Age of Edward Contest

AmyMorgan

The Surgeon's Heart at War

1951 ArmyDocward

If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this contest visit
The Age of Edward 2010 C2 Community

Disclaimer: Stephenie owns Edward, Bella and Emmett. The rest is mine.

A/N Thanks to MissAlex for her initial superb beta!

~~~~l+l+l+l+l+l~~~~

"Nurse, bandage this soldier's sutures, please," he said quickly. He looked at the R.N, whose dark brown hair was peeking out from the nape of her hair cover. She was young, maybe twenty-four. "What's your name, Lieutenant?"

She peered up at him over her mask, "Valente, sir, CAPTAIN Isabella Valente."

"Eh, sorry, Captain. Please accept my apology. Most nurses here are lieutenants. Are you the new assistant to Major McIntosh?" Major McIntosh was our Chief Nurse.

"Yes sir, Doctor. I've only been here two weeks."

"Valente...are you Italian?"

"My husband was Italian-American...he was part of the Resistance. He was killed in 1943."

"I'm sorry, Captain. I'm...I'm a widower. My wife and son were killed in the London Blitz."

"Then we both suffered losses in the Great War, " she responded sadly. She glanced at the floor, unable to meet his gaze.

"It seems we both did."

Quickly changing to a safer topic, he remarked, "Well done with the wound dressing, Captain Valente, and welcome to Hell Hospital, Korea. God knows we need good help here. Carry on with your duties - I'm sure we'll be working together again. Too soon, by the sounds of the artillery barrages out there."

She looked up from the unconscious patient and stared at him, giving him a slow nod. He turned away from her and walked into the surgery anteroom, and threw his soiled physician gown into the dirty laundry cart.

He departed the surgery Quonset hut nearly soaking wet with sweat and the blood of American soldiers and marines. Seven hours of non-stop surgery left his army issue dark green scrubs damp and sticking to his body. He walked into the shower Quonset and stripped off his scrubs and boxers as he stepped into a stall, dropping the clean towel on the outer bench. Soaping up, he let the barely warm water rinse away all of his sweat and the blood traces of his patients, if not his troubles. He towelled off, put on clean scrubs and headed back toward the post-surgical ward to check on his patients from yesterday's surgeries.

Edward Warren Cullen, M.D., was a Commissioned Major, United States Army Medical Corps, thirty-six years old, and an experienced field surgeon. He was in Germany and Poland at the close of World War II, treating allied POWs and survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, where he saw fully-grown men who weighed barely eighty pounds. Now, six years later, in 1951, he is stationed at the 43rd Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Oijongbu (pronounced We zhong boo' ), not too far northeast from Seoul, South Korea.

The hostilities between the budding democracy of South Korea and the communist People's Republic of North Korea (then allied with Communist China) were deemed a "conflict", or more ridiculously by the U.S., a "police action", not a war. The wounded young men who were brought in on field stretchers to his OR, bleeding to death from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), would beg to differ. War is war, no matter the fucking political designation.

Both his wife and infant son died in the London Blitzkrieg of 1941, when German bombers rained hell on the British capital city. She was waiting to catch a ship back to the States, when her small hotel in Southampton was hit. Southampton was a port harbor, not too far from London, and was of strategic interest to the German Luftwaffe.

Since then, he'd immersed himself in the mindless stress of being in a war zone, so that he had little downtime to think about his losses. Meredith's and little Thomas' photos were stored in a box in his parents' home in Chicago. He could not bear to have those photos with him. He was depressed enough that he never saw their bodies, never actually got to say goodbye. Having their photographs with him would only ignite fresh pain every day.

He saw his infant son only four times before he died, and he was trying to get Meredith and Thomas back to Chicago to his parents' home, to ride out the war in relative safety. She had gone to England to show off Thomas to her aged maternal grandparents. He was their first grandchild, and it was important to her and to them. Then the Blitz bombs fell all over Southern England, and they were gone in the fires that followed...to this day, years later, he had trouble dealing with burn patients, because they reminded him of the murderous fires caused by the Blitz. He hoped, in his darkest thoughts, that his wife and son did not suffer burns, but were killed immediately by the bomb concussion, and therefore did not suffer.

Edward thought of Isabella Valente – did she get to say goodbye to her husband, killed in the Resistance? Probably not. He thinks briefly about how lovely her big brown eyes are.

She's a pretty but sad distraction. I should not think about her. This is a war zone and romantic thoughts will only hurt you eventually.

But he wondered how her hair looked unconfined by that surgery cap. It looked like it might be long.

He realized how numb he had become. He was nearly dead inside; he had not been intimate with a woman since Meredith had been killed, over nine years ago.

He dismissed those errant thoughts as he headed into the post-op end of the surgery Quonset. He had several soldiers to check on, nearly twenty-four hours after their surgeries.

One of the ward nurses, Lt. Sanhurst, walked with him to his patients, as he glanced at the latest vital signs. He smiled at the eighteen-year-old.

"Private Mahoney? James. How're you doin', soldier?" he inquired.

"Fine, Doc," Mahoney replied, quite hoarsely.

"You have no fever, and that's good," he responded, and paused. "Any difficulty breathing with that chest tube in place?"

"It hurts... a little...when I inhale." He just managed to sputter out those seven words, fatigued and out of breath.

"Let me listen to your lungs." He pulled his Rappaport-Sprague stethoscope to the ready, prying the binaurals from where they'd been resting around his neck, putting the earpieces in place. He warmed up the bell with his palms, and listened to Private Mahoney's lungs for about thirty seconds in each lung field. He was pleased that they were expanding as well as he had hoped, and had no adventitious sounds.

"Looking and sounding good, soldier. I want you up and walking short distances with help tomorrow. We'll take your recovery slow. That chest tube will probably come out tomorrow or the day after. You'll be flown to a U.S. Hospital in Tokyo, then to the States for further rehab. But you will NOT return to battle duty. Get used to the idea of sitting at a desk, or being a driver."

"Sure, Doc. And... thanks for...your knife skills."

Cullen chuckled, "Well, I've gotta practice on someone." He winked at Mahoney, wrote a few quick orders and a progress note, and placed his chart back on the hook at the foot of his bedframe, and turned to his next patient.

"Sergeant Lawrence Roseman. Larry, is it? Your leg, it caught shrapnel from an RPG, we were able to save it. You're going to walk with a limp, and it will be a long rehabilitation to get to that limp. You'll be here a coupla weeks more, then off to the closest VA near home. Brooklyn, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"I hear you were protecting your platoon. I also hear they're putting you in for a Silver Star for bravery, to go with the Purple Heart you'll be receiving for your wounds. Sergeant, I am here to tell you, a half second slower on that leap of yours, and your torso would've been nearly blown in half. Remember that when you limp and be glad to have it. You could've gone back to Brooklyn in a body bag."

"Sir, thank you for the excellent care here at the 43rd . I am glad to have my leg, sir. But I will miss my men."

"I realize that. Let our nurses do their jobs and keep your wound clean. We will give you pain meds for another eight days or so. Take the medication. Being 'tough' and refusing pain medication is against doctor's orders, understand?"

"Yes, sir, Doctor Cullen. I'll do whatever they tell me to do. Thank you."

"Sergeant, how many men in your platoon?"

"Ten plus me. Our Lieutenant was killed a month ago, and Command has not sent a replacement."

"Were any of them hurt by that RPG?"

"Just myself and Private Lonergan. He's okay, it just grazed his shoulder. The medics patched him up."

"Well, Sergeant, I hope you do get that Silver Star. I'll check in on you tomorrow."

Major Cullen walked into the next ward, separated by a makeshift divider. "Lance Corporal Robert Hudson. What do you go by?"

"Robbie, please, sir."

"Well, Robbie, I'm sorry you lost your left leg before you got to us. However, it is a clean wound and we did not have to remove the knee joint, as the medics cared for your leg extraordinarily well in the field. There is new work being done with artificial limbs. There is much hope in this new field. You'll be fitted with a strap-on leg with a foot shaped like yours. You'll be able to wear shoes and socks. With training, you'll look like anyone else, except you'll walk with a cane for balance. Any questions?"

"Sir, my wife is pregnant. Will I be able to drive a car?"

"Yes, as long as it's an automatic transmission, I see no problems. I'll put it in my medical recommendations."

"Thanks, Doctor Cullen."

"Sure, Robbie. When is your wife due?"

"In five months, sir."

"Your first child?"

"Yes, sir."

"Robbie, your life is about to get really interesting. Your son or daughter will become the center of your universe."

"I'm going to go full-tilt at this rehabilitation, sir. I hope to be walking with that cane by the time she's ready to give birth."

"That's the spirit. You have a goal now. You'll be back to Camp Lejeune in about four weeks. Hang tough, Marine. I'll check on you tomorrow."

Cullen left the post-op Quonset feeling annoyed with himself. He genuinely felt the young marine's mixture of trepidation and joy when he revealed his wife had a baby coming soon. But he berated himself, because his acknowledgment renewed the grief he felt for his own Meredith and Thomas. That young Robbie was twenty years old, and had a ready-made family waiting.

I'd give MY left leg to have my wife and son back, he thought bitterly.

He went back to his quarters, a smaller Quonset he shared with two other doctors. Neither of them were there, so he sat on his bunk and then lay down on his back, staring at the ceiling. He must have drifted off to sleep. He was awakened by the sound of Doctors Hayes and Gorgas, as they closed the door and conversed loudly.

"Hey! Sorry, Cullen, did we wake you up?"

"I hadn't meant to fall asleep. No harm done, guys."

"It's 1830 hours, and the Officer's Club is open. Come have a drink with us? Come on and get out of yourself, Cullen. Socialize a little. It'll do you good."

I slept almost five hours. That's a new record for me. Usually lucky to get three hours sleep every twenty-four.

Edward responded automatically, "Thanks, maybe another time..."

He felt himself yanked up out of bed by the elbows and forcibly walked out of their resident quarters. It was physically uncomfortable and more than slightly humiliating.

"Hayes, Gorgas! Let go! I'll go along with you. Lemme go!"

They let go and all three laughed. His roommates clapped him on the back and shoulders, and began their sing-song, "Cullen's gonna get drunk! Cullen's gonna get drunk!"

"Ha, ha, very funny!" he said sarcastically. "I'll have a drink or two, but I will NOT get 'drunk'. We are 'on call' all the time. No way I'll pick up a scalpel if I am impaired by alcohol."

"Oh, alright, Doctor Prim-and-Proper. Two drink limit. But is IS Friday night!"

"Hayes, soldiers get shot and shrapnel'd seven days a week," he replied tersely.

They fell silent and quit jeering him as they drew close to the Officer's Club. As they stepped inside, Cullen scanned around the room, looking for an empty table while Gorgas paid for the first round.

That was when he saw her.

Without the mask and surgical headcap, she was absolutely beautiful. Stunning. Breathtaking.

She sat at a small table in the corner, conversing with her boss, Major McIntosh, the Chief of Nurses here at the 43rd. Her smile was natural but subdued. Her chestnut-colored hair was pinned up as if she had just come off duty. She was dressed in the ubiquitous dark green scrubs. Her skin was pale but luminous.

Flawless.

Exquisite.

He was staring at her like a disturbed man, a lunatic, mouth slightly agape. He felt strongly pulled to her, as steel is to a magnet.

He watched as Major McIntosh stood up and left the table, returned her glass to the bar counter, and exited the Club. Captain Valente was sitting alone, staring down at her empty Coca-Cola bottle.

Without hesitation, Cullen walked quickly toward the corner table.

"Captain Valente? Isabella is your Christian name, right?"

She looked up, slightly startled. "Uh, yes. Doctor Cullen? Please have a seat," she said gesturing to the recently vacated chair.

"Thank you, please call me Edward," he replied, as he sat down in the chair across from her.

Her large chocolate brown eyes are so captivating.

"I prefer to go by Bella...Edward," she said his name tentatively, as if she was being disrespectful.

"It's the Officer's Club, Bella. It's downtime. No salutes, no titles, okay?"

"Okay, Edward. It feels strange, though."

He nodded to her reassuringly. "What do you want to drink? I'll get us something."

She looked at Cullen with doubt and discomfort on her face. "I was only here because Major McIntosh asked me. Maybe I should leave..."

"Whoa, Bella. Don't go yet. I got dragged here by two roommates, Hayes and Gorgas. I am not a big drinker, but as long as we're here, let's relax. Now, you must have a favorite drink?"

"Rum and Coke?"

Edward stifled a guffaw. She wasn't a big drinker at all. That was what teenagers tried after beer.

"That's more like it. Don't dump me, don't sneak out! I'll be back in a minute."

He heard her giggle as he turned away to go the bar. She must have liked his plea.

I haven't lost ALL my charm, I guess, he thought to himself.

As he walked toward the bar, he heard a whispered "Cullen!"

It was Hayes and Gorgas. They'd already drunk the vodka tonic that was intended for him and looked to be on their third round.

"Who's the broad? A nurse?" Hayes taunted.

"She's NOT a 'broad'. She's the aide to the Chief of Nurses," he replied stiffly, his anger rising.

"Hoo-wee, Cullen. Doctor Eddie's gonna get himself laid!"

"It's 'Edward' to you, Emmett Hayes. And shut your trap about Valente! She has more grace in her little finger than you two clods have in both your entire bodies. Excuse me, I have to get our drinks." Edward turned on his heel and strode back to the bar.

He laid down his dollar bill for the two drinks and headed back to the corner table. It was the first time in a long time he had been with someone of the opposite sex in a social situation. Was it the same for her?

Whoa Cullen, don't get ahead of yourself. You're not being unfaithful to Meredith. It's just a drink with a coworker, who's probably just as sad as you are. Be a Man and don't mess this up.

"Here you go, Bella. Rum and Coke. One for each of us."

Bella looked at him expectantly. "You like rum and Coke, too?"

He chuckled. "Vodka tonic. Martini. Whiskey on the rocks. Rum and Coke. It's all the same to me. I just know not to mix beer and hard liquor in the same night. I have a two drink maximum as a trauma surgeon, anyway."

"Oh," she answered, "That's a good policy. We could get wounded incoming at any time."

"Bella, you're not much of a drinker, are you? He looked at her glorious big brown eyes intently.

She giggled.

What a wonderful sound, so spontaneous!

"No, Doc-, er, Edward. I am not really fond of liquor or beer. The Coke hides the strong taste of the rum, so it's like getting a little buzzed off Coca- Cola!"

"You are so beautiful when you laugh, Bella."

Oh crap, did I really just blurt that out like an idiot?

She blushed deeply and looked away. She looked like a tomato, then it faded to dull red, like an apple. "Edward, I don't know what to say."

Here goes nothing.

He gulped then smiled, "Just accept the compliment, Bella beautiful." He reached forward to tilt her chin up. Touching her, he felt a mild jolt, stronger than static electricity.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"Let's go for a walk. It's a lovely night." He didn't wait for her to decide. He stood up, and moved to her side, pulling her chair back, and reached out for her hand. She looked up at him with a flicker of hesitation, then gently placed her hand in the one proffered. The "electricity" hit him again!

He didn't bother taking their drink glasses back to the bar.

He tucked her arm under his and interlaced her fingers in his. They walked out to the flagpole, then turned and walked between two office Quonsets, deserted and closed until the morning. He turned around and faced her, then slowly raised his free hand and touched the hair behind her ear.

"Do you ever wear your hair down? It looks so confined, all pinned up."

She exhaled softly and began to take the bobby pins out her hair. About sixteen bobby pins later, her wavy chestnut hair dropped down freely, and he could not resist touching the cascading strands.

She surprised him by leaning into his touch.

He lifted up both his hands and began combing her hair with his fingers, starting just above her ears, and combing toward the nape of her neck. She moaned ever so softly, and he placed one hand behind her neck and the other at the small of her back. She raised her head to look at him.

He did next what any red-blooded man would do in this situation. He kissed her.

Her lips were soft and pliable. The next thing he knew, her little hands were in his hair, her short nails gently scratching his scalp. He kissed her more insistently, then he ran his tongue gently against her bottom lip. She opened her mouth, and the tips of their tongues met. She moaned softly again, and that moan seemed to go straight to the organ of his manhood.

We're both dressed in the same thin cotton scrubs. She has to be able to feel my erection, as close as we are physically. Maybe this desire was mutual. Could she possibly want me as much as I want her?

Edward felt suddenly emboldened, as if the spirit of his deceased wife was setting him free. Free to love another woman. Guilt was gone. He felt near to tears because that burden had been his for nine years.

Why am I feeling so fucking overwhelmed? She'll think I'm weak!

Everything was happening so fast. His physical attraction to Bella. The freedom from the psychological bondage of grief and guilt...

Edward broke their kiss and enveloped her in a hug. He tilted his head down and tenderly kissed the soft spot behind her left ear. He heard her swift response.

"Oh, Edward. You make me feel so desirable..."

"You are, Bella, love. You're beautiful! I've not kissed a woman since, since..."

"Your wife was killed?" she finished, for him.

"Yes, that's right. And you...what is...your story?"

She took a slow, deep calming breath. "I had but two nights with my new Italian-American husband before he went on the mission with the French. They were caught by the Germans inside occupied Paris. They were caught after curfew, and they were shot - they were shot in the back by Nazi soldiers. Eradicated like vermin! I only found out because one man was pulled into a store by a shopkeeper and lived to tell the story to the widows and girlfriends."

"Only two nights – not even a proper honeymoon. Why have you not remarried, Bella?"

"I felt empty inside. I was only nineteen, my husband was dead - my parents were killed in a car crash when I was fourteen - and I had to earn a living. So I borrowed money from my Aunt Swan in Washington, and went to nursing school. I've only found solace in work, helping these soldiers and marines."

"Is that your maiden name, 'Swan' ?"

"Uh, yes. Isabella Marie Swan," she replied slowly, as if unsure. Maybe because she was forced to omit her married name by my question, he thought.

"Never any boyfriends? No suitors?" She shyly shook her head negatively. He was astonished.

She exhaled quickly in a sad laugh. "You saw how I froze tonight at the Officer's Club when you came over to my table. That's enough to ward off most men! But you were so charming, so different! Your hair, that distinct unruly reddish brown! Your eyes, so direct, so intense, so green. I tried to look away, but you had such perserverance. I almost fainted when you touched my chin to force me to look at you. Did you feel the charge between us then?"

"Yes, I felt it, too. Bella, I was drawn to you like a magnet when I saw you in the Officer's Club. I knew it was you because of your big brown eyes. They're nearly the only thing I saw of you in the OR.. When I saw Major McIntosh leave, there was no other choice but for me to walk over. You...mesmerize me."

She had buried her face in his chest at the sound of his words and he laid his palm against her cheek.

He felt the heat of her blush. He was about to tilt her head up to kiss her again, when he heard the unmistakable whistling sound...

"RPG!" he yelled, grabbing Bella, strongly yanking her forearm and heading for the closest cover, which was a crude artillery foxhole, dug in the side of a small hill, reinforced with sandbags.

He pressed her into the back wall of the shelter and covered her body with his own, his chest pressed against her back.

If the frags spiral around, they'll hit me first, he thought.

He molded and pressed himself against and around her small structure. Her five-foot-four inch petite body was completely enclosed safely by his six-foot-two frame.

They held their positions for what seemed like an hour, but when Cullen glanced at his watch, only seventeen minutes had elapsed. He waited another few minutes, then backed away from the young nurse. "Bella... sorry. Instinct kicked in. I apologize being so rough with you..."

She laughed nervously, never having been so close to actual bombardment. "Edward, you dragged me to safety. You weren't 'rough' at all. I just cannot believe how you shielded me like that. You left your back exposed!"

"Bella, I cannot conceive of you ever being hurt. You've become so...meaningful to me...so quickly. I don't know how else to explain it. I feel incredibly protective of you."

She impulsively embraced him, and he responded in kind. "I think I understand what you mean, Edward..."

Suddenly, their conversation was interrupted by the camp loudspeaker: "Attention! Incoming wounded. ETA five minutes. All triage personnel to Helo Pads ASAP. All surgery personnel to operating room duty stations now. Repeat..."

They joined hands and ran back together to the huge surgery Quonset. They split apart on entry. He bent over the sink and began to scrub his arms and hands, with the surgical soap and the small hand-held scrub brush. He watched Bella pin her hair back up and he stared at her complex gyrations with the bobby pins. She glanced up, and as their eyes met, they smiled at one another. Edward mouthed the word beautiful to her and she blushed as she finished pinning up her hair. She then stepped forward to the sink to begin her pre-op scrub.

As a circulating nurse held up the surgical gown for Doctor Cullen, he moved forward into the sleeves.

She pulled it over his shoulder, overlapped the sides, then tied off the gown at the left back side. She placed the headcap over his head and tied it at the nape of his neck. She then tied his mask at the back of his head overlapping the headcap. Lastly, she unwrapped the package of sterile extra-large gloves, holding them out for him to pick up and pull on, maintaining their sterility. Lastly, she knelt down and carefully placed shoe covers onto his field boots. She then changed her gown and scrubbed her own hands again.

He entered the operating room, as two other surgeons entered from the opposite end. Four young men lay on draped surgical tables. Four anesthesiologists were monitoring the young patients.

Edward quickly assessed that the patient with the abdominal wound was his primary concern. The marine corporal's uniform was still recognizable, and the field medics had poured antiseptic clotting powder all over the visible intestines, which had temporarily staunched the bleeding.

Bella was assisting him as instrument nurse and she had the bottle of sterile saline open even before he requested it. Edward irrigated the wound to clear off the clotted powder and he heard Bella start up the suction. He nodded and she carefully suctioned up most of the liter of irrigation he had just poured over the intestines of the young marine. Once the clotting antiseptic powder was washed away, he was able to view the perforations in the vasculature caused by the artillery fragments, as they bled anew.

Bella already had suture packs open. She immediately handed Edward a small Pozzi abdominal retractor so he could gently spread the intestines and reach the deep bleeder, and then she handed him two curved hemostats, which he used to clamp off either side of the bleeding intestine. With impeccable timing Bella handed him quadruple-zero silk on his preferred needle gauge. Edward had approximately ninety seconds to complete his anastomosis of that piece of bowel, or tissue damage and necrosis would result. He finished the suture in less than fifty seconds. He retrieved the hemostats and the Pozzi retractor, and poured more saline over the field.

Bella was back with suction to clear the field and he spotted the other bleeder. A tiny piece of artillery fragment was lodged there. He again used the curved hemostats to clamp off the section of bowel, deeply covered by blood vessels. He carefully removed the frag and dropped it, with a noisy clank, into a kidney-shaped metal tray, held out to him by Bella. With a fresh curved needle and silk, he completed the more complicated suture anastomosis in just under seventy seconds and removed the hemostats. More saline, one more suctioning by Bella, and he watched carefully for fresh bleeding for over two minutes. He then asked the anesthesiologist if the blood pressure and pulse were steady, a sign that there was no further loss of blood.

"Yeah, Cullen. 98/48, pulse steady at 68. Looks like we're clear to close up. Not too shocky at all."

"Thanks, Artie. We'll just stitch this young man up now, I think." He and the anesthesiologist were both Chicagoans, and had joked about setting up practice jointly when the war ended. They worked well together. They were both Cubs fans - optimistic losers for the past 16 years.

He asked Isabella to do an instrument count (just to ensure nothing was left inside the patient) and she said the count was correct. Edward carefully rearranged the intestines the way they belonged, and began to close the abdominal cavity, thankful that most of the fascia and dermal layers were present and not too damaged by the frag. This careful closure took twelve minutes, because a blanket-type suture stitch covered the large area better and left a less obtrusive scar. He watched as Isabella took the instrument tray to be disinfected and steam-autoclaved.

He checked the young man's dogtags and found the magic word NONE on the allergy line. He stepped into the supply closet and drew up 250,000 units of aqueous penicillin in a fresh glass syringe. He returned to the operating theatre and asked Artie to give him some help. They rolled the young marine corporal about thirty degrees, just enough to expose a hip. Edward wiped his hip with four cotton balls saturated with rubbing alcohol, pulled the needle cap off with his bicuspids and plunged the 18 gauge needle into the marine's right buttcheek, injecting the antibiotic that would most likely prevent a life- threatening intestinal infection, or sepsis. Sepsis, systemic organ failure due to widespread and overwhelming infection, was always fatal. Edward did not like losing surgical patients to infection. He felt it was the Devil mocking surgeons, and stealing souls.

He pulled up a stool while he and Artie the anesthesiologist waited for their patient to "lighten up" from the Thiopental primary induction. The continuous nitrous oxide had been stopped as soon as Cullen's sutures closed his belly.

He was also waiting around to make sure his patient did not display a rare but serious penicillin reaction. A drug that had only been around since 1946 was a miracle against drug reactions. He had a syringe in his hands with 100 milligrams of diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl), to give IV if his patient started having a seizure or if his breathing became sporadic, both signs of penicillin allergic reaction.

About twelve minutes later, Marine Corporal Keith Clayton, age 22, was fluttering his eyelids and starting to snort awake, rousing from anesthesia. He would soon be taken to post-op. Edward checked the field card that was attached to his unconscious body and found that he had been given morphine.

No danger of allergy to morphine.

"Hey, Artie, got any morphine on your tray?"

"Sure thing, Cullen. Want me to dose him?"

"Yeah, give him 15 milligrams. No reason for him to wake up in a world of gut pain. You'll chart it, right?"

"Yep, if I inject it, I record it," replied the sage gasman. Edward watched as he slowly injected the morphine into the young marine's IV line.

"Thanks a lot, Artie."

"Hey, Cullen. Wanna go into Seoul real quick? Got me a driver, the Colonel's man."

Edward paused. Then he got an idea. "Thanks Artie. I'm in! Are you going into the shopping district?"

Artie laughed. "No where else! I heard there was some choice Scotch and Bourbon coming in. What are you shopping for, Cullen?"

"Eh, jewelry. Know of a quality jeweler?"

"Yeah, there's one across the street and two blocks down from where I'm headed. The driver will take you. I hope you want classy – that jeweler is top-notch."

Edward smiled. "That's exactly what I want. Will they cash a government payroll check?"

Artie laughed out loud, a real belly-laugh. "Cullen, the merchants of Seoul LIVE off our paychecks!"

Edward shucked his surgical clothing, ran back to his quarters, unlocked his footlocker and got out his last paycheck. It was $624 – the physicians were paid monthly. He knew that was more than enough.

Riding into Seoul on the back of a jeep, driven by Colonel Alrich's driver, Sgt. Riley, was death-defying, and made him wish for a crash helmet. Riley drove like a madman!

He asked Artie to get him a bottle of syampein from the liquor store. Artie chuckled and said, "All right. I know you're good for it."

The driver dropped him off at Miyong Boseogsang, and he cashed his check there, getting the three expensive items he needed for not quite half his paycheck, and he got more value than he'd hoped.

The Miyong employee directed him toward Hain on Sangin Street, less than two blocks away. He got precisely what he wanted for $50 American. He walked quickly back to the liquor store where Artie was just walking out. He had the item Edward had requested, and Cullen asked Sgt Riley if they could make one more quick stop. They headed back to Sangin Street and Cullen dropped off the bag, and everything was set up to his satisfaction.

Now, to get the Commanding Officer's permission: that was the catch!

Edward asked Sgt Riley what kind of mood Colonel Alrich was in today. The Sergeant replied, "Oh, he's happy as a clam. He's a grandfather. His daughter had a baby boy yesterday in Philadelphia."

Great!

Before he lost his courage and before the Colonel's mood soured, he approached the C.O.'s office and knocked smartly.

"Enter."

Please take pity on one of your hardest-working surgeons. Tell him the truth, Cullen.

~~~~l+l+l+l+l+l+l+l+l+l~~~~

Edward slept well, then made late rounds on his lone fresh post-op patient at 1700, who was asleep and whose vitals were improving. He asked Lt. Sanhurst to change Clayton's bandage so he could look at the sutures.

The suture lines were clean, no signs of dehiscence nor infection. He reordered the morphine and ordered six more injections of penicillin, a clear liquid diet for another 72 hours, and an abdominal binder, for support. It was a bad gut wound, and it would take time to heal properly. Corporal Clayton might be hungry for a few days and may even lose a few pounds, but he would need a properly-working digestive system the rest of his life.

Edward went to the Officers Club and begged for 7 UP or ginger ale for his patient. It would piss off some of the other patients, but this young marine would be grumpy about "clear liquids", and the damn rules were meant to be bent. He scored six bottles of 7 Up and ten of Canada Dry ginger ale. The barman gave him a crate and he stowed the drinks under his bunk. He would dole them out daily to his young patient. He would have to tell him vodka, gin and rum do not qualify as "clear liquids". He'd warned the RNs to watch for visitor contraband, and they'd been vigilant.

He headed for the mess tent. It was Friday, and that meant fish. He was eyeballing the salmon patties, breaded and baked. He eschewed tartar sauce, opting for a quick squeeze of lemon.

"Cookie, what's the best vegetable today?" He had a running banter with Jerry, the cook, asking him questions as if the mess tent was a fancy restaurant. He'd given Jerry the "Cookie" designation a couple of months ago and the 25 year-old mess sergeant from Clarksville, Tennessee, liked the moniker.

"Major Cullen. The asparagus is not overcooked, and it's not from a can. I don't recommend the potatoes - they didn't get baked long enough. The mac and cheese are great tonight. So, what's your pleasure, Doc?"

Edward nodded at Jerry's summation. "Lots of asparagus and a small bowl of the macaroni on the side. Please."

"Sure thing. That's what I like about you, Doc, always polite."

"My mom raised me right, Cookie," he said with a wink.

Edward pushed his metal tray further down and got a mug of coffee, putting spoonfuls of reconstituted milk in it. Rarely was their food fresh at the 43rd.. The salmon & asparagus was a rarity; he knew the mac and cheese was from a can.

He lifted his tray up, and pivoted around, looking for a place to sit.

Isabella! She's here.

He scanned the room quickly.

He caught Bella looking at him.

Her face flushed dark pink, and she dropped her face down immediately.

She had seen him in line, and she had been watching him.

He sauntered over to her table, turning his head slightly to one side and narrowing his eyes at her, feigning both annoyance and...desire. His mouth turned up in a smirk. He was having a bit of fun with her, since she had obviously been ogling him while he had been moving through the dinner queue.

"Like what you see, Isabella?"

She blushed beet red. Uncomfortable and embarassed. But she spoke up.

"I was thinking about how far away you were...and how much I want to feel you holding me."

It was so honest a reply that his heart sped up involuntarily. He thought that he just might be red-faced as well.

"Holding you again, Bella? That, indeed, can be arranged."

He heard her gasp.

He sat down with just one chair between them, so he could reach over and touch her if he needed to.

Touch her I will, after dinner.

He took a few bites of the salmon and it was amazingly fresh. Jerry had breaded it and baked it to perfection. He looked up at Bella and smiled as he chewed.

"Taste the asparagus. It's wonderful, too," Bella said as she spiked her fork in an asparagus spear from her plate.

He watched in utter fascination as she grabbed the asparagus off the fork with her fingers and sucked the butter off the tip.

He knew she never intended to deliberately convey the sensuality she displayed - it was merely the enjoyment of fresh food - but nonetheless, he felt his erection growing.

I really want this woman. And I hope to have her soon.

He shook off his libidinous thoughts and ate his asparagus, entirely from his fork. After all, asparagus wasn't really finger food. Bella laughed at how fast he was putting away food. She had finished her food and had started on her coffee. He left the mac and cheese, now cold, on the tray untouched, and grabbed his coffee also.

So they sat at the table for six, just the two of them, grasped their gray institutional ceramic coffee mugs, took slow sips and gazed into each other's eyes. At last, he felt he had to tell her how he felt about her first time in surgery with him, functioning as his instrument nurse.

"I appreciate how on-the-ball you were assisting me today. You had things organized, but you were also paying attention to the surgical field."

Bella smiled. "Hospital surgeries were so boring when I trained. Out here in the field, every minute, every second, matters to these soldiers' lives. I like the adrenaline rush."

"Bella, you had things ready for me before I could ask!"

"And, maybe, just maybe...Corporal Clayton will have an even better outcome because we were ready and quick, Edward."

"Great point, Bella. I totally agree. Speed is of the essence with blood vessels." He smiled at her with his lips and his eyes sparkled. Not only was she beautiful, but she was intelligent and driven. They had so much more in common than he had ever expected. She would never ever bore him, as did the shallow beauties who had tried to throw themselves at him over the past nine years.

A few moments passed. They had finished their coffees.

"Edward, can we go for a walk?"

"Of course, lovely Bella," he said with a smile, and quickly stood, with his hand extended. She took his hand, and they walked out of the mess tent, and onto the camp path.

There was a luminous three-quarter moon and the white stones that bordered the path were easy to see.

They paused by the flagpole, and he turned suddenly, folding her into his arms. He felt one of her hands grasped in his hair, massaging his scalp with her small fingers. He took his right hand from the back of her neck, and his fingers wandered down to her chest.

His thumb found the soft mound and rubbed a firm circle, feeling her nipple harden. She moaned into his mouth, and his tongue found hers. He sucked on her tongue, gently, continung his thumb's gentle assault on her nipple, through the two thin layers of fabric. He felt her pelvis shift and begin to roll, to undulate against his hardness.

When he'd finally broken the kiss, he noted with some humor, that her right hand was wound around the halyards of the flagpole, as if she needing something that was grounded to help keep her balance.

She's overwhelmed with her own passion for me. This is the time. Tonight.

He clasped her left hand with his right. "Come with me, love."

They walked slowly to one of the office Quonsets. As he opened the outer door, she read the sign: "Colonel Robert Alrich, US Army Medical Corps, Camp Commander". She tried to back away.

"Bella, it's okay. I have permission," Edward spoke reassuringly. He grasped her hand in his again.

Dim light poured out of the partially-opened door. He pulled the door open fully, tilting his head down to Bella, begging her to enter with his pleading eyes. She stepped into the waiting room of the office, and was confused. The walls had been covered with red and white crepe paper, even the table, chair and typewriter had been concealed with a white sheet. Sitting on that sheeted table was a vase, filled to overflowing with white and red roses, about two dozen. She appeared stunned. She sat down unsteadily in one of the waiting room chairs, evidently overwhelmed with emotions.

From the back of the rose bouquet, Edward removed a single lavender rose, in near full-bloom. With the smooth, thornless stem in his thumb and forefinger, he turned and knelt before Bella, and extended the pale purple rose to her. He saw her eyes fill with unshed tears.

"Bella Swan, I've loved you since the first time I laid eyes on you. Please hold this rose - you know, the lavender rose-color symbolizes love at first sight."

She took the rose with trembling fingers. When their fingertips brushed, she gasped. That current between them...still there. She raised the rose to her nose and sniffed. Her resultant smile made Edward's heart sing.

Edward reached into the hip pocket of his scrubs. He pulled out a small black velvet box, opened it in front of Bella and removed the white gold ring with the round 1¼ carat diamond. He reached for her left hand, and he felt tears welling in his own eyes. Get a grip, Cullen! He swallowed, getting back his control.

"Isabella Marie Swan, I promise to love and care for you the rest of my life. Will you marry me?"

He watched as the tears slowly began to spill down her cheeks. She slowly advanced her fourth finger into the ring. Then, in a blink, she was on her knees, her right hand caressing the side of his face.

"YES, Edward, yes!

He advanced the ring onto her finger. She glanced at it briefly, and then threw her arms around him.

"I want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you, Edward Cullen." She choked on her tears, "I hope you're not hiding any really bad habits!"

Edward laughed with unbridled joy. He put his arms tightly around her waist, and slowly stood up with her little hands still buried in his hair. She then hopped up and wrapped her legs around his waist, and he started to slowly spin as his lips found her mouth again. They kissed passionately and Cullen no longer worried about the prominent bulge in his pants. However, the next question was more indelicate, and was ALL about the condition in his pants...and hers.

"Bella, love," he began, "How do you feel about a very short engagement?"

She giggled, "We're in a war zone, Edward. I'd marry you tonight." She kissed him quickly, and grinned.

He put his hands on her beautiful cheeks. "Would you, seriously? Marry me tonight?"

"Of course, Edward. I would."

"Alright then. So it will be." He walked slowly across the room, Bella still clinging to him, and partially removed the sheet covering the Colonel's aide's desk. He picked up the phone and dialed zero.

Then he spoke very few words into the phone: "This is Major Cullen. Please make the announcement. Thank you."

The camp loudspeaker crackled and they heard the voice: "Attention. Will all personnel concerned with Major Cullen, please take your places. Repeating. Will all personnel concerned with Major Cullen, please take your places. Thank you."

Bella hopped off his hips. She looked flummoxed. "Edward, what have you done?"

"Just a little hopeful planning, Bella."

Artie Rahr, the anesthesiologist, showed up first, in his scrubs, too. He was Cullen's witness. Next to show up was Major Judith McIntosh, Bella's boss, who was to function as Bella's witness. Ernie Wainwright, the camp photographer, was there to commemorate the wedding. Shortly thereafter, Army Chaplain Captain Lester Ferguson arrived with some paperwork for Bella to fill out.

"Why just me?" she made a fake frown by jutting out her lower lip like a petulant child.

"Because I filled mine out this afternoon!" Edward responded. "Even in the military you need a marriage license, Bella. They are being nice to give up their Friday night to expedite this for us."

She finished her form with a flourish. She got up to hand it to the Chaplain, but Edward intercepted it.

He looked at something Bella had written, smiled, and then handed it to the Chaplain Captain Ferguson, who transferred some of Bella's information into a ledger book. When he finished, he looked up and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, are we ready to proceed?"

Bella and Edward said "Yes" simultaneously. Everyone else in the room tried to muffle their laughter.

These two really did belong together.

The Chaplain continued, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here this evening in the sight of God, and in the face of this company gathered, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all men; and therefore, is not by any, to be entered into unadvisably or lightly - but reverently, discreetly, advisedly and solemnly..."

I tried to listen. I knew the Chaplain Captain Ferguson was known to be very thorough.

"...Into this holy estate these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together - let them speak now or forever hold their peace."

Silence.

Thank God.

"We are here this evening – before God – because marriage is one of His most sacred wishes, to witness the joining in marriage of Edward and Isabella. This occasion marks the celebration of love and commitment with which this man and woman begin their life together. And now, through me, He joins you in one of the holiest bonds.

Marriage is an act of faith and a personal commitment as well as a moral and physical union between two people. It is a moral commitment that requires and deserves daily attention. Marriage should be a life long consecration of loving kindness – backed with the will to make it last.

Do you, Edward, take Isabella to be your wife – to live together after God's ordinance – in the state of holy matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and bestow upon her your heart's deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keeping yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live?"

"I will."

Believe me, Bella, I will. You are so beautiful, inside and out.

"Do you, Isabella, take Edward as your husband – to live together after God's ordinance, in the state of holy matrimony? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him ...forsaking all others, keeping yourself only unto him as long as you both shall live?"

"I will." She glanced at Edward. His eyes were glistening, and her eyes took in his beautiful visage with a small, earnest smile on her face.

"What tokens of love do you offer? Would you place the rings in my hand?"

Edward placed the two white gold bands in the Chaplain's hand.

"Edward, by placing this ring on Isabella's finger, repeat after me: Isabella, you are now consecrated to me from this day forward and I give you this ring as the pledge of my love and as the symbol of our unity and with this ring, I thee wed."

Edward repeated phrase by phrase with the Chaplain Ferguson, and placed the band on Bella's hand, even though his hand was trembling with emotion.

The paragraph was repeated by Bella, and she placed the white gold band on Edward's left ring finger. He noted the tears of joy in her eyes and he squeezed her fingertips after his band was in place.

The Chaplain Captain Ferguson concluded:

"May you always share with each other the gifts of love – be in one heart and in one mind. May you always create a home together that puts in your hearts – love, generosity and kindness. In as much as Edward and Isabella have consented together in marriage before this company of friends, and have pledged their faith – and declared their unity by giving and receiving a ring – they are now joined.

You have pronounced yourselves husband and wife but remember to always be each other's best friend.

What therefore, God has joined together – let no man put asunder.

And so, by the power vested in me by the state of Texas and the Army of the United States, I now pronounce you husband and wife – and may your days be good and long upon the earth.

Edward, you may kiss your bride."

Edward did just that. He crushed Bella to his chest, pulled her head up and tilted his own head down, and kissed her so long that he began to hear throats being cleared. He continue to kiss her until he heard his name called. When they broke their kiss, their friends clapped. The photographer snapped his final candid when they both looked up and turned, all smiles and happy tears.

Artie Rahr approached Edward and gave him a thick manila envelope. Edward peeked inside and saw a wad of bills and six foil-wapped prophylactics. Artie leaned in to whisper that after he went through those six, there was a wad of cash to buy a lot more. Edward side-hugged Artie as he laughed. Artie had actually taken up a honeymoon collection for them, Edward knew, but the condoms made it funny.

The door opened and a suitcase was set by Bella's feet. Judith McIntosh whispered to Bella that the camp's women had put together quickly, a gently-worn trousseau for Bella, so she would have some honeymoon lingerie, and a fancy dress too, in case they went out to dinner. The woman Major then told Bella she was not expected back to work for seven days, and that the same arrangement had been made for Edward by Colonel Alrich.

Bella was stunned. Seven days? Unheard of in a war zone. She knew her facial expression was telegraphing her shock.

Major McIntosh touched Bella lightly on the cheek. "Isabella, when everyone heard the story of the war widow and the war widower falling in love, well, I guess we all felt sentimental. We're all kinda pushovers for a good romance."

"Thank you Major. I am quite overwhelmed, and I have no idea where we are going."

Edward overheard. "I know where we're going, Love," he said as he took her hand, pulling her left hand up to his face and kissing each knuckle. "Un, deux, trois, quatre." Then, paused and kissed her ring fingertip, and finally her engagement and wedding rings. "Five. Six. Seven. And thousands of kisses more to come. I love you," he whispered in her ear. She could feel the heat of her blush in response.

"Bella, Colonel Alrich has lent us his driver for the evening. We're going into Seoul to a hotel..."

Bella interrupted, "Who's going to check on your patients?" Her brows were knitted together.

It made Edward proud, not annoyed, that she was so concerned about their surgery patients.

"Doctors Hayes and Gorgas will watch over them. I briefed them on all four of my post-ops. They will take special care of Corporal Clayton, who's on clear liquids. I wrangled some 7 Up and Canada Dry from the Officer's Club for him. His post-op care plan is in place." He paused, and glanced at his bride.

"I'm so sorry, Edward. I don't know what came over me, to question you like that." Bella looked embarrassed, her head lowered.

Cullen pulled her chin up with his right thumb, gently. "Bella, feel free to ask me anything, anytime. Except in the OR." He chuckled at having pulled his "surgeon card", and she smiled back at him, knowing he was not angry with her.

Corporal Riley tapped the jeep's horn impatiently.

"Bella, our 'limousine' awaits. Are you ready?"

Bella sighed, "Yes, Edward." She placed her hand in the crook of Edward's arm, and the they made their way to the jeep, suddenly pelted by rice.

Bella laughed. "I never thought I would get married in Army scrubs!"

"We'll have another ceremony in a Chicago church, if my parents and sister have anything to say about it."

She stared at him briefly, a little unsettled, wondering what his family was like, if they would approve of her...or not. But she was afraid to ask.

They climbed onto the jeep's back seat, and noted the soldier in the front passenger side holding an M1 rifle. It would be dark before they got to Seoul, and evidently Colonel Alrich gave them an armed escort. Edward hoped the jeep's headlights would not draw enemy fire. He pulled Bella into his side, as they drove away, their feet resting on top of Cullen's duffle bag.

They arrived at Hain Hotel in Seoul at 2015. The desk clerk recognized "Dr. Army", and Bella and Edward were taken to the honeymoon suite on the top floor. The bellboy took Edward's duffle bag and Bella's case and placed them on the two luggage tables in the closet.

Bella was looking at the room in wide-eyed wonder. The first room was a combination sitting/dining room, with a couch, two overstuffed chairs, a radio, and a dinner table for two. There was a lovely vase of red roses and baby's breath on the coffee table. There was a bottle of what looked like champagne in an ice bucket on the dining table with two fluted glasses.

She ambled into the bedroom and there were more roses, red and white, and lavender. The latter made her grin broadly. She stepped into the bathroom and as she did, Edward appeared with her suitcase, setting it on top of the hamper.

He kissed her softly behind her left ear. "Want to change into something, uh, more comfortable?"

Bella could feel his arousal pressed into her lower back. The electrical charge between them was nearly palpable. She felt a little dizzy with anticipation.

She slipped inside the bathroom quickly and closed the door. She ran a quick bath for herself, as she felt grimy from the jeep ride. Drying herself quickly, she opened the case and selected an ecru satin peignoir trimmed with delicate chiffon lace. Her breasts were showcased by the fitted bodice, and the rest of the gown fell to the floor in a generous cut. There was a matching robe, which she left in the suitcase. She ran a hairbrush through her hair, and quickly brushed her teeth. Then she opened the bathroom door, and saw Edward lying atop the bed in a sleeveless undershirt and his boxers. His hair was damp. She tilted her head quizzically.

Edward's eyes were huge as he looked at her. He was staring at her thin nightgown. At her breasts, encased in satin.

Thank God for air conditioning. Her nipples are erect and begging for me.

Bella nodded at his damp hair. "You showered? How.."

"The shared bathroom, down the hall. Only the bridal suite has its own bathroom. I heard you running the bath, so I ran to get clean, too."

He stood up and embraced her, running his hands up and down her satin covered back and derriere. He pressed his pelvis against her and she responded by moaning and putting her arms around his neck, instinctively grabbing his hair. "Edward, I'm ready. Make love to me...please."

He slowly pulled up the skirt of her nightgown and carefully pulled it over her head. She was bare, her pale skin almost translucent, glowing. He shed his boxers and his t-shirt quickly. He had her beautiful nude form in his arms instantly, and reached around to pull down the bedcovers.

He picked her up gently and laid her down upon the bed, climbing in next to her. He straddled her and knelt down to kiss her neck as one of his hands palmed her breasts. She moaned, and it was nearly all the provocation he could endure. He moved his head down to kiss her nipples, while his hands gently lifted under her thighs. She responded by bending her knees up for him, and he rolled himself between her legs. He put his right hand between her folds and his index finger gently probed, finding the wet arousal he sought. She moaned immediately at the gentle intrusion.

His lips left her nipples and he kissed her, urgently, needfully, and he felt her tongue tangling with his.

Edward broke the kiss, whispering in her ear, "I love you."

He pressed into her slowly and a rapidly-spoken "Oh, God" slipped out of his mouth. She was warm and slick and oh, so tight. He paused, catching his breath, and quelled the urge to pound into her relentlessly, which was what his third leg wanted to do.

Edward moved out and back in slowly and gently, gradually picking up the pace. He settled his elbows next to her head, and let his fingers tangle in her hair. As he sped up his strokes he felt her legs wrap around his waist, and her little heels pressed into his gluteous muscles. He felt her pelvis pushing up against his on his instrokes. She was meeting him, and the depth of the feeling was incredible. They were synchronous partners, perfect for one another in every way.

A few moments later he felt her quivering around him, and she arched her back and tightened herself on his member. She called out breathily "Oh, Edward", and he felt his own climax overtake him as she called his name.

As his fluid surged out of him in powerful streams, he collapsed against Bella and he felt her hands grasp his shoulders. He tried to roll away from her, fearing he would crush her, but she still had her legs wrapped around his waist, and she squeezed her thighs, as if saying please stay.

So they remained wrapped around one another, until Edward got his breathing back to normal. Then he insistently extricated himself from his bride's very strong legs, and he rolled away to her left side.

"Ooh."

The small cry of discomfort got his immediate attention.

"Bella, are you okay? Where does it hurt?" He was devastated that he might have hurt her. He sat up on the edge of the bed, so he could examine her.

"It's just a small cramp, Edward. It's really nothing."

"Show me, Bella. Is it muscular? I can massage a muscle cramp."

Bella hesitated, then pointed to a spot about three inches directly below her navel.

"Describe the 'cramp' to me, Bella. Painful? Like a knife stab or a twisting twinge?" He pressed gently on the spot with two fingers.

"Like a twisting twinge, Edward, like a menstrual cramp, just that once. It doesn't hurt now."

"When was your last monthly cycle?"

"Um, I finished yesterday."

Edward looked at her with a small smirk. "Bella, I'm not an expert in that field, but I think we may have just made a baby. Some women experience a cramp at conception."

She clamped her hand over her mouth. "Oh my God, Edward. Is this okay with you? If it's true? This soon, I mean?"

"Bella," he said, pulling the hand away from her shocked mouth, "Nothing could make me happier than to begin a family with you." He leaned over and kissed her tenderly, and placed his hand gently on Bella's lower abdomen. Her womb.

He continued gently but logically, "We can pretty much be sure in eight weeks, when you've missed two cycles, unless you trust Emmett Hayes. He's a General Practitioner back in Iowa. He delivers babies and gives obstetrical care in rural areas. He could tell you a couple of weeks earlier by examination."

"Emmett Hayes, examine me down there?" Bella sounded offended.

Edward could not help but chuckle. "Bella, if you ARE pregnant, you will need exams at least ten or twelve times "down there".

Now she was irate. "I know that Edward. I'm an R.N. after all !"

"Sorry, Sweetheart. Emmett Hayes isn't a total jerk. Besides, will you allow me in the room during the examination?" Edward was verbally crawling on his hands and knees before his bride, trying to placate her anger.

"Alright, Edward. Just so he's totally professional. This is five weeks away?"

"Yeah. And Bella..."

"Yes, Edward?"

"You cannot be pregnant and stay in a combat zone."

She gasped. "What?"

"They'll send you Stateside."

"I'll... be fired?" She was starting to cry.

Edward swept her into his lap and held her, stroking her hair, and rocking her soothingly. "Not fired. Maternity leave, Bella. They may offer to let you take an extended leave, or to voluntarily resign your commission. You could keep your commission by working at the Chicago Veteran's Hospital until just before the baby comes. You have lots of options, Sweetie. The Army needs nurses."

"Chicago? I don't want to be separated from you! You have four months left on this tour, right?"

"Bella, my parents and my sister are in Chicago. Carlisle and Esme are wealthy. They'll take care of you 'til I get back. My little sister Alice will take you shopping for maternity clothes. Don't let her wear you out. She's twenty-four, and has incredible energy – she's a buyer for Macy's. Esme will want to give you advice about decorating the nursery, but she has great taste. And yes, only four months until I'm back there. It'll be at least a month before we even know if you really are pregnant, and by the time you get home to Chicago, I'll have eight weeks left here."

She leaned into him while he continued stroking her hair. "What if they don't like me, your family?"

He laughed out loud. "Bella, they will love you, especially when I mail them the photographs."

He continued stroking her hair, and after ten minutes or so, she fell asleep in his arms. He was tired as well. It had been one long, exciting but stressful day. Before he shut his eyes for the night he prayed.

Dear Lord,

I know I've had a horribly embittered heart these last nine years, and I haven't talked to you nearly often enough, but you've sent me Isabella, and maybe a child. I promise I'll be the best husband I can be, and if it's your will, I'll be the most responsible, loving father. I love this woman with all my heart and soul. I will go back to church again, and please let this baby be real, so he or she can be baptized. Thank you, Lord. That's all for tonight. Amen.

Edward felt more hopeful than he had in nearly a decade. The sweet peace of sleep claimed him as he laid his head on the pillow and inhaled the fragrance of his beloved bride, still asleep in his arms.

When they awoke the next morning, they were both very hungry. Edward put on his khaki uniform after a quick shower and went to the hotel dining room. He asked the seating hostess if they could have breakfast brought up to the honeymoon suite. The hostess took his order, and then he asked if the same order could be brought every morning for the next week. The hostess smiled and confirmed his wishes: scrambled eggs, pancakes, toast, coffee, juice and breakfast meat for two.

There was a war going on, and bacon and sausage were available only sporadically to the civilian locals.

Sometimes they might get a small hamburger patty, and other times they might get Spam. Edward bought the Korea Times in English and returned to their suite.

Bella was robed, and was drying her hair with a hand towel, sitting by the window in the bedroom, at the small vanity. She'd unpacked her comb, brush and lipstick. The Bella he had fallen in love with did not layer cosmetics. She was a natural beauty.

Edward moved behind her, and picked up her comb. She smiled, laid the towel down, and leaned back. He steadied her forehead with his left hand and began to comb her long damp hair, gently.

Just as he got her hair combed out and draped around her shoulders to dry, there was a knock at the suite's front door. Edward closed the inner bedroom door to give Bella privacy and walked through the living room. He opened the front door to allow the waiter to place the large tray on the small dining table.

The waiter removed the covers from the items, and Edward saw that they had bacon today!

He tipped the young waiter, who bowed deeply and left.

"Bella, hurry, before the bacon gets cold!" Edward was delighted. He hadn't had bacon in eight months. He grabbed one of the crisp hot strips and bit off half.

Bella heard his pleasured little crunchy moan as she walked in from the bedroom. She took one of the smaller strips, and before she ate, she leaned into Edward's ear and whispered, "Is it as good as sex?"

Edward nearly choked, then responded, "No. No comparison." He looked at Bella, shaking his head sideways, as emphasis.

Bella stuck with her single small strip of bacon, and insisted Edward finish off the remaining four strips. He thought he knew now, what an unselfish woman he'd married! He slowly chewed his bacon as Bella dug into the pancakes and scrambled eggs.

She poured their coffees and squealed when she saw the fresh cream in the small pitcher. She held out the cup and saucer to Edward.

His long legs splayed out as he leaned back, enjoying the coffee with real cream, not lumpy reconstituted milk. He finished the cup, poured more, and added the cream again. Oh, the simple joys he took for granted at home in Chicago.

He finished the eggs and toast while Bella eagerly devoured the banana pancakes. He could take or leave pancakes.

Complementary tastes! So far, this marriage was just amazing.

He shucked off his uniform and hung it up neatly. He turned on the radio to some popular American music, and Rosemary Clooney was singing Come On-a My House, a slightly suggestive tune.

Bella sang along while he read the paper.

They abandoned singing and reading and made love again by noon. They couldn't go five hours without reigniting their mutual passion. As if they were distressed about it.

Later, about 1730, he put his khaki uniform back on, while Bella put on a black linen sheath dress. She paired some modest 1 ½ -inch heels with it. She looked smart but very conservative. They walked a few blocks to Smoky Joe's, a jazz nightclub & restaurant. Edward ordered a sirloin, and Bella had grilled salmon. They listened to some pretty fair imitators of Duke Ellington. The music and the food had been superb. It was pricey - twelve dollars.

~~~l+l+l+l+l~~~

The last night of their honeymoon, Edward asked Bella if she would like to try something different. She said yes.

Edward laid on his back and guided Bella's hips onto his swollen manhood, and watched eagerly the beautiful show that Bella's breasts gave him as she met him stroke for stroke. She was overtaken quickly when his thumb reached between her lower lips and rubbed her bud. Edward was so aroused by her climax that he reached his own quickly.

He realized as he was falling asleep that Meredith never would have agreed to that kind of lovemaking.

He adjusted his arms around Bella, spooning closer, and whispered, "I love you."

~~~l+l+l+l~~~

Returning to camp and living apart again was excruciating. One night, about ten days after the wedding, they met at the flagpole to kiss and make out. Bella carried a small paper bag with her.

She showed it to Edward. He looked inside and withdrew the pair of her underwear with a tiny amount of dried blood.

"Bella, you know what this means, right?"

"It's implantation bleeding," she answered slowly, as if by telling her husband, it became real.

Edward laughed joyously, embraced her and kissed her forehead.

"Yes, you're definitely pregnant. We're going to be parents! And I will live in a frickin' tent in order to be able to sleep next to you, until you have to go Stateside. I'm talking to the Colonel, ASAP."

Edward closed his eyes, as he held Bella tight.
Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayer. Please keep this child and mother safe.

~~~l+l+l+l+l~~~

A/N In loving memory of my father, Warren, a surgeon who gave over 38 years to the United States Army Medical Corps, with eight overseas tours, including Korea.