I stared into the fireplace, clutching my mug of hot cocoa as the soft sounds of the Carpenters played into the quiet.
That I wish you Merry Christmas
Happy New Year, too
I’ve just one wish
On this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you
I sighed softly, closing my eyes as I tried not to think about how true those words were. I’d be alone this Christmas. It wouldn’t be the first time he wouldn’t be home, but this would be my first Christmas since my mother passed away. I had hoped that he would make it home in time, not wanting to face this holiday – both her and my favorite – alone, but his boss wouldn’t let him leave.
Edward was a correspondent, and a good one at that. He was currently stationed in the Middle East, covering happenings in Afghanistan, Iraq, and wherever else they felt they needed to send him. I hated it. I hated that he was so close to danger, but it was his job, and he was great at it.
He had been gone for months, and I missed him terribly. This year had been worse than others, because of Momma passing away. She had been sick for a while, and Edward and I had taken her in since she refused to go to a nursing home. My sister Lauren – to whom I had not spoken in years – would not take her in, so she came here instead. I didn’t mind; I actually was happy to have gotten the chance to spend her last moments with her.
Edward had come home for her funeral, having been granted leave after threatening to quit and sue his boss for not letting him go. Aro was a hard ass and didn’t acknowledge that Edward was my family, that we were married. To him, he was only Edward Cullen, his prize correspondent.
The funeral – which was in June – was the last time Edward and I had been together. Tonight was Christmas Eve, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate Christmas. I had even considered not putting up any of the decorations and just forgetting about the whole thing.
My sister-in-law Alice, bless her soul, had convinced me to put up the tree and just do everything as I normally would, claiming it was important to keep the traditions and that it would help me cope. I didn’t believe her, but I relented. You just didn’t go against Edward’s sister; it just wasn’t worth the effort to try and sway her.
Looking around our home, I took in the nine-foot tree in the corner decked in burgundy, cream, and gold, a beautiful angel at its top. I smiled softly as I looked at the angel, remembering how long it had taken us to find her. Edward wasn’t as into Christmas as I was, but my enthusiasm for the holiday had won him over. I had wanted to get the perfect angel for our tree and had become frustrated when we couldn’t find one. When Edward had come home shortly before our first Christmas together, he presented me with a wrapped box. He told me it was an early Christmas present, urging me to open it then and there. When I did, she stared up at me. She wore a burgundy and gold dress, and her wings were made of downy cream feathers and dusted with gold. The halo above her head was delicate gold, and she bore a harp in one hand. She was absolutely perfect, and I couldn’t believe Edward had gotten her for me. I’d spent a long time thanking him.
My eyes roamed the rest of the living room, observing the various angels, bows, garlands, and other decorations. They were all within the same color scheme, and in truth, it looked as if it was something out of one of those magazines. It was fairly simple, stylish – elegant, even – but still very much something that Edward and I both had put together. It was us, and I dearly wished that he could have been here to put it all up with me as we had every other year before this one.
Instead, it had been Alice who had helped me. She had insisted on going all out and had somehow managed to set the stereo to play only Christmas music. I didn’t mind too much, hoping that it would help me get in the spirit, but I just wasn’t feeling it. My heart wasn’t in it; it wasn’t home.
I wiped my eyes as I felt the tears threaten, refusing to actually cry as I muttered under my breath, “Damn it…”
I loved Alice to bits, but this was one time when I wished she wasn’t so persistent. I felt more alone now than ever. It didn’t help that I had tried to call Edward earlier, but I had gotten his voice mail. He hadn’t called me back yet, and I was worried. What if something had happened to him? The thought of losing him made my chest ache.
I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There’s just one thing I need
I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree
I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas is…
As Mariah’s voice began to sing, I emptied my mug with a huff; Edward really was all I wanted for Christmas. I wanted him home, safe and sound. I got up and extinguished the fire before going to the kitchen to rinse my mug. It was early still, not yet nine o’clock, but I was exhausted. I went through my bedtime rituals without really paying any attention, just letting myself run on autopilot. When I crawled into bed, I hugged Edward’s pillow to me, whispering into the night, “Please be safe, darlin’. I love you so much.”
I fell asleep with tears running silently down my cheeks, staining my pillow.
I dreamed Edward had come home, and we were getting ready for Christmas. The smells of coffee, fresh baked cinnamon rolls, bacon, and eggs permeated the house as carols played in the background. Our stockings would be filled and waiting for us by our plates.
It felt so real, I didn’t want to open my eyes, not wanting to lose that feeling. I stubbornly refused to wake up, clinging to my dream. It took me a moment to realize that I really was smelling coffee and cinnamon rolls. I rolled onto my back, furiously rubbing my eyes with the heels of my hands as I heard the strains of Christmas music floating up to the bedroom.
Did Alice decide to show up and make breakfast?
I got up slowly, feeling slightly groggy as the last vestiges of my dream clung to me. I quickly pulled on my pajama pants, though I didn’t bother putting on anything else. After all, it could only be Alice; she was the only one who had a key to our home, since she looked after it if we were ever away.
As I slowly trudged down the stairs, I had to work hard to keep from letting myself think about Edward not being there. I wanted so much to see him, to feel him.
“Alice? What are you doing, sweetheart? You didn’t hav…”
My words stuck in my throat as I looked up to see not Alice, but Edward standing by the stove – dressed as I was in just pajama pants – plating scrambled eggs. I blinked rapidly, steadying myself with a hand on the bar as my knees went weak. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Edward couldn’t be here, home.
I breathed out, “Edward?”
He turned around slowly, deliberately. The smile on his lips warmed my heart as he spoke softly. “Merry Christmas, love.”
“H-how…? When…?” I stuttered, still clutching at the bar to stay upright.
He walked up to me, wrapping his arms around my waist as my hands went to either side of his face. My eyes couldn’t seem to get enough of him as my fingers traced the features of his face. His smile widened a little as he let me take him in. His eyes were slightly haunted, though, harder than I remembered them being – and a little sad.
“I quit, Jazz. I couldn’t do it anymore, couldn’t stand to be away from you or to have you worry if I’d make it home alive.”
I knew that it had been difficult for him the last month or so. A news crew he had known fairly well had been killed by a roadside bomb. It wasn’t the closest he had ever been to danger, but it had hit home for him a lot more than any other incident. He had worked with Eleazar, Kate, and Irina. Had considered them friends, and suddenly they were gone.
I had begged him to come home, to quit. I was so scared to lose him, too. He had been shaken up and said he would think about it, but that he needed to stay where he was for the time being. I knew that Aro wouldn’t let him come home; he was the best he had and would want him to cover what had happened. I hated Aro for that.
The words ‘I quit’ seemed to ring in my ears, and I actually whispered them several times, as if trying to feel them, make them real. He nodded.
“I wanted to be home, baby, with you. I knew you would be having a hard time today, so I asked Alice to help me. That’s why she had you put everything up, love. She knew I was coming home.”
My breath shuddered slightly as I tried to keep hold of my emotions, feeling overwhelmed. I whispered, “She knew? Why didn’t she tell me? Why didn’t you?”
A look of guilt flashed across his face as he spoke. “Baby, I wasn’t certain I’d be able to make it for Christmas. Aro wasn’t making it easy for me to quit and have a replacement sent. And there was always the chance something would happen… I just didn’t want to give you false hope. Forgive me?”
I couldn’t answer him; a strangled sob was the only sound I was able to produce before pulling his face to mine, kissing him feverishly. He moaned softly as he returned the kiss with equal fervor, tightening his hold on me as he tilted his head to deepen the kiss. We stood like that for many minutes, the food all but forgotten as I focused on my husband, my lover, my better half.
My arms found their way around his shoulders as I crushed him to me, pulling him as close to me as I could and finding it not nearly close enough. I had missed him so much, and to have him here in my arms – today of all days – was almost too much. It was heaven.
He pulled away with a soft sigh, resting his forehead against mine as he spoke.
“I’ve missed you so much, Jazz. I’m home, love, and I am not leaving again. I promise.”
I gave a slight nod, still unable to talk just yet. He cupped my cheek, coaxing my head up a little so he could look me in the eye. He frowned slightly as he took a good look at me, no doubt taking in my slightly sunken cheeks and disheveled hair.
“Jasper…” He sighed softly. “Come on. I made us breakfast. You need to eat, love. You look like you haven’t had a good meal in too long.”
He was right. I hadn’t been eating much the last few weeks, too worried about him and too depressed knowing I’d be facing the holidays alone, without Edward or my mother. Eating just wasn’t a priority, so I just ate enough to get through day by day. I had probably lost more weight than was healthy for me, and I knew I looked it. I just hadn’t cared.
He reached up, coaxing my arms from around his shoulders before taking my hand in his and leading me into the kitchen. He held out a chair for me, and when I sat down, he placed a tender kiss on the top of my head. I smiled at the familiar gesture.
Edward had already set everything on the table, the last thing missing being the eggs he plated as I had come downstairs. After filling our mugs with coffee and placing a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in front of me, he finally took his seat. Normally we sat opposite each other, but today he was right next to me, touching my hand whenever I wasn’t using it. Our legs touched under the table. We both craved the connection.
The food was good, as it always was. My Edward was a good cook and loved to spoil me, especially on holidays or special occasions. Christmas breakfast was always the same, though. That was tradition, one that stemmed from my childhood – one that I loved and always brought back cherished memories – and he had gladly taken it over as our own.
We took our time eating, exchanging soft caresses here and there. After we were done, he pointed at my stocking, telling me to open it. I frowned slightly, wondering how he had managed to get stocking stuffers when I knew I hadn’t done anything with them this year. As if he were able to read my mind, he answered my unspoken question with one simple word.
I chuckled softly as I rolled my eyes; I should have guessed. I pulled out the various small packages from my stocking and began opening them. Once I was done, there was a small pile in front of me – a fountain pen, a thumb drive, a notebook to fit in a pocket, two tickets to the New Year’s ballet, and a small digital photo frame on a keychain. I leaned in, kissing him tenderly as I whispered my thanks. He smiled and told me that the thumb drive was already loaded up with something.
Arching an eyebrow in question, I asked, “With what?”
“Grab your laptop and find out, baby.”
He got up, grabbed the dishes, and took them to the sink to rinse. We would wash everything later, as we usually did. As he took care of the rest of the breakfast leftovers, I went to grab my laptop, carrying it to the kitchen table and firing it up. Within minutes, I was reading a document that said Open Me First.
Edward had written out his love for me, reciting his favorite memories of us, going all the way back from when we first met – he was interviewing Papa for the college paper he was working for at the time – up to the time Momma had come to live with us. I was barely able to make it through the document as tears were streaming down my face.
The last words in the file were, “I love you, Jasper Whitlock-Cullen. With all my heart, for all my life.”
Edward had come to stand behind me as I was reading, his arms slipping around my shoulders as he nuzzled my neck. I closed my eyes, letting his words and the feeling of him so close again settle into my bones. I whispered softly, “I love you, too, Edward,” before turning my head and kissing him tenderly.
After a few minutes Edward pulled away again, pecking me on the lips twice with a smile. He nodded his head to the screen, whispering, “There’s more, love.”
I turned my attention back to my laptop and, sure enough, there was another document. This one had no title, which I found a little odd. It wasn’t like Edward to leave something like that, and I was curious why he hadn’t named it. When I opened the file and began to read, my heart stuttered as I realized that what I was reading were his memoirs as a correspondent. He had journaled every one of his trips – I had known this, but he had never before allowed me to read about them, not wanting to worry me.
After reading the first three pages, I had to stop. I couldn’t take it all in; it was just too much. I turned around to look at him, frowning slightly as I took in the haunted look that was ghosting in his eyes, the way he was worrying his lower lip from nerves. I placed my hand on his cheek, trying to keep my voice even, soft.
“Darlin’, what is this? Why are you sharing it with me now?”
His eyes flickered between mine briefly, his voice low as he struggled to find the words to explain.
“I…” He paused, frowning before starting again, “That, Jasper, is everything I’ve been through these past few years as a correspondent. All the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. I’m going to try and finish it, get it published. I wanted to share it with you first. You’ve always stood by me, angel. Even when you didn’t like my choices, you never wavered in your love for me. I couldn’t share all of this before. You would’ve worried too much, and I couldn’t put you through that. I know it was hard enough for you already to let me go out there every time.”
He stroked my cheek with the back of his fingers, his eyes softening as he gave me a wan smile.
“I wanted you to read it, so you would know that I was able to do my job because of your love, your support. I wanted you to know that in spite of everything that’s happened these past years, I have always been yours and always will be. I needed you to know that you won’t ever have to go through that again.”
I was still cupping his cheek with one hand, caressing his cheekbone with my thumb. I placed my other hand over his, moving it to my lips as I kissed the inside of his wrist.
“You really quit?”
“Edward, what are you going to do? Besides working on this book?”
He sighed softly, running his free hand through his hair as he thought for a moment.
“I’m not sure. Freelance, maybe, if I need to. I want to just be home for a while though, no work. Not even on the book. I want to just be for a while. With you.”
He kissed me tenderly before continuing, “We’re okay for money, love; you know that. We’ve always been careful, investing well and saving plenty. I don’t need to go looking for work straight away, and Alice will help me find the odd assignment if it’s needed.”
Alice and Edward had both chosen journalism as their careers, though whereas Edward went into correspondence covering world news, Alice had made her career working as a freelancer for various magazines, like Time, National Geographic, and several others I could never remember the names of. Alice Cullen had made her name in the industry, though she went by the pseudonym of M.A. Brandon, so that neither sibling would ever risk being told they had only gotten where they did on the tailcoat of the other.
I got up, taking his hand in mine and walking to the living room. He had already lit a fire, which made me smile. Every year after breakfast, we would sit by the fireplace and exchange gifts. My gifts for him had been put under the tree at Alice’s insistence. Right now, though, I wasn’t interested in following traditions. I sat down on the white rug in front of the fireplace, pulling him down beside me so that our backs were to the Christmas tree. The lights on the tree and the fire were the only illumination we had, and the fresh pine smell – along with that of the fire burning in the fireplace – filled my senses.
I shifted so that we sat facing each other. I sat in between his legs, my own lying over his as I pulled him as close to me as I could. I smiled when he wrapped his arms around my waist, putting my own around his neck. I vaguely noted the end of another Christmas song, my smile widening as I listened to the words.
Oh there’s no place like home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam,
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays,
You can’t beat home, sweet home.
For the holidays,
You can’t beat home, sweet home.
Leaning in so my lips brushed ever so lightly against his, I whispered, “Welcome home, darlin’.”
Edward gave a soft moan as he closed what little distance there was and kissed me hard. My hands threaded in his hair as I kissed him back. It felt so good to have him here, and to know that he wouldn’t be leaving again. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas gift from him.
His kiss became more urgent, his tongue pushing between my lips, causing me to moan as it brushed against my own. I wanted to savor this moment, reacquainting myself with the way he felt, tasted, sounded.
Edward’s hands roamed my back for several blissful minutes before he placed one hand on my hip, the other hand firmly on the back of my neck, anchoring me to him as he began pushing me onto my back. I moaned into the kiss as I felt his weight settle on top of me. The hand he had placed on my hip began moving up my side, and I relished the contact. He was slowly setting my skin aflame, and I couldn’t wait any longer.
I pulled away just enough to be able to speak, my voice thick with desire as I whispered, “Edward, please…”
I rolled my hips into his, causing us both to moan softly as our cocks rubbed together. It had been too long since we had been together; I needed him, and I needed him now. I let my hands trail down his back until I reached the waistband of his pajamas. Slipping my hands under it I kneaded his ass cheeks, muttering a soft, “Fuck,” when I met no other resistance.
I pulled him closer into me as I bucked my hips, my eyes on his. “Please, baby, I need you, please.”
His eyes darkened as he took a deep breath, nodding once. Before I could do anything else, he rolled off of me and pulled his pants off, tossing them to the side. He reached under the tree for something, and I lifted up on one elbow, frowning as I tried to figure out what he was doing. I was about to ask when he rolled back to me, my favorite crooked grin on his lips as he put a small bottle of lube next to me.
I quirked a brow as I felt my own grin form on my lips. “You planned for this?”
Running his fingers through his hair, he blushed slightly. “More like hoped like hell for it and wanted to be prepared.”
Chuckling softly, I started to pull my own pajamas off, only to be stopped by Edward placing his hand on my wrist. His gaze was intense as his eyes roamed from where our hands met back up to my face. He didn’t speak. He didn’t have to. I nodded, letting my arms fall to my side as he began trailing teasing fingers up my abs to my pecs.
He leaned forward slowly, hovering over me as his fingers circled around my nipples. I bit my lip, wanting so much for him to just touch me;…and to be able to touch him. A smile flitted across his lips before he lowered himself further, his tongue flicking over my nipple as he rolled the other between his nimble fingers. He pinched it, while at the same time biting lightly on the other.
Before too long, he had me whimpering as he continued his teasing, switching from one to the other. My fingers found their way into his hair, tugging lightly as I tried – and failed – to coax him lower. He would get there in his own time, even if all I wanted at that moment was to feel his talented lips around my cock instead.
Finally he moved down to where I wanted him most. Slowly – so slowly it almost drove me to distraction – he moved lower, placing open mouthed kisses and licks along the way, tantalizing my skin. His hands trailed down along my sides until they hit my pajamas. He hooked his thumbs under the waistband, giving me a quick look, and I responded to his silent request, lifting my hips. He quickly removed my pants, tossing them aside before dipping down and placing a tender kiss on my head, his tongue teasing the slit as he did.
I moaned, my eyes fluttering closed as he licked my cock from base to tip before wrapping his lips around it, taking me in until I could feel the back of his throat.
It had been so long, and being with him felt so good, that I wasn’t sure I was going to last very long. Edward took it slow, keeping me from reaching that elusive cusp as he took me all the way, swallowing around me. The feel of his tongue as it curled around my shaft, teasing my head, had me writhing under him.
I’d become so lost in the feel of him that I hadn’t heard him open the bottle of lube, so when he pressed his slicked finger into me, I moaned, my back arching up as my head and shoulders pressed down into the rug.
Edward looked up with a crooked grin as he continued to pump his finger into me.
“Patience, lover; getting to it.”
I growled softly at his teasing, my eyes finding his as he pressed a second finger in, stretching me further. My mouth rounded in a soundless “Oh” when he hit my prostate. God, I had missed the way he was able to play my body like a finely tuned instrument.
When he added a third finger, I was ready to beg him to just take me. Every cell in my body felt as if it was humming, burning just for him. Just because of him. My eyes – which had closed again as he had teased me – frantically sought out his, my silent plea to him acknowledged with a smile and a nod.
I groaned at the loss of contact when he removed his fingers, though they were quickly replaced by his slick head pressing against my entrance. I reached for him as I widened my legs even further, giving him more room. I pulled him to me, planting a searing kiss on his lips as he slowly entered me. Returning my kiss with a moan, he paused to allow me to adjust to having him in me again.
Running my hand down his back, I splayed my fingers over his ass and pulled, urging him to move further without breaking our kiss. Our tongues were soon caressing, dancing. Edward lowered himself onto me as he entered me completely, letting me feel his weight; the feel of being surrounded, filled in every sense, by him had my heart soaring.
Keeping one hand where it was, kneading his ass cheek, I threaded my free hand in his hair, tugging lightly at it as I knew he liked it, and was rewarded by a soft growl as he increased the pace. He broke away from my lips, throwing his head back with a look of ecstasy on his face, his mouth open slightly as he breathed out, “God, Jasper…you feel so good, baby.”
I was beyond speech, the only sound coming from me was a strangled moan as he continued to move into me, my hips meeting him thrust for thrust. The friction that being caught between our bodies gave my cock was driving me closer to the edge, but it wasn’t enough. Edward raised himself up, the change in angle doing wondrous things to my body. He reached between us and wrapped his fingers around my shaft, pumping it in time with his thrusts, which began to speed up.
We were both so close, I knew it wouldn’t be long before we’d fall off that cliff into bliss. I wanted to see his face – needed to see him let loose – so I took advantage of the fact he had lifted off of me and raised my head, latching my mouth onto his nipple, knowing that this would send him spiraling quickly.
His breathing hitched, and his thrusts faltered briefly before he recovered, his movements becoming more frenzied as he chased after his orgasm. His hand was pumping me furiously, and my head fell back as I came, his name on my lips again and again. My eyes were intent on his face as he followed me over the brink moments later. He looked positively angelic as he shuddered, his eyes closed and his lips parted, breathing hard.
He opened his eyes slowly, a lazy smile on his lips as they met mine, and I couldn’t help but return it. His eyes were filled with love, desire, and belonging. The haunted look from earlier was gone, at least for now.
My Edward was truly home.