‘Shit!’ I cursed under my breath, taking the stairs two at a time, swinging myself recklessly around the end of the bannister. ‘Shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT!’ tugging on a frayed, light wash, denim jacket and forcing on a pair of white, canvas shoes, I hopped on one foot struggling to tie the laces.
‘Language Koa!’ A smirk flashed across my brother’s face. He was leaning, cross armed, against the wall near the front door. Glancing at an imaginary watch on his wrist as he tutted theatrically.
'You dragged me and two other warriors all the way up here just to be late on your very first day?’ He wore a look of false indignation.
A small growl of irritation resonated in my chest. ‘It’s fine! We’ll just have to run instead of taking the bus with the rest of them.’ I stopped fighting with the shoes for a second and looked at Kahno properly for a moment. 'Why on earth are you shirtless? Did you go to any of the Assimilation Orientation sessions at all?’
Kahno snorted, ‘I went. I just don’t agree. Were males never wear shirts when we’re at home so why would I here?’
‘Maybe so the humans don’t instantly clock you and freak out?’ I said incredulously.
'Koa, the humans know that Weres are being offered places at the university this year, they built this entire hall of residence for us. Plus, you’re forgetting the ‘minor’ physical differences between us and them that may blow our cover.’ He said sarcastically, holding his fingers up to form air quotes around the word ‘minor’.
He was right though. As much as I had so desperately wanted to be here and fit in with the humans the truth is that we looked very different from them. It had been one of the main barriers to true integration between our populations when we came out of hiding. They’d known about us for nearly 100 years now. When the Alphas had first agreed that human technology was becoming a real threat and that it would be best to reveal ourselves en masse or else, risk capture and experimentation. Even though three or four generations had now grown up knowing about us, they still feared us, or judged us, or generally just mistrusted us.
We looked basically the same, in human form…from a distance. We’re taller, I personally am about 6 foot, Kahno is probably about 6”9. Pretty average for Weres, but tall for humans. We’re all pretty tanned, most of us have very dark brown or black hair too. All Weres have golden yellow eyes as well, a by-product of our impressive night vision. Given the physical demands of the shift and the inherent requirements of our increased speed and agility, we all have very lean and muscular physiques as well.
To be honest, I’d not thought about it in too much detail before. I’d never even seen a human up close in person. The packs in the UK although ‘technically’ integrated, tend to mostly keep to themselves, crossing paths with humans only when necessary. However, the government had passed a law last year classifying us as a 'protected class for the purposes of discrimination prevention'.
After this there came multiple initiatives reaching out to us with the aim of including us in their society, in their schools, universities and workplaces. Though I must admit, it did seem at first that their main aim was to recruit Weres into the Armed Forces, which, I guess makes sense.
Regardless, here I was at the age of 18 about to attend a human university with my three very irritating babysitters who were not even trying to assimilate themselves. Suddenly I was reminded, ‘Kahno, where are the other two idiots?’
Kahno scowled, ’The warriors are outside waiting for us.’
They were technically pack warriors I guessed. Teo and Rhett were Kahno’s closest friends sent along with him by my father, the Beta of our pack, to accompany me to university. Presumably to protect me from pitchfork wielding locals as we were deliberately nowhere near any pack territory.
‘Let’s go then, it should only take a few minutes if we run.’ The campus was about 2 miles away, about a 5-minute run for a Were.
’Oh yeah, because that’s way less conspicuous than being shirtless! Sprinting through the town ten times faster than they can move.’ He drawled mockingly.
I just scowled, threw my brown leather backpack over my shoulder and started running out the door. The humans wanted integration, so it wasn’t like we were going to get stopped for speeding or something I snorted internally. Teo and Rhett looked up disinterestedly and fell into place behind me running down the long drive towards the main road in the direction of the campus. I noted with a tinge of annoyance that they too were topless, wearing only faded jeans that skimmed their hip bones, running barefoot across the gravel.
I doubted it was a mere coincidence that the purpose-built hall specifically and exclusively for Weres was set way back from the road on the edge of a copse and surrounded by 10 foot chain link and barbed wire fencing rather than in the middle of the city with the rest of the students.
We ran at a reasonable pace, emerging onto a leafy avenue lined with tall, yellow-brick townhouses within seconds. The traffic thrummed in both directions and people paced the pavements industriously. We weaved through the humans with ease, I laughed as I saw the expression of utter bemusement on the face of a small, mousy woman as Teo jumped her Yorkshire Terrier with impressive nonchalance.
As we rounded a corner and entered the more densely populated area immediately surrounding the university campus, we slowed our pace. I was momentarily glad of this as I had somewhat hoped to slip into the large Freshers Fayre tent unnoticed, or at least unremarked upon. However, the impossibility of this quickly became apparent when I realised just how starkly different we were from the humans around us when we were up close. I bent down to retie my shoelace, partially to minimise my height and then stood up deliberately slowly, exaggerating my movements so it wouldn’t seem too fast or sharp to those around me. There was little point however, as when I raised my eyes, I saw dozens of faces fixed on me and just behind me, presumably at the three males who were to my rear.
One boy with streaked black and neon green hair made eye contact with me and visibly startled, frozen to the spot. I held a breath of air in my cheeks and pooched a puff of it through my lips in annoyance, moving a few strands of my waist length black hair out of my eyes. I heard barely audible stifled laughing behind me. Fuck it, I thought to myself, too late now.
I stood to my full height and rolled my shoulders back and beckoned the boys without looking, heading for the large marquee set up on the university’s spacious lawn. The students parted before us like a school of fish before a shark, tripping over themselves to get out of the way.
I could hear their murmurings and small gasps as we passed.
Are they what I think they are?
Why are they here?
Didn’t you hear about the new courses? They built them a hall and everything!
As we passed further into the crowd we came upon a large gaggle of human females all staring fixedly at the shirtless, shoeless warriors behind me. I could hear some of the very unladylike comments they were making about my brother and his friends. I could smell the cloying, acrid smell of their arousal and I wrinkled my nose in distaste. I tried to ignore it, they didn’t know how loud they were to us, I could just pretend I couldn’t…
Do you think they’re…in proportion, like all over?
Ok, that was too much. I cleared my throat and turned exaggeratedly to face Kahno, Teo and Rhett. ‘Do you think the humans know how sensitive our hearing is boys?’ I exclaimed loudly and looked pointedly in the direction of the group of girls. Their faces flushed bright red and they shifted uncomfortably, avoiding my eyes.
Kahno guffawed, and bent double to catch his breath. Teo's shoulders moved rapidly in silent laughter, Rhett's eyes creased momentarily, a practical standing ovation from him.
Kahno finally stood up straight, a grin splitting his face. ‘I don’t think they do Koa. But I do know that next time they’re curious, they only have to ask.’ He shot the girls a wink as he walked past them.
Well, that backfired.