A/N: Just a little birthday chapter for myheroin1. Lubs you, hon!
All standard disclaimers apply.
Tanya wasn't happy when Edward turned her down that night, but he managed to hold firm despite her irritation. If Emily said no more sex while Wisp could know, then he planned to follow her recommendation. He had no reason to mistrust Emily's suggestions and every reason to do as she said. She was Wisp's therapist, after all. Wisp needed her. And Emily had the authority to go to Wisp's social worker if she had any concerns. That was the last thing they needed when Edward was already a suspect in James' death, so he wasn't about to cross her.
"Is the fucking embargo permanent?" Tanya wanted to know as they sat side by side in his bed. The amusement in her voice was a little forced—Edward remembered that tone well. It was the one she used when she thought he might be upset with her.
"I...don't know." He tried to be as honest as he could. It was more than a little strange to know that Wisp had caught him and Tanya the night before. Even though he knew she was no stranger to any number of sex acts, she still seemed so...so innocent to him. Childlike. He didn't like that she'd somehow witnessed him being intimate with Tanya the night before. Emily was very right when she said Wisp had to come first. "What exactly are we doing, anyway?" he asked, dropping his head back against the headboard with a small thud. "What is this?" He waved a finger between their bodies.
"Does it need a name?" Tanya shifted under the blankets. "We're having fun. We're getting reacquainted. Why does it need to be any more complicated than that?"
The answer, Edward knew, was asleep across the hall. Really asleep this time—he'd opened her door to check on her, even though he had no intention of fucking Tanya that night. Though she still wouldn't use her bed, Wisp was curled on her air mattress with only the overhead twinkle lights illuminating the room. She had been spooning Pet, who slitted open her eyes and blinked slowly at him when he cracked the door to peer inside. Wisp hadn't moved.
"It kind of does," he said, though he knew getting into this with Tanya might not be the greatest idea. "I'm sorry, but right now Wisp's the most important thing. She needs stability. I know you two don't get along and I wish that were different. But I need to know how you feel and what you want. Because if you ask me to pick, I'm sorry, but it'll be her. It will always be her."
"Do you really think I don't know that?" Tanya laughed humorlessly. "It's no secret that you two have this weird symbiosis thing going on. She moves, you move. If she was your daughter it'd be cute. But she's not, Edward."
"She's not my kid," Edward agreed, "but she is my responsibility. Moreover, she's my family. And since she's not going anywhere, I have to ask what it is you want. Whether you're willing to accept that right now she and I are a package deal."
Tanya tipped her head back to match his. Her yellow hair, while still long, was shorter than Wisp's. The light moved differently across her skin, shadows falling in places Edward didn't expect. He was so accustomed to seeing Wisp's delicate little face here in his room, and even on the second night with Tanya things still felt...odd. Off, somehow.
But Wisp was sleeping in her own room. He hung onto that fact closely. She needed to be there; everyone said so. Tanya was a much better woman to have in his bed; no one batted an eye about that. Everyone trusted that both he and she could make their own informed decisions as adults.
"I get that you're a package now. You've made that perfectly clear, and so has she." Tanya made a face. The bed, at least, was dry after Wisp threw the bucket of water on them early that morning. And the door, now, was locked. "I like you, Edward. I really do. I've missed you." She turned her head, and he could see the honesty shining in her pale blue eyes. "I've learned a lot in our time apart, and I want to see if this can work now. If we can work. When I called you that first time, I really didn't expect that you'd be living in Forks. Or that you'd have a girl with you."
"I know. It's a lot. I won't blame you if you're not up for it."
"That's the thing. I want to be. I really want to try. I just can't make any promises, you know? It's a long drive, and I need to know that it's going to be worth it if we try this long-distance thing."
Edward took a deep breath. "You mean you want sex."
"I mean all of it. I want sex, I want your attention, I want your time. You know I have my business during the week, so I can't just move in here with you. But I can try to be here on weekends, and I can call and text. If I make the effort, though, I need to know that you will, too. I need to know that we can spend some time alone on the weekends. That you'll answer when I call."
Edward exhaled his breath slowly. It didn't seem like too much to ask, really. It was no more than someone in a relationship deserved—time and attention from the other person. But, realistically, was it more than he could commit to? Wisp needed so much, and she had to come first.
Then again, everyone kept telling him to get a life. Here was an opportunity thrown in his lap. He and Tanya had been good together, once. Not towards the end, of course, but she'd changed so much. He still cared about her as a person. They had shared history. That made her a reasonable person to try this with, if not entirely ideal.
Because the fact still remained that she and Wisp did not like each other.
"I can't promise that it'll work out," he said finally. "But I can promise to try. Esme can watch Wisp for a while when you come visit, like she did today. I can't promise to always answer the phone, but I can promise to call you back as soon as I can." He paused. "But you have to try to get along with Wisp. I don't know how much to honestly expect from her—we may get nothing more than a truce. But we need that much if this is going to work."
Tanya frowned. "I didn't do anything to her. You know that."
"I know. But she's acting out because she feels threatened—that's what her therapist said. She has to see that you're not a threat to her." Tanya was a threat, though, and there was no getting around it. She wanted his time and affection, which Emily said Wisp valued highly. Once explained to him, he could see it clearly. Wisp would have to learn that he still loved her no matter who else happened to be part of his life. Only time, he suspected, could teach that lesson.
"She can't be your girlfriend, Edward. The sooner she learns that, the better. I can promise not to do anything to her, but I can't do anything about how she feels."
That was true. And it would have to be good enough. Tanya didn't bring up sex again as they settled down to sleep, but Edward knew the discussion wasn't over. They were two grown, consenting adults. It was only natural. But how did he reconcile that with Wisp?
Tanya left after lunch on Sunday with a promise to check her schedule and see when next she was free. Monday morning, Emmett showed up with Garrett, the police sketch artist, to try to get more information out of Wisp.
Emily wasn't scheduled to come until the afternoon, but Edward called her anyway. He trusted the old artist but not Emmett—not right now. Too much had happened, and the once unbreakable bond of their lifelong friendship had been taxed too hard. First the decision to take Wisp's case to the media, then his interrogation...it was just too much. Now Rosalie was furious, and Emmett was siding with his pregnant wife over his best friend.
When he entered the cabin, Emmett looked distinctly uncomfortable. He nodded at Edward, shifting from foot to foot. Edward almost didn't let them in, but he couldn't quite find it in himself to defy the police, or to be rude to Garrett, who had been nothing but sweet to Wisp.
And despite the fact that Garrett often asked her to draw uncomfortable things, Wisp's eyes lit up with pleasure when she saw the old man. She darted up the stairs as fast as she could crawl, returning from her room with an armful of art supplies. Edward considered setting up a small shelf or something for her down here, so she didn't have to go up and down the stairs on her knees all the time.
"Well, hello, little missy!" Garrett said, settling slowly to the floor. Each time they saw him, his arthritis seemed to grow worse. Today he winced as he moved, and Edward had to bite his tongue to stop himself from offering help. The old man had made it clear in the past that he didn't want it, and he wanted to be on the floor with Wisp rather than in a comfortable chair. Wordlessly, Edward offered him two throw pillows and managed to say nothing.
Wisp had been very quiet over the weekend, but now that Tanya was gone and Garrett appeared, she chattered away in her limited vocabulary and broken syntax, showing the artist her latest creations. Garrett oohed and aahed appropriately, and he even laughed at a watercolor of a witch that had suspiciously blond hair.
So apparently everyone knew Tanya had been here over the weekend. Edward rolled his eyes internally. Well, they weren't exactly hiding it, but still. It would be nice to have a little privacy once in a while.
"I wish we didn't have to do this," Garrett said with a sigh, "but I have to ask you to draw something you don't like. I'm sorry, missy." He pulled out a large sheet of paper and sketched the outline of a man's body. Then he put his pencil down and rolled up his right sleeve, showing Wisp a saggy, wrinkly, faded tattoo on his forearm. It wasn't large. At first Edward was afraid she might freak out considering the man with tattoos she sometimes drew, but Wisp merely looked interested. She brushed a light fingertip over the ink, then raised her eyes again to Garrett. There was nothing but trust in them.
He tapped the paper. "Got this when I was in the Navy, back when I was young and stupid. Not as stupid as some, though. Missy, I'd like you to draw me that man. The bad one with all the tattoos. Draw him just the way you remember."
Wisp frowned, a delicate crease appearing between her eyebrows. "Bad?"
"Yes. The bad man with the tattoos." Garrett tapped his tattoo, then pointed to the paper.
Still frowning, Wisp looked at Garrett's arm again, then hesitantly reached for a pencil. She began to sketch his tattoo on the arm of the man he'd drawn.
"No, Wisp," Edward said as gently as he could. He moved her hand away from the paper, frowning himself as he tried to puzzle out how to make her understand. Emily had the sketch of the man Wisp had made over the weekend, otherwise he'd have shown her that.
"What's no?" The door opened, and Emily stepped through. She smiled at Emmett, who offered her a smile in return, though there was no happiness in it. "Emmett, nice to see you! Hello," she greeted Garrett. "I don't believe we've met, but I've heard all about you." She gave him her hand. "I'm Emily Young, Wisp's therapist."
"Just Garrett," the old man said with a smile. "Glad to see you. We're having a little communication trouble."
"What's up?" Emily plopped down on the floor between Wisp and Edward. He wasn't too happy about that, but he gave her room anyway. He'd called her to make sure Wisp was emotionally safe during this session, after all.
"The police want a detailed portrait of that tattooed man she's drawn before," Garrett said. "His tattoos, specifically, since those are pretty hard to alter and he's got a lot of them. Trouble is explaining to her."
Emily nodded. "That's always the difficult part. You're smart, Wisp," she said, turning to the girl next to her. "You just need more practice with words."
"Tried showing her my tattoo." Garrett held his arm out. "Didn't help."
"Well, we can try again." Emily pointed to the faded ink. "Wisp, that's a tattoo. Tattoo. Okay?"
"Tattoo," Wisp repeated obediently, and giggled a little at the funny word. "Tattoo."
"Yes. Now, you know a bad man with tattoos. Bad. Can you draw him for us?" She tapped the paper.
Thinking back, Edward remembered one time Wisp had drawn the fucktard. "Own," she'd told him, pointing to the picture. He'd never followed up on her word, since it didn't make any sense, but now he mentioned it to Emily. "She said something about him before—own or something like that. Maybe Owen? Maybe that's his name?"
At the word own, Wisp's head shot up and she turned stark white. Her eyes darted around the room as if searching for something, finding only familiar, safe faces. A small whimper left her mouth.
"Hey, you're okay," Emily said softly, covering Wisp's trembling hand with her own. "You're safe, Wisp. Does that word scare you?"
Wisp bit down hard on her lower lip. Edward ached to hold her, but there was no room for him at the moment. She was sandwiched between Garrett and Emily, two people she trusted. If she wanted him she would ask. Staying where he was was one of the hardest things he'd ever done, but he forced himself to keep still. Emily was in charge right now.
"I know you're afraid, but there's absolutely nothing here that will hurt you, I promise." Emily squeezed her hand gently. "Can you talk to me, Wisp? Tell me what's wrong."
Wisp turned her head, searching Emily's eyes deeply. Edward didn't know what she was looking for, but she apparently found it. Something in her settled, relaxing slightly. Her teeth released her lip and her mouth opened. "O-own," she whispered, flipping her hand over and clutching Emily's. "Own...owner. Owner."
So that's what she had meant.
It seemed so clear now—why hadn't he been able to get it before?
"Thank you, Wisp," Emily murmured. "I know you don't understand me yet, but nobody can own another human being. It doesn't work that way. Whatever he made you think, we're going to show you differently, all right?"
Wisp made no sign that she understood, but she also did not shrink away.
"Now, I know this is hard, but Emmett and Garrett would be very happy if you drew him. Can you draw your old owner? Please?" She tapped the paper gently with her free hand.
Wisp bit her lip again. Damp eyes turned to Edward with a silent question.
"Ask her, Edward," Emily murmured without turning her head. "She'll do it for you."
And so, though he hated being the one to make her do something that caused so much pain, Edward cleared his throat. "Owner," he said, hating how his voice quivered. "Please, Wisp?" He pointed to the paper in front of her.
The plea in her eyes didn't change. "Stay, Edward?"
"Of course. Forever, little Wisp." He scooted around behind her, lifting her into his lap and wrapping his arms around her. "How's that?"
"Good Edward. Good Edward stay."
And, obedient as ever, she took up a pencil and began to draw.
"How do I teach her that she doesn't have an owner?" Edward hugged the warm body in his lap as she put the final touches on the large drawing. The man was bald, but not old—shaved, most likely. She'd chosen to leave him naked, which served the police's purpose well, as he had tattoos on most of his body. Not a full-body piece like some of the beautiful work done in Japan, just a lot of tattoos. Tattoos on his arms, his back, his legs. He was thick and muscly, with big shoulders and pecs. In Wisp's drawing he sneered at the viewer as if daring them to come and find him. He had a straight nose and a jutting, cleft chin, thin lips, and plugs in his earlobes.
When she was finished, Wisp shoved the drawing away in repudiation. Emmett grabbed it, his jaw tight.
"Thank you, little Wispy," he said, solemn even as he used her nickname.
Wisp huddled in Edward's arms, leaning back into the safety of his embrace. "Bad," she said, turning her head to look up at Emily.
"I believe you. Everyone believes you." Emily caught her hand and gave it another squeeze. "You're brave, that's for sure."
"No fucking kidding." Edward was ready to kill that man, and he didn't even know him.
"Own-er hurt. Hurt Wisp."
"Yeah? What did he do?"
Edward glanced at Garrett, who was surreptitiously wiping his eyes. He didn't really want the old man or Emmett around if Emily was going to get into this with Wisp, but he couldn't exactly do anything while Wisp was on top of him. If he tried to say something, he might startle Wisp and ruin the moment. She so rarely was willing to talk about this guy, and Emily obviously planned to seize the opportunity.
"Bad sex," Wisp said, wincing. Edward didn't even know she knew that word. "Hit. Hurt."
"I'm sure he did." Emily rubbed the back of her hand with a gentle thumb. "I'm very sorry you had to go through that."
God, if Edward had known...he'd have put a stop to this years ago. He ached for Wisp's pain, for the little girl she used to be and the woman she'd failed to become because of that sadistic doctor and this sick fuck. To them she was just a toy, a plaything, less than human. This tattooed man was the one who'd trained her to be an animal, he was sure of it. She didn't draw anyone else, and she hadn't accused Gerandy of it. So this must be the man who taught her to crawl and beg, who took away her language, her entire sense of self. Edward had no idea how, but it definitely hadn't been gentle. That much was crystal clear.
"Dark," Wisp whispered. "Scared."
Yeah, she didn't like the dark. Hence the twinkle lights in her room.
"Eat Pet food."
That much they also knew. That she was able to feed Pet every day without succumbing to panic attacks was nothing short of extraordinary.
"Wisp, did he ever put you in water?" Emily asked.
"Cold," Wisp said with a shiver. "Brr. Edward good, give bath warm."
"Warm bath, not bath warm. Can you say that?"
"Give warm bath," Wisp mimicked obediently.
"Why ask about water?" Edward wanted to know.
"I was wondering about an isolation tank—sensory deprivation," Emily said readily. "It can cause hallucinations in less than five minutes, and I was thinking it would be a quick way to brainwash someone. But those tanks aren't cold, they're body-temperature. The point is that you don't feel anything. So that can't be it."
"Don't need a fancy tank for deprivation." Garrett scratched the back of his neck. "Apologize for butting in, but I was in Nam. One of the things all the boys were scared of was being captured and left in the enemy's damn underground tunnels. No light, no nothing. After the war, some of the returned POW's said it damn near drove them mad."
Emily cast a considering eye over Wisp, huddled in Edward's arms. "It makes sense," she murmured. "We're creatures of the light, and pack animals. We don't do well in isolation."
Was that it? Had the bastard locked her away in the dark somewhere until she just...forgot? Went crazy? Edward felt sick. It wasn't typical abuse like beating, but the thought was insidious nonetheless. To think of his sweet Wisp trapped somewhere, unable to control anything about her world...unable even to see it. How did the blind adjust, he wondered—those who were born with sight and lost it somehow? Were they afraid of the dark, too? What would have happened to Wisp's mind, locked away with no light, no human interaction...perhaps no sound?
"Emily, I'm going to kill him. I didn't kill James, but this fucker...if I find him before the police do, he's dead."
"We can't know for sure until Wisp is able to tell us in her own words what really happened to her," Emily warned. "Right now it's just a theory. But it's a good one—thank you, Garrett."
"I wish I could say it was my pleasure, ma'am. But quite honestly, the thought of anyone hurting this little missy just about breaks this old man's heart."
Yeah, Edward knew the feeling.
Because the morning had been so heavy, they focused on having fun that afternoon. Edward ordered pizza and invited Garrett to stay—though not Emmett, who said nothing but took Wisp's drawing and went back to work. Once she cheered up, Wisp was ecstatic to spend time with the old man, who seemed just as pleased to be with her. Once again Edward wondered about Garrett's personal life—whether he had kids of his own, or a wife, or anyone to share his twilight years with. He was a gentle soul, and he could communicate with Wisp through the art they both loved. Maybe Rose was still pissed, but a dose of Garrett seemed to be exactly what Wisp needed after the rocky weekend.
"I found her 'reading' to herself this morning," Edward mentioned to Emily as they ate their lunch. He'd ordered sausage and peppers for them, Hawaiian for Wisp and Garrett. "She had the copy of Peter Pan that Rose gave her ages ago and she was mumbling to herself as she stared at it. Not just the illustrations, either. It was really cute."
Emily looked thoughtful. "It's clear she loves books. They're treasures to her. It might be useful to expose her to materials that get her ready for reading."
"Since she's attracted to things meant for children, I don't think Sesame Street or Reading Rainbow would be bad choices if you can find them on DVD or iTunes or something. They're obviously not meant for her age, but she doesn't seem to mind. There are materials meant for adults learning to read, of course, but they're going to assume a level of maturity Wisp doesn't quite have yet."
Edward chewed his pizza and watched as Garrett demonstrated a technique involving oil pastels. Wisp was fascinated. He could hardly imagine her reading. Language was her biggest barrier, and after so long with virtually no vocabulary, it was...a lot to process. "What has to come first?" he asked. "Reading or talking? Do you think she's even capable?"
"I have no idea, and I'm telling you this honestly. There's no reason she can't learn to read first—studies with deaf children in countries without sign language have confirmed this. When you put deaf children together they invent their own sign language, their own way to communicate, but often they've been taught to read prior to this. We think of speech and reading as completely entwined, but there's no reason the one has to come before the other. As to whether she's capable, it all depends on her. Right now there's no way to know exactly how long that monster had her, or what exactly he did to her. He's obviously caused long-term damage to her behavior and psyche, but there could be actual brain damage as well if the neglect was severe enough, or went on long enough. Studies with feral children have proved that they generally can't recover fully, but Wisp has something going for her that most of them don't."
"She wasn't with that man from birth. However awful her life was before he got her, she was at least treated as a human being. We know she had language at some point. There was a preacher who taught her, a doctor who abused her. That all happened before she was brainwashed. Because of that, I'm hopeful that she can recover. If he'd had her from early childhood, I'd be far less optimistic."
Yes, Edward knew all about windows of opportunity for things like first language acquisition. He just didn't know what that meant for Wisp. How much long-term damage had the tattooed asshole done, and how much of it could be undone? His little Wisp was so far behind. Would she ever be able to catch up?