title pairing: the art of cuddling
summary: "...You’re a cat?" Sehun’s eighteenth birthday doesn’t go as planned.
summary: "...You’re a cat?" Sehun’s eighteenth birthday doesn’t go as planned.
Jongin had never cared much about what would happen when he matured, unlike all of his classmates that had talked about nothing but what sort of animal they'd shift into when they finally turned 18. It had already begun when they’d been small children, a what do you want to work with when you grow up? easily replaced by a what sort of animal do you want to become?.
Some had been worried about it, especially the toughest boys in class that Jongin had know were afraid that their personality would reflect a smaller or weaker animal than they'd wanted. Others had been excited, wondering what colour their coat or fur would be, what eye colour they'd get or how fast they'd be able to run. His best friend Sehun had been in the latter category, absolutely sure that his spirit animal would reflect a powerful animal that could inflect fear and respect in other people.
"Like a lion," Sehun settled as they walked home from school, a week into April. "Or a wolf. Junmyeon turned into a fucking panther and he's smaller than me. It's bound to run in the family."
Jongin just nodded without saying anything, not surprised to hear that Sehun had changed his preferred animal once again. Last week it had been an eagle. The week before that a Rhinoceros.
If the conversation would have taken place a few months earlier, Jongin knew that Sehun would have probably already asked him if he'd finally chosen an animal that he wanted to change into, but ever since Jongin's birthday had passed, there hadn't really been any need to.
On the day before Jongin's 18th birthday Sehun had been more ecstatic than he had been himself, bouncing on his feet the entire day and reassuring Jongin once every five minutes that it would probably not hurt at all and that everything would go well. For once he hadn't been teasing Jongin about him looking an awful lot like a weasel, but had been supportive, and although Jongin hadn't been worried at all, he hadn't felt the urge to tell Sehun the truth. Sehun wasn't openly caring towards him all too often, and when he was, Jongin enjoyed it more than he wanted to admit.
It had come as a surprise to both himself, his family and to Sehun when he finally shifted into a brown bear, but where his family and all of his older sisters had ruffled his hair and said that they were proud that their little baby was finally growing up, Sehun had been obsessed with beating him ever since.
"My birthday is in a week." Sehun continued, excited. "I've been waiting for this my entire life."
"It isn't nearly as exciting as you seem to think it is," Jongin cut in. "You just feel extremely weird and like you can't fit in inside your own body. Then, once you finally shift, everything is just confusing until you finally manage to figure out how to use your limbs. I just went to sleep until my parents came home and I could shift back."
Sehun sent him a dry look.
"You are such a bear, I swear to God."
Jongin shrugged, not disagreeing. He had never understood the fuzz that came with your 18th birthday and he doubted that he ever would. He hadn't wanted to host a party or have all his friends clapping his back like he had just accomplished something amazing. He had just wanted to shift quietly and then eat some cake while watching a movie together with Sehun.
Honestly speaking, he was more worried about Sehun and his upcoming birthday than he had been for himself. It was true that the shift hurt for some, and although Jongin didn't think that it could hurt terribly, the thought of Sehun in any sort of pain made him feel a bit queasy. For all that Sehun acted like nothing bothered him and that he was all grown up, Jongin knew that Sehun wasn't nearly as independent and indifferent to the world as he pretended to be. His growth spurt over the summer still hadn't made him able to watch a scary movie without having a death grip around Jongin's arm for goodness sake.
"You're probably going to be very confused in the beginning. Your animal side might take over and you're probably not going to be in your right mind. After a few hours you should be able to shift back, too. But you already know this."
"Yes, but it doesn't hurt to hear it one more time. I don't want to hurt anyone by accident if I can avoid it. Junmyeon has the self-control of a monk but even he almost tackled me to the floor when I came home."
Sehun pouted, reliving the memory once more. Jongin wondered if Sehun would ever forgive Junmyeon for not remembering Sehun straight away, but he doubted it.
"Well, I'm sure it it'll be fine," Jongin comforted.
Sehun gave an indignant huff.
"Of course it'll be fine. It's going to go great." He said, all confidence again as he dug out the key to his house. Sehun's mom wouldn't be home until later and his dad was away on a business trip, so they had a couple of hours to just lounge around, eat some snacks and play video games before Mrs. Oh returned and would force them to study.
It was the usual routine, and the only time she let them skip out on doing their homework was on a birthday. Or, as Jongin found out a week later, the day before Sehun's 18th. Jongin suspected it had more to do with the way she noticed Sehun constantly tapping his foot against the floor and his eyes that darted around the room than with the day alone, because she had still been breathing down their necks the day before Jongin's birthday and he knew that she considered him her son, too.
She was a kind woman, but she was a very headstrong one, and wanted only the best for her two sons and for Jongin. That more often than not made her very involved with their lives and their well-being.
"Jongin-sweetheart, are you sure you don't want to stay the night? It's getting dark outside and although it's April it still gets cold outside during the evenings."
Her eyebrows were furrowed in worry, obviously disliking the idea of him going home alone at a late hour despite the fact that Jongin lived less than 10 minutes away. Jongin only smiled, stretching his arms a little. Sehun was in the bathroom, having disappeared into it five minutes earlier to take a shower.
“No, it's fine. I might be able to sleep here for two days in a row, but I think that three days is probably pushing it. Besides, it's Sehun's birthday tomorrow—”
“—And I'm sure that he would probably be a lot more calm if you were here, not that he'd ever say it himself. But I understand your family. It gets awfully boring around here when you and Sehun disappear for days at a time.”
She smiled, patting his back as she passed him.
“You'll stop by tomorrow, though, won't you? Sunghyun and I won't be home until after dinner and I don't want him to spend his entire birthday alone. Especially not this one.”
“Yeah, I'll try to stop by after school. I think Luhan and Jongdae said something similar.”
“Good, good. That makes me pleased. Head home now, I'll tell Sehun you said goodbye.”
Jongin would have preferred to wait until Sehun was finished showering so that he could wish him a happy birthday in advance and make sure that he was alright, but he knew that Mrs. Oh wouldn't allow him to return home any time soon if he didn't leave now. Throwing his backpack over one shoulder, he glanced one more time at the closed door to the bathroom and wished that he could see Sehun's dyed-blond hair peek out. He could still hear the shower running so he knew that he wouldn't be out for another ten minutes at the least.
He left, a bit troubled as he headed home. It wasn't as chilly as he'd expected, but there was still a flush to his skin when he entered his house that made his older sister Junghee pinch his cheeks and send him off to bed. Had he been Sehun he would have probably whined a little and made Junghee make him some hot chocolate, but since Jongin was Jongin, he was just happy to have a reason to go to sleep.
It wasn't until the morning that Jongin realised that he wouldn't be accompanied by Sehun to school for the first time in a very long time. Or have his lunch together with his best friend, or make fun of their weird English teacher together, or have someone who at least tried to listen attentively when he talked about dancing.
It was a very disgruntled Jongin that made his towards school, but it was an even grumpier Jongin that made his way back, only pausing at home to change into more comfortable clothes before he headed towards Sehun's house.
Once again, he was happy that his birthday was a few months before Sehun, because if the boy against all odds had turned into a panther and didn't recognise him, at least he could turn into a bear and protect himself. A part of him wanted to wait until Sehun had shifted back to his human form before he set a foot inside his house, but since he had promised Mrs. Oh to keep him company and had found himself missing his best friend more than he would like to admit, he couldn't do much else than to grab the extra key next to the door and slowly push the door to Sehun's house open.
It creaked slightly as he stepped inside, and Jongin braced himself to be attacked immediately or to hear some sort of noise echo throughout the building at his entrance, but everything was very silent. Nothing seemed to be broken either; no lamps or couches shredded and no chairs lying on the floor. The house looked very normal, unlike how Jongin's house had looked after he'd went all bear-mode on it.
“Sehun…?” Jongin called hesitantly, looking around carefully. He scanned the ceiling and the bookshelves that lined the room, looking for any sort of bird perched on them, but found nothing there either.
A bit of worry made itself known in his stomach.
Jongin had heard of stories when he'd been younger of shiftings going wrong, where the person had been stuck somewhere between their soul-animal and their human selves, but he'd never actually believed in them. Now the horror stories came rushing back, and although Jongin prided himself on being a calm person, he was very close to screaming Sehun's name on the top of his lungs when he heard a small sound coming from beneath an armchair in the middle of the living room.
He froze, feeling both relieved and more than a little tense. At any second, Sehun was going to burst out from wherever he'd been hiding, knock him over and shred him to pieces. Or he was going to come swooping down, clawing his eyes out. A few seconds passed, but nothing happened.
Jongin took a hesitant step closer to the armchair.
“Sehun, if you're there please remember that it is your best friend, Jongin, and not a prey that looks very appetizing, okay? I am here to help you, not lose all my limbs.”
While holding his breath, Jongin darted forward and knocked the piece of furniture over, prepared to face a hissing snake or a something equally as unpleasant.
What he wasn't prepared to see was a small and extremely angry white fur-ball.
The furious little kitten growled as he took a step forward, but it was a high-pitched sound that Jongin doubted would inflect fear in even the smallest of rats. It glared up at him with black eyes as if he had just offended its mother. Jongin wondered if the universe was playing some sort of cosmic joke on him. Jongin stared at the angry little creature.
“…You're a cat?”
Sehun the kitten bared its teeth and curled in on itself. It stomped its little paws, and although Jongin had never had a cat, he knew enough about the animal to realise that Sehun was preparing himself to dart off. He also knew that his chances of finding and cornering Sehun again were close to zero if he allowed that to happen.
Without thinking, he lunged for the small kitten, the only thing on his mind not to let Sehun out of his sight or out of his hands. Sehun yowled pathetically, not thrilled to be attacked at all, and after a brief struggle that resulted in Jongin getting scratched on his arms and his face, he finally had a somewhat steady grip around the tiny animal.
His fur was softer than Jongin had expected, a pale shade of snowy-white that was looked pretty in the late-afternoon light, and had Jongin not been so occupied with trying to not let the angry little thing bite his fingers with his sharp and tiny canines, he would have probably paused to appreciate it further.
“Won't you—ow! Stop!” Jongin complained.
Sehun the cat didn't listen, and Jongin found himself growing desperate. If Sehun disappeared not only would Mrs. Oh hate him forever, he'd also have to live with the knowledge that his best friend was probably off somewhere hunting birds and terrifying dogs while running the risk of getting hit by a car.
He remembered a conversation he'd had when he'd been much younger, and that there was something about holding a kitten's neck that was supposed to make them instantly limp. He wasn't sure if it was true, but he figured that it was at least worth a try if it would make Sehun stop trying to kill him.
Distracting Sehun with one hand, he let the other sneak around his tiny body and to the back of his neck where he gently grabbed a hold of the skin. He didn't want to hurt Sehun who had sent him a look of what could only be interpreted as extreme betrayal as he pulled until he had the cat dangling in his hold, completely still.
Sehun's hind legs folded into his stomach automatically and, except for the incredibly annoyed and displeased expression on his small face; he had stopped squirming and was reluctantly submissive.
Jongin released a puff of air; blowing some stray hair strands out of his eyes, and tried his best to keep from glaring at the evil kitten.
“Sehun. It's me. Jongin. I might smell like a dog, but I promise you that I'm not one.” Jongin rose from his place on the floor and sat down in the couch next to the knocked over armchair, placing Sehun so that he was in his lap while still not releasing him just yet.
Sehun looked a lot like a small ball.
“If I release you, will you promise not to run away?” Jongin asked the cat. Sehun produced an unhappy whine in response, and although Jongin was sure that it was a bad idea, he slowly let Sehun's soft paws meet his lap. “I’m not evil, I'm just trying to help you.”
He expected Sehun to dart off immediately, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the kitten –although he still looked very suspicious of everything Jongin—remained in his lap. Jongin kept very still, worried that any quick movements would scare Sehun, and during a few tense seconds Sehun looked like he was prepared to disappear at any given moment. Then he took a careful step forward on light paws and pressed his muzzle against Jongin's chest, smelling his shirt.
It continued for a few seconds, Sehun just analysing his scent as his nose carefully searched his chest for anything familiar or threatening. Jongin stared down at the little kitten standing on his thighs cautiously. He'd always been a bit afraid of cats, mainly due to the fact that he'd never spent time around one, but it was hard to look at the little thing in front of him and feel any sort of fear at all. Sehun might have scratched his skin and meowed angrily, but he hadn't even managed to draw blood.
After Sehun was done with his shirt, he paused for a moment before he placed his forelegs on Jongin's chest and dugs his claws into the fabric of his clothes, deciding to climb him for a reason unknown to Jongin.
“Sehun, what are you doing?” Jongin groaned, not enjoying the way Sehun awkwardly made his way up his torso with his little limbs using his body as a makeshift climbing wall. He was a bit curious though, especially when Sehun put his tiny little face right in front of Jongin's and let his nose ghost over his mouth and nose.
And promptly sneezed.
Jongin tore the cat of his chest and ignored the irritated sounds that Sehun made. He didn't put Sehun back in his lap, but instead dropped him next to him on the couch, hoping that Sehun would go to sleep or something. He was not a cat person, and he desperately wished that Sehun's family would be home soon or that Lu Han would finally get off his football practice.
Sehun had other plans, though, climbing back into his lap and settling down like their small dispute had never happened. He didn't look annoyed for once, and pushed his face against Jongin's arm in an extremely similar way to how the human Sehun would act when he wanted Jongin to do something for him. When he didn't let up, Jongin awkwardly settled his hand on Sehun's head and patted the area cautiously.
It didn't please the small kitten and Sehun continued to huff and push his small head against Jongin's larger hand until Jongin accidentally scratched the spot behind one of his ears. Sehun closed both his eyes in pleasure, leaning into the touch like he desperately needed Jongin to repeat the action again.
After doing what the cat seemed to want him to do as best as he could, Jongin eventually heard a small sound coming from the kitten. It sounded like a small engine, and when he looked down it seemed like Sehun was vibrating in his lap.
Sehun was purring.
“You are going to be so embarrassed when you finally shift back into your human form.” Jongin muttered, but found himself a bit charmed by the little kitten that was purring like Jongin was the best person in the entire world. Jongin let his hand pet the soft fur beneath Sehun's chin and found himself grinning when Sehun almost fell over in his haste to get closer.
Okay, so perhaps Sehun in his animal form was extremely cute with his large ears, big eyes and soft fur, but that didn't mean that Jongin would like every other cat on earth by proxy. Sehun was an exception.
When Lu Han finally stumbled in through the door an hour later with Baekhyun, Jongdae, Yixing and Minseok in tow, Sehun was dozing calmly on top of Jongin with his muzzle resting on his paws. He seemed to have knocked himself out from all the stimulation and petting, despite his best efforts to stay awake. Jongin had taken to stroking the length of the kitten's small body and enjoying the way Sehun radiated warmth and for once looked really tranquil.
Or at least until Baekhyun stumbled over the fallen armchair and caused Sehun to nearly jump two meters up into the air.
“He's a cat?!” Baekhyun shrieked, sending Jongin an alarmed look. Jongin just glared in response and tried to calm Sehun by hugging the small kitten to his chest and running his hand up and down his back. It seemed to work somewhat because although the small kitten was sill hissing and growling at everyone in the room except for Jongin, he had taken to purring slightly in between his shows of anger.
He had also curled into a little ball in Jongin's lap, no longer stretching himself out to his full –albeit short—length.
“Stop making so much noise,” Jongin said a bit angrily. “You're scaring him.”
Baekhyun looked at him like he'd gone insane, but still listened while Jongin ordered him to go and open a can of tuna. When he returned Sehun perked his ears and nose in his direction, nearly salivating at the mouth, but refused to take a bite of the tuna until Jongin took the plate and encouraged him to eat. After that Sehun was a bit more appeased, but he still hissed at the intruders from time to time when he wasn't busy cleaning Jongin's hand with his raspy little tongue.
“Sehun is going to kill you when he finally shifts back, you know.” Lu Han said a while later. “Or turn completely red and avoid you for a month. Either one of them.”
Jongin smiled, scratching Sehun's chin.
“Probably. But it's Sehun were talking about, and he loves to be pampered. He'll probably turn into a cat again just so that people will pet him and have a reason to feed him milk.” Now that he thought about it, it really was no wonder that Sehun had turned into a cat. No wonder at all.
And Jongin also knew that he had plenty of warm cuddle sessions to look forward to when Sehun was done being embarrassed. He was a bear after all, and there was nothing he liked more than just sleeping and cuddling.
Well, perhaps Sehun, but now there was nothing preventing him from combing the two.
The way Sehun was cute and sounded an awful lot like a car engine when he purred was just an added bonus.
I just had to write this story, haha. Its been stuck inside my head ever since Mr. Destiny compared Jongin to a bear and I saw a Sehun fan art of him as a grumpy cat. And then bam! I had a plot bunny. It's also the most fun I've had writing a story in ages and it is cross-posted (?) on aff.