For as long as Samson could remember, two deep scars marred his face, leaving him with only one eye and no chance at a favorable first impression.
It was the first thing anyone saw: that he was a mangled mess. It didn't matter that he wouldn't hurt a fly, that his academic record was impeccable, or that his mother beamed with pride every time she spoke of him.
None of that meant anything to his fellow students. They either feared him, or saw a rare opportunity to poke a bear who wouldn't fight back.
He had hoped that as the years passed, the torment would lessen. But it seemed today wasn't that day.
"Come on!" Ray draped his arm on Samson's desk, a practiced whine in his voice that rang through the early morning silence. "Just show me the grizzly for one second. Then I'll quit bugging you, I swear."
Samson stayed silent, his one-eyed gaze straying to the window beside him. It gave a bleak display of the paved sterile schoolyard below, but it was still a better view than Ray's smirking face.
Over time, Samson had mastered the art of waiting out his bullies until they either grew bored or were interrupted by an adult. But today, it didn't seem like he'd be so lucky.
Ray motioned at the empty classroom, pressing on. "Look, it's early. Nobody's around. It's just us two. What's the big deal?"
Samson tried to remain unmoved by Ray's provocation, but it didn't seem to matter. He sensed Ray's pulse kick up a notch, a telltale sign that things were about to escalate.
Just then, the sound of the classroom door creaking open diverted his attention, offering a brief reprieve. The teacher for this class was notorious for running later than the students, but who else could it be?
As the door fully opened, an unfamiliar kid stepped in, evaporating any hope Samson had of intervention. Still, he quickly forgot his disappointment as intrigue set in instead.
The young newcomer, so slight in size and with a large backpack that seemed ready to topple him over, made Samson wonder if he might've wandered in from the wrong grade. But a second glance suggested something different.
Despite his small stature, he had an edge—punk vibes not too common around here. A band shirt hung off his lean frame, and his wavy hair, black as midnight, was sheared at the sides, leaving the rest long. High cheekbones and heavy-lidded eyes suggested an uncommon ancestry. Half-Asian maybe.
The newcomer barely glanced their way, engrossed in his own world, heavy headphones muffling the surroundings. It was blaring something loud enough that Samson could hear it from his desk in the back. Drums and screaming. Maybe that was music to some people.
Disregarding both Ray and Samson, the kid slid into a front seat and produced a worn detective novel, unfazed by the blaring tunes as he immediately became engrossed in its pages.
Ray shifted next to Samson, his eyes weighing the newcomer with the discerning gaze of a predator choosing its next target. And for the first time, Samson wished the attention would stay on him.
The new kid seemed to sense the stares. He looked back, locking eyes with Ray.
Ray shot up. "What? You got a problem?"
The newbie regarded him for a moment longer, then mumbled in a drawl that sounded more Deep South than Californian, "I didn't say nothin'." With that, he turned back around.
Ray gave a derisive snort, hesitating a moment longer before turning back to Samson. "So, where were we?" he started, before snapping his fingers. "Oh, right! The grizzly. Well? Let's see it already."
Samson met Ray's gaze, his voice low and steady as he finally spoke, "Sorry, but I'd rather not."
With a theatrical sigh, Ray leaned in, his breath brushing against Samson's ear. "Don't got any bite in you, huh? It really makes one wonder..." He leaned back again, wearing a smirk that was as wide as it was smug. "Yeah, there's no way a pussy like you could be Wilder's son."
Samson remained a silent fortress, though his jaw tightened.
Encouraged, Ray pressed further. "Uh huh, I bet you'd just sit there and take it, even if I started wailing on you—"
A sharp "Hey!" sliced through the room.
The newcomer, now free of his headphones, was standing, and his glare was directed right at Ray.
The room stood still for a heartbeat as uncertainty gripped Samson.
Was the kid merely irked by their noise, or was he actually defending him? Samson couldn't be sure.
Ray, equally taken aback, demanded, "Excuse me? What was that?"
The new kid's voice only grew louder, more challenging. "You heard me. Take a hint already. He don't wanna show you."
Ray straightened instantly, his eyes sparkling with a disturbing mix of delight and malice. Samson knew that wasn't good; this was exactly the confrontation Ray had been craving.
Ray took a moment to size up the kid, clearly trying to gauge the best angle of attack. Then his grin suddenly dropped, and surprise washed over his face as his nostrils flared. "Wait a second," Ray said, leaning forward. "Is that...? No way..."
The newcomer stood his ground, an anticipatory silence falling over him.
Samson was left in a state of confusion.
Ray jabbed Samson's arm, and his voice held a strange camaraderie, as if they were in on a secret joke. "Dude, check it out! It's an omega."
It all finally clicked for Samson. The slight frame, the delicate features that even the punk-style couldn't conceal entirely...
The new kid wasn't a misplaced student; he was a misplaced designation. He didn't belong at this school at all.
"Holy shit," Ray laughed, slinging an arm across Samson's shoulders as if they were suddenly long-time buddies. "I heard it can happen to boys sometimes, but I never thought I'd actually see one in person." His eyes widened dramatically as he turned to Samson. "Hey! That means you aren't the biggest freak in school anymore. That must be a huge relief, huh?"
Then, just as suddenly, Ray disengaged, turning fully toward the new kid and leaving Samson behind like a discarded plaything.
"So, how about that?" Ray began as he made his approach. "An omega, thinking he can boss me around?"
The new kid merely smirked and shrugged. "Well, I was asking nicely. But I could just kick your ass instead."
Ray laughed giddily, his hands clenching into solid fists. "Oh, this is gonna be fun."
Samson watched, frozen, as the two moved toward one another. Although Ray was a beta, his imposing size and the mountain lion within him weren't to be underestimated. In comparison, the new kid's beast gave off a smaller, unfamiliar aura. Samson was usually good at sensing the beasts of others, but he couldn't pin this one down. Maybe a rodent of some kind. Definitely not something that could contend with a mountain lion, if the fight progressed to that.
As the two squared off, the new kid's stance hinted at experience, light on his feet, one hand poised to block, the other ready to deliver a blow. Ray, on the other hand, simply cocked back one fist, prepared to overwhelm his smaller opponent.
The new kid made the first move—a swift jab toward Ray's chin. It connected, but with negligible effect. Ray retaliated immediately, sending a bone-jarring punch into the new kid's face, the impact strong enough to send him flying back. The fight was over just like that.
As the new kid crumpled onto the blood-splattered tiles, Samson found himself standing.
Oblivious, Ray cackled, a triumphant gleam in his eyes. "Wow! That was it?" He spread his arms wide, playing to an imaginary audience as the new kid struggled to his elbows. "Man, you can't fight worth a damn! What's your problem, trying to scrap with me? You got a death wish or what?"
With a bloody grin, the new kid focused his gaze past Ray, meeting Samson's eyes. "Me? A death wish?"
Ray tilted his head, unaware of the beast behind him.
The new kid continued, his voice dripping with provocation, "You're the one messin' with a grizzly, dumbass."
Ray finally whipped around, a sharp intake of breath echoing through the room as he took in the sight of Samson's transformation.
The grizzly had emerged unbidden, commanding attention in its fearsome majesty, and with a wild toss of his head, Samson let out a resonating roar that shook the windows.