If there's one thing Robin and Regina have never been very good at, it's restraint. Stopping before things go too far. Before they get in too deep, or out of hand.
So it's no real surprise that their "one round only" on Sunday night had become two (they'd had to shower off the sticky residue of sweat and whipped cream, and, well, combine the two of them with hot soapy water and apparently they can't keep their hands to themselves). Then there'd been another slow, lazy bout of morning sex that had curled her toes into the sheets, and her fists into the pillows, and her heart so snugly around his she'd felt almost like crying.
She'd already been tender and the condoms were beginning to chafe, so they'd gone without and sunk into each other with an intimacy that still makes her heart pound a little harder just thinking about it. She'd almost protested at the moment he'd pulled out, her orgasm only just beginning to fade as his chased it, a reckless, lovesick part of her wanting to stay joined and damn the consequences. (They'd be fine; she's being overly cautious, she knows this.)
He must have been thinking the same thing, because he'd reached down between them just long enough to jerk himself to completion low on her belly, then run the slick head of his cock back down and sunk into her again. They'd been brow-to-brow as he'd finished, so all it had taken was a tip of her chin and they'd been kissing again, reveling in the afterglow as he'd softened inside her.
How she'd thought they could keep on pretending they "weren't together" after all that was beyond her. Quite frankly, she's shocked they manage to hold it together well enough not to raise any of Henry's suspicion when he returns home in a cloud of excited rambling, dirty laundry, and bug spray.
Liam helps him schlep his things in, and it would be, quite frankly, rude not to invite him into the kitchen to sample the batch of peanut butter cookies she's just taken out of the oven—especially when she'd timed them to be warm and fresh for Henry's arrival.
Neither Henry nor Liam seem particularly surprised to see Robin in her kitchen, and Henry seems thrilled for the opportunity to introduce him to Liam.
"He's the one I was telling you about," Henry tells his uncle; Regina can't help noticing there's a particular tone to it, a particular expression. Like they're in on something.
Regina knows Henry well enough to hazard a guess at just what Henry had divulged to his uncle about Robin—no doubt his insistence that they should be more than friends. Because why stop with Grandpa when he can rope Uncle Liam into the campaign to get Mom back into the dating world, too?
"All good things, I hope," Robin says, holding a hand out to Liam in greeting.
"Nothing but," Liam assures him, taking the handshake but not without giving Robin a look of appraisal. There's something guarded in the way he tells him, "Henry's a big fan."
"It's mutual," Robin replies. "He's a wonderful kid. Gets it from his dad, I'm sure—his mum's a terror."
"Hey!" Regina protests, indignant but not at all unaware of what a tactical move the insult had been. Especially when it makes both Liam and Henry laugh—she'll gladly take a hit for the sake of cementing Daniel's importance despite his absence. Gladly, but not silently. She glares at Robin and scolds, "No more cookie for you; you're cut off."
It's not at all an innocent comment, and he knows it. If she'd meant the ones cooling on the table, she'd have used the plural; what she'd thrown at him was a threat of a very different kind. She can tell he gets the reference by the way his smug grin slips to a lopsided smirk; his hands rising in defense as he pleads, "I'm sorry, love; you're an absolute delight. Please don't cut me off; I'd be bereft."
"Yeah, these are really good," Henry says around a mouthful of peanut butter cookie, as oblivious as his uncle to the double entendre being lobbed right over his head.
"Fine," she sighs, a little overdramatically. "Cookie privileges restored."
Robin, bless him, snags a cookie off the table and takes a big bite. As he chews, Liam drops his voice and mutters, "You think she's a terror now, you should have seen her in college."
"Excuse me," Regina cuts him off. "I was going to send you home with a Ziploc full of these, but if you keep insulting me in my own home, I may change my mind."
"If they both lose cookie privileges, does that mean I get them all?" Henry wonders aloud
Robin is quick to point out that he's made his way back into Regina's good graces already, and Liam pipes up with, "She won't make good on that threat—not after I brought her all that maple candy."
It's a testament to how good the sex has been that Regina had completely forgotten about the still-unopened box of maple candy she'd stashed in the pantry on Saturday afternoon. She'd figured she'd share some of the rare treat with Robin over the weekend, but it had slipped her mind entirely.
And while she absolutely would consider denying Liam cookies if she was actually angry with him, she knows all the ribbing is in good fun. And she is, quite frankly, thrilled that Robin had managed to take what could have been a very awkward meeting and turned it into something lighthearted and silly.
So she relents, and says, "No, I suppose I won't. You're saved by maple candy. And besides, you have a long drive ahead of you; wouldn't want you to starve on the interstate."
"Isn't there lots of food on the interstate?" Henry asks, brow wrinkling; he's quickly shushed by his uncle.
"Never point out the flaw in someone else's argument if you're winning," Liam tells him, a life lesson she's not so sure she wants imparted to her son. "But your mom's right; I do have a long way to drive tonight. I should probably get on the road soon."
"Maine, right?" Robin asks, brow furrowing. Off Liam's nod, he continues, "Are you going the whole way tonight? That's a hell of a drive."
"It is, but with enough coffee, man can do anything."
Robin snorts, reaching for another cookie, and Regina offers to provide the first thermos full of iced coffee for the road. She'd just stashed a fresh pitcher of it in the fridge, and it seems the least she can do when Liam has come all this way.
He takes her up on it, ducking out to the car to retrieve his camp thermos while she busies herself with packing up a dozen cookies for him.
By the time Liam returns, Henry has begun to regale Robin with the tale of the fish guts. (Robin is feigning ignorance perfectly, making noises of disgust and pride in all the right places, as if the story is brand-new to him.)
Regina takes advantage of the distraction to quietly thank Liam for the weekend, telling him, "I'm glad you guys had that time together. It sounds like it went well."
"It did," Liam nods, unscrewing the cap on his thermos and matching his low volume to hers to keep their conversation shielded from curious ears. "He's a great kid—and it's not all from our side of the family, Robin's wrong about that."
Regina smirks, passing the pitcher of coffee his way as she confides, "Robin wants you to like him, I think. Or at least, wanted to make sure you know he's well aware of Daniel's importance in our lives."
It pleases her more than it should when Liam responds, "He seems like a good guy."
Liam Colter's opinion on who she dates has never mattered to her in the slightest, but it's nice to know that Robin has earned at least cursory approval from Daniel's brother. It feels, in some small way, like approval from Daniel by proxy.
Then Liam adds, "And Henry's clearly crazy about him," and Regina grimaces.
"He didn't talk about him the whole time, did he?"
"Not the whole time, no." His expression shifts then, goes knowing and a bit teasing as he tells her, "He did tell me he thinks the two of you should date. He says you're both crazy about each other but for some reason, you're too dumb to just go out already."
Regina rolls her eyes, lips curving as she shakes her head. "So he's said—to Robin, to me, to my dad, probably the mailman… At this point, I'm expecting him to take out an ad in the paper one of these days."
"Sounds like he's on to something," Liam teases, dropping his voice to just above a whisper as he teases, "Assuming he was your overnight date."
Regina feels her cheeks heat slightly, glad her back is to Henry and Robin as she confirms quietly, "He was. But you understand now why I didn't want Henry to know? I don't want to get his hopes up; we're still feeling things out."
"You don't want him to get hurt if it doesn't work out."
Liam sucks in a breath, screws the cap back onto his freshly-filled thermos, and tells her, "My lips are sealed."
"Your lips are headed back to Maine," Regina points out, holding out the Ziploc full of cookies for him. "So I'm not too worried about them."
"Is that my cue to leave?" Liam asks, grasping the bag of cookies in one hand, lifting the thermos with the other.
"You should get on the road," she nods. "Not that you're unwelcome here, but it is a long drive. You'll stop if you get too tired?"
She has a deep-seated concern for the Colter men and poor driving conditions; regardless of her strained relationship with Liam, she doesn't want to have the mental image of him wrapped around a telephone pole or skidded off the road to serve as a matched set with his brother.
"I promise," he tells her, no doubt thinking something along the same lines.
And then he's saying his goodbyes to Henry, along with a promise that they'll do another weekend together soon—something Henry thinks is a great idea. Regina only hopes that Liam won't disappear into the wind on them again. He gives a cordial farewell to Robin and a slightly warmer one to Regina—and then he's off, and it's just the three of them again. Comfortable. Familiar.
Her heart starts tripping all over itself at the sight of Robin listening to all of Henry's stories with genuine interest, and amusement, and encouragement. The sight of them snickering as they each grab another cookie while they think she's distracted by cleaning up the kitchen. She blames all the sex—it's impossible to cram that much emotion, and contact, and mind-blowing pleasure into such a short amount of time and not get all stupid over a man.
And she feels stupid—not dumb, not like that. Just… silly. Besotted. Smitten.
Foolish, but in the absolute best way.
She brings them twin glasses of milk to wash down their cookies, her own glass full of iced coffee as she settles at the table with them. (The pitcher is nearly empty now, but she has all day to make another.)
Henry slumps back into his chair with a satisfied sigh, looking worn out but happy.
He's also absolutely filthy; she should have made him wash his hands before he ate those cookies. But she's never been happier to see him home and happy and grinning, and she's been feeling all sex-addled and complacent, so she lets it slide.
Especially when he looks at her with one of his wonderful smiles and asks, "Did you miss me? What did you do all weekend without me?"
Her stomach gives the smallest of twists—a knee-jerk flush of guilt fighting its way through her floaty feelings before she can stop it. But she hadn't done anything wrong, nothing wrong at all. So she rallies, and smiles, and tells him, "I did miss you. Luckily, I had Robin next door to keep me company."
Henry looks pleased at that, swinging his gaze to Robin and asking, "You guys hung out?"
Before Robin gets the chance to tell him he'd practically moved in, Regina answers, "A little, yeah," hoping her expression conveys to Robin what she wants the Henry-safe version of the truth to be. They'd been too busy swallowing each other's tongues earlier to come up with an agreed-upon G-rated version of their weekend.
"Had to stop by and make sure she didn't get lonely, yeah?" Robin supplies gamely, and Regina relaxes enough to reach for her coffee.
"What'd you guys do?" her son wonders.
Robin glances at her, their eyes locking over the rim of her glass as she takes a sip. She realizes a moment too late that he looks far too innocent, shoulders shrugging as he answers, "Bit of gardening."
Regina sucks in a breath—or tries to anyway, but she'd been mid-swallow, so she ends up coughing, narrowly avoiding a movie-eqsue spit-take but still managing to get coffee up her nose. She coughs and sputters and then croaks, "Sorry. Wrong pipe," when Henry looks at her like she has two heads.
Regina isn't a blusher, but she's fairly certain the one head she does have is flushed and pink-cheeked. Robin just looks smug, his expression clearly reading that Two can play at that game. Bastard.
Thankfully, Henry isn't at all in on that particular joke, so he just shakes his head and tells them, "You guys are weird."
And that's that.
They finish their cookies, and she sends Henry up to shower off his camping trip with promises of pizza for dinner. She should make him something home-cooked after a weekend of camp food, but he'd wanted pepperoni, so pepperoni he'll have.
When he's out of sight, she glares at Robin and hisses that he can't make jokes like that in front of Henry—to which he responds with a perfectly reasonable, "Why not? He doesn't know what we're talking about. And you threatened to withhold sex, in front of both him and his uncle."
"That was different; there were cookies on the table right in front of them. There was no way they'd know what that meant."
"And Henry would know that by 'gardening' I mean plowing his mum?"
He's got her there, so Regina just scowls for half a second longer and then smirks (his comment had been funny, objectively—or would have been if it hadn't been mortifying, anyway), and lets it go.
She does order him to bring Henry's bag to the laundry room as penance.
He does as asked, but not without inquiring as to what penance she will be paying for double entendres in front of the child.
She shrugs, asking him to name his price, and they end up pressed against the open washing machine while the water runs upstairs, indulging in a thirty second snog that rapidly devolves into a quickie. She blames Robin—he murmurs something against her lips about how they only have two more rooms to check off their fuck-in-all-the-rooms list (they'd taken the whipped cream into the guest room last night, giggling all the while, for the express purpose of "a change of scenery"), and they happen to be standing in one of them. She bites her lip, hesitating only as long as it takes for him to fill his hands with the curve of her ass, his tongue doing this thing behind her right ear that he'd discovered last night. After that, it's all frantic hands and breathless kisses, and short, sharp thrusts from behind, her leggings rucked down her thighs, shaky fingers rubbing her own clit as one of his hands grips her hip and the other muffles the way she moans at each smack of his hips against her ass.
It's illicit and hot, and over in minutes, the thrill of it pushing them both to the edge faster than usual.
She bites his palm to keep from crying out when she comes, her knees buckling, hot skin pressing hard to the cool metal of the washer as Robin grunts one final thrust and spills into her.
Her thighs feel like jello as his lips press a line of soft kisses up the back of her neck, his breath warm against her skin as he pants heavily.
The guilt is almost instant—and very unwelcome after a weekend spent without it.
They should not be fucking with Henry in the house. They should not be fucking in the laundry room with the door open with Henry in the house.
Even if the shower is still running upstairs.
Regina bites her lip and sends a hand back to give him a gentle push; they need to get their pants back on properly. Robin is still buried deep inside her, but he's starting to go soft—she can feel it as he pulls out, a wet dribble running down the top of her thigh in his wake. They'd skipped the condom again.
She tells herself it's fine, reminds herself that her IUD is good for several more weeks, at least. One condom-free romp is perfectly safe.
Robin tugs his jeans up and fastens his belt; Regina reaches for the roll of paper towels she keeps in here to mop up the occasional detergent spill and rips off a piece, using it to wipe at the cum leaking down the tops of her thighs, then leaving it unceremoniously tucked there as she yanks her leggings back up. That should hold her until she gets to the powder room; she's not sure how she'd explain away the sudden wardrobe change to Henry if she managed to get a wet spot on her leggings.
She doesn't realize she hasn't looked at him since they finished until he lets out a heavy breath and curls his fingers around her elbow gently, asking, "Should I be apologizing? I didn't mean to finish inside you like that—it snuck up on me a bit."
"It's not that," she dismisses. "I can go clean up in a minute; it's fine."
"If it helps, we've had so much sex this weekend, I'm probably firing blanks."
He says it with a smile and a duck of his head that lets her know he's meant to make her chuckle—and it works. She laughs softly, and nods, and Robin coaxes, "Tell me what's bothering you, love."
"We just… shouldn't have done this."
He turns her to face him then, fully, eyes full of concern and arms slipping around her waist as he asks, "Did I push you? Because I thought that was mutually agreed-upon…"
She shakes her head and manages a smile, inisiting, "No, it was—and it was great. Just… Henry."
Robin glances up at the ceiling, and shrugs. "Water's still running."
"I know, but we could've at least shut the door," she winces, and Robin glances over as if he's only just now realized they hadn't.
He laughs, and nods, tells her, "Yeah, I suppose we could've done that."
Then he leans into her again, stealing one last kiss, this one soft and mollifying and sweet.
Their noses bump afterward, and she feels another fizzy surge of that too-tender affection for him rising up and washing away the last dregs of her guilt. Her lips press to his, whisper-soft, before he murmurs, "Go clean up; I'll start the laundry. And I promise not to follow you into the powder room to complete the set."
Regina snorts out a little laugh, shaking her head and pulling back, promising, "Another time. When there aren't children awake upstairs."
"I'll hold you to that," Robin grins, not letting go of her hand until their fingertips slide apart, and then he watches her go.
While she's still in earshot, she hollers back to him, "Don't turn anything blue!"
Regina wouldn't go so far as to say she regrets the amount of sex she'd had this weekend, but when Tuesday morning rolls around and she has to leave the comfort of home for the bustle of the office, she can't help but be distinctly aware that she's a bit, well, sore.
That laundry room quickie had been rough in all the right ways at the time, but she's feeling it this morning. She'd opted for snug slacks and a blazer today, a little bit of armor for when she inevitably has to face Sidney Glass after shutting her door on his temper so she could get back to a date with another man.
But she's hyper aware of the way the seam brushes against her when she moves, and when she refills her coffee in the break room and moves to join Mal at the table, she lets out a tight little grunt as she sits. She doesn't mean to, but she's still very aware of everything below the belt.
Mal smirks, and says, "No need to ask how your weekend was."
Regina's pretty sure her ears turn red; she's very glad her hair is down today. She feigns innocence and asks, "Excuse me?"
Mal looks her up and down, ends back at her lap pointedly and declares, "You have that glow—and don't tell me I'm wrong again. You got fucked—and fucked well."
Regina lets out a helpless laugh, because, well, understatement. She chances a quick glance into the hallway to make sure there's nobody within earshot, and drops her voice anyway to confide, "I've never had so much sex in my life."
"Nobody from around here, I hope?" Mal grimaces, turning her head slightly as if to follow Regina's gaze.
"God, no," Regina confirms. "Definitely not. It was… Robin."
One of Mal's perfectly sculpted brows lifts, her voice deepening with interest as she murmurs, "Robin. The neighbor?"
She isn't grinning like an idiotic schoolgirl just at the mention of him. She's not. She's smirking. Smugly. About all the sex they had.
Meanwhile, Mal is asking, "The one who came here to fix your car?"
"Mm," she hums appreciatively, leaning back in her chair and giving Regina an appraising once over before telling her, "God, I think I'm actually jealous of you."
"You should be," Regina quips, glad for an opportunity to gossip in the breakroom about something that isn't woefully depressing. It may not be at all work appropriate, but with Kathryn gone, Mal is the best friend she has left in the office, so she throws decorum to the wind and tells her, "It was fantastic. I'm fairly certain I forgot my own name at one point."
Mal snorts at that, nodding her approval and declaring, "Good. You needed a good rattle. You've been too tightly wound all summer."
"I really have," Regina agrees, sipping her coffee and adding, "But I'm thoroughly unwound now; I don't think you could wind me up today if you tried."
"I was worried you'd come in telling me Sidney made good on his offer to 'keep you company'," Mal grimaces, lifting her own mug to her lips for a deep gulp, as if she needs the bitter taste to wash the words from her mouth.
"Oh, he attempted," Regina tells her. "He dropped by on Saturday night and tried to convince me again, but I had… other company."
"Oh." Mal sits forward at that, the idea of Sidney stumbling onto her date with Robin clearly piquing her interest. "I bet that went over well."
Now Regina's the one grimacing, confiding, "Yeah, he wasn't pleased."
"Please tell me he caught you naked and swinging from the chandeliers?" Mal muses, looking as though the idea of Sidney having to endure the sight of her thoroughly enjoying the attentions of another man gives her great satisfaction. "He deserves it, the way he's been sniffing after you all summer."
Regina has to disappoint: "He did not. He interrupted dinner; we had a very tense conversation in my doorway, and he caught a glimpse of a fully clothed Robin over my shoulder when he came to see if I needed him to intervene, but that's it."
"Shame," Mal murmurs before narrowing her eyes. "You're still wincing from Saturday?"
"Ah... no. He, um…" Regina feels her cheeks heat again, and reminds herself there's no need. She's an adult, she's allowed, and Mal is clearly interested in the hot gossip. "He spent the weekend. Henry was camping."
Mal's chuckle in response is low, and knowing, and Regina can't say she's entirely surprised when she's asked, "How many times?"
She winces again, admitting, "I… sort of lost count."
Mal's laugh is so joyful and indulgent that Regina can't help but snicker along—right up until the moment Sidney walks into the room, the storm cloud of his resentment hovering overhead and sucking all the mirth out of the air immediately.
His words coming rushing back to her—selfish, manipulative, cockteasing little bitch— and Regina feels a flush race up the back of her neck that she hopes doesn't show on her face. (She also hopes desperately that he hadn't heard any of the conversation they were having before his arrival.)
"Don't you two have work to do?" Sidney questions, heading for the coffee pot that Regina only just now realizes she'd left nearly empty.
"We're allowed a break," Mal shrugs, just as Sidney reaches for the pot and has the same realization Regina just had.
He returns it with a clatter, popping the top open and plucking out the used filter as he asks, "Would it kill both of you to brew a new pot after you finished this one?"
Regina and Mal exchange glances, and Regina decides to swallow a little bit of pride for the sake of professionalism, keeping her voice perfectly cordial as she says, "Everyone knows you make the best coffee, Sidney. Who are we to deny the rest of the office a proper brew?"
"Save it," he mutters, reaching for the bag of coffee grounds in the upper cabinets.
They're still on the seething anger, then (not that she'd expected better, the way things had gone over the weekend).
Regina sighs, and tells him, "Look, I didn't realize how little was left after I refilled, we were talking. I'll make a new pot."
"Don't bother," he bites, closing the top of the pot with a snap and pushing the button to start a fresh pot brewing. Then he heads for the door, telling them, "Do us all a favor and leave some for everybody else this time."
"Do us all a favor and pull the stick out of your ass," Mal mutters so quietly that only Regina hears her; she presses her lips together tightly to keep from smirking.
Sidney turns, glowering.
Either Mal's comment was louder than she'd thought or Sidney has ears like a bat.
But he's not looking at Mal, he's looking at Regina. He gives her a once-over filled with so much hatred and disgust that it makes her skin crawl, transporting her immediately to that moment on her porch, a stand-off on either side of her front door as he'd tried to shove his way through.
For the first time, she longs for his selective amnesia when it comes to her attempts at rejection; the idea of having to work with this version of Sidney Glass has a sliver of anxiety worming its way beneath her skin.
But however uneasy he makes her; she won't cower. Her grip tightens on the handle of her mug, and she meets his gaze, lifts one brow in question.
His eyes narrow, like he's trying to decide what to say to her (she knows that look; she's used to seeing it on her mother's face). He settles on, "How was the rest of your date?"
"It was lovely, thank you," Regina replies evenly; she knows how not to rise to bait. Mother taught her that, too (and quite frankly, she's better at getting under Regina's skin than Sidney will ever be. If he hopes to truly rattle her, he's going to have to try a lot harder). "How was the concert?"
"I scalped the tickets," Sidney tells her. "No point in going without you."
"That's a shame; I'm sure it was good."
"So is not being out hundreds of dollars after being passed over for a roll with a low-rent bartender."
Regina's jaw clenches; she's getting close to running out of politeness.
She's sipping her coffee and trying to decide just how she wants to respond to that, when Mal beats her to the punch, sighing, "Well, I suppose some things are priceless."
Regina's eyes widen but she manages not to choke; Sidney glowers even harder.
"I don't know why I wasted all this time on you," he mutters, before turning tail and leaving, the coffee pot hissing and sputtering as it fills.
Mal opens her mouth to call after him, but Regina lifts a hand to stop her. "Don't. Let him have the last word, it'll make him feel better."
"Why do you have any interest in making him feel better?" Mal questions, brows rising again. "He's a fully grown man having a tantrum over a woman he isn't involved with having the audacity to date someone else. He's an ass."
"That may be," Regina agrees. "But we do still have to work together."
And she knows that Leo expects her to play ball, regardless of what happened between her and Sidney—something this weekend seems to have made infinitely harder.
Mal rolls her eyes, but relents, sinking back into her seat with a sigh of defeat. Then she glances at Regina, the corner of her mouth drawing up in a smirk.
"Lost count, huh? Lucky bitch."
Regina laughs quietly and nods, Sidney and his temper suddenly the last thing on her mind.
The rest of her day goes smoothly, relatively speaking.
She takes a few minutes on her lunch break to browse Keurig machines online. (Why take her daily coffee with a spoonful of bitter misogyny when she could have whatever brew she wants at her desk, instead?) She doesn't buy, though — before she gets a chance to, she gets distracted by her text messages.
Robin is awake and… very flirty. She barely notices the salad she's chomping down as they trade increasingly inappropriate texts until her lunch break ends. She goes back to her desk hot and bothered, but in a very, very good mood.
A mood that only lifts when the status meeting they were supposed to have (which would no doubt have been an exercise in tension and hostility with Sidney in his current mood) gets bumped to tomorrow at the last minute. Leo insists their time would be better spent catching up from the long weekend—not that anyone has much to catch up on, what with most of their clients having been on vacation, too. Regina suspects everyone is just still shaking off the dregs of vacation mode and can't be bothered to be productive.
When four o'clock rolls around, she has an empty inbox and a completed task list, and she's feeling downright chipper.
So much so that she doesn't think twice when Leo shoots her a message asking to meet him in his office in fifteen minutes and bring something to write with.
She settles into one of those big chairs next to his desk, legal pad on her lap and pen in hand. Leo sits on his throne as per usual, elbows on the armrests, fingers steepled in front of him.
He's frowning at her.
It's her first clue that maybe her smooth-sailing afternoon is about to hit some rough seas, and she finds herself rolling her pen back and forth between her fingers as she forces a smile and asks, "What did you want to talk about?"
"How are you feeling?" He asks, still staring her down. It sounds kind, but doesn't feel particularly kind.
Regina's smile falters. "I… don't know what you mean."
"The last time we spoke in here, we had some concerns about your…" Leo's eyes narrow slightly as he chooses his words, and Regina's stomach continues to sink like a stone—she remembers exactly what his concerns were the last time: her mother having convinced him she was on the brink of a breakdown. Thankfully, he settles on a more benign descriptor: "workload."
Since she knows what he's really asking, she answers the unspoken question: "I'm feeling much better. The long weekend did me a lot of good." It occurs to her that her response makes it sound like maybe Mother was right before, so she rushes to add, "I was perfectly fine before, professionally. I want to reiterate that. But the personal problems are better than they were; there's less outside stress."
"Mm." Leo says, revealing nothing, still sitting there like a statue, unmoving. And then suddenly he comes to life, sitting up a little straighter, reaching for a folder on his desk and telling her, "Good, I'm glad to hear it. I have a new account for you."
That stone in her belly turns to rubber and bounces right back up, smile blooming, genuinely this time. New accounts mean new commissions, and new commissions mean more money in Henry's college fund and maybe some cute new shoes…
"One of Kathryn's?" She asks, surprised when Leo shakes his head.
He offers her the folder and says, "New business."
Regina takes it from him and sees the brand name emblazoned across the front: SEA DEVIL COSMETICS.
Her bouncy ball starts to drop again—it's Mal's account. Friends of hers whose reputation had taken a hit when it was revealed their high end products were tested on animals; they've gone cruelty-free and are looking to relaunch, something Mal had convinced them The Blanchard Group would be ideal for. Working alongside Mal isn't a bad prospect, considering how well they've been getting along lately, but Regina was really hoping he'd be giving her a project of her own to spearhead.
"I'll be under Mal?" she asks, trying not to let a drop of disappointment bleed through.
"No, I want you as lead on this." Regina frowns, opening the folder to find an info sheet that, sure enough, reads ACCOUNT LEAD: REGINA MILLS. And right below it, CONSULTING: MALLORY FISCHER. "They need damage control, rebranding, a steady hand. Mallory is unpredictable—good for stale brands that need to spice things up. Not good for this."
"But she brought in the business; she knows the client, she knows the brand—"
"And I'm giving it to you," Leo tells her, his tone brooking no argument.
Regina scowls, glancing down at the papers in her lap again, skimming the details in front of her, the proposed plans. The legwork that Mal did that is now being passed off to Regina for no discernible good reason.
"Mallory will get you up to speed, make the necessary introductions, and then I want you steering the ship."
"Does she know about this?"
"She will. I'm meeting with her after you."
"She won't be happy," Regina mutters, flipping another page and skimming the contents. Doing some quick mental math to estimate her commissions.
"She'll adjust," Leo says, and Regina fights the urge to frown even harder. "She won't have time to sulk over Sea Devil anyway; she'll be taking over your share of TLK."
That gets Regina's attention. Her gaze snaps up to Leo's, finding his disconcertingly inscrutable as she questions, "I'm sorry—-what?"
"I want all your focus on this for the time being."
"But TLK is—" She manages to stop short before blurting lucrative, suddenly rerunning the numbers in her head trying to figure out if this promotion might actually cost her commissions. She presses her lips together, reorients and says instead, "I've been on TLK from the beginning. I've built relationships with the client reps, I've put a lot of—"
"It's not working out, Regina."
"What do you mean 'it's not working out'? My work has been exemplary."
"First of all, that's not true. Not lately." He's lost a little bit of a stony cool now, irritation flaring up on both sides. "You've been distracted, you've clearly been unwell, but to be honest, that's beside the point. I don't think I need to remind you that Sidney Glass is lead on the account, and you're on the team at his request."
Regina mouth drops open, a potent mix of anger and embarrassment rushing hot up her spine as she realizes what is actually happening here.
It doesn't get any better as Leo questions, "How would you describe your working relationship with him at the moment?"
The only way she can keep from saying, "Abysmal" is to say nothing at all.
Regina crosses an arm over her middle, presses her other fist to her mouth and fights the urge to scream.
Now that they're finally on the same fucking page, Leo's tone shifts to something a bit more mollifying. "He wants you off his team, and I could deny him that request, but to whose benefit? Do you really think the two of you make a great team right now?"
"I thought things were improving," she answers, with all the resignation of someone who knows they've lost. She made this bed, and all her attempts to smoothe over the rough edges of it have failed; they both know it.
"So did I," Leo sighs. "Clearly we were both mistaken."
"Yeah," Regina scoffs, shaking her head and closing the folder in her lap.
"It's a lateral move," he tells her. "A smaller account, but a higher percentage. You're not losing any money; you're getting more responsibility. It's the best I can do, Regina. I gave the two of you time to work it out; you couldn't. If anything, it's gotten worse. Something had to be done, and Sea Devil presented a perfect opportunity. This is best for everyone involved."
"Not everyone," Regina murmurs, thinking of this morning's good-natured coffee break and kissing any repeat performances goodbye. "Not Mal."
"Mallory is about to get a significant bump in income. I'm sure she'll recover."
"I'm sure she will," Regina mutters, and she has no doubt that it's true.
Mal will bounce back from the insult of having her own lead swiped away to resolve someone else's problems.
Regina's just not sure their newfound friendship will be able to weather it.
But it's done, and there's clearly no amount of arguing that will change it; she doesn't have a leg to stand on in the argument anyway, from the sound of things. She was told to fix the Sidney Situation without damaging their working relationship, and she couldn't, so here they are.
She goes back to her desk in an absolutely wretched mood, avoiding both Mal and Sidney as best she can. Her inbox dings with a series of emails from Leo—digital copies of all the documents in that folder, a revised compensation overview that notes her last TLK commission will be her cut from August with her new commission rate for Sea Devil starting in September, and Slack notifications that she's been added to a new project channel and removed from a current one.
He's certainly wasting no time on this transition, is he?
It's nearly five o'clock, so when she sees Mal headed for Leo's office, she takes the coward's way out and bails early. She'll talk to her—she will—just… tomorrow.
Once they've both had a chance to blow off a little steam.
For now, she's going to avoid her problems, pick up her son from school, and make a beeline for a barstool at the Rabbit Hole and the sympathetic blue eyes she knows she'll find on the other side of the counter.