Hey there!
This is a little different from my other projects, but I wanted
to write something to get into the Christmas spirit and after seeing
a picture - which I'll share on my Facebook page - I couldn't resist
writing this. Like Neapolitan, if you're reading that, it's away from the
usual pairing, but I hope you'll enjoy it anyway.

Big loves to my very good friend annaharding for looking
this over for me and always being willing to listen to my
ramblings when I get a new idea or decide to radically change
plot halfway through a chapter. I don't know what I'd do without


~ oOo ~

Summary: When tomorrow is never promised, and love can so easily be lost,
sometimes the only question you need to ask is 'will you love me tomorrow?'
A Christmas tale of homecoming, holiday cheer, and finding love where you least
expected it.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

December 20th, 2005

Frank Sinatra's dulcet tones serenaded the few men and the single woman in the diner.

The woman, a petite brunette, sung along softly as she wiped down the counter, lost in her own little world.

One of the men, a long-haired trucker dressed in worn jeans and a ratty plaid shirt, idly swirled the last dregs of his coffee in the bottom of his faded red mug. His grey eyes were trained on the diner girl's hips as she innocently swayed to Ave Maria. Her form-fitting navy slacks and white blouse, though ankle-length and long-sleeved, left little to the imagination – and James had an active imagination, especially after being on the road in his truck with little to no human interaction for over two weeks. He hated the winter. The damn heater in his truck was broken and he still had over a week to go before he was done with this trip.

He always tried to stop at Phil's Diner when he was in Washington. It was out of the way in a tiny town called Forks, but it was worth it. Four times he'd been here; four times he'd asked out Diner Girl. She'd said no all of them, but James wasn't deterred. This time, she'd say yes.

He'd just stood up when the door at the other end of the diner flew open, freezing cold wind whipping along the bar and snatching the cloth from her hand. She startled, letting out a mouse-like squeal and leaping about a foot in the air as she spun to face the door and clapped her hand over her heart.

A yeti stood in the doorway.

Covered head-to-foot in snow with a hat on his head and a scarf around most of his face, the man looked like Bigfoot.

"Shit, sorry, Ma'am! I didn't mean to scare ya."

He rushed to close the door, shutting out the howling wind and reaching up to remove the hat from his head, revealing a short crop of mussed, sunny blond hair. As he walked toward the brunette, she seemed to catch her breath. Her nurturing side took over and she neatly hopped the counter, setting the coffee machine to brew.

"Don't apologize, you're fine. Have a seat and I'll get something to warm you up. Coffee?"

The scarf came off to reveal a set of pearly white teeth between a pair of dimples and rosy pink cheeks. "Please. Black, with three sugars. Thank you, darlin'."

James narrowed his eyes at the flirty tenor to the southern newcomer's voice. He slowly sat back down, his beady eyes watching the way the guy's gaze followed Diner Girl.

"Coming right up, Sir." She turned to offer a smirk over her shoulder as she rinsed out a fresh mug. "You're in luck; we've got some fresh cookies left. I'll chuck a few in the oven to warm, as it's the holidays and all."

"Well, that sounds mighty fine to me."

A minute or two later, once the coffee had brewed and the cookies were warm enough for the chocolate chunks to start melting, they landed on the counter in front of him, accompanied by a cheery smile.

"Here you go, Sir. On the house; my treat."

"Nuh-uh, no can do, Missy. A gentleman always pays for his treats. That aside, let's clear somethin' up; 'Sir' is my father. The name's Emmett. Emmett McCarty."

She had a pretty smile, Emmett thought. Her lips curled up slightly more on one side than the other, her dark eyes crinkling at the edges.

"Bella. Bella Swan."

Emmett extended a large hand across the counter, enveloping Bella's tiny one. She shivered, frowning when he snatched his hand back. "Sorry. Still cold, I guess."

"Oh, no. I got an electric shock. You are a little cold, though. Hand me your hat, coat, and gloves. I'll stick them on the heater back here so they're at least a bit warmer when you need them again."

Emmett dutifully stripped off his coat, smirking when he saw the realization dawning on her face as his uniform was revealed to her abruptly wide eyes. He was just about to tell her his rank when she whispered, "Staff Sergeant," beating him to the punch.

His eyebrows just about crawled into his hairline.

Her gaze crawled from his grey-green camo gear to the insignia on his left sleeve – three chevrons closed by a rounded bar at the bottom, enclosing a field of green – up to his slack jaw and wide eyes.

She thumbed her chest. "Military brat. My stepdad was a colonel when he was killed in action three years ago." As she spoke, Bella turned and pulled a framed photo from the counter behind her. She stared at it for a moment before handing it over to Emmett.

The picture was of a man in what was known as the 'green' uniform; a horribly uncomfortable heavy fabric coat with matching trousers. Emmett much preferred the camo. As an officer, Bella's stepfather's uniform also bore the signature black band around the end of the sleeve, just above each cuff. Emmett had seen a lot of military portraits in his time, but this wasn't quite the same. It had clearly been taken informally, with trees in the background, and a small, slight smile on the colonel's clean-shaven, semi-serious face.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Ma'am," Emmett murmured, truly sorry. He'd lost a few comrades to this war and mourned each and every one, but something about seeing this pretty girl's sadness made him unsettled. With a face like hers, sweet and open and so very beautiful, Emmett thought she should always be smiling.

"Thank you, Staff Sergeant." Bella took the picture back, setting it safely in its spot below a small American flag and beside a beret bearing the insignia of a colonel. "He loved it here," she added. "It was his pride and joy. Whenever he was home, he was here, cooking up a storm in the kitchen or joshing with the regulars."

Emmett watched as a wistful smile curled her cupid's bow lips.

"It's still a little too quiet around here, without him." After a beat, she seemed to remember that she wasn't alone. Her eyes dropped to the coffee next to his hands. "Drink up; it'll get cold, otherwise."

"Yes, Ma'am."

Never one to disobey an order, Emmett thoroughly enjoyed his coffee and cookies, his eyes trailing after Bella as she continued her cleaning spree. She moved along to the end of the counter with her cloth once she'd retrieved it from the floor and cleaned it with hot water and soap, then made short work of the tables. Only Emmett and James remained now, the other two men having left while she and Emmett were chatting.

Content with warmth finally seeping into his bones and Bella's soft humming providing a sweet accompaniment to the Christmas CD playing on a loop, Emmett let his mind wander.

He'd been travelling for weeks, it felt like. He'd left Afghanistan after a fifteen-month tour three weeks ago, spent two weeks in New York with friends and family, then begun the trek west toward Washington. He'd been promising a certain little lady that he'd visit for Christmas for five years in a row, but until now, he'd never made it over. He was looking forward to curling up with her in front of the fire and letting the stress of war melt away – until the next tour, anyway.

Emmett raked a hand through his hair, the gesture reminding him of his little brother. He'd seen him while he was in New York. While Emmett was away, Edward had welcomed his third child. A girl this time, to complete the little family of five. Baby Kate had Rosalie's blonde hair and Edward's green eyes, just like her two older brothers. It had been nice, spending time with them. The last time he'd seen his nephews was over a year before. The youngest, Henry, hadn't even been walking then, but he'd been running rings around his harried mother and two-years-older brother, Drew, for the entirety of this visit.

Emmett fiddled with the lighter in his pocket, wondering if he could be bothered to face the harsh weather outside just to have a smoke when a sharp yelp caught his attention. He spun on his stool, white-hot rage lighting his veins at what he saw.

The guy he'd ignored on his way in, too busy with Bella, had her caged against the end of the booth he'd been sitting in. He was smiling with just a tad too little space between himself and Bella's rigid body for Emmett's liking.

"Hey, pal, back off," he muttered, hoping the creep would take the hint. He really wasn't in the mood to crack any heads. Not today.

It's my vacation, dammit.

The lanky haired dude shot a disgruntled look over his shoulder before leaning closer to Bella. Emmett might have left it if he hadn't seen the way Bella's fists clenched at her sides, white-knuckling her dish cloth, or the angry tears she was desperately trying to blink away.

With a heavy sigh, Emmett stood and flexed his fists. They were cold, but they'd manage fine.

Dammit, and I was having such a good evening, too.

"I said, back off."

James still took no notice of Emmett's warning growl. Instead, he spat a curse and turned to face him. Emmett took a small amount of pleasure from the way James flinched back slightly and had to crane his head to meet his gaze.

Oh yeah, buddy. Now you know. Well, you think you do. You have no idea who you're messing with.

"S'got nothing to do with you, pal. Mind your own—"

"You don't want to finish that sentence, I promise you." Emmett grinned, though there wasn't a hint of happiness in the expression. "Bella, is this guy your boyfriend?"

"What? No!" Bella cried, looking troubled at the idea Emmett would think that.

"Hmmm. Friend?"

"No! I mean, he's asked me out a few times, but I don't even know his name!"

Emmett nodded grimly. "I was afraid you'd say that. You know, pal, back where I come from – in Texas – we don't force ourselves on a lady. Or anyone, for that matter. It's rude, ya know?"

Ignoring the bolt of sensibility that told him he couldn't really afford to get in trouble, especially while in uniform, Emmett gripped James by the back of his hoodie, just below his neck like he was grabbing the scruff of a dog's neck. James twisted, but Emmett was stronger and bigger and he'd expected it. He used his free hand to grab James' shoulder.

"Ah, ah. We're goin' this way."

Without pausing to let James pick up his jacket or hat, Emmett firmly guided him to the door of the diner and shoved him through. The freezing air bit at his exposed face but he didn't plan on being outside long.

"Now, let me tell you somethin', asshole. I've dealt with much slimier, smarter pricks than you in my time for much smaller transgressions than forcing themselves on a lady." He paused to let the 'dealt with' sink in, growling his next words right in James' scowling face. "Trust me when I tell you that if I ever find out you've come back here after tonight, I'll be sure to see to it that you find yourself experiencing just how painful it is to be up close and personal with my temper."

Raising his eyebrows, Emmett gripped James' neck through his hoodie hard enough to garner a wince. "Do you understand me?"

James squirmed for a moment before giving up. He knew when he was beat. His eyes slid around Emmett, but he couldn't see Bella from there. "Whatever. That bitch isn't even worth the hass—"

James was flat on his back in the snow with blood pouring from his nose and Emmett smirking at the crack of cartilage under his fist before he could finish his sentence. "What the fuck? You broke my nose!"

Emmett shook his head sadly, a deadly gleam in his ice blue eyes. "That won't be all I'll break if you so much as breathe Bella's name again. Scram." The click of the door closing behind him made Emmett turn; Bella had tossed James' jacket and hat out into the snow, so he snatched it up and threw it at him. Personally, he didn't care if James froze out here or not, but Bella was clearly more thoughtful.

James didn't need telling twice. He and his bloody nose disappeared into the cab of the truck parked on the road alongside the diner, the engine a dull rumble over the sound of the wind as he hightailed it away. Only when it was out of sight did Emmett huff and turn, stepping back into the diner. He rubbed his red knuckles, muttering 'fuck' under his breath.

There was no way his little lady was going to miss that. She was far too observant. Deciding it was worth the inevitable interrogation, Emmett huffed and shook it off, plastering a smile on his face so Bella wouldn't think his irritated scowl was because of her.

Only, Bella was nowhere to be seen.

So...what do you think? :)

Like it or hate it, please let me know! Feedback is always appreciated.

It's all pre-written so I'm aiming to post every day or so from now until Christmas Eve.

Also...there are a few great Christmas competitions taking place right now! The Twilight Fanfiction Pays It Forward page is holding a Christmas card competition on Facebook and it looks like a lot of fun! And there's a prompt contest starting in January I believe, hosted by Twifiction News