A/N So I am just gonna start this off with a warning stating that this story is gonna be an immersive study of an incredibly toxic relationship, told by the scope of Humphrey and Kate's perspective of life, love, and of each other- and more importantly, how these perceptions change with time as all perceptions do. This thing is gonna be raw, so if there are any of you out there suffering from heartbreak, or who are in fact in an abusive relationship, this may not be the right story for you- because it will likely trigger some pretty nasty emotions. If you wanna stick around and read, that's fine, too. It's your decision- I don't really care, but don't take this warning lightly is all I'm saying. Anyway, with that said, let's get this thing started, shall we?
Chapter 1: The Alpha and the Omega
I knew about Humphrey long before I ever actually knew him, which was honestly the case for most of the wolves in our little corner of Jasper. From what I understand, he kinda just... appeared somewhere just inside of our northern border- at least that's what the scouts who found him reported when they brought him to my father that night. I don't really remember much about the event, but I do vaguely recall the scouts waking my father to tell him about what they'd discovered and seeing a pup about my age lying at their paws before I found myself being swept to the back of the den by my mother. Though I didn't get a good look at him, I could tell that he was in a bad way. His fur was matted with mud and blood, he had deep gashes everywhere on his body, and if I can remember correctly, it looked as though he had a couple of broken bones. I've asked Humphrey about this night in the past, but every time I brought it up, he would change the subject... anyway...
That was the first time I ever saw Humphrey, and the last time I saw him for the better part of a month. At the time of the event, I couldn't quite understand why my mother and father were so insistent upon keeping what had happened that night a secret, but now that I'm older, I realize that, aside from looking after his best interest, they honestly had no idea what to do with him and they needed time to figure it out before the pack got wind and turned him into a park celebrity.
However, even the best laid plans of mice and men go often astray, and this was no different. For about a week, it was almost as though he never even existed at all. Nobody spoke about him and he never left Amina's den, but pretty soon afterwards, certain members of the pack began to whisper amongst themselves about the presence of a mysterious wolf pup in the healer's den and from there, the news spread like wildfire. My father tried his best to quell the gossip, but these whispers, harmless in their genesis, continued to infect every inquisitive ear, and inspire every thoughtful mind until they devolved into outlandish rumors and by the time my father finally came clean about what had happened, the pack's entire perception of him was comprised entirely of baseless conjecture.
Following his monthlong recovery, he was adopted by a couple named Jack and Mary Long, and they raised him like their own son. I didn't see much of him for the next few weeks. He hardly ever left their den, and when he did, he never spoke to anyone. This only added fuel to the fire that the rumors and conjecture had started when he first arrived, and it wasn't too much longer before he was ostracized from most pack members. Most pups our age didn't want anything to do with him, and some even went so far as to bully him. Truthfully, I thought he was weird myself, but there was a small part of me that felt sorry for him. Even though we never actually met, or said anything to each other, or had ever even been within ten feet of each other, I knew enough to know that he didn't deserve to be treated this way. However, I had my own problems to deal with, too, and at the time, I felt as though mine were just a little bit bigger than his.
After all, I was my mother and father's first born, which meant that it would one day be my responsibility to run this pack. That meant that I needed to be in top physical and mental condition, even before I was supposed to ship out to Alpha School. My priorities revolved around exercising, studying prey movement and hunts, and developing my own brand of hunting style so I could be a shining example in my future role as Alpha. So for a brief moment in time, I completely forgot that Humphrey even existed at all. That is, until I ran into him by the lake that day.
I guess you could say that the story of my life is written by the ghosts that I carry, because in some strange way, they know me better than anyone, even myself. But if I were to open up the graves that I've dug and let those bodies talk, they would slowly hollow me out until there was nothing left of me but an empty shell. So, in their stead, allow me to tell you my story, the way I see it.
Most of the days that followed my arrival have been broken up into fragments and scattered throughout semi-recurring dreams that I've long since given up on trying to piece together, and the days that remain in my waking mind often pass by with such little significance that they are quickly dismissed. In fact, if you were to ask me what I did the other day, I probably couldn't tell you anything beyond what I ate for lunch. If you asked me what my birthday is I'd tell you that your guess is as good as mine, and if you were to ask about my childhood as it pertains to my arrival here in Jasper, I'd promptly change the subject. But for whatever reason, among all of the shattered remnants of my mind, there is a memory that remains unmolested by time and the trauma that it has brought upon me. I can't recall the exact events that brought me to the lake that day, but I can say, without a sliver of doubt, that it had something, if not everything, to do with the crippling loneliness I felt every time I set foot outside of my adoptive parents' den into the ever-scrupulous eyes of the public.
It was no secret that I was different from the others, and the reasons for this spanned far beyond the obvious ones. I knew I was an outsider from the start, but what really set me apart from the rest of the wolves, especially the other pups, was the fact that, for the most part, I didn't speak. Rather, in the presence of others, I remained inside of my head and had conversations with the demons that dwelled there, because I at least knew that they could understand what I'd done. However, preferring not to spend too much time alone with my thoughts and the horrific memories over which they incessantly obsessed, I would often wander off into the wilderness, where I would find pleasant company among the lakes and the trees. I know it might sound strange, but these were probably some of the best friends I've ever known, and the conversations we would have while I was adrift in the serenity of their softly spoken spell would whisk away the darkness in my mind and lead my wayward spirit back to its center. I would tell them the secrets of my past and they would listen without judgement or prejudice, and when I was done, the breeze would carry my voice into the endless sky to join with the disappearing dreams of yesterday as they together faded into the everlasting oblivion.
However, on the days when the weight of the world was just too much for the solitary company of the wind and trees to mitigate, I would find myself alone by the crystal lake, where the gentle spring that sustained it seemed to share my pain as we together wept into the pellucid pool that would so graciously drink our woes. It was on such a day that I suddenly found myself in the presence of an angel. I was on the bank of the lake, as I often would be on days when misery consumed me, when a voice and a sudden presence to my left in the water's mirror sent me tumbling into the shallows. I scrambled for footing until finally my paws found purchase on the silty bottom and I immediately thrust my body out of the water to find a beautiful young, female pup standing before me with a look on her face that I couldn't understand. Expecting only ridicule from her, as it was all that I knew, I simply turned away from her, bitterly.
"Leave me alone," I demanded through the pangs of anger and humiliation.
However, rather than mock me, as I fully anticipated, her face melted into a look of concern.
"Are you okay?" she inquired as she extended her paw to me, "Here, let me help you."
Having never experienced a true act of kindness from any wolves outside of my home, I didn't know what to do and henceforth found myself frozen in place. I realized immediately, however, that my hesitation caused her a great deal of indignation, as her face was quick to contort itself into one of annoyance.
"Look, I'm sorry, okay?" she said tersely, "now come on. Take my paw and get out of the water before you catch a cold."
Unable to find myself capable of doing anything else, I simply extended my paw to hers, but as I saw our paws draw near, a new wave of anxiety washed over me and I tried to withdraw. However, before I could pull my paw away, she grabbed mine with hers and forcefully dragged me out of the water.
"There," she huffed as I was finally righted on dry land once more, "now, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," I replied bitterly as I shook the water from my fur and sat down before her with my eyes averted to her paws.
I remained silent for a moment and maintained my poise in hopes that she would simply lose interest or find the weight of awkwardness that my silence invited into the atmosphere to be too much to bear and dismiss herself, but in spite of my best efforts, she remained before me.
"You're that new pup, right?" she inquired quizzically, "Henry?"
"Humphrey," I replied dryly, though I refused to allow our eyes to meet.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she replied through the cracks of a chuckle, "I'm Kate."
However, I remained as I sat and did not dignify her introduction with any sort of response.
"Soooo... What are you doing out here all by yourself?" she inquired in an obvious attempt to whisk away the awkwardness that had begun to settle in around us
"I could ask you the same question," I replied bluntly, though my eyes remained fixed on her paws.
"Well, I believe I asked you first, so..."
"Look, I came out here to be alone, okay?" I replied tersely as my annoyance by her refusal to depart continued to well up inside of me, "so can you please just go?"
A silence fell in this moment as she, too lowered her eyes to her paws. I can't explain why, but when I saw her lower her eyes in such bitter defeat, I felt a twinge of guilt begin to rise in place of the annoyance that I had felt only moments ago, and I immediately opened my mouth to apologize. However, before I could make my amends, her soft voice found purchase upon my ears.
"I understand," she replied morosely.
"Y-you understand?" I inquired, quizzically.
"I see the way that the other pups treat you," she began as she lifted her eyes to me, "and it's not right..."
It was in this moment that I finally found the strength to meet her gaze with mine and as my eyes found purchase upon her stare, I immediately found myself in the face of something that I had never before experienced. Without warning, I was suddenly lost in a sea of amber from which I have not since been able to escape, captivated by its spell as it continued to draw me deeper and deeper into its soul. My heart fluttered, my face grew hot, and my restless mind seemed to be immediately placed at ease. I couldn't explain it at the time, and even now the answers as to why I felt this way elude me, but in that moment, it was like the reasons for all of my suffering had suddenly revealed themselves to me.
Truth be told, the day that Humphrey and I actually met for the first time was nothing more than happenstance. I was out in the meadows near the mouth of the valley practicing some hunting techniques and got thirsty, so I decided to go to the lake nearby to wet my tongue and that's when I saw him down by the lake. A part of me wanted to simply turn my direction to the rear and beat a hasty retreat, because I could only imagine how awkward the conversation would be if I actually tried to give him any of my time, but something about his demeanor held me in place and refused to let me leave him alone. I couldn't quite put my paw on it at first, because from the distance at which I had identified him, I could only see his back, but as I drew closer to him I quickly realized that he was crying. Ordinarily empathy, sympathy, and honestly any sort of ability to care about anybody else's emotions were qualities that eluded me, but given Humphrey's history with the pack, the pity that I felt for him drove me to introduce myself.
Now, I will say, the first time that Humphrey and I met, he was a lot more... harsh than I had originally anticipated, but given the way he was treated by the others it honestly didn't come as a surprise to me. Normally I would not give any of my time to such rude behavior, but given everything that I knew about him, I was willing to be patient. After all, his only experience with the rest of the pack was a fury of unrelenting cruelty and scorn, so it was only fair to assume that he had deep underlying trust issues and put up such an abrasive front as a defense mechanism to protect himself from getting hurt.
So, regardless of his obvious attempts to push me away, I continued to chisel away at his defenses until finally a crack appeared and we made eye contact. I can't quite remember the words I said in order to open him up, but the second our eyes met, there was an obvious change in his demeanor and I saw a light inside of him the likes of which I had never seen before. I remember quite clearly how he looked at me in this moment. As strange as it sounds, he gazed upon me in a fashion that almost made it feel as though we had known each other for our entire lives, and though this did make me a little bit uncomfortable there was also a pleasant allure beneath it that encouraged me to stick around and see where this would all eventually lead.
And I have no idea how it happened, but the next thing I knew, the two of us were lost in conversation. It was nothing too deep, because I could sense an immediate discomfort in him any time I would ask him anything personal, but the fact that I had gone from never even hearing this pup speak to suddenly having a full-blown conversation with him was so surreal to me and before either of us knew what was happening, we were playing together. It was awkward at first, because it was quite clear that Humphrey had no idea how to play with somebody his own age, but before too long we found ourselves playing like we had been friends forever.
One thing that I noticed about him immediately during our folly, which actually came as a huge surprise to me, was just how strong he was. He was so small, so meek, and so timid, but in spite of this, I found it incredibly difficult to knock him off of his paws or escape his grasp when he would get a hold of me. This led me to always assume that he would become an alpha just like me, but he never seemed to develop the kind of mindset required to be an alpha. He had no goals or ambitions, or any real interest in hunting, which made the beginning of our relationship extremely tedious. I know it sounds selfish, and maybe it is, but ordinarily I liked to only affiliate myself with like-minded individuals, so having him around got a tad annoying at times, but I knew I couldn't simply abandon him. With me and through me, he had made such great strides toward being an accepted member of the pack, and I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that. So in spite of my own distaste for what his personality lacked, I elected to remain by his side as his handler.
However, as the two of us continued to hang out together and we got to know each other better, I realized that he was so much more than what I had originally given him credit for. While he was an omega at heart, and that mentality was one that typically drove me nuts, I quickly realized that I wouldn't have it any other way. Once I let down my own defenses, I soon discovered that underneath the aloof, distrustful omega, was a poet, so genuine, so pure and so kind in spite of everything that the others had put him through. And where I initially assumed bitterness and spite lied, there was only loneliness and the desire to be loved and accepted by those who so cruelly shunned him. I can't explain why I personalized his problems to such a great extent, but I guess the level of pity I felt for him, and the hopes that he might one day trust me enough to tell me exactly why I knew I should pity him so, drove me to help him in any way that I could. It felt incredible, being able to help my friend so much at the time, but looking back at it now, I realize that what seemed like a harmless act of kindness was actually my greatest mistake...
-Well guys, it seems as though this universe has somehow drawn me back to it. I can't explain why I can't seem to put this down and leave it behind, but I guess it's an old habit that I just can't kick. Anyway, I truly hope that you guys enjoyed this and I would love to hear what you think about it. This is a new style of narrative that I'm experimenting with, and the theme of this story is one that I've never really explored, so any feedback would be greatly appreciated! As always, I hope you enjoy the remainder of your day.