It was stupid. Dean knew it was stupid. But it was his baby brother. His really, really smart baby brother.
Dean was proud of him. So proud that it made his chest ache whenever Sam starting droning on about something he’d recently learned. Yeah, it was all stuff Dean didn’t want or need to know, but the fact that Sammy knew it? Well, Dean was proud of his baby brother.
That was his only excuse for sitting outside the dean’s office. Dean still couldn’t believe he and his brother were stuck in a boarding school, but they had no choice.
Not many hunters had kids, and even less hunters were confident that their kids could kick monster ass on their own, so when hinky stuff started going down at the very elite prep school Welton Academy, Dean and Sam were the obvious choices.
“Dean, I’m sorry,” Sam whispered.
“It’s not your fault, Sammy,” Dean whispered back, still glaring at the dean’s door.
“Don’t call me Sammy,” Sam hissed. “And yes, it was my fault. I could’ve just let it go.”
Dean snorted as he turned to pin his brother with a look of incredulity. Yeah, Dean knew words like incredulity, so shut up.
“It’s not your fault,” Dean growled. “Don’t ever apologize for being smarter than an asshole.”
Sam sighed. “I’m not sorry for being smarter than him. I’m sorry the both of us got in trouble because of it.”
Dean rolled his eyes. “Same difference.”
Sam huffed. “No it isn’t!”
Dean shrugged. “Whatever. I’m not sorry you’re smarter than everyone here.”
Sam slumped in his chair, shaking his head. He didn’t bother arguing with Dean any further. He knew it was a lost cause even if he did fight it sometimes.
It had been ongoing debate ever since they Sam was 6 and Dean was 10 years old. Dean had insisted Sam was the smartest person like ever and little Sammy shook his head and said no, he wasn’t. That there were much smarter people out there.
Dean thought it was adorable when Sammy had shaken his little fist in Dean’s face and yelled, “Walter Lewin is smarter than me!”
Six-year-old Sammy had been in the library with Dean earlier that week when a book had fallen on Dean’s head. The book was Accretion-driven Stellar X-ray Sources by Walter H.G. Lewin. Sam had declared the man a genius for writing a whole book on “psychics.” It was years later that Sam realized the man was a physics professor, not a psychics professor. But even so, the man was smart, so even now at 13, Sam used the same argument.
The dean’s door opened, shattering Dean’s pleasant memory, and Dean let the wistful smile drop from his face. The dean, Mr. Anderson, stood in the doorway with a sour look on his face.
“Dean, Sam,” Mr. Anderson rumbled, then held the door open for them.
Dean stood first, ready to take whatever they were dishing out. His brother had been right, damn it! He heard Sam walking behind him as they filed into the office. Mr. Cameron, the idiot teacher who thought he was smarter than Sam, was sitting in a leather wing-backed chair just to the right of Mr. Anderson’s desk.
Dean felt aggravation flare up even more when he saw there were no chairs in front of the desk, as if any kids who came into Mr. Anderson’s office were to stand there like the bad little boys they were and explain why they’d done the bad thing instead of sitting down and discussing things with the adults.
Mr. Anderson closed the door and slowly walked to the left side of his desk, then leaned casually against the side of it, arms crossed over his chest.
“Mr. Cameron tells me the two of you tried to incite a riot in the classroom,” Mr. Anderson said.
“That’s not true,” Dean said calmly, even though he wanted to punch the smug look off Mr. Cameron’s face.
“Ah, so he’s a liar as well as an idiot?” Mr. Anderson asked.
“Dean,” Sam said softly as he poked Dean in the side. It was a not-so-subtle ‘shut up before you get us in more trouble’ poke.
“I’m not accusing him of lying, sir,” Dean said. “I’m just letting you know we had no intention of starting a riot. If Mr. Cameron thought that’s what we were doing, he’s mistaken. That’s all.”
“I see,” Mr. Anderson said. “All right, then, how about you fill me in on why this happened in the first place.”
Dean could feel the tension radiating from Sam. Sam wanted to tell his side of the story, but Dean knew that Mr. Anderson and Mr. Cameron already had it out for the kid, and there was no way Dean would allow Sam to be punished for being smarter than a teacher, so if Dean took over the reins on this one, he’d have a better chance of keeping Sam out of this.
“Mr. Cameron,” Dean said with a quick glance at said teacher, “told the class that a kilometer is longer than a mile.”
Dean watched with satisfaction as Mr. Anderson’s eyes widened just a little bit. Huh, so it appeared Mr. Cameron hadn’t told Mr. Anderson exactly why Sam had been “inciting a riot.” Dean could totally use that.
“When Sam politely informed Mr. Cameron that a kilometer is not longer than a mile,” Dean said with a bit of a smirk, “Mr. Cameron began arguing with Sam.”
The look of surprise on Mr. Anderson’s face was quickly controlled as the man composed himself. “As you know, Mr. Winchester,” Mr. Anderson said with a frown, “we’re very strict here at this fine school. We don’t allow students to argue with teachers or other staff members. Whether Mr. Cameron was wrong or not, there’s no excuse for Sam’s behavior, or yours, for that matter. He shouldn’t have challenged Mr. Cameron, and he certainly shouldn’t have caused a ruckus loud enough that other classrooms were disturbed by the noise. Isn’t that why you decided to leave your own classroom, Dean? You heard a ruckus across the hall and ignored Mrs. Danburry’s orders to stay at your desk?”
“My brother and I are very close,” Dean said. “I assumed someone else in his class was starting something, so I went over there to make sure everything was okay because Sam’s a good kid. He never gets in trouble. I was surprised when I saw that he and Mr. Cameron were standing at the front of the class, but like I said, my brother’s a good kid. He wasn’t threatening Mr. Cameron. He was calmly discussing things with him.”
“The rest of the classroom has detention for the next week because of their behavior,” Mr. Cameron said. “But the reason they were excited in the first place was because Sam felt the need to loudly inform me of my… mistake,” he said as if he had to force himself to admit it.
“That’s not what I saw,” Dean said, shaking his head. “My brother was calmly correcting your mistake after you called him up there to ridicule him for speaking out of turn.”
“I did not call him up there!” Mr. Cameron hissed.
“Sam said you did,” Dean insisted with total confidence. “Sam doesn’t lie to me, and he told me you called him up there.”
“Perhaps you don’t know your brother as well as you think you do,” Mr. Cameron said with a smirk.
Dean smiled at the man. “I have no doubt my brother is telling the truth, just like I have no doubt that you’re lying to cover over the fact that you were teaching a classroom full of kids that a kilometer is longer than a mile.”
Mr. Cameron stood up, his face red. “That’s not the issue!” he growled as he took a step toward Dean.
“Mr. Cameron!” Mr. Anderson barked, which did the trick because Mr. Cameron immediately turned his attention to the dean. “I believe I’ve heard your side of the story. You may leave.”
Mr. Cameron’s ears were pink and it seemed as if he was ready to argue with Mr. Anderson, but then he nodded. “Yes, sir, Mr. Anderson,” he said primly, then left the three of them alone in the office.
Mr. Anderson took a cleansing breath. “If what you’re saying is true,” he said, glancing between both boys, “then Sam should get back to class while you and I have a discussion about your behavior, Dean.”
“No!” Sam said.
Dean turned to Sam. “Sam, shut up. You know you didn’t do anything wrong, so just do as he says and go back to class.”
“I challenged a teacher!” Sam said.
Dean sighed. He’d always been proud of how smart his baby brother was. Sam’s stubbornness, however, was another matter. “I know you don’t like this, and I’m not going to fight with you about it. Go back to class right now or I’m going to make an even bigger scene than you and get myself in more trouble.”
Sam’s face screwed up in disbelief, then his eyes widened as he remembered that yes, Dean was just as stubborn as he was, and he’d totally follow through on his threat. Sam huffed, rolling his eyes.
“You’re a jerk,” Sam hissed, then stormed out of the room.
Dean grimaced at Mr. Anderson. “I love him, but he’s a pain in the ass sometimes.”
Mr. Anderson chuckled. “I’ve got my own little brother. I feel your pain. We’re not as close as you two obviously are. There’s a huge age gap between us. But I’d do almost anything for him.”
Dean smiled. “Yeah, pretty much.”
Mr. Anderson shook his head. “You know I can’t ignore what you did.”
Dean nodded. “I know, sir.”
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Mr. Anderson asked.
Dean felt a warmth spread through his chest. He could tell the man was practically begging Dean to say that Mr. Cameron had lied about Dean’s behavior.
“I’m not nearly as smart or respectful of authority figures as my brother,” Dean said. “I’m not sure exactly what Mr. Cameron said I did, but I’ll tell you the truth, and it doesn’t look good for me.”
Mr. Anderson nodded. “Okay, let me hear it.”
“By the time I got in there,” Dean said, “all the kids were out of their seats and Sam was up at the front with Mr. Cameron, like I said. I heard Sam calmly argue his case one more time, but I also heard Mr. Cameron threaten Sam with a paddling from the dean because he was misbehaving.”
“Did Sam respond?” Mr. Anderson asked.
“Um, no, sir,” Dean said sheepishly. “I did that for him.”
Mr. Anderson tried to hide a smile. “Okay, go on.”
“I loudly informed the class and Mr. Cameron that he was unfit to teach,” Dean said.
“And?” Mr. Anderson prodded.
Dean let out a nervous chuckle. “And I said if he pulled his head out of his ass, maybe he’d realize what an idiot he was.”
Mr. Anderson winced. “Yes, that is exactly how Mr. Cameron told the story.”
“I know I shouldn’t have said it,” Dean admitted. “I’ve got a big mouth. It’s not the first time it’s gotten me in trouble, and it certainly won’t be the last.”
“I understand why you were upset,” Mr. Anderson said, “but you could’ve handled the whole situation with tact and respect.”
“I know, sir,” Dean said.
“That kind of behavior is unacceptable here,” Mr. Anderson said.
Dean grimaced. “I know that too, sir.”
“We may be a strict establishment,” Mr. Anderson said softly, “but we also have some of the brightest and most promising students. I don’t think that people should rigidly conform, but there needs to be rules. However, if you or your brother have problems here, you need to open up and talk to someone.”
Dean chuckled. “Our family doesn’t really do that. We take care of each other.”
“I know it’s difficult,” Mr. Anderson said with a small smile, “but give us a chance. Our teachers are held to high standards, not just the kids. Mr. Cameron will be under review for his behavior.”
Dean’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“Yes,” Mr. Anderson said. “Teaching can be a frustrating job, especially when you’re dealing with willful kids, but if he can’t handle the pressure, he doesn’t belong here.”
Dean’s jaw dropped. “Oh, um, okay.”
“Now, as far as your punishment goes,” Mr. Anderson said.
“Damn, you remembered?” Dean said with a grin.
“Yes, I did,” Mr. Anderson said with a chuckle. “But because of your honesty and good behavior since the incident, I’m going to change my original consequence of 10 strokes of the paddle to 5.”
“It goes against my nature to thank you for paddling me,” Dean said with a wince, “but thank you.”
“I can see the two of you are good kids,” Mr. Anderson said. “I read your transcripts, so I know why you were sent here, but I have a feeling there were extenuating circumstances.”
Dean felt a sudden spike of panic. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so calm and rational about this whole thing. The two of them were supposed to be troubled boys. He was blowing his cover.
“Or,” Mr. Anderson drawled, “maybe the two of you just never had anybody listen to your side of the story before.”
Dean chuckled nervously, relieved to have an out. “It’s really refreshing, sir.”
Mr. Anderson smiled. “Well, then let’s get this over with so you can get back to class.”
“You’re gonna make me sit at my desk after you paddle my ass?” Dean complained with a frown.
Mr. Anderson opened one of his desk drawers and pulled out the paddle. “It’s a good reminder to behave, don’t you think?”
Dean eyed the paddle, which wasn’t a typical school paddle. It was smaller, for one. The whole thing including the handle had to be 12 inches or less. There weren’t any holes drilled into it to make it move faster through the air, and the paddle was more rounded at the corners, less intimidating.
“Bend over,” Mr. Anderson said, “put your hands on the edge of the desk, spread your legs, and try to stay in position.”
“Yes, sir,” Dean said, his palms beginning to sweat. He got into position and clenched his teeth, waiting for the pain.
“Ready?” Mr. Anderson asked.
Dean nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said, then gasped as the first strike hit, pushing him forward. He winced as the pain blossomed out from where the paddle had landed. Even though he was wearing slacks, he felt the sting and deeper ache from a paddle.
His eyes started to burn and his throat felt tight, so when the second strike landed, he let out a whimper. The third came, and he bit his lip as his legs started to feel shaky. By the fourth strike, his fingers were turning white from holding the edge of the desk so tightly. His bottom lip wobbled as he tried to keep himself under control, but the fifth strike landed, and he couldn’t keep the tears from falling.
He sniffled, staying in position because he didn’t want Mr. Anderson to see the tears. He closed his eyes and just gave himself a moment to catch his breath. He heard Mr. Anderson putting the paddle away, then he flinched when he felt a hand on his back.
“I can’t leave you alone in my office,” Mr. Anderson said, “but take all the time you need to compose yourself before you head back to class.”
“’K,” Dean managed to say through clenched teeth.
He really didn’t want to start sobbing in front of the guy. It hadn’t hurt that badly. He knew he was still upset over the whole situation and the fact that they hadn’t been able to solve the case yet. They were stuck here until they stopped whatever was dragging sacks of food out of the kitchen and stealing personal trinkets from the students and staff.
And Dean missed his dad. Sure, he’d talked to Dad on the phone a few times, but they’d already been here three weeks. Home to Dean meant Dad, Sam, and the Impala. He wanted to go home.
Dean stood up straight and wiped at his face, relieved when he saw that Mr. Anderson was busying himself with a stack of papers on top of his filing cabinet. Dean had no idea if the man was actually doing something or just giving Dean the time he needed to recover. Either way, it was nice.
“Can I go now, sir?” Dean asked.
Mr. Anderson looked at Dean with a small smile. “Yes, you can.”
“Thank you,” Dean said, then turned around.
“Dean,” Mr. Anderson said just as Dean started to open the door.
“Yes, sir?” Dean said as he looked over his shoulder.
“If you need to leave your room at night to maybe get a snack from the kitchen or take a walk around the yards, just let me know and I’ll make sure you don’t get caught,” Mr. Anderson said with a wink.
Dean blinked stupidly at the man until it finally hit him. He remembered that Dad had been talking to a guy named Todd on the phone. Todd had given Dad some of the details they’d needed for the case. He’d been so focused on the paddling he was getting that the name on the desk blotter hadn’t registered. Dean Todd Anderson.
Yeah, Dean felt like an idiot. He smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Anderson.”
“You’re welcome,” Todd said. “And I’ll also make sure your dad knows you’ve already been punished.”
Dean chuckled. “If you know my dad, you know that’s not gonna make a bit of difference.”
Todd grinned. “Yeah, but I’ll also tell him Mr. Cameron has been acting rather odd. I swear I saw him eyeing up Mrs. Danburry’s necklace the other day.”
Dean let out a bark of laughter. Mrs. Danburry had been grumpy ever since her necklace went missing. No doubt it was with all the other missing trinkets.
“Thank you, sir,” Dean said, then headed out of Mr. Anderson’s office with a smile on his face.