A/N: The inspiration for this short story came from a song by Young Heretics called "I Know I'm A Wolf." I strongly suggest listening to it, either before or after you read this story. With that said, enjoy!
"The Rabbit and the Wolf"
The sound of snow crunching beneath his feet was deafening. When he paused to collect himself, all he could hear was his labored breathing and the blood pounding in his ears. The longer he rested with his back against the tree trunk, the more pain he felt radiating from his twisted ankle. Up until this point, fear and adrenaline had blocked any sensation that would have slowed him down.
He had never run so fast for so long without stopping. He was so exhausted. His ankle was swelling. The sun began to disappear below the treetops. There was no sign of pursuit, and he wanted so badly to believe that he was free. But there was a commanding voice somewhere in the back of his mind—instinct perhaps—that told him to stay hidden.
The sun continued to set while he waited with baited breath. He couldn't be sure how long he waited when he suddenly heard snow crunching once again. He clapped a hand over his mouth and closed his eyes. Maybe she would just keep walking. Maybe she would not detect his presence.
The footsteps came to a halt. His heart beat rapidly. What would he do if she found him? He couldn't run anymore, his ankle was in too much pain. He heard her take two hesitant steps forward. He could also hear her panting, gasping.
"Danny?" she called desperately. "That's your name, right?"
Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes and froze on his skin. Still, he was careful not to give himself away. He had only needed to jump start his car, and instead his evening had turned into a nightmare. She and the three others in her truck had seemed so nice at first when they pulled over to help him.
"Come on, Danny," she implored him. "It's cold and I'm tired." It was so quiet that he could hear her breaths coming faster. "I'm trying to help you!"
He finally opened his eyes. She sounded panicked. Why would she be afraid? He was the one being chased, and she was doing the chasing. She had nothing to fear.
"I just want to talk," she said more calmly this time. He took his hand away from his mouth. It was a dangerous thought, but he almost believed her. Slowly, painfully slowly, he leaned to look around the tree trunk. She stood with her back to him. Her fists were clenched at her sides, still caked in dry blood. "Don't be afraid," she pleaded and turned around. He jerked back behind the tree again. It was close, but he didn't think she saw him.
"You escaped me once," she reasoned. "If you don't feel safe, then I bet you can do it again."
She couldn't believe that she let him escape! She looked around the small clearing frantically. He couldn't have run far; she was right behind him the whole time. So where had he gone? If only he hadn't seen what was in the bed of the truck, then none of this would have happened.
"Danny?" she called to him again. She hated how her voice sounded choked, but she had to keep the desperation out of her voice. If she didn't find him, then there was no going back to the group. Did she want to go back to the group? Yes, said the dominant part of her brain. No! screamed the part of her that was still a scared little girl.
"I know what you saw back there." No use in trying to deny the horrific scene that scared him away in the first place. "But it's not what you think. I want you to be safe. I want you to get away, but you're going to need my help."
There was no reply. She didn't want to cry, but she didn't know how much longer she could hold the tears at bay. At this point, she wasn't sure what she wanted to happen. Half of her would do anything—say anything—to lure him out into the open just so she could pounce. The other half hoped he got away; that half wanted to give him a blanket and a compass and yell at him to run.
"It's cold out here," she said, hopefully loud enough for him to hear wherever he was hiding. "If you come out, I can give you a blanket and a thermos of hot coffee." A branch snapped, and she heard someone fall in the snow. She turned around in a circle carefully.
He was close. Very close.
"I know what you saw," she said. "But it's not what you think." He was almost insulted. Was she really attempting to make what he saw sound benign? He wasn't even certain what he saw, but no one could have innocent intentions with that much blood in the back of a truck.
"It's cold out here," she said, and he had to agree. The air was so cold that it felt like his face, arms, and legs were being stabbed with hundreds of needles. "If you come out, I can give you a blanket and a thermos of hot coffee." He didn't think a blanket would do him much good at this point, but the thought of coffee was wonderful.
It was a tempting offer, and she sounded sincere. He braced himself by grabbing a low-hanging branch and peered around the trunk. Thankfully her back was facing him again. Suddenly, the branch he was holding broke. He tumbled to the ground and scrambled behind a different tree.
She stopped speaking and turned around. His heart was racing. This was it. It was all over.
"It's just me, you know." Her voice was soft, but there was an undertone of excitement. "My friends, they're all back by the highway. They can't hurt you." He looked over his shoulder from behind his new hiding place. She was now facing the right way, but her eyes were gliding all around the clearing. She hadn't spotted him yet.
She took a small step in his direction. "I know it sounds cliché, but I'm not like the others." It did sound cliché, but it also made sense. The first time he saw her, he thought she had kind eyes and a nice smile. She reminded him of his older sister, not someone capable of violence and destruction.
"It makes me sick," her voice hitched and wavered, "to think about the things that I've done." Even from a distance, he saw that her eyes were shining.
She was losing herself. It felt as though she was being torn in two. She did feel sick. She did want to believe that she was different.
She wasn't different though, was she?
"Danny." She was, and always would be, a bloodthirsty wolf. "Please don't run from me." The cold metal of a knife was pressed to the skin of her thigh. She wrapped her fingers around the handle. Poor rabbit.
Why else would she sound scared, unless she was different from her friends? Why else would she be horrified by the contents of the truck bed? Even if she was lying to him, it was impossible for him to outrun her again with his twisted ankle. Whether she truly wished to help him or not, this was the end of the line.
"Please don't run from me." She was crying. He snuck a glance at her once more. She was on her knees, half buried in the snow. Her eyes were watery and bloodshot. He didn't back away the next time she scanned the clearing. Their eyes met.
He stood shakily and limped into view, favoring his right foot. When she sighed, he wondered if it was caused by relief or some other emotion; it was difficult to tell.
"You'll be safe with me, I promise," she whispered. She gazed up at him as he neared her. "Do you trust me?"
His heart galloped a mile a minute beneath his ribcage. What he was about to do would either be a life-saving decision or a grave mistake. He did not stop walking until he towered over her huddled form. "I don't have much of a choice, do I?"
He offered her a hand.
There was a moment in which nothing happened—a moment of limbo. She stared at his hand, which was shaking and sweating. The air was electrically charged. A choice had to be made soon. They could not forever exist in this in between, the calm before the storm.
She accepted his hand.
Behind her back, she held the knife in an iron grip.