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.
AN: Somehow I always end up writing more than I intend, and I have no idea what happened. Wrote this almost entirely at work and I haven't re-read it so hopefully there aren't any horrid glaring mistakes.
The name on everyone’s lips for the last three months. Jaejoong mentally flips through the image bank in his mind as he recalls the man. It was headline news not long ago when his socialite wife Choi Sun Ye, out of the spotlight in the months after the birth of their daughter, was reported to have been found in the tub in her home, having attempted suicide. She succeeded enough to be declared brain dead, and her family had fought to keep her on life support. Jung Yunho however, chose to pull the plug, and as he is listed as her medical proxy as well as holding ironclad powers of attorney over her welfare and property, her family had no say over the matter. He is from old money and has no family left and so has inherited a fortune though his business has suffered a little because of the legal proceedings brought by his wife’s family not to mention the stigma of her death and what drove her to do what she did. Everywhere he goes, whispers follow him and it is exactly these whispers that is driving Jaejoong a little crazy in the kitchen of his family home.
“Jung Yunho’s daughter is in our creche. Should we find a new one?”
“Don’t be stupid, unnie! The baby is innocent.”
“Yes, but he comes and goes and my skin is prickling just thinking about it.”
“Now you’re just being melodramatic!”
“How would you like to explain to your twins that their mother allowed them to mingle with the daughter of a murderer?”
“OH MY GOD. He is not a murderer. Are you insane? There was a suicide note and everything. And my kids are four. FOUR. Stop it, unnie, please.”
“He could’ve fabricated the note.”
“I think you’ve been watching far too many crime shows.”
“I was really referring to him taking her off life support. What kind of human does that? Even those protests outside the hospital did nothing to sway him.”
“Unnie, she was brain dead. The doctors said there was no hope of her waking up.”
“But she was still alive!”
“No, the machines were keeping her alive. I swear you only read what you want to read. She died within minutes of the machines being turned off.”
“Still, the man is so cold he gives me the shivers. Even if taking her off life support is justified, I can still imagine him forcing those pills down her throat and then pushing her underwater.”
Both females bickering in the kitchen whip their heads around to the new voice, forgetting that their baby brother is here with them, perched on a bar stool, scowling ferociously at them. It’s a countenance very rarely seen on his beautiful face and both sisters are a little taken aback.
“What’s wrong, Joongie?”
“Please stop talking about him like that.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot! You met him. What is he like? Is he as cold as they say he is? What does his baby look like? Her mother was beautiful and it would be a shame if she took after him.”
“Noona, that’s enough!” Jaejoong is indignant and getting extremely angry at his older sister. His fourth sister to be exact. She’s always been a little paranoid and neurotic after her husband left her when Yuri was still a baby and she never remarried. She’s been mistrustful of men ever since. While he’s always been reasonably close to her especially since she moved back into the family home almost three years ago, his easygoing nature is always sorely tested by her negativity and constant putting down of his own sex.
“Don’t be rude, Joongie,” his fifth sister chastises him gently even as she places a hand on his arm, squeezing to let him know she understands.
Jaejoong glares at both his sisters, his mind deciding right then what he’s been pondering for most of the afternoon.
“He offered me a job and I’m taking it.”
One query was screeched and the other asked in disbelief.
“Jung Yunho offered me a job, and I am taking it.”
Two sets of eyes, one filled with dawning horror while the other is merely confused meet his gaze.
“Are you crazy?” No prizes for guessing who said that.
Jaejoong merely shakes his head at his sisters as he hops off the bar stool and places his dishes in the sink. When he turns back round, they are both gaping at him. He may have embellished the “offer” a little since the man didn’t exactly offer a job outright but it was definitely implied. He is more than confident in dealing with children, and Ji Yool seems to like him well enough which apparently isn’t a normal thing judging by the behaviour of the creche staff. Plus his cooking abilities are definitely more than adequate. He walks out of the kitchen with his sisters trailing after him but he ignores them as he puts on his shoes and gets ready to leave.
“Joongie, you’re not serious are you?”
He turns to confront his fifth sister, the calmer one of the two. He can see his fourth sister wringing her hands agitatedly out of the corner of his eye as she mumbles to herself but he ignores her. He sighs, looking down at his sister, his eyes conveying his disappointment.
“Don’t you trust me? Despite his cold exterior, I truly believe that man loves his daughter and if he loves her that much, he cannot be bad.”
When he doesn’t receive a response he turns away, picking up his school bag that he’d dropped in the ornamental love seat by the entranceway earlier. As he slings it over his shoulder and opens the door, a quivering voice speaks up.
“I’m going to tell our parents.”
He doesn’t bother acknowledging it as he pulls the door shut behind him. The urge to slam it is incredibly high because he is frustrated with his siblings, but he was brought up better than that. He can afford to be the bigger person. He started off this morning in high spirits, but right now he wants to kick doors. He has no idea what made him speak up, but hearing them talk about the man as if he’s some kind of monster stirs something in Jaejoong. It makes him angry and he doesn’t understand why.
He decides to walk back to his apartment, hoping the long trek will clear his mind. It is a beautiful summer day and the further away from his family home he gets, the happier he becomes. He makes good time and by the last quarter of the hour long walk, he is whistling to himself, hands in his pockets and playing skip the cracks.
Jaejoong smiles as he opens the door to his modest studio apartment. He owns it, the apartment a gift from his parents. They’d wanted him to get something bigger but Jaejoong is not that keen on all that empty space. Having come from a busy household where, despite the tens of rooms, is never empty, the thought of coming home to a large and empty apartment doesn’t sit well with him. He has many friends, but none close enough to room with. Jaejoong is a contradiction. A very social creature, yet he loves being solitary too despite his upbringing, and while he loves company and especially being around his family, he craves solitude. His complaint to the lady at the creche about being lonely is only a half-truth. He is not lonely for company but rather for companionship, though everyone assumes he misses his family and he lets them run with that assumption. It’s a lot easier than fielding questions about boyfriends or girlfriends or being set up on dates by well-meaning family members.
His beautiful face is both a blessing and a curse. Men have no idea what to make of him, making assumptions about him that may or may not be true and so they keep their distance. He makes friends with them easily enough but none want to get too close to him. Women are intimidated by his looks, even though he is more than friendly and completely modest about his features, and even his body. Everyone likes him, but he hasn’t really found someone to share his life with. All his sisters, save for two of them and his mother, married their high school sweethearts. Jaejoong spent his high school being involved in a million activities, thus missing out on really bonding with anyone, not to mention the constant babysitting that his family lays on him. He’s not complaining because he loves his nephews and nieces, but he is lonely. He’s definitely finally moved past living at home, but he still doesn’t consider his apartment a home. It’s been six months and it is frustrating him a little. He’s redecorated at least three times since moving in and nothing seems to help. It’s missing something and he’s a little wary as to what exactly that something is. He doesn’t want to examine it too closely.
He empties his pockets onto his desk before dropping heavily into the office chair in front of it. He idly spins in his chair, scanning the large studio, humming quietly to himself as he ponders his life. As he swings around past his desk once again, his eyes catch the bright white card, stark against the dark green leather top of the table and his myriad of black accessories; black wallet, black iPhone with a black phone cover, black key chain, black pocket planner. Even his MacBook Pro, closed on his desk, is encased in black leather. Maybe he needs to re-examine himself. All that black…
Jaejoong stares at the card on his desk. He’s been staring at it for a good ten minutes but he’s not sure why. Should he or shouldn’t he? His sisters’ words resound in his mind but it brings forth nothing but sympathy for the brooding man he met at the creche. He feels neither fear nor distrust, and Jaejoong is normally pretty good at assessing character which is why he’s in pre-law with a minor in psychology. He winces when he recalls his words to the older man earlier that day.
You’re cold and shut off from the world and I think it’s because you’ve been hurt really badly.
He grimaces, wondering how many different kinds of idiot he is. He fervently wishes he’d recognised the man before shooting off his mouth so rudely like that. Of course he’s cold. Of course he’s shut off. People are labeling him a murderer. Even his own sister. The man’s own wife tried to commit suicide. Of course he’s been hurt. God, where does he even begin? He wants to call Jung Yunho up and apologise if nothing else.
And for the second time that day, something else reinforces his decision to perhaps take up the job offer.
He takes a deep breath and picks up his iPhone, dialing in the number on the white card, fully expecting it to go to answer machine as it’s after 6pm. While he has no idea what sort of working hours the man keeps, he’d picked up his daughter at midday and so he assumes that the man has gone home.
But you know what they say about assumptions.
“Hello? Can you hold the line for a second.”
“Uh…” Jaejoong is suddenly at a loss for words. He’s sure it’s Yunho on the line but the man doesn’t sound at all like the man he met earlier. For one, he sounds stressed. And the reason for that stress is coming in loud and clear through the phone. Jaejoong can hear a baby crying.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
The crying is a lot closer now. He can practically hear her hiccups as she sucks in air in between her miserable wailing.
“Yes, this is he. Who is calling?”
The man’s voice is back to being cold and abrupt.
“Jaejoong.” He would’ve said more but he’s straining his ears trying to hear the baby. He can usually tell from the way a baby is crying as to whether they’re hungry or needing a nappy change. This one however sounds incredibly distressed and he is worried.
“I don’t know a Jaejoong. How did you get this number?”
The man’s voice is absolutely frosty now and Jaejoong sighs. He really has his work cut out for him with this man.
“You gave it to me. This afternoon.”
The man is silent, and Jaejoong takes the opportunity to listen to Ji Yool again. The baby is definitely upset. In fact, she sounds like she’s in pain, the way she’s screaming and carrying on. He’s amazed her father is even carrying her while on a phone call as even his brothers-in-law don’t do that though most of his sisters do.
“I think you need to take Ji Yool to the doctor.” Jaejoong blurts out when there is no sound forthcoming from the other man. He hears a soft shushing sound as the man murmurs something, presumably to his daughter rather than to him. Her cries are still loud and fretful and it’s making Jaejoong agitated. He’s used to babies crying but not like this. “Jung-ssi? I really think you should take her to the doctor. She sounds like she’s in pain.”
“How do you know this?” The question is quiet yet the tone is demanding and Jaejoong has to smile at it despite his worry for the baby girl.
“The way she’s crying. You’ve fed her and changed her, right? And she’s still crying?”
“Where do you live?”
“I’m sending a car for you. Where do you live?” The man’s tone brooks no opposition and he doesn’t get any because Jaejoong is more than willing to help. The baby’s cries are breaking his heart and he wants to help fix it. He states his address for the man who repeats it back to him, before adding that a car will be there to pick him up in ten minutes. And then he abruptly hangs up.
Jaejoong stares at his phone bemusedly. Well, the man sure knows how to deal with people. He gets up and re-pockets all his things before heading to his walk-in closet to change into a warmer top as the forecast for that night is rain and he has no idea how long he’ll be out. He briefly wonders how he’s supposed to recognise this car being sent for him, but he doesn’t worry too much about it.
He sits on the steps in front of his building, chatting with the doorman, when a black Audi pulls up in front of them. Jaejoong stands up immediately, bidding the doorman goodbye as he opens the front passenger door. He can thank Ji Yool for helping him identify the car despite its heavily tinted windows as the baby is still screaming. He is a little surprised to find Jung Yunho in the driver’s seat though, fully expecting him to be in the back with Ji Yool. He doesn’t say anything, shutting the door and opening the back passenger door and climbing in. He greets the man, their eyes meeting in the rearview mirror, those almond eyes no longer empty of emotion, but rather filled with worry. Jaejoong buckles himself in before leaning over and releasing the screaming baby from her car seat and lifting her into his arms.
“What are you doing?”
“She needs comforting and I’m pretty sure I’m better at it than her car seat.”
“What if we get into an accident? That’s not safe.”
“My family does this all the time. I’ll tell you what my mother always says. Drive carefully.”
Yunho is silent as he watches the young man through the mirror as he cradles his daughter. He’s right, Ji Yool is still crying but he can hear the change in her screaming. She is still upset but her focus is now on the beautiful blonde man and so she is momentarily distracted by whatever it is that ails her. He takes the car out of neutral and pulls away from the curb, driving to the closest clinic.
“I think she has an ear infection.”
Yunho pulls his eyes momentarily off the road and flicks a glance at the rearview mirror where he is met by huge doe eyes, almost luminous in the dimming light, the boy’s upper body twisting from side to side as he jiggles Ji Yool who is still crying but the difference is stark.
“Why do you say that?”
“She keeps scratching and tugging at her ear. I’ve seen my sisters’ children do this and it’s almost always an ear infection. It will explain the screaming because I’ve had an ear infection and let me tell you, I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy.”
“I can’t really imagine you having any enemies.”
“You’re right, I guess.” Both men fall silent. A steady drizzle is starting up and Jaejoong stares out into the dusk, never ceasing his motion and hugging the baby close. She smells incredible, just like this afternoon and he guesses it must be her father’s aftershave or something. He makes a mental note to ask the man where it’s from before speaking up once again.
“I’m sorry, by the way.”
Their eyes meet once again in the rearview mirror and the man merely quirks a questioning eyebrow at him. He’s parking the car now and is unable to keep his eyes on him.
“I’m sorry for the stuff I said about you back in the creche. I hadn’t realised who you were.”
Yunho turns the car off and unbuckles his seatbelt, turning around to look at the teenager cradling his baby so carefully in the back seat. Sometime during the drive, he has unzipped his hoodie and secured Ji Yool within it, zipping her in with him and the only part of his baby daughter that he can see is the back of her head, the rest of her body hidden within Jaejoong’s hoodie. The seat belt is across them both and although Yunho has serious doubts about the safety of that, he is impressed by the teenager’s care. The boy has also pulled the hood up over his head and all Yunho can see is a framed face with large dark eyes that seem to want to peer into his soul, red pouty mouth almost chewed to shreds and pale pale skin. So pale. Beautiful. He schools his features, so used to doing it after years and years of learning never to give away what he really feels, because the boy is making him feel odd. And then his words pierce through his mind and it takes a lot for him not to show his surprise.
“You didn’t know who I was?”
Jaejoong shakes his head ruefully as he presses kisses to the top of Ji Yool’s head, his face contrite as he rubs his hand over the little lump on his front. “If I did, I wouldn’t have said what I did to you. I really didn’t know and I’m sorry.”
“How did you find out? Did the staff say something?” Yunho frowns, aware of all the gossip surrounding him and if the staff of the creche are stooping to that, he will have to take Ji Yool out of their care. He’d hoped for some discretion but clearly, no one can be trusted not to poke their noses into someone else’s business. Well, he can certainly shut down the creche easily enough if he has to and make sure no one there is able to find work anywhere within the city limits.
“Oh no, they didn’t say a word.” Jaejoong continues, blithely unaware of the man’s dark thoughts. “Your name was familiar to me but I had no idea where I’d heard it from and so I mentioned it to my sisters and they…” he trails off, frowning suddenly at the memory. He looks up and catches the man’s inscrutable gaze on him, waiting for him to continue but he has absolutely no intention to. Instead he quickly unbuckles his seatbelt, and opens the door, darting out into the light drizzle, using a hand to cover Ji Yool’s head as best he can as he runs into the clinic.
Yunho stares at the open passenger door, Jaejoong having forgotten to close it in his haste to get out of the rain. He shakes his head, wondering at the peculiar boy. He gets out of the car, going round to shut the door left open when his phone beeps. He looks at the two words on the screen, unsurprised at them.
He enters the clinic just as a nurse with a clipboard approaches Jaejoong who is standing by the empty reception desk, nuzzling Ji Yool. He still has her zipped up inside his hoodie and Yunho almost smiles at the strange yet endearing sight. He cuts off the nurse’s approach before she reaches Jaejoong, startling her.
“My daughter is sick, can we see a doctor immediately?”
“I was just about to tell your wife that a patient just cancelled and we have a doctor free in twenty minutes. I just need you to fill out some details here.” The nurse hands Yunho the clipboard she is holding. “You can sit over there,” gesturing to the relatively uncrowded waiting room, before she turns on her heel and hurries off back to wherever she came from.
Yunho doesn’t say anything, simply placing a hand in the small of Jaejoong’s back to guide him to a seat, before settling down next to him to start filling out the rather thick set of forms. He counts seven pages. Miraculously, Ji Yool has apparently dozed off, possibly exhausted from her screaming. As usual, she is sucking on her two fingers and Yunho caresses the back of her head briefly before turning back to the clipboard in hand. He is on the third page before the boy next to him speaks.
“Hmmm?” Yunho looks up from the form at Jaejoong.
“That nurse called me your wife.”
Yet again, Yunho simply hums, not saying anything as he watches the Jaejoong carefully.
“You don’t think that’s weird?”
Yunho takes in the face asking him that question, eyes dropping to his baby still snug within the young man’s hoodie, to his hands crossed low on his belly to keep her from sliding down. His eyes move lower still to take in the tight dark wash designer jeans and the expensive boots that round off the outfit. He drags his gaze slowly back up to meet now slightly embarrassed eyes and red-tinged cheeks. Jaejoong’s reaction amuses him greatly for some reason, and he cannot recall the last time he was genuinely amused at anything.
“Well?” Jaejoong’s tone is slightly huffy as waits while the ahjusshi peruses him from head to toe like some piece of art. He can feel the colour rising in his cheeks and he tries to hide it by burying his nose in Ji Yool’s fragrant hair.
“It was a logical assumption on her part.”
“But I’m a man!”
“I’m certain you’re aware of how you look. With the hood up over your head like that, it’s almost impossible to tell your gender.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
Jaejoong’s voice is muffled in Ji Yool’s hair but Yunho hears him just fine. The younger man’s eyes are downcast as he stares at the floor by his feet.
“No, it doesn’t bother me. You’re a far better mother to her than her own mother ever was.” Yunho’s voice is empty and flat, and as the words leave his lips, he regrets them almost instantly. This boy is essentially a stranger and yet he’s just said something he’s never said to anyone. Where has his control gone? Yunho turns back to the papers he was filling out and continues with them, hoping that Jaejoong catches the hint that the conversation is at an end.
Jaejoong doesn’t say a word, inhaling the baby’s scent, lips almost constantly kissing Ji Yool’s soft hair as she sleeps, the man’s words resounding in his head. He doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings, lost in his own thoughts and is surprised when Ji Yool’s father tugs him to his feet and gently leads him into the doctor’s office. The second Ji Yool is taken from her cocoon in Jaejoong’s hoodie though, she wakes and starts screaming almost instantly. The examination is quick, the doctor confirming his earlier diagnosis, and after collecting her medication from the pharmacy next door, they leave, Ji Yool once again snug and safely zipped up against his chest.
As Yunho pulls out of the parking lot, he voices the thought that has been running through his head for almost half an hour now.
“Have you decided?”
“If you’re willing to be her nanny.”
Jaejoong stares at the back of the headrest of the seat in front of him. The little baby girl has well and truly snuggled her way straight into his heart, and he imagines his heartbeat soothing her to sleep, even though he knows it’s probably his warmth more than anything else. He’s always loved babies but none of his nephews and nieces had ever taken to him as quickly as little Ji Yool, and he finds that he is really loathe to give her up tonight when he’s dropped off.
“What does it entail?”
Yunho exhales slowly, not realising he’s holding his breath. The boy is a wonder with his daughter and he really cannot afford to scare him off. Ji Yool needs someone who actually cares about her and he is at a complete loss by himself. All the intelligence in the world does not a good father make. Jaejoong though, the boy would make an excellent parent to anyone lucky enough to get him.
“She can stay in the creche when you have school or other extra-curricular activities. I generally work from 7am to 7pm most days but I am available when needed. Taking time off is not an issue for me but I would prefer to limit it.”
Yunho looks in the rearview mirror and sees Jaejoong nodding and so he continues.
“You’ll have a set day off during the week, any day between Thursday to Monday of your choosing but it has to be fixed as I will need to work my schedule around that day off.”
Jaejoong nods again, eyes still fixed on the back of the headrest.
“Basically, you will be her caregiver when I’m not around. And that means providing for her as best you can. This includes feeding her of course.”
Jaejoong cracks a tiny smile at that. “Of course.”
Yunho takes a deep breath and vocalises the final requirement. The one that will either make or break this arrangement. It was never his original intention, but after seeing how Ji Yool is with the young man, he is willing to risk it. All for his daughter. He will keep telling himself this for a while yet.
“The position is for a live-in nanny.”
AN: My godson had an ear infection not long ago and omg I thought I was going to cry at how much pain HE was in. He was screaming bloody murder and cried himself to sleep OTL I never want to go through that again ugh.