Regina checked the flight board again, and only saw blinking red “Cancellation” notices. All the immediate flights leaving from Boston and arriving anywhere near Storybrooke were either delayed indefinitely or canceled due to the immense cold front and snow storm moving across the Eastern Seaboard and further inland.
She’d taken her time to pack her clothes and personal belongings so neatly. The gifts she’s picked for her family Christmas had been wrapped with care and shipped via FedEx in hopes that they’d arrive the same day as she did.
All of that hope she’d been carrying in her heart had been rapidly blighted out by snow, cold and ice. It was no secret that Regina Mills loved Christmas, and being away from home at college had only served to strengthen her appreciation of her mother’s fresh pressed apple cider and her father’s worn but beautiful singing voice.
She went outside of the terminal and pulled her scarf around her neck, as she flexed her hands impatiently inside her leather gloves. The taxi stand line was incredibly long and the cabs were coming irregularly due to the weather patterns. The gusting wind and icy snow flakes reminded Regina that she should have planned better and worn something heavier than her black pea coat. Previously, when she thought she’d be spending most her travel time inside the airport and on an actual plane in flight she’d dismissed bringing her parka as it would be annoyingly cumbersome.
Now, all she wanted was warmth.
After standing in line for nearly an hour, her luggage was stowed away in the trunk and she was sat in the back of the taxi shivering uncontrollably as she journeyed back from Logan to her dorm that she thought she was leaving for the entirety of winter break.
The campus was deserted and empty. A far cry from the usual throng of busy students making their way to and from class. It had been replaced by white snow drifting in uneven and sloping heaps across the sidewalks and piling up against the buildings. She directed the taxi to her dorm, paid and waited a beat for the driver to remove her luggage from the trunk and sit it on the curb before he opened the back door for her and emerged back into the cold.
The hallways of the dorm were disturbingly quiet and Regina’s mood only grew fouler as she realized how horrendous and lonely the prospect of spending Christmas without her family was. In the quiet of her room she realized that her fear had just become her reality. At least the heat was on, and her window was mainly frosted over, but she looked through the clear spot of glass, staring down into the small courtyard out front.
It took her awhile to thaw out and finally feel warm again, but not as long as it took for Regina to get up the nerve to call her mother and explain about the canceled flights. With no car at college she had no means of transportation to get home.
The phone call did not go well. She had upset her mother, and Regina believed it was her fault. Perhaps being alone on Christmas was the fate she deserved for not thinking ahead and scheduling her flight out earlier or getting a seat on Amtrak before the tickets sold out. Never mind that she’d had finals up until the day before and her mother had warned her about the danger of taking the train (or the bus) and had expressly forbid it.
Yet it was still Regina’s fault. So she sat motionless weighed down by thoughts of guilt and pain. She looked out the window until the grey sky began to darken. She began to get distracted by thoughts of food, realizing how hungry she had become and the problematic fact that she did not have any food in her room. She usually relied on the campus meal plan and dined at the fancy cafeteria, but even the campus dining halls were closed for the long break.
With the weather and traffic, it would take ages to get delivery so she bravely stepped out into the hallway to venture downstairs to the first floor lounge. Yes, she had resorted to get her dinner from a vending machine. The old style machine had clearly not been serviced or refilled in ages and all that was inside was a few packs of cherry pop tarts and a bag of Cheetos. Disgusting junk food, she thought to herself. The cherry tasted so fake and the processed sugar hurt her teeth, but she managed to choke down one pop tart.
She sat in the lounge and flipped through the channels as she ate; scowling at the Hallmark Christmas movies with disdain at the reminder of where she was and how she was alone. The pity party was soon interrupted by the sound of a door closing and footsteps approaching from down the hall. Regina wasn’t frightened by any means after all she shared a living space with 600 students on a daily basis, but she found it odd that someone else was still in the building on the 23rd of December.
A melting mess of a woman covered in snow bounced into the lounge and made a beeline for the vending machine. Regina twisted from her chair to see if it was anyone she knew.
“Damn it!” The woman yelled presumably directed at the vending machine, and Regina’s eyes narrowed. It was none other than Emma Swan.
“What’s wrong, Emma?” Regina stood up and trailed toward her, still clutching the remained pop tart tucked into the plastic.
“Oh, hey…Regina, I-I didn’t expect…of course you live here too, just thought…” Emma stuttered in surprise and then trailed off when her eyes caught sight of that pop tart.
“You got the last cherry pop tart, huh?” Emma pointed at the package and then met Regina’s eyes and they both reflected a look of shared annoyance.
“I didn’t know that you called dibs,” Regina shrugged, smirking slightly. Emma was on the Field Hockey team with Regina, and she was good. The only reason Emma even attended this university was because of her athletic scholarship, otherwise there was no way someone like her would have ever passed the admission standards. Regular rules didn’t apply to athletes.
While Regina was also on the team, she wasn’t a starter. Her mother had encouraged her athletics as part of a well-rounded curriculum, but Regina had bigger aspirations for her studies and career than hitting balls with a stick.
She couldn’t wager the same for the woman who stood in front of her dripping water, with bright red cheeks and nose from the cold and practically crying over a measly pop tart.
After a brief stand-off, Regina conceded, shifting her shoulders down and letting out a long breath.
“Here, have it,” she said flopping the cherry pastry forward and watching as Emma snatched it from her outstretched hand.
“Thank you, Regina,” Emma said, stuffing it into her mouth, while crumbs broke off and hit the floor, “Really, this is so good.”
“You’re welcome,” Regina replied with non-commitment. She scratched her eyebrow and coughed, unsure of where the conversation could go from here. Emma wasn’t exactly the most sophisticated person she had encountered, and she didn’t think she should force the small talk simply because they happened to be the only two people in the building.
Emma broke the awkward silence with a rather rude question by Regina’s estimation.
“Aren’t you going home for Christmas?”
It was none of her business and a rather rude question considering Emma knew next to nothing about her. But Regina was just a tiny bit curious about why Emma was still hanging around the dorms herself, so she bit.
“Actually, my flight was canceled. I’m kind of stuck here,” she meant to keep her voice emotionless and strong, but the tragic disappointment creeped into her tone and Regina winced slightly. She didn’t want to give Emma any ammo, though she had no logical reason to think of her as an enemy. Regina was a guarded person and she had a bad habit of coming across as a bitch even when she didn’t mean to.
“Oh, shit, that blows,” Emma shook her head in solidarity. “Where were, you heading?”
Again, innocent questions always set alarm bells off in Regina’s head, but she gave a perfunctory a clipped answer, “Maine…. Storybrooke…it’s a very small coastal town.”
“Yeah? I’ve heard of it—haven’t been there yet, but that’s about to change,” Emma’s face lit up in recognition and a strange amount of excitement.
“What do you mean?” Regina asked in confusion. The pop tart wasn’t sitting well in her stomach and she was dreading having to go out in the freezing storm for real food soon.
“Oh, I live there! Well, my parents live there now.”
Regina lived in Storybrooke all of her life up until she graduated high school and moved to Boston for college. The town was small, and if Emma Swan and her family lived there, Regina would have known it. Her family was kind of a big deal there and Regina knew everything about that town. Even now while she was away, her mother would give her briefings on the local gossip and news during their weekly calls.
“When and why would your parents move to Storybrooke of all places?” Regina didn’t mean to sound in such accusatory disbelief, but she could help herself.
“Um, like a few months ago, as soon as I started summer training out here, they moved. My Dad got a job there,” Emma explained and started to look uncomfortable under Regina’s oppressive stare. “Do you maybe want to order a pizza and talk some more?”
“No thank you, I…” Regina trailed off and looked up in shock. She was so used to automatically declining invitations with an excuse that would roll off her tongue smoothly, and with a well-polished and repetitively practiced apologetic smile.
‘No thank you, I can’t go out dancing, I have a test…”
“No thank you, I can’t get a coffee, I have homework…”
“No thank you, I can’t go dancing, I have a project…”
“No thank you, I can’t have sex, I have my period…”
Every ‘come on’ from some dumb jock, or even platonic invites from friends she avoided like it was her duty in the interest of her ambitions. But here she was with absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go, plus she had something in common with this athletic airhead.
“Maybe some other time… you know I could---,” Emma sounded severely disappointed that Regina didn’t want pizza and was currently staring at her and chewing her lip like she was considering something heavy.
Regina couldn’t bear to see that look on Emma’s face, it was the same look that she had when they lost a Field Hockey match. Regina always felt torn and wanted to run over and give the girl a hug, but she noticed that Emma received plenty of condolences from everyone else.
“On second thought, I would love some pizza,” Regina smiled as brightly as possible and then toned it down a notch when Emma balked at her. She had a known tendency to appear a little evil when she was only trying to be genuine.
“Are you sure?” Emma frowned sounding unsure of how to handle Regina’s strange and abrupt shift in mood and intention.
“Yes, I didn’t find that pop tart very… satisfying,” Regina had spent the better part of the day feeling sorry for herself, and her biggest fear was being alone on Christmas. She at the least had a chance to not feel so alone tonight.
Emma nodded and appeared to relax a bit, she cleared her throat, “So what kind of pizza does Regina Mills even eat? Like Kale and twigs over gluten free crust?”
“Although, I’m sure you meant that be insulting, kale salad is very healthy and I’d prove it to you, but I’m sure you won’t live as long as me,” Regina clasped her lips together and shrugged as if to say ‘oh well.’
“I may not live as long as you, but at least I’ll have lived with sausage and pepperoni in my life,” Emma smiled again, and this time Regina could tell she was truly comfortable. The skin around her eyes crinkled adorably, and this set Regina at ease.
Until, they tried to call for delivery and were informed by no less than five pizza parlors that they were open, but not delivering due to the weather.
If Regina wanted pizza she was going to have to brave the cold and go out to get it. It was terrible.
“I’ll go,” Emma said bravely, her voice sounding of determined steel. “I will go to Ernesto’s Pizzeria.”
As fabulous as it seemed to have Emma dash out, fight the storm and bring back the spoils of the battle in the form of a hot cheesy, gooey, deliciousness, she felt guilty. It was far too dangerous to drive and if she was walking the pizza would get cold by the time she made it back to the dorms.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t allow you to go out in this weather by yourself on my behalf.” Regina rolled her eyes to show how done she was with Emma’s idiocy, but sighed heavily to convey the decision wasn’t an easy one to make. “Let me get my coat…” she mumbled, “risking my life to get pizza.”
Emma shrugged her shoulders and licked her lips as she looked Regina right in the eye, “You’re choice…don’t say I didn’t offer.”
Two blocks in to the walk to Ernesto’s Regina regretted her decision very much. The wind was stronger and funneled through the alleyways, stealing her breath and pressing back at her as she tried to walk down the desolate sidewalk. Her eyes were burning and her hat kept shifting up, exposing her ears.
The worst part was the sidewalk was covered in ice patches and Regina had to watch every step to be sure not to slip and fall. And Emma walked fast. She was in ridiculously great shape of course from Field Hockey, and Regina had seen the woman’s biceps from afar enough times to remember how sculpted she was beneath all that outerwear. Still, she needed her to slow down just a little, but Regina’s pride was too great to ask.
“Hey, we’re almost there, just another eight or nine blocks,” Emma said in her motivational sports leader tone. While meant to sound positive, eight or nine more blocks of freezing cold sounded like hell. Although hell, at least, would be much warmer.
That was when Regina slipped on the ice, lost control of her footing and fell on her ass. Emma whirled around and picked her up off the street corner before Regina had time to process the fall. She did however quickly process that she was currently being held very, very close to the blonde as she grasped those aforementioned biceps as if they were a life preserver and she was drowning at sea.
“Are you okay?” Emma asked breathlessly as she searched Regina’s eyes.
Regina took stock of what had happened; she was too cold to register any additional pain, and before she could help it she whispered, “I am now.”
Emma let go of her waist and stepped back, it took another beat for Regina to release her own hands and realized that the moment had passed. “You didn’t like hurt your tailbone or anything? Thankfully, your butt absorbed the impact…oh shit, that was really rude of me to say.”
Regina noticed that Emma was looking at her backside with a sharp eye, and was at a loss for a comeback to that.
She managed, “I am fine,” as she adjusted her hat and smoothed hands over her butt to dust off the snow and salt. Her cheeks heated momentarily into a blush, and Regina chalked it up to the embarrassment of falling. That must be why she felt so out of sorts.
“Okay, let’s go then, almost there!” Emma tugged her hand to propel her forward and then dropped it. Just like that they were back to walking towards Ernesto’s.
Regina wanted to say that the pizza wasn’t worth almost freezing (and falling) in cold, dark, night, but she couldn’t. There was nothing better than the warm, cozy, friendly pizzeria with red plastic booths and a friendly Italian to bring the pair breadsticks, marinara sauce, and a delicious pizza. Kale was the furthest thing from Regina’s mind as she bit into her second slice and watched the melted line of mozzarella trail from her mouth maintaining its connection with its pizza homeland.
Emma reached forward and snapped the line of cheese, laughing as it swung forward and stuck to Regina’s chin. Both women were focused on their food, but for once, Regina was glad she had agreed to Emma’s company. It wasn’t all that bad.
During the walk back, the wind was that their backs so it wasn’t as agonizingly terrible as the walk there, plus Emma was worried that Regina would fall again so she insisted on slowing their pace and hovering next to her so she could catch her if she fell. That wasn’t the worst thing that could happened on this reckless outdoor trip. Being an independent person, normally Regina wouldn’t stand for anyone ‘helping’ or ‘hovering’ around her, but in this case, she found she didn’t mind one bit.
It was nice to have someone looking out for her.
The dorm looked more alienating and lonely than Regina remembered upon a re-entry. Her body was starting to stiffen up from the cold and jarring fall. She grimly noted that she would probably feel quite sore tomorrow.
“Thanks for getting pizza with me, I should head to bed,” Emma hooked her thumb toward the stairs and sighed, “early start tomorrow if the weather clears up a bit.”
“It’s only 8:30,” Regina whined like a child and quickly corrected herself. She had no right to demand Emma’s attention. “I mean, that was rude. Thank you for accompanying me to Ernesto’s and helping me when I fell.”
“Yeah, I’d suggest you ice your ass, but that might be the last thing you want to do after being out there,” Emma smiled warmly. “Regina, what’s your room number?”
Regina’s eyebrows flew up at that and she replied immediately, “108. Why?”
“Cool, no reason,” Emma nodded and lingered, she took off her hat and scratched her scalp and looked off into the distance for a minute. Regina started to feel awkward standing in the hallway and was rather eager to change clothes and get comfortable.
“Good evening, Emma…”
“Wait, um… so you know how I said my parents moved to Storybrooke? My dad is the new Sheriff or whatever,” Emma rambled on for a moment as the pieces clicked in Regina’s head. Her mother had mentioned that there was a new Sheriff in town. She’d also mentioned that he was all brawn and no brains.
Emma continued, “I’m planning to drive there in the morning, and since you said your flight was canceled, I was thinking it might make sense for you to ride along with me?”
“Oh!” It appeared that an exciting opportunity had afforded itself to Regina: the chance to go home for Christmas. The price? Spending more time with Emma--who really wasn’t all that bad or anything. Regina didn’t think she could ever be best friends with a girl like her, but a free ride would be tolerable.
“I-I would really love that, actually, if it’s not too much trouble?”
Emma was smiling again, looking slightly shy and embarrassed as she responded. “No, it’s not any trouble…it will be nice to have someone to talk to on the long drive.”
Regina scoffed internally at that. She wasn’t one for boring small talk. She decided to bring a book to read. She also needed something to keep her mind off the treacherous conditions, and not think about how she was entrusting her life to a virtual stranger.
“Awesome, I’ll, uh, see you tomorrow then. Christmas Eve day.”
“Yes,” Regina turned and walked down the hall to her room. She would do well with a long, hot shower to warm her body and ease the soreness from her fall. She wasn’t thinking about spending plenty of time on her hair so she would look nice in the morning. Regina squashed that nonsense. She was sure Emma would be dressed in Adidas track pants and a hoodie for their trip.
Long car rides begged for comfort.
Regina stood naked in the dorm shower. It was so quiet which was a bit unsettling, but also a rarely afforded luxury. Since coming to college Regina had a steep learning curve to get used to showering with flocks of other women. Her whole life she’d had her own private bath and bedroom at home and now she shared. Sure her mother had pulled some strings to ensure Regina received one of the rare and coveted ‘single’ dorm rooms so she didn’t have to put up with a roommate.
Or rather a roommate didn’t have to put up with her, so Regina’s mother always said with a laugh.
She smiled and felt grateful that Emma had offered to be her savior and help her get home in time for Christmas. Her parents would be so pleased and if nothing else, Regina could spend as much time as she wanted reacquainting herself with her private bath and shower.
Lost in thought, she shivered slightly and cranked the shower dial to one side, and waited for the water to full. An icy blast of freezing water rained down on her hair and back, and she screamed in shock. Fuck! It was cold. She plastered herself against the wall and reached out her hand gauging the temperature and waiting for it to warm. A minute went by and the water was not getting any warmer.
In defeat, she turned off the water, threw back the curtain and angrily stepped out of the stall. Regina’s teeth were chattering as she lifted her towel off of the rack and wrapped it around dripping body. She just wished she had waited and not shocked her system by standing directly under the cold stream.
With an angry growl, she grabbed her hair dryer and shower caddy to stomp back to her room. Typically, in the mornings she’d take her robe when there were twenty other girls using the shower at the same time, but she left everything in her room, and she was so cold. She hurried back down the hall and turned the corner, running almost directly into Emma who stood outside her dorm room.
“Emma?” Regina drew her towel a little tighter around herself.
“Hey,” Emma said quietly. She seemed embarrassed to have caught Regina in nothing but a towel. “Are you okay? I thought I heard you scream.”
“Not exactly, there isn’t any hot water…” Regina explained hopelessly, she was so cold she just wanted in her room to pile on some warm pajamas, her robe and a pile of blankets. She tried to focus on that rather than her own immense embarrassment of being caught in a towel, by Emma Swan of all people.
“Oh, yeah—they turned everything down for the break to save energy,” Emma made a face. “You must be freezing…again.”
“Just give me a moment to get some warm clothes and then I’d be happy to entertain you,” Regina had never felt so self-conscious of makeup free face or her stringy wet hair, she hadn’t even washed it, it was just wet. Her heart started to pound a little bit faster when she yanked on her door handle to get in her room and found that it wasn’t turning or opening.
“Shit, where’s your key?” Emma noticed the difficulty Regina was having and looked around.
“I thought I left it open, I didn’t bother to bring my key or lock my door as I was under the impression there was no need,” Regina squeezed her eyes shut in frustration. Her temper was reaching a boiling level. The reality that she was locked out of her room in a towel and campus… everything was virtually closed. It was late, there was a storm and she was basically out of luck. How would she get a lock smith at this hour, and in these conditions?”
To make matters worse, Emma was taking pity on her and trying to comfort her, “Oh, hey, Regina, don’t worry,” she said, but her words were muffled as she pulled her own hoodie over her head and slipped it off. She handed it over to Regina, who reflexively grabbed it, but she was suddenly confronted with Emma’s bare arms and hard nips poking enticingly through a thin tank.
She wasn’t wearing a bra.
“Just put this on, and um…”
“How am I not supposed to worry?” Regina looked at her and then had to look away before she either started to stare or started to cry. She could not let Emma see her acting weak. There had to be a solution, but her mind was racing and she was so cold. If she could just get warm she could figure the rest out.
“Stay right here,” Emma put out her hands and pumped the air before turning around and jogging down the hallway. “Put that sweat shirt on.”
Regina waited until Emma rounded the corner and then put the hoodie on, it was warmed deliciously from Emma’s body heat and smelled clean like lemongrass. Mmm, this is what Emma smelled like, Regina thought. She wrapped the towel around her waist, and waited for what felt like an eternity. She was starting to grow certain that she was going to die out in her hallway on Christmas wearing nothing but a towel and a stranger’s hoodie. A fatal fashion crime if nothing else.
When Emma returned, she had a different sweatshirt on, no more arms, Regina noted sadly and was holding out a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt.
“Here, go back to the bathroom and change into something warmer, and hopefully by the time you come back, I’ll be waiting in your room.”
Emma was going to be waiting in her room… Regina couldn’t speak, she felt too emotional. She held the towel around her waist tightly in her fist and held Emma’s soft clothes against her chest as she walked back to the bathroom.
“They’re clean, by the way…” Emma called after her as Regina wondered what she was going to do to break into her room.
Emma’s clothes were incredibly comfortable, she did feel self-conscious considering she didn’t have on any underwear, but it would have been incredibly awkward if Emma offered her such personal items. She was going to have to bake this woman brownies or have her over for a proper dinner in thanks. In just a few hours Emma Swan had saved Regina more than she could even express. She took one more subtle sniff of the sweatshirt before returning down the hall.
There was no sign of Emma in the hallway, and when she tried her door it was open.
“How did you get in here?” Regina asked in wonder, watching Emma smile mischievously from where she sat at Regina’s desk chair.
“Lock picking skills,” Emma held up a little pick set and lifted her eyebrows as she gave the box a little shake. That was unexpected, and Regina didn’t know how to respond or what to say, but she happy.
“I’m impressed…” she trailed off as she noticed with dismay that she had left her room a mess, her clothes from the day were scattered on her bed and her coat was hung haphazardly over her chair. “Thank you for helping me, and for the clothes…and for the ride tomorrow.”
“Hey, no need. You would have done the same for me, it’s the season of giving and crap after all,” Emma stood up from the desk just as Regina stepped forward and the two women were suddenly standing very close to one another. Emma had beautiful eyes, and a gorgeous smile…
She stepped away from Regina and made her way to the door. “So I’ll see you tomorrow in the lounge at like 8am?”
Regina suddenly hoped for another crisis to befall her in order to make Emma stay. She remembered her childhood with her sister, when they would play make believe all day and then have secret sleepovers at night, watching movies with the sound off and trying not to giggle or make noise when they snuck popcorn from the kitchen. Inevitably, the sleepover would be shut down by their mother, and they would be ordered back to their separate rooms.
Regina wanted to stay up late and watch a movie, but Emma was clearly tired. And how would she go about asking her to stay in her room anyway? Regina had a single bed, and aside from her laptop she didn’t have television. Were two women supposed to share her tiny bed and huddle around her 11 inch lap top screen to watch Netflix?
It was a stupid thought and she didn’t act on it by asking Emma to stay. Instead, she wished her a good night and promised to be up and ready to depart at 8am. She made sure everything was still packed, finished drying her hair, and let her mind wander.
When she had come back from the bathroom and found her room to be locked Emma had already been waiting at her door. Regina wasn’t sure why she had stopped by? Just before she was about to turn out her light, she saw a note from Emma that was surrounded by a handful of Hershey kisses: “because Ernesto’s was out of chocolate cake and you wanted dessert. –Emma.”
In the dark, when she was sure she was alone and curled up under all the blankets, she was surrounded by the scent of Emma from her clothes. She could have changed into her own pajamas, but she was just finally feeling warm in Emma’s.
The storm had passed, leaving more cold in its wake. The weather app on Regina’s phone proudly displayed -11 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, she had awoken early and reluctantly changed out of Emma’s sweatpants, but had kept put back on the sweatshirt after she had finished dressing in her own clothes. She’d taken her time to do her makeup and hair and rolled her luggage over to the lounge at 7:59am.
She looked out the window and saw Emma in front of a car—if it could be called that—that was a frightening/sickening shade of yellow. White fumes sputtered from the back and Emma was scraping all of the accumulated snow and ice off of it. Regina wasn’t sure her suitcase would even fit in the small back seat.
She walked outside with a frown, debating whether Emma’s death trap of a car would make it all the way to Storybrooke. “We have a six-hour drive ahead of us, hope you’re ready for a mixtape!” Emma greeted her cheerily, coming around the car and taking Regina’s suitcase to cram into the back seat, next to Emma’s duffel.
“Mixtape?” Regina took a step back, unsure of what she had gotten into. Part of her was thrilled to spend more one on one time with Emma and part of her felt terrified. It was now or never, and the thought of spending another moment in her dorm room with nothing to do was incredibly unappealing. So she buckled into the passenger seat and took a risk. It was Christmas Eve day and it looked like she would be home in time for Christmas.
Hour 1: The mixtape was horrible for early morning listening. They barely made it out of Boston with all the traffic that had been delayed due to the storm from the past couple days. Regina considered calling the airline to see if she could get a flight today, but with all the previous cancelations the chances were slim.
Emma stopped at the store and Regina bought them each a coffee while Emma bought some snacks- more pop tarts and Cheetos.
“They were out of kale,” Emma teased sarcastically as she got back in the car and Regina glared disapprovingly at the junk food.
Hour 2: The coffee helped as Regina tried to focus on her book, but she wasn’t fooling anyone when she re-read the first page for the fifth time in a row, retaining nothing. She couldn’t stop paying attention to Emma as she danced in her seat and sang along to her mixtape.
It didn’t help that she kept trying to poke Regina and sing loudly in her face in hopes that she’d join in. It was unlikely especially to this crappy music.
“Hey now, you’re an all-star get your game on, let’s play!” Emma sang again off key and out of tune, but she at least looked like she was having fun.
Hour 3: They finally stopped at a gas station just off the interstate. The city had been left far behind along with most of the holiday traffic. Regina used the restroom, having regretted the size of the coffee she had drank for the past hour or so.
Emma was studying a map with the guy at the cash register and warning alarms went off in Regina’s head as she approached.
“I can totally take that short cut, and shave like 45 minutes off the drive,” Emma said excitedly and Ted, the attendant nodded but failed to match even a 10th of Emma’s level of excitement.
Hour 4: It was past lunch time, but Regina decided to wait to eat, she’d be back at home by 2pm, heck earlier if Emma’s brilliant short cut was to be trusted. They talked on and off, and Regina learned that Emma had a baby brother. 16 years younger than she was. She learned that she had been kind of a trouble maker as a teen, (lock picks were a testament to that), but Field Hockey had helped her to channel her anger and focus on her goals.
Regina could admire that, she shared a little bit about her family and their Christmas traditions, but didn’t go into any level of personal details. She didn’t want to bother Emma with things she wouldn’t care about anyway. Even when she asked.
Hour 5: Something was wrong. The “short cut” they were currently on was going against both the robotic voice of the GPS, and Regina’s highly tuned sense of intuition. Emma was starting to get nervous.
The radio was turned off in a fit, her easy going smile had been replaced by tension in her shoulders and heavy concentration. After 60 minutes of driving through the woods on a road that had barely been plowed, and was not well-traveled, Emma admitted defeat.
“I think I may have had that map upside down,” she said through gritted teeth.
Hour 6: The needle on the gas had plummeted over the course of the drive and they were still nowhere near civilization, despite listening to the GPS and correcting their route, per the route map there was still 25 miles to go until the next town.
“We should be home by now,” Regina couldn’t help but let her frustration out.
“I know, I’m sorry…I really thought it was a short cut,” Emma replied apologetically, which immediately made Regina feel bad. For the first few hours she had enjoyed her little road trip with Emma, but now the stress had rocketed and they were almost out of gas.
They rode for another 15-20 minutes or so in silence, both women with nothing really more to say. Small talk was the least of their concerns at this point.
“Come on, baby, just get us to the next town,” Emma spoke to the bug as she felt it slow.
As if on cue, the bug’s engine chugged a few times and ground to a halt as she pulled it over off the winding highway. They were still 3 miles from civilization. It was still -11 degrees, if not colder with wind chill.
“Why has my luck been so terrible this week?” Regina asked out loud.
“Don’t worry, someone is bound to come by and we can flag them down and get help, okay,” Emma said in her cheery voice that Regina had come to recognize, except this time she sounded less confidence than usual.
“We haven’t seen another car for ages.” Regina looked down the road but they were on a curve, and all she saw were tall evergreen trees frosted with snow on either side of the road. The heat she had been enjoying was already dissipating and the car was cooling down inside. Soon it would be very cold, and Regina really didn’t want to do cold again.
Emma startled her from her thoughts when she cried out in frustration and banged her fists on the steering wheel. “This really blows! Okay, I’m going to walk to town and get gas, and I’ll be back in no time.”
“You’re not going by yourself—there’s no phone service up out here and what if something bad happens?” Regina furrowed her brow and clenched her jaw. Truthfully, she could just sit and wait in the car. She’d be worried sick.
Emma already had opened the car door and stuck her foot out onto the road, “What’s going to happen?” Her breath appeared in a vaporous cloud hitting the freezing air.
Regina followed her out of the car and slammed the door, as she tried not to flinch at the sheer force of the wind. “Any number of things- wolf attack, avalanche…you could break an ankle or-or get lost,” she rattled off anything that came to her mind.
Emma stopped and took a deep breath, and Regina watched another cloud of white breath swirl through the air. “This really sucks.”
“Let’s get on with it,” Regina gestured forward in solidarity and the pair made their way to the backwards out of the way town three miles down the road.
Regina swore her legs were chunks of ice by the time they mercifully stumbled, numb and raw, into the first (and only) gas station they found. The sudden heat was almost painful as their too cold skin over reacted to the sudden uptake in temperature. Regina’s ass was so sore and her back throbbed residually from the fall she had taken the night before.
Emma blew on her gloved hands and apologized again for trying to the hero and taking a short cut. It took almost an hour to walk from the car to the gas station. It was nearly sun set since the winter days had become so short. The hope was to get a cab back to the bug with a couple gallons of gas in tow.
“It could have been worse, at least we only got stranded three miles from civilization,” Regina gave Emma’s bicep a friendly squeeze, hoping to convey that she had forgiven her and she did not need to apologize again.
“Bad news, gals,” the burly attendant behind the counter announced as soon as Emma asked for one of those red portable gas cans. “We’re clean out of fuel. Next truck arrives in the morning.”
“You have got to be kidding me!” Emma shrieked. She pulled off her beanie hat and ran her hand nervously through her windblown hair. “We need to get home, tomorrow is Christmas!”
“How can you be totally out of gasoline?” Regina followed up Emma’s outrage with a burst of her own. The guy behind the counter shrugged and scowled. “We just walked for an hour in the cold and we need to get home.”
“Sorry, we don’t have many cars here and the holiday outta statah’s done wiped us out. The truck should be here first thing in the A.M. We can get you on your way then, that’s the soonest…”
Emma looked on the verge of tears, so Regina stepped up. This was just another misstep in her bad fortune. She shouldn’t be surprised. “Alright, is there a… hotel in…what the hell is this town called?”
“Welcome to Allagash, in Aroostook County, Population 239,” the nameless hick behind the counter informed them with a sense of pride. “And no, nothing fancy like hotel … but I think there may be a room at ‘Slammer Inn’.”
The ‘Slammer Inn’ bed and breakfast was truly the only place to spend the night; it also happened to be the former county jail.
An older woman named Irma, with a very thick Maine accent, answered every question with a hearty, “Ayuh!” and who also preferred to be called ‘The Warden’, showed Regina and Emma to the only room available: The Suzy Bogguss Room.
“So why is there only one room? I don’t see any other guests and it’s incredibly quiet here,” Regina noted in confusion as Irma showed them how to run the finnicky shower.
“Uh, the other rooms are currently closed due to an excessive rat problem, but we’ve managed to contain it, and don’t worry, no rats have been spotted in the Suzy,” The Warden nodded in that strange prideful way that the gas station attendant also had.
Regina pulled Emma to the side out of earshot of Warden Irma, “I don’t think we should stay here.”
“I know, but what choice do we have? Siphon gas out of some beetah’ truck and make a run for it?” Emma asked wearily. She pinched the bridge of her nose and turned back to Irma who was waiting impatiently to finish the tour.
Regina realized just how tired her travel companion looked, and she must be after driving all day and being on high alert. After that unexpected walk in the cold, she was ready to turn in and hope for a Christmas miracle in getting home tomorrow.
“Say, Warden, are there any open restaurants on Christmas Eve?” Emma held a hand to her stomach. “Maybe like Chinese takeout or something?”
“Afraid not, but I put on a big kettle of chowdah, there’s plenty for us all,” Irma left them to get settled, which took all of three minutes because their luggage and personal items were still back in the bug.
Regina was pleased that she had chosen to dress down for the car ride and was still wearing Emma’s sweatshirt. At least if she could take a hot shower she might start to feel a little better about the turn of events. Everything said and done she was surprised at how calm she had remained considering the current circumstance.
Emma stripped off her coat and sat down on the edge of the bed, “What a day. Regina, I never meant for either of us to spend Christmas Eve in Alligator county or wherever…”
Irma’s ‘chowdah’ was rich and filling; actually, some of the best Regina had had, which was saying something from living in Maine nearly all her life.
And the Warden was pleasant company right up until she made an offhand comment that had Regina freezing up again, but this time it wasn’t because of the cold or as Irma said in ‘Maine’ slang, “A tit nipply out.”
“So, you two gals make a cute couple, which one of your families are you headed home to for Christmas?”
Regina froze in fear, yes, but panic swelled in her chest when she heard Emma choke and sputter, as she spouted out very awkward lightning fast denials before Regina even had a chance to swallow her soup.
“Oh, ha-ha! WhuT? No, no…” Emma had her hands out and flailing, her body was tense and she was laughing like she had just imbibed on nitrous oxide. “We’re not…she and me, noooo, we just uh, go to school together and we’re on the same team…I mean, Field Hockey. We’re, you know, travel buds, not like girlfriends ‘girlfriends.’ That would be crazy!”
Regina felt inexplicably crushed.
Her face went numb, and her blood ran colder than when she was out in the snowstorm. She cleared her throat a few times and tried to sound casual, but fell short by far, “What made you think that?”
“I’m sorry to have misjudged you two,” Irma smirked and Regina was sure she saw her wink, but it happened so fast, it may have only been a twitchy eyelid. Irma cleared their plates and bid them a good evening. The TV would only tune if someone went outside and fidgeted with the Antenna, but there was a box of VHS tapes in the closet.
The Warden had conveniently dropped a bomb and taken her leave. The event should simply be chalked up to an innocent mistake, but the tension in the Suzy Bogguss room was thick.
“Uh, do you want to shower first or?” Emma hooked her finger toward the bathroom and nervously shuffled back and forth in front of the bed. Regina, for her part wasn’t doing much better, she sat down on the chair then stood up, moved to look out the window (which was completely frosted over) and then back to the chair. She couldn’t get comfortable physically or emotionally. She felt like her brain was a circuit and she’d just blown a fuse: a very gay, lesbian fuse.
And in her mind Emma was the one flicking her finger back and forth over Regina’s breaker.
“Go ahead and shower.”
Regina looked at the Queen-sized bed and sighed. It all made sense and nothing made sense. Emma was gorgeous, sweet, kind with the body of feminine gladiator…which prompted Regina to imagine what she’d look like all oiled and roughed up fighting with wild eyes to the death. Oh, she had it bad for her team mate/travel buddy.
But clearly from the deny anything and everything, kill-the-gay-with-fire display Emma had put on for Irma, Regina was hopelessly crushing on a straight girl. She was wearing her goddamn sweatshirt for Christ’s sake reveling in the scent of the other woman.
And that feeling she got the night before when Emma helped her with her fall? Or how she had picked her locks? The tingle she felt from those chivalrous displays were obvious signs of attraction. Was she really this dense? Couple that with the intense desire to spend time with and/or be near Emma… and this wasn’t a new thing.
She’d had this weird feeling about her whenever she watched her swat those balls around on the field hockey course.
Emma returned from the shower, redressed with a towel around her head and didn’t meet Regina’s eyes. Silently, Regina took her turn in the shower. She wanted to scream when the thought crossed her mind that Emma had just occupied this exact same space naked…what would it be like to shower together? She ground her teeth together and tried to think about Christmas… Christmas ornaments on the tree, big and round and soft…just like Emma’s full luscious breasts encased tightly in her transparent white tank top…
She counted back from 100, and then drew in deep breaths to calm down. Regina was tired, Emma was tired. They’d sleep together…platonically, and then wake up in the morning get gas and a short ride back to the car. Once they were moving, Storybrooke was only another couple hours of driving and it would be Christmas with family just like Regina had hoped for.
And at the end of break, she’d fly home and probably change dorms and most definitely quit field hockey because she could never look straight, beautiful, lush breasted, bouncy blonde, Emma Swan in the eye ever again.
She tried to prolong the shower, but the longer she was alone with her thoughts the worse they got. Not 24 hours ago, she’d wished for a slumber party and her wish had come true, but knowing what she knew now she couldn’t even enjoy it. She was far too self-conscious and currently riding a major wave of gay panic.
Regina toweled dry and redressed in her leggings, warm socks, and Emma’s sweatshirt. She almost didn’t want to put it back on, because before she thought it was ‘fun’ to wear her clothes, now it felt like another indicator of ‘teh gay’.
In the Suzy, Emma was in the closet (ha! Regina wished) rummaging through the box of VHS tapes.
“What movies are in there?” Regina slid carefully all the way to one side of the bed and made herself as small as possible. There was no way she was going to risk entanglement with one of Emma’s body parts during the night. It would be a miracle if she could even fall asleep at all.
“I’ve never heard of any of these: “Imagine me and You,” “Kissing Jessica Stein,” something called, “Bound,” Emma brought the box out of the closet to show her the movies.
Regina looked through the movie offerings herself: “Gia”, “Loving Annabelle” …. she must really be in a state because to her it looked like the women on the worn dust sleeves were all into each other.
“Maybe we should just skip the film and call it a night,” Regina whispered and pushed the box away. She was losing her shit.
“Regina, it’s not even 7pm. Just pick something…” Emma pushed the box back at her with a little more force than necessary. It was the first time that she had spoken to Regina in annoyance. “I have to call my mom so she doesn’t worry about me.”
Emma slipped out of the room to make her phone call, and Regina was sure she could hear rats running in the thin walls. She exhaled heavily, her body heavily filled with nervous energy.
She grabbed “Kissing Jessica Stein” from the movie pile and slipped the tape into the player. She’d been a very young girl the last time she’d used a VHS. As the trailers started to play, she went back to the bed and slid under the covers.
More than anything Regina wanted to call her parents and let them know she was trying to get home, but she also wanted it to be a surprise for Christmas morning.
Her family would be so excited. She clung to the sweet, pure feeling of how that moment would feel: There would be hugs and her father would squeeze her too tight, and pinch her ribs. He’d say, “Niña, necesitas comer más!”
And her mother would greet her with light kisses on each cheek, and she’d smell like gardenias. Except, in her new family scenario, her mother would ask if she’d found a boyfriend and instead of blushing and shaking her head like usual, she’d say, “No te preocupes por el matrimonio y los nietos. Soy homosexual.”
She scowled and slammed her head back against the pillow. With her head near the wall, she discovered inadvertently that she could hear Emma talking on the phone to her mother.
“No, mom, please don’t say that! No, you’re not going to meet her. She doesn’t…she isn’t…” Emma’s voice faltered and Regina had the distinct impression that she was talking about her. Her eyes widened and she felt tinges of frustration threatening to explode. She pulled the pillow over her face and screamed.
The pillow didn’t muffle the volume well because two seconds later Emma was back in the room, shaking her and asking if she was okay.
Regina reluctantly removed the pillow from her face and stared up into those soft, shining eyes. “Oh, you heard that?”
“Uh, yeah. It wasn’t quiet. You just screamed…”
“I’m fine,” Regina turned over and faced the wall and hugged her non-efficient screaming pillow to her chest. “I thought I saw a rat…”
A beat passed in silence. “Hey, um… Regina?”
She felt the mattress dip with Emma’s weight, and her damned body betrayed her with a very distinct physical reaction to the perceived thought of sharing a bed with hot, sexy oily gladiator boobs.
“I’m asleep,” Regina answered, squeezing her eyes shut until they burned, and squeezing her thighs to put a damper on the ache and heat that had started between them.
“Okay…but…what is going on in this movie?” Emma asked in mild alarm. Regina turned over despite her resolve to not give her any more attention. She looked at the screen and was immediately met with the sight of a blonde and a brunette awkwardly making out.
Emma picked up the cover and read the title, “Kissing Jessica Stein” and the description, “A woman searching for the perfect man instead discovers the perfect woman.”
Regina flushed a deep red and had a flashback of kissing her high school prom date in the backseat of his car. Her mother had stomped out in her night clothes to the end of their drive way, and shined a flashlight in the steamed-up window before pounding on it so hard, Regina had wondered how it hadn’t shattered.
She had felt outraged at the time, and embarrassed that she’d been caught-- humiliated that her date dumped her ass out on the curb at her mom’s feet.
But the other emotion that she’d felt and never understood was relief. Relief that she didn’t have to keep kissing that boy, and relief that her mother had intervened before she had been pressured into having sex. She’d used one excuse or another to avoid intimacy and sex with all the boys since.
Damn, she should have realized she was hella gay far sooner. Here she was in a unique predicament. In the Suzy Bogguss room at the ‘Slammer Inn’ in the middle of nowhere Maine sharing a bed with a beloved athlete and incredibly generous hottie who she was madly attracted too.
Don’t think about kissing Emma…
Regina repeated the mantra in her head until all she could think about was flipping Emma over, pinning her down with her body and kissing the daylights out of her face.
Her heart beat harder, and she scooted towards the wall until she was plastered against it.
“This movie is actually pretty good…” Emma laughed and the bed shook, and Regina descended further into hell.
Emma must have assumed she was asleep, because she turned off the TV and the lamp. The room was dark and quiet as Emma slipped under the covers on the other side of the bed.
“Good night, Regina…”
Regina didn’t reply, and she felt guilty as sin. She lay alone thinking bad thoughts until dull grey light slunk slowly into the room signaling that it was Christmas morning.