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.”
-Lana Del Rey

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13. Chapter Thirteen

Piece by piece, the hat began to form. By morning, Jefferson had something closely resembling a hat. Though most of the fabric had been unsalvageable. And certain parts of it were still stained with her blood and the embroidery frayed. It wasn’t the prettiest hat he’d ever made, but it was the most like Alice of them all. It was created from her cloak and even stained with her blood.

There were a few embellishments he wanted to add before calling it complete. Specific pieces he just couldn’t let a hat go without. Not since that first one opened a portal and set him on his fate. He’d tried making the same hat, and he’d tried making different ones, but they always failed. This hat served only one purpose. Not to get him home or give him access to all the worlds with magic. Just to get him to Alice.

The sun began to rise as he was cutting through the final shreds of the cloak. His hair was messy from all the times he’d run his fingers through it. His eyes were red with exhaustion and the tears he’d fought back when the blood became too much to bear. He immediately abandoned the icy blue hat on the table and hurried to his bedroom to make himself more presentable.

This world had a few more perks than the Enchanted Forest. He had ways to make his eyes less red and quickly found a clean scarf to look less disheveled. He took a moment to fix his messy hair before leaving. He wanted to look like he’d at least gone to sleep the night before.

Once he was changed, he rushed down the hall to the stairs so he could get breakfast started before Grace woke up. She discovered him minutes later as he hurried to make pancakes on the stove.

“Good morning, Papa,” she said when she reached the kitchen, still in her pajamas and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She took a seat at the table as he set a plate down in front of her and kissed the top of her head.

“Morning, sweetheart,” he replied, hurrying off to get her some orange juice.

She must not have slept well either. She didn’t question him all morning and seemed sleepy at breakfast. He wondered if he was loud while making the hat, or if she’d just been plagued by the bloodstains on her mother’s cloak like he feared. He knew he shouldn’t have shown it to her, but she was getting older, and the questions would keep coming. Maybe she’d stop now that she saw how the story ended.

When her bus disappeared down the road, he returned to the kitchen to clean up and make himself a cup of tea. He carried the whole pot up the stairs so he could drink it while he worked. He sat the tray on the table and went back to work to finish the hat’s final embellishments.

The tea had gone cold by the time he was done. He reached for his cup, grimaced when he realized it was cold, and then decided he didn’t care. He didn’t have the energy to go all the way back down the stairs to wait for another kettle to boil. He spun the hat and watched as it flopped onto the table. He wasn’t surprised, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t disappointed.

He was angry, not disappointed. Rage flooded him, and he sent the teacup splattering against a shelf. It hit the wall and shattered, sending cold tea and broken ceramic all over several hats. He leaned against the table and sighed. It was only a glimmer of hope in his chest. Just a small, stupid thought. If the cloak wasn’t already a tether to her, then her blood most certainly was. There was magic in Storybrooke again, but maybe there was no magic left in him.

Something was still missing. There was more to it than just a portal jumper with a hat. Each jumper had their own unique traits and rules. Alice had a looking-glass that only opened to one land. The first portal she’d fallen through belonged to the White Rabbit, with his own set of rules. Anyone could go either way. No set amount of bodies. But they’d have to crawl through a small hole and could only go from Wonderland to Alice’s world. As far as he knew. The Rabbit was always careful about who he let through his portals. He’d been angry at Alice for falling through by accident.

The looking-glass was gone. He never knew exactly what became of it. His hat had been destroyed beyond repair. Nothing but ash was left now. And he never asked what happened to the ash because with his daughter back, he had no reason to believe he’d ever need it. Whatever magic inside him that brought the hat to life, was gone. It was the only magic he’d ever been able to do. Something he was born with and took for granted. Not something he’d learned and practiced. He was angry that he'd never cared enough to do more thorough research.

He reached for the teapot out of habit and realized that he’d lost the only cup he brought with him. He could go back down the stairs and get another. He could calm himself down as he got another kettle on and started the whole process over. But he was tired. Not just from lack of sleep, but all the wasted years and all the wasted hats.

Instead, he went to the drawer where the gold-lipped teacup sat inside on a velvet cushion. He remembered how angry he’d felt the day he found it in Gold’s shop. He blamed Gold for stealing it from him, suspicious that the man knew exactly who he was. But it was just a cup. Just a reminder of Alice. They never used it as a cup. In the brief time they spent together in that cottage in the woods, they kept it on display in the kitchen window. A treasure instead of a useful dish.

He was tired of holding onto useless memories and silly trinkets. Alice was gone, and maybe someday he’d be able to accept it. There was always something he wanted. Always something to search for. He'd never been satisfied with what he had. Hope was futile now. He had everything he could ever need, and the one thing he wanted was the one thing he could never get back.

So he set the cup down on the saucer and filled it with cold tea. He glared at the useless blue hat in the center of his table, wishing it would spin and glow. He shut his eyes and whispered to himself.

“I just want to see her,” he pleaded. “I just want to see my wife again.” The hat didn’t respond. There was no magic in him anymore.

As he brought the teacup to his lips, he froze. He could feel it before seeing it or hearing it. His portal had always been noisy and loud, but Alice’s was silent. More like a window she could turn into a portal with nothing but intent and the brush of her fingers. He opened his eyes and looked down at the cup, but instead of the brown liquid, he was looking at something green.

Grass.

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