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Moments Between Us

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Christmas Traditions:

Slamming her laptop shut, Regina Mills curses under her breath, gathering her belongings and shoving them into her briefcase.

It's only five fifty-five, but her building closes at six the week leading to Christmas, and she has to get home to her son, Henry. Her friend, Mary Margaret, is watching him, but Regina knows her friend needs to get home to her family before the weather gets too bad.

They live in South Carolina, and this winter has been exceptionally cold. The roads were starting to ice over this morning, and traffic was bad coming in to work, so she assumes it'll be even word getting home. It's December twenty-third, her last working day until the new year, and she still feels like she has more than enough work to stay here until midnight. Like always.

She loves being a lawyer, really, but these long nights and endless cases sometimes make the job tough.

"Fuck," she mumbles to herself when her phone goes off. Turning out the light on her desk, she slides her jacket over her sweater before looking at the screen.

A weather alert.

The roads are closed due to the heavy snowfall, and are completely dead stopped with traffic. She whips her head up to her large office window, spying the snowflakes that have apparently been falling for the last few hours.

Of course this would happen the night she's trying to rush out of here.

She knows the roads will be icy even if the snowplows can get to them quickly, and people in the south don't know how to drive when there are weather conditions like this. It's just not what they're used to.

Growing up in South Carolina, the child of a wealthy socialite mother and a business owner father, she never had to worry about the road conditions. Her mother would insist on their housekeepers running out to get groceries or run errands so they didn't have to chance it.

Once she was old enough to drive, it was never a concern because the weather hadn't ever gotten this bad. She hasn't seen snow since she was in middle school, and now, as a thirty-one year old, she is nervous how to handle it.

She glances at her phone again: All roads headed North on I-75 are backed up for the next ten exits.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Grabbing her purse, she slings it over her shoulder, then takes her briefcase and scurries out the door, leaving her office behind.

Running to the elevator, she pushes the button over and over again, cursing the security system in her office under her breath. Each employee is responsible for setting the alarm if they are the last one out instead of it automatically doing it at a certain time, which would be much simpler. This requires making sure you are actually the last one out before setting it, or run the risk of locking someone else inside ready to trigger the alarm.

She doesn't have time to check, has to get home before more people get on the road. She thinks if she can be on the interstate before 6:15, she should be fine. Most people should be home by now, anyway, and she's only one exit down from her house. It should be fine...

When she steps inside, she presses the ground floor button over and over, taking out her phone to text Mary Margaret.

Walking to my car now. I'm sorry! I'll be home soon.

As the doors close, she swears she heard someone's voice, but she knows she's always the last one here.

Shrugging, she impatiently waits for the elevator to make its descent. When it reaches the ground level, Regina wraps her thick black scarf around her neck, then tightens her grip on her purse.

With a deep inhale, she readies herself for the harsh winter coldness that she'll be met with when she steps outside.

Stepping quickly over to the alarm, she presses #2323, and then pushes open the office's main glass door, the icy wind hitting Regina in her face. It instantly makes her cheeks redden and her hair blow back, and she shivers, cursing this harsh winter they've been given this year.

She squints against the wind, trudging toward her car. As she reaches her car, she tosses her belongings into the backseat, but before she climbs in, she sees another car in the parking lot.

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

A forest green jeep, which she knows belongs to the newest member of their team, is still there.

Fuck. Why hasn't he left yet? She hasn't met the new lawyer yet, only seen him in passing in the hallways, but she didn't peg him to be the over-acheiving-stay-at-the-office-late type. Like her.

Checking her phone, she sees that it's five fifty-nine. Shit. She has to get on the road, but now he's locked inside and if he trigger the alarm, their boss will be called… and no one wants that.

Albert Gold, their boss, would not be happy to get called while he's on vacation about the alarm.

Running back to the building, she sees the tall, handsome new guy rushing toward the door. She grabs her key, unlocking it and pulling the door open before he gets to it.

She hurries to the alarm on the wall, typing in the code to disarm it.

"I'm so sorry!" he calls, finally meeting her at the door, his briefcase awkwardly falling from his shoulders. "I completely lost track of time."

His British accent surprises her, but she recovers quickly. "Just don't let it happen again," she snaps, rolling her eyes as she taps impatiently against the alarm box. "Are you ready now?"

He nods, sheepishly confessing, "Gold went on vacation the day I started and forgot to give me the code." She sighs, knowing that just so typical of their boss. "I kept meaning to ask someone for it, but honestly, I've been rushing out of here each night before other people anyway that I didn't need it."

She bites her tongue, another snappy comeback on the tip of it as she thinks of the traffic she'll be stuck in now. Instead, she types in the alarm code once more to set it again, and they both hurry out the door. She fumbles with her keys, her fingers stiff from the cold, as he buttons his jacket.

"It's gotten even colder out here," he comments, bouncing on his heels and blowing into his cupped hands. "Nothing like growing up in Maine like I did, though." He shakes his head, laughing to himself as he says something about driving through knee high snow before that she doesn't really listen to as she glances down at her watch, seeing that Mary Margaret had text her back.

"That tends to happen when a snowstorm is coming through," she replies dryly.

She knows she's the resident office bitch, so she wouldn't be surprised if her short temper turned this guy away, but instead, he surprises her. She watches as his lip twitches up on one side, a smirk growing.

He shakes his head, sighing. "Well, at least you live up to your nickname," he grins, reaching out his hand. "I'm Robin, Robin Locksley."

She looks down at his hand, tentatively reaching her own out toward him. "Regina Mills. And what nickname exactly do you speak of?" she asks, her dark eyebrow twitching up. "The one where they all call me the Evil Queen?"

He shrugs, as if dismissing the rumor, and smiles softly. "So you've heard it." Robin shakes his head, looking up toward the snow that is falling around them, sticking to the ground more than Regina has seen in decades. "But from what I can tell, evil seems a bit harsh."

Hm.

She's intrigued.

Inhaling, she looks around, noting the white Christmas lights still on in the windows before looking back up into his blue eyes. "And why's that?"

He tightens his jacket around himself, and admits, "I've seen your work. How you helped that group home get funding when their stakeholders didn't want to pay anymore." He shrugs again as an easy smile forms. "Bold and audacious how you went after them, I'd say, but not evil. Who knew an evil queen had a soft spot for children?"

"Well," she grins, liking that someone seems to have taken notice of her hard work, "the evil moniker serves me well in our field. Having the Evil Queen reputation gets me through doors I'd still be fighting to break down otherwise."

He hums from the back of his throat, nodding his agreement.

She likes this guy, like his attitude and how, even though he's only been here a week, seems to have noticed her.

Biting her lip, she looks out toward their cars. "We should get going," she tells him, "the snow is picking up and I got an alert saying the roads were coming to a standstill. At least in the direction of my house."

Just then, her phone dings again with another weather alert, as well as another incoming text from Mary Margaret.

I-75 North closed for the next four hours. Avoid if possible.

"Fuck," she groans, reaching a hand up to her forehead.

Robin's head tilts, and she shows him the alert.

He grimaces, asking if she lives in that direction.

"Yes," she sighs, leaning against the wall of their building. "And my son is home with his babysitter. He's going to be so worried."

Robin's face seems to soften at that, and he asks, "You have a son?"

She nods, and Robin takes out his phone, turning it around to show her a picture of a curly haired little boy with big, brown eyes. "I do, too. This is Roland."

Regina smiles at the picture, despite her frustration. He's adorable, really. So she returns the favor, showing him the background of her phone. It's a selfie of her and Henry that she took at the park a few months ago. He's on the swing, and she came up behind him, wrapping her arms around his middle and resting her chin on his shoulder, both smiling brightly at the camera. "This is Henry."

Robin smiles, commenting on what a handsome boy he is, which she beams and agrees with.

"Look," Robin says, looking uncomfortable. "I know we just met, and… and this is very awkward…" He trails off, and she looks at him questioningly, one brow cocked. "Well, the roads aren't closed yet going west, which is where I live. There's no sense in you staying here alone. Come over for some hot chocolate and a warm meal at least," he says, "then hopefully the roads will be clear and you can head home."

Biting her lip, she thinks of her options. She could try to rush home now, but would most definitely get stuck in traffic even just going up one exit and inevitably sit on a shut down road for hours and hours, praying the gas in her car lasted. She could go back up to her office, but she is getting hungry, and she has no more snacks left in her desk drawer.

Well… shit.

"Robin," she starts, shaking her head. "I don't know."

"Come on," he goads good-naturedly, nodding his head toward the roads. "It seems like your best option."

And he's right.

With a sigh, she agrees, and he smiles widely, saying he'll call home and let them know they are on their way.

{*********************}

She follows his jeep to his house, the whole time wondering if this is the start of a murder mystery.

Clicking the button on her steering wheel, she has her car call Mary Margaret. She explains the situation to her friend, saying she's going to go to Robin's for dinner and hot chocolate, just long enough to let the road workers clear the streets enough to drive on them again.

"He lives out west, so I'm only about thirty minutes away."

"Oh, have fun!" Mary croons, and Regina rolls her eyes at her friend's sappy, excited tone.

She can hear the cogs in Mary's mind churning now, drawing this up to be a romantic movie. Her friend wants her so desperately to find love again, and Regina just scoffs at the younger woman's tone.

"It's not like that, Mary. It was either go there or wait all night in my office."

"Mmhmm," her friend says, all too cheerily. "I'll be here with Henry. He's upstairs playing his video games now so I'll let him know you'll be home later."

"Thank you, Mary."

With that, she ends the call, thinking of her ten year old and how he'll be excited to get extra video game time tonight.

After about thirty minutes, she's pulling into Robin's driveway behind him and following him into his garage.

When they get inside, she has to control her laughter from spilling out. It looks as if Christmas has exploded in this man's house.

There's a large tree in the corner of his living room covered in multicolored lights and all the mismatched ornaments one could possibly dream of. There's Rudolph covered pillows on the couches, wreaths in every window, Christmas music playing softly from the speakers, and tinsel strung along the fireplace and kitchen island.

Plush gingerbread men sit on the kitchen counter, there are over-sized Santa hats on each wooden chair around the table, and in every crevice she can see, there's some type of random Christmas decoration from porcelain mice in scarves holding toys, to a candy cane garland strung across his fireplace where the two stockings hang—one big one with a matching smaller one beside it.

She grins when she catches Robin's gaze, and he gives her the cutest smile she's ever seen. "Christmas is mine and Roland's favorite holiday," he states, and she chuckles, saying she can tell.

Before she can say anything else, she hears a Daddy! echoing down the hall, and when she turns, there's a little bundle of energy jumping from the last step into his father's arms.

"There's my boy!" Robin laughs, peppering kisses to his son's dark hair. "Roland, I'd like you to meet a friend of mine. This is Miss Regina." He points his head in her direction, and Regina smiles over at them.

"Hi!" Roland calls, hopping down from his father's arms and walking over toward her with a tiny hand stretched out toward her. "I'm Roland!"

"Well, hello, there," she greets, reaching out to shake his little hand. "How old are you, Roland?"

"I'm four!" he exclaims happily, holding out four chubby fingers and wiggling them for good measure.

Robin laughs, telling her that Roland's birthday was two months ago and he's always very excited to let anyone who will listen know that he's now a big boy.

"I sure am!"

Laughing softly, Regina crouches down to be eye level with the little boy. "You're right, you are," she announces, tapping his pajama clad belly. It's a cotton set of pajamas with the classic Santa and Rudolph plastered all over it. "My son, Henry, is ten, and I remember when he turned four, he was so happy to start big boy school."

"I go to school!" Roland says, his overzealous energy reverberating from his body and filling the whole living room.

He begins to tell her all about his class, his friends, and how he loves to color and learn his letters, and she listens intently, nodding in all the right spots of his story.

"Alright, my boy," Robin chuckles, scooping him back up as Regina stands again, "let's say goodbye to Belle and let Regina put her stuff down."

Smiling, she starts to unzip her jacket, hanging it on the back of a kitchen chair. She'd left her briefcase in the car, but she pulls her purse from across her body, laying it on the kitchen island as Robin walks Roland over to the auburn haired girl Regina is just now noticing.

"Bye, Belle," Roland says, reaching out to hug the mystery woman.

She says goodbye to the boy, then Robin, smiling over at Regina and waving.

Regina does the same, politely waving as the girl leaves. She has a fleeting thought that maybe the gorgeous girl was Robin's girlfriend—she didn't look too much younger than them—but she brushes it off as Robin and Roland invite her to come into the living room.

"I hope it's okay, I just put my stuff on the counter."

"Of course," Robin smiles easily, waving it off as if it's no big deal. Huh, so different from how she would be, expecting guests to hang their belongings up in a certain spot just like her mother always taught her.

With a smirk, she walks into the living room, joining Robin and Roland on the couch.

Roland is working on a puzzle, which she can tell is going to end up being the Grinch, while Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas plays on the television.

"Sorry about running your girlfriend off," she admits sheepishly, settling on the cushion beside Robin. "She could have stayed."

"M-my girlfriend?"

"Daddy doesn't have a girlfriend," Roland giggles, covering his mouth to stifle the laugh.

Biting her lip again, she apologizes. "O-oh, I'm sorry," she chuckles awkwardly, "I just assumed…"

Robin waves his hand, laughing, and explaining that Belle is their neighbor. She's in college and watches Roland for him after school each day.

"No girlfriend here," he grins, giving her a knowing look, and she can feel the heat creeping up her neck.

They sit for a while, Regina and Robin helping Roland with the puzzle, and she can't help but think how strange this all is. This man is so nice, so welcoming. His home feels like she's been there before, been there forever, and this is just a normal day hanging out with friends.

Roland eventually climbs into Regina's lap, asking to see pictures of Henry.

Smiling, she takes out her phone, flipping through her camera roll and showing both Robin and Roland pictures. "This is from Thanksgiving," she says, pointing to the picture. "Henry got to cut the turkey at my dad's house and was beyond happy about it."

"I like turkey!" Roland interjects, leaning in closer to the picture to get a better look. "That turkey is huge."

Regina and Robin both laugh, and she agrees that her father had gotten far too big of a bird this year, but it was still very delicious.

They spend the next ten minutes looking at pictures of Henry, while Robin whips up a simple meal of mac n' cheese and chicken nuggets in the kitchen. "I hope this is alright with you," Robin calls, gesturing toward the pot on the stove. "We aren't exactly fancy in this household."

Softly giggling, Regina scrunches her nose in Roland's direction, assuring Robin that nuggets and mac n' cheese were perfectly fine with her. "Henry loves macaroni and cheese," she says, "I've had to learn to love it, but of course I always make sure he has a fruit and a vegetable with it, too."

"I love fruit!" Roland says, pushing Regina's hair back behind her shoulder. He rambles on about how grapes are his favorite, but he also likes strawberries and apples.

"What about vegetables?" she asks with a grin.

Roland's nose scrunches up much like hers did moments ago, and he shakes his head, telling her that he only likes green beans and carrots, but nothing else.

"That's a good start," she says, tapping the end of his nose. She tells him how Henry didn't like many vegetables when he was Roland's age, but he kept trying new ones and now he loves all sorts of vegetables.

Roland seems to think on that for a second, calling out to Robin in the kitchen and asking if they can have green beans tonight, too.

Smiling, Regina looks to Robin who nods his agreement. "I'll put some on right now, Ro."

While Robin finishes cooking, Regina regales Roland with tale after tale of her son while Roland shares his own experiences with her like finding a toy in the sandbox at school and how Paw Patrol was his favorite show.

They carry the conversation to the dinner table, all laughing when Roland tells them about making Christmas ornaments at school and how his friend Jordan knocked over an entire bottle of glitter on Mrs. Moore's table. "She wasn't very happy," he says, shaking his head.

Roland continues to chatter all throughout dinner, barely letting the adults get a word in, but Regina loves it. Henry was always more on the shy side at Roland's age, had to grow into his personality a bit, but Roland is all personality. He treats them to story after story, asking Regina if she likes the chicken, what her favorite Christmas movie is, if she's excited for Santa to come this year, and anything else he can think of.

"Take a breath, son," Robin snickers, pushing his plate toward him. "Finish that up, because it's later than normal for dinner. You still need a bath and to get to bed before it's too late."

Another ten minutes and he's finished his entire plate, carrying it to the sink and plopping it in as gingerly as he can from his position standing on his tiptoes, nose barely reaching over the top of the counter.

"He's a chatty one, isn't he?" she asks with a grin, looking over the Robin.

He rolls his eyes playfully, saying, "You have no idea. He could talk to a brick wall and stay entertained."

She laughs, shoulders shaking slightly as they both stand from the table, Robin taking her plate for her.

Smiling, she thanks him, then makes her way into the living room with Roland. She joins him on the couch where his Mickey movie is just winding down.

Robin rinses off the dishes, dropping them into the dishwasher before coming into the living room. He comes to stand in front of Roland, saying, "Alright, Ro," and tapping the little boy's curls. "Time for bed."

Roland whines, saying he wants to stay up with Miss Regina, but Robin puts his foot down as he glances at the clock. It's already almost eight, and Regina knows from experience that if little boys his age don't go to bed soon, they'll be terrors in the morning.

"Can Regina read me a story tonight?" Roland asks, his puppy dog eyes growing even wider as he looks between Robin and Regina.

Robin looks to her, silently asking her if she wants to, and, well, who is she to deny this adorable little boy? With a smile, she takes Roland's hand, letting him lead her upstairs where he snuggles into his bed, telling her exactly how he wants her to wrap him up in his covers.

Snickering, she follows his directions meticulously, Robin watching from the doorway. She reads him How The Grinch Got so Grinchy, Roland's eyes growing heavy before the story even ends.

Robin steps over, fixing the covers and placing a kiss on his boy's head before they turn out the little fox shaped lamp on his bedside table and make their way downstairs.

{*************************}

Downstairs, the living room has heated up now that the fire has had time to grow, and Regina thinks about how comfortable his home is. She contemplates for a second if she should add more Christmas decorations to her house, worried that she's deprived Henry of holidays like this.

Her house is decorated, of course, just not to this level.

She has a large tree in her main living room covered in white lights and red and green ornaments. There's a smaller tree in the kitchen that she lets Henry decorate each year with his fun ornaments and colorful lights. She has a beautiful, oversized wreath on her front door, and a few decorations on the inside, but she suddenly has the urge to go to the nearest craft store and pick up even more to fill their large home with.

"Would you like some hot chocolate?" Robin asks, pulling her from her thoughts.

Smiling, she says yes, and he tells her to make herself at home.

She sits on the couch again like earlier, curling her leg up underneath her.

Her phone rings, and she looks down to see that Mary Margaret is calling her, so she swipes the call to answer, worried something might be wrong.

"Mom?"

She smiles when she hears Henry's voice, and she settles deeper into the couch, pulling a Christmas pillow from out behind her so she can sink further into it. "Hi, sweetheart. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah," he says, sighing, adding, "I want to play another game, but Mary Margaret said I'd played enough and needed to ask you."

Chuckling, she asks him how many he's played and he tells her he's only played three. But she's no idiot, she knows three games have probably taken hours upon hours today.

"Why don't you go watch a movie with Mary before you head to bed?" she urges, "It's getting late."

"Mom," he complains, and she can hear the eye roll through the phone, "it's only eight-thirty!"

"Henry Daniel…"

"Fiiine," he relents, obviously knowing he'll never win this argument. "When will you be home?"

Sighing, she tells him that she doesn't know. "When we hang up, I'll check the weather app again to see and send Mary a text. Hopefully they'll have it clear soon, and I'll be home before too long."

"Okay. Can we have pancakes in the morning?"

With a smirk, she agrees, and says she'll cook pancakes just for him in the morning since it's Saturday.

"Can we make them Christmas tree shaped?"

She laughs, "I'm not so sure how we'd do that. I can maybe manage a candy cane shape or something."

With a little snort of laughter, Henry concedes, telling her goodnight and that he loves her.

"I love you, too, sweetheart. Goodnight."

As she hangs up, Robin walks in from the kitchen with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate. "Is Henry okay?"

"Yeah," she assures with a soft smile. "He was trying to weasel his way into more video game time since I'm not there and Christmas tree shaped pancakes in the morning."

"That's impressive," he chuckles, and she shakes her head.

"Oh, no," she laughs, "I can't make Christmas tree shaped ones, but I told him we'd try for maybe a candy cane shape."

Laughing, Robin settles next to her on the couch, taking a sip of his hot chocolate.

She takes her mug, doing much the same.

"I've got some Bailey's we could add, but I didn't know if you wanted to since you need to drive home."

She smiles uneasily, saying, "Probably better if I don't, just in case the roads clear up soon." She won't tell him tonight she's sworn off alcohol ever since her husband was taken from her. That's far too deep for the first night they've actually met, though it feels as if she's known him forever.

"Well," he rubs his hands along his black work pants, "I'm assuming you became such an expert children's book reader from Henry?"

She chuckles and nods, saying, "Henry loves to read. Before he could read, he'd make me read every story in the house over and over again. We'd spend weekends at the library picking out new books, and once he started school and could check out from the school library?" she chuckles, "Oh, it was all over."

Robin laughs, saying Roland isn't quite that much into books, "He still prefers to be outside in nature, climbing trees and giving me heart attacks every chance he gets."

They laugh, bonding over how rambunctious little boys can be. Regina tells him of the time Henry snuck outside while she was studying for an exam, climbed up on the hood of her car and jumped off before she could get out to catch him. "He broke his arm, and I spent an hour at the hospital worrying child protective services were going to be called on me."

"Oh god," Robin laughs, shaking his head. "Roland climbed up to the tree house in my mum's backyard in England last summer. And instead of using the ladder to climb down, he thought it made so much more sense to swing down each branch." He shakes his head, taking a sip of his hot chocolate. "He missed a branch and fell right from the tree. My mum's German Shepherd broke his fall, otherwise I'm pretty sure he would've had a broken arm or leg instead of the cuts and bruises he ended up with."

"That poor dog," she laughs, "Bet Roland never did it again, though."

"Oh, he did. The very next day."

She chortles at that, shaking her head and telling him that Henry has never left the house without her permission ever since the broken arm incident.

"And," he clears his throat, shifting on the couch, "where was Henry's dad for all of those moments?"

Inhaling sharply, she brings her mug up to her lips, letting the heat soothe her. Shit, she was hoping this wouldn't come up.

"Henry's father, Daniel," she begins, preparing herself. No matter how much time has gone by, it was still hard to admit. "He died in a car wreck when Henry was seven months old. Drunk driver."

"Oh, Regina," Robin sighs, taking her hand in his and giving it a squeeze. "I'm so, so sorry."

She shrugs, trying to play it off. It's fine, really, it was ten years ago. She's moved on, learned to live life again, but having to talk about it is always hard.

"What about Roland's mom?"

"Ah," he says, smiling sympathetically at her. "That's a much less complicated story." He sighs, saying, "We were together for years, all through law school, but I guess having Roland just made life too hard for Marian. She started cheating on me, a lot, and decided motherhood and being in a committed relationship just wasn't for her."

She can tell he tries to keep the bitterness out of his voice. She can't imagine how angry she'd be if Daniel had willingly left her and Henry. "I'm sorry, Robin. That's awful."

He shrugs nonchalantly, saying he'd been bitter for a while, but he came to accept that he and Roland were better off without her than waiting around for her to become the mother Roland deserved. "Luckily, I found out when Roland was just under a year, so he doesn't remember her. Sounds harsh, but I'm kind of glad he doesn't." He sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. "He asks about her sometimes the older he gets, but I just tell him that Mummy lives in a different state. I'm sure he'll have more questions later in life, so I've got to start preparing myself now."

She smiles, reaching out to pat his knee. "Just wait until they do family projects in school. Henry obviously grew up knowing that Daniel was with the angels, but starting school and realizing that you're family dynamic looks different than most of the other kids… well, it sucks. Sorry."

Robin grins, and she relaxes, glad that she didn't offend him. He says he's trying to prepare for that, knowing Roland will more than likely be one of the one kids in class with just a dad.

"Why don't we watch a movie, hm?" he asks, obviously wanting to change the subject. "This is getting a bit heavy."

She giggles and agrees, saying, "That sounds lovely."

He flips from Roland's paused Paw Patrol to the Disney Plus screen, selecting Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

"Fantastic choice," she grins, taking the fuzzy, candy cane printed blanket from the back of the couch and getting cozy.

Robin sits back, grinning over his shoulder at her. "Are you cold?"

"A little," she shrugs, blushing. She's never made herself this comfortable in someone's home. She should have asked if she could use the blanket, but Robin seems like the type to just expect everyone to come in and act like this is their house as well. "Is it okay that I used this blanket?"

"Of course!" he assures, "My house is your house."

They smile at one another, Robin settling back against the cushions as well as Kevin McCalister once again gets the short end of the stick from his family.

After a few moments, Robin stands, poking the fire and making the flames dance. "Maybe this'll help," he says, sitting back down and taking a corner of the oversized blanket she's using. "I need some warmth, too."

He grins, and those dimples of his she'd noticed earlier pop back onto his cheeks. She tries to contain the flirty smile fighting its way to his face as his knees bump against hers under the blanket.

She likes him. And this is trouble. She hasn't liked anyone in years. Not since she dated that loser Graham who ran off to Atlanta with some blonde bitch named Emma. They'd apparently met at police academy and he just couldn't help the instant attraction.

Rolling her eyes, Regina shakes off thoughts of Graham and focuses back on the beautiful man beside her. She watches him from the corner of her eye, noting the way his muscles move beneath his dress shirt.

"You can go change into something else if you want," she offers. "I'm stuck in my work clothes, doesn't mean you have to be."

He smiles, his blue eyes shining as he waves her off, saying he's quite comfortable how he is. "I wouldn't want to miss Kevin ending up in New York!"

Playfully swatting at his chest, she snuggles under the blanket, thankful she'd at least chosen one of her more comfortable pant suits to wear to work today.

As the movie progresses, stretching through the part everyone always tunes out, Robin begins asking her more questions, getting to know her.

She answers, and in return, spends the majority of the movie getting to know this man. He's from England, but moved to Main in high school for his dad's job. He came down south for law school with a buddy of his, both attending Duke, which makes her laugh, knowing it's the rival of her own.

"Ah, so you're a Blue Devil," she gasps with mock-horror.

"Don't tell me you're a UNC Tar Heel."

She laughs, nodding. "I'm sorry to say that I am."

Robin groans dramatically, clutching a hand to his heart—Duke and the University of North Carolina have been rivals for decades upon decades, to the point where her fellow law students wouldn't even allow each other to date someone who attended Duke back then. "I wish I'd known that before inviting you into my home."

They laugh and she smacks his chest, his larger hand capturing her own before she can place it back in her lap. Their fingers naturally fall into place, linking together as they get to know one another.

"Well, it's not my fault UNC ranks higher than Duke," she sasses, "You chose the wrong college."

He grins, asking her what made her choose UNC, anyway.

"Oh," she snorts. "I knew I wanted to stay close to Charlotte, UNC is only about twenty minutes from here, you know," she explains, a wicked grin forming on her lips, "but my mother wanted me to stay in state for college, so I choice the closest law school possible while still being out of state."

She was a brat, she admits, but if anyone knew what hell it was being raised by Cora Mills, they'd understand.

Robin laughs at her explanation. "Evil Queen, indeed," he says, and all she can do is smirk.

"What about you?" she wonders with a raised brow, "You were in Maine, then North Carolina, how'd you settle here in South Carolina?"

Robin snickers at the question, saying he's moved all over. "Once I got close to graduating, Marian had gotten a job here in Charlotte," he explains, shrugging. "It's only about two hours from Duke, so she moved here in April of that year, I graduated in May and made my way down."

She nods, listening to his story. His voice is so soothing, and she thinks she could listen to him talk all night. Might even let him simply read the phone book, and she'd listen intently.

Their knees keep knocking into each other's under the blanket as they get to know each other, and eventually she situates herself so their knees are pressed together. She's turned, looking at him, no longer worried with the movie as Kevin sets up his uncle's house to torment the bad guys.

"I'm really glad I almost set off the alarm today," Robin says softly, leaning into her.

She realizes she's done the same at some point, practically curled into his side. "Are you? Why?"

"Because the Evil Queen came to my rescue."

She snickers, "Well just don't let it happen again."

Holding up his hands in surrender, he grins. "Oh, I wouldn't dream of it."

With a playful eye roll, she scoots closer, her face inching closer to his. There's a palpable tension between them, and her breath grows thick at the realization.

The energy is so charged, she thinks if someone were to light a match, they'd ignite just like the kerosene soaked rope Marv and Harry are about to be stuck on.

She's not like this, not one to flirt with men and want to kiss them the day she meets them. But this guy, this Robin Locksley, he makes her feel like no man has ever done before. This is crazy.

"Robin, I…"

"Regina," he murmurs at the same time, and she bites her lip, nodding for him to speak. "I know this is insane because we just met, but I would very much like to kiss you."

That blush that's been sitting on her cheeks all night deepens, and suddenly she's far too hot under this blanket with the fire burning. "I would like that," she whispers coyly, slipping the blanket off of her legs to cool down a bit.

Robin places his large hand to her cheek, and her eyes flutter closed, already pleased by the feel of this. She peeks out beneath her long, dark lashes, watching as he leans in closer, closer, closer still.

Beep beep beep

"Shit!" she exclaims, practically jumping out of her skin as her phone goes off with a weather alert update.

Robin's hand falls from her cheek as he reaches over to pick up her phone from the coffee table and hand it to her.

Looking at the screen, her eyes sink closed, their little bubble of warm Christmas magic seeming to pop. "The roads have been cleared."

Robin nods, standing from the couch and pausing the movie as Kevin calls the police and runs to the park. "Well then," he announces, reaching out his hand. "You should get home to Henry."

Fuck. She doesn't want to go… wants to stay here and kiss this handsome man, practically a stranger, for the next several hours, giggling and getting to know him some more. In an odd way, this has ended up being like a first date… and it's the best date she's been on since Daniel.

Sighing, she takes his offered hand, though, letting him pull her up from the couch. Practically, Regina knows she needs to get back home to her child before the roads get bad again. So, with a hesitance she's not used to, she rubs her hands over her pants, smoothing them out as Robin grabs her coat from the kitchen chair she'd hung it on earlier.

"M'lady," he says with a dramatic bow, handing her the coat and her purse.

Chuckling, she takes it, slipping it all back on.

Robin takes her hand, which instantly makes her feel giddy inside like a high school girl on her first date, and leads her to the front door.

"I had a great time tonight, Robin," she says, zipping her jacket. "In a weird way, I'm glad you almost set off the alarm and got us both fired."

He laughs, his dimples shining as a slight blush colors his cheeks. He bites down on his bottom lip, trying to quell his smile, she thinks, and God, he really is cute.

His eyes light up, and she looks at him questioningly. Following his mirth-filled gaze, she looks up, seeing a sprig of mistletoe hanging above his front door.

"Now how did that get there?" he asks in mock-astonishment.

His grin is so playful and boyish that she can't help the little breathy chuckle that escapes her lips. Biting on her plump, crimson stained lip, she grins up at Robin. Rolling her eyes, she shrugs. "Christmas tradition, right?" and pulls him in by the fabric of his shirt.

Her lips connect with his, molding together as if they were made to do so. Her kiss must surprise him, because he lets out a little groan in the back of his throat. She fights the urge to smile in satisfaction, afraid it'll break this moment.

Her lips slide against his as she tilts her head from one side to the other, settling more into the embrace.

Robin's arms have found their way to her hips, squeezing gently as he brings her closer to his body.

His chest is warm and solid beneath her, and she reaches up, letting her palm splay against it, feeling his heartbeat. It's beating just as rapidly as she knows her own is, and good, she's not the only one affected by this liplock.

Pulling back in order to breathe, she inhales slowly, then exhales, trying to catch her breath. "Well," she breathes shakily, "I'll see you at work tomorrow."

"We don't work tomorrow."

She chuckles awkwardly at herself, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. "Oh, th-that's right."

Robin grins again, damn him and those dimples, and he pulls her closer, kissing the top of her head. "Who knew the Evil Queen also had such a soft spot for bumbling idiots like me?"

"Only the cute ones who aren't smart enough to ask literally anyone in the office for the alarm code."

Chortling, his head leans back as he laughs at the insult, and she begins to laugh, too, shaking her head at how ridiculous he is.

"We may not work tomorrow, but," he starts, pausing to rub his lips together nervously, "perhaps we can get the boys together and go ice skating or something."

She beams, nose scrunching as she smiles at the suggestion. "Perhaps."

"And then," he drawls, his voice melting like butter against her skin, "maybe tomorrow night, I can interest you in a walk in the moonlight?"

"In the middle of a snowstorm?"

He laughs, shrugging, "Perhaps not then, maybe another movie night with the boys. We could make cookies and hot chocolate."

She leans up on her tiptoes, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "That sounds wonderful. I'll call you in the morning."

"You should probably get my number, then."

"Oh, right," she blushes, giggling self consciously, like an idiot, as she takes out her phone.

They exchange numbers and she tells him, "Call me once Roland wakes up, actually. Henry is an early riser like me, so I'm sure we'll be up before you guys."

With a nod, he leans in, pressing three more chaste kisses to her lips under the mistletoe, making her snicker delightfully.

"Goodnight, Robin."

"Goodnight, Regina."

And with that, he opens the door, the chilly winter air once again surrounding her. She makes her way to her car—only looking over her shoulder once, okay, maybe twice, to catch another fleeting glimpse of Robin Locksley—before cranking the heat up and making her way home.

As she does, she thinks about how excited she is for tomorrow and how maybe, just maybe, this could be the start of some new Christmas traditions.

{*************************}

Thanks so much for reading! I'm glad we were able to continue the tradition of OQ Advent this year. I love you all and I love that we've kept this ship going all these years lol I hope you all have a great holiday season! Merry Christmas (if you celebrate!) and Happy Holidays!

-Britt