Title: Classroom Fools
Ratings/warnings: PG-13 for language and references.
Notes: School AU. Massive thanks to misters for getting me interested in chankhun/bucksung again, swankysongbirds for helping me find direction, and jeonggam for being the most thorough and awesome beta in the entire world. ♥
Summary: “And why did you?” Khun asks, curious. “Become a teacher, I mean?”
Chansung unfolds his class schedule for the fifteenth time and turns in a slow circle, trying to get his bearings within the school. He’s already done several laps of the campus and is now intimately familiar with both the D Block girl’s bathroom and the document room, but he still hasn’t managed to track down room 3B.
His unexpected popularity with the students makes the first week a breeze, and he encounters hardly any of the problems he’d been warned about back at teachers college. He doesn’t have to implement any real behaviour management plans, and he only really has to put his foot down to break up little third-grade catfights between Chaemyung and Hyomin, or to tell Minhee to concentrate. The pog boys, Jinjae and Sunwoo, still treat him with reluctant respect and the pigtailed class rep - Songhye - is politely distant. The rest of the class seem to like him, and they all do their work happily enough.
On Friday afternoon he’s rewarding them for their good behaviour with an impromptu art class, pausing occasionally to tell Jungki not to eat the glue stick.
“You’ll get sick,” Chansung warns him for the third time. “I know what it’s like to want to try new things, but believe me when I say it’s not good for you.” He rubs his stomach and gives Jungki a conspiratorial wink. “The hospital is not fun.”
A knock sounds at the door and he gives Jungki one last don’t do it face before calling out for the visitor to come in.
“Kim Hyunmo!” Chansung reaches down and plucks a pair of scissors from one of the boys he’s already identified as a potential troublemaker. “Please tell me you weren’t about to cut Leena’s hair?”
Hyunmo tries to look innocent and fails. “No...”
“I’m sure he wouldn’t do that,” an amused voice says from behind Chansung. He glances distractedly over his shoulder to find a teacher he hasn't met before standing next to Leena’s desk, smiling down at Hyunmo. “Would you, Hyunmo-yah?”
Hyunmo flushes and actually ducks his head in embarrassment. “No, hyung. Sorry, Leena.”
Leena doesn’t even notice the apology – she’s too busy staring up at the newcomer with stars in her eyes. “Khun-oppa!”
Cries of oppa! and hyung! follow her exclamation, and Chansung is buffeted from all sides by children jumping out of their seats and scattering their equipment, surging over to hug the guy.
“Ah, ah!” The man lifts a finger and shakes his head in mock warning. “Go back to your work, I’m just here to say hello to your teacher.”
The kids have been relatively obedient for Chansung but the stranger’s words work almost like magic – as one, the class turns and shuffles back to their seats, everyone wearing disappointed looks.
Chansung glances over at the guy, incredulous. “How did you do that?”
He laughs and Chansung is momentarily blinded by a flash of white teeth. “Magic,” he says with a wink, and Chansung isn’t even skeeved by the weirdness of that because somehow it just makes sense.
“Oh,” he says. “Cool.”
The stranger gives him an odd look, then shakes himself. “Oh, I’m sorry! I haven’t introduced myself.” He extends a hand and Chansung takes it, finding it slightly surreal to be making introductions in a room full of eight-year-olds. “I’m Nichkhun,” and then he rattles off something foreign that Chansung has no hope of catching, “but the staff and students call me Khun. I take the kids three times a week for English, starting next week.”
Chansung blinks. “Chansung,” he says automatically, before Khun’s words filter in. “I hadn’t been told about the English lessons.” He’d need to rework some lesson plans over the weekend.
“No,” Khun agrees, finally releasing Chansung’s hand. Chansung hadn’t realised he was still holding it. “The faculty heads are big on assuming you know things here.”
Leena reaches over and tugs shyly at Khun’s pants. “Oppa,” she says, smiling up through her bangs, “when are you coming back to teach us again?”
Khun hunkers down and rests his arms and chin on her desk. “That depends,” he tells her, his attempt to seem serious hampered somewhat by the way his lips keep curling up at the sides. “On how good you are for Teacher here.”
“We’re very good!” pipes up Chaemyung.
Songhye nods, little face solemn. “We finish all our work.”
“And we definitely don’t fight,” adds Sunwoo. “It’s one of the classroom rules.”
Khun lets out a surprised laugh and raises his eyebrows at Chansung. “Is that right?”
Chansung pretends to consider things seriously. “Yes, and I suppose they’re okay...”
He chuckles and reaches past Khun to ruffle Leena’s hair. “Yes, of course you’re good. You’re the best class I have.”
Minhee pouts. “We’re the only class you have.”
“Yes,” Chansung nods. “That too.”
Khun straightens and checks his watch. “I have to go and greet the fourth-graders, but I’ll see you all on Monday.” He raises both hands and waves around the room. “Bye bye!”
“Bye!” chorus the students.
“See you,” Chansung calls distractedly as he catches sight of Jungki gagging, the glue stick on his desk looking much smaller than it did before. “What did I say?” he chastises, striding over to pick Jungki up and thump resignedly at his back.
“Taydes yuggy,” Jungki says thickly, coughing out a solid chunk of glue.
Chansung just gives it a tired look. “Well, at least now you know.”
Jungki nods pitifully.
“How was your first week?” Jinwoon asks on Saturday night, unscrewing a bottle of soju and pouring Chansung a glass.
Chansung takes the shot with a nod and knocks it back in one gulp. “Good,” he replies after some consideration. “The kids are all pretty well-behaved, and I’m following the curriculum closely, so lessons are fine.” He takes the bottle and returns the favour. “What about you?”
Jinwoon clinks his glass against the bottle and swallows, hissing in appreciation and wiping his mouth when he’s done. “Dude, it’s just as I told you – high school is where it’s at.” He pauses as the waitress thumps their bowls of jjajjangmyun in front of them, leaning forward when she’s out of earshot. “All girls school, bro. All girls. All the time.”
Chansung pulls a pair of chopsticks from the cup on the table and swirls the noodles around in the sauce. He digs out a heap and shovels them into his mouth. “Uh, hot.”
He flaps a hand at his mouth and glances up to find Jinwoon pouting at him. “What? Why is your face like that?”
“Why is your head like that?” Jinwoon reaches over and flicks Chansung on the forehead. “I spend every day at work surrounded by young and nubile girl-women, and you spend yours in a room full of kids.”
Chansung blows on his noodles and tries again, pleased to find the temperature less likely to burn a hole in his tongue. “You do realise you’re a disgusting sleaze, right?”
Jinwoon gives Chansung the smile he’s used to get his own way in everything since Chansung met him. Chansung in turn ignores him and chews on some more noodles. “Come on,” Jinwoon wheedles. “I told you back at college that this was the way to go. Why didn’t you listen?”
Chansung swallows and holds his glass out for more soju. “Because I like kids.” He waits for Jinwoon to finish pouring. “Besides, I’m pretty sure whatever you’re talking about is illegal.”
“Law is in the eye of the beholder,” Jinwoon says cheerfully. “But seriously, you should see this one girl in my final year history class. Spitting image of Kim Taehee, but bigger boobs.”
Chansung points at Jinwoon’s bowl. “Are you talking or eating?”
Jinwoon pushes it over with a sigh. “Aren’t you making enough money to afford food already?”
Chansung scrapes Jinwoon’s noodles into his bowl and repeats the stirring process. “Not yet. I get paid next week.”
“Good.” Jinwoon makes eye contact with a different waitress and motions for more soju. “You’ll be buying then.”
“Okay.” Chansung shrugs. “And can you get me a fishcake while you’re at it?”
“No,” Jinwoon replies, but does anyway.
Chansung actually forgets about the English lesson on Monday, until the kids file back in after lunch and everyone pulls out a textbook he hasn’t seen before. “Say Hi To English?” he reads haltingly over Jungki’s shoulder. “What’s that?”
Songhye spins in her seat and gives him a disapproving look. “It’s our English book, Teacher. Don’t you remember talking to Khun-oppa about it on Friday?”
Chansung feels an acute stab of embarrassment at being reminded about his job by an eight-year-old. “Oh, of course. Yeah. That’s right.”
In his defence, Saturday night had escalated and he’d ended up carrying Jinwoon back to his apartment – they’d downed another five bottles of soju and Jinwoon had been drinking on an empty stomach. There'd been loud, obnoxious singing on Jinwoon’s part and much apologising to Jinwoon’s neighbours on Chansung’s part and he was most definitely not paying next week, not after that.
Sunday had been spent washing his clothes, cleaning the apartment and ringing his mother, and then poring over old textbooks from college to make sure he was doing everything the right way. He’d even ventured downtown to the library to borrow a book on educational games. If his pedagogical studies lecturer had seen him there, Chansung’s pretty sure his glass eye would have popped right out from the shock.
Thankfully he’s saved from having to explain his brief memory lapse by a knock at the door, and then Khun’s striding in with a smile and a wave.
“Oppa!” cries every girl in the class.
Songhye adjusts her glasses. “You dyed your hair.”
Khun drops his books on Chansung’s desk and strikes a pose. “Do you like it?”
The entire class lets out a yes! and Chansung stares at Khun, realising belatedly that rather than being mixed, as Chansung had assumed, he’s probably not Korean at all. He hadn’t paid much attention on Friday, even though the unpronounceable name should have been a giveaway, but the bright blond colour throws his features into relief and now Chansung can see a foreign cast to his face – eyes a little too large, lips just a bit too full.
Khun meets his eyes with a curious smile and Chansung is suddenly aware that he’s staring.
“Welcome back.” He makes his way to the desk and glances back out over the class. They’re all sitting happily in their seats, Jinjae and Sunwoo even bouncing around in their excitement to be taught by Khun-hyung. “What should I do while you take them?”
Khun picks up his textbook and opens it to a page marked with a sticky note. “It’s up to you. Some teachers stay in the room, others use the time to look after admin tasks outside.” He places the open textbook on the desk and weighs it down with his pencilcase. “What would you like to do?”
Chansung shrugs. “I might as well stay for the first lesson.”
Khun nods and uncaps a whiteboard marker. “Maybe you’ll learn something too.” He grins.
Chansung winces. “Maybe. English was always my worst subject.”
“Then take your seat and pay attention, student,” Khun teases, pointing at the back of the classroom. “The lesson’s about to begin.”
Chansung grabs his chair from behind the teacher’s desk and carries it to the back of the room, sitting down and opening an exercise book to a new page. At college they’d always stressed the benefits of viewing other teachers' classes, because no two people taught exactly the same way, and it was important to know what other styles people used. Some worked and some didn’t – it all came down to the teacher in the end.
It couldn’t hurt to watch one lesson, Chansung thinks, clicking his mechanical pencil and nodding at Khun to start. If he’s lucky he might even get an idea or two.
The man is godly, Chansung decides, two months later, having sat in on every lesson Khun has given his class since. He’s knowledgeable, personable and he teaches without seeming to teach at all. In fact, he’s so good at what he does that Chansung’s pitiful English vocabulary has improved enough for him to help Khun with example conversations in front of the class.
“Good!” Khun exclaims, when Chansung-the-tourist has successfully asked for directions to the train station. “Well done! Everyone, what did you think of Teacher?”
“Not as good as Khun-oppa,” Songhye says stoically, the brutal honesty of youth bursting Chansung’s premature bubble of pride.
“Absolutely right, Songhye-yah,” he tells her, handing Khun his textbook back. “And now I think it’s time for the English lesson to end.”
Khun checks his watch and makes a surprised face. “Wow, you’re right! Time really flies in here.” He grabs the whiteboard eraser and wipes his notes from the board. “You guys are my favourite class, did you know that? I love coming here.”
Leena gazes adoringly at Khun’s back. “We love having you here, oppa!”
The children all chime in with their agreement, and Khun brushes his hands together, stepping back from the whiteboard with a sigh. “Do you?” He raises his eyebrows at Chansung. “Really?”
The question seems directed at him, and Chansung starts. “Of course,” he replies, surprised. “I love sitting in on your lessons.”
Khun looks pleased. “Thank you.” He packs up his things, slinging his messenger bag over his shoulder. “Oh, are you helping with the plans for the Sports Day?”
Chansung thinks back to his calendar at home. Had he even marked when the Sports Day would be happening? They’d mentioned it in passing at a faculty meeting, but he hadn’t given it much thought since. “Uh...”
Khun shakes his head. “You’re hopeless.”
“You’d be surprised how often I hear that,” Chansung replies easily, escorting Khun to the door.
Khun pauses, half in, half out of the classroom. “I’m enlisting your help, okay? Every teacher has to manage at least one extra-curricular activity during the semester, so you might as well get yours out of the way.”
Chansung shrugs. Better this with Khun than the school play with the scary drama teacher. “Okay.”
“Awesome.” Khun steps out into the hallway. “Let’s meet after school on Friday.”
“Teacher?” Chansung glances down to find Jinjae tugging at his hand. “Jungki swallowed my eraser.”
“Hic,” says Jungki morosely, rubbing at his throat.
With a wave over his shoulder at Khun, Chansung sighs and pulls Jungki up, hanging him upside-down by the ankles and dangling him until the eraser pops out his mouth and slides wetly across the floor.
Chansung surprises himself by actually remembering the Friday appointment with Khun, stepping into the faculty office just after three. Khun’s organising some paperwork; he looks up with a distracted frown.
“Oh, Chansung!” He waves him over. “Come and sit down, I won’t be much longer.”
Chansung does as directed and looks curiously at the piles of paper on the table. “What are all these?”
“Last year’s English tests.” Khun licks his finger and flicks through one of the stacks. “Here, this is the one I used for third grade.”
Chansung takes it, fingers sliding against Khun’s. “Wow, you’re hot.” He reaches over with his other hand and pokes Khun’s arm. “Why is your skin so warm?”
“Oh.” When he looks up, Khun is giving him a funny smile. “I guess I’ve always been like this.”
“Okay.” Chansung glances back at the papers. The questions are all relatively simple, and the kids are always so keen to participate in English class they’ll probably all do well. “This looks good.”
“Do you think you’d pass?” Khun asks, grinning. He hands Chansung a pencil. “Go on, I have to photocopy the fifth-grade quiz. Test yourself while I do that.”
Chansung takes the pencil and frowns down at the paper. “Sure, but don’t judge me too hard if I fail. I told you English was my worst subject.”
“If you do terribly, I’ll give you extra tutoring.” Khun stands and gathers the other tests. “How does that sound?”
“Embarrassing,” Chansung replies, scribbling down an answer to the first question. “If I’m not on par with my class of eight–year-olds I should really be looking for a new career.”
The photocopier clunks and vibrates, and Khun sits back down, close enough that Chansung can feel the warmth from his skin again. “And why did you?” Khun asks, curious. “Become a teacher, I mean?”
Chansung flips the page over and starts on the next set of questions. “I always did pretty badly at school,” he replies distractedly, scrawling out answers and pausing to count syllables off on his fingers. “I thought I was just dumb. My mom didn’t know what to do with me, and I just struggled so much with homework and stuff.” He hisses and grabs Khun’s eraser, rubbing out a wrong answer and carefully writing a new one in the space. “And then I got this amazing teacher, he was just so patient and he had faith in me, and I finally started believing in myself.” He lays down the pencil and picks up the sheet. “And I just wanted to give something back, I guess. Finished.”
Khun takes the paper and starts to mark it, red pen slanting down in swift, straight lines.
“And I like kids,” Chansung adds, tilting his head thoughtfully. “My friend says it’s because I’m just a big kid myself. I don’t know what his excuse is then, because he teaches at a girl's school.” He thinks. “No, he is a big girl, that sounds about right.”
Khun’s pen pauses on the second page, the tip hovering over the paper. He lets out a breath then marks the last correct stroke, pocketing his pen and beaming at Chansung. “Straight to the top of the class.”
“Whoa, really?” Chansung’s face splits in a grin and he grabs at the test, scanning it disbelievingly. “It’s because you explain things so well, you know that? You’re a much better teacher than I am.”
“I don’t know about that,” Khun replies softly. “But thank you for saying it.”
“No, really.” Chansung gives him an earnest look. “I learned maybe two words of English all through high school, and just by sitting in on your lessons I’ve picked up so much. You’re amazing.”
Khun’s smile turns self-deprecating, but his eyes are warm. “Thank you. That means a lot to me.”
Chansung carefully folds his test and tucks it into his bag. “So, should we start on this Sports Day stuff?”
“Don’t sound so eager to get it over with,” Khun chides, pulling out a planner and flipping it to a new page. “You make it sound like a chore.”
“That’s because it is a chore,” Chansung replies glumly. “There’s nothing good about staying back late.”
Khun’s finger stops tracking down the paper, pausing halfway down a page. “Yeah,” he says, voice quiet. “Of course there isn’t.”
Chansung sighs and opens his own book. “Okay, let’s do it.”
Khun laughs at that for some reason, but when Chansung glances up, he’s not smiling at all.
“I love being a teacher!” Jinwoon crows on Saturday, unscrewing the lid from his soju and drinking straight from the bottle.
Chansung gives him a sour look and blows on his ddukbokki. “For all the wrong reasons.”
Jinwoon points at him with the bottle. “Mini Taehee is a good reason, okay.”
“Perv,” Chansung feels compelled to add, mouth full of spicy sauce.
“Your words mean nothing to me.” Jinwoon shrugs and closes his eyes, grinning up at the ceiling. “You know why?”
“Because you’re an idiot,” Chansung decides, and motions for another bottle of soju to be brought to the table.
“No.” Jinwoon raises a finger and waggles it in the air. “In fact I simply cannot imagine how you came to that conclusion.”
“Thanks,” Chansung tells the waitress when she delivers his drink.
“But I will tell you,” Jinwoon promises. “Oh, I must.”
“Please don’t,” Chansung replies pleasantly, pouring himself a glass. “I’d rather I didn’t know.”
“Sports Day!” Jinwoon cries, spreading his hands wide and startling the elderly couple at the next table. Chansung bows his head in apology and kicks Jinwoon under the table. Jinwoon ignores him. “Sports Day!” he shouts again. “The day all the girls at my school wear only bloomers and a t-shirt.”
Chansung nods. “They wear shorts at my school.”
“No one cares about your school.” Jinwoon waves off his comment. “I don’t have any interest in your prepubescent offerings.”
“I’m so relieved.” Chansung spears another noodle with his chopstick. “Since if you did, you’d go to jail and I’d never see you again.”
“I put myself on the Sports Day organisation team,” Jinwoon continues, clearly lost in his own rapturous thoughts. “It’s going to be amazing.”
Chansung chews thoughtfully. “I’m managing ours as well. With the English teacher I told you about.”
Jinwoon plucks a noodle from Chansung’s bowl. “Oh, the Filipino one?”
“He’s Thai,” Chansung corrects, narrowing his eyes at Jinwoon’s thieving hand. “And Chinese.”
“Indecisive.” Jinwoon reaches for another noodle. Chansung slaps his hand away. “What’s he like?”
“Really cool,” Chansung says without thinking. “The kids love him and he’s such a good teacher, he explains it so they just get it, you know? And he’s so approachable, he really makes you feel at ease.”
Jinwoon gives him an odd look. “I meant at organisation.”
“Oh.” Chansung stares into his bowl. “Yeah, he’s good.”
There's an uncomfortable silence as Chansung prods at his ddukbokki and Jinwoon sizes him up.
“Okay,” Jinwoon says eventually. “I’m going to get another drink.”
Chansung’s oddly relieved when he has to carry Jinwoon home again.
“Sports Day next week,” Khun reminds him on Friday after school. Chansung’s going through his books to see which ones he’ll need over the weekend, so he just gives Khun a distracted nod.
Khun watches him. “Should we meet one last time to check we’ve gone over everything properly?” He bumps Chansung with his hip. “Not at school. Why don't we grab something to eat? I’m starving.”
Chansung’s head snaps up. “You had me at ‘eat’.” He abandons the books and strides out the door. “Let’s go!”
“Whoa!” Khun jogs to catch up with him, breathless and grinning. “I guess you’re hungry too?”
Chansung stops in his tracks and gives him a serious look. “High metabolism, okay? My mom made me get a job when I was fourteen just so she could keep up with the food bill.” He smacks his stomach. “Besides, you don’t get to this size without packing a lot of food in.”
Khun’s gaze travels slowly over his body. “You are pretty big…”
“I got teased a lot at school.” Chansung waits as Khun locks his stuff in his office, holding onto his messenger bag while he turns off the lights. “The other kids called me a giant, a bear.” He shrugs. “I got used to it.”
Khun nods and matches Chansung’s pace. “I was teased a lot too,” he says, voice so quiet Chansung has to stoop to hear. “It’s funny what people say about things you just can’t change.” He smiles and it's a twist of his lips, nothing more. “Children can be cruel.”
“Yeah.” They reach the front doors and step outside. “It’s another reason I wanted to teach grade school kids.” Chansung shades his eyes and glances up at the sky. “More of a chance to shape them into good people before they get too set in their ways.”
He looks back to find Khun staring at him, an expression Chansung can’t place shadowing his eyes. “What?”
Khun shakes his head and looks away. “Nothing. You’re just…remarkable, did you know that?”
Something warm and tingly jumps up and down in Chansung’s chest at the unexpected praise. He coughs. “Haha, I can’t agree with you on that.”
“You don’t have to agree.” Khun stops to take his bearings, then starts marching purposefully to the left. “It’s enough that I think so.”
Chansung isn’t sure what to say to that, so he just laughs a little awkwardly and follows Khun out.
Chansung expects they’ll go to a bar or restaurant, but Khun takes him to a supermarket, where he fills a basket with meat and vegetables, and, after a moment’s hesitation, a few bottles of soju.
Chansung picks up the bags as Khun pays. “Where to?”
Khun leads him outside and sets off down the street. “This way.”
This way turns out to be the direction of Khun’s apartment. He takes them through countless narrow side streets and just when Chansung’s starting to wonder if they’ll ever get there, Khun leads him up a skinny flight of stairs and onto the roof of a low building. He spreads his arms wide. “We’re here.”
Chansung glances around curiously. The roof is clean and looks recently swept; a broom leans carefully against the wall. A handful of shirts and a pair of boxers flap cheerfully on a clothesline, and the door to the apartment itself is painted a deep forest green. Chansung compares it to his apartment, one Jinwoon once rather generously labelled a “shitheap”, and feels overwhelmed by this nice, inviting place.
“Come in,” Khun says, and Chansung slips off his shoes and follows him inside.
The inside is still tidy but more cluttered than outside, and it has the feel of being lived-in, with books and paper and dirty dishes everywhere. Khun spots a pile of plates and stiffens, before moving them quickly to the tiny sink.
“Ignore them,” he orders, sounding scandalised, and Chansung just nods and grins.
Khun kicks aside a futon and clears space in the middle of the living room, dragging over a low table and directing Chansung to the kitchen, where he relieves him of the grocery bags and hands him a gas stove instead.
“How about you set the cooker up, and I’ll get the food ready?”
Chansung doesn’t have any objections. “Sounds like a plan.”
He sets the cooker carefully on the table, leaving enough room for the plates of food, and readies the hotplate, heading back into the kitchen to hunt down some oil. Khun's slicing garlic, pose elegant and relaxed, and Chansung is struck by how oddly comfortable and domestic the scene feels. He’s been here less than half an hour, but already the homey atmosphere is drawing him in. There’s something warm about this place, something very Khun, and Chansung’s starting to forget what it was like not having that warmth around.
He shakes his head to clear it of weird thoughts and goes back to the cooker, holding a palm over the hotplate and fiddling with the heat until the flame is ready to go. When it’s sorted, he settles himself on the floor just as Khun returns with the pork and garlic, ducking back to the kitchen to grab some containers of mashed potato and bean shoots.
Chansung eyes the potatoes and licks his lips while Khun does one more trip for the lettuce.
“When I first came to Korea,” Khun says, kneeling to drop the garlic into the pan and watching the oil sizzle and hiss, “I felt really out of place and alone.”
Chansung looks up at the unexpected confession, but Khun’s expression is unreadable.
“I didn’t know the language, and I didn’t have many friends. I came to teach at a hagwon, and the people there,” he pauses, searches for the right words, “well, they basically screwed me over. I worked long hours for terrible pay and I lived on ramyun for months.” He picks up the plate of meat and carefully tongs strips of pork onto the cooker.
The scent of frying meat fills the air and Chansung’s mouth waters. He nods at Khun to go on.
“It was hell for about six months, and then one day I went to the store during one of those crazy sale things. Where you have to rush for stuff, but you can get it really cheap?”
“Oh, flash sales,” says Chansung, wincing in sympathy. “Those things are brutal.”
“I know.” Khun looks haunted by the memory. “Little old ladies can be so mean!”
Chansung bursts into laughter at the combination of Khun’s expression and tone. “I’m sorry!” he wheezes when Khun purses his lips at him in mock annoyance. “Just your face!”
Khun shakes his head but his eyes are sparkling. “Anyway, I beat down some ahjummas and got some actual meat for really cheap, and then I went back and a girl at the dorm taught me how to make samgyupsal. Dinner that night was the best I’d ever had.” He scrapes some black flakes off the hotplate and flips the meat.
Chansung watches the graceful twist of Khun’s wrist as he works the tongs and wonders why he’s telling him this story, how the samgyupsal then relates to the meal they’re having now. He reaches for a piece of lettuce and spoons in some sauce in anticipation as Khun stares down at the hotplate, lost in thought.
After a moment he blinks, face clearing, and sends a rueful smile across the table. “The next day I quit the hagwon and looked for a better job, and I’ve been working at the school ever since.” He picks up a piece of pork. “Here, all done.”
Chansung holds out his lettuce and eyes the meat greedily. “Yes please!”
Khun drops it into the leaf and watches as Chansung rolls it up. “What—“ he starts, only to cut himself short when Chansung leans across the table and raises the parcel to his face. “What?”
Chansung mimes opening his mouth. “Say aah.”
Khun stares at him. “Huh?”
“Open up.” When Khun just keeps looking at him blankly, Chansung sighs and makes an impatient gesture. “I thought your friend taught you about samgyupsal. It’s custom to feed each other, okay? So, open up.”
Still looking confused, Khun parts his lips obediently and Chansung pushes the wrapped-up meat into his mouth. “There,” he says, pleased, and is about to sit back when the tip of Khun’s tongue passes over the edge of Chansung’s thumb.
Chansung freezes. “Ah,” he says stupidly, stuck in place, skin still tingling. “Sorry.” After a second his limbs unlock and he's able to pull back, sitting back down and busying himself with setting up another parcel.
Khun carefully doesn’t look at him as he chews the samgyupsal and swallows.
“Your turn, right?” he asks, voice low, and Chansung nods at the table as Khun takes a piece of lettuce and copies the process.
“Open up,” Khun says, and though Chansung tries to be careful, somehow Khun’s finger ghosts over his lips and strokes down his chin.
“Sorry,” Chansung says again, apologising with difficulty around the food. He swallows. “Maybe we should just make them for ourselves, huh?” He grabs a big piece of lettuce and piles it up enthusiastically, shoving it into his mouth and giving Khun an awkward, stretch-faced grin.
Khun frowns at the table, eyebrows drawing so close together they look for a moment like a single frightening entity, and then his eyes snap up to meet Chansung’s. His expression is set, determined, and Chansung almost flinches back from his regard.
“I’m attracted to you,” Khun says, very deliberately, staring Chansung straight in the eye. “I have been, for months.”
Chansung chokes, samgyupsal catching in his windpipe, and he starts coughing uncontrollably, bringing a fist up to thump at his chest as his eyes start to burn with tears.
“Chansung?” Alarmed, Khun jumps to his feet, circling the table and dropping down to his knees on Chansung’s side. He smacks Chansung on the back with a firm, flat hand, timing the hits between coughs, and finally the offending piece of meat pops back out.
“Mrmph,” says Chansung, eyes streaming, and Khun hands him a napkin. “Thank you.” He wipes his hand with a grimace, while his mind runs frantically through possible responses to Khun’s unexpected declaration.
Khun’s looking at him again. “Chansung?”
Chansung lifts his clean hand and smacks himself on the forehead. “Man, I completely forgot! I...” he pauses, brain grasping at straws. “I left the iron on.”
Khun gives him a disbelieving stare. “The iron.”
“Yeah, wow, I can’t believe that happened.” Chansung gets hurriedly to his feet, limbs going everywhere, eyes still watering from his coughing fit. “Thanks for the food, it was awesome, but I have to go, because, uh...” he trails off, eyes flitting everywhere except at Khun.
“The iron,” Khun reminds him dully.
“Yeah,” Chansung says, a hysterical laugh bubbling up his battered throat. “The iron.”
Sidestepping Khun, he strides quickly through the apartment, stuffing his feet into his shoes and all but running home, suddenly desperate for some distance from Khun’s green door and his warmth and his honest, frightening words.
“Well, you’re great company tonight,” Jinwoon tells him sourly the next evening, watching Chansung poke at an untouched bowl of soup.
“Huh?” Chansung glances up, bleary-eyed and vague. “What did you say?”
“Who are you?” Jinwoon leans in close and gives him a concerned look. “Tell me you’re an alien, please.”
“I’m an alien,” Chansung repeats dutifully, not even cracking a smile when Jinwoon recoils and mimics that Scream painting.
“Oh, I get it,” Jinwoon says, after a full minute of posing, during which Chansung’s spoon does morose laps of his bowl. “I’m on Hidden Camera, aren’t I? This is for TV!”
Chansung scoops some soup up and turns his spoon, watching the broth dribble back into his bowl.
Jinwoon sighs and drops the act. “Seriously, man. I’m worried. What’s wrong?”
Chansung puts the spoon down. “Do I seem gay to you?”
“What?!” Jinwoon’s voice goes very high and everyone in the restaurant turns to give him a dirty look. He ignores them like he always does and scooches his chair closer, looking searchingly into Chansung’s face. “Is it me? Are you in love with me?”
Chansung gives him a disgusted look.
“Okay, okay, just wondering. I wouldn’t blame you if did.” Jinwoon rests his elbows on the table. “But really, what's up? Are you, um, confused?”
“Yes? No? I don’t know.” Chansung pushes his soup bowl away and lets his head drop onto the table, cheek sticking to the plastic tablecloth. “Someone told they liked me and now I don't know what to think.”
Jinwoon sighs, breath ruffling Chansung’s hair. “Someone? That Vietnamese teacher guy?”
“He’s Thai,” Chansung corrects automatically. “And Chinese.”
“Yeah, him.” Jinwoon drums his fingers on the table. “I don’t know, man. You got all excited when you were talking about him that other time. It was weird. And now you’re weird.”
Chansung raises his middle finger in the air without looking at Jinwoon.
Jinwoon sighs again. “I don’t know. I’m not good with advice, and my romantic experiences involve appreciating Mini Taehee from the front of the classroom and watching heavily censored Japanese porn.” He pauses. “Involving naked chicks, okay, chicks.”
“Got it,” Chansung says tiredly. “You like the ladies.”
He can feel Jinwoon nod vehemently. “Yes. But dude, if you like someone, you like them. Just follow your heart, or whatever that chick flick we watched last time told us. Even if it leads you to a guy. Without boobs.”
Chansung closes his eyes. “Thank you for the support. I love you.”
Jinwoon is silent for a second. Then, “Like that?”
Chansung stumbles to school on Monday, wrung-out and exhausted from going over everything in his head. Khun likes him. He knows he likes Khun. But how much, and in what way?
The question had kept him awake for pretty much the entire weekend, and he’s no closer to the answer when two o’clock comes around and Khun’s knock sounds at the door.
Chansung doesn’t look up. “Come in.”
Khun slides the door open and walks in. “Good afternoon.”
Chansung inclines his head and pretends to be looking through some papers. “I, uh, I have to go to the staff room.”
Khun pauses next to the desk, but not behind it, like he’s too afraid to move any closer. “Ah.”
“So, uh, have a good lesson.”
He brushes past Khun and makes his escape, hiding in the document room until it’s time to go back.
Khun’s packed up and ready to go when Chansung lets himself back in, and this time he's the one who basically bolts, Chansung feeling only air as he passes by. Chansung stands in the doorway for a long moment, heart and mind twisting uncomfortably over the question again, and then Songhye pipes up, forehead creased in a frown.
“Did you and Khun-oppa have a fight?”
Startled, Chansung glances back to find the entire class surveying him with concern. He forces a laugh and crosses to the desk, dropping his books and feigning a relaxed pose. “No, of course not. Why would you think that?”
Minhee pouts. “Because Khun-oppa seemed sad.”
“And you’ve been weird all day,” says Jungki, around the pencil Chansung hadn’t even noticed he was chewing. He really has been distracted. “We thought you might have fought. Over pogs or something.”
Songhye rolls her eyes. “Why would Teacher and Khun-oppa play pogs?”
“Hey!” bristles Jinjae. “Pogs are awesome.”
Minhee is still pouting up at him, looking close to tears. “Did you have a fight?”
“Remember the classroom rule,” Sunwoo says beseechingly. “No fighting, okay?”
“Yeah!” pipes up Hyunmo, giving him a thumbs-down. “Don’t fight!”
Chansung stares out at his class, twenty pairs of eyes looking back at him, full of concern. His class full of eight-year-olds are worried about him, when he’s all grown up and fully capable of making his own decisions. His complicated situation seems so simple to them, and if he looks at it through their eyes, there’s a simple answer to his problem. He just has to stop fighting.
He feels his cheeks crease up, and can’t stop the grin that tugs at his lips and takes over his face. “No,” he says, more strongly this time. “No, we’re not fighting. Well, we were, but everything is better now.”
“Are you sure?” Songhye asks dubiously.
“I promise,” Chansung says, grinning at everyone. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Khun’s about to leave the office when Chansung goes to see him. He’s got his bag packed and slung over his shoulder and he’s walking to the doorway just as Chansung blocks it with his bulk.
Khun gives him a tired look. “Can I help you?”
Chansung pretends to think about it. “Yes,” he says, pressing a finger to his chin and looking ponderously at the ceiling. “I think you can.”
Khun waits. “Yes?”
Chansung leans against the doorframe so Khun can’t get out. “I have this friend, you see, and he’s an idiot.”
“Your teacher friend, from the girls’ school?” Khun makes a show of glancing at his watch. “I’m sorry, but I—“
“Yes,” Chansung interrupts, straightening and taking a step inside. “He’s an idiot, no doubt about it, but there’s this other guy and he’s even worse. He’s so dumb he couldn’t see what was right in front of him until a group of third-graders pointed it out.”
Khun fiddles with his bag. “I don’t—“
“And those extremely wise third-graders reminded that idiot that the first rule of the classroom is no fighting.” Chansung takes another step, and then another, and then he’s only one step away from Khun. “And that includes fighting feelings for people, especially people who are smart and funny and really good at cooking samgyupsal.” He leans in, close enough to feel the warmth of Khun’s skin, and it’s like a rush of comfort, like coming home. “Even if the serving method is a little unhygienic.”
Khun lifts his eyes and stares at Chansung, and Chansung can see the moment his words sink in, the very second his meaning starts to make sense.
“Oh, really?” asks Khun, tone arch, taking a last step forward and meeting Chansung halfway. “Maybe those people should think about different serving techniques.”
“That’s a very good idea,” Chansung agrees, grinning down at Khun. “Using one’s hands can be very messy.”
“And, as previously pointed out, unhygienic,” Khun adds, grinning back. “Do you have any suggestions for alternatives?”
Chansung dips a little closer, creasing his forehead in pretend thought. “I suppose one could use one’s lips?”
“One could.” Khun nods. “But one should probably test that method first.”
“A solid plan,” says Chansung. “One should—“
“Can we stop talking in ‘ones’?” Khun interrupts, frowning. “Can you just admit you like me and you want me and you’re thinking about my mouth right now?”
“Yes to all of the above,” says Chansung, and proves it with a kiss.
ALSO the fabulous and amazing augmenti did an ADORABLE fanart of teacher!Chan which everyone should love and admire right here because she is the bestest ♥