Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon a Time of any recognizable characters.
AN: I'm back! I know it's been months of silence from me, but I'm in a better place now, which is probably why this particular story is kinda a fluff-fest. Coincidentally enough, most of the prompts for SQWeek2015 hit up a few things I had planned for this story, so consider it my contribution to the fandom :) It's completely AU and sees Storybrooke as a tiny New England town. I hope you guys enjoy it!
Regina Mills was a creature of habit. For the past ten years, Regina had done, more or less, the same thing every day. Every weekday she would wake at exactly 6 AM, make her bed, and hang her robe on the washroom towel rack before stepping into a hot shower. Her make-up came next: carefully applied foundation, light blush, dark eyeliner, and deep red lipstick. Her long eyelashes were passed down from her father, and Regina was grateful she didn't have to add mascara to the list because that would have taken up a precious thirty seconds of work. Her outfit, laid out from the night before, was the next order of business. Usually Regina would don a simple blouse and skirt combination, but during the winter months in Maine, she gravitated toward the tailored suits. Whenever she was meeting with prospective clients, however, out came the dresses that made her opponents crumble at the seams. Breakfast came, with a quick egg white and spinach frittata, and off she was to work, driving herself to Augusta just outside their small hamlet of Storybrooke, Maine, where she boarded a train to take her to work where she spent eight hours in the legal department finding and creating loopholes in contracts so that the shareholder company she worked for got the maximum profit for the least amount of payout. She wasn't a defense attorney business or a private practice, which Regina's mother still frowned upon even from the grave, but Regina was content to be using her law degree at all. She was good at her job and she was able to work normal hours. The time she spent researching cases and studying for her bar exam had taken a toll on her, and though she had no desire to step into a courtroom anymore, the business life afforded her time and flexibility.
Time she didn't know what to do with.
Her nights were spent, more often than not having dinner with her best friend of twenty years. Emma Swan, a complete opposite to Regina's own personality, hated the mundane lifestyle. Working at a temp agency, she jumped from job to job faster than Regina could keep track. It was as fleeting as her love life, if Regina was being honest, but Emma had fun with the men and women she saw for the night. She was going to be an artist someday, Emma always promised, and these jobs were just temporary until her big break came. Regina would often find the blonde staring intently at her and not be surprised when Emma would pull out a scrap of paper or rip out a page from a well-used sketchbook and begin drawing whatever of Regina's features that had caught her eye. They'd watch TV or a movie, and depending on the hour, her friend would stay the night, delegated to the spare bedroom that had unofficial become Emma's or even fall asleep in Regina's bed because the blonde didn't want to be alone downstairs, watching Netflix as Regina read.
It was familiar and normal and good, and it was slowly driving Regina mad.
She said as much in her therapy session with Dr. Archie Hopper that night. She had a routine and she did it well, taking perfectionism to a whole new extreme that some had even wondered if she legitimately had OCD. She didn't. She was tested. Her therapist said she had a need for control, bred from a mother who had her hands in nearly everything in Regina's life. She was just particular, though Emma liked to call it anal-retentive. She wasn't anal. What would get done if it wasn't done efficiently and effectively? Nothing. Not without a little order.
But a lot of order went a long way when Regina found herself with her chin on her fist at the kitchen island after arriving home to find Emma already in her kitchen, starting dinner like she did every time Regina had a therapy session with Dr. Hopper. She couldn't remember how they got into this habit, Emma simply knowing when Regina would meet with her therapist even when the sessions were unscheduled, but she appreciated the familiar face when she went home to an otherwise empty house.
"What's up, buttercup?"
Regina wrinkled her nose at the endearment. "I'm fine."
"Filthy lie." Emma flicked the pan, sautéing the veggies dramatically like she was on some televised cooking show. "Rough session or rough day?"
Regina bit her lip. "I called Albert Spencer a sexist pig."
The blonde barked in laughter, moving away from the stove unless she wanted to spray the vegetables with her happy tears. After a minute, she calmed enough to speak. "It's not like that's not true. Remember your work Christmas party last year?"
Any other time Regina would have shuddered at a very handsy Spencer, her boss not knowing the meaning of personal space, but she continued to stare blankly in thought. "He kept telling me how to do my job, as if I hadn't been doing it for the last ten years. Every half hour he'd stop by my desk just for an update, and by the afternoon I was throwing the file at his chest telling him to do it himself."
"You what?" Emma turned fully, a look of disbelief on her face.
Regina didn't answer her. Her face remained impassive before she shrugged slightly to herself. "It felt good. Yelling at him."
"That doesn't sound like you," Emma said thoughtfully before she snorted. "You should have kneed him right in the baby maker."
"I could lose my job for it."
"You're better than that job, pumpkin." The blonde smirked that she at least got an eye roll at that. "You're already a fancy lawyer. You could be cracking justice and putting the bad guys away if you wanted."
"You and I both know that the bad guys roam free so long as their lawyer weaves a good tale," Regina drawled. She shook her head and dropped her forehead into her hands. "I don't feel like myself. I should be kissing his ass and apologizing and bowing my little lady head down in shame."
Emma wiped her hands on the tea towel slung over the oven handle of the stove and moved to the fridge. She pulled out a bottle of wine and retrieved two glasses from the pantry, pouring Regina a healthy dose of red to complement the chicken that was baking in the oven. "But?"
"But nothing." Regina swirled the glass thoughtfully before taking a sip. Emma shrugged, knowing better than to press when Regina was stewing in her own mind and tended to the vegetables once more. She had just taken the skillet off the burner when Regina spoke again. "I think I'm depressed."
The blonde turned with a raised eyebrow. "That's a serious thought. Are you happy?"
"I—" Regina squinted. Happiness and contentment were two completely different things, and Dr. Hopper said as much when he brought it up in that evening's session. "It's difficult to find satisfying meaning in life anymore."
Emma nodded and turned off the oven, moving around the island and behind Regina to wrap her arms around her friend's shoulders from behind with an affectionate squeeze. "I'm sorry," she whispered kissing the top of Regina's head. "What can I do?"
Regina sighed and fell into the embrace. She wasn't entirely accurate in her assumption that nothing was enjoyable. These stolen moments with her best friend where they paused their bickering and choreographed routine of domesticity with one another was one of the only things she found comfort in.
For nearly twenty years, she and Emma had been thick as thieves having met in their sophomore year of high school when the blonde's place on the track team was hanging on the fate of passing her chemistry course. Regina had tutored her then, and the burgeoning friendship exploded rather than bloomed. They thought, perhaps, that with Regina's friendliness with the more popular groups like the cheerleading squad and the football team and Emma laying low with the artists on the drama club's production team that they wouldn't have kept in touch, but for whatever reason, Emma would wave to Regina in the caf, sometimes the two sitting with one another, or Regina would drop Emma home after school where they would spend another hour just sitting in her car and chatting.
Regina was precise, organized, and planned, while Emma was the exact opposite. The balance they gave one another had lasted them twenty long years of ex-friends, parental deaths on both sides, and existential crisis on Emma's part when she had gotten rejected from her dream art school, but it was worth it for the long run as Regina sighed heavily into her friend and shrugged. "I feel like I shouldn't feel this way. I'm currently employed with a good company—"
"If you count Spencer being a sexist asshat, and the fact that your company seeks out to protect its executive clients."
"—I've been providing for myself for years. I'm independent and well-off. I feel like I've mastered this stage in my life, and what's next?"
"How about a spa day?" Emma asked hopefully, releasing her with a squeeze.
"I don't think this is something a mani-pedi will fix."
The blonde returned to the oven to retrieve the chicken before it burned. Plating both the chicken and the vegetables, Emma moved with a wicked grin to the freezer and pulled out the bottle of vodka she kept there. "Maybe not but I know alcohol will help."
Regina rarely ate away from the dining room table or the breakfast bar. It was only when she was sick, and even then that was a rare occasion, or Emma had begged and pleaded and put on her puppy dog eyes that they got to eat on her couch in the living room, in front of the widescreen TV. Both knew that TV was there for Emma's use since half of the blonde's DVDs were neatly organized in the shelf beside it, and that the Playstation console was untouched by Regina. Mostly. But here they were, empty dinner plates stacked on the coffee table, wine bottle depleted on the floor beside them, and a jug of orange juice that was once half full and a third of the vodka gone on the side table beside Emma.
It was somewhere between their second or third screwdriver that they had shut off the TV and started reminiscing about the good ol' days, as if they didn't have favourite stories of their years growing up or that they hadn't been consistently in each other's lives since they were sixteen. But Regina, red cheeks and a thin layer of sweat cooling her brow, had her head on Emma's shoulder, unsuccessfully stifling a giggle. "Remember our prom photos?"
Emma nodded with a snort, finishing off her drink. "Your mom was so mad that I had chucks under my dress."
"She was already mad I agreed to go with you." The brunette sat up stiffly in her best Cora impression. "Leopold is a nice young man, Regina."
"Yeah, already touching thirty and going to a high school prom."
"He was my mother's intern on the council, and she felt better knowing we had a male escort."
"If we wanted a male escort, I would have picked up some guy at a strip joint."
Regina hummed contently. "I had fun that night."
"I was a good date, huh?"
"My mother had one rule, and that was to get me back before curfew, and you couldn't even follow it." Regina reminded with a playful nudge.
They erupted into a fit of laughter, remembering Cora's face when Emma had dropped Regina home in her beat up hand-me-down Ford truck at seven in the morning. The bottom of Regina's princess gown had been caked with mud and leaves and torn in places from where they spent all night out by Firefly Hill, whispering about what college life was going to be like and where they would go from there. No matter how loud Cora had yelled at her that day, it had all been worth it for a spectacular prom.
Their laughter died down until Regina was just simply resting on Emma's shoulder once more in her alcohol-induced state. Finally she pulled back, trying to reach over Emma to refill her glass, but the blonde gently took the tumbler from her and set it aside. "You've got work in the morning."
"Debatable. I bet Spencer is going to HR to get me fired," she pouted. "And so do you."
"Yeah, but you have adult people work," the blonde reminded, stretching herself along the couch that her legs rested on Regina's lap. "I'm just a lowly, replaceable temp picking up phones and booking board rooms at an ad agency."
"What about your comic?" Regina inquired. The blonde shrugged. "You used to draw more when we were younger."
Emma's eyes flashed and she smiled sadly. "That was when I was gonna be a hotshot artist."
"You still could." Regina reared back and leaned against the opposite arm, her legs tangled with Emma's. "I used to be more fun when we were younger."
"You're still fun," the blonde nudged her thigh with a foot. "Remember the Regina Mills that got invited to every frat party?"
Regina hummed in acknowledgement, mentally snorting at Emma's insistent statement. She had stopped becoming fun a long time ago, but she couldn't quite pinpoint when adulthood had fully taken over. Her college years with Emma were met with trips to the bar whenever they were in the same town since Regina had gone to a state school. She even spent a lot of time returning to Storybrooke for their Miner's Day celebration and any major holiday to spend it with the Swans after both Daddy and Mother passed in a car accident just after she finished her undergrad. But when was the last time she had done something just for the pleasure of doing it? Emma had tried to get her to go to the movies a few weeks back, but Regina had complained about a headache, and the two sat at home, watching Netflix until, well, Regina did like to be in bed by 10:30. Oh god, she was an old hag. No wonder her therapist had suggested what he did.
"Hey," Emma gently prodded with her foot once more. "Where'd you go there?"
"Dr. Hopper had me make a list."
"Like what makes you happy?"
"No." The brunette, through much effort, rolled off the couch and disappeared into the foyer. She was only gone for a moment before she returned with her purse, already rifling through its contents. "Of things I want to do."
"Like a bucket list."
"I suppose." Regina held it out for her to take before climbing back into the nest they created on the couch. "He wanted me to come up with ten things that I would find different yet enjoyable and that are achievable."
The blonde squinted, sitting up fully. "There's only nine."
"And I could barely think of nine."
The list was marked from ten to one in Regina's elegant handwriting. She had noticed her friend had been in a funk, seemingly going through the motions of everyday life, but Emma always attributed that to Regina's ambition. Work effectively to work harder. Emma herself had been in the temp game for the last five years despite her diploma in art and graphic design. Regina had always made a name for herself, whether it was at that god awful law company or winning points with Emma's mom. She swore her mom liked Regina better than Emma most times. But the list in front of her held the older woman's nearly immediate desires, and Emma tried, she really did, but she couldn't help but snort at the first two. "Number ten: be spontaneous. Number nine: be irresponsible. How are you gonna schedule that in between calling out jerks and hanging with me?"
Regina glared and snatched the paper back from Emma's grip. "If you're going to sit there and laugh at it—"
"Okay, okay," Emma held her hands up. "I'm sorry. Those are two very good things to hit on a bucket list."
Reluctantly Regina returned the paper.
"Number eight: learn a different language. That's pretty good. Learn to play guitar." Emma looked up thoughtfully. "We can go to the pawn shop this weekend. I thought I saw some nice acoustics there."
She looked back to the list and wrinkled her nose. "Number six: have a child?"
"What?" Regina questioned genuinely. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to raise a child."
"Yeah, but are you ready?"
"You don't think I'll be a good mother," the brunette deadpanned.
"Not at all," Emma reassured. "But I just don't think it's something you cross off like a grocery list."
Regina grumbled a response and reached for the wine bottle on the floor, making a show of pouring out the very last drop into her glass and finishing it off. The blonde reached over, squeezing the older woman's calf. "You'd be a great mom, you know that, right?"
When she was met with silence, Emma continued. "Road trip. All right. This one is totally doable. Where to?"
"I'd have to look up viable locations and what each city offers. Look up hotels, attractions, etcetera."
"Okay," the younger woman drawled. "That is the opposite of being spontaneous, but whatever. Number four: ride a horse again."
"You loved the ranch," Regina grinned, her tone light in sarcasm.
"Not my fault my hair looks like hay," Emma grumbled, fighting off a visible shiver. Her eyes scanned to the next items and green eyes widened with glee. "Woah, we got to the good stuff! Number three; skinny dip, and number two: have a one night stand. There's the Regina Mills I know and love."
"Stop that." The brunette snatched the list away and tucked it to her chest. "I was having difficulty picking ten, and Dr. Hopper suggested something out of my comfort zone."
"Well are they things you would actually want to do?"
"I've only ever had one serious relationship," the brunette mused.
"Daniel." Emma nodded, remembering Regina's college boyfriend. Regina was certain she was going to marry him, but a job opportunity in London pulled him away, and Regina didn't follow. She couldn't leave behind what she knew for a life of uncertainty just for any person, even if she did love Daniel. Ever since then there had been dates for the brunette, but nothing that ever held her heart. "So you would seriously want to do this?"
Regina paused before slowly nodding her head in the affirmative.
Emma beamed. "Then I think that's very spontaneous of you. What are we doing this weekend? We can knock it off at the Rabbit Hole."
"God no," Regina said with disdain. "I am not sleeping with anyone we find in this town's one bar."
The blonde shrugged and nodded, even though she had had her own fair share of pickups at the Rabbit Hole. "What about number one?"
Regina shrugged, revealing the paper once more. At the bottom of the list in the number one spot was scratched out numerous times without a full sentence left in its place. "I initially had something generic, like falling in love, visiting the Eiffel Tower, or finally finishing Ulysses."
"Let's be honest, I will not be finishing that book even when I had a grade riding on it." The blonde snorted as Regina continued. "And I didn't want to have my number one as something I could throw money at and a plane ticket would get me there."
"You can't really throw money on falling in love."
"Yes, but I can easily fall in love with a favourite pair of heels or even a TV show," reasoned Regina.
"I wanted my number one to be worthwhile."
Emma nodded thoughtfully as she let Regina's explanation sink in. "Something once in a lifetime."
"Exactly." Regina shrugged again and took back the list. "For all I know that could be just getting arrested."
"No," the blonde quickly dissuaded. "Do not get arrested. Seriously, it is so not good for you, especially that you're a fancy lawyer. It's not as fun as Litchfield makes it out to be. Just leave the delinquency up to me."
"You know it stops being delinquency when you turn 18?"
She rolled her eyes and patted Regina's leg twice before standing up, the brunette shifting to accommodate her. "Which one do you want to do first?"