Upon walking through the Heart Castle’s doors, Alice immediately found herself to be greeted by two maids on duty.
“Good morning miss Alice.” they offered. “We have been expecting you. Please follow us to the location of Minister White’s birthday celebration.”
“Um...sure...but there’s no need for “miss.” Just “Alice” will be fine.”
“As you wish...Alice.”
They led her out into the rose garden and straight to Vivaldi’s tea table. There sat Ace, Her Majesty, the King, and of course, Peter, all awaiting her arrival.
“ALICE!!!” Peter cried. Leaping up from his seat, he rocketed towards her, intent on locking her away in his arms. Fortunately for her, Alice had grown accustomed to this sort of greeting and managed to dodge him with ease. Sadly, this left Peter bound for one of the Queen’s rose bushes, where he earned himself a few painful pricks.
“Hi everyone, sorry I’m late.” she apologized. “I was helping Julius with his work and lost track of time. I hope you’re not upset.”
“It’s cool.” Ace waved her off. “I get lost going places all the time, so it’s not like I always show up when I’m suppose to.”
Vivaldi smiled. “We are pleased enough that you came to excuse your tardiness.”
Peter, having recovered from his recent mishap, reassured her with “Don’t even consider it, my precious lamb. I’m just so happy that you’re here. And because you are my last guest, we may start celebrating!”
He walked over to the table, and pulled out a seat for Alice. “Here, sweetness, sit beside me. I’m going to assemble the maids for games; I shall return shortly!”
“Ok…” Alice answered. She looked towards Ace, who sat across from her, and asked “Isn’t this a low turnout for a party?”
“Well, it’s not like Peter has friends or anything to invite. In fact, the King and I are only here for courtesy; he didn’t actually want us to come. He’s fine with the Queen attending though; and of course, you’re his favorite person in and out of Wonderland.”
“I don’t know, I thought he’d have family or something…”
“He never mentions it. To be honest, no one even knew he was capable of feeling any kind of affection before you showed up. He just tries to kill everyone else.”
“Huh…” What makes me so special? Alice wondered. Why did he even bring me to Wonderland in the first place?
“I’m back!” Peter called out. “Let the games begin!”
“What are we playing?” Alice questioned.
“Well, it doesn’t really have a name.” Peter answered. “But in order to participate, one must put on a blindfold, take a gun, and try to shoot as many maids as possible in the time allotted.”
“Oh, don’t worry my joy! They won’t move a muscle while we’re playing, so you’ll be sure to score at least a few points, even though you lack experience with firearms.” He offered her his gun. “You may have the first turn if you like.”
“Peter, that’s called murder! I don’t care if it is your birthday, I’m not letting you slaughter innocent people!”
Peter frowned and opened his mouth to argue, but in the face of Alice’s firmly set jaw he merely sighed. “Very well my dear, if you insist. What would you like to play instead?”
“We’ll do something similar but somewhat less dangerous; how about Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Someone get a picture of a donkey and a needle with some rope attached.”
“Oh, there’s no need for that.” Peter replied. He glared in Ace’s direction. “We already have an ass present; and his sword will work well in place of a needle.”
Ace let out a small laugh. “Geez Peter, that’s pretty harsh. I’ll try to remember that for my birthday. Besides, you’d make a much better target; what with how big your ears are they’d fit on any mule.”
Peter whipped out his pistol and aimed it at Ace’s head. “My ears are a perfectly fine size! And they’re very attractive as well!”
Ace pulled out his sword, and held it in defense. “Peter, shooting at me is asking for a fight.”
“Fine by me; your death is one of the greatest gifts I could ever receive.”
As they readied for dueling stance, Alice yelled “STOP IT, BOTH OF YOU!”
They turned to her and stared.
“Honestly…” Alice sighed. “Put away your weapons and sit down. We’re going to play Musical Chairs. Everyone grab a seat and someone play a song.”
“Only if he takes back that jab about my ears.” Peter fought.
“What about him wanting to skewer me?” Ace added.
“Both of you, apologize now.”
“I’m sorry Peter.”
“I’m sorry…” Peter grumbled. ...Sorry that you are an ass. he finished silently.
“Can we play now?” Alice asked impatiently.
“First agree that my ears are attractive.” Peter conditioned.
“But aren’t they?” He gazed at her with large, pleading eyes.
“Ugh...fine, yes, they’re the best rabbit ears I’ve ever seen.”
“Really? Fantastic! I can’t wait to tell that mafia dolt you said so!”
...Which is ok because not only is Elliot in denial of his species, he probably wouldn't believe you anyway. Alice thought to herself. “So everything’s fine now, right? We can finally have some fun?”
“Certainly.” Peter smiled brightly. “I’ll go get a musician.”
“By the way,” Ace whispered. “While she probably won’t kill you it’s still in your best interests to let Her Majesty win.”
Peter opens his presents and they eat cake.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Three rounds of Musical Chairs later, it was time for presents. “I shall open this one first!” Peter exclaimed, quickly unwrapping a small, colorfully decorated box. After peering inside, he pulled out a crimson slip of paper which bore the Queen’s official seal. “Thank you, Your Majesty! But...what is it?”
Vivaldi took a sip from her tea. “It gives you use of our King for one full day’s worth of work; allowing you to spend that time chasing after Alice.” she clarified.
“Oh! How kind of you! This is greatly appreciated!” While Peter beamed at the thought of ditching his work to see Alice, the King sighed unhappily at the prospect of an added chore.
“And now for this one…” Peter tore open a wrinkled brown bag to find that it contained a smooth, white bar of soap.
“It’s because you’re always complaining about how germy and unclean everyone else is.” Ace explained. “I thought I’d at least get you something useful.”
As much as Peter disliked Ace, he had to admit that the gift was in good taste. “...Your present is satisfactory.” he forced out.
“You’re welcome.” Ace returned cheerily, pleased with Peter’s irritation.
“...Well, now it must be time for cake!” Peter reasoned from the lack of unopened offerings. “I’ll go tell the kitchen.”
As he walked off, Vivaldi leaned over in Alice’s direction. “We wish to commend you for your handling of what transpired earlier during the party.”
“Huh? Oh, right...thanks.”
“It is difficult to stop their bickering, even for Us. We find it fascinating how well you controlled White.”
“Well...I guess it’s because he listens to me.” Alice had to admit, at least to herself, that it was flattering to be so highly valued by someone...even if that someone was a murderous deviant with rabbit ears (and quite possibly a tail).
Peter returned with a cake iced in sweet vanilla frosting. The candles were lit, a round of “Happy Birthday” was sung, and hopes were expressed in silence.
“What did wish for?” Alice inquired.
Peter blushed. “I can’t tell you or it won’t come true!”
“Peter, it doesn’t matter whether or not you tell us; either way Alice isn’t going to have twelve kids with you.” Ace cut in.
“What? Twelve? That’s ridiculous! I don’t want twelve bunnies-only ten!” Peter explained.
Alice looked away and shuddered. Even on the off-chance that we did get married, there’s no way I’d have ten kids...good lord. She took a bite of cake and recoiled in surprise.
“Is something wrong?” Peter asked.
“No...I just didn’t expect lemon. It’s good, but...I don’t know I’d thought you’d have a carrot cake or something.”
“Carrot is fine, but I enjoy lemon.”
“Well, lemons are pretty good.” Alice responded.
“They’re sour like you Peter!” Ace chimed in.
“I’m sweet to Alice!” he argued.
“Yeah, stalkery sweet.” Ace shot back.
“You’re just jealous of how pure my love for her is!”
“...But does she love you back?”
Peter stopped, looked down at his slice of cake, and quietly resumed eating; his ears slightly bent.
“Hey...so after cake, why don’t we play some more games? It’s still pretty early.” Alice suggested, trying her best to expel the table’s uncomfortable atmosphere.
Peter perked up a bit when she spoke. “Sure.” he smiled, pleased that she wanted to spend more time together. “How about charades?”
I don’t actually know if Peter likes lemon, but it just feels like he would.
Alice kisses Peter, causing a wave of conflicting emotions.
“I’m sorry the party went on for so long.” Peter apologized as he led her down the Heart Castle’s many halls. “I didn’t expect it to last into the night.”
“Are you really sorry?” Alice asked skeptically. “Or are you just saying so?”
Peter gave her a sheepish grin. “Well...actually I’m very pleased. I just thought you’d want me to say otherwise.”
“Thank you for attending; if you hadn't I doubt I’d have continued the celebration.”
“Why not? Everyone likes birthdays.”
“I don’t care to spend time with others; I only wanted to see you. Usually I just collect my presents and have cupcake after dinner.”
“That sounds pretty lonely.”
“I don’t mind.” he assured her.
They walked in silence. As Alice studied the various shades of red coloring the walls, she remembered the paper Vivaldi had gifted Peter earlier that day.
“Sorry I didn’t get you anything.” she said. “I wasn’t sure what you’d want. At first I thought gloves, but you probably have plenty. The soap was a good idea, but it sounded strange at the time; and a loofa would have been way too intimate.”
Peter smiled warmly. “Thank you for thinking of me my love, but really, your presence was all I truly wanted.”
“It’s wrong of me to not give you anything; I don’t know, just pick something.”
Peter stopped and turned to look at her. “...May I have a kiss?”
Alice instantly turned scarlet. “What! No! I mean...why?!”
“Because you told me to pick something and I crave the tender feel of your lips against mine!”
“Gaaah!” She took a few more steps, groaned in frustration, then sighed. “...Just one kiss...on the cheek.”
“Ok!” Peter’s smile was both bashful and eager, though his ears lowered slightly at the demotion of his request.
She leaned forward, gave him a quick peck and continued walking at a brisk pace.
“Thank you!” he chirped, catching up to her; a cheerful bounce in his step.
Alice looked away and said nothing. Was that really the best I could do? I know he’s disappointed. But what do I care? He doesn’t deserve anything. So what if he’s really sweet to me? He brought me here in the first place. He’s the reason Lorina’s probably worried sick back at home. And who asks for a kiss anyway? This is all his fault. Still...I can’t shake this weird feeling...
“Well, here we are!” Peter announced, stopping right outside an empty guest room; his cheeks still a tad flushed from before. “Alice?” She didn’t look at him. She stood for a moment, head bowed, her eyes hidden from view by bangs. “Alice what’s wrong?!” he asked in alarm. Suddenly she leaned forward, reached out, and threw her arms around his neck. Alice pulled Peter down to her level, closed her eyes, and pressed hard against his lips. Peter’s eyelids snapped open with shock, then slowly lowered with pleasure. He applied his own pressure back, embracing her as he did so. Seconds later, they broke apart. He stood there for a moment, spellbound. Then “oh, Alice.” he sighed breathlessly. “Alice I-” She pushed him so hard back he fell straight to the floor and ran, not once looking back. “Alice!” he called after her. “Alice wait!” She raced through the Castle doors, and out into the night; trying to reach the Clock Tower as fast as possible. Cold wind whipped past her, stinging her eyes and cheeks; yet she felt nothing but the fierce beating of her heart in her chest and saw only the path that would bring her refuge. “I DON’T LOVE YOU!” she yelled, hoping that somehow he’d heard it, though she was much too far away for that now. Upon reaching her destination, Alice sped up the stairs, and rushed into Julius’s workshop; where she found him up toiling per usual.
“You’ve returned quite late. So, how was it?” he asked, looking up as he did so. He was surprised to find her eyes brimming with tears. “What happened? What’s wrong?” Julius asked urgently. Sniffling, Alice quickly burrowed herself into the safety of his arms. He grabbed her by the shoulders and questioned “What’s the matter? Why are you so upset? Tell me what’s wrong!”
“I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!” she wailed. “I don’t like him! I don’t!”
“What? Who? That damned rabbit? What did he do??”
Alice took some deep breaths to calm down. She responded a few moments later with “Nothing. He didn’t do anything. I just...I’m going to bed.”
“Are you sure?” Julius asked, still very much concerned for her.
“Yeah...thanks.” She hugged him once more and walked over to her room; where she fell into an exhausted sleep the second she collapsed onto her bed.
Peter gets a visit from Nightmare, and Alice has a chat with Julius.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Back at the Heart Castle, Peter too had fallen asleep, but his slumber was far from dreamless.
“So, I assume this was a good night...except for the part where she ran away in tears.”
“I just don’t understand.” Peter replied softly. “She clearly loves me...why does she act so strangely?”
Nightmare gave him a somewhat sympathetic smile. “Perhaps Alice herself does not know what she wants. And even if she does, it may be difficult for her to accept. I doubt she’d consider it a point of pride to fall in love with a clingy, murderous rabbit-man who kidnaps young girls in his free time.”
“But I absolutely adore her! And who cares about those dirty, unclean masses? I would rather die than ever cause her any harm!”
“All the same…”
“Nightmare please, I must know.” Peter pleaded. “...Will she stay with me in Wonderland? Will she forget about going home?” He paused, and took a breath. “...Will she ever come to love me?”
“I can’t predict the future or do anything to change it. Everything is on her now. Whatever she decides is what will play out. The best you can do is try not to hurt your chances...so good luck.” Nightmare finished.
Peter lowered his head in distress. ...But I need her here, with me. “Thank you.” he responded quietly.
“Happy birthday.” Nightmare wished before leaving Peter alone with his thoughts.
Alice wasn’t awake for more than a minute before the events of the previous night came flooding back to her. She sat up, let out a groan and went to the kitchen to fix the morning’s coffee. There she found Julius already up and waiting for her.
“What happened at that party?”
She stopped and stood staring for a moment, then sighed. “...I kissed Peter.”
“...I don’t know! ...It was for his birthday...but it also wasn’t. I really don’t know and I’m confused. ...I just need to sort all this out...later. For now I’m just going to keep to myself.”
Julius sighed. “As long as you’re ok then.” He went back to reassembling some clocks on the table. Ten minutes later Alice returned with two cups of espresso, her face still tinged with anxiety. “Julius took a sip from his mug. “90 points.” he announced.
Alice looked up in surprise. “What? No way. I know I left it on for too long!” She smiled. “You’re just trying to distract me aren’t you?”
“No, truly, well done. I’d recommend you always mope about whenever brewing, but I doubt I’d know what to do.”
She smirked. “I’m half shocked you didn’t suffocate me in my sleep last night for being so upset.”
Julius straightened, decidedly finished with their friendly chatter. “Well, now it is day, so I suggest you act accordingly and go get dressed.”
Aaaaaaand the old Julius returns. Alice thought with a warm smile. ...But a good friend all the same. With her worries temporarily abandoned, she returned to her room and prepared for the day to come.
I love you Alice...and should you stay I promise I will make you happy...even if you choose another...I swear it.
This is the last chapter for "A Very Merry Real Birthday." But, if you like, you can read the beginning of my next AlicexPeter fanfic "Day of Hearts" two weeks from now. Also, I have a poem coming out next week. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed. :)