As the evening thriftily rolled out on the blood orange sky, pierced by a hundred shreds of cotton clouds, Lu Han’s cheerful person burst into Jongdae’s room, brightly smiling, holding a big box in his hands. To his amused surprise, for once Jongdae had decided against pretending to be asleep, sitting on his bed with a book, huddled into his impossibly crumpled blankets close to the lamp, casting eerie lumpy shadows on the walls. Without much ado, Lu Han dropped the box on the floor with a deafening crash and marched to the window, leaving behind loud scratching sounds with the spiked soles of his winter boots.
“It smells funny in here,” he remarked offhandedly and opened the window with a strong push to squeaking framework, deserving an immediate spiteful ‘you smell funny’ retort from the other. The words made Lu Han turn his head and smile in faked apology, astonishing peeking at him Jongdae with his unlikely reaction. “Sorry, it must be the scent of tobacco. I hope you don’t mind.”
“You smoke?” The boy asked in genuine surprise, eyes widening, but a second later, the put upon indifference returned back to his face, and his gaze dropped back to the inky lines in the book. “That’s one disgusting habit to have. Bad for your health.”
“Would you really care about my health if I did actually smoke?” Lu Han gave out a short laugh at his non-humorous joke, as he came over to stand near the bed, his towering figure making Jongdae blink up nervously; unceremoniously, Lu Han threw the mysterious box in front of the other cat, Jongdae hurriedly moving to take the book away in fear of getting pages crumpled. “I don’t smoke, I just take sniffs at it. I’m addicted to the smell. My owner made me smell it for hours so I would get used to the scent and not wrinkle my nose every time she leaned in. Basically, she made me an addict, I’d been a passive smoker for a few years. I do wish it didn’t obtund my sense of smell so much, but can’t help it.”
The seriousness of the words, said in such a offhanded light manner, made Jongdae drop his gaze somewhat shamefully; his eyes mirrored the unavoidable guilt for judging a person he had not even made an effort to get truly acquainted with, but he still was not sure if he was ready to be okay with his “ruined” life just yet. So he let Lu Han fuss over the box that stood on his pillow, quiet, until the other boy had dumped a number of different wigs on his lap, telling him to choose.
“What for?” Confused, he touched a long haired one of colour brunette with the tips of his fingers, feeling the coarse synthetic hairs; his cat ears suddenly twitched in a scared act of belated understanding, his neat mouth opening in surprise. Jongdae then crossed his arms in a stubborn manner, refusing to look up at still rummaging in the box Lu Han, secretly wary that the sight of the other’s seemingly honest smile could make him give in. Generally curious by nature, Chen could not deny the picked up interest at the prospect of venturing out into the city; but it was his fear and pride that made him reply negatively again. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Oh, yes, you are. We are going out to have a meal in the city. You refuse to leave your room, call me a criminal, act like a sack of potatoes, so I hope that a walk to town, on your own, free of the watch or orders from humans would make your realize what kind of opportunities I’ve given you, stubborn cat.”
When Lu Han pulled on the stale sweaty covers to get the boy out of his self-made bed nest, Jongdae yelled out his deafening refusal that resounded through the whole room, fading away only in the corridor. His voice was proving to be as powerful as Lu Han had imagined; having fallen into a trap of secret obsession over the boy’s peculiar manner of speech, tired of the dead like quietness of the past two days, Lu Han enjoyed any noise created by the other, be it loud cursing or yelps of complaints.
Managing to keep a calm smile on his face as if no ruckus was actually happening and he did not have to deal with a struggling hissing cat boy, Lu Han grabbed Chen by his elbow, pulled him into an upright position, thin socks onto the frozen wooden floor, shaking him once to stop his attempts at jumping back onto the bed. At a certain point, scandalized Chen’s nails came into an uncomfortable proximity with his face as the disoriented boy fought for his freedom, tail and ears fluffed out of their neat glistening glory, but Lu Han had none of that. One strong tug, and Chen was standing in the middle of the room with his pajama bottoms pooling at his feet, unmoving in the claws of the full-body shock at the treatment.
The sight of the boy’s grey worn-out spotty underwear made Lu Han frown in distaste, as he tugged on the hem of Chen‘s dirty baggy top. “Take off your clothes, we need to wash them. You can’t wear a pair of underwear for three days straight, it’s awful,” he told Chen who death glared at him as he slapped Lu Han’s unceremonious fingers off the cute plaits hanging down his underwear’s elastic band. Lu Han sneered at the restricting move, winking at the unamused boy just for the sake of watching him sizzle. “Either you get properly dressed by yourself, or I dress you. Also, we need to wrap this fellow around your waist, I don’t trust him not to walk out announced at the most inappropriate of moments.”
Those deadly words mumbled, Lu Han touched his smart hand to the core of Chen’s tail, feeling the warm silkiness of the short fur, as he squeezed the muscle in a quick move; Chen’s absolutely brutal hissing reaction resulted in a bruise Lu Han’s shoulder was sporting a few moments later, the boy’s fist proving to bear a ridiculous amount of strength in the moments of threatened abuse. Lu Han clutched at his arm, frowning from the pain, as he decided that the skill could become incredibly helpful during their future endevours.
“Don’t you touch me like that ever again,” Chen whispered in a cold threatening voice, not dropping his death stare, hissing when Lu Han raised his teasing hand in a pretended innocent attempt to fix the boy’s uneven collar. “Okay, leave the room, I’ll get dressed quickly. Please.”
But as he gave the other cat boy a little happy nod of approval, and marched out, boots cheerfully squeaking, a bitter quiet “pervert” slapped Lu Han in the back of his mind, making his tail fly up in annoyance.
Barely twenty minute walk into the less populated streets of Kylmä suburbs never rang a pleasant bell in Lu Han’s memories; struggling out of frozen snowdrifts or wallowing through the swampy mud, a self-proclaimed lonesome warrior had always managed to continue his way to the city, down the familiar pathway in the fields that surrounded the Northern capital. Had it been the sun playing on the melting icicles, random sunlight spots blinding his eyes, or starry sky with incredible multicoloured palette of polar lights stealing his foggy breath away, Lu Han had never found that road particularly pleasing; regardless of the untouched beauty of Cynosura’s nature, freezing winds had always been the area’s weather condition by involuntary choice.
Where the helplessly windy fields ended, empty streets fogged up with evaporations from the local shops began. The peculiarly structured suburbs made up of multicoloured buildings of same build glittered with bright homey lights; Lu Han loved Kylmä at evenings, the fascinating subdued atmosphere casting a calming spell over his impaired nerves, allowing him a momentary pause of pretend rest in the seemingly poorly inhabited alleys. He loved the lights, loved the twinkling of confluent oranges and yellows, consistent ochres of street lamps; he created a theater of light play for himself, refusing to acknowledge the repugnant human existence hiding behind every shining window.
But a trip to his favourite place burdened with the necessity to drag an unwilling cat person through a wild snowstorm had to top Lu Han’s non-existent personal rating of worst journeys. Sticky snow flakes successfully obscured the view of the path learned by heart, winter boots drowning in the sea of fresh snow, as Lu Han led grumbling Jongdae, tightly holding onto the frowning boy’s wrist. They fought through the blizzard to get to the edge of the fields, constantly sweeping gusts of freezing wind doing nothing to Jongdae’s foul moods.
As they entered the alarmingly crowded for a late evening hour streets, Lu Han unexpectedly found himself whispering warnings to the sincerely fascinated boy, tugging him forward up the street, cursing his own shortsightedness for having allowed Jongdae to wear a blond wig to mock him and their safety. Now distracted by every little mundane human thing, Jongdae was attracting too much unwanted attention, as he stumbled over his own feet in attempts to see everything. Lu Han had to bodily mold the interestedly looking around cat boy through the little door of the usually deserted at that hour Kahvila diner, tugging him into the corner of the dimly lit room.
As they settled down on the crude wooden benches, they were approached by a human teenage girl with her thick black hair in two messy plaits; she was carefully writing down Lu Han’s requested meal for two, when her eye caught Jongdae with his curly blond wig who was constantly moving around, turning his head in every direction in an effort to look over the whole mostly wooden interior. She giggled at his strange antics, teasingly commenting on the beauty of his hair, seemingly nosey enough to meddle into the business of her visitors. To Lu Han’s cold sweat inducing horror, Jongdae froze on the spot, his eyes widening as, for the first time in his life, a human stranger addressed him; he looked positively dashing as his wig had travelled lower on his forehead, sitting askew under the woolen hat Lu Han had prohibited him from taking off.
“He’s never been here before, so he’s feeling a little out of his element, excuse him,” he smiled charmingly, hurriedly putting his cute human boy image on, as he blinked up at her, his eyelashes whispering innocence over his cheeks, and the human girl bit on her lip, attracted as she went away to fetch their order. Lu Han released a long shaky sigh and then noticed Jongdae throwing him a disapproving look.
“What a charmer,” he whispered angrily, as if he could not believe that Lu Han would allow himself such a crime of interaction with a human being, or, as Lu Han secretly suspected, as if he could be envious that the older cat could put up an act with so much ease, habitually believable in his human boy game. ”Where did you get the money, charmer bomb?”
The question made Lu Han drop his fake smile as he quickly turned his head to check for possible unwanted listeners; he frowned as he yanked on Jongdae’s wrist to make the boy lean in for a conversation not meant for any passersby’ ears. Jongdae’s expression was a picture of the ultimate distrust as he stubbornly slapped Lu Han’s reaching fingers away, adjusting his own wig as he pleased, making the yellow synthetic curls cascade over his shoulders in uneven amounts. Lu Han pursed his lips at the shown arrogance and gripped the boy’s wrist hard, capturing his attention, as they looked at each other, eye to eye.
“I borrowed quite a large sum from the human who owned me. He thinks they’re buried on the bottom of the sea, along with my dead body. I also borrowed a few things from the warehouse, and sell them one by one when I get the chance. I had to sell most part of my collection and take most of the money from my savings to buy you out.”
“You’ve been to the warehouse!” Jongdae whispered heatedly, horrified but at the same time genuinely surprised, regarding Lu Han with reverence, having heard too many unpleasant stories and rumours from the folk to be capable of judging with nonchalance. The dangers closely following the possible theft from the warehouse were largely heard of; the warehouse had always been unanimously considered the property of Government, despite its supposed serving for public necessities by legal papers, the fact disregarded by the authorities. “You actually broke into the Governmental estate, it’s punished by execution. You’re a criminal and we’re going to die,” Chen whispered suddenly, sounding dead serious, having a momentary problem to inhale air and exist.
“Stop being an overdramatic shit, Government deserves the stealing and violation of their dumb laws,” Lu Han replied angrily, mystified as Jongdae’s reactions continued to confuse him. The boy seemed different and moody like water and fire, surprising with his untouchable tranquility and ability to be collected and cold at one moment, but hurting with his burning words and bruising fists at another. “No amount of stealing could ever compensate what humans did to me,” he whispered as an afterthought, a bitter look in his eyes somehow managing to anger secretly scared Chen even more.
“Whatever “humans” did to you couldn’t be so bad that you want them all dead. There are nice people as well, I personally know at least a number of them. People can be nice and cheerful and kind, and very positive, and they can make your heart feel nice things,” Chen told him, trailing off at the last words and yanking his wrist out of Lu Han’s soft grip, strange dangerous fires ignited in his eyes making the older cat boy frown. Chen was acting like a stubborn child, or Lu Han might have just wanted to see him as such; he could not allow himself to think that Jongdae could be right, that not all humans deserved punishments for mistreating the cat kin. Not now, when he had succeeded at his first stage, but seemed to be failing the second one, the one he had completely thrown out of his calculations; maintaining close friendly contact with the saved cat boy.
“I dreamed about having a good owner for a long time. Maybe, even for too long. I’ve always imagined him as someone nice and good-natured, someone very cuddly too. I just want to spend my life making someone happy just by being there for them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, don’t look at me like that,” Chen said spitefully, sending a long pointed look at the mask of shocked disbelief on Lu Han’s face.
“But you’ve never had an owner. You simply don’t understand what you’re talking about,” he replied coldly, helplessly judgmental of the boy’s beliefs, distressing Chen, belatedly noticing the disappearing animating tails of the boy’s mouth into a set offended line.
The human girl returned to their table, bearing the plates with backed fish and mashed potatoes in thick vegetable sauce, balancing a jug of hot tea on the edge of the wooden tray. She winked at Jongdae, giggling at the awry blond wig, and as she set up the table, raised an eyebrow at Lu Han, presenting him with a cheeky interested smile. Her lips were of natural colour red, small plump mouth attractive on her round face; the human seemed really nice-looking even to Lu Han, so he hurried to drop his gaze away from her dimples, blindly staring into his steaming plate, blinking fast.
“What do you think of cat hybrids?”
Nonchalant notes in the hitch of his melodic voice, as Chen asked the human waitress the doomed question, made Lu Han forget about his appetite, foul sweat covering his back in sticky tape of fear. Horrified, he raised his scared confused eyes at the other cat boy who was looking up at the human with a charming smile, tails of his mouth hitched up higher than Lu Han had ever had the chance to witness before. He was talking to her so calmly; yet again his absolute calmness resulted in a cool collected stare and the firm grip on his fork, scandalized Lu Han out of his comfort zone, making him hit the other boy’s shins hard under the table, glare fuming as ever.
The human girl looked confused for a moment, glancing between the two boys, seemingly starting to feel affected by Chen’s open flirting as she unsurely cocked her head, replying that she had never given them much thought. She opened her luscious mouth in surprise, blinking, as Chen continued his verbal attack, stepping on Lu Han’s striking foot under the table, venturing to ask if the human girl had ever thought of getting a cat boy of her own. Chen poked at the fish as he listened, ravenously digging his fork into its baked head, white cooked eyeballs falling out and making Lu Han feel nauseous; he could not believe that the other boy was showing him that the game could be played by two in such a dangerous way.
The human girl replied carefully that cat hybrids were generally very expensive, and a simple waitress like her could never afford one; as an afterthought, after having cutely asked Lu Han to start on his delicious meal because the fish was getting cold, she cheerfully added that cat boys still seemed very attractive to her, and if she could ever get the chance to receive one as a present, she would be very happy, because they seemed very much like princes from chick flicks which she, however much shamefully so, really enjoyed reading in her spare time.
Her words made Lu Han’s stomach drop, as he stopped his slow chewing all together, looking up at the human with a gaze full of hatred, the word “present” ringing an alarm in his ears, usually incredibly rich in spiced taste fish now disgusting ash inside his mouth.
“Enough of hybrid talk, Jongdae. Let her go, she doesn’t want to answer you dumb questions,” he said suddenly, harshly demanding to cease the verbal assault in a voice that brooked no delay. The human female violator looked shocked for a moment, having not expected such a violent reaction from one of frequent visitors of the diner, and quietly backed away from the table, sending an apologetic nod to Chen.
Lu Han’s sharp eyes followed the human female into the kitchens; only after having made sure that she had disappeared behind the wooden doors, he turned to look at serious unmoving Chen messing with his mashed potatoes.
“Are you out of your mind? You’re insane? Suicidal? Simply dumb?” He asked slowly, the tone of his shaking voice cold, dangerous, disbelief stitched into his every question. Having gotten no visible or verbal reply from ignoring him Chen, Lu Han returned to poking at his fish, afraid that if he did not busy himself with the cold food in front of him, he would stab a fork through mournful Chen’s eye.
They finished eating in tensed silence, Lu Han habitually forcing down the whole meal, always haunted by the memories of hunger days from years ago when he found himself fallen into disgrace of his unmerciful human owner, Chen – only picking out the white meat around the bones. When the awkwardly looking human carefully came over to pick up the payment for their dishes, silent as she looked unsurely between the two displeased looking boys, she stretched her hand out for the coins, but Lu Han ignored the human violator’s gesture, placing the money on the table, missing the confused look of hurt on her face.
“Last question for tonight,” Chen suddenly looked revived as he turned to speak to the wary girl again, animated smile returning on his faked cheerful mask of an expression, even as he had to suppress a pained frown at the stab of aggravated Lu Han’s spiked sole into his knee under the table. “Imagine if the two of us were cat boys. Which one would you pick?”
Lu Han’s fist connected with the polished surface of the table with a loud resounding sound, managing to attract the attention of the human male cook who walked out into the hall, staring at the fuming boy in question, clearly displeased over the overemotional reaction. The human girl then blinked and walked away from their table, ranting on in an angry whisper how freakish both boys actually were, and that one could not trust anyone to be sane.
“Let’s go,” Lu Han hissed at the refusing to meet his eyes cat boy, grabbing him by the wrist and yanking him off his seat; Lu Han’s cat ears were itching under the unruly wig and hat protection, the fur of his tail soaked in sweat, unpleasantly plastered over his back inside the uncomfortable pants, as he sweated profusely due to the humid heat of the diner and his uncontrollable fit of rage. He pushed the strangely submissive boy out of the door, into the heavy blizzard and dragged them both to the safety of the hideout.
The moment Lu Han fell through the door inside the dark room, mercilessly chilled to the bone, his autumnal coat dripping wet from the snow, the cat boy ran over to the gigantic frail bureau of old mahogany and yanked open one of the heavy drawers. Reaching inside for a little worn out sack with tobacco, he inhaled deeply, pressing the drug to his tip of his nose, the fetid scent closing in around him, managing to calm his nerves a little. Continuing to nose at the fabric filled with repugnant substance, he slowly undressed himself, one handedly peeling the layers of soaked clothing off, in unbreakable silence. Chen stood near the entrance, timid and quiet as he calmly dumped his jacket and the wig with hat over one of the shaky tables, seemingly unsure of the sort of change that had happened between them, not knowing what exact words to say to make Lu Han stop dozing off to a nasty drug.
Stretching his hand behind one of the back walls inside the bureau, a small vault hidden with a row of different books, Lu Han pulled out a stack of documents that proved his legal ownership over Chen and threw them on the chair behind, blind to the panicked look on the other cat boy’s face.
“I’m going to return you. It’s clear that you don’t want to be here. This whatever thing you have against me seems incredibly important to you, more important than your own safety. Unfortunately, I don’t have time or patience to deal with your issues. I’m returning you tomorrow because your stunts are too dangerous, so it will be better for us both. I hope this finally makes you happy.”
Lu Han sat down, turned away from the boy, refusing to acknowledge his existence, as he put the sack of tobacco away, patting at his own drenched underpants with a curse just to have something to busy his shaking hands with; until a moment later he heard a distinct sound of paper being ripped to hundred pieces.
“No, no, stop, what are you doing, idiot!”
Lu Han sprang up from his seat, kicking the chair away in his haste to get to Chen who was furiously tearing the documents into tiny pieces, throwing them in random bursts around the room as if to prevent Lu Han from gluing the papers back together. Lu Han jumped at the cat boy’s stiff back, tail swishing around him wildly, fighting the records out of the boy’s strong grip on them, their fingers ripping more high-quality sheets in the process; the taller boy cried out in pain when Chen teethed at his ear, backing momentarily disoriented Lu Han into the wall, completely mad scared look in his eyes as he continued to destroy the papers. Realizing that the documents could no longer be saved, Lu Han gave up and let go of the boy, breathing hard, slipping down the wall to sit on the dirty floor and watch in wary confusion as Chen ran over to the window and, having beaten the fragile chipped frame out with his elbow, threw the leftover pieces into the snowstorm to be lost and never found in the fields that spread around the city.
When Chen seemed completely sure that he had ruined all the legal papers, he leaned on the opposite wall from Lu Han, clutching his sides as if his hectic stunt of a violent attack made his insides boil. He breathed hard as he struggled out of his sweater and expensive thermal undershirt, spared to him by the generous Kissa Enterprise; as he eased his heavy winter pants off his body, his black tail curled around his thigh in a habitual soothing attempt at calmness.
“You’ve just ruined your chances at going back home. What got into you?” Lu Han voiced out the bugging him question, still staring wide-eyed at the exhausted looking cat boy, rewinding the events of the past five minutes in a cloudy daze, not having enough mind to believe what had then happened. He blinked when Chen gave out a croaked sound of laughter, his cat ears flaring.
“You don’t understand. There is no home to go back to. There is no such thing as “going back” for a cat toy,” he spat out loudly, glaring at Lu Han in disbelief at the other’s naïve attitude, shaking his head at the words that seemed to offend his very being. “If a cat toy gets returned, it gets sent off to a cat farm. It’s like a cat limbo on earth, a hell hole. For poor balls freezing existence in a prison in the middle of nowhere, where leftover cats leave only if someone rebuys them, or if people decide to sell them to another country. But who would rebuy a rejected toy. And cat export’s been doing pretty great selling off aristocrats. Like you.”
“But none of the newspapers or legal pacts from the library ever mentioned anything like that,” Lu Han was frowning, puzzled by the news the other boy was attacking him with. He had never heard of such institutions before, and their possible existence troubled him on impossible levels; he was stricken by immediate thoughts on needed changes in his plans, as at least half of his theories and calculations were suddenly making sense.
“No one ever mentions cat farms, they’re not exactly legal in other countries. Fortunately, the percentage of returned cats is not that big. Because they’re usually too scared to behave badly and disobey masters,” Chen added quietly, rubbing on his face in a certain act of annoyance, as he continued, not looking at Lu Han who had to bite his lips as he watched Chen’s tail clench the boy’s thigh so painfully hard, the skin turned deathly pale. “That’s why you and your sheer existence make me so mad and confused, and I can’t believe that someone like you exists. You were imported, right?”
Lu Han nodded dazedly, suddenly feeling squeamish, gripped by the foreboding that he would not like Chen’s next words, his tail tickling his arm as it pressed to his side, fulfilling its holder’s secret wish to crawl somewhere warm and secluded, and hide.
“You never lived at the breeder’s house, rooming with four other cat boys, trained to be a toy, to be silent, not to complain. It makes me so mad that you somehow managed to run away, not knowing the rules, not knowing the laws. You practically threatened other cats’ safety with your act. Imagine how many people would want to return their toys if you were caught red-handed, a robber and impudent hellbender. Fuck, you almost threw us all under a train, you realize that?”
Lu Han was frowning at the fluffy flakes of dust scattered around the floor, silent, conflicted over his own feelings; he had never thought of his action as of a possible awful threat to the cat society because his action had been a supposed act of resistance against the Human Government.
“Your flaming speech about having knowledge and projects seriously pissed me off, you know,” Chen was laughing at his own remark, hollow sound soft, a beautiful melody not meant for Lu Han’s ears, resounding inside the dark room, falling flat in the huge space between the boys, an abyss physical and mental. “You don’t know anything, Lu Han,” it was the first time Chen pronounced his name during a conversation, tails of his pretty mouth naturally curling upwards for the sake of a Kiinan sound, and Lu Han flinched, distracted. “You want to stir up a rebellion? No one will follow you. They’re all too scared of people to do anything with their lives. I’m scared too. Scared to the shiver in my fur. Because you dragged me into this mess, and now I’m an illegal cat myself.”
“You seem very stubborn for a submissive cat toy you’re supposed to be. You were named a cat conundrum in the catalogue, did you know that?” Lu Han stared with distrust at the seemingly pessimistic boy, who gave a guttural moan and covered his face in embarrassment at that. “Is that why you were at the end of the list? Because you only know how to talk back and say no to everyone’s suggestions?”
“Maybe,” Chen, eyes disappearing into sharp slits, presented him with a wide mocking smile, letting it die the moment displeased Lu Han wrinkled his nose at the sarcastic act. “Or may it be, I turned up at the end of the stupid list because I loved one of the caretakers. No, we are not talking about it. He was a human, I was a teenager, we all make mistakes,” the boy turned his head down, picking at his pointy tail, as if afraid to see the possible judgment in the other’s eyes.
Lu Han felt his fast beating heart sink into his ribcage, falling through his stomach, as pity covered the yawning hole, transparent horror filling up his lungs, as he choked on his spit. Those few sentences explained a lot of things and answered a fair number of questions about Chen’s actions; why he had been so disappointed to learn that Lu Han was not a human, but a cat, why he had been so devastated to discover that he would never realize his dream of being a part of some human’s life. It was clear why Chen found Lu Han’s dismissive attitude towards humans so aggravating, why he acted like a spoilt child.
He could not return the boy back to the safety of the breeder’s institution. They were stuck together from then on. Somehow, the thought gave Lu Han more comfort, than trouble, as he found himself eventually liking the way Chen talked so confidently and how he posed himself, even though the boy’s flippant attitude was grating his nerves. He had a strong presence in the room when he wanted it, and seemed stubborn about his beliefs, even if they were contradicting with Lu Han’s.
“What happened to that boy?” He asked carefully, standing up and coming over to sit near Chen, evoking a surprised reaction from the brooding boy, who flinched further into the wall, but did not try to run away. Lu Han accepted the lukewarm gesture as one at a peace-making attempt.
“Nothing. He shrugged and said that it was impossible, like, dating an animal, and moved on, changed his job. While I got the shorter end of the stick which brought punishments from the other caretakers and mockery from other cat guys for liking a human.” Chen trailed off, his cold unseeing glare frozen on the spot above Lu Han’s head, full of bitter memories about that particularly unfair part of his life. The fur on his cat ears suddenly bristled when the boy sent Lu Han a fleeting look and read pity in the pout on his face; it seemed like he could bear being pitied even less than feeling forced, so Chen continued, the honey sound of his voice like trickling venom.
“There are a lot of assholes in the cat world that don’t really deserve saving, but you wouldn’t know that now, would you? Because you’ve lived you whole life with a silver spoon in your mouth, Amaryllis.”
The words said with so much offensive ignorance made Lu Han’s blood curdle, as he struggled to gulp down a sudden lump the size of his heart. Belatedly comprehending how unnecessarily unfair he had just been when he acted upon another one of his anger fits, Chen lowered his gaze to the floor, guilt clearly demonstrated in the immediate dropping of his cat ears down onto his head. But as much as Lu Han could want to appreciate momentarily cute Chen, offence painfully corroded into his insides.
“Of course, I’m the one who doesn’t know anything. Not about your world at the breeder’s. Not about your past crushes. But do you know anything about me? Don’t be so generous with useless words. Say, have you, the omniscient entity, ever heard of illegal copulation? This thing where they bring together a cat girl and a cat boy of different species and make them fuck to produce an interspecies child? And they’re forced to meet many times until, finally, the cat girl gets pregnant, and they don’t need the boy anymore, so his owners take him away, and he never meets the girl or his child? Well, I’m a father, and you’re a dickwad.”
Exhausted with the emotional stress Chen had managed to settle right into his heart, Lu Han stormed out of the room, with his tail comfortingly curled around his waist, doubting if the other boy of such unpleasant nature would ever be able to make a single adequate effort at their necessary friendship.
Another unnerving morning exhaled frozen freshness into Lu Han’s opened windows, blowing winter into his ear, making the boy jump awake in a fit of cold shivers, the bones in his neck cracking, shoulders numb; he had fallen asleep on the papers with his redrawn plannings, in the chair at his table. As he stretched, squeezing his eyes at the painful tugs resounding through every muscle in his body, he heard a rustling sound and noticed an old dusty moth-eaten carpet slip off his chair. Confused, still half-asleep, he blinked at the cloth, having no memories of ever touching the commonly looking thing that had been lying around in his heavily furnished room for ages.
“Sorry, I covered you at night because you were clutching at your own tail, so I thought maybe you were cold.”
Disoriented, monstrously unruly tail fluffed, Lu Han jumped away from the melodic sound, knocking the creaking chair down, his elbow painfully smacked into the wooden wardrobe. He wrinkled his nose at the pang, seeing Chen in the corner of his watery eye; the timid boy, fully dressed, with his cute small ears twitching nervously, stood unusually close, the small distance between them making Lu Han flinch further into the hard wood of the wardrobe at his back.
“What were you doing in my room at night?” He asked suspiciously, his tongue like cotton, as he screwed his puffy eyes at the strangely amicable boy, pointedly backing away from guilty looking Chen, memories of last night still fresh and smarting in his mind.
“I wanted to talk,” Chen said seriously, taking a big step towards wary Lu Han to give the boy a small dry bottle of milk for breakfast. “I wiped it, I hate it when bottles are all wet,” he murmured an explanation, smiling a little when kind-natured boy Lu Han sighed exasperatedly and took the stretched out peace-offering. The tails of Jongdae’s mouth curled up, thin lips in the shape of a tiny pink boat, as his talking eyes spoke volumes of things he could probably never phrase well enough; Lu Han could only gape at the cat boy’s prominent features, not able to stay offended when the other was finally showing a possible interest in the development of their permanent alliance.
“I didn’t sleep all night, I’ve seriously thought about it, and suddenly realized that I can help you with something. I might not agree with your ideas and theories, but I can’t just waste my life under a blanket. Got to help with whatever I can help with. But before that,” he looked at his socked feet for a single moment as if hoping they could give him the needed courage, blinked in a flutter of bushy eyelashes, and continued, sounding resigned. “I want to apologize. I’m sorry that I’m such an asshole. I’ve always been one, part of the reason I was forever at the end of the list. You look so young, I’ve never thought that something so horrible could have happened to you. It’s kind of… hard to think of you as a father now, to be honest.”
“But I’m not a real father. I’ve never even gotten the chance to actually see the child. It’s okay though. It’s not hard to lose something that you’ve never had,” Lu Han replied quietly, his tail pleasurably crawling up his back, as a strange warm feeling diffused inside his chest, and he felt secure enough to give the other boy a smile. He had a momentary shock at the understanding that it was the very first time his Jongdae was willingly smiling at him since they got to learn about each other’s existence three days ago.
“Don’t think that you’re the only one with the talking back problem though.”
Lu Han smiled cheekily at the question in Jongdae’s eyes and winked, as he tugged his foxy luxurious tail into his hand, combing through the coarse wavy fur at the curling tip; a second of desperate fighting with his own hair, and Lu Han was presenting Jongdae with the blunt uneven ending of his tail, a reminding shadow of past abuse. It looked deformed, as if someone had cut it off and wrapped in quick bandages, so it had gotten healed all shaggy, an ugly patch, with the help of time, hidden from strange eyes by the overpowering fur.
Jongdae stared at the disfigured apex and, after sending a quick look at Lu Han’s unsuspecting face, poked the furless place with his unceremonious finger, curious as he murmured a low “wow”. Lu Han blushed as an unexpected awakening feeling resonated through his body; he had to slap the mischievous palm away, not wishing to indulge Jongdae in further explorations of his sensitive tail.
“You said that you wanted to tell me something that could help me. Does it have to do with my mission, because now that I have you, however unwilling you might be, I will get you to tell me all the vital information about the breeders. I know it’s hard to start on something so serious, and I’ve thought of giving up numerous times, and our preparations will require a lot of time, some of which will eventually turn out unnecessary in the end. But I’m willing to try and I’ve never been surer. Because you’re the main sign that my calculations were correct, you’re the proof that my theories on the human nature were right as well,” Lu Han ranted, passing the room with his fluffy tail conducting the infinite way behind his back, swinging his hands around like windmills, almost catching Jongdae on the nose with the neck of the still untouched milk bottle. Jongdae coughed to attract the other’s attention before he could venture into explanations, but in vain.
“I actually… have an acquaintance that would, probably, be glad to know about the possibility of a rebellion,” Jongdae said loudly in a serious voice, interrupting Lu Han’s disinteresting profuse talk, managing to put the taller cat boy’s whole body on a pause. “You might even have heard of him? A ferocious guy, if you imagine a broken out riot, you think of him fighting people in the very middle. His named used to be Zitao when he was at the breeder’s, but after he had been bought out with quite a tidy sum for the uniqueness of his breed, I think they renamed him into Edison. Or something even more ridiculous. The point is that I actually know where he lives. I heard the caretakers gossiping about him a lot.”
Jongdae had to cry out in surprise, eyes widening, when weirdly looking Lu Han crossed the small space between them and tugged him into a painful clutching embrace, and the metallic threading of the lid dug into the boy’s right shoulder blade. His Jongdae awkwardly tried to wriggle his pained shoulder away from the accidental abuse but Lu Han saw nothing, only squeezed his cat boy even harder, allowing the emotions he had been keeping sealed for several long months to break through his outwardly cheerful appearance.
“You don’t understand how happy you’ve made me, Jongdae,” he whispered vulnerability into the cat boy’s unwashed hair, ecstatic about the other’s sheer presence by his side, gently nuzzling into the smelly head of his genuinely confused Jongdae.
Lu Han would not feel alone anymore.
All foreign words used in the fic belong to the beautiful Finnish language :)
Kylmä - Cold
Kissa - Cat
Kiinan - Chinese
Kahvila - café
Sota - War
The additional notes:
Kylmä is a wonderful town that exists solely in my imagination. I used Iceland's Reykjavik as reference for the scenery descriptions.
Cynosura is the name of the Northern country that exists solely in my imagination. It's a sort of play of words because Cynosura is an alternative name of the Polaris, the Polar star (which screams north and cold), but it also translates as 'dog's tail' from Greek, so yes. Cat society in a dog country. (i smart)
Amaryllis is a stunning red flower that symbolizes pride, determination and radiant beauty.
I hope you liked it *3*