You’re watching the world on four paws the first time you see him. He’s surrounded by the pack, by Anita’s pack and the witch queen, and you’re certain you’re going to be killed, but that doesn’t stop your foolish mind from thinking that collecting that fallen box is a good idea. And he protects you, for reasons unknown. You are a monster undeserving of patience, kindness, defence, or love, and it’s him who raises his bow in their direction to allow your escape. You think he must be daft.
You’re running with the wind at your paws when he finds you again. He smells of burnt sugar and pine needles beneath the witch queen’s armour, and you shift back to two feet almost involuntarily because you know this isn’t a good idea but you need to understand what a queen’s man is doing following a child of the moon. You move swiftly, stepping only on soft earth to sneak up and hold your blade to his throat, his scent permeating your senses and you know you’ll never forget it. He says he’s not going to hurt you, he calls you wolf, he’s not afraid of you, and you call him stupid.
You remove your blade as he confesses the contents of the box. And you can hardly believe it until you open it yourself, the throbbing orb of magic casting red light around you. He says he lost his heart to the queen for keeping Snow White alive and well, and you feel your stomach drop, your regret bubble bile up your throat. He sees your reaction, he knows your yellow eyes, and he isn’t afraid of you. You call him foolish, and he just grins, teeth glimmering like the weapons he hides, and promises to help you and your Snow.
You and your pack, your Snow, meet with the Huntsman again. He still smells of burnt sugar without the armour, and you think you like it but you tell yourself you can’t because he works for her and it’s wrong. He’s handsome in the way you wouldn’t notice at first, with big dark eyes like bottomless pools, and when he smiles it’s the most unexpected thing. He watches you, expecting the wolf to make an appearance, but you’re better than that, you’re strong. You think for a minute it’s admiration, but his sugar smell and kind eyes have you confused and you know he’s just gaping like the rest of them do. He’s still not afraid of you, and you think he must be plain dumb.
You try not to feel pity for this foolish man and his lack of a heart, but when he finally decides to take it back, that glowing orb of magic that throbs in your palm, you feel indebted to break him from his curse after all he’s done for you and your pack. He’s different after he’s whole again, a light in his eyes you never noticed before. The Huntsman has always been kind and you have always been cold to him, you don’t fail to notice that he only smiles for you, and no matter how much you insist you’re a monster he’s still not afraid of you, and for a moment you believe him. You call him thick.
You step carefully though the slush of ice as your Snow catches up, her cloak catching the last of her nakesake. You’re in awe of the beauty of the lake, and when Snow calls it romantic, you ignore her, ignore the trust and loyalty built between yourself and this strange man. You and the Huntsman and your Snow run from the witch queen. You fall beneath the ice of Lake Onondaga and the Huntsman’s totem makes you grow scales and fins, and you call him stupid.
You emerge from the lake and shed your scales to grow back into your fur, the feeling of gills and fins foreign to a wolf. Your Snow is used to it, and she calls you as beautiful and dangerous as the icicles around your camp, glittering teeth and ease to kill, but the Huntsman says nothing, just watches in awe. It is Wolfstime and you can’t quite shift back yet, so you can only listen as he tells you of his childhood, of his wolf family. It’s not awe that he watches you with, but familiarity, admiration, and when you finally shed your fur and curl up at his side, maybe even desire too. Maybe he’s not quite as dumb as you thought.
You have almost made it out with your Snow and your Huntsman, free for a little longer from the grasps of the witch queen, but she captures the pack you so mercilessly left without a leader, and threatens to kill them. Your Huntsman says he knows what she wants, and with each passing second you feel your heart break like the ice you once fell through, because you know and dreaming that you could have kept him was foolish. You beg for the first time in your life, beg him to stay, because you know she’ll take his heart again and there will be nothing you can do about it. He is solemn and he is brave and your Huntsman insists that if you and Snow stay safe, then maybe he can withstand it all.
You aren’t even allowed true love’s kiss before he is whisked away and you are sprinting on four paws, away from the witch queen, away from your broken heat, away from the tears that blind your sight. Snow says that you will find him and remind him who his heart really belongs to, but it’s another pipe dream. You howl when you know his heart is taken again, you cry when the curse comes and you know you won’t ever see him again. Because you are a monster and you killed good people and you don’t deserve the second chance your Huntsman gave you.