Title: heart without a girl

Pairing: Alice/Naminé

Disclaimer: Not mine, guys, honestly.

Summary: Curiouser and curioser.

A/N: I've been meaning to write this fic since July, and back then the idea was at least a little original—well, I sat on it for too long, and someone else's gone and written the pairing. Still, bet they're not nearly as twee nor longwinded as I am (seriously, kill me). Book-verse Alice and real time Alice, because those are the only versions I care to write about. I haven't watched the Disney film in over ten years, but I do remember enjoying the insouciant oysters.

Please give this a chance, I needed to get it out there and away from me.


heart without a girl

-o-

Naminé will remember a crackling night in November, bonfire, and the light press of slender fingers in her sweat-thatched palm, a voice lilting and elastic telling her that, maybe it's love.

-o-

Castle Oblivion, in the days before the Keyblade Master. The walls breathe deeply with anticipation, white mums on the windowsills swaying in a nonexistent breeze. A fine, chalky dust fills the scented air, brushing the tips of itchy nostrils, lingering and refusing to set. The entire place has the feel of an empty stage in the quiet moment before the players enter and the velvet curtain is raised: a hushed expectation.

In this volatile environment, anything could happen.

-o-

For no reason, in the lull of a day, Larxene suddenly snarls in disgust and throws the book she has been reading to the floor, stomping out of the room in a huff.

The moment she is gone, Naminé abandons her workstation and silently creeps forward on her hands and knees (one learns the art of moving soundlessly, living in a place that perpetually echoes, and one exercises it even when no one else is around), fishes out the fallen book from where it has skittered and landed, under a divan. It is a small book, not too thick, not too thin, bound in scarred burgundy leather and evidently an inhabitant of the castle's library, which is off-limit to Naminé. This, she thinks, is indeed a rare treat.

There is no title on the spine, but a quick glance at the first few pages reveals the reason for Larxene's anger: the book is filled with beautiful illustrations.

Smiling to herself, Naminé runs her fingers over the picture of a rabbit in a waistcoat, peering at its pocketwatch with an air of palpable impatience, and as she does so, a strange heaviness seems to pull at the back of her eyelids, soft, silvery mist washing over her mind.

When she wakes, there are bread crumbs on her skirt, all over her unfinished sketch, and her mouth is slick with the sour aftertaste of butter.

-o-

This is a dream that she has, which, in retrospect, does not seem very much like a dream at all, but rather more like sleepwalking, disjointed actions in an unconscious state. In it, she is falling to her death, tumbling helplessly through empty space, the cold, sharp air slapping her face and twisting through her hair ruthlessly, a distant promise of impact. Her body is petrified in terror, every muscle frozen stiff as though premature rigor mortis has settled in, and Naminé remembers screaming, desperate and painful and soundless, as she hurtles brakelessly through darkness toward horrible, inevitable…

Moss. Or rather, a lawn as soft as. Damp and dark and thrumming with the promise of water, life, and there is a voice in her ears, lilting and elastic, asking, "Are you alright?"

Naminé blinks, and the world clears, segueing effortlessly into a pair of the clearest blue eyes she has ever seen, bright with a curious light. Another minute, and it is apparent that these eyes, in fact, belong to a face, which in turn belongs to a girl with a very pink mouth and a very blue dress, holding in her arms a struggling piglet wearing a frilly cap.

"Are you alright?" the girl repeats, bending presumably to get a closer look at Naminé. "You look somewhat out of sorts. Is there anything I can do?"

Some way behind her, sitting on the back porch of a small house (four-feet-and-two-inches high, to be exact), is a large, striped cat, grinning ear to ear. But even though the cat is interestingly blue and purple and the baby-pig is making quite a ruckus, Naminé finds her eyes naturally drawn to the face of the girl standing before her, who wrinkles her delicate brows and asks for a third time if she is alright, in the same light, inquiring voice.

"Yes," Naminé answers stiltedly, sitting up. "I'm quite fine, thank you. I just seem to have – misplaced myself a little."

"Oh, I know what that's like," the girl exclaims with a knowing look. "Would you like some soup?" she asks, long golden hair sliding over her shoulder as she tips her head slightly to one side. "It's really not so bad today – that is, if you don't mind all the pepper."

-o-

Alice, when not saddled with a armful of infant pig, has a habit of twirling a lock of her hair around her fingers when she talks, which is quite frankly most of the time. Her quick, silverbell words eagerly fill the air around her, painting lovely images and invoking strange ideas (and they are very, very strange indeed) with just the sound of them, and even though Naminé is an excellent listener, she can't help but marvel at the way that Alice's stories never seem to repeat themselves.

It is being around Alice, Naminé thinks, that has made her this observant—she notices now the little things that seem unusual even for an artist to pick out amongst the peeling-onion smorgasbord of wondrous things that make up Wonderland Land. They are details to be catalogued, footnotes that need to be (parenthesized).

For example, in this moment, she is noticing in particular the way Alice's left-hand fingers, the very ones she uses to twist her hair, are always coated in black ink, as though she writes too fast and smears their pads across the page. Or perhaps she is left-handed, and her fountain pen is a leaky thing, surreptitiously weeping onto the fingers of the lazy, careless pupil.

But there those ink-stained fingers go, ceaselessly fiddling with a tress of bright hair, twirl, twirl, twirl as Alice argues with the Caterpillar.

"With all due respect, sir, all I'm trying to ask is why it isn't the way it is," Alice asks, schooling her tone meticulously into marmish solemnity. "After all, if everything in the world isn't as it appears, but appears as it is, then why should anything be what it is at all?"

"It isn't," says the Caterpillar, and it is apparent that after several rounds of this, it has become quite tired of answering.

"But sir, the question is why?" insists Alice, dropping a tiny wink in Naminé's direction, making her bite her lips to bury a smile.

"It simply ISN'T," says the Caterpillar. It is silent for some minutes, and then, asks, "Why is it that you must always come around when I am busy looking for my hookah pipe?"

"Oh dear," cries Alice, hands flying to her face (stained fingers and all). "I had no idea you had lost your hookah pipe. No wonder you seem to be in such a ill mood—even more so than usual."

"Not lost," says the Caterpillar. "MISPLACED. And I can see you are of no help."

It raises itself huffily to full height, drops from atop of the mushroom and crawls away into the high grass.

The moment it is out of sight, Alice plies from her apron pocket the lost (MISPLACED) mouthpiece, and tucks it triumphantly into her mouth. ("All pretense, of course. It's not even lit.")

"Isn't it a little mean-spirited to take a hookah from a caterpillar?" Naminé asks, though her face can't hide the long-suppressed smile. "I wonder when he will finally figure out it's you who's been hiding it all this time."

"Serves him right," says Alice, affecting the trademark sluggish voice. "He was awfully rude to me the first time we met, and every time after that I came here to get a bit of the mushroom. Besides," she pauses, lifting the hookah from her lips, "if I keep this thing in my mouth when I go round to the flower garden, the Rose and the Violet and the Tiger-lily become quite scandalised and refuse to talk to me by lifting their noses in the air. You can't imagine what a relief it is not to have to endure their nagging."

Naminé wonders to herself how flowers can lift their noses, how flowers can have noses to begin with, but as with so many other oddities that fill this land, she has learned that just because you have a question doesn't mean that you should ask.

-o-

Alice takes her by the hand and pulls her through the lovely green light of the forest, until the day ends and lightning begins to flash ominously in the dark sky. They take refuge beneath a big tree with large, heartshaped leaves when the rain starts to pour in sheets, and though the darkness is close and damp and the thunder rumbles quite loudly, Alice's arm around her shoulder is still and comforting, her face traceless of fear.

It is quite possible that frequent exposure has desensitized Alice's finer senses, or perhaps it's only that Wonderland writes on all its inhabitants—even the transitory ones—a blueprint in bright, wonderful nonsense. That nonsense is now all over Alice, shimmering invisibly like molten fairy dust, for all that she continues to champion Common Courtesy and scoffs at 'stuff and nonsense'.

For one, she is a much improved storyteller.

"Once, these monsters came here and dragged me away to this dark, gloomy castle," Alice says, leaning her head on Naminé shoulder drowsily. Her hair smells like sunshine. "It was full of those creepy-crawlies—but they were nothing compared to the Witch. She put me next to all these older girls, and they were so very pretty, and all of them were wearing the most beautiful dresses, and they were Princesses. Goodness, Sis would just die if she ever saw them. I could hardly believe they were going to put me in next to all those beautiful Princesses. And they kept calling me a Princess too! It had to be too good to be true."

"Was it?"

"Oh yes, quite. They were trying to take our hearts!"

Naminé goes still. Alice doesn't seem to notice. "Now there was one girl who looked to be my age, and she seemed quite as out of place as I was. And—are you alright? You're shaking like a leaf—and honestly, I've never seen leaves shaking quite as much as you are."

"It's nothing," Naminé says, lowering her head, and is quite surprised when Alice reaches over and all but hauls her into her lap, wrapping both arms around her tightly.

"Mum used to do this for me when I was little and there was a storm out," she says, leaning down to whisper into Naminé's hair. "Makes the rain go by quicker, she always said."

It doesn't, not really, but Alice's arms are warm and perfect and their circle translates into something huge and deep and swallowing, and Naminé can't help but feel a little breathless, accidentally let it sink into her skin and muscle and bone—she's never been here before. Rain drops patter around them in a watery staccato.

"What is that you're always drawing in that sketchbook of yours?" Alice murmurs, her breath fluttering Naminé's hair.

"Even if I told you, you wouldn't understand."

"They must be very sad things," Alice says, and for the first time, her voice is dulled and muted, devoid of laughter threading through the words. "Your eyes are always so sad that they must see nothing but sad things, and how can you draw something you can't see?"

The fact of the matter is, Alice Pleasance Liddell is a much improved storyteller. You never know when she might launch into a new tale, a story about two people who fell in love on a mountain or by a fountain or in a city golden. You never know if you are at this moment sharing her dream or are simply a part of it, and that, alone, is not enough to stand on: one leg short.

"Once there was a girl who drew pictures about very sad things…"

-o-

Eventually, the rain does stop, though the sky remains sullen and strong highborn winds continue to sweep through the forest. Each time a gust blows past, it shakes the still-wet bough and makes the tree shower them with droplets of water and, better still, a rainfall of heartshaped leaves. After a moment, Alice abandons her post in favor of trying to catch them. For insurance, she says. Each leaf you catch is a happy day you will have the following year, and there is a story she was once told about a boy who caught 365 leaves and gave them to his mother so she'd have a whole year full of happiness ahead.

The leaves, on the other hand, do not appear to care for stories whatsoever, and they rebuff Alice's spirited efforts, laughing in small, tinkling sounds as they dodge her flailing arms. Alice, being a much better sport than she used to be, laughs right along with them. Naminé doesn't realize her fingers have moved until the motion of the charcoal pen's tip sliding over the tiny ridges of paper jars her, the scene flowing onto the page.

She hugs the sketchbook to her chest when Alice finally gives up and drops back down beside her, graceful and giggling and panting slightly, arms akimbo over her head.

"Better luck next time?" Naminé asks, smiling down at her.

"Not quite," Alice says, and plucks something from Naminé's hair. A heartshaped leaf, dewed with rainwater. "For you. So you'll have at least one day of happiness next year."

-o-

She opens her eyes, and Larxene hisses and backhands her across the face, sending her crashing into a statuette and crumpling to a heap on the floor, five imprinted fingers glaringly red on her left cheek. Her sketchbook goes flying—dozens of half-finished sketches of a laughing girl scattering everywhere, papering the room.

From a corner, Marluxia looks on in silence, and only when Larxene has gone does he step forward, lifting Naminé to her feet, his fingers closing around her upper arm with significantly more force than is necessary. A gesture of warning.

"You have been dozing off very often lately," he says measuredly, his mouth directly beside her ear, blowing a hot line down its shell. "Please take care to keep it under control. I should hate for anything to negatively affect your output."

She shivers under his grasp. The small red book still buried under a pile of untouched paper.

-o-

And one day, without much rhyme or reason, Alice turns to her and asks, "Have you ever been in love?"

Naminé stares at her, at a loss for words. Above them, fireworks send shivers of colors into the sky, little fires brighter and warmer than stars. All of Wonderland's inhabitants are out to celebrate—Naminé counts, the Duchess, the Dodo, even the timid Dormouse—and they're burning an effigy that only very slightly resembles a girl in a flowing skirt. Alice's tried to explain Guy Fawkes and gunpowder plots to her, only to get sidetracked into a story about classrooms and teachers who made you copy lines out of an encyclopedia if you misbehaved, and the encyclopedias never seem to have enough pictures, who wants them?

"I always thought I'd fall in love with a Knight," Alice goes on, picking at her shoe buckle. "Only it has to be the kind that rescues people, not the kind that likes to take them prisoners. What do you think?"

"I don't know," Naminé says, and wonders if her friend will ever tire of hearing that. "I don't think I've ever met a Knight proper."

"Well, Knights usually wear armour, either Red or White," Alice explains, exchanging her vague, dreamy look for one of bright wonder. "They go around wielding clubs and saying 'Ahoy! Ahoy!' and they tumble off their horses a lot. Once, I met a Knight who had shaggy hair that gleamed in the sun and sad blue eyes. He had a beehive and a mousetrap tied to his saddle, and he tried to make me cry with a song. He told me he was an inventor."

"Are all Knights inventors?"

"I thought so too, but Mr. Dodgson told me only some of them were inventors, and not all of them had beehives and mousetraps tied to their saddles. Not all them fell off their horses either."

"Who is Mr. Dodgson?"

"A friend of my brother. He has the face of a horse with a secret sorrow," Alice says, and pulls her face down into a comically long mask to demonstrate. "He went on a lot of boat rides with us, and taught me about stories when I was ten."

She wrinkles her nose at the word 'ten', and continues, "But I didn't need to be told, because I have myself met a Knight who was not an inventor. Nor did he ride horses, nor did he have any need for beehives or mousetraps. He was a just boy with mousey hair that stuck straight up, and a lot of friends wherever he went, and instead of a club, he used a big, gold key! But I knew he was the good kind of Knight, because he also liked to rescue people, and he rescued me from the Witch who wanted to take my heart."

The bangs and pops in the sky seem to go mute for a second, as Naminé stops staring at their brilliant lights and focuses on her feet instead. "And did you ever see this Knight again?" she asks, almost managing to hide how much it stings.

Alice sighs, shrugging delicately. "No. But someday, who knows? All I know is that our hearts are connected, so we'll never, ever forget each other."

"And how do you know that?"

At this, Alice breaks into a peal of laughter. "God only knows," she says, tossing her hair as another eruption of colors spills across the sky behind her head, yellow melting into orange melting into red. "Maybe it's love."

-o-

And another time. It is a Tuesday and the autumn sun is scorching hot. They're sprawled out limb to limb on the grass between the rose hedges, paint buckets and croquet flamingos cast aside in favor of tea biscuits and lemonade, nicked from the Queen's banquet table. The shock of tangy sweetness like sunshine on the tip of your tongue, a summertime burn out of season (if ever there were an apt description for Wonderland, it would be Too Much), and they drink it all in until their fingers are sticky and their minds lazy with the sway of the afternoon.

("Too much pepper in the soup, and too much sugar in the lemonade! At home, we'd always have buttered crumpets and meringues for tea.")

A gust of breeze rustles past, barely lifting the heavy, drooping heads of the half-painted blooms, and Alice covers her mouth with one hand, yawns daintily. The stifling heat appears to have wilted away most of the white-starched prim-and-properness in her, leaving in its stead a warm, sleepy mellowness. Languid and insouciant in the golden afternoon.

"So you say you don't have a heart?" Alice asks, rolling over onto her stomach and waving her slim, stockinged feet in the air, sans shoes. "Oh, that sounds ever so terribly exciting."

Naminé startles. "What do you mean?"

"If you don't have a heart, you never have to be concerned about monsters and witches who want to bring you to dark castles and take away your heart."

"I really don't think it works like that."

Alice taps her chin thoughtfully with one finger, eyelashes fluttering shut. "It's still much better to be a girl without a heart than to be a heart without a girl, isn't it?"

"I—I suppose so."

Naminé closes her own eyes, and thinks on this for a moment, or else she doesn't at all. It's really quite hard to differentiate between the two—think or not think—when the sky is this precise shade of blue and the grass this precise degree of soft. Why not just let go, let the tilt of the season carry you over into sleep—

"Sora!"

Blinking, Naminé bolts straight up and stares around wildly, but she only sees Alice, who has her sketchbook splayed open before her (she set it aside next to the paintbrushes—careless, how careless) and is gazing, enraptured, at a crude drawing of a boy in primary colors, swinging a large, golden key.

"No!" Naminé shrieks, and scrambles forward to snatch the book from under Alice's nose, slamming it shut defensively. "He's—that's not yours."

She sounds hysterical, and Alice must be offended, she'll surely never speak to her again. Naminé clutches the book to her chest, tries not to let out the noise that sounds like a sob.

But all Alice says is, "Why didn't you tell me you know Sora?"

And, frantically, "Where is he now? What's happened to him? My goodness, I haven't seen Sora since that whole business with the Princesses and the Witch and--"

"Please, stop!" Naminé yells, clamping her hands over her ears. "Just stop it!" She can't bear to look at Alice anymore, and there are hot tears sliding down her face because it's not real—none of it is real and none of it is hers, and God, what will Alice do now?

What Alice does is, surprisingly, creeping to Naminé's side without a sound, and, unsurprisingly, curling around her back like a second skin. Rubs soothing, concentric patterns into her stomach and makes shushing noises, pressing long, sweet kisses into her hair, the skin over her temples. Apparently, somewhere, somehow, between the girl who fell down the rabbit hole and the girl of today, she has learned to do all that, has gotten that good, which is only fitting for someone with a heart totally devoid of darkness, golden in every way that matters.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Alice whispers, over and over. "Please don't cry, please don't cry. I'll tell you another story—no, I'll sing you a song."

"What?"

"A song. I only know the one, and actually I've been told that it either brings tears to people's eyes or else it doesn't, but since you're already crying…"

It is an afternoon.

"Shall I sing it anyway?"

"Yes. I—I would like that."

It is an afternoon, and when Alice begins to sing, Naminé realizes that it is slightly unforgettable.

-o-

"I'll tell thee everything I can;
There's little to relate.
I saw an aged, aged man,
A-sitting on a gate…
"

-o-

Marluxia is sitting across from her at the desk when she raises her head blearily from her arm-pillows. He says, "I remain concerned by your change in habit," and this time, there is no mincing of words, no beating about the bush. What his tone of voice is telling her, under no uncertain terms, is that she had better clean up her act, or there will be consequences.

Naminé winces, always knowing this day would come.

-o-

She hasn't slept in thirty six hours.

The effort saps from her the very last tendril of wavering strength, reducing her to a state verging on collapse. Constantly rounding the bend of REM sleep is exhausting, but this is what must be done. This is necessary, because it's the only way to be safe. To keep her safe.

It is around three o'clock on an otherwise unremarkable afternoon that Naminé wanders out into the hallway outside her workroom, unable to sit still any longer without succumbing to the urge to keel over right on top of her crayon box. At this rate, I'll never be able to stay awake, she thinks, rubbing at her eyes tiredly as she turns a corner, and sees Alice brushing her hair in a tall mirror.

All sense of weariness evaporates from her person, at the same moment that Alice catches her eyes.

"Why, hullo," Alice says, putting down her comb. She sounds surprised—though nothing that holds a candle to what Naminé is experiencing at this moment. "Fancy seeing you here. It's been awhile."

Naminé's mouth goes slack with horror, but before she can so much as yell a strangled, "Don't!" it's already too late, and here is Alice Pleasance Liddell, tumbling, tumbling, tumbling out of the hallway mirror, smoothing down her skirt and whimsically tapping the soles of her patent leather shoes against the white marble floor of Castle Oblivion.

"How do you do?" she asks, casting her bright, wondering gaze around, taking in the pristine landscape. "Is this where you live? What a very curious place, if you don't mind me saying so."

There is no time to think, so Naminé grabs one of Alice's hands and drags her behind a conveniently large column, beseeching her to, "Please stay still and don't make a peep."

She is hardly out in the corridor again before a rough hand descends upon her shoulder, spinning her around.

"Boo," Axel says dryly. "So jumpy today. What're you up to, witch?"

"Nothing," Naminé says, and a part of her surges with pride at the icy calmness in her voice. Needs must. "I'm just taking a walk. What are you doing in this wing of the castle?"

Axel seems taken aback by this. He continues to peer at her through hooded eyes, his long fingers drumming slightly along her shoulderblade. Beneath the skin, at the point of contact, her flesh writhes in burning agony as the moment stretches.

"Looking for Marluxia," Axel says, after a minute or so. He releases her from his grip, and she immediately takes a step backward. "Got any idea where he might be at?"

"Doesn't he usually care for his plants in the afternoon?" she replies, not missing a beat. "Why don't you try the garden?"

Axel raises an eyebrow, slants her a needled smile. "Good answer," he says cryptically. "Well, catchya later," and disappears into a darkness portal.

The last traces of shadow have barely faded before Alice comes tumbling out from behind the pillar – and Alice never walks, just topples into places – ablaze with intrigue.

"Who was that man?" she asks. "He was thin as hat pin but tall as a pole, and he looked just like the Cat when he smiled. Right down to the disappearing act. And no Common Courtesy either—you'd think he might have stopped to say how do you do..."

"That was," Naminé begins nervously, peering up and down the corridor to make sure they are alone. "One of the people I live with. They are bad, no good people who like to fight and hurt – if they find you here, they might want to hurt you. You have to go home, Alice."

"How utterly strange," Alice mumbles, blue eyes alight like two identical moons. "I wonder if they observe the Rules of Battle when they fight."

"I doubt it," says Naminé, smiling wanly. "Alice, you really must go."

"Well, alright," Alice says, sounding slightly put-out as she plants her hands on her hips, rolling her eyes. "I should know not to overstay my welcome." And after a short pause, she gives Naminé a narrowed look, adding, "But are you quite sure you're going to be alright? Those folks didn't take you away and keep you here like the Witch did to me, did they?"

"No, no," Naminé lies quickly. They're running out of time; she must get Alice to leave before someone else comes along and catches them. "No one took me away. This is my home. I was born here."

These words sound so very strange that even coming from her own mouth, it takes her a moment to remember them as the truth.

"Oh," says Alice, brightening visibly. "I suppose that's fine then."

She leans over on her tippity toes and places a soft kiss on Naminé's cheek, so quick and airy it might never have been at all, if not for the riotous blush spreading across Alice's face. "Don't be a stranger. Come round and see me sometime, and we'll have a real tea party. With crumpets and meringues."

"Y-yes," Naminé stammers, fluttering, "Of course," and keeps on smiling even as Alice curtseys gracefully and steps back through the looking glass, disappearing without a ripple.

-o-

Twice already she has turned her sleeping quarters upside down, driven frenetic in the search for the missing leather-bound book. It's not like there's an abundance of hiding places in this almost-bare room. "Where-oh-where could it be," she singsongs under her breath, and prepares to go over her meager pile of unfinished sketches one more time, humming the opening tune of Haddock's Eyes to herself as she works.

"Looking for this?"

If she had a heart, oh, if Naminé had a heart, it would have ruptured her ribcage just now, as she spins around guiltily and takes in the sight bearing down upon her. Which is: Marluxia, face blank as a marble slate, holding out in his gloved hand a jagged square of charred, burgundy leather.

The room is suddenly very cold. The floor bottoms out.

"I was curious to know exactly what could have captured your attention so effectively for such a long time," he says evenly, taking her hand and closing her trembling fingers around the remnant of the book's jacket. "Unfortunately, I did not find it to be a very good read, so I gave it to Axel—and it appears he is even a harsher critic."

The man in question is leaning against the doorway, surveying the unfolding scene with an indifferent expression. Naminé barely registers his presence. It's very cold in here, and she can't feel her face or her legs or her hands clutching the ruined leather for dear life, but she can feel Alice's lips ghosting over her skin, sticky fingers on her arm, blonde hair spilling like water over her stomach—and she mustn't, mustn't cry, cannot let them have the satisfaction of seeing her cry.

Instead, she bows her head, hunches her shoulders and stares at the floor, bites her lips until her mouth is warm with blood, and doesn't cry.

"I do hope this will be the end of all distractions," Marluxia is saying, nebulously, somewhere above her. "Please know that I will expect nothing but your full cooperation from here on out. Good day," he adds, sweeping from the room.

Naminé raises her head, swimming with pinprick pain, just in time to see Axel straightening from his slouch, preparing to follow suit. "Better keep your head out of the clouds now," he advises over his shoulder. "The Keyblade Master is coming tomorrow."

He leaves, and in the drab stillness of the room, she falls to her knees, wracked with many silenced sobs.

-o-

But all things considered, it's really not such a godawful state of affairs.

If Naminé should never take her up on that offer of crumpets and meringues, Alice might wonder, at least for a few days, what has happened to her sad-eyed friend with the perennial sketchbook. She might grow sad too, as a result, but she will get over it. Alice's perfect heart might break a little, but she is still young and forgetful, she will bounce back and grow out of it, and think no more of the girl who, after all, was never there, just a part of a dream spun from golden silk and the bright illusions of a hot, simmering sun. She will not remember this, and really, that's not such a bad thing. Not at all.

After all, as Alice would say, no one likes belonging to another person's dream.

None of this of course prevents her nose from stinging the first time she sees soft pink mouth and whimsical blue eyes surfacing for the first time through the wandering mist of Sora's memories, golden hair bright and shining under the Wonderland sun.

As above, so below, and as Naminé's crayon scratches away, etching out lines after colorful lines on the smooth, creamy paper, she reaches back and wipes with the back of her left hand the blurring wetness suddenly obscuring her vision, spilling from her eyes like the core substance of a good memory, soon to be lost forever.

It's not such a big thing. Not at all.

Except for how the whole wide world now seems to be built upon this tiny contradiction.

So maybe Alice was right. Maybe it's love.

-o-

And in his pretend-memory, Sora shares with winsome Alice a round of silvery laughter, blissfully unaware of his fate.

-o-

Later, Naminé will find the heartshaped leaf pressed between the spiral-bound pages of her old sketchbook, now brown and crumbling around the edges but still smelling lightly of spices, the tropical night. She will crush her shaking fingers around it, and with that pinch of fragrant dust in the heart of her palm, will sleep, dreamless.

-o-

I give thee all – I can no more –
Though poor the off'ring be;
My heart and lute are all the store
That I can bring to thee.

(Thomas Moore)


In Chapter 8 of Through The Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll had the White Knight sing the song Haddock's Eyes (or Aged, Aged Man, or A-sitting On A Gate) to a bemused Alice, who recognized the tune as that of I give thee all I can no more. Otherwise known as My Heart and Lute by Thomas Moore, the first four lines of which are quoted above.

I believe that every CoM-era fic ever could be aptly summarized as, "Naminé lives with a bunch of assholes." Seriously, I hate them. Shut it, you in the back.