Today was not a good day if you asked single parent Choi Seungcheol.
First of all, breakfast had been an absolute mess.
Usually well-behaved Wonwoo, had cried ever since Seungcheol had woken him up, because he was cold and he wanted to stay in bed today (no luck, it was Monday, and Seungcheol all but carried him to the bathroom to get him washed up, while the boy cried and clung to him). He had been sulky during breakfast too, going through his veggies with the biggest pout on his face, cheeks flushed after crying.
Mingyu had taken ages to get dressed and then as he was eating his breakfast, instead of getting the chocolate milk from the fridge, he ended up with ketchup all over him instead (even in his ears!), so Seungcheol had to go back to the kids’ room, had cleaned him up with wet wipes (yes, he was not proud of that, but they were running late and he didn’t have the time to give him another shower) and got him all dressed up again.
And little Hansol was in one of those moods, running around the living room and jumping on the couch until it was too late. Seungcheol only managed to make him eat three spoonfuls of porridge and then they were getting ready to leave the house, with the four year old sipping on a orange juice box, mismatched socks, unkempt clothes and hair and everything.
All three of them in one piece, Seungcheol would take that as a win.
He checked his watch as he put on his shoes, helping Hansol with his.
There was so much to do, dropping Hansol off at daycare, then Mingyu and Wonwoo to school, then he had to be there at his office at ten for this meeting and he’d be late, again, he was sure already, his boss was going to kill him-
But okay, they were finally out of the house.
Six-year old Wonwoo tugging on his sleeve, eyes fixed on the rubix cube that Uncle Soonyoung had given him, and a fussy five year old Mingyu on his arms (his uniform was itchy), and Hansol obediently trailing behind them, the sound of slurping being the only indicator that Seungcheol had that the youngest was following.
They were late, late, very late.
He hastily locked the door, trying to balance the weight of Mingyu, Hansol’s bag, and making sure that Wonwoo had actually taken a hold of his sleeve before starting to walk towards the elevator.
One of these days, he was going to get fired.
What would he do then?
Single father Choi Seungcheol, jobless, they’d take his children away and-
“Appa, are we-”
“Yes, honey, we’ll be on time.” Seungcheol replied, before Wonwoo could finish his sentence.
The oldest lived up for his role, so he was worried about all sort of responsibilities that weren’t fitting for his age.
Seungcheol had his eyes set up on the elevator.
Elevator, car, daycare, s-
“Appa,” Mingyu whined, shifting on his hold. “My uniform-”
“Yes, sweetheart, I know it’s itchy, bear it for a little longer, okay?” Seungcheol placed a sloppy kiss on the kid’s head and pressed the button so the elevator would come to their floor.
Okay, at least they had some breakfast in them before school.
He wasn’t that bad of a parent.
As soon as the door opened, Seungcheol rushed in, eyes fixing on the floors passing by, he shifted Mingyu because his bony knee was poking Seungcheol’s ribcage and had he even brought a change of clothes for Hansol? He couldn’t even remember what the kids were supposed to bring to school today.
He hoped neither of them had a project or a test, because they’d be doomed otherwise.
2, 1, -1
Thank you Universe.
“Bye, bye, Sollie.” Mingyu’s tiny voice said.
“Yes, bye, Sollie,” Seungcheol replied, closing his eyes for a second and trying to breathe.
As soon as the little ping sounded and the doors opened, Seungcheol got out, heading to their car and-
bye, bye sollie?
“Hansol?” Just as he turned to see the elevator doors closing, he noticed it was empty and as he looked around he only counted two children.
Had Hansol stayed in-
Hansol had stayed on the hallway.
No, no, no, no, everyone but Hansol.
Hansol had no sense of self preservation whatsoever.
He’d cross the street with his eyes closed if Wonwoo wouldn’t be there to hold his hand.
He’d probably go into a stranger’s house if they offered him a game of tetris or an ice cream.
Trying not to panic, he quickly pressed the button so the elevator would come back, but the damn thing was going up already, to the last floor (twenty).
He didn’t have the time.
“Appa, where is Sollie?” Wonwoo asked, his voice breaking.
“We’ll get Sollie, okay? We have to go upstairs.” Seungcheol said in a rush, taking Wonwoo’s hand and heading to the stairs, but quickly realizing it wouldn’t be fast enough.
With a grunt of effort, he picked up the six year old (he was lighter than Mingyu, so it was okay) and literally ran.
What if Hansol wasn’t there when we got to their floor?
What if something had happened to him?
What if he had taken the stairs, trying to look for them and had fallen and cracked his skull-
What if a kidnapper-
What would he do if his son was hurt and it was his fault-
Seungcheol had no idea how, but he was up in the seventeenth floor in only a few minutes, bag hanging precariously from his shoulder, Mingyu bawling his eyes out, and even Wonwoo burying his head on his shoulder, suddenly uneasy about the prospect of something bad happening to Hansol.
His eyes traveled all around the hallway, and Hansol wasn’t there, he wasn’t there.
This was his worst nightmare, panic settled on his stomach, suddenly dizzy, his baby-
And then he heard it.
“... And Wonwoo-hyung, he’s six.”
It sounded far away, but that was definitely Hansol’s voice.
Seungcheol followed it, heart thumping on his chest.
He wanted to take a moment to calm Mingyu and Wonwoo, but first he needed to find Hansol, he needed to know that he was okay.
And just as he reached the end of the hallway, only a few apartments away from his own, he saw a door wide open and a young man crouching down, in front of Hansol.
“Baby.” Seungcheol sighed in relief, he looked okay, no visible wounds, okay, and the man didn’t look like a psychopath, so all was well, his kid was fine, his kid was fine. “That’s my-”
“Your Hansol?” The stranger kindly asked, looking so put-together that it made Seungcheol flush even more.
He was sweating, his hair sticking out to his forehead, he still couldn’t breathe.
He ran eighteen floors with two kids on his arms, he stopped working out when Hansol was born so of course he was out of shape and now-
He thought his baby had been kidnapped.
“Oh, baby, please. Don’t ever do that again.” Seungcheol begged, trying to regain his composure. Hansol only pouted, apparently he had been having fun talking to this stranger. Seungcheol was firm on occasions like these, yes he had been panicking, but it didn’t mean that Hansol couldn’t learn something from this too. “What did we say?”
Hansol pouted even more, but still chanted obediently:
“To be careful.”
“Cannot eat peanuts,” Hansol said seriously. “Or I’ll die.”
Okay, he was technically right so-
“Okay, Hansol.” Seungcheol said, fondly, trying a smile for him. “Please always make sure you’re next to hyung or appa, okay?”
Just then Seungcheol turned to look at the stranger, just as he dusted off his pants and stood up (he had been crouching down to talk to his kid, cute).
“Hi.” Seungcheol said, still slightly breathless, eyes fixed on how beautiful the man was.
“Hi.” He got a small sly smile in response, and damn, that was cute too.
“Appa, we’re running late.” Wonwoo chirped, and it was enough to make the stranger snort a laugh at his expense.
Seungcheol’s face was burning, the tip of his ears red.
“Come on, appa, you’ll be late.” The man teased and Seungcheol hastily set Wonwoo down, after pressing a kiss on the top of his head.
“Well, I-Sorry, I guess…” He started. “Thank you, I’m so thankful, I just wish I could-”
“Appa, my uniform.” Mingyu whimpered, Seungcheol just heaved a sigh, bouncing him up and down a little and gave up at trying to thank the man in front of him.
“Sorry, baby.” Seungcheol smiled sheepishly, placing a kiss on Mingyu’s hair and leaning down to pick Hansol up. He would never let him out of his sight again. “Well… I, I guess thank you and I’ll, I’ll see you around? Perhaps?”
Apparently they were neighbors?
There was a small pause, Seungcheol wondering how he must look.
All sweaty, two kids on his arms, one hiding behind him (Wonwoo was suddenly shy).
“See you around.” The stranger said, still smiling, looking all soft, with his golden specs and blond hair. “I’m Jeonghan.”
And stared some more.
“I... My-my name is Choi Seung-Seungcheol,“ Seungcheol hadn’t stuttered this much in years, it was embarrassing. “Th-thank you, Jeonghan-ssi, see you around!”
He started to walk back to the elevator, heart racing as he heard Jeonghan ’s laughter (was this situation funny?) and Wonwoo frowned at him, tugging on his sleeve.
“Appa, are you sick?” Wonwoo pouted. “You look like you have a fever.”
Damn, even his kid could notice how flustered he was.
“I’m okay, baby, don’t worry.” Seungcheol forced a smile, thinking about this neighbor/stranger.
come on, appa, you’ll be late
He had also teased him and everything!
His smile was cute and he looked kind and suddenly Seungcheol felt the need to interact with his neighbors a little more.
He’d certainly keep that in mind.