The shovel hit the soft grassy earth with a satisfying crunch. Jefferson had hit the root of the rosebush and felt it crack against the metal and reverberate through his arms. He pushed the shovel into the grass and then swung it over his shoulder, disposing of the part of the rose bush he managed to break apart. Then he got to work on the rest.
He was there for most of the day, and the cemetery was located in a moderately quiet part of town so that no one noticed him. He kept his eye on his watch, and then just before school let out, he called the to have Grace go home with a friend. He told them he would pick her up once he was done with some errands.
Despite how quiet it was near the cemetery, someone was bound to notice a crazed man digging at a gravesite. So it was no surprise to him when he heard Emma’s voice from above the sufficient hole he had dug before the gravestone.
“Uh—Jefferson?” she asked. He looked up, shading his eyes against the sunlight. The blonde woman was standing at the edge of the grave, grimly looking back at him. “Look,” she said. “I didn’t say anything when you cut up the roses because I figured—she’s your wife. If anyone has the right to tear up her roses, it’s you. But this. I can’t allow this. This is illegal, Jefferson. As well as morally questionable. Even for you.”
“I’m almost done,” he told her. Then he went back to work, sinking the shovel into the damp earth and tossing it back up onto the ground so close to Emma that she was forced to take a step to the side to avoid it.
“I get that you’re grieving, and you’ve apparently reached the ‘grasping for straws’ stage of the process, but you still can’t go around digging up graves. What exactly are you expecting to find?”
“Nothing,” he admitted. “I’m expecting to find nothing.”
“Then why are you still digging?”
“She’s not here. So it doesn’t matter.”
“It does matter. This is public property. It’s a grave. Regardless of whether or not it’s empty.”
“Then arrest me.” She didn’t move, and he didn’t expect her to. She had that curious trait like her parents. And she was going to let him finish his task so she could find out what he was looking for.
“So what? You’re just going to keep digging? What happens if you don’t find anything? Where’s your daughter?”
“Grace went home with a friend. She’s fine. I already checked on her. She’s doing her homework and watching cartoons. I’ll stop when I reach six feet.”
He’d taken off his jacket and loosened the scarf around his throat. Even though he was still moderately well-dressed, he was covered in dirt and sweat. She felt sorry for him. The kind of life he had lived, it would drive anyone crazy.
“And what if you do find something?” she questioned after a few minutes of quiet digging.
“Then I’ll have some answers.”
“What if they’re not the answers you’re looking for? What if you find a corpse?”
“Then I’ll deal with it. At least I’ll know. If it’s hers—at least she’ll be where she belongs. And I can get rid of all those goddamn hats.”
Emma sighed again and looked around the cemetery, hoping no one was watching her not do her job. Had this been any other town, she probably would have had him arrested. But it was Storybrooke and the things buried in Storybrooke were very rarely “nothing.” She figured letting him dig up one grave to get the answers he was seeking, was far better than forcing him to quit just so he could go back to it another way.
She didn’t have to hold off for much longer anyway. A few shovels full of dirt later, and Jefferson hit something. The metal thunked loudly, and her attention broke off. She looked down into the hole where he was now standing as rigid and still as stone.
“What’d you find?” she asked after a moment, though she hesitated to voice what she had heard. The shovel had undoubtedly hit hollow wood.
“I don’t know,” he told her. He dropped the shovel to his side and wiped his forehead on his rolled up sleeve before kneeling in the dirt to brush it off of whatever he had found.
He was relieved to see that it wasn’t the surface of a coffin. He’d hit a box. A small box no bigger than the jewelry box he’d got for Grace. He was able to wipe the dirt off of it and lift it out.
“What is it?” she asked again, trying to get a good look from where she stood above him.
“I think you know what this is,” he replied.
He held the box up, and she reached down to take it from him. She set it aside on the grass and held her arm out to pull him out of the sloppy hole he had dug in the grave. He was at her side a moment later, scurrying for the box with trembling fingers. But once it was back in his hands, he just stood. He stared at it and didn’t move.
“Regina has a lot of boxes like this,” Emma noted.
“Indeed she does,” he told her.
“Why would Regina have it? Why would she bury it and not—rub it in your face like you said?”
“Regina isn’t the only person with that power.”
“Don’t they usually—glow?”
“There’s dirt caked into the windows.”
She looked down at the box expectantly, but his fingers were shaking. He took a deep breath, fearing whatever he was going to see when he lifted the lid. The boxes usually had windows, and he wasn’t entirely sure if the dirt actually was blocking them. Or if nothing was glowing inside. But he had to do it. He had to know for sure.
So he lifted the lid and looked down at the red heart. It pulsed with light, and he could feel something deep inside of him that told him it was Alice’s. He could feel it. Her life and her warmth in his hands. All that Storybrooke had of her that wasn’t Grace or a blood stained hat, was contained inside that box. He’d asked the cup to show him his wife, and it had. It had led him to her heart. He looked back up at Emma, who was looking down at the glowing heart with her eyes pinched in concern.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. He shook his head.
“Regina—or someone—Cora maybe—took your wife’s heart. That can’t be easy to deal with.” He felt a giggle bubble out of him as the light of Alice’s heart reflected on Emma’s face.
“But don’t you know what this means?” he asked. “The heart is beating, Emma. It means she’s alive.”