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Carnations

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You stared at him through the window. It always baffled you, how people could take people and turn them into slaves. It was not their fault that they looked different, it wasn’t their fault they were born with a bit more animal-characteristics than humans. Now, they were selling them like merchandise in shops near the animal pounds.

He really was pathetic-looking.

What do they call them?

A hybrid?

 A shifter?

You shook your head. You didn’t even know the proper terminology. He had black ears. Charcoal fur threaded into the soft pinks of the inner corners attached to his head, you assumed he had a black tail as equally as charcoal as his ears, he looked at you all the same. His eyes were dark and hooded, he watched you cautiously, his fingers pressing against the glass.

You blinked.

You walked away.

There was no way on Earth would you ever consider buying a hybrid—shifter thing. Owning one was one thing, but buying one—it left a bad taste in your mouth. You really hated the society you lived in sometimes—there was always some type of inequality. You didn’t bother to think much of it anymore, because it was useless.

You had a class in less than twenty minutes and you really hope that it doesn’t start raining. You could already feel the humidity in the air churn, the clouds grayer and grayer with every second passing. You had an umbrella of course, you never left the house without taking one, but it was the principle of the matter.

“It looks like there’s gonna be a storm,” Your friend Min-ah commented.

Campus wasn’t far from town, ten minutes max. The shopping area was cornered towards the Eastern district, directly adjacent to the actual town—city area-esque. Once you had walked up the steps into the Liberal Arts building, that’s how you found Min-ah sitting by the table in the corner near the window, she had her bag resting on the chair, leaning against the window, effectively saving your seat.

“Yeah,” You agreed quietly, taking a seat in the corner, resting your head against the windowpane, “I hope it doesn’t pour. I just got a new carpet—I am not looking forward to cleaning it.”

“Oh~” She chirped, “Got rid of that brown crap your mom got you?”

You snorted, “Cats aren’t really my thing.”

“Animals aren’t your thing.”

“Same thing,” You chuckled.

The door slammed open, Professor Kang walked in with a certain swagger that had you dreading in your seat. He smiled tight-lipped, with a certain glint in his eyes that had you wanting to hide under the seat for cover, if he was plant, he’d be a Venus fly trap—because that’s what he was. A trap.

“Pop quiz today kids!” He smiled, his glasses reflected the fluorescent lights from the ceiling, “But because I’m your favorite professor, I’m going to go over today’s lesson and then give you the quiz. Once you finish, you can skedaddle outta here! Sounds good?”

You swear, there had to be someone up there laughing at you.

He began, “The first derivative test can help you distinguish the max and min of a function, whether it’s increasing or decreasing, absolute min, absolute max and what am I missing—?”

Honestly, you wanted to stab yourself with a rusty spoon.

The lecture dragged on for a good amount of time. He only gave you a half-hour for the quiz, which was relatively hard, considering it was only eight questions. What the hell do you do after you take the derivative? Do you sub in or sub out? Why are there so many freaking variables?

It came down to the last two questions and you guessed on them, in respects to your lack of time. You gave Min-ah one last look before you left the class, leaning against the wall waiting for her.

“What the hell was that last question?” She asked as soon as she closed the door.

“I don’t even remember, all I saw was a radical and a percent and then everything went blank,” You snorted, tightening the strap of your bag. It started to drizzle, but it was nowhere as bad as you thought it would be.

“Professor Kang is ridiculous, I never met a man more sadistic than him.” Min-ah sighed.

“Really?” You grinned, “Not even Jinyoung?”

She gaped before slapping you with her bag on the arm, she sputtered, “What—no!”

You laughed, “Oh come on. You totally like him and he’s always hellbent on making BamBam and Youngjae’s life a living hell when they don’t listen to him.”

“He’s just mature! He isn’t…sadistic.”

You rolled your eyes, “I’m not saying he’s cruel person. I’m just saying he’s you know…sadistic.”

You laughed again and dodged her bag. Opening your umbrella, you walked down the steps, the rain smells so good, it smells so clean. You unlocked your phone and sent a quick text to your mom, reminding her to take her medication. She had a slight case of bronchitis, nothing too bad, she just needed to take her antibiotics, you asked languidly, “Do you wanna grab some dinner? Kyoto’s having a special today.”

Min-ah shook her head, she pouted, “Maybe next time. I have a bio midterm tomorrow; I’m probably going to be sleeping in the library tonight.”

You winced, “You’re still taking midterms?”

“My professors don’t like to follow the syllabus,” She replied dryly, she rolled her shoulders, “Sunday. Maybe we can do something Sunday?”

“Mm, well I have a shift tomorrow. Saturday I’m probably going to catch up on my calc—ugh, why do I even have to take calc? I’m an English major!” You protested, you hated math, and you will always hate math.

“Because colleges like to see us suffer,” Min-ah added in helpfully.

You patted her cheek gently, before smiling slightly, “Text me later, Min-Min.”

She grinned and you walked down the steps slowly, because tripping and falling on your face was the most of your concerns. The campus was created in a circular area, the main entrance started from the two front gates where the white fountain lay, you shivered when the wind started to pick up, brushing the splatters of water from the pool.

Your apartment was off campus, you couldn’t stand living in a dorm, with random people smoking and having sex in the hallways. You might end up killing them for indecent behavior, moreover frat parties made your brain cells dies, and you did not have enough time on this earth to subject yourself to that type of stupidity.

The rain started to pick up. The rain fell like pellets from nests, like leaves from trees—like snow in the winter. Even though you had an umbrella, the wind shifted the drops, splattering them onto your jeans and sweater. Your cursed silently, trying to walk as fast as possible without skidding on the smooth brick ground.

The path takes you back into town, you pass the shop that you were looking at earlier, silently noticing that the lights were out and the door was slightly opened. You tried not to focus too much on that last aspect, but tried to make it closer to your apartment complex. You were shivering now, passing the side street that had a small bakery in the corner and a grocery corner on the left. You heard a noise.

You stiffened. Your feet locked onto the ground. Perhaps, it had been your imagination. It could be thunder; it could be something different all together. Your pursed your lips and forced your feet to move.

You heard it again.

It sounded like someone—something in pain.

You turned your head to look into the small alleyway between the two stores, your eyes catching onto a shoe hiding next to a dumpster. It was a whimper you decided, normally you would walk away, but you heard heavy breathing—meaning there was pain. Deciding that you need a reason to walk into a dark alleyway – you were a college student, you weren’t an idiot – because really what other reason was there?

You decided to purposefully let the wind take your umbrella into the path – more like you threw your umbrella into the alley – imitated an irritated sigh, and decided to click your boots onto the ground so you wouldn’t startle whoever it was there.

When you bent down to pick up your umbrella, you turned your head to the side to nearly freeze in shock—disbelief. It was that cat-thing…hybrid-thing. You blinked rapidily, hoping that this—this scene would disappear. He leaned against the brick wall, a gash bruised onto his knee and bloomed to his upper left thigh, a cut on his lip and there was another cut on his right arm. But the blood—your nose wrinkled, you could smell the blood. His eyes closed—it didn’t even look like he was breathing.

You swallowed, “A-Are you okay?”

He opened his eyes, almost frantically, looked at you with alarm, he tried to curl his legs back into a defensive position, but he hissed at the movement of his cut.

“Don’t move you, idiot!” You snapped, “You’re going to bleed even more,” Quickly you opened the umbrella letting the rain slide over the bother of you, you shoved the umbrella into his hands and commanded gruffly, “Here, hold this.”

He watched you dumbly, a bit cautiously, but he grabbed the umbrella. You rummaged into your bag and grabbed your scarf that you kept with you. You ended up using the scarf to tie around his thigh to stop the bleeding. At least most of it. He flinched when you pulled too hard, but stayed relatively still.

Normally, you were never this caring or even bothered to help most people on the streets—it had been common knowledge, people on the streets were strange. But he was more human than he was an animal, and you couldn’t bear to leave someone in pain. Your conscious would ruin you without a second thought.

“Can you walk?” You asked, after a second thought, “I can help you get back to the store—”

He flinched so hard that you nearly fell onto the concrete. You didn’t want to think—you bit the inside of your cheek—you didn’t want to think that the store was abusing him, you didn’t want to think the owners were abusing him, but hell, physical abuse—any type of abuse was illegal. And you didn’t take to kindly to that type of treatment once you saw the fear in his eyes. So you hesitated, you didn’t want to pick him up like a stray animal left on the sidewalk, except that’s what he was. He was a stray animal, even though he was…human.

And dammit all, you sighed tiredly.

You grabbed his good arm, his muscles tensed and you said, “My place isn’t too far. Let’s go before you start bleeding out of my favorite scarf.”

He looked at you cautiously, but realizing the type of situation he was in, he listened. He placed all of his weight onto his good leg, and stood up. You tried to carry most of his weight, with your tote bag in the other arm, his chin reached the top of your head and you bit the inside of your cheek. Again. You couldn’t carry the umbrella now, so you helped him walk, with one foot in front of the other, and his arm clingy tightly around your shoulders.

It never occurred to you that he tried to keep the umbrella over your head and not his.

Well, there goes your new carpet. It was a welcome carpet that you had gotten after you had thrown out the one your mom had gotten you as a college gift. It was soft and fluffy. But now it was brown and muddy.

You shook your head and walked him into the kitchen. You helped sit onto the counter chair, a high chair with black metal bars and a swivel seat. You placed your bag onto the counter, along with your umbrella. You flipped the wet strands of your hair out of your face and said, “Wait here.”

It’s not like he’s going to go anywhere.

You rolled your eyes after that fleeting thought and grabbed the first aid kit from the bathroom. Placing the kit onto the counter, you could feel his eyes follow your movement. Your grabbed the anti-bacterial spray and a scissor. You felt slightly awkward about the situation, you didn’t know how to approach it other than, well, just doing it. So you said after a breath, “I’m going to need to cut your pants…to dress the wound. So just tell me where it hurts or—” You groaned, “J-Just take of your pants, I can fix it faster.”

Oh god, this was really awkward.

He seemed to look at you with shock, maybe embarrassment because the tips of his ears were burning, but he stood up with one leg and unbuttoned his pants. You tried to look away but you really couldn’t. You unknotted your scarf, wrinkling your nose at the dried blood, placing it on the counter and—goddam just how tight were his pants?

You sighed. You were entirely too tired to deal with this. Instead you grabbed the belt loops of his pants, apologized quickly and yanked his pants down. He hissed sharply, but didn’t move. You wanted to thank every God out there because he was wearing boxers. You let him sit back on the chair while you pulled off the rest of his pants, stumbling in your crouch at the length of those damn skinnys’. You could’ve sworn he breathed out a chuckle, but instead you got back up to address the damage. It was a jagged line from his knee, thin, but he deepened higher up his thigh. You grabbed a peroxide soaked cotton pad and cleaned the perimeter of the wound so you could see the actual cut.

“This is going to hurt,” You warned lifting up the bottle, “But you won’t get sick.”

He nodded.

You sprayed up and down the wound before placing some Neosporin on the wound to nullify the sting. It hurt, because you could see the muscles tense in his thighs, but he tried to remain calm. He was trembling. After that you cut some gauze and taped the wound.

Maybe you should’ve gotten him a towel to dry up or something, you thought absently.

His arm cut wasn’t too bad, he just needed a Band-Aid, you made sure to use up all your Hello Kitty Band-Aids on that wound—you cackled inwardly at your inside joke, before commenting dryly, “What? —Don’t look at me like that. These are the only ones I have left.”

His arm just had a small bruise, you quickly disinfected it before placing some clotting cream.

Next was his mouth. The human-cat wasn't terribly tall, but he was a bit of skyscraper sitting on the high-chair. Taking some alcohol on a cotton swab, you leaned onto your toes to reach his face, you lightly dabbed the cut and he hissed snapping his head back.

“Oh, take it like a man!” You rolled your eyes and dabbed the cut until the blood was cleaned. You tried to ignore the involuntary pout on his lips – how pretty were his lips?! – placing some Neosporin on another swab you hoped that the cut would clot quickly. You grabbed a smaller Band-Aid, it was clear, leaning up again, you carefully placed the Band-Aid on his lip, your fingers tingling when you brushed his pink lips.

You made the mistake of looking up at him. He caught your eyes with a force that much stronger than magnets, it was almost interest. You had learnt from prior experience that curiosity was another way of saying trouble.

You cleared your throat and packed away your medical supplies. Placing the kit back into the bottom cabinet of your bathroom, you grabbed a towel and a pair of stretchy sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt. You ignored the faint blush on the back of your neck, when you grabbed a pair of new boxers your brother had left untouched – thankfully – and proceeded to hand the cat-man the toiletries.

You didn't look at him, instead you focused on a spot on his left shoulder, she said slowly, “Go shower. You’ll get sick. You need to clean the rest of the blood off.”

Why on earth were you so terribly awkward?

“Thank you.”

Your eyes shot up to catch his. He hasn't spoken a word since you've seen him, met him, spoke with him, and frankly you felt kind of embarrassed. You had no reason to but, you still did, you a pointed a finger to the corner of the kitchen where the wall meets another door, “The bathroom is right there. I have towels on the rack.”

He nodded and stood up out of the chair. You were vaguely aware of how tall he was but, what really made you frantic was the fact that he brushed a wet strand of stringy hair from your face.

And you hated yourself even more for flushing.

You were cold and wet and you didn't have any time for such nonsense. He needed to shower and get his blood flowing. “I’ll re-bandage you when you're finished.”

You walked out of his line of sight and shucked off your boots and placed it in the corner. Hearing the water click on in the bathroom you sighed deep into your lungs. The air rattling your bones. 

Food.

Ramen.

That's what you need. You need to function right now and the only way to do that is to eat. You ignored the tremors shaking you from the wet, cold air, grabbed a small soup pot from inside your oven, and started to fill it with water.

Four packages should be enough.

Right?

What do cat-people eat anyway?

You were tempted to google it, but you weren't sure what they were called. Hybrids? Shifters?

Was there even a difference?

You placed the ramen on the coffee table and set the bowls parallel to each other. When cat-man got out, he took a seat across from you. Words came flying out of your mouth before you could stop them. “Did you dry your hair properly? You’ll catch a cold.”

He wrinkled his nose but nodded in acceptance.

You rolled your eyes, “Go ahead,” You motioned for him to take the first bite, patiently waiting for him to place the noodles inside his mouth. Swirling his chopsticks delicately he ate swallowed the ramen, his eyes widening at the seasoning.

You looked at him warily, “Have you never had ramen?”

“Not like this.”

Your heart wrenched at the thought of him not eating food—proper food, actually. You placed another piece of chicken from your bowl into his, he looked at you with muted surprise, you ignored it and ate a carrot, “You need to eat more meat. You lost quite a bit of blood.”

You tried not to look at him.

When it came to you showering, you were a bit hesitant leaving a stranger in your home alone, unsupervised. You left your bag under your bed because you were a paranoid bitch, and he was a cat. Even if he were more human than cat, he was still a cat. You left him watching TV and you made sure you locked your bathroom door and then opened a bottom drawer to keep the door from budging, so no one could open it.

You tried to warm up your skin quickly, your anxiety trickling in like water when you realized you left a stranger inside your home, shaking your head—he’s a cat. You couldn’t even enjoy your shower with your internal turmoil growing like wildfire.  

After furiously scrubbing your scalp and spraying on lotion; clothes became a necessity. A wrinkled t-shirt and sweatpants—you peeked from your bedroom door, cat-boy was obediently watching your drama—Joon Hyung why?  

Grabbing your first aid kit again, you walked into the living room sitting on the ottoman in front of him. Grabbing another plaster, you looked at his lips – cursed – lip, and said, “Let me re-bandage you. The steam from the water damages the cloth.”

He smiled shyly.

You felt your breath catch in your throat.

Almost uncomfortable, you focused on the cut, yanking the Band-Aid from his skin, snickering inwardly at his whine, pressing the new one into the skin, you let your thumb run over the corner of his mouth, making sure it stayed.

“Your thigh wound I taped up, so I don’t need to change it. But I’m going to give you some aspirin, because it will be sore,” You explained before closing the kit, you gave him two pills that you had taken out earlier and handed him a bottle of water. You shrugged, the couch bed was already made, thankfully you had spare sheets in the closet next to the TV, “You can sleep on the couch, if you need extra blankets they’re in the cupboard.”

What else were you supposed to say?

You made a move to go into your room, his hands grasped your wrist, he didn’t grip you hard, but you stumbled backwards a bit at the force of your movements, you looked at him with wide eyes.

He smiled bashfully, “Thank you…for everything.”

You swallowed thickly. A flush making its way behind your ears, you shook your head trying to think of something to say, but it was like he sucked the words straight out of your lungs. Not only would it be embarrassing to make something akin to whale noises, you coughed clumsily, before you said, “Don’t worry about. Just get some rest.”

You made your way into your room without looking back, because you were sure, that if you looked back, you would’ve said something that you would regret later on.

Curling into your sheets you inhaled deeply, trying to ignore the fact you had a visitor in your home.  You allowed sleep to take you to different time and to different place. Your head swimming with dark clouds and soft stars. You inhaled again, deeply, until the air cooled your bones and the heat made you dizzy with cotton.

You don’t know it was until long you fell asleep, you don’t how long you’ve been sleeping, but it’s been years since you last slept like this. Comfortable, vulnerable and open. You snuggled deeper into your pillow. The heat addicting, the smell—when did your pillows ever smell so good?

The heat wrapped around you like a fuzzy sweater, engulfing you with its scent, and pillows don’t move?  

Your eyes snapped open, he—the cat, was in your bed, holding you like a child would hold a toy, and was he purring? You had enough sense to not scream, instead you tried to yank out of his hold, squirming to the other side of the bed, gasping breathily as he pulled you back  by the waist and whined.

“Noona, it’s too early,” He mumbled into your ear, your pores raised like hell on fire at his raspy voice echoing into your neck. “Stay with me.”

Christ.

“N-Noona? What are you—why are you in my bed?” You managed to shriek quietly, still squirming in the sheets. You tried to get out of his grip, but you felt his tail – how did you forget about his tail – curl around your left calf.

“The couch was cold,” He answered, his head nuzzled underneath your chin, “And you smell good.”

Trying to find your composure, you flung yourself out the bed, your foot nearly skidding onto the ground as you tried to upright yourself, you turned around to face him, your face burning when he sat up shirtless, pouting he waited patiently for you to come back to bed. You stammered, “Look, cat-boy, I—you can’t be in my bed it isn’t appropriate—”

“Yugyeom.”

“—you. You don’t even know me—what?”

He smiled again, “My name is Yugyeom, not cat-boy.”

You blinked, you shook your head trying to think, “I, why are you in my bed?”

“It’s cold and you’re warm,” Yugyeom explained carefully, “Shifters need a warm source to sleep next to.”

“You-you’re a shifter?” You furrowed your eyebrows.

Yugyeom nodded, scooting closer over to you, his left ear flopped over lazily, he smiled before pulling you into his arms, his hands wrapping around your hips, his head nuzzling into your stomach, “And I belong to you now.”

You felt your mouth unhinge.

He what?!