acatwhowrites: (Xiumin♡Poufsouffle represent)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2015-09-21 10:48 am

No. 6

title: No. 6
players: Kim Minseok/Xiumin, Zhang Yixing/Lay, Kim Joonmyun/Suho, Kim Jongdae/Chen
rating: PG-13
warning/s: mentions of vomiting (emetophobics beware)
word count: 4,790
summary: Jongdae was just trying to be a Good Samaritan.
a/n: Jongdae and Joonmyun are relatives for the sake of business. The title comes from the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, in which the main character is only known as Number Six and lives in what's basically a giant social experiment. The number isn't significant in this story at all, though. If I'd gone as deep as I'd wanted, then it would have. The last line is adapted from the misquotation from William Congreave's play, The Mourning Bride. (It's breast, not beast.)

Jongdae stretched his arms over his head until he felt the satisfying pop in his spine and dropped them to swing behind him in an extra stretch before slipping his hands into his jeans pockets. He liked working at his cousin's office, even if all he did was run around trying to complete a pile of tasks that never seemed to get any smaller. The people were nice, and he was treated well, even if only because he was the boss's nephew.

The only downside was the occasional late night. Jongdae didn't like leaving his cousin, Joonmyun, at the office alone, so he stayed behind to help out as much as he could and be sure the his cousin was fed and watered and in his car by a decent hour.

Joonmyun always offered him a ride home, but Jongdae liked the walk in warmer weather. Even without the sun in the sky, the pavement emited the heat from the day, and the tall buildings blocked most of the wind and lessened it to a bearable breeze.

Tonight, Jongdae got his cousin in his car and heading towards home before the sun completely set, which meant Jongdae got to enjoy the sky's colours reflected on the sides of the numerous skyscrapers as he walked towards his own apartment.

His stomach grumbled about wanting food, even though he'd eaten with his cousin not too long ago. Jongdae followed his nose to a food stall selling noodles and greeted the old ladies—sisters, as they introduced themselves—with a smile and a bow.

Midway through paying for his meal, Jongdae heard shouting outside. Not panicked at all, but it sounded mean.

He tossed—nicely—his money at the ladies, thanked them profusely, and excused himself as he pushed around some other patrons and hurried to the street.

Why he was running towards the mean yelling, he had no idea. Something settled in his gut, and he knew he'd not stop thinking about it if he didn't figure it out.

The shouts became laughter, and Jongdae spun around in the opening of an alleyway to hide around the corner.

A group of men—boys, more like, they couldn't be any older than Jongdae—tossed something amongst themselves before one mimicked a slam dunk into an open dumpster, knocking his body into it with enough force to slam the lid shut.

High-fives all around.

Jongdae slipped around the corner of the building as the boys sauntered out, sneaking behind them and to the closed dumpster.

It smelled to high heaven, and the lid had rusty hinges that made it hard to open. Again, he wondered what he was even doing, but his brain didn't venture down the paths of possibilities and focused on keeping the lid from slamming on top of him as he stepped onto the protrusions of the dumpster to lift himself up enough to peer inside with what little sunlight he had left.

"Flashlight. My phone has a flashlight..." He pulled his cell from his back pocket, swiped the security pattern, and opened the flashlight app that turned on his flashbulb. When he shined it inside, he didn't see anything particularly interesting. Most of it had a feeling of disgust seeping up his nostrils and settling in his lungs and gut. Some things spilled out of their bags, wet and brown and alive with flies. If the guys he saw did throw anything inside, it should have been nearer the top, but it was all decrepit boxes and depressed bags and just a whole world of smells Jongdae wished to have never explored.

He's about to hop down and drop the lid shut when something reflected yellow, and he almost fell on his butt, thinking it was a rat, but it meowed. Jongdae moved his light down, and a furry face blinked at him, meowing weakly again and struggling to either free itself of where a bag had fallen onto it or slither deeper to get away from Jongdae.

"Hey. Hey hey hey, it's okay." Jongdae set his phone on a plastic bag of something questionable and climbed higher, propping open the cover on his back so he could lean in and lift the bag trapping the cat. "Come on, kitty. I'm not gonna hurt you."

The cat questioned this, looking from him to the bag to Jongdae to the sliver of light outside the dumpster and back to Jongdae. Its ears flattened, and it hunkered over its dirty paws.

"This dumpster is pretty nasty. Let's get out of here, huh?" Jongdae kept his voice soft. He shoved the bag away and held a hand to the cat, just offering his fingers, but it didn't even sniff him, toddling uncertainly over the piles of decomposing trash to stand on its hind legs against the wall and meow. "Good choice." Jongdae shrugged his shoulders, catching the cover with his hand to hold it up more. He turned the light on his phone off, shoving it into his back pocket again, and grabbed the cat under its chest.

It writhed a little and whined more until Jongdae held it against his shoulder, where it just mowed softly and looked fearfully at the alleyway.

"No problems, little dude. Those jerks are gone. It's just me..." Jongdae kept up a steady commentary of how they're safe and just getting out of this gross dumpster and away from the alley. Maneuvering off the dumpster one-handed while being mindful of the rust and jagged edges wasn't the easiest thing, but he managed to unsnag his shirt and keep the scrawny cat securely against his shoulder, where it twitched at every sound and purred softly to itself.

A couple blocks from the alley, Jongdae sat on a chair someone had left down in outdoor seating of a cafe that was closed for the night. The cat opened its eyes as it was lifted from Jongdae's shoulder, but it stayed silent, looking blearily at Jongdae's chest, exhausted almost to sleep.

Jongdae felt like crying when he finally saw the cat in the orange light of the sunset. Its coat was filthy and patchy, a small cut crossed its nose, and its ear looked torn. Those were merely external signs of injury. Who knew what his insides looked like? "No wonder you sound miserable, kitty," Jongdae said, throat thick with tears. He bit his lip and scrubbed at his eyes. The cat seemed to know it looked pathetic and simply laid down on Jongdae's gut.

He'd never had pets of his own, other than a dog, but that was even his dad's dog, so he never had any intimate duties like vet visits to worry about, but a vet was exactly what the cat needed. Jongdae shifted on his hip to pull out his phone again, holding the cat gently so it wouldn't roll, and scrolled through his contacts until he found his cousin.

"You're gonna be fine. My cousin can help," Jongdae soothed, rubbing the cat's cheek with a knuckle.

Joonmyun was, understandably, more worried about his cousin when told that Jongdae had seen a group beating up a cat in an alley, but his concern tripled when he saw the teeny animal in Jongdae's arms. He leaned over the passenger seat and pushed open the door. "How is it?"

Jongdae shrugged and buckled his seatbelt carefully. "Asleep. I dunno. He hasn't really said anything since we've been here. He was meowing a lot, earlier."

"We'll go to Yixing. He's my vet friend."

Jongdae nodded and crossed his arms around the cat more securely. He remembered hearing that cats like close spaces. Maybe it'd get some kind of comfort from being in Jongdae's arms and hearing his heartbeat.

"What are you planning on doing with it?" Joonmyun checked traffic twice before pulling away from the curb.

"Dunno. I just want to help him." His cousin eyed him a little skeptically, but he didn't comment further. They chatted about work and weekend plans until Joonmyun announced they were close to the animal hospital.

It wasn't as large as a human hospital, but it was a spacious block building with long parking lot and awning for cars to pass under when dropping off emergency patients. Joonmyun drove around to the back of the building, where a single white sedan sat in the circle of light from a bare bulb attached to the brick building beside a door marked EMPLOYEES ONLY.

Joonmyun opened the passenger door for Jongdae as the back entrance opened, and Zhang Yixing greeted them with a warm, if tired, smile.

Like Joonmyun, Yixing worked late. He was a vet tech and stayed after the veterinarians to be sure the animals boarded overnight were comfortable and that animals recovering from surgeries were healing well.

Jongdae got out as carefully as he could and walked with his eyes on the sleeping cat the whole way to the exam room Yixing ushered them into.

The tech smiled kindly and held out his hands, silently asking permission to take the cat from Jongdae.

"He doesn't feel too light, at least," Yixing commented. "He's well fed." The cat woke up and meowed, crouching low on the scale it was set on. It was wide awake, eyes big and round and looking everywhere, muscles tensed to flee if given the chance. Jongdae knelt by the exam table and wiggled his fingers for the cat's attention.

"You're just at the vet. My cousin knows this guy; he won't hurt you. I won't let him." He kept talking or humming the whole time Yixing performed his examination, mumbling to himself and spinning around to grab swabs, syringes, gauze, and to tap his findings into the computer.

"Congratulations, he's a boy," Yixing announced as he finished, releasing the cat's tail. It tucked between its legs. Jongdae laughed at its offended expression. "He appears to be healthy, except for the cuts and injured ear, but I want to put him under for some x-rays."

The cat's fur bristled, and it hissed with such ferocity that Joonmyun tugged Yixing back a couple feet. "Jongdae!"

Jongdae dumbly held out his hand, trying to block the cat's vision or overwhelm it with his smell or something, he wasn't sure. "Hey! Shhh. C'mon, kitty. You've been so good. Just relax. This one last thing, and then you can sleep, okay? I promise you'll feel better. You're safe. You're going to be okay." The cat muttered something but looked resigned. Three humans against one injured cat were poor odds, and even the cat seemed to realise it. "You've got some mean lungs, though, man," he joked.

Yixing explained the process of scanning an animal to Joonmyun, trying to assure his friend that he knew exactly what he was doing and wouldn't get in trouble with his boss unless someone tattled. Jongdae tuned out the back-and-forth exchange and knelt on the linoleum beside the exam table. He started to hum again, petting the cat's cheek with a finger because that was the only place he thought was safe from injury.

"Could you bring him to the other room? He trusts you more." Yixing held open the door when Jongdae had the cat in his arms. A tiny mask was prepped and slipped over the cat's face when Jongdae set him on the table, and golden eyes slowly closed drowsily. "This won't take long. Step away, please."

The images emerged on a computer screen, showing ghostly white outlines of bones. With the anesthesia off and mask removed, Jongdae cautiously pet the cat while Yixing examined the x-rays and announced a relatively clean bill of health.

"There's nothing broken, which is good. If he's fidgety, that could be bruising, so handle him gently. He's strong. Doesn't seem to be in a lot of pain." He offered a finger to the cat, who nudged it sleepily with his nose. "He's lucky," Yixing concluded. The cat succumbed to sleep, covered in bandages but alive and clean.

"Can I take him home?"

Joonmyun touched his arm. "Jongdae, you've never cared for a cat. Does your building even allow animals?"

Jongdae nodded, eyes never leaving the cat. "I don't want to leave him."

Yixing smiled. "I understand. You'll need some things, then..." He waved for Jongdae to follow. The storeroom of the office had various foods, extra dishes, pet beds, everything essential a pet parent could need. Yixing grabbed a clean litter pan and set a bag of food inside, along with a brush and dishes. "About half a cup of litter in the pan—watch for any blood or signs of distress—and maybe let him sleep on one of your shirts. You're his constant right now, so smelling you while in any new environment will make him more comfortable."

He hadn't been asleep for all that long when he's dragged from his dreams of thugs in alleyways covered in fur and blood.

The clock read 1:24 AM. He had to be up in five hours.

With a yawn, he shifted in bed to roll onto his stomach and rolled entirely off his bed when a loud, broken sob punched through this eardrums.

He didn't have a room mate; he knew he closed all his windows, to keep the cat from trying to escape and get hurt more.

Maybe he left the TV on.

He didn't have a TV.

His laptop sat on the desk alongside his bed, closed and asleep, power light blinking on and off.

Once he heard whimpering, he untangled himself from his blankets and crept to his door. No burglar would cry after breaking in, and even if they did, Jongdae could probably talk them into turning themselves in.

But there was no burglar.

When Jongdae peeked into the main room of his one-bedroom apartment, he only saw a young man on his couch, struggling with bandages around his torso and arm that were much too tight and straining.

Not much thought was given to running to the kitchen for scissors and cutting the bandages away. A few cuts, and they pulled apart on their own, allowing the man to breathe deep and gingerly feel his wounds with discoloured fingers.

Bruises covered his body. His skin was more purple than pale, and Jongdae's own breath got caught in his chest when he noticed the cut running diagonally across the man's nose and the stitches where his left earlobe used to connect with cartilage. He gingerly sat on the floor and stared at the stuttering but steady rise and fall of the man's chest.

"Hey... You grew a bit more than I expected."

The man laughed briefly before whining in pain. "My name's Kim Minseok."

"Kim Jongdae. It's...nice to meet you."

"If only circumstances were different." Minseok held a hand to his ribs, struggling to sit upright. Jongdae stood on his knees to help him, more catching his shoulders and situating him against the back of the sofa.

"Can I, uh, get you anything?" Beneath the bruising was a handsome face and compact, muscular body. If Jongdae were a lesser man, he'd be ashamed to admit that he found the stranger quite attractive. He owned up to his feelings, however, and grabbed for the afghan his grandma had knit him for Christmas one year to drape over the man's lap.

"A bucket. I'm going to be sick."

Jongdae never moved so fast in his life. He grabbed the trash bin from the kitchen, yanked the bag out, and dropped the bin beside Minseok just as he pitched forward and retched. Thankfully—or not, Jongdae was no doctor—there was nothing in Minseok stomach to come up, so after some choking and spitting out whatever needed to be spit out, he sighed and sat back with a sour grimace.

"It never gets easier."

Jongdae pushed the bin aside, making a mental note to bleach it later. "This is normal?"

"For me, yeah. Far as I can remember," he waved down at himself, "it's been like this."

"Well. That" Jongdae did not know what to do. Nothing made sense. The cat he picked up turned into a naked man. He wasn't prepared for a naked man. He had kitty litter and kibble. A man was easier to bathe, at least. That did make sense. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you kind of stink." He half-grinned, pleased when Minseok scoffed. "If I run a bath, would you try to not drown in it?"

"No promises."

"Atta boy." Jongdae spoke while walking to his bedroom. "You can sleep on my bed; I'll change the sheets and find you something to wear." He stood and held his shirt hem from himself, gauging his size compared to the heap of Minseok on his couch. Close enough in size. "Can you walk?"

He could hear the grunts and sharp breaths as his unusual guest struggled to his feet. "Yeah... Not fast, but I'm mobile."

Jongdae dropped some towels and clothes on the empty towel rack in the bathroom, spun the handle to a midway-scalding temperature and flipped it to cold when the tub was half full. "Soap and all that's here. If you need anything—"

"I'll be fine, thank you." The blanket Minseok held around his shoulders slipped a little, and Jongdae's stomach dropped to his feet. He tried to make the situation as light as possible, to make Minseok at least a little comfortable, but along with the numerous bruises, white lines marred his back and neck. Some were long, like scratches, and others were short, like stabs. His own back tensed and itched looking at the marks, so Jongdae offered a fast bow and closed the door behind him.

"I-I'll check on you in half an hour, okay?"

The thank you in reply was soft and muted through the door, but it gave Jongdae a bit of peace.

He spent a few minutes clearing his room of any potentially embarrassing and/or incriminating items, stashing them deep in his closet, and then he rummaged through his kitchenette for something more wholesome than cup ramen. Jongdae didn't realise he was avoiding the bathroom until he caught himself staring at the door, sitting opposite it on the nest of blankets he made on the sofa. He removed his contacts and rubbed at his eyes before squinting at the clock on his DVD player.

It almost wasn't worth going to sleep, anymore.

"Minseok?" Jongdae knocked on the door. "You okay?" There was no answer, not even a splash of movement. "Minseok?" He opened the door a crack.

Minseok's head was tilted back on the edge of the tub, lips parted slightly as he breathed, low and even.

"Hey, c'mon. Sleep in bed." Jongdae wasn't sure if Minseok even woke up, exactly, but he moved readily as Jongdae gingerly helped him to his feet, out of the tub—fresh scabs were already soft and pale pink—and wrapped a towel around him. Without opening his eyes, Minseok took the clothing handed to him, dressed himself—without tripping, which impressed Jongdae—and shuffled beside Jongdae to his host's bedroom.

"Good night." Jongdae drained the bathtub, put the food he'd pulled out back in their cupboards and cabinets, and flopped onto the sofa. Three hours until he had to be up again. He'd just call in for a personal day. Joonmyun would understand.

Exhaustion pulled him into a dreamless sleep, but whimpering and crying woke him again. The clock read early, earlier than Jongdae could remember ever wanting to witness, but concern cut through crabbiness, and he peered into his room.

It was dark, blinds and curtains closed, but he could see enough to notice the lack of body in his bed.

A lump shuffled beneath the blankets, meowing. Jongdae sighed and pulled them back. Comfort overcame manners, and he sat cross-legged on his bed, carefully lifted Minseok the cat, and laid down with him on his chest and a hand curled over his back. With each breath, he could feel the shudder as Minseok dealt with the pain.

Everything was internal, all the pain, which Jongdae had no idea how to handle, but music seemed to offer some comfort to Minseok.

Rubbing his thumb up and down the cat's spine, Jongdae sang softly until he fell asleep.

Joonmyun understood when Jongdae called him—later than he intended, sleeping with a warm cat was better than he ever anticipated—and even suggested taking a couple days off. "The cat's probably scared out of his mind. Take some time and make sure he's safe, feed him, get him used to you."

"Yeah, that sounds good." Jongdae wasn't about to mention the shape-shifting events of his evening. He didn't understand it, and he doubted his cousin would, either. "He's sleeping, at least, which is good."

"You sound tired."

He was. "I'm fine. Just a long night."

"Get some sleep. Enjoy the time off. I'll have a pile of work for you when you're back."

"You have the strangest way of expressing sympathy," Jongdae hummed. They hung up, and Jongdae pushed his phone under his pillow again.

Minseok, still a cat, slept peacefully between his arm and side, curled into a ball with his tail over his hip. The growl of Jongdae's stomach didn't even make an ear twitch, so Jongdae felt it safe enough to slip away and make himself something to eat.

When Minseok didn't stir for a solid three hours, Jongdae slipped away again to buy enough food for two human-people, since he doubted Minseok would appreciate dry cat food.

He might found out if Minseok ever woke up again.

"If I'd known he was going to sleep for so long, I could've gone to work," he commented to his phone the following morning. Predictably, it had no response, although it did buzz with a text reply from his friends Baekhyun and then Chanyeol, expressing surprise and betrayal that Jongdae would bow out of their epic evening plans over a furball. The gall of him.

"Tough nuts, losers. I've found someone who appreciates me and my gift. Which is me. I am the gift." He ignored their replies to check on Minseok again. With how often he walked to his bedroom and back to the living room, he expected to see a worn track in the floorboards soon.

But Minseok the cat was finally awake, washing his paws and face. All clean, he was a pretty, solid black, with long grey whiskers and pink paw pads.

"Sleeping beauty." Minseok paused mid-lick and promptly dropped his paw, tail flicking over his feet. "Welcome to a new day. You hungry?"

Minseok yowled and hopped to the floor, leading the way to the kitchen and inviting himself onto one of the two chairs at the small table.

"I'd picked up hamburgers, yesterday, but I didn't want to wake you up." He pulled a patty off the bun and microwaved it on a plate.

Jongdae visited the zoo once, as a kid, and a tiger was being fed. A zoo worker tied a string to the meat and tugged it a bit to simulate live prey. Like the rest of the ten-year-old kids standing around the den, feet on the lowest bar of the divider to see better, Jongdae was filled with morbid excitement as the big cat stalked, pounced, incapacitated, and devoured its butchered prey.

Seeing Minseok tuck into the burger patty, it was like a scaled-down version of the wild. He was almost afraid for his well-being. Almost. If push came to claw, he was positive he could fend off a hungry house cat.

His positivity crashed to the floor, along with the shelf of possibly expired condiments, when Jongdae opened the refrigerator door. Minseok's back arched behind him, and he hissed. It must have acted as some sort of rocket propellant, because Jongdae barely registered the shriek when sharp pins dug into his shoulder, the weight of the launched body pushing Jongdae against the door.

"Minseok!" Jongdae spun, throwing the growling cat off, and clutched his shoulder, grimacing at the ribbons of his shirt, wet with blood, bunched beneath his fingers. He's not a crier, usually, but seeing the blood on his hand just intensified the pain.

Minseok cowered over his paws, gold eyes wide and ears flat. He carefully lifted a paw, leaving a red paw print on the floor. His body spasmed, as if he was about to hoark up a hairball, but he turned tail and ran from the kitchen, little prints mapping his course into Jongdae's room and under his bed.

After showering and pulling a muscle trying to put ointment on the scratches down his shoulder, Jongdae laid on his bed and waited for Minseok to come out. He balanced his laptop on his stomach, singing along to top 40 videos and scrolling through social media sites.

Eventually, he heard movement under his bed. A lump slithered under the blankets partially on the floor and was still for some moments until a heart-breaking whine had Jongdae pushing his laptop aside and sitting upright.

The whine nearly rose to a wail, cut off by a gasping sob as the lump shifted, thrashed, and changed. It grew, pops and cracks drawing out goosebumps along Jongdae's whole body. He almost bolted for the door to find help. Joonmyun came to mind, then Yixing, who both showed kindness to Minseok as a cat, but how would they react to such a grotesque transformation?

"I'm so sorry." Minseok's voice pitched low, miserable and ashamed. He sat on the floor with his back against the bed and dragged the blankets from his head, letting them fall down his chest and legs.

That he apologised for something he probably couldn't control had a funny feeling settling in Jongdae's chest.

"Did you clean it?"

He sighed heavily and forced a smile. His shoulder still stung. "Yeah. The shower helped. I'll be fine. Scars are badass, right?" He nearly face-palmed, remembering the scars littering Minesok's skin.

"I am sorry." Minseok swallowed thickly and tried to breathe. His nose and throat felt congested and heavy.

Jongdae rocked forward, tugging the clothes Minseok had left behind when he became a cat and offered them with a small smile.

Once Minseok was dressed, he stretched a bit until he felt like he could move without dropping on his face in pain. "I didn't mean to attack you. It's what I was conditioned for."

Jongdae patted the spot beside him, and they reclined side-by-side against the headboard. Not talking made Minseok more chatty, he learned, as he silently nodded and cued Minseok to continue.

"I was a subject of an experiment. I was considered a success. So they told me, anyway, when they'd decide to talk to me. Disguising a soldier as something...ordinary. Harmless. No one thinks their house pet will hurt them, not on purpose. With every loud sound, they..." Minseok trailed off, staring at nothing somewhere between his nose and the far wall. Sweat gleamed across his forehead. "They just trained me to react. Not to think. Didn't matter who they set me up against."

"Wow." Words escaped him. He watched Minseok play with his fingers, lacing and unlacing them while occasionally picking at an old scab on his knuckle. "So, did you escape?"

Minseok blinked, brought back to the present. "What?"

"Did you escape?"

"No. They let me go." Minseok tucked a finger behind his ear, pushing his hair off his neck and turning his back towards Jongdae. "See the raised bump on my neck?" It was small, about the size of a grain of rice and whiter than the surrounding skin. Above it, the number ninety-nine was inked. "I think they're tracking me. The last one they used was in my arm, but I took it out." That scar sat jagged and uneven, thicker than the rest. For some reason, Jongdae wanted to touch it; his fingertips somehow felt the ghost of soft skin beneath them. He tucked his hands under his thighs, just in case.

They sat quietly, then, the only sound coming from the laptop speakers. Minseok stared at nothing and Jongdae stared at Minseok.

All they could do was wait.

Not Jongdae's strongest trait, but it sometimes paid off.

Minseok spoke again. "Do me a favour?"


"Leave the music on." He pushed his hands into the mattress and lifted his hips to slide down the bed, rolling onto his front to hug a pillow to his face. "Sing if you want, I don't mind." He turned his head away. "Your voice is nice."

Jongdae nodded, although Minseok couldn't see him, and advanced his YouTube playlist to a ballad he loved. Music had charms to soothe a savage breast, after all.