Derek emerged from the diner into the late-afternoon sun and blew out his breath.

What a day. At times like this, all he wanted to do was sleep for a week.

Oh, well. Someone needed to step up to the plate.

A braid of red hair caught his eye. White button-up blouse, blue jeans, that walk… he knew it was her well before he got close enough to see her face. “Hey, Leslie,” he called out, smiling and waving when she turned to look his way. He hustled across the gap between them, falling into step beside her. “On your way home?”

“Hey, Derek. Yeah, I just had a study session, now it’s homework time.” She made a face.

“Ew. I feel you there.” Just a year ago, he’d been cramming hard for some of the same exams Leslie was. Of course, his condition hadn’t made that any easier. “Did it go all right?”

“Oh, yeah, I think so. I mean, it’s tough, but I think I’ve got a good handle on it.”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine,” Derek soothed, and grinned. “If I weren’t dead tired, I’d offer to come along. Give you a hand if you need it, get it done that much faster, hang out for a little…”

“Oh, Derek.” She laughed, giving him a playful swat on the shoulder. “Your place is kind of on the way, isn’t it?”

“Pretty much.” He nodded. “No secret that I like you, Leslie, but I’d hope I’m not turning into a creepy stalker!”

Again she laughed. “Stalker? You? I’ve got a hard time seeing it, Derek.”

“Thanks. I think.”

A few steps later, she asked, “Did you see the news today yet?”

“Nah, they had a football game on at Duke’s. What’s up?”

“Another sighting of the White Wolf,” Leslie explained.

Derek tried not to let his sudden apprehension show. Fortunately, Leslie was watching the crossing signal. “Yeah?” he prompted.

“Yeah, apparently he’s been busy the past few days. The anchor wondered if he’s a robot or something, because he can’t be getting much sleep.”

If only you knew, Derek carefully didn’t say. “Some metas don’t seem to need sleep.”

“Yeah, but he… I don’t know. Feels closer to human, I guess? Even if he looks more different than most.” She covered a cough as she started across the street. “Apparently not that different, though. The cameras at the Dalton plant got a good look at him. Good enough to settle the ‘him or her’ question, anyway – no woman ever filled shorts like that.”

Derek felt a blush rising to his cheeks, and hoped to high heaven that she’d misinterpret it. “Goodness.”

“Sorry, Derek.” She paused on the curb and gave a pat to his shoulder. “Probably not your thing, I know. Hell, I’m not the type to stare at a guy that way.” As she started off again, she went on, “But it kinda got me thinking…”


“Well, what kind of guy is he?” she asked. “Obviously one of the good guys – God, even if the thugs he’s left for the police were exaggerating, he takes a pounding in the name of good deeds, and he’s not the kind of meta that just doesn’t take damage…”

Certainly not that; Derek kept a wince off his face.

“And yet he’s not one of those who’s waving to all the cameras and revelling in fame. He feels more… more natural. I mean, sure, he’s more than human, but… he’s not so much outside humanity, you know?”

“I think I follow,” he said slowly.

A few steps more. “I had a dream about him last night,” she confessed.

And if he hadn’t been blushing before… “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Perhaps fortunately, she was distracted by whatever memory had her blushing. “He slipped in through my window at night, and… God.” Biting her lip, she added, “Didn’t have a chance to go far before I woke up, but God it left me wondering.”

“Wondering what?” Oh, for God’s sake, was he actually having this conversation? It felt so unreal, hearing the girl he’d had a crush on for three years crushing on his own alter ego. Explicitly, apparently.

Or damn close. Her next remark was, “Well, the first thing I wondered was… how much like a wolf is he? You know…” She chewed on her lip a bit more. “But it doesn’t matter. After that, I wondered… what’s he interested in, when he’s not sniffing out bombs or hostages?”

Derek very carefully bit back an offer to let her see for herself. That is not how romance is done, boy. “You make him sound like a police dog,” he observed, and couldn’t help but chuckle at the absurdity.

“Funny you should say that. The Chief actually said that three like him could replace their entire canine division. I mean, you’ve got a nose that can catch bombs, drugs, and follow a person’s scent and who knows what else, but you’ve also got the smarts not to get led astray. And obviously the skills to defuse bombs. And a lot of nerve. Said she wants to shake his hand sometime – and boy, she was not happy when the reporter made a dog joke.”

Police, huh? If only he weren’t so limited… “So, she… approves of him?”

“Yeah. I think the lack of grandstanding impresses her, actually. She’s always been critical about how much attention most metas get.”

They’d come to his building, and thus Derek stopped, and she paused with him; but he was morbidly curious, now. “What do you think?”

“I think he must be a great guy,” she said. “I just… wonder if he’d… y’know, notice me. If we have something in common.

Oh, Leslie… oh, hell, the sun was almost down. He had to wrap this up. “Hey, any guy in his right mind would be happy with you.”

She smiled, touching his cheek. “Oh, Derek, you’re sweet.” She started to turn back to the street, then paused. “Do you think he’s really a werewolf? I mean, he does only appear the week around the full moon. But he’s been out during the day…”

“There’s lots of werewolf tales.” He shrugged. “Could be.”

“I guess. Well, I should get my homework done. Rest up, okay?”

“Good luck,” he said, and slipped inside.

As soon as the door was closed, he dashed through the halls and up the stairs. His skin was crawling by the time he fumbled his key into the lock. It was all he could do to lock it behind him and get his clothes off before the Change dropped him to his knees.

Way too close, this time.

He slipped into the bathroom, turned the water on full cold, and huddled under the shower. Bed would have to wait a bit yet.