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Author's Note: Written for [community profile] fic_promptly's Author's choice, author's choice, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" (Wind in the Willows). Alternate universe, Wilbur Whateley/Helen Vaughn.

Wilbur had never really slept, not till that first night, not till Helena had brought him into experience, as they put it. But he found himself coming out of a deep doze the morning of the summer solstice, realizing the pillows beside him lay empty, dented from her head, still smelling of her hair, yet her presence absent. He arose from the bed, going to the French windows that gave onto the terrace behind the house, letting himself out into the cool air already growing softly warm. Dawn pinked the sky to the east, over the tops of the trees, and the sparrows and linnets had raised their dawn chorus, chirping and chattering in the tree tops. He turned his gaze to the garden, her tracks visible in the dew on the grass. Descending to the lawn, he followed them, carefully, keeping his tread light, tracing her track which led under the trees but taking care not to step on her delicate tracks, to avoid erasing them.

He thought he saw her small, slim shape in the soft, green-glowing shadows beneath the trees, moving against the darker shapes of the trunks that supported the green canopy. He quickened his pace, but even with his long strides, he did not seem to catch up to her easily, as if she floated through the trees like a dryad moving through her grove.

And then he heard the sound, faint as if in the distance, and yet so close that it seemed to vibrate within the core of his being, a piping as high and clear as the chirping of the birds and yet as deep and penetrating as deep-tongued bells, a sound that seemed to come from the sky above, the trees around him, the ground beneath his feet, the air that flowed through him. He gazed about him, seeking a source, then looked ahead, looking toward Helena and past her, to a shadow that loomed up before her.

He stepped closer, closing the distance between himself and Helena, but the figure beyond her seemed to grow no closer, this tall figure, taller even than Wilbur, his horned head brushing the undersides of the tree tops, his furred legs folded beneath him as he sat astride a fallen tree, a row of pipes, carven of bone and bound with sinews at his full lips.

Helena, as if sensing Wilbur's presence, reached her hand to him and found his fingers with it, gripping one of them in her hand. "Do you see him, Wilbur?" she murmured.

The figure stopped blowing upon the pipes, raising its shaggy head, its eyes turning toward Wilbur, the third eye in the middle of its forehead opening as if from slumber.

"...He has seen me...." Wilbur murmured.

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