“You’ve really only done this once before?” Lyla asked.
The grass was buried beneath a fresh powdering of snow. Their footsteps were virginal in the still night air.
“No,” John whispered shyly, letting her lead the way, deeper into the wood, where the snow had been caught by the tree canopy high above them, leaving only a thin dusting of white particles on the loamy ground. He fidgeted nervously, picking at the hem of his wool tunic.
“Don’t worry,” Lyla said, “all the village is asleep waiting for Jólnir to bring them hops and wooden trinkets.”
“And your family?” John asked.
“They are like me. Like us,” she said, stopping and facing John. “Both born under Fenrir’s watch. My father takes mother to the North peaks and they turn together.”
“Must be nice,” John said numbly, “to have someone to share this with.”
Lyla began to take off her thin top, the cold night air rushing against her skin until her fine skin looked like a freshly plucked goose. John felt his breath catch in his throat and let it exhale, the rush of moist air condensing and hiding his reddening cheeks.
Lyla giggled playfully and approached him. They were both of age. Both expected to find partners within the village and start a family. It had been bad luck John had been caught out late after harvest. It was fortune Lyla had seen the signs, the agitation as the full moon approached and John retreated from the other villagers.
“I promise you,” she said, holding out a hand, “it’ll be different this time.”
“It hurts. So much,” John said, hating how pathetic his voice sounded. “I don’t know if I can take it again.”
“I’ve heard the first time is difficult.”
“You don’t remember?”
“I was a baby. This is all I’ve ever known.”
The moon burst forth between the canopy above them and John found his breath catching once more, the hand holding his own suddenly engorged, the claws digging into his skin as Lyla’s eyes grew pupils of pure gold.
He could feel his own flesh burning. Erupting. He tugged at his tunic, felt the material tear as his own nails extended, digging into the fabric and flesh. He collapsed to his knees and screamed. Lyla was there instantly, nuzzling her snout against his chin.
He looked into her eyes until all he saw was himself in the reflection. The cold night air was forced away as his skin grew fur long and dark. The slippery snow caught traction as the pads of his feet grew wider and wider. But still he held her vision.
She howled, deep and long and powerfully, to the moon and he joined her, feeling the rush of a thousand generations of wolf burn through his belly and burst through fanged jaws into the night. And then she licked him.
He stopped, stunned and saw the human grin flicker across her snout before she took off, into the yule-time night.
She had given him the greatest present that festive period. The gift of friendship and freedom.
Prompt originally posted by GalacticProfessor on reddit and received 4 upvotes.