Finding Alice

Every time I close my eyes It's like a dark paradise No one compares to you But there's no you, Except in my dreams tonight


20. Chapter Twenty


When Alice didn’t return to Wonderland the next day, Jefferson became worried. Sometimes her mother would find a way to restrict her access to her looking-glass, and she would disappear without a word for a day or two. But her somber mood the day before put him on edge. And the fact that Wonderland hadn’t ceased to rain. When she didn’t show up the next day, or the day after that, he knew that something was wrong.

Alice had given Jefferson her cloak, and it was still possible he could find her before her mother did anything too drastic. When he stepped through the portal again, right into the space between the wall and the hedges, the house was dark. He paced in that space for a long time, but Alice never appeared. He’d fallen asleep leaning against the wall and stayed there until morning when a frightened gardener woke him.

“The family has gone to the city,” the gardener told him once he’d introduced himself. “For Miss Liddel’s wedding.”

His heart shattered at the words. He was so sure he could save her from a forced marriage. Or that she would have come to him for help if it ever happened. But he knew that even if there was nothing either of them could have done, she should have told him. Unless she actually loved the man she was to wed. Perhaps he’d stolen her heart, and she’d been too kind to tell Jefferson the truth.

He thought about the last time they’d met in Wonderland. He knew that she had loved him. She hadn’t told him because she wanted to protect him. Because she had no hope that they would ever find a way to be together. Because after all this time, he never bothered to ask her if she wanted to try.

The gardener asked him if he would like to send the family a note, but he couldn’t guarantee that it would reach her in time. He quickly fled through his portal before the man returned to his work. He only knew of one person who might be willing to help them. He hadn’t wanted to, from the very start, he never wanted to ask the Dark One for his assistance. But now it looked as though he had no other choice. He was willing to pay whatever price the imp asked of him. He told Alice he would do anything for her, and now he was likely going to be tested.

The Dark One was not surprised to see him that afternoon when he arrived with his hat in tow. He was led directly into the man’s parlor while the creature chattered on about expecting Jefferson’s arrival. They had worked together before, but they only did business. They never talked about anything other than trades and sales and Jefferson never intended to come to him as a customer. He never wanted to owe him anything.

“I just need your help,” he said to get Rumpelstiltskin to stop talking. “I’ll pay whatever price. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Help me get her here.” The creature seemed strangely joyous. He giggled a laugh that Jefferson knew could only mean trouble for him.

“But the question isn’t whether or not you’re willing to pay the price—but that Alice is,” he replied. Jefferson gritted his teeth. He hadn’t told anyone her name. He’d never spoken of her outside of Wonderland at all until now. It shouldn’t have surprised him that Rumpelstiltskin already knew exactly what he wanted.

“Then I’ll pay the price—so that she can decide.”

“But you don’t have much of anything that I want.” Jefferson usually found the Dark One tolerable. They had worked together on trades plenty of times. Sometimes the Dark One needed things from other lands and was willing to pay a hefty amount of gold straw for Jefferson’s unique skills.

“What is it exactly that you want?” The creature smiled and lifted the ruffled sleeves of his shirt as he walked to a tall cabinet at the other side of the open room.

“From you, I want a favor. I decide when and where and how. And you do it without question.” Jefferson reluctantly agreed.

“We have a deal.”

“Oh, I’m not finished yet. From her, I want—a mirror. To look at my pretty face.”

Jefferson swallowed against the lump in his throat. He didn’t want just any mirror. He wanted Alice’s looking-glass so he could get into Wonderland without Jefferson’s help. He wasn’t sure if Alice would be willing to give it up for him. But if he could get her to come to the Enchanted Forest, he could show her every world he had at his fingertips. She’d never need her looking-glass again. He had to trust that she loved him as much as he loved her.

“And if she doesn’t accept her end of the deal?” Jefferson questioned as the man looked through his cabinet, rummaging through strange bottles in various colors of glowing liquid.

“Well, then how about a hat? To put upon my pretty head,” he decided. Jefferson bit his lip. He knew that was a potential price he’d have to pay when he walked through the door. It was a risky deal. If Alice didn’t love him like he loved her, if she didn’t accept the transaction and trade her looking-glass for a chance to be free with him—then he would lose everything. He would lose Alice, his work, his whole life. “Do you love her?” the Dark One inquired, sensing Jefferson’s moment of hesitation.

“Yes,” he agreed.

“Is it—true love?”

“I don’t—I don’t know.”

“You’re not certain that she loves you back.”

“She does. I know that she does.”

“Then what do you have to lose?”

Everything. But he thought of Alice with her golden hair and her sly smile. He thought of the day they spent under the mushroom in the rain when he’d finally been able to prove that it wasn’t just lust or desire but that he loved her truly and deeply. He told her that he’d do anything for her. And he intended to keep that promise. He had to be willing to give up everything for her. So he stepped forward, lifted his hat off of his head, and bowed to the Dark One.

“We have a deal,” he said.

The creature giggled again, high pitched and more menacing than genuine. He pulled a bottle out of his cabinet and sauntered over to a tall frame that was hidden beneath a sheet as if he’d set it out just for Jefferson. He ripped the sheet off and exposed the mirror. It was just an average looking-glass. Jefferson could tell it wasn’t magical. But whatever magic the creature held in the shining glass bottle—that would be what got him to Alice.

“You know how to find her?” Jefferson asked as he stepped forward. The creature’s strange eyes looked back at him through the reflection in the mirror. He uncorked the bottle, which seemed almost empty.

“You’re in luck, deary,” he said as he lifted the bottle and shook up the single drop of liquid inside. “I have just enough to get you what you want. If she’ll have you that is.” Jefferson clenched his teeth and stepped to the creature’s side. He seemed to trust that Jefferson would give him what he wanted. So he giggled again as he tipped the bottle over the mirror.

A single drop of shimmering clear liquid ran down the frame. For a moment, nothing happened, but Jefferson knew the Dark One’s magic never failed. And sure enough, the mirror surface shimmered like water and their images melted away to be replaced by the image of a bedroom as if they were viewing from a window.

Jefferson took a step forward and leaned in close to look. He could see a large bed with tall posters and drapes, but behind that, he could make out the form of a woman with black hair and a tight dress. She moved to reach for something that he couldn’t see.

“You need to smile, darling,” Helen was saying, her voice drifted through the looking-glass and reached the two of them standing watch. “Your husband will want you to smile.”

“He’s not my husband,” Alice’s voice came from where she was hidden behind one of the bed’s drapes.

“He will be. Tonight.” Helen began to comb her daughter’s long hair so that Jefferson could see it twist through her fingers. “You should be grateful we managed to find you a husband at your age. I know he’s a bit older than you expected, but that’s what you get for speaking madness. He’s wealthy, though without a title, but his children are all grown. You’re lucky that he won’t expect any from you.”

Alice started to speak, but her voice was quickly shut off. She moved forward, and her face appeared in the mirror on the other side of the room. Her dark eyes met Jefferson’s and then she stood so sharply the cushion she was sitting on flopped to the floor. Jefferson could make out the form of her large white dress now.

“Please, Mother,” Alice said as her voice went frantic and high pitched. “Give me a moment’s peace.” The woman huffed and set down the jeweled comb.

“I need to check in with the arrangements anyway. I’ll be back in a few minutes to finish your hair. I can’t have you looking like some sort of feral child on your wedding day.”

“Yes, Mother.”

The woman left the room, and the door clicked shut behind her. Then Alice was on the move. She gripped the white gown in her hands and rushed around the bed to the looking-glass.

“What are you doing here?” she asked in the same panicked and hushed tone. Jefferson gripped the frame and looked in at her face, so relieved to see her again, to know that he hadn’t lost her just yet.

“I’m here to set you free,” he explained. “When you didn’t come back—I knew something happened.”

“I couldn’t come back. I couldn’t face you after what my mother had done.”

“You might want to hurry this along,” Rumpelstiltskin said from Jefferson’s side. Alice turned her eyes on him but didn’t seem the least bit startled by his appearance. After everything she had seen in Wonderland, the Dark One was positively normal. “We don’t know how much longer the enchantment will last.” Jefferson turned back to the woman in the mirror with her sparkling white gown that was meant for someone else.

“I can get you through. To my world,” he told her. “Just this once. If that’s what you really want. If you don’t want to marry that man. If you want to come here—and be with me. I can get you here.” She looked panicked as she took in his words.

“It’s that easy?” she questioned. He shook his head.

“I’m afraid not,” he explained. “I’ve made a deal. If you come through—you have to give him,” he motioned toward the creature at his side, “your looking-glass.”

“And you won’t get back through,” the Dark One informed her. “Ever.” She was breathing hard, and her red painted lips were pinched. But she turned her dark eyes back on Jefferson.

“You really want me—there—with you? Forever?” she asked him. He gripped the mirror tighter. He wanted more than anything to hold her in his arms again, but he couldn’t break the enchantment until she was ready.

“Of course I do,” he told her. “I would do anything for you. I told you that.” Her eyes were glassy with unshed tears.

“I know nothing about your land,” she admitted.

“I can show you. Everything. I can teach you how to fly.”

“How much longer do we have before this portal closes?”

“I’d give it a few more minutes,” the Dark One answered as he looked down at his scaly wrist for a watch that wasn’t there.

“That’s all I need,” Alice said.

She pushed away from the mirror and rushed around the room. She pulled a velvet bag from a drawer and began filling it with miscellaneous items. Not clothes or anything she might need for a journey so far from home, but unimportant things like jewelry and silver and the glittering comb her mother had left on her vanity table. She hesitated before returning to Jefferson.

“I’ll never get to say goodbye,” she said. Her voice was hollow and quiet. “My sister—my father. I’ll never see them again?”

“I don’t know,” he told her. He was aware that he still had his hat and could take her back to say goodbye if she really wanted. But he didn’t want to remind Rumpelstiltskin that he still had that power.

It was still enough for Alice. She took a deep breath, took one last glance at the room, and then stepped through the mirror and fell right into his arms. He held her close as the portal shut behind her. He didn’t want to let her go. She felt as warm and smelled just as sweet to him as she did in Wonderland. The joy in his heart was insurmountable. She had come. She had given up her whole life, not knowing if she’d ever see her family again, for him. It was easier than he expected. He didn’t know what favor the Dark One would ask him in the future, but all that mattered now was that she was in his arms.

Then he remembered Alice’s part of the deal. He turned to look at Rumpelstiltskin who was running his hands along the frame of the mirror, not seeming to care that either of them was there.

“The portal,” Jefferson said. “How will you get it now?”

“Oh, I already have it,” he replied. “I’m thinking it would make a lovely gift. Maybe for a—coronation.” Alice looked grim, but she clutched her velvet bag to her chest, and her eyes looked back up at him.

“Let’s go home,” she said.

He nodded, even though he didn’t have a home to take her to. But he wrapped his arm around her shoulder anyway and nodded a thank you to the creature he’d never trusted, but was so thankful he’d never crossed. He turned to lead Alice out of the castle and toward the woods. But the creature stopped them at the door.

“Wait, wait, wait,” He said. Jefferson flinched and turned around. “One more thing,” the imp said, holding up a finger and approaching the two of them. “You look—like a queen, deary.” Alice looked at Jefferson before turning back to Rumpelstiltskin, unsure of whether or not it was meant as a compliment. “What I mean to say is, you won’t make it very far without someone noticing. And asking questions.”

“We can buy her clothes once we reach town,” Jefferson decided.

“Better yet, you can sell that dress to me, and I’ll give you another in return.” Jefferson looked down at Alice. He hated the dress. It was beautiful, and she looked like royalty. But it wasn’t meant for him. But it also wasn’t his decision to make. Alice nodded.

“I would be grateful,” she said.

“No need to thank me,” Rumpel replied.

Then he lifted his fingers and Alice was engulfed in a cloud of smoke. Jefferson was startled for just a moment until she reappeared, dressed in clothes more fitting of his realm. Though much drearier. Her dress was white with light blue pinstripes. It was something that would match her embroidered cloak, without drawing too much attention to her. Though she looked like a peasant and not the elegant woman he thought of her as.

“So you thought a peasant was more flattering than a queen?” Jefferson asked as he pulled Alice to his side again, though he was thankful she didn’t have a large cage or petticoat blocking his way. And her corset didn’t seem to be squeezing her as tightly.

“No one bats an eye at a peasant girl,” the imp remarked.

“It’s fine, Jefferson. I promise,” she told him as she put her hand on his chest and drew his attention back to her. “I’m glad to be rid of it.” He smiled down at her. He was happy to hear her say it. He could buy her new dresses. He would buy her all the dresses and jewels she wanted.

“Then I believe we’re done here,” he told the Dark One, and he hurried to pull Alice out of the doors.

Jefferson didn’t speak until they’d reached the road that would take them through the woods. He wanted to get as far away from the Dark One as possible, and Alice seemed preoccupied as her eyes searched every tree and startled at the sound of every bird.

“I don’t have a home, Alice,” he admitted to her once they were far enough away. “I’m sorry.” She smiled and nudged him with her shoulder.

“It’s alright,” she told him. “We can build a new nest.” She lifted the velvet bag she had twisted around her wrist and pulled the drawstrings to show him the collection of jewels and gold.

“Mementos?” he asked.

“No, silly. Gold.” He smiled and pulled her back into his side. “My mother found my savings from my trades. That’s why I couldn’t tell you. I didn’t think there was another way. I didn’t want you to give hope where there was none.”

“I just want you to be happy here, Alice,” he said into her hair as he pressed a kiss to her temple. “I hope this land is everything you ever wished for. If it isn’t, if you don’t like it here, I’ll find a way to get you back home.”

She shook her head and looked down at her feet. The white silk slippers she’d been wearing with her wedding dress had been traded out for brown boots. She seemed so right there. Even if she hadn’t changed out of her expensive white gown, she belonged in those woods at his side. He knew he’d never be able to give her the life she’d left behind, but he hoped the nest the built would make her happy.

“Just Jefferson, you silly man,” she said as she smiled back up at him. “As long as I’m with you—and that life is behind me—then I have everything I want. Everything I’ve ever wished for.”

He believed her, but even if she was happy with just him and whatever meager things he could provide for her, he vowed to try harder. To give her a large estate in the forest where she could be free and still have all of the wealth and comforts she had known all her life. She would have more than that too. She would have love and freedom to be who she wanted. She’d never ask for any of that, he knew, but that wouldn’t stop him from trying.


Random fact time. In the episode where Rumpel helps Regina banish Cora to Wonderland, he gives her a looking-glass that she uses to push her mother through. I decided it was Alice's looking-glass. That she traded in order to be with Jefferson.

So in a tragically roundabout way, Alice and Jefferson are kind of (offhandedly) responsible for Cora taking over Wonderland, which ultimately leads to her beheading. *Wa-wa*

"All magic comes with a price."

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