Actions

Work Header

A Thousand Lifetimes

Chapter Text

My regrets follow you to the grave.

 

1469

 

"Honestly, William, you keep stealing all of the good roles away from me." 

 

William rolled his eyes at the red-haired woman who had her arms draped over his shoulders. "We both know that you prefer the female roles." She laughed. William would never admit it, but he loved the way her laugh sounded. It was a melodic sound that filled the entire room, just as she did with her grace alone.

 

"Well, I certainly can't deny that, can I?" She planted a kiss on William's cheek and sauntered out of the room. William had never thought to use the word "sauntered" to describe the way someone was moving, but there was no other word that could properly describe Grell Sutcliff.

 

Grell Sutcliff. She was the strangest woman to ever live. In the eyes of most people not in their troupe, she wasn't even really a woman. William knew better, though. There were many flamboyantly effeminate actors, but none of them were quite as sincere about it as Grell was.

 

She infuriated William in many ways; always ignoring the director, saying lewd things, and latching herself on to the first attractive man she sees. But he had to admit, he had grown quite accustomed to her presence and the noise that comes with it. Rooms seemed entirely too empty and quiet without her there babbling on about some nonsense. 

 

William thought that he might actually love her.

 

---

 

There was another burning in the center of town that day. Some woman who had been working as a maid. William thought it was awful, the way these people were dying. He doubted that any of these hunts found a single real witch, although he understood the precaution. Still... Wasn't there a kinder way to kill these people?

 

Killing wasn't kind at all, though, was it?

 

---

 

Grell looked absolutely terrified when she came running into his room that day. That alone was enough to set off alarm bells in William's mind. What could scare a madwoman like her?

 

"William, please, you've got to tell them they're wrong, you-"

 

"Calm down! What's happened?"

 

"They think I'm one, they-"

 

There was an aggressive knock on the door. "We know you're in there, Grell Sutcliff!"

 

The terror in her eyes was clear. "William, please," she pleaded. "They're going to kill me."

 

He didn't know what to say. A mob was beginning to form in front of the house. His door wasn't going to be able to handle the beating it was taking. They would be in there any second. There wasn't anywhere to hide.

 

Was this the last he was going to see of Grell Sutcliff?

 

"William, pl-" Acting on impulse, William pulled Grell in to a deep kiss. The door was going to break down any moment now.

 

"I'm sorry." He said as he broke away. "I love you."

 

The mob broke through the door. "Give us the witch!" one of them yelled.

 

"What proof have you that she is a witch?"

 

"The fact that you and all in your troupe believe that he is a woman is proof enough."

 

The pain in Grell's eyes was all too clear to William. He couldn't help but look at her with the same pain.

 

"Clearly he has been bewitched!"

 

"Burn him! Burn the witch!"

 

William reached out to her. "Grell, I-"

 

The mob grabbed her before their hands could meet. She was dragged away, screaming.

 

---

 

"Grell James Sutcliff, you have been convicted of witchcraft..." 

 

William could hardly stand to listen to the man reading out Grell's sentence. He didn't want to be here, but he had no choice. If Grell was going to die she wasn't going to die alone.

 

It broke his heart to see her like this. The beautiful red hair that she had been growing out for the past fifteen years had been chopped short. Instead of the grandiose dresses that she usually wore, she was forced into something that could hardly even be called a rag. She looked tired, beaten. All of the light that William loved so much had completely vanished from her eyes, leaving only a dull, lifeless look. It was as if she were already a corpse.

 

"Your punishment is death."

 

The executioner threw a torch into the pie of wood that lay beneath Grell's feet. It ignited almost instantly. Horrible, horrible screams filled the entire town. For the rest of his life, William would would wake up to those screams in a cold sweat with his hand clenched over his chest. They were screams of pure agony, a sound he never in his life imagine that he would be forced to listen to coming out of the soft, smiling lips of Grell Sutcliff.

 

They made eye contact for just a brief moment. William could see that she was crying, and he knew that he was crying too. He wanted to go up there, he wanted to throw himself into the flames with her. He wanted to dry her tears as the two of them burned away together.

 

In only a few short minutes, the screams stopped. They extinguished the fire. William felt as if his soul was floating into the sky with the smoke. He was completely numb. Grell Sutcliff was gone. The constant noise, the smell of roses, the only genuine laughter he had known in 25 years... All of it was gone. How could that be true? How could these people be walking away to go about their normal lives lives when the only light in the world had been turned to ash? 

 

Grell Sutcliff was gone, and now William was alone.