Title

Title: Balance of Power

Author: Philote

Fandom: Supernatural

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: The characters and situations of Supernatural do not belong to me. I make no money from this story. Please don't sue.

Warnings: None

Summary: Dean and Sam get into a fight at school, and John finds himself in the principal's office. Lucky for the boys, his standards for behavior are a bit different from hers.

Author's Note: Written for the 'Hot Seat' prompt on Taming the Muse and for the 'fight' prompt on my spn25 table.

oOo

"Please have a seat, Mr. Wright."

John Winchester turned to offer a brief smile to the woman who had just ushered him into her office. Through the closing door, he caught a glimpse of his boys seated on the bench in the outer office. They had been slouched when he first walked in, silent and both studying their shoes, but they'd come to attention at his presence.

He hadn't had much opportunity to talk to them, but appearances spoke volumes. Dean's lip was fat, blood on his chin, the skin around his left eye reddened. Sammy had no visible injuries, at least not on his face, but his shirt was dirty and torn at the collar. They both stared after him now, Dean perfectly still and Sam fidgeting and grasping at his brother's elbow.

The door closed gently and John turned his attention to the woman. He offered his hand as she crossed behind the desk. "Ms. Blair, good to see you again; though I do wish the circumstances were different."

She accepted the handshake, though his attempt at charm didn't seem to earn him any ground. She gave him a tight smile and gestured towards the chair behind him.

He settled in, trying not to wince. The chair looked plush enough but was decidedly stiff and uncomfortable. It was also low enough to force his eye line under hers, despite his size, so he had to angle his gaze up. As an adult, he appreciated the psychology of it. But that didn't make it any more pleasant.

He'd been in the 'hot seat' of his own principal's office many times growing up. When he graduated high school, he'd assumed he'd never find himself in that position again. Clearly, he hadn't properly anticipated the joys of fatherhood.

He cleared his throat and refused to fidget. "So, I understand there was a fight."

"Yes." She was actually quite a lovely woman, if a little severe. Now her mouth was drawn in a tight line, her eyes tired and expression pinched as if she were fighting a migraine. She looked like she'd had one hell of a day. "Let me begin by saying that our nurse looked over your boys, if briefly. She did have her hands rather full with the gushing blood from Jimmy Corker's broken nose." She paused to let that sink in, drawing in a deep breath. "She believed their injuries were superficial, but you might want to consider a doctor visit to be safe."

"Thank you. I'll be sure to get them looked over." Meaning he would check them out when he got them home, of course. Doctors asked unwanted questions, and it would take more than a few bruises to incapacitate his boys. "Did you say something about a broken nose?"

She sighed and launched in. "As I understand it, it began with Jimmy and a couple of his friends bullying Sam out front after the bell. They're older than him; Dean's year, actually. They knocked him down, tried to rough him up a bit. Dean arrived on the scene pretty quickly and apparently took exception to Sam's treatment."

She went on and John kept nodding with his serious expression, but his attention was not rapt. He knew his kids. Dean had been in his share of fights, but he never would have initiated anything without provocation. Because Sam was involved, it naturally followed that he had somehow been Dean's motivation. John had no problem with that. He wasn't concerned about their behavior. His goal here was just to discourage any calls to any sort of authorities, and to soothe over whatever he could.

He tuned back in to hear her saying, "…at which point Sam broke his nose."

"You mean Dean," he corrected genially. The way they stuck together in new situations, they were often introduced as 'SamandDean.' It wasn't unusual for people to get the names mixed up, and they were still fairly new here. "Dean broke his nose."

But she was shaking her head. "No, Mr. Wright. I meant Sam."

He felt his eyebrows arch of their own accord. "Sammy? Are you sure?"

"Quite. I witnessed it from about 20 feet away."

"Oh." Far more interested now, he sat forward and questioned, "Surely he didn't fight all of them?"

"No, no. The other two had stepped back; Jimmy was focused on Dean. Sam surprised him. I do think it's lucky I arrived when I did; I expect things wouldn't have gone so well for him after that."

John nodded absently. He'd only started real training with Sam a few months ago. The boy was eager to learn—almost too eager, sometimes—but he hadn't had any real life experience with the lessons yet. Sam successfully standing up for himself, protecting Dean even, was big news.

"Please don't think I'm unsympathetic. I have siblings of my own; I understand that bond and the drive to protect. Especially in children who move around so often."

He smiled and dipped his head in mock gratitude, though he knew she didn't really understand. Even he couldn't fully grasp the bond that existed between his boys, and he was the one who'd done everything possible to foster it.

"That does not mean that I can excuse the behavior, of course."

"Of course not," he agreed solemnly.

"I'm suspending all the boys involved for a week. They will receive zeroes on all assignments and be responsible for whatever material they miss."

He blinked. "That sounds fair."

She arched an eyebrow as if he wasn't taking this with appropriate seriousness. "You will carefully consider punishment at home as well, I presume?"

"Certainly, ma'am. Believe me, I don't let my boys run wild." He paused, then asked, "Should I expect any kind of problems with the boy's parents?"

"I wouldn't think so. The father left a while back; Jimmy's been in six fights already this school year. His mother doesn't doubt that he was the instigator. She's a bit overwhelmed, but she's a good mother. If anything, I might expect her to apologize."

"Well, maybe I'll see if I can help out with the doctor bill anyway."

She finally gave him an honest, if tiny, smile. "I'm sure that would be appreciated, Mr. White."

They wrapped up the meeting and returned to the outer office. The boys scrambled to their feet. "Let's go, boys."

Unprompted, Dean turned back to his principal. "Sorry for the trouble, Ms. Blair."

Sam hastened to pipe in with his own, "Sorry, ma'am."

"Thank you Dean, Sam."

John gave her a nod as he ushered the kids out.

There was near-silence on the trip back to their little apartment. Sam kept darting furtive glances in John's direction, which was to be expected. He'd never been in trouble for fighting before. In fact, he'd hardly been in trouble at school at all. What was a little more confusing, however, were the near-identical glances he kept shooting Dean's way.

Dean, meanwhile, was essentially ignoring both of them. He responded to John's questions with short, clipped answers. He knew he wasn't in trouble for fighting, but he still seemed wary of John's reactions. And it was unusual for him to pay no attention to Sam, positive or negative.

John went silent himself, puzzling things out. Dean had always been Sam's protector, but Sam had just protected him. Power had shifted. Things were bound to be unsettled.

When they arrived, he sat them on the slightly ragged couch and retrieved the first aid kit. When he came back he started towards Dean, obviously the more injured of the two. But Dean shook his head. "Sammy first."

John hesitated, then acquiesced. He knelt before Sam instead. "Tell me what happened; what needs a bandage."

"They just grabbed my shirt; knocked me down." Sam offered his palms, and John could see the scrapes.

"That's the only place you're hurt?"

"Yes, sir."

John glanced towards Dean, but went ahead and began to clean Sam's hands. As he worked Sam added, "They would have done more, I think. But Dean stopped them." He paused to hiss at the alcohol wipe against the broken skin, but then soldiered on. "There were three of them, you know. They were bigger than me. They all ganged up on Dean when he came up. He hit them a few times, but they knocked him down too and started to kick him."

John glanced up sharply at that, more certain now that he should have started with Dean. If the sideways glance was any indication, Dean knew it too. "It wasn't that bad," the boy threw in. "I know how to protect myself."

"They forgot all about me," Sam continued. "The other two backed off, and Jimmy knelt down and was hitting Dean, and I just…"

John was finished with his right hand, and he pantomimed thrusting the heel of his palm upwards.

"I had Dean's back." Sam was watching him anxiously, still uncertain whether he was in trouble or not. He belatedly tacked on, "Sir."

John finished up with the other palm and looked him in the eye. "I'm proud of you, Sammy. You did good."

"I did? I mean, thanks." Relief was evident in his tone.

"Go wash up while I take a look at your brother. Then we'll get pizza."

Sam's eyes lit up at the prospect. With one last sideways look at Dean, he scurried off towards the bathroom.

"Be careful of the bandages!" John called after him. Then he turned his attention to his eldest. Dean straightened as his father knelt in front of him. "You should have told me you were in pain," he chastised.

"It's not that bad," Dean repeated.

John ignored the face for the moment and went straight for his torso. Dean allowed him to pull up his shirt and sat passively while John examined his ribs, sides, and belly. There was some bruising, but none of it seemed too serious. He poked and prodded, provoking some winces and at least one little gasp, but was eventually satisfied that there were no broken bones or internal bleeding.

"Sorry, Dad."

John glanced up to Dean's face, then carefully lowered his shirt. "For what?" he asked casually. "You did good, too."

Dean scoffed. "Sammy had to save me."

John pulled out the alcohol wipes again to wipe the blood off Dean's chin. Then he examined the lip as he chose his words carefully. "I doubt he had to; I'm sure you would have gotten up and given 'em hell. But it's good that he did. He needs to build confidence."

Dean gazed at him doubtfully. "Yeah?"

"You want him to be able to take care of himself, don't you?"

"Of course." It wasn't entirely convincing. Sure, Dean wanted Sam to be safe. But ensuring that was his duty, one he took very seriously; one he'd had since Sam was a helpless baby. It was hard to let that go. John understood that.

He tried a different tact. "I need you to back me up, right?"

"Sometimes," Dean begrudged, still uncertain.

"You're always gonna be the big brother. But Sam's getting older now, and he's going to be a part of this too. You need to count on him. And I need to count on both of you."

"I know."

"Besides, you should be proud. I'm pretty sure he learned that move from you." He finished his little exam by prodding carefully at Dean's eye. "You're gonna have quite a shiner," he commented.

Sam bounded back in, shirt fresh and hands clean. Apparently a comb was not included in his concept of 'washing up.' John stood and ruffled the already mussed hair as he went by, provoking a glare and grin.

Sam made his way to the couch, and his brother. "All right, Dean?"

"Yeah." Dean gripped Sam's shoulder, using him as leverage to get up. After a brief hesitation he added, "Hey, Sammy?"

"Yeah?"

Dean tossed an arm around his shoulders, pulling him into a loose headlock and mussing his hair even further. "That was a good move. You know, for a kid."

"Dean!" Sam whined, trying to pull out of the hold and giggling.

John smiled and left the boys at each other's mercy, confident in the knowledge that some things would never change.

oOo