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Sehun's not sure 'forever home' is a term that should have a plural, but that's where he is now. Forever home no.2.

The first of his forever homes was with a family — a big house, two children. His current, just his owner. Just Kim Junmyeon, small and busy and always smiling. And by extension his best friend, Jongdae, who lives four doors down. Jongdae's cat, too. Baekhyun, who Sehun is supposed to hit it off with based on nothing more than them sharing an understanding of having a tail.

And Sehun's had a sinking feeling ever since he arrived in his new home — his really-this-time forever home. Being taken into the shelter was one of the best days of his life. Being adopted out for sure wasn't the worst, but Sehun knows a little about the outside world, and talk around the shelter was that there's only so many reasons a single man in his thirties would be looking for a hybrid.

Junmyeon is almost unnervingly pleasant, though. Sehun is allowed to sit wherever he likes, eat whenever he likes. He has his own side of a human bed, a space for his clothes. He's even allowed free access to the bathroom, and the kitchen, and— it's unconditional, and it's scary. He's scared.

Baekhyun smells like he's only five minutes removed from Jongdae's bed when Sehun meets him on his second day in his second forever home, and he spends the following three sleeping on the couch.

 

˘

 

"Can I ask you something personal?"

Kyungsoo raises a brow but stays focused on the task at hand. Which is more like three tasks right now — getting Junmyeon's wounds cleaned, avoiding blood stains on his one coloured shirt, and holding a conversation. "How personal? Don't move."

"I'm not." Junmyeon hisses as Kyungsoo dabs at the row of fine slices down his forearm. His foot taps a little, but he otherwise keeps still. "About your puppies."

Kyungsoo hums consent as he turns to rummage for band aids in Junmyeon's little medical box. It's just fortunate he arrived so shortly after this happened; Junmyeon's own attempts at using any more than an aspirin usually only make things worse.

"Jongin was from a shelter, right? Was it.." Ouch. Keep still. "Was it difficult getting him settled in to start?"

"In ways." Kyungsoo takes Junmyeon's wrist and repositions his arm. "He never took a chunk out of me, if that's what you're asking."

Junmyeon's features screw up a little. It's not a whole chunk, thankfully. "It's not. I just don't know how to make Sehun feel more comfortable here. With me."

"There's no making a cat do anything." Kyungsoo shrugs. "Anyway, abandonment effects cats and dogs differently. I'm not sure my advice would count for much with your Sehun."

Junmyeon does move then, flexing his arm without thinking, and Kyungsoo gives him a gentle tap. Junmyeon's bad at keeping his mouth shut, but for Sehun's sake he didn't want everyone interested in his new pet to know about the details of his paperwork. Telling Kyungsoo seems more a matter of seeking relevant advice, though, and he could do with an opinion other than Jongdae's.

"Soo," he sighs, obediently laying his arm back down. "He's not an abandonment case."

"Oh." Kyungsoo pauses. Thinks back to what he's heard of Junmyeon's big, quiet pet in the week he's had him; how Baekhyun twitched his ears and complained that Sehun is so haughty, no fun to try and play with. There's only so many reasons hybrids end up in shelters. "I'm sorry to hear that. What happened here, anyway?"

"I shut the bedroom door? It freaked him out."

Kyungsoo's lips purse as he lines the band aid up. Junmyeon's not sure it's more concentration than it is disapproval, but he's new to all this, ok, it's only his first week. "Did he say he didn't want you to?

"It was drafty. It's my home—" Junmyeon splutters. "I tried to calm him down and he went for me."

"There's your first lesson in taking on a pet with history, Myeonie." Kyungsoo gives his patched up arm a firm pat, reminding him just how damn much it stings. Junmyeon hisses through his teeth again, but he probably deserves it, really. Sehun's been in hiding since it happened.

Junmyeon cradles his arm once Kyungsoo lets him have it back, pouting. "Lesson learned." No more closed doors, fine. He puffs out his cheeks as he watches Kyungsoo pack the box up. He doesn't really feel like continuing with their planned afternoon wih Sehun hidden away and most likely worried, but Kyungsoo is hardly weighed down with free time. Baekhyun takes up most of it, because Kyungsoo won't give him a key to visit Chanyeol by himself. Sehun has a key of his own to this place, though, and it's not on its hook by the door, so at least when he's ready to come back he can.

 

"Maybe Jongdae just got lucky with Baekhyun," Junmyeon sighs as he pockets his own keys. Well. "I mean, he gets lucky with Baekhyun every day, but.."

"Mm. They're very suited to each other," Kyungsoo agrees with a similar grimace to Junmyeon's. That sounded like an opening line, so he offers: "Chanyeol practically chose me, so he was easy to bring home. Jongin took a little longer to get comfortable with us, but regardless of his past that's not uncommon. They're very different pups." He flashes Junmyeon a little smile and clips him across the shoulder when he doesn't respond. "Like you and Jongdae are very different owners, and Sehun and Baekhyun are very different cats."

True, Junmyeon can't argue with that. Kyungsoo's good at this mediating stuff. He and Jongdae generally end up just wrestling their differing opinions out.

"He's not a bad cat, Soo," he says as they step out, and he catches Kyungsoo smiling again. It's reassuring, considering he can practically still hear the echo of Jongdae's lecture only a day before on making a really fucking awful decision. Kyungsoo, though — he has a lot more patience.

"I'm sure he's not," Kyungsoo agrees, nicely proving Junmyeon's point. He's not always wrong, thank you very much, Kim Jongdae.

 

Sehun brings daffodils home that night, pulled fresh out of the apartment grounds. The roots drop an incriminating little trail of dirt all the way to Junmyeon's door, through to his kitchen where the flowers end up stood in a measuring jug.

"I think you like yellow," Sehun explains, ears flat. Junmyeon smiles like he isn't wrong.

"Were you alright today?" Junmyeon asks, and Sehun just curls his toes in his socks. "I'm not angry, Hunnie. Not at all." It's maybe too big of an ask, offering Sehun a hand. And yeah, no, they're not there yet. Sehun's tense to the tip of his tail with Junmyeon reaching for contact. "Earlier was my fault. I'm sorry for not listening."
Sehun nods tightly to that. It's kinda new, being asked how he feels. Being apologised to. He's not sure that he trusts it, but the size band aid covering Junmyeon's forearm makes him wince. Either Junmyeon's playing the long game or he really doesn't mind. It'd be strange to not mind, Sehun thinks, but then it's still strange all over not being where he used to be.

 

Sehun thinks Junmyeon likes yellow and Junmyeon thinks Sehun likes milk. Sehun does, enough to not dislike nursing the warm mug Junmyeon passes him on his way back from the kitchen with tea for himself. It's making him sleepy, but he won't curl up and pull the blanket down from the back of the couch until Junmyeon is gone.

Junmyeon figures that out when Sehun suddenly jerks upright and his claws shoot out to keep hold of the mug.

"Bedtime, I think," Junmyeon says gently, as though it's for himself. He has different smiles, and this one where his teeth don't show and his eyes start to close almost makes Sehun want to smile back.

"Yeah. I hope your.. I hope it doesn't hurt." Sehun gestures to his own forearm, nodding his ears to Junmyeon's. "I hope it gets better quickly."

"It's not as bad as it looks. Kyungsoo is just thorough." Junmyeon remembers as he says it that Sehun has yet to meet Kyungsoo, so that's neither funny nor convincing. A lot of what he says feels like it's probably lost on Sehun, and Sehun's not like Baekhyun with his sharp little tongue. Junmyeon can't tell when he doesn't understand, and worse what Sehun is holding back from saying himself. Junmyeon's intuition only goes so far. Sehun's waiting for him to leave, though, so he can fit himself into the cushions rather than in Junmyeon's bed.

"I'm sorry there isn't the space here for you to have your own bed if you feel cramped sharing. I just assumed we would share. Though now you're actually here, all the advice I read online is probably pretty irrelevent."

Sehun's left ear gives a little twitch. "Because I'm second-hand."

"Because you have history," Junmyeon corrects, frowning. He's thankful for his afternoon spent with someone who actually has some experience with rehomed pets. It's clear he was more out of his depth than he was acknowledging. Or, well, he had thought he was doing pretty well, but there's nothing like a sharp shock (or scratch, in this case) for clarity. "I know settling in will probably take a while, and that's.. that's ok, you know? It's a new place, new people.. Either way. You're pretty big for that couch."

True, Sehun does have to bend his knees to fit. Some mornings he wakes with a whole leg fallen over the side, cold and numb. It's not ideal, and it's impolite when tiny Junmyeon offered to make himself even tinier so Sehun's long limbs and tail could fill his bed. You don't just tell humans what is off bounds to them, though, when they're offering you so much in return. Easier not to accept vulnerabilities. "Just a few more nights. I won't make it a habit."

"Alright." Junmyeon hauls himself up from the chair and doesn't look disappointed, because he's good at not looking how he feels. Sehun figured that out pretty early on; he for sure hasn't done much that would make Junmyeon smile as often as he does. "Sleep well, Hunnie. I'll get the light."

"Thanks. You too."

 

Junmyeon's mug of tea is still on the table, not far from Sehun's turned back. The blend of fruits — red fruits, raspberries maybe, starts to overpower the scents Sehun is normally aware of as he drifts. Instead of unwashed old blankets and a couch that's seen better days, Sehun grows hazier thinking of gardens.

 

Sehun must have slept through the whole night. He feels groggier than usual as he wakes, dragging himself from a deeper sleep. Gradually warmth registers, pressure. There are fingers in his hair, and no, no—

Junmyeon's beside him, reading from his tablet. Sehun doesn't move, or breathe, until his limbs and his lungs protest. Even then he doesn't move. Not until Junmyeon's thumb dips below the base of his ear and strokes, and it's suddenly a matter of pull away or vomit.

Junmyeon's tablet has a near miss with the floor when Sehun suddenly bolts upright and he fumbles not to drop it in surprise. "Sehunnie—"

From the way he reaches out, Sehun couldn't say if he's touched or scornful that Junmyeon isn't afraid to have claws in him again. They're extended, but safely embedded in a couch cushion.

"I'm ok," Sehun says for both of their benefits. That was.. His heart is still trapped up high and sore in his throat. That was as much a surprise to him as it was to Junmyeon. "Please don't touch my head."

Junmyeon rests his tablet in his lap. "I'm sorry." He fiddles with the edge of the case, because from such an affectionate family and with Jongdae his best friend it doesn't come easily to just watch someone when he could be touching. Touching is reassurance to him. But evidently not for Sehun, who he knows next to nothing about, and he really needs to get a goddamn grip on that. "I thought cats liked that. I shouldn't have assumed. I assumed again. I'm sorry."

Sehun shakes his head a little. "Most do, I think." He used to, he's pretty sure. A long time ago, when he was being raised. That's different, though. Breeder affection is a given; it's earned from your owner, and Sehun never, before now, did enough. It's not like he's really done anything for Junmyeon to earn it yet either, but Junmyeon seems persistently bad at this ownership thing. Maybe it's not a long game. Maybe he's just new to this.

Junmyeon's watching him with so much concern Sehun almost wants to press a paw to his brow to smooth it out again.

"Thank you for apologising," he says, and Junmyeon seems to relax back into the couch a little. And then frowns again. Humans seem to do that a lot.

"Sehun, I.." Junmyeon starts uncertainly. His tablet is finally moved to the safety of the coffee table, then he turns to face Sehun. He's so small he barely takes up his own side of the couch, but Sehun's got the root of his tail pressing back against the arm. "I don't know what your life was like before the shelter. They're not allowed to tell me. You do know that, right? I don't really know what to do for the best. But if you ever want to talk.." he pauses there, looking to Sehun directly, and he quickly shakes his head. "No, that's ok. But I don't know anything, ok? If that helps. I just wanted to bring you home because I liked you."

Sehun starts working his claws free from the couch. That sounded genuine, but who genuinely wants a shelter cat just for the fun of owning one?

Junmyeon smiles at him, like he always smiles. "It's ok? If this takes time. Now you've been here a while.. putting up with me trying to learn and doing all the wrong things, I still like you. I'm sorry," he adds again.

Sehun's tail sways.

 

˘

 

Junmyeon rubs a hand over his face while he waits for his coffee to cool. Sehun feels almost a little fond watching him, because he looks kind of like a cat less human than Sehun washing its whiskers. Junmyeon does that when he's trying to wake up in the mornings, but Sehun's not sure it works. Sehun definitely almost felt fond, but then Jongdae is beside him, talking too low for the sound to carry out. That's intentional.

Jongdae has a key, and, Junmyeon told Sehun so he wouldn't be alarmed, has had for years. So waking up to him already here, smelling of Baekhyun and aftershave and Baekhyun again.. It's not a problem unless it looks like one. Before Sehun can worry about it too much, though — if Junmyeon is discussing his behaviour, comparing notes with someone who owns a decent cat, maybe, he's thrown off by movement in his peripheral vision.

"Nice seeing you again, kitty," coos said decent cat, intentionally rubbing shoulder to waist with Sehun as he pushes past to sink down onto the couch. Cat bonding, Sehun would guess; he doesn't know for sure.

"I'm Sehun."

"You're younger than me. Kitty." Baekhyun smiles. "I haven't seen you since you arrived. Heard plenty about you, though." He raises a hand, fingers clawed. Scratching up your owner doesn't seem too severe of a crime, though, if how fast he drops it away to reach for Sehun's arm is anything to go by. "Anyway," Baekhyun continues, nestling against Sehun's side once he's got him on the couch. "Jongdae wanted to do boring human stuff with your Junmyeonie, so I figured I'd come too and see how you're doing now. You were so haughty the day I met you," he grins, sticking his round little nose up in the air. Sehun blinks slowly. "Nah, it's just nerves, right? I can't imagine having to live in a shelter."

"It wasn't so bad. Worse for the dogs." Sehun folds his tail in behind his back as Baekhyun's sways nearer.

"Mm, dogs get lonely so easily. Chanyeol always acts like I've been away a year. Every time." Baekhyun sighs, but doesn't pretend he's not smiling. He nudges Sehun's shoulder with his own. "How are you settling in now, anyway?" He asks, casual, like Sehun has no reason not to be doing just fine.

Maybe Jongdae isn't as loose-tongued as Sehun had assumed, for Baekhyun to be looking at him so unassumingly. "We're.." Junmyeon's propped against the counter now, nodding along to whatever Jongdae is saying with his eyes barely open. How some humans fend for themselves is beyond Sehun. (But he'd definitely catch food for Junmyeon if he couldn't manage himself. He wouldn't let him starve.) "Figuring things out. I got someone too nice for me, maybe."

Baekhyun's canines poke out as he grins. "It's ok. You can say he's boring, I won't tell."

"It's not that," Sehun vaguely defends. He's not entirely sure what it actually is, or that Baekhyun is the person he wants to explore it with. Junmyeon just isn't what he's used to. And that's great, obviously, that Junmyeon isn't anything like what Sehun spent his teens adjusting to. He looks up again. Junmyeon's trying to talk with his hands because his mouth is full of coffee now. Stupid, sweet human.

Baekhyun nudges against his side again, clearly bored with attempting conversation. "So how do you feel about playing now?" He asks, "It's been so. long. since I've had someone without dog breath to play with."

"I don't th—"

 

The yowls from the living room are so loud Jongdae almost drops his mug.

 

"I'm sorry, Hunnie." Junmyeon seems to have said that a lot over the past fortnight. "I thought it might relax you having another cat around. Baekhyun is really nice once you get to know him."

Sehun tries to smile, but it's about as convincing as he thinks the chances of he and Baekhyun becoming best friends are. "I'm still getting there, I think."

Junmyeon heaves a sigh and flops onto his front. "My bad. Again," he groans, face in his pillow. "I meant what I said about it taking time. Don't rush yourself. Don't let me rush you. Why am I such a dick." He groans again, kicking his little socked feet. Tiny human. Sehun wants to pat them.

There's woefully little information available on how to care for rehomed hybrids, even less for those with the big red stamp on their files. It's not that Junmyeon hadn't considered that there'd be a lot involved in this that there isn't with the kind of cat Jongdae keeps blathering on about him needing to get, but.. admittedly Junmyeon's not the best at looking at things long-term. There's a social stigma attached to even talking about it that Junmyeon hadn't ever imagined before he did that search on his phone in the middle of the night. It's not fair that those who need the most care and information are deprived of it, but Sehun's the last person who needs telling that.

Junmyeon kicks his feet again, mentally reasoning that at least he's given Sehun a home.. and that yeah, he's pretty useless, but willing and patient along with it. It's not like there was a line of people with more experience in this kind of situation he was cutting ahead of. It still feels shitty though, that he's so far not managed to do anything helpful.

Sehun watches him languish for a moment, but it's boring once he's stopped wiggling. And maybe it's that of everything in his new life Junmyeon seems the safest, or maybe it's just that he wants to feel something other than the memory of Baekhyun's little hand pressing into his ribs. Slowly, Sehun plants down his paws, walks them along into a full stretch of his spine, and has Junmyeon flushing pink in the rounds of his cheeks as he unceremoniously drops down against his side.

For a few seconds he can't feel Junmyeon breathing, but that's only so noticable because he isn't either. This is.. warm, and fairly comfortable. And once Junmyeon starts to relax against the pressure to his waist, it's actually pretty nice. Junmyeon very carefully shifts his hand away from near Sehun's ears. It's nice.

"I do like you," Sehun says. "You probably can't tell."

Junmyeon makes a sad little sound from his pillow. "Can you tell I'm trying to stop messing up? I'd say we're pretty even."

"I'm sorry I'm not more like Baekhyun," Sehun mumbles into his folded arms.

"I really am not looking for a Baekhyun all of my own."

Sehun believes that. He smiles to himself and butts his forehead gently against Junmyeon's side.

 

˘

 

Sehun feels pretty lucky that Junmyeon's apartment block is fancy enough to have its own grounds of sorts. It's only a few trees and a patch of grass to fill the space between the parking and surrounding walls, but it's perfect for getting some air without the worry of humans. Hybrids aren't uncommon in the building, so no one passing to get home or to their car pays Sehun's swaying tail any mind as he sits and watches the clouds drift by. Kinda strange, really, that they've always been up there but it's only the past month he's had the opportunity to just laze underneath them.

 

"Hey, kitty."

Baekhyun must have watched him walking up here, soft pink hair and fluffy ears popping out from behind his apartment door just as Sehun passes. "Come in a moment, I want to talk to you. Jongdae's at work."

Sehun shuffles his feet. Junmyeon said there were no hard feelings about him not appreciating Baekhyun's forward approach the other day. And none of Baekhyun's body language indicates threat, so Sehun tucks his key back into his pocket and heads over. Baekhyun smiles up at him and ushers him through the door.

It's stuffy inside and reeks of sex and something chemical-floral that catches in Sehun's throat. Undoubtedly to mask that from dull human senses, but Sehun's not sure why — Baekhyun yowls loud enough it's like he wants the whole block to know. It makes something in Sehun spike with fear, but it's ok. This is ok. He's somewhere new. New friends, new.. not exactly friends, but Baekhyun is only ever well spoken of.

Baekhyun ducks in ahead of him, small as a kitten and scampering up into the big armchair beside the couch. In Sehun's old home furniture needed permission — after some pacing he settles on safety in caution in new spaces. Baekhyun raises a brow as Sehun kneels beside his chair. But whatever, he has plans.

"Now, kitty," Baekhyun starts authoritatively, "My human has been distracted recently. By your human. About you. So cat to cat, I need to ask you something." He gives Sehun a hard look, but quickly softens when he sees Sehun isn't going to need much intimidation. "What kind of cat doesn't like being petted?"

Sehun looks to the floor, tail swaying idly. Seconds pass, but nope, that's not helping change the subject. "Me, I guess."

Sehun never would have imagined he'd come to view the shelter as respite, but at least nobody touched him there. Jackson in his moth-eaten aprons, kind as he was loud, never forgot a detail from Sehun's paperwork. He brought food and didn't pet; encouraged Sehun to open up about his moods as though they were always relevant and always optional. He knew Jackson for four months and didn't give him any more than a pat on the shoulder when he left, and now there are fingers in his hair.

"Don't do that." He twists and ducks, trying to pull away from Baekhyun's touch. "Please. I don't like it"

Baekhyun lifts his hand away just to wave Sehun off. Sehun almost jumps out of his skin when there's a brush of Baekhyun's thumb to the base of his ear. "We've all got a sweet spot somewhere around here," Baekhyun says with the look of someone who doesn't ever require a manual to dismantle things. "Let me find it. You can tell Junmyeonie where it is, and then—" Baekhyun sighs, like he's had to give this talk to too many dissatisfied cats in his time. "Humans just don't know how to pet, y'know? You'll like it once he's doing it right."

"I really—"

"I know, I know, you got some heavy handed jerk who thought they'd got it all figured out and it put you off. Trust me, kitty, it's not like that when you get someone who knows what they're doing." Baekhyun's voice is lower and softer suddenly, like he's sharing something intimate. Sehun doesn't like it. They're not close. He doesn't want someone telling him how he feels, and he really wants to take a bite out of the hand reaching for him.

Baekhyun's long fingers are gentle through Sehun's hair, combing and dividing. The fact it does feel good is turning Sehun's stomach, a weird kind of grating sensation between natural pleasure and instinct. His instincts say tense; prepare. The children had such tight little fists.

Standing would quickly solve the problem — Baekhyun couldn't reach then, like the kids couldn't. But from the little he knows of Baekhyun from their few weeks of companionship it's that his temper flares, and right now he's doing Sehun a favour. Like the kids used to be playing with their expensive, waste of space kitty, and their father's temper flared. If Baekhyun snapped Sehun would shrink right back down. Down smaller than he is now, kneeling at another cat's feet. Small, tight, praying.

In the end it's dry heaving that gets Sehun away from Baekhyun. It comes on so suddenly he pushes away without thinking, and he's not really focused again on where he is or why it happened until Baekhyun is on the floor beside him.

"I'm trying to help you keep your home, kitty," Baekhyun says as he presses a glass of water into Sehun's hand. It's cold and the glass is wet. Sehun can't really feel either of those things. "Whatever happened at the shelter, you need to forget about that now. You're somewhere nice now, with a great guy. Don't throw it away because you're fussy."

Sehun gulps the water down fast. He's made a bad enough impression on Jongdae and his pet without puking on their carpet to top it off. But he has to stop and speak eventually, and at that point throwing up sounds preferable.

"Before the shelter. I just had some bad experiences."

Sigh, sway. "Don't we all. I'm just trying to help you, kitty." Baekhyun pats Sehun's back. In a weird way Sehun can tell he's genuine, and that this probably would work for someone else. "People don't want pets they can't enjoy, you know?" Baekhyun says gently. "We've got to figure something out for you."

Sehun agrees. His teeth are chattering against the rim of the glass.

 

It's not like Junmyeon isn't used to eating alone, or that he hadn't resolved to play this by ear as to what worked best. But he thought they'd made some progress recently, so he can't help feeling somewhat deflated to come home to no Sehun and, to his surprise, a firmly shut bedroom door.

Junmyeon's at the end of his 7-11 dinner and in the the midst of wondering what went wrong when his phone lights up. He scowls at his best friend's stupid contact image. If Jongdae's calling instead of just coming over he's either naked or it's a conversation he doesn't want to have face to face. And all things considered, Junmyeon can guess which it is.

"What's your cat been doing with Sehun?" He snaps in return to Jongdae's sheepish greeting. "My place stinks of your place. He hasn't come out of my room since I got home."

Jongdae's sigh down the line is a long suffering one. That's hardly news. "Baekhyun— he didn't ask me to say anything, but he spoke to Sehun today about some things. He just.. You could do better, Myeonie, and it's still not too late if—"

"I don't want a better cat! I— Shit, Jongdae," Junmyeon hisses, "Another one wouldn't be better. We've been over this."

"They'd be better at being a pet, Myeonie. You've taken on something entirely different."

"I know!" Maybe Junmyeon could just go over and hit him, it'd only take a minute. "I didn't get him so he could live on my dick. This is fine. We're.. it's slow, but it's fine."

"Riiight. Everyone gets a hybrid just for the company." Actually, Jongdae might have called instead of dropping by because he knew Junmyeon would make a feeble attempt at punching him. "Look, Myeonie, I don't care why you got him. I just think— y'know, this is a long-term thing. It's been a while, he hasn't settled yet.. If you're gonna change him for one that won't complicate your life, better sooner than later. That's what they're for. To make your life easier. Nicer.

Are you crying? You've stopped yelling."

"No, I'm not crying." Junmyeon groans, pushing his fingers through his hair.

Jongdae's voice stays softer anyway. "Really, Myeonie, why did you get him? If it wasn't because you couldn't get laid by a human. Which I'm assuming hasn't changed since you got a psycho cat."

"For company. Honestly," Junmyeon says, "I'm just.. traditional relationships don't suit me, I've learned my lesson there. I just wanted someone around. No one looking for a hybrid was going to take on a rehome with history like his, Dae." He drops his fingers back from his hair and starts rubbing at the nape of his neck. His hair is growing out a little longer than he'd usually let it, but he's been pretty preoccupied recently. "I'd like.. I'd hoped we could get closer, I guess, but if it's not something he's ready for that's ok with me."

"It's been weeks and he won't even let you pet him," Jongdae says so gently, and it's then that Junmyeon starts to choke up. It's easier to be defensive when Jongdae is antagonising.

It really doesn't matter, though, and Junmyeon strains to keep the tremble out of his voice so it doesn't sound like it does. "I think being back in a home is just tough for him after he got used to the shelter being safe," he says, swallows. "I don't mind. I'd be worried if someone else had him."

Someone like you, Junmyeon thinks grimly after Jongdae's hung up, but then shakes the thought away. Jongdae's as soft hearted as he is really — he just makes different kinds of decisions in the first place.

 

Sehun hears Junmyeon's footsteps before the soft knock at the door. It's the cough that makes his ears twitch, but it didn't sound like he's in a bad mood. You can tell. He doesn't need to here.

Junmyeon peers around the door, but with his eyes unadjusted to the dark he doesn't see much of Sehun balled up at the foot of the bed.

"The couch is all yours, if we could swap rooms."

Sehun has tried to keep in mind that Junmyeon said he didn't want a Baekhyun. And that he was so warm to lie against, careful with his hands. It's still hard to pass him in the doorway without visible tension in his shoulders and tail, though, despite Junmyeon looking smaller than ever. He looks tired. Sehun hesitates, claws out just enough to graze the wall, but he doesn't know what to say.

Junmyeon turns back when he realises Sehun isn't leaving. He doesn't look up as far as Sehun's face. "I wondered, Hunnie. Did you have friends at the shelter?"

"Sort of." Sehun's fingertips touch to the wall. "I liked the warden on my block. I got on better with the dogs, but we didn't see each other often."

"Do you like dogs more than cats?"

Nodding, Sehun tries not to think back to Baekhyun's fingers in his hair. "Yeah. I find their company easier."

Sehun blinks slowly at how Junmyeon suddenly seems to light up.

 

˘

 

Sehun's heard Kyungsoo's name mentioned back and forth since he's been here. He knows that he's been Junmyeon's friend for a long time. He also knows that he has two dogs, and has never dropped by before. From across the room Sehun narrows his eyes at Junmyeon.

Kyungsoo is just as small as Junmyeon, though his body looks thicker and more powerful. He looks kind of mean with his heavy brows. He's the one that took care of Junmyeon's scratches, Sehun remembers, and if only for that he supposes he can try.

Kyungsoo pauses his conversation with Junmyeon to smile at Sehun when he finally concedes to slinking nearer. "It's nice to put a face to the name," he says pleasantly. His hands stay firmly in his pockets. Good.

"Same." To Junmyeon's surprise, Sehun bows his head. "Thank you for taking care of Junmyeon before."

Kyungsoo nods. "You're welcome. I'm glad it hasn't needed doing again."

Sehun doesn't know what more to say now, without sounding suspicious of Kyungsoo's motives for being here. It almost bowls Kyungsoo sideways when Junmyeon gets there first, slinging an arm around him. "I'm good as new!"

Sehun smiles at how easily Kyungsoo peels Junmyeon away. How Junmyeon tries to bounce back against his side, settling for being tucked under an arm and held under control so Kyungsoo can look back to Sehun.

"I've heard you like being outdoors," he says, and Sehun's tail sways with interest. "I was on my way to pick my dogs up from the park, I thought you might like to join them."

 

Kyungsoo is a lot quieter than most humans, and Sehun appreciates that a lot. His car is far bigger than Junmyeon's, higher off the ground, and Sehun's ears bump the roof more than once during the journey. His ears aren't flat, he realises the second time, and huh. Not being tense in company is something of a novelty.

"I've never been to a park before," Sehun says when he notices a sign coming up. Surely they can't have been driving around the perimeter this whole time? How big can a park be? He presses a paw and his nose to the window, twisting to see out. "Is this whole thing a park? All the trees and plants?"

"That's right."

Sehun looks back to Kyungsoo like he can't believe it. Kyungsoo turns to watch out the window as he parks, but Sehun can tell he's smiling.

"May I pet you?" Kyungsoo asks as they're taking off their seatbelts, and Sehun shakes his head. Kyungsoo nods. No big deal. "If there's anything I or my pups should know that will make you more comfortable just say, ok?"

Sehun's tail suddenly feels a little stiff behind his back. Junmyeon probably told Kyungsoo about that rubber stamp on his paperwork when he lashed out. Yet another person knows that he was rehomed out as damaged goods before they know anything else about him. Kyungsoo makes that feel like safety, but..

 

"My favourite colour is green," Sehun tells him as they head for the entrance. Everything around them is green, including the iron gates, and it's loosening up the last of the tension still trying to grip at him. The air smells so good here. For such a big open space, he feels surprisingly not-small.

Kyungsoo smiles. "What's your favourite food?" He asks. "Has Junmyeon tried to cook for you yet? Ah, though you're not sick in bed, so probably not."

Sehun likes Kyungsoo a lot, he decides.

"There is something," he says as they reach the entrance gate. "I'd like if.." It's such a tall gate, wound with vines, and beyond it all green. So much that all Sehun can see in the distance is haze; no end. "If they don't know already, if you don't tell your dogs why I was in a shelter."

Kyungsoo is checking his watch when Sehun looks down at him. Baekhyun said that dogs can get antsy if people are gone for too long. Kyungsoo shrugs his sleeve back down and tilts his head to Sehun. His eye contact is steady and deliberate as he replies, "Of course," and Sehun feels very inclined to not doubt him.

"Everyone is new but I'm not, y'know? Everyone I meet already knows me as someone with a past. I'd like to be new, too."

Kyungsoo is so small, but his hand presses firm at Sehun's lower back. It's like he'd touch a human, and something about that makes the sense Sehun has of taking up more space swell larger. "We're new to each other, Oh Sehun." He gives Sehun a pat, then shoves his hands back in his pockets. "They'll want to know all about what you like eating, though, so be prepared for that conversation a few times."

 

"They really knocked you out, huh?" Junmyeon shakes the blanket out from the back of the couch and leans to drape it over Sehun. Sehun wiggles a little in thanks, but he feels too heavy to even lift his head.

"I've been an indoor cat for too long. My legs hurt so much."

Junmyeon grins and perches on the arm of the couch. "Wait til tomorrow. That's when you'll really feel it."

"God."

The issue is partly that Sehun's been a solitary cat for so long, too. He's drained in the best way possible from having constant conversation, laughing until his chest ached from the lack of air. If his limbs didn't feel like lead from all the running he'd probably think he could just float up to the ceiling.

Junmyeon watches him for a moment, pleased to see the little dent between his brows has ironed out. "I'll leave the bathroom light on so you can shower later, when your legs are working again."

Sehun moans into a cushion at the thought of hot water on his sore muscles. "They're never going to work again." Over his head he hears Junmyeon laugh, and it washes over him almost as warm as if he'd managed to drag himself into the shower. It's been a really good day.

After some blanket rearranging and Junmyeon fetching cold milk for when Sehun can sit up again, Junmyeon turns in and leaves Sehun in peace to focus on the burn in muscles he swears he didn't have before today. He was too out of it to even thank Junmyeon for the drink. He can't quite get to sleep, though, mind racing with everything that happened.

Kyungsoo's puppies are everything Sehun remembers enjoying about dogs. Easy, open company. Chanyeol is loud in a way that makes Sehun feel braver rather than afraid. Jongin is faster at their games and quieter, and his left ear has a little droop to it that Sehun loves. Kyungsoo is nice himself. Solid, Sehun would call him, and reassuring.

Until now Sehun thought he'd been moving on from things just fine. Sure he has his reminders of worse days, things that make him tense. It hits him with only the enormity he can muster up while more than half asleep and buzzing with too many good feelings, that he'd been lingering so much on memories of his previous home. It feels like he's left them back in the park, knocked out of him by Kyungsoo's pups, and all that's in its place right now is all of that beautiful green.

 

˘

 

"Is now an ok time to talk?" Sehun asks despite Junmyeon looking very absorbed in whatever is on his tablet screen. It's clearly not, but right now is when he feels able, so right now it is. "Sorry, I can see you're doing something, but.." he trails off hopefully.

Junmyeon doesn't disappoint, immediately locking the screen and leaning to set it aside. "Now is good." He shifts closer to the arm of the couch and gives the cushion a pat. "Is everything ok?"

"Yes. Yeah, nothing is wrong, I just.." Sehun folds his tail in as he sits, pulling both feet up and wincing at the ache still present in his muscles. "I never told you what to avoid. You've been trying so hard, and I kinda.." It was scary, considering handing over information that could be used against him. But this home isn't like his last, and Kyungsoo was nice, and his puppies were nice, and Junmyeon seems safely more their kind of person. "Sorry this is coming out of nowhere, but I just thought it'd.."

"It's a conversation worth having." Junmyeon sits up straighter. "It would be helpful for both of us, I think."

Sehun's ears flatten a little. "Yeah. So, uh. Sometimes I feel shut in? The doors are ok most times, unless they're.. not. Sorry, that's a pretty unspecific one," he apologises, but Junmyeon just gives an encouraging little shake of his head. "Well, also, I can't have my head touched, ever. Or my tail."

"Oh."

Sehun must be looking sceptical, because Junmyeon's quick to wave his hands in dismissal.

"No I don't mind, it's not— I'm just sorry I did it before. I should have asked first."

What a strange human he is. "I'm a cat. Why would you think to ask."

"Because," Junmyeon starts, but the rest goes implied enough that he needn't finish. He looks more upset than Sehun feels about this conversation. Jackson was the same, the few times Sehun spoke to him. Humans — some humans, like to think there isn't inequality, but Baekhyun didn't expect Sehun to not have history.

"Also, I really hate radish." Sehun sticks out his tongue. "That's not a thing. Kyungsoo said you cook sometimes."

The sudden change of tone confuses Junmyeon for a second, but then he's laughing. Junmyeon offers his hand, because Junmyeon's the kind of person who likes to touch. Sehun doesn't mind that, now he's used to it, and Junmyeon tightly squeezes his big paw between his own two little hands. "I've been—"

"A dick," Sehun interjects. "You already said. A few times, actually."

Right. Junmyeon winces. "I think I just hoped things would work out, if I just tried hard enough. But that is.. really stupid, all considered. I hoped if I did the right things and you came to like me then it'd be ok. And I didn't want you to have to think about the past, but avoiding it probably made it worse. I should have said a lot more, shouldn't I." Junmyeon sighs. Sehun's paw feels cold and clammy where Junmyeon lifts a hand away to push through his hair. "I just wanted some company, Hunnie. And you looked like you needed somewhere that maybe an average owner wouldn't provide."

"You're not an average owner," Sehun agrees. Junmyeon's heart has been in the right place the whole time, and Sehun knows that. He knew it as soon as he arrived, but.. "Some of the problem," he says, then pauses to take a deep breath. It sounds almost stupid in his own head now, after how Junmyeon has treated him. Cats and humans tend to not have these kinds of conversations, so who knows how stupid it is, really. "Everyone tells you that the right kind of relationship with your owner is one where your wants match up. Baekhyun— he knows that too, 'n that I wasn't going to be that easy. I could smell Jongdae on him as soon as we met. It scared me."

Junmyeon's mouth turns down a little at that information. He doesn't speak, because Sehun doesn't look finished yet, just returns his hand to Sehun's paw.

"Before you go to your forever home, they teach you that what your owner wants is what makes you happy. That's how it works. I never seemed to get it right with my previous owners. It was easier to reject you entirely than disappoint you. I think, is what I thought." Sehun shrugs, ears flattening.

"You were worried I'd want things from this that you wouldn't?" Junmyeon asks. His stomach felt sour already from where the conversation was headed, and Sehun nodding makes it curdle entirely. He would never— but how was Sehun to know that. God. "After the last one I figured relationships really aren't my thing. Not.. like, movie style human relationships," Junmyeon says, looking somewhere between Sehun's human and cat ears. "Jongdae and Baekhyun, maybe they made assumptions about my motives. If we'd become closer that would have been nice, if it was how we both felt.. But if we can be friends and enjoy each other's company that would be just as good too. That's all I set out for, Hunnie. Honestly."

Sehun nods again. That makes sense. "You don't have to say it like we won't," he says, surprising Junmyeon. "I like you. I should have talked to you instead of just believing Baekhyun. It's not because of you that I didn't feel like I could, it's just.." He shrugs. His experiences of how humans work out their differences hadn't exactly been exemplary. "Everything. Y'know."

"Yeah. But we're getting there, right?" Junmyeon smiles. "And you working on getting comfortable here comes before any of that other stuff. Ok?"

Mouth twisting, Sehun just shrugs a shoulder again. "I'm sorry for being a bother."

"What? No, no. Of course it's ok." It almost slips off Junmyeon's tongue to ask what kind of humans Sehun's been around to be under that impression. But that's exactly what the shelter wouldn't tell him. The more sense everything makes, the more Junmyeon wants to go back to a few weeks ago and kick himself.

Sehun sighs and stretches his legs out, wincing at the pull in his sore muscles. "You we're right about it hurting more afterwards. It's been two days, I must be really out of shape."

"Keep it up now you've started. Or it'll just feel like that every time." Junmyeon used to be into sports and gym visits when he had someone other than Jongdae around to impress, but now he does little more than regretting running up the stairs at work on days he's feeling that his belly is getting a little doughy. "I've taken Chanyeol out for Soo before though, I know the feeling."

"Chanyeol's nice. Kinda treats me like I'm another dog." Sehun curls and then flexes his toes, and even that aches in about three other places. Sleeping so cramped up is probably more responsible for how stiff his back feels than Chanyeol is, though. "So. Anyway, if it's ok with you I'm not gonna sleep here tonight."

Junmyeon looks up from Sehun's outstretched legs, alarmed. And then realises he means here, on the couch, and bites back a smile as he nods.

 

˘

 

Jongin is a big warm pile of fur, and Sehun loves it. He likes Chanyeol a lot, too, but between his owner and Baekhyun, Chanyeol doesn't have as much free time for afternoon nap company. Jongin's got an endless supply of energy for walks and games, as most dogs do, but he's never one to turn down a nap.

Sehun's felt a lot more settled in his forever-forever home since Jongin's been visiting to demonstrate how comfortable all of the furniture is. He's so at ease here, always wagging his tail. Sehun's trust for Junmyeon is growing by the day, but there's nothing he'd trust more than a dog's instincts.

"You still have to come play at our place sometime," Jongin reminds Sehun as he clambers up onto the bed beside him. "I like coming here, but we have a garden." His tail bats at Sehun's thigh, wagging hard at the prospect of them piling up. "And a bed I won't feel bad about taking over."

Sehun just snorts. Jongin's been voluntarily burying down onto Junmyeon's side of the bed for weeks with no sign of having a problem with it. "Get comfy, I can't until you do," he nudges, and Jongin obliging wiggles down.

 

"So, can I ask you something?"

Sehun's ears twitch at the sudden rumble of Jongin's voice. He couldn't place how long they've been dozing on and off for in the afternoon sun, and that feels amazing. "Mm."

"Are you like, not into people?"

I'm warm, Sehun thinks, burying his nose deeper into Jongin's chest.

"I mean!" Jongin continues a little faster when Sehun doesn't respond, "It's not like its obligatory to like your owner like that or anything, but, usually by how long you've been here you— y'know, and Junmyeon is very nice. And handsome. And I bet his hugs are great, but you've never mentioned.."

Sehun shrugs the shoulder he's not lying on. This is all true. "Are you asking 'cause you want him?" He's teasing, but then Jongin's tail starts up moving. Sehun snickers.

"I'm a pack animal, jerk." Jongin whines softly, giving Sehun's shoulder a lazy push. "I wanted to be collared and everything, but I can't help noticing."

"Noticing. I see," Sehun drawls back. "You've had to bury your face in his pillow every time you're here just to make sure?"

"You're deflecting," Jongin huffs.

"I'm a cat." Sehun flicks his tail at Jongin, smiling as he splutters. "Keep your puppy paws off my owner."

Jongin grins and wiggles in a little closer, kneeing Sehun's thigh. "So you do like him!"

"Yeah," Sehun sighs, giving Jongin a push to make him turn. "Enough to not want to give up my space in the bed and split meals with you."

Jongin laughs as he rolls over, pulling at Sehun's arm to get it comfy around his waist. "You are such a cat," he says with a content sigh as Sehun curls around his back. Sehun's a bit long and lean for being the most comfortable big spoon, but compared to Chanyeol who kicks, and Kyungsoo who's knees dig in at the backs of Jongin's thighs, it's a nice experience. "It's great though, having more cat friends. Chanyeol's not possessive of Baekhyun as such, he just takes up a lot of his time."

"Baekhyun's always in demand," Sehun says, "Between Jongdae and Chanyeol. They should make a timetable or something."

Jongin hums. "Letting your pet socialise is important though. I guess that's why Kyungsoo got two of us.. He doesn't socialise much himself, so at least we always have company."

Sehun just makes a sound in response to that. It'd be weird to tell Jongin that he's his first proper friend. Junmyeon wanted him to make friends, but he wouldn't have made the effort to get this close to Kyungsoo's pups if he hadn't liked them. Maybe Kyungsoo is his friend, too, actually. Huh. Suddenly Sehun feels almost popular.

"Is a two animal pile up socialising?" He asks. "If Jongdae caught us he'd probably report back to Junmyeon."

Jongin shakes his head. "For what?" He laughs, patting Sehun's forearm. "We're bonding and stuff, Junmyeon would love it."

The sound Sehun makes this time is sceptical, and Jongin laughs again. "You're funny. Humans aren't half as bad as you make out, y'know. Is it a cat thing that you're always so suspicious?"

Yes, Sehun could say, and change subject. But Jongin is his friend, and warm, and he feels more grounded than he ever has in being far, far away from what life used to be. "Kyungsoo told you I'm a shelter cat, right? We're weird. It's hard trying to figure out why anyone does anything." It's tiring always trying to, he doesn't say, just grumbles and butts against Jongin's shoulder.

Jongin responds by patting Sehun's arm again, squeezing and holding this time. "I'm a shelter dog," he says softly, and for a second Sehun doesn't breathe. "It's hard for a while, but not forever. I was abandoned."

Sehun presses his face into the nape of Jongin's neck. "I wasn't." The leather band of his collar digs into Sehun's cheek. Everything feels kind of soft and hazy, and Sehun almost wonders if he even said anything as the silence drags comfortably on past that confession. Maybe he's still asleep.

"Are you gonna be kind to him one day?" Jongin asks, glancing over his shoulder. "I think he's really trying."

Mm, Junmyeon really is. Sehun likes him very much for that. And for his smile, and how he always smells of fruit tea at bedtime. Sehun would probably let him a lot closer if he was sure he wouldn't instinctively shoot out his claws. "Just gotta figure out how, I guess."

"However long it takes. If he knows.. He'll give you time. That probably sounds simpler than it is when you're all relaxed though.." Jongin trails off into a wide yawn.

Oh. Right. That's what the feeling is.

"Humans can be so good," Jongin continues hazily. Sehun flicks at his tail as it lifts against his side, sending it thudding back against the bed. If it starts wagging and keeps hitting Sehun, he swears.. "I know.. We both know that some can be so bad it makes it seem like there's no good ones, but there really are. You've got a good one here."

"It took a while to really believe that." Sehun closes his eyes before Jongin can turn to try and look at him again. "Baekhyun said I should learn to like being petted if I wanted Junmyeon to keep me. He's been patient, but.."

Jongin huffs. "Junmyeon's not like that. I promise. Baekhyun's not wrong.. He knows a lot about humans. But Junmyeon is your human, and he seems a lot more concerned about you being comfortable than if he can pet you. People say humans only want one thing, but it's not true."

Sehun snorts. "I don't think that thing is petting."

Jongin's a little pink when he wriggles out of Sehun's hold to turn and face him. "Any of those things," he amends. "It's not.. not-true that a lot do. But Baekhyun and Jongdae are just really.." Jongin wrinkles his nose. Sehun nods. "He's just really positive about those things because it's worked out well for him. It's not always like that."

"My human at the shelter was nice," Sehun agrees. And he knows that Kyungsoo is nice — both to him and hybrids in general. Both of his pups are always smiling, tails wagging. Jongin always smells of him, even if only faintly. Unlike the harsh scent of Jongdae Baekhyun carries, Kyungsoo's is just there, right in the depth of a breath when Sehun's nose is pressed to Jongin's skin.

"See. Your shelter human, and Junmyeon, and Kyungsoo.." Jongin glances up at Sehun, his droopy ear right down against the curls of his mussed bed hair. "I was scared for a while, with Kyungsoo. Scared that I was rushing being collared. It took me a while to trust new people, 'n then.. I was scared it might seem like I only wanted it as like, something binding? So I couldn't be dumped again."

Sehun pouts and gives Jongin's shoulder a pat, but he just shakes his head.

"Because, I mean, I could? That was the thing. I knew being collared doesn't mean someone will keep a promise. It just felt right. It's ok if you can't trust Junmyeon yet. But I do, and I think he'll be good to you."

Sehun just gives a slow blink in agreement. Junmyeon is. All in good time. "I've never had anyone to talk about boys with before," Sehun says, making Jongin's ears perk. "It's pretty boring, can we move on?"

Jongin laughs. "So you're not into people?"

"I'm warm," Sehun says aloud this time. Jongin grins and rolls his entire warm body right on top of him, tail rapid from side to side.

 

˘

 

Wednesday night there seems to be some kind of sports thing on that Junmyeon's excited about. Or Jongdae is excited about, at least. Junmyeon is just easily drunk on other's enthusiasm (and their soju), judging by how rosy cheeked he is when he checks in on Sehun.

Sehun doesn't need checking in on, thank you very much, he's not a dog. But even with an exaggerated eye roll he does appreciate the gesture.

"It's barely even been dark out for five minutes. And I am fine, enjoying the quiet. Get back to your thing." Sehun shoos him with a paw. Junmyeon mimics the gesture, sort of, and gives Sehun such a ridiculously big smile. All teeth, but he couldn't look threatening right now if he tried. "Drink some water, Junmyeon." Sehun sighs fondly, rising from the couch enough to butt Junmyeon back in the right direction for the door. "And don't check in on me again."

Jongdae's only a few doors down, and Sehun doesn't settle again until he hears the sound of a door slam. Shaking his head, he nestles back down on the couch and doesn't really wonder what happened in the show that's on in the moments he was looking away. It's just background noise and colours, and a little bit the fact he can just do this now. Just laze on the furniture and choose what's on tv.

As soon as Sehun's got his peace back he's aware of what his tail is doing. And hey, no, none of that. It dawns on him after a moment of pressing his face into a couch cushion that he needn't be embarrassed by the happy arch of his tail, though. Even if Junmyeon knows the first thing about cat body language, he wasn't exactly mastering his own human limbs with much finesse just now.

Still, Sehun hasn't had the novelty of a candy cane tail like Baekhyun's in a long while.

 

Junmyeon must have just made an early start and stuck to water from there, because he's a lot steadier on his feet when he gets back in two hours later.

"They lost. I think?" He shrugs when Sehun asks how it went. Sehun's ears turn down in sympathy.

"Sorry."

"I really don't know, honestly. Once Dae got all technical about gameplay I started to doze." Junmyeon rubs at his eyes. When his hands come away he's smiling blearily. At Sehun, and Sehun realises it's because he was smiling and looking first.

It's hard not to smile at Junmyeon though. He's very endearing. And kind, and warm. Warm is Sehun's favourite, and Junmyeon's cheeks are still glowing pink.

Sehun trusts Jongin, and Jongin would trust Junmyeon. With Junmyeon so soft and sleepy, that's enough right now to give Sehun that last little push into trying.

Realisation dawns on Junmyeon all at once that Sehun is about to lie on him. He's still a little uncoordinated, lifting his hands out of the way before anything. "Oh," he gasps, "Sehunnie. Are you ok? You're—" he starts, but it's not like Sehun is sprawling out across his lap by accident.

It takes some fidgeting to get ribs and knees and elbows in the right places to be comfortable, but once he's figured it out Sehun only wriggles again to get more securely onto Junmyeon's small thighs and away from the edge of the couch. His shoulder presses into Junmyeon's stomach once he's comfy. Hopefully Junmyeon's not feeling queasy.

"Don't pet me." Maybe Junmyeon doesn't react at all because Sehun's voice is so muffled from behind his folded arms and the cushions. "Please. Not my head."

"Or tail," Junmyeon adds faintly. Sehun nods. Good human. "What should I.."

Comfortable — physically — probably isn't the right word to describe how Sehun feels lying face down across Junmyeon's small lap. His ribcage already feels a little sore around the edges from Junmyeon's solid thigh. In every other sense, though, Sehun almost feels hazy with it. "Whatever, I don't mind," he says. It comes out heavy and thick. "I'd like if we could just.. do the cat and human thing."

Junmyeon's hands fumble against the front of his shirt. "You don't have to," he says quickly.

"I know that." Sehun's tail knows best, and it's still curved. "We can try?"

That sounds really, really good to Junmyeon. The gravity of the situation has cleared the last of the fuzziness from his head while Sehun seems to be steadily heading in the other direction. And maybe that's the best way for it to be, he figures, Sehun relaxed and himself alert. "What would you like me to do?"

Sehun presses his face deeper between his arms. Darker, warmer. "I don't know. I didn't do much of this before." Syllables are starting to round and curl on his tongue. Junmyeon knows what not to do, and it doesn't feel against Sehun's better judgement to just let that be enough.

Hmm. Junmyeon's never actually had a cat before. As a child his family only had dogs. Real dogs, that just needed a scritch behind the ear to be satisfied. Sehun's long body takes up pretty much the whole of the couch, weighing heavy over Junmyeon's legs, and yet he feels pretty low on options.

"Can I touch your back? I won't— no petting, just. Yeah." Sehun doesn't see Junmyeon shrug, but he nods anyway. It feels like the right kind of thing to do. "Like an old cat lady in a drama," Junmyeon jokes softly as he places a palm between Sehun's shoulder blades. "How does that feel?"

It's so, so warm. The heat seeps straight through Sehun's sweater (a thin stretchy one, moss green, two sizes larger than the ones Junmyeon buys for himself), soaking down into his skin. Sehun's in entirely the wrong position to arch up and encourage more, which right now is disappointing, but for a first time perhaps for the best. He opens his mouth to reply, and all that comes out is a low rumble. It'd be embarrassing if Sehun wasn't too hazy to care.

Taking that as a good sign, Junmyeon slowly, slowly strokes his hand down the line of Sehun's spine. "You purr so quietly," he says just as softly himself. "I've never heard you purr before."

"My owner.." Sehun murmurs when he has a little more control over his tongue again. "The old one. Both of the big ones, they didn't like the sound of purring. It's just small now. I grew up making it small."

Junmyeon rubs his thumb around one of the dimples at the base of Sehun's spine. "My brother told me not to grow up to be taller than him. I think I ended up doing the same."

Sehun snorts and flicks an ear.

Alright, Junmyeon's jokes fall flat on humans and hybrids alike. Sehun still feels nice and melted out over him, though, that's what matters. "So how am I doing?" He asks just as he tries out a little rubbing thing with a knuckle.

It— shit, Sehun could almost cry. Instead he just snarls playfully. He feels as silly as a kitten right now; God knows what his tail must be doing. "Good," he purrs. "I'll eat you last."

 

˘

 

Kyungsoo doesn't get all that much alone time having two dogs around the house. But it's Sunday, and his pups are playing with Sehun in the garden, leaving him with enough peace (and space) to enjoy his own kitchen. When was the last time he tried out a new recipe without some helping paws trying to take over or someone snuffling in to test the ingredients?

Not that he doesn't appreciate and adore his puppies, and their big hearts and smiles and wagging tails. But it's nice lining up herbs and spices along the counter without having to act as a shield to prevent Chanyeol getting paprika up his nose. Neither his puppies, Sehun, Junmyeon or Jongdae will probably like the end result, but Kyungsoo can do things just for himself sometimes..

He's looking from phone to ingredients, just about to start weighing things out, when there's the distinct slam of a heavy-handed pup opening the sliding doors to get back into the house. The sound of puppy paws approaching at speed follows. Sigh.

Kyungsoo angles himself at the counter just in case it's Chanyeol, probably having figured out something is happening in the kitchen and come to sniff it all out. It's Jongin that bursts in though, slipping a little on the laminate floor in his grass stained socks.

"Something happened," he pants, like that wasn't clear from his abrupt entrance. There's a tiny bead of blood at his collarbone and white raised skin below. "Can you—" he tugs at Kyungsoo's sleeve, body already turned to head back out.

"What kind of something?" Kyungsoo reaches up to smooth a hand through Jongin's hair to calm him, but Jongin shakes it off and pulls harder at his arm. "Tell me," Kyungsoo says, a little firmer, only taking a half-step forward.

A high whimper comes from Jongin's throat. Kyungsoo detaches Jongin's fingers from his sweater and slips his palm against Jongin's instead, squeezing his paw firmly.

"Don't be angry with Sehun," Jongin whines. "Chanyeol didn't mean to, but he did— it's his fault."

Ah. "I won't be angry with anyone if it was an accident," Kyungsoo assures Jongin as they set off for the garden. Even walking at speed Jongin is far ahead of him, dragging him by his hand, and Chanyeol hurries to them at the door.

Chanyeol's tail is between his legs as he seconds Jongin, blurting, "It was my fault," before Kyungsoo has even drawn breath. He evidently didn't swerve as fast as Jongin did; the scratches over his forearm are bleeding. It looks worse than it is, Kyungsoo decides after a quick glance. Chanyeol's already smeared it against the side of his shirt, spreading the blood as far as his elbow.

"You'll be alright until we get this sorted?" Kyungsoo asks as he gently lowers Chanyeol's arm back to his side. Chanyeol nods. Jongin chins at his shoulder.

"I'm fine. Just, Sehun—" Gesturing to the dividing wall between stone steps and the sunken garden, Chanyeol stutters as he thinks again about what he's done. "We were playing, ok, just like we usually do, and I was just trying to get out from the bottom of the pile 'n grabbed his tail, and— " He claws his fingers. His ears are so flat in his hair Kyungsoo can barely see the tufts of fur at the tips. "I know it was super important not to do that. Can you tell him I'm sorry?"

Kyungsoo nods and reaches up. Gently, he taps Chanyeol's nose. "I know you didn't mean to. I'm sure he does too."

 

Sehun is curled knees to his chest behind the wall, tail limp in the dirt. His claws are still extended, so Kyungsoo stops a few paces away. Sehun wouldn't hurt him in spite, he knows, but risking it wouldn't do either of them any good.

"Are you hurt?" He asks, crouching down to Sehun's level. "Did Chanyeol hurt you?"

Sehun shakes his head. That's good, at least.

Kyungsoo shifts just a little closer, keeping his hands close to his sides. "Tell me what you need to happen now, Sehun."

Sehun just shrugs. His little mouth draws in even smaller for a moment. "Junmyeon," he says. Kyungsoo's making such a funny expression, the way he's straining to hear without getting any closer. "He should probably.."

Kyungsoo's face disappears out of Sehun's line of vision again. He brushes off the knees of his pants and then reaches into his back pocket for his phone. "You're not in trouble, you know? Sehun. Chanyeol knows better."

Sehun tightens in on himself. That makes it an accident, which means Sehun shouldn't have lashed out. He's not felt that instinct for a while now; he couldn't catch it before it surfaced. "I ruined our day."

The sound of Kyungsoo's blunt nails tapping against the screen pauses. "He's in the wrong, Sehun. Not you. You haven't ruined anything."

There's a moment where Sehun's tension splits, raw confusion and upset clear on his face for the few seconds before there's movement to his side and everything seizes back up.

Chanyeol's head pops up over the wall, followed by a paw either side. "I'm really sorry, Sehunnie," he calls down. Kyungsoo scowls and makes a shooing motion. Chanyeol's ears droop again, but before he ducks back out of sight he adds: "We're both fine."

 

"That's good, right?" Jongdae says as he rereads the text from Kyungsoo. Junmyeon snatches his phone back, giving him an exasperated look. "I mean, he's asking for you when he needs security. That's progress."

"Maybe. I don't know." It's not like Sehun has anywhere else to go. Junmyeon pockets his phone and gestures for Jongdae to get his ass up off the couch. "You need to be gone by the time we're back."

Following after Junmyeon as he dashes out to the hall for his shoes, Jongdae steps around him so he can slip into his own. "Devastated as I am that I can't hang out in your home instead of my own.." He sighs when Junmyeon just keeps giving him that look with the eyebrows. "It takes me four seconds on a bad day to get from your door to mine, Myeonie, I'll be gone. I'm going now."

For just a second Junmyeon slows down, squeezing his eyes shut and touching fingers to his forehead like it's hurting. "Thanks. I'm sorry," he says as he unhooks his keys. "Sorry, I just—"

Jongdae just shoos Junmyeon out of the door when he tries to turn back. "I get it. Go fetch your cat." He pulls the door shut behind them, and for a second catches Junmyeon just staring blankly down at the ground. Things had been going well recently.

Jongdae clips Junmyeon around the shoulder as they part ways outside Jongdae's apartment door. "Drive safe, yeah?"

 

They're more than half the way home before the car has to stop at a light. Junmyeon keeps both hands firm on the wheel and only looks as far over as Sehun's knee where it's jogging against the console. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Sehun shakes his head.

"Kyungsoo said he's not—"

"I know." Sehun closes his eyes. His temple bumps the window as they set off again, ice cold. That's why he's leaning against it — to cool himself down, not to widen the distance between Junmyeon and himself. It probably looks that way from Junmyeon's side, but Sehun's stomach is churning too uncomfortably for him to risk opening his mouth any more than necessary.

 

"Talking might help?" Junmyeon offers again as he watches Sehun pace the kitchen, turning the empty glass in his paws over and over. Things like this, he knows they're not as simple as being told it's alright. Sehun can't settle just because he's back behind a locked door, and Junmyeon's uselessly lost again only knowing what not to do. "You don't have to, of course, but sometimes sharing a problem.."

Sehun puts the glass down. Scooching over on the couch, Junmyeon smiles up at him hopefully as he pads over.

"It would actually be great if you didn't talk either," Sehun says, sinking down beside Junmyeon and flicking his tail up behind his back. Junmyeon's mouth opens and closes before he nods. Ok. That's fine too. Whatever helps.

Sehun feels a little unkind to shoot down Junmyeon's help yet again, but he's restless enough without having to describe what's going on. It sunk in that he wasn't in trouble, and he believes Kyungsoo, and he knows Chanyeol meant no harm. It's just, Sehun's not sure he buried old memories particularly carefully in the time he was at the shelter. Being here and just trying to build on top of them seemed to be working. He hasn't felt that burn at the root of his tail for a long time; his senses are vivid with sounds and scents that he wouldn't— couldn't have actively dragged back up without remembering that sensation.

Of course, he's not there any more, and he never has to go back. Logically Sehun knows this. It's fine. He's fine. He's here, and Junmyeon's here, and that's what life is now.

Sighing, Sehun turns and presses his face to Junmyeon's shoulder to block out the light. Junmyeon, being Junmyeon, reacts and falters and starts thinking so loudly that Sehun can practically hear it all. Silly, predictable human. It's a reassuring kind of familiarity, though, and Sehun soon finds himself nuzzling more than hiding.

After being around Kyungsoo and his pups it's so noticable to smell Junmyeon again — something that smells like home. And that.. that is strange in itself to Sehun. To have a scent that he associates security with. It's really weird, and right now it's really intoxicating, too. Sehun wants more of it, and that's all he's thinking about as he fully turns his body towards Junmyeon.

Junmyeon makes a little sound, surprised by the sudden contact when Sehun leans into him. He welcomes it as some kind of hug until Sehun just keeps pushing, grasping at Junmyeon's arm for leverage. Sehun's not even aware of how much he's swamping his tiny human by leaning over him, focused on reaching exposed skin. There isn't much, because Junmyeon's always wearing these snug little sweaters. Junmyeon gets the idea that Sehun's looking for something, though, and when he tilts his head it helps Sehun find it.

There's only a small strip of skin exposed below Junmyeon's neckline but it's easy enough to reach. Sehun noses hard at his nape, just below the line of soft grown-out hair. Junmyeon curls a little as Sehun's breath hisses out over the skin from between his teeth. Still not enough. Sehun paws at Junmyeon, pulling him by his shoulder and pushing at his chest, butting his forehead and jaw up against him.

"It's ok," Junmyeon says in hope of being reassuring, but he's honestly not sure what Sehun needs right now or where the urgency is coming from. "What— can I do anything? Is there something I can do?" He asks, rubbing softly at Sehun's shoulder. Sehun shakes his hand straight off and Junmyeon winces. Evidently not that.

The first words Sehun tries to say come out caught between purr and snarl, but if he's alarmed by the sound Junmyeon doesn't show it. He presses his elbow into the arm of the couch to try and keep himself steady, or at least upright. Sehun's not particularly stronger than he looks, but in sheer size he overpowers Junmyeon easily with Junmyeon not attempting to push back, and down they go.

Junmyeon's arms come up cautiously at Sehun's sides, bracing his weight but not pushing back. His little legs are easily trapped by just one of Sehun's. He's so careful, even at a disadvantage. Junmyeon doesn't understand cat things, but he does trust Sehun. And that's not how humans are, not as Sehun knows them, but he is, somehow. Sehun must have got a defective one.

Sehun makes a frustrated sound as it starts to register that he's not even sure how to get more of this, to secure this as his. He digs his teeth in at Junmyeon's shoulder through the fabric of his shirt. And again a little higher, at the meaty join between neck and shoulder. Not hard enough to break the skin, or even to hurt. Sehun just needs, and he can't think—

"Hey, don't eat me, ok? You said I'd be last." Junmyeon sounds strained where his throat and mouth have gone dry. Maybe that didn't sound joking enough. When Sehun had said he'd eat Junmyeon, he hadn't considered that Sehun might have actually sunk his teeth into someone before.

Sehun doesn't want to eat Junmyeon, though. Sehun doesn't know what he wants at all beyond plugging those intrusive thoughts back up, and despite his track record with lashing out he's not and never has been a violent cat. He just— Just this little human helps, and Sehun has no idea what to do with that, how to make it work.

Junmyeon inhales sharply, arching away from the pin-point pricks as Sehun's claws suddenly dig in through his sweater. "Hunnie— Hunnie careful." The squirming seems to break Sehun's daze, and Junmyeon ducks his head to show him a smile in hope of holding his focus. "It's ok," he tries again, "I know you're upset, and we.." Sehun's eyes don't look the same as usual. Junmyeon almost startles when he realises.

"You're.." The urgency all seems to flood out of Sehun now his focus has been broken, directed to something else. His pupils are fully slitted, and now he's just gripping at Junmyeon, not holding him down. "You liked.. That? This. Me," he fumbles for the right word, abruptly more kitten than wildcat again. "You're," Sehun says again.

Junmyeon doesn't follow for a moment, until Sehun's narrowed eyes flit downwards. Oh. God, yes, he is. Junmyeon looks down between them, confused and flushed and as ashamed as he can manage to be when so much has just happened so quickly. It's not all that evident, but of course, Sehun can smell it.

"I don't think mauling is the usual technique for achieving that, but whatever," Sehun dismisses before Junmyeon can start apologising. It really probably isn't. Junmyeon's cheeks are so hot, even too much for Sehun's liking of warmth. Sehun's the one who owes an apology, behaving like that towards his owner, but the static still hasn't cleared from his mind. This has just been thrown into it, unprocessed. It's funny, right now.

Sehun claws his way back upright to make some space between them. "When you're trained they tell you humans can be learnt from a manual," he says, watching Junmyeon's mind visibly whirring and his little body staying pressed exactly as Sehun left it. "Like you're all exactly the same and there's just this.. process, in stages. But I guess not."

They had agreed that Junmyeon wasn't much like an average owner. Sehun's face is burning as much as Junmyeon's. He's not quite the clueless kitten Baekhyun was concerned for, but Junmyeon isn't a puppy. Junmyeon's all human; his human, and Sehun needs to keep him.

Head still unclear, nothing really comes to mind as Sehun tries to remember his training. Anything from his training. "You said you'd have liked it, right? You said. If it had worked out you'd have liked those things." He puts a paw on Junmyeon's thigh, nearer to the inside. That seems familiar. "Isn't this it working out?"

Junmyeon's hand closes firm over Sehun's. He's starting to smell of sweat now, too.

"No. I mean, yes, I did say that, but not this. Not this right now." For numerous reasons — at most that Sehun's clearly not in the right state of mind for making decisions like that, at the least that Junmyeon wants to crawl into a hole and die. "This isn't things working out, Hunnie, it's just.. You're upset, and it's really.."

"But," Sehun protests. "I like you. I'd like it to work. I was trained but it's not how I was used." His claws inch out just enough to make Junmyeon shift, but he doesn't notice. Things are starting to feel heavy and soft around the edges now, which is at least welcome relief from the vividness. It's never felt as simple as it does right now just to say: "I don't know how to get closer to a human anymore."

Maybe he should have talked things through with Jackson when he'd offered. All Sehun had wanted to do was keep the past firmly behind himself where it belonged, and where it wouldn't impose on whatever was to come next. Like that's really worked.

Junmyeon carefully lifts Sehun's paw from his lap and holds it between both his hands. "That's understandable," he says, stroking a thumb over Sehun's knuckles. Sehun's ears droop in response.

"I can't even play with my friends without—" Chanyeol had looked so horrified earlier. The details are fuzzy, but Sehun's pretty sure everyone did. "I knew in the end my past would ruin things if I started over."

At that Junmyeon makes a sudden move, sitting up enough to meet Sehun's eyes. His pupils are large and dark again now, tension gone. "It's not, Hunnie. It's not going to do that. Listen, no." Junmyeon runs a hand over Sehun's shoulder when his head droops down low. Emotion presses hard in Junmyeon's throat, but he tries to gulp it down. "It's ok. We can be close. We can do something that isn't this."

Sehun doesn't really hear his own voice when he agrees to that. He hadn't taken in that Junmyeon meant right now, and there's what feels like a long time between Junmyeon asking him to wait here and when he comes back for him. Feeling drained and hollowed out, Sehun follows on autopilot. Past the kitchen, past the bedroom, dragging his feet.

Steam and heat immediately dampen Sehun's ears and tail when Junmyeon holds the bathroom door open to him. The shower is generally fairly reliable with not suddenly dousing it's occupant in cold water, but Junmyeon's set it just right. Sehun blinks at him slowly, too tired to ask what happens next.

"Only if you're ok," Junmyeon tells him, making no move to undress out of his layers despite all the heat risen to his face. "When I have bad days, showering it off helps. I could help."

Sehun nods. He can't really smell anything on Junmyeon now with moisture so thick in the air, and maybe that's for the best.

 

An hour ago Sehun was sitting in sunshine and dirt. It doesn't even feel all that real now he's here instead, back to the warm spray. Junmyeon said he should stand there, and Junmyeon's not really getting a fair share of the water.

The shower gel Junmyeon buys smells a lot like the tea he drinks in the evenings. Once he has a palmful of it held out to Sehun his tail swishes a little at the familiarity. "If it's a cat thing and you'd be really put out if someone else washed you.."

Sehun shakes his head, and Junmyeon gives him a little smile.

It's cold for a moment, when Junmyeon reaches up to Sehun's shoulder and the soap is liquid before it's lather. Junmyeon's at eye level with Sehun's chest anyway, and for a few moments he just focuses there. Sehun doesn't shy away or hunch or hiss at the contact as Junmyeon spreads the soap, so he takes that as a good sign and tilts his head back up.

"This is nice, right? This is being close, too."

Sehun sucks at his lower lip. It's nice. Junmyeon's soapy hands stay carefully above Sehun's hips, below his neck, away from his wet tail. His fingers don't shy away from the bumps and dents Sehun was left with from his previous home, but they don't linger either. It's all just Sehun, how he arrived here at his forever-forever home, how Junmyeon has always known him.

It's so nice. Six months after leaving his home, Sehun buries in against Junmyeon's shoulder and he cries.

 

˘

 

"No," Sehun replies immediately when Junmyeon says Jongin is at the door asking for him. "Tell him it's a cat thing. I can't go outside and do things until at least eleven."

Junmyeon laughs, and Sehun pulls the covers over his head in protest to the sound. It's too early for anything — laughter, sunshine, puppies, going outside. "Ugh." Sehun stretches out under the covers, knee bumping Junmyeon where he's sitting.

"I'd ask him to wait," Junmyeon coos, patting over the blankets until he finds the small of Sehun's back. Once he's there he rubs back and forth, firm with his palm. "But he said it's an errand for Kyungsoo. He thought you'd like to help."

Sehun's toes curl as Junmyeon's hand starts to work in circles. "He was wrong. I'd like to sleep."

It's not until Junmyeon does the thing with his knuckles that Sehun eventually weakens, at which point he promptly gives up his defensive with the blankets to melt. It didn't take many tries for Junmyeon to figure out how to do that just right, and Sehun's at a severe disadvantage thanks to it.

"Alright," he groans, giving up entirely once Junmyeon's eased the covers down just enough to let a draft in and ruin his cocoon. Sehun sits up, rubbing at his eyes, left ear flicking in irriation. Junmyeon's dressed for work, and he's still here, so that means it can't be much past eight. Why.

 

As slight compensation Jongin looks even less like he wants to be up than Sehun does.

"Kyungsoo isn't well," he tells Sehun, forehead pressed to the doorframe as he waits for Sehun to lace up his shoes. "We need medicine and human treats."

"Is he really sick?"

Jongin shrugs. His shirt looks more the kind of cut Chanyeol wears, leaving him swimming in fabric. The frayed neckline scoops low enough to show the scab on his collarbone, and below it the slither of inflamed skin. "A cold? He said it's called. But he looks so unhappy, I wanted to go soon."

"Yeah." Grabbing his keys from the hook, Sehun calls back to Junmyeon that they're leaving and gives Jongin a gentle shove out the door. General protests at the time of day aside Sehun doesn't mind helping if it's for Kyungsoo, and he has wondered how things stand with his pups since he dug his claws into them. Junmyeon made some comment about space and boundaries that Sehun found too boringly human to really remember.

"Let's go?" Jongin's got twitches, his tail flicking when Sehun pauses outside the door.

Sehun scuffs the toe of his shoe against the floor. "Are we good?"

Jongin just stares at him for a moment. When it dawns on him what Sehun means he scoffs, reaches to link their arms. "You're my best friend," he says firmly. "It's a thing. We understand."

Yeah. Yeah, they probably do. Sehun leans in for a brief nuzzle at Jongin's jaw and then tugs him along, Jongin gently bumping against his side as they set off just about half awake between them.

 

"Kyungsoo hardly ever gets sick. I worry so much when he does," Jongin says, peering into the paper bag as they wander from the counter. He looked very distrustful of the bottle the pharmacist recommended, and they're down on money for Kyungsoo's treats after Sehun insisted on a pack of supplements he's seen on tv to go with it.

"I'm sure he wouldn't want you to." Briefly, Sehun thumbs at the soft fold in Jongin's drooped ear. They're the only hybrids in the store, and the sooner they can get away from people cooing at their tails the better. "He's a strong guy. Once he's had this he'll be fine."

Jongin whines soft in his throat. "I guess," he mumbles, rolling the top of the bag over again. "I can't help worrying. He's the most important person in my whole life. It's scary."

Sehun's tail sways. Much as he'd like to sympathise, Sehun's not really been in a position to feel that way. "He's just gonna sneeze and look gross for a while," he says as he slips his arm through Jongin's and pulls him in the direction of big signs bearing pictures of fruit. Jongin can dither about all day if you let him. "In my old home they had colds all the time, they just come and go."

Jongin leans heavily against Sehun's side as he pauses to sniff at a container of oranges. "Really? It's normal?"

"Yeah. Super common." Sehun's not sure if Kyungsoo likes oranges, but it's what they used to have. It'll get him better, and he seems to Sehun like the type to do what's best regardless of if he likes it or not. "Nothing much to worry about."

Sehun had sat with the younger of the children when they'd had a fever. The company seemed to make it less scary, and that clammy, clumsy little hand petting Sehun until they fell asleep— Sehun's not sure that he'd been worried at the time. If anything he remembers it pretty fondly. Now, if Junmyeon got sick..

"Sehun?" Comes a voice from beside them before he can dwell too much on that thought. "Oh Sehun!"

Sehun turns the second time, when it's confirmation rather than a question. He knows that voice, and— yeah, he couldn't mistake who it was going to be. Even so, he gawps a little. "Jackson."

Jongin's ears perk.

The blond man beaming at him looks somewhat different to the memory his name summons up, but Sehun would recognise that smile anywhere. Jackson had silky dark hair that he was constantly blowing out of his eyes when Sehun knew him, and he was always in his work overalls. Sehun looks him up and down with several long, slow blinks as he registers the differences. Behind him Jongin's doing a bad job of pretending to still be interested in oranges.

For a split second Jackson's fiddling with the handle of his basket, unsure from Sehun's response whether he should have spoken to him. But then Sehun relaxes into a smile, and good, great. "Look at you!" Jackson exclaims, "Taller than ever!"

To prove the point Jackson bounces up on his toes, craning just a little higher. It's a wonder he can actually see Sehun's face from all the way down here, he starts to tease, but Sehun sees his line of vision shift a second before he feels Jongin pressing up against his back to peer over his shoulder.

Jackson thumps his free hand to his chest. "You even found yourself a nice pup." He sighs so exaggeratedly, grins so widely, Sehun honestly can't tell if he's teasing or just really, really pleased. He feels Jongin shifting minutely against him as his tail wags, though.

It looks like Jackson's about to launch into a full conversation when in his back pocket his phone starts buzzing. He hops a little to work it out far enough to read the notification, then grimaces. Going out on supply runs is fine, but leaving the place under a panicking Seokjin's care for too long is not. "Well, I gotta run," Jackson sighs, stuffing his phone back into his jeans. He looks so genuinely disappointed that Sehun's ears droop a little in sympathy. "See you around though?"

"Yeah."

Sehun's not sure what compels him to do it, but instead of slapping the hand Jackson holds up he pulls him by it. Jackson stumbles, face mashing into Sehun's shoulder, but being Jackson he just goes with that, wrapping his free arm around Sehun to thump at his back. Sehun only hugs in return with one arm, awkwardly crooked around the back of Jackson's neck. Pressed this close Sehun gets a waft of his body spray and fabric softener he's overloaded the machine with. It catches in his throat a little, but really Sehun's just relieved he's not wearing his work clothes.

 

Jongin laughs as they watch Jackson bound away, tail lazily swatting against Sehun's side. "He's as nice as you said."

"He is." That's kind of a nice thing to confirm. Sehun doesn't only remember Jackson as sweet and kind because nothing else about his circumstances was. But, huh, now he thinks about it.. "I just realised all of my favourite humans are the same size," he says, taking the oranges from Jongin, because he's the one that pocketed the change from the medicine.

Jongin yaps another laugh and bumps heavily against Sehun's side. "And is Junmyeon your most favourite?"

Very subtle. Sehun just snorts and gently elbows Jongin. "Well it's not Jongdae."

 

Jongdae isn't all that bad really, though, now Sehun is more settled in. Definitely not Sehun's favourite of the humans he knows, but if there had been some tension there during Sehun's first few months it's like they've just gradually gotten too lazy to act on it. Jongdae is just around a lot, and Sehun's used to that now. He's in the kitchen when Sehun wakes up some days, crashed out on Junmyeon's couch, just slipped in to borrow something. He still smells of Baekhyun, and Sehun is ok with that now when Jongdae's close enough that his little hands absently reach out to pat.

Assumedly Junmyeon hasn't shared what happened yesterday with him, though, because he's perfectly pleasant when Sehun bumps into him heading back to the building. No mention of scratches or Sehun's teeth or how are you, after.. as they take the metal staircase with Sehun one pace behind.

"I was just with Jongin, to get medicine for Kyungsoo," Sehun says, focusing on the stretch of Jongdae's tshirt across his narrow back. "He has a cold. I said we should get oranges, but I don't know if he likes them?"

Jongdae shrugs, hopping the last step and waiting for Sehun to catch up. "I don't either. But it'll do him good."

"That's what I thought, so we got a net of them."

"Aren't you nice," Jongdae says when they reach his door and Sehun is going to continue ahead. He looks a lot like a cat himself when he smiles. "Baekhyun wouldn't buy me oranges unless I was already dead and he needed an offering to pray for a nice new owner."

"He wouldn't find anyone better for him." Sehun smiles at the expression Jongdae makes. They don't really like to let on that there's some deep, squishy feelings involved in their cohabiting, but after this long being around them it's clear to see. Sehun's tail sways as Jongdae makes to raise his hand in a wave. "I met someone I used to know while we were out," he blurts, "Someone really nice."

"Junmyeon will be jealous," Jongdae tutts teasingly, then grins and pats Sehun's arm.

And Sehun laughs, thinking of short little Jackson and short little Junmyeon and not if that really meant something more.

 

˘

 

Junmyeon's phone is in the bed beside him when he wakes the next morning, good as dead. Same. His eyes feel gritty and sore, and he can't even remember what time he got in from work. He remembers Sehun already being fast asleep, and the brightness of his screen not seeming to dim enough as he continued mailing from his work account.

Tragically, unavoidably, regardless of what time that was he's awake now. Coffee sounds good, but planting his face back into the pillow is equally appealing. Sehun, though. Junmyeon barely saw him yesterday, and there's the matter of—

"What happened the other day."

Sehun's already awake, peering at Junmyeon over the arm hooked around his pillow.

"We should talk about it." Sehun's ears waver for a moment before perking. "When you're awake," he offers as Junmyeon just keeps blinking at him like he can't even remember what his name is.

But no, Junmyeon wants to sort it out. That's not the kind of thing they should leave hanging over their relationship. He's a responsible hybrid owner. Shame other parts of him aren't quite as thoughtful. "Yeah, no, we should. I'm awake."

Sehun looks sceptical of that. Junmyeon rubs his eyes with his knuckles, wipes the corners with his thumb, and miraculously they stay open.

"I should apologise first. I'm so sorry for.. that," he grimaces, "It was inappropriate to the circumstances, and you— I know us trying to get closer has it's complications, and I've really appreciated the steps you've taken, and.." And what? They'd been making such good progress, nice and slow. Junmyeon scrubs at his eyes again. "It's just, when humans are close to someone they like—"

"It's fine," Sehun cuts in quickly. He had enough human biology lessons in training that he probably knows more about that than Junmyeon. "I understand, I'm not upset about it. That's not what I meant."

"Ah." Junmyeon's frown lifts from concern to plain worry. "You seemed so distressed, and I didn't know how to help you. And then I went and made it worse. I didn't do my duty at all as—"

"Junmyeon," Sehun interrupts again, placing a paw on his forearm. He hopes he doesn't look as exasperated as he feels by words like duty coming up, but Junmyeon's expression is clearly saying he's misreading Sehun's impatience as something worse. Considerate to a fault, this human. "You've been so understanding with me. And I put you in a situation you weren't expecting, I'm not blaming you for anything."

"Same, then? You'd had something upsetting happen. We can forget about it."

Sehun's tail flicks. "That's not what I'm saying. Will you just listen?"

Junmyeon nods sheepishly and gently rests his fingers over Sehun's paw. Ok, good.

"You were right, that it wasn't a good idea while I was upset. But under better circumstances, maybe we could.." Sehun shrugs. It's not exactly suggesting they be like tradition owner and hybrid, but it's not like asking Junmyeon to date him, either. Jongin would never let it drop if he thought Sehun had asked something as sweet as that. "Be a thing?" He tries. "Y'know. How people are a thing, together. Rather than just living together not as a thing. And see how it goes."

Junmyeon's mouth opens like he's about to protest that Sehun doesn't need to make an offer like that. And Sehun appreciates Junmyeon's caution very much, but once in a while Sehun does actually know what he wants just because he wants it. He snarls to keep Junmyeon quiet, pouts to make sure he doesn't get the wrong idea again. "It's not just about you being human, you know? We're not all coerced into relationships. Some humans are tolerable enough that cats maybe just like them because they like them."

"Oh," Junmyeon says. He smells as much of Sehun as he does of being at work late, and their whole bed smells perfectly like where Sehun wants to be. He smells warm, too, so Sehun leans to nudge at his jaw. It prompts Junmyeon to respond, bringing a hand to Sehun's shoulder. "Being a thing would be nice."

Sehun wrinkles his nose. "Just nice?"

"No! No, I mean—" Junmyeon pushes a hand through his hair, leaving it sticking out at even more angles than his pillow had left it. Sehun can hear his heart hammering, but Junmyeon's sense are so dull, he wouldn't know. Sehun smiles and butts at his shoulder.

"Do you have work?"

After a moment to piece together what day it is and what he was doing last night, Junmyeon shakes his head. "I'll have to go in to finish things up, but I can leave it until later." Deciding to be a thing is far more important than that report. Well, not in the grand scheme of things, and certainly not to his boss, but for a few hours, at least.

"I'm all yours to be a thing with," Junmyeon offers, smiles all teeth and round cheeks. It feels really good to actually need to pull a work-life balance again. Sehun's plans for that seem to be settling back down comfy in bed, and that sounds pretty perfect too.

"I wasn't trying to eat you the other day," Sehun mentions as he kneads his pillow back into a comfortable shape. "It was just the scent on you was driving me crazy. I got kinda overwhelmed, it was weird." Junmyeon's watching him with wide, curious eyes as he settles beside him. "I guess that's how Jongin feels? He loves plenty of people, but Kyungsoo is the one he needs to feel right."

Junmyeon nods. He wouldn't ask if Sehun's implying that he makes him feel the same way, but his mouth has dried out a little at the thought. "Am I supposed to offer to get you a collar?"

Sehun snorts. "I'm not a dog."

Good start. Junmyeon frowns and rubs at his sore eyes again where they're threatening to water. "Is there anything I should do?" He has researched plenty about homing and caring for a hybrid, but oddly enough the rituals of Becoming A Thing was never covered.

Sehun makes a thoughtful sound. He could come up with some elaborate demands, because he doesn't have a clue if there's anything standard either. But there's nothing he wants from Junmyeon that he's not already getting. Certainly not anything he needs, now he's got the scent thing out the way.

"Still love me when I'm a jerk," Sehun suggests. "Pay attention to me when it's inconvenient, let me scratch all your favourite things.. Isn't that what most people do with cats?"

Sehun's teasing, but Junmyeon still feels his throat get a little tight. Sehun was afraid to even take up space when he arrived, but here they are.

"So long as I can post it on YouTube and get famous," Junmyeon says as though he even understands how to switch to video on his phone. He braces for another headbutt when Sehun leans over, but instead Sehun dips in close enough that his breath hitches in surprise. Sehun's tongue is hot and gritty on his cheek, licking a wet line from the edge of Junmyeon's mouth. And he has morning breath, but Junmyeon's too stunned by the gesture to think to wipe his face dry.

"That's how cats kiss," Sehun tells him, regardless of them both knowing Baekhyun is evidence otherwise. It's how Sehun kisses, at any rate. "And how they like being kissed."

Junmyeon makes a conscious decision not to wipe his cheek this time. "Got it." He can't really visualise how that's going to work right now, but sure, if that's how it needs to work. Sehun's tongue feels like sandpaper, so it's perhaps for the best his keeps away from it anyway. Jongdae must be made of something stronger than he is.

Sehun feels the start of a purr vibrating low in his throat, so he doesn't say any more. Good, nice, loving human. Sehun wriggles over from his own side of the bed and curls around Junmyeon, kneading his shoulder a few times before settling there. Warm, safe human.

It feels really nice having Junmyeon's hand firm at his waist. His own scent is strong on Junmyeon when he nuzzles in under his chin, setting the vibration in his throat off even louder.

"See you in a few hours," Junmyeon yawns. He falls asleep easily, fur tickling his forearm and jaw, Sehun purring loud as an engine against his chest.

 

˘

 

Chanyeol looks more than happy to have Baekhyun's claws in him when Sehun finds them sprawled on Jongdae's couch. Sehun's surprised that he'd not noticed Chanyeol's scent on Baekhyun when they'd first met, considering how much time he's since found they spend together, but his mind had kind of been elsewhere back then.

"Come to join us?" Chanyeol's tail wags happily.

Sehun shakes his head as Baekhyun smacks Chanyeol's and pushes it back into his lap. "I'm just on an errand, Junmyeon left something here."

"Dogs are for fetching," Baekhyun says, idly raking his claws through Chanyeol's hair. Chanyeol's tongue lolls out a little. "It makes them happy. Napping is what makes us happy, right? Junmyeon should be running around after you."

Sehun picks his way around the coffee table in search of Junmyeon's magazine. He'd called from work when it finally came to him where he'd left it, panicked that Jongdae might have already considered it junk and thrown it out. "He buys the food, I don't mind a little running around in return."

"Has Junmyeon tried cooking for you yet?" Chanyeol asks, and above him Baekhyun sticks his tongue out.

"Kitty's survived four months here already, I don't think that's down to eating any home cooking."

Humming, Chanyeol stretches an arm out and tugs at Sehun's shirt hem. Sehun almost swats him with the magazine, but there's the thin line of scars still not entirely healed on Chanyeol's forearm. Sehun just wrinkles his nose instead.

"Can't believe it's only been that long, Sehunnie." Chanyeol smiles wide and lazy as Sehun musses his hair, letting up his hold in favour of turning so Sehun can reach behind his ear. "It's like you've always been here," he says with his mouth partly mashed against Baekhyun's thigh. Baekhyun's claws come out again as he makes a start on Chanyeol's broad shoulders, making his tail wag all the harder.

Sehun doesn't visit Baekhyun often of his own volition, but being neighbours with close owners and shared friends they've become friendly enough. Sehun doesn't mind anymore when Baekhyun wants to rub past him a little too close or brushes their tails when they sit together. It's always more comfortable with a puppy mediator, too; Sehun just turns his paw to easier link their fingers when Baekhyun reaches over Chanyeol to him.

"We're all happy you're settled in with Junmyeon now," Baekhyun says, squeezing.

Ah. Sehun's eyes roll. Jongin never means to spill secrets, but they have a habit of being worked out of him by the right hands. "Yeah, well." Sehun shrugs, sucking in his lip to keep a smile back. Baekhyun's thumb strokes at his knuckles. They're all friends, it's ok to be a little gross with feelings. "I like him a lot. We're doing good. I think we're getting things figured out."

Chanyeol squirms happily as Baekhyun's fingers return to his back. Soon Junmyeon will be home, and Sehun can be in the same position himself. Turned out Sehun's a lap cat, given the right lap. "That's nice," Chanyeol says genuinely, though it gets cut off by a yawn.

Sehun smiles and taps the rolled magazine in his palm. He should get going, leave the two of them to doze and maybe start on some chores. The washing machine still startles him with all the sudden aggressive noises, so maybe something a little more gentle.

"Kitty," Baekhyun cuts in softly when Sehun opens his mouth to speak. His hair has faded to a pale orange over Spring, and it's growing out wild and fluffy. He reminds Sehun of the cotton candy Kyungsoo bought him from a stall outside the park. "I'm happy for you. Come play with me and the pups sometime."

"Yeah." Sehun toes at the carpet. He kind of wants to mention that they've gotten this far without Junmyeon ever having to pet him. Junmyeon's never found out if Sehun's got a spot behind his ear, because Junmyeon's never raised the subject of Sehun not liking his hair being touched again. Chanyeol's sleepy breaths suddenly build into little puppy snores, though. So he just smiles and gives Baekhyun a parting wave, tiptoeing back to the door.

 

˘

 

Week-night routine soon dictates that Junmyeon fixes dinner with a candy cane-tailed Sehun rubbing around his shoulders, leaning over him to lick at and sniff ingredients. Sometimes it's takeout and Sehun gets to clean the lids of the containers with his tongue. Sometimes Junmyeon's sure Sehun isn't watching what's happening at the counter at all and just inhaling when he presses his nose into the top of Junmyeon's head or the back of his sweater.

Jongdae's free food receptor was on good form tonight when Kyungsoo stopped by with enough leftovers to feed the entire floor, so he's still here when they reach the point in the evening where Junmyeon decompresses from work with whatever's on tv and Sehun naps off a busy day of doing cat things.

"I'm never going to eat again," Jongdae lies, as he's spent the last few minutes packing up half of the uneaten food to take home for a second round. He joins them on the couch, lifting Sehun's extended legs and sidling in underneath. Sehun flicks his tail up safely out of the way, batting Jongdae's arm with it in the process. Sehun isn't long-haired and soft in the same way Baekhyun is, and he snickers under his breath at the way Jongdae flinched.

Junmyeon makes a sound in agreement. "Kyungsoo must have been stressed this week if he made so much that we couldn't finish it between us."

"We should make time to all go out together," Jongdae says, and then he starts talking about sport, so Sehun stops listening.

Junmyeon seems to, too; Sehun purrs contently as Junmyeon's fingers wander down to his lower back. Jongdae doesn't pet, but he does lift his hands in emphasis when he speaks, dropping them back at Sehun's ankles and calves and squeezing.

 

"You know there are basically no services for hybrids who need them?"

Throughout their conversation Sehun's been getting sleepier from the warmth and his full stomach, but his ear perks a little at that. There's a feature on the tv about panda conservation. Sehun almost snorts as he wonders if that was what started the conversation. Somewhere someone has probably created panda hybrids, idle and adorable and able to eat as much food as Kyungsoo brought over tonight.

"Services? Like..?"

"Like any, at all." Junmyeon's fingers twist a little into the fabric of Sehun's shirt. "What if they need counselling or somewhere safe to go? A proper place, not a pound like the shelters."

"Junmyeon," Jongdae starts in much the tone he'd had all week when Sehun had first arrived. "You're not quitting your job to set up a hybrid sanctuary. That's very Disney of you, but you already have one you need to feed."

"But a sanctuary isn't even what I'm talking about," Junmyeon protests, pouting. "People need to talk about things and need help sometimes. Isn't it even more important when you're not raised to be self-sufficient?" He's searched and searched ever since he's had Sehun, and other than a few Twitter accounts and charities based overseas found basically nothing.

Jongdae absently rubs at Sehun's anklebone where the legs of his sweats are just a little too short on him. "Nothing nice to say about why the industry for making these guys doesn't care about the less than perfect ones," he says quietly. Sehun still hears him, feigning sleep now, even as Junmyeon's fingers tighten just a little beyond comfort at his waist.

 

Sehun moves to the floor once Jongdae has left and Junmyeon required use of his legs back to get up and make tea, trying to escape the building Summer heat. It's cool down here, and he can stretch his long limbs out as far as he wants.

"Would you really be interested in helping us?" He asks as Junmyeon heads back over, keeping still so Junmyeon can step around his legs and tail.

Junmyeon sets his mug of tea aside to cool and lowers down to join Sehun. "If there was a way I could. Jongdae's probably right, though," he sighs, stretching out and resting on an elbow. "That there's no pay in it. And I couldn't afford to fund something like that if I left my job."

Wriggling a little closer, Sehun butts his cheekbone against Junmyeon's shoulder. "Thanks anyway. For thinking about it."

"I think about it a lot," Junmyeon says, and he sounds so serious that Sehun draws back to look up at him. Instead of elaborating on that thought Junmyeon leans down, nosing at Sehun's cheek. It was kind of weird the first time Junmyeon tried kissing as kisses are according to Sehun, but he's shamelessly adept to giving him affectionate little licks now. Except right now they're slightly wider, more than just the tip of his tongue. Humans kiss with their tongues, too, Sehun knows. If Junmyeon was kissing him like a human right now, it'd probably be like one of those.

Sehun tilts his head and returns it just under Junmyeon's jaw, his tongue rough against the grain of stubble. Sometimes he nips at Junmyeon if he's feeling playful, but he's just sleepy and warm (and wet) now. It feels good stretching out head to toe, and Sehun doesn't bother tugging his shirt back down when it rides up with his raised arms. It lets in some more cool air, at least.

"I heard it's a good sign if cats expose their bellies to you," Junmyeon comments from beside him. Sehun quirks a brow. "If they let you rub it then they trust you. But sometimes it's just to trick you and tear your hand off." Sehun snorts then, and Junmyeon gives him a sheepish look. "So I heard, anyway."

Pups like belly rubs for sure, but so far in their petting ventures it's not something Sehun's considered trying. If he didn't like it he probably wouldn't take it out on Junmyeon's hand. He stretches out a little longer, raising his arms higher and letting them drop back above his head. "You'd better try it and find out," he suggests.

Junmyeon's less hesitant with Sehun's suggestions than he used to be, having had a stern talk from Kyungsoo a few weeks back after Sehun overshared during one of their car rides together. So he does, risking his left hand and pressing his palm to Sehun's stomach.

Sehun preens at the warmth. Junmyeon's hand is noticeably rougher on the soft skin of his belly than when he rubs at Sehun's back, and it feels amazing. "Why are you always so good at things like this?" Sehun's purring through the mock annoyance, now Junmyeon's rubbing in gentle, expanding circles.

Junmyeon shrugs, disturbing the rhythm of his hand, so he starts stroking back and forth instead. "Honestly, I'm more of a dog person."

"So am I," Sehun says with a playful hiss arching up in his mouth. Which, he's not sure if that rose up out of possessiveness or something else, but that's silly. Junmyeon doesn't have any pups around he wants to spend more time with than Sehun. And Sehun may have only been closer than this with pups before, but he's not feeling the need to tear into Junmyeon's hand yet.

He still doesn't when Junmyeon's thumb rubs over a raised scar at his hip, or when his hand slips higher, tickling along the edge of his ribcage. It all just feels warm and good, inside and out, like Sehun's been dozing in the sun. Maybe there was something in it after all when Baekhyun said humans can learn to do this right.

Junmyeon breaks the peace eventually, sounding like he had to unpeel his tongue from the roof of his mouth first. "Should I stop?"

Sehun frowns. He could happily do this all evening, so why Junmyeon would think he wanted to stop.. Junmyeon's face looks warm when Sehun blinks up at him. He looks down to Junmyeon's hand, just his fingers rubbing back and forth now, and that tent in his sweats is probably the issue here.

"Oh," Sehun says. "Sorry?"

"No, I— I just," Junmyeon's hand stills at Sehun's waist. He's got that lost look back in his eyes, how he used to look at Sehun before Sehun trusted him. Sehun doesn't like that. He feels too lazy to haul himself all the way up onto his elbows, so he just cranes up enough to teeth at Junmyeon's nearer shoulder.

Junmyeon relaxes, starts stroking with his thumb again. "I didn't want to assume what to do next. That's all."

"Don't ask me. I learnt this stuff from a manual, it's all your pleasure is your owner's pleasure."

"Is this industry really legal?" Junmyeon asks weakly.

Sehun ignores him, continuing, "And it didn't say anything about humans liking being eaten. So you're defective, and I'm good as untrained. We might have to figure it out ourselves." He blinks up at Junmyeon, who clearly isn't as amused by this as Sehun is. Because it's kind of hilarious to Sehun, that no one ever told him there were second chances and plural forever homes, and that all those years of being taught a blueprint human were so wrong. "Like, without a manual and stuff. Isn't that how humans have always done it?"

"There are plenty of manuals for humans, believe me." Junmyeon doesn't elaborate on that when Sehun gives him a curious look. He sighs, and takes his hand from Sehun's belly to cover his face with when Sehun catches him taking a glimpse downwards and snickers at him. "I told you I wasn't good at relationship things."

"Yeah, with humans. Don't insult me like that." Sehun flicks his tail at Junmyeon, missing entirely but still succeeding in making him startle. "I like everything you do. You're always good at it, and if it wasn't ok I'd trust you to stop doing it."

By now Sehun had thought all of that was kind of obvious, but Junmyeon's suddenly looking flushed in much more of an imminent-flood-of-emotions kind of way. Oh no. Sehun's honestly not even all that urgent to have this dealt with, but doing anything new without it being a big deal would be great. Really great, because he and Junmyeon are a thing, and some things should only matter between them, in Sehun's opinion.

"Not now," Sehun bites in harder at Junmyeon's shoulder. "Get emotional about stuff after. Just do your thing with your hands."

"Are we really doing this here on the floor?" Junmyeon laughs sheepishly, and Sehun licks at the side of his neck. Junmyeon gives Sehun's bared tummy a pat for good measure before dropping his hand down lower, stroking his palm over the front of his sweats the same way he was stroking his belly. Sehun curls in nearer to him, tail swaying. "Anything I should know?" Junmyeon asks, hooking his thumb into Sehun's waistband. "About cat things?"

"Cats have barbs" Sehun replies. Junmyeon's eyes widen, and Sehun lasts three seconds before giving his arm a playful smack. He probably looks ridiculously fond right now, but that's ok. "Hybrids don't, obviously. What kind of design fault would that be?"

Junmyeon opens his mouth to reply, but Sehun arches against him a little to derail that thought. Whatever he had to say was going to be about Jongdae or Baekhyun, and Sehun could really do without that visual right when Junmyeon's finally got his hand in his sweatpants. Sehun's mostly softened while they've been talking, but it only takes a few strokes to get him fully hard again and pawing at Junmyeon, encouraging him as he tests out how firmly Sehun likes his dick squeezed.

Sehun's claws inch out when Junmyeon gets it just right, but he's pretty sure Junmyeon doesn't mind that.

By his own admission Junmyeon may not be that great at a lot of things, but he is amazing with his hands. By the time he's stroking Sehun off at a set pace Sehun's purring so loud he can practically feel his back vibrating against the floor.

Junmyeon's never heard him so loud, and it's still pretty amazing to him that this is what they are now. Sehun's happy — perfectly happy to just sprawl out and entrust himself to a human. It should maybe feel like more pressure, but Sehun's just purring and beautiful and a lazy, lazy cat making no effort to take this out of Junmyeon's control. "This isn't exactly what I had in mind," Junmyeon suddenly says.

Sehun's whole body feels heavy and syrupy when he tries to move, so he just tips his head towards the sound of Junmyeon's voice. His left ear creases under him against the carpet. "Huh?"

"Helping hybrids."

Sehun means to laugh, but Junmyeon's thumb suddenly does this circling, swiping thing and he sort of snarls instead. Junmyeon's used to taking that sound as a good sign by now, repeating the motion until Sehun's clawed holes beyond repair in the front of his shirt.

It doesn't take long at all until Sehun's mewling for Junmyeon to speed up. He has the sense to tear at the carpet the first time he needs leverage to buck up into Junmyeon's hand. But then Junmyeon does this thing with his wrist that has Sehun's pupils tightening to slits, and he digs his fingers into Junmyeon's waist to hold himself closer.

It's a little hazy right now with Sehun on the brink, but when he pushes in at Junmyeon's neck he's sure he hears Junmyeon rambling under his breath. Gross, sweet reassurances, he's got Sehun, it's ok. Sehun would hiss for him to stop being so lame if he had any control over his voice right now, but all he manages to get out are soft little whines as he squirms, his tail thrashing, almost, almost—

Sehun digs his teeth in at Junmyeon's shoulder, jaw trembling as he comes in hot, hard waves. Most of the wet heat spills onto his belly, but despite that he still immediately drags Junmyeon down into his arms, nuzzling hard against him. Junmyeon doesn't protest, just laughs softly against Sehun's shoulder, holding his sticky hand out of the way.

"Ok?"

Yeah, Sehun thinks, but for the moment his voice doesn't comply. He can feel Junmyeon pressing in half-hard at his waist where he's sprawled over Sehun, and that's almost as distracting as the scent.

"I'm appreciating your work, on the," Sehun takes a gulp of air, tries to work some saliva back into his dry mouth. "The whole helping hybrids thing."

Junmyeon's whole little body seems to squirm in amusement at that. His laughter is hot over Sehun's shoulder. "Any time," he says, lifting his head so Sehun can see just how much gross sparkly stuff his eyes are swimming with. He's definitely Sehun's favourite human. Possibly just his favourite-favourite. "What?" Junmyeon blinks curiously at Sehun, but it doesn't clear the stars from his eyes.

Sehun does hiss then, and licks at him so hard Junmyeon is still complaining about just how rough his sandpaper tongue is the next morning

 

˘

 

Even though the whole objective of this get-together was to give Kyungsoo a break, he still ends up catering for the majority of it. Partly because there had so many requests, mostly because it's safer than leaving it to Junmyeon and Jongdae.

If it were down to Kyungsoo he'd more likely spend an afternoon relaxing by watching a movie. Alone, preferably, in a dim room. But that's not how planning goes when you have pups and annoying friends, so everyone is piled into Kyungsoo's car. There isn't a moments peace the entire journey with so many ears and tails getting touched and mussed and cramped in an enclosed space, and the noise pours out into the entrance of the park when they arrive.

Chanyeol is delegated the food, tail wagging eagerly at the scent from inside the containers. Baekhyun elects himself in charge of the patterned plastic sheet to lay down, by extension placing him in charge of choosing their spot to set up.

Sehun lags behind while Baekhyun marches ahead, rolled sheet tucked under his arm, ignoring Jongdae's repeated calls of this looks like a good spot— and following sigh. Sehun spends a lot of his free time here, either with Kyungsoo, the pups or on his own. He's asked Junmyeon numerous times if they can come together, but Junmyeon's whole work-life-balance deal turned out to not be extremely sympathetic to a hybrid when other people wanted the time for like, actual partners and family. But whatever, they're here now.

"Hey," he calls softly, and Junmyeon glances over his shoulder.

"Hey. So we finally made our date." Junmyeon drops back to walk with Sehun, linking their arms and giving him one of his round-cheeked smiles. "Sorry it had to wait until it was a group one though," he says, pouting.

"Nah." Sehun shakes his head. Jongdae has shoved his hands in his pockets and given up on pointing out ideal places to set up in, Jongin taking shuffle-steps beside him with a sympathetic arm slung around his shoulders. "It's nice. The making friends thing wasn't so bad in the end."

"Even though it meant learning to love mine," Junmyeon muses as ahead of them a fight breaks out over Baekhyun's choice of picnic area (this is Kyungsoo's day and he doesn't want to burn in the sun. Chanyeol's got bare arms and will get hypothermia and die if they're right in the shadows). Baekhyun compromises by taking two steps out of the shade, then unrolls the sheet.

Junmyeon tries not to laugh the first time Baekhyun almost loses it to the breeze. Once Chanyeol gets involved in trying to pin the corners like he's playing Twister, Junmyeon gives in, covering his mouth to muffle the sound. Sehun's curved tail sways against Junmyeon's lower back.

"Aren't you supposed to be all about helping hybrids in need?"

Junmyeon does some terrible scrunchy thing with his face that Sehun can't place between some kind of wink or just one of his big toothy grins.

"I've been working overtime on that this week," he says, and then Jongdae comes bowling over into his side.

"Us humans are outnumbered, Myeonie, if we don't get in early all the food will be gone." Jongdae hooks his arm through Junmyeon's, detaching him from Sehun as he reminds Junmyeon with a shake what's happened times before, that pups don't even leave you bones to pick the scraps from. "Sorry, Sehunnie," Jongdae adds as an afterthought, "I'm not accusing you of being a bottomless chicken eating machine before you've even had your first family day out, but in my experience—"

Sehun shrugs. "Fair enough." He brings his now free hand up to rub at the back of his neck, feeling a little more than sunwarmed at the reminder of their last few nights of petting ventures. If his blush is visible Jongdae doesn't comment on it, though, more concerned with getting the human count up quick before the entire floor mat is taken up by the furry members of the group.

 

Sehun huffs out a breath as Jongin sprawls heavily across his back. Even through his shirt he can feel how hot and damp Jongin is from running. Dogs, ugh.

"You should have invited your nice human. The little blond one."

"He'd have liked it," Sehun agrees, but Jackson's pretty hard to get hold of and practically impossible to see unless he's travelling between work or his long-distance partner isn't over on a weekend visit. Accommodating as Jackson is, Sehun doesn't like to intrude on their time. The guy has a yappy little (real) dog that took an immediate dislike to Sehun, and the feeling was mutual.

"I think this kitty has taken a liking to humans," Baekhyun says as he steps around them both. He folds in small against them, paws greasy and unlicked, a chicken bone he's still working on between his teeth as he gets comfortable.

A few feet away Chanyeol and Jongdae are still finding the energy from somewhere to keep up whatever kind of competition it is they've started. Chanyeol's jeans are grass stained and Jongdae has muddy knees, and Kyungsoo has scooted back further into the shade, at a safe distance.

Jongin doesn't seem interested in Baekhyun's commentary, so Baekhyun follows it up with a few curious sniffs at Sehun. "I'm just observing," Baekhyun says, waving the chicken bone, "That you smell less like an angry prude cat and more like Junmyeon."

Sehun's so scandalised by this accusation that he yawns, and has to refold his arms in the grass. He could play this all day. "I guess I would, living with him. Maybe this is his shirt, we get the laundry mixed up sometimes."

After he's straightened his features back out from looking aghast that Sehun does laundry, Baekhyun tells Jongin to use his puppy senses to confirm if Sehun smells more of Junmyeon than usual (because Jongin would be the expert there, Baekhyun crows. Sehun grins, and Jongin growls lazily at them both), but Jongin declines. Sehun totally does. Jongin's a loyal pup.

Baekhyun can sense there's something unspoken going on here, but before he can start making threats a shadow stretches out over them. A little Kyungsoo shaped shadow.

"Time to get going, guys," Kyungsoo says from above them. "Sorry Baekhyun, Chanyeol already called shotgun."

"He did what."

Kyungsoo bends down and musses their hair in succession, ruffling Jongin's droopy ears and leaving Baekhyun giggling and looking more like a fluffy little lion than ever. When he gets to Sehun, at the bottom of the pile, he claps a warm hand on his shoulder. Sehun tilts his head to butt at Kyungsoo's forearm in return.

The rush of cool air when Jongin unpeels himself from Sehun's back is like being given a new lease of life, and Sehun figures he can probably manage the walk back to the car after all. Sluggishly, he helps Jongdae with packing up once Chanyeol has been loaded up with the empty containers.

"All you guys do is eat and nap," Jongdae comments as he tucks the rolled sheet under his arm.

"Mm," Sehun agrees. His ears have drooped, and if it weren't for Junmyeon hooking an arm around him in passing and pulling him along he'd maybe just settle back down and resume the napping part.

Junmyeon keeps Sehun in motion, part steering him along and part just using it as an excuse to press in close at his side. "Did you and the pups have a nice time?" He smiles up at Sehun. Sehun slow-blinks and brushes dry grass from Junmyeon's hair.

Before he can answer Baekhyun is beside them, puffed up and seemingly uninterested in catching them being suspiciously close. His tail lashes, and Junmyeon leans in a little tighter to Sehun's shoulder. "I can't believe a sensible human like Kyungsoo even allows shotgun. Baekhyun sits in the front because a small cat with big dogs and humans in the back together is a terrible, smelly idea sounds a lot fairer."

"Too bad you have to sit in the back with a smelly human," Junmyeon says as Baekhyun bounds off ahead to tackle Chanyeol about his betrayal. Sehun knows exactly what he's doing, giving Junmyeon a sidelong glance. Junmyeon beams up at him innocuously, so Sehun swats him with his tail.

Sehun already knows to press close to Junmyeon is going to smell of grass and sun and the sweat sticking his shirt to his back. And under that of their bed, and maybe a little bit of Sehun, too. "I can probably live with it." Sehun shrugs, knowing his tail is doing some stupid curly thing behind his back in response to the stupid fluttery thing going on in his stomach. There was nothing about any of this in the manuals he learned from.

"Good." Junmyeon squeezes his arm tight around Sehun's waist.

"Only good," Sehun tutts. He's more than a little tempted to lean down and lick that smile, but Jongin isn't far and Sehun could definitely live without him yapping about how cute they are for everyone else to hear. He settles for linking their arms, tucking his paw in at Junmyeon's inner wrist.

Junmyeon's little human hand twists at an angle so he can briefly squeeze Sehun's fingers. "I can see why you like spending so much time here," he says with a glance back at where they'd been settled for the afternoon. He'll have to figure out a way to get his fresh-air-work-balance a little more even.

"Yeah." Sehun's tail sways lazily against Junmyeon's back as they walk. That's one of the best things about being moved to this area, he thinks, that he can spend long lazy days in the park whenever he likes. But the best part is probably that he's equally as happy when it's time to set off home.