I wrote this in January of last year… and knew it was worth waiting to post. :) I don't own Twilight, or we'd have more CarlislexEsme fluff!! xD

Please enjoy, everyone – and have a blessed holiday season. :)

Friday, November 25, 1921

As I tied the evergreen garlands and red baubles to the banisters of the house and placed little sprigs of holly on the table that first afternoon after Thansgiving, once Carlisle was back at work and Edward back at school, I couldn't escape the morbid urge to reflect a little bit on my last Christmas. In my last lifetime. Some of the memories were a little bit inspiring of nostalgia, but as I soon discovered, most of them simply hurt. They made my chest ache with guilt I didn't deserve to feel and anger that I probably did.

Lonely nights and the smell of vodka after company parties…

Other evenings when I wondered if I should expect my husband home at all. Ironically, but not surprisingly, I preferred these.

Finally extinguishing the candles in the windows and going to bed alone again, but being oddly relieved because I knew what the alternative would have been.

Yes, all of those memories were painful ones. Not the ones one would hope to associate with the Christmas season.

I had been dreading this one, to be completely honest.

It would be very, very difficult to build up something new around the same painful motif that came up every year. Could I learn to associate the smell of cinnamon and evergreen and the look of candlelight with something other than abject lonliness?

After all, winters had been nothing but pain and cold to me. None of the redeeming qualities that they offered others – baking with family, shopping for gifts, decorating for parties – had been present in my life. All I'd felt was the chill of the wind and the darkness of the short days.

Memories of the most recent Christmas, however, made me ache in a different way. It had looked like I was alone, but I hadn't been. When I had begrudgingly decorated the tree and made cookies for Charles's co-workers that Christmas, I had had a little companion. Two of them, actually – my growing child and my plan for an escape. They came together, those two – and left together, I suppose. When the first died unexpectedly, so did my will to fight for the other. That's how life could be sometimes.

That had been my very last Christmas, I suppose. Before my life ended.

Could it be that that sad holiday was only one calendar year ago?

This year, I was no longer the sad, trapped woman that I had been – at least in body, if not in spirit. However, I was still fighting. I will try to smile as I listen to the carols instead of crying about the unfairness that the rest of the world could celebrate new birth despite my despair. Because I no longer had reason to despair.

But it would be far from easy.

"Esme, dear, you've outdone yourself," Carlisle sighed as he stepped into the house.

"Thank you," I replied shyly, stepping out of the kitchen, where I had been storing all the extra decorations I had picked up at the Christmas market downtown. Of all things to be nervous about, I was a little bit self-conscious about the way my eyes resembled the color of the red glass holly berries on the table. What a silly concern.

"I hope you don't mind my supplementing the ornament supply a little bit," I said, hoping to take my mind off my irrational worries. "You and Edward didn't have too much tucked away."

"Absolutely not!" he exclaimed, his eyes twinkling in the light from the candles I had used to decorate the coffee table. "This place has some life, for once. A little bit of joy. You're a wonder, Esme, did you know that?"

I couldn't help but look a bit astonished, I must confess. Why was it so difficult to believe that I was worth something? Well, I knew why, but the fact that Charles had so much influence over me, even in his absence, made me want to scream.

"Don't look so surprised," Carlisle said softly, placing his arms around me and drawing me close. "Believe the truth."

Overwhelmed, I buried my face in his shoulder. He scooped me up gently and walked over to the sofa, where he sat down with me in his lap.

"Edward and I have talked," he explained. "I hope you don't mind. But from the things that he's heard, I understand a little bit better what you've been feeling. Would you like to talk about it?"

Knowing that I would probably sob – tearlessly, but sob nonetheless – if I opened my mouth to reply, I only nodded.

"Okay," Carlisle said softly. "You've been struggling with this season because it brings back so many bad memories. I can understand that. Not to mention all the new things to which you're still adjusting right now. You're having to come to terms with all of them, one by one. That's a lot to ask of anybody."

"It is kind of difficult," I admitted, finding my voice somehow. "There's… there's a lot buried away back there."

"I know there is, darling," he said softly, sounding as sad as I did. "And I know I can't just tell you to quite thinking these things. It's not that simple. I have one request, though. Please, please abandon your guilt. Nothing that's happened is your fault, my angel, despite how you feel. You have to believe me."

He rocked me back and forth gently as I cried, stroking my hair.

"It's over now. You're safe here," he said softly. "Not just from the fears that you used to face, but from the memory of them as well. And it will take some time for this to sink in, but it will. You'll see."

We sat like that for quite some time. I couldn't say exactly how much – time passes oddly for newborns like me. The concept of sleepless eternity is a difficult one to grasp. But it was awhile. Long enough that I was probably keeping him from things that needed doing, but also long enough that his words were becoming more of a reality.

"Do you feel any better?" Carlisle asked softly. I nodded, feeling a new strength blossoming as I looked up at him.

"I do," I said quietly. He smiled, brushing a lock of hair behind my ear.

"You're gorgeous, Esme, did you know that?" he asked me. I instantly looked down, still having to tell myself that I wasn't going to feel the rush of blood to my face that would ordinarily have accompanied a statement like that.

"Thank you," I murmured softly. He raised my chin with one finger, closing his lips over mine. Though I wasn't human enough to blush, I was still definitely human enough to feel the explosion of emotion and the chills that rushed up my spine at his touch. I quickly became lost in the moment as he kissed me like this – over and over. Like I had never been kissed in my other life.

"So… beautiful…" he whispered in the brief seconds of pause where a human man might have taken a breath. My arms locked around his shoulders as he lifted me and carried me down the hallway. Over his shoulder, I could see the garlands that I had hung alongside the shadows thrown by the candles I had lit in the windows for him to see when he arrived home from work.

I loosened my arms as he reached down to open the door to the room we shared.

Yes, new memories were being made.

Christmas Eve - Saturday, December 24th, 1921

We were gathered downstairs in the living room beside the tree. Edward sat to Carlisle's left, looking as shy as ever. He and I were still getting to know each other, but I'd learned a few things about him in the time we'd had to talk one-on-one. Though he was a few years older than I was, as far as actual birth date was concerned, he still seemed to me to be seventeen, the age at which he had been frozen.

Allow me to explain.

Vampire age is a bit difficult to calculate. It's all a complicated issue of mental age versus physical age. For example, Carlisle's level of wisdom could be a bit disconcerting coming from a twenty-three year old. However, he still had the playfulness that one would attribute to a man of that age. I felt every bit of twenty-six, but that was understandable for now. I hadn't had enough time to age in mind but not body.

Edward, though, was a bit of an enigma.

Like I said, he was a seventeen-year-old boy – and an orphan, at that. He was soft-spoken and reserved, and I couldn't help but consider him somewhat a child from the way he clung to Carlisle for guidance and reassurance. Despite the additional years of life experience, I could understand how much of a struggle it would be to age mentally after all that he'd been through.

Somehow, this endeared me towards him further. I knew I couldn't replace Elizabeth Masen anymore than Edward could replace my dead child, but I still felt older than he was, and I wanted to become a mother-figure to him. I couldn't expect him to think of me like that for quite some time, but I wanted to be a shoulder to cry on. I've always had a nurturing spirit.

"Merry Christmas, Esme," Carlisle said softly, bringing my gaze back to him quickly. I smiled, a bit overcome.

"Merry Christmas to you, too," I replied. "Merry Christmas, Edward."

"Merry Christmas," Edward replied, smiling back. His smile had a special quality that always warmed my silent heart especially. "Carlisle, would you like to do the honors?"

"I'll leave that to you," Carlisle replied, winking.

What had these two been planning?

"Very well," Edward replied, his smile not dissipating as he picked up a small gold box that had been nestled in the lower branches of the tree. "To you from both of us, Esme."

I accepted the box wordlessly, knowing that my smile was probably a nervous one. The package had been wrapped with the kind of knot that I would have struggled with in the past, but no longer. Using my new powers the best way I knew how, I simply pulled it apart neatly. I looked up for a moment. Both men were leaning towards me with anticipation, so I flipped the lid off as quickly as possible and looked down.

The sight that awaited me made my breath stop short.

It was the crest. Their crest.

"Welcome to the family, darling," Carlisle whispered.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and picked up the silver bracelet, turning it over in my hands. It was impeccably made, and would certainly fit perfectly. The crest's lion emerged from a black background that was inlaid with some kind of stone I didn't quite recognize, but the color reminded me of my husband's eyes when he was due for a hunting trip. The silver band held the crest itself in place and didn't quite meet in the back, leaving just enough room to fit it around my wrist.

It was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.

"Thank you," I whispered, hearing my voice crack. Carlisle smiled and took my hand, sliding it on. He had put it on so the crest looked right-side-up to me. I knew even then that was the way I would wear it forever.

"Beautiful," he said softly, standing to embrace me. Over his shoulder, I could see Edward continue to smile.

"It suits you," my surrogate son said, absentmindedly turning his own arm-band. Carlisle's ring, I noticed, had changed hands. He now wore it like a wedding ring.

"He decided to do that after you joined us," Edward informed me. "It's to show commitment. When you get married, you'll get a wedding band to wear as well."

I nodded, not knowing what to say. I never did around these two. Somehow, though, I knew I needed to express myself. But how?

Finally, I resorted to the three words that kept floating through my head, though I barely believed them myself.

"It's all real," I said into Carlisle's ear, though I knew Edward would hear it too. I wanted him to. "I have a family."

I was finally home for Christmas.