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Chapter 2: Gunpowder

Early morning light flitted through the gaps in the curtains. Enjoying the warmth of her bed, a girl with long, dark hair cocooned herself further in the thick blankets. She drifted back to sleep, a dream of what had occurred the previous day replaying in her head. The curtains were yanked open, allowing the full force of the sun to attack the girl's eyes.

"Come on Daniela, you can't laze about all day." A large woman in her mid 40's said as she wandered about the room, neatening the area. Daniela stretched and yawned.

"Yes Cara." She responded to her family's domestic worker who Daniela considered to be her second mother. Cara looked at the papers on Daniela's desk as Daniela got ready for the day.

"This is a pretty one, but why have you only coloured the eyes?" Cara asked, gesturing to Daniela's newest drawing. Daniela blushed slightly in embarrassment.

"It's the only colour I could remember properly."

"It's a real person? Handsome, isn't he?" Cara tilted her head to the side. "But if that's true... then he's a Shifter."

"Yes, probably." A thought appeared in Daniela's mind when she replied. She furrowed her eyebrows as she considered it. "I lost my gloves at the park yesterday. I'm going to go look for them, okay?"

"Alright, but remember to have some breakfast." Cara responded. Daniela nodded before leaving.

Daniela looked around the park she was at the previous day. She searched behind the large tree that she had drawn, inside the jungle-gym, and around the benches. Not a single trace of her savior. She retraced her steps. 'If I remember correctly... he went that way.' She walked towards the direction she hoped was the correct one.

Inside a dumpster of a secluded alleyway slept a Shifter. He had managed to find a relatively empty one before the snow began to fall more heavily. The Shifter was blissfully unaware of morning arriving, or the humans that were looking for him.

Daniela had been walking for close to an hour, not finding anything. She noted that she was entering the less pleasant suburbs of the city. Garbage was carelessly thrown onto the street and into gutters; there was a faint, rancid smell that got stronger with each step taken. Daniela was close to giving up her search when something unknown urged her onward.

The Shifter was awoken suddenly when the side of the dumpster he slept in was kicked. The surprise caused him to stand suddenly, hitting his head on the roof. He let out a groan and rubbed the sore spot on his head. Light flooded in as the dumpster was opened and a muscled hand grabbed the Shifter by the shirt, pulling him out. The Shifter yelled in pain as he was thrown at a nearby wall. He tried to get away; his thoughts still blurry from just waking up; but he was grabbed and pinned against the wall. The Shifter looked at who his assailant was. The man in front of him, as well as the two standing nearby, where none other than the humans from his encounter the day before.

"Looks like we found him." One of the men stated.

The Shifter grinned in response. "Looks like you're right." He said before aiming a kick at the attacker's crotch. The grip on him weakened as his foot made contact, but the Shifter was outnumbered and outmatched.

Daniela was distracted in her search by sounds coming from an alleyway. Her curiosity spurred her on to take a closer look. As she got closer, the sounds were quickly recognizable as a fight. Daniela shuffled as quietly as she could and peered around the edge of the wall. She instantly realized three of them were those who attacked her the day before. As they moved, she spotted who their new target was. The stranger who had saved her. Something in her brain snapped. Rage boiled over.
"Stop it!" A voice yelled. The three attackers looked at her. Daniela put her hand over her mouth, realizing that it was her voice. 'Shit.'The men smirked as they saw who had appeared. They gave one more kick to the Shifter before walking over to her. "Well, well, would you look at that? Are you here to save your precious Shifter?" One of the men said, mocking her. The Shifter coughed violently. He looked up to see the girl who he had helped. The one who had thanked him by giving him those gloves. He attempted to get to his feet, using the wall for support and clutching his stomach. "Hey! Get out of here! They're after me, not you!" He yelled only to be quickly silenced by another swift, brutal kick to his side. Daniela looked around frantically and began backing away. She watched her savior receive another painful blow. She straightened her back and took a deep breath."There is no need to do this. Please stop." She surprised herself at how little her voice wavered. A grin that she was all too familiar with spread across the attacker's face. How she loathed that expression. She hated the face that wore it, but she also feared it. Daniela swallowed hard, trying to keep tears back. The men stalked closer to her. 'You know, this was a really bad idea. You're a chick, they're violent guys, and you're in an alleyway. Not smart, Daniela. Not smart.' She chided herself mentally. Her eyes flitted between the attackers before falling on the stranger. She saw his eyes again. Definitely a Shifter. An idea came to her, but she didn't know if it would work. The more she thought about it, the less she wanted to go through with it. As the attackers came closer, all doubts were shoved aside. Daniela locked onto the Shifter's eyes, forcing him to keep contact with hers. "Please." She put her hand out towards him, hoping he would understand the gesture before the assailants did. The Shifter looked at the girl in disbelief. Did she seriously think he would agree to what she was suggesting? The desperation in her gaze unnerved him. A little voice niggled at the back of his head. The girl had stood up for him, and she had given him those gloves even though he hadn't asked for anything. The Shifter let out a quiet sigh. He forced his weak legs to sprint forward, between the men, and to the girl. He took the girl's outstretched hand. A faint red light surrounded his body as he changed into his other form. A black shotgun landed in Daniela's hands. She staggered slightly under the sudden weight. She looked over the weapon that now lay in her hands. It was battered and damaged, as if to mirror the injuries the Shifter had received in his human form. The attackers around her looked surprised. There was the slightest trace of fear in their features. Daniela looked between them and the gun. She held it up, hoping it was the correct way. Having never dealt with firearms before, it was all guesswork and working from what she had seen on television. 'I think it's one of the ones you pull back to load.' She thought, glancing down at the gun once again. 'Pull the grip thing and hope it makes a noise.' Doing exactly that, she heard a satisfying click. She aimed the barrel of the gun at the leader of the attackers. The one who had ridiculed her, physically abused her, and was a downright bastard. A sudden calm washed over Daniela. Her head was clear of any unnecessary thoughts."Leave now or I'll shoot." She stated. The man narrowed his eyes. "You wouldn't dare." He responded with a smirk. That goddamn smirk! "You're just-"BANGThe sound bounced off the walls as the bullet exited the barrel and flew towards its target. The recoil was not something Daniela had anticipated, causing her to stumble and fall on her backside.
The Shifter felt weird. He had never changed into his other form for a human before. Never been held by a human. It was instantly obvious that the girl had no clue how to use a gun. If he was in his normal form, he would be rolling his eyes. 'Just point me at him so I can pull the trigger.' He thought. When the girl managed to aim, the Shifter decided to pause in case they ran. When it was apparent that they wouldn't, the Shifter fired. He felt himself fall backwards as the girl couldn't handle the recoil. 'Come on, you fall back from that little force? It's not I used a slug or something!' He thought to himself. He saw the other guys bolt, not wanting to join their leader. When they were out of sight, the Shifter changed back to his normal form.
Daniela sat frozen to the spot. Her eyes were open she but refused to believe what they saw. Lying on the ground, mere feet away from her, was the man who had bullied her. Limp and lifeless. Blood staining the snow crimson. A little of the blood had splattered onto Daniela's hands. She stared at them intently, unable to move her gaze from the tiny red spots on her pale skin. 'I killed someone. I took the life away from them.' The words played on repeat inside her skull. Tears began to flow without her even realizing. "It's my fault." She muttered to herself, her hands becoming blurred as tears hindered her vision. The Shifter looked at the body before limping over to the wall to sit down. He could feel the multiple bruises forming and had to keep an arm around his stomach to ease the pain somewhat. He looked over to the girl who was now crying. "You're wrong." He stated, wincing slightly. "I pulled the trigger. Didn't think you could do it." The pain from just speaking was close to unbearable. The voice broke Daniela out of her thoughts. She looked up from her hands and to the Shifter across from her. "I didn't?" She breathed. Part of her was joyous about the new information, another part reminded her that she still aimed the gun. Even if she hadn't directly killed, she aided it a lot. She tried to block out the depressing thoughts as she noticed the state of her savior. She could see fresh bruises forming and his hand protectively clutching his stomach. 'He's injured, help him.' Daniela stood up on shaky legs. She wobbled over to the Shifter, offering him a hand up. "Um, you're hurt." She held back a wince at her stupidity for stating the obvious. She simply didn't know how else to say that she wanted to help. The Shifter looked up at the girl. "Really? What gave you that impression?" He asked sarcastically. With breathing being so painful, he had probably broken a rib or two. He pushed the hand away and attempted to get up on his own. "I'm fine. I just need... just need to... walk it off." He ground out through the pain as he tried to stand. Daniela looked at the floor, trying to hide her embarrassment. "We have some things that could help at my house." She offered in her quiet tone, still not looking up. She knew anyone in the state that the Shifter was in wouldn't be able to just "walk it off". Even if he was a Shifter, an injury was an injury. Her father being who he was had taught her that. The Shifter continued his attempts to stand on his own. He hated being pitied; it made him feel weak. "I said... I'm fine." He said as he finally straightened himself. He leaned on the dumpster next to him and tried to take deep breaths. Moving his arm away from his stomach, he saw blood seeping through his shirt. Seeing the dark red stain on his clothing, the Shifter's reply irritated Daniela. She was truly worried for the man and wanted to help him to try repay the kindness he had shown her. "Fine, but don't leave here." She demanded, surprising herself in the process. If he wouldn't make things easy and go with her, she would have to bring supplies to him. She looked at him again. 'I'll bring some food as well.' She decided with a nod. She then turned on her heel and left. The Shifter watched as the girl left the alley. Unable to stand any longer, he sat and breathed slowly. He was regretting his decision slightly - he had let his pride get in the way of logic - but he was in too much pain to move anyway. After all the events that had just taken place, he felt tired. "Maybe some sleep will help." He closed his eyes and slumber quickly claimed him.
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