Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thanks for all the love on this story, I'm two chapters away from being done writing this and the updates should be regularly until I hit complete. Thanks to mizzdee for keep up with me while working hard on her own stories!

Chapter 13 – Unmerry Christmas Without You

It had been hard for Edward to receive news of the untimely death of Captain King on two accounts. First, because he knew that under that attitude and sense of entitlement was a man who didn't let people in, and one that they would sadly never get to know. But more than that, it reminded him of just how much danger his wife was in, even when she wasn't running into minefields. Not that he needed the reminder.

Royce's replacement was a Captain from the 8055, who was transferred as a personal favor for the Colonel, as they'd met during officer training and gotten along quite well. Dr. Garrett Reese was a cardiothoracic surgeon back in the Pennsylvania, but two and a half years doing meatball surgery had sharpened his general surgery skills as well, according to Bella's most recent letter. The team at the 8076 seemed to finally be a calm one, no real instigators, and most of the nurses only knew Bella as the Captain who had been promoted to Chief Nurse, not a rival for Dr. Masen's attention, so the cattiness she'd dealt with had left with the old nurses.

Edward never told Bella about the nightmares he had concerning her, especially now that her latest stunt had made them a nightly occurrence. He remembered when the draft had come up while he was in college, but his medical degree would have been his deferment if his number had ever come up. This time it had been his ticket in and he knew that this war would need a major turn, or some hard work at the peace talks, because as it stood now this war could go on for years. Edward didn't need to see the newsreels or listen to the radio; he knew what he could be facing.

These were the thoughts filling Edward's mind as he stood in line waiting for the sales girl to be ready to charge him for his purchases. As he watched the other shoppers he smiled that he would not be braving the Christmas crowd because he would be finished with his shopping. He was fearful of the trip to the post office to mail off the majority of his packages.

He'd succeeded in getting something for Rachel and Rebecca, a thank you for the enormous amount of help they'd offered him when it came to the home he'd bought and decorated to suit his wife's tastes. There were also gifts for his in-laws and a few things to send along to his mother and father, though he knew the latter would not be grateful for the gift. The remainder of his bounty was soon to be shipped off to Korea, pieces of home for his friends and a few care packages for his beloved.

A letter from Major Hale arrived at his door that morning, striking up another correspondence with his friend now that she was Stateside.

Edward bought the last of his gifts, making a final trip to the candy store that Frederick and Nelson's had inside to pick up the order of specialty chocolates for Bella.

And then came the very tedious task of trying to properly wrap the gifts. Parcels took longer to get where they were going, because the army checked packages before forwarding them on with the rest of the mail. Edward knew the regulations for sending packages from being on the receiving end, so he picked up a few sturdy cardboard boxes and looked at the bags of packages he had laid out in front of him.

Edward had just grabbed one of the rolls of brown craft paper so that he would have it near when he needed it when the phone rang. "Saved by the bell."

Walking over to the end table that housed the phone, he answered it before the caller gave up on reaching him in the middle of the day. "Hello, Masen residence."

"Edward, it's your mother," he heard the smile in his mother's voice as she said his name.

"Mother, this is quite a surprise. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"I wanted to surprise Isabella with something for Christmas, but I'm not sure what to get her," Elizabeth explained.

"As simplistic as it sounds, buy her socks, if you know of a type of women's underwear that will keep her warm, the winters are very long and cold. She also loves to read, so if you know of a particular book she might enjoy, that would be a nice surprise for her. Most of my packages are clothing, with a few items meant to surprise her."

"Edward, it's a week before Thanksgiving, why do you make it sound as though you're about to ship your packages out?" his mother asked, sounding a little nervous.

"Because I am, Mother. Packages take longer than letters and I want her to have these before Christmas. If you send your packages in the next week or so it should arrive right before Christmas."

"Well then, I have to get to work, could you please give me her size so that I might send her something that will be of use to her. The last thing I'd want to do is seem frivolous while sending my new daughter-in-law a Christmas gift."

"Mother, I assure you that anything you send Bella will be treasured," Edward reassured her before giving her the information that she requested. After another moment or two talking, Elizabeth ended the call so that Edward could return to his packages.

Once settled on the living room floor, Edward laid out the four boxes he had to send her gifts. Taking the two blankets he bought her, he laid each one in one of the larger boxes, hoping to cushion the packages with them. Taking a bit of time and patience to wrap all of her gifts, the chocolates being double wrapped so they wouldn't melt onto anything should they be left somewhere hot for too long, he prepared each item for the shipment.

It took him a long while, but eventually Bella's four boxes were filled and ready to be sealed, but first he had a few notes to write. Using four of the Christmas cards he'd bought at Frederick and Nelson's, Edward left her little notes and instructions for each package, in case they arrived out of order. Sealing the boxes and wrapping them in the brown paper, Edward added the twine binding and then addressed the packages so they would be all ready for his trips to the post office.

Taking a break from the painstaking work of making care packages, Edward wrapped the gifts for his family and friends, both home and abroad and then made himself an early dinner. Returning to the task for the day, Edward was able to package up his general box for the camp, just little odds and ends from home that could be put out during the camps Christmas celebration. From there he made small boxes for Jasper, Carlisle, Alice, Emmett, Peter, and Eric, almost seeing the look of shock on the Corporal's face when he saw his own name on the box.

The evening was quiet, as Edward sat in his den and wrote the letters he would be mailing the following day with a large number of his packages. Edward wouldn't send them all the same day, because then Corporal Yorkie would be weighed down with that many, but the package for the camp, the little ones for his friends and the first to Bella would all be at the Post Office before he went to the practice.

Meanwhile, Bella sat in her tent, furiously knitting a woolen cap to go with the scarf she had planned. Scarves were easier to make, so if she got the cap done quickly, she knew that her package could make it into the mail so that Edward would receive it for Christmas. Her mother now had the list she asked her to purchase for Edward using the money she'd told her to hold back for just such a purpose, her only hope was that Edward would like the items.

An announcement brought with it the call of more wounded, so Bella stashed her project and got to work. With the next day being Thanksgiving, the promise of actual turkey had the camp working harder to make sure they'd actually have the time to enjoy it. For once their supply line hadn't been cut and the mail was already starting to get a little heavy for the Corporal. Bella's mother was one to send Christmas gifts early, so she didn't forget in the rush of December, leading to Bella having a nice collection of packages around Valentine's Day.

As time came and went alongside the operating tables, the cook started his work on the turkeys. The wounded were finally bedded down around ten am Thanksgiving morning, allowing the camp some shut-eye before the feast that evening.

When dinner came, Bella sat between the Colonel and Major Whitlock, thinking about how Edward was spending his holiday with her parents on the Reservation, as was their tradition. It made her happy to think that he was with them when she couldn't be.

Yet, Edward wasn't down at La Push as Bella had imagined. He'd agreed to work the day at the hospital so those who had families could enjoy their holiday. It was an additional shift, but as he wasn't in full ownership of the practice yet, he didn't mind pitching in, and the extra set of hands in the ER were always appreciated.

Renee had tried to persuade him to come over, but he used the hospital as an excuse to cover up his rotten mood. He didn't feel like celebrating when his wife was half a world away, and all of the holiday prep had just shown him how much he missed her. As if he wasn't already aware of it.

But, his letters remained the heartfelt proclamations of love mixed in with details of everyday life. He was her connection to civilization, and he wouldn't mar that for her.

Renee, however, was starting to worry about her son-in-law, and when she heard him mention working a double shift on Christmas Eve and Day, she took action into her own hands. Double checking the math on what time it would be in Korea, she placed the call, hoping that it would be able to connect. Long moments passed as it was patched through to San Francisco, then Honolulu, then Tokyo, and finally Seoul. She held her breath as the ringing sounded in her ear.

"MASH 8076," the voice on the other side answered.

"Yes, this is Renee Swan, I'm calling to speak to my daughter, Captain Masen," Renee released the breath she'd been holding as the man told her to hold on a minute.

There was terrible static, and she was having trouble determining if she was still connected, but soon enough, the rustling let her knew someone was back.

"Mom?" Bella asked, shocked that she was receiving her first phone call in over a year.

"Yes, Bella, I know we don't have much time, but I need your help with Edward." Renee got right to the point.

"Oh my, God, did something happen to him?" Bella was immediately terrified for her husband.

"He's fine physically, Dear, but he's withdrawn. He worked instead of spending Thanksgiving with us at the Reservation, and he's talking about working a double shift over Christmas. I know that he's done his shopping and sent you off gifts, but the house isn't decorated and he's not getting into the holiday spirit. I know it's difficult to be separated on your first Christmas as husband and wife, but something has to be done."

"Let me handle it, Mom. It's six pm there, right?" Bella asked.

"A little after, yes. He was working at the practice today so he should be home now," Renee offered.

"Thanks, Mom. And do me a favor and get him a tree. I hate to think of him sitting in an empty house with no sign of Christmas anywhere."

"I will, love you."

"Love you too, Mom. Give my best to Daddy." The line went dead a moment later, and Bella called the Corporal back.

"I need you to place a call to Seattle 7-7289," she told Eric when he reentered. Bella waited in the office while he patched the call through, the miracle of it only taking twenty minutes to make it to the US not lost on her.

"They're patching you through to the house, Ma'am. But you'll only have about five minutes," Corporal Yorkie told her as he left to give her some privacy.

"Masen residence," Edward's voice broke through the crackling static, causing his wife to lose her voice as a strangled sob escaped her. "Hello?"

"Goodness, I've missed your voice, Edward." Bella finally managed and it was Edward's turn to start crying.

"Bella? What…how…is everything all right? I haven't received any word from the army, but-"

"I'm fine, Darling. This call is about your welfare, husband," Bella told him.

"My welfare? What do you mean?" Edward asked.

"I just got a phone call from my mother, telling me that you didn't go to La Push with them for Thanksgiving and you're trying to get shifts at the hospital for Christmas. What I don't understand is why? You moved to Seattle to be closer to my family, to the things and people that I love, and yet you're shutting them out." Bella cried harder, angry at herself for letting her emotions overtake her when they only had moments to talk, but it was too much to hear his voice and know that he was suffering without her.

"Please don't cry, Sweetheart. It's just that last Christmas was the first time that I truly enjoyed my holiday, because I had you with me. My mother tried to make the holidays special, but my father always found a way to damper my spirits. A part of me hoped the war would be over and we'd be reunited by now, but the reality that we could be facing a much longer separation is setting in and it makes me want to burrow my head in the ground a little. I don't want a tree that you didn't decorate, and I won't have any gifts below the tree, so there doesn't seem to be a point this year."

"I need to know that you're still living, Edward. That your life is full and joyful, even without me there to add to it. You can have your somber moments, but you're also bringing a bit of me with you when you celebrate with my family. You're the one with stories of what Christmas will be like for me here, and there will be gifts under your tree, because my mother has a list and a bit of my money to ensure that you receive exactly what I would have given you had I been there."

"I love you, Bella. With my whole heart," Edward whispered as he tried to reign in his emotions.

"And I love you, Edward. Please try and celebrate a little. I will be sure to write you all about our party at the Mess Tent and the reactions I have to your gifts. I hope you didn't go overboard, Edward."

Chuckling, Edward remarked, "Tell the Corporal that I'll be happy to perform his hernia operation."

"Oh, Edward." She laughed, but when the static grew worse she knew there time was running out. "Darling, I think we're running out of time on this call, but know that I love you and I will be counting the days until I'm walking off the plane in Seattle."

"I'm counting right along with you, Bella. And I will write you a long letter about Christmas with your family, I promise, my love."

"Goodbye, Edward," she whispered.

"Goodbye, Mrs. Masen," Edward replied just before the line went dead.

Edward stood for another moment, still holding the phone as he thought about what had just happened. Bella had called from the middle of a warzone because he was pouting like a child. That would stop now. Getting ready for a busy day of patients, Edward decided to turn in early, knowing that he would have a lot to do the following day.

Waking up the next morning was a little easier, and after a shower and a shave, Edward got dressed and ready for his day. He knew of a few places to shop for his Christmas decorations, and would do so after he finished with his patients. The cold and flu were common diagnoses for Edward as he worked through the day, but as he wrote out his last prescription to the young man who was leaving the office, Edward turned his mind to his evening plans.

Going to various little Christmas shops, Edward found a selection of glass ornaments for the tree. Some of them were simply colored balls, while others were hand-painted with designs and scenes, or were shaped by the glass blowers who had toiled on the pieces. Edward bought enough to fill the tree sparsely, but not leave it too barren looking.

After a stop at the hardware store, and another to the grocery, Edward finally pulled into a lot selling trees. It didn't take him long to find a healthy-looking tree, and once it was paid for the man helped to strap it onto the roof of Edward's car for the drive home.

Once he was home, Edward set up the tree stand and then carried in the tree, watering it and making sure it was secure in the base. With the ornaments still in the bags, Edward went to the kitchen to start popping the popcorn.

With all of his supplies laid out before him, Edward fetched himself a beer as he set out to string popcorn and cranberries onto separate garlands. It took a lot of patience, but his medical background served him well as he worked in 4-foot sections, tying them together as he went, working through nearly ten pounds of cranberries and the same amount of popcorn.

The radio had given Edward a distraction from the amount of time that had passed, but soon his tree was laced with his garlands and the tinsel was hanging from the boughs. Edward was about to hang the first ornament when there was a knock on the door.

"Good evening, Renee," Edward said as he let his mother-in-law in.

"Hello, Edward. I hope you don't mind, but I brought you some supper. I wasn't sure if you'd eaten and as I was stopping by-" Renee stopped as she looked at the tree. "Oh, Edward, that looks lovely."

"I've been busy since I received a particular phone call yesterday from Mrs. Masen," Edward said as he took the plate from Renee.

"I'm sorry for interfering, but I did it out of concern."

"I know, Renee. And it meant that I got to hear my angel's voice, so you're forgiven this time," Edward told her with a smile as he sat down to eat.

"Why don't you let me decorate the tree while you eat and then we can see what else you need," Renee offered, but Edward stopped her.

"I have everything that I'll need-" Edward tried to tell her, but Renee cut him off.

"Those won't fill out the three, it'll be sparse."

"I want Bella to be able to add to these decorations next year. The tree doesn't need to be bursting with ornaments, Renee, it will do just fine."

"Well, let me at least get you the tree skirt that Bella made a few years ago. It's out in the car," Renee said as she ran out to the car, returning with the item.

Edward let his mother-in-law finish off the tree as he enjoyed the meal. It was plain food, but good. When he entered the living room, he was surprised to see gifts under the tree. "Renee, what is all of that?"

"Your gifts from Bella. I didn't see a reason to withhold them from you, but you must promise to wait until Christmas to open them."

"I will, Renee, thank you for looking out for me," Edward said.

"For my little girl, I'd do anything."

And that little girl sat in her tent, staring at boxes she'd been instructed not to open because the one package that would make everything make sense hadn't arrived yet. Bella's tent was the setting for the little party to open presents from home, quite a few coming from a certain former Captain they all knew. Bella had already written a letter to her mother-in-law, Elizabeth, to thank her for the thoughtful gift. The mystery novels had her very excited for a bit of free time to read them, and the socks and unmentionables allowed her to get rid of a few garments that had seen better days.

The officers began to come in, Garrett bringing in his packages from home to feel included as the Corporal carried in two boxes. "Ma'am, I think these are the missing pieces to your present puzzle."

"Perfect timing, now just run along and get the package Edward sent you and one of the ones from your mother if you have any unopened and join us," Bella said as she took the boxes from him.

"It's okay, Ma'am, I'll open it when I get a chance later," Eric started, but Bella cut him off.

"Nonsense, Emmett is joining us as well, and Edward will want to know what your reaction was to his package. You have to join us."

Relenting, Eric went to get his package while the others arrived. With the tent filled, they went around the room and displayed their gifts. Everyone laughed at the little joke gifts Edward threw into their boxes along with bits of supplies and items they might enjoy, but before it was Bella's turn to open her first box, she deferred to Eric, who tore at the paper to reveal undershirts and socks, some candy and a few razors and to Bella's surprise, a hardcover book. Eric lifted it from the box and opened it to the front, reading the note Edward had written in it.

"Eric, this book was one I enjoyed reading when it first came out in 1945. I know you were too young to read it then, but this is a book worthy of the man I watched grow up in the hell we call Korea. Never sell yourself short, because there are only a few people who will defend you from yourself. Mrs. Masen and I are two of those people, as I'm sure the Captain is proving often. I hope this book brings you as much joy as it has me. Your friend, Edward Masen."

Eric closed the book cover and looked to Bella as she asked, "What's the book, Eric?"

"Animal Farm," he responded.

"It's a good choice for you, you'll be able to read a lot more into the hierarchy since you grew up on a farm," Bella told him, noticing his tears.

"All of you are the only ones to look at me different, like I was something more than I am. I'm not used to it, but all of you have given me the confidence to be the man you admire, so thank you for that faith."

"You deserve it, Corporal, you're the one keeping us afloat here," Jasper chimed in as Eric tucked the book safely back into his box.

"Your turn, Ma'am, let's see what's in box number one," Eric prodded and Bella threw a pillow at him.

Moving to the largest box, Bella unwrapped the blanket from the collection of presents tucked in the bottom fold. Not bothering with what she knew was clothing, Bella pulled out one of the two boxes in there. The first she opened to reveal some yarn for her to work with now that she had the time, but as the lid came off the second box, she gasped.

"What did he do?" Jasper asked.

"He bought me a camera," Bella said, holding it up.

"Oh, that's great! Now you can take pictures whenever you want, instead of having to find me to borrow mine," Alice said as she inspected the latest model.

"Yes, it's perfect," Bella said as she remembered the last time she'd used a camera, how Edward had been there with her.

"Bella?" Carlisle asked.

"Just being sentimental," Bella answered the unasked question.

"Well, we'll leave you to your evening, I'm sure you have a letter to write after you finish opening the rest of your gifts," Carlisle said as she hugged him and wished them all pleasant evenings.

Bella was quick to open the remainder of her gifts, smiling at how Edward had spoiled her, making sure she had plenty of clean undergarments and long johns to get her through the frigid weather. There was even a winter coat in the other large package. It also had a blanket, so that made two that he'd sent her for her bed. The little odds and end, books and candy from Frederick and Nelson's all brought a smile to her face. He'd sent her stationary, as she'd told him that she was running low, and she couldn't help but tear up at the fact that it had 'From the desk of Isabella M. Masen' printed across the top. Taking one of those pages, she sat down to write him a letter.

December 10, 1952

Dear Edward,

Tonight we had a little get together in our tent, where we opened our gifts from home, including all of the items you'd sent everyone. I'm sure you'll hear it from their letters, but your gifts were greatly appreciated, none more than the book you gave to Eric. He was deeply touched by your kind words and thoughtful gift, as was I. I'm truly a fortunate woman.

I'm grateful for the camera, and the books you sent will go along nicely with the ones sent by both of our mothers. It seems I'm well-known as a bookworm, but having something new to read will be a nice break from the mud and muck and surgery.

I may have gone into nursing with grand ideas because of what the future held for me otherwise, but I think being Mrs. Edward Masen will be plenty to fill up my plate when I return. Maybe I can work with you at your practice if you'd want that, but it is your decision, my love.

I cannot wait to receive a letter from you after you open your presents, which are hopefully now under a tree at our house. It's my wish that you enjoy them as much as I will your generous offerings. Those long johns will certainly come in handy!

Thinking of Christmas here reminds me of last year, and the medal that is still hanging around my neck. I honestly believe that your love has kept me safe all the time I've been here and as we move into a new year, it is my wish that it is our last one apart.

I will write again tomorrow, but for now, please take care and have a very Merry Christmas, my husband.

Your loving wife,

Isabella Masen

Edward closed the letter from Bella dated December 10th, pleased as punch to have received it on Christmas Eve. The next day would be spent in the company of her family, so with his dinner eaten and his dishes washed, Edward ventured into the living room to investigate her gifts.

There were six items sitting under the tree, one of which looked poorly wrapped in comparison to the others. Leaving that mystery to the side for the moment, Edward did as he had as a child and started with the largest package. Tearing the paper off the box, he opened it with a hearty laugh as he lifted the box to reveal a fishing pole similar to the one he had purchased for Charlie. Inside the box was a note.


You used to talk about how you had wanted to learn how to fish, but it wasn't something your father had the time or the patience for. Well, if you haven't discovered by now, it's one of the Chief's favorite hobbies. Maybe this will help you learn how to fish with him and give you something to bond over.


Realizing that there was a chance for more of her words along with her gifts, Edward moved onto the second one. Inside was another note from Bella explaining the records she'd bought for their new phonograph. Another smile spread across his face as he thought about how closely she'd looked at the pictures.

The other three gifts were normal fare, a nice winter coat, some Old Spice, and a few of their wedding pictures blown up from the negatives that Edward had brought home and framed nicely. The day Renee had asked to borrow the negatives so she could get prints of her daughter's wedding photos came back to him as he realized that she had wanted them for more than that.

The last present was now calling to him, and as Edward opened it, he gasped at the brown parcel inside. He tore through the mailing wrapper to the box inside, lifting the woolen cap and scarf from the newspaper. Inside there was a stack of letters and a bundle of photos, but the little note telling him that this was as close to being beside him as she could get was all that held his attention. The scarf and hat had been knitted to keep him warm in the wet winter that would grace the Pacific Northwest. Even from 6000 miles away, she managed to take care of him.

Edward took care to put away his gifts, taking the letters and photographs up to the master bedroom so that he could enjoy them until he fell asleep.

The following morning, Edward was up shoveling the snow that had fallen overnight before going in to make himself breakfast. In the past five months, Edward had realized that the only meal he could cook well was breakfast, so when the time came that Bella returned to him, he would gladly hand over the kitchen to her, with the exception of a few breakfasts a month that he would pitch in to give her a break.

Showering and putting on his Sunday best, Edward gathered the gifts he had and got into his car for the three hour drive out to Forks. Christmas music dominated the radio, reminding Edward of a sweet little performance Bella had given a year ago in Post-Op to bring a smile to Embry's face. It made him sad to think of her still being there for Christmas.

It was just after one when he pulled into the Swan house to see that Rachel and Rebecca were already there. The door opened in greeting as the Chief walked out to help Edward with the presents.

"You have quite a load of presents here, Son," Charlie said as they entered the house.

"I had to get everyone something from Bella and I," Edward told him as they set the presents down beside the tree.

"Edward, come join us for a minute," Rachel called as Renee walked in from the kitchen.

"Merry Christmas, Mom," he whispered as they embraced.

"Merry Christmas, Son," she said back as they entered the small living room.

"We hate to have to gift and run, but we really need to get back and help Sue with dinner," Rebecca explained as she held out a box for him.

"I understand, and if you grab those shirt boxes there and the two smaller packages on top, you can open your gifts too," Edward told them.

"You didn't have to buy us anything, Edward," Rachel told him.

"And you didn't have to do this, now open it," he urged.

The girls both tore at the smaller packages first; giggling when they revealed the candy he'd purchased them. From there they opened the larger boxes, gasping at the fabric and notions inside.

"I know that the two of you make a fair amount of your clothes, so I got you enough fabric to make yourselves a couple of nice dresses, with some help from a sales girl so I didn't make a mistake," Edward admitted.

"This was so thoughtful, Edward," Rachel told him as they looked at the package in his hands.

Edward took the hint and tore through the paper, looking puzzled at the record sleeves with the handwritten song titles on them.

"What is this?" Edward asked.

"About five years ago, Jake and the boys dragged Bella to this store in Port Angeles that had one of those Voice-O-Graph record booths, they paid for her to record those two records and Jake's had them ever since. One is 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' and 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas', and the other record is 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore' and 'I'll Be Seeing You'."

Edward looked down at the albums in his hands, knowing they were once Jake's prized possessions and now his sisters were passing them on to him. "This means more to me than you could ever know."

"We have some idea," Rebecca said as they stood up and embraced, issuing a round of 'Merry Christmases' before the girls left.

In Korea, Bella was sitting in the Mess Tent, drinking a beer as the nurses danced with the many men that were waiting for their turn around the floor. The feast had been enjoyed, the gifts had been opened and the group took the opportunity to cut loose while the Christmas truce was still on. She was so caught up in watching Alice and Jasper do the jitterbug that she didn't notice Garrett sit down beside her on the table.

"Can I have a dance, Captain?" Garrett asked with a smirk.

"I don't know if that's a good idea," she said, fearing injuring his feet more than she might normally thanks to the alcohol.

Taking it the wrong way, Garrett asked Bella a question. "Did the Colonel ever tell you why I wasn't assigned to his unit from the start?"

"No, it's never come up," Bella told him.

"There was a nurse here that I couldn't work with because of a pesky army regulation about not working in the same unit as your spouse, so I asked Carlisle to see if he could get her as one of his nurses and I'd go to another unit. She was here for a year before they rotated her home; in fact, you met her on your first day in Korea. You were her replacement. So you see, I'm not like the creep that was here before, or any of the slimeballs you may have dealt with back home. I'm just a guy trying to make friends with the people I've been assigned to work with." Garrett tried to storm off, but Bella caught his arm.

"Captain, when I told you it wasn't a good idea for us to dance, it had nothing to do with my opinion of you. You see, I'm a terrible dancer sober, but after a few beers you might wind up in traction after a turn on the floor with me."

Barking out a laugh, Garrett relaxed at Nurse Masen's explanation. "My Katie isn't that great of a dancer either, so I've perfected a method of dodging heels and toes. The offer still stands if you'd like to give it a try."

Happy to finally see a jovial side of Garrett come out, she took his hand. "I'd love to."

Jasper made sure to cut in once he saw the wallflower had been pried from the table, and soon, Bella was the most popular dance partner. The party went on until late in the evening, with Christmas carols being sung and joy shared by the group. They were well aware that the war would intrude on their solitude before too long. It always did.