Prompted by batsonthebrain, my kindred Mad Swan and Sebastian Stan-loving spirit, this is a one-shot Mad Swan fic that I told myself I wouldn’t write and then ended up writing anyway. Really, though, let’s be honest: I just wanted to win her undying gratitude.
She prompted the description of the “Mad Hatter” cologne found at this magical website.
MAD HATTER: A gentlemen’s lavender-citron cologne unhinged by the feral pungence of black musk and a paroxysm of pennyroyal.
Title: Maddening Scents
Fandom: Once Upon a Time
Pairing: Emma Swan/Jefferson (Mad Swan)
Spoiler: If you’ve somehow not seen the finale, there be mega spoilers ahead.
Notes: Just as an fyi, pennyroyal (an ingredient used in the perfume) is said to smell like spearmint.
It’s the smell of her tea that firsts brings the memory back.
Emma Swan, in a relatively new attempt to relax a bit before bedtime, prepared a boiling pot of hot water, and poured it into a cup with a bag of lemon chamomile tea already waiting. She added a sweet spoonful of thick, golden honey, and waited patiently as her tea steeped.
All this time, she’d thought it would be the sight of flimsy scarves, elegant top hats, telescopes, scissors, even tea itself, that would take her back to the madman’s mansion. Never, in a million years, would she have thought that it would be that slight citrusy scent that wafted up in curling steam swirls that would do it for her. Emma was usually not one to indulge in scent recall, but there was no denying that the lemon of her tea had been present in Jefferson’s house. It was in the too-clean living room: in the carpet, in the shine of the piano…
On his scarf as her head rolled heavy on his shoulder. It was one of the last things she could remember before she’d blacked out.
With a shudder, she stood and dumped the tea untasted down the sink.
It’s a couple of days before Emma is again drawn into her memories.
Mary Margaret (or Snow…or Mom) had taken to going on little dates with her newly remembered husband during the downtime of the raging battle scene that Storybrooke had devolved into. Emma had been trying to relax on the couch with Henry’s book of fairytales, a cup of her usual cocoa this time, when Snow had run out of her room, declaring that he’d be there any moment and she hadn’t had time to brush her teeth oh God he was going to think she was some unhygienic pig now.
Automatically, Emma silently stood and walked to the kitchen counter to rifle through her purse in search of gum. When she found the pack, she’d tossed it to her mother, who gratefully popped a piece into her mouth and chewed earnestly.
Grabbing Emma into a tight hug, Snow declared, “Emma, thank you! I don’t know what I’d do without you!” and then she ran out the front door, too excited to notice that Emma had frozen, eyes closed, when the smell of the gum washed over her.
It was a spearmint flavor, and, though just a hair off, it was how his breath smelled. The spearmint had drifted over to her as he backed her into the room full of hats, and its lingering had helped her keep a sense of calm as Jefferson carelessly pointed her own gun at her.
She remembered using that scent to humanize him. He was desperate, but he was still a man, and even he had to brush his teeth every now and then.
And then her memory flashed a little further back, to a place she’d nearly forgotten. She was rushing out of her yellow bug, panicked and terrified that she might have killed someone, and then the stranger had turned around and stared at her and breathed out that spearmint breath and he was alright and she smiled and he smiled and his eyes were bright and vibrant. The spearmint became chilly puffs of air as they introduced themselves and things were normal, and hell if she hadn’t been a little bit charmed.
Emma opened her eyes, half expecting to see Jefferson standing in front of her, breathing spearmint in and out. Instead, all she saw was an empty living room. With a sigh, she returned to the fairytales.
Rather than finish the story she’d been on, though, she decided that tales of Wonderland were really more her speed that evening.
Emma was as shocked to run into Jefferson at the elementary school as he appeared to be. Eyes wide, mouth agape, standing stock still. On a whim, Emma walked up to him. He was still dressed as strangely as ever, the always present scarf still covering up his very red scar. Emma couldn’t help the nervous shudder that crawled down her spine as she thought of his history and why he had that scar in the first place. He eyed her warily as she approached, and Emma couldn’t help but suspect that he’d kept largely to himself since the curse broke.
“Hey,” she said, hands in her jean pockets. “I take it you’re here to pick up Grace?”
“Yeah, yeah. I finally got her back.” He paused and shifted a bit, then looked at the ground. “Thanks to you, of course.”
Emma let out a short bark of laughter, “Oh, it’s no problem.”
“I got these for her, from our yard,” he said, indicating to a small cluster of lavender he held in his hand. Their perfume wafted in Emma’s direction, and as she inhaled, she remembered traipsing around the very same plants in a futile search for the man who had vanished after falling out of a window. Yet, there had been no sign of him—truly, she had even questioned if he had ever existed. But here he was, standing right in front of her, and he had kidnapped her, and kidnapped her mother, and threatened them both, and been far too creepy for Emma’s tolerance, and he didn’t give her any solid explanation for anything, really, and she was pissed.
“That’s nice of you,” Emma said, and then she drew her right hand back and punched him in the jaw, hard enough to bruise. Jefferson staggered back, too shocked to cry out, and Emma turned and strode purposefully back to her car. She called Snow and asked if she could take Henry home that day, and then Emma started the car and drove off.
In her rearview mirror, she saw a recovered Jefferson holding his jaw and staring at her yellow bug. She waved, and, stunned, he waved back.
Emma smirked to herself. Admittedly, she felt a whole lot better about their strange situation.
Later that night, Emma was hit with a small wave of guilt, and before she knew what exactly she was doing, she was in her car and driving up to one of Storybrooke’s few mansions. Hesitantly, she walked up the front steps of his house and knocked on the door. Seconds ticked past, and she thought of running, but then it opened. There was no turning back now.
She thought of all the ways she’d come to know him—as a sprinkle of lemon, a dash of spearmint, a hint of lavender—and was struck by how horribly she’d misimagined all the ways scents might come together. He was standing in front of her, inviting her in, taking her red leather jacket. And yes, he smelled like lemon, like mint, like lavender, but he smelled like something else, too.
They exchanged awkward formalities, fake smiles in place, until Emma blurted out:
“I’m sorry.” She paused, glancing at the fist-sized purple bruise on his jaw. “Although, frankly, you deserved it.”
Jefferson lightened some, a real smile brightening his face. It’s a smile that’s only reserved for his daughter and other special people, and Emma couldn’t help but once again be charmed by it.
“I know,” he said, “I’m sure I’ll never be truly forgiven by you for what I did.”
Emma laughed, “Probably not.” But she thought, silently, maybe one day. Not now, certainly, but she thought that one day they might be friends.
“I would like you to know, though, that I am truly, truly sorry for my actions. The fringes of desperation made it seem like the only thing left for me to try. But I should have trusted in you. I should have believed in the Savior to follow through eventually.” Jefferson looked down after his little speech and fidgeted with his hands. She inhaled, and her nose was filled with lemon and mint and lavender and something so distinctly Jefferson that she just couldn’t seem to place. And then he led her to the living room with promises of hot cocoa with cinnamon, and she accepted and followed.
It’s only later that she questions how he knew she liked cinnamon in her cocoa.
She stayed for some time, just talking with Jefferson. They sorted out a couple of their issues with each other, talked of their children, discussed the current state of Storybrooke. Emma would never admit it, but during their talk, she thought on more than one occasion that they might someday be even more than just friends. She left much later than she’d intended, largely due to the sly confiscation of Emma’s jacket by Grace, who had curled up in her bed with the garment still around her shoulders.
“Looks like someone was playing make-believe Sheriff tonight,” Jefferson whispered when they finally found it, and Emma felt her heart give a now familiar tug.
To make up for her stolen jacket, Jefferson insisted Emma take one of his coats, and after much persuasion, she relented.
As he helped her into his coat, he said, “Just give it back next time,” and she smiled, knowing that there would be a next time. She walked down the front steps into the freezing night air, wrapped up warm in Jefferson’s coat. As she pulled it around her tighter, she smiled.
It smelled like him.