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Those That Can't Do

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"This is ridiculous!" Yancy shouted from the window of his car. "We're both going to be late on the first day of the year because of you!"

"I'm not the one hovering like a mother hen!" Raleigh shouted back breathlessly. He was running on the sidewalk while Yancy drove alongside him in his car, the window rolled down so that he could shout at his younger brother.

"Kid, get in the car!" Yancy ordered in his best Older Brother Voice. With a grin, Raleigh waved over his shoulder and turned a corner away from the school. He heard Yancy yelling and honking his horn back on the main road and ignored it, focusing on his run. Soon it would be winter and they would be drowned under rain that he couldn't run in– a horrible, stagnant five months spent driving to work in Yancy's car and running on his rickety old treadmill.

He threaded through side streets until he rejoined the main road and finally reached school grounds. School would start in half an hour, and there were already masses of students running around with schedules and maps and looking generally harassed. More than a few turned their heads to watch Raleigh, sweating and shirtless, head into the faculty building.

"I hate you," Yancy informed him as he handed over Raleigh's bag across his desk in the nurse's office.

"Love you too, big bro," Raleigh replied sweetly, and then ducked as Yancy threw an anatomical heart-shaped stress ball at him, beating a hasty retreat into the main offices, where he paused long enough to pull on a shirt. The locker rooms were close by his classroom, and he could grab a quick shower if he ran fast enough. His head was still trapped in the cotton when he was hit by a large, muscled shape that barked and slobbered.

"Down, Max." Raleigh's head emerged from his shirt, now stained with bulldog slobber, as Chuck Hansen was reigning in his dog, folding the leash over a few times to keep him close at hand. Max, happy as can be, continued to look hungrily at Raleigh while wagging his tail.

Chuck looked at Raleigh and wrinkled his nose. "Christ, Rayleigh—you smell like a rubbish bin."

Raleigh smiled tightly, dedicated to not starting the year off with a shouting match in the middle of the office. "Good morning, Mr. Hansen," he said stiffly. Chuck grunted and walked past Raleigh to the main desk, Max in tow.

"Chuck!" Tendo greeted. "I've got your class rosters." He handed over a stack of paper. Chuck put down Max's leash, stepped on it, and reached over Tendo's cluttered desk to grab at a yellow highlighter, taking the cap off with his teeth. He scanned through the long lists—he had a full schedule of class blocks, full to the limit, and began to highlight names. He tossed the papers one by one onto Tendo's desk.

"Wha-what the hell is this?" Tendo asked. He was swarmed today with parental and student calls, fixing mistakes on schedules, and generally directing all the chaos into some semblance of order. And now yellow-striped lists were raining down around him.

"They're all repeats—buggers think they can get off easy by signing up for the same level of shop twice." Chuck finished his second to last list and then squinted at the final one. "I want all of them taken off and called into my office during lunch," he ordered.

Tendo was muttering to himself as he collected papers, wedging a phone between his face and his shoulder.

"Tendo," Chuck was shouting over the din as Raleigh quietly collected his rosters from his bin and slipped out the door, "What the hell is this? This entire class is filled with girls!"

"Scared, Chuck?" Tendo quipped, and Chuck's rebuttal was cut off by the door to the office swinging shut. Raleigh exhaled slowly, lifting his bag higher on his shoulder and starting a half-jog towards the locker rooms. On his way, threading through the flood of arrived students, he passed the math and science buildings that were juxtaposed together, to the horror of the teachers and students within.

"I cannot believe that you would stoop so low!" a stiff, English accent boomed out from one classroom. "Childish, absolutely childish-!"

"I hate to break it to you, Hermann, but you work with kids for a living!" It was hard to tell whether Dr. Geiszler was shouting or speaking at his normal volume.

"I told you not to refer to me by my first name, we are in a professional setting—"

"Same old, same old," Raleigh muttered to himself as he passed, hoping not to be seen and dragged into another circular argument against his will. Last year he had been pulled in at lunch as he was walking towards the faculty building, and Yancy's office and its cot in particular, and he hadn't been able to escape until thirty minutes into his after-lunch class block.

Raleigh passed his own classroom in the English building, and saw a good-sized crowd gathered at the door, waiting for him. He increased his speed.

Since it was the first day of school, there was no requirement for students in P.E. to dress out, and two of the Wei Tang brothers were already conducting their arrived students into lines on the blacktop of the basketball courts, that were in front of the gym, which was itself between the locker rooms. Raleigh let himself into the empty boy's locker room with his faculty key and, deciding not to risk it, took a shower in freezing water, in too much of a hurry to let it heat up. It wasn't much of a shower, anyways—more of a cold rinse to get the smell of sweat off of him. He toweled off as best as he could while jamming his legs through his jeans and pulling his Max-slobbered shirt on, covering it with a navy blue sweater with only a few holes in the stitching. Then he slung his bag over his shoulder and started for the door, touching the doorknob just as the bell for the start of classes rang.

Cursing, Raleigh bolted for his room, not caring the image that he cut: still a little damp, clothes askew, and bag trailing after him and bumping against his legs awkwardly. A few late students gave him judgmental looks, and he thought he heard a Wei Tang brother wolf-whistle after him.

When he reached the English building, he slowed down a bit and tried to smooth his hair into a less intimidating shape, his hand coming away slick with water. Fantastic. Then he looked up and paused.

A young woman, short enough to be a student but too well dressed, was trying to fit a key into the doorknob and laughing awkwardly, her face a bit red as she attempted to open it, apologizing to his students as she did so. Raleigh approached her curiously.

"Having trouble?" he asked.

She whirled around to look and him and he was struck by the blue tint in her hair, along her jaw. "I'm having a bit of trouble with my key," she explained.

Raleigh took out his own key and opened the door, holding it open for the students to file inside. "This is my room," he said quietly to her, trying to spare her getting the speech in front of a crowd of students.

Her eyebrows came together. "I was told I had Room 3 in the Language Building," she explained. Raleigh winced. She must be a new teacher, to not know the ins and outs of the school.

"The Language Building is for foreign languages only," he explained. "This is the English building." He pointed across the hallway, where another group of students was milling around aimlessly by a shut door with a number 3 on the door.

She looked where he was pointed and inhaled sharply. "Thank you," she said quickly, beginning to cut across the hall.

"My name's Raleigh Becket!" he called out to her as she left. She turned and faced him. "If you have any other questions, feel free to swing by," he said, and then went inside, shutting the door behind him. Through the window he watched her reach her class, talk for a moment, and then let them in.

Keenly aware of the silence at his back, he turned to face his class, all looking at him vacantly and standing around. He waved his arms.

"Go. Sit. Please." They all did as they were told in a mad 'first day of high school' scramble. "I don't do seating charts, so feel free to just grab a seat wherever when you first come in," he continued, and hefted his bag onto his desk, opening it and shoving his workout clothes aside to get to his roster. "You can call me Mr. Becket," he said as he smoothed the slightly wrinkled papers out.

A girl raised her hand in the air like lightning. After a short pause of surprise, Raleigh pointed at her.

She put her hand down. "Are you related to the school nurse?" she asked.

He was a bit surprised that she knew his name. To most he was just 'the nurse'.

"Yes," he answered. "He's my older brother." Before she could ask after any of his other relatives he read attendance. By the time he was finished the loudspeaker came on with an electronic crackle and Raleigh sat down in his desk chair with an amused smile.

"Goooooood morning students!" Tendo's upbeat voice sang out loudly. "Welcome to your first day of the school year! For you returnees, great to see you again, congrats on gathering the courage to show your faces."

A few of his freshmen students were looking around in confusion.

"And for the newbies, well, I am Mr. Choi and I'll be the voice guiding you through the years here at Pacific Rim High. Normally we begin each day with a few brief announcements and flag ceremony, with a longer, more in-depth look at that day's headliners fifth block, right before lunch. Today's morning announcements are short as we welcome new faculty member and Japanese teacher Ms. Mori to the Languages Department. And now, the pledge."

They all stood and did the pledge, which Tendo ended with a canned noise of a bugle blowing. Raleigh rolled his eyes. Four years ago the soundboard had seemed like a good idea. Now there was a donation going around through the faculty to pay someone to steal it.

"Until fifth period, students. This is Mr. Choi, signing off. Stay classy, PRHS." With a static crackle, the speakers shut off and Raleigh was facing a group of wonderingly confused freshmen.

"Here we go," he said to himself. The year was officially on.