A/N: Hey all, back again.
We're making progress—while this one may not be quite as dramatic as the original version (for reasons you might be able to guess), I hope you'll enjoy it anyway, and see you at the end!
Chapter 4: Now and Forever
The wedding quickly flowed into the reception party without a hitch. Edythe—and, I was beginning to realize Archie had had a bigger hand in helping out than I'd realized—had everything planned out to perfection. And so, it was just twilight over the river, the sun set behind the trees, just as they had planned it.
Edythe and I headed out through the glass back doors to where the reception was being held. There were more white flowers here, and the amazing fragrance had me filling my lungs again and again. As with everything else, it was just enough, and not overpowering. A dance floor had been set up on the grass, under two ancient cedars.
Everything felt more calm and relaxed now. The crowd spread out to mingle and enjoy the food, and there was time to talk. Sarah came over to clap me on the back again, while I noticed her father watching from the background with a look of intense disapproval.
I noticed Bonnie sitting just beside him, and she was nearly as tense. However, her eyes weren't scanning the crowd of guests with a look of deep suspicion as Saul was. Rather, she kept glancing toward the woods, knuckles tapping nervously on the arm of her wheelchair. I wondered if she was afraid some of the wolves were going to come roaring in to crash the party, or if all this just made her nervous in general—after all, she had to know this event foreshadowed a challenge to the treaty between the Cullens and Quileutes, the treaty that prohibited the Cullens from ever creating another vampire. The breach was coming—but we still didn't know how the wolves were going to react. Before the alliance to stop Victor, it would have meant an immediate attack. But now...would things be different? Would there be more understanding?
Sarah passed by me to throw an arm around Edythe, which Edythe returned with her free hand. Behind her, I saw Saul shudder and clench his fist at his side, as though he wanted to hurl himself forward and drag his daughter to safety.
Sarah skipped back a step, grinning again. "Congratulations," she said. "You're going to be the happiest people I know."
"Thank you, Sarah," Edythe said, smiling back. "I do believe we will."
Edythe's eyes turned to Saul and Bonnie behind her. "And thank you for coming as well. It means a great deal to us."
Saul snorted and turned his head to glare haughtily in another direction. Bonnie didn't respond, her eyes wandering toward the forest again.
Sarah and Edythe shared a brief look I didn't understand. Then Sarah was smiling again. "Well, guess we better get moving, we're holding up the line." Indeed, there were people stacking up behind them now, so many I was surprised it was possible we could know them all.
"Save a dance for me later, Beau, won't you?" Sarah added with a careless grin.
"Sure," I called back, smiling.
Allen and Becca were next in line, and Becca babbled in a happy, though nearly incoherent string of fond memories and predictions of the future, while Allen smiled a bit and murmured his congratulations in a low voice. At the end, Becca leaned in close to Edythe and mumbled something I didn't catch. Edythe's returning smile was wide, and she answered softly, "You didn't really need me. You just needed a push in the right direction."
As Allen and Becca moved on, making way for Allen's parents, I raised a questioning eyebrow at her. She smiled and shrugged a shoulder dismissively. Next were McKayla and Jeremy, holding hands, and then McKayla's parents.
Standing behind them were my brand new cousins—the Denali vampire clan. At the front was a jaw-droppingly good-looking guy with blond hair streaked with just the barest hint of sunset red, with absolutely perfect white teeth which all gleamed as he grinned. He reached out to give Edythe a congratulatory hug, while the other three watched me curiously with their golden eyes. I had no doubt that the blond guy at the front was the infamous Tanvir.
"Edythe!" he exclaimed, keeping his arm around her shoulders a little longer than necessary. "It's been a while, hasn't it? Have to say, it's been a bit lonely without you."
Edythe laughed, and didn't seem at all worried about hurting his feelings as she deftly pulled out from under his arm. "It's good to see you, too, Tanvir," she said. "I'm glad to see you haven't changed in the slightest."
He grinned and winked. "You know my way with the ladies is all part of my charm."
Edythe smiled and shook her head. "But, I'm being rude. I haven't introduced you yet." Edythe wound an arm around my waist, pulling herself close to my side. Her eyes burned bright with excitement. "Tanvir, this is Beau—my husband." The overwhelming warmth and affection she infused in the two words was enough to make me lightheaded, and when she turned to gaze on me with adoring eyes, I couldn't help but stare back at her in return.
"Nice to finally meet you, Beau," Tanvir said easily, offering me his hand to shake. "Congratulations. It takes a lot to move Edythe—I would know." He laughed heartily.
I forced myself to look away from Edythe, and reached out to shake his hand uncertainly. "Um, thanks."
He paused, then added a bit more seriously, "Sorry about before—we consider ourselves Carine's extended family, but I guess when it counted, we didn't live up to that. We can't say how sorry we are."
He was looking at me, not Edythe, as he said it, and I didn't know what to say. "Um, oh, that's okay. It all worked out."
He grinned again, showing all his white teeth. It reminded me of the smile this one movie-star had, who was popular back when I was in junior high. Half the girls in the school had kept posters of him in their locker, and broke into giggle fits whenever his name came up in conversation. However, Edythe didn't seem to notice, because her eyes were still on me.
"So," Tanvir said. "Looks like all the Cullens are evened up in numbers now. Maybe we'll be next, eh, Ki?"
A guy with straight blond hair, so light it was almost white, rolled his eyes. I figured 'Ki' must be Kirill. "We can keep dreaming," he muttered. Like Tanvir, Kirill carried himself with a kind of innate confidence, but it seemed a different sort of confidence from Tanvir's lady-killer vibe. When he came forward to shake my hand as well, he gripped it a bit stronger than Tanvir had.
"Welcome to the family," he said. He jerked his chin toward Tanvir. "Don't worry about this fool."
The other two approached as well, a little more cautiously. They both had dark hair and an olive complexion, and something about the close way they stood, and seemed to move as a single unit, I could tell they were together.
"Carlos," said the man as he shook my hand. "This is Elena. We're glad to finally meet you. We've heard a great deal about you."
"Nice to meet you too," I answered, managing a smile even though it was a little overwhelming meeting so many vampires at once who weren't the Cullens.
Tanvir glanced back at the line behind them. Charlie's deputy Mark and his wife were staring at the Denali clan with huge eyes.
Tanvir turned back to us. "Well, we'll have to get to know each other better sometime. But I guess we'll have plenty of time for that." He gave me a wink before they all moved on to go mingle with some of the other Cullens.
Edythe and Archie had made it a traditional wedding, down to the last detail. Lots of pictures were taken, and Edythe and I cut the cake together. I was surprised when Edythe murmured in my ear that Earnest had been the one who had baked it. Edythe threw her bouquet, and it landed right in Becca's hands. She and Allen shared a look, then blushed and looked away from each other.
When Archie started up the music, I didn't object as Edythe led me out for the first dance. Edythe was the only one who I could really dance with—as long as I followed her lead, I was fine.
Edythe gazed up into my eyes, never looking away, as though she were as entranced as I was. Only when the music changed, and Earnest cut in on us, did I blink and come out of the spell. My mom took up Edythe's place, and she was beaming as she danced with the perfect easy grace of a pixie, and I did my best to keep up. She was laughing, and I realized I was laughing, too.
However, as the music moved into a slightly slower part of the song, my mom slowed too, and her eyes watched me. Without meaning to, my gaze drifted toward the forest.
"You're worried about something," she said softly.
I shook my head. "No way, Mom. This is the best day of my life."
She raised an eyebrow. "Since when does my little open book think he can lie to his mother?"
I sighed. "I'm happy, Mom, I promise. It's just..." I glanced toward the woods again. "I guess there was this friend I was hoping would be able to come." I shook my head. "It was stupid."
She looked up into my eyes, with that keen perceptiveness that still always seemed to catch me unawares. "You mean Julie Black," she said.
I blinked, startled. Then my gaze dropped. "Yeah."
My mom had never actually met Jules. I'd only talked about her in my emails, mostly back during my dark days when Edythe was gone from Forks. So I was surprised when she said, "Maybe it was just too hard for her."
I stared back at her.
She gave me a look, eyebrows both raised. "Now, I'm not totally oblivious to these things."
I sighed. "Yeah, maybe it was. Too hard, I mean. She's my best friend, but...things are complicated." I hesitated. "Guess it was kind of a selfish thought."
She smiled as she put a hand to my face. "You're not selfish, dear. You just care about your friends, and you want to be able to share with them a little of your happiness."
I nodded slowly.
"So," she said, with a huge smile. "Do you know where you're going on your honeymoon yet?"
I shrugged. "I think they're trying to keep it kind of a secret. I didn't ask, anyway. I guess when it comes down to it, I don't really care that much, so long as Edythe's there."
My mom shook her head, half amused, half incredulous. "You must really be in love. I'm dying to know, and it's not even my honeymoon."
I laughed, and we danced until someone else cut in, and she wandered off to find Phil.
I watched Edythe out of the corner of my eye. No matter how uncoordinated or clumsy her partner, she made everyone look good. I danced with a lot of friends from school, being extra careful so I wouldn't trip and take someone down. It was nicer than I expected—I talked to Becca a little about her and Allen's plans for the summer, and Taylor chattered on about where she was going to college next year.
I was a bit surprised, pleasantly so, when Sarah cut in on McKayla.
"Hey," she said, smiling. "You did promise me a dance, remember?"
"Sure," I said with a grin. "Course I remember."
Sarah kept the pace easy and slow for my sake, though she moved with the perfect grace and fluidity of all her wolf sisters.
"Lee's still being a brat," she informed me, eyes glittering. "He's sulking at home. I keep telling him to just get over himself, but he never listens to me."
"Hey," I said, worried now. "You really shouldn't pick fights with him. He's twice as big as you."
Sarah snorted with derision and waved a hand dismissively. "I hope he doesn't hear you say that or it will go straight to his head. He acts tougher than he really is. He tries to bully the others around, but no one in the pack will put up with it."
I suddenly remembered Lee's whole bad situation—with the love triangle with Sam and Elliot, and the awkward mind-sharing. And of course, the constant onslaught of estrogen.
Sarah laughed suddenly. "Wow. Jules was right. It really is easy to read what's going through your head."
I snapped out of my reverie and frowned. "What?"
She rolled her eyes. "You just got this really sympathetic look on your face. Don't bother. There's nothing my brother hates more than sympathy." She added brightly, "Why do you think I go out of my way to bug him when he's already having a sucky time? Because I'm a good sister, and I'm helping him hold onto his ego. He hates it when people start acting nice."
If anything, my perplexed frown deepened. "That sounds...kind of warped."
Sarah flashed a grin. "That's what pointless machoism is all about."
I hesitated, glancing automatically toward the forest again, for about the twentieth time that evening. When I spoke again, I kept my voice low. "By the way, about...Jules...did you find out where she was last?"
Sarah's smile faded. Once again she got that look in her eye from before—like there was something she wasn't saying.
"What?" I said, my voice rising a little with agitation. I forced myself to a sound a bit more calm as I added, "Did something happen?"
Sarah shook her head rapidly. "No, not really. It's just that—well, when I got up this morning, I wondered if Jules was headed over here, if she was going to try to make it. So I went out and went wolf to see. But...she wasn't there."
I stared back at her. For a moment, I couldn't react.
"It's nothing to freak out over," she said quickly, seeing my expression. "It just means she's gone human for awhile. She's been living as a wolf for months—maybe she's finally getting tired of it. Or maybe she just wanted some time alone to think."
"Oh," I said. "Right." Still, I felt my stomach tighten all the same. As long as Jules was a wolf, Sarah and the others could tell vaguely where she was, and if she was all right. Human...we couldn't tell anything.
Sarah sighed, then smiled a bit ruefully. "You know, when I first realized I couldn't hear her this morning, I sort of thought...well, I thought she might have come back. For this. For you. Like, she was hanging out in town, and didn't want us to know."
She shook her head. "Guess that was kind of silly. The others on patrol last night say she disappeared in the early evening—I guess something they were thinking must have upset her, and when she slipped off, she wasn't anywhere near here. But, I know she'd kind of been thinking about it, debating, even though she was trying not to. So I thought, maybe..." Sarah sighed, then shrugged.
"I wouldn't have expected her to come," I said quietly. "She shouldn't have felt like she had to."
Sarah's eyebrows furrowed, and her eyes flickered to the woods again.
"What?" I said.
Sarah looked up at me, and her eyes were full of worry. I felt my stomach, which had loosened a little, suddenly contract in another knot, harder than the last.
Sarah looked down. "The others aren't too worried yet—well, except Bonnie. She's tried to stay cool, but us not being in contact with Jules really has her pretty wound up. But Jules will probably go wolf again soon, and we'll find out what's up. But...I don't know why, I have this bad feeling."
I swallowed. "You think..." I said, struggling to keep my voice even. "You think maybe something bad happened?"
Sarah shook her head. "I don't know. It's just a gut feeling—I mean, I know Jules hadn't decided to be here or anything, but I just feel like—well, I feel like if she could be here, she would be. She would come to support you. The fact she's not here, and she's not headed here right now..." She sighed deeply again.
I was tense. My eyes flickered out toward the forest yet again, as though hoping to see a figure suddenly emerge from the shadows—or at least the hulking outline of a shaggy, russet wolf. I felt a chill. Was it possible something was wrong?
Sarah shook her head again, then smiled. "But, probably nothing to be worried about. Maybe when she went human, she went into a bar somewhere and is passed out, drunk. And when she wakes up, she'll totally freak out that she missed it."
I frowned. "Jules isn't old enough to be drinking."
Sarah laughed. "She's never drank in her life. But you never know. She's been kind of...erratic, lately."
I nodded. I knew that much. And I knew whose fault it was.
Sarah looked up into my face. "Sorry," she said. "I really shouldn't have said anything. I shouldn't be worrying you on a day like today. If I were Edythe, I wouldn't like it."
I shook my head. "I'd rather know than not know."
Sarah nodded, though she still looked uncomfortable, and not totally convinced.
The song came to an end, and another one started up, a slow song this time.
"Mind if I cut in?"
Edythe's soft, musical voice interrupted my thoughts, and Sarah jumped slightly.
"Sure," she said, grinning, but her eyes dropped guiltily.
Edythe touched Sarah's shoulder. "Thank you for coming today," she said sincerely. "And for being a part of this. I meant it when I said it means a lot to me."
Sarah looked up, and she grinned more fully. "No problem. It was way fun. Maybe I'll fly out the next time you get married."
Edythe laughed softly. "We'll send you an invitation."
It never failed to amaze me how casually Sarah referred to the vampire way of doing things. She knew I was going to be changed very soon, but she acted like it was totally natural, like it didn't make a difference. I couldn't help but watch her go, as she waded back through the crowd.
I felt Edythe's cool arms around me, and I was immediately distracted. I wrapped my arms around her, and she sighed contentedly, leaning her head against my shoulder. She was still in her wedding dress, and I didn't think I'd ever seen anything on this earth more beautiful. Today was our day. I should be focusing on the two of us, not letting my pessimistic imagination run wild.
Edythe closed her eyes, and the smile that curled her perfect lips was so blissful it made my heart beat a little faster. Then she lifted her head and I felt her cool breath against my ear as she murmured, "You're worried about Julie Black."
I missed a step in the dance, and she had to raise a hand to my back to steady me.
I considered denying it. But of course, she'd probably heard some of—or all—the conversation with Sarah.
"Sorry," I mumbled.
Edythe pulled back to look me in the face. "Don't be sorry," she said, softly but fiercely. "Don't ever be sorry, Beau." She sighed then and glanced away. "To be honest, I'm a little worried, too. I hope that fool of a dog hasn't gone and gotten herself hurt. I know how that would upset you—and, strangely, me as well."
I looked away, and didn't answer.
"Maybe we can look for her," Edythe suggested. "After our honeymoon. During, if you're very anxious."
I blinked, startled, and quickly turned back to assess her expression. She couldn't possibly want that. However, if there was any reluctance at the idea, she didn't show it. Her golden eyes were warm and gentle, filled with nothing but concern for me.
I had to look away from her—she was too beautiful, inside and out. Even if I did become a vampire, good-looking on the outside, I'd never deserve her. Not in a hundred years.
"I'm sure she's okay," I said. "If she's gone very much longer, the wolves will probably go after her. They're probably better equipped to find her than we would be anyway."
Edythe studied my face for a minute, as always, trying to read my mind. Maybe searching for a sign I was just saying what I thought she wanted to hear. However, at last she sighed and leaned her head against my shoulder again. I felt her cool hand against my back, holding me to her.
"Whatever you want, Beau," she murmured. "Whatever you think is best."
We were quiet then, and I held her tightly to me as we meandered over the dance floor, as the pink twilight deepened behind the clouds. I was still incredulous—it still didn't feel real, that the two of us were officially bound together. I was hers, and she was mine. We were a team now, a single unit with a single purpose—now and forever.
The music shifted again, to a song a little more up-tempo, and I felt someone tap me on the shoulder.
"Do I get a dance with my sister?"
I glanced over to see Archie hovering nearby, grinning broadly.
Edythe acted like she didn't notice him for a minute, staring up into my eyes, her arm wound around my back unmoving. However, perhaps he was thinking some particularly annoying thoughts, because at last she sighed and rolled her eyes. "I suppose I don't have a choice," she said. She reluctantly disengaged herself from my arms, though not before leaning up to give me a quick kiss.
I watched the two of them circle away, looking like a perfectly choreographed pair of partners from a dance company. Though they were both smiling, I noticed an odd intensity in their eyes—the way they both had when they were having one of their silent conversations.
However, before I had a chance to really get myself worked up with worry, my thoughts were interrupted when Eleanor, laughing, sidled up to claim a dance. Before long I had to turn all my attention to not tripping and falling into Eleanor, and making a total fool of myself. I was sure if I did Eleanor would never let me live it down, and even more importantly, I had a feeling Royal had his eyes on us, and I wasn't ready to die yet.
I danced with a few more people, including Jessamine and Carine, but after a while I was looking for Edythe again. Normally her beauty and grace made her easy to pick out from a crowd, but I didn't see her anywhere, and I was just thinking about going to look when I felt someone touch my arm. I jumped slightly, but turned to find it was my mom.
"It's almost time, sweetheart," she said, smiling, though her eyes shone with tears. "You don't want to miss your plane."
I blinked. I'd completely lost track of the time. I turned to see a crowd was beginning to gather in a tight cluster around the front of the house, getting ready to see us off.
"I think Edythe's gone to change," she said. "You'll be going in a few minutes."
She gazed up into my face a long minute, her hand on my cheek. Then she drew me into a hug. "Oh, honey," she sighed. "You have to promise to visit us very soon." Phil, who was hovering in the background, nodded once and smiled. She added, "It's your turn to come south, see the sun for once."
I put an arm around her. To avoid answering her invitation, I said, "It didn't rain today." My voice came out strangely low, and more husky than I meant—she didn't realize this would probably be the last time I would ever see her. Very soon I was going to be too different, too dangerous to be around any of my human family.
As though she could read my thoughts, she sniffled suddenly, and she had to reach up quickly to wipe away a tear, smudging a little of her makeup in the process.
"Don't cry, Mom," I mumbled, patting her shoulder. I glanced down at her stomach, and added, "Take care of her." I'd decided to follow my mom's lead in assuming it was a girl. "Make sure you're getting all the right vitamins and stuff."
She laughed a little through her tears, wiping a few away and leaving a few more smudges around her eyes. "I will," she promised, smiling, and she put a loving hand to her stomach.
It was strange to think how my mom was getting an entirely new life now, a new family. It didn't sting the way it might have in the past—now I could only hope it meant she'd be okay without me.
She turned toward the house, working to pull herself together. "We better go. You'll want to meet Edythe now. She'll be waiting for you."
I swallowed, waiting a moment until my tight throat was completely cleared before I answered. "Yeah." However, I didn't turn for the house right away, and instead I found my eyes scanning the crowd.
My mom immediately knew who I was looking for. "He's over there, by the house. Hiding from the party, of course." She shook her head, smiling with a kind of affectionate exasperation.
I made my way through the crowd, and found him just where my mom had said, leaning uncomfortably against the wall of the house, removed from the general hubbub. I came to a stop just short of where he stood.
We were both silent for a minute before I said at last, "Um, hey, Dad. I...guess we're going soon."
He nodded. "Have a good time."
Another pause, filled only by the voices of the other guests, chattering in excitement as they mulled around in preparation for the send-off.
"Call me, won't you?" Charlie grunted at last. "When you get around to it. Sometime before the semester starts."
"Sure, Dad." I hesitated. Awkwardly, I reached out an arm for a hug. He grunted again, surprised, but then put an arm around me in return.
I said in a hoarse whisper, "Thanks for everything, Dad."
When I pulled back again, I saw his eyes were a little red.
He coughed into his fist. "Better go," he said gruffly. "You don't want to be late."
I nodded, and turned away. My throat felt tight again. I took a deep breath and tried to steady myself.
Inside the house, I found Edythe already waiting for me at the foot of the stairs. She'd already traded out the wedding dress for a simple but finely cut dress of pale blue, and she smiled wide when she saw me.
"Ready?" she asked, extending her hand.
I took it, and wrapped an arm around her slender shoulders. "Definitely."
Everyone was waiting for us as we headed outside. Both of our parents waited by the door, and Edythe hugged Carine, then Earnest, and Earnest's face seemed to glow as he touched her cheek affectionately and kissed her on the forehead. I hugged both of my parents, and my mom was crying worse than ever as she blubbered out how happy she was and nearly incoherent invitations to come and see her.
Someone had brought the going away car around, and it was waiting in the drive, gleaming white in the evening light, and decorated with flowers and streamers on every available surface. Everyone cheered and applauded when I clumsily kissed Edythe on the porch, and we headed toward the car amidst a storm of rice—Eleanor in particular had incredible aim, and I wondered how long it would take Edythe to get the grains out of her hair.
"Um," I mumbled in Edythe's ear, suddenly thinking of something. "Who's driving?"
Edythe raised an eyebrow at me. "I'll give you a hint," she murmured in a melodious undertone, and I saw a flash of the keys in her hand. "Our driver's name doesn't start with B."
I frowned slightly. "Won't that look weird?" I muttered back.
She flashed a grin. "Consider it your wedding gift to me."
I shrugged. I guess I didn't care if she didn't. I went and opened the driver's side door for her, and she slid on in, waving at the crowd as she did so. I quickly dove around to the passenger side as I was hailed with rice—I heard Eleanor's laugh of delight rise above the cheering crowd.
As the car pulled away from the house, I turned around to look back one last time. I saw my mom, still waving, Phil standing at her side. He had his arms around her affectionately, one hand resting lightly on her stomach. My dad stood nearby, watching me go quietly. As I looked on, my mom dropped her waving hand, and reached out to take Charlie's, at the same time she reached up to place a hand over Phil's.
They would be okay. My human families all had each other.
I felt Edythe's cool hand on mine, and I turned to see her golden eyes on me.
"Are you doing all right?" she asked softly.
I smiled as I gazed back into her face. Everything was right with the world. I turned my hand over so I could lace my fingers through hers. "Yeah. Better than all right."
She smiled back, then turned her eyes back to the road.
I slid over into the middle seat and fastened my seat belt, then I slipped an arm around her shoulders. "I love you," I said in her ear.
She sighed and leaned back against my shoulder, breathing deeply. "You, too," she murmured. "Forever."
We turned onto the black highway, and Edythe really hit the accelerator then. Without meaning to, my eyes flickered back toward the forest behind us. The image of my human family flickered in my mind again, and images of all my human friends. However, it was incomplete. There was a hole there, where someone else should have been.
I allowed myself one last, lingering thought, before I determined to shut it from my mind.
Hope you're safe out there, Jules. Wherever you are.
A/N: In some ways not a hugely eventful chapter this time, but next chapter will be when things really start to radically diverge from Breaking Dawn. The next couple chapters have been some of my favorite to work on for this story, but...well. I do mean it when I say this is a new plot, and not a parallel of the original Breaking Dawn. (Which for me, is a bit like having been safely riding on train rails most of the journey, only to be suddenly hurled out flying into the atmosphere.)
Thanks to for the reimagined name for Carmen. (Who, if you remember, also suggested the gender-swapped names for Brady and Collin back in New Moon.) I had filled in Carter for a while, just to have something there, but I thought, that doesn't sound very Spanish. Carlos sounded a lot more natural. Not sure if you're still reading this georigos, but thanks!
As always, thanks so much for reading and keeping up with me. I really appreciate all your thoughts and feedback, and I'm definitely excited to get to the next chapter, if a bit terrified. If you have a moment, let me know what you thought, and hope to see you next time!