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
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: Well, I blame Jaejoong and all the baby photos he forced on me when I got up this morning. Though I don’t know how I got from that to here…
They’ve tried several times, and every single time, Ji Yool starts screaming. They are standing in her nursery in the apartment sitting pretty at the very top of Jung Tower. The only apartment in the building, the rest of it offices. Jaejoong sends a helpless glance Yunho’s way as the man stares at the back of his daughter’s head with a blank expression on his face. They’ve been attempting this for a good three hours now since leaving the clinic. Jaejoong has not yet accepted the job offer, although he isn’t completely surprised that the position is for a live-in nanny. Based on Ji Yool’s age and her father being her only other caregiver, it makes perfect sense. He is not going to bring up her mother’s family because he remembers all the vitriol hurled Yunho’s way in the media from the baby’s grandparents. Little Ji Yool shouldn’t be placed in that environment.
And so now here he is, Yunho acknowledging that making a decision about such a job requires a bit of time. It’s Thursday night, the lights of the city are bright out the window. Jaejoong has till 5pm on Sunday to furnish the man with his decision. In the meantime, the single father has asked Jaejoong to call him Yunho. It feels odd to him, to call the man by his given name, but if he does take the job, he guesses it makes sense.
“Is she dozing yet?” Yunho doesn’t look up to meet Jaejoong’s eyes but he knows the younger man has his gaze on him. He is looking at his baby, still tucked snugly in her cocoon within Jaejoong’s hoodie. A little too snugly it seems. He’d given the boy a front pack when they got home when it was clear Ji Yool would not be sleeping any other way, so his hands are able to be free at least.
Jaejoong moves to brush at the baby’s sweaty forehead, her two fingers in their usual place in her mouth, and she turns liquid almond eyes up at him at the caress. Her eyes are huge and dark, full of unshed tears, and she is hiccupping softly. He imagines he can see sadness in those baby eyes somehow even though it’s probably not possible. He doesn’t know much about the psyche of babies. They stare at each other for a few seconds before Jaejoong looks away to answer her father.
“Not yet, I might walk around a bit again.”
“Why don’t I show you the room that will be yours should you take the job? And then we can walk around the building a little and I’ll show you the facilities.”
Jaejoong shrugs, “Sure, why not?”
Yunho turns, walking out the door and turning right, walking to the end of the hallway. Jaejoong trails after him, a hand patting Ji Yool’s bottom non-stop. They enter a room that is clearly a guest room, impersonal and empty apart from a bed, a writing desk and chair. There is an attached bathroom with a walk-in shower and a large vanity area.
“I can get more furniture in if you need it.”
Jaejoong shakes his head as he wanders to the floor length windows alongside one wall, looking down into the busy city below. He can see Yunho’s reflection in the glass as he walks up next to him, looking out as well.
“It’s a beautiful view.”
Yunho doesn’t reply, and Jaejoong watches him in the glass. The man’s expression is once again empty, devoid of any emotion, and Jaejoong is struggling to come to terms with this. As someone relatively open, and a family who are anything but closed, this is really strange for him. It throws him a little off balance as well as he’s used to taking cues from people in relation to the way he acts, but with Yunho, he might as well be reacting to a brick wall. He turns away from the window, and scans the room. His hand never stops patting Ji Yool’s bottom lightly, a soothing beat for the sick baby who is slowly nodding off, lulled to sleep by the comforting presence.
The room is very large and empty, the queen bed in the middle seems lonely. There isn’t even a bedside table. He walks along the perimeter of the room to the double doors he sees, and assumes it is the closet. He tugs the doors open gently and is confronted by a massive walk-in wardrobe filled with a myriad of cardboard boxes. He blinks in the dim light, as he feels the presence of the other man once again coming up behind him.
“I’ll have those cleared out if you move in.”
“You weren’t really expecting to hire a live-in nanny were you?”
When Jaejoong can’t take the almost meditative silence anymore, he speaks up. He doesn’t know what’s going through Yunho’s mind. The man is a complete mystery to him but he is there, and oddly unafraid. His sisters’ words resound in his head but he doesn’t feel anything but sympathy for the man brooding behind him. He’s still really unsure about the job. If it had been a normal babysitting job, he would’ve said yes in a heartbeat. But to move into this apartment and be Ji Yool’s primary care giver is giving the nineteen year old some pause. He can be thankful for small favours though. At least this isn’t the home where the man’s wife tried to kill herself. However despite everything, even his sisters’ misgivings, Jaejoong feels safe in Yunho’s presence. There is something solid and comforting about the man in spite of his cold exterior. And for him to trust Jaejoong enough with his baby like this is enough for the naive young man to return that trust.
“Why don’t you show me the facilities?”
Again, Yunho doesn’t say a word, simply walking out the room and expecting Jaejoong to follow him. The young man sighs, and presses a kiss to the top of Ji Yool’s soft head, whispering quietly to her as he walks out after her father.
“Ji Yool-ah…your father is so closed. He almost seems to be asleep if not for his movements. You have to help me wake him, okay, baby girl?”
The only response he gets is a loud sucking sound as the little girl’s mouth works industriously on her fingers, her eyes shut. Jaejoong’s brow furrows slightly as he whispers to himself.
“Why do I want to wake him?”
Yunho is waiting for the young man by the front door, not in a hurry as the boy is holding his daughter. He wants his baby to sleep and she’s been cooperating on and off for the last few hours but it is not enough. They walk in silence, as he tries to work through his thoughts. Jaejoong’s idle patting of his daughter has not ceased at all and he marvels at the teenager’s natural instinct. He himself is at a loss. True, he’s been more of a caregiver to his baby than his wife ever was, but he is still lacking, and he acknowledges this. He has no idea what to do with a baby besides feed, change and bathe it. He’s also good at carrying her of course but the constant kissing, nuzzling, rubbing of her back, patting of her bottom and that odd upper body rocking motion is not something he instinctively does. Jaejoong does all of it and more, and everything seems to work. He’s never seen Ji Yool take to anyone this quickly. In fact, she hates being carried by her own mother, always screaming. His brow furrows as he remembers his wife, and he squeezes his eyes shut briefly, banishing all thoughts of her from her mind, before opening them up again.
They take the lift down to the second floor and Yunho introduces Jaejoong to the facilities in the building. There is half-Olympic size pool as well as a sprawling gym, plus a staff canteen of sorts. There is even a creche which confuses Jaejoong.
“Why don’t you leave Ji Yool in the creche here?”
“I don’t trust anyone.”
They fall back into silence, Jaejoong unsure what to make of the cryptic answer. Isn’t he more of a stranger than the people who work in this building? Why is he more trustworthy? So many questions, but it doesn’t seem to be the right time to ask them. Yunho presses the button for the elevator, the tour clearly over, and they head back to the apartment. It is almost 11pm and he probably should be getting home, but he’s not too worried as he has no classes on Friday.
“Is she asleep?”
Jaejoong tilts his head down, trying to see Ji Yool’s face but she’s half hidden and so he unzips his hoodie carefully. Both men hold their breath, exhaling quietly when the little baby doesn’t stir. Jaejoong looks up to meet Yunho’s apprehensive eyes. Finally, the man is showing some emotion. They are now standing in the nursery once again and he exchanges a glance with the other man, speaking without words. They’ve been through this three times already that night. This will be the fourth. Yunho nods as Jaejoong turns his back to him, helping him out of the hoodie. Yet again, both men hold their breaths, but again the baby doesn’t stir. Jaejoong is sweaty but right now he doesn’t care if he smells even. He hears the click of the buckle in his upper back and Yunho carefully sliding the straps of the front pack off his shoulders. He has both arms around Ji Yool, cradling her, trying to minimise movement as far as possible. He feels Yunho undoing the buckle in his lower back, and he moves to lift the sleeping baby girl up higher in his arms.
Yunho moves forward, back into Jaejoong line of sight and they both stare at each other for a few long seconds before the teenager bites his bottom lip and nods. They move together as one to the cot in the corner of the room and Jaejoong bends over at the waist, slowly, cradling the baby close to his chest, a hand cupping the back of her head as well as on her bottom, easing her down into her cot, while remaining pressed to her, to keep that contact for as long as possible so that she doesn’t wake.
And for the fourth time, all their care is in vain. It is barely a minute after Jaejoong straightens up that Ji Yool startles awake, stares up at the two worried faces hovering over her, and starts to scream again.
Both men sigh, exchanging tired looks. Jaejoong moves to pick her up but Yunho shakes his head at him. He picks her up instead, balancing her over a broad shoulder as he pats her bottom awkwardly. Jaejoong has to suppress a smile at the sight. It is clear this doesn’t come naturally to her father but at least he is trying.
“I’m going to have to impose on you a little more tonight it seems, if either of us are to get any sleep.”
Jaejoong’s lips quirk, knowing what is about to be asked of him. He was about to offer anyway but it’s good to be asked instead because who knows how forward this man expects him to be. Probably not forward at all. Jaejoong is brazen and completely self-aware most times, and his honesty and bluntness can be a little shocking to those who don’t know him. However, he is never malicious and his inadvertent slips are mainly due to the lack of a filter between his brain and his mouth. It’s gotten him into trouble on occasion, and just lately, that very afternoon, but he’s always forgiven.
“Can you stay the night?”
Ji Yool’s crying doesn’t look to be ceasing anytime soon, and instead of answering her father, Jaejoong boldly reaches up to pluck the baby from the surprised man’s arms. Why not start now, eh? Even if he doesn’t take the job, he can teach her father a thing or two at least. He wipes away at her tears, cooing at her, whispering nonsense in her ear as he strokes her back soothingly, rocking his weight from one foot to the other as he quietens her.
“Where’s your bedroom?”
“Do you think she’s going to sleep in her cot tonight? Because I highly doubt it. I’m going to impose on you too, and ask that you let us sleep in your bed.”
“How will that help?”
“You saw how she is. She’s sick, upset and uncomfortable. The only time she’s slept is wrapped up in my hoodie and while I don’t mind that so much, I can’t imagine I’d get any sleep this way.”
“Why my bed? Can’t this work in your room?”
Jaejoong notices the slip but doesn’t acknowledge it as he continues rocking and stroking
“I can, but I imagine the room is dusty from lack of use. Do you really want your sick baby girl sleeping in a dusty bed? I can change the linens I guess but it’s going to be a lot easier in your bed.”
Yunho frowns. The young man is staring expectantly at him, his gaze unflinching. Clearly he isn’t going to back down.
“Alright, this way.”
Jaejoong tugs off the kangaroo pouch from Ji Yool, dropping it in the rocking chair before following Yunho out, smiling to himself. They exit the room, turning left this time, going down the hallway right to the end. He watches as Yunho places a hand on the doorknob, pausing, as if readying himself for something, his eyes clenched shut. He tilts his head curiously, nose buried in the baby’s fragrant hair, wide doe eyes peeking over the top of her head at her father standing with his eyes closed, hand on the doorknob but not opening it. He’s not sure how long they stand there, but he’s content to watch. Yunho’s profile is chiseled out of marble, the strong jawline prominent. He can see him clenching it, making it even more pronounced as his eyes roam up his face, the sharp nose and closed eyes. He can make out some subtle scars on his face and wonders where they’re from. He’s noticed them before of course but this is the first time he can actually look at them without feeling like he shouldn’t. And instead of detracting from his looks, those scars only enhance the raw masculinity of the man. There is strength in him, Jaejoong can sense it, but yet, he seems broken. He cannot figure it out and if he’s being honest, he doesn’t know if he wants to figure it out. The man clearly has many skeletons in his closet, and Jaejoong is not sure if he wants them exposed. He’s just here for the baby. For little Ji Yool who is currently sucking on the collar of his teeshirt instead of her fingers which is a first.
Yunho steels himself, the mantra in his head playing over and over again.
She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone.
He can still feel her presence though and he’s not sure how he’ll react with someone else in the room with him; the room he used to share with his wife before she became pregnant, and they moved into the townhouse. Alone, he can cope, because no one is there to see him, to judge him. This is a mere slip of a boy though, barely out of his own childhood. Why should he care if he judges him?
His hand grips the knob tightly as he takes in a deep fortifying breath, exhaling slowly even as he twists the knob, exposing his inner sanctuary to a stranger. All for the sake of his little girl.
The door swings open heavily, and Jaejoong squints into the gloom within. Yunho’s behaviour is interesting to say the least, and he’s starting to feel regretful for forcing the man into letting him into his bedroom. There are probably memories of his wife in there and Jaejoong is trespassing. He has half a mind to say that he’ll be ok sleeping in the rocking chair in the nursery when Yunho moves, disappearing into the darkness. Two seconds later, a light comes on. Not any light though, the room is lit by a red light. Jaejoong blinks in confusion, as he enters.
The second he turns the light on, he can hear her in his head.
How dare you, fucking bitch. Wouldn’t the world love to know what a little bitch you are?
He should’ve changed the light ages ago, but he keeps forgetting. Not anymore though, he’s calling someone first thing in the morning.
Should we change your name? Maybe I’ll call you Jung Yun Whore.
He grits his teeth, trying to block out her voice, dripping in honey and venom.
You will never fucking leave, you hear me? Fucking, whore. You are mine.
He moves quickly to the attached bathroom, locking himself within it. He splashes cold water on his face, repeatedly, till he feels like he has sufficient control of himself once again. His home should be a sanctuary, but it’s really a nightmare. And even now from the grave, those barbed hooks she’d sunk into him all those years ago are still hurting him. Affecting him. That final nail in his coffin so recent. How long will this last? Forever? No, not forever. He lifts his wet head up slowly, staring at his reflection. What he sees is a strong man, proud and cold. But that’s on the outside. Inside is a different matter altogether. He doesn’t know who he is anymore.
Jaejoong stands in the middle of the room, his eyes on the shut bathroom door, wondering what he should do. He is deeply regretful for insisting on this now, Yunho is clearly fighting some sort of demon in his head. He pivots slowly on his heel, Ji Yool dozing quietly on his shoulder as his gaze sweeps around the room. Everything is so dark. And red. Black and red run rampant in the decor and he has to suppress a shiver. Finally, he feels a cold finger of fear running up his back. There is something compelling about the bedroom, a faint undercurrent of something not quite right. He looks closer, the large four poster bed dominates the centre of the room. The black bedsheets are smooth, and undisturbed. The deep red canopy that hangs down around the bed feels out of place to him. Too melodramatic for the man currently locked away in his bathroom. He steps forward towards the bed, suddenly feeling lightheaded and wanting to lie down. He hasn’t eaten anything since leaving his family home and that was almost seven hours ago. Even then, all he had was a snack. He needs sustenance before he falls over completely.
He perches gingerly on the edge of the bed, the mattress below him is firm and he bounces experimentally up and down on it, toeing himself off with his foot. The movement startles Ji Yool but he shushes her, humming quietly till she settles down. He leans back, laying parallel to the headboard and moving Ji Yool so she is sleeping on his chest once again, but in a horizontal position. He rubs her back, staring up at the dark red canopy, wondering why the room is giving him such a strange vibe. His eyes trail down the side of one dark wooden column, raising from the headboard. A black velvet rope is securing a blood red drape back to it, and again he feels like there is something wrong.
His eyes roam further down, at the gleaming wooden frame of the bed, when he notices something odd. He squints in the strange light, moving to sit up carefully, holding onto the precious bundle in his arms as he shifts to get a closer look. There are scratches on the solid wood of the headboard. He trails a finger over the marks, wondering what could’ve marred the wood in such a manner.
Yunho knows he’s been in the bathroom long enough. He won’t be surprised if the boy is already asleep on his bed. He grimaces at the very thought though. That innocence shouldn’t be tainted by the memories of that bed. His baby shouldn’t be allowed to touch those filthy sheets. He should have thought this through a lot more before agreeing to the young man’s demand of sleeping in here. Since when did he take orders from a nineteen year old anyway? He scowls at his reflection. Old habits truly die hard. He turns into someone else in this apartment and he wishes it wasn’t so. He needs to banish that sickening taint on his nature. He’s fought long and hard against it, and he guesses he’s won since it is he standing alone and not his wife. But her influence reaches even beyond the grave, so many years of conditioning, so many years of acting, so many years of not knowing who he really is. Is he Jung Yunho, mercurial businessman? Or is he that college kid completely besotted by a woman seven years older than him? So besotted he would promise her anything, even himself. Not realising exactly what he’s gotten himself into until it is far too late.
He exhales heavily, breath misting the mirror. Jaejoong will be fine. For some inexplicable reason, he trusts the boy. Maybe it’s because he’s the complete opposite to his wife.
Even the thought brings a foul taste to his tongue. Shouldn’t he be referring to her as his former wife? The woman is dead after all. He turns on the shower, making sure it is on cold, before stripping off and hopping in, hissing at the temperature but fighting against the urge to jump out. So many years of conditioning, he’s learned to just block out the pain.
Jaejoong is sleepy. The lack of food in his body is making him extremely drowsy and he’s afraid if he doesn’t put himself to bed, Yunho might be forced to do it, and he’s forced the man to do enough already it seems. He sighs as he looks down at himself, tight jeans and tee shirt. He can’t really sleep in jeans. Maybe Yunho will have something. He hears the shower starting and figures the man will be awhile yet. He sees a stack of neatly folded clothes on a dresser and mutters thankfully to himself because the idea of searching through the man’s closet for clothes doesn’t sit right with him. He quickly unbuckles his belt, wriggling carefully out of his tight jeans so as not to wake the sleeping angel on his shoulder. He keeps darting glances at the shut bathroom door, but he can still hear the water running so he’s not going to be pounced on just yet. Pounced on? What a strange word to use. Jaejoong shrugs and walks towards the dresser, sifting carefully till he finds some running shorts. They’ll have to do for now. He’s really sleepy and just needs to be decent, ergo, not in his boxers.
Somehow he manages to pull them on. They are loose on him, but not so much that they’ll fall off in his sleep. He has no idea which side of the bed Yunho sleeps on, the bedside tables on either side both empty of contents and thus not giving him any clue. He bends down, sniffing the pillows on the side he is currently on, and finds that they smell like…pillow. And so he comes to the logical conclusion that this must not be Yunho’s side. He pulls back the heavy covers, eyebrow quirking in brief amusement to find even the bed sheets to be black. He’s feeling right at home already. He can do without the red but all the black reminds him of his own apartment.
He slips under the covers, baby still in his arms, letting out a contented sigh as his head sinks into the fluffy pillow, his body relaxing into the bed. He turns over carefully, pushing down the covers down till they’re just skimming his hips, before gently laying Ji Yool in the bed next to him. She frets briefly, but he keeps his hand on her, patting her as she snuggles her face into his chest, a hand gripping the front of his teeshirt as if needing that comfort. As his eyes flutter shut, his brain briefly notices the fact that the running water has stopped. That is his last thought before sleep takes over, and he goes under quickly, more exhausted than he realises.
Yunho gets out of the bathroom, a towel slung low on his hips, another in his hand as he dries his hair. As expected, Jaejoong is already in bed. The boy is too trusting by far, and Yunho frowns at the thought, thinking of all those in the world who would take advantage of that innocence and naiveté. What is wrong with this boy? He really thinks a healthy measure of fear would go a long way in the teenager’s chances of surviving in this cruel world. Should he deal out that fear though? Yunho approaches the bed and his heart thuds painfully in his chest as he takes in the two sleeping angels in his bed. Jiyool is on her back and Jaejoong on his side. The boy’s hand is splayed across her lower body, as if anchoring her in place, and she has his thumb in her fist, holding on tight despite being asleep.
No, Yunho shakes his head to himself. He will not be the one to deal out that fear. In fact, woe to anyone who brings that fear to Jaejoong because Yunho will surely make them pay for it. There is ugliness in the world, and he has experienced more than his fair share of it. But there is also beauty. And everything that is currently beautiful in his life is sound asleep in the bed that used to wreak ugliness. He can feel a change in the room as he stares at the two sleeping figures. He cannot hear his wife; his former wife.
He walks into his closet to change into something suitable for sleeping with company. He normally sleeps naked, but that really is not an option tonight. His tummy rumbles as he pulls on a pair of drawstring lounging pants, but he ignores it. He’s sure Ji Yool will wake sometime during the night, and he can feed all three of them then. He flicks the lights off, the room now illuminated by the twinkling lights of Seoul’s office district landscape, and climbs into his side of the bed. It is strange that Jaejoong seems to know which side to go to, and as he closes his eyes, lulled to rest by the soft snores of the baby and teenager next to him, he wonders how many more surprises are in store for him from the young man.
AN: Babies in the bed is actually reasonably common here and it’s what I’m used to, in case anyone's wondering XD