Mills and Swan

Emma Swan thinks a lot about Regina Mills, envisioning them as a latter-day Cagney and Lacey, and yet manages to remain oblivious to what it all actually means.

Prequel to Right There All the Time.

Rated U.

* * * * *

01. Swan and Mills?

Sheriff Emma Swan stared at the weekly crime report form on her desk, and picked up her pencil. Having filled out her name, rank and badge number, she paused, wondering if her mother—the new self-appointed Mayor—would need as much detail as Regina had always demanded. Also, why had Regina made up these forms with a box for badge number, when the Sheriff’s Department had never numbered more than three people? More to the point, why was her badge number not just 0002? She wasn’t even sure why she was still using the forms which Regina had designed to be used with a typewriter—a typewriter, for the love of God, like they were in ‘Hill Street Blues’ or ‘Cagney and Lacey’ or something.

Actually, that could be cool. They could call it ‘Swan and Mills’, although Regina would probably want top billing because, well, she was Regina. Emma would be the Christine Cagney character, of course, an instinctively great (and totally bad-ass) detective who was also a complete fuck-up away from work, while Regina could be her Mary Beth Lacey, best friend and emotional constant, the one who kept Emma grounded. They could solve crimes together and then head home—Emma was picturing a Storybrooke equivalent of the apartment she and Henry had shared in New York—where Regina would cook the three of them amazing meals while grousing about how Emma was always putting them in danger by relying on her gut instinct rather than facts and evidence. Her father could be their Captain, the one who chewed Emma out for going too far and taking everything too personally.

The show would work because, hell, they were already partners. Regina claimed that wasn’t the case, no matter what Emma thought, but that wasn’t right. They had saved the town together. They had saved their son together. Their son. They defended the world as they knew it together. Regina might not yet be ready to be friends, but they were absolutely, one-hundred-percent, no-room-for-doubt, demonstrably and quantifiably partners.

She was warming to the idea, imagining Regina running through the alleyway behind the pharmacy, chasing down a perp in one of her original Mayoral pant suits and a ridiculously inappropriate pair of high-heeled boots, maybe the black ankle ones which made her about Emma’s height. She was just trying to decide whether Regina’s shorter hair would look more televisual than the longer, flippy style she’d been rocking for a while now, when she remembered that Mary Beth was the emotional heart of the partnership because she had the stability of a husband and two sons at home. Yeah, and then Emma was picturing herself going home alone to her Storybrooke apartment to forget her day in a bottle of whisky while Regina went home to Mifflin Street, where Robin and Henry and Roland were the ones on the receiving end of Regina’s awesome home-cooked meals, and maybe that version of ‘Swan and Mills’ (‘Mills and Swan’?) wasn’t as awesome as Emma had originally thought.

She wondered what Regina was up to now that she wasn’t Mayor anymore. How did she fill her days while Henry was at school? She knew that she helped Snow out occasionally, and she was working on the Marian situation, but Emma didn’t see nearly as much of Regina as a) she liked, or b) she was used to. Their magic lessons had tailed off, just at the time when Emma could use them the most, and Emma had been kind of hoping—just to herself, not that she’d admitted it to anyone else, and certainly not to Regina—that their conversation in the vault where Regina had admitted to not wanting to kill her had meant that they would see more of each other, and not the reverse.

Emma hoped that Regina wasn’t spending her time with Robin Hood, because she found that whole thing a bit icky. Like, his wife—the one she’d brought back, causing all the drama, she admitted to herself—wasn’t all the way dead, and there was still a chance that she’d wake up, and then what would happen? The last thing Emma wanted was for Regina to have her heart broken again by his choosing his wife over Regina a second time. She’d promised to give Regina her own happy ending, and she was far from convinced that Beardy had any part to play in that. Best case scenario with that was that his wife died again, freeing him up to pursue Regina, and then that would make the situation even ickier.

Not that Emma had a leg to stand on there. She’d been with married men in the past, and guys who were only kinda-sorta-not-really-separated and, in those situations, the single woman always got the blame and the bad rap, whereas the married guy was the only one who was doing the actual cheating. Every time she saw the same scenario on one of those TV judge shows, the husband/baby daddy/boyfriend was always sitting beside the woman he’d cheated on, while the poor chick who thought she’d fallen in love was the one who ended up with the slashed tyres or the broken windows or the word ‘slut’ painted across the hood of her car. Emma had taken a slap or two from a scorned wife in her time, and that wasn’t really fair in her mind.

Then there was the whole Henry issue. If Regina married Robin—and everything Emma had learned from being in the Enchanted Forest and from all those stupid stories in Henry’s stupid book indicated that marriage was the fairly swift resolution to all Fairytale Land romances—then he’d become Henry’s step-daddy, and her son didn’t need his teenage years confused with yet another addition to their already Bizarro World family tree. But, then, Regina deserved happiness, and who was Emma to stand in the way of that, or to judge her for who she chose to find that with?

She sighed. Hell if she knew what the right answer was to any of it, only that she was fairly certain that Forest Boy wasn’t it.

“Emma!”

Emma Swan jerked her head up and looked over at her father, who had just called her name.

“What?”

“You’ve been tapping that pencil against the desk for the last five minutes, and, much as I love you, you’re driving me insane.”

She looked down at the yellow pencil held between her thumb and forefinger, then back up at David, and shrugged. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. It was just—”

“Annoying?”

“Little bit.”

“Sorry.” She placed the pencil on the desk in front of her.

“So you said.” He got up from his desk and walked over to the coffee machine. He lifted the pot and motioned towards her. “Coffee?”

“Sure.” She pushed her cup to the edge of her own desk. “Why not?”

She slumped back in her chair and watched as he poured them both a cup of the weak yet grainy brew which was all their ancient coffee machine seemed capable of providing. Rather than return to his own desk, he perched on the edge of hers, stretching his legs out and crossing them at the ankles.

“So, what’s up?”

“What do you mean?” She blew across the top of her coffee as a way of avoiding his eyes. While Regina might refer to her father as ‘hard of thinking’—exact quote, and one of the nicer insults she levelled against him on a semi-regular basis—David was a pretty good judge of his daughter’s moods. Regina didn’t really mean the insults anyway, Emma knew, because she liked David more than she was willing to admit. After all, she’d saved his life with the whole heart-splitting thing, which seemed like a fairly good indicator that she didn’t hate him anymore; although, with Regina, things were often more complicated than they appeared, even when they seemed pretty complex to begin with.

“You’re doing it again,” he said, smirking into his coffee.

“What?”

“Drifting off. It’s like you’re a million miles away today.”

“Am I?”

“Yes.” He put his cup down and hitched his thumbs into the front pockets of his jeans. “You want to tell your old dad what’s bothering you?”

Heh. Her old dad. He said shit like that all the time, like just saying it made it less awkward that they were the same age, and that she had a baby brother who was thirty years younger than her, and that she’d walked in on her parents having sex more times than was healthy for her mental equilibrium.

“Nothing’s bothering me.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah.”

“So, what’s had you so deep in thought, then?”

She opened her mouth, and closed it again, frowning. For some reason, she didn’t feel like telling her father that she’d been caught up in thoughts of Regina. She pushed up and out of her chair, ostensibly to add more sugar to her cup so that the coffee didn’t taste so bad, but really just to turn her back on him, because she felt guilty for lying to him, even though she knew that was irrational.

“I’m just sick of filling out the crime report every week because I never know what to say.” She poured some sugar into her cup, watching the grains fall in a slow arc. “I mean, is investigating a magically suspicious ice-cream truck a Sheriff thing or more of a Saviour thing? I thought having my mother as a boss would mean that we could get out of the shitty paperwork parts of this job.” She flashed him a quick smile. “She’s your wife. Can’t you talk to her?”

David tilted his head and watched her for a second or two. It was probably just her guilt fucking with her mind, but it felt like he was weighing up whether to call her on her bullshit answer.

“Being her husband counts for even less than a daughter.” He smiled back at her. “She’s the Queen; I’m just the consort.”

Emma nearly opened her mouth to point out that, no, Regina was the Queen, but maybe that wasn’t going to be the best thing to say.

“You wanna make nice with your wife and finish up the crime report for me, then?”

“How much have you done?” David shook his head at her and pulled the sheet of paper towards himself, twisting is around on the desk. “Your name and badge number? That’s all you’ve got?”

She winked at him. “Hey, I also wrote ‘Sheriff’, and it’s a start.”

He muttered to himself, but walked off with the report anyway. She chuckled to herself. David would be totally perfect as the grouchy-but-lovable Captain of Detectives in ‘Mills and Swan’ (because she’d already mentally relented to Regina’s imaginary desire for top billing in their non-existent buddy-cop procedural). Maybe she’d buy him donuts later as a sign of her respect and appreciation.

+

02. Damn fine coffee

Emma was parked in the police cruiser in the middle of the woods because she had some really important surveillance to do at the site where they’d found the creepy magical ice-cream truck. Or, more truthfully, Emma was parked in the police cruiser in the middle of the woods because Hook and her mother were both looking for her, and she wasn’t in the mood for their drama.

She took a sip from the to-go cup in her hands and winced. Stone cold.

Pulling her phone from her pocket to check the time, she realised that she had been sitting there for almost three hours. Maybe it was safe to go back into town now. She looked up the sky. It was almost dark, so Snow was probably at home, trying to put Neal down, and Hook would be wherever he went when he wasn’t trailing behind her. She had never asked him what he got up to when he wasn’t with her. Did she actually care what it was? Probably not. The fact that she hadn’t ever thought about it until now told its own story.

She looked down at her cup of cold coffee. If her magic wasn’t so fucked up right now, she would probably try heating the coffee. Regina would know how to do that. Maybe if their lessons had continued, Regina could have taught her that, but all Emma knew was lighting a candle, and heating coffee over an open flame might not be the best idea in the middle of a forest.

Detective Regina Mills from ‘Mills and Swan’ would have brought a thermos flask of coffee. Emma hadn’t exactly been invited over to Regina’s house for coffee and girl talk on a regular basis, but she was confident that the coffee would be fantastic, rich and black and strong. Maybe cold pressed overnight because Regina never took shortcuts with food and drink, always finding the very best way to make something, not caring that it took hours. Hawaiian Kona, maybe? Or some of that outrageously expensive stuff Henry had told her about, the stuff that came from a cat’s ass. Emma hadn’t believed him at first, but he’d shown her the article he was reading and, sure enough, he hadn’t been lying. Just the thought had made Emma shudder, but the Enchanted Forest people were probably more accepting of that sort of thing. Those people ate chimera, after all, and that tasted like putrified fish. Cat’s ass coffee might be commonplace to them, for all she knew.

Maybe Detective Mills would also invite Detective Swan over for morning coffee. It could be a thing, a recurring theme in their show. Yeah, Emma would swing by the mansion in the mornings to pick up her partner, and Regina would hover in the doorway, looking way too perfect for 5.30am or some suitably godawful hour of the morning. She would invite Emma in, and Emma would refuse every time, and Regina would tease her about refusing every time when she was going to relent anyway. And Emma would relent anyway, following Regina into the kitchen.

Emma would try to make small-talk about their latest suspect (she hadn’t decided yet whether to include magic in the show, so for the moment they were standard criminals straight out of Central Casting), but Regina would just look at her in that way she always did when Emma was struggling with magic—all kind eyes and gentle understanding, like she saw and knew everything Emma was feeling—and she’d ask Emma what was really bothering her. And, then, finally, Emma would have someone to talk to about all the confusing shit she was dragging around with her.

Regina would understand that Emma was uncomfortable, so she would busy herself making breakfast for them, something like pancakes or the boiled plantain thing which Henry always raved about, but which Emma was going to need to try for herself before she accepted that salted bananas were a good thing. Regina would listen, never pushing her or interrupting. When the breakfast was cooked, she would put the plate down and refill Emma’s cup of coffee and chide her to eat her food. The audience would know that they did this every morning because, without Regina, Emma would forget to eat properly and, without Regina, she wouldn’t really take care of herself at all. And then they’d talk about Henry, because he’d still be their son in ‘Mills and Swan’. Their two-women-one-son thing would play well, Emma figured, as would the tension of Detective Mills being super-rich, while Detective Swan came from the streets. Sadly (not sadly at all), that would mean that there was no narrative place for a husband and second son, so Hood and Roland had been dropped from Emma’s proposed cast. She’d also recast her mother as Mary Margaret, the kindly school teacher who lived next door to Emma and babysat Henry when required. Regina could maybe have a live-in housekeeper to look after Henry when the long hours kept her away. Emma was thinking of Granny for that role, but hadn’t decided yet.

Right before they left for their day chasing down leads, Regina would fill a thermos full of damn fine coffee—no, two flasks, one with extra cream and sugar for Emma, and one with nothing for herself. And they’d both smile, and the audience would hopefully smile, too, knowing that Emma would be drinking the plain black coffee later that day when she’d already finished her own hours before.

The coffee pot at the station would still only have weak-ass grainy dreck, and they’d both complain about it, but they’d drink it anyway, because Regina’s damn fine coffee wasn’t for sharing with their colleagues, or even grouchy-but-lovable Captain Nolan. The damn fine coffee was just for the two of them, when they were on stake-outs in Emma’s Bug, which Regina would complain about every single day, even as she subtly made the passenger side her own. The glove box wouldn’t be stuffed with till receipts and maps and random other crap Emma had shoved there over the years, but things like hand cream (because Regina had to use something regularly to keep her hands as soft and supple as they were) and granola bars and a spare pair of gloves for Emma, who never remembered to bring such things with her, even on stake-outs in the dead of a Maine winter.

Their stake-outs themselves would be just like that time they’d been chasing down Zelena, all teasing digs interspersed with earnest comments, showing how they really did care for each other more than just as awkward partners or reluctant co-parents of the best kid in the world. Emma wasn’t sure if that had been her best time with Regina or maybe that time they were making the memory potion for Henry, but those were definitely their best days since she’d come back. That was the dynamic the ‘Mills and Swan’ audience would want to see.

And that, Emma admitted to herself, was what was missing from her life. The real Emma Swan needed someone to keep her grounded, and the real Regina Mills had always done that for her, even when they were fighting. She’d decided to give Regina space after their talk in the vault, but maybe that hadn’t been such a good idea. Just because Emma needed space from people some of the time—okay, almost all of the time—didn’t mean that Regina felt the same way. Maybe Regina needed Emma to prove that she wanted them to be friends by actually following through on that with her actions.

What if she turned the car around and went to Mifflin Street now, and asked if she and Regina could talk? Would Regina let her in with a small smile and offer her damn fine coffee in the kitchen?

Nah, Regina would probably tell her to fuck off. Not that she would ever say ‘fuck off’ just like that. She’d use some arch, polite words which didn’t sound like ‘fuck off’ at all, but which conveyed the same message anyway.

Or maybe Regina wouldn’t answer the door at all because she wasn’t there. Maybe she was off with the Bearded Wonder somewhere, being all secretive and shit.

Emma couldn’t think where else Regina would be, because she didn’t really know what Regina got up to when she wasn’t with her, but she wanted to know. She wanted to know that Regina was safe and happy, or whatever passed for happy in their fucked-up lives. Had Regina thought about their conversation at all? Did she want to be friends with Emma? After all, it wasn’t like Regina had anyone else to talk to about, well, anything really. That was another thing they had in common: their only emotional support came from their thirteen-year-old son, who was going through shit of his own and didn’t need his mothers relying on him like that.

Yeah, she was going to do it. She was going to be brave and approach Regina and invite her to the diner for coffee. Neutral ground would be a good start, even if Granny’s coffee wasn’t a patch on Regina’s, which Emma had never tasted, but still knew would be damn fine coffee.

Absently, she lifted her coffee cup to her lips and took a sip, jerking the cup away from her as she realised that her magic must have been working while she was thinking about Regina.

Her coffee was warm again. The perfect temperature, in fact.

+

03. You’re weird, Ma

For the first time that Emma could remember in her lifetime, ‘Cagney and Lacey’ was not showing on any channel she could find. That was surely an impossibility, right? Yet she’d been through every channel numerous times and nada. One of the major downsides to living in a town which had been trapped in time for thirty years was the poverty of televisual choice. Storybrooke had basic cable. No HBO or Showtime. No chance to complain about crappy satellite reception, because there was no satellite. Most of the citizens still had VHS recorders.

She was seriously considering heading out to the video store—yes, they had a video store, and it charged three bucks for any movie with no late fees—to see if they had a box set available when Henry came out of his room and dropped onto the couch beside her.

“What’re you watching?”

“Right now, nothing.” She continued to jab at the channel up and down buttons, just in case she’d been wrong the last twenty-odd times she’d checked.

He sighed. “Okay, what are you looking for?”

“Cagney and Lacey.”

“I used to watch that with Mom,” Henry said.

Emma stopped her punishment of the remote, leaving the TV on a rerun of ‘Law & Order’ (at least some things never changed, and you could always count on Lennie Briscoe), and stared at her son.

“Really?”

“Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep, I’d come downstairs and she’d be watching it.” He smiled in recollection. “She’d turn over right away because she thought it was too grown-up for me, but she’d turn back as soon as she thought I was asleep.”

“Your mom watched ‘Cagney and Lacey’? Like, at night, on her own?”

“Yeah.” He frowned. “Is that a bad thing?”

“No, it’s just weird.”

“Why’s it weird?”

Emma opened her mouth and then paused. She could hardly tell her son that it was weird that his other mother watched a TV show that she’d recast in her mind with them as the lead actresses.

“She seems more like she’d watch documentaries or, like, the news or something.” And that was true. If she thought of Regina watching TV at all—and she didn’t really see television as something Regina would approve of—it was definitely factual stuff.

“She does, but she likes other things, too.”

“Like what?” Emma was intrigued now. And it occurred to her that Henry was an untapped mine of information about Regina, probably on a whole host of subjects that Emma wanted to know about.

“I dunno. Stuff. Girls’ stuff.” He leaned over and picked up a comic book, leafing through it. “The Golden Girls.”

“Your mom watches ‘The Golden Girls’?”

He rustled his comic book and sighed. “Are you just going to repeat everything I say?”

“Easy on the sass, kid.” Emma leaned over and nudged him with her shoulder. “Also, there’s no such thing as girls’ stuff and boys’ stuff. There’s just stuff. Plenty of men like ‘The Golden Girls’, just like plenty of women watch ‘Monday Night Football’ like it’s their religion. And your mom’s more into comic books than anyone I know.”

“I didn’t mean anything bad by it. I just meant that Mom watches regular-people TV. Sometimes, we watch it together. I don’t see how it’s a big deal.”

“It’s not.”

Henry eyed her suspiciously. “You’re making it one.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Are too.”

“Not.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Nope.” She reached up and flicked her middle finger against his cheek.

“Ow!” He jerked his head away. “What did you do that for?”

She rolled her eyes. “Because it’s the obvious next step.”

“In what?”

“Play-fighting.” She was baffled that he did not know this already. “What does your mom do when you’re play-fighting with her?”

“We don’t play-fight.” He turned the page of his comic and grunted to himself about something in one of the panels.

“I guess your mom’s not the teasing type, huh?”

This time, his sigh was heavy with meaning, and he placed his book on the arm of the couch, half-turning towards her and folding his arms over his chest. “Okay, what gives?”

“What do you mean?”

“What’s with all the questions about Mom?” He raised his eyebrows, looking so much like Regina as he did it. “Is this about your memories?”

“Kinda. Not really.” She blew some air out of her cheeks and leaned forward, resting her arms on her knees.

“Because you know I love you both, right? I have some memories of doing stuff with you and some of doing stuff with her, and a lot of doing the same things with each of you separately, but yet like it was at the same time. And that’s weird, but I’m fine with it mostly. You’re both good moms. Just, you know, different.” He leaned over and patted her arm. “Good different.”

God, when had he got so mature and sensible? Emma sighed again. Well, he’d always been mature and sensible for his age because he was smart and Regina had raised him right. His side line in condescending affirmation came from Regina, too. And, yes, the memory thing was confusing for both of them, because now she knew what it was like to feel like it had just been Henry and her for so many years, the two of them happy together and with so much love between them, and now she found the days when he wasn’t around difficult. So Regina had to be feeling the same, only it was worse for Regina because Emma had done the whole Marian thing and ruined Regina’s chance of finding someone else, someone who could make her happy. And maybe if just one of them could be happy, that would help make sense of their really crazy-ass lives.

“What?” he asked.

“It’s just that I wonder what your mom’s like.” Emma sat back and dropped her head against the back of the couch, staring at the ceiling. “We all think we know Regina, but all the rest of us see is whatever she wants us to, and you’re the only one who does know her when she’s just being Regina and not,” she waved her hand in the air, “everything else.”

“Ah. So, what do you want to know?”

She shrugged. “I dunno. Just stuff. What she likes to do when she’s on her own and what books she reads and what TV shows she watches and, you know, stuff.” She lolled her head to the side, smiling at him. “I’m not making much sense, am I?”

“Not really.”

“Tell me a story, then,” she said. “Tell me about a good memory you have of something you and Mom did together, or something that people wouldn’t suspect of her. Like, she’s super-good at foosball or totally bad at baking cookies and secretly buys them in from the deli.”

“She makes the best cookies in the world and you know it because you steal them from me, but okay.” He sounded uncertain, but a little smirk spread across his face as he thought back through his childhood for something to share.

“Oh, kid, before you start, one thing.”

“What?”

“Does your mom own a thermos?”

Henry furrowed his brow and stared at her. “You’re weird, Ma.”

+

04. Cold

The next morning, as Emma got into the Bug to head to work, she noticed that her breath was creating clouds in front of her face, and she wished she was wearing something more practical for the Maine weather than her thin brown leather jacket.

As she turned the key and waited for the engine to get properly warmed up—she loved her Bug, but it was taking longer these days for it to heat up enough to defog the windows—she rubbed her hands together and blew on them. Then, in a moment of inspiration, she remembered the spare gloves that Regina kept in the glove box (which made sense, because the glove thing was right there in the name and everything), so she yanked it open, only to find a mountain of old food wrappers and gas station receipts. She couldn’t have been more surprised, and then she remembered: Regina had only been in her car a couple of times in all the years Emma had known her; it was imaginary Detective Mills who kept a spare pair of gloves for Detective Swan.

She slumped back in her seat and started blowing on her hands again as the car’s vents continued to push out frigid air. The cold actually brought the sting of tears to her eyes.

Yeah, it was definitely the cold air, and not the keen sense of disappointment that she felt.

The cold air. For sure.

+

05. Family Portrait

A few days later, Emma was passing Granny’s when she spotted Regina and Henry sitting at a window table. Even though she was technically on the clock, it was a quiet day (although, unless there was some random magic shit or a cat stuck up a tree, they were pretty much all quiet days) and she was keen to take step one in her grand plan of showing Regina that she wanted to be friends, so she turned back and headed in the door with every intention of casually sauntering over to their table and asking if she could join them. The fact that she was technically at work would give her a face-saving excuse if it looked like Regina might say no. It wasn’t the best plan in the world, but great journeys began with a single step, or so numerous fortune cookies had told her.

Before she had even made it inside, though, she was cornered by her mother, who ushered her away to a quiet table at the back to discuss her latest theory on why Emma’s magic was being so erratic, a question which Emma felt could have been answered instantly by just asking Regina instead. Emma didn’t even know why that hadn’t happened already, because her parents and Regina seemed pretty tight these days. They were a shitload closer than Emma and Regina, at any rate, and that in itself was several kinds of what-the-fuck. Regina babysat Neal, for God’s sake, which was more than Emma was ever trusted to do.

And where was the kidlet, anyway? Why didn’t Snow have the baby with her, the baby who was so much better in Emma in every way that the woman could usually not bear to have him out of her arms for more then a few minutes?

As her mother prattled on—something, something, True Love, emotions, blah, blah, fishcakes—Emma was sneaking glances over at Regina. She was dressed in what Emma could only describe as an un-Regina-like style, which was to say that she was in jeans and a t-shirt with a vest, and she was wearing boots which did not have a four-inch spike heel. They looked almost utilitarian, like they’d be good for chasing a drug dealer down an alleyway.

Regina’s normal choice of footwear would be more appropriate for vice work. If memory served, early Cagney and Lacey episodes often had the two detectives dressed as stereotypical hookers—short skirts, high heels, blue eyeshadow, spangles and feathers—and Mary Beth complaining that cops’ feet weren’t made for hooker shoes. In ‘Mills and Swan’, Emma’s character would be the one complaining about the pain of high boots and Detective Mills would school her in the best way to wear stilettos. Detective Swan would grumble a lot, but would be somewhat in awe and forever feeling awkward and inelegant around her more sophisticated partner.

How much taller would she be than Regina if they were both wearing flats, she wondered. Enough that Regina would have to crane her head up to look Emma in the eye? She liked that idea. Not that she particularly wanted to tower over Regina, but maybe she wouldn’t feel quite so intimidated by her if she at least had the height advantage. She smiled to herself at the idea of there ever being a time when she wasn’t intimidated by Regina Mills. Man, that woman was the living definition of intimidating.

Except today, not so much. In addition to being dressed casually, Regina’s hair was up in a loose ponytail, which made her look like a total soccer mom, which Emma had to admit was a good look on her, as was the way she was laughing at something that Henry had just said. In fact, Regina looked lighter and happier than Emma had seen her in, well, possibly forever. And that was good, right? Someone or something was making Regina happy, and Emma had promised her a happy ending, so it was good that she might be getting one finally. Yeah, it was good. It wasn’t like Emma needed to be the one who gave her that happy ending or anything. If it came from Henry or someone else, that would be okay. Wouldn’t it?

Detective Regina Mills of ‘Mills and Swan’ probably got her daily dose of happiness from Henry, too. The audience would like seeing her as she was just now, all relaxed and dressed-down. Because it really was a good look on her. If a male love interest got worked into the show eventually—because didn’t they always?—then Detective Swan would totally get why he’d be interested. While dressed-up Regina was all kinds of hot, there was something about soccer-mom Regina which was exponentially hotter. It was probably the laughter, Emma figured. Regina Mills’ laugh was the sort of sound which just did things to people. It hinted at and promised things, things which maybe Regina didn’t intend. Or, given Regina, maybe it was intentional. Because, that laugh? It sounded like sex itself.

“You’re not listening to me, are you?”

Emma briefly contemplated what the response would be if she said ‘no fucking shit’. It probably wasn’t worth the argument, but she was so sorely tempted.

“I was just wondering whether Henry’s working today with Rumple today,” she said. Her mother didn’t even question the comment. It made Emma wonder if there was any limit to Snow’s wilful suspension of disbelief. Was she so desperate to be seen as Emma’s confidante that she’d accept any lie, no matter how obvious? Emma was reconsidering whether the show needed a Mary Margaret character at all. But Emma missed cursed Mary Margaret. Even though Emma was hardly listening, she knew enough that her mother was spouting crap that Mary Margaret would never have uttered.

Then Regina was moving their cups and plates into a neat pile at the edge of the table, and Henry was standing up, and it was obvious that they were about to part. Emma knew that she should look away, but she just couldn’t do it. Although there were days when she missed New York and that Emma-Henry simplicity so much that it was a an actual weight pressing in her chest and stealing her breath, Regina completed and fulfilled Henry’s life in ways that Emma never could. They were his family. Henry needed both of his mothers; therefore Emma’s basic family unit was now Regina-Emma-Henry. That was what she had to protect.

Emma took the fact that Regina met her gaze and acknowledged her with a curt nod of the head as she left as some kind of progress in its own way.

“Where’s your mom off to, kid?” Emma asked as Henry joined them. She ripped open a packet of sugar and poured the crystals into her hand, ignoring her mother’s disapproving look. Snow was also more preachy than Mary Margaret had been on a number of subjects, including recycling and wastefulness.

“Dunno.” Henry shrugged in a way which implied he knew exactly where Regina had headed. “She said she had to go check something out.”

“You two working on a secret operation against me now?” It was a joke. She meant it in the most light-hearted way possible, but Henry’s eyes flashed with guilt immediately, and he looked away, before shaking his head.

“No.” He held his chin up, just like Regina when she was bluffing. He glanced at Snow, working out what he could say in front of her. Good boy. It always paid to be careful around her. “It’s not about you at all.” That much was the truth at least. So, he’d inherited the habit from both his mother and his grandfather, Rumple, about being selective with the truth. Emma didn’t know whether to be proud of him or not for that. It meant he was growing up, though.

“Okay,” she said, accepting it for now. “But we’ll talk more later.”

“Of course we will.” He rolled his eyes.

+

06. Chasing the Clues

“Emma! Emma, come on.”

“Shit,” she said, glancing at her hand and then her father. “The pencil again. I’m sorry.” She’d been trying to work out what Henry and Regina were up to these days. Henry wouldn’t tell her anything about their secret operation, other than that there was one (which she already knew because he was a terrible liar) and it wasn’t anything bad (which she believed) and that she should leave it alone (which showed that he didn’t understand her at all).

The worst part was that she had caved and let him know about her ‘Cagney and Lacey’ thing. She’d thought that if she opened up to Henry, he’d spill in return. He hadn’t, the little fink. So, now he knew that Emma was hung up on some weird buddy-cop idea about Regina, while she knew nothing at all.

“It’s fine.” David (AKA Captain Grouchy-Pants) didn’t look up from whatever he was working on. “And whenever you want to talk to me about what it is that has you abusing the office supplies these days, I’m here to listen.”

“There’s nothing to say. I’m fine.”

“Uh-huh. And when you’re ready to tell me what you’re so fine about, then I’ll still be here.” He signed his name to the paper in front of him with a flourish and slapped both hands on his desk. “And that’s me done with the complaints for this week.”

Emma frowned. “We get complaints?”

“Yup.” David nodded and stood up, pulling his jacket on. “Mostly about you, specifically about your not taking crime reports seriously.”

“Me? What don’t I take seriously?” She took her job seriously. Pretty seriously. Mostly seriously. Seriously enough for a police department of herself and her father.

“These.” He waved a stack of telephone notes.

“The Regina ones? They’re not real complaints, Dad. They’re a joke.” She came around her desk and pulled them from David’s hand, flicking through them until she found a recent favourite. “‘Regina Mills was seen entering the Mayor’s office, even though she is no longer Mayor. She was carrying a package which might have been a bomb intended to kill Snow White.’ I’m pretty sure it was a box of cookies.”

He nodded. “White chocolate and macadamia nut. Shame your mother doesn’t like macadamia nuts.”

“I doubt Regina knew that.” Emma folded her arms across her chest, getting defensive on Regina’s behalf. She deserved better than the way many people still treated her, especially when she had saved all of their lives numerous times now, and was full of only good magic, something which Emma couldn’t even claim for herself.

“I wasn’t accusing her.” He patted his belly. “I was praising her for picking something only I could eat.” He lifted another message from the pile of complaints, reading it and shaking his head before putting it down again. “And, I agree these are ridiculous, but someone has to answer them.”

“Why?” She genuinely didn’t get it. She’d always ignored them, and she didn’t understand why anyone’s prejudices deserved anything other than scorn.

“Because if we just ignore them, the rumours will persist. If we answer them, then we’re sending out the message that we take the accusations seriously but find them baseless.” He placed his hand on her shoulder. “I don’t agree with the sentiments behind them, but I think maybe it helps if I’m the one telling people that they’re wrong.”

Emma nodded. It probably would help if the ruling couple of Storybrooke showed that they were on Regina’s side. Maybe she should have done that, too. She rubbed her forehead with her fingers. Politics was Regina’s strength, not hers. Regina would probably know how best to handle every one of the former peasants, soldiers, nobles and other hangers-on. Emma had no clue what these people wanted or needed. The social structures and mores of the Enchanted Forest remained a mystery to her.

“Anyway,” David stepped away from her, “I’m going to head out on patrol, maybe swing by your mother’s office for a bit.” He scooped up the keys to the police cruiser. “If I’m lucky, Regina will have dropped more cookies off.”

“She’s at the Mayor’s office today?” Emma hadn’t seen her since the diner, and she had even driven by the house on Mifflin a few times, hoping to catch a glimpse of her.

“Actually, I think she’s pretty much holed up in her vault these days.”

“Why?”

“No idea.” David patted his pockets to make sure he had everything he needed. “Do you want me to bring you anything back? I’ll only be a couple of hours.”

“Nah, you’re okay. I’ll wander over to Granny’s if I get hungry.” She turned her attention back to the complaints, picking one up and scanning it.

“Okay, I’ll see you later.” He paused in the doorway, looking like he wanted to say something fatherly, but not knowing how to start. He shook his head. “Bye, then.”

“Bye, Dad.” She didn’t look up from the notes in her hand, so she didn’t see the grin of satisfaction the use of his title gave him.

Some of the complaints were completely ridiculous, along the lines of ‘I saw Regina Mills lurking suspiciously in front of the high school’. The high school. The high school their son attended. The same high school Emma lurked outside on the days when she was due to pick him up. But once Emma got over her anger, she realised that she could use the messages to plot where and when people had seen Regina around town.

Sitting down at her father’s desk, she searched through his in-tray and his desk drawers until she’d assembled a larger pile of notes and messages, stretching back over a month or so. Pulling a notebook and pencil towards her, she spread them out and started arranging them by date and time, jotting down notes as she went.

It didn’t take her long to sketch out a rough idea of Regina’s movements over the previous few weeks. On top of that, it also gave her a list of times, dates and places where strange shit had happened which had nothing to do with Regina, even when it had been ascribed to her. Emma had sorted those into a second list, which she had christened the Dairy Queen file.

So, now she knew where Regina had been and she had a good idea of where Madame Tastee-Freez had been, too. It was almost like she was a real detective.

She leaned back in her father’s chair, tapping her fingers against her lips as she thought what to do now. She sniggered to herself. She actually was a real detective, and not just on an imaginary TV show. If she wanted to know what was going on with Regina—and she did—all she had to do was follow the leads she had.

She looked at the two piles of notes. Her responsibility as Sheriff and Saviour was probably to follow up on the Dairy Queen stuff. Her head and her heart told her that Regina was more important.

It wasn’t a real choice.

+

07. Oblivious

The doors to the Mills family vault weren’t chained. That was almost an open invitation to search inside, Emma reasoned. She stuffed her hands in the back pockets of her jeans and looked around for a sign which might point to what Regina had been doing there. She wasn’t familiar enough with the place to know if anything had changed since she had last been there and promised Regina to be her friend, and she was respectful enough of Regina’s right to privacy not to poke around in her things, all of which meant that she was coming up with almost nothing.

She sat down on the stone bench, slapping her hands on her thighs. Yeah, she had nothing and no new ideas. She pulled out her notebook, flicking through the times and locations she’d noted down earlier, but her mind returned to what would make Regina happy.

She clicked the top of her pen up and down a few times, and then started on a list. She made a nice, simple heading: what does Regina want? And then she stared at the page. Then she underlined the title and drew a few more question marks underneath. She drew a circle, a nice strong bullet point, and coloured it in. The only thing she could think of to write was ‘someone to make her happy’, which was trite and obvious. Who the hell wanted to shack up with someone who made them unhappy? Idiots, that was who. And Regina Mills was no idiot.

Emma grinned. She could just about hear Regina’s voice in her head telling her that idiocy was the Charming family’s domain. It said a lot that she even missed Regina’s insults. And, she did. Now that Henry wasn’t their little boy anymore—okay, so he’d always be their little boy, even as a grown man, but he wasn’t a little kid—Regina didn’t even come by to drop him off when they alternated custody. Henry got himself between parents, or one of them picked him up after school or at the diner. That was a shame, because Emma had enjoyed the little slights and insults they had traded during their hand-offs, and she was pretty sure Regina had enjoyed them, too.

Someone who can stand up to her, she wrote on the almost-blank page.

Fuck, but trying to be someone’s friend and look out for them, when she wasn’t even sure that Regina wanted either of those things from her, was harder than it looked. Detective Swan would probably encourage Detective Mills to see herself as worth more than an affair with a married, unemployed thief. Not that Emma thought that Regina cared about status. She’d been willing to give up the promise of a kingdom for a stable boy, after all.

A stable boy and a thief. For a Queen, Regina definitely liked the lower orders. Or maybe she just liked someone who saw her for herself. Emma tried to think of anyone who saw Regina as just Regina, without a whole lot of baggage attached. She came up with a list of herself, Henry and, trying to be fair, Robin. She immediately discounted Robin, though, for several reasons. Okay, so she didn’t know the guy, and she hardly knew his wife, and whatever he was doing with Regina was none of her business. Except, except, except. She had promised to give Regina a happy ending, and happy endings rarely came with a frozen wife attached. And she was the Sheriff and Beardy was just another guy who would break Regina’s heart, which gave her some kind of moral high ground. Also, whenever he saw Emma, Robin’s face said that he’d rather shit a bowling ball than be near her, which was was totally fine with Emma, because she’d rather he shat a bowling ball, too. Plus, Detective Swan would never think he was good enough for her partner because he just he wasn’t. Short version, she really didn’t like the guy.

But, yes, someone who sees her as Regina, she added. It was getting easier. Someone Regina could rely on, who would never let her down knowingly. Someone who thought she was beautiful, but appreciated her more for who she was, rather than how she looked.

Emma smiled to herself. Regina was certainly beautiful. There was no denying that fact. Emma had been all across America, and she had visited a couple of different realms, and yet Regina surpassed everyone else she’d ever met. And her voice? That should be classified as a lethal weapon. She knew it, too, knew how to use it to get what she wanted. Emma was willing to bet that the right person would do pretty much anything Regina asked if she asked in that tone she got when she wanted things. Emma herself found it impossible to resist, so someone who was interested in Regina like that would be a goner.

She wondered if Regina ever sang. That was one to ask Henry, for sure. It could be a thing on the show. Detective Mills could sing to Henry every night. In Spanish. Or not. English would be good, too. Any language, any song. The phone book. The ingredients on the side of a box of cereal. The instruction manual (which was inexplicably in only in Swedish and Danish) for the 1980s photocopier they had at the Sheriff’s station.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she pulled it out to see a text from her father saying that Elsa was looking for her. Ah, shit. They’d agreed to meet up, and Emma had forgotten again.

She looked back at her notebook. So, what she was looking for was someone who would value Regina as a person; who would always want what was best for her; who would always try to stand by her and believe in her; who understood her, and who she really was; and who basically thought she was hot as hell.

Where the hell was she going to find someone like that among all these fairytale idiots?

+

08. Light starts to dawn on Mount Emma, but dims again

Hook’s heart had been taken, used by Gold for his own ends again, and all Emma could think about was how Regina had been Gold’s biggest pawn, and how that had caused Regina nothing but pain.

Regina, who was experiencing new pain because she was sending Robin away with his wife and his son, a boy Emma knew Regina had come to love.

Regina, who would have no-one to talk to, because there was only Henry now.

Regina, who deserved love more than anyone Emma knew.

Regina, who actually understood her in a way that no-one else understood her, and put up with her shit and called her on it sometimes, but mostly just accepted the way Emma lashed out at her when she was hurting.

What would Detective Swan do, when Detective Mills was mooning over a love affair gone wrong? Shots, probably. Shots in some dive-ass bar which Detective Mills usually wouldn’t be seen dead in, but which Detective Swan would drag her to because it was her neighbourhood place and it was quiet and because no guy would be stupid enough to interrupt them. Ruby would be the gruff owner-bartender, and Leroy would be the guy who was always nursing a beer at the far end of the bar.

Detective Emma Swan would take her partner there for shots and let her get drunk and talk at her, but would reassure her that she was way too fucking good for whatever loser had done her wrong, especially if he was a married loser who hadn’t been remotely worthy of being in Detective Mills’ presence in the first place, because Detective Mills’ love was something that you earned, not something that got handed to you like magic or something.

Detective Regina Mills—‘Detective First Class,’ she would say when she was drunk, because she had to keep the upper hand, no matter what—would class up the joint, because she just did, all the damn time. She would obviously be wearing a dress, something black with a neckline which plunged a little too much for police work, but not enough for Detective Swan’s tastes and—

Whoa. Back the fuck up.

Not enough for the male audience’s tastes. Yeah, that was what she had meant. That was totally what she had meant.

Having seen Regina as the Evil Queen was just messing with her mind, that was all. It had been quite a sight, though: that dress (worn ‘with the poise and composure of a Queen’) was the closest Emma Swan had ever been to real-life porn. It was a dress which had made her screech to a halt, needing only a cartoon sound effect playing in the background to make the moment perfect. And now that she’d seen it, Emma didn’t know how she could ever un-see Regina in that dress.

But, no, ‘Mills and Swan’ was a family show, therefore Detective Mills would be wearing a pant suit—tasteful, tailored, well-cut, elegant—but definitely with a vest, because a vest always brought a little extra definition to the fact that the woman didn’t understand that the appropriate number of buttons to leave open was exactly one fewer than she did.

As she opened the door to Granny’s, Emma had a fleeting thought that maybe she should check on Hook. But Regina was already there, and Regina looked like she needed a shot, and Emma really needed a shot, and, hell, what were partners for?

+

09. Mills and Swan

It started with the shots, and, although Regina’s agreeing to drink with her had been an unexpected delight, it was nowhere near as good as being included in Operation Mongoose. She and Regina were friends now, even if she’d confidently bet her last curly fry that Regina wouldn’t admit that to her face. It was still true, though, and it was why she was leaning against the doorframe of Regina’s office, a boxed lunch in each hand and two bottles of root beer tucked under her arm.

Regina was looking at a sheet of paper in her hand, that vein in her forehead pulsing in a way which implied she wasn’t happy about something. She had to be deep in thought not to have noticed Emma’s arrival, so she cleared her throat and waited for Regina to motion her inside.

“What’re you thinking about?”

“Nothing.” Regina’s smile was shy and easy at the same time, and it made Emma think back on the years they had wasted not being friends, when, really, who were they kidding? They were the Saviour and the Evil Queen, Henry’s mothers, the two most powerful magic users in town, the only two people who could save any day. Even though Emma hated the idea of the secret hand of fate (or, worse, the malicious hand of Gold) guiding their every move, there was no denying that her life was inextricably linked with Regina’s. Working together was better than working against each other in every way. Together, they were unstoppable.

“Nothing-nothing, or nothing you want to tell me about nothing?”

Regina shook her head. “Nothing worth sharing right now.”

“So, nothing you want to tell me about, then?” Emma grinned as she eased herself down into the seat facing Regina.

“Do stop trying my patience, Emma.” Regina snapped her fingers and pointed to the desk, indicating that she wanted her lunch handed over. Her feigned irritation was tempered by the slight smirk she had, a facial tic which Emma was growing increasingly sure was reserved just for her.

They chatted over their meals, and Emma pretended not to notice that Regina kept stealing her curly fries because friends did things like that, and she was actually friends with Regina Mills.

As she was clearing away the remnants of their meal, Regina mentioned some rumours she’d heard of strangers in town and suggested they should probably investigate. That made Emma think of stakeouts and damn fine coffee and Detectives Mills and Swan teaming up to win the day once again.

“You’re smiling,” Regina said.

“Is that a problem?” Emma wiped her face with a tissue (because that seemed like the sort of thing Regina would appreciate, and she wanted to make her friend happy) and put it in her empty container, which she passed to Regina.

“No, but it’s unusual.”

Emma frowned. “I smile.”

“Not often.”

“Really?” She thought of herself as the sort of person who smiled a lot. She certainly thought of herself as someone who smiled a lot around Regina.

Regina nodded. “You are surprisingly serious.”

“How do you make what even a harmless observation sound like an insult?” Emma leaned back in her chair, the heavy meal sitting low in her belly, and the company making her feel more relaxed than she had in the longest time.

Regina laughed, a low chuckle which Emma thought might be one of her favourite sounds in the world.

“It’s a skill,” Regina said. “And you’re avoiding my question. What has you smiling so?”

She shrugged. “I was just thinking that whatever Big Bad has decided to come to Storybrooke doesn’t stand a chance against us.”

“No?” Regina’s lips were pursed, like she was holding something back.

“What?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what’s the thing you’re not saying?”

“What makes you think there’s something I’m not saying?” Regina’s smile was all teeth and charm, and it was a politician’s smile, if ever Emma had seen one.

“Because I know you. There is always something you’re not saying.”

Regina leaned forward, her arms braced on the desk, her chin resting on her knuckles. “I was just thinking that, while you have a certain chaos about your life which aligns with the on-screen portrayal of Christine Cagney, I am no Mary Beth Lacey.”

Emma groaned and let her head fall back, staring up at the ceiling. “Henry told you about that?”

“He most certainly did.”

“It was just a thing.” Emma tilted her head towards Regina, who was preening, enjoying Emma’s discomfort. “A thing he wasn’t supposed to tell you.” When Regina didn’t say anything else, she sighed. “And we weren’t literally Cagney and Lacey, it was just based on that. Like, we were totally us, only no magic and stuff, just crime-solving.” She swung around, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees.

“So, I wasn’t some matronly figure making pasta for my husband and sons out in Queens?”

“No. No!” That wasn’t how she saw Regina at all. “You were totally you, with the mansion and the clothes and the everything.” She waved her left hand in Regina’s direction. “And no husband, just Henry. And David was our grouchy Captain of Detectives, and Snow was my kindly next-door neighbour, and Granny was your housekeeper, and Ruby owned the local bar where I drank after work.”

Regina snorted. “And Hook?”

“Umm.” Emma frowned, because it hadn’t even occurred to her to cast him in the show. “Yeah, I hadn’t thought about him.” She rubbed the back of her neck.

“I assume I was the senior detective?”

“Oh, yeah. Detective First Class.” Emma nodded and sat up fully, noting the satisfaction in Regina’s eyes and knowing that she’d been right all along about Regina’s need for top billing in their partnership.

“And what was the name of this show of yours?”

Emma’s posture eased. “Mills and Swan.”

Regina’s quirked eyebrow indicated that she hadn’t expected that. “Not Swan and Mills?”

“Nope. Definitely Mills and Swan.”

“You know,” Regina leaned back, a broad grin spreading across her face, “I think I like the sound of that.”

“Yeah.” Emma liked the sound of that, too.

3 Comments

  1. Posted 8 March 2015 at 8.49pm | Permalink

    The fact that there’s 0 comments on this bugs the hell outta me. So un-lurking it is!

    I’ve discovered my love towards SwanQueen thanks to you guys and look forward to them as much as spashley now.

    This chapter makes a great prequel and it’s hilarious to see how oblivious one can be towards their own feelings at times. Though at some point it’s gonna hit every single one of us, been there as well.

    Keep up the great work guys; your stories always sweeten my day.

  2. Devje
    Posted 9 March 2015 at 9.55am | Permalink

    Awww, TYVM for your comment. It is totes appreciated.

  3. Devje
    Posted 22 April 2015 at 12.28pm | Permalink

    Thank you so very much. Srsly, TYVM.

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