Blessed Be the Boys Time Can’t CaptureRecipient:tifachingRating:
Angst, bad language
Author’s note: Thank you to my wonderful, wonderful beta who helped shape this into something that didn’t make me want to throw things. Written for this prompt: Pre-series- There's something wrong with those Winchester brats/hoodlums (whatever age you like). Outside POV, please. This is not a particularly happy tale…
Summary: The new kid in her class is definitely hiding something. As a teacher, it’s her duty to try and help.Blessed Be the Boys Time Can’t Capture
Sometimes it’s like she’s turned left instead of right and wandered into the schoolyard rather than the faculty lounge. The door hasn’t yet clicked shut and she’s already tuned into the familiar sounds of bitter complaint. It always hits her how the similarity with the schoolyard doesn't end with the noise level. Recess sees the faculty gravitate into their cliques: the phys. ed teachers with their expensive running shoes that many lifetimes ago they'd hoped would be seeing more action than watching bored teenagers doing laps; the science teachers huddled together, geeks who have never shed the safety in numbers mentality. Finally, the coffee klatsch nursing their trendy brews; the cool kids, different subjects, but united in their bewilderment that despite their big dreams and yearbook 'Most likely to's, they ended up right back where they started.
She heads for the coffee machine that produces nothing fancier than a slightly bitter tasting cup on its best day, but she's always taken her coffee strong and black so she can handle the machine's idiosyncrasies. Standing here, she catches the conversation going on just to her left.
Brock Winters teaches English even though he looks likes Hollywood's interpretation of a teacher, maybe playing that one educator who makes the difference to a load of underprivileged kids so the actor can prove that he can do 'gritty'. He peppers his classes with pop culture references and listens to the same music and watches the same TV shows as his students, so naturally they think he's awesome.
He's a nice enough guy, but he's also as phony as hell. She agreed to a drink with him one night after a faculty meeting, where he drank just enough to loosen his tongue and she discovered that he hates almost all the things he professes to love and finds it exhausting keeping up with it all. She didn't have the heart to tell him she'd figured as much the moment she'd met him.
Anyway, Brock's holding court, sipping his latte and shaking his head in disbelief because he's stumped. He's got this kid in his class, right? Just transferred in a few weeks back, and he's using all his charm, but the kid's just cold. Brock knows that it's his looks that appeal to his female students, but usually he has no difficulty winning over the male ones either. This kid though... he's like goddamned stone.
Pouring herself a cup, she allows herself to smile since there's no one there to see it except the defective coffee machine. She knows straight away who Brock's referring to. The kid's called Dean Winchester and he's in her art class, on the few occasions that he's bothered to show up. As a teacher, his laissez-fare attitude towards his education should make her angry, but if anything she's simply disappointed when he doesn't show because she feels like there's more to this student than her colleagues have realized. She also knows that Brock's charms are redundant because Dean Winchester saw through his bullshit in thirty seconds, the same way she did.
Coffee ready, she takes it to an empty seat away from the chatter. She's not a loner in the faculty lounge by any means, but she's more than happy for a moment's peace between classes, occupied by nothing more than her own thoughts.
Thing is, Dean Winchester looks like he should be one of the cool kids. He's a striking sixteen year old - already tall with the physique of an athlete even though he's shown no interest in any of the school's sports programs. His looks are straight out of a teen magazine and it's fair to say that he's turned more than a few heads since he started, but he doesn't strike her as the kind of kid who's here to work the popularity angle, hell-bent on making prom king by the end of his school career. He's hiding something, that much she's certain of - whether it's something about his life or something about who he is, she hasn’t figured out yet.
Maybe Dean Winchester and Brock Winters have more in common than they both realize.
Tuesday morning and she's surprised to see him filing into class with the rest of her students. He takes a seat at the back, and immediately becomes invisible to his peers, which she finds pretty impressive given his size and appearance. They're all here to work on the projects that will contribute to their final grades for the semester, but he's not been here long enough to have completed the preparatory work that the rest of them have, so when they start collecting their pieces and dragging out sketch books he stays stock still, eyes glued to the table. His expression says he's wishing he hadn't come. He looks tired.
She goes over to him once the rest of the class is underway. One of the boys turns the radio on and quickly she's bombarded with a chorus of pleas to allow it to stay on. She agrees with a compromise about how loud it'll be, and smiles to herself as they get stuck into work, heads bobbing as some of them start to sing along.
"Don't like pop music?" she asks as she comes to stand opposite him. Her smile is teasing in the hope that he'll not immediately get all defensive.
"No, ma'am," he replies without enthusiasm.
"Let me guess - classic rock?"
This causes the tiniest crack in his iron facade. He doesn't look up, but his expression softens. He scratches at an invisible speck of dirt, radiating awkwardness presumably because someone's paying attention to him.
"They're all working on their main projects," she explains. "I know it probably feels like you're out of the loop, but they've not been working on them for long. It's pretty easy - just choose an artist you admire and a medium like watercolor or sculpture and produce something with your own twist. There are four weeks left until the end of the semester, so you've got plenty of time to produce something before the deadline."
He replies, but the sound is lost amidst the noise of the classroom.
"I probably won't be here that long," he mumbles.
She tries to work out how she should take this news, but it's difficult to read him; it's not like he's boasting or gloating, but neither does he sound disappointed. She settles for resigned, like this is one more project in one more school that there's no point starting because the odds of him seeing it through to conclusion are slim to none.
She feels sad on his behalf because she knows he won't allow himself that luxury.
"Okay, well how about something on those lines?" she suggests, nodding her head toward the battered backpack resting on the desk in front of him. He follows her gaze to the graffitied burlap. "Ancient symbols are a form of art. Are they runes or something?"
"I dunno," he answers, simultaneously dragging the bag onto the floor so it's out of view. "Saw 'em on something and copied them when I was bored."
"Oh well," she replies brightly. "Have a think about it. I think you’ve got a good eye."
She pushes away from the desk, the weight of his gaze upon her. So far he’s not said or done anything that contradicts her suspicions about him, even though she's hoping to god that she's wrong.
She's working on some lesson plans for the next few weeks when the principle enters the faculty lounge. He's frowning and radiating irritation as he crosses the room and glances out of the window.
"You okay, Peter?" someone asks over her shoulder. She looks round; it's Steve Barnes, Chemistry.
She was wondering if she should ask the same question, but she doesn't know Principle Riley that well. He's a fair man, but he runs a tight ship and he doesn't like anything that threatens to steer it off course. With a final glance out of the window he runs a hand down his face and moves closer to the person who asked.
"Just had a meeting with the father of two kids who transferred in a few weeks ago. The Winchesters?"
Evidently Steve hasn't had either boy in his classes because he gives a helpless shrug. She carries on studying her notes so that she doesn't appear to be paying any attention. The principle sighs.
"The younger one is a good student, but the older one..." He shakes his head. "I hate to think of any kid as a lost cause, but he's a real problem."
"What did he do?"
"What didn't he do. He skips classes, then when he is here he's distracting the other students, he's insolent and I've never yet seen him pick up a pen, let alone hand in any work."
"What was the father like?"
The principle scowls. "You know how it is; he said all the right things, but he probably went away and gave his son a pat on the back for ’sticking it to the man'." He says the words like each of them is coated in something bitter. "Came in a big, ugly muscle car."
Steve nods in sympathy. "Well, the asshole acorn never usually falls far from the asshole tree."
The principle huffs a laugh in apparent agreement. You're wrong, she thinks, although her expression betrays nothing to say she's even been listening to their conversation. She stares at the lesson plans for a moment and realizes that she's angry. She knows they're wrong because she's seen John Winchester with his boys and she knows there will be no congratulatory pat on the back for sassing the principle and cutting classes. She read him the moment she saw his frown and the way his boys stood straighter in his presence. If her suspicions are correct, she knows that whatever punishment Principle Riley had in mind, it'll be nothing compared to whatever John Winchester will meter out to his eldest.
In her quest to know more about Dean, she takes an interest in his younger brother too. Sam's a smart kid, academically gifted, diligently turning in assignments written with a wisdom far beyond his years. He's only been here a few weeks and he's already won a prestigious science award. Those teachers that have him in their classes say he is quietly polite but intense, like they're slightly intimidated by the solemn twelve year old.
Like his older brother, Sam has a mournful quality that he wears amongst the many layers he's clothed in, presumably because he too knows they're on borrowed time. Unlike his older brother, however, Sam is determined to soak up as much as he can while they're here. She catches the tail end of his contribution to the debate team one afternoon - the topic is climate change - and it's clear he's a student who understands the importance of research. She hopes he'll still be around when they argue traditional versus contemporary families.
She doesn't know Sam, but one thing she does know is that Dean loves his little brother with the same intensity that Sam's teachers find intimidating. She's seen snatches of that deep, abiding love when she's seen them out front together; Dean fusses over Sam like a mother hen, checking he's got everything he needs, even if it leaves him short. She's overheard the questioning - is he okay? Is anyone giving him any shit as the new kid? - and she doesn't doubt that Dean will move heaven and earth to rectify any situation that Sam finds disagreeable.
The bell rings and she gives her class permission to leave. She’s had a headache developing all afternoon and she can’t wait to get home and crash in front of the television. She rubs her eyes and promises herself a cup of coffee once she’s done here.
"You okay, Mrs. Archer?"
She looks up from the papers. She thought they'd all left, but it seems not. Across the desk from her, Dean Winchester stands, expression completely neutral. His hands are stuffed into the pockets of his worn, baggy jeans - he has no bag with him today, which doesn't surprise her in the least since he’s rarely seen with either a bag or any books. She sighs and pushes the papers she was studying away hatefully.
"I'm fine; just trying to work out what supplies I can buy with a budget you practically need a microscope to see."
Her response earns her a small smile from him. She's seen his wardrobe of hard wearing clothes that were probably second hand to begin with and figures he knows a thing or two about making money go as far as it can. Strictly speaking it's not the nub of her problem really - the art department's budget has always been shit - her issue is the math required to make sure they don't run out of equipment before the end of the academic year because she's terrible with numbers. She regularly jokes that she's got dyscalculia, but the truth is she probably has, since numbers refuse to behave themselves when she needs them to. Something about him evokes her honesty.
"Plus I suck at math," she adds, giving him a rueful smile. "If three bottles of paint last one month for two classes, how many bottles will I need for four classes over five months, that kind of thing."
He shuffles his feet. "Thirty bottles."
"You'll need thirty bottles," he repeats, his expression somewhat awkward, although it's not through lack of confidence in his math ability.
She raises her eyebrows as she appraises him, impressed. "That was fast. You enjoy math?"
He looks away and shrugs. "It's okay, I guess."
Typical teenager. She smiles in the hope that he might defrost a little in the face of her warmth. "You could join the mathletics league. They're always looking for new blood."
She's expecting scorn, but she gets another shrug instead. "Not really my thing," he mumbles.
"Are you more into sports?" His physique would certainly support that assumption. She leans back, painfully aware that this is the longest conversation they've ever had.
"Uh, no," he replies, glancing towards the door and in that instant, it's like the shutters have suddenly banged down, like the sum total of the words they've exchanged have given too much away. "I, uh, I gotta go."
"Dean?" she says and he stops and turns even though it's clear he wants nothing more than to get the hell out of Dodge. "Thanks for the help."
His reply is a sharp nod and then he's gone.
The next time she sees him it’s not in her class. He's sitting outside the principal's office as the bell signals the end of recess, back resting against the wall, eyes closed. There's the making of a bruise on his right cheek.
His eyes open and he turns to look at her.
She follows his gaze to the closed door beside him and gets it instantly.
He shrugs sullenly, but it’s not really aimed at her. “Got into a fight.”
She waits a beat until he looks up at her. The corridor they’re on is empty. “Did you start it?”
“No ma’am.” The head shake is emphatic. She believes him.
“So d’you want to tell me what happened then?”
Another shrug. “Some guy in my history class has been picking on this other kid for weeks. I told him to stop so he punched me.”
“So when you hit him, it was in self defense?”
He returns to studying his hands. One of the custodians appears and she waits until they’ve gone again before replying. “Dean? Have you explained what happened to anyone else?”
“No point,” he replies with almost bored indifference.
“What? Even if the kid you were protecting backed you up?”
He smiles at this, but it’s a look of pity for her evidently naïve and simplistic world view. “No offence, Mrs. Archer, but Jesus Christ himself could roll up and vouch for me, and it still wouldn’t matter.”
The saddest thing of all is that he’s right.
Amanda Daniels is a pretty girl, but she’s not one of the movers and shakers in her year group. She’s a good student who keeps her head down and gets good grades, but her name starts to appear on everyone’s lips when it’s clear that there’s something going on between her and the new kid.
She’s taught Amanda on and off since her freshman year. For a brief moment she contemplates having a talk with the sixteen year old about the budding relationship, but when she sees the two of them chatting and laughing together, she hasn’t got the heart to rain on the girl’s parade.
It’s a fact that he’s going to break Amanda’s heart - because a teenage girl’s heart is predisposed to be broken by a face as pretty as his – it’s just a matter of when, and how badly. And she knows that she should hate him for that because Amanda’s a good kid and doesn’t deserve the heartache that will occur when he ups and leaves, but she realizes that she can’t begrudge him the brief ray of sunshine this relationship provides.
Instead, she promises herself that she’ll pick up the pieces when the inevitable fallout occurs.
Dean Winchester's name comes up again in the faculty lounge a week later. It's a momentous occasion according to Tim Brenner, History, because the kid's finally handed in an assignment and it's actually pretty good. She manages to get a look at it when he sneaks off to his car to have a cigarette and her suspicions are confirmed.
It's got Sam Winchester's name all over it.
Thursday evening and she's just about to load the groceries into her car when she realises that the figure coming towards her is familiar. The familiarity triggers the sensation that he's out of place here - that he belongs in a different place than the Target parking lot. It's an inbuilt reflex for a teacher, especially when it's a student who's been absent from school for the past week.
"Dean!" she exclaims before he can pass her. He's pushing a shopping cart, but a basket would have sufficed because it's not even half-full. Belatedly, she realises that he's using it to lean on because he's limping. He stops, startled, and looks at her rabbit-like before he seems to remember himself and tries to keep walking. Reflexively, she reaches out and catches hold of the cart, forcing him to stop. His expression is momentarily angry, then it falls away into weary resignation.
"Hey, Mrs. Archer."
Despite the obvious effort, he's managing to dredge the social niceties from somewhere and her heart bleeds a little for him and hardens against those amongst her colleagues who always think the worst of him. He's avoiding her eyes, but the downward tilt of his head doesn't stop her from noticing his split lip and black eye. He looks so awkward and uncomfortable that she momentarily hates herself for wishing that she'd gotten to her car a couple of minutes earlier so she wouldn't have seen him at all.
"Are you okay, Dean? I was worried when you didn't show up for class."
Both of them know that's a lie, because one missed class is pretty much par for the course with his hit and miss attendance record. What she's really saying is she knows he's been off all week, and therefore she's keeping tabs on him. He shuffles slightly and she catches a glimpse of the pain that he's trying and failing to hide.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I do like your class..."
Now they're both liars. She offers him a smile.
"Well, I'm not gonna say it's okay because you're a smart guy and you know you shouldn't be cutting class, but if there's something going on that's making it difficult for you to get to school then I'd like to help if I can."
She studies him while she waits for a response; there's something warring on his face that she can't get a handle on. Part of it is definitely restrained panic and if her thoughts about what's going on with him are correct, it's understandable that he doesn't want to be in the spotlight. The other part is harder to identify. It's the same flash of something that she saw in his face when he'd said they probably wouldn't still be here by the end of the semester. It's something raw and painful - a longing for someone to care about him mixed with disbelief that anyone actually would. She has to work harder to keep the smile plastered on her face.
Eventually he shakes his head. He tries to stand a little straighter, but he still won't look at her directly.
"It's okay, Mrs. Archer. My dad got sick so I've been taking care of him."
She ignores the lack of explanation about his injuries, for now at least. "Is your mom not around?"
"She died when I was four."
He shrugs, like it’s no big deal. Evidently this conversation is going nowhere, which appears to be exactly where he wants it to go.
“You know, Dean,” she continues, painfully aware that she needs to say something or she’d be a pretty shitty teacher if she didn’t, “It might seem impossible, but you don’t have to put up with whatever it is that’s going on… especially if it’s causing you injuries…”
“You wouldn’t understand,” he replies quickly. “I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not that.” He readjusts his grip on the shopping cart, a subtle hint that he wants to be on his way.
"I'm a good listener, if you need someone to talk to, Dean,” she adds quickly, aware of her heart pounding in her chest because she’s vowed never to share her personal history with anyone and she’s seriously in danger of breaking her own rules. “You might be surprised. Maybe I do understand.”
For a split second he looks like he might say something. Then his eyes track to the black muscle car waiting silently across the parking lot and she knows he's already gone.
He doesn’t show up for her class next week. She dutifully records it along with all the other teachers, although she knows she’s the only one who actually cares that he’s not present. It’s only when she’s in the faculty lounge later that day that she realizes there’s more to this absence than she first thought.
The Winchesters have gone.
“Didn’t you hear?” Brock informs her as he nurses his coffee, his expression indicating this news has possibly made his week. He’s holding court as usual, surrounding by colleagues who seem similarly pleased for him. “Their dad called and demanded to speak to Peter; said they were leaving straight away so both boys wouldn’t be back in school.”
“Did he say why?” she asks, horrified.
“Some kind of emergency, I think.”
“Well, I think it’s a shame.”
They all turn to look at the newcomer who's just spoken - a slight, bespectacled man who wilts under Brock’s incredulous stare. He teaches one of the sciences, but she can’t remember which.
“I had the younger boy, Sam, in my class, real smart kid. He was going to be presented with a prize for his science project this Friday. It must have been serious if they couldn’t wait until then.”
She hurries out of the room, aware of her colleagues’ bemused gazes upon her, but not caring. It’s too late. She’s too late.
She can't remember the last time she cried, but she cries for Dean Winchester, and Sam too. There's no point asking the office if they left a forwarding address because there won't be a forwarding address. They're gone; the cloud of dust kicked up by the tyres of the black muscle car has obliterated their presence already, like they were never really here at all. Her colleagues - the ones who felt sorry for themselves at being stuck with the recalcitrant sixteen year old - are practically holding a party, but she can't even be angry with them because they only saw what they wanted to see.
The person she's most angry with is herself.
Because she wants to tell him that she knows.
Because she wants to tell him that she understands.
She wants to tell him that it gets better, that this doesn't have to be him forever, that it doesn't have to define him. She wants to tell him he can have a future - a different one from the one his life has mapped out for him; that she’s been in his shoes and it is possible to hang them up and walk away. She wants to tell him it's okay to be afraid, to fall, to hurt. She wants to tell him it's okay to put himself first sometimes.
She wants to tell him all those things because she sees herself, her past, in him.
She sees someone else raised in The Life.
Twenty years ago she was the person he is now - a damaged child with a tragic back story that was forged in the fires of Hell and shaped into a cause; the daughter of a man so possessed by vengeance that her childhood burned away before his very eyes and he never did a thing to try and put out the flames.
She knows she should have reached out to Dean when she had the chance, when she was sure. She had the chance to intervene before the burden of responsibility weighed him down any further. Even her old man, as crazy and driven as he was, used to say ‘you can’t save everybody’. Dean Winchester looks like someone who has never been given that option.
But it’s too late; the black muscle car and its occupants have left town for good. The only thing she can do is hope that fate stopped her from intervening for a reason - that he’s destined for an important role beyond the comprehension of even someone who knows what it means to be a hunter.
But she still feels like she failed him.