George Manning was just hanging up his phone when the door to his office burst open. A small smile tugging at his lips, the man shook his head before turning his gaze upon the student who was standing in his door way. Lifting his hand he started to make a gesture for the boy to step inside, only for the boy to beat him to it, already sliding into the chair opposite his desk with a graceful elegance more often spotted in professional athletes’ than high school students.
“Dean. Come in,” he remarked dryly, George’s words laden with sarcasm.
The teen made a grunt of acknowledgment as he folded his arms across his chest. It had always surprised George the way Dean was able to sit so perfectly still when faced with a figure of authority – most students walked into his office and suddenly became a ball of nerves. George could hardly recall the number of bouncing knees and twirling hair and tapping fingers that he had become acquainted with over all his years as a high school counselor. But not Dean Winchester – he was as still as a Greek statue, his features masked in cool disinterest with his feet planted firmly on the ground. The only sign that he was a living being was the even rise and fall of his chest.
As such, George took a moment to study the boy who was sitting before him. Dean Winchester and his brother had come to Jackson Lee High School a little over a month ago, and already he had caused more trouble then any of George’s other students combined. The younger Winchester – Sam – was the image of perfection; he handed his work in on time, which was almost always exemplary, and when faced with bullies he seemed to have learned to merely walk away. Dean, on the other hand, was what the teachers in the staff lounge called the student from Hell.
He was disruptive in class and tended to blurt out whatever humorous anecdote filled his thoughts at that very moment. The boy seemed to only have one style of clothing – pre-owned – and yet the girls all swooned at the sight of him. The boys hated him, and Dean had already been the competitor in far too many fights for a boy his age. Today he was wearing a pair of old, torn jeans that looked to be just one size too big for him, with a grey v-neck t-shirt that had a slight tear at the collar and some interesting staining along the edge of it. There was a bruise on his left eye in the first stages of healing – the familiar yellow patches of skin spreading across the purple just enough for George to flinch at the thought of how much it must throb.
Staring back at the man, Dean spoke, “So what is it today, Manning? Did Rawlinson say I was causing trouble in his class? Because that is utter bullshit, man.”
George waited to see if Dean would offer up an explanation for whatever had occurred in his math class – even an excuse as to why it wasn’t his fault. But that was not in Dean’s nature, more the type to gracefully accept his punishment without any bitching or moaning. The older man shook his head in slight amusement as he held up his hand to stop the boy from saying anything else – though George was sure the eighteen-year-old hadn’t considered the thought. “No, Dean. We’re here about something else entirely. If you could just hear me out for a second, I think I can be of real help to you.”
Perhaps that was the wrong thing to say, because suddenly the boy seemed tense. His jaw clenched and his biceps tightened, and for whatever reason George felt something prickling the corner of his senses. It took him a moment, but comprehension hit him like a ton of bricks – Dean looked like a cat ready to bolt for the door after a stranger stepped too close.
“Dean – stop looking like you’re in trouble!” He forced a laugh, trying to ease the tension, while leaning forward on his desk, his arms folded, as he asked, “Have you ever thought about college, Dean?”
The eighteen-year-old let out a bark of laughter of his own and gazed back at the high school counselor. “For me?” he asked, staring at his high school counselor in disbelief. When George nodded his head, the boy groaned, “Aw, you gotta be shittin’ me, Manning. Me? A college boy? Going to frat parties, drinking cheap college beer, and sitting in lecture halls? Hell no.” The dark blonde shook his head, his green eyes bright with amusement as he let out another chuckle. Then reaching down to grab the strap of his suspiciously empty looking backpack, he moved to stand, “Well, if that’s all, I think I’ll get back to hist—”
George gestured for him to stop, interrupting the boy’s swift movements. “In fact, that’s not it, Dean. C’mon – what’s the hurry?” Having been a counselor for as long as he had, the near-forty year old knew about camaraderie between himself and his students. “You can’t tell me you’re just dying to get back to history.” The man allowed a smile to pull at his lips as he waited for the boy to lower back into the seat. “Beside, we have something else to talk about.”
Dean, for his part, managed not to look as though he were ready to bolt at any moment as he sat back down. “What?” he demanded, his tone gruff, having quickly lost the joking demeanor that he had so casually worn only moments before. “I didn’t do anything. I don’t care what Ms. Doyle said about my English paper. Just because I didn’t bother to write it in a bunch of pointless flowery words doesn’t mean I didn’t put any goddamn effort into it.” His eyebrows furrowed, he sat frozen in the chair as he waited for George’s response.
“No, we’re not here to talk about Ms. Doyle,” he promised, chuckling wryly at Dean’s complaints.
Dean’s eyebrows knitted together further, his green eyes brightening with confusion. “Then I don’t know what the hell this is about.” Then his face relaxing, coherence spreading across his features, he grinned. “Aw shucks, Manning. Are you worried about this shiner I’ve been sporting these past few days?” Shaking his head the boy explained, “Nothing to call child services about – I got in a fight with a couple sophomores who were picking on Sammy. I’ll admit I went a little easy on them.” His grin widening, obviously amused by the memory he carried on, “But it’s only ‘cause I forgot how damn small those kids’ can be. Anyway,” he tilted his chin up to look George in the eye. “One of ‘em got a good shot in when I was looking the other way. But s’all good. I already got a week’s worth of detention from Doyle – she saw the whole thing.” Rather than sounding shamed, as most students might, Dean actually exhibited a cocky burst of pride that was evident in his tone.
George had the good nature to look ashamed at the comment, making it painfully obvious that he had, in fact, been curious about the fresh bruise on the boys face.
“Called it!” Dean exclaimed, jumping up from his seat. “Can I go now?”
The counselor shook his head violently. “No!” The boy, who swiftly lowered himself back into the chair, didn’t even bother to look startled as he waited for George to speak. His face had the pointed expression of someone who felt they had already wasted too much time on something that was highly unimportant. Flushing, the thirty-nine year old pulled out three, thick manila folders that were held together by a few straining rubber bands. Opening them swiftly, their contents revealed dozens of school transcripts and letters from former teachers and detention slips. Pulling one sheet out from the pile of the rest, he held it up for the boy to see. “Do you know what this is?” The teen shook his head, not even bothering to look intrigued. “These are your SAT scores.”
Finally, George had earned himself a response. Dean cringed visibly, a pink tinge blossoming across his cheeks as he ducked his head. “So?” he muttered. “I don’t wanna see them, man – I never even got the scores in the first place anyway. My family had moved before the scores could reach us and my old man forgot to leave a forwardin’ address.” There was just a touch of shame in his tone as he stared intently at a photo on the wall.
George’s heart went out to the boy – it couldn’t be easy constantly moving around because his deadbeat father couldn’t find a steady job. Trying to keep the pitying expression from crossing his features, he asked, “So then you don’t know what you scored?”
“I doubt it’s anythin’ worthwhile,” he shrugged, his tone still noncommittal.
Trying to keep Dean’s attention, afraid the boy might bolt out of the room now that they had breached the real reason for this meeting, he spoke in a hurried voice, “Dean, you scored in the top percentile on the SAT. Do you realize what that means?” The boy shook his head, his cheeks burning as he refused to look up at the man. “You could go to any university you wanted – I know your grades aren’t your standard straight-A material, but Dean!” The enthusiasm in his voice was obvious as his eyes brightened – there weren’t many years when a counselor got a student with Dean’s potential to sit in the chair across from them.
“Dean – I mean it. With a few good letters of recommendation – and I know you could find them, I’d write you one and there are more then a few teachers who like you – you could go anywhere. The universities will take it into account that you haven’t had a steady home life. They’ll see your SAT scores and read the letters, and they’ll see what potential you have!” Pulling open desk drawers, gathering brochures he’d collected, and grabbing the forms he’d already printed off, George is on a roll; “Now, I suggest you start by looking at these – they’ll give you all the information you need about the Ivy league schools – and with your scores, Dean, you will want to look into them – and here are some forms about applying for scholarships. I know with your father’s situation college tuition might be a little tight, which is why I think you should apply for more then one of these—“
Startled, George dropped the papers, as he stared up at the boy. “What?”
Setting the man with a hard glare, the boy spoke with such intensity that the counselor was taken aback. There were students who spoke with confidence, naturally; there had been teenagers who spoke in a cocksure tone, obviously. But Dean Winchester spoke with something more – conviction. There was no doubt in his words as he stated simply, “I’m not going to college.”
George is speechless for a moment. He’s baffled, stumped into silence, as he tries to make sense of these nonsensical words. He’s heard them before, obviously. Jackson Lee isn’t the place where the future Presidents of America study – this is the school where more than thirty percent of the incoming freshman class will drop out before their graduation. This is where more girls wound up pregnant than receiving a higher education. In a town where more high school graduates can be found pumping gas rather then visiting home from college. But Dean...Dean deserved more. He had potential.
“I don’t—“ the counselor stumbles. “MIT, Dean. West Point. Columbia. Dean.” He’s pleading now. George can hear the whine in his voice, and it’s so strange because never before has he ever wanted so much for a student who he thought could actually achieve it. “You could go anywhere. Be anything. Do whate—“
The boy stood, his chair scraping loudly against the floor.
“I already am, sir. I’m where I need to be – with my family. Takin’ care of Sammy. Helpin’ my Dad with the family business. I’m already who I need to be.” There’s a shift in his tone. No more dude’s and man’s; his shoulders are pulled back and his eyes are so dark, George can feel his own heart plummeting as he stares at his prize student, confusion wafting around him.
He finds his voice as Dean stands his ground, “What about what you want?”
The tall, bruised boy – man? – let’s out a hollow, broken laugh as he shakes his head in pity for George. “You don’t get it, man,” Dean says, the tension slipping from his shoulders as a lopsided smile tugs at his lips. “But that’s okay. ‘Cause you don’t have to. I’m where I need to be, and dude—“ he pauses; leveling his gaze with the older man. “It’s what I want, too.” He walks out of the office after that, refusing to turn back despite George’s protests.
A week later, George hears about Dean dropping out from the secretary in the main office.
George is sure he failed him somehow.