In second grade, the morning is always filled with the same classroom activities--reading groups and math workbooks and the occasional spelling test (John thinks they should be called misspelling tests, but that's a whole other issue) but the afternoons rotate between PE, Spanish, spending quiet time in Atlantis's library (for a given definition of "quiet"), and art, depending on the day.
Room 12 will be dismissed from Spanish with Alicia down the hall in a little more than half an hour, and John has enough experience with the flow of ending class, lining up and the time it will take for Aiden to walk them back (one of the perks of having a student teacher) to know that he has more than enough time to head to the teacher's lounge for a breather. If Keller's been through recently, there might even be a fairly fresh pot of coffee.
Gathering up a stack of papers--he's learned to use every spare second to keep on top of correcting the quizzes and tests and papers and reports, even seconds devoted to caffeine consumption--and sticking a green pen in his pocket, John digs through the mess on his desk, finally unearths that morning's coffee cup (which reads ATLANTIS ACADEMY: Growing Young Minds in dishwasher-chipped green ink, a motto that always sounded to John like it was one step from the zombie apocalypse) from its new hiding place under his teaching planner, and walks down the almost-quiet hallway to the lounge.
The teacher's lounge at Atlantis Academy actually has two doors: the one that opens (marked ROOM 4A in faded green paint) and the one slightly further down the hall that doesn't (STORAGE used to be written there, but has been painted over in the same pine color that covers all the doors), a holdover from the room's previous use as two separate classrooms. Even though they keep and have kept the door locked since the renovations, there are always a handful of people who try to open it, ineffectually pushing at it until they remember and act like it never happened, even when there are lines of giggling students and even, hypothetically, a tour of prospective parents walking by. Not that this happened to John, or anything, and not that his class from two years ago will ever stop reminding him about it.
John is blissfully working his way through a cup of coffee with too much sugar, trying to stay ahead of the crash sure to come from a long morning running on too little sleep (Rodney's fault as much as his) and too little protein in his breakfast (seeing as Rodney snagged the last Powerbar from the pantry, that's all on him) and mostly tuning out the conversations around him (the caffeine hasn't kicked in), glad to simply sit and be "off" for a moment.
Fortunately, the rest of the crowd in the room (Laura and Joanna each elbow deep in papers, Ronon debating with Teyla about a new form of martial arts he was planning on teaching the middle schoolers) are happy to leave him be.
“Wasn’t it just summer?” Carson remarks to the room as he pushes the door open with an elbow, both hands full with what John figures are lab reports, judging by the glossy plastic covers. “I swear, yesterday I was catching a lovely fish in the river down the way from mother’s and the next thing I know, I’m knee deep in 7th grade papers that are trying to convince me that several laws of motion are actually wrong, thanks ever so, not to mention that certain of the finer points of grammar are apparently optional. Cheers.” This last is to Ronon, who’s kicked a chair out from the table so that Carson can sit.
“Weren’t they supposed to learn grammar in 5th grade?” John tries to sound innocent as he says this, but then can’t stop a grin when Joanna Browning growls something uncomplimentary from further down the table next to a large pile of… spelling tests, if the firm circles of red pen and overall desperately erased and rewritten state of them are any indication.
“I’ve found that it can take many years for a concept to fully be grasped,” says Teyla with her usual calm, and as usual John can only be slightly confident that she’s actually being sarcastic.
“Just like they learned Greek myths in 2nd, right, John?” says Laura Cadman, who still manages to look poised despite a smudge of marker on her cheek and what looks like several pounds worth of reading journals spread before her.
“Hey, I’m pretty sure the whole ‘Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider’ plotline is something the Greeks could have totally gotten behind,” John argues.
“A pity then that Marvel comics doesn’t grade the unit tests,” adds Teyla and remembering the… creative answers he saw last week, John figures it’s smarter to keep his mouth shut.
“Who’s got my kids?” asks Laura as she scribbles into another journal. This question would sound nearly philosophical, if it wasn’t one that John had asked himself out loud or silently about ten times a day. Of course, it prompted John to start hurriedly thinking about where his kids might be (oh, right, Spanish, thank goodness), because what time is it? Hell, what day is it? This was why sitting (even for coffee, beautiful coffee) was dangerous.
“Mine are in Music,” Joanna says and John’s had one of those days, because he can easily hear the unspoken and I hope to never see them again.
“Upper graders are still at lunch,” is Teyla’s offering, with only a pinch of smug to her serenity.
“Well, I don’t have yours until ten after,” Ronon murmurs to Laura and she hurriedly flies up out of her chair and lets loose with some language that is not quite safe for work.
“Shit, I have my kids!” and she gulps the last of her coffee and is out the door.
“Jennifer had lunch duty; she’ll watch them ‘til Laura gets there,” says Carson with a slightly concerned glance at his own watch. “John, shouldn’t you be getting back? The bell is about to go.”
“Aiden knows the drill, he’ll get them settled.” This sounds much more mature than the aw, five more minutes, Mom! that is running through John’s head.
“Weren’t you just telling me yesterday that the class had been particularly rambunctious this week?” asks Teyla with an edge to her voice that makes John continue to feel like a whiny kid.
Actually John had said the kids were being huge pains in the ass, but that’s a pretty close translation, for Teyla.
John slouches, tilts an eyebrow (he’s late to get back now, might as well milk one more minute out of the situation).
“Hey,” he argues, “I thought Ford would enjoy a chance to hone those management skills if he wants to have his own classroom someday.” Although, John thinks, it might be a little cruel to abandon Ford to a classful of post-Spanish adrenalized second graders. Alicia was great (and hits on Lorne like crazy when the Atlantis staff come to John’s softball games, but that’s a whole other story) but runs a tight ship, meaning that kids like Henry and Alec and Stacy are probably busting at the seams by now.
“Maybe I should get back,” John says a little sheepishly and stands.
“If you’re headed that way, I’m sure Laura’d appreciate you dropping off those notebooks first,” Ronon says placidly, tilting his chin towards the tilting pile of reading journals Cadman abandoned in her panic.
“After all, it takes practice to thrive in chaos,” Teyla says and now her eyes are bright with laughter.
“Now that’s just cruel,” protests Carson, but he’s holding back laughter and Teyla looks wickedly mischievous, so John laughs and obligingly scoops up the well-used composition books and figures, hell, Ford will forgive him. Eventually.
Aiden’s glare when John oh-so-innocently wanders back into Room 12 is kind of priceless, but the burst of wildness that the kids got thoroughly derails the social studies lesson that is supposed to follow as well as any possibility of a smooth quiet rotation of science small groups. Not a chance in hell. Instead, John makes the decision on the fly to pull out some of the pipe cleaners he’s been hoarding since last March (kids have literally and metaphorically sticky fingers) and some rulers and it’s “Who Can Build the Longest Ladder using an ABA pattern”.
“This is why they pay me the big bucks,” John says to Aiden with a smirk, though his feet are already moving towards Ricky Daniels, whose hand is raised to wind a purple pipe cleaner in Stacy’s braids. He can hear Aiden mutter, “I hate you,” as he moves away, though at least he sounds like he’s laughing. Thriving in chaos, indeed.
It’s Thursday and while John sort of feels like he’s still standing only through luck and a judicious application of caffeine (Jennifer learned long ago that her last unofficial job before leaving the staff office was to make a fresh pot of coffee, bless her), he made it. The last kid has been walked (or in in Henry’s case, more like frog-marched) down to the carpool line or sent off in the direction of afterschool care. John sticks a leaf of lettuce into Tolstoy’s cage (someone has labeled it AWESUM TRTLE when he wasn’t looking, that’s one for the scrapbook) and for one precious moment, all John has to do is stand there.
But there’s something, something he’s supposed to do, his brain keeps catching on a fragment of conversation from this morning (right after snarking at Rodney for grabbing the last Powerbar and before they parted ways towards car and train station with coffee-laced kisses that jolted better than caffeine), something about today, something that he is doing because it is…
“Thursday!” John remembers with a yell.
Chuck, passing by the door with a cart full of laptops, gives John a weird look but hey, that’s not new.
It’s Thursday which means softball practice which means John needs to get his butt out the door and home and to the field in exactly (he checks his watch) negative five minutes ago. Crap.
John tells himself to get a grip, if the guys actually cared if he was on time, he would have been kicked off Halling’s Hotshots (the original name had been Halling’s Hardward Hard Hitters but everyone had vetoed that lengthy amount of alliteration) long ago. Fortunately traffic is working in his favor, for once, and by the time he drags himself back into the car after a two minute stare down with the siren call of the couch in the living room, Lorne and some of the guys are only just warming up.
John sits on a bench in the dugout to lace up his cleats, feeling all those weird muscles that tighten from standing up all day already start to bitch a bit because it’s been a long day and the temperature is dropping along with the sun. He’s digging through the crap in his gym and marveling at whatever it is that makes something as big as a mitt disappear into thin air, because he knows, he knows he put it in there. He is just closing his fingers on his glove and triumphantly pulling it when he hears Lorne call out, “hey, Doc!” and he sees the brilliantly ridiculous orange of Rodney’s fleece out of the corner of his eye and goes to meet him by the bleachers.
“Thought you had class,” John says and then “ooh, coffee” as he snags the thermos for a grateful slurp. Rodney raises an expressive eyebrow at the noise.
“It’s midterms this week and while I now have to grade the mind-numbing pile of essays that my freshman class has come up with in the hopes of passing, I can pawn all the short answer and multiple choices sections off on my TAs. I was thinking you would enjoy a supporter at your weekly display of athletic manliness,” here Rodney raises an expressive eyebrow at the empty bleachers, “but seeing as you appear to only love me for my possession of a warm beverage, I might just leave.”
“I can always tell when you’ve had the intro class,” John says with a laugh as he—only a little bit reluctantly—returns the coffee thermos. “You use way bigger words.”
Rodney rolls his eyes.
“You hit ball. Me watch. Happy now?”
“Exuberant,” John says. He leans over to press a kiss to Rodney’s temple. “If you get too cold, the car keys are in the side pocket of my bag.”
“If I get too cold, you owe me a beer after!” Rodney argues, but John’s already walking back towards the field and pretends not to hear him.
Summer has its perks, Carson does have a point, but fall, fall means new students, new field trips (it’s almost time to take this new batch of kids to the Franklin Institute again, that’ll make Rodney smile), new moments of hilarity and terror and frustration and accomplishment and chaos and calm and finally, it means the warmth of stolen coffee and the sound of Rodney’s outraged shouting from the sideline when John is so clearly, absolutely, undeniably safe at third, is the umpire blind?