Thank you to my Beta, Scoutchick104 for her help with this chapter.
Notice: There are Violent Situations and Character Death in this chapter. Please Be a Responsible Reader.
for yourself, my man/you'll never be what is in your heart
The fires in the hearths die down to a mere simmer as the late day fades into night, the Merchants have already begun the initial process of closing down after another shift of business. So it isn't unbelievable that the sight of a young boy running through the quarters, his right hand held tightly against his chest, goes unnoticed by the townsfolk. His chest heaves from the bought of hyperventilation that always follows after he cries, and his lungs burn with the exertion. The boy can feel his energy wane as he nears the tree line that sits at the edge of the forest. A small burning sensation has settled in his thighs, and his legs are heavy under the lean waist that hasn't yet caught up with the broad width of his rib cage and shoulders. His feet hit the stone pathway of the quarter purposely as he pushes himself to make it the rest of the way, when tiny pebbles begin to fly up into the space around him he knows he's closer and a faint smile forms at his lips. He knows that it's forbidden to set an inch within the forest, leaving the town's boundaries far behind, something that had been ingrained in every villager. However, it was the only place that he felt he could allow himself to grieve properly, not for a loved one, but for himself. His mother's form of punishment had become increasingly more violent over the years, with the least bit of infraction initiating her wrath.
When he finally makes it to the coverage of the tree line, his body collapses against one of the trunks, and he can feel slivers of bark break free onto his bare shoulders as he slides down onto the cool earth. He had ran out of his home in only an undershirt and threadbare shorts that had once been slacks, a hand-me-down from his brothers, they were cut off at the knees to provide him reprieve from the warm months. His feet were bare and they curled into the inviting cool dirt, the fallen leaves tickled at the pads of his feet and he couldn't help but giggle. He winced as the action made his chest heave, jostling his injured hand. The boy attempts to steady his breathing as he reaches up with his uninjured hand to brush back the wave of blond curls that have fallen into his eyes. The ends tickle his long lashes, the mop of curls are well beyond over grown, and he dreads the time to come when his mother will force him down to cut his golden hair tight to the scalp. His brothers snicker to the side as she slices away at the strands with the kitchen shears, his ears burning with her insults about how he resembles a young maiden with his golden curls and lashes.
Her venomous tongue burns into his mind, as every barb poisons his self image, until he's nothing but a shadow of himself. The boy leans his head against the tree as he cradles his hand, thinking of how much she detests his kind ways, and the softness he seems to possess. He stands out among his older brothers who can be cruel and cold like their mother, the boy himself has seen many maidens cry over a spiteful word from his brothers. All the while his father stands by, his shoulders hunched, as he blends into the shadows. The boy begins to cry again but this time it's not over his broken fingers, but from the fear that he too will someday be pushed into the shadows like his father, as he weeps for his inevitable broken spirit.
As he mourns he doesn't notice the pair of glowing eyes that watch him through the brush, the same set of eyes that have watched him from the first moment he entered this world. She had found herself feeling for him, an action that was absolutely forbidden within her species, especially her clan. She could hear her brother now, his baritone tone scolding her for being so reckless, even in the shadows her proximity was far too relaxed and the probability of being found by one of the villagers was great. The wolf saw the logic in the rules, they were there to protect her clan and their way of life, but she couldn't fight the overpowering need to be close to the boy. And she couldn't deny the connection that she felt towards him, as though an invisible string connected the both of them, gradually pulling them closer to each other. So with every passing year she watched as he grew, his years progressing along with the frequency of his wounds.
Her body had long ago stopped participating in the aging process, so as her body has plateaued his continues to grow. And as the boy ages and his features sharpen into that of a young man, the wolf finds her eyes lingering on the lines of his jaw, and the way his clothes have become more fitted across his broad shoulders and toned behind. It alarms her the first time she sees him without a shirt, as she feels a warm tingle travel through her body. She remains in her natural form, and for the first time since she had witnessed his birth, she finds herself yearning to appear human. The muscles at his back flex as he reaches behind to run his fingers over the deep laceration at his spine. She can see him trying to fight the tears that began to build at his startling blue eyes, his jaw set. The boy, who is quickly becoming a man, lowers himself to the ground and settles beneath the tree he often seeks out for solace.
As time passes, her feelings for the boy builds but with her attraction and adoration so does the strangling fury she holds for his mother. The anger, like a kindled fire, wells up within her, eventually the protective instinct that she comes into naturally as a wolf wins over, and she waits patiently for her opportunity. It takes another season for the opportunity to arise, and with time his injuries occur more often and with a higher degree of severity. The wolf waits for the woman to venture further from the back of the Merchant quarter, her bellowing echoing off the brick exterior of the dank alleyway. Her grievances float through the air, her face flushed as she calls out for the boy, spitting his name out as though it causes the woman pain to utter it. The wolf stalks the back alley ways following the voice until finally the woman is rounding the corner, and every last shred of fury that the wolf possesses is unleashed on the woman in a flurry of limbs, teeth, and blood. When it is finished and the wolf's paws are slick with corpse's blood and its emotions have settled, the curtain of rage being lifted she realizes the price she has to pay for her loyalty and protectiveness for the boy.
She turns and runs into the safety of the forest before the body is discovered or she's seen by a villager. It's when she's halfway to the clearing beyond the tree line that her body begins to seize, her four limbs locking so that her body collides with the ground. She howls out in agony, as her bones break and reset into that of a human, her form appearing more delicate and fragile. The wolf's vision goes dark, a symptom from the intense pain until finally the light filtering in from above, through the trees, shines in front of her eyes, and it's then that she realizes that her vision isn't as sharp. She peers down at her body, and as the supple curve of breasts' come into view, she raises her hands up in front of her studying the new form. She lays there naked in the field of flowers as the severity of her consequences come to pass. She has interfered in the dealings of humans, and has taken the life of one freely, forever cursing her to be trapped in human form, only being able to transform on the day of the summer solstice, and even then the process will be so grueling she would welcome death. The wolf began to weep for her loss, but it only took a moment for her to realize that the boy was now free from his own hell. She had traded her own freedom for his and it was a price she was willing to pay.
A few days later when the church bells ring, she walks to the tree line to watch him. She hasn't quite mastered the use of her legs, so she has to hold onto the tree beside her. The wolf catches the sight of his blond curls first as he walks down the Merchant quarter with his father and brothers, all of them wearing black garments. The procession stops at the field that trails along the dark forest, and she sees the boy stop, the rest of his remaining family leaving him behind as the service proceeds. He hangs his head, and she can see the way his chest heaves, but for a fleeting moment she can see the smallest of smiles grace his lips before it's gone and he's once again solemn. He then joins his family at the front of the small gathering as they stand silent through the standard prayer, tossing handfuls of dirt and flowers onto the wooden box before it is lowered into the ground. The boy stays behind as the rest of the crowd scatters, but the wolf still has her heightened sense of hearing so when the boys name escapes the mouth of his father, she exhales slowly.
She finally knows his name, and she wants to cry with joy, but it's then that she realizes that she doesn't possess one. Her mind runs through all of the names that she's heard over her centuries of life, but none seem right, but then the tuber plants that she had found at the water's edge after transforming into a human fully came to mind. She had been starving, her hunting skills greatly diminished now that she didn't have the speed she once had, her eyes caught the tiny delicate flower first before she spied the rest of the plant. She had seen it before and remembered that one of her clansmen had described it as the katniss plant. So now she too had a name… Katniss.
Katniss, as she now thought of herself, waited for the boy to come back, she watched for his golden head of curls, but as time passed she saw less and less of him from her place behind the brush. He no longer needed the safety of the woods, and by freeing him from his mother she had locked him away from her.
A/N:Thank you for reading! I don't know when I'll be able to update since I'm trying to complete my other story "The Other Hawthorne" but I'll try not to leave all you hanging. PLEASE REVIEW!