Some days later found Alice waiting impatiently for her escort. Charles had valiantly agreed to help her in her quest for hominess, and today was the set date. He should be there any minute now...

RIIIING! The red-head couldn't really help the startled jump at the shrill sound, and gave the damned device a glare that would've sent any Jabber-spawn howling in terror. 'Curious how I can somehow manage to jump in fright at a sound I was actually waiting for.' She could just see Cheshire's mocking grin at her cowardice when it came to home-held devices. Shaking her head to rid it of her nervous musings Alice finally stopped dallying and opened her front door to admit the young man entrance.

Charles was dressed more informally now than when she'd been invited over to his gorgeous home, but she had to admit even a simple attire could make him look rather handsome, as the short-sleeved shirt did nothing to hide his ample shoulders and well-developed chest. His golden locks looked slightly out of place, making it look as though he'd merely run his finger through his hair to comb it and lending him a boyish kind of charm. Alice's pursual of the man was interrupted, though, as he chose to bow at the waist and take her hand with a flourish. Those deep blue orbs held her own gaze captive as his full lips slowly grazed the pale skin on the back of her hand, once more lingering on the spot though the female was too busy to really feel flustered at the fact since she just couldn't tear her emerald eyes from his. Giving a winning smile Charles released her hand in favor of her arm and, without any words, led her to his waiting carriage.

It wasn't until several hours later that Alice returned home with her escort, the carriage loaded with her new things. Needless to say, Charles' help had been required to unload and place the things where they ought to be. A big painting of a flowery landscape over her bed, an oak vanity and a new antique mirror near the bathroom, several vases, a decorated mantle over the dining table, a lamp and low table for the living coupled with another painting, (a serene sea shore) kept the space where a commissioned painting would go, a portrait based on the only picture left of her family. A lush reddish rug right between the old and new cream couches, and a bookshelf she intended to fill soon… it had been a productive day.

Charles left with his usual flourish, and the next few days had them seeing a lot of each other, a coffee here, tea there, a quiet stroll on the park… Alice was quite pleased with their friendship, Charles was a gentleman with her and kept her company without being intrusive, as he still made it a point not to ask her about past endeavors. What would she say then? That she once strove to annihilate a pack of howling Boomers? Nope, not good. As the days flew by, Alice actually found herself wondering if Charles was actually courting her… and if she would oppose too terribly if he was.

On the other side, night wouldn't let her forget about her past as Cheshire kept his nocturnal visits, and though appreciated they were quite strange. Part of her mind kept rebelling against the idea, cataloguing him as a figment of an overactive imagination; the other part relished his presence and kept pointing out small details: Wonka no longer seemed wary around him, though she avoided contact with Ches, if he had some milk, the dish would still be there, empty, come morning, plus the occasional indentation that spoke of one hellishly large animal. Despite everything, Alice had grown used to seeing Cat daily, and had stopped being reminded by his tales of those bad times in the dying Wonderland, instead remembering more and more the old, mad but harmless place of her childhood.

Her dreams were sometimes nightmares, full of blood and ash, but others were becoming of the once colorful Wonderland and her harmless misadventures there.

Others yet, had begun leaving her waking panting and bothered. Perhaps she was finally getting lonely for human company of a different kind.

Before she knew it, a full month was gone, and it was time for a visitation from Rutledge. It made her a bit nervous, though it would be one of her favorite nurses keeping an eye out for her, she did have something to hide. Alice hoped she could lie well enough to convince Mrs. Margaret that everything was going well, and Wonderland was a thing of her past.

The day the nurse appeared at her doorstep Alice had just cleaned up her home and even managed to bake orange muffins, like her mom used to. Her managing to remember tiny things like a recipe after losing her full psyque for a while made her chest puff out with pride. Still warm muffins that earned her praise from the gentle nurse, were also a motive of personal pride, of course.

The matronly nurse was gentle in her inquiries, and soon Alice forgot all that could potentially go wrong as the familiar flow and ebb of conversation reminded her of the final stretch of her time in the mental care facility. Mrs. Margaret felt to her as an aunt, as it had been the personnel who taught or reminded her the skills necessarily for her to live on her own. Through them she relearned to cook, clean, look after herself… and men. Alice entered Rutledge as a child, but left it as a young woman, so once her rapid recovery became apparent the nurses in particular took her under their wing. She could never tell them how grateful she was for it.

Even now, the camaraderie and care built in those last months became apparent as Mrs. Margaret not only exchanged recipes but also updated her on the latest gossip; it seemed the head nurse was getting cozy with the newest doctor… who was supposedly engaged. Oops. Alice in exchange told her about Charles. How she thought him handsome and attentive and an all-around good man. The nurse all but confirmed her suspicions about his being interested in more than just a passing friendship, though some of her inquiries about the young man made her blush bright red. Really, the health personnel were so used to their job nothing was taboo to them anymore.

Before she knew it, the shadows had begun lengthening as the afternoon began becoming night while the women stayed engrossed in each other's company, oblivious to time. Suddenly, a movement in the kitchen caught Mrs. Margaret's eye.

"Dear, what is that in the kitchen?"

"Hmm? Probably my cat, Mrs. Margaret. You remember the tabby I found in the clinic's backyard?"

"It's still around? I thought it feral, so never expected it to stay"

Alice laughed at that. "Yea, guess the comforts of human life won her over. Named her Wonka. Here, let me see if she'll come… Wonka! Here kitty!"

Indeed, the tabby left the kitchen and paused at the doorway to the living room area, seemingly evaluating if the newcomer was a threat. After a couple indecisive tail twitches, she must have come to a decision, for she came closer with the languid pace that left it very clear she was coming closer because she wanted to, not because she was beckoned that only a cat could pull off. Wonka was happily head-butting Alice's calves when Mrs. Margaret spoke again.

"Um… Alice dear, are you sure you only own one cat?"

The redhead whipped her head around so fast it was a wonder she didn't crink her neck. With wide eyes, she gave a panicky look to the silhouette the nurse noticed. Indeed, it was the clear profile of a cat, clearly visible as it turned its head and its eyes glowed eerily in the moonlight spilling through the kitchen's window.