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an older brother's dilemma

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Yoo Joonghyuk has a problem. It seems that his little sister has a crush on the babysitter down the hall.

 

There was no other explanation. He is terribly sure of it.

 

Every day, Yoo Mia hangs out with her two friends who live in the same building as them and they all spend their time in the unit down the hall. Apparently, one of her two friends (the boy, Lee Gilyoung, Yoo Joonghyuk mumbles to himself)  is cousins with the man who watches over them while their guardians are away. Alongside her classmate, Shin Yoosung, the three of them spend their afternoons in the unit down the hallway of their own, doing their worksheets and playing PC games with one another.

 

Because of his kind and polite demeanour and his natural affinity with children, the male tenant in 9158 has naturally been dubbed as the “Building’s Babysitter” which several mothers and aunts take advantage of. He’s apparently a good tutor for Math and Science as well, scoring him brownie points to the women who trust him to look after their children.

 

He supposes that it’s normal for children to talk about things that interest them. Yoo Mia had gone through a sports anime phase when she hit puberty. Yoo Joonghyuk could still remember the days where she talked his ear off over her so-called “anime sons and babies”. He supposes that it's cute, the way his sister's cheeks flush with joy whenever Yoo Mia comes to talk to him about her interests.

 

But with the asshole living down the hallway next to them (Yoo Mia calls him ‘Dokja-ahjussi’ but does she really have to say it with a twinkle in her eyes?), he definitely has no business being in each and every one of his sister’s conversations with him.

 

“Oppa, did you know Dokja-ahjussi loves reading books? His walls are covered in them! He even has books in different languages and he reads them out to us if we finished our work. Isn’t he cool?”

 

“Dokja-ahjussi treated Gilyoung, Yoosungie and I to ice cream from the combi store today. He’s so funny, nagging at us to eat veggies but then he treats us to sweets the next day. Oppa, you should buy me more ice cream like him.”

 

“Joonghyuk-oppa, I think you should smile more. Dokja-ahjussi has a reaaaalllyyyyy nice smile, you know? Also, he gives us the best head pats. And hugs. He’s really good at that.”

 

Yoo Joonghyuk could only scowl as his little sister continues to wax poetry over their neighbour. He’s never even met nor seen the other male before but he knows way too much about this ‘Dokja-ahjussi’ than he’d like.

 

“Do you really like him that much?” Yoo Joonghyuk couldn’t resist asking. His pride as the older brother is at stake here. “This ‘Dokja-ahjussi’ that you keep talking about.”

 

“Of course, I like him,” Yoo Mia nods, in all seriousness. “He’s ahjussi!”

 

She says that as if it fully answers Yoo Joonghyuk’s question. He’s a bit worried with how easily his sister is won over by the other male. “That doesn’t explain why you’re always talking about him,” Yoo Joonghyuk points out in response. “As your older brother, it’s my job to keep track of who you’re spending time with while I’m at work.”

 

Yoo Mia sends him a knowing grin. She leans over and says in a teasing tone, “Oppa, if you wanted to meet him, you could have just said so. Don’t bother hiding your curiosity by acting worried.”

 

“I am worried,” Yoo Joonghyuk frowns.

 

His sister merely laughs his concern off. What a brat. “Just come with me tomorrow then!” Yoo Mia smiles. “Dokja-ahjussi wouldn’t mind another person in his house. He has lots of other people come over all the time whenever my friends and I are there.”

 

He can’t help but hesitate before agreeing. After all, the only information Yoo Joonghyuk has on the man is from an unfairly unbiased perspective. Who knows what Kim Dokja is actually like in person? But seeing the expectant look in his sister’s eyes and the way she’s tugging at his sleeve for him to agree, Yoo Joonghyuk could only sigh and nod in reply.

 

Yoo Mia ends up bounding in joy around the house after hearing his response. “Oppa and ahjussi are finally meeting! Two of my favourite people in the world.” She runs back over to Yoo Joonghyuk to plant a sloppy kiss on his cheek. “You won’t regret it, Oppa,” she smiles. “I think you’ll like ahjussi just as well as I do!”

 

Yoo Joonghyuk merely ruffles her hair in response, chuckling at his sister’s indignant squawk and pout that follows.

 

Like him? Yoo Joonghyuk will see about that. There’s no way he’s as good as Yoo Mia makes him out to be.

 

“Make sure you clear your schedule for tomorrow! I’m meeting Yoosungie and Gilyoung there during lunch, so make sure you’re free then.”

 

“Alright.”

 


 

 

It’s the day where Yoo Joonghyuk finally gets to meet the babysitter down the hall. His manager was all too much eager to grant Yoo Joonghyuk a day-off when he asked. Saying something about not wanting her star gamer dying from overwork and that he doesn’t need to come practice in the company building every single day.

 

His sister tugs on his hand as they walk down the carpeted floor of the hall, her smaller hand wrapped around his in a comforting grip. “Here we are!” Yoo Mia says as they stop in front of Unit 9158. She buzzes the doorbell once, then twice before stepping back beside her brother.

 

Yoo Joonghyuk could make out the sound of two children arguing, then the sound of footsteps rushing to the door before it swings open to reveal a  young girl standing within. “Mia, you’re here!” the girl greets, opening the door wider for her friend. She pauses once she sees Yoo Joonghyuk standing outside with her, hand stilling in its movement. “Who’s that with you?”

 

“This is my brother, Joonghyuk-oppa. Oppa, this is Yoosungie, my friend,” Yoo Mia happily supplies and a knowing look spreads across the girl’s features. The two girls share a small quiet bout of laughter before Shin Yoosung finally steps aside to let them both in.

 

“Hi, Joonghyuk-ahjussi,” Shin Yoosung greets. For a short moment, Yoo Joonghyuk feels a slight chill at the sight of her smile.

 

“Hello,” he says in return,  inclining his head in response to the girl’s greeting. It wouldn’t be good to antagonize his sister’s friends. After all, his true enemy is the owner of the unit he’s standing in.

 

“Gilyoung is helping ahjussi in the kitchen,” Shin Yoosung says while the siblings toe-off their shoes and switch them for indoor ones at the entranceway. “He’s cutting up some watermelon that he got from Auntie Perse.”

 

“Watermelons! I love those,” Yoo Mia grins. She tugs on Yoo Joonghyuk’s sleeve once more, leading her brother through the apartment. “Oppa, you should go help Dokja-ahjussi in cutting them.” And then, to Shin Yoosung, she says, “Oppa is really good at cooking. I think ahjussi would appreciate his help very much.”

 

“I see, I see. You’re right! Ahjussi would like that very much.”

 

Yoo Joonghyuk is starting to get used to all the secretive smiles and glances between the two girls. Is this how all pre-teens act around one another? He has no idea.

 

The apartment’s walls are covered in children's drawings and letters. They're all dedicated to Kim Dokja, citing thanks for all his help in taking care of them and even a couple of proposals for his hand in marriage. Just what is Kim Dokja doing to all these children? Yoo Joonghyuk doesn't know if he wants to find out.

 

They finally reach the kitchen and the two girls run in ahead of Yoo Joonghyuk, heading straight to where their remaining friend is sitting. Yoo Joonghyuk follows right behind, eyes landing on the man standing at the counter right in front of him.

 

There’s only one word running through Yoo Joonghyuk’s mind right now: Fuck.

 

He doesn’t know what he expected really. Yoo Joonghyuk had always thought that Kim Dokja would be a middle-aged man, the type with wrinkles and a receding hairline that comes with being in your 30s. His little sister calls him “Ahjussi” for heaven’s sake, while Yoo Joonghyuk skids by with getting called “Oppa” or “Hyung” despite being in his late 20s.

 

Kim Dokja is none of that. Instead, he looks around Yoo Joonghyuk’s age, probably a year older give or take. He’s got an impressive set of shadows underneath his eyes but they’re luckily offset by the lashes that curve right over them. He’s shorter than Yoo Joonghyuk and leaner too, but that isn’t the most surprising about Kim Dokja.

 

No. It’s his choice of clothing instead.

 

Yoo Joonghyuk watches in abstract horror when Shin Yoosung runs over to give Kim Dokja a big hug, pressing her body against his thin waist and long legs. It’s not because the other man is holding a knife (though that certainly has some influence as well), but it’s because he’s wearing nothing but a loose shirt and a pair of old shorts. A shirt that’s so obviously lived-in that its neckline reveals way too much of Kim Dokja’s collarbones and he's wearing shorts that are plastered to the skin of his thighs, displaying the full length of the other man’s pale appendages.

 

“Ahjussi, good afternoon!” His sister greets, completely oblivious to the fact that the man in front of her is wearing shorts that fully showcases the milky expanse of his skin. Does Kim Dokja dress like that all the time when he looks after the children? His sister always screams at him whenever he walks around their apartment shirtless. How come this Kim Dokja could walk around in shorts that barely pass the middle of his thighs? “Sorry, I’m a bit late.”

 

“Mia-yah, you’re here,” Kim Dokja smiles, soft and fond. Yoo Joonghyuk can feel himself sucking in a breath. His sister was right; he does have a nice smile. “Don’t worry, you’re just in time. I’ve only just started preparing the watermelon for snacks.”

 

His smile turns from affectionate to polite once he sets eyes on Yoo Joonghyuk however. “Oh, hello,” Kim Dokja greets, nodding his head politely and Yoo Joonghyuk has to glance away when his neckline shifts with the movement. “And you are…?”

 

Yoo Mia answers the question for him, piping in from the side. “Ahjussi, this is my brother, Yoo Joonghyuk-oppa. I brought him over so you two could meet!” she says.

 

A small flicker of recognition appears in Kim Dokja eyes. “Ah, so you’re the Yoo Joonghyuk-ssi, I keep hearing about,” he says, tilting his head to the side. “Hmm, you look a bit different from Yoo Mia’s stories…”

 

“That’s because Yoo Mia talks about her brother way too much,” says Lee Gilyoung from the other side of the counter. “It can’t be helped that her stories are different from the real thing.”

 

“Yah, Lee Gilyoung! All my stories are true!”

 

“Please, how good can his cooking be?”

 

“Well, compared to yours, it’s definitely better.”

 

“Gilyoung, stop ruining this for us.”

 

“I’m not ruining anything!”

 

The three children end up arguing amongst themselves, with Shin Yoosung defending her friend and Lee Gilyoung rebutting every comment leading in the foray. Yoo Mia laughs like she expected this to happen and she sits down on the table, pulling out her math worksheets and answering them instead. Kim Dokja only spares them a fond smile before shaking his head. “Those three always butt heads but they’re all incredibly close to one another,” he says, turning to face Yoo Joonghyuk. “So, you’re Mia’s older brother, huh? I haven’t properly introduced myself.”

 

Kim Dokja extends his free hand out with a smile. “My name’s Kim Dokja. It’s nice to meet you, Yoo Joonghyuk-ssi.”

 

“Likewise,” he says, clasping Kim Dokja’s hand in his before letting go. “I’ve heard a lot about you from my sister.”

 

“Oh really? I guess the stories go both ways then,” Kim Dokja remarks. “Are the stories of you being a good cook true then?”

 

Yoo Joonghyuk shrugs but he still gestures for Kim Dokja to pass him a knife. He’s the type who prefers to prove his weight through actions rather than words. Kim Dokja hands him the knife with an expectant raise of his brow. He ends up shifting his weight to lean against the counter and Yoo Joonghyuk curses the offending neckline once more when it reveals the smooth curve of Kim Dokja’s shoulders.

 

“Do you know how to use a knife, Joonghyuk-ssi?” Kim Dokja says from beside him. “You’re staring at the chopping board way too hard. Careful, it might combust.”

 

Yoo Joonghyuk gives him a flat look, “You do know I’m the one holding the sharp object here, right?”

 

His words make Kim Dokja laugh (and his laugh makes Yoo Joonghyuk’s heart stutter, fuck) and he raises his hand in mock surrender. “I’m just joking,” Kim Dokja says, but Yoo Joonghyuk could tell that his smile means otherwise. 

 

Yoo Joonghyuk aims his glare at the watermelon in front of himself instead. His hand starts to move, the knife slicing through the fruit in a few smooth and precise motions. He wields the blade with maximum efficiency and after a few seconds, the watermelon is sliced and ready to be eaten.

 

“Wow, good job,” Kim Dokja hums, giving him an appreciative pat on the shoulder. “Thanks.” He then gathers the slices up on a tray and brings them to the children waiting, telling them to clear their worksheets and make space for the tray in the centre. He watches Kim Dokja troop the three kids around, procuring a napkin out of thin air when Lee Gilyoung stains his fingers with watermelon juice and expertly tying Shin Yoosung’s hair into a tail to aid her when she eats.

 

“Yoo Joonghyuk-ssi, are you joining us or not?” Kim Dokja asks, making space for Yoo Joonghyuk at the table. “There’s more than enough fruit for all of us, you know.”

 

Yoo Joonghyuk lets out a soft breath, “I’m coming.” He sits down beside Kim Dokja, accepting the watermelon slice handed to him and ignoring the bright smile on his sister’s face right next to him.

 

He should’ve known there was a reason why his sister was so excited about the two of them meeting.

 

Fuck. Looks like he has to retract his previous statement.

 

Yoo Joonghyuk has a new problem. It seems that he has a crush on the babysitter down the hall.