A/N: A huge thank you goes out to Soar for betaing this story, and JuliaAurelia and Sinead-Conlan for all their feedback and encouragment. Thanks to all who read and/or reviewed.
Disclaimer: Still don't own.
Things were a bit tense that night at the hotel between all three Winchester men. Given what they had seen that afternoon, Sam wanted to know all about how Dean's teaching experience had gone, and John wanted to know about the hunt.
The problem was that Dean was not in a sharing and caring kind of mood. He was afraid of disappointing his father for not making any progress in finding out what object the spirit in the classroom was attached to. He didn't want Sam to ask him about what had happened in the class. He didn't know why, he just wanted to keep it to himself.
John and Sam did their best not to push, knowing the more they did this, the more Dean tended to clam up.
Finally, not being able to take it anymore, Dean said that he was going for a beer. He half-heartedly asked Sam if he wanted to come, but Sam instinctively knew that Dean would rather be alone, so he declined.
Grateful, Dean picked up the keys and left. Neither John nor Sam were surprised when Dean called and said that he wouldn't be home until late. Although not too late, John cautioned. It was a school night after all. Dean laughed and promised, grateful his Dad and Sammy weren't pushing.
The young hunter pulled into the parking lot later that evening and let himself in. He realized that Sammy, the little bitch, had stolen his bed. An evil grin suddenly spread across Dean's handsome features, and he pulled out the bag that he had liberated from his female companion. If Sammy wanted his beauty sleep, Dean had no problem with that.
The rays of the sun beat through the window of the motel early the next morning, leaving Sam waking up to the pleasant feeling. He stretched, yawned and glanced over to his sleeping father and brother.
He grinned when he realized that they were both asleep. The rules of the shower were hard and fast. Their father got the first one and it was first come, first served among the brothers. Being the youngest, Sam more often than not got stuck with the cold one.
He got out of bed and smacked his brother's foot as he walked by, telling him to get his lazy ass out of bed. His efforts were rewarded with a few mumbled words that would make a sailor blush, and a one finger salute.
Grinning, Sam went to the washroom. He opened his toiletry bag and grabbed his bottle of shampoo. He was just about to start the water when his hand froze. If Dean hadn't kicked him out of the bed last night, he was up to something. Sam took a big sniff of his shampoo bottle, and breathed a sigh of relief when it smelled okay. It was then that he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.
He got a full view of the pink lipstick, the beige blush on his cheeks and the blue eye shadow that adorned his eye lids. It looked like it had been applied by a four year old, or someone with a four year old's mentality.
Sam saw red. The only thing going through his mind was killing his older brother. He threw open the door and gave Dean a perfect shot for his camera phone.
"I"M GOING TO KILL YOU!" Sam promised, voicing his thoughts.
"Maybe I should email this to your college buddies," Dean joked.
"Give me that," Sam yelled and made a lunge for the phone. Dean, anticipating it, dodged easily. "Dad," Sam tattled, like he had done when he was younger.
"Dean, stop teasing your brother," John tried to reprimand him, but it carried no weight when John was trying not to burst out laughing at the appearance of his youngest son. He decided it was a losing battle, though, and gave in, and before Sam could stop him, John had his own picture.
"Dad," Sam protested and added in a huff. "Never mind. Just remember, Dean, you started this."
"Bring it," Dean challenged. He slipped past Sam and into the bathroom for the first shower of the day.
"I hate you," Sam called to his brother as the door shut in his face.
"See ya, Sammy," Dean said as he got out of the car for his second day on the job.
"You'd better be watching over your shoulder, and sleeping with one eye open," Sam warned in a grumpy tone as he drove off. Whatever type of makeup Dean had used hadn't washed off easily, there were still faint traces around his eyes and lips, and he really didn't want to be seen by anybody. His dad had promised to go to the drug store when he got back and get some cold cream. At least Sam had a way to occupy his time, thinking up ways to get revenge on his brother.
Dean watched Sam drive away. He knew he was in for it, but he smiled when he thought of the new wallpaper his cell phone held. It had so been worth it and it distracted him from his nervousness.
Yes, yesterday had gone well, but he had convinced himself that that it was a fluke, and the only thing he really wanted to do was find whatever it was that the spirit was attached to, salt it, burn it and drive off toward their next job.
He tried to keep himself from thinking too much as he made his way down towards his classroom. He had been invited to the teacher's lounge the day before, but he felt that he stuck out like a sore thumb already, and had turned down the invitation. Besides, he had to scan the classroom.
Pulling his EMF meter from his bag, he was all set to turn it on when he heard a commotion behind him.
"Hey, Mr. Newstead," he heard a voice call out to him.
Dean looked up and saw three kids from his 2nd period physics class.
"Good morning, Hayden, Connie, Luke," Dean returned the greeting. "What can I do for you?"
"Go ahead, ask him," Hayden said giving Luke a push.
"Why don't you?" Luke pushed back.
"Men," Connie huffed. "What these two geniuses want to ask is if we can try to build our own roller coaster. That stuff in class yesterday was really cool."
"Um," Dean said trying to stall. What the hell did he know about roller coasters? "I don't know guys, and gal," Dean added hastily. "I mean, engineers with college degrees spend years designing and building these things. I don't know how long I'm going to be here," Dean said honestly. He didn't want to start something he couldn't finish.
"You have a college degree," Hayden pointed out.
"Yeah," Dean mumbled. This is why he hadn't wanted to do this. Maybe now Sam would understand why this had been a bad idea from the start. He didn't have a college degree. "My degree was in education with a minor in physics, not engineering."
"Okay," Connie said, sounding a bit disappointed.
"Wait," Dean said calling to the kids' retreating backs. If there was one thing he hated, it was the look of disappointment on a kid's face. "Let me think about this, alright? See if I can work something out."
"Thanks, Mr. Newstead," Luke said excitedly.
Great, just what the hell did you get yourself into? Dean yelled at himself. He was digging himself in deeper. It was tough enough just finding something to teach during class and now this. He really was an idiot.
Okay, dumb ass, what are you going to do? He set the EMF detector on his desk and picked up his bag. He had borrowed Sam's laptop to make him look official. Grateful that the school had a wireless connection, he booted up the computer and typed roller coaster design into a search engine. The first hit gave him a great idea.
Dean took a deep breath as he picked up his phone, suddenly wishing he hadn't played that joke on Sammy. He needed his help. Sam wouldn't deny him if it was for the hunt, would he? He wondered if he should have blocked his phone number. Sam had caller ID.
5 minutes later, after some serious grovelling, Sam had promised to come through for him. Part one of his plan was accomplished. He made a call to the principal and soon had the second part in place.
A warm feeling of accomplishment began to take the place of the nervousness Dean was feeling, and for the first time since this job began, he was actually looking forward to his first class of the day. He just hoped Sam got there in time.
Five minutes, four minutes. Stop it, Dean.
He had been sitting behind his desk. His class was due to start shortly and there was no sign of the office messenger. Come on, Sam. I'll never play another joke on you again.
Dean got up and opened the door and accepted the small package from the messenger just as his students began to arrive.
"Good morning, class," he greeted them enthusiastically.
"Morning, Mr. Newstead," the class answered.
"I thought we would do something a bit different today. I hope it will be both fun and educational for you."
"What's up, Mr. N?" a kid in the back of the class asked.
Dean grinned even wider at the nickname. "You'll see," Dean said mysteriously. "It's going to take me a few minutes to set it up. So, Charlie," he said to another kid in the back. Dean had noticed that he hadn't taken part in the discussion they'd had yesterday, and Dean wanted to try and draw him in. "I want you to start reading chapter 4, the one on G-Forces. Read the first section, then Darlene you take over, then Amy, and so on. When you get to the end, I should be done here. If you guys have any questions, feel free to interrupt me at any time.
Dean took note of Charlie's scowl, but he was glad when the boy began to read.
"That was great guys, any questions?" Dean asked why they reached the end of the chapter. Please don't let there be any. "No, okay." Thank God. "Now for the fun part." Dean walked over to the audio visual equipment that he had called the headmaster about. He needed a projector to hook his laptop up to. He flipped it on and watched the faces of his students light up as the game Roller Coaster Tycoon flashed across the screen.
"I had a few students ask me if I would help them design a roller coaster. While I'm not an expert, I thought it would be fun to try. This is going to be a team effort, though. I want input from the whole class on what type of coaster we build. Sky's the limits, literally. Now, though, I want you to really think about the design. I don't expect it to be perfect, but I want you guys to remember the stuff we read about G-Forces and what we talked about yesterday. Or would you rather we just read aloud from chapter 5?" He made a motion like he was going to turn the projector off.
"No," the class all said.
"Let's get started then. Luke, do you want to select the first part of the track?"
Chad Maddock walked down the corridor of the science wing. He liked to keep a close eye on things when a new physics teacher started. He could see the courtyard from his office and he had seen a number of students following his new sub. Then this morning, Mr. Newstead had requested a projector from the A/V room. Chad had to admit that he was curious. Most of his subs just had the students do textbook work. Still, he wasn't quite prepared to find his students playing video games. That was a first.
"As much as it would be cool to put a corkscrew in here, Alice, I don't..."
"Could you guys excuse me," Dean asked as he got up from his desk.
"And girls," Connie called to him.
"Right, sorry," he said sincerely. He opened the door and swallowed nervously. He could see the principal gazing at the game on the screen. "Principal Maddock," he greeted the man. "Um..." he was suddenly at a loss for words. He knew what this must look like.
"Hey, Principal Maddock," Luke called out. He hoped that Mr. Newstead wasn't getting in trouble. This was the first time he had liked physics class. "Come see our coaster."
"Um, class, I need to speak to your teach..."
"Mr. Newstead, if we put the corkscrew in there, it will seriously lower the potential energy, and interfere with the ride," Alice said.
"Yeah, and a barrel roll would be too much G-Force, wouldn't it? The rider would be crushed," Hayden called out.
Whatever words Principal Maddock had been about to say died on his lips when he stepped fully into the classroom. The boards were filled with diagrams and equations. These kids were not only learning, but they were showing an interest. This could only look good when he had his conference call with the board of directors later this afternoon. He knew there was a reason he had liked this young man.
"Alright, maybe we should let Principal Maddock select the next piece of the track," Dean suggested.
"Yeah," another kid called. "What would you do?"
"Add a hill?" He raised his voice at the end to make his statement a question.
"Would that work, guys and girls?" Dean asked with a nod toward Connie.
"Sure," Connie said. "We just did a loop so our potential energy needs to be restored. Right, Mr. Newstead?"
"Right, now how big are we going to make the hill?"
"Okay everyone, that's it for today," Dean added. He was surprised that he was met with groans. It didn't look like any of the kids wanted to leave. "We'll pick this up tomorrow," Dean promised.
"See you tomorrow, Mr. N.," several of the kids called as they filed out the door, leaving Dean standing there with the head of the school. That feeling of being in the principal's office was coming back in full force.
"I'm sorry," Dean immediately apologized. This worked with his dad sometimes.
"Don't be," Chad said sincerely. "Although I have to admit this is a little unorthodox," he admitted.
"I thought that bringing up something practical would get their attention. I'm not sure how much I'm actually teaching them, though," Dean said and gave a self-deprecating shrug.
"I'm just glad that you caught their attention. Things are going a bit slow with the interviews. I haven't found the right candidate yet. Do you mind staying on for the rest of this week?"
Hell no, these last two days were tough enough. I have a free period later today, I'm scanning the room and getting the hell out of here, was what Dean was thinking, and to his complete and utter horror, when he opened his mouth, he heard himself say, "Sure. Thanks for having me."
"Great. Well I'll let you see to your next class."
Chad walked out the door, leaving Dean standing there wondering what in the hell had just happened.
Dean managed to get through the rest of the day. He never did have a chance to scan the room though, because during his last free period, despite his protests, he was dragged to the teacher's lounge. Several of the teachers wanted to know how he had gotten the students' attention so quickly.
Dean's grin lit up his whole face when Sam picked him up. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt this good and he was dreading going back the motel. One thing that Dean had learned early on, was that good was often offset by the bad.
It started as soon as the brothers arrived back at the motel. John's first question for his elder son instantly destroyed Dean's good mood.
"How was the hunt?"
"I didn't find anything," Dean had to admit. He hadn't had a chance to scan the classroom. He had been too busy trying to help his students, and then he actually had other teachers asking him for advice. He still couldn't get over that one.
"There's nothing in the classroom?" John asked, a touch of disbelief coloring his tone.
"I didn't get a chance to scan it yet," Dean confessed.
"Why not, Dean? I understand that yesterday you were getting the hang of being back in a classroom. You could have at scanned the room today, though," John berated him.
It had been on the tip of Dean's tongue to tell him about inspiring the students, but a typical Dean Winchester answer was what came out of his lips. "There was this girl. She taught geography and…"
"Spare me the details, Dean," John said firmly. "You have to stop screwing around. Now tomorrow, I expect you to make some progress. I want to move on."
"It's good money, dad," Dean said trying to make a point. "I mean, I'm getting paid for each day I'm there and..."
"The money's good, but we need to finish this hunt. What if you get replaced and..."
"It won't happen. The principal asked me to stay until the end of the week. I have plenty of time," Dean defended himself.
"Don't screw around tomorrow, understand? I need to be able to count on you, or should I find a way to get Sam in?"
"No," Dean snapped. He didn't need Sam there. He could handle this. "Yes sir, I scan the room tomorrow," Dean ground out, hoping it sounded respectful. He knew it wasn't his dad's fault. It was his, as usual. He should have scanned the classroom already. He suddenly felt like he needed to get out there, he didn't even offer an excuse, he just grabbed his keys and said he would be back later.
No sooner had Dean walked out the door, than Sam turned on his father. "You're such a hypocrite."
"Excuse me?" John said. Did Sam really want to pick a fight now?
"I Said You're A Hypocrite!" Sam said slowly, as if he were talking to a five year old. "Why do you have to put him down every God damn time?"
"I didn't..." John started to protest.
Sam didn't let him continue. "You spent the last few days telling me I'm getting on Dean's case for no reason, and here you are doing the same thing."
"No, you listen. If Dean didn't scan that classroom, it was for a damn good reason. I guarantee that getting a girl's phone number was not one of them. You saw it yourself yesterday."
"If he was busy with the students, why didn't he just say so?" John ground out.
"Hello!" Sam snapped. "Have you met your son? When does he ever admit to stuff like that?"
"No, dad. You need to take your own advice. Don't listen to Dean's words. You know what? I need to get out of here."
Sam grabbed John's keys and slammed the hotel room door on his way out, leaving John alone with his thoughts.
Dean spotted the liquor store and turned in. He wished he could get totally, stinking drunk, but he did have school the next day. Still, he needed something to calm his nerves. He got out of the car, walked up to the door, and just as he was about to reach for the handle, he heard a voice.
"Hey, mister, I'll give you $20 if you buy me some beer."
Dean turned and found himself staring at Charlie Matthews, the kid from his 2nd period physics class. He was the student Dean had been concerned about. There was something about the boy that reminded Dean so much of himself when he had been Charlie's age.
"You sure about that?" Dean asked his student.
"Mr. N... um, I mean…" Charlie stammered. "I was just testing you," he added hastily.
"Nice try," Dean said, indicating he wasn't buying Charlie's story for a minute. "Sit," he said firmly and pointed to a bench that was located by the side of the store.
Knowing he was busted, Charlie complied. "What?" he huffed.
"Why are you buying beer? Isn't tonight a school night?''
"I could ask you the same thing?" Charlie shot back.
Yes, this kid was definitely just like him, Dean thought. "I like a beer in the evenings," Dean said honestly. "You should be drinking root beer."
Charlie shrugged and remained silent. Kid was damn stubborn. Dean didn't mind, he had plenty of practice. John Winchester's picture was in the dictionary next to the word.
"Charlie," Dean prompted, firm, but soft. It looked like something was really bugging this kid. "Does this have anything to do with why you didn't turn your homework in today?"
"Practice," Charlie explained. "We have a big game against McKinley High. We have to win or we'll be out of the running for home field advantage in the play-offs. McKinley's the only team that beat us this year."
That was something Dean could understand. "You still shouldn't neglect your homework. Good way to get in trouble," Dean said with a wink.
"I don't," Charlie huffed. "I know all the answers to your stupid questions. Can I go now?" Charlie stood without waiting for answer.
"Charlie, wait," Dean requested. He hoped he could find the right words. "High school's tough. I know that."
"It's just that everyone's expecting me to lead the team to victory. I don't want to let anyone down, like I did the last time."
"How many games do you play a year?" Dean asked.
"So far, you're 6-1. That's pretty good I'd say."
"McKinley's 7-0. We lost the championship to them last year. The team's counting on me."
"I know about expectations," Dean replied honestly. "It's just..."
"I don't even like football," Charlie suddenly confessed, surprising Dean. That had been the last thing he had been expecting. "I find the stuff you're teaching really interesting, but..." he trailed off
"I guess coming across as smart doesn't look cool to the other players, but Charlie..." Dean stopped. How did he tell this young man that hiding his intelligence was not a good thing? He felt like a big hypocrite. He had done the same thing, for the same reasons. He had people counting on him.
"It's not just that," Charlie clarified. "I mean my dad, he wanted to play in the NFL, but he wasn't good enough, so he put all his hopes on me. I work out with the team after school and then my father after dinner. Sometimes, there's no time for homework. I tried to tell my dad this, but he doesn't listen."
"Talk to my dad, right? That's what everyone tells me. You going to tell me the same thing?" he said bitterly.
It was Dean's turn to surprise his student. "No, if your dad's like mine, he wouldn't listen anyway. I know about wanting to live up to expectations. My dad expected a lot from me and sometimes, it was hard to meet those expectations. I bet you're smart enough to do both. You just have to stop pretending you're not. It just makes things tougher."
"But no matter what I do, it's never good enough," Charlie said sadly, staring at his hands. "I need to throw longer, run faster, play harder. Right now, I just want to drop out of school. My dad will probably throw me out of the house, but I can get a job and my own place and do whatever the hell I want."
"Charlie, you don't want to do that," Dean cautioned.
"Yeah, I do."
"No, you don't. It may sound like it will solve all your problems, but trust me, it won't."
"Yeah, easy for you to say," Charlie snapped back bitterly.
"I can say, because I did drop out, and it didn't solve anything. It's something I've always regretted doing."
Charlie stared at his teacher in surprise. "But, you're a teacher. Don't you have to go to college for that?"
"Yeah," Dean replied. "I was 17. I won't bore you with details." Please don't ask, Dean pleaded to himself. "It was a tough time. I was trying to get by in school, I had responsibility for taking care of my brother when my dad was at work, and I thought it would make my life easier if I dropped out and got a job. It didn't. It was tough to find a job, even pumping gas they asked for a diploma. That was about 10 years ago. Then I decided to get my GED. It was a long process of night school, community college and college, but I did it," Dean lied, hoping he sounded credible. Going to college was a complete lie. "I just graduated last year. I can't tell you what to do, but really consider this."
"I want to go to college," Charlie admitted. "I just don't want to concentrate on football. I love history and I think it would be cool to be an archaeologist."
"If that's what you want, son, go for it. Don't let anyone stop you from going for it. You may not like football, but you can use it to get a scholarship. College isn't cheap. Just don't close any of your doors. You may not be able to open them later. Now get out of here. I never saw you," Dean said gesturing toward the exit of the parking lot.
"No problem, Mr. N. I'll really think about what you said." Charlie got up and walked away. He stopped suddenly and looked back over his shoulder. "Hey, Mr. N, I wish you were going to be our permanent teacher."
"Thanks, Charlie. I'll see you in class tomorrow."
He watched to make sure Charlie really did leave, then he turned toward his car. He was no longer in the mood for beer. He wanted pie, and lots of it. Before he could take another step, he saw that his brother had been standing by the entrance to the store, listening to every word he had said.
"How long you been there?" Dean asked.
"Long enough," Sam said. "Dean, what you said to that kid, I think you really helped him."
"It was no big deal," Dean said trying to shrug off Sam's praise.
"It was to him," Sam insisted. "Can I ask you something?"
"No," Dean said with a sigh. "But you're going to anyway, so what is it?"
"Have you ever thought about it?" Sam asked hoping Dean didn't take offence to what he was about to ask.
"About what?" Dean asked suspiciously.
"Getting your GED. There's plenty of online courses you can do while we're on the road."
"Sam, no," Dean said firmly.
"I know you can do it."
"I know I can too. I just can't do it again," Dean said uncomfortably.
"You don't have to pretend..." Sam started thinking Dean was talking about hiding his intelligence.
"I know, but I really can't Sam. Just let it go okay."
"Fine," Sam said, but he had no intention of doing so, he just knew he wouldn't get anything out of Dean, so he let the matter drop. "Come on, let's get pie. I'll follow you," Sam said heading for the truck.
"Now you're talking," Dean replied.
Sam climbed into John's truck and followed Dean out of the parking lot. He made a mental note to call Jefferson when Dean left for school the next morning. The man could find dirt on Mother Theresa.
Dean entered his classroom. He was a little nervous, but for an entirely different reason. He really needed to get this hunt over and done with.
He closed the door to prevent someone from walking in on him unexpectedly, and pulled his EMF meter out of his bag. He quickly scanned the room, hoping something would set it off, but the machine remained silent. He scanned it again to make sure he hadn't missed anything. Great, just great. If he had to scan the whole school...
Biting back a cry of frustration, Dean sat down at his desk. He jumped when the EMF suddenly cut into the silence. Dean cursed himself. He hadn't thought to scan the desk because he had figured that there was no way it could be the same one from the '60's. The meter squealed the longest, and the loudest, when Dean pointed it at the bottom, right hand drawer.
He opened it and pulled out a grade book, some folders, and some old papers. There was nothing that seemed like something a spirit would attach itself to. He tapped the bottom of the drawer a few times, just to see if was hollow. It wasn't. He pointed the EMF at it again, and sure enough, it went off. Dean pulled the drawer right out, and got down on his hands and knees to peer at the space underneath. Way in the back, he could make out a crumpled piece of paper. He grabbed some salt out of his bag, one couldn't be too careful, after all. He tentatively grabbed the paper and pulled it toward him.
He found himself staring at a crumpled, stained piece of paper that was yellowed with age. It had University of Texas across the top, declaring that Archie Chambers had graduated with a degree in education.
Archie Chambers had been the man that had lost his career because of a false accusation. Strangely, Dean found himself sympathizing with the man. He'd suffered the same thing. A shape shifter had stolen his identity and framed him for murder.
Dean had made a joke about it, wishing he could see his own funeral, but it still hurt knowing he would never be Dean Winchester again. That was lost, the same way Archie Chambers had his life destroyed.
That surprised the young hunter. If someone had told him that he'd be feeling sorry for a ghost, he would have said they were crazy. Dean shook himself out of his thoughts. No matter what, this guy had still hurt people who didn't deserve to be hurt.
He picked up his lighter and took the old certificate over to the sink, and poured salt on it. It didn't take long for the fire to engulf the paper.
It was strange. Dean didn't think he'd ever had an easier hunt. He was just glad it was over. He was even more shocked when he found himself thinking about stalling his father. He wanted to finish out the week here. The money would really help them.
Glancing at the clock, Dean realized it was time for his first class of the day. He grinned and went to go open the door.
"Hey, Mr. N.," Charlie greeted him. "What's that?" he asked pointing to the EMF in Dean's hand.
"Good morning, class," Dean returned the greeting. He realized that his nervousness was gone. An idea popped into his head. He held up his EMF meter. "This is today's lesson."
Sam hadn't wasted anytime either. No sooner had Dean left for the school, than he was on the phone. He explained his suspicions to Jefferson and asked him to see if he could confirm it. Jefferson promised to look into it and get back to him.
He knew it would make Dean mad. If there was anything his older brother hated, it was when people invaded his privacy. He had no rational explanation as to why he wanted to find out what Dean was hiding so badly. He wondered if it was part of his strong desire to know more about what his brother had been up to when Sam was at school.
That night went great. Dean came home in a very positive mood. He told them he had solved the case, and John had said that they didn't have to leave, so Dean could finish the week out at the school. His smile had been worth it.
The next night wasn't so hot. Jefferson had come through for Sam and said he would fax him the proof. Sam called the motel office and got permission to receive a fax, and gave Jefferson the number. Sam hadn't planned to tell Dean or their father what he'd found out. After all, if Dean hadn't said anything, he really didn't want anyone else to know.
Getting sick and tired of taking cold showers, Sam had decided to take one in the evening. Then he'd go pick up the fax. The problem was that John had gone to the office to tell him they were staying another couple of nights, and the motel manager had asked him to give the envelope to Sam.
John wondered what it was, the hunt was taken care of, after all. Not being one to respect anyone's privacy but his own, he opened the package.
"Dean!" he called to his eldest when he arrived back at the room.
Dean looked up from the table, where he had been researching stuff for tomorrow's lesson. "What?" he asked tentatively. His dad looked mad.
"Want to explain this to me?" he asked. It wasn't a question.
Dean took the piece of paper his father had handed him and found himself staring at his GED. How the hell had he found out? He'd gotten it during an extended stay at Bobby's. The senior mechanic was the only person that knew, and he had promised Dean he would never tell. Bobby would never betray his confidence like that.
"Never mind, do you want to tell me when you went back to school?"
"I didn't, it, um, it's fake," Dean stammered, hoping his father would buy it. Of course, there was no way he would.
"Okay, let me rephrase. Why do you need a fake GED?"
"For hunts," Dean said hoping his father would accept that excuse.
"Nice try," John said, seeing through Dean's lie. "If you needed a diploma for hunts, why wouldn't you get a high school diploma, or a college degree for that matter?"
"Hey, dad, have you seen my…" Sam asked coming out of the bathroom. He stopped when he stepped into the room and sensed the tension between the two men.
"Did you know anything about Dean getting his GED?" John asked.
"Sam?" Dean questioned in disbelief when he saw the guilty look on Sam's face.
"I was the only one supposed to see that. Why did you open it? It was mine."
John had no response, so he took the road he always did. "I'm your father..."
"No way!" Sam cut him off. "You had no right…"
"Neither did you!" Dean interrupted him. "You did the same thing, Sam," Dean reminded him.
Dean had him there. "I was just curious."
"It was my business. If I wanted you to know, I would have told you."
"Son," John said gently. He didn't want Dean getting worked up. Things had been going so well for him lately. "Why did you think you had to hide this?"
Dean shrugged. "Look, it was no big deal, okay?" Dean said ignoring John's question. "I got it when I was at Bobby's that time," Dean said giving his father a pointed look.
John knew what Dean was talking about. It was something he wanted to forget.
Sam watched the silent conversation going back and forth between his brother and his father. Whatever had happened, it was major. "What happened? It takes months to get a GED."
"Look, if will get you two off my back, Bobby told me I was driving him crazy and suggested it," Dean said tiredly. He really didn't want to talk about this, because it would lead to a huge fight between his brother and father.
"Why were you at Bobby's? Where was dad?"
Sammy was worse than a dog with a bone. "You were at Stanford, there was this hunt. I got injured and stayed at Bobby's until I recovered," Dean said giving the short version. There was no way he was elaborating.
"What happened?" Sam repeated himself. "Where were you, dad?" he said, his tone accusatory.
John couldn't suppress the shudder the suddenly ripped though his body. He didn't like thinking about that time any more than Dean did.
His son wasn't lying when he had said he got injured on a hunt. The problem was that it wasn't anything supernatural. It was tied to a mistake John had made when he first started the hunt. By the time he had figured out his mistake, Dean had gone missing. By the time John had found him, Dean had barely been alive. The doctors weren't even sure if he would make it through the night.
John had thought long and hard about calling Sam. He actually had the phone in his had, Sam's number punched in just before he could push the button to connect the call, the doctor had come looking for him to tell him that Dean had turned a corner.
John never wanted his younger son to hear the full details of that hunt. Sam would never forgive him if he knew just how close they had come to losing Dean, or how serious his injuries were, and for not telling him. No matter what had happened between all of them, John knew with absolute certainty that Sam would have dropped everything to get to his brother's side.
"Dad?" Sam prompted at his family's silence. He knew something big had gone down. He also knew that he'd never get the information out of Bobby, especially if Dean had sworn him to secrecy.
"Dad got a lead on the thing that killed mom," Dean said softly.
"You left your injured son to go hunt?" Sam asked in disbelief, his anger growing. If Dean had been injured badly enough to have to stay at Bobby's long enough to get his GED, it had to have been serious.
"Sam, don't okay," Dean begged. "Don't start. It wasn't dad's fault. I told him to go, okay? He didn't want to."
"But, Dean, he always does this. I mean he made you drop out of school, and he left…"
"Sam," Dean interrupted. "Dad didn't make me drop out, you know that. It was my decision. Dad tried to convince me to go back, but I didn't want to. It was something I've regretted since the day I did it. Bobby suggested getting my GED, and I did it because I wanted to. It was something that was entirely for me. It was something I needed to do. It had nothing to do with either of you," he exploded. "Don't fight."
Sam and John eyed each other, as if each was daring the other to say something, to give them an excuse to start. "I'm going to go get dinner," Sam said eventually and he grabbed the car keys and stalked off out of the room. This was his fault. He shouldn't have pried into Dean's past.
"I'm sorry, son," John apologized. He felt guilty for ruining Dean's good mood.
"Can we just let it drop?" Dean said squirming uncomfortably.
"Okay," John agreed gratefully. He wasn't good at these types of things. "There's just one thing I need you to understand."
"What?" Dean asked warily.
"This is a big accomplishment, Dean," John said indicating the GED. "I hated asking you to not do your best. If you're wondering why I never asked Sammy to do that, it was because with him, there was always someone there to answer the phone. For that, son, I am so damn proud of you." With that, even knowing Dean would protest, John wrapped him in the biggest bear hug he could.
Dean felt a little melancholy when he reported to work for his last day. He had to admit that he had enjoyed himself. In the end, he was glad they had taken this hunt. Not because he'd destroyed the spirit, though he was grateful no one else would get hurt. What made this hunt worth it was Charlie Matthews.
After the end of his class with his favourite students, while Dean had said goodbye to the students, Charlie had hung back. He had said that he wasn't going to drop out, and had decided to follow Dean's advice. He started to put an effort into his studies. He participated in class more. Dean had heard the other teachers talking in the teacher's lounge. It gave him a strong feeling of pride that he had been able to help the kid.
His classes that day flew by, and before Dean knew it, he was getting ready to leave. He didn't expect the summons to the principal's office. He guessed that Principal Maddock just wanted to tell him that he had found a replacement.
"Have a seat," Chad greeted Dean as he stepped into his office.
"Thanks," Dean replied as he took the proffered chair.
"How was class?'
"It went fine."
"Charles Matthews came to see me today. He wants to enter the upcoming science fair."
A wide grin broke out on Dean's face. "He has potential."
"I agree. I was worried about him. I heard rumors that he was thinking about dropping out. Do you have any idea why he changed his mind? Don't look so surprised," Chad added at the surprised look that registered on Dean's face. "I've seen it all. Word gets around. Do you know why he may have changed his mind?"
"No clue," Dean said and hoped his tone came across as him really having no clue.
"I'm sure," Principal Maddock said in the same tone as Dean. Dean found it to be sarcastic, so he just shrugged his shoulders. He had a feeling the principal knew exactly what had caused Charlie to change him his mind, or rather who had caused him to change his mind. "I guess you're wondering why I called you here?"
"I'm guessing you hired a new teacher."
"Not yet, but I have it narrowed down to two candidates."
"I'm sure they'll do a good job," Dean replied.
"I know for a fact one of them will," Principal Maddock said in a pointed tone. "I want to give you first crack at the job."
That statement managed to do something not much else could. It rendered Dean speechless. "Me?" he finally managed to squeak out a few minutes later.
"Yeah," the principal confirmed. "Several other of your students came to see me as well, and asked me to keep you on permanently."
"But I... I don't think... I'm just a sub." Brilliant dumb ass, you certainly showed him just how articulate you are.
"All teachers start out as subs."
"But I can't…"
"Are you worried about what happened to the other teachers?" the principal said misinterpreting Dean's reaction.
"No," he said firmly. "I don't scare easily. It's just... I'm not sure. I don't have a lot of experience and..." he trailed off.
"Dean, I've been in education for over 30 years. In that time, I've seen many teachers come and go. I was extremely sceptical when I passed by your class room and found you playing video games…"
"That…" Dean started to explain himself. He stopped when the principal held up his hand.
"Let me finish. It's a little unorthodox, but it certainly captured their attention. Those kids have learned more about physics in the last 5 days with you, than in the first four months of the school year. Some people are just natural born teachers. They have the gift, and you, Dean, have that gift in spades. Those kids respond to you in a way I've never seen before, and I think you'd be a valuable asset to our teaching staff."
Dean sat there dumbfounded. He couldn't quite believe that the principal was talking about him. They thought he made a good teacher, but the hunt, his mother, Sammy, his dad. They were a family. His dad wouldn't like him staying here. His dad needed him. "I appreciate it, Principal Maddock, but right now, I have commitments to my family that I can't give up. We'll probably be moving soon, and I was offered a sub job. I didn't think I had a chance here and I already accepted it." Please buy that excuse, please buy that excuse.
As a high school principal, Chad Maddock had a good bull crap detector, and he suspected there was much more going on. "I understand," he replied much to Dean's relief. "It's our loss, but another school's gain. I wish you luck."
"Thanks," Dean replied. "I really enjoyed my time here."
Dean quickly said goodbye and headed out the door.
Chad watched him leave. He wished he could find the words to make the young man stay. Instead, he picked up the phone to call the other candidate and let her know she had the job. Chad told her that they had taken care of the problem they'd been having, and that she shouldn't have any trouble. He had no proof, except for a strong gut instinct, that the young man who had just left his office has somehow lifted the curse.
He shook his head. Maybe it was time to start thinking about retirement. He really was going crazy.
"Son, is everything okay?" John inquired later that evening. They had been packing for their next hunt. John had gotten word of demonic activity in Salvation, Iowa and they were headed out. They had a good cash supply for once, thanks to Dean. Dean had been quieter than normal, though. "Did something happen at school today?"
"No, dad, everything's fine," Dean insisted. "I guess I'm just going to miss the kids."
"I'm sure they'll be fine."
"Yeah," Dean replied. "Come on. We'd better get going." He grabbed his duffel and walked out of the room.
"Did he say anything to you, Sammy?" John asked a bit worriedly. Dean had seemed kind of down.
"No," Sam said honestly. "I think he..." Sam stopped. He was wondering if this experience had affected his brother more than he would admit. No, Dean was a hunter. He'd never give it up. "I think it's like he said, he'll miss the kids."
"You're probably right," John reluctantly agreed and then followed Sam out the door
They hadn't been driving for too long when the school came into sight. Sam looked toward his brother. Dean's face bore an expression that Sam couldn't read. "Are you sure you're all right, Dean?" Sam couldn't resist asking. He knew that something had happened that afternoon that his brother wasn't telling him about. He knew there would be no point in asking, but Sam wanted to make sure Dean was okay.
Dean, who had been staring at the school, tore his gaze away and looked at his brother.
He thought about the GED certificate that Dean had seen Sam tuck away in his bag. Dean had hid his intelligence for so long that he didn't know how to stop doing it sometimes. He let people think he didn't know what was going on around him. It made them underestimate him. It had been an advantage on several hunts.
In a way, he was glad that Sam knew about his GED. A part of him had always wanted to tell Sam, to make his brother not be ashamed of him for being a high school drop out, but never wanted Sammy to know about the circumstances behind it. Now Sammy knew the truth. He could stop pretending.
He realized that a small part of him, for a few seconds, had really considered taking the job. Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he looked at his brother sitting next to him, and glanced at his father's truck in front of him. Things were still a little strained between his father and brother, but at least they weren't sniping at each other. His dad and his brother weren't perfect, neither was he, but they were a family, and when he was with his family, he knew in his heart that he was right where he belonged.
He turned toward his brother with a genuine smile, the kind that could light up a room, and one that Dean gave so rarely. Sam returned it when Dean said sincerely, "Yeah, Sammy. I'm fine. Everything's perfect."
Please read and review.
A/N: Thanks to everyone that read, reviewed and stuck with me, especially with the long wait between updates. I know the hunt was a little lame, but it was only thing I could think of. I also need to thank Pandora Jazz who gave me the idea about Dean getting his GED.