The thin blue line pulsed across the screen, sharp, jagged. With every spike, a low beep issued from the monitor, even and steady, but too quiet to be reassuring.
The room was dark but for the glow of the screens, yet still I saw every detail of the white hospital room clearly. The slant of the blinds, the pattern of the floor and ceiling tiles, the large, bulky equipment. And the hospital bed, on which a long, lanky form lay, perfectly still in a drug-induced coma, covered from head to toe in strips of bloody gauze.
I didn't speak the words aloud, but they repeated themselves in my mind over and over like a chant. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
I bent my head to my hands. My fault. My doing.
Images flashed through my mind—Beau, standing in a wide clearing, watching my family play a harmless game of baseball. Three passing nomadic vampires, their faces curious as they approached. The leader—Joss—staring straight at Beau, and her lips curling back from her teeth as she prepared to strike. The thoughts that went through her mind in the instant when I moved to block her.
I saw her crimson red eyes burning in my mind, in that one moment as they locked with mine. She saw the human was important—greater than her thirst for blood was her hunger for a challenge. She looked at me, the ferocity in my eyes, and suddenly she wanted me—wanted me for her next opponent.
My hands curled into fists against my scalp, fingers trying to dig into my hard skin. Maybe it was inevitable it would have turned out like this. Had I thought I could bring him into my dark world, and there would be no consequences? Even if I could conquer my own demons—bringing him around me and my kind, how could I have thought he wouldn't attract the notice of others? Become a target?
Still, I could never have anticipated anything like Joss. Clever, lethal—and above all, ever in search of a new and interesting challenge to take on. And after the irritation and insult of being blocked from a human's blood she wanted, what better challenge than to stir up the ire of a large, powerful coven, to threaten that which was apparently of such value?
I was the one she was interested in. The one with whom she had wanted to play her sick, twisted games. She, the hunter, would take my human from me, and then she would enjoy the chase as I came after her, consumed with rage and a lust for brutal vengeance. And for all the steps we took to keep him from her reach, in the end, she had outmaneuvered us with absurd ease. I knew it was a miracle that Beau now lay before me in a hospital bed covered in bandages, rather than in a coffin.
Joss could have killed him, of course. She had had him in her power. But what she had wanted most was to ensure I would give chase, to enrage me to such a point I couldn't think. Which was why she had decided to play with him first before she consumed him—torture him, make him scream and beg me to exact revenge for him. She had broken him, and then, at last, the ultimate torture—bitten him. Started the process of transformation, the greatest horrific agony of all.
At this thought, I was momentarily distracted. The venom—it had been very close. We had arrived in time to wrench Joss back before she could finish the job, but by then the venom was already beginning to spread. It was Carine who suggested it—that I might be able to suck the venom out, and stop the change. She was too busy trying to get the bleeding from his other wounds under control, and so it was up to me.
Looking back, I still had trouble believing it. That I had really sucked out his blood, tasted it in my mouth, and been able to stop myself before I killed him.
The terror of that moment now often repeated itself in my mind. Trying to save him from this damned fate, and having the taste of all my temptation on my tongue, while simultaneously fully aware, fully cognizant, and knowing that if I didn't stop, I would murder that which meant more to me than all the world. But in the end, I had stopped. I wrenched myself away from it, and even with the memory of it strong in my mind, I kept a hold of myself. Once and for all, I had proven it—that my love was strong enough to overcome even the most overpowering of my monstrous instincts.
I was confident now, confident in a way I hadn't been before. I was no longer afraid of myself, of the monster—I would never hurt him, neither on purpose, nor by accident. Because I loved him, with a love that was so much more than the physical hungers of my body, the pleasures of his touch, his fingers along my arm or his warm lips against mine.
My love was a conscious effort every moment, a choice to endure the severest of pains. Determination, willpower, sacrifice. I had made it through the darkest hour, the most difficult of temptations, and I knew myself now. I knew what would be the most important to me when the pain and desire were at their most potent.
"Edythe?" said a quiet voice from the door, interrupting my thoughts. "Are you still here?"
I turned my head to see Renée Dwyer, Beau's mother, sticking her head into the hospital room. Her eyebrows formed a crease above her eyes, worried.
"Hello, Mrs. Dwyer," I said, keeping my voice as low as hers, though of course, we could have shouted and it wouldn't have woken Beau, heavily sedated as he was.
"Please," she said, coming into the room a little more fully, closing the door behind her, "call me Renée." She paused, looking back at me, and her face was only lit by the glow of the monitors.
"Do you know what time it is?" she asked.
I turned my eyes to the clock on the side wall. It was a quarter after one in the morning. Technically visiting hours had ended a long time ago, but exceptions were made for family, and I had used all my persuasive powers combined with Carine's influence as a medical doctor herself to convince them to allow me to stay as long as I wanted to. Carine and I both figured this made things much simpler than if I were forced to sneak into the room every night.
"I must have dozed off," I lied softly. "I just woke up a few minutes ago."
"Won't your mother be wondering where you are?" she asked.
I shook my head. "Carine knows where I am."
I studied Renée's face. She had the same bright blue eyes as Beau, the color of a clear sky. At the moment they were tired, with dark circles beginning to form beneath them. This was the second night she was spending at the hospital.
Renée had spent a lot of time in Beau's room at first, holding his hand, stroking his head in the small space not covered in bandages. But if anything, that had only seemed to make her more anxious and fidgety, working herself up into a panic, until I finally suggested that she step out for some air, and let me keep watch. She had agreed, and I thought the few hours she had spent away had done her good. She'd relaxed so much that, sitting in the lobby, trying to read a magazine, she'd drifted off to sleep, and only just woken up again. She rubbed her neck, and I knew it was sore from sleeping at such an odd angle.
Renée had an interesting mind. Unlike Charlie, none of her thoughts were muffled from my hearing, rather, they had a childlike quality that was hard to describe. She loved Beau deeply, there was no doubt about that—had things gone the wrong way, had we been too late, it was hard to imagine how long she would have been incapacitated with grief. However, she was also quite capricious and, like a child, showing her love through such devotions as sitting the entire night through by his bedside when he was in the hospital did not come easily to her. Though she certainly loved the image of the dutiful, devoted mother, she had trouble making herself sit still that long.
Seeing her, hearing her thoughts, I had begun to toy with new threads of understanding regarding the way Beau saw the world. I'd believed that Beau's seeming certainty that eventually I would lose interest, grow bored with him, was ridiculous, and even insulting—hadn't I more than proved myself? I always believed it a result of the fact he didn't see himself at all clearly, how beautiful he was, both outwardly and inwardly.
But now I wondered a little if his mother might not have had something to do with it. He had watched her all his life, moving from one hobby to the next, throwing herself fully into some new obsession, then dropping it just as quickly for something else, ever in search of the new and exciting. Not that he doubted his mother's love for him, but they were family and she was his mother, so they had a tie outside her brief flirtations with various distractions. Perhaps unconsciously, he had seen my inexplicable avid interest in him like one of his mother's hobbies—all-consuming for a moment, but quick to shift to something else.
Eventually, however, he would see. He was far from a small, temporary distraction. He was the core of my existence. If he ceased to exist, I would cease to exist—that was what I had decided, as we raced toward the ballet studio where Joss held him, and we did not know if we would make it in time. I knew if he died, I would die. I had already formed a plan, should it ever come to that.
Renée studied me carefully for a long moment. She glanced at Beau, then back at me. For all her capriciousness and seemingly unorganized, scatterbrained ways, she had a keen perceptiveness about her, especially when it came to matters regarding her son.
Although she had not been given many details about my involvement, only that I was a 'friend from Forks,' already she was beginning to suspect the true nature of things, at least where my feelings were concerned. I had to resist the urge to smile—I was beginning to see where Beau's sharp intuition came from.
Unlike her son and Charlie Swan, Renée was not comfortable with silence, and she added to fill the void, "If you want to go home and get some sleep, Edythe, I can stay here..."
However, she glanced at the turquoise recliner I was sitting in, which she remembered was less than comfortable, and she had to fight to curb her reluctance.
"No," I said softly. "Thank you, Renée, but I don't know if I could get up now. By the time I got to my hotel, I would just be turning around and coming back."
Her eyebrows furrowed again. "I guess, if you like." She smiled a little, though she still looked worn with worry. However, she stared back at me for a moment, thoughtful. "Edythe," she said suddenly. "You're... a very mature girl for your age, aren't you?"
"I don't know about that," I said. "Of course, your son certainly is."
She smiled, and her thoughts, which were already receptive to the idea of liking me—suspecting what my feelings were, she couldn't help but like any girl with good taste enough to like her son—warmed to me even more.
"I'm going to go back to the lobby and get something with a little caffeine in it from the vending machine. Can I get you anything?"
I shook my head. "No, thank you. I think I'll be going back to sleep soon."
"All right then." She stood there for a moment longer, feeling a little awkward, before she turned and quietly withdrew, closing the door behind her. It wasn't until she was halfway down the hall that she thought, Oh no, I should have asked her if she wanted a pillow and blanket, I didn't even think of it. I'll ask when I go back... Oh, I can't wait until he wakes up and I can tell him the news about Phil! He'll be so happy he doesn't have to live in Forks anymore!
I continued to stare at his face as the sound of her thoughts moved further away. I remembered then that Beau would soon have the option to leave Forks if he so chose. I wondered if she was right, if Beau would be eager to get away from the rain and cold, back to the sun. He'd seemed so melancholy when he first moved to Forks, so homesick. This could be the solution he had been waiting for.
If he did go to Florida, the location of Phil's new job, I couldn't follow him there, much as I might want to. And if he did choose to go away from me, would I let him? Could I?
I closed my eyes, and leaned back in my chair. Yes, I could. If I loved him enough to taste his blood and keep myself from killing him, I could also let him go, if he chose to leave. I could do that—for him. So long as he was healthy and happy, I could endure anything else. I was still not strong enough to leave if he asked me to stay, far from it. But perhaps that was just as well; so long as I stayed with him, I could protect him. Protect him from the monsters of my dark world.
At the thought, my eyes slowly opened again, staring at the glowing screens, and the sharp, jagged line in the darkness. I saw my own eyes in the reflection on the screens, and they were suddenly dark with something more than thirst.
I shouldn't have watched the video. I knew I shouldn't, and yet, I hadn't been able to stop myself. And now I couldn't help but go back and relive every moment of what Joss had done to him with the intent that I would see it, as she hoped I would become so enraged that I would give chase, do everything I could to hunt her down.
The sounds and images continued to slither through my mind like dark shadows, making me flinch—the snap of his bones breaking, his blood pooling on the floor. And above all, the sound of Joss's taunting voice, mixed with his screams of agony.
Joss was dead; she couldn't threaten anyone anymore. But still, even dead, I hated her. I almost regretted that she was dead, that she had been allowed to die so quickly. That I would never have the chance to kill her myself.
I knew without a doubt what would have happened had her plan succeeded—had she murdered Beau as she intended after such needless torture and cruelty, and left for me that video. It would have been exactly as Joss hoped for. Before I followed through with my plan to destroy myself, I would have hunted her, as far and as long as I needed to.
Joss had believed herself invincible. Too smart, too skilled at her games to ever lose. But she would have lost to me. Her own cunning would have been my weapon—in a direct confrontation between the two of us, she could not hope to stand against me. I would see every clever plan before she laid it, and she would fall into my trap.
But that wouldn't have been the end of it. A quick death would have been far too good for her. First, I would have caught Victor, her ever loyal mate, and I would have killed him in front of her. And then—
My breathing sped, my fingers tightening around the arms of the recliner as I pictured my vengeance in my mind's eye.
I would have incapacitated her, and then dragged her to an abandoned ballet studio I had picked out beforehand. Mirrors on every wall—cinematic, as Joss had said. So that she might see her own destruction from every angle.
Then I would have proceeded, very slowly. I would have followed the precise pattern she had followed. First, I would have broken her arm, wrenched it from her body and burned it to ash. Next I would have ripped open her stomach, shredding her from the inside out, in payment for his ribs. Then I would have torn each of her fingers from her other hand, and I would have torn away her leg, the same leg she had broken on Beau, and burned it. I would have bitten her hand, her entire arm, until she felt the sting of my venom. I would have taken her apart, piece by piece, and I would have made her scream—though it took more to injure an immortal, we had a greater capacity for pain. Our senses were so sensitive. When we were torn to bits, we felt every cell as its own entity.
And of course, all the time I would have been inside her head—I wouldn't have allowed her to sneer in the face of physical pain, or be destroyed with dignity. I would have taunted her with the knowledge that she had brought her own destruction upon herself, that she should have known she was far weaker than me. That, from the moment she had picked a battle with me, this outcome was inevitable.
I would have asked her questions about her past, and she would have been unable to keep from thinking of the answers, until I had drawn from her an array of weapons, her most painful memories. I would have humiliated her, enraged her, until her mind was in as much torment as her body. I would have destroyed her body slowly, drawn it out for hours, days, weeks—and I would have broken her mentally, until she was nothing but a hollow shell. Only then could I have found some small measure of satisfaction, though it would still have been far from enough.
My breathing came rapidly in the small hospital room. However, the heart monitor pulsed again, breaking into my thoughts, and my dark fantasies faded.
There was no use thinking about these things, especially given that Joss was already dead, and Beau was not. That was as it should be. Carine would not be proud of me, to know I was entertaining such thoughts. Still, I couldn't quite bring myself to feel sorry for them.
I didn't look at the letter, now in my jacket pocket. Beau's final message for me, his last words before he willingly went to the hunter to die.
The final two lines I had read over and over. I'm not sorry that I met you. I'll never be sorry that I love you. But it was the few lines before that I couldn't look at, that lashed out at me accusingly. Please, please don't come after her... this is the only thing I can ask you now. For me.
Beau had mentioned the letter in the video—the letter he had givven to Archie, telling him it was for his mother. The future had been so muddled in all the madness, all his focus on Joss, he had missed that detail before. In the video, Joss had asked Beau if he was going to say his friends would avenge him. Beau had answered that he had asked me not to.
"And do you think she will honor it?" Joss had asked.
He had replied, "I hope so."
It was so like Beau. He didn't care at all about vengeance. Even about to die, all he could think about was that he was glad that his mother was safe, and wanting me to be safe after he was gone.
It hurt knowing that, if Joss had succeeded and he had died, I would have betrayed his final request. I would not have done what he asked, but instead what Joss wanted me to do. But it was inevitable as the pull of gravity—if anything, reading his final words would have had the precise opposite effect from what he hoped. Seeing his goodness, his kindness one more time, and his words at the end, I love you—and knowing that Joss had snuffed out such a life, for no other reason than to play games with me—if anything, it would have only incited me further to vicious retribution.
I loved him, would protect him no matter what. I would destroy utterly anything that threatened him. Joss had been the first, and Victor I would also annihilate someday. And if I ever failed, if Beau's fragile human body ceased to function—before going to meet my own end, I would make the one responsible pay in blood. I would make them regret it.
I stood up from my chair, and moved around to the side of his bed, to stand beside him. I gazed down at his inert form tenderly, then reached out and brushed my fingers against the one bit of skin on his face that wasn't covered in gauze.
I would not be able to hide the fact I had seen the video, but I would not tell him I had read the letter. I wouldn't tell him his final request had been in vain, what I would have done if things had turned out differently. There was no point in his worrying over that. I loved him, and keeping him safe from now on was all that mattered. I wouldn't pursue Victor, at least for now, as much as I might like to—I would stay with him, so long as he needed me, so long as he wanted me. I would not go away from him to chase vengeance. Not yet.
Outside, the sky was dark, and I watched the blue line of the heart monitor continue to pulse.
A/N: And, there's the end. A lot of challenges in this project different from any of the other Reimagined projects so far, but well worth it for setting up the last leg of the journey.
Thank you once again to all of you out there reading this, and for all your thoughts and comments. The preface for Breaking Dawn should soon be up either later today or early tomorrow, along with the first chapter. Hope to see you over there! If not, thanks again so much for reading, and hope you have a great year!