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Of Tiny Hands and Big Hearts

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“I’m going to get you!”

A high-pitched, girlish scream resonates throughout the apartment followed by little footsteps running over the wooden floorboard.

Yixing smiles as he chases the little girl around, making sure to make his footsteps extra loud (and extra slow) as he roars.

“You can’t hide from the dragon forever!” Yixing exclaims, crouching down low behind the coffee table when the little girl runs around it towards the other side for protection. He bares his teeth, clawing in her direction.

“Not if I get to daddy first!”

His daughter squeals when he darts forward, giggling more as she continues to run around, her plan already forgotten. Yixing feigns injury when he turns past their couch, a dramatic cry leaving his lips as he stumbles forward.

“Oh no, I’ve been hurt...your magic is too strong for me, princess Meili,” Yixing wheezes, clutching his “injured” knee as he lies on the ground. All of a sudden, there’s a heavy weight sitting on his chest, his daughter looking down at him with large, sparkly eyes.

“I’ve got you!” Meili exclaims happily, bopping Yixing on the nose. “Now the scary dragon is just my cuddly daddy, free from the evil spirit!”

Yixing pulls her down, smiling at her as he places a wet kiss to her cheek. “My hero! Thank you for curing me from my darkness.”

Meili’s face is bright red by the time they settle down, Yixing running a soft thumb over her cheeks as they lay there. She giggles from the sensation, Yixing’s eyes softening. His daughter is so incredibly precious that it’s hard for him to imagine a time where she hadn’t been a part of his life. It’s just a shame that Meili’s mother isn’t there to witness her grow up, but they had split amicably, both of them realizing that things weren’t as great as they used to be. Last Yixing heard, his ex-wife was with someone new. He’s happy for her and hopes they will be together for longer than the two of them had been.

“Daddy?” Meili calls out quietly after a few minutes. Yixing’s pulled out of his thoughts, his entire focus landing on the adorable little girl in his arms.

“Yes, princess?”

“You had your thinking face on again,” she says. “Was it something bad?”

For a seven-year old, Meili is incredibly perceptive, always has been. Yixing wishes that she wasn’t sometimes, but he’s promised himself to never lie to her unless it was a dire circumstance.

“No, I was just thinking about the past with your mommy.”

Meili gets this faraway look in her eyes whenever Yixing talks about his ex-wife, which is why he tries not to talk about her that often. It’s obvious Meili wishes her mother was around, and Yixing’s heart breaks each time she calls out for her mother in her sleep. It pains him to know that she’ll never be able to have a mother in her life because while they had split on good terms, his ex-wife hadn’t been quite on board with the split parenting.

“I think it would be best if she just stayed with one of us,” she had said. “It would keep her grounded in one place and she wouldn’t have to worry about which house to go to at the end of the day.”

Yixing hadn't particularly agreed, but he also didn't want to make the entire process more difficult than it had to be. Meili had only been three at the time and while Yixing hadn't been sure that things were going to be okay back then, he's positive they will be now. It's been four years and even though it hasn't been sunshine and rainbows the entire time, they're doing fine now. The only thing Yixing regrets is not being able to spend as much time with his daughter as he possibly can, knowing that if she had both parents, she would be surrounded with love at all times, not just on the weekend and at nights when he has time to spare.

“Hey,” Yixing says, gently nudging Meili in the side. “Do you want to color some pages in your book before heading off to bed?”

If there's one thing in this world that Yixing can't stand, it's his daughter being sad. It's only more painful this time since it was his fault. Yixing wants to beat himself up about it, but he needs to let Meili know about things like this so she won't have any misconceptions that her mother is going to come back for her one day. It's painful, and his stomach twists into knots every time something reminds him that she's never coming back, but they can be happy. They've been happy for years and they can continue to be happy for more.

Fortunately, Meili's eyes light up at the prospect of getting to fill barren pages with life. She bounces in place, Yixing wheezing because she's still sitting on top of him. Meili lets out a giggle, looking entirely unapologetic as she chimes, “Sorry, daddy.”

Yixing smiles, reaching up to lightly tickle her sides to get more giggles from her.

“No,” she wails, little fists coming up to defend herself from Yixing's attack to no avail. Yixing takes pity on her, slowing down with a smile on his face as he gazes at the most important person in his life.

He scoops her up suddenly, Meili clinging to his wide shoulders as he brings them to her room.

“Which one do you want today?” he asks as he stands in front of her bookshelf where there are a multitude of books stacked and ready to be used.

Meili's eyebrows furrow in thought. “I want to color stars.”

Yixing plucks the right book out from the pile and settles down on the floor near the table Yixing had bought especially for these occasions.

Together, they color and color, Meili chiding Yixing when he colors outside the lines.

“I didn’t!” he exclaims playfully, purposely widening his eyes as he looks at her in mock hurt. “See, it's perfectly fine.”

Meili squints at the page before looking up at Yixing. “Okay, I'll accept it just because you're my daddy.”

Yixing lets out a long sigh of relief that gets her laughing again. He smiles at her before resuming his coloring, taking extra precaution to color inside the lines this time.

 

The bakery is busier than usual today, Yixing flying around to gather orders and payments and other things that need to be done.

“Yixing? Sorry, but can you come help me with this order?” someone calls out, Yixing rushing over to help the new girl with the machine before going to the back to get a cake that a terribly impatient customer is demanding to get right this moment.

“Sorry for the wait,” he apologizes easily, the words sounding effortlessly sincere after years of practice. He doesn't particularly enjoy when people are rude to him or others when they take what the customer deems to be too long - can't they just slow down and wait a few more seconds? The world is going to keep on spinning if they get their cake now or in two minutes.

The customer leaves with a huff after paying, but Yixing can't be bothered about their attitude when he has other things to attend to.

This seems to be a common trend throughout the day and before Yixing knows it, it's past the usual time he has to leave by if he wants to get to Meili’s school on time.

“Crap,” he mutters under his breath before smiling at the lady in front of him. “Have a nice day!”

Once she leaves, Yixing immediately heads to the back to hang up his apron and rush to his car. Meili is going to get out of school in five minutes and, if he's lucky, the car ride will be twenty. And as much as he doesn't want Meili to wait long, he also doesn't want to get a ticket so he's left to go five over the speed limit, praying that she won't be too lonely when he arrives.

Yixing hops out of his car twenty minutes later, the school already mostly empty. Yixing takes a few seconds to blink before hurrying inside, following the hallways he knows so well. The door he ends up in changes every year, but they're all still around the same area so Yixing doesn't have trouble finding his way along.

“I'm sorry I'm late,” Yixing immediately says when he walks through the door. “Time just ran away from me and I know I told you last week that this wouldn't keep happening, but today was just so busy and-”

Meili giggles from her seat, the older man crouching in front of her chuckling as well. Meili waves at him happily before starting to pack up her things, Yixing giving a very excited wave back before turning his attention to her teacher. He's smiling, Yixing fighting the urge to look away from the beauty because first, it’s rude to stare and second, he doesn't need Minseok knowing just how attractive Yixing finds him when he smiles. Or when he breathes. Or when he just stands there in general. Regardless, Yixing manages to smile back. The air is always different when he comes in here, has been for the past few months. Yixing tries not to think about it too much, but he's also not stupid; he can tell when he's attracted to someone. It felt the same way with his ex-wife at first, but it’s different this time and not because Minseok is a man. Yixing had always known he was bisexual, something that he made sure to tell his ex-wife beforehand, and she had been fine with it.

“Breathe, Yixing. It's fine. I've told you before that I don't mind staying with Meili at all. She's very fun to be around and she even asked me to help make you something today, right Meili?” Minseok asks before looking back at her. It looks so doting that Yixing feels weak in the knees. Yixing has always loved kids, and one of the most attractive things to him is a person that loves kids as well. Minseok is a school teacher so of course he loves them; Yixing may or may not be more smitten because of it.

“Right!” Meili chirps, bringing Yixing out of his thoughts. Minseok is smiling at him like he knows what Yixing had been thinking, Yixing steadfastly not looking in Minseok's direction. Instead, he crouches down with a gasp.

“Did you really? I bet it's perfect.”

With a bright smile that could rival the bright yellow stars in Meili's coloring book, she hands him a piece of paper. Yixing softens when he looks over it. There's the two of them standing in the middle of the paper, a table with books off to the side that Yixing assumes is supposed to be her coloring books. His suspicions are proved right when he spies an orange crayon in his hand.

“Minseok teacher helped me pick out the colors,” she says, Yixing looking up at Minseok with a raised eyebrow.

“Did he now? Well, it's a very nice drawing and the colors match well.”

Minseok smiles wide, his eyes starting to turn into crescents. “It was really all Meili, though. I might have told her the colors, but she drew everything.”

“It's very beautiful,” Yixing compliments, eyes sweeping over the picture one last time.

A tug on his hand brings his focus back to his daughter, a pout on her little face. “I'm sorry I didn't have time to finish it. There was supposed to be more furniture, but then you showed up before I could draw them.”

“Maybe I should leave now or come later next time, then,” Yixing teases.

Meili looks torn, eyes darting from the paper to Yixing to Minseok and back to the paper. Eventually, she settles for, “No, it's okay. I can just draw more later!”

Yixing laughs as he stands up, taking his daughter's hand in his own, the paper in his other hand. He turns to Minseok, who’s been standing off to the side the entire exchange. “Thank you so much for looking after her and sorry again for being late.”

Minseok waves him off easily. “Don't worry about it. Meili is cute, so I definitely don't mind spending time with her.”

“Minseok Teacher is cute, too!” Meili chimes in, causing Minseok to laugh.

“Thank you.” He smiles again, Yixing's knees wobbling slightly. He curses them for being weak. “I'll see the both of you tomorrow?”

“You will,” Yixing affirms. He looks down at Meili with a smile. “Ready to go home, princess?”

“Yes!” she responds happily, her dimple showing.

“Goodbye,” Yixing says as they leave, Minseok sending them off with a wave and another smile.

“Did you have a good day today?” Yixing asks as they're walking down the sidewalk hand-in-hand.

“I did! We were learning math and it was kind of hard, but Minseok Teacher said I was doing really well.”

“My smart little girl,” Yixing coos, before ruffling her hair. Meili whines, her other hand rising to try and fix the flyaway strands.

She pouts up at him and he simply smiles as he helps her get into the car despite her protests that she's old enough to do it herself.

“How about some ice cream as a thank you for the gift you drew me?”

And Meili is immediately mollified, happy shouts of, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” floating throughout the car.

 

The weekend brings peace and quiet, if only for a few hours. Yixing loves weekends mostly because he gets to spend time with Meili, but also because he doesn't have to worry about going to work. He's incredibly lucky that his boss is so nice and willing to work with his needs. To be fair, though, he's not supposed to be at the bakery from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon, since that's basically double the times others usually have, but Seulgi lets him do it in exchange for not working on the weekends. He doesn't know what he did to deserve a boss like her, but he's not going to question it, just continue to work hard to pay her back for all of the kindness she's shown him both in hours and pay.

Yixing wakes up to giggling that appears only to disappear. He fights back a smile. He knows that Meili is trying to be quiet, but failing miserably. She's always been a happy child and when she sets her sights on something (and is incredibly enthusiastic about it) she can't help but grin or laugh.

Yixing pretends to be asleep, pushing down the urge to spring up and bring her into his arms as a surprise. His fingers twitch under the pillow when the spot next to his ribs dips and he feels the brush of her pajamas against his bare skin.

A tiny finger presses into his cheek, Yixing's eyebrows furrowing for show before relaxing when Meili pulls back with a small giggle.

“Daddy,” she whispers. She nudges his ribs, but Yixing doesn't respond.

“Daddy,” she says again, more insistent this time. It's only when Yixing can literally hear her pout that he cracks an eye open, sleepily murmuring her name in question.

“You're awake!” she cries, happily throwing her hands up in the air. She looks so proud that she was able to wake him up, eyes glittering like stars.

“What are you doing up so early?” he wonders as he sits up and scoops her into his lap. She places her cheek against his chest, right over his heart.

“It's not early, daddy. It's almost ten.”

Yixing finds that it’s indeed ten minutes to ten, eyebrows shooting up in surprise. He didn't think he had been that tired when he went to bed last night.

“How about some breakfast, then?” he asks, worried parent mode kicking in when he realizes Meili might have been up for hours without eating anything.

“Okay! But I already had a snack half an hour ago, so you don't need to worry too much.”

Once again, Yixing is struck with how wonderful his daughter is. He doesn't know how she's able to pick up on all of his quirks and tendencies, but he loves her all the more for it (but only sometimes since he doesn't want her to have to worry about him).

He tickles her tummy in lieu of answering, smiling when she responds with her usual happy laughter.

“How do pancakes sound, then?”

“Delicious!” she exclaims.

“Okay, just give daddy a few seconds to change. I'll be out soon.”

Yixing places her down on the floor, Meili giving a mock salute before tottering off towards the living room. It doesn't take long for Yixing to put on a new pair of pants and a shirt before heading towards the kitchen. True to his beliefs, Meili’s sitting on the cough watching television when he walks by, a smile appearing on his face when he hears her singing along to her favorite show.

A sigh of satisfaction leaves his lips when he twists as he's waiting for the stove to heat up and his back cracks. It's mornings like this that keep Yixing going. The only thing he's ever wanted is to make sure that Meili’s happy, to make sure that she isn't missing out on anything because she only has one parent.

Against his wishes, his mind travels to Minseok. The school year’s almost halfway over and Yixing’s talked with Minseok enough to know he’s quiet possibly the kindest man Yixing has ever come across. Yixing sees the light in his eyes when he talks about his students like they're his own, sees how doting he is when Yixing has come in for Open House and talks to parents about how well their child is doing. Yixing hasn't ever once heard Minseok say one bad thing about anyone and while that should be impossible - everyone can be kind of a jerk sometimes - Yixing firmly believes that Minseok’s as pure-hearted as they get. From what Meili tells him, Minseok doesn't lose his temper at all. Yixing finds it admirable considering Yixing knows there are some kids in Meili's class that can be loud and don't like following the rules (if Yixing remembers correctly, Meili had said their names were Baekhyun and Jongdae).

Yixing hates when his mind goes off like this because more often than not, he thinks about what it would be like in this very moment. He thinks about if he were to be cooking pancakes and hear Meili giggle in the living room from something that Minseok had said, or if Minseok came up behind him and snuck arms around his waist as he sleepily asked, “Do you need help?”

It's an awful habit that Yixing’s trying to break because it's wrong. It's so wrong to like his daughter's teacher even though it's not illegal like it would be for student-teacher relationships. Yixing just finds it odd. He knows that some parents would complain about Minseok playing favorites, that Meili doesn't deserve the grade she has because Minseok and Yixing are dating. Yixing doesn't want to cause Meili any hardships, doesn't want people to stop being her friend because he finds Minseok incredibly attractive, kind, caring, warm. Damn it, he really needs to clear his mind.

Meili calls out to him then, Yixing blinking his daze away.

“Sorry, princess. I'm almost done!” He cringes when he looks down at the empty bowl in front of him, all the ingredients next to it instead of in it. Yixing quickly goes to work, banishing all Minseok thoughts from his head.

 

It gets harder and harder to ignore, this feeling. Each time Yixing comes to pick Meili up, there's a chance that he’ll run into Minseok. As luck would have it, over the next two weeks, Yixing manages to be late once, walks up on Minseok playing with Meili another time, and simply runs into Minseok on the way out twice. It's like the universe is sending him a sign that he's trying to be ignorant to, but the feeling of wanting Minseok as more than Meili's teacher is burning a path through his entire body. It only gets stronger each successive time Yixing sees Minseok and everything is just generally Bad.

Yixing doesn't remember being this shy when he was dating (or about to be dating) his ex-wife. He had been confident, all smiles, smirks, and jokes as he wooed her, so why does he feel like a blushing high school girl this time? It's just difficult when Minseok looks at him like he sees something special, when Minseok smiles at him for a little longer than at other parents, when Minseok whispers in Meili's ear and causes her to giggle as she looks up at Yixing in a knowing way (or as knowing as it can get when it's from a seven-year old), when Minseok makes it his personal mission to be near the both of them as much as possible.

Yixing doesn't want to admit it, but he's almost positive that Minseok’s interested. Either that or Yixing’s only seeing what his heart wants to see and his eyes refuse to acknowledge.

The final straw that causes Yixing's defense to crumble completely is the day Yixing arrives at school to see that Meili’s nowhere in sight. Fear kicks in, eyes frantically searching for someone he rationally knows isn’t currently there.

Yixing just about jumps when Minseok says, “She's in the bathroom. Another teacher offered to go with her.”

He hadn’t realized he was looking so worried until he feels his shoulders slump with a relieved sigh.

“I think I should be offended that you don’t trust me to keep your daughter safe,” Minseok teases. Yixing’s about to respond that of course he does, probably a little more than he should at that, but he gets distracted with the way Minseok’s forearms flex as he wipes the chalkboard down. His button-up is rolled up to his elbows, the crisp white fabric almost like a second skin on Minseok. Yixing has always had a thing for his partners wearing button-ups, whether it be his or theirs so to say that Yixing’s mind is a messy place right now is a slight understatement.

When Yixing finally manages to focus again, Minseok is looking at him with an eyebrow raised in amusement, lips easily curling up on the sides. Yixing flushes, trying and failing to hide the blush working its way onto his cheeks. He was just caught ogling at his daughter’s teacher, who is now bending over as he searches for something and this must be a joke because Yixing gets a very clear, very defined view of Minseok’s ass. It’s a nice ass, and that’s something that Yixing has known for months now, but he’s never seen it like this. Yixing briefly wonders how Minseok is able to wiggle into those pants in the morning because they mold against his backside quite nicely.

Yixing forces himself to look away before he gets caught again, fingers reaching up to fan at his shirt because it’s kind of hot.

He just about jumps when Minseok clears his throat and asks, “So how are you?”

Yixing blinks, not expecting the question. “I’m fine,” he settles with. “Just a little tired.”

Minseok sends him a wry smile. “Aren’t we all? I love teaching, but the kids have too much energy sometimes.”

“I know that feeling well,” Yixing says with a laugh. “Although one kid is probably nothing compared to nine.”

“That’s an understatement,” Minseok mutters, but it’s loud enough that Yixing can hear it and he laughs again.

“Nap time must be a nice break at least?”

“Yes,” Minseok practically moans out, Yixing’s fingers twitching at the sound. He tells himself not to focus on it, not to think about the breathy quality it took on towards the end. Nope, Yixing’s calm like a river and everything is fine.

“What do you normally do then?” Yixing finds himself asking. Anything to distract him from the sound that keeps ringing in his ears.

“Sometimes I rest my eyes but most of the time I grade papers or play a game on my phone.”

Yixing hums. “That must be nice.” He doesn’t really know what it’s like to have a break, except for lunch and even then, he eats as quickly as possible so he can get back to work. The weekends are really the only time he gets a break, but he’s usually playing with Meili.

Minseok’s looking at him as if he’s looking for something. He looks concentrated and Yixing is loathe to admit that it’s kind of hot. Minseok is just about to say something when he looks around Yixing with a smile.

Within two seconds, there are little arms wrapping around Yixing’s legs, a loud exclamation of, “Daddy!” breaking the silent atmosphere.

Yixing flails to keep his balance before letting out a loud gasp as he twists around to see his daughter smiling up at him.

“You’re here!”

Meili giggles. “I am. How was your day?”

“That’s my line!” Yixing exclaims with a pout that gets Meili laughing. Yixing even thinks he hears Minseok chuckle. The sound skitters down his spine, but he ignores it in favor of turning his attention fully on his daughter.

“I beat you to it today,” Meili sing-songs and now Yixing definitely hears Minseok’s laugh. When he looks over, he sees Minseok’s eyes curved up into crescents and nope, it’s time to abort mission. Thankfully, Meili picks that moment to tug on the bottom of Yixing’s jeans, a pout on her cute little face as she stares up at Yixing. It’s the face that gets her something ten times out of ten and Yixing should really have more resolve when it comes to buying her sweets or toys, but he just can’t help it. He wants to give her the world and more.

“Yes, princess?”

“Can we get ice cream today? It’s hot.”

Yixing really should refuse, but he can’t, not with the way she widens her eyes and pushes her lips out. He sighs and she cheers, already knowing the answer. Yixing just knows that she’s going to be a heartbreaker when she gets older, although she probably won’t even know she’s doing it, unlike now where she knows exactly how to pull on Yixing’s heartstrings.

And then time stops when Meili turns towards Minseok and very happily says, “You should join us Minseok Teacher!”

Both Yixing and Minseok sputter on air, although Yixing is too distracted with the way his heart is threatening to beat out of his chest and land in a goopy pile on the carpeted floor to really notice how red Minseok’s cheeks turn.

“Minseok Teacher is a busy person, princess. I don’t think he has time to go with us,” Yixing says after a few seconds of flailing. Some of the words might have come out a little more accented than usual due to his shock, but Meili knows his speech pattern and tendencies by now, pouting up at him with large eyes. Yixing gets caught in them and the sad way they round out, little droplets of water gathering in the corners.

“I’m sorry, Meili,” Minseok cuts in. Yixing breathes a sigh of relief because he was about to say something really stupid, like how Minseok could absolutely come with them as if Minseok wasn’t right there and could answer for himself. “I actually am busy today.”

He doesn’t elaborate on why, Yixing’s heart dropping at the thought that he might have a date or a girlfriend or a boyfriend to go home to. Minseok’s fingers and neck are void of any jewelry, though, so unless the earrings in Minseok’s lobes are couple earrings, there’s no outright indication that Minseok is dating someone. Yixing can’t help but feel his chest tighten regardless. It had been foolish of him to assume that someone like Minseok would be single, even more so that he was interested in Yixing. It’s just unfortunate that Yixing had come to terms with his feelings in the last twenty minutes only to have them shattered.

“With what?” Meili asks, a sad tone to her voice. It’s as if she honestly wanted Minseok to come with them. At least she likes him a lot, Yixing thinks wryly.

“Don’t be rude, princess. If he says he’s busy, he’s busy,” Yixing chides gently. He doesn’t want to force Minseok to answer, mostly because he doesn’t like when people do it to him, but also because he doesn’t want to hear what he already knows.

“Sorry Minseok Teacher,” Meili says almost immediately.

Minseok waves his hands about, eyes slightly wider than normal. Yixing just finds him so cute and it's really unfair to be honest. No one should be allowed to be that hot and that cute at the same time.

“It's okay,” Minseok is quick to assure. “I'm not doing anything special.” He pauses to chuckle like he's embarrassed, Yixing's eyebrows furrowing because he shouldn't feel embarrassed about a date. Although, Yixing supposes, it must be pretty weird to explain to a student and her father that he's going to get ready for a night out. “It's just my mom's birthday so I'm going to go see her and my dad.”

Yixing blinks, not having expected that at all. His chest lightens up immediately and he's pretty sure his eyes might be twinkling a little, but that's okay. The last few minutes have jerked Yixing around in all sorts of different directions emotions-wise, but at least now he can finally settle on one: determination. Yixing isn't really a selfish man, but Minseok is basically perfect dare Yixing say it. He knows for a fact that Minseok likes children and that he likes Meili if the cute smiles they often share are anything to go by. Yixing just needs to figure out if Minseok is into men at all and then things can start moving along perfectly.

With a newfound fire flowing through his body, Yixing makes sure to put on his most charming smile as he looks at Minseok. “Well, I hope you have a nice trip then. Please drive safely and make sure you come back so that Meili still has a teacher when the weekend is over.”

That gets Minseok to laugh, and Yixing can spot the light dusting of pink on Minseok's cheeks. His smile only gets wider when he notices.

“I'll try, but I'm usually safe so this time shouldn't be any different. Besides,” and suddenly the blush adorning Minseok's cheeks lightens out until Minseok is practically smirking at Yixing. He blinks, taken off guard by the sudden change in Minseok's features and how he now looks like a cat ready to pounce. “I have you to look forward to seeing on Monday. It would be a shame if I wasn't here.”

Yixing simply continues to blink, mouth opening and closing like an ugly fish. It's not the most attractive face, but Yixing thinks he deserves a break just this once because Minseok is flirting with him? Up until five minutes ago, Yixing didn't even think he had a chance (that's kind of a lie, but at least now there's more evidence to support the fact that Minseok is interested).

“Can we go now?” a tiny voice asks. Yixing jumps, having completely forgotten that Meili was even there. He can see Minseok's shoulders rising and falling from where he's trying to act nonchalant by his desk and Yixing just knows that Minseok's laughing at him. It's unfair how he can act like nothing just happened when Yixing feels as if his whole world got tilted on its axis and then spun around a few times just for fun.

“Yeah, sorry princess,” Yixing responds slowly, eye raking over Minseok's legs one last time.

“It's okay,” Meili chirps. “As long as we're still getting ice cream, everything will be okay.”

Chuckling, Yixing takes her hand, vaguely wondering when she had time to gather all of her stuff from her desk. It was probably when Yixing was too busy talking to Minseok, but he brushes the thought off in favor of nodding.

“Of course, whatever you want princess.”

 

Meili is crying. There are tears in her eyes and her little fists are clutching onto the bottom of her skirt for dear life. Yixing immediately runs over, the smile on his face dropping.

“What's wrong? What happened? Are you hurt?” Yixing asks frantically, thumbs coming up to wipe under her eyes.

Yixing hadn't expected to see then when he pulled up to the school a few minutes ago. The day had been going fairly well - the bakery had been slower than usual, Yixing had talked a little with his co-workers, and there hadn’t been any rude customers. He had been looking forward to scooping Meili up in his arms and bringing her home to do homework before playing the night away.

It takes a few minutes for Meili's sniffles to subside, one of her hands coming up to rub under her nose before dropping back down.

“I-” she hiccups, more tears streaming down.

Yixing pulls her to his chest before running a hand through her hair. “Shh, it's okay, princess. Take your time.”

As Meili cries into his chest, Yixing looks around. Nothing in the hallway looks out of the ordinary and there aren't any kids around, so at least he knows that she wasn't pushed around or anything. Still, his heart is beating frantically and his head is full of errant thoughts and worst case scenarios that he would rather not be thinking about.

He waits there, legs starting to cramp from how long he's been squatting, but he's not going to complain. His daughter is much more important.

“Some...some kids made fun of me today,” Meili says when she pulls away and it's quite possibly the quietest voice that Yixing has ever heard from her. The only other time she was like this was when she lost her favorite kitty stuffed animal on a field trip, large tears in her eyes when Yixing came to pick her up. He ended up buying her a new one, but his heart positively broke at seeing her so sad.

“Why?” Yixing asks as calmly as he can. Anger isn't going to be useful in this situation, no matter how much he wants to march off and demand why his daughter wasn't taken care of. He likes to believe that Minseok was there to reconcile the situation, but Minseok is currently nowhere in sight.

“They...I...” Meili sniffles once more before continuing. “I pronounced a word wrong today. They laughed at me and said I would never be good at Korean like them.”

Yixing's fists clench. “It’s okay, princess, everyone makes mistakes. I’m sure other kids pronounce things wrong all the time.”

“But they don’t get made fun of for it!” she wails.

“I promise it’ll be okay,” Yixing says as he wipes her tears away. It hurts because there's not much else he can do to console her. “They're probably going to forget about it by tomorrow.”

At least he hopes they do. Kids are easily entertained and if he remembers anything from his school days, it's that what was interesting one day is completely forgotten the next. He hopes that the same thing will happen tomorrow and that whoever made fun of Meili will play with her and smile at her like nothing ever happened.

That seems to do the trick, Meili's tears drying up until all that's left are a red nose and slightly puffy eyes. Yixing sighs quietly as he runs fingers through her hair, eyes softening as he looks at his daughter. He wishes he could protect her from all the evil in the world, but he also knows he can't. She needs to become strong and learn to defend herself; he's not always going to be there to protect her.

“How about we go home and take a nap?” Yixing suggests. Meili nods, fingers clutching onto Yixing's hand for dear life.

As they're walking down the hallway, Yixing takes another look back only to see no one. He makes a mental note to go find Minseok later and ask him about it, but for now, he has Meili to take care of.

Luckily, they don't live too far from school and Yixing is opening the door to their apartment ten minutes later, Meili warm and content in his arms. She's already starting to doze off, all of the crying probably starting to take its toll on her. She clutches onto his shoulders when he goes to set her down on his bed, Yixing carefully prying her fingers away as he whispers, “I'll be right back. I need to get your blanket.”

She lets go, then, Yixing quickly walking to her room to pick up the blanket she always sleeps with. Yixing and his ex-wife bought it right before Meili had been born and she's slept with it every night since.

Meili is on the cusp of sleep when Yixing returns, a soft smile curling Yixing's lips up as he puts the blanket over her before crawling up to gather her in his arms. She immediately snuggles closer, eyes slightly bleary as they gaze up at him.

“I love you, daddy,” she whispers.

Yixing feels tears gather in his own eyes but holds them back. He places his hand over both of hers with a smile. “I love you, too.”

Meili falls asleep seconds later. Yixing watches her sleep for a few hours, a sigh escaping every once in a while.

“My beautiful daughter,” he says softly as he looks over her. She shuffles around, Yixing's breath catching before he releases when she settles back down again.

“I'm sorry,” he whispers, clutching her tighter as a tear falls down his cheek. “I'm sorry.”

 

Yixing walks down the hallways with trepidation for the next few days. He doesn't want a repeat of the crying, but it turns out his worries aren't warranted. for Meili bounds up to him all three days after the incident, a bright smile on her face. Yixing breathes a sigh of relief each time until he's confident he's going to come to a happy Meili at the end of the day.

He ends ups finding Minseok within that time as well and gets the full story. Minseok had apologized for letting it happen, but Yixing had simply brushed him of with a small smile.

“It's okay,” Yixing had said. “We can't always protect them, right?”

Minseok hadn't looked convinced, but agreed regardless.

Now, as Yixing gets out of his car, he feels good. Hopefully today will be the day that he wastes the afternoon away by playing with Meili since he wasn't able to days ago. He still hasn't found the time throughout the last three days since Meili had homework she had to catch up on, but now that it's basically the weekend, he knows that she'll be happy to play.

What he isn't prepared for is to walk in on Meili sitting on top of Minseok's shoulders as he runs around the classroom. Yixing puts a hand over his mouth to prevent any laughter from coming out. Neither of them have seen him yet, so he stays hidden, eyes taking in the adorable sight.

Meili's giggles are infections as Minseok twirls before dipping low, acting like he's about to drop her before straightening up again.

“Minseok Teacher!” she screams happily, fingers threading in Minseok's hair just in case she were to start tipping over. Yixing has an errant thought that he would want to run fingers through Minseok's hair as well, but he brushes it off almost immediately. Now isn't the time to be thinking about how soft the strands look and how nice it would be to brush it back off of Minseok's forehead.

“Woah!” Minseok exclaims as he makes a sharp turn around his desk, Meili laughing even louder. “That was a close one!”

“Super close!” Meili chimes in.

Yixing only steps in when Minseok stops running around with a smile on his face as he peers up at the the little girl on his shoulders. His chest is heaving and there's sweat rolling down his temples, forearms flexing as he holds onto Meili's thighs to prevent her from falling.

“Having fun?” Yixing wonders with a smile.

“Daddy!” Meili chirps, legs swinging as she waves at him.

“Careful there,” Yixing says. “We wouldn't want Minseok to drop you.”

Meili goes still immediately, but exclaims, “My Minseok Teacher would never drop me. He's strong!”

Yixing has no doubt about that with the way his arms look.

Yixing raises an eyebrow. “Your Minseok Teacher? What about the other children? Don't they have him, too?”

“No, he's mine and mine only.” She clutches to Minseok's head as if proving her point. Minseok laughs, but doesn't deny it. Yixing's heart flutters away in his chest.

“Or maybe,” Minseok says, the first thing he’s said the entire conversation, “I can be both of yours. Would that be okay with you, Meili?”

Yixing practically chokes on air, coughing to disguise the sound. It doesn't do its job if the quick quirk of the lips Minseok sends him is any indication.

Meili chooses that moment to loudly proclaim that she doesn't mind at all. Yixing can still feel his cheeks burning, but if Minseok wants to play this game, Yixing is more than happy to play as well.

“If you're free today, maybe you could be ours for a little longer, then,” Yixing offers with a sweet smile, one that he knows shows off his dimple. Minseok stares at his mouth and that only serves to make Yixing smile more.

Minseok pretends to think and he must have taken too long for Meili pats him on the cheek. “Please, Minseok Teacher. There's this one place that has really good ice cream!”

Both Minseok and Yixing laugh. “You really like ice cream, don't you?” Minseok asks. Meili responds with a happy hum, legs swinging once again.

“If you don't mind, then I would love to.”

It takes a few seconds for Yixing to realize that Minseok had said that, and more importantly that it was directed at him. Meili is looking at Yixing with pleading eyes while Minseok is looking at him with a raised eyebrow and a smile. Yixing is positive that while the smile looks innocent, it's anything but, full of teasing and joking as well as confidence.

“I don't mind.” Yixing shrugs, but his stomach is trying to turn itself in knots at the thought that he's about to go out with Minseok. Granted, Meili is going to be there as well, but all three of them are going to go out together. Like a family. Yixing sighs wistfully and tries not to get too ahead of himself because it's only going to end in pain.

Within a few minutes, the three of them are situated in Yixing's car, Minseok saying that he can just come back for his own car later. Meili has resolutely refused to let go of Minseok, clinging to him tighter when he had started to bend down earlier to let her off his shoulders. She's currently plopped in Minseok's lap, Minseok sitting in the passenger seat. Yixing can't help but cheekily snap a quick picture before starting the car, Minseok's cry of, “Hey! I wasn't ready!” falling on deaf ears.

The ice cream shop is only a five minute drive from the school. Meili's bouncing in place and for all that it's worth, Minseok doesn't even look bothered that she's probably hitting him in the ribs every other bounce.

The female behind the counter is a familiar one, Meili hopping up and down as she says, “Hi Yerim unnie!”

The female stops cleaning the ice cream scoops in the sink, flashing a bright smile as she looks down at Meili. “Hey! How are you today?”

“Better now that I’m here.” Meili smiles and that gets Yerim laughing.

“That's good.” She looks up, mouth open to presumably greet Yixing when she stops, eyes flitting over Minseok who's standing next to Yixing.

“This is the first time I've seen you.” Yerim sneaks a glance at Yixing that Yixing hopes Minseok doesn’t see since it’s terribly suggestive. All that’s missing is the eyebrow wiggle.

“It was a bit of a last minute decision,” Minseok replies with that adorable laugh of his. Yixing fights down the urge to smile at the sound. It's really lovely, soft like a breeze but adorable in the higher pitch it takes on.

“Well it's nice to meet you, then,” Yerim replies easily. “Maybe I'll see you around more often.”

“Maybe,” Minseok answers and he sounds so sincere, like he's actually thinking about coming back and that this won't just be a one-time thing.

Minseok turns towards Yixing then, Yixing freezing since he hadn't even realized he was looking at Minseok in the first place. Now he's staring into deep chocolate eyes, completely transfixed. There's just something about Minseok's eyes, like they're lit by tiny little stars, that pulls Yixing in until he's almost drowning.

The moment only gets broken when Meili claps. “Unnie, can I get a scoop of vanilla, please?”

“Sure, princess,” Yerim says, bending over the counter to get at the ice cream tubs.

“Did you want anything?” Yixing asks Minseok. He refuses to look back over in fear that he'll get caught in the stars in Minseok's eyes again.

“Depends on if you're willing to pay,” Minseok teases.

“I am, but the offer is only going to last so long,” Yixing replies, a smile on his lips.

“Is that so?”

Yixing hums, fighting the urge to laugh when Minseok happily walks up to the glass case to see what flavors they have.

“Cookie dough?” Yixing asks when Minseok relays his order.

Minseok turns to him with a raised eyebrow and he really needs to stop doing that because it's ridiculously attractive. “Is there something wrong with that?”

“No, you just don't look like a cookie dough kind of guy.” Yixing actually has no idea what type of ice cream Minseok would like, so he really shouldn't have blurted that out, but it's too late now.

“Oh really? What did you think, then?”

Damn, Yixing really shouldn't have opened his mouth. Now he's left to flounder as Minseok looks at him in amusement and Yerim hides her snicker as she scoops the ice cream.

“I don't know, but I didn't expect us to like the same flavor.”

Now it's Minseok's turn to be surprised. “You like cookie dough as well?”

“I do,” Yixing says. Yerim wordlessly places a cup on the counter with two scoops of cookie dough in it, pushing it towards Yixing. “Thank you!”

“No problem,” Yerim responds as she peels her glove off of her right hand to tap their order into the machine.

“You don't look like the cookie dough type of guy,” Minseok says cheekily when they walk out.

Yixing swipes at him, Minseok jumping away with a laugh. Meili is on his other side, happily licking away at her cone, napkins bunched around the bottom so her hands don’t get sticky.

“Very funny,” Yixing grumbles.

They find a table to sit at, the breeze ruffling Yixing's hair as he sits. With a huff, he flicks his head to the side to get his bangs out of his eyes.

He catches Minseok staring at him, blinking as he asks, “Yes?”

Minseok seems to snap out of his daze, cheeks turning darker. “Nothing.”

Yixing lets it go just this once, but Minseok isn’t going to be so lucky next time.

Somewhere along the way between casual questions and adorable laughter, Meili happily smears on Minseok’s cheek.

Minseok exaggerates his gasp, looking at Meili with large, surprised eyes. “Did you just do what I think you did?”

Meili simply giggles, her pigtails bouncing when she nods without shame.

“This is war!” Minseok cries, lifting his cup up towards the sky like a sword. The next thing Yixing knows, there’s something cold being pressed against the tip of his nose. He flinches back out of instinct to get the cold thing away, eyes narrowing when he realizes the cold thing is ice cream. Minseok had done it if the smirk on his face is anything to go by. Meili just laughs, little hands clapping as she stares at Yixing in amusement.

By the end of the little fight, Yixing manages to get a good chunk of ice cream on Minseok’s forehead, laughing when Meili runs some down his arm.

“That’s not fair!” Minseok had whined since Meili was sitting next to him and he couldn’t reach towards Yixing to do the same.

“We never said it was fair,” Yixing had replied.

Yerim looks amused when they end up going back inside to get water to wash themselves off.

“It’s a good thing that you were outside. I don’t need you bothering our customers,” Yerim says with a wag of her finger after she places the cups on the counter. Yixing knows she’s joking, though, since there’s only two other people inside the store and they both have headphones stuffed into their ears.

Minseok smirks at Yixing when he holds the door open for both Yixing and Meili, the little girl bounding ahead and to the table they were previously at.

“Since you made this mess, do you want to wash it off, too?” Minseok’s eyes are twinkling with something. Yixing almost stumbles over the threshold.

“I, uh,” Yixing stutters, completely at a loss of what to say.

Minseok laughs before he can get his brain back into solid form from where it’s melted on the floor. “I was kidding, but it’s nice to know you thought about it.”

Yixing is left to gape unattractively as Minseok walks over to where Meili is, sitting down on her right before talking to her while washing his face off. It’s entirely domestic and it doesn’t fail to steal Yixing’s breath away because while Minseok might be a teacher, this isn’t Minseok Teacher, this is normal Minseok interacting with his daughter even though he isn’t required to. This is the kind of thing that Yixing has been wanting for his daughter for years – another parent to give Meili all of the love that he knows she deserves.

“Are you going to sit down?” Minseok calls. They’re both looking at him and if Yixing were anyone else, he might think that Minseok was the father with how they’re wearing similar expressions as they gaze at him. It’s a little uncanny how they match expressions so well.

“Yeah,” Yixing says, fingers clutching the cup in his hands to keep him tied down and prevent him from floating away in bliss.

 

“Daddy?”

Yixing hums, focusing on Meili. She’s pouting up at him from her position on the floor behind the coffee table, Yixing reaching out to ruffle her hair. That only causes her pout to deepen, a whine leaving her lips as she reaches up to fix the mess.

Yixing laughs before asking, “Yes, princess?”

“Can you help me with this problem?” She makes sure to widen her eyes, Yixing can just tell. Meili knows that Yixing’s weak for her puppy dog eyes. He honestly doesn’t know where she learned that from since he doesn’t pout at her this way, but he curses whoever taught her. It’s too dangerous of a weapon, one that he knows will only become more potent as she gets older.

“Are you sure you want to use one of your helps on this?” Yixing’s been trying to wane her off of asking him question after question to get him to do it all for her. It’s her homework and he knows that if she doesn’t learn how to do things by herself now, then she’ll have a harder time later. It happened to him so he wants to develop her skills early, only giving her three questions per homework session.

Meili nods vigorously, pigtails flying every which way with the movement.

Laughing, Yixing slides down from the couch until he’s seated next to her, a hand on her head to stop her from nodding so much.

“That’s not good for your head,” he chides lightly. Yixing scans the paper quickly, brain formulating the answer before he attempts to explain.

“Okay so you have two apples right?”

“Right!” she chirps.

“So how many would you have if someone gave you four more?”

“Six!”

“And if you eat one every two hours, then how many hours will it take until you run out?”

Meili’s eyebrows furrow. “Is that all this question is asking?”

Yixing can’t help but laugh. “That’s all, princess.”

Meili huffs, going back to work on the problem. “Why do they need to add so much information? Why can’t they just say what you said?”

“Do you feel like you wasted one of your questions?” Yixing teases.

“No,” Meili responds quickly. “Now I get to spend time with you, so it’s okay.”

Yixing melts, eyes softening as he looks at Meili. She’s the best thing that he could’ve ever asked for and it’s weird to think that all but eight years ago she wasn’t even a single cell. Now she’s living and breathing and so, so beautiful.

“You can always ask to play,” Yixing says softly.

Meili looks at him with a smile, her dimple peeking out to say hello. “I know, but I don’t want to bother you. You look tired sometimes so I just color instead.”

“I’ll always find the energy to play with you, though.”

Meili shakes her head, smile still in place. “I would rather have you relax. Besides, coloring is fun!”

Yixing chuckles softly, tears threatening to fall from his eyes. Yixing is lucky to have this angel in his life.

 

The school is bustling with excited chatter and happy laughter. Yixing clutches onto Meili’s hand tighter despite her protests that she’s not going to go anywhere.

“I don’t want to lose you in the crowd,” he says, gasping in mock pain when Meili flicks him on the thigh. “How could you do that to your own daddy?”

Meili only giggles. “I can do it because you’re my daddy.”

“Smarty,” Yixing quips, quickly scooping her up to twirl her around if only to hear her happy laughter. She ends up clinging to his shoulders, refusing to be let down from her position in Yixing’s arms.

“You’re so heavy,” Yixing groans, slightly wobbling to the side in an exaggerated motion.

“I’m not!” Meili cries.

Yixing wheezes for show. “Are you sure? Maybe you’re growing too quickly for my tiny arms to catch up.”

Meili’s eyes sparkle. “Will I be as tall as daddy, then?”

“If you keep eating your vegetables and drinking milk, maybe.”

“Maybe?” she squeaks like the possibility that it might not happen offends her.

“Maybe,” Yixing affirms, kissing her on the cheek to placate her.

“Meili! Meili, Meili, Meili,” someone calls from behind them, Yixing twisting to see two boys running up to them. They’re about the same height, their floppy black hair flying up as they run.

“Hello! Are you Meili’s daddy?” one of them asks immediately after stopping in front of Yixing. The kid’s lips curl up in the corners, strangely reminding Yixing of a cat, especially with the way his eyes seemingly sparkle with a joke that Yixing isn’t in on. The other boy isn’t far behind, clutching onto the first one’s arm as he whines, Jongdae, don’t run so fast!

“Sorry Baekhyunnie,” the one who Yixing assumes Jongdae is says, but he doesn’t sound very sorry at all. A light bulb goes off in Yixing’s head, the two names suddenly familiar. Meili talks about these two often, mostly about the trouble they get into every once in a while. Yixing doesn’t really want his daughter to get any funny ideas from their antics, so he’s a little skeptical to let her down. Meili wiggles around, patting Yixing on the arm in her way of telling him to put her down.

He must take too long for Jongdae and Baekhyun both start tugging on his legs, all three of them pleading with him, saying, “Please?”

Grumbling, Yixing puts Meili down. The three of them run off while giggling, Yixing about to run after them when a hand lands on his shoulder, keeping him in place. He barely resists the urge to thrust his elbow back into the person’s ribs, instead turning around because that’s what normal people do.

His eyes widen when Minseok comes into his field of vision, his eyes tracing from Minseok’s hair that’s pushed back off his forehead, to Minseok’s gummy smile, to Minseok’s tight white button up, and to his tight black slacks. Yixing barely resist the urge to groan at how hot Minseok looks, but he doesn’t hold back his snort when he continues his line of sight and sees the tennis shoes that Minseok’s wearing. They match his outfit well enough, the black material hugging his ankles, the white line of rubber on the bottom standing in stark contrast, but it’s not as formal as the rest.

“What?” Minseok asks, looking down at his feet.

“I can’t believe you wore those shoes with that outfit.”

“What’s wrong with them?” Minseok asks with a huff.

Yixing shrugs, hiding his laugh behind his hand. Minseok narrows his eyes, looking as threating as a newborn kitten. “I just thought that you would have fancier shoes. You know, the ones that are polished and look like a million bucks even though they’re not.”

“I like comfort over style,” Minseok says.

“Me too!” Yixing blurts before he can stop himself, cheeks heating up when Minseok laughs at his outburst. Yixing has never understood people who feel the need to dress up for any event – even going out to the grocery store – but he figures to each their own. If they want to dress up, then more power to them, but he’d rather throw on some sweats and a tank top.

Minseok seems to appraise him for a few seconds, Yixing squirming under his gaze. “Yeah, you would look good in a tank top.”

Yixing sputters, hands coming up to cover his arms even though they’re already covered by the sweater he’s wearing.

And then Yixing thinks about Minseok in a tank top and his brain gives up on life. A noise that’s a mix between a whine and a choke works its way up his throat at the thought of Minseok’s arms showcased to the public as well as his chest straining against the fabric.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you...?” Yixing wonders. He hadn’t said anything and there’s no one else around, so Minseok has to be talking to him.

Minseok smirks. “You said that I would look hot if I wore a tank.”

Yixing feels the overwhelming urge to go bury himself in the desert, but alas there aren’t any of those in the immediate area. He figures that he might as well capitalize on the situation, a smirk of his own finding its way onto his face. He lifts a finger to trail it down Minseok’s arm, loving the shiver it elicits.

Yixing makes sure to keep his tone low as he says, “Well, maybe I’ll be able to find out one day.”

“Would that day be before or after I get to see you without a shirt?”

Yixing’s eyebrows disappear into his hairline. “I thought we were talking about us wearing clothes, not being half naked.”

“Well, wouldn’t the next step after baring your arms be baring your chest?”

Yixing has no idea where Minseok even got that train of thought from, but now that it’s left the station, he sees no reason not to continue to let the thought run to its destination in the gutter.

“So does that mean I get to see you shirtless as well? Just to make it fair.”

It would be a dream to see the chest hidden underneath form-fitting shirts and sweaters that leave little to none to the imagination. If only he were alone so he could mouth why at the sky. Then no one would be around to judge, especially Minseok, who is currently looking at him with a sly expression.

“Depends on if you stick around that long. I don’t show my stomach to just anyone.”

Yixing can tell that Minseok’s joking, but if he’s not mistaken, he can hear and see sincerity both in Minseok’s tone and the way his smile isn’t as bright as it usually would be.

“I’ll make sure you don’t get too bored of me, then.” Yixing winks, something like happiness fluttering in his chest when Minseok laughs, not at all looking opposed to the idea.

“Would you like to come see what the kids have been working on all year?” Minseok asks sometime later, the both of them having ended up looking around the school, Yixing taking in all the decorations and banners and artwork that the teachers no doubt spent the better part of the day putting up.

“Meili...” Yixing trails off as he searches for his daughter. He doesn’t find her or the other two she ran off with in his quick scan. Minseok taps him on the arm before he can start to panic.

“I saw the three of them with Jongdae’s parents, so I don’t think you need to worry too much.”

Yixing looks around once more out of habit before realizing what he’s doing and nodding, falling into step with Minseok.

Minseok talks about each and every thing attached to either the walls or the ceilings, a light shining in his eyes that Yixing knows only comes out when he talks about his students. There’s just something so beautiful about the way stars seem to collect in his eyes to light them up, about the way he practically radiates pride and enthusiasm about his students, about the way his hands flutter about because he has so much energy and so many things to say that he needs another outlet for it all. Yixing doesn’t think he’s ever seen someone so happy with their job. It’s a nice change.

“Wait,” Yixing says when he sees a familiar drawing.

“Ah, no-” Minseok starts to say, but it’s too late. Yixing has already made his way over, eyes widening to the size of plates when he sees Meili’s name on the paper. It’s the drawing that she had given Yixing weeks ago, but there have been other things added to it. Like she promised, Meili drew in the furniture that’s present in her actual room, but there’s also another person in the drawing. There’s no longer two but three little stick figures in the middle of the page, labels pointing at each person. Meili is in the middle with Yixing on her right and Minseok on her left. Yixing’s left to gape at the picture, blinking rapidly to make sure he isn’t seeing things. Sure enough, the stick figure count remains at three no matter how long he looks.

Minseok isn’t looking at Yixing when he turns around, decidedly looking to the side as he whistles. Yixing can tell there’s no sound coming from his lips even with the loud chatter and general chaos all throughout the room.

Yixing pushes away his more pressing questions to instead ask, “Did you put this picture up earlier?”

Minseok jumps, so busy pretending to act nonchalant that he must not have expected Yixing to say anything. “I, um, yes.”

He doesn’t think he’s even seen Minseok so flustered. “So does that also mean Meili showed it to you earlier?”

Minseok hums his affirmation. He’s still refusing to make eye contact with Yixing, something Yixing finds incredibly adorable. The greatest part in Yixing’s opinion is that Minseok actually looks shy, not at all appalled by the idea. It gives him hope, fuels the possibilities fluttering around his head with a zap of energy. He doesn’t want to let himself think about it too much in case he’s wrong, but Yixing likes to think that he’s generally right in this particular area of thought.

Yixing doesn’t mean to pry, but he’s curious about what Meili said when she showed it to him. Yixing has no doubt that Minseok’s the type of teacher that goes through all of the art he gets lovingly, taking his time with each one so it gets the attention it deserves.

“Did she happen to say anything?” Yixing asks.

Minseok coughs, his face steadily turning redder as the seconds tick by. Now Yixing is intrigued more than anything.

Minseok is suddenly whisked away by another parent before he gets to respond, Yixing following his movements as he’s pulled away. At one point, Minseok turns back and fixes Yixing with a stare so sharp that he can’t help but shiver. It’s kind of cute at the same time, though, since Minseok’s cheeks are still red, but Yixing gets the message loud and clear.

Yixing finds Minseok hours later, Meili fast asleep in his arms as he profusely thanks Jongdae’s parents for watching over her for the last hour. He hadn’t even realized it had been that long and he had apologized, straightening up from his bow to see them laughing.

“Don’t worry about it,” Jongdae’s mother had said. “It’s better that Jongdae uses all of his energy now so he can fall asleep sooner.”

True enough, Jongdae had been knocked out in his father’s arms. Yixing had smiled one more time before wandering off in search of Minseok.

The school is practically empty at this point, the little end of the year open house having closed about ten minutes ago. Yixing has always found it kind of scary how on-time parents are when it comes to picking up their kids from school as well as leaving these kinds of events. Personally, he would rather stay behind and offer his help with cleaning up or let Meili play around for a few more minutes since she’s only going to be stuck in the apartment when they get home.

Yixing finds Joonmyun, Meili’s teacher last year, along the way and he stops to chat for a while, mindful to speak lowly so Meili doesn’t wake up. Joonmyun is handsome, cute when he smiles, and Yixing suddenly wonders why he had to feel something with Minseok. He hadn’t felt anything with Joonmyun despite how attractive the man is, so why did things have to get complicated with Minseok? Yixing, however, has learned that things always happen for a reason, as well as being a firm believer in fate. Fate might have brought him to Minseok but reason is going to keep him away from making things official until Meili moves onto the next grade to prevent kids from making fun of her. Even though Yixing wants to be selfish just this once, he’s not going to put his daughter under the crossfire to do it.

A familiar back comes into view when Yixing pokes his head into Minseok’s classroom. A slow smile starts forming as he watches Minseok putter around, putting things away and grinning as he looks over the artwork littering the walls one more time.

Yixing unintentionally lets out a sigh when Minseok bends down to pick a paper up off the floor. Minseok must have heard it for he straightens up before quickly turning around. He opens his mouth like he’s going to say something only to close it when he notices Meili fast asleep against Yixing’s shoulder.

They somehow end up meeting in the middle, like magnets that can’t help but be attracted to each other and be as close as possible.

Yixing feels his knees get weak when Minseok reaches out to push some of Meili’s hair away from her face. He looks so soft with her that Yixing can’t help but want. He wants Minseok in their lives so badly and only about twenty percent of that want is entirely platonic.

“She’s so cute,” Minseok murmurs.

Yixing looks down at her with a smile. “She is, but only when she’s not digging tiny fingers into your ribs to wake you up in the morning.”

That gets a laugh out of Minseok. He reaches a thumb out to gently run it over Meili’s cheek, eyes sharp as they watch and make sure she doesn’t wake up.

“Do you...” Minseok stops, eyebrows furrowing as if he isn’t sure that he wants to ask, but curiosity must win over for he continues with, “Does it get lonely sometimes? When she’s not with you?”

Well that was unexpected, but not completely so that Yixing won’t answer it. “She’s almost always with me, so no, not really. Work is so busy a lot of the times that I don’t really have time to think about her much, but when days are particularly slow, I always think about her. You’ve also been included for the last few months.”

“Me?” Minseok squeaks. Meili squirms in Yixing’s hold, settling down seconds later.

Yixing laughs softly. “Yes, you. I thought I was being pretty obvious with my advances, but I guess I’m a little rusty.”

“No, I- it’s just, I’m surprised that I would even make it onto the same level as Meili, I guess. Does that make sense? Since you think about her and you think about me so that must mean that I’m kind of important?”

Yixing outright laughs at that, only remembering that there’s a child in his arms too late. Meili doesn’t wake up, though, so he deems it safe to continue. “You’re really cute when you’re flustered.”

Minseok opens and closes his mouth, hands fluttering about in incoherent gestures. “It’s just weird knowing that someone as attractive as you finds me attractive as well? My friends always told me back in college that people fawned over me left and right, but I never believed them. I’m not used to dealing with the fact that people find me cute and attractive.”

“Well you are,” Yixing replies bluntly. “There are so many things I could say, but I’m pretty sure that the school is going to close soon. While I would like nothing more than to be locked in here with you in a very cliché turn of events, there’s no food or bed for Meili.”

Meili suddenly moves around, rousing from her slumber before blinking at the both of them blearily. Yixing is about to tell her to go back to sleep only to end up sputtering and looking at her with wide eyes.

“Are you dating now? Your eyes are making hearts.”

Yixing wonders where she learned the word “dating” from in lieu of squeaking. Minseok isn’t fairing any better, his mouth hanging open attractively even though no one should look attractive doing that.

Meili suddenly wiggles around in Yixing’s arms. “Did you see my picture, daddy? That’s why I drew all three of us...”

The light bulb flashes bright in his head. He gazes at Minseok, eyes asking if that was what she had said when she gave him the drawing. Minseok looking down with red cheeks the same shade as earlier is the only answer he needs.

Meili might just be the best wingwoman in the history of wingwomen.

“It’s a very pretty picture, princess,” Yixing says. She smiles before tucking her head back into the crook of Yixing’s neck. Yixing shoots Minseok a look and receives a nod. It’s easy to exchanges numbers and make promises of meeting up later, Yixing berating himself for not getting Minseok’s number earlier.

They still have a lot to talk about, but Yixing doesn’t want Meili to be there for it. The conversation is going to be a serious one and he doesn’t want to get her hopes up if Minseok ends up backing out or something along those lines. He also, maybe, might just want to be able to stare at Minseok without his daughter giggling at him and telling him that he looks like he has hearts in his eyes again.

Yixing doesn’t want to leave, but he really does need to let Meili take a bath and then go to sleep. Minseok doesn’t look like he wants Yixing to leave, either, eyes boring right into Yixing’s with a soft kind of intensity that has Yixing’s heart fluttering.

“I’ll text you tomorrow,” Minseok says.

“I would like that,” Yixing says with a smile. He would also like his heart to stop trying to beat its way out of his ribs and chest, but he knows it’s going to keep it up until he actually sees Minseok’s text. Yixing settles with a smile, belatedly realizing that all he seems to do around Minseok is laugh and smile and feel happy.

 

The spot next to Yixing on the bed is cold when he wakes up one lazy Sunday morning.

“Minseok?” he asks groggily, throwing an arm out to try and find someone that clearly isn’t there anymore.

He gets his answer when the door opens slowly, little giggles filtering through his still sleepy brain. There are two pairs of footsteps trying to stealthily make their way to the bed. Quickly so Meili doesn’t notice, he pushes his face further into the pillow beside him – the pillow that smells entirely of Minseok with a hint of Yixing’s fabric softener – and feigns sleep.

Meili giggles again, Minseok whispering that she has to be quiet or it’s not going to work out. Yixing imagines that Meili presses a finger against her lips, eyes curving up and dimple appearing.

The bed dips next to Yixing’s stomach, Yixing making a show of moving around to get her to squeal in surprise. Minseok laughs softly in the background, the sound washing over Yixing like a soft wave.

Fingers prod against his ribs, a grunt escaping that doesn’t have to be faked.

“Daddy,” Meili sing-songs with another push to his side.

Yixing purposely mumbles something unintelligible to get her thinking that he’s almost awake. Meili pokes him one more time before pressing a palm to Yixing’s cheek and happily pushing down.

The sound that Yixing lets out is actually unintelligible due to the fact that his lips are pressed out like a fish. He opens his eyes to see Meili’s smiling face right in his field of vision.

“Hi daddy!” she chirps. She doesn’t move her hand so Yixing is left to mumble something that was supposed to sound like “hi” but ends up sounding like gibberish. Minseok laughs again, Yixing’s eyes flickering over to him when Meili backs away slightly.

“Woah,” Yixing says once he catches sight of the tray in Minseok’s hands. He can’t tell much of what it is from his position, only getting a better look at all of the dishes when Minseok places it in his lap. “What’s all of this?”

“It was Meili’s idea,” Minseok says.

Meili bounces in place, a huge smile on her face as she exclaims, “I got all the ingredients and put the fruit in the bowl!”

“Did you now?” Yixing asks, reaching over to tickle her side. “You’re going to be a great chef in the future, I can see it now.”

Somehow, Minseok ends up lying next to him, Meili having gone off to get her blanket form her room.

“Hi,” Yixing whispers, pressing a kiss to Minseok’s lips.

Minseok’s nose wrinkles up. “Gross, you haven’t brushed your teeth yet.” He leans in for another kiss, though, so Yixing assumes that he’s forgiven.

Yixing sighs when Minseok runs fingers through his hair, leaning into the touch as Minseok says, “Your hair is so messy.”

“Well I did just wake up,” Yixing counters, some sleep still present in his voice.

Meili totters back in then, throwing her blanket up before climbing onto the bed. “How come you haven’t eaten anything yet?” she asks, a pout on her face.

Yixing reaches over to pinch her cheek. “I was waiting for you to get back.”

“Oh, okay! You should try the pancakes first. Minseok daddy and I both made the batter for them.”

“She really did most of the mixing,” Minseok says, a doting smile on his face when she tries to deny it.

Yixing only laughs. He didn’t think this ever would have happened, that he would be dating Minseok, that he would be able to kiss Minseok, that Minseok would be such a constant in their lives.

Meili has only warmed up to Minseok since that open house months ago, but it’s not like she didn’t like him at all. She even let Minseok color in her coloring book with her, a large grin on Yixing’s face when Minseok turned to look at him with wide eyes when Meili practically forced him to listen about all of the book she had.

They all settle down, Meili ending up coloring in one of her books as Minseok stares at Yixing.

“What?” he asks self-consciously, fingers reaching up to wipe at his lips.

“Nothing,” Minseok responds with a chuckle. “Hey, did you want to get some ice cream later?”

“Ice cream?” Meili asks, practically climbing onto Yixing’s shoulders since there’s still a tray in his lap.

“I think that answers that for us,” Yixing says before pouting. “It’s not fair, though. Yerim likes you more and I’ve known her longer.”

Minseok coos before pinching Yixing on the cheek. “I can’t help that.”

“Awful,” Yixing mutters, getting drowned out by Meili’s happy chanting of, “Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!”

Yixing is only mollified when he gets a kiss from Minseok, relaxing back into the sheets.

“Maybe you should give me another kiss, I’m still feeling kind of sad,” Yixing says cheekily. Minseok simply pushes him back with a finger to his forehead, Yixing dramatically falling backwards with a gasp, careful to make sure he doesn’t land on Meili or send the tray flying.

Both Minseok and Meili are laughing at him, Yixing putting a hand over his chest in mock pain. They’re so cute, though, twin smiles and sparkling eyes peering down at Yixing.

This is a scene that he wouldn’t mind seeing for the rest of this life.