Hi everyone! Have you missed me? I've had an incredible year since finishing Seeing Bella. I was approached by a publisher and I wrote my first novel. I submitted it in October and I'm waiting to hear if it's been accepted. The dream of my life come true.
I wanted to write a sweet little Christmas fic to thank all my readers and friends from the Twilight fandom. My very favorite Christmas themed book is The Christmas Train, by David Baldacci. If you haven't read it, find a copy and give it a try. A little drama, a little mystery, a little romance and a whole lot of fun. I thought it would be cool to write a Twilight fic, based very loosely on the Christmas Train. Something short and sweet. I hope you'll enjoy. My plan is to post one chapter a day with the last on Christmas Day.
Thanks as always to my dear Dooba, beta and friend and everything. And to Chris who always gives great feedback and helps me keep my guys acting like guys.
You all know the scoop. I don't own Twilight. And I don't own the Christmas Train.
The Twilight Train
The cab pulled up to the station. Throwing cash at the driver, Edward Cullen grabbed his bags and flung the door open.
"Keep the change, driver," he yelled over his shoulder.
He was almost late. He hoped the train wouldn't leave without him. For some reason, his sister Alice had gotten the bright idea to get married at Christmas time, not only married at the possibly worst time of the year, but to get married on a cross-country train trip. Edward couldn't fathom what had possessed her to take such an idea into her head, but once Alice decided to do something, neither snow nor high water could talk her out of it.
Jasper Whitlock, Alice's soon-to-be husband, had been Edward's best friend since they'd met in high school. Alice was a couple years younger than they, but from the moment she first saw Jasper, she had determined to make him hers. Jasper had seen Alice the same way, and in time, they'd begun dating and had never been apart. Of course, Edward had to threaten to kick Jasper's ass if he ever hurt Alice, but secretly, he couldn't think of anyone better for his little sister. Jasper would care for her all the days of their lives, Edward knew.
So, now, here they all were, the entire family, boarding a train in Chicago and heading for Seattle, with Alice's wedding taking place somewhere along the way. She said she'd read about it in a book, and she wanted to do it. That's just Alice, Edward thought.
Reaching the train at a run, Edward dropped his suitcases and turned to greet the woman just inside the doors.
"Hello, I'm Edward Cullen."
She smiled. She looked Native American, Edward thought, with russet skin and dark hair and eyes. Her smile was warm and welcoming, and somehow, it made Edward feel a sort of homecoming feeling.
"Welcome, Mr. Cullen. I'm Emily Uley. Welcome to the Christmas Train."
Putting out her hand for Edward to shake, Emily reached for a clipboard with her other hand.
"Ah, you're in the wedding party," she said. "The rest of your family have already boarded. You all have berths on the same corridor. Just go up the stairs, turn right, and your compartment is the second one on the left side."
"Thank you, Emily."
He reached for his bags, but Emily waved him away.
"I'll bring those up in a little bit. I always come up to make sure the guests have everything they need and to get your dinner reservations. Go on up, Mr. Cullen."
"Call me Edward."
"All right, Edward. I'll see you in a little bit."
Turning toward the stairs, Edward began to climb the narrow flight. As he neared the top it seemed the light dimmed. He looked up to see the largest woman he'd ever seen in his life standing at the top, blocking his way. It was obvious that she was intending to start down the stairs he was attempting to climb up.
"Excuse me, ma'am," Edward said politely.
The woman did not respond. Staring out over his head, as if she didn't see him, she started to step down.
"Ma'am, please, could you just step back till I'm up these last couple stairs? There's only room for one on these stairs."
"Out of my way, sonny," and thrusting a meaty elbow into his ribs, the woman shoved him out of her way and headed down the stairs.
Flailing his arms in a desperate attempt to keep his balance, Edward lost the battle and fell back down the stairs, landing with a thump at the bottom.
"Ouch," he groaned and pulled himself into a sitting position.
"Mrs. Cope, behave yourself," Emily said, smothering a laugh.
"I forgot to give you your tip sweetie," the old lady said.
Looking over her shoulder at Edward, the woman smirked.
"Sorry there, sonny boy. Didn't mean to knock you over."
"Sure you didn't," Edward said under his breath.
The sound of a giggle from the top of the stairs caused Edward to look up. His sister stood there, hand over her mouth, eyes twinkling.
"Hey big brother," she said, "so glad you could make it. But, um, would you care to come up and see your berth?"
"Very funny, Alice."
Edward rose to his feet, unable to keep from grinning back at Alice. Her joy was always infectious.
"You okay there, Edward?" Emily asked.
"Sure. It's only my dignity that got hurt."
"Okay. I'll be up with your bags in a few minutes."
Emily went back to greet passengers, and Edward headed back to the stairs to join his sister and find his berth. This would surely be one hell of a trip, he thought. The train whistle blew as he reached the top of the stairs and the train began to roll down the track.
"Do you need Dad to check you out?" Alice asked as they walked down the corridor.
"No, I do not need Dad to check me out."
"Don't be a grump. We're on the Christmas Train, and I'm getting married to Jasper finally. Everything is wonderful, and I have a feeling great things are going to happen for you too."
She smiled her secret Alice smile, as if she knew something and couldn't wait to tell you about it. Edward pulled her hair playfully and laughed.
"Being here for your wedding is wonderful enough for me," he said.
"Here's your berth. It's just across the hall from Mom and Dad and Emmett and Rose are next to you. We're next to the parents. Good thing I packed light. Wait till you see the closet!"
"But you have room for your wedding dress of course."
"Of course. Actually, Emily is hiding it, so Jazzy can't see it before the wedding. Hey, I heard that big movie producer, Harry Clearwater is on board this train. He's going to Seattle too. Pretty cool, huh? Maybe I'll get to meet him."
"Yeah, cool." Edward shrugged.
He wasn't interested in the doings of a movie producer, even one whose movies he generally liked.
"Why don't you get settled and then we're all meeting in the club car in about an hour," Alice said. "Oh, and you'd better go check in with Mom. She's pissed you didn't meet her and Dad at the airport last night when they flew in."
"I knew we'd all be seeing each other today. And I had to get things settled at the hospital, turn over my patients and all."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just go say hi and give her a kiss and all will be forgiven. Oh, hi there, Emily."
Standing at the door with Edward's bags in her hands, Emily smiled.
"I'll see you in a bit," Alice said and left the doorway so Emily could enter.
"You should have let me bring those up," Edward said.
"It's my job. My husband, Sam, does it sometimes but he's busy getting everything ready in the club car."
Pulling out a notepad and pencil, Emily sat down.
"Now, I'm assuming you'll be having dinner with your family. Is that correct?"
"Yeah. Have they already scheduled a time?"
"The whole Cullen clan is scheduled for 6:30 this evening. You can go to the club car earlier than that if you want a snack or drink or something."
"Sounds good. How long have you worked on the train?"
"I've been doing this about twenty years, and my parents did it before me."
"Wow. Did you meet Sam on the train too?"
"No we met elsewhere. But he fell in love with the train the first time he took a trip with me," Emily stood up. "Now, there's a table in the corridor with snacks—cookies, crackers, fruit. There's also coffee and tea water. I keep it stocked, so if you need anything give me a holler."
"Thank you. I'm really blown away by all this."
"You're gonna love it. And we, all the train folk, we're all looking forward to your sister's wedding. She invited everyone."
"My sister never meets a stranger," he said.
"That's for sure. Well, it's been nice chatting with you Edward. I'll see you around."
With a wave, Emily left and Edward went across the corridor to knock on his parents' door.
"There you are!" Esme Cullen cried as Edward entered their compartment. "I've missed you. Isn't this exciting?"
"I was just in Seattle last summer," Edward answered, "but I'm sorry I could meet your plane yesterday. Got tied up with a patient."
"Everything all right, son?" Carlisle asked.
"Oh yes, just had to talk to a patient and his family about next steps."
"Now, no shop talk on this trip guys," Esme said with a laugh. "You both get lost in discussions about patients, and none of the rest of us can get a word in edgewise. This time should be all about Alice and her wedding and our family. I do so wish you'd move back to Seattle, dear."
"Leave him alone, Esme."
Carlisle touched her cheek softly and then turned back to Edward.
"How about we get the other guys and go to the club car for a drink?"
"That is a hell of a good idea," Edward said. "I barely made it here in time for the train."
"Edward." Esme took his hand. "When will it be your turn? You're almost thirty-five and you can't go on brooding forever."
Edward looked away. It was a long ongoing argument between Esme and him. His mother never could seem to accept that he was not ready to get married. Whenever he visited his family in Seattle, Esme would constantly invite unattached single girls to dinner, ending up upset and angry, as Edward treated them all with cool politeness. How could she not understand? There would never be anyone for him but—his mind tried to skitter away from the name but the thought crashed through his barriers—there would never be anyone for him but Bella.
"Tanya asks about you quite often," Esme continued.
"No thanks. She was so vapid and ridiculous. I could never care for someone like her, no matter how beautiful she was. She thought that being a pediatrician meant that I am a foot doctor."
Carlisle started to laugh.
"Let's go get that drink. Esme, please leave him alone. Let's just focus on the fact that we are all together. When Edward is ready to get involved seriously again, he will."
As Edward and Carlisle stepped into the corridor, they saw Emmett leaving his compartment, grinning his usual happy grin. Edward's older brother was as different as it was possible to be. Where Edward was quiet and tended to brood, Emmett was boisterous and always happy. He didn't hold onto things or get stressed about much and always had a joke for every occasion. He was married to Rosalie, Jasper's cousin.
Throwing his arms around Edward, Emmett hugged his brother with all his might.
"It's damn good to see you, bro," he said. "It's been too long. Let's drag Jasper out and go get a drink."
After collecting Jasper, the four men headed down to the club car. They settled around a table, talking all at once, trying to catch up on everything. Quietly, Edward looked around till he saw a tall dark-skinned man whose long black hair was tied back in a pony tail.
"Are you Sam?"
"Sam I am," he answered. "How can I help you?"
"I just wanted to say hello. I met Emily when I boarded and she told me to seek you out."
"Are you one of the Cullens?"
"Yes, we're all the Cullens. Well, the groom," Edward pointed to Jasper, "he's not a Cullen, but we count him as one."
"We're all looking forward to the wedding."
Nodding over at a guitar case standing against a wall, Edward asked, "Do you play?"
"Yeah, she's mine. Sometimes, in the evenings, I'll pull her out and play a little for the guests. Especially now at Christmas. Everyone likes the Christmas carols and they all sing along."
"Edward plays the piano," Emmett said. "You got a keyboard of some type on this train?"
"We do. We'll have to do a concert or something on Christmas Eve."
"Sure, that would be fun," Edward said. "Well, provided it doesn't interfere with my sister's wedding."
"Tell ya what. First drinks on me tonight to celebrate. What can I get all of you?"
"I'll take a scotch on the rocks. Guys, what do you want?"
The others ordered their drinks and Sam hurried away to get them.
"So, Edward," Carlisle began, "I wanted to talk to you about something."
"Uh oh, is Edward in trouble?" Emmett asked.
"Be quiet. You know your brother's not in trouble."
"Not perfect Edward," Jasper teased, "he's never in trouble."
"Knock it off," Edward said.
Emmett and Jasper grinned, and Edward couldn't help laughing at their expressions.
"I'm serious boys," Carlisle said.
"What's on your mind, Dad?" Edward asked.
"Dr. Gerandy is retiring. I sort of wondered if maybe, well, if you'd consider moving back to Seattle and joining the practice."
Edward froze, his glass halfway to his lips.
"Oh, Dad, I don't know about that."
"I always wanted you to join me. I know your plans got derailed—"
"A very unfortunate choice of words, considering out mode of transportation," Emmett said.
"Oops. Well, let me say rather, Edward, I know your plans changed suddenly five years ago, and I know why you took the job in Chicago instead. But it's time to move on from that, son. You can't live your life avoiding everything that reminds you of Bella. I'm sure she's moved on."
Pain flashed in Edward's green eyes.
"Please, Dad, stop. I don't want to talk about—about her."
Edward wrapped his arms around his chest, as if the pain would cause him to fall apart if he didn't hold himself together.
"I'm sorry I mentioned her." Carlisle grasped Edward's shoulder in a comforting grip. "I won't say her name again, but I'd like you to think about coming back. Your family is there, and we all miss you. Don't keep hiding yourself away in Chicago. The practice is busy, and there's nobody I'd rather have as my partner than you."
"I'll think about it," Edward said at last. "That's all I can promise right now."
"That's all I ask."
"I think it's about time to meet the girls for dinner," Jasper said.
Scrambling from their seats, the men were all eager to change the subject and return to the happy wedding fever.
"You comin' back later to jam with me?" Sam asked Edward.
"Absolutely. When do you want me?"
"Come down here and meet me about nine."
"Okay, see you then."
Later, as he changed for dinner, Edward couldn't keep his mind from going back five years, to the time when everything that mattered in life to him had fallen to pieces right before his eyes, for a reason he still couldn't understand.
Bella had moved to the same sleepy little town where he lived in the winter of their junior year. She'd come to live with her father, while her mother toured with her athlete husband. From the moment their eyes had met across the cafeteria, Edward had been in love with her. It was if he'd been struck by lightning, and often in the years to come, Edward would think of the scene in the Godfather when one of the characters fell instantly in love and his friends called it the Thunderbolt. It was like that to him. As if his stomach fell out of his body, like going down the steepest hill on a roller coaster. He couldn't catch his breath, and he knew he'd never want anyone else.
They were lab partners in Biology, and from that first day, they were inseparable. Alice had become her best friend, Emmett considered her another little sister, and Carlisle and Esme loved her as another daughter. They finished high school and went off to college together. He studied medicine; she studied literature and journalism. He wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and become a doctor, while she wanted to write books. When he finished med school they planned to marry. Bella got a job with a Seattle newspaper, and she would work there, while he went through his residency. Once he was working in Carlisle's office, Bella would be free to pursue her dearest dream and try her hand at writing. It was their plan, and Edward had believed in it with his whole being. He'd thought Bella believed in it too. But he'd been so wrong. Even these five years later, Edward still could not wrap his head around what had happened.
One day Bella had sat him down and said they needed to talk. Heart pounding, he sat. He knew no happy conversations started with those words.
"Edward," Bella began slowly, "I've been offered a job in New York, and I think I'd like to take it. For a while anyway."
She was biting her lip, a habit of hers that normally charmed Edward, but her eyes couldn't meet his, and he knew something was very wrong.
"What's going on?"
Wringing her hands together in her lap, Bella finally glanced up, meeting his eyes.
"I've been offered a job at a newspaper in New York City, and I've decided to accept the offer."
The single word was barely a whisper, as Edward sat stunned, his mind whirling.
"I—I don't understand?" he finally croaked.
"I've never lived anywhere, never been anywhere! Oh, I lived in Arizona with my mother and then in Forks. We've gone on vacations to other places, but I've always lived in these isolated little worlds. I haven't experienced anything. I want that. I want to experience life before I settle down. New York is a journalist's dream, Edward. I want to do this, to try this, before I settled down and become just another doctor's wife."
"Just another doctor's wife? I thought this was what you wanted. You said you wanted to be able to stop working at the newspaper and be able to try your hand at that idea for a novel you've had for so long. But you know that if you want to continue at the newspaper, of course, that's okay with me. Whatever you want, baby."
Bella had gotten up and begun to pace.
"I'm telling you what I want," she said. "I want to take this job."
"You never once mentioned wanting to go to New York, except to visit. What happened?"
Edward was trying to listen, trying to understand.
"Well, apparently, one of the editors at the NYC paper saw some articles I've written. They offered me the job about a week ago. At first I was going to turn it down, but then Jake pointed out—"
Edward interrupted, scowling.
"I might have guessed he'd be involved in this somewhere. What did Black point out, Bella?"
"He happened to be with me when I got the call. I told him I was going to turn it down, but he made me see that I'd be a fool to turn the opportunity down. He said I should let myself see the world before I settle down and get married."
Internally, Edward groaned. Jake Black was the son of Charlie Swan's best friend. They had been thrown together often as children, and Jake had developed a crush on Bella when she'd come to live with her father. He'd constantly tried to come between Bella and Edward, always told Bella she was crazy to tie herself down to one man before she'd had a chance to date other guys. Obviously, he'd seized the moment and had poisoned Bella's mind in some way. Thinking quickly, Edward knew what he had to do. He went to Bella and took her hands in his.
"All right. If that's what you want to do. We can make it work. I have to continue my residency here, but I can fly out to you frequently, and once I'm finished, I'm sure I can get a job at a New York hospital. With my grades in med school and all, it shouldn't be too hard. We can start our married life in New York."
"I don't want you to come with me."
Edward had fumbled in his thoughts to figure out what she was really saying.
"You don't want me?" he asked.
"I see. Well, that's different then."
With tears in his eyes Edward dropped her hands and turned away.
"Good luck, Bella," he said, keeping his back to her. "I hope you'll be happy and that you'll find whatever it is you are searching for. I'll be here when you're ready to come home. And I'll always love you."
"I'll always love you too, Edward," she had whispered, "but you'll see in time. It's better this way, for you as much as for me. I—I'll always love you too, in my way. Goodbye, Edward, be happy."
Her voice broke on the last words. Edward heard a soft clink, which he later discovered was the sound of her engagement ring when she'd slipped it off and laid it on the table. He heard her footsteps hurry to the door, a pause and then the door quietly shutting behind her. She was gone. It took all Edward's strength not to follow her. He didn't dare watch her leave. He knew if he had, he'd have run to her, knelt at her feet and begged her not to go away or to let him go with her. He'd never heard from Bella again and had no idea where she was now.
With a jolt, Edward came back to the present, relieved to get his mind away from the memories of the worst day in his life. He'd tried dating, casually, but nothing had ever turned into more. Something in him felt still bound to Bella, and he could never quite give himself to another woman, beyond a few dates and some no-strings sex. How could his body, his heart, hell his very soul still ache so desperately for a woman who couldn't stick around? He still didn't know. What he did know was that he'd still give anything he had or ever would have just for one more chance to talk to her, one more chance to try to make it right. If only Christmas truly was a time of miracles, he thought.
Pulling himself together and banishing thoughts of Bella from his mind, Edward left his berth to join his family in the dining car. He wondered if he'd ever get over Bella Swan. He wondered if he'd ever really tried. Maybe it was time he took his life in his hands and took steps to put himself together again, instead of just going through the motions and letting life happen around him. Enough was enough. She was never coming back, and it was time for him to move on. He'd start by telling Carlisle he'd be pleased to accept the offer to join his practice. And once that was done, maybe he'd let his mother invite a pretty girl to dinner, provided the girl had a brain. And was smart. And kind. And had brown eyes, just like . . . Slamming the door on those thoughts, Edward's stride quickened and he rushed to find his family, ready to tell them his decision and bask in their joyful excitement.
The family's reaction had been everything Edward imagined. Alice squealed; Esme hugged him. Carlisle's pleasure was quieter but Edward saw it in the misty look of pleasure on his father's face. Everyone was happy, and they had champagne to celebrate.
"To my beautiful daughter and her groom," Carlisle said, raising his glass. "We've loved you from the beginning, Jasper, and I can't say enough how pleased we are that you will be our son officially now. And to Edward, who is finally coming home. My new partner. Thank you, son."
"Now, if you'll just let me," Esme said. "I know a girl—"
They all laughed. Wrapping an arm around his mother's waist, Edward smiled own at her.
"Let's focus on Alice and Jasper for now, okay?" he said. "And then let me get settled back in Seattle. I'm not saying no, Mom, I'm just saying not now."
Out of the corner of his eye, Edward saw Alice grin secretively again. What is she up to, he wondered, not for the first time.
It had been a long time since Edward had truly relaxed and simply enjoyed himself, and it felt incredible to do so now. He reveled in the banter between him and Emmet and jasper, teased Jas about getting married, talked cars with Rose and tried to get Alice to give up her secrets. It felt like old times, and when he went to meet Sam later to play music, Edward was almost surprised to feel the happy expression on his own face and to be actually looking forward to playing. He hadn't played his piano since Bella had left him.
Edward and Sam started by playing some old rock and roll, moving on to some contemporary pop songs and gradually sliding into Christmas carols. Sam had a husky singing voice, whereas Edward's was smooth and clear, but somehow, they blended well together. Gradually, people came in, sitting around listening, some gathering around the piano and joining in. When the carols began, everyone started singing. It was spontaneous and wonderful, Edward thought. Hell, it was fun. What was fun like? He'd sort of forgotten.
"It's getting late," Sam said, noticing it was near midnight. "How about we do one more and then call it quits for today?"
"Sounds good. Shall we do Silent Night?"
Sam nodded, and quietly began to pick the strings. Edward joined with the piano, keeping the sound and his voice soft. As the last notes died away, there was a gasp and the sound of breaking glass.
Even after five long years, Edward could not mistake that voice. Spinning around, he looked to the door. Bella stood there, looking older but even more beautiful. A glass lay in shatters at her feet and there were tears in her eyes.
"Bella," Edward whispered in shock.
Thanks for reading. Please review if you feel so inclined.