It was 1 AM when Gou Mingrui decided to give Jeongin a heart attack.
And it would be 4 when Hyunjin would try to murder him. How it happened? Well....
Really, it wasn't Jeongin's fault. He had just been laying in bed, staying up and scrolling through his phone due to his insomnia when suddenly, he recieved a call. And he thanked all heavens that he had put his phone on silent mode, 'cause otherwise he would have to deal with a fussy Han Jisung who slept (for once) in his own bed contentedly. Anf honestly, as much as he loved him, Jeongin didn't have the patience for that clingy hyung at 1 in the morning, thank you very much.
The members of Stray Kids were drained and had immidiently all collapsed in their or their group members' beds after having arrived back at the dorm less than two hours prior. They had been practicing their dance in the practice room for a good 5 hours, after which they sat down on the practice room floor and had their dinner in the form of takeout boxes and Jeongin was still wondering how the fuck they hadn't spilled their drinks or sauces on the practice room floor (wouldn't have been the first time, too. But the scolding dpeech from JYP and their managers later would never be pretty. Honestly, it was already kind of a ritual at JYP that their artist were basically living in the practice rooms, and that includes sleeping there. Jeongin himself had axperienced the cramps after sleeping on a hard-wood floor way too often for his age and already started considering himself a full-time grandpa. And then there were the mornings where he would be coaxed out of his sleep by Sungjin, Jaebum, his members or whoever else's leg he had fallen asleep on, and probably drooled all over it, only to be told he had to go to school.)
The rest of his energy had been spent on trying to coax a sleepy Bang Chan out of the studio all while basically carrying hi with one arm and making sure all of Hyung's work would be saved on the laptop before turning it off. He didn't want Chan to have another mental breakdown the morning after, the poor guy already had too many issues (the inability of seeing his own limits and knowing how the take a break being one of them).
Back in the dorm, Jeongin quickly tiptoed out of the room and into the living room, being sure to quietly close the door behind him before taking Mingrui's call.
"Rui?" Jeongin quietly said into the phone. he wasn't sure wether Mingrui heard him though, as he was only met with silence. "Rui, you there?" he gently muttered in his accented chinese.
Almost hesitant and way too softly, Jeongin finally heard something what he supposed was a sound of confirmation, probably mixed with a nod of his head that Jeongin couldn't see. Jeongin quickly realized one strange thing: the lack of noise. Boystory was supposed to retun to Korea today and the lack of background noise that he knew from experience was usual for an airport was missing. They couldn't have already been in the car, could they?
No, he was sure they weren't. First of all, Yao Chen had texted him their flight time the night before and he knew that getting off a plane and checked out wasn't so short and he also knew that he would still hear the rushing of tires and the sound of a busy road in the background, as Zihao always insisted on keeping the car window at least open to the point where he could feel the night air blowing against his forehead, it was his own way of calming down and forgetting the stress. And had Mingrui been in the car, holding the phone to his ear, Shuyang would have already made his presence clear by trying to grab Jeongin's attention by screaming random things like "Gege, did you watch our show? We were amazing, weren't we? Did i do well?! I put a lot of effort into that dance, you know!", trying to make Jeongin praise him all the while making grabby hands at the phone or trying to reach for it by climbing over Mingrui. He would also hear the slight shush coming from Hanyu, their insecure and stressed baby-leader, who would try to pull Shuyang into his lap and try to calm him down all while muttering something along the lines of it being "too late for this". And Zeyu, being Zeyu, would sassily reply "Actually, it's too early in the morning gege, get your facts straight!" with Xinlong giggling in the background.
So again, Jeongin found the absence of those all too familiar sounds oddly concerning.
"Rui, what is it?" Jeongin whispered, headinf to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water.
"Can't I call you just because I want to hear your voice, gege?" And something about the tremble in Mingrui's voice made Jeongin's stomach turn.
He scoffed. "Last I saw you, you were appearently 'too cool to interact with someone like me'. Oh, and you kicked me in the leg saying how my singing is ugly." Jeongin poured water into the glass all while waiting for a reaction, and he might have heard a whimper in the background but he convinced himself he heard wrong. Feeling soory for his actions only comes hours after MIngrui had already sitten in Jeongin's lap and was starting to fall asleep in his arms, which Jeongin was already used to, and the apologies always came in the forms of quiet, hushed and barely understandable chinese mutterings when the boy was too sleepy to control his actions and pride of being a 'big boy' at 12.
So really, being so sensetive to Jeongin's judgement, which the boy clearly knew wasn't meant to be mean or make the younger guilty, was very unusual. jeongin expected the usual huff, giggle or sassy comeback that the younger oh so often pulled. Where did Jeongin go wrong in raising these brats?
After not getting a response for a while, Jeongin decided to speak up once more."Where is Hanyu, anyway?" He brought full glass of water to his lips a gulped the liquied down, and god, did it feel like heaven to his dry lungs.
"I uhh..... he isn't here.... well, with me."
Jeongin made a questioning noise between gulps of water which was like saying "Spit it out already" to the kid.
"I ....I might've ... run away..." Mingrui choked out.
Jeongin choked on his water and promptly spit it out, all over the kitchen counter."What?!" He panicked, a little too loudly. After whipping his head around to check that none of his own hyungs are awake he continued. "Why would you- Please tell me you're at least nearby or still at the airport-"
"I- I also might not even know where I am and how to get b-back-" He finished with a squeak and it pained Jeongin's heart who recognized that Mingrui must be rolling himself into a ball at this point, it was his own weird form of self-defense which the boys had become familiar with over the years.
"Call Hanyu then! Or the others!" Jeongin was starting to panic more and more. He could guess that Hanyu must have noticed Rui's absence already and probably already called a dozen times.
"I- I can't do that- G-gege please pick me up." He could practically hear the tears forming in Mingrui's eyes. "I-It#s dark and scary and this was abad idea-" He hiccuped.
Jeongin ran a hand through his hair after having dried the water off the counter. "Baby, i need you to calm down."
"You guys landed at Incheon airport, right?" A sound of confirmation from the other side. "And you're still somewhere in Incheon, right?" Another Confirmation. Jeongin could work with that.
"Alright, describe your surroundings. Are there any signs nearby?"
"W-Well I- I'm near a bench under lightpost and- and oh- there's a sign right over there! It says Ga- Gwang-Guang?" Mingrui had always strugled with reading korean, especially when he was nervous. But Jeongin knew that these kind of sings were mostly found the the end or beginning of a park, so at leat Rui wasn*t too far lost in between high trees at night.
"Alright, i need you to walk over to that sign and look around- are there any stores nearby? Ones where the light is still on?"
After He had safely manouvered Mingrui over a street and into a 24h convenience store after which he told Rui to give the cashier, a nice old man with a kind sounding voice and way too much patience, and explained the situation in a frenzy of "can my little brother please stay inside a little bit? he got lost and it's cold and i'm already on my way to pick him up-" and getting a hearty laugh with a promise of Mingrui being taken care of in return, he ended the call with a silent promise to murder Mingrui once he got him. He simply changed his pants and threw on a black hoodie over his night-shirt as well as a coat ('cause Korea is damn cold fhl), then grabbed his phone, wallet, keys and a extra fluffy hoodie ( as a kind of substitute jacket for Mingrui, who had not grabbed his coat when he decided to rebel and run away, if the tremble of his voice and the clattering of his teeth was anything to go by). Then, he left.
And that's how Jeongin found himself in a train heading to Incheon at 1:30 AM in the morning, hood pulled over his head, phone clutched in his hand in case Mingrui calls again telling him he was kicked out of the store for causing trouble. Jeongin wouldn't put that behind him, really. He prayed to god and every deity out there that his Hyungs wouldn't wake up and notice his empty bed while probably trying to sneak in and cuddle with him.
Thinking about it, it definitely wasn't safe for a kid like Jeongin to take the train with a bunch of sketchy people in the middle of the night, no matter what he told himself. He might be a Hyung to Boystory (and to YangYang, that brat), but there was a reason why Stray KIds and most of JYP babied the hell out of him. But then again, it was even unsafer for a kid like Mingrui, who could be mistaken for a elementary student juding by appearance and height, to be lost in the streets of unfamiliar Incheon in the middle of the night.
The Hyungs will understand, he prayed. Even though he clearly knew they wouldn't. His Hyungs are unreasonable most of the time, using the dumbest excuses to defend their mostly over protective actions when it comes to Jeongin. However, Jeongin loved Boystory, as much as they were brats(they were his brats, not that he would ever admit it), he would go to the point of getting in huge trouble with his own Hyungs for them.
Really, it's funny how it all started. Jeongin was at fault for handing in his applications too late and while everybody else got japanese classes, as JYP thought Japan was the biggest market for them at the time, he got stuck with complicated chinese because there was no more room in the Japanese ones. That's how he ended up in the minority that had to learn Chinese, altough he wasn't the only one. And honestly, he considered himself kinds fluent in it.
The Chinese trainees were excited about him learning their language, and would tease him in Chinese right in front of him which he would start to undertsand more and more over time. After a while, he even stopped realizing that they weren't speaking Korean in front of him. That left him with a fluent undertsnading and confident pronounciátion with a very akward accent, he often would understand anything people said to him but not always answer back in Chinese as well. For these skills (that he had achieved trough a lot of annoyance, plans of murdering YangYang and the attempt to mentally throw himself off a roof along with a couple headaches) he didn't know wether to bless or curse Wang YangYang, Mark Tuan, Wang Jackson, Luo Yan, Yao Chen, Ye Chen and the others.
So, considering he knew Chinese, had experience with a lot of youngs kids in his own family aapart from his younger Brother as well as living full-time in the dorms, he was assigned to take care of the young boys they now know as BOYSTORY. Additionally, he had a lot of free time in the year that he had to take off from school and apart from debut preperations, he would babysit the boys most of the time. Mostly, he would babysit them with the others, along with Mark and Jackson(when they had no schedules) who had basically apoted Zeyu. But unfortunately, Yao Chen(who was kind of seen as the head of the Chinese trainees) was in China to participate in that goddamn survival show, Ye Chen had left the company a few months earlier(which everybody was still sensitive about) and YangYang and Luo Yan had school in the form of online classes plus dance academies slap them in the face. The rest of the Chinaline? They followed Yao Chen to China, those unloayal fucks (He can still hear their snickers and their mocking goodbye kisses on his cheek that he had been trying to avoid).
Jeongin himself had been busy prepearing for comeback, so the news that BOYSTORY was going overseas was like a dream to him. Not 'cause he hated the kids, but because he was too busy to take care of them. And YangYang and Luo Yan, altough staying at home for their online classes, meant they were to stressed to listen to the whining of a couple young boys while trying to pass their exams and keep up with practice for the monthly evaluation. Ah, the sweet life of a trainee. Jeongin felt that.
Tzuyu wasn't an option, as she was busy with Twice and overseas herself at the time. Plus, the boys hated when Tzuyu would dress them up and put make up on them.
The Korean guys could have been an option- language never mattered as much as actions in JYP andif worst came to worst, most of BOYSTORY understood korean well enough after years of the guys slowly teaching them, but you get the point....
Jeongin got off the train and started walking towards the store which adress he had found out through the cashier and promptly typed into his phone. Having arrived, he entered and looked around. He spotted Mingrui sitting on a chair with rolls attached at the bottom, drinking from a box of chocolate milk and ocassionally nibbling on the straw while telling the old man various stories and probably already having revealed his identety as a artist. Damn.
The dried up evidence of tears running down his face and the puffy eyes did not go unnoticed by Jeongin.
"Gou Mingrui!" He called out, cutting the grinning boy off and drawing the attention to himself. "You gave me a freaking heartattack!"
At least the boy had the audacity to at least look a little guilty. The booming laughter of the old man cut through the air, bringing Jeongin back to reality. He bowed and thanked the man to the point where it got awkward for the cashier and apologized for the incenvenience. They got lucky, Jeongin thought, most people working the night shifts at convenience stores are grumpy and mean and sick of the sketchy crownd that usually drops by at this hour. This man continued to say how entertaining the boy's stories were, and that he was actually happy to have had his company there, and how Mingrui's accented and at points slightly broken korean was the most adorable thing in the world.
He also refused to take payment that Jeongin offered for giving Mingrui, who had clearly not eaten in a while (and knowing him, probably even refused to touch the airplane food for more than a few bites after Hanyu's endless pleading), for giving him snacks and the chocolate milk.
After thanking him a dozen times more, Mingrui sneezed and Jeongin's heart sank. What if he had gotten sick out in the cold night until he swallowed up his pride and called Jeongin? he took the fluffy hoodie he had grabbed from home and pulled it over Mingrui's head, helping him squeeze his arms in the sleeves while the man mumbled that Mingrui had sneezed quiet a few times while here, and that Jeongin should probably get him checked. The hoodie was way to oversized for the boy and nearly reached his knees, but Rui seemed comfortable and pulled the hoodie tighter arounf himself.
After they bid the cashier farewell (not before buying another dozen chocolate milks, appearently Mingrui got hooked), Jeongin tightly grabbed Rui by the hand and led him to the train station, all the while avoiding the sketchy people and the strange looks the two young, and both way too short and petite boys got along the way. In the train, as Mingrui was again dozing off in Jeongin's arms (who had pulled him into his lap and snuggled him into his own jacket as another layer over the probably sick boy), Jeongin took his phone to look through the messages hanyu had most definitely sent and to calm the poor boy down. Really, BOYSTORY's kid leader would lose his hair faster than Jeongin at this pace.
He was shocked to see 104 messegaes and 21 missed calls from Hanyu alone, excluding everybody else. He would be surprised it the guy hadn't called the police yet. Yet, rethinking that, no he surely hadn't. If you report a missing artist from the big three, sepecially a young child, to the police it's guranteed to make the headlines and JYP to get in trouble. From the last few messages that he quickly skipped over he could only see Hanyu's panicked pleadings and his "I'm sorry, baby", "Gaga, pls IÄm worried" and "Gou Gou, Shuyang is crying and I won't rest until i find you, we can talk it out, please just call me". His heart broke at the messages, so they really got into a fight. It was probably something childish again, but the consequences were huge.
Jeongin felt for Hanyu, sweet Hanyu who is so used to being Mingrui's favorite gege and used to taking care of everyone, something he shouldn't be at that age. Hanyu reminds Jeongin of Chan so much, and it breaks his heart, thinking back to first meeting a young, carefree and hopeful Hanyu with big eyes full of excitement and hope that stared into your soul. Chan must have looked like that too, back in the days, Jeongin thought. Jeongin very clearly remembers every night that Hanyu would come crawling into his bed, either because he himself needed Jeongin's or any of the Hyung's warmth and comfort or because one or several of his boys had already sneaked into Jeongin's bed demanding another bedtime story or lullaby and Hanyu had come searching for them. He also remembers everytime Hanyu broke down intears, curling into Jeongin's side, whimpering and insisting that he couldn't make it, that he was a dissappointment and a bed gege and oh god he couldn't even take care of them and-
These moments, altough rare, happened too much for Jeongin's liking. When BOYSTORY were in Korea, at least the rest of JYP could help out. Felix would distract Xinlong for hours with new dance choreographies and Zihao would try on new outfits under Hyunjin's or playful Jae's supervision, along with most of the noonas who would either laugh or coo at the young model and Zeyu would play with Jackson and Mark and Shuyang would try to learn 'teakwando' from YangYang (Jeongin refused to call that mess of limbs and the thousand bruises Taekwando) and Hanyu wouldn't have to do this alone. He would go out and be free of responisbilities and play arounf like the child he is.
So, Jeongin called Hanyu. Not even one ring later, the younger picked up.
"Gaga-" The other line broke of into a sob.
"Han, it's me." Jeongin gulped the lump in his throath down. Altough mostly the Jyp artist were way too playful for their own good, moments like these brought back the seriousness of the businuess they were in.
"I-Innie ge?" he sobbed.
"Yeah, don't worry. I've got Gou Gou with me. He's fine, altough he might have catched a cold." This seemed to calm Hanyu, who immidiently went back to strict older brother mode.
"Hyung, tell me where you are so I can come murder that troublemaker."
Jeongin laughed. "Jia Bao, i give you every right and permission there is to strangle him. But tommorow, please."
"What about Yao Chen?"
"What about him?"
"Not asking for the boss' permission before sending one of us off to the afterlife?"
"I don't see no Yao Chen here, do you? Nah, cause he ditched us for that shitty survuval show."
"....You're not still salty about that, are you gege?"
Jeongin, unbeknowst to Hanyu, raised a brow. "I never was salty in the first place, thank you very much."
Hanyu made a popping sound "Sure you weren't."
"I wasn't saying you were."
"You were thinking it."
"No I wasn't."
"Yes you-" "IS THAT IN-GE? HIIII? WHY DO YOU CAL JIA BAO BUT NOT MEEE??? WHAT DOES HE HAVE THAT I DON'T?!" "OMG YU ZEYU SHUT UP AND STOP THE DRAMA RIGHT NOW WE ARE IN A P U B L I C PLACE!!!!!"
Jeongin chuckled and after a few more words back and forth, they eventually hung up- not without another speech about betrayal from Zeyu with Hanyu cutting in "No, it doesn't matter that it's chines, we're still in a public korean place and-".
And Jeongin, poor, stupid Innie decided to take out his own phone right in the moemnt that acertain hyung was calling. Which made him squeak rather emberassingly loud and nrealy drop both his phone and Mingrui from his lap. He thanked the gods of chicken taht the boy did not wake up, Jeongin thought he was already spotting a runny nose and he would deal with that tommorow, leave him alone.
After hesatating over the accept and decline button, later deciding it's better to not further fuel his hyung, he picked it up only to be greeted with the dangerously low voice of the resident prince charming, aka Hwang Hyunjin.
Damn, he was in trouble. BIG Trouble.
Mingrui was lucky he loved him to pieces.
And that he was sick and delicate.