AN: Okay so a few things, first there will be many references to OUAT characters as well as one or two Dollhouse characters. I own nothing as usual. Once we dispense of the Dollhouse tv show references, this will be its own story focusing more on Regina and the NY Dollhouse. Any questions feel free to ask.
Four years later…
Regina Mills, Director of the Manhattan Dollhouse, sat in her office hoping for a simple day when there was a knock on her door. "Come in."
The door opened and in walked Mr. Gold her head of security holding a folder. "Good morning Miss Mills."
"Mr. Gold. What do you want?" Regina always got a bad feeling around Gold, there was something about him that just set her off so she tried to minimize their time together.
If Gold sensed her animosity he never let on, he simply held up the folder and said, "a bit of company business. Seems the LA Dollhouse had a problem with two of their actives."
Regina's eyebrows raised, curious because the LA Dollhouse had its share of problems but it never warranted Gold's attention. "Oh?"
Gold nodded as he sat down on the chair in front of Regina's desk. "Seems that in their blank state, two of the actives managed to start and maintain a…romantic affiliation. Obviously this is not a good thing so the decision was made to transfer one of them to another dollhouse." He paused then for a moment then met her gaze. "This dollhouse."
Regina was surprised to say the least, "That's impossible. Actives in their blank state can't make decisions like that on their own. Someone must've been manipulating them…like their programmer. What's his name?"
"Topher Brink, and no…the wipes were always clean. But somehow, they remembered each other each time. The transfer was already approved by higher channels Miss Mills. I am simply here to inform you that we'll be getting a new Active." He placed the folder on her desk then, letting her see for herself.
Regina sighed as she picked up the folder and opened it. For the next few minutes she read the details surrounding the active's recruitment and her engagements while with the LA Dollhouse. When she got to the picture of the active at the end of the file her breath caught in her throat. The active was a very beautiful blonde with green eyes and a tiny scar above her left eye. Regina managed to hide her reaction behind her impassive mask and she looked up at Gold. "Very well. When does this active arrive?"
"She's here now. I left her with Dr. Whale for a physical before we assign her a new handler."
"I see." It really was a done deal. "Who was the active she was…involved with?"
Gold chuckled then, "It was Echo. As you know, Echo is DeWitt's little pet so there was no chance that she would be the one moved."
Regina allowed herself to grin then. It was common knowledge among the other Dollhouses that some directors had their favorites, their pets that they favored above the others. Echo was DeWitt's. Thus far, Regina hadn't formed such attachments to her actives. There wasn't one that caught her eye…but this new one might change that. Regina's eyes went back to the file and landed on the active's codename: Phoenix.
It seemed fitting and would blend nicely with her other actives. Unlike the LA Dollhouse which seemed to use the military alphabet to name their actives, Regina's dollhouse used mostly fairytales and mythology to name the actives. Phoenix would work nicely and there wasn't another active with that name so there wouldn't be an issue.
Regina turned back to Gold, "Very well. I suppose there's very little choice here. Have Graham get the chair ready for the Handler-Active imprint protocol and have Miss Blanchard report to him. I'm assigning her as Phoenix's handler. The file says Phoenix only has a year left on her original contract so she won't be here long and Miss Blanchard has been without an active long enough."
Gold nodded, knowing that Mary Margaret Blanchard was without an active because she was being punished for allowing her last active to be injured during an engagement that should've been routine. Blanchard had reacted too late and the active was left with a scar across her face that wouldn't go away. In a moment of pity, Regina had overridden that active's contract and released her from the Dollhouse, with an implanted memory of a car accident and coma to explain the missing three years of her life. It wasn't often that Regina had these moments of compassion but when they happened no one questioned her.
Mary Margaret had been 'benched' ever since, as punishment for her mistake and her role in costing the dollhouse a very popular active. "Yes ma'am." Gold stood up then and left, knowing when he was being dismissed.
Regina watched him leave, her mind recalling the incident that left her without an active and having to bench one of her best handlers. As her eyes fell once again on Phoenix's photo, she hoped she wasn't making a mistake assigning Blanchard to her. Those green eyes were bringing out a protective side of Regina that usually only surfaced with her son, Henry.
Mr. Gold walked into Dr. Whale's office and looked the man up and down for a moment before he asked, "Where's the girl?"
Whale, who was always nervous around Gold, just pointed to the left where a screen was set up to allow the actives to change clothing when he examined them.
Gold nodded then spoke up, "Phoenix, are you dressed?"
After a moment, a tall blonde stepped out from behind the screen, a blank expression on her face, "yes. Who are you?"
"I'm Mr. Gold Phoenix. Will you come with me?" Gold kept his voice neutral and pleasant, knowing it was the best way to talk to the actives.
Phoenix looked at him for a moment then nodded, "okay."
Gold turned and led her out of the office and over to the other side of the catwalk they were on that led to the programmer's domain. Graham Hunter was their resident tech genius who compiled and then implanted all the imprints for the engagements. He was a weird sort but Gold figured you had to be a little weird to do what he does to people.
Phoenix followed the man to another room and when she saw the chair she knew she was supposed to get into it. Silently she complied and waited for her treatment.
Gold had just finished explaining to Graham what he was to do with Phoenix when Mary Margaret Blanchard walked in, ready for the Handler-Active imprint. Gold left then, knowing he wasn't needed.
Mary Margaret nodded to Graham and took the script he handed her in one hand and the blonde's hand in her other hand. Graham started the machine and waited.
"Everything's going to be alright." Mary Margaret began.
"Now that you're here." Phoenix said, replying with the preprogrammed phrases.
"Do you trust me?"
"With my life."
They looked into each other's eyes as the words, the physical contact and the machine did their job and bonded them together.
After a moment, the machine wound down and turned off. Phoenix blinked her eyes and looked at Graham, "Did I fall asleep?"
"For a while."
"Shall I go now?"
"If you like."
Phoenix stood up and left the room. There was a guide waiting for her outside the door to show her where to go.
Graham looked to Mary Margaret, "Second chance Mary Margaret. Don't blow it this time."
The dark haired woman turned to Graham, voice slightly angry, "Mind your own business Hunter." She left then, knowing he was right and hating him for it. This was her second chance, the only one she would get to prove she was a great handler and that what happened to Snow was just an anomaly.
Graham watched her leave and just shook his head. It would be interesting to see how this played out. Regina Mills wasn't known for her forgiving side so for her to give Mary Margaret a second chance after what happened with Snow, was a big deal.
Regina left her office a few hours later for lunch and she stopped just outside her door and looked down at the main common area of her dollhouse. There were actives scattered around the room, sitting on couches or doing yoga. Some were even in the far corner in the art class they had set up a while back.
Regina looked at them all, feeling pride well up inside as she thought about her role in keeping these people safe and happy. It was ultimately her responsibility to maintain the health and welfare of her actives and she took that job seriously.
Regina's eyes fell on her newest active, Phoenix. She allowed a small smile as she watched the blonde move around the room, smiling at some actives, saying a word or two to others until she settled on an empty couch. She looked content to just sit there and watch the others. If Regina didn't know better she would swear that Phoenix wasn't in a blank state after all but she knew that was impossible.
Regina allowed herself a moment longer to watch the blonde before she forced her feet to move and went to the commissary for her lunch. Sadly, because of the secrecy involved in their job, there was no chance for take out or leaving the building for lunch. So she had to settle for whatever the staff chef decided to make for lunch. Luckily, they had one of the best chefs in Manhattan working for them.
Regina entered the commissary and headed for the buffet line. She smiled at the chef, who insisted on being called Granny, and said "Hello Granny. What's on the menu today?"
Granny, a woman of a certain age though she'd never reveal that age to anyone, smiled at Regina and replied, "Four cheese lasagna." Granny knew Regina loved lasagna so she tried to make it at least once a week, but she varied the days to avoid becoming predictable.
Regina smiled, "Well then I'll take a double serving."
Regina got her food and sat down at a table alone, hoping to eat her meal in peace without anyone bothering her.
At the end of the day, which for Regina meant nine at night, after the actives were asleep, Regina left the Dollhouse and headed home. To the outside world, she was CEO of a Wall Street money house. It was her cover in case anyone asked.
Regina opened the door of her house and smiled as she smelled dinner cooking. She had just managed to hang up her coat and purse when she heard a sound that made her heart beat just a little bit faster. She turned and saw her four year old son Henry running at her full speed.
Regina bent down and braced herself as he launched himself into her arms, smiling. "Hi mommy!"
"Hi Henry." Regina hugged him close, loving their nightly ritual. "Did you have a good day with Aunt Kathryn?"
"Uh huh, we went to the zoo!" Henry's enthusiasm was contagious and Regina picked him up and began to ask him about his trip to the zoo as she made her way to the kitchen. With Henry going on excitedly about all the animals, Regina entered the kitchen to see Kathryn, Henry's nanny and Regina's half-sister, at the stove making dinner. It wasn't in her job description to make dinner for anyone but Henry but Kathryn insisted that she loved to cook and why not make enough for everyone.
Regina took advantage of a pause in Henry's retelling of the zoo trip to say, "Hi Kathryn."
The blonde at the stove turned to smile at Regina, "Hi Regina. Dinner's almost ready if you wanted to wash up."
"Thanks I will. Come on Henry let's go get washed up for dinner okay?"
Regina turned and left the kitchen, heading for her bedroom. Henry was once again talking about the animals and walking around the Bronx Zoo and the train inside the zoo.
Regina set him on her bed to continue talking while she went into the small bathroom attached to her bedroom and quickly changed into more casual clothes. She removed her makeup and looked into the mirror to see Henry standing in the doorway smiling at her.
She smiled back at him, "hey little guy. You wanna wash your hands now?"
Henry nodded and came closer. Regina picked him up and held him up so he could wash his hand himself, since he was too short to reach Regina's sink. Henry's bathroom had a step stool for him but he liked using her sink whenever she was home.
After a little while she carried him downstairs for dinner. Together the three of them sat at the table and ate, talking about their day and just enjoying the time together. Regina was once again glad that she had Kathryn in her life. She had discovered she had a half sister about two years before she adopted Henry. Her father had apparently known about his other child but it wasn't until he passed away and his will was read that Regina met her sister. Henry Mills Sr. had always been a private man but having a child with another woman was a whole new level of secrecy…especially since it turned out that he'd been living a double life as husband and father to two families.
Regina didn't hold it against Kathryn that their father had been a polygamist jerk and they bonded actually over the pain he ended up causing their mothers and themselves. Before too long, it was like they'd known each other all their lives.
When Regina had adopted Henry, Kathryn had offered to be Henry's nanny since she did have her inheritance from their father as well as a job as a freelance writer. Regina accepted the offer and she's been Henry's nanny ever since. It was a great arrangement as it allowed Regina to do her job and not worry about how late she was because Henry was with someone she trusted who also lived with them so there wasn't the problem of Kathryn needing to get home by a certain time.
Kathryn understood that sometimes Regina would have to work past nine and those nights Regina would always call first to let her know.
"So, good day today?" Kathryn asked, curious because her sister never really spoke about her job.
Regina nodded, "We um, got a new associate today. We'll see how she does and if the clients like her. But so far, it's okay."
Kathryn took a moment, "New associate? What's she like?" Kathryn knew that Regina preferred women over men, which is why she adopted Henry instead of finding the 'right man' and getting pregnant. She was curious if this new associate might be someone Regina could be interested in.
Regina shook her head ruefully, "She's…interesting. Blonde, green eyes. Seems smart and like she knows what she signed up for so who knows. Why?"
"Curious. Is she…someone you could see yourself with in the future?"
Regina frowned, "No. She's not my type." It was a blatant lie but Kathryn seemed to accept it.
"Okay, just wondering."
The rest of the meal passed in silence as each woman was lost in her own thoughts and neither one wanted to break the silence.
After dinner, Regina put Henry down for the night and said good night to Kathryn who also headed up to bed.
That night, Regina dreamed about Phoenix. She knew she could imprint Phoenix to be anything and anyone she wanted, but it wouldn't be real and at this stage in her life…all Regina wanted was something real.
To be clear, Phoenix is Emma (in case that wasn't clear). Mary Margaret is her own personality and "Snow" was one of the actives. I made Kathryn Regina's half sister because I felt she needed someone to confide in later, plus who else but family would she trust with Henry? Since Regina's Dollhouse uses Fairytales and Mythology to name the actives, just know more will pop up...and you should picture them as they are. (example: Red is obviously Ruby. Rapunzel is Disney's version from Tangled as is Elsa from Frozen and so on.)