This is my first Alice in Wonderland fic! Yay! Title comes from the Miley Cyrus song Butterfly Fly Away (the lyrics really fit for the story). Enjoy!
Butterfly, Fly Away
"You tucked me in, turned out the light
Kept me safe and sound at night
Little girls depend on things like that."
Alice stared out of the carriage window listlessly, not even really paying attention to where the carriage was going. It was raining softly, the overcast making everything look grey and bland; even more drab than usual. It all blended together into one big grey blur that Alice quickly grew tired of looking at, but really had no choice. It was better than staring at the stony, stoic faces of her carriage companions.
Mrs. Kingsleigh and her eldest daughter Margaret's eyes were trained on the girl; it was quite annoying, really. And curious. In fact, they had both been acting odd for the past two weeks. Her mother had not commented on her appearance at all. Margaret had said not one word about her table manners, or lack thereof. And neither said anything about Alice's subtle stories of Underland.
It all started after she had come back. After she had given her guests a few pieces of her mind, she was about to leave with Lord Ascot to tell him about her vision of the trade expansion when her mother snatched her up and practically dragged her to the carriage home.
Alice had tried to edge her way around the truth when Helen Kingsleigh demanded answers once and for all, but finally she had told her everything. Almost everything (she had conveniently left out the Jabberwocky battle, of course, no need to let her mother have a heart attack).
And for the next two weeks, Alice was left mostly to her own device; there was no browbeating, no berating, no badgering, no other words that begin with the letter "B". No nothing. She was left to her own device for once. And as scary as it was for all that silence…it was very nice. She had spent that time in her room, writing in her journal about her experiences so she would make good on her promise to not forget. And she would go back; she just had to make sure her father's company was on its way to China, and tie up a few loose ends before she would go back.
But that was two weeks ago. And now, here she was; staring out the carriage window at an unfamiliar sight of grey blur and wondering what her mother and sister were up to. They had told her that she was going on an outing; but what outing could they be going on in this weather, she wondered.
The carriage came to a halt in front of a very large grey shape of a building, and the carriage door opened to reveal two men in heavy raincoats. "Mrs. Kingsleigh," one of them said, "we shall take it from here."
"Mother?" Alice said, her brow furrowed. One of the men reached forward to her to help her out. Alice drew back a little. "Mother, what is this?"
"It's for your own good, Alice!" Helen cried as one of the men grabbed Alice out of the carriage. "Please, be careful with her!"
"MOTHER!" Alice struggled against the man, who held her in a firm and painful grip. It hit her now, where she was—the asylum. "MOTHER, NO! I'M NOT MAD! MOTHER!" The two men began dragging her away. "MOTHER! The carriage door closed and the horse began to trot away. "NO!"
"Just calm down, Miss Kingsleigh," one of the men said. "We do not wish to sedate you, but we will if we have to."
Alice stopped struggling, but she broke down into heartbroken sobs. As the two men led her into the asylum, she kept repeating over and over, "I'm not mad, I'm not mad!" She quickly exhausted herself, and she had to be carried the rest of the way to a small room that was decent and clean enough, but simply furnished with nothing more than a small bed and a desk. They gently set her down on the bed and backed away from her.
"The doctor will be in shortly to inform you of your stay, and your treatment," one of them said, taking off his hat and holding it respectfully to his chest. "Please, hear him out."
Alice looked up at them, her long damp hair partially covering her face as she stared at them with tear-filled eyes. "I'm not mad…!" she pleaded, her hands clenching hard in her dress. The two men only gave her a pitying, sad look and left the room. Alice was left alone in the small room, with only her hitched breaths and the rain outside being the only sound she heard. She waited for what seemed like hours before the door opened and a professional-looking man walked into the room, followed by two nurses.
The doctor smiled at her. "Hello, Miss Kingsleigh," he said softly and kindly, as though trying to keep her from running off like a scared rabbit. "My name is Dr. Kenneth Gordon. I'm not here to hurt you. I'm here to help you."
"I'm not mad!" Alice spoke up, her eyes pleading. "I swear I'm not!" Dr. Gordon gave her a sad look and nodded.
"I understand how you are feeling," he said softly, "but unless you allow me to help you with these delusions—"
"Delusions?" Alice repeated, just above a whisper. "Delusions? Doctor, I am not delusional! I…I have seen those things! I've felt them!" She reached up and practically tore her sleeve down to show him the three scars on her arm. "These were made by a creature called a Bandersnatch—!"
"Yes, yes, I am aware of this…'Bandersnatch'…" He held up a small book that Alice recognized as her journal. "…Miss Kingsleigh…Alice…" He sighed. "These things…they are simply impossible!"
"…Only if you believe they are," Alice replied, an image of a green-eyed madman popping into mind. "…What I wrote is real. I wrote it because of a promise."
"…A promise?" Alice looked up at the Doctor, her eyes shining with tears.
"…I promised Hatter that I wouldn't forget. I promised him I would be back before he knew it." She reached for the book, a deeply saddened look in her eyes. "…I made a promise. Please…"
Dr. Gordon kept the book out of her reach. "…I'm sorry Alice," he said, still in that irritatingly soft voice. "But allowing you to keep this book would only hinder your treatment."
Alice's hands began shaking as she brought them to her face. And she wept.
She wept because of the perfidy her family had committed.
She wept because of the promise she was being forced to break.
Most of all, she wept because at the moment, the chances of her seeing her true friends and family again were zero to none.
Dr. Gordon said something to his nurses, who stepped forward to help her out of her wet clothes and into a simple grey dress. Alice let them; she was too mentally and emotionally exhausted to resist. After she was dressed, one of the nurses gave her a cup of water.
"We'll be back soon with your meal," she said kindly. Alice sipped her water numbly, not answering. The nurses left, and Alice put the empty cup down on the desk next to her bed and laid down in the bed. She was asleep before the nurses came back.
The rest of the week was relatively quiet.
Alice took her meals in her room. She was allowed outside under heavy supervision, but she had to go back in just minutes after stepping out because she saw a white rabbit snuffling about the bushes and broke into hysterical sobs. She was also allowed to write letters to her family, but Alice never wrote one letter.
When the nurse brought her paper, Alice wrote down everything she had written in her journal and hid them, sealing empty envelopes to give them to the nurse to mail. This ruse didn't last long. Apparently, Alice's mother had become alarmed by the lack of letter that came with the empty envelopes, and alerted the staff.
Dr. Gordon had found her notes in her pillowcase while she was out enjoying the fresh air.
"Alice, we have been through this!" he tried to reason with her as she practically jumped at him to get the notes back. "This is counterproductive to your treatment!"
"To Hell with the treatment!" Alice found herself shouting at him. "I wont forget! I refuse to forget! I promised them!"
"Miss Kingsleigh, please, see reason!" Dr. Gordon argued back gently. "If you keep deluding yourself, you will miss out on all that reality has to offer you! You cannot keep living in this world of yours!"
Alice slumped to the floor with a sob. "…You don't understand…!" she sobbed. She looked up at the Doctor, her dark eyes seeming a little grey. "…I don't belong here…I belong there…!" She pointed to the leafs of paper in his hand. "…I belong with them…!"
Dr. Gordon only gestured for the nurses to set her to bed. "…I am sorry, Alice," he said softly. "…But from now on, you will be chaperoned when you write. Please, understand that this is for your own good."
Alice didn't deign to respond to that. She had been told enough times about 'what was good for her'. Why should now be any different? The Doctor left the room with the nurses, leaving Alice alone.
She sat up in bed, her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms around them. She stared with damp, running eyes at the wall in front of her. She barely noticed when a tiny flash of blue light fly from the window and into the room, settling softly on her shoulder.
"…Hello, Absolem," she murmured deftly. The blue butterfly fluttered his wings softly.
"So this is where you've been carted off to," the butterfly replied in a smooth, deep voice that was astoundingly strong for such a small creature. "I daresay Tarrant would be scandalized if he knew that the mad are locked away in this world…"
"They don't understand," Alice replied, her hands tightening around the cloth of her dress. "…The difference between 'good' mad and 'bad' mad…" She sighed. "…Most of the people here…Absolem, I think that they and Hatter could be family, the similarities between them…!" Her breath hitched and her eyes watered. "…It's all just a constant reminder of what I'm…" She broke off, tears running down her face.
"Stop crying, stupid girl," Absolem said softly, though Alice heard a touch of affection in his favorite insult for her. "Have I not told you that tears solve nothing?" Alice reached up with one hand to wipe her eyes dry. "…What is this a constant reminder of?"
"…The promise I'm breaking," she replied softly. Absolem's wings fluttered erratically.
"What promise are you breaking?" he demanded.
"…The promise to go back," Alice replied. "…I'm stuck here, Absolem." She leaned her head on her knees. "…They wont let me leave here until I'm…sane!" She spat out the last word as though it left a horrid taste in her mouth.
Absolem's wings batted against her ear. "Stupid girl," he drawled. "Did it ever occur to you to lie and tell them you're 'sane'?" Alice lifted her head and turned it to look at him perched on her shoulder. He gave her an expression of distaste. "…Of course not. Silly me to think you could figure something out yourself."
Alice wiped at her eyes again and nibbled her lip. She saw Absolem roll his eyes (an astounding feat for a butterfly) and give her a firm but gentle look. "…I am quite amazed that you are not more surprised to see me," he said after a moment. Alice gave him a watery smile and hugged her legs again.
"Don't think I haven't seen you flittering about my bedroom window," she said. "There's no butterfly in the world as blue as you." She reached up and gently stroked his head with the tip of her finger. Absolem made a sound similar to that of clearing one's throat.
"…Yes, well, someone has to keep an eye on you, stupid girl," he replied shortly, though Alice once more heard the affection in his voice. She smiled at him and turned back to stare at the wall.
"…I'm afraid, Absolem," she said softly. "…I'm afraid…that if I do try to…pretend, as you said…" She swallowed hard. "…That I really will forget. Little by little…I'll start to believe my lie."
Absolem was silent for a moment, then he sighed. "Once more, the simplest of answers has eluded your thick skull," he said. "Behave like the good, sane little girl that they want you to be, but when you are alone, recant your true memories in your mind." He flew off of her shoulder and onto her knee. "I can guarantee you this—if you spend each night before sleep recanting everything you know about Underland for one month, then you will never forget."
Alice stared at Absolem for a moment before nodding, a spark of determination flashing in her eyes. "You'll…stay with me, wont you?" she asked. Absolem rolled his eyes again, shaking his head, though Alice could see a hint of a smile.
"If it will put your stupid little head at ease," he replied. Alice smiled more broadly, wishing she had pishsalver so she could hug him. Absolem seemed to know what she was thinking, and fluttered off of her knee and onto her head. "Speaking of putting stupid little heads at ease," he continued, "you should go to sleep." He fluttered away to let her lie down, then landed gently on the tip of her nose. "Remember what I told you."
"Yes, Absolem." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "…I can see the Hatter's tea party…" she murmured softy, a smile gracing her lips. "…Thackery is throwing the sugar bowl at Hatter…Mally's hiding in the teapot…" Her nose twitched and she felt Absolem fly off. "…Queen Mirana's making a potion…Chess is…trying on…hat…I'm fine…"
Absolem shook his head. Mad, stupid, endearing little girl.
Alice did just as Absolem said, and pretended to comply with the Doctor's 'treatment'. She already had the basic idea from Absolem, and now she had ideas of her own. She knew that they would be suspicious if she simply behaved like a sane and respectable member of English society overnight, so she saned herself up week by week, little by little.
It was so difficult, and she was actually disgusted with herself with each word against Underland she spoke. It was perfidy; a sin to her. But she prayed for forgiveness in the form of recanting everything she knew about Underland. For every friend that she denied, she made up for it by visualizing every detail about them before bed every night. She would talk about them; she would talk like them. She would never forget them.
And every step of the way, there was Absolem.
The blue butterfly would keep her company in her times of solitude in her room. He would hold an intelligent conversation with her, and unlike the Doctor or nurses, he refused to sugarcoat anything for her, or baby her psyche. She was pretty sure that if Absolem was her size, he would have smacked her in the head sometimes for her moments of weakness. And if there were two things Absolem could not stand, they were weakness and stupidity.
Needless to say, Alice strived to be neither of the two.
A month and two weeks later, Alice was spending some quiet time outside in the late afternoon, reading a letter from her mother, when Absolem landed softly on her shoulder. "Hello, Absolem," she said cheerfully, folding up her letter. The blue butterfly fluttered his wings.
"Good evening, Alice," he replied. He had actually began calling Alice by her given name when she began acting like 'Alice', in his words. It was quite the step up from 'stupid girl'. "You seem to be in a good mood today."
"I am," Alice replied, brushing her hair behind her ear. She held up her letter. "…It's from Mother. She…she said that Dr. Gordon told her about my 'progress'." She turned her head to smile at Absolem. "…He thinks that I'm 'well' enough to go home for a short visit. Just to see how I'll…react to reality."
Absolem snorted. "Reality is relative," he replied. "There is no such thing as 'unreal'."
"Here, here," Alice agreed. She stood up and brushed her dress clean of the grass. "…Mother wants me home in two days."
"Then I heavily suggest that you be on your very best behavior," Absolem said. He flew up to the top of her head. "Because I do believe I have found you a way back."
Alice's heart leapt to her throat as her head whipped around to stare at the butterfly. "…You…you have…?" she murmured, hardly daring to believe it. She leaned against the trunk of the tree she had been sitting under. "...Are you sure?"
"I find that both an insult and a statement of stupidity," Absolem replied haughtily, lifting from her head and dragging a few strands of hair with it as a somewhat gentle admonishment before landing again on her gentle curls.
"Sorry," Alice replied, blushing. "…But you have?"
"If there is one thing I loathe, it is repeating myself," Absolem replied. "Yes, stupid girl, I have. When you are at your mother's home for the interim, I will take you back, if that is what you so choose."
"It will be," Alice replied firmly, without a moment's hesitation. "I want to go home. For good." She heard Absolem emit soft rolls of laughter; it was such a rare sound that Alice rather liked.
"Then so it shall be," Absolem said. He flew off of her head and hovered in front of her until she raised a hand for him to perch on. "I will tell you of this way back to Underland when the time comes. Until then, I would suggest you enjoy what…little there is to be enjoyed here…" Alice could hear the distaste in his voice; it always surfaced when he spoke of the Otherworld. He flittered off of her finger and gently tapped the tip of her nose. "Until then, Fairfarren, Alice."
Alice watched Absolem fly off into the sky and vanish, then saw the two nurses with whom she had become friendly with make their way toward her. Alice smiled at them.
"You seem to be in a good mood, Alice," the first one, Melanie said. Alice nodded.
"I am," she replied, holding up her letter. "…My mother wishes me home for a short visit."
"That's marvelous!" the other nurse, an older woman, Louise, added. "Alice, we just want to tell you how proud we are of you."
"Yes," Melanie said, putting a hand on Alice's shoulder. "You've done so well here. We can only hope that you can eventually go home for good."
"Me too," Alice said softly. She stretched her arms over her head with a happy sigh. "Might I ask what's for supper?"
"Roast beef with potatoes and carrots," Louise replied.
"With tea?" Alice asked, grinning in a manner that Chess would be proud of. Melanie laughed.
"You and your obsession with tea!" she quipped, shaking her head. "Yes, with tea." Alice allowed the two to lead her back into her room, feeling so much more…muchier…than she had in a very long time.
"Goodbye, Alice!" Louise called, waving at twenty-year-old who was settled in the carriage. Alice grinned and waved back.
"Fairfarren!" she called to Louise, Melanie, Dr. Gordon, and a few of the mad people who had a lot of muchness, indeed, with whom she was well acquainted with.
"Fairfarren, young Miss!" a middle-aged woman called back. Alice smiled; Elaine Timberman was fairly mad, indeed; she often held conversations with porcelain figurines and spoke to the birds during the outside time, and Alice had confidentially told her all about McTwisp, Thackery, and Mallymkun, to the older woman's delight. She would miss her.
Alice settled back into the carriage, smiling at Loretta, a servant girl her mother had sent to pick Alice up. Loretta and Alice were around the same age, and got along very well.
"It's going to be delightful to have you back, Miss Kingsleigh," Loretta said, smiling back at Alice. "I've kept your room just as you left it. I even managed to save some things of yours…that I don't think Mrs. Kingsleigh would have preferred to keep."
"You're fantastic, Lori!" Alice gushed, reaching forward to pull Loretta into a hug. The startled girl awkwardly hugged back. Alice pulled away and sighed happily, staring out the window at the bright sky. "…Did Mother tell you how long she wished for me to stay?" she asked.
"The agreed-upon time between Mrs. Kingsleigh and Dr. Gordon was three days," Loretta replied. "I heard that if you show proper progression, it may be longer, and perhaps, you could come home forever."
"I plan on it," Alice said. She folded her properly ("Ugh, gag me with Thackery's spoon!") gloved hands on her lap and closed her eyes. Just a bit longer, she told herself. Just hold out a bit longer…
It was something of a bittersweet welcome home.
Mrs. Kingsleigh barely smiled, and gave Alice little more than a kiss on the cheek. Margaret, on the other hand, threw her arms around her little sister and hugged her tightly.
"Oh, Alice!" she cried, her voice thick with emotion. "I'm so glad to see you!"
"Margaret…" Alice hugged her back, tears in her eyes. She pulled back, smiling at her sister. "I'm so glad to be back!"
"Yes, yes," Helen Kingsleigh said, leading both of her daughters inside. "Alice, why don't you go freshen up. I have some things to discuss with Margaret." Margaret gave Alice a sad smile and squeezed her hand before heading off into another room with her mother. Alice felt a twinge in her heart from her mother's apparent lack of joy, but quelled it.
"It's just a little longer," she murmured to herself as she walked upstairs. "…Just a little longer."
She washed her face in the lavatory and walked into her room. It was indeed just how she left it; only, a bit…emptier. She silently praised Loretta once more for saving some of her things, and opened up her wardrobe to select something for dinner. Drab…drab…drab…oh! She pushed the dully-colored dresses aside and gazed at a vivid blue one that had been hung in the back, out of sight. She fingered the fabric, smiling. It was lovely, and so…Alice. She was sure that was what Hatter would say. Blue always complemented her.
She then sighed; she had to appease Mother for now. She selected a pretty white lacy one and put on—she shuddered—stockings, bloomers, socks, and then the dress, then slid on a pair of pretty white shoes and tied her hair back with a white ribbon before walking downstairs, imagining herself in the White Queen's Court.
She made it to the parlor, where her mother and sister were talking softly about something, and cleared her throat. Her mother's sharp eyes gave her a once-over, then Helen gestured her over. Alice allowed her mother to examine her, even pulling up the hem of the dress to make perfectly sure she was wearing stockings. "…No corset?" she asked briskly.
"Mother!" Margaret hissed. She turned to Alice and smiled. "You look well, Alice," she said kindly. Alice smiled back.
"I would have put on a corset," she said as earnestly as she could, "but I couldn't find one."
"I daresay you don't need one," Margaret replied, smiling. "You're figure is perfect for that dress."
"Thank you, Margaret." Alice didn't even have to pretend to be surprised and touched this time. Margaret took Alice's hand and stood up.
"Come, let's have some tea and refreshments in the garden!" she said. "Just the two of us!" Alice smiled and allowed Margaret to lead her into the garden, where there was already tea and things set out. "Sit, sit!" Alice sat, and Margaret sat across from her.
"…Is everything alright, Maggie?" Alice said softly, using her sister's petname that had not been used in years. "…You seem…off." Margaret's still-lovely face faltered slightly as he hands made her tea and buttered a scone.
"…I was hoping you wouldn't notice," she replied softly. "…Things are…tense, to be honest, between Mother and I."
Alice was surprised; Margaret had always been the 'good child' in her mother's eyes. What could they have to be at odds with each other about? "…Tell me," Alice said. Margaret paused. "…Please, Maggie."
Margaret put her scone down and sighed. "…The day we had you…committed…" she said, having the decency to look abashed at the fact, "…I…lost my bearings and told Mother that she was wrong to have you put away like that."
Alice gaped at her sister. "…You did?" she asked softly. Margaret nodded.
"…Alice…" she said, her eyes tearing up. "…I know that I never showed it before, but I have always loved and admired your imagination." She took a napkin and dabbed her eyes. "…You are so unique and independent…so headstrong…" She took a deep breath. "…I was so against Mother taking you to the asylum. I didn't…I didn't want to see that light in you die. Granted, your tales of this…Wonderland, as you called it…"
'Underland,' Alice mentally corrected, not trusting herself or her sister enough to say it aloud.
"…Were a bit outlandish," Margaret continued, "…it was always a wonder to see your eyes shine when you spoke of it. I almost believed it myself!" She put a hand to her chest, closing her eyes as tears formed again. "…My heart was breaking when you were dragged into that place…! And before yesterday, I haven't spoken to Mother since our falling out." She opened her eyes and reached across the table to touch Alice's hand. "…I was so afraid that you would come back today…a shadow of your former wonderful self." She smiled. "…I'm so glad I was…at least a little wrong."
Alice suddenly burst into tears.
God, how she wanted to tell Margaret everything. And she meant, everything. But she couldn't. Not now. She had to play it safe for now. Let a little shine through, but not all of it.
"Maggie!" she cried, clasping her sister's hands in her own. "Maggie, I promise I haven't lost my muchness!"
If Margaret didn't know what she was talking about, she didn't show it. She only held Alice's hands tighter in her own and let tears run down her face until the both of them were calmed down enough to let the other go. Margaret wiped her eyes dry, and Alice did the same, laughing a little. "I think we should have tea before it gets cold," Margaret said.
"Indeed," Alice nodded assent. As she poured her own cup, she shifted her eyes to her sister. "…Maggie, have you any idea how a raven is like a writing desk?"
"Poe, I'd expect."
Alice blinked. "I beg your pardon?" Margaret picked her scone back up to put a smear of jam on it.
"Edgar Allan Poe," she replied. "A raven and a writing desk are alike because Poe writes on both of them." She paused. "…That's right, is it?"
Alice stared at Margaret for a few moments before sipping her tea, a smile on her lips. "…Maggie," she said brightly, "I do believe that you have not lost your muchness, either."
Two days had passed since she had returned home from the asylum, and tomorrow would be the day she would leave.
And Absolem had yet to show up to take her back home to Underland.
Alice nervously gazed at herself in the mirror, smoothing out her vivid blue dress with shaking hands. She was wearing it because her mother was hosting a small get-together, and she was expected to attend and stun everyone with her transition from over-imaginative madwoman to a sane, prim and proper lady. She sighed. Pretending had never been harder for her.
Despite her promise to conform to her mother's standards for the time being, she had forgone the stockings and corset for tonight. If she was going to be gawked at like an experiment, then she was going to be comfortable doing it. Good thing for her, the dress was so long, it just almost touched the floor. The soft and airy petticoats provided even more protection from the heinous crime of showing her ankles.
She turned to her vanity and sat down, taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, and looked down at the final piece of décor for her person. It was a lovely silver and blue-jeweled hairclip in the shape of a butterfly. She picked it up and stroked it with her fingertip fondly, reminded of Absolem and his promise. Would it be tonight? Or perhaps tomorrow, before she would leave? She sighed and clipped the butterfly in her hair, smoothing the light waves over her shoulders.
"I cannot wait to be home," she whispered to her reflection. "Hatter…Thackery…Mallymkun…Mirana…Chessur…everyone…" She smiled, seeing her face brighten at the very thought of them. "…I cannot wait to see you all…" She stood up and smoothed out her dress again. Well, she thought, it was time to greet the judgmental masses. Joy.
She walked down the stairs and to the back door, where the get-together was being held. Her eyes shifted toward the clock. Six-o-four.
"You're terribly late, you know," she murmured to herself, smiling. "Naughty." Resisting the urge to giggle, she took another breath and stepped out into the party, surveying who was there.
The Ascots were there, as were Fiona and Faith Chataway, Lowel (she hoped for his sake that he had behaved), and a few others she didn't know or care to know. She stepped into the fray (thank goodness for Absolem's influence of sarcasm) and hovered around a small table with a glass of champagne to observe.
She wasn't complaining, though. She was very happy to not be the center of attention for once. She sipped her champagne and let her thoughts drift off to better, happier, madder places…
Alice snapped out of her stupor to see the twins standing in front of her table, identical smiles on their faces. Smiles that let her know that they had something to dish, and were restraining themselves from telling. She smiled at them. "Faith. Fiona." She nodded to each of them. "Might I ask what delectable gossip the two of you are itching to tell me is?"
"Should we tell her?" Fiona asked her sister.
"Oh, I don't know," Faith replied.
"We really should."
"But where's the fun in telling?"
"More fun would be in her reaction!"
Alice smiled at them. They and the Tweedles would get along so well. She merely waited for them to finish debating on whether or not to tell. Not that she really cared, mind. She merely sipped her champagne.
"Oh, very well!" Faith said. She leaned closer to Alice. "You didn't hear this from us…"
"…But Hamish is still interested in your hand!"
…That poor tablecloth. Now it had spewed champagne on it. "W-what?" she whispered, her eyes wide. Faith and Fiona grinned at her.
"Hamish has been asking your mother regarding your mental state," Fiona said.
"And that if you're sane enough," Faith added, "he's very willing to marry you still!"
Alice sat back in her chair, blinking. She knew where that conversation came from and was heading. She had been in an asylum; her track record was now stained with that fact, and the chances of her getting a 'decent' husband was zip to nada. Hamish was a lord, and was willing to marry her still. And if Alice's mother had her way, then Alice would be married, and that was that.
"…You two are immensely informative, and you have my thanks," she told the twins.
"Anytime," Fiona said.
"After your spectacle a few months ago at your engagement party…"
"…We figured you being in the loop would reap less…"
Alice gave them a smile. "…Don't you know the mad are the best kind of people?" she told them. They both shrugged, still smiling. "You are good friends. May your future husbands be as amusing as you two."
"Thank you," they both said, then moved on to mingle around. Alice heaved a sigh and sipped more champagne. Well, now what? She had a few options. She could act mad to get out of the proposal. She could accept the proposal, should it come before Absolem taking her back to Underland. She could—
Alice looked up to see—speak of the devil—Hamish standing at her table. She gave him a polite smile. Overall, he was a decent person who had done nothing to earn her cold shoulder. "Hamish," she said. The young man fidgeted a little, as though weighing what he was about to say.
"…I see you are well," he said, averting his eyes. Alice nodded.
"I am," she replied. "I'm also very happy to be here."
"I would imagine."
Well, this was awkward. Alice shifted around a little.
"…Would you…dance with me, Alice?" Hamish finally said. Alice looked up and blinked. Well. Surprise.
"As long as it's not the quadrille," Alice replied. "I know you find it invigorating, but I think I should tell you, I find it horribly…boring."
"Would a waltz suffice?" He held his hand out to her.
"Immensely." Alice took the offered hand and let him lead her to a space to dance. They danced slowly in silence for a few minutes before Hamish spoke up.
"Alice, is there any chance…?"
"…No, Hamish," Alice replied gently. At the redhead's confused expression she sighed. "Hamish…you're a good and decent man that any woman of my…position…would be outright lucky to have. But…" She looked away. "…I'm not ungrateful in the least that you're still interested in me despite my commitment to an asylum, really I'm not." She looked at him again. "…But…I don't love you, Hamish. You're not the right man for me. Somewhere, there's a girl who is made just for you, but I am definitely not her."
Hamish stared at her for a few moments before sighing. "…You are truly a wonder, Alice," he said. "…Mad, even, dare I say it."
"But the best people are," Alice added. Hamish blinked. "…My father used to say that."
Hamish nodded. "…I met him a few times," he replied. "Father said he was a madman himself, but brilliant because of it." He gave Alice a once-over. "…I suppose it is hereditary. But it is as you said. I am not the one for you."
"No," Alice agreed apologetically. "I'm sorry, Hamish."
"I know," he replied. "So am I." He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. "I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure to know you."
Alice smiled, feeling both elated that he understood and guilty that she was denying him. "Likewise," she said. They smiled at each other for a moment before Alice felt a presence behind her.
"If I may," the person said in a voice that made Alice tense with familiarity, "might I ask Alice for a dance?"
"Oh, of course," Hamish said, looking over Alice's shoulder with a curious expression. The presence moved from behind her to next to Hamish and Alice found herself staring at a tall man dressed in navy blue trousers and jacket with a familiar shade of blue in the vest and shirt. Hamish handed her hand over to this new man's and stepped aside. Alice dared to trail her gaze higher and stared even harder at what she saw.
An older man, about the same age her father would be about now, stared down at her with familiar blue eyes, a golden monocle adorning his left eye. He had almost-careless black hair that framed a handsome, wise-looking face.
"…It's quite rude to stare, stupid girl," he said as he led her into an elegant and smooth waltz.
"…Absolem…?" Alice breathed. The man rolled his eyes and sighed.
"I'll let this one pass, simply because I am out of my normal form," he said. "But if you question my identity again, I just may have to give you a smack."
Alice let out a soft happy sound and curled her arm around his shoulders in a hug, making Absolem blink and stare down at her head. "…Yes…well…" He petted her back with his hand. "…Seeing how you have tied up a few of those frayed ends…" He pulled away slightly so he could look her in the eye. "…Are you ready to return home?"
Alice's eyes watered with joy. "…I am," she said. "So very ready." Absolem's hand squeezed her own gently.
"Good," he said. "Because I am anxious to get out of this uncomfortable form." Alice laughed, earning her a stern but amused glare. Absolem waltzed them both to a clear area outside the din of the party before parting. "Are you ready?"
"Just about." Alice reached into her bodice—Absolem averted his eyes for propriety's sake—and pulled out a small envelope, then knelt down and set it on the ground before standing back up. "Now I'm ready."
"Very well." He cupped her shoulders in his hands. "Close your eyes," he said. Alice did as she was told, and she sensed Absolem's face draw closer to her own; she could smell that hookah tobacco he always smoked on his breath. "Wish for Underland."
"…I wish for Underla…"
She was cut off by Absolem's lips over her own.
It was…unexpected, to say the least. Shocking, but not at all unpleasant. At the first contact, she could feel something akin to magic flow through her, and after just a split moment, she felt the sensation of being transported from the soul out.
And then it was over, and Absolem was gone.
Alice kept her eyes closed for a few more moments, hardly daring to open them, before gathering the courage to open them.
And she was home.
Better yet…she knew where she was!
Without a second thought, Alice picked up the front of her dress—bare ankles showing and everything—and ran down the path, stopping for nothing; not rocking-horseflies, not shouting flours, nothing, until she came to the edge of a clearing. And in the middle of the clearing was a long table. And sitting about the long table was a hare that was throwing a scone at a dormouse, who was waving a hatpin threateningly at him as a madman argued with a vaporizing cat over a hat.
Alice let out a wordless call of joy and ran toward the clearing, making the guests look up in surprise.
Tarrant's eyes—which had been just a moment ago orange with irritation at Chessur—brightened to a dazzling emerald as he bolted up from his chair to clamber onto the table and run across it, making dishes, tea, and food fly every which way, before jumping off and catching Alice, who had dove into his arms. He swung her around joyously as Mally jumped on top of Thackery's to hitch a ride over to the joyous couple. Chess materialized above them, grinning more broadly than he had in the longest time.
"ALICE HAS RETURNED!" the Hatter shouted, taking off his hat and putting it on her own head. "CALLOOH, CALLAY!"
"Callooh, callay!" Thackery and Mally echoed. Alice ducked when Thackery threw a random spoon at her head.
"Welcome back, Alice," Chess purred. Alice reached up and petted his head.
"Wonderful to be back, Chess," she replied. She looked around at her friends. "…Wonderful to see you…all of you…again…" She felt a tear run down her face.
"Alice, you seem to have sprung a leak!" Tarrant exclaimed in that endearing lisp of his, whipping out a bright pink kerchief and dabbing at her eyes. Alice laughed, leaning into his arms.
"I'm just so happy…!" she cried, hugging him around the waist. The Hatter hugged her back. "I missed you all so much…"
"And we missed you!" Mally said, tugging on Thackery's ear.
"Aye, tha' we did!" he added. "We were wonderin' when ye'd be getting' back anytime…spoon…"
"Ah know wha' Ah said, lassie!"
Alice laughed and put Tarrant's hat back in its proper place. "I'm back for good now," she said, smiling at Tarrant. "My questions were answered, and I have nothing to keep me from staying."
Tarrant grinned, his eyes shifting to a strange combination of lavender with sunshine-yellow around the outer edges of the irises. "Have you any idea how a raven is like a writing desk?" he asked.
"…Yes." Alice leaned up and kissed his cheek. "I do."
"Where on Earth is she?" Helen demanded of Margaret. "I just spoke to Hamish Ascot, and he has told me that she has declined his proposal! Again!"
"…I don't know," Margaret replied, looking around. She spotted the Chataway twins. "I'll ask Faith and Fiona." She rushed over to the twins, who were chatting away animatedly with each other. "Faith, Fiona?"
"Yes?" they replied together.
"Have you seen Alice?"
The twins giggled to each other before turning back to Margaret.
"We saw her just a moment ago…"
"…Dancing with this DASHING older gentleman…"
"…They seemed quite familiar with each other…"
"…If we do say so ourselves."
Margaret blinked. "…I…see…" she said slowly. "…Did you happen to see which way they went?" Both girls pointed to a small distance away. "Thank you." She walked over to where they had pointed and looked around. "…Alice?" she called. "…Alice where are you?" She took a few more steps forward, then felt something beneath her foot. She stepped back to see that there was an envelope on the ground.
Curious, Margaret picked it up, seeing her name and 'Mother' on the front in Alice's handwriting. With shaking fingers, she opened the envelope and pulled out the letter. She gave it a quick read before paling and running back to her mother. "Mother!" she cried softly, holding out the letter. "It's from Alice!"
Helen took the letter and read it.
To Mother and Margaret—
First of all, let me say that I have been lying for the past two months. I am not 'cured' of my 'delusions', as you are hoping, but rather, as you read this, I am now home where I truly belong.
Mother, Margaret, my journal entries and stories are not delusions or products of madness. They are real. Everything I spoke of and wrote of is real. I only pretended to renounce them so I could get out of the asylum and be taken home to Underland by an old friend. His name is Absolem. Mother, I think you may have liked him.
Now, to the true matters I wished to say, but never really could.
Mother, I am not the woman you want me to be. I am brash, over-imaginative, headstrong, and independent. I hate stockings, corsets, and boring dresses. I would rather throw the scones and cups at guests than sit through an hour of boring conversation during tea time. And where I am, I am praised for my brash, over-imaginative, headstrong, and independent personality. Stockings, corsets, and boring dresses are shameful clothing. And throwing scones and cups at tea time is a normal—if not expected—occurrence. And I love it. I love you, Mother, but please find it in your heart to be happy for me.
Margaret, dear Maggie, I think that the last two days with you have been the closest I have ever been to you, and I will cherish those memoires forever. I want you to know that even though Mother denies it and you don't realize it, you have so much muchness inside of you, that it's dying to come out. You are, after all, our father's daughter. If you are unhappy with Lowel, then I think you deserve happiness. Think about it.
As far as marriage goes, Mother…Absolem has told me that a certain mad hatter I mentioned in my journal here finds my muchness very appealing, and, Mother, your wish may just come true after all. I most certainly am not complaining, for he is a charming man, and if all the best people are mad, then he is the best of them all.
I love you both very much, and wish the best of both of you. Please wish the same of me.
Absolem watched the joyous reunion of Alice and her friends before flying away to his favorite mushroom patch. When he was settled, he pulled the Oraculum literally out of nowhere and unraveled it, his eyes settling on the current date.
The moving picture depicted a wavy-haired girl being joyously twirled around in the arms of Underland's resident mad milliner as a hare, a dormouse, and a cat rejoiced with them. His eyes then shifted over to the next date, where the same wavy-haired girl was enjoying a ball, dancing with the same milliner. Still further down the dateline was a wedding…
The Oraculum closed of its own accord and vanished. Why ruin the mystery of the future, Absolem thought to himself. He sighed and closed his eyes, deciding to take a VERY well-deserved rest. He simply HAD to do everything, didn't he?
He had barely a full thirty minutes of rest before a presence drawing closer made him peek an eye open. Standing in front of him was a shrunken Alice, who was wearing a new dress made from the same material as the one she had been wearing to the party to accommodate for her size.
"What is it now?" he asked, irritated but not very much minding. Alice nibbled her lip for a moment before leaning over on the mushroom and kissing Absolem before drawing back, her cheeks pink.
"Thank you, Absolem," she said before turning and running back to Chess, who gave Absolem a grin broader than usual, then picked up Alice to put her on his back to carry her back to the mad tea party.
Absolem sighed again and watched them go, smiling.
"Silly, stupid girl," he said affectionately before going back to sleep.
"Butterfly fly away, butterfly fly away
We've been waiting for this day
All along and knowing just what to do
Butterfly, butterfly, butterfly, butterfly fly away."
Well, that's my first Alice in Wonderland fic! Quite long, yes, but a critique would be smashing!