CHAPTER THREE
Arrangements

Emma did eventually find the key under a large pile of papers, and when she released her, Regina went to work on making herself at least look semi-presentable in the reflection of one of the windows; she had a meeting in an hour and the last thing she wanted to do was attend it looking like some cheap corner-side prostitute. Regina wiped her smeared lipstick off her face with a tissue and combed her hair with her fingers, and though it certainly wasn't an ideal result, it would have to do for now.

Emma watched her the entire time, leaning against the edge of her desk in a haphazard, borderline-masculine fashion that Regina really wished she didn't find attractive. "What time do you want me to pick up Henry?"

Regina turned from her reflection, her eyebrows raised almost to her hairline at the presumptuous nature of the question. She almost laughed at her, but contained herself. Still, the certain amount of power she held over the situation made Regina smirk in cruelty as she spoke to Emma like she would an irate child. "And what makes you think I'll allow you to see him today?"

"You didn't get off."

It was said so simply, so factually that it made Regina color in irritation. Did Emma truly believe her dependent? Even if a part of her was, it was entirely arrogant of the girl to assume. "Believe me, dear, I think I can survive the night without you."

Regina began to breeze past her, content on leaving Emma without a proper answer as to when their next time together would be, as she had so many times before, but the words that left blonde's mouth following her statement made Regina stop mid-stride. "Can you?"

It sounded so cocky that Regina whipped around, her face darkening. She was getting tired of Emma believing she had some semblance of control, when they were both so clearly out of it that it wasn't even funny anymore. Then again, perhaps it never was to begin with. "Do you ever wish to see me again? Because I swear to you, Miss Swan—!"

"Yeah, I do."

The sincerity in Emma's words made Regina falter for a moment, having expected the woman to come back with another arrogant comment that would no doubt make her want to tear Emma's limbs from her body. Regina stared at her, completely dumbfounded for a moment that Emma actually wished to spend time with her, because despite the pleasure they gave one another, sometimes Regina wondered if it was really enough to override all the hatred that they felt. But it was the realization that, for once, Emma didn't sound as though she hated her at all that made Regina unable to form a response.

Were they not just furious with each other a moment ago?

Emma just shrugged a little self-consciously, shaking her head as she ran her fingers through her hair. She avoided all eye contact, having realized how she sounded when she affirmed her desire to continue their little arrangement, despite how unhealthy it was for both of them. But she pushed past it, asking Regina, "So… when do you want me to pick him up?"

"I…" Regina tried, yet found her mouth had gone dry. She shifted her gaze as she swallowed. This was such an awkward exchange and yet somehow it still managed to feel almost natural. The lack of sense that any of this made was absolutely maddening, yet Regina found herself indulging in the simplicity of its complication. She didn't know what else to do. "Tomorrow," Regina answered finally. "You can have him for dinner and head over once he's in bed. Make sure he does his homework before letting him watch any television. And no—"

"Sweets," Emma finished for her. "Yeah, I know the drill."

Their eyes connected and Regina cleared her throat, stepping away from her. "Good," she said, tugging on the hem of her dress shirt in an awkward attempt to make herself appear a little more put together than she felt. Something was way off in their exchange and it made her feel uneasy, yet Regina found she did not have the strength to revert it back to the norm. "I'll see you tomorrow then."

Regina turned from Emma and headed out of the Sherriff's office without allowing the woman to say another word, her feet carrying her quicker than normal from the building as the pit of Regina's stomach lurched in an uncomfortable way she knew better than to try and diagnose. And as she wrenched open the door of her car and allowed her eyes to stray back to where Emma resided, Regina knew that her sanity would never be able to handle it even if she actually wanted to understand.

[x]

Saturday was a day of leisure for anyone who wasn't Regina Mills. Being the Mayor of a town seemingly full of complete imbeciles did not give her the privilege of a day off, but following an ungodly amount of paperwork and a meeting with the city council to determine if rezoning was needed to make way for new businesses (which it wasn't, as it wasn't very cost effective and she had already given everyone a livelihood when she created this damn town), Regina left her office after informing her assistant that she would be taking a long lunch. She wished to pick up Henry and spend a little time with him before he was shipped off to Emma's for the night, as it seemed with everything going on lately that she was lacking quite a bit in the mothering department.

Guilt was a powerful motivator and Regina's had recently been eating her alive more often than not. Though it couldn't be helped that she was constantly busy with work, she found it to be rather horrendous that she was spending more time with Emma than her own son as of late. It wasn't acceptable, in any sense of the situation, so she picked Henry up from the house ten minutes later, tearing him away from his comics with the promises of hot chocolate and mother/son bonding time.

He seemed more excited about the treat than her, but Regina would take her victories where she could get them nowadays, as they seemed so few and far between.

"Did you do something bad?" Henry asked her as they sat across from each other in a booth at Granny's, steaming cups of hot chocolate in front of them that Regina was unsure she could actually stomach drinking. It was a needless amount of calories and sugar, but as Henry liked it, Regina made a point to push down her displeasure and take a hesitant sip.

His question surprised her. "What do you mean?"

Henry shrugged, fidgeting in his seat slightly. He was always uncomfortable around her lately and it made Regina's heart ache, but Dr. Hopper was convinced it was only a phase and so she tried to ride it out, patiently waiting until the time he would come round. "You never give me sweets," he pointed out, which was true. It was the guilt factor; it seemed to make Regina do the unexpected. "And you're letting me sleep over Emma's again. I thought you hated her."

Regina pursed her lips slightly, trying to think of how to word her explanation. After a moment she told him patiently. "Miss Swan and I have come to an… arrangement." Her nails drummed against the ceramic cup in her hands before she finished, "I thought you would be pleased."

Henry said nothing, merely staring into the bottom of his cup.

Regina reached across the table, concerned about his behavior, and tried to lightly cover his hand with hers. "Henry, what is it?" Her son pulled away from her touch. Regina tried to not let it show that it bothered her, but when she pulled back her hand it was almost dejectedly.

"I don't want you guys to be friends," he said finally.

Regina would hardly call her relationship with Emma Swan friendly, but that still begged the question, "Why not?" She had believed Henry wished her to get along with his birthmother so that he would get to spend more time with her. And although Henry did seem happy every time Emma would come to pick him up, there seemed to be something more important beneath the surface to warrant his displeasure with the situation.

Henry hesitated for a moment, seemingly unsure if he should answer. But finally he looked up at her, determination in his eyes as he told his mother, "Because it's going to confuse her when she needs to defeat you and break the curse; she can't even see that this is all part of your evil plan and it's going to ruin everything!"

Regina stared at him for a moment, trying not to let his words sting her in the way that only he could ever achieve as she forced herself to release a sigh. It came out more frustrated than patient. "What have I told you about this curse nonsense? Fairytales are not real and I do not have some kind of evil agenda. Now I'm trying to be very patient with this phase, but you're starting to hurt my feelings, Henry. Do you understand that? I'm just trying to do what's best for you and I wish you could see that."

Henry looked a little ashamed of himself at the mention of hurt feelings, yet he still eyed her with a fair amount of distrust. Regina wished it wasn't warranted, but the truth was that he was right about everything. Perhaps it wasn't fair of her to lie to Henry like this, but Regina was convinced it was better that he never know the truth; it was far too much for a young boy to handle. But more than that, there was the selfish part of her that knew that if he ever knew, truly knew all the evil that she had done, then he would never be able to look at her the same again. That would destroy the only part of her heart, the only semblance of love that she had left in this world. Henry was her everything; she couldn't lose him.

The overhead bell indicating an arriving customer chimed and Regina found herself looking up, catching sight of Emma who had come into the diner looking a bit frazzled. She stopped at the counter, a little out of breath as she ordered a coffee and a burger to go from Ruby.

"Emma!" Henry exclaimed, his eyes landing on his birthmother as he grinned from ear to ear. He climbed out of the booth to go greet her before Regina could stop him, as Emma was clearly far too busy for once to stop for pleasantries, but the woman turned, a smile breaking out on her face as she caught sight of Henry.

"Hey, kid!" she greeted warmly, enveloping him in a hug that made the corners of Regina's mouth twitch as she tried to suppress the pang of jealousy in her heart. She had raised him, loved him, cared for him, and yet Henry gave a woman he barely knew everything Regina had worked so hard to deserve. It wasn't right. "What are you doing here?"

"Mom took me out for hot chocolate."

"Wow. Hell must have frozen over, huh?" she lightly joked, squeezing him on the shoulder before turning to face Regina. An awkward air enveloped the room as their eyes connected, reminding Regina why they did not speak to each other outside of the meaningless banter during their little trysts. "Mayor Mills," she greeted after a moment, at least having the decency not to use the informality of her first name.

"Miss Swan," Regina acknowledged, tightlipped. She took in Emma's appearance and noted, "Busy afternoon?"

Emma exhaled a long breath, looking positively exhausted once the topic came up. "You have no idea," she told her, yet didn't elaborate more on the subject; the crime in Storybrooke wasn't a very appropriate topic to discuss in front of a ten year old. At least Emma had the sense to realize that.

"I trust you won't be late picking up Henry this evening?" Regina asked, needing to confirm their plans after seeing how busy Emma was. She didn't want her son to be disappointed because of the woman's lack of time management skills. "Or are things too—?"

"No, it's fine; I'll be there. I wouldn't miss it," Emma promised, making Henry beam at the confirmation. Regina watched the woman ruffle her son's hair before leaning against the counter, her eyes catching Regina's before finishing, "Things are a bit hectic right now, but I'll make sure I'm outta there by five; you don't gotta worry."

"Can we play more Mario Kart tonight?" Henry asked, bouncing a bit on his heels. "I think I can beat you now; I was really close last time!"

Regina's eyebrows rose at the mention of the game, not entirely pleased that Emma was using their time together to rot her child's brain with such nonsense. "Sure, kid, whatever you want." Emma smiled, before reminding him, "But you gotta finish the rest of your homework first, alright? You're too smart a kid to get behind in school."

Henry looked a little disgruntled, but eventually relented with a nod.

"Mario Kart, Miss Swan?" Regina asked, disapproval coloring her tone as she clucked her tongue lightly in judgment. Despite the pleasant surprise that Emma enforced the rules about homework without painting Regina out to look like the bad guy in the process, it paled in comparison in that moment to the irritation she felt that Emma didn't even bother asking if it was alright if her son played a game meant for the mind-numbingly stupid. Surely if she wished to play video games with Henry that badly she could find something that was at least semi-educational.

"It's G rated, relax," Emma responded, not even bothering to suppress her eye roll. "You don't need to be such a fun sponge all the time, you know."

Regina colored in irritation at Emma's words and had a thing or two to say about how she had the ability to take away more than just fun, but the two women were interrupted by Ruby who came over to bring Emma the coffee she had ordered.

"Your burger will be up in a minute," the waitress told her, which Emma responded to with a grateful smile as she started to dig her wallet out of her jeans to pay. "But hey," Ruby continued, her tone a little higher with curiosity as she leaned in towards her, a small smirk playing on the edge of her lips, "What's this I hear about you having secret late-night rendezvous with a mystery man? Is he—"

"Miss Lucas," Regina exclaimed pointedly, her eyes hardening at the mention of anything to do with that in front of her son. Ruby looked offended by the interruption for a moment before her eyes landed on Henry who was a few paces behind Emma, looking entirely confused by the shift of tone in the conversation.

"Oh, hey Henry," she greeted, at least having the decency to look a little sheepish. Emma and Regina held equal looks of exasperation; this conversation was entirely unsuitable to be had in front of children. It was also one that did not need to be the topic of idle gossip, for a variety of unpleasant reasons.

"What's a 'rendezvous'?" Henry asked curiously.

Regina was certain she was starting to get a migraine, but luckily Emma thought quickly, pulling a couple dollars in quarters from her wallet before handing them to Henry. "Here, kid; why don't you try to go win me something on the claw machine? I can never do it and you're a lot more coordinated than I am."

"Really?" he asked, a smile lighting up his face before it immediately fell, remembering that his mother was there. Regina had never let him play with that germ-ridden thing; she believed it to be atrociously unsanitary due to all the grubby little hands that had previously touched it, but when Henry turned to face her, expecting to be told no, Regina forced herself to exhale a defeated breath.

"Go on," she encouraged him. She had hand sanitizer in her purse and besides, Regina did not want Henry to be around for what seemed to be the start of an adult conversation. She was certain even she did not want to be around for this conversation, but curiosity as to what Emma would give as an answer caused Regina to pause.

As Henry ran off to play, leaving his hot chocolate forgotten on the table, Regina pulled some papers out from her purse and tried to make herself look busy. She did not want Ruby to believe she had an interest in Emma's affairs, as the change in their relationship would be too easily noticed. Ruby might have an unhealthy obsession with makeup and slut-wear, but Regina was not foolish enough to believe the girl stupid for it; she had learned long ago that such assumptions were unwise, as people often surprised you at the worst of times.

"So?" Ruby pressed, now that Henry was gone. She leaned over the counter, her breasts practically spilling out of her top. Regina had to contain her snort of displeasure at the girl's blatant disregard of her own dignity as she shuffled through her paperwork. "Is it true?"

"I, uh…" Emma faltered for a moment, glancing over at Regina, taking note of how uninterested she was forcing herself to appear during this whole exchange. As her gaze rested once more on Ruby's eager face, Emma uncomfortably shifted her weight between her feet. "Did Mary Margaret tell you it was?"

"She just said she suspected it, but what else would you be sneaking out of the apartment for at one in the morning?" Ruby asked, chuckling a little at the implication that she knew exactly what kind of relationship Emma was currently partaking in. It was thankful that she did not know the extent of it; the things they did to each other's bodies were pleasurable, yes, but also unfathomably vicious. "So come on, spill; who is he? My love life has been incredibly dull as of late, so I'm going to have to live vicariously."

"Ruby, order up!"

"Ah, hold on a second," Ruby said before Emma could answer, holding up a finger before turning to get the burger the Sherriff had ordered from Granny. When she came back and slid the styrofoam container of food across the counter, Emma gave her a tightlipped smile. She was trying to be friendly, but it was obvious that everyone's interest in her personal life made her feel very uncomfortable. Regina knew the feeling.

"Look, I'll tell you the same thing I told Mary Margaret," she began, gathering the food up in her hands as she got ready to make a quick getaway. "This… thing that I'm doing, whatever it is, it's not exactly official or anything. I really don't want to risk screwing it up by telling people about it right now, you know? But I promise, if it gets serious, you'll be the first to know, alright?"

Ruby looked disappointed, but Regina's nerves had significantly lessened by Emma's response. It was not only vague, but it also halted any more prying questions one would have on the subject, at least for now. But in a small town such as Storybrooke, gossip was easily spread, and if Emma did not learn to be more discreet about their arrangement then the questions would continue. Regina chewed on the inside of her cheek, finding herself irrationally worried all of a sudden that she would actually be forced to end things with Emma to save face, when not a day before she was in Dr. Hopper's office looking for some kind of cure.

And perhaps it would be better if she found one; perhaps everything would be easier if she could just let go of the things she craved from Emma and found another outlet to release her stress, but the fact of the matter was, Regina always did have a nasty little habit of making all the wrong choices in life…

TBC…