Disclaimer: I do not own Snow White and The Huntsman, nor am I affiliated with it in any way.
Snow White sat atop a simple bed in her temporary room. She'd requested to not sleep in the master chambers until all of her stepmother's things had been burned to the ground. Beith had suggested a ceremony be held right outside the castle grounds in which everything Ravenna owned was cast into a fire. Snow had thought that to be a lovely idea and had requested such a ceremony to be planned at once. But first, she had other matters to take care of. Much scarier matters than bonfires. Matters of the heart.
Her first act as queen had been to appoint Greta as her lady in waiting. She'd asked Greta to find the huntsman and tell him that the queen was requesting his presence. She would've told him herself, but he had been nowhere to be seen during the celebration ball that was held immediately following her coronation.
And now Snow was nervous. Not as nervous as she had been before rampaging the castle in hopes of ending Ravenna's poisonous reign, but these were a different kind of nerves. These weren't scary nerves. They were good nerves. Hopeful nerves.
She was suddenly wary of her appearance. Which was silly, she thought, since she had gone nearly a decade without seeing it. She tiptoed over to the small mirror above the table against the far wall of the room and looked in it to see a flushing young woman. Her bright green eyes were widened at her own reflection. Her lips were curved slightly downward and she quickly adjusted them into a straight line. Her hair was still in its intricate 'do from the coronation ceremony, despite the fact that she was already dressed in her night clothes and the crown was already locked up tight in its safe. She tugged on her hair and pulled out a few pins until her dark locks fell, flowing in waves down her back and over her shoulders. She combed through her hair with her fingers and actually started to smile a little at her reflection.
It was then that she heard a set of rushed footsteps coming towards her room and turned to the door. Greta entered hurriedly into the room, panting. "Majesty!"
Snow put her hands on Greta's shoulders. "Greta! Greta, what is it? Are you alright? Has something happened?" Several terrible instances ran through her mind at once. Would she have to play queen already? This soon? Could she not have one night of rest? And what worse... what if someone was hurt? Muir? William? ...Huntsman?
"Queen, the huntsman is gone!"
Snow's thoughts were going a million miles a minute. It took her a few moments to slow them enough to reply. She backed away slowly from Greta. "He's... gone? To where?"
"I don't know, ma'am. He wasn't in his assigned quarters and no one has seen him since your coronation!"
"Well, did he leave anything behind?"
"No, ma'am." Greta frowned. "All of his belongings are gone."
Snow's stomach dropped to the floor. "No." And she took off running.
She ran down the hallway, down four flights of stairs, through the main courtyard, and found herself at the main gate. Several guards and servants had tried to stop her and offer their help, but she kept running. And now she was at an end. And the huntsman was getting away.
Frustrated, she began to pound on the iron gates with her small fists. "Open this gate! Someone... open it! Hurry!" The thought occurred to her that she was making a fool of herself on her first official night as queen, and that maybe she was being a little hasty, a little rash. But if the gatekeeper had been sleeping, he was surely awake now.
The guards stationed outside the gates were facing Snow, assuring her that everything was just fine and signaling for the keeper to lift the gate. It didn't open up as fast as Snow's legs wanted to take her, and she ended up ducking down beneath it and running out before it was all the way opened.
She ran a few yards into the night before realizing that she hadn't thought to bring a torch with her to light her path. The two gate guards had followed closely behind her and nearly ran into her from behind when she stopped short.
"Huntsman!" she called into the darkness before her. "Huntsman, I know you're out there! You cannot leave me again! I will not allow it!" Snow actually stomped her foot on the ground like a child throwing a temper tantrum. She felt silly all of a sudden. She could, of course, as queen, command her huntsman to stay. But that would be abusing her powers, and she would not have herself be like Ravenna in any way.
"Would you like us to call some to go after him, Your Majesty?" one of the guards asked, his breath visible in the cool night.
Snow took a deep breath and patted down her nightgown, righting herself. "No, thank you. I assume he'll make it to the outer villages before sunrise. He will be quite alright there." She smiled at the two men reassuringly. "Come," she said. "Let us go and rest. We've all had such a long day."
As she headed back inside the gates, Snow was sure her huntsman was far gone by now. Maybe she would send a party after him tomorrow, just to make sure he arrived to his village safely.
Hopeless, she made her way back to her room. Many stopped her on her way up, but she assured them all that everything was perfectly alright and apologized for alarming them. After nearly an hour of restless tossing and turning, Snow rose from her bed and began aimlessly walking the halls. She hadn't seen these walls and room and quarters and passageways since she was just a girl, lost in the throes of prepubescence and haunted by her mother's death and her father's scarily beautiful new bride.
She didn't know where her feet were taking her until she was there. She rapped lightly on the door to William's new staying room. He answered immediately.
"I'd hoped it was you," he said with a smile. "Couldn't sleep either, eh?"
She smiled back and shook her head. "Not at all. It seems that being in charge of an entire country can leave you pretty restless."
Her childhood sweetheart chuckled. "Who would've thought?" he said teasingly. He reached out and brushed a few strands of stray hair behind her ear. "You seem troubled by something... Would you like to go and sit somewhere?"
Snow sighed and nodded. "Yes, that would be lovely. I'm afraid I've forgotten where the various sitting rooms are located, though."
William stepped out from the threshold and shut the door behind him. He wrapped his arm around Snow's tiny frame and led her down the long hallway. "Come," he said. "I know a perfect one."
The two friends walked down the hallway, around a corner, through a corridor, down a flight of stairs, down another hallway, and finally through a pair of wide double doors. Snow White gasped as she took in her surroundings. She remembered this place...
Snow walked into the room and sat down on a huge velvety red sofa with a wooden frame embellished with gold pieces. She stretched her arms across the seat cushions and caressed the soft throw pillows. William took a seat next to her. He was still smiling.
"My mother and I used to sit on this sofa," Snow began. "She would comb and braid my hair and tell me stories of her father and two brothers and how they would've adored me had they not been killed in the early war. My father would bring us warm tea with mint leaves and he would hug and kiss my mother and I would watch and think how lucky they were to be so happy and in love. And then they would each take me up in their arms and we would all sing together..."
Snow closed her eyes and remembered the sweet melodies her parents had taught her, and before she knew it, she was humming along, and then she was singing aloud.
"This sweet and merry month of May,
While Nature wantons in her prime,
And birds do sing, and beasts do play
For pleasure of the joyful time,
I choose the first for holiday,
And greet the Kingdom with a rhyme:
O beauteous Queen of this dear county,
Take well in worth a simple bounty.
All is well under your reign,
And should the darkness come again,
I shall harbor no needless fear,
For I know our King will end all drear."
When Snow opened her eyes, William was gazing at her lovingly. "That was beautiful, my queen."
She rested her hand against her old friend's cheek. "You must still call me 'Snow', my dearest William."
William sighed and let his eyes shut as he leaned into her touch. "As you wish, my Snow," he all but purred.
At once, Snow was strangely reminded of the huntsman, and she dropped her hand in shame. She felt her cheeks flush and knew that William would assume their color was meant for his enjoyment. She quickly changed the subject. She was eager to clear up a few things between the two of them.
"Remember when I bit the poison apple in the clearing?"
William's brows furrowed at the painful memory. "Of course I do. I'd thought I'd lost you again. Forever."
"But it was you who handed me the apple, William. Why else would I have taken it?"
William's eyes widened in shock and he shook his head violently. "No, Snow, I can assure you that it was not I!"
"No, no," she said quickly, ashamed for alarming him. "I know that now. But I'd thought it was you. Ravenna, she... she took on your form, disguised herself as you. And when you offered me the apple, it reminded me of our childhood games. And of course I'd taken it..."
Snow teared up the memory, and William quickly took her in his arms. "Shh, shh," he cooed. "It's alright now. You're here with me and Ravenna is dead and gone forever. There's no need for tears."
She pulled herself away from him and wiped at her eyes. "But she tricked me, and I fell for it without question. I had believed it to be you. I'd laughed with you. I'd kissed you..."
"You... You kissed me?" He grinned a bit at this revelation, not even attempting to suppress it.
"Yes. Right before I bit the apple. Of course, it wasn't really you... It was her..."
William looked down at his hands nervously. "I, too, have a confession to make. When you fell, I ran to you. I held you. I kissed you."
"You did?" Snow feigned surprise. She had been mentally and emotionally present the entire time she had been under Ravenna's paralyzing spell, but for some strange reason she didn't want William to know this. "I don't remember."
He looked up at her slowly. "I just... I had already lost you once... I feared I was going to lose you a second time... I'm so, so sorry, Snow. I shouldn't have ever left without you on that dreadful day so long ago. If I had known what Ravenna had planned to do to you..."
Now it was Snow's turn to comfort him. She took his hands in both of hers. "We were children, Will. Your father was trying to protect you. He did what he had to do for the both of you to survive. I harbor no hard feelings against you for it." She sighed when he still looked displeased. "Besides, you've already more than made up for it. You did come for me. A decade too late, but come you did." She smiled, hoping he would hear the joking tone in her voice at that last bit. "You rescued me, William. You kept me safe. You helped me defeat Ravenna." She cupped his chin in her hand, willing him to look up at her. "And for that I am eternally grateful."
At once, William looked up and leaned into her, all in once smooth movement. Snow's breathing hitched and she felt herself blush once more, but for an entirely different reason this time. The hand holding his chin was suddenly heavy as a brick as she brought it back down to her lap. "For years I wondered what you would be like if I ever saw you again. And now that I am seeing you right before my very eyes, I am not disappointed. You are everything I imagined you to be – just as compassionate, caring, and devastatingly beautiful as the girl I once knew."
He pressed his forehead to hers and closed his eyes, breathing her in. "Snow White," he said, his voice raspy, barely above a whisper. Snow was sure he could hear her heart pounding from beneath her nearly translucent pale skin.
William closed the remaining space between them and Snow didn't try to stop him. His lips met hers tenderly, and it was so lovely a feeling, and suddenly she was warm, so very warm, and she pulled away from him warily.
"What is it?" William asked, his gaze soft, yet searching.
"It's the huntsman," she replied, not bothering to stop and think about how this answer might hurt his feelings. "He left the castle tonight. Or that's what I've been told, at least. And I'm… I'm worried about him."
"He's a huntsman, Snow. The forest is his territory, the night his mistress. I'm sure he's fine."
Snow sighed, defeated. "I know. But after all that's taken place, how can he just leave without explanation?"
"He's nothing, Snow. A widower. A drunkard! He isn't worthy of your worry."
Snow White rose from the sofa in anger. "How can you say such things?" she cried. "I'd surely be dead if it weren't for him!"
William stood and attempted to take her in his arms, but she backed away from him. "You're right..." he said, obviously trying to patch his mistake. "I'm sorry. You care about the man, however absurd I think it to be. That is plain to see. I was being inconsiderate, and I apologize."
She masked her disgust and disguised it with exhaustion, ready to retire the subject. "I should get to bed. I'm so sorry if I kept you from your sleep." She gave him a tiny peck on the cheek, and then she turned and left, leaving a confused William standing alone in the sitting room.
In her haste to leave, she'd forgotten that she was a stranger to these halls and didn't know the way back to her room. She spent a good few minutes meandering the halls, looking for anything that stood out to her as a marker, anything that would jog her memory... And that was when she heard a slurping coming from behind a door to her left.
It had to be at least halfway through the night at this point. What was anyone doing awake? She turned to the door and remembered it to be the entrance to the mead hall. And then she knew exactly who it was she heard slurping. She threw the door open and barged inside.
The huntsman didn't seem alarmed in the slightest – he sat alone in the middle of a long wooden table and barely looked up from his drink. "Huntsman!" she called, overjoyed to see him.
He looked up at her with a smirk. "Trouble sleeping, Princess?"
"It's 'Queen' now, actually," she replied, a huge grin taking over her face that she didn't even try to mask. She walked over to the table and took a seat next to him. "I thought you'd left."
The huntsman took a long sip from his mug. "So I've heard. You caused quite the alarm among the servants. Your little outburst is all the gossip."
Snow looked down to hide her blush. "You heard? Then why didn't you come to me?"
"I did. You weren't in your room."
She felt her cheeks redden even more. So he had come to her. And she was busy cavorting with another. "I'm sorry, I... I was with William."
"Right. Just as you were with him throughout the entire celebration ball." He rolled his eyes.
She looked up at him pointedly, ignoring the hurt that was so present in his voice. "So you were there!"
He smirked. "Lurking in the shadows, yes. I'm afraid dancing isn't quite my forte."
"I looked for you."
"I know." The huntsman took the last swig of his ale and pushed the mug aside. "So to what do I owe this pleasure of your company?"
"Oh, I, um... I had something I wanted to ask you..." It was then that the queen noticed his satchel sitting on the table beside them. "Greta told me your things weren't in your room! Why are they with you?"
He let out a small harrumph. "The bed was far too soft and plush. I am much more accustomed to cots and rags. I begged them not to put me in no fancy room. I won't be staying there."
Snow feared the double meaning behind his words. "I can arrange to have a cot and some rags brought to you first thing in the morning," she said, a hopeful smirk tugging at the corners of her lips.
"That's alright. I'll be leaving in the morning, anyway."
Snow's heart sunk in her chest. This was what she'd feared, but what she'd always known would happen anyway. "Back to your village, then?"
"Most likely. Maybe I'll settle down somewhere new. On the outskirts of it. Away from the ignorants and the half-wits."
"You could always stay here, you know."
The huntsman cocked an eyebrow. "And the truth comes out. I knew this was what you'd wanted to see me for. Some kind of bribe, perhaps?" He pushed his chair out from under the table, turning it to face her. He leaned back in it, folding his arms behind is head and stretching out his long legs. "Well, out with it, then. Let's hear it."
She couldn't say her ego wasn't bruised slightly by his apparent making fun of her intentions, but he was right. That had been exactly what she'd been planning on doing – giving him an incentive to stay here with her in the palace. So she did as he said and came out with it. "I'd like to appoint you as captain of the queen's guards."
The huntsman actually scoffed upon hearing this. "I'm no guard, princess, nor am I a captain. I'm a bloody widower... a sloppy drunkard! A sorry excuse for a man who will never live to make his murdered wife proud. I'm better off eating slops with the pigs than serving the right queen herself."
Snow was dejected. She figured he'd be wary to accept her offer, sure... but to scoff at it? He must think awfully low of himself. And she wouldn't have that. "Is that what worries you, huntsman? Keeps you up at night? Keeps you drowning your sorrows in liquor? That you... That you'll never be able to avenge your wife's death?"
The huntsman had given up his position of relaxation in his chair. Now his head was in his hands and he looked downright defeated. "I couldn't save her. I failed her! I should've died, not her. She was... sunshine. Lilies in the valley. A cool pool of water after a sweltering work day. And I'm... nothing. I'm nothing."
"But she must be proud of you, huntsman. You saved me, you helped me... you protected me from the queen. You played a strong hand in bringing peace back to our country! And if it wasn't for you, I would've never been given the chance to defeat Ravenna, to stop her from taking countless more lives from beautiful young women just like your Sarah! So in a way, you have avenged her! Because you... you brought me back to life!" There. She'd said it – the one thing that had been eating away at her from the inside out ever since it had happened, for she had told no one. And now that she'd told the one person who needed to hear it most, she felt a tangible weight being lifted from her shoulders and exhaled sharply in relief.
He looked up at this, his gaze frozen on her for a long time, not bothering to blink back the tears stinging at the corners of his eyes. And, finally when Snow was starting to think he'd gone into shock, he spoke. And his tone wasn't broken anymore. It was accusatory. "How did you know?"
She leaned towards him, whispering in unnecessary caution. "The poison in the apple, huntsman... it wasn't deadly... just paralyzing! On the inside, I was just as awake as you were. I could hear, I could think, I could feel. But I could not move! I could not open my eyes, I could not speak. It was the most utterly terrifying experience, and I would not wish it upon anyone in any lifetime."
His expression was a mix between befuddled and dumbfounded. "So you heard..."
Snow nodded slowly. "Every word, I'm afraid."
The huntsman's gaze turned soft. "I meant every word," he said quietly.
"And I mean when I say that I would be most honored to have you serve as the captain of my guards. There is no one more worthy... There is no one I trust with my life more."
He seemed to actually ponder the idea for a moment before speaking again. "But what of the Duke's son?"
Snow shook her head, not understanding his meaning. "What of him?"
"He is a very skilled bowman. And also a Duke. The position of Captain is rightfully his."
Snow smiled to herself. "No, William would most likely be offended if I offered him any position other than King. He is far too self-important." Upon saying this, Snow realized the meaning the huntsman might take from her words and frowned, knowing she couldn't take them back.
"Is that your intention, then?" he asked, and she could hear the pain in his voice once more. "To take him as your king?"
Snow stood, looking down upon the huntsman. She had not come to him to discuss such matters... Matters she hardly knew the answer to. So she reiterated the one point she had intended to make. "If you would much rather prefer the simple, burden-free life of a commoner, I will respect your wishes and I will not force you to stay here. I will even give you my blessing upon your departure. If, however, you feel that you are made for something more, perhaps to serve your country – to serve me, your queen... my offer still stands." She rested a hand upon his shoulder for just a brief moment and looked right into his eyes, memorizing their exact color and shape, just in case this would be the last time she would see them. "Goodnight, huntsman," she said, and turned to leave.
She only took two steps towards the door before his deep, rumbling voice stopped her. "Eric."
Snow White turned to face him once more.
"My name is Eric." His face expressionless, he stood and held out a grimy hand to her.
She lifted her arm cautiously and put her hand in his, and when she did, the sensation she felt could be described as nothing less but electricity. The spark ignited her palm and traveled up through her arm, into her chest, and shocked her beating heart at its very core. When she looked up at him, she couldn't place the emotion she saw in his eyes, but she guessed that he must've felt it, too.
"It's—It's nice to meet you, Eric," she stammered.
"It's nice to meet you, too, my queen," he said and gave a slightly mocking bow that made Snow giggle in spite of herself. Eric sighed, not yet letting go of her hand. "You remind me so much of her. That gut, that determination... You will make a great queen. And I... I would be honored to serve at your side as the captain of your guards."
Snow gasped. "Oh, would you?" Without thinking, she lunged forward and threw her tiny arms around his neck. He stumbled backward a bit, caught off guard, but quickly caught his balance and wrapped his muscled arms around her, lifting her off her feet and burying his face in her hair.
After a few blissful moments wrapped in each others' arms, he set her back on her feet and took her face in his hands. His expression turned to a serious one as he locked his eyes on hers. "The last time I kissed you, I thought you to be dead," he said softly. "Your lips remained still against my own. If I could, I should request permission to try a second time."
Snow slid her arms down from around his neck to rest on his broad chest and grinned at him. "You need not even ask, Captain. Ravenna failed in her attempts to steal my heart, for she did now know that it was already yours."
And with that, Eric hungrily covered her mouth with his, a low groan escaping him from the back of his throat. And unlike what she felt with William's kiss, this – Snow was sure of it – this was what life must be really about. She wrapped her tiny fists around the fabric of his shirt covering his chest and pulled herself into him, reveling in this new world of pure sensation. Her lips moved against his, one strong hand of his pressed against the small of her back, the other tangled in her hair and cradling the back of her neck.
"Greta... Greta will be waiting on me," Snow managed to get out between kisses, despite her lack of oxygen intake.
"Don't flatter yourself, girl," Eric said jokingly, mimicking what he'd said to her in the Dark Forest when he'd stripped off the bottom of her dress so she wouldn't get herself caught on anything. "She would have fallen asleep hours ago."
"The bonfire is tomorrow, though, Eric. We should be well-rested for it."
"Oh, is attendance mandatory for the captain of the guards?" he asked, his joking tone still present.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, it is."
Eric had given up on kissing her for the moment due to the fact that she wouldn't stop talking. He began mindlessly toying with her hair between his fingers and it was all Snow could do to keep her composure. "Where will you sleep?"
"On the foot rug beside your bed, of course."
Snow grinned up at him. "But people will talk."
He chuckled, his breath warm on her face. "Fine. Then I shall go back to my previous room, I suppose." Even after the wonderful turn their conversation had taken, she was still afraid to let him out of her sight. He must've sensed her worry because he quickly added, "I'll still be here in the morning. You have my word."
"And will you stand at my side during the burning tomorrow?"
"There's no place else I'd rather be," he answered before taking her lips between in his once more, and this time it was her who let out a soft sigh.
Poem used: "This Sweet and Merry Month of May" by William Byrd (with a few adjustments and additions)