Chapter 13: A Long Awaited Tea Party

When Naruto woke up, the day after Sasuke had been retrieved, he wondered if the events of the past few days had been a dream.

He rolled out of bed, made himself some cup-ramen, and then made his way to the bridge where Team 7 usually met.

Upon getting there, he realised very quickly, that no, the last few days hadn't been a dream, because if they'd been a dream, then Kakashi wouldn't be at the bridge. On Time. Sakura wouldn't be crying.

Naruto felt awful. He had promised Sakura that he would get Sasuke back, but neither of them had ever considered that he would be held by T&I. Sakura started saying that there must have been some sort of mistake, but Kakashi had been quick to disabuse them of that notion, with a cold reminder of his motto.

Those that desert the mission are trash. Those that desert their team-mates are less than trash.

Then he added a rhetorical question that had not been part of that first lesson.

If those who desert their team-mates are less than trash, what does that make a person who deserts his entire Village?

Kakashi's tone, and words, had shocked Sakura into silence.

A Missing-nin. The lowest of the low. Konoha shinobi and kunoichi were taught from the first days of the academy that those who had deserted other villages were useful, if not to be trusted with anything important.

Those that deserted Konoha however...

The training session hadn't really improved from there, and eventually Kakashi had just told them both to go home.

Just before Kakashi had vanished into a shunshin however, Alice appeared in her usual swarm of butterflies.

Kakashi had been a little taken aback.

"Alice-san?"

Alice smiled serenely at him, and handed him an envelope with his name on it.

Then she turned to Naruto and did the same.

Then she turned to Sakura.

"I originally did not intend to invite you, but I decided that it would be impolite, since I am inviting your teacher and team-mate. And after my words of censure towards you, I decided that it would be for the best if I did not turn myself into a hypocrite." Alice then handed Sakura an envelope, and then turned on her heel and disappeared into another blue swarm.

Naruto looked down at his envelope, and slit it open with a kunai.

Considering what Alice had just said to Sakura, he guessed the contents, but even then, he was somewhat surprised to see the painstaking calligraphy on the floral-scented rice-paper. More to the point, he was confused as to why Alice had written the entire invitation in romaji (A/N: Roman alphabet) instead of using kanji and hiragana, but in terms of Odd Things that Alice did, this barely rated on the scale.

"Dear Uzumaki Naruto,

You are Cordially Invited to a Tea Party at the House of Alice Liddell. The Party will be Tomorrow at 4 o'clock Post Meridian. There will be Tea and Cakes and Eggs and Honey. Hats optional.

Please RSVP before Tomorrow noon, and Bring Your Own Chair."

"Bring your own chair?" Naruto looked up to see Sakura looking particularly bemused.

"Uh I guess she's still only got two?" Naruto suggested. He turned to look at Kakashi. "Are you going to be there Sensei?"

Kakashi eye smiled. "Iruka said he'd visit vengeance unspeakable upon me if I declined the invitation, so of course I'll be there."

He eye-smiled at the blank looks from both of his students, and before they could interrogate them, he did what he had planned on doing pre-Alice turning up and shunshined away.

AVAVAVAVAVAVAVA

The table was set, with several mis-matched tea-sets. If anyone had asked her, Alice would have been able to tell them that she had purchased them in six different bargain bins, and one junk store.

There was indeed cake, and eggs and honey. There was also pickled ginger, and cucumber sandwiches, and a plate of dango. And cup-ramen. Each arriving guest upon noticing this last inclusion had turned to stare incredulously at Naruto.

The fourth time this happened, Naruto, who since he lived upstairs was the first guest to arrive, demanded to know what the hell everybody's problem was. Unfortunately, the person he asked this was Aburame Mushimaru, who told Naruto bluntly and in as many words that he was a corrupting influence to people's good taste. Naruto wound up into a speech about how great ramen was, but Iruka, who had been the second person to arrive, quickly diverted his attention by asking him pointedly if he knew anything about the odd henge that Konohamaru and co. had been using lately.

Naruto scratched the back of his head and snickered sheepishly.

Iruka cracked his knuckles.

Alice asked Iruka if, since he was a teacher and all, he could answer for her how a raven was like a writing desk?

Tsubaki choked on her tea, causing much consternation to her co-worker.

It was an odd gathering.

One academy teacher, two interrogation specialists from T&I, one jinchuriki, one pink-haired genin, one one dimensional traveller.

And, at only twenty minutes late, one ex-ANBU cyclops. With a bright green plastic chair.

Alice fixed him with a severe glare.

Kakashi shrugged. "Sorry, but when I went to get a chair from my place, I remembered that I only have cushions. So I had to borrow this from this guy I know. And then he challenged me to a contest. And then..."

Alice waved him to a space between Iruka and the T&I duo.

"Well I am very pleased that you could come," she said politely.

She then re-posited her question to the party- "So can anyone tell me how a raven is like a writing-desk?"

This prompted the immediate question from Naruto, "what's a raven?"

To which Alice replied, "Together they are only an unkindness, though bigger than the members of a murder. Both are black and both are hoarse."

At that Iruka started. "Oh! You're talking about the old collective nouns. My mother once told me about those. The only ones that are really in common usage around here are a shadow of ninja and a conspiracy of politicians."

"Odd," said Alice, cocking her head. "That's the other thing that I've heard ravens called. I suppose both are ruthless scavengers."

Tsubaki, who hadn't been paying especial attention to Alice's last comment, exclaimed. "Oh yes, of course! That's why people thought it was so funny that Itachi started using that genjutsu where he turns into a group of crows..." she trailed off sheepishly as everyone but Mushimaru stared at her.

"Well, over at T&I we found it pretty funny," she muttered defensively. "You know, since..."

"So!" interrupted Kakashi brightly. "I have a riddle!"

After about an hour of this, Sakura made her excuses and stomped away. If anyone had cared to listen, they would have heard her mumbling under her breath, "Well that was the silliest tea party I ever went to! I am never going back there again!"

The rest of the party-goers stayed. Naruto, because he had nothing better to do. Kakashi didn't want Iruka to wreak vengeance on him. Iruka stayed because he thought it important that someone sane kept an eye on proceedings (and in his humble opinion there was no such thing as a sane jonin. There was a reason he kept refusing the promotion after all. Tsubaki and Mushimaru were attempting to covertly information gather, but were also getting endless amounts of entertainment watching Iruka and Kakashi squirm.

Alice on the other hand seemed distracted.

When dusk came, she paused, mid-pour of a fresh cup of tea, looking out the window.

"What? That light!?"

A strange whistling-humming noise could be heard, and the assembled ninja felt suddenly uneasy.

As though drawn by a mysterious force, Alice walked out the door.

The ninja followed her, and gasped.

A pure white, oddly-shaped light floated in the sky, and it appeared to be descending. The whistle-hum was getting louder.

Suddenly, Mushimaru gasped. "Is that...!?"

Eyes grew wide as a strange metallic vehicle floated to middle of the street and hit with a low thud that shook the ground and split the road surface.

Now that it was on the ground, the shinobi could see that it was vaguely saucer-shaped, with an up-turned glass bowl on top. The base of the saucer lifted with a strange hissing sound, and then suddenly bizarre figures stepped out.

They were about a foot taller than the average human man, and though they stood bipedally, it was clear that these... things were not human, by their unnaturally slim grey forms and great bulbous heads with two black oval eyes each as big as a child's face. They spoke using sounds that hurt Kakashi's ears, in a dialect so strange that individual syllables were impossible to pick out, let alone intonation or words... without mouths. The senior ninja subtly checked for genjutsu, but none of their "Kai"s or surreptitious self-stabbings with senbon or kunai changed the scene in front of them.

The ninja had immediately moved to stand in defensive stances, but to their consternation, Alice stepped forward.

"'Into the hole again, we hurried along our way, into a once-glorious garden now steeped in dark decay,'" she said in tones that made it clear she was quoting something.

"The dimensions of this desolate tract unknown to all but the inhabitants. Only one path will bring you to the endgame. Look straight ahead. Or askance – whichever way you choose, you must always look in the right direction," came a dark voice.

The ninja snapped their heads around, to see that Chishiru, Alice's Cat summon had appeared.

"Will you follow me Cheshire?" Alice asked him, looking directly at the bizarre beings.

"I'm not a dog," Chishiru snorted.

Alice nodded, and said no more, stepping forward towards the grey creatures.

They cocked their bulbous heads, as though considering her, and emitted more strange sounds, before flanking her and guiding her into the strange metal structure.

"Hey!" Naruto ran a few steps forward, but suddenly one of the beings wheeled around, and a metallic object grasped in his hands sent out a burst of energy that dropped the jinchuriki in his tracks. The remaining ninja, stopped in their tracks as they realised that each of the beings carried one of the weird blasting devices, and that they were all pointed at them.

Alice merely clicked her tongue in faint reprimand, folding her arms and glaring at the odd beings.

She then turned to the ninja and said merely, "I fear nothing."

Before anyone else could register their protests, Alice had been escorted into the metal... thing and the grey beings had followed her.

Moments later, the ululating whistle-hum had returned, upon which moment the metal structure lifted up into the sky, and was soon a diminishing pinprick of light, indistinguishable from the stars just starting to come out.

Kakashi could have sworn he saw Alice wave to him through the glass dome just before the machine was too far away to see.

Naruto groaned from his position on the ground, and Kakashi flash-stepped to his student's side.

"Still alive?" he asked.

Naruto rubbed at his stomach. "That stung. Felt like getting hit by a lightning-jutsu."

He turned to the Cat, who was idly licking one paw.

"What the hell, Cat? What were those things? Demons? Why did they take Alice?" Naruto demanded.

The Cat just sneered.

"Every picture tells a story. Sometimes we don't like the ending. Sometimes we don't understand it."

And then he faded away.

The ninja looked at each other in consternation. Naruto said what everyone else was thinking.

"What the fuck!?"

…...

A/N: Well, that's all folks.

No seriously. That's it. You can all go home now. Oh wait. Most of you are probably already at home. Or reading at this at work, in which case I will wag my finger at you. wags finger

Thanks for reading. I did appreciate the reviews, good and bad, but especially the constructive ones. You should know who you are. You usually wrote me more than a sentence :P. I'd also like to take this moment to thank everyone who put this in their C2s, or recommended it via forums.

And now for the bit you've probably been waiting for.

So. Chapter 12.

Some of you hated it. Some of you loved it. Some of you were just really bewildered by it.

I make no apologies.

Frankly, I decided that writing this fic was something that had got old and tired for me. It's been almost two years now after all, and I'd run out of (good) ideas for it. It nearly went into a particularly stupid arc where it became Alice/Itachi, but I decided that was the dumbest idea I'd ever had, so I never even wrote the first sentence of it. There were a few one-shot jokes left in my head, but for the most part I felt like this had gone as far as it was ever going to go.

So I figured I had 2 options. I could take it out with a bang, or with a fizzle.

So I had a few drinks, and picked "bang". This has been mostly successful, because my inbox is now full of various expressions of "what the fuck just happened?!" Some of you even thought it was great, which made me ask "what the fuck just happened!?" so maybe it was completely successful after all. It felt like it was in the spirit of this fic, so I did it, spreading confusion. Whether it's the stupidest call I've ever made is besides the point. I made it, and so it is done, and whilst I could delete it, I won't, because there needed to be something in between chapters 11 and 13.

Chapter 13 has been the planned ending for the last 6 months. I could have left Alice in Konoha, but I decided not to, because settling down didn't really fit with her character IMO. Also because I really like the original Silent Hill UFO ending.

As a further disclaimer to my original one: I own neither American McGee's Alice, nor Naruto, nor Silent Hill. Please support the official releases.

If people want to write about the further adventures of Alice, then that's their call, but I'm officially done with this fic, almost certainly for good.

It's been real.

Later,

Erisah