(Bella-Cannon pairing/ AH/ OOC and taking fiction liberties with military procedures.)
Summary: Bella is prepared to spend her first Christmas without her husband Marine Sgt Edward Cullen. But this is no ordinary Christmas.
AN: Well, it's that time of year again: CHRISTMAS! Here's a very special Christmas story that's very dear to my heart, and I hope you all enjoy it as well. WARNING: Kleenex will be needed.
Stephanie Meyer owns all things Twilight. No infringement is intended and I make no money from writing this story.
Bella is listening and singing to "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Vince Vance. Link is on my profile.
"Take back the holly and mistletoe, silver bells on string. If I wrote a letter to Santa Claus, I would ask for just one thing. I don't need sleigh rides in the snow; don't want a Christmas that's blue. Take back the tinsel, stockings and bows 'cause all I want for Christmas is you.
"I don't need expensive things, they don't matter to me. All that I want can't be found underneath the Christmas tree. You are the angel that tops my tree, you are my dream come true. Santa can't bring me what I need 'cause all I want for Christmas is you. —"
"Bella dear," Esme called softly, breaking me from my song as I sat in the living room staring at the Christmas tree with tears trailing down my face. The music kept playing in the background, this song was perfect for me and I couldn't help but get lost in the words and sing along.
"Hmm," I sighed, turning toward my mother in-law as she sat down next to me with my sleeping daughter in her arms.
"Oh, honey, everything's going to be okay. Don't worry, he'll be home soon. Nothing can keep him away from you, you know that."
"I know. It just gets worse every day, and even more now with Christmas almost here. I keep waiting for that car to pull up, and the knock at the door. It's bad enough he doesn't even know he has a daughter yet. I couldn't bare to tell him I was pregnant over the phone and risk him doing something stupid just to come back to me afterwards; because I know he would have," I cried, fresh tears streaming down my face even faster now.
"Bella, he's okay. You have to believe that," Jasper said coming into the living room. He probably heard my rant from upstairs.
"Then why don't we know anything yet? Why can't you get a hold of anyone who would know?" I replied, wanting someone to get angry at, someone to blame.
It was Christmas Eve and a little over eleven months now since I said goodbye to my husband, Marine Sgt Edward Cullen, when he and our brother in-law Cpl Jasper Whitlock were sent to Afghanistan for a nine month long deployment. Just after they left I found out I was pregnant. I have only been able to talk to him briefly a few times over the phone when he would call since then; and I say briefly as in only able to say "I love you" and "I miss you" before he would have to go. It was a relief to even get those calls.
In August we all got a surprise when Jasper came home covered in scars and bandages and sporting a Purple Heart. Alice, Edward's younger sister, was beside herself with joy and worry for both her husband's wounds and her brother's unknown condition. Jasper wasn't able to tell us much about what happened, only what he could remember. They were driving in a convoy when the vehicle in front of them hit an IED; their Humvee was caught in the blast. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital two weeks later; they wouldn't tell him anything about Edward. Jasper had been driving and sustained mostly surface injuries from flying shrapnel. He was discharged and sent home as soon as he was healthy enough for traveling. I still didn't know if my Edward was all right, or how exactly he would be coming home to me. They were scheduled to be home sometime on October.
I had been put on bed-rest and constant surveillance due to stress, choosing to move from our home in Quantico, Virginia back to Forks, Washington and live with Edward's parents, Esme and Dr. Carlisle Cullen for the remainder of my pregnancy. This way I was also closer to my father and stepmother, Charlie and Sue Swan, who were also living here in Forks. Every day I was waiting for that knock on the door telling me my husband was never coming home.
Almost a month after Jasper's return home, our daughter, Renesmee Carlie Cullen, was born. She was our little miracle. She was so beautiful with her father's hair color and his nose, chin and ears. We had been trying for a baby since we finally got married two years ago. Figures now it would actually happen; when he was on the other side of the world fighting a war.
As the holiday season came closer, I got more depressed and lonely despite having my daughter to take care of and an always seemingly full house of in-laws. Luckily for me I was able to stay at the Cullen mansion after Renesmee was born due to my maternity leave from work. Both Carlisle and Esme enjoyed having their granddaughter around and definitely didn't mind helping me take care of her. I was definitely grateful for the help even though the mere thought of Edward and seeing his picture everywhere would bring me to tears and I'd break down constantly. And despite what the doctors saw in me, I was not having postpartum depression from the pregnancy; I couldn't be happier to finally have my little girl to hold! She was my lifeline, my saving grace from insanity. She was spoiled and happy, and that's what kept me going every day. I had the whole third floor, all two rooms and bathrooms, to myself. Edward's bedroom was already up there, and Esme had turned her storage/craft room into Renesmee's nursery as soon as she found out I was pregnant.
Normally the holiday season was my favorite time of the year, my favorite three months. It was a time to have fun with friends on Halloween in October; a time to be thankful for everything we had with family for Thanksgiving in November; and a time to share the joys of Christmas with loved ones in December. This year though, it was extremely hard for me especially to feel any of that. And it wasn't without effort from my father, stepmother and every single one of my in-laws either.
Before Thanksgiving, both of Edward's siblings and their spouses decided to take the rest of the year off and stay with us in Forks. And early on Christmas Eve, Charlie and Sue joined us too; don't get me wrong, the house was plenty big enough to fit us all comfortably, and then some. I knew why they were doing this and I greatly appreciated the gesture, but it didn't help my mood and wouldn't bring my husband home any faster.
"I don't know, Bella. I'm sorry," Jasper sighed, defeated. I knew this was hard for him too, as well as everyone else under this roof, and I wasn't helping matters either with my own mood-swings.
Finally everyone joined us in the living room with freshly made cheesecake and hot cocoa before going up to bed. We all sat together and sang carols and laughed together as we retold memories from Christmas' past growing up. It was a somber time for everyone even still, we all could see it in each other's faces, even though Alice and Emmett, Edward's older brother, did try to lighten the mood. They succeeded a few times, I will give them that. Even Jasper tried to cheer us up and give me hope. I just needed proof, and that was something not even he could give as much as he tried.
When everyone had gone up to bed and I put Renesmee down; I stayed up to put a few extra gifts under the tree before sitting down in front of the simmering fire with another cup of hot cocoa and a blanket around my shoulders. Most of the gifts under the tree were for Renesmee. This would be her first Christmas, one without her father. I had finally gone to bed when I couldn't keep my eyes open and cried myself to sleep.
Once I fell asleep through the tears the only thing I saw, like every night recently, was my love's face staring back at me. He was always giving me his crooked smile, the one that I loved and he knew it. I always felt calmer seeing his face in my dreams, like he was telling me everything was going to be okay.
What seemed like seconds later, I felt soft lips against my forehead. It felt so real. I moaned softly, melting deeper in the bed. Then I heard a familiar velvet voice I've missed so much whisper "I love you." I could've sworn I was hallucinating while my Adonis was still smirking at me in my head.
Then I heard my lullaby Edward wrote for me on the piano playing softly through the room. As it played Renesmee started crying, waking me up completely. The notes played a while longer before cutting off abruptly mid-note when her cries got louder throughout the house. I knew I wasn't dreaming then; no one else knew that song, and he never wrote it down.
I glanced at the clock on the nightstand and noticed that it was only 6 AM, I had been asleep for about five hours. Groggily I made my way to the nursery to get my daughter; once she's up, she's awake until I feed and change her, no matter what time it was.
"Morning, baby girl," I cooed as I picked her up, placing a kiss to her auburn head as I quickly forgot about everything else this morning. "Merry Christmas, sweetheart. Let's get you a bottle and changed, and hopefully the whole house isn't awake already with your wake-up call, what do you say?" It was a long shot no one else was awake, but I was hoping we both could get a few more hours of sleep.
But as soon as I stepped out of the room and headed for the stairs, I heard someone playing the piano again and movement from the floor below me. Sighing, I made my way down the stairs, meeting a curious Alice coming out of her own room. Then the sweetest voice sang up to us accompanying the piano singing "I'll be Home for Christmas".
Alice and I froze and Renesmee was silent again as we listened. Edward. He was here, unless this was someone's cruel idea for a joke.
Holding Renesmee tighter to my chest, we suddenly couldn't move fast enough down the final flight of stairs. There, at the base of the tree in front of us, amidst all the presents, was a rucksack with the initials E.A.C. printed on it and a smiling Jasper watching us with wet eyes. Alice ran to him as I rounded the corner to see the piano on the other side of the living room. There, sitting at the piano with his back to the room sat my Adonis, my life, my Edward wearing his Dress Blues with his cover delicately placed next to him on the bench where I used to sit.
I froze as soon as I saw him, afraid to move any closer for fear of waking up to a world where Edward was missing. Renesmee watched her father silently from my arms, captivated by his voice like I was. Quietly Emmett and Rose, and Charlie and Sue joined us to see what was going on, followed quickly by Carlisle and Esme. I could feel the waves of shock behind me as they all froze in stunned silence with the sight before them and the words he was singing.
I couldn't take it anymore, forcing myself to believe this was actually real and he was finally home. I quickly made my way with our daughter toward the piano. I picked up his cover with my free hand and sat down next to my husband. Renesmee squirmed a little impatiently, wondering what I was doing and where the food was. I quickly adjusted her so she could see her father and she quieted down again, thankfully.
When the song ended, Edward closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around my back, bringing us closer to his side, kissing the top of my head and breathing in my hair.
"Bella," he sobbed. "Merry Christmas. I'm sorry I'm late."
"Oh, Edward," I cried into his shoulder. "This is the best Christmas ever now that you're home and alive. I've missed you. We've missed you," I added the last part emphasizing the bundle in my arms.
Edward broke away from me so he could finally see my face. He looked curiously at me, questions filling his eyes when he saw our daughter's face smiling back at him. She immediately knew who he was. "This is Renesmee Carlie Cullen. She was born September 10th. I found out I was pregnant after you left. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before, I regret that now. But she's you're daughter, Edward. Merry Christmas!"
"We have a daughter?" he said reverently to himself after a few moments to let the words sink in as he reached out to stroke her cheek. She giggled at him, grabbing for his fingers. "She's beautiful, just like her mother. Thank you, Bella. I love you, both of you so much."
"Edward," Esme cried from Carlisle's arms behind us, not able to hold herself back anymore while we had our moment. We both turned to see our entire family in the living room. Edward stood pulling me up beside him as Esme came running to her son, embracing him in a hard hug. He grimaced and sucked in a quick breath upon impact. Quickly she let go of him at the sound, worry spread across her face as she and I both looked him over. That's when I noticed it. There, on his chest, was pinned a Purple Heart, just like Jasper's.
"Edward? What happened?" I asked before Esme could, reaching up to touch it, unsure if I really should or wanted to. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I promise," he tried to reassure us. "I'm perfect now that I'm home with my family."
"Come, I'll fix us all something special for breakfast. What would you like, dear?" Esme said, apparently okay with his half-answer. She was looking in her son's eyes as if still not really believing that he was really there.
"Anything's fine, Mom. Honestly, I'm okay."
She nodded then and headed for the kitchen, taking Renesmee in with her so I could stay with my husband.
A chorus of "Welcome homes" and "Merry Christmases" filled the room while we all moved out to the kitchen and dining room for breakfast. Edward wanted to see everything Esme, Sue and I did with Renesmee. He insisted on holding her and feeding her the bottle of breast milk, and even volunteered to change her next diaper, since Esme had already done it when we came in. When Renesmee was fed and changed, she was happily content to sleep in her father's arms. The grin on his face was priceless and perfect, and my heart melted at the sight of them finally together. He loved her already. To be quite honest, it wasn't hard to either; she had everyone wrapped around her little finger the minute she was born.
Everyone was waiting for Edward to explain what happened while we ate. Finally he told us that when the vehicle exploded, he took most of the damage while Jasper was semi protected by the steering column. A few pieces of shrapnel went through his uniform and gear, penetrating his chest and legs. He was lucky he didn't bleed out and die right then. He was told later that he had flat-lined several times while they transferred him to the medical unit, and on to a major hospital in a neighboring country. They kept him sedated the entire time, going from stable to critical within a matter to minutes while they tried to repair all of the internal bleeding and surface wounds. He told us they didn't know what to report on his condition. So they opted for silence aside from only those that absolutely needed to know in the chain of command, deciding to save his family from any heartache and unnecessary pain of dealing with possible misinformation. I couldn't help but think as much as it hurt not knowing what was going on with him, I was glad I didn't know.
Just a few weeks ago he was released completely to come home from physical therapy due to some nerve and muscle damage he'd sustained and to make sure he didn't suffer too much from PTSD. He decided himself then that he wanted to come home as a surprise, only confiding in Jasper secretly through coded texts. Jasper let him know only that we were all staying here in Forks so the surprise would be for the entire family as well. And it was Jasper who let him in the house early this morning when the cab dropped him off at the end of the long driveway, just shortly after I had finally gone up to bed.
"And here I though I was going to be the only Christmas surprise," Edward said happily when he finished his story. "Now I've also got a very special surprise of my own: a daughter! This is truly the best Christmas!"
AN: I know that's not the way the military does things when Soldiers and Marines are injured. But it works for this story.
The inspiration for this story came from watching videos of Soldiers surprise their loved ones by coming home. And Josh Groban's song "I'll be home for Christmas" that he remade as 'Coping with the Holidays' solidified the idea. It's the one you hear on the radio that brings a tear to my eye every time they play it, the one with personal messages from Soldiers who were fighting over seas at the time. Unfortunately the only place to find the remade version of the song online is by buying his Noel CD or downloading the MP3 track for $0.99. It's not on YouTube yet (I'm trying to work on that). And no, I'm not getting paid anything to say this.
I really hope you all liked this story! Please let me know what you thought of it, and what you think of the idea of turning it into a multi-chapter story in the near future!
Thank you so much, and have a very special Merry Christmas! And THANK YOU also to all the men and women who give their lives to serve their country, and WELCOME HOME to those who are coming back from Iraq this season. To those still in Afghanistan, we love you and miss you and hope you can come home soon!