DISCLAIMER: We DO NOT own any of the chars from Disney's AIW. They belong to Disney. I only own Alicen Sierra Kimberly Miller and her little sister, Samantha, as well as any of their other relatives. If anyone would like to use Alice or her little sister, Samantha, please ask me first.
A/N: I hope everyone likes this next story. This one takes place before "Whenever she needs them." I wrote this with my friend, Kate and we had a fun time writing it!
"The Summet of Giving"
Eleven-year-old Alicen Sierra Kimberly Miller sighed as she sat at the Hatter's tea table. She had come to visit him, but she wasn't her usual happy self. She wasn't sad or anything, just a little frustrated.
Her mother's birthday was coming up and she didn't know what to get her Majesty.
It seemed like every one of her friends knew what they were going to give her except for Alice. Even Alice's little sister, Sammie, knew what she was going to give the Queen.
Hatter looked from the gift he was preparing to give her Majesty and frowned when he saw his friend's forlorn expression.
The young girl before him held a special place in his heart. He even thought of her as his own.
He had been like a second father to both girls, but more so to Alice.
"Alice, why so down?" He asked. "You look about as happy as the Dormouse did when they canceled Wonderland's Funniest Mice."
"Mom's birthday is coming up." She said.
"Well I Thought it would be obvious considering all the decorating we've been doing. Not to mention baking. And finding just the right gift for a Queen can be a challenge."
"That's just it. I don't know what to get her. Now Sophie, she's a princess I could definitely shop for. But she's different. She's more like me. She's normal."
"And we're not?" Hatter asked.
Alice shook her head. She smiled despite her mood.
"You're extraordinary." She said. She sighed once again. "But finding just the right gift for Mom is like…"
"Trying to find a pearl in a purple potato?"
"Something like that. But I have to think of something. Her birthday is four days away."
"How true that is." Hatter responded. He glanced at his friend and then got an idea. Often as he did with any idea that came into his mind, he ran with it. "I think I've figured out how to solve both of your problems at the same time."
"Both?" Alice asked, curiously. "But I only have one."
Hatter shook his head and continued.
"Wanna help me clean out my attic?"
A small smile spread across the girl's face. She appreciated her friend's efforts to cheer her up.
"Sure." She aid. "If I'm lucky, I'll find something for Mom there."
"That's the spirit." Hatter said. "And what do you know, the second problem's solved. See? Am I good or am I good?"
"What second problem are you talking about?" She asked.
Hatter winked as though it were obvious. Then seeing the look on her face, he hastened to explain.
"I got you to smile." He replied. "So there were two problems. One to find a present for the Queen and the other to cheer you up."
Alice actually giggled at this as she followed her long time friend and father figure upstairs.
The attic wasn't as bad as it often was.
Boxes were stacked in one corner, while tea cups both big and small sat on a large stone bunny rabbit.
Alice covered her mouth to keep form giggling as she remembered when her mother had taken up the art of sculpting as a hobby.
"You've finally found a use for that." She said. "See? There were a thousand and one uses for it after all."
As Alice glanced around the room some more, her eyes rested on a book that resembled a diary.
"You kept that?" She asked. "Even after the disaster it caused?"
"Of course." He replied. "It belonged to my great-great-great-great grandhatter after all. Why wouldn't I keep it?"
"I thought your great great great grandhatter was a cook?"
"What would make you think something like that?" He mused as he picked up a box.
"I don't know. I heard Mom mention it a few weeks ago. Something about the worst meatballs she ever tasted."
"Just between you and me, I think your Mom needs to broaden her taste buds a little."
Alice was on her knees at this point, examining a box that looked a hundred years old.
Its rim was gold and it had writing on it that was faded and worn.
Digging her hand inside, she braced herself for whatever was to come.
She should have known better with this being the Hatter's attic, but she felt so safe in Wonderland that sometimes she forgot what secrets it held.
Not feeling teeth, claws or anything else menacing attacking her hand, she delve in.
As her hand closed around a piece of paper, Sammie's voice floated up from downstairs.
"Uncle Hatter! Are you down here?"
"No, sweetcakes! I'm up here." He called back.
The seven-year-old took the stairs two at a time and burst into the attic with the energy of a cheetah.
"Wow!" She said getting a good look at the room. "This place is a mess!"
"That's why we're cleaning it. " Alice said as she glanced up from the box she was going through. "How was skating?"
"It was fun!" Sammie replied. "Uncle Dum took me after I got the Queen's gift."
Alice nodded and frowned. The mention of her little sister having obtained a gift for the Queen made her all the more frustrated in her lack of any ideas.
Sammie spoke up just then.
"We saw Sophie there." She said. "She told me to tell you hi and she'll call you tonight."
"Thanks." Alice replied.
It was then that Sammie got a good look at the statue in the corner.
"What in Wonderland is that?" She asked.
Alice gazed at it and a small smile spread across her face. She had asked Hatter the same thing a year ago. As she sat there, the memories came back to her like a sweet aroma of Hatter's famous pancakes…
Smiling to herself, Alice shook her head as her mind floated back to the present.
"Mr. Hatter finally figured out what to do with that thing." She said, pointing to the various tea cups that called it home.
"You use it as a table?" Sammie asked.
Hatter shook his head.
"I use it as a tea cup holder." He replied. "The ears make great handle support."
"Do you know what you're getting the Queen yet?" Sammie asked turning to Alice.
Sensing the girl's mood change, Hatter decided to break in before anything could go wrong. He had been around the sisters long enough to know when Alice needed a break.
"Hey, sweetcakes," he said, referring to Sammie. "I have some of your favorite tea downstairs and those tarts you like so much. Do you want a snack?"
It was like he had said Christmas was coming early.
"Okay!" With that, Sammie agreed. She jumped up from where she was sitting and followed him downstairs.
Once there, Hatter got a snack for the both of them and started telling Sammie a story of a treasure that was said to be located somewhere in Wonderland.
Meanwhile, Alice was sorting through a box of old hats and what looked to be tea cups that were at least a century old.
It reminded her of the chalice the Hatter and Hare had brought back for her Majesty while on a archeological dig.
As she continued sorting through the boxes, she joined by none other than the Cheshire Cat.
"Anything in there for me?" He asked.
Alice glanced up and gave him a smile.
"Oh hi, Mr. Cat. No. Unless you want a tea cup or some old hats. But I have a feeling Mr. Hatter isn't giving any of this stuff away. If you ask me, he's a bit of a pack rat."
"Now there's an animal I don't get along with." He said. "Rats are always up to something. But then again, so am I."
"Dinah doesn't like them much either." Alice told him. "Once there was a mouse in the palace and I thought she was going to go nuts. Mom hired a royal mouse catcher, but Dinah ended up getting rid of it for free."
Just then, her hand closed over another piece of paper. This paper was different than the rest. It was rolled up like a scroll or one of the calendars you got at a Chinese Restaurant."
"What is this?" She asked taking it out of the box.
"Curious, are we?" He observed. "Why don't you take a look."
"I really shouldn't." She said. "It's not mine."
"What's the Hatter gonna do with an old treasure map anyway?" The Cat asked.
"Treasure map? What kind of treasure map?"
"I won't be the one to let the cat out of the bag." He said. "Besides, I'm missing my favorite show. Married with Kittens. See ya." With that, he disappeared.
Thinking to herself, Alice took the plunge. She wasn't one for snooping through other people's stuff, but the Hatter had asked her to help out after all.
Spreading the map on the floor, she gasped. The cat was right. It was a treasure map. The question what kind of treasure was it?
"….So it's said that the jewels are hidden somewhere on top of the Wonderland mountains." Hatter finished. "Strange thing is, they never said exactly where. There was a map, but it got lost years ago. Who knows where it is now."
Sammie shrugged as well.
Just then, Alice joined them.
"All finished?" Hatter asked.
"Yup. Um, Mr. Hatter, I couldn't help but overhear you talking about treasure. Is that story real?"
"It most certainly is." He said. "As real as the wear hares that rome Wonderland on Halloween."
Alice shot him a look.
"Exmay on the wearhay." She said, glancing at Sammie.
"Oh. Well, you don't have to worry about that because they aren't real."
"But this treasure is?" Alice pressed on.
"Yes indeedy doo." He then got a good look at the expression on the eldest Miller sister's face. "Alice, you weren't actually thinking of going and searching for it, were you?"
Just then, her cell phone rang.
"I'll be right back." Alice told him. "Keep my tea warm for me, will ya?" With that, she left the room.
Later that night, Alice was in her room at the palace. She was supposed to be doing homework, but she couldn't concentrate.
Every time she tried to solve a math problem, her eyes would wander over to the map.
she successfully removed it from the Hatter's house without him being any the wiser.
She was planning on giving it back, but first she wanted a chance to figure it out.
It was then that she got an idea.
Getting up, she left her room and walked into the hallway. She passed the kitchen where Rabbit was helping Sammie with her reading and went directly for the Queen's throne room.
Knocking on the door, she walked in after the Queen knew it wasn't Rabbit.
"Oh Alice, thank goodness it's you." The Queen said. "I need your help."
"My help? With what?"
"I need you to help me go through some old jewelry I'm giving away at an auction next month."
"You're giving away jewelry?" She asked.
"Why do you sound so surprised?"
"No reason." She said. Thanking the Heavens that she hadn't had any of Hatter's truth tasting tea.
While going through a box, a question came to her mind.
"Uh, You're Majesty?" She said, gazing up at her from what she was doing.
"Huh?" The Queen asked.
"Do you have every type of jewelry ever made?"
"I wish I did." The Queen replied. "But sadly, I don't."
Alice grabbed onto this piece of hope like a drowning victim would grab onto a safety line.
"Really? What type are you missing?"
The Queen sighed.
"Only the most rare type ever made." She replied. "It's called the mountain ruby."
"Oh." Alice said, trying to sound casual. "Do they sell it anymore?"
"Sell it? You must be joking. My dear child, the mountain ruby isn't something you buy."
"It isn't?" Alice asked.
"Heavens no. It's something you must find."
"Like a treasure?" She asked.
"I guess you could say that." She said. She raised her eyebrow at her daughter. "Why are you suddenly so interested in rare jewels?"
"No special reason." Alice replied. "But if you were to go search for these mountain rubies, where would you start?"
"The Wonderland mountains of course. Everyone knows that."
"I didn't." Alice pointed out.
"You're not thinking of going there alone, are you?"
Alice tried to avoid eye contact with her, but she knew she had to answer.
Just then, Rabbit's voice could be heard floating down the hallway.
"Alice, could you come help us, please?"
"Coming!" She called. She was about to leave, when the Queen's voice stopped her mid step.
"Hold it right there, young lady."
"Uh, yes?" Alice said turning back to face her.
"I want an answer to my question. And I want it now."
Alice knew she was cornered. She also knew she couldn't lie to her mother. She would be foolish to try.
"I might have been thinking about it." She replied truthfully.
"Well stop thinking about it." The Queen told her.
"Why?" Alice asked.
"Because it's too dangerous. I don't want you going out there alone."
"I mean it." She said. "I don't want you getting hurt."
"I can take care of myself."
"I'm serious." The Queen said. "I don't want you going out there for any reason. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes You're Majesty." Alice replied. She knew that's what her mother was getting at. The one thing she had raised her to use were her manners.
Alice was about to leave, when the sound of the Queen's next words made her stop once again.
"Alicen Sierra Kimberly Miller, I'm not kidding around."
Alice nodded. She knew her mother meant business now. Whenever she used her full name, which wasn't often, she wasn't messing about.
"I undastand." Alice confirmed. "I promise. No going there alone."
"Good." The Queen replied. She gave her a small smile to show her she wasn't mad. "Now go on and see what Rabbit wants before he destroys something else valuable."
The next day, Alice woke up bright and early and dashed outside. She ate a quick breakfast and then told the Queen she was heading over to the Tweedles. She had a favor to ask them.
Getting to their house, she wasn't surprised to see them outside tossing around a softball.
They grinned when they saw their little sister.
"Hey Alice!" Dum greeted. "What's up?"
"Nothing much. I Need your help with something."
"Sure thing." Dee said. "You know we've got your back. What is it?"
"Well, Mom's birthday's coming up and I was wondering' if you would go with me to get her gift."
"We're down with that." Dum said. "So what were you thinking of getting her?"
"Uh, you could say it's something rare."
Dee eyed his younger sibling with something of knowing on his face.
"Come on, Alie, you can level with us. What are you really up to?"
"Oh okay. I do wanna get Mom a gift. And it is rare, but you can't buy it in a store."
"Okay." Dum replied. "I love goin' to the Wonderland outlet mall."
"Uh, no. It's not exactly an outlet mall either, but you could say the place to get it is outdoors."
Dum gave her a look.
"Where exactly is this place?"
"I have a map if that helps." She handed Dee the piece of paper and waited for his reaction.
But it wasn't he who spoke next, but Dum.
"How far out of Wonderland are we talking about?" He asked.
"Not far." Alice answered. "Just near the Wonderland mountains."
"Alice, have you eaten too many of Hatter's crumpets?" Dee asked. "The Wonderland mountains are treacherous."
"How bad can they be?" She asked.
"Dangerous enough." Dee told her. "You don't wanna be going out there alone."
"That's what Mom said too."
"I can't believe I'm saying this," Dum said. "But the Queen's right."
Alice reached up and put the back of her hand to Dum's forehead.
"Okay. You're not warm."
"I agree with my brother." He told her. "We don't want anything to happen to you."
Alice sighed. She didn't understand why everyone was treating her like she was still a little girl. She was almost twelve for goodness sake. Why couldn't they see that?
"I can take care of myself." Alice said for what felt like the umpteenth time.
"We know you can." Dee assured her. "But we also know Wonderland better than you do. Just trust us, okay?"
"I do." Alice said. "I just wanted to find the perfect gift for Mom."
"You will." Dum said. "You just have to keep looking. Now, what do you say? Wanna play a game of softball?"
"No thanks." Alice replied. "I have some thinking to do. I'll see you guys later." With that, she left. She wasn't even going to ask Sophie to go with her. She didn't want to put her best friend in that type of danger.
"There's only one thing to do." Alice decided as she walked back to the palace. "I guess I'm on my own." With that, she took a left into the forest. She had the map in hand and she was ready for this adventure. Little did she know what she was in for…
As she got further and further into the forest where the mountains were located, she gasped. This part of Wonderland was so beautiful. How could anyone think it was dangerous?
Flowers lined the path, their colors making Alice feel like she was walking through a field of rainbows.
Besides the flowers, there were also beautiful trees and the sun shone down upon her like a spotlight from the Heavens.
After walking for a little over an hour, she glanced up to see a tall structure in the distance.
"This must be it!" She exclaimed in triumph. "I found it! Now to get those rubies." She said to herself.
Tucking the map into the waist band of her jumpsuit, she started to climb.
As she continued her ascent, her mind was focused on the present she would find at the top. She couldn't wait to see her mother's face when she presented it to her.
Then again, she had a feeling she was in for the grounding of her life if the Queen found out she had disobeyed her.
As she reached the middle of the climb, she started feeling light headed.
Thinking she just needed rest, she stopped for a little break.
Glancing upward, she smiled when she realized she didn't have far to go.
"The view from up there must be incredible." She said to nobody in particular.
It only took ten more minutes for her to reach her destination.
Gazing at the breath taking sight before her, she smiled. She had been right. The view was incredible beyond belief.
"Now to find those rubies." She said to herself.
Feeling around, she felt a spot that was full of sand and dirt. Figuring that was the place to start digging, she got to work.
She passed the time by singing to herself. Music always seemed to
make work less tedious.
As her hand closed over the first ruby or two, she felt the rising excitement build within her. It spread through her like a cup of Hatter's tea on a winter day.
She also smiled at the fact that she had finally found the perfect gift for her mother.
The Queen had said it herself. These jewels were rare and ones she didn't have.
Alice couldn't stop smiling. She had not only found the present, but she had managed to find one that would be totally her own.
The best part was, she would add her own personal touch to the necklace once she had made it.
But first, she had to collect the right amount of rubies for the job.
Settling on twelve, she continued to search. She had brought a bag with her that could fit in her pocket. IT was just big enough for what she had to carry.
After a few more minutes, she had obtained all of the rubies she needed.
Setting them in the bag, she took a minute to survey what they looked like.
"Wow!" She gasped in amazement. "They're even more beautiful than Mom said. They'll be perfect. Now to make the present. But to do that, I need to get out of here first."
Tucking her satchel in the only available pocket she had in her jumpsuit, she prepared for her descent.
As she started down, she slipped a little and felt her right arm scrape against the side of one of the holds.
Grabbing the first one she felt, she was able to hoist herself back up.
But as she did so, she made the mistake of glancing down to see how far she had to go.
As she did so, she felt her world begin to spin around her and it felt like something cold was gripping her from within.
Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to look away, but it was too late. The fear had already set in.
Taking a minute or so to try and calm down, she tried to continue.
But try as she might, she couldn't move. She was paralyzed by her fear.
What in Wondaland was going on? She had never felt this before. Why now?
"Why couldn't this have happened the last time I went cliff diving with my brothers?"
She had been cliff diving with the Tweedles at least ten times by now. Eight of those times they had made sure the Queen was away for a few days.
Rabbit was easy to get over on because he trusted the brothers and knew they wouldn't purposely put Alice in danger.
"Oh marshmallows! What am I gonna do now?"
Just then, the Cheshire Cat appeared.
"Hey." He said. "What are you doing hanging out up here?"
Alice gave him a look.
"I don't know. Enjoying the view." She said sarcastically
"It's pretty isn't it?" He asked.
"It depends where you're looking." She replied. She closed her eyes and tried to ward off the dizzy feeling that was threatening to engulf her.
After it had passed for the moment, she turned her attention back to the cat. "Look, I need you to do me a favor. Go get the Tweedles." She then added. "And NOT under any circumstances are you to stop by the palace."
"Okay, okay. Pushy." He said just before vanishing.
"Please let him be quick." She prayed to whoever was listening.
Meanwhile, the Cat was searching around for the formentioned brothers, but he couldn't' find them. They apparently had gone out for something and hadn't returned yet.
"Now what?" He asked himself. "Alice said not to go to the palace." He smiled. "But she didn't say not to get help somewhere else." With that, he disappeared once again.
Meanwhile, at Hatter's, the Hatter was setting the tea table for today's tea party. He had sent Hare off to the store to get some last minute ingredients for a new tea he was inventing. He had sent Sammie with him to make sure he didn't get lost or come back with too many boxes of Carrot Crunchies.
As he set Alice's favorite tea cup at her place, the Cheshire Cat appeared.
"I think you may want to put that tea party on hold." He advised knowingly.
"Why would I wanna do that? I've already put yesterday's tea party on hold until tomorrow and the day before that's tea party on hold until today."
"Trust me." He said. "You'll want to put this one on hold once I'm done saying what I have to say."
"Okay. Sell me." He said.
The Cheshire Cat sighed.
"Look, we don't have much time for a game of Cat and Mouse. We have a small catastrophe on our hands or should I say paws."
"What do you mean?" He asked.
"Alice needs your help. She's in danger."
This got Hatter's attention right away. The tea party was momentarily forgotten as he turned his full attention to the Cat.
"What kind of danger?" Hatter asked.
"The kind she needs help to get out of. She told me not to get the Queen and I couldn't find the Tweedles anywhere."
"They went to a tennis tournament." He informed him.
"I prefer Batt mitten myself." The Cat said.
"Back to Alice." Hatter quickly cut in. "Where is she?"
"Somewhere she shouldn't have gone." The Cat replied.
"I can't help her if I don't know the whole story." He said.
The Cat explained what had happened.
As Hatter listened, he felt the need to help. Not only because he felt partially responsible, but because he had been near and around the mountains before.
He and Hare had dug up an ancient Chalice a few miles away from where Alice was now.
"If Hare comes back," Hatter instructed the Cat, "tell him where I am and to meet me there."
The Cat sighed.
"All this work and no perks."
Hatter ignored him as he left in the direction of the Wonderland mountains.
Meanwhile, Alice was waiting for the Cat to return. She knew she may have made a mistake by sending him off in search of help in the first place.
She was better off sending Dinah. Her faithful calico had never led her wrong yet.
Unfortunately, at this moment, Dinah was back at the palace, asleep on her favorite rug. She was completely unaware of the danger her best friend and mistress was in.
As Alice waited for help to arrive, she started to shiver. The sun had gone in for a few minutes and she was starting to get cold.
"Come on, Mr. Cat. Where are you? Heaven help you if you stopped at the Catnip Emporium."
As she continued to wait, she prayed someone would come soon. She would even settle for the Caterpillar.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, Dinah was anything but asleep. She was currently in the Queen's throne room pacing back and forth like a worried mother for her kittens.
"Will you stop that." The Queen demanded. "You're making me nervous. Alice is fine. She's come late to dinner before. She'll be back soon."
Dinah meowed as if to say, "Not this time" before jumping in the Queen's lap and curling up.
"You're lucky you don't shed." The Queen replied.
Dinah responded by meowing before jumping off her lap and heading for the door.
She pawed at it as though she wanted to get out.
Just then, the Tweedles came in. Dum was breathless from running and his brother looked flushed from the effort.
"Where have you two been?" She asked. "You look like you've run a marathon."
"We feel like we have." He told her. "We've been running all over Wonderland looking for Alice. We can't find her anywhere. Have you seen her, You're Majesty?"
"Come to think of it, no. Not since early this morning when she left to hang out with you two."
The brothers glanced at one another.
"When we left her, she said she was going for a walk." Dee informed her. "She never lied to any of us before. Maybe she's gone to see the Walrus or something."
Just then, their for mentioned friend arrived.
"We haven't seen her all day." He reported, referring to himself and Penapid.
"Oh hurrumph!" The Queen said in frustration. "How could it be this hard to keep track of an eleven-year-old child. Honestly."
It was then that Dinah got free. She ran through the open door, into the hallway and out of the palace.
"Don't worry about her, You're Majesty." The Walrus assured her, referring to Dinah. "She'll come back when she's hungry."
Just then, the Cat appeared.
"I think you should worry." He said. "In fact, I'm sure of it."
"What do you mean? What do you know that we don't? Where's Alice?"
The Cat hesitated for a minute. He knew Alice hadn't wanted the Queen to know, but he also knew how worried her Majesty was deep down.
Finally, he decided to let the cat out of the bag. He only hoped Alice would forgive him.
"She did what!" The Queen exclaimed. "After I specifically told her not to. What in Wonderland was she thinking?"
"I'm not sure." The Cat replied. "Maybe it has something to do with your birthday."
"What are you talking about?" She asked. "You're making about as much sense as the Rabbit does when he's had too much coffee."
"Think about it." The Cheshire Cat told her. "In the meantime, I gotta scat. I have some things to do. Arivaderchi!" With that, he disappeared.
"If it helps You're Majesty," Dee said, "we told her not to go."
"Yeah." Dum chimed in. "We thought she would listen to us. She always did before."
"Well at least someone has some sense around here." The Queen commented. She got up and headed for the door. She glanced back at the brothers before proceeding. "Well, are you two coming or not?"
The brothers quickly nodded and followed behind her.
Meanwhile, Alice was just coming out of a slight doze when she thought she heard someone calling her name.
She listened harder and sure enough, a familiar male voice met her ears.
She would recognize it anywhere. And right now, she could use his help.
Being careful not to move, she tried her best to call down to him, but found she had to shout to be heard because of the distance.
"Mr. Hatter! I'm up here!" She called down. "Help me! Please!"
"Hang on!" He called back. "I'm comin' up." With that, he started to climb the mountain himself.
It was a good thing he wasn't afraid of heights. It was also a good thing that he had passed nature scouts with flying colors. He had also beaten everyone in any tree climbing contest he had participated in when he was a boy.
Getting near the top, he saw where Alice was and made a bee line for her.
"Mind if I join you?" He asked as casually as possible. He was trying to lighten the mood a little bit.
But he could tell by the look on her face that his young friend wasn't amused.
"Okay." Hatter said. "How did you get up here anyway?"
"Mr. Hatter, please, I'll explain after we get down." She said.
"Okay." Hatter replied.
He then prepared to help her to the ground.
As he explained what he needed her to do, she nodded, but he could see the fear in her eyes.
It wasn't just the fear of heights but something else as well.
"We're gonna do this slowly." He said. "You need to trust me for this to work."
She nodded. There it was again. That word she had become so estranged to over the last few months.
"Okay." She said softly.
"Thatta girl." With that, he started his own descent.
Keeping his word, Hatter made his way slowly down the mountain and instructed Alice how to do the same.
As they reached the halfway point, Alice started to slip again.
Alice yelped in surprise and almost started to panic again.
"Mr. Hatter, help! I'm slipping!" She cried, nearly bursting into tears.
"Okay. It's all right. Don't move." With that, he prepared to help her.
Seing her distress, Hatter tried to help her find her balance again.
"All right," he instructed her gently. "You need to reach oer to your left and grab the first hand hold you come to."
"I'm scared!" Alice admitted.
"I know." Hatter assured her. "But it's okay to be afraid. But you need to trust me. I won't let anything happen to you. Take it nice and slow."
Alice nodded. She tried to listen to her friend's instructions.
As she found herself steadying once again, she realized that she could trust him to see her through this.
When they finally reached the bottom, Hatter put an arm around her and was surprised when she collapsed in his arms from exhaustion and fear as the adrenalin brought on by her brush with danger left her.
As the adrenalin left her body, the fear set in again. This time, bringing tears with it.
Hatter did the only thing he could think of and wrapped his arms securely around her protectively.
"Shh, it's okay now. You're all right. I have you. You're okay." He comforted, trying to calm her down.
He assured her she was okay and tried to get her to breathe normally as the others came into view.
"There she is, You're Majesty!" Dee called. "We found her!"
"Well it's about time." The Queen stated as she came around the corner, followed by Dum and the Walrus.
As they got a good look at Alice, they knew something was very wrong.
"What in Wonderland happened?" The Queen asked anxiously. "I want an explanation!"
"Might I suggest we get Alice some place warm." The Walrus interjected. "She looks in need of some care. With that, they headed back to Hatter's.
When they got there, Hatter gently placed Alice down on the couch and covered her with a blanket.
Knowing how the Wonderland mountain air could affect someone, he decided to check her for a fever.
Pressing the back of his hand to the young girl's forehead, he frowned when he realized he was right.
"How is she?" The Queen asked. She had decided to stay to make sure her daughter would be okay.
"She's still asleep." Hatter told her. "And she appears to have a slight fever."
The Queen nodded. She told the Walrus to get a wash cloth and dip it in cool water.
The Walrus did so and returned a minute or so later.
As the Queen draped the soft material across the child's forehead, Alice started to stir.
Her bluish green eyes opened as she started to regain her senses.
"Mr. Hatter?" She asked. She didn't remember much. The last thing she remembered was Hatter comforting her once they had reached the ground.
"Hey, you're awake." He said.
If Alice hadn't been feeling so tired, she would have rolled her eyes.
"Did I pass out?" She asked, trying to sit up. "Wha-what happened?"
"You gave us quite a scare, that's what happened." The Queen answered.
"You need to lie back down for now." Dee cautioned his little sister.
Alice nodded, but she didn't answer him. Instead, she turned to face the person who had spoken before.
"Ma-Mom? What are you doing here?"
The Queen gave her a look that spoke volumes.
"Where else would I be?" She asked rhetorically.
Alice shrugged and found that it hurt. She winced in pain, but tried to hide it from her family.
The Queen wasn't fooled though.
Hatter caught her look and hastened to assure her.
"She's not dying." He assured her. "Our Alice is gonna be fine. She'll just be sore for a few days. Believe me, I know."
The Queen nodded. She sighed before giving Hatter a look he knew only too well.
"Now that I know she's not in any immediate danger, I wanna know who put this chuckle headed idea into her head."
"It wasn't me." He said. "I told Sammie something about a treasure, but Alice wasn't there."
Alice shook her head.
"It wasn't Mr. Hatter." She said. "It was someone else."
"Who?" The Queen asked.
Alice sighed. Before she reply, the Queen continued.
"And I thought I told you not to go there alone."
"You did. I tried to get someone to go with me, but…." Her voice trailed off as she tried to look anywhere but the spot where Dum and Dee were standing. They were examining Hatter's pretzel machine with a great deal of more interest than was necessary.
"So it was you two?" She asked, rounding on them.
"We told her not to go." He said for the second time that day.
"It's true." Alice confirmed.
"I see." The Queen said. She would have said more, but she wanted her daughter to get the rest she needed. She also knew she had some thinking to do.
In order to let Alice get some rest, the gang left the living room and congregated in Hatter's kitchen.
"Gee, she's pretty worn out. Maybe she should just stay here tonight."
The Queen gave him such a severe glance, he actually stepped back.
"Not on your life. She's coming home with me."
"Are you serious?" Hatter asked.
Hare got a look at her Majesty and glanced back Hatter.
"I think she's serious."
"I am serious." She replied. She then caught the look Hatter was giving her. "Don't look at me like that. You'll see Alice again. In the next few weeks."
After Alice had woken up and eaten something, the Queen declared it was time to go.
Alice gave Hatter a pleading look.
"You're Majesty, you can always stay here." He tried in an attempt to save Alice from her verbal wrath.
"I'd rather camp out in the woods again. Those tents were more comfortable than your couch."
"I don't' think it's so bad." Alice chimed in. She shut her mouth straight away realizing she had made a mistake.
Sighing in resignation, Hatter shook his head. He knew getting the Queen to change her mind was like getting Dinah to try a new brand of cat food.
"I'm sorry, kiddo. It looks like you have no choice."
"I guess you're right." She replied. With that, she got up a little unsteadily and followed the Queen back to the palace.
When they arrived, Sammie ran into the hallway to greet them. She had been playing a game of Clue with Rabbit. It had been a reward for finishing her spelling and getting most of them right.
She had a small reading problem and Rabbit had found another way of teaching her that made it easier for the little girl.
The Queen allowed Sammie to give Alice a hug and then she suggested for her to get a small snack from Rabbit. She explained she had to talk to Alice alone.
Sammie only hesitated slightly. But at the sound of the word snack, she was off again.
Pointing to her daughter's usual chair, she indicated for her to sit.
Alice did so, knowing it was best to obey her mother when she was in lecturing mode.
A few minutes of silence fell over them before the Queen broke it.
But what she said surprised Alice . She didn't scold her right away or even punish her. She simply asked a question that the young girl knew she had to answer.
"Why did you do it?" She asked.
Alice sighed. She didn't want to give away the surprise, but she knew she was walking on thin ice as it is.
"It's kind of hard to explain." She said honestly.
"Well I'm not going anywhere. And neither are you until I get an answer."
Alice nodded. She didn't know where to start that wouldn't give her secret away.
"I was cleaning out Mr. Hatter's attic and I found a map. I didn't know what it was, but then I heard him telling Sammie a story and it gave me an idea."
"I knew he had something to do with this."
"But it wasn't entirely his fault." Alice told her. "If you wanna blame anyone, blame the cat."
"Somehow I'm not surprised." She responded. She then turned serious once again. She then asked another question. This one catching her daughter off guard.
"Why didn't you listen to me?"
"I guess I wanted to prove that I could take care of myself. And I wanted to do something special for you."
There. She had said it. IT wasn't the whole truth, but at least she had said part of it.
"For me? What do you mean?" She asked. "This wouldn't have anything to do with that ridiculous surprise party I know my subjects are planning, would it?"
Alice shook her head.
"No. I thought of this on my own."
The Queen nodded.
"You know I have no choice but to punish you, don't you?"
"Yes." Alice said resignedly.
"I want you to go to your room to think about this. I'll be in to talk to you later."
"Yes, You're Majesty." With that, she was gone.
The Queen sighed.
"That child of mine is going to give me grey hair before Rabbit does."
Just as she said this, there was a crash from the kitchen.
"Then again, maybe not."
Bracing herself, she went to investigate.
"What in Wonderland happened here?" She asked.
"Mr. Rabbit made a mess!" Sammie declared.
"Well that's obvious."
"We were making your…" Her voice trailed off knowing she had almost let the cat out of the bag. "I mean, we were making a snack and some dishes fell."
"Some? It looks like the whole pot cabinet exploded."
"Why don't you run along for your bath." She suggested. "I'll be in a minute."
"Can I use the bubble bath, please?" She asked hopefully.
"I suppose so."
"Yay!" With that, she disappeared down the hallway.
After she was gone, the Queen rounded on Rabbit.
"What happened in here?"
"Well, like the child said, we were making a snack and well…" His voice trailed off as he tired to think of the right explanation that wouldn't get him fired.
It was then that he realized one of the Queen's children was missing.
"Where's Alice?" He asked trying to change the subject.
"In her room." The Queen replied. "And she'll be staying there at least until tomorrow."
"Is she sick?" He asked in concern.
"No." She replied. "She disobeyed me so I had to punish her."
"You're Majesty, don't you think you're being a little too harsh? I means he's never really disobeyed you before."
"No I don't think I'm being too harsh. Now either you clean up this mess or you'll be joining her."
"Yes, You're Majesty. Right away. Now where did I put that dust buster…"
Shaking her head, the Queen went down the hallway to give Sammie her bath.
Entering the bathroom, she found her youngest daughter in the tub with bubbles all around her. Something was clutched in her hand and it looked vaguely familiar.
Not being able to hide the smile, the Queen entered the rest of the way.
"I found him in a basket." Sammie told her. "He looked lonely. Does he have a name?"
The Queen thought for a minute and then shook her head.
"I did name him, but you're welcome to change it."
"What did you name him?" She asked.
"Quackers." She replied while getting the shampoo and conditioner out.
"He looks more like a bubbles to me." She decided.
Just then, they were joined by the Cheshire Cat.
"I always thought Quackers was a strange name for a duck."
"What are you doing here?" The Queen asked. "Shouldn't you be out chasing mice or something."
"The Mouse races aren't until Friday." He replied. "Besides, I wanted to see what was up. And if Alice got home all right."
"She's fine. Unlike a certain feline I know who won't be if you don't scat now."
"Aw, is that any way to talk to your favorite Cat?"
"Who said you were my favorite cat?" The Queen retorted. "The only cat I like around here is one who listens."
"All right. I can take a hint. I'll stop by tomorrow."
"Please don't." The Queen said.
With that, he was gone.
"Why don't you like him?" Sammie asked. "I think he's funny!"
"Well that makes one of us." The Queen replied. With that, she finished giving her youngest daughter her bath. She then wrapped a red towel around Sammie and helped her out of the tub.
Leading the child back to her room which was almost straight across from Alice's, she brushed her hair out and put it into a braid before tucking her in for the night.
She had grown accustomed to this routine from taking care of Alice for the last seven years.
Just then, Sammie's own cat, Pumpkin, climbed onto her bed.
She had named her that because that's what she looked like. She had green eyes and orange fur that was soft to the touch.
After making sure Sammie would be okay, the Queen baid her good night and left. She knew she couldn't for stall talking to Alice any longer.
Knocking on her door, she waited for a response before going in.
When she didn't receive one, she opened the door to find her eldest daughter fast asleep.
Dinah was curled up beside her.
As the Queen approached the bed, Dinah awoke, alert as anything.
She arched her back and was about to hiss at her, but stopped when she realized who it was.
"That's what I thought." The Queen said.
Dinah gave her a look and meowed softly as though to suggest that she wait until morning.
"I guess you're right." She conceded. "Don't tell anyone I told you that. I don't want any of them getting any ideas."
Dinah purred and rubbed up against the Queen's right arm before going back to her spot and lying down.
After making sure Alice was comfortable, the Queen left for her own room. It had been a long day for everyone and she knew the morning would be long as well.
The next morning, the inhabitants of the palace were awoken by the sound of a familiar voice calling to them from the foyer.
"Anyone hungry? I brought pancakes!"
Sammie was out of bed like a shot. She ran to Hatter and begged to help prepare them.
"Someone's happy this morning." Hatter observed.
"Alice isn't." Sammie informed him.
"Well, we'll just see what we can do about that." He told her. "Besides, she doesn't stay mad for long when I'm around."
"How true that is." Sammie replied.
Hatter grinned fondly down at her.
"I couldn't have said it better myself. Come on. What do you say? Wanna ride to the kitchen?"
Sammie nodded eagerly and waited for Hatter to hoist her up.
When they reached the kitchen, Hatter found Alice sitting there looking like she wanted to be anywhere else.
"See?" Sammie said as though wanting him to know she hadn't been making it up. "Can you make her smile, Uncle Hatter? Please?"
"I think I can do that." He replied.
Setting the little girl down, he prepared to make his famous and well loved breakfast food.
Dinah came in just then, having sniffed the beginnings of the food.
"I think we can spare a little." Hatter said. "But wait until they're done."
Dinah meowed as if to say that was fine with her.
Pumpkin joined them a few minutes later but not so quietly. She was chasing what looked like a ball of yarn around the palace and meowed pitifully when it went under a chair out of her reach.
Sammie giggled at her pet's actions and bent down to retrieve her toy.
"Here you go." She said.
Pumpkin meowed as if to say thank you and then ran off again, her yarn ball a few feet in front of her.
As the aroma of pancakes began to fill the room, Alice got up. She wasn't very hungry at the moment and she needed to get ready anyway.
"That's funny." Hatter commented as he watched his good friend leave. "Alice has never turned down my food before."
Sammie shrugged. She got onto her stool in order to help Hatter stir the batter.
After that was done, Sammie decided to do some investigating of her own.
Leaving the room, she approached Alice's door and knocked.
"Who is it?" She asked.
"It's me." Came Sammie's reply. "Can I come in?"
"No." Was her sister's simple answer.
"Why not?" Sammie asked. "Are you getting dressed?"
"No." Alice replied.
"Are you writing in your diary?" She asked eagerly.
"No!" She replied.
"Then why can't I come in?"
"Because I said so." Alice answered.
"That's not a good reason."
"Look, I just need some time alone. Okay?"
"Is Dinah with you?" Sammie asked.
"Yeah. But what does that have to do with anything?"
"Cause if Dinah's with you, then you're not really alone."
Alice sighed. She was beginning to slowly lose her patience, which didn't happen often.
"Sammie, please." Alice pleaded. "Just go find someone to hang out with."
"I wanna hang out with you." She said.
"Well I wanna be alone right now. I'll hang out with you later."
"Okay." With that, she made her way back to the kitchen. She was about to round the corner, when she saw Pumpkin heading for Alice's room.
Thinking fast, Sammie ran after her and scooped her up.
"Alice wants to be alone now." She told her. "Come with me and we'll get some pancakes from Uncle Hatter." With that, she was about to leave when she heard her name from within Alice's room.
She knew eavesdropping was wrong, but it sounded like Alice was talking about her. So this time, she made an exception.
"Dinah, sometimes I wish Sammie never found out about Wondaland."
Dinah meowed reproachfully.
"I didn't say all the time. It's just Wondaland was supposed to be a place for me to get away."
Dinah meowed again.
"Of course I love her. I just wish she wasn't around all the time. I mean I know Mom doesn't ask me to watch her a lot and I wouldn't mind doing it anyway, but lately it seems she wants to be everywhere I am and I'm tired of it!"
Dinah meowed again before jumping off the bed and licking up some water from her bowl.
Standing outside the door, Sammie couldn't believe what she had just heard. Did her sister really feel that way about her?
Turning away from the door, she ran down the hallway and out of the palace, Pumpkin still in her arms.
She didn't know where she was going, but she knew she couldn't stay here if Alice didn't want her here.
As she ran further and further into the forest, she took a left and tripped over something. She landed on her knees and Pumpkin landed on her feet.
Staying in her crouched position, Sammie didn't even bother to gaze up at where she was. She let the tears fall and prayed she wasn't discovered by any dangerous creature.
It wasn't until she heard a slightly familiar voice meet her ears did she look up.
"Well, this is quite a pleasant surprise. What brings you here?"
Sammie frowned at the Caterpillar and shook her head.
"If you don't want me here, I can go."
"Not at tall. Everyone is welcome here. I have to say, I'm a little surprised to see you."
"So you want me to stay?" Sammie asked as she wiped at her eyes.
"Certainly. Sit down, pull up a mushroom." He extended one of his many arms to her. Inside was a chocolate cupcake.
Sammie shook her head.
"No thank you. I'm not really hungry."
"You? Not hungry for chocolate. This must be bad."
"Want to talk about it?"
"There's nothing to talk about. Alice hates me!"
"That doesn't sound like Alice. What makes you think that?"
"She said I'm around too much. She said she wished I never found out about Wonderland."
The Caterpillar nodded.
"That doesn't sound like Alice at tall. Is it possible you misunderstood her?"
Sammie shook her head.
"No. I heard what she said."
"Oh I see. Something tells me you've been eavesdropping."
"I know it was bad, but she said my name and I wouldn't have listened if she didn't say it."
The Caterpillar nodded.
"I think you need more help than I can give you. And I also think this story might do the trick." With that, he opened up a book and began to read. "Once there was a tiger named Tabitha who lived with her parents in a lush jungle. She didn't' have any brothers or sisters. This meant her parents always had time for her. One day, her parents sat her down and told her she was going to have a new brother or sister. Tabitha couldn't believe it. After her parents broke the news to her, she rushed over to tell her best friend, Freda the Fox. "Now my parents won't have any time for me." She told her. Freda disagreed. "That's silly." She said. "When my twin sisters, Francis and Felicia came my parents didn't' stop loving me. So yours wont' stop loving you." Tabitha wasn't sure about this, but Freda had never been wrong before. So she decided to trust her. The night before Tabitha's mother had the baby, she had a talk with her daughter. She told her she would always love her and the new baby wouldn't change that. She also told her she could name her. Tabitha liked that idea. When the new baby finally arrived, Tabitha found that Freda was right. Her parents didn't stop loving her and as Tiffany grew older, the two became closer than ever. They even formed their own band. They named it the Tigerettes. So, did the story help you at all?"
Sammie shrugged. She had calmed down considerably, but she was still upset.
"I don't know. Maybe Alice was right. I mean we used to do lots of fun stuff together. But I don't think she wants to be my friend anymore."
"Don't jump to conclusions without getting the facts. Come to think of it, your mother does that a lot. That's one habit I don't recommend you pick up from her."
Sammie smiled slightly.
"I'll remember that." She said. "But what am I going to do?"
"I suggest you talk to her. I'm sure she didn't' mean what she said. Alice is a more forgiving girl then that."
"You don't know her like I do." She said.
"I think I know you both better than you think. Try talking to her. You might be surprised at what you hear. Hmmm?"
"Okay. I can try. Thanks for the story, Mr. Caterpillar."
"The pleasure was all mine. Are you sure you don't want this chocolate cupcake?"
"I'm sure." She replied. She then got an idea. "But I think I know someone else who would. May I have it?"
After saying good bye to the Caterpillar, Sammie left for the palace.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, Alice was sitting in the Queen's throne room waiting for her mother to come and talk to her. She had asked to see her and had sent Rabbit to tell her so.
As Alice sat there, she started wondering where Sammie was. She hadn't seen her since her little sister had pestered her outside her bedroom door and that had been over an hour ago.
Alice hadn't really meant what she had said or at least not all of it. She did love her sister and she wouldn't want her anywhere else but in Wonderland. But sometimes, she did need a break.
As Alice's mind filled with every possibility as to where her little sister could be, the Queen entered the room.
"You wanted to see me, You're Majesty?" She asked. She figured it was easier to get it over with.
"Yes I did." The Queen replied. She took a deep breath before continuing. She wasn't very good at this parenting thing, but she had gotten better over the last few years.
At least she could lecture her if need be and explain herself without feeling awkward.
"I wanted to explain why I punished you yesterday." She began.
"You don't have to." Alice told her. "I did something stupid. I deserved it. Besides, I didn't listen to you and I should have."
"You're right." The Queen said. "You should have listened to me. But I need to explain something to you and it's not easy for me to say, but I'll try for you."
"You didn't over draw your bank account again, did you?"
"Of course not. I've learned my lesson."
"To live within your means and not spend money on things you don't' need?"
"No. Well, maybe. But more to the point. I've learned never to leave Rabbit in charge of my finances again. Or more specifically never to borrow money from the Duchess again."
"Sophie's Mom said that she would sooner give up her place on the throne than borrow ANYTHING from the Duchess." Alice informed her mother.
"Well Sophie's mother has a good crown on her head. Along with some good common sense. Now, back to you."
"I was afraid of that."
"The reason I punished you yesterday wasn't because of what you did. It was because of what you didn't' do."
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
"You didn't listen to me." She explained. "I told you not to go not because I wanted to order you around, but because I…it's because… I care about you."
"I know. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you, Mom. I should have known you knew best."
"Of course I do. I'm the Queen." She said.
"You're the best Queen I know."
"You're still grounded." She told her. "But I appreciate the compliment.
Just then, Alice's cell phone rang.
She gave her mother an anxious look and the Queen nodded.
"You may go." She told her.
"Thanks." With that, she picked it up and left the room. "Hello? Hey, Sophie. Yeah I'm still grounded. Your mom did what? Okay, I gotta hear about this!"
The Queen smiled to herself. Although she would never admit it aloud, she loved Alice more than anything and would do anything for her, including letting her have cell phone privileges even though she was grounded.
"Oh my goodness! My Mom would love to hear about that. The Duchess actually apologized for something?"
As Alice sat down on her bed, she got a look at her desk chair. Her clothes from the day before sat upon it.
Getting a closer look, she realized something wasn't there.
"Sophie, hold on a second." She said. "I need to check something." With that, she put the phone down and walked over to her chair.
Examining the contents upon it, she gasped in realization when she saw what was missing.
"I gotta go!" She said quickly into the phone. "I'll call you later." With that, she hung up.
"This is not good. Not good at all. Where could they be? They couldn't have just disappeared."
"You're right." A familiar purring voice stated. "But I can." With that, the Cheshire cat appeared. "Looking for these?" He asked. With that, he produced a bag that was full of rubies in his right paw. "I found it near the base of the mountain after you guys left. I figured you would be looking for it sooner or later."
"Thanks." Alice replied. "I owe you for this one."
"Just put in a good word for me when the Queen throws her next party."
"No offense, Mr. Cat, but I think it'll take more than one good word."
"Well you're a persistent girl." He said before disappearing. "You'll figure it out."
Smiling to herself, Alice got to work.
As she dumped the contents of the bag onto her table, she noticed something was different. There were a few more rubies than before, along with something she had definitely not found before.
This something was big and it looked like a piece of gold shaped like a heart.
She made a mental note to thank the Cat the next time she saw him. She had a feeling it wouldn't be long.
An hour later, she had finished her project. Putting it in a safe place, she went to join her family for dinner. She had just heard the Rabbit call for her. She knew it was her turn to set the table.
When she got there, she was surprised to find the Tweedles and Hatter as well as Hare there.
"Alice! It's good to see you out and about again." Hatter greeted her. "What's up?"
"I'm sorry for this morning." She apologized. "It was rude." She smiled at the Queen before addressing Hatter once again. "You and Mom taught me better than that."
"You're still grounded." The Queen informed her, but she was smiling.
"Uh, if I may You're highness." I think Alice was being sincere. Also, if I may suggest leaving any further disciplinary actions for later." Catching the look she was giving him, he amended his last statement. "I mean if that's all right."
"I suppose you're right." She said, surprising everyone.
"Now that that's out of the way," Hatter said in a cheerful tone, "who wants breakfast?"
"Breakfast for dinner?" Sammie asked. The first words she had spoken since Alice had come into the room.
"Of course." Hatter replied. "It's the first rule of Wonderland."
"What's the second?" Sammie asked.
Hatter was about to reply, when Dee chimed in.
"We'll explain it to you later." He told her.
After the group had dug into Hatter's famous strawberry pancakes and bacon, Sammie tried to catch Alice's eye.
When she did so, she was surprised when Alice smiled at her and mouthed the words "I'm sorry." Before going back to eating.
It looked like the Caterpillar had been right.
Sammie was still going to talk to her, but it looked like they were going to be okay. The only thing left was to ask her sister if she wanted to start a band.
If Alice happened to say yes, Sammie would let her choose the name. It was the least she could do after she had made her mad earlier.
A week later, Alice was ungrounded and the Queen's surprise birthday party was in full swing.
The Wonderland gang had managed to put together an actual birthday party this time with the exception of the cake that said Merry Christmas with Reindeer that spelled out the words.
This was a foe paw on the Hatter's part. Or maybe not so much a foe paw as intentional.
But as the Queen thought back on her last birthday party and the song Alice had sung to her, it was the thought that counts.
When it was time to give the Queen her gifts, Alice let everyone else go first, just as she had on Valentine's Day.
Sammie had made the Queen something out of clay that looked like a coin pot.
"Thank you my dear." The Queen said, giving her a hug. "I love it."
Sammie grinned. She then went back to her spot on Hatter's lap.
He had already given the Queen his present to the amusement of the girls.
It had been a teapot that told the Queen when the tea was done. Unfortunately, it had one glitch. It also told her if there wasn't' enough sugar in the tea and would often repeat itself after the tea was done.
Finally, it was Alice's turn.
Taking a deep breath, she approached her mother.
"Happy Birthday, Mom." She said with a smile. "I hope you like it."
The Queen opened up the package and gasped. For a few minutes she was shocked speechless.
"Alice, this…it's beautiful. Where did you find them?"
"It's a long story." She told her. "I'll explain later."
The Queen nodded. It was then that realization hit.
"That's why you went up there."
"I wanted you to have a special gift for your birthday. I wanted it to be unlike anything you've ever had before."
"Alice, you didn't have to go through all that trouble just for me."
"But I wanted to give you something special."
"You already have." She told her sincerely.
"I have?" The girl asked. "How?"
The Queen smiled at her daughter as she reached out and put a hand on her shoulder.
"I don't undastand." Alice said honestly.
"You taught me something last year that comes to mind now. And you were right. It is the thought that counts. And as for a special gift. Just you being here is the best gift I could ever hope for."
Alice couldn't help it. She reached out and gave the Queen a hug.
The Queen hugged back before pulling away.
"Me too? Sammie asked eagerly.
"Yes you too." The Queen told her.
Just then, she realized that every one of her subjects was looking at her.
"What are you all staring at? Let's get this show on the road!"
The Wonderland gang cheered in agreement.
"Who wants cake?" Hatter asked.
That did it. Everyone laughed and dug in.
As Alice sat there, she gave her brothers a thumbs up from across the table.
The grin she got in return from both of them made her heart fill with joy.
She could tell they were going to be okay. They all would be okay.