A/N: A monstrous thank you thank you thank you goes to my Beta, Pants (ForeverInVienna). BetaPants. She's been a great help in moving this chapter along by providing me with excellent ideas and laying down a strong foundation for me so I could write Sam's class. And I'd like to thank her for giving me a nice kick in the arse when I needed it. I apologize for this chapter being so very delayed – it's a potpourri of excuses, really: summer job, family things, moving back to college, and a penchant for procrastination. Thank you to those who have been reading, I appreciate every one of you. I do hope this chapter is worth the wait. I would love any and all reviews if you have the spare moment. Thanks again, BetaPants – this chapter wouldn't be here without you.
"That can't be his real name."
The slender girl wearing a black AC/DC shirt and frame-hugging jeans shook her head incredulously. "Even the worst parents in the world would spare their child of that torture."
A gust of wind blew a softly curled piece of strawberry-blonde hair over her mouth, and she momentarily struggled trying to move it back to its rightful place.
It was a windy, overcast day in September, but unlike the rest of the atmosphere, the temperature hadn't seemed to receive the memo that fall was near. It was strangely warm, with just the right amount of humidity that one wouldn't wish to linger outdoors longer than necessary. The vibe today at Kansas State University was typical back-to-school excitement mixed with lighter notes of anxiety, false hopes, and unattainable dreams.
Today, making their way across campus, Elle Rigby and Alice Riley were just like any other girls on campus, discussing the multitude of events that had occurred only in a span of a few hours on their first day back to school.
"I tell you, it's the truth. Our professor took roll and everything." Elle found herself a little confused about her roommate's disbelief. Only last year, Elle had a similar encounter with a boy named Obsidian. Strange was her forte.
"You always manage to attract the weirdest guy in the room. I don't know how you do it." Apparently, they did have the same enigma on their minds.
"Come on, Alice. How was I supposed to know he actually worshipped Satan? Besides, Jack is adorable and doesn't wear any make-up."
"Elle. His name was Obsidian." Alice couldn't completely disguise the condescending 'I-told-you-so' from her voice. Obsidian was the most recent of a long line of offenders, and among them, surprisingly one of the least offensive; his brief stint in their lives had mostly become an amusing anecdote. Most of the guys Elle involved herself with turned out to be criminals, womanizers, or flat out ass-hats. It was a sore subject for Elle, territory Alice rarely visited. She only had a faint idea of how she found these men – or how these men found her. And why they were all such d-bags. As much as Alice tried to hide it, and as much as she hated to get involved in Elle's love life, it worried her to no end.
Seeing a look of concern on her face, Alice closed the distance between them and playfully linked arms as they continued on the sidewalk. "But I'm glad the cute boy sat next to you," she said, trying to lift the brown-eyed girl's spirits to apologize for bringing up the subject.
She replied with a reluctant smile.
While it seemed like Alice knew exactly where she was going on the mid-size college campus, the ever-dutiful roommate Elle was actually the one walking Alice to her next class. Although she was one of the brightest people she knew, and had already attended the university for a year, Alice still had problems with navigation. The girl could read a textbook in a flash, but couldn't read a map to save her life. Elle attributed this to the fact that her roommate had grown up in a small town and didn't get out much. It was a weakness that while sometimes frustrating was mostly endearing, although Elle had absolutely no problem giving her a hard time about it.
"What building did you say you're in again?" They had reached a cluster of two-story buildings, most of which held history, philosophy, and English classes.
Alice dug a folded slip of paper from her pocket, held it close to her face and squinted. "Abbey Hall."
"Alright. Almost there." The cloud over Elle's head drifted away with this small mission on her mind. With a reassuring smile, she steered her friend to an old building with a faded green roof and to Alice's macabre delight, a few sinister gargoyles perched on the ledge of a second floor balcony.
Knowing Alice would undoubtedly have some troubles on the inside as well, Elle more or less guided her to the classroom.
"Thanks for walking me here. You know you don't have to do that."
"It's okay – I don't mind. Good thing, though, because I'm pretty sure that without me you'd be somewhere in New Zealand by now," Elle teased.
Alice responded with the filthiest stink-eye she could muster. She tried her hardest to appear independent, but Elle had known her long enough to know she couldn't do everything on her own, no matter how hard she tried to convince the world otherwise.
Purposefully ignoring the dirty look, Elle stooped the slightest bit to give Alice a friendly hug. Elle possessed model-like height and Alice was a bit wee, so she nuzzled perfectly under her chin.
"Have a good class. I hope a token cute boy sits next to you, too," she quietly giggled. She gave her a light squeeze and pulled away.
"Eleanorrrr," she whined in the tone of a middle school boy just kissed by his mom in front of all his friends. Adjusting the strap of her messenger bag, she started walking into the lecture hall, but stopped a few feet away from the doorway and turned back. "See you at the room?"
Elle was almost to the end of the hallway when she heard Alice's sing-song voice. Elle wasn't one terribly opposed to yelling, but she wanted to appear considerate, at least on the first day of classes. She quickly turned around and gave her roommate a smooth nod and a thumbs up.
Alice took a deep breath and entered the classroom. They had made good time, so she was quite a bit early; only one other student was in the classroom. The professor, however, was nowhere to be seen.
Feeling even larger than usual in a cramped office, Professor Samson Daniels was trying his hardest to prevent a panic attack. He briefly considered emptying the contents of his brown-paper lunch bag on his desk so he could breathe into it. For dignity's sake, (and for fear of what Dean would say if he found out) he refrained—although he wouldn't have minded looking like an asthmatic kid as long as it calmed his nerves. However, Sam decided, it just wasn't a thing that a 30-year-old-hunter-turned-professor should do.
He sat at his well-worn desk that was relatively free of any clutter, save for his lunch and shoulder bag containing his laptop and materials for class. The only personal item on his desk was a photo of a young Sam and Dean and their father, sitting on the hood of the Impala. Sam briefly wondered what his dad would think of his new profession. He certainly wasn't too keen on his son leaving for college, and now Sam had the audacity to teach at one. He must be rolling in his grave. Well, figuratively. Ashes, while excellent at blowing in the wind, are no good at rolling over. He inwardly cringed as he was flooded with the fears his father must have had for him, leaving the nest alone to go to college knowing relatively so little about the supernatural world and the way the Winchester name branded him. He would never truly escape the life.
Why am I thinking about this now? The decision's already been made, the curriculum decided… Sam thumbed through his father's journal (a major source of reference for his class) and pushed the thoughts of his father and any blessing the man may or may not have given him out of his mind.
He glanced at his wristwatch and realized he was going to be late if he nervously lingered in his office any longer.
Gathering up his materials for class, he gave one last passing glance to the photograph and his father's face, smiling into the camera. Looks like I'll just have to prove you wrong.
Alice didn't put much faith in any particular god or deity. Alice believed in being early.
There was a sense of control to be felt when one arrived ahead of schedule. Case in point, first dibs on prime seating went to Alice. Seating, in Alice's opinion, was a notoriously overlooked decision that could affect your entire semester's performance.
She supposed she had her father to blame for this character trait, this life-long gift, as he'd like to remind her. When Alice and her older brother, Ned, were much younger, their family lived just a little too close to the elementary school to qualify to ride the bus. Back then, her family only had one car, so the whole family would pile into the station wagon at 6:30 a.m. in order for their dad to be on time for work. It took about 15 minutes, so most days they'd arrive at the school earlier than any of the teachers and just a few minutes before Pete the kindly janitor. Then, when Ned moved on to middle school, Alice was dropped off even earlier. Because of this, she had become an expert on killing time. Only harboring feelings of resentment for her father during her middle school angst years, when she finally let go and evaluated things, she had actually grown to look forward to the extra time she had to herself.
Alice almost always had a book with her, and on the rare occasions she didn't, she could always be seen with a notebook in hand. As an English major, she had an affinity for the written word; she enjoyed playing the role of both author and reader.
When the professor made his way into the room, Alice was still completely taken with her novel, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. Ghost stories were her favorite. She only intended to glance up from her book for a millisecond to scope out her professor, but that split-second glance turned into a genuine double take. His hair was shoulder-length and a glorious shade of chestnut. He had to be over 6 feet tall, donning a gray sweater vest complete with tie and jacket. In Alice's entire scholastic career, he was easily the most attractive teacher in the books, and she'd had her fair share of schoolgirl crushes. I have a hot professor. The realization hit her like an M.Night Shyamalan plot-twist. Yahtzee!
Professor Sam Daniels barely made it to class on time. He was determined to make this seem completely on purpose – merely a teaching style choice, something that said he was their superior, therefore above any rules of tardiness. A player's move, Dean would say. When he reached the podium he finally gave himself permission to look out at the class.
Every seat in the moderately sized lecture hall was filled with students who seemed unaffected by his presence, most continuing to carry on scattered conversations. Taking a shaky breath, he realized these next few moments would define him. What kind of teacher was he going to be? How did he want his students to per—Screw it. I've done enough overthinking today to last a lifetime.
Sam cleared his throat, hoping that this would gather the students' attention. When it didn't work, he opened his bag and took out a thick reference book and dropped it on the floor, resulting in a rather loud THUD. This appeared to be the way to go; all chatter ceased and students abruptly faced forward, with a look of shock and/or confusion written on most of their faces. Sam wasn't sure if he was proud or embarrassed. Better to take the high road and analyze things later; nobody ever killed a demon by staring it down and thinking.
Except, well, me.
"Good morning, History 351. I'm Professor Daniels. I'm sure this is the first class this semester for a lot of you, so uh, welcome back to another semester of reading, writing, exams, headaches, and hangovers—er, if you're over twenty-one, of course. Party responsibly."
The whole room seemed to fill with snickers and Sam's tie seemed to get a little tighter. So, he turned to the chalkboard and continued as he picked up a piece of chalk, "I'm going to need to take roll as I don't know any of you yet. After that we can go over…" he trailed off. What is that thing called?
"…the syllabus." He put the chalk down and got out a binder and checked off everyone that responded to roll. Then it came to actually having to talk.
Deep breath. You can paperbag it when you get home.
"Syllabi: the most boring part of any college class, in my—" albeit very short, "—experience. But we have to do it, so here it goes, pass it around. First, show up. You're not going to find what I teach on the Internet or in most books—not without some help. I'll print out the texts you need for your assignments so, yes, you can take the book that the school recommended back. It's over-priced, and it's completely irrelevant to pretty much everything."
There was a small pause as Sam glanced down to scan his special teacher's syllabus, which was filled with notes and scribblings of everything he wanted to say.
A bit taken aback, Sam's head jerked back to the class when a deep voice piped up from the back of the room.
"Excuse me, Professor?" the guy's voice seemed strange and off-putting to Sam, like he was doing this bad impersonation of James Earl Jones. He looked like an athlete, a typical tough-guy bonehead at that, but it was an upper-level history class with a prerequisite and he had used his manners… I'll indulge.
"Jacob," the guy smiled a bit, "So…if we're not going to be learning what's in our books, what are we going to be learning?"
"Good question," Sam smiled and took another deep breath, feeling a little more confident, or at least trying to. "It depends a little on what you think you know and what you want to know. Why don't we make a list up here?" He turned to the chalkboard once more and picked up a white stick. The syllabus can wait a few minutes. "Jacob, name a myth."
"What do you mean?"
"Like vampires?" a blonde haired, freckle-faced girl piped up. She looked like a Becky. It was a feeling he couldn't quite place.
"Yeah, exactly like that."
He pressed the chalk to the board and stopped before making another move; it occurred to Sam that he had never written on a chalkboard in his life. He was not prepared for this. Judy Blume most definitely did not prepare him for this.
Nor did demon hunting for that matter. For what seemed like the thousandth time that day, he cursed the backwards normalcy in his life.
Perhaps being responsible for the education of others is more terrifying than hunting demons…
"Vampires," he repeated 'Becky's' suggestion. He successfully wrote through to 'Vamp' with a rather jarring squeak, until lifting the chalk to create the 'i.' He pressed down to finish out the word, but the chalk promptly broke itself in two, the top half subsequently bouncing to the floor.
Never one to accept defeat, he carried on with the noticeably and impractically smaller piece of chalk still gripped firmly in his fist. Any experienced chalkboard writers in the audience would be utterly horrified at the technique.
Vampires now written on the board, he turned back to the class to see at least five hands in the air. Sam experienced a great deal of relief, knowing he wouldn't be facing a room of silent and stubborn students the entire semester. He pointed to a boy in the second row with a strategically styled mess of unruly curls.
"Werewolves," he said with a playful grin, seeming to be completely at ease with the subject matter.
Facing the blackboard again, Sam started adding to the list. Not midway through the word, the chalk broke once again, this time into a handful of unmanageable pieces.
Refusing to let this faze him, he retrieved a new piece of chalk from the far end of the board and attempted to continue where he left off. It snapped in half again. Oh, come on. There has to be a reasonable explanation. Cursed object? I should take these back to the house and have Dean take a look at them. By this time, the class had begun to notice the struggle. As he made his way to the other end of the board for a new piece again, in his peripherals he caught a few students quietly laughing.
He took a deep breath and tried to become one with the chalk. Think Zen, Sam. Think… anti-moose. Trying his hardest to write as softly as possible, the chalk did a swan dive as a result of his dainty grip.
Exasperated and frustrated with his first chalk experience, Sam couldn't help himself.
It wasn't unusual for Kansas State professors to occasionally swear in class, but most professors didn't have Bobby Singer as a mentor. This was a new one for the students of History 351.
Was I really worried about being too authoritative? Ha. Now my only legacy at this school will be Professor-Who-Said-Balls-On-His-First-Day-Of-Class . Damn it, Bobby.
Unaware that their professor was cursing his surrogate father in his head, the class was completely amusedat the extreme difficulty he was having with a task most considered to be relatively easy, and with his unprecedented outburst, it was impossible to ignore.
Sam wasn't sure whether to acknowledge his failure or pretend it never happened.
"Forget the list. Let's keep this as a strictly verbal thing, you know, like a—" what's it called when everyone talks about stuff? "—discussion."
Thankfully, there were still students with their hands in the air. They didn't seem to be too put out, just more or less confused by the behavior of this man who claimed to be their instructor.
In a hurry to get the ball rolling again and brush the entire chalk incident under the proverbial rug, Sam called on the wide-eyed ginger girl sitting next to the Becky look-a-like.
"Ghosts?" she said it like a question, erring on the side of caution should she happen to be wrong.
"Good one!" Sam smiled at the girl whose name he couldn't quite place. I really need to make some flashcards or something – how is one person supposed to remember so many names?
The discussion went on and on. Students were eager to share their ideas, and Sam would always fire back with a positive affirmation, occasionally offering up a few fun facts on each mythical being or creature the kids came up with. The syllabi he had been going over seemed to be completely forgotten. If it had even crossed Sam's mind, he would be momentarily horrified, but he wouldn't consider it a huge loss, however; it was five pages of university-required drivel.
Alice pulled herself away from the discussion to check her watch. She knew time was flying, but she had no idea there was only one minute left of class. How did I get so lucky? The first class and we're already talking about vampires and wendigos? And that's not even taking into consideration my professor is the most beautiful human on the planet. Karma is finally starting to work in my favor.
She didn't want it to end. It seemed that Professor Daniels felt the same way – she knew he hadn't glanced at a clock or a watch since he dropped that textbook.
Her attention back on the professor, she gathered the conversation had just shifted to the topic of demons.
"The thing about demons is that they're rather hard to detect," he was saying. "Unlike vampires, for instance, they don't have bodies of their own. On Earth, they use humans as, well, meatsuits; that's where the term 'possession' comes into play."
Professor Daniels took a deep breath, preparing to go into further detail, until he was unceremoniously cut off by a girl who clearly had better things to do.
"Professor, it's 11:53."
Arching a brow in confusion, he squinted at his watch in disbelief.
Witnessing that the girl was, in fact, telling the truth, a bemused "huh," escaped from his lips.
"Okay, wow. Okay. I'll let you guys get to your next class. I guess I lost track of time there. No homework or anything for next time, just come in with..." he looked like he was searching for a word that seemed to be working hard at evading him. "A really, really open mind." A tight, one-sided grin that almost seemed to be more like a twitch flashed upon his face.
Over the sounds of chairs scraping and backpacks being zipped, Alice was waiting to pack up her things, still tuned into his voice.
"Thank you, everyone. Best of luck on the rest of your classes."
Tall, dark, handsome, and he's just so… nice. Well, Elle. I did meet a cute boy. Unfortunately, he's not quite in my year.