"I love playing hide and seek with you papa." Grace smiled as she stared up at him.
"That is only because you are so good at finding me." He returned her smile giving her a playful bop on the nose.
"I do seem better at this game then you."
"Just like your mother."
"And the Princess in your stories!" Grace exclaimed bouncing up and down.
"Oh yes the Princess always was able to talk her thief into playing, just like you always seem to be able to talk me into it."
"Can we play one more time please papa?"
"How can I say no to that smile? Of course one more game, then it's back home, because it is starting to get late."
Jefferson drifted out of his daydream as he watched Grace leave the school grounds with two other children. "I don't like it when she plays with those two." He muttered out loud to himself.
"Why ever not?" Alice asked appearing behind him.
"Because they always lead her into trouble." Jefferson grunted following them with his telescope.
"Now who does that sound like?" Alice teased moving up behind him draping her arms around him.
Jefferson pulled back from the telescope a moment bringing his hands up to her even though he knew she wasn't really there. "At least I was open about the dangers. These kids just do stupid things, or have you forget they were the reason she broke her arm all those years ago, when Regina first stuck us here. Grace could get seriously hurt by tagging along with them."
"She adventurous, you can't blame her for that. She gets it from her mama and papa."
"Be that as she may, she is still just a child."
"I was only a few years old then her when I met you in Wonderland."
"A few years can make all the difference." Jefferson huffed turning back to the telescope watching the three children disappear into the woods. "But she is never going to grow up here and learn that."
"The curse can't last forever, you will get our daughter back some day."
Before Jefferson could answer he heard a scream and Aurora came stumbling into the room. She was clearly scared and looking over her shoulder like something was chasing her. She tripped over her long gown and hit the floor hard. Jefferson rushed to take her in his arms. "Aurora… what's going on? Are you alright?"
"That monster is hunting me again. I think I got away. I can't be dead." She whispered looking up at him.
"Of course you are dead why else would you be here?" Alice stated standing over the two of them.
"Who are you?" Aurora wondered as Jefferson helped her back to her feet.
"I am his dead wife." Alice answered crossing her arms.
"Dead wife?" Aurora asked confused pulling back from Jefferson.
"Yes." Alice went on. "He only sees the ghost of his past so you must be dead."
"Well that not hundred percent true, I have talked to Victor and Rumple and they are not dead, and as far as I know my father has yet to meet his untimely end."
"But you know she has." Alice demanded.
"No I am in the sleeping curse. Jefferson is the one who died…" Aurora muttered shaking her head. "I can't be dead. I have so much to do. I have to wake up from this sleeping curse. I have to kill Maleficent for my parents, for Jefferson, for myself."
"I am afraid that story will never be." Alice commented.
"Alice that is quite enough." Jefferson moved between them trying to get them both to stop arguing.
"No this is just the sleeping curse messing with me. There are monsters and mind games and I will over come this all in the end."
Jefferson took a step back grabbing his head he screamed. "Stop it! Stop it now!" He opened his eyes to see both Alice and Aurora staring at him. "You two are both the loves of my life, and so important to me. But you are both dead."
"We had five years together." Alice stated staring Jefferson down. "And in that time did you ever really love me?"
Jefferson took a step back from Alice her words had hurt worse than any slap to the face would have. "You know I love you."
"All those nights together and your nightmares still woke you up calling out for Aurora." Alice bitterly stated.
"You know I love both of you. And I know if you both never had met me you would both still be alive today."
"We never would have lived at all if we hadn't have met you." Aurora whispered from behind him.
"Life doesn't have to be a crazy adventure that gets you kill before your time. You…" Jefferson pointed at Alice. "would have married that Mr. Darcy and had a proper life, and you…" he turned to Aurora. "would have been Queen. You both haunt me so because I know I destroyed your futures all for my selfish emotions. Rumple was right; love is a weakness and it destroys everything it touches."
Aurora started to say something but Jefferson cut her off. "No!" He pointed at her. "I can't do this anymore, talking to ghosts. I need to find a way out of this house, back to Grace, and out of this twisted nightmare Regina has made."
Just then the alarm on the front gate started going off. "What the hell?" Jefferson asked as he watched both Aurora and Alice disappear in front of him. He turned and headed down the hallway to the guest bedroom where he could see the front gate.
There at the gate were those two bothersome siblings and his Grace. And Grace was picking the lock on the gate.
"I say Jeff, did you teach your daughter how to pick a lock?" Victor commented behind him.
"I taught her all kinds of practical things." Jefferson watched as she successfully picked the lock on the gate. "She remembers what I taught her." His smile at this realization quickly faded. "If she remembers that what else does she remember? Regina always told me she didn't remember anything of her old life."
"Regina always did lie." Victor commented behind him.
"Yes I know that is true Doc." Jefferson commented as he watched Grace swing the gate open. The older girl was talking to her and pointing towards the house.
"They are daring her to come up to the house." Victor stated.
"Yes." Jefferson whispered licking his lips as he watched Grace stare up the driveway to the front door.
"She is going to do it." Victor continued behind him. "After all she is your daughter and you never turned down a dare. I remember this one time in Oz…"
"Not now Victor!" Jefferson exclaimed as Graced started up the driveway. He watched her until she was about half way up and then he rushed out of the room, down the hallway, and took the stairs two at a time. He slid to a stop in front of the door, his hand all but touching the door's handle. He tried to slow his breathing as waited for her to ring the bell.
"If you wait for her to ring the bell, you will never have a chance to talk to her. She is going to ring it and make a run for it. It's a childish prank." Victor's words of wisdom rang true in his head.
He grabbed a hold of the handle and waited until he heard her on the porch. He pulled opened the door starling her and he watched as she fell over starring up at him with wide eyes.
"Grace!" He whispered.
"I…." She started as she stared up at him.
"Oh my god!" Jefferson heard the girl down at the end of the driveway scream. "He caught her! The mad man caught her, run!" He didn't bother to look at the siblings taking off down the road back to town. But Grace did turn her head to look and she shouted. "AVA! NICHLOAS! WAIT!"
"Don't worry about them, Grace… would you like to come in for some tea?" He hoped those words sounded normal. Twenty some years of talking only to ghosts and Regina didn't give him much practice at normal. But he could feel himself shaking as he stood stuck in the doorway, unable to take the last two steps and hug his daughter.
"My name isn't Grace." She stated as she managed to get back to her feet backing up to the top of the stairs. "I am sorry, it was dare. Don't tell my parents…. I promise I never will…." She choked out before turning sprinting as fast as she could for the end of the driveway and road back to town.
"No! Grace come back! Please come back!" He called after her, hitting the magical spell that kept him trapped in the mansion.
"She doesn't remember you, but she does remember things you taught her." Victor's voice of reason tried to calm him down.
"What good are those memories if they are not associated with me?" Jefferson screamed slamming the door shut and turning on the ghostly image of his friend.
"If she remembers those things, it is only a matter of time before she remembers the rest. The curse can't last forever, Grace and everyone in this town will remember one day."
"Twenty years Victor!" Jefferson continued to scream. "It's been twenty years, and nothing has changed. I am going to always be stuck here in this house and she is always going to think I am the madman up on the hill."
"Twenty years isn't forever. You spent more time in Neverland. You will see this through and in the end I know you will be with Grace again."
"How can you possibly know that?" Jefferson huffed walking pass him into the living and collapsing on the couch.
"Because it's based in science my dear friend."
"I hate to break this to you Victor, but nothing about what has happened to us is based in science." He threw up mocking quotes and rolled his eyes when he said the word science.
"No it was magic that brought us here, but like you have explained to me before magic only last so long. The science part tells me that whatever Regina's power source is, it has to run out, or there has to be a way to end it."
"All the good that does me. I am stuck here with no way to end it all."
"Just because you are the only one who remembers doesn't mean it will be you who will find the way to break it. Curses usually seem to have loop holes, or set endings. Anyone down in that town could be the one which causes this nightmare to end. I mean do you seriously think Rumple would be down there if he thought Regina's spell would last forever?"
Jefferson let his friend's advice bounce around inside his head for a few moments before looking up nodding his head in agreement. Feeling calmer he watched his friend's ghost disappear leaving him once again alone in the huge manor.