All the years that he spent away from Wonderland, no one ever asked him why he vowed never to return. When he appeared through a portal one day with nothing but a crying baby, soaked in her mother’s blood and wrapped in an icy blue cloak—no one bothered to ask him why he’d grown to hate that place. When Regina had come for him years later and tricked him into returning, she never thought to question why he had given it up in the first place. Then she left him there with his thoughts and his madness.
In all the years that they were trapped in a new land, the man lived just on the outskirts of the town in a large house in the woods. He never came to town except for when he needed something. They never questioned him, and they never seemed to remember him whenever he came back. They were the lucky ones. They got to forget. So he hid himself away from them, trapped in his memories and kept from all that he loved.
Thoughts can mutate as time goes on. What Jefferson had lost was dangling in front of him. Anger, pain, and suffering grew in his mind and threatened to consume him.
Their lives were supposed to be different. He promised his daughter so much more. And when he finally had her, the pain of loss was still sharp in his heart. No one ever asked about the little girl he’d brought through a portal covered in blood, and no one ever enquired about the woman who had given her to him in the first place.
Grace was the first person to ask. She had asked him once before when they lived together in a cottage in the forest. When they made ends meet by foraging for mushrooms and trading them for copper. He told her that she was too young to know the truth of what had become of her mother. The real truth was that he just did not want to think about it. He knew that when he did, the thoughts would grow and change and push him into madness.
When the curse broke, and Grace was his again, he was afraid to bring that darkness back into her life. She had searched for him the moment her memories returned, and he couldn’t stand by as she set up flyers and asked questions about the father who had left her behind.
Once he had her back, he hated himself for leaving her at all. He hated that he'd fallen for Regina’s trick so easily and had been trapped in Wonderland away from her. He hated that he hadn’t gone to her in Storybrooke even though she couldn’t remember him. He hated himself even more for thinking that staying away was the best for her, even when she did remember.
He took her back to his house in the woods and gave her the life he promised all those years before. The halls that had once seemed empty and quiet were full of the sounds of her laughter and footsteps. He woke every morning with a sense of purpose and a light in his heart again. But then she would leave for school, and he would be left alone with nothing but his thoughts and his hats. He thought of the woman who had brought that color into his life.
And as his thoughts mutated and changed, so did Grace’s. She began to wonder why there was still a hole in her memories where a mother should have been. She began to wonder why her father spent so much time quietly in his room with all his hats in the middle of the night when he thought she was sleeping.
Grace knew that her mother must have been special to him. Though he never spoke of her and she didn’t even know the woman’s name. She could see it in her father’s growing madness. She saw the unknown woman every day when she looked at her own reflection.
In the Enchanted Forest, her father had been a much livelier person. She knew there had still been sadness in his heart, but he was good at keeping it from her. But in this new world, his hair had been cut short, and his eyes now seemed to be etched with a permanent red outline. As if he was always holding something back. She would have blamed the years of separation if it weren’t for the fact that he stayed up so late every night working on his hats.
Grace could see her father in her nose and in her smile. But her golden hair and dark eyes only led to more questions. She knew the features must have belonged to the woman her father kept hidden inside his head.
She could hear him wandering around the house at night when she lay in her room unable to sleep. She saw the shadows he cast on the walls when he paced down the hall until settling into the room with the hats. He wouldn’t tell her why he kept making so many.
She could hear him muttering to himself from her room down the hall. In the years she had spent in Storybrooke, she had become accustomed to the room her foster family had given her in the center of town. She used to fall asleep watching the headlights of cars pass her window and shimmer across her walls like fish scales. She grew used to the sounds of humming engines and the quiet conversations of her foster parents in the other room. She wasn’t used to the silence of the big house. And the silence only made her concern for her father grow. All she could hear was his frustrated mutterings.
The little girl climbed from her bed and tiptoed to the door. She cracked it open and peeked down the hall to that mysterious room he usually kept locked. She tried to get in there once or twice during the day but could never access it. The door was only ever opened at night when he occupied it and sat muttering over hats. He left it cracked so he could hear her if she needed him.
Grace knew he would likely hear her coming before she reached the room. She wondered how he would react or if he would be upset at her for bothering him while he was busy. But in all her life, both of them, she had never known him to get angry with her. He had always been so kind and gentle. So his angry muttering in the night usually kept her away.
She caught her own reflection in the mirror across the hall. Even in the limited light, she could see the gold color of her hair and the darkness of her eyes. She thought back to the last time she slept when she dreamt of a woman with golden waves, white roses, and eyes as dark as the night sky.
So she slipped out of the door and tiptoed down the hall to the room at the very end. She looked in at where her father was sitting at a large table in the center of the room. She could see him fussing over fabric and thread. It was evident he had been so preoccupied with his task that he hadn’t heard her over the sound of his own muttering. He clenched his teeth and mumbled something about the hat “not working,” as he ripped at a string of thread.
“Papa?” she asked quietly, and the man froze. He looked up, and his face instantly morphed back into the one she knew so well. The frustration drained from his features and left behind the image of the man she remembered rocking her to sleep when she was much smaller.
“Grace?” he said in shocked.
Then he dropped the hat to the table and stood. He was still wearing the clothes he’d had on at dinner, so it was obvious he'd never gone to bed. The vest and his shirt were still buttoned, but the scarf around his throat loosened, and she could just make out the scars beneath the cloth. He wouldn’t tell her what they were, but she’d noticed nonetheless.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, reaching out his hands to take both of hers. “I didn’t mean to wake you.” She slid her small hands into his and smiled up at him.
“You didn’t wake me, Papa,” she assured him. “I just couldn’t sleep.”
“Why not? What’s the matter?”
He pulled a chair away from the table and instructed her to sit down. She took a seat cautiously as her eyes wandered around the room at the extensive collection of hats. She thought the habit would have died with the curse, but it appeared that he was just as adamant to continue making them.
“Nothing is the matter, Papa,” she promised as he took the seat before her. “I was just thinking too much.” He reached out and traced his finger over her cheek, brushing her golden hair out of her face. She gave him a smile to reassure him that everything was okay. His expression was concerned.
“What were you thinking about?” he asked her. She took a deep breath and he dropped his hand to his lap, giving her his full attention. She laced her fingers on the table in front of her and worked up the courage to finally ask him.
“I was thinking about my mother,” she said. His expression went grim, but he didn’t look angry like he had been when he thought she was asleep. He dropped his eyes to the hat on the other side of the table and sighed heavily.
“I knew you were going to ask again. With everything that’s happened.” She nodded slowly.
“I know you don’t like to talk about it. I know it hurts you. But—I’ve been thinking about her a lot. And sometimes I just wish I knew more about her. Like her name and—and why she isn’t here with us.”
He didn’t speak for a long moment as he gazed at the collection of hats that grew larger with each passing day. She could almost hear the gears turning in his mind, and she wanted him to say something, anything that would give her a hint about the woman who'd given her life. But he didn’t speak and so she took a deep breath to speak again.
“I tried looking for her in the stories. My friend Henry has a book. But there’s nothing about her. Not anywhere. Not even in the movies.” He gave that sigh again and lifted his head, this time staring across the room at the darkened window, where a telescope sat unused and collecting dust.
“She’s in the stories, Grace,” he told her. “She’s in all the stories.” Her eyes brightened, and she sat up straighter.
“They’re her stories. At least the ones in this world. If she’s not in Henry’s book, it’s probably because she didn’t spend very much time in the Enchanted Forest.”
“Does that mean,” she started, “that my mother is…” He nodded slowly and she kept the name off of her lips even though she was familiar with it. She'd seen the movie and tried to read the stories. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He dropped his head into his hands and bit his bottom lip.
“Because the stories in this world aren’t real. At least, they’re not accurate. What happened to her isn’t in the stories. And I didn’t want to burden you with unnecessary pain.” He finally looked up at her, and she could see the red color return to the rims of his eyes. She sank low in her seat and tried to stay strong so that he wouldn’t see her falter.
“So she’s really dead,” she stated. “Did you see it happen?”
“She’s gone, Grace.” She breathed out slowly and leaned against the back of the chair. “I told you that. Were you expecting a different answer?”
“No,” she told him honestly. “I guess I was just hoping that there was a way. Like with Henry’s family. They always seem to find a way.” He reached for her hand again and squeezed it. This time, he was the one to reassure her.
“I’m sorry, Grace. If there was a way, I would find it.” She nodded slowly, and he tried to smile for her.
“Will you tell me about her? About how you met?” she asked as she looked back up at him with renewed excitement. He felt a laugh escape him. He often laughed to mask his own pain. It was one of the many reasons people called him mad. But she knew it wasn’t madness. Just suffering.
“Tomorrow,” he promised. “It’s late, and you have school in the morning.”
“You promise?” He nodded.
“I promise. I’ll tell you everything you want to know.”
She jumped excitedly and this time, his laugh was genuine. It was the result of love and not a nervous reflex. He stood from his chair and took her hand back in his, leading her to the door so she could return to her bedroom. He bent down and planted a kiss on her cheek, and she smiled, obviously too excited to sleep. But he wanted to put it off; even if just for a little while longer.
“Goodnight, Papa,” she said. He ruffled her hair and smiled down at her.
“Goodnight, Grace,” he said.
Then he watched her skip back down the hall to her room. He waited for her door to close before he shut his own. He left it cracked so that he would hear her if she called out to him, but he didn’t want to wake her again.
He left his hand resting on the crystal doorknob for a long moment before turning back to face the room. The collection of hats was growing, and he hated that he couldn’t get them to work anymore. He knew he needed the old hat. But it was severely damaged. Destroyed. There was no magic left in it. Not even in the ashes.
He stepped across the floor and stopped beside a display of useless hats. Then he reached for a drawer and slid it open. He reached inside for the single object that was been resting on a silk cushion. He lifted it to eye level and examined the delicate artifact gently in his hand. It was made of fine porcelain, with red painted roses. The edges were dipped in gold.
It was a teacup. That had once been precious in gold before it became valuable in memories. He set it back down on its cushion and ran his fingers along the gold lip.
“If there’s a way,” he said to himself, unaware that he was speaking out loud, “I will find it.”
I started writing this story a reeaaaally long time ago, and then abandoned it after like 3 or 4 chapters. But then one day recently my brain just clicked and said "WRITE THIS STORY NOW." So I did.
Only things to note. This takes place sometime during season 2 of Once Upon a Time. Shit is mostly cool in Storybrooke for now. It's a bit of a cool off period before some other fuck off shit happens. Obviously before they got sent BACK AGAIN. I'm completely ignoring everything that happened in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland because I never watched it. My Alice is not that Alice. Characters in that story are not the same as the ones in mine. Also ignoring everything that happened in the little side story/comics that explained Jefferson's past. I didn't even know THOSE existed until like a week ago.
The story will be a bit like the show. Each chapter switches back and forth between the present (season 2ish) and the past.
I think that's it.