acatwhowrites: (Xiumin♡Poufsouffle represent)
A Cat Who Writes ([personal profile] acatwhowrites) wrote2017-03-24 05:11 pm

One Day at a Time

title: One Day at a Time
players: Kim Minseok/Xiumin, Oh Sehun
rating: G
word count: 4,375w
warning/s: minor character death
summary: Minseok admits he's not the biggest animal person in general, but he likes cats well enough, and they all have seemed to like him, too. All of them except for his own.
a/n: Originally written for the seokmonsters event. (Prompt #119 Minseok doesn't remember ordering a catboy, and he thought they'd be a little more affectionate than his catboy Sehun, is. )
Read on: AFF || AO3 || LJ

Minseok is pretty easy-going. He really is. He likes things orderly and in their place, likes plans, but he's flexible. He can handle unexpected things, within reason.

Unfortunately, his friends have yet to grasp this.

His name is Sehun. Happy birthday! The video freezes on his friends' smiling faces, and Minseok sighs. Across from him, a tall, slender, fair-haired boy sits stoically on the front edge of an armchair. Tall, triangular ears sit rigidly atop his head, twitching and rotating at the ticking of the wall clock and humming of the refrigerator but flipping back to every shuffle and sigh Minseok makes as he processes his friends' thought processes and decisions. A long pale tail hangs beside his calf, moving just enough to suggest life.

Sehun is a young, male, feline hybrid. A birthday "gift" presented to him via messenger by his supposedly well-meaning friends who believe he needs more socialisation, because work and school do not count. Minseok isn't a social butterfly; he plays soccer with a recreational league through his college, hits some bars on the weekends, and gets dragged around by his friends to whatever party or event they're interested in, and he's perfectly fine with that. He doesn't feel the need to be constantly on the go or in contact with people. He's not unfriendly, he's just comfortable with his own company and enjoys not having constant headaches.

"I'm sorry for the cool welcome," he finally says. Sehun flinches; his tail curls and flips up over his knee. "My friends brought you here without my knowing." He's out of his apartment for easily ten hours a day, plenty of time for Zhang Yixing and Lu Han to get into his home with the spare key they'd made and hang out during the adoption visits. "Please don't feel that you're not wanted. I'm just...not prepared." He's never had a room mate, even when living on campus. His rooms were either single or he was the sole occupant.

"It's...fine." Sehun voice is soft, withdrawn, but pleasantly even and pitched low. It hits Minseok's chest pretty hard, though, because now that the cat's here, Minseok wants him to feel welcome and at home. He's read about hybrid placement; it's just as difficult to place older ones as it is to place older animals. Everyone wants babies.

"Did anyone show you around?" Sehun shakes his head and shrugs a shoulder. "Come on. I'll give you the tour, short as it'll be." Minseok stands, and Sehun follows silently. Sitting down, he looked tall, but standing, Sehun absolutely towers over Minseok. His arms and legs and torso are long, but he's probably on the tail end of growing into them, because he doesn't move awkwardly like Minseok remembers Chanyeol doing, when he was growing up.

There's a respectable distance between them as Minseok points out the remotes for the TV, consoles, and stereo. The kitchen cabinets reach the ceiling, and Sehun can reach them easier than Minseok. Emergency numbers, lists of reminders, and a copy of Minseok's schedule decorate the side of the refrigerator facing the door to the balcony. "I always keep it locked, out of habit, but only birds and cats have made it, so it doesn't really matter. Just make sure the door is closed when it rains or snows."

The bedrooms face one another. Minseok kept the second room as a guest room for those times when his friends were too tired or drunk to go home. It's simple and clean. "Feel free do do whatever you want to it. Painting is allowed. I have hooks that stick to the walls to hang things from. If you want, there's a shopping centre a bus ride away."

He points out his room but doesn't open the door. The bathroom is next to the Sehun's room while Minseok's room backs a hall closet neatly stocked with cleaning supplies, towels, and bedsheets.

It takes all of ten minutes to lead Sehun through his home, and they return to the front living room. Minseok takes Sehun's suitcase and backpack, and the catboy follows him like an enlarged shadow to the second bedroom. "Take some time to get settled. Explore. Look in cabinets. Ask if there's anything you need or if you just have questions, okay?" He looks up to the boy's face, but he keeps his eyes to the side, tail limp behind him and ears facing outwards.

Minseok checks his watch. "I'll order some food, now. Unfortunately, this is poor timing on my part. There's a speaker I have to go to for school. You'd be more than welcome to come with, but I'm afraid it'll be really boring, unless you're interesting in architecture and housing?"

Sehun shakes his head and shrugs.

"Well, follow me quick. We'll find something you like to eat. All of these places are pretty much in the neighourhood, so it won't take long to get here." All of the takeout menus are neatly stacked and held with a magnetic clip on the fridge. "You want to look, or do you want something in particular?" He fans the pamphlets out. Sehun leans over his shoulder a little. Minseok sees the end of his tail as it weaves behind him, showing much more life at the mention of food.


"Sushi?" Minseok tucks the rest of the menus back into their clip and opens the Japanese food menu on the counter. "You like fish?"

Sehun shrugs, ears back. "It's okay, I guess."

"Well, pick what you want. Don't feel like you have to hold back."

Minseok almost regrets saying that when he pays the delivery girl over 23000 won, but Sehun's ears are forward, and his tail is moving more, again, as he investigates the boxes in the plastic bags, so Minseok decides it's worth it.

Sehun's right behind him once the delivery girl has pocketed payment and thanked them for their patronage. Minseok closes the door and almost walks right into his shoulder. "Sehun, please don't just stand there. Eat in the kitchen." He gently pushes Sehun forward with a hand on his lower back. It seemed safe enough, and Sehun doesn't say anything or resist.

The microwave clock says Minseok's pushing it if he wants to get to the conference room and get a decent seat. "I'll probably be back late, but I'll try and skip out on the socialising after the talk, okay?" He walks to the front closet and shrugs on a coat. A scarf hangs on another hanger; he picks up the jacket that had fallen and rehangs it, draping the scarf over his neck.

Sehun has everything laid out, lids stacked in the sink. His shoulders hunch forward a little. "You're not eating any of this?"

"I would, but I'm going to be late. I'm sorry. Like I said, this was poor timing on my part." He feels bad; he really does, but he can't just drop his life or routine. His keys jingle in his pocket. His phone is still in his back pocket. "My weekend's completely free. We can figure more out, then, okay?"

The catboy shrugs and nods, looking much less enthused about the food now that he's eating alone.

The first morning after Sehun's unexpected arrival, Minseok wakes up at his usual 5:30 AM and shuffles to the kitchen. It's his most vulnerable time, before both his coffee and shower, and it's still pretty dark out. Ambient light from the city softens the shadows of the kitchen and illuminates the room enough for Minseok to notice the neat stack of rinsed and dry takeout containers sitting beside the sink.

He tosses them into the paper bag of recyclables he keeps under the sink and winces at the sore pull of his lumbar muscles. It's been a while since he worked out or even went for a run. Classes and work keep him busy and tired. Both great reasons against adopting anything like a catboy, but his friends didn't follow the same paths of logic.

Both Lu Han and Yixing had texted Minseok the night before, eager to hear about Sehun and how they were adjusted. Neither sounded pleased at the short replies, but Yixing was supportive and hopeful. It takes time to adjust, he wrote. I think you'll get along very well.

Minseok appreciates the vote of confidence, but the more he thinks about it, the more he thinks of things to do and explain and prepare with his feline-featured roommate.

It's nothing to contemplate over an empty stomach, he decides. Sehun was sound asleep when Minseok returned last night, and there's no sound coming from his room now, so he must still be asleep. An egg and toast is fine for just Minseok.

In the light from the open refrigerator, he catches sight of something glowing out of the corner of his eye. His heart jumps to his throat, choking a gasp out of him, and his hand drops the bag of bread before his sleep-fogged mind can catch up.

He bumps the door closed with his hip and whacks the lightswitch with his hand as the glowing things disappear in a deep squint.

"Sehun! You scared me!" Hybrid eyes have the same glow-in-the-dark quality as regular cats. Minseok didn't know, and now he feels embarrassed. "What are you doing up?"

"I heard you get up. I didn't want to sleep too late."

"Oh, that's...that's okay, Sehun." He bends to pick up the bread. Thankfully, it's neither breakable nor messy. His back cracks as he stands upright again. "I get up early, out of habit. You can sleep in until whenever. Take some time to adjust; this is a new thing for you." Sehun said he'd heard Minseok get up. Did that mean he followed Minseok into the kitchen? He hadn't heard a thing. The hybrid's still wearing his pajamas, loose cotton pants and a worn raglan T-shirt with something too faded to read. He's barefoot, too, and his hair is sticking up in the front, as though he'd been sleeping with his face in his pillow.

"Are you making breakfast?"

"Yes. I meant to ask you what you ate, if you had preferences or allergies. I spent some time overseas, in Europe, so I kind of adopted more of their food culture when it comes to coffee and breakfast." He smiles, trying to ease the tense line of his room mate's shoulders. "Cooking rice properly takes too long, now, it seems."

Sehun nods and leaves, closing the door to his room and leaving Minseok alone in his kitchen with a bag of bread still in his hand.

Was it something I said? he wonders, pushing the bread to the back of the counter, beside a small two-slice toaster. He grabs the last of his onions and a bag of deli ham from the fridge, using them as a barrier to keep the eggs he sets on the counter from rolling to the floor. It's indiscernible until something round is on a supposedly flat surface, but Minseok's building is slightly tilted.

He doesn't think of much while chopping onions. When his mind wanders, it goes so far the thoughts escape him, letting him work in a sort of subconscious trance. Scraping the onion aside, he cuts some ham into small squares and turns to grab a pan from the wall but hits something.

Just like before, Sehun appears out of nowhere. Minseok hadn't heard a thing or seen any sort of movement; the catboy is just inexplicably right at his shoulder.

"Sehun! I didn't see you; I'm sorry." He's dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans but no slippers. His hair hasn't been combed, sitting soft and messy from pulling shirts off and on. Minseok holds up an egg in his hand and the pan in the other. "Do you eat eggs? I was just planning on rolled eggs and toast..."

Sehun shrugs and nods, face otherwise impassive. He stays at Minseok's shoulder, however, and shows more interest once the oil Minseok pours into the pan sizzles a bit. Five eggs are cracked one-handed, the only real cooking trick Minseok knows—which he learned from an Audrey Hepburn movie—and are whisked until frothy and uniformly yellow. Turning up the heat a little, Minseok pours the eggs into the pan. The heat makes the cooking eggs spit and pop, each sound making the catboy flinch.

Minseok stirs the eggs some more and lets them sit. He can't reach through Sehun for the filling. "Hand me the cutting board, please." Sehun blinks, lost in a trance like Minseok was while chopping onions, and passes the cutting board. Minseok leaves bits of ham behind and pretend he doesn't see Sehun pick them off.

In a moment of inspiration, Minseok opens the cabinet over his head and takes down a can of tuna. Sehun's ears sit forward and interested; he practically looms over Minseok while he dumps the white meat over the pale yellow eggs.

He must not have added enough oil, although it's also an old pan from his mom; the egg doesn't want to lift when he starts to roll it. "It's stuck!"

"Just scramble it."

It's the most Sehun's said thus far, and by how attentively he's watching the spatula in Minseok's hand, he probably doesn't even know he said anything at all. Minseok takes the advice and stirs the egg until everything is cooked through and fluffy.

"Have a seat. I'll finish in a minute." Sehun quietly sits on a stool across the counter and leans on crossed arms. Minseok can see Sehun's tail waving behind him as he drops two slices of bread into the toaster and puts the bag back into the refrigerator.

The toaster pops and dings, offering up golden bread that Minseok just lays across the eggs he split onto either plate—both because he doesn't care about plating techniques and to hide the larger pile of food on Sehun's plate. The boy looks too skinny.

"Here." Minseok sets down both plates, sitting a stool away from Sehun. He watches him a moment, as he pokes at the food with a food and sniffs it. "You saw me make it, Sehun. Just eat!" Just to show how okay the food is, Minseok stuffs a heaping forkful into his mouth.

It seems to work. It's like Minseok blinks, and Sehun's slouching on his stool, knees pushed against the bottom cabinets and plate sporting tiny bread crumbs.

"Did you even taste it?" Minseok teases.

"Yes, it was very good. So was the sushi last night. Thank you."

"Good to hear. You definitely won't starve, living here." Although he will need to do some more shopping, and soon. He takes both of their plates and sets them in the sink with water running. "I only have morning classes, today, but I'll still be gone for half the day, probably." The shopping centre is close to campus. "I'll be seeing my friends, so I can get my spare key from them," that they never should have even made in the first place, "so you can come and go as you please. I'm sorry to leave you by yourself again, but feel free to do whatever, as long as the apartment is in one piece when I get back.

"I'll actually ask another friend to stop by today, so you're not totally alone, okay? He has a catboy about your age, I think. Is that alright?"

Sehun shrugs and nods. "I guess." His tail jerks, flying across his thigh. He picks at it like a bird looking for molted feathers.

Minseok can't help the gnaw of guilt in his gut. He leaves the kitchen to shower and texts Joonmyun before he leaves. Even if his friend's phone isn't on, he'll get the message when he wakes up and replies in the middle of Minseok's first seminar class.

lu han and xingxing told me about sehun.

i'm excited to meet him.

even jonginnie's awake before 10, now.

It figures that Minseok would be the last to know about something that directly impacted his own life. If he didn't love his friends so much, he'd drop them for people who actually think through their actions.

He keeps his phone on silent until break and asks how things are going.

i was a bit nervous at first, Joonmyun admits. i don't think were expecting such a big cat, but sehun's about as threatening as a kitten.

he and jongin raided your games and have approved of each other through some intense brawl matches.

That's a relief, anyway. Minseok thanks him again and tucks his phone into his pocket again. He was worried, especially being gone for most of both days Sehun's been with him, because the boy just does not seem all that forthcoming or outgoing. If he's the solitary, clingy type, then inviting his friends to keep Sehun company would have been a tier above a Very Bad Idea.

He manages to not think about it for the rest of his first class and is relieved to find a photo attached to a heart-eyed emoji from Joonmyun. It shows Sehun and Jongin passed out on the sofa. Jongin's head is pillowed on Sehun's thighs, and both controllers are stuck between Jongin and the back of the sofa. Minseok assumes that sleeping together is a good sign; he can't see any signs of fighting, so there must not have been any catfighting.

Joonmyun texts him after sending a slew of photos of the sleeping duo, all from different angles. you'd never think they only met today, hyung.

i think sehun really likes jongin.

Minseok replies with a simple Good. and I have one more class. and climbs a flight of stairs to one of the workshop classrooms. He can't let his mind wander as he builds designs, but Sehun stays quietly in the back of his mind.

Usually, he'll eat lunch in the university cafe. It's on the opposite end of the cafeteria, next to the library and computer labs. He has a sandwich in one hand and his phone in the other, scrolling through articles and forums about hybrids.

Cats are very popular, for their independence. Dogs are a close second, because of their companionability and usefulness in military and home security. Minseok's next-door neighbour growing up had a pair of dog hybrids that would play with him and his sister through the fence separating their yards. It was a lot of fun, but they got too rowdy one day, and his sister had to get stitches for a bite on her shoulder that was too strong for a little kid. She recovered and forgave the hybrid, but their parents made sure they all stayed on their respective sides of the fence.

They never adopted a hybrid of their own. No one in his family did. Maybe they all carried a bias over that one accident.

Hybrids are a lot of work, too, though. Like any other animal, every hybrid is an individual and has their own personal needs to be met as well as the usual food, clothing, and shelter. Because of the altered physiology, they couldn't go to a human physician but rather a specialist, and specialists of any kind are expensive.

Minseok sighs and chews a mouthful of his sandwich. Money. Everything boils down to money. He opens a new link
and is halfway through an article written by a stressed mother trying to potty train her toddler and adopted toddler hybrid. It's like having twins, she writes, and if one thinks the toilet it scary, the other naturally agrees. Unfortunately, my kitten is very skittish and is terrified of anything noisy. Like flushing toilets.

"Hyung?" Something lightly touches his shoulder, and he jumps. His knee hits the underside of the table, drawing the attention of the handful of other students. Kim Jongdae, another grad student, bows beside him and reaches for Minseok's throbbing knee. "I'm sorry, hyung," he laughs. "I tried calling your attention, but you were very absorbed in your phone."

"It's fine." Minseok waves a hand and sighs. He's not bleeding; he'll live. "I'm sorry. I was just researching hybrids, because Yixing and Han adopted one for me."

"That was sweet of them." Jongdae takes the chair beside Minseok's bench instead of across from him. "Kitten or what?"

"Yes, but he's too big to be a kitten. His name's Sehun." He pulls up the photos Joonmyun had texted and rubs his knee some more with his other hand. "I honestly don't know what to do. I've never cared for a hybrid before. It's never as easy as these lists make it seem."

"No, it's not, but everyone's experiences are different." He picks a piece of bread off of Minseok's sandwich and pops it into his mouth. "Have you talked to him about it?"

"Not really? I showed him around, told him he has free reign, but I only just got my other key, so he hasn't left the apartment, yet."

Jongdae nods and hums, chin propped onto his hand. "Joonmyun hyung sent those pictures, right? So the kid's at least not by himself."

"I didn't know if it'd be better or worse, leaving him alone, but it seems like he's befriended Jongin, at least. That's good, right?"

"Yeah... I wonder if he'd like Baekhyun." Jongdae and Baekhyun have been a unit since before Minseok even knew them. Before Minseok can ask, Jongdae says, "He's at an appointment to get his fur lightened, again. He likes the light brown."

"I think it'd be dangerous, anyway, since wherever Baekhyun is, Chanyeol will probably follow." While Baekhyun's a doglike catboy, Chanyeol is a doglike dogboy, and as well-intentioned as he is, Chanyeol is not known for his mellowness.

Jongdae shrugs and smiles, already imaging the chaos. "Kyungsoo can handle them."

They chat about their respective catboys while sharing the rest of Minseok's lunch. Just after one, Minseok feels a bit more confident in approaching and talking to Sehun and thanks Jongdae.

"Just take it a day at a time, hyung, and call one of us if you really get stuck. This is new for you both."

After parting ways, Minseok walks the few blocks to the supermarket and limits himself to a basket for groceries until he has a better idea of what Sehun likes and doesn't like to eat. Tuna and ham and eggs were all safe. Any kind of meat, probably, although a lot of it is more expensive than he'd like to pay.

In the end, he leaves with a couple bags of canned food and fruit and vegetables he knows he likes to eat, because at least it's a start. Maybe Joonmyun will have learned something about Sehun's eating preferences over lunch.

The bus stop is a half block from his apartment building, but his shoulders burn from carrying the stuffed bags. He could just knock on his door to be let in, but he's used to propping a bag on his hip against the wall and unlocking the door himsef.

Three heads turn to him in tandem, but Jongin's the first one off the couch, draping himself over Minseok's back with a chesty-rumbling purr.

"Do not lay on me! Help me, you freeloader!" He laughs as Jongin pushes their faces together, a long, slender arm reaching around to take one of the grocery bags. Joonmyun takes the other and rolls his eyes towards the sofa, which Minseok takes to be a subtle hint.

Sehun hasn't gotten up. He's slouching, arms crossed over the back and scowling at nothing.

"Sehun?" The long tail jerks, and his ears rotate towards Minseok, but he doesn't look at him. It doesn't hurt as much as it could, Minseok thinks, but he really hopes he can get Sehun out of his shell more. "How was your day?"

After a pregnant pause, during which Minseok notices Joonmyun holding onto Jongin's wrist while they eavesdrop, Sehun shrugs. "Fine. Yours?" He doesn't sound interested; he doesn't sound much of anything.

Throwing out caution for once, Minseok settles a hand between his ears. They stand upright and fall to a relaxed angle when he rubs his hand back and forth a little. "I'm sorry. I don't like leaving you alone, but I got the other key for you." He digs it out of his pocket and sets it at Sehun's elbow. He'd picked up a keychain while waiting in line at the store—a little plastic tea cup with tiny pink and green beads as boba.

Sehun looks at the key, pokes at the keychain with a finger. He sits up, facing away from Minseok, holding it loosely in his hand.

Jongin appears at the back of the sofa, curiosity drawing him forward to see the key as well. He's quiet until he looks up at Sehun's face. Minseok watches as the perpetually sleepy eyes curve with a mischievous smile. "Sehun, are you blushing?"

"No." Sehun turns away from him, tail thumping against the sofa.

Jongin follows, leaning farther, and Sehun faces away again. "Yes, you are!"

"I am not blushing." He gets up too fast for Minseok to notice if he's actually blushing or not, but if he hadn't been before, he probably is from Jongin's incessant teasing.

The brunet catboy follows Sehun around the sofa and into the kitchen, from the kitchen to Sehun's bedroom, insisting that You're really cute when you blush! Don't hide! and asking Did it really make you that happy?

As long as there's no hissing or spitting, Minseok supposes it's okay to leave them alone. Sehun's big enough to fend for himself.

Joonmyun touches Minseok's elbow, and he jumps. He'd forgotten his friend was still there, too, a quiet—if a little anxious—observer of the new friends. "Just take it a day at a time, hyung. You're doing fine."

There's a loud THUNK from Sehun's room followed by a whine of Get off of me! and giggles.

Minseok thinks he's right. There's no one right way of doing anything, and he'll find out more about Sehun each day. For now, they're perfectly fine.