Genre: I’m so bad at this genre thing, slice of life? Romance? School?
Summary: Changmin is lost in a forest when Jaejoong asks him to make a promise when he dies. Sequel to Drowning and Free Falling
Warnings! Mentions of death
A/N: Based on personal experiences (minus the lover part). Prompt 29.
It was one of those weeks when exams were just around the corner and all the students were up to their head with studying and stress. Homeroom came by and the serious opened their textbooks to get in some extra studying and the burnt out shut their eyes to get in some extra sleep. Nobody was late or absent and there were no special announcements to be made, so the period passed relatively smoothly after attendance was taken. First subject of the day was English, and Kim Songsaengnim strolled in to find the class unresponsive to his presence.
Eyes focused on the English poetry book in front of him, Jaejoong started reading a poem he knew the students were likely to ignore.
Changmin was lost in a forest. His mind was working and processing what was going on, but it overwhelmed him and he didn’t know if he wanted to sleep or work. So he kept his eyes glazed on the front board while his left hand roamed over a crinkled workbook page and right hand held his head up. He wandered through the forest, confused, unsure. A hundred lucid thoughts and he wanted them all to clear away. Like a cluttered mess, if the forest disappeared, he would sleep, if the forest grew thicker, he might stop altogether.
Mind a bramble, Changmin locked his eyes on the figure he loves and tried to pay attention as each English syllable rolled off his teacher’s pretty tongue. But it was a poem literally about sleeping and death, how could Changmin possibly stay awake through something like that? His eyes stung and wanted to flutter shut. But beneath those lids laid a forest.
“‘One short sleep past, we wake eternally and death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.’ Probably none of you know this, but this is one of my absolute favorite English poems.” Changmin felt like he had dreamed up most of Jaejoong’s words, and in all honesty, if he was asked to analyze that poem he might just scream.
By this point, a few students had raised their heads to at least acknowledge their teacher. Some gave Kim Songsaengnim a stink eye wondering why he was wasting their time with his favorite poems instead of letting them review for the upcoming midterms.
“Oh, I know, none of you want to learn something new that might be covered on the midterm. But if you just go over all the material and ask me any questions you have, you’ll be fine.” Jaejoong smiled; his eyes crinkled, his cheeks folded, and his lips stretched. “I’ll let you continue studying; for those of you who want a break, just enjoy the sound of my voice reading these poems. That last piece was ‘Death, be not proud’ by John Donne. Next is a sonnet by Shakespeare.”
The image of his beloved smiling to the class was etched into his mind and the forest started to lighten up.
A couple sonnets later and a girl finally gave up studying to ask Teacher Kim a question. Changmin hadn’t even register that Jaejoong had stopped reading poems until he noticed that the steady voice from the front of the room was accompanied by a reminiscing sigh.
“I’m not a religious person, but this poem kind of gives me hope. Basically, we are just asleep when we die and will one day rise again, like Christ did.”
Changmin shuddered at the thought of Jaejoong dying and shut off. The forest cleared away instantly and his mind was blank, soaring and gone. All he could hear was Jaejoong repeating the same thing. Louder, and stronger.
“Death is asleep. Death is asleep. Death is asleep!” Changmin jolted awake, the word “asleep” bringing him back. For a moment he thought Kim Songsaengnim had caught him drifting off and was addressing him, but Jaejoong was still at the front engaging with the few students actually paying attention.
“I want this poem read at my memorial service and a plaque next to my ashes with the same words. It sorts of loses its effectiveness if I don’t have a physical body if I rise, but I like the idea.” If Jaejoong died, Changmin wasn’t sure if he would even be able to function, and it’s not something he could ever follow through with.
“Well, when that day happens, I’ll read it!” A boy speaks up. More students are listening now. Jaejoong had that charisma as a teacher to draw the students in and keep them focused. Maybe it was because he was only a few years older than them and could connect easier, or maybe he was simply easy to get along with and respect. He had a personality one could fall in love with, Changmin could attest to that. How could such a young and vibrant person already have plans for death?
“Well, how about you all write down one thing you would do for me when I die and I’ll collect them. No guarantees, but the most appealing one might get someone extra credit.” Then with a devilish grin, Jaejoong turned his gaze to Changmin. “Why don’t you pick them up and give them to me when everyone is done?”
Changmin verbally agreed, but inside he knew he could never come up with an answer. The class president led the class in bowing to the teacher and he left them to self-study for the rest of the period. By break time, Changmin’s desk was filled with the papers of his classmates, but his own paper remained blank.
When Teacher Kim dies, I will donate rice to his family. Not that your life is worth rice.
I will watch over your wife and kids.
I’ll pray for you.
Read ‘Death, be not proud’ for you.
Name my kid after you.
Visit your ashes once a year.
But what would Changmin do when Jaejoong died? What could he promise to fulfill? Out of all his undying love, was there nothing that he could do? There really was… nothing.
He turned the papers in at Jaejoong’s desk in the teachers' room, but his object of desire was not there. Changmin knew where to look and headed to the literary conference room. Jaejoong was there with a few book pulled out on the desk and one in his hands which he flipped through nonchalantly. Changmin locked the door behind him.
“Songsaengnim,” Changmin said in his bed voice to get Jaejoong’s attention. He wasn’t expecting anything right now, but he needed to be heard. Jaejoong’s eyes flickered up. The playful smirk on his face slid off when he saw the serious eyes of his precious student.
“Shim,” he said neutrally. “You turned in the papers?” Changmin nodded. “Good, I expect everyone had some good answers, especially you.”
Changmin shifted his eyes away from Jaejoong’s curious stare. He shuffled his feet a little closer to his teacher, but the distance between them was still great. Jaejoong knew something was off. He set his book onto the desk and pulled Changmin to him.
“What is it? Think yours won’t get picked?” Jaejoong whispered, petting Changmin’s hair.
“That’s the problem. I didn’t write anything.” And it sounded like he was whining about not being able to complete an assignment. Changmin was stiff, afraid Jaejoong would laugh it off and downplay how sincere his emotions were. But Jaejoong only kissed his head and rubbed his back.
Changmin’s voice was a whisper. Unconfident, scared, desperate. “You are my anchor. You hold me down and keep me from getting lost. If you died, I don’t think I could go on.” His body shook, and Jaejoong had to hold him tight or he might have swayed to the ground. “I can promise you a million things while you are alive, but when you die, I can promise you nothing.”
In Jaejoong’s arms, face buried in his chest, Changmin started crying.
With this crying boy staining his shirt with his tears, Jaejoong realized how serious their relationship was. Their intimacy had gone past their kisses to make a stressful day better. It was more than a game to play and keep a secret from society. Changmin was attached to him, and seeing how distressed he was by the boy’s pain, Jaejoong knew he was attached too.
“Then promise me you’ll love me to the end.”