Yoon Seoyoung woke up to a brilliant Monday morning with a heavy heart. The sunlight that streamed through her bedroom window held promises of warm summer days to come, which was quite a change from this time last year when dark clouds covered the sky and the Earth was in a perpetual state of dampness due to all of the rain. Her eldest, Dami, didn't care in the slightest that she wasn't able to go out and play for days. She was always comfortable with her nose in a book or with a pencil bag full of colored pencils that she used to scribble in a blank diary her father had given her last Christmas. Her youngest, on the other hand, was devastated. Jiyong was the restless sort of child and days of being cooped up inside the house made him irritable and prone to tears. There were many days where he would be so upset that Seoyoung would make a nest for him, gathering towels and blankets from her bedroom into his so that he could rest easy while surrounded by the familiar scents of his parents.
Now, she rarely built nests for her youngest pup anymore. He had become fiercely independent and could hardly stand to hold her hand or even be called "pup". Her littlest alpha wanted to grow up so fast, though he was so small yet.
It felt like it was only yesterday that she and her mate brought their second little bundle of joy from the hospital and she spent days and days building the perfect nest so that her pup would be surrounded by his family's scent and would feel loved and protected.
From out in the hall, she could hear the joyous laughter of an excited Jiyong followed by the tapping of his bare feet against wood as he ran down the hall and into her room, jumping onto the bed so that he was on her stomach.
"Eomma, Eomma, look! Appa gave me a new hat for my first day of school! Look, look!" Jiyong cried, thrusting a small white cap that her husband had picked out the day before. She smiled as she sat up in bed, hugging Jiyong tightly for a moment before putting him down and placing the cap back on his head.
"Pre-school, Jiyong. Not quite old enough to go to actual school yet," Seoyoung corrected gently. Jiyong was undeterred, however, and gave her a toothless smile before running out of the room again, probably to show off his new hat to his sister. It was only due to the knowledge that Dami had school to attend in a few hours coupled with the fact that she had plans to meet up with Hyunsang, her mate, after dropping Jiyong off at preschool which gave her the strength to get out of bed and prepare herself for a long and emotional day.
"Jiyong! Get out of the bathroom, I need to get ready for school," Dami whined as her brother climbed onto a stool to admire his reflection in the mirror. Half of her hair was pulled into a messy pigtail while she was trying, unsuccessfully, to comb through a massive knot in the other half. "Eomma, tell him!" Dami was nearly in tears at this point and Seoyoung sensed an imminent meltdown.
Oh, this is only going to get so much worse when they're older, she thought.
Seoyoung just smiled as she went off to diffuse the situation before it escalated into a full blown fight, thinking about the times when they were small enough for her to hold them both in her arms with ease.
"I'm coming, pups. I'm coming."
Right on cue, her words were met with an indignant cry from Jiyong.
"I'm not a pup!"
In the beginning, Jiyong was excited about his first day of school (pre-school). His father gave him a brand new hat, his sister told him that he'll make a lot of new friends, and it'll be the first time he'll be around other kids that weren't his sister. Dami was pretty great, but she was too busy with school to play with him like she used to and he was eager to make new playmates.
But after they dropped Dami off at school, he started to get anxious. He fidgeted in his car seat and Seoyoung was quick to notice. She didn't comment on his sudden nervousness though until they were out of the car and walking up to the building. Jiyong was suddenly stuck to her leg like glue and when they were at the doors, he had urgently stuck his hands up in the air, the universal kid sign to be picked up.
"Are you okay?" she asked quietly as the toddler buried his face in her neck, rubbing her scent all over himself. Around the room, other children of various ages were either already at play, their parents glancing back fondly at them before leaving, or like Jiyong, clinging tightly onto their mothers.
"It smells weird here," he answered quietly. Unlike the big grocery stores or the wide and open park his mother often brought him to when the weather was good, the pre-school was a small and enclosed space filled with the scent of other alpha, beta, and omega children and parents, which was quite different from the familiar scent of his family members and home.
"You'll get used to it," was all Seoyoung could say, knowing that in a few more years, he'll be able to distinguish the different scents of other dynamics and instinctively recognize the scent of an omega in heat or an alpha in rut. Checking the time, Seoyoung knew she needed to leave soon to see her mate on time. She also knew that delaying the goodbyes would only make it harder to leave.
With a sigh, she gently put Jiyong down and sat on her knees so that they could be at eye level.
"I know it seems scary now, but look, you have so many new friends to meet," she said quietly to a pouty Jiyong. He looked at the other children longingly, though there was still doubt in his eyes. "My little pup is a strong little alpha, just like his daddy," she praised, knowing that Jiyong wanted desperately to be like his alpha father. In a conspirational tone, as if she was divulging a big secret to him, she added, "Appa has a hard time leaving for work in the mornings, too."
Of course, it was hard for her mate to leave not only because of his instinct to protect his omega and pups, but also due to the fact that sometimes, his knot hadn't fully deflated enough for them to disconnect their bodies after a morning kiss-turned-rutting session, especially on days when she was in heat. She mentioned none of this to her young alpha though as she pulled him in close, knowing that he could sense her distress through her unwillingness to let him go and her constantly scenting him.
"It's not easy for eomma either, being away from her big alpha and her baby alpha," she whispered, feeling a little low for playing on Jiyong's understanding that an alpha should always be there to protect and support his omega when they feel distressed.
"Don't be sad, eomma," Jiyong whispered, hugging her back tightly like he has seen his father do when she looked sad or tired. Seoyoung smiled before pulling back slightly so that they were face to face again.
"You know what appa always does to makes eomma feel better when he leaves?" Jiyong shook his head. Other than hugs, how else did appa make eomma feel better? he thought. Instead of answering him, Seoyoung leaned foreword to give Jiyong a kiss on the cheek. Grinning with understanding, Jiyong reciprocated her action by placing a kiss on her forehead and giving her another big hug.
"That's my little alpha," she murmured as they pulled away and she stood up to her full height again. Looking a lot more comfortable than he did a few moments ago, Jiyong rushed up to give her one last squeeze around the legs before making his way to join a group of children play with blocks on a table. She swallowed hard as she slowly backed away to the entrance of the building, taking a moment to stand next to a male alpha comforting his male omega in a warm embrace as they both looked back towards a little beta girl going down the slide that must of been their daughter.
"I want them to be this small forever," the omega whispered as he waved to their daughter, who in turn waved and blew kisses back to him.
"Me too," Seoyoung agreed as she watched Jiyong quietly building a tower of blocks by himself. He was startled suddenly by a blanket and pillow carrying omega boy who suddenly started dragging him by the hand towards a large pile of other blankets and pillows.
"I need your help," the boy said seriously, dragging a confused Jiyong to the pile and then shoving a few items into his arms.
"Help with what?"
The omega boy pointed to another alpha boy, who was sitting on the ground and looking a little sad and forlorn.
"I'm making a fort for him," the omega boy answered as he found a nice corner to put down his pillow and blankets, quickly motioning for Jiyong to do the same. It was obvious to Seoyoung that the little omega was attempting to make a nest, no doubt copying what he saw his omega parent do when they felt distressed. "I'm sure he'll feel better in one."
Perhaps he remembered the nest that she built for him when he young and upset or maybe it was because the omega boy was so insistent that he helped; whatever the reason, Jiyong dutifully gathered another armful of pillows and deposited them into a pile, where the omega boy would then take a discarded pillow and add it to his half built nest.
Seoyoung took the opportunity to leave then, with Jiyong too focused on the task at hand to pay her any attention.
When she finally met up with Hyunsang for brunch, she knew she probably looked a mess, but she didn't particularly care as she rushed into his open arms and basked in his comforting scent and embrace.
"Our little alpha's going to be just fine," she sniffled into his shoulder, to which he replied to with a chuckle and a reassuring pat on her back.
"As we knew he would be," he whispered and she could only smile into his chest in response.
Later that afternoon, the two returned to pick up Jiyong up from his first day of pre-school. The class was just being dismissed, with half of the kids already in their parents' arms and babbling happily about their day while the other half were still packing up their little backpacks and putting away their toys. Hyunsang spotted Jiyong first, pointing him out as Seoyoung scanned the crowd for her little alpha. She saw him half way across the room, hand in hand with a familiar omega, who looked like he could barely keep upright, he was so tired.
They watched as Jiyong walked the omega all the way to his awaiting mother, who scooped the toddler up into her arms with ease. When the omega began to make a fuss, Jiyong motioned for the mother to bend down so that they were level with one another. Once the mother did as asked, Jiyong grabbed the omega's face with both of his hands and kissed him on the forehead while whispering something into his ears. After he was done, he waved goodbye to the pair before spotting his mother and father and rushing to their side.
"Appa!" he cried as he ran up to Hyunsang, who picked him up and twirled him a bit before placing Jiyong on his hip.
"What were you doing just now, pup?" Seoyoung asked curiously after leaning in to hug Jiyong as well. There was only a slight frown on Jiyong's face after being called a pup, but he was quick to move on in order to answer her question.
"Youngbae was sad that he had to leave," Jiyong explained, no doubt referring to the omega boy from earlier. "I made him feel better by kissing him like appa does to you when you feel sad." After saying that, Jiyong looked up at his father shyly, as if he was unsure if he did the right thing or not. Hyunsang suddenly pecked her on the lips before doing the same to his son.
"Exactly right," Hyunsang declared. "You did well little pu - I mean - little alpha." Hyunsang caught himself just in time after seeing Jiyong's nose scrunch up at that hateful word. Pleased with being praised, Jiyong smiled brightly at his parents before making an announcement.
"I can't wait to come back tomorrow."
Seoyoung and Hyunsang laughed at his eagerness, knowing that he wouldn't always look forward to school as much as he did right in that moment.
"So you say, little pup. So you say."
After a demand to be put down due to such an embarrassing and public use of a word he so hated, Jiyong took the lead towards the car, determined to show them that he most definitely was not a pup anymore. His plans were quickly thwarted once they reached the parking lot for he discovered that he had no idea where the car was parked at all. In the end, Jiyong allowed himself to be lead to the car, a big hand from each parent holding both of his as they swung him gently in between them.