AN: Alright, so don't kill me; I know it's been a long time (like, very very long), but my only excuse is…life happens? Regardless, I have a lot more free time and this chapter is one I was putting off. It is still a mess (I know) but I wanted to get something out to you all, then I can go back and edit and make it a little more presentable. I hope you enjoy all the same!
Chapter 10: Decisions
Despite the progress she had made during the day, Edythe's night terrors continued on.
Though a small portion of her head reminded her she was dreaming, her focus was primarily focused on the imposing figure stalking toward her down the now familiar dark alley. She cringed away as she felt the human weakness in her body, curling into a fetal position on the damp and stinking ground as the reflection of the moon flashed across her offender's face. She took in her eldest sister's cold, black eyes and twisted expression around her snarl; she locked her jaw around a scream as Jessamine lunged.
Her eyelids shot open, her breath catching as she found herself in Beau's room once more. He was leaning over her, his whispered words working to comfort her and she flipped onto her back, looking up at the ceiling as she forced her breathing back to normal. Beau stopped his musings as she responded, waiting quietly until she turned her head slightly to meet his gaze. He didn't ask verbally—he never did—but she could see the panicked curiosity in his eyes, waiting so badly to know the origins of her dreams to better help her. She looked away, blowing an exasperated breath out her nose.
Edythe was tired of the nightmares, and not just in a physical exhaustion way. She knew now in the reality of consciousness that none of her family, not even Jessamine, would hurt her, would never do what their dream counterparts did. She knew this as much as she knew her name, but there was a large gap between her conscious mind and her irrational dreams. Try as she might to convince her dream-self of the fact, she couldn't get a handle on the fear that radiated through her in the dreams, just as she couldn't when in her family's presence. So she was forced to watch and relive the panic and the terror every night, often several times a night, until her exhausted brain finally forced her to pass out into a hazy unconsciousness where even dreams couldn't get to her.
Beau lay besides her quietly, watching as she slowly relaxed herself as she had before; this was quickly becoming a routine, one he wished he could break. But Edythe never offered up an explanation for what she saw, and, try as he might, he couldn't bring himself to ask up until now. But it was painful to watch her suffer like this, and even more so to watch her suffer in silence. He propped himself up on his elbow, and brushed a lock of hair from her sweating forehead.
"Edythe…" he began.
"I don't want to talk about it," she said simply, firmly. He made a face, but pushed on.
"I can't help you unless you tell me," he told her gently, "If we can't be open with each other, then who?"
The words did their job; Edythe's expression slackened, taken by his earnest words, words she knew were his attempt to help her through this. She knew he held her and spoke to her every night, had trained his body to wake at the first sign of her distress, jeopardizing his own sleep for her own sanity. But she knew that they couldn't do this indefinitely; she sighed heavily.
"Do you remember when I told you about my time away from Carine and Earnest?" she began. Beau nodded, remembering his own visions of a vigilante Edythe, moving through human cities as she stalked those minds who were sinister and deadly. Edythe's words moved swiftly, quietly, as she relayed the tale of that Detroit night, going into as much detail as she could. As she spoke, Beau began to fit the pieces together, could see how the memories had been turned back on Edythe to traumatize her. He draped an arm over her torso, pulling her to his side, as she recounted the dreams, and the faces in them. Her eyes pricked as she said their names, as if she were condemning them herself by speaking her family's names aloud.
"They're only dreams," Beau reminded her. "They would never hurt you."
"I know that," she said sadly, "Every time I wake up, I know that. But I can't stop them from coming."
"Once we get this sorted out, hopefully this will ease it. The stress from all of this is not helping; it may even be the cause of it," Beau worked to soothe her. Though she nodded, it turned her mind to the discussion Beau would have with her family tomorrow, or rather, later that day, as she could see it was past four in the morning. Her body tensed as she thought of the upcoming conversation, turning back on her side away from Beau. Sensing her unease, he gently ran his fingertips down her spine, hoping to lull her back to sleep. It was completely unsuccessful; the combined stress from her upcoming fate and the relentless nightmares kept Edythe conscious. So Beau tried the next best thing; he leaned down to kiss at the point of her shoulder, humming against her skin and grazed down to the hollow of her neck. His hands began to wander across her body and he felt her shiver. Edythe knew all too well what Beau was doing, and what he was going for. She sighed again, forcing herself to focus only on his fingers dragging trails of warmth over her sweating skin.
She turned back to him again, and she was glad the bedsprings didn't squeak. They would need to be as quiet as possible.
Beau paused before closing his bedroom door, glancing over his shoulder. Edythe lay on her stomach diagonally across his bed; her bare sides visible as the sheets were wound around her hips. She slept peacefully, the nightmares gone for now. She'd had one more after their discussion earlier that morning; it had not lasted that long, and Edythe had been able to calm herself once conscious. But Beau could not help the sinking feeling he felt; now that he knew what the dreams were about, he yearned to be in the dark once. But he knew he couldn't think like that; Edythe needed to break through and tell someone; and, if the unease he felt about it were the price the pay for her to hopefully move to heal, then so be it.
It was early, too early for a teenager to be awake in the summer months, but Beau felt relaxed in the silent tranquility of the still snoozing town. Beau moved automatically to the Volvo's driver side and soon found himself driving north out of Forks. He had only driven himself to the Cullen mansion a handful of times, but he had done the trip often enough with Edythe or Archie that it wasn't as difficult as he expected to find the turn for their drive. As the white house came into view, Beau could feel himself get tense; though he was majorly sure of the choice the Cullens would make, that small part of him, the lingering doubt, beat at the back of his head, giving him more than ample ammunition to doubt his assumptions.
The front door was unlocked and, after a moment of hesitation, he let himself in. The entire family was there, and Carine and Earnest moved forward with Archie to greet him. A light slap on the back from Archie was accompanied by the offering of a cream shoulder bag, no doubt filled with Edythe's laptop and other belongings she wanted or Archie saw she would want. Carine reached out to take Beau's hand; he tried to smile back at the doctor as convincingly as possible, but she wasn't fooled.
"How is she, Beau?" Carine asked; Earnest placed his hand on her waist, his ocher eyes on Beau as they waited for his answer. Beau sighed quietly through his nose and then gestured with his head toward the couch. Carine moved with him as he took a seat on the sofa. The rest of the family gathered closer; Earnest stood behind Carine, his hands on her shoulders, while Archie sat besides Jessamine opposite Beau. Eleanor moved forward to lean against the back of the couch behind them; only Royal remained unmoved, his arm folded and rigid as a statue leaning against the far wall.
"She's getting the hang of being human, in the basic sense," Beau answered finally, "Like eating, moving, that kind of stuff. She just needed a day or so to get a handle on that part." He stopped. Carine pushed him gently to go on.
"She's struggling with the emotional and mental aspects," he tried to explain; he was unsure exactly how to approach this in a way they would understand, in a way that conveyed Edythe's hardship. "We tried to talk about everything yesterday and she…well, she had a meltdown."
Carine and Earnest exchanged a worried glance; they had been concerned for the stress it would cause Edythe from the change, and hearing her being unable to handle it set them on edge, and it made their hearts ache to hear of their simultaneous eldest and youngest daughter's suffering.
"She seemed okay with this, though," Carine murmured to herself.
"She is okay, more than okay with being human. But it's the indirect ramifications that have upset her so much," Beau said quietly, unwilling to meet their gazes, not wanting to reveal to them that they were the reason for her distress.
"What do you mean?" Earnest asked. Beau glanced up at the man, then at the rest of them.
"Just say it, Beau," Archie said grimly, "The sooner you say it, the sooner we can make a decision." Beau looked at his best friend's face, could see the pinch in his expression, and realized that the decision was not as cut and dry as he had hoped it would be. Archie didn't know how this conversation would play out; that unnerved him, but he pushed through and the rest came out quickly.
"She explained to me how you live your lives, how you go from town to town, moving every few years to avoid detection. She's thrilled that, like many other things, she doesn't have to worry about discovery anymore, that she gets to have the life she always wanted for herself. But she's torn, caught between her prospects and the vampire life she's been living the past century. She's having difficulty rationalizing the two sides, to find a compromise between two things she feels are unyielding."
"Of course, we want to her have that life. She deserves it; you both do," Earnest insisted. Beau nodded.
"I know," he responded, "but that's not it, really. She feels guilt because….well, she wants to have both." Beau passed for a moment to allow them to absorb that, before working to explain. "She dreams and yearns for the quintessential human life she has wanted to live for decades, but she knows that plan would not easily coincide with being with you all. But she cannot simply walk away, as much as she is trying to make herself, to do what she feels is best for me and for you."
"She feels guilt, for having the chance you all wanted, and basically flaunting it in your face. For her to have what you couldn't, and for you to watch her enjoy it. She feels guilt for asking you to let her stay with you, to force you all to live with a human non-stop. She understands the temptation and discomfort she may be now; and she doesn't want to put you in the position where you cannot be comfortable in your own home. She doesn't want to do that, but as much as she loves me and loves being human, she can't bring herself to give you up. She loves you all too much, but because of that love, she doesn't want to put you through that."
Beau's explanation, though hardly eloquent, seemed to get the message across. He watched as the Cullens' face twisted with varying expressions: remorse, guilt, sorrow. They understood the tumultuous feelings Edythe had been warring with since she had left, and could see the jagged edges of the puzzle pieces she was trying to fit together.
"What did she decide?" Carine ask quietly; Beau met her gaze. The eyes, kind and open and golden as ever, were filled with uncertainty and a hint of unease, not really wanting to hear Beau's answer.
"She couldn't decide," Beau told her, "She just doesn't know what to do. So we're leaving part of the decision up to you." Carine stiffened in surprise, not expecting this response. As Beau had spoken, she expected his visit to be one of goodbye, that Edythe had been unable to face them not only because of her irrational fear, but because of the shame of her choice. But to have to decide whether she should stay with them or lead a human life, that decision was not one Carine had expected to make.
"Edythe knows the costs of choosing to harbor humans, both the inconvenient and the dire. Neither she or I want to force your hand; but her choices are down to three. The first are to separate ourselves from you, to live as if we knew nothing about vampires and humans; the second, to rectify what has been done, to change both of us to avoid causing potential issues with the Volturi." Beau heard their intakes of breath at the declaration and he met their gazes.
"Edythe is not willing to put you in danger for her; neither am I. The choice would be no different than the one I held up until five days ago," he said firmly. Their eyes grew wide; they had never imagined that Edythe would actually be willing to give up her humanity for them.
"And the third option?" Earnest asked tensely.
"To live with us as humans, to live a human life with us by her side," Archie replied for Beau. His voice was even, and as everyone glanced at him, they could see the haziness in his eyes as his mind stayed only partially in the present. Beau nodded minutely in assent.
"It's what she wants more than anything," Beau said quietly, "But the side of her that always want to do right and be selfless is warring with that desire. She thinks she would be asking too much."
"It's not too much," Earnest said firmly.
"But is it?" Jessamine interjected. "The Volturi would not be pleased if they were to discover them. And not only our lives would be at stake, but their's as well."
"It's unlikely that the Volturi would find out," Earnest insisted, but he glanced at Archie, who shook his head; not to confirm Earnest's statement, but to make it clear he could not see that far ahead.
"The first plan would not work; no one would do well with trying to keep everyone apart. Edythe would become depressed, as would most of us," Archie said firmly; this he was confident about. "The second plan is just as messy as it was before, but it's not as definitive of a future as it was before Edythe's change. And the third…well it's mostly unclear; there's so many decisions that would have to be made for it to work, and it wouldn't take much for it go astray. I can't tell for sure." He shook his head as if to clear it. "But Beau and Edythe already know about vampires; it does them no good to leave them unprotected from the Volturi if they were to find out and take action against them."
"We can protect them; let the Volturi come," Eleanor said, "We can handle them."
"Don't be so sure," Jessamine warned. "They may be fair, but we would be in violation of the law."
"We're in violation of it now," Eleanor reminded her, "The only thing to be lost is whether they find out about it." Jessmaine turned toward her, and the two sister began to debate, while Beau, Archie, and Earnest looked toward Carine, who had not spoken since she had realized what decision needed to be made.
The monarch brought her hand to her face, kneading her temples as if vampires could develop a migraine. Earnest held her other hand in both of his on his knee. The banter from Eleanor and Jessamine died down, and she could feel the rest of her family's eyes on her. She was reminded, not for the first time in the century since their family had been formed, how much they relied on her for such decisions. But she found she could not make the decision that was best for everyone without their own decisions as well.
This was not as simple as choosing where to move next, or how to deal with a passing nomad. This choice would require sacrifice both small and large on each of their parts—the small involving the never-ending lure of human blood in their house, and the large being threat of discovery and punishment of the Volturi. Not to mention the threat it would pose to Edythe and Beau, and the idea of having to watch them live through their human lives, while they the Cullens remained unchanged.
But, as she thought of it, she didn't feel the strength in her mind or heart to leave them; despite the danger—to everyone involved—she wanted nothing more than to have her daughter back, to watch Edythe have the life she always wanted for her. When she had saved Edythe over a century ago, she had seen the qualities she'd longed for in a daughter, and in that choice, she had formed her first familial bond. That bond was a hundred years strong, and not something she could easily break. Carine sighed heavily, the possibilities and consequences, the desires and what-ifs, spinning in endless circles.
Earnest squeezed her hand, and she looked up to meet his gaze. She knew without asking where he would stand on the issue; he would want Edythe to stay, no matter the consequences.
"I want Edythe home," he said, affirming her thoughts. "I want to be with her as she grows up. I want to see them marry. I want to see our grandchildren." His words reflected a future in Carine's eyes, Edythe dressed all in white in Beau's arms as they danced at their wedding, Edythe going with a career in medicine or whatever else she chose, small young faces with green and blue eyes, and Carine's heart ached more.
"But they may never get that if the Volturi were to find out," she protested. "We'd all be to blame, and we would all perish."
"But that's not to say that wouldn't be true if we did leave," Earnest countered. "Beau knowing alone was enough risk; and even though Edythe's human, it doesn't mean they would give her a pass just because she used to be a vampire. They would be defenseless."
"Earnest is right," Eleanor chimed in, "And just because Edythe is human now doesn't mean that the vampire part won't follow her around the rest of her life. May I remind you that Lauren and Victor are still out there? Victor was Joss' mate, and I can guarantee you she will be rearing to get to Edythe, to both of them. We have to protect them, Carine. And I'm not leaving my little sister." Eleanor's voice was firm, absolute. Carine looked around at her children, her eyes going to Archie; he could see the question in her eyes but he shook his head.
"Self-fulfilling prophecy," he answered. "I can't see the end result until we make a decision. But, visions, aside, I agree with Earnest and El. Edythe is still apart of the family; I'm not going to let her go that easily. And neither will you, Carine."
"Are you all aware for what this would involve?" Beau asked quietly; the vampires turned to look at him.
"Again, I can't say for sure because I've never been a vampire. But being around humans at school was something you avoided; this would be a lot different. Having just her or both of us around all the time? She'd eat human food; she'd sleep, it would be the whole package, the good and bad." Carine and Archie had expected this question, and they had already considered, more so than the others had.
"She's worth it," Carine said simply, "It would be a small price to pay." In that, Carine seemed to come to her decision. But that was only one half of the problem. She met Beau's gaze again, her amber eyes troubled.
"But does she want to come home?" She asked. "Does she even want to be around us?" Beau smiled softly as the doubt in Carine's question, reflected back in the expression of the other vampires who looked at him for the answer.
"She wants her family," he answered, "She misses you more every day, and that feeling is a lot stronger than any other reaction she's had to you before. Time is working; she's seemed to have finally gotten a handle on the whole 'being human' thing; and, she's a lot better at it than she gives herself credit for." Beau's smile was slightly mischievous as his mind wandered to the day in the meadow, but he composed his expression, not catching the smirk Archie had on his face.
"But even if she wasn't, that doesn't change anything for her; in that, her humanity doesn't affect how she feels about , she wants to grow, to live a human life, to have a family; we both do. But neither of us are going to give up the family she's had for her entire life, the one she's loved for a century, to make a new one. To put it in her mind, you're irreplaceable. But, she does not want to force you into a corner to live with her and me because of obligation; she wants you to have the time free from human facades and temptations as you all have had for so long."
The Cullens were surprised; though they all loved each other, it had been the first time Edythe had ever said something so singular and blatant regarding how she felt toward them. Of course, they all knew she loved them all, as they did her. But being the mindreader, they felt she was often more aware of their familial ties rather than the other way around. She had always been quiet, reserved, internalizing all emotions and thoughts, both her own and those she was privy to. To hear Beau's transcription of Edythe's feelings, her thoughts, was an entirely new experience. And they finally understood the reasoning behind Edythe's breakdown; she would always put her family's happiness above her own, even if it meant hurting herself in an irreparable way.
"It wouldn't be that way," Earnest insisted, "It's not the same with you two as it is with other humans. Her fears are groundless." Beau shrugged.
"I told her that, but she feels what she feels," he responded, but he was relieved to hear confirmation of what he had expected. The Cullens seemed to have come to the same conclusion he had, and his nerves were strung high at the idea of going home to share the news with Edythe. She would be disbelieving at first, but eventually she would accept it and let herself be happy and relieved. Jessamine could feel the anticipation radiating through his body and she smiled, soothing it slightly. He met her gaze and she grinned. Carine sighed again, squeezing on Earnest's hand, a smile on her lips, both at her family being able to come to a decision, and at the prospect it was the choice she selfishly wanted for herself, and apparently the others had wanted as well. The smile was also at the joy at the prospect of Edythe returning home. She looked up at Beau.
"Bring her home soon," she affirmed; Beau grinned and nodded emphatically. Archie and Eleanor made a loud whooping sound, and Archie stood up.
"I'll work on getting her room more 'humanized', as we shall say," Archie promised Beau. "It should be ready by the end of the week. We'll need to stock on human supplies as well," Beau nodded again at his friend, relief and joy making him nearly weak with happiness. Archie flitted from the room and returned almost instantly, a pad and paper in one hand. He sat besides Earnest and started explaining his idea for the renovation in Edythe's room, as well as creating a list of supplies they would need to pick up. Carine stood as her son and husband began to discuss the merits of knocking down the wall between Edythe's bedroom and the adjacent bathroom, and stepped to Beau. She reached out to embrace him and he reciprocated, a little thrown by the intimate gesture but appreciated it all the same. After she released him, she kept her hand on his shoulder.
"Please keep us updated," Carine pleaded seriously, and Beau was happy he was able to comfort her.
"Of course," he assented, then added, "She will be okay, Carine. She's getting there; she just needs a little more time." Carine nodded, trying to take comfort in his words. But the small part of her still ached to have Edythe here, to comfort her, to ensure she was okay, or that she would be. But she couldn't, not yet.
As Beau stood to go, Archie stopped him. Flippantly, he passed a plastic bag into his hands; Beau glanced inside and then he felt blood rush up his face at the contents. He tried to best to glare at Archie as angrily as he was able.
"Hey, no need for that," Archie replied, "I'm just trying to do you a favor. You may have gotten lucky in the meadow, but you won't be if you two keep it up." Beau nodded once hard as he worked to stuff the packages of condoms into Edythe's bag. But it was too late; despite how casual Archie had tried to be, Eleanor and Jessamine noticed. Feeling his mortification, Jessamine sized him up and, combined with the smell of latex, it did not take much for the sisters to realize Archie's inclination and the reasoning behind them.
"No way!" Eleanor enthused, her cackling grin stretching wide across her face. Beau said nothing, hoping in vain she would let it drop.
"You two don't waste time, do you?" she asked sarcastically.
"Shut up, Eleanor," Beau murmured, not meeting her gaze.
"Aw, come on. I'm just impressed on your timing. So was it you or her that jumped the other?" she asked.
Though he tried to hide it, the answer was clear on his face.
"Holy crap!" Eleanor crowed, "Who would have guess my little sister was such a—"
"Enough, Eleanor," Earnest chided sternly. "Leave them be. It is none of our business." But Eleanor was still looking over Beau appreciatively, as if he had just run a marathon in half the time. He tried to find a way out of this situation, but knew there was little he could do now that Eleanor and Jessamine's attention were on him. He swallowed as he responded.
"As cliche as it sounds, it anchored her, helped her find the bridge between the human and vampire side of her."
"Oh really? How's that?" Eleanor asked mischievously. Beau shrugged, trying to act nonchalant.
"Isn't it the most human thing you guys can do?" he asked. Eleanor blinked, shocked by the response. She and Jessamine exchanged a look, then again with the others; though they hadn't engaged, they had all been shamelessly curious about the revelation about the advancement in Beau and Edythe's relationship. Carine smiled a little at the question; it was an unexpected but appreciated response. When no one said anything, Beau turned to the door, grabbing Edythe's bag. With a final wave, he moved to cross the porch, feeling another surge of desire to head home, to assuage Edythe's worries and let her know she could have what she wanted.
With Beau's back turned, he didn't notice the heated conversation going on behind him.
AN: Short note at the end (sorry not sorry): for those of you who read "Human Again", this is the difference of making the other choice. I'll leave it at that.