So...it's been nearly three years since I began this, and some of you are still with me, even after all this time. To those insanely, incredibly loyal readers – I take my metaphorical hat off to you. You've the patience of a saint.
But to everyone, even those just joining the party today, with the posting of this final chapter – thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reviewing. Thank you for taking time out of your lives to follow Alice's New Moon.
A last review from you all would be wonderful. I'd love to know your overall thoughts on the story, and any requests you may have for what I write in the future.
Thank you, and goodbye :) over and out, and here we go with the last chapter…
Everything was back to normal. Almost.
Carlisle was welcomed back to the hospital with open arms – they'd suffered badly without him, and were only too willing to take him on again, no problem.
School was back – it hadn't changed one bit since last year, but then, I doubted Forks High School ever did – and started that Monday. Bella's circle of friends welcomed me right back with as wary but polite a manner as they always had, Angela being the politest of all. I liked Angela. And Jess.
But Bella was my real friend – now, even more so than ever. I didn't mind – not in the slightest – because in just less than four months, if all went according to plan…we would be sisters.
I couldn't wait!
"You're joking," Jasper had said, blankly, when I'd first told him about Edward's proposal, having witnessed the whole thing myself with squealing excitement whilst out hunting with him one morning. "I can't believe it…all the deals Edward has made with her over this…you're saying he offered to change her, on condition she marry him first? Just so he can be the one to do it? Really? Really?"
"Really," I affirmed, rubbing absentmindedly at a tiny speck of blood that had somehow or other made its way onto my new floral-patterned skirt. Bother. Brand-new it had been, too! "And college thrown in the mix, if she comes around. Talking of which, we really need to get our applications done, don't we?"
Jasper wasn't listening.
"Insane," he muttered, shaking his head in disbelief at the elk he'd just drained. "Those two really are just…impossible. Impossible."
Someone I knew would most definitely agree with Jasper was Charlie. He'd grounded his daughter – "Forever," Bella had announced to me dejectedly on Monday at school – and only let Edward visit during certain designated times.
"But you, Alice – you come round whenever you want to, ok?" he'd assured me when I'd called for my friend that Saturday morning to take her shopping. "Don't feel you need to stay away just because…well…you know. You come over when you want. Door's always open."
And he'd given me a smile; his awkward, lopsided Charlie-smile, and it had been just like after the whole James fiasco all over again. Edward in Charlie's bad books, me in his good – when really, it should have been completely the other way round. But I wasn't complaining. I liked Charlie, too – it was nice to know that he still liked me. And it was great having an excuse to visit Bella as often as I wanted.
There was only one thing that kept normal life from resuming as completely as before. Something I knew Bella was still tearing herself up over…and it wasn't really that hard for anyone to guess what.
The name was still sour in my mouth whenever I spoke it. I tried, tried, tried not hate him – not to mind the fact that half the woods around Forks simply reeked of dog stink, or that no matter how many hours I spent with my best friend, I knew, deep down, I would never be able to compete with the friendship she and Jacob had shared…
That thought always brought the silliest, stupidest little lump to my throat, no matter how hard I tried to stop it. I wouldn't hate him. I wouldn't. Even after the way he was treating Bella these days – never answering her pleading phone calls, ignoring her passed notes, blanking her so completely.
It couldn't end well, that was for sure, when Jacob Black finally diddecide to make himself available to Bella again. Oh help…and how would Jasper react when he found out how close I'd be coming into contact with him when he started hanging around Charlie's house – where I so often was – as well…?
It was a small headache. Just one problem unsolved.
But for everything else…our life in Forks picked up right where it had left off. Everything back to normal.
It was the last day of March. Twilight was just falling; the ruby sun sunk low in the sky, shadows settling over the trees of the forest below me, fading light warm on my back as I bent over my sketchbook, stack of unfinished English homework sitting abandoned next to me.
I'd never been anything like as good at drawing as Esme, what with all her renovation and design work – but I'd followed through enough fashion degrees to become pretty decent. Anyway, this sketch didn't need to be perfect. It was just a rough draft. A possibility. A faint maybe…
I jumped – my pencil skidding across the page in a clumsy zigzag. Dang it. I swung round on my perch to see Edward closing the balcony door with a click, his face curious as he approached me.
"Are you drawing something?"
I grinned. "Yup. Want to see?"
"I'd love to."
He hitched himself up on the railing next to me, leaning across to examine my sketch. I held it out to him – careful to guard my thoughts so it would be a surprise – still grinning. Wait till he saw it…
Edward took one look at the pad – and went very still, curiosity freezing into shock on his face.
"A wedding dress," he said, blankly.
"Mm-hm." I stroked the edge of a pencilled sleeve affectionately. "What do you think?"
I pouted. "Just…beautiful?"
He chuckled, ruffling my hair. "All right, then – exquisite. Absolutely perfect. I take it you have someone in mind to be wearing this work of art, then…?"
"Oh yes." I beamed. "Definitely. Thought…it's not completely decided yet, I know. It's just in case. Better to start planning early, right?"
He rolled his eyes. "As long as she's all right with it. Bella isn't one for the parties, you know, Alice – she might prefer a more private ceremony, something quiet and informal."
I frowned thoughtfully down at the pad, trying to fit the words 'quiet' or 'informal' to any part of my beloved creation…oh dear.
"I'll…make some adjustments," I mumbled, after a few minutes, making Edward laugh again.
"All right," he said, shifting closer to me along the railings. "Alice, I'm afraid I must admit…I didn't exactly come to talk to you about wedding dresses. There's something else."
His face was serious, now, his eyes intent as they gazed into mine.
"I need you to do something for me. For Bella too, but…me mostly. It's my mind that needs to be set at rest, not hers. And you're really the only one who can do it, do…this. I'm sorry about that."
I shook my head, oblivious. "What do you want me to do?"
Aside from planning you the most spectacular wedding Forks has ever seen, that is?
Edward didn't smile. He hesitated a moment – then shifted even closer, taking my hand and lowering his voice, almost as though wary of someone overhearing us.
"We aren't out of the woods yet," he murmured, slowly – and I knew at once, of course, what he was talking about. The 'woods'.
The three 'woods' in particular…
One – the Volturi. Waiting and watching for the promise we'd made to be fulfilled, planning their dreaded visit to Forks to ensure that we did…set to destroy us all if we didn't…
"Not all of us," Edward muttered, voice dark with a bitter sort of humour. "Aro would spare my life, if he had any hope of persuading me to join up. And he'd never in a million years lay a finger on you even if you begged him for death on bended knees…"
I shuddered. Way to put the mood down, Edward. Because he knew as well as I did that if Bella and Jasper and the rest of our family had already been…dealt with…death was just exactly what I would be begging for.
I shoved the thought away, shaking my head. I didn't want to talk about this, not now. Moving on…
Two – the wolves'. Angry, unsettled wolves, a whole pack of them, ready to break the treaty the second we did, regardless of any choice Bella made or not…
And three – Victoria. Always the murderous, raging, revenge-crazed Victoria…
Which was worse? I wondered. Rampant werewolves? Volturi execution? Or James's vicious, bloodthirsty mate…?
The evening suddenly seemed very cold and dark around us. The forest below the railings was thick with black. Unfathomable. I suppressed a shiver.
"Yes," I murmured, voice as quiet as Edward's, now. "I know. Not out of the woods yet."
Edward nodded, his face very grave. "As things stand with Victoria," – the name was a low growl, his jaw clenching tight – "we need to know when she next decides to make an appearance. The same goes for the Volturi. And it wouldn't hurt to have Charlie on our radars too, just in case, plus Bella herself, of course, and maybe the wolves' too, though I know that's near-impossible…"
He trailed off, watching my expression. I smiled ruefully, tucking my knees up to my chest and resting my chin on them.
"You want me to watch them."
It wasn't a question. Ok, to be honest, I'd expected something like this – it wasn't really news to me. Once the Cullen family watchdog, always the Cullen family watchdog…the thought made the evening seem a little brighter around me again.
"Yup. I can do that, for sure."
It would be tough, keeping tabs on all of them…but I could deal with that, couldn't I? I'd been through worse. Finding Jasper all those years ago, for one thing – nothingcould be harder than that.
"It's just the triggers, the decisions," Edward was saying, quickly. "Nothing more. Could you manage to watch the wolves' in the same way?"
My turn to clench my jaw.
"No. I can't see anything when it comes to them. Blind as a bat." I glowered at the ever-darkening forest beneath us. "Stupid werewolves," I muttered, and then wished I hadn't. Bella wouldn't like me to speak about them that way, I knew…speak about her best friend, her Jacob, that way…
"All right. You could manage Bella though, couldn't you?
I nodded. "Oh yes – easy." Then I smiled. "One of my favourite channels, remember?"
He grimaced at the memory.
"Don't worry," I said. "If anyone so much as touches her…I'll know."
He nodded, letting out his breath in a gush.
"Thank you, Alice," he murmured, squeezing my hand tight, and I could see that he meant it, really meant it,. "Thank you. I owe you."
Yes, I grinned. You do. Big time. For bailing you out with Aro in Italy, too.
"And for coming to save me from myself in the first place," he agreed, nodding grimly to himself. "Yes…Jasper was right. I owe you a great deal, Alice."
I frowned. What had Jasper been telling him?
But talking of owing great deals to people…
"…how about that yellow Porsche 911 Turbo for Christmas?" I suggested, and he laughed, pulling me into a brief, one-armed hug.
We stayed silent a moment then, arms around the other – till the bedroom door creaked, groaned, swung open behind us.
"Jasper's looking for you," Edward murmured, unnecessarily. He knew as well as the rest of the family how Jasper had barely let me out of his sight in the past few weeks. If anyone was coming to search for me, it would be Jasper.
"Alice?" my husband's voice called me, a second later. "Alice, where are you?"
"Out here!" I called, pulling away from Edward to hop off the railings. I darted to open the balcony door, Edward close behind me.
Jasper almost collided with us both.
"Thank goodness, there you are," he sighed in relief, worry draining from his expression the second he saw me. "I couldn't find your scent, not anywhere – I was starting to think you'd gone off somewhere without –"
"Shh, Jazz," I mumbled, slipping my arms around him, only too aware of Edward's amused smile behind us both. "I'm fine, just sketching – took the shortcut up the roof to the railings, that's why my scent –"
"I know," he sighed. "I know, I didn't think…at least Edward was with you…"
Edward started to chuckle. I buried my face against my husband's chest in humiliation. At least you can thank your lucky stars Emmett's not here, he'd be unbearable…
"It's all right, Alice," Edward smiled, understanding. "Bella has to put up with just the same."
Then he turned to nod seriously to my husband. "Your wife was quite safe with me, I assure you, Jasper."
I rolled my eyes, drawing back to gaze up at him fondly. "Overprotective fool."
He only smiled in response, kissing my hair. Edward sidled discreetly past us both to the balcony door.
"I think I'll leave you two in peace…thank you again, Alice. See you later."
He gave us one last smile. Then he was gone.
Neither one of us said anything for several minutes. Really, though…there wasn't anything much to be said. No worries to mull over – all our problems were far off, in Italy or La Push, miles from striking our family anytime soon. And I would see them coming, long before they did…
Jasper's arms lifted me carefully; setting me on the railings once again. He pulled himself up beside me in one swift movement, arm protective around my shoulders, turning to face the forest and endless night sky beyond our home. Still, we didn't say anything.
Inky-dark trees rustled and shifted beneath us in the wind. Leaves fluttered. All black; dipped in oil, in darkness. Night was really falling now, settling over everything. I could hardly even see Jasper's face.
His lips traced my forehead, my cheek, nestling under my ear.
"I'm going to miss this."
My lips found his. We kissed softly for a moment, precarious on the railings.
"Miss what?" I murmured.
"This." He kissed me once, chaste, then ducked his head to the forest, gesturing with one hand. "Forks. Washington. This house. Our home. Even the high school…"
I stared at our entwined fingers, all kisses forgotten. Of course. I hadn't thought – we would have to leave, wouldn't we? And soon, too – graduation, if Carlisle kept his word. Of course we would have to flee Forks. Bella would be newborn; wild, dangerous to control in even the most remote of places. And Charlie would need to be protected, saved from ever finding out the truth, or the Volturi would take him down, too. Not to mention the wolves – had the treaty ever had a limit on distance? I would have to ask Edward…
"…you never know," I murmured, tentatively. "Maybe we'll get lucky. Maybe Edward was right. Maybe the Volturi will leave us be for a few decades. Maybe Victoria will give up. Maybe the wolves will decide to let Bella make her own decision, treaty or no treaty…"
But he sounded even less convinced than I was. I sighed.
"Who knows what the future might bring," I murmured. Jasper chuckled, his arms tightening.
"I think I know someone."
But that was just it. I didn't. I didn't. We'd reached a crossroads; paths in every direction, a thousand signposts to follow, routes to take. I was as clueless as to what awaited us next as anyone else. At least for now, things were settled. Safe. But who knew what was waiting for us in the coming weeks, months, years? Not me, certainly. Not yet…
…who knows what the future will bring…?
I shook my head, smiling to myself. Who indeed…
Beside me, Jasper moved.
"Come on." He scooped me up, sketchpad and all, setting me down beside the railings so he could scramble off himself. "Let's not talk about it anymore. Graduation's still a long way off, but it'll be here before we know it."
He brushed a ghost of a kiss to my lips, then drew back to smile.
"Let's make sure we don't waste a single second more of our time here."
A single second. Yes. That was exactly what it felt like, now – like a clock had started ticking. Sand through timer. Petals off a flower. So many things waiting, watching. Bella's days as a human numbered. Time running out, for all of us…
…who knows what the future will bring…
"Alice? Are you coming?"
Jasper stood watching me from the door. Amber light illuminated him, flooding from our bedroom. Warm. Welcoming. Home. His expression was very gentle, his hand held out to mine, outstretched and open, just like always, just like always he had, always did…
…just like Aro's…
The thought came out of nowhere –irrational, unwanted, horrible. I batted it away, shuddering. Stop it. Stop it, Alice. That was over, done, a past mistake – I wouldn't think of it, I wouldn't, wouldn't…
And suddenly, all I wanted was to be in Jasper's arms. I didn't answer his question – didn't say a single word – just darted across the balcony to him as fast as my legs would carry me.
"I love you," I whispered, the words tumbling out – and then I was kissing him again, clinging to him, clutching him, crushing myself against him – nothing could make me leave him again, nothing, not ever, I wouldn't let it, I couldn't let it…never again. No matter what.
Jasper held me very carefully, unmoving and silent as the forest below – and I knew he'd sensed something more to this, something beyond my franticness. His hands – his hands – warm and heavy and ravaged with battle-scars – cupped my face, light as feathers, parting my lips from his.
"I don't know what's coming," I blurted.
"I know. I know, love." He smiled sadly, tracing my features with scarred fingertips. "But you know…neither do I. Neither do any of us. Neither do most people."
I ducked my head against his shoulder, nestling. Jasper's lips were at my ear.
"It'll be all right, Alice. It will." He kissed the hollow under my jaw line, lips a whisper against my skin. "I love you."
I kissed his shoulder. His neck. His cheek.
"I love you."
Nothing more would be said between us till morning.
I had only one last thought as he scooped me up in his arms a final time to take us inside. And it was thought that, in spite of everything…made me feel better. Just a bit.
Yes…who knew? Who knew what the future would bring?
But nothing should ruin this moment. Nothing would ruin now.
Now…we were safe.
Now…everything was in place.
Now…everything was almost perfect.
Now, I really shouldn't…couldn't…have been happier.
…who knew what the future would bring…
I would find out soon enough.