discomforted by him whenever he got too close.
It was getting better though. Slowly but surely, it was getting better.
Ordering the drinks was a challenge, Tarrant’s name was called out sounding like Tar Rant when the employee read it aloud and Thackery’s name had been spelt “Thakerie”. Mally lucked out with his name and basked in the frustrated glances of the other two when they left the counters and sought out a table. Eventually they chose a length of stools in front of the windows where Tarrant eagerly took a whiff of his tea. He had no complaints now that he had his beverage of choice but Mally wouldn’t let him off that easy.
“So, Tarrant, what’s on your mind?” He asked, tapping the base of his plastic cup on the surface of the counter.
“A hat. Why do you ask?” He smiled, tapping the brim of his hat.
“Tarrant, you know what I mean. You’re not that far gone like you want us to believe.” He frowned, glancing over at Thackery. The hare nodded, his expression concerned. They both should have been concerned since Tarrant had been left to his own devices for too long. Maybe it was Mally’s fault that he kept distracting Thackery and they neglected their friend because he had been selfishly pursuing him. Since they noticed Alice suddenly with Nivens, Mally never really gave it a second thought because he had been wrapped up in his own inner struggles. Perhaps that made him a bad mouse, but he never had been an overly attentive person to begin with. The night Thackery got hurt was the first time he ever really worried about someone so much.
With the memory of Thackery’s unconscious body in his arms while he carried him back inside from the rain, Mally swallowed. He reached over and placed his hand upon Thackery’s leg, giving it a gentle squeeze that the hare immediately began to bat away. He moved his hand but smiled to himself when the hare secretly pinched a portion of his shirt against his side, holding onto it timidly while he faced Tarrant again. He had to focus, try and extend some of that worry to someone else. It was hard, but since the hatter had always been a good friend, he had to try.
Tarrant’s expression grew serious and he looked into his tea thoughtfully while watching the steam still rise from the cup. “I’m not really sure.” He finally said, rotating the handle of the cup and picking it up. “I don’t even remember why I was in the sink this morning.”
“You tend to forget things that you don’t like to see, Tarrant.” Thackery reminded, “Maybe you saw something you didn’t want to this morning?”
Tarrant took a careful sip of the amber liquid. “If I forgot it, how can I remember it?”
“You’re not really forgetting it. You’re covering it up with your own idea of what madness should be here.” Mally inserted, stirring around the ice in his cup while Thackery tried to drink his own tea at the same time, his cup clattering back onto the counter suddenly while he put a hand to his mouth and kicked his feet. Mally jerked around to see what he had done but Thackery waved off the concern, lowering his hand and trying to smile at him. He hesitated but eventually turned back to Tarrant. Maybe Thackery had just burnt his tongue?
Tarrant removed his hat, scratching his head. He replaced it and gingerly scooted his tea aside so that he could fold his arms over the counter. Looking thoughtfully out the window in front of him, he pressed his lips together, licking them and then lowering his head once more. “Guys, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” He sighed, “One moment I am conscious of everything I’m doing, the next I’m trying to contradict myself. Especially with Alice right now. Whenever I think about her these days, my mind just…shifts and I’m suddenly stuck in this flashback of when we were kids. I know that I was positive she’d always be around me but now that I never really see her off stage, I’m starting to get scared.”
“And when you’re scared, your memories tend to fade.” Mally murmured, taking a slow draw out of his drink. “Tarrant, all of your little memory problems only started after the Red Queen tried to behead you.”
He nodded grimly, rubbing the back of his neck with his fingers. “Yeah, I remember. And I don’t want to.”
“You don’t want to remember the things that made you scared. That’s why you keep blanking out like you have been.” Thackery explained, “But what about Alice? Why would you be scared with her involved?”
Tarrant brought up his hands and while his elbows propped them up, he hid his face in them. Mally wondered if the hatter even knew why he was scared either but they couldn’t help him if all of the problems were just held within his own mind. If they stressed him too much, he may relapse into another maddened state again. This was the most he had a grip on his own senses off stage for over a month. Mally took another drink, peering out the window at the people walking by. He could see the park beyond the windows but none of the rides that he remembered.
“I don’t know, guys.” He mumbled behind his hands. “This is the most I’ve thought about it without forgetting it in ages…maybe I should figure it out now while I still can.” He lowered his hands and glanced over at them with a genuine look of sincerity in his eyes. “Thanks for taking me out to tea Mally, Thackery. I know you’re both my pals and my best guests at tea time. You were always helping solving the riddles in my head, but I think…I will solve this one alone.”
“Are you sure we should have left alone?” Thackery asked while Mally walked him around the stage, his arm looped over his shoulders. He turned his head to look back but it would have been pointless since they were already back down the rabbit hole. It had to be the third time he had asked if they made the right choice and Mally had already assured him that Tarrant would be fine. Mally should have been more concerned about him as well, he was a good friend and band mate after all, but ever since he had been interrupted in trying to convince Thackery had been dreaming last night, he had been sorta-kinda-pretty much annoyed all day. Besides, he said he wanted to figure it out alone so alone is where they would leave him.
Getting Thackery alone in the same room was another matter entirely. Though not as big of a chore as it used to be, the hare letting him get close again was another case of patience being a virtue. Since the night of Thackery’s accident, Mally tried to bide his time, keeping close to him and waiting for those bruises to heal before he could make his move again. Thackery hadn’t complained about them at all but he was good at trying to cover up his own feelings whenever he tried. He didn’t even mention how sore he felt the next morning after their night together either. He was positive they had done some things that would have made any man sore but Thackery kept his mouth shut. However, Mally could see it in the hare’s posture all through the next morning that he was uncomfortable. That was his fault, he took the blame for some of that…
Taking him inside, he led the way to his room even though the hare had been avoiding it since that night. He entered it hesitantly, Mally having to give him a little push before he crossed the threshold. Seeing how nervous he became and that his eyes were on his couch, the blush blooming in his cheeks as the memories probably came flooding back, Mally didn’t close the door. He left it open and removed his arm from Mally’s shoulders. “Have a seat over there, Thackery. I want to show you something I found the other day behind the couch.” He waved his hand over to the chair at the dressing stand and Thackery eyed it with another wary expression. Mally wasn’t sure why he was watching that chair with the same sense of hesitation. As far as he remembered, he never tried anything on him while sitting in it.
Eventually, Thackery went to the chair and sat down, seeming to have recovered from his previous hesitation. Mally went to the couch and leaned around it to pull out what he had found the other day. Apparently this room had been used for a lot of things in the past. This theme park had been around for quite a while after all. He pulled at the handle and eased the large case out from the crack between the wall and the couch and brought it around to show Thackery. “Check it out, I found this the other night. It’s an acoustic guitar.”
When he smiled at the hare, Thackery did not return it. He stared at the guitar case as if it were a ghost, his face growing pale. He wasn’t sure why but the moment he saw how pallid the bassist became, he wanted to drop everything and makes sure that Thackery was alright. Mally placed the case on the floor, nearly dropping it in his hurry and went to the mouse, putting his hands against his cheeks. They felt clammy on his fingers and Thackery swallowed, shutting his eyes while resting his head against the center of Mally’s chest. He sighed, his breath warm through the fabric of his shirt. Mally stroked his hand over his hair, petting him even though he was unsure why the sight of the old guitar case had startled him like this. “What’s the matter?” Crouching down, he tried to catch his eyes, he was low enough at this angle to not be too close for Thackery to have trouble seeing him.
“Do you remember that dream I told you about?” he asked with a weary smile as he opened his eyes again.
“The one where I was a chick?”
“Yeah, that one.” He nodded, pointing over at the case. “She was playing a guitar…out of a case like that.”
Mally glanced over his shoulder at the case, “Just like that, huh? Well, that is a pretty spooky coincidence. Do you want to check out what’s inside so you can see if the guitars are the same?”
When he looked to Thackery again, he was still looking at the case but there seemed to have been a change in his expression. A sort of realization had taken over and Mally wondered what it is that he had missed. He jostled the hare’s leg, expecting him to remove the hand out of discomfort. The hare didn’t touch the hand on his leg, his fingers reaching down and absently touching the collar of Mally’s shirt instead. Thackery’s eyes wondered down to where his fingers were placed and he pressed his lips together momentarily, giving a slight nod more to himself than to Mally. “Not really.” He murmured, his other hand grasping the other half of his shirt and tugging at his collar a little until Mally caught on to his meaning and stood up again.
Standing straight, the stool put Thackery just over shoulder level to him. Mally wondered if Thackery was scared by the way he was looking at his shirt rather than meeting his eyes. It was unusual to see him so focused on something without saying a word to explain himself. He rest his hands on the narrow arms of the chair, leaning forward slightly. Lingering at a safe distance from the other male’s face, he spoke again. “Do you want me to put it away then? I only got it out to show it to you.”
“No.” The hare’s fingers timidly trailed the over front of his shirt, following the natural lines of how the fabric hung on his body.
Mally’s eyes watched the trail the digits made. Well now, this was different. Thackery wasn’t usually so big on touching him unless he had influenced him by doing it first. That other night when he had gotten hurt being the only exception. When Thackery’s finger lingered on a button, the dormouse smirked, starting to get the feeling the hare was getting timid for a more obvious reason now. Alright, he would play this little game but just for a little longer. Raising a hand from the chair, he slipped his fingers around Thackery’s neck, using his thumb to tilt the rabbit’s face up so that his eyes finally found him, the close proximity probably hard on him to truly see his expression now.
“Do you want to go find Alice?”
“Do you want to find out if Tarrant made up his mind yet?”
Thackery flushed, his eyes guilty but his fingers had popped a button on Mally’s shirt. “No…”
Leaning even closer, he touched his cheek to a floppy ear. “Do you want me to stop asking you questions and get on with it?”
He could hear the hare’s voice come in a soft whisper just after he managed to swallow his nerves. “Yes.”
“I’m not complaining, Thack, but you’re starting to get a little confident, aren’t you?” he murmured, guiding the hare with his hand so that he stood up from the chair. Nudging it aside with his foot, it teetered on the tall legs before Thackery’s hand stopped it, his eyes straying from Mally but he used his thumb to return the attention to him. “Where did you get a backbone?”
Thackery closed his eyes. He dipped his head down and Mally’s hand still lingered, cradling his head while the hare collected his thoughts. After a pause, he raised his head again and gave a slow smirk that Mally could and was already very proud of while Thackery touched the wrist of the hand holding him. “Gift shop.”
Chuckling, Mally leaned in for a kiss that the hare mirrored, ready to meet in the middle. Just before he met with his lips, Mally managed to make one more comment, smirk still prominent on his lip as he whispered: “Smart ass.”