A/N: Been trying to get this up for days, seriously. Flipping, bloody uploading problems, damn you!
Anne clutched her cup of tea and blew across the steaming surface as she watched the children playing in the school yard. It wasn't something she often did, usually preferring her fellow teachers' company to watching the children, but today she just felt like standing at the window with her cup of tea. Mostly, she was watching the ones that weren't actually playing, because they were usually the ones you have look out for. Fred Monk, for example, was sitting on his own, but that was normal, he wasn't crying though, and that was a plus. That kid was far too sensitive.
Her attention moved to little Sammy Winchester because he was behaving very peculiarly. Usually he was (or seemed to be) a bundle of pure energy, very enthusiastic, and even more cheerful. Today he was a little cranky and not running around or joining in. The way he walked, it was like he was shielding himself, protecting his side from being touched.
Anne saw the ball flying towards him long before it made contact, but she couldn't do anything about it. She watched and winced as it hit him in the side and he fell over, he looked like he cried out but Anne couldn't hear through the pane of glass and over the other sounds of school. Sam lay still on the ground for a few moments before sitting up, definitely looking in pain as he did, more pain than being hit by a ball would cause.
All of a sudden Sammy's brother was there beside him, as though he'd been waiting just out of sight for something like this to happen. Sammy pulled his shirt up to show Dean something and Anne's eyes widened when she saw the colour of the poor boy's skin. It was purple and bruised and obviously painful. That explained Sammy's strange behaviour. Dean hastily pulled the shirt back down, glancing around quickly to check that no one was watching, and then whisked Sammy somewhere out of Anne's view. Anne suspected that was Dean's intention.
Anne didn't like to jump to conclusions, but in an area like this, she found she couldn't help herself. Sammy would hardly be the first child who'd turned up to school with unexplained bruises and more often than not, someone else had inflicted the injuries. The way his brother hurried him away only added to Anne's suspicions. Of course, she was going to have a talk with Sammy before she took any action, it was only common sense to get the kid's side of the story.
She had to admit that Sammy didn't really act like an abused child, being open and friendly most days, and as far as Anne could remember, he'd never turned up injured before (beyond the usual scrapes and bruises that come with being a child of Sam's age). Judging from how Sammy had been acting, he wasn't particularly good at hiding pain.
But then, there were his clothes, which always looked a few years past their use by date, Dean's too from what she'd seen of him. And when the typical Monday morning question of 'what did everyone do this weekend?' came up, Sam was always reluctant to answer, despite apparently not doing anything out of the ordinary at all. Anne felt a shiver of anticipation that she might be able to save Sammy before everything got out of hand, might be able to get him to a better place before this destroyed him like she'd seen it destroy other children before him. She stopped her thoughts short there, berating herself for getting ahead of herself, she had to see what Sam would say first.
It was, of course, entirely possible that Sammy had just hurt himself by accident and that his brother was being secretive because... maybe because he was just a secretive boy. She'd heard Dean Winchester mentioned by her colleagues before; she wished she'd listened to what they'd been saying, now. Anne didn't know much about the family, just that they moved schools pretty often and that the boys lived alone with their dad. Anne had never met their father, had never even seen him because he never picked them up, they walked home (and in a neighbourhood like this!). Again, Anne didn't want to jump to conclusions, but she was finding it hard not to. Perhaps this was the first time their father had beaten Sammy, perhaps Dean usually took the brunt of it and that was why he knew how to deal with it and keep it a secret.
The bell went, signalling the end of lunch. It was probably a good thing, seeing how much Anne's imagination was running away with her.
She taught her last two classes as she usually would. At least, she was trying to. She found her gaze and thoughts lingering on Sammy longer than was usual. She thought that she managed to pull it off without anyone noticing that she was behaving any differently, though. The bell went for the end of the day, catching Anne completely by surprise.
"Sammy!" she called, just before he dashed out of the door, it was the fastest she'd seen him move since the beginning of the day. "I'd like to have a talk, if you wouldn't mind?" Sammy stood at the doorway, shuffling from foot to foot and frowning. He glanced back at the doorway, where his classmates were all filing out, and then seemed to slump as he made his way over to Anne's desk.
"Will it be quick? 'Cause Dean'll be waiting for me."
"I'll try and be quick. Why don't you pull up a chair?" Anne used the time it took Sam to get himself a chair to prepare her first question. Gosh, she was useless at these kinds of talks, she should have asked someone else to do it. It occurred to her that she should have told someone else of her suspicions. Then Sam was sitting expectantly in front of here and she decided she just had to get on with it. "Sammy," she said, folding her hands and putting them in her lap, because she didn't know what else to do with them, "How are things at home?" Sam seemed to think hard before coming up with his answer.
"Fine," he said. Anne was worried that he had to think so hard about the question, but then he thought hard about every question he was asked.
"You doing anything fun this weekend?"
"Don't know." He was starting to fidget in his seat. "Miss, can I go now? Just, Dean'll get worried."
"Do you get on well with your brother?" Anne knew the answer to the question; Sammy could go on about Dean for days, but it was a good subject for getting him to talk.
"Yeah," the 'duh' was implied with his tone, "He's my brother."
"So, he does stuff for you?" Sammy nodded enthusiastically.
"Yeah, he looks after me and he protects me-"
"Protects you?" Anne interrupted before she could stop herself, "Who- what does he protect you from?" Sammy's eyes widened just a fraction and he sat in his chair, mouth open, obviously desperately trying to think of something to say.
"Well... he, umm... from nightmares... and stuff." Sammy seemed satisfied with that answer, Anne wasn't. Time to get to the point, she had said she'd make it quick, after all.
"What about your father?"
"Oh yeah, he does too." That wasn't the answer Anne had been expecting, to say the least. In fact, it threw her completely off.
"He does what?"
"Protects me!" Oh God, was that what he called it? Did he tell his kids he was doing it for their protection?
"How does he protect you?" Sam suddenly looked incredibly awkward, twisting his hands together in his lap as he thought.
"He just does." Right, time to ask the big question, just come out and say it, what's the worst that could happen? Worst case scenario, Sam gets scared off by the question, runs home and tells his father, who moves them somewhere new, out of Anne's reach, and Sam and his brother go on being beaten. No pressure, then.
"Sam, does your father... does he hit you?" To Anne's great surprise, Sammy didn't seem too bothered by the question. Maybe she'd got it all wrong, please say she'd got it all wrong.
"Yes," Sammy answered after some thought. Anne was shocked; she hadn't thought getting Sam to admit it would be quite this easy, she struggled for something else to say.
"Does... he... tell you why he hits you?"
"Yeah, it's to teach us about... it's to teach us." There was something Sam was avoiding, so Anne decided to push it further.
"What's he teaching you?"
"He's teaching us... umm... a lesson."
"He hits you to teach you a lesson?" Anne clarified, Sam nodded. "Dean too?"
"Uh-huh," said Sammy, "Dean more 'cause he's bigger and stronger." As though he'd been summoned by the mere mention of his name, the door cracked open and Dean stuck his head through.
"Sammy! There you are!" Sam twisted in his seat to look at Dean, big grin clear on his face.
"Hi, Dean!" he called back. Dean then seemed to take in the situation, saw Anne sitting at her desk.
"Are you gonna be long?" he asked Anne, "Only, Dad doesn't like it when we get home late." Anne tried to hold back the images that those words brought with them.
"Come in, Dean, we were just talking about that." Anne gestured for Dean to come in and sit down.
"You were talking about getting home late?" Dean shut the door behind him and came to stand next to Sammy's chair.
"No," Anne decided she was going to be straightforward this time. "We were talking about your dad hitting you." Dean stared for a few moments, looked down at Sammy, then back up at Anne.
"You were... what? Talking... Dad... he doesn't hit us!" Dean didn't look shifty, or scared, or anything like how Anne had expected him to react; he looked genuinely bemused.
"He does too!" Dean looked at Sammy, seeming to understand the situation even less.
"No he doesn't. When?" Sam glanced at Anne before replying.
"When he teaches us." Dean opened his mouth to reply, still plainly not understanding, then a look of realisation crossed his features.
"Oh, Sammy," he groaned, "What did you tell her?"
"I told her he hits us to teach us a lesson," Sammy recalled. Dean looked lost for words. Anne decided to sit back and watch and let them sort it out between themselves, because she was really at a loss as to what was going on.
"You told her... you said that... Sammy, you said that he hits us to teach us a lesson?" Sammy thought about it, always putting thought into his answers.
"Yep," he said.
"Sammy, you can't go around saying things like that. You can't tell people that Dad hits us."
"Why not? It's true!" Dean sighed and bent down to Sam's level.
"Sammy, when you say that Dad hits us, people think you mean that he hits us as hard as he can without letting us hit back." Dean straightened up and watched Sam's reaction. Sam was frowning and his face was screwed up as he thought hard.
"But we wouldn't learn anything if he did that," was Sam's final conclusion, one that Anne heartily agreed with.
"I know." Dean ruffled Sammy's hair affectionately. "But some people's dads still do it, they're not all as good as our dad is." Dean turned to face Anne and gave her an apologetic smile. "What Sammy meant was that our dad-" Dean was interrupted by Sammy pulling on his shirt. Dean looked down at him and he leaned forward and whispered loudly.
"Dean, we're not allowed to tell people!" Dean frowned down at Sammy for a moment before ignoring him.
"Our dad teaches us self-defence. So when Sam says 'hit', he means like a fake hit. One that doesn't hurt." Anne nodded, that actually made sense, it certainly explained all the confusion.
"How did Sam get hurt?" she asked. Dean was about to reply but Sammy got there first.
"I fell off my bike! Look!" he said, pulling up his shirt. His side was bruised and scraped and still looked painful, but Sammy was acting like he was proud of it. "I didn't hardly cry, either!" His demeanour then went more sullen. "But Dean said I shouldn't show people 'cause they could come to the wrong con- con- concrusion." Anne smiled and nodded, all the while realising exactly how much of an idiot she was.
"It's 'conclusion', dungbrains. Can we go home now?"
"Yes, yes, go home. Thank you."
"I'm gonna tell Dad you called me dungbrains," said Sam as he slipped out of his chair and took Dean's hand.
"Oh yeah? Well, I'm gonna tell Dad you told people he beats his kids, turdface."
"Deeaan!" Sam's whine could be heard clearly, even though they were halfway down the corridor. Anne took a deep breath and slid down in her chair. She felt the tension of the past day leave her as she stared up at the ceiling, just taking a moment to thank any and every deity that might be listening. She only wished that there was always such an innocent explanation.
Hope you enjoyed!
Finally, I can put this in my "posted" file.