Rating: PG13 (for now)
Genre: AU, fluff, angst, WAFF
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: I'm addicted to my own story...how does this even work?
Yunho will never admit it, but he enjoyed their rather long outing that day despite the incident in the baby shop. Shopping with Jaejoong is certainly an experience, the boy has clearly never been deprived his entire life, and he wonders about his parents because in spite of his privileged upbringing, Jaejoong is not spoiled. Yes, he is used to getting his own way, and he is a tad bossy, and he sulks when Yunho starts shaking his head at him when they start on a third shopping cart at the baby store, but there is no pretentious air of superiority about him. An air that Yunho is very used to breathing, people who think they are better than everyone else simply because of their fortuitous birth. He secretly thinks that Jaejoong purchased half those toys for himself rather than Jiyool, the teenager showing more excitement over some of them than even his daughter. They’d had a brief discussion at the checkout counter, as usual attracting an audience, when Jaejoong planted his credit card down on the counter after their purchases had been rung up. Yunho had immediately taken it away and replaced it with his, which starts Jaejoong down a “but” path.
But I never meant for you to pay for these…
But this was my idea…
But I don’t want you to think I would spend your money so frivolously…
But I wanted to get those toys for Jiyool…
But I just wanted that stroller because it looked cool…
But… but… but…
Yunho shakes his head ruefully at the memory. He’s finding himself shaking his head a lot since meeting Jaejoong. The boy leaves him in almost a perpetual state of disbelief. He has never met anyone so honest in their emotions, and yet it is exactly that honesty that he finds confusing. The boy is a walking tornado, sweeping everything up in his path, leaving a wreckage of bemused people in his wake. If he’s angry, you’ll know it. If he’s happy, you’ll know it. If he’s upset, you’ll know it. The boy doesn’t appear to hide anything and for Yunho, who has lived for over a decade hidden behind a mask, it is highly disconcerting to engage with someone practically the complete opposite to him. He’s used to people fearing him, to sycophants latching onto him because of his status, to having his emotions played with so brutally he doesn’t think he has an iota of feeling left to give to anyone except his daughter. But Jaejoong doesn’t fear him, and he certainly isn’t impressed by his status. As for feelings, well, the boy is stirring something within him but Yunho has no idea what it is. For the sake of his daughter though, he will deal with it. She clearly adores the guileless teenager currently prancing around the kitchen making dinner if her giggling is anything to go by.
He watches as Jaejoong reaches behind him to pat Jiyool’s bottom, jiggling her while he hums as he stirs the pot of kimchi jiggae he is making. A sling is one of their new purchases, Jaejoong unwittingly volunteering the information about how he cooked breakfast that morning without Yunho having to ask him. When he picked up the strange contraption in the shop, he told Yunho that it is vital because although the front pack can be converted into a back pack, it really isn’t very comfortable to have the buckles digging into his chest and belly. He even mentioned that he almost ripped out his piercing that morning because of it, though Yunho has no idea how a converted front pack would hurt his ears. He doesn’t ask though, content to leave anything baby-related to the boy. He’s proven himself enough for Yunho to feel assured that his daughter is in the best hands he can manage for her. His thoughts fly back to the vision of a furious Jaejoong, defending him in the baby shop. He cannot remember anyone ever defending him in that manner, over anything, let alone something this significant. If he is willing to do that for him, then he knows for certain that he will do that and more for his baby girl and that reassures him.
“Is she asleep?”
Jaejoong’s soft voice breaks through Yunho’s thoughts and he turns his eyes away from the floor, gazing at the boy currently standing in profile and trying to look over his shoulder. They’d gone to Jaejoong’s apartment after the baby shop for him to get some essentials because the boot of the car is absolutely packed and there is no way anything else is able to fit in there. Yunho underestimates Jaejoong’s ability to think outside the box, or boot in this case, though. Jiyool had dozed off pretty much the minute she’s placed in her car seat when they’re done shopping, and by the time the two men had finished packing the boot, she is dead to the world, and remains so till they get home. Because of this, Jaejoong sits up front with Yunho and the backseat is used to house Jaejoong’s assortment of belongings. Any nook and cranny that is free is filled with bags of stuff. Jaejoong even made Yunho move his seat forward so that he’d be able to squash more things in the floor of the seat behind him. It made for a rather uncomfortable car ride, but it’s a short five minute drive home. Jaejoong is now dressed in his own clothes, and Yunho once again finds himself fighting a smile as his eyes run up and down his black-clad form. He’s wearing a Hello Kitty hoodie and track pants which have the words HELLO KITTY emblazoned proudly across the seat of said pants.
Yunho looks up to see curious eyes gazing at him. He’d been lost in his thoughts once again, the excitement of the day is wearing on him, and he is sleepy. He stands up and to get a closer look at his daughter.
“Yes, she’s asleep. Do you want me to take her?”
Jaejoong sighs. “I was afraid of that. She needs to take her medication.”
“Will she be okay without it?”
“She needs to finish this course of antibiotics. Maybe she’ll wake up later.” Jaejoong then turns his back to Yunho, a silent request for him to take the baby, which he does carefully.
Jiyool doesn’t wake, and Yunho takes the opportunity to see if she’ll sleep in her crib. She doesn’t fuss when he lays her down, and after staring at her still form for about five minutes, he turns to return to the kitchen, leaving the door open so they can hear her cries should she wake. They’d bought baby monitors that afternoon, but they’re somewhere in the mountain of things currently sitting in the middle of the bed in what is now Jaejoong’s room. Yunho has no idea how the boy plans on sleeping tonight since it is he who insisted they be put there, but he figures he will sort something out.
The two men sit in the kitchen in silence, one busy at the stove, the other simply watching. In a matter of minutes, two bowls of steaming hot rice and kimchi jiggae is placed in front of Yunho.
“What would you like to drink?”
“Water is fine.”
“You don’t drink?”
Yunho’s lips curl in distaste, remembering vividly the last time he drank, and how it sets him on a path of destruction that he is still trying to claw himself out from. If it weren’t for that night, he may not have been caught in Sun Ye’s web. However the dark clouds that threaten to engulf him are broken by the sound of a baby crying.
Jaejoong is quick on his feet, pushing Yunho back into his seat as he goes past, squeezing the man’s shoulder when he does so in a way he hopes is reassuring. He is regretting his innocent question when he sees the dark look that comes over the man at the mention of drink. He needs to tread carefully with Yunho, be more mindful of his words because he has no idea what his triggers are and he doesn’t want to accidentally hurt the man because of his own clumsiness. He’d purchased a couple of bottles of soju during their shopping trip, but he wasn’t looking at Yunho at the time and now he wishes he had. The man’s cues are so subtle, but at least they are more forthcoming now compared to when Jaejoong had first met him which isn’t all that long ago but in all that has happened, it does feel like they’ve known each other for much much longer.
He enters Jiyool’s room, unsurprised to find Yunho hot on his heels. He picks up the crying baby, kissing her tear-filled eyes, and patting her gently. He meets Yunho’s eyes, filled with concern for his daughter, and Jaejoong is struck by how much the man cares for her. Any emotion he shows is almost always in relation to her. While a father caring for his daughter is certainly not unheard of, Jaejoong gets the feeling that Jiyool is Yunho’s lifeline. The only thing keeping the demons in his head at bay. He sighs as he kisses the little girl, now sniffling softly, content in Jaejoong’s arms.
“She’s going to have to sleep with us again.”
Yunho blinks at the boy, processing his words. “Us?”
Jaejoong continues as he walks out the door, completely oblivious as to the implication of his words because in his mind, his room is not fit for sleeping in yet and therefore, he is sleeping with Yunho. He sees no problem with this, used to sharing a bed with his sisters growing up. In fact, just last year when he was sick, he’d managed to coerce his way into sleeping with his parents much to the amusement of his mother and annoyance of his father. Yunho’s bed is massive and so, Jaejoong once again runs away with his assumptions.
“Yes, us. We’re going to be walking back and forth to her room if we leave her there. And I, for one, would like to try and get a little more sleep than I did last night. Are you working tomorrow?”
Jaejoong moves Jiyool so that she’s perched on his hip as he takes his seat once again. She has her two fingers once again in her mouth, but after a few sucks, she starts crying again. Yunho watches as she pulls her fingers out of her mouth to stare at them through her tears, before putting them back in. Two sucks and she takes them out again and stares in consternation, her other hand reaching up to tug at her ear as she starts to cry in earnest.
“Can you grab her medicine?”
“Why is she crying like that?”
“The sucking is hurting her ear. I’ll give her some of that baby ibuprofen with her antibiotics. Hopefully she’ll be alright soon.”
Yunho does as he is asked, sitting across from Jaejoong and his daughter, watching carefully as the boy soothes his baby girl with soft words and gentle kisses, before medicating her. Dinner sits forgotten on the table, as he is more concerned about Jiyool than his stomach. Jaejoong however, far more accustomed to this, starts eating his dinner once Jiyool is settled. She’s once again back in her new favourite spot, zipped up in Jaejoong’s hoodie. Her wide eyes meet her father’s as she sits there protected with her head peeking out.
“You’re turning her into a baby kangaroo.”
“A kangaroo is a marsupial and a baby marsupial is called a joey.” Jaejoong doesn’t even look up as he starts feeding Jiyool some rice off his fingers.
Yunho cannot take it anymore. He feels like he’s just been dropped into Alice’s rabbit hole and he’s currently in Wonderland and Jaejoong is the Mad Hatter. The whole day has been somewhat overwhelming and he just doesn’t have the tools to cope with it. His days are usually quiet and uneventful, his nights filled with his daughter. But Jaejoong, what is this boy? It’s a question he keeps asking because no answer is forthcoming and so it happens, his mind finally gives up the fight. Yunho coughs, as he tries to mask his laughter. He thinks he’s probably going a little hysterical from the crazy day not to mention the lack of sleep. Jaejoong’s words aren’t even that funny but for some reason he cannot stop laughing. He sees the boy watching him, his chopsticks arrested in mid-air while Yunho struggles to contain himself, bending over to press his forehead to the table as he coughs out his laughter.
But Yunho is in no position to respond. Both Jaejoong and Jiyool stare at the dark head of the (formerly) self-contained man. After a few more seconds of “coughing” from Yunho, Jaejoong starts to chuckle. And his chuckling jiggles Jiyool in her cocoon, thus making her giggle and so the kitchen is suddenly filled with the echoing sounds of laughter.
Yunho is the first to recover, having been the one to set off the chain of mirth in the first place. He lifts his head to take in the boy now giggling as he bounces Jiyool in his hoodie. The baby girl is smiling and gurgling happily, such a quick difference from her tears earlier.
Jaejoong looks up and catches Yunho watching them and the beatific smile he sends him reaches down into the depths of the man’s frozen heart, chipping away at it slowly but surely. It will take some time for Yunho to realise this though and by then, it will be too late. He doesn’t believe in fate, but Jaejoong does. And if Jaejoong wishes for something badly enough, it will come true. His faith that the world is what you make it out to be, is infallible, and he has never been disappointed in his short life. Jaejoong is determined to bring happiness to this household. The boy with a bigger heart than his father’s bank account, feels a stirring within himself as he smiles at the older man, whose cupid bow lips are currently stretched slightly in the semblance of a smile. He wants to ask Yunho why he laughed, but decides against it. Laughter, regardless of the reason, is good. And if something he’s done or said has amused the man enough for him to laugh, then Jaejoong is fine with it. His faith though, will soon be put to the test.
He shifts Jiyool in his hoodie, unzipping it a little more so her arms are free. He resumes eating, gesturing with his chopsticks to the untouched bowls in front of Yunho.
“There’s no poison in that. Go ahead, and eat it before it gets too cold.”
Yunho looks down at the bowls in front of him. He touches both bowls to find them still warm to the touch and so he shakes his head at Jaejoong as he picks up his chopsticks. His eyes widen at the first mouthful and he stares at Jaejoong who is grinning back rather smugly.
Yunho takes another mouthful. And then another. And then he just ignores his rice as he spoons warm kimchi jiggae into his mouth.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Jaejoong chuckles as he puts down his chopsticks and turns to look down at the little angel in his hoodie. “Jiyool-ah, your father likes my cooking. Do you like my cooking?” Pretty almond eyes stare up at him in fascination as Jaejoong continues to talk to her, even as he feeds both of them. When Yunho returns from getting his second bowl of jiggae, the teenager finally turns to look at him. “I don’t think you answered my earlier question. Are you working tomorrow?”
“I have a conference call at 2pm and I should not take longer than two hours.”
“Oh, cool! Can I redecorate?”
“Redecorate?” Yunho finds himself echoing Jaejoong. He seems to be doing this a lot and ruefully thinks this is going to be a good indication of their lives, because he cannot predict what the boy is going to say or do next and so he repeats after him, to ascertain if what he’s heard is right.
Jaejoong scrunches his nose at Yunho as he chews thoughtfully on his bottom lip. “You saw my apartment. It doesn’t look anything like that bedroom you say is now mine. I need to do it up. I hope you don’t mind.”
“And what if I do?”
The boy’s pout is ferocious, if a pout can be ferocious, and Yunho hides his smile behind a timely sip of water.
“Well, I can’t sleep with all those bland colours. If I can’t redecorate then I guess I’ll just sleep with you.”
So much for a timely sip of water. Yunho sputters as the water goes down the wrong way when he jerks at Jaejoong’s words.
Now it’s Jaejoong’s turn to watch the man impassively, as he coughs and chokes, trying to regain his breath. If Yunho wants to be contrary then Jaejoong can play too.
Yunho finally gets hold of himself, taking a slow sip of water to ease his throat, before turning on the boy, asking the first question that comes to his mind, his tone a little icy and he doesn’t even wonder why.
“Are you that indiscriminate that you’ll sleep with anyone?”
Jaejoong simply arches an eyebrow at the tone and the words, and answers coolly. “No, just the ones I live with.”
The temperature in the warm kitchen drops, as both men stare at each other. Jaejoong is no longer amused. He knows his words are a little ambiguous, but the man is assuming the worst for no good reason. Has he given Yunho any reason for the man to think so lowly of him? He doesn’t think so, and he’s not about to back down. Yunho may have been hurt in the past, but that doesn’t give him the right to pass judgment on anyone else either. There is steel in the teenager, and injustice is not something he will willingly let pass, one of the reasons he is in pre-law.
“And exactly how many is that?”
“I’ve had three homes.”
“So you’ve slept with three different people?” Yunho’s voice is getting frostier, and harder. His jaw clenches as he imagines Jaejoong tangled up in bed with someone else and he grits his teeth, willing the vision out of his head. However it is replaced by another vision, from long ago.
This enrages him. Having let his guard down earlier with Jaejoong, he cannot reel it back in fast enough to respond in a controlled manner. Jaejoong merges with his wife in his head and he cannot separate the two. Not yet anyway. That brief mental image of Jaejoong in bed with a faceless other person has made him lose his rational self, and he is caught up in his past.
In that brief instance, his dead wife, reaching out from the grave once again, chases away all the good Jaejoong has wrought on Yunho in the last 24 hours. Over a decade of darkness versus a mere 24 hours of light, Jaejoong doesn’t have a chance tonight, unless he fights to chase her back to the hell that she comes from.
Jaejoong realises where this is going, and he sighs inwardly. He shifts Jiyool again, zipping his hoodie up till only her head is peeking out. He doesn’t want to look away from Yunho to check on her and so he blindly runs his fingers lightly across her face and finds her fingers in her mouth and she is content despite the sudden change in atmosphere. He has to wait for Yunho’s cues though, to figure out how to salvage this. It irks him that the man is so quick to judge, especially since just that afternoon, he was a victim of being judged himself. Is Yunho so blind that he sees past Jaejoong’s innocent words and twists them into something unpleasant?
“Get your filthy hands off my daughter.”
Instead of answering, Jaejoong gets up, eyes sparking dangerously, as he stares in silence at the man damning him as a whore even as hurt fills him. Oh he understands the implications of Yunho’s words alright, even though he is still as innocent as the day he was born. He suddenly feels the prick of tears behind his eyes but he fights it. They’d had such a wonderful day together and now, for some reason, Yunho is unable to see past a simple statement that Jaejoong had thrown out in a playful manner, in response to his contrariness. If Yunho wants to tease, he needs to learn how to accept being teased back. But clearly the man has a very long way to go, and Jaejoong is learning this the hard way.
“Call your investigators. Call them. You’ve done a background check on me, haven’t you? I’m sure it was very thorough. I’m sure you’ve read it several times over, to reassure yourself that you’re not leaving your daughter with an axe-murderer. Call them. Ask them where I’ve lived. Ask them. Find out if I’ve even ever had a boyfriend. Find that out. And when you’re done calling and you’re done asking and you’ve gotten your answers, you can come to the bedroom and apologise to me.”
Every ounce of hurt he feels, fills his voice, and with that, Jaejoong turns and leaves the kitchen, cradling Jiyool in his hoodie as he fights the tears that are threatening to spill down his pale cheeks. So much for never getting hurt. He is definitely hurting now and he wants to call his mother and cry. He’s never cried over anyone before, but for some reason he really wants to cry now. Maybe this was a bad idea after all. He doesn’t know Yunho. The man clearly has issues. Issues that maybe even he cannot fix. As he climbs into the massive bed in the master bedroom, fully clothed and sitting propped up against the headboard, Jiyool lets out a small gurgle. Jaejoong looks down just as she reaches up a tiny hand to touch his face, catching the solitary tear that has slipped out. His heart beats painfully in his chest as he stares down at the beautiful little girl staring trustingly up at him. This is why he cannot leave. Jiyool has set up a home in his heart, and she’s not ready to move out anytime soon. Jaejoong would sooner cut off his right arm than kick her out. She’s already lost her mother, and the way Yunho is going, Jaejoong is afraid she might lose her father too. He cannot let that happen. He won’t.
He is grateful that Yunho doesn’t come after him, and he digs into his pocket for his phone. He’s left it on silent and the vibrate function off, and there are over thirty missed calls plus hundreds of text messages. He knows what they’re about, and he ignores them all except the sole phone call from the number marked “Home”. It is not the general phone line to the mansion, but rather his parents’ private number to their suite. He dials it, absentmindedly sucking on a tiny finger as Jiyool’s pokes her hand against his mouth.
“Umma…” and then he sniffles even as Jiyool giggles while she plays with the chain around his neck, tugging at it.
“Is that Jung’s baby? Why are you crying, honey?”
“I guess you’ve heard huh?”
“Well, I’ve heard an assortment of things today, but I want to hear it from you. But first, tell me why you’re crying. Do I need to hit Jung Yunho over the head with a broomstick?”
Jaejoong lets out a sad chuckle. The sound causes Jiyool to giggle, and his mother to let out a familiar squeal in his ear. It’s understandable how she ends up with nine children and fifteen grandchildren, the woman is most at home when surrounded by people to pamper, whether babies or adults alike. Jaejoong gets his carefree nature from her, the woman seldom fretting over things, choosing to take each day as it comes, and living it the best way she can. While all her children have similar natures, some, like his fourth sister in particular, are also influenced by their surroundings and life experience. Jaejoong, having lived at home for over nineteen years, was raised in a protected environment, basking in his mother’s love and his sisters’ attention. Not to mention the guidance of his father. Six months away from the nest has not had an impact yet on his nature, perhaps till now.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Jung? I don’t know, baby. Maybe you should talk to your appa. He knows the family better than I do. But what did he do to make you cry? I can’t even remember the last time you cried.”
“He said some things.”
Jaejoong lets go of his phone, cradling it between his ear and his shoulder as he places two hands over Jiyool’s ears. “He didn’t quite say it, but he definitely implied that he thinks I’m a whore.”
He is met by silence, and he lets go of the baby girl’s ears, holding onto his phone once again as he waits. He can hear his mother conferring with his father in the background, but it is muffled. He slides lower on the bed, unzipping his hoodie and releasing Jiyool from it. He sits her next to him, leaning against his hip as he tosses the hoodie onto the floor.
“I don’t need to tell you that Jung Yunho’s been hurt, right?”
“No, I got that pretty fast.”
“Good boy. The thing is, I think it has something to do with his wife. I heard some distasteful things about her, but they were never substantiated. However, I do have it on reasonably good authority that she used to sleep around.”
“What?” Jaejoong’s voice is loud in his shock, and it startles Jiyool who starts to whimper. He sits up, pulling her into his lap and cuddles her apologetically.
“Yes, it was all kept quiet and she was very discreet but I have a lot of friends in low places so word gets back to me.”
“Apparently, she slept with prostitutes, not anyone in society.”
“What?!” This time, Jiyool starts to cry brokenly, and Jaejoong pulls her over his shoulder, kissing and whispering soothing words in her ear, apologising for his outburst, even as he stands up to pace the darkened room. He hates those red lights and would rather walk around in the dark then have to turn the lights on. He does manage to find his way to the bathroom, flicking that light on though.
“That’s the distasteful and unsubstantiated part of the rumours. I’m sure Jung knew though.”
“But…how? I mean, I don’t understand.”
“How what, son?”
“How could anyone want anyone else but him?”
Jaejoong is genuinely confused. His father though, picks up on his words and can’t quite decide whether to smile or send a car to pick up their beloved only son from Jung Tower. Jaejoong is on speaker phone though and his wife hears his words too, and she smiles, and so the old Kim magnate takes his cue from her and smiles.
“I don’t know, son. But know that I never liked her even before I heard about this, but I do like Jung Yunho.”
“That’s good enough for me. I guess I should forgive him, huh?”
The old man chuckles, and so does his wife, and Jaejoong smiles into the phone at the heartwarming sound. He is still pressing apologetic kisses to Jiyool’s head, as he stops pacing the room, moving back to the bed and climbing in. He lays the baby girl out next to him, stretching out next to her and pats her across the legs, a slow soothing beat, one his mother always uses when trying to put the young ones to sleep. Almond eyes, so disconcertingly identical to her father that Jaejoong doesn’t question her parentage, gaze at his features, a hand patting his face, mimicking his own movements across her legs.
“Go with your instincts, son. They haven’t failed you yet, and I doubt they will fail you now. Just listen.”
“But I don’t want to forgive him yet. He made me cry.”
“Have you cried over anyone before?”
“No. Exactly! I’ve never cried over anyone before and therefore I shouldn’t forgive him for making me cry.” Jaejoong’s voice carries the sulky pout he is wearing because he knows his parents won’t be siding with him on this one. Can’t he win one thing tonight? He can hear his parents chuckling again in the background and he sticks out his tongue in protest. A habit he hasn’t quite outgrown yet when he doesn’t get his own way.
“Oh, my baby boy. I feel a little sorry for Jung.”
His mother’s voice carries with it a hint of amusement. Of all her children, she knows her youngest the best, and Jung is certainly in for a ride.
“I feel sorry for him too and his wife sounds like…like…like…nevermind Jiyool is staring at me and I cannot call her mother names. But he hurt your baby son. Shouldn’t that count for something?”
“Jaejoongie, I can see your pout from way over here.”
“Why are you so mean to me?”
Jaejoong smiles as his mother huffs. He misses his parents, enjoying the relationship they have. His father was in his 50s when Jaejoong was born but yet the man never once ignored him, always answering his questions patiently, and encouraging him to be whoever he wants to be. The generation gap is of no consequence because being in the industry he is in, his father has to keep up with the latest news anyway and so they always have plenty to talk about. His mother is his rock. Her love unconditional, and through her, he too learns how to love unconditionally.
“What did I do to deserve such a bratty child?” His mother’s long-suffering voice comes through the phone, amidst the chuckling of his father in the background. Yes, he also gets his pouting ways from her.
“You love me.”
“Of course, we do. And never forget that. I don’t know Jung Yunho, but I think he needs to be reminded that he is worth loving too.”
“Do you think he forgot?”
“From the little your father has told me about his wife, and what I’ve seen and heard, I think he was never told.”
Jaejoong watches Jiyool as she drowses, a tiny hand lying forgotten against his cheek. His heart hurts for her, and for her father. But what can he do?
“He knows how to love though.”
Unseen by him, both parents cock eyebrows at each other, before his mother responds. “How do you know this?”
“He loves his baby girl. I think he loves her as much if not more than you love me.”
“Then there’s hope for him yet. What are you going to do about it?”
“I’m just the help. What can I do?”
“I’m Jiyool’s nanny.”
“A rather expensive nanny don’t you think? Is he paying you?”
“No, but I didn’t ask. I don’t need payment anyway. He’s paying for all my expenses. Oh, I forgot. Can you get someone to close up my apartment for me?”
The Kim patriarch and matriarch exchange looks, and this time it is his father who replies. “Why do we need to close up your apartment?”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you? I’ve moved in with him. The position was for a live-in nanny. Although I’m not sure if I still have a job to be honest.” Jaejoong’s voice drops to a whisper, even though he knows Jiyool is asleep, not that she would understand anyway. “He told me to take my filthy hands off his daughter.”
“You’ve never failed in anything before, don’t start now.” His mother responds as she snuggles against her husband.
“I failed Math.”
“When you were 10 and confused about algebra and why numbers and letters were mixing. Are you really comparing the two?”
“I’m just correcting you, in the interest of accuracy and all.”
“Papa Kim, this boy is your son.”
All three Kims chuckle. Unbeknownst to the youngest Kim though, someone is now standing by the slightly ajar door, eavesdropping on the one-sided conversation.
“So what do I do? What if I don’t have a job anymore? I don’t know what I’d do to be honest. I’m looking at little Jiyool and I cannot imagine not seeing her again.”
“She’s got you wrapped around her little finger that fast, huh?”
“Ma, you have to see her. She’s such a beautiful little baby. She’s a little on the small side, not much bigger than Minzy actually but a few months older. She’s got the cutest little giggle. When she giggles it makes you want to giggle too. And she loves sleeping in my hoodie. I don’t know why but it makes me feel warm and happy when she’s there, as if my heartbeat is soothing her or something and I want to believe that it does. And she’s got this habit of sticking her pointing and index fingers into her mouth to suck. And she looks at you with such a somber expression when she does it, it makes me want to see her smile again. And her eyes are so gorgeous and sometimes I think I can see intelligence in them, as if she can understand what I’m saying. At first I thought they were empty and blank, but then I realised it’s because they’re just so dark they’re almost black and they’re shaped like almonds and every time I look into her eyes, I just want to kiss her. Her father has identical eyes. I haven’t kissed him though. I don’t think I want to now. He’s mean. But I did dream I kissed him. Is that weird? It wasn’t even a proper kiss, not that I know what a proper kiss is like since I’ve never kissed anyone but I remember seeing noonas kiss their husbands and it’s not as sloppy. And Ma, he smells so good. I tried wearing his cologne but it doesn’t smell the same on me. When I got up this morning I moved to his side of the bed so that I could smell him. Is that weird? That’s weird right?”
His parents stare at each other, trying not to laugh at their youngest child trying to muddle his way through his thoughts and feelings. Their innocent boy is honestly like a runaway freight train when he gets going, and he will only stop when he wants to. Interrupting him will only send him off tangent, and you’ll get another long spiel about something else, till he’s good and ready to stop.
“No, baby. That’s not weird. You like him so it’s normal.”
“But I don’t like him! He’s mean.”
“Now you’re just being sulky again. Is he really mean? I know you, baby boy, and you won’t just like anyone. And especially not if he’s mean as you say.”
Jaejoong huffs, switching the phone to his other ear as the current one is getting a little warm.
“Ok, fine, he’s not mean. He’s actually really nice if he’s not being all closed off. But then I guess I can’t blame him for being closed off. I’d be closed off too, I think. Oh, Appa, your papers were not very nice about him. Can’t you do something?”
“You know how it works, son. I don’t actually have a say over the final print, the editor does.”
“Then talk to the editor! Honestly, someone called him a murderer today in the baby shop.”
“We heard about that. You did well, son. We’re proud of you.”
“I wanted to say more but there were babies around.”
“You said enough, I think. I’ll keep an eye on the editors. You just be yourself and look after your little family.”
“If I still have a little family,” Jaejoong mutters sadly.
“I’m sure you do, baby. I’m sure you set Jung straight before you called us, didn’t you?”
“Well, I told him to go and call his investigators and get his story right. But, Ma, how can he even think that of me?” The teenager’s voice is still sad, the hurt once again seeping into his voice.
His mother sighs, exchanging looks with her husband who squeezes her hand reassuringly, nodding for her to continue. “Joongie, listen carefully, baby. I think Jung has a lot of issues to work through, and he may or may not take it out on you. You’re the closest person he has now so the chances of him taking it out on you is high. In fact, I think he already has. He’s projecting his perception of his wife on you. While I have my suspicions as to why he did it, I’ll leave it for now. Stay with him if you feel safe, but the moment you think it’s not, take the baby and come to us. I know he will never hurt his child, but if he’s hurt you unwittingly, he may hurt her unwittingly, and we cannot have that. Are you listening to me?”
Jaejoong’s voice is tiny, and the man standing by the door has to strain his ears to catch the sound. He is already feeling regretful over his behaviour before he even gets to the bedroom door, having done exactly what the teenager suggested. Jaejoong has indeed only lived in three homes. His parents, his own, and now this apartment. The fact that he considers this apartment his home fills Yunho with guilt. He doesn’t bother asking his investigators about whether Jaejoong has had boyfriends though. Deep down, he knows the answer to that, and the guilt is a bitter taste in his mouth when he recalls his words to the innocent teenager who has done nothing but show his daughter, and even himself, genuine care and affection. Though at least one question is answered for him, Jaejoong does prefer men. The subsequent revelations as a result of his eavesdropping though, he’s not sure what to make of it. At least he knows Jaejoong’s tendency to ramble is not limited to himself. The things he says about his daughter makes his heart clench so painfully he had to put a hand on his chest, to try and calm down. And then the things he says about Yunho…he really doesn’t know what to make of it. And the fact that his parents appear absolutely fine with what Jaejoong is admitting to baffles him even more.
He pushes the door open quietly just as Jaejoong hangs up the phone. Their eyes meet when the teenager turns to drop his phone on the bedside table.
“If you’re here to kick me out, I’m not going without a fight. If you’re here to apologise, I’m listening.”
Yunho doesn’t acknowledge Jaejoong’s soft words. He shuts the door quietly behind him, and turns to head to the bathroom to go through his nightly ablutions. He wants to sort out his thoughts, now scattered because of the one-sided conversation he’s overheard, and he figures being away from the boy in his bed would be a good start. He almost wishes he had someone to call to talk to about this. But he has no one. No one except the beautiful boy in his bed whom he has all but chased away.
Jaejoong sighs at the broad back of the man retreating into the bathroom. The room is plunged into darkness when the door shuts, and he turns back towards Jiyool, whispering sadly to the baby girl sleeping soundly.
“Jiyool-ah, how can anyone hurt your father that way? I don’t want to speak ill of the dead or of your mother, but how could she do this? Do you think he’ll let me fix him? I think I love you, little Jiyool. What will I do if he kicks me out? Will you remember me? Will you remember Jaejoongie who kept you in his hoodie? Who couldn’t stop sniffing your hair? Will you remember me? I will never forget you. I promise.”
Tears leak out of the teenager’s eyes, heartbroken that he has failed before he has even begun. His mother wants him to fight, but how? The man won’t even acknowledge him, let alone listen to him. He’ll probably be out on his ass come morning. He falls asleep before Yunho emerges from the bathroom, face streaked with tears as he cries himself to sleep.
AN: Please don’t tell me to “update soon”. I appreciate that you want this story as much as I do. I am literally writing in every available bit of time I get. I’m a lawyer and work long hours, not to mention I have a Masters paper due this Friday. It’s completed which is why I can write so much but it’s being read by my husband and I’ll probably need to make changes before submitting it, which means more time away from writing. So please, don’t tell me to update soon because I’m updating as fast as I can T____T