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Sweet Honey

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Jongin pouts as he holds his books to his chest, his caramel ears pressed against his head timidly as he walks home from school. As far as first days of school go, that was one of the worst. Being homeschooled from primary school to eleventh grade, he’s never experienced what it’s really like to attend public school, and it wasn’t as fun as it seemed on TV.

He’s his mama’s only cub, so she’s always been paranoid about letting Jongin out into the open and being independent. Being a bear hybrid, it’s in their blood to be close to their children and protect them always, so Jongin’s been sheltered for the majority of his life.

He doesn’t mind though. He loves his mama. They only have each other since Jongin’s papa left them when he was three.

But Jongin wants to make friends since being homeschooled has caused him to only have one friend—his neighbor, Taemin, a fox hybrid. Taemin moved away a few months ago, though, to attend university since he’s a year older than Jongin. Since Taemin went to public school, Jongin figured he would be fine.

However, he wasn’t. It was hard to adjust being around so many teenagers his age who talked about things Jongin didn’t really understand and spewed curse words every five seconds. If Jongin did that, his mama would pop him in the mouth. The only thing Jongin is interested in is reading. He’s quite the silent bookworm. He can be social if he wants, but it didn’t seem to be his strong suit today. Anytime he tried to make friends, all the other students in his classes stared at him like he was weird.

Some asked him questions like Do you smoke weed? or Are you a virgin?, and Jongin didn’t understand why they needed to know those things. Drugs are illegal and bad, so why would he? And he isn’t even old enough to have sex! He’s only seventeen!

All in all, he just wants to get home and have his mother make him feel better by making him his favorite fried chicken and honey for dinner. He wants to tell her that he can’t do it and just stay home, but he knows he can’t give up just yet. It’s only been one day.

Heaving out a sigh, Jongin walks over to the bus stop bench and plops down. He’s thankful no one else is there, since the street isn’t a busy one, so he can hug his knees to his chest and try not to cry. He hopes the bus comes soon; he just wants to go home.

He probably looks like an overgrown toddler with his legs pulled up to his chest. Being a bear hybrid, he’s pretty tall and built strongly. He towered over a lot of the other people in school, despite his timid personality. There were other bear hybrids in the hallways, but they were obviously jocks or popular, so Jongin avoided them, as much as he would’ve liked to have someone to talk to with something in common.

Everyone is just so different. It’s not fair.

A rolling sound from across the silent street catches his attention, and Jongin lifts his head from his knees to look. He blinks animatedly as he spots some boy rolling up and down the sidewalk on a skateboard, pale-skinned and wearing black basketball shorts and a tank of the same color. His hair is vibrant, fiery red with two pink ears peeking out. The boy looks so small and dainty, but his appearance says otherwise.

Jongin watches as he tries to do some sort of kick-flip trick, only to bail out at the last second and hop off of his board and pick it off of the ground. He turns his back to Jongin and the bear hybrid spots the little pink curly tail on his bum—a pig hybrid. The boy is also wearing a tattered baby blue book bag on his back, and Jongin wonders if they go to school together.

His mother told him that pig hybrids are bad though. They typically belong to lower class families and are dirty and mean. She painted such an ugly picture of them.

Yet, when this boy turns towards his direction, wiping sweat from his brow on such a hot day, Jongin can think of so many words to describe him and none of them are synonyms for ugly. The boy is pretty, cute even. He looks small and has wide eyes and full lips to compliment. Jongin could never imagine him sloshing around in mud or hanging around the problematic pig hybrids.

Jongin finds himself enraptured, and his eyes follow the other boy as he walks to the end of the street before dropping his skateboard back onto the ground and hops on, pushing to give himself some speed. The red-haired boy disappears around the corner of the block, Jongin craning his head to get one last look at him.

He lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

He’s still thinking of that boy with the red hair when he gets home and forgets to tell his mama that he wants to quit. She still makes him fried chicken with honey though and smothers him with kisses and hugs.

 

The next day is just like the day before. Jongin stays by himself in his classes, not that anyone approaches him. Most of these kids probably went to school together since primary school; he's just the new kid that doesn't belong there.

During lunch, the school lets them eat inside or outside, so Jongin makes himself at home in the courtyard at a lone bench in the far corner by a large tree, far from everyone else outside. Yesterday, he spent lunch talking to his new teachers and getting used to the school since he entered a few months into the new school year and wasn't in tune like all the other students were. It's lonely eating by himself, but it's peaceful and quiet too. He's able to eat the lunch his mama made special for him (she included a slice of homemade berry pie) and read his new book silently, enjoying the breeze ruffling his pink hair.

He has just managed to finish one chapter when a shadow falls over the cream-colored pages of his novel. Jongin furrows his brows and looks up to see what the interruption is.

To his surprise, it's another bear hybrid flanked by a female cow hybrid and lion hybrid. They don't look friendly either, glaring at Jongin, who's staring with wide eyes as he chews the last bite of his pie, crumbs sticking to the corners of his mouth.

"Yes?" he says hesitantly, blinking in confusion. They look angry at him, but Jongin can't recall doing anything or even ever seeing these three before.

"You're sitting at our table,” the buff and deep-voiced bear hybrid grumbles, folding his toned arms over his chest. He must be a grizzly, judging by how much hair he has on his arms, though he’s clean-shaven. Jongin hardly has any hair on his chest except his happy trail. His mama always told him he was more like a teddy bear than anything else.

Craning his head around the three, he spots two other empty tables in the courtyard. “There are other tables, though,” Jongin furrows his brows, holding a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun. “Surely, you can sit over there?”

The taller boy snorts and rolls his eyes, and then a hand is shooting out to grab the front of Jongin’s striped shirt, heaving him up from his seat. Jongin’s eyes widen in fear as he realizes he’s about to get beaten up and threatened. He’s pulled close, and he puts his hands up in surrender. Glancing down, he takes note of the school’s emblem on the other boy’s jacket. He plays for the football team.

“It’s so funny, really? Are you even a bear hybrid? You’re such a baby!” the boy laughs, his friends bearing similar smirks. “I heard you still cling to your mama. How cute!”

Jongin blushes and tucks his chin with shame, averting his gaze. The entire courtyard is watching at this point, and he feels extremely embarrassed. He knows he should stand up for himself. What’s wrong with loving his mama? But instead, he stays quiet and his eyes prick with tears as his light brown ears fold against his hair.

“Now get the fuck out of our way, bitch,” he spits, and the pretty girl behind him with the gold septum piercing in her nose sweeps all of Jongin’s things off of the edge of the table, spilling the rest of his lunch and the contents of his book bag to the ground. Not too soon after, Jongin is released, only to be given a sudden push. He slides off the bench and harshly to the ground, unable to stop gravity from tugging him down.

The three offenders laugh at him, and Jongin sits up pitifully, grass and dirt dusting his clothes. His hands are shaking, and there are tears in his eyes. He doesn’t like how they’re pushing him around, but he doesn’t know what to do. They are right; he is a baby.

“Leave him alone, Jongdeok,” a different voice speaks up, and they all turn to look at the new arrival.

Jongin looks up, and his eyes widen at the sight of the boy from yesterday—the one with the fiery red hair and skateboard. Jongin’s mind falters as he’s even prettier up close, small and soft-looking with his pale skin glowing in the sun. He’s got in skateboard in one hand and a black snapback on, crimson bangs peeking out and hiding his pig ears from view.

The bully of sorts, Jongdeok, growls as he turns to the pig hybrid. “Fuck off, Kyungsoo. What does this have to do with you?”

“Maybe I wanted to sit there,” Kyungsoo raises a brow. “Leave the poor kid alone.” He flashes a bright grin at that moment, eyes thinning as his lips form a heart. Jongin thinks it looks absolutely adorable, but no one else seems to agree as Jongdeok and his friends start to look nervous.

"I'm just teaching him that he shouldn't sit here!" Jongdeok defends himself as Kyungsoo's dark eyes trail to where Jongin sits on the ground, all of his things scattered around him. "He needs to learn at some--"

Kyungsoo stabs Jongdeok in the stomach with the end of his skateboard harshly, causing the taller male to hunch over and hold his torso with a wince. "You aren't even allowed sit out here. It's seniors only, so you fuck off."

It's with another growl and huge reluctance that Jongdeok and his buddies finally walk away as a confident Kyungsoo stands there in victory. Jongin looks up at him with sparkles in his watery eyes. He doesn't know what to say to his savior and instead wipes the unshed tears from his eyes and starts to pick up his things, frowning at the dirtied remains of his piece of pie.

He's in the middle of putting his books and notebooks back inside his bag when Kyungsoo sits down at the picnic table, only the tips of his black sneakers touching the ground. Jongin wonders how someone so small can scare off those three big students, but Kyungsoo did look pretty strong. His biceps are muscular now that Jongin looks at him closely.

He should probably thank him.

Awkwardly, Jongin clears his throat and seats himself across from Kyungsoo at the wooden table. One glance up and a blush spreads across his cheeks from looking into Kyungsoo's wide eyes. He has such doe-like eyes and long lashes that Jongin feels inferior for talking to such a pretty person.

"Th-Thank you for helping me," Jongin stutters shyly, looking at the table as he does so.

"Don't worry about it," Kyungsoo replies softly, a different tone from before. His voice is so quiet and honey-like that it causes Jongin to look up again.

Kyungsoo isn't smiling or looking at him at all, elbow sitting on the table with his chin resting in his palm as he looks off at the other students. Jongin remembers that Kyungsoo said he wanted to sit here, so it wasn't like he saved Jongin because he felt like it.

Feeling as though Kyungsoo doesn't want him here, Jongin stands up and grabs his bag, preparing to leave and sit in the bathroom until the end of lunch period. However, a hand from behind suddenly presses down on his shoulders and forces him back down on the bench. Jongin looks up to see five others join them. There’s an extremely tall bunny hybrid, white floppy ears sticking out of his blonde hair and looking out of place as he sits next to the small Kyungsoo. On Kyungsoo’s right is another tall hybrid that Jongin can’t figure out with his fluffy brown hair and small white ears, and then a smaller boy with a thin smile and tabby cat ears.

Someone plops down next to Jongin, and the bear hybrid turns to see a blond deer hybrid with only one velvet-covered antler, the other a single stub nestled in his hair. And the person behind him squeezes his shoulder, and Jongin peers back to look at a raccoon hybrid with his heavily lined eyes and bushy tail.

Jongin gulps and blinks, not knowing what to think.

The raccoon hybrid smiles and sits down, directing a frown at Kyungsoo. “You’ve already scared him off, Kyungsoo! He was going to leave!”

Jongin blushes as Kyungsoo looks at him, and he quickly tries to amend the situation, not wanting the other boy to feel bad. “No, I was j-just going to go sit somewhere else…”

“Ah, don’t worry about it; Kyungsoo is just socially awkward—ow!” he jolts suddenly and glares at Kyungsoo, who looks away. The gray-haired hybrid rubs at his sore foot before changing the subject. “Anyways, I’m Byun Baekhyun,” he grins, straightening his blue jean overalls, the hems of the shorts all ratty.

The rest of them introduce themselves: Luhan, the deer hybrid, Jongdae, the cat hybrid, Kris, the rabbit hybrid, and Chanyeol, the ferret hybrid. They all seem nice and eager to meet Jongin and be friends with him, except for Kyungsoo, who just stares off into space and stays quiet. They’re all seniors like Jongin, but Kyungsoo is a year older because he failed fourth grade.

“I’m sorry Jongdeok was such a dick to you,” Jongdae grumbles, folding his arms across his chest. “He’s Kyungsoo’s younger step-brother, and he always tries to mess with us because he’s bigger.”

“It’s fine,” Jongin murmurs, digging the soles of his sneakers into the dirt beneath the picnic table, “he didn’t really do much other than ruin my lunch and push me down.” His stomach growls and he holds his tummy sheepishly. He never got to eat any more than a bite of his pie.

“It’s still not nice,” Baekhyun frowns, crunching on an apple beside him.

There’s a rustling and unzipping of a bag, and Jongin looks over to see Kyungsoo digging into his book bag for something determinedly, thick brows furrowed and red hair restrained by a headband falling onto his forehead. Not a second later, he draws his hand back, gripping a bag of potato chips, the yellow bag crinkling. Jongin thinks he’s just starting to eat his own lunch, only to be shocked as Kyungsoo holds the bag out to him quietly, his owlish eyes staring right at the bear hybrid.

“You should eat,” he says as a simple explanation.

If someone offers you food, Jonginnie, it means they’re trying to win over your heart, Jongin hears his mama’s voice in his head, It’s how that bastard—I-I mean, your papa got me!

A dark pink blush spreads wildly over his cheekbones, rivaling the color of Kyungsoo’s hair and reaching his ears. He knows there’s no way Kyungsoo is courting him when they’ve just met, but surely it means he must like Jongin at least a little bit? That has his heart pounding at a heightened pace, and Jongin takes the food from him with a shy smile and a murmur of thanks.

Kyungsoo says nothing else, but Jongin still feels warm inside from their little encounter.