A/N: I think I warned people that there would be fic. It's part of my apparent compulsion to write for every version of the Hatter, ever. I think I also warned people that I like to write complete nutters, so, eh... here you go.
One Eye To The Telescope
He's not dead. Of course he's not dead, because he's alive, and alive people are not dead. And dangerous, we shouldn't forget dangerous. Dangerous and not dead and beating beating beating— there's a warm dark around him and he thinks of the pathway between worlds.
If she had just tried a little harder, he thinks, she could have made the magic sing without inflicting grievous bodily harm— he's fine, though, really, the cuts and bruises heal and he could paint a masterpiece as long as he only used red red red— but he can't be angry because because here he is, the magic worked, he's more or less Somewhere Else, except for the fact that Somewhere Else isn't Anywhere In Particular, but he doesn't mind because at least Somewhere Else is not Storybrooke, or that House. He was getting pretty tired of the decor. It made him want to throw throw pillows at the walls and climb up after them to the roof to the rafters.
Funny how magic doesn't cure madness, after all. He didn't really expect it to, though, so no harm done. The warm dark dark around him is moving just slightly, as though it's breathing, or maybe he's breathing, and it's using his breath and breathing through him. He looks for doors, doors with locks and keys, doors without locks and keys, doors disguised as windows, doors disguised as teacakes. Nothing doing. Just the warm breathing dark, which embraces him happily.
He hasn't been embraced in oh so long. Just long enough that he can wrap his arms around himself now and smile at the fiction. It's just a story, that's all, just a history, his story, and though he doesn't know the ending he knows how it began.
Once upon a time there was a girl who fell down a rabbit hole, or maybe she was pushed. Maybe she jumped. Maybe she drowned and maybe she swam, but either way she washed up on the shores of his consciousness and was everything he'd never wanted and always thought he should ask for. Her hair was the color of the Sheriff's, oddly enough, and her dress was blue, and her eyes were closed when he kissed her, so they told each other tales in the dark and she laughed at him. "It's just a story," she said.
Perhaps they could have grown up together, two children hand in hand, if not for the fact that Time kept grabbing hold of him with both hands and refused to let go, regardless of how he kicked and screams. Kicks and screams. He's still in motion, still ticking quietly to himself, and there's the thought of his daughter's mother at the back of his befuddled head, smiling, smiling and saying his name.
The warm dark clutches him closer, momentarily, and Jefferson's own smile fades. The motion is receding, waves of the ocean on a disappearing shore, eight-count heart-beat. In the distance, the sound of keys in locks, of doors scliching open. He's settled onto a flat surface with a grain to it, against it. He runs his fingers through his own hair in the absence of company.
"Well," he thinks, or thinks he thinks, to himself, or anyone who's listening. "No time like the present."
No present like the time.
He pushes himself to his feet in the warm warm dark, and Emma Swan stumbles backwards as the erstwhile madman appears in her apartment, already smiling as though fresh from the punchline of some cosmic joke.
"Hi!" he says. "Thank you. I don't suppose you have any tea?"