acatwhowrites: (Onew♡smile of an angel)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2014-12-07 09:51 pm


title: Routine
players: Zhang Yixing/Lay (Yixiao), Kim Joonmyun/Suho, Do Kyungsoo/D.O. (Kyungsoon)
word count: 3,400
: PG
warnings: mental distress, implied mental illness
summary: Yixiao's routine is taking a toll. It's time for a change.
a.n.: Written for the girl EXO exchange on LJ. (Original post here.) Joonmyun's occupation and session is rather BS'd for the sake of fic. Suggesting to someone they see a therapist is not always the best course of action, no matter how good your intentions are.

Yixiao finally made it home after a long wait at the vet, just to consent to her rabbit being euthanised. She kicked off her shoes, dropped her purse to the floor, and simply stood in the foyer of her small apartment. The light flickered overhead, giving life to the cracks and splits in the peeling walls and ceiling.

Her lip trembled, and she wasn't sure how she could still cry. All she did lately was cry.

Sniffling a little, she pushed her bag aside and walked to the bathroom, shrugging off her sweater. The hot water was used up by other residents, and the tub was still retaining a puddle of water from her morning shower. The handyman had obviously not shown up like her landlady had promised.

Wrenching the elastic from her bun, she shook out her hair and crawled into bed.

Life sucked, lately. As a kid, she remembered wanting to become an adult and help her family but pursue music. Now, as an adult, she wanted nothing more than to be a kid again, so she could climb onto her mom's lap and cry until she fell asleep.

Hugging a pillow and crying in her otherwise silent and cool apartment wasn't nearly as comforting.

She pulled her phone from her pocket with half a mind to call home, but she noticed the time and turned it off, instead. They would all be sleeping.

She woke up to a stiff neck and no motivation to greet anything but her pillow, but she dragged herself out of bed and went through the motions of making herself presentable for her job at a cafe.

Somehow, she managed to pull soft smiles out of somewhere and only messed up three orders when the register decided to pitch a fit and not accept a man's order as he placed it. No matter what she pressed, it read the wrong drink.

“I-I'm sorry. It's not usually like this … .” She flagged the manager over from the back, and he worked some kind of magic that did not involve throwing the machine like Yixiao was about to.

She wiped under her eyes as the milk frothed and dredged up another smile when she handed the cup over. Their fingers touched briefly.

“Thank you.” She glanced at him through her bangs. He was handsome, almost princely with a classic face, and had a polite—but distant—smile. “Have a nice day.”

That was her line, but she was tongue-tied even as the next customer hemmed and hawed over their order.

She forgot about him by the time her shift ended, and she changed in the bathroom to be ready for her second job across town.

Someone thought it'd be a good idea to fondle her butt on the bus, grunting Bitch, when she pushed herself back against a seat.

Her stop took longer than usual to come up, but her boss had no complaints for once at the end of the day, when she dropped off finished files for him to look over. She made it home without incident, and she didn't have the energy to eat. She pulled the covers over her head and went to sleep.

Perhaps Seoul was smaller than she thought, because she saw the handsome stranger from the cafe a few times while working. A co-worker called in sick the day she had off at a bakery, and the other available workers thought of excuses faster than she could, nearly asleep on the phone.

She didn't even realise the man was familiar until he did an almost comical double-take of her face. “Oh! You're the girl from the cafe … and the music store … .” His brows dipped over his nose, some curiosity showing through the polite interest.

Yixiao shrugged and nodded. “I work a lot.”

“Obviously. That can't be good for your health.” He blushed. He. Blushed. “I-I'm sorry. That's rude of me.”

She shook her head. “It's alright.” She had another job at a daycare. It was only Thursdays, when one of the other caretakers had her weekly physical therapy after a bicycle accident messed with her legs. “I'm managing.”

“But are you happy?”

No. She almost responded, but she caught herself and plastered a cheery smile on her face that she knew did not reach her eyes. Her lips trembled unexpectedly, and she quickly dropped her gaze back to the box of pastries she was only partly done preparing. “No, I'm not. I'm tired.”

A hand reached over the counter, warm fingers wrapping around her wrist. He didn't say anything, and when he pulled away, her lips had stopped trembling, and she finished preparing and wrapping his food quietly.

“I wish I could help, but just believe in yourself.”

Yixiao tucked the rogue hair from her ponytail behind her ear.

He paid quietly, leaving his change in the tip jar painted with bright, nonsense patterns.

She worked overtime, dragging herself home at eleven in the evening. She unlocked her door as Kyungsoon, her neighbour, stepped out to let her cat back inside. The sleek cat spun a figure-eight around Yixiao's ankles. “Yixiao! You're back late.”

Yixiao yawned a greeting, hiding it behind her hand. She smiled when the cat sat at her feet and meowed.

“Have you eaten? I have some leftovers, if you'd like. I made too much, even with Jongin's appetite.”

“That would be nice; thank you.”

“Head on in. I'll warm them up and bring them over.” Kyungsoon made soft kissing sounds to call her cat, who wanted to follow Yixiao.

“Go on, Kai. Go home.” She left the door unlocked for Kyungsoon to let herself in.

The bathroom lighting made every blemish the bags under her eyes more noticeable. She looked worse than she remembered, but her work didn't depend on her appearance so much, so she splashed water on her face and patted it dry to join her friend in the kitchen.

“Have a seat.” Kyungsoon set a bowl, spoon, and chopsticks down for Yixiao. She walked around the counter and picked up some jackets and sweaters left on the floor she'd had to step around and draped them neatly across the back of the sofa. “You've been working an awful lot.”

Yixiao hummed, almost asleep in her food. The warm steam felt wonderful.

“Have you been sleeping enough?”

“I'm fine.”

“That's not what I asked.” She sat beside Yixiao at the counter and touched Yixiao's forehead with the back of her hand. “You don't feel warm, at least,” she murmured. A loud, deep yowl made both women look to the wall Yixiao's apartment shared with Kyungsoon. “Kai!” A soft chirp was the only response, and Kyungsoon returned her attention to her friend.

Yixiao lowered her chopsticks. “I really am fine, Kyungsoon. You don't have to worry.”

“I still do. You're almost always out, and you're up to how many jobs, now?” She didn't offer time for a reply, turning on her stool to face Yixiao. “And you don't even need them! You did perfectly well for yourself before. Did your family ask you to send the money you do?”

Yixiao's grandmother and aunts lived with her parents since she was a child. Helping them became a part of who she was, and leaving China for Korea felt like abandoning a part of herself. Being so far away, she sent some money to help the household run comfortably. So she worked. A lot.

“I feel bad for leaving them,” she admitted to her broth.

“You visit them. You call them. Email. Weibo. It's not like you abandoned them, Yixiao. I can all but guarantee that you are the only one who feels any sort of guilty. Last I talked to your mom, she was simply raving about you and how lucky and blessed she is to have such an amazing daughter.”

Yixiao's shoulders shook. It was only when her soup rippled that Kyungsoon noticed the tears.

Kyungsoon slid off her stool and hugged Yixiao around her waist. “Want me to bring Kai over?” she asked into her shoulder. “He's good company.”

Yixiao snuffled and nodded. She finished her food as Kyungsoon walked to her apartment to collect her pet and was ushered to bed when Kyungsoon returned. Kai followed them to Yixiao's bedroom and jumped onto the bed without invitation and made himself comfortable as Yixiao kicked off her pants and pulled her bra out from under her shirt.

“If you need anything,” Kyungsoon said softly, pulling the covers up to her friend's shoulder, “just come over or call me, okay? It's no bother. And, if you want, I have a friend you could talk to.”

Yixiao just wanted to sink into her bed and never come out. Some small part of her mind, the part that was tired of being tired, spoke up. “Who?”

Kyungsoon sat beside Yixiao's legs and pet her hair away from her face. “He's a doctor. Really nice. Maybe seeing him or someone like him could help with how tired you've been.”

Yixiao couldn't think too far into the future anymore. Everything was dim and fuzzy. Kai nuzzled into her chest with a rumble of purrs. Kyungsoon combed through her hair with her fingers. It felt nice. Maybe there was something more than the blah she'd been living with since moving away from home.

“I could come with you, if you wanted. We could maybe make a day of it. I bet I could even get Jongin to treat two pretty girls to lunch or dinner.”

Yixiao breathed deep and nodded, hooking an arm around the cat.

“I'll see if I can get something soon, and I'll let you know. We'll make a day of it, so you'll have to call in to work, okay?”

“Sure.” She was halfway to a dreamless sleep when Kyungsoon kissed her forehead and turned off the lights. All she heard was the soft click when her front door closed and Kai's soothing purrs.

Her employers were more than willing to give her a day off, nearly pushing her out the door at the end of her shift. Kyungsoon helped her pick out a suitable outfit that was made perfect by Kai's contribution of dark fur across the chest and pant legs.

Kyungsoon's friend turned out to be a therapist. A young one. Young and familiar.

He stood when she entered his office, eyes bright with recognition. “Kim Joonmyun. I never thought we'd meet again like this.”

“Sorry.” She sat when he gestured to the loveseat in front of his desk. He sat across from her with a brief shake of his head.

“I'm pleased to see you again, although if you're here, you have something more on your mind than socialising.”

Yixiao tucked her hair behind her ear. She usually threw it back into a ponytail, but Kyungsoon had brushed it out straight and glossy before they left. “It was my friend's idea. Kyungsoon. She lives next to me, and I thought,” she half-shrugged, “I'm sick of being tired of everything.”

Joonmyun nodded as she spoke and waited a few seconds before speaking himself. He outlined the purpose of his services as a therapist, his education, the privacy of their meeting, and other technicalities and ethics before shifting in his seat to lean forward a little. “Tell me about yourself.”

It was surprisingly easy to talk to him. Maybe because she'd seen him before or maybe because he was a friend of Kyungsoon's, but the hour they had passed quickly.

“I hate to cut you off, but I have another appointment after you. If you'd like, you can schedule with the lady outside to come see me again. I'd like to recommend a colleague of mine, a doctor, however.”

Yixiao stared at her hands on her lap, twisting in a Lady Macbeth fashion. It was only the first meeting, and she was being handed off to someone else. Something must be really wrong with her.

“Don't misunderstand, Yixiao,” Joonmyun continued, leaning forward to try and catch her gaze. “My colleague is very good, but I'd like to help you outside of an office.” He raised a hand, as if to reach for her, but he clasped them over his knees, instead. “I can't do that if I'm your therapist.”

That got a bit of a blush out of Yixiao's ears when she finally figured out what he meant. A heartbeat later, she shrugged but didn't reject his pity.

He saw her to the door, and Kyungsoon met her halfway into the waiting room. “Well? What'd you think?”

“He wants me to see someone else.” Kyungsoon frowned. “He said he can't see me outside the office if he's my therapist.”

Her friend's eyes opened even wider, then narrowed to glare daggers at the closed office door. She hooked an arm around Yixiao's. “We can talk about it later. I got a text from Jongin; he's waiting for us at a restaurant close by.”

The secretary smiled politely as they left.

Yixiao was a bit worried Kyungsoon would talk with Jongin about her appointment, but conversation stayed light and centred more around current music, scandals, and Jongin's classes.

Kyungsoon and Jongin were cute together, Yixiao thought. Jongin was too shy to put his arm around her like he was probably itching to, but judging by how he was struggling to eat left-handed, their hands were linked under the table. Kyungsoon checked her phone once and tucked it into her purse without bothering to unlink their fingers.

They tried to involve Yixiao in the conversation, but she was tired and couldn't stop thinking about Joonmyun.

She was thinking into it too much, she decided.

Jongin kissed the corner of Kyungsoon's mouth, blushing nervously, when they all stood up to leave. He jogged to a bus stop; Kyungsoon flagged a cab for herself and Yixiao.

“You didn't eat much,” she commented once the door shut behind her.

“I wasn't hungry. I'm sorry.”

Kyungsoon half-smiled and took her hand, holding onto it until the cab pulled up in front of their building.

“Are you going to make another appointment?” Kyungsoon unlocked her door and caught Kai before he could slip out into the hall. He hung limply over her shoulder.

Yixiao shrugged.

“Was talking to him okay? You think it might help?”

She shrugged again, scuffing the toe of her shoe against the carpeting. Kai chirruped at her, green eyes curious.

Kyungsoon sighed softly and stroked Kai's spine. “I left the card on your counter, if you want to go back. I'll even go with you again, if you want.”

“You don't have to waste your time … .”

“Any time with you isn't a waste, Yixiao.” Kyungsoon squeezed her hand. “Go get some sleep, okay? I'll see you tomorrow.”

It took a while to fall asleep, even after a hot shower. Yixiao kept seeing Joonmyun's handsome face and remembering the outbreak of acne across her jaw and forehead.

Routine returned, but it was disrupted again one morning when her phone sang some pop tune, drawing her out of a light sleep on a rare day off. Kai's eyes opened briefly and shut again, tail flipping over his nose.

Caller ID showed nothing, but she answered anyway, turning into her side—flipping the pillow over so her cheek wasn't in the wet spot from tears or drool—and putting the phone on speaker. “Hello?”

“Yixiao? This is Kim Joonymun. Kyungsoon gave me your number.”


“She thought it'd be faster than waiting for us to run into each other, apparently.” She must have spoken her thought out loud. “Oh, I'm sorry. Did I wake you?”

“It's okay,” she yawned. “Can't stay asleep forever.” Unfortunately.

“It is winter,” Joonmyun chuckled. “You could embrace your inner bear and hibernate.”

“Mmm. That'd be nice.” She was ready to fall asleep again. Joonymun had a nice voice.

“I'll let you go, but I actually called to ask if you were free this evening.”

“Yeah.” Her plans consisted of sleeping, napping, and sleeping some more.

“I'd like to take you out. Dinner or a movie? Maybe both?”

Kai had had enough of the being awake and not being petted, so he nosed his way under Yixiao's hand, like her rabbit used to, until she scratched his ears.

“I understand if you're busy … .”

“I'm not busy. That sounds nice.” Kai purred in agreement.

“I'll see you tonight, then. About six. You said you live by Kyungsoon?”

“Next apartment over.”

“Alright. I'll see you tonight.” He hung up before she could even say goodbye, and she was wide awake suddenly. Tonight. Six o'clock. Her plans of sleep had to be paused for a date.

She didn't know what to do.

She rolled onto her other side and texted Kyungsoon. Kai curled up in the warm spot she left.

It took a while, but Kyungsoon worked some kind of magic and kept Yixiao sane even after a favourite skirt unearthed from the closet sported a hole.

Yixiao fidgeted while Kyungsoon did a waterfall braid in her hair and found some concealer in Yixiao's old makeup bag. “There. You're prettier than usual.”

“Doesn't take much,” Yixiao cracked. She looked at herself in the mirror on the back of her door. It'd been a long while since she went on a date, but she hadn't felt pretty in years. “Thank you … .”

“Don't cry,” Kyungsoon warned. “You don't have waterproof makeup.” She tossed the makeup bag on Yixiao's bed and eyed her handiwork. “You really do look good. I'd pat myself on the back, but it's mostly you.” She checked her phone and made a quick exit. “It's almost six. Knock on my door before you leave so I can get Kai, okay? Just sit and relax.”

Kai claimed her lap the moment she sat down, purring and nuzzling his head into her boobs. His purrs didn't calm her like usual, somehow, and her heart beat in her ears until she realised part of the noise was from knocking on her door.

She set Kai on the floor, and he trotted at her heels when she went to open the door.

Joonymun wore sweaters well was Yixiao's first thought after What do I say?

“Hey. You look lovely.” Kai meowed; Joonmyun grinned at him and offered a hand. “I thought this cat belonged to Kyungsoon.”

“Hi! Uh—He does. He's just been keeping me company.”

“He's certainly friendly,” Joonmyun laughed as Kai spun around his ankles. Black fur didn't show up on black slacks, luckily.

“He likes everyone, I think. Even if you didn't like him, he'd still like you.” Yixiao reached over and offered her fingers, which the cat immediately dragged himself head to tail under. “But you're hard to not like, so … .” She shrugged and lifted Kai to her chest..

“Thank you.” He looked to the side, and Yixiao was sure the colour in his cheeks was from being out in the cold. “Is this your coat? My car's parked outside.” He helped her put her coat on one arm at a time, juggling Kai, and handed her purse and scarf to her.

She locked the door and knocked on Kyungsoon's. Her friend smiled at Joonmyun and took Kai from Yixiao's shoulder. “Have fun. Have her back at a reasonable hour, please,” she called to Joonmyun, who crossed his heart with a finger.

They didn't speak except for comments on the cold weather and work until they reached the restaurant. Having not eaten for most of the day, Yixiao was ravenous at the smell of food and even finished a slice of dessert by herself.

For so long, her life had been a routine of disappointment and exhaustion. Some tension released, allowing her shoulders to ease up a little, and she felt herself smiling while Joonmyun told her stories about past clients, colleagues, or classes. He grew up in Gangnam, which afforded a fair bit of luxury, and Yixiao would have felt sorely inadequate if Joonmyun didn't make her feel completely at ease and worthy of attention. The moment the waiter left, his attention was right back on her.

That part of her, tired of being tired, dared to hope this could Joonmyun could become part of a new routine.