The grass looked so real that Jefferson was almost certain he could reach right into the cup and touch it. He carefully set it down on the table, watching the ripples of liquid move over the grass, like a watery window. Then he tried exactly that. He reached his fingers down into the cup but met with nothing but tea. The surface rippled, and the grass became distorted. He couldn’t reach it because it wasn’t a portal. But it was something.
His employer had wanted the cup badly. He was willing to pay more than the amount he usually paid for the wares that Jefferson brought through from other lands. But he hadn’t been entirely dejected when Jefferson claimed it was gone. So it couldn’t have been important to him. The cup belonged to Wonderland, to the Hare. The Hare said it was more valuable in magic than in gold. And somehow it had found its way over to Storybrooke during the curse. He felt stupid for never testing it out. They’d held onto it as a sentimental trinket. Not the magical object that it was.
In his own defense, he had been distracted. He spent the years after Alice’s death trying to raise his daughter and do right by her. After that, he spent his time in Wonderland trying to get back to her. He spent all his time in Storybrooke trying to find a way back home so that they could be together again. He hadn’t given the cup much thought. It reminded him of his suffering, and he’d hidden it away and focused on the one thing he still had left. Grace.
There weren’t many options for him, regarding magic. He could go to Regina, but he didn’t trust her. She would warp the cup for her own gain. She had tricked him and abused him. She had tortured him and stolen everything from him. And he couldn’t imagine being in the same room with her without wanting to wrap his hands around her throat and squeezing until her face turned blue. But since there was magic in Storybrooke again, he knew that wouldn’t end well for him.
Mr. Gold was also out of the question. The man did nothing for anything other than his own gain. He had helped Alice and Jefferson before, but he would want something in return. Jefferson had plenty of money, but the imp never seemed to put much value in money. He couldn’t risk losing Grace again, or ruining her life. He had finally given her everything he’d always wanted her to have. She had to be the most important. Even Alice had stressed that. Grace first. No matter what.
He groaned when he realized what his only option was. Mary Margaret and her Charming husband were also out of the question, even though they weren’t magic users themselves. He didn’t want to deal with their prying and heroic speeches about truth and honor and true love. But Emma. Emma might get him what he wanted. He’d tried to use her help before, in a last moment of desperation. It ended with him getting thrown out of a window. To be fair to Emma, she didn’t believe then. She didn’t know what she knew now, and she thought he was insane.
She had inherited her parents’ sense of truth and honor and constant meddling. But she was at least tolerable. She had good intentions, and she likely wouldn’t give him any annoying altruistic speeches about being a hero. Though he hadn’t exactly left a good impression on her.
He emptied the cup and left the house for the first time in a week. He and Grace tried to get out now that they had each other again. He took her to the playground sometimes. Or took her to see her friends. He saved his grocery shopping for when she was home so that she didn’t feel so cooped up and locked inside the house. He never wanted her to feel like a bird in a pretty cage. But he hated leaving.
The little yellow Beetle was parked outside of the sheriff’s station when Jefferson arrived. He was pleased to see it there so he didn’t have to go looking for her anywhere else. Unfortunately, David was behind the desk when he let himself in. The insufferable man looked up when he approached. His eyebrows rose since he was unaccustomed to seeing Jefferson in town. Well, ever.
“Jefferson,” he said with mild shock. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“I’m here to see Sheriff Swan,” Jefferson told him. His voice was quiet, and almost like a growl.
He looked around the station for a sign of the blonde. The man’s daughter. Actually, technically younger than Grace. But she had aged in the years they were cursed and Grace had not. So her father, the Charming Prince, didn’t look much older than her at all. Jefferson found it disturbing and tried not to think about it.
“She went down to Granny’s to pick up some lunch,” David told him.
He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair, scrutinizing the man with the scarf tied tightly around his throat. Jefferson knew he was going to start an interrogation. Prying. They were always meddling. Trying to save everyone.
“I’ll wait,” Jefferson decided. He went to take a seat on the bench opposite David’s desk. He stared at the wall, determined not to let the man get anything out of him. If Emma was good for anything, is that she wouldn’t annoy it out of him.
“Is there an emergency?” David questioned. “I could probably help. Where’s your daughter? What’s her name again? Paige?”
“Her name is Grace,” Jefferson ground out. “She’s fine. She’s at school.”
“She’s in Henry’s class, isn’t she?”
“They seem to get along well.”
“So it seems.”
“We don’t see you much down here in town.”
“I prefer it that way.”
David had pushed too far. He always did, and that was why Jefferson avoided speaking to him if he could. He turned his cold blue eyes on the man behind the desk, who was watching him curiously, knowing that he had gotten under Jefferson’s skin. The doors opened down the hall, and Emma’s voice rang out through the small building.
“I hope you’re hungry,” she said as she rushed in. “Granny gave us extra fries. And I got hot chocol…” She froze when she caught sight of Jefferson sitting on the bench with his arms folded neatly in his lap. “Jefferson,” she said with alarm. She had reason to be alarmed, and Jefferson almost felt guilty for it. For when he’d drugged her and held her hostage, hoping she could build him a hat to get him back to the Enchanted Forest with Grace. He stood slowly, so as not to spook her any more than his presence already was.
“I had a matter I wanted to discuss with you,” he said in the same quiet tone. Emma shot David a look before nodding.
“Yeah, sure. What can I do for you?” She moved over to the desk and dispersed food between them.
“In private,” Jefferson added.
“Alright. Um—my office is in there.” She gestured toward the room with clear glass windows. Jefferson immediately stepped inside before she’d finished exchanging food with David. Once she was done and had her lunch in tow, she stepped into the office and shut the door with a well-placed kick. “What can I help you with?”
“I had a question,” he told her, refusing to sit down even though she already had.
“It’s about magic.”
“Well, I don’t know how much help I’d be. I haven’t gotten the hang of it myself. Still a little weird for me, to be honest.”
“I preferred to ask someone who wouldn’t—meddle. Or con me.” She gave him a sympathetic nod.
“I hear that. So what’s the question?” He watched her dig through her greasy brown paper bag for fries. He pulled the teacup out of the pocket of his coat and set it down between them on the desk. He’d wrapped it in a soft fabric to keep it from breaking, and unwrapped it while she watched cautiously.
She seemed relieved when she saw it was only a cup. He reached for her paper cup that was steaming in the chill air.
“Do you mind?” he asked.
“No. Go right ahead,” she told him. She pulled off the lid and poured the hot chocolate into the cup. Nothing changed. His eyes narrowed as she looked up at him. “Is something supposed to happen?” she asked. He shook his head and leaned on the desk, hovering over the cup.
“Show me,” he said, but the cup did nothing.
“What is it supposed to show you?” He had the feeling that she still thought he was insane. He sighed slowly and thought about what exactly he had said right before the cup showed him grass. Maybe it acted like a mirror. It showed you what you asked it to show you.
“Show me her,” he instructed. He couldn’t say her name. Not in front of Emma. “My wife.”
The surface shimmered, and the chocolate brown liquid disappeared to show the same image of grass. He laughed, and she peered inside.
“That’s amazing,” she remarked. “What is this?”
“I was hoping you could tell me. It’s not a portal. I know that much. You can’t breach the surface. But all I can see is—grass. Which isn’t exactly helpful.”
“You asked it to show you your wife.” He clenched his jaw and nodded, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Henry’s book never told me—what happened to her.”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out.” She sighed and leaned on the desk as he stood back. She put her arms on either side of the cup and looked inside.
“Alright, so you have a freaky cup. You ask it to show you something, it shows you grass. Maybe it acts like one of those magic mirrors. Is there—is there a possibility that your wife is—dead?” She seemed cautious again as she asked the question. She still didn’t trust him and didn’t know what might set him off. He finally moved his cold blue eyes to hers.
“The Queen of Hearts took her head,” he stated. She nodded as if this was obvious.
“Right,” she agreed. He sighed again. For the savior, she seemed kind of dim. He reached up and removed the scarf from around his neck. He’d shown her the scars once, but apparently, she hadn’t remembered. Or her brain just hadn’t yet processed that he’d told her the truth. She examined the scars. “I see,” she said. “So you don’t die—when you lose your head.”
“Not in Wonderland. It’s magic. Similar to the enchanted hearts. But I didn’t—I didn’t know that then. If I’d known, I would have gone back for her sooner.”
“But there’s still a possibility that she’s—dead.” He reluctantly nodded.
“I don’t know for certain. All I know is that—if she’s dead, she would have died in Wonderland. And this isn’t Wonderland.” He waved a hand toward the cup.
“How can you be sure it’s not showing you Wonderland?”
“Because the grass in Wonderland grows up to eight feet tall. Does this grass look eight feet tall to you?”
“No. You’re right. This is all very new to me. And I don’t know much about Wonderland. Sorry.” He didn’t say anything as she took the cup in her hands and moved it around. “But maybe it does act like a mirror. Maybe it shows you what you’re aiming it at. Have you tried moving it around?”
“I didn’t want it to spill.”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out.”
He watched as she tipped the cup toward herself. He expected the hot chocolate to spill out and dump all over her desk. The tea had dropped just fine when he emptied it into the sink before leaving his house. But nothing splattered on her desk, and she looked confused as she peered inside.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Roses,” she said. “I think.” He hurried around the desk to look. She was right. The cup was showing them the roots of a bush of white roses. She stood up. “Let’s see if we can see anything else,” she said. But as soon as she turned, the cup emptied. Hot chocolate splashed out and spilled onto her boots. “Damn.”
“Maybe it only holds for a short period of time,” he said as he took the cup out of her hand and went to clean it out with the cloth.
“Or it only holds on the thing you asked it to show you.”
“Did you catch anything useful?”
“I don’t know. Might be familiar.” He wrapped the cup back up and looked at her from across the desk.
“Do you mind sharing with me?”
“I can show you. I think. Maybe.”
“Is now a good time?” She sighed and reached for her keys. Then she lifted her greasy bag of food and her paper cup.
“A good a time as any,” she decided.