"Uh-oh, someone didn't do their homework…"
Haechan scowled as he heard Hana's voice echoing from somewhere beyond his chemistry homework, breaking his concentration as he tried to remember the molar mass of lithium bromide. "Damn it, you made me lose track!" He slammed his pencil on the paper and looked up with a pouting glare, but Hana just laughed back.
"If you really cared about your homework then you should have finished it." She said, turning around as Mrs. Park snapped at her, sending another wave of giggling oohs from the class.
"I would have if my sis hadn't kept me up all night cleaning the mess she made trying to bake cookies!" Haechan hissed at her back. Hana just shrugged, and sighing, he went back to frowning at his paper.
Then somebody tapped him on the shoulder, and he looked over to see Mark's handsome face. It gave him a bit of a start – he'd forgotten about him.
"Was that the moles' worksheet we got yesterday?" Mark asked, his eyes wide.
"Yeah, why?" Haechan said. Let me guess, you didn't finish it? Mr. Perfect isn't that perfect?
"If you want, I can lend you mine." Mark smiled sheepishly. "I mean, if you care about the homework mark that much."
Haechan bit his tongue. Yeah, I want the homework mark, but I've got my pride too, you know. After treating someone like a jerk, it was awkward accepting their kindness.
Seeing Haechan's hesitation, Mark drew back a bit, expression guarded. "But if cheating's not your thing…"
Haechan held out his hand. "It's called teamwork." He muttered, gesturing with his fingers for Mark to give him the homework.
A grin swept over Mark's face and Haechan smiled back before grabbing the piece of paper and turning away quickly, shoving all his concentration onto the task at hand. It took a lot of effort – he couldn't help but remember Hana's endearing expression as she greeted Mark like they were boyfriend and girlfriend holding hands rather than two people giving each other handshakes for the first time. And it really didn't help that Hana kept looking over her shoulder, no doubt sneaking glances at Mark. It wasn't fair. He'd watched her go through all the wrong people dozens of times, but this was different. She hadn't even known Mark a day, and already Mark was ahead of him.
Thanks to Mark, Haechan finished his chemistry homework and ended up rushing his in-class English assignment – of all days Mrs. Park had to have an in-class assignment! – meaning he was still writing sentences about diction and tone while Hana led Mark out the door, giggling and looking totally delighted whenever Mark laughed back. He handed in his essay five minutes after class ended, avoiding Mrs. Park's glare of hatred as he slipped out the door, staring at the ground.
Right away he crashed into someone and looked up, about to snap what kind of idiot stands in the doorway when Hana beat him to it.
"Watch where you're going!"
"What kind of idiot stands in the middle of the doorway?" Haechan snapped back before he realized something was off and looked around her. "Hey, where's Mark?"
"He went to the bathroom." Hana sighed. "I've been waiting but it's been an awfully long time."
"Yeah, well, you can't rush a dump," Haechan said irritably, slipping his binder into his backpack. He took a few steps towards his next class, then paused and looked back. Hana gazed at the posters on the wall for a moment, brown eyes hazy. When she realized that he'd stopped she turned and her eyes sharpened, her dazed expression turning into a smart-ass smirk.
"What are you looking at?"
Haechan blinked, realized he'd been staring, and looked distractedly down the hall. "Looks like he's not coming." He observed, carefully maintaining a nonchalant tone. "Why don't I walk you to class today, princess?"
Hana laughed, then hesitated and skipped up to him. "You don't mind? We're already late and my class is on the opposite wing of the school."
Haechan shrugged, struggling to ignore the small hands gripping the loose fabric of his jacket. "Well if you get a stranger to do it for you, why can't I?"
"Mark's not a stranger," Hana objected. "He likes me!"
"Hahaha." Haechan said dryly, and she shoved him a bit.
"Come on! I'm serious this time!" Hana pouted. "You never believe me, Haechan!"
"Yeah I did," Haechan objected, "I believed you when you said you thought Hyuk would last a week."
Hana wrinkled her nose. "Well that's cause he's a douchebag. But Mark's different, I can tell." She sighed happily. "He's hot, and nice, and gentle, and honest…"
"And boring, and dumb…" Haechan continued, laughing when Hana shoved him harder. "Oh come on. I'm way better." He said before he could stop himself.
Hana just laughed out loud. "Oh really now?" She said, and Haechan waited for her to deny it but she never did.
It was silent for a while, then Hana sighed again.
"What's up?" Haechan said, shooting her a concerned look. "I was just joking, you know –"
"Jeno asked me out again yesterday…" She said, brushing her bangs aside. "I told him 'no' but he said he's not giving up. He's getting annoying, this is like, the third time."
"I'll talk to him," Haechan said calmly, trying to sound like it was no big deal.
"Really?" Hana turned around as they stopped around the corner of her classroom door. She gazed up at him with bright, dark eyes, grinning questioningly.
"Yeah sure, why not?" Haechan forced himself to smile and shrug.
"Yay! Thank you, oppa!" Hana squealed, and threw herself into him for a brief hug before turning and running into her classroom.
Haechan stumbled back down the hall in a bit of a daze, and by the time he made it to Chemistry, Mr. Kim had started their notes. He spent a moment in the doorway checking out the available spots – one beside Yeri, but that was at the front… Renjun was sitting with Mika again, interesting… and Mark was watching him from the back row.
Oh, wonderful. Reluctantly, Haechan went around the desks. Mark gave him a hesitant sort of smile as he plunked down in the chair next to him and took out his notes. He meant to act like he was in a rush to copy them down before Mr. Kim erased them, but then Mark pushed his notebook over a little.
Haechan looked up at his notes, then glanced at Mark and felt his face turn hot. Jerking away, he nodded and muttered thanks.
"Did Hana get to class?" Mark asked after a while.
Haechan felt his pen jerk across the page and swore under his breath. "Yeah. You were in the bathroom for a while."
"I thought you'd like to walk with her," Mark replied lightly, and Haechan looked up at him again.
"What do you mean?" He asked, trying to act confused.
Mark smiled a little. "Oh come on. I don't want to get in the way. Did you take her to class?"
Haechan opened his mouth and nothing came out. He struggled for a moment with words, then decided to let his little favor go and nodded with a sigh. "That girl can't do anything by herself."
Mark chuckled. "You must've been with her a lot before I showed up then."
"We're just childhood friends," Haechan mumbled, avoiding Mark's warm, knowing brown eyes.
They kept quiet for a while as Mr. Kim gave his lecture – but after he handed out a worksheet and gave them free time, returning to his desk with his iPad, Mark started to speak again.
"You're captain of the soccer team, right?"
"Huh?" Haechan gave him a wary look, then remembered. "Oh, Renjun, right?"
"Yeah, he told me." Mark smiled sheepishly. "How far into the season are you guys?"
"We're halfway through districts, we have two more games left." Haechan relaxed a little and put down his pen. "If we win these two we'll come in first. Why, do you play?" He sat back in his chair and eyed Mark through a different perspective, observing the boy's lean, strong figure. He looked like a natural athlete.
Mark smiled that crooked, awkward smile again. "A bit, in Canada. My school wasn't very big, so I was captain up there."
Haechan felt his eyebrow shoot up. "Cool, you should join." His tongue slipped, and he went back a couple steps. "I mean, you'll still have to ask the coach."
"Yeah, I know." Mark twirled his pencil, fidgeting as an excited light came into his eyes and he looked off into the distance.
Looks like he's serious. Haechan observed him quietly for a moment. He really isn't a bad guy. I mean, I'm the annoying one here. Feeling a little guilty, he turned back to his worksheet and said offhandedly, "We have practice today after school. Why don't you drop by, you can talk to Coach then."
Mark turned to him, grinning widely. "Really? Thanks!"
Haechan shrugged. "It's no big deal."
"No, it is. I'm glad I can still join, I was looking forward to it." Mark said brightly. "I heard you guys have a strong team."
Haechan felt flush and leaned under the table to get his water bottle. "We're okay." He said, but he couldn't help but smile. "Sorry about yesterday."
Mark's expression faltered a little, then eased into an apologetic smile. "No, I understand. I shouldn't have accepted Hana's offer."
Haechan swallowed his water with some difficulty. "Whoah but," he spluttered, "it's not like I was upset that I couldn't show you around or anything –"
Mark paused, eyes clouding over in confusion. They stared at each other for a while, then Mark started laughing.
"What?" Bewildered, Haechan grabbed his shoulder. Mr. Kim looked up from his iPad, grinned, then returned to his game.
"Nothing," Mark said between gasps of laughter. As he calmed he took a deep breath and sighed, chuckling. "I know. Don't worry, I'm not interested in Hana."
Understanding, Haechan felt himself heat up all over again and swore. Stupid! He meant Hana! "Right, I knew that I was just clarifying." He said, then laughed when he realized just how stupid that was.
Mark grinned, holding out his hand. "So I'm okay now?"
"I'll think about it." Haechan smiled, accepting his handshake. Mark's warm fingers wrapped around his and their eyes met – for a moment Mark's smile faded and his eyes darkened, and Haechan felt a warm dizziness spread over his head – then they released each other's hands, and the moment broke.
"…Yeah." Haechan said awkwardly, turning back to the worksheet. "Uh, question three, do you get it?"
"Lemme take a look." Mark sounded just as dazed as he flipped his worksheet upside down and flipped it back, looking for question three. "Oh, it's like this…"
Haechan held his breath as Mark leaned over him and wrote equations on his piece of paper.
What the hell? He closed his eyes for a moment and shook the tingling out of his body, then forced himself to concentrate on the question. Come on, Haechan. You really need more sleep.
"So… you're from Canada, right? That's pretty cool, is it cold?" Haechan asked in an attempt to distract himself from Mark's body warmth hovering above him.
Mark's brows furrowed, and a hot look of concentration came onto his face. "Uh, yeah." He said distractedly.
"Why'd you move?" Haechan continued, as Mark sighed and erased the equations he'd written, starting over again. "Wait, it's like this." Without thinking, he grabbed Mark's pen, their hands brushing all over, and bent down to write on the paper in an effort to hide his blush.
"Oh, I see," Mark said sheepishly, sitting back in his chair. "Makes sense, I was overthinking it." He laughed it off, and Haechan smiled with him.
"Uh, you didn't answer my question."
"Huh?" For a moment Mark looked alarmed – then his eyes lit up as he remembered and he smiled a little nostalgically. "My parents love to travel. They fell in love with the seafood up there but after the oil spill, things just aren't doing well, so we moved." He shrugged. "There isn't too much color up there. I'm liking it here better, so far."
"Well, it's warmer, for sure." Haechan agreed.
"We had four huskies, too," Mark said absent-mindedly.
"What?!" Haechan exclaimed, turning to him, and Mark laughed again.
"I knew you'd say that." He grinned knowingly, a little obnoxiously, but Haechan was too awed to care.
"That is so cool." Haechan sighed, scribbling lines on his paper agitatedly.
"Yeah, but we gave them to my uncle when we moved," Mark said, a tinge of regret to his voice. "They were a great group. The alpha female was really gentle."
"Do you have pictures?" Haechan demanded. "Show me sometime!"
"Sure, once I get a new cell phone." Mark smiled. "My parents are in the U.S.A, but they promised they'd get me one when they come back."
Haechan turned back to his homework with a jealous sigh. "You're lucky." He said ruefully. "Good looks, good build, good life…"
"You think I look good?" Mark laughed, but his smile became bittersweet. "I guess I have it good, huh? Makes me wonder why I don't feel that way…"
"Really?" Haechan gave him a serious look. "Maybe you're missing something."
"Nah, I think I'm just greedy." Mark's brown eyes glittered, and for a moment Haechan just stared back unknowingly. Then he became aware of the intensity of the boy's icy gaze, and turned back to his homework, clearing his throat loudly.
"Hey, what about question five?..."