It was the perfect time to start classes. The moon was waning, his bones were shifting back into place, and his urges were dying down. The Fall semester had actually begun a week prior, but the stress and his condition would have been a horrible combination--making a late admittance ideal. Honestly, this school had been a godsend--far enough from home to feel like an escape but with enough resources so that he could properly adjust.
There were enough early classes and night ones to take around his stages, and enough long walkways and ramps that he could navigate with his forearm crutches. He had to rely on them for a week each month, or longer depending on the pain.
At the request of his family, he checked in with the school's support group. It would be smaller than back home but he was sure having some sort of network would come in handy. After all, he was going to be stuck at this campus for another four years.
He limped his way to the Grimwald building, across the large green lawn of activities and meetups. Leaves and earth crunched under his sneakers and a thousand smells wafted through his nostrils, but he kept his focus. His teeth poked into his bottom lip. Annoying, but he was used to it by now. He pushed the heavy wooden door open, and it creaked as he stepped inside. The tile floor had a layer of dust, the lighting was dim, as if the bulbs weren't getting enough power. He took off his shades, hooking them into his knit cap. Low lighting was good. He always got looks for wearing his shades on sunless days. People either thought he was blind or putting on some kind of 'cool guy' persona. Both were assumptions he tried to roll with.
Compared to the other buildings this one was eerily quiet and much older. There was a weird smell in the air, possibly chemical, like the rot of an old science lab. He wondered if any classes were actually held in the building. He found the door he had been looking for, 112, slightly ajar.
"Is this the Lycan..." His eyes scanned the room quickly. Inside there were four people seated in a semicircle. In front of them was a desk occupied by an intimidating, hairy, pale individual. They all looked back at Hunter, and a familiar jolt ran down his spine.
There was a large calendar with the phases of the moon on one wall, a stack of pamphlets on back and nerve pain atop a small bookshelf. The same bookshelf contained books with such lovely topics such as Pack Dynamics in Modern Society, Managing Phantom Limb Pain, and the biggest tip-off title: Lycanthropy and me. "Got it. Nevermind." He put his crutches aside took his seat in the only vacant chair, next to a girl with fake wolf ears on her head adorned with multiple piercings.
"This should be everyone." The pale man said. "You may have sensed others on campus." He took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment."They are not new, so their presence at this meeting was not required." He gathered several of his long, blond dreads and set them over his back. "My name is Jermaine Garou. I act as Lycanthrope counselor. As for my official position, I am an English professor here. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any problems adjusting." Despite his words, his gaze was steely and his tone was cold. Hunter wondered if it was a predatory thing. He had heard that happened when a Lycanthrope from another area appeared.
Professor Garou pushed several pamphlets forward. "This is a compilation of advice and information left behind by previous students. Also, this." He produced several blue whistles from a box. "Blow this in an emergency. Unexpected phase changing, especially. I expect that you have your own binding materials, but we do have a small budget in case you need quick entrapment. We want to avoid any dangerous situations. Everyone's shift is different."
Hunter couldn't agree more. Between the four students gathered two appeared completely unfazed, one had a cane, and one was trying not to drool. His time of complete normalcy would come next week, definitely not last long enough, and end with the half-moon.
"Take a good look at the individuals in this room. They will be your allies--your network. There is no better support than your own kin. While you may be of different breeds, you are still in the same situation. Now, let us take a moment for short introductions. Just your name, associated pack, and field of study." His eyes fell on the boy sitting furthest from Hunter. "You first."
The first student was a tall, African-American teenager. A crescent shape was shaved into the right side of his haircut. "Malcolm Dupereon. Transfer student." His right leg bounced up and down. "I'm from the Waker Posse in Georgia...I'm studying Engineering." He gave Garou a nervous glance.
The professor gave something close to a smile and nodded. His eyes fell on the next student, a heavy-set young man of Mexican descent with a pudgy face. The young man appeared immensely bored. "Uh hi, my name is Tomas Martinez. I'm studying Graphic Design and Oh, I'm from the Albuquerque pack."
The next student, a girl, scratched at her arm."Serena Song. Massachusetts alliance. English Literature." She seemed less than thrilled to be there, her nose wrinkled and a glare in place. The girl with fake wolf ears was next. She seemed perky and her bell collar jingled when she spoke. "Ashley Smith from the Texas Reds. I'm studyin' Nursin' but my minor is Animation. I'm not sure if I'll switch yet."
When eyes fell on him, Hunter resisted the urge to slip down in his seat. His hormones were a bit of a mess, but he reminded his biological urges that these people weren't enemies and did his best to keep still.
"I'm Hunter Reeds, S- Sisss...Syracuse pack...S-Studying...Education...?" His tone reflected his confusion as even he wasn't sure what he wanted to do yet.
"I suggest you exchange contact information." Professor Garou advised. "As for myself, I am available for council during my extra office hours, 6:15-7:45 in this building, Monday through Friday. I can also be reached via university email. Do not use your personal e-mail, it will be recognized as spam." His eyes trailed over them. "Are there any questions?"
Ashley raised her hand. "Do we have any club activities? Bake sales? Howl-offs?"
"In the past the Lycanthrope students here would gather for a camp retreat over Winter break," Garou said, exposing his teeth before setting them back. "However due to several incidents, those trips were canceled. Howling is also not permitted on school grounds. It leads to law enforcement tracking down wolves in the area. To avoid any hunting of our brethren, I ask that you stifle yourselves. Be mindful of the fact that you are not at home. You must be aware of your surroundings at all times, and your shifting must remain discreet. This school will not shield you from harm. This is not a place for your...Bake sales." He repeated the words with a hint of venom. "This is your support group, not a social club."
"Aw." Ashley and Tom both looked somewhat disappointed but Serena was incredibly relieved. Hunter exchanged glances with Malcolm, who shrugged.
After an awkward exchange of phone numbers, Hunter hobbled back out of the building and put his shades back on. His eyes were sensitive to sunlight, another deficiency he held. Luckily for him, Fall was almost in full swing and cloudy days were ahead.
Redwood University's campus sprawled out around him, acres of grass, buildings of old and new designs, cement and cobblestone paths, and tall oak trees.
The campus was bustling with life and Hunter had no choice but to shuffle along with it, ignoring the throbbing in his legs. The occasional jolt made him freeze on the spot and gum up the foot traffic around him.
He took shelter from the sun and bustle in the school library, a three-floor annex full of books, school artifacts, and other media. Libraries were a frequent refuge for him as they were quiet, book-filled, and always had seats.
The first floor had stained glass windows, remnants of the building's former life as a church. The pews and the clergy were long gone, but the atmosphere was still there and students often reported seeing the ghost of a pastor wandering between the bookshelves.
Hunter sank into a seat at one of the many long wooden tables, put his crutches aside, and put his headphones on. He dozed off for a few minutes, to recuperate his strength. It had not been long since the last moon. His mind was much clearer, but his body was still worn out.
With some energy restored he awoke a few moments later. Hunter opened his eyes and stretched, yawning a little too loudly. He quickly looked around. No one was looking his way but his face burned with embarrassment. He grabbed hold of his crutches and slipped into a corner.
Ever since he had arrived on campus, he felt as if someone's eyes were constantly watching him. Often when was in public spaces, someone looked at him pity, perhaps moved by the sight of him hobbling on crutches. Often he was asked if he had been in an accident, and prayers or well wishes were sent his way, but he never alluded to the truth. What could he say? Oh, don't worry about it, just that darn Lycanthropy acting up again.
He adjusted his headphones and started a song to distract himself. It was too early in the day for self-pity. At this rate, he would be crying in an hour. It was the wolf edging him on, the moon still heightening his emotions.
While alone in the anthropology section, the smallest and tightest squeeze between two rows, Hunter was startled when something rubbed against his butt. He yanked his headphones off and whipped around.
There was a young man behind him trying to squeeze past. He looked to be around the same age, late-teen to twenty-something-or-other. the stranger blinked down at him in surprise.
With Hunter facing him they were almost groin to groin, and stomach to chest. Admittedly Hunter wasn't very tall...
The guy was slim but built, suggesting a background in sports. He was of Asian descent with brown, almond-shaped eyes and jet black hair, kept neatly spiked. The stranger's aftershave, sweat, and toothpaste hit Hunter at once. It was a strange combination of smells, with something salty underneath. Hunter blinked at him, well up at him. The guy was easy on the eyes, to say the least.
"It'sss alright." Hunter's speech was slurred. "It's a pretty good surprise."
That definitely sounded like a come-on.
But in the time it took to process it, Hunter knew he couldn't take it back.
The stranger's eyebrows shot up so fast, Hunter thought they'd disappear.
His face grew hot. He could only blame his actions on the lupine side of the brain. The moon was still waning and his mind was currently closer to wolf than guy. And that meant making his interest in any person known, whether he wanted to or not. The fact he had just run into several of his kind didn't help.
"Really?" An amused smile. Not what he had expected.
"Yeeeaah...?" The word was dragged out as he attempted to go with the flow of conversation.
A chuckle ebbed out from the stranger. Chuckles were good, right?
"I suppose from where I'm standing..." His voice lowered an octave. "I could say the same."
His bass tone hit Hunter like a ton of bricks. Was he flirting? Were they flirting? In a corner? In a library? What?
"I'm Grayson Lee."
"Hunter." Came the quick reply, coupled with nervous laughter. He was sure that this guy now thought he was a psychopath.
Grayson didn't think that at all. "Are you new too or--"
"Just started today." He clenched his teeth to keep control. There was a flood of inappropriate comments filling his mind and self-perseverance was the only thing keeping them at bay. He moved away from Grayson, his crutches clinking against the bookcase behind him.
"Oh, late transfer?"
"Something like that..."
As his teeth were clenched, his canines were cutting into his mouth. Now that he was away from home he could have them filed down. "So, what brings you to...Anthropology?"
Grayson smirked. "A textbook hunt. My professor said I could use an old edition instead of buying one." The look in his eyes changed. "Are those--"
Hunter stared at him, unabashedly as the wolf side memorized as much as possible. There were so many things he could do now that he was away from the pack--
"--Your real teeth?"
The comment came like a smack in the face. It wasn't the first time he had heard it, but it stunned him nonetheless. "Y-Yeah u-um..." While part of him decided it wasn't a big deal, another part decided that was the perfect time to cry. His vision warped.
"I...I'm gonna--" He began to quickly shuffle back out of the tight space. "J-Just go, so..."
Grayson's face fell. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it."
Hunter continued his quick retreat. He looked back for a split second and ignored the stinging in his joints he received from moving too fast. "Nope. no big deal!" His voice echoed in the mostly quiet library and he shuddered at the several 'shh's' that seemed to come from nowhere. He thought he heard Grayson say something else, but he continued on.