"This wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I said you'd brought magic to town."
As she and Henry made their way Down Main St., Emma was surprised to hear a calm voice addressing her. Most of the other townsfolk were teetering between dazed and panicked and want currently much for casual conversation.
Slowing slightly, she turned and said, "Are you saying I did this"
Jefferson shook his head. "No. You broke the curse…but releasing magic into this world is far beyond raw potential," he said lightly, then peered around her. "Hello, Henry. I'm pleased to see you recovered."
"Thank you," Henry replied politely, though he sounded curious. "Do I know you?"
Again Jefferson replied in the negative. "No, but I make a point to know anyone clever enough to catch on to the little oddities of our town. Nice job realizing what your book really is."
Whatever Henry's response might've been was cut off by a shout of, "Emma! Henry!" and then Emma found herself caught in a crushing hug, pinned between Mary Margaret and David. Henry was squished against her side, trying to squirm free and having no more success than Emma.
Finally, they pulled back and Mary Margaret (Snow…Mom…fuck, that was weird) swiped the tears from her cheeks, asking, "What happened? Oh Henry, I'm so glad you're okay!"
"Emma broke the spell," Henry replied, voice muffled by the renewed hug she'd hauled him into.
"The curse," Jefferson said absently from where he was scanning the crowd of confused townsfolk. "The Apple was cursed."
"An Apple," Mary Margaret breathed unhappily. "Like…."
"How is that possible?" David asked, clearly puzzled, feeling Emma could relate to. "Did Regina keep it in reserve all these years?"
"She had me retrieve it from the forest," Jefferson replied, expression shifting from searching to shame as he met Emma's eyes. "I don't know how I missed the connection, thought she wanted to make you leave, not…."
Before he finished, David's fist shot out, catching Jefferson and the cheek and sending the slimmer man staggering. The fact that he didn't fall was pretty impressive, but he failed to defend himself as a second blow landed and David slammed him against a wall demanding, "Why would you help her?"
Emma knew she should, as Sheriff, step in, but she thought Jefferson deserved a smack or two.
"She promised me my daughter… Promised to let me forget, like everyone else, ignorance is bliss…."
Oh God, his daughter. Emma had more than half believed him about grace even when she thought him simply a mentally unbalanced hostage taker. That night, she'd been unable to hear his story for what it was, unable to know it was true that he'd spent nearly 3 decades so close and yet so far from the child he clearly adored.
Less than a year had driven Emma to the brink of what would legally be called kidnapping.
"Stop that!" A young voice, high-end feminine, called out and David let out a grunt, stepping aside as his hand fell to his hip.
In the confusion, Grace had found her way to her father and was clearly displeased to find him pinned to a wall and bruised. She held a field hockey stick clenched in her little hands and had obviously used it to hit David and herd him away from her father.
As soon as he was released, Jefferson breathed, "Grace," and stumbled forward, falling to his knees to gather his daughter close. She dropped her weapon in favor of clinging to her father as they both sobbed, uncaring who saw or heard.
Above them, the strange purple mist had evolved into storm clouds and thunder rumbled ominously.
Other familiar faces (Ruby, Granny, Archie, Leroy, Marco and many others) pushed closer as Emma said, "We should probably get off the streets. Regroup and figure out what to do next."
"Our apartment won't be safe," Mary Margaret said confidently. "Regina will not be happy and she knows who all our allies were. We have to go to ground."
"Or we could impose on someone Regina won't suspect as readily," Emma said slowly, staring at Jefferson's bowed head until the man looked up to meet her gaze.
"Emma, no!" Mary Margaret began, shaking her head. "He's crazy and kind of evil…."
"More of a chaotic neutral with shitty judgment," Emma countered, not breaking eye contact with Jefferson. "What do you say? Want to earn some good karma points?"
He held her gaze for several beats before smoothly rising to his feet. "You gave me my daughter back. I'll stand with you against Regina."
So that was how the new battle began.
It had already been a long day by the time everyone arrived at Jefferson's home. By dark the children had been fed and tucked away in Grace's room and guards had been posted (August, alive but made of wood, and Ruby patrolled the grounds while Robbie Locke (Robin Hood, a lovely, scrappy young woman) kept watch from the rooftop.
Everyone else wandered off and found a bed or a couch to fall onto. Emma wasn't sure how long she'd been asleep when the screen rent the night, startling her awake.
Fearing some sort of attack, she snatched up her sidearm and burst out into the hall. David and Mary Margaret were already there, armed with a hunting rifle and a chef's knife respectively. Granny had a pump action shotgun and was standing sentry by the children's room, managing to look menacing despite her flannel nightgown.
David was first into the room the screams had emerged from and, as soon as he entered, Emma saw the line of his shoulders shift from battle readiness to confusion. As Emma and Mary Margaret followed, David crossed the room to her Jefferson was thrashing on his bed, muttering and caught in the throes of a nightmare.
"Hatter, wake up," David said and, when that failed, he reached out and gripped the other man's arm. "Jeffer…."
"NO!" As soon as David touched him, Jefferson reacted by fleeing himself away, tumbling off the bed, which cut off the shouts of. "Get off me! Don't touch me!..."
David froze, hand still extended over the now empty bed as Mary Margaret and Emma exchanged glances. There were certain phrases and reactions that evoked a visceral dread, that cause niggling, horrible suspicions to form in the minds of those who witness them.
As they stood there, Jefferson peaked over the side of the bed, hair a wild birds nest above confused, frightened eyes. His gaze darted from David to Mary Margaret and finally landed on Emma as he gave himself a shake and centered himself. "What are you three doing in here?"
"You were screaming," Mary Margaret said, tone far more gentle than what she usually directed at the man. "Nightmares?"
He paused for a moment, lips pressing into a thin line before nodding. "Didn't know I was so loud about them. Sorry."
"No one's mentioned it to you before?" Mary Margaret continued, hiding her knife behind her back. All the weapons were probably an unnerving sight to wake to.
The only response he gave us a quick shake of his head before he raised a hand to wave them off. "Go back to sleep. I'm going to make myself a drink."
Emma stepped out into the hallway with David and Mary Margaret in order to give Jefferson some privacy to collect himself. While they returned to their room, Emma hesitated at her door before turning and heading for the kitchen. She wasn't quite ready to drink tea with Jefferson, but she wanted to assure herself that he wasn't about to have some kind of psychotic episode…well, she wanted to assure herself that a psychotic episode was no more likely to happen than usual.
After 10 min. of standing in the dark kitchen and seeing no sign of him, Emma let out a grunt of annoyance. She'd heard Jefferson pad lightly down the stairs, but his footsteps of past by, heading toward the sitting room. Though the white room didn't hold the best memories, Emma steeled herself and went in search of her of her exasperating ally.
What she found surprised her.
Jefferson was seated on the piano bench, hands hovering over the ivory keys, fingers moving, playing a silent tune. Instead of his usual layers of fabric, he was clad only in soft looking flannel pants, bareback displayed by the moonlight streaming through the windows.
She'd known he had a nice body since the night they'd fought, pressed close and struggling on the floor. He was strong, all lean muscle, tight, flat abs and long legs. Later, she chided herself for noticing and decided it had been far too long since she'd gotten laid.
What she hadn't expected with a clear signs of abuse. In retrospect, considering the scar on his neck (and all it in implied), she probably should have. All manner of scars littered his back, lash marks, burns, slices that could only have come from razor-sharp knives…and over one shoulder blade, a crudely carved heart.
Despite lingering mistrust (understandable, considering everything), Emma didn't deny (to herself at least) that she felt a connection to Jefferson, empathy and, okay, attraction. Because of Henry, she knew what it was to miss her child and because of her life before Storybrooke, she knew what it was to be desperately lonely.
But she'd been lucky in one respect. Her foster families it never hurt her physically, just been benignly neglectful. Even her stint in prison hadn't been too bad.
Enduring whatever had made those marks…well, he was sensitive about being called 'mad', but, clearly torture could drive anyone to the brink.
Not wanting to trigger a fight or flight response from him (as David's proximity had done earlier), Emma lingered by the door as she asked, "What are you doing?"
He twitched lightly, but his fingers never lost their rhythm. "Playing helps me focus. Center myself. But I don't want to disturb anyone, so…."
Emma nodded silently and crossed the room to perch on the coffee table. She watched as he continued his exercise until he stopped suddenly and folded his hands in his lap.
"I can't be like this," he murmured. "Grace needs me to be her father, not broken. Here, not there, not even in my dreams."
"What happened?" Emma couldn't help but ask. "I mean, I read your story in Henry's book, but…."
"Most of the Queen of Hearts predilections weren't exactly suitable for children's literature," he said softly, turning on the bench to face her. His chest was as well sculpted as his back and equally scarred. She tried not to look at the angry red mark over his heart.
"How long were you there?"
"Time…moves at different rates on different worlds. Three weeks in the forest… Three years in Wonderland," he said, rubbing a hand over his face. "I actually gave up after year, through myself onto fabric shears, right through the heart… But Wonderland is funny like that. The Queen surgeon patched me up and then… Well, failure not, she was not pleased by my suicide attempt."
Oh God, he'd shoved scissors into his own heart. Emma really didn't think there was a good response to that, so she let him continue uninterrupted.
"I'm certain Regina meant to trap me in a fractured mind here, but I was already so broken that it didn't take. All I've wanted, all these years, was my daughter and now I have her and I'm terrified that I might not be able to be the father she needs. I'm certainly not what she remembers."
Unable to help herself, Emma rose and stepped over to him, stopping when there bare toes were only inches apart. A portion of her brain noticed the shirt she'd grabbed to sleep in (because it smelled so incredibly good), the one she was currently wearing, matched his pants. When he tilted his head back to look up at her, she admitted, "I'm scared too. I've never really been a mom before and now I have Henry, a weird fairytale war that I seem to be the general of and magic I don't even begin to understand and people are expecting me to be 'the savior'. I never planned for any of that."
"I can help with the magic," he said, voice less lost than it had been. "I might not have magic myself, but I know how to wield it, how to focus." He stood gracefully and extended a hand to her. "May I have your hand?"
She hesitated only a moment before placing her palm in his and watched, fascinated, as he turned it over, supporting her hand with his left, while drawing a circle on her now upturned palm with his right index finger.
"Magic itself is neutral, neither evil or good. It is the intent of the wielder that determines what it becomes," he murmured and she felt her palm tingling, saw a blue/white glow shimmer in the path of his finger. "So don't be afraid of your power, Emma. You'll use it for the right reasons."
A circlet of light shone brightly in her palm as he stepped around her, lining himself up against her back and supporting her hand with his. Slowly, he extended her arm toward the empty crystal vase atop the piano. "You can use your power to protect, to nurture," he breathed, chin coming to rest on her shoulder as his thumb swept across the back of her hand, "to create."
Before her eyes, a dozen red roses appeared in the vase, sparkling into existence without a sound, just to shimmer of the blue/white magic. Emma felt it flow through her and gasped, trying to take it step back but encountering the wall of Jefferson's chest.
For the span of several heartbeats, they stood there in the quiet dark, staring at the roses. She could feel his heartbeat, strong and steady, against her spine, feel his soft exhalations of warm breath against her neck. Emma knew she should feel uncomfortable, pressing up against him half clothed in the middle of the night, but all she felt was the kind of euphoria.
Still, she wasn't about to let that go to her head.
"Somehow, I don't think a magical rose offensive is going to be very effective against Regina," she said, turning so that she could meet his gaze.
As he demonstrated during their lasting counter, he seemed to have little regard for personal space. Instead of stepping back to give her a bit of room, he just smiled. "That is just beginning, Emma. The magic in you, I can feel it… And because of who you are, it's good."
Emma didn't know exactly what it was about the quiet of the night that made everything seem to fall away, but for the first time since…well, for the first time in a long time, she felt a small measure of peace. Sure, she knew the world as she knew it had drastically changed, she'd found a family she'd never been aware of and had inherited a fight against evil magic, but standing there in the too late room, with the man she should be wary of, she felt like everything was going to work out.
They were all a little broken, but together, maybe they could save the world.
Comments, pretty please?