The first thing he noticed was the scent. It was the clichéd beginning of every story he’d ever heard—young werewolf completely overwhelmed by a Good Smell. He caught it on his tongue even before his nose picked it up, something deep and dark like bitter chocolate. Then his nostrils flared at the scent of petrichor, that peculiar rain and wet earth smell.
He started salivating almost instantly. Against his will his fangs elongated, sharp inside his mouth as he pressed his lips together. His claws popped out, and he curled his hands into fists in his lap, the razor tips cutting through his skin. He didn’t even notice the blood he dripped onto his jeans, the pressure from his claws not letting up enough to allow his palms to heal. He blinked quickly, suddenly dizzy. The classroom, theater-style, with the seats sloping upward from the floor where the professor would stand, appeared to spin around him. The edges of his vision bled black, and then blood red.
And then Professor Kim Namjoon entered the room from a door near the floor, far away from where Jeongguk was sitting in the top row, and his world went hazy and white.
Later, Jeongguk fell through the front door in a whirlwind of long limbs and chaotic hair, mumbling out an “oof” before straightening himself with a shake, toeing off his shoes, flinging his backpack down, and darting into the kitchen, where Seokjin was waiting with a raised eyebrow and a lamb skewer halfway to his mouth.
Jeongguk slid into the seat across from him, panting.
“Hello to you too,” said Seokjin warily, taking in the two bright spots of color high on Jeongguk’s cheeks, his massively dilated pupils, the way his nails had grown just a little too sharp.
Yoongi ambled in holding an empty mug, his nose already sniffing out more coffee.
“Hey, Jeongguk,” he said as he dropped a quick kiss on Seokjin’s shoulder and then moved easily around the kitchen, looking for coffee and a snack. “How was school?”
He asked it like they had sent Jeongguk off for elementary school, and not like Jeongguk was now bigger than both of them and starting his second year in college.
“I’m pretty sure I found my mate,” Jeongguk told them, without preamble.
Yoongi paused as he was reaching for the French press. Seokjin looked up with his mouth full.
“Jeongguk that’s—” began Yoongi, already smiling slightly.
“Who is it?” demanded Seokjin, at the same moment.
“—great,” finished Yoongi, shooting Seokjin a glare that the other pretended not to see.
Jeongguk glanced between them. His eyes were glassy, and Seokjin wondered how long they’d been that way. He was still breathing a little too hard. His nails had elongated even more, into fine, razor sharp claws. His fangs were slightly elongated, cutting into his lower lip. He was definitely exhibiting all of the signs of having found his mate, but it worried Seokjin a little that his claws and fangs were out even though his mate wasn’t within close proximity.
“Well,” began Jeongguk hesitantly, breathlessly. “See, there’s a problem.”
Seokjin swallowed. “Okay?”
“He’s human,” Jeongguk blurted, wincing.
Jeongguk pressed his lips together in a thin line before taking a breath and continuing.
“And he’s like, sort of my teacher.”
“Fucking hell, Jeongguk,” Yoongi said, abandoning the coffee. “Nothing is ever easy with you, is it?”
Seokjin couldn’t agree more.
“I almost passed out when he walked into the room,” Jeongguk admitted, his words coming fast now that he had started talking. He shook his long hair out of his face and scratched absently at his forearm, the one with the fresh tattoos on it. “And then I almost jumped him five minutes into the lecture.”
Yoongi and Seokjin exchanged glances.
“And then I growled at a kid in the front row who raised his hand to ask a question.”
Seokjin dropped his head into his hands. “You can’t growl at the humans, Jeongguk.”
Jeongguk ignored him. “All of my notes from his lecture are some variation of the word ‘mine.’ I’m pretty sure I started doodling hearts.”
“God,” Yoongi muttered, staring at Jeongguk in horror as he dropped down into a chair next to Seokjin.
“And then at the end of class I went up and introduced myself and scent-marked him without his permission.”
Yoongi and Seokjin groaned in unison.
“Just on his wrist!” exclaimed Jeongguk frantically. “He didn’t even notice. It probably just felt like a firm handshake.”
“That doesn’t make it better,” Seokjin pointed out weakly.
Jeongguk pouted, though his gaze remained unrepentant.
“So, he’s definitely your mate,” Yoongi said, not making it a question.
“I felt like my heart was going to explode,” Jeongguk said in answer. “Like I was weeping out of my pores. I actually thought I was going to shift right there. Or die. Couldn’t quite tell the difference honestly. All I could think about was kidnapping him and running away somewhere no one would ever find us. I’ve never felt so out of control.”
“God,” Yoongi repeated, and gently lowered his head to the tabletop.
“Okay,” Seokjin started, standing up to clear away his dishes, patting Yoongi on the back as he did so. “This is fine. We can handle this. It’s not the first time one of our kind has had a human mate.”
Jeongguk smiled hopefully.
“We’ve got to get you transferred out of his class right away,” said Yoongi, raising his head.
Jeongguk was on his feet in a flash, a rumbling growl that was all wolf working its way out of his throat. His smile had transformed into a mouthful of wicked, pointed fangs.
Yoongi’s face went stony. “Are you growling at me?” he asked carefully.
The growl cut off, but there was still heat in Jeongguk’s eyes when he snarled out, “No.” He took a deep breath, steadying himself. “You can’t take me away from him,” he said pleadingly, aware that his voice was verging on hysterical.
“No one is going to take you away from him,” said Yoongi slowly, holding up his hands peacefully. “But you can’t be in his class, Jeongguk. He’s in a position of authority over you. Don’t even get me started on how confusing the power dynamics are when you mix werewolf instincts with human student/teacher hierarchies. It’s way too dangerous.”
Jeongguk growled again before he could stop himself. “I would never hurt him,” he hissed, affronted at the mere thought. “Never.”
Yoongi smiled sadly. “It’s not him I’m worried about, Jeongguk.”
It was the hardest class Jeongguk had ever had to sit through.
Professor Kim Namjoon smelled young, in his upper twenties, not that much older than Jeongguk, who would turn twenty in another week. He was tall and slim, but looked like he didn’t neglect regular visits to the gym. His hair was black and fell charmingly to one side of his face. The other side was a buzzed undercut. He wore wire-framed glasses. He had plush lips.
Jeongguk catalogued his appearance quickly, eyes roving over him, not missing a single detail.
A student in the front row said something that made Professor Kim smile, and Jeongguk saw that he had dimples, the left a little deeper than the right.
His vision swam.
He wanted to leap to the bottom row and tear the still-beating heart out of the student who had dared to make those dimples appear. He wanted to push Professor Kim to the floor and perch on his chest and stake a claim, right there in front of everyone, so that they all knew who Professor Kim belonged to.
A rumble began in his chest, deep and vicious, and Jeongguk violently suppressed it. He almost got up and fled the room then, because he’d never had a temper. Seokjin liked to joke that for a born werewolf, he was as close to a pacifist as one could get. Jeongguk didn’t do things like consider tearing out still-beating hearts. He didn’t do that. He didn’t think about holding it in his hand and taking a bite out of it before offering it as tribute to…
To his professor?
What was happening to him?
He shook his head, trying to clear it, but that petrichor scent and bitter chocolate taste remained with him.
Jeongguk had never been good at sitting still. He was fidgety on a good day. But he didn’t move at all during his first class with Professor Kim. He barely dared to breathe. He sat in the top row as if he’d been turned to stone. He wasn’t even sure he blinked. He took slow, shallow breaths, alternating between his nose and his mouth. He couldn’t escape Professor Kim’s scent, stuck on the tip of his nose and tongue.
He didn’t hear a single word of the lesson. Couldn’t remember what class it was. Professor Kim’s low voice washed over him in a soothing rush of sound, his words indistinguishable to Jeongguk. Though surrounded by several dozen students, he was aware of only two heartbeats. His. Professor Kim’s. Halfway through the lesson their heartbeats synched, and Jeongguk finally felt himself relax just the tiniest bit, enough that his claws and fangs receded.
It was the longest hour of his life.
When class ended, Jeongguk remained seated, his fingers curling spasmodically over his jeans. He waited until nearly everyone had left the room and Professor Kim was shuffling his papers and notes together before he finally stood.
His body barely even felt like it belonged to him.
Woodenly he walked down the center aisle of stairs until he reached the bottom of the classroom, and then he simply stared at Professor Kim for a moment without saying anything until the other man noticed him and startled back with a small squeak.
Jeongguk’s predator instincts ignited at the sound, and he could vividly see in his mind’s eye Professor Kim running through a moonlit field, breathing fast, Jeongguk hot on his heels in wolf form.
He cleared his throat and swallowed convulsively, before sticking his hand out.
“Professor Kim, hello,” he somehow managed to say, even though his voice came out rough and scratchy. “I’m Jeon Jeongguk.”
Professor Kim smiled and reached out to shake his hand, and the moment their fingers touched, the moment the feel of the other man’s skin was imprinted into his sense memory, Jeongguk trembled. His body felt like molten candlewax, like he was melting from the inside.
Impulsively, Jeongguk brought his other hand up, clasping Professor Kim’s hand between both of his, and quickly smeared his palm over Professor Kim’s wrist, leaving behind his scent as a warning to any other wolves.
“I’m looking forward to having you in class, Jeongguk,” said Professor Kim Namjoon politely. “It’s going to be a good semester.”