A/N: This is it folks—the last chapter.
Special thanks to golds laugh for working to translate this story into Polish! Dziękuję, jesteś super! (I "googled" that)
And thank you to everyone who has been reading this story! I hope you've enjoyed at least some of it as I've enjoyed writing it.
Chapter 18: The Princess and the Court Jester
One week had passed since the Dark One's dagger had been destroyed and the people of Storybrooke were still coming to terms with the fact that there was no magic that could get them back home. Some were satisfied to stay in this magic-less world, while others were not. And then, there were some who were more concerned with "interpersonal" issues...
Emma Swan stood on Jefferson's porch, her fist raised to knock on the door, but she hesitated. Memories of drugged tea and scarfs and hats and a gun pointed in her face raced through her mind. It was only the house that brought back those memories. There were more recent memories that came to her mind whenever she thought of Jefferson... Emma shut her eyes as she took a deep calming breath, and suddenly, the door in front of her opened. Jefferson stood there in the doorway wearing his usual scarf and his dark layers of clothing.
"Emma." he breathed, sounding surprised as his eyes fixed on hers.
At the sight of him, Emma was temporarily rendered speechless. She stared at him dumbly as she tried to remember the words she had come to say. Days ago, she had meant to acknowledge what he'd done for her, but her job had continued to get in the way. Finally, something about today had brought her to Jefferson's house. Whatever it was, Emma had put-off thanking him for long enough.
Emma took a deep breath and looked him in the eyes as she said, "I just wanted to thank you for—"
Jefferson quickly raised-up a hand, silencing her.
"You don't need to thank me, Emma. If it wasn't for you—if you hadn't broken the curse—I wouldn't have gotten Grace back," Jefferson paused to give her a smile, "I should be thanking you...daily."
Emma swallowed as she stared at him and the smile he wore caused her heart to pound.
"Emma," Jefferson sighed her name as he gave her a bored look, "Will you just come inside? We're far too acquainted to be having a conversation on my porch."
Emma winced at the way he said the word "acquainted" and it involuntarily brought up the memory of his lips pressing against her own. It made her pulse quicken and her skin flush. Jefferson smirked upon noticing.
"I promise not to make any tea. I won't so much as offer you a glass of water."
Emma rolled her eyes at his words, but she couldn't help but find it sort-of charming.
"Thanks," she spoke sardonically as she walked passed him, "That's very reassuring."
A smug smile formed on Jefferson's face as he closed the door behind her. Emma glanced around at the familiar surroundings as she walked further into his house. The living room had changed since she had last been inside of it. There was evidence spread throughout the room that a child lived there, now. A stuffed rabbit was on the couch, a framed drawing sat on the mantle above the fireplace and a small brightly colored jacket hung from the coat rack. Emma relaxed a little at the sight of those small details. They obviously belonged to Grace. Emma stopped as she was suddenly reminded of another reason she had come.
"There was something I wanted to ask you," she confessed as she turned around only to find him standing right before her.
Her heart started to find herself face to face with him—his intense, blue eyes examining her carefully.
"Yes?" he asked as a watched her with interest.
"I, uh, I wanted to ask you something about that day—the day you went to the Blue Fairy."
"What about it?"
"Well," Emma began, "You once said that you didn't want Grace to have two lives in her head, so why didn't you wish for the Blue Fairy to make her forget? Why didn't you wish to have custody of her, like you wished it for me?"
Jefferson sighed—it was a heavy sigh that seemed to cause his entire body to deflate.
"Because," he replied, "Grace loves them, and—in spite of my resentment towards them—they're good people."
Emma gazed up at him, noticing the torment that was clearly etched in his expression at the mention of Grace's other parents. It made Emma's heart ache for him, and yet, at the same time, she admired him for not using magic to solve his problems. She was tempted to tell him that she was proud, but she didn't want to come-off as patronizing. Emma glanced around the room, trying to think of an appropriate response, but instead she noticed that there was an object clearly missing from the room. Emma brushed passed him as she walked towards the windows.
"Where's your telescope?"
Jefferson strolled over to where she stood.
"Why?" he asked bitterly, "Are you worried you might need to use it again?"
Emma ignored that. She hadn't come to argue or to judge him. She had come to express her gratitude for how he had helped her get custody of her kid. Emma sighed as she pulled back the curtain from the window and peered outside.
"Jefferson—I want to try to be friends."
The word "friends" hung silently in the air for a moment because it wasn't that easy for Emma to say and because it came as a shock to Jefferson. Emma kept her attention at the window until she felt him move up behind her, feeling his clothes brush against her back.
"Just friends?" he whispered into her ear as his cheek pressed against her hair.
Emma shivered as his hands slowly slid down her arms and her body betrayed her by leaning into him. Jefferson sighed into her hair as if he were relieved—as if he had succeeded at something. Emma quickly pulled away.
"Yes," she answered as she turned around, "Friends. And that is already a stretch for me, considering the things you've done. But I've also considered why you did them, Jefferson. I know it was all for your kid, and honestly, I can't say that I wouldn't have done the same for Henry."
"So—you forgive me?"
Emma made a face and her eyes darted to the ground.
"Hardly," she replied before meeting his gaze again, "But I can try."
Jefferson's brow furrowed at her words and he moved backwards until he was half-leaning, half-sitting on the back of the couch.
"That sounds familiar," he noted as he gave her a wry smile, "The last time you told me that you'd "try"—you swung a telescope at my head."
"That was different," she quickly defended as she moved towards him, "You were asking me to try something impossible, but forgiving you—Well, I'd say that's closer to the realm of possibility. I want to forgive you, Jefferson. I think my heart already has, but my brain has some catching-up to do."
A smile tugged at Jefferson's lips as he suddenly got it in his mind to help her brain catch-up. He stood to his feet then, so that he could cross the short distance between them. Before Emma could protest, he took her face in his hands and pressed a kiss to her lips. It was soft but strong and it nearly made Emma's knees give out. A quiet moan came from her throat as she kissed him back, slipping her hands between them and running her fingers over the buttons of his waistcoat. Jefferson sighed contentedly at her acceptance and then moved his hands to grip the tops of her arms. He kissed her softly once more before pulling away.
"Well," he breathed the word as he pressed his forehead to hers, "I'd say that "just friends" is slightly outside the the realm of possibility for us."
Emma sighed in defeat and dropped her forehead on his shoulder as her hands gripped at his clothes.
"Why do I have such terrible taste in men?" she asked as she buried her face against his chest, "They're either married or crazy."
Jefferson raised an eyebrow at the word "married", but he decided that that would be a story for another time. With his hands still gripping the tops of her arms, he pushed her away so he could look into her eyes.
"I'm not crazy," he told her as he held her gaze, "I have been pushed to madness—but that's different. Emma, I think the real reason you won't accept how you feel about me is because you're worried what other people will think. It's because of Snow, isn't it? It's because your parents don't approve."
Emma scoffed at him.
"You say that like I come from some well-to-do family that still believes in arranged marriages!"
Jefferson raised an eyebrow and he gave her a knowing smile.
"Emma," he began, "That is precisely the kind of family you come from."
Emma let go of his waistcoat and her arms fell slack at her sides as she remembered just who her parents had once been. Of course, now, they were merely an elementary school teacher and well—maybe not so insignificantly—a mayor. The mayoral succession had fallen to the sheriff, but Emma had no more wanted to be a part of that than she wanted to be thought of as a member of a royal family.
"Oh," was all she could respond with.
Jefferson gave a laugh and raised a hand to her face, brushing his thumb across her cheek.
"Of course, I don't believe Snow and James would have forced you into an arranged marriage. Still—they would have wanted more for you than some traveling magician," Jefferson smirked at her and then removed his hand from her face, "That would have been the about equivalent of the Princess dating the Court Jester."
Emma rolled her eyes.
"I am no princess and this isn't some fairytale world, anyway. This is the real world."
"A real world," he politely reminded her, "Just because there's no magic left in this one—just because we can't reach the others—doesn't mean that other worlds don't still exist."
Emma sighed at the mention of "other worlds". She had hoped never to hear about them again—or at least not so soon. Emma walked away from Jefferson and around to the couch. She sat down on the very spot she had once woke up on—mouth gagged, wrists and ankles bound—and somehow, it didn't affect her. And despite all that Jefferson had done and despite what he thought, Emma was not ashamed of him.
"My parents approving or disapproving has nothing to do with it," she admitted as Jefferson rounded the couch to sit next to her , "We both just got our kids back. Don't you think that we should be focusing on them instead of starting a relationship—a very, VERY complicated relationship?"
Jefferson's eyes averted to the carpet as a grin formed on his face. He placed his arm along the back of the couch then, so he could lean-in closer to her.
"Grace will always be my first priority, Emma," he said as he looked deeply into her eyes, "As Henry will always be yours. You say that our relationship would a complicated one, but honestly Emma, who better than me would understand the devotion you have for your child? How many other men would be willing to come second in your life to boy that isn't even theirs?"
Emma tore her eyes from his gaze to stare at the coffee table that was in front of her knees. She had learned from some of the foster parents she'd been placed with—the ones who had children of their own—how the fathers often showed a difference. Some of the men had outright resented the idea of raising a child that was not their own. Never-the-less, she didn't particularly like being told that she'd have trouble keeping relationships because of Henry. Hell, who was she kidding, she never had been very good at keeping relationships anyway. Jefferson's hand brushed a strand of hair from her face then, and it coaxed her to look at him.
"It would be different with me, Emma," he told her as if he had heard her thoughts, "Our relationship would be one of understanding."
Emma gave a sigh and leaned back into the couch until she could feel his reclining arm behind her shoulders.
"I don't exactly have the best track record with relationships."
Jefferson's arm wrapped around her, pulling her snug against his side before he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"Neither do I," he admitted.
And the two of them sat together in silence as they wondered about each other's pasts and the secrets they had yet to tell one another. Jefferson had lost his parents and his wife and nearly his child—he was half convinced that he was a plague on relationships. Emma, on the other hand, had always been afraid of opening up—she had been afraid of getting hurt, but her time in Storybrooke had changed all that. The only thing that stood in her way, now, was that still small voice in her head that told her to "beware".
Emma ignored it as she turned in to Jefferson, sliding her hand up over his chest to the scarf around his neck. She dipped her fingers beneath the scarf, brushing her finger tips across the scar that was hidden there as she watched his face for a reaction. Jefferson didn't so much as flinch. His eyes searched hers, unblinkingly, as she touched the permanent reminder on his neck—the scar that represented the magical maddening world he had once been trapped in.
Emma tore her eyes from his gaze as she examined his neck, and a heart beat later, she leaned-in and pressed a kiss to his scar. Jefferson's breathing hitched at the action—not so much from feeling her mouth against his neck as it was from what the kiss meant. It was acceptance. It was acceptance of the horrible beheading scar, and if Emma could accept something as impossible as that—she could accept him.
Jefferson practically pulled her on to his lap, wrapping a arm around her waist while his free hand tangled in her hair. The kiss was everything Emma expected one of his kisses to be—frantic and hot with skilled lips and steady hands. Her hands absentmindedly touched the buttons of his waistcoat as they made-out on his couch. Feeling the layers of clothes that separated them, a question arose in Emma's mind and she pushed herself away.
"Jefferson," she panted, breathless from kissing, "What's up with your wardrobe and all these layers of buttons? I mean—really?"
Jefferson's heavy-lidded eyes glanced down at himself, examining the vest that covered his button down shirt. He shrugged and then sent Emma a curious look.
"Why—What's wrong with it?"
"Don't you ever get tired of buttoning and unbuttoning so many buttons everyday?"
Jefferson huffed-out a laugh.
"Honestly? No. My hands are always happy to be at work on something."
Jefferson proved that by slipping a warm hand beneath the tail of her shirt as he leaned-in to resume what she had interrupted. Emma pushed him away.
"But don't you think it's really inconvenient and frustrating when your getting all hot and heavy and you want to—"
Emma paused as she caught sight of the mischievous smile forming on his face.
"In that case, Princess—You're more than welcome to rip them off," he said before pressing a kiss just below her ear and whispering, "I can always resew the buttons later."
Emma shivered—not so much from the permission to rip-off his clothes as it was from feeling his mouth against her neck. She leaned in to him and wrapped her arms around him as his kisses moved up to her jaw before again meeting her lips. His hands were warm against her back as they slipped beneath her shirt and she was tempted to unwrap her arms and start undoing those buttons. Suddenly, the sound of a door being pushed open allowed the sound of chattering voices to fill their ears.
Emma quickly removed herself from Jefferson's lap and stood to her feet, smoothing-out her hair and clothes in a frenzied attempt to fix herself. Jefferson remained cool and collected on the couch—neither surprised nor caring that his hair stood-up a little taller than usually thanks to Emma's excitement.
Two children walked into the living room then—one, was a blonde-haired girl, and the other, was a brown-haired boy.
"Emma?" Henry questioned in confusion as he glanced between his mom and Jefferson.
His nose crinkled a little as he noticed their disheveled appearances.
"Henry—what are you doing here? You should be at—" Emma paused as she glanced around the room, looking for a clock, but she didn't see one and she wasn't wearing one.
She grabbed for Jefferson's wrist and he stood to his feet so she could more easily read his watch. Her eyes widened.
"School's over already?"
Emma gaped at Jefferson. She was surprised at how quickly the time had flown while she was with him, but he didn't look surprised at all.
"Yeah," Henry said, "And don't you remember? I told you that me and Grace have a project for school. You said it was okay to come over here."
Emma pressed a hand to her forehead at the reminder and gave a frustrated sigh. She had totally forgotten, and yet, on some unconscious level she had remembered something about "going to Jefferson's house"—she just hadn't remembered that it was supposed to be Henry going and not her.
Henry gave her a confused look.
"Why are you here?"
Emma gulped at Henry's question and Jefferson placed a calming hand at her back.
"We were discussing the possibility of you and Emma moving-in with Grace and I."
Emma's mouth fell open and she shot Jefferson a dark look.
"That would be great, papa!"
"Yeah!" Henry agreed to Emma's semi-horror.
"So how about it, Emma? You haven't given me your answer yet."
Her eyes narrowed at him and his stupid mischievous smile. She felt pressured from feeling the children watch her with eager anticipation.
"I don't know," she grumbled as she glared at Jefferson, "I haven't had much time to think about it."
Jefferson's smile widened—it was precisely why he had put her on the spot. He didn't want her to think too much about it.
"We have plenty of rooms. You and Henry could have two each, if you'd like. And—some of the bedrooms even have locks on the doors."
Jefferson winked at Emma and it only irritated her more.
"You can't live with your parents forever, Emma," Jefferson teased, "I mean—that apartment was small enough when it was just you and Snow, and now..."
It was just cramped and awkward. Emma scowled as she thought about it.
"I could have my own room again," Henry spoke, wistfully.
"And I know the perfect one for you!" Grace exclaimed, "Follow me and I'll show you!"
Emma huffed-out a breath in disbelief as she turned to watch the children leave the room. It seemed she didn't have much of a choice—Grace had practically already moved them in. She felt Jefferson come up behind her then and she spun around to find him standing before her in that too-close way of his.
"Did you plan this?" she asked as she scowled-up at him.
Jefferson gave her a bored look.
"How could I have possibly planned for you to show-up on my doorstep?"
Emma glanced away from him as she considered that and Jefferson lifted her chin with a finger, coaxing her to meet his gaze.
"Come on, Princess, just say that you'll move in—what do you have to lose?"
Emma shot him a look.
"You're the one who's gonna lose something if you keep calling me Princess."
Jefferson laughed and it was the most lighthearted laugh Emma had ever heard from him. She smiled in spite of herself and decided that—maybe—the new nickname wasn't so bad after all. Jefferson took another step towards her until she could feel those buttons of his brush the front of her shirt. He placed his hands at her waist and pulled her against him, obliterating any space between them.
"So, what's it going to be, Emma?" he asked as he gazed down at her with hope in his eyes "Will you continue to live with Snow and James in that tiny apartment—or, will you take a leap down the rabbit hole and come live with me?"
Emma stared up at him—her eyes dancing over his face as she considered his words. There had been times, while she was in Storybrooke, that she had felt a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole, but never more than she did in that moment. Her heart pounded in anticipation and her thoughts raced with "what ifs" as she opened her mouth to speak...
"Promise I won't go mad?"
A surprised smile spread across Jefferson's face as he carefully examined Emma.
"No," he replied as he placed a hand at the back of her neck, "I have every intention of driving you completely and utterly crazy."
Jefferson kissed her then, and their hands clung to one another in a desperate embrace. It was wonderful. It was exciting. It was maddening—and some would argue that there was no better way for love to be. For the kind of love that could drive you mad was better than any dull-as-dishwater "happily ever after", and Emma and Jefferson's love-story would be anything but dull. They would have moments that were happy and they would have moments that were unhappy. But they had learned enough about the value of a moment to know that the unhappy ones could make the happy ones all the more sweet.