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: Kinda wrote this intermittently on the road last week. I’ve had such a crazy last ten days that I feel like I need to take the next month off or something. But of course that isn’t going to happen. Anyway, I hope this was worth the wait… It is probably not what y’all were expecting though because I wasn’t expecting it this soon myself… As usual I don’t have control over my own story lol. Oh and long chapter is long……. OTL
Yunho cocks an eyebrow when a bowl of cereal is unceremoniously dumped in front of him. It is banged down so hard that the milk sloshes over the side and onto the table, spilling onto the newspaper he is perusing. He watches the blonde boy run out of the room, to answer the screams of a baby who hasn’t really stopped screaming for over 24 hours. Yunho is a good father, he really is, but even he had to admit defeat, finding solace in his office, feeling guilty about abandoning the teenager. Whoever said a form of torture is being stuck in a room with a crying baby for hours absolutely knew what they were talking about. Jiyool took a turn for the worse not long after dinner on Saturday night and by midnight, father, daughter and nanny were sitting anxiously in the emergency department. They’d attracted a lot of stares, mainly due to a screaming Jiyool. However, they were clearly recognised when the trio found themselves on the front page of the Sunday gossip rag. Yunho didn’t even spare the papers a passing glance, but Jaejoong seemed to find amusement in it, even calling up his mother to point it out to her. The phone conversation was highly amusing to say the least, and since it was on speaker phone, Yunho understands where Jaejoong gets his easygoing nature from. Though he did raise an eyebrow when Mrs Kim referred to Jaejoong as “looking like a frazzled society housewife”.
However there is nothing left of the excitable teenager from yesterday morning. After a second night of screaming, the boy is on his last legs. Yunho is adept at tuning out anything unpleasant, after so many years of practice, and he eats his soggy cereal, not even dreaming about complaining about the sub-par breakfast when Jaejoong comes in, his bed hair still in evidence as he hasn’t had time for a shower that morning, with Jiyool perched on his hip, crying miserably. He watches the young man card his hand through his hair in an attempt to tame the flyaway locks but to no avail, even as he kisses Jiyool. He looks up and meets Yunho’s eyes and he can see the tiredness in the teenager. This really isn’t fair on the boy.
“What are your plans today?”
“I’ve got to go to Jeju Island.”
“I should be back by dinner time.”
“Damn it.” Jaejoong mutters, as he starts pacing the room, jiggling Jiyool on his hip as he walks. He doesn’t even notice himself swearing, too preoccupied on how he’s going to work their day out. As he passes by Yunho again, he drops Jiyool in his lap before continuing on, practically creating a track in the floor with his pacing. “Why didn’t you tell me this earlier? Did you know you were going to be away from the building today?”
Jaejoong’s tone is belligerent, which is quite unlike the teenager and Yunho frowns in response. “What’s the matter?”
“I’ve got a test today from 3-5pm. I was going to skip my other classes but I can’t skip this one. I can’t leave Jiyool at the creche, she’s too sick. I was hoping you could watch her for the two hours but clearly you can’t. I already called my mother this morning but she has something else on, and I really don’t want to trouble her.”
Jaejoong’s voice gets louder and louder as he is agitated, and he sits down heavily in a chair, staring at Jiyool who is whimpering against her father’s chest. He looks up at Yunho whose eyes are shuttered once again as he tunes out, and Jaejoong, who has not had a wink of sleep in over 36 hours, loses it.
“Are you seriously just staring at me with a blank expression on your face? This is your child we’re talking about and all you can do is stare at me? What were you planning to do with her before I came along? I sure as hell hope you weren’t going to just drop her at the creche for the whole day with how sick she’s been. I’m crying inside at the thought of having to leave her and all you can do is stare at me? Do you even have a heart? Look at her. I can’t believe you were planning on leaving us for the whole damn day and not have the courtesy to tell me about it. What is wrong with you?”
Jaejoong stands up to pace again mid-tirade, picking a crying Jiyool up as he passes Yunho, somehow juggling her while gesticulating wildly to accentuate his words, and Yunho is struggling to maintain his blank expression. He is furious. Jaejoong is yelling at him now, and to say Yunho does not appreciate it is an understatement. It is only the fact that his daughter is in the room, in the arms of the very person he is annoyed with no less, is what stays his tongue.
“I was even planning on making you lunch because I felt bad for not telling you to sleep in your office earlier, so that you’ll be well-rested for work. And now I find out you’re going to abandon us. Wonderful. Just great.”
Jaejoong is practically spitting out the words, he is that irate. However, if one is listening carefully, or knows the boy well enough, they will realise there is no heat or malice behind his words. He is just very tired and cranky. He continues to pat Jiyool, propping her up over his shoulder. His expression is frustrated, and he winces every time the baby girl’s screaming gets extra piercing, but she doesn’t distract him enough to stop his ranting. He does have to shout though for his voice to go over her cries, and he is unaware of exactly how loud he is being.
“My own mother called me a frazzled housewife, and now I actually feel like one. What the hell, Yunho? I’m too young to be a frazzled housewife! I shouldn’t be frazzled for another ten years at least. This is all your fault. Are you going to apologise? Because if you don’t you’re so sleeping on the couch. Just because you’ve only kissed me three times doesn’t mean I can’t make you sleep on the couch. Actually, no. How about you stay up with Jiyool and let me sleep on the couch, and we’ll see if you turn into a frazzled husband? Yes, I think that’s the better plan.” Jaejoong nods, satisfied with the punishment he just doles out as he deposits a marginally less screaming Jiyool to her father, sits back down, and crosses his arms across his chest. He blows his fringe out of his eyes, and looks expectantly at Yunho.
This is turning out to be a normal day in the life of living with Jaejoong. The extremes of emotions that the boy expresses as well as elicits from the people around him, Yunho in particular, is astonishing. One moment, he wants nothing more than to tell the teenager to pack his bags and get the hell out, and the next, he is staring at the beautiful boy, completely bemused. He’ll give him one thing though, he doesn’t think Jaejoong has it in him to lie about anything, especially when he starts on one of his now infamous runaway bullet type train of thought. His stream of consciousness, and lack of filter, doesn’t allow for any form of dissembling. It happens too fast, and jumps around so much that Yunho has to make a conscious effort to try and figure out what the boy is saying.
They watch each other, Jaejoong’s expression a little wary now when his brain finally catches up with his mouth, and he realises how inappropriate his tirade is. But before he can open his mouth to say something, Yunho beats him to it.
“Which question would you like me to answer first?”
Now it’s Jaejoong’s turn to wear a blank expression, but his is from confusion, unlike Yunho’s from conditioning, and a form of self-preservation. Yunho’s face betrays nothing.
“Let’s see, yes, I was staring at you but I wasn’t aware that it was with a blank expression.”
He pauses and Jaejoong makes to open his mouth, but he closes it when Yunho sends him a level look. Satisfied that the boy is definitely keeping his mouth closed, at least for now, he continues.
“I made these plans last week, before meeting you and before Jiyool fell ill. Yes, I have a heart and no, there’s nothing wrong with me.” Yunho grits his teeth as he tells that big fat lie at the end. There’s so much wrong with him he could probably write a novel about it, but no, it’s not for Jaejoong to know. He has no idea how he’s going to keep it from the teenager but he will do his best. To know means to hate and despise and that is the very last thing Yunho wants from Jaejoong. He doesn’t know what he wants from the innocent young man, and that realisation makes his words a lot sharper than he intends. The uncertainty eats at him.
“I am not going to apologise, and it is not your place to demand an apology.”
He carries on as if he doesn’t see Jaejoong standing up as his eyes widen in shock at Yunho’s cold voice and harsh words. However, Yunho is caught up on one of his own rants, past hurts and pain coming back again as he feels like he’s somehow off balance and not in control and that feeling, is one he loathes. Unfortunately for him, he is unaware as to how his words are coming across to the younger man. His intention behind saying them, far different to the one the teenager believes he means.
“You are not my wife, nor will you ever be my wife.”
Yunho’s eyes are unseeing, his jaw clenching as he stares at the gleaming surface of the table. He stares blindly at the table as he is transported back to a time gone by but not forgotten. He is trying to forget, but clearly Sun Ye has other plans. He sees blood, his blood. Staining the bedsheets, seeping through to taint the mattress below it before his wife decides that mattress protectors were a good investment. But it is his blood, not someone else’s and for that, he is forever thankful. It is the one thing that kept him going. That kept him silent. If she is doing it to him, she won’t do it to anyone else, and that is all that sustained him. He will never forget the day he walked in on Sun Ye, whipping that boy so hard he was bleeding. He can’t even remember the boy’s face, but he remembers the helpless pain in his eyes, tied down spread eagle on the bed with a ball gag in his mouth, and tears streaming down his cheeks. His first reaction was horror. Sheer horror. And then her laughter. God, that laughter. Sun Ye was crazy. Insane. She laughed as he stood there, eyes practically bugging out of his head, his innocence stripped away in an instant.
He was 20. She was 27.
Yunho closes his eyes, willing the hazy image of that boy out of his head because suddenly, he thinks of Jaejoong in place of that prostitute, desperate enough to let Sun Ye do the things she does, and he shakes his head. His hands are fisted tightly as he tries to will away the memories. Memories that now have Jaejoong intertwined in them somehow.
The boy whose first kiss is given away in a sleepy show of affection. The boy who is so trusting he willingly moves in with a stranger. The boy who cares enough to let Yunho get some measure of rest while he tries to soothe his sick baby. The boy who is arguably the best cook Yunho has ever had the privilege of knowing. The boy whose very nature is like the sun, shining brightly on everything he touches, bringing light to the darkness, and cheer to the gloom. The boy his daughter has chosen for him. For them. To fix all the pain. To fix all the hurt. To drive out the poison that was his wife. The boy who has somehow sneaked his way into his heart. And he wants nothing more than to take that light. To take the affection the boy is clearly willing to give. To bask in the reflected love the boy has for his baby girl.
But he cannot.
He cannot take that light. He cannot taint that innocence. He cannot allow the evil he’s lived to touch the sun. Jaejoong is the light and he is the dark. And Yunho is afraid his darkness will swallow the light that is Jaejoong. He gave up a decade of his life to protect the innocent. To protect the world from the cruelty of his wife. He gave himself to her in exchange for her promise that she will never exercise her need to hurt, on anyone but him. And now he wants to touch Jaejoong?
He has to harden his heart. He has to freeze it again. He has to get away from the warmth slowy thawing it. Who will protect that innocent boy from the darkness of his life? The stain on him that stays with him still, just like those stains on the mattress he refuses to throw out.
Yunho opens his eyes and looks up.
The guileless teenage boy who is right now staring at him mutely, liquid doe eyes swimming in unshed tears.
But Yunho misunderstands.
He forgets the boy cannot see into his mind. He forgets that his natural inclination is to put on a mask, as a form of protection. He forgets that the tone of his voice, when serious, can be mistaken as cold indifference or anger. He forgets that he’d just told the boy off. He forgets a lot of things.
“You are not my wife.” His voice is grim. There is absolutely no way on any level of hell that he will ever associate Jaejoong with his wife. Never. The filth that was the deceased woman will never touch the purity that is Jaejoong. Never.
A single tear slips out. Jaejoong is numb. He never meant for Yunho to take him so seriously. As usual, he speaks without really thinking about what he says. What was he thinking? Referring to himself as a wife, and Yunho the husband. What was he thinking? And now he is paying for his folly, Yunho’s words cutting him deeper than he had ever imagined. Why does it hurt so bad? He doesn’t know why. He’s never been hurt before. He hardly even cries. Not even when his parents told him off and spanked him for being irresponsible at the age of eight, when he’d taken his six year old niece Chaerin and her four year old sister Jessica out to the park by himself. Not even when his first crush rejected his offer of a bloom on Rose Day, saying that she can’t be seen with a boy prettier than she was. Not even when his second crush punched him in the nose, claiming he doesn’t like boys, not even pretty ones.
All that didn’t hurt.
You are not my wife.
But this does. This cuts like a knife, and Jaejoong feels it deep in his heart. He doesn’t understand the pain. He just wants to run away from it. And so he does, turning and practically running out of the kitchen, a dozing Jiyool on his shoulder as he tries to stop the tears from falling. He doesn’t wait, he doesn’t pause. He doesn’t even think, as leaves the apartment with nothing but a sick baby. He doesn’t even have his wallet or his phone, still in his pajama pants and Yunho’s Seoul University hoodie.
He secures Jiyool in the hoodie as they descend in the elevator, the lighted numbers blurring as he blinks away his tears. He doesn’t have a plan. It is barely eight in the morning, and the day is thankfully warm, but Jaejoong is cold. So cold. He hugs the baby girl against his heart, whispering softly in her hair, promising that he will protect her. That he will never let anyone hurt her, and this includes her own father. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to keep his promise, but he will certainly try. Jaejoong is hurt, but his love for the little girl eclipses even that, and he will swallow it if he has to. It is a bitter pill to take, but he will fight to protect her tiny heart from breaking even though he cannot even protect his own.
Yunho doesn’t move when Jaejoong turns and runs away. In fact, he welcomes it. The further he runs, the easier it’ll be for Yunho to harden his heart once again. To freeze it. To go back to the employer-employee relationship they were meant to have. This isn’t a game. They are not playing “house”. He is not part of Jaejoong’s little family. The boy has a huge family, and Yunho is most certainly not part of that. Oddly enough though, he doesn’t mind the idea of his daughter being taken into the folds of the Kim clan. God knows his baby girl has seen far too much in her short life. Nothing she can understand and nothing he prays she will ever remember, but a little love can’t hurt. And judging from Jaejoong, the Kims have a lot of love to give. He will let Jiyool blossom in Jaejoong’s light. But as for Yunho, he will stay in the dark, and hope he doesn’t taint those two innocent babes.
He is aware that his words may have sounded a little harsh, but Jaejoong needs to learn to stay away from him. He can have Jiyool, Yunho is more than willing to let the teenager weave his magic over his baby girl, and for that he needs to make sure the boy comes back. He believes he will come back. This is Jiyool’s home. Jaejoong will come back. But Yunho will need to try and keep his distance, for Jiyool’s sake. He cannot drive away the one good thing in her life, because if Jaejoong knows the truth, he will run. Yunho has no doubt about this, and even if he recognises that the boy may be his only path to salvation, he will close that road for the sake of his child. He cannot be selfish.
Jaejoong finds himself at his old apartment.
His old apartment.
He doesn’t remember how he got there but clearly his legs know where to take him. The security guard lets him in with the master key, and as he walks into his home, he feels different. He looks around, taking in the barren studio. His closet doors are wide open and almost emptied, and the bed is stripped down. All the electronics have been unplugged, and so the familiar glow from his digital clock is not there. In fact, both his bedside tables are gone. Even his fridge, with the touch screen, is laying silent, dull and black. He takes in the empty space where his desk and chair used to be, and the leather couch, and his heart sinks. What is he going to do now? The idea of moving his stuff back is just too much to think about. Maybe he can’t save Yunho after all. Maybe he’s only meant to save Jiyool.
He lays on the bare mattress, careful not to jostle the baby as he stares at the ceiling, the little girl a comforting weight on his chest. He is feeling cold, yet warm where the baby is sleeping, and he zips up his hoodie as his eyelids droop. The weekend is catching up to him, and he is in a familiar place, so he succumbs to the warmth, falling asleep within minutes, a hand protectively holding the sleeping baby to him.
Yunho stares at the spotless kitchen, briefcase in hand as he takes in the empty room. His breakfast dishes are washed and drying on the rack, and he has cleaned up the mess Jaejoong inadvertently made earlier. The emptiness though is almost suffocating. The silence is oppressive. He wants to hear his baby crying. He wants to hear Jaejoong singing. He used to revel in silence, especially in his home, but not today. Not anymore. He wants to hear Jaejoong’s laughter and Jiyool’s giggles reverberating in the kitchen. But what can he do? He cannot touch Jaejoong. It is too much to expect the boy to accept. And deep down. Deep, deep, down. So deep that Yunho is aware of it only on the edges of his consciousness. He is afraid. He is so broken that a rejection from Jaejoong, which he fully believes will happen if he ever finds out the truth, will send him spiralling into that abyss he is gingerly skirting around. So to save the boy from the knowledge, and to save himself from breaking down, and to keep Jaejoong for his baby girl, he cannot.
He writes a short note on the dry erase board superglued to the door of the fridge. Something Jaejoong cheerfully did yesterday, explaining that hardly anyone misses notes when they’re on the fridge door.
Don’t make dinner. I’ll bring home something for us.
He writes something else, not quite thinking while he does so, and his eyes widen when he realises what it says. He hurriedly cleans it off with his fingers, and practically runs out the door, trying to get as far away from his own written Freudian slip. Jaejoong is clearly getting to him. He needs to start on putting that distance between them before it is too late. But really, it is already too late. Much too late. That light has gained a firm foothold in his darkness, not allowing the door to slam on it, to shut out that light forever. It really is too late.
The front door slams loudly, the sound reverberating through the house. The dry erase board on the fridge door is now marked by black letters, handwriting that hints at the character of the man who wrote it. Strong strokes, and bold lines make up the top half of the board, and the bottom half, a faint grey smudge. The force of his strokes make it difficult to wipe away, and since he did it in a panic, he doesn’t clean it off as well as he could have. The characters are unintelligible to anyone expecting a cursory note, but if you know what you are looking for, which Jaejoong most certainly will not, the words can be made out…
I’m sorry, I love you.
Distressed whimpering wakes the exhausted teenager. He cracks open an eyelid to find himself on his side and Jiyool sitting up in the bed and pawing at his face as she sniffles unhappily. Her hair is plastered to her scalp, and he reaches out a hand to touch her skin. It is cool and clammy to the touch and he lets out a soft sigh of relief. Her fever has finally broken. He sits up, shrugging out of the already unzipped hoodie and peels off the tank top he is wearing underneath, enjoying the slight relief he feels being topless in the warm apartment. A tiny giggle distracts him and he looks down just as Jiyool pulls herself up on her knees and leans forward to try and grab something that’s caught her attention. She loses her balance though and falls against his chest and he hugs her to him as she sends him a gummy smile, no longer upset as he is awake. However, she soon remembers what she’s after in the first place and she finds her prize, Jaejoong wincing when her strong little fingers tug at the metal barbell in his left nipple.
“Owww! Jiyool-ah that’s not a toy!”
Jaejoong tries to gently pulls her fingers off, succeeding though the baby girl thinks it’s a game and starts bouncing happily in the protective circle of his arms as she tries to make a grab for him a second time. She succeeds and gurgles happily once again, finding Jaejoong’s pained expression rather funny.
“Aish, you’re such a naughty girl. Come on, you need a shower, little princess and I’ll find you something else to play with. This is not a baby’s toy Jiyool-ah!”
He lifts her into his arms, distracting her by galloping around the room and bouncing her, as he goes in search of towels and clothes. A quick check of her nappy reveals that it is still dry, and he quickly takes it off, stripping her down, and rushing to the bathroom. He makes it to the bathtub without any accidents along the way and he stands her gently in it, making sure she is holding onto the side, keeping a hand on hers nonetheless, before he turns the water on, keeping her far away from the running tap till it heats up to the right temperature.
By the end of the bath, Jaejoong is as wet as the slippery little mermaid princess in the tub, now happily playing with his Gucci sunglasses. He has tried giving her several other items but none seem to hold her attention for long accept for that expensive accessory. He smiles fondly as she determinedly tries to chew on one of the arms of those glasses. Jiyool is teething, and so seems to enjoy chewing on anything appropriate she can find. Even as Jaejoong looks at her, the baby girl’s brow suddenly furrows in concentration, and he groans when he realises why. However, it is too late, and there’s nothing he can do except wash her down, and dangle her over the toilet bowl since she’s still too small. She thinks it is all some strange game though, and Jaejoong has to maneuver her somehow so that she doesn’t mess up more of his formerly spotless (and poopless) bathroom as she giggles away, trying to grab at his nipple piercing.
“Jiyool, I still love you even though you are literally a stinky little baby right now, but I’m still going to make your father buy me a new bath tub. I don’t care if I’m not living here anymore, or maybe I am? I don’t know anymore. I don’t understand him. I didn’t mean for him to think that I want to be his wife. Well, I know more people are marrying same gender partners now and referring them as husband and husband or wife and wife and even husband and wife but I really didn’t mean it that way. Well, maybe I did because appa always says I’m too honest for my own good. But I didn’t mean for him to think that. Why am I even talking to you about this? You’re only little. Are you done yet? You’re so smelly, Jiyool-ah.”
Jaejoong nuzzles the little baby, before peering into the toilet bowl. Jiyool seems happy enough so he reckons she must be done by now. He washes her off in the sink because the bathtub is currently a no go land, and he puts her in her nappy once again, securing her before giving her an empty bottle to play with before snapping on some gloves to clean out his poor soiled bathtub. So much for a shower, because despite the cleaning, he doesn’t think he is going to view his bathtub the same again. Much can be said about a separate shower cubicle instead of one over the tub, and he wishes he was home.
He sighs, and picks up Jiyool who is calmly chewing on her fingers, still in just her nappy.
He smiles when the little girl throws her arms around his neck and tucks her head under his chin the way she does with her father. It says something about Yunho when this is the one word his baby girl actually knows and recognises, and it is the one discovery Jaejoong keeps to himself. Yunho doesn’t know that he knows. It was only on Saturday night, and he’d just gotten out of the shower to find the man and his daughter on the couch. Yunho had Jiyool tucked under his arm, holding her bottle for her as he read his book. He is content watching them, smiling when Yunho upends the empty bottle, leaning forward to place it on the coffee table before tugging his baby into his lap. They stare silently at each other for a few seconds before Yunho smiles and says “cuddles?” and the baby girl explodes into action, almost jumping up to grab her father around his neck and tucking her face against his throat. He remembers feeling as if he was almost full to bursting with emotion, as he watches the heartwarming scene. He can see Yunho’s lips moving, and he guesses the man is singing to Jiyool. Yunho looks up, unable to mask the quick flicker of surprise in his eyes before he hides once again. However, he does offer a hint of a smile to Jaejoong. They both put the sleepy and well-fed baby girl to sleep, but it is not long after that she wakes screaming.
Jaejoong chuckles softly when Jiyool distracts him from his trip back in time by tugging on his nose.
“You must be hungry, baby girl. I don’t know what time it is. Maybe we should go home? What do you think?”
Jiyool makes unintelligible sounds, and Jaejoong imagines she would respond with words if she could. He peppers her face with tiny kisses, making the baby girl giggle happily before depositing her on the floor, just outside his closet while he goes in search of some clean clothes. As he digs through the remaining clothing, he finds his heart dropping a little as his thoughts go back to Yunho. He needs to learn not to take what the man says, personally. That’s the only way this will work. Jaejoong still believes that he is in the Jung household for a reason, but his growing feelings for Yunho is throwing everything into upheaval. If anyone had said what Yunho said that morning, Jaejoong would have just shrugged it off instead of feeling incredibly hurt. As he pulls a teeshirt over his head, the material cool against his warm skin, he wonders what set Yunho off again. The man is too confusing by half. Possibly the king of mixed signals while Jaejoong is the opposite, what you see is what you get.
He looks over at Jiyool, who currently has her head in one of his bags, and satisfied that she won’t be looking his way anytime soon, he turns and quickly strips out of his pajama pants and pulls on the pair of cut-offs he’s found. The pair that he purposefully left behind because it is just a tad too small, but it is not as if he is spoiled for choice in his empty closet so he pulls on the blue jeans that end just below his knee. He completes the look with a beanie to hide his bed-head and another pair of sunglasses which he perches on his head. He clearly owns far too many.
He turns back to look at Jiyool and she is still sitting by the bag she was looking through earlier, her back to him. It looks like she’s found something, and Jaejoong smiles at the tiny form. He can probably fit her in that bag and take her in it.
The baby turns when her name is called and Jaejoong almost chokes when he realises exactly what she’s playing with.
“Little girl! What is it with you and adult things today oh my god where did you even find those? I don’t remember buying them. Why would I buy them anyway? Oh god your father will kill me. Please don’t tell him.”
Jiyool protests loudly when Jaejoong gently pulls the foil-wrapped condom out of her mouth. He picks up the squawking baby, dropping the still sealed row of six condoms into the rubbish bin, before heading out of the closet.
“I swear to god if one of my sisters put those there, I’m going to have words with them. Your aunties think it’s funny to tease me, Jiyool-ah. When you meet them, please tell them it’s not cool to make fun of Joongie and his lack of a love life.”
He kisses the baby, giving her his sunglasses as he walks out of the apartment, still continuing on his monologue as usual as he enters the waiting elevator.
“I mean really, how uncouth is that? I guess it’s good to be prepared and all but if they wanted to throw in condoms, they should have packed lube too. Was there lube in there? Good god I’m glad you didn’t find that. I’m pretty sure your father will definitely kill me if you end up in hospital from lube poisoning or something. Jiyool-ah you need to stop putting stuff in your mouth!”
He tries to tug the arm of his sunglasses out of the baby girl’s mouth but she’s having none of it if the growling protest is anything to go by. He nods at doorman who tips his hat at him before walking out into the bright sunshine.
“Aish. That’s such a terrible sound coming from a pretty baby like you. Who taught you that? You certainly didn’t get it from me. Or maybe you did. No, it must be your daddy. Your daddy is a good man, Jiyool-ah. I wish you could talk so you can tell me what’s wrong with him. He seems so broken about something. Is it your mother? I never knew her but she doesn’t sound very nice. I’m not trying to replace your mummy, baby girl. Can you tell your daddy that? I don’t want to be her. Well, I wish I’d known your daddy before he married her. Oh no! I think I was still in diapers then. Oh dear, how old is your father? What’s the opposite of a cradle robber? Because I suddenly feel like one. Your daddy doesn’t look that old though. He looks like he’s in his late 20s or something but I’m sure he’s much older.”
And so he goes on, chatting continuously to the baby girl as they walk home. They attract many stares, but Jaejoong is oblivious to them, as it happens so often he’s just used to it by now. It doesn’t faze him when a bunch of mothers descend on him along the way, charming himself out of their grasps. It doesn’t faze him when a couple of skateboarders whistle at him, probably mistaking him for a girl, but that’s not unusual either. It doesn’t faze him when he has to sweet talk Yunho’s secretary into letting them back into the apartment because he’s forgotten the password. However, when he gets to the kitchen to make Jiyool some milk, and himself some lunch, the message on the dry erase board does faze him, and the cold he felt while in the kitchen last, is replaced by warmth.
I’ll bring home something for us.
Jaejoong smiles to himself. He is not going to give up on Yunho just yet.
They have a quick lunch together, Jiyool and Jaejoong, before he takes her to the creche, giving instructions to the women there as to her medication. He makes sure they understand that if Jiyool starts crying, and doesn’t stop within fifteen minutes, to call him.
“So you took the job, after all?”
“It’s not a job, really.” Jaejoong replies as he hands the baby girl over to the grandmotherly woman.
She watches in fascination as Jiyool tries to throw herself out of her arms and back into Jaejoong’s, the little girl starting to whimper when he doesn’t allow her back into his arms. The teenager bends down to press kisses to her brow, whispering reassuringly that he will be back soon, before turning to sneak out, avoiding the other rooms and his variety of nephews and nieces.
Jaejoong is not feeling very good about leaving Jiyool at the creche, but the arrangement with Yunho is that he can leave her there when he has classes and he does have class now. He is a conscientious student, and will not miss classes unless absolutely necessary. Jiyool seems a lot better, but he is second guessing himself as he walks quickly to his first class. He checks that his phone is on vibrate, before entering the lecture hall almost half an hour late. The professor simply nods at him though and he walks up to the back, ignoring his classmates and where he usually sits with them. He doesn’t feel like company right now because he feels guilty for leaving Jiyool. Maybe it’s too soon? He had intended to skip this class but she is better, isn’t she? He checks his phone again. It’s been barely ten minutes since he dropped her off and he’s feeling antsy.
Ten minutes into the class, his phone vibrates, and Jaejoong is unsurprised to see that it is the creche calling. He walks out the back door of the theatre, thankful for his choice to sit up back as the disruption to the class is minimal. The second he accepts the call, he can hear familiar screaming in the background and his heart sinks. He doesn’t even wait for the lady on the other line to explain before saying a curt, “I’m coming now” to her and hanging up. He doesn’t bother to go back into his class to retrieve his bag or laptop. He simply runs. Runs to retrieve the crying baby he shouldn’t have left in the first place.
He hears her before he sees her. Jiyool is very, very upset and he wonders why. Perhaps her ears are paining her again? It’s a little strange though, for her to be such a happy baby less than half an hour ago to the screaming little girl she is now. He doesn’t acknowledge anyone, simply following the sound, and he finds her with one of the creche staff in a changing room. The woman is talking to her, and bouncing her but Jiyool just screams louder, refusing to calm down. The relief in the lady’s eyes when she catches sight of Jaejoong says something. She quickly hands the crying baby to Jaejoong and steps back.
“Jiyool-ah, my baby girl why are you so sad?”
Jaejoong’s voice is soft as he turns Jiyool’s face to his, wiping at the great big tears rolling down her cheeks. The result is instantaneous, her screaming turns into gulping sobs, before she quietens, and stares at Jaejoong. The look is almost accusatory, as if saying why did you leave me here? Don’t you love me anymore? They stare at each other, not unlike the way she stares at her father, before Jaejoong whispers softly, not really expecting a reaction but he’ll try nonetheless because he needs to know if he’s forgiven and it is the only way he knows how to ascertain it.
Jiyool doesn’t hesitate as she leans forward, throwing her tiny arms around the beautiful teenager’s neck and nuzzling against his throat. The relief Jaejoong feels makes his eyes feel hot and he hides it, nuzzling her hair and kissing her, apologising for leaving her. The quiet reunion is short-lived though when a loud woman comes in, demanding how they had finally managed to stop the baby crying. Jiyool starts whimpering almost immediately upon hearing her voice, and she makes distressed sounds against Jaejoong’s throat. The boy’s hackles are up and he turns fierce eyes onto the unsuspecting woman, while cradling the little girl protectively, holding her against his chest.
“What did you do to her?”
The woman blinks confusedly at the boy standing in front of her with murder in his stunning eyes.
“I didn’t do anything… I’ve never seen this baby before today. I’ve been away for a month and only got back today.”
“Then why did she start crying when she heard your voice?”
Before the woman can reply, the other lady, who had been holding Jiyool speaks up.
“I never thought of that…” she says almost to herself and Jaejoong turns to look at her.
“Never thought of what? What do you mean?”
“Jiyool. She cries when she hears a female voice, and she never stops because everyone who works here is female. That might explain why she calmed down when she heard you last week.”
“She’s not crying now and I’m sure she can hear you.”
“You’re holding her. It’s no use passing her to one of us because she will, no doubt, start crying again.”
“What do I do?”
“Perhaps you should try and find a creche that has male staff. I really never thought about that association to voice till you mentioned it, and it all makes sense now. She’s actually a pretty quiet baby, content to play by herself. But if someone comes in, speaking reasonably loudly, she starts crying and she only stops when she’s tired.”
Jaejoong’s mind is working wildly, his distaste for Yunho’s dead wife is so thick on his tongue he wants to throw up. There can be no other reason why Jiyool cries at a woman’s voice. It has to have something to do with her mother. He nods to the woman, in acknowledgment of her words and asks for all of Jiyool’s things to be brought to him as he is taking her with him. The second woman who entered the room leaves to do his bidding, returning quickly with Jiyool’s nappy bag and her front pack. Jaejoong hands the baby off to the woman briefly, the little girl staying silent, two fingers in her mouth, allowing herself to be held by the woman but never taking her wet almond eyes off the teenager as he quickly puts on the front pack.
“I’ll speak to her father about this, but in the meantime, assume that Jiyool will be coming back here at some point. Thank you for your help.”
They exchange goodbyes and once again, Jaejoong finds himself sneaking out of the creche. He is definitely in no mood to deal with his nieces and nephews right now. A quick check of the time reveals that he still has ten minutes left of his first class. That is just enough time for him to get there to retrieve his things.
Jaejoong takes his test later that afternoon with Jiyool asleep in her front pack. His professors are all surprisingly understanding about him coming to class with a baby, and it probably helps that Jiyool is one of the quietest babies he has ever known. As they walk home in the late afternoon, the teenager wonders how he is going to explain to Yunho the reason why they may need to find another creche for Jiyool. He is definitely not looking forward to that conversation, because whenever something associated with his deceased wife comes up, Yunho’s reactions are unpredictable, and somehow, Jaejoong ends up getting hurt. He keeps up a quiet monologue, as he enters the lobby of Jung Tower, ignoring the curious stares from the people around him, entering the private elevator that takes him straight to the top floor.
“Jiyool-ah…maybe we won’t tell daddy about your issues. I’ll keep trying to leave you there, and now that they know why you cry, maybe they’ll be able to work around it somehow. And if they cannot, I’ll take you to class. You liked that didn’t you? You were such a good little girl today. I don’t know what your mother did to you and your father, but I will help you forget. You’re still a baby to be having these worries. Don’t worry little princess, I will protect you.”
I will protect you...
AN: I barely had 3G coverage while on the road in the last ten days so wasn’t really even able to read comments let alone reply to them. Please keep commenting, and I will make it my mission to get on top of replies this week even if it kills me! Ok maybe not that dramatic but you know what I mean ;-)