A/N: Back again! This one's always been one of my favorites of these early chapters to work on, for various reasons.
Hope you enjoy, and see you at the end! :J
Chapter 2: Long Night
"You'll have fun," Edythe murmured in my ear.
Sitting in my bed, Edythe's arms wound around me, her icy fingers caressing each of mine, running all the way up my arm and back, it was hard to imagine. Hard to imagine anywhere else I'd rather be.
"Maybe I can skip the bachelor party," I suggested.
She laughed as she pressed her lips to my jaw. "You could," she agreed. "If Archie would let you. But he won't—he's been looking forward to this like you wouldn't believe. And he's invited Allen, too. Go, you'll have a good time. Enjoy your last night of freedom to the fullest."
"Anyway," she added. "I'll be gone tonight anyway. I'm going hunting with Jessamine and Eleanor. Big game hunting. I want to be prepared as possible."
I frowned. "Prepared for what?"
She smiled a little. "Don't you think if a vampire and a human are going to have a honeymoon, it's better if the vampire is well-fed?"
I hesitated. "But I thought you said we wouldn't be having a real honeymoon until after I was...you know. Don't tell me you changed your mind." I worked to try to sound incredulous, rather than hopeful.
"Well, no, I haven't," she admitted. "But you didn't expect we'd be sitting around playing cards all night, did you?"
I shrugged, and turned my head toward the window—mainly because I didn't want her to see how red my face had suddenly gotten.
Edythe continued to trace my fingers, and she didn't appear to notice. "I still don't think it would be...safe," she said slowly. "But perhaps there will be some things that are safe to try."
Still trying to keep it nonchalant, I said, "I'm cool with that. Whatever you think, I'll follow your lead."
Edythe finally looked up from my hand, and she stifled a laugh.
My eyes shot back to her, and I felt my face automatically turning to a scowl. "What?" I demanded.
"Nothing," she assured me, but her eyes were still twinkling. "Just—you look a bit flushed. I hope you aren't coming down with a fever." She pressed a cold hand to my forehead.
"Leave me alone," I grumbled, ducking away from her. I didn't know why this topic still had the power to get the blood rushing to my face. It was totally dumb. It wasn't like we hadn't—sort of—discussed this before, plus I was getting married tomorrow. But I just couldn't seem to stop the reaction, no matter how much I tried. My reaction was way more embarrassing than the actual topic itself.
The phone in her pocket buzzed, and she sighed. "I bet that's Archie. Calling to remind us he's headed over here to pick you up."
"You think he saw us trying to sneak off together and avoid these whole bachelor-bachelorette party things?" I wondered.
Edythe grinned, wrapping her arms around my neck and pressing her icy lips to mine. She drew back barely an inch and the scent of her wintry breath in my face made me dizzy. "I think it's a definite possibility."
"Think it's too late to escape?" I breathed, leaning in close, wrapping an arm around her waist. She willingly leaned into me, sighing contentedly.
The sound of a loud honk outside made me jump.
"Sadly," she said, pulling away with a bit of a rueful smile, "I think it is."
Reluctantly, I dragged myself off the bed. I paused by the door. "Guess I won't see you until tomorrow."
Edythe sat on my bed, leaning back. "I suppose not."
"I'll miss you," I said.
She laughed. "Would it be sad to admit I'll miss you, too? All my nights away from you are long ones."
I grinned a little sheepishly. Then I turned away and flicked off the light—Edythe didn't need it, and no need for Charlie to notice it had been left on unnecessarily.
My hand was on the doorknob, ready to pull it open, when Edythe said softly, "Beau?"
I automatically turned back.
Even in the darkness, I saw her expression was different now. Anxious, worried.
"Yeah?" I said, a little uncertainly.
"Are you still...decided?" she asked quietly.
I stared back at her, surprised. "Course I am. Kind of late to be second-guessing ourselves now. It's tomorrow."
She shook her head. "I don't mean getting married. I mean...you. After."
I knew what she meant and for a second I hesitated. Then I said, very firmly, "Yeah. I am." Then, trying to lighten the mood, I added, "When else am I going to get my real honeymoon?"
Edythe didn't smile. She gazed back at me earnestly. "Is that all it is?" she said, so low I barely caught it. Her eyes never moved from mine. "Because..." she said slowly, hesitantly, "if that's it..." She took a breath. "If you didn't want to change after all, I...might be willing to try."
I felt a flare of fierce hope I quickly quashed. I looked at her, a little more serious now. I shook my head. "I was just joking. You know I want to be like you—I think after all we've been through, we both know by now that this isn't going to work any other way. I've just been a liability to you all this time. I don't want you to have to worry about me anymore, and honestly, I'll feel better too, when I'm not quite so breakable. When it's done, I think things will be easier. For both of us."
I added, "We don't need to rush, but I don't think we need to drag it out either. And we don't need to take unnecessary risks you don't feel comfortable with beforehand. Waiting a couple more weeks for our real honeymoon isn't going to hurt anything. I think we should just stick to the original plan."
Edythe gazed back at me, and a furrow formed between her eyebrows, a deep pain burning in her eyes. "You've been saying them," she whispered suddenly. "In your sleep. You say your parents' names. And also..." She hesitated.
I didn't know what to say. So I said with conviction, "I've already decided, Edythe."
Edythe stared back at me, and the pain didn't leave her eyes. She opened her mouth to say something.
Another insistent honk from down in the drive interrupted her.
"Beau!" I heard Charlie call from downstairs.
I opened the door to my room and called down, "Coming!" I glanced back at Edythe. "I better go," I said, making a face. "Before Archie comes up here to drag me off."
I turned my attention back to the exit. "Now relax, okay? Promise me you'll have fun tonight. I'm going to try too, but I won't if I think you're wasting time worrying."
Edythe didn't reply, but I was surprised when I suddenly felt her behind me, one hand touching mine, her cheek resting against my back. "I love you," she murmured. "Be safe."
"Love you, too," I mumbled. I adjusted my hand so I could wrap my fingers tightly around hers. As usual, my fingers stung and tingled with the chill. I turned my head, so I could press my lips lightly to her hair. I added, working to make my tone more upbeat, "Tomorrow's going to be one of the best days of our lives. Don't look so gloomy."
She tilted her head back to look up at me, and she was smiling a little again.
A third honk.
"Honestly, kid, what are you doing up there?" Charlie called, exasperated.
"Gotta go," I whispered and, leaning down to kiss her lightly on the lips, I pried myself away and forced myself out into the hall and down the stairs.
As I passed by the living room, Charlie asked, "What was that about? Hair and makeup still needed a few touchups?"
"Har har, Dad. You crack me up."
Charlie grinned at me over the back of the sofa. "Have fun, kid. Try not to get too wild."
I waved at him as I went, though I rolled my eyes. "I'll try. But don't bother waiting up."
"Don't stay up too late," Charlie called after me as I headed down the hall to the door. "Remember, tomorrow's your—" But by then I was already through the door, and it was securely shut behind me.
I breathed deeply. Though it had rained earlier, it was an almost balmy evening, especially for Forks. With the temperature it was now, I could have safely left my jacket inside, even though it was nearly dark out. But as always, I didn't want to jinx myself.
When I shut the door behind me and looked at the car parked along the curb, my mouth fell open.
Archie had the passenger window rolled down, and he called, "Hurry it up, dude! We don't have all night."
I didn't move right away. Still too busy gaping. Finally, I glanced back once at the house, then at the surrounding neighborhood to see if there was anyone close enough to see, then finally I cautiously approached, before slipping into the passenger seat.
"How do you like the ride?" Archie wanted to know, grinning.
I hadn't ever seen Archie drive his Porsche since Edythe had gotten it for him months ago, and definitely not in town. The Cullens tried to keep a low profile whenever they could, and the wasp-yellow Porsche with its black leather interior, tinted windows, and Turbo printed on the back bumper definitely did not qualify as low profile. The only thing that had to be more conspicuous than the Porsche was the getup Archie was wearing—black leather jacket, and dark sunglasses perched on top of his head.
He grinned hugely at me, waiting eagerly for my response.
"Uh," I said. "It, uh...looks fast." In fact, I knew exactly how fast it was, from sitting in the passenger seat while Archie sped the same model what felt like halfway across Europe in the space of just a few hours, trying to beat the clock and stop Edythe from inciting the Volturi—the vampire government—to kill her.
"Doesn't just look fast," Archie said smugly. He reached up and put on the sunglasses, his mouth still split in a grin so wide I could see all of his bright white teeth in the semi-darkness of the heavily tinted car.
"Charlie didn't even mention anything," I said in disbelief, shaking my head.
Archie sighed. "He didn't even come to the window. I was thinking about going up to knock on the door, just so he'd have to see it, but—well, we're going to have a full night as it is, we can't afford to waste a second. This is the last night of your life to have fun, and you're going to want to enjoy every minute to the fullest."
He gestured to something on the back of my seat. "Well, before we go, you better go ahead and put that on. Kind of awkward to put it on while we're driving, since Edythe made me promise to make you wear a seatbelt." He sighed and shook his head, as if he couldn't imagine anything more unnecessary or interfering.
I turned halfway around, and saw for the first time that there was a leather jacket slung over the backseat—I hadn't noticed it, because it was the same color as the leather upholstery behind it. As I turned, I saw Allen sitting quietly in the backseat—and, I saw with dismay, already a victim of Archie's insanity. He was sitting awkwardly in a black leather jacket over his t-shirt, and a pair of dark sunglasses that did not suit him in the slightest.
"Your glasses are in the glove compartment," Archie said helpfully. "Extra dark. Ol' Joe Barboza's got nothing on these babies."
Joe Barboza was not a part of history I'd learned in school, but I knew enough about the old time mob to know the name. "You can't be serious."
Archie raised an eyebrow. "You gonna give me trouble about the program I got laid out?"
I held up the leather jacket, staring at it with eyes that still couldn't quite believe that it was really here, and intended for me to wear. "Uh, if it involves wearing black leather and sunglasses, yeah."
Archie leaned toward me, pulling his reflective sunglasses down so I could see his eyes over top of them. He glared at me with such an expression that he looked so much like a real gangster that I had to suppress the instinctive urge to shrink away, and put my hands up in the air in case he pulled a gun.
"Okay," Archie said. "This is what's going to happen. You're going to put on the jacket, and the sunglasses, and you're not going to complain. Got that?"
Without a word, I slid on the jacket over the jacket I was already wearing and, finding the glasses in the glove compartment as he said, put those on too.
Archie was all smiles again. "Great," he said cheerfully. "Now that that's settled, let's get going."
"Let's get this over with," I muttered. After I snapped my seat belt into place, he pulled away from the curb.
"Okay," Archie said, "here's the plan. We don't really have time to go all the way to Seattle or Olympia, but Port Angeles is close enough. There'll be enough there to keep us occupied."
Of course, Port Angeles was still pretty far, and it was already evening.
"Um," Allen spoke up nervously. "How late will we be getting back? My dad said he wants me back by midnight."
Archie sighed. "Allen, dude, tonight is all about defying authority—living life to the fullest without worrying about rules or people telling you not to do this or that. Better if you do break curfew, sends a clear message. 'You can't tell me what to do! I'm my own man!'"
Behind the sunglasses, Allen looked shocked.
I rolled my eyes. "Don't worry about it, Allen, we'll be back in plenty of time. With the way Archie drives, it'll take us twenty minutes to get there, and twenty minutes to get back."
Archie turned to me, appalled. "Twenty minutes? Twenty minutes? Honestly, I thought you knew me better than that."
I shrugged. "Just a guess. When Edythe brought me back from Port Angeles that night—you remember, Allen—she took about twenty minutes to get back. And you and her both drive about the same—like maniacs."
Archie shook his head. "Twenty minutes. Wow. She must have really wanted to draw out the time with you. Twenty minutes. Imagine."
Allen didn't look like he knew whether to take all this as a joke or not. I really hoped he didn't recount this conversation to his father, Reverend Weber. Or tomorrow Edythe might find herself called upon to confess all her driving sins—we'd probably be there all day.
I happened to glance down at the side mirror, and unfortunately caught sight of my reflection there. I looked about like I expected to look—like the biggest dork in all of history. If anything, the tough guy clothes only emphasized just how big a dork I was. I was a magnet for every actual tough guy on the block.
I shook my head. "So, where are we going anyway? I mean, what exactly are we doing in Port Angeles?"
Archie grinned. "Well, that part's up to you. But, I've got some suggestions if you're interested."
I sighed. "Let's hear them then."
"Bar," he said, face straight.
I didn't think he was serious, but I had to turn to look, just in case. I shook my head. "Uh, we can't drink. Allen and I aren't twenty-one." I paused. "Neither are you." Technically, in one sense at least, it was true.
Archie rolled his eyes. "You're really not getting this rebellion thing, are you? Okay then, if you're going to be that way, skip the drinks. Strip club."
A gasp escaped my mouth before I could stop it and I spun to glare at him.
"It's the classic bachelor party gig," he insisted. He paused. "That, or hiring a stripper."
I groaned, and pressed my fingers to my temples.
Archie sighed, shaking his head. "You're really not leaving me a lot of options here, you know."
I glowered at him. "Okay then, you can let Allen and I out now, and we'll walk back to Forks."
Archie slumped in defeat. "Fine," he muttered. "If you're going to be that way. So what about...pizza and a movie?"
"That sounds okay." However, I hesitated, suspicious. "Not a porno," I said vehemently.
Archie rolled his eyes. "There's only a couple things showing at that theater. We'll see what they are when we get there." As though Archie didn't already know exactly what was showing, and every single one of the show times, and which ones would start on time, and which ones would start late.
I knew Archie was just messing with me, but I could never seem to help rising to his bait. Sometimes I wondered if he just sat around for hours, looking at the possible futures if he said this or that around me, and chose the one that got the biggest rise.
Archie kept the talk going the entire ride over, which, as he'd claimed, turned out to be less than twenty minutes. Soon he was pulling up to the theater, and all three of us got out and went in to see what was showing, and at what times.
"So," Archie said, pretending to squint up at the times. "Looks like we have some chick flick—cute brunette gets a job at the local bakery, and runs into a hot guy who makes eyes at her. Any takers?"
He looked around at Allen and me, and we didn't respond. The worker at the concession stand was staring at us, and our bizarre attire. She didn't look so much intimidated as weirded out. Like she was trying to figure out if we thought it was Halloween.
Archie turned back to the board. "And then there's Black Gun. Supposed to be like some kind of modern version of The Godfather."
I sighed. Archie was running this show, and it was obvious he wasn't going to be satisfied with a showing of anything less than the utmost manliness. "Fine," I said, "we can see that one. When's the next showing?"
We all looked up at the board again, and it seemed that the movie playing now had started about an hour ago, and the next one was in about an hour and a half. So Archie went and bought us the tickets, then we trooped out to go get something to eat.
I really didn't mind Archie's pick. Probably a lot of shooting and people dying all over the place, but I didn't really want to see the chick flick, either. It was stupid, but I still had kind of a negative feeling toward movies with any kind of romance, left over from my own personal dark ages, back when Edythe had left Forks. They just reminded me of that time, not least of all because the two of us had watched Romeo and Juliet earlier the same day everything had begun. I just had a bad association with them I couldn't seem to shake.
At the pizza place, Archie did most of the talking. However, I did get a little conversation in with Allen, and I was glad Archie had invited him along. It made me realize how few regular guy friends I actually had. Archie claimed he'd also invited Royal, but he wouldn't bend, for which I thanked my lucky stars.
We ended up leaving the pizza place later than we meant to when Archie got to chatting with the server about the greatest gangster movies, but with his insane driving, we got back to the theater early. As we headed through the doors—still in our leather jackets and sunglasses, as there was no point arguing with Archie once he had his mind set on something—I thought about how lucky I'd been so far, in that we hadn't run into anyone we recognized. I could only hope it held out.
"Beau? Is that you?"
I sighed. I always jinxed myself.
The sunglasses made it hard to see anything—I'd been keeping them on even indoors in hopes they might help conceal my identity—so I took them off, and spotted Jeremy and McKayla emerging from the last showing of Black Gun. After being broken up for most of the previous school year, apparently they'd gotten back together over the summer. I wondered how long it would last this time.
"Yeah, it's me," I said reluctantly as they approached.
Jeremy laughed aloud. After giving me the cold shoulder all last year, we'd kind of made up at graduation. "Dude, what are you wearing?" His eyes shifted to Allen.
"Bachelor party," Archie explained nonchalantly, though his grin was wide. He'd put his sunglasses up on his head again. He was the only one who honestly looked cool dressed up like this, the kind of guy a bunch of tough guys would trip all over themselves to follow. "It's gonna be a wild night."
McKayla glanced at me, and she forced a smile. "Congratulations," she said. "Though I guess I'll have the chance to tell you that tomorrow."
I'd been honestly surprised when I found out Edythe had put McKayla on the guest list. And Erica, and Taylor. Edythe was always polite and never made a big fuss, but Archie had cheerfully assured me that Edythe was definitely the jealous type, and there was probably a special place in her mind dedicated twenty-four-seven to despising McKayla and the rest of any of my would-be admirers. Edythe, for her part, had never denied it. But, Edythe had faithfully invited all our school friends, and without the least bit of malice that I could tell.
"Yeah," I said. "See you guys there." I paused, then added darkly, "If I survive tonight."
Jeremy grinned and waggled his eyebrows at me. "You going to a strip club after this?"
McKayla shot him an irritated look which he missed.
Archie sighed a martyr's sigh, and shook his head. "Unfortunately, Beau nixed the strip club idea."
McKayla smiled a little at me, a real smile this time.
"So," I said, eager to change the subject. "What did you think of the movie? That's the one we're seeing."
McKayla shrugged. "It was okay. Probably better than Crosshairs." She made a face. McKayla had been coming down with the flu at the time she'd seen that one, and I doubted she remembered all that much about it. All the same, saying something was better than Crosshairs wasn't saying a whole lot. "Lots of action," she said. "Lots of pointless running around and shooting, but I guess there were one or two good moments."
"Don't listen to her, it was fantastic!" Jeremy enthused. "You'll love it."
Allen glanced at his watch. It was getting close to starting time.
"Well," McKayla said, "see you tomorrow, Beau. Have fun."
"Live it up," Jeremy added, grinning again and giving me the thumbs up.
I tried to return the grin, but didn't quite succeed. Instead the expression came off more like a wince.
The movie felt long. McKayla was right, it was better than Crosshairs, but, as I'd thought, that really wasn't saying much. Saying it was like a modern version of The Godfather was kind of misleading—there were gangsters, but that was about the only connection.
In spite of the screaming and threats and general mayhem, before long I found my mind wandering back to Edythe, and how she had looked just before I'd left. Depressed. Guilty.
So, I'd been saying my parents' names in my sleep. Making her feel bad, as usual. And I didn't need to be a mind-reader to know what she had been about to say and stopped—the other name I'd been saying.
It didn't really surprise me I'd be saying Jules's name in my sleep, but not for the reasons I was afraid Edythe was likely to jump to. My heart wasn't split, the way it had felt before. It was Edythe I loved that way, had given my heart to, and would soon bind myself to in the most binding human way possible. Rather, I said her name for the same reason I said my parents' names. Because she was a part of the family of my human life, and even though I had absolutely decided on what my future would be—what I wanted it to be—the regrets for the coming loss still lingered.
I couldn't deny I wanted to see Jules again, at least one more time, before the change. We'd had so many seeming final goodbyes I'd lost track, but while I hoped that the last goodbye we'd had would have given her some closure on the question of the two of us ever being something more than friends, there was still one goodbye left to happen, that had yet to be resolved. The final severing of our friendship.
Jules had gone back and forth on where we would be after my change—from saying she'd rather see me dead to saying she'd protect me from her own sisters if they tried to take me down. But the truth was, even though I'd probably always see her as my friend, my family, I knew when the change happened most likely she wouldn't be able to stand the sight of me. It would just be too painful—to accept me, after I'd become something she so hated.
In my dreams, no matter how I tried to explain, to plead with her, she always looked at me with disgust and revulsion, and I knew if I was being realistic, that was likely soon to become the reality.
I accepted that sacrifice, hard as it was. I accepted that my once-best friend, who had saved me in one of my darkest times, would soon hate me. But that was why I wanted to see her one more time before the change. One more time, before I became something she wouldn't be able to see as anything but a monster.
I wondered if Edythe had invited her to our wedding, like she'd invited McKayla and the others. I knew I never would have if I were in charge of the guest list—it seemed too cruel, too callous. And yet, I realized I wouldn't be at all surprised if she had. Not to be cruel, but for my sake, because she probably would have known before I did that I would want her there. That sounded just like the kind of thing Edythe would do.
Of course, it was entirely selfish, to wish Jules would come to my wedding. Why should she be forced to put up the good friend facade when she was hurting? When I had hurt her?
Yet, that selfish part of me couldn't help hoping for it anyway. That I would see her at least once more before I made the change, that all the people I cared about most would be there.
"Hey, guys? It's over. Should we go?"
I glanced back to see Allen peering over at us. I blinked, and I realized indeed that the credits were rolling. I shook my head. "Yeah, let's go. Archie?"
As I turned and put a hand on Archie's shoulder, I froze. He was staring at the screen with wide eyes, his expression blank. I knew that look.
He suddenly blinked, and came back to life, shaking his head. He looked at me, and he was immediately himself again. "Well, time to go," he said with a grin. "Got a full night ahead of us, no time to waste." He got up and went on ahead, tossing the extra-large, almost untouched bucket of popcorn in the trash on the way out.
"So, what did you think?" Archie asked, grinning as we headed out toward the Porsche.
"Um," I said, too distracted by what I'd seen in Archie's face there at the end to be able to recall a single detail of the film.
Maybe Allen wasn't too anxious to give his true opinion on the movie, because he pulled a little ahead of us, leaving me to be the only target for Archie's questions. I, in turn, placed a hand on Archie's arm to slow us, until Allen had pulled a fair ways ahead.
"Hey," I said, in a very low voice. "What did you see? There, at the end."
"Nothing," he said, shrugging.
I glared at him. "Look," I said in a lower voice still. "You lying to me is definitely going to put more of a damper on my bachelor party than if you just give it to me straight."
Archie turned so his gaze met mine, and his eyes were troubled. "I mean it. I didn't see anything—that's the thing."
I stared back at him uncertainly.
He sighed, then said in a low voice, "You know how Edythe's been having me keep an eye on Sulpicia? Like Edythe said, we know from our little meeting in the clearing that Sulpicia told them to hold back on purpose—let us deal with Victor, and only come see us after the fight was over. Sulpicia told them it was because they shouldn't risk themselves if they didn't have to, not when they were in the middle of a crisis, but considering Jonathan and Alexa probably could have taken out twenty vampires no problem on their own, Tacita sort of thought there must be some other reason.
"Now, last I checked, Sulpicia and the other two ancient ones split up and evacuated Volterra—it seems like they're all taking refuge from whatever's going down in Europe. But since Sulpicia came here to the United States, it's made Edythe pretty edgy."
I nodded. Edythe and Archie had told me this when it happened—the Volturi leaving Volterra, and Sulpicia taking up somewhere in the States. The Volturi evidently felt threatened enough by what was going on they felt they had to go, but Archie hadn't been able to see much more than that. "Yeah?" I said.
Archie's face was grim. "Well—about an hour ago my vision of Sulpicia just disappeared completely. Like, totally gone. I've been concentrating, trying to get it back, but I can't see a thing."
My eyebrows came down, and I stared back at him. "What does that mean?" I asked in a low voice. "How can that happen?"
Archie shook his head. "The only times I've seen futures disappear like that have been with the wolves. Like, when you're around Julie Black. My only guess is that either Sulpicia's got a new member of her guard, someone who's got some kind of shield that can block me out, or that she's met up with some creature of the same kind as the wolves down here. I mean, chances are, the Quileutes' powers aren't unique. There are probably others out there like them. Maybe Sulpicia is keeping one as a pet. Or maybe she's found a whole group of them to team up with, in hopes they might help them deal with the problem back in Europe, just like we did with Victor."
I considered that. "Sounds like she's too busy to be worrying about me anyway. Maybe you don't really need to be watching her."
Archie nodded. "Yeah, I'm not too wound up over it. I'm more worried about Edy's reaction. She's not going to like this. You know how paranoid she gets."
I smiled a little. I did know that.
Allen had noticed we'd fallen behind, and he paused to look back.
Archie grinned broadly. "Well, that was fun. So, where are we headed next, Beau-man?"
In fact, I had been planning, after the movie, to say I'd done my time and call it an early night—I was getting married tomorrow after all—but my thoughts from in the theater kept bouncing around in my head, and now I had Sulpicia to think about, too. And if I went home now, I knew I'd probably just end up lying awake in bed, thinking about it.
"How about bowling?" I suggested. The idea came to me randomly, but I realized it sounded good. All that noise, balls smacking into pins. And maybe after I'd dropped the ball on my toes a few times, the pain would effectively shut out all other thought.
"Bowling it is," Archie said, flashing his signature wide grin in the darkness.
Of course, Archie kicked our butts, scoring a perfect three-hundred—people all over the rally came over to take his picture, while Allen and I huddled on the bench in our leather jackets, trying not to attract attention. The bowling alley also had a few video game stations in the back corner, and Archie forced us to play every single one of them, including a big DDR machine—a girl whose boyfriend was too embarrassed to play with her asked to play a few rounds with us, and got all excited when Archie told her I was getting married tomorrow. She was pretty good, but she quit when I nearly took out her eye. Only Archie saved me from getting clobbered by the boyfriend.
As promised, Archie got us back into town before midnight, and dropped us off at our houses. We were both eager to shed the leather jackets, and I doubted either of us would be very sorry if we never saw them again.
I was exhausted as I headed up to bed. For a minute I entertained the irrational hope that Edythe would be there, waiting for me, but of course, I found my dark room empty. In a fog, I got ready for bed, changing into my pajamas and brushing my teeth, before I flopped down on the mattress.
I expected to go to sleep right away, but almost as soon as I flipped off the light, thoughts of tomorrow I'd been temporarily distracted from started up in my mind again, going around and around, until I was wide awake.
For some reason, my fairly brief glimpse at Edythe's guest list kept coming back to me. Maybe it was because, even though I knew Edythe had tried to keep the number down for my sake—the bigger it was, the proportionally more terrified I felt at the thought of it—there were still quite a few people coming. All of our school friends for a start, and their parents, and, in some cases, their parents. But it wasn't so much that which had me worried as the non-human guests.
Tanvir's family, a coven of vampires who, like Carine and the Cullens, had sworn off human blood, would be coming down from Denali, set to arrive sometime before the ceremony.
First off, putting the Denali clan in the same room as our guests from the Quileute reservation might be more than a little uncomfortable, to put it mildly. Not too long ago, the Denalis had refused to help the Cullens in their hour of need, mainly because the wolves had killed Lauren, one of the clan's mate. In fact, Ivan wasn't even coming down. Edythe had assured me that Tanvir and the rest of the Denalis felt terrible for abandoning them the way they had, and there would be no danger of any fights breaking out. However, the whole thing still left me nervous.
On a lesser scale, there was also the little side note of Tanvir apparently having kind of had a thing for Edythe at one time. I knew he probably had movie-star good looks, and even though Edythe had, inconceivable as it was, absolutely chosen me, that still made me a bit uncomfortable.
But the Denalis were the closest thing the Cullens had to family and vice versa, and I wasn't about to voice any complaints. Especially hearing the way Edythe talked about them.
"It was such a wonderful thing for Carine, and the rest of us, to discover others who had also chosen this same way of life," she had said. She had added softly, "For them as well—they still feel like orphans, even after all this time."
Tanvir had a fairly big family, almost as big as the Cullens. For a long time, it had been composed of just three brothers—Tanvir, Kirill, and Ivan, though later on they were joined by a Spanish couple, Elena and Carlos, the same way the Cullens had been joined by Archie and Jessamine. All bonded by a desire to live more compassionately than most of their kind.
However, long before Carlos and Elena had joined up, there had been more members of their family, including their creator. Their father, mentor, leader. Now gone. When I compared the loss to the Cullens potentially losing Carine, who had always been their anchor, the compass to guide them all to a kinder way of living, the horror seemed indescribable.
I'd been spending a lot of late nights at the Cullen home recently, listening to Carine tell me all I would need to know about the world I'd soon be entering. So Carine had told me all they knew of the Denalis' story. What could happen when the laws were broken.
Immortality came with a lot of powers, but there were rules that came along with it. Keep the secret—that was the single thing that pretty much all the many laws came down to, enforced by Sulpicia and the Volturi. It meant never staying in one place too long, never allowing humans to suspect they had neighbors who weren't aging. It meant not stepping into the sunlight in front of a human, or letting humans see signs of super strength or speed. But it was more than that—because, as an immortal, you weren't just responsible for yourself, you were also responsible for anything you might create. In creating another immortal, the creator had to keep them under control.
There were three brothers now, all created by one vampire, but there had originally been four.
"I do not know their names," Carine had admitted. "Neither their father, nor their last and youngest brother. Tanvir and the others rarely speak of them if they can avoid it, never think of them willingly.
"Their father was extraordinarily gentle for one of our kind, and he loved all his creations as his sons, and taught them all to live in peace with others. But while Tanvir, Kirill, and Ivan were happy with their father's gentler way of life, his fourth son was not satisfied.
"As the boy wandered further and further out on his hunting trips, he eventually stumbled across a gang of like-minded rebels, who despised the order and peace of the Volturi's world, and longed to return to the days of old, when immortals could wander and eat what they chose with impunity. The boy soon joined their ranks, and continued to see them often in secret, to aid in their plans to overthrow the Volturi.
"In most periods of history, finding so many dissenters would have been rare. However, at that time, what is now known as the purging of the immortal children had only just taken place. Centuries before it had become a practice to change infants into immortals—creatures beautiful beyond comprehension—which Sulpicia outlawed, for the simple fact that such creations could never be controlled, with their frozen cognitive development. It became taboo, unmentionable. However, there had been an outbreak of the practice once again, and Sulpicia had taken steps to wipe them all out, as well as their perpetrators.
"For those who had laid eyes on the face of an immortal child just once, even the thought of their destruction was enough to inspire violent fury. And these older vampires, in turn, fostered the desire for anarchy among younger vampires, by way of vengeance.
"Naturally, the father noticed his youngest son's extended absences and, concerned for him, followed him, and discovered his activities. He begged his son to cease the madness, but the boy refused. So he let the boy be, and did not tell his other sons.
"Of course, Sulpicia's network of spies had her entirely aware of what was going on, and she decided to dispatch her guard to wipe out the many pockets of resistance. However, Sulpicia did not want the Volturi to be seen as tyrants bent on needless, brutal violence, and she personally joined the forces, setting up trials for the covens before they were executed, touching each member with her own hand to determine who were guilty and who were innocent. And so, as one treacherous coven after another was burned from the face of the earth and trembling terror of the Volturi once again restored, the Volturi's fairness in its judgments remained acknowledged and respected.
"Inevitably, Sulpicia's forces made their way to the part of the country the fourth son and his gang of anarchist friends resided, and she ordered their destruction, though not before touching each one to determine his thoughts. Upon touching the fourth son, she discovered the father's knowledge—that he had known, but not acted, and thereby committed treason.
"Sulpicia did not execute the son right away, and instead led her forces to where the father and his other sons currently resided. According to the law, he was to be executed as well, along with any others involved who knew but did nothing. However, Sulpicia, having seen in the son's mind the father's truly kind and gentle way, offered to pardon him if he now took responsibility for what he had created—destroy it by his own hand, and vow that he would never again fail to perform his duty in service to the greater good.
"The father who, as far as any of them knew, had never before slain another one of his kind, approached his son, held as he was in the grips of Sulpicia's guards. He raised his hand—and, instead of destroying his son, struck down his son's first guard.
"He never got to the second, as Sulpicia's forces executed him and his son instantly. Having already touched Tanvir and his brothers, Sulpicia knew them to be entirely innocent, and she and her forces left them unharmed.
"Tanvir and his brothers understood their father's choice, I think. But his choice to die, to abandon them on account of a brother who had already betrayed them—I don't know if they ever truly forgave him. They live on now, never forgetting the importance of upholding the laws, of taking responsibility for a wayward creation..."
The memory of Carine's voice blurred and faded. And at last, I finally drifted off into unconsciousness.
However, even asleep, my restless mind continued to work.
I found myself standing in a broad field. Miles of dead grass stretched out before me, and just on the horizon, I could make out clouds of billowing black smoke—the smell of a thick incense lingered on the air, heavy and suffocating.
As I slowly turned my head, figures in heavy dark cloaks seemed to appear from nowhere, all standing at attention around where I knelt on the ground. I felt hard, cold hands on my shoulders.
I lifted my head to follow their disciplined gazes, and my eyes fell on a single slender figure, dressed in a long cloak as black as night. The figure drew back the deep hood, and long, shimmering locks of dark hair spilled out. Deep red eyes filmed over in an ancient mist came to rest on me. Sulpicia.
Sulpicia stood before the crowd around me just in front of a misshapen hill, flanked on either side by her usual guards, her head high and back straight as a Roman general. Her eyes lingered on me a moment longer, before her gaze suddenly shifted to something else, something obscured from my view by the heavy cloaks of the figures beside me.
"You must see," Sulpicia said, voice soft but clear, "that what you have created is a monster. You have done great wrong, inflicted much misery on many. However, if you admit to your grave error, and correct it, I will pardon you. All I ask is that you destroy what you created."
One of those standing near me shifted, the cloak moving aside like the drawing back of a curtain. And suddenly I saw who Sulpicia was speaking to. Her long bronze hair hung at her back, her ivory skin seeming to glow in the firelight of the burning battlefield. A guard stood on either side of her, and her expression was impossible to read as she gazed up at Sulpicia.
At last, she slowly turned her deep, familiar golden eyes on me.
I opened my mouth to speak—but it wasn't my voice that came out. The voice rang like music, as though from a being descended straight from heaven.
"Edythe," I whispered softly.
Edythe's thoughts were impossible to discern behind the mask of her expressionless features. I couldn't hold her gaze, and my eyes fell away, first falling on the distant battlefield, then drawn irresistibly back to Sulpicia. As I stared, my head slightly bowed, my eyes refocused on the mound just behind her—and I felt myself freeze where I knelt.
What I had taken for simply a small hill I saw now was a mound of corpses—not those of vampires, as I knew lay strewn about the field in the distance, but humans. Humans I knew.
They seemed to stare back at me—the empty faces of all my friends, Allen, Becca, Jeremy, McKayla... And, as my eyes finally dropped to the mound's very base, I saw, directly behind where the hem of Sulpicia's black cloak brushed the barren ground, the broken bodies of my mother and father.
A choked sound escaped my mouth, still that strange mix of silk and music, as horror churned through my stomach and up into my lungs like poison. I couldn't think, couldn't breathe. At long last, I slowly raised my eyes to Sulpicia, standing with the pile of mutilated bodies at her back. I stared at her, as the questions tore through my lightning-quick mind. Had she done this? Had she ordered this unimaginable atrocity?
Sulpicia's dark, misty eyes once again flickered toward me, and as my gaze dropped to her pale hands folded in front of her, I saw they were perfectly clean. My eyes jumped to those of her guards beside her, then to the other soldiers standing around her. But their hands were clean, too.
At long last, my gaze dropped, down to the ground just in front of where I knelt. I lifted my own hands, to stare at my palms. They glittered slightly in the faint, fading sunlight, like a thousand tiny diamonds. They were unfamiliar hands, beautiful, flawless and strong.
And covered in blood.
Numbly, I raised my eyes back to Edythe.
She had turned, and was approaching me now. She came to a stop barely a few feet from where I knelt, still gripped in place by my dark-cloaked guards. For a moment, she simply gazed down at me with sad, golden eyes. I could see myself reflected in them—my own eyes so unlike hers, the bright crimson of freshly spilled blood. She raised one delicate hand, and for a moment her eyes, never once moving from mine, hardened. And I saw there what she was about to do.
I opened my mouth to shout, to plea. But the words didn't come.
My bloody hands gripped the grass beneath me, staining it red, as the first guard standing beside me fell.
A/N: And on that note...
A lot of different things from the original chapter this time around, though at this point still following the same basic structure. (I had so many issues trying to cut down Carine's story about the Denalis there at the end to fit the chapter's natural flow, but I'm not sure I quite succeeded.) Not sure if any of you out there might have been hoping for Archie to force on Beau a bit of a wilder bachelor party, lol, but I figured Archie probably would have seen Beau is capable of being as stubborn and/or potentially ballistic as Bella if he puts his mind to it. (Beau's a pretty easygoing guy most of the time, but there are some battles with Beau that are just not winnable.)
In other news, I also recently answered some interview questions on Twi Fandom News. Feel free to take a look if you're interested (just google 'Twi Fandom News'), and it's also just a great place to find other Twilight-related news and fanfiction recommendations. (The article was done by Jadiona, who you might recognize as another Life and Death author here on the site. If you're looking for more Reimagined fics, you might want to check out her versions of New Moon and Eclipse—which, rather than changing the Life and Death ending, begin with Beau as a vampire. When I first read Life and Death, the resolution seemed so thorough I didn't see where else the story might go and still stay interesting, but these stories with their sometimes edgier take on the characters definitely changed my mind.)
Thanks so much for reading! If you have a moment, let me know what you thought, and hope to see you next time! :J