*This is part one in what I'm calling the Headmaster!Verse, the title in whole coming from the obvious "With great power comes great responsibility" line from Spiderman. This will be a series of connected (though rather loosely at times) oneshots that I've been planning out between Just Like A Tattoo, Crossing the Inferno, and the Pages series. I hope you enjoy.*
Thursdays Are For Secrets
Gabe Forest pulled open his desk drawer, shoving his hand into it as he rifled around for a pencil, the one he was holding in his opposite hand empty of lead. Again. He always seems to run out of lead just when he really needs up. Then again, that's simply how the world seems to work for him most days. His fingers closed around the cool plastic of a spare, and he drew it into sight with a silent "Ah-ha!" before folding himself over his notebook once more, continuing his sentence right where he'd left off, pushing the last bits of led fallen out of the old pencil off the edge of his desk with a frown.
Heroism doesn't always appear in plain sight, he wrote, It comes in all forms, all ways. If finding yourself is heroism, can not losing yourself be so as well? Hard to think about, yes, but a reality that exists all the same. If there are people you love, people you would die for, sometimes there isn't a choice.
"Except there's always a choice," Gabe whispered to himself, lips barely moving around the words. He blinked at the lines on his paper, tapping the eraser of his pencil against the word "Choice" before he went on, scratching away again.
Dying isn't much different really. Losing yourself means giving up who you are, who you've always been. It means abandoning the goals you've worked so hard to reach, and leaving behind your morals and values you've held on to all your life. But in the end, it saves people, those people you cared about so much you have already essentially died for them. Even if they don't see all you've done for them.
Gabe looked up, the edges of his eyes crinkling as he smiled at the young boy standing in front of his desk, fingers nervously tracing the beveled wood edge of it. "Yes, Thomas? Do you have a question?"
The boy, no more than fourteen of Gabe had to guess, shifted, holding out the piece of paper he had clasped tight in his hands. "Could you, um, check my earth science paper for spelling mistakes? Mrs. Science is . . ."
"Strict," Gabe finished, grinning, "I know. Here, let me see it." He took the thing, spreading it out over his notebook so that the child couldn't see what he had been writing. The notebook was his own private business, no one else's. "You've spelled 'Fissure' wrong," he informed after a moment, "Two S's, okay?" he put a little mark next to the word so that Thomas would know to fix it, "And you should put a comma between 'Rotation,' and 'And,' since you're making a list." Another small mark, and he handed the paper back, "Is that the essay for finals?" he asked, curious.
"Just the rough draft," Thomas said, "We have to show we've actually been working on it this week."
Gabe laughed, "Which you haven't until this study period I've so graciously given you, am I right?" Thomas shook his head, looking ashamed, and Gabe snorted, leaning over to pat the boy's shoulder. "Aw, don't worry about it, I won't tell. I'm not that mean." He shrugged when Thomas's eyes lit up, the teen staring at Gabe as though he was the embodiment of God at that moment, "Let me tell you a secret, Thomas," Gabe smiled, reclining back in his chair again, resisting the urge to spin it when it twisted slightly at his movement, "I was just like you when I was your age. I hated school work, and procrastinated with the best of the best."
"What changed?" Thomas asked, eyes wide.
"Everything," Gabe whispered, too soft for his student to hear. "I grew up, I suppose," he admitted, rising his voice so that Thomas could hear him again. "I realized that failing and having poor grades was no way to go, especially since I wanted to get out of this school. And the only way to do so, at least the only logical, safe, clear way, was to successfully graduate. Which I did."
Thomas opened his mouth, but closed it again, looking thoughtful and slightly off balance as he clutched his paper to his chest. "But sir," he said finally, "You didn't get out." Gabe's eyebrows furrowed, and he folded his arms over his chest. "You're still here," Thomas said softly, looking away, afraid he'd said too much.
"So I am," Gabe agreed, tone neutral to show the boy he took no offense in what had been said. "But as I explained, I grew up. Things changed." He shrugged again, staring at the ceiling, "Everything changes eventually."
"Everything?" Thomas whispered, so breathless and scared Gabe almost didn't hear him. Maybe he just didn't want too.
Sitting up again, Gabe twined his fingers together over the spiral on his notebook, pressing the sides of his hands into the sharp metal and grimacing at the pressure as it's curves dented his skin. "No," he corrected. "Things only change if you allow them too. You always have a choice. The paths presented to you might not always be what you wanted to find, or what will make you happy, but there's always a choice. You can still, no matter what, keep doing what you believe in. But you have to be willing to except everything you could lose if you do. No choice is without it's consequences."
A bell sound toned, coming from the speakers just above the door. Gabe stood, squeezing Thomas's shoulder as he stepped out from behind his desk. "I hope you all used the study period wisely, with finals just around the corner," he said in his most dangerous voice possible, watching as a few students stared pointedly at the floor as they all hurried to shove paper and pencils back into their book bags. Some would always be resisters, wouldn't they. And Gabe didn't have the heart, nor the temper, to force them to work with his Hyper-suade. That would just be cruel and unusual punishment. Kids would be kids after all. "If you didn't I would love it if you would tell me so as you leave, thank you very much," he added after a moment of thought, smirking as the class groaned.
Yes, he was above using his powers to make them do their work. But he wasn't above making sure those that didn't were humiliated in their failures. Students had to be taught, after all. Even if he was rather lazy about it. Moral lessons were often more helpful in the real world than the crap he made them do on a normal day.
Because, seriously, who quoted, used, or otherwise even thought about the fucking Iliad outside of this room, or any other English classroom for that matter?
Thomas still standing nervously at his side, Gabe nodded to each student that walked past and choked out an apology that "No sir I didn't study," before they tripped over themselves, running out, red in the face. He counted five misbehavers today. Three less than the last time. They were learning.
"Do you have another question, Thomas?" he asked once the room was cleared, casting the boy a warm smile. Thomas was one of his favorites, and his edginess and quiet demeanor around others, but loud boisterous wisecracks at the most inappropriate times reminded Gabe all too much of the child he had once been.
"No, sir," Thomas said, clearing his throat. He grabbed his bag from his desk, shuffling slowly towards the door, "Thank you for helping me with my paper, English. And answering my questions."
"Anytime you need my assistance feel free to ask for it," Gabe said honestly. "Anytime."
"Of course, sir," Thomas grinned, pulling the door open and dashing out into the hall.
As it swung shut, Gabe sighed at the suddenly empty room, drawing his phone out of his pocket and checking the time.
12:15. Lunchtime. He knew that. Sometimes the days just seemed to slip away from him before he realized it.
"That must mean I'm getting old," he said to himself as he grabbed his jacket from the floor where he'd tossed it, fingering the embroidered black T on a white background as he threw it over his shoulders, "Today's Thursday, I think." Oh, god, days were slipping away too. "Stop ageing, damn you," he muttered to himself, stepping out into the hall and shoving his hands in his pockets.
Shuffling his feet so that he could take up as much time as humanly possible and avoid the lines, he trudged down the hallway, walking down the middle and stepping over the cracks between the tiles on the floor, taking his time. He jumped aside as two boys barreled into him, racing to see who could get lunch first, and he rolled his eyes.
"Sorry, English," One boy stuttered, clearly startled that he'd bumped into a teacher in his haste, while his companion just laughed, holding his sides as he fought for breath.
"Carry on, James," Gabe reassured, "There's nothing wrong with a little fun. I won't condone you for it." He glared at the second, "Gregory, you however could do with a little less of it. Remember to inhale between chuckles there or you'll pass out and I will have no choice but to take you to see Nurse."
Gregory, the second boy, paled considerably at the idea, "Sorry," he muttered, smacking James's back before they dashed off again, just as reckless as they had been before. Gabe snickered, mildly amused, before he continued walking.
Inside the cafeteria he held up his phone, a bored look on his face as the microwave-like machine scanned his electronic ID card. "Thursday usual, please," he ordered, opening the door after it dinged and drawing out his tray, examining it's contents with a wary gaze. "Whisper, you forgot the pie," he said after a moment, closing the door and waiting expectantly.
"You do not need sugar for every meal, Gabe Forest," Whisper 122 said simply.
Gabe rolled his eyes, "Oh, don't go getting all health nut on me now." He held up the apple on his tray, "I eat one of these damn things every day, and I have for over eight years. What more do you want from me?"
In response, the machine dinged again and he made a pleased noise, opening it and putting the slice of blueberry pie on his tray with the rest of his lunch. "And for your information, this has fruit in it," he informed lightly, sauntering out with a whispered, "Sucker," under his breath.
As if a single apple made up for the thousands of sugary goodness calories he consumed a day. Ha.
Making his way down the hall he pushed open the door to the physical education room, frowning at the lingering smell of sweat and unwashed gym socks before he shouldered his way into the office at the far end. "Lunch time," he sang as he entered, "And Thursday is Gabe Day, Coach, aren't you excited?"
The man sitting at the small table in the middle of the room made a face, pushing back his shoulder-length dark hair from his eyes, "So much," he said sarcastically. "Gabe Day is always my favorite day of the week," he droned, moving his own tray to the edge of the table to make room for his companion.
"Technically, Gabe Day is twice a week every other week, Sundays and Thursdays," Gabe corrected, "So 'days.'"
"You're so English professor-y," the other mused, "When did that happen?"
"The same time everything else did," Gabe sighed, poking his fork into his spaghetti and twirling it. "So, how has your week been so far, Ray?"
Ray blinked, looking up from the bite of sandwich he'd just taken, "The usual, I suppose," he said after swallowing. "Rowdy kids, a couple of bruises where the really strong ones punched me too hard, damaged equipment I now have to pay for because one kid got frustrated with the routine of that day, etcetera," he shrugged, taking another bite of pastrami on rye.
Gabe smirked, "But I thought you were one of the strong ones?" he said lightly, grinning at the glare he received.
"I'm not going to punch my students," Ray scowled, "if that's what you're implying." He snorted when Gabe simply smiled innocently at him, and kicked him under the table, watching with mild satisfaction as he winced. "You however, I have no qualms about hurting."
"You're so mean," Gabe whined clutching his shin beneath the table, "It thought we were pals."
"Grudgingly," Ray replied instantly, shaking his head and smiling as Gabe, for half a second, believed his lies. "Kidding, kidding. Quit taking offense so easily, moron."
"Maybe I'm faking it to make you admit your undying love and adoration of me," Gabe said, batting his eyelashes.
Ray gagged, "I think I'd rather eat dog poop, thanks."
"You love me," Gabe insisted, "You think I'm great."
"A great pain in the neck," Ray agreed. "I tolerate you and I care mildly about what happens to you, that's as far as it goes."
"You would miss me," Gabe grinned.
"I'd be immensely bored on Thursdays and every other Sunday," Ray relented, "What ever would I do with my lunches then."
Gabe laughed, moving from his spaghetti to his pie, "Speaking of love and adoration, how's Suki?"
Ray paused, chewing thoughtfully, "She glares at her students, greatly enjoys making red marks all over their papers, and hands out detentions like they're candy. What else is new?" He pointed the half eaten sandwich at his companion, "Oh, and she still hates your guts."
"Story of my life," Gabe said, throwing his hands in the air. "Why just today, I was explaining to a curious student about the many choices he would have to make in the future."
"Thomas?" Ray guessed, smirking when Gabe nodded. "You've had a soft spot for the kid since he arrived. And his lack skills in my class clearly show his resemblance to you."
"Hey," Gabe tsked, offended, "I'm amazingly strong. You just don't know it."
"Strong mouthed," Ray corrected, "Your muscles, not so much." He finished off his sandwich with a satisfied smack of his lips, "So what did you tell the kid, hmm? Scar him for life, did you?"
Gabe huffed, "Hardly. I simply said that things didn't always end the way you wanted them to, and that he might have to choose between what he cares for and what he believes in."
Ray grew silent, picking at his celery, "Is that what happened?" he asked softly.
"To us. To everyone," Ray swallowed, "To Him," he clarified, in case Gabe didn't understand.
Gabe leaned back, balancing his chair on it's back legs and putting his hands behind his head, "He did what he knew would keep us all alive, in the end," he said carefully. "That was what mattered to him most. As for me," he shrugged, "I would be a coward to leave, even after that. I chose to stay, so that he wouldn't be completely lost."
"You stayed for him," Ray said, as if he couldn't quite understand. He probably didn't.
"I stayed for him," Gabe repeated. "And I always will." He yawned, letting his chair fall back into place before stuffing a huge forkful of pie into his mouth, "What I don't get is why the rest of you did."
"Same reasons as you, I suppose," Ray admitted, looking faintly disgusted as Gabe talked with his mouth full. "The four of you had been through a lot together. Even if bad decisions were made, you've never stopped giving up on each other."
"Except Suki hates me," Gabe interjected, pointing an accusing finger at Ray as if it was somehow his fault. "And Him," he added.
"He betrayed her. All of you, really," Ray pointed out reasonably, "And then you stood at his side. Her response is only natural."
"Ceej doesn't hate me," Gabe pouted.
"CJ ignores you," Ray said evenly, watching Gabe's face scrunch up, "Indifference is worse than hate. Hate at least acknowledges your existence."
"I suppose," Gabe relented with a sigh. He stabbed the crust of his pie with his fork, demolishing it without an real intent of eating it. "And you?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Ray frowned, "And me, what?"
Gabe smiled, "You don't hate me," he stated simply. "Why?"
The Coach pursed his lips, closing his eyes, "Because I would have done the same. Technically, I did. I stayed. We all did. You were simply the first to realize that there were no more options."
"There are always options," Gabe said quietly.
"Do believe you chose wrong, then?" Ray questioned, eyes suddenly dark, daring.
Gabe shook his head slowly, "No. Never. But I often wonder if it was my choice that changed everything, or His."
"His," Ray confirmed. "Without that, without His decision, we wouldn't be here and that would be that."
"Well I don't know about you," Gabe said offhandedly, "But I'd be dead. That's not much of an option, in my opinion."
"Which was why he did what he did," Ray snorted, as though it was the simplest answer in the world. He stood, stretching, "Bell's gonna ring in a few," he remarked, eyeing the apple still on Gabe's tray, "You going to head out?"
Gabe followed his gaze, "I suppose. I don't want Whisper calling me out of a lecture later if I don't."
Ray laughed, surprising Gabe with the realness of it, drastically different from his sarcastic chuckles and fake amusement most days. "As if you lecture," he wheezed, "Just thinking of it makes me giggle. Don't do that to me."
The shorter man shook his head, "Well, you better be off too, reassure Suki that your 'Buffer Coach Meeting' went all fine and dandy," he said, waving him towards the door.
"You have the strangest sayings," Ray smirked, heading out with Gabe close behind.
"I'd be boring if I didn't," Gabe called as a parting thought, before they went their separate ways.
Apple in hand, he made his way through the twisting corridors he could have walked in his sleep until he stood outside a windowless wooden door. Sucking in a breath, he knocked, waiting as always for permission to enter.
"You're late," a voice said from the other side, and Gabe pushed the door open, knowing that it was as good as an answer as he'd ever get.
"I apologize," he murmured, "Time seems to get away from me these days."
A man sat at the desk, dirty-blond bangs hanging just above hazel eyes. His feet were propped up on it, and a pencil was balanced on his chin as he spoke. For a moment, Gabe let himself fall into the delusion of the past, soaking up the carefree air that milled unusually in the room. "I have no problem with you spending lunch with Ray," he said, tilting his head and letting the pencil roll off his chin onto the floor. "Just as long as you have more lunches with me."
Ah, there it was, the air of control had returned, suffocating the childlike moment that had pertained only seconds before. "Of course," Gabe replied instantly, "Always."
The man motioned, and Gabe moved around to the other side of the desk, standing over him in the small space created between the sitting figure and the standing one. He was, after all, still very short. "I brought you an apple," Gabe said after a moment, handing it to the other.
The blond smiled, slow and soft. Gabe didn't believe for a second that it was real. It never was. At least not anymore. "You've eaten one almost every day since our first failed escape attempt," he said, eyes slightly glazed. Gabe wondered if he was remembering, or simply appearing to. The man examined it for a moment before holding it back up to Gabe, "Take a bite."
Gabe did as he was told, unsurprised when the other's free hand snaked around and grabbed the back of his neck, pulling the dark haired man to him instead, taking the bite of apple from his mouth with his own. "Do you like it, Headmaster?" he asked, simply because he knew this ritual by heart, whimpering as the blond licked insistently at his lips, willing them to give until Gabe allowed him in.
"I've told you to call me Ian," he growled in response, biting Gabe's lower lip in warning.
"Yes, sir," Gabe said automatically. The words came as no surprise to him, but he would not do as he was told the next time he came to this room. If he called him Headmaster, he was instead ordered to call him Ian. If he called him Ian, he was sharply told to call him Headmaster. There was no middle ground to fall to in the situation.
The bell chimed, and Ian drew back, a disappointed frown set in place as he did so, "You're never here long enough," he complained, though his tone remained the same as it always did. Superior, commanding.
Gabe did his best to smile, "I come whenever you call," he reminded, "And am here every lunch and dinner."
"Except when you eat with Ray," Ian said sullenly, and Gabe swallowed. "But a captive bird is not a happy bird," he continued, and Gabe blinked at the strange metaphor, "So I suppose I should allow your friendship with him to continue."
"I would like that very much," Gabe admitted softly, heart in his throat at the thought of not being allowed contact with anyone but the Headmaster.
"I know," Ian murmured, pulling him down for a quick kiss. "I'm just worried that one day you'll wake up and leave me."
Gabe swallowed down the lump in his throat. There. That was Ian, the real, honest to god, Ian. He looked away, his eyes stinging, "Never," he promised. "That's why I'm here, isn't it? I made a choice, and I'm sticking with it."
Ian stared at him, long and hard before he sighed, "Get to your next class," he said finally. "I don't need to hear from the board about my staff being late."
Nodding, Gabe backed out of the room, hand lingering on the door as he left.
Yes, he'd made a choice. He'd never say it was the smartest one, or the one that benefited himself the most. But he hadn't done it for himself.
He'd stayed for Ian.
RANDOM AUTHOR RAMBLE
This is just a little side project when I'm bored of Just Like A Tattoo and Crossing The Inferno. It's one of two mini-verses I'm working on, though this one I've had in my head far longer than the second.
It's based mostly on a discussion I saw on the Tower Prep LJ that Ian might be the next Headmaster, or at least that is the path laid out for him, like it is for Suki to be near the top of Sato Systems. I found it to be a compelling, though dark idea, and it sort of inspired a small series of ficlets that are still ideas floating around on my computer. I'm polishing them up and posting them now because I got an idea for that second verse I mentioned before, so I'd like to work on both.
Also, the massive amounts of Ian/Gabe in 1x10 that totally overrided the Ian/CJ inspired me to no end. The kiss . . . The KISS! I squealed like a little kid and rewound it on my laptop a thousand times before I watched the end of the ep. My life was fulfilled.
Which reminds me. Yes, I am behind on eps at the mo without cable during winter break, and have not seen past 1x11. If anyone. ANYONE. Spoils the last two eps for me, I shall smite u. hard.
Oh, and before I forget, the kids names for the most part are pretty random. When I had to think of one for the first student, I thought of Tom. So Thomas. (slightly named after a certain Dark Lord because I was dwelling on HP today.) and the other two, James and Gregory, are blatant House references.
Now, I shall go work on the Broken verse. Carry on.