Paper Thin
Act II, Scene VI
By EclipseKlutz

A/N: Wow, just… wow.

Do me yet another favor, please, and sit back, relax, and bear with my gushing (it shouldn't take too long): I've been on this site for nearly five years, have posted and, for the most part, removed fifty-plus fics, and not once have I passed ninety-seven reviews. So, honestly, I didn't expect anything of this story when I posted it, and the fact that it is now my most popular fic is… well, both bewildering and wonderful.

Now, delays between updates are all too frequent with me, I know—even when I'm fully intent on writing the next chapter, you won't see anything for months at a time. Two of my previous fics, Fooling Me and Spiral, both died after the tenth chapter was posted, the former due to complications and then finally too much elapsed time, and the latter because readers had given up on me. Also, neither of them were actually going anywhere. I don't want that to be the case here, so I'll thank you again for bearing with me and assure those who give up that I understand entirely.

I am going somewhere with this note, it'll just take a while to get there. First, another tangent: yesterday I was sifting through assorted forums, both on and off fanfictiondotnet, and stumbled upon quite a few recommendations. That there is flattery like no other. You guys are amazing, seriously, and I send cyber-cakes out to those of you who have been convincing others to read this and cyber-cookies to those who still review.

Alright, to summarize what I'm fairly certain was a rather disjointed author's note: this fic will be completed, although the time it will take to do so is indefinite (but hopefully not too long); I'm sorry; and I essentially love each and every one of you.

Yes, I'll let you read the fic now.


"Please sit, dear; I can't imagine you want to stay on your feet right now."

The woman's manner was that of a mother hen; she was elderly, anxious and fretting, but her tone was warm and comforting. Yesterday, Violet might have appreciated this—a maternal figure determined to make her feel at home. Now, however, was an entirely different story.

Violet regarded the woman warily before shaking her head, biting back a grimace when a sharp pain shot up her neck at the movement. It ached, but was hardly the worst she'd felt in the past few hours.

"Tea, then?" The woman's voice had taken on a layer of something new, something akin to desperation. "You must be frozen."

Once again Violet shook her head, this time prepared for the accompanying pain. More than anything, she wanted to run out of the door behind her, away from this horribly cozy cottage, to Klaus or Sunny or even her cupboard in Olaf's manor. At this point, the idea of suffering Olaf's wrath was hardly a frightening one.

The line of the woman's lips twisted into a frown, and she opened her mouth to speak again when the man with the shotgun spoke, his voice quiet and gentle, almost fatherly, "Elizabeth, leave the girl be."

The woman, Elizabeth, paused a moment and then nodded, "Henry, make tea and fetch a blanket… and put the gun away. You know how I hate having that thing lying around my house."

In response, the man let out a small, defeated sigh and exited into the nearby hallway, not so much as glancing at Violet as he passed. She watched him leave and willed herself to relax; these were nice people, not the man in the alley. They were trying to help her.

"That scoundrel has gone after at least twenty girls in this area," Elizabeth said tentatively, "and that's quite a few if you consider that we're too small to be a town. We can't put him away 'cause we don't have a proper court, and if we rid ourselves of him the city's courts will get us. You're his only victim with enough luck to be found in time."

"I'm sorry, but I don't find that reassuring," Violet responded softly after a moment, knowing all too well that the words were cold no matter how they were said.

Elizabeth nodded, brushing off what anyone else would mistake for hostility with ease. She offered Violet a cheerless smile and motioned to a worn armchair beside the fireplace, "Please sit, dear, and I'll find you some dry clothes… though I doubt I've anything small enough."

She didn't allow Violet enough time to reply before she left the room, and Violet was left with no other option than to acquiesce. She slowly lowered herself into the chair and pulled her knees to her chest, fixing her eyes on the empty fireplace but not actually seeing it.

She supposed that she was lucky. Terrified, cold, aching, more or less alone, but lucky. The man in the alley could have done much, much worse and would have had her screaming and fighting not caught this couple's attention.

Henry reentered the room not long later, and offered her a ragged but warm-looking blanket and a cup of steaming tea. She accepted both wordlessly, wrapping the blanket around her shoulders and balancing the mug on her knees; she wasn't too keen on the idea of scorching her throat at the moment.

"I'm sorry," he said at last, seating himself across from her.

Violet responded with a blank stare, "Why?"

"Takin' so long," he elaborated quickly. "We'd heard the ruckus while you was still on the street, but didn't know what to make of it. We should've known, really. It's been about a month since his last appearance, he was due for a comeback."

"I don't understand why he's allowed to roam the streets if you're aware of what he's doing," Violet said after a long moment. "The lack of a proper courthouse shouldn't pose such a problem; I was raised in a city and they would bypass the courts altogether if they caught a man like him."

His frown deepened, making the lines of his face more pronounced. "If it were up to me, he would've been dead and gone after the first girl. But it ain't up to me, or any of the girls or their families. He picks 'em that way—nobodies and the poor, people who've no chance of fighting back with the law."

Violet didn't reply, her mind still racing to process the issue with the courts and fighting to suppress the images that randomly pushed to the forefront of her mind when she wasn't focused. She needed to stay focused. She needed to find Sunny and Klaus. She needed to go home.

"Why was he after you?" Henry inquired finally, his expression rather than words asking if this was flimsy ground he was treading on or not.

She supposed that the least she owed him was an answer or two, "I… I didn't choose the best place to sleep last night, and he found me. He assumed that I'm another nobody."

"Are you?"

"No one's qualified to define themselves, only others," she replied quietly, "I can't give you a viable answer."

He nodded slowly, "Forgive me for asking, but why're you here? I mean, no one comes here that don't have to."

"Mistake," she admitted at length. She moved her hand to her side, to the clump in her dress the man in the alley had somehow missed. "A chain of them."

-:-

Olaf hadn't managed more than two hours of sleep before a feeling of nagging concern forced him to awake. The sheets were greasy, he noticed finally, and the wallpaper was peeling if not missing entirely in certain sections. The carpet looked as if it had been dropped in mud at the factory and no one bothered to clean it since. And his feet ached for no valid reason, and his clothes smelled strongly of alcohol he'd never had the chance to consume. And generally he was just irritable.

He groaned as he slid from the bed, feeling infinitely more disgusting than he preferred to be—which was an accomplishment considering his lack of regard for personal hygiene was one of the few things his countess ever went out of her way to talk to him about. His countess…

He blearily made his way over to the adjoining bathroom, the exhaustion making his reason for being where he was more than a little vague. His countess had something to do with it, he knew as much, but she couldn't have kicked him out and she wouldn't have bothered to run away after such a long time—no, no, she had, and she'd taken his money with her.

Olaf scowled, finding that his aggravation had greatly increased with this realization. He stopped where he was, quickly prioritizing his tasks—track down his irritating bride and then shower, or vice versa? Tough decision, actually… but he was less likely to find useful witnesses if he reeked, which would be horribly counterproductive.

Shower it was, then.

-:-

"I'm sorry I took so long, dearie," Elizabeth exclaimed as she pushed through the front door. Her cheeks were slightly flushed from the cold, and in her arms was a bundle of clothes and a lumpy package. "I haven't been your age or your size in a few decades; had to stop by the shop's storage room and pick some things up. Now come with me before you catch pneumonia."

Violet hesitantly unfolded herself from the armchair and shuffled down the hallway behind Elizabeth. The older woman led her to a washroom and pushed the packages into her arms, "There's nightclothes in there somewhere. I'll go make you up a room."

She hardly gave Violet a chance to thank her before she bounded off again. Violet paused, sifting through the bundle with one hand as she slipped into the washroom. She closed the door behind her and glanced around, almost biting her tongue when she saw the mirror firmly plastered to the wall.

There was no point in conceiving a brilliant invention just to remove it, but she couldn't bear to face herself at the moment either. A moment passed before the obvious struck her, and she quickly unwrapped the bundle of clothes, draping the brown paper wrapping across the mirror.

-:-

Klaus was too tired to sleep, too worried to think. Thinking would only bring his thoughts back to the vile creature holding his sister captive, and sleeping meant dreams… or nightmares. He hardly knew; so much of both had infiltrated his mind lately that they were one and the same.

But in dreams he found his sister, unscathed and as bright as ever, overjoyed to see him at last, free to leave. In nightmares she was imprisoned, damaged in more ways than he would ever dare count, too dead inside to care that he'd found her. In dreams Olaf wasn't quite as vicious as Klaus originally thought, after nightmares Klaus would spend the rest of the night planning the man's painful demise.

Thinking would only remind him that the nightmares were more likely to be correct.


A/N: I apologize for the wait, the insanely long author's note at the beginning, the fact that there's another one here, and the blatant lameness of the chapter. This one was inevitably a filler, partially because I rewrote the alley scene three times and could never properly integrate into the story without doing this first. So yes, you'll learn what happened in the alley. Also coming up very soon are scenes designed specifically for the Violaf fanatics reading this.

Meanwhile, though, review?