This is for my friend leelust, who asked what I meant when I referred to Dean in HS, and because she said she was missing my fics, as I haven't posted anything for a while. HS is High School, leelust, and this is an excerpt of that story. It's a fairly long one and I don't know when it will be finished, but this excerpt is relatively self-contained (doesn't leave you hanging, at least), so I thought I'd post it for you, just because. Hope you like it:
They had a kid like that on the ropes the first time Winchester stepped to the line and changed the rules of the game. He was a small, bookish boy: a little chubby in a sweet, congenial way. He liked school, liked teachers more. He smiled at everybody and sometimes even waved. He was a good kid to the bone: you could see it in his open smile and the way he tended to laugh for no apparent reason, just because he liked the sound of it, or the feel of it, or both.
He made the mistake of saying hi to Lee Felton in the hall on the second Tuesday he was a freshman in high school, and that was dinner bell, as far as the pack was concerned.
They’d been chewing on the kid for almost a week now, and he’d taken their haranguing in good nature, done his best not to see the worst in them for it. If the world were a better place, that would have worked, would have gotten him off the hook so he could go on his happy way. But the way the world was, it just made them focus harder on him, work more diligently to crush his spirit, break him tears or just a sense of hopelessness they could turn back on him for their own amusement.
The day Winchester brought their fun to a screeching halt, there were six of them playing the kid like a pinball against the hallway lockers, taking turns bumping off him in "accidental" contacts that were anything but. They’d been doing it all the way down the hall, accompanied by skates of nervous laughter from kids who weren’t enjoying the show so much as just being glad it wasn’t them in the center ring. It got worse when he stopped at his locker, tried to open it.
Matt stood in the doorway of his classroom, watching the game to keep it from escalating out of hand, but otherwise keeping his distance and holding his tongue. Worst thing a teacher could do was actively interfere in this kind of thing. As much flak as the boy was going to take for the sin of liking his math teacher well enough to say hi to him in the hallway, he’d take twice that much flak if an adult actually tried to step up, put a stop to something that wouldn’t stop so much as it would just wait for another time, start up again in another venue. All that would accomplish was buying the kid a small reprieve at the cost of one hell of a penalty clause when they caught up to him later.
If it got too rough, he’d put a stop to things, cost the kid whatever it was going to cost him. But for the time being, the best course of action was to let the boy find the feet to stand up for himself, so Matt held the line at watching, waiting, being there in case the pack lost track of how much it could and couldn’t get by with before a teacher had to step in and take over.
And the boy was holding his own for a while. He played it like he thought the whole thing was accidental. He apologized twice, taking the blame himself both times, before he finally give in, had to admit it wasn’t accidental.
So then he took the stance it was all in good fun. Just boys being boys; a bunch of older guys picking on a younger one like one brother picks on another. It took him almost five minutes to actually get his locker open, and he laughed every time one of them knocked into him just as he was hitting the last number of his combination. He even said "good one" when one of them jarred him so badly once he got it open that he lost his balance, almost fell inside.
By the time he’d worn that strategy out, he had his locker closed and was making his escape in the direction of his next class. But they were having a little too much fun to let him escape just yet. They started in on his books, knocked a couple out of his hands every couple of feet, or just jarred them badly enough to keep him scrambling.
So the kid defaulted to mercy. He actually asked them to ease up on him, asked them to be good guys and let him off the hook. One of the pack instigators answered that hopeful plea by knocking his elbow so hard the whole stack of books hit the linoleum and scattered. He hadn’t even finished gathering them up when the second one repeated the maneuver, knocked the books farther afield, forcing him to spend more time on his hands and knees in the middle of the hall, trying to retrieve the books from under the feet of kids standing in protective clumps or walking by as fast as they could in hopes of getting away before the pack lost interest in this game and started in on another.
Because there was a third kid lining up to knee the whole stack of books free again just as the boy got them gathered up, Matt cleared his throat, stepped outside his classroom to lean against the wall. The boy looked up, gave Matt the kind of grateful look that was exactly what got him in this position in the first place, then promptly dropped the books himself.
He looked like he wanted to just sit down and bawl, but to his credit, he didn’t. Instead, he started picking the books up again, keeping his head down this time, his hands shaking a little like he was having to work now to not give the pack what they wanted.
But they were getting it. They could see how close to tears the kid was—see how frustrated and confused and hurt—and that made the whole lot of them smile the kind of smiles Matt would have liked to wipe off their faces with a good ass-kicking and about six months detention each.
Several of the pack saw his expression and took the hint, made a big show of helping the boy get all the books together, pat him on the back and help him to his feet like the were the citizens of the week, just helping out an underclassman out of the goodness of their good little hearts. But even while they were doing it, Matt knew, and the kid knew, and every one else in that hallway knew, it was all for show. It would only last as long as Matt was actually standing there, warning them off a game they’d no doubt finish later, starting in again some place else when Matt wasn’t around to stop them.
But he was there this time, and they’d taken it far enough he’d felt a need to step up and back them off, so they let it go for the time being, but only in a way that promised "later, kid" to a boy who would probably worry as much about when later might be as he would about what later might bring.
Which was all part of the fun for them.
The kids lips were pressed together in a tight line of white by the time he got clear of his helpful new buddies, by the time he was far enough away from them and they were hanging back enough that he was pretty sure he was through it now, that it was over and he was free. For the time being at least. The kid looked right at Matt as he walked past, his eyes so grateful it made Matt a little sick to see them.
"Hi, Mr. Clarion," he said quietly. His voice as beaten, subdued, joyless in exactly the way the pack was trying to make it joyless.
Matt didn’t know who he was, but he knew by the way Lee had smiled in response to the kid’s greeting earlier in the week that he was probably a math whiz of one stripe or another. A smart kid who would own the likes of the boys in this pack of bullies some day, no doubt; but not one who learned much from his own mistakes.
"Hello," Matt returned, keeping his own tone indifferent, resisting the temptation to show any kind of empathy to this kid the pack might take as even passing affection. Liking teachers made this kid a clear enough target. He didn’t need the added burden of having his peers think teachers liked him back. "You probably ought to be getting to class, shouldn’t you?"
The kid nodded, his eyes saying thank you but his head finally engaged enough to keep his mouth from putting the sentiment to actual words. Matt gave him as much of a smile as he could risk, hoping the kid was smart enough to read it without responding. He was. Or he missed it entirely. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference.
"Hi, Mr. Clarion," one of the pack leaders called from half way down the hall, walking backwards as he grinned at Matt and waved with an enthusiasm every kid in the immediate vicinity took to be exactly what it was: a promise to the kid he was mimicking that nothing was over, the game had just been delayed on account of teacher.
And that’s when Dean Winchester knocked the little bastard on his ass.
It was a smooth move, a half-trip as the kid turned that looked far more accidental than any of the pack’s incidental contacts had looked; and it was effective. It not only knocked the kid off balance, it actually knocked him off his feet. When he fell into a locker with a metallic crash, Winchester stopped, looking surprised at what he’d done, and said, "Whoa, dude. Sorry, man. Didn’t see you standing there."
The kid bounced up, coming off the locker like he was planning to kick some ass. Then he saw who it was—saw it was Winchester—and it was over just that quick. Again, survival instinct. Bullies know who not to push, and Winchester was the poster child of a kid nobody was going to push.
The kid stepped back, averted his eyes to avoid a confrontation as he muttered, "Yeah, no problem, just watch where you’re going next time."
This time, Matt did smile. He even chuckled a little. It wasn’t a politically correct response, but it was a clear one. Every kid standing close enough to hear it knew exactly what it meant.
And they all heard it.
That kind of teacher endorsement would have gotten a kid like the ones the pack targeted eaten for lunch in retaliation; but it wasn’t any threat at all to someone who could hold their own the way Winchester could, so Matt indulged it just to clarify his stance, just to put it into the student pipeline that this kid could knock a classmate on his ass without being called on it by a teacher who was watching.
And not just any teacher, but Mr. Clarion.
Matt knew the kind of reputation he had with the kids. He’d worked hard at establishing it, and he worked hard every day at maintaining it.
He was one of the few teachers who could approve of something without turning it cold to the touch for anyone who didn’t want to be tarred and feathered in the school cafeteria. He was one of the few teachers who could sway the kids above the target line but below the bully line into viewing something in a way they might not otherwise view it, who could put a tag on someone with a simple chuckle that would identify him to those mid-range kids as a asset rather than a liability. And he could do as much because he would never presume to tell them what to think. He simply told them what he thought, and he did it in their own language, something they would listen to as much as any of them listened to anything said by someone on the wrong side of the authority line.
Winchester glanced at him as he passed, met his eyes for just a single moment, straight on, man-to-man. The challenge in his gaze was crystal clear. He was daring Matt to call him down, daring him to say anything at all as he said, "Hi, Mr. Clarion," in a tone was no doubt a dead ringer for the one he used with Warren Rogers when he asked, "Or else what?"
"Winchester," Matt returned calmly.
He didn’t have to say anything else. Calling Winchester by name was more than enough. Whispers spread from kid to kid like an infection. By the time the bell rang for class, there wasn’t a kid in the school who didn’t know the new guy with the reputation could not only get by with knocking someone on his ass right in front of Mr. Clarion, but Mr. Clarion actually knew his name and was willing to use it. And not use it like he was a kid, calling him Dean, but rather calling him Winchester with a tone that smacked of approval, if not down right respect.
Over the course of the day, three more of the pack fell into lockers along with "Whoa, dude. Sorry, man. Didn’t see you standing there." Not a single one of them retaliated. By the end of the day, they had the message. It was the last time Matt saw anyone picking on the bookish kid whose only sin was liking school.