Word Count: 2299
Summary: Principal Novak likes to think he understands his students, and even he can't figure out why Castiel threw punches.
Author's Note: My first Supernatural fic, and of course it's a high school AU. I have a huge, shameful soft spot for AUs, especially cute little high school ones. I'm planning to 'verse this, so expect that to go up... Also, this is unbeta'd, so if anything is weird, please point it out. I'll gladly change it. :)
Principal James Novak was not a strict man. In fact, he thought that he was rather reasonable and cut students a decent amount of slack, usually more than what would be considered fair; above-and-beyond fair. “They're just kids,” he'd think to himself. “Their brains are still developing; that's why they make the choices they make.”
Principal James Novak understood teenagers. The kids might say otherwise, but James Novak knew how teenagers become teenagers. He understood why kids did what they did: because they couldn't control their impulses sometimes. Because making bad choices was as much a factor of brain development as it was upbringing. Principal James Novak liked to think he could figure out why certain kids acted they way they did, and yet—
“I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what has gotten into you two,” he said, resting his elbows on the desk and looking pointedly at the two boys seated across from him. Both of them stared at him, insolence schooling their features into dark glares. They were both sporting impressive battle wounds: a cut on the eyebrow, a black eye, a split lip—he'd get Nurse Blake to look at it after he was done with his lecture—and bloody knuckles on both of them.
“I'm especially disappointed in you, Castiel,” he said, addressing the boy to the right. James Novak knew—from years of personal experience—that Castiel chose his battles very carefully, and although he never walked away from a fight, it was almost unheard of for him to start one. Sitting next to him was his best friend and partner-in-crime, Dean Winchester, who sat with his arms folded tightly across his chest, sitting ramrod straight in his chair, defiant and defensive. Where one went, the other usually followed; it only made sense that once Castiel started throwing punches, Dean joined right in.
“Do you want to explain to me what happened here?” he said, looking at Castiel. “I'm told you started this one.”
Castiel said nothing, blinked at Principal Novak and remained silent.
Dean sunk into his seat a little, as if trying to avoid questioning. Principal Novak understood that. Winchester was nothing if not honest, and Principal Novak knew that whatever version of the story he could weasel out of Dean would be reliable and he probably didn't want to disclose the entire truth. His blunt honesty was one of Dean's redeeming qualities. Not that James Novak disliked Dean Winchester, quite the contrary, he very much liked the boy, but he had very little control of his actions sometimes. He was the kind to shoot first and ask questions later; at least Castiel was slightly more thorough when examining a situation.
“Boys,” he said, folding his hands together on the desk and alternating looking between them, “I can promise you that if you don't tell me what happened, I'll have to be much stricter in what disciplinary action will be taken.” He held his hands out, as if expecting the boys to put the story in them like they would a test paper or a book report. “So, gentlemen?”
Dean opened his mouth to speak but it was Castiel's voice that came out: “They had it coming.”
“Is that so?” Principal Novak asked, turning to look at Castiel. “What did Brady and Duane do?”
Castiel sighed, leaning back in his chair and slumping down. “They were... saying some things.” He glanced at Dean quickly and then, surprisingly, into his lap. “About Dean and me.”
Principal Novak frowned. “I'm surprised at you,” he said, “I'd have expected someone of your nature to just walk away from that sort of thing.”
“Normally, yes,” Castiel said, “but in this case, they didn't know when to shut up, so I did it for them.”
In his peripheral vision, James Novak saw Dean smile, just a little bit.
“Would you care to elaborate on what words were exchanged, Castiel?” Principal Novak asked.
Castiel shifted, uncomfortable, before regaining his composure and looking up. “They were calling us derogatory names based on their interpretations of my friendship with Dean and its link to our sexual orientations,” he replied.
“They were calling us fags,” Dean clarified; Principal Novak didn't miss how Castiel flinched just a little bit at the word.
The other boy sat up a little straighter. “At first, they were only calling me names,” Castiel said, “but then they started saying things about Dean, and--” he cut off, looking at Dean straight on this time. “--and I wanted to break their noses,” he said finally.
“Was this the first time they'd addressed Dean in such a way?” James asked.
“Yes. Usually the abuse is only directed at me; today they decided to elaborate on their opinions. I wasn't going to stand by and let them say things about my friends like that.” His face changed, darkened; true anger spread across his features. “They can say what they want about me, but they can't say anything about my friends.”
Principal Novak considered Dean, now. Winchester had been uncharacteristically quiet; usually he was the first to throw in his two cents, consequences be damned. Now he sat, rigid, watching Castiel, expression unreadable.
“Dean,” he said. The boy looked at him. “Was this the first time you'd ever had a confrontation with Duane and Brady?”
Dean shook his head. “Yes. I've never had any kind of encounter with them,” he said after a moment. “I mean, I knew they were saying shit to Cas--”
“--but Cas told me not to bother with them. But today, man, I've never seen Cas get so pissed off about this before, you know? And they were saying some pretty harsh things, and I wasn't going to listen to them say that stuff to him.” He looked over at Castiel, searching for his eyes; when Castiel looked away, he continued: “Cas definitely threw the first punch, but thing is... I was on my way to socking one of them square in the jaw anyway. I mean it, my arm was cocked and ready, Cas just—well, he beat me to the punch, so to speak.” At that, Dean smirked, his trademark expression, humor dancing in his eyes. “I didn't know Cas could fight so well,” he said. “I was kinda proud of him, you know, even while I was kicking Brady's ass.”
“Language, Dean, I won't remind you again,” Principal Novak said again. Then he leaned back in his chair. “So, you were provoked, then.”
Dean frowned. “I don't go around fighting dudes for no reason, man. Brady and Duane are douchebags, they deserved it.”
Principal Novak opened his mouth to correct Dean's language, but gave up as reprimanding Dean's language seemed to have little effect on the boy. He contemplated the confession carefully, then said, “How long has this sort of bullying been going on?”
Castiel shrugged. “Since the beginning of the school year,” he said. “So, maybe two, three months?”
James Novak nodded slowly in thought. “And normally, when they say something, what do you do?”
“Usually nothing, I just continue on my way,” Castiel answered simply. “I don't see the point in reacting; it wouldn't bring me much, if any, satisfaction.”
“What kind of things would they say to you?”
“Just general remarks on my appearance, you know, my abilities,” Castiel said. “Nothing terribly offensive; much easier to ignore, you know?”
James Novak knew Castiel well. He should, after all; Castiel and he shared a last name—it wasn't something they ever really discussed, the fact that the principal happened to be Castiel's father, but he knew that Castiel caught a lot of flack for it—and he knew when Castiel was lying. His tells were subtle, probably too subtle for most people to notice, but years of lies to avoid discipline had made it so James Novak could easily see when the truth was being obscured. He leaned forward.
“Castiel,” he said, gently, “why are you lying to me?”
The boy's head snapped up at the same time that Dean turned his head sharply, eyes wide in surprise, to look at Castiel. “What?”
“I'm not lying,” Castiel said, a little too quickly, and James Novak whipped out the big guns.
“I'm your father, Castiel, I know when you're being less than truthful.” He looked Castiel dead in the eye. “Were Duane and Brady saying other things to you?”
Castiel breathed out a huffed sigh of annoyance, looking down at his hands. “They'd say other things,” he said finally. “More often than not, things that were far more offensive than making fun of my lack of athletic talent.”
“What?!” Dean cried, shocked. “They were saying other things to you, Cas?!”
Castiel shrugged. “It didn't really bug me, you know. Well, it did, but I just kind of dealt with it.” The corner of his mouth twitched up in a small smile. “They weren't worth getting upset over.”
“What did they say to you, Castiel?” James said.
The boy sighed again. “Pretty much the same stuff they were saying today,” he answered. “Asking me if I liked sucking cock, what was that like, was I the pitcher or the catcher--”
“--that's enough, Castiel, thank you.” James held up a hand to stop the boy.
Dean rocketed up to his feet. “Why didn't you tell me, Cas?!”
“Like I said,” the other boy replied calmly, “it wasn't really worth the effort. Besides, they weren't hurting anyone I knew personally. That's why, today, when they brought you into it, Dean, I just couldn't handle that. Those guys, they can say whatever the hell they want about me, they can beat me up for all I care, but the minute they dared to bring you into it... Those insults are meant for me, Dean, not for you.”
Castiel fixed him with a blank stare, before Dean sank down into his seat again. “You should have said something to me,” he said after a moment. “I had no idea it was so much worse than what you told me.”
Principal Novak noticed something, then. The way Dean stared at Castiel, sorrowful and affectionate, and the way Castiel met his gaze with equal fondness. This surprised Principal Novak, as Castiel was usually the picture of stoicism, his expression rarely betraying such warmth. The boy usually regarded others with a stare of calculated coolness, a detached regard for others—to see him staring at Dean so open and candidly, full of uncharacteristic emotion... James could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people Castiel could be so free around, and he'd never known that Dean was one of those people.
“It didn't get to me, Dean,” Castiel said gently. “I didn't want to get anyone involved with it. It wouldn't have accomplished anything. I can fight my own battles--”
“--but I very much appreciate your concern. It's good to know I'll always have you around to defend my honor.” And then he grinned, unbridled, at Dean, and it was like the clouds parted and Castiel's smile lit up the room. A rare glimpse of the sun.
“Well, boys,” Principal Novak interrupted. The two boys tore their eyes away from each other quickly and James didn't miss the twin blushes that crept into their cheeks, having been caught sharing such an emotional moment. “Taking into account the events leading up to this fight, the punishment will not be as severe as suspension”--at this, Dean breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed into his seat--”however, I will still be giving you boys two weeks' detention for fighting.”
“Thanks, Principal Novak,” Dean said happily. “You have no idea what kind of shit I'd have gotten at home if I was suspended.”
“Keep using language like that, Dean, and I might just extend your punishment.”
“Yes, sir!” Dean said, saluting casually.
“Thanks, Dad,” Castiel said then, looking at James, face again smooth and expressionless.
Principal Novak nodded, then waved his hand. “You two are dismissed. Send Duane and Brady in, and don't say anything to them on your way out. And, Dean, get that lip checked out by Nurse Blake, okay?”
He watched the two boys saunter out of his office. Duane and Brady stood up from their chairs in the waiting area and glared daggers at Dean and Castiel as they passed. Dean smirked and swaggered past them. As Duane and Brady stepped into the office and started to close the door, Principal Novak caught the tiniest of movements outside. As they exited the waiting area, James watched Dean hook his finger around Castiel's pinky, just briefly, and smile broadly at Castiel as they walked.
And, Principal Novak noticed, Castiel flushed bright red and tightened his pinky around Dean's finger just a little before releasing it, and then the door closed behind Duane and Brady and Principal Novak saw nothing.
Principal Novak understood teenagers. He understood why teenagers make the choices they make and now, he understood the real reason why Castiel had allowed his cool facade to break, just once. Because Principal Novak understood what it meant to be a teenager, to have limited control on emotions and impulses; but, more importantly, Principal Novak understood what it meant to be in love.