Shouldn't they have better aim than this?, Jefferson though idly as he ran. Maybe it had something to do with being frozen for twenty eight years or something. Then he berated himself. He didn't have time for this nonsense. He had what he came for; it was time to get back to Grace.
Jefferson ducked as another arrow whizzed past his head. He had to be mad for agreeing to this job. But when Rumplestiltskin asked you for a favor, well...even in Storybrooke, one was usually loathe to say no. His prize bounced awkwardly against his leg as he ran; what Rumplestiltskin wanted it for was well above his pay grade. All Jefferson was worried about was making it out of this infernal kingdom alive and back to Grace.
The sound of hoof beats got closer; Jefferson cursed under his breath. He scanned the treeline ahead, looking for the door. There it was, just across the small stream, just as he left it. Jefferson exhaled in relief; he was nearly there.
“You there,” a knight called from his mount. “Stop, in the name of the king!”
Jefferson rolled his eyes. That was one thing he was grateful for in Storybrooke. The vestiges of royalty were muted, if not gone entirely. Besides, this particular king wasn't his anyway. But he didn't dare look back. His shoes soaked through the instant he stepped into the stream, but it was shallow, barely going halfway up his shins. More arrows flew past, a couple lodging themselves in the magical gateway. Jefferson stepped onto the bank and finally chanced a glance back.
Four knights huddled on the opposite bank. The stream was the border of their kingdom; Jefferson was clear. The horses shuddered and whined, clearly reluctant to cross the stream. It was due to the magical nature of the door, Jefferson knew. Magic frightened even the steadiest of beasts. All four knights struggled with their mounts, but they all refused to budge. Jefferson placed his hand on the knob and turned it. Better to get out of here before they decided to leave the horses and come after him on foot. The tallest of them was doing exactly that as Jefferson stepped through the doorway, relief flooding him as the door closed behind him. He never saw the black swirling abyss that opened where the door had once been, taking the tall knight with it.
Jefferson stood in the Room of Portals, gradually trying to slow his breathing and heart rate. That had been close. He looked down at his clothes; there was a couple of holes in his coat that hadn't been there before, as well as a rather large gash from where one of the guards had tried to slash him. Damn, that was his favorite coat too. Whatever Rumplestiltskin wanted his booty for, it had better be worth it.
Jefferson was about to head back to Storybrooke when something caught his eye. The doors. Where were the doors? They were here when he'd entered the hat, hours before he was sure of it. But now...yes, every door to every realm he'd visited for Rumplestiltskin in the past few weeks was gone. Jefferson turned around. The door to the Enchanted Forest was gone too. What the hell? There was no magic powerful enough to do that; at least none that Jefferson knew. His first thought was Rumplestiltskin, but that made even less sense. Rumplestiltskin was the person who asked him to go to those places in the first place, why would he close Jefferson's way back? Unless Rumplestiltskin didn't want him to return. That imp was even crazier than Jefferson was; at least Jefferson acknowledged his particular brand of crazy.
A feeling of dread filled Jefferson. If there was no way to reverse this, then they could never return to the Enchanted Forest. Rumplestiltskin had promised that he'd convince Prince Charming and Snow White to return. Lies, everything that imp said was lies. Anger filling his brain, Jefferson climbed through the portal to Storybrooke. He emerged in Rumplestiltskin's pawn shop, the imp hovering close to the portal. As soon as Jefferson was clear the portal closed in on itself and the hat stopped spinning.
“You appear quite the worse for wear, Jefferson,” Rumplestiltskin drawled. “I hope this trip wasn't too taxing for you.”
Jefferson picked up his hat and turned on the imp, eyes flashing. “Just what the hell is going on, Rumplestiltskin? What have you done?”
Rumplestiltskin leaned more heavily on his cane. “I have done nothing, Hatter. Your Grace is safe and sound just as I promised. Now give me what you owe me, or she might not remain so.”
Jefferson shook his head. “That's not what I mean. You did something to it; I know you did,” he countered, shaking the hat.
Rumplestiltskin's brow furrowed. “I'm beginning to see why they call you the Mad Hatter, Jefferson. Whatever are you raving about?”
“My hat, the doors. They're gone.”
The imp's eyes lit up – only for a second. If Jefferson did not know the gleam of madness as well as he did, he would have missed it entirely. But it was definitely there. “Do tell, Jefferson.”
“They're gone. All of them. Well, the ones to the realms I've been to for you.”
“And the door to our land?”
“That one too.”
Jefferson scoffed. “Interesting?! That's all you have to say? Our way back to our world disappears and you think it's interesting? You promised me, Rumplestiltskin. My help in return for our return home. You lied to me.”
“There is more than one way back to our world, Jefferson. I honor my deals. Just as long as yours are honored in return,” he said smoothly, holding out his hand. “My bounty, if you please.”
Jefferson hesitated. He couldn't shake the feeling that whatever Rumplestiltskin wanted this object – and all the others, for that matter – for, it wasn't anything good. Rumplestiltskin did not deal in positive outcomes. But what choice did he have? If he didn't cooperate, Grace would be in danger. That was something Jefferson couldn't allow. Reluctantly, Jefferson unbuckled the sword and handed it over to the imp.
“What do you want it for?” Jefferson asked, knowing he was treading on thin ice.
“That is none of your concern.”
Jefferson held up a hand. “Forgive a man for being curious,” he said quickly, to cover his anxiety.
“Just so long as your curiosity does not go beyond this room,” Rumplestiltskin warned. “I'd hate for some mishap to befall your lovely Grace.”
“You son of a bitch,” Jefferson whispered, using one of this realm's more colorful turns of phrase. “Are we done?” he said, louder.
“I do believe this concludes our business, Jefferson. Good night.”
The imp disappeared into the back of his stop, the newly acquired sword tucked under his arm. Disgusted with himself but thankful that his part in this drama was over, Jefferson put his hat back in its case and left the shop. Looking left and right and seeing no one, the Mad Hatter headed home. He never noticed the handful of stars blink out in the inky black sky.