A/N: So many people are begging to know what Edward is up to, that I've decided to post this separately. I feel it would interrupt the narrative flow to make it a chapter, so here it is. If you reviewed Chapter 24, you may recognize some of it from the outtake I sent in your reply. Thanks to Momma Laura for a lightning-quick beta job, and to DanySpike and The_Buxom_Bitch for pre-reading.
About A Girl – Kelley Ryan 'Twist'
The Research Study (Monday and Tuesday night)
The night watchman nodded as Edward flashed his ID badge on his way to the elevators. He stepped into one that was open and pressed the button. Waiting was something he normally did quite well, but tonight the elevator couldn't rise fast enough. He drummed his long pale fingers against his thigh impatiently as the car rose, and practically burst through the doors before they were halfway open. He strode too quickly through hallways and past darkened offices until he reached the three rooms that were currently the center of his world.
The evening staff in the first room was a small crew, attentively monitoring the machines connected to the study subjects, who were already in bed and beginning to drowse. Mornings begin early in medical facilities. In addition, all of the subjects had been put through multiple examinations and exercises, with constant checking of vital signs and the occasional draw of blood. This last had happily occurred several hours previously, though the strenuous schedule left the participants drained and exhausted. Going to bed early was not difficult after a day like that.
Though every stone cell of him ached to move straight through the research area and into her room, he forced himself to glance over the day's charts, instead. There were three sets of data, but only one held his attention. Her intake, output, blood pressure, body temperature, pulse rate, and respiration fascinated him, as did the results of various tests and activities she had completed. She was quite independent, as he well knew, and it pleased him that she was so willing to participate in something that could have no impact on her own life. If there was the slightest possibility that it might, however, he was determined to find it.
A handsome blond head rose from perusing a set of printouts. He glanced at the staff in the room and back at the newcomer.
"Edward. I expected you earlier. Is everything alright?"
Edward nodded almost imperceptibly, his eyes still trained on the chart in his hands. He spoke too softly and quickly for anyone else in the room to hear.
"I had a small adventure." The word brought a smile to his lips. He had those these days, now that she was in his life again. The smile faded as he continued.
"I was just leaving her apartment when I heard Jacob driving by to check on things. I was only a couple of cars behind him, and when he made a turn, he saw the Volvo in his mirror. By the time he turned around, I had parked several streets away. I tracked him as he drove around her neighborhood for awhile, then he came down here, still looking for the Volvo."
Carlisle set aside the printouts as Edward walked over to him with the chart, leaning in as if in consultation.
"Did he know it was you, or was it just that the car caught his eye?" Carlisle asked silently.
"He wasn't positive, but he was inclined to believe it was me. He isn't convinced that I left Seattle when I said I would, and he suspects that I am keeping Bella from him."
Carlisle shook his head and an expression of concern crossed his features. "What an odd conclusion. When you spoke with him previously, did he give you the impression that he was delusional?"
A low chuckle escaped Edward's lips. "Stubborn and jealous, yes, and highly protective of Bella, but he's not delusional. He's rather like a guard dog, actually. His view of his own importance in her life may be exaggerated, but without reading her mind, I can't say for certain. She did tell me that she sees him as her best friend and nothing more, though."
"I can't say that I am pleased about this," Carlisle murmured aloud.
"Nor am I, but it doesn't change things. We will continue with this as we are. There is too much at stake to let it interfere."
Carlisle shuffled the papers in front of him. "Did you find anything?"
Edward gave a tiny shake of his head. "She had a first aid kit and some Tylenol. Wine in the refrigerator, but nothing more."
Some of his actions while in Bella's apartment had been less than scientific, and he was certain Carlisle would not have approved. The casserole dish on the counter perplexed him- everything else was neatly put away. Lifting the edge of the paper towel, he had been pleased, and pained, to see she was preserving the violets he gave her. He had spent some time looking over her music collection and books, in an effort to learn a bit more about her. Her taste was fascinating. He had even come a bit undone in her bedroom, sitting on her bed and clasping her pillow to his face as he had the one at the hotel, this one pungent with her aroma. It was an effort to leave, but Carlisle was waiting, and in a sense, so was she.
He raised his topaz eyes to watch the two technicians who were monitoring the machines. They were oblivious to his conversation with Carlisle, their thoughts focused on the task before them. It pleased him that they had found such dedicated and efficient people for this job; none but the best for Bella. His gaze slid to the third doorway just visible through the second room.
"Go on. You've waited long enough. But Edward, be careful. We can't have a repeat of last night." Carlisle's expression was serious as he made a note on the chart and handed it back to Edward, who placed it with the others, nodding his understanding as he stood.
He greeted the technicians with a word, and they smiled at him as he walked through to the next room. The doors to the individual subjects' rooms were not quite closed. He could hear four sets of respirations, four heartbeats, and the disjointed threads of two dreams. He stopped for a moment outside of the farthest room, listening to the thoughts of the technician inside. She had just applied gentle pressure to an electrode attached to Bella's temple; the sticky tab holding it in place had come loose.
For a tiny second, something flared bright and hot in his chest and then was gone. Edward shook his head at himself. How ridiculous to feel jealous over a touch as innocent and clinical as that had been, yet it made him ache to touch her himself. He pushed the door open, and the scent that had been lingering in the outer room assaulted him. He hesitated as he took a deep breath, reveling again in the near-intoxication he felt.
The technician turned at the small noise the door made and smiled at him. As she did, Bella stirred in her sleep, turning her head and pulling the electrode off. A gentle tone sounded from the machine by her bed as another echoed from the monitor in the first room. A third began to ring, indicating another subject was also restless.
"I've got her; you go on," he murmured to the technician who scurried from the room to attend the other alarm. He reattached the electrode to Bella's temple, holding it in place and feeling the warmth of her skin seep through the sticky tab to his cold fingers. In a moment, silence again fell over the research ward.
He watched her sleep, wondering if he would get to hear her talk again. He hardly dared hope she would dream of him and wished for what felt like the thousandth time that he could read her mind. He wanted to know about DreamEdward. Did he hold her and show her all the love that he couldn't, or was DreamEdward the monster of her nightmares? Either way, he was jealous of DreamEdward for being able to get into her head.
Edward let his glance sweep across her face, the electrodes stark and ugly against her creamy skin. He watched the tiny throb of her pulse in the vein near his finger, and he longed to place his lips there, to feel the heat of her blood and skin against his mouth. That was a liberty he would not take, though he had taken more the night before. But Carlisle was right – that couldn't happen again. He felt guilty for what had occurred afterward, his thoughts turning towards last night.
The little dark-haired nurse technician had mentioned Bella's headache, but her hands were full with the older gentleman. He insisted that the electrodes were too itchy and kept pulling them off. Edward offered to watch Bella for her, and she gratefully accepted. She left the door open slightly as she slipped out.
He wondered if being in the same room with her again was a mistake at first. She was so vulnerable. He knew he wouldn't hurt her, but would he be able to resist his other urges? He remained near the door for several minutes, letting her scent wash through him as he listened to her heart rate and her breathing. Both were steady and calm. Being in the same room with her made the ache in his chest almost disappear.
Finally, he could resist no longer and crossed to the bed to gaze upon the woman who owned his cold dead heart. The status of his soul may have been questionable, but he would give it to her regardless. Anything and everything that he owned or was capable of giving, she was welcome to take.
A cold pack lay across her forehead, and he smiled at the opportunity it afforded him. He removed it with one hand as he laid the other gently in its place. She turned slightly towards him, and he saw the tension leave her face as she relaxed into his touch. A sigh parted her lips, and he was nearly undone by the sweetness of her breath and the tingling heat of her skin beneath his hand. He stroked his fingers along her forehead and brow, allowing them to softly graze through her hairline and into her hair.
She smiled in her sleep and tilted her head back slightly. He closed his eyes, turning away from the implied offer of her throat.
Her breathing became faster and shallower. He couldn't resist watching the covers rise and fall with each breath she took, and his gaze wandered back to her neck. He let the cool pack slip from his hand onto the bed and hardly knowing he was doing it, touched one finger to her throbbing jugular.
She sighed at the contact and arched her neck.
Her soft voice startled him, and he pulled back his hand. His eyes darted to her face, but she was still asleep. Was she dreaming of him?
"Bella…" It was out of his mouth before he could stop it. She smiled as if she heard him, and for just a moment, he truly wanted her to know he had been there. If there was a way to leave her with something, a token…
He listened carefully to the activity beyond this room. The technicians were all busy, and Carlisle was occupied with the reports of the day's results. He felt a fleeting twinge of guilt regarding Carlisle, but he firmly ignored it as he gave in to his baser instincts and lowered his mouth to Bella's throat.
Fire scorched his lips, suffusing his face and body with the same crackling electricity he had felt when they kissed in his suite. He could feel her blood pulsing through the vein beneath his mouth, and he sucked lightly, darting his tongue out to taste her skin. His eyes rolled back in his head at her sweetness. Bella's breath hitched, and he quickly pulled away. She blushed, swirling the scent of her blood more strongly into his lungs.
He had to leave now; she wasn't far from waking. He placed the cold pack on her throat where a small bruise was forming and was back in the first room before she opened her eyes.
He had apologized to Carlisle for his reckless behavior and spent the rest of the night in the first room as penance, studying the reports and watching the monitors. Not long before dawn, they both noticed the increase in her heartbeat before the monitor registered it. Her respiration also changed, and the dark-haired technician, Anna, told them what they already knew. She got up to check on Bella again, but hadn't gotten as far as the door before the screaming started, and the alarms went off.
Carlisle's arms locked around Edward's chest from behind, pinning him to his chair as the technicians all ran to Bella's room. None of them saw the two doctors wrestling as Edward tried to break Carlisle's grip on him, nor did they hear the soothing words Carlisle whispered into his son's ear. By the time the technicians checked on the other subjects and came back to resume their desk duties, both doctors seemed to be calmly discussing something at one of the computers.
Anna reported to Carlisle as Edward studied the screen in front of him.
"She had another dream, a nightmare this time. She wouldn't tell me what it was, but it must have been really bad. She'd curled up into a ball, and that's when her electrodes pulled off. She was crying and shaking and clutching at her chest like she was in pain, poor thing." Carlisle thanked her, and she left to get a cup of coffee. He glanced at Edward. The only outward evidence of his emotion was his fists, clenched on his knees.
Carlisle frowned. "This sleep disruption isn't good for her. If she doesn't get enough rest, she could get sick. Beyond that, she could have problems with depression and anxiety, which will only make it more difficult for her to sleep. I'll check with Dr. Riggs to see if she could have a prescription for something to help with that."
Edward looked up, concerned. He kept his voice low enough that only Carlisle could hear. "She slept fine at the hotel Monday. She did dream – she talks in her sleep – but she didn't have any bad dreams. She had a nightmare Tuesday, but it was… an emotional day. If I could dream, I think I would have had a few nightmares myself."
Carlisle nodded. "I'll need to make sure she doesn't have any over-the-counter sleep aids that she takes regularly. Perhaps you could slip over to her apartment and check sometime later today."
Edward's nod would have been imperceptible to anyone other than Carlisle. It would give him something to do while he waited for tomorrow night's shift and one more chance to be near her.
She stirred beneath his hand, and he let go of the tab, placing his hands in his pockets in an effort to keep from touching her. Her brow furrowed, and her bottom lip protruded into a pout. It was cute, and his lips curved upward.
"No, Edward," Bella said, and the smile slid from Edward's face. He suddenly didn't think he wanted to hear this dream, but he was unable to make himself leave.
"No!" she insisted, and her breathing and heart rate began to rise. Edward backed away from the bed until he was at the door, silently praying she would stop or that the dream would change. Instead, he saw tears begin to slip from her eyes. The pain that had abated somewhat from being near her these last two nights suddenly slammed hard through him, bending him nearly double. He clenched his fists in silent frustration. He couldn't help her or stop the dream without waking her, and she couldn't know he was here.
Her voice trembled as she quietly begged, "Please… help me."
He shook his head as though she was speaking to him directly, his eyes shut tightly against the misery on her face. He couldn't do this. He had been so happy to be able to put this study together with Carlisle and to have the opportunity to be around her at night while she slept. He had no idea that it would affect him so much to be this close and unable to touch or even to speak to her.
He turned and shouldered his way past the door, fists still jammed in his pockets. He strode out to the first room, his anguished eyes on Carlisle, seated at a computer.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Carlisle stood to go to him just as the alarm on Bella's monitor went off. She had pulled her electrode loose again.
One of the technicians went to reattach it, but as he pushed open her door, Bella's scream echoed through the ward.
Carlisle swung around to face Edward but was confronted with a closing door. He followed Edward through the halls until he caught up with him just before he reached the elevators.
"Edward! What happened in there?" Carlisle demanded. Edward only shook his head as he paced along the row of faux-wood doors.
Carlisle stepped in front of him and took hold of his shoulders.
"I can't help her if you don't talk to me. I need every piece of information I can get. Please, son. Tell me."
Edward's shoulders slumped as he let Carlisle embrace him, though he took little comfort from him.
"I didn't touch her, Carlisle, I swear. Her electrode was loose, so I put it back on her temple, but that's it. The rest of the time, I was just watching her sleep. She started talking, and it sounded as if it was going to be a bad dream, so I left."
"Why did you think it was going to be bad – what did she say?"
Edward clenched his fists as he tried to master the monsoon of emotions flooding through him.
"She… she said, 'No, Edward, no. Please help me." He forced the words from trembling lips. "You heard the rest." He turned then and jabbed his thumb on the elevator call button, cracking the plastic with the blow.
Carlisle stared at the floor for a moment, lost in thought. His head jerked up as an elevator opened, and Edward moved towards it.
"She was dreaming, Edward. Humans do that. She's obviously upset about you leaving, but there's no need for you to blame yourself for her nightmares," he said.
Edward sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "Carlisle, her nightmare was about me. I can't stay if I can't comfort her and tell her how I feel. I know that's not an option, so I'm going home. I'll see you when you get there. I hope you can get all the answers we need." He shoved his hands back in his pockets.
"If you truly don't want to stay, that's fine; you should go."
"I want to stay. I just can't," Edward murmured, his chest tight with agony.
"I understand. Be safe going home, and please tell Esme I'll see her soon," Carlisle said sadly. It hurt him to see Edward so torn up over this woman.
"I will," Edward said as he stepped into the elevator car. He looked up and met Carlisle's topaz eyes with his own. He started to speak, but Carlisle held up a slim pale hand.
"Don't worry; I'll take good care of Bella. She'll be at home tomorrow night, and I'm sure she'll sleep much better in her own bed," he smiled.
Edward nodded and pushed the button for the lobby. He watched Carlisle walk back towards the ward until the elevator door closed and cut off his view. As he rode down, he couldn't stop thinking of Bella's cries, begging for help and not getting it. He had his answer now – DreamEdward was the monster.
A/N: That mysterious little bruise… and now you know.