AU - Street Gang
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This fic is a prequel to Thalia's fic Street Gang. In this story, Buck and Chris are about to start high school. My thanks to Phyllis for the beta work and Thalia for letting me play in her sandbox.
Chris Larabee stepped off the bus and looked up at his new school with more than a little trepidation. His father had offered to drive him in, seeing as it was his first day at high school, but he had refused, being driven to school by your cop father would definitely be un-cool. All new students were directed to the school gym, where they would find out who their homeroom teacher was. The place buzzed with noise, old friends were getting re-aquatinted and vacation stories were being swapped. Chris spotted several old friends from junior high, but he didn't feel like going over to speak to them. He hadn't had a close friend since kindergarten, not a best friend, it hadn't ever bothered him before, but toward the end of his final year he'd begun to think he was missing out on something. It wasn't that he didn't want friends; it was just that every boy who had wanted to be his friend, seemed to want something from him that he wasn't prepared to give. Some wanted protection, some just seemed to want to bask in his reflected glory as one of the 'cool guys' in school, others wanted to drag him into their own stupid pranks. Then there were the girls, he was only just beginning to see girls in whole new way, unfortunately they had been seeing him in a 'whole new way' for some time, which had just scared the hell out of him.
The students were called to order and the principal gave them a kind of pep talk, which Chris mostly tuned out, it was the same stuff teachers always said; work hard, keep out of trouble, if you have a problem tell someone - he'd heard it all before. Then they started calling out names. The third teacher to step forward clipboard in hand, was a tall man, with nondescript greying hair and brown sports jacket that had seen better days. When your name was called, you had to get up and move to the back of the hall to wait. 'Larabee Christopher' came about three-quarters of the way through the list. Chris moved to the back and waited with the others, some he knew, some were strangers.
"Wilmington Buck," the teacher called, no one stood up. "Wilmington Buck," he tried again, still no one came forward. With a little shake of his head, the man made a tick on his list and headed to the back to lead his new students to their homeroom. Once they arrived at the classroom, the teacher made them sit alphabetically before he addressed them.
"My name is Mr James," he announced, as he wrote it on the board. "As well as being your homeroom teacher, I will also be your math teacher."
Chris had heard of Mr James, kids in his last school who had older siblings at the high school used to tell tales about him. He was meant to be very strict, he insisted all assignments be handed in the next day, if you got even one question wrong, you had to do it over. If it wasn't tidy enough, you had to do it over. If you were sick and missed any lessons, you had to catch up all the missed work. If you were late for his lessons, you go extra assignments or even detention.
Oh great, this is gonna be fun, he lamented.
"You will call me 'Mr James' or 'Sir', you will not speak unless I call your name, if you want to ask a question, raise your hand. Now, I want to put faces to names, so when I call your name stand up and answer 'yes sir'." With that he began to call out names and Chris dutifully stood to answer to his name and then sat down. Finally James got to the last name on the list. "Wilmington?" Still no one stood up. "It seems Mr Wilmington is a no show. Now "
Just then the door opened and a tall, gangly boy with unruly dark hair that covered his ears, hung over his collar and threatened to obscure his eyes, walked in.
"I'm " he began.
James turned on his heels. "Rude. Go outside, knock, and wait for an invitation to enter."
The boy blanched a little as he backed out, closed the door and knocked. James continued his lecture on good classroom manners, then handed out a printed sheet of his class rules; all the time the boy stood silently outside, with most of the class, including Chris, staring at him. He studiously avoided their gaze, keeping his eyes down, allowing his hair to obscure his eyes. Finally James opened the door.
"Yes?" he enquired.
"Um, the lady in the office told me I was in this class," the boy explained hesitantly.
"And you are?"
"Buck." James just stood there, impassive. "Buck sir?" Still there was no response, other then slight sniggers from the class. "Buck Wilmington, sir."
"Mr Wilmington, I do not approve of nicknames or diminutives, what is your real name?"
Chris had a good view of the two of them and saw a spark of defiance as Buck stated his name yet again.
"Buck is my real name sir, you can check at the office if you like."
"Really, how unusual." Clearly to James 'unusual' equalled 'stupid'. "Are you a cowboy?"
"No, sir," Buck ground out. "Can I come in now - sir?"
"You boy, need to watch your tone." James warned, before stepping to one side, so that Buck could enter. "Sit there," he pointed to the only empty desk, which happened to be next to Chris.
As Buck sat down, James handed him a copy of the class rules. "I do not tolerate tardiness Mr Wilmington, you will present me with five copies of the rules before you go home tonight, in clear legible hand writing, you will note rule six and you will underline rule two."
Chris looked at his own copy of the rules. Rule six stated that all work for Mr James had to be completed in blue fountain pen, no ball point pens were to be used. Rule two was about being punctual. He looked over at Buck who looked like he was ready to bolt. Four Corners wasn't a rich district, but it wasn't poor either, most of the residents were decent, honest, working people, yet this boy stood out somehow. His cheap sneakers were dirty and worn, his well-worn generic jeans had obvious lines around the hems, indicating they had been let down at least twice, clearly having been purchased some time ago with plenty of growing room. His navy blue tee shirt was plain and cheap looking. His backpack was old and frayed, one strap being reinforced with duct-tape. As schedules were passed out, Chris noted that Buck kept his head down.
"Now since this was printed, there has been a change," Mr James announced. "Please take out your pen and make the following correction" As the students scrambled to find pens, Mr James continued. "All history classes will now take place in room six."
Chris pulled out his new fountain pen and made the correction, then looked across at Buck, who was doing the same and trying to hide the fact that he only had a cheap ballpoint. Almost immediately, the bell rang to indicate the beginning of their first real class. With their new schedules in hand, the class trooped out and headed down the corridor in search of English, in room twenty one.
"Hi," Chris said as he came up beside Buck. "I'm Chris."
"Hi." Buck still kept his head down.
"They're not all as bad as him," Chris stated confidently.
"The teachers, they can't all be like him, can they?"
Buck turned his head to look at the boy beside him. Almost as tall as him, with blond hair, slim but not skinny, not like him. Buck had grown so fast his body hadn't been able to cope and he'd got thinner and thinner, though his Ma promised him once he stopped going up he'd fill out a bit. He sure hoped so.
"I've got a spare pen, if you want it?" Chris offered.
Buck stiffened, he did need a pen, but he didn't want charity.
Somehow Chris seemed to know what he was thinking. "See Wal-Mart was having a two-for-one thing on them in the summer, Mom knew I'd need one so she got both. I didn't bother to unpack them so I've still got the spare one in my bag. Here " he rummaged in his backpack until he found the pen, still in its packing, still with the price on. " give it back when you get your own."
After a moment's hesitation, Buck reached out and took it. "Thanks, I should be able to get one in day or so."
"So how come you were late?" Chris asked bluntly.
"What's it to you?"
"Just curious is all."
"Got lost, we only got here on Thursday, Ma called the school and they said I could start today and she could do the paperwork when we got here. Trouble is we couldn't find the damn place."
"Where did you used to live?"
"Cool, bet that was fun," Chris sounded genuinely enthusiastic.
Buck gave Chris a strange little smile. "Yeah, it was heaps of fun." Living in a trailer with no air conditioning in the middle of a gang war zone, fun, fun, fun.
"So how come you moved here, did your dad get a new job?"
"Ma got a new job."
Chris got the message - no father, don't ask about it.
"What about you?" Buck asked.
"Me, I've always live here damn! Come on, we don't want to be late!" Up ahead the others were filing into a classroom, and the two boys set of at a jog.
The two of them went to every class together, come lunchtime they were on their way to the school cafeteria when Buck broke away and headed for one of the tables under the trees on the lawn outside.
"You not eating?" Chris called after him.
"I got my own lunch," he explained.
Chris took note of which table Buck was sitting at and jogged ahead to get in line early. Choosing a sandwich, collecting a candy bar and a can of coke, he headed back outside to find Buck.
"Can I join you?" he asked.
Buck looked up, squinting into the noonday sun and shrugged. "Sure."
Chris sat down opposite his new friend, who was just finishing his peanut butter sandwich and cheap soda. They ate in relative silence. When his sandwich was all gone, Chris took his candy bar and broke it in half, offering one half to Buck. Again his new friend hesitated.
"You can always pay me back later," Chris assured. "Besides, it's bad for my teeth."
With a little laugh and a grin, Buck took the chocolate. "Thanks."
"You best get on with them rules James wants you to copy out," Chris suggested.
Buck sighed. "I guess, bastard could have cut me some slack on my first day, asshole."
Chris hadn't exactly lived a sheltered life, but he still found Buck's easy use of profanity a little disconcerting, nevertheless he found he liked him more and more. While Buck copied, trying his best to make his uneven, scratchy handwriting look good, the two of them chatted, mostly about football.
Then, as the lunch recess drew to an end, Buck gathered up their trash and stood up.
"I can toss my own trash," Chris commented.
"'S no problem." Buck held out his hand for Chris' coke bottle.
Chris drained the last little bit and handed it over.
+ + + + + + +
Buck dumped the trash with a degree of satisfaction. The last week had been hell. His Ma had inadvertently angered the wrong people in Las Vegas and they had to leave in a hurry. The trailer might have been small, hot and crumbling, but it was home. They had been forced to flee with only what would fit in his mother's little compact car and whatever cash she had at the time, driving north until they couldnt afford to go any further. He had friends in Las Vegas, good friends he would never see again. He was hoping to get on to the football team at his new school, having been the star of his junior high team, but here in Denver no one here had ever seen him play. Then he'd been late for his first class and pissed off the meanest teacher in school, who'd made fun of his name in front of the whole class. But, in the midst of all this crap, he'd met Chris, who, so far, seemed to be an okay kind of guy.
He turned back to find Chris wasn't at the table. For a moment, he thought he'd been abandoned, dumped, something that had happened before, on more than one occasion. Then a little way off, in the deep shadow of a particularly large tree he spotted a group of boys. He hadn't lived in a gangland war zone for three years without learning a thing or two about body language. This group were trouble and someone was about to get hurt. Then he caught a glimpse of their victim and instantly spotted Chris' black jeans. He moved so he could see Chris more clearly, his body language said pissed off, it said fight, it said I ain't running, I ain't walking away.
"Damn!" Buck normally stayed well out of gang disputes, but he couldnt let Chris face all four of them alone.
"Hey, Chris!" Buck ran in, positioning himself between Chris and four older and much larger boys. "Thank God I found you, that lady, the black lady with the glasses from the office." He'd seen the woman that morning when he arrived. "She's been looking for you everyplace, says you got a real important phone call." Chris looked at him with confusion, trying to work out what was going on.
"Phone call?" he asked.
"Yeah, from home, come on, the principal 's waiting for you." Buck turned to look at the gorillas behind him. "Sorry guys didn't mean to interrupt, but the principal was real insistent he had t' come now." Buck turned back to Chris, taking hold of his arm and pulled him around, trying to get him to walk away.
For a moment, he thought Chris would resist, but then he felt him give in and let himself be led away.
"What the hell was that all about? Do I have a phone call?" Chris wanted to know.
"Nah, course not. Reckoned you could use a hand. Four to one - not great odds, 'specially with them Neanderthals."
Chris kept walking. "I'd been okay."
"We'd have been dead."
"Don't think I'd have left you to get pounded to Jell-O on your own, do ya?" Buck slapped him on the back. "What did you do to piss them off and who are they, anyway?"
Chris stopped and regarded Buck. The real reason he'd never had a really close friend before now was that he found it very hard to trust anyone that much. Yet with Buck he didn't get the uneasiness that had plagued him in the past.
"I didn't do anything to them, well not them personally." he finally admitted. "They're Grey Coats, local gang. Dad arrested their leader, he says he's going down for life, Anderson wants revenge."
Buck took in the fact that Chris' dad was a cop, but it was too late now, he owed him a pen, half a candy bar. If that didn't make you friends he didn't know what did. Besides, he liked the guy.
"Who's Anderson?" he asked.
"He took over the gang, the guy Dad arrested was his cousin."
"That kind of thing happen to you often, shit like that, 'cause of yer dad?"
"Sometimes," Chris admitted.
"Yer dad know?"
"Nope and he never will - right?"
Buck held his hands up in surrender. "I ain't gonna say nothing, I never even met the man." Buck knew all about getting picked on because of you parent's profession and - like Chris - he never told his mother. "Looks like you need someone to watch yer back."
"I ain't asking, you know?"
"In that case, thanks."