Alice held the little vial containing the jabberwocky's blood in it to her lips, wrinkles of indecision marring her pale brow.
Should she take the potion? The one that would return her home to England? That was what she had wanted, what she had been fighting for all this time... right?
She would have to face years of boring parties... Petticoats, corsets, ballgowns, suitors, dinners, other people's parents, getting old...
Getting old. That was one adventure she wasn't ready to have yet. Alice bit her lip, lowering the vial.
"Alice?" The Hatter's vivid green eyes looked at her curiously.
"You know, I thought I had to go back to London, but now I find that I can't"
"You mean like a Boggart is holding your shoes?" He asked in reply, completely serious. Alice nodded.
Hatter... Dear Hatter. How could she leave him? He had such a kind heart...
The purple sun peeked out over the horizon, beginning to shower them in lilac light. Alice looked at the vial in her hand, and watched the Jabberwocky blood slosh around as her hand shook.
Then, as hard as she could, she threw it over the castle ruins, hearing it whistle as it soared through the air and out of sight. Alice expected to feel a sense of relief, of belonging, of love...
What happened was something different.
It was like a mirror shattered. The world started cracking, like she was trapped in a glass ball, and it had fallen from a great height and was breaking apart. The stone pavement was splintering, jagged chunks falling at a rapid rate. Alice watched in horror as The armies fell through the holes, screaming as they went.
Then, the ground beneath Hatter's feet started cracking.
"Alice?" His voice was terrified.
Alice reached for her Hatter, trying to grab onto him before he fell, tried to scream for help, anything...
Then, he was gone... and the last shards of the mirror shattered.
Alice woke up with a loud gasp, shaking her head vigorously.
"It was just a dream... Just a dream, Alice." She repeated over and over, clutching her head as she felt her breathing speed up. It felt so real.
The old clock in the corner of the room chimed one-o-clock, The time she always woke up every night.
Alice got out of bed and slipped on her slippers. Her mother thought that wandering about the house after having a bad dream was unhealthy, but Alice felt it calmed her down after the dream. Alice looked in her mirror as she passed it on her way to the door, noticing the dark circles under eyes.
Then, her ears pricked up. Something was calling her...
Alice paused at her doorway and listened, hearing the creaking of the house, and the gurgling pipes.
Then, there it was again.
"Alice!" The familiar voice called. Quickly, Alice ran to the closet and pulled on a warm robe and a pair of rubber boots before running downstairs after the voice.
As she ran out of the house and down the garden steps, the voice became more and more insistent.
"Alice! Alice! Come here, Alice! Hurry!"
Alice saw a flash of white running through the rose patch, causing a large grin to break out on her face. She plunged into the hedgerows, nearly laughing with joy as the White Rabbit led her down a winding path and down into the woods.
Just as she reached the edge of their property, Alice stopped and looked back at her home. The windows were dark, the house barely outlined against the dark sky.
Alice swallowed her tears quickly. She had spent all this time regretting her decision to leave Underland. She didn't belong in this world... and this time, she wouldn't come back.
After allowing herself a moment, Alice turned her back on her house and began following the rabbit again. She rounded a bend in the path in time to see the Rabbit jump down a large hole. She followed suit, knowing the drill.
As she fell, quite used to the odd assortment of objects around her, Alice grabbed a teapot, cup and a biscuit from a tea tray that drifted past.
Then, after a moment, the ground came into sight. Alice landed gracefully, and looked around. The room was exactly as she remembered it; seven locked doors and a curtain that was hiding the eighth. The small table still stood in the middle of the room, with a familiar bottle and key on top.
This time Alice made sure she picked up the key AND the bottle before stooping to where she knew the small door was. Alice pulled back the curtain to reveal it, and she smiled, quickly downing the shrinking potion and holding tightly to the key.
The room grew around her as Alice coughed and shrank. As she became smaller, her dress got bigger, leaving her naked under the circus tent of fabric. Alice crawled out, covering herself in a corner of her former dress.
Luckily, a small dress was already waiting for her on a hanger. She picked it up, and put it on. The short dress was light, perfect for the warm climate of Underland. Looking down, Alice saw that it was pink silk, flowing down into a gauzy skirt that ended just below her knees. Little flowers adorned the top, and spaghetti straps wound their way over her porcelain shoulders.
After admiring herself a moment more, Alice turned once again to the little door, noticing a necklace hanging on the doorknob that certainly hadn't been there before.
Alice put it on, quite used to the way things magically appeared in Underland. The necklace was simple, a pink ribbon with a small teardrop pearl as a pendant, but it gave her courage as a wave of nervousness washed over her.
What if she had changed? Had she? Would her friends notice? Were they waiting? What about Hatter? Did he still have feelings for her? Did she for him?
"Okay, breathe Alice.." She muttered, taking a few deep breaths. Everything would be just fine. In a few moments, she would be sitting at the Hatter's tea table, ducking flying utensils like old times.
"I think i'll have two lumps of sugar and scone..." Alice said, putting the key in the lock and opening the door.