John scanned the list of students, holding his yellow highlighter at the ready.
A, B, B, A, A, A, O
John marked a blob of yellow beside the ‘O’ student. An omega student. John was an alpha, and Official University Protocol insisted that he should never be alone with an omega student. If they needed one-to-one support, they would need to bring a chaperone, or meet in a public place. Not in the privacy of John’s tiny office.
He scanned the list again, finding another ‘O’. Two in a class. Unusual. Not many omegas went to uni. Many of them were mated and pregnant by the time they were eighteen. And this was a class of second-years, all nineteen and twenty. He felt a flush of pride at the students’ resilience. It was good to see them defying social norms, and studying.
He checked over the list again, making sure there were no ‘O’s remaining, when he spotted it.
John raised his eyebrows.
‘U’ meant ‘unpresented’.
For a student to be unpresented at nineteen was rare. Not unheard of, but very rare. John checked the name, and typed it into his laptop.
WILLIAM S. S. HOLMES
A profile popped up, showing a first-year photograph of a boy with dark hair, and a slightly surprised expression. He had dark hair and looked like neither alpha or omega. If John had to guess, he would have said the boy was a beta, but even they presented specific scent patterns. Only children had a zero-scent.
John squirmed a bit. An adult with a blank, child-like innocent scent would be… disconcerting, to say the least. He clicked on the boy’s reports, and was interested to see very high grades from last year.
And two no-shows for failure to hand essays in.
How had this boy managed such high overall grades with two unmarked essays? He must have gotten close to perfect scores in everything else.
John clicked the no-show reports.
Holmes failed to hand in his report on alpha-omega bonding bites. Excuse given: This was tiresome.
Interesting. And the second:
Holmes failed to hand in his report on omega sexual maturity. Excuse given: I don’t need to know this.
John sat back in his office chair. This William Holmes had the arrogance of an alpha, but judging by his photo he lacked the thickness of body and musculature that might have accompanied such a status. Still, maybe he was an alpha with a low level of testosterone. That would explain why he was still unpresented.
John picked up his highlighter and blobbed yellow beside the boy’s name. Best not to be alone with him, just to be on the safe side. He needed this lecturing job, he couldn’t afford to overstep the mark and get sacked, interesting unpresented student or not.
The students filed in, all of them chatting and looking happy to be back at uni after the summer break. John spotted the omega students immediately – they were real beauties, and one of them had a bond-bite that looked fresh. That was a relief. The girl wouldn’t be a distraction, she had a mate. The gorgeous boy, however, swaggered into the room with the overconfidence of an omega close to heat, and John made a mental note to check if the boy’s attendance was good.
Then there was a break in the wall of scents. Like a missed step when going down the stairs.
John looked up.
A dark-haired young man walked past him to the seats, a trail of blankness following him. The other students ignored him, as though they were used to it, but the lack of scent made John blink, his brain struggling to compute how someone could look so adult and yet be… nothing. This was William, then.
The confusion vanished after a moment, and the student took his seat. He wasn’t sitting with anyone.
John cleared his throat and started the lesson, introducing himself, and beginning the first lesson on cellular forensics.
John looked up as the students filed out. William, the unpresented boy, was standing in front of him with a note. “Can I help you?”
“I should hope so.” The boy flapped the note. “I won’t be here tomorrow, I’m afraid.”
“Oh,” John took the note. Medical Appointment. “Sorry to hear that. Nothing serious, I hope?”
“Another presentation blood test,” William rolled his eyes. “Waste of my time.”
“I see. Well, thank you for the note. I can email you the homework,” John said, smiling pleasantly, his brain putting two and two together and getting five as he tried to classify the boy with his medical eye. Tall. Alpha. Slim. Omega. Confident. Alpha. Pretty. Omega.
“Thank you,” William nodded. “Could I schedule a tutorial as well, for catch-up?” He smiled, and John was almost sure he was given a once-over by the student. He tensed, slightly. This was not what he’d had in mind.
“Sure. We could meet in the coffee shop on Friday lunchtime?”
“I don’t like coffee,” the student smirked.
John’s inner alpha grumbled in annoyance at being told ‘no’. “Tea, then.”
“Can’t we use your office? I don’t like sharing my one-to-one time with other ears.” The student folded his arms, and John was almost certain the boy was an alpha from the way he was arguing.
“Fine,” John sighed, “but you’ll need to bring a chaperone.”
“I’m not an omega, Doctor Watson,” William raised an eyebrow. “I’m not in any danger from your rampant masculinity.”
Alpha. One hundred per cent. Blood test be damned, he’s got to be an alpha. “Alright. Friday at one,” John snapped his briefcase closed, wishing he was taller, so he could glare down at the probable-alpha with the right amount of dominance.
“Wonderful,” William beamed, putting his hands in his pockets. “See you Friday, Doctor Watson. And do try and stop attempting to deduce my secondary gender. Doctors have been trying since I was fourteen, and I doubt that an ex-army doctor with a history of PTSD and a lack of experience with anyone who isn’t an alpha and toting a gun is going to figure it out before I do.”
“Sorry,” John spluttered. “I mean, I’m sorry if I offended you –”
“You didn’t offend me,” the student’s expression softened slightly. “I’m used to new people trying to figure out what I am. It doesn’t matter. But stop doing it quite so obviously. I dislike it.”
John nodded. “No problem. For the record, I don’t much care what your gender is, as long as you hand in your work and turn up to lectures. Appointments aside.” He realised they were alone in the lecture hall. If the boy had given any hint he was an omega after all, this would be very dangerous. As it was, John felt… nothing. Well, not quite nothing. He felt calm enough, and he liked this boy, despite the attitude… He picked up his briefcase.
“Excuse me, William, I need to get to the staff room.”
“William?” the boy blinked. “You don’t pay much attention after all, do you?”
“Excuse me?” John snapped.
“William isn’t my chosen name,” the boy took out his wallet, and pulled out his student ID. “Here.”
Name: William Holmes.
Chosen name: Sherlock Holmes
“Sherlock,” John said, trying out the new name. “Sorry, my computer only showed me your… other name.”
“I see,” Sherlock took his ID back, his long fingers brushing John’s hand. “Well, now you know. See you Friday, Doctor.”
“Thank you, Sherlock,” John held the door open for him and showed him out, feeling quite bizarre as he smelled that empty scent, again. He’d been wrong, before. It didn’t smell child-like, at all. It smelled of intrigue, and curiosity, and… John’s finger slipped on the keys as he tried to lock up. He turned around, and Sherlock – the mystery boy – was gone.