Author: Albion19 PM
The curse is broken and Jefferson wants to take his daughter home. Emma, dealing with the truth of her parentage and her own magic, gets caught up in Jefferson's strange life. But burgeoning attraction and a fragile trust are all threatened by an awful truth. Discovering other worlds, the hunt for lost children and missing memories force Emma and Jefferson into an uneasy alliance.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Fantasy - Emma S. & Mad Hatter/Jefferson - Chapters: 16 - Words: 66,509 - Reviews: 136 - Favs: 80 - Follows: 52 - Updated: 08-04-12 - Published: 06-10-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8204049
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Her Papa is different.
He had always been a little odd, never quite fitting in any place. He had told her that was why he liked to travel. But this is a different sort of otherness. A nervous, giddy energy seems to emit from him like waves. He seems…off.
She watches him twirl the top hat around his fingers and then like a magician makes the hat travel up his arm to sit on his head. He grins at her and she claps, smiling at him. After being reunited he had taken her to his home and shown her around. The place was huge and filled with many intriguing objects but there were things in it that gave her pause. A room filed with stacks and stacks of newspapers and magazines that must have been complied over decades. Numerous hats are lined up on shelves and on every wall there are images from Alice in Wonderland. There is even her very own room which her Papa had shown her proudly. It is all very peculiar and she does not know what to think.
Now she cocks her head at him, taking in his appearance. He had worn white hospital scrubs when they first met but had changed into jeans, shirt and a waist coat. A red scar rings his neck which he hides with a cravat.
"Were you inured Papa?"
"What?" He freezes, eyes wide.
She flourishes a hand at him and then touches the smooth skin of her throat. "The scar on your neck. How did you get it?"
For a moment his eyes grow dark but then he shrugs with a rakish smile. "I learned to my disadvantage that you should never shave on a boat, particularly ones that fly."
"Papa…" she purses her lips, knowing that he lies but does not press the issue. The scar is connected to the strange energy that seems to hover around him. The only thing she knows is that he did not have a scar when he left all those years ago.
"Come on Grace, it's time."
"Time for what?"
"To go home of course."
The smile on her face dies slowly and she stares at him. Home? What is home? Where? She thinks of their small cottage in the forest and feels a pang of longing but then with another pang, even stronger, she pictures her mother who is probably sick with worry. She will have realised that she is missing by now. Grace takes a step back, frowning.
"I have to tell them if I'm going away. They'll be freaking out, I know it."
His jaw clenches and he gets down on his hunches to stare at her. "You're not in trouble Grace. You don't need to tell them anything."
"But — "
"I'm your real father; I can take care of you." He hugs her, rubbing her back. "I get it. You have two sets of memories and you're confused about what is real. The couple you lived with used to be our neighbours. They're nice, good people but they're not your parents. I am."
Grace says nothing. The truth is she does not feel confused about what is real or not. Everything that has happened has been real. The memories she has, the love and affection, are real and no matter what he says she will not deny it. She gazes at her father softly.
"I didn't even say goodbye."
His jaw clenches again and he stands straight suddenly. "I'm sorry Grace but I've waited too long to go back now. You'll be sad for awhile but soon you'll see that this is for the best. We don't belong here sweetheart."
He takes her hand and leads her into the garden where he lays the top hat onto the grass. Grace eyes it warily. She remembers the hatbox that her father hid from her and often wondered what was inside it and what caused him to keep it under lock and key. She eyes him nervously as he suddenly flicks the hat and it spins.
"Is that the portal?" Her father had told her some things about his old profession when she was younger. He looks at her with a smile.
"Well remembered. Yes it is. Now we better stand back, it can get a little wild." He takes her hand and they peddle back. As they do a whirlwind rises and the hat grows increasingly bigger. Soon the funnel of the hat disappears into the earth and Grace looks down into a deep hole. She gasps and pulls back.
"I can't! I don't want to go!"
They turn as the sheriff skids to a stop. She gawps at the spinning top hat and then stares at Jefferson, shouting out his name. An arm suddenly circles Grace's waist and with a gasp she and her father jump into the portal. A hand grabs the back of her pyjamas and their screams are swallowed up by the maelstrom.
Through the dark and the whirling wind Emma sees something flickering past, just at the edge of sight. At first she dismisses it but then realises she is falling down a top hat and far past the point of denial. What she sees are doors in the darkness, an infinite amount of doors. Her mind is so fiercely preoccupied with the oddity that she does not realise she has stopped falling until she feels the smooth floor against her cheek.
"Sorry about the decent, it's usually slower but I'm a little out of practise."
His voice echoes behind her and Emma lifts her head up. What she sees causes any thought to flee. She is lying in a huge rotund room, the floor beneath shiny and embellished with strange swirling symbols. Dotted around the walls are doors of many styles. Her eyes follow the red velvet walls upwards until they are lost in darkness. The place, whatever it is, is breathtaking.
"Where the hell am I?" Emma gets on her feet and turns to Jefferson who whips around at the sound of her voice. His eyes are wide with surprise.
"You followed me?"
"I was trying to stop you taking Paige."
"Grace! Her name is Grace."
The aforementioned clings to her father's coat, huge eyes taking in the surreal sight around them. She looks stunned. Emma smiles at her and takes a step forward but Jefferson moves between them.
"You're not touching my daughter."
Emma ignores him and focuses on Grace who peers at her under Jefferson's arm. "Hi, I'm Emma. I don't think we've met."
"You're the sheriff, Henry's other mom," she whispers.
"That's right. I know all this must be super weird right now but you're safe."
"Of course she's safe. Look I don't know why you're here but I'm taking Grace home, like I told you. You have to understand." His eyes lock with hers and she is vividly reminded of being inches away from him as he explained why he needed her to make the hat. Despite herself his desperation had touched her but that had not stopped her from doing what was right.
"Wendy reported her missing and right now she is worried out of her mind. Jack is searching Storybrooke."
"She is? Did you speak to her? What did dad say?" Grace moves past Jefferson and doesn't see the way his jaw clenches but Emma does. She moves closer to the girl but again Jefferson suddenly comes between them. He takes hold of Emma's arms and stares into her eyes.
"Tell them not to worry. They knows me, we've known each other for years. I'm grateful that they took care of Grace but that life was a lie."
"Yeah? Tell that to them." Emma softens her features, adopting the calm tone she had used with him before. "The woman who came to my door was not pretending. She was sick with worry. The life they had in Storybrooke might have been created by a spell but she loves Grace as much as you do."
"I can't go back there," he whispers, eyes searing, "I've waited and waited too long. I want to go home Emma." His voice is guttural and soft with desperation. Again she feels her heart going out to him but quickly clamps down on it. He kidnapped her and forcibly imprisoned her. He wasn't someone you let your guard down around.
"I understand but this isn't about you. Did you even ask her where she wants to go?"
"Did you ask Henry?" He counters and she blinks, thrown.
"How do you know about that?"
He smiles, "I kept my eye on you." He looks over her shoulder at Grace who is inspecting one of the doors. "Don't get too close. Remember the rule?"
Grace nods and moves back a safe distance. Emma frowns and moves with Jefferson to stand with Grace.
"The same amount of people who go through the hat have to come back. Or you'll get stuck…that's how I ended up in Wonderland."
He stares into the distance, his jaw set stiffly and Grace looks up at him thoughtfully. Emma looks away from his haunted face and around the odd room. Directly before her is not a door but a glass elevator and across from that a red brick wall.
"What is this place?"
Jefferson snaps out of his revere and cocks his head at her with a strange, all knowing smile. Emma finds it insufferable.
"This is the Realm Room — though it's not actually a room." He spreads his arms and then looks upwards. "This is just a part of it and it never ends."
"Never ends?" She looks sceptically around the room. It's circular but she spots four stone arches and through them more rooms with doors. Jefferson comes towards her with a smile.
"I told you that there are an infinite amount — "
"Pressing up in a long line of lands. I remember." Emma stares wonderingly at the doors, particularly one hung with green drapes. It is embellished with the word OZ. "Does that lead where I think it leads?"
He says nothing, just smiles. He had tried to make her believe and now that he's seeing her awe it has a jubilant effect on him. Hurrah for him, she thinks scornfully. Emma smoothes her features and tears her gaze away from the doors. She came here for a reason and she was not going to be swayed from it.
"Okay all this is great but you're still not taking Grace anywhere. Hand her over."
The amusement on his face drops like a brick. He takes Grace by the arm — who has been as intrigued by the doors as Emma — and backs away. Emma approaches slowly, eyes never leaving his. But Grace shakes his hand off angrily and whirls around to face them.
"Stop it! Both of you!"
"Grace, honey, you — "
"No you're both going to be quiet for once and listen to me."
Emma's eyebrows lift and she stares at Jefferson who shrugs. Grace exhales, calming herself and gets her thoughts in order before speaking.
"I'm not a baby, I can make up my own mind about where I want to go or not. Papa," she turns to him and her features soften, "I love you and I've missed you more then I can say. I want to see our old cottage but I don't want to stay there forever. Do you promise to take us back if we go with you? And this time don't lie."
He blinks rapidly, his eyes gleaming wetly and too chocked up to talk he can only nod at her request. Grace smiles and takes his hand before turning to Emma.
"Sheriff Swan — "
"You can call me Emma."
"Emma…please don't arrest my father. He didn't mean anything bad by this. He's agreed to take us both back after we've seen our home. Please, please don't send him to jail."
Emma comes forward and drops to a knee to stare into Grace's pleading eyes. "I know your dad doesn't want to hurt people but he broke the law."
"Then give him a warning! We've all been stuck in that stupid town for twenty eight years. Give us a break!" Grace says hotly and Emma can't help but smile. Emma looks up at Jefferson who has not said a word.
"Will you behave?"
The corner of his mouth quirks, "If you do I will."
"Cool, now shake on it," Grace demands and with a sigh Emma stretches out her hand and it's clasped gently by his. They shake, eyes regarding each other with a strange gleam.
The door is in the shape of a tree. Emma glides her fingers along the smooth wood and looks up at the carved branches. A door is set into the trunk.
"Is each door particularly made for what is behind it?"
Jefferson shakes his head. "These doors weren't made. This place was discovered like this, many, many years ago. Doors appear and fade, no one really knows why but I have my ideas...Some people theorised that this is the axis of the universe — the axis mundi — the place where all realities meet. People like me have been exploring the realms that we find here."
"So that's what you did?"
"I was a Realm Jumper. I would document the lands and then they would be archived."
"Okay Indiana, what is waiting for us through there?" Emma jerks her head at the ornate tree and Jefferson shrugs.
"Only one way to find out. Shall we?" He takes Grace's hand and pulls the handle. Before he enters the dark interior he pins Emma with a look. "Remember: three people go in, three people have to come back."
"Got it." She moves behind him and places her mouth against his ear. "Don't think for a second you've gotten away with this. Once we're done here your ass is mine."
He smirks at her over his shoulder and then walks through the door. Emma holds her breath as she follows them into the dark and whatever lies beyond.
note: Excuse any mistakes. I'll continue with this, hopefully.