Chapter 1: Meet the family.
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.
Chapter 2: A favor.
Mingyu is sick and Seungcheol needs a favor.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Seungcheol didn’t think of his neighbor for a few days.
There was so much work to do, and the kids had projects and presentations and both Soonyoung and Jihoon (his only friends) were out of town.
And then of course, one Saturday night, Mingyu suddenly woke up and went to his bed to tell him he wasn’t feeling well.
This wasn’t that unusual on itself.
A sick kid wasn’t weird, but Mingyu being the said kid was strange (usually it’d be Wonwoo).
So Seungcheol immediately worried.
Besides with Mingyu’s clingy nature, Seungcheol knew he’d have to spend all night long with him in his arms, so he wouldn’t cry.
So Seungcheol did.
Until six am arrived and he realized he had ran out of medicine and Mingyu was feeling worse by the minute.
He searched and searched, but nope.
He had ran out with Wonwoo’s last cold and he never did buy them again.
“Great.” Seungcheol whispered to himself, already regretting his life choices.
Usually he’d ask one of his friends to get them, since they lived close by, but right now both Soonyoung and Jihoon had traveled to Jeju as a mini vacation, so Seungcheol had ran out of options pretty quickly.
He couldn’t actually go to the pharmacy and leave the kids alone.
And he couldn’t just take Mingyu and leave the other two.
And if he woke the kids up to take them all to the pharmacy, he’d get a cranky Wonwoo and a sleep deprived Hansol and it could make Mingyu’s fever even worse.
So against all of his better judgement, he found himself in front of his neighbor’s door, begging that he’d be home.
(And that he’d want to help).
Jeonghan had seemed nice and even though he had teased him, perhaps he’d be willing to help…
He knocked twice and hugged Mingyu close to his chest, heart suddenly beating fast.
Was this too much?
They had only seen each other once, and they hadn’t even run out in the elevator ever again.
Okay, no sound coming from inside.
He was ridiculous, he’d need to find another option, okay, he could leave and act like he had never been there.
He’d just knocked twice, and Jeonghan didn’t need to know it had been him.
So he’d fled the scene.
Now or never, still no sound, Seungcheol turned, hurriedly coming back to his apartment and-
Seungcheol quickly turned and appeared in front of the doorway again, trying to smile, without showing how awkward and embarrassed he was.
“Can I…” Seungcheol took one deep breath.
He knew exactly how he looked, again.
He hadn’t even showered this morning, dark circles under his eyes after looking out for Mingyu the whole night, the baby monitor strapped to his waistband.
And Mingyu of course, draped all over him, drooling on his shoulder.
A total catch.
Wonwoo and Hansol were still asleep, but Seungcheol still worried that they might wake up and they’d be alone.
Hence, the baby monitor.
Before Jeonghan could reply, or even say hello (or you know what the hell, that could be an option too), Seungcheol kept talking.
“I know it’s like six am and I am sorry, but Gyu is… Um, he’s my middle child. He’s, really sick and I need to get some things from the pharmacy, and I-”
Jeonghan just blinked away his sleep.
Panic started to settle on Seungcheol’s stomach, because what if this was too much to ask? What if it made things awkward?
He had no one else to go for help though.
“You want me to…” Jeonghan spoke for the first time, voice groggy with sleep as he rubbed his eyes. He looked younger than Seungcheol remembered him, in his sweatpants and oversized university t-shirt, sleep mussed hair and puffy cheeks. “Watch the kids?”
“Actually… um, is there any chance that you could go to the pharmacy for me?” Seungcheol asked, knowing it was a big favor, Jeonghan blinked at him, slightly confused, Seungcheol rushed to explain. “Not like I don’t trust you to stay with the kids or anything, it’s just that the kids still don’t know you well and I… if they wake up and I’m not there...”
Well, he had no reason whatsoever to blindly trust this stranger either, but… he really needed some meds to help with Mingyu’s fever and he didn’t know what else to do.
He’d have never ever done this in a normal situation, but he was worried about Mingyu and that outweighed everything else.
“It’s okay.” Jeonghan hid a yawn behind his sleeve, looking unconcerned about the explanation. “Let me just get a jacket and my shoes.”
“You’re a lifesaver.” Seungcheol sighed in relief. “Thank you so much.”
As soon as Seungcheol handed Jeonghan the note with the names of the meds and some money, he headed back to his house, deciding to lay up the futon in the middle of the living room, so the kids could sleep there (it was the only place where the heating actually worked).
Bringing Wonwoo and Hansol over wasn’t as difficult as he thought, and in a few minutes, the kids were resting again.
Now he only needed to wait for Jeonghan to bring the medicine.
Jeonghan would be back soon.
Seungcheol would have been panicking if it weren’t for Mingyu in his arms.
His neighbor was… well, kind of cute?
The first time Seungcheol had seen him, he had been wearing a pink button down and some skinny jeans, looking both gorgeous and soft.
The look had left an impression on him, and Seungcheol had wanted to talk to him more, but the kids needed to go to school, and well, he didn’t have much time to spare.
Maybe today he could invite him for coffee…
A small knock on his door pulled him out of his thoughts and he gently shifted Mingyu (his arms were screaming in protest already), reaching out to the doorknob to let Jeonghan in.
He had no time to fix his hair or anything, but at the same time he thought he should give up on giving great first impressions.
After all, Jeonghan did meet him for the first time after he had lost his youngest, so…
Jeonghan definitely looked more awake now, all huddled up in his jacket, holding up the little bag with the pharmacy logo.
“Hi… hello.” Seungcheol’s cheeks warmed up, and suddenly he was at a loss for words. “Would you… um, like to come inside?”
Jeonghan gingerly stood in the doorway, staring inside and Seungcheol tried not to think about the current state of his house.
There were clean clothes all over the living room (he hadn’t had the time to fold) and the kitchen was an actual disaster, since he hadn’t done the dishes, and last night’s dinner had been a mess.
(Mingyu had thrown some pasta on the ceiling, accidentally).
“I put on some coffee if you want?” He added, when Jeonghan went silent.
This was so embarrassing, he was embarrassing.
The smell of his best coffee must have been tempting enough for Jeonghan though, because after considering for a second, he finally nodded, stepping inside.
Seungcheol tried not to sigh in relief at the action.
He had wanted to say thank you and he knew one cup of coffee wasn’t enough, but at least he’d like to start with that.
“Just give me a sec, okay?” Seungcheol waved a hand at the general area of the kitchen, so Jeonghan would take a seat.
If Mingyu saw Jeonghan inside, he didn’t even mention it, just kept his arms tight around him as Seungcheol made all the process of getting him some water and crushing the pill into powder (all with one arm available), and then giving him to Mingyu so he’d drink it.
Luckily the five year old did it without too much fuss.
“Good boy.” Seungcheol praised, pressing a kiss on the top of his head.
“Appa, I want a puppy.” Mingyu babbled, as Seungcheol went down on one knee to find some room between Wonwoo and Hansol, so Mingyu could sleep in between.
Jeonghan glanced curiously at Seungcheol and he only shrugged in response.
“Yeah, baby, a puppy.” Mingyu sighed contently at the response, rubbing his feverish cheek against Seungcheol’s neck as Seungcheol gently set him down. “Sleep well, love.”
Mingyu quickly clung to Wonwoo and Seungcheol thanked the universe that the oldest was used to his antics, otherwise he’d push him away because it was too hot.
Seungcheol stared at the three kids with a fond smile, just then remembering about his handsome neighbor and the coffee and the first impressions extravaganza.
“Sorry about the mess.” He headed to the kitchen counter and took a moment to find two decent mugs (that wouldn’t have any animal design on them or weren’t made of plastic), finally sitting down in front of Jeonghan, feeling self-conscious as the two of them sat down in silence for a few seconds.
He had never been particularly tidy, but now with the kids… it was so hard but he really tried his best.
Today, however, was not a good day.
“Don’t worry about it.” Jeonghan said, with a smile, resting his chin on his hand as he stared at Seungcheol, looking interested. “So… no getting a puppy?”
His stomach did somersaults at the sight.
Wow, he was really handsome, wasn’t he?
Did he know how handsome he was?
“Absolutely not.” And then Seungcheol went on about how Mingyu already resembled a puppy, since every time he’d want to cuddle he’d literally nudge his nose over Seungcheol’s hand until he’d get the hint, and how one time he’d actually meet a puppy at the street and he had sneezed for about an hour after, so Seungcheol was afraid that the kid might actually be allergic, but he didn’t have the heart to tell him.
Jeonghan made a small aww and Seungcheol couldn’t help but blush a little, continuing with a little more enthusiasm:
“And when you have three kids you’ve got to be fair and Gyu wants a puppy, but Wonwoo wants a kitten, and-” Seungcheol sighed tiredly. “Hansol wants a lizard.”
Jeonghan’s appalled expression was the same Seungcheol had when Hansol had suggested.
“I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that.”
Jeonghan let out a small surprised laugh, at being caught and Seungcheol couldn’t help but to smile too.
Suddenly it felt like a long time since he had met a new person, so caught up in raising the kids and going to work.
This was nice.
Jeonghan was nice.
Silence reigned in the room for a moment, the only soft sound coming from the kids’ soft breathing.
It wasn’t uncomfortable, not really, and Seungcheol used the chance to drink some coffee, just now realizing he hadn’t eaten anything since last night.
And also realizing that he had been talking about the kids the whole twenty minutes that Jeonghan had been here.
He was an embarrassing dad, Soonyoung was right.
“So…” Seungcheol started, suddenly sheepish about this whole thing. He had invited this man over and he only knew his name, and just as he had crossed the door he had been talking about his kids and his kids only. “Um, what do you do?”
Jeonghan spared a glance at the living room, where all three kids were fast asleep.
Hansol was upside down, his feet dangerously close to Wonwoo’s neck, and Mingyu was all over Wonwoo, the blankets precariously thrown over them.
“Don’t worry, they’re all heavy sleepers.” Seungcheol assured him, he couldn’t help but to feel moved, considering Jeonghan seemed worried about waking the kids up.
Jeonghan sipped his coffee, smiling again as he warmed up his hands on the mug.
“I’m actually a teacher.”
“Oh, cool.” Seungcheol had actually wanted to be a teacher at some point. “Primary?”
“Not really.” Jeonghan replied, and he looked like it wasn’t the first time he had to make that clarification. “Highschool.”
A highschool teacher? Wow.
Seungcheol never had a teacher who looked like that.
“Oh, really? I bet you graduated recently, you look so young.” Seungcheol commented, leaning his chin on his palm. The words were out of his mouth before he could think about them, but Jeonghan didn’t seem offended at all.
“Not that young, I’ll be turning twenty six in October.”
Seungcheol thought that was still very young, but okay.
“What about you, Seungcheol-ssi?”
His cheeks burned again and he looked down, trying to clear down his throat.
“Just Seungcheol is fine,” He whispered. “I guess after all you’ve done for me, we’re already on first name basis, you know, no honorifics. And I… I’m twenty eight.”
He’d be twenty nine in like a month, but he figured he could save that information to himself.
Jeonghan let out a small hum in response, watching the three kids for a moment, then back at Seungcheol.
“So how do you do it?”
Seungcheol raised his eyebrows, honestly confused.
“Oh, you mean, like being a single parent?”
Jeonghan looked like he wanted to ask more, but Seungcheol was glad that he didn’t go into too much detail by asking.
“Well you chose to spend every day of your life teaching teens willingly, so.” Seungcheol teased, and he was relieved, when it caused a honest laugh in response. “How about you tell me your secrets?”
The rest of the conversation was easy.
Seungcheol learned that Jeonghan had just moved in, a month ago, because he had find a new job in Seoul, and Seungcheol told him that he had been living here for two years now, since this place was closest to the kids’ school.
He also learned that Jeonghan hadn’t made lots of friends in the city either, so he felt a little lonely at first.
At one point, a possible dinner was discussed, but Seungcheol didn’t want to press on that matter, since he didn’t know if maybe he’d be pushing too much.
It’d be nice though.
Just as the sun started to rise, and the kids started to shift in their sleeps, Jeonghan seemed to decide it was time for him to go.
Seungcheol couldn’t say he wasn’t disappointed, but he also understood.
It was a Sunday after all, and Seungcheol had woken him up at six am.
He was sure he’d have better things to do than to stay here and watch Seungcheol and his kids have breakfast.
“Thank you for the coffee.” Jeonghan said, as he picked up his jacket (he had taken it off at some point, the room too warm for his taste).
“Thank you for… you know, running to the pharmacy and everything. It was such a big help.” Seungcheol smiled genuinely, truth was, he didn’t have much time to get to know all of his neighbors (he hadn’t been interested before either), but now he really appreciated speaking to an adult for a change. “Oh, and you know… thank you again for helping me out with Hansol the other day too.”
“No problem.” Jeonghan slipped his shoes on and fixed his specs too, nodding at Seungcheol. “Your kids seem nice.”
So he wasn’t only cute but also kind.
He opened the door, wondering when he’d see Jeonghan again and maybe if it’d be too weird to ask for his phone number, but in the end he decided against it, his neighbor already leaving after saying a small see you.
He really wanted him to stay and to have the chance to get to know each other a little more.
“Oh… and if you ever need anything,” Jeonghan turned, smiling, a perfect row of white teeth showing (Seungcheol’s heart did not start beating faster after that). “I’m a few doors away.”
Seungcheol momentarily lost the ability to function, but he still nodded, hoping he wouldn’t look that dumb as he did so.
He wanted to say thank you or maybe me too or something cool like that, but when he found the right words, Jeonghan’s door was already closing and Seungcheol could only heave a sigh.
This was harder than he had initially thought.
“Appa, can we eat breakfast?”
“Appa, Mingyu drooled all over my shirt!”
Deep breath in.
Seungcheol’s eyes left the hallway and he turned, smiling at his children.
“Okay, let’s get some breakfast, shall we?”
Next chapter Jeonghan babysits!
Chapter 3: Babysitter.
Jeonghan babysits for the first time.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Jeonghan should have seen this coming.
He did say if you ever need anything after all.
And he meant it!
He really did.
There was only a few things that would make Jeonghan get up and go to a pharmacy at six am on a Sunday, so Jeonghan knew he was already doomed.
If his neighbor Seungcheol asked him to run a marathon, Jeonghan would still consider.
Besides it was harmless, right?
It wasn’t like they were flirting or anything, he was just helping his neighbor out.
That’s what good neighbors did!
Besides he was a teacher, so of course he’d be willing to help a single dad with three kids.
He was just being a decent human being, no ulterior motives whatsoever.
(Okay, maybe one ulterior motive, but that was it).
So when Seungcheol had showed up at his house, all three kids in tow and had begged Jeonghan to watch them for an afternoon, because he had an emergency at work, what was he supposed to do?
Look at Seungcheol, all with his cute dimples and doe eyes and pouty lips and say no?
Right to his face?
So here he was, sitting on the same spot as last week, hands on his lap as he watched Seungcheol go around the apartment, looking for his things.
(Seungcheol had already introduced him: He’s Jeonghan-hyung, our neighbor. You remember him, right? He’s a teacher and he’ll be staying with you guys today, please be nice to him).
“Okay, so nap time is around three. Hansol naps for an hour or so, but Mingyu and Wonwoo don’t anymore. If they try to convince you otherwise that’s a lie, they all just like to sleep together.” Seungcheol instructed, as he put on his jacket and Jeonghan couldn’t help but notice how well fitted the suit looked, Seungcheol looked cute on his sweatpants and a simple t-shirt, but like this… he looked hot. “Kids’ allergies are stuck to the fridge, as well as emergency contacts.”
Jeonghan nodded, watching the kids from the corner of his eyes.
Hansol, the youngest, currently jumping up and down in the couch as he held what looked like a plushie of a Pokemon? Jeonghan wasn’t sure.
Then Mingyu, the middle kid, who had gotten sick last week, he seemed… nice, kind of cute, currently stuffing his cheeks with apple slices.
And then Wonwoo, the eldest, who was quietly observing as he sat on the couch, holding a rubix cube.
Kind of scary.
Kids in his class couldn’t solve a rubix cube, so if six year old Wonwoo could, then Jeonghan would be more than amazed.
“If Wonwoo disappears he’s probably reading, but if Mingyu or Hansol are the ones missing, you should worry.” Seungcheol continued, pocketing keys and phone as Jeonghan gulped, trying to make a mental note of everything. Suddenly this situation started to dawn on him and he couldn’t help but worry (panic). “One time, Mingyu fell asleep behind the couch and I couldn’t find him for thirty minutes, I almost called the police and well, Hansollie, he tends to like scurry off whenever I’m not watching so… he’s like a ninja sometimes”.
Seungcheol ended with a sigh and Jeonghan started to think this through.
What if the kids wouldn’t listen to him because he was a stranger?
What if something happened to the kids?
What if they got hurt?
“Let’s see, what else-” Seungcheol picked up his travel mug as he talked to himself. “Oh, right. Lunch is already in the oven, Hansol is a picky eater, Mingyu is messy and Wonwoo will take ages, but that’s about it. They can have juice or water with it. I should be back in a few hours, do you think you can manage?”
Seungcheol’s eyes were back on him in a second and Jeonghan almost choked on his own saliva, trying not to panic, again.
Could he manage?
“Of-of course, I’ll be okay, we ’ll be okay.” Jeonghan assured him, not sounding very sure to his own ears, but oh well. Seungcheol only stared for a second, and it was enough to destroy his resolve. “If not! I’ll call you. I’ll text you… okay?”
That seemed to ease down all of Seungcheol’s worries, because he nodded, showing a gummy smile and turning to the kids.
“Okay, be good for Jeonghan-hyung,” He instructed, placing a kiss on each of the kids’ heads. Mingyu wouldn’t let go of him, so Seungcheol whispered a small yes, i know, honey and gently patted his back until he did. “Sorry I have to leave like this, I’ll be back in a few hours.”
And then Seungcheol was gone.
Silence reigned in the apartment, for only a minute, before Hansol said: Can we watch a movie?
So all three of them scurried off.
Just like that.
Jeonghan stood in the kitchen, observing all three.
It made him think, were the kids used to staying with someone else apart from Seungcheol? Or they just trusted Jeonghan that easily?
Jeonghan was pretty sure that the boys barely remembered him.
He did meet them that time when Hansol got lost for a second, and but then when Mingyu was sick, all the boys were asleep and Mingyu himself was barely conscious.
They were going to behave…
Just like that ?
Well, good for him, he didn’t want to be ungrateful, but he expected the thing to be a little more chaotic.
And he stood and waited, and waited a little more.
But nope, finding nemo on the TV, and they were all cuddling while watching it.
So when Jeonghan made sure that the kids were in deed behaving and it wasn’t his imagination, he started to set up things for lunch.
And that was when he realized.
There was no need to be nervous.
They were so well behaved!
All of them.
It was unbelievable.
They were angels, especially Wonwoo.
It was understandable, since he was the eldest, but Jeonghan was still amazed at how independent he was.
He reminded his brothers to wash their hands before eating, as Seungcheol said he did take ages to eat, but ate it all, brushed his teeth all by himself, and went back to the living room with a book on his lap, comfortably setting down to read.
Such an old soul.
With Mingyu it wasn’t that hard either?
The kid was adorable, can i have more rice, jeonghan-hyung? and well, he was unexpectedly affectionate.
A bit clingy.
While Jeonghan did the dishes, he followed him like a little duckling, and when Jeonghan sat Hansol down on the bathroom counter to brush his teeth, Mingyu was tugging on his sleeve the whole time, me too, Jeonghan-hyung, me too!
In the end, Jeonghan was weak and did the same for Mingyu, getting a toothy smile in response.
And Hansol, well he knew Hansol already, even though their interaction had been brief.
Hansol was unlike any child Jeonghan had met.
Since he was the youngest, Jeonghan expected him to cry to get the things he wanted or to make tantrums, but he was actually very calm?
Jeonghan couldn’t believe he was only four.
It wasn’t like he was boring or anything.
He just seemed to be in his own little world all the time and he was fine with it.
Seungcheol must have really done a lot in his past lives to be blessed with such nice and obedient kids.
They were sweet.
Well, Wonwoo did look at Jeonghan funny sometimes.
He seemed to be holding a grudge against him.
Did anything happen or was it just Jeonghan’s imagination?
Still, all was well.
Four hours in and Jeonghan felt his phone vibrating in his pocket, smiling when he saw that Seungcheol had texted him (for some reason, seeing his name on the screen made him feel all giddy).
I’m done for the day, should be home soon. thank you again!!
He survived a whole afternoon with the kids!
Time went on faster than he had thought.
For a moment his initial panic at being the babysitter seemed so far away, and he allowed himself to look around the living room.
Mingyu on one side of the couch, swinging his legs as slurped on his grape jelly drink (his stomach was a bottomless pit).
Wonwoo slightly dozing off at the other side of the couch, book on his lap.
Hansol napping in Seungcheol’s room.
Jeonghan took a deep breath, he had made it.
He had made it.
He was so relieved.
For a moment, he thought about backing down, after all he had zero experience with toddlers and preschool kids.
But his desire to help out ended up outweighing his worry.
Jeonghan clearly remembered that day, when Hansol just wandered off and he couldn’t help but think how a single father could manage with three small kids, all by himself.
Seungcheol didn’t even have enough hands to catch them if they ran off.
It was scary and Jeonghan had no idea how Seungcheol could do it without any apparent help.
If Jeonghan was his first option to babysit, then it was safe to assume that Seungcheol didn’t have that much support, right?
And Jeonghan wanted to be that person.
He genuinely liked Seungcheol and his kids, and maybe, okay, he was the tiniest bit attracted to Seungcheol.
But in his defense, had anyone seen Seungcheol?
How could anyone deny how attractive he was?
So, yes, sue him, maybe he wanted to impress Seungcheol too.
He did feel lonely sometimes, all his friends back in Ulsan, but this was the opportunity to actually bond with-
“Jeonghan-hyung, was that appa? Is he coming soon? Can we meet him downstairs-” In his excitement, Mingyu squeezed down the rest of the jelly, the contents spilling all over his fingers and pants. Damn. Jeonghan wasn’t fast enough to take it from his little hands. Mingyu parted his lips, his cheeks turning pink. “Oops.”
Seungcheol’s words rang on his ears, Mingyu is messy, so Jeonghan smiled a little and stood up, deciding to search for the wet wipes instead.
“Wait, Mingyu-yah, let me get something to clean you up, okay?”
Okay, so they weren’t in the kitchen, so perhaps in the bathroom-
“Jeonghan-hyung,” As soon as Mingyu’s whine made it to his ears, Jeonghan couldn’t help but frown, stopping on his tracks. He had just stepped in the bathroom, it had been only a second. “He’s reading my book!” Mingyu added, and Jeonghan quickly came back to the living room (empty handed), just in time to see the scene unfolding.
Mingyu, hands covered in jelly, snatching the book from Wonwoo’s lap.
Okay, maybe Wonwoo wouldn’t get mad, maybe he’d understand-
“Mingyu, no, your hands are sticky.” Wonwoo whined, placing a hand over Mingyu’s chest, pushing him away. Suddenly he didn’t look that sleepy anymore, and Jeonghan couldn’t blame him, after all his baby brother had literally snatched his precious book from him. “I was reading it first, you can’t even read.”
“But hyung, that’s mine,” Mingyu pouted, eyes filling with tears. “It’s mine.”
“It’s not, this one is mine.”
“Okay,” Jeonghan hesitantly stepped forward, not being able to catch up now that the two kids had started chasing each other around the living room.
What did he do to deserve this.
Should he just pick one up?
What if it made them madder?
“Kids, calm down,” Jeonghan asked, but to no avail, since Wonwoo kept running and Mingyu was trying to outrun him.
What if they hurt each other, what if they started fighting for real, what if-
They’d surely wake Hansol up as well, so Jeonghan just trusted his instincts and picked up Mingyu, but then he just heard it.
A loud thump.
When he turned, it was too late already, and he could only see Wonwoo falling backwards after landing first face into the wall.
He had tripped on the carpet.
“Oh, no.” He hugged Mingyu close to him and approached to the boy on the floor, noticing there didn’t seem to be any sign of blood.
“Wonu,” Mingyu wailed, eyes filling with tears, but then Wonwoo slowly opened his eyes, Jeonghan immediately sighing in relief at the action, he was alive.
Although Jeonghan also noticed that Wonwoo’s glasses didn’t quite stay on the bridge of his nose as he tried to sit up.
They were broken.
Or as Mingyu had said, oops.
“Wonwoo,” Jeonghan gently reached out a hand, he seemed fine, kids usually bumped their heads, but still, what if he wasn’t fine, what if he was seriously injured, what would he do then? “Are you-”
Then Wonwoo burst into tears.
Jeonghan wasn’t sure if he was actually hurt, or embarrassed or scared.
He didn’t even have the time to worry about that, because he felt banging and he realized that it was coming from Seungcheol’s bedroom, banging from the inside, Hansol was up.
He probably woke up when Wonwoo hit his head.
The door was closed.
Why was it like that? He didn’t remember closing it, why-
“Hansol?” Jeonghan asked, bouncing Mingyu up a little so he would stop crying. He needed to get on Wonwoo’s head, but if Hansol and Mingyu were upset, they wouldn’t let him, so he tried to open the bedroom door, but it suddenly wouldn’t budge.
Jeonghan started to panic.
Did he lock it?
He was sure.
Why would he lock the door so the kid could nap?
He didn’t even close it, was it one of the kids when he didn’t notice?
Did they close it by accident?
“I want appa.” Wonwoo wailed.
“Me too,” Mingyu hid in the crook of Jeonghan’s neck and for a second Jeonghan thought about starting to cry as well.
How did this even happen?
Jeonghan stayed still, worrying about which child to comfort first, Wonwoo had scurried off to the couch as he covered his face and Mingyu was crying his heart out in his arms, or Hansol, currently locked in the room.
How did everything go wrong this quickly?
What should he even do? Call Seungcheol, but he was driving and he didn’t want to worry him and-
Well, no need to call him, because of course, that was when he heard the door, signalling Seungcheol had arrived.
It only took one second for Seungcheol to scan the whole scene and he took off his shoes, dropped his case and headed to the room first, doing something with the doorknob and the door easily opened, revealing a sleepy Hansol.
“Hi, darling, did you have a good nap?”
Hansol yawned and nodded, and if Jeonghan thought for a second that the four year old had panicked for staying inside, he had been wrong.
He was only rubbing his eyes, holding his stuffed Squirtle (yes, Jeonghan had learned) against his chest.
“I’m glad, Hansollie.” Once Seungcheol had made sure his youngest was okay, he turned, just in time for Wonwoo to crash into his arms.
Although Seungcheol groaned a bit (Jeonghan was sure that Wonwoo had kicked him by accident), he still picked the boy up, giving him his full attention.
“Oh, baby, what happened?”
Seungcheol’s tone was soft, and Jeonghan was amazed, cheeks blushing despite himself as he observed.
He also made sure to rub Mingyu’s back up and down (at least he had stopped crying at the sight of appa) as Wonwoo babbled to Seungcheol something about gyu and his book and the wall.
“Honey, I’m sorry. I know Gyu made you upset, appa will talk to him about it. Can you be a little more patient with him, hm? Can you do that for appa?” Seungcheol pressed a kiss on the top of his head once Wonwoo nodded, adding a small good boy.
After that, Seungcheol’s eyes fell on Jeonghan’s for the first time since he had arrived.
Jeonghan didn’t even know he had been holding his breath until now.
His chest tightened at the sight, Wonwoo looked so upset in Seungcheol’s arms, and Jeonghan couldn’t help but look down.
Seungcheol would be mad at him.
He’d probably tell him to leave and he’d never want to hear from him again.
And he deserved it, he had ruined it everything, he had hurt the kids, not on purpose, but still.
Way to go, Yoon Jeonghan.
“Jeonghan?” Seungcheol’s gente voice pulled him out of his thoughts, and when Jeonghan dared to meet his eyes again, Seungcheol looked calm, his face exuding warmth.
Jeonghan’s heart skipped a beat.
“It’s okay,” He assured him, with the same voice he used to comfort Wonwoo, and Jeonghan just now noticed how effective it was. “He’s just scared, he’s not hurt.”
That actually made a lot of sense.
Wonwoo sniffled, cuddling closer to Seungcheol as he held up his glasses.
“They’re broken, huh?” Seungcheol sounded unconcerned about them, bouncing Wonwoo up and down a little and kissing his wet cheek. He set the boy down with a small grunt of effort (Wonwoo seemed to be the thinnest of them all, but he still kind of tall) and ruffled his hair. “Appa will get the spare, okay?”
It seemed enough to calm Wonwoo down, because he rubbed at his eyes and nodded, smiling up at him.
Although at the same time, Jeonghan couldn’t help but to feel guilty, he had caused all of this, if he had been paying more attention, Mingyu would have never-
“Seungcheol,” Jeonghan started, a knot starting to form in his throat as he set Mingyu down. “I’m really-”
“Mingyu,” Seungcheol went down on one knee to look at his middle child in the eye, his tone was firm, as they had had this conversation many times already. “What do we do when we want something hyung has?”
Mingyu blushed bright red, looking down at his feet.
“Gyu,” Seungcheol repeated, and it was effective, the boy looking up right away.
“We ask for it.” He whispered.
“Exactly. Hyung was using the book first, okay? Remember to use your words, baby.” Seungcheol reminded him, placing a kiss on the top of Mingyu’s head. The boy immediately hugged him tight, mumbling a shaky sorry appa.
Jeonghan had never seen a parent scold a child in such a tender manner.
It was amazing, Seungcheol was amazing.
The most wonderful thing was that it seemed to work, because Mingyu already looked sorry before they were done.
“Won’t do it again,” Mingyu whispered, rubbing at his teary eyes.
“Thank you, baby,” Seungcheol had the fondest look on his face as the boy pulled back from the hug. “Apologize to hyung and give him a hug, okay?”
Jeonghan watched in shock as the two kids just hugged it out and then it was done , all of them back to the living room, after Hansol’s tiny appa, can we finish finding nemo now?
Seungcheol finally took off his jacket, with a tiresome sigh.
And all the guilt went back to Jeonghan.
Seungcheol had just come back from a stressful day at work and Jeonghan couldn’t babysit his kids for an afternoon.
Wonwoo had hit his head, and broke his glasses, and he had locked Hansol up, and Mingyu, well Mingyu had-
“I’m so sorry, Seungcheol,” Jeonghan blurted out. He felt like once wasn’t enough though, how could he convey his feelings to him? He was disappointed in himself and he understood if Seungcheol was mad, and wouldn’t trust him again. “I really am, I just-”
“Hey, hey, it’s okay.” Seungcheol reached out, squeezing his forearm and just then Jeonghan realized he was shaking. The contact was firm, and grounding, and for a second, Jeonghan’s heart stopped pounding in his ears. “Believe me, it’s okay.”
Jeonghan couldn’t help but think that Seungcheol was just saying that though…
“I mean it,” He added, and he must have caught Jeonghan’s distressed expression.
“I just… things were going well, and then from one second to another, they were not.”
Seungcheol let out a laugh and Jeonghan couldn’t help but blush harder, feeling embarrassed.
“It happens,” He shrugged, with an easy smile playing on his lips, and okay, that was really handsome. “You know, they fight, they make up, and they get hurt and it gets messy. It really happens. The important thing is you’re all okay.”
Jeonghan let out a breath he had no idea he had been holding, Seungcheol was being so calm about this.
From what he had seen Jeonghan was sure that Seungcheol would do anything for the kids, and the fact that he was reacting like this…
Maybe he meant what he said about accidents happening or maybe he had worse experiences with babysitters before, or maybe…
maybe he doesn’t want to make you feel bad
“Well, except to Wonwoo’s book, I don’t know how am I supposed to wipe off the jelly out of it now.” Seungcheol continued with a sigh (as if that was the real issue), interrupting Jeonghan’s delirious thoughts.
Right, the jelly.
That was the problem.
Jeonghan’s crossed arms and scoff didn’t go unnoticed by Seungcheol.
“What?” Seungcheol pouted, and it reminded Jeonghan so much of Mingyu, so that was where he got it from, huh? “Why are you mad at me?”
“Well, this.” Jeonghan waved a hand at the messy living room, the book covered in jelly. “You’re being so calm about this. I locked up Hansol by accident, and Wonwoo hit his head and broke his glasses and Mingyu and the kitchen, I only did the dishes, but the-”
Seungcheol burst out laughing at the middle of the sentence, causing Jeonghan’s cheeks to heat up once again.
What was so funny?
He was being serious!
“It’s just… it’s so cute,” Seungcheol doubled over as he laughed, even gripping the kitchen counter for support, and Jeonghan parted his lips, cute? “That you think that this is disastrous. Honestly, that’s just a normal, a good day for me.”
Jeonghan promptly closed his mouth.
And if his face was burning up at being called cute, Seungcheol didn’t seem to notice, because he just waved a hand at the whole situation.
“The door isn’t jammed, you’ve got to twist it a certain way and it opens, and Mingyu is a bit clumsy, so I’m used to him running into things. I think it was messier this time, because it was Wonwoo, and you know, he’s usually very aware of his surroundings.” Seungcheol explained in a rush, but Jeonghan still seemed unconvinced. “It’s not like I don’t worry, okay? They’re just kids.”
Jeonghan nodded a little, feeling like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He looked up, just in time for Seungcheol to reach out, Jeonghan’s heart skipped a beat at the thought of Seungcheol cupping his cheek, but no, he just nudged his chin gently, just so Jeonghan would redirect his eyes.
The action still took his breath away.
“Look at them,” Seungcheol instructed softly.
So Jeonghan did.
It was just like when he had started babysitting, all three kids on the couch, Mingyu in the middle, leaning his head on Wonwoo’s shoulder, and Hansol dozing off, head on Mingyu’s lap.
“All good.” Seungcheol smiled, holding his gaze.
Jeonghan’s heart was beating overtime, Seungcheol was being so kind and warm and perfect about this, he had to look down, otherwise he’d do something stupid, like tear up.
Or ask Seungcheol if he could hold his hand.
So even though Seungcheol offered Jeonghan to stay for dinner, he decided he had already had a pretty eventful day, and he decided not to push his luck again.
Too many emotions for one day.
And well, if Seungcheol seemed disappointed once Jeonghan declined, then Jeonghan just tried not to think about it.
His heart was still racing and his cheeks were burning as he made it back to his apartment, not being able to take off Seungcheol’s gentle smile and touch from his mind.
He was so doomed.
Chapter 4: Spend the night.
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.