Breaking Dawn Reimagined @visser2315
Pawn

A/N: Hey guys! Made it back again, and a long one this time.

Again, a slightly higher T rating this chapter than usual when it comes to the sexual themes of this story, though much less so than the original Breaking Dawn. (Again, on my reasoning on that, there will be a little more discussion at the end of this chapter.)

As always, thanks so much for reading, and for staying with me all this time—I hope you'll enjoy it even if it's not quite the same as the equivalent in Breaking Dawn, this chapter is definitely a major one. Thanks again, and hope to see you at the end!

Chapter 6: Pawn

I was so busy watching Edythe out of the corner of my eye at first I didn't notice when we turned onto a gravel road. Only when we passed onto a road that looked like it hadn't been serviced in the last fifty years and I felt myself bouncing against the seat like a jackhammer did I notice as we passed into a more rural area, and I figured we must be getting close.

I tried to think of what I would say when we got there. Every time I glanced at Edythe, she still seemed upset, and I tried to figure out a way to make her feel better. A part of my brain knew I should be hugely disappointed by this development—and maybe I was, the sort-of honeymoon Edythe had been talking about had sounded a lot better than playing card games—but at the moment, the look on Edythe's face pushed out every other thought except finding a way to cheer her up, and make sure the night was still a good memory.

I couldn't see a whole lot as Edythe turned us onto a small, barely visible side road, and wound our way through thick forest. The road seemed to get narrower and narrower, branches brushing up against the windows, until suddenly the claustrophobic forest opened up onto a small dirt clearing.

The space was covered in even gravel, and it was obviously human made. However, it was overgrown with weeds, and clearly hadn't been maintained for years. It was a dead end, with forest on every side, and Edythe finally brought us to a stop at the very edge. She cut the engine short and pulled the key from the ignition in a sharp, jerky movement.

I looked around for Eleanor's cabin, but I didn't see anything but dark forest. "Um, where is it?" I said. I spoke in a low rasp after being quiet for so long.

"It's still a ways up," she answered in a dull, almost mechanical voice. "It's not far. But we'll be running part of the way."

"Oh." I glanced apprehensively at the dark forest. "What about our luggage?"

"I can carry one of your bags. Archie packed a few changes of clothes and the essentials. I'll get the others on the way back when I come back from hunting."

I nodded as I reached into the backseat to pull out my duffel. I climbed out of the cab to find Edythe already outside waiting, her back to me. I noticed her eyes were narrowed and scanning the forest, like she expected some enemy to come charging out from the underbrush.

Wordlessly, without my usual complaints, I clambered up onto her back, keeping a tight hold on the strap of my duffel as I swung it around to rest over my shoulder.

Without saying anything, Edythe abruptly took off up the incline like a lightning bolt.

The thick trees blocked out the sky overhead, and it was too dark to see much of anything as low-lying branches whipped past. I wasn't afraid like I had been that first time riding on Edythe's back. I had long contented myself with the fact Edythe knew what she was doing, but still the tense queasiness of the mood churned in my stomach.

The trees suddenly ended, and Edythe came to an abrupt halt. There was just enough ambient light now from the stars above that I could just make out the vague outline of an enormous structure—when Edythe had said cabin I'd been expecting something a little different. Something a bit rustic, perhaps with a stump outside for chopping firewood. This looked more like a luxury resort house.

As I gazed up at the multi-levels of tastefully blended woods, I wanted to ask if Earnest had had a hand in the design. However, I could just make out Edythe's face in the low light, and still her expression remained impassive, immovable as a stone wall.

I desperately wanted to say something to break the tension, and make everything easy and normal again. But I knew from experience that when Edythe got like this, it could be hard to get her out of it.

Edythe approached, pausing to draw a key out from under a decorative stone beside the low porch, and opened the door with a click.

The eerie quiet of the surrounding forest combined with the dark of the house made me swallow, and I half expected something to come jumping out at us as we stood on the threshold.

As though reading my thoughts, Edythe was surprisingly cautious. She stood in front of me, preventing me from proceeding for a moment, and her eyes swept the shadows, like she was looking for something. However, after a moment she let out a breath that sounded almost like a sigh and went on in. I followed her a moment later.

I considered asking if she was all right, but just then Edythe reached back to close the door behind me, a moment before hitting the light switch.

The air left my lungs in a surprised gasp—if there was any doubt in my mind that the place was designed by Earnest, it was gone.

Lodge would probably be a better description than cabin. The front room opened up in a broad space, with an assortment of big leather armchairs scattered in front of a stone fireplace and large flat-screen TV on one side, and a full kitchen with a minibar on the other. Elaborately woven carpets lay over the wood floors, along with highly realistic, exquisite nature paintings on every wall—a bear catching a fish in its teeth, a high waterfall crashing on rocks of a stream, a crimson sunset on a field of flowers. At the center of it all was a twisting set of wooden stairs that led to a second floor.

Almost everything in the room, from the floors to the coffee table and end tables beside the armchairs, were wood, a deeply stained oak. It was the perfectly sophisticated blend of modern convenience and rugged backwoods style. It could have been ripped straight from the pages of Back Country, and I idly wondered exactly what sort of provisions Eleanor kept the place stocked with. I was suddenly picturing all the most expensive nuts and dried fruits known to man, shipped in from South America.

McKayla's parents and many of their other outdoor-enthusiast customers would probably kill to have a vacation home like this, though I wondered vaguely how on earth Eleanor had gotten power up here for this kind of setup out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe she had installed her own generator nearby—that seemed the most practical, if you had an unlimited supply of funds.

The place was, in short, unbelievable, and I made up my mind to do some exploring later, when I got the chance. I knew I'd probably be enjoying this a lot more if Edythe wasn't looking so grim.

I decided my goal for the night was to try to get Edythe out of the funk she'd worked herself into, and make this all as easy as possible on her. So long as we were together we could have fun no matter what we were doing, I was sure. What wouldn't be fun was if Edythe let herself wallow in guilt and self-loathing all night.

I set my duffel on the floor by the door and headed over to the big flat screen. Beside it was a massive bank of DVDs, arranged alphabetically by title.

"Hey," I said, trying to inject some enthusiasm into my voice. "We could make it into another movie night." I scanned the titles, looking for something that I recognized or jumped out at me. I noticed a section dedicated to National Geographic stuff, and maybe it was just the setting of the woods and the lodge, but suddenly that sounded kind of good. One yellow case with the head of a mountain lion on the spine caught my eye, and I drew it out, turning it over to scan the back.

I turned around to grin at Edythe as I flashed her the cover. "You can tell me if this is really anything at all like you hunt."

Edythe had been watching me, her expression smooth, unreadable, and though she smiled back, it didn't reach her eyes.

I sighed deeply, letting the hand holding the DVD drop down to my side. It was starting to look like the only way I was going to get Edythe out of this mood was if I guilted her into it.

"Are you going to be like this all night?" I asked bluntly.

Edythe flinched slightly, then her gaze dropped.

Sighing again, I put the DVD back in its slot and crossed the room back to where she stood. I delicately placed my hands on her shoulders and bent slightly, trying to get her to look me in the eye.

"Look," I said. "Don't worry about whatever Archie said. It's not going to happen. We're both on our guard now. We don't have to do anything you feel like is a risk." I leaned down slowly, until my forehead was pressed against hers. I let my eyes slide closed. "I told you before," I murmured. "This is enough."

I didn't feel any change in Edythe's posture beneath my hands, and after a minute, I opened my eyes again.

Edythe's face was cast in shadow by the light of the elaborate glass lamp that hung from the ceiling. But her golden eyes were an inch from my own, and I could still see them clearly—wide, staring back at me with a suddenly wild desperation.

The look made my insides contract. It reminded me of a trapped animal, terrified and powerless. Only I saw in the set of her jaw anger, too. I could see it all swirling in her eyes—guilt, self-disgust, self-hatred—like a raging storm.

Then the look was gone and her face was smooth again. She reached up and cradled my face between her icy hands. "Beau," she said softly, with such love and tenderness that I felt my body automatically relax. She gazed up at me with eyes like liquid gold.

"Beau," she murmured again. "Would you believe that I love you more than anything? In spite of everything I've put you through?"

I hesitated. I did believe her, but what she was saying and the intensity with which she said it caused my mind to flicker back to another memory from before. Just before we had had to part so she could go hunt down Joss.

I let my hands drop from her shoulders, and wrapped my arms around her waist instead, trying to make sure she stayed with me. I realized a second too late that I'd already forgotten we were trying to be careful.

Almost the moment I touched her, I drew back again. "Sorry," I said hurriedly. "Sorry, I forgot."

However, Edythe didn't let me pull away. Instead, her cool hands, which had been holding my face, shifted, so her arms wound around my back instead. She closed her eyes and pressed her ear to my chest, right above my heart. She breathed deeply, as I knew she was listening to the sound of my heartbeat.

I was definitely in a nostalgic mood tonight, and my mind drifted back, back to that first time in the meadow. Those moments she had been testing herself, seeing how much she could stand. As I had then, I held very still.

At last Edythe pulled away, staring up into my face. She had relaxed slightly, but there was still something in her eyes that made me feel uneasy.

"I'm going to go out for a little while," she said softly. "I'm going to go hunting one more time."

The thought of her leaving right now was painful. Automatically I found myself reaching out to grab her by the wrist. I tried to keep my voice upbeat as I said, "You just hunted last night. Like I said, we can make it a movie night again. You wouldn't have to go then, right?" Embarrassingly, my studied nonchalant tone broke at the end.

Edythe stared back up at my face for a second, but before I could get a good look at her expression, she leaned up to put her lips close to my ear. Her wintry breath tickled my skin. "I won't be gone long. Maybe twenty minutes. That will give you enough time to eat something too, you haven't eaten all day."

"But—" I tried to argue.

Edythe pulled back slightly, and I suddenly felt her icy lips against mine. When she drew away, she pulled her wrist easily from my slack grip.

"Twenty minutes," she breathed, and the scent of her breath in my face muddled my thoughts. I was having trouble holding onto my will to help her be careful.

"You really have to?" I asked.

Edythe smiled, though again her eyes were still tight. "Every little bit will help. And...I might need a few moments to think."

I nodded slowly. Taking a short breath, I took a step back. "Hurry back." I couldn't help but add, "Hopefully an ax murderer doesn't get me while you're gone."

Edythe's serious, pleading expression turned to a scowl. "Very funny, Beau."

"I'm just saying, this seems like the perfect setting for a horror movie."

"Are you questioning my taste in honeymoon venues?" she asked, raising her eyebrows. She pretended to be offended, but underneath, she actually sounded worried, and for a second she seemed to forget about Archie's vision.

I laughed. "It's awesome. It actually puts me in the mood to go hiking, I didn't think there was a place in the world that could do that. It's kind of got a magical vibe—at least when you're here. The whole horror, alone-in-the-middle-of-the-woods part only comes in when you're gone."

I half expected Edythe to make some dark comment about how she was the most dangerous thing to me within a hundred miles, the kind of comment she used to make all the time in the beginning. But she didn't. Instead, she just gazed at me, with eyes torn between tenderness and agony. Then she shook her head, and her expression returned to neutral.

"There's plenty of food in the cupboards," she said. "Lots of jerky and other dried meat, but quite a few others things, too. We always make sure to keep up appearances. The bedroom's upstairs, and there's a shower in the adjacent bathroom if you need it. The thermostat in the bedroom is just left of the door if you get uncomfortable."

I nodded. "Thanks."

Edythe reached up and touched my cheek. Again I saw in her eyes a flicker of the warring emotions, both love and pain. "I'll be back soon," she whispered.

Then she was gone, leaving me standing alone in the lodge front room.

I checked my watch. Two-seventeen A.M. Which meant she would be back at two-forty-seven, almost three. I stood there for a moment longer. Then, sighing, I hefted my duffel and headed up the stairs.

The bedroom was just as extravagant as the front room downstairs. It was so huge, I was sure it took up half the second floor. I checked the closet, and it alone was at least the size of my room and Charlie's back home combined. Mostly filled with sleek, designer clothes that I figured must be Royal's—I backed out pretty quickly.

There was a wide, oak dresser in the corner, of the same deeply stained surface as all the décor downstairs, and a huge mirror mounted on top. A rugged rocking chair sat in the corner, beside yet another stone fireplace, like the one downstairs. But of course, the main point of focus in the room was the bed at the center. Easily a king size, huge and lavish. As I peeled back the first layer, which was a deep burgundy, I found silk sheets with a gold-threaded hem beneath.

I wondered briefly if the fact Edythe had decided to push herself to go hunting again meant she was going to ignore Archie's warning, and go ahead with the plan to push our normal boundaries. It seemed doubtful, given how shaken up Edythe still seemed, but surrounded by a setting like this, it was hard to hold onto my resolve to help her keep us responsible. I shook my head, trying to get a hold of myself.

I'd just taken a shower earlier that morning, but I figured I could use another one after traveling all day. And I should probably brush my teeth, and comb my hair. Whatever Edythe was going to do, I figured I might as well be prepared. And maybe I should eat something too, I was pretty famished now that I took the time to notice—I suddenly wondered if twenty minutes would be enough preparation time.

As I stepped inside the frosted glass shower stall and let the rush of hot water pound against my skull, as always, my thoughts whirled in circles. What would happen now—how we would spend this short time we had left to spend as vampire and human, how I would be when I was changed. If Edythe would ever be completely free of the guilt I seemed to always be inflicting on her. I was glad now I hadn't gone for her deal—with Archie's call, she just would have gone back on it anyway. She would go back on a thousand deals if it meant making sure I stayed whole and safe. Better that I didn't have to make her feel worse.

I stepped out of the shower and, wrapping a towel around my waist, headed out to the bedroom to retrieve the bedclothes Archie had stocked in my duffel, which I'd laid out across the bed. Silk pajamas of a dark steel gray, which would have looked more appropriate on a company president or rich diplomat than me. Of course, I'd figured all the clothes Archie would have packed for me would be designer, so that wasn't much of a surprise.

However, I paused on the way, as I heard a faint buzzing sound. I bent to the clothes I'd discarded on the floor, the slacks and collared shirt I'd worn under the suit jacket at the wedding ceremony, and drew out the phone Edythe had given me where I'd kept it in my pocket. It was buzzing insistently—I must not have heard it over the pounding of the showerhead.

For a second, I wondered if it was Archie, calling me with another warning like the one he had given Edythe. In spite of my best intentions, the silk sheets of the bed and musky smell of the wood made it hard to think clearly. However, as I looked at the ID, I didn't recognize the number.

Gingerly, I opened the phone and punched the receive button.

"Hello," I said cautiously. "This is Beau Swan."

"Beau," said a gentle, distinctly female voice. "I'm so glad I could get a hold of you."

I hesitated. The voice sounded familiar, but I couldn't immediately place it.

"May I ask who's calling?" I inquired, trying to keep my voice polite.

"Of course," said the voice. "How rude of me. If you remember, we met this past spring. My name is Sulpicia."

Something icy plunged into my stomach. Images flickered in my mind—a dim, circular stone chamber, rows of vampires in long dark cloaks. A series of looming thrones, a figure with long, dark hair and misty eyes with flickers of crimson in their depths.

Sulpicia continued, "Edythe isn't there right now. Is that correct?"

My mouth was dry. I couldn't speak.

"I say, is that correct?" she repeated pleasantly.

"Yes," I croaked.

"Good," she said. "Excellent. Then we may speak freely."

I swallowed hard and managed to say in a hoarse voice, "What do you want?"

"You're not a vampire yet," she said softly. And somehow, the gentleness of her tone made it all the more menacing.

"S-Soon," I stuttered. "It's going to be soon."

"No," Sulpicia said softly. "Not soon. Now. Tonight."

I froze where I was. I couldn't breathe.

Sulpicia continued, "It will be Edythe to change you, of course. But you must ensure Edythe is unaware you and I have spoken."

I finally came to life enough to shake my head. "It... would never work. She won't agree to it."

"She will," Sulpicia said softly. "I have already spoken to her, and she will do it, so long as you are amenable. In fact, she will be the one to broach the topic."

I stood there for several seconds, stunned. Then it suddenly hit with the weight of a boulder.

That call Edythe had told me was from Archie had never been from Archie at all. It was Sulpicia. All those looks of guilt and self-loathing weren't from a terror of hurting me, but from giving in to Sulpicia. Edythe was hunting to prepare herself to taste my blood again—or maybe she just needed the time to collect herself, figure out how to ask. Or maybe Sulpicia had just strongly recommended the hunt, for the purpose of getting in this call.

Edythe had once told me she wouldn't change me out of fear, because it was forced on me and I didn't have a choice—what must she be feeling now, with Sulpicia backing her into a corner?

"You will change," Sulpicia said again, gently. "As Edythe already knows, if you do not... well, Cato and Tacita may not be able to track you, but they can certainly track Edythe, and they will find you both, wherever you may go. And I do not take having my express instructions disobeyed...lightly."

I shook my head. My hand gripping the phone was shaking. "And—" I managed to choke out. "That's all you want? Me to change? And once I do—you'll leave us alone?"

I could almost picture Sulpicia's kind smile. "I'm afraid not. Once you are changed, I have a second set of instructions for you, of which Edythe must remain entirely unaware."

"What?" I whispered.

"After the transformation, you will come to see me. And you will leave in such a way that Edythe will not follow you. I think your best option is to make her believe you are abandoning her—that you choose not to be with her. If you are able to make her believe that, she will let you go."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It didn't make any sense. "Why?" My voice was raw.

"The why is not important right now."

I shook my head. This was insane. Madness. And somehow, at that thought, I felt some of my nerve return.

"I'll change," I said, as calmly as I could. "And I'll come meet you then. But I won't hurt Edythe that way. I'll tell her the truth."

"No," Sulpicia said sharply, and suddenly the facade of gentility and politeness was gone. "This is not a negotiation. You will change, and you will leave Edythe, leaving her unaware of the precise nature of the situation. If you tell her the truth, do you think she'll let you come to me—alone? If she comes with you, I will break her. If you both try to run from me, Cato and Tacita will track her and we will still break her. Do you understand?"

I was silent. My head was spinning. However, beneath the terror of Sulpicia and her powers that seemed to be pounding in my chest, in my brain, I felt another feeling rise. A silent defiance. Could Edythe and I get away if we ran? Edythe was resourceful, and I couldn't be tracked. And wasn't Sulpicia supposed to be preoccupied dealing with some other threat in Europe?

"Maybe I can tell you something that will put your present situation in more perspective," Sulpicia said. Her voice was once again amiable, compassionate, like a sympathetic teacher giving helpful advice. "I know what you're thinking. Your Edythe is clever—she might be able to evade me, at least for a time. That is a possibility. But I think it is only fair to tell you—if you fail to come to me as I have asked, I will kill her."

I blinked, not following the logic. "Edythe?" I said slowly, uncertainly.

"No," Sulpicia answered, and the word was almost a sigh. "Your friend I have here with me. The wolf shape-shifter. I believe you call her...Jules Black?"

An electric jolt in the pit of my stomach nearly made the phone slip from my fingers, and for several seconds I couldn't breathe, couldn't think. It couldn't be.

At last I found my voice enough to whisper numbly,

"What...are you talking about?"

"Oh, I think you already know," Sulpicia murmured. "You know I'm telling you the truth. Julie Black is here, with me. And if you don't want her to come to any harm, you will follow my instructions."

My hand gripping the phone was slick with sweat. "Put her on," I demanded.

"She's not conscious at the moment," Sulpicia said. "We could try to revive her, if you wish, but she has not been particularly cooperative."

I tried to swallow, but I couldn't. How could I know? How could I know Sulpicia was telling the truth?

I opened my mouth to speak, but a memory suddenly flashed in my mind. My bachelor party at the movies, what suddenly seemed like a lifetime ago. Archie—his visions surrounding Sulpicia had gone black. Just like my future always did around the wolves.

"When?" I said in a low, hoarse voice. "When did you...when did she..."

"How long have we been holding her?" Sulpicia completed. "Not long. A little over a day. I would say that's just as well where her wellbeing is concerned—I don't know how much longer she'll survive us." Her tone was light, almost teasing.

I could barely breathe, but I forced myself to think. A little over a day. Exactly the time Archie had told me his visions of Sulpicia had disappeared.

I couldn't speak as the reality crashed over me. I couldn't feel my hand on the phone. I stared straight ahead, seeing nothing but the image of Jules, curled on the ground at Sulpicia's feet. Beaten. Helpless.

"Do you understand?" Sulpicia asked again.

I forced myself to swallow. "Yes," I whispered.

"You understand that if you fail to comply with my precise instructions that either your friend Julie Black or your mate will likely suffer the consequences?" she asked.

I was frozen where I was, my feet rooted to the spot. There was something about the way Sulpicia spoke, succinct and businesslike, that made me feel like I was signing a binding contract. No, that I was already in one.

I swallowed again. I wanted to make sure I knew what she was asking. "So...you want me to change...and then get Edythe to let me leave. And I'll come find you."

"Once you are away from Edythe, you will call me back at this number," Sulpicia said.

"And then...you'll let Jules go?"

"The two of you will be reunited," Sulpicia replied gently.

Her revised answer was answer enough. I imagined what Jules must feel like, surrounded by vampires with crimson eyes, their prisoner. It would be bad enough for someone like me, who didn't harbor an innate hatred of all vampires. I could only imagine how much worse it would be for her when I showed up, a bloodsucker like all the others.

I wondered just what Sulpicia hoped to achieve through all this. It was like every one of her demands was designed to hurt the people I cared about most in the worst way possible. Was that what this was about? Did she get bored after ruling the vampire world century after century, and periodically just pick someone out at random to toy around with?

I didn't have time to waste dwelling on that—Sulpicia was the one with all the cards here. She was the one in control.

"You better not hurt her," I said, though my shaking voice came out more like a plea than the threat I meant.

"That is not our intent," Sulpicia murmured. "You have nothing to fear, Beau—so long as you do as I say, no permanent harm will befall her. In three days' time, you will call me. And you will come."

For a second, something caught in my throat, and I couldn't speak. A sudden fear had gripped my chest. Three days. Three days of pain, and then I would wake up as a vampire. But what if I wasn't myself? What if, when I changed, Jules was suddenly no more than a dog to me, and I didn't care what happened to her? What if I was a monster—a real monster?

But I knew there was nothing to be done about that, and so I only said, "I will. In three days."

"I will be waiting," Sulpicia answered. "And remember, Beau—not one word to Edythe. She cannot know why you are leaving."

My voice was barely audible as I agreed. "No." No, she couldn't.

The line cut short.

I stood there for a second, staring at nothing, and I couldn't feel my body. At last I felt myself slowly sink down onto the edge of the bed, and the phone slipped through my fingers, hitting the decorative rug with a low thud.

I remembered this feeling as I spoke on another phone once before. The hopelessness, the despair, the terror.

"I'm going to need you to get away from your friends; do you think you can do that?"

I shivered at the echo of Joss's voice in my mind. It was almost eerie, how precisely the same this all was. Only the players were different. It was Edythe I had to get away from, Jules I had to save. And Sulpicia pulling the strings.

Before, Joss had duped me. She never really had my mother, but I had fallen for her games. I hadn't told Edythe or anyone else the truth, but acted on my own, and nearly gotten myself killed.

You should have waited for me, Beau, the memory of Edythe's voice whispered. You should have told me. Was I about to do the exact same thing I had done before?

Yes. I was. Because, just like before, even if it was somehow just a trick, I had no way of knowing that, and I couldn't gamble Jules's life on that possibility. And, just like before, I knew I couldn't tell Edythe the truth, even if Sulpicia hadn't forbidden it. Because I knew Sulpicia was right, and if I did, Edythe wouldn't let me go.

Was I going to be able to play my part right? Could I keep Edythe from suspecting anything?

I knew what the answer was—no, I couldn't. I saw as my gaze flickered toward the mirror mounted on the dresser that my eyes were wide and wild with panic, and according to the clock, I had barely eight minutes before Edythe had said she would be back. I had never been a good actor even at the best of times, and under circumstances like these, it was all but hopeless.

My answer was no—just like it had been to Joss. And I knew, just as it had been with Joss, I had to change that answer. I had to be able to do it, whether it was possible or not. Or Jules, my best friend who was practically family, would pay the price.

I took a deep breath, then got up from the bed and calmly got dressed in the pajamas Archie had packed for me. I retrieved my phone, slipping it into my duffel and turning it off—so long as it was out of view and wouldn't ring, there shouldn't be any reason for it to attract Edythe's attention, or lead her to check the history. I wasn't sure I could trust myself to remember Sulpicia's number after three days of burning pain, so I would have to keep it in there.

Next, I went downstairs, pulling out the DVD I had been looking at earlier and setting it on a side table, as though I believed there might still be a possibility we would watch it. My stomach was too tense to eat, but I drew a package of beef jerky out of the cupboard and opened it, as though perhaps I had been snacking a little.

I returned back up to the bedroom, and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I stared into the mirror, and the sky blue eyes looking back were intense and determined. I spent a few minutes concentrating, forcing my expression to relax.

It was a good thing, because as I returned to the bedroom, I found Edythe already there waiting for me, sitting on the end of the bed, our suitcases set out beside it. I paused for a fraction of a second in mid-step, but that was all the reaction I showed as I continued on into the room.

I glanced casually toward the clock. "Two minutes early," I noted. "Get anything good? Any coyotes?"

"Elk, mainly," she answered, smiling a bit. "Coyotes aren't worth the trouble. They're too small."

I studied her eyes, and I tried to decide whether they really looked more gold than they had earlier. Had she really gone hunting, or had she been out scouting the immediate area, making sure none of Sulpicia's minions were close by?

We were both quiet. The silence lengthened, and the atmosphere seemed to grow heavy and strained again.

That was good. That was how it should be, if Edythe was going to ask me what she had to ask. But how was she going to lead into it? How was she going to make me think this was her idea, after how hard she had tried to get me to stay human? She wouldn't tell me about the looming threat of Sulpicia, I was pretty sure about that. Sulpicia had probably ordered her not to, and anyway, she wouldn't want me to make my decision out of fear of some threat. She would take the entire burden of this situation on herself, as always.

"So," I said at last. "What are we doing?" I was surprised by how calm I sounded. And I felt calm—almost supernaturally calm. Like before, I knew what had to happen, the plan I had to follow, and there was suddenly no more room for panic.

Edythe glanced at me without meeting my eyes, then got up from the bed and went to the window. She folded her arms, gazing out over the dark forest. She didn't answer.

After a moment, I went to stand beside her. I could see our dark reflections in the glass, hers, perfect and beautiful as always, even with her face twisted in conflict, and mine, gangly and ordinary. We'd never looked like a good match.

"Edythe?" I said at last.

She let out a breath. "Beau," she said softly. "Tell me. Why is it you want to change?"

I hesitated. At the moment, all my focus was on protecting her and saving Jules. But, I had already decided on this anyway. I reached back for all my reasons.

"I want to be with you," I said at last.

"You can be with me without becoming a vampire," she said quietly.

I paused. I wondered why she was saying this. How long was she going to take to get to the crux of the matter?

"I'm always a liability," I said. "We've had a lot of close calls, and—it would be nice if that stopped."

"I can be more careful," she murmured. "I can keep you safe."

I sighed. "That's the other thing. I don't want you to always have to protect me, Edythe." I wrapped my arm around her waist from behind. "I want to protect you sometimes." I hesitated, then added softly, "I want to be your partner...not your pet."

Edythe flinched at the word. Her eyes met mine in the reflection, before her gaze dropped, as she too thought of the cutting words she had spoken to me when she had left Forks. Telling me that she had never really loved me, that I had been more like a pampered pet than a real lover. She had done all that to try to protect me from the danger of being around her, tried so desperately to keep it from coming to this point—to keep me human.

I knew even as I said it how cruel it was. To bring up the past that was so much more painful to her than it was even to me. But even crueler were the things about love and partnership. How cruel it was to say such things when I knew that, when I was remade, I was just going to betray her in the end.

She closed her eyes for a moment. Then they opened again, and she turned in my arms to gaze up into my face. "You don't have to," she whispered. "If you want to stay human, Beau, I swear, you don't have to change. I'll make it possible."

Her eyes were wide with desperation, with anguish, as she went on in a rush, "You don't understand. The strength, the beauty, the natural talent—they're meaningless. No, they're part of the curse. You have no idea how hard it is not to be a monster, when you have these kinds of powers. Without Carine to guide us, every single one of us would be—you have no idea, the constant struggle. The effort. The will you have to exert, so that your mere existence doesn't destroy the lives of others."

She went on, in a voice lower still, "Every single one of us would do anything to be human again. To live without the constant danger of failure, of giving in to our basest instincts. Beau, are you really ready to give up what you have, before you can fully appreciate what you're losing?"

I stared back into her eyes. Why was she telling me this? Defying Sulpicia would mean the rest of our lives would be spent on the run. It meant we would probably both die soon.

I remembered suddenly the terror in her eyes as, what felt like an age ago, I had asked her why she didn't want me to change. Deep down, she did want me to change. Everything would be better for her when I did. But she wanted what was best for me more than she wanted what she wanted. And right now, even trapped as we were, she wanted me to have a choice. She wanted me to understand absolutely everything, before I made a decision I couldn't take back.

In this moment, I loved her as much as I had ever loved her. She was so beautiful, so good. For just a second, I forgot all about Sulpicia and her threats, what would happen to Jules if I didn't do what Sulpicia said—and this was all I wanted. To join Edythe in her world. I knew the hardships that waited for me—the sacrifices—and I was ready to make them all. I was ready to endure it all day by day, for the pure of joy of simply being with her, and lessening her hardship.

"I've made up my mind," I said quietly, earnestly. My arm, still holding her around the waist, tightened. I gazed deep into her golden eyes. "Believe me, Edythe," I said softly, "I've thought and thought and thought about all this. I know what I'm giving up, and I'm not taking it lightly. You've given me other options, but it doesn't change anything. I want to be with you—like you, together in your world."

I gripped her hand in mine, holding it to my chest. "I'm ready, Edythe."

Edythe gazed up at me, her eyes filled with emotion. "I don't deserve you," she murmured. "But...I suppose so long as I'm going to hell anyway..." The corner of her lips twitched in a half-smile, at the irony of what she had once said what now felt so long ago, but there was no amusement in her eyes.

I did my best to look questioning, and I prodded gently after a moment, "What is it Edythe?" I knew she didn't want to say it—but she had to. We were both pawns in Sulpicia's twisted game, and we each had our part to play.

Edythe closed her eyes for a moment, leaning her head briefly into my shoulder—before they opened again. "Would you ever forgive me if—if I asked you for something unbearably selfish?"

"You can ask me anything, Edythe."

I watched her as her eyes dropped from mine.

"I shouldn't," she murmured. She added, "And here, Julie Black was supposed to be the impulsive one." She laughed without humor.

I let go of her waist, though our hands remained joined. I placed my other hand over hers, holding it gently between mine.

"What is it you want me to do, Edythe? Tell me. You know I'll do it if I can."

She sighed. Then she drew in a deep, silent breath. Finally, she lifted her gaze, forcing her eyes to meet mine. Again the self-loathing burned in her eyes, but I saw determination there, too. Resolve.

"You told me you wanted to change after our honeymoon, maybe in a few weeks. But...what about right now?"

I stared back at her. She had said it. Now, how was I supposed to respond? How would I have responded if I wasn't expecting this?

I didn't break my gaze away from hers. I blinked, and held myself very still. It seemed a believable reaction—surely I wouldn't know how to respond at first, and be afraid of having the wrong one.

The seconds ticked by. Edythe gazed at me as she waited for me to say something.

At last, trying to keep my voice casual, I said, "What brought this on?"

Edythe gazed back at me for a long moment. I could see the conflict in her eyes—was she considering telling me the truth?

At last, her gaze dropped from mine once again.

"Archie," she began slowly.

"You mean his vision today," I said, trying to help her.

She sighed, and she still didn't meet my eyes. When she spoke again, her voice was barely above a whisper. "I'm so tired. I'm tired of my love for you being something dangerous. I don't want to put you in danger anymore."

She spoke to me slowly, haltingly. She seemed to have to work to force out every word of the necessary lie.

Or—was it a lie? Perhaps I knew the real reason behind what had forced her to say all this—but after all, the best deceptions always had some element of truth. I could only imagine the deep weariness from the endless worry, the exhaustion—something she never would have admitted to except for the purpose of saving me.

Still, Edythe was acting on Sulpicia's instructions, performing an elaborate game of playacting. It was all so strangely surreal—knowing that I would have been oblivious to Edythe's real struggle without Sulpicia revealing the truth beneath it all beforehand. Surreal to see the two of us brought so quickly to lying to each other so completely, so soon after being bound in a way that should have brought us closer together, that ought to have finally eliminated the remaining secrets between us.

I stared down into her face, and I waited until at last her eyes flicked back up to mine before I answered.

"I'm ready."

Her golden eyes searched mine, studying my face. Looking for signs of uncertainty or doubt.

Apparently she found none. She nodded once, and her icy hand gripped mine.

"Jessamine will be annoyed with me," she murmured, almost to herself. "She would say it's too big a risk, to do this on my own, without the others around. But—Carine had to do it with me. And even though newborns are more powerful, they're also fueled by emotion, and so more predictable. And I was rather worried that if you woke up with so many of our kind around, it might spook you."

I felt my mouth grow dry. I hadn't thought about that—of course our plan would have involved all the Cullens, standing by in case I went berserk. If I woke up not myself—would I end up killing people before Edythe could stop me? Or could Edythe herself be in danger?

If it wasn't for Sulpicia, I knew I would have told Edythe it was better if we went back to Forks, had all the Cullens around. Even with the risk that Edythe's mood might change and she might not be so for it later, I would be too worried for Edythe and everyone else to risk it. But that wasn't an option—even if Sulpicia would have given us the time to travel back, I knew getting away from Edythe was going to be hard enough, but it would be just about impossible with all the Cullens involved, especially Archie and Jessamine.

So instead I just nodded and said, "I know you'll be able to handle me, Edythe. And if I do wake up as a tantrum-throwing brat for awhile—I think I'll be glad Eleanor's not around to make fun of me."

A hint of a smile touched Edythe's lips, before her expression twisted back into one of such agony I had to fight not to flinch away.

"It's going to be painful," she whispered, gripping my hands between hers. "You know how painful—you had a taste of it before. In the past, it's taken about three days. But I'll try to get my venom as close to your heart as I can. And if I inject the venom at multiple points—that may speed up the process."

I started to nod again, then hesitated. "Won't that be hard for you? Getting my blood in your mouth?"

She paused. "Beau," she said, very seriously. "You know how paranoid I am. So it should tell you something that, of the things I am currently anxious about, on a scale of one to ten my losing control and killing you by accident is about negative five thousand. I won't lose control, I'm sure of that. It's not even a possibility."

"I know you won't," I said. "I just mean—won't that mean you're in pain? Actually tasting it and having to resist, I mean. Maybe you should just bite me once."

Edythe stared back at me, slightly incredulous. "Trust me, Beau," she said. "Whatever pain I'm in—negligible, really—it will be absolutely nothing next to what you'll be going through. You'll be glad for every second we can make this go faster. A little dryness in my throat will be the last thing on my mind."

I didn't reply.

Edythe's cool hands were still holding mine.

"Are you ready?" she asked gently. "You should lay down on the bed. It won't make you more comfortable, but—I'll be right here. I won't leave you."

I nodded slowly, then took a deep breath. "Yeah. Okay." I paused. "Um, but do you think you could leave me alone for a minute?"

Edythe hesitated, and though she didn't answer, I could see the question in her eyes.

"I just want to change," I explained. I pinched the material of my silk pajamas. "I guess I won't be sleeping much tonight, so I don't really need these. And I'd rather wake up on the other side fully dressed, so I'm not running around in my nightwear." I forced a smile as I added, "That's something else Eleanor would probably never let me live down."

Edythe opened her mouth—perhaps to argue the idiocy of caring about what I was wearing when I was about to damn my soul and be bedridden with agony for days—but then she closed it again. She nodded once.

"I'll give you a minute," she murmured. Then she slipped back out the door, closing it behind her, and I heard her footsteps descend the stairs. She must have made the noise on purpose, to let me know she was giving me a moment of privacy.

I headed over to the duffel Archie had packed for me, and drew out some of the clothes he had put together for me. A pair of thick cargo pants, the kind with lots of pockets for storage, and an athletic shirt, made of a cool, slippery material specifically made for the summer heat. I recognized a famous outdoor brand in the logo on the chest.

I quickly changed into them, then dug around in the bag for the one last thing I had seen earlier. I finally drew it out—a light jacket, the same brand as the shirt, with removable sleeves that could be zipped off to become a vest, and about a dozen hidden pockets on the inside, for every kind of item a hiker might need on the trail, including one for chapstick and another for sunglasses. However, it was the small, rectangular pocket on the inside left that was the perfect size for a cell phone that I was after.

I grabbed the phone I had stashed in the duffel. I noticed the pocket had a lining inside I suspected was waterproof, but I dug around until I found a small plastic bag anyway—Archie had somehow crammed about every bit of hiking gear anyone could ever want in here—and, after sealing the phone inside, I slipped it into the pocket, drawing the zipper up after it.

I slung the jacket casually over the duffel. I could only hope it wouldn't attract Edythe's attention—I didn't want to risk keeping the phone in my pocket while I was undergoing the change, lest I break it to bits with my thrashing about, and she might be suspicious if I went and dug out the phone first thing when the transformation was complete.

I had already decided—my first act of my new life would be to walk over, pick up my jacket and put it on. Then, once I was away, I would be able to call Sulpicia. Tell her I had done what she said, and she would tell me where to go next.

Of course, all that assuming that, when I woke up, I still intended to stick to the plan. Assuming I didn't wake up as someone I didn't know, who didn't care a whit what happened to Jules. Assuming I didn't wake up as a monster.

I left the jacket where it was, and went to go sit on the bed to wait.

It was barely a minute later I heard a quiet knock on the door.

"You can come in," I called. "I'm done."

The door inched inward, and Edythe slipped inside, shutting the door behind her.

I was laying on the left side of the bed, propped up against a couple large pillows. Edythe came to sit on the bed beside me, just on the edge.

"Ready?" she whispered, putting her hand on mine, where they were folded across my stomach.

"Ready," I answered, my voice calm and steady. I turned my eyes to look at her. It was ironic, in a way. Ironic that, on our wedding night, the night Edythe might have made me hers in a very human way, instead, she was making me hers in a way that couldn't be more like a vampire.

Edythe leaned down, until her lips were inches from my throat. I closed my eyes, waiting.

Silence. Not so much as a rustle of the sheets, or the soft rush of air of breathing in or out.

I felt something trembling slightly against my stomach, and for a second I thought it was my hands, but as Edythe's slender fingers closed slightly, gripping a little tighter, I realized Edythe was the one who was shaking. I opened my eyes.

Her eyes were deep with pain as she gazed down at my face. "I—" she choked. "I don't think I can."

"You can," I said gently. "We decided this together, you and I. Don't be afraid, Edythe. No matter what I say when the pain starts, what counts is what I'm saying now. You gave me a choice, and I choose this."

Edythe's cool hand stroked my face, and the agony in her eyes was almost too painful to look at.

"I love you," she whispered. "More than anything."

"I love you, too," I said earnestly, with feeling—knowing very well this may be my last chance to say it. I paused, then added, "If you love me, Edythe, do this. Do it for me."

Edythe's breathing hitched. However, she bent over me once again, so close I could feel her chilly breath on my jaw. There she lingered for a moment.

And suddenly I felt her cool lips hard against mine, insistent, tinged with desperation. I felt her arms around my neck, her hard, unyielding body pressed against mine.

I felt my own body, as it always did, automatically react—I wrapped my arms around her, holding her to me, and my mouth opened, breathing in her intoxicating scent. I knew if we let this go any further, we might forget ourselves—and Sulpicia would come for us, and Jules would die.

So even as my arms wound ever tighter, pulling her against my chest, I leaned my head a little to the side, and whispered in her ear, "Do it, Edythe."

Edythe didn't move for a moment. I felt her face pressed up against the side of mine, her lips against my jaw. At last, however, she shifted, and I felt her face against my neck instead. In spite of the ice of her touch—her hands, her face, her body—I felt hot.

I barely felt it. As her lips brushed my neck, it almost felt like a normal kiss. Just a slight sting—the kind of little nick you wouldn't even put a band-aid on.

However, I felt the moment when the mood changed. Edythe was no longer holding me, and she was suddenly moving with quick, business-like efficiency. Her mouth was at each of my wrists, then my chest, then even my ankles. Each new piercing was followed by a slow, faint burning. I was pleased that I still seemed in control of myself mentally, enough to wonder how she was doing, with my blood in her mouth. Was she doing okay? Was it painful for her?

However, it wasn't long before I felt each point of burning begin to build. Each on their own rose higher and higher, starting with the one in my neck, then moving on to my arms and chest, until my entire body was in the center of a blazing inferno. The fire consumed everything, blocked out everything else—the bed, the lodge, even the touch of Edythe's hand. I was alone in my head, with nothing but the fire, and every other thought in my head faded to the background.

I screamed as I felt hell open its mouth and swallow me.

A/N: ...

So.

These are the chapters where events split completely from Breaking Dawn, and it becomes less Breaking Dawn Reimagined than a completely new Life and Death fanstory. (For better or for worse.) When I first started working on New Moon, I wasn't all that confident I would ever get this far, so it's more exciting than I can say to arrive at this point.

A couple of notes on the direction of the honeymoon-side of things this chapter:

First, I apologize to all of you out there who might have been looking forward to this chapter in terms of how the equivalent played out in Breaking Dawn, as an actual honeymoon. I probably can't express just how many internal debates I had with myself over how direct to be about this earlier on, even as early as Eclipse, but I tend to be somewhat spoiler-averse and couldn't think of a good way to say anything about it. Instead I did my best to drop clues (like Edythe not buying a bed, or even the lesser T rating on this story), though even I think that may have been a little too subtle.

I decided to go down this route for the story for mainly two reasons. First, in the original Breaking Dawn, Edward and Bella's honeymoon scene serves an important role in driving the narrative forward, as the catalyst that leads to Renesme which attracts the attention of the Volturi. However, for the direction I'm going here, I liked the idea of (I guess this may be a bit of a slight spoiler, so skip to the next paragraph or the rest of the author's note if you like) it lending emotional intensity to the story in a different way, as an unfulfilled promise.

The second reason is less scientific, though just as much if not more of a factor, and just simply comes down to my own tastes as both a writer and reader. Physical intimacy is obviously a part of life, and there are many different beliefs and comfort levels when it comes to the depiction of sex in literature—but while there are parts of Twilight's focus on the physical dimension of romance I don't mind and even enjoy, sex is something I consider intensely personal, and I find I just don't enjoy reading sex scenes, even fairly clipped and nondescript as Breaking Dawn. And I can't effectively write something I know I wouldn't enjoy reading myself.

Once again, I apologize for any disappointment. Thank you all so much for reading and for keeping up with me all this time, I know I'll never be Stephanie Meyer, but it means so much to me that so many of you out there have been able to read and enjoy these stories so much, I appeciate you all and can honestly say I have and continue to have a ton of fun working on them. If you decide to stick with me further, I hope you'll enjoy the rest of the story as it plays out. (Next chapter, we won't be getting back to Beau and Edythe right away—I'm guessing you'll know what I mean when you see the chapter title.) Thanks again, and as always, hope to see you next time!

Posted 10/14/19

1. Preface 298 0 0 2. Sacrifices 7580 0 0 3. Long Night 8219 0 0 4. The Wedding 4867 0 0 5. Now and Forever 5329 0 0 6. Possibilities 6820 0 0 7. Pawn 9851 0 0 8. Life sucks and then you die 5899 0 0 9. New Reality 7913 0 0 10. Strike 6420 0 0 11. Crisis 7571 0 0 12. Hope 6498 0 0 13. Rebellion 4422 0 0 14. Reunion 12281 0 0 15. Lion 8546 0 0 16. Enemy 7337 0 0 17. Desperation 7379 0 0 18. The Veil 7226 0 0 19. Game 7810 0 0 20. All the World 8673 0 0 21. Hypocrisy 5643 0 0 22. Logic 7049 0 0 23. Villain 11163 0 0 24. Waiting for the Fight to Start Already 6537 0 0 25. Complete 10191 0 0 26. Love 7403 0 0 27. The Future 9114 0 0 28. Some people just don't grasp the concept 2858 0 0 29. Epilogue 10327 0 0