acatwhowrites: (Default)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2016-11-12 06:52 pm

Home Is Where the Cat Is

title: Home Is Where the Cat Is
players: Wu Yifan/Kris, Byun Baekhyun
rating: G
word count: 2,015w
summary: Yifan loves Baekhyun more than he's annoyed by him, and the prince can be pretty darn annoying.
a/n: I love cats. This prompt spoke to me, and the title is for me. I finished it pretty quick, but I kept tweaking it and changing it until I was pleased.

I want to continue this au, but I don't know when I will, because of the other fics I'm writing for other fests/exchanges.

Written for the second krisbaek fest.
Read on: AFF || AO3 || LJ

News of Prince Baekhyun's birth reaches the farthest reaches of the kingdom, inciting both panic and excitement and sending people scurrying to find suitable gifts and offerings for their future king.

Within the castle walls, beneath the main floors—nearer the kitchens, where it's warm and comfortably noisy—the palace cats are addressed by a kindly smiling woman. She's old, face lined and weathered, but all the cats know her since day one in the castle, and they welcome her company and words.

"A prince is born," she says, stroking the hair of an older cat. "I think the greatest gift any of us could offer the prince would be friendship." Her cloudy eyes rest on the youngest cat, still just a kitten himself, and he shrinks back behind his mother's legs and hides his face in her tail.

"I think that's a lovely thought, Mother," the kitten's mother comments, and she gently combs her blunt nails between his little ears. "You can do it, Yifan. You'll be great friends. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone to play with?"

He doesn't want to play with anyone. He wants to stay near the kitchens, near his mom and Mother, but he nods, because it seems that's what's expected, and once the processions and baptisms and celebrations have died down, and the little prince is taken to his nursery and rests against the breast of a nurse, Mother knocks on the door and guides Yifan inside.

The prince is tiny, strangely hairless, and hasn't even opened his eyes, yet. Yifan thinks he's pretty ugly—he even says so, before he claps his hands over his mouth—and the women chuckle. His tail tucks between his knees; he didn't mean to say it aloud.

Cautiously, he pokes at the little bundle, and the prince mumbles and coos. Yifan strokes the tiny fingers and marvels at the perfect little fingernails, and he smiles widely when the tiny fingers wrap around his own.

Tail swaying, he falls in love with the little prince in his nursery.

Yifan sees Baekhyun open his eyes for the first time; he follows—from a safe, unassuming distance—as Baekhyun begins to crawl, and he catches Baekhyun when he takes his first toddling steps. He's there for everything, and no one is quite sure if the palace cat or the palace prince is more excited. Mentioning Yifan's name, Baekhyun's eyes will light up, and he'll say "Kitty! Fan kitty!"

For all his love for the prince and playing with him, Yifan's still a cat. Cats need naps. Since Baekhyun began to walk and run, Yifan's had to get a bit more creative with his sunning and napping spots. Simply being higher than eye-height no longer cuts it once the prince is three years old.

If it was just the prince, Yifan is positive he could hide someplace and get a full catnap in, but around the same time Baekhyun is born, a couple palace servants have sons as well, so not only does Yifan end up watching the prince, but he has a whole triage to keep an eye on. Just the prince is a handful; once Jongdae and Chanyeol are up and dressed and fed, they're all running through the gardens and halls and think it's great fun to find "Fan kitty's" nap spots and get him to play.

Baekhyun perfects his royal tone pretty quick, standing as tall as a toddler can and demanding "Fan kitty! Down!" If no one but the kids are around, he is okay with ignoring the prince's command. Baekhyun doesn't let being ignored stop him from finding something fun. He thinks the tail that never stops moving looks like a grand toy, but Yifan seems to know when things are near, and it'll curl out of reach.

Once, Baekhyun manages to capture Yifan's tail and pulls. It hurts, sending a shock of nothing straight up Yifan's spine followed by the worst pain he's ever felt, and he hisses at the prince, tearing his tail from the tiny hands and checking that it's still attached.

Prince Baekhyun is shocked still and very, very quiet.

Then he opens his mouth and wails, high and long moans of devastating heartbreak that bring all of the servants into the hall. Baekhyun's scooped up and checked over; Yifan's automatically scolded, but the prince wails even louder when they try to carry him away from Yifan. He kicks and screams and squirms and reaches for Yifan like he will actually die if Yifan is mad or leaves him.

The cat's tail is still attached and fully furred; he forgives Baekhyun immediately and holds out his arms. Baekhyun practically jumps into him, latching onto him with chubby arms and legs and wipes snot and tears into his neck and shirt.

Baekhyun's the one who tells Chanyeol not to touch Yifan's tail and swats Jongdae's reaching hands when the twitching ebony ears are just too much to resist. "Only I can touch!" he declares, and that's that, because when Yifan's happy, he purrs, and there's nothing Baekhyun loves more than the tickle of vibrations and how the cat practically melts when pet just right.

In their early adolescence, Jongdae and Chanyeol are sent off to apprenticeships, and even Baekhyun is sent off to a boarding school for noble children. He isn't allowed to take Yifan with him and cries for three days. Yifan keeps a strong outward appearance, but he's seen up in the fruit trees, because he's already too big to fit under the cool ovens in the kitchens.

It's quiet without the terrible trio and their incessant laughter and noise. They're worse than the royal hounds, a pack of baying Beagles, and Yifan tells himself he's much happier with the newfound peace, but he spends a lot of time up in the trees or in palace windows, anyplace with a high vantage point where he can watch all of the roads to and from the palace.

He meanders the halls aimlessly, as though looking for something that's really hard to find. Mother always welcomes him quietly, arthritic hand petting his hair as they sit in one another's calm company, or she recalls stories from past kings, when she was little or things she was told by her own grandmother.

"My family has always served the royal family," she says. "Since my grandmother's own grandmother, we've been here. Kings are born and die. Princes grow up and go to school, become kings themselves. They always come home, though." Yifan opens his eyes a little, head cushioned on his crossed arms over the worn tabletop. "All we can do is wait and welcome them back with open arms."

Yifan's nineteen years old when he hears about the prince's return. It's just for a visit, but there will be a huge ball to welcome him back, and the queen chatters excitedly to her maids with questions and musings about what her son will have learned, if he'll have grown much, and if they fed him enough. The cat thinks he's been forgotten and makes to slink out of the kitchen halls to his new place on the roof when a couple maids snag his arms and drag him into a washroom, efficiently stripping him and dunking a bucket of water—just a shade too hot for his taste—over his head and finally pushing him into a bathtub of scented water.

"He's probably forgotten me. It's been years," he grouses as one maid takes a sponge to his back and neck. He forces down the purr when her fingers rub shampoo into his hair.

"You're his best friend. Of course he'll want to see you, and what do you think he'll think if you show up covered in dirt and sweat?" The maid chuckles. "He'll either fire all of us or order you into the bath, anyway."

Yifan doesn't see the humour. He's too nervous. Last time he saw Prince Baekhyun, the boy stood at his shoulders and was pink-cheeked from crying all night into Yifan's pajama shirt. If Baekhyun has forgotten him, what is Yifan supposed to do? He's just a palace cat. He has no real place or status without Baekhyun.

After his bath, he's dried and dressed and ordered to not just sneak off to nap somewhere, because the prince will be there any minute.

Yifan sneaks off when everyone's backs are turned and climbs the stairs in the front building up to where a door opened to a wraparound balcony. He shades his eyes from the sun, sees nothing but the usual scenery decked out in spring blossoms, and turns to the door. The roof is curved and covered in dark green tile; he can't reach it without climbing the ornate wall, but he's developed toned arms from climbing trees, and his tail helps him stay balanced. It's a bit of sweaty work, but there's a cool, fragrant breeze when his head peeks over the edge.

Hauling himself up, with tail jerks and stiff sways, and he wrinkles his nose at how close he'd been to grabbing a handful of bird poop and climbs to the peak of the little tower. It's enough of a slant to settle in a comfortable recline.

He lies under the late afternoon sun. It's deliciously warm, and there's a cool breeze that carries the scents of the garden up over the rooftop. Birds sing and gossip in the trees. There's soft conversation throughout the castle, barely picked up even by Yifan's sensitive ears. Birds sing in the trees, and a couple bees buzz by. Soon, he's comfortably stretched out and fast asleep.

He thinks it's a dream when someone starts yelling his name. Stretching, his fingers brush one of the decorative pieces along the ridge of the roof, hot from cooking under the sun. He hisses and sits up, shaking his hand and checking for burn blisters.

He hears his name again, and his heart leaps into his throat. He knows that tone.

"Yifan!" Baekhyun calls. "Come down here!"

Yifan crosses his arms over the edge and settles his chin on his forearms, ears upright and cheekily alert to the prince's whining. "No."

Baekhyun can probably just see the jut of elbows over the edge of the roof, but it's much too high to even jump and try to catch. "If you don't come down, I will come up."

Yifan scoffs and rolls his eyes. His sharp ears catch the sound of a scuffling, a grunt, and then he sees fingers grip the edge of the roof and scrambles to his knees to grasp the prince around his wrists and haul him up onto the rooftop a safe distance from the edge.

He can still lift him easily, but there's more to Baekhyun than when he left, wider shoulders and longer legs. He's still shorter than Yifan—most people are, Yifan grew into a very lanky cat—standing eye-level to Yifan's chin, but his face is the same. Expressive, bright eyes and peaked mouth with a tiny mole to the side of his upper lip.

"Aw, Yifan," Baekhyun sing-songs with a coy smile, "I knew you cared—" He flinches when he's suddenly pulled forward, wrapped in a strong embrace with his face smothered against Yifan's chest. Yifan holds him on his lap like when they were little, purring loudly and nuzzling into the prince's hair. His tail quivers beside his thigh, lifting and falling with twitches that betray his excitement even more than the thunderous purrs.

Baekhyun turns his head to press his cheek against Yifan's shoulder just so he can breathe, and he reaches around the cat with both arms. His fingers barely hook together; he grips Yifan's shirt, instead. It's a bit sweaty from lying on the warm tile, but he doesn't mind.

Somewhere below them, people are looking for the prince. Nestled in Yifan's arms under the late afternoon sun, Baekhyun's finally home.

Yifan places a kiss atop Baekhyun's head and breathes in the familiar scent he's memorised since childhood. "Welcome back, Highness."