Morgan glanced from the road ahead toward his right, a smile slowly spreading over his face. Emily was knocked out, her face to one side, mouth open, and one hand resting on her swollen belly. She was always tired now, the baby sapping every once of energy she possessed, but it was worth it. They were going to be parents in a matter of weeks, and Derek was ever surprised to find himself excited rather than terrified.
He turned his eyes back to the road. It was snowing outside, a thick powder that had been getting thicker and steadier over the last few hours. Morgan wasn't worried yet, though he was keeping his eyes out for a hotel. Three years ago, he wouldn't have been so cautious. But three years ago, he wasn't driving around with his very pregnant girlfriend in the passenger seat. Three years ago, he hadn't already buried her once.
The shrill squeal of his cell phone momentarily startled him. Morgan slid the bluetooth piece in his ear and hit send, glancing briefly at the caller ID. "Hey Babygirl, how was your Christmas?"
"Wonderful. Kevin's mother seems to have finally forgiven us for eloping," she answered.
Days after getting back together, the two techs had flown to Las Vegas on a whim and gotten hitched at a Star Trek themed wedding chapel. Garcia had returned flushed with new bride excitement and bitching that Sin City wasn't nerdy enough to have a Dr. Who themed chapel.
"That's good. I bet Kevin was relieved."
Garcia chuckled. "Yes, he was. How about you? Did you get Emily to relax?"
Derek had all but kidnapped his girlfriend two days before Christmas, and driven them deep into the West Virginia mountains where a luxury cabin awaited them. Emily was still working at 38 weeks and was doing fine, but he still worried. The woman never slowed down, not after coming back from the dead, nor after moving to London, and not after moving back to the states after discovering she was pregnant.
"I did, though I think the hot tub helped. My girl is a sucker for hot tubs."
"I could have powered that hot tub with how gassy I've been," a sleepy voice commented from beside him.
He smiled and looked over. "I hadn't noticed, beautiful."
She pried her eyes open, and shifted more upright, one had still holding her belly. "You couldn't not have noticed. You're just too much of a gentleman to admit it." She looked at the phone. "Hey, Garcia."
"Did you hear that?" He asked the tech.
"Not really." Morgan switched over to speaker.
"Hey, Garcia," Emily repeated.
"Hey, Em. Do you still plan to file kidnapping charges against that yummy hunk of milk chocolate?"
Emily glanced at him, her eyes soft and warm. "No, I've decided that he earned a reprieve."
Penelope chuckled. "Sounds like the trip was a good idea."
"Yes, I admit it, I needed a little break."
Morgan listened to the two women chat, as he gazed out the windshield. The wind was picking up, and whipping the snow around dangerously. He'd seen this dozens of times in Chicago. Watching that snow whip around in the breeze, he knew exactly what was coming. He waved a hand at Emily to cut off the conversation.
"Hey babygirl, snag one of your toys for me, and trace my cell. And do it quick, I think the connection is going to cut-out any minute."
"What's going on," she asked, though he could hear her moving around.
"Blizzard is kicking up. Get our coordinates in case we lost or stuck, okay?"
"On it now."
He shot Emily a smile. "Just being cautious. Precious cargo and all."
Ear-bursting static suddenly erupted into the car, and Morgan quickly turned down the dial, only seconds before the call disconnected. "Great," he muttered.
"Well, it is the end of December and we are driving through mountains."
"I know. Yell if you see a hotel," he said.
"Will do." She rested her hand on his thigh then, giving it a gentle squeeze.
They were barely on the road for another twenty minutes when the visibility went from bad to practically nonexistent. He struggled to even find the shoulder, so that he could pull over and wait for the worst to pass. He thought he had until the car jolted, and a sickening crunch began somewhere beneath the front bumper and moved back as the car shook it's way to a stop. The car sputtered for several seconds and died with little finesse.
"Fuck." His arms still clutched the wheel uselessly.
Derek turned to Emily. One hand was on her belly, the other bracing herself against the dash. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I think so. You?"
"As long as you're okay, I'm okay."
She smiled, but there was worry under it. "Well, I'd say we're both pretty well screwed."
"We'll be fine. If we don't open the doors, we can keep the heat locked in, and that should work for a couple hours at least. Hopefully, the storm will die down by then, and I can see about fixing the car."
"Derek, I love your optimism, but I don't think is going to be fixable without an autoshop."
"We'll be fine." He glanced behind himself. "Do you think you could slide into the back?"
She blinked. "I can't even sit down to pee with any level of grace these days. I'm afraid sliding is out of the question."
Emily nuzzled closer against Derek's warmth. The car had steadily cooled until it was only marginally warmer than outside. They'd bundled back up in their winter coats and accessories, and Derek had slid himself behind her on the passenger's seat. They were pushed as far back as the seat would go, and it was still very tight. If not for her stomach, they'd have been fine. At least it kept them a bit warmer though.
The storm was slowing down, though that it was going at a snail's speed. Emily was worried, but managing to keep full-out panic at bay. Yes, this was a very bad situation, but they'd had cell reception before the storm swallowed it, and hopefully, they'd get it again when the storm died. And they were talking to Garcia minutes before crashing, and she was lightening with a keyboard, she must have gotten their location. As soon as it was safe, help would be on the way.
She picked her head off her chest to follow his finger to what appeared to be a house in the distance. A house with a small barn. Both were barely visible, being painted a light blue or grey color. Weren't barns supposed to be red?
"You think anyone lives there?"
He shook his head. "Land looks too overgrown."
Her brief hope sunk. Morgan nudged her. "It's still a house, and there's probably a fireplace in there. I see a chimney."
"You think the storm's died down enough to go out?" Emily asked.
Morgan was silent several seconds, then his arms tightened around her. "I'll go out and check it out, you stay here and keep warm."
Emily tensed. "No."
"No. We go out together or we stay together."
"Emily, you need to keep warm. You need to keep our baby warm," he said.
"The baby is fine. So am I, and I'm not sitting in here and watching you walk off alone."
He exhaled, frustration leaking out of him. Then he simply shook his head. "Fine, but I'm grabbing our bags and the first aid kit from the trunk before we head over."
Emily didn't argue that point. If he wanted to be super prepared, she wasn't going to stop him. They managed to get themselves out of the car and Morgan grabbed the bags and kit from the trunk. The snow already up to her shins, and that with her belly, made the walk to the house slow and incredibly awkward. She clutched Derek's arm just to keep herself upright. When they finally made it to the house, Emily sighed with relief.
When they opened the door, it became clear that this was not the sanctuary they imaged.
The wind still whistled inside.
They began to inspect the place, drifting away from each other. The living room looked alright, though the fireplace was a mess and there were animal dropping-covered sheets draped over everything. The kitchen, however, was a big problem.
French doors led out to the back porch from the kitchen, except there were no doors, only the gutted hole where they belonged. That explained the wind and animal feces.
"Uh, Em. I don't think this place is going to work out."
"What gave you your first clue?" She nodded to the doorway as he approached.
He sighed. "The dining room. You can see clear through to the sky. It looks like the roof collapsed and the pressure collapsed the second floor into the dining room."
"Great. Now what do we do?"
"We could try to clear out a room and barricade it against the cold…"
She looked at him. "Or?"
"The barn was intact."
"The barn doesn't have a fireplace," she said.
Derek almost chuckled. "Yeah, I don't think this place has much of one either. The one in the living room's fallen apart. I might be able to rig something in the barn."
"You sound like you'd much prefer the barn."
"I don't like you near all this animal crap. Some of it's rodent, and that can make you sick." He made a face as he nodded toward the house.
"You think the barn will be any better?"
He shrugged. "Could it be more disgusting that this place?"
"Fair point. Okay, I guess we're going to the barn." With a sigh, she grabbed the arm he offered, and waddled her way back through the way she'd come.
The walk to the barn was fairly short, and after some huffing, puffing and cursing from Morgan, he got it to slide open enough to let them inside.
All things considered, it didn't look terrible. It was a small barn with a couple of stalls on one end, and a tractor parked and a shop area on the other side. It was largely open in the middle. Emily turned to Derek, and saw his eyes darting around as his brain worked.
"So," she asked. "What's the plan?"
"I say we set up in one of the stalls. It's a smaller area to keep warm. There's scrap wood and tools I can even make it warmer for us. That metal basin is our fireplace." He pointed to a large wash basin that was sitting against the wall with the sliding door.
"OK, survival man. Tell me what you need me to do."
So while in grad school, I've been working as a nanny. The family I was working for in December was highly religious, so many of the baby books they had were Bible stories. This popped into my head while I was reading the baby the story of Christmas, and it kept getting longer and longer and hard to finish. That's why I'm posting it after Christmas. I think it will be four parts.
Thank you for reading and review always welcome. Happy New Year, everyone!