A/N: Thanks so much to Zethoa for reviewing! Hope everyone is enjoying this so far!
The lunch room was loud that day. It seemed everyone had heard about the wolf that was outside the school, and no one could shut up about it. People walking by Alma's table were chattering about how dangerous and terrible they were, and how they'd heard a story about a girl that used to own one. Alma frowned down at her salad, as she had done so many times before. It really hadn't been that long ago, and people had already forgotten. Maybe, it was a good thing. At least people weren't coming to her about it. She had been a little afraid of that.
As she twirled a cherry tomatoe around in ranch dressing, seeming like a routine for her, Daniel slid into his spot across from her with a tray covered in food. Blinking, she looked up and studied the tray, eyebrows raised; three cheeseburgers and a hot dog? Daniel was a guy, but he didn't like meat that much. She'd honestly never met a guy who liked vegetables as much as him, but as she looked at his tray, she didn't even notice any lettuce on his burgers. Only the bun and big, fat slabs of burger between. There weren't even any condiments on his hot dogs.
When he looked up and saw the startled expression on his face, he shook his head.
"I don't know," he said to her, sounding as shocked as she did. "I'm soooo hungry, Alma."
"Bad day?" she asked him softly.
"No, I mean nothing incredibly horrible happened, ya know?" he shrugged, taking the first burger into his hands. "Besides everybody talking about that freaking wolf."
"Yeah…" Alma muttered, looking at the burger.
"Are you okay?" he asked her as he chewed, and she gave him a disapproving look.
"Yes," she told him, and sighed. "No… it was right outside the window, Daniel. And then… Luke…yelled at it…"
"And…?" he prompted, waiting for the catch.
"It ran away."
"Don't animal's generally do that when someone yells at it?" he asked.
She frowned at him and gave a sigh.
"I don't know, I guess I'm just being stupid. He just acted like he knew it or something."
"Yeah, you're being stupid," Daniel agreed, and when she looked at him sharply, he put his burger down and met his eyes. "Look, your just really worked up about Loup, and I understand. There's nothing stronger than the bond between a kid and their pet. And it messed you up—"
"I'm not messed up—"
"And seeing him again just brought back all those feeling's and all the hurt and I get that, I really do—"
"Daniel, be quiet," Alma said to him fiercely, and he blinked. "Your talking to me like you're a shrink. I'm fine."
They both jumped and looked up, and saw Jessica standing there with the widest grin on her face Alma had ever seen, carrying a tray with a salad and a sandwhich on top.
"Can I sit with you guys?" she asked, tilting her head.
Daniel sat there, looking stiff and uncertain. With a piece of salad in her mouth, Alma reached over and patted the seat next to her, forcing a smile up at her.
"Thanks," she said happily, and slid right in. "You like salads, too?"
"She doesn't really eat much," Daniel said, giving Alma a look.
"I eat plenty, just not caffeteria food. I think the cheese on the pizza is fake. Plastic, or something," Alma muttered in disgust, wrinkling her nose.
"Oh my gosh, class was so crazy! And Abel, geez! He's a jerk, you shouldn't let what he said bother you," Jessica said quickly, as if the thought had just hit her.
Frowning, Alma looked down at her salad.
"Actually,"she said. "I hadn't even remembered until you said something."
"Abel? What'd he say?" Daniel asked, and they both looked at him.
Sitting there across the table from them, Daniel looked like a furious angel. He practically glowed with fierceness, and his muscles seemed a lot bigger than she had ever seen them. Swallowing hard, she reached out and put her hand on his, patting it gently.
"Calm down, it was nothing," she assured him, and he blinked.
Swallowing hard, she reached out and put her hand on his, patting it gently.
"Calm down, it was nothing," she assured him, and he blinked.
His arms and muscles relaxed, one by one, until they quit bulging and he looked the same again. Just lean, handsome Daniel, and not some super beast ready to kill something.
"Sorry,"he said quickly, and lifted a hand to touch his forehead. "I feel weird."
"Your eating a lot of meat," Jessica blinked, and he looked down.
"Yeah," he said, and closed his eyes.
"Oh my gosh!" Jessica gasped, and slapped the table, making Alma jump. "Did you guys hear about Anna Morales?"
"Who?" Alma asked, confused.
Anna Morales? The name sounded familiar, but it wasn't anyone she knew personally.
"Anna Morales!" Jessica said again, this time quieter, ducking her head.
She pursed her lips and brushed back her bangs, glancing around to make sure no one was noticing.
"Isn't she some advanced art kid?" Daniel muttered, raising an eyebrow as he massaged his temple.
"Yeah," Jessica said. "I heard she got bit by one of those wolves like a week ago. She had to get that rabies shot in her stomach and everything. It's so totally weird. She was a vegertarian, and now she's like, eating meat."
Frowning, Alma glanced at her, and then at Daniel. Eyes still closed, his head was bowed over his tray. Just under his sleeve, Alma could see the bulge of the gauze wrapped around his cut.
"So, what?" Daniel asked, lifting his eyes to hers.
"Isn't it weird? I mean, what if it infected her or something?" Jessica demanded. "I read these books, like, werewolves and stuff. Who doesn't, you know?"
Alma raised her hand, but Jessica either ignored her, or didn't see her.
"Jessica, c'mon. You sound rediculous. Werewolves? Really?"
"What? I believe in stuff like that! Hello! I mean, seriously, if the Loch Ness Monster is real, a giant freakin' dinosaur in a lake is real, why can't people turn into wolves?"
Everyone was quiet. Alma, Daniel, Jessica, the entire lunch room. The three of them glanced at each other, confused, and looked up to see everyone looking at each other, too.
"Did you hear that?" someone behind them whispered.
"It sounded like a scream," another girl said, sounding terrified.
A terrible sound ripped through the air, the most agonizing, painful thing Alma had ever heard. She ducked, pressing her hands over her ears, and Jessica let out a little gasp. People in the halls started screaming, wailing about something, and teachers were shouting for people to close the doors.
"What's going on?" Jessica demanded, looking at them.
Panic started to rip through Alma. What was going on? Did their teachers ever lock the doors? She glanced around at all the other frightened kids, and remembered all those times she'd heard of schools going on lock down because of kids with guns. Her throat went tight as fear constricted her. Was someone hurt? Terror made her grip the edge of her seat, and she looked at Daniel. He was scratched his bandage absently as he stared at the double doors to the lunch room.
A teacher bolted past their table, running to the double doors, just as they banged open and swung back against the walls. The clicking sound of claws on tile filed the air as a wolf slid into the lunch room, limbs flailing as it fought for control and grip on the floor. Girls shrieked and guys shouted, jumping out of their seats and scrambling back as the wolf knocked into the table. Alma felt the vibration from the impact even where she sat.
Jessica jumped up, and Daniel reached for her to stop, and Alma sat frozen at her seat. She watched the brown wolf duck down from the screams, tail tucked. It knelt there in the shelter of the table, where the end was just long enough, and made tiny whimpering sounds Alma could make out even through everyone yelling. It was scared. Were wolves ever scared like that?
With shaking fingers, Alma stood up and stepped around a guy who was yelling something about it smelling bad. Its claws clicked and skittered on the floor, making tiny sounds so high pitched it almost hurt her ears. Some girl fell in front of her, her friends grabbing at their fainted friend, but Alma just stepped over her. The wolf reminded her so much of Loup when he had been a puppy, and all she could think about was making it feel better, how ever crazy the thought might have been. She had been good with Loup; maybe, she could be good with other wolves, too?
Daniel screamed her name back where they sat, and she heard him yelling at people to get out of his way. She was so close to the wolf now, and that guy had been right, it did smell. Like woods and dirt and water, wet dog, but it was oddly comforting. All she could hear was her heartbeat in her ears, and peoples screams as the wolf shifted where is crouched were muffled. She was being stupid, rash, she was doing something so dangerous. It was a wolf, a wild animal! It could kill her, rip her to shreds. Did she care? No.
Someone grabbed her, arms locked tightly around her upper arms, and everything snapped back to normal. Beside her, a girl screamed so loud it hurt her head, and some guy was scrambling back on top of a table. The wolf, with its wide, terrified eyes, did the same, scrambled across the floor clumsily, and took a few, lunging bounds, crashing through the windows and falling to it's side outside in the grass. After a few failed attempts at standing, it finally got on its feet and bolted away in zig zag patterns, as if it didn't know where to go.
"You can't help that one," Luke said in her ear, his voice fierce, rugged, holding back secrets.
Alma didn't believe him.