The project: I am unbearably thankful to the wonderful women I have met in this fandom. I have enjoyed so many of you - whether we banter on twitter, you read and review my fics, or I read and try to be good about reviewing yours - that I wish I could express my appreciation to each and every one of you. Suffice to say, you've made me real happy y'all, and I love you.
However, there are a few members of this fandom that I wanted to thank personally, and what better time to do that than the holiday season? I don't subscribe to any religion or creed, but I do believe that there should be a time where you celebrate the people that mean the most to you.
So, because - like a little drummer boy some people sing about - I have nothing to give but my meager talents, I asked a few of my most favorite people to give me a prompt. Any pairing (except Jacob... I just can't), any storyline - picture, song... whatever. This collection is what they gave me, and I'm sharing it with all of you, hoping you'll get some enjoyment out of it too.
This collection of random o/s's are unbeta'ed (as my betas are among the recipients) and will come out as I write them - hopefully, but not guaranteed - finishing before Christmas. It's a completely mixed bag with mixed themes. There are cannon pairings, nc, and slash alike. I hope you enjoy a tale or two.
Title: Five Christmases
Rating: T (IKR?)
What you should read of theirs: Raising Bella - it's cute and AU.
Prompt: Bella is 12, Edward is 17 and playing Santa.
Songs: Santa Baby - Marilyn Monroe, A Wink and a Smile - Harry Connick, Jr.
Dear Friend: Thank you for being the first real friend I had in this fandom. I know we can fight like dogs, but I love you like a sister, in all your craziness.
Bella: 12, Edward: 17
"Nobody is going to buy a seventeen year old, scrawny kid as Santa Claus."
Edward sighed, wondering if he should remind his boss and the soon-to-be ex-Santa that the scrawny kid was standing right in front of them. He stayed quiet, reminding himself that jobs for teenagers were scarce in Forks and he needed the money. He would be Santa if they asked, even if he agreed with "Butt-Crack Santa" that no seventeen year old kid should be the Jolly One.
"Waylon," Mrs. Garrett said, crossing her arms, "You're not hardly bigger than he is, and at least I can depend on Edward not to come in drunk," she hissed.
They continued bickering, but of course, the boss won out in the end. That was how Edward Cullen, seventeen year old junior at Forks High School, found himself wearing a Santa costume as the local kiddies were placed on his lap. A few parents looked bemused, but mostly people just went with it. One just went with a lot of things when it came to living in a town of 3,000.
One Saturday afternoon, as Edward sat trying not to chatter in the bitterly cold, Forks winter air, he noticed a group of whispering girls standing near, but not in the line. This happened occasionally. They looked to be around twelve - that age where they weren't quite through with childish things but they were beginning to become awkward about them. That Halloween, they'd probably dressed up, but they were keenly aware of the dubious stares they received from the doors they'd knocked on.
There was a girl with soft, almost blond, almost brown hair, a girl with straight black hair and a girl with flowing, deep brown hair - the color of the bark on the evergreen pines that weren't covered in evergreen moss. They were arguing in that that little girl giggling way - between clenched teeth and titters, kind of pushing at each other. As child after child was put on his lap, Edward watched the girls - wondering if any of them would give in to their childish urges.
Finally the blond/brown haired one pushed the little brunette into the short line. The brunette made to protest, but then she seemed to steel herself and stayed in the line as her wide-eyed friends looked on.
It didn't take her long to get to him.
She approached, as gangly and awkward as any girl her age. She didn't look like a child anymore but she hadn't begun to look like a woman yet. She stared down at her feet, blushing furiously and hesitating when it was her turn.
"Have you forgotten how this is done?" he teased gently. "You're supposed to come up here and tell Santa what you want for Christmas."
Her head shot up and she looked at him curiously. "You don't think I'm too old to sit on your lap?" she asked, adorably reticent with her big, doe eyes and her too big for her head ears.
"It's Christmas," he said, shrugging and grinning at her. "I don't think there are any rules when it comes to Christmas."
She smiled at that and he couldn't help but wonder if she still got lost in fantasies. It was, he thought, a bad thing when one lost sight of fanciful things. Gingerly, she sat on his laps, her hands folded in front of her. "So tell me, what do you want to ask Santa for?" he asked.
Her lips pursed and she gave him an amused look, but she played along. She sighed and said the last thing he'd ever expect to hear. "Do you know what would be great? If my dad wasn't alone anymore." Her smile then was rueful. "Can you do anything about that?"
Edward didn't know how to answer her. But then, the benefit to her being twelve and not four is that she didn't expect him to be all knowing.
They were interrupted then by Mrs. Garret clearing her throat. Seeming to realize that there were other, real kids waiting for their turn, Bella blushed brightly and almost hopped down. Edward held her tightly for a moment. "Hold on."
Her eyes snapped to his.
"You get a picture," he explained.
Shy, she turned to the camera and smiled.
Just as she was about to scamper away to her waiting friends - both of whom looked like they were ready to burst - Edward called out to her, "What's your name?" It was usually his first question to the little boys and girls. For some reason, it seemed important that he know.
Again, she blushed. "Bella," she said quietly, and then hurried over to where her friends were waiting.
Bella: 17, Edward: 22
It was a little over a week before Christmas, five years later, that he saw her again.
He was just one semester away from having to grow up completely. The cusp of manhood, his father had called it, waxing poetic. Edward didn't think it was the cusp of anything except complete terror. Up until then his life was somewhat orderly. Middle school had followed grade school, high school had followed middle school, and then onto a good college. He knew how to work hard and get good grades. In a semester's time he would have to figure out what the next step was.
So Edward wasn't thinking about much of anything except what it is he wanted to do with that expensive piece of paper they were going to hand him at graduation as he walked down Forks's tiny, main street. He'd told his parents that he still had Christmas shopping left to do, but Edward was a meticulous planner. All of his gifts had been bought and wrapped for weeks. Really he'd just needed to walk in the biting cold air to try to clear his head.
One minute he was walking along - eyebrows furrowed and deep in thought – the next minute something made him look up. A distance from him, walking similarly with her head down through the pouring rain, was a woman, a girl, really. She looked up then, and their eyes met for the space of one breath before all hell broke loose.
The perpetual cloud cover of Forks is something its residents ignored most of the time. It was like the huge, moss-covered trees that surrounded them – you really didn't notice that they were even there most of the time. Until an evening like that one.
Thunder boomed and the sky split, a pure white bolt of lightning coming out of the blackness to strike the tree the girl was standing under. Her head whipped up, and he could see, in that split second, her eyes go wide with wonder and fright.
The next thing he knew, he was already in motion. Not her, a voice in his head screamed, as he ran. The lightning had struck a large branch and he could see the scene as if in slow motion. She was standing right under it. It would crush her. There was no way he would get to her on time.
Except that he did.
As a physics major, Edward knew that he shouldn't have been able to cover the distance between them in the time it took the deadly branch to fall. After an extensive Google search, he would come to the conclusion that it must have been a hell of an adrenaline rush. At that moment, though, it simply didn't matter. What did matter was that he did make it to her on time.
He grabbed the stunned girl around the waist, pulling her backward. Stray twigs scratched at her face and arms, making her cry out. The momentum of her body slamming into his sent them both flying backward.
Maybe it was because of the way they landed – Edward's ass on the ground and her in his lap – that he suddenly figured out why she looked so familiar. "Bella?" His voice sounded strangled and startled. He readjusted her so he could look at her face, assess any damage.
Her face is bone pale and her eyelids fluttering rapidly as she tried to process what had just happened. His fingers gently swept her hair back, examining the superficial scratches. The rain poured down so any blood was washed away instantly.
"Bella?" he said again, stroking her cheek worriedly. Abruptly, her eyes focused on him. She blinked. "Are you alright?" he asked worriedly.
"Y-yeah," she said shakily. People were gathering around them now and she seemed to shrink against him as they closed in. Edward was acutely aware of the way her hands fisted the front of his coat, pulling herself closer to him. Despite the bitterly cold rain, a warmth spread from the center of his chest. She felt safe with him.
"Are you alright? Can you stand? Come on. Come in out of the rain," a voice cut in, shaking them both into action.
Edward stood carefully, keeping his arms around her. She was shaking now, adrenaline waning into delayed terror. He followed the beckoning stranger into a little shop.
"I almost died," she said numbly as he guided her into a chair.
"You're fine," Edward assured, slipping her soaking wet jacket off her and grabbing the thick, dry one the stranger held out. Apparently, they were in a tiny clothing shop. At that moment, Edward was nothing but thankful. He was worried she was going into shock. He knew he needed to get her warm and calm.
As he pulled the jacket tighter around her, Bella's eyes focused on him. "You saved my life," she breathed. "You were far away from me. How did you get to me so fast?"
The relief he felt was tremendous. There was a pressure around his heart that lessened immediately as she spoke and he let out a slow, even breath. She would be fine if her thought process was already catching up with the events that had just transpired. "I don't know," he answered her question honestly, sitting beside her. "I'm really glad I did, though."
He took the towel that the shop owner proffered and began to dry her hair. She was still shaking, but her eyes were much calmer. She tugged at the jacket, wondering if she should feel self-conscious. Honestly, his hands in her hair, even through the towel, felt like heaven. She smiled, that same, shy smile that he remembered. "Thank you." Then she furrowed her eyebrows, something just occurring to her. "How did you know my name? Do I know you?"
He chuckled, finding the perplexed look on her face adorable. "You sat on my lap five years ago," he murmured.
Her eyes went a little wide, and he realized abruptly how perverted that sounded. "I mean… I was playing Santa. I think your friends might have dared you to do it."
She tilted her head, trying to remember. As she studied his face, he studied hers, noting how she had grown into her features, going from awkward to…well… pretty. Her eyes, as they bore into his, were deep – speaking of five years more experience and thoughts that had been beyond her in childhood. They were brown, like the most pleasing shade of coffee – not dark enough to be black, light enough to be transparent. Her ears, he noted with amusement, did not look nearly as large, though they still stuck out slightly. And her lips….
His gaze lingered on her lips. He was still somewhat mesmerized by them when she started speaking again. "They did dare me. I remember now. I was twelve."
Unfortunately for Edward, his math skills were beyond stellar. It took him less than a second to realize that if she was 12 then, she was 17 now. And he was 22.
He put a little distance between them.
She seemed puzzled by his sudden retreat but thankfully didn't call him on it. Instead she asked, "How did you remember me?"
At that his mouth quirked up at the corner. "I remember that I thought you were braver than your friends. Even if you pushed them the way they pushed you, I bet they would have chickened out," he teased gently.
She blushed, looking down at her hands.
"And I remember what you asked for. Not a lot of people – kids or adults – would spend a Christmas wish on someone else," he said softly, and that was the truth. Often, when he saw or heard of people at their worst, he remembered that little girl and her selfless wish that her father find someone.
"My dad always makes sure I have what I need," she explained quietly. "He had been lonely for a long time."
Despite the fact that the logical part of him screamed that he should be wary – people might not understand what interest a 22 year old man would have with a high school junior – Edward couldn't seem to walk away from Bella. Instead, he bought her the coat she was wearing over her protests. She agreed only if she could buy them both a hot coffee at the diner.
They talked well into the evening, and Bella told him a story about how, shortly after Christmas five years ago, one of her father's best friends – Sue Clearwater – started coming over more often. Sue was recently divorced from her husband, Harry. It took some time, especially given that Charlie Swan was also friends with Harry, but three years ago, he and Sue had married. Bella had a younger step-brother named Seth who she absolutely adored and an older step-sister named Leah who thankfully lived with her father in La Push.
"It was a little late, but thanks for coming through, Santa," she teased him over the table.
"Better late than never," he returned easily, smiling because he couldn't help himself.
Bella: 18, Edward: 23
They fell in love over the course of that first winter break, though Edward was slow to admit it. It was only two days before he had to leave to get back to Seattle when he finally, finally kissed her. And then he had panicked.
They argued about their relationship. Bella was all for it, not understanding what the big deal was. Five years was not a huge age difference. Besides, she'd said, she was mature for her age and he was immature.
She'd stuck her tongue out at him.
He'd rolled his eyes. "Very mature."
She had kissed him again then, calming his arguments about the fact that he was corrupting an innocent child – she scoffed – and, and, and, her father had a gun. And a badge. And a gun, dammit.
But he was kissing her back before he could help himself.
"I can keep a secret for nine months if you can," she'd said, sitting in his lap in the backseat of his Volvo. She'd touched his lips with the pads of her fingers. "Please," she said quietly, having figured out that he could deny her nothing when she asked like that – her big eyes wide and innocent.
He'd groaned, pulling her tight against him. "You are the most dangerous creature I've ever met."
She drove up to visit him every other weekend or so. In Seattle, it wasn't hard to find places to go where no one they knew would see them. In Forks they stole kisses in the darkness.
As the year progressed she'd wanted to give him her virginity. That he'd put his foot down about, refusing to touch her that way until she was 18.
In his parent's empty house, in the room he'd had since he was an infant, Edward and Bella made love for the first time a week after her 18th birthday. He wanted to give her soft candlelight and rose petals. She was happy that it was him. No matter what happened between them eventually – because they both knew the odds were stacked against them – she was glad that her first time was with the first man she'd ever loved.
Now it was Christmastime again, and Edward was nervous. They were going to go public with their relationship.
Bella's father still had a gun and a badge.
Charlie Swan was not pleased. Carlisle and Esme Cullen were a little bewildered that their highly logical son would make such an illogical choice. However, eventually, both sets of parents saw for themselves – Edward and Bella's love was true. Bella, Charlie knew, had a level head on her shoulders. She would not make the same mistakes he'd made with her mother. Carlisle and Esme knew that something had changed in their often too serious son. He was calmer now – happier. If Bella was the reason then it couldn't be all bad, could it.
Besides, the three parents knew they'd raised their children to make smart choices and be their own people. Though they were worried, all three of them gave their blessing and their support.
Even if Charlie did it whilst innocently cleaning his gun.
Bella: 22, Edward: 27
Five years has made such a difference. Again.
Edward and Bella now lived in a modest apartment in Seattle. She was one semester from finishing her degree in biological sciences. He had long since finished his graduate program and was making good money as a physicist. Their life, together and separately, was good. Like any couple, they'd had their problems. They'd managed to weather each storm together, and Edward couldn't remember what life was like without her by his side.
That morning, he woke her slowly. His chest was pressed against her back, skin to skin. He swept her hair away from her shoulder so he could kiss her there – where her shoulder met her neck. Bella stirred with a little moan that drove him crazy. "Wake up," he whispered, kissing along her ear.
"Na uh," she mumbled, snuggling back against him.
Her wiggling was going to start things they didn't have time to finish. She knew it too. She reached back, and Edward forced himself to back away from her questing hand. She pouted, making a disgruntled noise, and he chuckled.
"We don't have time, Bella. We're going to be late for brunch," he reminded.
She rolled over, pulling him back to her. "Don't care."
"Emmett will tease us again," he said between kisses.
That made Bella pause. Last year they'd been late getting to brunch and Edward's older brother had mercilessly peppered the afternoon with sexual innuendo. In front of Bella's father.
"Rosalie will hit him," Bella decided, running her hands up and down Edward's back.
"He likes it when Rosalie hits him," Edward countered, nipping at her lips gently.
Bella sighed into his mouth. "You're a brat."
Edward grinned incorrigibly. "I know." His smile softened, and he stroked her cheek. "I love you."
Her answering smile was full of adoration. "I know."
For long moments he merely stared, thinking about how much he loved this woman and how endlessly lucky he was to have her in his arms. Then, steeling himself, he reached behind him to the object he'd placed on the nightstand before he'd climbed back into bed with her.
"I have a present for you that I want to give you now," he began.
"That's cheating," she said disapprovingly, but her eyes were curious.
Edward said nothing, but put the small box in her hand.
It was a ring box.
"Edward," she breathed.
"I know you wanted to wait until after you've graduated to talk about marriage… but the thing is, Bella, I'll never want anyone but you, as long as I live. I don't care when. If you want to wait until we're more settled or…whatever you want. Just… I would like you to wear this, as a symbol of my love and my intent." He helped her open the box, revealing a ring that sparkled as brilliantly as the tears in her eyes. "Isabella Swan. Will you marry me? Someday?"
She giggled then, a tear escaping her eye as she threaded her fingers through his hair, kissing him passionately. "Yes. Yes. I will."
They were late to brunch that year.
Bella: 25, Edward: 30
They'd married in August, several months after Bella graduated from the university. Since then they'd both been moderately successful in their chosen fields. They had grown together, their relationship as strong as ever.
Celebrating the purchase of their first home, Christmas was going to be celebrated at their house this year, and so Edward and Bella were not in a rush to get up. They enjoyed their last hour or so of peace before the house was barraged with guests.
"I have something for you," Bella said.
Her leg was hitched up around his waist, and her lips were all over his face and neck. "I have everything I want right here," he growled, holding her ever closer.
She pulled back slightly, and he was surprised to see nervousness in her eyes. "I really hope that's true," she mumbled. Before he could process the not entirely happy expression on her face, Bella reached for something on her nightstand.
It was a gift. A book shaped gift.
They sat up against the headboard, and Edward watched her face carefully as he unwrapped the present. She was biting her lip. She was scaring him.
He looked down at the book in his hands. My Boys Can Swim!: The Official Guy's Guide to Pregnancy by Ian Davis.
His breath left him in one big gust.
"Edward. Breathe," Bella said, worriedly stroking his face. Was he going into shock?
Edward's eyes shot to her. "Are you … you're..."
"Pregnant?" Bella supplied. She bit her lip again. "Yes," she whispered.
One beat. Two.
She nodded. "I-I I know we didn't plan this, but-."
He cut her off by attacking her. His hands wrapped around her, pulling her onto his lap so he could kiss her senseless. "We're having a baby?" he asked incredulously, kissing her again before she could answer.
"Yes," she said, giggling between kisses. "You're happy?"
"Are you happy?" he countered.
A slow, glowing smile spread across her face. "I'm scared," she admitted. "But yes. Very. Very. Happy."
As they cuddled and kissed, Bella's eyes fell on the photo that rested, framed, on their dresser. It was their first picture together. Her twelve year old self sat lightly, if a little awkwardly, on his seventeen year old lap. It was a strange and unlikely way to meet, but then, that was them - strange and unlikely.
And they wouldn't change it for the world.
A/N: As for my Cella…well… she is just strange and unlikely.
And I wouldn't change her for the world.