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The Kindergarten Prince

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Jaebum likes kids. He really, really does, and he wishes to have a few of his own sometime in the future, so he thinks nothing much of it when the manager stops by the dorm one day to announce that they'll be joining a new variety program, and that it involves children. They're only supposed to take care of them for a few hours per day at the filming site, and their parents will be close by to ensure that everything flows smoothly.

He's kind of excited, even, intrigued by the idea of playing with cute 3-year-olds and maybe even teaching them something. It will be good practice if nothing else, he reasons, and looks around the room to gauge the reactions of his members. His hopes of the filming going smoothly are shattered the second he catches sight of Yugyeom and Bambam grinning cheekily at each other and he nearly panics at the thought of the duo, literally kids themselves, being allowed around actual preschoolers.

And then – on the other side of the room, he sees Jinyoung standing closely to Mark, carefully shaved chin on the elder’s shoulder, and smiling – and, wow, that's a pretty smile. Genuine too, with the way his eyes crinkle around the corners, and Jaebum suddenly feels giddy at the display of Jinyoung's obvious excitement. The younger is a sucker for kids, really, and surprisingly great with them – he knows just what to say and how to act to make them giggle and kiss his cheeks – which he, of course, rewards with eye-catching smiles and out-of-this-world baby talk.

Okay – Jaebum might be a bit too much in love with Jinyoung, but everything about him is so attractive and the way he expertly handles kids is just another thing on the long list of his qualities (handwritten by Jaebum himself, mind you). Not that he would ever admit it out loud, but still. Jinyoung is wonderful.

He attempts to look around again and not stare too much, but despite all his efforts his eyes seem to find their way back to where Jinyoung is looking all soft and comfy in his pajamas and happy, and he thinks now that even with Yugyeom and Bambam in tow, it won't be too bad having to film this kind of program. In fact, it might just become his favourite.

∞∞∞

The first day of filming starts way too early, and they're ushered out of the vans at 6:30am. Jaebum has barely slept all night, and he feels the tiredness weighting his eyelids down, not unlike the rest of the team. All except one person, who seems to be far too excited for such an early morning.

Jinyoung walks ahead of them, a bounce in his step as he hurries to reach the preschool first, as if that will automatically mean that he'll get to meet the kids sooner. They still have an hour and a half until the kids actually start arriving to go through informational meetings and the schedule with the staff , but his excitement is kind of cute anyway. He's dressed up for the occasion too, with a bright orange sweatshirt and denim suspenders that make him fit into the setting just about right. Jaebum looks down onto his baggy jeans self-consciously, and hopes that at least some of the boys will appreciate his hip-hop style. Or, you know. Whatever.

As time passes by and they go through the basics with the preschool staff, the other members seem to wake up, and by 7:45 it’s as lively as it usually is with their group. It’s something they’re known for now, unlike back then when it was just him and Jinyoung, too young and slightly awkward in each other’s presence, but too immature to deal with their issues. He actually misses it sometimes, the calm atmosphere despite the fact that his temper used to get the best of him and that Jinyoung had to act extra cute in front of the camera to make up for his poorly disguised scowls and glares. It’s all behind them down, he and Jinyoung have found ways to quell their differences and now they seem to fit together, like two puzzle pieces slotting perfectly together, completing each other’s vain spots. They get teased for it often, and he’s heard enough people calling them soulmates to truly pay attention to it anymore. Even though, he can’t deny the warm feeling that spreads in his chest when he thinks about the possibility.

And even now, as they’re getting ready to greet the children for the first time, his eyes instinctively look over his group members to make sure everyone’s in place and that no one is off God-knows-where doing something stupid, but his gaze stops at Jinyoung sitting by the low table with his legs crossed in front of him and a hand tapping his own knee impatiently.

His face his half-turned to the female staff giving last advice to his right, but his eyes are unblinkingly staring at the double doors where the children will come through any second now. It’s endearing, but Jaebum fears that his neck might get strained like that, so he snaps his fingers shortly until he gains his teammate’s attention. He doesn’t need words to convey the message to Jinyoung, they communicate with their gazes and Jaebum lifts a hand to loosely point to Jinyoung’s right, and the younger pouts at him but turns his body completely away to focus on the staff member. She seems grateful for the action, and Jaebum tries to stomp down on the feeling that rose in his chest when Jinyoung pouted at him like that. He weirdly feels like he stole a piece of candy from some kid.

There’s not much time to dwell on it, however, as the first set of children enter the room just at that moment. They’re two little boys, similar in height, and they’re holding hands. It’s a cute sight and Jaebum smiles unwillingly, eyes creasing into small slits. Someone coos behind him, but he can’t turn to look at who it is when Jinyoung is suddenly moving forward on his knees, dragging his clothed knees across the floor in a funny way. He’s smiling at the two boys and bows his head to them, as if he’s regarding them completely seriously.

“Hiiii,” he drawls, a high pitch to his voice. “My name is Jinyoung. What are your names, cuties?”

The kids bow to him clumsily, and Jaebum is impressed by their manners already. He wonders if it had anything to do with the fact that Jinyoung did it to them first.

“I’m Jinhwan, and this is Seungjoon,” the taller of the two introduces, and Jaebum notices he’s missing a tooth in the front. It’s very cute, and apparently Jinyoung thinks so too because he coos and reaches out a hand to pinch his cheek. Jinhwan giggles and it’s enough for the rest of the members to join in.

The tension slowly resolves and none of them seem to be as nervous about meeting the children as they did before. Mark is the first one to step forward and bend down to greet them in simple Korean, having had experience with small children back in Los Angeles. He stands by Jinyoung and rests a hand on the younger’s shoulder where Jinyoung’s still kneeling, now moving a bit to sit back on his heels. Mark receives similar toothy smiles and clumsy bows from the brothers, and Jaebum notices Jinyoung covering his smile with a hand.

He decides then that it’s time to introduce himself and try to score in some points with the children early, despite having an idea that Jinyoung’s already snatched first place in the race, effortlessly.

But he’s not the leader for nothing, and he walks coolly up the where the kids are occupied with answering Jinyoung and Mark’s questions, and not-so-subtly pushes Mark out of his spot (merely because Jinyoung would be near damn impossible to move, and because he might not actually mind Jinyoung being so close to him).

Succeeding with the first part of his mission, he grins to the best of his abilities and bends down in a swift motion.

“Hello! I’m JB,” he says, smile still in place.

It takes about three seconds for Seungjoon to start crying.

He panics, standing up when he sees the kid’s eyes filling with tears, real tears because of him, and even Jinhwan looks scared and backs away slightly, pulling his brother with him. He can literally feel his cheeks burning and he splutters, unsure of what to do now.

The members laugh behind him and he hears some of the staff chuckling too, all except Jinyoung who is now focused on the crying child. He moves forward slowly as not to aggravate the spooked children further, and shushes them both in gentle tones. Jaebum watches numbly as the kid that started crying from merely seeing his face now throws his arms around Jinyoung’s neck and holds on for dear life, letting Jinyoung – the traitor – envelop him in his arms and rock him back and forth to calm him.

Jinyoung rubs his little back soothingly and unwraps an arm to reach for Jinhwan too, pulling the young boy closer so that he’s able to join the impromptu hug too. Out of the corner of his eye, Jaebum sees the brothers’ parents standing anxiously just behind the cameras, ready to jump in if necessary and help comfort the children.

It doesn’t end up being the case, and they all watch wordlessly as Jinyoung works his way around the children’s tears and snotty noses, constantly rubbing gentle hands over their backs and tummies, dealing out affection equally and whispering "my babies, who made you cry, huh" in a sugary voice.

It’s an endearing sight, and Jaebum’s sure he would have appreciated it much more if it weren’t him who made the kids cry, and he listens, chest tightening in pain and embarrassment, as Jinyoung continues: "a bad hyung, was it, hm? a scary hyung? shh, shh, little babies."

He takes a step back, face red, and catches Jackson’s teasing eyes when he turns around to hide from the children’s sight, lest he makes them cry again. Mark laughs as he passes by him too, and Jaebum thinks it must be karma for pushing him away earlier.

Yes, that has to be it, karma. It wouldn’t be anything else, would it? There’s no way Jaebum is bad with kids, there’s absolutely no way. He’ll show them all! …preferably tomorrow.