A/N: Found this languishing on my harddrive this morning when the internet was down. Finished off the last section and voilà! Because I love the bond that Edward and Alice have.
Before we came to Forks, before the whole saga with a brown-eyed girl began, we were seven.
It's a good number, seven. Magical and strong. Interesting in a way that five or three or four just aren't. One more than you need for a die, odd, different. A few more than a few, a baker's half dozen, just that one extra to ensure everything's fine.
Everything's fine for the group. But not necessarily for the extra one.
Before we went back to that sleepy little town, before Bella even thought of going for an extended trip to see her father, that extra one was indubitably Edward.
He was always trying to convince us that he didn't mind. He didn't want a mate; he didn't need one. He wasn't jealous of us, nor was he envious. He was happy to be part of that seven, even if he was the fifth wheel, the third in the crowd.
Still. Before any of us even believed that he would find someone, before Esme stopped worrying on his account, there was us.
Me and Edward, Edward and me. When it came to the whole family set up, we were the easiest to believe. How could we not be brother and sister? We loved each other so fiercely, we knew each other so well. We teased each other and irritated each other and needed each other. He had been an only child and I had never known childhood, but after merely hours we finally realised what it was to have a sibling.
Vampires don't often understand love. They understand what they feel for their mate, but they don't understand that it doesn't have to be like that. That Carlisle and Esme can love us like children, that we can love them as our parents. That Rosalie and Jasper can love each other despite her resentment against his accidents. That Edward and I can love each other so hard but have no desire to be lovers.
Poor Jasper. It happened one day in the seventies. We ran into a nomadic couple while the three of us were hunting. We knew they were coming, of course, but saw no harm in them approaching. They had already scented us; why not meet with them here and now, rather than appearing to run from them?
So we let them approach and stood our ground, standing upright when they found us, trying not to appear defensive. Edward stood forward as our leader, Jasper and I behind. He wasn't really, but it made sense. Let us appear strong, but let the battle-scarred warrior not be given pride of place. Let the mindreader negotiate.
This pair, they entered crouching, unsure of our nature. The female's eyes were wary, darting to her mate. He looked directly at us, measuring each of us as a challenge. She was tall and willowy, with hair bound in a single braid to save it from the trees. He was broad and sturdy, with eyes darker than hers. He had let her take the last kill.
"Greetings," he said. "I am Michael, and this is Louise."
"I am Edward, and these are Alice and Jasper."
A nod, a careful relaxation. Merely a pretence.
"We caught your scent a few miles back. Are you, like us, passing through?"
"No. We remain in this area for the moment. You have hunted in the town?"
"No. We have come from the east, and Louise made a kill in a village twenty miles or so back. If you would prefer us to move on, we will do so."
I looked: they would. Edward inclined his head ever so slightly in my direction to let me know he had heard.
"Thank you for your consideration. We would ask only that you refrain from hunting in the immediate vicinity. We have a house a few miles to the south; would you like to come to use our facilities, take some clothes, perhaps?"
Jasper tensed. Unused to the more civilised manner of northern vampires, I knew he was thinking that inviting these two into our home was a bad idea. I filled myself with confidence and love for him, and knew that he would understand.
Michael smiled for the first time. "That would be a welcome offer. We would be glad to accept."
"There are more of us," Edward told him. "Four more. I don't want to hide that from you."
Michael considered him, but it was Louise who answered.
"You're trustworthy," she said. "You wouldn't tell us, otherwise."
He smiled at her. "Thank you."
As she had spoken, we all relaxed properly, and the air of negotiation dissipated into a friendlier atmosphere. I moved forward to Edward's size to address Louise.
"You're a size four, right? I'm a bit of a fashion collector; you can take your pick."
She tilted her head and her braid fell prettily over her shoulder. "You don't mind?"
"Alice has more clothes than she could ever need," Edward informed her. "Most of them aren't even in her own size." He smiled indulgently at me, and I beamed right back at him.
Her scarlet eyes sparkled. "I'm quite young, changed last decade. I do like to keep up with fashion."
We started to run at a leisurely pace, Michael now questioning Edward on the practicalities of having a house, Louise listening to my insights into the haute couture of fashion this season. Jasper stayed behind us, ever vigilant, watching in case one of the strangers should make a hostile move towards me. I had more faith in Edward's vetting skills, but I still loved Jasper for his protective tendencies. He really could be quite the Southern gentleman.
But then, as the conversation drifted, as conversations are ever wont to do, Louise asked, "So, Edward's your mate, then?"
I jerked to a halt. Jasper was beside me in an instant, his arm firmly around my waist as I stared at her in shock. Michael and Edward turned around, the former darting to his mate's side to protect her from the threat, and indeed Jasper was growling softly. Edward stayed slightly back from us. Fifth wheel.
"I'm sorry!" Louise said quickly, holding her hands up even as she dropped into a defensive crouch. "You just looked so—"
I knew how we looked, and so did Edward, and so did Jasper, but this had never occurred to us before. We hadn't thought that because Jasper and I didn't engage in open displays of affection that it would be assumed we weren't privately affectionate. We hadn't dreamed that the bond Edward and I shared could ever be mistaken for this, not when it was clearly so impossible. Jasper had never felt jealous of Edward, feeling as he did what we felt. Edward had never felt like he was replacing Jasper, hearing as he did our easy acceptance of their different roles in my life. Why should we ever think of this?
I reached up to put a hand to Jasper's cheek, and his gaze snapped down to meet mine. Love, reassurance and guilt went between us. Guilt because both of us suddenly felt responsible for something that was completely natural and not at all wrong. He took my hand in his own before turning back to Michael and Louise.
"I'm sorry for my overreaction," he said quietly.
"Not at all," Michael replied, though I noticed that he kept himself between his mate and mine.
The rest of the journey, and the entirety of their visit, was awkward, stilted at the best. They stayed only for two days before moving on once more. Louise caught me before they left.
"I really am sorry about, you know," she said.
I did know. "No, it's not a problem!" I assured her, smiling. "You don't get many covens like ours."
"Or many vampires who could love more than one person so much," she agreed. "I don't understand how the three of you stand it."
I frowned. "We're part of a family. We love everyone in it."
Her eyebrows pulled together. "Now I'm putting my foot in it again."
"Say," I urged her. "I don't mind. You won't offend me."
Encouraged, she went on. "It just seems that you and Edward are closer than even you and Rosalie, or anyone else, really. Besides everyone's mates, of course. Like you really were brother and sister."
I pondered on that long after they had left.
Of course Edward and I were close. For one thing, there were our gifts. I knew it had been such a relief for Edward, to find someone else who could do something so blatantly unnatural. I think I made it easier for the rest of the family with regards to his gift, too. For one thing, we were pretty much evenly matched in a game of chess, which saved Emmett from desperately trying to beat him. But mainly, I think I helped them realise that he couldn't turn it off. Rosalie, I know, marvelled at the fact that I never minded him 'being in my head', just because I knew what to expect before I arrived.
Then there were all the ways we were able to use our gifts in tandem, usually to the detriment of the rest of the family. Immediately there was a sense of camaraderie there. That someone could predict his behaviour was at once alarming and reassuring to Edward. Alarming because he was unused to being on the other side of the omniscience, reassuring because it made him feel normal.
But it wasn't just our gifts. I couldn't fathom a world where I wouldn't love Edward, even if we'd been completely boring humans with no talent to speak of.
"What do you think?" I asked Jazz, hours later. "Why is it that Edward and I are so close?"
He considered me with his beautiful, purposeful gaze. "You're the same, but you're opposites. Look at you, both so cryptic and all-knowing and at least three steps ahead of every game. But you're so different in your outlooks on life, you with your optimism and he with such pessimism all the time. The thing is that you understand each other," he concluded.
"I suppose," I mused.
I didn't quite agree. There were lots of things I didn't understand about Edward, and I'm sure many things he didn't understand about me. His disregard for this life, for example; how could he not call this a life? But then, I reminded myself, I had never known anything else. Edward had. And his values were different to mine.
I thought maybe I saw why it was, now. I didn't understand Edward's feelings, but I understood that there were reasons behind them. I didn't dismiss them, like Rosalie, or persist in disagreeing, like even Carlisle. If Edward wanted to believe that he had no soul, I wouldn't tell him that he was wrong, because I knew his reasoning and because I knew it wouldn't make a difference. Instead, I would stop him from wallowing in contemplation over the subject.
But really, I didn't think it mattered. I wasn't one to contemplate the meaning of life for hours on end. My way of thinking was closer to why do we need to know the meaning of life when there's so much life to play with. Likewise, I didn't need to know why I loved Edward so in order to carry on loving him.
Life drifted on.
When I first saw Edward in Italy, surrounded by dark-cloaked figures in an unguarded alley, I was so relieved that I thought I could have killed him. That or hugged him so hard he would never breathe again. It amounted to the same thing, I supposed. But I had no opportunity to speak to him until we had left Volterra, and then he was entirely focused on Bella. I didn't feel badly towards him because of that. I couldn't imagine spending so long apart from Jasper with no guarantee of seeing him again, and then nearly having him die.
I would have had to wait days to get him on his own, but my sense of time had never been like that of an ordinary vampire. As soon as Bella was sleeping, exhausted after our journey, I came to her house to see him.
"Alice," he breathed, standing from her bed before I was clutching him to me.
Idiot! Idiot, idiot, idiot!
"I'm sorry," he said.
Idiot, idiot, idiot!
Edward. Oh, Edward.
"It's alright, we're back."
I know that, idiot. How could you? How could you-
I couldn't even imagine it. I couldn't begin to try.
I need you. I need you here. Esme, Carlisle, they need you too.
"I need Bella more."
I looked up for the first time to see his eyes. I knew it was true, but it wasn't what I wanted to hear. I wouldn't want him to lie to me, never, but I didn't want to hear that he would do this again.
"Don't think about it. I'm here now."
He sat down on Bella's quaint rocking chair, pulling me with him so I was sitting on his lap.
I'm so sorry. My vision-
"It's not your fault. We both know that. Don't feel guilty, Alice."
I couldn't help it, to a degree, but I didn't apologise again.
It's odd, I thought, not necessarily to him, but I knowing that he was listening. For so long, we were… us. I forget that you have her, sometimes.
"We're still us."
We always will be. I love you.
"I love you too."
A/N: For those who are interested, this was inspired by my relationship with my little sister. Put simply, I adore her. And all those little mentions in Midnight Sun, plus in Twilight "Alice is the most... supportive" and Alice coming to Italy and Alice kidnapping Bella for Edward and Alice reassuring Edward whilst Bella's changing and Alice... you get the idea. So, this was written to celebrate all the adorable little sisters out there.