Ana stared at Jefferson with her mouth opening and closing as she searched for something to say to him. She had imagined what she would say if this moment ever came time and time again and now she was left fishing for a single word. After a minute she realized that everyone in the diner was watching them, and she shot a glare around the room, causing them to go back to their own lives. Jefferson walked over to stand next to her at the counter so they could talk without everyone hearing them.
"What… How… When did you get here?" Jefferson finally settled on.
Ana looked down at her hands, unable to bring herself to look at him. "A few days ago," she said quietly so he didn't hear her voice waiver.
"Wh-what have you been up to?"
"What have I been up to?!" Ana snapped and turned to face him. "You mean after you abandoned me or after I got to this land?"
"Ana…" He said, reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to get her to calm down, for people were starting to stare again, but in her rage she was blind to all but him. She yanked her arm away when he tried to touch it, causing him to flinch as if she had struck him. "Ana, I'm sorry."
"You're sorry?" She said, her voice squeaking as it raised in volume. "You left me for dead, and all you can say is you're sorry?"
"Just let me explain…"
"No," she said before he could say any more. "You had 40 years to come back and explain. Most of which I spent locked in a time capsule prison!" Tears were starting to fall from her eyes but she didn't bother wiping them away. "I thought you were dead," she added softer. "I thought I would never see you again. And I thought I came to terms with that, but seeing you here… it opens all of those old wounds." Jefferson looked down and pressed his lips together before looking up at her through his lashes. "I just… need some time."
Ana grabbed her jacket and walked past him and out the door. She was wiping away her tears when a small voice called after her.
"Ana, wait!" Henry called as he ran after her. Ana stopped and turned to him. "What are you doing? You can't just leave."
Ana ran her hand through her hair and knelt down to his level. "Listen, Henry, I know your trying to help, but this…" She looked up through the window to where Jefferson was leaning against the counter with his head in his hands. "Me and him, there's nothing you can do."
"But your story…"
"Is just a story now," she interjected. "And Jefferson… is just another character." She stood before adding, "I appreciate what you've tried to do Henry, but I'm afraid it's beyond your help." With one final glance in the diner, she turned and headed back to the hotel.
Ana lay on her bed, studying the ceiling while music blocked out the rest of the world. A day had gone by since the run in at the diner and since then her interactions with the outside had been limited to room service deliveries from Ruby. Or Red. Er… ugh.
Even being from the Enchanted Forest she was still having trouble wrapping her head around the whole curse thing. Ever since she saw Jefferson yesterday she'd been left with a bad headache that wouldn't go away.
Her contemplation was interrupted by a pounding on the door. She didn't recall ordering any food, so she simply cranked up her music, hoping that maybe they'd go away. She wasn't feeling up to talking yet. Unfortunately for her, whoever was on the other side of the door was determined, and after the third or fourth knock Ana gave up on trying to ignore them and got up to open the door.
She found Emma on the other side, preparing to walk away until she heard the door open. "Oh," she said as she turned back to her. "Hey." Ana offered a weak smile in response. Emma put her hands in her back pockets and rocked back on her heels, looking unsure of what to say next. "Henry wanted to come himself, but I figured I'd save you from that onslaught of questions. At least while I can."
Ana chuckled dryly and said, "Thanks."
"Mind if I come in?" Emma asked.
Once they were inside Emma said, "So… you're from the Enchanted Forest?" She could tell from the expression on her face as she said it she could tell she was having trouble digesting the thought. Ana nodded. "As I'm sure you've figured out we don't get many visitors in Storybrooke, so people tend to get suspicious when someone just so happens to roll into town."
Ana's jaw dropped in offense when she realized what she was implying, "I'm not some criminal!"
"I know that," Emma said, trying to get her to calm down. "Henry trusts you, and so do I. But we're only two people. The rest of the town is getting curious."
"Well than how can I prove I'm not here to cause trouble?"
"Just answer a couple of questions for me," she replied. "I'm the sheriff; they'll come to me if they want to fill in the holes about your background. I just need something to tell them."
"Fine," Ana said, willing to comply. "What do you want to know?"
"Why weren't you brought here by the curse?"
"I was imprisoned in Wonderland at the time." Emma's eyebrows shot up at the word imprisoned. "It's not like it sounds! Well not entirely. I tried to steal some jewels from the Queen of Hearts and she caught me. But she completely over reacted. Instead of doing the merciful thing and simply cutting off my head she put me under a spell that basically trapped me in my own body. It prevented me from aging. I was stuck like that for 28 years."
Emma cringed in sympathy. "How did you escape?"
"The White Rabbit found me. He freed me from the curse and led me to this land. I've lived here ever since, traveling the country."
"What about Storybrooke?" Emma asked. "How'd you find this place?
"I bought a map of Maine from a convenience store, looking for a new place to explore. The name Storybrooke kind of called to me. It's hard to explain."
Emma looked confused. "Wait, Storybrooke was on a map?"
"Yeah," Ana said, not understanding her befuddlement.
"Huh," she said, but otherwise dropped it when she continued with, "Well, thanks for answering my questions."
"No problem," Ana said with a half-smile. She followed her as she went to the door.
Before she left Emma added, "And about Jefferson. I know what it's like to have someone you never thought you'd see again suddenly come back into your life. You should at least give him a chance before you cut him back out." Ana nodded in understanding and waved her goodbye as she headed out the door.
Once Emma was down in the lobby Mr. Gold stood from the chair he had been waiting for her in. "Well? What did you find out?" He asked. Emma told him what Ana had said, including the odd bit about the map. That seemed to puzzle him as much as it had her. "She found this place on a map?"
"That's what she said." She replied. "She seemed to be telling the truth."
"Oh I believe she is." Mr. Gold agreed. "Thank you Mrs. Swan, your services have been quite helpful."
"Why are you so interested in this girl anyway? She's not here to cause any trouble." Emma asked before he could leave.
He sneered at her as he said, "Let's just say I'm not a man who likes to be in the dark when it comes to people."
Over the next couple of days Ana began to settle in a bit more in Storybrooke. She met Henry occasionally at Granny's. He helped inform her about the town and its residents and in return she told him stories of the Enchanted Forest and Wonderland. She was grateful that he was so welcoming, especially since the rest of the town still seemed a bit wary of her presence.
She hadn't seen Jefferson again yet. She tried to deny it, but as each day went by without running into him she was left with an empty feeling in her stomach. She brushed it off, but that didn't make it go away.
That morning she had gotten up earlier, figuring she'd head out for a jog. Henry had given her a map so that she could find her way to the trail in the woods. She had been wandering for ten minutes, her nose buried in the paper as she tried to decipher it. When she felt a headache beginning to form she was ready to give up when a gust of wind came and blew the paper out of her hands. Her eyes widened in shock and she leapt up in a desperate attempt to catch it, but by the time she had reacted it was already well out of her reach. She gave a dejected sigh and took a look around to see where she had ended up. She recognized it, for she had driven through here on her way into town. The only business that appeared to be open was a small pawn shop, so she summoned her pride and headed inside.
As soon as she was through the door she was instantly struck by the musty smell from the assortment of things for sale. The shop appeared empty, but she looked around a little bit, intrigued by the artifacts the mess. She was examining an odd pair of puppets when a voice disturbed her.
"May I help you?"
Ana jumped a bit before stammering, "I-I, uh, was just wondering if you could show me the way to the forest trail."
The man gave a small smile that she assumed was supposed to be welcoming, but came off as eerie. She could tell by the gray in his hair he was older, and despite his shop being void of customers his Italian suit made it appear he did well for himself. "Why yes of course," he said, with a bit of an accent. "Just down the road there should be a visible path in the trees. I believe it's marked."
Ana forced a smile and thanked him before turning to head out the door. Before she opened it he called out, "I don't believe I caught your name."
She turned back to face him and briefly considered lying to him, but something in his eyes forced her to tell the truth. "Ana," she blurted.
He grinned, as that were the answer he had been hoping to hear. "Ana," he echoed. "Of course."
She didn't linger any longer before heading out the door. A chill ran down her back once she was outside once more, causing her to shiver. She only paused briefly before breaking into a jog and following the direction he had told her to go. She easily found the path, and all thoughts of the curious pawnbroker were erased from her mind as she raced through the trees. Her vision began to blur as she pushed on. She found herself in a cold sweat as it grew harder and harder to breathe. Soon spots were dancing in front of her eyes but something inside of her kept her going. However, she suddenly found herself staring up at the sky through the branches, not even aware she had fallen. That was her last view before she lost consciousness.
The first thing Ana noticed when she woke up was that her shoes were missing, as she'd been wearing her pink socks with hearts on them and holes in the soles, so she could feel the breeze on her heels.
The second thing she perceived was the splitting pain in her head. It felt as though it had been dislodged from her head, stuffed with tissues, and then sewn back on. Lifting her eyelids was a difficult task, but once she managed it and her vision came into focus she found herself staring up into the brown eyes of a curious young girl.
The girl giggled and said, "I like your socks." Ana attempted a smile, but it came out looking more like a mangled grimace, which only caused the girl to chuckle more. "I'm Grace."
"Ana," she replied. "Where am I?" She asked as she struggled to sit up and get a look around.
"Be careful!" Grace cautioned. "My papa said you hit your head pretty hard."
"Your papa? Who…"
"Oh good, you're awake. I was getting worried," a man's voice interrupted them from somewhere behind her. At the sound of it Ana leapt from her seat, despite the dizziness that struck her.
"Jefferson," she greeted tersely.
Jefferson gave a Cheshire grin as he replied, "Good to see there wasn't any memory loss."
Ana narrowed her eyes, not amused. "How did I get here?"
"Well, Grace and I were on a walk in the woods, and we happened to come across you lying on your back on the forest floor. It's a good thing too. Who knows how long you might have been there." He seemed rather proud of himself as he hooked his thumbs in his pockets, the smirk never once falling from his face.
"Why didn't you take me to the hospital?"
"Well, your injuries didn't seem that serious, and it would have taken much longer to get you down there than to simply bring you up here."
Ana rolled her eyes at his smugness but didn't argue further. "Well thanks then, I guess. How can I repay you?"
Grace and Jefferson met eyes briefly before he said, "Perhaps you'd consider coming over for tea tomorrow evening?"
"Tea?" Ana repeated skeptically. "I don't think so."
"Oh come on," Jefferson countered. "It will be fun. Besides I believe we have some catching up to do."
Ana chewed her lip in hesitation at his offer. While she was grateful for what they had done, having dinner with the man who broke her heart at 18 and his daughter did in no way sound fun.
"Please," Grace begged. She seemed delighted at the thought. "We could use someone new for our tea party."
She gave her a big eyed look Ana was sure she had perfected on her father. After that it was hard for her to say no, so instead she turned to Jefferson and dead-panned, "You're lucky you have a cute daughter."
They both grinned simultaneously before a car horn rang through the air. "That would be your ride." He led her to the front door, where he returned her shoes and explained that he had called the sheriff to give her a ride home. Before she left he told her gently, "I'm really glad you're coming for tea."
"You do you realize I'm only doing it because of Grace?" she replied.
He shrugged and raised his eyebrow in chorus. "We'll see," he said with the hint of a grin.
Sorry this chapter is kind of short, but hopefully the next one will make up for it!