Something is going on with Professor Hale.
James has been in the class long enough to know that the history professor isn’t usually this on edge. Sure, he can be stoic and gruff, but he looks anxious now and it’s definitely being reflected on the students (who aren’t used to this side of the professor), which only seems to make him antsier.
James is sitting in the first row, towards the left of the auditorium, but he can still see the dark circles under the professor’s eyes and the tense muscles in his neck. So yeah, something has to be happening. It’s clear he just wants to finish the lecture and leave, like it literally pains him to be teaching at the moment.
Professor Hale is about to start on the classic period of the Maya civilization when he tilts his head to the side (almost like a dog, James thinks vaguely) and his eyes go to the door just seconds before some guy bursts in. He’s carrying a little girl in one arm, the other used to throw open the doors, and James can see a Catwoman backpack slung over his shoulder.
Professor Hale is next to them in an instant (literally, like not even a second), panic clearly written on his face as he takes the little girl from the guy. “What’s wrong? Is she ok? Is she hurt? Stiles, did something-”
The guy (Stiles?) waves him off. “She’s fine, still a bit sick but fine. I just completely forgot that I have an interview for the internship I was telling you about and it starts in like ten minutes and it’s on the other side of campus and I couldn’t find anyone to take care of her and damn it, I’m gonna be late-” Stiles is already taking off the backpack and pushing it against Professor Hale. “I’m so sorry, I have to go- I’ll make it up to you, I promise. I wouldn’t have done this but oh god, I have to run- I’ll text you when I’m done.” He kisses Professor Hale on the cheek, not letting the professor say anything. “Princess, be good to daddy ok? I’ll see you later.” Stiles kisses the little girl (his daughter?) on her forehead and turns back to Professor Hale. “Ok, I have to go, love you both.” He’s already walking backwards out of the lecture hall. “Bye!” With one last wave, Stiles is running out the door, muffled curses diminishing in the distance.
James can hear students begin to whisper amongst themselves, wondering if that guy- Stiles- is Professor Hale’s husband. He knew there was always talk about the history professor, he’s like a celebrity at the school because of his looks. James would like to say he’s completely straight- but hey college is about experimenting right?- so he can appreciate and acknowledge that yeah, Professor Hale is a good-looking guy. A few of his friends had actually tried to chat him up a bit and it was always great hearing their grumbles about how Professor Hale told them they had no chance in hell with him (in nicer words, of course).
Now, James can see why. He’s married- with a kid.
Professor Hale is still staring at the doors when his daughter pulls at his sweater. “Daddy, lotsa people‘re lookin’.” The professor startles, like he completely forgot he was still in the middle of lecture. When he turns around to face the class, James can see a sort of pained look on the professor’s face- like he smelled something bad.
Professor Hale clears his throat and walks back to the middle of the room, clutching his daughter almost protectively. “Class, this is my daughter, Laura Elizabeth Hale, she’s been feeling under the weather lately.” So that’s a why he looks terrible, a sick child can definitely make one worry- not that James knows from personal experience, thank god. Children aren’t in his future yet.
The class (really the girls) begins to coo and aww when the little girl burrows close to the professor. He can hear whispered comments from the rows behind that he’d really like to forget about and he really hopes Professor Hale can’t catch.
“Please read the paragraph outlining Mayan script.” The comments get a bit subdued, and James can share the enthusiasm (which is to say none) at having to read, but he’s one of the few that actually does what is asked, the rest of the class is still trying to simultaneously skim the paragraph and look at their professor and his daughter.
Professor Hale shifts his daughter to one arm and pulls the rolling chair back so he can set her on it. He crouches down (which only elicits more comments from the students- James can really go without having a poetic description about his professor’s ass) and pulls out a couple of coloring books and from what James can see, a 64-crayola box. “Daddy has to finish teaching ok? Can you be a good girl and draw for a bit?” Professor Hale looks like he’s holding in his breath.
The little girl nods, her legs swinging freely.
“Did papa give you medicine?” Professor Hale asks. So Stiles had been his husband- unless he’s a babysitter? Family friend? James ponders about this for a bit before ultimately deciding that his professor’s love life really isn’t that important to his health or education.
Elizabeth (that was her name right?) nods again. “It tasted gross, daddy.” She scrunches up her nose in what James thinks is disgust- and he totally understands that, medicine doesn’t get any better once you’re an adult.
He hears a few girls squeal to themselves- honestly, he’s never understood why chicks go crazy when they see a guy with a baby. Maybe it’s like mating instincts or something and again, not pertinent to his life (yet, James amends).
“I know princess, but it’s so you get better.” Professor Hale murmurs, his hand going up to brush against his daughter’s rosy cheek (James wants to throw something at the girls cooing). The professor stands up and picks a coloring book (he kinda rolls his eyes at whatever he chose and James thinks he sees its something about dogs?) and places the crayons in front of Elizabeth. “Can you stay quiet for a bit?”
“And then we can play?” Elizabeth asks, looking up at her father with wide eyes. From the front row, James can see her eyes are the same color as Professor Hale (and he knows this because girls wax poetic about emerald pools glistening in the sun- or something ridiculous like that).
Professor Hale nods. “Of course, pumpkin.”
“Ok, daddy.” She reaches for a crayon and begins coloring, looking more focused (in James’ opinion) than some of the college students in the class.
Professor Hale eyes her for a moment before turning back to the class. “I apologize for that, but let’s get back on track.” He clears his throat and starts the PowerPoint again. “I won’t go too in depth with Mayan script, but it might come up in the final exam. The Maya hieroglyphic writing is arguably one of the most visually striking writing systems of the world. It is also very complex, with hundreds of unique signs or glyphs in the form of humans, animals, supernatural, objects, and abstract designs. These signs are either logograms -to express meaning- or syllabograms -to denote sound values-, and are used to write words, phrases, and sentences.” He switched the slide to show a subset of signs that characterize syllables in Mayan script. “The Maya writing system had an extensive set of phonetic signs that represented syllables rather than individual sounds like in alphabetic systems-”
“Daddy, that looks like a fishy!”
A few students laugh to themselves while Professor Hale (and James, if he’s being honest) startles slightly and looks at his daughter who has taken to kneeling on the chair, tilting her head to look at the screens. “Baby, I said to keep quiet, remember? Just a few minutes." He picks up Elizabeth and settles her back on the chair, pulling the crayolas closer to her and taking out a juice box.
Elizabeth pouts slightly, but seems to accept the juice box and stays quiet as she drinks it.
Professor Hale places a hand on her shoulder and continues to talk about the different Mayan languages. He seems intent on keeping his focus on teaching, but James can see him eyeing his daughter occasionally.
After a while, Professor Hale seems to get back on track with teaching- which is when Elizabeth apparently decides she’s bored and begins asking questions.
“Daddy, why do you have pretty pictures?” Elizabeth is back to staring at the PowerPoint.
“Liz, quiet, remember?” Professor Hale says- mid sentence on something about how to read Mayan script.
“But I finished dra’ing.” Elizabeth says, crossing her arms (it looks like she’s hugging herself), which elicits more comments from some of the students. “I wanna look at the pretty pictures.”
James just really wants to pass the class (and the pretty pictures are important to his education).
“Why don’t you draw me something so I can put it in my office?” Professor Hale asks. James thinks he’s desperately trying to keep her occupied.
It seems that does the trick because Elizabeth turns back to her books and begins to draw.
James hides a smile when Professor Hale seems to sigh in relief. He turns back to the class and gives them an apologetic smile before starting to talk about numbers. “There were several classes of glyphs in the Maya writing system. The first class is the numeric glyphs. Like us, the Maya wrote their numbers in positional notation- which just means that the position of a ‘digit’ dictates its actual numerical value.”
“Look daddy!” Elizabeth is holding a paper up and angling it towards Professor Hale. “I drew you and papa and gran’pa and me and Scotty and-”
“Baby, Liz, it’s very good- you’ll be an artist in no time. But I have to finish teaching ok?”
James almost laughs at the disgruntled look on the little girl’s face at being interrupted. She seems to narrow her eyes at Professor Hale when he continues describing the Mayan numerical system. Her anger is ruined when she sneezes and Professor Hale hands her his handkerchief (who has those nowadays, wow) but doesn’t break his explanation.
“Also, unlike our system, which has an individual symbol for each digit, the Maya only employed three basic symbols: A dot for a value of one, a bar for a value of five, and a shell for-” A crayon hits him on the cheek.
The class goes silent for a second before there are giggles and oh my god’s and James is torn between feeling sorry for the professor or simply finding this situation amusing.
“Elizabeth.” Professor Hale growls. James sees a hint of red in his eyes but gets distracted when Elizabeth squeals and gets off the chair to run away from her father, who made a move to grab her. For a sick child, she runs fast- in his direction.
James figures he can play heroics for one day since everyone else is watching in amusement as Elizabeth runs around the lecture hall and Professor Hale looks a bit defeated.
He gets out of his seat just as Elizabeth seems to find the doors and picks her up.
The little girl looks at him in a mixture of surprise and shyness but James is looking at Professor Hale because he swears he almost heard the beginning of a snarl (oh my god) come from his history professor (who is suddenly a lot closer). There’s a sheepish look on his face now, like he knows what he almost did. “Sorry about that,” James isn’t sure if he’s apologizing for his daughter or for almost snarling at him, “thanks for catching her.” He quickly takes his daughter from James, and Elizabeth nuzzles Professor Hale’s neck (it almost looks like an apology- for running, possibly).
“No problem.” James mumbles back. He can feel his heart beating erratically (Professor Hale looked scary ok? even if it was for a tenth of a second) as he goes back to sit down, ignoring the looks from other students.
Professor Hale clears his throat again (James sees a hint of red in his cheeks- hah, Professor Hale does blush) and walks over to the middle of the auditorium again. He makes a move to place his daughter in the chair again, but she clutches his neck tightly and refuses to move.
James is sure he hears someone say they’re jealous of the little girl and he’d really like not to think about that- not to mention Professor Hale looks like he’s in pain (and it can’t be because of his daughter).
“I apologize for today, I’ll be sure to do an outline of the lecture to make up for… interruptions.” Professor Hale says, running a hand down his daughter’s back- absentmindedly it seems. He starts lecturing again, obviously intent on finishing despite carrying around his daughter. It’s not until he gets to talking about the Mayan calendar that he begins rocking side to side- like when you put a baby to sleep (which is what James believes is the professor’s goal). “Similar to other Mesoamerican cultures, the Maya employed a 365-day solar calendar- jaab'- and a 260-day ritual cycle -tzolk'in. The jaab' is divided into 18 ‘months’ of 20 days, plus 5 ‘unlucky’ days at the end called wayeb'.” It’s actually putting James to sleep just watching the professor harp on about calendars while swaying.
Professor Hale stops suddenly and glances at his daughter before facing the class, an apologetic look on his face. “Sorry, she fell asleep.” Of course, that brings on a round of hushed aww’s and so cute from a couple of the girls.
James risks a look at his cellphone to check the time. Just a few more minutes left, thanks god. Usually students will begin packing up around this time, James too if it were any other class. But Professor Hale had made it clear since the beginning that if they even thought about packing up early or before he dismissed them, he’d make their life hell (in different words, of course- he did go off on a tangent about disrespect and such, so yeah, the class knew not to even put a pencil away until the history professor ended the lecture).
Professor Hale is about to continue when his phone rings (or vibrates since James didn’t hear it). “Excuse me for a moment.” He takes out his phone and turns to the side before answering. “Stiles.” His husband? “Ok, see you.” Well, that was quick. He places his phone back in his pocket, sighs to himself, and then turns to the class. “Alright, just a few more minutes guys, bear with me.” The smile he flashes them is enough for the girls (and some guys apparently) to forgive him.
James though, is completely lost on Mayan script and numbers, his notes are half indistinguishable scribbles and half doodles as Professor Hale tries to keep quiet so as to not disturb his daughter, yet talk loud enough so the whole class can hear him finish discussing the Mayan calendar.
Professor Hale glances to the doors again, and James is starting to thinks it’s scary how he knows when someone is about to enter. He knows the professor has been described as perceptive, but this is a bit more than that because James, who’s closer to the doors, doesn’t know someone is there until the doors open and the guy- Stiles- tries to be subtle (completely not) as he takes the first seat available, right next to James.
James is torn between paying attention to Professor Hale or looking at Stiles, who’s currently slumped on the seat, rubbing an eye with his fist. He looks exhausted, like Professor Hale.
He digs around his backpack before procuring a new water bottle and hands it to Stiles, eyes widening in surprise. “You kinda look like you need it.” James says quietly.
Stiles shoots him a grateful smile as he takes the water. “Thanks.”
James nods in response and when he turns back to the middle of the lecture hall, he catches Professor Hale looking at them. He feels oddly threatened by the intense stare, but the feeling is lost because Professor Hale is still holding a sleeping toddler, so.
“Oh my god, just finish your lecture.”
James looks at Stiles. “I’m sorry?”
Stiles grins. “Nothing, sorry, just thinking out loud.”
James makes a noncommittal sound but quickly tries to focus back on Professor Hale, who has started lecturing again.
The last few minutes seem to go on forever until finally, Professor Hale wraps up the last bit of the Mayan calendar.
“I want you all to review the classical Mayan period, I promise to get the outline as soon as possible.” Professor Hale says, turning off the projector and closing the lid on his laptop. Students are starting to pack up, and when you have about 400 students doing something simultaneously, it can get loud. “Please be as quiet as possible when you exit the auditorium, I’d prefer it if my daughter remained asleep.” Some students giggle (how old are they, really?) at the expression on the professor, but they seem to listen and the noise level reduces significantly.
James gathers his (very pathetic) notes- he needs a notebook- and begins stuffing them into his backpack. He’s gonna need to take new ones anyway so he doesn’t bother being clean about it. Just as he’s zipping up his backpack, a figure looms to the side.
“How was Liz-”
“Did you get the-”
James bites back a smile when Stiles and Professor Hale speak up at the same time. Ugh, married couples.
“I got the internship.” Stiles says quickly, beaming. “How did Liz behave?”
"Congrats," Professor Hale says, smiling, but he sighs at his husband's question. “She was ok… threw a crayon at me and then ran away.” James sneaks a glance at Stiles and sees him holding back a laugh, probably so he doesn’t wake up his daughter. It’s kinda weird thinking it’s his daughter, he looks like he could be James’ age. “James managed to catch her for me.”
James startles at hearing his name (Professor Hale knows his name?) and he finds the couple staring at him. “Uh-”
“Ah, a true knight in shining armor.” Stiles says, wriggling the half empty (half-full?) water bottle.
James just smiles in response unsure of what to say. “Professor Hale look ready to protect his daughter when I grabbed her though.” Ok, so that was not the thing to say.
Stiles raises an amused eyebrow at Professor Hale, who blushes again (interesting). “Ah you have to forgive my husband,” James doesn’t miss how Stiles (and Professor Hale) preens at that. “He tends to act like a wolf, you know, protecting his cub and all that.” He waves a hand dismissively.
James chuckles weakly when Professor Hale growls out (warningly, maybe?), “Stiles.”
“It was nothing, really, Professor Hale seemed to need a bit of help.” James jerks his head at the sleeping girl. “She fell asleep quickly though.”
“She gets that ability from Stiles.” Professor Hale says, and if James didn’t know any better, he’d think Professor Hale actually had a sense of humor.
“Hey.” Stiles sticks his tongue out at the professor, which is James’ cue to go.
“Um, nice meeting you, I guess?” James squints at Stiles, hesitant, “hope your daughter gets better though.”
“Thank you, for helping with Liz and the water, really needed that.” Stiles says, giving him an honest smile.
“Right, well, see ya, next class professor.” James gives one last wave once Professor Hale nods in response before heading out the auditorium.
He can vaguely hear Stiles speak up as he’s leaving. “-growled at him?”
“-instinct, Stiles, she’s sick and he didn’t smell right-”
James tries not to think about the fact that apparently, he smells wrong to Professor Hale because his aftershave is a nice citrus-y scent ok? And besides, he has other things to worry about, like trying to decipher his notes on Mayan script.
Professor Hale’s smelling tendencies aren’t really imperative to his education.