This was written for Mad Swan appreciation week, filling this prompt:Write an AU featuring Mad Swan. Set Mad Swan in a different land or time period.
So in this story the curse is never cast and Emma grows up in FTL to be a princess. This version of Jefferson is the one seen in 2x05.
Emma slips behind a tapestry as couples dance, the ballroom crowded and giving her enough cover to escape unnoticed. It is her parent's nineteenth wedding anniversary and like every year they celebrate it with a ball. As a child she delighted in it, in the anticipation and the dress fitting, in the opportunity to see so many people gathered together celebrating their King and Queen. But as she grew older the excitement dwindled. As she matured her interests turned to other things, to hawking and fighting with her mother, to hunting with Graham and Red, to farming and gardening with her father. And even if she did prefer the passing excitement of pretty dresses and dances she had other, more urgent matters to deal with. At the age of thirteen, as she entered puberty, her magic manifested in volatile and sometimes dangerous ways and as a result she grew into a reserved, calm teenager because the opposite was just not possible. She keeps a tight lid on her emotions and only sometimes will it explode.
Like now, for instance.
Now that she is of marriageable age she is inundated with suitors at these types of gatherings and this one is no different. Her parent's smile at her temper tantrums, waiting for them to pass before telling her what they have always told her: only marry for love.
"Well you're going to have a long wait. I'll be as old as Johanna before that happens," she mumbles, kicking off her heels and slipping her feet into a pair of soft leather boots. She starts to untie her bodice, pulling at the ribbons when she hears a noise from outside. She frowns, going to the window of her chamber and looks out. The lake is calm and dark, only the torches ringing the Royal Gardens shine on the water, rippling in the dark near the shore. Emma shrugs, about to move back when she catches sight of someone walking onto the balcony directly below hers. She frowns, knowing that no one should have access to the Jewel Chamber now. The man below her whistles and flicks something into the air, where is sparkles and glints in the light before he catches it.
Her grandmother's crown
"Oh shit," the man says, looking up and then darts back into the room below.
Emma spins on her heel and ducks behind another tapestry, throwing open a secret door. She knows every hidden passage and staircase in the castle, that thief is going nowhere. As she reaches the bottom of a spiralling staircase she grabs a bell on the wall and rings it, leaving it to blare out its warning as she runs past the room the thief had ducked into. He would be long gone from there and as she suspected she sees him down the other end of a long hallway that leads to a flight of steps outside. Emma forces herself to run faster, grinning with victory. The door he is heading towards is locked. He is done for.
But as the thief gets closer to the door he begins to slow down, as if he knows. He takes a ridiculous top hat off his head and flicks it before him with all his might. Then the most peculiar thing Emma has ever seen starts to happen: the hat starts to spin, growing larger and from it emits a whirling vortex. She has no idea what is happening but she can feel the magic ahead and it is immense. The man jumps into the gyre and Emma tries to stop herself but her boots slip and slide on the marble and with a yell she tumbles into the hat.
She falls through darkness, tumbling head over heel but miraculously she starts to slow until she is floating downwards, her dress fluttering around her. Even so she keeps her eyes squeezed shut, waiting for the painful impact to come. With a gentle bump she lands on her back and her eyes spring open. Any hope that she is still in the castle and only fallen through the floor is dashed when she sees the room around her. Doors, of every shape and size, are placed in the curved wall around her, if it is a wall. With a groan Emma gets to her feet, noting the gold swirling patterns on the shiny dark floor below. Wherever she is it is huge and very strange. But these peculiarities take a backseat when she spots the thief through an archway in another room and gives chase.
"Stop! I told you to stop!" She yells and snags the back of his coat and yanks him back. He stumbles and whips around to face her. Emma blinks, not knowing what she expected but certainly not this. The man is young, maybe a few years older then herself and handsome, in a sallow, doesn't see much sunshine sort of way. His warm blue eyes flick her up and down before he gives a long suffering sigh, hand gripping at his already messy hair.
"I hate when this happens," he says, his voice a deep, bored drone. Not unpleasant but still annoying, she summarises.
"When what happens? Who the hell are you?"
His boredom disappears in a blink and he bows dramatically, waving his hands. "I am Jefferson, your majesty," he looks up, a slow curling smile on his face that is positively deviant. This is the type of man Johanna warns her against and Red tells her stories about with flashing eyes. This man is a rake from head to toe. As she stares at him with disdain something rings in her mind, a story but she quickly dismisses it. But this thief has a magical hat, she thinks wonderingly.
"Are you the Mad Hatter? You are, aren't you? I've heard stories but they're years old, from before I was born." She stares at him in confusion. For the first time he looks irritated and straightens, tugging on his coat.
"That's not my name but yes, you've probably heard of me," he says arrogantly and Emma narrows her eyes at him. Lack of humility is one of her biggest peeves and you can add liars onto the list too.
"But those stories are hundreds of years old," she says, as if explaining it to a dullard. Jefferson rolls his eyes.
"I'm a time traveller."
"Sure you are."
He clenches his jaw, giving her a funny look. "You're not very open-minded, are you? What? This place doesn't convince you? You know most people who come here are a lot more appreciative."
"I don't care about this place or you! Give back the crown or else," she adds for good measure, drawing a dagger into her hand. He stares at the blade insolently and then his eyes widen when the dagger floats above her hand.
"Impressive. Do you wanna see if I can top it?" he asks, flashing a cocky grin and falls through an odd door, disappearing. Emma curses and runs after him, bursting into a strange new world.