AN: This is my first time writing fanfic in quite a while, and my first time writing for this particular fandom. I'm well aware that there are some wonky tense shifts going on throughout this fic, but I assure you, those are intentional.
At the moment this is meant to stand alone, but it may become a multi-chapter fic, depending on the time I have and the response I get. Enjoy~
She hasn't seen Wolf since Little Lamb Village. That was more than a month ago, and she still doesn't know how she feels about that. Every hour it changes, warps in on itself until she can't see straight anymore.
Some hours she misses him so bad it hurts. She'll smell something, have a customer ask her describe a dish, and suddenly she'll catch a flash of him in her mind's eye: his wild gestures, his endless rambling, the way he'd lovingly and obsessively prattle on and on, even after she'd stopped listening.
There's a music to his voice, and the grunts and growls and whimpers and howls fit into the grand melody of it as naturally as drums or violins might fight into a concerto. And not that she'll ever admit it, but listening to him rattle off his favorite meals made it somehow easier to fall asleep. As foreign as the Nine Kingdoms had been, at least she hadn't been alone then.
And then some hours it isn't nearly so nice. When she wakes up from a nightmare. When she passes too close to the grills in the kitchen and feels their sudden heat on her skin. When she sees raw meat at the grocery store.
Times like that she can see the bodies again. She can hear the screams echoing in her ears. The shouts. Feel the fire. Smell the blood, salty and metallic and sickly sweet.
And she knows it doesn't matter how bad she misses him sometimes. She'll never be able to wipe that day out of her mind.
She'd tied Wolf up—at his request, to keep him out of trouble. She'd thought it a bit weird that he'd asked her to do that, especially when he was so sick, but she hadn't really wondered whether the ropes would hold. They were as thick as elevator cables; there was no way anybody could break them. But still he kept telling her to make them tighter. Tighter.
Or I'll eat you up, he'd growled, so intense it sent her heart into her throat.
When she and her father stumbled across Sally Peep's body, it seemed almost laughable that the villagers had assumed Wolf had been responsible. After all, she was still in one piece. Where were the bite marks, the claw marks, the shredded entrails? She had laughed when she'd seen the body, hysterical from shock and horror and grief. She'd laughed until she got sick, and her dad had held her hair back until the contents of her stomach had emptied themselves all over the floor.
Maybe if she'd done a better job tying him up, if she'd been more careful, none of it would have happened.
The thought haunts her every night.
When Sally was found dead, the villagers erupted into a frenzy. They dragged Wolf into the village square, locked him into a cage, left him whimpering while they gathered wood for the bonfire.
That's what everybody does when there's a wolf around. They stick it, and they stab it, and they smoke it out.
They burned my parents good, oh yes! The good people, the nice farmers, they built a great big fire and they burned them both.
And when she'd gone to meet him, to tell him goodbye or try to find a way to help him, one of the villagers pointed at her with murder in his eyes.
"Her! She's his wife!"
"She's a wolf too!" A wild-eyed woman shrieked. The Peep men grabbed Virginia, dragged her away while Wolf tried to reach out to her through the bars of the cage. She'd struggled and kicked, but she was one waitress against a whole clan of burly farmers. They silenced her with a rock-hard punches; she didn't even slow them down as they bound her to the stake. Her father fought to break through the crowd, but they held him back, forced him to watch.
The clan hauled Wolf from his cage, but they didn't need to drag him to the stake. He bolted for it—for her—scrambling at her ropes until they slammed his back against the stake.
Old man Wilfred leaned in so close she could feel his spittle on her ear.
"Shouldn'a messed with the Peep clan. You're gonna die for that, girlie."
Fighting had gotten her nowhere. Damn her pride, at least she could beg.
"Please, you don't have to do this," she said. "We didn't do anything. We're innocent, we didn't do anything!" But Wilfred steppe back, a skull-like grin smeared across his face as he took a torch from another villager.
That's how too many of her dreams end these days—with Virginia throwing herself out of bed, screaming and begging. She can still feel the fire racing up the pyre. The burns have healed, for the most part, but she'll wear the scars for the rest of her life.
The other nightmares go on much longer, past the point where the smoke chokes her lungs and the fire bites into her skin. That's when the screaming begins.
She was the first one to scream, but she wasn't the last. The agony of the fire blinded her to everything, but she could still hear the frenzied roars, the snap of the ropes. She could feel the sudden pressure as the ropes around her were torn away, the relieving cool.
The splash of something hot and sticky against her skin.
Her dad had described the scene to her, a few days before the police took her away. Wolf had ripped through his bonds, and then through hers. He'd carried her off the pyre—and when one of the villagers tried to stop him, he'd torn the man's throat out.
His blood had doused the smoldering embers of her clothes.
In a last moment of gentleness, Wolf had laid her on the ground. She'd been coughing, blind from smoke and pain, catching only glimpses as her father carried her clumsily away from the scene.
Some of the villagers tried to fight; others fled. None of them survived.
Her father brought her and Prince Wendell into the loft of the barn where they'd been sleeping, and with Juliette's ax he destroyed the ladder. There they hid until the sounds of screaming tapered into nothing, and the stench of blood hung thick in the air.
She's alone these days; the police took her father and Prince Wendell went off to find his own way to turn human again. There's no danger of being evicted; Mr. Murray and his family are still entranced by her father's wish, and they're making sure she's well taken care of, for his sake. The least she can do is to keep them and the rest of the building well stocked with beer.
Sometimes she strays along the edges of Central Park on the way home from work; there's nobody to tell her not to. Maybe it's a trick of her imagination, but sometimes she thinks she can see a glimmer in the trees, a point where the forest seems to waver and fade. Sometimes she thinks she'll take a look. See if the Nine Kingdoms are still there.
But then she remembers where she left the mirror.
By the end of the evening, the sounds of screaming had died completely. With some difficulty, Virginia and her dad lowered Prince to the ground. Two bodies lay there, half covered by drifting hay, so badly mangled that Virginia couldn't tell if they were male or female.
"Oh God," she whispered.
In the distance, she heard an echoing cry: "Virginia?" It hung between elation and despair. "Virginia, where are you? Tony? Virginia!"
She froze like a startled deer; Prince Wendell hid behind her, his hackles rising as the voice grew closer.
"Virginia, please, answer me—" He passed by the barn door, though she wouldn't have recognized him if not for his voice and tail. His hands, his face, were covered in blood.
She gasped, and he skidded to a halt. Looked around with wide, yellow eyes.
"Virginia!" He raced toward them.
Her dad stepped forward, raising the ax. "Not another step."
He stopped short, his head cocked just slightly to the side. It would have reminded her of a puppy, if not for the gore caught in his teeth.
"Tony? What are you doing? It's me."
The world started to sway. Virginia grabbed her father's shoulder to steady herself.
"Oh God. Wolf. What did you do?" Smoke still charred the back of her through. "What did you do?"
"I—" He looked around, his eyes growing wider, his tail drooping in alarm. "I saved you."
Outside the world was silent. It had been half a day, and she couldn't hear so much as a bleating sheep.
They were dead. All dead.
"All these people?" she choked.
"They were trying to kill you." He inched forward, but her dad brandished the ax again. "I had to, Virginia. They were going to kill you. I—"
She shook her head. She wanted to squeeze her eyes shut, but her lids wouldn't close. She couldn't look away. Slowly realization crept into his features. Then horror.
He looked down at his hands, his clothes—and then back up at her. At the ax in her father's hands.
"Virginia, I—" He took a step back. "I didn't—" Another. "Virginia, I'm—I'm sorry." A whimper rose into his tone.
She clung tighter to her dad's jacket.
Wolf raised a hand to her, and she flinched away. Her dad waved the ax.
"Stay the hell away from my daughter," he said, his voice bitter cold.
Wolf's eyes lingered her for one last moment, and then he turned and ran.
She still sees him running in some of her nightmares. In some she chases after him, to tell him things that she forgets by morning. In others he's chasing her.
She's not sure which ones frighten her more.