Through the Crepuscular Glass by eddiebell69

Through the Crepuscular Glass

Non-Canon Awards; Twisted Fairy Tales

Pen Name: eddiebell69

Title: Through the Crepuscular Glass

Rating: T

Genre: Fantasy/Suspense

Word Count: 11,998

Pairing: Alice/Edward (Twilight)

Summary: Despite the twelve years that have passed since Alice’s trip to Wonderland, she’s reminiscent of it and yearns to return. Seeking an escape from her tedious life, Alice manages to revisit, yet Wonderland isn’t the same anymore—and neither is she.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. All I’m doing is mixing Stephenie Meyer and Lewis Carroll’s characters in Tim Burton’s world while adding a dark splash of my own imagination.

~}{~

It began as most stories do—once upon a time, of course.

Alice Brandon was getting ready for a luncheon she had to attend with her mother, albeit she did so reluctantly. If she had the option to skip it, Alice would, but, alas, that decision wasn’t up to her. Oh, no, it was her mother’s resolution that they attend Cambridge’s tiffin with their social circle.

Having that in mind—and given her natural unruliness—Alice designed and tailored her own tea dress. Honestly, though, it looked more like an underdress or petticoat because of its ruffled skirt and the cream cotton it was made of. The garment’s fitted bodice design showcased her body perfectly, but its quilted cups and waistline, which had a garter belt shape, accentuated her curves even more. Another thing that would highlight her attributes was as a deep blue, leather corset that she’d wear over it. In actuality, it was a corset holster that had three adjustable buckles in front, above and below the bust, while the back was fully laced with steel bones.

Being dressed in only her underclothes, Alice had yet to put it on as well as her stockings and shoes, so she proceeded to do that. She took her checkered hosieries and slipped them on her legs until they reached her thighs. Subsequently, she fastened them with the garters that fell from her full girdle. Alice took a seat on a stool by her vanity and put on her black leather boots before tying them securely. As she went in search of Rosaline, the Brandon’s maid, Alice contemplated how she’d convince Rosaline to help her get clothed. Although that was actually a regular task that Rosaline performed, Alice was aware that Rosaline would be weary of how Mrs. Brandon would react.

Once Alice had managed to get Rosaline to enter her room, it took a lot of pleading to get her to accept assisting Alice when Rosaline saw the clothes that Alice planned to wear. Having expected it, though, Alice didn’t hesitate to supplicate, knowing that she’d do anything to get what she wanted. Rosaline was quiet as she slipped the dress over Alice, and then tied and adjusted it until it fit Alice perfectly. When she was securing Alice’s corset, Rosaline finally broke the silence.

“Your mother is going to have a conniption when she sees you dressed like this, Miss Alice,” Rosaline chastised, as she tightened the laces on the corset. “Where did you even find this awful thing?”

Alice chuckled. “With the corsetier, of course; all I had to do was flash Whitlock a smile whilst I told him that it was part of a costume I planned to wear for the ball on All Hallows’ Eve.”

“Oh, that poor boy!” Rosaline exclaimed, chortling. “You’ve made a fool out of him once again.”

Alice shook her head. “I wasn’t entirely lying to him, Rosaline; this is a costume after all—it’s just not for that ball.”

Rosaline sobered at once upon hearing Alice’s words. The small, yet playful, banter that had been shared between them dissipated just as quickly as it’d started. “Why do you say that, Miss? Do you think that all of this is a joke?” Rosaline inquired, motioning to the clothes Alice wore.

“No, Rosaline, it’s not,” Alice replied softly, “although I truly am tired of being told what to do and how to behave.”

“You’re not the only one that has to deal with that, Miss Alice,” Rosaline murmured. “It’s the society we live in which determines what is appropriate and what is not.”

“And my mother is always trying to fit perfectly into that wretched society, Rosaline,” Alice sighed. “I wouldn’t doubt that she’s seeking a suitor for me already.”

Rosaline looked down, nodding. “I did hear her and Mr. Cullen discussing the possibility of you and his son getting more acquainted with each other at today’s luncheon.”

“I knew it!” Alice exclaimed. “There’s no better reason to look more like a harlot than a maiden at that event. God forbid that I end up being engaged to the nerdish Carlisle Cullen today, otherwise.”

An uncharacteristic laugh escaped Rosaline’s lips. “Oh, Miss Alice, you truly are awful.”

Alice grinned, winking. “I’m as awful as it gets, Rosaline. Don’t you forget it!”

“I won’t,” Rosaline chuckled, shifting Alice’s hair from where she’d had it over her shoulder down to her back. Alice’s long, dark tresses fell down in waves, contrasting greatly with her pale skin. Rosaline threaded her fingers into it, as if it combing it, before she stepped in front of Alice. “I think I am all done here, Miss Alice. Well, unless you need me to help you with anything else, that is.”

Alice shook her head. “No, that would be all, Rosaline. Thank you so much for your help.”

“You’re welcome, Miss Alice,” Rosaline replied. “Good luck with Mrs. Brandon.”

“Oh, I’m afraid that I’ll need more than luck for my mother to allow me to leave the house looking like this, but I truly do appreciate your sentiment,” Alice said glumly, fully aware that it would be next to impossible to get away with her plans for the evening.

Rosaline nodded, exiting silently as Alice moved to sit by her vanity again to begin selecting a few cosmetics that she’d apply to complete her attire. She applied a rouge color on her lips and then lined her eyes in black before applying Maybelline cake mascara to darken her lashes and brows, making her features prominently stand out. Alice stood from her stool and moved to stand in front of her full-body mirror, twirling in front of it as she rejoiced in happiness after seeing how beautiful she looked.

When she finally stopped, she looked at herself closer, noticing that there was something missing. As Alice observed everything about her getup, she realized that she needed some type of adornment on her head as well as her ruffled fingerless gloves. Deciding that a hat was what she required for her hair, Alice walked to her armoire to retrieve it along with her cream lace gloves. She selected a small black hat from her vast collection, and then returned with both items to stand in front of the mirror.

Alice slipped her gloves on and then parted her hair to the side before putting on her hat. As she secured it on her head, Alice thought of the Mad Hatter—a friend she’d made in her childhood when she traveled to a land that many claimed only existed in her head. Alice had pleaded everyone to believe that she’d actually been to Wonderland, but, of course, having been only a young girl, everyone dismissed her notions. It didn’t matter to her, though, because that trip, and everyone she’d met there, were true—from the floating Cheshire Cat to the angry Queen of Hearts.

Alice had arrived at Wonderland, as its residents called it, after following a white rabbit down a hole, and then was suddenly suspended in the air, falling down a dark abyss until she reached the bottom. There was a long tunnel ahead of her, which she followed until she entered a long hallway that lead to a circular room. Once there, Alice explored it, noticing a small door on the bottom. She had no idea where it led to, and being too tall to pass through it, Alice couldn’t find out.

Luckily for her, there was a table in the center of the room which had a key to the door as well as a bottle with a potion that made her shrink. Howbeit, Alice was unaware of its effects, and simply imbibed it after reading the label on the bottle which read “Drink Me,” and subsequently discovered that her size changed as it occurred. When she tried to reach for the key, however, she realized that she’d shrunk overmuch, but, as if it had all been planned beforehand, she found a small piece of cake by a foot of the table.

The frosted bread was inside a small glass case with the words “Eat Me” written in icing on its top, and it was after taking a small bite of it that Alice converted to a suitable size to pass through the door. When she finally managed to get to its other side, Alice encountered a world that left a very strong impression on her. She remembered it so vividly that, as Alice looked at the reflection in her mirror, she imagined that she could see it there in great detail.

A longing to escape her reality bloomed in Alice’s heart, especially because she was dreading the discussion she would definitely have with her mother as soon as she saw her. Sighing, Alice pressed her hand to the glass, willing it to cross into the dimension where Wonderland existed. The desperation to achieve it must have been such that Alice was certain she was in fact accomplishing her goal, encouraging her to perform the same action with her other hand. Her right leg followed next, and then her left, until she had ultimately entered the universe that had brought so much joy to her as a child.

She looked around her, observing everything around her as she walked into Wonderland, realizing that it hadn’t changed much. The vibrant forest was still replete with colorful flowers, roses, and mushrooms that surrounded the verdant trees. To the north, one could appreciate a large castle that loomed above the land, although she didn’t remember having seen it before.

“That’s interesting,” she muttered to herself. “It doesn’t look anything like the Queen of Heart’s castle.”

She’d have to investigate it later, though, since at that moment, the most important thing for her was reaching the Mad Hatter’s home, so Alice headed in what she hoped was the right direction. As she walked deeper into the forest, between the tall mushrooms and trees, Alice came across a pair of twins that were dressed in matching outfits.

“Tweedledum and Tweedledee!” Alice exclaimed jovially, referring to the pudgy brothers.

The twins were rather uncomfortable with her casualness toward them, especially because they didn’t recognize you.

“I’m sorry,” began Tweedledee, “but, do we know you?”

Alice’s face fell immediately. “You don’t remember me?” she asked.

“I’m afraid not,” Tweedledum replied. “We’ve never seen you in Wonderland before.”

“But you have,” Alice rebutted. “I came here when I was a child.”

Tweedledee shook his head. “As a child? No, I don’t recall that.”

Alice frowned. “My name is Alice, so maybe that’ll help you remember.”

“Alice?” Tweedledum frowned. “The only Alice I remember was about this big,” he said, motioning with his hand what had been Alice’s approximate height as a child.

“No,” Tweedledee argued, holding his hand out higher. “She was about this big.”

“No, she wasn’t,” Tweedledum countered.

“Yes, she was,” Tweedledee disagreed.

Alice didn’t bother correcting them or getting in the middle of their argument since she knew full well that there was no point in doing so. She simply grinned, and said, “That was me; I am that Alice.”

“No, you’re not,” both said at the same time.

Alice sighed, shaking her head. “What can I do to convince you that I am that Alice?”

“Let’s go with Absolem!” Tweedledum exclaimed, nodding. “He’ll be able to tell us.”

“What a great idea!” his twin agreed cheerfully. “Let’s go with Absolem!”

Without any warning, each boy took a hold of one of Alice’s hands, pulling her in different directions. “Right this way,” they announced at the same time once again.

“If I do remember correctly,” Alice interjected, pulling her hands toward her as if to lead them straight ahead, “Absolem lives in that direction.”

“Oh, yes,” Tweedledum accented, nodding. “That is correct.”

“Let’s go, then,” Tweedledee said.

“Let’s go,” Alice agreed, smiling as she stepped forth and guided the amusing twins deeper into the forest.

As they walked to Absolem’s abode, Alice continued to behold her surroundings. With the exception of the castle she’d seen when she arrived, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary to her, although she had yet to explore more of the land. Just as she began to worry about whether or not she would have time to do so, she realized that they were close to their destination.

A large field covered in vibrant mushrooms lay ahead of them, indicating that Absolem would be right at its center. Walking a bit further in, Alice saw that she had been correct in her assessment, because there, on top of a large mushroom was the blue caterpillar, smoking its hookah as he’d had all those years ago when she’d first met him.

Spotting Alice immediately, Absolem exhaled a cloud of smoke from his lips, and greeted her in his usual monotone voice. “Well, well, look who has returned to Wonderland.”

“You remember me,” Alice said, smiling.

Absolem nodded. “Of course I do, Alice. You haven’t changed one bit since you were a child; I can see that without even taking off my monocle.”

“That is such a relief because Tweedledee and Tweedledum don’t believe me when I said who I was,” Alice chuckled.

“Oh, that doesn’t amaze me one bit, considering that these stupid boys barely even know who they are,” Absolem said dismissively.

“We are not stupid,” Tweedledum argued. “I said that she was the same Alice.”

“No; I did!” Tweedledee exclaimed.

Tweedledum shook his head. “Well, I said it first.”

Absolem sighed, rolling his eyes, ignoring the pudgy twins. “So, what brings you here, Alice?”

Alice looked down, shifting her feet anxiously as she released her hands from the boys’ grip before meeting Absolem’s gaze once again. “I needed to get away from my world,” she confessed, “but most importantly, I missed Wonderland as well as the friends I made here.”

Taking a puff from his hookah, Absolem paused briefly before resuming their conversation. “I hope you realize that many things have changed here. The most important being the current war between the White and Red Queen.”

“The White and Red Queen? Who are they?” Alice inquired.

“Isabelle of Marmoreal and Victoria of Crims, respectively,” Absolem informed her. “They’re the daughters of the late King and Queen Hearts.”

Alice’s face became somber at the news of their passing, and although she was curious to know how they’d died, she refrained from asking. “How long has this war existed?” she asked instead.

“Three years,” Tweedledee and Tweedledum replied at the same time.

“That’s when they became of age, creating a conflict because they both wanted to reign Wonderland,” Absolem added.

Frowning, Alice asked, “And why couldn’t they do it together?”

Absolem looked at Alice as if he were in disbelief, baffled that she wouldn’t figure out the answer on her own. “Their thirst for power has blinded them, child.”

Feeling properly chastised by that simple gesture by Absolem, Alice changed the subject. “Absolem,” she began, “do you suppose that Mad Hatter is home right now?”

“Where else would Edward Hightopp be? He hasn’t stopped having tea parties with both the March Hare and dormouse throughout all these years that you’ve been gone.”

Alice smiled sheepishly, remembering with delight the time she’d attended one of Edward’s tea parties. “I think I’ll head over there now, then,” she told Absolem, “so I’ll be back to see you at another time.”

“Very well, then,” Absolem said. “Are these twin boys going to take you there?”

“I don’t know,” Alice replied, looking down at Tweedledum and Tweedledee. “Are you going to join me, boys?”

They both shook their head at the same time. “I’m going to go look for White Rabbit at the Red Queen’s castle to tell him you have returned,” said Tweedledee.

“And I’m going to look for Cheshire Cat to do the same,” Tweedledum announced.

Seeming bored, Absolem continued to smoke his hookah, as the twins and Alice headed in different directions. Following an old pathway, Alice walked quickly to the clearing where she remembered the March Hare’s house was, so it wasn’t too long until Alice arrived there. As she did so, she stood by taking note of what her childhood friends were doing, realizing that not much had changed in respect to them.

Because there, underneath the tree that was next to the March Hare’s house, was Edward Hightopp the Mad Hatter, Mallymkun the dormouse, and the March Hare. All three were seated at a long table, with Edward seated in his green, high armchair at its head while the March Hare sat to his right and Mallymkun to his left. Suddenly, Edward turned in Alice’s direction, locking eyes with her as soon he saw her.

A huge grin spread across his face as Edward stood from the table, and exclaimed, “It’s you! You’re absolutely Alice—I’d know you anywhere.”

Alice ran up to greet him, grinning, too, while the March Hare and Mallymkun watched the exchange. Edward frantically climbed the table and stepped over the porcelain tea set that was in front of him, carelessly breaking everything in his path to get to her. When he was at the end of the table, Edward jumped down and rushed to Alice’s side. Alice stepped forth and enveloped Edward in a hug as she wrapped her arms around him.

“I’m so happy to see you!” Alice cried.

“So am I!” Edward told her enthusiastically, clinging to her as if he might never let go. “And I’m rather glad about that now that I’m seeing you again. I would have regretted not seeing you again, especially now that you’re you and the proper size—and it’s a good size—it’s a great size. It’s a right-proper Alice size.”

Alice pulled away from their embrace to take a moment to observe Edward. In doing so, she noticed that he looked practically the same with his wild copper hair and bright green eyes. His top hat looked just as worn as it had the first time she met him, and while his outfit had changed, it was fairly similar to the one she’d seen him in before. The only big difference was in the color of his clothing given that his long velvet jacket and matching vest were in a duller shade now, although his scarf tie was dissimilar.

Edward turned and motioned behind him. “Well, as you can see, we are still having tea; and it’s all because I was obliged to kill Time waiting for your return. You’re terribly late, you know—naughty,” Edward playfully chastised. “Well, anyway, Time became quite offended and stopped altogether.”

“Time stopped!” the March Hare cried as he wrung his ears. “What will we do for it to start again?”

“Worry not,” said Edward to him, taking out his ticking pocket watch, “for Time has already resumed.”

The March Hare began laughing frenziedly. “Time has already resumed? We need to celebrate this!”

Edward nodded. “We do, indeed!” He took Alice by the hand and led her back to the table, guiding her to sit right next to him. Edward raised his teacup and toasted to Alice’s return, causing both Alice and the March Hare to chuckle.

Meanwhile, Mallymkun remained silent, crossing her arms over her chest as she observed Alice carefully.

Feeling Mallymkun’s gaze on her, Alice shifted uncomfortably before she turned to look directly at the dormouse. Upon seeing Mallymkun’s grim expression, Alice frowned. “What’s wrong, Mally?” Alice asked her. “Aren’t you glad to see me again?”

“I am, I just don’t understand all the ballyhoo surrounding your arrival,” Mallymkun honestly replied.

At that precise moment, a striped, floating cat that Alice remembered as Cheshire appeared out of thin air as he usually did.

“Things are going to change now that she’s here,” Cheshire Cat announced while he sat next to the dormouse, grinning mischievously at her. “If Time restarting isn’t proof of that, I don’t know what will be.”

“Hmm,” Mallymkun quipped. “We’ll see about that.”

“Oh, little one,” Cheshire taunted, “what’s got your whiskers in a knot?”

Mallymkun ignored Cheshire, turning to face the March Hare instead. “What are we having for supper, March Hare?” she asked.

“Whatever Alice fancies, Mally,” the March Hare replied. “After all, we are celebrating her return.”

“That is correct,” Edward agreed. “Today, whatever Alice desires, Alice will get!”

Grinning, Alice then decided that if they were to going to have a feast they should have an un-birthday party like the one they’d had the last time she had been at Wonderland.

Edward nodded, smiling excitedly. “An un-birthday party it is!” He looked over at the March Hare, and said, “Hare, I want you to bake us the biggest cake you have ever made.”

The March Hare nodded as well as he stood from his seat. “Come along now, Mally!” he told the dormouse. “We need to get started immediately.”

Mallymkun groaned but didn’t say anything else. She simply stood from the table and followed after her friend the hare, knowing she would find him in his kitchen because of the resounding the pots and pans made as the March Hare tossed them about as soon as he entered it.

“So, Alice,” Cheshire began, “what do you plan on doing during your stay at Wonderland this time around?”

“I’m not sure yet,” she confessed, “since I don’t know how long I’ll be staying, but I would like for it to be a little bit longer than before.”

Edward Hightopp’s face lit up. “You could stay here forever if you’d like!” he exclaimed jovially.

“I suppose that you could stay here indefinitely,” Cheshire said after taking a sip of his tea. “After all, everyone’s been waiting for your return to Wonderland.”

“They have?” Alice asked baffled. “Why?”

Cheshire Cat smirked haughtily. “I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that you’ll find it out during your stay.”

~}{~

After the March Hare finished making the cake for their un-birthday party, everyone drank tea while they ate it. When their feast was finally over, it was nighttime already, so Edward offered Alice to stay with him and his friends at the March Hare’s home. Alice agreed immediately since she didn’t want to leave Edward’s side, but was reluctant when she learned that he would give up his room and bed for her. When she began objecting, Edward managed to convince her by saying that he would stay in his (sewing room).

The next morning, when Alice woke up, she realized that Edward was standing by the door watching her. Edward expected her to be startled yet all Alice did was smile at him.

“How did you sleep, Alice?” Edward asked.

“Very good,” Alice replied. “I feel well-rested.”

Edward grinned. “That’s fantastic—truly fantastic!”

“And how did you sleep, Edward?” Alice asked him, stretching in the bed.

As he replied, Edward’s eyes lit up. “I actually didn’t sleep last night, Alice. I was too busy making a new dress for you.”

Alice gasped. “You made me a new dress?”

“Yes, I used the dress you took off last night when I lent you my night shirt to make it. That’s where I got your measurements, and although it is exactly the same in design, I made it in a different color.” Edward sighed. “I hope you like crimson and black because those are the colors that I picked for it. I can’t wait to see how they look against your pale skin.”

Alice blushed upon hearing his words. “I can’t wait to see it,” she whispered.

Edward smirked crookedly at her. “Have I told you how beautiful you look in my clothes? Better yet, in my bed?”

“No,” Alice breathed. “You haven’t.”

Edward stepped closer to his bed, stroking Alice’s cheek as he gazed into her eyes. “Well you do,” he replied, “and I can’t tell you how much I wish you would stay there every night.” While Alice lowered her gaze, flustered, Edward leaned down to place a soft kiss against her head. “I’ll leave now so you can get ready to head downstairs and see the dress in sewing room. If you like it, Mallymkun will help you get clothed.”

Alice nodded. “Thank you so much for everything, Edward.”

“There’s no need to thank me, Alice. If anyone should be grateful, it would be I for counting with your presence at our home,” Edward told her before he exited the room.

Alice then washed up and took off the nightshirt she’d worn to put on her underclothes. She took a few minutes doing so before she put the shirt back on over them and went to Edward’s sewing room. Mallymkun was already there, putting together Alice’s ensemble for the day.

“Good morning,” Alice greeted her.

“Good morning, Alice,” Mallymkun murmured, hopping down from a box on one of the tables in the room onto its surface. “Are you ready to try on your dress?”

Alice smiled. “I am, so will you show it to me?”

Mallymkun nodded. “Yes, right this way.” She then hopped off the table and led Alice further into the room where a dress form mannequin showcased Edward’s manufacture.

“Wow,” Alice gasped as she noticed how similar it was to the dress she’d made. “I didn’t know that Edward confectioned clothes.”

“Edward does many things,” Mallymkun informed Alice. “He specializes in hats, but he can make all types of garments. He’s the one that makes all my clothes.”

“No wonder they’re lovely,” Alice observed.

“It’s because he makes them with a lot of love,” Mallymkun sneered.

Finally grasping that Mallymkun was so short with her because she was jealous, Alice chuckled.

“Well,” Mallymkun began, “why don’t you put on your dress while I go fetch the some stockings that Edward purchased for your outfit? I’ll be back to help you tie your dress.”

“Alright,” Alice assented. “Thank you.”

Mallymkun exited the room and Alice immediately took off Edward’s nightshirt, revealing her underclothes briefly before she slipped on the crimson dress. Then, Mallymkun returned with Alice’s accessories, handing her first a pair of black silk stockings.

Alice proceeded to put them on as well as her boots, and then sat next to Mallymkun so she could tie her dress. Afterward, Alice donned the pair of black fingerless gloves and hat that Mallymkun had chosen for her.

“Everything looks very nice,” Alice commented, as she looked at herself in a mirror they had in the room. “Thank you for picking it out with such care.”

Mallymkun, who was sitting on the edge of a table, didn’t reply anything as she observed Alice, and simply shrugged. After a beat of silence, though, Mallymkun finally spoke. “Alice, why did you return to Wonderland?” she whispered.

“Well,” Alice replied, “while it’s true that I missed everyone here, I really came back to see Edward. I missed him so much.”

Mallymkun nodded, solemnly. “He missed you a lot, too.”

Understanding her gloomy mood, Alice lifted Mallymkun’s chin with her finger gently. “Don’t be so sad, Mally. One day, you’re going to find someone that’s right for you. Or, like Edward would say, someone that is proper-sized.”

“Do you think so?” Mallymkun asked, genuinely intrigued.

“I know so!” Alice cried. “And he’s going to make you as happy as Edward makes me.”

Feeling lighter, Mallymkun nodded while she smiled. “Well, if we’re all done here, let’s go to the kitchen where the March Hare has prepared us a banquet for breakfast!”

“Alright,” Alice chuckled. “Lead the way, please.”

~}{~

After Alice and her friends had a joyful breakfast, Edward announced that the White Rabbit would be picking Alice up to take her to the Red Queen’s castle for tiffin.

“Did he come by earlier?” Alice asked Edward. “I didn’t hear him.”

“Oh, no, the Red Queen sent the Knave of Hearts to extend her invitation last night,” Mallymkun informed her.

“Is that why you made me the new dress, Edward? Because you knew I would be going there?”

“In a way, yes,” Edward admitted, “but also because I wanted to give you a present.”

Alice grinned. “Thank you, Edward; you’re very thoughtful.”

“Oh, yes—very thoughtful,” Mallymkun deadpanned.

Edward smirked crookedly, gazing at Alice as he tried to convey that he was only as thoughtful with her, but Alice knew that already.

Shortly after, White Rabbit finally arrived to take the Red Queen’s castle. Alice smiled upon seeing White Rabbit, noticing that he, too, hadn’t changed much. He looked dapper as always with his perfectly tailored suit, matching bow tie, and the large pocket watch that dangled around his neck.

“Oh, White Rabbit!” she exclaimed, as she walked over to him and leaned down to give him a brief hug. “It’s so good to see you.”

If the White Rabbit could blush, he probably would, but instead, he simply chuckled nervously. “Alice,” he said, “I can see that you haven’t changed much throughout the years.”

“Do you really think so, White Rabbit?”Alice pondered. “Everyone keeps telling me that.”

“Why, yes, you’re still as charming as you were when you were a child,” he told her. “But let’s get going, shall we? The coachman is waiting for us outside.”

Alice nodded, looking over at Mallymkun who had been standing nearby. “I’ll be back later, Mally.”

“Be careful, Alice,” Mallymkun whispered.

“I will,” Alice agreed. “Take care of Edward, alright?”

“Ha! I always do,” Mallymkun quipped, causing Alice to chuckle.

White Rabbit then followed Alice out of the March Hare’s home before heading to the Red Queen’s castle in the carriage she’d sent for Alice. After a few minutes of silence, Alice decided to ask White Rabbit a question that had been running through her mind for a while.

“White Rabbit, can I ask you something?” Alice inquired.

The White Rabbit stopped in his tracks, turning to look at Alice. “Of course, my dear; is something the matter?”

Alice sighed. “No, not really, but I’m just curious about something that Absolem said.”

“‘Curiouser and curiouser’,” White Rabbit quoted, chuckling. “That was something that you used to say when you were a child.”

“I remember that,” Alice admitted, smiling, “although I haven’t said it in quite some time.”

“Oh, well, now that you’re back in Wonderland you can say it as much as you’d like, but let’s get back on track, alright? What did you want to ask me before?”

“Well, after I arrived yesterday, I spoke to Absolem, and he said that there was a war going on?”

White Rabbit nodded. “Yes, that is true.”

“Then why haven’t I seen any fighting going on?”

“Because it’s a silent war, my dear,” White Rabbit explained. “When the King and Queen of Hearts died in a fatal accident, their daughters couldn’t agree on who’d take the throne. Victoria of Crims—the Red Queen—should have been rightfully granted the throne since she is the eldest of the two, but Isabelle of Marmoreal wouldn’t have that. Therefore, she enslaved creatures of the land to build her a castle, and once it was completed, she appointed herself as the White Queen.”

Alice frowned. “And couldn’t anyone have done anything about it?”

“Well, when the King and Queen of hearts still lived, they had two battle creatures in their possession: the Jabberwocky and the Bandersnatch. Isabelle took the Jabberwocky, and with it, she threatened anyone that dared to defy her.”

“Including the Red Queen?” Alice asked, incredulously.

“By that time, Victoria had already set up her army of knights, so neither Isabelle nor the Jabberwocky got near her castle, and that’s how the land was practically split in two.”

“I still don’t understand why they continue fighting if they have split the land already,” Alice told him.

“Well, it’s fairly easy why, child,” White Rabbit reasoned. “They want to be in control of all the land.”

“That’s nonsense,” Alice observed.

White Rabbit sighed. “It truly is, but what can one do besides adjust?”

“So, what is the Red Queen doing to retaliate if it’s still a war?”

“At the moment, nothing that I know of, but knowing Victoria, she’s been plotting her revenge for awhile. Everyone has been living in fear, waiting for it to happen, actually. Nobody feels safe anymore, and that’s why there’s so much hostility in Wonderland.”

Alice was pensive after that, remaining silent until they reached the Red Queen’s castle. Upon entering, Alice was greeted by a tall knight who was dressed in full armour; he was young and looked very attractive with his long hair.

He stepped forward to kiss Alice’s hand. “Welcome to the Red Queen’s castle, Miss Alice. My name is Riley Stayn, and I’m the Knave of Hearts. I put myself at your service,” he said, grinning at her.

“Thank you,” Alice replied somewhat uncomfortably.

Their moment was broken when one of the servants walked into the castle’s foyer. “The Red Queen is ready to see you, Miss Alice. She’s waiting for you in the main dining room,” he announced.

“Oh, alright,” Alice responded.

“Right this way,” the servant said, leading her down a long corridor.

Having been waiting in the background, White Rabbit followed behind them. He pulled on Alice’s dress to grab her attention, and whispered, “Remember what Mallymkun said, Alice. Be very careful.”

Alice nodded before turning and following the servant to where the Red Queen was waiting. When Alice entered the dining room, she spotted her easily, although she didn’t look anything like what Alice had expected. The Red Queen was young and beautiful, and her hair was of a reddish blonde tone while her facial features were exquisite. She stood by the table, dressed in a red and black frock that was fit for a queen, looking gallantly poised as she sneered at Alice.

“Welcome, Alice,” the Red Queen said in a saccharin voice.

At that, Alice curtsied, saying, “Thank you, your Highness.”

“Oh, please,” the Red Queen chuckled. “Call me Victoria.”

“Alright, if that’s what you’d rather, Victoria,” Alice replied, seeing straight through the Red Queen’s hypocrisy and falseness.

“I would, but, please, take a seat,” Victoria told her, motioning to the large table.

Alice nodded and took a seat while two servants entered with trays of food. After the queen took her seat at the head of the table, her assistants began serving their lunch.

“So, tell me, Alice, what brings you to Wonderland this time around? Because you have been here before—when we were both children. Well, at least that’s what my parents told me.”

“That is correct,” Alice agreed. “I was here twelve years ago, but I didn’t have a chance to meet you then.”

“My sister and I were visiting some relatives in Umbridge that day,” Victoria explained, “and that’s why we didn’t see each other.”

“Oh, I see,” Alice simply replied.

“Yes, but let’s get back to my question, shall we?” Victoria raised her brow at Alice, and asked. “Why did you come to Wonderland, Alice?”

“I came to visit the friends I made when I visited the last time,” Alice

Victoria raised her brow once again, highly doubtful that Alice was telling the truth. “Are you sure that’s it?”

“Of course,” Alice replied, scowling. “Why would I lie?”

“I don’t know,” Victoria replied dismissively, “but I hope you can understand that I can’t trust anyone. Isabelle is capable of trying anything to get rid of me.”

“Isabelle?” Alice asked, pretending not to know whom Victoria was talking about.

Victoria scowled. “That would be my sister, although she’s more of a pest now.”

“I’m sorry that you’re having problems with her,” Alice told her. “I have an older sister, so I understand what you’re going through.”

Victoria waved her hand dismissively. “Yes, well, let’s not talk about tiresome topics anymore. Let’s enjoy our meal.”

Alice nodded, content that the hardest part of her meeting was over.

~}{~

Once they finished their lunch, Victoria quickly dismissed Alice, but the Knave of Hearts was waiting close by for her.

“Alice,” he called out, “would you mind a word?”

“No, not at all,” she said, walking toward him. “Is something the matter?”

“Oh, no,” Riley Stayn replied. “I was just wondering if you’d like to take a walk with me? I could show you around the castle.”

Genuinely interested, Alice nodded as she grinned. “That would be lovely.”

Riley took Alice by the hand, smirking as he said, “Right this way, then.”

Alice felt slightly uncomfortable with Riley’s forwardness, but she didn’t say anything, and just smiled politely, instead. Riley walked ahead of her, explaining how the castle functioned and who did what. When they reached the garden where she’d met the King and Queen of Hearts, Alice stopped.

“This is the only place of the castle that I saw the last time I was here,” she told Riley. “The King and Queen were playing croquet.”

“They used to play that all the time,” Riley said. “It’s such a shame what happened to them.”

“They were in an accident, correct?” Alice inquired.

“They were on their way to Umbridge to visit some family when their coachman lost control of their carriage and they fell off a cliff.”

“That must have been terrible,” Alice gasped.

“Yes.” Riley nodded. “The princesses were beside themselves—well, I should say the queens since that’s what they are now.”

“I can imagine,” Alice sighed.

“There were many rumours that surrounded their death” Riley informed her. “People speculated that the Jabberwocky escaped its cage and attacked them, but there was no proof that it actually happened.”

“The Jabberwocky?” Alice questioned.

“Is that one of the Red Queen’s battle creatures?”

“It was until Isabelle stole it. The only battle creature we have now is the Bandersnatch.”

Alice had been piqued with interest when she’d learned about its existence, but been so close to the creature made her more curious to see it, so she asked Riley about it

“I’m not so sure that would be appropriate, Miss,” Riley informed her.

“Why not? What could happen?” Alice challenged. “You’re going to be with me.”

Riley chuckled. “Well, although I’m flattered that you have confidence in me, the Bandersnatch is a very dangerous creature.”

“I think I’ll take the risk, Knave of Hearts.” Alice smiled at him in a taunting manner. “Well, that is if you are up to it.”

“Are you challenging me, Miss Alice?” Riley asked smirking.

Alice stepped closer to him, goading him even further. “Maybe I am.”

Riley threw his head back as he laughed. “Let’s go, then.”

“After you,” Alice said, indicating Riley to lead the way with her hand.

Riley stepped forth and headed to the back of the garden where a large, stone den with wooden doors was. As Alice watched by, Riley opened the door and walked inside carefully.

“Please keep your distance,” Riley told Alice. “You’re not familiar to it, so it may attack you.”

Alice nodded, observing the creature from afar while Riley approached it. As he did so, the Bandersnatch remained calm, almost to the point where it seemed to be bored. When Riley finally stood in front of the beast, he pet its head, causing the Bandersnatch to purr.

Having heard that it was a battle creature, Alice did not expect the Bandersnatch to be as docile as it was. Sure, it looked frightening given its large body and many sharp teeth and claws, but its catlike fur and behavior gave it the allure of being simply a pet.

Alice looked to a Riley, and asked, “Is it male or female?”

“Male,” he replied.

“He’s beautiful,” Alice murmured, causing Riley to chuckle.

“I have never heard anyone call him that,” he said. “Frightening, yes, but never beautiful.”

“That’s because no one has taken the time to notice it,” Alice said as she stepped forward.

“Alice, be careful,” Riley warned. “If I were you, I’d keep my distance.”

Alice smiled as she reached the Bandersnatch and tentatively placed a hand on its head, petting it. “He’s not going to do anything to me, right, boy?”

The Bandersnatch purred as it had when Riley had done the same, pushing its head against Alice’s hand as if it were asking for more.

Riley gasped in shock. “I have never seen him react like that with anyone else, Alice. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that you two had been familiarized for awhile now.”

“Creatures can be some interesting beings,” Alice explained. “If you are openly hostile to them, they’ll react the same way.”

Riley looked at her in awe, having never met someone with her insight, courage and consideration. Not even the Red Queen had managed to garner that reaction from the Bandersnatch. In fact, it had been the complete opposite, causing fear even in her although she was technically its owner.

Alice placed her other hand on the Bandersnatch and scratched it under its chin, causing it to purr louder. “He likes me,” she said with a chuckle.

“What’s not to like?” Riley said longingly. “A beautiful girl with an enormous heart is something to be in awe of.”

Alice chuckled. “I’m almost sure that the Bandersnatch doesn’t know anything about that, but thank you for the compliment.”

“The Bandersnatch is very bold, Miss Alice,” Riley informed her. “Therefore, he has been able to be trained for the last couple of years.”

“What kind of training does he have?” Alice asked while she continued to pet the creature.

“Battle training, of course, and he also functions as a guard for the castle, but he has all the basic skills that a domestic pet would have.”

“That’s fascinating,” Alice said before she ordered the Bandersnatch to sit.

The creature did as was told, impressing Alice even further.

Riley smiled proudly as he watched the exchange. “I told you he was very bold, Miss Alice.”

“I can see that,” Alice confirmed. “I’m interested in seeing some more of his skills.”

“I’m afraid that’s all that I can show you,” Riley lamented. “I’ve already told you more than I should have—considering that you are an outsider.”

Alice didn’t take any offense to his words since the Knave was correct: for being the Red Queen’s counselor and the knight in charge of the castle’s courtiers, he had given Alice enough information to overthrow Victoria’s kingdom.

~}{~

Afterward, Riley took it upon himself to take Alice back to the March Hare’s house. He did so on his horse, seeking more time and contact with Alice. When Riley dropped her off, he reiterated to Alice that he was at her service if she ever needed anything. Alice thanked him once more for his attentions at the castle and told him that should the opportunity to use his assistance rise she’d definitely seek him, making the Knave more than happy.

Edward felt the opposite, though, as he had seen the exchange between them. To say that he was upset would have been an understatement, yet he was able to contain his rage somehow and didn’t mention anything to Alice. Instead of fighting with her, Edward focused on a new dress that he and Mallymkun had been working on for Alice.

During supper, Alice recounted the day’s events, but kept most of the details to herself. Edward observed her, wondering why she didn’t divulge more about her newfound friendship with the Knave of Hearts, but again, he didn’t question her. He simply kept his thoughts to himself, knowing that there was a reason for Alice’s behavior that he’d have to look into more.

The following morning, Alice repeated the same routine from the previous day, but instead went to the White Queen’s castle for tea. Since Edward and Mallymkun had finished her new dress, she wore it. As the other two dresses that they’d made her, it had the same style and finish except that it was made from black taffeta. Edward had purchased a black and red corset that she wore over it, and as she had the day before, she wore a matching hat and stockings, making her look impeccable.

After another carriage ride, Alice arrived to the White Queen’s castle where she was greeted by the queen herself. She introduced herself as Isabelle of Marmoreal, leading Alice to the castle’s tearoom. As they walked there, Alice took note of everything about the castle and the queen, mentally comparing both from what she’d seen the day before.

Unlike Victoria, Isabelle had alabaster skin, making her very pale. Her hair was white, although her brows were almost as dark the color of her painted lips. Isabelle was dressed in a white gown, and just as Victoria’s clothing had matched the décor and atmosphere of her castle, so did Isabelle’s; therefore, everything was light colored, making the ambiance luminous.

Isabelle was nice and polite; however, she had an air of authority that showed who was in command. It was clear in the way that her maids behaved around her, looking fearful of making a mistake that would warrant some type of reprimand. Alice noticed while she watched carefully as she and Isabelle were served tea.

“Thank you so much for accepting my invitation,” Isabelle told Alice. “It’s an honor to have you here.”

“The honor is all mine,” Alice replied, smiling politely.

“I understand that you also accepted my sister’s invitation to her castle?”

As she took a sip of her tea, Alice nodded. “Yes, that is correct.”

“I’m positively sure that she simply did it to know what you are doing in Wonderland,” Isabelle sneered. “Knowing Victoria, she’s terrified that I’m going to retaliate because someone from her side killed my Jabberwocky.”

“I had no idea that it had been killed,” Alice confessed.

“Nobody knows, actually, because I don’t want people to be terrified. If they find out, they’ll think that Victoria is going to take over all of Wonderland, and that could cause chaos—it could very well be the beginning of a deathly war.”

“I wasn’t aware the situation was that bad,” Alice lied.

“Well, it is, and it’s all because of Victoria, really.” Isabelle rolled her eyes. “She has always been so selfish.”

As Alice looked into Isabelle’s brown eyes, she wondered how Isabelle could lie so easily. Although, to be honest, Victoria wasn’t any better than Isabelle, because despite the fact that she hadn’t mentioned anything regarding her ongoing war with her sister, Victoria had truly been tactless and conspicuous about her suspicions that Isabelle had sent her.

“What are you going to do?” Alice asked before taking a sip of her tea.

“Actually, that’s why I asked you to come here,” Isabelle told her.

“What could I possibly help you with?” Alice asked, bewildered.

“Well, given how much everyone in Wonderland likes you, I thought that maybe we could become allies to defeat Victoria.”

Alice raised her brow at her. “Allies?”

“Yes, we would both rule Wonderland, but to do this, you’d have to do something for me.”

“And what would that be?” Alice asked, suspicious.

“You have to do get rid of her, of course” Isabelle said casually. “I would do it if I could, but it’s against my vows.”

As soon as those words left Isabelle’s lips, Alice felt their weight on her shoulders.

Sensing that Alice was probably panicking, she told her, “Don’t worry about it now, Alice. Take some time to think about it and then let me know. Let’s enjoy our tea, shall we?”

Upon hearing that, Alice realized that both Isabelle and Victoria were much more alike than she’d thought.

~}{~

When Alice returned to the March Hare’s house, she was troubled about what Isabelle asked her to do. During supper, Alice went through the notions that all was well on the outside, but, inside, she was going mad. She needed some time to clear her head, yet she knew that she couldn’t do it while there were others around her, so she decided to head into the woods for some privacy.

“I need some air,” Alice announced as she pushed her chair away and rose. “I’m going for a walk.”

“I’ll go with you,” Edward offered, standing quickly from his seat.

Alice shook her head. “Thank you for offering, but I’d rather do this on my own. I need some time to think.”

Edward panicked at her words. “You’re not leaving, are you? I just got you back, Alice!”

“No, no, no,” Alice chanted, trying to appease him. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Promise me that you’re not leaving,” Edward pleaded. “Promise me that you’ll come back.”

Alice nodded. “I promise I’m not leaving, but I really do need to be alone.”

“Alright,” Edward sighed. “I’ll be waiting for you, so don’t be long, please.”

Alice smiled ruefully as she realized how hard it would be to leave Wonderland if she couldn’t carry out Isabelle’s request. She stepped closer to Edward and caressed his cheek. “I’ll be back so quick that you won’t have time to miss me.”

Edward leaned into Alice’s touch, kissing her palm before she stepped back and turned to leave.

“If you don’t come back, Time will stop again, and even though life will stay still, I will spend however long missing you even more,” Edward whispered, but Alice was still able to hear him.

She walked even faster then, not knowing where to go. Everything that she’d learned in the past few days swirled in her mind, consuming her thoughts. Meeting both Victoria and Isabelle had been very enlightening, although what she’d discovered from both wasn’t very favorable. And now that Isabelle had asked her to murder Victoria, Alice was beginning to question if returning to Wonderland had been a good idea at all. She’d gotten to see Edward and her friends, of course, but at what price?

Alice sighed, covering her face with her hands. When she removed them, Alice realized that she had reached the white rose trees she’d once painted red with the help of the Queen of Heart’s knights. At that, another sigh escaped her lips as she reminisced about simpler days.

Suddenly, as was per usual where Cheshire Cat was concerned, he appeared out of nowhere, surprising Alice. “What are you thinking about, Alice? Are you considering Isabelle’s proposal?”

Alice gasped. “How do you know about that?”

“Oh, Alice, I hope you know that all the walls in Wonderland have ears and eyes,” Cheshire Cat said derisively. “Well, as long as I’m there, of course.”

Alice shook her head. “You were listening to our conversation, then?”

Cheshire Cat yawned. “Yes, but it wasn’t very interesting since this has been a long time coming. She’s only planned to take action now because she has no protection from the Jabberwocky.”

“What do you think I should do, Cheshire?”

“Follow your instincts,” Cheshire Cat said. “Do what your heart tells you to do.”

Alice exhaled deeply and closed her eyes for a moment before continuing. “And what if what it tells me is frightening?”

“Then find the courage to carry out its darkest desires,” Cheshire Cat whispered. “Enjoy and revel in it, my dear.”

That tempted Alice, so she decided that she was going to go forth with the proposal. “I’ll do it,” she said, “but I’m going to need your help.”

“Whatever you need, I’ll do,” Cheshire Cat promised.

“I hope you keep your word, because what I plan to do won’t be easy.”

Cheshire Cat grinned devilishly. “Then that will make it all the more interesting, my dear.”

“Very well, then. I need you to go find the Knave of hearts, and tell him to meet me here tomorrow at four o’clock—that I have a proposition for him.”

“And what will that be, dear Alice?”

“You’ll know everything at its due time, Cheshire, for now, that will be all. I need to head back to the March Hare’s house, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Do you want me to be here when the Knave comes?”

Alice scoffed, looking at Cheshire Cat with contempt. “Would what I say matter, Cheshire? You could be here and I wouldn’t even notice.”

“You’ve made a very good point, so I guess I will see you tomorrow—or not,” Cheshire Cat chuckled before he disappeared.

~}{~

The following day, Riley Stayn showed up to meet with Alice right on time. She was already waiting for him, nervous about what she was about to do, yet glad that she was doing it nonetheless.

“Alice,” he said, stepping forward as he took her hand to kiss it. “It’s so good to see you.”

“Likewise,” Alice told him. “Thank you for taking the time to come see me.”

“It was no problem at all.” Riley grinned. “There’s no other place I’d rather be.” He lowered his hand, yet didn’t release Alice’s, and rather tightened his hold, instead.

Alice chuckled, loving the direction that the conversation was taking. “Oh, Knave, you flatter me, but you must know that flattery will only get you so far.”

Riley raised his brow. “What would I have to do to get anywhere I want with you?”

Alice smirked, knowing that was all the invitation she needed to proceed with her endeavour. “It’s fairly simple, actually,” she explained. “I need you to do me a favor.”

“I’ll do anything, just let me know what it is and consider it done.”

Alice stepped closer to Riley, and whispered in his ear, “I need you to kill the Red Queen for me.”

Riley didn’t even flinch at Alice’s request; he simply nodded. “I’ve already told you that I would do it, but will you tell me why you want me to do it? Did Isabelle put you up to this?”

Alice laughed haughtily. “Why would I follow anyone’s orders when I’m the one that wants to make them?”

Stepping back, Riley looked at her carefully. “You want to take over Wonderland?”

“That’s correct,” Alice told him. “Therefore, I need you to kill the White Queen as well, but you must do everything as I tell you.”

Riley chuckled. “I can see that you’ve thought this through.”

“I have, indeed, but now all I need is your help to carry out my plan.”

“Let’s pretend that I agree to do it—that I agree to kill both queens,” Riley began. “What do I get out of all of this?”

Alice stepped forward again and caressed his cheek while she gazed up at him. “You get to be my king, of course.”

Riley leaned into her hand, stepping closer to Alice as he placed his hand on her hip. “And what about Edward?”

“What about Edward?” Alice whispered.

Chuckling, Riley pushed some hair away from her face. “Everyone knows that Hightopp is mad about you, Alice.”

“He is mad, and it’s why they’ve given him the name of the Mad Hatter, but he’s definitely not mad about me.”

Riley threw his head back, laughing incredulously. “Oh, Alice, you’d have to be blind to not see how much that man languishes over you.”

“So what if he does, Knave?” Alice shrugged. “You’re the only man that I’m interested in.”

“Prove it,” Riley spat. “Allow me to kill Edward if you don’t care about him.”

“I will,” Alice said dismissively, “but first, you have to kill the queens for me.”

Riley nodded. “Tell me when and how, and I’ll carry it through.”

“You’ll begin tomorrow—with Victoria,” Alice started. “I want you to use the Bandersnatch to do this; make it look like he escaped from his cage and attacked her.”

“What do I do with the Bandersnatch once he’s killed Victoria?”

“Keep him secluded from everyone, but it must be somewhere nearby so you can take him to where I tell you when I send word to you with the Cheshire Cat.”

“Alright, I can do that.” Riley nodded. “I know the perfect place for it.”

“Good, and just remember: if you do this for me, I will repay you however you want,” Alice said seductively. “I know what you want from me, Stayn, and I will give it to you, but first, you must fulfill this wish for me.”

Riley licked his lips with the intention of kissing Alice, but she pulled away, taking a full step behind.

“You should go now, but I’ll see you soon,” Alice told him.

Nodding, Riley said, “I’ll be counting the minutes till then.”

“Goodbye,” Alice said, waving at him before she turned back and headed to March Hare’s house.

She walked quickly, aware that her absence would have already been noticed by everyone, but especially by Edward. When Alice had left, he’d been busy in his sewing room working on some new hats that he’d just designed. Apparently—according to Mallymkun—Alice’s return had inspired him to make hats again, making her Edward’s muse.

Alice smiled as she thought of that, but her grin disappeared quickly when she reached the edge of the clearing where the March Hare’s home was located. She could hear Edward’s screams from where she stood, making her blood run cold. Mallymkun came out then, running toward her.

“Alice, you must come quickly,” Mallymkun cried. “Hatter’s gone mad—truly mad.”

“What happened?” Alice asked alarmed.

“I don’t know,” Mallymkun replied. “I just saw him returning from a walk before he went into his sewing room and began destroying everything.”

At this, Alice ran inside, finding Edward as he was about to throw his sewing machine against a wall.

“What are you doing, Edward? What’s the matter with you?” Alice asked as she stepped in front of him.

“Get away from me, you treacherous scoundrel,” Edward spat.

Alice gasped, covering her mouth with her hand in disbelief, aware that Edward had seen her talking with Riley.

“Yes, that’s right.” Edward nodded as he sneered at Alice. “I heard your conversation with the Knave of Hearts.”

“You followed me?” Alice asked incredulously. “How could you?”

Edward slumped his shoulders, yet he didn’t put the sewing machine down. “I had to make sure that you weren’t going to leave with Riley today, Alice. I heard what you told Cheshire, so what was I supposed to think?”

“You’ve been following me since yesterday,” Alice stated, shaking her head. “You don’t trust me.”

Upon hearing Alice’s words, Edward’s fury spurred again. “How am I supposed to trust you, Alice? You’ve been lying to me since you came back. You said that you came here for me, but you only said that to appease me. And now, you’re making plans to become the new queen?” He laughed humourlessly. “What a fool I’ve been spending my time making new hats for you while you’ve been planning my death.”

Alice looked down and exhaled as she ran her hands over her face. She didn’t know how to fix the situation, but she would definitely try, so she reached for Edward’s hands and took the small sewing machine away from him. As Edward looked on, she turned and placed it on one of the tables that hadn’t been destroyed in Edward’s rage. When Alice turned to look at him, she finally saw all the damage that he’d done—from tearing all the new designs he’d drawn to ripping a dress to shreds and throwing his supplies all around the room.

“Come here,” Alice whispered as she grabbed Edward’s hands once again, pulling him closer to her. “Come here, please.”

Edward remained silent but did as she asked and stepped forward.

“What you heard isn’t true,” Alice began. “Well, at least not the part about killing you.”

“Then why would you promise Riley something like that?” he asked, eerily calm.

“Because I need him to believe that I’m going to make him king in order for him to help me, but it’s not true, Edward. You have to believe me, please.”

“All of this is so confusing, Alice.” Edward sighed. “Why do you even need to kill the queens?”

“I wish I could explain it to you, but I can’t,” Alice lamented. “You just need to wait and see how everything plays out, although what I can tell you is that I’m going to stay here—with you—because I love you.”

“You love me?” he scoffed, unfazed by her words.

“I do, and I’ll do anything you ask to prove it,” Alice said desperately.

Edward didn’t reply and simply grabbed Alice by her face and kissed her on the lips. While Alice was caught unaware, she didn’t object and responded in kind. She threaded her hands in Edward’s hair and pulled him closer to her, seeking the intimacy that only two lovers could have. As if reading her mind, Edward wrapped his arms around her and deepened the kiss even further. After a few minutes, Alice pulled away as she tried to catch her breath.

“You’re mine,” Edward moaned, pulling Alice closer to him by her hips. “Only mine.”

“I am.” Alice nodded. “I have been yours for a very long time.”

Edward gave Alice a quick peck on her lips before he moved onto her neck, kissing her all the way to her ear.

“I want you, Alice,” he said desperately. “I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anything else.”

“And you’ll have me,” Alice promised, “but it won’t be tonight.”

“Why?” Edward asked put out. “Why can’t it be tonight? You said you love me.”

“I do love you, Edward, but the day I share your bed with you, I want to do it as your wife.”

Edward finally smiled as his eyes became alight with hope and happiness. “You’ll marry me?”

“Yes,” Alice promised. “Once all of this is over, we’ll get married. It’s what I most desire.”

Edward nodded. “Alright,” he sighed. “I’ll wait for you. I just hope it’s not for too long.”

~}{~

The news of the Red Queen’s death spread like fire the next day, proving that Riley had kept his word. No one could understand how a creature like the Bandersnatch had been able to enter the castle without being detected, but that’s exactly what happened—or at least that’s what people murmured. Alice was giddy when she learned that her plans had gone accordingly, yet she managed to not show it outwardly.

Everyone spoke of the tragedy, recounting the gory details. One of the rumours was that one of Victoria’s servants found her brutally mauled in her bed, while another story told of Victoria being attacked in her garden while she took a walk, but the fact remained that the Bandersnatch was the only one to blame. Instilling panic in everyone had been Alice’s ultimate goal, and just as she’d expected, Isabelle was already preparing to flee Wonderland.

The next part of her plan needed to be executed, so she headed into the woods to meet with Riley near the White Queen’s castle. When she arrived there, Riley was already waiting for her with the Bandersnatch. He smiled immediately upon seeing her, walking over to meet her halfway.

“Good morning, Alice,” he said as he took her hand. “I’m so glad to see you.”

“As am I.” Alice grinned. “Is everything almost ready?”

“Yes,” Riley replied. “Isabelle is about to leave her castle, and this is the normal route she uses when traveling.”

“And the Bandersnatch? You’ve already told him what to do?”

Riley chuckled. “The Bandersnatch was trained to kill Isabelle, so you don’t have to worry about that. All we have to do is wait.”

“Alright.” Alice nodded “Be prepared to give him the order as soon as you see Isabelle’s carriage.”

Wordlessly, Riley went back to where the Bandersnatch was and patiently waited until it was time to do his part. Meanwhile, Alice looked on as Isabelle’s coachman led her carriage through the woods and the Bandersnatch flew to catch up with it. A couple of minutes passed until the Bandersnatch’s roar was heard along with cries for help, but it only lasted a few seconds.

Riley walked up to Alice, smiling proudly. “It’s done.”

“We need to make sure that everyone’s dead,” Alice told him.

“Why?” he asked bewildered. “We just heard what happened.”

“Yes, but I need to see the damage with my own two eyes.”

Riley wasn’t happy about it, but he went along with Alice anyway, aware that defying her wouldn’t do him any good. When they arrived at the scene, the Bandersnatch lay next to the destroyed carriage, licking his paws. There was smeared blood on one of the carriage’s doors, indicating that the Bandersnatch had attacked Isabelle while she was still inside. The same couldn’t be said about the coachman, though, since his dead body was lying in a pool of blood on the forest floor.

“I told you that the job was done,” Riley said, exasperated. “We need to leave before someone comes.”

Alice walked over to him and cupped his cheek with her hand. “Don’t you want your prize first?”

Riley smirked, closing the distance between them as he pulled Alice nearer, asking, “Which prize?”

“This one,” Alice told him as she gave Riley’s lips a quick peck with her own. When Riley tried to deepen their kiss, Alice shook her head. “That’s the only kiss you get, and I hope that you enjoyed it, because it was your last.”

Baffled, Riley stepped back. “What are you talking about?”

“Your days are over, Riley Stayn,” Alice said coolly.

“No, no, no,” Riley pleaded as realization dawned on him about what Alice was going to do. “You can’t do this to me, Alice!”

“Did you really expect me to make you king, Riley?” Alice sneered. “How am I supposed to trust you when you turned your back on Victoria so quickly? You were supposed to be her right hand—her Knave of Hearts—and you betrayed her so easily. That only proves that you would do the same to me.”

“Don’t kill me, Alice,” Riley said terrified. “I will do anything you want, but don’t kill me.”

“You’ll do anything?” Alice sneered. “Doing anything for me was the beginning of your doom.” She whistled at the Bandersnatch, locking eyes with him as she pointed to Riley with her free hand, saying two simple words: “Kill him.”

Riley blanched as soon as he heard Alice, but there was nothing he could do. His fate had been determined the minute that he agreed to help Alice. The Bandersnatch flew forward and pinned Riley down while he pawed at him, killing him almost instantly.

When Alice looked at his lifeless form, she felt no regrets about Riley’s death. He had simply been a pawn in Alice’s game, but he had earned that title because of his ambition. Now that he was gone, Edward would know that Alice hadn’t lied to him, so that gave her some respite.

Exhaling deeply, Alice stepped closer to the Bandersnatch and pet its head.”You did good today, boy,” she told the creature. “Go back to the castle and wait for me until I return.”

The Bandersnatch purred as he rubbed up on her arm and licked her cheek, causing her to laugh.

“Yes, I’m going to miss you, too. Now, go!” Alice ordered, watching as he followed her command.

Cheshire Cat appeared then on top of a tree branch that surrounded him and Alice. Looking bored, he spoke to Alice. “It’s time for you to go home, too, Alice. Your work is done here.”

Alice sighed as she nodded, thankful that everything was finally over. While she walked back to the March Hare’s home with Cheshire Cat by her side, she thought about what everyone had said when they saw her for the first time. Some said that she looked exactly the same, while Tweedledum and Tweedledee hadn’t recognized her at all, and that intrigued her.

Was it possible that they had been able to see through her? Because even though she was the same person they had met before, she was not the same inside.

Alice had become someone else entirely, and that’s what had allowed her to scheme the death of both queens. While many would probably think that she had done it because she was as thirsty for power as they had been, Alice did it simply because she could. It would benefit her, obviously, but that was only the reward she deserved for ridding Wonderland of the self-centered sisters. Besides, Alice had to get rid of Isabelle if she wanted to live since she knew that otherwise she’d have the same fate as Victoria.

“What are you thinking about, Alice?” Cheshire Cat asked, breaking her out of her reverie.

“Nothing much,” Alice lied.

Aware that she had indeed lied, Cheshire Cat chuckled. “Don’t torment yourself with thoughts of what just happened, Alice. This is the way it was supposed to be—the reason why you returned to Wonderland.”

“You knew that?” Alice asked, baffled. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Cheshire floated past Alice, turning to face her as he spun his head. “It’s fairly simple: you needed to be presented with the feat first so you could decide how to deal with it without anyone’s influence.”

“Do you think that our plan would have failed if other people knew about it, then?”

“Probably, but it wouldn’t have made much difference,” Cheshire Cat explained. “You returned at this point in your life because that’s when it was supposed to happen—when you were finally ready to take over Wonderland. Absolem knew it as well, but he didn’t make mention of it for fear that you’d leave.”

“I almost did,” Alice confessed.

“And that would have been a shame.” Cheshire Cat sighed. “You wouldn’t have been able to enjoy a world that was created just for you.”

Appeased, Alice smiled and continued walking silently, imagining what her life would be like from that point on. A thousand possibilities crossed her mind, but the best part of it all was knowing that Edward would be by her side.

~}{~

A few days later, Alice stood before a full-body mirror in Edward’s sewing room, observing how she looked in a gown that they’d created together. The beautiful dress was made of black tulle and cream lining; it wrapped around to her left, creating a small train with its many ruffles and that was embellished with black-beaded flowers. With the help of Mallymkun, they’d designed it specifically for her coronation that would be held later.

Obviously, the day was very important for Alice, especially because all the residents of Wonderland had accepted her as their queen without objection once they found out that she had freed them from Victoria and Isabelle’s sovereignty. Therefore, she worried about her appearance in view of the fact that everyone would be there, including her closest friends.

“How do I look?” Alice asked.

“Wonderful, of course,” Edward replied, grinning, “like a queen.”

“All that’s missing is your crown,” Cheshire said as he appeared out of nowhere, placing a black, intricate crown on her head.

Alice smiled as she delighted in the moment. She raised her hands and carefully traced the elaborate patterns that shaped the crown, admiring how gorgeous it was. Edward stepped closer to her and spun her, enveloping her in his arms before he leaned down to give her a quick peck on her lips.

“I love you so much, Alice,” Edward told her. “Thank you for making me so happy.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the mirror, Alice’s surroundings had also changed. She was no longer in her room—not even in her house—but actually in a mental asylum. That’s where Alice’s family had taken her after her mother found Alice delirious and rambling about nonsense when she went to tell her that they were leaving for the luncheon. While they held Alice in observation, her family and doctors tried everything so that she would return to reality, but why would Alice do that?

Why would she abandon Wonderland? Everyone there loved her and accepted her as she was.

No, she would not return. Alice would stay there with Edward, reciprocating his affection. After all, he was the only person that truly loved her unconditionally.

And so, as she sat on her bed, facing the cream-colored walls of her room, Alice clutched her legs to her chest tighter. She laid her head on her knees and smiled as she imagined Edward placing a soft kiss on her forehead.

“I love you, too,” she whispered. “I love you so much, Edward Hightopp.”

A sigh escaped her lips as she reveled in the world that existed through the crepuscular glass—in her new realm.

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