Dean gave a halfhearted wave in return before looking down at the handkerchief. What was Ash's problem? There were only so many personalities in Leeway and hardly any of them ever clashed. And when they did, the people usually just avoided each other. And that's exactly what Dean should do. What he usually did. But there was something so inherently wrong about Ash that Dean couldn't ignore it even if he wanted to. He had to figure it out. His intuition was never wrong.
But that was a problem for after geometry. God forbid he lose his focus and fail the test he'd been preparing for for the past week. So he filed out of the room to the odd stares of the students already in there for first period wondering why he was still there and down the hall to his geometry class, all the while trying to shake the really weird feeling he got every time he thought about Ash.
Ash is already in the last available seat in the geometry classroom by the time the bell chimes for first period. It's a seat somewhere in the middle, surrounded by students who had not yet laid eyes on the new kid. Mister Radley - the geometry teacher that had been there for what seemed like eons - looks over the full class with tired eyes. The bell rings.
Mister Radley looks up from his clipboard to the doorway. The poor soul that had his chair stolen by the new kid in an entirely full classroom - Dean Bruen - stands with a bloody handkerchief sticking out of his pocket. "Glad you finally joined us, Mister Bruen," Mister Radley sighs, stretching out his words in an ancient, exhausted cadence. "It seems you lost your seat."
(Hi, I'm alive and aware I'm the worst, I'm so sorry)
Dean had to physically restrain himself from smashing his head into the wall. Of course Ash was in this class. Why did the universe hate him today? "Sorry Mr. Radley there was an…accident." He vaguely explained, stealing a glance at Ash as he did.
Well now what was he supposed to do? Stand? Dean was not sitting on the floor, that would cost him too much of his already damaged pride. It was one thing to have his seat stolen out from under him, it was another to admit defeat by sitting on the floor.
(my guy it's been a month and a day 😭)
Mister Radley sighs. His ragged breath seems to rattle his ribcage, some odd windy noise passing through his lips. The teacher fixes his rectangular glasses and squints his dulling eyes. "I'm afraid, Mister Bruen, that you can either stand or sit on the floor." The man slowly makes his way to the front of the classroom. "I can talk with the principal about getting another desk in here, but for now you're going to have to make do."
Ash tilts his head back to the boy in the doorway. His sunglasses reflect the fluorescent lights overhead. Oops, he mouths with a small shrug. The scraping sound of the first problem of the day echoes from the blackboard as Mister Radley's shaking hand draws a circle.
(I knowww I'm sorry MJ 😭)
Dean simply nodded in acknowledgement to Mr. Radley's words, shot Ash another analyzing stare and marched to the back of the classroom to lean against the wall. If he had to do the walk of shame being late, he was going to make it look good. Lest he admit defeat to Ash.
Dean hated how much Ash fascinated him. He was just another new kid, what about him was so interesting? Sure, new kids were highly uncommon but they happened. So why did Ash feel so…different? Maybe it was the sunglasses. No, it was definitely the sunglasses. Dean couldn't explain why the urge to rip them off his face was so strong but it was. Which was weird. Why did Ash hide his eyes?
Mister Radley begins class with a sigh and unspoken instruction to get out their math notebooks. The graphing stamp sits in its usual spot on the rickety table in the back of the classroom. Occasionally, students would look back to Dean or take a change to gaggle at the newbie. Jessica, a sophomore with frizzy brown hair and wide brown eyes, turns to her friend Kelly with a red face and giggles in her voice, her poorly veiled hand pointing to the new kid in the center of the class.
Ash's head is titled back, blond hair hanging off the back of his chair into the desk behind him. His arms are crossed over his chest. He could be fast asleep for what anybody could tell. Mister Radley calls on him once for an answer, but Ash only shrugged before turning back to his relaxed position. Jessica and Kelly study him thoroughly.
From his position in the back of the room, Dean had a perfect view of Ash and found his gaze being pulled to him more than it should've. There was this weird feeling he got when it came to Ash. Like there was something just inherently wrong. It was…odd. It wasn't just a "this guy is weird" kind of wrong, it was a "this guy activates my fight or flight and I don't know why" kind of wrong. He needed to figure it out before it drove him crazy.
But for now, geometry. There was nothing he could do about it while sitting- well, standing- in class. And Ash wasn't going anywhere yet so he had time.
Geometry passes with little to no significance–well, save for when Mister Radley's chalk turned to dust in the blackboard trey. The old man just furrowed his brow and poked at the powder before shrugging and slowly sauntering back to his desk to retrieve a new stick. They have a test next Thursday. Mister Radley claims they should all be more than ready.
When the bell rings to dismiss them, Ash takes his sweet time packing up his zero belongings. His hand finds his jacket pocket. Through the fabric, it's clear to see his long fingers curl around a box of cigarettes. With everybody–save for Kelly and Jessica, who are currently glued to Ash's side–gone from the classroom, Ash searches the room from behind his sunglasses, eventually his stare landing on Dean in the back. The two girls on his arm are babbling about this and that and Barry's party on Saturday night. Ash doesn't seem to even hear them.
Dean can feel Ash's eyes on him as he puts away his things. So when he makes eye contact with him when he looks up, he's not surprised. Dean does little more than raise an eyebrow at him, silently questioning what's up. Ash had barely acknowledged his existence since he'd gotten here and Dean had no qualms with keeping it that way. So what was up now that got his attention?
Not like it really mattered, Dean was sure it was nothing he couldn't brush off but damn if being under Ash's stare didn't make him feel weird. He felt like Ash was staring through him rather than at him, he felt like a bug under a microscope. It was enough to make his skin crawl.
Rising from his seat and shrugging off the girls on his arm, Ash takes a slow few steps towards the other students. "Find me interesting?" He asks, a small smile itching at the corners of his lips as he tilts his head up. Through his sunglasses, he stares at Dean from above his nose. "Can't stop lookin', can ya'?" Finally getting the memo that Ash won't pay them any attention, Kelly and Jessica huff and scuttle off to whatever class they have next.
"Also-" He nods his head towards the floor. "Don't forget your pencil." The pencil Dean had just put away in his backpack is sitting on the ground, right beside a crumpled piece of paper and a gum wrapper.
Dean couldn't shake the drop of panic that ran down his spine when Ash stared at him, tensing up as his fight or flight kicked in. Which, like most things about this kid, was weird. Dean never believed himself to be a paranoid person but it seemed Ash was trying his damnedest to make a liar out of him.
And then there was the pencil thing. Dean just about jumped out of his skin when he realized it. That's…that's impossible. Maybe I just forgot. No, no there's no way I definitely remember putting it away. Come on Dean, get it together! You're letting this guy freak you out for no reason. He tried to shake away the thoughts, putting his pencil away a second time before turning his attention to the paper and wrapper. He was sure it was nothing but at this point nothing was normal so why the hell not check it. So he unfolded the paper to see if it said anything.
Ash pulls a cigarette from the pocket of his coat and sticks it between his teeth. He smiles around the cylinder before nodding his head and walking out of the room. Somewhere between the door and the hall, Ash pulls it from his lips and blows out a plume of smoke, a lighter nowhere in sight.
Scrawled on the crumpled piece of paper in green ink reads be aware of who you watch. As soon as the words are read, the lights flicker and a girl in the hallway screeches. Mister Radley doesn't look up from his desk as the new period of students file in.
Dean read the paper a couple of times, his eyes narrowing every time they passed over them. Like you really had to warn me, that's exactly why I'm watching you. Not like it mattered, he tucked the paper into his pocket and gathered the rest of his things. Ash was a problem to continue contemplating over lunch. The more time he spent on it now, the crazier he'd drive himself.
So he lugged his backpack over his shoulder and headed out to join the stream of students in the hall, vaguely noting the smoke he saw curling into the air ahead of him. Eventually he'd get a real conversation out of Ash, he swore it.
The next three periods go by without any sort of significance. Ash wanders from class to class, a cigarette between his lips as he sits in the back of each of the classrooms. He gets side-eyed and ogled at and flirted with, but it all just rolls right off of his leather-clad back. None of this seems to have any sort of effect on the teen.
When lunch rolls around, Ash fully disappears from the eyes of most of the student body. Boys desperate to get him on the basketball team slump and girls eager to get his number huff. The new boy with sunglasses that smelled like smoke is gone. Well–not really gone. Ash lurks in the back of the chemistry classroom, checking vials and chemicals left out on the lab counters in the back of the room. The teacher is out to lunch with her teacher friends in the lounge, not even noticing as the new kid snuck in through the back door.