Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Character/Pairing: Salem, Sabrina
Challenge/Prompt: puzzleprompts February 2017: All Categories (see below the cut for details)
[Spoiler (click to open)]
Power Hour: Magic
Creature Feature: Cats
What’s My Line?: Careful Demons by Deformati: I thought I could deal with a Demon/I was wrong, oh so wrong/And now, it's a part I play
Adulting Sucks!: Looking back on one's past with questions and/or regrets
The Classified Section: Guardian
Sports and Recc: Hunting
Mother Nature: A Winter's Night
Cosmic Constant: Moon
Geology Rocks: Mountains
Random Object:: Cutting Device (Claws)
Random Descriptor: Bloody
Winter Theme: Snow, Death
Word Count: 2,290
Date Written: 28 February 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
Sabrina wakes to a tenseness crawling across her arms. Something is wrong. She blinks open her eyes, looking to the foot of her bed first for the last time she awoke to this sensation, Roland was at the foot of her bed, watching her while she slept. She breathes a soft sigh of relief at the lack of an ugly, pestering Dwarf in her room before looking around the room itself.
She's just beginning to think maybe she was only imagining things when she spies Salem sitting beside her window. His black, furry back is arched, and he's staring out at something in the night. "Salem?" she calls, but he doesn't answer. "Salem?" He makes no sign that he's heard her. Neither his ears or even his tail twitch.
Frowning, she slips from her bed and pads over to join him by the window. She looks out and is almost excited to see the snow. She smiles at the sight of the fresh, white snow sparkling underneath the full moon's light, but when she looks back down at him, what excitement and happiness she does feel vanish. Something is very wrong. "Salem?" she calls again, but again he doesn't answer her.
"Salem?" She reaches out to him. Pain lashes into her fingers. "Salem!" She cries out, stepping back and holding her hand.
Salem blinks several times until his big, green eyes finally seem to come back into focus. "Sabrina?" he asks in confusion.
"You cut me!" she cries, holding her bleeding fingers and waving them at him. "You cut me! How dare you! I oughta -- "
"I'm sorry." He says the words so softly and so full of true emotion that she now stops and stares at him.
"What's wrong with you?" she demands, frowning.
"I . . . " His long, black tail swishes from side to side as he looks back out at the snow. "I . . . was remembering," he speaks softly.
"What the heck were you remembering that would make you cut me?!"
"I'm sorry," he says again. "I . . . I didn't realize it was you. I reacted instinctively. I wasn't even aware you were near me or that my claws were unsheathed and on your skin until I heard you yelling."
"You were having another flashback, weren't you?" she asks, coming quietly closer to him. She eyes him warily. "I'm going to pet you now."
He doesn't move as she strokes her hand -- the one that isn't bloody from his claws -- down his back. She runs her good hand several times over him before asking, "You wanna tell me about it?"
"No," he says and almost looks away from both her and the snow. But he can see the snow and still remembers too clearly what he had been remembering before he had attacked his best friend. His people had been ambushed several times both by the humans and by others of their kind. One such time had been on a snow-covered ground like the one beyond their window.
He remembers the Council swooping down on their broomsticks from their hiding places in the mountains and attacking his people so fast that, within seconds, none of the troops he had taken with him that night -- many of whom had been some of his favorites and most trusted people -- had still been standing with him. They were snatched from before his very eyes, leaving only bloody footprints in the snow and a circle of almost entirely defenseless children and animals. He had not stood a chance at continuing to protect them by himself, and the Council had taken them away as well, supposedly to teach him a lesson about interfering with their rules.
Sabrina's strokes quicken and become a little heavier, movement meant to remind Salem that he is not alone -- that he will never be alone again -- as his feline body quivers with his memories. What the Council did before is no more right than what they continue to do today, demanding allegiance to the point that they tell their people what they will or will not use their magic for and that they must endure the wicked cruelties of prejudice if they choose to live in the mortal world. To live in the Supernatural world is to entirely allow the Council to control their lives, but to live in the mortal world is to live constantly in fear of being discovered and then . . . when discovered . . . He turns his head away from the window with a sad mew, tears dripping down his furry face. Far, far too many have died because of the Council and prejudiced, heartless humans, and every death caused by human hands is a death that could have been prevented, that the Council or other Witches could have stopped, that he could have stopped if only the Council had let him do what he'd once set out to do.
"It's okay," Sabrina whispers, but she doesn't understand. The child can never understand. She hasn't seen the merciless cruelties visited upon their kind as he has. She hasn't seen fur cut from Werewolves and other shapeshifters until their bodies bled, until they were too quick to change again or fight or even stand when they were finally freed from their silver bonds. She hasn't seen Witches killed for practicing the healing arts or simply admitting to know more than mankind. She hasn't seen animals or children slain by the hundreds, innocents, regardless of age, slain because they were different, all because they were different . . .
She wants to live in this world, but she doesn't understand it. She thinks her biggest problems are trying to keep Libby and her other class mates from discovering the truth about her Witchcraft and figuring out how to keep Harvey to herself. She doesn't know how many of their people suffer for being different, for being what they were all born as. A part of Salem hopes she never finds out, because Sabrina is actually good enough, pure enough, loving enough that she might well one day make the same mistake he did.
He's trapped in this body supposedly because he tried to take over the world, and yes, he did try. He tried, and he failed, but he never tried to conquer the world merely out of the ego that the Council paints him to have had. He didn't simply want to rule the world to have everybody kissing his feet as Drell desires for his own self. He wanted to rule the worlds so that he could protect their people, so that he could stop all the wrongs that were being done to them, so that his people, and even the ones who were not his, could all live freely.
They call this land the Land of the Free, but only a handful of beings like Salem himself, know what a bitter laugh that truly is. Their people are not free. They have never been free, and they will never be free because of the Council and the great, pompous asses that sit upon it like Drell. He hated Hilda for the longest time, but he finally came to understand why she did what she did. She didn't merely betray him. She didn't make a fool's mistake, as the history books paint her to have done. It was either him or her sister. Drell had told her she could either turn him over to them, or he would take her sister, by force, and do unspeakable things to her.
Salem's eyes close against the tears welling inside of them. Hilda had had no choice, not really. She laughs it off these days because of a little spell Drell did on her, hoping that she would one day choose to date him again, but Salem remembers the truth. He remembers the truth of everything that happened, and it weighs on him every moment that he still lingers in this world. Sometimes he wishes his pain would just end. Sometimes he wishes he'd close his eyes and not wake up. But that's all part of his punishment: He'll live forever in this cat body, and he knows that every time his sentence is set to come to end, Drell will find some way to keep him as a cat, some way to keep him powerless, some way to keep him from being able to rise up and help their people again.
"Tell me," Sabrina whispers in his ear.
"No," he argues, lowering his head and licking the place where he cut her flesh moments before. This child has so much power but also so much innocence. There are so many things in this world, in both realms, that she still doesn't understand, and he hopes, for her sake, that she never does. With two bobble heads for aunts, whose minds have been affected far too greatly by the Council as has nearly every one else who once loved Salem, it's truly up to him to protect Sabrina. He will protect her as much as he can. He's failed far too many others already; he won't fail her.
He could tell her the truth, he knows. She'd listen to him. She might even believe him, despite the fact that the Council, especially Drell, has hunted down every one of Salem's people from before and either brainwashed them into believing their story or cursed them so greatly that they can no more help others than Salem himself can. He could tell her everything, but that's not what she needs. It's not the kind of life this child deserves, not the kind of life he hopes for her.
As her guardian, he has a role to play that's much more important and harder than either of her aunts. Their scripts are practically written for them. They don't remember the true reasons why they tried to conquer the worlds before or why they fought so valiantly against the Council. Hilda hardly remembers the latter at all. They don't remember the lives they saved or the cruelties they stopped. They only remember the silver tongue Salem possessed, the silver tongue he still possesses when he wants it, and his desire for universal domination.
Very few beings still remember the real reason why he fought so hard, and no one believes those of them who do. He won't bring Sabrina into this mess. He won't bring hardship and heartache on to yet another innocent. He won't see her hurt by the Council. He thought he could deal with them. He thought he could beat them. He'd truly believed he could save all their people, all the innocents who suffered in both realms . . . He'd never been more wrong!
He stops bathing Sabrina's hand abruptly as great, big gasps rip through him. His whole, little body trembles as he weeps openly. "Salem?!"
He fights to calm himself, fights to make his mask fall back into place, fights to resume the role into which he's been placed. He'll let her think he just tried and failed to conquer the world. He'll let her see him as the history books paint him, and he'll never tell her how wrong they are. It's the winners of the wars who write history, and they get to portray the losers any way they choose. That is rarely the truth of how they were, and it's never remembered that, in a war, both sides think they are right for people rarely give their lives for a cause in which they do not believe.
He'll let her think the lies they paint of him so that she'll never guess the truth. Sabrina's a good girl. She tries to right any injustices she finds, and he knows, without a doubt, that if she ever learns the truth, the Council will hunt her down like a rabid dog just like they did the rest of his people. He won't let that happen to her. He'll never let them hurt her like that.
So instead of the truth, he whispers, his head hanging low, "I was so close, so close to winning it all, and now look at me!" He trembles from head to toe again as he fights to quell his true emotions. "Look at me! I'm only a cat!"
"Salem." She says his name with such compassion that he almost hates lying to her, but it's the only way. He can't let her know the truth. He can't ever let her discover the real reason why he fought, and lost, so hard. He can't let her hurt like he does every moment of his continued, miserable existence. "I think somebody needs his yarn ball."
She points to just before him on the window seat, and a ball of bright, blue yarn appears. He plays with it for her sake. She points at her hand and zaps it well again. He keeps playing with the yarn as she strokes him, and it's only after she's gone back to bed, after he's certain she's fast asleep, that he pushes the yarn ball away. He could let the feline part of his mind prevail, but tonight, the ghosts of his past hang too heavy in the air. Tonight, as much as it hurts, he needs to remember. Tonight, he needs to remember he's a man, a Warlock, no matter how badly it hurts. He raises his head and stares at the blinking stars hanging far above them in the night sky, and as he counts them amid the screams that resonate in his mind, he names every one for a bright and fallen light from his own world.