LbN: Last chapter! More of an epilogue actually. Thanks for reading!
Alice strode around the garden, thinking. She was thinking about words that start with "R." One word, actually. Return. Just like before, she felt she had to. She felt like there was some part of her world pulling her back. But it was hard. Underland had a stronger hold on her this time. She smiled, remembering her conversation with Mirana the night before….
Mirana pulled the blanket more tightly around the two of them and snuggled up to her champion. "This is lovely."
"Yes. I'm glad you're well again," Alice said, smiling brightly.
"I'm glad you came back to me—to Underland."
"It was good to be back."
Alice hesitated. "You know I can't stay, Mirana," she said quietly.
The queen sighed, and tightened her hold on the younger woman. "I know. I just wish this time could've been a longer stay."
"Do you want me to stay?" Alice asked.
That's all she'd done was smile. Smile and kiss Alice's forehead. Alice knew the answer, of course. Mirana would've liked nothing better than for Alice to make Underland her home. But as attached as the queen was to her champion, she believed in choice. As much she wanted to throw dignity to the winds and beg Alice to stay, she wouldn't. She wouldn't even slightly impose her will on Alice's.
Which made Alice's choice all the more difficult, of course.
Finally, Alice took a deep breath and walked back into the castle.
Mirana was spreading some kind of purple jelly on a piece of toast when Alice walked in. "Ah! My dear Alice, did you enjoy your walk?"
"I did," Alice said quietly.
Mirana smiled. "Please don't fret, Alice. I understand."
"I'll come back. I promise," Alice said. "And this time it won't be five years later."
Mirana laughed. "I know you'll return to Underland."
Mirana smiled and hugged her tightly. "I have a gift for you, my champion." She glided over to a nearby table and picked up a small looking glass. "I think you'll find it helpful one day."
"Thank you," Alice said, a little confused.
Mirana smiled and kissed her. "Don't worry. You'll understand when the time comes."
Mirana turned and called through the door, "You can all come in now!"
Tarrant, Mallymkun, McTwist and Lily came through the door. Each of them said their goodbyes to Alice. Quite unexpectedly, Lily burst into tears.
"Now, now Lily," Mirana said soothingly, picking her up. "Don't cry. Alice, the toast."
"Jabberwocky jam?" Alice asked, quirking an eyebrow at her.
Alice took the first bite and felt the familiar swimming sensation. She picked up the mirror. "Goodbye."
Their champion faded away. Mirana held Lily tightly and kissed her head.
"Don't worry," Tarrant said, putting a hand on the Queen's shoulder. "She'll come back."
Mirana smiled at him. "I know. She promised she would."
Alice crawled out of the rabbit hole, taking care not to break her mirror. She looked up and down the path, taking a minute to remember which direction her house was in. Gaining her bearings, she took off at a run.
By the time she got to her house, she was famished, and looked like…well, she looked like she'd been playing in the dirt. She opened the door to her mother's cottage and walked in.
"You're late for tea, Alice," her mother said, smiling.
"I'll wash up and be down in a moment," she said. She ran upstairs to her room. It was small and cozy, with a small fireplace at one end. She set the mirror on the mantelpiece before going to wash up for tea.
LbN: Hope you liked it! Thanks for reading! Reviews are always lovely. Do we want a sequel? I hope so, b/c I've already got it planned out :). Peace!