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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15. Chapter Fifteen

The grass looked so real that Jefferson was almost sure if he reached right into the cup, he’d be able to 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 precisely that. He reached into the cup but met with nothing but tea. The surface rippled and the image of the grass distorted until it was tea again. He couldn’t reach in because it wasn’t a portal, but it was something.

His employer wanted the cup badly enough to pay more than Jefferson’s usual payment. But he hadn’t been too upset when he claimed he'd lost track of it. It couldn’t have been significant. 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 into Storybrooke during the curse. He felt stupid for never testing the thing. They’d held onto it like a sentimental trinket. Not the magical artifact that it was.

In his own defense, he’d been distracted. He spent the years after Alice’s death trying to raise their daughter. After that, he’d spent time in Wonderland trying to get back to her. In Storybrooke all he wanted was to find a way to get her back. He hadn’t given the cup much thought after seeing it in Gold’s shop. It only reminded him of what he’d lost, so he hid it away and focused on the one good thing he had left.

There weren’t many options available to him, regarding magic. He could go to Regina, but he couldn’t trust her. She’d never forgiven him for what he’d done, and she would warp the cup for her own gain. She took everything from him and continuously used him and manipulated him. He couldn’t imagine being in the same room with her without wanting to wrap his hands around her throat. But since there was magic in Storybrooke now, he knew it wouldn’t end well for him.

Mr. Gold was out of the question. He already made the mistake of asking for his help once. Jefferson had plenty of money to trade, but Gold never put much value in money. He couldn’t risk losing Grace again or getting caught up in a favor that would cost her another parent. He’d finally given her everything he wanted her to have. She had to be the most important thing in his life. Even Alice stressed that. Grace came first, no matter what.

He groaned when he realized what option that left him. 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 meddling and heroic speeches about truth and honor or true love or whatever they preached.

But Emma. Emma might get him what he wanted. He’d tried to use her help before, in a last-ditch moment of desperation. When his mind had been so warped after years of torture. It ended with him getting thrown out of a window. To be fair to Emma, she didn’t believe him then. She didn’t know what she knew now. Of course she thought he was insane.

She’d inherited her parents' sense of truth and honor and habitual meddling. But she was the more tolerable of the trio. She had good intentions and likely wouldn’t give him any altruistic speeches about being a hero. Though he was sure he hadn’t left a good impression on her.

He emptied the cup and left the house. He and Grace tried to get out more often now that they had each other again. He took her to the playground sometimes. Or brought her to see her friends. He saved all his errands for when she was home so that she didn’t have to feel so cooped up and trapped. He never wanted her to feel like a bird in a pretty cage. But he didn’t like leaving his house.

The little yellow Beetle was parked outside of the sheriff’s station when Jefferson arrived. He was pleased to know he wouldn’t have to go hunt her down. Unfortunately, David was the only person in sight 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. Or at all anymore.

“Jefferson,” he said with mild shock. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

“I’m here to see Sheriff Swan,” Jefferson replied. His voice was quiet, and almost like a growl.

He looked around the station for any sign of the blonde woman. The man’s daughter. Actually, technically younger than Grace. But she’d aged in the years they were cursed, and Grace hadn’t. 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 too much.

“She went down to Granny’s to pick up some lunch. Been a quiet day,” 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. He was going to start an interrogation. Prying. They were always doing that. Trying to save everyone. So distrustful of those who were neither all good or all bad.

“I’ll wait,” Jefferson decided. He took 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, it was that she wouldn’t annoy it out of him.

“Is there an emergency?” David questioned. “I could help. Where’s your daughter? What’s her name again? Paige?”

“Her name is Grace,” Jefferson said with a short tone. “She’s fine. She’s at school.”

“She’s in Henry’s class, isn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“They seem to get along well.”

“So it seems.”

“We don’t see you much down here in town.”

“I prefer it that way.”

“Does Grace?”

David had pushed too far. He always did, and that was why Jefferson avoided him if he could. He turned his cold blue eyes on the man behind the desk, who was watching him curiously, knowing he’d gotten under Jefferson’s skin. The doors opened down the hall, and Emma’s voice rang out through the station.

“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 hands folded neatly in his lap. “Jefferson,” she said with alarm. She had reason to be alarmed, and he almost felt guilty for it. For when he’d drugged her and held her hostage in the hopes that she could build him a hat that would take him home with Grace. He stood slowly, trying not to spook her any more than his presence already had.

“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 office with clear glass windows. Jefferson immediately stepped aside 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.

“Shoot.”

“It’s about magic.”

“Well, I don’t know how much help I’ll be. I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. Still a little weird for me, to be honest.”

“I preferred to come to someone who wouldn’t—meddle. Or manipulate me.” She gave him a sympathetic nod. So Henry had shared his story with her.

“I hear that. So what’s the question?” He watched her dig through a 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 scarf to keep it from breaking, and unwrapped it while she watched with caution.
She seemed relieved when she realized it was only a cup. He reached for the paper cup of steaming hot chocolate.

“Do you mind?” he asked.

“No. Go right ahead,” she told him. He 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 she still thought he was insane. He sighed heavily and thought about exactly what he’d said right before the cup changed. 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 brown chocolate 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. I didn’t know you had a wife.” He clenched his jaw and nodded, but wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I mean, I knew Grace had to have a mother, but Henry’s book never said anything about her. Or what happened.”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.” She sighed and leaned on the desk as he stood back. She put her hands on either side of the cup and looked inside.

“Alright, so you have a freaky cup. You asked it to show you someone, 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 asked the question with caution. She still didn’t trust him. 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 groaned again. For the savior, she seemed kind of dim. He reached up to remove the scarf around his neck. He’d shown her the scars once before, but she hadn’t remembered. Or maybe her brain just hadn’t processed the truth yet. She examined the scars. “I see,” she finally said. “So you don’t die—when you lose your head.”

“Not in Wonderland. It’s a unique magic. Similar to the enchanted hearts that gave the Queen her name. But I didn’t—I didn’t know that then. If I’d known there was even the slightest possibility that she was still alive, I would have gone back for her sooner.”

“But there’s still a possibility she isn’t. If what you’re saying is true. Then it means she went head-to-head with Cora. That usually doesn’t end well.” 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 that’s not Wonderland.” He waved a hand toward the cup.

“How can you be sure it’s not showing us Wonderland?”

“Because the grass in Wonderland grows up to eight feet tall. Does that grass look eight feet tall to you?”

“No. You’re right. This is all very new to me. And I don’t know a whole lot about Wonderland.” She took the cup in her hands and moved it around. “Maybe it does act like a mirror. It reflects what you hold in front of it. 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 chocolate to spill out and dump all over her desk. But nothing splattered 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 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 short periods of time,” he said as he took the cup out of her hand and went to clean it with the scarf.

“Or it only holds on the thing you asked it to show you.”

“Did you catch anything useful?”

“I don’t know. I might have seen something 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.

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