A/N: New chapter, SQ-centric. The encrypted file will be brought up in the next chapter.
Regina set aside her datapad and approached Emma, who was slumbering in her office chair, her own datapad resting precariously on the edge of her desk. It had been hours since the last employee had clocked out and Emma had been busy going through the day's files, her brows furrowed in concentration. It had made Regina smile, seeing the serious expression on her face.
As she reached the desk, a soft glow appeared in her peripherals. She glanced over as Nova appeared. "Hello Nova."
"Hello Regina," greeted the A.I. "I hope your stay here has been comfortable?"
"It has, thank you. Are you here to wake Emma?"
Nova nodded. "I've been instructed by August to make sure Emma leaves the office before midnight unless he's here with her."
"He's here?" Regina asked, frowning. She hadn't seen Emma's partner in the entire duration of her stay. In fact, the last time she had seen him was when Daniel had brought her here.
"No." It may have been the flickering hologram but Regina thought she saw concern cross the A.I's face. "He has not been in contact since the explosion three days ago. Emma has been worried."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
Regina felt guilty. She hadn't known that August was missing. She felt even worse when she realised Emma had been hiding that worry by taking care of her.
Nova nodded and made her way over to Emma who had slept through the quiet exchange. Her head was tilted at an awkward angle and Regina knew the woman was going to have a painful neck cramp.
"Emma," Nova said, her voice clear and loud. "Wake up. You're not allowed to sleep here after midnight. Wake up!"
Emma flinched awake at the last bit, her body jerking forward as her eyes flew open. She sucked in a breath and stared wide-eyed at Nova before visibly shaking herself of her weariness.
"Thanks for the wake up call."
"You're welcome. Despite the underlying sarcasm."
Emma grinned tiredly at her. "Yeah. Security check please."
"Yes, ma'am." Nova disappeared in a yellow glow, leaving Emma and Regina to look at each other. Emma offered her an apologetic smile.
"Sorry about my falling asleep on you. Must have been entertaining watching me drool."
"Yes, I particularly enjoyed the few times you sleep-talked," Regina said, poker-faced.
"Uh...I didn't say anything weird, did I?" There was tint of red to Emma's ears. Regina decided to tease her a bit more.
"You said my name a few times," she answered, watching Emma's reaction carefully. She hid a smile, gritting her teeth a little to stop it from forming. Emma's horrified expression made it extremely difficult. She suffered through the woman's stuttered and red-faced explanations for a few minutes before she held up a hand and let the smile bloom across her face, laughing when Emma realised she had been played.
"That's not funny, Regina," Emma huffed, pouting although the glimmer of amusement belied her words.
"I'm sorry, dear. You're very easy to trick." She stifled her laughter. "Your reaction was very funny."
"I'm glad I could entertain you." Emma finally smiled. "You should laugh more. It suits you."
Regina just smiled. "Sleep suits you better."
"Smooth segue. I take it Nova told you about my curfew?"
"Only ten minutes ago. And she's right. You look like you haven't slept in days."
"Too much to worry about."
Emma looked surprised. "She told you about that?"
"Not much," Regina reassured her. "Just that he hasn't been in for some time since the incident."
"That's about as much info as I've got. He hasn't been answering his commlink or datapad. Looks like he hasn't been at his apartment since I slept over there and no one's seen him around."
"Are you worried something's happened to him? Or is this usual behaviour."
"Well...not usual but he's disappeared for some time before without telling me." Emma pressed her lips together, looking as if she were on the verge of saying something she shouldn't. "But I'll give it a couple of more days before I actually call the cops."
"Shouldn't you -I don't mean to criticize- but shouldn't you have informed the authorities after the required time needed before submitting a missing person report?"
Emma sighed and leaned back in her chair. She gave Regina a tight-lipped smile. "While the cops and I aren't on bad terms, I don't really trust them. Especially since they're being funded by corporations." She studied Regina. "You should know."
Regina sighed. "Indeed. But you shouldn't worry about the Whites. They may be involved but only on a minor level. They have more important things to invest in."
"International businesses," she replied vaguely, feeling a bit guilty. Despite her feelings toward and about Leopold, she wasn't comfortable discussing his business affairs.
Emma likely saw her discomfort because she didn't ask anymore questions about that. She stood up, Regina standing as well, and stretched. Regina, watching her keenly, took in the shifting muscles under her clothes. Oddly enough, her legs felt a little shaky and she steadied herself against the desk.
"You alright?" Emma asked, stepping forward in concern. "Do you need me to check your knees or something?"
"No, my lower limbs are working perfectly. It's nothing to worry about."
Emma didn't look convinced but let it go, pushing her desk chair in and grabbing her datapad. "Well, suppose I should head off before Nova decides to nag me again."
"She doesn't 'nag'."
"Just because she doesn't have the perso-pro for it doesn't mean I don't know what nagging sounds like," Emma replied, grinning. Her back was to the door but since Regina was facing her, she watched the hologram flicker into life behind Emma. She kept a straight face. "And Nova gets scary when she doesn't get her way. Should see the reception I get when I ignore her and stay late. Frightening."
"As you have said, I don't have the required perso-pro for me to react that way. Your comments are merely you projecting your guilt about breaking your own curfew."
"Jesus fuck!" Emma whirled around, her datapad clutched to her front like a protective barrier. "For god's sake, Nova, will you quit scaring me like that!"
"I apologize," Nova said, not sounding sorry at all. "I've finished the security check and besides the unknown folder in your drive, everything is as it should be. I've locked everything except for your office door and the employee exit. You should use it on your way out."
"Alright, alright," Emma grumbled. She half-turned to Regina and stage-whispered to her, a hand cupped to one side of her mouth. "Nagging."
Regina grinned but said nothing, noting the gimlet stare Nova was aiming at Emma's turned head. Nova wasn't as intimidating as Blue but she was close.
"Alright." Emma hesitated at the door, an unsure look on her face. "Regina?"
"Yes?" She had been moving towards her corner on the couch where she had been staying for the past few days, out of sight of the employees on the ground floor. Since she didn't require sleep or sustenance, she spent most of the time exploring the net.
"Do you want to come with me?"
"To your residence?" Regina felt a mix of excitement and nervousness. "Are you sure that's a good idea? Someone might recognize me."
"Ah, yeah. You're right. Yeah, sorry that was a dumb thing to suggest." There was a disappointed frown as Emma stepped back and out the room. "Well, I guess I should leave you to it. Good-"
"If you have something to hide or disguise my face, I would like to come with you," Regina said, interrupting her.
"Oh." There was a bright grin on her face. "Yeah, I should have something. Um, Nova?"
"Yes?" The A.I. was still standing by the door, watching unobtrusively.
"You got anything?"
"The hoodie you came to work with two months ago is still in August's office. It should sufficiently cover Regina's face for your travel home."
"Sweet, thanks Nova. Alright, gimme a sec and I'll grab the hoodie and we can leave asap." She dashed out of the room.
"She is infatuated with you," Nova said without preamble, startling Regina.
"She is infatuated with you," Nova repeated. She then continued, voice clinical and flat. "As part of the voluntary biomonitor program, I observe the vital statistics of the employees at White Knight Repairs, including Emma's. Her heart rate spikes more than usual when in your company and she has displayed characteristics of a human in the state of attraction. Several occasions of furtive eye contact before -"
Regina cut in, feeling a little uncomfortable discussing this topic with Nova. "I understand. However, I don't think we should be discussing such things without Emma present."
"Indeed," Nova agreed. "But drawing from previous reactions to similar interactions, Emma is more likely to divert the conversation than confront it."
"Who's confronting what?" Emma's question preceded her before she actually entered the room. She stood by the entry way and gave them both a curious look. "What are you guys talking about?"
"Nothing important," Regina said, shooting Nova a warning glance. The A.I. didn't notice or didn't heed it.
"I was just informing Regina of your attraction to her."
Emma went bright red. "What? What are you saying?"
"Am I wrong in that conclusion?"
Regina felt a little sorry for the woman and decided to rescue her from Nova's blunt observations. "We don't need to know that, Nova. And besides, if we stay out any later, we're going to break that curfew you were so adamant about."
Emma shot her a grateful glance. "Yeah, I found the hoodie so we can head off now. Thanks Nova."
She grabbed Regina's hand and hurried them out before Nova had a chance to continue with her observations. Of course, if she wanted to she could have used the ever-present speakers. They escaped the building without another word, Emma silently helping Regina into her hoodie.
Regina cocked her head when she realised Emma was determinedly looking into her eyes. Or rather, her face. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothing," Emma muttered. She indicated for them to start down the street. They were about to reach the end of the block when Emma glanced at her. "I just didn't realise we had that different of a body shape."
She waved a hand in the general direction of Regina's chest, her cheeks pinking.
Regina looked down, not noticing anything out of the ordinary. The hoodie fit her fine, except for the shoulders which were a bit broader and the chest which...Oh.
"Oh," she said aloud.
Regina cleared her throat. "I didn't realise."
"Neither did I until you put it on," Emma muttered quietly. Her cheeks darkened further when Regina sent her an amused and knowing glance. "Hey, I'm sorry if I make you feel uncomfortable, okay? Smack me if I start acting like a pervert."
"For someone who's seen me naked, twice I might add, you certainly are acting quite shy."
Emma sighed and slouched. "Yeah, but that was because I was acting in my capacity as a professional. A doctor and patient type of thing."
"Ah. I see." Regina assumed an innocent face. "You were playing doctor then?"
They walked on in silence until...