Luo Binghe’s 600-threadcount cotton sheets felt oddly heavy this morning as he opened his eyes to a haze of predawn light. He blinked up at the ceiling, soft strands of hair tickling his chin with each breath.
Luo Binghe surged up, dislodging the weight on his chest, and twisted around to pin the intruder to the bed. Those soft strands tangled beneath his hands. From here, he couldn’t see their face—not that he would have paid much attention to it when the intruder’s pale back stretched out like a glowing tundra beneath him. Not a scrap of clothing in sight.
“What do you want?” Luo Binghe demanded, bending low in threat.
The intruder squirmed underneath him, and Luo Binghe wasn’t ashamed to admit that his eyes diligently followed the shifting of those lithe muscles. “I want,” the intruder sniffed—sounding very indignant for someone who had obviously broken and entered—“my fur back. This form is so cold and uncomfortable.”
Wait. Again, what?
Luo Binghe narrowed his eyes and looked around for Miao Jiu, who was usually snoozing away on top of him at this time of day. The sleek black cat was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was—
The intruder was still talking into the pillow. “Who would want to be a human anyway? What am I supposed to do with these long, unwieldy limbs? Disgusting.”
“You’re… Miao Jiu?” Luo Binghe interrupted. He loosened his grip slightly.
The intruder turned his face out of the pillow and harrumphed. “That’s what you always call me, I suppose.”
“Hm.” Luo Binghe shifted his weight back and pulled Miao Jiu (?) up without letting go of his arms, using his grasp to maneuver him around to face him. The man writhed and hissed the whole way, and that alone nearly convinced Luo Binghe that he really was Miao Jiu. Still, he had to make sure.
“Hold still,” he grunted with impatience, leaning in to peer into the man’s eyes. They gleamed a familiarly bright, inhuman green—and were slitted vertically down the middle. “So you really are my cat…”
“Who’s your cat?” Miao Jiu sniffed. The way Luo Binghe had his hands trapped behind his back made his body arch in a most fetching manner, but his gaze shone with disdain. “If anything, you’re my human.”
Luo Binghe’s mouth went dry.
Well, he thought.
A short while later, Luo Binghe exited the bathroom to find Miao Jiu prowling around the kitchen. His slitted phoenix eyes glared with sharp intent as he meticulously pressed the buttons on every single appliance.
“Can you even read?” Luo Binghe asked, watching Miao Jiu squint at the menu of modes on the imported Taiwanese rice cooker.
“Of course I can read!” Miao Jiu snapped. “What do you take me for?”
“… A cat?”
“What, do you think cats can’t read?”
Actually, that was exactly what Luo Binghe had thought—the modes were displayed in traditional, at that—but he suspected that saying so wouldn’t garner a pleasant reaction. He moved on to another, more pressing, issue. “Why aren’t you wearing any clothes?”
Miao Jiu cast him a scornful look over his bare, beautiful shoulder. Abruptly Luo Binghe reconsidered and found that the issue wasn’t urgent at all; in fact, he could probably wait another few days, or months, to address it.
“You want me be tortured with those cloth prisons,” Miao Jiu accused. “I don’t understand how anyone would willingly chafe at their furless skin like that. Then again, I suppose not everyone is as diligent about self-grooming as I am…”
“Fabric chafes your skin?” Luo Binghe grew concerned. If Miao Jiu was wandering around naked not out of choice but because he couldn’t find anything comfortable to wear, then that was a different story. What if he was cold? He didn’t have his fur!
Luo Binghe clicked his tongue, a plan forming in his mind. “Wait here.” He strode off deeper into the penthouse, digging a single silk bathrobe out of the bottom of a storage container, then veered over to the living room to grab his wallet and keys off the coffee table.
When he returned to the kitchen, Miao Jiu had moved on to the blender that Luo Binghe used to mix his protein shakes after workouts. He turned it this way and that before gaining a familiar spark in his eye.
Miao Jiu pushed the blender off the edge of the counter.
“No—” Luo Binghe lunged, but before he could reach it the blender crashed to the hardwood floor and sprang a large spiderweb crack up one side. “Shit.”
“Huh. It broke.” Miao Jiu tilted his head and peered down at the blender.
“Yes, that’s generally what happens when you shove things off countertops,” Luo Binghe gritted out. He leaned down to scoop up the broken blender and deposited it next to the sink. He’d have to get a new one. “What the hell was that for?”
Miao Jiu stuck his bottom lip out in a masterful display of human facial expression. “Hmph.”
“Don’t do that again,” Luo Binghe warned. Tearing his gaze away from that pouty mouth, he palmed his forehead in exasperation and realized that his keys were still in his hand. Ah, he really didn’t want to spend any money on Miao Jiu now… but he couldn’t let the bratty kitty go cold. “Here, put this on. We’re going out.”
He tossed the silk robe at Miao Jiu, who caught it with surprising dexterity for someone who’d only recently grown hands.
“I told you I don’t like clothes,” Miao Jiu said with a scowl.
“Just try it,” Luo Binghe cajoled. “This fabric is smoother. It won’t chafe.”
Reluctantly, Miao Jiu looped his arms through the sleeves of the robe. His eyes widened. “Soft.”
Luo Binghe was too busy staring to reply. The starkness of white skin against the dark green silk held him by the throat and made him forget how to swallow for a moment. Miao Jiu didn’t help matters by pulling the material tight around himself and turning in a circle.
You’re getting hot and bothered over a cat, a corner of Luo Binghe’s brain protested.
His dick looked at the curve of Miao Jiu’s ass in that silk and said, That look like a cat to you?
“I suppose I’ll accept this one,” Miao Jiu said, preening. “Not bad, not bad.”
“Great, because we’re going to get more.” Luo Binghe laid a hand on Miao Jiu’s waist—sadly a safe distance above his ass—and steered him towards the door. “You can’t keep walking around like that.”
“Why can’t I?”
“Trust me,” Luo Binghe said dryly, grip tightening around Miao Jiu’s slender waist, “you can’t.”
They went to the elevator and took it down to the building’s private garage. Miao Jiu had refused to wear socks or shoes, but Luo Binghe harbored doubts about his brand new feet’s abilities to handle direct contact with the ground. He problem-solved by scooping a protesting Miao Jiu up into his arms and carrying him all the way to his car (well, one of his multiple cars). He deposited Miao Jiu in shotgun and rounded the car to slide into the driver’s seat.
“What’s this contraption?” Miao Jiu asked, fussing with the seatbelt and the window. Luo Binghe stopped him before he could wreak havoc on the dashboard controls. “A miniature house?”
“It’s a car,” Luo Binghe said. He wondered how Miao Jiu could read rice cooker menus but didn’t know what a motor vehicle was. “You use it to go from place to place.”
“I can walk perfectly fine,” Miao Jiu scoffed.
Luo Binghe laughed. As if he’d let Miao Jiu strut the city streets in nothing but a silk bathrobe. He said, “Maybe another time.”
With Miao Jiu blinking curiously out the windows, they exited the garage and drove to the closest shopping center. At one point, the traffic had stalled and they hadn’t moved more than a few meters for five minutes.
“I could definitely walk faster than this,” Miao Jiu complained. “What’s the point of this ‘car’ again?”
Luo Binghe found himself hard-pressed to disagree, but the issue of the bathrobe still stood. Snail-crawling through traffic it was. “We’re almost there,” he reassured.
The shopping center was a gleaming tower a dozen stories tall with an exclusive tea garden on the roof. Within its walls everything from fast fashion to luxury brands was sold to thousands of visitors daily. Luo Binghe would, of course, only allow his cat to wear the best wares.
“Too many humans,” Miao Jiu judged as they entered. His pretty nose turned up.
“Wait until you see this place on a Saturday,” Luo Binghe told him. Speaking of days off, he glanced at his watch and wondered if he should clear his schedule for the rest of the morning and afternoon. With a quick text to his assistant, it was done. He didn’t really need to attend those meetings anyway.
Their first stop was a domestic clothing brand that was less established and more affordable than Luo Binghe usually patronized, but their specialization was silk. And not silk qipao or other traditional clothing, but everyday wear that Miao Jiu could don without much fuss.
“Welcome,” the sales associate greeted with a professional smile, sparing no more than a glance at Miao Jiu’s bathrobe. “Are you sirs looking for anything in particular today?”
“It’s more like we’re looking for everything,” Luo Binghe said, returning the smile. “You see, my boyfriend recently lost many of his belongings in a fire, so we’re looking to replace as much as we can.”
He took the (self-given) opportunity to wrap his arm around Miao Jiu’s shoulders and added, “He’s partial to silk.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” Miao Jiu dislodged Luo Binghe’s arm with a huff and went over to stick his hands into a rack of silk shirts.
Luo Binghe smoothly returned his arm to his side and said with a laugh, “Please forgive him. Understandably, he’s been in somewhat of a poor mood.”
“No worries,” the salesperson assured. “When you’re ready, you can bring your selections to the fitting rooms in the back.”
It was obvious the salesperson wanted to hover and make sure Miao Jiu wasn’t going to ransack any of the displays (he’d moved on to rub his palms over stacks of pants), but their professionalism forbade it. They left Luo Binghe and Miao Jiu to browse.
‘Everything’ indeed. By the time Miao Jiu had perused—that is, pawed at—all of the displayed merchandise, Luo Binghe was laden with a pile of almost every item of clothing that approximated Miao Jiu’s size. Luo Binghe corralled him to the fitting rooms, where Miao Jiu’s face brightened at the notion of putting on the buttery soft clothes.
“How does it feel?” he called past the curtain.
“Not bad,” Miao Jiu answered, as he had for the previous three items. Luo Binghe was beginning to see that not bad was actually his way of saying very good.
“Come out so I can see.” Luo Binghe wanted to know what he was spending his money on.
Miao Jiu pushed aside the curtain and stepped outside. It became clear that, perhaps due to his new status as a human, he had no concept of sizing—had probably been judging each item by its feel against his skin rather than by how it fit. Why was this clear? Mostly because the long-sleeved shirt on Miao Jiu was large enough, even while buttoned, to fall open around his collarbone and slide down to reveal one delicately sculpted shoulder.
Luo Binghe realized that he’d been silent for several seconds. “It’s a little big,” he said.
“I like it big,” Miao Jiu sniffed, and okay Luo Binghe was not ready to hear those words in that bratty voice.
“Whatever you want,” Luo Binghe managed. Putting a hand in his pocket to discreetly shift the fabric of his pants, he gestured for Miao Jiu to try on the next item.
Miao Jiu disappeared back into the fitting room after waiting just long enough to give the impression that he hadn’t been obeying Luo Binghe. He tried on the rest of the clothing, rejecting none except for a few pants that were too small. When he was done, Luo Binghe swept up the messy pile of silk and nodded to the sales assistant.
“Would you like to purchase all of these?” they asked, carefully not expressing any surprise or doubt.
“Yes, thank you,” Luo Binghe answered.
The sales assistant rang up the long list of purchases. The polite smile remained on their face. “Your total is ¥28,340.”
Miao Jiu looked totally uninterested. Unlike with him, the number actually was meaningful to Luo Binghe, but he didn’t blink an eye either. This was about half the price of a single first-class plane ticket. After years at the top, Luo Binghe didn’t find it worth mentioning. Sometimes he even forgot to think about how many bowls of congee one could buy with the 100-yuan notes he dropped into beggars’ hands on the street.
“No receipt,” Luo Binghe said, inserting his card. A regal soldier was embossed on the sleek black surface. “Thank you.”
Still smiling, the salesperson handed over the bags and bowed neatly. “Thank you for your business. Wishing you an excellent rest of your visit.”
They left the store and went to the next one on Luo Binghe’s list. Miao Jiu looked around with interested eyes, arms swinging freely while Luo Binghe carried all the bags. Suddenly he halted in his tracks, gaze zeroing in on something behind a window, before he darted away and into the shop.
“Miao Jiu!” Luo Binghe called. He rolled his eyes and followed Miao Jiu into the store. When he saw what had caught Miao Jiu’s eyes, he understood. “You like it?”
Miao Jiu was hugging a thick fur coat, the same luscious shade of black as his hair, and rubbing the material against his cheek. His voice was muffled as he said, “It’s not bad.”
Luo Binghe nodded. His heart was doing something odd in his chest. “Let’s buy it.”
They picked up another two coats on their way to the register, where Luo Binghe dropped a few more plane tickets’ worth of money and added several bags to his arms.
“We’d better go pick up some shoes for you,” he said. Miao Jiu was wearing a pair of silk socks from the first store, but that stopgap wasn’t going to last forever.
“I don’t want shoes,” Miao Jiu rejected instantly.
“That’s what you said about clothes,” Luo Binghe remarked. Miao Jiu hissed. They went to the shoe store.
In the end, Miao Jiu could be coaxed into getting some slippers, as well as a pair of fur-lined boots that Luo Binghe personally thought were—incredibly ugly. It was a shame; Luo Binghe was of the opinion that Miao Jiu would look delectable in heels. Maybe next time.
It was around this time that Miao Jiu began to yawn. Luo Binghe checked his watch and saw that it was only noon. Well, cats did sleep far more than humans, and he supposed transforming into a different body hadn’t entirely changed Miao Jiu’s physiology.
“Are you tired?” he asked.
“Who’s tired?” Miao Jiu snapped, seemingly on reflex. He amended, “Of course I’m tired! Who wouldn’t be, with you dragging them around so much?”
“Alright, let’s go home.” Saying this, Luo Binghe remembered something. “But first, let’s make one last stop.”
Another twenty minutes later, the two of them plus Miao Jiu’s new clothes plus Luo Binghe’s new blender returned to the car and headed back to his penthouse. The time was just before one in the afternoon. Upon arrival, Miao Jiu kicked off his slippers, curled up on the carpet, and fell directly asleep. Luo Binghe was left to pack away their purchases.
The blender he assembled right away and set it in its place of honor on the countertop. Hopefully, Miao Jiu had been sufficiently scolded and wouldn’t break this one too.
Then, he took all the shirts and socks and fur coats into the closet and cleared an area for them next to his own clothes. Another odd feeling came over him as he looked at this neatly divided space, but he couldn’t parse what it was. He brushed the feeling off.
That sorted, Luo Binghe settled down in his home office to check his email and make whatever phone calls needed to be made.
After a few hours of this, Miao Jiu slunk into the office and demanded, “Where’s the food? I’m hungry.”
Luo Binghe checked the time. It was only around five in the afternoon, but it was true that they hadn’t had lunch before returning home. He himself had fried up a bit of leftover rice with some eggs, but Miao Jiu hadn’t eaten anything before falling asleep. “I’ll make something,” he said. “Aren’t you hot in that? It’s nowhere near chilly enough inside to wear a coat.”
Miao Jiu yanked his new fur coat closer around his body. “Then make it colder.”
“Can’t you just save the coat for outside?” Luo Binghe sighed, standing up from his desk.
Miao Jiu’s bottom lip began to tremble the slightest bit as he hugged his arms around himself as tightly as possible. Luo Binghe froze. “No,” Miao Jiu spat out in a shaky voice. “It’s my fur. Mine.”
“Okay,” Luo Binghe said immediately, raising his hands in supplication. “Okay. I’ll turn down the temperature.”
“Good,” Miao Jiu said. He bit his bottom lip and forced it still. Stepping past Luo Binghe, he plopped down into the vacated desk chair and spun around several time. “And hurry up with the food.”
As they ate (Miao Jiu mullishly practicing his nascent chopsticks skills), Luo Binghe noticed Miao Jiu rubbing at his shoulder with a disgruntled expression. That’s right, it wasn’t as easy for a human body to sleep on the floor. Luo Binghe winced in empathy; he hadn’t always had a king-sized bed.
He rose and deposited his dish in the sink, then rounded the table to place his hands on Miao Jiu’s shoulders. “Sore?”
“Hey!” Miao Jiu fumbled his chopsticks onto the table and swatted Luo Binghe’s touch away. Just like he had when he was a cat, but now the effect was somewhat different. Miao Jiu paused to look down at his hands in consternation. “Ai, my claws…”
Luo Binghe looked more closely at Miao Jiu’s hands. The nails on his elegant fingers were tipped with round, narrow white crescents—a far cry from his claws in cat form. In the middle of Luo Binghe’s examination, Miao Jiu lifted his hand and swiped at him twice more as if replicating experimental results. His frown deepened.
“Is it really so bad?” Luo Binghe wondered. “What do you even need claws for?”
Miao batted his forearm once again, with feeling. “What kind of question is that? As a cat, of course I need a strong and sharp set of claws!” He crossed his arms. “This coat is something like my fur, but…”
An idea entered Luo Binghe’s mind. If human clothing could replicate cat fur, then couldn’t the same thing be done for claws? “Have you considered getting your nails done?”
“Get what done to my nails?” Miao Jiu asked suspiciously.
“A manicure.” Luo Binghe typed a few characters into Baidu and showed him a picture.
Miao Jiu’s eyes sparked. “So humans can have claws too,” he mused, snatching the phone from Luo Binghe. It took him a few tries to figure out which way to swipe, but he began to look through the image results and hummed when he saw styles he liked. He looked up from the screen to stare at Luo Binghe. The vision of his gem-like face nestled within the fluffy fur coat was especially compelling. “I want claws like this.”
“Okay.” Luo Binghe took the phone back to check his calendar. “My schedule is booked all day tomorrow, but we can go the day after.”
Miao Jiu frowned. “I don’t want to go the day after.”
“Well, you can’t go without me,” Luo Binghe explained. “You don’t have any money.”
“I’ll use that black square thing you used to pay for the clothes yesterday,” Miao Jiu said. He pushed away his empty plate and climbed onto Luo Binghe’s chair, hands patting up and down his body. “Where is it? Give it to me.”
“You can’t just take my card,” Luo Binghe argued, exasperated. Miao Jiu’s questing hands didn’t relent, so Luo Binghe tucked them into the pockets of his fur coat, trapping them, and bundled him close.
Miao Jiu squirmed on his lap in affront—Luo Binghe valiantly held him away from the area of danger. “Didn’t I say you’re my human?” Miao Jiu sniffed. “Since you’re mine, then everything you have is mine too.”
Luo Binghe’s lungs began to compete with his pants for which felt tightest. “Yours,” he repeated on an exhale. He swallowed. “Yes. Yours.”
Miao Jiu slid his hands out of his coat and plucked the wallet from Luo Binghe’s back pocket. Smugly, he said, “Mine.”
Now that the option had been presented to him, Miao Jiu wanted to go and get his claws right away. Luo Binghe wrestled him away from the door and spent about ten minutes trying to show him that every nail salon nearby was about to close soon. (That is to say, soon enough that city traffic wouldn’t let them get there in time.)
Sure, Luo Binghe could have dug up some nail technician from somewhere—money talks—but he sensed that Miao Jiu was still tired from the shopping excursion earlier. This little kitty needed sleep more than he needed to get a manicure.
“Come on, let’s go to bed,” Luo Binghe said, steering Miao Jiu towards the bedroom.
“I’m getting my claws tomorrow.”
“Yes, tomorrow,” Luo Binghe agreed.
“First thing,” Miao Jiu insisted.
“First thing,” Luo Binghe agreed.
“With the shiny black card.”
“With the black card,” Luo Binghe agreed. He shut Miao Jiu in the master bathroom and selected a set of new silk pajamas to handwash in the other bathroom as Miao Jiu showered. Or whatever he was doing in there with the water running.
It was uncertain that Miao Jiu was familiar with cleaning his human body, but Luo Binghe knew his own self-control and so refrained from going in to help him. Even with several rooms between them, Luo Binghe had to work to keep his nether regions docile as he listened to the running shower and scrubbed at the clothes Miao Jiu would wear to bed. This silk was going to feel so good to Miao Jiu’s skin…
Luo Binghe hung the pajamas in a fancy miniature closet that gentle-dried delicate clothes—it’d probably been expensive to install—and went to rush through his own nighttime routine in the second bathroom. As he finished and returned to the master bathroom, the sound of water trickled to a stop. Luo Binghe cracked the door.
“Are you done?” he called. There was no response, but Luo Binghe could see a glimpse of movement in the mirror that meant Miao Jiu hadn’t spontaneously keeled unconscious. Just ignoring him, then. “I’ll bring your sleeping clothes over.”
The fancy closet had finished drying the pajamas, so Luo Binghe took them down and folded them into a neat stack, then stuck his arm through the bathroom door to set them on the counter. Having no damn sense of propriety, Miao Jiu padded over to take them before Luo Binghe could retreat.
“Soft,” he said approvingly, picking up the dark green shirt.
Not soft, Luo Binghe shouted inside his head. Definitely not soft!
There was a long, shining lock of hair plastered snake-like to Miao Jiu’s shoulder. Its tail released a water droplet that may have actually been a ten-thousand kilo weight with the way it dragged Luo Binghe’s gaze irresistably downwards with it. Wet shoulder, smooth chest, the implication of ribs, soft sleek belly…
Green silk fell over the expanse of skin like a curtain coming down too early. The bottom of the shirt settled over Miao Jiu’s thighs.
Luo Binghe stomped down a feeling of disappointment. “You’re getting the fabric wet,” he said on autopilot, moving to insert a towel under Miao Jiu’s damp hair and tucking it neatly around his shoulders as Miao Jiu pulled on the silk pants.
“My hair will be dry soon,” Miao Jiu dismissed.
Luo Binghe gave him a skeptical look. “Your hair’s long now, remember?”
“Of course I remember,” Miao Jiu said tartly, clearly just now remembering. “How do humans dry long hair, then?” He turned as if to reach for the towel he’d used for his body.
Luo Binghe stopped him and said, “No, towel drying will cause breakage.” He was very particular about his own hair; the curly texture took a lot of care to maintain.
“Then how?” Miao Jiu prompted, impatient.
“Come here.” Luo Binghe sat Miao Jiu down before the bedroom vanity and plugged in his hair dryer. The sudden whoosh of air made Miao Jiu startle.
“What is that?!”
“You’ve never seen me use it?” Luo Binghe usually dried his hair in the bathroom with the door closed when getting ready for bed, so it wasn’t that surprising. “It’s a hair dryer. It dries your hair with warm air.”
Miao Jiu eyed the contraption with a look of profound suspicion. He tried to snatch it from Luo Binghe’s hands. “I’ll do it myself.”
“No, no—” Luo Binghe held the dryer out of Miao Jiu’s reach. “You’ll electrocute yourself.”
He recalled with stifled amusement that time Miao Jiu—in cat form back then—had poked too much at an outlet on the wall and run to him yowling with his fur stuck up in all directions.
Miao Jiu glared, hard. “Fine. Just this once.”
Luo Binghe dried every lock of Miao Jiu’s hair with delicate care until only the slightest dampness could be felt deep in the roots. Best not to overdo it. He shut off the dryer and unplugged it from the wall. In front of him, Miao Jiu was swaying slightly to the side, his green eyes half-lidded.
“Time for bed,” Luo Binghe said quietly. He drew the curtains, shutting out the day’s last dregs of amber sunlight, and turned off the lights.
Miao Jiu batted tiredly at him when Luo Binghe picked him up, but the gesture lacked energy. Luo Binghe carried him to the bed and slid beneath the covers, silk whispering over Luo Binghe’s skin as he tucked Miao Jiu close. The scent of his own shampoo drifted up from Miao Jiu’s hair. Unable to help himself, Luo Binghe bundled Miao Jiu even closer to his chest and pressed a kiss to his forehead.
“Mmmrm,” Miao Jiu protested sleepily.
“Shh,” Luo Binghe said, finding that soothing Miao Jiu in human form wasn’t very different from doing so in cat form. “Go to sleep.”
“My claws,” Miao Jiu mumbled.
“You’ll get them tomorrow,” Luo Binghe promised. “First thing.”
As if the answer satisfied him, Miao Jiu settled down—nuzzling into Luo Binghe’s chest, oh hell—then sank into sleep. Luo Binghe kissed his face again, and, much later, followed him.
The next morning, Luo Binghe went to the office to follow his itinerary of far too many meetings, far too much paperwork, and not nearly enough alcohol in his tea. He called Mobei Jun to chaffeur Miao Jiu but otherwise left the little kitty to do whatever he pleased—with the aid of Luo Binghe’s black card. The thought floated in the periphery of his mind the whole day.
When he returned to his penthouse early in the evening, he was greeted with a faceful of flying black tresses as Miao Jiu tackled him. Well, considering the weight differential, it was more like Miao Jiu leapt into his arms.
“Ai, you!” Though Luo Binghe’s core and upper body strength was something to be envied, he still wobbled a bit while adjusting. As he blew Miao Jiu’s hair out of his mouth, he felt veritable talons digging into his shoulderblades where Miao Jiu clung. A bolt of heat lanced abruptly through his gut. “I… see you’ve got your claws now.”
“They’re very sharp,” Miao Jiu bragged, tightening his needlepoint grip. Luo Binghe’s dress shirt was probably a lost cause.
“Let me see,” Luo Binghe said. He shifted Miao Jiu around, wanting to see what delightful weapons his pretty cat was now wielding.
“You may.” Miao Jiu removed one hand from Luo Binghe’s back and extended it like an empress waiting for a handmaiden to bejewel her fingers. Although if anything Luo Binghe should be his emperor, right now he felt like nothing more than a small servant boy awed at the slightest attention from his ruler. Also, he had a boner.
Luo Binghe gently clasped Miao Jiu’s hand. The slender fingers were adorned with long, poison-red stiletto nails that tapered to terrifyingly sharp points—sharp enough to scratch lines of blood down someone’s back, for example. Indeed, they were claws that would make any cat proud.
Luo Binghe said so and watched Miao Jiu preen. Then, out of pure curiosity, he asked, “How much was the manicure?”
Miao blinked those luminous eyes at him and tossed his head. “I didn’t check.”
Luo Binghe chuckled, “Of course you didn’t.” He toed off his shoes and went further into the foyer. His eye caught on something peeking out over the arm of the living room couch: the handle of a paper bag. “Did you go shopping too?”
“We only went to some of the stores last time, so I told that man to bring me to the shopping center again,” Miao Jiu deigned to explain. “What’s his name—Mobei? He’s good, very useful.”
A frown dragged at Luo Binghe’s mouth. “I’m useful,” he said.
Miao Jiu looked at him as if he’d never thought about it before. “I guess,” he allowed haughtily. He wriggled until Luo Binghe put him down, then poked and prodded until Luo Binghe went with him over to the couch. “These are the things I bought. Put them away.”
Having said this, Miao Jiu flicked his hair and padded away to the kitchen. He hadn’t even entertained the possibility that Luo Binghe wouldn’t obey. Left standing here with the luxurious haul that Miao Jiu had spent probably tens of thousands of his money on, Luo Binghe had to adjust his trousers several times. It worked only a little. Still straining uncomfortably against his zip, he set to unpacking and organizing the purchases while Miao Jiu snacked on grapes at the kitchen counter.
It took over twenty minutes for Luo Binghe to store everything away. Halfway through, Miao Jiu had finished with the grapes and wandered over to the master bedroom to watch Luo Binghe fold things, line things up, and put things in drawers.
Finished at last, Luo Binghe shut the closet door and turned around. Miao Jiu blinked lazily up at him from where he was lounging atop the bedcovers, sooty lashes fanning over his cheeks. He looked elegant and soft and comfortable, and Luo Binghe was completely unable to resist striding over and leaning down to press him into the blankets with a kiss.
“Mm—” Miao Jiu’s surprise dissolved in the wet warmth of their mouths meeting. Heat pooled into Luo Binghe’s groin as their tongues slid against each other, and he groaned into Miao Jiu’s mouth. A sharp tug at his hair made his hips twitch down. “Nnh… you—mmph—hey!”
Miao Jiu finally shoved at Luo Binghe, only managing to push him a few centimeters away. Luo Binghe hovered over Miao Jiu, panting lightly, and took in the mind-bending sight of his kitty flushed and disheveled beneath him.
“What do you think you’re doing, Luo Binghe?!”
The breathless quality of Miao Jiu’s voice—not to mention his bitten, reddened lips—nearly undid Luo Binghe.
“Kissing you,” he answered, feeling breathless himself.
“O-obviously!” Miao Jiu said. He gave Luo Binghe another shove and punctuated it with a jab of his nails, oblivious to just how counterproductive that was to getting Luo Binghe to cool down. “You—but why?”
“You didn’t like it?”
Miao Jiu’s flush deepened. “As if I would like doing that sort of thing with a human!”
“You are a human,” Luo Binghe reminded him slyly, stroking a thumb over his smooth, furless face. Miao Jiu nuzzled into the touch, then realized he was doing it and transitioned into a snap of his teeth. Luo Binghe let the bite sink into his palm. Faintly, he wished Miao Jiu’s fangs were still sharp enough to draw blood.
“Unfortunately,” Miao Jiu grumbled.
His pout was so adorable that Luo Binghe had to dive back down and eat it up. Miao Jiu put up with the kisses for a few moments. Then he yanked himself away and rolled over, wrapping his lithe arms around a pillow as he put his back to Luo Binghe.
“Gross,” Miao Jiu complained into the pillow. His ears, peeking out from under his rumpled hair, were flushed the loveliest of pinks. “Humans are so gross.”
“So gross,” Luo Binghe agreed. He swept aside a few strands of hair and pressed his lips to the back of Miao Jiu’s neck, then retreated in the face of a petulant red-clawed swipe. Miao Jiu retracted his hand, yawning, and tucked it under his cheek. Luo Binghe asked, “Napping now?”
Miao Jiu was already asleep.
Luo Binghe sighed and checked the time. Going to the kitchen, he saw that the premade meals he’d left in the fridge had been eaten. That was good. Luo Binghe cooked himself a simple dinner and sat down at the kitchen counter, mind filled with curious thoughts. As he ate, he wondered just how his life had turned into this, and just what he was going to do with his precious little kitty.
The days passed. Luo Binghe’s life of meetings, paperwork, and not nearly enough alcohol had undeniably transformed. He still had the same plethora of mind-numbing meetings and sad dearth of alcohol in the office, but returning home after work was an entirely different experience.
Sometimes Miao Jiu would be in a smug mood and greet Luo Binghe by pouncing into his arms—this was his favorite occurrence. Sometimes, he would be dozing away somewhere in the penthouse, and Luo Binghe would follow the sound of his tiny snores until he found Miao Jiu and nestled in next to him—this was also his favorite occurrence. Other times, Miao Jiu would be curled up in a pile of silk and sunlight, and still other times he would be sprawled nude across the sofa—understandably, these were also Luo Binghe’s favorite occurrences.
Sometimes (alright, it was more like most of the time… or all the time) Luo Binghe couldn’t help himself and attacked Miao Jiu with kisses. Shoulders, neck, forehead, lips—it was all fair game to his eager mouth. Miao Jiu could only be counted on to tolerate a kiss or two before batting Luo Binghe away with a hiss.
Their life went on like this for several months, the money that Luo Binghe usually never bothered to touch being spent like water spilling from Miao Jiu’s hands. Well, Luo Binghe had oceans. He always told Miao Jiu to buy whatever he liked (though Miao Jiu hardly needed the encouragement).
Their relation was one with established norms. When Luo Binghe entered the pentsuite one evening calling for Miao Jiu and received no response, he simply assumed that Miao Jiu was out somewhere updating his manicure or amassing more fur coats. Until a small black form leapt down from atop the refrigerator and padded nonchalantly over to scratch at a patch of sunlight on the sofa.
“… Miao Jiu?” Luo Binghe hurried over to examine the cat. After three months, Miao Jiu’s feline form was still perfectly recognizable to him. This cat was indeed Miao Jiu. “What happened to you?”
Luo Binghe initially wanted to investigate and crush whatever problem had beset Miao Jiu. Then he stopped, remembering how disgusted Miao Jiu always was with the state of being a human. Perhaps he was happier this way? Perhaps had even done it himself?
“You figured out a way to turn back,” Luo Binghe guessed aloud, settling onto the sofa next to Miao Jiu with a sigh.
Miao Jiu glanced at him, then glanced away and licked a calm stripe up his paw. Luo Binghe sighed again. He frowned at the thought of no longer being able to kiss Miao Jiu, or curl up around him in bed, or go out with Miao Jiu hanging off his arm (alright, that last one was a stretch of his own imagination). Still, this was better than Miao Jiu leaving him. As a cat, there was nowhere Miao Jiu could go that would be nicer than staying as Luo Binghe’s pampered kitten.
Luo Binghe hadn’t even removed his jacket. Miao Jiu had probaby turned down the thermostat now that he wasn’t a human walking around in mink fur, because it was somewhat cooler in here than it had been this morning. Luo Binghe rested his chin on his hand and watched Miao Jiu groom himself. As Miao Jiu licked his fur, he paused every so often to cast a haughty glance at Luo Binghe—as if expecting something. Food? Pets? Him to go away?
Making a guess, Luo Binghe reached out, scratching behind Miao Jiu’s ears and smoothing his hand down the curve of his back. Miao Jiu seemed to grow smug and nuzzled into the pets. After a good long scratch, Luo Binghe pulled his hand away—and was immediately clawed.
“I’m done already, I’m done. No need for that.” Luo Binghe exhaled through his nose. What a temperamental little cat.
But even though Luo Binghe was no longer touching him, Miao Jiu meowed angrily and swiped at his arms and chest.
“What, what is it?”
Miao Jiu growled and swatted harshly at Luo Binghe.
“Alright sweetheart, I’m out, don’t worry. I’m not trying to invade your space.” Luo Binghe rose from the couch and retreated to the kitchen, Miao Jiu hissing and spitting at him as he went. Maybe Miao Jiu’s irritation was caused by hunger. Luo Binghe washed his hands and began to prepare dinner. Could Miao Jiu still eat a human diet now that he was back in cat form?
When the food was ready, Luo Binghe called for Miao Jiu to come and eat. A minute passed with no response. “Miao Jiu,” he called again, louder. “Miao Jiu?”
Finally, Miao Jiu appeared around the corner and prowled over to his bowl. Luo Binghe felt awkward putting it on the ground after months of eating at the same table, so the bowl was placed on the chair where Miao Jiu had sat. Under Luo Binghe’s eyes, Miao Jiu turned up his tiny pink nose at the delicious chicken and began to creep away.
“Miao Jiu?” Luo Binghe was helpless. Thinking that Miao Jiu wouldn’t be satisfied with simple cat food now, he’d added extra sides and garnishes to the meal of grilled chicken. But Miao Jiu had rejected it. It really was concerning. “Please, I even added that five-spice combination that you like.”
He didn’t mention that he’d abstained from adding cloves, which were toxic to cats.
Miao Jiu halted at Luo Binghe’s words. Slowly, he turned around. As he slunk back over to the bowl and ducked his head to to eat, one green eye swiveled over to glare at Luo Binghe—like a warning that his displeasure hadn’t been erased.
At least Miao Jiu was just unhappy, rather than sick. Still. Luo Binghe felt a weight in his heart as Miao Jiu darted off as soon as possible after finishing his dinner and continued to hiss irately at him throughout the rest of the night.
It couldn’t be a coincidence that this bad mood began at the same time Miao Jiu turned back into a cat. But try as he might, Luo Binghe couldn’t think of a reason for that to be the case. Was Miao Jiu actually not glad to be back in his feline form?
The night ended on a sour note for Luo Binghe. The next morning, he woke up with no man in his arms and no cat on his chest. What he found upon coming out of his bedroom was his three-month-old blender lying broken on the kitchen floor.
Luo Binghe sighed once more and texted his PA that he’d be late today.
“A-Jiu, A-Jiu,” he called. Using this coaxing tone, he went around to every room in the suite until he found Miao Jiu hiding under an overturned basket in the laundry room. “Jiujiu ah, can’t you tell me why you’re so upset? If it’s something I did, I promise I’ll make it up to you.”
Miao Jiu was silent.
Luo Binghe knelt before the basket. “Please, qin’aide.’
There was another stretch of silence, and Luo Binghe was running frantically through a list of obscenely expensive things he could buy for Miao Jiu in his head when at last the basket shifted.
“Meow,” meowed Miao Jiu, and then he was standing tall and naked and pale and human—and very naked, did he mention? heavens have mercy—in front of Luo Binghe. With the laundry basket upside-down on his head.
“Baobei,” Luo Binghe said helplessly, taking away the basket and setting it on the ground.
“Why won’t you do… that anymore?” Miao Jiu demanded without preamble.
Blindsided, Luo Binghe said, “Won’t do—what, anymore?”
“You know,” Miao Jiu said, gesturing obliquely with a delicate hand. “You know, that…”
“I don’t know,” Luo Binghe admitted. He felt a little foolish. Was it something obvious?
“That, that, that,” Miao Jiu began several times, stammering more than Luo Binghe had ever seen him do and turning pinker with each false start. Finally, he shut his mouth with a click. As if trying to show rather than tell, he tilted his head and angled his face up, cheeks flushed a fetching apple-red. His eyes blinked rapidly off to the side in embarrassment.
At last, Luo Binghe guessed Miao Jiu’s meaning. A strange sensation was billowing up in his chest again, tight and floaty and full all at once, and this time he thought he knew what it was.
“Miao Jiu—ah, my Miao Jiu,” Luo Binghe breathed, shrinking the space between them in an instant. His hands came up to cradle Miao Jiu’s reddened face with a painstakingly delicate desperation. He could feel Miao Jiu’s sweet breath ghosting over his lips—if Luo Binghe leaned any closer he would probably just die. Oh, but what a way to go. Luo Binghe closed the gap and swallowed that sweetness in a kiss.
Miao Jiu jerked away in mere instinct, but Luo Binghe would never let him go now that he knew his baby liked being kissed. He’d give Miao Jiu all the kisses in the world. Starting now, with hot open-mouthed explorations of that plush mouth as saliva slicked the tangle of their tongues.
Luo Binghe backed Miao Jiu into the washing machine and pinned him against it, one hand sliding up into Miao Jiu’s silky hair and the other tracing down his neck, chest, waist. Miao Jiu let out the prettiest moans and gasps into the intermittent space between their mouths. Luo Binghe had been nursing half an erection since Miao Jiu transformed into his human form wearing a laundry basket as a hat, so when he felt an answering hardness against his thigh—there was no helping the way his dick sprang to full attention.
“A-Jiu, my beautiful,” he panted into Miao Jiu’s arched neck, pressing the words wetly into his skin, “my perfect, lovely…”
“Ah—nnh—” Words seemed to be beyond Miao Jiu, but Luo Binghe felt his words reciprocated in the bite of sharp crimson nails along his back. His skin split apart under those claws.
“Fuck,” Luo Binghe groaned. Then he dropped to his knees and pushed Miao Jiu’s thighs apart, prepared to do exactly that.
Luo Binghe’s back gained several new scratches in the next few hours. The washing machine didn’t run any cycles during that time—but you wouldn’t know that from the way it shook.