Edward closed his eyes and desperately tried to block out the soft whimpers emanating from behind the walls of the adjacent room. They were so unlike the normal cries of a newborn baby, so far from the relentless and piercing wails of a child only a few hours old. Instead, the tiny sobs were astonishingly quiet and unusually restrained. It was almost delicate, vulnerable and – as hard as Edward tried to ignore it - utterly heart wrenching.
He grimaced to himself, his face twisting into an obscure mix of pain, guilt, and determination. He closed his eyes tighter and shifted his focus to the furious pounding of Bella's heart, allowing the sound to fill his ears and completely distract his sense of hearing. He concentrated on the steady rhythm, which quickened in pace as each second ticked by. He counted each thump, gauging the time between them, trying to determine how many precious beats were left. He mourned internally… he would miss that gentle sound.
The smooth voice floated through the room and broke through Edward's reverie. He sighed softly and reluctantly opened his eyes, though he didn't bother to turn around. 'Carlisle,' he said flatly, greeting the older vampire without taking his eyes off Bella's unconscious form.
He was vaguely aware of the swift footsteps breezing across the room as a rich ensemble of scents – cashmere, denim, human blood – permeated his nostrils. A moment later, he felt a comforting hand rest upon his shoulder.
'She's doing well, Edward,' Carlisle assured him, as if answering an unspoken query. 'Despite what it may look like… she's doing remarkably well.' There was a momentary pause – wary, hesitant - before Carlisle continued. 'Renesmee, however-'
'Renesmee has been fed… we've tried setting her down to rest for a while… we have each taken turns in holding and comforting her. And yet, she continues to cry,' Carlisle's tone was gentle, soothing. 'Maybe you could-?'
'I can't leave Bella,' Edward interjected. He instinctively inched closer to her and gazed down at her pale face, it's surface smooth and expressionless. If he didn't know any better – if he hadn't been all too aware of the agony and torture beneath the exterior facade - he would have thought she looked almost peaceful. 'Not like this.'
'There's nothing you can do for her now but wait,' Carlisle reasoned.
'She needs me,' Edward desperately argued, refusing to tear his eyes away from Bella's lifeless body. I need her, he mentally corrected himself.
Carlisle was quiet for a moment, considering how to best phrase his next words. When he finally spoke, his voice was soft… almost tender. 'Your daughter needs you more right now.'
Edward winced, the words sounding inexplicably foreign to his ears.
'Just for a moment,' Carlisle offered reasonably, when Edward still hadn't moved from his seat. 'I promise you can return to Bella's side as soon as Renesmee is content.'
Edward listened to the silent words running through the older vampire's mind – his thoughts were laced with concern and anxiety for the newborn baby, crying in the room next door.
He let out a long breath, reluctantly rising from his seat and mustering all his strength to follow Carlisle to the door. As he stepped across the threshold, he faltered, eyes lingering on Bella's eerily peaceful face… it took every ounce of will power to finally tear his gaze away from his unmoving wife.
'Perhaps you could read her thoughts to determine what she wants,' Carlisle suggested, as he and Edward glided down the hallway together. 'Though I already have a sneaking suspicion of what that might be…' he finished mysteriously, pausing outside the room that acted as a makeshift nursery. It took only five strides to reach their desired destination.
They entered through the door, and Carlisle immediately headed to a wrought iron cot in the far corner. The weeping was clearer now, unmuffled by the barrier of plastered walls, and Edward could taste the faint, stinging perfume of salt and water. Human tears.
Edward watched Carlisle's back as he bent over the crib and bundled the small figure into his arms, moving them from side to side in a gentle, comforting motion. The soft crying didn't cease.
'Can you hear?' Carlisle asked, suddenly turning around and advancing forward. His expression was inquisitive, hopeful. 'What is it that she wants?'
Edward inhaled sharply, finally catching a clear view of the child – his first real glimpse of her since the bloody and chaotic scene a few hours earlier. Two chocolate brown eyes – Bella's eyes – gazed back at him, curiously. Her small face was perfectly round, the milky skin of her cheeks streaked with tears… yet only one quiet sob escaped from her lips now, before stopping all together.
'She's… ah,' Carlisle stopped himself, and the room fell silent. Both men watched, transfixed, as the child reached one tiny hand out into the distance between them… to Edward.
'Just as I thought!' Carlisle exclaimed, letting out a soft chuckle. His face lit up as he stepped closer. 'Here, son-'
But Edward made no movement, frozen where he stood. 'I don't know how…' he trailed off, staring at the small bundle in Carlisle's arms.
Carlisle smiled warmly, misinterpreting the meaning behind Edward's words. 'It's quiet simple, really. Natural, almost. You just have to hold them securely, but not too tight… and make sure you support her head with your hand, though I think she's quite strong for a newborn-'
Barely aware of what he was doing, Edward retreated as Carlisle approached and extended the small child out to be held. He shook his head, his actions involuntary, taking another swift step back.
'I don't know if I can do this,' Edward whispered, his voice so low it was barely audible.
It was not the threat of raging bloodlust in the presence of a half human baby that Edward feared. The sweet scent of his daughter burned down his throat, a raging fire that tempted and taunted his most natural vampiric instincts… but that was nothing compared to the fear he felt now.
He stared at the child - a reflection of himself, of Bella – and realised that his most desperate longings, his wildest fantasises could not have prepared him for this reality. Nothing could have prepared him for this. For fatherhood.
'I don't know if I can do this,' he breathed again, voice breaking.
Carlisle respected the distance between them this time, seeming to finally sense the weight of Edward's words. 'Try,' he urged, glancing down at the small child, huddled against the inviting cashmere of his long sleeved shirt. 'For her sake - for both their sakes…' he corrected, and Edward winced at the thought of Bella's lifeless body in the room next door.
Edward didn't speak and, though barely a minute past, it felt like the silence stretched on for an eternity. He surveyed the older vampire, so at ease with holding the little girl that it almost looked natural.
'Just try,' Carlisle pleaded once more.
Edward sucked in a long breath and, only vaguely aware of his actions, he took a hesitant step forward. He swallowed pointlessly and opened his arms for the child.
The hint of a proud smile flashed across Carlisle's face as he handed the baby over to his son. 'You'll be a wonderful father,' he promised quietly, patting Edward lightly on the back.
Edward barely noticed when Carlisle eventually slipped from the room and ambled down the hallway; he was too mesmerised by the baby cradled in his arms, watching as she shifted her head to nestle in the crook of his elbow.
When he finally realised he was all alone, standing in the centre of the room and holding Renesmee tight against his chest, a strange sensation washed over him; for the first time in a long time, he felt utterly lost.
He glanced down at the baby girl, offering her a hesitant smile. 'Hello,' he said, and instantly felt ridiculous – his formal greeting sounded like something he would say to a stranger at the door.
Renesmee looked at him curiously; she raised her little arms and flailed them about, as if reaching for his face, before settling to grab a tiny fistful of Edward's shirt.
He watched with amusement as Renesmee's hand clutched at the soft fabric, unaware of the tender smile beginning to grace his lips. 'You're so small,' Edward whispered in awe, surveying her little dimpled knuckles. His gaze moved to her face, and she stared back at him with wide eyes. He recalled the tears that had slid down her porcelain skin only moments earlier, noticing the glistening trails still left in their wake; he instinctively raised his hand, gently brushing his thumb across her warm, crimson-tinged cheek.
But he froze when Renesmee flinched at his touch; horrified, Edward recoiled his hand immediately and stared at his ice-cold fingers with distain. He glanced back at the baby and, though his heart no longer beat within his chest, it ached all the same.
'I'm sorry,' Edward apologized, guilt seeming to course through his empty veins. He studied the bare forearms that effortlessly supported the rest of Renesmee's tiny body; he was sure the coldness of his skin was seeping through the material of her clothes as well. A second wave of guilt washed over him as he attempted to tug down his sleeves.
'You must be freezing,' Edward noted softly, though Renesmee's skin felt like fire against his own. He smiled sadly, spying her crib and darting across the room in the blink of an eye. He bent forward with every intention of laying the baby girl on to the soft padding - away from his glacial body temperature - but he stopped, hesitating. He silently berated himself, knowing that a good father would put his child's comfort before his own selfish needs… but he couldn't bear to let his daughter slip from his hold just yet.
Struck with an idea, he snatched a light pink blanket from the crib and shifted Renesmee's weight into one hand, while wrapping the fabric around her with the other. The fleecy material instantly created a thick, warm barrier between Renesmee and Edward's stone-cold skin; content, he pulled the bundle closer to his chest and held her tightly.
Renesmee's tiny brow furrowed as she began to wriggle in Edward's strong arms, as if trying to resist the sudden invasion of warmth. His lips tugged upwards as he watched her little hand grasped for his shirt once again… and, without thinking, he caught it with his own. She didn't flinch away from his touch this time, and he silently wondered if it were physically possible for a vampire's chest to burst with joy.
Edward continued to watch her intently; she eventually settled, her eyelids beginning to droop as he swayed his arms in a gentle rocking motion. An unfamiliar tune started to filter through his thoughts while his eyes soaked up every inch of Renesmee's perfect features. The melodic notes seemed to dance gracefully across his mind's eye and, as if through natural progression, the music spilled from his lips. The baby girl stilled, her mouth forming a perfect little 'o' as she let out a sleepy yawn.
Edward couldn't hold back a quiet chuckle, and Renesmee's eyes instantly snapped back open at the sound of her father's laughter.
'Sorry,' he whispered again, giving her hand a delicate squeeze.
He paced around the room, humming softly, continuing with Renesmee's song until her eyelids began to flutter closed once again. She buried her face against Edward's chest and, though she drifted off to sleep, her grasp on his fingers never faltered. His thumb traced light circles across the smooth skin of her tiny hand, heart sinking at the thought of ever having to let go.
Because he loved her.
He smiled to himself as he considered this revelation, so simple and obvious. His thoughts and feelings and everything he'd ever known – his entire world – had shifted so dramatically in the span of a few hours, all because of her. Renesmee. His Daughter.
Edward gazed down at her peaceful face, bending to press his lips to the warm skin of her forehead. She stirred slightly, but didn't wake, simply continuing to clutch at her father's hand.
Edward beamed; he was well and truly wrapped around her little finger.