Grace hadn’t continued her questioning after Jefferson spoke her mother’s name. He had gone silent, and did nothing but stare at the darkening window for a long time. She still had many questions left to ask. She wanted to know all about her mother and her life. She wanted to know how it ended too, but seeing her father give up on his façade of happiness just to speak Alice's name broke her heart.
He had been right. About that at least. Her father had always been a source of strength to her. Even when others called him mad and whispered behind her back. He was always there for her, always smiling, and always tried to protect her from all the evils that he had seen. It hurt to see him looking so broken on the kitchen floor. He was no longer poised and together like a rock. He was a river of emotions now.
Her stomach growling was the one sound that broke through his darkness and held that river of emotions back like a dam. He blinked several times and turned his eyes back on her, as if he was just now noticing she was there, even though they had been clasping hands all along.
“You’re hungry,” he stated.
“I’m alright, Papa,” she replied. But he wouldn’t hear it. He hopped up onto his feet quickly and fluidly and reached down to lift her back up. Then he was on the move again, shuffling around the kitchen to prepare dinner.
“You should finish your homework.” She sighed as she watched him rebuild the dam and bury his emotions again. But she stepped back and relented. He would tell her in time. She just had to be patient.
“Yes, Papa,” she said. She returned to the table and sat down to get back to work. She found her hard to concentrate now though, as he father bumbled around the room muttering to himself. “What’s your favorite color?” she asked. He stilled and turned back to look at her with reddened eyes.
“What?” he questioned. She tapped her pencil on the table.
“Your favorite color.” He looked away, perplexed by her question. It was the last thing he expected her to ask.
“What’s yours?” he finally asked her. She had to sigh and shook her head with a smile.
“Papa, I’m asking you what your favorite color is,” she told him. He grinned. He was playing with her now and she knew it.
“My favorite color is whatever yours is.”
“What was your favorite color before you knew me then?” His eyebrows furrowed, as if he’d never really thought about it before. He seemed to study the fridge and the new collection of photographs they were building on the magnets.
“Blue,” he decided. “Like the color of the sky on a December morning. When there isn’t a cloud in the sky and it’s sunny but icy cold. A pale, cool, kind of blue.” She smiled, imagining the exact shade with picture perfect clarity. She decided then that she liked that color best too.
“That sounds lovely, Papa.” He smiled again and turned back to the stove where he was assembling something for dinner. He seemed satisfied that he’d given her a suitable answer. But she wasn’t entirely sold on it just yet. “Can I ask you something else?” she asked as she scribbled in a reply on her worksheet and listened to something sizzling on the stove.
“You can ask me anything,” he promised her, though she knew that didn’t necessarily mean she’d get an answer.
“Why that color?” He was quiet for a long moment. He stood still and silent and the only part of him that moved was his hand holding a spatula. She waited for the answer for a long time, but it didn’t come. Until finally, he moved the pan onto a back burner. He turned around to face her and wiped his hands onto his dark jeans.
“You want to know?” he questioned. She nodded vigorously. “Come with me.”
He reached out a hand and she jumped out of her chair to take it. He pulled her gently out of the kitchen and up the stairs to the second floor. They passed her bedroom and went down the hall to the door that hid all of his hats. He released her hand and pulled the key from out of his pocket.
Jefferson didn’t like hiding things from Grace, and he hated that he kept the door locked. He knew that she had seen it once or twice and undoubtedly gathered what he did in there at night. But she never knew for certain why he wanted to open another portal at all. They had everything they could ever need or want in Storybrooke. She didn’t think he really wanted to return to the Enchanted Forest. But he made the hats anyway.
It wasn’t a hat that he showed her. He moved passed a row of them, running his fingers along the drawers beneath the shelves until he stopped and spun toward them. He wiggled his fingers in the air and rolled his sleeves up to his elbows. She stood back curiously watching, wondering what on earth he was going to show her. He reached out and slid a drawer out of a slot, revealing a shimmering blue fabric. The color of an icy cold blue sky.
The cloth seemed to shimmer in his hands as he pulled it out and gripped it in his fingers. But then he froze. He was gripping the folded material so tight that his fingers were trembling. He pinched his lips as he held it. She stepped forward and put her hand over his.
“What is it, Papa?” she asked. He chewed on his lip and glared down at the cloth like it was a dark and tainted thing.
“It’s a cloak,” he told her. “She was wearing it the day we met. She wore it all the time. That’s why it’s my favorite—She was wearing it the day she died. The day you were born.”
“Can I see it?” She moved her fingers over the soft thick fabric, elated to finally have something that belonged to Alice. Her mother. A physical connection to the woman she had never known. But his fingers tightened over the cloak and he pulled it back out of her reach. “Why don’t you want me to see it?” she asked him. He shook his head, keeping his lips pinched but his eyes etched with concern. He was protecting her.
“I just don’t think you should see it,” he told her. She knew then what he was hiding from her. The cloak was folded and he’d said it himself, Alice was wearing it the day that she died. The books never told her how Alice had died.
“Please? I want to see it,” she begged.
He wavered. He pinched his eyes shut, but he just couldn’t say no to her. He couldn’t protect her from these things forever. Not if he found a way like he was hoping. If he got a hat to work, someday all of that darkness would come into her life. She deserved to know. The cloak was meant to be hers. Not to be locked up in a drawer and never touched.
He just didn’t know how to prepare her for what she was going to see. When the cloth tumbled from his fingers and the bottom of the cloak brushed against the floor, she took a sharp breath and a step back. He clutched the cloak in his fingers, gripping the dark brown stains into creases with his hands. The cloak was covered in stains.
“Is that—blood?” she asked. He nodded.
“I tried to get it out. I tried a thousand times.” His voice cracked as he pulled the cloth up into a bundle, no longer carefully folding it. Twisting the fabric in his hands just to be rid of the sight of it. “It won’t come out.”
His hands were shaking as he shoved the bundle back into the drawer and quickly pushed it away. He seemed momentarily relieved when it was gone, but his fingers still trembled. She reached out to grasp them. She wanted to assure him that she was strong enough and old enough now. Even though the cloak was evidence of her mother’s death and her stomach felt sick.
“It’s okay, Papa,” she whispered.
She offered him a smile and he looked down at the little girl who looked so much like her mother. He wondered if she would really believe that if she had seen what he had seen. If she knew what actually happened. But he smiled anyway, swallowing his pain and his fear of leading her into that life. He reached out to touch his thumb to her nose and hoped that the bloodstains on her mother’s cloak didn’t keep her up at night like they did to him.