THE LAST CHAPTER OF 'ALICE'!

Well, its been fun, and I've got to say I'm glad this one is out. But rest assured, there will be a sequel, so keep a look out for it. There's not so much left to say but thank-you all for reading, and thank-you for your kind reviews.

(p.s. Sorry if it jumps around or doesn't quite make sense. It's leading up to the sequel...)

So, here it goes: *deep breath*

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Alice saw him for the first time in what seemed like weeks – which, in reality, wasn't probably too far off the mark.

A reunion is probably one of the most mis-interpreted meetings ever beheld. Throughout history, the picture is painted to perfection, and the lovers unite under the stars of a heaven unlike any other. Usually, the heroine's heart begins to drum in her ears, her knees shake and the lashes framing her wide eyes flutter in a frenzy. Just over a quaint little bridge stretching over a silver stream is her lover, and the sight of him makes her want to collapse into a state of bliss. She turns pale, or red, or if the film is truly creative her freckles are emphasized. The hero is gallant and toned, brooding out in his glory, as she runs to him and closes the gap. While the girl swoons away into his arms in sheer ecstasy, the man smiles to himself smugly, knowing all is safe and settled. Around the lovering pair is nothing but a pale mist, and the sound of nightingales stretch to every corner and become entangled with the flower's petals. It's all very beautiful, and slightly nauseating, but hardly the case.

So when Alice saw the Hatter again, her heart failed to go into hyper-drive. She did not turn red, or pale, or even perform the curious trick of developing freckles within just a few short moments. There was no bridge, no birds, no flowers and there certainly no mist. Swooning was unheard of, and if the Hatter had grown a rather impressive display of muscles, I would be very much surprised. So, in order to be fair to the rather awkward pair, the reunion must be painted as it happened.

He had stood at the door awkwardly, watching the girl he loved recover. She was standing up now – her strength returning day by day, and sooner than anyone would expect, she would be running. The glimmer in her eyes would indeed return, and the sharpness of her smile would evolve. It would all be in good time, but for now, the Hatter was just happy to watch her stand. They were alone in the room – the same room she had been in for the past week. She smiled at him reassuringly, and all seemed to be alright. For a moment, he basked in that sunny reassurance her lips offered him. All to soon, though, the happiness of the moment collapsed.

"I haven't seen you at all," she told him coldly form the other side of the room, her smile quickly fading. Her hands were now on her hips, her body positioned for attack.

"Well, I-"

"Not a single visit," her pent-up anger was beginning to leak through her voice, although she was struggling to keep it even.

"I can-"

"Not a letter,"she continued. She glared at him evenly. "Nothing."

"It's all very-"

"Where have you been?" She demanded, her voice dangerously close to yelling.

"Uh, well-"

"Where?" She sauntered up to him at great speed, not stopping until their noses were almost touching. Under different circumstances, his heart would have been beating for something very different from fear.

She was angry. Very angry, and in Hatter's mind little warning bells were going off. In a twisted way, he could have taken it as a compliment; she had missed him. In a violent sort of way. But he felt no self-congratulation now. His only wish was to wipe away to beginnings of a tear that was trembling on her lower lashes.

"You left me," she accused him, dabbing her finger into his chest.

"No, Alice-"

"You did!" She cried. She felt a strong urge to punch him, or throw her fists at him repetitively, and if he acted any later, that wish probably would have been very likely to turn to reality.

"Shh," he soothed her, pushing one finger against her lips, ignoring the aggravated glare she was pouring over him. She tried mumbling more insults against his finger, but her words only flowed out into mush. She tried again. Mush. Eventually she gave up, and resorted to glaring.

"I wanted to come," he told her gently, tucking a stray strand of golden hair behind her ear, "I wanted to come."

She mumbled a denial against his finger, her words coming out so deformed he couldn't help but grin. Deviously in control, though, he pressed his finger further into the soft skin, chuckling at her reaction. Quickly; swiftly, he let his finger fall to the crook of her neck and lent in to press his lips to hers. Warmth spread between them instantly, and cheeks flushed pink.

"I forgive you," she breathed as soon as he gave her the chance to speak again.

He laughed a light, carefree jingle. "Thats was quick – now I know how to convince you."

She responded by punching him, her cheeks still a little warm.

"Then what kept you?" Alice asked him, her curiosity mounting.

Immediately a shadow dropped over his eyes; his mood abruptly shifting. Whether this was intentional or not, Alice could not tell. All she could see was the indecision in his eyes. "I can't tell you. Not now."

Alice stared at him, as if waiting for him to go on. But he did nothing; he only stood there, watching her wearily. "And," Alice began dryly, "that's all your going to say."

"Yes."

"Oh," she clicked her tongue, "well. That just works out fine, doesn't it?"

"Come one Alice," Hatter comforted her, "not now, I told you. It's – uh – complicated."

"Complicated?" Alice demanded incredulously. It sounded wrong coming from him – too cliché. She knew everything here was complicated. He was walking proof of that. So how does 'complicated' suffice as a reason. She stared at him, disbelieving. She repeated herself. "Complicated?"

He sighed, knowing no good would come of this, quite literally, which is exactly why he kept his mouth closed. For a little while, anyway. "Don't argue with me Alice – you're unwell."

"I'm perfectly fine," she snapped. She hated it when he played her out to be vulnerable.

"When you're Queen and well again, you can question me as much as you please. Not now, though. Please," he pleaded.

Alice breathed out something of a gasp. "When I'm Queen?" She demanded.

Hatter looked confused. He checked behind his back a few times, then dropped his voice to a whisper. "That is what you are going to choose, isn't it? That is what you want, right?" He glanced down at her horrified expression, then backpedaled madly, his voice rising to panic. "Don't tell me you're leaving! How could you?"

"Hatt-"

"You're choosing them over us? How could you want that, Alice?" Hatter cried at her, "you are nothing to them! But here, here you are – well, you get it. You're more than that. Why-how could you possibly-how can you just-what made you think-it doesn't even make sense-why would you-how could you even want to?" He fired at her, with a little incoherency, still unable to believe what he was hearing.

"I never said-"

"You don't even belong up there – wait, what did you just say?" Hatter swung his head down at her, his ranting momentarily paused. He tried to make a mental note to listen more, which was hard for someone with a limited attention span.

"I said that I never said any of that," Alice struggled with the odd sentence, "you're jumping to conclusions – again."

"You mean you're staying?" He was trying to pent down the hope that was crawling back in to him.

"Well," she hesitated, not quite sure herself whether to agree or deny, "sort of. I think. In a way, I suppose."

An eyebrow quirked up at this. "Vague, dearest," he informed her.

She frowned at his term of endearment, though not making any objection to it. Not yet, anyway. "I suppose the best way to make you understand is, well – like you tell me I cannot know why you were gone," she looked at him now, making sure he comprehended. He nodded his head, though a little slowly. Nevertheless, she was satisfied and continued. "Well, I guess it's the same. I can't tell you anything definite. Not now. Will it be enough to tell you I'll be here for now?"

Hatter smiled; relaxed for the time being. "More than enough." His arms moved to encircle her, though they were not as sure as they used to be.

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(One week earlier)

Hare was, as usual, sitting outside enjoying a quiet cup of tea. It seemed the day for it; as tea served as a great elixir to all pains, well, for him at any rate. He stretched out luxuriantly, savoring the delight of peace. Surrounding him was nothing but serenity, and he may have enjoyed it all so much better, if his dear fried had not been burying his face between his hands.

"Dear fellow," Hare addressed the crumpled figure, waving his tea cup around vaguely, "you simply must have some tea. It is the cure for all sorrows, it is the balm for all pains, and the solution to all predicaments. Come, let me pour you some."

The crumpled Hatter just shook his head, as it was the best response he could give. Disdainfully, he managed to stretch one long arm out and smack away a tea cup. The china bounced to the ground with a loud 'crack,' making the Hare glare relentlessly toward his bothersome companion.

"Stop this, Hatter," he scolded, "you are acting like-like, uh, something that acts inappropriately," he waved his hand in the air, as if trying to catch the un-named likeness he was referring to.

"Like a child?" Hatter prompted, demonstrating his marvelous skill of changing his mood abruptly. His head had popped up expectantly, happy to solve the puzzle of the missing likeness.

"No, no – the behavior of an annoying child would be thoroughly commendable," Hare sighed haughtily at his friend's ignorance, though his mood was now dampened at his missing noun.

"Like a fish?" Hatter suggested hopefully.

"Like a fish? Like a fish! No, no – I know! Like fish sticks!" Hare jumped up and down on the table, splashing milk and tea about everywhere. He clapped his hands joyfully, congratulating himself on his own genius. "That's it! That's it! Fish sticks!"

"Fish sticks?" Hatter asked incredulously.

"Yes – fish sticks. You know; fish sticks. They're like, they're like.....oh, drats. What are they like?" He thumped his paw against his head, trying yet again to muster up the invisible likeness.

"Fish sticks are like something that acts inappropriately?"

Hare rolled his eyes, appalled with such an outrageous suggestion. "Fish sticks are like something inappropriate? What a horrible likeness, dear Hatter. Who would have thought up such an outrageous remark?"

Hatter thought for a moment. "My apologies," was all he had after a good ten minutes.

"Accepted," Hare grinned over a freshly poured cup of tea. He was now secretly glad Hatter's attention had been diverted; glad, that is, till a small moan came from the other side of the table. Hare sighed, knowing it must be confronted sooner or later. "What is it now?" He grumbled.

"I am no longer distracted," Hatter mumbled from the crook of his arm.

"Stop thinking about it, all will solve itself in due time," Hare told him wisely.

"Yes," Hatter sighed, "but when it comes to that time I know it shall be too late."

"Have you told her?" He asked unexpectedly.

Hatter looked absolutely horrified. "Told Alice? Are you insane?"

"Yes," Hare smiled to himself consolingly.

"She would kill me," Hatter continued to moan.

"No she wouldn't," he urged, then wondered if she would.

"Fine," Hatter conceded, "she would just hurt me really, really, really, really bad."

"Better."

Hatter sighed. No matter what angle he looked at it, there was no safe option.

The truth was; he hated himself. He hated himself, and if Alice knew, she would surely hate him too. He had not always hated himself. He didn't even hate himself when he met Alice. It was just now – with the guilt now settling in on him. He had made her fall in love with him – though she would never admit to it – and now he had discovered the possibility he may not be able to fulfill his side of the bargain.

"She's going to kill me," he changed his mind. His thoughts suddenly turned bitter, "and she should."

Hare looked up, startled, his tea postponed. "Nonsense. You didn't want for it to be like this – you had no choice in the matter."

"But I do, that's the problem."

"It's suicide."

"What option isn't?" Hatter countered.

"Options aren't easy. In fact, they they are so difficult at times, one could almost liken them to, to.....uh, to.......fish sticks."

But the Hatter didn't hear him. He was staring off beyond the gates of the small cottage and into the dark heart of the forest. After an agonizing silence, he spoke, his words dripping with poorly concealed agony. "Perhaps I should just leave her be," he spoke quietly, "I cannot lie to myself. She would be better off without me."

"That's not true," but the Hare's voice wasn't as convinced as he wanted it to be.

"Think about it, Hare," Hatter continued to whisper in the direction of the woods, "you know it cant work out. Not with me like this. I have nothing to offer. I can't see her anymore."

Hare opened his mouth, then closed it again. He tried to think of an argument, but none surfaced. He sighed heavily, knowing his friend's fate better than anyone.

"You do whatever you think best," he advised him at last, "but be sure to tell her. You never know – she may be willing."

"If she is then she should be the one deemed insane – not I."

"Perhaps, perhaps," Hare nodded nonchalantly. The idea of Alice turning insane did not seem as ludicrous to him as it did to the Hatter. Besides, weren't they all mad here? In truth, Alice's being made might make the situation a little easier, a fact that wouldn't, couldn't and shouldn't console the poor Hatter.

Hatter sighed, knowing his friend's thoughts all too well. "Either way, I die."

"Yes, you die," Hare shrugged toward his tea. He had known that for years.

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Abaddon sat with his mother; an odd sight had anyone be so unfortunate as to fall upon it. The strong, yet elegant young man sat contrasted with his frail, witch-like looking mother, whose fingers had the habit of scratching at themselves, as if trying to claw at the death that was pulsing through her veins. She gave a small cry at her skin being broken under the pressure, a small trickle of blood flowing from the wound. Abaddon scolded her.

"Stop that, you'll drain yourself till there's nothing left for nature to do," he had not meant for his tone to be so bitter, but it seemed that was all his mood could amount to these days.

"How sweet it would be to drain myself now! I am in such pain, my son, I feel dea-"

"Don't speak of it! I will not hear you mention that word! Live your life till that last, don't throw away your dignity now!"

The Queen 'hmphed,'not pleased by the way her son seemed to have such power over her nowadays. She may be an old, falling apart, grouchy woman, but surely she still had her tyranny left? "Why should I not anticipate it? I have found my heir – since the original so kindly retreated from all responsibility, being the noble sort of man he is – and she will be Queen. Why is now not the best time to slip away-"

"Alice has agreed to be Queen? She told you she would do it?" Abaddon stared at the old woman, wondering how she had managed to do it. Even when he had visited her, he realized she had a will of iron. It would have been hard to break her, he guessed, but who else than a frail old woman should do it?

"Well," she gave him an impish, "not quite. She has not spoken to me directly about it. But she will be Queen – I know it. Wonderland will not release her."

"So she's here to stay," it was a statement, and even he seemed brightened by the idea.

"As far as I'm concerned; yes." A long moment passed, each lost in their own thoughts. Abaddon was the first to share his, though they would not be particularly pleasant to anyone but him and his mother.

"And what of the Hatter?"

She smiled coyly at him, resting a floppy hand on his broad shoulder. "I wouldn't worry about him – he will not be around for much longer. Trust me."

"You're going to have him killed?" Abaddon looked shocked.

"Oh no," the Queen rushed in, "let's just say time does not stop. Even for the Hatter. His years will eventually catch up with him," she gave him a poor imitation of a wink. If anything, it was more like a crumpled blink.

"Oh," he breathed, realizing, "how curious," he murmured, though he was comforted by the idea.

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Alice sighed contently, drawing herself against the dainty table that had been provided for her benefit. It was a beautiful piece – white with gold designs laced through the wood. It felt almost like home when she sat at it. Almost. The bright side of the matter was that she was well again.

Well, almost.

She had been convinced to stay in the palace, by numerous people, many of which she did not know at all. She had been transferred, though, to a larger, finer room. Everything in it was magnificent – from the rich colors to the heavy, expensive smell that seemed to be permanently in the air. No doubt it was fit for a Queen, a purpose Alice couldn't help but feel was planned. But now, sitting in the flickering candle-light, just as she was off to bed after another long day, she opened her red-leather journal she had requested and flipped it to the first blank page. There, on her pretty desk with her thoughts oddly peaceful, she began.

And on this page she began to write with pen and gold ink.

My name is Alice...

And she would continue to write in that leather book for many years. The pages would fill till they could hold no more – so numerous would the adventures and stories of Alice be. One day, it was certain, a small child with dirty hands would find the odd keepsake and be able to read of the fantastical adventures she experienced and the love that grew after she wrote her first opening sentence. Because, even now, with her pen moving steadily across the page during the first night of her records, she knew it was just the beginning.

...it is just the beginning.

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Signing off,

Schnook.