The first person Alice saw when she woke up to her new life was Jasper, sitting on a bucket, looking anguished. Her heart had hurt in the best way, pulling at her with a force she could only describe as the rawest kind of need. But Jasper disappeared after a moment, and the second person she saw was Carlisle, running through the woods behind Edward. He was laughing.

It wasn’t until decades later that Alice would learn that she had seen Carlisle’s future; that at the time she was turned, he had been every bit as miserable as Jasper. She always thought this was important; that her first vision of Carlisle had been of him experiencing happiness. Of him experiencing what it meant to have a family. And she used his future happiness to drive herself forward, too—as she watched him hunt, she hunted; as she watched him laugh with Edward, she imagined one day having Edward as her friend.

So it’s only fitting, she thinks, that the order this morning is the same. That she sees Jasper first, of course—he is her mate, her husband, everything which completes her. But the second person she sees is Carlisle, standing there in a jacket, looking not at all out of place. He’s even bought a cup of coffee, as though it matters to his body that it is the crack of dawn.

It feels strange, being here. Their family almost never flies on commercial jetliners—first, there is the problem of the sun, which behaves differently when it is you who is moving through time. And now there is the issue of all the security checks and screenings. They don’t trip metal detectors, but she knows that this will become worse over time. She can see a day when maybe people are scanned just like the luggage, and how will vampire skin behave in those conditions? So while this place is the most ordinary of places, it feels deeply out of the ordinary to Alice.

A mechanical voice overhead announces that Seattle, Washington is in the Pacific Time Zone, and the time is five fifty-one AM: first in English, then French, then Spanish, then Mandarin Chinese. Businessmen in suits who have wasted no time flipping open their phones. At one end of the room, a series of black-coated, black-hatted men stand holding signs: Mr. Donin. Mr. Frederick. Ms. Lewis. The people themselves seem muted, sluggish, as they pull bags off the rotating metal carousels with both hands. The executives grab their solid black bags and stride off with purpose. The hikers pull tall, stuffed backpacks onto their backs and head toward the sign for the LINK. The families—there are only two that Alice can see—pile bags of different sizes onto the airport luggage carts.

The three of them don’t have any luggage. There wasn’t time for that part of the charade. But she could see they wouldn’t be flagged; two young girls flying to Italy don’t raise suspicion. She bets that if they’d had Edward with them, he’d have told them that the TSA just thought they were airheads, not terrorists.

So they have no baggage to retrieve and yet, here is the whole family, standing here, in the middle of the hustle that is an airport baggage claim.

Jasper doesn’t run to her, and she doesn’t run to him. They walk, like a calm human husband and wife who have been separated only for a brief business trip. She takes his hands and gazes into his eyes and knows that he knows she understands his worry, that she is sorry to have left without him, that she was so worried for Edward, that she was had to leave in order to save him. He looks back into her eyes and only nods.

Her husband understands her gift the best of any of them, but even he doesn’t fully get it. They all think that there’s a set of possibilities at any given time, and that she sees those possibilities, until someone chooses a path which leads definitively toward one of them. She admits that this is partially her fault; she creates her own problem by answering their questions as though this is the real paradigm.

In fact, the future is not like this. It jumps around, it runs parallel, it doesn’t bend in the way you’d expect. If time works like a string, then what her family thinks she sees is rows of embroidery floss at the craft store, neatly coiled and packaged and organized by color. But what she really sees is a knot the size of a basketball. You go in on one end and you think that you’re following the red string, because the red string comes out the other side of the ball. But it turns out these strings are dyed all sorts of colors, and the string that’s red on one end is bright green on the other, and it turns and twists over the yellow, the blue, the purple and that’s if she can even see what string was picked to begin with.

And this is what bothers her, even as she stands here, with Jasper’s arms around her. She is Edward’s age, almost to the day. If they had been adopted as humans as they were adopted as vampires, it would be she and Edward, not Jasper and Rose, who would be presented as twins. Yet she’s always thought of him as her younger brother, deserving of her protection. And that’s why she jumped on a bushplane in Alaska and then on a widebody in Seattle: it’s Edward’s string that she has to protect. She sees him standing there, with his arms around Bella, and she knows that this is the part that will hold. Bella will be part of them. This much is certain—this part of the knot that is her little brother has at long last been untied. But she can’t yet see the end. Is it purple? Is it orange? And just how does it stay tied to the complicated knot that is Isabella Swan?

Esme is hugging the two of them and scolding him and crying, and Edward hangs his head and apologizes sheepishly. Then she tugs Bella away, toward the door, dragging Edward with them because of course he won’t let her go. He hasn’t let her go since Italy, and Alice wonders briefly if this will ever happen.

This leaves Carlisle standing alone. He glances over at Jasper and Alice, and a tiny, understated smile appears on his face. He lifts his head ever so slightly, and nods, as though to say he’s glad to see them, happy that they are standing there together, pleased his children are with him again.

Alice had to protect her little brother, of course. And that was what she was thinking when she leapt on a plane to Italy. But she didn’t only protect Edward. She brought all of them here safely (because Emmett and Rosalie are in the parking garage, she knows), to Sea-Tac airport to leave securely in the morning twilight.

She saw his future first, she thinks, because Carlisle’s string has always been the straightest. He is the steady force, moving in only one direction. Pulling all of them inexorably forward, from sadness toward joy, from despair toward hope. Edward is returned, yes, but even more than that, all of them are here. Together. With Bella. Safe.

“Seven,” she remembers Aro saying, and she didn’t need Edward’s gift to see him contemplating this coven that his former friend has slowly brought together.

Alice was in Volterra; she and Bella and Edward faced the ancient brothers. Edward’s immortal life is saved. But it is Carlisle’s future which has moved forward. It is his family which has grown.


“Thank you,” Carlisle mouths, and Alice nods, squeezing her arm around Jasper’s, and pulling him closer. Then they, too, make their way to the rest of their family.


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