The Highway to Hell Goes Through Ohio
"It's pronounced LEE-ma," Sam says, from the backseat. "Not LIE-ma."
"What?" Dean says, half-turning around to look at his brother. Dad's eyes don't leave the road, but Dean thinks he hears him half-sigh. Sammy's in a mood this afternoon.
"L-I-M-A," Sam says, as close to condescendingly as even he dares. "When it's a city, it's pronounced Lee-ma."
"Not in Ohio, Sammy."
"Well, that's stupid," Sam says. "A LIE-ma is a bean."
"So we're moving to Beantown," Dean says, one eye on his brother and one on Dad.
"Beantown is Boston. How come we have live in stupid places?"
"Because the smart places take one look at you and tell us to leave," Dean tells him.
"Boys," Dad says, "that's enough. You watching for that exit, Dean?"
"Yes, sir," Dean says, turning his attention back to the road.
Sam lapses into one of those incredibly loud silences he's more or less perfected since turning twelve in the spring. It's the sort of silence that eventually gives way to yelling, as often as not. And yelling, in turn, gives way to extra miles run or pushups done.
Still, while Dean would never, ever, say it out loud, because he's not all that fond of extra pushups . . . Sam has a point. They live in crap towns. Someplace like Boston would be cool. Dean takes a moment to imagine sneaking into Fenway for games and . . . whatever the hell else you do in Boston.
But no, they're moving to Lima, Ohio, latest in a series of the places that have what Dad looks for in a place to live, which does not include a baseball team or things to do on the weekend. Dad like places that are big enough for a little anonymity, small enough to not have the police presence and surveillance cameras of a big city, centrally located enough that Dad can follow up a lead on either coast if he has to.
It's early October, an odd time for them to be moving. Dad generally likes to move them between school years – it looks a lot less suspicious. But a hasty, mid-school-year move had seemed like a good idea after what happened in Altoona.
Their next door neighbor, Mrs. Gilliam, had been really nice. She brought them over a welcome-to-the-neighborhood apple pie, and she let Sam follow her around her garden asking endless questions and playing with her dog.
She'd also had an incredibly hot seventeen-year-old daughter, Mandi, who liked to lie on the back deck in a itty bitty pink bikini, catching the last of the summer rays. Sam and Dean's room had overlooked the Gilliams' back deck, and all in all, Dean thought Altoona was going to be a not unpleasant place to spend his sophomore year.
Which meant it had totally sucked when the full moon had rolled around and sweet Mrs. Gilliam and smokin' Mandi had both morphed into werewolves.
Dean supposes it had sucked for them, too.
Best not to hang around after that, though.
So it's good-bye, Altoona, hello LEE-ma.
Sweet Home à la Lima
The house Dad has rented has two tiny bedrooms and is furnished in Early Yard Sale Reject. It's close enough to the middle school that Sam can walk, and close enough to the high school that "the walk'll be good for you, Dean."
Sam smirks and dashes off to their room. He always does that – he thinks that if he gets there first, he can claim the less lumpy mattress. Dean just lets Sam figure it out and then makes him trade, as is his right as the oldest. (Saves the effort of figuring out which is the better mattress.)
It's one of the many near rituals that go with arriving in a new place. The rest follow in quick succession: Dad goes to get groceries, Dean makes Sam swap beds, there's a great deal of muttering about that fact while they unpack the few things they bring with them. They're done before Dad gets back.
Dad leaves Dean in charge of putting the groceries away and fixing dinner, saying that he's going to follow up on some lead Bobby gave him for a job. And by "job" here, Dad means someone who might need a hand around a garage, not a ghost thing. Unless the neighbor suddenly sprouts fangs, Dad tries not to do that kind of job too close to "home."
Dean thinks about making Sam come help with KP duty, but that will mean listening to more whining, and Dean's kind of liking the quiet. Sam is sulking back in their room, still stubbornly reading Kidnapped. It had been assigned as homework the day they left Altoona, so Dean's not sure why he's bothering. Maybe it's more interesting than it looks. Or maybe he's trying to make some kind of point that's a little lost on Dean.
Dean looks at the groceries, considers his options, and decides to make burgers. He's just about got them done when Dad gets home, and makes Sam leave his room and come join them for dinner.
Whenever he's home, Dad insists that they all sit at the table and have dinner together. Sam bitches about it, Dean doesn't. They don't get a lot of the moments people are supposed to get with their families. Dean gives Dad points for trying when he can. He thinks Sam is more interested in deducting points for the times Dad can't.
The conversation is disjointed this evening. They're all tired, and they've spent most of the day in the same car, anyway. Sam eats as quickly as he can and then asks to be excused. Dad sighs and lets him go.
To break the silence that follows Sam's departure, Dean asks how the meeting at the garage went.
"Good," Dad says. "This guy – Hummel – he thinks he might have some work for me from time to time."
Dean nods. The money won't hurt, the cover of a respectable income source will help more.
"And he's got a kid in your grade. Kurt. Said he'd tell him to keep an eye out for you."
"What, like a babysitter?" Dean asks. "Because I don't need—"
"I think he'll just say hi to you or something, Dean."
Dean would still protest – he doesn't need a welcome committee or whatever – but there's no point. Dad can't change anything. And maybe this Kurt kid won't be totally annoying.
"Okay," Dean says.
"I'll take care of the dishes. You should get some rest. New school tomorrow."
"Yes, sir," Dean says.
He'd rather deal with the dishes than with Sam's ongoing sulk, and it's not like there's really anything to do to get ready for school tomorrow. Sam might like to lay clothes out the night before, but Dean's more of a grab the closest clean—or clean enough—shirt and go kind of guy.
In their room, Sam is sprawled on his lumpier mattress, still reading his book. He doesn't even look up when Dean comes into the room, just turns to face the wall.
Dean flops down onto his own bed.
So far, Lima is shaping up to be like every other damn town they've ever lived in.
Welcome to the Jungle (We've Got Fun and Games)
Dean stops on his way into William McKinley High School the next morning. If anyone is watching, it will look like he's just stopped to retie his shoelace. In reality, he's scoping the place out – where the entrances and exits are, what the traffic to each of them is, what places could provide good cover, what . . .
What the hell?
About ten yards ahead, a kid in a wheelchair is staring forlornly up at the backpack dangling from a tree branch above his head. And no one seems to be stopping to help him, or even really giving him more than a passing, mostly disinterested glance.
Well, Dean always does like to get his daily good deed over and done with early.
"Here," he says, pulling the bag down out of the tree.
"Thanks," the other kid says, taking it from him.
"People are dicks," Dean says, because it's easier than saying you're welcome.
The kid shrugs. "It's kind of the way is works here. You're new?"
"First day," Dean says. "I'm Dean."
"I'm Artie. And it's okay if this is the last time you speak to me. I'll understand." He wheels himself off before Dean can ask what that's supposed to mean.
He starts to follow Artie, and then stops. There's a group of guys in letterman jackets watching him. They look like they make up what they lack in brains with a complimentary lack of any other redeeming qualities. Dean gives them a smirk and a salute and heads into his new high school.
He's directed to the guidance counselor's office. Ms. . . . some kind of food. Kellogg, maybe? It's nothing he hasn't done before – answer a few questions about his transcript, be given a class schedule, get told how happy they are to have him here at wherever and know that if he ever wants to talk about anything, her door is always open.
And that's exactly how things go with Ms. Pillsbury (see? food), until . . .
"Oh, and you'll need to pick an extracurricular activity."
"Excuse me?" Dean says.
She sets a list of clubs and organizations in front of him, exactly midway between the hand sanitizer and the box of tissues, edge of the paper a precise inch away from the edge of the desk. "Students are all required to participate in an extracurricular activity this year. Principal Figgins thinks it will help you all get a well-rounded education and make friends with your peers through shared experiences."
"If it's required, doesn't that make is less 'extra' and more 'cirricular'?" Dean asks.
"How about a sport? Do you play any sports? Coach Tanaka is always looking for new football players. Especially if they can actually play football."
"No," Dean says. He spends enough time running around sweating with his training, thanks.
"Hmmm," says Ms. Pillsbury. "What about the school paper, or the yearbook? Or the literary magazine?"
"No," Dean says, again. He's not really the literary type.
"Well, maybe something like Mathletes? Or the debate club?"
"No," Dean says. Sam would die of laughter.
"I know," Ms. Pillsbury says. "Glee Club. They need people, and I bet you'd really enjoy it."
Glee Club. Dean has no idea what that is, but it sounds happy. Sounds lame. Sounds like the sort of total waste of time activity no one will care if he skips so he can do stuff that really matters.
And it has to be better than Mathletes, right?
"Fine," he says. "I'll join the Glee Club."
Ms. Pillsbury beams. "Wonderful. I'll tell Mr. Schuester to expect you."
Dean wonders if she's just trying to project enthusiasm, or if that was his warning to not even think about skipping out on his extracurricular. "Awesome."
It won't kill him to show up once or twice, he guesses. No sense in rocking the boat in his first week.
Ms. Pillsbury produces a class schedule and floor plan of the school that she seems to have attacked with a whole army of highlighters, marking his locker, classrooms, the library, the cafeteria. She draws a neat blue star on one more room and hands the papers to him. "That's where Glee Club meets."
Dean takes them from her.
"Welcome to McKinley High, Dean. We're really happy to have you here. And if you need to talk about anything, my door is always open."
Sing Out Loud, Sing Out Strong
Dean is three minutes late to his first Glee Club meeting. He knows he can blame being at a new school, getting lost, all that crap, but the truth is that he doesn't want to go setting expectations very high right off the bat.
It's a pretty small club. A half dozen kids sit facing a person who must be Mr. Schuester. He's standing in front of a piano, so Dean guesses this room must get used by the choir when the Glee people aren't being positive all over it.
For a Happy Club, these kids don't look very cheerful. He gets a small smile of greeting from Artie, who is the only person here he recognizes. The other five kids eye him warily.
"You must be Dean," Mr. Schuester says, turning to him. "Ms. Pillsbury said you'd be by. Everyone, this is Dean Winchester. He's new here at McKinley High and interested in joining us. Dean, this is Rachel, Mercedes, Tina, Finn, Kurt, and Artie."
"We've met," Artie says.
"And his dad is working with my dad," Kurt adds. Kurt is not what Dean was expecting, and the idea of this kid keeping an eye out for him is kind of hysterical. He's only half-paying attention to whatever Mr. Scheuster is saying as he walks over to take a seat among his students. "So, show us what you can do."
That gets Dean's attention back to the teacher. Show them what he can do? Dean stares at the seven faces, all clearly waiting for him to . . . to what? What the hell do they want him to do? Shoot something? Build a flamethrower? Run a nearly four minute mile? Those are all things Dean can do, but no one has ever asked for a demonstration in a classroom before.
"Do what now?" Dean asks, when the silence has gone on too long.
"Just sing any song you like," Mr. Schuester says, encouragingly.
Sing . . . any . . . song . . . Dean looks from the faces to the piano to the room he's standing in.
He . . . oh, God, he's joined some kind of singing club.
He can't be in some kind of singing club.
But he also can't explain that he thought he was joining an optimist's club, because how stupid will that make him look?
Still, if Dean couldn't think on his feet, he'd be dead a dozen times over by now. So all he needs is a quick plan. Like, say, blowing the audition. If he sucks at singing (which Dean knows he kind of does), surely they'll just politely thank him for his interest and send him back to Ms. Pillsbury to find a different lame activity, right?
Dean picks "Black Dog." It's inappropriate in every way; the lyrics are heavy with the sex, his voice has nothing in common with Robert Plant's beyond both emerging from human throats, and it's really not a song meant to be sung a capella on the fly. It's a disaster.
No one says anything when he's done, not for a good five seconds. And then the girl in the middle of the front row – the one wearing a sweater with a cat on in – puts her hand up. "Mr. Schuester, I'd like to speak, if I may."
"Rachel, of course," he says, and Dean wonders if he's imagining the weariness in the teacher's tone.
Rachel stands. She looks way serious. "I believe I speak for all of my fellow Glee Club members," she says, throwing a glance back over her shoulder at them, but none of them so much as nods, "when I say . . ."
Dean waits to be told to get the hell out of the room, so when Rachel suddenly smiles, it's quite disarming.
"Welcome to the club, Dean. We're so happy to have you."
"But my audition was . . ." he says.
"Purely pro forma," says Kurt, smoothing his hair back into place. "We take everybody."
He only catches snatches of what follows, seven people all talking at once, to each other and to him. " . . . read music . . . classic rock . . . start slow . . . don't worry . . . talent . . ." He somehow winds up holding sheet music for something called "The Impossible Dream," sitting behind Artie and next to . . .
"Hey, I'm Finn," the other kid whispers, as everyone settles back down. "Welcome to McKinley High."
No Good Deed (Goes Unpunished)
It's not easy to catch Dean Winchester off guard.
But he's still trying to figure out what the hell just happened – he's in a singing club – and anyway, who expects an assault to come from a cardboard beverage cup?
So one minute Dean is heading for his locker, and the next he's dripping with twenty ounces of bright red slushie.
And son of a bitch but that's cold.
Dean's hand has already formed a fist when he turns to see one of the letterman jackets from the morning, empty cup still in hand.
"Welcome to McKinley High," he sneers, not even slowing down.
It takes all of Dean's self-restraint not to hand this guy his ass. He could, too. Dean is good at sizing up opponents, and this guy would hardly be a challenge.
But Dean doesn't fight like high school guys do, and it's easier not to start than to figure out where to stop. Plus, getting in a fight on the first day is going to attract a lot more attention than Dean wants, or than Dad will like.
He does almost clock the person who puts a hand on his arm a second later, before recognizing Kurt and Artie.
"What the hell was that?" Dean asks them.
"That was Dave Karofsky," Kurt says. "Calling him a brainless, charmless Neanderthal is an insult to brainless, charmless Neanderthals." He nods towards the boys' bathroom. "Come on. We're experts at post-slushie care and repair."
"Experts?" Dean repeats, letting them herd him into the restroom. His eyes are starting to sting. "Does this happen a lot?"
"To some of us," Kurt says, turning on the faucet at the first sink and pulling a washrag and several bottles out of his bag.
"Between helping me this morning and then joining the Glee Club, I'm afraid you're a marked target in the slushie war. Splash some water in your eyes," Artie advises. "It'll help."
Dean does, splashing water all over his face. Artie's right; it does help a little.
"I'll take it from here. Close your eyes," Kurt says, pouring some kind of goop out of a bottle onto the wash cloth.
It goes against his gut to close his eyes, or to let people he barely knows rub goop into his face, but he does. His hand is still clinched into a fist, though. "No one makes them stop?" he asks.
"It's just the way it is here," Artie says.
"There," Kurt says, and Dean opens his eyes. "Your shirt's a total loss, though—" Kurt's eyes flick down to Dean's well-worn shirt in a way that makes Dean feel a little more appraised than he's comfortable with – "though not much of one," Kurt concludes. "That is really not a good color for you. But your pores should be okay."
"Um, thanks," Dean says. "For the help with the pores."
"You're one of us now," Kurt says.
"And like the Marines, we protect our own," Artie says. "Except that we're not in any way actually badass."
"I can handle the badass part," Dean says.
The looks he get are more humoring than suitably impressed, and looking in the mirror, Dean has to admit he'd have trouble taking himself seriously right now, too.
"Well, anyway, welcome to McKinley High," Kurt says.
Dean's not sure how much more welcome he's going to be able to take.
Son of a Bitch (Now You're Messing With a)
Dean leaves for school early the next morning. He has a stop to make on the way.
It hadn't been hard to look up places likely to sell slushies, match the logo on the cup to a particular convenience store, and then figure out its Lima locations. The hardest part, really, had been getting Sam to stop whining about needing the computer.
He can't just beat Dave Karovsky to a pulp, as appealing as that plan is. No, he's going to have to be subtle.
The trick is going to be to do just enough that the story gets around, and Dean gets a do not mess with me reputation without getting expelled.
He waits in the parking lot until he sees Karofsky emerge from the store, slushie cup in hand. And then knocks the cup out of his hand, catches his arm, twists it around behind him, and shoves him up against the wall of the convenience store.
"I wanted to thank you for the welcome you gave me yesterday," Dean says. "Real nice town you've got here."
"You're dead, Winchester."
Dean tightens his grip on Karofsky's arm and twists it a little more. He won't actually break it . . . but Karofsky doesn't know that. "Here's the deal. You and your friends are gonna keep your hands and your drinks to yourselves. And in return, I'm gonna do the same. We understand each other?"
"Yeah," Karofsky mutters.
"Sorry, didn't hear that."
"Peachy," Dean says, letting him go and stepping away.
He's ready for it when Karofsky tries to slug him. Karofsky, however, is not ready for Dean to be ready, and winds up back against the wall.
"Let's try this again," Dean says. "Do we understand each other?"
This time, when Dean lets him go, Karofsky just stands there. Dean turns to go, and then thinks of something else. "Oh, and stay the hell away from the Glee Club."
Not that Dean is going to stay in the Glee Club. Artie seems cool, and Kurt is nice enough, but . . . it's a freakin' singing club. He'll just go see Mr. Schuester and explain and that'll be that.
At least, that's the plan that morning. But when he goes to talk to Mr. Schuester, he stumbles onto another audition.
By three cheerleaders.
Two blondes and a brunette and he couldn't begin to say which one is the hottest.
Well, there's probably no harm in staying in the club for a week or so, right?
Everybody's Talking 'bout the New Kid in Town
Word gets around fast in high schools. It just doesn't get around accurately. By Wednesday, Dean has overheard that he dislocated Karofsky's shoulder, broke his arm, even tore off his arm – this last despite all visual evidence to the contrary. Rumor has it that he not only slammed Karofsky into the wall but through it, and into the drinks machine, where he nearly downed on grape slushie.
It's exactly what Dean was going for. It's given him a reputation for being a badass, and no one has come near him with a drink cup again. And it's ridiculous enough that the teachers and administration are ignoring it.
It's starting to look like McKinley High might not be all bad. Yeah, he's still stuck in a lame singing club, but it's only temporary, right? And the addition of the cheerleaders has made Glee Club more interesting, too. Especially when Santana asks if he's free Saturday, and Dean suspects she's not looking to spend some extra time rehearsing "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Yep, he can work with—
"You. New Kid."
Dean stops. There's a woman in a green track suit with yellow stripes coming toward him from the other end of the hall. And she looks determined. The way Dad looks determined when there's a particularly nasty spirit involved.
This can't be good.
"So, New Kid," she says, reaching him.
"Dean," he offers. "Dean Winchester."
"Oh, New Kid, I can't be bothered to learn your name. Don't interrupt me. As I was saying, we had a disaster at Cheerios practice yesterday. Gilbert fell off his stilts, hit the bleachers, ricocheted into the water cooler, and landed on a tackling dummy. Apparently, the impact shattered a third of the bones in his body."
Dean winces. And wonders where the stilts come into anything. Or why she's bothering to tell him all this. But before he can ask, the woman continues.
"Now, I personally feel that a little minor discomfort is no reason to mollycoddle a student with a full body cast and a cushy three-month stay at the hospital. Most of his bones are fine, and I do not condone laziness. But because of liability concerns, I am not allowed to put him back on the squad until he has a doctor's release. So, congratulations, New Kid. You are now a member of a five-time national champion cheerleading squad."
"What?" Dean asks. "You . . . you want me to be a cheerleader?"
Is everyone in this school insane?
"I'm sure it's not an honor you had dared to hope for, New Kid, but you look strong enough to propel a girl ten feet in the air, and your physical appearance neither makes me want to scratch out my own eyes or vomit."
"Um, look, ma'am. Thank you, I think, for the offer, but I can't be a cheerleader."
Hook up with one? Sure.
Be one? Not so much.
"I know it's intimidating," the woman says.
"It's not that," Dean says. "It's . . . look, I'm sure it's great for the guys it's great for, but I'm not one of them. And I'm kind of already busy with Glee Club."
"Glee Club," the woman snarls. And, yeah, snarls would usually be over-the-top, but it's the only word that works here. "Fine, offer rescinded. But mark my words: you will rue this day, New Kid."
"I'll get right on that," Dean says, under his breath, as the woman in the tracksuit stalks back down the hall.
"Did you just turn down Coach Sylvester?" Mercedes asks, who must have arrived in the hallway sometime during the conversation, because Dean hadn't seen her before it.
"Is that who that was?" Dean asks. "Then, ah, yeah."
"You have no idea what you've just done, do you?"
"You mean aside from not joining the cheerleading squad? What?"
"You'll see," Mercedes tells him. "Trust me, you'll see."
Songs Referenced in Part One:
"Highway to Hell" by AC/DC
"Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses
"Sing" from Sesame Street
"Black Dog" by Led Zepplin
"The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha
"No Good Deed" from Wicked
"Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth
"New Kid in Town" by the Eagles
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon & Garfunkel
A/N: Many thanks, as always, to On-A-Dare, my wonderful beta.