Disclaimer: I do not own the boys.
Author's Note: This fic was written as a prequel to Baby, We're Just Warming Up, which was because of midnighttofu @ tumblr's gorgeous picture.
Summary: Jongin's life is turned upside-down when he finds a stray in an alley.
The chime over the door rings when he steps inside, the sudden blanket of warm air breathing life back into his frozen fingers. Jongin unwraps the scarf from around his neck as he walks forward, shoes scuffing against the floor. The invigorating smell of coffee surrounds him and he closes his eyes, savoring the homey feel with a deep breath before stepping up to the counter while sniffling a little bit from exposure to the elements. He's managed to make it before the rush which is always nice; early enough to meander and possibly chat without the constant interruption of pinch-faced people in expensive coats and fur lined gloves.
"What can I - oh, Jongin, good morning," Yixing chirps, far too happy for this early in the day. Yet Jongin can't resist that dimple and he smiles back. "Your usual?"
"Yes, please." Fingers still tingling from newfound warmth fumble in his wallet before he can produce his debit card, but Yixing pushes it away.
"This one's on the house." Jongin blinks up at him as he processes the information. "For being such a loyal customer."
"Are you giving away my coffee again?" Wufan's voice booms from the back and Yixing snickers.
"Of course not." Yet his cat ears twitch and give away the lie. Wufan walks out with a piping hot cup of coffee that's the perfect shade of light brown and hands it to Jongin with a smile before tugging lightly on Yixing's tail. He jumps and gives his owner a wide-eyed look before Wufan calms him with a scratch behind his left ear. Another patron enters and that's his cue.
Jongin thanks them both before walking back out into the cold, but at least the heat radiating from the cup in his hands takes away some of the bite. He dives into his car and turns the heat to full blast before heading the rest of the way to work. There's an alley between two restaurants he passes daily on his commute and he never pays attention to it, yet today something red catches his eye and he slows. Jongin peers into the space only to see what he assumes is simply trash that's fallen out of the bin laying on the cement and he continues on without a second thought.
The office is pleasantly warm and he manages to unwind his scarf and slide off his jacket just in time for Joonmyun to stroll in. He flashes his employer a bright smile that's returned briefly before his attention is diverted. Joonmyun's cat, Sehun, is stepping on his heels the entire trip to his office and it's completely on purpose. There's a smile on his face as he watches the toe of his sneakers catch on the back of Joonmyun's expensive shoes. He seems to be waiting for a reaction, but with Joonmyun's saint-like patience, it's bound to take a while. Blond ears perk up when his owner turns, but it's only to remind Jongin about the files he needs for his meeting later and Sehun pouts before following Joonmyun into the office.
It's a daily occurrence, Sehun finding new ways to draw attention to himself and Joonmyun either politely acknowledging him with a pat on the behind or ignoring his antics in favor of work. When Sehun finally tires of wandering around the large office space, he usually ends up in a chair beside Jongin at his desk, spinning in circles and asking questions Jongin can't possibly know the answers to. But it keeps him entertained and it stopped annoying Jongin a long time ago.
"You should get a pet," Sehun says after Jongin politely explains to him why bubblegum flavored pudding would never catch on.
"What makes you think I don't have one already?"
"You look lonely."
Jongin doesn't have a reply for that and he simply stares blankly at the document in his hands in silent contemplation. Joonmyun walks out of his office a moment later and Sehun is by his side in an instant, leaving Jongin to his thoughts as they head out of the building for lunch.
Is he lonely?
He'd never really thought about it before. Sure, he hasn't been on a date in a while and his interactions are restricted to who he runs across on his way to and from work, but surely that's normal. A frown settles on his face and he slumps back in his chair. Now it's going to bother him and it's all that cat's fault.
The ride home isn't much different from any other day, coat buttoned and a hand gently coaxing the heat to life so he doesn't turn into a Jongin shaped popsicle. His mind is still preoccupied by Sehun's offhand statement, something the cat had already forgotten by the time he curled up to take a nap after lunch, conveniently blocking Jongin's access to the bottom drawer of the file cabinet. Such a small thing shouldn't really be nagging at him, but he's afraid Sehun may have had a point. One he wouldn't have seen if it hadn't been thrust under his nose so obviously.
He's been alone for a long time.
Jongin's parents passed a few years ago, leaving him their house and everything in it. Too many memories lived inside those walls, mind playing tricks on him every time he walked down the hallways. He always expected to see his mother walking out of the kitchen as she wiped her hands on her apron, or his father to be humming a tune under his breath as he perused a catalog on the sofa in the living room. But there's nothing save for silence, an overwhelming silence and he can't stay.
Selling the house gives Jongin the means to purchase one of his own that's more suitable for just him with enough leftover for a functioning vehicle. It's all he needs to start his own life.
Jongin's house has never seemed as big as it does now, too many rooms and not enough to fill them. Silence filters around the cracks until he flips on the television to cover it up, eating a microwaved dinner on the couch with slumped shoulders and feet propped on the coffee table. He flips through channels and eventually gives up the pretense of paying attention when his thoughts simply will not shut up. He drowns them in the shower.
By morning it's forgotten, dressing and driving to the coffee shop for his daily injection of caffeine as he does every work day. Today Baekhyun is at the register, smiling and smacking his tail against the counter in excitement when he sees Jongin.
Oh boy, how he hates that nickname, but he smiles at the cat anyway lest he end up with claws embedded in the back of his hand again. "Morning, Baek."
"You want something with your coffee today? Muffin, cookie - oh, we have biscotti!"
"Just the coffee please," he says with a chuckle that only gets louder when Baekhyun's ears flop just a little. He's always trying to force feed Jongin and the man never accepts. One of these days he may eventually give in, but it's not this day and he takes his coffee from the grumping cat with a smile and a small wave before departing. How Wufan manages to keep Baekhyun and Yixing both in check is still astonishing. Must be all the years of practicing that hardass countenance in the mirror.
A flash of red and his eyes are drawn to the alley again, now positive it had been moving, but he sees nothing and brushes it off as his mind playing tricks. It tends to do that when he doesn't get enough sleep and the soreness of his eyes alerts him that's the case this morning.
The coffee serves to heat him enough to brave the trek into the building, shoes clacking along the sidewalk and up the stairs before pulling open the glass door. Up to the top floor he goes, caffeine clutched tight to his chest in the crowded elevator and as always, he's the last one left when he reaches the pinnacle. Jongin settles and Joonmyun arrives not long after with a sulking Sehun who is now sporting cotton candy pink hair and ears. When his boss enters his office, he shuts the door in his cat's face and Jongin's mouth opens in shock. No matter what he's done before, Joonmyun has never kept Sehun out and the poor cat is tearing up and stroking the end of his tail pathetically. With a soft smile, Jongin guides Sehun over to his usual chair and lets him curl up in it, tail flicking lazily at the papers on the edge of his desk.
Last year at the end of the year New Years Party, Jongin remembers Sehun stripping on top of one of the tables after someone had slipped him an alcoholic beverage. (Jongin still bets his entire paycheck it was Chanyeol from human resources. The guy looks the type and he was the first one to pull out singles and attempt to slide them down unbuttoned pants.) Joonmyun hadn't even been upset with him for that, or the time he shredded the financial reports to make his corner more comfortable and it'd taken weeks to redo what they were missing.
Joonmyun pokes his head out later and Sehun perks up until his owner gives brief instructions to Jongin and refuses to acknowledge him before closing his door again. Jongin reaches over and pats him on the head before getting to work on his newest assignment. It isn't until lunch when Joonmyun comes out again, motioning for Sehun to follow. The cat slinks out of the chair cautiously and stays several feet behind his owner until they're out of sight, limp tail still in hand.
Jongin works through lunch, nibbling on a sandwich from the vending machine on the third floor so he can get Joonmyun caught up and his schedule finished for the week. His mind doesn't have time to contemplate anything other than this, other than a routine he's ingrained in his brain. He's the best damn secretary in the company which is how he ended up being promoted to being the CEO's personal secretary. At first he'd thought it would be easier managing just one person, but Joonmyun isn't one person. He's the entire company.
When Joonmyun and Sehun return, the cat is smiling and bouncing around playfully and Jongin assumes they worked out their problem.
"Jongin?" Joonmyun asks as they pass his desk. "Will you please try to find a cleaner that can get pink dye out of marble?'
Sehun blushes and Jongin smiles. "Of course."
It's getting colder outside and Jongin huddles in his coat for remnants of body heat as he darts to his car. Curiosity has him slowing when he nears the alley, eyes peering into the dark. The sun is already going down, deepening the shadows and he's not sure what he's looking for until something red moves from one side to the other. A horn honks obnoxiously behind him and Jongin speeds up, trying to shake off the feeling of uneasiness as he heads home.
One short car ride and a hot shower later and Jongin forgets all about it as he usually does with most things that don't pertain to his mundane life. He flips on the television and half listens to a news report on the overpopulation of shelters before turning if off. It isn't that he doesn't care, but he can barely afford to feed himself and thinking about things like that bring him down. The world is going to shit and if he's lucky, he'll float closer to the top rather than sink.
Besides, he doesn't need someone there under his ass all the time. Cats are companions, but they require so much attention and Jongin doesn't have the urge to give it. He indulges Sehun because he's his employer's pet and he keeps him mildly entertained with his randomness. But having someone depend on you for so much, need you all the time? Jongin isn't the type and never has been. He'd even been dumped by his ex because he was too hands off. So many people out there bitching about men being too grabby and he finds the one that's the opposite. Figures.
Sleep comes easier and Jongin buries his head in his pillow and lets it all flow out as the darkness takes its place. The only one he needs to worry about is himself.
Jongin's mystery red object isn't an object at all he discovers the following morning. It's a cat. A pale face with wide eyes peers around one of the brick walls, wearing a red sweater, a pair of dirty jeans and no collar. His black hair ruffles in the wind and when he seemingly doesn't find what he's looking for, he darts back into the alley. Jongin thinks about stopping, but then he sees the time and curses, foot pressing down on the gas to accelerate because he's going to be late.
It's unusual for Jongin to think about anything other than his current task, but today his brain keeps making u-turns back to that skinny little cat hidden in an alley. There was a lost expression on his face, body visibly shivering and slim fingers bright against the muddled reds and browns of the building. He was a beauty even from the brief glance he'd gotten and the more he ponders it over, the more he falls behind. Why would such a cat be in a dirty alley between a chinese takeout place and cheap italian pasta? There are shelters all over the city and even overpopulated, they wouldn't refuse him, would they? He presses his finger into his bottom lip, a habit he still carries from childhood. The more important issue is why he cares.
Jongin's been reading over the same affidavit for the last twenty minutes and he's unsure how long Joonmyun's been standing in front of his desk until the elder clears his throat. He jumps, heart leaping to life as he looks up at his boss with wide eyes and meets an amused smirk.
"Everything alright today?"
"Yes," Jongin replies, possibly too quickly because Joonmyun's eyebrows raise and it's clear he doesn't believe him. But as a good person, he doesn't comment and allows Jongin to go back to work. He makes it a point to stay focused this time, even staying until after dark to finish.
His breath floats away in swirls of patterns and shapes with every exhale and Jongin pays no attention. A shudder runs through his cold limbs and he all but throws himself into his car, starting the ignition and letting it idle until the heat works and the steering wheel is warm enough to not freeze his fingers to it. His thoughts dwell on the mystery cat as he nears the alley, but when he peers inside he sees nothing. Jongin's not sure if it's disappointment or happiness that fills him knowing he's not there anymore. It isn't as if there's an attachment, but it was that little something extra in his day - a new addition. But at least the cat wouldn't freeze.
With a lump in his throat, he speeds passed and goes home. Another frozen dinner greets him and the news repeats pleas of neutering and adoption. Jongin goes to bed unsatisfied and dreams of red.
"There's supposed to be record lows tonight and tomorrow," Baekhyun comments as they wait for Wufan to bring Jongin's coffee out. Only it's Yixing who comes prancing through the small doorway, all smiles and holding out the cup for Jongin to take.
"Thank you," he says cautiously because he's on dangerous ground. He's been coming to this shop, getting to know the owner and his pets long enough to realize when he's supposed to notice something. His eyes do a brief sweep and fixate on the new white studded collar now wrapped around Yixing's neck. "Oh, that's nice." Jongin doesn't care about collar fashion, but claws.
Yixing bounces and laughs before Wufan sticks his head out of the back. "A little help?"
"Oh!" And the cat scurries off as Baekhyun rolls his eyes.
"Yeah, sure, lets get Xing-xing his precious studs," he grumbles with narrowed eyes and Jongin takes a step back from the counter. "BUT I DON'T GET A NEW COLLAR!"
Wufan looks displeased when he walks out, apron stained and thumb an angry shade of red. "Yixing didn't demand a diamond encrusted leather collar, did he?"
"Diamonds, Baekie. No."
"What kind of muffins do you have today?" Jongin inquires and it's enough to wipe the frown off Baekhyun's face and replace it with a beaming smile. Wufan mouths a 'thank you' and runs into the kitchen again as the cat begins rattling off all the treats available.
A bag of every kind of muffin in the passenger seat and coffee still grasped in one hand, Jongin makes his way to work. It takes all his self control to not slow, to keep driving and keep his eyes firmly affixed to the asphalt in front of him instead of searching for signs of pale skin and a red sweater. He doesn't know why it bothers him so much, why it's so hard to not think about that cat. Jongin lives his life on a strict regime of necessity and no matter how much his gut tells him to go back, he doesn't listen. It's probably why midway through the day he's feeling nauseous and he slides the bag of muffins over to Sehun who munches on them happily all afternoon.
It's the briefest of flashes, one probably induced by his imagination because Jongin is sure that cat is gone and nothing red is left in that alley. His fingers tighten around the steering wheel and keep going, determined to get home and melt under a hot shower. Even the walk from his car to the front door has his fingers slipping and dropping the keys. He's rattled for some unknown reason and it's all to do with that damn cat.
Jongin curls up on the couch with a heated meal and damp hair, letting his muscles relax and the television program in front of him lull him into a sense of comfort. For the first time in a long time, Jongin doesn't get up and climb in bed. He falls asleep where he is, head perched on a small pillow and an arm hanging off the sofa as some inane infomercial drones on in the background. This time he dreams of pale skin flitting through the shadows until the blaring of the morning news jerks him awake.
It's the morning before Christmas Eve, a holiday that has everyone smiling and laughing as Jongin passes through them with a frown. He only wants to make it to his desk and get to work so he doesn't have to stay late. The end of the year paperwork he has to pull out and organize for Joonmyun is threatening to barricade him inside until he dies of starvation. Not to mention all the phone calls, a good seventy percent of which don't even need to speak to Joonmyun. He's looking forward to his day off tomorrow (and the following four days), planning to spend the entire thing inside with absolutely nothing to tear him away from the comforts of his couch and possibly a good book. Maybe he'll even catch up on a few movies he's missed.
Joonmyun is already at the office, swatting at Sehun who is trying to grab him around the waist as he bends down to pick up a box of folders. There's a mountain of them, all old files and reports from over the year that need to be sorted and while Joonmyun can hire people for that, he prefers going over it himself so if there are any errors, the blame lay solely on him. Sometimes Jongin thinks he's a little too nice for heading a company, but he's yet to steer them wrong.
"Would you stop," Joonmyun huffs before the straight line of his lips curves into a smile when he sees Jongin. "Morning."
Sehun looks put out and ends up at Jongin's side, pouting and clinging because his owner is ignoring him in favor of carrying a box into his office with a grunt.
"You could always help him," Jongin suggests and Sehun's ears perk up a little. "He'd be very happy."
Joonmyun looks startled when Sehun rushes over and plucks the next box out of his hands and dashes off to put it with the other. Blinking a few times, the man grins and shakes his head while grabbing the next. And so it goes for the rest of the morning until the floor is clear and Jongin is left to his own piles of papers. He has half a mind to unplug the phone, but something important might actually filter through and he's nothing if not a good employee. An hour later and there's a steady hammering in his head and his back aches. He stretches backwards, arms over his head until he hears the satisfying pop down his spine before getting back to it.
A plastic bag is set on top of the folder in his hands and Jongin looks up. "Eat," commands Joonmyun. The smell is already wafting into his nose and he's salivating before the container is opened. He calls out a quick thanks and devours the chicken and rice before it has a chance to cool. His tongue may be smarting, but his belly is full and Jongin takes a moment to close his eyes before resuming work.
It's still dark by the time he makes it out and he waves at several other stragglers before hopping in his car and speeding home. He pays little attention to his freezing fingers and even less attention to that little alley because there's nothing to pull him anymore. His house is warm and Jongin slumps across the top of his kitchen table after letting his keys fall on the wood. He grabs the sides and holds on as he languishes and enjoys the feel of tight muscles loosening. A desk job is not conducive to keeping in shape. Perhaps he'll do something active during his mini-vacation.
Maybe it's knowing he has the next five days to relax or the tacky Christmas movie playing on tv, but Jongin feels a little happier than he normally does. Without family to celebrate holidays such as this, he's usually more of a grinch and he refuses to even decorate anymore. There's no little tree in his home, no lights or stockings. It's Jongin and his frozen meal with borrowed happiness until he returns to the real world.
His movie's interrupted and Jongin is reaching for the remote to change the channel when he hears it. There's a winter weather advisory for snow and ice, recommending people stay indoors and off the roads. In Jongin's case, that's not a problem because that was his plan to begin with. But a tuft of red flits through his mind and he wonders if maybe that cat is still actually out there. He hadn't looked today and yesterday he was sure it had been his imagination.
But what if?
It takes only a moment before he's on his feet and slipping on his shoes and coat. The inclement weather hasn't started yet, so he has time, keeping himself under control enough to stay near the speed limit and not race to that dark alley. His heart is thrumming in his chest and he doesn't even know why. Why is he doing this? Why does he care? It's a stray cat. There's plenty of them. Jongin takes care of Jongin and that's all there is to it. Yet here he is, rushing to rescue a cat (of all creatures) that may or may not even still be out there.
A memory of wide eyes fills his vision and Jongin lets out a stuttered breath. He needs to know that cat is safe.
There aren't any parking spaces around, so Jongin pulls off to the side with his hazard lights on. All he has is a little flashlight on his keychain, but it's enough to illuminate his steps into the darkness. It's nearly silent, the faint sound of cars in the distance and the rattling of a furnace echoing faintly between brick walls. Crisp night air drags in and out of his lungs, burning his insides with the cold and his nose protests by starting a slow trickle. His free hand clenches, attempting to grasp at something unknown.
A sniffle that doesn't come from him stops Jongin short and he turns, eyes squinting in the minimal until his flashlight sweeps over red. He pulls it back, gaze falling on a huddled cat against the wall, knees to his chest and tail wrapped around his legs. He's trembling and even from this distance Jongin can see how much smaller he is. A thick rush of guilt invades and he walks toward him with a purpose. His skin is cold and his lips are blue when he looks up with unfocused eyes and cocks his head to the side. The sight before him grips hard around his heart and he's lost. There's nothing he wants more than to protect this being.
Jongin scoops the cat into his arms, hating how light he feels, how fingers attempt to grip his shirt and can't close properly. His steps are quick and he has the cat buckled in and seat leaning down in no time. The drive home is a lot faster because now he is speeding, rules of the road be damned. A small whimper has Jongin's heart breaking, lodging in his throat as his eyes water. It takes some maneuvering to get the cat inside, his eyes now closed and Jongin has to make sure he's still breathing before taking him straight down to his room and laying him in bed.
Jongin has no clue what he's doing, but the cat isn't getting warmer even under two comforters and the only thing he can remember from school about heating someone up is using body heat. So off most of his clothes go and he climbs under the covers too, flinching from the cold skin he makes contact with. The cat is either passed out or a deep sleeper because Jongin manages to rid him of his sweater and flimsy shoes and pants without him stirring. And then he moves him, turns him onto his side so he can spoon him and wrap an arm around his waist. He makes sure not to think about how he can feel every rib protruding from his body and how shallow his chest is moving with every breath. He also pushes away the idea of how well this cat fits into his hold.
It takes a long time, but the shivers and mild whimpers eventually dissipate and Jongin's not sure how late it is, but his eyes sting and his mind is too fuzzy to think when he finally succumbs to sleep. Steady breathing lulls him out of consciousness and he burrows his nose into a head of fluff just before, inhaling softly and tightening his hold. He's going to save this cat.
Blurred surroundings register in his brain first, walls and a nightstand and the open bedroom door. His eyes slide closed again, body aching as he rolls onto his back and feeling rushes back into his arm. Groaning like a teenager, he flops over and nuzzles into a warm pillow that smells . . . different. Jongin takes another whiff and memories of the night before flood his mind. Bolting up, the first thing he notices now is the lack of a cat in his bed. Or in his room for that matter.
Anxiety makes his hands shake when he tugs on a pair of pajama pants over his boxers. There's a small knot of maybe fear, or nervousness twisting in the pit of his stomach and it only grows larger with each room he checks and finds empty. The cat isn't anywhere - not the bathroom or living room or kitchen. He's not even hiding in the small laundry room between the washing machine and dryer and Jongin is about to panic. All he wants to do is help and that cat isn't in any shape to be outside. But the deadbolt, he notes upon further inspection, is still latched which means he has to be inside.
Jongin starts over in the bedroom, this time dropping to his hands and knees when he hears a small noise under his bed. And there he is, eyes wide and ears flattened back against his head. Jongin tentatively reaches out to him, but the cat recoils, whimpering and shrinking further into the shadows. "I'm not going to hurt you," he says, throat a little sore and he figures it's from the cold. His nose is still a little runny too.
The reassurance does nothing and the cat stays while Jongin has a mini-mental breakdown that includes several childish stomps and both hands mussing through his hair thoroughly before he comes to a halt. He's clearly going about this the wrong way, so with one last glance under the bed (the cat now barely visible at all), Jongin leaves the room and heads to the kitchen. He doesn't have much food, but eggs and toast make for a nice breakfast.
Scrambling the eggs and pouring them into the pan, Jongin takes a moment to assess his situation. There's a cat - something he's never wanted - now huddled under his bed because he brought him home. Because he wanted him? That can't be right. Jongin doesn't want a cat. Jongin doesn't want anything other than to take care of Jongin. The spatula glides along the bottom, peeling up cooked egg and flipping so the rest can sizzle into a more solid state. The heat from the stove warms his bare stomach and for the first time he realizes he's not wearing a shirt. But there's a cat in his room. It's an acceptable loss. It is his house after all.
The toast pops up and Jongin sets it on the plate before scooping out a spoonful of steaming hot scrambled eggs that makes his own stomach growl. This isn't for him though and with a fork in hand, he journeys back down the hallway. First he places the plate on the mattress, crouching down to peer at his guest. "Are you hungry?" he asks, but he's met with silence. "This is for you." Jongin pulls the plate onto the floor and slides it halfway under the bed before setting the fork down on top. Slowly, he picks himself up and leaves the room - only to stop and dart back in for a shirt before closing the door. His heart is racing and he doesn't know what's happening with himself, leaning against the wood and thunking his head against it a few times for good measure.
"Jongin, Jongin, Jongin. What the fuck are you doing?"
Making his way back into the kitchen, he tugs the shirt over his head and heads for the rest of the food because his stomach is still gurgling. He eats them straight from the pan, taking care not to burn anymore of his fingers now that two of them are throbbing. They're washed down with a glass of water and Jongin stands at the sink, letting the water run over the dirty dishes as he tries to determine if enough time has lapsed for him to go back into his room. He really wants to make sure the cat is eating and not going to claw his eyes out the first chance he gets.
What the hell was he thinking?
Turning off the tap, he pads across the carpet and opens the bedroom door slowly, blinking in surprise to find the cat curled up on his bed. Jongin's heart picks up speed as his eyes linger on exposed creamy skin and pink lips with crumbs still lingering on the corners of his mouth. The cat is asleep, one ear twitching and body burrowed a little in the comforter. He hadn't even bothered to get under the blanket before napping. A smile crosses Jongin's face, brushing black hair off the cat's forehead before snapping out of it and regaining his senses.
Chill bumps flourish down the expanse of the cat's back and Jongin decides it's probably better for both their sake if he puts clothes on him. He returns from his dresser with an old white t-shirt and a pair of light blue pajama pants, hopefully loose enough to not squish his tail. With only slightly shaky hands, he gently presses a palm to the cat's shoulder and eases him onto his back. What he isn't expecting is for the feline to stretch, arms over his head and spine arched off the mattress as his legs kick down into the blanket more. It's a little difficult to breathe and Jongin swallows hard in an effort to calm himself.
He takes note of the bruises on thin legs and almost translucent flesh over the skinniest parts of his body and Jongin feels worse about not bringing him home earlier despite his misgivings. He refuses to think about what could have happened if he hadn't gotten to him in time.
As gently as he can, Jongin rolls up the shirt and slides it carefully over the cat's head, avoiding his ears and nose until it's around his neck. Next come the arms, lifting one at a time to ease into the fabric. Then it's just a little tugging on alternating sides to get it down his torso. Jongin looks up and stops short when he sees eyes trained on his face. A tense few seconds later and they close again and Jongin regains his composure. He takes it as silent permission and sets to work with the pants. Getting his legs untangled is the hard part, but after that he slips them on just fine and slumps onto his side beside the cat.
This shit is mentally exhausting. He's psyching himself out about a cat. A pretty cat, but still a cat.
Two warm hands land on his back and Jongin's eyes pop open. There's no time to brace himself before they push and he lands on the floor with a thud and a curse. His shoulder bore the impact of his weight and he hisses as he sits up, rubbing fingers into the sore spot while shooting a glare over the bed.
He's met with a still sleeping cat who looks a lot more content with that soft look on his face. An exasperated sigh flies out of his mouth and Jongin picks himself up off the floor and trudges out of the room and subsequently out of the danger zone.
The dishes are forgotten as Jongin dramatically drapes himself on the couch, an arm up to cover his eyes and his feet kicking against the cushion. He's so used to micro-managing his life and this isn't part of the plan. This is new and he finds himself drowning in a mixture of wanting it all to go away and needing to keep going.
You look lonely.
Jongin falls asleep on the couch, Sehun's words ringing in his head and echoing like a scratched record. Perhaps they're the catalyst for this entire situation.
The sound of a floorboard creaking rouses Jongin and he sits up in confusion, blinking it away along with the grogginess still in his head. Another creak and he peeks his head out from over the back of the couch, eyes widening as they land on the figure of the cat in the hallway. He hasn't been spotted so he stays still, watches as bright eyes look around and ears press back then forward with every step. Jongin notices the pants are too big and a black tail is wrapped around the top to keep them from falling. It's cute and Jongin wants to coo and pet him and - wait. Jongin doesn't want to do that.
The cat reaches the bathroom, peaking his head in curiously before padding inside and closing the door. Jongin takes the opportunity to quietly get up off his ass and position himself just outside the door. The sound of the toilet flushing is followed by the tap running and then silence. The door opens and Jongin smiles, hoping it doesn't look too forced. He needs this cat to understand he means him no harm.
Perhaps this was a bad way to start things because the cat's eyes look like they're about to pop out of his head and he emits a loud squeak before stumbling back over too long pants and landing with a loud thunk inside the bathtub. Jongin rushes toward him, arms out to help, but the cat shrinks back, hissing and scrambling to move out of arm's reach. His hands raise in a gesture of surrender and Jongin takes a few steps back.
"Ok, maybe that was too ambitious." The cat blinks at him, but his ears don't move from the flattened position and his legs are quivering. "I'm not going to hurt you." He crouches beside the tub, settling a hand on the side and the cat shifts away a little further into the corner.
This isn't going well.
"Do you have a name?"
"Can you nod or shake your head?"
If anything, those beautiful eyes get larger and knuckles go white on the edges of the bathtub.
"I'm trying to help," Jongin groans before running a hand through his hair in frustration. "Is there anything you can do aside from staring at me like that?"
Again with the wrong thing because suddenly the cat's out of the tub and shoving Jongin onto his ass on his way out.
"Shit." Clamoring to his feet, he gives chase and lets out an even louder groan when he witnesses the cat taking up residence under his bed again. "Please don't do this to me," he whines.
Jongin flattens himself on the floor, carpet rubbing his cheek as he looks into the darkness and squints to make out the form drawn back in the shadows. "I'm Jongin," he offers, knowing he won't get a response. "I brought you home so you wouldn't freeze to death in that alley. I've seen you there the last four or five days so I know you don't have a home. But it's not safe to stay there."
Silence fills the air again and Jongin sighs, determined to get some kind of nonviolent reaction out of his guest. He spies the empty plate still under the bed and reaches in just enough to slide it out. "Did you have enough to eat?" he asks and is once again not answered. "I'm going to make something for lunch. If you'd like, you can come out and I'll make you a sandwich too. The kitchen is down the hall and to the left."
If food brought him out the first time, then it should work to coerce the feline out from underneath his bed a second time. Flawless logic, if he says so himself.
Jongin is leaning against the counter, halfway through with his own sandwich when he hears the approach of the cat.
An inquisitive face pops around the corner first and Jongin wants to die from cute overload. There's a second sandwich sitting by Jongin and he picks it up, holding it up for the cat to come and take. He needs to initiate contact and this seems the most harmless way.
When the cat shuffles into the room, tail still wrapped firmly around the top of the pants to keep them on, he reaches out and grasps the food, taking great care to avoid their fingers touching. He takes a peek between the slices of bread and his ears perk up when he spies the ham. The cat casts him a wary look before turning his back to leave the room and Jongin can't help but notice how low the back of the pants settle across his hips. The waistline stops just under his tail because they weren't made for felines and slivers of skin show through the gap between pants and shirt. Jongin swallows the bite of food in his mouth, almost choking when it decides to lodge itself in his throat because he's too busy oogling a perfectly shaped ass barely covered in his pajamas.
"C-can I sit?"
It's a damn good thing he's leaning against the counter because Jongin isn't prepared for the reaction his body has from the melodious voice that washes over him. "Of course," he answers, voice a few octaves than it should be and a blush creeping into his cheeks. Dammit, Jongin, you're a grown man. Stop acting like a lovesick teenager.
The cat uses one hand to hitch up the pants a little as he walks to the table and carefully settles himself in the far seat. Jongin follows, taking the opposite chair and flashing a smile. "Good?"
He gets a nod in response as the cat shoves another large bite in his mouth and it's difficult not to reach across the space between them and wipe away the crumbs on his cheeks. He figures the cat must have not had much food, or any for that matter when he was out in that alley and he forgets his own food in lieu of watching the sandwich disappear in only a few bites. Without a word, he slides his lunch over and the cat gives him a short questioning look before taking it and devouring it too.
Jongin gets up long enough to grab a glass from the cabinet and fill it with milk, aware of the eyes following his every move. He sets the drink down and the cat empties the contents in record time, milk lingering along his upper lip and a satisfied sway in the movement of his tail. A soft hiccup cuts the silence and Jongin wants to melt into the floor when he spies the dusting of pink rushing across white cheeks.
Oh he's so in over his head.
"Thank you," the cat whispers and he looks unsure again, biting along his bottom lip and rocking ever so slightly in his chair.
"My pleasure." Jongin clears his throat and tries not to show his own nervousness. "What should I call you?"
Ears twitch, going one way and then the other before stilling and the cat drops his eyes to his hands that are holding on to the edge of the table. "Kyungsoo."
"Kyungsoo," Jongin repeats, trying the name on for size. "I like it. It's nice to meet you, Kyungsoo."
The feline's blush deepens and Jongin tries to not notice, but it's quite literally staring him in the face. He tries to hold the gaze, but those eyes are drowning him and Jongin stands, breaking the trance when his chair scrapes across the floor.
"I'm just going to finish up the dishes," he assures Kyungsoo who is once again looking skittish. "You can go watch tv or something if you want."
Jongin turns his back and heads to the sink, hoping the sound of running water will overpower the blood rushing in his ears. He devotes all his attention to the cooked on egg inside the pan and forces himself to not turn around and see what Kyungsoo is doing, if he's even moved at all. When he puts the last dish in the drainer, toweling off his wet hands, Jongin expects to find the cat either still sitting at the table or back under the bed. But he's pleasantly surprised.
Kyungsoo is in the living room, attention on the bookcase as he drags a finger across the spines of the assorted manga and graphic novels lining the shelves. He looks genuinely intrigued and Jongin watches with amusement as he picks one out and starts flipping through it. The only thing that draws Jongin's focus from the wonder of his beautiful face is the steady tugging on the pants so they don't fall because his tail is busy flicking happily.
He should probably do something about that soon before his sanity takes a nosedive. Jongin clears his throat and Kyungsoo jumps, book falling from his hands to hit the floor. "S-sorry."
"No, no," Jongin says apologetically. "It's fine - you're fine. I'm just - I wanted to tell you I'm going next door for a minute. Ok?"
Kyungsoo nods and crouches to pick up the fallen manga, squeaking and nearly tumbling forward when the pants drop faster than his legs and he has to pull them up again. Yeah, definitely going to the neighbors.
Minseok is a happy guy, always smiling at Jongin when they happen to catch each other outside and he's quick to strike up a friendly conversation. He's even had Jongin over a few times for cookouts and movie marathons over weekends. It's nice and even if they aren't close, Minseok's probably the only person he associates with outside his daily routine.
There's only one problem.
The man lands on the cold ground with a grunt and a blond head nuzzling the side of his face. He keeps trying to shove Luhan off, but the cat is insistent and when he finally makes it to his feet, the feline is still miraculously attached to him. Oh how he wishes Minseok had answered the door instead.
Luhan's always been a little too enthusiastic for his own good.
"Stop molesting him!" Minseok scolds, attempting to pry the arms from around Jongin's waist once he spots his predicament. Honestly, you'd think Luhan was attention starved, but Jongin knows for a fact how much Minseok dotes on him and spoils him with everything he wants. He's a brat of a cat and sometimes Jongin likes to imagine a brat-off between Luhan and Sehun. It's a toss-up who would win because they both have so many varying degrees of brattiness.
Jongin is dragged into the house by the firm grip Luhan's tail has around his wrist and Minseok merely sends him a helpless look. Always the same and he takes it in stride.
"What brings you by today?"
Oh, it's Christmas Eve. Jongin had completely forgotten until he spotted the large tree in the center of the living room, decorated from top to bottom and dangerously close to having too many colorful lights. Now he feels bad for interrupting their holiday.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you," he starts and Minseok scoffs.
"You're always welcome. You know that."
Jongin smiles and nods, because they're both telling him that all the time. "Well I was just stopping by to see if Luhan has any old pants I can borrow for a few days."
Two pairs of eyes narrow and he gulps as Luhan abandons his place by his side and stands in front of him. "Why?" the cat inquires, ears perked up.
"I have a guest."
"With no pants?"
"He had pants, but they were falling apart and now he's in my pants and they're too big. He's about Luhan's size though."
"You do realize there will be a tail hole in the back, right?"
Jongin coughs and nods. "That's fine. He's a cat, too." He mumbles the last part, but Luhan hears it and the grin on his face is enough to scare the life out of Jongin.
"YOU GOT A CAT!"
"I did NOT get a cat! He's only staying for a little while."
But Luhan isn't a great listener either and now he's bouncing around the room, chanting 'Jongin has a kitty'. Minseok finally steps in and clasps a hand over his cat's mouth. "I'll go find some pants."
Jongin makes it home in one piece, ignoring the pleased gleam in Luhan's eyes as he walked out with a pair of gray pajama pants that will hopefully not slide down and expose more than he can properly handle. He finds Kyungsoo sitting cross-legged on the couch, hunched over as he reads the manga and he's so engrossed he doesn't notice the other man's presence until he props on the arm and leans over him.
Wide eyes greet Jongin and he's starting to think they're the reason his heart always starts pitter-pattering a little faster. "I got you pants that should fit," he explains, offering them to the cat while trying not to succumb to this need to touch those cheeks.
An hour later and Jongin's not sure new pants were a good idea. While these don't keep trying to fall off, the old ones didn't cling to his ass and thighs so smoothly either. It's terribly distracting and Jongin finds himself watching the cat's every move as he inspects the rest of the house curiously.
"You live alone?"
Kyungsoo hums and Jongin follows when he heads out of the bedroom and down the hall, only stopping when he reaches the bookcase again. It seems to be his favorite part and he peruses the titles before picking another one and situating on the couch once more. The cat seems content to stay like that for the rest of the day, hunkered down with something entertaining to read as Jongin goes about his normal business.
He starts a load of laundry, tossing in his work clothes from the week before heading into the bedroom to pick up the sweater and jeans he'd taken off Kyungsoo the night before. They really are barely holding together and the cat's lucky he's not in worse shape than a little malnourishment. Jongin balls the clothing up and is about to throw them away when they're suddenly wrenched out of his hands. Kyungsoo is clutching them to his chest and he looks like he's about to cry so Jongin backs off slowly, allowing the cat to keep them. There's an attachment to the garments and he witnesses Kyungsoo retake his position on the couch, manga in hand and the red sweater and jeans now in his lap.
As dinner time rapidly approaches, Jongin stares dejectedly into his freezer, counting out the meals he has left and cutting it in half since he has someone else here. The reality of this undertaking is starting to fully sink in since he's not distracted by a perfectly carved face with a body to match. He barely makes enough to feed himself and indulge in coffee worth drinking during the week and now there's a cat with borrowed clothes sitting on his couch and living in his house. For a very brief moment he considers taking him to a shelter, but the idea causes his chest to tighten and he dismisses it just as fast. Besides, they're overcrowded and he'd hate for Kyungsoo to be stuck in a place like that.
For the time being, he'll have to make do with what he has and try to find some extra coupons in the mail flyers and maybe skip a few lunches. Anxiety fills his mind as Jongin pulls out two dinners, hoping Kyungsoo likes mixed vegetables and rice.
After the meager meal, Jongin offers Kyungsoo the use of his shower, to which the cat answers with a beaming smile and sparkling eyes. So pretty. It's not long before he hears water running, filling the tub and he figures a bath is just as good anyway. Jongin doesn't pay it any mind, transferring his clothes from the washer to the dryer. But then there's a loud splash and he jumps, heart pumping and feet fumbling as they catch on the laundry basket on his way to make sure the cat hasn't managed to knock himself out and drown. Jongin reaches the closed door just in time to hear a giggle. He freezes in place, the delightful sound traveling through his system like a drug. Kyungsoo is giggling. And it's amazing.
Jongin hangs his head and goes back to his laundry while fighting off images of Kyungsoo neck deep in the tub. Twenty minutes later and Kyungsoo shuffles into the living room, ears still mostly dry even though his hair is still wet. There's balled up fabric in his hand and Jongin eyes it before it dawns on him. "Oh, um, you can put those in the basket by the washer," he instructs and the cat turns away. Kyungsoo may be wearing the same old shirt and pajamas, but now Jongin knows there's nothing under those pants, old boxers now in the dirty laundry basket and he thinks it makes his depravity worse.
Kyungsoo is in his preferred spot again, manga in hand but his eyes are constantly blinking and his head is listing. Jongin deems it time for bed when a balled hand covers the cat's mouth as he yawns and stretches. It's easy to guide him off the couch and lead him into the bedroom, tucking him in properly under the thick comforter and Kyungsoo is asleep before Jongin turns off the light. Another smile and Jongin steals the second pillow and a spare blanket before leaving. Tonight he'll take the couch.