In the Velvet Darkness, Chapter 2

Previously: Chapter 1 [U]

In the blackest night, secrets can be shared.
Rated U.

* * * * *

Friday PM

Dawn never came and the power did not return, both of which made Regina more convinced that they were caught up in a spell of some sort, so the town remained suspended in that curious, silent gloom.

Emma insisted that they take the police cruiser because someone might try to contact her on the police band of the shortwave radio, but there was no traffic of any kind on the radio or her walkie-talkie, just channel after channel of static. They headed to the mansion first, and Emma checked the house for clues—clues to what, she had no idea, but anything was better than standing around helpless—while Regina got changed. For most of the morning, they remained silent, intent on looking out for anyone, anything at all. Emma hadn’t realised how much she took the background noise of everyday life for granted until it was gone and the only sounds in the whole town came from inside her patrol car. Every breath, every cough, every slight movement of her jacket against the seat back sounded deafening. The few conversations they did have were procedural—left up here, swing back around there again, take the top road out to the town line—because talking about anything else would have made them face up to not having Henry.

Five hours later, after driving up and down every street in Storybrooke at least twice, Emma reluctantly concluded what they had both suspected from the start: they were alone.

Strangely, Regina was the one who first suggested food. She also suggested the diner, as it offered a good view of the town to watch out for potential developments. Regina magicked them a couple of subs with fries, and soda for Emma, coffee for herself.

“It’s weird being here alone, huh?” Emma said. It felt like breaking and entering, she thought, as they sat facing each other in a booth. In the dark. And the silence.

“If you don’t like the company, you should have said. We can always go our separate ways.” Regina wasn’t being serious, but the part of Emma that understood the pain of not being good enough rushed to dispel the notion all the same.

“Alone in the diner, I meant, when it’s always so full of people we know. There’s no-one else I’d rather be stranded with than you.”

“Not even Killian?”

“As if.”

“Are things okay between you two?” Regina dabbed a napkin at her lips and placed her sandwich down. “Henry hasn’t mentioned him since the drinking incident.”

When Emma looked up, she saw nothing but concern on Regina’s face, but she didn’t want to talk about Hook, especially not with Regina. Their relationships were generally considered a no-go area between them, except on the most superficial level. Feelings and emotions were definitely off-limits. Emma didn’t want to know if Regina was seeing anyone, and she definitely didn’t want to get into the reasons why she would never be able to commit to Hook. Given their history, truth was a big thing in the Swan-Mills family. They almost never lied to Henry and they tried not to lie outright to each other. Mostly, they managed that by avoiding direct questions and changing the subject when things got too close to the unspoken boundaries they had. The trick, Emma had found, was to hide the truth within something glib.

“He’s a pirate. By now, he’d have knocked over the liquor store and be casing the town for looting and pillaging opportunities.” When Regina didn’t say anything, she pushed on. “But this is our thing, though, isn’t it? Saving the world together. Teaming up to get the hard shit done. We’re a bad-ass combo, fighting magic with magic. We’re, like, cool enough to get our own comic book.”

“Is that so?” Regina gave her a smirk. “You’d have to be the sidekick, of course. Robin to my Batman, as it were.”

“Hey, why do you get to be Batman and I’m stuck with being Robin?” She grinned with relief, because this was a level of conversation she could cope with, even if the use of the name Robin in any context made her uneasy and guilty.

“Well, obviously only one of us looks good while brooding in black leather.”

Shit. That was not an image she wanted in her head, because now all she could picture was Regina in one of those Evil Queen outfits, all tight leather hugging her ass and thighs, insane levels of cleavage on display. And she had already been working extra hard today not to notice that Regina was in that burgundy silk button-down which had always been Emma’s favourite because it showed off a hint of underwear. They were supposed to be focusing on getting their son back, and not on the fact that Emma was alone with the woman she’d been in love with for nearly five years, four if you discounted New York. Why did her mind always have to go there when she didn’t want it to?

“Emma?”

“What?” She jerked her head up, concentrating hard on not looking at Regina’s tits. It wasn’t easy, because they were incredible, and right there in front of her, and, fuck, being with Regina always made her feel about fifteen. It was worse than usual, though, as if she could barely keep her feelings under control for five minutes.

“You’ve spilled your sandwich on your shirt.” The ‘again’ went unsaid, but they could both hear it.

Emma looked down to see a large orange glob seeping into the cotton of her Henley. And, for some reason, that made her sigh because Regina was the only person who ever remembered that she liked chipotle and arugula on a cold roast beef sandwich, never iceberg and mayo. With a quick flick of Regina’s wrist, the stain disappeared.

“All better,” Regina said.

Except it wasn’t.

+

They were at the convent because the new plan, now that they’d established that there was no-one else left in Storybrooke, was to go to everywhere they could think of where there had been magic-related incidents in the past. Obviously, both their homes had been thoroughly checked out that morning, and they’d already swung by Emma’s parents’ place and Gold’s pawn shop and the well.

They were doing a room-to-room search, but so far nothing had turned up at all, and Emma was starting to get frustrated. The bedrooms were all identical and all exactly as she had expected nuns’ rooms to be: a bed, a desk, a wardrobe, a crucifix, not much else. She’d lifted a couple of mattresses, but hadn’t found so much as a copy of Us Weekly, never mind something mildly interesting, like a spell book or a treasure map or porn.

“Anything?” she called out.

“No, and there’s no fairy dust at all.” Regina’s voice from inside the room startled her. She turned around to find the brunette propped against the desk with a pensive scowl.

“So?” She folded her arms across her chest and leaned back against the wall behind her.

“Even if they’d locked it away or buried it underground or, I don’t know, tossed it into the Atlantic, there should still be traces everywhere. Fairy dust, by its very nature, is hard to eradicate. Particles adhere to things, find their way into the cracks in wood, get trapped between flagstones.” Regina was drumming her nails against the desk, her other hand kneading the back of her neck.

“What do you think that means?” Emma wasn’t following what Regina was thinking. Again.

“I don’t know, but it means something.” She sighed. “I haven’t felt Storybrooke so devoid of magic since before you arrived.”

Emma grinned. “The good old days, huh?”

“I’m not sure I’d call them that.” Regina’s gaze was almost fond. “But the absence of magic is important to all of this somehow.”

“Maybe the spell was to purge Storybrooke of all magic?” She’d no sooner said it than she wished she hadn’t, because she saw the flicker of pain across Regina’s face, and that immediately conjured images of Regina strapped to a gurney in the cannery, and Greg Mendell—no, Owen Flynn, his name was Owen Flynn, her mind supplied—trying to electrocute the magic right out of her.

Losing Neal through a portal, thinking him dead, had been nothing in comparison to the thought that she might lose Regina that day. It forced her to admit that she was in love with Regina Mills, and had been for some time. She couldn’t continue to dismiss her feelings as a combination of understandable lust—because Regina was crazy hot and anyone with eyes and a pulse would want her—and protectiveness from promising Henry that she’d always keep his mother safe. She’d picked Regina up in her arms and promised whatever deities might be listening that she would give everything she had, anything except Henry, if only Regina could be okay.

It was a day she didn’t want either of them to have to think about and she shook her head in silent apology. Regina cleared her throat and nodded, wordlessly reassuring her that it was okay.

“If the plan were to rid Storybrooke of all magic,” Regina said, “then we are the ones who should have disappeared along with the rest of the magic. But we are here, and we still have our magic. It’s everyone and everything else which is gone.”

“Then what is the point of taking the people and the magic away but leaving us here?”

Regina nodded. “That is the very question we need to answer.”

+

They kept looking for clues, long after they both knew that they should give up for the night because they were tired and wired and getting nowhere. Again, Regina was the one to finally call it a day and said, “It’s nearly ten o’clock. We should go home and rest and eat.”

“But—” Henry was still out there, or not out there. Henry was not with them.

“I know.” Regina placed her hand over Emma’s on the steering wheel. “We’re not letting him down by accepting that we need to rest up for a while. We’re not giving up. We’re just gathering our strength while we plan what comes next.”

“And what does come next?”

“We’ll know that once we’ve planned it.” Regina smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She squeezed Emma’s fingers and then withdrew her hand, leaning her head against the passenger window and shutting her eyes. Out of instinct, Emma turned the cruiser in the direction of Mifflin Street, and was surprised when Regina said, “When I said home, I meant your house.”

She pulled the car around and drove them there in silence, thinking about all the ways Regina and home were the same concept for her. The day she got her memories back in New York, her first image had been of Regina—not Neal or her parents or anyone else, just Regina—and her heart had told her ‘home’. But she hadn’t had time to do anything about it before suddenly there was Regina with Robin Hood and she’d seemed so happy with him. So, Emma had sucked it up and tried to concentrate on the battle at hand because there was always a battle at hand in Storybrooke, the least peaceful small town in Maine. And then Hook told her that he had given up the Jolly Roger for her. He wasn’t Regina, but he seemed like he wanted to make her happy, and, frankly, that hadn’t seemed like such a bad thing. It was hardly even an hour later when Robin met Marian again and it all went to shit.

They were their own little family now, Regina and Emma and Henry, and maybe it would never be everything her heart yearned for, but it was better than anything she could have imagined when she was stuck in the foster system or pregnant and alone in prison. These days, whenever she thought of home, she thought of her own house and the Sunday evenings when she, Regina and Henry ate together as a family. When they first started the tradition, the three of them played a board game or watched a movie together. Now that he was fifteen, Henry usually went to his room immediately after dinner and the two women talked, sometimes for hours. It was the highlight of Emma’s week, and she was quite happy to abuse her position as Sheriff to make sure that she was the only member of the Storybrooke police force who never had to work a Sunday evening.

As soon as they reached the house, Regina made herself busy preparing them a meal from whatever food she could find in the fridge and cupboards, while Emma looked among the junk in the spare bedroom for extra candles.

Returning to the kitchen, she got herself a beer and poured Regina a glass of wine. They went over what they had found that day, which was, as Emma put it, the square root of fuck-all. The only new information they had was that there was zero magic left in town, and they didn’t know what that meant. They still had nothing but Regina’s working theory that they were caught up in a spell. There were no clues as to where the people had gone, where Henry—their beautiful son, their one good thing—was. With not much else to go on, they had no great plan for the following day, except to continue on their rounds of ‘places where magic shit happened’, which was about half the town, by Emma’s reckoning.

“I think we should sleep in shifts, four hours apiece,” Emma said, as she pushed back her chair, having finished their late supper. As ever, what Regina could produce from a few cans and a bit of salad was better than anything Emma had ever eaten in a restaurant. “That way, one of us is always awake, just in case anything happens during the night. You can go first, if you like.”

Regina shook her head. “You were the one who was awake at 4am. You should go first.”

“Nah. You know me, made of steel. Honestly, go on. Take the bed in my room, and I’ll stay out here. I don’t have anything like your fine silk pyjamas, but I’m sure I can scare up a pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt.” She noticed Regina biting her lip, holding something back. “What?”

Regina looked down and away, her eyes tightening in that way they always did when she had something she didn’t want to admit.

“Could I, would it be okay if, if we—” Regina exhaled loudly, as if whatever she was about to say required extra effort on her part.

Emma suppressed a grin because, for once today, she had a fair idea of what Regina was trying to say, and the woman was nothing if not adorable when she was trying to avoid directly asking for something she didn’t think she should want in the first place. Emma was a big girl. She could take one for the team.

“Actually, you know what? If it’s okay with you, I think it would be better if I brought some blankets through here and we shared the couch. I’m not sure we can entirely rule out the possibility of even more weird shit happening during the night, so it’s probably better if we stay close to each other.”

“If that’s what you think is best.” The relief on Regina’s face, and the shy smile which went with it, was more than worth Emma’s effort.

+

They talked for a short while after getting settled on the couch, but it didn’t take long for Regina’s eyes to start drooping, so Emma tucked the blankets in around her and told her to get some sleep. Emma retrieved a book from her bedroom, and sat down at the far end of the couch, chuckling to herself when Regina’s feet suddenly appeared in her lap. She placed her hand on Regina’s shin and gently stroked back and forth with her palm, earning a small grunt of what she assumed was approval. She settled back into the silence, opened her book to the last-read page and tried not to think about falling asleep.

It was only around 1am when she heard a sleepy voice ask, “Why did you stop?”

“Stop what?” She looked up from her book, but Regina’s head was buried in a mess of blankets and pillows. One of the feet in her lap wiggled, and she realised that she’d transferred her paperback to her right hand, the left resting on the arm of the couch. She shifted her position, dropping the book to the floor and putting her hand on the curve of Regina’s ankle. “Apologies, Your Majesty.”

A few minutes later, there was a disgruntled noise followed by the rustling of blankets, and she turned to see a scowling Regina pushing the covers away from her face.

“You’ve got a couple of hours yet. Go back to sleep.”

“No point. I’m awake now.” Regina pushed herself up into a seated position. She didn’t move her feet from Emma’s lap, though.

“Sorry.” She wasn’t really. Seeing Regina all sleep-tousled and wearing her clothes was, well, all kinds of hot, just like every other version of Regina—soccer mom, power-suited Mayor, casual witch-about-town—was hot.

“It’s not your fault. I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times. No rest for the wicked, and all that.” She gave a self-deprecating shrug, and Emma shook her head at the weak joke.

“D’you want something to drink?”

“How were you planning on achieving that?”

“I’m quite capable of heating water or milk in a pan.”

“Without burning the kitchen down? I doubt that.” Regina smirked and, with a flourish of her wrist, two mugs appeared on the coffee table, one of black coffee next to Regina and one of cocoa beside Emma.

“Honestly, you explode one toaster in this town,” Emma muttered, reaching for her drink.

“How many times have the fire department been called to this house since you moved in?”

“Only like twice! Okay, maybe three times.”

“Which is three times more than they’ve been to my home in thirty years.”

“Yeah, well, I saved you from a fire once.”

Regina’s face softened and she gave a wry chuckle. “Yes. Yes, you did, didn’t you?”

Emma sipped her hot chocolate, which had extra whipped cream, half a teaspoon of raw sugar and the perfect amount of cinnamon. Like her sandwiches, Regina was the only one who knew how to make it right. She felt a slight pressure against her thigh, Regina’s heel digging in to get her attention, and realised that she had moved her hands again. She raised an eyebrow at Regina, wanting her to ask this time. The brunette made a fine attempt at staring her down, trying to get her to comply with just intimidation, but Emma was determined not to cave so easily.

“I find it calming,” Regina finally admitted after a few moments of staring, and it was probably as near to a request as she was going to get. Emma wriggled her free hand back under the blankets, this time resting just above Regina’s knee, and there was a tiny sigh in response, a noise of contentment.

Sitting there in Emma’s too-big tank top, the candlelight catching the side of her face, Regina was breathtaking. Maybe it was foolish to imagine that this was what their life could have been if things had worked out differently, to picture evenings spent bundled up together on the couch in casual domestic intimacy, but Emma was enjoying the feeling enough not to care about getting burned by indulging her idle fantasies.

“Can I ask you something?”

“I don’t know if you can, but you certainly may.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “Do you know you’ve got Henry doing that, too? It’s driving me insane.”

Regina chuckled. “If you learned the difference between could and might, then it wouldn’t be an issue.”

Ignoring the whole semantics debate, Emma said, “What did you mean earlier when you said that I’m the only person you can sense?”

Regina blew on her coffee, which Emma immediately recognised as a stalling tactic. She was the god of stalling tactics, after all, equally as adept at avoidance and obfuscation. Knowing Regina, she was thinking through how she was going to phrase whatever she wanted to convey by saying only what she was willing to share. Emma got that. Their communication was often as much about the spaces in between as it was about what they actually said.

“I can always sense you.” She paused and took another drink, but Emma didn’t fill the silence. “Since before Neverland, I have always been able to sense you.”

“My magic?”

“Yes.” The slight narrowing of Regina’s eyes and pursing of her lips told Emma that it was more than that.

“What’s it like?”

Regina furrowed her brow. “You know what your magic feels like.”

Emma’s voice dropped to a whisper. “No, what does it feel like to feel my magic like that?”

“It’s, I don’t know, I’m so used to it now that it’s just a part of me. But I suppose the best way to describe it is like a warmth in my chest. It’s like I can feel l you, here.” Regina made a fist and placed it in the centre of her ribcage, below her breasts, and Emma tried not to think about the fact that Regina wasn’t wearing a bra under her tank top, but the motion pulled the cotton tight and Emma couldn’t look away. “It’s there all the time, but it’s stronger and warmer when we’re together.”

Emma knew that feeling, or something like it. For her, it had nothing to do with magic, and everything to do with how she felt about the other woman. As she lifted her eyes from Regina’s chest to her face, she caught the knowing glance the other woman gave her, but what was she going to do? Regina was gorgeous, and Emma always looked, just because she could. Regina would never call her on it, not really. She had seen the way Regina’s eyes traced over her arms at times, and she had never called her on that either, although she made sure that she did chin-ups every morning.

“What about after the second curse? Could you feel it when you were in the Enchanted Forest?”

“No.” Regina looked away for a second. “Although, there were times, I thought—” She shrugged.

“You thought what?”

“It wasn’t the same. Obviously, I could no longer sense you, but sometimes it was as if I had a really strong sense of you. And Henry, of course.”

“Of course,” she agreed, smiling and nodding at Regina in a way that said she knew the Henry bit was another of those little white lies which she was willing to let slide. When Regina shrugged in reply as she took another drink of coffee, Emma decided to keep pushing. “When?”

“At night, mostly. It was,” she waved her hand as if trying to pluck the correct word from the air, “fanciful, I suppose.”

She looked embarrassed to have admitted it. There was something seductive about the dark which made you want to spill your deepest secrets, Emma knew. It was part of the reason that she never, ever spent the night with someone: the desire to say things which couldn’t be unsaid snuck up on you in the night, tempted you to admit what would never be spoken in crisp sunlight.

“Maybe, maybe not. The whole time we were in New York, I was happy. We were happy.” She had wanted to go back there with Henry, when she had thought it was going to be Regina and Robin and Roland, and she didn’t know how she could cope with seeing that every day. But Storybrooke was home. Regina, even if she was only her friend, was home. Emma stared down at her mug. “But there were still nights when I wondered if there was something wrong with me, because I didn’t feel complete, like there was this hollow part of me that needed to be filled.” She waited for a crack about missing her magic or her parents or Hook or something else, but it never came.

“It was a long year,” Regina said, her subdued tone indicating that this particular conversation was over.

They went back to saying nothing, sipping at their drinks, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, it was one of the things Emma loved most about their complicated relationship: that she could be still around Regina. So many people wanted so many things from her, but only Regina ever let her just be. Their only communication for the next few minutes was a series of half-smiles and raised eyebrows and little nods. They had stepped beyond their unspoken limits again, but they were okay with it.

“You’re still dressed,” Regina finally said, putting her mug down on the coffee table.

“I didn’t want to get too comfy and fall asleep.”

“Go get changed. Sleep.”

“It’s still your turn.”

“Do as you’re told for once, Emma.”

Regina’s eyes were soft and pleading, not demanding, and Emma couldn’t fight that, not when Regina had said her name that way she sometimes did, drawing out the two syllables like she was still testing how it felt to call her something other than Miss Swan. Not that it wasn’t hot when Regina called her Miss Swan, because Emma had some very specific fantasies about being ordered around by Regina, but there was little she wouldn’t do for Regina when she said her name like that in that low, husky voice. She could feel her cheeks starting to redden, and she hoped that she’d get away with it in the dim light, but a quick side glance confirmed that Regina was watching her carefully. And, yeah, she was fucked.

“Right, I’ll just go, you know, whatever.” She scrambled off the couch with as much composure as she could muster, knocking her shin against the low coffee table. Smooth moves, Swan. Smooth moves.

She hummed and hawed over what to wear, finally settling on a mis-matched pair of plaid pyjama pants and an old v-necked t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off. She might be terrified of their current intimacy, but she still wanted Regina to look. She ducked into the bathroom to brush her teeth and to kill a little more time. She put the toilet seat down and sat on top of it, trying to get control of her jangling nerves. She couldn’t hide in there all night, though, so she went back through to the living room, only to come to a dead halt as she saw that Regina was sitting upright and had rearranged the pillow so that it was propped against her thigh. Emma would have to sleep with her head almost in Regina’s lap. The blankets were tucked into the back of the couch and folded back invitingly.

Not remotely prepared for how to handle this, she nodded at the book in Regina’s hand and said, “I, uh, would never have figured you for a Stephen King fan.”

Regina raised an eyebrow at the fact that Emma was standing in her own living room, anxiously shifting her body weight from foot to foot. “In general, I prefer his short stories.”

“I’ve got a few of those, if you want. In fact, I’ve got all of his stuff. I’m not sure what else I’ve got in short stories, but there’s Clive Barker, if horror’s your thing.” God, she hoped her mouth would stop flapping at some point. “And I’ve got some Arthur Machen and Poe, if you want to go really old school—”

“Emma,” Regina interrupted, doing the syllable thing which would always be Emma Swan’s Kryptonite, “lie down and get some sleep.”

“Yeah, uh, right.”

Cautiously, she slipped under the covers and eased her head back onto the pillow. By inclining her head back a few inches, she could look up at Regina, who was focused on the book in her right hand. Her lips were pursed in a smile, knowing she was being watched, and it filled Emma’s heart with sadness that this woman would never be hers.

Without taking her eyes off the page, Regina placed her fingertips on Emma’s temple and gently pushed her head to the side until she was no longer staring. Emma closed her eyes and shifted a little, turning more onto her side, facing towards the kitchen area. She was very aware of how close the back of her head was to Regina’s stomach and the fact that Regina’s hand was still hovering above her. And then those strong, reassuring fingers threaded themselves through her hair, cradling the back of her head, fingertips resting on Emma’s neck just below her ear.

“Sleep, Emma,” Regina murmured.

She did.

* * * * *

Next up: Chapter 3 [A]

2 Comments

  1. Jude
    Posted 24 May 2014 at 5.44pm | Permalink

    Continuing the suspense perfectly. I find this kind of suspenseful horror (where we have no idea what is going on or where the threat, if there is one, is going to come from) deliciously nerve-fraying. But you’ve also let the SwanQueen banter creep in from time to time, relieving some of the tension. Quite an impressive balancing act. And I love the sweetness of their interactions in the closing scene, even if neither of them are willing to own up to what is really going on between them. Honestly, how can two such heroic figures be such complete emotional cowards? Makes for a great story though :)

  2. Posted 25 May 2014 at 4.31pm | Permalink

    Loverly! (Hearts- 3 of them)

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