Author's Note: for this prompt. the anon might have just wanted a drabble but i went overboard and wrote something over 4000 words. i guess i should really plan my fics? lol the build up is so long that i’ll actually applaud you for your patience to read this… i hope it’ll be worth it though! oh, and there's hinted jongyu too! enjoy dear readers! of course, as always, it'll be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me after. pssst, every comment will encourage me to write more (unless you don't like my fics...) ^^;;
Upon hearing his name, a 6 year old boy stops staring at the clear blue sky and looks down to his right, turning towards the direction of the voice.
“Key seonsaengnim!” Taemin greets cheerfully as his favourite teacher comes to sit next to him on the bench outside the kindergarten where children usually wait for their parents to pick them up.
“Hey…” Kibum, also nicknamed as Key for the kids to remember him easily, returns a smile to the courteous boy, “I heard that your appa is coming soon, you just have to wait a little longer alright?”
Taemin nods, his smile ever so bright, “Okay!”
Kibum can’t help but ruffle Taemin’s hair dotingly. Taemin has always been one of the more well-behaved kids in his class of 15 students. A new school term has begun and he’s put in charge of a class by himself so having kids like Taemin makes his job much easier. Other kids would make a mess, throw a tantrum or create some sort of trouble from time to time but Taemin has never caused him any problems before. Even now when all his classmates have gone home and he’s the only one left waiting for his father to pick him up, Taemin doesn’t grumble, complain or make things difficult for the teachers.
It suddenly makes Kibum look forward to meeting Taemin’s parents because one, he’s curious to know how Taemin’s parents are like and two, it’s also good to keep the parents updated with their child. Usually, it’s the mothers who Kibum tries to build good relationships with so it’s all the more interesting that Kibum would be meeting Taemin’s father instead.
As they wait, Kibum asks Taemin if he likes going to school and Taemin is more than excited to share how much he enjoys lessons with his teacher. Kibum listens with a smile and allows Taemin to get carried away. The both of them are so engaged in their simple chat that they only get distracted when their attention is drawn to a commotion at the pathway leading up to where they are sitting. Kibum looks ahead and sees two boys with, who Kibum assumes is, their father walking towards them.
“That’s appa!” Taemin excitedly points out to Kibum and confirms his guess, “And my brothers too!”
Taemin begins waving at the group but none of them sees him, all three clearly too busy dealing with their little situation to pay any attention to the maknae.
“Hyung, talk to me… please?”
“You just did!”
“Not funny, Jjong.”
“Oh come on, Jinki hyung… I’m sorry okay!”
“You don’t mean that.”
“I do! I-”
“Ok, boys, enough please…” Taemin’s father visibly lets out a sigh as he changes to walk between his two older sons, “We’re here to pick Taemin up, not scare him.”
The father stops the two boys from arguing further just in time as they reach where Taemin is waiting for them. A helpless smile appears on his face when he realises that Taemin isn’t alone.
“Hi. So sorry I’m late.” The man, who’s wearing a white shirt with his sleeves rolled up matched with black skinny chinos, extends his hand out to Kibum with a smile that changes from helpless to one that has the ability to charm the average person, “I’m Choi Minho, Taemin’s father. You must be his teacher? Key seonsaengnim?”
A little shocked to see that the considerably young good-looking man standing in front of him is a father of three (and maybe more), Kibum is slow to react and only stands up to shake Minho’s hand after a beat.
“Umm, right… yes.” Kibum replies slowly, obviously still trying to take everything in, as he reminds himself to smile instead of looking surprised, “It’s nice to meet you, Minho-ssi… You can call me Kibum.”
Minho nods before he looks down at his youngest son who is jumping about, happy that his father has finally noticed him.
“Taemin talks a lot about you.” Minho informs Kibum first before he reaches to lightly squeeze Taemin’s cheek and speaks to the maknae, “Sorry to keep you waiting, Taemin ah. It’s not appa’s fault though… blame your hyungdeul.”
All eyes fall onto the other two boys.
“It’s not my fault either.” Jinki, the oldest at 10 years old, calmly defends himself, “I’m not the one who made the girl cry and got us both in trouble.”
“Hey!” Jonghyun, a year younger than Jinki, shouts grumpily, “This is so unfair! I was only trying to help you get away from your creepy admirer and this is what I get?”
Upon seeing how upset his brother looks, Taemin instantly tugs on Jonghyun’s sleeve and pouts, “Hyung… don’t be angry.”
Like magic, Jonghyun’s anger disappears as he smiles at the maknae.
“Taeminnie, you like hyung the most right?”
Taemin nods earnestly.
“So you’re on my side?”
Taemin nods again, this time with more enthusiasm.
Jinki shakes his head at Jonghyun and pulls the maknae protectively towards him.
“Don’t listen to him.”
“Okay, Jinki hyung!” Taemin agrees in an instant.
Minho lets out a loud laugh that leaves no chance for anyone else to react.
“Kids.” Minho meets Kibum’s eyes and shares an understanding look with Kibum who is very much amused by the family in front of him.
“Alright, let’s continue this at home- wait, I don’t mean that, I mean, let’s get going, shall we?”
At their father’s instructions, Jinki wordlessly holds Taemin’s hand and leads them to the car while Jonghyun follows behind, taking Taemin’s small backpack from the maknae to carry it for him.
As he is led away by his oldest brother, Taemin doesn’t forget to turn around and wave goodbye to his teacher, “Bye Key seonsaengnim!”
“See you tomorrow, Taemin.” Kibum waves back before he glances at Minho with a polite smile, “We’ll be painting tomorrow so it’ll be good if you could dress Taemin in something that you wouldn’t mind dirtying just to be safe and perhaps pack a change of clothes as well.”
“Alright, I’ll keep that in mind.” Minho makes a mental note to remember the teacher’s advice before he expresses his gratefulness, “Thanks… and for waiting with Taemin as well. I hope he didn’t cause you any trouble?”
“No, not at all.” Kibum quickly replies and praises, “Taemin’s an angel. You and your wife should be very proud of him.”
Embarrassed, Minho looks away and laughs. Suddenly, there’s awkwardness in the air as Kibum waits for a reply but the father doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t help that the silence only ends a moment after.
“Well.” Minho clears his throat and gives Kibum a small smile, “I should probably go. The kids must be waiting. Thank you Kibum-ssi… have a nice day.”
“You too.” Kibum bows and watches as Minho walks away.
He then turns around and heads back into the classroom with a frown. Kibum can’t put his finger on it but evidently, he must have said something that made Minho uncomfortable. The teacher thinks back on their conversation but doesn’t find anything wrong with his words. After all, Kibum had praised Taemin in a way that would have made any parents happy and even proud. So maybe he’s just reading too much into things… maybe that’s what the problem is.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
That’s what the problem is.
How could he be so ignorant? To think he calls himself a teacher.
It’s a few days later when Kibum asks his kids to draw their family in class. That’s when he finally understand why things ended awkwardly between Minho and him.
As he goes around the classroom to check on what the kids have come up with, Kibum sees the family portrait Taemin has drawn. It’s a colourful drawing of four people, all males, standing side by side in descending height and holding hands with smiles on their faces. To be honest, Taemin isn’t gifted in drawing but Kibum can tell who the four people represent. Not counting Taemin, he has even met the other three in person before.
Kibum wonders if Taemin hasn’t finished drawing and so he waits. But Taemin just goes on to colour in the clothes on the people before deciding to add a sun, some clouds and what looks like birds in his drawing.
Clearly, there’s no mother figure in Taemin’s family portrait.
Although it does help Kibum realise how ignorant he was to make assumptions, it also leaves the teacher with more questions that he knows shouldn’t be any of his business. As curious as Kibum is, he holds himself back from asking Taemin about his family, concerned that he may say something wrong again or put the young boy in a spot. To him, it’s better to be safe than sorry. With this thought in mind, Kibum decides he owes Minho an apology. That’s the very least he should do.
“Is appa going to be late?”
“No… I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”
“Because you’re waiting with me again.”
“Well…” Kibum smiles at how adorable Taemin is, “I have to talk to your appa about something.”
“Really?” Taemin’s whole being lights up, “About what?”
Kibum is great at answering all questions kids have for him but this time, he finds himself stuck, unwilling to lie to Taemin and yet unsure of how to explain himself to the young boy.
“Something Taeminnie can’t understand just yet.” Kibum decides to say eventually.
“Oh! I know, I know!” To Kibum’s surprise, Taemin replies proudly, “Jonghyunnie hyung told me that day, when I asked him why Jinki hyung was angry with him… he said I don’t understand what love is. But I do, Key seonsaengnim, I love appa, and Jinki hyung, and Jonghyunnie hyung… I even love you too!”
Kibum can’t help but laugh at Taemin’s innocence. From what little Taemin has recounted to him, it sounds to Kibum that the love Jonghyun was referring to is clearly different from the love Taemin is familiar with.
“Do you want to tell appa you love him too?”
Taemin’s eyes widen with anticipation and Kibum is reminded that kids do indeed say the silliest things.
“Oh Taemin, I-”
A smile spreads across Taemin’s face once he spots his father. Kibum sees it coming and yet he still can’t stop the six year old in time.
“Appa!” Taemin cranes his neck to look up at his tall father as he grabs hold of Minho’s hand, “Key seonsaengnim wants to tell you he loves you!”
What is Kibum to do? He couldn’t possibly cover Taemin’s mouth in front of his father, now could he? And so, Kibum is left standing there as awkward as any person can get while Minho looks between his son and him with a confused but amused expression on his face.
“I suppose my son is speaking nonsense?”
Kibum smiles gratefully at Minho’s attempt to ease the awkwardness between them.
“Don’t worry about it. I know my boy well enough.” Minho says as he holds Taemin’s hand and tugs on it gently, “Come on, little one, let’s go.”
“But Key seonsaengnim…” Taemin refuses to move as he looks at Kibum, “Don’t you want to talk to appa?”
His question makes Minho and Kibum look at each other at the same time.
They end up speaking at the same time as well.
Kibum feels a blush rising on his cheeks.
“Did Taemin get into trouble?” Minho instinctively asks, concern etched on his face, as he glances at his son who is staring wide-eyed at the adults.
The teacher quickly shakes his head, “It’s nothing to do with school actually…”
“Oh.” Minho replies and looks expectantly at Kibum to continue.
“Well, maybe a little…” Kibum laughs nervously, “I asked the kids to draw their family in class today and I realised…”
Understanding dawns on Minho’s face and Kibum knows he doesn’t have to explain further.
“Yeah, I wanted to apologise for-”
“Ah, it’s fine. Nothing to be sorry about…” Minho quickly interrupts, hoping to put the teacher at ease, “It happens all the time… after all, how often do you see a single father with three kids at my age?”
“It must be difficult…” Kibum thinks out loud.
“Extremely…” Minho replies honestly but smiles when he looks down and meets Taemin’s eyes, “I only had plans for one but apparently, Jinki was a package deal and Jonghyun had to tag along. But I don’t regret it… or else I wouldn’t be standing here with Taemin right now.”
Confused at Minho’s choice of words, Kibum can’t help but ask, “Regret?”
When he realises he has asked an intrusive question, Kibum wants to apologise but Minho is already answering him.
“Adopting them…” Minho messes Taemin’s hair affectionately, “In fact, I’m actually grateful I’m allowed to.”
Taemin grins and wraps his arms around Minho’s thigh in a hug.
“I’m hungry, appa…”
“Alright, let’s go then.” Minho beams at his son before he points at Kibum, “Say goodbye to your teacher.”
“Bye Key seonsaengnim,” Taemin bows politely, “See you tomorrow!”
With that, they exchange their goodbyes and Kibum finds himself wanting to learn more about Minho.
Choi Minho. 35 years old. Soccer coach.
This is all that Kibum knows about Taemin’s father from his personal particulars provided to the kindergarten. Kibum knows he shouldn’t be searching for his information like this but his curiosity is killing him. He even tries googling Minho and ends up on Facebook for an hour or so just to search for the right Choi Minho. His search is fruitful though because he finds Minho’s facebook page. Unsurprisingly, his profile is mostly private save for a couple of photos as well as basic information that can be seen by the public.
It’s enough for Kibum to spend even more time online as he browses through Minho’s photos. It’s mostly of him and the kids or of the kids themselves, with Taemin appearing only in later photos. Kibum thinks it’s all sorts of adorable. He can’t help but smile as he looks at the photos that capture so many happy memories of the Choi family. Soon, his gaze falls on Minho alone. There’s just something very attractive about this single father. Kibum doesn’t know if it’s the charm of a father whose eyes clearly show how much he loves his kids or if it’s solely Minho’s good looks but whatever it is, he finds himself rather infatuated with the man in the photos.
“Appa, I’m right here.”
“I know you are, Taeminnie.” Minho says as he continues looking towards the direction of the open door which leads to the classrooms of the kindergarten.
“Then who are you looking for?” Taemin tugs on his father’s hand, “Let’s go home.”
“Right…” Minho shakes his head and laughs at himself before he finally gives Taemin his full attention, “Come on then.”
“What do you think of this guy?”
“Woah.” Soyou takes Kibum’s phone from him and gets a good look at the photo of a man who she thinks deserves to be on a fashion runway, “He’s hot. Is he your latest catch? If he is, I completely approve.”
Kibum sighs and mumbles, “He’s my student’s father.”
“Oh…” Soyou returns the phone to Kibum before she suddenly realises what her best friend has said, “Your student’s father?!”
Kibum meets Soyou’s eyes guiltily, looking like he’s just about ready to suffer from an emotional breakdown.
“Oh my god.” Soyou giggles out loud as she shakes her head incredulously, “Good luck to you, my friend.”
“Good morning Key seonsaengnim!”
Kibum is not a morning person but the cheerful greetings by his students as they enter the classroom one after another certainly get his day off to a great start. Taemin, especially, greets him with a smile that is infectious and Kibum’s mood is instantly lifted.
Today is a little different though. Before he goes to his seat in class, Taemin comes to Kibum and passes a paper bag to him.
“This is for you…”
“For me?” Kibum is pleasantly surprised as he takes the paper bag from his student, “What’s this?”
“Cookies!” Taemin answers animatedly, “We baked them yesterday, Key seonsaengnim! It’s very yummy… I wanted to eat them all up but appa asked me to save some for you.”
“Oh.” Kibum is caught off guard by the extra bit of information that Taemin should have probably kept to himself but the smile on his face grows naturally, “Thank you, Taemin.”
“Your welcome.” Taemin grins and with that, he bounces away, not knowing what his simple gift has done to his teacher.
It doesn’t mean anything, Kibum calmly repeats to himself, as he puts the paper bag away and pushes his thoughts aside. There’s a time and place for everything and obviously, now is neither the time nor place to celebrate the fact that his student’s father has thought about him.
Kibum is walking through the corridor of the kindergarten when he spots Minho a slight distance away from him.
“Can I help you?” Kibum says once he comes to stand next to Taemin’s father, both surprised and confused to find him inside the school when lessons are going on.
“Ah, Kibum-ssi…” Relieved to see him, a smile appears on Minho’s face, “I’m looking for Taemin… he forgot to pack his lunch box today.”
“Oh, the kids are playing games outside…” Kibum explains before he offers, “You can pass it to me if you want, I’m just about to bring them back in.”
Grateful, Minho passes Taemin’s lunch box to the teacher, “Thanks.”
“No problem…” Kibum gives a small smile in return.
With the lunch box in his hands, he remembers about the cookies he received a few days ago and decides to use the opportunity to thank Minho.
“Also… thank you for the cookies.” Kibum says, feeling a little awkward but still wanting to give his thanks, “They were really good.”
“That’s a relief…” Minho chuckles, “And don’t thank me… it’s Taemin’s idea to give them to you. He likes you a lot.”
Kibum bites the inside of his cheek, holding himself back from saying anything that will most definitely make things awkward between them, and simply chooses to smile at Minho.
“I’m glad he does.”
“Hyung… help me.”
Changmin swirls the red wine in his glass and raises an eyebrow at his dongsaeng who is occupying all the space on his couch.
“I can’t deal with it any longer.” Minho groans.
“Deal with what?”
“How cute he is.”
Changmin is so glad he isn’t drinking his wine. As much as he loves the alcohol, he doesn’t want to choke on it.
Staring at the ceiling, Minho sighs, “I’m going to hell.”
“That depends… is he underage?”
“No… he looks like jailbait but I’m sure he’s very much legal.”
“Then you’re safe.” Changmin shrugs before he sips his wine.
Minho sits upright and properly looks at Changmin, “What should I do, hyung?”
“Get his number of course.”
“But he’s Taemin’s teacher…”
“Why should that stop you?”
Minho opens his mouth, wanting to say something, but promptly closes it when Changmin looks at him as if he’s daring him to go against him and waste another minute of his precious time.
Knowing his hyung, Minho chooses to shut up and reaches out for the wine Changmin has kindly offered him, drinking all of it in one go in a measly attempt to drown his sorrows that no one understands.
“If you need anything, boys, you know my number…”
Minho’s older sons nod in unison as they send their uncle Changmin off.
“Is appa okay?”
Jinki and Jonghyun share a look with each other before they turn to Taemin and bring their sleepy maknae to his room. It’s way past his bedtime and the three of them have stayed up late to wait for their father to come home.
“He’s alright.” Jinki replies, smiling at Taemin reassuringly.
“Yeah,” Jonghyun agrees and adds, “He’s just… sick.”
Taemin nods as he is tucked into bed by his older brothers and finally gives up the battle to keep his eyes open.
“Sick?” Jinki asks once they’re out of Taemin’s room.
“Lovesick.” Jonghyun sniggers.
“Appa is in love?” Jinki questions in disbelief, “How do you know?”
Jonghyun shrugs, “I just know.”
Before Jinki can ask more questions, Jonghyun walks away, heading to his own room and even closing his door to make sure Jinki gets the message that he’s not interested to talk.
After all, the one-to-one talk they had a few nights ago is a secret between his father and him that Jonghyun has to keep from Jinki for now.
“What do you mean you’re going to wait until Taemin isn’t your student before you make your move?”
“It feels ethically wrong if I ask him out now, Soyou…” Kibum weakly defends himself.
“But it’s obvious he likes you too.”
“I really can’t.”
“Please don’t tell people you’re my best friend.”
“So much for even being my best friend…” Kibum grumbles, staring unhappily at Soyou.
“Well, the best friend I know won’t give a crap about ethics and has the guts to do what he wants.”
Soyou’s eyes widen with excitement, “Does this mean you’re going to do it?”
“I’ll look forward to your good news then.”
Kibum thinks this is highly inappropriate. He shouldn’t have let Soyou’s words get to him. But he has, and he’s now thinking of using the upcoming parent-teacher meeting as an opportunity to ask Minho out.
School has ended for the day and he’s sitting at his desk in the now empty classroom, flipping through his calendar and staring at a marked date. There’s still a few months to go before the scheduled meeting and it makes Kibum doubt if he should wait that long. After all, it’s not like he’s asking Minho to marry him. Why is he even thinking about marrying the guy anyway?
It’s just a first date.
Things might not even work out in the end. Kibum knows he has to take the first step for anything to even happen between them. Yet, the thought still scares him. What if they really don’t work out? He’ll still be Taemin’s teacher no matter what. How is he going to face Taemin then? It’s just too complicated, so complicated that Kibum ends up slouching forward and resting his head on his desk. He’s just about to start knocking his forehead against the table top when a voice breaks the silence.
“Sorry to disturb you…”
With a start, Kibum instantly springs up from his position and turns towards the door. Of course, it just has to be the reason for his troubles.
“Minho-ssi…” Kibum quickly stands up and it’s then he realises that Minho is entirely alone, “Is everything alright? Isn’t Taemin waiting outside for you?”
“Yeah, he is, well, was…” Minho rubs his neck nervously as he walks into the classroom, “He’s actually waiting in the car for me now so I have to make this quick. Umm, what I’m about to ask you may make things very awkward between us but I think it’ll be worth the risk so would you like to-”
By then, Kibum is more than ready to jump into Minho’s arms and give the guy a hug for ending his, their, misery but he manages to keep his composure and stay where he is. Besides, it’s enough that he has already shown how eager he is by giving Minho an answer even before he finishes his question.
“But you don’t know-”
“I know,” Kibum smiles, “I’ll call you.”
“You don’t have my number.”
Minho is about to take his phone out when Kibum laughs and shakes his head.
“I do… I’ll put Taemin’s emergency contact details to good use.”
Minho’s lips curl into a smirk that makes Kibum’s heart skip a beat.
“Yes,” Kibum nods before he pushes Minho towards the door of the classroom, “Now please get back to your car. I’m worried about Taemin being alone.”
“The drive back home takes twenty minutes.” Minho suddenly stops just before the entrance and turns back to say, “I trust that a teacher will keep his word?”
“I think it’s safer if you just trust that I like you too.” Kibum casually recommends.
Grinning, Minho briefly considers letting Taemin wait in the car for a little longer but he knows it’s the wrong time to get carried away. As much as he hates to leave Kibum like this, he has to… but not before giving a gentle reminder to the teacher.
“Twenty minutes, Kibum.”
“Yes, Minho appa.” Kibum teases, “I’ll even set an alarm.”
As Minho finally takes his leave, Kibum can’t help but wonder who will nag more in their relationship – the teacher or the father?
Well, whoever it is, the kids are in for a ride.