What started out small is slowly becoming bigger and bigger.
Junmyeon and Kris were both wolf shapeshifters, one from South Korea and the other from China. After years of chatting via the internet, they became close despite the distance.
When trouble started in Junmyeon's old pack in Seoul, Kris suggested they go live in Japan together and form a new pack there with their friends.
That was the dawn of new days.
“Go; I’ll close.”
It was nice of Xiumin to free him so early. Baekhyun knew he should be grateful for his generosity, yet the idea of walking back home alone made him uneasy. He smiled nonetheless, bowed with a little: “thanks, hyung” and hurried out. He kept in mind the games he had at home, desperately trying to replace fear with excitement.
The streets were dark at that time, pretty empty too; it was too early for the crowds to head to Kabukichou and too late for people to go grab a snack in neighbouring restaurants.
His palms were clammy.
He knew there was nothing to be scared about. For months now he had regularly taken that route to either go back home or head to the café and nothing had ever happened. His fear was unfounded.
Sure, it was a bit unusual for him to go outside alone but that had never been a problem before. He had never been so…jittery. He didn’t understand why he had become perpetually on edge, especially after he had become a shape-shifter. He had grown stronger after transforming and had even acquired superpowers.
He could hear Junmyeon’s voice in his mind scolding him for referring to their powers as “super”. He could recall the energy he had put trying to convince him of the normality of their lives. He could see his blank expression when Baekhyun had protested that every ability they had that humans didn’t have was technically extraordinary.
As soon as he became aware of the smile that had crept on his lips, it disappeared.
It was all so stupid. What was he scared of?
He remembered his friends’ soothing words, remembered how they always reminded him that he was safe and that they were there for him. He was living a new life now, being a shape-shifter with superpowers and living in Japan with his pack, working part-time in a café and part-time in a music school; he was having fun. He was happy.
He had to keep that in mind.
Xiumin was probably just trying to make him get over his fears using some exposition therapy of sorts. He was safe. No monsters were hidden within these streets and the shadows were harmless.
He’d reach home and, as soon as he would be welcomed by his pack, he would forget all of his worries.
He came to a stop. His breathing followed suit, unable to persist without the support of his moving legs.
His ears had caught on an abnormal noise. They differed from the vent vibrations that usually inhabited the narrow paths: someone panting, whining, groaning, crying?
He focused on the sounds, tried to comprehend what was happening. The person was clearly breathless. He assumed they had been running. He tried to reassure himself, theorizing that they were just a jogger on a break, but his mind kept on racing. If they stopped moving does that mean the danger’s gone? Or are they the danger? Should I go help? Ignore?
He heard the person speak. He knew it was Mandarin – always hearing his friends using it had made him used the tones and syllables . Even though he tried, he couldn’t understand what they were saying, didn’t get any more clues about their situation. From the intonations, he guessed they might have been cursing but then again, Mandarin is an expressive language.
He decided to go see. If any danger came his way, he thought, he could always blind it and run away.
He followed the sounds to their owner and was stopped by a loud: "Don't get close to me!" They spoke in Japanese with a pretty high-pitched voice. Nonetheless, Baekhyun assumed they were a man. He heard the stranger struggle; he was most likely trying to get some distance between both of them. There didn’t seem to be anyone else with him.
"Hey, I don’t wanna hurt you,” Baekhyun started, also in Japanese, “I just…I heard you and you sounded like you were having a tough time so I came to see. You okay?"
"If I sounded like I was having a tough time then I am most likely not fucking okay."
His mind was telling Baekhyun to leave but he fought it. He knew he would regret it. "Then, I’ll help you..."
He hesitantly took a few steps closer and, as he saw the person wasn’t moving, he went by his side and stopped there. With the little light that was illuminating the alley, he could figure out the outline of the man’s features, notice the bruises that covered them. For a second, Baekhyun was certain the man had two black eyes and winced at the stranger’s lack of luck but then realized they were just prominent dark circles twined with his aegyo sal.
Still, the stranger had been pretty beaten up. It made his stomach twist.
"Shit…Does it hurt?"
"Are you fucking kidding me? It hurts like shit and I wanna cry."
"Maybe I can…"
He took a tissue he had on him and went to sponge the man’s head bleeding wound but the later grabbed his hand quickly and twisted it on his back.
"Don't touch me!" He wailed.
Of course. He should have known better. "Okokokokokokok."
The hold on his arm swiftly loosened and he heard the Mandarin speaker fall to the ground. He turned rapidly to see what had happened and noticed the stranger had lost consciousness.
I should bring him to Ān.
"Sorry, dude, but I promise it’s for the best."
He took him in his arms - the poor boy was pretty light for his height - and carried him bridal-style all the way back to his pack.
As soon as he set foot at the hangar’s door, his and his unexpected guest’s presence were smelled by his friends. It was fortunate for him since he wouldn’t have been able to open the door by himself when his hands were busy holding a wounded body. Hearing the commotion inside as well as the quick footsteps that were approaching, he knew he only had to wait.
The door sliding open, he was welcomed by a worried leader: "Baekhyun are you-” he didn’t finish his sentence as he saw the boy in his arms. Oh. So, they didn’t smell him? Oh shit. They thought I was hurt, didn’t they? "Oh my god! Baekhyun, what happened?"
"Please leave the questions for later, hyung."
Transforming into a shape-shifter might have made him stronger, he had still been carrying a grown man around for at least 10 minutes; his muscles were about to give up on him. Junmyeon apologized and gave his dongsaeng space to enter. He was, then again, stopped. This time by the other leader.
"You know we don’t allow humans to enter just like that Baekhyun."
He was annoyed. He wouldn’t be able to carry the boy much longer. "Oh, come on, Kris! Can’t you see he’s injured?" Plus, since when had that been a thing? I thought we just coincidently didn’t have any human guests because we don’t have human friends.
"And what do you want us to do? He’s not our responsibility."
"How can you be this insensitive?" Junmyeon fumed. "Just let Ān heal him."
The Korean man gestured for his boyfriend to take the boy and so Baekhyun was freed from the stranger’s weight.
"How are we going to explain to him that his wounds just magically disappeared?"
"We’ll just have to not heal him too much and make him believe that Ān just tended to his wounds like some normal person that has basic first aid knowledge?"
"Don't touch me!” Came their guest's scream.
The stranger had been laid on the couch and had awoken before Ān had started healing him, he was now struggling to prevent the healer from touching him. Ān shushed him with a hand on his thigh and put him to sleep.
Kris just sighed seeing as Ān had already started healing the stranger. He sat down nervously and watched silently.
"Where did you find him?" Chen asked.
"He was in one of the alleys on my way back. I heard him cry so I went to see."
"So he’s a complete stranger?" Kris interrogated him.
"Will you please stop?" Junmyeon reprimanded him.
"Yeah? Since when are you so uptight? You’re being even worse than Junmyeon-gē and Kyungsoo," Chen claimed.
Although Junmyeon was offended, Kyungsoo simply encouraged the previous interrogation, ignoring his friend’s comment: "Do you know his name?"
"No; didn’t think of asking. I’m pretty sure he’s Chinese though."
"How do you know?" Chen questioned.
Kris sighed, already expecting Baekhyun and Chen to start joking about the pack members’ respective home countries like they always did. "Please don’t make any prejudiced comment," he demanded.
"I just heard him speak and recognized Mandarin.”
Chen frowned. "How do you know it wasn't Cantonese?" Baekhyun wasn’t really that good in Mandarin even after spending so much time with him and the other Chinese members. He doubted he would be able to recognize the language.
"Does that really matter, both are Chinese languages no? It sounded like how you guys usually speak so…And anyway, don’t Cantonese people usually add ‘ah’ at the end of their sentences?"
"I swear to god Baek..." Kris was rubbing his temples and it made the younger man laugh.
When Ān interrupted their chatter, Baekhyun stopped smiling. "Babe, can you help me here?"
"Sure, love, what can I help you with?"
Ān only reached for Junmyeon’s hand, relying on his mate’s powers.
"He had several broken bones in his arms and legs and a broken rib. I’ll fix that and his internal bleeding due to the rib breaking. Luckily, it didn’t puncture his lung."
Baekhyun was feeling impressed among other things. Fearfully so. It was just the fact that, even with broken bones, the guy had had enough strength to run away and even twist someone’s arm.
Thinking of what could have happened for the boy to be so badly hurt sent shivers down his spine.
"You can go if you want.” Baekhyun jumped out of his thoughts suddenly noticing that Chen’s body was leaning on his and he was whispering in his ear. “I’ll stay to make sure they treat him well." The man continued. Baekhyun reflected on the proposition for a couple of seconds but, in the end, decided to stay.
They all watched silently as Ān did his thing.
Xiumin came back shortly after and, seeing that everyone was assembled around the couch in the back of the hangar he wondered aloud what was happening. Kris went to sulkily fill him in on the situation and Xiumin joined them shortly after.
The fragile man lying down on the pack’s couch was once again the center of attention.
Junmyeon had been resting his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder for a while now, continuously holding onto his hand. He straightened up to suggest Kyungsoo go prepare food for the boy; their guest might be hungry upon waking up. Kris, that had been stomping his foot nervously all that time, went to help him.
Ān stopped and rested his head on his boyfriend’s chest. "I think that’ll be enough.”
"Yes, honey bear, you did more than enough."
He proceeded to kiss the latter’s head.
They waited for the stranger to wake up. Kris and Kyungsoo came back with food for them and their guest. They had brought a lot of meat thinking the boy would need proteins.
They were all somewhat keeping watch, refusing to go to bed until they were able to talk to the boy. They spent hours there, just lying around in silence until eventually, Ān groggily announced the boy was waking up.
Instantly, he was backing up and screaming. "Who are you?" He cried out in Mandarin. He had a cute pitch of a voice that might have been laughable in other situations. However, at that moment, there was terror in the person’s eyes that nobody in the room would dare to mock.
"Don’t worry, we don’t want to hurt you," Xiumin reassured him in the same language, "our friend brought you back here because you were wounded so we healed you."
Xiumin gestured to Baekhyun but seeing the face of someone he’d met before did nothing to calm him down. He panicked and tried distancing himself even more but had already reached the wall after climbing on the couch.
“Fuck off! What do you want?" He yelled, tears in his eyes. He seemed to notice how his previously broken arm could then firmly support his weight on the backrest of the couch without causing him any pain. He momentarily relaxed. It wasn’t long before he was glaring at them again though. They understood why he would want to remain on guard.
"If you keep breathing like that you’ll hyperventilate," Ān advised, "you should calm down."
He hesitated at first but eventually relaxed and sat back on the couch. It appeared he had assumed Xiumin was their leader since he kept speaking to him:
"What do you want from me?" He asked more calmly this time.
"We don’t want anything from you except maybe that you feel better soon and that you don’t attack us," the eldest man tried to joke.
"I don’t believe you."
Xiumin nodded, understanding. “I don’t expect you to trust me. It’s alright.”
"What are they saying?" Junmyeon asked his mate.
"He thinks we want something from him. Xiumin-gē is explaining that we don’t."
"Listen," Xiumin continued, "if you want to leave it’s your choice. We won’t, like, tie you up here. You’re free to go."
"He said that he could go and that we wouldn’t keep him from doing so," the healer translated.
"Wait!” Junmyeon stood up suddenly, scaring the stranger and everyone else in the room simultaneously. "No! You should rest!” He explained in English. He didn’t know if their guest could understand but that was the language the pack had chosen to communicate with each other so it only came to him naturally. ”We have food for you as well if you’re hungry! You’re our guest, you can at least stay the night."
"Junmyeon!" Kris opposed. "We don’t even know his name! Now, he’s our guest and can stay over and steal our food?"
"I'm Zitao and no, I won’t be staying over and stealing your food. Thank you for tending to my wounds." The boy answered in English which took them all by surprise.
He tried to stand up from the couch but Junmyeon pushed him back down. Zitao gave him a death glare but the Korean leader continued nonetheless:
"I insist. Don’t listen to this dumb cheese pile over there; he’s just being overprotective."
"You’re one to talk," Chen whispered in the back.
"We have enough food to feed you. You really aren’t bothering us."
"I insist.” He stood. “I’m not staying. Thank you, again. Farewell."
He headed for the hangar’s front door but the leader once again stopped him by saying: "At least let us walk you back home so we know you came back safely!"
There was an awkward silence which Junmyeon took to understand what everyone had already assumed; the reason the boy had been crying alone in an alley of all places was probably that he’d chosen not to go home. If not, he would have gone there in the first place.
Chen came to his aid:
"Kyungsoo here has no friends and has never had a sleepover so he would gladly want to see what it’s like."
He winced as the petite man pinched him.
They could all see how Zitao’s fists clenched and his shoulders hung low. "It really doesn’t bother you?" He asked timidly.
"Not at all," Junmyeon smiled tenderly.
He turned around to nod at him. "Thanks."
There was a faint blush that spread on his cheeks and to his ears. Kris grumbled but the others continued smiling at the Chinese boy nonetheless.
"Well, if you’re gonna stay here then let’s do the presentations." Xiumin, usually quiet, seemed to be desperate to dissolve the tension in the room. "I’m Xiumin and I’m the eldest here. Some people like to call me Baozi as well because, apparently, I look like a bun. It’s nice to meet you." He blurted out.
Zitao bowed to him, giggling a bit. The next person quickly commented: "you do look like a bun" before proceeding to his own presentation and a few of the others’.
"I’m Chen, I’m Chinese like Xiumin-gē as well as Ān-gē that healed you and as this sulky person over there, Kris-gē." He gave a small nod to every one of them and when Kris and him made eye-contact everyone in the room could sense the tension.
"I’m Junmyeon!" Said man beamed.
"We joke around and call him ‘eomma’ once in a while though," Chen added, "it means mom in Korean. You can call him that if you want."
"You’re Korean?" Zitao wanted to know. It was polite of him, Ān thought, to want to know more about his hosts.
"Yes!” Junmyeon jumped on the opportunity to change subjects. “Actually the three of us are."
He gestured to a man with big eyes and the other one that found him.
“That’s Kyungsoo and that’s Baekhyun."
"'That’s'," Baekhyun repeated, laughing.
"Sorry. He’s Kyungsoo and he’s Baekhyun."
“Kyungsoo’s also a mom," the latter commented.
"I see…Well, I’m Zitao. Hum...My parents are from Shandong,” he informed the Chinese members, hoping maybe they were from some nearby provinces. They only nodded, listening attentively. “As for me, I’m pretty much Japanese; I was born here, grew up here and all. Although I do still identify as Chinese.” He desperately tried to find something to add.” And…I’m…not a mom? Or a dad. I’m just really not there in my life yet."
The kid was sweet.
Some laughed but Junmyeon just pushed the conversation forward: "So you grew up here? You must be pretty fluent in Japanese then," he inquired.
Zitao frowned, genuinely confused by the question. "Well, yeah."
The Korean man continued."We arrived here like two years ago," Junmyeon looked to Kris for confirmation.
The latter clarified: “It’s gonna make two years in January.“
“Yeah,” the Korean leader continued, "so our Japanese is pretty basic. We understand and can converse normally but let’s say we wouldn’t write a book."
He chuckled at what he had just said and Zitao returned it awkwardly. There was a silence and as Zitao was looking around not knowing what to do, Xiumin intervened by asking Ān:
"He should probably rest, no?" It took a moment for the Chinese man to realize that his gēgē was talking to him and when he finally turned to him he raised his eyebrows and went:
"Huh? Oh! Yeah, yeah. He should rest."
"Kris’ll lend you pjs for you to sleep in since you’re basically the same height."
"Wait, Junmyeon. I don’t want to lend him my clothes they are fucking expensive," the latter protested.
"Okay, we really need to have a talk.” The Korean leader snapped. “For now: he’s not going to ruin your clothes and we’re not letting him sleep in those dirty rags. Plus, we both know you don't sleep in PJs anyway so stop whining; it’s embarrassing."
Zitao smiled a bit at that.
"Here," Kris tossed his pyjamas in Zitao’s arms.
"Thank you very much," the latter answered, trying his best to stay polite. This man, although he had a shitty personality from what Zitao could tell, was still his host after all.
"Yeah. You’re welcome."
"Hum…If I want to wash up"
"There’s a shower in the room to your left when you go out of here"
Kris started leaving but Zitao stopped him. Ah shit. Fuck. Why must I- I really wish I wouldn’t be such a coward, especially in front of him but I can’t do anything about it.
"May I ask for a service?"
He sighed. Fucking sighed. "What do you want?"
Fuck you and your shitty attitude, asshole. He rolled his eyes internally, tried acting cute in hopes of getting what he wanted.
"I’m scared to take showers alone."
"Then, take a bath."
Oh.My.God. You fucking dick.
"That’s not the problem…"
"Listen, I don’t feel like showering with a stranger."
The taller man wouldn't even look at him when he spoke.
Tao tried his best to seem desperate or something and not show on his face that he actually wanted to kick the dude in the balls. Kris, who had turned to look at him, sighed:
"Is standing outside okay?"
"Yes, sure! Thank you very much."
So, Zitao had left to shower and Kris was stuck waiting for him outside the bathroom and hating himself for succumbing to the boy’s cuteness. His pleading look had been so adorable that he had even thought of agreeing to his first request if he had insisted more.
He sighed again. It seemed like that was the only thing he had been doing that day; sighing.
“Don’t you look upset." Baekhyun giggled, entering the first floor. They also referred to it as the Chineses’ floor as all of the Chinese members of the pack had their room there. Therefore, the second floor where the kitchen and the Korean members’ rooms were was labelled as the Koreans’ floor. The only Korean man sleeping on the first floor was Junmyeon who shared a room with Ān and Baekhyun who sometimes liked to spend the night with Chen. Nonetheless, Baekhyun had his own room on the second floor.
"Your friend is making me stay in front of the bathroom while he showers."
Baekhyun didn’t laugh. He knew what it was like to be scared of the world and of the things that lived in it to the point of even being terrified of showering alone. Instead, his expression showed pity.
"Do you want me to take over the watch?" He suggested.
"That would be very nice."
Baekhyun sat down next to the door and waited for Zitao to come out while Kris went back to the others.
What happened to you, buddy?
Zitao finally came out after a pretty short shower.
"You could’ve taken longer if you had wanted to, you know?"
"No, didn’t feel like it."
"Alright. So, for tonight we have a guest room so you can sleep there if you want and we have couches as well…Except, I don’t think Junmyeon will let you sleep on a couch."
Baekhyun could tell there was something on his mind. "Or you can sleep with me if you want, I don’t mind." Zitao looked up to Baekhyun with hopeful eyes.
"Oh my god, thank you."
I feel you, dude. "You’re welcome." It’s okay.
"Oh! Hum...What do I do with my clothes?"
Baekhyun looked at said clothes: they were ripped and stained with blood.
"They are quite ruined, don’t you think? Do you still want to keep them? I mean we could try to wash them but…They kinda look like a lost cause…"
Zitao gave them a once-over, seemed to mourn for a few seconds and the next he had disgust and pain painted on his face.
"Let’s throw them away," he stated.
"Okay,” Baekhyun tried to make his voice as soft as possible, to show Zitao that he was there to support him, “let’s do that."
They took the stairs that led to the second floor and Baekhyun gave him a quick tour of the floor. He showed him where to find the garbage bin in the kitchen, they threw the Japanese boy’s clothes away and Baekhyun reminded him that he was welcome to help himself if he was ever hungry. The Korean man gave Zitao a spare toothbrush when they passed by the bathroom and escorted him to the guest room which he consciously referred to as Tao’s room.
He would make sure this boy found comfort in their pack just like its members had done for him a few years before.
That night Baekhyun slept with him. They kept a reasonable distance because they were still only acquaintances but Zitao could nonetheless be very much reassured by this stranger’s presence next to him. It was easy for him to relax and slowly fall into slumber.
When Baekhyun started whining, minutes after they had gone to bed, Zitao jolted. He had gotten used to the silence of the room and the smaller man had just broken it. Far from being mad, he had asked him if he was okay. As he didn’t get an answer, he turned around and acknowledged the smaller's sleeping state.
He laughed and it made him realize just how tense he had been up until then.
He closed his eyes thanking life for making the Korean man find him in that alley. He knew that if it hadn’t been for him, he wouldn’t have been able to make it to the morning.
He had taken a risky decision for his pack that night, Junmyeon was aware of it. However, when he had done the same in the past, he had promised himself not to regret his decision and to do it again if necessary. He understood wholeheartedly why his fellow leader had been opposed to the idea of letting a human in their home, their safe space, but he didn’t have it in himself to kick that boy back out in the world.
“You won’t let him leave, will you?” He giggled when his mate broke the silence. Ah. He knows me too well. “I’ll support you,” he spoke, back facing him but at his side.
It had been the same with Baekhyun before. He would do anything to give safety to the abused and Ān would support him through it. Just like before.
He heard a soft chuckle before Ān replied: “ Wǒ ài nǐ”
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