After, he laid with Regan sprawled half on top of him, his fingers sifting through her hair. Miles had missed waking with someone, feeling the slight weight and warmth of a woman beside him. He’d never been one for one night stands, and having someone he cared for to look after and whose company he could enjoy - in bed and out - settled something inside him. He was content for the first time in a long while.
“Good morning, love,” he said, lips twitching. Despite the events of the morning, there was yet to be any real conversation between them. “Did you sleep well?”
“Mm,” Regan mumbled, stretching lazily at the prompt toward further wakefulness. Though they’d fallen asleep rather early and Miles’ method of rousing her a short while ago had been very enjoyable, she was not especially inclined to relinquish the warm doze she’d adopted. Burrowing her face into her lover’s neck, fond of the trace of his cologne there, she managed a soft, “Yes.”
She wondered whether he was always terribly alert as soon as he’d woken; it seemed likely given the need to be at his office quite early, and this gave way to wondering whether he’d grow to mind that she took rather a while and several cups of tea to be the person he’d known thus far. The circle of thought buzzed at her until she finally sighed and voiced hesitantly, “Will it be upsetting to you to know that I’m very slow about waking?”
Stifling the urge to laugh, and deciding against mentioning that he had been accustomed to Reese’s tendency toward late rising for quite some time, Miles nuzzled the soft blonde hair atop his girlfriend’s head. Most days he had to be up and out not long after dawn, but the merits of lounging with a soft, warm woman beside him were not difficult to note.
“I don’t know,” he replied thoughtfully. “Does that mean you won’t be joining me for a pre-breakfast run?” His lips twitched. While he did run, more often than not it was in the evenings, a way to shake off the stress of the day.
Regan snorted quietly at the very idea, accustomed by now to the tone she recognized in his voice as teasing. “Certainly I will not, though you’re welcome to go and call upon Gwen, who also seems to enjoy such torture. I suppose it’s well enough, since she takes Teddy with her.” She loved her dog dearly, but a cold, wet nose to the cheek while it was still dark out was not her favorite way to start a day.
“Just as well, I guess, as I’m not particularly inclined to chase after you just now. It might be more appealing if I were chasing you to the bed, but that’s unnecessary. I may as well enjoy my good fortune, hmm?” His words were light and easy, matching the touch of his hand as it moved over Regan’s skin. It was nice having her here with him, and Miles hoped it was something they’d be able to repeat frequently.
“Better idea,” Regan agreed, shifting to press herself into the slow caress Miles was bestowing. It made her incongruously happy that he seemed to enjoy petting her whenever she was close enough, and their present circumstance had the advantage of rather more skin available to his touch than was usual. A tingle arose at the idea; she still ached, almost pleasantly in truth, but thought better of abusing her body further at present and contented herself with the cozy warmth of their little cocoon, humming to herself as she settled again.
It was somehow not surprising that Regan would enjoy staying beneath the covers as long as possible; she enjoyed cuddling with him whenever the opportunity arose, and while the comforts of bed were not exactly the same, they were comforts. Things that made her feel safe. The thought made him wonder what she needed to feel safe from. Everyone liked to have some notion of protection and care, but it seemed to be more for Regan.
His touch strayed to her forearm, turning it slightly to caress the soft, pale skin of her wrist with his thumb. “Tell me about ink,” he requested softly, keeping his voice even and soothing. “Why don’t you like it?”
Frowning at the change of subject, though she recalled her promise to answer the things he asked of her, she raised her eyes warily to Miles’. “Michael Atherton,” she responded, adding after a moment, “and I don’t mind ink, to write with... I don’t like it on me.” She knew she’d said nothing thus far, and sighed, dropping her gaze to explain, “he was a year older, at Beauxbatons, and took great pleasure in... tormenting me. I suppose I was an easy mark, as I had few enough friends and left school often to be with Tristan. We had several classes together because I was ahead in Runes and Arithmancy, and he’d failed History at least once.”
The memory was uncomfortable, and Regan tugged her arm free from Miles’ grasp to touch the back of her neck, feeling the tiny raised line there. “I still don’t know how he did it, or why, but he always sat behind me, and would... cut me... but there was never blood, always ink. No mark, either, not until later, when everyone thought I was mad for shrieking in class.” She quieted, not sure if that was enough information.
Miles’ jaw clenched and he took a moment to calm himself before speaking. In his line of work, he had heard any number of tales that boggled the mind with the lengths people would go to be horrible to one another. While the House into which he’d been Sorted at Hogwarts was somewhat infamous for producing, or at least welcoming, vicious individuals, Miles had never indulged in anything nastier than irritating a former flame and her then-boyfriend. He couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be nasty to someone as unthreatening as Regan, but as Reese’s abduction had proved, there were plenty of evil bastards in the world.
“How long did that go on?” he asked, brow furrowed. “Did you ever report him?”
“Months,” she whispered, recalling with a shudder how dark that year had felt. “And I tried, but he was clever. One of the professors started confiscating his wand at the start of class, but it didn’t help, and Atherton convinced most people that I was either mad or looking for attention.” She’d hidden as much of her panic from Tristan as she’d been able, wondering if it was a sign of the madness she’d always been told lurked within her, and only Luc’s attention and tireless presence had waned the torture down to an occasional slash or horrid comment.
Unsure of the etiquette of mentioning past relationships, but feeling it pertinent, Regan said hesitantly, “My... he was my beau, eventually, in school... having Luc around helped. He knew what Atherton was doing, and tried to keep me in sight as much as possible.”
With a sigh, Miles held her tighter as Regan’s body shook with the memory of her maltreatment. It was long since over, and there was nothing he could do to change what had happened, but it illuminated the reaction his attempt at playfulness had received the night before. “I’m glad you had someone to look out for you, although I wish it had been nipped in the bud more quickly. Did your brother not speak to your professors about it?”
From what he remembered from school, Tristan had kept to his own affairs, but Miles was certain he’d have done everything in his power to ensure his sister’s health and happiness if he’d realized it was in jeopardy.
Awash in guilt, Regan shook her head. “I never told him, not more than I had to. I... My mother spent my whole life, up until she left, telling me that I’d end up mad... that I’d be institutionalized before I was old enough to marry. I’ve always been a bit odd, and painfully shy, and after so many weeks of Atherton convincing everyone around me that I was making things up, or hallucinating...” she shrugged. “I started to wonder if he was right.”
It was probably for the best that he wasn’t likely to meet Mrs. Bole, at least not anytime soon. The woman had no business calling herself a mother, and Miles would be more than happy to tell her so to her face. “On the off chance you haven’t figured it out yet, he was wrong. You may not be like most young ladies, something I find quite pleasing, I might add, but the difference is not a matter of anything you lack. Certainly not your sanity.”
"So Charlotte tells me," Regan acknowledged, grateful that Miles seemed so sure in his assertion. Her oddities, whether innate or a byproduct of her unconventional upbringing, had yet to faze him; he appeared to enjoy them, in truth, except where they were cause for concern, and he’d been patient about those.
“He and Luc were both gone my seventh year, since they were older, and it wasn’t much worse than lonely until half-term,” she offered cautiously, trying to gather her nerve to volunteer touchier information. “I wasn’t sleeping especially well, which had Trist worried, but I was quite keen on planning his and Gwen’s wedding, so I didn’t mind.”
Miles felt the shift in the air as his lover continued her tale past the point he’d inquired after. He’d often wondered why Regan lived with Gwen Jones, rather than on her own or with her brother. It had never much intrigued him why the relationship between Tristan Bole and Ms. Jones ended, except as it applied to the history of the woman in his arms, but suddenly he had the feeling the derailing of those wedding plans was quite significant. “What happened at half-term, love? Did Tristan and Gwen call off the wedding?”
Frowning slightly, unsure how to go about tackling the question without simply blurting a great many things for which Miles would have no reference, Regan shook her head. “No... not... not deliberately. And... do you mind if we get dressed, before I explain?”
She’d enjoyed the subtle heat of his skin against hers until just then; been comforted by it, even, despite memories of Atherton creating ripples of anxiety, but now she felt keenly bare, and craved the barrier, actual and mental, that clothing would provide. It bothered her to need such, but answering was more important - she’d promised - and given how recently they’d become intimate, she hoped Miles would understand.
“Of course.” Miles let her slip from his side and begin to dress herself in the clothes she’d packed. Following Regan’s lead, he pulled a pair of lounge pants from his dresser drawer and slipped them on, along with a t-shirt. Once they were both presentable, he took her hand and led her downstairs. “Why don’t I fix us some tea while we talk? I believe my mum packed up some pastries and sent them home with me, too, if you’re hungry.”
When they reached the kitchen, he settled Regan at the small table in the breakfast nook, brushed a kiss across her brow and went to put the kettle on. “Take your time. Is English breakfast acceptable?”
Tagging meekly along once she was dressed, Regan let herself be directed into a seat and watched Miles go about preparing tea. “Thank you,” she said softly, meaning more than the gesture of breakfast. “I’m not particular about tea, as I drown it regardless, and I like sugar, nearly all kinds.”
Now that she’d stopped, it was difficult to start talking again, at least about what she needed to share, and she waited silently until the kettle whistled and Miles joined her at the table. With a bite of pastry down and her tea diluted to a tinged cream, she tried slowly, “You knew Trist in school, at least a little, and I’m sure even then it was clear that he’s a very private person, so... I’ve always been careful in what I share about him, particularly things that he doesn’t tell freely himself.”
Miles nodded. He and Tristan had spent time on the Slytherin quidditch team together, but they were in different positions. While the older bloke had been cordial enough to Miles and the rest of his Housemates, Miles couldn’t recall Tristan being especially close with anyone in school. There was certainly no one he’d have been able to name as a confidant of the elder Bole.
“I can understand your reticence, and though I don’t think you really have doubts on this score, I promise to treat any information you share with the respect and confidence it deserves.”
“I didn’t doubt it,” Regan assured quickly, voice still muted with the dread of what would come, “it’s only that I imagine it to be very difficult for most people not to show that they know, in his presence, and you did say you’d wanted to visit.” Drawing in a breath while curiosity filled her lover’s features, she finally managed, “My brother suffers from schizophrenia. He’s... doing quite well, now, but...”
Searching Miles’ face, she found surprise, as expected, but no condemnation, and she continued before she lost the will. “He woke me, a few nights after Christmas, while I was home between terms, and... we went away. He wouldn’t explain why, and though I think now that I knew something was wrong, that we weren’t bringing Gwen... I didn’t question him. We were in Paris for a while, at the flat he owned there, and then in Wales.” She paused to swirl the tea in her cup, but couldn’t force herself to drink. More softly, and without raising her eyes, she added, “Wales was... unpleasant. It wasn’t him anymore, by then... not the things that make a person more than a body than can move around... and I realized eventually that what was left of him was willing to let us die. I had to steal his wand... he’d broken mine... but I left, because I didn’t want to die.”
He let the information she’d shared settle on him for several minutes before saying anything. He hadn’t known what to expect, but this was beyond anything he’d hypothesized. Recalling Tristan in school, he wouldn’t have ever suspected the sort of mental issue that had taken him hostage. Schizophrenia was quiet, until it wasn’t. It was the bold and brash madness of the Bellatrix Lestranges and Megan Jones that tended to make headlines, not the subtle disappearance of a young man prone to keeping to himself anyway.
“I’m glad he’s doing well. I don’t pretend to have any idea what that must be like, especially for someone so accustomed to being in control of himself.” His eyes met Regan’s, the big green orbs waiting anxiously for his judgment. “You must have been terrified. To have the presence of mind to escape, and presumably to ensure Tristan was saved from himself, those are very impressive things. I wish you hadn’t had to go through them, but your brother is very lucky to have had you. And I’m very lucky you made it through all of that and are still able to want to be close with me.”
A shade of smile crossed her lips at the last, and Regan bobbed her head in acknowledgment. She'd never felt that saving herself was impressive, and the rest had been Gwen, but Miles had forbidden her from doubting herself, and the tumble of words still needing out pressed at her insistently. "Gwen kept me, after... I hadn't anyone else, and though she'd every right to be hurt and upset, she took me home with her. I wasn't... very capable of taking care of myself, then, and while I've certainly given her cause to wish I would, since, she's never asked me to leave. Tristan was at the Waverly Institute for quite a while, and we wound up with Tess, and Jonathan."
Casting her eyes toward the table again, she admitted, "I hated Jonathan at first... I was truly terrible to him, and to Gwen, but they've both proven to be very forgiving."
Miles held his hand out to his lover, waiting patiently for her to place her smaller one into his grasp before using the connection to tug her around the table and into his lap. Wrapping his arms around her gently, he tucked Regan against his chest and pressed a kiss into her hair. She took far too much of what happened on herself, something he attributed to her mother’s influence. He’d very much like to give that woman a piece of his mind. If he were less of a gentleman, he’d like to give her more than that.
But that was neither here nor there right now.
“I’m sure Gwen and Savage know that you had no control over what happened to your brother, and that you did what you could to keep yourself as safe as possible and to cope afterward. You had a tenuous sense of stability even before Tristan’s problems began, from what you’ve told me. No one could blame you for needing time to work through that kind of upheaval and worry.”
Miles pulled back slightly to look her in the eye, his lips slightly askew. “And I believe you were the one to tell me that Savage doesn’t go out of his way to make himself likeable, even when he’s not got the added strike against him of being the person filling a place that was meant to be your brother’s.”
"Clearly, it wasn't," Regan said wistfully, though she snuggled willingly into Miles' embrace, breathing him in and relaxing in slow increments as he held her. "And Jonathan didn't know, actually... almost nothing until Tristan was ready to leave the institute, and depending on what Gwen has shared, may still not be aware of as much as you are this minute. He's never tried to pry."
Feeling somewhat drained, though they'd been awake hardly two hours and it was barely the time she generally rose on weekends, she lay her head against Miles' shoulder, leeching the comfort he offered. "What else did you want to know?" she asked, rather grateful that the other terrible things he might request that she share were minor in comparison, though Percy's dismissal had hurt a great deal at the time.
“I want to know everything,” he replied in earnest. Regan was his now, at least a little, and he wanted to know her inside and out. Miles thrived on having someone to look after and care for - something that would have gotten him mocked mercilessly back in Slytherin House, thank Merlin school was over - and the small blonde in his lap fell under the aegis of his protection. Beyond that, he simply liked her and wanted to know her better.
“I want to know whatever there is to know about you, but I’ll leave it to you to tell me if there’s more I need to know right now. We’ve covered a lot of ground, so if you need a bit of a rest from sharing, I’m perfectly willing to carry you back to bed and hold you the rest of the morning - once you’ve had a bit more to eat,” he added with a pointed look at the pastry she’d hardly touched.
Stretching one arm forth from her comfortable position, Regan dragged her plate carefully across the table and methodically deconstructed her breakfast, eating as much of it as she felt she could manage. Most of the turmoil in her stomach had eased, once the words were out and accepted, but she was still not quite up to her usual voracious appetite for sweets. Her tea was surely cold by now, and though it could be easily warmed, she didn't want it, and simply purloined Miles' napkin to wipe her hands instead.
His direction followed, she subsided into Miles' arms once more, quite content with his proposal of going back upstairs. "I don't know that there are many other important things to tell, though certainly there are other things... I am dreadfully picky about food, if you'd not noticed yet, for example."
Smiling as she nibbled her way through most of the pastry she’d started, Miles held her a little more tightly once she’d stopped eating. Her comment about food made him laugh softly. “I had noticed that you’re rather more particular about what you eat than I am. It just means we balance each other out. There’s very little I won’t eat. I do have an intense dislike for radishes, though. Pointless salad filler, if you ask me.”
Giggling at Miles' one apparent strong opinion, Regan volunteered, with a mild air of sheepishness, "Trist always says it's simpler to say the things I do eat than the list of what I dislike. I'm glad you don't mind, though... I don't mean to be contrary." She turned in his grasp, twining her own arms about his neck and tucking her head beneath his chin. "You said you'd take me back to bed," she reminded hopefully.
“I did say that,” he agreed, ducking his head to nibble the soft lobe of Regan’s ear. He pulled away a moment later and helped her up from his lap, giving her bum a pat in the process. Rising from his chair, Miles guided them back up the stairs. Large hands divested her of her recently donned clothing, except for her knickers, before he tugged off his own t-shirt and helped Regan into it. Down to his boxers, he shooed her to the bed and slipped in under the covers. As he gathered her close, he queried, “Now, I realize that our current visit is not over yet, but I do like to plan ahead. When do you think I might be able to have your company again? Now that Christmas is over, I don’t really want to wait another two weeks before seeing you.” He waggled his brows, “Preferably naked.”
Far less shocked by his tendency to insinuate, or even outright say, such things, Regan blushed, but rolled to slide a leg across Miles' body, pressing herself up on her hands to smile down at him. "You could do that again now," she pointed out.
She thought on his question despite her tease, wondering whether her family would be upset if she disappeared right after another holiday. "New year's eve, late? Or new year's day?"
“Either is fine with me.” Miles’ hands skimmed up her sides, pushing the overlarge t-shirt she wore up as they went. He was a little surprised at her willingness to play after such an emotional conversation, but there was no reticence in her expression and Miles was more than happy to take Regan up on her offer. As he tugged the garment over her head and tossed it aside, he added, “You just let me know what works for you. If you find you have some time before then, just come over.” Tucking her close to his chest, he rolled them, lowering his mouth to the soft skin of Regan’s neck as he murmured, “You’re always welcome.”
Summary: Regan shares her secrets with Miles.