A/N: A few more things are different this time (a few things cut out, a couple things added here and there), but the admission of wanton plagiarism is still in effect.
See you at the end!
Epilogue: Enough for Forever
"No, I'm not going in."
We were standing in the parking lot of Forks High School, me, leaning against the side of Edythe's car, the cast on my leg and the sling around my arm granting me even less balance and coordination than usual, and Edythe standing just in front of me, arms folded. Edythe was dressed in a simple, elegantly cut dress of fine silk, a deep velvet blue that complimented her ivory skin to perfection, with long silver gloves that reached all the way up past her elbows. A single diamond hung from the choker around her pale neck, glittering in the dying afternoon light. I was in a black tux, constantly pulling at the starched white collar and black tie with my free hand.
I'd planted my feet firmly beside the car door, folding my good arm over my broken one in a way I hoped would communicate my resolve.
"I'm not going in," I repeated. "Not happening."
"You can't miss prom, Beau. You only get to be in high school once. Live it, embrace it. Don't miss out on the experience."
"You mean the experience of humiliating myself in front of the entire school? That's one I think I can pass on without much regret, thanks."
Edythe raised an eyebrow, perfect lips pursed in a thin line. "Don't be a baby, Beau."
I could feel my usual red splotches creeping up my neck as my agitation rose. "I can't dance. You know I can't. And that's when I'm on two good legs, and in full use of both my arms."
Edythe leaned forward, very close to me, and she gazed up at me through her lashes, golden eyes almost mesmerizing. "Beau?" she murmured, and I felt her sweet breath on my face.
"W... What?" I muttered, distracted.
"Humor me, please."
I sighed and looked away, grumbling under my breath.
Edythe offered me a slender arm, and reluctantly I linked with her.
"I really can't dance," I told her again, not quite able to keep the sullenness out of my voice. "You'll be watching me knock people over all night."
Edythe smiled, though her gaze remained staring straight ahead as we passed other couples in the lot on the way to the door. I noticed, to my relief, Taylor on the arm of Logan.
"Relax, Beau," Edythe said. "You may not be able to dance, but I can. I won't let go of you the entire night, I promise."
I wasn't entirely sure if this made me feel more secure or not, but at least there would be one redeemable part of this evening of torture. I'd be spending it entirely with Edythe.
I happened to glance to the side, and noticed Royal's conspicuous red convertible in the parking lot.
"Hey—who else is going to be here?"
Edythe smiled a little. "Everyone. Archie with Jessamine, and Royal with Eleanor."
I didn't know if this was something to be happy about or not. I liked Archie; we'd gotten to be pretty good friends over the last few months as I had been recovering from my injuries. Jessamine, while she tended to keep her distance when I was around, wasn't unfriendly either, and I was starting to think of Eleanor as kind of the big sister I'd never had, even if most of the time I saw her she was laughing at me for tripping over something. Royal, though, he generally pretended I didn't exist, and when he did look at me, I got the distinct impression that he would like nothing better than to take off my head and use it as a football.
I hobbled slowly across the parking lot, my good arm clamped around Edythe's like a vice the entire time to keep myself from falling. In spite of her support, I stumbled a couple of times and she used her other free hand to surreptitiously keep me standing upright.
Back in Phoenix, proms were held in hotel ballrooms, but in Forks, the only place big enough to hold a dance was the school gym. As Edythe practically lifted me over the threshold, my eyes wandered up to see the walls had been decorated in balloon arches and clusters of dangling crepe paper.
"Looks like a horror film waiting to happen," I commented. I scanned the room, taking in the many couples spinning on the dance floor, and noticed two particular couples remaining a little apart from the rest. Archie and Jessamine, and Royal and Eleanor.
I glanced down at Edythe, still at my side, one eyebrow cocked. "Want me to lock the doors, so you can massacre the unsuspecting townsfolk?"
Edythe's eyes glittered with amusement, but her mouth tightened, as though she thought I really shouldn't be joking around about that.
"Anything to get out of dancing, huh?" she said shrewdly.
"Pretty much, yeah."
Edythe pulled me to the ticket counter. I wasn't exactly sure how she was doing it, but she'd slipped an arm around the back of my waist, and even though it probably looked like she was leaning into me, like a shy girl looking for protection from her big, tough boyfriend, she was supporting almost all of my weight, so all I had to do was kind of awkwardly shuffle my feet.
Once we had our tickets, she turned me toward the dance floor.
"I can't believe you're making an injured guy dance," I said under my breath.
"I'm a terrible girlfriend, aren't I," she murmured back, tone dripping with false sympathy. She glanced up at me, eyes twinkling.
We were suddenly there, at the very edge of the dance floor, but still far too conspicuous for my tastes. Edythe took my hand, which suddenly felt gawky and overly large, and set it at the back of her waist, then placed one of her own on mine, and resting the other on my shoulder.
"How do you feel, Beau?" she asked, smiling.
"Like a gorilla trying to dance with a mountain lion."
Edythe laughed, and I felt the hand she had at my waist move up to the small of my back. "Just relax, Beau. I won't let you hurt yourself, I promise."
Edythe began, taking the lead, and I did my best to keep up. I was a little surprised as I found myself moving better than I could ever remember moving at a dance in my life. We weren't going very fast—Edythe kept her movements slow and rhythmic, easy to follow, even for me. Every time the clunky cast on my foot caught a nonexistent obstacle, her hand pressed up into my back with perfect timing, keeping me from toppling over, and when I miss-stepped and probably would have trodden of the toes of an ordinary girl, she moved smoothly out of the way. No one would be awarding me points at a dance competition anytime soon, but somehow Edythe compensated for both of us, and kept me from making a fool of myself.
I'd mostly been watching my feet up until then, but for a moment, I let my gaze slip back up to her perfect face. Edythe was, as always, flawless, captivating, a Greek goddess in a room full of ordinary mortals. But the thing that I marveled at the most was that she was capable of loving someone like me. Behind the unbearably glorious face was a beautiful inside, too. She could dominate this dance floor if she wanted to, as Royal and Eleanor were now doing, drawing stares with their ridiculous grace and beauty, but instead she was always patient, always gentle, willing to plod along at the speed of an ordinary, pitiful human.
I smiled down at her. "Okay," I admitted. "This isn't half bad."
Edythe's returning smile was so brilliant I stumbled a bit, dazed.
However, Edythe's expression froze, and her eyes narrowed. Her face was hard as marble as she turned her head partially around, eying the doors, and I lifted my eyes over her head to see what she was looking at.
A lanky figure stood in the doorway. Tall, with deep russet skin and black hair pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of her neck as always.
Julie Black wasn't wearing a formal gown, but rather a pair of black slacks and a ruffled, white-collared shirt. She looked almost as awkward and out of place as I felt, picking self-consciously at a button on her sleeve. However, her eyes fell on me, and she started toward us. I noticed an oddly uncomfortable, apologetic look on her face.
Edythe let out a quiet hiss from between her teeth, and I glanced down at her, surprised.
"Hey," I muttered. "What's with that look?"
Edythe's lips curled into a twisted smile. "Nothing, Beau. But she's looking to have a talk with you."
Before I could answer, Julie was already to us.
"Hey, Jules," I said. "Long time no see."
"Hey," she said, face breaking out into the cheerful smile I knew. However, she shifted a moment, looking uncertainly from me to Edythe and back. I couldn't help but notice she'd gotten taller since I'd last seen her. She had more than a few inches on Edythe, and even though she wasn't as tall as me, she was getting there.
Edythe let go of my waist, reluctantly pulling away from me. "I'm a little tired, Beau," she said. "Would you mind if I went and sat down for a minute?"
"Oh... not at all." I watched as Edythe slipped away through the crowd.
"So," said Jules, still grinning with a hint of discomfort. "Want to dance?"
I grinned back. I always felt easy around Jules. "To be honest, I don't really dance. Edythe was pretty much doing all of it."
Jules looked sheepish. "Neither do I. Six inches in six months, you have no idea how much I keep banging my elbows and knees on desk corners. I'm not even really dressed for it." She glanced over at the other dancers, some of whom had paused to stare at us. "Still, it's going to be kind of awkward if we're just standing here."
"Point taken," I said with a grin.
Jules put a hand lightly resting against my side, barely touching, and the other on my shoulder. I was a little surprised by how strong her grip was.
We didn't really dance, just kind of swayed back and forth a little. I knew if I tried to move my leg with the cast so much as an inch without Edythe there to hold me up, I'd be on the floor.
"So," I said. "How did you end up here? I wouldn't have thought this was your thing."
She shrugged slightly under my hand. "Isn't really," she said. She grinned sheepishly. "Would you believe my mom paid me twenty bucks to gate crash your prom?"
Based on Edythe's reaction, I already had an inkling for why Jules was here, but I said, "Really? That's kind of weird."
"Tell me about it."
I would have liked to divert the conversation to something else then. Jules' obvious discomfort made me pretty certain that whatever she was going to say, she knew I probably wasn't going to like it. However, she probably didn't have much choice, and I figured I might as well make it easy instead of hard.
"Wonder what she would have wanted to do that for," I continued, raising my voice at the end like a question.
Jules grinned again, but she glanced down, not quite meeting my eyes. "She's a crazy old bat, I swear. But—she said here was a 'safe' place to talk to you. And she said if I passed along a message, she'd get me that master cylinder I've been needing."
"You better tell me then," I said, grinning back. "I can do my part to get your car done."
Jules still didn't meet my gaze, and I noticed even through her deep russet skin that her ears were a little pinker than usual. However, she took a breath and seemed to steel herself. "Yeah, okay." She looked up at me, forcing a smile. "So she told me to tell you—and these are her words, not mine—'If you know what's good for you, you'll break up with Edythe Cullen. She's not good for you.' Completely stupid, right? Like it's any of her business."
I pretended to look surprised, then think for a moment. "She's still superstitious, huh?"
Jules shook her head with disgust. "You have no idea. When you got hurt down in Phoenix, she nearly blew a gasket. She didn't really think you..." She hesitated, looking uneasy again.
I stared down at her for a moment, and I felt a flare of irritation, but I forced myself to grin. "What?" I said, injecting into my voice a note of disbelieving laughter. "She thinks Edythe pushed me down the stairs? Or Dr. Cullen? Seriously?"
"I told her," Jules said with a strained smile. "She's a loon. Getting senile in her old age."
"Hey," I said, my voice suddenly serious. "When you get back, tell Bonnie something for me."
Jules looked apprehensive. "What?"
I looked her in the eye. "Tell her I said that I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Edythe and her mom. That's the truth."
Jules hesitated, then smiled a little. "Yeah, I'll tell her that."
I smiled. "Anything else you were supposed to tell me to get your cylinder or whatever?"
Her smile disappeared, and she frowned, eyes focused on a point just above my left shoulder. "One more thing." However, again she forced her eyes to meet mine, and she grinned, though the tension hadn't left her shoulders.
"Don't take this seriously or anything, but she said to pass this along too—'We'll be watching.'"
I couldn't stop the laugh that escaped my mouth. "Maybe your mom's with the mafia."
Jules seemed relieved by my reaction, and she laughed too. I could tell Jules didn't believe any of this, and I felt bad she had to be caught in the middle.
"Sorry you had to do this, Jules," I said. "But at least you'll be closer to getting your car done, right?"
"I actually don't mind too much," she said, meeting my gaze with a peculiar look in her eye. Then she added, "You don't like proms either, huh?"
"Loathe them," I said. Then added, "Though it's mainly just the dancing."
Jules grinned back, and I had a feeling she knew exactly what I meant.
"So," she said. "Should I tell her you said to stuff it and mind her own business?"
I shook my head. "Tell her I really do appreciate her concern."
Jules grinned. "You're such a nice guy, Beau."
The song ended then, and we both dropped our arms. However, Jules looked up at me for a moment longer, that odd expression still in her eyes. "So," she said, looking just a little awkward again. "Want to go for another one, or do you just want to go sit down somewhere?"
"That's quite all right," said a soft, musical voice nearby. "I'll take it from here.
We both blinked and turned to see that Edythe had materialized beside us.
"Wow, you're quiet," Jules marveled, though her eyes seemed to avoid looking Edythe in the face. She waved a hand at me. "Well, I guess I better get going. See you around, Beau."
"See you," I answered, smiling back. I was glad to see Jules, she was a naturally bright, cheerful person, and easy to talk to, except perhaps when passing along messages for her intimidating, matriarchal mother.
I watched her weave her way through the crowd toward the door, but looked away when I felt Edythe's arm wind around my waist again, other hand resting on my shoulder.
This song was a little up-tempo for a slow dance, but Edythe didn't seem to notice, keeping the movement slow for my sake.
"How are you feeling?" I said, smiling.
"Still irritated," she muttered.
"It's okay," I said. "Bonnie doesn't mean any harm, she's just worried about me for Charlie's sake."
She snorted softly. "Oh, I'm not worried about her. It's her daughter that's getting under my skin."
I tried to look down at her, but I couldn't see her face.
"Why?" I said, bewildered.
Edythe pulled back from me, and she was smiling, through her eyes were still a little hard. "Well," she said softly, "first, she caused me to break my promise to you."
I blinked. "Promise?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Didn't I say I wouldn't leave you alone?"
"Oh, that. It's okay."
She smiled. "Well, there's something else, too."
I waited for her to elaborate, but she was quiet as she led me once again in a slow, meandering circle across the dance floor.
"What?" I prompted finally. "What is it?"
She laughed. "That's a secret. But I'd be willing to guess you could put the pieces together if you wanted to."
I shook my head. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Edythe didn't reply, only leaned in close, until I was momentarily distracted by the sweet scent of her breath on my face, then pulled away again, laughing softly.
I shook my head to get my bearings. "Will you at least give me a reason for all this?" I asked. I gestured vaguely toward the room around me, the slow dancing couples, the cheesy decorations. "Why drag me to prom?"
Edythe gazed up at me for a long moment, her expression impossible to read. Then, slowly, she turned us in the direction of the back door. Familiar faces flashed by. I saw Jeremy dancing with McKayla, and he shot me a grin over her shoulder, giving me the thumbs up, and I saw Allen dancing with a shorter girl named Becca. Then we were outside, and Edythe let the side door swing closed behind us with a heavy metallic clunk.
It was getting close to the end of sunset now, the horizon tinged a dull red, the moon already in the sky.
Edythe turned to look up at me, smiling slightly. "Would it hurt your man's pride if I carried you a little ways? I'm afraid if you have to walk, I won't be getting you back to Charlie's before curfew."
I snorted. "It's not really a curfew. It was just a suggestion."
Edythe's eyebrows rose slightly. "Isn't a suggestion for what time to be back by for a police chief the same thing as a curfew?"
I sighed. It was true, Charlie had been subtly casting hints and at times even tentatively trying to exercise his parental authority ever since the accident, at least where Edythe was concerned. While he practically worshiped Carine for her role in saving me after my fall, he seemed to link my leaving Forks in the first place to Edythe, and he'd been a little cool toward her the last few months. Or maybe he just suspected how utterly spellbound I was, and didn't think it was altogether healthy.
"Come on," she said. "The wounded have to be treated with care. They can't be allowed to overexert themselves, man or not."
I thought about arguing, but decided it wasn't worth the effort. "Guess so," I conceded.
I suddenly felt Edythe's cool, slender arm behind my knees, and the other behind my back, and the next thing I knew, we were flying swiftly and silently across the dark grounds. A cool breeze blew against my face, though my hair didn't blow. Archie had used so much gel slicking it back, it probably could have doubled as a football helmet. Edythe came to a stop next to a bench under the shadow of a cluster of madrone trees, and carefully set me down. She slid down beside me, raising her eyes to gaze at the horizon in the distance.
She was quiet for a long moment, and I wanted to repeat my question from before again, but instead I waited, quiet.
At last she said softly, "Twilight again. Yet another ending. No matter how perfect the day is, it always comes to an end."
The night was balmy, but I felt a chill. "Maybe it doesn't," I said in a low voice.
Edythe sighed, her shoulders slumping. She slowly turned to look at me, and her perfect face was in shadow. She looked suddenly exhausted, and for the first time since I'd met her, she almost looked like someone who could be nearly a hundred years old.
"I know you didn't want to come, Beau," she said. "I know you don't want to do a lot of things like this. But I simply can't stand the thought of you missing anything—any of those things that mean so much in a human life. You're human, Beau, and I want to see you living every minute to the fullest. I don't want to be an interruption, I don't want to change the course your life would have taken if I hadn't come along. I don't want you to be consumed by our world."
I stared back at her, feeling my eyebrows contract above my eyes.
"But you have changed my life," I said. "I'm—you know I'm happier now than I ever was. There's only one thing that could make me happier."
Edythe gazed back at me, her expression unfathomable. "And what's that, Beau?"
"I think you know what."
Edythe's face could have been cast in stone as the last light on the horizon edged closer to nightfall.
"That's what you want, Beau?" she asked softly. "You want to change? You want to discard your humanity forever in exchange for this life we live?"
My face was resolute. "That's what I want. I decided I want to be with you, and that's the only way to do it. And I don't want to be a liability you have to take care of forever, I'd like to be able to save you sometimes, too. Right now, you're Superman and I'm Lois Lane. But I need to be Superman too sometimes, not because I'm a guy, but because in a relationship, there has to be some equality."
"So you're ready for this to be the end," she murmured. "For this to be the twilight of your life, though your life has barely begun. You're ready to give up everything."
"Just some things," I answered quietly. "It would be the beginning, not the end."
Edythe gazed at me for a moment more, then turned around to face me fully. She leaned close, until our faces were barely inches apart. She was smiling slightly now. "So you're ready then," she breathed. "Right this moment?"
I blinked, startled. "I... yeah. I'm ready." However, my voice sounded uncertain to my own ears, and I swallowed and said again with more force. "Yeah. I've made my decision."
Edythe's eyelids sunk, and she leaned back away from me, a small, dark laugh escaping her lips. "You really think I'd change my mind just like that."
"I can always hope," I said. "It would be the rational thing to do."
"Turn the person I care about most into a monster?" she asked, then gave a bitter laugh. "Oh yes, that would be rational. How often love and rationalization go hand in hand."
She looked back at me, and I stared back down at her. Neither of us was going to surrender tonight, that much was obvious. At last, she exhaled, the sound coming out like a tiger's growl. She tilted her head back to gaze at the moon, half hidden behind gauzy gray clouds, and leaned back against me.
I put an arm around her small shoulders. "I love you," I whispered.
She angled her head to look back up at me, smiling. "I know," she said. "And that's enough—enough for forever." And, smiling slightly with the irony, leaned up and lightly brushed her cold lips against my throat.
A/N: Well, this was fun.
One of the things I found interesting about Life and Death were those points where, in the original Twilight, Bella's and Edward's behavior reverses normal gender stereotypes, while in Life and Death Edythe and Beau actually play into those stereotypes. (Bella's odd sense of protectiveness where Edward's safety is concerned becomes fairly natural in Beau. Or at this point in Twilight, where Bella is resistant to dancing and Edward is pushing for it, Beau's inclination to avoid social events and dancing again matches preconceived stereotypes rather than defies them.) Conversely, some stereotypes that were played into in Twilight became defied in Life and Death. (I enjoyed the Life and Death version of the nearly-passing-out in Biology more than the original for that reason, and Edythe's amusement at finding out that Beau faints at the sight of blood.)
Next on the agenda is New Moon Reimagined—thanks for reading, and hope to see you over there!
Note: If you're considering reading further, I have added a content advisory to Chapter 1: Sacrifices of Breaking Dawn. While New Moon and Eclipse are similar to the original books, the final part to this series is different by necessity (no equivalent of Renesmee means a radically different plot), with a different thematic approach to love, which reflects my tastes and interests as an author. If you would like a clearer idea of where this is all headed before diving in too deep, feel free to jump ahead and take a look. (It's a bit spoilery, though only vaguely.)