Until I'm Worthy - agntsanvers (2024)

Chapter 1

Chapter Text

Regina hates Janis. This is one of the laws of the universe, as far as anyone at North Shore is concerned. The sky is blue, grass is green, and Regina hates Janis.

She’s a f*cking freak with weird ass makeup and dumb grungy clothes and –

And and and

Regina could go on about Janis. Has talked about her in her crusade to make sure she stays at the bottom of the totem pole. She’s not sure how she was ever friends with her, honestly. (She ignores the part of her that’s still stuck in middle school, stuck in afternoons under the tree in Janis’ yard watching her learn to embroider and kissing her fingers when she inevitably pricked herself.)

That’s besides the point. Regina hates Janis. However, she can’t help but be impressed as Janis admits to trying to ruin her life. There’s a twitch of her lips that she can’t quite stop, the slightest trend toward a smile as she watches Janis air out her plan. She gets a hold of it, twists it into an unimpressed glare. But the slight smile. It was barely anything, barely a slip but Regina knows Janis caught it. Her eyes flash as she climbs down from the podium. She sneers at Regina, flips her off and ignores the expression that says, “See? We aren’t so different. You are the same as me, mean like me.”

She hadn’t known Janis had it in her, to be cruel like this. To be cruel like Regina. (In the part of her that she’s spent years repressing, she finds the vindictive behavior kind of hot. The spark of interest she usually feels around Aaron or Shane coming to life. She imagines the haughty sneers that have been aimed her way throughout the years and the spark swirls further into a flame. She crushes the thoughts, grinds them to dust beneath her Louboutin heels.)

(The thoughts refuse to disappear, though. She imagines pushing and prodding Janis into an argument, the way any venom spit from Janis’ lips would feel sweeter than a compliment from Aaron ever did. She thinks of digging in, of teeth and heat and anger, and the vicious freedom that would come from their mutual destruction.)

Janis stalks past her, and it takes everything in Regina to stop herself from leaning in and snapping her teeth at Janis just to see if she’ll still flinch. She’s supposed to be the victim here, so she just watches Janis, playing with her necklace in one hand while digging her nails into her side with the other, keeping herself under control.

Afterwards, Cady comes to find her, because of course she does. The girl never knows when to let things go.

She’s woman enough to admit that Cady’s betrayal hurts. It had been unexpected. Cady is so nice, pure and naïve and a slew of things Regina is not. Cady’s apology only makes Regina angrier. The ease that she’s able to say those words with, how little Cady has to fight herself as she tries to make amends. Apologies have never come easy to Regina. They’ve disappeared entirely with her rise to the top of the school food chain.

The argument with Cady stops Regina from thinking about Janis ‘Imi’ike and her mean streak. And then she can’t think about much of anything, all her problems pushed to the side, just like her body by the bus.

She wakes in the hospital. If you can call half-consciousness being awake. The world around her is fuzzy and too bright and loud. It’s easier to turn back to the darkness. Each time she regains consciousness, the world becomes clearer. The brightness of the hospital lights make it hard for her eyes to focus, and the haze of drugs from her IV makes her unsure of what is real.

One time when she wakes up, there’s a stranger in her room. Usually, the only person there is her mother, who’s almost constantly at her side when Regina is awake. Regina’s pretty sure she livestreams her visits, not that Regina is cognizant enough to care. Anyways - getting her brain on track is so hard now - there’s a stranger here. Not a nurse, as whoever it is isn’t wearing scrubs. Dark hair and equally dark clothing, they remind Regina of someone.

“You look like Janis,” Regina slurs, blearily trying to focus on them without opening her eyes anymore. (Why does light hurt so bad?) “Small.”

Through her hazy vision, she sees the person pull a face. She’s not sure what it means – can’t process the nuance of expression right now. But still, no one should make faces at Janis. Only Regina is allowed to do that.

“Janis is cool,” Regina defends. “She ruined my life.”

She might be crying. There’s something wet on her face but Regina honestly isn’t sure what her emotions are up to at any given point lately. It’s like there’s a wall between the different parts of herself. If she is crying, though, Regina definitely prefers the light floatiness to the sadness she must actually be feeling. It’s easier to deal with at least.

The Janis look alike takes a step back, like Regina had pushed her or something. But she’s stuck in this bed and can’t push anyone. She’s not fully sure if she can move most of her body. So it’s not her fault.

“Ghost push,” Regina murmurs, barely louder than a whisper.

Janis-adjacent doesn’t say anything.

Regina can feel her medicine kicking in again. Her consciousness slowly stripped away by the flood of chemicals. Maybe she imagined someone coming in. They would have said something by now, right? Maybe there’s no one actually standing there.

After all, “Janis wouldn’t visit me.”

She doesn’t know if her Janis hallucination replies, content to drift away on the tide.

Ok, look. Regina isn’t above admitting that dying for fifteen whole seconds made her reevaluate her approach to life (once she’s aware enough to do said evaluating). Maybe dying gave her a bit of a reset, especially when it came to long days in the hospital with hardly any visitors besides her mom and even longer PT sessions. (Gretchen and Karen visited once. Once. They had mostly kept their distance, though. Regina’s surprised by how much she misses them, how much their absence actually hurts.) Maybe it’d be worth it to try being a better person or some sh*t if it means she’d have company.

She’s getting used to being on her own, really she is. She’s started reading more, since that’s the only f*cking thing she can do that doesn’t hurt her head. Well, hurt her head as much. TV screens and phones feel like knives to her delicate, still healing eyes, so she’s stuck with physical books her mom checks out of the library for her. (She’s looking forward to rereading some of the better books her mom has brought once she’s better. She’s not the best at keeping the plots separate with how scrambled her brain is right now.) The doctor said the light sensitivity should go away as she heals.

The first few days without her phone were hard (almost impossible) to get through, but now she’s almost used to being disconnected. It helps that she doesn’t want to know what everyone else is doing while she’s stuck here. She doesn’t want to know how easily people are moving on without her.

There’s an ache in her chest if she thinks about what she’s missing for too long. A bone deep loneliness that she’s unfamiliar with. In moments of weakness, which happen more often now, she wonders if this is how Janis felt after Regina ruined her, before she found Damian. She banishes those thoughts as quickly as they come, but the tears are harder to ignore.

Outside of her annoying emotional distress, Regina is in pain pretty much constantly. Even with the pain killers, she had broken her spine and a bunch of other bones. It hurts no matter what. She wishes her body could choose one type of pain, trade them off so some part of her feels relief at some point. Instead, the only time she feels okay is when she’s asleep.

A knock on the door accompanied by a quiet but familiar “Hi” tears her attention away from her book. Regina startles when she sees who it is.

“Cady?” she asks, stunned.

She wants to be mean. There’s still so much residual anger over what Cady did to her. She wants to snip and pick at her until Cady feels as sh*tty as Regina does. She’s tired, though, and can’t quite muster the ire she needs. Doesn’t even actually want to besides. Someone who’s not her mother is here – she doesn’t want to chase her away.

“I tried to text that I was coming, but you didn’t reply.” Cady plays with the hem of her shirt, still hovering in the doorway. “I wasn’t sure if you were ignoring me or-“

Regina cuts her off before she can continue – she doesn’t want to know what horrible reason Cady came up with for Regina ignoring her. “Come in. I wasn’t ignoring you. The doctor is limiting my phone time, and even then it f*cking hurts to look at a screen for too long.”

Cady still hesitates to walk further inside. “I’m not staying long. I just wanted to check how you were.”

“Oh,” Regina says. She wishes the drugs dulled emotional pain too.

Cady winces. Regina realizes she may have said that out loud, but again, an upside to the drugs is that she can’t care too much. Regina’s lucky Cady came so soon after a dose, or this could be going much worse. But still.

“Sorry,” she says. “I’m on really good drugs.”

As though that isn’t obvious.

Cady doesn’t stay long, just like she said. She learns that Regina is well on the road to recovery and makes an excuse about having mathlete sh*t to do.

Regina is alone again and doesn’t bother trying to stop her tears. (She’s been crying so damn much. She’s over it.) She’s so horrible that even the nicest person, the person who (kinda) got her hit by a bus while trying to apologize, doesn’t even want to be around her.

So yeah, dying and then being alone in a hospital room for almost three weeks will make anyone reevaluate their behavior. Regina wants her friends back.

Although back implies that they were truly her friends in the first place, and she’s self-aware enough to know that she had minions more than anything. So. Regina wants to make friends. With her minions who she said were her friends but weren’t really because they’d actually visit if they were and they didn’t because Regina is horrible and she got hit by a bus and-


Regina has amends to make. Hopefully it goes well.

Chapter 2


I think about these bitches constantly

Chapter Text

Regina invited Gretchen and Karen over once she’s out of the hospital. They’re her closest friends - or they would be if Regina had friends - so it makes the most sense to start her amend-making with them.

They actually agree to come over without Regina having to threaten or insult them, which is nice. It would have been weird to start the whole apology thing with a threat, but Regina has always been willing to do what she has to.

She waits for them to arrive, sitting at her kitchen table. It’s the best place to wait, she’s checked. With the whole being on crutches thing, sitting on the couch would mean taking a small eternity to reach the front door. Coming from the kitchen takes just long enough for the people waiting outside to get a little antsy without making Regina seem like she’s been waiting for them to get here.

Her calm exterior has always relied on Regina knowing what works, having the perfect response to everything. Take too long for a comeback and you lose your chance and a bit of standing. Take too long to open the door, especially on crutches, and people will think you’re weak. It’s a mind game. Regina is good at mind games.

The doorbell rings and Regina feels herself straighten. The anxiety she’s been feeling gets pushed to the side, her usual haughty expression sliding into place like a well worn glove. She makes her way to the door and pulls it open. Gretchen and Karen stand huddled together on her doorstep, and seeing them feels weird for some reason. Regina’s not used to feeling unsettled when Gretchen and Karen are around. It has her on the defensive. Remember, be real Regina, not a bitch.

“Let’s go upstairs,” she commands, already falling back to full plastic. It’s the exact opposite of how she wants to start this whole thing, but it’s too late now.

They follow her meekly up the stairs, not rushing ahead of her even though Regina knows she’s taking for-f*cking-ever to make it up. The crutches she has to rely on for the foreseeable future make going anywhere slower than she’s used to.

When they finally make it up to her room, Regina stays standing as her hopefully to-be friends perch on her bed.

“I’m,” Regina clenches her jaw. She’s uncomfortable, is what she is. Why can’t everyone just feel that she’s sorry and start being her friend? Why does she have to talk to them and apologize and work at it? Regina is very used to everything going her way. She goes to great lengths to make sure it does. The fact that this could blow up in her face has her nervous.

She can’t exactly pace - stupid crutches. She does her best anyways, the uneven beat of her movements the only sound in her room.

Gretchen and Karen watch her from their spots on her bed. They don’t try to rush her or prompt her into continuing. They’re too well trained for that. (The thought makes her wince.)

Get it over with, she thinks. Regina George isn’t a coward.

“I’m sorry, okay? I treated you both like sh*t even though you guys were like my f*cking friends or whatever.”

“It’s okay, Regina,” Karen says. She says it with such ease, accepting the apology without thought. Regina knows she means it. Sweet, sweet Karen, whose heart is way too big for Regina to deserve.

Gretchen looks less convinced, but she’s not cursing Regina out, so that’s probably a good sign. Could be because she’s still scared of Regina, but she’s choosing to see the bright side.

“It’s not okay, actually,” Regina responds. “It should’ve never been okay for me to treat you guys like I did. I was a bad friend, and I’m going to try to be better. I want to be your friend for real this time.”

She directs the final part of the statement to Gretchen, looking steadily into her eyes. She knows Gretchen pretty much worships the ground she walks on, that her behavior impacted her the most.

The apology was uncomfortable. Worth it, though, if the uncertain happiness she can see on Gretchen’s face is any indication.

There’s enough of a silence that Regina starts getting uncomfortable, can feel her defenses raising as the urge to make a scathing comment gets harder to fight.

Gretchen seems to come to some sort of conclusion because she launches herself off the mattress and wraps her arms around Regina. As much as Regina wants to enjoy what might be the first real hug she’s ever shared with Gretchen-

“Gretch, I just broke my back. Can you loosen up, maybe?”

Gretchen lets her go as though burned. “OMG, Regina, I’m so sorry.” There’s more than just being sorry, though. Regina knows fear, likes (liked? Jury’s still out on the rest of the population, but she doesn’t like the slight flinch she notices as Gretchen pulls away) eliciting it in as many people as possible. She was maybe a little harsh when telling her to let go. Pain makes her crabby, but she knows that’s no excuse really. It’ll probably take her a while to actually get better at not being mean.

“You’re fine, really. It just hurt. You can-” Regina takes a deep breath, steeling herself against the request she’s about to make. “You can hug me, just maybe keep it gentle?”

Like she’s approaching one of Cady’s precious lions, Gretchen steps back into Regina’s space and wraps her arms around Regina’s waist, barely applying any pressure. Regina wraps an arm around her shoulders. Catching Karen’s longing gaze on them, Regina rolls her eyes and motions her over.

“f*cking fine. Get over here.”

Karen squeals and jumps up, an equally gentle embrace wrapping around Regina’s other side. Hugs are nice. Regina might actually enjoy having real friends if it comes with regular hugs.

After a minute, Regina reaches her hug quota and pulls away. “Thanks for, like, hearing me out or whatever,” she says.

“You’re our friend,” Karen states like it’s the answer to everything, like it can solve all their problems.

“And you’re not, like, all bad,” Gretchen says, staring up at her as she references Regina’s earlier comment. “You were really good at making sure boys didn’t creep on us. And, like, you helped me with Jason and stuff.”

Regina wants to roll her eyes and make some comment about how Jason was a stupid boy who doesn’t deserve her and that Gretchen is almost as stupid for thinking he does. But that’s old Regina. And she’s trying to be better.

“I’m going to take care of you,” she says like it’s obvious. “Even if that means having to deal with f*cking Jason.”

Alright so trying is going just okay. She’s not sure she’s ever going to have anything nice to say about Jason, though. Hopefully Gretchen comes to her senses soon - Regina isn’t a saint and if she sees that boy again she might actually bite him. She’d be doing a service to the larger North Shore population, so maybe it’d still count as being good.

Heavy emotional stuff over with, they chat quietly. Regina wants her friends to stay. Usually, their afternoon hangouts only last a few hours before Regina needs to be alone. Today, being alone is the last think Regina wants, and lounging around with her friends feels like the perfect balm to the damaged parts of her, to the Regina who sat alone for weeks with no one to truly talk to.

“Gretchen?” Regina asks when they’re halfway through their movie. It’s been nice; she’s squished in the middle of her friends, cuddling. This is the first time this has happened - one day early on in their friendship, Gretchen had attempted to curl into her side and Regina had snapped at her so harshly Gretchen had cried. Regina prefers it this way over how it was before, with Regina sitting alone while Karen and Gretchen piled together on the other side of the couch. But no matter how comfortable she is, the fact remains that Regina is sore as hell, her last dose of medicine starting to fade. “Could you grab my medicine from the bathroom? Please?” she tacks on at the end.

Nice means asking and not demanding. Means using please even though she knows Gretchen won’t care either way.

Gretchen jumps up instantly, chirping, “Yes!” as she disappears into the bathroom.

She gets Regina a little paper cup of water too, and carefully helps Regina take the pill and settle into a better position for her back.

This is the most help she’s gotten since she arrived home, her mother too used to her independence to even consider that her daughter might need consistent help since she was hit by a goddamn bus.

After they leave, Regina stands in the foyer. That went better than expected. The heaviness that she’s felt since spending all those days alone has started to lift, made just a bit lighter by the genuine smiles they had thrown her way as they waved goodbye.

She feels good until she’s back in her room. Until she’s alone and standing in front of her mirror.

She leans in as much as she’s able, steadily cataloging what flaws she can see. She hadn’t had the chance to lose the weight she gained from Cady and Janis’ plot. There’s a zit right near her hairline and her skin is so dry. (Her mom hadn’t thought to bring her skincare to the hospital for her. She brought her selfie ring light so she could make tik toks while Regina wasted away in a hospital bed, though. Trust her mom to bring the important stuff.) Regina thinks she can see the slightest wrinkle in the center of her forehead.

She stares herself down, wishing she could see inside herself. She wants to be able to record all the flaws inside as easily as she does the ones on the outside. Mean, she thinks. Vindictive, manipulative. A flash of Janis as she had stormed from the gym just before Regina got hit by a bus saying, “If you’re bad, I’ll say you’re bad.”

Regina is bad. Bad down to her core and she’s still not sure how to fix it, how to dig out the rotting parts of herself and become someone worthy of her friends. A tear tracks down her cheek and she clears her throat, trying to stop the swell of emotions.

Bad, she thinks again. Is that all I’ll ever be?

“Not all bad,” Gretchen had said. She hadn’t told Regina that she wasn’t bad at all. She had agreed that Regina was bad. It crushes Regina, as much as she knows that she should’ve expected it. But there’s hope, the implication in Gretchen’s words that there is something better in her. The question remains. How long until she finds those good parts of herself? Will she be able to?

They get to Spring Fling late. Regina would like to say they were fashionably late, but with how many pictures her mother insisted on taking (of herself. And Shane – gross), Regina knows they’ve crossed the line into proper lateness.

At least her meds have started to kick in. She insisted on being off her crutches for the dance. She’s Regina George and she has to show as little weakness, as little humanity, as possible. Sure, she’s trying to change and be better, but that doesn’t mean the larger North Shore student body gets to see it.

She had been in pain during the pictures – Shane isn’t delicate on a good day, and her mother hadn’t seemed to care about Regina and her neck brace as she bulldozed her way into the photos – but over the course of the drive to the school, Regina had settled into the nice floating freedom her meds give her.

By the time they get into the gym, Regina is feeling good enough to smile at everyone.

She takes photos with Damian, who’s surprisingly funny as he makes sarcastic comments in her ear at some of the more…unfortunate student outfits and dancing that he sees as they pose. He’s also gentle, so careful with her even as he exists in her space and pulls at props she grabs. He doesn’t hurt her once. (Somewhere deep in her psyche, Regina is glad Janis has had someone this caring by her side.)

At one point, she escapes from the constant attention of the other students, hiding in a bathroom stall. This must be what losers feel like. Regina hates it. She walks out of the stall, deciding she prefers the hell of the hot gym over the stillness of the bathroom and the faint echo of sh*tty DJ remixes.

Cady is there. Good, she has to talk to her. Has things to say. Wants to try to fix it. She’s super floaty, and seeing her friend (despite said friend kind of ruining her life) makes her think of her talk with Gretchen and Karen. It might be nice to try to mend this bridge too, if she can keep it together for long enough.

Cady keeps them on track as much as she can. Still, it’s not an apology. Apologies are still hard. But like, Cady is being nice and feels bad for screwing Regina over so she can acknowledge that she has to change. Cady apologizes. Regina tells her that she could’ve been Reginald. An even exchange.

Cady knows her, as much as they worked to destroy each other. She knows what this talk means, what Regina is trying to get across. Still, it’s nice to qualify her words with the barrier of the drugs, to use them to hide the truth of herself. Regina hopes they can be friends, real friends, this time.

‘I like you,” she says. It feels easy, feels good. It feels like an olive branch, like an opportunity for better.

Later, Regina does a very good job at catching the piece of crown Cady tosses to her (breaking the crown? If Regina could bring herself off her drug cloud she might be pissed), and if anyone says otherwise, they’re lying.

It’s a relief to see Gretchen finally give Jason a proper piece of her mind. Regina catches her eye afterwards, giving her a wobbly thumbs up as she tries to show she’s proud of her.

At one point, Regina gets left alone at a table. Even with as many meds as she’s on, she still can’t stay standing for this long without regretting it. Shane is somewhere, though Regina is having a hard time giving a sh*t where, if she’s honest. At least he left her with a cup of punch. Not that Regina can drink it. Her stupid f*cking neck brace is stopping her from reaching her arms high enough and she’s thirsty and tired and why is everything bad. She’s working herself close to tantrum mode, close to mean mode, when soft hands slowly pry the cup from her.

She looks up, meeting Janis’ eyes. Regina gapes a bit, not prepared to see her nemesis standing by her side.

“I’ve got you,” Janis says, barely loud enough to hear over the music.

Janis holds the cup to Regina’s lips, gentle and caring in a way Regina knows she doesn’t deserve. Her other hand lightly cups under Regina’s chin as she blinks blearily and drinks, keeping Regina from spilling on herself. Distantly, Regina is thankful for the action, but mostly she’s concentrating on how good the punch tastes.

This is how Janis is different. They both can be mean and vindictive and cruel, but Janis is good at her core. Is nice and kind and more likely to offer a smile than a sneer.

Regina wouldn’t have done this for Janis. She wouldn’t have allowed herself to get this close if their roles were reversed.

Later, when she revisits her memories of this night, Regina’s not sure if she imagined it. Because why would Janis do anything like it? But in this moment here and now, Regina swears that after Janis pulls the cup away, she brings her free hand up and swipes against the bottom of Regina’s lip, catching any stray liquid. Her thumb catches slightly on the fullness of Regina’s bottom lip, tugging at it. Regina’s mouth opens just slightly as she gazes up at Janis, trying to parse out the expression on Janis’ face as her brain works through the hazy delay of pain meds.

They make eye contact and Janis pulls away like she’s been burned.

Regina tells herself it’s the drugs that make her stop Janis from pulling away. The drugs making her nice, making her touchy. Regina’s not sure why she wants Janis to stay close. There’s something drawing her towards Janis, making her want the other girl close despite that being the opposite of what she wants any other day of the week. She tangles her fists in the hem of Janis’ jacket, pulls her closer until she’s almost sitting in Regina’s lap. She stops herself from burying her face in her side, but the urge is there.

Janis lets it happen, which soothes the needy dragon curled in Regina’s chest. She even pats Regina’s head, which feels very nice and distracts from the pounding pain that is Regina's constant companion.

The next week, Regina is back in school full time. Crutches and all. She had been in so much pain after Spring Fling that she decided it wasn’t worth it to seem untouchable. Can’t be the queen bee (if that’s even what she wants anymore) if she’s bedridden and unable to move.

“Gretchen,” Regina says at lunch. “I’m so so happy you finally dropped Jason, but if I have to hang out with Kevin G and his weird ass rapping, I will literally kill myself. After I kill him.”

God he better not give her a stupid nickname. Regina doesn’t care how nice she’s supposed to be, she will make him hurt.

Gretchen opens her mouth to respond, but Regina continues before she can.

“I’m happy for you, really. I’m just kidding.” Mostly. Not that they hadn’t been cute dancing and flirting at the dance, but god Gretchen needs better taste in men. Or the boys at North Shore need to get better. Either way, Regina’s not sure she’ll ever be pleased by anyone Gretchen dates, but that’s not Gretchen’s problem and Regina figures she’s just going to have to deal.

The hurt look that had started to appear on Gretchen’s face disappears. They turn to lighter topics as they wait for their lunch table to fill up.

After the apology with Cady, Regina, Gretchen, and Karen slowly but steadily integrated into the rest of Cady’s friend group. Cady is the glue that holds them together. She is the life of their little group, but no matter how much she tries, there’s always a sense of awkwardness in the atmosphere during lunch. Like the universe is saying these two groups aren’t meant to mix but the sheer force of Cady’s will is making them, pulling the universe into the shape she wants. Which means Regina gets to spend her lunches with Aaron and Damian and f*cking Janis, who barely even looks at her.

Not that Regina is watching her or anything. She can’t really without making it obvious - her neck brace makes sure of that. She just thinks that after the whole Spring Fling…thing, that Janis would acknowledge her somehow. Look at me, she thinks sometimes. Do you even care that I’m here? (She does nothing to try to fix it. She’s respecting Janis’ boundaries or whatever. It has nothing to do with her being scared of fixing things between them.)

But they sit at opposite ends of the table and sometimes Janis laughs at something Damian or Karen says and Regina gets a weird angry feeling in her chest. Janis barely reacts when she talks, doesn’t laugh along with everyone else when Regina makes a joke. She acts like Regina isn’t there, like there’s a ghost at the table who she can’t see. So it’s probably best that they don’t talk. Regina’s trying to be nice to everyone, and the unidentifiable emotion is making her want to raze the cafeteria to the ground.

One weekend, everyone heads over to Gretchen’s. It’s finally warm enough to go swimming and everyone’s excited to break out their bathing suits and spend the afternoon playing around.

Regina can’t exactly participate in most of the water games, but she’s not interested in them anyways. Her preference has always been to lounge and tan, and now no one can unexpectedly throw her in the water (she had wanted to kill Shane the last time he did that) since they might break her.

Surprisingly, Janis also doesn’t seem too interested in swimming, keeping score of the many rounds of chicken their friends are playing and working on some art project. She’s sitting cross legged on the grass next to Regina’s chair, and it makes Regina feel nice, that she chose to sit close despite there being plenty of other spots to choose from.

“You were impressive,” Regina says, apropos of nothing and wanting to give Janis a compliment.

Janis’ head snaps up and she looks at Regina, confused. “What?”

It’s the first thing she’s said directly to Regina in weeks, and Regina wants to celebrate actually making her acknowledge Regina’s existence. She should play it cool, though.

“Like during your apology or whatever,” Regina dismisses, waving a hand

You-” Janis looks incredulous. “God you’re so f*cking self-absorbed, Regina!”

What? “What?”

Janis laughs, a mad sound, nothing like the bright sound that rings through the cafeteria when someone cracks a joke and something Regina decides she is done with hearing aimed towards her. “I didn’t apologize to you, you asshole.”

“Huh. Honestly, didn’t realize.” So maybe she had zoned out a bit when Janis was talking. She had moved on to Cady and Regina hadn’t cared about whatever their drama was. She just thought Janis had circled back to her whole apology thing. She cares now, kinda, if either of them wanted to, like, discuss it or something. She’d totally listen. ‘Cause she’s being a good friend now. But yeah, hadn’t paid attention and assumed that Janis was apologizing to her.

Obviously,” Janis hisses under her breath.

This talk with Janis is not going the way Regina planned. Part of her almost wishes for the neck brace back, to be seen as small and weak so Janis will feel sorry for her again. She wants the crutch of her ailment to help smooth this relationship over. She knows that’s not good. She has to face this herself, clean up her own mess, and not rely on manipulation to fix things.

She studies Janis, lingering on the way her shorts frame the softness of her stomach. Her eyes flick up to the black bikini top. Her brain goes fuzzy, and into the silence she says the first thing that comes to mind.

“Well, are you going to apologize?” It’s the wrong thing to say.

“Am I-” Janis stands up, brushing off her shorts.

(They’re more rips than actual denim, so Regina isn’t sure why she bothers. Mean, she reminds herself. Trying to fix that. And absently, after: There’s grass on her thigh, I could brush it off for her and-)

Her totally appropriate and not at all strange thoughts are interrupted by Janis huffing once more. She stares down at Regina, brown eyes filled with a vitriol Regina thought they had moved past.

“I knew you hadn’t changed. I knew it and no one believed me.” Janis had talked about her? Had mentioned her to the rest of their friends when she wasn’t around? It didn't sound like she had said anything good about Regina, but at least now she knows that Janis thinks about her, that she’s on Janis’ mind when she’s not around just like Janis is on hers. “You’re still the same selfish bitch you’ve always been. Me, apologizing to you? Grow up, Regina.”

Which, ouch.

She storms away before Regina can even try to fix it. What is with them? Why can they never get it right? (Why can’t Regina get it right?) Regina can have civil conversations with everyone else, can apologize to everyone else. There’s just something about Janis that makes Regina unable to function. That makes her say the wrong thing no matter how hard she tries. She’s not sure why she requested an apology, Janis definitely deserves one more. But a vision of looking at herself in the mirror, pinching at her sides as she tries to shed her extra weight, pops into her head and she knows that Janis has things to apologize for too.

Maybe they’re just destined to always hurt each other.

Chapter 3


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Regina regularly goes to PT. There are exercises she has to keep up with, stretches to do so her back doesn’t get worse. It’s a stupid two hours out of her week, plus however long actually doing the exercises takes.

Cady manages to be a bright side in all of it, though. The other girl goes with her more often than not, barring any mathlete practices or other nerd sh*t she gets up to. Regina loves her for it, not that she’ll tell her that. She’s never been one for casual I love you’s, and even the new and improved Regina finds the sentiment intimidating.

Cady tagging along saves Regina from having to go with her mother, who’s usually more interested in flirting with the therapist (gross) than actually listening to the different stretches Regina needs to do.

Cady takes actual notes. She asks questions that Regina would never have thought of and texts Regina regularly to make sure she’s actually doing what she’s supposed to. (She will show up at Regina’s place if she thinks Regina’s been slacking.)

However, the extended alone time does sometimes lead to conversations Regina would rather not have.

“What’s going on with you and Janis?” Cady asks one day in the waiting room.

Regina bristles a little. “What do you mean? Nothing’s going on.”

Cady sighs, rotating in her seat so she can look at Regina straight on. “It’s been super awkward at lunch, which is really saying something. Janis is acting like your end of the table has the plague, and you’ve barely stared at her once in the past like two weeks.”

“I-” Regina doesn’t know how to respond to that. She doesn’t stare at Janis (and if she does, she’s not obvious about it). She’s normal about her. “I don’t do that.”

Regina,” Cady says in a tone that tells her that she’s focusing on the wrong part of the conversation.

Regina looks around the waiting room, hoping that the doctor will call her name so she doesn’t have to talk about it. She’s been doing so well with connecting with everyone. Admitting to a setback (is it even a setback if her and Janis never actually made up?) feels like a failure. Regina does not like to fail. But Cady has an expression on her face that shows she won’t let this go until she’s solved it.

“Fine.” Regina says as though it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done. “So maybe we argued a bit and now it’s weird.”

“What did you do?”

“Why does it have to be my fault? Maybe Janis did something.”

“Did she?” Cady’s voice is too knowing for Regina’s liking. It’s possible that she wasn’t the instigator. It’s happened before. Probably.

Regina’s too dignified to pout, but maybe she gets close. “No.”

Cady turns the full force of her puppy dog eyes on Regina. “I’m not going to ask what it’s about,” she pauses, face expectant as though waiting for Regina to spill the whole story. But the whole story is a reminder of everything that happened, and Regina doesn’t want to share it, doesn’t want to bring it up with Cady when everything has been so good so far. When she doesn’t say anything, Cady continues. “Could you try to fix it? I don’t want my friends arguing.”


Regina will get to it. At some point. When talking to Janis doesn’t send her into a tailspin.

Regina is surprised to find out just how much she enjoys hanging out with Damian. She spent so long hating on him (by proxy of him being friends with Janis) that she just didn’t expect to like him, even once their friend groups merged.

Today, she’s meeting him at the mall. Karen and Gretchen have something else going on, and part of the whole ‘making friends’ thing probably means asking to hang out. She’s surprised he actually agreed to her late night text asking if he’d want to meet up. So here she is.

“I’m surprised you asked me to hang out,” Damian says when she finds him.

It startles a laugh out of Regina. “I had the same thought actually, I’m surprised you agreed to meet.”

Damian smiles and steps next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. Just like at the dance, the action doesn’t jar her back.

“Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to focus on drama. I’m here to shop.”

Janis is his best friend. Regina knows he must have opinions on Regina and everything. She’s thankful he’s not going to bring them up, though. She wants to get to know him without everything messing with it.

“Couldn’t agree more.”

It’s a fun day. Damian has a keen eye for fashion, and they end up in a contest of who can design the better outfit for each other. And maybe Regina loses. It doesn’t feel like a loss when she gets a new outfit out of it. She’s also newly enraged at the lack of options for plus sized clothing, and Damian’s ensuing rant when she brings it up only makes it worse. (She carefully doesn’t think about the hours she’s spent looking in the mirror, judging her own body and finding herself fat. Tries not to consider the reality of her body and Damian’s side by side and what it means to judge herself the way she does. That can come later. The self-loathing is present all the same.)

After a while, her back starts to act up and they head to the food court so Regina can get off her feet. Conversation flows easily. Damian is funny, quick and smart. Near the end of the meal, though, the conversation starts to slow, and Regina can’t stop herself from addressing the small, Janis-shaped elephant in the room.

“Thank you for hanging out with me and giving me a chance even though Janis hates me,” Regina says in a rare moment of self-deprecation.

“Janis doesn’t hate you, Regina,” he rolls his eyes and mutters, “she feels something for you, but not hatred” under his breath. Louder, for Regina this time, he says, “If she really hated you, I would not give you the time of day, Imma be real.”

Regina’s not sure what the alternative to Janis hating her could be, especially with their history.

“That’s fair. I just can’t get it right when it comes to her.”

“You mean your little comment about her apologizing to you?” He waves his fork around in the air for emphasis.

Regina pushes her food around on her plate, not looking up at Damian. “She told you about that?”

“Bitch, I’m her best friend. Of course she did.”

“I don’t know why I can never say the right things.”

Damian hums, studying her as he finishes off his food. “Here’s the thing. When two people have strong feelings towards each other, sometimes talking is hard. Because it’s scary when you’re not sure if the other person is having the same strong feelings.”

What is he talking about? “Janis isn’t scared of me, Damian. She hates me. No matter what you think.”

What other strong emotions are there?

Damian’s head thunks onto the table and he groans. Regina just blinks at the display, confused. After a moment (he holds the groan for a long time – he must have insane breath control, Regina notes absently), he sits up.

“I can see that this is a hopeless cause, but take it from me, girl. Janis does not hate you.”

Regina distinctly doesn’t believe him. “Whatever,” she says. “You know her best.”

“Damn straight. Or not so straight, in this case.”

He side eyes her as he says it, but Regina isn’t sure what he’s referencing and forces the conversation on. The rest of the day is good, and by the end of it Regina is genuinely glad to know Damian. He’s a good friend.

She gets Janis to talk to her. Makes some comment about a movie during lunch that has Janis jumping in to agree with her as half the table tries to protest. It’s a momentous occasion, and Regina can’t stop herself from staring in awe at Janis.

“What?” Janis snaps when she notices. The glare she aims at Regina feels a little less real.

“Nothing,” Regina says, wanting to smile but knowing Janis probably won’t take it well. “I’m just surprised you agree.”

Janis curls her lip, Regina’s eyes getting drawn to the motion and sticking. “Even the devil can be right sometimes, I guess.”

The urge to smile disappears. Regina sneers, looking down her nose at Janis as she opens her mouth to reply.

Anyways,” Aaron cuts in. “I have news.”

The conversation moves on as they all congratulate Aaron on getting accepted into Northwestern. The tight feeling in Regina’s chest remains. It’s remnants of their mutual hatred, Regina tells herself. She wants to bite back at Janis because it’s familiar, not because she’s desperate for Janis to look at her, to feel all that passion directed her way.

Their friends have been experimenting with leaving Regina and Janis alone for short bursts of time. They’re trying to be slick about it, but none of their friends are particularly sneaky, so Regina figures both of them know what’s going on. They don’t discuss it, though, most of the time not even talking until everyone gets back.

“How did it feel?” Regina asks, breaking their truce of silence. They’re sitting under a tree in Regina’s yard while everyone else grabs snacks from inside. She doesn’t have to specify what she’s talking about. Janis knows, has always been on the same wavelength somehow.

“I didn’t enjoy it,” Janis spits, “Unlike you.”

(It had hurt Regina to ruin Janis’ life. Had hurt and hurt and hurt until she forced herself not to care anymore. Until everything good had been shoved down and being mean felt right. There hadn’t been any enjoyment in the original act, only fear and self-preservation and loathing.)

Regina doesn’t let any of that show on her face. Instead, she raises an eyebrow, looking over her sunglasses at Janis before huffing and tossing her hair, staring up into the tree. “Y’know, I can still tell when you’re lying, Jan,” the emphasis of the nickname a reminder of how close they used to be, as though either of them could forget.

Janis, Regina can see from the corner of her eyes, puffs her cheeks out and lets out a whooshing breath. The ever-familiar glare gets aimed at the side of her head. Regina doesn’t look back, doesn’t let Janis know she sees.

“Fine. I liked it.” Regina lets smug vindication settle in her chest before Janis continues. “For a minute. It didn’t help anything, didn’t make me stop hurting. It didn’t make the pain any f*cking better. And it started feeling really sh*tty, and only got worse when the whole bus thing happened. I don’t like being mean. I’m not mean.”

The ‘like you’ goes unsaid but lingers between them regardless. The pleased smugness that had been building vanishes in a second. Regina’s surprised by how much Janis’ words hurt. She knows this is where she should apologize. Where any other person would get down and grovel. Regina’s not ready, though. She hadn’t prepared to face the brokenness in Janis’ voice, the glimmer of tears that don’t quite fall.

Had she been so far gone that even her closest (ex) friend, the person who knew her better than anyone else, thought that that had been the real Regina? Can Janis not see that the plastic is a defense? And if Janis can’t tell, does that mean it’s who Regina really is? No, she thinks. I’ve changed. I’m different. Even if Janis is the only one who can’t see it.

“Janis,” she starts, not knowing where she’s going.

She’s saved from having to continue by the burst of sound that heralds the rest of the group’s return. The noise spreads like relief through her. She’s not sure what she would’ve done, how she would’ve responded, if the noise of Damian yelling about some Broadway show with Gretchen hadn’t cut through the tension.

Regina is not having a good day. Her mom finished the rest of the coffee, the shirt she was going to wear somehow ended up torn, and her back has been stiff since she got up. (She hadn’t been able to actually sit up. She ended up rolling off the side of her bed, managing to catch herself on her knees so she could push herself to standing. Not the greatest start to the day.)

She still stands tall as she moves through the North Shore halls. No one should be able to tell that she’s moments away from collapsing in a puddle of tears from her back. (Today is shaping up to be one of the unlucky days where even her meds can’t fully stop the pain.) The crowds may not part for her like they used to, but she still has enough power that it’s not hard to make her way through the throng to her locker.

Halfway through putting her books away, trying to figure out how to lift the heavy textbooks into her locker without worsening the pain that pulses with each beat of her heart, Gretchen pops up next to her. The sudden appearance makes Regina jump and jolt her back. She breathes through the pain, trying to ride the wave out when Gretchen grabs her arm and tugs her closer. It’s an action that she’s done before, but this time it sends fire spitting through the nerves of Regina’s back.

“Are you deficient?” She snaps, regretting the words the moment they leap from her mouth. She wipes a hand down her face, the other one reaching out to stop Gretchen from moving. “I’m sorry,” she says, taking deep breaths. “I swear I’m trying to be better.”

The pain finally fades into the background as much as possible, and she takes her hand away from her face, looking at Gretchen. The expression she was afraid of sits on Gretchen’s delicate features, the hint of fear in her eyes paired with a furrowed brow and slight pout.

“I’m in pain and a bitch and sometimes it’s easy to slip.” An explanation, one she hopes Gretchen doesn’t take as an excuse. “I really am sorry.”

The second apology seems to get through to her. Gretchen grins at her, closed mouth and small but better than nothing.

“It’s okay,” she says. “It was a dumb question anyways.”

Regina clarifies, saying, “It was more the tugging thing. My back is bad today and any sudden moves feel like sh*t.”

“Regina, I didn’t know, I’m so sorry.” Gretchen looks like she’s about to cry.

“Gretchen, seriously, it’s fine.” It’s more trouble than it’s worth to talk through the near constant pain she’s in lately. And to show she’s been changing, that she’s trying to grow and be better, she continues. “Y’know, you don’t have to say things are okay when they’re not. I was rude.”

Regina watches Gretchen look at her for a moment, jaw shifting back and forth like she’s worrying at something. Determination settles over her features and Regina wants to smile. There she goes, Regina thinks, seeing the strength finally settle into Gretchen’s posture.

“What you said hurt my feelings,” Gretchen declares. “I know you’re in pain, but you could’ve told me to be gentle without yelling at me. You yell a lot and I don’t like it.”

Getting spoken to this way would’ve made Regina fume a couple months ago. Even now, her knee jerk reaction is to sneer and tear Gretchen down even more. She doesn’t, though. She asked for this after all.

After she goes quiet, Gretchen’s expression settles into something uneasy, like she’s not sure how Regina is going to react. Regina gives her a lopsided smile, pushing teasingly at her shoulder.

“There we go. How’d that feel?”

“Good. Scary, but good.” Gretchen takes the remaining textbooks and tucks them neatly onto the top shelf of Regina’s locker. She (carefully) links their arms together as Regina shuts her locker.

“I’m not that scary, am I?”

Gretchen reaches out with her free hand, patting Regina’s arm. “You kinda are.”

Regina sighs like she’s just so put out over the reveal. As if she hadn’t loved being head bitch, of being the person everyone was afraid to cross. “I guess there are worse things to be.”

Karen appears on Regina’s other side, ditsy smile on her face. “Like Reginald.”

Regina nods. “Yes, exact-” she cuts herself off, tilting her head. “Did Cady tell you about that?

“Yes,” Karen says. “You make a better Regina than Reginald.”

“Thank you, Karen.”

“It was so funny, Regina!” Gretchen chimes in, trying to make it better, maybe. “You can’t just expect Cady to keep it to herself.”

“I guess not,” Regina mutters to herself. “Anyways, Karen, you should congratulate Gretchen. She actually stood up to me today.”

“Omg! Heart eyes emoji. That’s so fetch, Gretchen. I’m proud of you,” Karen says, aiming a dazzling smile Gretchen’s way.

Regina makes special note of the way Gretchen stumbles through her answer, bright red blush across her cheeks and down her neck. Now that could be an interesting development, if it means what Regina thinks it does.

Janis strides into the one class her and Regina share. She’s wearing a black t-shirt that she’s cut holes into and embroidered and cropped – the artsy sh*t that Regina has never really appreciated before now. The cut of the shirt exposes flashes of skin and - Regina gulps, her mouth suddenly dry for some reason - fishnets along the curve of her hips. She’s in equally torn up high-waisted pants (more glimpses of fishnets under the denim. Is it hot in the classroom?) and her fingers are adorned in a plethora of silver rings.

“God, is that what art freaks wear now?” Regina sneers. It’s a knee-jerk reaction from before. Historically, Regina has preferred to use backhanded compliments to straight on insults. Smile at a girl, tell her she looks nice, make fun of her later. Rinse and repeat. Janis had always been the exception to that rule, facing Regina’s ire head on. Turns out, some habits are hard to break.

Janis startles as she sits in the seat next to Regina. (They may not be friends, but they’re not going to leave each other to the other neanderthals in the class.)

“What the f*ck?” Janis looks down at her outfit and back to Regina, insecurity and anger warring on her face.

“Sorry, I’m sorry. That was mean. You look hot, I’m just used to insulting people who aren’t Gretchen and Karen when they look good.”

“I look ho-” Janis cuts herself off and blinks at her. There’s the slightest bit of red creeping up her neck, and Regina feels bad about embarrassing her with the rude comment. “You insult people who look nice?”

Regina grimaces at her. “Yes?”

Janis snorts and rolls her eyes at Regina. “The more I learn about the intricacies of the plastics, the less I want to actually know.”

She turns her attention easily to the front of the classroom. Regina’s stuck, though. Her eyes keep drifting over to Janis.

Janis is pretty, and she makes Regina’s head fuzzy and her stomach warm and-

Oh. Oh sh*t. Regina might-

But that would be ridiculous. Regina’s not-

Janis is just objectively pretty. That’s all it is. Regina’s definitely straight and Janis isn’t so if Regina wanted she’d probably actually have a chance with her. Not that it matters. Because Regina likes men. And not Janis. Even though getting a smile out of Janis kind of makes Regina’s week.

It’s fine.

Regina doesn’t have to deal with whatever realization she may or may not be coming to right now. She can force it into the depths of her psyche to never be dealt with again.

It’s official. Between her morning with Gretchen, the weirdness with Janis, and now this, Regina’s day is out to get her.

She gets up wrong at the end of sixth period. Twists a little too much while getting out from under the desk and suddenly her back is on fire. Tears spring to her eyes, but she’s Regina George. She doesn’t show weakness. She grits her teeth against the pain and marches out of the room. She beelines to a lesser used bathroom.

Alone, Regina grasps the edge of one of the sinks, bending and stretching out her back until she finds a position that lets her breathe, that doesn’t feel like a million hot prongs pushing into her f*cking back. She gasps in relief, the sound coming out a bit jagged and edged with tears. She breathes through the waves of pain, wanting to sink to the floor. She’s a bit too conscious of the fact that she’s in a bathroom to allow herself that, but the urge is there nonetheless.

She needs to grab her meds from her bag, which is on the floor by her feet, a distance that seems insurmountable at the moment. She’s found a position that’s almost comfortable, and she can’t make herself move away from the relief from the pain.

The door opens and Regina wants to cry again, out of anger and the thought of anyone seeing her this vulnerable.

“Regina?” The relief of hearing Janis’ voice wars with the loathing she feels at Janis seeing her like this. At least it’s her and not anyone else (god she wishes it was anyone else - any one of their friends would’ve been better. She’s fine with them seeing her as weak, but she can’t have Janis thinking the same).

“Hi, Janis,” Regina says, sighing in resignation. She doesn’t try to move.

“Do you-” Regina hears Janis take a couple of steps closer, but she’s being careful as though Regina is a wild animal, dangerous when in pain. It’s not like she’s wrong. “Are you okay?”

No, Regina’s just in this dumbass position for fun. Because she enjoys it.

“Does it look like-” She huffs, cutting herself off. She reminds herself it isn’t Janis’ fault. If she wants to be friends with Janis (or more, whispers the part of her she thought she shoved waywayway down), she needs to not take her frustration out on Janis.

“No,” she says instead. “I’m in a whole lot of goddamn pain.”

“Did something happen? Did someone do something?”

The second question makes Regina pause. Janis sounds almost angry on Regina’s behalf. Her tone implies that she’s halfway from storming the halls to find who did this to Regina. A surprising reaction, given that the only other times they’ve talked since Regina’s last big fumble were another argument and Regina insulting Janis to her face.

“Got up wrong and tweaked my back.”

Janis sucks in a breath through her teeth and Regina can imagine the wince that’s on her face. Even after all these years, Regina knows all the nuances of Janis’ expressions.

“Do you need help?”

Regina lets one of her hands drop from where they’ve been clutching the edge of the sink. She motions to her bag. “My meds are in there. Can you just grab them for me? I can’t move right now.”

“Got it.”

Janis springs into action. As she passes behind Regina so she can reach the bag, she brushes a hand lightly against the small of Regina’s back. The touch makes Regina twitch, not expecting it. She groans as her back spasms.

“Careful,” Janis soothes.

Her hand presses down on her back once more, gentle enough not to hurt but enough pressure to be soothing. It’s the most casual contact they’ve had in years. Regina forgot how nice it was, how easily Janis reads the cues of her body. (In the secret part of her that won’t go away, Regina longs for the feeling of Janis’ hand on her bare skin. She wants the warmth of her skin, the slight catch of her calluses, without the barrier of Regina’s shirt in the way.)

A hand, adorned in chipped nail polish and bulky rings, enters Regina’s line of vision. It easily pops the clasp of her purse and fishes out the orange pill bottle.

“How many?” Janis asks quietly.

“I’ve gotta get through the rest of the day, so one.”

“You mean I won’t be seeing loopy Regina today?” Janis jokes. “I’m crushed.”

“I’m never going to live down Spring Fling, am I?”

“G, you cuddled me. I’m never going to let you forget it.”

The reminder of what she did sends blood rushing to her face and she’s thankful for the way her hair curtains off her face. She doesn’t need Janis seeing that she’s made Regina blush.

“I’m sorry,” Regina whispers as she hears the sounds of pills being shaken out.

The sound stops abruptly - it feels like the air’s been sucked out of the room.

“For what?” Janis asks, the barest shake along the edges of her words.

Regina knows she owes Janis a few apologies. She also knows Janis deserves whatever apologies Regina gives to be well thought out. So she’s not going to apologize for the big things. Instead, “For the apology thing. For not listening to you.”

Janis doesn’t say anything. A moment later, she’s handed the pill and the gentle hand is back on her body, this time coaxing her upright. Regina whines in pain, trying to resist.

Janis shushes her, caring, soothing. “I know it hurts, ba-” she clears her throat. “I know it doesn’t feel good. You’ve gotta stand so you can take the pill, though.”

Earlier in class, Regina had been a bit distracted by Janis’ outfit to really take in the other girl’s makeup. As close as they’re standing now, she can’t miss it. Swirls of golden and deep green twirl across her skin, shimmering as it highlights the softness of Janis’ face. The look is marred by the furrow of worry between her brows, by the intense frown as she looks at Regina. The care Janis has for her makes Regina’s lip wobble. (Her emotions are more out of control when she hurts like this - at least that’s what she tells herself.) She has to look away, turning her attention to the pill in her hand so she doesn’t cry.

(Janis cares and it feels nice and Regina kind of wants a hug.)

“Do you need water?” Janis’ thumb rubs at the curve of Regina’s hip. It makes her want to lean into the touch.

“Oh,” Regina says. “Yeah.” Her water bottle is in her locker because Mr. Stevens is a little bitch who doesn’t like hydrated children. She grimaces at the thought of having to drink the gross sink water.

“I’ve got you.” Janis pulls away and Regina pitifully longs for her to come back, feels emptier now that Janis isn’t hovering in her space. “Here, use mine.”

The white bottle is very Janis, from the variety of stickers to the sharpie doodles that cover every inch of blank space.

Shame creeps up her neck as Regina holds the bottle back out. “I can’t open it,” she says quietly. “It’d hurt my back.”

She can’t even open a f*cking water bottle, the action of twisting the cap would strain her muscles too much when she’s in pain like this. Pathetic.

“I didn’t even think about that. No worries.”

There’s not one trace of judgement on Janis’ face as she opens the bottle and passes it back. Regina takes her pill and whispers a thank you. Janis just smiles.

“How long until it kicks in?” she asks as the bell rings. The noise from the hall slowly dies down.

“Fifteen if I’m lucky, but probably half an hour to forty-five.” That is, if it even manages to work.

Janis hums and scoops up Regina’s purse. She wraps an arm around Regina’s waist and turns them towards the door.

“Let’s get you to class.”

Is she - is Janis going to walk her to class? The thought makes her blush. (Is she embarrassed? Why is she blushing?) The only other time she’s ever been walked to class is by Aaron while they were still dating. Regina’s not sure why that thought is relevant right now.

“You don’t have to do that,” Regina says. “I can do it on my own.”

(She’s not weak. She’s not an invalid. She can do things by herself.)

Janis must pick up on something in her voice because she glances up at Regina and sticks her tongue out teasingly. “Who said I’m doing this for you? I’m already late to class, and this way I can probably convince Mrs. Norbury to give me a pass since I helped the local invalid to class.”

Janis knows what class I have? Regina thinks. She’s not sure she knows Janis’ schedule like that. She’s not even sure if she knows Gretchen and Karen’s schedules in that much detail, and they’re her best friends.

Regina laughs, letting Janis usher her out of the bathroom. She’s glad no one’s in the hall - being helped to class because she’s in too much pain is not something she wants people to see.

“Selfish motives,” Regina teases back. “I see how it is. Using my injury for your own personal gain.”

It feels like old times. Regina wishes she could stay in this moment forever (without the pain, maybe).

She knows things aren’t fixed between them. It’ll take more than a single apology and a few jokes to mend the bridges they’ve burned, but Regina likes this start.


leave a kudos or a comment letting me know what you thought!

Chapter 4


Healing isn’t linear. Sometimes it’s 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Or, in Regina’s case, 2 steps forward, 1 swan dive backwards into a trash bin.


This one might hurt...
Trigger warning for hom*ophobic language in this chapter

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Summer is creeping closer and closer, which means the entire student body forgets how to act. Regina might not be the apex predator anymore, but it should still be common knowledge that no one messes with her friends.

Someone knocks Cady into a locker. It’s purposeful. Regina watches him step into Cady’s space, knock her shoulder with his, and laugh as Cady stumbles, almost dropping the books she holds. Regina sees red, feels plastic again as she whirls on the boy. She comes to still snarling, Cady holding her arm and the stupid jock cowering his way down the hall.

Regina straightens, Cady’s hand falling away as she does. Cady doesn’t look happy with her when Regina turns to her. Straightening her own shirt, Regina takes a deep breath and checks Cady over, hand brushing invisible lint off her shoulder, wanting to comfort and not knowing how. “You okay?”

“You didn’t have to do that, Regina,” she says, eyeing Regina like she’s a dangerous dog who got off its leash. “I’m fine.”

Regina tosses her hair, acts unaffected even though she hates that Cady is acting like she’s back to her old self. “He shoved you into a locker. I wasn’t going to let anyone think that was okay.”

She rolls her eyes and steps away from Cady. She doesn’t wait to see if Cady will respond, leaving her behind as she heads to physics.

Regina had done something good. She stood up for her friend. But Cady had hurt her feelings, treated Regina like she was going to explode because she maybe lapsed back to her old behavior. It was for a good reason. Regina doesn’t understand why it matters so much.

Regina sits down at lunch, looking dismally at the sad piece of cardboard that the school passes off as pizza as she longs for some cheese fries. Maybe she should just not eat. She needs to lose the weight anyways and –

Karen interrupts Regina’s spiraling thoughts, sliding over a delicious looking container of stir-fried veggies and chicken. “I packed too much,” she pouts. “I thought the package said for one, but it’s for one family. Can you help me?”

Regina just blinks at her for a moment before nodding. “Uh, sure. Anything to not have to eat this gross pizza.”

Karen smiles at her, scooping food onto an empty section of Regina’s plate. Regina gets the feeling she just got played. Karen has always been more perceptive than people think, but Regina’s impressed that she even noticed Regina waffling over whether or not to eat. (She kind of wants to cry. Karen cares so much, and Regina is only just now recognizing that. She handles Regina like an expert, flitting around her moods like it’s nothing. Regina doesn’t know how to thank her.)

As everyone else (minus Cady and Janis, who always have plans at the beginning of lunch. Something that definitely doesn’t bother Regina. Why would she care that Cady spends one on one time with Janis?) settles around them, Regina notices that it’s quiet at the table, oddly so. Looking up, Regina sees everyone staring at her.

“I heard you, like, totally shoved Tommy into some lockers,” Karen says, wide eyes fixed on Regina’s face. She’s slowly raising her fork towards her own face, and Regina doesn’t want to wait to see what she’s planning to do with it, reaching out and lowering the girl’s hand back towards her food.

“Seriously?” she asks, looking around the table.

“I mean, I heard that you kicked him in the dick and told him you hoped he could taste it,” Damian says, smirking at her.

Gretchen says, “It’s all over school, Regina. Everyone’s talking about the return of the apex predator.”

Regina pushes her food away and groans, slumping forward and resting her forehead on her arms.

Muffled, she says, “He knocked Cady into some lockers. I went off on him. It’s not a big deal, oh my god.”

“Regina went mean again, it is a big deal, girl.” Damian pats her shoulder, as if that combined with his words is supposed to make it better . “So, what did you do? Which rumor got it right?”

“I’m not a mean girl,” Regina says, ignoring his second question and turning her head so she can see him. Tell me I’m not, she thinks. Tell me I’ve changed, that I’m good that I’m worth this forgiveness you all offer in spades.

Karen, once again knowing exactly what Regina needs, reaches across the table and takes Regina’s hand. “You’re like a knight,” she says brightly. “Taking care of us! With violence!”

A protector. Regina kind of likes the sound of it, even though the knight comparison is nerdy as hell. She took care of Cady. The confirmation that she did the right thing warms Regina, makes it easier to fight the roiling doubt in herself that being called mean had brought.

“Thanks,” says Regina, flipping her hand over so she can hold Karen’s properly.

As she sits up, Cady and Janis approach the table. Regina turns towards them. Cady gives her a small smile, Regina barely returning it as she watches her sit next to Gretchen. Janis has an odd expression, a tiny frown on her face as she looks at something on the table. Karen drops Regina’s hand suddenly, making Regina look away from Janis. Nothing looks wrong, Karen smiling at her as she goes back to the container of food between them.

“Budge over,” Janis says, already moving to sit in the space Regina still occupies.

Whatever weird mood she was in has disappeared. It’s been nice, lately, between them. Or, more accurately, it’s been quiet. They don’t talk much, but some of the animosity has faded. This is the first time Janis has sat next to her at lunch, though.

“God, bossy much?” she can’t help but snark.

Incredulous, Janis says, “You’re calling me bossy?”

Damian snorts and Regina fights down a smile. “Ugh, whatever.”

She rolls her eyes and moves over, acting very put out. The table they sit at is cramped on a good day, and Janis ends up pressed close to Regina’s side. Their elbows bump as they try to get comfortable. Janis is warm. Or maybe Regina is? She’s warm and Janis smells good and her hair looks soft. Janis’ thigh is pressed up against hers and she shouldn’t be noticing these things. She doesn’t with Cady and Gretchen and Karen, so why now? What’s been going on with her lately?

She zones back into the conversation at the table when Damian leans over the table to look at Cady.

“You were there,” Damian says. “People are saying you got punched, though Regina told us what actually happened. Getting pushed into a locker is not nearly as exciting, I have to admit. Anyways, can you tell us what Regina did? She won’t say.”

Cady studies Regina, who glances at her before turning back to her food. She’s still a little pissed at the other girl for getting mad at her.

“She told him his mother shouldn’t have slept with the pool boy because then no one would have to deal with his chlorine brain. She said some other stuff but that was the biggest thing.”

Janis muffles a laugh, hiding her face behind her hands. Regina’s lip twitches, wanting to smile but knowing it’s not the time, especially since Cady still doesn’t seem too pleased with her. She looks at Janis out of the corner of her eye, having to look away again when they make eye contact and the urge to laugh gets almost unbearable.

The rest of lunch is good. Regina likes having friends.

Regina and Cady have a free period after lunch. Regina’s fully ready to head to her locker by herself and continue existing in the weird energy between her and Cady, but Cady seems to have other ideas. She follows Regina out of the lunch room, following her quietly to her lockers and then to the library.

“Can we talk?” she asks after long enough that Regina thought they were just going to ignore the issue.

“Sure, yeah,” Regina says, cause what else is she going to do? Say no?

“Well first, thank you for talking to Janis. Things are much less awkward at lunch now. It’s nice to see you guys making progress!”

God, she’s so earnest. The old Regina would’ve scoffed at her, and Regina still gets that urge now. The genuine pride and general sappiness still makes her want to curl her lip and say ‘gross.’

“Yeah, couldn’t have lunch being awkward anymore,” Regina deadpans instead of saying something real. Instead of telling Cady how the apology slipped out, how Janis was gentle with her and Regina couldn’t stop the word from falling from her mouth. How existing with Janis in that bathroom was the closest to content she’s felt since middle school.

They lapse back into silence. Regina’s not going to talk about this morning unless Cady brings it up. She’s not going to beg for an apology. That’s tacky.

“I’m sorry about this morning,” Cady blurts. “I handled it badly. I should have thanked you for standing up for me. It brought back memories from earlier in the year, though. And I didn’t like that.”

Regina wishes she had Cady’s capacity for talking through her feelings. Regina should move to Africa. Maybe she could get the lions to help her accept her feelings or whatever the f*ck they did to Cady.

“It,” Regina hesitates, grits out, “You hurt my feelings. I was helping, and you acted like I was back to being public enemy number one.”

“I just,” Cady hesitates. “I think maybe you don’t have to use insults and being scary to help? All I kind of wanted was for you to make sure I was okay. I didn’t care about that guy.”

Listening and learning, but, “He shouldn’t think acting like that is okay, though.”

Cady sighs. “Sure, but he shouldn’t be your focus. I should. I wanted my friend to check on me and instead I had to hold her back from punting someone across the hall.”

How did this loop around from Cady apologizing to Regina being told off (again)?

“You’re still acting like I did something wrong,” Regina protests. “I did check on you.”

Cady looks at her. Sighs. “Regina-” she shakes her head. “Okay. Thank you for looking out for me.”

It doesn’t feel like anything’s been fixed. Regina’s not sure what to do.

Regina is finishing up in the bathroom when the door bangs open and she hears two girls step in. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to give Regina pause until they start talking.

“Ugh, Janis sat next to me in class today,” one girl says.

“What a freak,” her friend replies.

Regina’s hand shoots to the lock, ready to burst out and stop them when they continue.

“God, I can’t believe Regina is hanging out with that pyro-dyke and her gay as hell friend. Talk about a downfall.”

“I know right? Regina and the loser patrol are such jokes. And she still has the audacity to act like she still rules the school.”

“Like, as if.”

“No wonder no one’s scared of her anymore.”

“Do you think they’re hanging out because Regina’s gay too?”

Regina presses a hand against her mouth to stifle the gasp that wants to come out. Her breathing is already shaky, the walls of the stall feeling like they’re closing in on her. People think that? She should storm out there, give them a reason to be scared of her. She can’t make herself move, though, the words hitting close to home and paralyzing her.

“God, gross. She probably is - she was sitting so close to Janis at lunch. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was contagious.”

The girls make a couple more comments before vacating the bathroom. Regina waits a few moments before tumbling out of the stall, desperate to escape the small space.

They were talking about her. Saying those things about her. It hurtshurtshurts and she needs to do something. Regina doesn’t get gossiped about. She rules the school. And sure, that might have changed a bit since the bus incident but she’s still powerful, still feared. Except she’s not. And they- they had- they talked about her like she was disgusting. Like her friends were disgusting. They had grouped her in with them, acted like she wasn’t Regina George, like she didn’t set the trends at this goddamn school. What if they told people? How many people are talking about her? How-

Deep breaths. She needs to – Regina can’t-

The walls feel like they’re closing in on her. Too many thoughts. She needs air.

People don’t actually think that, right? Regina can’t be- can’t be that. She’s straight and perfect and the good daughter her father wants her to be no matter how torn up inside Janis makes her feel. It’s guilt it’s the fact that she’s sorry it’s not that-

She gets good grades and dates boys and-

And her dad is home now. What if it gets back to him? What if he says something, does something? Regina doesn’t want to hear what he has to say about her friends. Doesn’t want to make him mad by not socializing with the right people. Doesn’t want to see his face when he hears that Regina might be-

‘Disgusting,’ her father’s voice echoes in her head. ‘Abomination. Unnatural. No child of mine will grow up that way. I’ll make sure of it.’

Regina can’t think-

It’s just fearfearfearfear and an animal feeling she thought she had left in sixth grade.

She has to protect herself protect her image can’t let people see that she’s vulnerable that she could be something real instead of a status symbol-

(A bottle and soft lips against hers, the gasps and hoots of bystanders reminding Regina that there are people watching. Euphoria and no it’s not - and then-)

Contagious. Janis. Hanging out with Janis is confusing her (deep down she knows she’s lying to herself. It doesn’t matter. Not here, not now) because she’s normal. It’s Janis making her feel this way, something Janis is doing because Regina is a good daughter and she’s strong and doesn’t panic like this it must be something else, someone else causing all these feelings-

She’s in the hall. Regina’s not really sure when she left the bathroom. But it’s passing period and the girls she heard talking are nowhere to be seen. Act normal, she hisses to herself. Act like you didn’t just have some weird ass breakdown in the bathroom. You’re the apex predator, and no one can forget it.

“Hey, you good?” Janis is smiling, expression bright and teasing as she appears at Regina’s side. She places a hand on Regina’s arm; there’s a slight look in her eyes like she can tell something’s wrong but doesn’t want to make it a big deal. Regina’s eyes dart from her to the crowd and back again. The halls are crowded everyone is looking and watching Janis touch her watching them be friends and it’s going to spread and Regina can’t have that.

She wrenches her arm out of Janis’ grasp. Oh no, don’t- “God, get away from me, you f*cking art freak dyke.” Nonono stop. “Still so obsessed with me. I gave you a chance because of Cady, but I can see nothing’s changed.”

Why is she like this? I can’t stop. Someone make me stop. She just keeps going. Take it back take it back take it back . Making it worse and worse as the words keep dripping from her mouth, an oil slick disaster. She can see the tears in Janis’ eyes. Flashes back to sixth grade, to seeing those tears actually spill. This time they don’t. Regina watches, plastic sneer painted on her face when all she wants to do is cry, as Janis swallows them back and sets her jaw. She’s never seen Janis look so cold. It’s like a switch flipped inside her, any trace of the concern when she walked up to Regina wiped from existence.

Please, she wants to plead. Please stop me please don’t let me ruin this please know that this is about me and not you.

“Plastic all the way through.”

It’s all Janis says.

She leaves Regina standing in the hall. Regina wants to pull her back, wants to drop to her knees and plead for Janis not to leave her. Wants to push her away more wants to scream wants Janis to hurt her back, to make it even.

Regina maintains her image. Maintains the apex predator title she's reclaimed. She acts unaffected and spins, making her way in the opposite direction when everything in her wants to follow Janis. She retreats to her car, peels out of the parking lot with squealing tires. No destination in mind. Just the driving urge to get out .

She stops in the parking lot of some random gas station when her vision gets too blurred from tears. The second she’s in park, she curls in her seat as much as she can. Her hands come up and press against her mouth, containing the sobs that rip from her chest. Crying is a weakness she hardly ever affords herself, but there’s no stopping it. She doesn’t know how long it takes before she’s able to breathe without tears coming with it.

Why is she like this? She ruined her chance at friendship with Janis, someone she’s missed like a phantom limb since she lost her, over what? The opinion of two girls she doesn’t know? To stay in the good graces of people who don’t care about her at all? Why do their opinions matter so much? Why can’t she turn it off?

She texts Janis ‘i didn’t mean it please i didn’t mean it.’

The message doesn’t get delivered.

She texts Damian ‘I ruined it I’m sorry I’ll fix it.’

He reads it and doesn’t reply.


so,,,,um,,,,,sorry? Yell at me in the comments if you want (pls dont actually lol i'm sensitive) but i promise promise it’ll be ok

(And if there’s anyone who’s like ‘why did you make this choice it’s bad????’ I do have in-character reasons for it, so feel free to ask either here or on tumblr (@super-rangers) and I’d be happy to discuss it bc I know people always have different interpretations of characters)

Chapter 5


Regina does what she thinks is best


uh so,,,,sorry about last chapter? but also not lol I loved reading all of your comments about it! I hope this chapter helps soothe some of the angst

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Regina avoids her friends. She gets to school just as the bell rings, goes to her locker only when absolutely necessary, doesn’t go to the cafeteria for lunch. Anything she can think of to separate herself from them.

It’s hard at first (at first – as though it’s stopped being difficult since she started). Her friends (the two she has left) try not to let her get away with it. Gretchen and Karen wait at her locker sometimes – she catches glimpses of them as she ducks around corners to get to class. On those days, she heads to class without her books instead of facing them. They text, they call. She ignores everything.

She doesn’t deserve them.

She doesn’t want to split the group. Cady’s crusade to integrate the groups had worked too well. They’re too entwined now, and Regina refuses to make anyone choose sides in this, especially when she was the one who was wrong. If she lets them, Gretchen and Karen would be by her side in an instant. But she’s seen how much they like being part of a larger group, how much they’ve opened up. They seem lighter, happier. Regina won’t let them lose that.

So she exists alone.

It gives her time to reflect. (Plenty of time for the self-loathing to grow deeper, reach farther.)


Karen texts her every day. Either an ‘I luv u’ or an ‘I mis u’ often accompanied by a variety of emojis that Regina thinks are summaries of how her day has gone. More often than not, Regina doesn’t reply. It doesn’t seem to matter to Karen because she doesn’t stop sending them.

On days when everything feels too much, when she sees Janis and can’t stop herself from wishing things were different, she reads through the messages, reminding herself there’s someone on her side. Even when they shouldn’t be.

Regina will have to tell Karen how much she appreciates it, when she can finally make herself face her.

She gets lazy. Or else she doesn’t pay enough attention. Either way, she leaves herself open somehow and ends up pulled into an empty classroom on her way to her free period.

“What the f*ck is wrong with you?”

Regina turns around and stares, not expecting the anger or the yelling or the cursing (honestly the most surprising bit) to come from Cady.

It makes her defensive, makes her want to return the energy and show Cady exactly what’s wrong until she retreats from Regina for good. Something in her says that’s not helpful, and as much as Regina wants to say f*ck it, she’s also not very interested in making Cady angrier.

“I’m not the one who abducted someone and shoved them into a classroom!” she accuses.

Baby steps and all that.

“This is the only way I could think of to see you,” Cady says, annoyance all over her face. “Between you avoiding us all day and making your mom turn us away when we try to come to your house, I couldn’t think of anything else!”

Regina does her best not to yell. “Well, I had a good reason to avoid you guys.”

The annoyance settles into something darker. It’s not a look Regina is used to seeing on Cady. She’s usually so bubbly and positive that Regina forgets there’s another side to her. The predator that Regina had molded.

“That brings me back to my question. What is wrong with you?”

So much. Too much for Regina to bring up here, and definitely not anything Regina is interested in sharing.

She stays silent.

“Things were so good, Regina! You were happy, I thought. We were all doing well. You even sat next to Janis without either of you biting each other’s heads off! And then we all turn around and you’re just-“ she throws her hands out, exasperated, as she stares at Regina with pleading eyes. “You’re calling Janis all these horrible things. Again.

Cady marches forward, gets in Regina’s face. Regina doesn’t think she’s ever seen Cady truly angry. Even throughout the whole mess , Cady was mostly hurt or arrogant. For someone so small, she can be scary when she wants. It makes Regina’s eyes widen, makes her want to step back. That’s a weakness she’s definitely unwilling to show. She stays still, letting Cady continue talking.

“How could you hurt someone like that? How could you do that? I thought you wanted to be better. I thought you wanted to change, but I can see that wasn’t true. A good person wouldn’t say those things. A good person wouldn’t hurt her friends.”

Regina aches at the confirmation. It’s the answer to the one question she’s been asking since sitting in the hospital alone. It’s not the answer she wanted. It’s not what she hoped to discover about herself. Mean to her core. Bad enough that Cady’s given up on her.

“What do you want me to say?” Regina asks, a little bit hopeless. Tell me how to fix this, tell me how to be good. Give me another chance.

Cady’s teeth are bared, a little lioness sticking up for its pride. “Do you even care? Are you even sorry?”

The words hit like a punch to the gut. Of course she’s sorry. Of course she cares. Why else would she be hiding from everyone? Why else would she have removed herself from them so completely? If she didn’t care, she would have come to school the next day acting like nothing happened. She cares so much that it’s tearing her up inside. She’s not sleeping, barely eating, and Cady has the audacity-

“How dare you,” Regina snarls. She wants to bring her hands up, wants to shove Cady away from her. Lines, though, and barriers she won’t cross. “You think I don’t care? You think I-”

She cuts herself off. She’s tired. Cady’s not the one she truly owes an explanation to anyways. It doesn’t seem worth it. Cady’s made up her mind. She already thought Regina was bad from when Regina went head bitch on that kid who knocked into her. The whole thing with Janis probably just made her certain.

Her voice is flat, unemotional, when she speaks. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more sorry in my life. But you’re probably right. I’m not a good person.”

Cady must read something under her words, see something in her face. The anger drops like it was never there, and a terrified sort of sadness replaces it.

“Regina, please, just talk to me.” She tries to reach out, but Regina steps away from her. “We can fix it, we can go talk to everyone, you can say sorry-”

“It’s fine, Cady.” Regina pushes past her, going to the door. “See you whenever.”

If she can’t be good, maybe it’s better to be nothing at all.

The universe hates Regina. This is starting to be a general truth of her existence. It’s the only explanation. She’s sitting in physics, carefully not looking at Janis. (From across the room, of course. Regina had moved the day after…everything , not wanting Janis to have to do it first. Not wanting to watch Janis choose to sit somewhere else. Better if she does it, better if she moves so Janis isn’t uncomfortable.)

(Janis had paused when she walked in that day, looked at Regina’s empty desk and glanced, briefly, at Regina before sitting down. Regina hadn’t been able to read the expression on her face, she just knew it wasn’t anger or relief.)

The teacher introduces a group project – the final for the year instead of a test. Regina gets a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. As the names get paired together, the feeling gets worse. Neither Janis’ name nor Regina’s has been called. Regina calls out to any deity she can for a different outcome than the one she knows is coming. Regina puts her head down on her desk, groaning. Just as she expected –

“Janis ‘Imi’ike and Regina George.”

A few snickers sound from around the room, but Regina’s not quick enough getting her head off the desk to see who she should glare at.

Janis isn’t looking at her. Regina’s been watching her enough to know that Janis hasn’t looked her way since that one glance at her desk.

“You all have your partners and instructions. Group up and spend the rest of class working on your projects. Remember, this is 30% of your grade so please do your best.”

Regina moves seats. Janis still doesn’t look at her. Regina sits in silence for as long as she can take.


“Nope.” It’s still a relief to hear her voice, to have her actually talking to Regina, even if she sounds furious. “I’ll email you what I need for the project and that’s it.”

Regina purses her lips and sucks in a breath, nodding and slumping in her chair. “Yeah, okay.”

She doesn’t try to argue. She did this to them.

All of her days are long now, but this one had dragged, every second of it spent replaying Cady’s words and the cold shoulder from Janis. Regina stumbles into her house, dropping her bags next to the door. She doesn’t even want to think about homework or projects or school right now.

Her mom is in the living room, talking at her phone. It’s not an unfamiliar sight, but it’s one Regina hates more and more.

She’s tired of existing as a ghost. Tired of trying to fix things. Tired of seeing her friends and feeling such overwhelming guilt that she wants to puke.

Something has to change. She can’t fix the mess she’s made on her own. She needs some sort of help. Not that it doesn’t make her equally as sick to think about that vulnerability. That feeling that asking for help is letting people see past the tight coil of control, the perfect veneer she displays. Asking for help is letting people see into the weak center of her, the mess that she’s tried so hard to hide.

She stalls out in the entryway, torn between going to her mom and just going to her room as she usually does. She wanders closer to her mom, who still hasn’t noticed her despite the noise of the door. Her mom should want to help her, right? She’s her mother, that’s how it should work. But lately her mom’s advice has been about makeup or the right clothes to wear – there’s nothing of substance and Regina is scared that her mother won’t see her issues as something serious.

And there’s that same lingering fear of imperfection. That her mother will be mad or disappointed that Regina isn’t strong, that she’s falling apart under her own shortcomings.

(It’s not a weakness, she tries to convince herself. It still feels like one.)

“Can you help me with something?” the question comes out quiet.

Her mom doesn’t seem to hear her, doesn’t seem to even see her. (A ghost, even at home. The pressure in her chest multiplies and her hands shake. She clenches them behind her back, digging her nails into her palms and letting the pain ground her.

“Mom, can I talk to you?” Regina speaks again, louder this time.

“Oh, totes! Give me just a sec, I need to finish making this TikTok so I can show everyone my new outfit.”

Suddenly, that’s the last straw. She doesn’t have friends, she feels like she’s spiraling out of control, and her mom doesn’t seem to give a sh*t.

“Mom, can you f*cking listen for once?” Regina yells. “Just be my mom and care about me instead of your followers or your social media. I just need my mom.”

Mortifyingly enough, she’s crying by the time she finishes speaking. She sees, through the haze of tears, the vapid smile drop from her mom’s face, her phone hitting the ground a second later.

Honey,” her mom’s voice is quiet. It’s heartfelt in a way Regina hasn’t heard in years, no trace of the faux perkiness that seems to permeate her speech constantly now. “Oh, honey, no.”

She pulls Regina to her, cups the back of her head and holds her. Regina’s not sure when the last time they hugged was, and her mom’s arms around her demolish what’s left of her self-control. She sobs into her mother’s shoulder, leaning more and more of her weight on her. Her mom holds her easily, steady hands running through her hair as she murmurs, “I’m here. I’ve got you.”

Regina tangles her hands in the back of her mom’s blouse, squeezing the fabric hard enough she can feel it almost tear. Her mom says nothing about Regina potentially ruining the expensive piece of clothing, just keeps hushing her. She maneuvers them carefully towards the couch, collapsing back onto it and landing so Regina’s practically curled in her lap. The fabric under her face has surpassed damp and gone straight to soaked, but Regina can’t find it in her to stop the tears. (For someone who claims not to cry a lot, she’s been doing it surprisingly often. Which probably isn’t a good sign. She’ll add it to the list of sh*t she should deal with but won’t.)

Once Regina manages to calm down, her mom loosens the hold she has on her. Regina whines.

“I’m not going anywhere. I just want to see you.” Hands come up and cup her cheeks, gently brushing away the remnants of her tears.

“Oh, my darling girl,” her mom says, a nickname she hasn’t heard in years. (She thought she grew out of it, if she’s being honest. Hearing it now, she hopes her mother never stops using it.) “What’s going on?”

“I just keep hurting people,” she says, voice still shaky. “I keep hurting my friends. I hurt Janis again.” Tears threaten to overwhelm her again.

Regina feels her mom jolt in surprise. “I didn’t know you two were talking again.”

“Not anymore,” Regina says. “I think she’s done with me this time.”

“I know how close you used to be. I’m sorry, Regina.”

“It’s my own fault. I’m horrible.” Regina sniffles. “I hurt her so much and I didn’t even want to and now she won’t even look at me.”

“You’re not horrible, don’t say that.”

But her mom doesn’t know. She doesn’t know what Regina did, how she acted. And she doesn’t want to tell her. This feels good, and if Regina tells her mother everything, she’ll look at Regina differently and not want to hold her or call her darling or make sure she’s okay. Because she’ll see Regina’s rotten center just like everyone else.

She forces past her mother’s blind reassurance. She’s too emotionally raw to feel much discomfort when she says, “I need help. I don’t know what to do.”

“Alright, and what do you think is going to help? Do we need to talk to your teachers? Do you need to talk to someone else? My friend has a really good therapist in the city, we can make an appointment there.”

“I don’t want to go to your friend’s f*cking therapist, mom,” Regina bites. She needs to calm down. It’s a good suggestion. Partially. “I think talking to someone might be a good idea? Just – I don’t want to go to the same one your friend goes to.”

“Alright. How about I get you a list and you can pick one?”

Her mom’s nails scratch against her scalp in a soothing rhythm that doesn’t pause, even when Regina gets snippy. It makes her relax more into her mother’s side. This was something she hadn’t even known she was missing. Her mom is still super cringe, but every once in a while, something like this might not be too bad.

“That sounds good.”

“Yas, slay! We stan therapy in this house!” A pause. “Sorry. Habit.”

Regina laughs, the sound strung out and weak. She gets to her feet, scrubs roughly at her face to get rid of any tears.

“How about you go upstairs and rest?” Her mom says, standing and leading Regina towards the stairs. “I’ll order dinner and start looking at therapists.”

“And posting your TikTok?” Regina jokes.

Her mom strikes a goofy pose. “Can’t leave the people hanging.”

Regina curls up on her bed, feeling strung out and wired all at once. Talking to her mom hadn’t actually been that bad. Either way, she falls asleep as her emotions mellow out, not moving until her mom calls her for dinner.

Regina notices them on the way to class. Janis is small – Regina forgets that sometimes. She’s always felt larger-than-life to Regina. Her size is impossible not to notice with the way some boy is leaning over her. He has her cornered against the lockers, a gross smile on his face while Janis looks like she’d rather be anywhere else.

Oh hell no.

Just like with Cady, Regina feels that plastic predator drop over her as she marches down the hall.

“Maybe you just need a real man to show you what you’re missing.” She hears as she gets close. The oldest and grossest line in the book. Not looking at Janis, she slides between them, strong-arming the boy away and forcing him back a couple steps.

“Watch your f*cking mouth, dickhe*d.”

She keeps herself positioned between them, shifting when the boy tries to peer around her to get at Janis again.

“I didn’t say anything worse than you did,” he sneers when he realizes she’s not going to let him past.

Regina wants to flinch at the truth of his statement. Instead, she steps closer. She’s taller than him, just a little. She uses it as much as she can, crowding him away from Janis.

“The difference is that I can admit when I was wrong.” (Not that she’s admitted it to Janis, but it’s the thought that counts, right?) She looks him up and down. “Now run along before I make it impossible for you to show anyone what a ‘real man’ is like. Not that anyone would actually see you as one. How’s that paw patrol night light treating you?” She tilts her head, shark-smile on in full force.

It pays to have dirt on most of the student population. The kid shrinks away from her, backing up like he’s scared to turn his back on her. She feints forward, snapping her teeth at him and sending him scrambling.

She doesn’t stick around once he’s gone. She doesn’t even look at Janis, even though every part of her wants to check in, wants to pull Janis close and fight anyone who tries to come near her. She just keeps heading to History, resisting the urge to look back as best she can. (Janis is gone when Regina loses that battle, no trace of her in the crowded hall.)

Most days since the beginning of her self-imposed exile, Regina doesn’t stop to get food. Too big of a chance that she’ll run into someone who doesn’t want to see her. Sometimes she’ll grab a bag of chips from one of the vending machines. Otherwise, it’s fine. She eats at dinner, that’s enough.

Regina’s making her way down the hall towards the west wing of the school so she can spend her lunch period in one of the empty classrooms. She turns a corner and sees Damian heading her way. She freezes, standing close to the wall. Regina’s not sure how she wants him to react. This is her first time seeing him since everything – he’s easier to avoid than Gretchen and Karen, seeming to want to see her about as much as she wants to see him.

She sees him notice her, as much as he tries to act like he didn’t. She watches his eyebrows raise as he notices her, watches the purposeful blankness fall over his face as he swans past her. He’d barely looked at her for a second, and even then, his eyes slid over her like she wasn’t even there.

She thinks of his gentle touch as they took pictures at Spring Fling, the goofy faces he pulled as they tried on ridiculous sunglasses at the mall. She wonders if she’ll ever get him back, if the comfort that seems steeped into every part of him will ever be directed her way again.

She’s surprised he didn’t yell at her. She’s always preferred direct confrontation over being ignored. It’d be better if he could tell her what a horrible person she is, confirm all her worst fears just like Cady did. Just so she could stop holding onto the hope that maybe things could get better.

(She wants to know if she’s worth saving.)

She stays frozen in the hall long after he’s gone. When she manages to move again, she ducks into the empty classroom she was heading towards originally, freezing when there’s food sitting on one of the desks. There’s no one else in the room. She walks up to the desk; it’s a small container holding a grilled cheese. There’s a little sticky note on top of it, a message written in glittery pink ink.

“Rejeena,” it reads. “I luv grild ches and I luv u. have a gud lach launk have a gud eat.”

Under the message, there’s a messy drawing of a tiger surrounded by hearts.

Regina peels the message off and tucks it gently into the back of her phone case, a fond smile (her first smile in a while) playing at the edge of her mouth. She’s not sure what the tiger has to do with anything, but the food and message make Regina want to charge to the cafeteria to give Karen a hug. It’s not enough to overcome her avoidance, but she’d really like to hug Karen. She sits at the desk instead, slowly making her way through the grilled cheese.

As she eats, she wonders about how Karen knew where Regina was going to be. Was she being obvious with her hiding places? And beyond that, why didn’t Karen just wait for Regina to get here? Gretchen would have waited, would have tried to push Regina into talking. Karen once more proves that she can read Regina better than most people. She gives Regina space while still showing that she’s not alone.

(She tries not to consider why Damian was in the hallway. Why he was close to the classroom holding her lunch. If she thinks about it too much, it might give her hope.)

‘Thank you,’ she texts Karen. For the food, for understanding her, for caring about her even when Regina messes up.

She gets back a mess of heart emojis, and Regina smiles again.

Her therapist suggests that she find an outlet, something physical to direct her energy towards.

Old Regina would have run on the treadmill, but she’s barely able to look at it now, the taste of Kälteen bars sitting heavy on the back of her tongue whenever she thinks about it.

She sees the school’s lacrosse team practicing. Now, the uniforms are truly tragic, along with all the other gear they have to wear, but something about it catches Regina’s attention.

One day after school, she hangs out on the bleachers, pretending to do homework as she writes down the exercises they do to warm up, what they do as skill practice.

When she brings it up in therapy, she’s told a team sport is a good idea. The treadmill keeps collecting dust as Regina practices outside, grass stains and scraped knees replacing the mechanical hum of the belt and the rhythmic pounding of her footsteps.

As much as she hates to admit it, the exercise does help. When she’s feeling hopeless, she retreats to her backyard, running suicides and whipping a ball at a net until she can barely think.

Regina does her best to work on the sections of the project that Janis sent her. And it’s not like Regina isn’t smart. She is . But leave it to Janis to give her the sections that cover concepts that Regina doesn’t quite get. Leave it to Janis to find Regina’s weakness without trying.

Regina doesn’t want to message her, but the project is due in two days and Regina is no closer to being done with her part. She emails Janis about it, feeling about a million years old as she does and wishing she could just text her. (Janis still has her blocked – she tries every once in a while to text her but it never works.) Janis replies, which Regina is thankful for, telling her to meet in the library before class the next morning. Short and to the point.

Regina makes sure she has all of her issues clearly written out. She plans what she’s going to say down to the pauses, not wanting to say anything that could upset Janis further.

Getting to school early, Regina sits at a table in easy view of the door as she reviews her notes over and over. Janis walks in, and Regina sits straight up, all of her fidgeting going still as she watches Janis walk towards her.

“So what’s the issue?” Janis asks, studying the cards laid out on the table instead of looking at Regina.

Regina launches into her explanation, hitting every note she made perfectly. Once she’s done, she looks at Janis expectantly. Janis doesn’t jump into an explanation or scoff at Regina for being stupid.

Instead, she says, “I don’t get you.” And she looks at Regina. Looks her head on, meets her eyes. Regina feels like a plant in the desert, soaking up the rain while she can. “You did – you did that, but a week later you’re defending me, threatening someone for me. And now you’re asking for my help, when I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing you hate more than people knowing you’re struggling. I don’t get the games you’re playing, why you’re messing with me.”

“Janis, I-”

“I’m not ready to hear what you have to say,” Janis says, holding up a hand. “I can barely handle being around you right now.”

Regina withers. “Oh, okay.”

“I’ll show you what you have to do for the project. Then I’m going to go, and we don’t have to talk until the presentation on Thursday.”

Regina’s just glad Janis is helping her. (Not that the other girl really has a choice if she wants to get a solid grade in the class.)

“Sounds good. Anything you want.” Here or anywhere else.

Janis is patient as she walks Regina through the new concepts. When Regina gets lost (definitely not because she was staring at Janis and not listening to her talk), she goes over the concept again until Regina’s got it. They study until the bell goes off. Janis leaves Regina in the library without saying goodbye.

Regina comes home one day to find Gretchen in her room. She had forgotten that she showed her where the spare key was one time, and apparently Gretchen has gotten fed up enough at Regina’s behavior for a direct confrontation.

“Why are you avoiding us?”

Regina doesn’t try to deny it. She’s been obvious about it, so what’s the point?

“Didn’t want to make things awkward.”

“We’re your friends, Regina,” Gretchen marvels. “That means talking about things.”

“I didn’t think anyone would want to hear from me,” Regina says. Of course, that’s only the half of it (she doesn’t deserve them. Needs to fix things. Can’t have friends without hurting them), but it’s enough for now.

“All of our texts and calls and waiting at your locker weren’t signals that we wanted to see you?”

She couldn’t see them. Couldn’t have handled it. Can barely handle it now.

“I don’t know,” Regina says. “I just – I couldn’t.”

Gretchen doesn’t look like she wants to accept Regina’s answer. Gretchen has always wanted details, loved collecting snippets of people and information for who knows what. Regina can’t talk about it yet. Can barely mention it to her therapist at this point.

“So, what happened?” Gretchen asks finally. “All we know is what Janis said.”

Regina doesn’t want to imagine what Janis told them.

“There were these girls in the bathroom,” Regina starts. “They were talking about me, about Janis. Saying these awful things. I spiraled and yelled at Janis.”

Gretchen doesn’t say anything. She just looks at Regina. (She’s not sure she wants to know what Gretchen sees.) Gretchen comes to some sort of conclusion. “I’m going to tell you something.”

Nothing about what Regina did, no mention of how Gretchen feels about it. What’s going on? Why isn’t she yelling at me?

“Um, okay?” Regina’s off center, unsure of the topic change.

“I have a crush on Karen I think.” Her voice wavers as she says it and she flinches back a little, not looking directly at Regina.

Alright, and the sky is blue. What else is new?

And it sinks in. Regina’s outburst in the hall. She had stood in front of a crowd and yelled at Janis for this very thing. Had very publicly said it was not okay. And Gretchen was scared of Regina’s reaction because of it.

But she still told Regina. Is still so sure of who Regina is that she had risked that same hateful reaction.

Regina wants to smile at Gretchen but can’t, her realization in the wake of the confession too heavy. Instead, a tear leaks from her eye. She brushes it away, trying to disguise the motion as fixing her hair as she hopes Gretchen didn’t see. (So much crying lately. Her therapist says it’s normal but Regina really wishes healing came with less tears.)

“God, Gretchen, that’s – Thank you for telling me. For trusting me with this.”

It is an exercise in trust. In Gretchen trusting that Regina is better than who she’s shown herself to be. (Proof to Regina that she’s better.)

“And you’re not just saying that?” Vulnerable, scared. Things Regina thought she was done making her friends feel.

“I promise that’s not it. I’m happy for you and proud and I’m so so sorry.” Regina’s properly crying now. No way to hide it from Gretchen anymore. “I’m so sorry that what I did made you doubt that I’d be happy for you.”

Regina,” Gretchen says softly, her eyes shining with tears too.

“Can I-” Regina’s not used to asking for this sort of thing. “Can I hug you?” She’s not sure if she deserves to, but she wants it. Wants to hold Gretchen, to make sure she knows Regina cares.

“I think I’d like that.”

Regina pulls Gretchen to her, both of them sniffling as they try to get their emotions under control. Regina holds Gretchen tightly. I love you I love you I love you on repeat in her head.

“I’m sorry,” she says instead, hoping Gretchen feels what she can’t say.

Once all the heavy emotions are dealt with and tears are wiped away, they settle on Regina’s bed, putting something mindless on her tv as they finish calming down.

“You obviously don’t actually care about people’s sexuality,” Gretchen says. “It doesn’t make you uncomfortable or anything.”

She motions to the way they’re sitting, with Regina practically curled around Gretchen as they watch Real Housewives, her forehead pressed against Gretchen’s neck. Regina doesn’t answer right away. It doesn’t matter. Of course she doesn’t care, she had just been scared and panicking and regurgitating what she’s heard over and over. (That doesn’t absolve her. If anything, it makes it worse.)

“Not at all.”

Gretchen’s next question makes Regina wish they could go back to watching trashy reality tv in silence. “So why did it matter when those girls were talking in the bathroom?”

Because it was about Janis, because it was about Regina. Because something in that mix has Regina so afraid that she shuts down.

“I don’t know.”

“I think you should try to figure that out.”

Regina grunts in reply, trying to shut down the conversation. She’s lucky Gretchen lets her, lapsing into silence and rubbing a hand up and down Regina’s arm.

She does know why, even if she’s not ready to face it yet.

(Because something in it felt true.)


If anyone is wondering, I have a small scene of Regina and her mom talking through a bit more stuff, but it doesn’t fully fit this story. Just know that they’re talking and sorting through their issues lol

as always, leave a kudos/comment letting me know what you thought!

Chapter 6


Now for the part we've all been waiting for


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The school year ends. Regina is no closer to apologizing to Janis. Sure, they’re able to kind of coexist now that Regina has returned to the lunch table, but she sits at the very end of the bench seat and tries not to pay too much attention to Damian and Janis who take up space at the other end. Regina’s just glad her whole thing hasn’t affected the rest of the group. Everyone is able to joke around like normal. (Besides the fact that half the people there aren’t talking.)

At least she won’t have to deal with any more awkward lunches now that summer is here.

Janis also hasn’t given Regina any sign that she wants Regina to talk to her, to try to approach with an apology. After the way she told Regina she isn’t ready, Regina hasn’t wanted to force the issue. (She’s scared, is the truth of it. She knows she should go to Janis, that it’s not Janis’ job as the wronged party to tell her when it’s ok – therapy is actually helping her, look at that. Regina can’t help it though.)

Cady, Gretchen, and Karen try to encourage her to reach out, but Regina doesn’t know how. Instead, she fills her days with the gym or shopping trips with the three of them and tries not to notice how well Damian would fit into their little group. Tries not to think about Janis and what she’s doing.

She doesn’t go to group hangouts, especially when she knows Janis will be there. Better for Janis to have a good time with their friends. Regina doesn’t want to ruin her summer.

Regina runs into Damian at a coffee shop one day as she’s heading home from the gym. She’s still buzzing, pumped from her workout. That’s probably why she feels brave enough to approach him, to tell him she needs to talk to him.

He doesn’t look like he wants to agree (she doesn’t think she’s seen him look less excited about something), but he does. They wait in silence until they get their drinks – Regina unable to think of any neutral topics of conversation, and Damian not even trying. Damian leads the way out of the shop and towards the small park down the block. It makes Regina’s stomach drop. He doesn’t want to make a scene. He’s going to yell at her. Her shoulders tense as she prepares to brace herself. They sit at a picnic table, Damian carefully watching her and Regina trying to act like she can’t feel his eyes on her.

“I need you to explain to me why exactly you would do something like what you did. Because from where I was sitting, things were going well between you and Janis.” His voice is calm, even toned. No trace of the yelling Regina expected. “But then we took a swift detour back to toxic hom*ophobia land, and I’m not down with that.”

Tearing at her napkin and staring down at her coffee cup, Regina says, “I panicked. I overheard these girls talking.”

“And some dumbass gossip made you hurt Janis again?”

“It was-” Regina hesitates. Admits, “They were talking about Janis, and I wanted to knock their teeth in. But then they started talking about me and-”

Regina looks up at Damian, eyes wide and pleading. Her voice quivers as she says, “It was like I couldn’t stop. God, I wanted to stop.”

“Let me get this straight,” Damian says. Regina can hear the emotions leaking back into his voice, braces herself for the well-deserved outburst. “You heard someone saying some hom*ophobic sh*t about one of your friends and yourself, and your response was to go yell at the person they were making comments about?”

When he puts it that way, it sounds even worse than it already is.

“I just – I couldn’t – I know it was the wrong decision-”

“f*ck yeah it was the wrong decision!” Damian yells, throwing his hands out. “You can’t f*cking care about that sh*t! It’s ruining you. Why does it matter so much what some bitchy teenagers are saying?”

It’s all she knows – image has always been everything in the George household. What does it mean for her, for her past, if it doesn’t matter?

“I – I don’t-”

“We’re your friends, Regina. You come to us when you need support. You don’t attack us.”

“I know,” Regina whispers, looking back down at the table. “I knew it was wrong the second I started doing it.”

Damian sighs. They fall silent, the sounds of the park filtering back in.

“I know you’re straight,” he says, but the notion feels wrong, curdles in her stomach. (The alternative is scarier.) “But is it really that horrible for you? Is even the idea of being gay so bad that you had to act like that?”

(No, not bad. Terrifying. Something her mind shies away from if she even starts to approach it.)

“Damian, I’m sorry. It’s not horrible, I promise I don’t think that.” Regina starts to reach out and reconsiders. Damian probably doesn’t want her anywhere near him. “I didn’t – I was – I was a bitch. I ruined something I cared about, hurt someone I care about, because I couldn’t control myself. I know you probably don’t believe me, but I really am sorry.”

“Girl, I know you’re sorry. You avoided us for almost three weeks. It was obvious.” Damian reaches out, a finger tapping against the back of her hand to make her look at him. (He doesn’t look angry. He looks concerned. He looks like he cares . Regina doesn’t know how to reconcile that with the anger and hatred she had expected.) “We wanted you to apologize. To talk to us about it. Avoiding your problems doesn’t help anything.”

“I didn’t want to hear that you all hated me. I didn’t want to lose my friends.” So she left them first.

“If we can have faith in you, even after what you did, I think you can have the same for us.”

And that’s…a good point. It makes her think of the days following the incident differently. Her friends were giving her the benefit of the doubt, reaching out after what she did. (In Cady’s case, cornering her and trying to talk about it.) Trying to get her to come back.

“I didn’t think about it like that,” Regina says. “I barely wanted to be around myself. It made sense that everyone else would feel the same.”

Damian gives her a small smile. “The crazy thing about friends is that they like each other and usually want to be around each other."

"Sounds fake, but okay," Regina jokes weakly. (Not much of a joke. Regina can feel the sentiment deep in her soul. No one enjoys being around me.)

Damian gives her a look like he knows what she's thinking.

"Look, Regina, I’m gonna be honest, you’ve got a lot of work to do. But let us help you with it.”

“Yeah, I think I can do that.”

It’s different, working out with the goal of gaining a new skill instead of trying to run off any excess weight. She still runs, but she prefers doing so outside instead of on the treadmill. She’s lifting weights and practicing lacrosse skills she finds in youtube videos.

It feels good, as much as it’s also a strange form of torture.

She gains weight. Tries not to think about it. It’s muscle weight, her shoulders getting a bit broader, her thighs getting thicker. She can’t call it fat, but her mind still screams that she’s too big, that she shouldn’t eat after her workout, that she doesn’t need it.

She has to force herself to eat, to choke down chicken or beans or whatever other healthy food she can get her hands on as her muscles scream for nourishment. It still feels wrong, as much as her body benefits from it.

On particularly bad days, she takes Damian’s advice. She texts Karen, relies on her strange ability to get Regina out of her head.

Gretchen and Karen are surprisingly good cooks. Even more surprisingly, Karen is the one who takes the lead in the kitchen. (This further cements Regina’s suspicion that all the ‘extra’ portions Karen would bring to lunch were just a way to get Regina to eat.)

“What are we making today?” Regina asks as Karen opens the door for her, beckoning her in with a wide smile.

“Fajitas!” Karen answers, a big smile on her face. “Gretchen wants Thai.”

And that’s not right, but if Gretchen’s fine with it, Regina’s also alright with letting it go. (Although with the whole crush thing, Gretchen might just be unable to tell Karen no. Whipped, Regina thinks.)

“Sounds delicious,” is all she says.

After saying hi to Gretchen, she sits on a bar stool at the counter, watching as they start prep. “Anything I can help with?”

Both of them turn to her in unison, their smiles freezing on their faces in the most comical way, as if they’re tensing every muscle to stop themselves from making the expression they truly want to.

“Hey! I’m not that bad at cooking,” Regina protests. (Yes she is. The last time Karen let her help, Regina somehow managed to set a pot of water on fire.)

“It’s not that,” Gretchen tries. “We just – it’s going to be – we-”

Regina laughs, cutting Gretchen off. “I’m just giving you a hard time. I definitely don’t mind sitting around while people cook for me,” she says, winking.

Regina watches as they move around the kitchen. They’re completely in sync, a practiced dance as they chop and season and joke around. The one hiccup comes when Karen has to pass close behind Gretchen, pressing a palm to the small of her back as she goes. Regina watches as Gretchen’s entire face goes a deep red, her mouth dropping open. The small bowl she holds goes clattering to the ground, spilling chopped peppers all over the ground.

“Oh no, are you okay?” Karen asks.

She reaches out to Gretchen, running a hand up and down her arm as she tries to figure out what happened. She spins Gretchen, looking her over as she makes sure she’s good.

Regina watches, barely holding back laughter, as Karen’s concern only makes Gretchen worse. Gretchen does manage to stutter out that she’s fine – the sentence barely intelligible because of the way Gretchen’s voice has gone high pitched and the words run together. They manage to get back on track, and Regina makes kissy faces at Gretchen over Karen’s shoulder, getting an embarrassed glare in return.

The smells permeating the air of the kitchen makes Regina’s stomach growl. There’s a moment of disdain, of thinking she shouldn’t be hungry because she had two bananas for breakfast. Regina makes herself focus on what Karen is doing instead, trying to keep her mind from spiraling. Karen pops a handful of shredded cheese into her mouth, not a trace of guilt or worry in her expression. And then it doesn’t feel as wrong for her to be hungry, for her mouth to water at the thought of eating with her friends.

They sit in front of the tv in the living room, switching on Say Yes to the Dress (Karen’s choice – and by extension Gretchen’s choice – which means Regina is outvoted) and critiquing the fashion sense of all the brides-to-be.

Cleaning up later in the warm light of the kitchen, surrounded by her friends laughing and joking around, Regina doesn’t feel guilty for being full. She’s full of happiness too, and that takes the bite out of any doubts her mind supplies.

Her therapist thinks it might help if she plans out her apology. To get her thoughts in order before actually approaching Janis about it.

So Regina writes and writes and writes. Her trash can overflows with discarded drafts. Nothing is good enough. Nothing says what she wants, what she needs Janis to know. It all feels flat, fake. How can she apologize to Janis? There’s no apology that can be satisfying. She ruined Janis’ life. (Twice, her mind supplies helpfully.)

She tries anyways, hoping to come across some magical string of words that will make her ready to face Janis. That will make her feel prepared for the long overdue talk they need to have. That will make Janis magically forgive her.

Some days are harder than others. Days where her brain screams at her for every little thing until all that’s left is the loathing. Days where she can’t escape the reminder of what she’s done. (Days where she sees Janis at the store and ducks out of sight before she’s noticed, days when she tries not to have a complete breakdown in the chip aisle.)

On days like that she ends up curled up on Gretchen’s floor, trying to breathe through the constant loop of her own mind telling her she’ll never be good enough.

“You’re not a bad person,” Gretchen says, sitting across from her. She’s gotten good at telling what Regina’s physical boundaries are when she gets like this, but it’s written all over her that she wants to be holding her.

Regina scoffs. “How can you say that? I tried being good and we all saw how that turned out.”


“No!” Regina’s yelling now. “There is something wrong with me. I am rotten. Janis was right, I’m just fooling everybody into thinking I’ve changed. I am fake and mean and bad.”

Hey, hey, no.” Gretchen throws herself at Regina, arms wrapping around her. Regina turns into the hug, gasping for breath as she tries to hide herself from the world.

“I don’t want to be this way,” she says, voice strangled with the weight of her emotions. “I don’t want to feel like this all the time.”

I hate everything about myself. (A truth she’s not ready to tell her friend – if there’s ever a good time to admit that. It’s definitely something she should work on in therapy.)

“I know this isn’t helpful right now,” Gretchen says. “But I think the fact that you feel this way is good. You weren’t – you didn’t exactly feel bad about your behavior before. So being sorry about everything is a good thing. Or something. And I think it’ll get better; you won’t feel like this forever.”

Surprisingly enough, it does kind of help.

“I wish I felt better faster,” Regina says, muffled into Gretchen’s shoulder.

Gretchen whispers, “I don’t think this is something you can rush.”

A little bit of a smile starts to show up on Regina’s face. “I’m Regina George. I can do whatever I want.”

She hears Gretchen’s laugh echo through her chest as her body shakes lightly against Regina. “Oh, I’m sorry.” Gretchen’s voice is light, teasing. “I’m not sure how I could have forgotten that.”

It’s not perfect, it’s not fixed. It’s better, though, and that’s all Regina can hope for.

Regina slinks into the garage. She knows it’s still the main place Janis hangs out - she’s seen enough of Janis and Damian’s TikToks to know. (Not that she watched them a lot. It was totally like an accident when she’d see them because they’re at the same school or whatever. It’s not like she watched Janis’ guitar videos over and over or anything.)

The smell of paint hangs heavy in the air, accompanied by the light musk of Janis’ body wash. It hasn’t changed since middle school, and the scent both soothes her and makes her more tense. Similar to how Janis makes her feel, honestly.

It’s empty, Janis nowhere to be seen, but she came prepared to wait. She settles on the couch, perched on the very edge of the seat. She takes in the decor of the space - it’s changed since she was last in here. Posters, paintings, and photos of people and places Regina has never seen line every inch of available space. It feels lived in. It feels like Janis (apart from all the storage bins. It does also still feel like a garage).

Regina isn’t sure how long she waits before she can hear Janis approaching. She sits up from where she’s relaxed against the back of the couch, trying to decide if she should stand or not. Before she can, Janis is coming in, the wide smile stretched across her face shuttering the instant she lays eyes on Regina.

“What the f*ck are you doing here?”

Regina stands, wanting to get closer to Janis. She almost takes a step forward, but Janis is tense, every muscle primed to leave. Regina manages to keep herself still. If she’s going to apologize, she needs Janis to actually be in the room, which means not scaring her off.

“Please hear me out,” Regina begs. “I know I don’t deserve it, but please.”

Her voice is shaking, breaking on some of the words and she can’t even bring herself to care. She wants to fix this, needs to. If she loses Janis forever, she’s not sure she’ll recover.

Janis crosses her arms, the glare she’s aiming at Regina not lessening at all. “I’m not sure the best start to an apology is by ambushing someone.”

“Would you have let me do it otherwise?” Regina snaps back without thinking. She shakes her head, dismissing the words. “No, I didn’t mean that. Please-”

Janis crosses her arms, raising an eyebrow at Regina as she interrupts her. “You have five minutes, George. Don’t f*ck it up.”

Janis can’t even say her name. She’s always used Regina’s name, or one of the many, many nicknames she came up with. Even at their worst fights back when they were kids, Janis called her Regina. It makes Regina’s stomach turn that she’s been relegated to just George.

“I don’t deserve your forgiveness,” she starts. “I’ve wasted every chance you gave me. And you’re, god, Janis, you’re so good. You don’t give a sh*t about being anyone besides who you truly are. I am always so aware of what people think of me. I let it drive what I do, how I behave.”

Whatever plan she came up with during her apology drafting has gone out the window. All of the sorrys she’s held back pour like a fountain from her mouth.

“I’m sorry that I kissed you,” (soft and warm and nicer than any kiss Regina has had since.) “And then made fun of you for it. I’m sorry about the stuffed toy thing, sorry for ignoring you, sorry for ruining your life. I’m sorry that I never tried to fix it, that I couldn’t find my way back to where we used to be. I’m sorry that I let myself get so obsessed with what everyone thought of me that I hurt you.

“I regretted it every day. Every time I saw you in the halls, every time I didn’t after you were gone. It hurt and I didn’t know how to take it back. I didn’t want to take it back at the same time. I was confused and torn and I took it out on you. And then I made it stop hurting. I made myself not care that I could see you were in pain. Until I could fool myself that it was real. I’m so sorry.”

“If you’re feeling so sorry,” Janis cuts in, stalking forward a few steps. “What the f*ck was that in the hall?”

“A knee-jerk reaction to protect myself. And I don’t know why it always comes back to you. I’m sorry. I don’t think there’s ever going to be an apology good enough for what I did to you,” Regina admits. “I want to show you that I’m sorry. I want to show you that I’m different now.”

It seems like whatever control that was holding Janis back breaks. She gets in Regina’s space, finger poking into Regina’s sternum as she yells.

“Don’t you get it? I thought you were different. I thought we were finally getting to a place where things were good again, where I had the real you back. But just like last time, you made a fool out of me. You called me a slur in front of half the f*cking grade! ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I’m different’ isn’t f*cking good enough. What is the point in me giving you another chance? All you’ve shown is that it’s going to end exactly the same way.”

No, please no. Please let me fix this. Regina wants to beg, wants to fall to her knees and grovel. She doesn’t. Regina doubts Janis would be moved by the display – the theatrics would probably make Janis trust her less . (If that’s even possible at this point.)

“I did. I took my anger and my fear out on you instead of working through it.” Or tearing those girls a new one like she should’ve done. “I can’t – f*ck, Janis – I can’t promise I’m going to be perfect. I can’t promise that I’ll never regress. But I can promise that I’ll never do something like that again. I will – you are too – I won’t let it end the same way. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure of that.”

“You said all of that sh*t and when I came into class the next day you were gone. Halfway across the room, avoiding the f*cking dyke like I had the plague or something. I wanted you to apologize then, to talk to me like I was a person. Instead you were just f*cking not there. And that hurt too.”

Regina flinches. Janis’ words remind her of what Damian told her. Another point against her when all she was trying to do was help. (Is it possible for her to help without hurting someone? To do the right thing without everyone telling her it’s the wrong decision? And if she can’t, what does that mean for her? For her friends? For Janis?)

“That’s not why I moved. I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable. I wanted you to-” Regina hesitates for a second. She should tell Janis the truth. “I didn’t want you to move first. I didn’t want to see that you had given up on me. I didn’t think it would hurt you. I was trying to do what I thought you’d want.”

Janis’ arm is still raised from her outburst. Regina steps closer and Janis presses her palm to Regina’s upper chest like she’s about to push her away. She doesn’t, and Regina lifts a hand to lightly grab Janis’ forearm.

“I don’t know how to be better, but I am trying. I’m tired of hurting the people I care about. I’m tired of being like this. It’s going to be slow, but I want-” again, Regina stumbles, wanting to be honest but knowing it’ll show too much of herself. “I want you in my life again. You were my best friend. I don’t want to lose you for good.”

Janis pulls away from her. Regina’s hand stays suspended in the air for a moment before dropping back to her side.

“Didn’t seem like you cared much about losing me,” Janis snipes.

Regina’s lip curls. “That’s kind of how changing and growing as a person works, Janis.”

She can’t even apologize without being mean. Not that Janis is being particularly nice either, but she at least has a good reason.

Regina is not a nice girl. She can admit that much to herself. Janis is the same way, though she wears it differently. They both approach the world head first, teeth bared and challenging. Too in your face to be good girls.

Maybe she should lean into that.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you don’t f*cking believe me.” (A lie, one so big even speaking it makes Regina kind of ill. All she wants is for Janis to believe her, to forgive her.) “I’m really sorry that I ruined your life. It hurt every goddamn day after I yelled at you in the hall! We both know that I’m not good at this emotional sh*t. But I am trying. I am trying to make things better and give you the apology you deserve. So yeah, maybe it didn’t seem like I cared too much, but I do and I’m sorry. For everything.”

It goes silent in the wake of her rant. Regina is almost panting, tense from the emotions coursing through her. Janis looks at her, making no move to speak, but also no move to leave. Regina forces herself into stillness, not wanting Janis to see her fidget.

“You’re going to have to work at it,” Janis says after a small eternity. “This is your last chance, George.”

“I know, I’ll prove to you that I’ve changed. I promise. I won’t mess it up this time.”

The space between them feels insurmountable. Regina wishes they were back in the bathrooms at school, Janis’ hand gentle on her back. Wishes it didn’t feel impossible for them to get back to that feeling.

“We’ll see.”

It’s as clear a dismissal as Regina’s going to get. She nods at Janis and leaves the garage, each step weighing on her. She doesn’t want to leave, doesn’t want to let Janis go.


Feeling sappy so thank you all for reading this fic and letting me know how you feel about it!!! Literally makes me so happy

Anyways,,,how we feeling about the apology, gang?

Chapter 7


What's this? Some fluff? Crazy.


me, a butch with no fashion sense: Should I be describing Regina’s clothing more?
Also me: The readers can just imagine Regina looking hot and that way I don’t have to think of cute femme outfits. It’s a win win

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Cady invites everyone out to the mall. Which means Regina has to text Janis to make sure she’s okay with Regina coming. (It hasn’t been that long since her apology – she doesn’t want to make Janis uncomfortable or mess with her processing time.)

The text bounces back, undelivered like all the previous ones.

That little sh*t, Regina thinks. She still has me blocked.

Her thoughts of goodwill go out the window as she checks instagram and snap. They’re both the same, Regina unable to interact with Janis. And sure, maybe Janis just hasn’t thought about it yet. But Regina doesn’t really want to listen to reason right now. Instead, she emails Janis that it’s rude and dumb of her to still have Regina blocked. She doesn’t even know if Janis checks her email during the summer (Regina doesn’t think she’s opened her own since their group project). She could text Cady or Damian and get to Janis that way, but it feels like cheating. She has to get Janis to unblock her; it’s between them, not anyone else.

She checks her phone every two seconds. It takes literally all day for Janis to get back to her. (It takes 2 hours. Regina is nothing if not dramatic, though, and how dare Janis not get back to her immediately. She had even included a subject line in her email, which is very professional and official. Sure, it was ‘BITCH UNBLOCK ME,’ but it counts.)

The important thing is that Janis texts her – she’s successfully gotten herself unblocked.

Janis: chill dude its only been 2 days since u apologized

Regina can picture how Janis must have rolled her eyes when she got Regina’s email. The exasperated way she must have unblocked her. She feels almost giddy – if Janis didn’t at least partially accept her apology, she just would have emailed her back. Or ignored her altogether. Even still, Regina can’t help herself.

Regina: you should’ve unblocked me then

And you better unblock me on insta and snap

Janis: honestly im considering keeping u blocked

my phone is so quiet

no one is annoying me

so much peace

Regina: :( but who else is going to drive you to the mall tomorrow?

And you can’t expect me to believe Damian doesn’t spam text you

It’s a spur of the moment offer, but Regina means it. She knows Janis doesn’t have a car (and that she failed the driving test like three times), so she’ll be catching a ride no matter what. It might as well be with Regina.

Janis: literally any of our other friends

even Damian can drive me

i plead the 5th on Damian and spam texting

Regina: you want to take the jazzy all the way to the mall?

Is that even legal?

Janis is so stubborn. Regina has a perfectly clean and fabulous Jeep ready to drive her to the mall and Janis would rather scooter ?

Janis: …fine

but I get to bring Damian

and I get to choose the music

Regina: You get to choose 3 songs and that’s me being generous

of course I’ll pick Damian up too

I’ll pick you up at 1

Janis likes her last message, and Regina figures that’s good enough. They managed to have a civil conversation, that’s a good sign, right? But if Janis thinks she’s choosing the music she has another thing coming. No way is Regina listening to whatever underground grunge Janis listens to regularly. (Maybe she should pick up Damian first so Janis won’t have access to the radio. That also means she might have to listen to showtunes, though. Damn. Should she just not pick them up?)

Regina reminds herself to be nice. Resigns herself to a drive filled with music she doesn’t know.


Damian climbs into the front seat, pulling out his phone and taking a few selfies. He makes Regina pose for a couple.

“You’re acting like you spotted a celebrity,” Regina says through her smile.

“Girl, I might as well have! A theater nerd in Regina George’s car? The world must be going insane.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Regina rolls her eyes. “Better get used to it now that we’re friends.”

Pulling back onto the road, she eyes Damian out of the corner of her eye. “How’ve you been? It’s been a while.”

“It wouldn’t have been that long if you weren’t still mostly avoiding us,” Damian admonishes. Before Regina has a chance to defend herself (she’s going to a group hangout now, isn’t she?), he continues, “But I’m good, enjoying a summer flirtation with a lifeguard.”

“Sounds steamy,”

She watches him fan himself. “Oh, it is. What have you been up to lately?”

The past couple of weeks have been filled with working out; resting her back from working out too hard; and hanging with Gretchen, Karen, and Cady. The past couple of days have been filled with literally any activity that will keep her from thinking about Janis and her apology and how Janis might be taking it.

“Nothing much,” Regina says. “It’s been a quiet summer so far.”

“We’ve got plenty of time to change that, don’t you worry.”

As they chat, Regina navigates towards Janis’ house.

“Do you need directions?” Damian asks.

As though she wouldn’t remember, as though she wasn’t just there. (Did Janis not tell Damian what happened? Or did she just not mention that it happened in the garage?)

“No, I’ve got it.” Her fingers tap against the wheel. “Did Janis tell you, uh, anything?”

“I know you apologized, yeah.”

Regina hums. “I don’t think she really accepted it.”

“Just give her time.” He pokes at her arm. “She’s letting you drive her to the mall, that’s something.”

“Yeah.” It doesn't feel like enough.

She forces herself to ask more about Damian’s summer fling, even though she really doesn’t need any sordid details. She tries getting him to play music, hoping that will work to stop Janis once she’s in the car.

Damian doesn’t take the bait, no matter how hard Regina tries. Janis gets control of the aux, much to Regina’s chagrin. Because Janis is out to get her. That is the only explanation for the noise that pulses through her car. Not even Damian looks like he’s having a good time, but like the best friend he is, he doesn’t say anything to Janis.

Glancing in the rearview mirror, Regina can see mischief written all over Janis’ face. So it’s definitely on purpose. As much as she doesn’t want to, Regina holds her tongue. She told Janis she’d have three songs and she’ll get three songs. Even if it’s painful. Her hands tighten around the wheel as the last of the songs starts to play. She hates this song with a passion, and Janis knows it. Regina grits her teeth so hard she hears something creak. To drown out the cacophony coming from her speakers, she makes herself listen to Damian’s rambling story about some theater camp he’s going to in August. (She is never letting Janis have the aux cord again. Permanently banned.)

They reach the mall just in time for Regina to not go insane. Regina takes her time, letting Damian rush on ahead. Janis can’t even get out of the car – Regina turned on child lock halfway through the drive and only flips it off once Damian is out of earshot. She whirls on Janis, boxing her into the side of the Jeep.

“If you ever make me listen to that f*cking crazy frog sh*t again, I will make you sorry,” she threatens, poking at Janis’ chest. Her voice goes whiny as she says, “You know I hate it and that it gets stuck in my head too easily.”

She pouts at Janis and wriggles in displeasure, stopping herself from stomping petulantly. Janis gives her a faux innocent look, ruined by the smirk that follows immediately after.

What ? I had no idea that song bothered you. I’m so sorry,” she says, sticky sweet and vapid.

“You’re a liar and I’ll get you back.” Regina sways deeper into Janis’ space, eyes tracking over her face. (She’s so much taller than Janis. It makes a weird feeling fill Regina’s chest – power and something almost protective, maybe.) She’s getting closer for the threat, of course. To be more intimidating.

Her intimidation tactics are unsuccessful. Turns out begging for forgiveness might have messed with her street cred. Now Janis knows Regina’s not going to do anything to her. Instead of cowering and apologizing like she should, Janis just laughs (the audacity, honestly) and ducks around Regina.

“You talk a big game, George.” Again with the last name, with the tangible reminder that they aren’t friends. Janis beckons to Regina. “C’mon, we don't want to lose Damian to the first shiny window display he sees.”

As Regina gets closer, Janis starts to hum the cursed song. Regina wants to reach out and push at Janis’ shoulder, the kind of good-natured touch she sees her friends regularly exchange. She doesn’t. Janis isn’t doing this as a friend teasing her, she’s testing if Regina’s changed. Seeing if Regina will relapse into being mean just because she’s annoyed.

“Can we have a crazy frog truce?” Regina asks tiredly. (She gets why Janis is doing it. That doesn’t mean she has to just take it.)

There’s a flash on Janis’ face like she wants to keep going. “Fine,” she says instead. “Truce. And no more child locking me in the car either.”

“Thanks.” Regina pauses and says, “But you’re child sized. I’m just being safe.”

Janis’ face scrunches, lip curling as she opens her mouth. “I-”

Regina cuts her off before she can get going. “Kidding. Full truce, no more child lock.”

(The song is still stuck in her head. She can consider it penance.)


Regina is lagging and pretending like she’s not. Being upright for hours on end with no breaks is still hell on her back. She doesn’t want to be the one to disrupt the good time everyone’s having (even Regina is having fun, when she can take her mind off her back. It’s just the ‘taking her mind off her back’ bit that’s the hard part). Gritting her teeth against the pain, Regina shifts her bags again so their weight pulls her muscles into a slightly less painful position.

Cady pops up next to her as they’re about to enter another store, a hand on her arm making Regina stop walking.

“Hey guys?” she says, getting the group’s attention. “Regina and I are going to split off. I need her help with something. We’ll catch up in a little bit.”

Everyone nods and says that they’ll see them later. Not giving Regina time to protest, Cady leads her away. They weave through the mall until they reach a quiet area lined with benches. All the stores around them are shuttered and closed, gone out of business. It doesn’t look like anyone comes down to this section very often.

“Sit, put your feet up,” Cady commands. “You need a break, right?”

Regina’s surprised. She didn’t expect anyone to be paying enough attention to her to notice. “Yeah.”

She sits on the bench, sighing in relief as the change in position lets some of the pressure off her back. She leans back, letting the tension slowly ease out of her muscles. They sit in silence until Regina’s feeling a bit more stable.

“Thanks for not making my back a whole thing,” Regina says.

“Of course. I don’t think anyone else noticed. You were a doing a good job of hiding it. I just-” She shrugs, giving Regina an awkward half-smile. “I have a bit more experience with your injury than anyone else.”

Regina chuckles. “At this point, you probably know more about it than I do.”

She relaxes further onto the bench. As nice as this is, she can’t help but long for her bed, for the multitude of pillows she can tuck under her back and knees until she’s pain free.

Cady stands and walks to Regina’s side. “Turn so you can put your feet on the bench. We can do a couple of your PT stretches so hopefully you’ll be able to make it through the rest of the day.”

Half-heartedly checking to see if anyone is around, Regina does what Cady asks. She starts to lean into one of the basic stretches the physical therapist gave her.

“Sorry that I didn’t think about your back when I planned this,” Cady says.

Regina shakes her head. “No worries. I don’t expect anyone else to remember when I barely want to think about it.”

“Still,” Cady says quietly.

It really isn’t a big deal. Instead of focusing on that, Regina turns her attention to leaning deeper into the stretch.

“Do you mind if I help?”


A moment later, Cady’s hands land on her back, one in the middle and the other resting between her shoulder blades.

“Have you been doing your stretches?” Cady asks, slowly increasing the pressure on Regina’s back so she can stretch further.

“I’ve been stretching,” Regina tries, keeping it vague. And she has been. It’s just that maybe she’s been slacking on her PT exercises now that she doesn’t go see the therapist anymore.

She gasps in pain when she reaches a certain point in the stretch, the pain coming to an acute point and radiating along her entire back. Cady tsks at her, slowly letting up on the pressure until Regina’s back in a neutral position. Circling back around Regina, Cady sits on the opposite bench.

“That stretch used to be a lot easier for you.” She doesn’t say anything else, just waits Regina out, watching her until she breaks.

“I do stretch regularly,” Regina qualifies. “I just maybe don’t do my PT as much.”

“You’re in pain,” Cady says sadly. “This is why your physical therapist told you about these exercises. They focus on you back, make it stronger so this doesn’t happen. Do the exercises you do now do that?”

Regina grumbles. Cady has her pinned, which is annoying. “Maybe not.”

It’s just that she hates it. She hates having to do special exercises, hates that this injury is going to follow her around for the rest of her life. She can’t do anything without taking her back into consideration first. The injury, the pain, dictates so much and she’s tired of it. So yeah, she avoided doing her PT because if she acts like she’s better, maybe it will actually happen.

“Do you want me to start reminding you again?” Cady looks down at her lap, fidgeting with her fingers. “Or we could meet up? I can hang out while you do your normal exercises, and after we can do PT stuff?”

If Regina’s honest with herself, something in their friendship has felt fractured since that day in the hall when Cady got shoved into the locker. It’s only gotten worse since Cady dragged her into the classroom after the mess with Janis. It doesn't feel like they ever really found closure around that. Regina’s not quite sure how to hold herself around Cady anymore - she prefers the buffer of Gretchen and Karen between them. Maybe this will fix that, help them get on the same page.

“I usually exercise in the mornings, pretty early.” Regina is ready to stop there but surprises herself. She wants this connection with her friend more that she realized. “I can change the time, though, if you don’t want to be up at like 7am during the summer.”

“I’m up with my mom anyways. We do nature walks in the mornings!”

Of course she does, Regina thinks fondly, watching as Cady shoots her a wide smile.

“Then yeah, feel free to come over whenever,” Regina says, keeping her tone even in a bid not to seem desperate.

(Regina will learn that Cady doesn’t have an athletic bone in her body. It’s almost impressive, really, the amount that she struggles.)

Now, though, they do a few more stretches before returning to the group. It helps, but Regina still sprawls out on her bed with pillows supporting various parts of her body the second she gets home.

Gretchen’s parents decide to let them use their lake house for a weekend (Gretchen convinces her parents Friday also counts as the weekend, and she’s everyone’s hero for getting them an extra day). It’s about all anyone can talk about the week leading up to it, the group chat going almost nonstop with ideas. The only downside is that it’s in Michigan, about five hours away. (Which means it’ll actually be seven or eight with all the stops they’re bound to make. Regina’s open to being pleasantly surprised, but she knows her friends. They’ll be making many stops.)

They decide (Regina floats the idea and shoots down any opposition) to get on the road early so they can still have most of Friday to be by the lake. Early enough that it may as well be late at night and, even though it was her idea, Regina is not looking forward to having to wake up her passengers. She’s picking up Cady, Gretchen, and Karen since they’re the closest to her house. Aaron is the other driver, picking up the rest.

Regina’s surprised Cady didn’t insist on riding with Aaron. Usually they’re so attached Regina can barely tell where one stops and the other begins. (She was never that clingy when she dated Aaron, and it almost grosses her out to think about cuddling with him now.)

With the way they’ve done car assignments, Regina doesn’t envy Aaron at all. This way, she doesn’t have to deal with early morning Janis, a beast she would rather encounter as little as possible. At least he’ll have Damian to contain the disaster, although she’s not sure how he is in the mornings.

The people in her car at least know not to make Regina wait. She had talked to them about it when everything had been decided. She has no issue making a scene to get them out of the house. She will lay on the horn until they come out, sleeping neighbors be damned.

Pick up goes smoothly. Karen and Gretchen are still in their pajamas when she picks them up from their houses, eyes barely open as they tumble into the backseat. Cady is waiting outside, fully dressed and smiling. She’s still tired, Regina can tell, but she’s doing her best to hide it.

Regina plays her music quietly as she merges onto the highway. Her passengers are barely conscious. Gretchen and Karen are somehow managing to cuddle while still having their seatbelts fastened. Cady is doing her best to stay awake, but Regina can see her head bob forward every few minutes.

“Just recline,” Regina commands, keeping her eyes on the road as she blindly reaches out to nudge Cady. “You can go to sleep; I’ll wake you up if I need something.”

“You sure?” Cady’s words slur together.

“Go to sleep, Cady.”

Moments later, Cady disappears from her peripherals as the seat reclines. She hears Cady adjust herself until she’s comfortable, the entire car going quiet except for sleep-steady breathing and quiet music. The drive is peaceful, not too much traffic early in the morning.

Regina gets a call about two and a half hours into the drive. Cady’s awake, so Regina passes the call off to her. It’s Aaron, wanting to know when they should stop for food (or, that’s the point of the call after making Regina listen to one-sided gooey couple talk for five minutes). Teenage boys and their stomachs. Though, it’d be nice to stretch her legs, give her back a chance to relax. Regina nods at Cady to let her know she’s good with stopping. After further discussion that Regina, again, only hears half of, they agree to pull off at the next exit. Damian apparently found a diner with pretty good reviews about ten minutes from the highway.

Regina climbs out of the car, twisting and stretching her back until it pops. She hears Cady suck in a breath from over her shoulder, and peeks back to see her wincing in Regina’s direction.

“It’s fine. Cracking it felt really nice, actually.”

“If you say so. I could never.” Regina realizes that she’s never seen Cady actually crack anything, not even her knuckles.

Shrugging at Cady, she moves to the back of the car where Karen and Gretchen are still piled together in the backseat. She opens the door, nudging Gretchen’s side until she jolts and looks up, looking at Regina in confusion.

“Are we here?”

“The fact that you think I’d let you bitches sleep for the entire drive is wild. No, we’re just stopping for breakfast,” Regina laughs.

The group stumbles into the diner, all uncoordinated limbs and sleepy jostling as they get settled. Aaron and Regina share a look over everyone’s heads as they’re pushed around by teenage zombies. They manage to get seated, Regina somehow ending up between Janis and the wall.

The waitress comes over once everyone is settled. She looks over the table, the expression on her face telling Regina she’s about a second away from fawning over them. She introduces herself and Regina orders coffee for the table (and a tea for Karen – no one needs to see that girl on full caffeine).

As the waitress pours everyone coffee, Regina feels a weight hit her shoulder for a second before disappearing. Looking over, she sees Janis swaying in place, blinking like she’s struggling to keep her eyes open. The blinks slow down and Janis slumps again, hitting Regina’s shoulder before shooting back up.

If Janis wants to use her as a pillow, Regina doesn’t mind. She’s not sure if that’s actually what Janis wants, or if she’s just tired enough not to care who she ends up sleeping against. (She hopes it’s the first. Knows that Janis would never want to be close to her like that.)

Regina ducks her head so she’s a bit closer. Keeping her tone light, she whispers, “Tired, huh?”

Janis turns her head, eyes still only half open. Inches away, this is the closest they’ve been in a while. Janis has a bit of a crease near her nose, like she’d somehow managed to position her face right against the edge of the seatbelt. It’s fading, but the skin is still pink and indented. She looks so grumpy, less put together than Regina’s used to in her plain t-shirt and sweats. She looks unguarded in her exhaustion. (She looks cute. Not that Regina should be noticing that.)

“No sane person is up this early in the summer.”

“I’m usually awake around now.”

Janis snorts, smiling sleepily. Regina finds herself mirroring the expression, trying to keep it under control.

“You know that just proves my point, right?” Janis says.

Regina gasps. “Just for that, I won’t let you use me as a pillow.”

Please use me as a pillow. (Regina ignores that thought.)

“Oh no, whatever will I do,” Janis says, completely deadpan as she slowly tips away from Regina.

She leans up against Damian, shifting to get comfortable as she gives Regina a sh*t-eating grin. He raises his arm and loops it around her without breaking his conversation with Aaron. Like they’ve done it before. Like they’ve done this enough times for it to be second nature. Regina rolls her eyes to hide the pang of loss (and something deeper, almost angrier) as she watches them.

She turns her attention to the menu in front of her. She’s still not too hungry in the mornings, so she decides on an egg white omelet with peppers and cheese. (If she didn’t need the energy to drive, she’d probably skip.) Glancing through the rest of the menu, she sees something Janis would like. A full breakfast that comes with with two eggs, hashbrowns, toast, pancakes, and a choice between bacon and sausage. She turns her head, about to point it out when she notices that Janis has fallen asleep against Damian’s side, face completely relaxed and her mouth open slightly.

Regina will have to order for her.

The waitress returns and they all start to give their orders. When she reaches Janis, she smiles, saying, “And for sleeping beauty here?”

“She’ll have the full breakfast.”

“The full breakfast, please.”

Regina and Damian speak at the same time, Damian giving Regina a weird look. She responds with a raised eyebrow.

“How would you like the eggs cooked?”

“Over easy,” they answer together.

“Sounds good. Would she like the bacon or sausage?”

“Bacon,” Damian says.

Regina answers, again at the same time, “Sausage.”

“She likes bacon,” Damian tells her. As though Regina doesn’t know that.

“It’s too early,” Regina protests, speaking from countless Saturdays of Janis turning her nose up at the breakfast food. “The bacon is going to be too salty.”

“You know that doesn’t make sense,” Damian says. “What does the time of day have to do with salt?”

“She doesn’t like too much salt before she’s fully awake.” She looks at the waitress, who looks quite entertained by the mini fight that’s occurring over the head of the sleeping teen. “She’ll have the sausage.”

She doesn’t leave any room for argument. Damian, as much as it looks like he wants to change the order, rolls his eyes and lets it happen. As he should.

“Of course, hun. Anything else?” She looks around the table, everyone shaking their heads one by one. She reads their orders back to them, putting special emphasis on Janis’ sausage order and giving Regina a smile. “It’ll be right out. Holler if you need anything.”

“So,” Regina says to the table, wanting to draw attention away from the weird fight she and Damian just had. “What’s the plan for the day?”

“I want to swim,” Karen says.

“I do too,” Gretchen chimes in, almost before Karen’s finished speaking. “We’ve got plenty of floats and stuff. There might even be a canoe somewhere.”

“I’m down for a water day,” Aaron says. “It’s supposed to be hot, so it’s better than a hike or something.”

Regina curls her lip at the mention of hiking. “I am not hiking. I’ll lounge on shore while you guys are in the water.”

“You have to get in, though, Regina,” Cady pleads. “It’ll be fun!”

Regina’s idea of fun isn’t exactly swimming around in gross lake water. She looks around the table, being met with puppy dog eyes from all angles, even Aaron joining in.

“Ugh, fine.” Regina’s too soft now, look at her giving in without any real fight. God, who has she become. “Just for a little while, though.”

Cady starts to cheer but catches herself, looking at Janis still tucked against Damian, dead to the world. “This is going to be so fun!”

They fall into more discussions about the weekend, talking quietly as they wait for their food. Regina gets roped into stopping at the grocery store to pick up supplies for the rest of the weekend. At least this way she can control the quality of the food – she doesn’t want to know what teen boy junk food nightmare Aaron, Damian, and Janis would’ve picked up.

Janis wakes up as the food arrives. It’s like the smell revives her, her eyes opening seconds after her plate lands in front of her.

“Did you order for me?” she asks Damian, sleep droopy and delicate as she sits up.

He glances at Regina. “Not quite. Queen B over there took over. She got you the full breakfast with sausage.”

“Sausage?” Janis questions quietly before looking at Regina.

“Bacon’s too salty, right?” Regina’s earlier confidence is gone. She hopes she’s not wrong, that the half-remembered preference hasn’t changed.

Janis looks confused, but gives Regina a small, close-lipped smile. “Yeah, that’s right.”

Regina nods and looks away, done with whatever weird energy is building between them. She catches Gretchen’s eye, an unreadable expression on the other girl’s face as she looks between Regina and Janis.

“What?” Regina mouths.

Gretchen doesn’t answer, giving her a bright smile and shaking her head. Regina is suspicious, but there’s not exactly a good reason to question Gretchen further.

Breakfast is delicious. And weird. Halfway through the meal, a small pile of hashbrowns appears on her plate. She looks over at Janis, who’s looking at her with a slight furrow between her brows.

“You still like those, right?”

Regina’s not the only one who remembers past habits. Regina never liked hashbrowns enough to get a full serving, but she always wanted some, so she’d steal a few bites from Janis whenever they’d go out for breakfast with Janis’ parents. Over time, it turned into Janis just cutting a portion off for her and putting it on Regina’s plate. Just like she’s doing now.

“Yeah, I do. Uh, thank you.”

Janis grunts, face going blank again like she just remembered she’s supposed to be angry at Regina still. For once, Regina doesn’t let it get to her. Janis had done something from when they were kids. If Regina hadn’t looked at her she wonders if Janis would have even said anything.

The hashbrowns taste better than they ever have before.


The rest of this chapter was giving me trouble for some reason, so I decided to split it up. We’ll see the rest of the lake trip next chapter! As always, hope you all liked the chapter! Lmk what you thought!

Chapter 8


Lake weekend


Sorry for the slightly longer wait this time, y'all! I've brought you an extra long chapter to make up for it lol

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

How the last half of the drive takes almost double the time of the first half, Regina isn’t sure. She’s not surprised, though. A little bit of traffic slowed them down, but that’s not the biggest issue. There’s a constant stream of “wait can we stop I need to-” until Regina puts her foot down, telling everyone that they’re not stopping until they go to the supermarket. She wants to get to the lake sometime in this century, and if she spends any more time in the car, she will kill someone.

She’s just thankful Aaron is in a similar situation.

Aaron: they keep. needing. to. stop.

Regina: you’re telling me. Karen has had to pee THREE times in the past hour

im going to strangle someone

Aaron: pls dont strangle my gf i’d miss her

Regina: simp

When they finally reach the store, Gretchen and Karen go crazy, grabbing what seems to be any food that catches their attention. Despite Regina and Cady’s attempts to wrangle them, their cart still ends up full of more food than they could go through in a week.

“We can’t get all this, we don’t need it,” Regina tries. “Do we really need five different boxes of cereal?”

Gretchen leans over the cart and tries to shield the cereal from Regina’s view. “Well Cady likes Cheerios best, and Damian prefers Coco Puffs, and Aaron’s favorite is Apple Jacks so-”

“There are no cereals that everyone will enjoy?” Regina rubs at the bridge of her nose, doing her best to stave off the headache that’s been building since they left the diner. (Why does Gretchen even know this much about everyone’s cereal preferences?)

“Well, I guess there’s Froot Loops, but-”

“Great, grab a box of that and put everything else back.”

And so on and so forth until they have only the essentials.

Regina plans to use her tried and true method of getting alcohol: tit*, a convincing fake, and lots of flirting. Adjusting her shirt so it exposes more of her cleavage, she finds the dorkiest looking cashier and approaches. Almost instantly, his eyes are glued to her chest. It makes Regina want to roll her eyes. Maybe vomit. Men are so predictable. She might even get away with not pulling her ID out, if she plays this right. Two minutes, about a dozen fake smiles, and a few ‘oh my god, you’re so smarts’ later and they’re making their way out of the store with a case of beer, two 12-packs of White Claw, and a host of other groceries for the weekend.

In the end, they make it. (And Regina is going to insist on a 3 stop maximum on the way home. She’s not going through this again.)

A long, winding driveway leads them to the house. The house is huge, sitting in the middle of the forest right on the lakefront. It’s a blend of modern and old-fashioned, mostly wood cabin aesthetics with large windows and clean lines. There’s no one close on either side, giving them solid privacy for the entire weekend.

When they pull up, Aaron, Damian, and Janis are all waiting in the driveway. They all perk up when Regina stops next to Aaron’s station wagon. Regina climbs out of the car, getting the cartoonish urge to fall to the ground and kiss it in thanks. She doesn’t want to see her car for the next two days, please and thank you. Instead of falling to the ground, she bends backwards to stretch out her back. Two concerningly loud cracks echo through the forest. She aches after driving for that long.

“Took you guys long enough,” Aaron snarks, smirking at Regina over Cady’s head as she nuzzles into his chest.

“Do not, Samuels,” Regina says, fake annoyed, all eyes narrowed and snarling. (But also real annoyed. It took so goddamn long to get here. She needs space. She needs to stretch properly.)

They lug all their supplies from the cars to the front door, waiting for Gretchen to find her keys so they can go inside. Finally, the door opens and they all spill into the foyer, everyone making appreciative sounds as they look around the space.

The cabin is mostly open concept, large windows filling the rooms with golden natural light. The modern log cabin vibes continue with the decor, a tasteful blend that Regina knows is the result of a very expensive interior designer.

Gretchen steps in front of everyone and holds her arms out as if showing off the space (Regina gets flashes of the future, the first of Gretchen as a campus tour guide, the next of Gretchen as a real estate agent.) “So there should be plenty of space for everyone. There are three rooms with queen beds, and one room with two twins. Twin room and one of the queen rooms are upstairs. Other two are on this floor. We can discuss where-”

Janis steps forward, slinging her duffle bag over her shoulder in one smooth movement. “Damian and I will take the twin room,” she interrupts. “That way the couple can stay together. Just leaves the trio formerly known as plastic to figure themselves out.”

She tilts her head at Damian and heads for the stairs. Damian follows her, shrugging at everyone else as he goes.

“Well that makes it easy.” Aaron grabs Cady’s hand and they head for one of the rooms on the main level.

Regina glances between Gretchen and Karen. Karen smiles, a vacant expression on her face as she looks around. Regina can read the panic all over Gretchen’s face and smiles to herself.

“Sorry, Gretchen. I have trouble sleeping with someone in my bed because of my back. You’ll have to room with Karen.”

Gretchen gives her a dirty look, but Regina just raises an eyebrow and shrugs. It’s not even really a lie. Plus, she’s helping. As they gather their bags and begin dispersing to their rooms, Gretchen stops Regina.

“What was that for?” she hisses, eyes tracking Karen’s progress as she winds through the house, looking at the tchotchkes scattered around.

“I’m giving you a chance to make a move,” Regina says. “Why are you annoyed with me?”

Gretchen looks uncertain, eyes darting to her feet as she worries at her lip. “Do you think she’s interested?”

Regina makes a show of checking Gretchen out. She smiles and winks at her. “Babe, if I were into girls, I’d be into you.”

Gretchen freezes, eyebrows raising in surprise before she blinks away whatever confusion she had been feeling. She narrows her eyes at Regina and gives her a weird look.

“What? You’re hot, and Karen has definitely said so before, you’ve heard her. She’d have to be blind and an idiot not to be into you.”

Gretchen opens and closes her mouth a few times like she’s trying to find words. “Um, thanks, Regina. I appreciate it.”

Regina tosses her hair and hefts her bag a bit higher. “Of course.”

“Karen and I will take the other room on this floor. You okay with the one upstairs? You just have to share a bathroom with Janis and Damian.”

“That’s,” Regina clears her throat. “That’s fine.”

(It beats the truly horrifying possibility of having to listen to Cady and Aaron f*ck, so Regina will take the potential of an awkward bathroom encounter any day.)

She stays downstairs long enough to watch Gretchen gently gather Karen, leading her to their room with a hand on her back (and red-tipped ears).

She heads up the stairs, hearing muffled conversation from behind the closed door of Janis and Damian’s room as she goes past. She pauses, definitely not to hear the conversation. Regina is too respectful to do something like that. She’s looking at the really nice picture of Gretchen’s – huh, Regina thinks. I think that’s her dog that died last year .

“Behave yourself, ok? No sneaky comments or weird looks at her or me, alright?” Regina just happens to overhear Janis say.

“Ugh, be boring then,” Damian might’ve said, if Regina were listening in instead of admiring the picture of a long deceased pet. He’s such a nice looking…pug? Maybe?

The conversation dies, and Regina continues on to her room, bored of looking at the photos.

Regina’s room for the weekend is spacious. Just like the rest of the house, there’s plenty of natural light coming in from a bay window that faces the lake. There’s a small love seat under the window – a good place for coffee in the morning.

The bed is large, across the room from the window, with a bunch of pillows that Regina is definitely going to use to soothe the ache in her back. She sets her bag down at the foot of the bed and starts sorting them. The firmer pillows are going to be better for tucking under her knees, while the larger, softer pillows should be good to tuck under her lower back and head.

Piles made, she debates unpacking her clothes. She wants to avoid wrinkles, even if the only people who are going to see her are her friends who probably don’t give a sh*t. Her clothes are efficiently unpacked into the small chest of drawers tucked into a corner.

Once everyone has gotten settled in their rooms, they meet back in the main area.

“So are we swimming?” Damian asks, already dressed in his swim trunks, a towel tossed over his shoulders.

“Yeah! While everyone’s getting ready, you and I can pull out some of the floats and games from the shed,” Gretchen says, also already in her bathing suit, covered by a sheer robe.

“The dream team,” Damian singsongs, holding his hand out for a high five.

Regina says, “I need like thirty minutes or so to lie down. My back is acting up, but once I rest I should be fine. I’ll meet you all outside.”

“This better not be you trying to get out of enjoying the lake,” Damian jokes with a smile and a wink. (Damian can be more devious than Regina sometimes. She hadn’t even thought about that.)

At the same time, Cady steps forward, arms already outstretched like she’s going to touch Regina’s back. “Do we need to do some stretches? I don’t mind hanging back too, if you need some help.”

Regina smiles. “No worries. This is more of a lay down and take some advil pain than anything. Thanks, though.”

Sure, it would be nice if she did some stretches, but Regina doesn’t want to be around anyone right now, much less Cady, who she was trapped in a car with for almost eight hours. She’ll take her meds and a nap and it’ll be fine.

“Alright,” Cady squeezes Regina’s arm. “Let us know if you need anything.”

Regina nods and leaves everyone to their discussion. Collapsing onto the bed with enough pillows supporting her that all the pressure is off her back feels like heaven. She melts into the soft mattress and lets her eyes flutter closed.


The sounds of music and yelling wake her up. A quick shift from side to side tells her that her back is feeling a bit better. It’s still achy, but not enough to make her bedridden. This is her first time driving a distance like this since the accident. Seven and a half hours is definitely her limit.

Climbing out of bed, she quickly changes, avoiding looking at herself in the mirror until she’s fully dressed. It’s weird, her perception of herself. She knows she looks good, has been told over and over that she’s hot/beautiful/gorgeous. So she knows she doesn’t look bad. But as she stares at herself in the mirror, all she can see are the flaws. Her stomach and hips and thighs still hold the extra weight she gained during junior year, the strings of her pink and black bikini sinking into the soft skin. Even though she can see the places where muscles are slowly starting to develop, it doesn’t feel like enough. Scars dot her torso from the multitude of cuts and operations in the wake of the bus accident. She’s flawed. She doesn’t look the way she should. She twists and turns in the reflection, inspecting herself and tallying up all the things that are wrong with her.

She’s gotta stop. She knows it, doesn’t know how to achieve it.

She clings to the intellectual knowledge that she looks good, wears it like armor when all she feels is doubt.

She pulls on a large t-shirt as a cover up and walks down to the lake. The music and laughter gets louder as she gets closer. Everyone is in the water already, Damian and Karen playing with a beach ball while Cady hangs on to the edge of a pier that juts into the water. Aaron and Gretchen are crouched in the shallows, performing some sort of surgery on a swan floaty that’s half filled with air. Janis is on a pool lounger, already tan skin turning a shade darker in the sun as she sways on the gentle waves.

Aaron is the first to notice her. He smiles and waves her over, catching Gretchen’s attention.

“Regina!” she calls. “How are you feeling? Is your back better? Do you need me to-”

“Gretchen,” Regina cuts in. “I’m all good. I’m gonna chill here.”

“No, you’ve gotta get in the water!” Apparently they’ve gained everyone’s attention as Karen speaks up.

“I can just-” Regina stops as she watches Karen stare at her with pleading eyes, a lip quiver thrown in for good measure. Damian, seeing Karen, joins in on the puppy dog eyes. “Guys.

Even Janis joins in, albeit in a different way.

“What, scared of a little water, George?” she yells, pushing her sunglasses to the top of her head.

Regina twitches at the name. She frowns at everyone. “Didn’t we, like, learn that peer pressure is bad in school or whatever?”

Janis doesn't let up with the ribbing. “Ooo, nerdy and a scaredy cat.”

Regina sends her a half-hearted glare.

Cady pouts from her place at the edge of the pier, looking like a mermaid as her eyes peer up over the wood. “You promised you’d come in the water.”

“God, fine, but if I catch something weird you’re all paying my medical bills.”

Janis snorts. “As if.”

Regina retreats to the pile of clothes and sunscreen further up on shore. She sheds her cover up, tossing it in the pile. She quickly applies sunscreen and makes her way down the pier. At least it doesn’t look like Cady will make her do anything too ridiculous. They can hang out by the pier together.

Regina George, ” Damian calls out, scandalized. “You’ve been holding out on us.”

Regina looks around, confused. “I’m not – what are you talking about?”

“Those arms, girl! I didn’t know you had muscles like that.”

She hadn’t thought the changes from her exercise were obvious to anyone but her. Her arms are a bit more toned, the muscle a little more evident than usual. She can feel her friends looking at her. Projects her usual confidence, striking a pose. Just wants to put her shirt back on.

“The power of exercise, I guess.”

Wanting everyone’s eyes off her, Regina rushes into the water, leaping over Cady and curling into a cannonball as she hits the water. It’s cold for a second before her body adjusts. She hadn’t planned on getting her hair wet. So much for that. She surfaces, paddling back over to Cady. She can still have a mostly chill time in the lake.


She gasps as Karen splashes her, blinking water out of her eyes. “You’re gonna pay for that,” Regina threatens, a wide smile on her face.

Karen squeals and laughs, begging Regina for mercy as she starts running away, progress hindered by the water. Regina gives her a second to get a head start, wiping her face off before diving beneath the surface, kicking towards Karen. When she’s close, she plants her feet and launches herself at Karen, tackling her into the water.

They both come up for air, trying to catch their breath through their laughter. “Got you,” Regina pants, wrapping an arm around Karen’s shoulders.

“I got water up my nose,” Karen says. As Regina goes to apologize, she continues. “Do you think it bothers fish when they get water up their nose?”

Karen’s fine. Regina laughs and squeezes Karen’s shoulder in a little side hug before releasing her.

She gets pulled into a game of Marco Polo and feels like she’s in elementary school. (Does she roll her eyes when Cady asks to play? Yes, of course. Does she also have more fun than she’s had in a while? Yes, but she’s not admitting that to anyone. They should be able to tell from the way she’s actually participating and the fact that she was ‘it’ one round.)

Regina can’t participate in games like chicken. (And she needs someone to explain why her friends love it so much. She’s pretty sure they’ve played it every single time they’ve been at the pool so far this summer.) Her back can’t take the strain. So, as always, she’s assigned the role of referee. She’s never been fully sure why a ref is necessary – the whole game seems to be pushing and shoving with no rhyme or reason. Regina still tries to keep them on their toes, yelling out random fouls and making up rules.

Every so often while they’re hanging out by the lake, Regina catches Janis looking at her. She’s not sure if Janis notices her catching the glances. There’s no moment of awkward eye contact and glancing away. She’s probably staring at Regina’s scars – they stand out, stark and pale against her skin. Regina wishes she had a way to hide them.

Regina is kind of worried about Janis, though. She doesn’t know if she’s putting enough sunscreen on. Every time Regina catches Janis staring, her chest, neck, and face are all a dusty warm red. It’s probably not her place to mention it – Janis might not take it well coming from her – so she just silently hopes someone else makes sure she reapplies.

(Janis ends up not at all sunburned and Regina is left wondering why she’d been so red all day.)


Gretchen and Karen make lasagna for dinner. It gets demolished almost faster than Regina can finish her single piece. There’s none left, everyone’s plates licked clean. Karen glows at all the praise everyone heaps on her.

After everyone’s showered and rested a little, they head out to the fire pit. Regina grabs the case of beer and one of the boxes of White Claw for everyone to share. She ends up walking out at the same time as Janis who, surprisingly, has an acoustic guitar slung across her back. Regina didn’t realize she brought it with her.

“I didn’t know you played acoustic still,” Regina says, having seen Janis play electric lately.

Janis glances at her but mostly keeps her eyes on the flickering flames of the fire pit down at the beach. “Yeah, I bring this out every once in a while. Mostly play electric, though.”

Yes, I know, Regina wants to say. I know you play electric but that your dream has always been to learn bass. I know that your mom is happy you started playing electric because you could practice with headphones. I know I know I know.

She doesn’t say any of it.


Everyone is seated either on various chairs they pulled out of the boat shed or on pieces of driftwood that had been scattered around the fire. Sipping at their beers, the air is filled with quiet conversation as everyone winds down from the day.

The light from the fire flickers across Janis’ face as she plays her guitar. Regina watches the easy way her fingers glide across the strings, the music providing the backdrop to the various conversations happening around the fire. She’s hardly paying attention to what she’s playing, focused on her conversation with Karen and Damian. How Janis is still managing to create lilting, peaceful melodies Regina doesn’t know. It’s impressive, though. Enchanting. Her stomach feels weird. Fluttery. To get rid of the feeling, she brings her beer to her lips, not taking her eyes off Janis as she drinks.

“...Regina?” she hears. “Regina?”

She shakes herself and looks up, meeting Gretchen’s concerned eyes. There’s something knowing in them too. She looks like she’s been trying to get her attention for a while.

“Huh? I’m good, lost in thought. My bad.”

“No worries, I just wanted to see what you thought of…”

As she’s drawn back into the conversation, her eyes drift across the fire once more, landing on Janis once again. This time, Janis looks up. She makes eye contact with Regina, eyes warm embers. Regina wonders what she sees when she looks at Regina, if the quiet awe she feels is reflected on her face for Janis to discover. Scared of that vulnerability, unsure if she wants Janis to see it, Regina looks back to Gretchen and Aaron.

The soft melody coming from across the fire falters for a second before smoothing back out.


The later it gets, the less calm the atmosphere around the fire becomes. Janis has set her guitar to the side, her playing replaced by Gretchen’s music coming through a portable speaker. Everyone is loopy, the early start and long day only compounding the effects of the alcohol they’ve all drunk.

“I think,” Karen says, standing up suddenly. Damian reaches up to steady her as she sways dangerously. “We should play a game.”

“Yes!” Cady cheers. “I want to play Uno.”

A beat.

“Not that kind of game, babe,” Aaron murmurs, leaning over to wrap an arm around her shoulder.

“We could make it into a drinking game,” Cady pouts.

“How about we start with somethin’ easy?” Regina asks.

“Never have I ever!” Gretchen and Karen blurt at the same time.

They all look around the fire at each other, shrugging and nodding in agreement.

“Who’s up first?” Damian asks, chugging the remainder of his drink.

“I think you’re supposed to save that for the game,” Janis says.

“I’m not playing never have I ever with a warm beer. I’m breaking out the vodka Aaron brought.”

Suddenly, everyone’s finishing off their own drinks and grabbing cups that Regina hadn’t even noticed. The vodka gets passed around, but-

“Do we have mixers?” Regina asks, looking at the clear liquid in her cup.

Everyone looks at Aaron, who shrugs guiltily. “Sorry?” he tries.

“Shots instead of sips?” Gretchen asks.

Regina mutters, “Do we have a choice?”

“Everyone get ready to drink, I want to play,” Karen says, pouring herself a drink.

“Karen, honey,” Gretchen says. “That’s like three shots.”

“Oh,” Karen looks at her cup before shrugging it and bringing it to her lips. She starts chugging it, Gretchen lunging to stop her.

“That’s not what I meant, oh my god,” she hisses, pulling the cup away.

Karen shudders, pulling a face. “Icky. I’m ready to play now.”

Regina, wide eyed, makes eye contact with an equally stunned looking Damian. Slowly, he shakes his head and they both go back to watching the show.

Gretchen looks like she’s not sure if she should fully take Karen’s drink or if she should just let it go. Finally, she sighs and lets go of Karen, letting her have the cup back.

“I’ll go first,” she says. “Um, never have I ever forgotten mixers.”

Aaron throws his hands up. “This is targeted!”

“Yes, it is.” Gretchen nods. “Now drink.”

Janis also drinks. She and Aaron pull the same disgusted face as they take their shots, making laughter erupt around the circle.

“Never have I ever worn pink on Wednesday,” Aaron shoots back.

Regina rolls her eyes and drinks, joined by the rest of the former plastics. Shaking off the burn, she looks at Aaron. “You wore pink on Wednesday once when we first started dating. Played yourself, loser.”

f*ck,” Aaron says, pouring himself a shot and knocking it back. Everyone else who drank takes the opportunity to refill their cups.

Cady jumps in. “Never have I ever stolen a scooter from my grandmother.”

Damian drinks, flipping Cady off. “Like you haven’t enjoyed a ride on the jazzy before.”

“I don’t know if enjoy is the right word, D,” Janis says.

“See if I ever give you another ride, then,” says Damian, turning his nose up. “Never have I ever failed my driving test three times.”

Janis shoves at Damian’s shoulder, almost tipping him off the log he’s sitting on. He lets out an indignant squawk as he barely manages to catch himself. She and Karen drink, to literally no one’s surprise.

“Never have I ever touched a tiger,” Karen says, staring Cady down.

“How many times-” Cady’s protest is cut off by everyone questioning Regina as she drinks.

She shrugs. “It’s not a big deal. When I was a kid we went on vacation and visited one of those sketchy zoos where they let you hold the animals. Super unethical, but I was like five.”

The game goes on until most of the group is messily drunk, yelling over each other as they play. Aaron has to rescue Cady from falling in the fire during a particularly impassioned defense of how winning a crown at Spring Fling isn’t the same as winning a contest.

“Never have I ever had a crush on someone in this group,” Damian slurs, smirking as everyone looks at him.

There’s a beat of stillness, of awkward glancing around the fire before people begin to drink. Gretchen, Karen, Aaron, Cady, and Janis all take a shot. Regina doesn’t. She didn’t exactly crush on Aaron. He was a good choice for her rise to the top of the school food chain, popular and smart.

Her eyes are drawn to Janis in particular, for some reason. Her lip curls as she watches her drink. (Who would Janis have a crush on here? Cady, probably. They spent a lot of time together over the school year, and Janis was really torn up about her going full mean girl. Whatever. It’s not like it can happen, Cady’s straighter than a ruler and very happy with Aaron.)

After the shots, there’s an air of expectation, like they’re all expecting someone to ask follow up questions. No one seems to want to be the one to start it, so they move on. A few more rounds and everyone’s ready to stop, Gretchen gone enough to lean on Regina’s shoulder, half asleep.

It’s a struggle getting the fire pit extinguished and nearly impossible to herd everyone back up to the house. Karen wants to go swimming, Janis wants to see if she can find a cryptid in the forest, and Damian thinks it’s a good idea to serenade the sky with Evita. Somehow, they all make it back to the house in one piece.

All Regina wants to do is sleep. Even with the short rest she took earlier, she’s exhausted. Knowing she’ll hate herself in the morning if she doesn’t, though, she grabs her toiletries and makes her way to the bathroom to wash off her makeup and get ready for bed.

The problem with a bathroom with double sinks is that there’s no excuse to turn Janis away when she comes into the room with her toothbrush. Regina nods in acknowledgement before turning her attention back to massaging the last of her serum into her face.

Once that’s done, she moves to brush her teeth. Regina does her best not to make eye contact, staring intently at herself as she brushes. Even still, her eyes stray at times, catching on Janis’ in the mirror before they both look away. It’s dead silent besides the quiet sounds of their toothbrushes and the not-so-quiet sounds of Damian singing drunkenly to Destiny’s Child. (They do trade foamy grins when Damian tries to hit a high note and his voice cracks. That means Janis doesn’t hate her. So that’s something at least.)

When Janis finishes, she leaves the bathroom, not giving Regina another glance and not saying good night. Regina finishes the rest of her nightly routine as fast as she can, a weird itching restlessness under her skin as she tries not to think about Janis and the clear signs that Regina hasn’t been forgiven yet.

After the excitement of the day, not even that lingering anxiety can keep her up. She falls into a dead sleep almost as soon as her head hits the pillow.

Regina wears her sunglasses to the kitchen. One downside no one seems to think of when designing houses with big ass windows is that you can’t escape the f*cking sun.

She’s not the first one down. Damian is sitting in one of the bar seats, slouched over the counter, hands cupping a steaming mug of coffee. Aaron is leaning against the counters across the kitchen, his own mug held close to his face. He’s staring into space, eyes bloodshot and unfocused. Cady’s at the stove, hair sticking up every which way as she sluggishly scrambles eggs.

“Morning,” Regina says as she slumps into the seat next to Damian.

Damian groans and Aaron lifts his coffee in a little salute. “Want some?”


Perks of being friends with her ex is that he knows exactly how she likes her coffee, and in a minute the perfect cup is sliding across the counter. She doesn't drink it at first, lowering her face to feel the steam.

“We have f*cking orange juice in the fridge,” Cady groans, hitting her head against the side of the fridge in frustration before letting out a pained whimper.

Damian doesn’t lift his head off the counter. “You mean I wouldn’t have to be feeling like sh*t scraped off the highway if your boyfriend had remembered what groceries we had?”

“Why is this just my fault?” Aaron protests. “Anyone else could have remembered to grab the orange juice.”

Regina sticks her hand out, pressing her palm to the center of Aaron’s face. “Shh, your fault. You bring vodka, you also bring juice.”

His voice is muffled from her hand. “I don’t think-”

She presses harder. “Shh, no talking. Give food.”

Aaron rolls his eyes but finishes helping Cady cook. Soon enough, they’re all hunched over plates of toast and eggs. No one is talking, preferring to nurse their hangovers in silence.

Karen bounds into the kitchen as Regina is scooping the last of her eggs off her plate.

“Good morning!”

The cheerfulness is met with a chorus of groans, Damian going far enough to try to wave her away.

“How are you acting fine? I think you drank the most out of all of us,” Cady says.

Regina speaks up. “Karen is an alien from outer space who doesn’t get f*cking hangovers.”

The rest of the group take a while to emerge, Karen maintaining her title as the only one who woke up without a hangover.

They agree to make it a quiet day, at least until everyone’s recovered a little.


Regina, dressed for the beach and armed with a book and her headphones, opens the door to her room and almost screams. She jumps, barely managing not to drop the things she’s holding. Karen is right in the doorway, looking equally startled.

“What the f*ck?” Regina yelps.

“Sorry! I didn’t know you were coming out.” Karen shifts from foot to foot, looking more nervous than Regina thinks she’s ever seen her. “Can I talk to you?”

Regina is instantly concerned. “Of course. Come in.”

They walk to the loveseat and sit down, Regina angling her body towards Karen. “What’s wrong?”

Big brown eyes turn in her direction, looking more upset than Karen ever should be. That low, protective anger starts up in Regina’s gut.

“Is Gretchen mad at me?”

“What?” Regina is stunned. The protectiveness fizzles out as confusion sets in. Out of all the problems she expected, this was not one of them.

“Last night when we were getting ready to sleep I tried to cuddle her and she wouldn’t let me.” Karen pouts. “She always lets me hold her when we have sleepovers.”

Goddamn it, Gretchen, Regina thinks. Try not to let your gay get in the way of actually getting with your crush, maybe?

Rubbing the bridge of her nose, Regina tries to figure out how to smooth this over without alerting Karen to Gretchen’s feelings.

“Maybe she was too drunk and didn’t want to feel too confined?”

“No, Gretchen likes extra cuddles when she’s drunk.”

Of all the gay sh*t Gretchen’s done-

“I promise Gretchen isn’t mad at you. Maybe talk to her about it?”

Like the disappointment and sadness was never there, Karen smiles and bounces on her toes. She gives Regina a quick hug and wanders away. Regina isn’t sure why Karen needed Regina to think of the solution of “talk to her,” but she’s happy she could help.

Regina should have a talk with Gretchen. This is ridiculous.


Regina heads straight to Karen and Gretchen’s room. No time like the present, and at least this way she can be sure Karen won’t pop in and hear something she shouldn’t.

Gretchen looks up, dressed in her bikini top and pajama bottoms. “Oh, hi, Regina! What’s up?”

Regina does one more quick scan of the hallway before she closes the door. “What the hell is your problem?” she hisses.

Gretchen tenses and instantly looks worried, like she’s trying to figure out what Regina could be talking about. She fiddles with the small tube of moisturizing sunscreen in her hands, squeezing it tight enough that Regina’s worried it’ll burst.

“I don’t – I didn’t-” She looks up at Regina with watery eyes, panic edging into her expression.

Regina sighs. “Sorry, came in a little intense there.” It’s still hard sometimes to regulate her tone, and Gretchen can be sensitive. “Why is Karen coming to me asking if you’re mad at her?”

“I’m not mad at her.”

I know that, and you know that, but your snuggle buddy doesn’t. You apparently blew her off last night.” Regina moves further into the room, stepping around the mess of Karen’s clothes on the floor. “I can’t believe you guys cuddle at night. You act like you’re dating without all the benefits.”

Gretchen sits heavily on the bed and buries her face in her hands. Muffled, she says, “I was worried that I would make her uncomfortable. I didn’t want to, like, take advantage of her or anything.”

God, she’s so stupidly noble.

“You’re an idiot,” Regina tells her point blank. “Your crush wanted to cuddle and you said no. I told her to talk to you, so you’d better get your act together.”

“Do you think she’s going to ask if I have a crush on her? Should I tell her that I do even if she doesn’t ask? Should I tell her I don’t have a crush on her? What if she rejects me because she only likes me as a friend? Will that ruin everything? Am I going to make things awkward and awful enough that she never wants to talk to me again? I’m going to have to move to Alaska and change my name and never see any of you guys again.”

Gretchen looks pleadingly up at Regina, lip quivering as she rocks back and forth slightly.

That,” Regina says, waving a hand at all of Gretchen. “Was a lot. Take like two deep breaths.”

Once Gretchen looks a bit calmer and less like she’s going to run into the forest never to be seen again, Regina joins her on the bed. (Is this a physical contact situation? Should Regina, like, wrap an arm around her shoulders or something?) She pats Gretchen’s knee twice before pulling her hand back.

“It’s Karen, Gretchen. Do you really think anything will be ruined if you confess and she doesn’t like you back?”

Gretchen huffs, flopping back onto the bed. “No .”

“The worst that’ll happen is you being awkward around her for a little while, cause we both know she’s not going to act any differently.”

Yeah, I know.”


“I should tell her,” Gretchen pouts.

Regina laughs. “Don’t sound so disappointed.”

“I’m just scared.”

Now Regina has never been in this situation, but she figures it would be scary. Exposing yourself to that kind of vulnerability. Handing someone a soft part of you and begging them to be gentle with it. To hold you with care.

Regina shudders at the thought.

“I think you’ve got this.” Regina huffs and slaps her palms on her legs, going to stand. “Well, that’s my job done. Now it’s up to you dummies to figure yourselves out.”

As she stands, Gretchen lays a hand on her arm. Regina sits back down.

“Before you go, could we talk?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I just feel like we haven’t talked about you in a while. We’ve been talking a lot about me and my whole thing with Karen, so I wanted to check in.”

That’s kind of nice. Not that Regina thought she was being neglected or anything. Honestly, she thought things were going pretty well – it’s like they’ve been on equal footing for the first time.

“Oh, yeah sure we can talk.”

“So, like, are there any boys that you have your eye on at school?” Gretchen asks, a calculating look on her face.

Oh, that kind of talk. Regina probably should’ve seen it coming. But still, why is Gretchen even asking? It’s not like they’ve been around many people Regina could be interested in lately.

Regina sneers. “Not a chance. Gross.”

Gretchen’s smile freezes on her face for a moment, blink-and-you-miss-it quick. “And why’s that?”

Regina rolls her eyes, getting off the bed to mess with a little picture frame sitting on top of the dresser. “Gretchen, you know all the boys at school are stupid. It’s not like it’s a secret. I’m so far out of their leagues I might as well be on the moon.”

“That’s true, I guess,” Gretchen says with a smile. “What about Shane?”

“He’s a friend. And after seeing my mom fawn over him before Spring Fling, there’s no way I’m dating him.”

“Fair.” Gretchen pauses. “So there’s no one you have a crush on?”

That weird moment from school, from sitting in class and feeling the strange warmth as she looked at Janis’ outfit pops into Regina’s head. But that wasn’t a crush. Regina is straight and she’s just very dedicated to getting Janis to like her again. As a friend.

Regina narrows her eyes and shakes her head. “Again, no.”

Why is she pushing this?

“Ugh, you’re so boring,” Gretchen jokes.

Regina darts to the head of the bed, grabbing a pillow and smacking Gretchen with it. Gretchen squeals and tries to fight Regina’s onslaught off.

“How dare you! I could never be boring.”

“Okay, okay! I take it back, stop hitting me,” Gretchen gasps through her laughter.

Regina lets up on her assault and puts the pillow down. Heading to the door, she pauses with her hand on the doorknob.



“Tell her. Don’t miss your chance.” One more reminder can’t hurt.

“I won’t.”

Regina nods once and slips out of the room.


It’s a quiet day at the lake shore for the most part, everyone a bit too hungover for the same rambunctious activities from the day before.

Gretchen and Damian compete against Aaron and Janis in a sandcastle building contest. It mostly devolves into a ‘who can find enough sand to actually build a sandcastle’ contest, as the beach is mostly rocks and scrub brush mixed in with the sand. Regina and Karen get roped into judging. They’re brought face to face with the saddest castles Regina has ever seen.

“I thought you were supposed to be good at art,” she can’t help but say as she studies Aaron and Janis’s lopsided creation.

It’s mostly trash, honestly, a plastic cup that looks like it’s spent the last fifty years submerged in the muck of the lake providing the central structure that the rest of the castle is built upon. Strands of algae, bits of broken plastic cutlery, and small twigs act as embellishment for the rocky sand they’ve heaped into the vague idea of a sandcastle.

Janis sputters indignantly. “I am.”

Looking from the sandcastle to Janis and back again, Regina sniffs, a small smile at the edge of her mouth. “Sure you are.”

Janis looks insanely insulted. A flush starts spreading against the base of her neck. Regina watches for the small vein that starts to pulse in neck when Janis is truly angry. When it doesn’t appear, Regina knows Janis is fine, is playing into the charade they’ve started.

She can tease her some more. “Pretty sure Stitch made a better sandcastle than this and he just had a leaf.”

“It’s a,” Janis pauses to think. “It’s a social commentary on the wastefulness of capitalism.”

She gained confidence as she continued speaking, almost sounding like she believed herself by the time she reached the end of her statement.

“You totally just pulled that out of your ass.”

Janis throws her hands up. “That’s half of what art is!”

Regina narrows her eyes at Janis. Janis looks back at her, face pulled into a faux innocent look.

“I’ll have to talk to my fellow judge about the winner of this challenge. You attempts at creating meaning for this-” She should be nice, right? She shouldn’t call it a steaming pile of sh*t to Janis’ face? “For this, um, pile is noted and will be discussed.”

“I like our pile,” Aaron says sadly, reminding Regina that it’s not just Janis here.

“May the best castle win,” is all Regina says as she goes to join Karen who’s looking at Gretchen and Damian’s castle.

It takes a surprising amount of discussion to decide who wins. Mostly because both of the castles are so bad that it takes a bit to decide which one is worse. They crown Gretchen and Damian the winners in the end.

“This was rigged!” Aaron protests. “We had a disadvantage because I’m Regina’s ex and Janis is her-” he pauses, trying to find some way to describe Janis and her relationship to Regina. Regina would accept ex-best friend or ex-nemesis, those seem like pretty accurate terms. What Aaron comes out with is much less helpful. “-her Janis. Of course she’d choose the other team!”

Her Janis. It makes Regina feel funny. Makes her stomach twist. It feels right and wrong all at once and Regina tries to ignore the weirdness of it as best she can.

“You’re being dramatic,” she says. “It’s not like ‘winner’ is a particularly prestigious title here. Don’t be a sore loser because your pile of dirt lost.”

In an act of supreme maturity, Aaron sticks his tongue out at her. Regina is better than that. She flips him off instead.


Karen makes everyone lunch, tugging a grill out of the shed. She flips burgers and grills hot dogs, looking like a better version of a grill dad. The look apparently does it for Gretchen, who spends most of her time staring in awe at Karen while gripping Regina’s wrist almost tight enough to hurt.

Regina just lets her have her little gay panic and focuses on reading her book. It’s a bit of a balancing act, not having one of her hands available. She makes it work.

“Do you see her?” Gretchen asks, nails pricking at Regina’s skin.

Regina doesn’t look away from her book. “Yup. She sure is grilling.”

Gretchen needs to talk to Karen about this crush. Regina needs to be put out of her misery here.

“Go compliment her or something, she’ll like that.” And Regina will get her hand back.

“You’re so smart. Okay, I’ll be right back.”

What is with Gretchen and Karen and needing Regina to tell them to do obvious stuff?

Gretchen bounces away, running a hand down Karen’s arm as she gets close. Regina huffs out a laugh and shakes out her free hand. As she watches them from the corner of her eye, Regina sees Karen tangle her fingers with Gretchen’s for a second before she pulls away to do something at the grill. Gretchen has nothing to worry about and they’re both ridiculous.

After lunch, everyone starts to feel a bit better. The rest of the day goes by in a blur of tanning, pool loungers rocked slowly by the peaceful water, and in Aaron and Damian’s case, an ill-advised canoe adventure.


That night, they decide to watch a movie instead of going to the fire pit again. The hard part is deciding what movie to watch.

“Let’s watch a horror movie,” Damian suggests after almost ten minutes of discussion.

Regina has removed herself from the discussion for the most part, reclining on the couch scrolling through her phone while everyone argues. Damian’s suggestion catches her attention, though, and she sits forward. Regina doesn’t like horror movies. (Why do people enjoy getting scared for fun? Are they okay?)

“Can’t we just watch a romcom or something?” Regina suggests, Aaron and Karen nodding in agreement, even though Aaron doesn’t look particularly excited about the idea of a romcom.

“Boring,” Janis dismisses. “I’m good with a horror movie.”

Regina notices Gretchen wrapping an arm around Karen’s shoulder and whispering something in her ear that makes the other girl brighten. So there goes one of the other scary movie haters.

The bad thing about being reformed and not bullying her friends anymore is that now Gretchen regularly stands up to her. Gretchen likes horror movies, but she knows Regina doesn’t. Damn democracy and the negative view of dictatorships. She would’ve been able to fix this so easily. Growing and learning as a person sucks.

“We could make it fun,” Gretchen suggests, shrugging at Regina. “Do like a drinking game or something?”

The suggestion is met with nods all around, Aaron looking at Cady’s nod before shrugging in defeat. (God, why are all her friends so whipped?) Looks like Regina is outnumbered. Well at least if Regina’s drunk she probably won’t care as much. There’s a lull as people try to think of what movie to watch.

“We could watch that Evil Dead remake?” Janis says.

“God, no,” Regina says after taking a minute to google it.

“What? Big bad Regina can’t handle something scary?” Janis asks in a mocking baby voice, turning to her.

Regina tosses her hair. “Oh, sorry for not wanting to watch a movie about demons and a cabin in the middle of the woods while we’re in a cabin in the middle of the woods!”

Gretchen and Cady start to look uneasy too, and Regina gets a good feeling that she might be able to turn the tide against watching a horror movie.

“We’ve got our own reformed slasher bad guy,” Janis says, tilting her head towards Regina with a mean-edged smile. “What are the chances of two being out here?”

Regina gives Janis an unimpressed look. Janis just raises her eyebrows like she’s daring Regina to protest. Gretchen and Cady snort at the joke, which means Regina’s also lost what little bit of support against this movie that she had.

Regina can’t look weak in front of everyone. Can’t be the only one holding out against something as stupid as a horror movie. She’s not scared of them (she is). She just doesn’t get the appeal.

She can’t lose face when she’s still trying to get it back.

“Ugh, fine. Let’s just watch the stupid movie.”

But Regina George doesn’t take teasing lying down. Janis should know that by now.

It’s easy enough to get her revenge.

About halfway through the movie, Regina creeps out of the room under the pretense of going to grab another White Claw. She loiters until she can hear the movie’s soundtrack building in intensity. Sneaking silently back into the living room, she positions herself right behind Janis. When the music reaches a crescendo, everyone in the room tense and staring at the screen, she gets close to Janis’ ear and whispers, “Boo!”

Janis screams like she’s being murdered, jumping about a foot off the couch and sending popcorn everywhere. Regina cackles as screams echo from every corner of the room as Janis’ outburst startles everyone. She has to grab onto the back of her couch so she doesn't collapse to the floor as she laughs, ending up half-crouched as she recovers. f*ck , that was even better than Regina thought it would be.

Janis whirls on her, looking furious with an embarrassed blush spreading across her face. “What the f*ck, George!”

“Aw,” Regina says, fake pouting. “Little Janis can’t handle something scary?”

The callback to her tease from earlier has Janis’ mouth falling open. “I – you – ”

Regina, having gotten her laughter under control, stands and plants her hands on the back of the couch, leaning towards Janis. Their faces are close, but in this position the height difference is even more obvious than usual, Regina having to look down her nose at Janis. It makes the situation all the better. She tilts her head.

“What? Can’t take a little teasing?” She lets a mocking smile settle on her face. Janis doesn’t exactly look primed to answer her, angry flush still on her face and her pupils wide as she stares. Regina winks and heads back to her seat. “Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.”

No one else makes any comments, but Regina can feel their gazes skipping between her and Janis. After a few seconds of both Regina and Janis staring intently at the tv, everyone else follows their lead and goes back to watching the movie.

The high from her prank lasts the rest of the night, to the point where she barely minds watching the rest of the movie. She even sticks around for the second one, though that might be more the alcohol talking as the scary movie drinking game gets all of them drunk.

Regina taps out after the second movie, leaving the horror lovers to their marathon.

Sunday morning finds them all gathered in the living room in various states of disarray. Turns out two straight days of hangovers doesn’t feel great. (Regina still wouldn’t trade it for anything. This is the freest she’s felt with her friends maybe ever. Gross. She’s so emotional when she’s hungover.)

Damian and Karen are stretched out along one couch, Damian dramatically leaning against one arm while Karen lays face down on the pillow at the opposite end (she’s not hungover, just sleepy). Cady and Aaron are curled in the loveseat, quietly talking as they sip their coffees. Gretchen’s on the same couch as Regina. They match, both of them wearing their sunglasses as they curl around pillows.

“How about something chill for the last day?” Aaron asks.

“I’m good with that,” Damian says, arm thrown over his eyes to block out the sun. “I think I’m still drunk. I’m not looking for any excitement.”

Absently, Regina wonders how late everyone stayed up. She doesn’t regret going to bed – her hangover probably leagues better than everyone else’s.

“There’s a hiking trail nearby, like right across the street,” Gretchen says. “It’s a pretty easy walk, and the views are nice.”

Cady perks up, sitting up from where she’s been leaning against Aaron. “I love that idea. Can we, please?”

Behind her glasses, Regina rolls her eyes. Of course Cady, little miss morning nature walk, would want to go on a hike. She looks around for another person to look as disinterested as Regina feels. No one seems to have any problem with the idea. Most of them almost look excited about the idea.

(Wait, do all her friends enjoy hiking? What the hell?)

“I wouldn’t mind going on a hike,” Aaron agrees.

Regina has to put a stop to this.

“It’s walking in a forest. How is that fun?” Regina asks. “Aren’t there other ‘chill’ activities we could do?”

“A walk could be good – I’d probably sweat out the rest of the alcohol.”

No, Damian, Regina wants to plead. You were supposed to be on my side.

She really thought his hangover would be bad enough to make him not want to go.

“I like hiking,” Karen says. “As long as we don’t see any tigers.”

Gretchen rushes to assure her that there are no wild tigers hiding in the forest. It takes longer than it should to get Karen to believe her.

So maybe Regina’s the only one who doesn’t want to participate. She believes in her power of persuasion, though. She should be able to convince them to do something else. Her failure last night with the horror movie was an outlier. It’ll work out this time.

“Seriously? Hiking?” Regina asks. There are so many other good activities they could be doing instead of traipsing through the forest. Like tanning. Or playing soccer on the beach. Or getting a lobotomy from Karen. Just so many options. “I wouldn’t say a walk through the forest is my idea of a relaxing time. There are bugs, and it’ll be all sweaty. Isn’t the point of a chill day to actually do something chill?”

“It’ll be fun, Regina. There’s even a waterfall at the end of the trail where we can hang out, have lunch, do some swimming,” Gretchen pleads.

While a waterfall does sound nice, “How long is this walk?”

Gretchen winces. “It’s like two hours or so? No longer than three, promise.”

“You’re all fine with walking for that long?”

Regina hopes someone changes their mind at hearing the time commitment. They can always do something else, go for ice cream. Take the canoe out onto the lake. Sink the canoe in the lake. Regina has so many ideas of activities that she would enjoy more than hiking.

“It’s a hike, Regina,” Aaron says flatly. “Kind of comes with the territory.”

Janis wanders into the living room, always the last to wake up. She stretches, a flash of her stomach revealed as her arms arch over her head. She absently scratches at the exposed skin as she looks around the room. Regina looks away from her.

“So, what’s the plan for today?”

“We were thinking about going hiking,” Cady says.

Janis perks up. “Hiking? Sounds fun.”

Aaron rolls his eyes. “I mean, it would be if we could get R-”

“We can go hiking,” Regina cuts in quickly. “If everyone else wants to go it’s fine.”

She doesn’t want to ruin everyone’s day if she’s the only one not into the idea. She can deal with a couple hours traipsing through the forest. Out of the corner of her eye, Regina sees Gretchen roll her eyes and mouth “of course.” Regina frowns. What is up with that reaction? She’s agreeing to the stupid hike, Gretchen should be happy.

Before she can, Cady speaks up. “Do we want to go now or wait? If we time it right, we can have lunch at the waterfall and hang out there for a little while.”

“Yeah, if we left now it’d be perfect,” Gretchen says.

“Meet in twenty?” Aaron asks.

Everyone agrees and disperses to their rooms.

Regina pulls on the closest approximation to hiking clothes she has over her bathing suit. She’s just happy she brought tennis shoes out of the misguided idea that she’d run in the mornings. She fills her water bottle in the kitchen as she waits for everyone else to come down. She’s not going to be the first one at the trail. It would give the impression that she’s looking forward to this, which is factually incorrect.

Gretchen and Karen are the next ones ready and they head out, Regina trailing behind the other two. She catches them trading shy grins and smiles to herself. It looks like Gretchen might’ve put on her big girl pants and actually said something.

Gretchen heads back to the house so she can show everyone else where the trail is. As they wait, Regina sidles up to Karen.

So did you talk to Gretchen about thinking she was mad at you?” she asks innocently.

Karen turns to face her, practically glowing. She bounces up onto her toes and looks around as though someone is going to overhear.

“She kissed me!” she says, clapping. “She told me that she likes me.”

Internally, Regina is rejoicing. She can finally be done with watching them pine. She’s free.

And it’s nice that her friends are happy. Because that’s what matters most.

“And what did you say?” Regina asks, not stopping her wide smile.

Karen reaches up to toy with her hair, looking bashful. “I like her too. We’re gonna go on a date when we get back home.”

“I’m really happy for you guys,” Regina says, feeling like a proud mother.

Gretchen returns with Cady and Aaron before they can continue their conversation. Regina takes a step back so she’s standing slightly behind Karen, catching Gretchen’s eye and giving her a thumbs up. It makes Gretchen blush.

Gretchen goes back to the house, returning with Damian.

“Janis is almost here, she said to go on and she’ll catch up,” Damian says. “She doesn’t want to keep anyone waiting.”

“I told her where the trail starts, too, so she’ll be able to find us pretty easily,” Gretchen chimes in.

Everyone shrugs and takes off. The path is clearly defined and wide enough for two people to walk side by side. About two minutes in, the laces to one of Regina’s sneakers starts to come untied.

Pulling off to the side of the path, Regina kneels down to tie her shoe. As she finishes, she looks up, suddenly faced with Janis hiking by. She’s wearing a tank top with the sides cut out, the douchey gym rat style that looks surprisingly good on her. (Honestly, Regina didn’t think it was possible for anyone to pull those shirts off.) But that’s not what has Regina’s attention.

“Hey, wait a second,” Regina says, wincing in apology when Janis jumps, not having noticed her. Regina motions her over.

Janis walks closer. “What’s up?”

Instead of answering, Regina reaches out and grabs Janis, turning her so Regina can see her side.

“What the-”

“You have a tattoo,” Regina marvels, staring at the delicate art along Janis’ ribs. It must be new – Regina would have noticed it before, or one of their friends would have mentioned it.

Almost without thought she brings her hand up and runs her fingers along the edges of the tattoo. The skin twitches underneath her touch. Janis’ skin is soft, warm.

“Yeah, I-” Janis’ voice comes out a bit strangled and she has to clear her throat. “I got it a couple weeks ago.”

So that’s why she missed the last couple pool parties at Gretchen’s house. Regina had felt bad because she thought her presence had kept Janis away when all along it had been the delicate geometric design stretched across her ribs.

Regina’s voice is quiet. “Well, it looks good.”

Regina looks up. She meets Janis’ eyes, wide and dark in the shade of the trees. There’s an emotion in her gaze that Regina has never seen on her face before. (That doesn’t mean it’s unfamiliar. She’s seen the same urge written across the face of so countless boys in the school halls. Only this time it doesn't make her feel gross, like she needs to take a shower.) Janis is – Regina starts to think but, No, that would be ridiculous. Janis wouldn’t Janis couldn’t –

She’s imagining things.

Regina suddenly becomes hyper aware of how she’s positioned. Still kneeling on the ground, one of her hands is tucked into Janis’ shirt, fingers still brushing her ribs along the tattoo and inches from the wide band of her sports bra. The other, for balance, rests against the back of Janis’ thigh, her fingers gripping the muscle to stay upright.

She’s probably making Janis uncomfortable. That’s it. Nothing more, just Regina being too familiar and not thinking about how Janis might react. Stupid, she berates herself.

“Sorry,” she says, standing and brushing dirt off of herself. “Shouldn’t have manhandled you like that.”

“You’re fine,” Janis’ voice is quiet. “We should – let’s go catch up with the group.”

Regina nods repeatedly, feeling like a bobble head. “Yeah, good idea. I don’t want to spend any more time hiking than I have to.”

Despite having to hike to get to it, the waterfall is surprisingly pleasant. It’s almost like a hidden grove, the trail emerging into a clearing rimmed with bushes and lush trees. There’s a small pool at the base of the waterfall, clear enough to see to the bottom. The waterfall itself isn’t too high, reaching a couple of feet above Regina’s head. It’s pretty rocky, smooth stone sloping on either side, small streams of water running down them.

Regina sits on a flat bit of grass near the edge of the pool, thankful that the hike is over. (She refuses to think about the return trip right now.)

They eat the food Cady and Karen packed for everyone, a huge spread of sandwiches, fruit, and other snacks, chatting and laughing as they eat. After they’ve eaten, everyone decides to cool off in the water.

Aaron, somehow, discovers that one side of the waterfall is sloped enough to act almost as a water slide. Regina, who has found herself a little shelf in the water where she can sit and relax, rolls her eyes as Aaron and Karen take turns sliding down the rocks. She is not carrying anyone back to the house because they got injured being stupid. (She talks a big game, but every time one of them gets too close to the edge, she has to stop herself from darting forward to catch them.)

Janis walks past where Regina is lounging, heading deeper into the pool towards where Damian and Cady are talking. She slips, arms flailing as she tries to catch her balance.

Hyper-aware as she is, Regina is half out of her seat before she even realizes what she’s doing.

“Careful,” Regina cautions, hands shooting up to catch Janis and coming to rest at her hips.

(She thinks about how warm Janis is under her palms, skin soft and damp from being in the water. Regina ignores the urge to grab harder, pull Janis closer. Wonders what it means to want these things – does she want Janis to forgive her this bad? Bad enough that she’ll pull her close, that she doesn’t want to be apart from her?)

“Thanks,” Janis says quietly. “The rocks are slippery.”

Regina matches her tone. “You’re telling me. I almost dunked myself because I moved too quickly earlier.”

“Yeah. Uh, thanks again.” Janis pulls away from Regina, nodding at her as she walks away.

Regina clenches her fists and releases them, trying to push away the feeling of Janis against her. Taking a moment to gather herself, she retreats back to her seat. She hates that things with Janis are weird. All Regina wants is for there not to be this odd tension between them.

The rest of the time at the waterfall is spent avoiding Janis. The return hike is much the same, though Regina is mostly focused on getting back to the house without complaining too much, so Janis doesn’t get a ton of her attention anyways.


They take a little bit of time to rest, but soon enough everyone is working to pack, load the cars, and clean up the house. By the time everything is done, it’s getting close to dinner time. Cady and Damian make a quick spaghetti, a support team made up of Regina and Gretchen washing dishes as they go so there’s less cleanup to do after the meal.

All too soon, there’s nothing left for them to clean, nothing keeping them at the lake house. They all head to the cars, the atmosphere almost somber as they pile in.

“Remember,” Regina says as she backs out of the driveway. “You get three stops on the way home. Use them wisely. I refuse to be driving all night because you guys need to stop every ten minutes.”

“Yes, mom,” her passengers all say at the same time. They break out into giggles a moment later.

Regina rolls her eyes, doing her best to stop her smile from showing on her face.

The weekend was good, Regina decides later as she peeks in the rearview mirror at Gretchen and Karen napping together. Beyond everything that they did. The time with them, being surrounded by her friends constantly, stopped the familiar doubt from creeping in. Stopped the little voice that tells her that her friends hate her because of what she’s done. It’s hard for the negativity to take root when her friends are right there, wanting her to be with them.

It’s easier to believe in the smiles, to accept the hands that reach out for her, to not flinch away from any affection.

Easy to accept the hugs she gets as her passengers sleepily leave her car and head into their houses.

It’s around 1am by the time Regina gets home. She lays in bed, staring up at the ceiling as she tries to smother the smile that builds as she thinks back over the weekend. She has friends. They aren’t going to leave her.


Hope everyone enjoyed! Let me know what you thought :)

Until I'm Worthy - agntsanvers (2024)
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