Title: Stumble and Fall
Author: Avelynn Tame
Disclaimer: I do not own Gokusen.
Summary: A new teacher has arrived at Shirokin, and he's not bothering to hide his attraction to the homeroom teacher of a certain delinquent class. 3-D greet him with their usual kindness and warmth, but Yankumi is far more interested in the reaction of one Sawada Shin…
Author's Notes: Okay, I know this has been a long time coming – please rest assured that this story will never be abandoned, no matter how long I take to get off my lazy arse and finish it. Also… you know how last time I said 'there's one more full chapter and then an epilogue'…?
I kind of lied (unintentionally). Please see Author's Note at the end.
The rain had persisted for the time it had taken to get to Shin's apartment building, and they had ended up sprinting the last couple of blocks, still hand in hand, nearly falling through the front door of the building. Unfortunately, despite having Shin's jacket wrapped around her, Kumiko had still ended up soaked to the bone, and she had willingly accepted Shin's offer to use his shower and borrow a set of clean clothes.
Now, standing under a powerful stream of hot water, she wondered whether that had been a good idea.
'Teacher found naked in student's apartment,' she pictured the headline. Of course, it would come with the subtitle: 'Involved in fight just hours earlier.'
She resolved to shower quickly and get out of the apartment as fast as possible.
This was easier said than done. The warmth of the water was cathartic, and as she massaged shampoo into her scalp, she felt her worries slip away quietly.
Until she opened her eyes, and took a good look at the very male paraphernalia lying around the bathroom. The body wash, packaged in a masculine-style bottle. The shaving razor next to the sink along with a can of shaving cream.
Even if she could forget the fact that she'd been in a fight not very long ago, and on a date right before that, there was no escaping the fact that she was in Sawada Shin's bathroom. And as soon as she set foot outside the room, she would be obliged to discuss the very thing that had caused her so much stress over the last few weeks: their relationship, and her feelings about it.
Almost as soon as she finished that thought, she felt a steely resolve take hold. She would not run away this time – no matter how uncomfortable this might be, she owed it to Shin and to herself to sort this out once and for all.
Of course, that would be a lot easier if she were clear about how she felt.
She hadn't been raised as the kind of girl who would melt if a handsome man so much as looked at her cross-eyed. When she looked at Shin, she didn't think about whether he was cute, or well-built. She didn't care about his eyes or his hair or his lips. None of that mattered, not to her. Not considering her background, and the kind of examples that had been presented to her as she grew up.
The men in her family were not good-looking, in the traditional sense. Apparently her grandfather had been attractive in his day, but the rest of them had a tendency to repel normal women. Maybe it was the scars, maybe it was the fact that they were usually glaring instead of smiling – who knew? But Kumiko didn't care. Her family had taught her that what was on the outside was irrelevant; you had to look for the qualities within.
Shin was smart. He was loyal. He looked out for her even when she didn't ask him to. Especially when she didn't ask him to. He talked back to her, and bugged the crap out of her, and impressed her. And he did it all the time.
She trusted him. She trusted him so much that she would willingly place her life in his hands, as well as the lives of the people she cared about
That mattered. She could almost forget the fact that he was younger than her, and her student to boot. Men with Shin's qualities were rare. Some people might say that she would be an idiot to get involved with a student, but in her opinion, she would be an even bigger idiot to let him go.
She sighed, and reached out to turn off the water. She was really only left with one course of action, then. She'd have to go out there and talk to him.
There was something altogether bizarre about letting your female teacher use your shower, Shin decided. Especially if you also happened to be in love with her.
He was supposed to be doing something with a fish in a frying pan right now.
Instead, he was finding flimsy excuses to stand near the bathroom door and listen to the sound of running water. Any second now, the water was going to shut off abruptly and he would have to leap soundlessly away from the door and pretend that he hadn't just been doing what he'd been doing.
Still, he reasoned, showers were dangerous places. She could slip and fall, and he would have to –
He shook his head wildly. He was being such an idiot.
He blamed it on the fact that he'd hardly seen her at all recently, and now she was not only in the same apartment as him, but also naked. Overexposure, he thought. Literally.
The frying pan made a funny spitting sound, and he slouched back towards the stove to prod the white fillet with a spatula. She'd picked it up from some old woman on the way back to his place, making dark comments about protein intake and growth deficiencies (never mind the fact that he was significantly taller than her).
He leaned back against the kitchen counter and stared at the bathroom door.
Tonight, he was going to get her to say to him what he'd admitted to her at the beginning of the week. And then he was going to kiss her, interruptions be damned.
The sound of the water hissing against the tiles ceased, and he heard the muffled creak of the shower door opening.
He turned back to the stove and put the kettle on to boil the water for the ramen.
Even Shin – who had known 3-D for a full year before Yankumi came on the scene, and some of them even longer than that – hadn't expected things to develop as they had tonight. For a short while, he'd thought things might turn extremely ugly, but in the end, the opposite had happened. She'd picked them over Maruyama, and while Shin would have predicted this if asked, it was fairly obvious that the rest of the class hadn't shared his confidence.
The bathroom door opened with a click. "You're not a big guy," she said, somewhat reproachfully from the doorway. "So why is this thing hanging off me?"
He'd given her some of his clothes to wear, since her dress had been soaked through by the time they reached his place – running, in the end, still hand in hand, as they were battered by sheets of relentless rain. He'd had a difficult time trying not to stare at the way her skin glistened as the water ran in rivulets between her small breasts.
Now he realised that the wet dress would have been better than this.
Because the only thing more distracting than a woman soaked to the skin wearing only a thin scrap of fabric… was a woman wearing a shirt several sizes too big – so big that it kept slipping off one shoulder and exposing her smooth, creamy skin – and a pair of boxers that reached only as far as the shirt, to mid-thigh, and looked as though they might fall off at any moment. "The jeans wouldn't stay up," she informed him, playing with the hem of the shirt. "I left them in the bathroom."
"O...okay, uh…" he said eloquently, still preoccupied with the fact that she was pretty much naked. Well, under the clothes. "You want some tea?"
She perked up unmistakeably. "Sure."
The kettle began to whistle. He occupied himself with preparing two cups of hot, steaming tea and pouring the remaining water over the ramen. The sound of rustling fabric and a small 'oof' behind him suggested that she'd just sat down on the sofa. He turned around to see her legs dangling over the edge, feet not quite reaching the ground. The shirt was slipping down again, but she was too busy wiggling her toes to notice.
He handed her a cup of tea, and she met his gaze as their fingers brushed. "Thanks," she murmured as she lifted it to her lips, blowing the hot water softly. Her dark hair was still damp, and clung to her skin. Without thinking, he reached out and pushed a heavy lock behind her ear. She glanced up at him, surprised. Then, just as quickly, she averted her gaze and seemed to find something very interesting to stare at in the depths of her teacup.
He withdrew his hand slowly, not sure how to begin. There were a lot of things he wanted to say… but in the end, it was she who set the ball rolling.
"I've been thinking," she said solemnly, sipping her tea and wincing as it burned her mouth. "About you and me."
He almost choked – he'd never expected her to be the one to bring it up.
"The thing is," she went on, "I'm your teacher." And she gave him a look of great significance, as though he might not have realised this until now.
He wanted to laugh. "Uh, yeah, I know. What's your point?"
"My point?" She glared at him. "My point is that this –" she waved her hand at the space between them "– is totally inappropriate while you're still my student."
His blood roared like the rhythmic sea in his ears as he considered the weight of what she was saying. "But… after I've graduated…?"
She coloured and stared into the pale liquid in her cup. "Well, we can review the situation then."
This time he did laugh. "'Review the situation'?" he mocked gently. "You make it sound like a business arrangement. How did I ever fall in love with someone as unromantic as you?"
She bit her lip awkwardly. "I really don't know."
He felt uncomfortably nervous as he said, "So… after graduation… when I ask you out then, what are you going to say?"
She exhaled quickly, her breath rolling out into what could have been a laugh or a sigh. "Brat – don't talk like you know what you'll do. You might change your mind before then."
The movement of his hand was so quick, it almost seemed involuntary. His fingers curled around her wrist and squeezed tightly enough for her to wince. "Shin –"
"I'm not gonna change my mind," he muttered through clenched teeth. "What did you think I meant when I told you that I love you?"
She wouldn't look at him. "You're no kid, Shin – believe me, I'm more than aware of that. But feelings can change. You can't guarantee –"
"Do you love me?" he cut her off.
The muscles in her arm stiffened underneath his fingers. Her eyes, dark and half-hidden behind her loose hair, were still fixed on her tea. He waited, only half breathing, his ears straining to pick up the slightest sound.
Eventually she shifted, and he almost jumped in surprise. "Yeah," she said quietly. "Yeah, I do. Even though you're a –"
Shin had never thought he'd be the type of person to pounce on anyone, but he felt as though he'd been waiting to hear those words for an insanely long time. One minute they were sitting next to each other, mirror images of tense anticipation, and the next he was slipping a hand behind her head and pulling her towards him, her mouth meeting his just a second before her cup slipped from her fingers and smashed into pieces on the floor. Hot liquid splashed against his feet but it barely even registered in his brain.
Her hand landed on his shoulder and he sighed inwardly, waiting for the inevitable push. But it never came.
Instead, her fingers slid up the nape of his neck and curled into his hair, sending a delicious tingle down his spine. He could feel his body begin to react to her, his trousers becoming uncomfortably tight, but his mind was so cloudy and unfocused that he could scarcely bring himself to worry about it.
For months he had wanted this. He had waited and waited… and it had been so worth it in the end. She was soft and warm; he drew her closer because the feeling of her body pressed against his chest was the closest thing to bliss he could imagine. Her lips were pliant and responsive, sliding against his and nearly driving him insane. He wanted to push further, to do everything he'd fantasised about doing from the moment he'd first realised that actually, she was pretty good-looking and that she interested him more than any female he'd met before.
He drew his hand out of her long, damp hair and let the flat of his palm skim the column of her throat, down to the exposed skin where her shirt had been left to hang open. His fingers moved down the line of the fabric, and he had just found the first button to unfasten when a sharp, acrid stench filled his nostrils and ripped his attention away.
They pulled apart, and Shin glanced across to the kitchenette where the fish was smoking in its pan. He swore fluently, pulling himself to his feet and resisting the urge to look at her face. If he did, he knew he'd probably forget all about the fish and they would burn to death in this hellhole.
The fish was charred to a crisp in the pan. He wrinkled his nose with disgust as he tipped it into the bin and switched off the stove. He put the pan in the sink to clean later, and noticed that the ramen pots sat on the counter, forgotten. He touched one and found that it was still reasonably warm. Probably edible, then. He opened his mouth to tell her, but the words wouldn't come out properly and he had to clear his throat. "Uh, the fish is no good, but there's ramen, if you want it?"
She didn't say anything, and when he turned around to look at her he saw that her knees were drawn up to her chest, and her bottom lip was caught between her teeth. Remorse and self-recrimination creased her forehead; she was staring ahead at nothing at all, and Shin knew that that was probably the last time he would get to kiss her for quite a while.
"Oi," he said softly, "if you're blaming yourself again –"
"I'm not," she said. "Not exactly, anyway. But we both know that this isn't a good idea – and don't argue with me, Sawada –"
"I damn well will argue with you if you're going to talk crap," he shot back heatedly. "'Not a good idea'? You love me, right?"
"Right –" A deep red flush stained her cheeks.
"And I love you, so what's the big deal?"
"If you'd let me finish," she said quietly, "I was going to say that this isn't a good idea while you're still my student."
"Oh," he said, and deflated abruptly.
She fixed him with a steady gaze, her eyes brighter than they had been before. "It's less than six months until graduation. Once you've got that diploma in your hand…" She shrugged. "You're a free man. We wouldn't be doing anything inappropriate."
"'A free man'," he repeated. Something in his chest seemed to swell and he felt momentarily dazed by the sheer potential in those words – the sense of 'what could be' lay in front of him like an open road. "All right," he said almost breathlessly, the words spilling quickly out of his mouth as though they were in a rush. "Okay. Let's wait, then. Less than six months – I can do that."
Her smile was unsteady with excitement. He was pretty sure he looked the same. She pushed herself off the couch and he closed the distance between them in a mere second, his arms sliding around her waist to the small of her back just as she reached up around his neck, her face buried in his t-shirt. "I can't believe this is really happening," she said, her voice muffled and her breath warming the fabric next to his skin.
"Me neither." He pressed his face into her hair, inhaling her scent. "You better keep that night free, then."
He heard the grin in her voice when she said, "Okay. It's a date."
It was Monday morning, and thanks to a very long staff meeting, she was running late for class. Again.
She'd decided that if 3-D complained, she was going to stuff each of them in their respective lockers and leave them there for the rest of the day. And that included Shin.
She felt heat rise in her cheeks as she turned the corner, and shook her head violently. Stop thinking about it, she self-instructed. You said you wouldn't treat him any differently, but you won't be able to help it if you keep thinking about his mouth and his hands and…
She stopped abruptly in the corridor and drummed her head against the nearest wall. This was obviously going to be a lot harder than she'd thought.
Despite her best efforts, it was still on her mind when she pushed open the classroom door a few minutes later.
Vaguely, she registered neat, tidy rows of desks and students sitting attentively at their desks. "Oh, sorry," she muttered, "wrong room."
She stepped back outside and closed the door.
She looked up at the sign on the wall, and blinked. '3-D', it said very clearly.
"What the…?" she whispered.
She opened the door again and hovered tentatively in the doorway. It was definitely them – she could see that. Uchi and Noda and Chikamatsu and all the rest, sitting in their seats, watching her. "It's definitely quarter past nine, right?" she asked. "You're due to have a maths class, aren't you?"
"Uh-huh," said Minami, nodding.
"With me," she qualified.
"Right." She came inside and shut the door behind her. "Right." She cast a wary glance at them while she was stowing her bag underneath the table. "And… you were definitely expecting me? Not Fujiyama-sensei or anyone else?"
"Nope." Kuma grinned.
Her eyebrows knotted together and she tapped her thumb anxiously against the wooden desk. "Is it… a special occasion?"
They were all grinning at her. It was pissing her off! What the hell was going on? "Now, look, you guys," she began steadily, "if this is a practical joke –"
"Hey, didn't you say you wanted more presents from us?" Uchi called out. "This is our gift to you."
"Yeah, Yankumi, do you like it or not?" Minami was actually sitting up straight in his chair, not a dirty magazine in sight.
She considered them all: neat, orderly, and squeaky clean. If any of the other teachers walked in right now they would be flabbergasted.
"I don't like it," she declared, repressing a shudder. "It's freaking me out. Change back, quickly."
They complained good-naturedly, repositioning their desks, their belongings and themselves with the kind of practised ease that should have disturbed her... but didn't. "You can't say we didn't try," Noda said with a grin.
"It was a nice present," she told them honestly. "But I'm so used to… this…" She gestured vaguely at the wasteland in front of her; bags strewn across the floor, lockers half-open and not a textbook in sight. "Anything else is weird. Like I'm in a parallel universe or something."
Involuntarily, she pictured a universe in which 3-D was a class of tidy, polite students who wouldn't know a fight if it bit them on the ass.
'I'd go insane,' she thought.
"All right," she said out loud, "Okay – mathematics now. I've made a list of areas which you all seem to struggle with, so I think we should focus on those because they're practically guaranteed to come up on the exam –"
"Yankumi," Uchi cut her off. His voice was low but it carried nonetheless.
He looked deeply uncomfortable. "Where's Maruyama?"
Ah. Suddenly she wasn't that comfortable herself. From the tense silence hovering over the class, she judged that they were all interested in the answer.
"I spoke to Maruyama-sensei this morning," she began. "He's decided to focus completely on teaching physics from now on. Which means he won't be attending any more maths classes, or participating in homeroom."
She had expected a positive reaction to this.
She hadn't expected to be nearly deafened by the thunderous yell of, "YES!" uttered by every single one of them bar Shin, who was far too laid back for something like that. He was merely grinning like the proverbial cat at the back of the room.
"I'm sure you'll all miss him," she continued, trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "And now, of course, you're stuck with just me again."
"Oh, yeah," said Minami, his mouth twisting down in mock disappointment. "We forgot about that. Any chance you could get Maruyama to reconsider?"
She laughed. She couldn't help it, and frankly she didn't care if it was a little unprofessional; everything was right with 3-D again, so she sure as hell wasn't going to complain.
"All right," she tried again. "Time to stretch your brains. Midterms are coming up and I don't want your hard work to go to waste."
There was a protracted pause, and then a series of dismayed exclamations.
"Oh, shit, I forgot about those!"
"Can't we postpone them for a while?"
"Yeah, like… until after we've graduated?"
"Do midterms count as mock exams?"
"Oi," she said loudly. "What the hell? Do any of you even look at the marks I give you for your homework? You've all come really far since the start of the year. I mean, I'm not saying we don't still have work to do, but if you guys keep trying hard, you'll be fine. I know it."
"Maa, you're deluding yourself, Yankumi," Noda remarked with a heavy sigh.
She folded her arms across her chest. "Want to bet?"
A ripple of interest passed across the classroom. Even Shin, who was a master of impassivity, looked somewhat curious. His dark eyes were fixed on her face, and although she determinedly focused her gaze elsewhere, she could feel her face growing hot under his relentless stare.
"I bet," she pushed on, "that you will all exceed my mystery pass mark, whether you mean to or not."
Uchi sat forward, watching her intently. "Mystery pass mark," he repeated. "How does that work?"
"Good question, Uchiyama!" She beamed brightly at him. "I am going to write down a mystery pass mark on a piece of paper, place it in a sealed envelope, and give it to Fujiyama-sensei for safekeeping. I'll open it again in two weeks' time, after you've all had the results of your maths midterm, and then you'll see that I was right all along." She hummed with satisfaction.
Kuma snorted loudly. "Yankumi… why do you think we won't just deliberately fail? Or leave the paper blank?"
"Because…" she replied confidently, "I'm going to make it a win-win situation for you. On the one hand, if you do all fail and don't beat my mystery pass mark, you'll technically win the bet. However –" Here, for the sake of dramatic effect, she allowed her grin to slip away and fixed them all with a challenging gaze. "If you do beat my mystery pass mark, you will win something much, much better. So… the question is, which do you want more? A mere technical victory… or a grand prize?"
She was obviously getting much better at this carrot-dangling trick. They were all practically salivating at the idea of some mysterious 'grand prize'.
Well, Shin was just giving her a rather exasperated look, but she ignored him.
"So?" she pressed. "Is it a bet?"
After a few moments of silent conferring, carried out mainly by the exchange of significant looks across the classroom, Noda gave her a solemn nod. "We accept."
"Great!" She clapped her hands together. "Then let's get to work."
Author's Note: Um… okay, so somehow I have generated more plot now? I don't really get how that happened. What it amounts to is the fact that there will now be another full chapter to come before the epilogue (which, from my notes, may well be the length of a full chapter anyway, but…)
I hope you guys are all still enjoying this; for those of you who face the delights of exams in the near future, you have my deepest sympathy. Good luck!