A/N: This is my first fanfic, and if it wasn't for the encouragement of Niphuria and Fairfarrenlovelylydia I might have never shared it!
Alice sat next to her sister Margaret, clutching onto her hand tightly as she peered at the vicar through the fine black crepe of her weeping veil. She had just returned from China the week before and hadn't foreseen attending her mother's funeral. In her state of shock she'd been unable to eat, sleep or even cry that week. She'd mechanically gone through the motions of her duties, hardly even fighting with Margaret that morning when she firmly insisted that Alice had to wear a corset underneath the voluminous black gown.
After the procession and funeral was over with, family and friends gathered at the Kingsleigh estate. A grand feast was served, everyone milling around Margaret and Alice offering their condolences. Numbly Alice offered her thanks, when really all she wanted to do was run to her room and hide from their company. However, she resisted knowing that her ever so proper sister would give her a sound verbal lashing.
"Dear child," Alice heard making her look up from the piece of cake she was merely shuffling around her plate.
"Hello Lord Ascot," she said, standing up to greet the gentleman in front of her.
"I'm sorry that we must meet again under such sad circumstances, but would you mind taking a walk with me?" he asked, offering Alice his arm.
Nodding her approval, Alice set down the tasteless cake and allowed Lord Ascot to escort her out of the house onto the verandah. "The timing might be inappropriate and for that I do apologize, but your mother wanted you to have something," he continued, producing a small box and a sealed letter from his inner suit pocket.
Frowning slightly yet accepting the package, Lord Ascot politely interjected, neatly cutting off Alice's unasked question. "Take a look at it when everyone's gone, when you have some time to yourself."
"I will sir," she softly replied, holding the box to her chest.
"Alice dear," he continued, gently resting his hand on her shoulder. "Don't be a stranger. You've always been like a daughter to me. If I can help you with anything all you need do is ask."
After thanking Lord Ascot, Alice walked back into the house and went directly to her room where she hid the box and letter underneath her pillow.
Time seemed unforgiving, but soon enough each of the Kingsleigh's guests trickled out one by one. Margaret had retired to her old bedroom with Lowell, for which Alice was grateful. She loved her sister but was thankful to be out from underneath her watchful eye.
Stealthily walking to her mother's bedroom, Alice pushed the door open as quietly as possible, almost feeling like she was doing something wrong. Feeling totally out of place without her mother there, Alice walked over to the bed and lay down, dress and all, on the side that her father used to sleep on. After he passed Alice would sometimes creep into her mother's room when the nightmares came. Thinking back to when her mother would let her sleep with her while she sang the bad dreams away, Alice pulled a pillow into her arms, curling up around it like a small child. She could still smell her mother's perfume and scent that was all her own on it. Part of her wanted to cry, but the other half still felt numb and wouldn't let her. 'I must be going mad,' she thought to herself sighing sharply.
Time crept by, with Alice still hugging the pillow tightly to her body. A full moon hung outside, shining brightly into the bedroom. Alice found herself fixated at its appearance, suddenly doing a double take when she thought she saw it turn into a smile. Putting the pillow back in place, Alice sat up and then slowly shifted her body off of the bed. Walking over to the large bay windows, she stared up at the moon for a minute, feeling disappointed and slightly foolish when it remained in its normal state.
Suddenly remembering the box and letter that Lord Ascot had given her earlier, Alice slipped out of her mother's room and went back to hers. After securing the door, she pulled both items from underneath the pillow. The envelope bore her name on the front in her mother's perfect handwriting. Turning it over with slightly trembling fingers, Alice broke the wax seal and opened the envelope. After reading the short, cryptic letter, Alice wished she had someone to stick her with a pin so that she would wake up if she was indeed dreaming. Remembering what her father told her when she was merely six years old, Alice reached up to pinch the sensitive skin of her upper arm. Wincing in pain, she picked up the letter again and reread it, still in disbelief.
'Go to him Alice, be happy. I will always love you'
Placing the ornate wooden box on her lap, she opened it, wary of what she might find. Nestled inside was a golden pocket watch, bearing her father's initials. Next to it was a vial of incandescent, purple liquid that instantly made her think of another place, another time and of a certain Hatter.
'There's nothing left here for me,' Alice thought to herself, pacing back and forth. What about Margaret? What would she tell her? That she was going back to Underland to be with the one person that she'd regretted leaving? The entire time she was in China a pair of glowing green eyes and flaming mass of orange hair kept appearing in her mind, while she was asleep and awake. Many of the crew looked upon Alice as a quiet girl that kept to herself that happened to have a keen business sense, but if they knew what truly occupied her mind they would have suggested that she'd be sent to an asylum.
Alice herself had thought that she'd gone round the bend, as Underland seemed more like a dream the longer she was away. However, now she had a chance to go back and fully intended on making things right.
'I have to do this for myself,' she decided, picking up the vial as well as her mother's letter and father's watch. Flipping the cap open, Alice downed half of its contents and closed her eyes.