In the Velvet Darkness, Chapter 3

Previously: Chapter 2 [U]

Sorry is not always the hardest word.
Rated A.

* * * * *

Saturday morning and afternoon

“You know what’s weird?” Emma kicked at a rock as they approached the entrance to the mine. After the failsafe, the caves had been sealed up again, and then re-opened so that the dwarves could mine fairy dust to protect the town from some random apocalypse of the day, and then resealed after yet another landslide had nearly killed someone else’s kid. The only way in now was via the mine shaft, behind barbed wire and fences and about ninety locks. Mayor Mills was very strong on security.

“Other than the dark, the silence and almost everything about the last twenty-four hours, you mean?”

“Yeah, apart from that.” She looked around, thinking about the day she had saved Henry there. She had nearly kissed Regina that day. She had wanted to so badly, she’d hardly been able to look away from Regina’s mouth. Another missed opportunity. “What’s weird is that everything is too clean.”

“Meaning?” Regina unlocked yet another padlock with the huge ring of what looked like jailer’s keys she was carrying and opened the final gate, passing the keys to Emma. Because, yeah, of course Regina wasn’t about to get down on her hands and knees to open the grate over the elevator shaft.

Emma rubbed the back of her neck, peering down and wondering how she was going to get back up if the generator had been affected by the power black-out. It should be fine, because it ran on gasoline and their cars were working, but she didn’t fancy having to climb back up the rope slung over her shoulder.

“Well, I should have thought about it before, but the houses were immaculate.” She sighed. It had been tugging at her mind all morning, something her bounty hunter instincts would have told her the day before if she hadn’t been consumed by fear for Henry and Regina. “The Carpenters across the road, they’ve got three kids under eight, but there wasn’t so much as a teddy bear lying around.” She stood up, looking around for the elevator’s control panel.

“There were no toys?”

“No, there were toys, but they were in the kids’ rooms.” She found the controller and pressed the large green button. Nothing happened. “Fuck.” Her shoulders slumped. “Right, well, it looks like I’m doing this the hard way.” She hefted the rope from her shoulder and sized up the metal frame over the shaft, wondering where best to attach it.

“We’re doing this the hard way. Not you. We.”

Emma glared over her shoulder. “There is no way you’re coming with me.” She dropped her eyes down to Regina’s boots. “You’ll break your neck in those.”

Regina rolled her eyes. “I’ll have you know that I could climb mountains in these. Mountains.”

“Good for you, Edmund Hillary, but I’m not letting you risk it.” She fastened the rope to a supporting beam, tugging on it to check that it would hold her. She hoped she looked like she knew what she was doing, but, really, she had no idea.

“You are not the boss of me, Emma Swan.”

Emma pulled herself up to her full height, squaring her shoulders and giving her best hard stare. “I’m still the Sheriff.”

“And I’m the Mayor, so that makes me the boss of you.”

Oh, and, there it was again, the mental image of Regina ordering her around. A very naked Regina ordering her around. No, maybe in those boots and some lingerie. A corset? Emma folded her arms and let her eyes trail over Regina, thinking about the pros and cons of naked versus lingerie. To be fair, either worked for her.

She didn’t even notice Regina moving towards her until one hand grasped her shoulder and the other slipped behind her back. Before she could even think about how to react, her stomach lurched as they disappeared and reappeared inside the mine itself. Regina let her go immediately, and Emma pitched forward, only just stopping herself from face-planting.

“Little warning next time, maybe?”

“And where would be the fun in that?” Regina turned on her heel and started walking further into the mine.

How the woman managed to walk anywhere in those heels was beyond Emma, but she’d always appreciated the way they made her legs look. Regina had great legs, and a fine, fine ass, especially in a pair of Emma’s jeans, borrowed that morning. There was something about the woman she wanted so much wearing her clothes which appealed to Emma’s possessive side. She watched Regina for a few more seconds before trotting after her. Because Regina Mills was, indeed, the boss of her.

“So, the toys,” she said, picking up the previous conversation as she reached Regina’s side. “They were in the kids’ bedrooms, all piled up in boxes and stuff. But they didn’t look like anyone had played with them in forever. And all the other houses were the same. I mean, if people had been pulled from their homes in the night, shouldn’t there be, like, stuff lying around?”

“We can’t all be as negligent in our housework as you.”

“Yeah, whatever. It’s not that they were tidy. It’s that they looked like they’d never needed tidying because nothing had ever been moved.” She frowned. “Does that make sense?”

Regina stopped walking and turned to her. “No.”

“Did you ever see those atomic bomb films of the fifties? Or the Twilight Zone?” She tried to think of a reference that Regina might understand. “Oh! Pompeii. Have you seen the ruins at Pompeii on the History Channel?”

“What are you talking about?”

“In the movies, people are always caught out in the middle of stuff when the lava hits or the atomic bomb goes off or whatever. Like, there’s still dirty dishes in the sink and clothes get melted into the carpet or they’re mummified in their beds because they didn’t know the bad thing was coming until it was too late. But, even when they have advance warning to cut and run before the shit hits the fan, not once do you ever see them taking the time to clean up after themselves just so that, a couple of hundred years later, some archeologists can comment on how nice they kept their homes.”

“And the houses you went into yesterday?” Regina was stroking her fingers across her lips thoughtfully, which sent Emma off on thoughts of kissing. And sucking. Biting. Licking. She shook her head, trying to dispel her increasingly x-rated thoughts.

“They look like they were put together by an interior designer and never touched since. Even your house isn’t that tidy.”

“My home is spotless.”

“So not the point!” She threw her hands up. “Their doors weren’t locked. And I know you people are all old-school about ‘back in the Enchanted Forest, no-one had to lock their doors because all your neighbours were your friends’, but I’m pretty sure that people lock their doors here.”

“I always locked my doors. My castle was an impenetrable fortress.”

“Yeah, I remember your dungeons. Not that impenetrable.” And, shit, why did she have to go there, because that’s when she had found Marian and brought her back to Storybrooke to be reunited with her husband, Regina’s fucking boyfriend, Robin. She glanced up, expecting to see the hurt to pass across Regina’s face in remembrance of everything Emma had taken from her. But Regina looked far from sad.

“Hmm.” Regina smiled as she looked Emma up and down, teeth bared and eyebrow raised, just as the Evil Queen had when Emma was passing herself off as Princess Leia. “Perhaps I should have followed my first instinct and had you sent to my quarters. You would never have escaped from there.”

Emma’s eyes widened because that couldn’t possibly mean what she thought it meant. Could it? Regina had thought about taking Emma to her bedroom? No, not possible. She hadn’t even looked like herself to anyone but Hook. Except, maybe, Regina was magic and she was magic and did that mean that Regina had seen the real Emma? No, even if she had, the Evil Queen wouldn’t have known Emma Swan back then anyway. It was much more likely that Regina was just fucking with her, trying to mess with her head. The Evil Queen probably had all her prisoners sent to her quarters for interrogation of the non-carnal kind. Yeah, that was it. Good old-fashioned torture, and not the hours and hours of sweaty, grinding, dirty, multi-orgasmic, amazing sex which Emma was now picturing.

“Come now, let’s look for this fairy dust,” Regina said, walking away again. “Although, if what you’ve just said is true, then I suspect we’re wasting our time here.”

+

They had been wasting their time. There was no fairy dust in the caves.

Regina poofed them back to the surface, to the still-creepy half-light and total silence, and they locked everything up again, although it occurred to Emma that it was a wasted effort when there was no-one left to protect.

They were sitting in someone’s kitchen. Regina, who knew everyone in town by both their Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke names, had told her whose, but she hadn’t really been listening. They’d been through a few homes to confirm Emma’s conclusions, and they had been no different to her neighbours’. Every floor and surface was devoid of clutter; beds were made with military precision; even the trash cans were empty.

Regina had been brooding at the table for minutes in silence, drinking a coffee which she’d made from—well, Emma assumed magic, but she didn’t really know. Emma was picking at her nails and tracing patterns on the linoleum with her toe of her boot and trying not to stare at Regina’s tits again. She was losing that particular battle quite splendidly, especially since her mind was still racing with scenarios to do with being ordered to the Evil Queen’s bedchambers.

“It has to be a facsimile,” Regina said.

“Huh?”

“A facsimile, an almost identical copy.”

“Yeah, I know what facsimile means. Unlike you, I lived through the nineties and actually used a fax machine.”

Regina ignored her. “Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to create an exact replica of the town and banished us to it.”

“Banished us?”

The brunette sighed. “Can you think of any other reason why we are the only two here, other than we are the only two intended to be here?”

“Um, because we’re magic and we got pulled here by mistake?”

“That’s not even possible. Your childish belief that magic can happen by accident continues to astound me. Have you ever read any of those books on magic that I’ve given you?”

“Hey, I read a lot of things. Just not them.” She shrugged. “My magic works when I really need it to, and that’s all I need to know.”

Regina reached out and put her hand over Emma’s. “You have nothing to be scared of, you know. Your magic is quite disgustingly pure. Knowing how to control it properly and understanding everything you can do with it will not somehow turn you dark like me.”

“Her.” She shook her head because there was a limit to the amount of self-deprecation she could accept from Regina. “The Evil Queen had dark magic. And she’s not you.”

Regina removed her hand, bristling, but trying to hide it behind stoicism. “I am still her. She is still me.”

“Like fuck she is!” Emma pushed the chair from the table and stood, turning away in frustration for a second before shaking her head and continuing. “You beat your own sister with light magic. Light! Because you’re good. Because there’s so much fucking good and love inside you, and I can see it every minute of every day, even if you can’t. Do you know what the Evil Queen would have done to me for bringing her soulmate’s wife back and destroying her happy ending? She’d have tortured me for months, maybe years, and then ended my life. She would have brought me nothing but pain and misery and horror. She would have ruined me and my whole family.”

She didn’t know why she was saying these things. They never spoke about Robin, and now she’d brought him up twice in one day. Regina might have forgiven her, but that didn’t mean it was a safe area for conversation. But there had been something in the air between them since they’d been stuck wherever they were. Emma might not know much about magic, and she had to take Regina’s word that there was none there except what they had within them, but something was pushing their emotions to their surface. At first, she had blamed it on the dark, on the way it pulled your secrets from you, but this was more than that. She felt like every feeling she had ever had was burning her skin, desperate to get out, and she couldn’t hold it back.

“But that’s not what you did. You kept your anger to yourself. And you let me have my so-called happy ending with Henry and Hook, even while yours was in tatters, even while Robin and Marian’s happiness was thrown in your face every fucking day. You’ve saved our son. You’ve saved me. You were willing to give your heart to save my father to stop my mother’s heart from breaking too, and you claim to actually hate both of them. You keep on saving this town and the people in it. That doesn’t sound very evil to me, Regina. That sounds a lot like what a good person would do. That sounds a lot like fucking love.”

She jerked her head back as the coffee cup sailed past her, its contents raining down on her jacket before it smashed against the kitchen wall.

“Don’t.” Regina marched from the kitchen, hurt in her eyes and trails of pale smoke curling around her fingers.

+

After taking some time to calm down, Emma stepped outside the house and let herself feel where Regina was. It wasn’t difficult. She walked slowly to the docks, her hands in her pockets, feet and heart heavy.

She couldn’t believe how quickly things had gone straight to shit yet again. It hadn’t even been three hours since she had woken up in Regina’s lap, her face snuggled against her belly, and Regina’s hand still cradling the back of her head. And it had been the best six hours’ sleep of her life. Before she’d even had a chance to be embarrassed about their positions, Regina had cupped her cheek and whispered, “I’ll make breakfast.”

God, she had been so happy, watching Regina move around the open-plan living area, making coffee and conjuring up toasted onion bagels. Onion bagels, because cinnamon was for drinks and desserts, and not for breakfast foods, and, again, Regina was the only person who seemed to know that. Even David bought her cinnamon and raisin, and she didn’t like cinnamon and raisin bagels, but she always ate them because it was enough that her father wanted to make her breakfast. And she’d thought about the warmth in her chest, the feeling she always got with Regina close by, and Regina’s comment from the previous evening that she felt something similar.

It was strange that it had never occurred to her before that the intensity she felt in her heart around Regina was because of magic. It should have. It was Storybrooke, and they were Emma and Regina. Magic had been pushing them together since before Emma was even born. For once, though, she had wanted her life to be a choice she’d made for herself. As wrong as it was to feel the way she did about Regina, when she had caused her almost nothing but pain since they’d first met, she had wanted the feeling to be about love and nothing else. She just wanted to love someone who wasn’t Henry out of something other than magic or obligation.

She loved her parents, and she loved Hook, but it took effort, and a huge part of why she loved them was because she felt she owed them it in return for the care they showed her. It had never been that way with Regina. In fact, it was entirely the opposite: she loved Regina despite trying very hard not to, despite having to put ever-increasing amounts of effort into hiding that love. And she knew, somewhere inside, that Regina loved her, too—maybe only as a friend or an ally or Henry’s other mother, but Regina cared for her deeply. The difference was that Regina never sought or expected anything in return for the love she gave either Henry or Emma. In fact, Emma was fairly sure that Regina actually expected pain in return, which made her love even more selfless.

She wished that they weren’t in squeaky-clean Fake Storybrooke, because she was itching to lash out at something, to drop-kick a can into the ocean, to punt some trash high into the air. Even as she was thinking it, she laughed, because she somehow always forgot that she had magic. She held out her right hand and concentrated until a perfect baseball—white and shining, like they used for batting practice in the major leagues—appeared there. She ran a few yards and sent it sailing, chasing after it when it landed in the wet grass ahead. When she reached it, she dribbled it with her feet for a bit, then picked it up, flexing her fingers around it, tossing and catching it a few times. She remembered the foster homes when she had to play on her own, kicking and throwing balls against the nearest wall because there was no-one to return them to her.

Only she wasn’t alone here. She had Regina. And she wasn’t alone back in real Storybrooke, because she had more family than she could cope with there.

She saw Regina up ahead, sitting on the bench where Emma had known she’d be even without magic tugging her in the right direction. She tucked the ball in her jacket pocket and walked more purposefully, stopping a few feet from the other woman. Regina had been crying, her face streaked with drying tears—tears caused by Emma, yet again.

“I’m sorry.” She squeezed the baseball tightly. “For everything.”

“It’s the spell,” Regina said. “It’s heightening our emotions.”

“Yeah. Figured that.” She approached the bench cautiously, looking for any sign that her presence was not welcome. When she saw none, she perched on the edge, pulling the baseball out and holding it between her hands. She leaned forward and dipped her head, her thumbnail tracing over red stitching. “It’s not just that bit I’m sorry for.”

“We don’t have to talk about it.” Regina turned her face away, staring out to sea.

“I kinda think we do.”

“I disagree.”

“I know.”

“I—”

“Yeah, no, look, I’m sorry, but I have to say this.” She glanced sideways at Regina and then back to the baseball. She couldn’t say any of what she needed to say while she could see those tears. “I never wanted to make you unhappy, you know, not even at the start. Back then, I thought I was doing what was best for the kid because I didn’t know that you were already what was best for him.”

“Not then I wasn’t,” Regina said softly, and shrugged for interrupting.

“Yeah, but you were. You’re the good Mom and everything I do right now, I got from you, from the memories you gave me, because I’d have him eating candy for breakfast and pizza for lunch and playing tag with the cars on the freeway or something.” She turned the ball over a few times in her hands. “You gave us everything. And, fuck, I can see that you just keep giving to us, and we just keep hurting you.” She shook her head. “That’s not fair. Not Henry, not since New York. Me. I’m the one who just keeps on hurting you. And I need to own that, even though I don’t mean to hurt you at all. In fact, it’s the last thing in the world I want to do. And I am so sorry, Regina. I am so sorry for all of it.” She leaned back and exhaled slowly, staring up at the sky.

“I really wanted you to have that happy ending, you know? Robin and Roland and the whole thing. You deserve true love and soulmates and happily-ever-after. And it eats me up inside that I’m the one who took that all away. Because I’m honestly just making shit up as I go along. I still don’t get what it is I’m actually meant to be doing, and somehow that ends up with you getting fucked over.”

“You didn’t know who she was when you saved her, Emma.”

She shook her head. “No, don’t excuse me like that. I didn’t know because I didn’t ask. I was so convinced that I was doing the right thing that it never even occurred to me.”

“A family trait you inherited from your mother, I’m afraid. I can hardly blame you for that.”

Emma growled in frustration. “Would you please, for the love of God, stop interrupting when I am trying to apologise here?”

“If you had known who she was, you would still have saved her because that’s what Saviours do. The clue is in the name.”

“But I hurt you.”

“You didn’t do it on purpose, and I have survived much, much worse.”

“Yeah, all caused by me and my family!”

Regina slapped Emma’s shoulder. “Don’t flatter yourself. There are things I have done, things for which I can never fully atone, even if I lived a hundred lifetimes. Some of them are bound to catch up with me from time to time. Not everything is about you or your sainted mother.”

“How can you be so calm about all of this? How can you be so fucking forgiving? I took your happiness.”

“And you gave me my greatest happiness when you gave me Henry.”

“And I keep taking him from you!”

“So far, you’ve always brought him back.”

“Stop arguing with my apology!”

“I will when you stop martyring yourself. It is one of your least attractive traits.”

“Jesus, woman, you’re infuriating.”

“That’s hardly news.”

Emma turned her head sideways and caught Regina’s grin. “I’m trying to be sincere, and you’re kind of ruining it.”

“I know you are, but I forgave you for the whole Robin and Marian thing a long time ago, which is why we didn’t need to have this conversation in the first place. Do you want me to be angry at you, Emma? Because I fail to see what purpose that would serve. I was hurt and disappointed, but I got over it. I’ve moved on. You’re the one who won’t let it go. You’re the one who makes it this thing between us.”

She was right, of course. Robin had been a turning point for Emma, and she still resented the hell out of the guy for coming into their lives. If there had been no Robin, then Emma might have found the courage to tell Regina how she felt about her. She certainly wouldn’t have given into Hook’s persistence. Robin Hood, Prince of Fucking Thieves, was the reason that she was stuck, half-heartedly, in a relationship she didn’t want. But, if Robin had made Regina happy, then she would have at least had that consolation. She wanted Regina to be happy, because at least if she was happy, then every stupid thing Emma had done would be made good in some small way. But, no, she had ruined it for everyone by bringing Marian back. And now she had Hook, which wasn’t what she wanted, and Regina had no-one, which wasn’t what she wanted, either. And she couldn’t let it go. She couldn’t get past it.

“Why do you keep forgiving me, when all I ever do is hurt you?”

“Oh, Emma, that’s not all you ever do for me.”

She sat up again, staring down at her baseball. “So, why’d you run off? If you’re not angry with me, why’d you storm out?”

“Because this spell, this whatever, is obviously enhancing our emotions, pushing extreme feelings to the surface, and I didn’t want us to get into a situation where one of us did something completely unforgivable.”

Emma shook her head. It was an entirely plausible reason, but didn’t explain the tears for a start, or that Regina had been angry enough for magic to appear at her fingertips. Calling Regina a liar, however, right after trying to apologise to her for repeatedly ruining her life, didn’t seem like the best plan.

“We should avoid big emotional stuff, then?”

“We should at least try to get along without resorting to flying crockery.”

Emma chuckled. “I can’t believe you threw a cup at my head.”

“And I can’t believe my aim was so poor that I missed, but there you go.” Regina patted the back of Emma’s hand. Emma shot her an accusing glance, but grinned in reply anyway.

“What do we do now?”

“We keep looking. This spell is incomplete. The parts that are not quite right, like the darkness and the silence and the lack of electricity, tell us as much. We should probably head out to the town lines, see if there are any ripples at the edges which we can push through.”

“That’s a thing?”

“Yes, Emma, that’s a thing. Which you would know if you’d read those books I gave you. A spell is like a blanket, and we need to find its frayed edges.” Regina stood and smoothed her clothes down, composing herself. She nodded her head back towards town. “Shall we?”

Emma nodded and got up from the bench, tucking her baseball back into her pocket. They had only got a few feet when something occurred to her.

“So, what are my most attractive traits, then?” she asked.

That one made Regina smile, even though she tried to suppress it. “Now you’re just pushing it.”

+

They headed for the town line, looking for holes in the fabric of the spell, as Regina had suggested. What they found was a ghostly new barrier which hadn’t been there the previous day and against which Emma was tossing her baseball. As it sailed through the air back to her, Regina reached out and caught it left-handed.

“Must we have yet another discussion about your ignorance of magic?”

“What’s wrong now?”

“What if you had thrown this and it was repelled back to you at a force which took your arm off?” She dropped the ball back into Emma’s hand.

Emma looked at her, assessing whether she was being serious about that being a possibility, or just irritated by the thumping of ball against barrier and wanting Emma to stop.

“Worried about me?”

“I merely have no desire to spend the rest of our lives patching you up.”

Which, fuck, Emma hadn’t thought of that. What if they didn’t reverse whatever this was? What if this was their future, the two of them alone in Fake Storybrooke? Suddenly, she felt less sullen but a lot more afraid.

“We’re gonna get home, aren’t we? You’re gonna fix this.” Because that’s what Regina did. Eclipses and curses and magical threats and all the weird shit that they faced: Regina fixed them all.

“I’m trying, and I’m genuinely starting to believe that this is a time-limited spell, but please don’t take unnecessary risks in the meantime.” Regina’s eyes were soft and pleading and all kinds of impossible to say no to. Emma sighed and put the baseball away.

“Sorry.”

“It’s fine. Just try to be a little less, well, you.” Regina’s smile was teasing, immediately lightening the mood.

“Not sure I can do that.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t expect miracles.”

“Funny.” She looked back in the direction they’d come. “We’ve been walking along this thing forever, and I’m still not sure what we’re looking for.”

“A big hole would be a start. I don’t really know what we’re looking for exactly, but I suspect we’ll know it when we see it.”

“How do you know the spell’s time-limited?”

“Instinct, mostly. It just feels temporary. Things are changing. Yesterday, we couldn’t see this barrier; today, we can. As time goes by, our emotions are getting more heightened, closer to the surface.”

“You think that’s intentional? Maybe someone wants us off-kilter.” Emma was glad that she wasn’t the only one feeling that way. She was not good with her emotions at the best of times, and she felt more and deeper for Regina than anyone else, even more than Henry, because her feelings for him were entirely pure and simple. What she felt for Regina was complex and confusing and gut-wrenching and heartbreaking and all those great things from which she usually ran.

“If I were to guess, I’d say that it’s more likely that the magic in the spell is starting to burn itself out and it’s affecting us.” She glanced over her shoulder at Emma. “I’m more worried about what possible benefit someone might gain from banishing Storybrooke’s two most powerful magic users, even for a short period of time.”

“But then the other magic users are probably still in real Storybrooke, along with all the fairy dust, so it’s not like the town is left undefended.” The last thing they needed was yet another villain in town trying to freeze people or steal souls or turn everyone into flying monkeys.

“That seems a reasonable assumption,” Regina said, “which means it really is about us.”

“Because we can combine our magic?”

“Another reasonable assumption but, without any idea of who cast it or even how it was cast, it’s hard to know one way or the other.”

As she walked ahead on the path, Regina stumbled, her foot catching on some undergrowth, and Emma’s hands instinctively shot out to steady her, grabbing her by the hips. The action brought Regina flush against her, her back melded to Emma’s front.

“You okay?”

“Fine.”

“You sure?” Her mouth was right by Regina’s ear, and she could feel soft hair tickling her cheek.

“Yes. Thank you for catching me.” Regina’s speaking voice always sounded like raw sex to Emma, but right then it had a breathless quality which intensified it. And Emma’s crotch was pressing into Regina’s ass, and her breasts were against Regina’s back, and her heart was pounding like a jackhammer, so she stepped back before her hormones got the better of her and her hands moved from helpful friend to inappropriate touch.

“No problem.” She was glad that Regina couldn’t see how flushed she was.

“We should keep going.”

“Yeah.”

They started walking in silence, and then Regina’s hand shot out, her arm blocking Emma’s path.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

Emma cocked her head to one side, trying to figure out what she was supposed to be listening for, but there was nothing but the chirping of insects and the low whine of the barrier. And, okay, that was new.

“Crickets. I can hear crickets.”

“Exactly.” Regina turned to her. “That, Emma, is a definite ripple in this spell.”

They rushed as best they could, considering they were trudging through deep vegetation and Regina was in high-heeled boots—mountain climbing, my ass, Emma thought—in the direction of the new noise. They finally reached an area where the barrier shimmered in an unusual way.

“Give me your baseball,” Regina said, holding her hand out.

Emma instinctively responded to the command, but stopped with her hand just over Regina’s. “Hold on. How come you get to throw it and I don’t?”

“Because you’re an idiot and I’m not.”

“I’m better at pitching.”

“How could you possibly know that?”

“I was lead pitcher for the softball team in junior high.” She’d had to steal a lot of the equipment she needed, but security was usually just one fixed VHS camera in those days, and she was a good thief—a great thief, even, a natural grifter and lifter—long before she met Neal.

Regina raised an eyebrow and smirked. “But of course you were.”

Emma retracted her hand and folded her arms over her chest because she knew an insult when she heard one. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That you’re exactly the type for softball.” Regina gestured with her fingers for Emma to hand over the ball. “I can use my magic to guide it to the weakest spot, no natural physical talent required. I’m sure, however, that you were an excellent pitcher. Did you play soccer, too?”

“Yes. Why?”

“No reason. Hand over the ball, Emma.” Regina gestured again.

“No. Tell me what you mean.”

“Have you seen yourself?”

“What’s your point?”

“You’re very,” Regina paused slightly, “sporty.”

“Sporty?”

“Yes.”

“And that’s a euphemism for?”

Regina shrugged. “It’s an observation, not a euphemism. You’re very sporty.” She folded her arms, matching Emma’s stance, her eyes travelling over the blonde. “You’re fit, toned, athletic. You obviously work out. As I said, sporty.”

“Uh-huh.” Much as she was pleased that Regina noticed that she kept in shape, she knew she was being played. “Still not what you were really thinking.”

“And your evidence for this, Sheriff?”

“I know when you’re lying to me.”

“The fabled Emma Swan superpower. Tell me, is the the same superpower which didn’t detect that your fiancé was a flying monkey?”

Emma laughed. “Oh, I know I’ve got you on the back foot when you go to the monkey jokes. For the record, I never agreed to marry him, and I still know when you’re lying to me. And not because of any superpower.”

“No?” Regina took a step towards her, deceptively calm and smiling like she had nothing to hide.

“Don’t need a superpower to read you.”

“Is that so?” Regina reached out and closed her hand over the baseball, trying to ease it out of Emma’s grasp.

“Yup.” Emma was quite willing to give up the ball, but she enjoyed the feeling of Regina’s hand over her own, so she tightened her grip.

“How?”

“Because I know you.”

“That’s it?” Regina was still trying to wrest the ball from her hand, narrowing her eyes at Emma’s unwillingness to give it over. “You know me.”

“I know you and you know me. I always know what you’re not saying, just like you know always know what I won’t say either.” She could take it further, she thought. She could say a lot more than that. The spell was making her want to admit her late-night secrets, but their truths were getting too close to the surface again, so she let go of the baseball, which caused Regina to stagger back a few steps.

It took a few moments, each staring at the other, eyes wild, words not required, before Regina found her game face, that knowing smirk which made Emma want to pull her towards her and kiss that look right off her face.

Emma inclined her chin towards the barrier. “Throw the ball, woman. Show me that magic arm you’ve got.”

For a tiny woman wearing heels, who usually dressed like she’d never even seen a sports field, much less graced one with her presence, Regina had a pretty decent wind-up and pitching action. The ball flew straight and clear, Regina’s eyes tracking it, willing it to find the weakest spot. It wasn’t heading for the centre of the shimmering column, but Emma knew it would be the right area because, hell, this was Regina Mills. But the ball didn’t pass through. It stuck right where it landed, half in the Fake Storybrooke side and half on the other side. And Emma realised that she didn’t even know what was on the other side. It might be the real world or it might ‘here be dragons’ or it might be downtown Manhattan, because who the hell knew with magic.

They both walked up to the barrier, examining where the ball sat, high and away from their reach. Electrical currents passed around it like a river bending for a rock. The wilful child in Emma wanted to touch the wall of faint blue light, but she knew that would earn a rebuke from Regina. From the tightness in Regina’s jaw, Emma was betting that she’d expected the ball to sail through, so it probably wasn’t best to push her any further. Except, Emma wasn’t exactly known for doing the sensible thing and the air between them was too thick anyway.

“So, we’ve established that you throw like a little girl,” she said. Regina swung her head around, eyes blazing. Emma kept staring up at the ball, though. “Probably because you’re not as sporty as me.” She raised her arm and patted her bicep through her leather jacket, and she caught the way Regina’s eyes followed the movement. “Wanna feel?”

“Idiot.” Regina shook her head, the tension between them broken again. She stared back up at the baseball. “Right, well, that didn’t work.”

“You wanna take a break?” Emma suggested. “Get something to eat?”

Regina glanced down at her watch. “We did skip lunch, I suppose.”

“Can you poof us? It’s miles back to the car.”

“If that’s what you want, you do it. You need the magic practice.”

“You know I’m not great at that one.”

“And you’re never going to master it if you don’t practise.” Regina stepped in front of her and took Emma’s hands. “Now, take us to my house.”

Emma closed her eyes and started to concentrate, then jerked her head up. “Hey, do you think we could—”

“—apparate to the other side of this barrier? Been there, tried that. Doesn’t work.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Now, try to take us to my house, if you actually can.” Regina squeezed their joined hands.

Emma bowed her head and rolled her shoulders to loosen them up. “Fine, but I still think this would be much cooler if you’d teach me how to have the Star Trek transporter noise play in the background when we do this.”

“Your request is noted again.”

“And?”

“Denied again.”

* * * * *

Next up: Chapter 4 [A]

2 Comments

  1. SonIluv
    Posted 2 June 2014 at 7.34pm | Permalink

    still reading from the shadows! n I’m still loving it! Thanx again for writing!!!

  2. Posted 4 June 2014 at 2.42pm | Permalink

    Eccellente!

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