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October and February

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When it hits October, John can feel the whole school practically heave a sigh of relief, students and teachers both. John and Room 12 have been together for a little over a month; they have successfully navigated the first fire drill (or three), a handful of playground disagreements, and most of the first unit in the math textbook. There are no more surprises, no more unknowns. Only routine, day after day.

Of course, these are kids, so John's learns that while he'd planned to do a really cool and interesting lesson on the water cycle, he has to abort five minutes in because half the second graders think it's more fun to smash their plastic cups into splinters on the floor.

He doesn't really want to know where the rest of the food coloring went.

Still, John's grinning when he comes home late in the afternoon with an armful of papers to look over (he'd say grade, but it's still early enough in the year and in life that he mostly just gives out stickers, no need for a seven year old to freak over misspelling foliage, or for thinking that leaves are really just confused flowers that decided to grow on the side of a tree). He's long since forgotten about the several different shades of green marker making their way up his arm.

"So the nature unit is going about as well as water, I see," Rodney says with a roll of his eyes, but instead of launching into a lecture on how children need discipline otherwise they'll just keep doing stupid things until they're old enough to be taught by Rodney, and the rising numbers of absolute morons in the hard sciences is only proof that...

Instead, Rodney just takes half of John's papers, makes an amused face at the top's try to explain why leaves change color (Maybe they're jealous because we change clothes and they don't get too. Wouldn't you like to be red and orange too?) and holds the door into the living room, to where Franklin is curled up in a furry parenthesis on the rug and to an extra mug of hot chocolate, still warm.

***

In February, John's desk gets absolutely covered in notes with hearts and pink marker drawings (only a slight change from the rest of the year, because he's noticed that second graders will produce reams of art on any surface, for any real or imagined reason) with methods of spelling his last name and Valentine's Day that he'd never really considered.

This, of course, is on top of his usual collection of dogs with "Mr. Shepard RULES!" spilling out of jaunty speech bubbles and violent monster creatures with impossibly too many teeth that make him seriously consider a week of lessons on animal anatomy, if only to make the kids' drawings more realistic (that, he realizes, is thought borne of living with Rodney and makes him grin all day).

With a grin and enthusiastic thank yous, he gathers up every scrap of paper, a wavering stack of glued flowers and hearts (and was that a dinosaur holding a heart? Wow.) to stick in his backpack, and it's only when he gets home that he notices that not only has Amanda's dazzling Valentine creation disintegrated into little pink and blue scraps now glued onto the lining of his bag, but that the glitter she liberally doused it with came off on John's hands, the sleeve of his shirt… and the side of his face.

"At this rate, we'll need another file cabinet for your fan mail," Rodney says with a smirk as he attempts to de-glitter John's face with a wet paper towel.

"It's not like I can get rid of them," John argues half-heartedly, more than a little nauseous with the memory of all the candy he ate today. "They mean a lot." Although seeing as some of the kids in his class can churn out eight sketches of fighter planes in the time it takes him to turn around from the board, this is slightly less than true. But Rodney knows that he means it means a lot to John and so smiles and places them in the bulging manila folder.

"I have to admit I'm impressed by your attempt to single-handedly save all of your students from sugar shock," Rodney continues, pulling another handful of crumpled wrappers out of John's coat pocket.

"Sadly, I don't think it works that way," John says. "Those kids pratically vibrated out of school today. I'm sure I'll get a barrage of notes tomorrow, and three meltdowns before lunch."

Rodney's mostly not listening anymore, off a rant about about sugar comas which veers into the question of whether any of the parents gave him Valentines (especially Joey's single mom, he could tell there was something in the fact that she hung around, getting into conversations that are really transparent attempts to go have coffee with--

"Adam, actually," John says. "You know, Kylie's dad? I heard they're going out to they're both chaperoning at Joey's birthday party this weekend, so I'll keep you posted."

John's biting his lip to keep from laughing, and just when Rodney is taking a breath to complain more, John slides two candy hearts into Rodney's hand (pale green, BE MINE and *KISS*, a little sticky from being carried around in John's pocket and held tight in his hand, but hell, it's the thought that counts) and then John has to laugh out loud at the look on Rodney's face, part affection and part ew.

"You don't have to eat them, if you don't want to" John says. Rodney grins, finally, and slips the candies into his mouth, leaning forward to breath, "do want to," against John's lips until John is lost in it. He even forgets to tease when Rodney ends up with smears of glitter down his cheek, especially when Rodney himself doesn't notice until bedtime.

Then, of course, John laughs himself silly until Rodney throws a pillow at him. Franklin, lounging nearby on the floor in the hopes that someone will remember to give a treat to the poor, starving, adorable cat, is not amused, but then cats never are.