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17 October 2013 @ 12:01 am
The sea has become an angry thing, roiled into a frenzy by the storm above. Waves hurl themselves at the surrounding cliff-faces, shattering upon impact in a spray of white. Rain is falling fast and hard, churning the grass into mud where the Timekeeper steps. As he draws closer to the edge, where grass gives way to sandy beach, he pauses, hands shoved deep into his pockets, his shoulders hunching against the onslaught of wind and rain. He squints at the figure in the distance: a familiar girl who twirls around and around in a blur of floral patterned fabric and long, curly blonde hair.

"Hello Alice!" he calls, loud enough to be heard above the wind.

The girl stops, abruptly coming to a halt mid twirl. She nearly loses her balance, would have fallen into the water had it not been for a wave that rushes at the beach and lurches her forward, onto her hands and knees in the sand. She laughs, scrambles back onto her feet and brushes her dress off. Propriety had been long forgotten, from the moment she had taken her hair down and flung the pins into the water.

The Timekeeper watches nearby, a curious expression on his face. “Having fun?” he asks as she draws nearer.

"Oh yes," she replies, seemingly undeterred by the rain that runs in rivulets down her face. "Why are you here, today of all days?"

"Just passing through,"

Her smiles slips some. “Oh, I see.”

There is but a moments pause before the Timekeeper says, in a hurried voice, “Why don’t we go indoors? It’s so horrible and wet out here,”

"Oh, I’m not sure about that. I like the rain," Alice glances up at the sky, green eyes lingering on the gathering of grey clouds.

"Yes, I noticed," the Timekeeper says wryly.

"Besides, we needn’t go inside if all you have come for is this," Alice reaches below the collar of her dress, fingers closing around a golden chain. She pulls it free, letting the pocket watch attached to the end swing in the air.

"That’s yours," the Timekeeper says gently.

"Nonsense." Alice shakes her head, "It’s as much yours. Plus, I have recovered a few."

"Have you now?" the curious expression has returned. "I’d like to see…"

"I’m sure you would. Come along, then."

The pair trudge through the sand, the grass, up a small hill to the fringes of the forest. The trees are thick and reach high, the dense canopy seeming to brush against the grey sky. Close by is a weather beaten cottage, sitting in a small clearing made by felled trees. Clumps of bushes, weeds and wildflowers encompass it, encroaching on the natural path that leads to the front door. The cottage may have once been white, but years of salty sea air, sand and mud has turned it yellow. A wooden rocking chair rocks lazily back and forth on the small front porch, knocking with each backward movement against the red bicycle that leans against the railing.

"Quickly, now," Alice urges, ushering the Timekeeper through the rickety front door. "I don’t want the ghosts to follow us home."

"Ghosts, Alice?"

"There are ghosts in these hills, you silly man and you know that just as well as I." Alice mutters as she wanders about, lighting candles, closing a window that she had carelessly left open.

The Timekeeper stands awkwardly at the entrance, drinking in the sight before him. The cottage feels bigger on the inside, with the living area off to the left and the kitchen to the right. A staircase, that looks just about ready to topple over and is certainly something the Timekeeper wouldn’t dare to climb, leads to the single bedroom upstairs. The floor is made of patched wood with nails showing through here and there, but the lacy curtains on the windows and the books scattered about - on tabletops, the floor, the couch and nearby wing-back chair - make it feel homely.

"Make yourself useful and light the fire," Alice interrupts the Timekeeper’s ogling, gesturing at the fireplace. "Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you chop wood or anything like that; there’s plenty of it in the grate. I’ll get us some tea." she flits off into the kitchen, light on her bare feet. The Timekeeper worries for a moment about her trodding on a nail, but she moves about with such ease and familiarity that he is sure she has mapped out where they are.

He goes to the fire with every intention of coaxing the wood to a flame when a glint of gold catches his attention. A desk beneath one of the windows is covered in timepieces, some whole, most broken. His lips purse into a grimace as he hunches closer, raindrops slipping from his hair to fall on the gleaming clock faces.

"There are probably more than what you were expecting," says Alice in a small voice, the cup and saucer she holds rattling as her hand shakes.

"Why so many, Alice?" The Timekeeper glides his fingertips across the engraved case of a pocket watch, very much like the one Alice wears around her neck, wiping away the raindrops. "How many times have you tracked him down and found these?"

"Does it really matter?"

The Timekeeper straightens to his full height, fighting the urge to raise his voice. Instead he clenches his jaw and inhales deeply through his nose, directing his gaze out the window. The sea is angrier still, the waves growing in momentum and size as they collide with the beach. A howling wind rips through the cottage and he can feel Alice shiver, her bare arm bumping into his coat.

"I wasn’t in danger," Alice continues, leaning past him to place the tea she had made on the desk.

"Of course you were, you foolish girl. Just how many times have you travelled?"

Alice laughs, a short bark that lacks any humour. “And why is that any of your business? You are not my boss, Jack,” she spits out his proper name, any nerves she had had about him seeing the timepieces long forgotten. “My friend, perhaps, but then again, just how long as it been since I’ve seen you?”

(x posted to tumblr)