Summary: While Edward, Bella and the others were all separated , Christmas passed unnoticed. Now that everyone's reunited and Bella is poised to join the family, the Cullens intend to make up for the missed holiday! A fluffy canon oneshot.
Author's Note: As always, the characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Many thanks to Juliejuliejulie and edward-bella-harry-ginny for always helping me out, cheering me up and making me laugh.
"Everyone's looking forward to seeing you tonight," Edward said, as we walked up the steps to his front door. "Careful, love." He grabbed me just as I stumbled and swept me up, cradling me in his arms as he navigated the last two steps.
I giggled. "Are you going to carry me over the threshold?"
In response, he pressed his cool, perfect lips to mine. Which was more alluring, Edward's scintillating scent or the marvelous taste of his mouth? I could never decide. More research was definitely in order. My arm snaked up to the back of his neck to pull him closer. Maybe if I could experience these sensations separately, I could gradually develop some tolerance, but the combination inevitably made my pulse skip and my breath grow ragged and my body crave more. Edward ended the kiss, leaving my head whirling, as usual. "No, love, I'm saving that for when we're husband and wife."
"Saving what?" I asked stupidly.
He chuckled at my confusion. "You asked if I was going to carry you over the threshold," he reminded me.
I glared at him. "It's not my fault. If you want me to remember my question, you should answer it before you kiss me."
"I like making you forget," he said. His crooked smile certainly wasn't helping me keep my thoughts straight.
"I wish I could forget about the wedding," I said.
"Well, after we spend time with my family, I'll do my very best to make that happen," he promised with a smirk.
"But can you keep it up for three whole weeks?" I asked. He burst out laughing, and my face instantly flushed as I realized what I'd said.
"I meant, can you make me forget until the wedding," I mumbled, avoiding his gaze.
"Oh, is that what you meant?" he said innocently. "Time will tell, won't it?"
He smoothly placed me on my feet, swung the door open and gestured for me to enter. I passed through the door and immediately stopped in my tracks. The room looked… different, to put it mildly. Outside, it was a breezy, bright midsummer day. Inside, it was a winter wonderland. The foyer and living room were decked with evergreen boughs, red ribbon bows, and pinecones. A large Christmas tree in the corner was covered with sparkling white lights and red and silver ornaments. Instrumental music was playing, and I recognized the tune of "Frosty the Snowman."
"What is going on here?" I demanded.
Before Edward could respond, Alice flew down the stairs to greet me. "You're here!" she trilled with delight. Her green dress enhanced her resemblance to a pixie.
In a moment, Jasper, Esme, Carlisle, Emmett and Rosalie had all joined us in the hall. I looked from one smiling face to another, still completely baffled by the inappropriate holiday décor.
"Merry Christmas!" Alice said gaily.
"Alice, it's July," I protested.
"But we didn't have Christmas together," she said matter-of-factly.
I turned to Edward. "Some help, please?"
"It's like Alice says. We didn't have much of a Christmas last year, and Alice decided there was no time like the present."
"So this was Alice's idea?"
"That depends." His smile was enchanting. "If you don't like it, it was her idea. If you do, I might have had something to do with it."
I rolled my eyes. "I guess I can get into the spirit of the occasion. Except—" My eyes darted to the base of the tree, where, sure enough, a collection of beautifully wrapped presents was artfully arranged in piles. "Presents! Are those all for me?"
"No," he replied swiftly. Blood heated my cheeks again. It was presumptuous of me to assume that I was the guest of honor, even though obviously I was the only one who hadn't known about the celebration. "Only half," he continued.
"Half!" I yelped. They all laughed at my chagrin.
"Come on," Alice said, lacing her fingers through mine and tugging me towards the living room. "Let's sit down, and I'll explain the Cullen Christmas traditions."
We settled ourselves in the living room, but Alice remained on her feet. "What would you like to drink?" she asked me. "Eggnog or cocoa?"
"Eggnog or cocoa," I repeated in disbelief.
"Or hot cider," Esme added.
"Hot drinks," I said dubiously. "I'm not sure—"
Edward pulled me closer, so I was pressed against his chest and encircled by his arms. "Let me cool you off," he said.
I laughed. They had everything figured out. "Okay, cocoa," I decided. Alice flitted off to the kitchen and quickly returned with my drink— topped with a swirl of whipped cream, naturally— and a plate of cookies. Not just any cookies, of course. Sugar cookies cut into the shape of snowmen, stars, reindeer and trees and coated with colorful sprinkles. "Where did you get these?" I asked, admiring her attention to detail. I picked up a glittery blue star and bit off a corner.
She waved a hand in dismissal. "I suppose the bakery thought it was an odd request, but the customer is always right."
"Now, let me explain about the presents," Esme said eagerly. I nodded, taking a sip of the warm, creamy chocolate. "Every year for Christmas, each of us is assigned to choose a gift for one other person in the family. Edward and Alice set it up, since they'd find out anyway. When Christmas comes in December, you'll be an official member of the family and you'll be part of that system. But for this Christmas, the one we're celebrating today, you're our special guest, and we each have something for you."
"So you're each getting one gift, and I'm getting seven?"
"That's right," said Esme cheerfully, pleased at my quick comprehension.
I looked at Edward nervously. "Did you spend a lot of money?"
He smiled. "We're engaged now. I'm allowed to be generous to my future wife, aren't I?"
"Edward!" I moaned in protest.
"But of course," his velvet voice continued smoothly. "I wouldn't want to upset you. On the contrary, I want to please you. I know how you feel about lavish gifts, so I didn't spend any money at all on you." I sighed in relief. "However, I can't speak for the others." I looked around. They all looked pretty satisfied with themselves. There was no point in resisting their largesse. It was the Cullen way, and I was soon to be one of them. I slumped against Edward and tried to relax. It was nice to be close to him without the blankets he always insisted on draping between us for insulation. Edward's wintery embrace was the perfect counterpoint to my steamy cocoa.
"Ready?" Emmett asked. He was lounging on the floor next to the tree. "Let's get Edward's present over with." He pawed through the stack of gifts, extracted a medium-sized flat package and tossed it to his brother. "From Esme," he announced, while Edward peeled off the paper and opened the box. "Edward tries to behave appropriately, but the truth is, he's known for days."
"Well, I wasn't sure exactly which titles. Some of these I remember, but I don't think I ever heard these two," he said. The box contained vintage sheet music. "Songs from the 20s and 30s," he said happily. "Thank you, Esme."
"You're welcome," she said, gazing at him fondly as he leafed through the pages.
"Let Jasper open my present for me," Alice suggested. Emmett handed a small box to Jasper.
"It must be good," Jasper said. "Alice is so excited." He examined the tag. "It's from Edward." He opened the package and grinned as he held up a set of keys and an owner's manual.
"What is it?" Rosalie asked.
"Edward got me a motorcycle!" Alice exclaimed. "So Jazz and I can ride together!"
"I kind of liked having you clinging onto me while I rode mine," Jasper teased. Apparently, they were getting good use of the Ducati Edward had bought to ride with me.
"We can still do that sometimes," she assured him. "Thank you, Edward!"
"Heads up!" Emmett sent another package zooming to Jasper like a bullet. "This one's really for you. From me."
"Thanks, Emmett." He pulled off the paper to reveal a video game. "Awesome," he pronounced, grinning broadly. "How about you open yours next? It's from me."
"Oooh, goody!" Emmett eagerly rustled though the gifts to find his name, and tore the wrapping off. Jasper had bought him the identical game. Everyone laughed. "I guess we can exchange one."
"Not so fast. When you break the disk in frustration over my vast superiority, we'll need a duplicate copy."
"You're bluffing!" Emmett countered. "Alice saw no such thing."
"I can't give testimony against my own husband," Alice said quickly. Emmett's gaze swiveled to Edward.
"Oh, no," he said. "Leave me out of it!"
"Children," Esme said sternly. "Bella is going to think that bickering is one of our Christmas traditions."
"Emmett, why don't you find Rosalie's gift for her?" Carlisle suggested. Rosalie's box was by far the largest, and she was very pleased with the cordless drill set. I reached for another cookie.
"You should eat a reindeer, Bella," Emmett advised. "Good practice for the future," he said solemnly.
"Very funny," I replied tartly, but I did select a green reindeer.
Edward chuckled as I leaned back against him in contentment. It was so nice to feel part of a large, loving family, complete with occasional teasing. I glanced at Jasper. Was he intensifying the cozy feeling? He was whispering something in Alice's ear. I guessed my sense of belonging was completely authentic.
"Carlisle's is from Alice and Esme's is from Rose," Emmett announced, handing each a package.
"Thank you!" Carlisle exclaimed, showing us his new Greek grammar guide and Greek-English dictionary. "I've been thinking about studying another language."
"Carlisle," Esme said, looking at the contents of her box. "Would you mind if I learned along with you?"
"Of course not, darling. I'd love that."
"After all, we'll need to be ready for our trip to Greece!" He looked at her in surprise, and she nodded happily. "Rosalie got us plane tickets."
"Thank you both," he said to his daughters. "That will be a wonderful trip." Esme got up from the couch to give them each a hug and kiss. I thought about the gifts they'd all exchanged. Some were so expensive, and others so reasonable. I supposed if there was always plenty of money for everything, price tags simply ceased to matter.
"Now it's Bella's turn!" Alice radiated enthusiasm and delight. "Open mine first," she commanded.
Carefully, I removed the paper from the flat square box Emmett handed me. Inside was a scarf of heavy, pale blue silk. "Wow, Alice," I said, fingering the texture. I couldn't resist rubbing the glossy fabric against my cheek. "It's gorgeous. Thank you."
"Your first trip abroad, it wasn't what I would have planned," she said. "No museums! No monuments! No shopping! I guess you could say we brought something back, but I wanted you to have a proper souvenir."
"This is from Italy?" She nodded. "Thank you. That is so thoughtful." Edward took the scarf from my hands and draped it around my neck.
"This is from me," Rosalie said. She passed me a much larger and heavier package, which contained a very stylish winter coat.
"Thanks, Rosalie," I said. "This is so beautiful. I never had such nice things."
"Well, by winter you'll be a Cullen, and we do have a reputation to uphold," she said, smiling. I doubted I'd be able to be near people after only a few months, but I supposed I'd have to wear the right clothes for the weather in case anyone saw me.
"But she's not one of us yet. This is for the meantime," Emmett announced. His mischievous grin made me nervous as I opened the package. It was a first aid kit.
"Thanks, Emmett," I said wryly. "It's just what I need. How did you know?"
"Just a hunch," he said airily. "Better keep it handy while you open the rest of your presents."
"Hilarious, Emmett." Jasper's tone was sardonic. "Don't worry, Bella. I got you something nice." I could tell his gift was a book, and my mouth fell open when I saw that it was an early edition of Little Women.
"Little Women!" I exclaimed. "I love this book! I wanted to be part of that family so much. I wanted to be as capable as Meg, as courageous as Jo and as good as Beth. And I wanted to be like Amy, the pretty baby of the family whom everyone doted on. Come to think of it," I said, turning to look at Edward. "You remind me of Laurie. The charming, wealthy, musical, ever-so-handsome neighbor." Looking into Edward's eyes, I felt like I could fall into the molten gold.
"Well, I say you are extremely capable, courageous and good, and I'll dote on you as much you'll let me." I blushed a little at his words. It was a bit too public. "Can I give you my gift now?"
I shook my head slightly to clear it. "Wait, I didn't even thank Jasper!"
"Yes, you did," Jasper grinned. "From the heart. I'm so glad you like it."
"I love it," I assured him, running my hand over the cover. The book was in mint condition. "I'm going to really enjoy this and take good care of it."
Edward's present was flat and rectangular, suspiciously like a jewelry box. I hoped he hadn't gotten me anything extravagant. But he said he hadn't spent any money on me. Was it something else that had belonged to his mother?
"Don't be so nervous," Jasper chided, causing a wave of calmness to wash over me. "You're going to like it."
I peeled off the paper, lifted the lid and found myself staring at a check written in Edward's copperplate script. I gasped. It was made out for ten thousand dollars.
"It's a donation," he explained tentatively. "To be made anonymously to an organization called Share the Warmth. Their mission is to help people with their home heating bills."
"Ten thousand dollars!" I said in disbelief.
"Yes, well, if you think back, you'll recall I said I didn't spend any money on you. But I thought you'd appreciate the cause." He looked uneasy. "Do you like it?"
"Edward, this is so perfect. I love it! It makes me so happy to think about making a difference like this. You are so thoughtful!" I kissed his cheek, not wanting to be more demonstrative with everyone looking on.
"I love you," he breathed in my ear.
"I told you so!" Alice crowed, prompting Jasper to pull her close.
"You all are spoiling me!" I protested.
"Yeah, we're trying," Emmett grinned.
"Bella," Esme said gently. "We've all been through a lot since you and Edward met. Your relationship is a wonderful thing, but there's been a great deal of anxiety and misery along the way. Well, now the threat to you and to the humans in this area and to all of us has been eliminated and you two are on the verge of getting married. It's time for fun and joy. Of course the wedding will be a happy occasion, but there will be lots of people there. I was so pleased when Alice and Edward suggested that we celebrate Christmas together this evening, because it's just us."
"Thank you, Esme," I said. "Nobody could have better in-laws than I will."
She smiled. "There's something special I've been wanting to give you." Her gift was about the same size and shape as Edward's.
"Holy crow!" I exclaimed. This time the box did contain jewelry: a stunning, delicate diamond bracelet. "Esme, it's beautiful! But—"
She held up her hand. "Bella, I know what you're going to say. It's too much, or I shouldn't have. Am I right?" She looked at me with one eyebrow raised.
I realized my behavior wasn't very gracious. "It's gorgeous," I said, lifting my arm so that Edward could fasten the bracelet around my wrist. "Thank you very much. I'm sorry. I'm just not used to extravagant presents."
"That is going to change someday," Edward vowed to the room at large.
"Edward, hush," Esme admonished her son. "Bella, as your soon-to-be mother-in-law and someone who loves you very much, I have every right to buy you any gift I choose," she declared. "But I didn't. Carlisle gave me this bracelet on our tenth anniversary. I know you're wearing Elizabeth Masen's ring. That's perfect. But I wanted you to have a Cullen family heirloom as well, something from Edward's other mother."
I looked at Esme in amazement. "I don't know what to say," I admitted. "It's absolutely beautiful, and it means so much to me." I went over to her and hugged her. "Thank you," I whispered.
As I pulled away to return to Edward's side, she caught my hand and held it for a moment so she could admire the bracelet. "It looks lovely on you," she said with satisfaction.
"I agree," said Edward, as he put his arm around me.
"Last but not least!" Emmett pretended to blow a trumpet.
Carlisle smiled warmly as he gave me a slightly larger package. "Esme and I were thinking along the same lines," he said. The contents prompted another sharp intake of breath. It was hard to say which surprise was the most delightfully shocking: a check for ten thousand dollars, a diamond bracelet, or the image of Edward's face. Carlisle had given me a sepia-toned portrait of himself and Edward in a lovely blue lacquer frame. "This photograph was taken about a year after Esme joined us," he explained. "I had never thought of such a thing before she entered our lives, but she wanted a picture of us. I'm not sure why we've kept it, brought it along as we've moved from place to place. We can't display it anymore, because it seems so dated. And we don't need it to remember what we looked like back then. Still, this is from the earliest days of the Cullen family, and I thought you might like to have it."
"Carlisle, thank you!" I said with feeling, staring at the photograph. "Edward, this is you before I was born. Before my parents were born. Before my grandparents, even."
"What's your point?" he asked uncertainly.
"I don't know. Nothing bad," I assured him. "It's just, you lived so long and saw so much before we met, before my time. I felt I could never connect with those years. This picture is like a window into your past. I couldn't be there with you, but I can have this glimpse of you." I looked around at the people I cared so much about. "This was amazing. Everything you gave me is so great. I can't believe I'll ever have a better Christmas than this."
Jasper grinned. "Be careful what you say around Alice. She'll try to top it."
Alice pouted. "Where is your faith in me? I don't try. I succeed."
He laughed. "How about if we try out your new bike?"
Edward stood and pulled me to my feet. "How about if we go upstairs for a bit? You can keep the photograph in my room. I don't want to think what Charlie would make of it."
"Thank you, everyone," I said again. Esme had already cleaned up the wrapping paper and was settling in with Carlisle to peruse the book of Greek, and the others had dispersed to enjoy their gifts.
I scrambled up the stairs in high spirits. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" Edward asked as he browsed through his CDs. He didn't really need music to set the mood. When we were alone I tended to focus on my sense of touch more than hearing. But he liked to play sultry tunes.
"It was wonderful," I declared. "Thank you so much for making that donation."
"I'm so glad you like it. Speaking of which," he murmured, his voice warm and seductive. "I know you don't like cold things, but perhaps you'll make an exception?" In an instant, we were lying together on the bed. His eyes were liquid amber as he gazed at me intensely. His fingers running along my arm made my skin tingle. I wriggled towards him, closing the gap between our bodies. He slid his arm around me to hold me against him, and he kissed me. Normally, I'd be flush with desire, dizzy with excitement, eager to enjoy the sensations as long as he'd let me. This time, I burst out laughing. The music he selected had begun to play. It was "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."
Author's Note: I wrote this story in late October for a contest of canon Christmas stories in which five winners were chosen by a panel of judges. It was fun deciding on all the presents! When I didn't win, I decided to save it for December. In fact I posted it on December 19, my birthday. Exactly a year earlier when I posted the final chapter of my story Sunshine State, I asked for Robert Pattinson for my birthday and if that wasn't possible, reviews. Although I haven't met Rob and don't ever expect to, in another way, I did get him, because in the past year my life has been full of him. I've read and viewed his interviews, stared at his photos and watched his movies many times. And I was ecstatic about the hits and reviews I got that day and the days following. So those birthday wishes came true, and this year, my wishes are the same: more Rob and reviews. What can I say? I love looking at him, and I love knowing that people out there have read something I wrote and maybe even enjoyed it. Happy holidays!