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Screaming.

One of the most notable things about working with young children, come noon, was the screaming. You watched from a window in the classroom that belonged to the third grade teacher, Jung Hoseok, as young children ran about on the playground outside. Glee painted their faces pink, with bright smiles and peals of laughter echoing into the air that filled your chest with a sense of peace and joy. Lunchtime was truly a sight to behold at Riverhill State Primary School. Games of tag and hide and seek ran rampant across the field and metal playground. The swings, a highly coveted item, were never without a customer wriggling their eager behind onto the seat and swinging their legs wildly until they finally gained enough momentum to swing higher, and higher, and higher. The happiness of the children was clear for all that happened to pass, but still, the most notable thing about lunchtime, was the screaming.

Even so, you found your attention wrapped up in something else entirely. Not even the loud, piercing shriek of one kid, Lee Minhyuk, as he squealed and darted away from his friend, Lee Changkyun, in one of the wildest games of tag the playground had ever seen, could tear you from your reverie. The subject of your fixation?

Kim Namjoon.

He wasn’t a child, but a teacher. Tall and polished, dressed smart and casual yet so warm and approachable, it was no wonder he caught you eye amongst a sea of small, messy children. But you weren’t staring at him because he was attractive— which he most definitely was— but because upon seeing him your thoughts had been taken quite suddenly to a memory from only a month or so ago.

You were a teacher-aid, fresh out of schooling, and new to this school and its surprisingly close-knit community. You’d been here almost a month now, and when you’d first arrived they had thrown you a welcoming party of sorts. You’d been given gift upon gift, and welcomed with open arms. The staff here were all like a family, and truthfully you’d never seen anything like it.

The principal, Kim Seokjin, was a magnanimous man and a borderline flirt, although he was far too good a person to be any real sleaze. You had been surprised when you’d arrived, since unlike most people you met, let alone principals and school officials, Seokjin was an enthusiastic and open-minded person, and a strong advocate for hybrids and their rights. The society you lived in was still slowly coming to terms and adjusting to recent equality laws that had been put into place, and while technically hybrids now had more rights than ever and discrimination was illegal, it was difficult for most people to release the beliefs and attitudes they had held onto for so long. As someone who was very passionate about hybrid rights yourself, you appreciated Seokjin and his forwardness about the subject, along with his efforts in the movement, more than you could put into words.

You supposed people like Seokjin were the reason hybrids were able to live more comfortably and integrate better into society. Hybrids could now pursue higher learning as they wished, and slowly more and more of them were trickling into the workforce. It made you overjoyed to see the progress, even if the older generations still resisted somewhat. The youth were more than accommodating enough to make up for it.

You didn’t personally know any hybrids in the workforce before you took this job— it was at that very welcoming party thrown by the staff of Riverhills State Primary School that you met the first one.

You were overwhelmed at the positive response you’d received to your new employment at the school, and were walking around with an armful of gifts— from candles, to stationery, to wax melts, you really had the whole deal— and searching desperately for somewhere to place them so you could give your arms a break. You’d met many people already— some of the more interesting characters being Kim Taehyung, the fifth grade teacher who sometimes taught art to other year levels, Park Jimin, a shorter male that taught the second grade, and Jeon Jungkook, who taught P.E. They’d all given you a warm welcome, and to your surprise you immediately felt at home, making fast friends with them.

You’d met most of the staff already, hence the incredible load in your arms, but you noticed you hadn’t met the teacher of the first grade yet. You could have sworn you’d seen someone earlier, someone you had yet to meet formally, but they’d ducked out of the room before you could question it. On your way over to the refreshments table, you encountered a blonde man that was on the shorter side and hovering around the punch and chocolates bowl.

“Min Yoongi,” he’d introduced himself when he realised you’d caught him sneaking wrapped sweets into his pockets for later. You were beyond amused and despite the pink tint to his ears he retained a cool expression, a small smile offered your way. “I teach music and double as a guidance counsellor.”

“y/n,” you’d said, returning the sentiment. You reached and plucked a couple of chocolates from the bowl, popping them onto the already colossal pile of goods in your arms. Yoongi shot you an amused smile at the action. “I’m the new teacher aid, but you probably already knew.”

You were privy to the gummy smile Yoongi now flashed your way. “Ah, yes. You’re the person they threw this for. I’m surprised, it takes a lot for Seokjin to accept a new employee— you must have impressed him,” he reached for a corn chip from a bowl to his left, plopping it in his mouth with a soft, satisfying crunch. “I assume you’ve met everyone by now? If the massive pile of candles in your arms is anything to go by, of course.”

You let out a laugh, looking down at the aforementioned heap. “Yeah— well, actually I think I’ve met everyone but the first grade teacher.”

Yoongi’s eyes lit in recognition. “Ah, right. He ran out as soon as he saw you, mumbling something to himself. He’ll probably be back soon.”

You smiled, considering what to say next when Yoongi’s eyes flitted to something over your shoulder, and he allowed an amused smile to curl his lips.

“Ah, speak of the devil,” he mumbled humorously to himself. You didn’t even have time to turn before someone was darting past you and skidding to a somewhat precarious stop next to Yoongi. You blinked, registering the tall man that was panting slightly beside the shorter blonde and recognising him as the person you’d seen run off earlier. His eyes widened as they fell upon you, cheeks slightly pink— although you surmised that was probably just because of how out of breath he was.

“Ah, hello,” he greeted, voice smooth and low and more soothing to your ears than you cared to admit. You instantly liked him, the sheepish, dimpled smile he offered only cementing that fact. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to introduce myself earlier. I had to—um, I forgot… something. Anyway, I have it now and—oh right. I’m Kim Namjoon, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

He was a bit of a flustered mess, but in all honesty it was absolutely endearing. You shook his hand with your free one and watched with fascination as you introduced yourself and the pink across his cheeks deepened.

“That’s a lovely name,” he said, causing heat to flush to your own cheeks. You were all too aware of Yoongi’s keen eyes observing the entire interaction. Namjoon seemed to jerk, realisation filling his features once more. “Oh! Right, this is for you.”

His other hand, that had been curled around something you couldn’t see at his side, was raised as he held his arm out to you. You opened your palm and he dropped his welcoming gift into your outstretched hand.

To your surprise, a light weight plopped onto your skin, smooth and cool to the touch— a pebble, although, admittedly, a pretty one. You couldn’t help the way you stared at it a few seconds longer, partly out of confusion and partly because it really was nice to look at.

“A pebble,” you echoed your thoughts without thinking, a soft smile stretching your lips. When you looked up, it was to the sight of a grinning Yoongi and a red-faced Namjoon, the latter looking very much like he was ready to pack up and bolt at any second. “Thank you.”

Namjoon beamed, the tips of his ears burning hotly, and stuttered, “N-no problem! Uh, welcome again, and I hope you enjoy working here.”

He then floundered for a second, like he hadn’t thought ahead enough to know what to do next, and bowed slightly before he was spinning on his heel and darting off the way he came. You watched as he disappeared into the crowd with wide eyes, words you’d been about to say in return on the tip of your tongue. It took a few moments to realise he’d really just run off once more and you didn’t have the slightest idea where or why.

Your gaze returned to the pebble in your grasp, the stone beginning to grow warm in your hold, before your eyes flitted to Yoongi in question. He simply shrugged, grinning slyly.

“He’s a mysterious guy,” he said, chuckling at his own words. Your eyebrows rose, lips twitching.

Yoongi took his time and unwrapped a chocolate, plopping it in his mouth and savouring the rich, sugary texture before he spoke once more. “I’m surprised he gave you that, actually. I think I got a pen set when I first got here.”

You hadn’t known whether to be offended or flattered. “He doesn’t just give everyone a pebble?”

Yoongi shook his head, smiling. “No, you must be special. It’s not often Namjoon parts with rocks from his collection.”

“His collection?” you echoed, curiosity curling around your tone. The male nodded.

“He has a collection of rocks and pebbles on his desk, some really nice and pretty ones,” he explained, shrugging. His eyes met yours, holding a knowing glint. “I think it’s a hybrid thing.”

‘A hybrid thing’…? Oh, oh. Realisation washed through you at the fairly obvious explanation to Namjoon’s unusual gift and behaviour. He was a hybrid, and while you weren’t sure exactly what kind, knowing this made everything else fall into place.

Yoongi seemed like he was analysing your reaction, and when your blush deepened slightly and you didn’t show any indication of discrimination after hearing the new information, he seemed pleased. “Yeah, a hybrid thing. It’s not very noticeable, is it? I didn’t find out until like a month after meeting him. I mean, he doesn’t have any obvious ears or a tail. I would have been surprised if you’d noticed, actually.”

You wanted to ask, were burning inside with curiosity to know, exactly what kind of hybrid Namjoon was, but you couldn’t bring yourself to do it. It felt too rude, too awkward to ask, especially when it wasn’t him you were asking. So you didn’t.

Yoongi had continued to chat with you after that, and by the time your welcoming party was over and you parted ways you’d ended up giving him a good number of the candles and wax melts held in your arms. You’d made friends with pretty much everyone at the school by now, but you were arguably closest with him— although, the younger teachers did give him a run for his money sometimes. You couldn’t count on your hands the amount of times you’d been invited to join them for after-work drinks in the short time you’d been here.

You blinked, coming back into the present moment somewhat blearily after going so deeply into your memory. It was still lunch break, and children were still screaming outside, but when your eyes returned to the male that had prompted your sudden recollection something had changed.

There was a small crowd of children around him now, all of them with their hands cupped around something and held before them. You watched one of them step up with a bright beam on his face and hand the object to Namjoon, smooth texture glinting in the sun, and suddenly realised that they were all gifting him with pebbles for his collection. You could feel your heart melting in its place in your chest, warmth flooding your ribcage and blossoming in your lungs. God, kids were so precious sometimes. For moments like this, you could easily put up with the screaming.

You’d never seen Namjoon happier than he was when he interacted with his students. He was grinning so wide dimples were popping up in his cheeks and he looked so happy, and content, you just wanted to burn the image into your mind forever. He thanked each child diligently, using his sweater to hold the respectable amount of pebbles that had amassed from the children’s generosity. He never talked about his fabled rock collection, but it was displayed on his desk and his students had seen the way he cared for it, polishing and arranging each stone before he started the day. You thought that was what warmed your heart most, the fact that they cared enough for him to notice such a thing and take initiative to seek something that would make him happy. First graders were such beautiful little souls.

Reluctantly, you pulled away from the window. You were currently a float, meaning you moved between classrooms as needed each day. Today, you were in Hoseok’s classroom, helping him with some activities for his third graders. Right now you were meant to be cutting up laminated pictures, actually. A glance at the clock told you that you’d spent perhaps ten too many minutes staring out the window and not enough completing your task, and you hurriedly took a seat and began like you should have twenty minutes ago.

You’d just have to stare at Namjoon another time.

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The lunchroom was arguably one of your favourite rooms in the school, and not just because it was where the food was located and you could finally have a break. Well, maybe a little bit, but it was also your favourite room because it was where you often ran into Namjoon and the other teachers and you were free to chat for a bit. Running into them in the halls, or seeing them in their classrooms never really allowed for the right time to strike up a conversation.

Almost a week after you caught yourself gazing out the window, lost in thought, it was lunchtime once more. Except instead of helping out one of the teachers, you were on your way to the lunchroom. You’d packed lunch today, and the wrap and pudding you’d placed into a paper bag with your name on it were calling your name. God, you hadn’t eaten since your coffee and a quick breakfast this morning, and your mouth was already watering in anticipation.

The hall was bare despite the time, other staff either in their room or offices completing work, or on duty and supervising children on the playground. The heel of your boots was the only sound bouncing off the walls, and you couldn’t help but find a certain sense of enjoyment in it— you’d picked up a really cute pair of shoes on the weekend, and you were absolutely in love with every single thing about them. The door to the staff room was closed as per usual, and you were quick to swing it open. You could practically hear your lunch calling your name at this point.

To your surprise, upon stepping into the room your eyes were drawn to a tall, lanky figure by the sink. You blinked, watching as he reached and grabbed a mug from the top cupboard with ease. With a grin, you stepped further into the room and allowed the door to close softly behind you.

“Namjoon!”

At the sound of your voice the male in question jumped, mug fumbling in his grasp and coming so close to dropping your breath held on instinct, a hand coming to cover your mouth. A small yelp escaped him as he finally caught the flyaway cup in both hands, head turning to gaze at you with wide eyes over his shoulder.

“y-y/n,” he stuttered in greeting, voice strangled. He straightened as you moved further into the room, towards the fridge, his posture rigid. “What brings you here?”

He seemed to realise his conversational blunder the second the words left his mouth, and you couldn’t help but laugh at the expression of immediate regret that crossed his face. You decided to take mercy on him, smiling as you reached for the fridge and pulled out your paper bag. “I packed a mean lunch and it’s been calling to me all morning. How about you?”

When you risked a glance, you found his cheeks had flushed bright pink. He placed the mug down somewhat shakily, offering a smile that made his dimples pop. “Uh, coffee. I kinda left in a rush this morning and didn’t have time to grab one, so I’ve been caving a croffee— craving a coffee for a couple hours now.”

You tried to hide your grin, for his sake, but he was too endearing and cute to help it. Your amusement only served to deepen the blush across his face, however. He hurried to put the sugar and coffee in his mug, turning the electronic jug on but forgetting to start it.

“That sucks, man,” you said, taking a spoon from the drawer and placing it with your paper bag on the bench, leaning against the counter as you pulled your sandwich out. You offered him a bright smile. “At least you get to have it now, though!”

His eyes lit up with the brightness of the grin he shot you in return, dimples peeking out from his cheeks. “Yeah.”

You weren’t sure where to go from here, floundering for a way to continue conversation. You chewed on a bite of your sandwich, momentarily distracted by the delicious flavour, while you considered your options. Namjoon was probably one of the staff members you’d spoken least to in your time here, but not by choice. You hadn’t even been assigned to his room yet, so your encounters were few and far between. You wanted so badly to continue this conversation so it didn’t end so quickly, and so rushed to fill the awkward silence that was just beginning to brew. Namjoon poured a dash of milk into his mug, jumping once more when you spoke.

“How are your kids today?” you asked, wincing internally after the words left your mouth. What were you, fourteen? Was this the best you could do? Every single one of your extroverted ancestors would be ashamed of you.

Namjoon didn’t even seem to notice, too caught up in his own embarrassment and the blush colouring his cheeks to see your inner turmoil.

“Good!” his voice broke slightly in his haste to answer, and he nearly dropped the spoon in his hold as he recoiled in embarrassment. He tried again, tone lower this time, “They’re good. We’re working on literacy and art, today. Some of them brought in some of their favourite picture books— we’re having a blast.”

You nodded along, taking another bite of your lunch to give yourself time to respond. Namjoon’s face burned brighter with each second that passed though, and you had to stop yourself from asking if he was okay— it would probably just embarrass him more. He cleared his throat, stirring the spoon in the cup for a moment. “How about yours?”

Your eyebrows rose, and he immediately realised his mistake. You honestly didn’t think it was possible for one person to embody the visual definition of humiliation so completely and easily. He looked ready to bolt, speaking again before you had a chance. “Wait, that was dumb. Forget I asked that, aha…”

You bit your lip, trying not to laugh, and almost missed it as he straightened, gaze finding the jug like he’d just remembered it existed. Hastily he took it from the base, pouring the water into his mug without a second thought, and you wanted so badly to speak, to voice your thoughts, but the words got stuck on your tongue and you could only watch on in regret. He stirred the drink for a second before discarding the spoon in the sink and grasping the handle, taking two prompt steps back and shooting you a sheepish grin.

“Well, uh, sorry to cut this short but I just remembered I have a lot of, um, spelling tests to grade? Yeah, I better go do those…” he gulped, fiddling with the edge of his sweater for a moment before jerking into motion and making a beeline for the door. “See you later, y/n!”

And then he was gone before you could blink, the door swinging shut behind him just shy of hitting his bum. You blinked, unable to muster coherent thought for a few seconds.

He’d forgotten to turn the jug on.

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Not even three days later you were striding down the hall with a skip in your step, heeled boots clapping happily against the linoleum. Your day had gone amazingly, spectacularly so far. Your morning had started with someone paying ahead for your order at the cafe near the school, and on the way you’d happened across a bakery holding a massive sale in celebration of the manager’s birthday. You’d nabbed two blueberry muffins and a delicious-looking apple turnover for prices that almost made you weep for joy, and had made a new friend of the cashier while you were at it.

Then you’d read your roster for the day, and were delighted to find—

You turned the corner to see a familiar tall figure coming from the opposite end of the hall, gaze on his phone as he walked with books and papers piled high in his arms. You couldn’t help yourself, calling happily with a wave and a bright smile, “Namjoon!”

True to every other experience you’d had thus far with the man, he jumped, tripping on air and lurching forward. A sharp yelp escaped him as he flailed for balance, managing to maintain his grip on the phone, but the papers and books weren’t quite so lucky. They fell to the floor with a strange combination of a loud BANG and a soft flutter, papers floating across the entire walkway.

Immediately overcome with regret for your foolishness— you should have known by now that he was easy to scare—  you rushed forward, dropping down to help gather the mess you’d played a hand in creating.

“Sorry, I’m so sorry!” you blabbered, grabbing papers left and right and sorting them into a haphazard pile. “I wasn’t thinking, I should have considered you were distracted and deep in thought!”

Cheeks pink, the hybrid you had yet to know the exact genus of quickly bent to help you. “No! No, it’s okay. It was my fault, I shouldn’t have been on my phone while carrying so many things…”

You laughed, grinning at him. “Perhaps it’s both of our faults.”

He returned the smile, embarrassment somewhat soothed for now as you both worked to pick up the papers and books. It didn’t take long for you to clean the mess you’d inadvertently made, and soon you were both rising back to your feet. There was a moment of silence, just barely bordering on awkward, as you smiled at each other and hovered for a moment.

“Ah, well, thank you for helping,” Namjoon rubbed the back of his neck with a sheepish smile, gesturing to the side where the door to his classroom lay. “But I should probably head in, aha. Class starts soon after all…”

You smiled, amused. It was only seven-thirty, school didn’t start for another hour and a half. You decided to leave that for now, however, and instead informed him of the reason you’d been coming down this particular hall in the first place.

“Actually, I’ve been assigned to your room for today!” you said, smiling brightly. You watched as his eyes widened, cheeks staining light pink. “I’m looking forward to working with you for the first time!”

Namjoon stuttered, turning to let you both into the room. “O-oh, me too. Um, just in here then.”

He guided you inside, and you gazed about the room with a slight sense of awe. You didn’t know what you’d expected, but it hadn’t been the colourful arrangement that greeted you. Paper decorated the walls, drawings and paintings, words spelt in colour and clearly drawn by the hand of a child, all hung proudly and neatly across the space. Messy but pretty handmade lanterns hung across a string that spanned from one corner of the room to another, supported by a pin in the middle. You could tell that the children in this room had fun, and enjoyed their learning, and you could tell how much Namjoon cared for each and every one of them from the way he’d proudly displayed their products and achievements for all to see.

“Wow,” was all you could manage to say after several seconds more of staring in wonder. You turned your gaze to Namjoon to see him rubbing the back of his neck, cheeks still warm.

“It’s a bit messy,” he said, moving to his desk and placing all the papers down, fiddling with pencils and pens that were splayed across the surface. “I wasn’t expecting to have another staff member in here.”

You grinned, letting out a slight laugh. “Messy? Namjoon, have you seen Taehyung’s room?”

The male let out a laugh of his own at that, smiling. His posture relaxed, shoulders releasing their tension and no longer hunched as they had been. “You’re right, at least there’s room to walk in here and nothing hits you in the face on the way in.”

You giggled at the reference to the decorative artworks hanging from a string on front of the door in Taehyung’s classroom. You were tall enough that it brushed your head when you entered, but Namjoon probably got a full face of painted paper and pain every time he walked in there. You’d almost asked the blonde why he chose to hang them there of all places, but had quickly realised the answer when you’d gazed over the ceiling in the rest of the room. There wasn’t any space left, at all. You had wondered why Seokjin had restricted his orders for bluetack and pins, and now you knew why.

You soon finished admiring the room, and moved over to his desk where he went over his plans for the day with you. You nodded as you went, and at first he was reluctant to dump work on you, but when you reassured him you were happy to help however you could, he’d allowed you with pink cheeks to take some of the workload from him.

You worked in comfortable silence, preparing for the school day before the children all arrived. It went faster than you expected, and soon the bell was ringing and children were streaming through the door, giggling as Namjoon rose and greeted them. Their eyes lit up when they saw you— they’d seen you around but hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to you yet, and you knew that with how curious young children were they were probably dying to pounce and question you. For a bunch of five-to-six year olds though, they were remarkably well behaved, and only spared you a few burning stares of curiosity and bright smiles as they rushed to their little desks and chairs.

The way Namjoon taught and directed the class was something to be admired. It all flowed well, and the children remained engaged throughout each activity— with a few exceptions, of course. You couldn’t expect to keep some five-year-olds engaged and paying attention for more than thirty minutes at a time, you supposed.

The way he taught was amazing, but it was the way he interacted with the children and helped them that really spoke to you. He was kind and gentle, understanding and playful as he helped them. His students looked up at him with wide eyes and bright smiles each time he came near, and in all honesty, you understood the feeling.

The more time you spent with Namjoon, the more you wanted to know him. And with each minute more that passed in his proximity, the fluttering of your heart grew a little stronger.

x     x     x     x     x     x     x

You liked summer. It was a time of year where everything bloomed, and everything was balanced. For particularly hot days, they often ended in rain and thunderstorms that refreshed the air, soothed the plants and earth. For the heat that strained your body so, you could swim and cool in pools and the ocean. Admittedly, this was one of the reasons you liked summer most— you loved the water, and you loved to swim.

So when Jungkook had asked for your help in his P.E sessions, which were now to take place in the school’s pool, you’d jumped on the opportunity. As you knew it, the teachers of the classes would be joining the activities too, but you were happy you got to join in, and the more that came the merrier.

You’d helped out with a couple of classes already, namely Hoseok and Taehyung’s classes, and you had a feeling that if they hadn’t been required to wear swim shirts then you would have had a harder time than you did. Both males were playful in the water, splashing their students and helping the ones that struggled with soft smiles and encouraging words. It warmed your heart to see all of the staff at this school truly cared for their students, especially since you knew that wasn’t always the case at some schools.

It was a sunny, sweltering Thursday when you made your way down to the pool for one of the morning P.E classes Jungkook taught. You didn’t know which grade was coming for their class now, but you didn’t mind since all of the staff and students you’d met were lovely to be around. You were running a bit late today, time had escaped you and you’d realised the time a few minutes past when you were meant to be at the pool. With no time to change, you had quickly made your way to the east side of the school, where the pool lay, surrounded by buildings and pushed against the fence bordering the school grounds.

In all honesty, for some reason you’d expected for it to be Jimin’s class that was coming for P.E, but you were surprised to exit the changerooms and see a familiar figure standing on the edge of the pool, feet hanging just slightly over the ledge. As per usual whenever you saw him, you couldn’t stop yourself from calling out a greeting as you picked up your pace and moved closer. Your mind predicted what was about to happen the second the words left your mouth.

“Good morning, Namjoon!” you greeted, smiling brightly as you came closer.

Namjoon’s whole body jerked in surprise, clearly torn from whatever deep thoughts he’d been immersed in, and in the process the balance he’d managed to hold onto was lost. You watched, consumed with a strange mix of amusement and horror, as he flailed and tilted forward despite his best efforts. The cool waters of the pool welcomed him with open arms and a loud splash, water flying up to drench your face and swim-shirt. The pool embraced him entirely, water sloshing and a few seconds passing before he resurfaced to the sound of your laughter.

“I’m so sorry!” you tried not to choke, bracing your hands on your knees as your abdomen contracted with the force of the laughter you were trying so hard to contain, but to no avail. “I’m so sorry, but that was so funny! Oh god! Are you okay?”

There was a chorus of giggling from the other end of the pool, and you quickly realised through your chortling that he’d been standing and watching his students as they jumped in the water in the shallow end. You waved at them, and they greeted you with a chorus of, “Hi, Miss y/n!”

Jungkook was cackling the water, in the middle of helping a child climb down the ladder, and you didn’t doubt for a second that you’d just made his week without even meaning to.

To your utter surprise, there was laughter from below you. Your eyes were drawn to a grinning Namjoon, eyes closed and cheeks pink, his dimples popping out. Water glistened over his features, his hair slicked back if slightly disarrayed from his sudden immersion, and he looked so light and happy that for a moment you were sure your heart stopped in your chest. In a strange turn of events, it was your cheeks that were burning in his presence.

“It’s okay,” he said, eyes opening and causing warmth to flush over your entire body as they met your own. “I had to get in sometime, right?”

You tried to recover as quick as you could, but couldn’t shake the flutter of your heart or the flip of your tummy, even as you managed to grin brightly in return. “Right.”

“Are you both going to just stand there, or are you going to come over and help teach these poor kids how to swim?” Jungkook called from across the pool, grinning cheekily, and there was a cry of outrage from several of the children already treading water.

“I don’t need to be teached, I can swim,” one of them, a child the staff fondly knew as BamBam for his numerous run-ins with inanimate objects, cried, splashing water indignantly.

You laughed, slipping into the pool and keeping your head above the surface as you began to move over. “I’m sure you can, but don’t you want to know how to become the best swimmer in the whole world?”

His eyes lit up and he gasped loudly, “The best?”

At your nod he squealed, bobbing in the water. He turned to his friend Yugyeom. “Better than you!”

Yugyeom was not impressed, and throughout the rest of the class proceeded to try and prove his friend wrong.

Jungkook, having recovered mostly from his fit of laughter, clapped his hands to get the attention of the class. “Alright kids, if you wanna be the best swimmers ever, we gotta get started! Now, what we’re gonna do, is split up into three groups! Some of you are going to go with me, some with Mr Kim, and some with Miss y/n!”

He then began dividing the children, and the lesson soon kicked off. You took your group of children to another lane after they all watched Jungkook demonstrate freestyle, and you began to help them practice their strokes. The lesson flew by, the five-year-olds making you laugh with their playful squeals and splashing as they waited for their turn to try the style. Amidst all the fun, you found yourself looking over— and at once your stomach was flipping again.

Namjoon may have been an uncoordinated mess on land, but in the water… you couldn’t take your eyes off of him. He was doing a lap, demonstrating freestyle for the kids, and each movement was so fluid and graceful you felt like you were watching a performance. He was so at home here, body gliding through the water, arms parting the surface with ease and legs propelling him forward with strong, controlled kicks. You didn’t even realise you’d been staring, mouth open, until he resurfaced back near his group, grinning brightly. The children cheered loudly, clapping, and the noise was enough to break you from your stupor. Your mouth snapped shut, cheeks flushing with more foreign heat, and you just barely managed to turn your attention back to your group before they noticed the direction of your stare and pounced.

The rest of the lesson flew by with ease, but you couldn’t shake the image of Namjoon’s graceful form gliding through the water from your mind. God, you were teaching in the shallow end but you could feel it… you were getting in deep.

x     x     x     x    x    x    x

You’d been at this school for several months now, and it was over those several months that you’d grown closer to all the children, and the staff— but there was one staff member in particular that you wished you were even closer to. You’d tried to stop yourself, to hold back, but over those months you’d gradually let yourself go bit by bit, and at this point…

You were pretty sure you had feelings for the first grade teacher, Kim Namjoon.

God, just thinking about it made your cheeks warm and heart skip a beat. You paused in your walking for a moment to collect your thoughts, shaking your head before beginning on your way once more. Yes, you’d developed feelings for him. You couldn’t help it! He was almost a whole six feet of pure dork, but he was also kind, and sweet, endearing, and in all honesty one of the most attractive people you’d ever see. He was smart, educated, gentle. He’d won you over gradually, and as time went on he grew more comfortable with you too. You had no idea how he really felt about you, but he was nowhere near as awkward as he had been at the beginning. You knew a lot more about him, some of the things he liked and disliked, but strangely you still didn’t know what kind of hybrid he was. You did wonder, but eventually decided it could wait.

Back to your point, you liked Namjoon, and you weren’t sure how he felt about you and so couldn’t really expect him to make any moves— it would have to be you. It was something you’d thought about doing a lot, especially in recent months, but you had yet to do it. It was nerve-wracking! You had no idea how to respond, and while you knew he definitely wouldn’t react cruelly, it still made you nervous.

It had taken you months, but you’d gradually worked up the nerves and decided that today—

Today would be the day you finally asked Kim Namjoon to coffee.

Just the thought had you so anxious, nerves alight. There were so many things that could go wrong, but you’d decided, and nothing was going to make you change your mind. Today was the day. The day. You were so nervous you wanted to vomit— why were you like this?? It was startling how much the roles had reversed since you first met him.

It was currently lunchtime, children were running about, screaming, and you knew Namjoon to be on duty on this day of the week. You would usually be in a classroom, taking your own lunch break and maybe completing some tasks to help the other teachers out, but instead you were here. Walking towards the playgound. Working up the nerve to ask Namjoon to coffee. It was going good so far.

The trip was short, and you almost wished it was longer, just so you had more time to gather yourself. You cursed your inner procrastinator as it reeled its head, and pushed on. The playground was just around the corner, and you proceeded on your path as intended. Three steps, two, one— the playground now lay before your eyes, and they immediately flitted about, searching for a familiar tall figure amongst a sea of small children. You spotted him quickly.

Namjoon was leaning against one of the poles holding up the roof of a shaded area, gazing over the kids playing rugby on the field beside the playground. He seemed wrapped up in his thoughts, and you tried not to focus on how good he looked, bathed in the honey light of the sun and glowing with happiness and content, as you started to move closer.

This was it, you thought as you took another step, and another. You were only a couple of feet away now, and the nerves were hitting you hard. God, you couldn’t do this— no! You had to! It was now or never, if you didn’t ask him now you never would! Your palms were sweating, and you woudln’t have even noticed if you weren’t putting off stepping closer so badly.

No, you’d come here to do something and you were going to do it, damn it. Taking a deep breath, you stepped closer, and then halted suddenly as Namjoon spoke.

“Sometimes,” he said absently, clearly speaking to you although you weren’t sure if he knew it was you. Following his gaze subconsciously, you caught sight of the oval-shaped ball the children had been playing with that now lay discarded on the ground. “Sometimes I get the urge to just— just sit on it, you know? Keep it warm.”

...What.

You balked, at a total loss for words, and at the silence that greeted the male’s impromptu confession he turned. Namjoon’s eyes widened slightly as he caught sight of you, apparently expecting it to be someone else, but a smile slid easily and naturally onto his face nonetheless. In your moment of weakness, you were assaulted by his dimples and the endearing curve of his eyes once more. “Oh, hey y/n. You’re probably wanting some context to that. I’m a penguin hybrid.”

He said it so simply, and at once everything connected in your head. Well, you supposed, that explained the pebble thing, and also why he had the urge to sit on an egg-shaped object. Your hand came up subconsciously to your necklace as you snapped yourself out of your thoughts.

“You’re a penguin hybrid?” you echoed dumbly, cursing yourself as the words left your mouth. You’d been here all of a minute and were already making a fool of yourself— things were taking a turn for the worst.

Namjoon smiled softly, turning his gaze back to the children he was supervising for a moment. “Yeah. You probably couldn’t tell, right? Not many people can, since I don’t really have any defining features like dog and cat hybrids.”

You let out a noise of understanding, a beat of silence filling the air as you stepped a little closer. “So… is this why you like pebbles so much?”

At this Namjoon flushed pink, the tips of his ears blossoming with the heat of his embarrassment. “Ah, you noticed that?”

Your eyebrows rose, an amused smile playing on your lips. “Namjoon, I’ve been in your classroom. I’ve seen your desk.”

The male flushed further, laughing sheepishly. “Ah, yeah. You probably thought it was weird, right? Especially getting a pebble as a welcoming gift. You probably threw it out, I wouldn’t blame you.”

He seemed to cringe at his past actions, but you gasped, affronted. “Excuse me? I would never!”

Namjoon seemed surprised at your outburst, eyes wide as he regarded you and you continued, pulling your necklace from your shirt and brandishing it before him. “I love that pebble! It was one of the only things I received that I could actually keep, you know? Candles definitely don’t last forever, and neither do chocolates.”

Namjoon blinked, heat flushing more in his cheeks as his eyes trained on your necklace. You continued, “It was really pretty, and it’s dumb but it… meant a lot to me, so I had it made into a necklace.”

Namjoon seemed at a loss for words, eyes flicking from you to the pebble hanging suspended from your necklace in bewilderment. It was, indeed, the same one he had gifted you so many months ago. You’d kept it, unable to part with it and fond of it for reasons you couldn’t explain. You didn’t know what it meant to you, or why it meant so much, but it did, and you treasured it. It was embarrassing to share, but you couldn’t handle Namjoon thinking you’d thrown out something he’d given you like it meant nothing.

“You kept it,” he said, voice soft and coloured with a peculiar mix of surprise and affection. You honestly didn’t know it was possible for someone to blush so much before now. “I… wow.”

Heat fought to colour your own cheeks at the soft look in his eyes, and you coughed a laugh, trying to diffuse the air. “What, don’t all the other girls you give pebbles to keep them?”

Namjoon bit his lip, embarrassed as he swayed on the spot, fingers fiddling with each other. “I’ve never given a pebble to a girl before,” he admitted, somewhat shyly.

Oh. You couldn’t stop your blush this time, mouth dropping open slightly in your surprise. Oh, he… wow. Okay. This changed things a little. You reminded yourself what you’d come here to do, and tried to steel yourself in advance.

At the silence now falling between you, Namjoon coughed awkwardly and started to walk to the side. You followed him on instinct. “Uh, right, you probably came here for something. What can I help you with?”

You both walked towards the edge of the playground that kept the bark inside, Namjoon’s eyes fixed on the ground in front of him in embarrassment. Well, you supposed, at least he couldn’t trip like that.

“Uh, well,” you started, gulping when your voice cracked slightly. This was so embarrassing— why did he have to go and say those things before? You had no idea if you could go through with this now, you were so— so— so shaken, in a way that was more good than bad but still left you in a questionable state. “I have something… to ask.”

Namjoon hummed in question, averting his eyes to the sky for a moment before returning them to the ground in front of him. After another moment of silence, you decided to just do it, get it over with. Like ripping off a bandaid, with unknown results afterwards. Right. You could do this.

“Namjoon, do you want to go for coffee sometime? With me?” you said it, you said it without stuttering and in one fell swoop, god you were so proud of yourself but still so nervous—

Namjoon choked, head whipping towards you with wide eyes and in the moment he took his gaze off the ground he tripped over the concrete edge of the playground area and lurched forward. You were sure a look of horror crossed you face as you reached out to grasp his arm in an attempt to keep him upright, but it proved to be your undoing. He was heavier than you expected, and grabbing onto him only meant that you were dragged down with him. You both met the abrasive yet slightly cushioning texture of the shredded bark that lined the playground, and the breath was knocked out of your lungs— partly because of the impact, and partly because Namjoon’s face was barely an inch from yours.

He stared at you with wide eyes, hardly seeming to realise the position you were in let alone where, and blinked. “Sorry what?”

Heat burned impossibly hot in your cheeks, embarrassment curling in your abdomen. “I, uh… I asked if you… wanted to go for coffee… with me?”

Namjoon stared at you in silence a few moments longer, like he couldn’t believe the words coming out of your mouth, and you were about to speak and take them back when he blurted. “YES! I mean, yes. Yes I would like that. Very much.”

At once relief flooded your being, cooling the heat in your cheeks and the unrest in your gut. “You would? Oh, god, I’m so glad—”

Namjoon smiled, and you would have continued laying there and staring up at his beautiful face were it not for the high voice of a child that greeted your ears from not too far away.

“Uh oh, Miss y/n, Mr Kim! Are you okay?”

Fuck, right, you were in a playground, surrounded by first graders. It took a second for realisation to sink in and at once horror flooded your being, a similar feeling expressed on Namjoon’s features as you both realised what was coming—

“Look! They’re gonna kiss! Look!” the ever familiar voice of BamBam filled your ears, and your stomach sank in horror, but it was too late. “Mr Kim and Miss y/n, sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G—”

The two of you scrambled from the ground, cheeks burning in shame under the chorus of five-year olds egging you on. Namjoon nearly fell once more from the speed at which he stood, but you were quick to stabilise him. God, he was a danger to himself more than others. Although… you smiled as you remembered his response from earlier. You supposed it would just have to be your job to protect him from himself from now on.

But… you’d probably have to protect him from this excited bunch of five-year-olds first.