Disclaimer: Not mine. Just playing with these lovely characters.
Summary: There's a new kid at Jen's school. Both outcasts, they become fast friends. Unfortunately, he has to move away. They meet years later at the Beach City Grill. Very pre-film to during film. NOT Priestly/Jen—just friends. Not exactly AU.
Part of this takes place in Jen's elementary school and my premise is that Priestly's family moved around a lot so he just happened to go to her school for a short while and their brief friendship had an impact on both their lives.
AN: The story title is also the title of songs by various artists. The chapter title refers to the album by John Prine. Just setting a theme (I'm planning for all my chapter titles to be song titles).
Disclaimer #2: This totally does not mean that I think Clea Duvall (Jen) is ugly, just that her character thought that she was, and we all know how I feel about Jensen Ackles' looks. *swoon* I just wanted to do something focusing on my two favorite characters in the film, from Jen's point of view. And ummm, I guess this is where I tell you that there are some minor allusions to abuse later in the story, hence the rating.
Sorry for the terribly long introduction. I'm a little nervous about this, and I tend to ramble when I'm nervous. DamaDeHonor and VesperRegina basically told me to just man up and post it. So, here goes!
Diamonds in the Rough
Everybody ignored her. She wasn't weird enough to bully but not normal enough to hang out with. The other kids wanted nothing to do with the shy girl whom the teachers lauded as being "so smart." Being intelligent in public school was just as bad as being dumb. Who knew.
Of course, her looks didn't help her in the least. She was short, awkward, and had dull blonde hair that hung limp and flat down to her shoulders, framing a face that was perfect for a Baptist minister's daughter—plain.
"Jennifer," her father would say, "Inner beauty is what matters. This outer shell does not matter to our Lord; He cares only about the soul inside."
Still, Jen longed for flowing golden curls and a dimpled smile like that girl laughing daintily across the playground, or the coquettishly arching eyebrows of her equally pretty friend.
She hated her looks. No one cared enough to look past the ugliness to see the real her. And if they didn't, then how could God?
Jen angrily turned the page of her battered Salinger book and hid a tear. What the other kids thought shouldn't matter, it really shouldn't. But it did. It hurt, like when her mother died and left her with a father who cared more about God's work than for caring for his timid, "ugly" daughter who looked nothing like his beautiful dead wife.
Shouting from the playground drew her attention.
"Yeah, that's right, freak. Run!"
There, running as fast as his gangly-thin legs could carry him, was the new kid.
He'd slunk into class earlier that day and handed Mrs. Barton a note. After a swift perusal and directing a false smile meant to be encouraging at her new raggedly-dressed student, she'd said. "Well, class. This is B—"
The kid was quick to interrupt her. "Priestly. I go by Priestly." His voice was soft, very soft. Barely above a whisper. Wide green eyes made larger by long, thick eyelashes under tousled dark blond hair looked at the teacher nervously, watching her response to the interruption. Biting his lip like that, he looked like a scared rabbit. A few of the students tittered.
Mrs. Barton blinked. "But sweetie, that's your last name. Your first name is lovely too."
The boy shook his head. "My name's Priestly," he repeated adamantly.
Mrs. Barton pursed her lips. "Well, all right then, Priestly. Do you want to tell the class where you're from?"
Priestly twisted the hem of his worn t-shirt and hung his head. "Not really," he mumbled. He glanced at Mrs. Barton. "I mean, we're from all over. We move a lot."
"You do? Really?" Jen could tell Mrs. Barton was a lot bored and a tiny bit miffed. Not at the new student, really, but at the fact that he'd entered her class in the middle of the school year and she'd have to deal with the hassle of adjusting his grades. "That's interesting. Well, if there's nothing else you want to share with the class, go ahead and have a seat anywhere that's free."
The boy gulped and made his way to the nearest open seat. It just happened to be next to Jen. She noticed the way he nimbly avoided tripping on the legs that shot out from under the desks he passed. He was obviously used to being bullied. She stole a furtive glance at him as he settled in his new seat.
He was pretty. There was no other word for it. The new student Priestly was ridiculously pretty. No boy had the right to look that beautiful.
All this flashed through her head as she watched the skinny figure slip in a puddle on the blacktop and land in a jarring sprawl in front of his tormentors that day at lunch. The crowd gathered around the small group laughed. He scrabbled to rise but was too slow to escape the clutches of Bradley Feldman and Keith Langley, who hauled him up by his thin shirt.
"Where do you think you're going, pretty boy?" Bradley got up right in the new kid's face and leered at him.
The kid flinched. "I was trying to get away from your ugly face, that's all," he spit back. He twisted to try to get out of their grips.
"Aw, that's it," Bradley snarled, "You're going down." He drew back his fist and let the hit fly. Then another. The new student's knees buckled.
Keith had his turn and left the kid's nose bloody. The crowd laughed. Jen's insides twisted in disgust at the abuse.
The bullies lost interest soon after that and released the now-stretched-out shirt, only to shove the smaller boy, who stumbled back from the force and landed on the ground with a painful thump.
Jen winced in sympathy. The other kids snickered and left.
Jen ran over. The boy's attention was concentrated to stopping the flow of blood from his nose.
She bent down. "Are you okay?" she asked tentatively.
Vulnerable green eyes met hers. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said, voice strained from a punch to the gut.
Jen reached out a hand to help him up, but retracted it when the look in the boy's eyes hardened. "I don't need your help. I don't want your charity," he growled.
Jen straightened and took a step back. "Okay." Fine. She turned around hesitantly and started walking back to her table.
"Wait." She stopped. She heard the boy pull himself to his feet with a pained exhale of air.
"Hey, wait." The boy shuffled behind her. Jen turned around. "Thank you. I-I'm sorry." He was biting his lip again and his bloodied face was twitching. Long lashes fluttered nervously.
Jen was taken aback. Well, that was an unexpected turnaround. She smiled. "Hello, 'Sorry.' I'm Jen," she said shyly.
The green eyes widened in surprise at the tease. The bashful smile lit up his blood-smeared face as he said, "Hi Jen. My name's Priestly."
Jen nodded. "I know. I'm in your class. I sit next to you."
Priestly blushed, the pinkness blossoming out over his cheeks and spreading to his ears. "Oh. Sorry. I didn't recognize you. I wasn't really paying attention to everyone in class." He squirmed in embarrassment. "Thanks for offering to help me."
"You're welcome." Jen pursed her lips. "Maybe we should go see the nurse?" she asked, examining the crimson mess on his face critically.
He wiped at it and shook his head. "No. I'm okay. Nothing she can do. The bleeding's mostly stopped."
"Do you want to sit down?" Jen gestured to the empty space next to her things on the bench.
"Okay. Thanks." Priestly sat with a grimace of pain, his thin shoulders slightly hunched over against the cold. He really wasn't dressed for January weather. The quickly drying blood splattered in a macabre Pollock-esque design down his shirt.
Jen rummaged in her bag and came up with a few tissues and a bottle of water. "Here. Use these. You look like a horror movie reject."
Priestly huffed out a breathy laugh. The thin white hand trembled slightly as he accepted the proffered items. "Thanks."
There was an awkward silence during which Jen cast another sidelong look at the boy sitting next to her, scrubbing rather uselessly at the red stains. Curiosity won over. "So what really is your first name, Priestly? Why don't you use it?"
Priestly stiffened. He glanced at her and continued wiping the blood off his face. He bit his bottom lip in a nervous gesture. "I never tell anyone. I just don't like it. It's weird. It's from the Bible. My mom was really religious," he said with a tight expression and shrugged.
Was. Oh. Maybe she should pretend she hadn't noticed the past tense. She knew how it felt when people pitied her own motherless state. "That's cool," she said. "My dad's a minister."
Priestly relaxed slightly and turned his head to look at her from an angle. "Yeah? My dad's anything but holy." A scowl flitted across his face.
"Oh." Jen didn't know what she could say to that.
"So won't those kids go after you if you hang out with me too much?" Priestly asked, cocking his head. "I mean, I'm poor trailer trash, loser, bad influence, yadda yadda. You seem like a nice girl."
Jen frowned. "You're not trash. And they wouldn't dare bother me. Because of my dad. I'm kind of immune from bullying because apparently, I have 'connections.' "
Jen narrowed her eyes at him. "What?"
Priestly grinned. "You're still doing the 'quotey fingers' here in Wichita?" He demonstrated.
Jen laughed and shrugged again. "Yeah, it's still in. I think." She smiled.
Throwing another glance at her companion, she asked, "So what is it?"
Priestly kept scrubbing. "What's what?"
"Your name," Jen said. "It starts with a 'B,' right? Stop trying to change the subject."
A pout flitted across Priestly's bruised face. "I'm not. I just don't tell people because they laugh at me when they hear it." His right eyebrow arched up. "It's stupid."
"Okay, okay. It's not Benjamin, is it?" she asked. "Because that's not a stupid name."
The scowl disappeared and his expression brightened. "No, it's not Benjamin." He smirked. "It's worse than that. You'll never guess it."
Jen thought. "Is it…Brian?"
Priestly smiled exultantly. "Nope."
He looked at her in mock disapproval. "Jen, that's a place. A minister's daughter should know better than that."
Jen blushed, then wrinkled her nose as a thought occurred to her. "Bathsheba?"
Priestly leaned back into the bench seat and laughed out loud, clutching his bruised ribs. It was nice though. "No! Ew. That's a girl's name."
"Barabbas?" She giggled.
Priestly imitated a buzzer. "Wrong." He laughed quietly and shook his head. "I've never even heard of that one."
Jen wracked her brain for more 'B'-names from the Bible. "I give," she shrugged and shook her head. "I can't think of any more at the moment."
Priestly grinned. "Good."
Jen crossed her arms and looked at her new friend. "You sure you don't want to tell me?"
"Yes," he said with a laugh still in his voice. The boy seemed really nice once you got past all the bashfulness. He looked down at the book in Jen's hand. "Whatcha reading?"
She smiled. "The Catcher in the Rye. It's actually a book for kids older than us, but I just thought I'd read it." She held the novel out for Priestly to look at. "It's good. It's about adolescent alienation and loss of innocence."
He took it. "Huh." He flipped through the pages. "Hey," his eyes came up to meet hers, sparkling with life. He tapped the cover with a slender finger. "Isn't this the book that they said Chapman read before shooting John Lennon? 'Cause I think he was programmed. It was all a government conspiracy to keep Lennon from…"
AN: What do you think? A bit weird to go that far back, right? The pairings in this story are going to end up canon—I'm not going to change anything, just add stuff to what we already know from the film.