“Victor? Can you hear me?”
He felt a cold cloth drape across his forehead as dribbles of water slid down his temples. He groaned. His head was foggy like it was filled with steamy wet cotton balls.
He peeked open his eyes. He was in the shade under an awning, but the sun still blared behind it. A person was silhouetted above him from the light. He couldn’t make out the man’s features except a wide brimmed hat on his head.
“There you are, my dear Doctor. How are you feeling?”
“I tried to tell you that Agrabah’s heat would be too much for you since you come from a cold climate. But nooooo, you just couldn’t be left behind,” the person stroked his cheek tenderly. “Now rest. I have you.”
Dr. Whale snapped awake nearly falling out of his rolling chair. He glanced around with wide eyes for a moment getting his bearings. He was in his office at the hospital. No deserts worlds. No men with hats caring for him.
What was happening? More and more these vivid dreams plagued him almost on a nightly basis. It was like he was reliving another life from a long time ago. Taking out a notebook from his bag, he flipped to a page with a series of words scribbled everywhere:
Hat, green skin, hare, mushroom, Queens, hearts, monkeys with wings, flying carpet, Chesh, Knave, Elliot, Sultan…
It was a bunch of gibberish to anyone else, but to him, it felt so real. He added the words “desert” and “Agrabah” to the list.
“Isn’t that Aladdin?” he muttered and shoved the notebook back into his bag. Looking at the clock, he decided to leave early. If anyone needed him, they could page him.
It was a cool night in Storybrooke as he walked home. He would regret leaving his car at the hospital in the event he got called back. Luckily, he didn’t live too far away. All the normal people of this sleepy town were heading home for the evening. Last calls were going out at Granny’s. The Mayor nodded at him as he passed. Everything was in place and predictable. Pretty much the most exciting thing was the wind started to pick up. Wow, so enthralling…
“Hey, catch that!”
Whale turned in time to get bopped in the face by a hat. He grabbed it before it hit the ground, then he faltered. It was the same style hat from his dream! The silhouette matched from the brim to the top. Running his hands over it, the material seemed to have energy as if it was alive.
“Thank you!” A dapper dressed man with scarf a bit too girly for Whale’s taste trotted up to him. Something moved deep in Whale’s being like his entire soul suddenly shifted. The voice, like the hat, sounded like the gentleman in his dreams. Come on, Whale! There’s no such thing as a man of your dreams!
He handed the hat back to the gentleman, “I’m assuming this is yours.”
“Yes,” he carefully took it back and cradled it under one arm. “The wind got it from me. It’s like the hat knew to find you, Victor.”
Victor? He said Victor! That was the name he was always called in his dreams? Whale stepped back eyeing him. The man grinned knowingly like he held some great joke that only he understood. That stirring sensation moved once again in him. “My name is Whale. James Whale.”
“If you tell yourself something enough times, you’ll believe it,” the man came closer to him. “You know deep down that name never felt right to you. It’s like you’re living in another world yearning and dreaming for the truth.”
This wasn’t possible. Maybe he was a patient, a stalker one at that, who somehow gotten ahold of Whale’s dream notebooks. It was the only explanation. “Who are you? How did you know that I’ve been dreaming that I’m a man named Victor?”
“Have you really?” He shrugged, “You just confirmed it for me. You were always a bit of a dreamer.”
“Who are you!?”
“Jefferson’s the name, and apparently finally getting out of that house and exploring this town is my new game. I’m already bored with it, and I’ve only been out a week when Emma showed up.”
Whale furrowed his forehead. Nothing this man said made any sense. “What does Deputy Swan have to do with any of this?”
“In due time, but for now, thank you for saving my hat. How can I repay you?”
“You can stay away from me,” a growl rose in Whale’s throat. “I don’t know how you found out that information about my dreams, but it’s not appreciated. I would hate to see Graham take you away in cuffs for stalking.”
Jefferson’s face sunk in disappointment. Obviously, this wasn’t the answer that he sought from Whale. Too bad! This man was mad and creeping the doctor out. Shifting his hat to his other arm, Jefferson held out a hand for him to shake, “My apologies. I will bid you good evening then.”
Whale didn’t take his hand.
Pursing his lips together, Jefferson added, “I live in a house about a mile outside of town. When the time is right, find me. Goodnight, my dear Doctor.” He popped the hat on his head, crammed his hands in his pocket, and strode away.
“Weirdo… I need a drink,” Whale headed for The Rabbit Hole. Hopefully Graham, his regular drinking buddy, would be there to share this story.
But that night as he sat in bed, Whale spread out all of his journals on the comforter. Sketches from these dream worlds sat on his right, while pages of numerous words scrolled across the papers on his left. One word appeared in every dream: Jefferson. In many of the sketches, that damn hat sat in the background on a table or chair. Somehow he knew it was all connected. He just didn’t have the slightest clue how…
Several weeks later…
He stood outside of a mansion located on the outskirts of town. Part of him knew it had always been here, but it was like he was seeing it for the first time. After the last few days, he knew he needed to seek this place out. Heart racing, he approached the oak door and rapped on it.
Several lingering moments later, the door opened. Jefferson burst into a wide grin seeing him. He made no moves to greet him, but after their last outing, who could blame him? “Dr. Whale! What a surprise to see you. How can I help you?”
He stepped forward and pulled Jefferson into a deep kiss. The Hatter faltered a moment, and then sank into the action he knew so well. His hands slid around the Doctor’s waist pulling him closer.
The kiss broke, and they rested their foreheads together. They exchanged familiar nuzzles of their noses.
“It’s Victor, my silly Hatter,” he leaned back and cupped his lover’s cheek.
“Victor!” Jefferson hugged him tight and shuddered. “I’ve been so alone. I’ve needed you so much.”
Victor cradled his lover close running a hand up into his hair. Obviously the curse hadn’t made Jefferson lose his memories, but that must have been a curse in itself. Seeing your loved ones roaming about while they didn’t know who you are would drive anyone mad.
“Do you have Grace?” he pulled back and wiped a stray tear that strolled down Jefferson’s cheek.
“I abandoned her. She won’t want to see me…”
“Nonsense. That will be our first mission. You should not be without your Grace, and I certainly refuse to be away from my precious step-daughter.” Victor took Jefferson’s arms and steadied him. “We will get her together.”
“Henry said I should. She’ll be getting off the bus soon.”
“Then her long lost daddies will greet her.”
Jefferson’s bottom lip quivered as relief swelled in him, “My dear Doctor, how I have missed you!”
Victor slid his hands down the Hatter’s arms and took his lover’s in his own, “You can do this. I will be at your side. We still have a few hours, though. Why don’t we catch up on what we missed in the last twenty-eight years?” He raised a suggestive eyebrow.
Smirking, Jefferson gripped his hands, “Come on in.”
“A few weeks ago when you stopped me on the street, your hat didn’t seek me out, did it? You snuck up behind me and threw it at me to get my attention.”
“I had no other way to get you to talk to me!”