A Crack in the Dark: Say that they had been standing just a little closer to the window during their struggle for the gun. Say that Jefferson's grip on it hadn't been as sure as he thought. The gun goes off and Emma and Jefferson fall into a world she thought was just a fairy tale. But will they make it out?
It should come as no surprise to him that Snow White hits as hard as she does. She spent years on the run, learning how to survive, how to look out for herself when her own royal stepmother wanted her dead. Still, Jefferson can't help but be stunned by the blow to his head that temporarily costs him all control over his motor functions. His hand jerks and he is dimly aware of a dull roar that seems to fill the room, or maybe it's just his own ears. He doesn't have time to ponder that, though, before the second blow connects, this time with his solar plexus. It costs him whatever sense of balance might have remained in his body after the first blow. Jefferson is sent stumbling and suddenly, he is all too aware of the glass window at his back. Trying vainly to stabilize himself before he takes a three-story fall, Jefferson's hand wraps around the closest thing possible—it feels like flesh. In that brief moment of realization that people feel before reality catches up with them, Jefferson realizes that it is Emma's hand and he notices the shocked look on her face. Then, the world speeds up again, and Jefferson comes to the sickening realization that Emma's hand isn't enough. Instead, it follows him as the window shatters under his weight. Strangely enough, silence reigns as gravity takes control and man and woman are yanked out the newly created opening. For a moment it feels like they are floating as their bodies seemingly hover in mid-air, thirty feet off the ground.
Then the feeling passes and Jefferson has time to curse as he feels the movement of air begin to rip and pull at his body. It rips and pulls and tugs…and keeps going. Jefferson frowns; they should have hit the ground by now. He opens his eyes, not realizing that he had even closed them in the first place…and is stunned once more. It is not the clear winter air of Storybrooke, Maine that surrounds them but a strange, purple cloud that Jefferson had feared he would never see again. He is elated as he realizes the 'rabbit hole' has surrounded them; for that one, brief moment that Emma had seen his scar, she had seen the truth. She had believed, and her belief has worked. Strange winds tug at their bodies and, lacking any semblance of balance, set them spinning and tumbling around each other. The Hall of Doors appears, and Jefferson loses any semblance of rational thought as Emma crashes down on top of him, driving the breath from his lungs. For a moment, he just lays there, dizzied from the impact and thinking how much less this would have hurt if Emma had just believed a little sooner. Then he realizes that it is Emma's weight on top of him that is keeping him from regaining his breath and so he nudges her, trying to get her to move off. She groans and, seeing that she isn't going to get up on her own, Jefferson lifts her off of himself, shifting her to the floor beside him as he painfully sits up.
He spends a moment willing away the pain from the goose egg on his head and then he looks down at Emma, intending to ask her what she thinks of his insanity now, but the words die on his lips. Emma's eyes are open now, and she looks stunned, yes, but she's not registering anything around her. She takes a short, gasping breath, her face creasing with pain and Jefferson frowns, leaning closer, wondering if she has somehow managed to hurt herself while landing on top of him. Emma's hand comes up to her chest, just over her heart and Jefferson takes it, hoping to snap her out of it. But as soon as he touches her, he knows something is wrong.
Emma's hand is wet, far too wet to be nothing more than a sweaty palm, and Jefferson pulls his hand back in surprise and concern. To his horror, it is covered in blood, but both of their hands are otherwise unblemished, untouched by glass or any other sharp implements. The blood is coming from somewhere else. Alarmed, he reaches for her again and this time, he knocks her hand aside and yanks back the fabric of her thin black tank top. What he sees temporarily causes his heart to stop.
It is nothing more, and nothing less, than a small, round hole in the chest of the woman lying beneath him, and from that hole welled forth the blood that coated their hands.
The memories of the past minute, previously dislodged by the harsh impact with the granite floor, come flooding back into his mind. A struggle. A gun. A crack. A feeling like someone had swung a hammer into his palm. And a peculiar look of stunned shock on Emma Swan's face as the bullet slammed home…right into her chest. She has been shot. And he is the one who shot her. For a moment, Jefferson stares at the woman who was supposed to be the Savior in horror. She stares back at him through eyes clouded with shock and agony, not understanding what is going on. Jefferson had known right from the beginning that killing the Savior would do him no good; who would end the Evil Queen's curse if not her? He had taken the gun only to make sure she didn't use it on himself, to make her make his hat. He had never intended to shoot her. But he had.
Emma tenses as a wave of pain wracks her wounded chest, and for a moment, Jefferson is paralyzed with fear. Emma is so sure, so stubborn, so strong…this shouldn't be happening. She's not supposed to be hurt, she's not supposed to die. But she will, if he doesn't do something fast. Coming back to his senses, Jefferson reaches for her once more and lifts her limp body against his own, heart twisting as she whimpers in pain. As he does, he spots the blood pool, previously hidden by her Emma's own weakening body. Jefferson curses and slides his fingers along her back. He confirms what he had half-hoped he wouldn't: an exit wound. That means the bullet isn't lodged in her chest, which is good, but Emma is bleeding from both her front and her back and from the looks of it, bleeding heavily. Wishing for all the world that she had not yanked the scarf from his neck, Jefferson cradles her against him with one hand and forces fingers stiff with fear to work at the buttons of his vest. They come undone and he manages to yank it off. He presses one end against the hole in her back and the other against the one in her front. Emma gasps and cries out in pain.
"I'm sorry," Jefferson whispers, applying as much pressure as his shaking fingers possibly can. He doesn't know if she can even hear him, but he has to say it anyway. "I'm so sorry."
They linger like that a moment longer, and then Jefferson shifts his position, leaning back as he tries to use his body and Emma's own weight to apply pressure to the weeping wound in her chest. His right hand thus freed, he reaches for the hat that sits so innocuously only inches from his questing fingers. It was for this that he had done everything the man he used to be never would've done. It was for this that everything had gone so terribly wrong and now, Jefferson isn't sure any of this was worth it, all for that one, damning top hat that had gotten him into so much trouble in the first place. Still, he reaches for it and his long, nimble fingers finally succeed in snagging what could be their only hope and Emma's only hope for survival. With an ease borne from years of practice, Jefferson sets the hat spinning. It spins…and it spins…and nothing happens.
He screams at the magic, at the hat, at himself. It all makes a sort of sickening sense now. Regina and her Dark Curse have broken magic in a way, leaving it to exist in small, fragmented pieces accessible by only a select few and only at odd times. It was the strength of Emma's belief that had powered the hat before, and now, she has no strength left.
Defeated in a way that he can't even begin to describe, Jefferson lets his hand drop. The hat will offer them no salvation. Unless Emma can somehow find the strength to pull the magic she hardly even believes in out of her failing body, it is just a hat and will remain a hat for the foreseeable future, of which Jefferson is not convinced there is one.
It is a sound and the tiniest amount of motion against his chest that draws Jefferson's attention back to the woman leaning against his chest and their horrible reality. Disoriented, confused, and in unspeakable agony, Emma's hand comes up to brush against his arm, fingers grasping his shirt sleeve with a strength that was almost nonexistent. "Jef'rson?" she murmurs. Jefferson looks down at her and captures her fingers in his own so she doesn't have to hold them there. Emma no longer knows what is happening. She only knows that she hurts worse than she ever has before, in a place where she thinks (she is not sure) she has never been before, and the man holding her, the man offering her comfort, the man she thinks might be keeping her alive is the one who might have done her harm in the not-so-distant past. She doesn't care, though. Jefferson—is that even his name?—is the only comfort she has right now, and she isn't going to push it away. Emma tries to sort out her jumbled thoughts that are becoming foggier by the second. "Wha…what happened?"
Jefferson's throat, raw from the force of his scream, tightens in a way he has felt too many times over these past three decades. How can he tell her that he is the one who shot her? He never wanted to hurt her, he never wanted to hurt anybody except maybe Regina and the Queen of Hearts and all her cards in Wonderland…but never Emma. Not the woman who he knows is to save them all, but now needs saving herself.
No, he can't explain that to her, not right now. "You're hurt, Emma," Jefferson says instead, trying to force some of that surety, the one she has been hearing from him all night before this had happened, back into his voice. It only half-works.
"Oh." Emma thinks hard, or at least as hard as one can think when one's life fluids are leaking out on the ground below them. She doesn't even have the strength to lift her head up from her captor's shoulder. Her chest burns. It's hard to breathe. "Need…help."
Yes. Yes, she needs help, but there is no hospital to save her; there is not even a doctor to help them. Jefferson's grip on her tightens, mind spinning uselessly, trying to think of a way to get Emma home, to save her. He is distantly aware of the beating of her heart against his fingers. Each beat causes more of her precious life blood to trickle out of her body, staining the vest that is doing its very best to keep that blood in.
With sudden, crystal clarity, the rest of this dismal situation snaps back into perspective and Jefferson gasps. Blood. Emma is bleeding, yes, but she is alive. If the bullet had hit her heart or her lung or even the major blood vessels nearest those vital organs, she would be dead by now. There would be no blood left in her body. But Emma is alive. The bullet hasn't hit her heart. And as long as her heart is intact, as long as Emma is still alive, she still stands a chance. She can still be saved.
The chance is slim, but even that slim chance is enough to make hope bloom in Jefferson's heart. He looks around them, scanning each of the doors in front of them, weighing the consequences of passing through each one. Wonderland is out, the Queen's cards are everywhere, and Emma would have no hope of survival at all if they were to be caught. One by one, his frustration mounting, Jefferson rules out the other doors. They are too dangerous, and he cannot take a wounded woman through their portals and expect her to survive.
But…one door remains.
It is a door Jefferson knows well, a door he has passed through many times. It is the door to his own world, the one cursed by the Evil Queen. For a moment, Jefferson wavers. What lies on the other side of that door? Hell? He thinks back to what little he knows of the Dark Curse. He knows it was enacted in revenge against Snow White; he knows from experience that it has separated the land's inhabitants from anyone and anything they hold dear, including their homes. Is that what awaits them, then? An empty land, and nothing more?
Well, there is only one way to find out.
Praying that this will not do her more harm, Jefferson carefully sets Emma down on the ground, hoping that the pressure he has applied over the last few minutes will keep her from dying during the few seconds it takes him to reach the door. She does not even whimper when he does it, and her silence does nothing other than heighten his worry. Time is of the essence, then, and he hastens his steps to the door. If anything dark and evil waits on the other side, he does not want her to be the one to meet it. Heart pounding, Jefferson's hand closes around the cold handle of the door. For a split second, he pauses. If he opens it, and evil waits on the other side, this will be the end of them.
But it will most certainly be the end of Emma if he doesn't. Mind made up, Jefferson takes a deep breath…and eases the door open.
No fire-breathing dragons jump out at him from the other side. No black smoke creeps into the Hall of Doors. Jefferson's breath is stolen from him once more as he looks out at the world he hasn't seen in thirty years. It is morning there; the sun has just barely risen. All is silent; not even the crickets chirp in the cold winter air, and Jefferson realizes he is looking at a land not quite locked in stasis, but emptied of its human inhabitants. It is as if the Enchanted Forest is waiting, waiting for someone to restore life to it.
That someone is Emma.
Feeling a determination he hasn't felt since his wife died too many years ago, Jefferson returns to Emma's side. She is still unconscious, and he is actually grateful, knowing that he cannot cause her more pain. He takes his own belt, using it as a make-shift tourniquet and binding to hold his vest in place over Emma's wound before gathering her up in his arms. He tilts her, letting her forehead come to rest against his shoulder. Emma doesn't even stir.
Now, with the Savior in arms, Jefferson crosses the black granite floor. He pauses only for a brief second…and then the Enchanted Forest's poor hatter, once driven mad by his years trapped in two different worlds, finally goes home.
Author's Note: This is a very slightly revised version of chapter 1. I do have plans to continue this, I promise, I just don't know when.