The Road Back Home

Part 13

by Lynne Norris

May 2001



Alex walked up behind Regina and lightly rested her hands on the blonde's shoulders. “Are you almost ready to go?” Her fingertips started a light massage over the bulk of the tense muscles at the base of Regina's neck.

The last two days went by quickly and with each passing hour she could feel Regina's anxiety increase palpably about their impending visit with her family.

The blonde tilted her neck and rested the back of her head against Alex's chest. “Mm, as ready as I'm going to be.” She closed her eyes and relaxed into the comforting touch. “That feels good.”

The doctor wrapped one hand around Regina's neck and caressed her jaw. “Where are your bags?” Alex whispered, as she bent and softly pressed her lips against her temple.

“They're in the bedroom.”

“Go on. I'll meet you outside.” The taller woman released her after one more lingering kiss and then walked into the bedroom to retrieve Regina's two duffel bags. She hefted one bag onto her shoulder and let out a surprised grunt as the weight of the other bag strained her arm. I think we're going to have to talk about how much you really need to pack, Reg.

The brunette walked outside, opened the back of the Jeep, and set Regina's bags alongside hers. She looked up when she heard the front door shut and smiled at Regina as she walked toward the vehicle. “Did you pack your mother's gift?” she asked as she shut the back hatch.

“Yeah, I have everything.” Regina stepped up into the passenger seat and settled herself in. She brushed her hair back and let out a nervous sigh.

Her stomach was in knots. She was glad Alex was coming with her but at the same time she worried about what it would be like when the entire family reunited for the first time in fifteen years. God, has it really been that long since Jeff left home? It seems like it was another lifetime ago.

The young doctor looked over as Alex climbed in behind the steering wheel and started the engine.

“They're some CD's in the console between us. Take a look and see if there's anything you'd like to listen to,” the older woman told her.

A sweet smile crossed Regina's lips as Alex turned and set an arm over her seat as she backed the Jeep out of the driveway.

“What?” She arched an eyebrow at the cheerful expression.

“This is our first road trip together; our first planned one anyway.” Regina glanced down at her hands pensively before she looked back up at Alex. “I'm glad you're coming with me.”

“Me too, Reg.” The doctor smiled at her and then turned her attention to the road as she pulled out into the street.

They drove almost straight through, stopping once to grab a bite to eat at one of the rest stops along the highway.

“Welcome to Massachusetts,” Regina remarked as they sped by one of the interstate signs announcing their entrance into the Bay State.

Well's now is as good a time as any, Alex thought and reached over to turn down the volume on the CD player. “So, give me some insight here. You have two brothers. Right?”

Regina nodded. “Yeah, Jeff is the oldest. He was sixteen when he left home.” She snorted derisively at her description. “To be accurate he was thrown out by my mother.”

“Has he been home since then?” Alex glanced up into the mirror and switched lanes to get out of the way of an oncoming tractor-trailer. She gripped the wheel tightly as the Jeep shuddered slightly as the eighteen-wheeler sped by on the left.

“Once or twice he came back to visit but it always ended up with Mom and him having a knock-down, drag-out fight,” Regina replied bitterly.

“Your brother must be pretty nervous about coming back home again after all this time,” Alex offered. She knew the next couple of days were going to be hard for Regina and she wanted to understand some of the dynamics about her family before they arrived.

“I think he's very angry and bitter about all the time they've shut him out of their lives.” Regina turned her head and looked out the window. “It wasn't just them, we all did.”

Alex heard the catch in Regina's voice as she said this and cast a wary glance over at her friend. “How old were you when your Mom threw him out?”

Regina rested her elbow against the window and rubbed her fingers against her forehead, trying to fight back tears. “I was eleven.”

“You were just a kid, Reg. There's not much you could have done to prevent what happened back then.”

“I know. I used to write him every week.” She felt her throat constrict at the sudden flood of memories and wiped tears from her cheeks. “I probably bored him half to death with all the mundane details of what was going on at home.”

“I doubt it.” Alex smiled at her and squeezed her shoulder affectionately. “Do you want me to stop peppering you with questions?”

Regina shook her head and sniffled. “No, it's okay, really. I don't mind.”

Alex let her hand drift down and tucked one of Regina's hands into her larger one. “What's your other brother's name?”

“Michael. He's the youngest of all of us. His wife's name is Rachel and they have a baby named Zachary.”

“Oh.” So, you're an Aunt. I didn't know that. “How old is the baby?”

Regina scrunched up an eyebrow as she did the math. “He's almost a year old. I haven't seen him since he was born last spring,” she sighed regretfully. “One more thing my mother can be pissed off at me about.”

Alex frowned at the comment. “What do you mean?”

“You forget, I was supposed to get married and give them their first grandchild, instead…” her voice trailed off as she thought about all the choices she made over the past year that brought her to this point. “I followed my heart,” she stated with quiet resolve.

A glance to her left revealed the quiet and pensive profile as the taller woman focused her gaze on the road ahead. Regina studied her for a moment before wary blue eyes met hers briefly. The apprehensive look jolted something deep inside her and she squeezed Alex's hand reassuringly. “I would do it all again in a heartbeat if I had to.” She brought the taller woman's hand to her lips.

Alex's shoulders relaxed noticeably. “Sorry. I guess meeting your family has me more on edge than I thought.”

I wish they would just accept me…us. I mean, how can loving someone be a bad thing.” Regina stared out the window bleakly.

“You know it's not, Reg. Sometimes it's just outside of the boundaries of what people are comfortable with. They don't know any other way to deal with it than to lash out, because they're afraid.”

Regina glowered angrily at the passing highway signs. “I have a hard time believing it was fear that made my parents throw Jeff out of their house.” With a sigh, she shifted in her seat and closed her eyes.

******

“Ma'am there's only one bed in this room. Would you like me to change your room to one with two beds?” The man behind the counter looked at Regina expectantly from across the chest high counter.

Alex drew in a breath and then pressed her lips together as she watched a blonde eyebrow creep upwards in response. Oh boy, that's not the question you should be asking her right now. Their conversation about Jeff and Regina's parents left her lover in a defiant and prickly mood.

“That won't be necessary,” Regina stated in a clipped tone. She stared right back at the clerk, daring him to make a comment.

Luckily, he had more sense and retrieved the card key for their room in prudent silence.

“Thanks.” Regina took the key from the hotel clerk. “Can you tell me if Jeff Kingston has checked in yet?”

After a few keystrokes, the clerk behind the counter looked over at her. “Yes, he is. Would you like to leave a message for him?”

“No, I'll call him when we get to our room.”

“No problem, ma'am.” The clerk's eyes followed the two women as they walked over to the bank of elevators.

After checking in, Alex and Regina rode the elevator up to the sixth floor of the Marriott. It was a Thursday night and aside from the small crowd they saw gathered in the Sports Bar downstairs the hotel seemed relatively quiet.

Alex followed her smaller companion to their room and waited as Regina unlocked the door. She smiled to herself when she saw the king size bed that dwarfed the rest of the room with its size. It was a typical suite with a small sitting area off to one side, a color television complete with cable, and a selection of paid movies to choose from.

The blonde glanced at her watch after she set her bags down on the floor. “I'm going to call my brother's room and see if he's in. How do you feel about having dinner with him?” she asked hopefully.

The taller woman set down the room service menu she was reading and regarded Regina for a moment. “I'd really like that Reg, unless you want some time to reconnect with him alone.”

Regina stepped up closer to Alex and shook her head. “No, I want you there with me.”

“You got me,” the taller woman murmured and leaned in closer to taste the sweet lips. The gentle exploration lasted longer than Alex planned and when she slowly broke from their embrace, she watched as her lover swayed slightly from the intensity of the exchange.

Regina chuckled softly when she finally refocused on the pretty gray blue eyes regarding her affectionately. “That was some kiss.”

“Just something you can remember if things get too intense over the next couple of days.” Alex brushed her fingers idly through the golden strands of hair while she gazed at her intently.

“That sounds like a deal,” Regina whispered back as she snuggled against Alex. A warm smile crossed her lips as a deep, tender feeling of affection flowed through her and she felt herself falling deeper into a love that she never imagined she would feel. The rest of the world faded away as they stayed like that for several moments, snug and secure in each other's arms.

Three sharp raps interrupted their quiet reverie and Alex lifted her head from Regina's shoulder.

“I bet that's your brother,” Alex whispered in her ear.

“Mm,” Regina mumbled and stepped away from Alex reluctantly. She wasn't sure why she was so nervous; of all her family Jeff was the one she had the most in common with and despite their long estrangement they managed to keep in touch with each other over the years.

She opened the door expectantly and let out a squeal when she found herself lifted off the floor and engulfed in a bear hug. “Oh my God! Jeff!” Regina buried her head against his shoulder as the room spun around her.

“Ah, my little sister. Let me see you, woman.” He set her down on her feet and held her at arms length. “You look just like I remembered you.”

Jeff glanced over her shoulder and was captured by the intense gray blue eyes regarding him intently from a few feet away. He swallowed getting the sensation that in the few seconds he was in the room every infinitesimal detail about him had been studied and neatly tucked away for future reference.

“That's Alex?” he whispered, biting his bottom lip in appreciation as he took in the swarthy, wild appearance of the taller woman.

Regina blushed and glanced back at her lover who was standing behind her. Alex's hands were tucked casually in her pockets and the brown leather jacket hung open, framing her muscular, firm body. “Alex, this is Jeff.”

“So I gathered.” The brunette stepped forward and extended a hand to Regina's brother. “Hi, Jeff.”

A broad grin appeared on his face and he returned the gesture in kind, shaking her hand heartily. “So, you're Alex. It's nice to meet you, finally.” His eyes gleamed mischievously as he cast a sidelong look at his sister. “So, who's hungry? I don't know about you all, but I'm starved.”

Alex bumped her hip against Regina and chuckled. “I see that runs in the family.”

“As do many other things,” he quipped, giving his sister an affectionate squeeze.

Regina's sea green eyes twinkled softly as she looked him over, studying his features. Their faces had a similar bone structure with rounded cheeks and a slightly upturned nose. Both had green eyes, although Jeff's had a more solemn look to them now than Regina remembered.

With an impish grin she reached up and ruffled his spiky hair. “So what's with the buzzed hair cut?”

“What? You don't like it?” He pouted and ran his hand over the closely cropped hair that showed the faintest hint of scalp as it tapered down close to his neck. “I had it done special for my homecoming.”

Regina dropped her head into her hands and groaned. “Oh Jeff.”

He threw his head back and cackled wickedly. “Hey, I might as well have some fun if I have to be here.”

The three of them left the room and rode down to the lobby in the elevator. They received several curious glances from other visitors at the hotel as their boisterous laughter filled the lounge.

By mutual agreement they ended up at a Mexican restaurant a short ride away from the Marriott Hotel. On the way over, Jeff sat in the back seat, neatly perched between the two front seats so he could talk with his sister.

Alex smiled to herself as the two siblings bantered amiably back and forth. It was obvious Regina's older brother had a great deal of affection for her and it made her hopeful that the next two days would not be as difficult as her lover was anticipating.

The restaurant had a bit of an authentic appeal to it with the earth tone tiles on the floor and the bright multi-colored tiles adorning the walls in a Southwest design. After a short wait at the bar, they were escorted to a booth by one of the waitresses.

Regina slid in beside Alex and took the menus from the woman as Jeff settled himself across from the two women.

His hazel eyes sparkled mischievously as he regarded his sister and her lover. “Okay, so spill it. I want details.”

“What are you talking about?” Regina asked innocently, despite the snicker she heard coming from Alex.

Jeff rolled his eyes and leaned forward across the table. “How did you two meet?”

“Oh that? I did my last residency in Emergency Medicine. Alex was the Chief Attending at the time.” Regina offered.

Jeff eyed her suspiciously. “Somehow I know there's more to it than that. I seem to remember a panicked phone call I received at some ungodly hour of the night when you two got suspended last year.”

“Jeff!” Regina threw a napkin at him across the table and buried her head in her hands, completely mortified.

“Mm, at the time she mentioned an Alex, but of course she left out one important detail.”

“What was that?” Alex turned and regarded her embarrassed partner who was still trying to regain her composure.

“Oh, just that she was head over heels in love with a woman.”

Regina lifted her head and glared at him. “I'm going to have to hurt you,” she growled, her ears burning from the heated flush.

“What? It's the truth. Isn't it?” He sat back in the booth and folded his arms across his chest. He winked at Alex. “Well, if she does hurt me at least I know I'm in good hands. I bet you have some good stories from working in the Emergency Department.”

Alex leaned back against the booth and draped an arm over the back of it and Regina's shoulders. “Plenty, but none you would want to hear while you're eating.”

Their waitress reappeared with a bowl of chips. “Can I get you any drinks here?”

“How about a pitcher of Margarita's?” Jeff suggested enthusiastically.

“You two go ahead. I'll stick with water for tonight.” Alex glanced down at Regina, hoping that for tonight her friend could relax and enjoy the time together with her brother.

******

Two margaritas later, Regina held onto the table and laughed until tears rolled down her cheeks. Across from her Jeff was slumped against the booth still gasping for breath.

“So, let me get this straight.” Alex leaned forward and looked between the two of them, incredulously. “You climbed over a barbed wire fence in the middle of the night, walked through a pasture, and then tipped over a sleeping cow?”

“Oh God, my stomach hurts.” Regina guffawed and sunk lower in her seat. “Yeah, you know cow tipping.”

“I can't say I've ever had the pleasure of doing that.” Alex shook her head and plucked another cheese-laden nacho from the plate in front of her. “I bet that cow was pissed off!”

Jeff hooted and slapped the table with his hand. “Ah shit, you should have seen Regina run, when a bull came barreling down the hill, snorting and shaking its head. I swear it looked like something that got released from the gates of Hell itself!”

“As I remember, I managed to climb the fence and not leave the backseat of my pants and other parts that will remain unnamed, attached to the barbed wire,” Regina snorted and started to laugh again.

Jeff sobered and shifted uncomfortably in his seat as he remembered having to explain the nasty cut he suffered as he scrambled frantically over the fence just in the nick of time. He could still see the large Black Angus Bull stomping its hooves and pawing the ground furiously at the indignity of having one of its mates toppled during his watch.

“Whose brilliant idea was this?” Alex's eyes glinted as she turned and regarded her partner expectantly.

Regina pointed across the table at her brother. “He dared me.”

Alex laughed heartily, enjoying the rare glimpse into Regina's youth. She had a hunch that the brother and sister were nothing less than two little terrors when they were younger.

“I couldn't sit down for a week,” Jeff grumbled and threw a napkin back at his sister.

“Sit?” Regina squawked. “You could barely put on your underwear let alone walk for a week!”

“Thanks, Reg.” Jeff shook his head ruefully. “I'll be sure to remember some or your more dubious escapades before the weekend is out.”

The laughter died down and Regina stood up from the booth. “I'll be right back.” She took an unbalanced step and grabbed the back of the booth to keep from stumbling. “Uh oh, I think I had too many of those.” She pointed at the empty pitcher and made a rueful face.

Alex glanced up at her and touched her arm. “Are you okay?”

“Yup, just fine,” Regina informed her cheerfully and then put her full attention to walking back to the restrooms.

“She's been nervous all week, anticipating what it will be like to have her whole family together.”

Jeff leaned forward and looked over at Alex, his eyes boring into hers. “You know she's the only one in my family who's kept in touch with me all these years.”

The doctor nodded her head soberly in understanding. “She told me about what happened with your parents.” Alex watched as he fiddled with the napkin in front of him. “I can't imagine what it must have been like, having to leave home like that.”

She marveled at how alike the Regina and her brother were. Between the physical similarities and their own idiosyncrasies, they might have passed for twins if they were closer in age.

“I don't know that I can ever forgive them for what they did.” Jeff shrugged and tossed the napkin aside. “I think once I realized that I could survive without them, it was almost easier for me. I didn't have to worry about whether they would accept me or acknowledge my relationship with Darryl.”

He stared at the doctor for a moment before he continued. “I made my own family, Alex. I hope that Regina can have that too, she doesn't need to be hurt again.”

“I'll take good care of her, Jeff.” She knew he was playing the role of the protective big brother and surprisingly it didn't bother her.

“Take good care of who?” Regina dropped into the seat beside Alex and gave her a Cheshire grin.

“You.” Alex draped an arm over her shoulder and glanced around at the thinning dinner crowd. “Speaking of that, we should get out of here so we can get some sleep.”

“Yeah, so like maybe I don't wake up with a hangover tomorrow.” Regina grumbled disconcertingly.

******

A short time later, back in their hotel room, Alex pulled on a pair of gray cotton boxer shorts and then slipped a tee shirt over her head. On the other side of the king size bed, her companion groaned audibly as she stood up and got her bearings.

The doctor shook her head and chuckled softly at the drunken sailor walk Regina seemed to have perfected as she shuffled into the bathroom. I think that last Margarita did you in, sweetheart.

She dug into her duffel bag, pulled out a small, plastic container, and popped the lid open. Shaking it, she dropped three pills into her hand, closed the bottle, and set it back into her bag.

Alex met Regina at the door of the bathroom and extended her open palm. “Here, this might help to ward off the evil hangover spirits.”

The younger woman squinted and peered down at the pills. “Ah, a multi-vitamin and two ibuprofen. You're a lifesaver.”

“Nah, just prepared.” She dropped the pills into Regina's open hand. “Believe me, I've been there enough times to know.”

“Mm.” Regina shook her head, feeling a little embarrassed that she'd gotten drunk. “I guess I got carried away tonight. Sorry.”

The doctor shrugged. “Don't apologize. You were having fun and you haven't seen your brother in a long time. No harm done.”

Regina moved closer and slid her hand underneath Alex's tee shirt, grateful that her partner wasn't upset that she indulged a little more than she would normally have done. “I wish I didn't feel so yucky, because I know what I'd like to do right now.” Her fingers danced lightly over the silky skin of the taller woman's abdomen.

Alex squirmed and slipped away from the teasing fingers. “What's that saying? The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” She captured the smaller woman's hand and wrapped her arm behind the Regina's back. “Hey, drink some water so you can take those pills.”

“No fair.” Regina pushed her lower lip out in a pout and bumped Alex with her hips.

The brunette grinned and touched Regina's nose with a finger. “Hurry up, and get into bed. Then we'll talk about what's fair.”

She pulled back the covers and stretched out on the clean sheets. A moment later, she felt the mattress shift as Regina crawled in next to her. “Come here,” Alex growled in a husky voice. She slipped an arm underneath the blonde's waist and pulled Regina over on top of her.

Lying beneath her, Alex shifted so Regina's hips were settled down snugly between her muscular legs. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah, just a little fuzzy.” Regina folded her arms over Alex's chest and rested her chin on her hands. She gazed into Alex's blue eyes, reveling in the gentleness she saw there. “What did you think of my brother?”

She closed her eyes and smiled as gentle fingers brushed the golden bangs off her forehead.

Alex tilted her head as she considered her answer. “I think he's a good man. I get the sense he had to grow up quickly and that's what you see when you look in his eyes.” She slid her hands down over Regina's shoulders and linked them behind the blonde's narrow waistline.

“Yeah,” the blonde sighed quietly. “When he was young Jeff was always joking around, playing pranks on people and having a good time. I still see that part of him but he's changed too.”

“You two sound like you were quite the pair growing up.”

Regina ducked her head, hiding the blush that crept over her features and made her blonde eyebrows stand out more. “I'm sure Jeff will do his best to corrupt your image of me this weekend.”

“I doubt that. He seems rather protective of you.” Alex stroked the younger woman's back, smiling as she elicited a low moan from Regina.

“Oh, that feels wonderful.” Regina shifted so she could rest her head on Alex's shoulder and draped a leg over the taller woman's thighs. “We both knew we were different growing up so, we spent a lot of time together. Neither one of us had a lot of friends at school. I think Michael was jealous of how close we were and felt left out a lot of the time.”

“How much younger is Mike?”

“He's three years younger than me and always wanted to tag along with us.”

Alex nodded her head understanding a little of what Regina was trying to tell her. “Do you think he was resentful of your relationship with Jeff?”

“I think so.” Regina looked up at her partner. “He never really got mad when Jeff got kicked out. I think he hoped we would get closer and that never really happened. I was so mad at my parents for what they did and I couldn't understand why Mike wasn't as upset as I was.”

Alex let out a sigh and hugged Regina to her. “Your whole relationship with your family completely changed after that.”

The blonde nodded in agreement. “I wonder what things would have been like if all that didn't happen,” Regina replied sadly.

“I don't know Reg.” Alex gazed down at her lover and realized the younger woman was dozing off in her arms. Maybe tomorrow you'll all get the chance to start over again. With a smile, she reached down, drew the covers up over both of them, and then closed her eyes, waiting for sleep to take her.


Chapter Fourteen

original fiction index | xena homepage | what's new | amazontrails.com