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


9. Chapter Nine

Storybrooke used to be a quiet place. Everyone went about the same business each and every day. If Jefferson left his house at a specific time, he’d inevitably run into the same people completing the same errands. Day after day. It was enough to drive anyone mad.

He thought things would change once the savior set foot in town and made time move again. Most of all, he thought he’d welcome the change. But he’d gone twenty-eight years expecting things to go exactly the same as they had the day before. And it took getting used to. People weren’t as predictable anymore. They were free to make their own choices. It was harder to ensure Grace was safe.

Now Storybrooke was noisy and chaotic. The town was still dealing with the results of the curse. With their memories back, they tirelessly searched for the people they’d loved and lost. Jefferson preferred the quiet sanctuary of his house above town, even when Grace was at school.

But he was growing restless. His mind was flooded with thoughts and ideas now that he was free to think them. He had his daughter back. She remembered him again. And he’d finally given her all the luxury he ever wanted his family to have. There was just one person missing. And she haunted his dreams every night.

So when Grace disappeared on the bus the next morning, he reluctantly drove into town to the one place he never wanted to return to.

When he first woke up in Storybrooke all those years ago, he’d quickly figured out he was the only person who knew who he really was. With the exception of Regina, who liked to throw it in his face as often as possible. But Jefferson learned to avoid her as long as he could and went to Mr. Gold in the hopes that some shred of his former accomplice was still lingering in the man’s mind.

That was where he found it. Sitting in a glass case, displayed like an oddity to be sold and bartered for. A gold lipped teacup sitting on a cushion of folded fabric in a familiar shade of embroidered blue satin.

He yelled at Mr. Gold, ranting and raving and earning him the whispers of madness that followed wherever he went. It did not take him long to realize Mr. Gold was telling the truth, though he’d always been a very convincing liar. He suspected that Gold knew precisely who he was from time to time, but he’d never gotten any proof. Gold lived his life in the same boringly repetitive patterns as the rest of town. So Jefferson used his newfound wealth to buy the items that were rightfully his. It was a small price to pay for things that had once meant so much to him.

Now he didn’t think he’d be able to pay the price. Mr. Gold was no longer a dangerous landowner who ran a pawn shop and made his deals based on monetary value. He was the Dark One. And the Dark One wouldn’t be swayed by cash.

Mr. Gold didn’t look the least bit surprised when the bell above the door chimed as Jefferson let himself into the shop. He looked up from a logbook, gave the man a once over, and returned to his task.

“What is it you want to accuse me of this time?” he asked casually. Jefferson glanced at the display cases, wondering what belonged to who and if they’d ever be able to get it back. He hoped he’d never skipped over something small and important. There were a significant number of Alice’s things that hadn’t ended up in Storybrooke.

“I didn’t come here to make a purchase,” Jefferson explained.

“Your skills no longer have any value to me.”

“You think I don’t know that?” He stopped before the last display, where the man flipped through his book and finally turned his eyes on Jefferson.

“I don’t think you’re willing to pay the price for what you want,” he said.

“How do you know what I want?” The imp smiled.

“You only make deals for one thing,” he said. “Your pretty little rose. With all her thorns.” Jefferson took a deep breath.

“Name your price, and I’ll decide if I can pay it.”

“You don’t have what I want. Not anymore.”

“I just—need answers. Anything.”

“I knew you would ask eventually. But even if you had something I wanted, I can’t help you find what you’re looking for.”

“But you’re the Dark One. You can find anything.”

“In this land? Perhaps. In the Enchanted Forest? Most certainly. But Wonderland? If I could get whatever I wanted from Wonderland—I wouldn’t have required your services in the first place.”

“Then how do I get to Wonderland? There has to be another way.” The Dark One looked back down at his logbook, now bored with the conversation.

“I can’t help you,” he said.

Jefferson knew it was useless to hope. He’d only ever come to the Dark One when he’d exhausted all other options. And even when he thought he could pay the price, it turned out to be too high in the end. A deal with the Dark One had cost him his wife. He wasn’t willing to lose Grace to the same fate. He was foolish to come.

“Right,” he said, chewing on his lip and looking over the display cases for anything familiar. “I don’t know why I bothered.”

He turned on his heel and marched toward the door. He felt like an idiot for even thinking of asking Gold for help. He wasn’t that desperate now. It was only a small flicker of hope now, and there had to be another way to bring it to life. A way that wouldn’t put Grace at risk.

“I didn’t say there wasn’t a way to get what you want,” Mr. Gold said before Jefferson reached the door. He paused and glanced back at the man who still seemed casually bored in his quiet little pawn shop. “Just that I couldn't help you. You're looking in the wrong place.”

“And where exactly should I look?” The imp smiled that dangerous grin.

“That, I’m afraid, will cost you.”

“What do you want?”

“That depends on what you want more. The ingredients or the recipe. One or the other.”

Jefferson gave him a respectful nod and strolled out of the store. He knew it was best to leave it at that. He was lucky to get that much without having to offer something in return. It was likely due to the mutual respect they’d built for each other in their earlier dealings. Jefferson wouldn’t push for anything more. Not when he had so much to lose.

Besides, the imp had told him everything he needed to know.

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