Disclaimer: I do not own "Supernatural."

Author's Note: Not related to "First Step."

Anna West was a very intelligent woman. She had that on good authority. Diplomas and degrees from prestigious schools across the country testified to this fact. An executive position at a financial investment firm in New York City also testified to the fact that she was no slouch in the smarts department. The handling and subsequent successful merging of two smaller firms into Sunrise Investments, her employer, also gave evidence to the fact that Anna West was intelligent, competent, and good at handling stressful situations.

And yet...

Intelligence is really relative when family needs you. Six months. That was all. She just had to put her life on hold for six months.

Six months.

Half a year.

Not much at all. A drop in the bucket of life.

Her family had sheltered her, loved her, supported her...

Six months. Nothing more. After that she could go back to her life. Reality. Her reality.

In the meantime however... she was here.

Robertsville, Indiana.

Her home town.

The funny thing about home towns is that one remembered them with a great deal more fondness then they deserve. Robertsville had been kind to her, sure, but it was a town with a populous of 2,178. She'd taken one step off the train and immediately a buzz had gone up in the station.

She was back.

And that meant open season on her life— her business was everyone's business, because she'd come back.

For six months. Half a year.

And for a few months of that half a year she would serve as Principal to the Robertsville Elementary school.

This is where those institutions testifying to her intelligence might quirk an eyebrow and reevaluate their decision.

She'd taken a position as the administrative leader of the Elementary school that had housed her from kindergarten to eighth grade. Not her brightest move.

It was hard to command the respect of students when teachers walked the halls calling you "Annie."

Still she was the principal-- for the rest of this term. All god-awful two months and a half of it and she would do her best. Because she was Anna West and she was intelligent-- and she could handle one unruly eleven year old.

She'd pulled the student's file-- had needed both hands to do so. It seemed he'd transferred in shortly before she had arrived and had been pretty much well behaved.

Until today.

She sighed, staring at the file-- or book-- in front her. She wasn't qualified to deal with children. She dealt with numbers and adults. Sticky fingers and whiney voice didn't appeal to her at all.

She'd rejected this position when it was offered to her; had told her older brother to find her something else; that no way did she want to be a principal. Josh had shrugged and stated that the only two positions available in town were Principal or Check Out Girl at the Market.

She'd been all for the check out girl position, but the owner-- Mr. Kindel remembered that at the ripe old age of eight she'd once rolled a stink bomb into his store and he had refused to hire her.

So here she was-- preparing to meet the boy who'd caused a fistfight in her school.

Dean Winchester.

Sixth Grade.

Transferred in from Dodge, Illinois five months into the school year. Flipping through his file she'd found that this year alone he'd been in four different schools.

They were in April.

Every Lifetime movie she'd ever seen told her this kid would be trouble.

Sighing softly, she pressed the intercom button and commanded for the student to be sent in-- might as well get it all over with.

Anna wasn't sure what she'd been expecting when the door to her office opened-- but she knew the bright-eyed, smiling, angel-faced boy who walked in wasn't it.

He shot her a brilliant smile as he closed the door behind him, "Ma'am," he said in a very polite tone, as he walked towards one of the two chairs positioned in front of her desk.

She blinked, there had to be a mistake... this kid had caused a brawl during recess? This child had yelled at a teacher? This boy had given another child a bloody nose?

She nodded for him to take a seat-- since he stood at attention waiting for her to do so-- manners?

She covered her surprise by looking down at his file and carefully flipping through several pages. A few moments later she looked up at him. She didn't say anything, just met his gaze. He was an average sized ten-year-old. He had short, dark blonde hair, a smattering of freckles across his nose, and big, honey-colored eyes that danced with flecks of green framed by ridiculously long lashes.

He was frankly, adorable.

And he met her gaze with unflinching, ingenuity; nothing, but politeness and patience as he waited for her to proceed.

She understood now--

The file in front of her made more sense... despite the many administrative infractions detailed in the folder-- there were a minimum of three in each school-- each and every teacher and counselor had described the child as "a joy" to be around; yes, at times "unruly", but nothing a bit of "guidance and discipline" couldn't cure.

"Dean." She stated, looking up at him.

He smiled, "Principal West."

She nearly smiled back-- that was the force of his childish grin. It nearly startled her with its infectious innocence.

She cleared her throat, "I see here... that you've recently joined our community."

He nodded, "Yes, Ma'am. Like you I'm a new addition to Robertsville Elementary."

His accent was warm, but unidentifiable. Definitely some Texan, maybe southern... and Californian? She brushed it off.

"Uh, yes," she murmured, "But I understand that you haven't transitioned as easily as I have." She told him.

Was she doing this right? Were you supposed to have chit-chat before handing out detention or suspension or whatever the hell she was supposed to give this kid?

He shrugged, "It's a gift, I guess... transitioning." He replied, in a tone much too adult, "I don't have it, it seems."

She frowned, "Three of my teachers reported to me that you caused an..." she hesitated, searching for a word, "… altercation," she finally stated, before continuing, "… at recess today."

In truth, three of her teachers had demanded that she suspend the kid—and they could do that—demand, because they'd all actually been her teachers.

Fifth, sixth, and seventh grade to be exact...

Two god-awful months… that was all. Then she could beg Mr. Kindell to give her a job as Check Out Girl.

He remained silent after her words, the smile dimming, the twinkle fading-- and she almost rushed to re-assure him-- then blinked at the thought-- and frowned a bit more.

"Well?" she prodded, when silence stretched.

He met her gaze, "Yes, I suppose I did cause an... altercation." He stated simply, pausing before he said the last word.

Anna almost sighed, okay... now what? Where was this little Principal-Student session going? What the hell was she supposed to do?

"You gave another student a bloody nose..." she enumerated.

He nodded, "Yes. I did."

"What do you have to say for yourself?" she asked, cringing internally-- god, her mother would be so proud to hear those words out of her mouth.

Dean quirked an eyebrow, "What do I have to say for myself?" He repeated, then he shrugged, "It was a good left hook, but my aim was a little off. I meant to hit his jaw."

Anna blinked, "What?"

The boy nodded, "Less blood that way." He explained.

"That's not what I... I didn't mean for you to..." she stammered. Great. That's the way to get respect-- stammer like a buffoon.

"Oh, what do I think you have to say, is what you mean." Dean stated, batting long lashes her and sending an innocent look that for a moment appeared almost too innocent. "That I shouldn't have done it." He stated after a moment, again with that simplicity that vibrated carelessness.

Anna frowned, "But you don't think that?" she asked.

"No, Ma'am, I don't."

"Why not?" She asked, because she wanted to know and she figured she'd already blown the "Principal Act."

His gaze dropped for the first time and she wondered suddenly if maybe there was more to the story then what had been told to her... in fact, suddenly she was sure that there was more to the story.

She wasn't sure though, did it matter if there was more? God. She was an investment analyst! She wasn't qualified for this!

"If I thought I shouldn't have done it, I wouldn't have done it." He stated, after a few minutes of silence. "I'm not an idiot, ya know," he added with a smirk.

She drew in a slow breath and reigned in her thoughts.

Her gaze fell to his file, "No. No, you're not an idiot at all." She murmured, flipping through a few more pages, "In fact, I have several memos here from past teachers that rave about your intelligence-- although you're grades don't always reflect that. You're well liked, Dean," she added, for some reason wanting to validate this boy even though he'd shown no signs of needing validation.

He was silent.

"What happened today?" she asked when the silence had stretched for several minutes.

"I gave a boy a bloody nose." He said smartly, the first slip in his polite demeanor. His smile had completely disappeared.


He shrugged, his eyes no longer twinkling, "Because it was necessary."

She leaned forward a little; her eyes fastened on his, "Necessary?" she asked.

He nodded, but didn't say anything. Suddenly, that grin was back full force, "So what? Suspended for a week? Two weeks? Expelled? What's the penalty in this lovely school for starting brawls?" He asked, "Don't sugar-coat it, I can take it." He teased.

It bothered her that he used the word "brawl" like he knew what an exaggeration the word was in this situation. It bothered her that he seemed almost eager to get his punishment. It bothered her that he had completely disregarded her question. It bothered her that he could pull up that grin full of light when his eyes were suddenly so dark.

"Necessary why?" she insisted, she was the adult here.

The grin vanished—instantly.

"Because some people don't understand the meaning of, back off." He almost growled at her and Anna tensed. She wasn't expecting the vehemence with which the boy answered her, or the way his eyes were suddenly glowing angrily.

"If you explain—"

"I don't want to explain. I want you to give me my punishment and let me go."

Okay, so this boy she could see giving another child bloody nose and yelling at a teacher.

"Dean, I…" her words trailed off, the thought occurring to her that she suddenly did want to know what had happened. "… if you tell me… I might understand and not… punish you."

Hell, she was the Principal, she could do that.

The smile he bestowed on her this time was ironic and almost bitter, and shouldn't ever be on the face of a child, but he remained silent.

"Was the other boy bothering you?" she asked, "… is that what you mean? That you told him to back off and he didn't?"

The silence stretched.

"Dean tell me if this other boy deserves detention as well."

Her young charge tilted his head to one side and smirked, "The other boy got what he deserved."

"For what?"

"For messing with my little brother."

The words were frustrated and growled and made her eyes widen. She should have guessed that one—she did have an older brother of her own. Nothing riled older brothers more then someone messing with their younger sibling.

She glanced down at her file… searching for a mention of his younger brother.

Samuel Winchester.

Second grade.

Without a word to him, she reached over and pressed the intercom button, "Beth, bring me Samuel Winchester from Ms. Adams class, please."

"Whoa! What for?" Dean cried, standing up, "He didn't do anything wrong. It wasn't his fault."

Anna met his gaze, his eyes were wide now and more upset than they'd been since he'd walked in.

"I just want to get a clear picture of what happened. I would call Edward Fritz in as well, but the nurse sent him home."

"Look lady, I've been pretty tolerant here, just hand out whatever punishment you have in mind and let it go. You don't gotta upset Sammy any more."

The words were belligerent and angry, his eyes defensive and closed off. Yes, she thought, this child seemed perfectly capable of causing a brawl.

"I don't want to upset him Dean; I want to know what happened."

"I slammed my fist into the jerk's face so he knows not to mess with my little brother, that's what happened. You don't have to ask Sam about it. He's just a little kid."

The words, so are you sprung to her lips, but she clamped down on them; instinctively knowing they wouldn't help.

"Well, I'm going to ask Sam about it," she said firmly, "... and you need to tone it down."

She knew her tone was decidedly un-principal-like. She'd allowed him to upset her, but jeez, the kid was acting like she was about to commit an unpardonable sin when she was just trying to help him.

The glare he sent her was dark, but he remained silent and sat down.

The office was quiet as they waited. She started flipping through his file again. This child had moved around so much...

She wanted to ask questions. Why they moved so much, what his parents did, why he had such a hard edge around him when no child should even know hardness like that existed.

There was a quiet knock on the door and when she called come in, a small dark-haired boy entered.

He was not at all like his brother. There was no charming smile on this boy's face. He appeared nervous and hesitant and his eyes searched out for Dean the instant he set foot in the room.

"Please come in, Sam," she offered warmly as she studied him. He had shaggy brown hair that curled a little at the ends and the eyes that looked up at her were a warm brown.

His gaze rested on her for only a moment before fastening on Dean.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean comforted, extending a hand towards the younger boy.

Sam reached for it instantly and even from across a desk she could see it was a crushing grip.

Jeez, the kid was looking at her like he expected her to sprout horns or something.

He had lashes like his brother, long and curled upwards.

"You can sit down if you want Sam..." she told him gently, but the boy shook his head, and she knew why. If he sat down he wouldn't be able to reach Dean.

"You had an exciting recess, huh Sam?" she asked softly.

There was a tension in the room that surprised her. Dean on his own had been but nothing but polite and calm. Both traits which had abruptly vanished at the mention of his brother. His posture was rigid and the eyes he had fastened on her were hard.

Sam looked to his brother and Dean sent him a quick glance, before turning back to her. A moment later Sam's gaze fell to the floor. He remained silent.

"Do you want to tell me what happened?" she asked.

"I told you what happened," Dean answered for the younger boy, "It wasn't Sammy's fault."

She shifted her gaze back to Dean, "I'm not saying it was. I just want to hear what he has to say."

"He's got nothing to say."

Her eyebrows arched, to say that Dean had gotten defensive was an understatement. He was pissed and at her.

The urge to order him out of her office so she could talk to Sam on his own was strong, but one glance at the small boy, at the way his hand gripped Dean's, the way he leaned into his brother, told her that that would counter-productive.

And if there was anything she was good at, it was finding the most productive way of doing something-- and bluffing. She was good at bluffing...

"I want to hear what Sam has to say. I'm going to ask him questions and I want him to answer and if you interrupt I'm going to ask you to leave the room."

In her peripheral vision she watched Sam's grip tighten even more, saw him shift his weight even closer to Dean.

The older boy's glare could have peeled paint, but a moment later he shifted to look at Sam. The gaze melted and with his free hand he reached up and ruffled the younger boy's hair.

"Answer her questions, Sammy."

They stared at each other a moment longer and she got the funny feeling that they were carrying on their own conversation right in front of her.

Then two sets of long-lashed eyes fastened on her.

She took a mental deep breath.

"So what happened at recess, Sam?" she asked.

The brown eyes studied her for a moment, almost as intently as the hazel ones had. She felt as if she were being weighed and measured-- and were seven year olds supposed to have gazes that steady?

"Are you gonna tell Daddy?" he asked instead of answering her

She noticed Dean's hand tightening on Sam's.

She shrugged, "Maybe, maybe not..." she answered, "Depends on what happened..."

Was she supposed to tell the Dad? Jeez... someone get her spreadsheet to friggin balance!

"We're not a'pposed to get in fights at school."

"That's a good rule... so what happened?"

"Kelly's my friend." He stated softly.

Anna felt a headache start in one temple. Kelly?

"Who's Kelly?" she asked softly, searching her mind for any references to a Kelly. But christ, there were so many kids! So many grades!

"My friend," Sam answered, frowning at her as if she were slow, those brown eyes blinking at her with utter innocence.

Yep, definitely a headache in the works.

A small snort from Dean drew her gaze to him, he was smirking.

She restrained the urge to glare at him because principal's weren't really supposed to glare at the students, right?

"Was she at recess with you today?" she asked.

"No, she was home."

Actual deep breath now.

"So what happened at recess?"

"Eddie was mean to me..." Sam answered, and then those warm brown eyes suddenly narrowed in a glare so like his brother's that it made her eyes widen a little, "It wasn't Dean's fault." He said firmly.

The hand tightened on Sam's arm again.

"It wasn't!" the boy shifted to look at his brother.

"Sam." she called to get his attention, "Eddie was picking on you?"

Sam nodded vigorously, his eyes lighting up, like she finally got it.

"Uh-huh, yeah! and Angie too! 'cause Angie is Kelly's friend too and when Kelly's here Eddie don't pick on us, but Kelly's home and he was pickin on Angie and you can't be mean to girls 'cause that's not nice, Dean said; and so I told Eddie to stop being mean and then he was more mean and he took Angie's Barbie and it was a new Barbie and she was gonna cry and then I told him to give it back 'cause it wasn't his and you can't take things that aren't yours, Dean said; but he said no and then he pushed me and I fell and then Dean came and then Eddie wouldn't stop being mean 'cause he said mean things and then Dean punched him but it wasn't Dean's fault 'cause Eddie was being mean and then he was being a big cry-baby just 'cause he was bleedin a lil bit, not even a lot like this time Daddy--"

Sam stopped abruptly and it took her a moment to realize Dean had squeezed his hand again. A moment in which to process the flurry of words and the utter excitement inthem that left her a little out of breath.

"You get all that, Ma'am?" There was lilting quality to his voice that made her narrow her gaze at him. Was he teasing her?

She remained silent though. Jeez. She'd forgotten what great lung capacity small children had.

She cleared her throat softly, "I did. Of course." She responded, nodding to emphasize her words.

Her headache was throbbing.

"Kelly is Eddie's little sister." Dean offered, shooting a her small smile.

Oh. Well then, of course that made sense... she contained the urge to sigh.

"Am I in trouble?" Sam asked suddenly.

"No," she answered quickly, "No you're not in trouble..." she assured the small boy.

"Is Dean in trouble?" he asked, inching away from his brother and towards her desk.

Her gaze flickered to Dean who wasn't looking at her anymore. His gaze was fastened on his little brother and she saw the grip the boy had on his younger brother had tightened.

"Fighting is prohibited on school grounds," she answered, then wanted to kick herself for using a word like prohibited with a seven year old.

Sam's gaze didn't waver though; instead he tugged himself away from his brother. Dean's grip didn't loosen and in the end it took a firm yank from Sam to get himself free.

It would have been amusing if it weren't for the serious look on Dean's face or the steady way Sam studied her.

He reached her desk, stood on tip-toes, planted his elbows on it, and placed his chin in his hands as he stretched towards.

"Sometimes aren't there ex-ten-uatin' circum-ances, d'though?" he asked, mangling the words just enough that she felt herself soften.

She swallowed hard, nodding slowly, "Sometimes."

"I think Dean shouldn't be in trouble." He said earnestly, his big brown eyes shining.

Christ, the kid was cute.

She sighed suddenly; this being an authoritarian thing was stressful and this kid was just too adorable and his brother was...

Dean was studying his sneakers like they were the most fascinating creations in the history of the world.

... his brother was adorable too; in a completely different way, but adorable nonetheless.

She leaned forward a little, "I'll make you a deal, Sam..." she murmured.

And nearly laughed at the way his eyes lit up, "I LOVE deals!" he cried, shooting a look back at Dean, "Dean and me, we make deals A LOT. 'Cause we gotta com-pi-mise, to make life smoother, 'cause--"

"Let Ms. West finish, Sammy," Dean cut in, his eyes on her now too.

Sammy nodded vigorously, closing his mouth and turning to look back at her-- putting his chin in his hands again.

"Instead of Dean being in a lot of trouble, he'll be in just regular trouble."

Sam's smile dimmed a little, his gaze dropped, and his little brow furrowed.

He was actually thinking about it, she realized, her lips suddenly itching to grin.

What was he gonna say? No, thank you, I don't like that deal. Try another.

When the big brown eyes lifted to her again, she realized with amusement that with this child... that was a possibility.

"Is Eddie gonna be in trouble too?" he asked seriously.

"Yes," she responded instantly.

Sam nodded, "Good," he said with fervor, " 'cause he started it. I like your deal." He stated, then whirled around to face Dean, "Is it a good deal, Dean?" he asked, eagerly.

"It's good, Sammy," he stated simply and Sam beamed.

When he turned to face her again, he was standing by Dean's chair, "You can go back to class now, Sam." She told him, "Thank you for telling me what happened."

He nodded, the brown hair flying with his enthusiasm, "Okay, yeah! It sure was nice to meet you, Ma'am..."

The manners and odd accent of his brother shone through then and she let her smile widen a little.

She was going to get oddly fond of the Winchester brother's in the next two months... she knew that much.

Dean grabbed the younger boys arm before he reached the door, holding him. Then he looked at her, "Can you have someone walk him back to his class, please?" He asked her.

She blinked in surprise, what an odd request coming from a boy...

"Oh, uh, sure... Beth can you please return, Sam to Miss. Adams class..." she called over the intercom.

A moment later Beth opened the door and smiled at Sam, motioning for him to follow her.

"I'll meet you by the door, Sammy," Dean stated before releasing him and by the way the little boy rolled his eyes she knew it was an oft repeated phrase.

"Bye, Ms. West!" Sam cried, waving at her as if he were going on a far off trip, none of the hesitancy he'd displayed when first walking in remained.

When the door closed behind the small boy she tried to school her features into a more principal-like arrangement, rather than look like a grinning fool, but just... christ, that kid was cute...

Dean nodded as if reading her thoughts, "Yeah," he murmured, "He has that affect on most people..."

She arched an eyebrow, "What affect?"

He shrugged a little and offered her a small smile, "... pinch his cheeks and bake him cookies, sorta thing..."

She laughed at that, "I only bake for my worst enemies." She stated.

His smile widened a little, then, "So... what's the verdict?"

Her smile dimmed. She had no desire whatsoever to punish the boy in front of her. But just the thought of facing her teachers without having punished the boy who'd caused that brawl sent shivers up her arm.

"Detention." She said firmly.

He gave her a startled look and she clearly read the duh thought that flashed through his mind.

"For how long?" he asked.

Good question.

"A... a week."

"A week?"

She almost asked if that was too much, but managed to snap her mouth shut just in time.

"Yes," she said instead, but she felt bad suddenly. What if that was too much?

"... the rest of this week..." she added, and cringed internally.

Her teachers were going to shake their heads at her and murmur that they'd never expected much from after she'd released that cat during music class.

He frowned, "It's Thursday."

"Yes. Yes, it is..."

They might even call her mother...

He nodded, "Um, okay."

"Okay." She repeated, nodding as well.

They sat in silence.

"Am I excused?" he asked.

She started a little, "Oh right! Yes, of course. You're excused."

He nodded, standing, "Have a nice day, Ms. West." He murmured.

"You too, Dean... stay out of trouble..."

He nodded, but remained silent.

He paused at the door and looked back at her.

"Uh, I just... thank you..." He said awkwardly, but the smile he sent her was the sweetest, most sincere one she'd seen yet.

Staring at the door he'd closed softly behind him, she couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of that smile-- and how earning it was completely worth anything her teacher's could dish out...

Author's Note: Apparently, I'm stuck on the Winchester's at school. :-) Thank you all so much for your encouragement! I hope you enjoyed it!