清香 (harujongin) wrote in deer_you,
清香
harujongin
deer_you

둘이면 아버지와 아들, 셋이면 가족이다 (1/2)

pairing: kai-centric, kai/sehun
rating: pg
word count: 15k words
genre: parenting!au, single parent!au, fluff, light angst, light romance
warnings: none
author's notes: written for kaifectionery 2017/2018.





둘이면 아버지와 아들, 셋이면 가족이다 (1/2)

A lot of people ask Jongin why he doesn't hire a caretaker for his son. Being a single dad is exhausting, they reason, since Jongin does not only have to work full-time to ensure a stable income for two, but he needs to raise a child as well, and childcare is a lot of work. Everyone else would ask for support, but not so Jongin. For one, he doesn't trust anyone enough to leave his precious Taeoh under their care, and two, he enjoys spending as much time as possible with the small bundle of joy that is his son.

Jongin loves pampering Taeoh. It's one way to make up for the lack of maternal love, but it's also a way to express his adoration for his son. In Jongin's eyes, there is no child more perfect than Taeoh - always cheerful, always happy, and so well-behaved. Taeoh is not spoiled or demanding, never throwing tantrums, neither in public, nor at home, and that only makes Jongin want to cherish his child more and more. Taeoh is a smart, sensitive child, he would doesn’t look like he could develop bad habits and traits at all.

If only he could spend more time with Taeoh, Jongin thinks as he heads towards the kindergarten to pick up his son. Unfortunately, that is not possible since he wants to stand on his own two feet and not rely on his parents. They are worrying about him enough as it is, and having them babysit Taeoh occasionally is already more help than he wants to ask for. They are old, having spent decades with taking care of Jongin and his older sister, so he doesn’t want to stay a burden to them much longer.

Jongin tries to look at the bright side of things. It could always be worse, right? Jongin is lucky to be employed in a company that might demand great performance, but the company gives him a lot of employee benefits as well. As single father, he is allowed to leave work up to an hour earlier than everyone else - at five in the afternoon, instead of six o'clock, as long as they can finish their work within time. His son is also taken care of in the company's own nursery school that is close by the headquarters. Jongin needs about five to ten minutes to pick Taeoh up and another ten minutes to walk home. His company had helped him finding an apartment close by, too, all for the employee’s convenience.

Jongin walks past the fence and peeks into the kindergarten’s backyard, trying to find Taeoh there, but his son is not in sight. He is probably inside, all dressed up and ready to go home the moment Jongin calls for him.

As expected, a tiny body flings itself against his legs, arms clinging to them as the child's cheery voice is screaming daddy, daddy, let's go home. Jongin laughs softly and picks the boy up, smiling at a face that is almost identical to his. The eyes resemble his, he'd like to think, and the complexion, too. Both Jongin and Taeoh tan easily in the sun, and although that had been reason for a lot of teasing when Jongin had been younger, Taeoh seems completely fine with it.

Because I look like daddy, Taeoh had reasoned with him once. And daddy is handsome. Yeri said so. And Yeri's mommy too.

Jongin is aware of how attractive he is. Even as single father, there are still men and women alike interested in him. But, Jongin has sworn to himself that he would devote all his life to Taeoh only, so he doesn't respond to flirtations. He keeps all his relationships friendly and platonic. After all, they are doing okay without a second parent and Taeoh doesn't seem to mind either. Jongin alone is enough. No one else could love his son as much as Jongin is doing. A potential partner might demand more of Jongin’s attention which equals less time to dote on his son if he decides to work it out for his partner to stay. And would that ever happen? No.

"Daddy, daddy," Taeoh whines, the sound successfully drawing Jongin's attention back to the present where his son is still clinging to his neck. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but Jongin doesn’t mind. He laughs softly when Taeoh presses a big, wet smooch to his cheek.

"Let's go home," Taeoh says and wiggles in Jongin’s hold. Jongin puts Taeoh down and chuckles.

"But first, we need to say goodbye to Miss Kwon," Jongin reminds his son who nods and runs back into his classroom obediently. Jongin follows him to the door and peeks inside where the kindergarten teacher is squatting down in front of Taeoh for them both to exchange goodbyes and a hug. When she straightens up, she waves at Jongin before another child demands her attention.

"Let's go," Jongin says, feeling all warm and happy just by holding a small, warm hand in his. It's familiar and assuring, knowing that his son is with him. Jongin still prefers being the one to watch over his little angel, rather than letting someone else do it. Like this, he can confirm that Taeoh is safe.

"Daddy," Taeoh starts chirping happily. He tells Jongin about everything that has happened in class today. It's no different from usual, except once Taeoh stops, Jongin hears smacking sounds and frowns. Glancing down to his son, he sees the boy eating a lollipop that he doesn't remember packing into Taeoh’s lunchbox in the morning.

"Where did you get that lollipop from?" Jongin asks.

"Miss Kwon!" Taeoh replies quickly and gives him a toothy grin. Jongin can't help but melt a bit on the inside. Of course, who else could be giving the kids candy, apart from the kindergarten teacher? It's not like strangers could simply go in and out of the kindergarten without raising suspicion and getting questioned.

"Daddy, look, Uncle Hun is there!" Taeoh says all of a sudden and pulls away from Jongin. He runs towards Sehun who is coming out of the supermarket with a bag of groceries in each hand. That doesn't deter Taeoh from jumping right into Jongin's best friend though, and said best friend drops his groceries to pick up Taeoh, both their laughter carried over to Jongin who is approaching them slowly.

"Did you just get off work, too?" Jongin asks in lieu of a greeting. They are close enough to drop any kind of formality and jump right into conversation.

"Actually, I took the day off," Sehun says, rocking back and forth on his heels to entertain a giggling Taeoh who is still clinging to his neck.

"Wanna grab dinner with us then?" Jongin offers, but Sehun shakes his head, much to Taeoh's dismay. The boy whines softly and Jongin doesn't need to look at his son to know that he is using his puppy eyes on Sehun.

"I'd love to, but I can't," Sehun explains. "I have a dinner date with my mom."

"Let's grab dinner some other time then," Jongin says and helps Sehun to pry off Taeoh who seems unwilling to let go. He smiles apologetically at both his son and Sehun. He doesn't like bothering other people and feels bad for Taeoh to show such a bratty behavior now, but he also feels sorry towards Taeoh who has taken a great liking to Sehun long ago. Jongin can't explain why, but he guesses it must be Sehun's playful and at times childish behavior that makes it easy for Sehun to interact with children. It's not only Taeoh, but his niece Rahee, too, who like Sehun.

"Uncle Hun will see you soon, okay Taeoh?" Sehun asks. Taeoh is still sulking, lips pushed forward in a pout and arms crossed in front of his chest. It's cute rather than intimidating to both adults, who glance at each other and smile, although Sehun is trying to hide his amusement to not upset the child further.

"Okay?" Sehun asks again, and finally Taeoh nods. He walks forward and slings his arms around Sehun's neck when the adult squats down to the same eyelevel.

"See you soon," Taeoh whispers and lets go, his arms now circling Jongin's legs. Sehun nods and gets up, picking up the grocery bags before he takes his leave.

Taeoh is still watching Sehun's retreating form until Jongin ruffles his hair.

"Wanna have fries and hamburgers today?" Jongin asks and bites down his laughter. Taeoh, like every other child, is easy to distract and bribe. Just at the mention of fast food he forgets about Sehun, eyes shining brightly. He tugs at Jongin's jacket in an attempt to pull his father forward towards the family restaurant they frequent.





It's a warm, sunny spring day. After all the snow and cold, Jongin is glad to see the sun shining through fluffier looking clouds. There is life everywhere he goes - people leaving the house to spend time outside and soak up the sunlight, and flowers blooming everywhere.

It's a Sunday, and for once Jongin doesn't have work that he needs to take home and finish in his small, cramped office that is serving as Taeoh's playroom as well. His workspace is small and limited, just a desk in the corner of the room where he put his computer and stacks up files he needs. The rest of the space is Taeoh's personal playground.

Jongin never regretted his decision to spoil his son like that. Taeoh's cheerful laughter and his excited chatter, the wide smiles and animated gestures whenever his son disrupts him while working just to show him something he just discovered doesn't annoy Jongin at all. Rather, he is relieved to find his son trusting him and never hesitating to come running to him at all times, just like now.

It's reassuring to know that Taeoh never walks away too far. He stays within sight, running forth and back, pulling at Jongin's hand to make Jongin hurry up so they arrive at the park sooner, but letting go of the hand quickly to run forward and examine something that has caught his eye, only to come back and run forth again. It's cute to Jongin, who has his phone in his hand, ready to film and take pictures of his adorable son, all to document his baby's childhood, because kids grow up too fast.

Jongin finds Taeoh growing up too fast, too. It feels like yesterday that two months old Taeoh has been handed over to him by a mother who does not care nor love. It took a lot of begging, as well as a lot of money to make the girl he accidentally got pregnant on a drunk night to keep the baby. There were no feelings between mother and father, just a few dates because the attraction was there, not the love. Nonetheless, Jongin couldn't let anyone end an innocent life that hasn’t yet started, even less so when it was his own flesh and blood.

He dated the girl after he learned of the results of that one night, did his best to provide for her and be a good boyfriend, a good soon to be husband. Except, that was not what Heejung wanted. She didn't want an early domestic life. She was dreaming big, of an exciting social life at university, of travelling the world and making career. She didn't want a family – not in my twenties, Jongin – and so they never got married. They just lived together until she gave birth to the most beautiful baby in the entire universe.

Jongin had thought that maybe the sight of her newborn baby would awaken natural motherly instincts, that after giving birth she would have a change of heart and stay, but she didn't, and Jongin didn't pressure her either. People are different, and if she wasn't ready for this, then Jongin would take care of Taeoh on his own.

For some reason, Jongin had hoped for Heejung to change her mind along the way, but it was clear that she wanted a clean cut. Two months after Taeoh's birth, Heejung had given up her parental custody and packed her luggage, and Jongin hasn't heard of her since, only seeing facebook updates and new pictures on instagram. It's not like he cares though. Not anymore. He might not be able to give his son a complete family, but he can handle raising a child on his own. Taeoh has never asked about his mother either. Jongin could perfectly handle both roles. He could be the dad and the mom for his child.

"Daddy," Taeoh shouts, two hands forming a makeshift megaphone around his mouth, as if it would enhance his voice and boost up the volume. "Hurry up."

Jongin chuckles and jogs over to the park's entrance where Taeoh is waiting for him. His son is pointing at the candy floss stand and Jongin ends up buying one that looks like that rabbit character, the one from that messenger app, not minding that it's overpriced. Anything for his child, right?

They walk together, Taeoh pressed to his side because the park is crowded. They are not the only ones who have decided to make use of the nice weather to go outside for a change of air. There are families everywhere - mothers taking care of the youngest children, fathers talking loudly to one another and the other, bigger children running around playing tag and laughing.

"Do you want to join them and make some new friends?" Jongin asks his son who shakes his head. Taeoh just clings to him more, accidentally smearing some candy floss onto Jongin's jeans. Jongin sighs, but doesn't scold Taeoh who looks apologetic. He can't be upset with his son when the boy knows that he has made a mistake and apologized.

"Sorry," Taeoh mumbles, eyes wide and moist.

"It's okay," Jongin says and pulls his son into a hug after picking up the candyfloss. He doesn't need more sticky sugar on his clothes. "It's not going to leave stains. I'll just wash it out later at home."

Truthfully, Jongin is not too sure about that, but if it's really just sugar, it should be fine, right? Even if it left stains, this is just some old washed out pair of jeans. Taeoh's smile is more precious to him than clothes he could dismiss anytime, so when Taeoh finally stops making that sad face, he takes a relieved breath.

"Do you want to finish this candy floss?" Jongin asks and Taeoh shakes his head.

"Daddy can eat the rest," Taeoh says and smiles, and Jongin does, although he doesn't like sweet, sugary things (with the exception of his son, but that is the kind of sweet and sugary that he can tolerate).

"Aw, aren't you two cute together," a very familiar voice coos at them. It takes a longer moment for Jongin to recognize who it is, and his son, who has been quicker, has already left his side to run to Sehun, arms stretched out towards the adult, demanding to be picked up.

Jongin straightens up and sighs softly. He has a hard time to suppress the stabbing feeling of jealousy whenever he sees his son's enthusiastic reactions when seeing Sehun. Sometimes it feels like Taeoh likes Sehun more than Jongin, his own father, and that thought makes Jongin sad, although he would never admit that.

"What a coincidence," Jongin says. Sehun's eyes are twinkling in amusement, mockingly so, as if he knew what was going through Jongin's head. Jongin hopes that his expression hasn't given him away, but it most likely did, especially to someone who has always known him very well. They weren't best friends for no reason, and he didn’t select Sehun to be Taeoh’s godfather for no reason either.

"Yeah," Sehun just agrees and laughs softly when Taeoh demands some of the candy floss all of a sudden.

"Daddy, give Uncle Hun some, too," Taeoh demands, and again, Jongin can't say no. He tries to hand over the stick with the sweet treat, but Sehun's hands are occupied, wrapped around Taeoh's body to keep the boy safe and steady against his chest.

"Feed him," Taeoh demands, so Jongin does, although the feeling of Sehun's lips brushing against his fingers feels strangely intimate. Too intimate. This is not what best friends do, is it? Sehun doesn't show any sign of discomfort, and so Jongin shakes off the feeling and tries his best to regard this as normal. It probably is. Jongin is just overthinking, as always.

They stand awkwardly huddled together with Jongin and Sehun sharing the candyfloss since Taeoh refuses to let go of Sehun. To make up for not playing with Taeoh on the other day, Taeoh insists, screaming when Sehun tries to put him down on the ground, so Sehun keeps carrying him around.

Jongin is embarrassed at his son's sudden spoiled behavior, but Sehun shows nothing but adoration towards Taeoh, so Jongin is assured to some extent, although there are still worries nagging at him. What if Sehun doesn't show his annoyance? His best friend is known for having a poker face after all.

"Should we buy another candy floss?" Sehun asks once they have finished the one Jongin has bought.

"Taeoh, you didn't eat much, right? You should have eaten more," Sehun continues to coo, but Taeoh shakes his head.

"I'm full," the boy says, so Sehun drops him despite the shrieking protests. Jongin closes his eyes, his head hurting for a second.

"If you're full, that means we have to play a lot so you can feel hungry and eat more nice treats again," Sehun says. "Don't you want some ice cream later?"

Jongin shoots Sehun a glare. Although he is a doting father, Jongin knows that it's not good for children to eat so many sweets. It's not good for anyone. No, Jongin mouths at Sehun and shakes his head vehemently, but Sehun just chuckles.

"Let's go, Taeoh."

Jongin is left standing there to watch his own son running after Sehun.





An hour of playing tag later, the three of them are exhausted. Jongin didn't plan on exercising, but he figures he can't let Sehun hog his son. He can't let Taeoh get too attached to Sehun either, not to an extent that makes him prefer Sehun over Jongin. So when Sehun offers to buy them treats, Jongin tells him no. Jongin is going to be the one buying ice cream.

"You want melon, right?" Jongin asks Taeoh for confirmation, but his son shakes his head.

"No, I want Uncle Hun's," Taeoh says and makes grabby hands towards Sehun who willingly squats down and shares his cup with strawberry and blueberry ice cream.

"I thought you liked melon best?" Jongin says and shakes his head, sighing.

"No. Taeoh likes strawberry and blueberry now," Taeoh replies and giggles. Jongin doesn't understand what is going on, but he definitely caught Sehun winking at his son and the two of them breaking out in laughter together. It worries him to see Taeoh keeping secrets from him, but this is Sehun, someone he trusts. Hopefully, Sehun is not planning to steal away what’s most important to Jongin – his son.





"Taeoh," Jongin calls out, frowning slightly since this is the first time that his son is not waiting by the door. This is the first time he sees Taeoh focused on a toy instead of anxiously waiting for his father to pick him up. Not that Jongin wants to see his only son being so clingy and stick to him at all times because a healthy human being needs social interaction with his peers. Nonetheless, this is an odd sight to Jongin.

"Daddy?" Taeoh asks and turns his head, smile widening until it reaches his eyes. His son gets up quickly then and rushes over, almost tripping and falling in the process, but with two steps forward and strong arms, Jongin catches his baby securely.

"Hello, my boy," Jongin greets and can't help but chuckle when Taeoh starts laughing. So carefree and innocent, Jongin thinks and hopes his son can stay that way for a long time, untainted and unblemished by the dark, corrupt world around them.

"You weren't waiting for me as usual," Jongin notes, to which Taeoh seems a little flustered.

"I played," comes the quick response. "And the other children are still here, too."

Jongin ruffles Taeoh's hair. He's not mad at Taeoh. It's not unusual for children to forget about time and place when they are immersed in their games.

"Alright, let's put that toy back into the box and then get ready to go home," Jongin prompts, but Taeoh shakes his head. He holds the red toy car close to his chest, not wanting to give it away.

"Mine," Taeoh says and pouts at Jongin. "It's children's day."

And it's only now that Jongin realizes that he could have asked to go home earlier to spend the day with his son, like every other parent would do. They would take their children to the amusement park or the zoo, anywhere, and shower them with love, but Jongin forgot. He didn’t miss it last year, but with the ongoing project at work, it slipped his mind, and now it's nagging at his consciousness, even if Taeoh isn't visibly upset with him.

"Did you thank Miss Kwon for the present yet?" He asks the boy who just nods, refusing to give a verbal reply. Taeoh isn't looking him in the eye either, so maybe, maybe his son is more upset than he wants to show.

"Let's go," Jongin whispers and lets go of his son who rushes towards the wardrobe where he puts on coat and shoes. Jongin takes the backpack, asking if Taeoh wants to store away the plastic car, but Taeoh shakes his head again.

"No," Taeoh whispers and clutches the toy in his hand, holding it possessively. It's a slightly strange behavior, but Jongin guesses that children don't like to hand over what is theirs in general, especially when they are told that whatever is theirs is forever theirs and no one else's. Jongin might have to work on Taeoh's attitude, worried that his son might grow up into a selfish person who is unwilling to share.





On their way home, Jongin stops by a toy store. He still feels bad about forgetting children's day. It might not be Taeoh's birthday, but seeing as other children were pampered extra on this day, Jongin doesn't want his boy to feel sad about children's day being like any other ordinary day to him. Taeoh, too, is special, and as single father, Jongin wants to make sure that Taeoh knows how much he is loved.

"Pick anything you like," Jongin says, holding Taeoh's hand in his, the toy car already stored in the backpack so no one would mistake them for stealing items from the shop.

"Anything?" Taeoh asks. Jongin looks down to his son and nods, giving an encouraging smile. He expects Taeoh to either pull away and run towards the toy section that is most interesting to him or to pull at Jongin's hand to drag his father forward, but instead he is met with silence. Taeoh doesn't move, he looks dazed for a moment before the boy shakes his head.

"I don't want anything," Taeoh says with one of the cutest smiles Jongin has ever seen. "Daddy, let's go home and play with my new car."

Jongin tries not to feel disappointed at the rejection.

"Are you sure? What about an actual car? One that you can sit in and drive?" Jongin asks. Taeoh wrinkles his nose, a sure sign that he is thinking deeply about this matter, before he nods.

It wasn't Jongin's intention to buy such an expensive toy, but he ends up getting Taeoh a plastic car to sit in and pedal to get it moving. Taeoh's laughter on the way home is rewarding though, and Jongin smiles, too, feeling satisfied that he had beaten the kindergarten teacher's present, even if it meant spending half of this month’s salary that was meant to go on their savings account.





On a Sunday with wonderful weather, perfect to spend outside, Jongin is sitting by his desk, working on reports. He is supposed to do a presentation the next week, and depending on his performance he might get a raise in salary. His work had been constantly good the past months, and his team leader has hinted at possible promotions. Jongin has a chance on that team leader position since their current team leader Junmyeon will transfer to a new branch in Hongkong to lead a bigger, less experienced team there.

A promotion would mean more money for Jongin to spend on his son, not necessarily now, but in the future. Once Taeoh starts school, he wants to be able to provide Taeoh with supplementary classes if Taeoh needs them, or maybe finance music or sports classes, whichever his son is taking a liking to. Right now, drawing seems to be Taeoh's greatest passion, so he could enroll his boy into kids' painting classes. There are dozens of possible hobbies that Jongin is thinking about, and he would support Taeoh's interests as best as he could. Unfortunately, for all that, he would need to have enough money on his bank account.

"Daddy, where is red?" Taeoh asks. Jongin gets up and walks over to Taeoh who is kneeling on the ground with sheets of paper and colorful crayons scattered everywhere. It takes a while, but together they locate the red crayon that rolled underneath the cupboard where Jongin stores his office supplies.

"Thank you, daddy," Taeoh says and gives Jongin a smooch that reminds Jongin a lot of the pups his family raised when he was younger. That, too, could be an investment Jongin would make, just to keep his son happy. Surely, their love for animals are the same, so Taeoh would be exhilarated if they were to adopt a puppy.

"So, what are you drawing?" Jongin asks as they crawl back to the center of the room where Taeoh had been sitting and drawing forms and symbols that Jongin can't really make out what they are supposed to be portraying. "What did you need the red color for?"

"Secret," Taeoh says and squeaks, scrambling all the pictures together to hide. Jongin tries not to feel hurt about his son's secretive ways, but he knows better than to probe. Taeoh would tell him eventually, right?

"Later," Taeoh says. "I show daddy later. It's a... present."

"A surprise for me?" Jongin asks, just to make sure, and smiles when his son nods, eyes crinkling in a way that reminds him of neither Heejung or himself. Rather, it's similar to Sehun, but that would be weird, right? Why would Taeoh suddenly start to smile like his best friend?

"Surprise for daddy," Taeoh confirms and uses a hand to push Jongin towards his desk. Jongin gets the message and gets up, promising Taeoh that he wouldn't look until Taeoh has finished and is ready to show him the results.





A good hour later Taeoh is tugging at his shirt. Jongin turns around in his swivel chair, slowly, so he wouldn't accidentally crash his legs into his son.

"Hello, my Picasso," Jongin says, laughing softly at Taeoh's confused expression.

"Pikachu?" Taeoh asks, frowning, and Jongin shakes his head.

"I said Picasso," Jongin explains. "Picasso is a very, very, very famous painter. So maybe, if I call you Picasso, you will turn into a very, very, very famous artist, too."

"Really?" Taeoh asks, beaming like only a pure, innocent child could. It makes Jongin want to pull his son into a hug and coo at him, pinching those chubby cheeks, too, but he knows Taeoh wouldn't appreciate that.

"Really," Jongin says and chuckles, when Taeoh announces he would become a pikachu, too. Jongin doesn't attempt to correct him, knowing that Taeoh would forget anyways.

"So what did you draw for me, little Picasso?"

Taeoh proudly shows him the drawings he has completed today. There is a picture of a car, the same toy car that Jongin has bought in fiery red color with a little boy sitting inside. The next picture showcases a house that Taeoh claims they will be living in one day, because Taeoh wants to buy a house with a garden to keep a dog, just like his friend Sungho does. Jongin keeps that in mind, but he doesn't think he will be able to buy a house with a garden anytime soon.

"Oh, what about this one?" Jongin asks and points at the next picture presented to him. It shows three figures holding hands, two bigger ones and a small one in the middle. While Jongin is fairly certain that Taeoh has drawn himself with Jongin, he can't quite figure out who the other person could be.

"Oh, daddy, do you like it?" Taeoh asks, and Jongin smiles, putting on a sports commentator voice to humor his child.

"Oh yes, look at this picture," he says. "This is ten out of ten. The best picture I have seen in my entire career. The colors have been chosen so wisely, each stroke put down with care and thought. This must be a new genius, the reincarnation of Picasso drawing this!"

Taeoh laughs, although he shakes his head, whining at the same time, complaining that he doesn't understand anything of what his dad has told him. Those words were too difficult to understand, but at long as Taeoh gets the gist, knowing that Jongin has been praising him, all is fine.

"Yes or no, daddy?" Taeoh asks and Jongin pulls his son into a bear hug, giving the boy a big smooch on the cheek.

"Of course, Taeoh. I love all your drawings. Especially this one," Jongin says. "Because this is you and me on the drawing, right?"

Taeoh nods and points at the figure on the right side of the boy.

"This is daddy," he whispers, finger moving onto the other figure. "And this is Uncle Hun."





"Taeoh!"

Taeoh turns around, eyes widening for a split second before he starts running towards Jongin with his usual wide grin. Jongin chuckles and squats down to his son's eyelevel, waiting with opened arms. His son laughs and jumps right in, hugging Jongin around the neck almost too tightly. It's a bit uncomfortable and Jongin has light difficulties to breathe, but endures it. Like any other father, he loves to see his child showing so much affection.

"Hello, big boy," Jongin says and gets up, Taeoh secured in his arms. The boy laughs into Jongin's ear and turns his head, pressing a peck to Jongin's cheek.

"Ew, daddy, it's itchy!" Taeoh complains, but giggles. Jongin chuckles, too, and carries his son over to the kindergarten teacher who is watching over all children playing in the playground in the backyard of the nursery school.

"I'm taking Taeoh home now. Thanks for your hard work as always, Miss Kwon," Jongin says and smiles, knowing that the teachers always appreciate words of gratitude and encouragement. If taking care of one child is already exhausting, then he could only imagine how much worse it would be to take responsibility for ten children at the same time.

"Okay, thanks for being on time," Mrs. Kwon replies, her attention wandering over to Taeoh who is smiling sweetly at her. She pats him on the back.

"See you tomorrow, Taeoh," she says and laughs when Taeoh leans closer to peck her, almost falling off Jongin's arms if his father didn't try to balance him out and hold him tighter. Taeoh laughs shyly, too, and smacks his lips against the teacher's cheek to say goodbye.

Jongin lets Taeoh down on his feet then so the boy could run forward and into the school's building to get his backpack. He follows his son close and sees Taeoh opening his bag to pull out a small bag of cookies. It makes Jongin frown.

"Those are not from home, are they?" Jongin asks. Taeoh turns around to him and shakes his head, a tiny smile on his face. Jongin can't tell why his son is avoiding eye contact, almost, as if he had done a bad thing.

"You didn't take them from our cupboard, did you?" Jongin probes further, but Taeoh shakes his head again.

"Miss Kwon gave me those," Taeoh whispers, and the way he blinks up at Jongin, worry written across his face, makes Jongin start to suspect. Is Taeoh lying to him? This would be a first. What other reason could there be for his adorable son to act this way? It's too early for Taeoh to be in a rebellious phase.

"Maybe I should talk to Miss Kwon," he finally says. "It's not healthy to have so many sweets. A teacher should know that."

Taeoh makes some weird, high pitched noise that turns into soft whimpering at that, his whole body flung against Jongin's leg to cling there.

"No, daddy, please no," Taeoh begs and looks up with wide eyes. According to Jongin's mother, it's the same kind of puppy eyes that Jongin has used on adults during his childhood as well. Like father, like son. And yet, despite knowing that it's a trick that Taeoh has picked up, Jongin can't help it. He coos at his son and promises to leave it be. How could he do differently but to relent? Only cruel and cold-hearted people are unfazed by big, wide puppy eyes, so Jongin settles for a compromise.

"You have to remember to brush your teeth thoroughly when we’re at home, okay?" He asks.

"Yes, daddy, promise," Taeoh says expression brightening up. He lets go of Jongin who wishes his boy would cling a little bit more. Like that it would feel less like Jongin had been manipulated by his four, soon turning five years old son.

"Daddy, eat one, too!" Taeoh holds up a cookie and grins. He has opened the bag of oreos and is holding up one, even going as far as standing on his tiptoes to reach Jongin's height more easily. Not that it's possible, but Jongin finds it endearing and squats down to eat the offered treat.

"Thanks, Taeoh," Jongin says and declines the offer of a second one. "You have the rest."





It's Taeoh's birthday the next week, but Jongin is already fretting about a birthday party plan since this would be the first time for Taeoh to have friends over at home. Last year, Jongin didn't have the time to organize a party, so they just spent the afternoon at his parents who were entertaining the birthday boy while Jongin was working on infographs for his sales report.

"What else do we need?" Jongin asks Sehun who has helped him out today. Sehun has a day off, so he volunteered to pick Taeoh up from kindergarten since Jongin had a business dinner that night. Currently, Taeoh is in bed, soft snoring sounds and the occasional whine audible from where they are seated in the living room, the door connecting to Taeoh’s open. They each have a mug of tea in their hand. It's June, but the nights are still cool, so a warm, fruity tea is the perfect drink, Sehun had insisted and prepared the drinks earlier with Jongin leaning against the kitchen counter and silently watching.

"Jongin, I don't think you need to worry that much," Sehun says. There's an amused glint in his eyes that doesn't go unnoticed by Jongin who huffs. Sehun would never understand the mindset of a parent who wants his best for his only son. Sehun isn’t a father like Jongin is, who wants to make Taeoh feel special and loved. That is why his fifth birthday needs to be a memorable one.

"It's not like you're not spoiling him enough as it is," Sehun adds on. "I mean, no one else spoils their kid to an extent that you do to Taeoh. You're lucky that he's a thoughtful and sweet child, otherwise he would have turned bratty by now."

Sehun's not wrong, but Jongin does not want to admit defeat. It would mean agreeing to his lack of parenting skills and admitting that Sehun, a single man, knew more about raising a child than Jongin the single father does.

"Still, I want to be prepared for everything, so we have to plan it out in detail. We got the minions themed decoration as well as food choice, which is fries and chicken nuggets which all kids love. There's going to be a birthday cake as well. And for entertainment the kids can play in Taeoh's room or watch some child-friendly cartoons."

Jongin looks up from his phone screen where he has saved the list, and stares back at Sehun's eyes. It's unnerving to find Sehun gazing at him with what he deems a judgmental attitude.

"What?" Jongin asks, slightly irritated.

"Nothing," Sehun says and shakes his head. "I just think that you're worrying too much. What could possibly go wrong? Taeoh is only inviting three friends, right?"

Jongin nods. Right. Maybe he is worried for no reason. It can't be too difficult to watch over four children in total when usually, it's two teachers responsible for ten to twenty kids. He can do that, especially with Sehun's help.

Initially, he hadn't thought of inviting Sehun, but when he talked to Taeoh about his upcoming birthday on the weekend, Taeoh had asked for his godfather to come, because Uncle Hun is my friend, too. Those words were paired with a pout and wide, expectant eyes, so Jongin had no choice but to invite his best friend, too.





Sehun had been right. Jongin had been fussing over nothing. Four children are easy to supervise, especially ones with more calm and quiet personalities like Taeoh and his friends. The children are nothing but sweet as they talk and giggle during playtime, even though Jongin is a bit worried about his bed. They are currently using it as a trampoline while tackling Sehun at the same time, pillows and stuffed toys flying everywhere. Jongin is just relieved that he doesn't have any electronics or expensive decorations around that could be broken, and luckily, there’s nothing dangerous that could possible hurt the children either.

While Sehun handles the kids, Jongin has time to take care of dinner. They had cake two hours ago, a colorful rainbow cake that Taeoh insisted on having after he had seen one on TV. Jongin is lucky that his sister has a pastry chef as friend who he could ask for that favor, and seeing the big smile and the wide, astonished eyes of all four children, Jongin feels content.

"How much longer, Jongin?" Sehun yells, breathy voice all mixed with laughter. Sehun is probably having a tough time since he is ticklish. The kids must have found his weakness pretty soon as more laughter spills over, Sehun's obnoxious one, as well as the kids' high pitched sounds. Jongin smiles. It's nice to have his apartment filled with so much life. He doesn't mind Taeoh inviting his friends over more frequently.

"Jongin, please," Sehun yells again, making Jongin chuckle by the stove.

"Almost done!" He yells back, but almost done is another fifteen minutes in which Sehun must have struggled a lot. His face is red, glistening with a sheen layer of sweat and there are unshed tears in the corner of his eyes, too.

"You play with the kids later," Sehun says and runs a hand through his messy hair. It should be illegal to look so effortlessly good, Jongin thinks and looks away, focusing on quietening down four overexcited children who are creating a mess of ketchup and mayonnaise swirls on the dinner table.





"Here's your present," Sehun says and hands over a huge, but rather flat box to the birthday boy after all other guests have left. Taeoh makes some cute, incoherent sound and runs over to take the box, only to pout because of how heavy it is. Nonetheless, he opens it with childish curiosity. Jongin watches quietly from his seat on the couch, wondering if Taeoh will like Sehun's present more than his or not.

Inside, there is a blackboard with a box of crayons. Sehun sets it up quickly, putting the blackboard up onto its frame.

"Now you can draw and practice writing at home," Sehun says and smiles. "You'll start elementary school soon, right?"

Taeoh nods and hugs Sehun's legs, and Jongin is again left in awe at the fact that Sehun is putting a lot of thoughts into these kinds of things whereas other people would just buy some sort of toy for their friend's child, just because that would be a present that children would never reject.

"Taeoh, what do we say when someone gives us a present?" Jongin says, reminding his son that he still hasn't expressed his gratitude yet.

"Thank you, uncle Hun."

"You're welcome," Sehun says and picks Taeoh up for a nice hug, laughing when Taeoh starts to pepper his face with kisses. Jongin watches them both with a fond smile.





That same night, Jongin allows Taeoh to sleep in his bed. Taeoh had been adamant, arguing that it was his birthday so he wanted to sleep over with his daddy again instead of feeling all lonely in his small bedroom, so Jongin caved in.

"Daddy?" Taeoh whispers, and Jongin is surprised that his son is not asleep yet, although he had been quiet for the past few minutes. Usually, rubbing Taeoh's back is enough to help him fall asleep in the shortest amount of time.

"What is it, sweetheart?" Jongin whispers back.

"Where is mommy?" Taeoh asks, his voice quietens down even more, as if it was a taboo to talk about. It's not, and Jongin feels sorry for his son to think that he can't speak openly about matters like these. Maybe it had been wrong for Jongin to assume that Taeoh would be okay to not talk about their family's situation since that's how they have been living together for a long time. Maybe he should have explained it earlier, but then again, Taeoh is only five years old, and Jongin doesn't think there is a nice way to say that Taeoh's mother chose to leave him, and that if it weren't for Jongin asking her not to abort, his son might not even exist in this world. If possible, Jongin doesn't ever want Taeoh to know that his own biological mother had never loved him.

"Do you miss your mom?" Jongin asks back as he doesn't feel like replying. He isn't too sure what Heejung is up to either. The last time he had opened instagram a few weeks ago, she had posted pictures from a beach vacation somewhere in Thailand.

"Taeoh has a mommy?" Taeoh asks, sounding so surprised about that fact. Jongin feels his heart squeeze painfully at that. He wishes that Taeoh never feels like needing a mother. Because he doesn't. Jongin alone makes up for a mother who doesn't care, right?

"Of course you do," Jongin replies. "Every child has a mommy. But sometimes, a mom and a dad can't be together, so that's why you're here, with me. Would you rather be with your mom instead?"

It's a question he doesn't actually want to speak out loud, for fear of the reply, but at the same time he knows that there is only one way Taeoh would reply to the question – he doesn’t know his mother after all – and yet he feels horrible for asking. A child shouldn’t have to choose. A child has the right to have a perfectly intact family.

"No. Taeoh wants to be with daddy," Taeoh whispers, and Jongin pretends he doesn't notice his son curling into him and shaking, Jongin's shirt turning damp where Taeoh's face is pressed into the fabric.


Tags: c: kai, g: angst, g: fluff, g: romance, l: 10 000 - 20 000, p: kai/sehun, r: pg
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