cupcakegirla: (JR/Apolo)
[personal profile] cupcakegirla
Title: The Art of Falling
Pairing: Apolo Ohno/JR Celski
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Teaching AU: JR Celski just graduated from college. Bakersfield Elementary is his first full-time teaching position. Apolo is… unexpected.
Author’s Note: Because it had to be written. Ideas and encouragement provided by C and D. Happy Birthday, D! Hope you like it.

JR’s not sure how the name mix-up got started. He was so stressed out and worried during his job interview he doesn’t really remember much of it. He just knows that Mr. Jayner started calling him John before he started his first day, and everyone, naturally, followed his lead. The principal’s word is, after all, law at an Elementary School. It’s hard trying to remember to respond to calls of John as he walks down the school hallways, but it does sound more professional than JR does, so he’s torn about whether he should correct people or not. With his indecision it grows harder and more potentially awkward to correct people and he quickly gives up.

It’s a week before school starts for the new academic year, and he has a lot of work to do. He ducks into his classroom. The music room. Stepping inside is like coming home. Music scales and posters (all age appropriate) line its walls. Instruments fill the cabinets and music stands stand like soldiers along the back end of the classroom, behind the last row of chairs. JR stops, grinning hugely before going to sit down at his desk. He has lesson plans to formalize before leaving for the day. This is all still new to him. He’d done student teaching in college, but this is so different. He is in charge now. He doesn’t have someone looking over his shoulder everyday making sure he is doing things correctly. He works on his plans all day, stopping only to eat lunch right there at his desk. Later that afternoon a knock on the door frame has him looking up. Aly Dudek, the fourth grade teacher, grins back at him.

“Almost done for the day, John? Some of us are going out for drinks. A last hurrah before classes start,” she leans against the doorway, arching her back and smiling an overly friendly smile, and JR has to look away to hide his embarrassed blush.

“Um yeah, sure. Where are you guys meeting?” he asks, closing his laptop and reaching under his desk for his messenger bag. She frowns at his back.

“O’Hannah’s on Freemont, but why don’t we save gas and carpool there? I can give you a ride,” she says. He smiles at her shaking his head.

“That’s ok. I rode my bike in today. Wouldn’t want to leave it here after dark. You don’t happen to have a bike rack on your car do you?” he asks. She drives a VW bug, he knows. A bright blue one with a moon roof. No bike rack in sight. She frowns, shaking her head and pouting a little.

“No. I don’t. But it’ll be safe here. This is a good neighborhood. Ride over with me!” she adds a big smile on to the end. JR shrugs. He’s about to respond when another figure shows up in the doorway, a guy this time. JR blinks a little at the sight of him. He’s wearing gym shorts and a tank top, running shoes, and has a bandana wrapped around his head. He looks like he belongs at the gym, not in an elementary school. A strip of reddish hair on his chin is his only facial hair.

“The guy said no, Aly. Why is it you can never take a hint? Run along or I’ll tell Trav you’re hitting on the new guy again,” he says. JR watches Aly deflate, glaring furiously at the other man.

“Stay out of it, Ohno. You don’t know anything about anything!” she hisses, turning and stomping from the room. JR watches this all with wide eyes. The man laughs once she’s down the hall and around the corner.

“If you aren’t interested, you might want to make that fairly clear. She doesn’t respond well to anything but directness. And if you are interested, you might want to reconsider. She and Travis have been on and off for about 3 years now. It’s never a good idea to date your boss’s girl. But hey, maybe you’re a risk taker and you like that sort of thing,” they guy smirks, leaning on the same spot Aly had just vacated. JR stares at him for a second.

“I’m not interested actually. Who is Travis? And who are you, exactly?” he asks, zipping up his bag and pulling the strap over his head. The guy grins brilliantly, and JR notices how big and white his teeth are. He offers JR a hand, and JR takes it, shaking it firmly.

“I’m Apolo Ohno. I’m the entire phys ed staff, since Shani quit end of last year, and the superintendent decided not to hire a replacement. So now I teach Health and Gym to the entire school. Which means I’m gonna be one busy son of a bitch this year. Trav is Travis Jayner, the Principal. You know, the guy who hired you?” he pauses then, waiting for JR’s brain to process that before continuing on. “You’re John Celski, the new music teacher?” JR nods.

“That’s me,” he says following Apolo out into the hallway.

“Hope you have a lot of energy. The music students can be a bit out of control,” Apolo warns him. JR looks at him in confusion. “They’re all keyed up,” Apolo finishes and JR rolls his eyes, pulling his baseball cap on. He shuts off the lights and closes the door to his classroom, locking it. He looks up to find Apolo’s eyes fixed firmly on his hat.

“You look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?” Apolo asks. He starts walking toward the front of the school, and JR follows.

“Man, you are full of lines today aren’t you?” JR asks. Apolo laughs shrugging his shoulders.

“More so than usual, but I’m being serious here. You look really familiar.”

“I don’t think we’ve met. I graduated last year from Berkeley, but I just now moved into the area. Maybe we ran into each other at the grocery store or something?” JR asks. Apolo frowns.

“You shop at Whole Foods?” he asks. JR nods.

“Sometimes. For my splurge items. They’re kind of above my pay rate at the moment,” he says with a smile. Apolo laughs. It’s the second time JR’s heard him do that, seen him throw his head back and laugh a full belly laugh. He kind of wants to make him do it again, ASAP. It’s a troubling notion, and JR frowns, quickly suppressing it. The last thing he needs is to develop a crush on the good looking P.E. teacher at his first job out of school.

“I know how that goes. They’re more expensive but totally worth the price. So… you a big Seahawks fan?” he asks, pointing to JR’s hat as they step out into the hot August sun. JR nods.

“Born and raised,” he says tugging the hat down further over his eyes. Apolo thinks a minute, putting one hand up to shade his gaze.

“Wait a minute. Celski… Celski… Do you have family in the Seattle area?” he asks. JR is about to respond when they get interrupted again. Mr. Jayner steps out of the door of the school, loosening his tie and pulling his suspenders down off his shoulders. He stops at the sight of JR standing there.

“Hey, John,” he says with a friendly smile. “You joining us for drinks?” he asks. It’s like suddenly Mr. Jayner is a completely different person. He’s loose and friendly instead of the sort of stiff all-business principal who had hired JR a few months before. JR blinks a few times and again is treated to the sound of Apolo laughing in amusement.

“Meeting Travis for the first time are we?” he asks, nudging JR with an elbow. JR grins, scratching the back of his neck. “Don’t be embarrassed. This side of him surprises everyone the first time they meet him outside of his office. This is who he really is, but only off of school grounds,” Apolo explains. JR smiles.

“But we’re still on school grounds…” he points out. Travis and Apolo both laugh.

“Yes, but there are no students yet. So it’s really more a big empty building than a school at the moment. Come hang out with us,” Travis says with a big smile.

“Yeah, O’Hannah’s right?” JR asks. Apolo nods.

“There are bike racks across the street outside the ice cream shop. Your bike will be safe there.”

“Awesome. Thanks. So I’ll meet you guys there?” he asks. They both nod.

“Half an hour. First drink is on me. To welcome you to the school,” Travis says patting him on the back. “I am running home to get out of this monkey suit. Don’t be late Apolo. I know how you are!” Travis calls, heading for the parking lot, keys in hand. Apolo laughs waving goodbye. Then Apolo turns to look at JR.

“That is Trav. The real Travis. Pretty nice guy, and fun to hang out with,” Apolo says, pulling the lanyard from around his neck and turning toward the parking lot. “See you soon. Don’t flake on us. You don’t want to be ‘that guy’ a week before the new school year starts!” he teases jogging off. JR watches him go, shaking his head and heading to the bike rack located out front.

The bar is downtown, and it’s more of a sports bar than the dive JR was subconsciously imagining. He’s not the first to arrive nor is he the last, which is just what he was aiming for. The teachers of Bakersfield Elementary have taken over one large section of the place, congregating around the pool table in the back. He’s greeted warmly. Simon Cho and Jessica Smith, the Kindergarten teachers, each wave hello from one corner, while Apolo and Eddy Alvarez, the Spanish teacher, sit in another with Kimberly Derrick (“Berlys, please.”) the 1st grade teacher. JR’s drawn to Apolo’s corner. He lets himself gravitate in that direction even though he knows he probably shouldn’t. Berlys greets him with a hug before retaking her seat. JR goes to sit down beside her but Apolo catches his gaze shaking his head no. So JR takes a seat closer to Apolo. He’s glad he did, when twenty seconds later a man with wild hair and a sort of scruffy beard shows up. He gets greeted with waves and loud cheers and a kiss from Berlys that is so intense it almost knocks the guy over. He naturally takes the empty seat beside her.

“John, this is Anthony Lobello. My fiancée. He’s been out of town for most of the summer. He just got back yesterday. He teaches the third grade students,” Berlys explains. JR nods in understanding holding out a hand. “Anthony this is John Celski, the new music teacher.” Anthony shakes his hand and gives him a friendly smile.

“Nice to meet you. How’s Bakersfield treating you so far?” he asks. A waitress comes over and he and JR both order beers, before she leaves again.

“Pretty good so far. Everyone seems very… welcoming,” he explains. Apolo laughs and looking around, leans forward to whisper quietly so as to not be overheard.

“Aly cornered him today,” he says in a hushed tone. Berlys snickers and Eddy rolls his eyes. Anthony just shakes his head, sliding his arm around Berlys waist and tugging her closer.

“I don’t know what to do about that girl. You know she only does it to get Trav’s attention,” Berlys says quietly. Anthony nods. Eddy leans forward too.

“I don’t know why she thinks she needs too. He’s in love with her. If she’d stop messing around he’d marry her in a heartbeat. You know he would!” Eddy says. Their discussion is broken up with the arrival of Travis to the bar. He’s gone home and changed his clothes and has shown up wearing slacks and a t-shirt. He makes his rounds of the bar, greeting everyone, stopping only to order himself a beer, before getting to their table. Berlys greets him with a hug, which is followed quickly by a hug from Anthony.

“Hey man, you just get in, I suppose?” Travis asks. Anthony nods.

“Yeah, late last night. I’ll be in tomorrow morning. My lesson plans are finished and I come bearing gifts from Oz,” he replies. Travis grins.

“Good! You know how I like presents!” he says cheerfully. “And you!” he says pointing at JR. “You’re next beer is on me! I meant what I said. Welcome to Bakersfield Elementary,” he holds out his beer bottle, gripping it at the neck to knock it against JR’s. And JR actually feels welcomed to the school. Accepted.

It is three days later that JR is once more visited by Apolo in his classroom.

“You never answered by question,” Apolo says startling him. JR looks up from counting the schools supply of recorders to see Apolo leaning against his desk. JR laughs standing up from his spot on the floor.

“Which question was that exactly?” he asks. Apolo grins.

“Do you have family outside of Seattle?” Apolo replies. JR grins.

“Yes I do. I’m from there actually. A suburb called…”

“Federal Way,” they say together. JR’s mouth drops open.

“How did you know that!?” he asks. Apolo laughs.

“I grew up in Federal Way, John. Or should I say JR?” he asks. JR steps closer.

“How did you know my name?” JR says bending down to restack the recorders in their bin.

“I used to inline skate at Pattinson’s West. Knew a couple of boys there. A Chris and David Celski?” Apolo says. JR laughs again. “Anyway... they had this little brother named JR…” Apolo trails off. JR shakes his head, standing up again.

“I can’t believe you remember that!” he says. Apolo shrugs.

“I knew you looked familiar. And I remembered the name Celski. There can’t be too many of them running around. When did you start going by John?” Apolo asks. JR shrugs.

“Oh, about 2 months ago? It just kind of happened.” He lifts the bin, replacing it in the open cabinet and closing the door.

“But why? I like JR better. Has more character,” Apolo says. JR shrugs.

“Was a bit of a mistake really. But I think I kind of like it, now. Wait… wait, Apolo Ohno…” JR says quietly, thinking back. “I think I remember you! You were the kid who was there the day David fell out of the tree and broke his arm!” Apolo nods, laughing at the memory. “You were like a curse word around our house after that. My mom used to say every time you played with my brothers one of them would inevitably come home either bleeding or broken!” Apolo shakes his head.

“I was kind of wild back then. My Dad moved me out of the city the summer after that. He wanted to get me away from some ‘bad influences.’ I changed schools, the next year,” Apolo explains. JR nods in understanding.

“You seem to be doing just fine now,” he says. Apolo smiles.

“I like being a teacher. In P.E. I get to basically play games with kids all day. Nothing can really beat that. Except maybe getting to sit around playing music all day.” He looks around the classroom, and goes to the bookshelf in the front near JR’s desk. It’s stacked with records, tapes, and CDs. “Quite the collection,” he says in appreciation. JR fights back a blush.

“Yes, most of that’s the schools though. You should see the amount of stuff I have back at my apartment,” he says with a laugh. Apolo smiles softly.

“I should come over sometime and check it out,” Apolo says. JR’s fairly sure he’s misinterpreting the smile and the words. So he clears his throat.

“Anyway, being a music teacher is not as much fun as you are probably imagining it to be. 25 third graders playing ‘Mary had a little lamb’ on their borrowed recorders… Well, let’s just say it kind of makes you want to stab yourself in the ear with a butcher knife, or a plastic spork. Whichever is handier.” Apolo throws his head back in laughter.

“So, JR,” he says this pointedly, and JR smiles, “how are your brothers, and your Mom and Dad doing?”

The school year starts with a rush of students. It takes a few weeks for JR to find his footing and to get into the flow of being a real teacher. He loves the kids though, and they seem to like him. Mr. C they call him, and he quickly learns to respond to that being hurled at him in the hallways of the school and in the aisles at the local grocery store. He can’t go practically anywhere without running into at least one student out and about shopping with their parents. He’s been accepted by the students, their families, and his colleagues. He’s happy with what he’s doing and he’s enjoying his job.

Apolo insists on calling him JR. And strangely enough no one asks why. The rest of the school persists in calling him John, but JR doesn’t really mind it. In a way it makes him feel like he’s finally a real grown up. Not that there isn’t plenty of immaturity surrounding him on an everyday basis.

Approximately seven weeks into the school year, Simon Cho rushes into JR’s classroom during JR’s free period. He freezes at the sight of JR sitting at his desk eating his lunch.

“You didn’t see me. I’m not here. I don’t freaking exist!” he hisses, before ducking around JR’s body and climbing under his desk. JR wheels backward, looking down at all 6’1” of Simon curled up in the small space. He blinks at him. Simon reaches up to smack him in the knee. “Act cool. I’m not here, John!” he says, ducking down smaller. JR sits up straight again, shrugging his shoulders and going back to his lunch. There is a few minutes of silence while JR eats his lunch before the quiet is broken by a quietly whispered: “That smells good. What is that?” JR sighs. And nudging a piece of lumpia onto a spare napkin hands it down to Simon.

“Lumpia. My mom’s recipe. Are you going to tell me why you’re down there?” he asks. The door to his classroom flies open, and he feels Simon jump. JR turns to the door. Jessica is standing in the open space, a sort of crazy look on her face.

“Where is he?” she asks. JR stares at her for a moment, unsure how to answer.

“To whom are you referring?” he asks. She glares at him, striding closer.

“Simon ‘I’m a big baby and a traitor!’ Cho. Him!” She demands, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Oh, Simon? I haven’t seen him in a little while,” JR says, drinking from his coffee mug.

“Don’t mess with me, John. There is a sisterhood in this school. Do you want all the women turning against you at once?” she threatens. JR’s eyes grow wide. He might not have had sisters growing up, but he’d had cousins. He knows a threat when he hears one. He clears his throat.

“You’re welcome to search, Jess. I’m just sitting here eating my lunch over my break and staying out of other peoples dramas,” he says. He sets his mug down and frantically points at the desk, while nodding his head. Her eyes light up with glee. But she heads for the music cabinets along the wall, pulling the doors open one after another. Then she runs around the desk and ducks down yelling “boo!” in Simon’s face. He jumps, banging his head on the underside of the desk. JR rolls away, taking his lumpia with him. He watches from a safe distance as Jess pulls Simon out from under the desk by his collar.

“OWW!!” he cries once standing. He rubs at the back of his head. “How’d you know I was under there?” he asks. She points to the three inches of visible space under the edges of the desk.

“Your toes were peaking out you dumbass!” she says, smacking him on the back of the head, he winces ducking away from her. JR laughs quietly from his seat. “Now you get to spend the afternoon doing double storytime. I’m not putting up with this shit from you! You can’t run and hide, two days before Halloween, and leave me to do all of craft-time. Are you insane!?” she asks. Simon shrugs.

“You know that glitter scares me,” he says quietly. She smacks him again.

“Then use that huge brain of yours to figure out a craft that doesn’t require its use! Now get back down to that classroom!” she orders. Simon nods, slouching out of the room, still rubbing at the back of his head. Jessica waits until he is out of the room and out of sight to bend down and press a light kiss to JR’s forehead. “You made a friend in the sisterhood today, John Celski. This will not be forgotten!” then she practically skips out of the classroom.

JR’s not 100% sure but he’s pretty confident this is how his classroom becomes the hang-out spot for a small but dedicated segment of the school’s staff.

Travis sometimes slides through the door during lunch hour, closing the door behind himself and leaning up against the wall next to it, his shoulders slumping and his hands coming up and loosening his tie. “Please just let me hang out here for ten minutes?” he pleads, his entire Principal Jayner persona disappearing in an instant. JR smiles in amusement, and offers him a seat. They usually spend the next 10-15mins, listening to the radio and talking about anything BUT the children they’re charged with educating.

Kyle, the art teacher, comes by once or twice with ideas for joint lessons. They end up doing a “music as inspiration” unit, where JR, Kyle, and Lana, the second grade teacher, integrate writing, music, and art to discuss the concept of inspiration and personal expression. It’s mostly JR playing music for the kids and the kids coming up with poetry/short stories inspire by it and then illustrating them.

Apolo shows up one day just as the last class of the day has ended. He watches mutely as JR dumps a load of recorders into a bucket filled with disinfectant. JR looks at him warily, his face pinched with the beginnings of a headache.

“Dude, you look tired,” Apolo says. JR sighs, rubbing at his face and standing up to smile.

“I’m ok. Just a little frazzled. I wasn’t quite as prepared to handle this many kids on a fulltime basis, as I could have been. It’s taking a little time to adjust.” He slumps down in his chair and starts to pack up his stuff. Apolo leans against the other side of the desk, hip resting on the edge.

“I think we all went through something like that. Kids this age… they take a lot of energy to wrangle. But hey, it could be worse. You could have to chase them all over the fields out back right after they eat lunch,” Apolo says. JR laughs.

“No, I just have to keep them sitting still in a small confined space right after they’ve had lunch. 20 5th graders hopped up on Twinkies, trying to play bongos? Recipe for disaster!” JR replies. Apolo raises an eyebrow and concedes the point. “Though I do have to thank you,” JR says.


“I get the 1st graders right after you do on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They’re practically comatose they’re so tired. It makes it a little hard to get through to them, but after the sugar-happy 5th graders it’s kind of a nice break.” Apolo laughs that full belly laugh again and JR turns back to packing up his lesson plans for the next day.

“Hey, you doing anything this weekend?” he asks. JR looks up at him and smiling shakes his head.

“No, you got plans?” Apolo smiles in answer.

“I was thinking about heading down to the roller rink. I haven’t gone skating in ages. Thought you might want to come. You used to inline didn’t you?” he asks. JR nods, a smile of delight spreading across his face.

“Yeah, but it’s been years,” he picks up his messenger bag, and stands from his chair.

“I’m not going to ask you to be in racing shape! I thought it would be something physical, to get your head off your students. Believe me I love working with kids this age, but they can’t be all you ever think about or you’ll go bat-shit,” he says it with a shrug. JR laughs, walking with him to the door. They step out into the hallway and JR flips out the lights and locks the door behind them.

“Sounds like fun. Text me the time and place?” he asks. Apolo nods.

“No problem,” Apolo watches the tiredness flood into JR’s face again. “And try and get some rest tonight. You look exhausted. See you tomorrow?” JR nods.

“Bright and early,” he says heading toward the front of the school.

It’s 3 days later that JR walks into Rick’s Roller Rink on 3rd and Madison. It’s Saturday afternoon and the place is busier than JR thought it would be. He spots Apolo right away, he’s holding court at the pizza stand, surrounded by bouncing kids. So much for getting away from their students. JR shakes his head and heads for skate rentals. He asks for a pair of rollerblades in his size, handing over his shoes and the ten buck rental fee.

Sitting down on a nearby bench he slides the unfamiliar blades on and laces them up, frowning at the fit. If they’re going to make this a regular thing he knows he’ll have to invest in a better pair. Once he has them on he skates over toward Apolo, a grin stealing across his face at the feel of wheels once more under his feet. Apolo looks up and smiles at JR as he skates closer. And JR fights to hold back the unexpected feeling of warmth that starts to blossom in his stomach. No. He’s not going to let himself think that way. Not about Apolo.

Apolo greets him with a firm grip on his hand and a half hug. He’s already got his skates on, and he’s ready to go, dressed in his usual t-shirt, sweat pants combo. JR turns to greet all the kids he recognizes, which is a surprising number. A couple of the girls giggle at him, and he grins back, waving hello.

“You ready?” Apolo asks. JR nods, and follows Apolo out on to the rink floor. JR skates slowly for the first few minutes, warming up his legs and getting back into the rhythm of rollerblading. The skates on his feet feel weird, and he keeps looking down to try and figure out why. Apolo laughs at him. “Feel strange?” he asks. JR shrugs and nods.

“Can’t quite figure it out. Maybe ‘cause they’re rentals?” he asks. Apolo laughs, he does that a lot around JR, he suddenly realizes.

“Speedskates have the extra wheel, remember!?” he asks. JR rolls his eyes at his own failed memory.

“Of course! God it’s been 6 years since I skated. I can’t believe I forgot that!” he says. Apolo shakes his head but doesn’t say anything. “If we’re going to make this a regular thing, I’m going to have to get my own pair. My mom threw out my old skates when I went away to college. They didn’t fit anymore.”

“Might be a good idea. Once the weather finally turns, it’s hard to do much outside with all the snow and ice. This place is open year round. I try and come at least every other Saturday. Consider it an open invitation,” Apolo offers. JR nods.

“Thanks,” he says. He rounds the end of the rink, and catches sight of a group of girls about 20 feet behind them, skating in a huddle and giggling. When they see him looking their giggles get louder, and JR bites his lip to keep from laughing. They seem to range in age from 7 to 11. He glances over at Apolo. “I think we have some admirers,” he says. Apolo glances out of the corner of his eye, being subtle, and then faces forward again with a wide grin.

“That’s not for me. I’m here all the time. And aside from a few ‘Hey Mr. Ohno’s I don’t get a whole lot of little girls following me around. I’m afraid that’s all for you my friend.” JR looks over at him, horrified. And then Apolo’s laughing again. JR’s face turns red. He is starting to realize that Apolo might just be the happiest most relaxed person he’s met in a really long time. He kind of likes it.

“I do not need a bunch of little girls from the school developing crushes. This could be bad!” he whispers harshly. Apolo stops laughing.

“It’s perfectly normal. You’re cute, and young, and nice to the students. You’re prime crush material. They’ll get over it. Just be glad you don’t work at the high school. Then you’d have some real issues to deal with here.” Apolo smirks at him, and pushes away, increasing his speed. JR sighs, and gives chase. He is patently not dwelling on the fact that Apolo thinks he’s cute. Not at all.

Over the next few weeks he and Apolo seem to hang out more and more often. There are invitations to go skating, hiking when it’s not too cold or rainy, drinks with the rest of the faculty and staff on Friday nights, and Sunday afternoon grading sessions at the local coffee shop. JR’s forced to grade one pages essays about Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers, while Apolo as the Health/Dietary Science teacher grades tests about the food pyramid, and for the fifth graders, sexual reproduction. The whole thing is enough to make them both want to drink, which is why they usually end up spending Sunday evenings at their favorite bar having a beer or two. It occurs to JR that in a way they’re sort of dating, unintentionally or not, but he’s not really willing to label it that. He’s almost completely convinced it’s only dating in the confines of his own head. So he never says anything, and it’s not like Apolo ever makes a move.

Well he never makes a move until the faculty Christmas party.

Travis and Aly throw a big party just before the winter break, as a sort of joint Christmas and Engagement party. Travis had finally pinned her down, told her he loved her, and popped the question all in one big romantic scene, and they’d been blissfully goofy in love with each other ever since. JR hadn’t even seen Aly talk to another guy, let alone flirt.

So everyone’s in pretty good spirits at the idea of a whole week and a half off. JR’s actually planning a trip back home to visit his family in Washington state. He has a new nephew to spoil rotten, and he can’t wait to eat some of his Mom’s homemade recipes cooked the way they were supposed to be cooked. No one made lumpia quite like his Mom. His attempts just don’t measure up.

He notices Apolo watching him from across the room. But with everyone crowded into Travis’ small living room, it’s difficult to maneuver. JR ends up parking himself in one corner and leaning back against the wall, lets the warmth and laughter and holiday cheer wash over him in waves. Apolo makes his way slowly across the room, dodging in depth conversations and giving out quick holiday wishes and candy canes. He’s wearing a comically oversized elf hat, with a jingle on the point, and there’s an open candy cane sticking out of his mouth, food coloring staining his mouth red. JR sort of wants to lick his lips just to see if they taste like peppermint. He probably shouldn’t have let Travis talk him into that third beer. He blinks stupidly and drops his gaze, feeling his face flush. He closes his eyes and tilts his head back against the wall, relaxing sideways against the side of the bookcase nestled there, waiting. Apolo doesn’t say anything when he finally arrives, but JR knows anyway. He spells like peppermint and cologne, and a little bit like sweat. He stands close, but doesn’t touch, and when JR opens his eyes he’s right there, grinning, eyes bright with mirth.

“Hey,” JR breathes. Apolo sways closer.

“Hey,” Apolo replies.

“Merry Christmas, Apolo,” he whispers, quiet over the laughter and the music filling the room.

“Merry Christmas,” Apolo replies before glancing up, “You do know you’re standing under mistletoe, right?” JR’s immediate reaction is to jerk backward and look up. Apolo’s laughter bubbles out of him as JR’s eyes focus on the bare ceiling. He looks back at Apolo, and reaches out to sock him in the shoulder. Apolo ducks out of the way in response, still laughing. “Come on! That was a pretty good one. You should have seen your face.” JR rolls his eyes, scooting further into the corner and letting Apolo squeeze in beside him next to the bookcase. Together they face the rest of the party, pressed shoulder to shoulder against the wall. “It’s not like you to be this much of a wallflower,” Apolo says handing over an unopened candy cane. JR shrugs.

“Just enjoying the atmosphere. My first non-denominational holiday winter break office party. Even if everyone is wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and sucking back spiked eggnog and hot cocoa,” JR teases back, opening the candy and sucking the long straight end into his mouth. He closes his eyes letting the taste of peppermint fill his mouth and coat his tongue. He feels warm and a touch floaty, relaxed and at ease in his skin.

He sucks hard on the candy one last time and then pulls it free from his mouth licking sticky sweet off his lips. When he blinks his eyes back open Apolo’s much closer, eyes wide and cheeks flushed. JR swallows thickly and barely gets his mouth open to make a smart comment when Apolo kisses him. Finally. His head thumps back into the wall, one hand sliding around Apolo’s waist to yank him in closer. The kiss turns hard and demanding. JR tilts his head, opening his mouth wider, and letting his other hand fist in the front of Apolo’s dark brown sweater. He hums and slowly they break apart.

He’s out of breath and dazed when he blinks open his eyes again.

“I thought I wasn’t standing under mistletoe...” he whispers, and he feels Apolo’s mouth twist up against his in amusement briefly before relaxing again.

“Like that’s the only reason I might find to kiss you,” Apolo answers back, his tone serious enough that JR sobers a little.

“You don’t really need a reason Apolo. You can do it just because you want too. I’m giving you permission. Kiss away.” He expects Apolo to do just that, but he doesn’t.

“You’re serious?” he asks. “Not joking?” JR straightens up, enjoying the inch and a half of extra height it provides him, making him just a touch taller than Apolo. The hand on the small of Apolo’s back moves up, sliding up his long spine to thread through the hair on the back of his head.

“Very serious. Blanket permission. I want you too. Often.” Apolo’s hands on his hips flex tighter and then relax again, but stay put. “Or I could always,” JR tugs Apolo in again and initiates their second kiss, licking into Apolo’s mouth, and sliding one hand up the back of Apolo’s sweater to touch bare smooth skin.

JR can’t say he’s surprised when Simon starts catcalling, and then Jeff joins in, until half the party guests are focused on them.

“Get it, John! Get it!” Travis hoots, and JR and Apolo break apart laughing, helping to hold each other up as they flush under the attention. They don’t stay at the party much longer.

JR was not expecting this when he when he got up this morning, and he’s relatively happy to realize he isn’t wearing embarrassing underwear when Apolo strips his pants off him. Instead he’s wearing brand new black boxer briefs. The ones his mom always sends him for one of his Christmas presents. Apolo grins up at him, from where he’s kneeling between JR’s spread legs, hands slowly sliding up the back of JR’s thighs, to grip JR’s ass and pull him in closer. JR laughs, sliding his hands into Apolo’s hair and tugging. Apolo climbs to his feet, and kisses JR again, and it’s like everything else falls away. Months of dancing around each other and growing tension finally released.

Afterward, JR lays in bed, smiling up at the ceilings.

“Why in the hell did we wait so long to do this?” he asks. Apolo laughs, pulling his arms up over his head and arching his back in a long stretch that has JR’s blood diverting south.

“To be honest I wanted to for a while. But at first I wasn’t sure if I was your type,” Apolo explains. JR turns propping his head up on a raised fist.

“What changed your mind?” he asks. Apolo groans.

“We went skating,” he says simply. JR raised an eyebrow questioningly. “And… you stared at my ass for 3 hours. It was kind of a no-brainer,” Apolo teases. JR gasps in outrage.

“I did not!” he objects. Apolo just grins at him harder. “Ok, even if I did, then why did you wait another month to say anything!?” he asks. Apolo shrugs.

“I don’t know. You were kind of stressed out at the end of the quarter. Didn’t want to get turned down because you were so busy being a drama princess!” JR makes a face, reaching out to smack Apolo in the shoulder. But Apolo captures his hand, pulling him closer by his wrist. The fight leaves JR in an instant and he leans forward to rest his head on Apolo’s pillow. Apolo rolls towards him until they’re nose to nose. “This could work, right?” Apolo asks. JR smirks and nods.

“Yeah, I think it really could. We could.”

And it does. And they do.

This one was started in 2011. Finally finished it for NaNoWriMo 2013.

Not everyone is mentioned directly but this is my headcanon for who does what at Bakersfield Elementary.
K – Simon Cho and Jessica Smith
1st – Berlys Derrick
2nd – Lana Ghering
3rd – Anthony Lobello
4th – Aly Dudek
5th – Jordan Malone
Music – JR Celski
Art – Kyle Carr
PE/Health – Apolo Anton Ohno
Spanish – Eddy Alvarez
French – Francois-Louis Tremblay
Principal – Travis Jayner
Media Center/Librarian – Jeff Simon
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