Disclaimer: We don't own Twilight.

Author Notes

Welcome to a little Christmas surprise, a colab between Dooba and me, a gift from us to our readers to thank you for being so great to us over the past year. This will be a short story, six chapters, beginning today and ending Christmas Day. We will post simultaneously on our individual profiles. I will be writing Edward, and Dooba will be writing Bella.

James in this story is dedicated to Divine Inspiration and Shelikesthesound in honor of the Diva.

Enjoy, and happy holidays!


Edward

I lay on my back in the sun. Bella was lying next to me, her head on my chest, her long hair spread around her. We were in our meadow on a rare sunny day in Forks. A picnic basket sat apart from us, remnants of our lunch showing inside.

"You're so beautiful," I murmured, "I love you so much."

"I love you, too," she whispered back, "And just think, one week from today, we'll be married. I can't wait to be your wife."

"Me either."

I ran my hands through her silky hair, down her back, pulling her closer to me.

We kissed for a long time. The feel of her body pressed against mine made me hard with wanting her.

"I want you," she breathed, "Make love to me."

I turned us so I was lying on top. I reached for her shirt, but suddenly, she was gone.

"Bella, Bella," I cried into nothingness, "Bella where are you? Bella, come back."

I awoke with a shudder. There were tears on my cheeks, and I no longer felt ashamed of tears. They told me I was still alive, still me, Edward Cullen, still in love with my wife and still hanging on to a shred of hope.

It was cold. It was dark. How long had I been in this hole or cell, whatever it was anyway? A day? A week? A year? Ten? I couldn't remember anymore. I couldn't even remember if it was day or night. Everything ran together in monotonous patterns.

I was hungry. I was always hungry these days.

I ran my hands over my face, feeling the beard, tugging at my hair. It was long now. I'd never worn a beard before. Would Bella even recognize me? But rebel captors don't really give a damn about niceties like haircuts and shaving. It surprised me that from time to time, they even gave me a pale of cold water to wash myself.

They didn't talk to me much. Most of them didn't speak English. In the beginning, they'd tried to get info out of me, but I didn't have any important info to give, and besides, I wouldn't give in to them, no matter what.

I was so lonely. I ached for my wife with a yearning, gnawing ache that hadn't diminished one bit since my captivity. Sometimes, I thought that her memory was the only thing keeping me sane. I wanted to get out of that damn cell. I wanted to go home.

I lay back and remembered how I'd gotten into this hellhole.

I had been on patrol with my squad the day everything went to hell.

"It's so fucking hot," my buddy James had grumbled, "This damn desert is going to kill me."

"No kidding," I agreed, "I sure miss Washington, rain, green. Bella, my family."

"This is going to be your last stint," James said, "What are you gonna do after you get out?"

"I'm going to finish getting my medical degree and then go into practice with my dad."

"After you finish making love to Bella for two years without stop," James laughed.

"Fucker," I laughed back.

Bella and I had been high school sweethearts. I know that stuff doesn't usually last, but it had for us. We'd gone to college together and gotten married after graduating. I'd started medical school, but somewhere along the line, I'd felt compelled to join the army to help the effort in Iraq. They needed medics, and I wanted to help.

It was the biggest fight Bella and I had ever had. She didn't want me to go. Eventually, she accepted it, and I promised no matter what, I'd come home to her.

When my first tour of duty was over, I came home, taking her into my arms and kissing her hard.

"See, I told you I'd always come home to you," I told her, "Even if I have to crawl, I'm always coming home to you."

She didn't say much when I went on the next tour of duty, but when I decided to go back for one more she was terrified. She said she had a bad feeling about it.

I left her with my same promise, a promise that I would be coming home.

James nudged me out of my thoughts of Bella and that last conversation.

"You still want me to come to Forks with you when the time comes?" James asked.

"Yeah, man, of course I do," I assured him, "I told Bella, and she agrees. You don't have any family, and I've got more than enough to go around. Bella's dad says he'll give you a job in the police department if you want. They can't wait to meet you."

"You know I might steal your lovely wife," James teased.

"Asshole," I teased back, "Nothing can come between Bella and me. But don't be surprised if she and my mom, sister and sister-in-law don't try to set you up."

We had laughed together, the last laughter I would know for a very long time.

They had come at us out of nowhere, a band of rebels, a bomb. Some of my squad was injured, and of course, I stopped to help them, getting injured myself.

"Cullen, come on," James had screamed.

I was kneeling beside a boy who had gotten a direct hit in the gut and was bleeding out. I couldn't leave him.

"Go, go, go!" I yelled back at James, "Get the men to safety. James, when you get home, tell Bella—tell her I love her."

James stared at me for a long moment, but he knew his first responsibility was to take care of the rest of the squad. He nodded sadly, as the rebels surrounded me.

That was the last thing I saw before losing consciousness. When I awoke, I was a prisoner of some unknown rebel group. I had no idea where I was or if I'd ever be released. I clung to the memories of my pre Iraq life, particularly to the memories of my Bella.

Sometimes, I dreamed of the smell of my mom's apple pie baking. Sometimes, I dreamed of the strawberry fragrance of Bella's shampoo. Memories of home were never far away. They both comforted me and tore me apart, remembering everything I'd had, everything I'd lost.

I sat up, hugging my knees to my chest, sending out the thought I sent all the time. Wishing, hoping somehow, my Bella could know.

"Be safe my love," I whispered, "Be happy. I'm so sorry I couldn't keep my promise to you this time. I love you."