A/N: Ohai! Yes, this chapter took a little longer than usual, but that's because some fairly big stuff happens. *side-eyes a certain guest reviewer*
Also, be afraid, be very afraid. Ooza is hosting an anal sex fanfic contest. Yeah, you heard right. Wanna enter? Check out letsdoanal dot blogspot dot com. I...may or may not be entering. ;-)
All standard disclaimers apply.
"Edward, don't worry. Everything will be fine, I promise." Alice squeezed his arm and handed him Wisp's suitcase. "I'll take Pet to get her cast off this afternoon while you're gone. I'll feed her her dinner, Esme will stop by to feed her the next morning, and you'll be back by that afternoon."
Edward gave her a look. It wasn't the stupid cat he was worried about, and Alice knew it.
"You have her Ativan if she needs it. Snacks and distractions for the ride—I really think you've covered everything."
Having material items for the trip didn't make Edward feel any better. "I'll call—"
"Yes," she interrupted. "You'll call if anything happens. But it won't. Everything will be fine."
Edward wanted to believe her, but too much was riding on this trip, and too much could go wrong. He couldn't make himself think positive when every possible horrible scenario kept running through his head.
"Emily's here!" Esme called from downstairs.
He took a breath. Everyone was here.
Time to go.
Esme was just finishing taming Wisp's long, flyaway hair into a thick, dark braid as Edward followed Alice down the stairs. He watched his mother wrap her arms around the girl from behind and whisper something in her ear as she held her close. Wisp pressed her cheek to Esme's and smiled. The expression lit her face from inside; she glowed with happiness.
Esme held her cheek still and let Wisp place a careful kiss. "You be good, okay?" Her voice wavered, and she cleared her throat. Edward wasn't the only one nervous about this trip. "Not that you're ever anything but an angel. Be brave. I know you have it in you." She kissed Wisp's cheek in return, then relinquished the girl as Edward bent to pick her up. Her eyes were suspiciously bright. "Take care of her, Edward."
"I will," he promised. He'd agreed to this trip for the sake of the investigation, but his first and most important task was keeping Wisp safe, both physically and emotionally. She trumped everything else. Emmett could go to hell if he thought otherwise.
Esme kissed him, then took the handle of Wisp's suitcase and headed for the open front door. Rosalie stepped close, holding Pet in her arms. "Give Pet a last thimble, kiddo," she said, lifting the little animal to Wisp's level in Edward's arms. "You'll see her again tomorrow."
"Pretty Pet." Wisp stroked her cat with gentle fingers and kissed her sleek black head. "Good Pet."
"Yes, good Pet will be waiting for you when you get home." Rose kept hold of the little animal so it couldn't escape out the open door again.
"Wisp, honey, it's time to go." Edward watched the girl in his arms carefully as he stepped toward the front door. He'd explained to her last night where they were going, and why, and when they'd be back. Whether any of it registered he didn't know, but he didn't like the thought of springing something like this on her without at least attempting to communicate.
She was quiet as they stepped out into a light drizzle, Emmett holding a big umbrella over them, shielding Wisp from the worst of the wet. Either Esme or Alice had put a pair of brand-new pink Chucks on her feet—only the second time she'd ever worn shoes, to Edward's knowledge. She wore slim jeans and had a light jacket layered over her long-sleeved shirt. Edward was so used to seeing her in sweats or yoga pants, feet free of shoes. This was honestly a little weird for him. He wondered how it felt for her.
Emmett held the umbrella and the back door of the car they'd be using for this trip—not Edward's Volvo, but an unmarked police car. Edward didn't know how Wisp would feel about being in a different vehicle, but she seemed calm enough as he settled in with her warm little body on his lap. Emmett closed the door and headed for the driver's side while Emily slid into the seat in front of them. Edward was the one who'd asked her to join them; he had no idea how Wisp would react to any of this, and he wanted her therapist around in case of the epic meltdown he more or less expected.
"Bags all in the trunk? Everyone used the bathroom? I'm not stopping before Puyallup!" Emmett started the car. Edward glanced at his feet to make sure the backpack with stuff for Wisp had been put in the car rather than the trunk, then settled back. "Ed," Emmett said, "I'd feel a lot better if she was buckled up in her own seat, since we're gonna be on freeways. This isn't just a drive around town."
"I'll try in a few minutes." Edward pressed a gentle kiss to Wisp's forehead as she nestled against his shoulder. "As soon as I know she won't freak out just because of the car."
Esme and Alice waved from the doorway of the little cabin as the unmarked police car pulled out of the gravelly clearing and onto the road. Wisp watched with big, solemn eyes as the women grew smaller and finally disappeared, swallowed by the forest. She sighed and snuggled into Edward's chest, one arm wrapping around him, sliding between his shirt and his jacket, seeking body heat. "Edward?"
"I'm right here, little Wisp," he promised.
"Wisp's Edward. Always Wisp's Edward."
The three of them—Emmett, Edward, and Emily—had discussed this trip for days before Edward finally agreed that they would go. The fact that it meant cancelling Emmett's attempt at poker night didn't hurt, but what really swayed Edward was Emily's promise that she'd go with them to help mitigate whatever fallout might occur. Scott was on board. Edward knew this was important, but he still worried. How could he not?
The drive to Puyallup was really only about four hours. Normally, they could make it there and back in a day, no problem. But Wisp was not used to long car rides and nobody knew how she would react, so they booked a hotel in Tacoma for the night, just in case. They'd take things as slow as she needed. This trip would be stressful enough without pushing her needlessly.
Wisp was not happy when Edward tried to settle her in her own seat, off his lap. The seats in the car did not seem to count as furniture in her mind, but she didn't want to be so far away from him and she definitely did not want to be buckled in place. They pulled over at a rest stop, and it took almost half an hour for Edward to convince her that the seat belt wasn't a nefarious piece of equipment. Once she realized that she could release herself with the press of a button, she calmed down. She still refused to sit all the way on the other side of the bench seat, so Edward moved to the middle, where there was only a lap belt. No way was he letting Wisp sit there, with less protection.
She dug through the backpack with delight when Edward handed it to her, pulling out a folded blanket, two books, the little teddy bear Alice had given her when she was sick, and her DVD player. She'd fallen in love with Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting, which of course meant that everyone insisted on gifting her with every DVD the man had ever made. Edward swore he heard that soft, lilting voice in his dreams, talking about happy little clouds and trees. He'd packed her one Joy of Painting and one DVD of old Mickey Mouse cartoons, hoping she'd choose the latter but knowing she wouldn't. She hugged her teddy bear close as she leaned against Edward's side and watched a painting appear on Bob Ross's canvas.
They stopped again about two hours into the drive, pulling into a service station to use the bathroom and top off the gas tank. The store, thankfully, was nearly deserted, and the man behind the counter barely glanced up when Edward entered with Wisp on his back. The restroom, luckily, was a unisex one-at-a-time room, and Edward was able to slip in with Wisp without disturbing anyone.
"Okay, little Wisp," he said. "This isn't going to be fun, but I'll buy you a treat afterward, okay?" He lay down a paper protector on the toilet seat—something he'd never done for himself—then stood with his back to the toilet and slowly lowered her down. She blinked at him once she was seated, brows drawn together in confusion. "Yeah, I know. But I do not want you on this floor, okay? God knows what you'd catch." He helped her with the stiff button and zipper of her new jeans, then held her just off the toilet seat so she could slide them down. "Good girl," he sighed as he set her down again. "Go ahead and go, okay? I know I don't usually stick around, but I don't want you on your knees after. Look—I'll even turn around."
He did, listening to the sounds as she obeyed, only turning back once he heard her flush. She was about to slip to her knees, but he prevented her, helped her back into her jeans, and then held her over the sink so she could wash her hands. She laughed at the dryer that blew warm air on her hands, and Edward carried her back out into the store.
"Everything okay?" Emily was just outside the bathroom door, waiting in case she was needed. But they'd managed, and Wisp was staring at interest at the aisles of junk food. Not crying. Not trembling. Her arms wrapped around Edward, yes, and she held the material of his jacket tightly in her fists, but that wasn't so bad, considering.
Edward smiled. "Yeah. I think we're just fine." He drifted closer to the displays. "Do you want to pick something? What do you want?"
Wisp stuck her finger in her mouth, eyes flicking back and forth over the brightly-wrapped products. She didn't know what most of them were, but they held her interest anyway. She chose a package of Twinkies finally, and Edward asked Emily to grab a bottle of chocolate milk for her, too. Emily took everything to the counter to pay, and Edward headed back to the car with Wisp in his arms. "Beautiful girl. I know this is confusing, but I'm going to do my best to keep you happy, okay?"
He unwrapped her Twinkies as they pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the highway, and Wisp bit a huge bite off the first cream-filled cake. "Um!" she mumbled through the food.
"Hook her on processed sugars, why don't you?" Emmett snickered from the front seat.
"A little every now and then won't hurt her. Will it, pretty girl?" Edward held her milk so it didn't spill as she chewed.
"Tell that to Rose. She's researching how to make her own baby food. Says the premade kind isn't nutritious enough. I asked her if my kid was ever gonna know the delights of Pop Rocks, and she glared at me."
Edward snorted quietly. Yeah, that all definitely sounded like Rosalie. She was getting crankier and crankier as her belly grew and while he couldn't really blame her, he wondered how bad it was going to get.
They drove through a fast-food place for lunch, Wisp's eyes wide, her mouth pursed in a little O as she listened to Emmett holler their orders into a speaker and then collect greasy bags at the window. Edward ordered her chicken tenders and french fries, both of which she ate with ketchup after trying the honey-mustard dipping sauce and making a terrible face. She kept far away from Edward's burger, presumably because of the onions, and fell into a light doze against his shoulder as they neared Tacoma.
"What's the plan?" Emmett asked as the dense, hot smell of the paper mills surrounding the city filtered into the car. They had previously agreed that if Wisp handled the car ride well, they'd drive to Puyallup first. If not, they'd give her the night in the hotel to calm down first.
Edward watched as she slept on his shoulder. Her eyelashes fluttered every now and then and one thumb rubbed against her teddy bear's fur, which told him she wasn't deeply asleep. Her nose wrinkled at the smell of the mills, but she didn't sit up. The decision was left in Edward's hands, and while he wanted to put this off for as long as possible, Wisp had taken the car ride extremely well so far. He lowered his lips to the top of her head for a moment before meeting Emmett's eyes in the rear-view mirror. "Let's keep going. She's okay right now." His presence, Emily's presence—the presence of people she knew and trusted—kept her calm. He hoped it continued to.
So Emmett drove around the city rather than through it, and they headed east of Interstate 5, into bleak, dismal-looking, muddy farmland interspersed with wet evergreens. Cattle huddled in miserable groups or squelched through sodden grass, caked to the knees in filth. Broken-down cars rotted silently next to decaying fenceposts. There was no rain at the moment, but the slick road hissed wetly as they drove and the sky hung low above them, heavy and dark.
"Hey, little Wisp?" Edward's mouth was dry. He swallowed. "Honey, it's time for you to wake up. I don't want you too groggy when we get there, okay?" He roused her gently, and she sat up after only a little coaxing. His inner tension rose the closer they got to their destination, humming in his bones like the car vibrated around him. There was absolutely no way to know what would happen once they got where they were going. Wisp's reaction might literally be nothing—no recognition of her surroundings, no trigger of her emotions. He was also prepared, as much as he could be, for a meltdown bigger than any he'd seen from her before. He honestly just didn't know, and the uncertainty ate at him, nibbling at his nerves, stress coiling in his muscles, holding him rigid.
Emmett's dashboard GPS droned instructions in an emotionless monotone, and with each turn Edward thought the knot in his gut couldn't twist any tighter. They entered a patch of wood, heavy branches reaching overhead to blot out the sky. One final turn, and then they pulled into a cracked cement driveway in front of a sagging two-story house.
Emmett killed the engine. Outside, a crow called. There was no other sound. No kids in the street, nobody in their yards. The houses themselves were few and far between, built well away from one another. To his right, Edward saw another house across a wide stretch of empty grass. To his left, only woods.
How much Wisp could see from her seat, he didn't know. She was very still. "Wisp?" His voice cracked. It was too loud for this silence.
Her pale little face tipped up to his, solemn and soft. She did not smile. Edward had seen many expressions from her in the months she'd been his. Abject fear, sorrow, joy—she wore her emotions plainly on that sweet, beautiful face. No posturing. No facade. She was as open as a baby, those dark eyes telling him so much about how she felt. It unnerved him that he could not tell now. She hadn't gone catatonic—"rag doll" as Rosalie called it. She was still there in those features he loved, huge eyes and perfect pink lips...but there was something unfamiliar there, too. Something he'd never seen before. Something that did not look like his little Wisp.
"Why don't we get out?" Emily's voice was quiet, smooth. The click of her seat belt reverberated through the car. Wisp flinched. "We're not going to learn anything sitting here."
Despite Wisp's earlier fascination with the seat belt clasp, she did not unbuckle herself. Edward had to, then pulled her unresisting body from the car. Her pink shoes seemed so small as her legs dangled, propped over his arm.
They studied the house before them. It had been blue once, now faded to dingy grey. Moss grew in patches on the roof. Three cement steps led to the front door. There was nothing in the yard or on the house to hint at the person who lived there. No flag. No garden gnomes. No political signs hammered into the lawn or pasted to the windows. Dandelions and thorny weeds pocked the scraggly grass. The smell and feel of the air promised rain.
Her body jerked at the sound of his voice.
"Wisp, talk to me, please." He'd end this now if she wasn't okay. He didn't care how far they'd come. He'd turn them back around to the hotel—hell, back to Forks if she asked him to do it.
She inhaled a deep breath, her thin chest visibly expanding with air. "My Edward?" Soft, but there was something firm behind her words, as if she was just trying to be sure of him.
"Yes, little Wisp. I promise. Nothing will change that."
One arm rose. Edward expected it to shake, but it didn't. She stared at the house before them as she pointed. "Doctor." There was no question in her voice at all.
"Fuck yes," Emmett hissed. "Fuck yes, we've got you, you son of a bitch."
Edward hugged her tightly to him. Maybe she wasn't shaking, but his legs definitely were. He shifted his stance, bracing himself. "Good girl. Such a good girl, sweetheart. I'm so proud of you."
"He's on the run," Emily reminded Emmett. "You don't have him yet."
"But we know who the fuck he is. His sister-in-law is getting a huge reward for this."
Carlisle and Esme had already promised a reward for solid information. It didn't get any more solid than Wisp's corroboration.
"Let's go inside. Local boys already did a first sweep, so it's safe." Emmett led them toward the front door, where a heavy padlock had been installed. The asshole wasn't getting back inside his house without breaking a window. Edward doubted he was anywhere nearby, though. If the man had any sense he was in Mexico by now, or farther. Someplace that didn't like to extradite.
Wisp's grasp tightened on him the closer they got to the house. She pushed against him, light, frightened breaths falling along the collar of his jacket. "No. No, Edward."
"Shh, sweetheart." Edward stopped as Emmett fitted a key into the padlock. He exchanged glances with Emily, who hitched up one shoulder in approximation of a shrug.
"We've come this far," she said.
"Dude, you can't back out now." Emmett snapped the padlock open and the door swung inward. "I need as much from little Wispy as we can get. Names, memories—anything. Whatever she can give us."
Edward pressed his forehead to Wisp's. He could feel her rising fear and he hated it, but Emmett was right. They needed this information. "Sweetheart," he said, a warm breath feathering over his lips as she exhaled. "I know you're scared. I'm scared, too. Can you handle being afraid, just for a few minutes? This is so important."
She sniffled, then shifted her body in his arms until she could wrap her legs around him. Edward didn't argue with her about it—not today. Not here. He held her close and let her cling as they took the final step and entered the house.
The inside was remarkably clean and well-kept. Considering the outside, Edward hadn't expected it. The floor was cheap linoleum, yes, and curled at the edges, but it shone when Emmett flicked on a light. Carpeted stairs led upward to the right, old and worn, but unstained.
"Edward." Wisp whimpered. The furnace clicked on.
"He's not going to be too happy when he sees his utility bills." Emmett stepped further inside and put his hand to the doorknob of a closed door. "Shoulda had them shut off before he ran."
"You sure this place is safe?" Edward stopped just inside the doorway, determined not to move further into the house until he knew nothing in it would hurt the girl in his arms. He shifted his grip under her and said nothing about her ankles digging into his lower back.
Emmett pushed open the closed door. "Yeah, I told you. The local precinct sent some boys over to do a first sweep. No booby traps were found, and all weapons have been removed." A low whistle left his mouth when he poked his head inside the room. "Ed, bring her here."
Edward's heart pulsed hard and out of rhythm. "What is it?" Was this what a heart attack felt like? His chest squeezed hard, harder than Wisp held him. He felt like he couldn't get a good, deep breath.
"Would you just come here already?"
Fairly sure he was going to regret it, Edward nonetheless moved to join Emmett. Wisp whimpered a protest, her fists tightening in his shirt. "No, Edward. Bad."
"What's bad, sweetheart? Please try to talk to me."
"Bad doctor. Bad, Edward!"
Yeah, that much he already knew. Wisp herself was living proof.
Edward should have expected what he found inside the room. It made perfect sense. And yet, he hadn't. What legitimate doctor set up an examination room in his home? None that he knew—not Carlisle, not Jasper, nor any of their workplace contacts.
Of course, he had to tell himself, they weren't dealing with a legitimate doctor. Not if Wisp was any indication of his work.
There was a stainless steel examination table bolted to the plastic floor—more morgue than doctor's office, if Edward was being honest. Cheap composite cupboards lined one wall, with a counter and sink and more cupboards below. Emmett pulled one open, revealing boxes of latex gloves and disposable paper masks. "Holy fucking shit," he muttered. "Guy's got himself a nice little setup here." The rest of his thought went unsaid, but Edward read it clearly on his face. How many? How many more like Wisp were there? She couldn't be the only one. Not with something like this in the man's home.
"Wisp, sweetheart?" Edward nuzzled her hair with his nose. She'd buried herself in her safe spot, hiding between his neck and shoulder, and didn't seem at all interested in moving. He didn't blame her, but hiding wasn't exactly abnormal behavior for his girl. If they wanted a reaction from her, they had to lure her out.
"Stay, Edward," she pleaded, her legs redoubling their grip on his sides. "Stay."
"Shh, honey. I know you're scared, but you don't have to be. Not about that." His heart ached and his chest squeezed tighter. "You're my sweet girl, and I'm your Edward. Wisp's Edward. Okay? Nothing's going to change that." He didn't know if she understood, but it was the best he could offer her.
"Bad doctor. Bad doctor. Hurt, Edward. Ow." She shivered, and he felt the irrational desire to wrap his coat around her, despite the fact that she had her own.
"We all believe you. You don't have to worry about that." He nudged her with his nose, urging her head away from its safe spot tucked against him. "He can't hurt you anymore. Will you look, little Wisp? See? You're safe, even here. I'm with you, and I won't let anything bad happen." Not that he could prevent. He had no control over what happened in her mind, though, and he knew it.
Slowly she shifted, every movement in her body dripping with reluctance, letting him nudge her away from his neck. Those huge, dark eyes blinked slowly as she gazed at the silent room. How long had it been? How long since she'd last seen it? His heart skipped a beat, then pounded hard against his ribs. It felt like it couldn't settle back into proper iambic rhythm.
Wisp sucked her lower lip into her mouth and bit down hard. Edward didn't have it in him to stop her. At least she wasn't sucking her thumb.
"Bad doctor," she murmured. "Bad doctor." She sounded as if she were speaking to herself rather than to him. "Ow."
"What about the bad doctor, little Wispy?" Emmett urged. "What did he do?"
She ignored him. Her eyes were distant. For the first time, the sweet little childish girl, so young for her years, looked suddenly old. Her mouth pulled tight, lines creasing her petal skin where they'd never been before. Her dark eyes held things Edward understood he would never truly know. She was like a prisoner of war back at the place of his internment, and he was like the documentary filmmaker, witnessing the aftermath of a grief that would never fully heal. He could document this. He could share it with the world from his perspective, but Wisp's would forever be out of reach. No matter how many times he said it, he could never truly understand.
"Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried."
Wisp had quoted this line once before, when Esme mistakenly put a Bible in a box of books for her. The Book of Ruth, Carlisle had said. It was from the Book of Ruth.
"What about Ruth?" Edward asked, meeting Emily's eyes for a moment before focusing his attention back to Wisp. He was unsurprised to see that Emmett had a video camera out, recording.
"No." Wisp shook her head fiercely. "No, Edward. Not Ruth. Wisp. Wisp."
"Okay, honey. Okay." He tried to soothe her. "You're Wisp, and we all know that."
"Edward's Wisp. Edward's Wisp." She draped her arms around him and buried herself back in the crook of his neck.
"Yes," Edward said, though he felt more than a little misgiving. He didn't really want her to think of herself as his. "And I'm your Edward. Nothing will change that, I promise."
"Edward's Wisp," she repeated, firm, unyielding. "Not Father's Ruth. Not Doctor's Ruth."
Edward looked helplessly at Emily. He'd been sure—they'd all been sure—that her name, when she had one, was Isabella. Not Ruth. "Not Isabella?" he asked, still watching Emily. Her scarred face gave him no hints as to what he should do.
"Not Daddy's Isabella. Edward's Wisp."
Edward refused to argue with her.
"Wisp?" Emily said softly. "Wisp, will you look at me, please?"
The girl shifted in Edward's arms. She didn't lift her head, but she watched Emily cautiously.
"Wisp, can we maybe talk about something else? Edward's not going anywhere without you, I promise."
Dark eyes blinked at her. Edward wished he could sit down, but there were no chairs in the room other than the doctor's wheeled stool, and he wasn't willing to sit on that. And he wasn't setting Wisp on that fucking table—not for anything.
"Tell me what you know about this room, Wisp."
Edward didn't miss the fact that Emily reinforced Wisp's name with every sentence.
"This—do you know what this is?" Emily reached into an open box of latex gloves and pulled one out.
"Glove." Wisp sucked her lip back into her mouth. Edward hadn't actually expected her to answer, particularly not correctly.
"And this? What's this, Wisp?" Emily put the glove back and extracted a mask instead.
"Mask." Wisp unclenched one fist and covered her mouth and nose in imitation of what the item did.
Without speaking, Emmett opened another cupboard.
"Alcohol," Wisp said without being prompted. She pointed at the row of plastic bottles of isopropyl alcohol. "Hydrogen peroxide." She knew the clear bottles from the opaque brown ones. Her mouth stumbled over the long, technical words, but her brain knew them.
"Good girl." Edward pressed his lips carefully against her temple. Emily had managed to distract her, at least. Whether Wisp's knowledge of the items in the room meant anything, he really didn't know.
"Stuff...steff...stethoscope." She forced the word from a protesting mouth, pointing at a closed drawer. Emmett snatched it open and yes, inside a case, they found a stethoscope.
"Wisp, how did you know that?"
Emily's question received no answer.
One by one, Wisp proceeded to tell them exactly what was in each cabinet and drawer before Emmett opened it, and he focused his video camera on the contents to make sure to catch that she was correct. Only once did she make a mistake, when she named an object that wasn't there. Edward didn't care. She'd proven beyond a doubt that she knew this place.
The things they found weren't surprising—or wouldn't be, in a doctor's office. Cotton swabs. Cupboards full of neatly-stacked medication, most of which looked suspiciously like things you couldn't buy over the counter.
Edward suddenly felt sick to his stomach. The girl in his arms was warm, her body so soft, so fragile. He wished he could banish the pictures in his mind when he looked at the steel instrument. The fact that they'd found neither lube nor autoclave made him shudder. How many girls? How long had this been going on? And why the fuck had no one noticed until James Newton was stupid and drunk enough to leave a girl near death in the back of a truck and then gamble it away?
"I need to sit down." His chest squeezed tighter. Still unwilling to use the doctor's stool, Edward backed out of the examination room and headed deeper into the house. A dining room with a table full of clutter was good enough; he kicked a chair out and sank into it, taking care not to smash Wisp's feet into the slatted back.
"Edward?" Dark eyes stared into his and she cupped his face in her hands as he'd done so often to her. A frown hovered over her eyebrows and lips.
"I'm fine, little Wisp." Sitting down helped. His chest still hurt and his heart wouldn't settle, but the strain of holding both himself and Wisp eased.
"Thimble." She stroked his cheek gently with a thumb and lifted herself enough to kiss his forehead. "Thimble, Edward." Another slow, deliberate kiss touched his cheek, then the tip of his nose.
"What does that mean, anyway?"
He wasn't expecting an answer, but a small chuckle from Emily greeted his ears. "I thought you'd know. A thimble is what Peter Pan calls a kiss. Will you give me your hand?"
Edward held out his near hand automatically. He should have known it had something to do with Peter Pan. It was the first book Rose ever read her, the first movie she'd ever seen. The story held a special place in her heart. "What are you doing?" he asked as he felt two cool fingers press against the inside of his wrist.
"Taking your pulse. Your face is white. Hush a moment."
Objectively, the doctor's house didn't smell bad, but the scent still made him feel sick to his stomach. Lysol, old carpet, the lingering hint of food from the kitchen.
"Edward." Wisp stroked his cheeks and petted his hair. She kissed his nose again, then sucked her lower lip back into her mouth.
"I'm fine." He slid his arm back around her once Emily let go.
"Your heart says otherwise."
"I'm too young to have a heart attack."
Emily laughed again, a broad smile stretching the scarred skin near her mouth. "You're not having a heart attack. You just need to calm down. I know this is really stressful; I can't imagine how much worse it must be for the two of you. But you're not going to help anyone if you pass out."
"I'm not going to pass out." Edward scowled. He was fine. He just needed to sit down for a minute. Some fresh air might not hurt, either. Rain or no, it had to be better than the half-imagined stink of this house.
"You stay there for a minute and take some deep breaths, just to be sure."
Edward didn't bother objecting. He held Wisp's body close against his own, taking comfort in the physical sensation. The way she combed her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck felt strangely good, too. "After today, you won't ever have to come back here again," he promised her. "We can shut the door on this part of your life." Shut, but not lock. Nothing could relieve her of her memories. He hoped Emily could at least help her deal with them.
That was the goal, anyway.
"Tell me about the doctor," he said, since prowling through the house didn't seem like such a great idea at the moment. "What was he like, sweetheart?"
"Bad doctor. Doctor bad." She settled against him once more, the fingers of one hand playing softly with the hair at the back of his neck. "Bad Doctor Gerandy."
"Yeah, I believe you. What else, little Wisp? What else can you tell me?"
Yeah, he already knew that. The man was dead if Edward got to him before the cops did.
"How did he hurt you? What did he do?" Edward stroked a gentle hand down her back. He wasn't used to so many layers of clothing between them. She usually wore one shirt, not two plus a jacket. "Did he hit you?"
"I should have brought along a doll," Emily murmured. "We might have more luck asking her to point out where he hurt her."
"She has a teddy bear in the car."
"I don't want people splitting up right now," Emmett said quickly. "The guy's not here, but he's obviously bad news, which means his friends are, too. I'm armed, but you three aren't."
"We can try without, I suppose." Emily knelt next to the chair so she was in Wisp's view. "I'd like to know where Doctor Gerandy hurt you, Wisp, if you can tell me." She raised a hand and gently touched next to Wisp's eye. "Here? Did he hurt here?"
Wisp shook her head.
"Here?" Emily touched the tip of her nose.
"What about here?" Wisp's lower lip was between her teeth again, but Emily touched just the very corner of her mouth.
And Wisp hesitated.
"Here? Did the doctor hurt here?" Emily pressed gently, touching her lip again.
Very slowly, Wisp nodded. "Hurt," she whispered. "Ow." Her own hand rose, ghosting across her lips and down her throat. "Ow." Her nose wrinkled and her face twisted into a grimace. "Uck." She licked her lips and swallowed, as if repudiating a bad taste.
The grin that spread across Emmett's face did not bode well for their suspect. "You are so going to jail, fucker," he muttered.
"Where else, Wisp?" Emily asked. "Where else did the doctor hurt you?"
Edward didn't expect words, but he also didn't expect what Wisp did next. She pushed her body slightly away from his, giving her room to reach between them. She grasped the hemlines of her shirts and pulled up, exposing her front. Her body twisted, turning toward Emily, and her free hand cupped first one barely-there breast, then the other. "Ow." Her voice trembled.
"Thank you." Emily reached up and squeezed Wisp's hands gently, then guided her to lower her clothing back into place. "I'm so sorry he did that. He shouldn't have."
"Hurt." Wisp pulled her hands free as a first fat tear wet her cheek. She grabbed her crotch with one hand and squeezed, the other fumbling at the fly of her jeans.
"You don't have to show me your skin—I understand." Emily halted her. "I understand, okay? He hurt you a lot, didn't he." It wasn't a question.
"Hurt," Wisp agreed. She reached back and rubbed her ass, or as much of it as she could reach while sitting. "Ow. Bad doctor. Bad."
"Yes." Emily nodded, words and movements slow and deliberate. "He was very bad. No one has a right to touch you without your permission, Wisp. I know you probably don't understand right now, but I'm going to keep saying it until you do. No one has the right to hurt you. Not ever."