To be completely honest with himself, Jeonghan did say if you ever need anything.
Which so far had included:
- Going to the pharmacy on a Sunday, at six am.
- Babysit the kids for a whole afternoon.
So when he heard a knock on his door at eight pm on a Sunday (yup, his only day to grade papers), he already knew it was Choi Seungcheol plus kids.
Because he wasn’t expecting anyone and perhaps because he could actually hear Mingyu whining about but, appa, i wanted to knock! and then Seungcheol’s hushed, sorry, baby, you can do it next time, okay?
So Jeonghan fixed his hair, looked around his apartment, suddenly self conscious about the current state of it, but he realized he didn’t need to worry, he had tidied up this morning, the only things out of place were the cup of tea and schoolwork over his desk.
He opened the door, showing his handsomest smile (he had been told it was very effective).
However his smile fell at the sight of Seungcheol, carrying both Wonwoo and Hansol, Mingyu hiding shyly behind him (that was a first), all of them in different states of distress.
He couldn’t even see Wonwoo’s expression, since his face was buried on Seungcheol’s neck.
Hansol was rubbing his cheek against Seungcheol’s t-shirt, looking upset, he seemed to have just woken up from a nap.
And Mingyu, Mingyu was pouting (now, Jeonghan wasn’t sure if that was because he really wanted to knock or something else).
“I’m the worst neighbor ever, sorry to ask for this so suddenly, but can we-” The shatter coming from Seungcheol’s teeth was enough for Jeonghan to feel invested in this favor already. “S-stay here for a while? Our HVAC stopped wor-working and the guy won’t come fix it until tomorrow and it’s freezing and the kids-”
Seungcheol hadn’t even finished his sentence, when Jeonghan just blurted out sure, come on in.
And then he found himself with a living room full of kids.
(Well, not full, but when three kids walked around a tiny space, they sure looked like a lot more).
“Boys,” Seungcheol hadn’t even finished taking off his shoes and the children had already managed to scurry off, cold forgotten as they curiously wandered around. “Wait, what do we say first?”
An adorable chorus of thank you, jeonghan-hyung!! followed and Jeonghan’s cheeks turned red.
How was he going to survive a whole night with four Chois? They were too adorable.
A whole night?
What had Jeonghan agreed to?
The kids seemed be wearing pajamas, but Seungcheol was in casual wear.
He replayed the favor on his head, can we stay here for a while?
That surely didn’t mean-
“Don’t touch anything without Jeonghan-hyung’s permission-Hey, Gyu, what did appa just say?”
Mingyu gingerly placed back one of Jeonghan’s photos on the shelf (it was one of those photos from college, where he had long hair, God, he should hide that one) and Seungcheol smiled at his son, pleased with his obedience.
“Jeonghan-hyung,” Wonwoo started and even though Jeonghan knew that this wasn’t the first time they shared a few words, he was surprised at how soft the boy’s voice was. The tip of his nose was all red, and he looked like he was freezing, Jeonghan wanted to wrap him tight around a thousand of blankets. “Can we sit on the couch?”
Jeonghan had been too shocked to even say a word.
“Sure, buddy.” Jeonghan couldn’t help but to notice how miserable the boy looked and Jeonghan barely remembered Seungcheol telling him he really didn’t react well to low temperatures and he was prone to get sick. “You can all sit there if you want, okay? I’ll be right back.”
He had some extra blankets somewhere, he should get those.
In the meantime, Seungcheol swept in and picked up Wonwoo.
“My baby is so polite,” He gushed as he rubbed his back up and down, and surely he looked like he needed it, because Wonwoo furrowed closer, trying to get even closer to his dad.
As Jeonghan made it to his bedroom and went through his closet, he allowed himself some time to think this through.
The kids staying weren’t the problem, not at all… but he only had one bed and of course the kids would take it, and what did that mean? Seungcheol would sleep with them right? His couch was tiny and the thought of sharing one couch with Seungcheol made him all flustered already.
He wouldn’t survive tonight.
Whatever happened, he just couldn’t-
Jeonghan jumped at the sound of Hansol’s voice, God, he was like a ninja, just as Seungcheol had said.
“Oh, Hansol,” He turned, four blankets precariously on his arms (yes, he got cold easily too).
The boy was holding his Squirtle plushie to his chest, curiously looking up at him.
“What is it?”
Hansol avoided his eyes, looking like he wanted to say something, but then he blushed bright red and turned on his heel, quickly coming back to the living room instead.
Jeonghan just stood there, what had just happened?
Not only Mingyu had seemed shy, but also Hansol.
Jeonghan tried not to think about that, amazed by the sight that greeted him as he came back to the living room, Mingyu and Hansol were on his two-seater couch and Seungcheol had Wonwoo in his arms, sitting in his chair, eyes taking in the papers he had been grading.
“I’m so sorry we just barged in like this,” The worry in Seungcheol’s expression was genuine, and Jeonghan wouldn’t let him think for a second that he was inconveniencing him. “You were working, weren’t you? I’m sorry, you didn’t have to say yes, I know this is a lot, we can still leave, no hard feelings.”
Even though this whole situation was a bit overwhelming, the thought of saying no hadn’t crossed Jeonghan’s mind.
Papers be damned, his students could wait a week more (they had not done well in the last test, so they shouldn’t hurry to find out).
“You don’t have to worry, Seungcheol, really.” Jeonghan handed the younger kids two blankets and handed Seungcheol the other two. Since Wonwoo’s arms were wrapped tight around his dad, Jeonghan made sure to cover him properly, getting a thankful smile in response from Seungcheol.
That didn’t make his heart race at all.
“I did say that you could come to me if you needed something and I meant it.” Jeonghan tried to return the smile, but he was sure he was blushing now, so his strategy to act normal right now, wasn’t working.
“You’re such a good neighbor.”
Jeonghan’s cheeks warmed up, and he was sure it had nothing to do with the change in the thermostat.
He wished Seungcheol thought about them more as friends, but… maybe they would get there eventually.
“Appa,” Wonwoo’s pitiful voice barely made it to Jeonghan’s ears, and he sounded whiny, as he was about to cry. “I’m cold.”
“Oh, baby, I’m so sorry.” Seungcheol pressed a kiss to the top of his head and Jeonghan’s heart broke at the sight.
He wondered if Seungcheol had tried to handle it at home and then had decided to bring them here.
If there was something else he could do to help…
“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” Jeonghan glanced at Seungcheol. “I could make you some hot chocolate, if you want?”
Of course Mingyu would agree, but Jeonghan needed the okay from Seungcheol before doing anything.
Usually he wouldn’t offer preparing anything, because he wasn’t proud of his cooking skills, but hot chocolate was something he made all the time, as he needed some options after his stomach seemed to start rejecting coffee.
He couldn’t mess up hot chocolate.
“Um, they shouldn’t drink anything after six pm, but…” Seungcheol considered, looking down at Wonwoo. The boy was still shivering, even under the blanket. “Okay, it can’t hurt. It’s really cold.”
“What do we say, boys?”
“THANK YOU, JEONGHAN-HYUNG.”
Things were relatively easy after that.
He turned on the TV, set up his Netflix account, and went to the kitchen as some kid’s movie played in the background (it was one of the princesses, the new one, Jeonghan wasn’t exactly sure). Seungcheol offered to help, but Wonwoo didn’t seem like he’d pull away from him soon, so Jeonghan assured him he could manage.
Mingyu did appear at the kitchen at some point, but it was only to tug on Jeonghan’s sleeve and say hyung, can i help stirring? only for Jeonghan to realize he didn’t have anything kid friendly in his kitchen, so he quickly picked him up, let him stir with the spoon (he had turned off the fire by that point, but Mingyu didn’t have to know that) and then when Mingyu seemed satisfied, he patted his head, told him he did a good job and sent him back to the living room.
The fact that he didn’t usually have many guests and those guests weren’t exactly five years old, meant that Jeonghan had to go through all of his kitchen drawers to find some plastic cups for them.
In the end, the hot chocolate was ready in less than fifteen minutes, and Jeonghan had even found some marshmallows to place on top.
The boys looked delighted.
(Seungcheol too, and Jeonghan vaguely wondered if Seungcheol wasn’t used to people cooking for him anymore).
Memories of Seungcheol saying the only times the boys are quiet, it’s when they’re eating came back to Jeonghan’s mind and he realized that was true too.
And then it dawned on him, how domestic this situation was.
Wonwoo had finally emerged from his cocoon of blankets and now he was on Seungcheol’s lap, happily drinking the hot chocolate, and Seungcheol had moved on to the big couch, so he could blow on Hansol’s cup before he drank any of it, and to clean the corners of Mingyu’s mouth (the boy was really messy, but he still looked adorable).
All while Jeonghan observed.
Okay, yes, maybe Jeonghan was biased, but they were just so cute as a family.
When Wonwoo noticed that Seungcheol was too busy helping Mingyu, he reached out and blew the hot chocolate for Hansol instead, and when Seungcheol’s cup remained untouched on the table, Mingyu let out a whiny appa, you have to drink it too, it’s getting cold!
Jeonghan was endeared.
After the boys seemed to have their bellies full and their body temperatures back to normal (and by that, he meant Wonwoo), they scattered around the living room once again, but clearly sleep was catching up on them.
“You can sleep in my bed if you want.” Jeonghan offered, when he noticed a sleepy Hansol lean against Seungcheol.
There was a beat of silence.
Seungcheol just stared at Jeonghan, cheeks turning a nice shade of pink and Jeonghan’s words just caught up in his head.
“I-I mean, that the kids-” He started, getting flustered himself. Shit, he was awful at this. “You and the kids can take my bed. They’ll be un-uncomfortable in the couch and my bed is... big enough for you… and them.”
They both looked down for a second, too shy to meet each other's eyes, and then Seungcheol cleared his throat, deciding to break the awkward silence.
“I just… you’ve done so much for us today, I really don’t want to inconvenience you any further and I-”
“I swear you’re not.” Jeonghan assured him, wanting to reach out and maybe squeeze his hand, but the kids were there and it felt like… “ Please , just let me do this for you and the kids. I don’t mind. I can sleep on the couch.”
“I don’t know…”
Jeonghan was determined though.
“Seungcheol, it’s okay, just let me-”
“Appa,” Hansol’s tiny voice interrupted the conversation and Jeonghan leaned back on his chair, feeling caught and not knowing why.
It was just an innocent conversation, right? No need to get flustered.
Before Hansol’s interruption, Jeonghan was going to say let me be there for you and okay, that was a big deal, he guessed.
Maybe he should be thankful that he didn’t get to say it.
Maybe Seungcheol would have thought it was too much.
The four year old tugged on Seungcheol’s sleeve until he got the hint and leaned down, Hansol whispering something in his ear.
Jeonghan missed the words, but when Hansol pulled back, Seungcheol’s smile was fond.
He couldn’t help but think it had to do with him, after all when he went to his bedroom to look for the blankets, Hansol had looked like he wanted to say something…
“He’s a little shy.” Seungcheol whispered with a smile, when Hansol had scurried off. “Want to know what he said?”
Jeonghan nodded, dreading the idea of Hansol disliking him or something.
“Said he likes you, when you smile you look just like his Squirtle plushie, y’know.” Seungcheol explained, his fond expression making something warm spread through his whole chest. Oh, so it was that. "He really likes Pokemon, you're good."
Everytime Jeonghan said these kids were cute, they ended up doing something even cuter.
How could you not adore them?
Jeonghan was thrilled to know that Hansol did like him and considering the fact that Mingyu was currently sitting on his lap, dozing off against his chest, he figured that he liked him too.
About Wonwoo… Jeonghan wasn’t so sure.
But he hoped that the six year old would end up liking him eventually.
Not even ten minutes had passed and Wonwoo had fallen asleep, head on Seungcheol’s lap, his feet dangling from the couch, Hansol was dozing off too, next to Jeonghan.
Only Mingyu was left.
But the only problem was that Mingyu didn’t seem to be sleepy.
He seemed hungry.
Mingyu kept staring at the marshmallow sitting on the top of Jeonghan’s cup and he was even licking his lips.
Jeonghan glanced questioningly at Seungcheol and it was enough to make his point across.
“Baby, that’s Jeonghan-hyung’s.” Seungcheol reminded him softly.
Jeonghan didn’t actually mind, so he parted his lips, but Seungcheol shook his head, before he could speak.
“You already ate your share, honey.”
“But, appa,” Mingyu’s voice broke and Jeonghan tried not to insist to Seungcheol and let the poor boy had the marshmallow. (Yes, Jeonghan wouldn’t be a great parent, he knew). “Ple-please? Can I have it?”
“You had enough sugar for today, buddy.” Seungcheol explained calmly. “Also I did see you taking Wonwoo’s when you thought I wasn’t looking.”
Damn, Seungcheol was good.
Mingyu’s lower lip trembled, looking devastated, but Seungcheol didn’t budge.
“But, appa, please?”
In moments like these, Jeonghan really admired Seungcheol, he couldn’t believe how undeterred he looked.
How could he resist to those pouty lips and watery eyes and overall pitiful look?
“Appa said no, Gyu.” Seungcheol gently shifted Wonwoo, so he could lie against the other arm of the couch and got up.
“Appa.” Mingyu whined.
“Oh, baby.” Seungcheol easily picked him up from Jeonghan’s arms and placed a kiss on Mingyu’s head. “You’re cranky because it’s way past your bedtime, right? Come on, let’s get you to bed, hm?”
At the mention of bedtime, Mingyu seemed to forget all about marshmallows and he squirmed on Seungcheol’s hold, reaching out to Jeonghan once more.
Seungcheol smiled a little and placed a kiss on his cheek, handing him back.
“Okay, Jeonghan-hyung can tuck you in.”
And off they were.
And if the whole scene had seemed domestic before, it was even more so now.
Jeonghan putting Mingyu down to sleep, and Seungcheol bringing in Wonwoo and then Hansol, gently explaining to Jeonghan that Mingyu shifted a lot on his sleep, so Wonwoo would always sleep on his other side, because if he moved too much, Wonwoo would pull him close so he wouldn’t fall off the bed.
Jeonghan couldn’t help but to run a gentle hand through Mingyu’s hair, it was so soft.
Mingyu had these full cheeks and little fangs showing and Seungcheol hadn’t been lying when he said he looked like a puppy.
Not a second after Jeonghan had settled Mingyu down in the middle of the bed, Wonwoo’s arms were already around his waist.
And Hansol, oh, Hansol and his Squirtle plushie.
These kids were so adorable.
“Yup.” Seungcheol’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts, and even in the dark, Jeonghan didn’t miss Seungcheol’s small knowing smile.
“I didn’t say-”
“They are cute when they’re asleep.” Seungcheol just shrugged, walking around and patting Jeonghan’s shoulder (he was dumbfounded, couldn’t even move, had Seungcheol actually read his thoughts? Wow).
And if Jeonghan was blushing like mad by the time Seungcheol left the room, then Jeonghan was glad the lights were off.
“But believe me, when they’re wide awake and filled with energy it’s a whole different story.” Seungcheol continued, sitting back down with a sigh. “Although they are my kids, so even in a sugar rush, they’re still cute.”
“They are.” Jeonghan blurted out and Seungcheol just lifted his eyebrows, smiling.
Had he just-
Indirectly called Seungcheol cute?
Right to his face?
How smooth of him.
“I mean-” Jeonghan started, but Seungcheol only smiled and Jeonghan decided to shut up instead, trying to hold onto his dignity.
And just like that, they were back on the couch, just the two of them.
Jeonghan kept his eyes on the wall in front of him, trying not to think about how close Seungcheol was.
Okay, they should talk.
Or maybe they could stay in silence.
Or maybe Jeonghan could act all nonchalant about it all and go back to grading as Seungcheol napped on the couch and the kids slept in the bedroom, oh, how domestic would that be.
The room was suddenly too hot.
Were his cheeks burning?
Was his face all red?
He hated when the tip of his ears got red, because he looked awful and he didn’t want to look awful in front of Choi Seungcheol of all people.
He had been trying to impress him, although, yes , he wasn’t the perfect babysitter, he knew.
But he had tried and Seungcheol had seemed endeared at his efforts.
Wasn’t that enough?
Maybe… just maybe, he should be honest with his feelings and just try to act normal.
He was being all weird about this, Seungcheol was just a human being after all.
Surely he got flustered too!
Jeonghan just needed to act natural.
It always worked, why wouldn’t it now?
“Seungcheol,” Jeonghan started, voice wavering as he stared at the wall. “Truth is, I really-”
All Jenghan got in reply was sudden weight on his shoulder, and he turned around to catch the sight of an asleep Choi Seungcheol, leaning against him, mouth slightly agape, warm cheeks and messy hair falling over his eyes.
Jeonghan wanted to cover his face in embarrassment, but he couldn’t possibly move his arms, otherwise he’d wake Seungcheol up.
What was he supposed to do?
Well, not like he could sleep anyways, or what was he even planning?
The kids were using his bed and he only had the couch.
That was it.
That didn’t seem to be a problem for Seungcheol though, seemingly comfy against Jeonghan’s shoulder.
He must have been exhausted.
Jeonghan couldn’t even imagine what was like having three children that counted on you, everyday, at every hour.
Of course he was exhausted and God, he was so warm.
Jeonghan wanted to run a hand through his hair and perhaps cuddle him.
The lights were on and he should do the dishes or put away his students’ papers, but suddenly his eyelids were getting heavier and he yawned, decided to just close his eyes for a second.
He’d get up soon... just five more minutes like this please.
Jeonghan didn’t know what woke him up, but when he opened his eyes, he just couldn’t ignore how warm he was, it was stuffing, even though the blanket was only over his legs.
Yesterday’s events slowly came back to his mind.
The hot chocolate, the children sleeping on his bed, Seungcheol and-
Jeonghan blinked away his sleep, catching Seungcheol’s arm around his waist, and even Seungcheol’s leg over his thigh.
Overall, he was the little spoon and he was freaking out right now.
This was the reason he felt so warm during the night, and even though they hadn’t exactly moved from their original position, they were even closer.
Oh, this would be awkward.
(It felt really nice, but Jeonghan couldn’t allow himself to think about that).
As he was trying to even his breathing, noticing how late he was and realizing he should be getting ready to leave for work, and well Seungcheol, had to work as well and the kids themselves had to go to school, he heard something, shuffling in the room.
One of the boys must have woken up.
As gently as he could, Jeonghan started to untangle himself from Seungcheol’s hold, ignoring Seungcheol’s whine when he tried to pull back.
Oh this was going to be harder than he had initially thought.
“What are you doing, hyung?”
It was Wonwoo.
Why Wonwoo of all the kids?
Jeonghan was pretty sure that Wonwoo didn’t exactly like him and now, the six year old was standing in the doorway, looking both suspicious and accusing.
This wasn’t good at all.
“I… I was just-” Jeonghan whispered, and with a little force, he finally escaped Seungcheol’s hug. “Your dad just… I swear I wasn’t…”
He gave up trying to explain it to him, when Wonwoo just gave him an unimpressed look (and a bit of a eye roll too).
Okay he definitely didn’t like Jeonghan.
So he decided to get up and change the subject instead.
“Is there anything wrong, buddy?” Jeonghan asked, since now that he paid attention, Wonwoo did look troubled, his hands fidgety.
Maybe he should have woken Seungcheol up…
“You’re going to be mad,” Wonwoo whispered after a moment, not wanting to meet his eyes.
Jeonghan’s heart dropped to his stomach, he couldn’t think of anything that Wonwoo could do that would make him mad.
He hated how worried he looked, as if he was actually afraid of him.
“I’m not, Wonwoo, it’s okay.” Jeonghan assured him, leaning down so the boy wouldn’t feel intimidated with his height. “Do you want to tell me what happened? I promise I won’t be mad.”
His tone might have been enough to convince him, because Wonwoo came a little closer, still whispering.
“Gyu had an accident.”
Did that mean…
Wonwoo’s cheeks warmed up.
“Are you mad, Jeonghan-hyung?” Wonwoo asked, sounding worried again, and Jeonghan rushed to reassure.
“No, buddy, I’m not mad. I swear.”
Jeonghan wanted to comfort him, the fact that he looked stressed when it wasn’t anyone’s fault it was…
It made Jeonghan wonder how burdened he was about being hyung.
Also now he understood why Seungcheol had a no drinking rule after six pm… and well, Mingyu was only five, he should have seen this coming…
After a small pause, he just went with it and patted Wonwoo’s head. He also whispered thank you for telling me, and that seemed enough for Wonwoo to relax, letting out a sigh in relief.
Jeonghan quietly made it to the bedroom, just in case one of the kids were still asleep, (Hansol was), but as soon as his eyes met with Mingyu’s, the boy sat up, sheets pooling around his waist as he covered his face.
“Gyu, Wonwoo told me and it’s okay, you-”
And Mingyu burst into tears.
Seungcheol was up in a second (parents did have an instinct after all, hearing his children cry was enough to get them going), Mingyu couldn’t stop bawling his eyes out, Wonwoo was covering Hansol’s ears (he was sensitive to loud noises) and Jeonghan kept trying to reassure Mingyu that he wasn’t mad at him.
Between Mingyu crying jeonghan-hyung is going to hate me now and Seungcheol’s string of apologies (i’m so sorry, i’ll clean it up, i’ll buy you a new mattress), Wonwoo’s small appa, it’s half past seven almost went unnoticed.
Seungcheol stopped comforting Mingyu for a moment, his mind processing the information.
Half past seven.
It was Monday.
Even more chaos ensued then and Seungcheol profusely apologized for leaving the house like this, and promising to make up to Jeonghan as he picked up a still sleepy Hansol and held Wonwoo’s hand.
“I’m so sorry, Jeonghan, I really do, I’m causing you so much trouble and-”
“Please stop apologizing, Seungcheol, it’s okay.” Jeonghan ruffled Mingyu’s hair too, since the boy still looked upset. He wished he didn’t feel all awkward about patting Seungcheol’s shoulder or something, but he did , especially in front of the children. “I’m not mad, and you can… you know, stay whenever you want. I really don’t mind.”
“I wish I could… repay you, I will! I’ll just think of something, okay?” Seungcheol assured him, looking so determined that it made Jeonghan’s heart swell. “Thank you so much, again.”
Seungcheol’s genuine smile was enough for Jeonghan to just wave him goodbye and stare at the closed door for five minutes straight.
He was so doomed.
He was a whipped idiot and he was doomed.
His bed was unmade, a wet patch around there somewhere, covers and blankets thrown everywhere, His living room was a disaster, his couch sticky with chocolate, his student’s papers were on the floor.
His photos and books weren’t in the same position as before.
And Jeonghan realized he only had this family for less than twelve hours and this was the state of his apartment.
However, when he remembered Seungcheol’s sleeping face, and the kids being all happy with their hot chocolates…
He couldn’t get too mad about it.
In the end, he just texted the new teacher (Jeonghan had showed him around the first day, so now he kind of owed him) joshua, i’m going to be late today, can you stay with my kids for a while? and couldn’t help but laugh at how chaotic it had all been.
Truth was… he could really get used to this.