ℰmmi (seulpeo) wrote in galaxyabandoned,

{got7; jb/bambam} the soft animal of your body (ii)

Title: the soft animal of your body, part ii/v

part one

The next day is hectic, the snow plows barrelling through the city to clear out the roads enough for people to get to where they need to go. Jaebum is very nearly late to class, however, because he woke up and grabbed his usual bun for breakfast and only then realized that there would be no food for Bambam during lunchtime, not until Jaebum got back from class in the afternoon. He throws together some jjigae, hoping Bambam doesn't mind any of the ingredients he put in, and leaves Bambam a note on the kitchen table to let him know where all the bowls and utensils are. But before he can run out the door, Bambam himself emerges from his room, his feet bare and his sleepy eyes sad when he sees Jaebum's ready to go. "You won't stay?" he asks in his small voice.

"I have class, I'm so sorry," Jaebum says apologetically, wishing so badly he could wrap the catboy in his arms and pet him until the anxiety in his eyes melted away. Bambam looks even smaller than usual, dwarfed by another of Jaebum's shirts with the sleeves falling over his fingertips. His tail is drooping under the hem of the shirt, his ears down.

Bambam looks at his face, then at the ground. "Okay," he says miserably, and Jaebum curses himself for not preparing Bambam for this properly the night before. Bambam probably had woken up expecting things to be the same as it had been all weekend, and now Jaebum has to leave him alone at home all day. You aren't even supposed to leave pets at home all day, how can he possibly leave Bambam alone by himself in an apartment he's still so new to?

"Try and go back to sleep," Jaebum tells him, trying to be comforting. "There's jjigae on the stove, but no guarantees that it'll be the most delicious. I'll be back before you know it, okay?"

"Okay," Bambam says again, but he still sounds unconvinced. He's silent as he watches Jaebum grab all his things and scramble out the door, waving half-heartedly when Jaebum calls a goodbye over his shoulder.

With the image of Bambam standing alone in the dining room, eyes so unhappy, has Jaebum preoccupied all day throughout his classes, his lecture notes coming out piecey and disjointed. He meets with his thesis committee head advisor during his break between classes to discuss his progress on his thesis research, which is mostly on track, but the conversation runs overtime and he's almost late to his second lecture. All of the good seats are taken, so Jaebum slips into the best one he can find and tries to focus this time.

There's a half hour left of class when his phone buzzes in his pocket, thankfully on silent. It's from Jackson. just got out of class, you comin?"

sry i'll be out of lecture in half an hour, Jaebum texts back, glancing at the clock worriedly. He doesn't have much time to get from the lecture hall to Jackson's apartment, then home so he can change before he goes to work. But he's usually good about getting to work, so maybe his boss will forgive him if he's not exactly on time once.

ok, Jackson replies, and Jaebum struggles to tune back into what his professor is saying. By the time the lecture ends, Jaebum throws his things into his bag haphazardly and is the first one out the door.

Jackson lives a couple blocks away from the university's east entrance, which is unfortunately on the other side of campus from Jaebum's lecture. Maybe he should start saving up for a bicycle, Jaebum thinks exasperatedly, but his money is tight enough as it is with rent and now the additional mouth to feed; walking, and his knowledge of shortcuts around campus, will just have to do for now.

"Hey, you made it," Jackson says when Jaebum finally gets to his apartment and knocks on the door. Behind Jackson, who looks just like how Jaebum remembers him from that party, is a tall boy with vibrant orange-red hair, tabby stripes streaked over the triangular-shaped ears that protrude from the top of his head. He's graceful and slender, his hand automatically finding Jackson's side possessively, and the haughty look he directs at Jaebum is pure catboy. This must be Mark.

"Hi," Jaebum says, a bit weakly. He doesn't rush from one side of campus to the other very often, and he's definitely feeling it now. (It's easier to tell himself that rather than admit he feels awkward, intimidated even.) "It's good to see you."

'"You, too. Come on in," Jackson says, and steps back to let Jaebum into his apartment. Mark seems to read the movement before Jackson completes it, smoothly sliding out of the way without even moving the hand he has on Jackson's body. When Jackson glances at Mark with a grin and takes his catboy's hand in his own, intertwining their fingers, Jaebum tries very hard not to stare at them.

They end up in the living room, Jackson and Mark in a loveseat that they clearly sit in together so often that it bears the imprints of their two bodies, Jaebum on the couch opposite from them. He turns down the offer for something to eat or drink, and they sit there in silence for a moment. "So," Jackson says eventually. "What do you want to know?"

"I'm, um. Not really sure," Jaebum admits. "I've just never been around catboys before. Like, Mark is the second one I've ever seen in my entire life, and Bambam was the first."

"I forget that it's different in Korea," Jackson comments. Beside him, Mark yawns and drapes himself across Jackson's lap, mostly ignoring Jaebum's presence. Jackson's hand absently begins petting Mark's hair. "In Hong Kong, catboys are more commonplace. People will take them shopping with them, or to restaurants with them, or sometimes even to school with them. It's not really that big of a deal."

"America, too," Mark says, voice muffled against Jackson's shirt. His eyes are closed, the beginnings of a purr rumbling in his chest, so Jaebum assumed he was asleep - he hadn't realized Mark was listening to their conversation enough to participate.

"America?" Jaebum echos.

"Yeah," Jackson answers, scratching behind Mark's ears; the purr intensifies. "I grew up in Hong Kong and transferred to Seoul after I liked a semester of university here, but Mark is from California and they're more relaxed about catboys there, too. Super liberal. We've flown around a lot, I guess."

You bought your catboy in America? Jaebum wants to say, but it's not his position to comment; when Jinyoung told him ages ago, Jaebum had thought he was just kidding. Instead, he says, "So would it be weird if I took Bambam out with me? I mean, only if he wanted to come with."

Jackson shrugs. "I don't think anyone would say that you can't. Mark doesn't really like going out in public much in the first place, but Bambam sounds like the type to want to go out more, judging from what you've told me so far."

They discuss a little more about how to care for the cat side of catboys - "there isn't much, really," Jackson says at one point. "It's simple if you approach them as humans rather than beasts, and don't make them more in your head than they actually are. Here, they market catboys as easy to take care of, just like any other cat or dog, but they're more comparable to another human being. They dress them up pretty and cover them with accessories whenever they go out, because appearances are important to them, but they forget that they have thoughts and feelings, too. I'm guessing that's why Bambam's owner didn't want to deal with having to take care of him anymore, so he just ditched him on the streets. That's why he's got no collar on."

"That's terrible," Jaebum says, feeling disgusted, nauseated. He can still remember how cold and terrified Bambam looked when Jaebum found him. What if he hadn't? What if Bambam had been left out in the snowstorm on his own, and frozen to death?

Jackson shrugs and runs his fingers through Mark's hair. "It happens. More than it should, but that's rich people for you. Catboys are stylish and attractive, and they sure look good when you go out in public with a catboy on your arm, but they're just too high maintenance for those elites. Anything would be too high maintenance."

"Bambam's owner is such a shithead," Jaebum grumbles. He'd never really stopped to consider how Bambam had once had an owner, just knew that he had one, and had kind of expected to care for Bambam for a few days before returning him to his rightful place. Now the idea doesn't seem too appealing. "Is there a way where, I don't know, his ownership could be transferred?"

Jackson gives him a surprised look. "Transferred? It's happened before but I'm not too sure how you would do that if not through money. Buying and selling."

"Money?" Jaebum repeats. He can't even afford his apartment on his own much longer, there's no way he could take on the finances that come with a catboy, not even if he spent his entire days working at the family restaurant. Without his parents' help, he'd been long sunk. "There's no other way?"

"I guess you could look through the official laws about catboys, I don't know. I'm not familiar with the Korean laws, but you could look through them for anything on hybrids," Jackson says.

Maybe Jinyoung could give him a hand, Jaebum thinks, at least once Jaebum finally tells him about Bambam. They've hardly read enough political and legal jargon, according to their professors, even if it definitely feels like it. "Yeah," he says slowly. "Yeah, thanks, Jackson."

"No problem," Jackson shrugs, and Mark shoots him a grumpy look for jostling him. "Sorry, kitten," he says to his catboy, and resumes the petting again. As he and Jackson had talked, Jaebum noticed Mark curling closer and close to Jackson, using one of Jackson's thighs as a pillow and purring low while Jackson continued to scratch his ears. They're so physical, so constantly in contact, Jaebum can't help but feel a little envious of them. Like touching each other is as easy and natural as breathing, even though Jaebum knows Jackson has only had Mark for a couple years at this point.

After Jackson gives him some general food tips, telling him what he knows catboys in general don't like and what Mark personally doesn't like, "though it'll vary, just like with people," Jaebum gets ready to leave. He talked a bit longer than he wanted to, but it was worth it. Mark stretches and slips off of Jackson's lap, disappearing down the hall after a polite goodbye to Jaebum (which Jaebum didn't even expect, to be honest), and Jackson walks with Jaebum to the door.

"Thank you again, seriously, you have no idea," Jaebum tells Jackson as he puts on his shoes.

"Yeah, no problem, man," Jackson says. "One last thing, though."

"What?" Jaebum asks.

"How old is Bambam?" Jackson says, frowning a bit. "You can guess if you don't know. I know you said he's young, but he might be old enough to be considered matured."

Jaebum thinks of Bambam's appearance and mannerisms, and struggles to approximate them into a clear number; he's never thought to ask Bambam himself. "He's really little," he tells Jackson. "Nowhere as old as Mark. But he seems to understand more than just a kid would, so I wouldn't say he's a baby."

"Huh," Jackson says thoughtfully. "Could be on the cusp of things, then. Does your bathroom have a proper lock?"

"Uh, I think so," Jaebum says, perplexed. "Why?"

"It'll be important later this month, and every month after it, if Bambam's old enough," Jackson tells him, shrugging. "Mostly for the first few times. But if he's not, then just don't worry about it."

"Is there a problem?" asks Jaebum, suddenly struck with the worry that something will come up with Bambam and he won't be able to figure it out in time to deal with it. He knows nothing about catboys, barely anything about cats in general.

"No, nevermind," Jackson says, patting Jaebum on the shoulder amicably. "You should be fine, for now."

"Okay," Jaebum says, bemused. He says goodbye and hurries for home; there should be enough time for a snack before he needs to go to work, and this way he can check on Bambam properly instead of worrying and worrying.

When he puts his key in the lock, he can hear scuffling, like someone running from the hallway and into the living room. "I'm home," Jaebum calls as he pushes the door open, the words a bit unfamiliar on his lips and tongue. It's been a while since Jinyoung was here, lounging in the living room or searching for food in the kitchen, for Jaebum to greet him, so seeing Bambam's face fill with delight at the sight of Jaebum is like learning this feeling of being wanted all over again.

"You're back!" Bambam yelps, bounding across the length of the living room and hurling himself at Jaebum.

Caught off guard, Jaebum automatically tries his best to catch the catboy. Just like he had been the night before, Bambam is lighter than he expects, but wakefulness has made him more of a handful. He manages to take the brunt of Bambam's weight, arms wrapping around his thin torso, and he can feel Bambam curl his hands into the fabric of Jaebum's sweatshirt as he nuzzles close, practically clinging. "Hi," he says, lifting a hand to pet the back of Bambam's head hesitantly.

Bambam makes a noise that sounds almost like a mewl, pressing his nose to Jaebum's neck; it's cold, which makes Jaebum startle, and Bambam pulls back hastily as if he only just realized what he was doing. "Sorry, I'm sorry," he says in embarrassment, hurrying to untangle his arms. "That was rude of me, I - "

"It's fine," Jaebum interrupts him, letting his hand fall away from Bambam's hair. "I don't mind, really, if you don't."

"I don't mind," Bambam says earnestly. He's blushing a little, but his head isn't ducked down, eyes searching the floor for something less mortifying to stare at, like it had been before. This time he looks Jaebum straight on, which is how Jaebum knows he really means it.

Jaebum can't help but smile, and reaches back up to stroke along Bambam's jaw lightly. The catboy leans into the touch, eyes falling closed, and he sighs happily. He seems to enjoy it so much, Jaebum is almost sorry that he has to pull his hand back and start getting his things together for work. "You hungry? Did you eat the jjigae?"

"Yes," Bambam says. He follows Jaebum closely as Jaebum steps into the kitchen to check the stove, finding that most of the jjigae has been eaten, a small bowl and pair of chopsticks in the sink.

"I hope it wasn't too bad," Jaebum says, self-conscious. He leaves his laptop and binders for class on the table in the living room and goes down the hall to his bedroom, so he can change into his work clothes; Bambam is half a step behind him the entire way, so close Jaebum can almost feel the warmth of his body. When he starts going through his closet, he can hear Bambam sit down on the foot of the bed and fidget. "How was your day?"

"It was okay," Bambam says from behind him. "Really quiet. I, um, slept for most of it."

"Sorry again," Jaebum says, glancing over his shoulder at Bambam, who's watching him move around his room and retrieve a white dress shirt, his winter jacket. "I didn't give you a head's up. But I only have an 8 AM lecture one more time this week, on Friday, so it shouldn't be so bad for the other days, since I'll have less morning classes."

"All right," Bambam says happily. He falls silent as Jaebum pulls his sweater over his head and tugs on his dress shirt, and gazes wordlessly as Jaebum walks around the room in search for his waiter nametag while buttoning his shirt up. When Jaebum finally finds it, he turns to Bambam and notices what may or may not be the beginnings of a blush on his cheeks - surely he imagined it. Bambam never seemed to mind much when Jaebum changed into his pajamas right in front of him during the weekend, anyways.

“Bambam, I have to go to work now,” Jaebum says, shifting uncomfortably. He’s been dreading telling the catboy, wondered how to do so during the entire time he was getting ready, but Jaebum believes that the best way to give bad news is just to give it to them straight; he isn’t going to treat Bambam differently just because he’s not entirely human.

The cheerful look in Bambam’s eyes falls away immediately when he realizes what Jaebum is saying, and his ears droop down. “Already?” he asks, voice meek and a little disappointed.

“Yeah, I have to work dinner shift,” Jaebum says. He draws closer to the bed and considers touching Bambam on the shoulder, reassuring. “It won’t be so late, though, I swear. Shifts are staggered so I don’t have to do closing, that's the latest.”

“Okay,” Bambam says in that tiny, sad voice. He looks like Jaebum kicked him instead of told him he would be out for a few more hours, and Jaebum feels so bad, he almost wants to call the boss and tell him that he can’t make it - even though he knows that’s not possible. He needs to make work his first priority. Instead, he sits carefully beside Bambam and puts his arm around Bambam’s slight shoulders, rubbing his arm as if to warm him. Bambam leans into him at once, pressing his side up against Jaebum’s as if he’s been secretly longing for his warmth all this time and can’t stand the space between them now that he’s been given permission.

“I’ll be back before you know it, and with dinner,” Jaebum promises. “Is there anything you want?”

“Anything?” Bambam asks, eyes wide as he looks up at Jaebum. “I don’t know what I want.”

“You don’t have any favorite foods?” Jaebum asks incredulously.

Bambam's ears twitch, a nervous reaction to Jaebum's. "N-not really," he says, like it's a wrong answer and he's guilty for it. "I've never really - had much of a choice - "

"I'll just bring home some of everything,” Jaebum promises him. “Don’t worry. It’s not your fault, I was just overreacting a little and I’m sorry.”

Bambam nods, but he still looks a bit agitated when Jaebum pulls away and puts on his jacket to leave. He doesn’t say anything, though, just retraces the steps he took this morning as he lingers in the living room to watch Jaebum leave. Again, a small, lone figure, eyes fixed on Jaebum walking out the door.

This needs to stop happening, Jaebum thinks as he makes his way down the wintery streets towards the restaurant at a brisk pace. He can’t have Bambam taking it so hard every time Jaebum leaves the apartment; he’s never really lingered at home, not even when Jinyoung was home, because they both had their own fast-paced schedules to follow until they regrouped at home for the night. Just thinking about Bambam sitting in his mass of blankets, watching the clock as it ticks each minute by excruciatingly slowly towards Jaebum’s return, is driving Jaebum crazy. Bambam may be mostly human, may look mostly human, but his standing is society is that of a pet cat and Jaebum doesn’t even have anything to give him that’ll help him pass the hours a little more easily. What kind of caretaker is he? Visiting Jackson won’t help him here.

His shift at the restaurant passes somewhat in a blur. The stark difference is how aware of the catboys passing through Jaebum has become, contrasting with how he always seemed to look right past them before, oblivious. He sees one poised in the window seat of a fancy car, most likely seated beside her owner, as someone is tasked to come inside on an errand; she’s leaning out the window of the backseat just enough to catch the scent on a passing breeze, brown ears peeking out of dusty tan hair like a Siamese cat, and looks bored out of her mind. The collar around her neck is heavily encrusted with jewels. When a hand heavily laden with silvery rings on thick, blocky fingers reaches up to touch the back of her head - more of a tap, really, like a command - she withdraws into the car and the window rolls up silently. Jaebum later wonders to himself what kind of elite would need to run an errand in their neighborhood.

Saucers of milk that need refilling out of obligation rather than utility, a window display of bejeweled and studded collars in a shop Jaebum walks by on the way home, the lonely catboy lingering in his average apartment flat on the third floor. Jaebum can’t reconcile these parts of a world he’s always been so close to, hovering on the fringes, but now finds himself forced into simply because he didn’t want to see Bambam freeze at the bus stop under mounds of snow.

It’s different when he gets home to see Bambam curled up in his adopted corner of the couch, cheek smooshed against the back cushions and his eyes trained on the front door. “Were you here the whole time?” Jaebum asks in alarm. As he passes by Bambam on the couch to go into the kitchen and its narrow adjacent dining area, he pets Bambam’s head for a moment, hearing the catboy whine softly.

“Not the whole time,” Bambam says, propping his chin up on the couch as he watches Jaebum take out the take-out containers the cooking staff had piled him with when he’d said he wanted to take a few dishes home. “Is that dinner?”

“Yes,” Jaebum says and looks up to give him a smile, encouraging his speech. “Come over here and try it. You won’t believe how much better it is that my cooking, it’s like you haven’t lived properly yet until you eat this.”

“Your food isn’t that bad,” Bambam says reproachfully as he slinks off the couch and into the chair beside Jaebum. There’s always that sinuous, graceful edge to all of his movements, constantly reminding Jaebum that he’s not entirely human, never will be entirely human.

“Just you wait and see,” Jaebum tells him solemnly. They dig in, Jaebum quietly taking note of what Bambam favors; he recounts the events of his day to Bambam as they eat, even telling him about his visit to Jackson and Mark. Bambam is the perfect audience, paying rapt attention as he samples bites of each dish Jaebum nudges towards him, and he even asks a few questions shyly, mostly about what Jaebum does at school.

“Have you ever been to school?” Jaebum asks, then immediately backtracks, “If that’s weird, or rude, you don’t have to answer. I don’t mind.”

“No, it’s okay,” Bambam says, dropping his eyes to his rice before peeking up at Jaebum again. “I never...never really have. I learned to speak from the other catboys I, um, grew up with, before.”

“Other catboys, huh?” Jaebum asks gently.

Bambam looks at him, opens his mouth but then closes it before any words are released. His tail coils around the leg of his chair and then unwraps itself free immediately after, each movement restless, as if Bambam is being threatened. “I - sorry - ”

“It’s okay,” Jaebum cuts in, putting down his bowl to touch Bambam’s neck lightly, feeling the skin underneath his fingertips goosebump. Bambam whimpers a little at the sudden contact, his food forgotten, and Jaebum regrets ever asking. “You don’t have to tell me. I’m not mad at you.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Bambam says miserably. “I just - I can’t right now, I’m sor - ”

“Shh, don’t apologize,” Jaebum interrupts again, beginning to card his fingers through the softer hairs at the back of Bambam’s head until he calms.

“I just - ” Bambam tries again, stutters on his words and has to swallow before he can continue. “J-Jaebum hyung, I’m sorry.”

Jaebum pauses, registering Bambam calling him by his name for the first time. “Hyung, huh?” he says, unable to resist the smile stealing over his lips.

Bambam squeaks. “Is hyung not okay? Should I have used something more formal?”

“No, no,” Jaebum says, laughing. “Hyung is fine, I like it. It’s just that was the first time you’ve addressed me by name.”

Still concerned but nowhere as distressed as he was when Jaebum asked about a facet of his past, Bambam studies Jaebum’s facial expression before laughing once in relief and returning to his food. Jaebum finishes before him and puts a hand on Bambam’s knee, knowing how the weight of someone else’s touch soothes him where words fail, and Bambam slowly picks his way through the rest of the food until he, too, calls it quits.

Jaebum puts a different movie on for Bambam to watch - this time showing Bambam how the TV and DVD player work, so he’ll at least have some entertainment during the day - before putting away the rest of the food and doing the dishes. When he’s done, he sits beside Bambam on the couch with his homework, grateful that living with Jinyoung has trained him to absorb information from his reading assignments even with background noise playing.

Bambam falls asleep on his shoulder again, a few hours later. This time, when Jaebum goes to pick him up from the couch and carry him inside, Bambam wakes somewhat, snuffling against Jaebum's shoulder and blinking disorientedly. "Jaebum hyung?" he asks, his voice softer than usual, blurred from sleep.

"Yeah?" Jaebum answers as he lifts Bambam up with a grunt. "What is it?"

"Mmh," Bambam mumbles, his eyes closing again. He wriggles against Jaebum, trying to get closer to his body, hands curled in Jaebum's sweatshirt again like he can't stand to let go. The fur of his left ear, the one closer to Jaebum’s face, tickles a bit against the underside of Jaebum’s chin, and Bambam flicks it absently in response to the contact. Sleepiness lowers Bambam’s defenses, stealing away the anxious wariness he treats everything around him during the day, and leaves him vulnerable and endearing - almost frighteningly so. This time, after Jaebum sets him down, Bambam doesn’t let go. “Stay?” he asks groggily.

“Bambam,” Jaebum whispers, “I can’t. This isn’t my room.”

“I don’t want you to go,” Bambam says pleadingly, his voice thinning towards a whine. “Hyung - ”

Jaebum stays as long as he can, petting and petting Bambam’s hair and even scratching behind his ears lightly the way Jackson did for Mark - Bambam shivers and leans into Jaebum’s hand, so he takes it as a good thing - before the catboy eventually drifts off to sleep, helpless to his fatigue. “Sorry,” Jaebum says softly as he withdraws his hand, steals out of the room. He closes the door behind him as silently as possible, hoping beyond hope that Bambam won’t wake back up too soon. He drew lines for himself in the beginning, right when he met the catboy that was never his to own, but they're getting harder and harder to visualize.

Back in his own room, everything feels emptier, bigger than before, like all of his possessions have been spaced apart a little farther - not significantly, but enough for him to notice. Jaebum goes through the monotonous routine of getting ready for bed, but when he lies in his bed and closes his eyes, it feels strangely colder than usual.

Their days pass like this, Jaebum following his usual schedule of classes and work but coming home earlier rather than staying out socializing or studying on campus. The other staff at the family restaurant tease him, ask him if he’s got himself a woman, but Jaebum just laughs it off; it’s not like he can tell them he’s acquired a catboy, instead. They’re no Jackson and Mark, no catboy draped across his owner’s lap, but steadily, Jaebum can feel Bambam warming up to him, seeking him out more often for gentle touches and attention.

There’s a small fiasco of a shower on Wednesday afternoon, when Jaebum concedes that it’s been much too long for Bambam to go without washing. He might not be able to afford nice new clothes for Bambam, at least nothing as nice as Bambam’s used to, but he does his best with his old clothes and a few purchases when he wants to spoil Bambam (which, admittedly, is often enough). Bambam isn’t used to showering, especially not on his own, so Jaebum sits on the toilet to give him instructions or a helping hand, and they both avert their eyes: Jaebum from Bambam’s pale, naked body behind the shower curtain, and Bambam from Jaebum’s face, the blush stealing across his cheeks again.

Bambam fits himself timidly, but increasingly comfortably, into Jaebum’s life. He notices that Jaebum is left-handed and plucks up the courage to ask why, learns to tuck himself up against Jaebum’s right side so he doesn’t interfere with Jaebum’s note-taking. Silence is preferable to the hum of the television sometimes, Bambam catching a catnap as Jaebum studies or wastes time on his laptop, or they’ll pop in the DVD of one of Jaebum’s movies and Bambam will watch with interest, absorbing a world he still seems unfamiliar with.

After that first time, Jaebum doesn’t ask about Bambam’s old life anymore, avoiding the topics of his owners and the catboys he used to know. He thinks Bambam tries to tell him about them, tries to bring the topic up after dinner one day, but he falters and shrinks back into himself in the end. Jaebum pretends not to notice, with the exception of a reassuring touch to the small of Bambam’s back as Bambam offers to help with the dishes.

It’s still difficult to find things to occupy Bambam for the entire time Jaebum is away, so he doesn’t waste away watching the front door in wait for it to open. Bambam is bright and clever, Jaebum can tell immediately, and sometimes he’ll give Bambam some of his simpler books to struggle through using the bits of vocabulary he remembers from what seems like a while ago. Bambam still sleeps a lot, in various places around the apartment flat, but he’s always awake and alert whenever Jaebum comes and goes.

“You’re leaving?” Bambam asks, shifting in his seat at the dinner table. It’s Friday morning, the end of the school week, and Jaebum is all too ready to finish his classes for the day and just kick back, relax with Bambam. Try to recall the feeling of last weekend, even though he has work now that the streets won’t be drowned in snow and a newly assigned group project to grapple with. It’s hard to believe that Bambam has already cemented his presence into Jaebum’s life so firmly in just a week.

“Uh huh,” Jaebum says around a piece of bread. He’s running a little late today - slept past his alarm and didn’t realize until Bambam was there beside his bed, pushing at his shoulder firmly (or rather, as firmly as Bambam can muster, since he’s still kind of shy about touching Jaebum when Jaebum doesn’t initiate things) and whining, “Jaebum hyung, wake up, hyung?”

“Um,” Bambam says, and looks down at his lap. “Um, hyung - ”

Jaebum pauses, one arm through the sleeve of his jacket and the other halfway to its own respective sleeve; it’s still bitingly cold enough in Seoul, and it’s a good thing Bambam doesn’t really need the heater to be so hot if they’re sitting together, because that keeps the bills down a bit. “What is it?” he asks. Bambam rarely addresses him so directly, like he wants to tell him something.

Bambam gives him a look, his expression restless and almost a bit panicked. “I - I - ”

“Hey, hey,” Jaebum says, walking back across the room so he can cup Bambam’s face in his hands. “Calm down, I got you. What’s wrong?”

Struggling to get the words out, Bambam stammers some more, hands coming up to cling onto Jaebum’s wrists. “Jaebum hyung, I need - ”

“Shh, I’m right here,” Jaebum says, and puts his left palm over Bambam’s forehead. “You’re feeling kind of hot. Are you sick? Do you not feel well?”

Bambam bites his lip and nods, finally. He still seems a bit frustrated though, and won’t let go of Jaebum, even whimpering a little when Jaebum tries to coax his hands to release him. The words are there, they can both sense them, but he can’t say them straight.

Eventually, Jaebum persuades Bambam to go back to his bed, tucking him into the center of the nest, while he goes to find some medicine for fevers and leave it on the desk in Bambam’s room. “I’ll be back before you know it, you’ll sleep it off in no time,” Jaebum promises, stroking Bambam’s hair for a moment, the way he likes it. If Jaebum’s going to be late to his 8 AM morning lecture, he reasons, he might as well properly finish things up here.

It seems like he won’t respond, but Bambam finally nods and buries his face in one of the pillows tucked around him. Jaebum leaves him there because that’s all he can do if he doesn’t want to miss class, but it’s the most worrying day since Monday, when he first left Bambam alone. Jaebum’s gotten sick as often as the next person, even has dutifully stocked Jinyoung up with tissues and meds when his best friend fell ill, but maybe there’s something different about catboy sicknesses that Jaebum is missing. The Internet isn’t that helpful, though, when Jaebum checks in lieu of taking notes in his afternoon class.

He reaches for his last resort, texting Jackson a quick message asking how to deal with catboys getting sick. Jackson replies, sick with what???.

idk he has a fever i think, Jaebum texts in reply on the way home. At least he doesn’t have to work tonight, not unless someone bails out again, but having to cover two Friday evening shifts in a row is rather rare. He should be fine.

The elevator is out for repairs, as if the world is sticking its tongue at Jaebum, mocking him. He resigns himself to climbing the two long flights of stairs with his laptop and textbooks weighing him down, breaking out a slight sweat by the time he gets to his apartment door. He unlocks it, pushes the door open with his usual call to announce his presence, but it’s strangely quiet today. No Bambam waiting for him on the couch. He must feel sick still, probably self-confined to his bed; Jaebum instantly feels guilty for shouting, hoping he didn’t wake Bambam up.

“Bambam?” he says softly as he pushes open the door to the catboy’s room. The nest of blankets is surprisingly empty, the indent where Bambam settles his body now cold. “Where are you?”

He troops back out to double-check the living room and kitchen area, both of which are glaringly empty, and then makes his way down the hall again. The last room he checks is his own bedroom, and only because he can hear a muffled sobbing, breaths hitching erratically, like someone is having a breakdown inside. “Bambam, what’s going on - ” he starts, opening the door urgently, and freezes.

The room smells strongly, overwhelmingly, of one thing, something Jaebum hasn’t really been around for a while ever since Jinyoung stopped pestering for him to go to parties with him on the frat row on the other side of campus. It smells like sex, so intensely so Jaebum can practically choke on the scent in the air. And before him, before him is the sight of Bambam, the slender catboy stripped near naked and crying softly into Jaebum’s pillow with a hand curled around his still-hard cock, with two - maybe even three, it’s hard to tell - loads worth of come crusting on the sheets beneath him. His skin is paler than Jaebum expected, even after seeing shirt hems slip up too far when Bambam stretches after a nap (not that he’s been looking), and perfectly smooth, contrasting harshly with the swollen red of his erection.

“Bambam?” Jaebum whispers. His mouth is suddenly very dry.

“Ah - Jaebum hyung - ” Bambam gasps out, his voice sounding hoarse and wrecked, as if he’s been screaming and screaming until it threatened to give out. He shivers and moans, begging with every desperate noise that escapes his throat inadvertently, his body splayed out as if he’s presenting himself to Jaebum. Underneath him, his cat's tail lashes against the mattress, the dark fur damp with sweat. “Please, please, Jaebum hyung!”

He’s moving forward automatically at Bambam’s needy cry, the urge to help the catboy too deeply ingrained already for him to fold under his own misgivings. Jaebum has no fucking idea what’s going on, but he does know that Bambam needs his help. In the back pocket of his jeans, his cell phone vibrates with a text message, and Bambam flinches at the sound even all the way from the bed - all of his senses must be on overdrive. “Hey, hey, Bambam, I’m here,” Jaebum says in an awful parody of the morning’s events, arms outstretched. He can’t tear his eyes away from Bambam, not even to check the message, which hopefully is from Jackson and contains the answer to this - this surreal turn of events. This madness.

“Hyung,” Bambam groans. His body shines with a thin sheen of sweat, his hair matted against his forehead; Jaebum can’t help but notice Bambam is jerking himself off, again, even as the catboy whines at the overstimulation. “I - I need you - I can’t - ”

“What can I do?” he whispers. Jaebum thinks he knows the answer to his own question, though. It’s not like Bambam is begging him for anything else. When he very, very gently touches his hand to Bambam’s chest, the catboy inhales sharply as if he’s been shot, his other hand instantly snapping up to clench its fingers around Jaebum’s wrist. Bambam’s skin is red hot flushed under Jaebum’s fingertips, burning at a temperature that makes the fever he had this morning seem like nothing, and the sweat makes him almost slippery, hard to grasp.

“Touch me, Jaebum hyung, hyung, oh, please,” Bambam begs him, eyes hazy. The words he grappled with in the morning rush free now, and the way he pleads is so pretty and so genuine that Jaebum can feel himself getting hard in his own jeans. Fuck, is this right? It's no secret to Jaebum - especially not now - that he likes Bambam's company, that he's attracted to Bambam on a physical level but also wants to take care of him and protect him from the outside world. Seeing Bambam like this, debauched and needy, would be enough to unravel even the most celibate of saints, and Jaebum is neither celibate nor saintly. He's just a guy who's all too fond of Bambam, catboy or not, and right now, Bambam needs him. He'll just have to deal with his own feelings and the consequences of this later.

"I've got you," he says with an inevitable sense of finality, and begins taking off his jacket. Bambam moans yes and reaches for him, letting go of his cock to do so. "I'm here," Jaebum repeats to try and quiet Bambam's whines.

He maneuvers himself to sit on the edge of the bed, careful not to jostle Bambam while doing so. Bambam chokes out a sob as Jaebum smooths both hands up his chest to linger on his neck, cupping the back of his head with one hand as the other brushes his hair out of his eyes. Panting, he gazes up at Jaebum with a need so strong Jaebum feels like he could nearly suffocate with it, and the only way to find release for both of them is this touching, this heat. If Jaebum doesn't do something about it soon, if he doesn't quell it soon, he can't imagine what will happen.

This time, it's Jaebum curling his fingers around Bambam's straining cock, jacking him off with quick, steady strokes. Even though it has to hurt, Bambam clings to him and mewls, fingers biting into Jaebum's bicep, and his hips jerk up to meet Jaebum's hand; it's as if Bambam is completely ruled by the urges and desires of his body, more animal than Jaebum has ever seen him. He writhes fluidly, breathless words spilling out all at once (more than Jaebum has ever heard him speak) as he begs for more, more, please, Jaebum hyung, more - and all Jaebum can do is obey. It takes him by surprise when Bambam comes with a cry, body arching off of the mattress as white streaks his taut stomach once again. Jaebum is so hard it hurts, but he can't tear his eyes away from the sight.

"You okay?" he asks, his voice sounding disconnected and very far away. Like it isn't coming from his own body, and someone else is here, sitting in his spot and taking his hand away from Bambam's cock.

"Hyung," Bambam hiccups. His face is flushed warm and a lovely shade of pink, the color spreading down his neck and chest, and he's still hot to the touch, eyes hazy. "Hyung, it's still - so much, I just, I need you - "

Jaebum feels his chest tighten at those words, wishes he earned them in another way. "I'm right here," he murmurs reassuringly.

It's clearly not enough for Bambam, though, who craves touch and release so badly it could only satisfy him if he was continuously and entirely enveloped by it. Jaebum ends up shucking off his jeans and jacket, stripping down to his tank top and trying to hide the tent in his boxer briefs - hoping Bambam is too far gone to really notice the silent betrayal of Jaebum's body. When he carefully cradles Bambam against his body, Bambam's sweat making their bare skin stick uncomfortably, Bambam almost starts crying from how good it feels. They're in a vicious cycle of rising and falling heat, waves of it rolling off of Bambam's body and crashing against Jaebum's, and all Jaebum can do is jerk him off again and again for some short-lived reprieve.

At one point in time, he settles Bambam against the sheets and goes to fill a glass with cool water, unable to care when the come on his fingers smears across the glass, smudging it. "Hey," he says softly when he returns to his bedroom, gently propping Bambam up in his arms and bringing the glass to his lips. "You're dehydrated. Drink some, please?"

"Jaebum hyung," Bambam whimpers weakly, turning his head away so he can look at Jaebum with pleading, starving eyes, "I need you to - more, please, it's not enough."

"You need to drink first, please, Bambam," Jaebum says helplessly.

Bambam moans and allows Jaebum to hold the cup at his mouth when Jaebum tries again, drinking a few sips before snapping his head back and gasping out, "Jaebum hyung - hyung - now, please?" His hand comes up and latches onto Jaebum's wrist, pressing down so hard that Jaebum can't help but wince. "More."

"I," Jaebum starts, and lets his voice die out. There's lube in his bedside dresser, top drawer, the tube mostly full because he hasn't been using it recently. He could give Bambam what he's begging for, he knows this. He could do it. "Are you sure?"

"Don't ask stupid questions," Bambam begs, sounding hysterical. "Hyung!"

Jaebum moves as if in a dream, watching his own fingers in disbelief as they open Bambam's entrance up one by one, the tight ring of muscle relaxing practically immediately at his touch until Jaebum's got three fingers down to the knuckle. Bambam's pleads have quieted down to staggering drags of air through his mouth, his eyes closed and chest heaving. "Is that okay?" Jaebum asks, a pointless question.

"Good," Bambam moans, his face turned against the pillow - Jaebum's pillow, infused with his scent from night after night in this spot. "So good, hyung."

He vaguely realizes that he will never be able to hear Bambam call him 'hyung' in an ordinary conversation ever again without getting hard slightly, but at least he'll never be as painfully hard as he is now, his cock twitching in his boxers because he won't let himself touch it yet. Not when Bambam's needs sear so strongly against his skin that Jaebum's only seem feeble in comparison. Jaebum twists his fingers, nudging in a little more deeply, and watches in awe as Bambam cries out and his back arches almost gracefully off the sweat-stained mattress. "Got it?" he asks, voice so low it surprises him to hear the timbre.

"Yes, yes yes yes, fuck me," Bambam babbles, reaching blindly; Jaebum automatically holds his other hand out, lets Bambam latch on and intertwine their fingers tightly, and pretends as hard as he can that he didn't hear those last two words. Bambam's knuckles are white, the skin stretched so tensely it looks near breaking, and he doesn't let go as Jaebum fingers him until he brings Bambam to another orgasm, this one dry, his body trembling apart.

Jaebum is suddenly so tired, and the neglect to his own body's urges is wearing at him more and more. "You okay?" he whispers hoarsely.

"Hyung," Bambam whimpers. As worn out as Jaebum feels, he can tell that Bambam is even more exhausted, his thigh muscles trembling from fatigue. There's no way of knowing exactly how many times he's brought himself off with his own hand, and Jaebum lost count on his own end. He can't tell what time it is, just knows that the sun is set and the only thing illuminating the flush of Bambam's sticky skin is moonlight, casting him in an oddly cool glow.

"I'm right here," Jaebum says again quietly. He notices Bambam feebly trying to inch toward him and adjusts his body on the mattress so he can meet the catboy's efforts and save him from the struggle. If he could just get away for a moment, stagger into the bathroom and bring himself off in mere minutes, he knows he'd feel much better, but Bambam's curling up against his side and pressing his face to Jaebum's bare skin, breath shuddering. There's no way he can go. Instead, he finds a bit of contentment in stroking through Bambam's hair with his clean - cleaner, at least in comparison - hand, separating the clumped strands so his bangs lay flat on his forehead, and feels Bambam sigh against his skin. "Sleep," he tells the catboy, putting as much finality into the one word as he can.

As if he's been waiting for the command, Bambam lets out another sigh and dozes off. It's a fitful sleep, the catboy flinching every so often, but it's silent and hopefully it'll last through the night. Jaebum resolutely ignores his own erection and lies back, feeling drained - he's completely dropped the ball on his homework tonight, and he'd wanted to get some done soon so he could have a relaxed weekend and maybe take Bambam with him to work on his Sunday shift so the catboy could see what his workplace was like. Now, he doesn't even know whether Bambam will want to go with him anymore. He might not even want to be around Jaebum anymore.

The idea of Bambam not wanting to be around him after this is almost irrationally painful for Jaebum, and he squeezes his eyes closed, wondering whether or not this is the best he's going to get. He never wanted to see Bambam in a sexual light unless the catboy truly wanted it too, just as much as he does, and Jaebum knows that Bambam wasn't entirely himself tonight.

Confused and helpless, Jaebum tugs the blankets over them so that Bambam won't catch a cold from being exposed to the night, and lets fatigue take over so he can escape the guilt.

part three
Tags: au: catboys, fandom: got7, pairing: jb/bambam
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