acatwhowrites: (Default)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2015-08-03 10:37 pm

Dear Future Boyfriend

title: Dear Future Boyfriend
player(s): Wu Yifan/Kris, Byun Baekhyun, Kim Jongdae/Chen, Park Chanyeol, Huang Zitao/Tao, Kim Jongin/Kai, Oh Sehun, Jackson Wang, Song Gayeon, Park Yoora
word count: 6,500
rating: PG-13
summary: Chanyeol writes an advice column for his university's newspaper, replying to letters about student concerns, lost connections, etc., but refuses to reply to the letters that appear to be love confessions to him.
a/n: Written for yeolliepopday. I tried to combine two prompts, because it was more setting than anything else. It didn't quite play out the way I'd hoped. Side characters get more action than Chanyeol, but I figure it seems that way when looking at others' relationships compared to the lack of your own. I could be completely wrong. It got away from me near the end, because I was distracted.
The title's taken from Dear Future Husband, but it would've been too creepy to use the exact title.







After a summer of essentially vegging out and mooching off his parents, Chanyeol's actually looking forward to the new school year. He loves his family, but he really just feels the need to leave. Get away.

His sister ticks off her fingers as she speaks. "You have your toothbrush?"

"Yes."

"Hairbrush?"

Not that he ever used it, but "Yes."

"Underwear?"

"Of course?"

"Are you asking me or telling me?" Yoora doesn't wait for a reply and walks to her brother's bed, where the last suitcase sits open, with its contents spilling out.

Chanyeol jumps up from his beanbag chair, falls hard on a knee, and scuttles to slam the cover over her hands. "You don't need to go through it! I have everything!"

"You say that everytime, and even though you pack literally everything, you inevitably miss something." She frowned at something hanging off the zipper. "Aren't those from high school?"

"No!" His ears burned pink.

"Is that what that package was Wednesday?" Her eyebrows arch in surprise, then dip in judgment. "You bought new Rilakkuma underwear."

"...No?"

"Oh my God, little brother. You're how old?" His sister rubs her face with her hands, groaning. She peeks between her fingers. "Please tell me they're washed, at least."

"They're right out of the package, and Rilakkuma is forever." He flinches at the look she gives from between her fingers. "What?"

"I can't believe we're letting you out of the house, again."

"It's my third year of college, I think I can take care of myself by now."

"You can't even wash new underwear, which," she drops her hands to her hips with a sigh, "I guess isn't all that dire to know." Looking around the room—much less cluttered than when they were growing up—she shrugs. "That's it, then? Can we head out?"

"I've been waiting on you since lunch!"

"So you say, but I know you've been stuffing that suitcase with things this whole time." Chanyeol sticks his tongue out and zipped the suitcase shut with a flourish. He tugged it off his bed and dropped it at his feet with a grunt.

Yoora rolled her eyes and grabbed the handle. "C'mon. If we leave now, Mom and Dad will probably finish saying goodbye before dark." She carries the suitcase downstairs, her brother trailing behind her with a pout.

Mrs Park catches him at the foot of the staircase, already glassy-eyed and wrapping her arms around Chanyeol's neck, nearly bending him in half to press her face in his shoulder. Her husband keeps a stuff upper lip, at least, but it takes a lot of "goodbye"s and promises of "I'll call you"s and coaxing from Yoora until the siblings finally make it to Yoora's car, Chanyeol's suitcase safely tossed across the back seat.

They sigh in unison, taking a few deep breaths to cleanse themselves of the heavy dosage of mothering that they appreciate and adore their parents for, but neither Yoora nor Chanyeol are so far from home that saying goodbye should be like seeing a soldier off to war.

Yoora peers into her rearview mirror and flips her bangs in place with jerks of her fingers. "Fix your hair and buckle up."

Chanyeol's hair sticks up like a cow tried to groom him. He shakes his head and calls it good, pushing his seat back before buckling his belt and waving to his parents one last time.

"This is your third year," she marvels. "Oh, I miss it when you were small! Literally," she says with a narrowed glare to her slouched kid sibling. "You used to be so cute and tiny. Now you're just cute, and I have to leave you among the post-pubescent, sex-crazed young adult population."

"Yoora, really...please stop. I'm fine! And I can't really help my height. Blame the milk." It used to be all he drank, until the doctor figured out why he was so constipated all the time.

Yoora asks a few questions about his classes and plans for working on the school paper again, and the rest of the time is spent in companionable silence.

Just after five, Yoora pulls up to the curb outside the decorative wrought iron gates that always sit open and throws the car into park.

The campus looks exactly the same as when Chanyeol had left it. Moving in a week before classes start, Chanyeol can bypass the summer rush of clubs and activities trying to gather new recruits. Even as a junior, he gets mistaken for a freshman.

"Last hug, little brother." She leans over and hugs him tight, kissing his cheek when she sits back with a sigh. "Have fun, study hard, call me if anything happens, okay? I expect updates."

"Of course." He unfolds his long legs and shut the door passenger door. "Drive safe heading home." He drags his suitcase from the backseat, pushes that door shut, and taps the roof.

He waits until he can't see the tail lights anymore before making the trek across campus to the dorms. Third year, third floor, but his room mate is a freshman, someone he knew in high school and dated very briefly over summer to break up with a couple months into it, because they agreed that while their physical compatibility was top shelf, they felt a familial attachment, instead. The breakup was short, mutual, and ended with a couple boxes of pizza and monster movie marathon.

Which turned into their usual Thursday evening practice, when Sehun didn't have extra dance practice.

Chanyeol swipes his ID and shoulders the door open and stumbles into the blessed air conditioning. One of the perks of his dorm is definitely the update commodities. Freshman year, he was in the oldest building and is pretty sure he left parts of him behind, that melted off of him in summer just to freeze in between the floorboards come winter.

Even the elevator is reliable. His suitcase sits at his feet while he watches the floor numbers slowly change.The car stops, settles, and opens its doors; Chanyeol shuffles out and two doors down the hall to 365. Half of the room is pretty plain; Sehun won't move in for a few days. Chanyeol tosses his suitcase on Sehun's empty bed, pitches forward onto his own soft navy blue comforter, and promptly falls asleep.

He's so ready for the new year.





It doesn't take much to get into the daily routine. None of his classes start before 10, surprisingly, but he has three night classes.

He's accepts and embraces his zombie status.

Half passed eight o'clock on a beautiful Tuesday morning finds Chanyeol stuffing his face with very sweet pastries and very very bitter black coffee at the cafe a block off campus. He's so engrossed in his morning paper—there are some amazingly talented comic artists on campus; he appreciates the arts—that he doesn't notice anyone joining him until they kick his shin. He yelps and drops his paper over his danish, smearing red raspberry filling across their school president's face.

"Baekhyun."

"Good morning!" Baekhyun sings. He sips Chanyeol's coffee and makes a face as he forces it down. "Don't know how you can stand it. It's like tar."

"It's not that bad." Chanyeol's face screws up as he swallows another mouthful of his coffee. There's a reason one mug lasts him so long in the morning; he dips his pastries into it rather than drinking it straight. Baekhyun settles his cheeks on his fists, watching his friend with an expression equal parts pitying and smug. "Ugh. Anyway." He discreetly pours some sugar into the mug. "Don't you have class?"

"In a bit. I've got just enough time to bring you your mail."

Chanyeol grimaces as he wipes the pastry filling from his paper and folds it neatly while reaching for the bundle of papers with his right hand. Baekhyun flicks his wrist back, coyly grinning. "Guess what the very top letter is."

"Professor Lee Sooman, confessing he's secretly in a death metal band."

"Not even close." Baekhyun chides. He pulls the letters out of Chanyeol's reach a few more times until he's threatened with Chanyeol's height. "Someone has a crush."

"A lot of people have crushes, Baek. Most letters I get are because of a crush or relationship."

"Yeah, well, wait until you read it." He looks positively delighted, eyes curved with the strength of his shit-eating grin. It honestly makes Chanyeol a bit nervous. That's the exact face that nearly got him expelled from high school for leading a group of students through the halls on bicycles. He can't remember why he did it; he tried to ride down a flight of stairs and cracked his head against the painted cinderblock wall. It's his first and only concussion, something he feels like he can take a bit of pride in, considering how klutzy he can be.

He slips the first letter out of the rubber band and unfolds in. "DEAR PARK," he reads aloud, "since my sophomore year, I've had a crush on the student a year below me who writes this advice column. How should I approach him?"

"Signed?" Baekhyun prompts, eyebrows raised.

"'A secret admirer.'"

"So what're you going to write?"

"What?!" Chanyeol shakes his head. "I can't reply to this, Baek."

"Why not?"

"Because...because it's not relevant to the student population. This is an advice column, something everyone reads—"

"Don't flatter yourself."

"—and can take something away from. It's not my personal dating service."

"So you want to date them?"

"I didn't say that."

"You pretty much did."

"I-I didn't! Just drop it. Let me look at the others." He makes a pointed effort to ignore Baekhyun and Baekhyun's wide grin and Baekhyun's foot tapping the bottom of Chanyeol's foot, setting his feet firmly on the ground. "I'm not doing it. I'm not replying." He shakes his head. "I'm so not."





"You so want to reply, now, don't you?"

Chanyeol's column is published weekly, which gives him the whole week to sift through the letters and emails and pick the most relevant or interesting questions. He keeps them all, filed by date, and has done his best to ignore the anonymous, kind of roundabout confession.

But a second arrives the following week.

And another the week after that.

At the fourth one, Chanyeol kind of feels a pleased burn to his cheeks. Whoever they are, they're not upset he's not replied. They suggest solutions for themselves, ranging from approaching Chanyeol directly to being introduced by mutual friends to setting up a sort of treasure hunt, so Chanyeol could find them, if he wanted to.

The curiosity burns. He wants to know.

With each letter, he learns something new. "Secret admirer" is a senior, now, an acting major and linguistics minor, lives off campus, and draws better than his friends will admit—there's a drawing at the corner of the paper, and Chanyeol isn't sure what it is, but he thinks it's rather cute.

"I am not going to reply. This is more like the lost connections thing Jonghyun does on radio. Why not send these to him?"

Baekhyun shrugs. "He's sort of direct, I guess?"

"Sort of direct isn't direct and leads to more confusion and misunderstanding than anything else," Chanyeol mutters. "It could be a joke, you know."

"You won't find out until you reply, will you?" His friend hops off his desk and snatches his backpack from Chanyeol's bed. "If it is a joke, definitely find out who they are. I'll kick their ass to defend your honour."

Chanyeol spins around in his chair. "You're so good to me."

"I know." Baekhyun blows him a kiss and leaves. The door heaves shut behind him, and Chanyeol's aware of the thick silence filled with the static of his thoughts.

He tries to complete his homework, but the weekly letters sit heavily at the very front of his mind, and he spends the next hour composing hypothetical replies to each.





He let's it go on unanswered for a couple more weeks, but Baekhyun is relentless and brings it up whenever they meet.

"Why do you want to know so bad? They're not your admirer."

"They could be. It could be an elaborate plot to get to me through you." He snorts, dismissing his own idea. "I'm just curious! Aren't you?"

"No." The letters are out of their respective files and tucked into his magazine writing textbook, sitting at the bottom of his bag.

Baekhyun's eyes narrow. Chanyeol's sure he knows, but he slips away to get to his lecture, and Chanyeol takes out the letters to read again.

Senior wannabe artist-slash-linguist-actor plays basketball and has no pets, although they really like cats.





Midterms put everything on hold. Chanyeol's column is replaced by advertising for extended study periods in the library and open-late cafeteria as a reminder that studying is no excuse to not eat, although "If that's truly the case, they would not make these tests feel like dying. I don't care if I eat, so long as I can crawl out of my exam alive," Chanyeol moans.

As a vocal student, Baekhyun's exams are oral, so he practices a lot but seems to have too much energy compared to everyone else. He uses this energy to check on his friends, and he casually mentions to Chanyeol that the cafeteria had served chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese that day.

Chanyeol bursts into tears. He loves chicken nuggets. They were one of the few things he'd eat at the school cafeteria.

Studying for seventeen hours straight can really change a person.

His friends, the ones he manages to see in-between their studying and catching whatever sleep they possibly can, feel much the same. Everyone survives and celebrates by having a party at some seniors' apartment. With a strict BYOB policy Minseok and Lu Han provide blankets and pillows for everyone who passes out drunk or from exhaustion. The party turns into a glorified sleepover, but no one regrets a thing when they wake up to fresh coffee and homemade waffles.

With exams done, Chanyeol returned to his advice column, backlogged with two and a half weeks of letters but nothing from his "secret admirer."

Which is fine. It's not like he looked forward to the letters. He has relationship troubles and disgusting room mates to try and sort out.

In the blessedly stress-free environment of his dorm room, Chanyeol picks through the chosen letters to reply to, types the letter, and drafts out his replies while Sehun lazes about on his bed, trying to distract himself from his boredom and student responsibilities with a video game. He drops it to his pillows with a sigh. He sighs again, louder, and frowns when he's still ignored.

"Hey, Chanyeol."

"Mm?"

"Let me suck your dick."

"Later." A few keystrokes later, his brain finally processes what he heard. "Wait, what? No!"

"C'mon!" Sehun crawls down his bed and bumps their shoulders together, trying to act cute, which is not the right image for a kid who was offering head to their senior. Or anyone else. "Exams are finally over, and it's like I just got out of prison! Give a free man a break!"

"Um....no." He throws his room mate a look over his shoulder, still typing. "Why not ask Zitao?"

Sehun falls silent and sits back on his ankles. There's a light dusting of pink across his cheeks, and Chanyeol silently cheers his victory. The kid's crush is so obvious. Actually, it wasn't to Chanyeol; he only found out when someone who wrote into his program had handwriting exactly like Sehun's, saying how he had a crush on his best friend and didn't think he could ever confess, because his best friend was a gorgeous foreigner forever out of reach.

This guy is tall and tanned with the hottest body and cutest panda eyes and he GIGGLES; it's so gross, but he's so hot, and I might be a little bit in love with him, because he can't pass an animal without saying 'hi', but he's been my best friend since forever, and I don't want to mess up what we have. Help me, DEAR PARK. You're my only hope.

"Why would I ask Zitao?" Sehun's voice cracks. "That'd be weird."

"Weirder than asking me?" Chanyeol saves his document and flips the lid shut. "Dude, just ask. Ask him out, I mean. It's kind of obvious you have a crush."

"Who has a crush?" Speak of the devil. No one locks their doors when home; Chanyeol and Sehun both keep an open door policy, so Zitao saunters in and parks himself on the sofa beside Sehun so close his butt brushes Sehun's arm as he sits. Sehun doesn't complain. He doesn't do much of anything except avert his eyes and probably pray.

Chanyeol grins. This is the golden opportunity. "Sehun's got a crush on—" Sehun's hand slaps over his mouth sharp enough to make Chanyeol's eyes water.

"Okay! Dude." He stands and picks up Chanyeol's laptop and papers, shoving them into Chanyeol's One Piece backpack that is miraculously still in decent shape, considering its constant use since high school. Sehun hooks the strap over Chanyeol's neck and grabs his shoulders, forcibly walking him to the door while chirping, "Thank you for the advice; you should get going before you're late!"

Zitao half-smiles at Sehun, confusion clear in his eyes. "Who is it? Do I know them?"

Chanyeol leans back against Sehun's insistent hands. "They're closer than you think!"

"GOODBYE, CHANYEOL." The door slams in his face, and the lock clicks. Well then.

Chanyeol's hands fall to his sides, and he notes a distinct lack of weight in his pocket. Some coins jingle, but the much-needed jingle of keys is missing. He turns with his fist raised to knock on the door when a sharp inhale and giggle pushes blood into his ears and sets them on fire.

They're totally fucking.

He needs his keys, but his friends are so fucking in his room. Atta boy Sehun, he assumes, for taking the plunge, but thinking back, maybe Chanyeol should've advised baby steps, because the UST between Sehun and Zitao was fierce.

At least he has his phone; he about-faces and speed-walks to the elevator, slipping in just as the doors were closing. Lee Byunghun, a performing arts undergrad, looks up from the toes of his sneakers and pulls out an earbud. "You okay, Chanyeol?"

"Not really, no, I'm locked out of my room, and I am ninety-nine point nine percent positive my room mate is being blown by his new boyfriend."

"Aw, man. That sucks." Byunghun isn't sympathetic by nature, but Chanyeol appreciates the moment he was allowed to vent.

"Yeah," he sighs, running a hand over his face. The elevator dings, and Chanyeol shuffles to stand against the back wall with Byunghun to let a couple female students on. They tap the ground floor button, already lit, and wait. The doors stand open, no one walking on or off.

"Excuse me..." Chanyeol leans forward to push the "close" button. The girl he leans around steps closer to her friend, blushing and hiding a giggle behind her hand.

Byunghun shakes his head; Chanyeol doesn't know why and shrugs. What?

"Nothing. If it wasn't you, I'd almost think you do it on purpose."

"What? What do I do on purpose?" The girls in front of them giggle, and even Byunghun smiles at his phone, shaking his head. "Seriously, man. What?"

His persistence doesn't pan out. The elevator dings and opens to the main floor. The girls are greeted by a gaggle of friends, and Byunghun hefts his bag onto his shoulder. "You can crash with us, if you need to."

Chanyeol appreciates the offer, but Byunghun has a strange relationship with his roommate and close friends. A violent, affectionately abusive relationship that no one's really sure is actually okay, but the worst that's happened is a bloody nose. It's not the kind of environment anyone can expect any sort of peace.

"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." Chanyeol follows Byunghun outside, and they walk in opposite directions.

Chanyeol heads off campus, walking the short block to the usual cafe only to find it closed and dark, for some strange and unforgiving reason.

It's turning into a horrible day. All he needs is a freak thunderstorm. He glares at the blue, cloudless sky, daring it to mess with him, and nearly jumps into a signpost when a truck rumbles by, empty back end bouncing and echoing hollowly. Chanyeol watches the offending truck with his heart in his throat and shakes his head. Amazing. What else can happen?

He considers hiding among the theoretical books in the library, a section seldom used by students, but libraries make him restless. Too many unread books or something. The student in him cries, feeling the compulsive need to study subjects that aren't relevant.

His room is obviously out of the question. A friend's room, perhaps.

Or the cafe across the street.

"The Curled Whisker..." he reads aloud. The sign sticks out perpendicular to the shopfront, like a European pub sign. It shows a plain black outline that looks vaguely feline, with three whiskers on either side of its American football-shaped head that subtly pull up to look like extensions of its cat-lipped smile. Cute.

He almost walks right back out when he walks in. Cats litter every surface and mill about the floor, chatting in their cat language with high tails and nose bumps.

Chanyeol turns his head and slams it into his elbow with a scream of a sneeze that echoes throughout the building, sending the clusters of cats careening for couches and nooks and crannies to hide in.

The man behind the counter, eyes wide and dark brows hiding at his hairline, stares as Chanyeol is attacked with sneezes. He counts nine before the student finally sniffles and wipes his sleeve across his face.

"Bless you."

"Thanks." Chanyeol grins, knowing full well he looks like high as a kite with how watery and red his eyes are. "I'm really sorry."

"It's...alright. I think." He slips off his stool and walks around the counter to stoop before a pair of bookshelves. "I don't know if any of them will come out for a while, but—"

"I didn't offend everyone."

The employee glances over his shoulder and smiles. A lithe, pointed cat winds itself around Chanyeol's ankles, purring loudly and dragging its entire body, nose to tip of its tail, across Chanyeol's shins. The employee sits back on his haunches and points to the cat. "That's Peaches. He doesn't really care what's happening, as long as he's getting attention." His shirt has a nametag with JONGDAE written in neat characters.

Chanyeol nods, snorts some mucus to the back of his nose, and shrugs. "Sorry, cat. I'd pick you up, but I'm allergic."

"Just couldn't help coming in, though, huh?" Jongdae gets to his feet and rounds the counter again, bending to grab something.

"No. I love animals. I used to be kind of okay, but I moved away for college, so I lost all my resistance or whatever."

A door at the back inches open, and a boy peers in curiously. "Is it safe? I thought I heard gunfire."

"Explosive sneezes, maybe. Taehyung, do a lap around and make sure the cats are okay?" He looks to Chanyeol with a wry half-smile. "Some of these are shelter cats, rescues. We have to watch for signs of anxiety and the like."

Chanyeol sniffles and feels awful. Peaches sits at his feet and meows, I'm still here! It turns as Taehyung walks by, flicking its tail playfully. Peaches yowls at him and bounces after his feet.

Jongdae returns to the counter. "Feel free to sit anywhere. The window may be best; it's a popular cat-sighting spot, but it's right by our air filters." He taps something into the register computer. "Can I get you anything? Coffee? Snack? Phone number?"

"I'd be happy with a water, for the time being."

"Sure thing." He spins on his stool, opens the glass-fronted refrigerator, and tosses a bottle of water at Chanyeol, followed by a smaller medicine bottle. "Catch. Don't tell anyone I'm your dealer."

Miraculously, he doesn't drop either items. The small bottle is over-the-counter allergy medication, with antihistamine as well as decongestant. Jongdae laughs at his awkward dance and otherwise ignores him, so Chanyeol shakes his hair to cover his face a bit and claims a chair in a corner of the cafe at the far end of the windows.

Immediately, his lap is taken by a pair of tabbies. They curl around one another and purr. "Oh... C'mon, guys."

"Aww, they like you!" Jongdae brings over a plate of cake, complete with a cute cat face on the top. "On the house, newcomer."

"I'm glad, but couldn't they grab a chair and let me use my own lap?"

"Nope. That's not how they roll. They know you have a laptop and that you will have to touch them to remove them. Just this once, I suppose I could extract them for you." Chanyeol sits stiff, not daring to so much as twitch as Jongdae's fingers slide beneath each cat, across his thighs, and roll them into his arms. He hoists them to his shoulders, where he smiles at them and nuzzles their faces. "Set the laptop down fast. I only have two arms for two cats at a time."

Chanyeol had hoped that having something on his lap would deter any cat from climbing on him, but he was very wrong.

"Oh, come on!" The fluffy, black Persian scowls at him and tucks its paws beneath his massive chest.

"If not made for sits, why is made of warm?" Jongdae sings to the cats in his arms. They smile and rubs their cheeks along his collarbones. "That's Leo, by the way. With how much time you spend on the computer, I'd think you'd have gotten into the cat part of the internet and known better."

"I'm not online for that. I write a column for my—our," he notices the university pennants and stuffed mascot on top of a bookshelf, "school."

"Oh, yeah? Which one?"

"DEAR PARK."

"Oh my God, I love it. People are so pathetic." He offers a thumbs up. "You give good advice, though, like there's actually logic."

Chanyeol shrugs. "It's easier to see the logic when it's not your problem."

Jongdae shrugs a shoulder. "True." He sets the cats in his arms on the floor, where they flop against one another and waddle to an ottoman to curl up on. "Holler if you want anything, okay?"

The atmosphere is very calming. Maybe it's all the purring and sheer happiness that comes from being surrounded by adorable cats, but Chanyeol swallows a couple allergy pills, manages to coax the Persian off his laptop, and writes up replies to the most dire or interesting letters in seemingly no time at all. Six o'clock rolls around, and his arm is almost asleep beneath Leo the cat, but he's had a productive couple of hours. He's pleased. In the zone of writing and advising the confused souls he goes to school with, Chanyeol had managed to largely ignore his allergies.

Once he saves his work and starts to pack up, he becomes more aware of his runny nose and watering eyes.

Jongdae pets Leo while he sails past with a tray of empty dishes. "You can hang onto the allergy meds. You'll obviously need them." Assuming Chanyeol comes back.

He does.

At least three times a week.





There are a handful of employees Chanyeol meets during his frequent cat cafe visits. Jongdae seems to come and go as he pleases, like a stray cat, but he turns out to be the nephew of the owner and not paid to work, so he volunteers his time whenever he can in-between his theatre and Chinese majors.

Jackson's pretty much the designated errand boy. Taehyung and Jimin do everything but prepare customers' food. Amber bounces around and delegates tasks as she runs around the cafe and chats with cats and customers alike. Jongin is the token waiter and garners about as much attention from customers as the cats.

When Chanyeol first meets Jongin, he doesn't knw Jongin is even there. During the lull between lunch rush and end of the work shift, Chanyeol sets at his usual table and eyes the literal pile of purring cats on the settee with idle curiosity and not much else. Jongdae takes his order and, as he's preparing it behind the counter, hollers, "Jongin! Order up!"

The cat pile shifts, begins to meow and murp, and Chanyeol sees human appendages slither from beneath the furry mass. Slowly, the cats disperse, leaving behind a tan boy wearing a uniform sporting fur of all colours and styles. He yawns widely and gets to his feet, eyes barely open, but he walks confidently to the back counter.

Chanyeol pulls his laptop from his bag and sets it on the table, leaving room for his snack and drink.

Jongin steps on a rogue tail on his way and pitches forward with a yelp. He lands squarely on Chanyeol's lap.

Jongdae watches the whole thing and leans on the glass case with his chin on his crossed arms and a Cheshire smile across his lips. "This is a cat cafe. Pet the cats, not each other."

"I fell," Jongin protests. He scoots off Chanyeol's lap and crouches on the couch beside him, covering his face with his forearms. Chanyeol's cookie and bubble tea are still in his hands, safe but forgotten.

"It's okay." Chanyeol gently takes his order and gives a squinty-eyed grin. Jongin ducks his head and hurries to the back kitchen while Jongdae looks on, amused.

"Hey, Chanyeol. You seeing anyone right now?"

He immediately thinks of the letters and "secret admirer."

He shakes his head.

"Good." Jongdae kind of looks pleased, for some reason.





One morning, Chanyeol brings a friend with him to the Curled Whisker. "Hey, Chanyeol," Jongdae greets. His sunny smile is directed at the young woman beside Chanyeol. "Is this your girlfriend?"

"Song Gayeon, a photographer for our paper, and no, but she is a good friend. Gayeon, this is Kim Jongdae." She smiles and bows a little, fiddling with her camera until a bold calico hops onto the table and butts her arm with its head. "We have break, now, and I'd been saying I'd like to bring her here for a while. Her schedule finally allowed it."

"Busy taking pictures?"

"No, fighting. I do MMA."

Jongdae's brows lifted curiously. "Mixed martial arts? Wow. I'd feel intimidated, if Hani didn't have you wrapped around her little toe, now."

Gayeon laughs. The cat had walked onto her lap and made herself comfortable, paws tucked and tail swinging languidly. "She is friendly. I like her."

"She likes you, obviously. She's a picky girl, so you must be special."

Chanyeol whines a little and rolls his eyes. "Jongdae, why do you have to flirt with all my friends?"

"Because I actually get a nice response. You're just mean to me." Hani meows and spins on Gayeon's lap, showing her back to Chanyeol. "Ha! The cat agrees with me." Jongdae rewards her loyalty with tickles beneath her chin.

"Maybe I should just go back to the other cafe. I don't have to suffer this abuse. My nose will thank me."

"Don't be such a killjoy. Can I get you guys anything? Our cakes are super fresh; they're not even frosted, yet."

Gayeon looks tempted, chewing her bottom lip and probably worrying about her diet. "What kind do you have?"

"Come up and look." Jongdae wiggles his fingers, walking towards the back counter. "You can bring Hani, if you want; she likes to be carried."

Gayeon sets her camera on the table with a threat to Chanyeol's livelihood if anything happens to it and follows the flirty waiter.

"Hey, Park!"

Chanyeol jumps and looks over his shoulder, immediately smiling. "Jackson!" Jackson Wang, still an undecided major and simply enjoying the college experience—Chanyeol weeps for Jackson's future self, when the realisation comes that parties and friends are not the true college experience and deadlines begin to loom everywhere—waves at him, other arm full of plastic bags seemingly filled with cat treats.

They greet each other in the standard single-hand-single-clap-on-the-back hug. "I thought you're allergic, man. What're you doing here?"

"Working. I can hide here, because no one thinks I'd set foot among cats, so please don't tell Baekhyun."

"My lips are sealed."

Gayeon returns with the cat over her shoulder and a plate of cake with a fork balanced on its edge. Jackson freezes, arms closing over his chest, and bows fast, turning tail and running to the employees only door with an inhumane screech.

"What's wrong with him?" Gayeon pets the cat, who got spooked by Jackson's sudden departure.

"He gets really shy around girls like you. You're pretty much Jackson's ideal type." Tanned, toned, and can probably throw him through walls. Jackson has unique taste.

"Oh." Gayeon nods slowly. "I'm flattered?"

Chanyeol laughs. "I don't know if it's a good or bad thing, either. He's real fun, otherwise."

Jackson occasionally peeks out onto the main floor towards Chanyeol's table. His shrieks spook the cats the first few times, then they all ignore him.

They spend a couple hours chatting over their drinks and Gayeon's cake. Cats come and go, and Gayeon's willing to intercept any cat who appears to be thinking that Chanyeol's lap or computer look good for a nap.





Baekhyun frowns at Chanyeol, humming softly.

"Stop staring at me, please."

"I just don't get it."

"Get what?"

"Why you won't reply to this person. They're interested. In you. C'mon. It's, like, a miracle."

"Gee, thanks."

"I'm just being honest."

"Would it hurt to lie once in a while? Just for the sake of my ego?"

"My dear mother didn't raise a liar, Park Chanyeol." He sits back and flips through a textbook. "Where have you even been hiding in the mornings? I hardly ever see you. It's almost as though you're avoiding me."

"Naw. I'd never do that."

"Park Chanyeol."

"Byun Baekhyun."

He kicks Chanyeol's hip and pulls out his phone. "Just reply to the letters. There is literally no harm."

Chanyeol's just a little nervous and a lot embarrassed.





Sehun and Zitao tag along with Chanyeol to the cat cafe on an extended holiday weekend. No one feels like making the trip home for longer than a day, so they entertain themselves with disc golf, the arcade in the library basement, kind-of sort-of reading ahead for class, and sitting in a small but open room with laps full of cats.

Zitao is in seventh heaven, cooing at them all and chattering excitedly to Sehun, who's mostly quiet for once, leaning against Zitao's side and smiling at the shorthair cat lying on its back in the dip where Zitao's legs sit together. They look like new parents, and it's grossly sweet, but Chanyeol kind of feels like the unwanted stepchild when he hangs out with them, now, being the third wheel single party.

Chanyeol pulls out his laptop and that week's letters. His "secret admirer" had written in weekly since exams ended, and after a while, they stopped even posing hypothetical questions for advice and simply flirted with Chanyeol. That's all he could figure.

DEAR PARK,

My friends think I'm crazy, but I actually really like your maniacal smile.

Your secret admirer


DEAR PARK,

I saw your performance with your friends during open mic night. I got goosebumps when you sang in Spanish.

Your secret admirer


DEAR PARK,

Your short hair looks really good. It shows off your cute face more.

Your secret admirer


If this was someone else receiving letters like this and asked Chanyeol what to do, he'd recommend heading for the hills. Stranger danger stalker mode. Remain vigilant. Perhaps call the police.

They're for him, though, and he knows himself better than to just offer the safest advice, heartfelt as it is. He's curious, and he's interested in who would go through the trouble of writing to him every week.

A cat winds around Chanyeol's ankles with loud purrs, begging for love and attenion. He lets his arm hang, and the cat rubs its face on his fingers just to arch its spine under his hand. Something pokes him, something that isn't a natural part of a cat.

He leans over and frowns when the cat slips between he legs of his chair and approaches Sehun and Zitao. She hops onto Sehun's lap, scaring him, and he picks out the paper folded and tucked under her collar. "What is this?" He nudges Zitao with his elbow, holding out the paper and grinning at Chanyeol. A matching grin blooms on Zitao's face as well, and Chanyeol fidgets.

"What? What is it?"

"Here, advice columnist. Do your thing."

DEAR PARK,

A little bird told me you like the Curled Whisker. We haven't met, but would you have coffee there with me?

Your secret admirer


Jongin brings over a coffee Chanyeol didn't order and shakes his head right away. "Not me." He inclines his head and rolls his eyes a little in the direction of one of the few other patrons, specifically a tall man hunched over a cat sprawled across his lap, marvelling at the squishy paws with sheer wonder. Jongdae's across from him, poking his cheek with a pen and talking, never deterred when blatantly ignored.

Chanyeol fights to keep the smile from his face but loses. Sehun and Zitao follow his gaze. "Is that him? The tall, goofy-looking guy with the tragic pattern combination?" Zitao asks, as if he's one to talk about gaudy choices.

"I dunno. Gimme a piece of paper." Sehun tears a sheet from his ignored notebook. Chanyeol waves Jongin back over.

"I'm not a delivery boy," he whines, taking the folded note. The trio watches him approach the table and hands the man the paper.

"You're not going to try and make us leave, are you?" Sehun asks.

Chanyeol smiles sweetly and stacks their books, pushing them towards the boys.

"He's actually kind of hot," Zitao mutters, eyes on the man now trying to avoid Jongdae's fussing with his hair.

Sehun snags his hand and stands. Zitao grabs their books and is dragged away, laughing at Sehun's jealousy.

Alone with cats for company, Chanyeol sniffles and waits nervously, dumping sugar into his coffee.

Finally, Jongdae deems the man presentable, and he stands behind the vacated chairs, smiling sheepishly. "Hi. I'm Wu Yifan."

Dear secret admirer,

It's about time.

Chanyeol