She makes it a few steps before she comes to a stop, her mind processing the impossibility before her slowly. Sunshine blazes around her, glinting off buildings as tall as mountains, off innumerable domes and spires, each one dwarfing the last and all crowded together. Buildings of stone, glass and metal reach high into the sky where there is no space on the ground but one building has pride of place, one building that draws the eye like fillings to a magnet. It is a pyramid and its peak is lost in clouds.
The sky is even more awe inspiring than below because she can explain what she sees there. Thousands of carriages fly above her, some large, some small but all unbelievably being flown by people. Their metal casings flash in the dusk light, burning a deep orange and Emma can not tear her gaze away until someone bumps into her and she looks down.
"Sorry, I, uh…" Emma gawps at the thing that had bumped into her and blinks. The creature is entirely covered in metal and at first she thinks it is armour but she can see cords of different colours where skin should be. No one could be in there, there is not enough room. Light bounces off the metal dome of the machine's head as it walks away and she gawks at the crowd before her, each person stranger than the last. Utterly stunned and deeply bewildered she slowly realises that Jefferson is leaning on a wall beside her, watching her reaction with obvious delight.
"Relax, they're only robots," he says and leans off the wall, coming to her.
"Wh — what?" She blinks, unable to look away from the city spread out before her. When he grabs her hand and starts to run she tries not to trip up, her eyes heavenwards Her hand slips out of his as she slows to another stop, mouth agape as she spots another inconceivable thing.
"Come on, don't fall behind," he slows to a jog and grabs her hand again, pulling her along with him. Emma finally fixes him with a wide eyed stare.
"Where am I?"
"Oh, in a galaxy far, far away…" he says, smirking and Emma pull him to a stop. His knowing, self satisfied look, one of someone who knows something she does not, is unbearable. She has only known the man for a few minutes and already she wants to hit him. His talents must make him feel invincible, godlike even. No wonder his hat is so big. But for all her disparaging thoughts her dislike is overshadowed by curiously.
"We're in another realm?"
"Another world. This is the Republic City, if I remember right," he says, closing an eye. "This city covers the entire planet." Emma stares open mouthed at him and he smiles. He really is awfully good looking and he knows it, the worst kind of handsome.
Emma runs a hand through her hair and his gaze lingers but she does not notice. Her hand still clasped in his she starts to smile, a hesitant thing that preludes an outburst of laughter. She places a hand over her mouth, loving the way her magic bubbles up inside her, reacting to her joy and excitement and the hatter grins at her, just as caught up. A few men in hooded cloaks pass her, eyeing her with surprise and mutter something about the force but Emma pays their words no heed. She has to get a grip on herself, otherwise the magic will escape. When her hysterics pass she stares at him thoughtfully, a look that slowly turns into disapproval, tainting her wonder.
"Give me the crown," she says, holding out her hand while the other grips his wrist hard. One good twist and he will be on his knees begging for mercy. He sighs, blowing out his cheeks and delves a hand into his coat, rummaging around in a pocket that must be very deep because most of his arm disappears. Finally he pulls out the crown and offers it to her. Emma snatches it back and, having nowhere to store it, puts it on.
"That crown would have paid for a good decade of my living expenses," Jefferson eyes the top of her head grumpily, his shoulders slumping. Emma shakes her head unbelievably at him.
"You're telling me that you use your gift, travel to these beautiful places, just to steal?"
"What? You think anybody pays me to realm jump?"
"Why not?" she asks innocently and he blinks at her. "If I had your talent I wouldn't be wasting it stealing stuff. I'd find a use for it."
"Unless that use comes with a salary you're out of luck. Realm jumping is not all it's cracked up to be," he says, his previous arrogance and bravado gone. He looks sad and bitter. He stares hungrily at the crown on her head before leading her by the hand but this time deeper into the city. Emma looks back at the door they had come through and rips her hand out of his. She has the crown now and while she wants to explore the city with every fibre she cannot stop thinking about her parents. She had rung the warning bell and right now the entire castle, guests and all, must be searching for her. She is a princess and she has duties, not being pulled along by a not so common thief who would probably rob her blind and leave her here. She runs for the door, an inconspicuous stone archway in a building and throws herself forward. An invisible force bars her way and she bounces back, stumbling on her feet. She stares at the door, wondering if she has the wrong one when Jefferson sidles up to her, sighing.
"You can't go back without me. Two went through, two go back. Thems the rules," he smiles, arrogance back in place.
"You're enjoying this," she says and he shrugs, moving back a pace or two. He turns and begins to walk away and Emma's heart lurches. "Excuse me! Where are you going?"
"I'm not done here yet," he answers breezily. "Wait here if you want but remember you can't go home without me."
Emma narrows her eyes at him, teeth gritted. She throws up a hand, fingers spread and calls to him, "Then you had better come." She jerks her hand and Jefferson is pulled back to her by magic, a force that wraps him up and drags him over to her. Emma steps in front of him smartly and grabs the front of his coat as he gives her a mulish expression that almost makes her laugh. She shoves her body against his and they pass through the door.
"That was underhanded," he huffs and straightens his coat. Emma smirks at him, back in the room full of doors. She looks over his shoulder, wondering what places they lead to. Jefferson notes her gaze and his displeasure turns into something thoughtful.
"Do you want to see more?"
Emma blinks and the wonder on her face is replaced with something more guarded. "No. Not with you."
"Oh…" he says, looking down and Emma feels a sharp pang of shame at her rudeness. He may be a thief and or worse but she has not been raised to be inconsiderate of others.
"I didn't mean anything —"
"Its fine," he interrupts, his pride clearly wounded, "I get it." He spares a glance at her and his eyes start to shine with humour, one that Emma cannot ignore. She smiles at him before looking at her feet, shaking her head. She feels shy all of a sudden and jumps when his fingers brush her arm. She looks up and stares at him steadily.
"So, how do I get back?"
"It's this way," he answers softly and takes her hand. Emma walks with him, feeling strange. Her heart beats loudly in her ears and her breath is hard to draw. She has been successful in catching him and getting the crown back but it is a pyrrhic victory. In the pit of her stomach is a deep well of reluctance. She does not want to go home but what else can she do? She can't go gallivanting off with this mad man leading her by the hand but she also cannot let this slip away. When he stops before a door carved in the likeness of a tree she turns to him, gazing intently.
"I will grant you pardon if you do something for me."
His lips quirk, "And what might that be, your Highness?"
"You don't need to steal to make a living. I will pay you to take me and anyone else I want realm jumping," she finishes, every inch her mother's daughter.
"You will, will you? What about the guards on the other side of that door that will arrest me the minute we go back?"
Of course, he needs to retrieve the hat, Emma thinks. She eyes him carefully and he seems to stand a little straighter. Finally Emma smirks.
"You said that you're a time traveller? Prove it."
Emma stands in the hallway and quickly takes off the crown forgotten on her head and hides it behind her back as a squad of guards come running towards her.
"Are you safe Princess?" They ask and Emma smiles with embarrassment.
"False alarm, I thought I saw someone but it was just a servant. Sorry for causing a fuss over nothing. Goodnight," she says and they bow at her and leave. She slumps against a table and Jefferson pokes his head out from underneath, the top hat on his lap.
"You're a good liar."
Emma ignores this and watches him stand up, donning the hat once more. She scoffs at it. "It really is ridiculously big."
"Hey! Don't mock my hat," he says offended and then smiles at Emma, another dazzling grin that does something it should not to her stomach. He moves closer to her, too close to be respectable. "So, when will the first payment start?"
Emma glares at him, "Never if you say it like that. I need to speak to my parents, they need to know."
Jefferson sighs, "are you always this serious?"
They both turn to see Queen Snow and King Charming coming towards them and Emma's insides freeze. She can see her mother's keen eyes on Jefferson and it does not bode well.
"Right then, I'll be off," Jefferson says and sweeps off his hat. Emma spins around to him, reaching out a hand which he grabs and kisses. "I'll see you again soon, I promise."
"You better come back," she says, feeling a tug of unhappiness as the funnel appears and he prepares to jump in. But before he does Jefferson suddenly turns and pulls her to him and kisses her passionately. She is a serious girl, one who is measured and thoughtful because she has to be but in the moment she acts with her heart. She presses her lips hard against his, hands fisting his coat and with something like a tidal wave bursting through her Jefferson pulls back, looking just as shocked as she is. Then he gives her a smile not like the others, something soft and beautiful before he jumps into the hat.
Emma moves back, watching the funnel grow smaller until all that is left is the hat which promptly disappears in a puff of purple smoke. Snow and Charming skid to halt by their daughter, both wearing matching looks of surprise. Snow is the first to speak.
"Was that who I think it was?" she asks weakly.
"I think it was," Charming answers and then looks at his daughter quizzically. "Emma?"
Emma turns to them, smiling and lifts her chin. "Mom, dad, I have a proposition for you." She links her arms through theirs as she explains, walking them back towards the ball, the crown tucked into the sash against her back.
Star Wars is owned by Disney, it's a plausible "world" they could visit. I just wanted to stick Emma somewhere wildly futuristic :p
I just love the way Jefferson has this almost 4th wall breaking air about him, dropping hints and lines that only we get ("Yes and *off* we shall go to see him.") I imagine from here they go on many adventures together :)