ii. infused

Her bottomless, tear-glazed eyes were filled with so much pain Vivaldi just wanted to rip the image inside her mind and tear it to shreds. A mirrored version of the Queen herself was broken and bloody and bruised and chained not-so-kindly to a depressing incarnadine wall.

"What are you doing to her!?" She heard herself shriek at Julius as she clawed at him. Summer wasn't a killer! She would never do such immoral things! You've got to be mistaken! Don't do it, Julius!

"She admitted the crime herself…Your Majesty," He replied stiffly, biting back his own tears, as well. He, too, found it hard to believe that a thirteen-year-old girl was capable of killing more people than Ace. But she had even surrendered the bag of broken clocks she had for her 'collection.' All the evidence pointed to Vivaldi's own role-keeping 'sister,' Milady Summer.

"Well, don't keep her locked here like…like some ANIMAL!" Sure, the Queen of Hearts was downright mean and often ordered people to do things for her, but Julius had never heard her exclaim with so much raw emotion. "Let her go or…or it's off with your head!"

"You know the rules, Vivaldi…Summer had tried to break them; she needs to pay the consequences of her actions…"

"Just…Just let her go, Julius." Vivaldi's voice had grown softer as the tears fell down from her eyes more steadily. "We'll…send her away, or something….Just…Don't lock her up. Please, Julius."

Please

. . .

Vivaldi awoke because of the sound of another tea cup breaking. The sweet tea spilled onto the wooden floor as Vivaldi swore. Summer…where was she? It was dusk once more, and the sun was already departing. She should be here by now. And yet, the only living (for the lack of a more apt term) being inside the tea room was the Queen herself.

Vivaldi wasn't a particularly patient woman since she was used to always getting what she wanted, but she was willing to make exceptions. She promised herself she would wait for her sister until...until she couldn't wait anymore.

So Vivaldi then closed her jeweled amethyst orbs, yearning for halcyon sunsets in her dreams.

. . .

"I'm not…who you think I am…" Summer inched away from the Outsider, wincing at the use Vivaldi's name.

"Oh, I'm sorry…I thought you were…Never mind," The Outsider replied, a sheepish grin on her naïve, pretty face, "I believe I haven't seen you around before. My name's Alice. Who are you?"

"My name is not of your concern…Outsider," Summer told her coldly, as the violet-haired girl started walking away. She finally understood why everything had changed. This…Outsider – Alice, she corrected herself – radiated with kindness and genuine concern that nobody in Wonderland could ever dream of possessing. She finally grasped why she was allowed to return; why she could live life normally. It was all because of this girl.

And she didn't know if she felt safe…or extremely frightened. Her destiny was in this complete stranger's hands and Alice herself didn't know – yet – what power she had over Wonderland. Maybe the game would finally end and there would finally be a winner…

Summer stopped, realizing she might be able to trust the Outsider. Her heart was pure, untainted by the Wonderland. She was…different and maybe difference was what Wonderland needed. "Alice…It seems that my mind has changed its decision. I am Summer."

"Okay…" Alice replied, unsure of what to say. Summer…she looked freakishly like Vivaldi, except…icier, more distant. As if she had done something extremely…wrong…that life had jaded her this way.

"Where are you headed to, Summer?" She continued, hoping for a normal conversation. No, a normal conversation in Wonderland was impossible. Alice just hoped that Summer wouldn't point a gun in her face or try to kill her.

"…I believe I'm headed for the castle…" Summer replied, her voice seemingly far away. Alice then decided that she would be able to befriend this odd girl…for now, anyway. Things would surely change if Summer would attempt to stab her with a knife.

"Oh, alright…Would you like me to bring you there?" Alice was simply doing this deed out of pity, for she did not want to visit the Castle of Hearts. Peter might cling to her – as usual – like a little boy would cling to his Mommy.

"If it isn't much trouble, Alice…It seems that…I've lost my way…" Summer often glanced at the houses and shops. 'As if she once belonged here….' Alice thought.

"Oh, no! It's not much trouble at all, Summer. We're almost there, anyway, see?" Alice pointed at the beautiful building in front of her. The epitome of the word 'castle.'

'When did we get here…? I was sure I was stuck in a labyrinthine place just a few seconds ago…'

"Well, here we are! I'm sorry I can only take you up to this point, but Julius needs me to help him with his work….Bye, Summer!" And in less than a second, Alice was nothing but a faint shadow, gone.

Julius. His name alone made her blood boil. Perhaps it was wrong for her to trust Alice. Or perhaps Alice didn't know the truth. Summer sincerely hoped for the latter. Julius Monrey…was an evil man.

. . .

"Your Highness!" The shouts and screams of the stupid cards awoke Vivaldi from the only nice dream she had in ages. She was with Summer – sweet, innocent Summer – and the King – the stupid, stupid man she couldn't help but not love. They were picnicking in the amusement park, eating sandwiches and drinking tea. Summer cried in the rollercoaster, but her older sister had cheered her up with throwing banana cream pies at the moronic rabbit. And now, her beautiful, once-upon-a-time dream evaporated. Gone. Kaput.

"What is it?" There was no point in feigning care.

"Milady Summer has arrived." The elegantly carved door opened, revealing a travel-worn-out young girl with purple hair and eyes.

"Summer…!" Vivaldi ran, almost tripping over the shards of broken cups and her gown. She enveloped Summer in a long hug only a caring older sister could give.

"Vivaldi," Summer hugged her back, crying. Until now, she had never noticed how much she had missed her sister. She had never slept much outside of Wonderland, fearing that the nightmares would take over her and turn her into some sort of demon. As if she wasn't one already.

"I'm…I'm so glad you're home…" Vivaldi whispered as she let go of the younger girl, "Come on and sit down. Let's have some tea."

. . .

"So that's how much things have changed, Summer." Vivaldi said, holding a stuffed panda as she drank her tea.

"Even White has changed, huh…It's amazing what Outsiders can do to this place." Summer nodded to no one in particular as she took a bite from a raspberry scone. She couldn't imagine gun-happy Peter turning into some sort of Alice-worshipping psycho-stalker.

"ALICE~! Oh, Alice, I LOVE YOU! Where are you, my love?"

"Speak of the devil." Vivaldi muttered, annoyance clearly heard in her voice.

The door then burst open, revealing a very…different Peter White, "Hey, Vivaldi, have you seen Alice? The guards said she was he—"

"It's…you." Peter said, his voice turning soft in shock. He just didn't know what to say. "I thought you were…dead."

"Oh, right…That would be my fault, Summer," Vivaldi explained, "When you were banished and sent to God-knows-where, we had to tell the rest of Wonderland that you were killed…permanently by Ace. Only Julius, Ace and I knew the truth."

"But the truth…Well, it seems to be tricking us all, huh?" Vivaldi continued, a graceful— but seemingly forced— smile on her flawless face, "Oh, well…Peter, would you like to join us for tea?"