A/N: Apologizing in advance for all the errors. This is poorly edited and basically a test run. Sorry!
It's sweltering hot in Quinton during the summers, but it's worth seeing the butterflies roam about and flutter from flower to flower and the animals chipper in the forest, it's also much much better than winter. When dawn breaks and the sun sets, the night is the perfect time for shifting, the wind easy and pleasant against fur, but it's unconventional and dangerous for an omega like Kurt.
Kurt squints his eyes against the bright sun, clutching a weaved basket at his hip. He pins a pair of his breeches onto the clothesline followed by one of his father's maroon overalls as best he can against the blinding light. Once he's sure he's got it secured tightly against the light breeze, he blinks his eyes a couple of times to make sure he still has his sight, 'Kurt if you keep staring up at the sky you'll go blind!' his mother used to say.
Kurt heads to side of his house, down a small pebbly path leading to a garden patch enclosed by a short wooden fence. It's been about seventy days since Kurt planted seeds and he wonders if it's about time to harvest his ears of corn and perhaps trade it to Gordon for some deer meat. If that doesn't work out he'll have to use some of goat milk he was hoping to make cheese with. His father hasn't gone hunting since he fell ill a month ago and he doesn't want to be a burden to the Jones for constantly taking a part of their hunt.
He kneels down next to the corn, his lips pull up in a smile when he sees that the silk on the ear is dark brown. He pulls down the husk a bit and sees that the kernels have grown fully - he'll pick them tomorrow. He rises to his feet, whistling a tune, and returns back inside of his little nook.
His home isn't much, a plain square log cabin, one room that houses the kitchen, two mats for sleep, and a firepit for essential warmth during the winter. Again, it isn't a lot, but Kurt reckons it's something, and it isn't as unfortunate as the Evans have been as of late after they got kicked off their property of twenty years for failure to pay taxes.
In the corner of the cabin, Kurt catches his father's breathing form. He steps forward and leans to the side to grip the damp cloth inside of a bale of water and uses it to press onto his father's feverish forehead.
"I'm going down to the river to get us more water dad and I'll probably check my traps to see if any rabbits wandered into them, maybe we could get a good meal tonight, huh?" Kurt looks into his father's dim eyes.
Burt mumbles lowly in response.
"What was that father?" Kurt rubs the side of his father's arm, encouraging him to speak.
After a couple of coughs Burt repeats, "Don't go alone."
"Don't worry, I was planning on asking Tina if she wanted to tag along." Kurt removes the cloth, folds it then leaves it across Burt's forehead again, "Keep this cloth on your head until it's warm now." Kurt directs, grabbing the bucket beside him, "I'll see you before the sun is down."
When Kurt passes the doorway, he wants to turn back. He can only help so much though, there are other ways he can be more useful for Burt and right now that's getting food and keeping the guards off his back by paying the bills.
Onto the dirt path Kurt waves generously to his neighbor who's currently sending his hammer down onto the steaming red side of a short sword. With nod of acknowledgement in return, Kurt heads on past the clucking chickens in Mrs. Robinson's yard and turns into a patch of grass in front of a shack.
Mike, Tina's mate, is chopping tree trunks into small splints. When he spots Kurt he smiles lightly and motions for him to come over. Kurt takes a tentative step forward, remembering when he'd disturbed Mike last time - during Tina and Mike's honeymoon phase, a process that he'd been sorely uneducated about. Apparently all of an alpha's senses were heightened ten fold and hormones which included possessiveness of one's mate. He'd been scared of out his wits when Mike had immediately shifted into a burly amber wolf, snarling viciously. Kurt's only saving grace was his omega scent, one who submits and does not take. He left the yard immediately, he wouldn't make the same mistake again.
"Kurt's here!" Mike shouts through the side window, taking Kurt out of his vivid memory.
Kurt walks down their small trail and up the front steps to meet Tina at the door.
"You're absolutely glowing!" Kurt jumps excitedly, looking down at Tina's tiny swollen belly.
"Thank you" Tina blushes, placing her hand over her stomach.
"I'm going to walk over to the river and check on some rabbit traps, up for a walk?"
Tina turns her head to her husband, "I would, but Mike's been worried about me going off into the woods, especially with the baby on the way."
Kurt follows Tina's view over at Mike gathering chips of wood into a pile, he thinks about trying to persuade her, but on second thought thinks it is probably best for her to stay home. "Okay then, I'll be back if I get more than one catch."
"Be safe now Kurt..." Tina scrunches her eyebrows in concern.
Stepping off from the stairs, Kurt waves goodbye and turns back onto the road. He doesn't bother Mercedes to come along, he's already asked her twice this week. He'll just make it quick. He'll be there, fifty minutes tops.
He reaches the edge of a thick brush with his free hand. I've known this path my entire life, he thinks. I'll be safe.
Pushing the large leaves of a tree beside him, he steps into the dense forest. There's a path riddled in muddy footprints beneath both young and old trees. Bushes and weeds promise to invade should the path be abandoned.
Kurt feels a bit of reassurance when he hears voices further along the path, whose accompanying faces are not yet clear beyond the fork in the road divided by an oak tree. Company is welcome in these woods - of decent people anyways. Most of the citizens got their water and food from the river on the other side of town, but Kurt liked to avoid those parts, where the water was spoiled by naked children taking bathes. Not to mention Karofsky.
He ducks his head and passes beneath a few branches, choosing to turn right and rushing to keep a close distance. He doesn't want to scare them by breaking into a run, but he does walk at a quick pace. As he approaches, their figures become defined, a man and a woman, common folk by the look of their plain brown garb.
They're both unaware of their follower, engrossed in conversation. The man is waving his arms in wide motions, probably telling a story. Kurt notices a black band tied on his forearm. He says something while sweeping away a few strands of his brown cropped hair that dropped in front of his face. The woman laughs heartily.
It's dangerous to be caught unaware in a forest.
Not wanting to catch them by surprise he purposely presses his foot over a lone stick in his path. The crunching sound serves it's purpose as the woman snaps her head towards the perpetrator. When her blue eyes catch Kurt's, there's an obvious sense of relief - Kurt's glad he doesn't inspire fear.
The man is a little slower, distracted by the woman's face, he only turns when he sees her look. He stiffens once he notices Kurt's presence, his nostrils flair. Once his scent is registered the man loosens a bit, instead simply inclining his head. They both stop for a moment, the woman gives a light wave and grabs the man by the hand to usher him onward.
The walk to the river isn't too long, fifty minutes to an hour perhaps, but the obstacles make it tiresome. Every now and then there's a small hill that can't be passed without a considerable amount of walking and so he's forced to climb sometimes steep slopes. He grips the strong necks of trees for security and avoids any rocks that could possibly be loose.
He knows he's close after the third climb and when he passes a group of hickory trees. The largest of the bunch has the old scar of a slash.
The couple in front of him eventually stop and seat themselves on a dead trunk half taken by moss. Kurt hoped they were heading for the river too, but it looks like they just wanted some privacy. He passes them reluctantly and into a silence momentarily interrupted by a few nightingale tweets.
Fifteen minutes later he hears the trickle of water running down stream. The vegetation cuts off quickly over a small ledge, below water flows. Following the nicks on various trees, Kurt lifts specific ferns to inspect his traps. He finds one still intact, one broken with no catch, but outrageously he finds three worked - his best outcome yet. He happily removes the rope around his waist and ties the three rabbits together by their feet, then ties the rope back around himself. They were going to have a decent meal tonight and some coin. Kurt smirks in satisfaction, leaning into the river and dunking his bucket to collect water, filling it to the brim.
He turns swiftly towards home then, wasting no time. He promised he'd get back before dark.
Getting down with the bucket full of water is always difficult, but he manages it with a few small splashes. He stops for a moment when he notices the log that the couple sat on is empty, but dares not to linger. It's odd that he didn't cross paths with them, why would they walk for a half an hour only to return in twenty minutes? Kurt doesn't feel comfortable about that, he picks up his pace now.
He passes the hickory trees again and shuffles down a hill. He stops only to make sure he's on track where sometimes the muddy path disappears, leaving minimum direction when a tree wasn't near to be marked.
It's hard to see the sky beneath the tree canopies in most areas, but he can tell the sun is beginning to fall by the way the shadows changed. Kurt tries to take a good look through the leaves above him for a while, but he still can't really tell where the sun is exactly. When he drops his head back down he notices bunches of purple and blue on a tree - blueberries. He's excited at his discovery, but that quickly turns sour when he realizes he must've gone the wrong way, he's never spotted a blueberry tree in these woods before. He glances around checking for his misstep, he looks to the ground and is happy to see he made clear footprints, he'd just track it back. He gathers as much blueberries as his pockets can hold for the moment, he'd come back later with a bag.
To mark his direction he scratches the trees until he reaches a familiar point. This time he takes care to pay attention to the trail. There's a rush of wind that precedes a cool breeze that tickles Kurt's skin. He shakes off his sudden desire to shift. It's not safe to do that - someone might see. They'll find out. Kurt reasons.
In the middle of a forest? With no one around? Kurt frowns. His eyes flickering over the forest as if some witness might emerge from the bushes.
He feels a trickle down his body that starts to make his flesh itch with need. Smell. Scratch. Mark. But Kurt would be damned if he was going to let his need to sniff under rocks and piss on a tree let him leave behind his harvest of the day.
He pushes his urges down, but begins to notice his sense of smell is starting to heighten. At least he'll be able to follow a scent to get back home easily. As he moves along he gets more and more overwhelmed by the sheer amount of aromas - dead pine leaves, dirt, rocks, bark, feathers, something swampy, and fur.
Kurt halts and sniffs the air again. A Deer? No... a deer would be less musky, less fur. Something shaggy, maybe a bear. It crossed the path here. He looks down and sees a sloppy indention of mud and dirt. It's too round of a hill to be a bear, but large enough. A wolf then. A big wolf.
Kurt doesn't let the clues process, he doesn't want to especially when the scent is so fresh. At the most fifteen minutes old. He breaks into a light jog. Just until I lose the scent. He tells himself.
But it doesn't work, in fact the scent is even stronger as he goes down. But he can't go back now when the sun's so close to disappearing.
It was here about five minutes. Kurt registers. He swings his head around the forest looking for any movement and sees a bush rustle in the distance. He freezes, watching the leaves closely. When he looks back to the path he sees it.
A scrawny brown wolf taking hard breathes. It's snout was too large to be ordinary and paws too wide, the body too enormous.
He had no choice then, by the look of it's stance - poised to pounce on prey.
It took no effort, just less restraint and he was free. White tufts of fur crawled up his arms and his bones crackled causing immense pain. His clothes stood no chance, clothes and rope torn, shredded into the grass, blueberries rolling until he finally stood on four instead of two.
Somewhere in his subconscious, he mourned for his things, but right now there was competition. The wolf was galloping towards him in a storm of large strides and growling.
This would be easy then, Kurt deduced.
He bared his teeth, snarling in response, jumping to meet his foe. They tangle in a battle of sharp bites and clawing. Rolling over rocks painfully, through the thick grass, over sticks until eventually Kurt finds himself on top. He sends a good bite into the neck of the brown wolf, earning a yelp of pain.
The wolf continues to struggle against him until Kurt sinks his teeth in again. He knows he earns submission when the wolf stills, tucking it's tail between it's legs.
Kurt releases the werewolf's jaw, finding footing on his four paws, and letting the brown werewolf scramble back up. Kurt's snapping and growling finally drives it off. He wonders in circles until he's sure he's safe and melts back into his human form. Naked.
He walks back to his belongings, finding his bucket of water spilt, blue berries scattered and squashed, but rabbits in good condition. He'd been forced to sneak back home naked before, so at least he knew a decent route, as long as the stable boys weren't working.
He grabs his empty bucket then, cold in the quickly diminishing light. He trails at the edge of the forest and runs into the side of the few buildings, looking around corners.
He makes it back home, glad to find his clothes already dried. Once dressed he returns inside to find the fire dead and his father snoring. He freshens the damp cloth, causing his father to stir.
He can't deliver a rabbit to Tina and Mike today, it's too late considering he still has to sell a rabbit fresh to the butcher and cook dinner. He leaves two at home and takes one. After a bit of haggling he manages to earn three bronze chips. A poor price in his opinion, but admittedly it was the small rabbit of the bunch. He would've made at least three more had he brought some blueberries. He wonders if it's worth going back into the forest to gather them tomorrow.
Kurt skins the other two rabbits, salting one to keep it fresh and searing the other on a skillet to mix into a hearty stew with turnips and carrots. He even has some leftover stale bread that isn't half bad if you soak it in the soup.
It's the best meal they'd had in awhile, but Kurt doesn't think Burt can even tell the difference. He's so weak Kurt has to hold him up while spoon feeding him. Some of the food dribbles past his lips, so Kurt dabs it with a cloth. All Burt can do is mumble a strained "Thank you." before collapsing back onto his bed and drifting back to sleep. It breaks Kurt heart to see his strong father reduced to this. There isn't much he can do now. He'd already collected fifteen bronze chips for help, only to have the town's healer declare his father wasn't going to make it and all he could do was make him drink ale to ease his passing.
That might work if he could afford to buy ale.
The thought reminds Kurt of the bronze chips in his pocket. Behind the firepit Kurt grabs a tin can, dropping the three coins. Seventeen chips - three more to go. And all for those pompous assholes and none for us, Kurt thinks bitterly.
Every thirty days the town guards went door to door to collect. A man of about thirty years named Martin always made the rounds on their small road. Kurt could never forget his sleazy smirk, rotten teeth, and silver tooth. He took an odd pleasure in bleeding the Hummels dry and had a special hatred reserved for Kurt, which he took no effort in hiding.
Kurt would have to pay in two days or risk being kicked out of their dank shelter. Dank it was, but a roof is a roof when the nights are cold and the rains are hard, any beggar on the street would say.
That resolved Kurt's plans for tomorrow. He'd return to the woods.
Rekindling the fire for the cold night, Kurt settles down on his stiff mat. He covers himself in a ratty linen blanket and is off to sleep.
He dreams of the werewolf in the forest, his father when he was well, and an unfamiliar boy.
Before Kurt is even properly awake there is pounding on his door. He answeres it, with disheveled hair and wrinkled clothes, finding the guard Martin dressed in boiled leather, covered by white cotton adorning the a black paw print.
"Taxes are due tomorrow." Kurt complaines through the crack in the door, he didn't want them to assume they were welcome to walk in.
Martin grins, silver tooth shining, "Ay', it's due tomorrow. This is for something else." he looks to the other two men, and speaks up when they nod. "Step out boy."
After opening the door fully, Kurt cautiously steps down. Kurt now recognizes the two accompanying guards aren't ordinary town's guardsmen. They wear decorated steel armor with the same wolf print, but in gold. A bronze crescent of a moon holds their belts together and their faces are concealed with flat-topped great helms. Elite Guardsmen.
Martin steps forward to face Kurt, "Blue eyes, brown hair," he points out, "tall, lanky, pale, and a pointy nose."
Kurt crinkles his nose self-consciously.
"Could be." One of the Elite guards speaks, voice deepened by the helmet, but still recognizably aged.
Martin grips Kurt by the arm - as if he'd risk running off with two obviously seasoned knights looming over him, hands on the pommel of their swords. "You'll be coming with us." he mutters.
"For what?" Kurt questions on instinct. Though it came to him suddenly: the wolf in the woods - the omega. Kurt assumes the worse: she probably reported him walking around without a black band, but more importantly told them the color of his wolf's coat... pure white - A trait revered by people of noble birth. He heard what the common folk said: pure brown was one in fifty, pure grey: one in a hundred, pure black: one in a thousand, and white? Only thrice in history. And one of them died at the age of three.
A person with an albino coat was said to be 'touched by Odon' the first skinwalker known to Kurt's people, but Kurt found that ridiculous. Everyone knew Odon's wolf was stark black, it was his wife Thea who had a coat as white as snow. 'Touched by Thea' Kurt prefered.
When Kurt first shifted at the young age of five, he'd been so ecstatic. The Hummels hadn't had a shifter since his great great grandpa Leo. That excitement soon ended when he saw his father's horrified expression and got dragged inside before any of the neighbor's caught sight of him.
"They'll take you away from me if they see the white." Burt huffed after the exertion of plowing through the snow with Kurt in his arms. "If they take in the black coats for the noble families to choose, what do you think they'll do to a white coat? I won't risk it. We can't have you changing, you hear me? They'll train you like a dog and they'll use you to breed heirs. I've seen them." Burt cried.
Kurt only nodded, only for his father's approval. It was later on that he really saw nobles for himself. Noble people were seldom seen among the western parts of Quinton. Once or twice a year they'd come down on their elaborately decorated wagons and groomed purebred stallions to execute some poor 'traitor' in the name of the ever absent Elite. And they were beautiful. Fair of skin, clean, and fit with well tailored outfits made from exotic materials like silk. They had no reason to shift, but it was still clear to Kurt who the 'taken' were. They stood silent and meek at their husband's sides or wife's side. Ever loyal and obedient.
Do I want that? Kurt had thought. Do I want to live the life of a pampered slave? And when times got harder, especially these past four months, that question haunted him again and again.
Do I want that?
These days when he went a day or two without food or when the guards made him resort to pulling out his few crops to pay the taxes the answer leaned more to yes then no. Maybe I'll get that now. Maybe I'll be a pampered slave. Kurt sulked.
"You were in the woods yesterday. I've got two witnesses who say so. You might as well confess it now." Martin spat a wad of saliva onto the dirt road.
Kurt frowned skirting around his special condition, "I did nothing illegal, I only defended myself."
"Not according to Casey Foster. You attacked her unawares, while she was minding her own business. " Said the Elite guard with the low voice.
"I was minding my own business and she bared her teeth at me." Kurt seethed, relieved the woman didn't mention anything about his coat. Maybe she was too distracted...
"Who are we going to believe? A low scum like you or an Elite? Your argument is invalid."
The Smythes, The Ephraims, The Andersons, and The Fosters. Casey Foster must be the daughter of Aaron. He injured the daughter of Aaron - an Elite.
The ever present question reverberated: Do I want that?
There was no question now, it was yes.