"It's time, Alice!"
Alice let Mirana fuss with her dress and veil to make sure that it was pin-straight, and smiled at one of the Ladies of the White Court as she handed Alice a pretty bouquet of sweet pea. These sentient flowers were different from the ones Alice was used to; they only spoke in gentle, angelic tones and said the sweetest, sugar-coated things. Right now, the sweet-smelling flowers were cooing about how beautiful she looked and how lucky a man the groom was.
Alice stood with Mirana to her right; the White Queen was going to walk her down the aisle today, to her honor. Mirana smoothed Alice's veil once more as the doors opened into the bright, dazzling hall.
The young flower girls walked ahead, sprinkling the aisle with white, pink, and violet cherry blossom petals that the trees had donated for the wedding. Then the music struck up and Mirana and Alice stepped into the hall.
Alice couldn't help but tear up as she saw the hall; it was just as she had always wanted it. Everyone was dressed in bright, playful colors. There were bright flowers everywhere, both sentient and non-sentient. And up at the alter was her husband-to-be, smiling at her, his eyes examining her form and giving silent consent of her beauty.
Mirana led Alice to the front, lifted her veil, and kissed Alice on the forehead before handing her off to her fiancé, who whispered a quick "I love you" before turning to the proprietor of the wedding ceremony.
It was everything Alice wanted—a bright, colorful wedding, surrounded by people who cared about her, with someone she loved and wanted to marry. She couldn't keep the smile off of her face as she and her fiancé went through the proper rituals and said their vows. Alice had to hold back a giggled when she tripped over her limited Outlandish, but everyone else's amused laughter eased the embarrassment.
At last, came the finale she was waiting for.
"…I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."
Alice threw her arms around her husband's neck and kissed him hard, almost knocking them both off-balance. Everyone in the audience and wedding party burst into applause and shouts of congratulations as the new couple parted and turned to them, smiling like madmen. Alice squealed with delight when she was whisked off her feet and into the arms of her husband.
"I love you, Alice," he said, smiling at her lovingly. Alice reached up and stroked his face.
"I love you too, Tarrant."
The wedding reception was above and beyond everything that Alice could have hoped for. There was one long table filled to the breaking point with colorful pastries, scones, finger foods, and confectionaries. That, and tea in over 100 different flavors, something for everyone's taste.
Alice and Tarrant sat next to each other at the table, laughing and talking and dining with everyone else. Right in the middle of a conversation, Tarrant stood up, waving his empty teacup around wildly, and hollered, "CLEAN CUP, CLEAN CUP! MOVE DOWN, MOVE DOWN!" Alice barely had time to keep hold of her own cup with strawberry tea as she was almost forcefully scooted into the next chair.
This continued for nearly an hour and a half, with a move-down happening at odd intervals ranging from fifteen seconds to five minutes. Then Mirana stood up and proposed a dance for the newlyweds.
Tarrant stood up and offered his hand to Alice, who took it and walked with him to the dance floor, where they stepped into a dance that seemed to be a cross between a waltz and a slow foxtrot. Tarrant held her close to him as they danced, as though afraid she would vanish, and Alice had never felt more loved in her life.
Alice opened her eyes, and was almost blinded by the brightness that met them. She blinked hard and pulled away from Absolem to look around. Colorful flora. Sky bluer than anything she had ever seen. The sounds of creatures not of her world. Teacups and saucers under her feet…wait, what?
"What in th' name o' th' Queen…!"
Alice turned and saw Thackery staring up at her, his left eye twitching. Next to him was Mallymkun, who was staring at Alice with an open mouth. Alice took a closer look at where exactly she was standing.
….And she was standing on the March Hare's tea table.
"…Ye're standin' in my saucer," Thackery commented. Alice quickly stepped aside.
"Sorry, Thackery," she said.
"Alice!" Mally shouted. "You've come back!" Alice stood awkwardly on the table and smiled at the dormouse.
"Yes," she replied, holding onto Absolem's arm. "We have." She looked at Absolem, who had an expression of pure content on his face, and she could practically feel a resurgence of power flow through him.
"By Marmoreal, is that you, Absolem?" Mally asked, hopping on top of a teapot to get a closer look. "We haven't seen you in ages!"
"AGES!" Thackery shouted in assent, lobbing a spoon at them. They both ducked, and Absolem straightened up.
"Yes, well someone had to keep an eye out for the stupid girl." He gave Alice an affectionate smile. "But it is good to be home for good, finally."
"For good?" Mally asked incredulously. Alice smiled down at her.
"For good, Mally," she replied. She looked around. "…Where's the Hatter?" That seemed to set Thackery off, for the March Hare suddenly began stuttering in Outlandish and digging around in his pockets—in the process bringing out two spoons, a ladle, sixteen sugar cubes, five teacups and a fork—before pulling out a pocket watch.
"HE'S LATE!" he shouted. Mally took cover in the teapot as he began rearranging and throwing the tea ware around the table obsessively. Alice picked up Mally's teapot refuge to keep it out of Thackery's reach. A few moments later, she heard a voice behind her—
Everyone turned around to see Tarrant Hightopp, the resident Mad Hatter, walking up to the table, freezing when he saw the image of beauty on top of it. He stared at her for a moment with shocked lime-green eyes before they brightened to a dazzling emerald.
Alice could barely keep her hold on Mally's teapot; Absolem relieved her of the excess burden before she could drop it. "…Hatter," she replied, smiling. Tarrant let out a whoop of joy and with a bounding leap, jumped onto the tabletop in one go and ran right up to Alice, picking her up in a tight hug and twirling her around, making teacups and confectionaries go flying in every which-way.
"ALICE!" Tarrant shouted happily. "YOU'VE COME BACK! YOU'VE COME BACK!" Alice hugged him back tightly, crying with joy.
"I've come back…!" she sobbed. "…I'm home…!"
ONE UNDERLAND YEAR LATER:
Alice had been home—truly home—for one year in Underland. In the course of a year, she had acquired a job in Queen Mirana's court as a trade supervisor, was built and lived in her new home in Witzend, close to Tarrant's own home, and best of all, grew closer to everyone in her true home.
About a year and a month after she had finally settled in, Queen Mirana announced that she wished to throw a Frabjous Day ball, commemorating the historical slaying of the Jabberwocky. Alice was asked by many gentlemen of the Court to be their escort, but she turned them all down, in favor of the Queen's Hatter.
Most everyone was surprised; they knew that Alice and Tarrant were friends, but Alice's primary social circle included the White Queen, the Ladies of the Court, and the all-knowing Absolem. For her to choose a milliner over a Lord was quite unprecedented.
Nevertheless, Champion Alice arrived via carriage, being escorted by a very clean-cut—if not oddly-colored-dressed—Tarrant Hightopp. Everyone oohed and aahed over them, especially Alice. The Champion of Underland was wearing a silvery-blue dress that looked like it was created from a shimmering liquid. Her hair was partially pulled up to the left side, held up with a blue butterfly pin.
As soon as they entered the ballroom, all of the Ladies crowded around Alice, begging her to tell them where she attained such a dress. Alice only smiled and shifted her eyes to her companion, who was looking quite proud of himself. He was a milliner, after all.
The ball was pretty normal…by Underland standards, that is. There was dancing, light dining, more dancing, and the occasional broken and thrown item, courtesy of Thackery and Chessur. Then, right out of nowhere, Tarrant broke away from Alice, ran to the center of the dance floor, and made sure everyone had his attention
"Oh, the Frabjous Day! Callou! Callay!"
And then he Futterwackened right in front of everyone, putting in more outrageous, physics-defying, and downright mad moves than Alice could remember. It made her all the more willing to finally learn that dance. Everyone applauded and cheered Tarrant on until he finished his dance with a bow on one knee in front of Alice, then brought his hand from behind his back and out to Alice.
In his hand was an open box with a ring inside.
The whole room went silent. Alice thought her heart stopped for just a moment. Tarrant only stared up at her, a smile on his face and his eyes a beautiful pinkish-lavender color. Alice had only seen that color once before—when she gave him a kiss on Underland's New Year. It was the color of love.
Alice looked at the ring; it was a beautiful silver color with a clear, beautifully-cut diamond in the center. The perfect…engagement ring…
Tarrant was asking her to MARRY him…!
There was a collective gasp in the ballroom. Tarrant's endearing grin grew wider.
"Say it, Alice," he murmured to her. Alice fell to her knees with him and threw her arms around his neck.
"YES!" she cried, laughing. "I will marry you, Tarrant Hightopp!"
The entire ballroom shook with the shouts of congratulations from everyone in the room.
ONE DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING:
Alice was standing outside her room on her balcony, leaning on the railing and gazing out at the setting sun. Due to a tradition not too different from her own, she and Tarrant had not seen each other since the previous evening; the bride and groom must not see each other for one day before the wedding for good luck.
She had turned in early for the night, mostly for some reflection and soul-searching. Here she was—back home in Underland, with a life she loved, engaged and about to be married to her one true love in the wedding of her dreams.
…And yet, she couldn't help but feel like she did five years ago, when she was up on the balcony in this very Palace. She couldn't help but think that this was all a dream, and she was going to wake up to a drab, uninteresting world filled with disappointed mothers and unsuitable suitors. It almost frightened her, it did. As she tried to convince herself that this was real and not a dream—mostly by pinching her arms until they bruised—she shivered in the cool Octvember air and wrapped her arms around herself.
"You should have put on a robe, you stupid girl."
Alice smiled and turned to look to her left, where Absolem was leaning against the railing in his human-esque form. It was a rare honor these days. Since returning to Underland, Absolem had remained in his natural butterfly form. Alice had almost forgotten what his human form looked like.
"Hello, Absolem," she replied. "What brings you up here this fine evening?" Absolem smirked, shaking his head.
"I'm here to see you, of course," he said. "Why else?" Alice shrugged.
"I haven't a clue," she said. "To tell me something about the Oraculum…to give me wise words to live by…the usual Absolem things."
Absolem laughed, stepping up to stand next to her by the railing. "Those too," he replied humorously. "…I told you that the Oraculum foretold the wedding of your dreams." Alice smiled at him.
"You did say that, didn't you?" she said. "Though, you never did say who." She gave him a sideway glance. "…To be perfectly honest, for a short time…" She blushed. "…I thought that you were going to ask me to marry you."
Absolem made a soft choking sound, and Alice looked over to see him blinking and loosening his collar a little. She blushed harder. To catch Absolem off-guard—especially here in Underland—was a rarer thing than Thackery's moments of sanity. "…But then…I remembered what you said."
The butterfly recovered from his mini-shock and gave her a confused glance. "…What did I say?" he asked. Alice folded her hands on the railing, her smile a little sad.
"…The day we had that big fight," she replied softly. She hated even thinking about that day. "…You mentioned that even though you care for me, I'd be the last person you would want to marry." She lowered her eyes to her hands. "…Still, a girl can think otherwise, cant she…?"
She suddenly found herself in Absolem's arms. She froze for a moment, not expecting this kind of affection, then slowly relaxed in his hold. She felt safe when he held her; not like it was when Tarrant held her. She felt loved and defended for in his arms. In Absolem's arms…she felt like a little girl again, and he would protect her from the 'bad things'…
"Stupid girl," Absolem murmured, squeezing her softly. "…You completely misunderstood what I was trying to say…" He petted her hair in a way Alice had a vague memory of…when she was a little girl… "…Alice, you would be the last person I would marry because you're the last person I have…romantic feelings for." He paused, and Alice could feel something like a struggle within him. "…I cannot bring myself to think of you as a lover, because I have long ago contented myself with thinking of you as a child." He paused once more. "…My child."
Alice's breath hitched in her throat. "…You…think of me as your…?" she whispered, her heart fluttering like a large butterfly in her chest. She felt Absolem nod.
"…And it's a very complicated position with me," he continued. "An Oracle like myself generally shies away from such attachments. No lovers. No siblings. No children. They are unwritten rules that I have lived by for nearly three thousand years…" He pulled back and tapped her on the tip of her nose. "…Until a stupid little girl who called this place 'Wonderland' fell down a rabbit hole and changed everything here."
Alice sniffled, feeling tears come to her eyes. Absolem reached up and brushed her hair out of her face. "I think of you as my child, Alice," he said. "And that is why tomorrow, I'm going to be giving you a gift. And with this gift, I will pray you use it well and to its full effect." He leaned down and kissed her forehead, and for just a moment, Alice was six years old again, taking a walk with her father, telling him tales of her sights in Wonderland, and knowing he believed every word of what she said.
"Fairfarren, Alice," Absolem murmured, drawing back from her. Alice opened her eyes in time to see a blue butterfly flutter off of the balcony and into the now-dark sky. She smiled at Absolem and wrapped her arms around herself again…and felt something over her shoulders. She reached up to touch it.
…Absolem's butterfly-blue coat.
Alice was dragged out of her thoughts when Tarrant dipped her low to the ground and pulled her back up, eliciting a giggle from her. She put both arms around his neck and squeezed. Tarrant squeezed back lovingly and kissed her cheek.
"Will you do me a favor, Tarrant?" Alice asked, smiling at him. He smiled back.
"Anything for you, Mrs. Hightopp," he replied. Alice sighed contently.
"It's nothing big," she said nonchalantly. "Just promise to love me forever." Tarrant blinked, then smiled and pretended to think about it.
"I think I can arrange that," he said. Alice pulled him in for another kiss, but they both nearly pitched forward when something hit Tarrant in the back of the head.
"Blast it all tae th' Otherlands!" he shouted in his 'annoyed brogue'. "Ah'm goin' tae skin ye alive, Thackery!"
"Sorry!" the March Hare shouted back. "Was aimin' for Chess!"
"Tarrant?" Alice said.
"…Chess has your hat."
Tarrant's eyes turned orange as he let out a string of sailor-shaming profanities in Outlandish, and quickly apologized to Alice before running after Chessur, shouting something about making Alice a new cat-skin shawl.
"Thank the Oraculum, I thought he'd never leave you alone."
Alice turned to see Absolem standing behind her in very formal blue and gold attire. He smiled at her, and Alice let out a happy sound before hugging him.
"You came!" she cried happily. Absolem rolled his eyes and tapped the tip of her nose.
"Of course I did, stupid girl," he said. "You wound me. You really think I would not be at your wedding?" Alice blushed a little.
"Where were you?" she asked. "I didn't see you." Absolem smirked.
"I was in your sweet pea bouquet," he replied, pointing to the aforementioned bouquet on the table, which was in a very scintillating conversation with Mirana. Alice smiled, feeling her heart warm.
"Thank you," she whispered, hugging him again. Absolem petted her hair.
"Are you ready for my gift, Alice?" he asked. Alice nodded.
"…I am," she replied. "…Even if I don't need it. I have so many gifts tonight, it would seem selfish to ask for another."
"Well, it's a good think you are not asking for it," Absolem replied. "I'm giving it to you." He pulled back and reached up to hold her face in both his hands. "But first, some formalities." His face went serious, and Alice could feel a small surge of power flow through Absolem's hands. "…Do you solemnly swear to never take it for granted?"
Alice swallowed the small lump in her throat. "…I do," she replied a little uncertainly.
"Do you swear to never relinquish this gift for anyone or anything, for as long as you live?"
Absolem leaned down and brushed his lips over hers so softly, she swore Absolem was a butterfly again…oh, wait. She looked, and saw that Absolem was in fact a blue butterfly again. She raised one hand for him to perch on. "Absolem, what is my gift?" she asked. The butterfly's wings fluttered against her hand.
"A rare gift none but I can administer," Absolem replied. "I have given you the gift of becoming one of us."
Alice's eyes widened and her hand trembled. "…I…you…what…?" Absolem emitted a soft laugh.
"You are now an Underlandian," Absolem said. "You have Underlandian blood. And all Underlandians have one special ability or another." She could almost see him smile. "I'll let you figure out what your ability could be. Call it a second gift."
Alice still felt a little weak at the knees. "…Absolem…" she murmured, feeling tears well up more in her eyes. "…I don't know what to say…!"
"Try 'thank you', stupid girl," he replied affectionately. Alice laughed and wiped her tears away.
"Thank you, Absolem."
"You are very welcome, Alice." He fluttered again. "Now I shall give you back to your husband. He looks like he could use some calming down." With that, he fluttered away just as Tarrant came stalking back, keeping one hand on his hat.
Alice rushed forward and hugged him. "It's all in good fun, Tarrant," she said. "Calm down, alright?" Just as always, Tarrant's eyes went from red to green at the mere sound of her voice. He put his arms around her and squeezed.
"I'm calm," he finally stated. Alice smiled and pulled back to smile at him, and he smiled back at her, then his expression went from happy to bewildered. "…Alice…" He reached up to cup her face in his hands.
"…What's wrong, Tarrant?" she asked. Tarrant didn't answer right away; he was too busy staring at her. "…Tarrant?"
"Your eyes…" he murmured.
"What about them?" Alice asked.
"…They…" He tipped his head, as though looking at it at a different angle would give him an answer. "…They're…blue."
"Blue?" That was indeed a bewilderment; her eyes were brown. And now they were blue?
"Wait…" Tarrant said. "…Now they're…bluish green…"
Alice's eyes went wide. "They're what?"
"…Now they're green." He blinked, his own eyes fading into a bluish green; and Alice suddenly understood.
"Very funny, Absolem," she murmured to herself.
"What was that, my sweetling?" Tarrant asked. "…Wait, now they're violet…"
"Tarrant…" Alice took his hand and led him back to the table. "…I'll tell you about it later, alright?" Tarrant nodded, still looking at her queerly. Alice giggled and leaned up to kiss him. When she pulled back, Tarrant was smiling at her.