This isn't an epilogue to Sincerely, Sergeant Masen, so not all is explained in here. Try not to get too annoyed and bear with me!
"Get cozy folks, we're in for quite the snow storm this Christmas Eve. By the looks of it, a blizzard warning may be issued, as it will be snowing for a decent amount of time. We'll keep you informed about the development of this storm."
I flipped the TV off, satisfied that I knew what was happening weather wise.
"Did you hear that Em?" Rose called from the kitchen as she messed with her little cookies that she had made. She was so proud of them that I found myself amused. Rose didn't exactly bake...or cook...or clean, or really any home keeping of any kind. But she wanted to make cookies, and she just knew that those sweets were God's gift to the world.
Emmett's head popped into the kitchen. "What'd I not hear?"
"Blizzard's coming," Rosalie informed him, not looking away from her task of stacking said cookies.
His face lit up comically. "Hell yes! Excuse me while I plan my snowball war strategies." And then he was off, and I was rather concerned.
"Bella?" I turned my head finding the voice that called my name. I smiled when I saw the pile of gifts in his arms.
"Need help?" I asked, chuckling.
"Nah," he replied. Just as the word left his mouth a box that had been sat precariously on his elbow slid off and onto the ground.
"Shit," he murmured.
I hopped off of my stool and picked it up for him, as his arms were obviously full. "Oh don't worry, it was just Emmett's," I grinned.
Edward looked relieved. I laughed and took some of the presents out of his arms and held them. There was a vague, "Asshole," that came from Emmett's direction. Edward smirked.
"Ready to go?" I checked.
Edward leaned down and kissed my lips sweetly for a second. He pulled back and smiled brightly. "Let's roll," he agreed.
"Why are you leaving so early? Esme said 5, and that's not for like 3 hours," Rose commented, before huffing and taking the cookies out of the their pile and re-stacking them.
"Because if we don't, Esme will get drunk staring at that damn turkey that she insists on making every year." She always stared it down, chaperoning it. Apparently one year she had gone somewhere while it cooked and it was dry or something.
"Where's Carlisle?" she asked. Edward was busy loading all of his gifts into a laundry basket, making transport easier.
"Most likely wrapping presents. It seems to be a male thing to wait until Christmas Eve to wrap," I shot Edward a pointed glance, calling out his procrastinating.
He held up his hands in defense. "It's not Christmas Eve yet! We still have a solid few hours before it constitutes as 'Eve.'"
I shook my head, not bothering to respond. He grinned triumphantly.
"Well, we'll see you there," Rose replied. The damn cookies.
Edward helped me into my coat before shrugging his brown leather jacket over his gray sweater. It had been slightly selfish of me to buy the sweater for him, but damn if it didn't hug his torso well.
I walked with Edward out of the house and into the cold December weather. Edward kept the laundry basket securely at his side, and his other hand held the small of my back, making sure I didn't slip on the ice. As I had done three times in the past week.
Once all the gifts were secure in the back seat, Edward slid into the truck and cranked the heat immediately on. I rubbed my hands together before settling them under my butt to keep them warm. This never failed to amuse Edward. He laughed as he pulled the truck out of the drive way.
"I think we might get snowed in at their house," I commented, looking at the gray snow clouds that were threatening to burst. The flakes were coming down already, but we hadn't seen anything yet.
"And then we would all starve because Emmett can out eat all of us," Edward replied, rolling his eyes. I laughed, knowing it was true.
"How's the whole snow for Christmas thing going?" I asked, lacing my hands with his free one that had been sitting on his knee.
"I could give less of a shit about the snow. It's the whole Christmas was Bella thing that I care about." I met his smile.
Last year had been hard of us. All of the holidays had been. It wasn't fair that as our first year as a couple, we had to spend all of the major holidays on opposite sides of the world. But this year, he was mine.
That thought was something that made me beam whenever it crossed my mind. He wasn't the Army's. He was mine. And I had him here with me, forever. And that was a thought that I was still unable to wrap my mind around.
Edward wasn't going back.
I never had to say goodbye to him again.
The past half of a year since he had returned from Iraq had been some of the best months of my life, rivaling only with other months when I was with him. We were nearly inseparable, other than when class deemed it necessary. Neither one of us ever wanted to be apart, and we did almost everything together.
Sure we had our fair share of fights, adjusting to our new lives and the close proximity to each other, and Rose and Emmett. But our arguments rarely lasted more than an hour at most. We didn't want to be angry with one another, we had each come to the conclusion that it just wasn't necessary to ever stay mad.
Edward being in the army had prefaced what our relationship would be like. Each of us were scarred by the time we spent apart from each other last year during his tour. But he was my Edward, and he was home.
"And how's the whole Christmas with Bella thing going for you?" I grinned teasingly.
Edward smiled back, "Wonderfully. Except for the fact that I have to share you for the evening."
"Damn the family!" I exclaimed, laughing.
"They must be annihilated," Edward agreed.
"Let's start with Emmett and work our way from there," I suggested.
"God," Edward groaned, "Emmett is going to be a idiot."
"Opposed to every other moment of his life?"
Edward momentarily smirked at that one. "He's going to do something stupid and or potentially dangerous, and probably not in the least bit funny." All true.
"If his present to you ticks, don't open it. It might be a bomb."
"Don't put it past him..." Edward trailed off with a mutter, shaking his head.
I chuckled silently and settled into my seat, deciding not to distract him from the busy roads that were also icy and now snowy. He drove better than me in these conditions, but since I didn't set the bar too terribly high, I decided best not to bug him.
Within minutes I felt my phone begin to buzz. I wiggled and pulled it out of my back pocket, checking the caller ID and rolling my eyes.
"Hey," I answered as Edward looked over at me with a raised eyebrow.
"No Merry Christmas? Glad I wasted time to call you, Swan," Brenner mocked. I shook my head in amusement.
"Merry Christmas!" I tried, with over enthusiasm that may have sounded slightly sarcastic. Edward jumped in his seat at my tone and volume.
"Tone it down on the caffeine," he advised.
"Any particular reason you are calling? Just spreading the holiday cheer?" I asked sarcastically.
"I am cheerful!" He protested. I waited. "Your boyfriend cut me off. So don't be surprised by some tailgating in your future."
I turned my head and craned my neck around the seat to look out the window. I wasn't surprised to find Brenner trailing us in a SUV, his wife sitting in the passenger seat laughing. He nodded in greeting when he saw me looking. I made a show of rolling my eyes.
"I'm sure he didn't cut you off. You just have awfully slow reflexes," I said, turning and settling back into my seat with a smirk.
Edward, having watched me turn was now looking into his rear view mirror. He raised his hand in a wave which Brenner must have returned.
"Slow reflexes my ass..." he complained. I looked in the mirror to see him being swatted by his wife, hearing his complaints as well. "Owe!"
I heard scolding from his wife and smirked. She had been a favorite teacher of mine junior year. "He's two! He's practically asleep!" Brenner protested, referring to his young son in the back seat that I babysat.
"Thanks for getting me into trouble, kid," Brenner grumbled, talking to me now.
"I didn't swear," I replied smugly.
"Whatever, smart A-S-S," he spelled.
I laughed, and Edward grinned, still finding our conversation funny. "You should not be on the phone while driving. Your automotive skills are already a danger to society." Brenner had T-boned someone last year, missing golf practice for it.
"That crash was not my fault! That D-O-U-C-H-E ran a red light." I laughed again.
"Well at least you can spell, so you have that going on for you!" I replied, cheerily.
"You know what Swan, you're ruining my Christmas spirit," he informed me. I smirked once more.
"And here I thought I was being witty."
"You've never once been witty. It's mostly just distasteful sarcasm." Well ouch. Edward laughed in a short burst but was silenced when I narrowed my eyes at him.
"If there's anyone on this freeway that's distasteful, it's most definitely you."
Brenner laughed back. "I'm not even going to begin to correct that statement, oh delusional one. I have to be going because as I have just been informed, my driving S-U-C-K-S."
"Well Merry Christmas Brenner," I smiled, turning and waving around at them. I got waves and smiles back.
"Back at ya, kid." I turned the phone off and smirked, shaking my head in fond exasperation.
"If he starts tailgating me, I will slam on the brakes," Edward told me, chuckling. Edward and Brenner had met a few times throughout the years and seemed to get along better than I expected.
"I'd expect nothing less," I grinned.
We arrived at Carlisle and Esme's home about 15 minutes later. It was nice being so close to them, without being right under their noses. Carlisle opened the door for us and ushered us in, out of the quickly falling snow, and we gave the customary holiday hugs in greeting. We of course had to go into the kitchen to hug Esme.
"Wine?" Esme offered me as I sat on a stool at the counter watching her with cautiously amused look.
"I'm not quite legal yet, Es," I reminded her.
"Oh yeah," her brows furrowed before she shrugged and held up the bottle again. "Want some anyway?"
Definitely been staring at the turkey too long.
She must have seen my amused look because she set the bottle down. "I'm not drunk! I've only had my half a glass!" she informed me. I rolled my eyes. "Really!"
"Hey, when are the rest of them getting here?" I asked as she sat down in the stool across from me, still managing to keep a relatively good look at the roasting bird.
"Alice and Jasper should be here in a couple hours, and Rose and Emmett will arrive whenever they feel like it I guess."
"Have you seen the news? The snow is supposed to keep going for awhile now. I think we could get snowed in." I had been keeping an eye on the weather for awhile, because what else was I suppose to use my iPhone for?
Esme nodded, taking a sip of water. "Yeah, the winds are going to get bad. You think I should call them and tell them to get here earlier?"
"It wouldn't hurt. Rose should have her cookies stacked by now." Esme raised a confused eyebrow while getting her phone out. "Don't ask."
So, Esme arranged for the rest of them to get here earlier than planned and went about the kitchen checking on various things that were cooking. I watched, knowing she probably wouldn't let me touch anything.
Edward came into the kitchen a little later whistling a Christmas song. I smiled as his arms wrapped around my waist and his chin rested on top of mine. I relaxed against his body and put my arms on top of his.
"How's it going?" he asked quietly, kissing the side of my head sweetly.
"Excellently," I replied, nuzzling against him.
Esme was staring at us with a smile. She then abruptly turned towards the door and hollered, "Carlisle!"
"Yes Hun?" he asked, striding into the kitchen.
"Why don't we look like that?" She demanded, throwing a look at Edward and I. I felt Edward silently chuckle.
Carlisle didn't seem to know if there was a right answer.
Esme sighed, rolling her eyes. I saw her eyes dance and knew she was just teasing him. "Are you finished wrapping?"
"I finished wrapping them days ago, Sweetheart." Carlisle lied with a smirk. Esme just shook her head, a small smile on her lips.
"Next year, you're getting-" But we never did get to hear what Esme would be getting Carlisle.
A knock interrupted her train of thought. Carlisle went out to grab the door. I stood up, and instead of releasing me, Edward simply loosened his hold and walked to the door with me, his arms engulfing me. I didn't bother fighting back a smile.
Alice and Jasper were stepping in the foray, brushing the snow off of their jackets before shutting the door. I smiled as Alice gave Carlisle a hug before coming to me and hugging me, brushing Edward impatiently away with a laugh.
Hugs were exchanged and presents were added to the pile under the tree. Alice joined Esme and I in the kitchen, while Jasper, Carlisle and Edward went into the living room in search of a football game that would be starting momentarily.
We were still in the process of catching up with Alice when the doorbell rang four times obnoxiously.
Before someone could get to the door it was thrust open. And there stood Emmett and Rosalie in all of their glory, snowflakes flying in with them. "I'm here!" Emmett announced loudly before proceeding to shake the snow off all over. Rosalie shot him an annoyed look for getting her wet. She then set down my puppy Sarge.
The moment Sarge was on the ground, Edward's golden retriever Ares followed. I did a double take and then raised an eyebrow.
Ares was sporting a doggy Santa hat, and not looking too pleased about it. My little Yorkie Sarge was excitedly yipping. Dressed as an elf. He had a little green and red hat that had a bell on it, and he was swearing a doggy dress/sweater/shirt thing with matching colors.
Esme and Alice followed behind me, and when they saw my dogs, they burst out laughing hysterically. I had to follow after a moment. The only one who wasn't in hysterics was Edward. He was trying to hide his chuckles with a frown as he crouched down in front of his unhappy dog.
"Em, what the hell?"
"He's Santa!" Emmett laughed as he slipped his shoes and jacket off.
Edward rolled his eyes at Emmett's stating of the obvious. "Well no shi- duh!"
In front of Carlisle and Esme, mostly just Esme, he made it a point to not swear. Lord knows why, since Esme probably swore more than him.
Sarge darted over to me and was hopping up and down before I laughed and scooped him up. He licked at my face excited as his tail went back and forth. I couldn't help but remember how at this time last year, I had met my puppy. My cute little elf from Edward.
"Are you ready for some football?" Emmett boomed, walking into the living room and plopping himself down right in the middle of the couch.
"Packers aren't playing until tomorrow," Alice taunted.
"Packers? Who the hell are they? Are they the ones playing my Lions tomorrow?" Emmett questioned mockingly oblivious.
Emmett was a Michigan, through and through. There were some pretty hefty bets taking place about the winner of that game between him and others, myself included.
Edward pulled me down to the love seat and snuggled up with me. His precious Bears were on, and heaven forbid we missed that. I just laughed and curled up with him as everyone else situated themselves into various places and various conversations. Sarge curled up with us as well, contentedly eating the elf hat that he had wiggled off.
I was just as content as him, I realized as I looked around the room. I was so glad to have everyone I loved her, safe and together. It was the greatest gift I could possibly get for the holidays.
I think I dozed off in between quarters of the game, as when I was roused awake, it was halftime. Edward was grinning down at me, and I leaned up to kiss him.
"I love you."
I touched his cheek. "I love you too."
"I'm so glad you're here with me Edward. You don't know how much it means to me."
Edward shook his head and kissed my cheek, "Bella, this is the best Christmas of my life. I can't seem to ever find the right words, but I love you so fucking much that.
I melted and snuggled impossibly closer. "I know what you mean."
Edward started to quietly hum something, linking my hands with his tenderly. I recognized the song, All I Want for Christmas is You, just moments before I heard his voice softly sign in my ear, "Holding on to me so tight. What more can I do? Baby all I want for Christmas is you. Santa won't you bring me the one I really love, won't you please bring my baby to me."
My eyes teared up, and I quickly blinked them away. But Edward saw before they were gone, and he squeezed my hand even tighter, and pulled me closer to him.
We had to be touching.
It was some pull, like magnetic forces bring us together. But throughout the day, we had to constantly be in contact with each other. Maybe it was the season, maybe it was just realizing how lucky we were to be together. Whatever it was, was powerful.
I pressed my face against his sweater chest and closed my eyes, the feeling of his heartbeat luring me to sleep.
This time, being woken up wasn't nearly as peaceful as it had been before.
"Just wait a second!"
"He better have scored that damn touchdown!"
"Why isn't it working?"
"I said to wait a second!"
"It's been like nine!"
"Up to 17 seconds!"
"For the love of God."
"We're all adults!"
"That's relevant how?"
"Just shut up."
"I will kill you."
The conversations continued but I was able to slowly turn my head and see that we were now all sitting in the dark. The power seemed to have gone out. I watched in amusement with no dire sense of urgency as Emmett, Alice, Jasper, Rose and occasionally Esme and Carlisle argued. Edward only chimed in the once. The Bears must have needed that touchdown, because that was the only thing I heard from him.
"Relax, I'm sure it's just the storm. The power will be back on in a few minutes at most," Carlisle assured all of us.
A few minutes later, we were sitting the dark.
"Well now what?" Rose asked, looking around at no one in particular. Emmett opened his mouth but Rose raised an eyebrow and said a firm, "Don't." And his mouth was shut.
"I'll go get the candles," Esme sighed. Alice rose to help her and within five minutes half of the house was bathed by a soft orange glow from the dozens of candles that I didn't know we possessed.
"I think we might as well eat, since things are pretty much done and it doesn't seem like we'll have power again." Well that was a twist.
So, in the candle light, we had a family dinner. Everything had tasted amazing, despite the fact that Esme was convinced her turkey was undercooked. I thought it tasted fantastic, and it was nice to just shove our faces full of food and talk. All of us but one did the two separately.
I had to confiscate Edward's phone halfway through, as he could not go two minutes without checking the score of the game on his phone. He sheepishly put it in my hand and went back to his dinner.
I let him know the score two minutes later. We shared a grin as I reported that the Bears were up.
Once our bellies were stuffed to the brim, Esme brought out the cookies. I was able to scarf down two, promising myself that the gym would be in my future in the next week. Emmett polished off at least six.
Alice excused herself from the table and headed in the direction of the bathroom. No one thought anything of this until we heard a loud shriek and a small thud.
Our curious gazes were all focused on the bathroom door before Emmett voiced what we were all thinking, "Did ya fall in?" he called.
There was no response except for a flush and a quick splash of the faucet before the door was slammed open.
"Yes I did you God damn idiot!" she yelled angrily.
I burst out laughing.
"Which one of you left the toilet seat up?" she demanded, her hands on her hips, furious.
The tears started to leak from my eyes and my stomach hurt from laughing so hard.
Jasper and Edward had the same reaction I did, but managed to shake their heads back and forth.
"You. Ass. Hole." Alice said with icy fury, staring at Emmett with murderous eyes.
Emmett looked genuinely frightened, and I couldn't be sure with the candles, but seemed to have paled considerably.
"Isn't there a candle in there?" Emmett squeaked.
"Do you think I would have fallen into the fucking toilet had their been?" Alice shrieked. I was concerned that I may pee my pants from laughing.
Emmett didn't respond to her question. Alice took that silence as an answer.
"Someone give me something to throw at him. Now."
I managed to toss her a spoon I hadn't used. Then we all watched in amazement as Alice whipped the spoon with amazing accuracy. Emmett managed to move his head, but it collided with his shoulder in what looked to be incredibly painful.
Alice grinned, satisfied as Emmett let out a loud curse and rubbed his shoulder, looking legitimately full of discomfort. I watched in amazement as Alice sat daintily down at the table and asked for Jasper to pass her a cookie.
Emmett just gaped at her.
To be fair, had I fallen into the icy water of a toilet, I may have had the same reaction as she had. In fact, I guarantee you I would have done much worse than Alice.
"Time for presents yet?" Esme asked brightly. She had managed to keep her reaction under control the best. I was still trying to sit up and wipe tears out of my eyes.
So, we transitioned to the living room around the lovely tree that was spilling with wrapped gifts. I sat down at the loveseat and Edward sat down the floor, leaning against my legs.
"Where's our little elf?" Rosalie asked, looking around for my puppy.
"He's leading a rebellion against the elfin ways," I replied, looking over by the fireplace where Sarge was still tearing apart his hat.
"I'll be the elf!" Alice volunteered, bouncing up from her spot next to Jasper and going over to the tree. Mid stride, she froze and turned and looked at Emmett, daring him to make a comment.
Rosalie laughed at her frozen boyfriend, while Alice turned and continued on her way to the tree. Alice picked gifts up and handed them to their receivers, throwing a few at Emmett, effectively nailing him in the head once.
Poor Emmett, getting the brunt of everything. I actually didn't feel too bad for him, because I knew he could take it as well as he dished it.
And so, gifts were exchanged, laughs were heard and hugs were given once more. None of the couples gave each other presents in front of everyone, mostly for the obvious reasons.
When things were starting to die down, Esme rose from her seat next to me and Carlisle and crouched down in front of the tree. She came up a with a small present and sat back down between us, handing the box to me. It was about the size of DVD, but thicker and heavier.
I looked at her curiously, but she just smiled at me. Taking a breath, I started to remove the wrapping paper. I lifted the cover of the box and felt my breath leave my body in a gasp.
In the box was a silver picture frame with the words beautifully inscribed, "A sister is one who reaches for your hand and touches your heart." But what made me gasp was the picture.
A black and white ultrasound.
With my mouth open, I looked over at Esme who was smiling at me with tears twinkling in her eyes. Carlisle had his arm wrapped around Esme and was grinning at me as well.
"You're pregnant?" I breathed.
With a tearful smile, she nodded.
"Mom!" I threw my arms around her body and crushed her to me, feeling my own tears leak out.
Esme had miscarried more than three times throughout her and Carlisle's marriage, though she was only 35. That was one of the reasons that they had adopted me, thinking they would be unable to ever have children of their own.
I knew that this meant the absolute world to Esme. And thinking about how absolute blissful they must be, made me cry in happiness for them. This was everything to them.
I pulled away from Esme, and we both let out a teary laugh seeing each others faces. I then proceeded to attack Carlisle with a hug. This man had been an amazing father to me, and I knew he would be impossibly better to his second child.
"Love you, Bella," he whispered, hugging me back tightly.
When we pulled away from each other, we shared a giant smile before I sat back down and carefully picked up the beautiful frame again.
"You're going to have a baby?" Rosalie asked, her eyes wide with awe. Esme nodded again, and covered her mouth as tears flowed down. Rosalie proceeded to attack each of them in giant hugs.
I looked over at Alice and Jasper. No one else saw them, but I didn't miss Jasper comfortingly putting his head against Alice's. They each closed their eyes for a moment before smiling bravely at one another.
I knew this would be hard on her, but she was Alice. She would pull through. I was so proud of her for how far she had come since Riley's miscarriage.
More hugs and congratulations were passed throughout the room. Even Emmett seemed to have mellowed out with announcement, pulling Esme gently to her feet and wrapping her in a bear hug, before shaking Carlisle's hand. Of course Emmett couldn't resist and they ended up hugging as well.
Edward sat down on the couch next to me and we looked down at the picture together. It was grainy, but it was a baby. I put my head on his shoulder, and his head rested on mine. This would be us one day. We both knew it and glowed with that knowledge.
"I'm 16 weeks," Esme told me, and everyone else after everyone had returned to their respective spots.
I wondered how I hadn't noticed, but then realized that with finals and my first semester of college wrapping up, I hadn't spent much time with her. That, and she was wearing a loose shirt.
"So that's why you weren't drunk!" I exclaimed, laughing. Esme had managed to wipe all of her tears away and was laughing.
"Next year I will be! Damn bird," she shook her head. Carlisle leaned in and kissed her temple tenderly and pulled her closer to him.
"I'm going to be a sister..." I reveled, finding the thought impossible to grasp.
"100 bucks it's a boy." Emmett announced, opening anyone to challenge.
And challenge everyone did.
We soon had an organized gambling ring going on. It was going to be a girl. I was confident in this. Thoughts of a little sister flooded through my mind, and I found myself wanting this. But not only wanting it for me, wanting it for this whole crazy family that we had formed.
Instead of watching our customary holiday movie, with the power being out and all, we all just sat around the living room with a few candles on the coffee table, and ended up talking for hours like we would had we been around a campfire.
It was evident that the roads were unsafe, but more than that, not drivable. So around midnight, that posed the interesting situation of being all stuck in the house together.
Edward and I had dibs on my bedroom, as Esme had left it as it had been. Alice and Jasper immediately claimed the bedroom that Alice had had when she lived with us. And that left Emmett and Rose with the only open room, being our second guest bedroom that Edward had stayed in during his first leave. Edward and I shared a look, thinking about the times we had had in there and praying that Emmett and Rosalie wouldn't break it in further.
"It's going to get really cold in here with the heat being out, so," Carlisle said after yawning, "do what ya gotta do."
After seeing him yawn, I yawned as well. I was ready to sleep and I rubbed my eyes to try and wake up more. Edward grinned at me, evidently finding it cute.
"So, are we gonna do the whole 'Twas the night before Christmas thing? Or are we just gonna hit the hay?" Emmett asked, stretching his arms out and shifting Rosalie on his lap.
Esme rubbed her stomach sleepily and gave Emmett a look. "'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, everyone was cuddled up with their spouse. Emmett's bruise was showing from the spoon. He got that for being an idiotic goon. The dogs are nestled on the floor, glad to have their soldiers home from the war...and...that's all I got. We can go to bed now."
And with that, we were effectively dismissed.
Good nights were wished before everyone began to slowly get up and take candles with them, blowing the rest out. I was just standing up when I felt the floor being taken away from me. Edward had scooped me up into his arms and was now walking up the stairs.
"I can walk," I pointed out sleepily, not protesting whatsoever.
"Details," he dismissed with his own tired grin.
We settled into my bedroom as easily as into our own back at the house. Edward had a theory that if we slept naked, we would be able to stay warmer without the heat.
I was easily persuaded.
Edward's somehow warm body curled around my and he pulled me against his chest. I melted against his body and nearly fell asleep right then, but Edward's quiet words held me back.
"Merry Christmas to all..."
I smiled, "And to all a goodnight."
"Love you Bella," he nuzzled his nose against my neck lovingly.
"I love you too Sergeant."
I wish all of you the merriest of Christmases! And the very best for any and all holidays celebrated this time of year!