Rating: PG (for now)
Disclaimer: I don't own anything apart from the story. I wish I had YunJae and if I had my way, they'd move to New Zealand so they can be civil-unionised here :P
Summary: Jaejoong just wants somewhere to call home again. Living by himself is really not as great as his sisters made it out to be and he yearns to be around people again. He misses the hustle and bustle and even the crying babies that make up his parents’ household but he’s too proud and stubborn to return. He is nineteen after all and fully capable of living his own life away from his ridiculously large family. Enter a tiny little girl who captures Jaejoong’s heart in an instant and he finds himself with a family…of sorts. And for a sheltered, very well-loved boy, complicated doesn’t even begin to describe his life from the moment the tearful baby crawls into his lap looking for comfort.
AN1: I’m playing around with this story at the moment. I have no idea how long or how short it will be. I don’t really like starting another chaptered fic when I have one sitting and waiting but when the muse speaks, I just write. And this came to me while I was writing the introduction for my Masters thesis lmao. Procrastination is clearly a very good motivational tool. I’m not very good with AU because I find comfort in their canon characters but oh well!
AN2: No beta cos I just wanted to see if there’s any interest before I make people read this for me :-) The title is kinda vague and will hopefully become clear as the story progresses XD! All mistakes are mine and I’ll fix them if there’s enough interest for me to proceed with the fic.
The deed has been done. He has given the order for the life support to be turned off, and the dull beep that echoes around the room a few minutes after the mechanical apparatus stops its ceaseless whine, is loud in his ears. There are reporters and even protests outside the hospital doors but he doesn’t care about all of that. He is on a private floor and the place is crawling with security. He stares down at the beautiful face he’s known for so long, a face that can twist in cruelty but it is only he who sees it. A face he once loved but that love was stripped from him little by little, day after day. After a decade, he cannot even bring himself to feel an ounce of pain. He has none left to give. Instead, what he feels is hatred. Hatred that even from the grave, his life is being controlled. That it is playing out the way someone else has orchestrated. This is the final joke on him, isn’t it? The goal was always to ruin his life, to ruin him. Will it succeed? Any drop of love he ever felt for the one lying prone in the hospital bed evaporated twenty months ago. Twenty long months ago. And now he is alone. Well, not quite alone.
The beautiful young man is singing to himself, unaware of how loud he actually is thanks to the three hundred dollar headphones he has on. He is really into the song, singing enthusiastically along to it much to the amusement of the people watching. He has a beautiful voice, untrained, but pure and clear and the sound is wonderful to listen to despite the occasional pitch problems. However, it is the lyrics of the song that have people stopping to gape at the gorgeous boy singing so happily as he head bops to the music while snapping his fingers, completely oblivious to the stares he is getting.
I want to meet with the man of my destiny
Looking at the dark blond man, now clapping along to the music, one is struck by how alive he is. He is literally vibrating energy as he bounces up the sidewalk, and it’s not an obnoxious kind of energy. You can feel his joy as he launches into the chorus.
It’s raining men! Hallelujah, it’s raining men! Amen.
And if his arm flailing that accompanies the English lyrics isn’t eyebrow lifting enough, he pauses mid-step at the next line, using his water bottle as a microphone as he sings earnestly into it, putting everything he has into the lyrics, for the audience of trees that he faces. Forget the close to ten pairs of eyes on him. He’s singing for the trees.
Out of the few men I see out through the window, there’s gotta be one for me…
And then he’s off on his merry way once again. A butt shake here and shoulder shimmy there and a few twirls for good measure, he finally arrives at his destination, still singing along of course. He climbs the stairs to the entrance of the big white building two steps at a time, never pausing to catch his breath as he continues singing.
The women in the entrance foyer hear him before they see him and like the strangers on the street, they cannot help but smile despite the frazzled morning they’ve all had thanks to a one year old baby. The white building houses the most exclusive creche in the area. Parents pay millions of won to leave their brats in the care of well-trained, rigorously background checked women, all them holding various qualifications in early childhood education as well as years of on-the-job training and up-skilling. Most hold psychology degrees specialising in young children, but none are prepared for the Jung child.
The little girl in question is in the arms of one of the female staff, and currently screaming her head off. She’s been screaming for a good twenty minutes and nobody knows why. They’ve changed her, played with her, tried to feed her but so far nothing has worked. And then in comes the baby brother of five of their most valued clients, singing loudly about raining men, and Jung Ji Yool stops crying, almost mid scream as she gapes at the man. It’s like full volume speakers have been turned off, and the hallways are hushed, with only the sound of his singing echoing around the large reception area. However it is rather unfortunate that the song ends right then and so does the baby pacifier. When it is clear that he isn’t going to be singing anymore, Ji Yool once again launches into her full voice and the staff member holding her hurries away to the baby room in a last ditch effort to feed her.
Jaejoong is oblivious to all this, used to the sound of babies crying, as he hooks his headphones casually around his neck and beams down at the receptionist who can’t help but blush under his gaze, those doe eyes rather intense when you are their sole focus.
“How many are you picking up today?” The question is a common one. Jaejoong goes to the nearby college and as such, his sisters don’t think twice about inconveniencing him if they are unable to pick up their own children.
“Just one,” comes the cheerful answer as Jaejoong props his elbows on the high counter and cups his chin with one hand as he grins down at the woman who is probably about the same age as his oldest sister. “But I need to sneak into the baby room because if the other seven see me, I’ll never be able to leave. Can I just sneak in through the staff entrance?”
The woman blinks blankly up at him. His smile is blinding and she cannot see past it.
Jaejoong waits patiently, aware of what his face does to people. He is not impolite and so he just smiles back at the woman staring up at him. It usually takes a minute or so before they snap out of it. Oh, looking away might help. And so he casually looks away, gazing appreciatively at the wall behind the reception area that is covered in artwork clearly done by children. He starts whistling a tune, the same song he was singing earlier.
The sound snaps the woman out of her reverie and she blushes even more because she cannot remember what it is that Jaejoong has said to her. She looks down, shuffling the papers on her table, hoping the beautiful boy will repeat himself.
The awkward silence is interrupted by another staff member coming into the reception area and she smiles broadly when she recognises him.
“Jaejoong-ssi, your sister just called. Minzy is sleeping and she’s wondering if you’re ok to sit and wait for her instead of waking her up because she’s been bad with her late morning naps.”
He screws his nose as he tries to remember if he has anything planned that afternoon. Drawing a blank, he shrugs at the newcomer. “No problem, as long as you can protect me from the other seven monsters I have to sadly call kin.”
The grandmother-like woman laughs heartily at that. Monsters indeed. The Kim sisters have fifteen children between them, the oldest barely two years younger than Jaejoong who was a happy accident for his parents after eight girls. Out of the fifteen, eight of them are of childcare age, Minzy being the youngest and only child of Jaejoong’s sixth sister. She gestures for the young man to come with her, as she turns a corner bypassing the hallway of doors in the off chance that one of his young nieces and nephews might catch sight of him and then all hell will indeed break loose when they realise they will not be getting “Uncle Jaejae” to take them home.
They chat amicably about the children and his school, and he briefly mentions to her how lonely he feels living alone in his studio apartment.
“Why don’t you move back home?”
Jaejoong scoffs rudely and then apologises for the sound before answering, “I don’t think so. I’ve heard ‘baby Joongie, baby Joongie’ from my sisters far too much for me to even consider moving back home even though I miss all of them. If I move home, they’re going to be calling me baby Joongie for the rest of my life, even when I have grandkids! As it is, they already have a betting pool going as to how long I’ll last and I am not giving them the satisfaction!”
The lady chuckles at that, not feeling the need to tell the young man that she herself had placed some money on it. Right now he’s been out of the Kim mansion for almost six months. She didn’t think he’d last three months but he surprised her and two of his sisters. It is her belief though that the rather convenient location of his school and apartment to the creche is one of the reasons he’s held out so long.
They reach the back entrance to the baby room and she stops before they enter, to caution him about the new addition to their ranks.
“There’s a new baby in there, she’s been with us for just over a week. She’s only here till a nanny is found for her but she’s a real handful that one. A nanny is meant to be chosen from our staff but so far, none have been willing because she won’t stop crying.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Jaejoong asks curiously. He’s never met a baby he hasn’t liked and he’s not sure why he’s being especially warned about this one.
The lady pauses, wondering whether she needs to tell him the whole sordid tale. They stand quietly for a few seconds before she decides it’s really none of anyone’s business. The poor child has been through a trauma of sorts and who is she to judge the parents? Or colour Jaejoong’s view of the innocent child? She’s starting to regret even mentioning the baby at all but he’s bound to notice and comment about her staff’s lack of control over the baby.
“There’s nothing wrong with her. She’s just…fiesty.”
Jaejoong’s laughter is melodious as he hides his mouth behind his hand, and she takes that as her cue to enter the room where the sound of babies crying is not uncommon. There is however, currently only one baby crying and she is doing a fair job of it, with huge gulping sobs and big fat tears rolling down her ruddy cheeks. She’s no longer the screaming baby from earlier but she is still very upset, although once again she stops crying when she hears Jaejoong.
He moves directly to a cot in the corner of the room to check on Minzy who is sound asleep, before he plops down right by the cot and takes out a book. It is only a matter of minutes before his view of the page is suddenly obscured by a baby’s head trying rather determinedly to get into his lap. Not thinking anything of it, he puts the book aside and picks up the little girl. Well, she better be a girl because if it’s a boy with a polka dot hairband on, then he wants to meet his parents and shake their hands for being so liberal. As she looks up at him, he feels his heart shatter. Dark almond eyes swimming in tears, her face is streaked with them, but she doesn’t make a sound, just staring and hiccupping with two fingers in her mouth. She sucks on them as he wipes at her tears, her hiccupping never ceasing which worries him a little and he stands up, holding her tight, to ask one of the staff for a bottle when he is met by five gaping adults staring at him as if he’s grown horns.
Jaejoong puts a protective hand against the baby’s back as she lies her head on his shoulder and turns a questioning gaze to the creche staff.
“What?” The baby, startled by the sound starts whimpering but doesn’t cry and Jaejoong automatically starts the rock and sway, perfected by millions of parents the world over, patting her back soothingly as he coos, all the while still looking over at the wall of faces staring incredulously at him.
“Do you need a job?”
Jaejoong’s brow knits in confusion at the question, asked by a kindly looking ahjumma. He doesn’t recognise her and he knows most of the staff so maybe she doesn’t know him. He doesn’t cease the rock and sway, rubbing his cheek against the soft curls of the tiny baby girl. She smells divine, though odd. She has the usual baby smell about her but she also smells like…a man. There is a distinctly masculine scent clinging to her, and it seems particularly concentrated in her hair. Jaejoong sniffs the dark curls, completely forgetting to answer the question as the scent is driving him a little crazy. And so he stands there huffing the baby girl while the staff in charge of the baby room simply stare in mute fascination now.
The staff member tries again, this time approaching the young man with the baby, and standing by him as he sings softly to the girl. “Do you need a job?”
Jaejoong hums in response, ending the song on the right note before pressing a soft kiss to the tiny head before turning his attention to his questioner and shaking his head. Her face falls immediately and he wonders about that and so he asks.
“Why? Why are you asking if I need a job?”
“This baby needs a nanny and she has taken to no one in over a week, except you.”
Jaejoong shifts his weight to one leg, still rocking gently. “Even if I do need a job, I really don’t think her parents will want a male nanny in any case.”
“Her parent doesn’t care one way or another, as long as she is happy.” A new voice, quiet, but there is steel underlying that tone, interrupts and the five creche staff shift nervously as they eye the tall man standing in the main entrance to the baby room.
Jaejoong simply nuzzles into the baby’s soft, fragranced hair as he eyes the older man. He looks very familiar but for the life of him, he cannot remember where he’s seen him before. He’d definitely remember this man. His presence has all but taken over the room, the other five women practically cowering by the staff entrance, and he isn’t surprised if they all want to turn and flee. However, Jaejoong is used to powerful men and is not quite bothered by them. If his father is any indication, it is all mostly bluster. He’s much more inclined to be afraid of an angry woman than an angry man. However the handsome man standing in front of him with an inscrutable look in his eyes is anything but angry. In fact, the man radiates…indifference. There is something very cold about him and Jaejoong is startled by the shiver that runs down his spine as he gazes into those unfathomable dark almond eyes, a mirror of the infant in his arms.
He takes a step forward and moves to shift the baby, to move her comfortably and safely to her father but the man lifts a hand to stop him and Jaejoong pauses.
“Can you cook?”
What an odd question, Jaejoong stares at the man, willing his gaze and face to cause him to react the way everyone else does but the man doesn’t even blink. His eyes are direct, and…empty. He frowns at that observation and stares into those dark pools but yes, they are empty, blank. There is nothing behind those eyes and if the man hadn’t been talking to him just a few seconds ago, Jaejoong would think the man dead. How peculiar.
The seconds drag into a minute and then two, and the two men simply stare at each other. One of them assessing and the other, curious.
“What’s your baby’s name?”
Jaejoong hides his smile in the soft hair of the baby in his arms as the man’s eyebrow rises at his query. He’s fully aware he’s just returned the man’s question with his own question but really, he doesn’t owe the strange man anything and asking if he can cook is a little too personal when they haven’t even been properly introduced.
“Ah…such a pretty name.” Jaejoong dislodges the baby from his shoulder, holding her out slightly, away from his body, an arm still securely tucked under her butt while the other holds her gently just under the juncture of her arm, his hand almost wrapping around the rather thin baby. Her fingers are still in her mouth and she just stares up at him, identical dark eyes to her father, and just as empty. Jaejoong has to suppress the second shiver that runs through him as he looks at the silent baby.
“Ji Yool-ah…your father wants to know if I can cook. Why would he ask me such a strange question when he hasn’t introduced himself? Ji Yool-ah, can you tell me why your daddy is so odd?” Jaejoong’s voice is soft as he coos at the baby, jiggling her slightly, his fingers tickling at her sides causing her to gurgle around the fingers in her mouth.
“I really hope you’re not expecting an answer from her.”
Jaejoong looks up, and is unsurprised to see not even a hint of amusement coming from the man. This is really strange. His curiosity is getting the better of him and he quirks an eyebrow in response.
“Fine, since you won’t tell me your name, I’ll call you ahjusshi since you look a lot older than me. I don’t think you’d like me calling you hyung. You don’t seem the hyung sort. And yes, I can cook. What’s it to you?”
“Do you have any experience with children?”
Jaejoong has the distinct feeling he’s being interviewed right now, in the middle of the baby room of one of the most expensive creche in the city, surrounded by sleeping infants and he has to chuckle at how odd the whole situation is. Oh well, he’ll play along.
“I have fifteen nephews and nieces, eight of which go to this creche and one of them is sleeping right in this room. I’m supposed to take her home when she wakes.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
Jaejoong pouts at the tall man. Is he being purposefully obtuse?
“My sister thought it funny to make me change a diaper when I was ten and I’ve been changing diapers ever since. I’m pretty sure I’ve changed more diapers than you can even imagine.”
“How old are you?”
“Are you studying?”
“What is this? Twenty questions?”
The man says nothing, his gaze never wavers and Jaejoong is starting to get a little unnerved. Does the little angel in his arms really belong to this weird man? He sniffs and huffs. The baby is warm in his arms and he is really loathe to let her go because she smells so good. He cannot get past the fragrance wafting from her.
“I’m in pre-law but it’s boring me to tears so I’m thinking of switching to psychology but the compulsory statistics elective is making me shed tears before I even switch majors. Isn’t that weird? They call it an elective which means we should be able to elect whether to take it, right? But no, of course not. They had to make mandatory. Why do I need statistics to study psychology? Maybe I should switch to pre-med instead. God knows I have the grades. Oh, but I hate math. Ok, that’s not going to work is it? What do you do?”
A few chuckles echo around the room but they’re quickly muffled when the tall man sweeps his impenetrable gaze to the wall of people still hovering by the staff entranceway. Jaejoong watches amusedly as even the nice older lady wrings her hands uncomfortably in her skirt, all five adults staring at the floor now, unable to meet the man’s eyes. Ok, he’ll hand it to him, he’s a lot more intimidating than his father and that’s saying something. However his effect is more to do with the fact that he is just so cold. Jaejoong imagines the temperature in the room dropping wherever this man goes. It’s really that palpable.
“Would you like to look after my daughter?”
“Aren’t you jumping the gun a little?”
“You don’t even know me.” Jaejoong tries again. He cannot imagine any of his sisters or even his brothers-in-law just randomly walking into a creche and entrusting their children into a stranger’s care.
“I know enough to know you won’t hurt her and that’s good enough for me.”
“I could be an axe murderer for all you know!” Jaejoong is really incredulous now. He is cradling Ji Yool carefully, half turned away from the man as he glares at him over his shoulder. “Are you crazy?”
“You’ve been moving into a protective stance over my own daughter, from me her father, in the last three minutes, which is an instinct I commend. You haven’t stopped rocking because you know it’s soothing. Whenever you’re not talking to me, you’re pressing kisses to her head and making weird sounds which seems to appeal because she is dozing. You appear intelligent though your chattering and offering of personal information with no regard to who is asking either means you are naive or you have nothing to hide. I’m inclined to think you’re both. You come from a rich family with many children whose parents trust you with them despite your young age. In short, you’re protective, caring, affectionate, intelligent, trustworthy and rather brave. Have I missed out anything?”
Jaejoong stares wide-eyed at the man as he finally stops rocking, a little stunned at his words.
Finally a hint of emotion from the man as Jaejoong notices a slight quirk of his lips.
“You don’t seem afraid of me.”
“Should I be?”
“I don’t think so.”
The man hums. “No sense of self-preservation either.”
“Fine, I’ll play this game too. You’re old and used to getting your own way with no one questioning you. You’re emotionally stunted because you show none, not even to your daughter. You’re cold and shut off from the world and I think it’s because you’ve been hurt really badly. I don’t know who’s hurt you bu-“
The command is loud and abrupt and shocks Jaejoong into silence. The sound jars Ji Yool though and her head jerks up as she starts to cry. However the second she lays her eyes on her father, she stops, finally popping her fingers from her mouth to open her arms and lean towards the taller man. Jaejoong offers the infant to her father who takes her without a word, the baby curling herself around his broad shoulder, a tiny arm wrapped tightly around his neck as her fingers find their way back into her mouth again.
Jaejoong watches bemusedly as the man pulls out a card holder from his pocket and flicks one out, as if offering a cigarette. He doesn’t even bother saying anything or even acknowledging the other people in the room as he turns to leave. Jaejoong looks down at the card. It is white and embossed and has nothing on it except a phone number. He frowns and looks up just as the man gets to the door.
“Wait! Don’t I at least get your name?”
“Yunho. Jung Yunho.”
AN: Anyway, let me know if you want more or if this has been done too many times before. I haven’t really read fic in months outside the occasional one shots so I don’t actually know what’s out there. Also, I have no clue what his nephew and nieces are called so… insert girl group names! XD Also, this turned into more of a chapter 1 than a prologue… oh well! Wordy Nicki is wordy OTL