Dust flew up behind her as she pulled into the driveway of the stables, then settled as her Mercedes came to a halt just outside the entrance. She had always enjoyed riding but ever since the fiasco with Robin, Regina had desperately needed an escape and had once again turned to the comfort horses brought her. She opened the door and stepped out, checking the side mirror to quickly pull her dark hair into a casual ponytail-it would only get in the way once she stepped inside. Chocolate eyes stared back at her, an expression void of all emotion as she worked the hair-tie, shoulders stilling with tension when her task was complete a few seconds later.
She had woken up earlier than normal, unable to sleep soundly in the days that had passed since Robin crossed the town's line, effectively ruining her only chance at True Love for the second time in the Queen's life. Regina absentmindedly pressed manicured fingers along the front and back of the plain black t-shirt she wore, adjusting the tail deeper into rust colored breeches to assure herself it wouldn't come loose during her impromptu early morning ride.
With Henry staying at Emma's House of Idiots, and said Idiots now running her precious town, Regina had no reason to force herself another day trapped at home with her own thoughts. Riding gave her purpose, riding gave her a challenge, and best of all it put a temporary stopper on her dreary internal monologue. Eyes now set with embers of determination, the brunette let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding and set course for the barns entrance.
She came to a stop just inside and took a moment to observe. She hadn't been to the stables since Daniels death, and at the sudden memory she felt a wave of emotion crash into her unexpectedly. Fists bunched together tightly as she fought for control over her overemotional state, she would not let herself break down again. Tucking a errant strand of hair behind her ear, Regina walked down the aisle way, turning right at its "t" and distancing herself further from the spot where Daniel had been killed. 'No.' her thoughts reminded her, 'where you killed him.' A noise reminiscent of a growl erupted from the back of her throat as she came to a halt outside the stall door of the animal she intended to ride and she roughly snatched the horses leather halter, opening the door in her haste to put her thoughts of Daniel to rest.
Ears perked forward in greeting as the animal nosily munched on hay and a soft nicker welcomed her arrival. Regina's features softened at the sound, muscles that were coiled with tension moments before instantly beginning to loosen. "Hello Romerito." she said softly as she took a step inside and reached out her hand to run down a sleek copper colored neck. Romerito turned his head and she expertly slipped the halter on over his head, giving him another pat before securing it and then reaching outside the door for the lead rope she had forgotten when she'd been consumed with thoughts of Daniel to remember.
Regina lead the red horse down the aisle way and pulled him into an area reserved for grooming and saddling. The minutes ticked by in silence as she thoroughly brushed Romerito and before long she had him saddled and ready for their ride. As she was about to lead him out to the arena, her phone vibrated in her pocket. Pulling it out and swiping it open she rolled her eyes at the author. Emma fucking Swan.
'Hey Henry said he left a flash drive at your house last night that has his homework on it, can I come by and grab it?'
Regina knew Henry had forgotten the flash drive after finding it still inserted in her laptop that morning as she checked her emails. As she left to go to the barn she had tossed it into her purse with the intent of bringing it to Henry during his lunch break. She typed her response quickly and stuffed her phone back in the pocket of her breeches without waiting for a response.
'I have it with me as I was planning on surprising him with lunch this afternoon. If he needs it before then I am at the stables.'
Although it was early, the sun shone brightly and warmed her bare arms against the crisp morning air. Regina mounted Romerito once they were safely in the confines of the outdoor arena and spent a couple moments re-affiliating herself with the feeling of a 1200lb animal beneath her before nudging him forward with her lower calf. She spent the next ten minutes warming up Romerito, being sure to properly bend and flex his muscles to prevent injury.
Romerito was a German import adapt in the discipline of Dressage, which Regina had grown fond of during the years before the first curse was broken. The style of riding was the most familiar to her as it reflected the military training horses received in the Enchanted Forest, and it was one of the most poetic forms of art she'd ever seen. After a sufficient warm-up, Regina shortened the hold she had on the reins and began running down a mental list of patterns and transitions, grateful she had been paying the stable manager extra to keep Romerito in tip-top shape for her. Her brow furrowed in concentration as she guided her partner around the sandy arena, now fully engaged in her task to the point where the rest of the world melted away. She didn't notice when a little yellow bug pulled into the parking lot, or see a certain sheriff walking towards her, green eyes ablaze with curiosity and perhaps...a little desire.
Emma walked towards the arena, her reason for coming to the stables all but forgotten as her eyes remained transfixed on the brunette astride a fiery red stead. In her entire time in Storybrooke, Emma was sure she had never seen the former Queen look so carefree...or so beautiful. It was as if Regina's whole world had disappeared outside of that arena, taking with it all her stress and grief of the past few years. Emma leaned against the arena fence and continued to watch unnoticed while slipping into thoughts of a young, innocent Regina riding in the fields of the Enchanted Forest. She snapped out of her daydream when she suddenly became aware that someone was calling her name.
"Miss Swan!" Regina clipped, clearly aggravated that she had been calling the blondes name several times without a response.
The hazy look in those jade green eyes quickly evaporated as Emma came back to reality. Regina was now stopped in the center of the arena, a light sheen of sweat visible on her temple and a look of utter annoyance plastered on her face.
"Uh hi." Emma muttered lamely, slightly embarrassed at being caught daydreaming. She mentally smacked herself and tried again, gaining more composure as she spoke, "I just came by to get Henry's flash drive."
By this time the brunette had dismounted and began moving towards the gate, looking straight ahead as if the blonde wasn't even there. "I see." she said curtly, "and instead of announcing yourself you saw fit to spy on what I choose to do in my spare time Sheriff?"
Emma pushed off the fence and followed the other woman back to the stable, doing her best not to notice how gorgeous the ex-Mayor looked in those skin tight breeches she was wearing. "I didn't want to interrupt you. You looked like you were having a good time out there, and man, you're a really good rider Regina." she said in a tone of polite awe.
Regina ignored her and lead Romerito back into the grooming area and busied herself with undoing the girth of the saddle. Emma tried again, "So Henry told me he really enjoyed having dinner with you last night, and that you even played Mario Kart with him."
Regina looked up as she expertly pulled both the saddle and saddle pad from Romerito's back in one movement, and had to keep herself from rolling her eyes at the blondes attempt at small talk. "If you're about to suggest we start discussing the weather Miss Swan, you can save yourself the trouble because I have no desire to make small talk with you." she breezed passed Emma in her usual royal huff, placing the saddle ensemble on a rack and spinning on her heel to glare at the other woman as she spoke, "In fact, I don't wish to talk to you at all Savior, so if you would follow me to my car so you can get what you came for and then be on your way that would be greatly appreciated."
"Savior? Sheriff? Really Regina? Your bitch is showing. I was only trying to be friendly but obviously you landed ass-first on a pitchfork this morning." Emma snarked.
Regina took a couple of steps forward, now standing a foot away from the Savior. "I have every right to treat you however I wish. It's your fault that I am miserable-again! It's your fault that Robin had to cross the town line because if you hadn't been the idiot Charming spawn you are and brought Marion back he would've never left! So excuse me if our relationship isn't all puppies and rainbows Sheriff. We raise a son together, that is all."
Emma stepped into the remaining space, using the slight height difference to her full advantage now that her Royal-Bitchiness was in riding boots in lieu of her usual pumps. "I didn't know Regina! I-"
Regina cut her off, tilting her chin up a bit to look into those now stormy green orbs. She loathed looking up at anyone. "Of course not! Why would it ever occur to you to actually THINK before you act! Instead you follow whims of whatever warm fuzzy feeling that gets you off at the time and damn the consequences!"
They were now inches apart, the tension thick as butter. Emma stared down at the angry brunette, and considered her response carefully. "I am sorry Regina, I truly am. I would never hurt you on purpose, and despite what your feeling right now you know that's true. We may fight but we're not enemies anymore, we've moved passed that. I meant what I said outside your office the other day, I will fight to bring you your Happy Ending until it kills me."
"I have no Happy Ending." The words spoken at just barely above a whisper. Regina was broken, and it killed Emma to know that she was the cause of that. They had come so far since their meeting outside of the Mayoral Manor so long ago, and one stupid mistake had cost her all of the progress they had made. Sure, they were still speaking when it involved Henry, but the brunette had canceled their magic lessons until further notice and had built walls up around her so strong a nuclear explosion couldn't break through. Hell, currently only one of them was on a first name basis. So at the vulnerability of those words, Emma felt her hand reach up of its own accord and caress the side of Regina's cheek, seeking only to comfort the brunette before the door inside the woman's heart shut in her face.
It lasted only a second before the walls shot up and Regina stepped backwards, letting Emma's hand fall to her side. A look of indifference overtook the look of longing, and the woman's chocolate eyes once again bore into the blondes. "Flashdrive." is all she said before turning and twitching away to her car. Emma followed.