For the Pin-meme, here. Jin can't leave his little girl home alone, but the only person available to help is the stranger across the hall.
aiwatan drew an adorable fanart for this here! :D
Jin's never bothered with his neighbours all that much. He's not good with strangers, doesn't have the social skills necessary to make meaningless conversation with someone he barely knows, and most of all, he doesn't particularly want to. They're just people who happen to have apartments in the same building as him; all it proves is that they have good taste in living quarters.
But now, he's getting desperate. His family are out of town, out of the country, off holidaying somewhere far more exotic than Tokyo, and his friends - his wonderful, devoted, we'll-do-anything-we-can-to-help-since-s
With a frustrated wail, he knocks his head back against the wall, and winces when it hurts.
Jin softens immediately, sinking to his knees and holding out his arms to the little girl he loves above everything and anything else.
"Hey, baby," he murmurs softly, and lifts her up as he stands. She giggles as the floor disappears beneath her, and already he feels better.
That doesn't change that he's late, though, and he's going to get fired if he messes up again. There's only so much slack the company will cut him, and it's not nearly enough to cover for having a five-year-old daughter.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, he supposes as he gathers up Ai-chan's favourite DVDs and the battered teddy sitting in one corner of the couch. Kuma's arm was falling off, the stuffing leaking out of the hole, but he was a little scared to take a needle to it himself in case he ended up doing more damage than good.
With Ai-chan on one hip and her entertainment under his other arm, Jin heads out into the hall.
"I'm sorry to do this to you, baby, but Daddy has to go to work, okay? I won't be long, I promise, then maybe we can go to the park, hm?"
The pout that had been threatening to turn into full-on tears is gone in the face of her excitement, and she nods with a grin, "Un! Where are we going?"
"To find somewhere for you to stay for a little while," Jin explains, facing the door to the left of their apartment. He looks between the doorbell and his arms, full of child and toys, then back again. "Push the button for me, sweetie?"
More than happy to press anything that might make a noise, Jin lifts Ai closer so that she can reach, and he hears the echo of the bell trilling behind the door. They wait, and wait, but no-one comes, and with a sigh he moves across to the other side.
This time, someone answers, but he's got more ink than skin and isn't wearing nearly enough clothes for Jin's liking. With a nod of apology, and rapidly running out of doors to knock on, his relief is almost palpable when there is someone home in apartment opposite, and he looks relatively friendly.
"Is everything okay?" The other man asks with a smile that Jin makes sure reaches his eyes.
"Hey, uh, my name's Akanishi, and this is my daughter, Ai, we live opposite you?"
"Oh, hi! I'm Yamashita." He's still smiling, a little wider now, and bows politely before offering a hand to Ai, which she shakes with all the firm, awkward exuberance of a child, "Did you want to come in?"
Jin struggles to bow in return, and Yamashita's hands shoot out to catch the precarious stack of DVDs under Jin's arm.
"Thanks," Jin flushes awkwardly. "Um, no, but I was wondering if I could ask you a really huge favour..."
"Babysitter?" Yamashita asks, taking Ai's things from under Jin's arm and watching with eyes that sparkle knowingly.
Jin's cheeks burn a little redder, "Yeah, actually, I... I'm really sorry to ask it of you and I wouldn't do it if I had another choice and I hate leaving her with someone I don't know but-but if I get fired then I can't take care of her and then we'll be out on the streets because my parents don't have room and-"
"It's fine," Yamashita silences him, "No problem at all. Ai-chan can stay here with me and we can eat lots of yummy things while she tells me all your deepest, darkest secrets until you get back. Are you allergic to anything, Ai-chan?" He's looking at Ai when he speaks, and Jin can't help but like him, especially when she giggles excitedly and shakes her head. She's always been a quiet little thing, much like her mother; far more prone to hiding her face in his neck when presented with new people than even looking at them, so this, Jin thinks, is already a good start.
When he comes home that night, having spent the whole afternoon distracted and hating himself for leaving his baby girl with a stranger, Jin's heart starts to race when Yamashita doesn't answer the door the moment he rings the bell. What if he'd run off with her, what if he'd taken her away and Jin would never see her again? What if he was really some part of a drug ring, and they were going to bring her up as an addict while she's too young to know better? What if-
There's a laugh from inside, high and sweet and melodic, followed by a war cry that may or may not have come from a man before the door is flung open. Yamashita is rather more dishevelled than he had been earlier, hair sticking up around his head in disarray, and Jin feels a smile tugging at his lips.
"Daddy!" Ai cries, flying down the corridor to throw her arms around Jin's legs, and he picks her up with a grin.
"Having a good time?" She nods, eyes alight in a way Jin's not used to seeing when other people are around, but then Yamashita's letting out another cry of success and diving behind a pile of cushions and blankets in one corner of the living room.
"Victory!" He declares triumphantly, and Ai shrieks and wriggles until Jin puts her down.
"Nooo!" She wails, all but flying across the room to leap on top of the other man, and Yamashita laughs loudly, launching a tickle-war on the loser.
Nudging the door closed behind him and watching as Ai squeals and flails around, Jin calmly toes off his shoes before throwing himself into the fray.
Later, when they've demolished the fort that Ai-chan and Kuma had been protecting from the Evil Intruder to put the sofa back together, and Ai has fallen asleep in Jin's lap, Yamashita offers to cook them dinner.
Jin laughingly tells him he thinks he's in love.
Yamashita's eyes soften as he looks down at Ai-chan's closed eyes, her arms tight around Kuma-kun - who has a bandage over one arm and has strict instructions to be careful for at least a week - and he says that he thinks he might be, too.
By the school holidays, it's become a regular thing. Rather than relying on a nanny to take care of Ai while Jin's away at work, after breakfast she trots across the hall and settles down on Yamashita's couch with a cartoon or a manga or a notebook from the pile that is rapidly accumulating on his coffee table. Jin pretends not to notice when new things are added to it because as much as he hates charity, he knows that's not what this is.
Up until lunch, he knows, Yamashita will sit and tap away on his laptop, working on whatever article his boss wants him to turn in next, with Ai and Kuma curled up next to him. Jin's proud to learn she is always well-behaved and patient, content to busy herself with whatever she brings or Yamashita provides. Once they've eaten, the laptop is put away and they spend the afternoon doing whatever takes Ai's fancy.
Jin tells Yamashita he's spoiling her. Yamashita just agrees with a grin.
He won't take Jin's money, no matter how many times Jin tries to offer it.
"It's no different to what I normally do," he insists, "Except now I've got someone to share my free time with." Jin makes a point of bringing dinner home with him most evenings, though, and even if he can't always be trusted to cook it properly when it's not take-out, he'll do the dishes. Yamashita laughs when he burns their food the first time, voicing his curiosity about they ever survived without him. Jin just whacks him with a dishcloth and wonders when they got so close.
But the holidays don't last forever, and soon Ai is back at school. Jin goes back to working six hour days and staying up long into the night so that he can be there for her before and after school, as well as get all his work done, and suddenly there is a big void in his life that wasn't there before, one that must be even bigger for Ai.
"Daddy?" She asks one night as he's putting her to bed, Kuma-kun's mended arm proudly on display now that the bandage was gone.
"Hm?" Jin murmurs, tucking the covers in around her.
"When are we going to go and see Pi again?"
"Who's Pi, sweetie?"
"Yamapi," she says surely, and then, like it's the most obvious thing in the world, "The nii-san across the hall."
Jin's hand falters where it's brushing her long, dark hair away from her face and tucking it behind her ears, "Yamashita?"
She nods, "Un. He said his friends call him Yamapi, but because I'm special I can just call him Pi."
Jin's heard thuds a little harder, and he kisses her on the forehead, "Soon, baby. Soon."
At first, Jin thinks it's only polite to give Yamashita some alone time after they've invaded his life every day for the past few weeks, and then it's gone a little too long for him to feel comfortable just crossing the hall and knocking on the door. The longer he waits, the harder it gets, until three weeks have passed and Jin wonders if Yamashita was just glad to be rid of them, wonders if there was really any heart behind all the things he'd said to Ai. He can't forget though, not with the way Ai talks about him every day, about whether Pi-niisan would like what she'd drawn at school, if Pi-niisan would have enjoyed their class field trip to the temple, if Pi-niisan would prefer fish for dinner, like her, or chicken, like Daddy.
It takes him by complete surprise when he opens his door one evening to take the trash out, and finds Yamashita stood outside, hand raised to push the bell.
"I'm home!" The other man grins, and Jin automatically welcomes him back before it really sinks in.
Yamashita nods, "I told you I'd be away, I left you that note, remember?"
"You did?" Jin frowns, silent for a long moment before he remembers sifting through his junk mail rather haphazardly one morning and dumping it on the counter to be dealt with later. Much later, it seems, because the pile is still there, untouched.
"Oh! The note, right, o-of course..."
"You didn't get the note, did you?"
Jin's never been able to lie well, so he just looks away instead.
"Bakanishi," Yamashita smiles, and Jin's jaw drops, affronted for the split second it takes the other man to close the door behind him and throw his arm around Jin's shoulder, "Did you think I'd just abandoned you?"
"No!" Jin answers too quickly, and can feel his cheeks burning already, "N-not me..."
Ai's grin looks wide enough to hurt as she all but skips towards them, and Yamashita releases Jin to scoop her up and spin her around in a circle, telling her how silly and hopeless her Daddy is over her giggles.
When the pair of them have calmed down, Yamashita tells Jin about his trip whilst happily looking through all of Ai's drawings from the past few weeks, listening to her explanations of each one in one ear and Jin's occasional comments in the other. It's effortless, like he was born to multitask, and Jin tries not to smile as the idea of Yamashita being the woman in this relationship crosses his mind.
Eventually, though, Yamashita misses something Ai says, and his eyes twinkle with amusement as she berates him with a disapproving look on her face. His apologies sound genuine, though, and Jin stands.
"Chinese or Italian... You're the one that's been away, what do you fancy, Pi?"
Yamapi turns to look at him with raised eyebrows, and Jin freezes.
"Sorry! S-Sorry, I, uh. Ai-chan's always saying it and I guess it just-"
Yamapi shushes him with a shake of his head. "I like it," he says, eyes still bright, and Jin's mouth twitches in return.
They decide on pizza. It's the weekend tomorrow, so Jin doesn't mind Ai staying up a little later than usual to watch movies with them, and it's far easier to handle a slice of pizza with both eyes on the television than a pair of chopsticks. Jin leaves them both still looking through Ai's artwork, his daughter far happier now that she's got all of Yamapi's attention to herself.
The pizza menu is on top of the stack of mail on the kitchen counter, and with a glance behind him to check they're still engrossed, Jin leafs through it until he finds Yamapi's note, hastily scrawled on a sheet of lined paper torn from a notebook.
Going to Hokkaido for a few weeks for work.
Sorry I didn't tell you properly - you're out and it's all happened really last minute.
Tell Ai-chan I'm sorry and make sure she knows that Kuma-kun's arm still needs lots of rest!
Try not to miss me too much!
Between the last two lines, there's something else that Yamapi's scribbled through, over and over until it's all but illegible, but if Jin holds it up to the light and squints his eyes just so, he can just about make it out.
I know I'll miss you.