This is it: the end of the story. It's a rather lengthy epilogue, but a necessary one, neatly looping back to Down The Rabbit Hole and giving us a small peek into the initial aftermath of Breaking Dawn.
This was a long time coming, much longer than I ever imagined or intended. For those who have been reading along since the very beginning, I thank you for your patience and devotion to this story. I hope that, for those who requested this, that I have met your expectations and hopes.
A very special thank you to some of my amazing readers of this story and its predecessor, in no particular order: anais mark, angelrob, antipyro, elana, Feisty, lofi, CoyoteGurlNikki, murasaki86, k1942, ermireallydontcare (who writes a fantastic story, btw), JRParz, and, of course, the best beta evar, sarawithouttheh, who has been my reason to finish when this story was driving me batshit insane.
For the last time: SM owns all things Twilight; I just write her Alice, Jasper and Alistair in awesome ways.
Excerpts contained in this chapter are credited as follows:
The Victor Hugo passage is from Les Miserables
The Saffiya passage is called Destiny's Love
The Rainer Maria Rilke passage is from First Poems
Also, you may want to listen to this song, because it's my theme for Alice and Jazz, as we part (lyrics close the epilogue): Set The Fire To The Third Bar, by Snow Patrol
Some visuals for this chapter (spoilery, so view after the first divider break): casket4mytears[dot]wordpress[dot]com/2010/10/02/visuals-through-the-looking-glass-epilogue-visuals/
Stay tuned to the end notes!
June 3rd, 2007. 1:57 a.m.
Her body slammed violently into the wall, her head rebounding as her assailant gripped her by her shoulders. A low growl slipped through his lips as he held her prisoner with the weight of his body, his eyes dark and narrow. Her breath caught in her throat, her mind immediately searching for a way out, a way to overpower him. But he was far too clever, and she knew it, as her body squirmed against the concrete.
"You bastard!" she snarled.
"We only have ten minutes," Jasper purred, then pressed his lips against hers in a frantic kiss.
Alice wrapped her arms around his neck, his hands sliding her upwards along the now cracked wall of their bedroom. Her legs wrapped around his waist as they deepened their kiss, her entire body burning for her husband's touch. Blonde curls gently tumbled to graze her cheeks as strong hands gripped her ass beneath her black mini-skirt, tearing away the lace thong beneath them in a swift motion.
"Didn't see me coming, did you?" Jasper murmured, licking her collarbone.
"Not at all," Alice moaned. "But now I do."
"If you'll be so obliging, ma'am," Jasper drawled, running a finger between her thighs lightly.
With a gasp, Alice nipped his neck, thrusting a hand between their bodies, fumbling for the zipper of his khakis and sending them flying to the carpet beneath him, "Hell yes!"
Commando, huh? Alice thought happily. How did I not see THAT this morning? His hands lifted her hips, his shaft plunging deeply inside of her, and they moaned in unison, their mouths hungrily reclaiming each other. Oh yeah; I was busy arranging enough food to feed a wolf army tomorrow! And planning Bella's make-up. And her hair. And Edward's clothes... OH GOD! Alice bit back a scream as Jasper shifted, thrusting into her on an angle that left her entire body trembling with the delicious shock of pleasure that flooded her senses.
"I love you, Alice," he whispered hoarsely, his pace quickening.
"I love you so much," she replied softly, pressing her lips to his forehead as she felt herself building quickly to her own peak.
He groaned loudly, one hand steadying her at the waist while the other thumbed her pert nipples through the flimsy material of her blouse, her eyes rolling back as her heart sang in harmony with his. He is mine. He was always made to be mine. Her hands gripping his muscular shoulders, she deftly maneuvered her ankles over them, deepening their union and eliciting an intense moan from her lover. Their lovemaking was frantic, all stops pulled out, all sense of decency abandoned. It was primal, raw, pure instinct, and as Alice clawed his back, she gripped his face in her hands, pulling it to meet hers. Their eyes locked intensely upon each other, their cries of pleasure in harmony, an unspoken question in his gaze.
"Come inside me, Jazz," she ordered him, licking her lips. "Please."
Vampire speed was a tremendous asset, and gave a whole new dimension to the term 'quickie'. With several intense, rapid thrusts, Jasper moaned her name into her shoulder, spinning them and slamming his back into the wall, clinging to her waist. She joined him, their bodies in sync as they climaxed, her legs falling away to dangle as they spun, her palm pressed to his silent heart as she gasped for unneeded air.
"You are my soul," Jasper murmured, kissing her lightly.
"Impossibly and forever," Alice agreed, beaming.
"I can't wait to marry you, Ms. Brandon," Jasper exclaimed, tousling her hair.
"Again," she giggled, hitching her knees against his hips. "Spoon me?"
"I think we have a couple minutes," Jasper chuckled, carrying her to the bed.
From downstairs, they heard an exasperated shout: "Goddamn it, Jasper! You could have just told us what you wanted to do before we leave!"
"Poor Edward!" they laughed together.
Their bodies curved together as they lay upon the cool silk sheets, Alice enveloped in Jasper's arms. He kissed the top of her head lightly, roaming each inch of it and lavishing her with love. This was the part Alice hated about her first wedding, and the extreme downside to this second union: the Cullens staunchly held 'no seeing the bride before the ceremony' rule was particularly painful when one never slept. Her eyes drifting to the clock, she sighed and pouted in frustration. It's only two in the morning, damn it! The wedding is at six thirty in the evening! Jasper, sensing her frustration, pulled her closer, kissing her neck.
"I need to seriously hunt before tomorrow, Alice."
"I know," Alice grumbled. "But you could stay until three."
Jasper chuckled, "Edward's still mad about his own 'night before' and wants me to help get Emmett back tonight. Besides, I know you have many plans to transform the house before we return, and I want to be surprised by the complete package my beautiful bride has in her imaginative mind."
Alice paused, a brief vision flashing before her, then grinned, "Five in the morning. Waterfall. Edward will have his chance."
Jasper chuckled, running his fingers lightly along her bare arm, "Duly noted. I know he's blocking us entirely right now in dread."
"Serves him right for being a nosy brother!" Alice called out loudly, giggling as she heard something smash, then Esme's admonishment for someone to replace the damaged item.
With a deep sigh, Jasper rolled Alice towards him, running his thumb along her cheek, "I'll miss you so much."
"What's sixteen hours?" Alice quipped, running her fingers through his messy hair. "You'd better go, though, before Emmett drags you out naked for the bachelor shenanigans."
"I love you."
"And I love you," Alice replied, sealing it with a gentle kiss. "I'll see you at six thirty sharp?"
Jasper smiled, reluctantly rolling out of the bed and onto his feet. "It's a date."
"I'll be the one in white," Alice teased.
"And I'll be the one in the crazy top hat," Jasper replied, Alice sticking out her tongue in response. Dressing quickly, he pulled Alice to her feet, leaning down to kiss her softly, his lips lingering. "Goodnight, love."
"And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation," Alice recited, smiling.
"Khalil Gabran." Jasper grinned. "There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness."
A knocking on the door interrupted their playful challenge. "Yo, haul your ass out of there before I drag you out and throw you to the mountain lions barenaked!"
Adjusting her dress, Alice threw open the door, shaking her head. "Emmett, how many times have we had to drag you away from Rosalie?"
Emmett frowned, "Um..."
"Forty-two!" Rosalie shouted from down the hall. "And I am appalled, Emmett, that you can't even keep that straight! You're lucky I don't make you remember all of the anniversaries."
Emmett winced. "Jasper, seriously? Can we bail? I'm itchy for a good fight."
With a last longing look, Jasper relented. "Alright; let's get this over with. But get the devious thoughts out of your head, Emmett; you're radiating mischievous five year-old and Edward will have my back - and you know it."
Emmett grumbled as they made their way down the winding staircase, Alice chuckling as she foresaw Emmett's later humiliation. Serves you right, 'King Prankster'. Passing them on the stairs, Bella punched Emmett in the arm, relishing the grimace of pain from her newborn strength. Her hair fell in loose waves along her shoulders, a test drive of tomorrow's perfected look.
"I remember having to let my husband go," she mused softly.
"Unfortunately, vampire minds do not forget. Nearly sixty years later, I still remember the first time we endured this tradition nonsense," Alice sighed.
"Well, Unblushing Bride, what's on the agenda tonight while the boys are away?"
With a grin, Alice clapped her hands. "Full manicure and pedicure treatments, movies, girl talk, shopping first thing in the morning for shoes for the honeymoon..." At Bella's horrified face, Alice exploded into laughter. "Oh calm down, Bella! No shopping left to do, I swear! But we do need to finish up the place settings."
Bella nodded, "It was amazing how Angela found everything so quickly, wasn't it?"
"Church connections are crazy, Bella. They seem to stow a little of everything away for a rainy day!"
Bella smiled softly, "I'm glad to have her back, you know? I missed her."
Alice nodded, "I never would have seen it coming. You know, if I wasn't able to see it coming?"
Bella laughed, playfully shoving Alice as she recalled the strange good fortune that had resulted in Angela and Ben's invitation to the wedding, the only human guests aside from those very aware of the true nature of the Cullen family. Angela and Bella had remained in touch by email, Angela and Ben attending University of Washington while Bella was supposedly studying at Dartmouth. Unbeknownst to Bella, Angela had family in Boston, whom she decided to visit during her spring break in February. As Bella's emails had dropped off during the conflict with the Volturi, Angela was concerned, and sought Bella and Edward out - only to find they had never arrived, but had delayed their acceptance a year. Perplexed, Angela had phoned Charlie, whose vague responses had triggered Angela to ask for Bella's phone number. Charlie had feigned losing it, taking down hers, at which point Bella found herself unsure of how to proceed. Alice, however, had seen Angela researching Quileute legends online, and piecing together what Bella herself had suspected before Edward confessed their true nature.
Strangely enough, she took this in stride; she simply missed Bella, and needed to hear she was okay. When Bella had phoned her, Angela had simply asked her three questions: if she was happy; if she was healthy and safe; and if she could see her. They'd met at Charlie's first, Bella figuring his now learned acceptance of the changes in Bella would be a good model for Angela to have. Angela had simply embraced Bella, quietly whispering, 'You're a little cold', and then conversing as if nothing had happened. With Angela's promise that she would never mention Bella's whereabouts to any of their other classmates, they'd began meeting regularly, Bella traveling to Seattle every other week for a quick afternoon.
The wedding, however, was a perfect cover to invite Ben. Naturally, if Alice were marrying, the entire family would be home. Ben, always somewhat of a loner like Angela, wouldn't think twice of their being no other Forks High alumni. And with the wedding set to be followed by a reception with light snacks and no meal, the lack of eating by the vampires would easily go unnoticed, as it had during Bella and Edward's nuptials.
"Alright, let's get started on those place settings!" Rosalie announced, emerging from her bedroom. "I want to get started on the tent before dawn. Does Jacob have Ness?"
"Yup," Bella replied. "I wanted her to be just as surprised. He'll take her to Emily's place in the morning and return around three so she can get dressed."
"Well then, ladies," Alice announced, grinning. "Time to take a tumble down the rabbit hole!"
June 3rd, 2007. 5:49 p.m.
"I think if I were human, I'd be sick right now!"
Alice chuckled, embracing Bella, "Come on, sister; it's not even your wedding this time!"
Bella frowned, fidgeting with the sleeves of her dress, adjusting to reveal more collarbone, "I think it's like a form of post-traumatic stress, only I'm flashing back to that day and how terrified I was I'd trip down the stairs."
"Vampire grace takes care of even your clumsy feet, Bella," Rosalie snickered. "I think I've only seen you trip once, and that was when Emmett rigged that wire on April Fool's Day."
"Besides, unlike your wedding dress - which was absolutely stunning and you know it - this one has a more flared skirt. Even human Bella could easily manage this. Now," Alice paused, twirling around, "how do I look?"
Rosalie and Bella smiled, nodding approvingly as they responded in unison: "Perfect!"
"Thank you!" Alice chirped, returning her gaze to the full-length mirror. "I really do love this dress. I can't wait for Jazz to see it."
For their second wedding, Alice had dramatically diverged from the ornate white gown and extensive train of their first union, opting for more of a Southern Belle's gown and ditching the train. This time, it was about celebrating the joy of their relationship and how far they had come, and Alice had captured the playful spirit in everyone's attire. Her strapless gown was custom detailed in pale blue ornate embroidered tiger lilies, a similar trim of ivy adorning the floor skimming hemline. Her hair was parted to the right, in loose pin curls reminiscent of 1950s pin-up girls, her gleaming ebony locks a nod to the year of their arrival in the Cullen home.
For her bridesmaids, she'd been sneaky in keeping them to theme, custom designing variations of her favourite modern take on her namesake. Both Bella and Rosalie wore a gauzy light blue fabric overlaying silk, with black lace trim and striping across the cleavage to the empire waist of the garment. For Rosalie, she'd left her in the exact replica, the single band of sleeve upon the right arm a bold and fashionable statement in fitting with her style, the adorning flower on the right breast adding to the unique flair. For Bella, a simplified look had been created; the flowering embellishment had been reduced to a smaller blossom, with the sleeveless feel of the original converted to dual 'off the shoulder' sleeves. It was a softer, more romantic look, and one she knew Edward would love. Rosalie's hair was upswept in a messy side knot of loose curls grazing her left shoulder, secured by diamond encrusted combs, while Alice had styled Bella's hair in loose waves tumbling down her back freely, with tiny butterfly combs tethering the front strands back on each side.
"How much longer?" Alice asked, her toe tapping in her 4-inch stilettos.
"Twenty-five minutes," Bella replied excitedly. "Rosalie, can you find Esme and see if everything's on schedule? And where did Renesmee go?"
"I think Esme's finishing up her hair down the hall. I'll go see."
As Rosalie departed, shutting the door gently behind her, Bella turned to Alice, her face solemn. Alice immediately knew what she would ask - and that she would have no reply to offer.
"Did Alistair respond at all?"
"No," Alice whispered. "We last spoke in March. He said he would do his best, but that he had to pursue some 'troubling leads' first." Wistfully, she gazed at the photo framed upon her dresser. "We didn't give much notice, admittedly. What with the newborns, and Nessie, and the Volturi, never mind comforting the Denali coven... Jazz and I almost forgot about what we'd decided to do."
In her mind, Alice could still recall clearly how Jasper had proposed anew, offering to marry her again, this time with her given human name. There would be no paperwork filed; the ceremony was purely symbolic. But it meant more than even she had realized when accepting the idea to marry as Mary Alice Brandon; it united her human and vampire selves into one whole entity. It was also another sign of Jasper's love for her, and his innate understanding of her heart and mind.
"He'll show," Bella insisted. "I just have a feeling."
Alice shook off her sadness, glancing at her bouquet and smiling, "He's here, nonetheless."
Bella's fingers toyed with the rabbit-shaped charm adorning the gathered flower stems, "Yes, he most certainly is. This is an amazing idea, Alice."
Alice embraced Bella tightly, careful not to mess her carefully styled hair, "I love you so much, Bella! You're the best friend I could have ever dreamed of."
"And so are you," Bella replied softly. "God, it's a good thing I can't cry anymore! I'd make a mess of this make-up you've forced me into."
Alice giggled, "It is a very nice perk of our immortality, I admit."
A light knock at the door startled the two women. "Are my daughters all decent?"
"Yes! Come in!" Bella called out.
Carlisle slipped into Alice's room, beaming at the sight of Bella and Alice. His blonde hair was slicked back and tucked under a prominent top hat, his tuxedo a crisp shade of black with a vibrant fiery tiger lily adorning the lapel. Alice curtsied, earning a giggle from Bella.
"Is it time yet?" Alice asked.
Carlisle laughed, "You've never had any patience, have you, Alice?"
"Absolutely not!" Bella answered quickly, cutting Alice off.
Alice stuck out her tongue at Bella, who smirked. "I do so have patience! Otherwise, Edward never would have taken so damn long to date Bella! I would have just marched right up to her and told her that the brooding loner in our group was her soul mate, and that he would get better in time."
"You can't rush Edward into anything, Alice. Believe me; I know from experience," Bella grumbled.
"Was that the sex or the vamping?" Alice teased.
"Both!" Bella groaned, shaking her head.
Carlisle cleared his throat loudly, "In answer to your question, it's almost time. Charlotte is just reviewing her notes for the ceremony."
Alice nodded, thrilled that Charlotte had obliged her and accepted her request to serve as an informal priestess for the day. As she and Jasper were not filing a licence anywhere, Alice had decided to choose a friend to perform a basic reading she'd chosen, instead of an official. Edward and Bella's wedding had been the first in the family for some time, in that a human had performed the marriage. Charlotte had agreed without any hesitation, calling the entire affair 'incredibly romantic'.
Bella peered beyond Carlisle, throwing open her arms to greet her daughter, "There's my beautiful girl!"
"Isn't she stunning?" Rosalie asked, trailing behind her. "The dress is just perfect for her."
Alice found herself mesmerized by her niece, all desire to snatch up her bouquet and storm down to greet her husband forgotten. Her bronze ringlets cascaded down to her shoulders, a sharp contrast with the white upper half of her sleeveless dress. The sash at her waist, and the lower tier of the dress were the same pale blue in Alice's gown, the appearance of it loosely reminiscent of a white pinafore over a blue skirt. Her brown eyes widened as she rushed to greet Alice, her fingers tracing the wedding gown's embroidery.
"Aunt Alice, you're a princess!" Renesmee exclaimed.
"And so are you!" Alice gushed, scooping her up into her arms. "It looks like Carlisle's math held out; it fits just right now."
"Ten months old and preschooler sized," Bella sighed. "Well, I suppose there are worse things than an accelerated rush through the Terrible Twos."
"This one doesn't know how to be terrible!" Alice gushed.
"Except to the dog, but no one cares about him," Rosalie quipped.
"My Jacob is my chew toy," Renesmee announced proudly. "That's what Leah says."
"She is very right about that," Bella agreed. "Feel free to kick him in the shins whenever you want." Alice stifled a laugh; Bella was still somewhat bitter about the imprinting business.
"Knock, knock," Esme's voice rang out, as she stepped into the room. "Charlotte is ready whenever you are... Oh, Alice! Jasper will be speechless!"
"I personally think the reception dress is the one that will drop his jaw, but he is the Southern Gentleman," Rosalie mused aloud.
"Thanks, Esme. Is Edward ready to play?"
"I just have to give him the word. Everyone's here," she added, "Angela and Ben are engaged? Why didn't someone tell me?"
"Wait - what?" Bella asked. "She never told me!"
"Gorgeous ring, too: a very simple solitaire diamond, princess cut, three carats, I think? Very high quality stone. Platinum setting." Esme shook her head, reaching for Carlisle's hand. "I love weddings."
Alice turned to the mirror one last time, addressing a hair that had strayed ever so slightly out of place. "Okay. Okay, get Edward to start. I'm ready."
Esme and Carlisle exchanged a look, then Esme spoke up, "Peter wanted to ask you something before the ceremony. I'll go get him. Bella, Rosalie, could you help me fetch your bouquets?"
Her family departed en masse, leaving Alice with nothing to do but wait for the familiar notes of Pachelbel. Gently, she picked up her bouquet of bright orange tiger lilies and white daisies, shifting a flower slightly to even out the distribution of colour. Perfect. Her fingers grazed the rabbit charm and she sighed, her gaze drifting to the book on the nightstand. I wish you would have come, Alistair.
She understood his hesitations; he'd remained with them for two days after Alice had beseeched him to stay, the bulk of which he spent walking with Alice and Carlisle, alternately. He found Rosalie intimidating, felt shame around Bella and Edward, and Renesmee's gift unnerved his naturally paranoid nature. When he had departed, he'd promised to visit again, someday, but 'not for some time'. There was much he wanted to work out, and he hoped that his discussions with Carlisle had put him on the right pathway.
"But I will call and write," he'd added quickly. "We will stay in touch, Alice. That I can promise you."
While she knew he monitored the Volturi closely now, out of love for her and guilt over abandoning her family, it still pained her that he couldn't show. He would, of everyone, appreciate this the most. But there was no sense in being sad; this was why pictures were invented, after all. Emily was in charge of documenting the entire day for her, from start to finish, a gift from her and Sam, who'd warmed up to the Cullens at Jacob's insistence. Peter's knock shattered her reverie, and Alice skipped to the door, pulling it open with a smile -
Except, it wasn't Peter.
"Hello, my Alice," Alistair whispered. "Am I late?"
Alice stumbled backwards, taken aback as a flood of confusion and joy overtook her. What? How? I didn't... Alistair's hair was blonde, as it had been in his mortal life; he'd abandoned the tedious dye he'd chosen in the years after her presumed demise at James' hands. His suit was new - Armani, and a classic cut - and in his hand, he held a small white box, fastened with a green ribbon.
"Alistair? But... But you said - "
"Bella changed my mind," he explained with a nervous shifting between feet.
Alice tilted her head, "But I never saw you-"
Alistair winked, "Bella provided some incredibly useful information - and the company of a young man named Seth?"
Seth! In all of the hustle and frenzied preparations, it had escaped her notice that Seth Clearwater, normally a fixture in the Cullen home, was absent. She remembered a mention of him patrolling, but nothing more. I wouldn't have seen around him.
"You came," she whispered.
"I wasn't certain until I arrived in Vancouver, where Seth met me. I didn't want to intrude on a family event-"
"But you are-"
"Let me finish, Alice," Alistair insisted. "When speaking with Seth, he told me of the theme of your special day, and it made me realize that I would be wrong not to come. I was already included."
Alice threw her arms around Alistair, embracing him tightly, "I am so glad you're here! This day is even more magical now."
Alistair held her close, beaming as he whispered, "What would a day in Wonderland be without The White Rabbit? Although," he paused, his gaze falling upon her bouquet, "It seems you have one already."
Alice pulled away, grinning, "Something borrowed. Edward helped me track it down in a private collection. It belonged to a descendant of Alice Liddell. We're returning it next week."
"How fitting! I see you have something blue, in your gown," Alistair noted.
"The undergarments are all new." Her hand moved to her throat, a small curse escaping her lips, "Damn it! Rosalie was supposed to lend me a choker for today. Would you be able to go down and stall them, so I can find it in her room?"
Alistair chuckled, "Your family is well ahead of you, Alice." Handing her the box, he said, "Something old."
Alice accepted the gift anxiously, her eyes darting between the box and Alistair's warm expression. At his urging, she removed the ribbon and the lid, gasping at what lay inside. The complex Art Nouveau choker was of several strands of fine quality silver, the links gleaming between sun and moon charms accented by tiny diamonds. Gingerly removing it from the box, she held it to Alistair, the setting sun's beams reaching through the window and dancing along it.
"It's beautiful. Where did you get it? How did you know to bring this?"
Alistair chuckled, "It wasn't intended as part of the wedding, I confess. I bought it in March at an auction of late 1800s jewelry, thinking it seemed like a gift you would appreciate. When I arrived downstairs, I passed Rosalie, who was on her way with your original accessory. Of course, if you would prefer hers-"
"Don't be silly!" Alice admonished, turning her back to him. "Fasten it for me?"
With trembling hands, Alistair accepted the choker from her, fumbling with the ornate clasp but managing to secure it. Alice returned to the full-length mirror, admiring the gift, speechless at how suddenly things had changed, not only in the last five minutes, but the last year. She had a mortal name, answers she had always sought and thought lost, a new sister and best friend - and a niece she didn't have to visit in the shadows of a nursing home. And, thanks to Alistair's help, she had recovered two faint memories of her human life, both happy ones from their time together. What more could I want? Alice thought happily, her mind immediately replying: One thing...
"Alistair, may I ask you something? A favour - no, a gift?" Alice hesitated, afraid to check her visions, lest she be disappointed.
"Of course you may," Alistair replied, "Although I'm not sure what I could give you-"
A knock sounded on the door, and downstairs, Alice could hear Edward striking the keys on his piano, the opening notes of his reworked Canon in D Major filling the Cullen home. Carlisle stepped into the room, his hand outstretched to Alice.
Alice bit her lip lightly, "Carlisle, I was wondering something-"
"I think I know what you mean; Edward mentioned it a few days ago," Carlisle interjected, smiling warmly. "I absolutely agree."
"I am absolutely confused," Alistair grumbled.
With a nervous smile, Alice took her creator's hand, squeezing it gently, "Alistair, would you please... Well, would you walk me down the aisle?"
"What? Oh heavens, I couldn't possibly interfere with Carlisle's role here-"
"But it's your role as well, old friend," Carlisle insisted. "How many hours did we spend in the youth of our friendship, discussing the nature of covens and the possibility of family? Family isn't only those who care for us, nor is it those who give us life from the womb. We make our own families, as best we can. Alistair," Carlisle paused, laying a hand upon the fidgeting vampire's shoulder, "You took it in your heart to be a stronger person, to care for those forgotten by their original families. Alice was orphaned before you became her guardian, her protector. You are every bit a father as I am to her, and I think you need this. But most importantly of all, and only Alice can confirm it, she needs this."
Bella's head peeked into the room, "Rose and Emmett are heading down."
Alistair hesitated, shuffling his feet, "Alice?"
"Every word Carlisle said is true," she whispered. "Please?"
With a glance to Carlisle, he extended a hand towards Alice, swallowing hard. "If it makes you happy, I cannot refuse you. It would be an honour."
Bella winked as she slipped into the hall with Carlisle, Alice and Alistair following briskly. Alice watched as Bella and Carlisle's arms interlocked, overwhelmed with gratitude for the fact that Bella had always understood, and had made her dream a possibility through determination (and clever exploitation of the gaping holes in her visions!). As her sister and one father made their descent, she beamed, leaning her head gently against Alistair's shoulder.
"How is it so easy for you to welcome me back into your heart? Without your memories-"
"My mind forgot; my heart remembers, all the same," she replied softly. Interlocking her arm in his, she took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of tiger lilies, daisies and light ferns. "Time for our arrival!"
His hand gently over hers, they descended the spiraling staircase, their steps perfectly in sync, as if it had always been this way. She clung to her bouquet, the silver rabbit charm bouncing lightly off her knuckles, as if hopping towards the aisle, as anxious to arrive for her date as she was. She stifled laughter, but it did not escape Alistair's notice.
"What has you in stitches now? Have you finally answered the Hatter's riddle?"
"No, silly Rabbit," Alice murmured. "I was marveling at the bounce in the bunny on the bouquet."
"Well, I am six decades late," Alistair mused.
They were now at the bottom of the stairs, one short turn from the small group of witnesses awaiting them. With a spring in her step, Alice rounded the corner with her other father, her eyes immediately locking on her husband-again-to-be. His blonde locks were tucked just slightly haphazardly beneath the large top hat, the brim trimmed in a thin band of vibrant orange to match the tiger lily upon his lapel. From his pocket dangled an antique gold watch, at her behest; it glinted under the strings of star-shaped lights illuminating the dining room. His golden eyes darted to Alistair then back, his smile broadening as he was inevitably hit with the wave of sheer joy from her brimming heart. Her tiny feet seemed to land perfectly between the white rose petals Renesmee had scattered along her walk, her gown swishing against her ankles as she made her way between the two halves of their intimate crowd of guests. Not even the distinct canine scent of half of the attendees could bother her today, not when the man she had first seen almost a full century ago awaited her with such child-like anticipation. Charlotte grinned, winking as Alice approached, and she instinctively knew that Bella had employed her aid as well in pulling off this surprise. I will thank Charlotte with many outfits and shoes... and Bella, well... she can learn to love shoes. Alistair's body tensed as they paused at the end of the aisle, Carlisle and Esme kissing Alice's cheeks lightly before finding their seats.
"Who gives this woman away?" Charlotte's voice asked softly.
"I-I do," Alistair managed, placing Alice's hand in Jasper's outstretched palm. "He's everything I could have hoped for you," he added softly, stepping backwards.
"Thank you," Jasper said. "For her."
A silent exchange passed between them, Alistair nodding ever so slightly as he followed Emmett's gesture to his seat in the front row, near Esme. Alice's entire body electric with anticipation, she stepped up before Charlotte with Jasper's hand firmly in hers. His love for her was a dizzying head rush he could not contain within him, the entire room awash in his singular devotion to her. With a toss of her pale blonde hair, Charlotte looked to Edward, who neatly wrapped his playing with a delicate flourish before taking his spot beside Emmett. Satisfied, she began to speak, her gentle voice filled with love.
"Victor Hugo wrote, in one of Jasper's favourite texts, the following about love: 'You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves.'
"We are here today to witness the commitment of Jasper Whitlock and Mary Alice Brandon, before their family and friends, to love and support one another for the rest of their lives." Charlotte winked subtly at them, then continued. "At the request of the bride, I would like to invite Bella Cullen to give a reading by Rainer Maria Rilke."
Bella smiled, her hand grazing Alice's arm as she took Charlotte's place, clearing her throat loudly. With an encouraging smile from Edward, Bella began to speak.
"Understand, I'll slip quietly
Away from the noisy crowd
When I see the pale
Stars rising, blooming over the oaks.
I'll pursue solitary pathways
Through the pale twilit meadows,
With only this one dream:
You come too."
With a small nod, Bella returned to Alice's side, as Charlotte spoke, "At the groom's request, Edward Cullen will now deliver a reading by Saffiya."
Edward briskly took his place, confidently proceeding with his assigned reading:
"A fortunate meeting defined by fate and revealed by destiny
an enchanting moment beyond the realm of reason
cunningly disguised in direst circumstances
whose touch is visible only to poetic souls
It chooses its own time and place
evermore pretentious of purpose,
Crossing its hollowed path is futile
even frustrating to willing victims
'cause it doesn't bend its will to ones' desire
Teasing a consoled mind to go astray
that's always a part of the plan;
Yet it likewise reassures us to hold on ...
to believe in destiny
and to let fate guide us on our journey
We are all willing victims to its wicked ploy
battling confusion, doubt, love and pain
with a fragile sword
'tis we hang on to a flicker of hope,
'cause we believe in destiny
and so it is, that I find this to be
the best explanation why I believe in you."
From behind her, Alice swore she heard Esme sob quietly, a joyful sound. How fitting a way to capture how we met, how impossible it would seem that we would ever meet! Alice glanced at Jasper, who mouthed, 'I love you' quickly, and she grinned, winking back at him.
Charlotte walked them through the basic vows and exchange of rings, their original rings recently polished and restored to their original glory by a trusted jeweler Carlisle had found in Seattle. It was strange and wonderful, how new it all felt in spite of their being married for decades. In that moment, Alice felt as if she were a teenager, stepping out into the world on her own at last. It was a wonderful and intoxicating experience.
Rings exchanged, Charlotte then called upon them to proceed with their 'requested war', eliciting a chuckle from the Quileutes, who'd discovered in the last week that Alice and Jasper often played a game of 'Dueling Quotes' for a lark. The rules were two-fold: the winner not only could stump the other, but also choose a quote more fitting or so unique, there was nothing to follow upon it with. Jasper had challenged her to three rounds during the ceremony, and she could not help but accept. He'd even bet against her, something she knew was to deliberately incite her indignation. Too bad he won't win! Alice thought cheerily, as Edward chuckled softly.
Jasper went first, his hands clutching hers as he stared into her eyes, "'What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together- to strengthen each other in all labor, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent, unspoken memories?'"
"George Eliot," Alice replied, winking at Peter. He'd accidentally thought of the quote earlier in the week. "'Marriage, noun: a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all two.'"
The guests chuckled as Jasper paused, then smiled, "Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, am I right?" As Alice nodded, he continued, "Love is blind, but marriage restores its sight."
"Well played!" Alice giggled. "But that would be Samuel Lichtenberg. 'People who are sensible about love are incapable of it.'"
Jasper shook his head, "Far too easy, quoting Yates. 'I learned the real meaning of love. Love is absolute loyalty. People fade, looks fade, but loyalty never fades. You can depend so much on certain people, you can set your watch by them.'" At this, Jasper swung his pocket watch side to side, playfully. "'And that's love, even if it doesn't seem very exciting. '"
Alice hesitated, feigning ignorance. He would have had me on this one, if I, too, hadn't gone looking for a random celebrity quote! Cheeky bastard! Edward stifled a laugh as she glared at him. Oh, get out of my head, you! With a lick of her lips and a look to their waiting audience, she answered the challenge.
"Been watching a lot of Rocky lately? I can't think of another reason you'd be quoting Sly Stallone right now." Jacob guffawed behind her as she flexed her fingers, then rubbed her hands together. "For the win, dear Jasper, unsuccessfully identify this: 'I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.'"
They locked eyes, Jasper's brow furrowing as he strained to name the source of her quote. Alice knew he'd never get it; he seldom gave enough attention to comedic quotes. It was why she'd stacked her ammunition in that genre. With a sigh, Jasper bowed to her, tipping his hat.
The guests laughed as Alice patted his head in patronizing fashion, trilling the answer loudly, "Gilda Radner! I'll accept that hundred dollars you now owe me in twenties."
Alistair's rich chuckle delighted Alice as Charlotte again stood before them, her body tense with excitement. "Such is marriage, Jasper: the woman will always win, even if she happens to lose." Jasper laughed heartily, as did Carlisle, and she continued. "Jasper, Alice, you have made your vows here today before family and friends to honour each other, love each other, and face all challenges together, as long as you walk this earth. I happily pronounce you man and wife. Jasper, you may kiss the bride!"
Their kiss was soft, delicate but passionate, enough to earn a few hoots from Quil and Embry. Alice threw her arms around Jasper's neck, inhaling the rich scent of his flesh, his lips warm and inviting. Maybe I see why Rosalie enjoys this so much, Alice mused. Bicentennial renewals could be fun! As they parted reluctantly, Jasper's hand cupped her cheek gently, thumb brushing her cheekbone.
"Impossibly and forever," he murmured.
"There was never a doubt in my mind."
Alice had, with Esme and Rosalie's help, switched dresses quickly, the corset-like lacing woven quickly into place with the benefits of vampire speed and dexterity. This dress, a sleeveless number with tiered layers of silk and lace, fell barely to her knees, revealing far more of her pale skin. Jasper's jaw literally dropped as she entered the garden, earning a triumphant noise from Rosalie as she moved to embrace her own husband tightly.
The hours of work the night before had proven a wild success, the guests marveling at the strange and colourful decorations adorning the mismatched banquet tables lining the fringes of the dance floor they'd installed custom-made for the day. Ornate and strange tiered serving platters of scones, cookies and individual cakes were fashioned of old china plates and broken saucers, handmade wooden signs beseeching those passing to 'Eat Me'. The wolves were doing a fine job of ensuring just that, their thirst quenched by handmade blown glass bottles with cork stoppers filled with a variety of juices and wine, delicate fluttering ribbons adhering tags that read, 'Drink Me.' A wild variety of teacups were strung up in the trees, twinkle lights nestled within to create shadows and spotlights upon the brightly hued tiles where Alice and Jasper now danced, bodies pressed tightly against each other. Nearby, Renesmee flitted about with a jam tart in her hand, entertaining Angela with an animated story about beating up Jacob in a wrestling match.
"A mad tea party, indeed!" Jasper mused. "Vampires and wolves, celebrating together. Who ever would have imagined it?"
"I know; it's surreal, isn't it?" Alice replied, giggling as Jasper twirled her around. "What's Edward sulking about?"
"I don't know," Jasper frowned. "Let's dance on over and make him sulkier."
The couple sidestepped and spun their way across the floor, to where Bella and Edward were huddled, Edward glaring sadly at Jacob and Sam, who were arguing over a brownie. Bella smiled warmly, embracing the couple as they neared her, shaking her head in exasperation at Edward.
"What's wrong?" Jasper asked.
"Edward's perturbed that he can't eat or drink anything," Bella laughed.
"What? The smell of food is... well, not a pleasing food smell," Alice exclaimed, shoving her brother's arm.
"Yeah, but the labels... I feel taunted. Like a dare I can't accept. 'Eat Me!' Well, damn it, I can't! Ness can, lucky girl."
"Oh I'm sure Bella has something you can eat," Alice teased, Bella's horrified gasp well worth the expletives running through Edward's head. "Besides, we have a little snack planned for when our warm-blooded guests depart."
Jasper nodded, "Alice saw that you'd be a brat. There are bottles of mountain lion's blood tucked away for us in the house, a wedding gift from the Denali coven."
"I wish they could have made it," Bella sighed.
"They're still coming to terms with the loss of Irina," Edward noted. "It's hard to feel festive during a time of grief. They didn't want to bring you down on your special day."
A tapping upon Alice's shoulder distracted her from thoughts of their family's loss, her eyes turning to meet Alistair's dark pupils. His smile was nervous, but friendly, and Alice knew before he spoke that it was time to let him go. She embraced him tightly, her lips pressing to his cheek gently.
"Thank you for being here. It meant so much to me."
"To us," Jasper corrected. "It wouldn't have been a tea party without you."
Alistair chuckled, gesturing to the lights overhead. "This is genius. A mad sort of genius. I'm glad Bella was able to talk some sense into me, in the end."
"She's a stubborn woman, once she sets her mind on something," Edward remarked dryly, earning a playful slap from Bella.
"I didn't want there to be any false assumptions between us, Alistair," Bella explained. "You're an extended part of the family now, and you are welcome with all of us. Don't be a stranger."
"I won't be - not intentionally, in any case. But I do have to return to Germany promptly. There was some, shall we say, talk of an uprising against Volterra brewing, and I want to track it carefully." Alistair frowned, shaking his head. "No rest, if the wicked have their way. Alice, Jasper, I have nothing but faith in your ability to persevere in your love. Enjoy your Wonderland, everyone. I'll see myself out."
With a last fond look at Alice, he departed, walking anxiously past a small gathering of Quileutes before darting into the forest surrounding them, heading north. Alice's heart fell at the sight; there was never enough time with him. She longed to continue to prod her brain, will the long lost memories forward of her life before immortality, even if Edward insisted that perhaps things were best left in the ethers. Jasper's hand squeezed hers lightly as the song shifted, his mind washing her sorrow away with his devotion.
With a curtsey, Alice nodded, "Good sir!"
She fell easily into his embrace, Edward pulling Bella onto the floor reluctantly as the music played. The lyrics, a soft duet, spoke to her very soul, an echo of the long journey that had brought her though the confusion and loneliness, until there was only Jasper, only harmony. Only hope.
That hope, she knew, would carry all of them forward, no matter what the Volturi might dare. She would never fear her demise again, never doubt the power that a family united could wield. As Jacob scooped up Nessie into his arms, dancing her around in wild, silly circles, even Sam and Emily joined the dance, a harmony struck between once opposing forces. There was peace in the Olympic Peninsula, a happily ever after worthy of the grandest fairytales.
Someday, Alice knew they would tumble once more through the proverbial looking-glass, and the world would lose sense, but for now, as Lewis Carroll wrote himself, 'Life, what is it but a dream?'
I find the map and draw a straight line I hang my coat up in the first bar Their words mostly noises I'm miles from where you are, After I have traveled so far I'm miles from where you are,
Over rivers, farms, and state lines
The distance from 'A' to where you'd be
It's only finger-lengths that I see
I touch the place where I'd find your face
My finger in creases of distant dark places
There is no peace that I've found so far
The laughter penetrates my silence
As drunken men find flaws in science
Ghosts with just voices
Your words in my memory
Are like music to me
I lay down on the cold ground
I, I pray that something picks me up
And sets me down in your warm arms
We'd set the fire to the third bar
We'd share each other like an island
Until exhausted, close our eyelids
And dreaming, pick up from
The last place we left off
Your soft skin is weeping
A joy you can't keep in
I lay down on the cold ground
And I, I pray that something picks me up
and sets me down in your warm arms
I hang my coat up in the first bar
Their words mostly noises
I'm miles from where you are,
After I have traveled so far
I'm miles from where you are,
Set The Fire To The Third Bar - Snow Patrol
Thank you, again, for coming along for the journey. I thought that these two deserved the second wedding Jasper proposed at the end of DTRH, after all they'd endured. Fact: Lewis Carroll first met Alice Liddell on June 3rd properly, establishing the friendship that would inspire his books.
I've said this will be my last canon multi-chapter, but please subscribe to me as a favourite author, since I will do one-shots set in this world, and MAYBE, just maybe, I'm going to tackle a Victoria-centric piece from when James turns her through to Eclipse. The one-shots will likely be set pre-Twilight or post-Breaking Dawn.
My angsty AU AH Tattoos Like Mile Markers is still ongoing, and I love it dearly. Alice is particularly awesome in her supporting role, so give it a go if you're inclined.
I'm also pulling Deliratio from the vault and putting it back online tonight! I shelved it because I was swamped with this and Tattoos; now that we're wrapped here, I'm itching to be a little scary, especially with Halloween around the bend.
Last chapter, guys: please review, rate, and tell me what you think.