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50/50: Whitechapel

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Kent shrugged his backpack onto his shoulder, took a deep breath, and wondered – not for the first time – exactly what he had done to deserve Entwhistle for a double class on a Monday morning. The man had no clue, or no care, that he was boring everyone. If a student failed to grasp a concept, he somehow felt it was no concern of his. Kent had read about Professor Binns in the Harry Potter books and it had brought on such terrible flashbacks to English class that he had to make a cup of tea.
So it was a surprise that, when he walked into the ageing scholars domain, sitting behind the desk wasn't the rheumy-eyed, soft jawed man that Kent had expected to see. This was a young man, probably straight out of university. He was nervously smoothing his hands down the front of his starched white shirt. He wore blue trousers, their matching jacket slung over the back of the chair. His shirt was opened at the neck, an abandoned tie was hastily stuffed into the pocket of the jacket, its end snaking on the floor. Kent tried to get his brain to kick in, somehow make his brain work.

That was when the man looked at him.

His eyes were blue, a shade that people had written terrible poetry about since the genetic defect that caused it had first presented itself. His hair was blonde and neat. And Kent was convinced he would never be able to move his feet again. He would grow old on this spot – stood captive in the doorway of Mr. Entwhistle's bloody stupid English class.

Mansell put paid to that.

“Come on, Emma! Some of us want to learn.” He called out, and suddenly everything was painfully normal.

“Shut up, Finley. If your parents weren't related you might have gotten a better name.”

“I'll keep that in mind, Emerson.” Mansell shot back while he shifted his things to make room for Kent.

“Well, if we're all here, we shall begin.” The blonde man began, only to be interrupted almost instantly by a girl in the second row.

“Sir, where's Mr. Entwhistle, Sir? Is he dead, sir?” She smiled through black lipstick that had smudged onto her teeth. The blonde man stared at her incredulously before he recovered.

“No, Mr. Entwhistle is on a leave of absence. I believe it is of a personal nature, one I certainly won't divulge to you, Miss...”

“Hanratty.”

“Now, if you're quite finished. My name is Mr. Chandler, and I am your teacher for the foreseeable future. I understand that Mr. Entwhistle was finished teaching you about Keats, and we are to move on to the works of Oscar...” His voice trailed off as he turned to the blackboard and searched for the chalk.

“Chalk.” he said quietly to himself.

“What's that, Sir?” Fitz asked from his seat at the back beside MacCormack. He was smiling a mean smile.

“Where is the chalk?” Chandler asked, his eye firmly on Fitz. He knew the ginger boy must have taken it.

“Look, whoever has it, please just return it.”

Nobody moved.

“I can wait all day.”

Kent looked around and sighed. He stood and walked over to the radiator under the window. Behind it, on an unseen ledge was a box of chalk. Kent knew that was Fitz's favoured hiding place since the bully had taken his pencil case in the first week. Kent wondered if he had some personal problem with writing implements. He took it to the man at the front who looked relieved.

“Thank you...?” He said in a quiet and refined voice, barely loud enough for anyone else to hear.

“Kent.” Emerson offered shyly, afraid to look into those eyes from such a close proximity.

“Kent.” Chandler repeated, this time definitely too quietly to be heard by anyone else.

On his way back to his chair, Fitz made kissy noises at him, and Kent did his best not to blush.
He failed.

When Kent sat at his seat, Mansell shooting him a look halfway between sympathy and a burning desire to embarrass him about all of this in the future, Chandler in looping cursive had written a quote on the board.

I can resist everything except temptation.

“I want you all to think about what you know – or you think you know – about Oscar Wilde while I take the roll.” As he called the names, Chandler looked at every student, trying to commit their faces to memory. When he looked up at Kent, his lip curled into a small smile.

Kent's stomach flipped.

Then the moment was over.

"Wasn't Wilde a massive poof, sir?!" Fitz supplied unhelpfully.

Chandler ducked his head, he rubbed at the bridge of his nose and sighed.

"Some," he began, his voice a lot stronger than his posture suggested, "cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go. But, to answer your question, he did have male lovers. He also had a wife, and in his younger years lived a fairly respectable life. However, he was part of the aesthetic movement. It was an intellectual and artistic movement. It emphasised the importance of aesthetics over other social and political themes. In other words, he and his fellow aesthetes put beauty over politics.” He fiddled with a pile of papers, shuffling through them until he looked up and caught Kent's eye.

“Kent, could you hand these out to the class please?”

Kent rose slowly, wondering what the hell he'd done to deserve this. Mr. Chandler was so handsome, couldn't he just let Kent and his alarmingly instant crush melt quietly into the background? Kent looked uncertainly at Mansell only to see his friend waggling his eyebrows furiously.

No bloody help, as per fucking usual, he thought.

He tried not to think about brushing against chandler's long fingers as he took the sheaf of papers, tried not to let the whirlwind thoughts take a hold in his head and he just wished his knees would work.

Sometimes it really sucked to be seventeen.