Freedom for most hybrids is a quintessential part of life that many have just now started to achieve.
For Park Jimin, he’s really no exception.
He’s lived in Busan for most of his adult life, and it’s only just recently that he’s made the big jump to Seoul after a nasty breakup with his previous “owner.”
Jimin was considered a “pet” up until late last year, when a law was passed stating hybrids could be their own person, no longer a pet or a plaything for humans. The relationship he held with his “owner” had grown extremely rocky right around that point and, after countless fights and nights spent locked up in the home, Jimin’s finally got the opportunity to be his own person, to live a normal life without being under control of someone else who dictated everything Jimin could or could not do.
Fuck his last owner.
Fuck him for keeping Jimin collared all the time and refusing to loosen the collar when it was too tight.
And especially for denying Jimin any ounce of freedom he so rightfully deserves.
That being said, Seoul is nice enough, but it's over crowded and a little overwhelming. Sometimes Jimin misses the ocean fresh air in Busan, but he definitely doesn't miss the feeling of oppression that still lingers there. Seoul was always very forward thinking, and Jimin had known a few other hybrids that had escaped to the capital in search of a better life.
For as crowded as Seoul is, it's one of the loneliest places Jimin has ever been - though how he can feel so alone surrounded by hundreds and thousand of others his beyond him.
Jimin doesn’t have much money left and he knows he can’t scour the streets forever, which is why he needs to find a job; something relatively easy, something he can do to keep himself busy and occupied. Hopefully, if he saves enough, he can rent an apartment because right now, all he’s got is one of those shelters for the homeless and although having his own section is nice, some of the people aren’t nice.
Problem is, all the places he’s been to that have “Hiring” signs in their windows won’t accept him and have turned him away as soon as he’s stepped inside.
Places don’t want to hire a red panda hybrid who’s obviously run away from home.
Jimin’s tempted, so tempted , to just take the next bus or train or whatever back out to Busan where he knows people, where he has sort-of-friends that could help him out, but his semi-abusive owner is out that way too—
For now, he’s stuck.
Every other day he sets out to search for new places, uses a map of the streets as a guide, and there are circles and slashes through possible hits. Red slashes mean no job, blue circles mean hope.
One business has already turned him down today (gently, surprisingly) and there’s about two more on his next trip before he accepts his failure and draws up new plans tomorrow. The next place is a corner cafe, relatively new to the area, and is a rather quaint pink building with the charming name “Suga and Cream Cafe” scrawled along the top.
Jimin stares up at the building when he stands in front of it and he thumbs over the business’ location on his treasure map. This is probably just going to be another dud, so he doesn’t have much hope when he steps inside and hears the tinkling of a bell overhead.
Inside, the cafe greets him with the smell of starchy flour and decadent chocolate and Jimin’s fluffy red tail waves around as he shuffles toward the front counter. The cafe must have just opened, because there’s nobody inside just yet, and he can smell bread baking in the ovens in the back and he can see someone in the back room with an apron on.
The bell above the door didn’t give him away, but there’s a little bell on the counter and Jimin tentatively taps it, the ring reaching the ears of whoever is in the back room.
“Yoongi-ah! The front!”
Jimin waits for a moment, ears nearly disappearing into his orange hair, until a figure emerges from the back. At first, Jimin doesn't even hear what the guy says, too focused on the fact that there are rounded fluffy ears peeking out of his silver hair.
Jimin blinks, focuses on the man’s face, which is pale and angular but is accentuated by thin pretty pink lips and dark eyelashes.
“You gonna order something or what?”
Jimin palms the crumbled piece of paper in his hands and struggles with his words.
He’s standing in front of what might be a koala hybrid, a hybrid who works here out of his own free will and has no collar circling his throat. The faint ring around Jimin’s neck itches but he brushes it off.
“U-uhm. . . are you hiring, by chance?” he mumbles, and the silver haired male leans forward, quizzical look in his eyes and Jimin almost coughs out his lungs.”I need to find a job, I-if you have anything, and literally anything, that I can possibly do—”
“Calm down, kid,” the guy —Yoongi, from what Jimin heard— says across the counter. “Jin was talking about wanting more help in the mornin’. You ever worked before?”
Jimin’s stunned for the moment but he recovers and shakes his head. “No, my. . . “ he pauses, and his gaze averts to the floor. “. . . my owner never let me work.”
Yoongi just grunts and walks into the back, leaving Jimin with his heart sinking into his toes. It's okay. There's still a few more places to check out. Maybe—
“Jagiya! Some kid out front looking for work,” comes Yoongi’s muffled voice from the back.
There's a moment of silence and a bit of shuffling before another man emerges from the back. He's considerably taller, breathtakingly beautiful and he's got flour smudged on one of his cheekbones. “Hi there,” he beams, wipes both hands on the apron tied around his waist. “I'm Seokjin, one of the owners. You're looking for work?”
Seokjin is very obviously human, no ears or tail in sight.
Oh. They’re boyfriends.
Jimin swallows down the lump in his throat and nods, his tail curling around his hip. “Yeah. No place has accepted my work, don’t like street rats,” he sniffs, and he crumples the map in his hands some more. “I’m Jimin. . . from Busan. This is my first time in Seoul and I need to find a job or else. . . I go back to my owner.”
Oh god, he really doesn’t want to go back.
“Well, you're in luck, Jimin from Busan,” Seokjin chirps in return, swiping the back of his hand over his cheek, “I could really use some help in the mornings. We’re getting busier and—” He leans toward to dramatically whisper. “—Yoongi isn't really a morning person.”
“Yah! I heard that!” comes from the back, which only makes Seokjin laugh good naturedly.
“Anyway, I could really use an assistant. Someone to help me prep in the morning before we open and someone to work the cash register while I’m in the back. Probably other odd cleaning duties, too. How does that sound?”
Jimin is taken aback by the whole situation but he practically bounces on his toes when Seokjin offers him the job. He doesn’t need the map anymore, doesn’t need to struggle finding a job, because he finally has one.
“It’s good! Really good. . .” he manages a smile, and his ears perk up the slightest. “What time should I be here? Do I need anything?”
Seokjin beckons him around the corner, still smiling sweetly. “Here, let’s get your paperwork and schedule sorted and I’ll grab you a few uniform shirts too. You look like you're Yoongi’s size. . .” He disappears into the back again, clearly expecting Jimin to follow.
Jimin folds the piece of paper in his pocket and scurries behind the desk after Seokjin, entering the back room with him where Yoongi (Yoongi hyung?) is kneading dough and mumbling to himself, fluffy ears poking from underneath his hair.
He still stares in amazement at Yoongi’s bare neck; there are no indications that Yoongi’s ever had to wear a collar before, so does that mean he was never a pet? Luckily Yoongi isn’t looking at him, so Jimin turns his head and enters a storage room with Seokjin. Well it's mostly a storage room with a desk and two chairs in one corner.
“Sorry it's a little messy in here,” Seokjin apologizes, moving a few boxes out of the way with his feet. “It's usually only Yoongi and I here.”
The human sinks down into the chair directly behind the desk, which leaves the other for Jimin. It takes Seokjin a second to dig through some folders but he emerges with a little packet and a pen.
“If you'll just fill these out for me,” he states, placing the papers within Jimin’s reach. “Oh, and do you have your ID card as well?”
Jimin slides into the chair with a hum and reaches for the pen, browsing through the paper and sitting up to reach inside his pocket for his ID. He slides it over to Seokjin as he begins reading, eyes scanning the paragraphs in brief before he starts filling in his information.
“We open at 5am,” Seokjin chatters on, making a copy of Jimin’s ID for the cafe’s records. “So usually I'll need you here around 4am or so, is that okay?”
Flipping through the pages, the orange haired male nods and signs his name in the last place, sliding the papers back over to Seokjin. “Mhm. I don’t sleep much anyways, so that’s perfect for me.”
Seokjin purses his lips, making them even poutier than they were before. “Make sure you're taking care of yourself,” he warns. “You already look too thin for my tastes. Make sure you're eating well. Will you take some sweet rolls with you when you go?”
Jimin feels like he’s talking to his mother but Seokjin is just worried. Even though he doesn’t know Seokjin, he can tell when someone’s being genuine, and he isn’t going to argue with his new employee. “Yeah, okay. I can take whatever you want me to take.”
“Good.” Seokjin’s tone sounds as though Jimin really didn't have a choice in the matter anyway. “Do you want to start tomorrow? Or maybe this weekend? Ah, I have to get you a few shirts too. . .”
“Whatever time is good for you, Seokjin hyung. I don’t have anything to do during the day anyways.”
Seokjin disappears behind the desk and pops back up with a handful of pastel pink t-shirts. “Alright, I'll see you tomorrow then,” he continues with the same warm smile, holding the shirts over the desk for Jimin to take.
Jimin doesn’t comment on the color of the shirts but he reaches out and takes them, smiling at Seokjin as he says his goodbyes. Seokjin walks him out to the front counter and makes Yoongi say goodbye too (which is apparently just a grunt) before Jimin’s out the door with a handful of crisp pink shirts.
Only now, when he’s outside in the open air, does he realize today’s events; he had scored a job almost immediately and both of his employees were nice and generous, from what he could tell.
Jimin’s ears perk up as he walks down the street and he ignores the strange stares as he heads back to his temporary home with a bounce in his step, joyous for the days to come.
The following morning, Seokjin rises early as usual. Yoongi is curled up against his side, snoring softly, and only grunts in complaint when Seokjin pulls the covers off.
“Come on, jagi,” he croons, bending over and pressing a soft kiss to the koala hybrid’s temple. “You have to help train Jimin-ah today. You’ll be able to sleep in soon.”
One of the best parts of owning the cafe is living on the second floor of the building. It's only one bedroom with a decently sized bathroom and a spacious living room and a tiny kitchen, but it's enough for Seokjin and Yoongi. The sun even filters through the bedroom window in the mornings, much to Seokjin’s delight and Yoongi’s displeasure.
“‘M not ready to get up,” Yoongi pulls the blankets back over his head, rolling over into a ball, the tops of his ears the only thing visible.
Seokjin sighs and folds his arms over his chest, examining the ball on the bed. “You have to get up, jagi. I have to start baking and you have to start training Jimin-ah. He’ll probably feel more comfortable around you, given his situation.”
The brunette ambles over to the side of the bed Yoongi is facing and he crouches, gently nudging aside the blanket so he can at least see Yoongi’s eyes. “Please?” Seokjin asks, batting his eyelashes. “Do it for me?”
One of Yoongi’s eyes peeks open. Somehow he manages to put the full force of a glare into that single eye, then squirms back down into the blanket.
Seokjin’s lips turn into the slightest frown and he grabs the blanket with both hands, tugging down to let the sunlight hit Yoongi directly. It’s a sharp contrast from his doting attitude not even a minute before, but a job is a job and Seokjin takes his seriously.
“Don’t make me drag you out of bed,” the elder warns, but there’s no real threat in his voice. He grabs the blanket in a bundle to stop Yoongi from huddling up again. “I know how much you don’t like that.”
“ Fine. ” Yoongi doesn't pout as he crawls out of their bed. He doesn't. “Make me coffee?”
As much as the hybrid would argue, he really is adorable in the mornings with his fluffy hair and sleepy eyes and creases from the sheets imprinted into the side of his face.
Seokjin straightens and beams at Yoongi and Yoongi wonders how the hell can someone be so smiley this early in the morning.
“Yeah, I’ll make you coffee. Go take a shower before you come out.”
The human steps into his slippers and shuffles to the doorway of the bedroom, peeking back in at Yoongi stumbling into the bathroom. “You’d better not curl back up in that bed or you’re in trouble .”
“Yes, eomma,” Yoongi mocks, disappearing behind the bathroom door with a soft click.
It's nearly thirty minutes later when Yoongi shuffles downstairs into the back of the cafe, looking considerably more awake than before.
“Need coffee,” he mumbles, flicking his still wet fringe out of his eyes. “Then maybe I can train the kid.”
Seokjin sort of knew already that Yoongi would be down later so he’s just in the middle of pouring Yoongi a cup of coffee, passing it to him without adding sugar or cream. Yoongi liked his coffee black; Seokjin was the one who put a load of flavored creamer and milk in his.
“Your hair is sopping wet, Yoongi, Jimin’s going to be here soon,” Seokjin chastises, and he’s already fully dressed in his “uniform.”
“It’ll dry before we open,” Yoongi retorts, busying himself by pulling out most of the ingredients for prepping the morning pastries. “You like the kid? Jimin?”
“Well. . . yeah,” Seokjin replies, setting his cup down in exchange for his apron. He peers over at Yoongi. “Don’t you?”
Yoongi has to pause to take a few gulps of coffee from his own mug. “Dunno yet. He's kinda. . . young. You see the marks around his neck?”
“He did say that he had an owner, but he said it like he was scared, maybe frightened. The marks are probably from his collar.” Seokjin pauses to tie the apron in the back. “He’s a panda, so he’s timid, go easy on him.”
“A panda?” Yoongi’s ears twitch on the top of his head. “A red panda? Never seen one of them before. . .”
Crossing to the other side of the room, Yoongi opens the fridge and tugs a jug of milk under one arm and balances a carton of eggs in the other. “He seems like he’ll work hard. I'm not gonna traumatize the poor kid, Jin.”
Red pandas are indeed rare, hence the name “lesser panda.” Neither Seokjin or Yoongi had ever seen one before, but Seokjin is well versed on his animal/hybrid breeds and could tell right away what Jimin was.
“You can be a little intimidating, that’s all.”
After some more prep, Seokjin taking over Yoongi’s role of getting ingredients out and making their sweets, Yoongi idles by at the counter until the bell above the front door rings and Jimin walks in with his pink shirt on and black jeans.
Jimin does look a little nervous, and Seokjin pops his head around the corner to welcome Jimin before the oven calls for his attention. The koala watches Jimin slip behind the counter shyly and then they’re standing face to face, ear to ear, Jimin’s puffy red-ringed tail curled in close to his hip.
Yoongi speaks first. “So, Jimin, right?” He eyes the smaller boy up and down, eyes widening and lingering on what looks like the incredibly soft fur of his tail.
“Yep, Jimin,” the younger chirps, and one of his ears flick when Yoongi’s eyes travel down. Jimin’s eyes follow but he’s not sure what Yoongi’s looking at, so he stares back at Yoongi with a raised brow. “Something on me?”
Jimin quickly learns that when Yoongi doesn't feel like continuing a line of conversation, he just grunts in reply.
“We’ll start with the register first, that way you can help ring people out and take orders if Jin hyung and I are busy.” Yoongi gestures for Jimin to follow, moving slow and languid like molasses. “You ever worked a cash register before?”
Jimin shakes his head. He’s seen registers before, but he doesn’t know how to use one.
“It's pretty easy. C’mere and let me show you. I won't bite.”
“I don’t think koalas really bite to begin with, but okay.”
By the end of the day, Jimin has pretty much gotten the hang of ringing in orders and taking people’s money. He fumbles a few times, heart racing when his chubby little fingers miss a button, but Yoongi’s there to fix his mistakes and not once does he get mad.
It was apparently not a very crazy day, but the closer it gets to the weekend, the busier the cafe gets. Yoongi seems confident that Jimin won't really need help with the front in the next few days.
“I think we’ll have you in the back tomorrow,” Seokjin states when he emerges from behind the counter to help Yoongi and Jimin wipe down the tables. “You did very well today, Jimin-ah.”
Jimin’s not used to honest praise, so when he does receive a non-physical pat on the back, he smiles ear to ear and looks like he’s proud of himself. “Thank you, hyung. And it’s Yoongi hyung who helped me, I think he gets most of the credit.”
Yoongi cracks the barest hint of a smile as he flips the ‘open’ sign to ‘closed’.
“Pfft, don't compliment Yoongi-ah too much or it’ll go to his head.”
Jimin laughs quietly to himself and picks up his used rag and carries it behind the counter where the rest of the cleaning supplies go. He peels off the apron and hangs it on the wall leading to the back room and pats his pants down to get rid of any signs of flour or sugar still there.
“Same time tomorrow?”
“Same time tomorrow,” Seokjin repeats with a grin while Yoongi complains in the background about how unappreciated he is.
Jimin casts a glance back at Yoongi as he’s walking out the door and he manages a, “I appreciate you, hyung!” before he departs.
In the few weeks that follow, Jimin lapses into an easy rhythm of working with his new employers. He's great with the customers, so most of the time Seokjin has him out front taking orders and dazzling people with his cute eye smiles.
Most of the customers here don't seem to care that Jimin has ears and a tail. There's no nasty words thrown his way, and a little girl even compliments how fluffy his ears seem. It's all so very strange and new for the little red panda, considering he was so used to being treated less than human not that long ago.
Some of the regulars tip Jimin really well if he’s the one to make their coffees and Seokjin lets him keep it all.
Speaking of Seokjin, he’s been the nicest person Jimin’s met since he first came to Seoul. Both he and Yoongi treat Jimin as an equal, and now they’re all comfortable being around each other (although Jimin is still a little skittish when Yoongi gravitates behind him and mutters something incoherent).
However, when Jimin wakes up one day in the shelter, he’s hit with sickness like a brick. His nose is stuffed and his mind pounds and he feels weight on his eyelids. On top of that, his throat is sore and scratchy and he can’t even force out a sound without gulping some water first.
Jimin usually resists most diseases and sicknesses and he blames his move into Seoul for this.
Germs float through the air like crazy in such a busy city and when he works in close quarters with others, passing food and taking money and touching people’s hands when exchanging goods, of course Jimin’s bound to get sick.
But he has to go to work, at least show up for a bit. He’s not too keen on staying “home” when sick and even though he has to sort of drag himself to the cafe, he stumbles through the front door loaded up on cough medicine he bought before leaving the shelter. Shelter employees don’t appreciate sick guests, so Jimin’s sort of stuck at work for now.
He’ll figure something out.
Jimin arrives about forty five minutes later than usual and both Yoongi and Seokjin come scuttling out from the back room when they hear the bell above the door ring. Jimin’s ears are flattened against his head and his tail hangs low, drooping to the floor.
The owners share a look and Yoongi spins on his heel, retreating to the back and leaving Seokjin to deal with Jimin’s late arrival.
“Jimin-ah?” Seokjin murmurs, wiping his hands off on his apron. “You're late.”
A wave of panic washes over Jimin. Is he going to get fired? Is Seokjin going to tell him he can’t work here anymore? His headache amplifies and Jimin just bows his head and croaks out a weak, pitiful apology that can barely be heard from their distance.
In a way that's reminiscent of a mother hen, Seokjin rounds the counter and plants himself in front of Jimin, using one hand to tilt the panda’s face up and the other brushes over his forehead.
“You're burning up,” Seokjin states, lips pressed into a fine line, scanning the rest of Jimin’s flushed face. “You should have stayed home today. I can't have you working like this.”
Jimin lifts his head higher and his ears flick. “I-I woke up and I was sick,” he mumbles, and he tries leaning away from Seokjin’s hand in fear that he’ll get him sick too. “But I. . .um. . . I can’t go back. . . “
“Jimin. . .” Seokjin’s tone is serious, “I do appreciate your work ethic but I really can't let you be here while you're sick. Should I have Yoongi drive you home? I don't want you walking around in this condition.”
“I don’t have a home to go back to.”
Seokjin blinks at him, eyes wide. “Wha-what do you mean? Where have you been staying then?”
The panda gnaws at his lower lip and he can’t meet Seokjin’s eyes. “At one of the shelters. . . that’s where I’ve been staying since I came to Seoul. They let me stay there, and now I’m giving a small portion of my paycheck because they’re letting me sleep there. That’s where I go. . .”
“I thought— I thought you had an apartment . If I would have known you were staying at one of the shelters—”
Yoongi picks this time to emerge from the back, clearly having been eavesdropping on the entire conversation. “Kid, you're not staying at that shelter in Hongdae, are you?”
Jimin does, however, look at Yoongi and he nods sheepishly.
Yoongi and Seokjin share a look. “Jin, he can't go back there.”
“I know, jagi, let me just. . . let me set up the couch upstairs for him.”
Jimin vehemently shakes his head in disagreement and his ears perk slightly for a second before they flatten again. “No, don’t do that,” he croaks, his voice low to avoid a coughing fit. “I-I’ll be able to get an apartment soon, and I’m sure I’ll only be sick for today, I can head back—”
“Nonsense,” Seokjin tuts, beginning to guide Jimin into the back to get him upstairs. “You look exhausted and dehydrated. I'd worry sick about you if I let you leave.”
Jimin’s too weak to protest or fight back so he just accepts the mothering from Seokjin. His shoulders slump as they pass the kitchen and Yoongi, who slowly gets back to work, and the stairs creak from both Jimin and Seokjin’s weight. The panda has never seen the upstairs before, but he knows it’s small and quaint and he knows he’s imposing on their personal space.
But it’ll be just for one night, right?
“Sorry it's such a mess,” Seokjin huffs, opening the door at the top of the stairs with his hip, gently scooting what looks like a pair of Yoongi’s shoes to the side. “Should I draw you a bath? Or do you just want me to set up the couch? How about some tea?”
Jimin lethargically steps out of his shoes and he sniffs, eyeing the apartment. It’s perfect for two people, and the living room is cozy, just a tv and couch and little table in there and nothing else. He draws his attention back to Seokjin and fiddles with his sleeves. “Tea please. M’throat’s killing me.”
After getting Jimin settled on the couch, wrapping the panda in a soft blanket that smells faintly of sugar and icing, Seokjin retreats to the kitchen. Jimin lets himself sink into the cushions, curling his striped tail delicately around his waist. They're so much more comfortable than the little cot he’s been sleeping on for weeks so Jimin finds himself dozing off in moments. It's been a long time since he’d felt safe, been somewhere that felt like home .
When Seokjin sets a steaming mug of tea on the coffee table, Jimin startles awake, eyes bleary and head still throbbing.
“Drink this,” the human urges. “Then sleep. I’ll send Yoongi up in a bit to check on you, alright?”
Jimin accepts the mug from Seokjin and folds his legs to his chest as he takes his first slow sip of the tea. It scorches down his throat but the burn of the liquid feels so much better than the burning itch of his dry throat.
“Thank you, hyung,” he murmurs, holding the mug close to his mouth once more. The warm mist wafts across his face and momentarily clears his nose.
“You're welcome, Jimin-ah. Just get some sleep and after the morning rush Yoongi will come up to see if you need anything.”
Jimin nods and drinks half of his tea before Seokjin leaves the apartment and heads back downstairs to join Yoongi. The tea sits warm in his belly and sleep arrives almost instantaneously when his head hits the cushion.
He’s out like a light and stays like that until the afternoon when Yoongi comes creeping up the stairs after the morning rush, careful not to disturb the sleeping red panda on the couch when he enters.
He can’t help but notice how endearing the younger looks, all snuggled up in his blanket, his mouth slightly open, tip of his fluffy tail poking out from the blanket and grazing the floor.
The edge of the blanket has fallen down, pooling somewhere along Jimin’s belly button as he's moved about in his sleep. Yoongi remembers Seokjin making sure that when sick, Yoongi would be covered in blankets up to his chin, so it's almost second nature to tuck the blanket back around Jimin's shoulders.
Yoongi’s brows furrow together in concern, watching the other hybrid sleep. It isn't creepy. He's just. . . It's just one hybrid looking out for another, that's all. It doesn't matter that there seems to be something drawing him to the panda, a sense of protectiveness, especially now that he knows Jimin’s been living at that damn shelter in Hongdae.
Back when Yoongi had come to Seoul, he'd stayed there too. At first, it was fine, but the longer you stayed, the shadier things got and if it hadn't been for Seokjin— well, Yoongi certainly wouldn't be where he is today.
There aren’t a lot of people that Yoongi trusts, mostly because of some of the things he’d experienced at the hand of other humans and sometimes even other hybrids. Seokjin was really the first person to make him feel safe, to smooth out the rough exterior he'd acquired over the years. But now. . . Well, there's something about this Park Jimin that makes Yoongi feel all soft inside and he isn't quite sure how to deal with it.
So he doesn't.
Instead he marches right back downstairs (quietly, as not to disturb Jimin) and promptly retreats to the back where there's a little bit of prep work to do before the lunch crowd comes.
Seokjin hears the clattering coming from the back and he pauses reloading the register to peek back and see what Yoongi’s doing. Something’s. . . off.
He finishes reloading the register and then he steps into the backroom where Yoongi’s hunched over one of the counters preparing new batches of coffee and other drinks that are popular during the lunch hour. Seokjin examines Yoongi’s somewhat flattened ears and erratic hand movements for a minute before he speaks up.
“Something wrong, jagi?”
“No.” Seokjin is much too intuitive for his own good. “Jimin-ah is still sleeping. But his breathing is still raspy.”
Yoongi has never been good at voicing his emotions, or dealing with them at all really, and he doesn't see the need to start now.
“Yoongi, is it about Jimin?” Seokjin asks, and his voice is almost like a sweet whisper. He shuffles closer to Yoongi and rests a hand on the counter where the koala’s working. “You seem. . . distracted.”
“I—” Yoongi's hands still, but he doesn't look up. “I'm not. I'm just tired.”
Seokjin doesn’t sigh but he tilts his head to the side curiously. “You’re not very good at lying, jagi,” he hums, reaching out with his free hand to rub along Yoongi’s back. “I was just going to ask if you wanted Jimin to stay here with us for a little while since he doesn’t have a place of his own.”
He plucks some strand off Yoongi’s shirt and smiles absently, smoothing down the wrinkle he created. “But I don’t think you were going to oppose that.”
The koala flicks his gaze up, ears cocked forward. It's almost eerie sometimes how well his boyfriend can read him. “He can't go back there,” he mutters more to himself than anything else. “He's sick and someone is going to take advantage of him and he's not used to Seoul—”
Seokjin cards his fingers through Yoongi’s silver hair and brushes his thumb over Yoongi’s cheekbone. “I know you care about him, I can see it,” he points out. “Nobody will do that to Jimin, not if he stays with us. When he wakes up, we’ll tell him, okay? Okay, Yoongi?”
“Yea. . . Yea, okay.”
That really shouldn't make Yoongi feel as relieved at it does. Maybe it's because having his hair played with is one of his few weak points and Seokjin is not above pulling out all the tricks to make him feel better.
Seokjin smiles and kisses Yoongi on the forehead. “Now let’s get ready for the lunch rush. I’ll make bibimbap for all of us for dinner.”
Jimin sleeps for the rest of the afternoon and wakes up by the time Yoongi and Seokjin are finished working downstairs. He feels infinitely better, well rested with no migraine, but he lays on the couch by himself while the bakery is cleaned. Jimin usually helps speed up the cleaning process but he knows he’ll get scolded if he steps foot on those stairs.
So he waits.
He waits on the couch curled up with the blanket until he can hear the soft footsteps of Seokjin and the heavier thumps of Yoongi dragging himself up the stairs to the apartment. Jimin trains his eyes on the door when they come through and Seokjin immediately smiles at him, shuffling over and waving Yoongi off to go get ingredients from the fridge for dinner.
Yoongi grumbles but disappears into the kitchen while Seokjin approaches and picks up the empty mug on the living room table. “How are you feeling, Jimin-ah?”
Jimin sits up, blanket falling to his lap. “Better,” he responds, though his throat is still sore and scratchy. “Do you. . . have any spare clothes for me to wear? I don’t think you’re going to let me leave tonight but I can’t sleep again in my uniform.”
“You're right,” Seokjin admits, a small smile on his face. “I think you and Yoongi are about the same size. . . I'm sure we can find something for you to wear.”
Yoongi steps out from the kitchen and makes for the hall entrance. “I”m on it.”
While Seokjin scuttles into the kitchen to begin dinner, Jimin waits on the couch for Yoongi patiently. There's rattling in the kitchen from Seokjin beginning to cook, but then Yoongi is back in no time with clothes in his hands.
“Try these. See if they fit.”
Their hands brush as Jimin slowly stands up and takes the clothes, eying the pair of sweatpants and t-shirt as he lumbers down the hall. He finds the bathroom relatively easy and begins changing, slipping into Yoongi’s clothes and washing his face before combing through his tail with his fingers.
His skin is paler than usual and has a sickly tint to it but more sleep should rid of that. Or so he hopes.
Jimin walks into the living room with his other clothes and gingerly sets them down on the edge of the couch.
“Those fit you well, kid.”
Yoongi’s voice behind his back doesn't startle him but Jimin turns his head to look at the koala, his ears perked up.
“Oh. . . good. I guess we are sort of the same size.”
Yoongi cocks his head to the side, left ear twitching in his silver hair. “I'm taller.”
Jimin looks affronted. “Not by much!”
Seokjin’s voice interrupts whatever Yoongi’s about to say. “Can you two discuss height later and get the dinner table set please?”
Chastised enough, Yoongi moves to the kitchen and doesn't allow Jimin to help with setting the table, which basically means bringing out a few sets of chopsticks and glasses of water while Jin puts the finishing touches on the bowls of bibimbap.
Jimin, providing no help because he’s not allowed apparently, slips into one of the four chairs at the table and gingerly sips on his new cup of tea (Seokjin traded out his water for tea).
Seokjin and Yoongi carry in the bowls of bibimbap and they both marvel at how fast Jimin digs in with his chopsticks.
“Were you that hungry, Jimin-ah?” Seokjin muses with a smile, dabbling some gochujang over his, passing the sauce over to Yoongi who accepts it with a little grunt.
Jimin looks up from a mouthful of rice and nods, mouth slowing down in his chewing. Where are his manners? He must look like some wild animal who hasn’t eaten in a long time.
“I haven’t eaten since yesterday,” the panda mumbles after swallowing, and he accepts the gochujang from Yoongi. Seokjin smiles and nods and brings up the fact that there’s more food in case Jimin wants a second serving.
There’s not much to discuss at the dinner table until Jimin’s second serving and the elders have polished off their food. Jimin’s scooping more rice and meat into his mouth when Yoongi and Seokjin exchange a look.
Seokjin clears his throat to subtly grab Jimin’s attention. When Jimin looks up, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin, Seokjin is speaking. “So, Jimin-ah. . . Yoongi and I were talking earlier. While you were sleeping. And we. . . well. . .” he pauses and nudges Yoongi with his foot and a smile. “Want to tell him, jagi?”
Yoongi looks a little uncomfortable, poking at nothing in his bowl with the chopsticks between his fingers. “Well,” he begins, “I don't want you going back to the shelter. We don't want you going back to the shelter. There's more than enough space here and. . . and I thought that maybe you could stay here, with us. Until you saved up enough money for your own apartment if you wanted.”
Jimin’s eyes grow as wide as saucers and he drops his napkin back into his lap. Yoongi and Seokjin are looking at him with expectation, with warmth in their eyes, warmth that resonates home. They’re his home and have been for the past month and beyond, ever since the first day he stepped foot into the bakery.
“I-I. . .” Jimin coughs and blinks at both of the elders. “Are you sure? I mean, I don’t want to intrude—”
Seokjin cuts in. “You most certainly are not intruding. We’d actually prefer if you stayed here with us for awhile.”
The panda’s tail curls into his lap and he smiles, grinning ear to ear, and that smile alone is enough to make Seokjin —and even Yoongi— happy.
After a glass of chamomile tea, Jimin’s rendered sleepy and out for the count by the evening. They all sat down on the couch to watch a movie but when Jimin’s tail and ears started drooping, Seokjin stood up and grabbed extra pillows and blankets and brought them out for the panda. Yoongi didn’t want to get up from the couch but with some prodding from the other two, the disgruntled koala bid goodnight to Jimin and shuffled to the bedroom.
Seokjin, just like a caring mother, tucked Jimin in (despite Jimin’s protests of “ hyuuuunnngggg” ) after offering cold medicine. With all the lights turned off and the blankets tucked underneath his chin, sleep found Jimin in no time.
But, just when he’s about to enter the deepest part of his sleep cycle, a storm hits.
The storm stirs Jimin from the couch, the pounding rain striking the side of the apartment, thunder clapping overhead.
Jimin has bad memories of storms.
His owner, whenever they fought, would stick Jimin outside and leave him there for an hour or two until Jimin had learned his lesson. Like a dog, left outside in the rain. Those were the defining moments in his relationship that convinced him to leave. And so, the last time it happened, Jimin grabbed his things and left. Stole some money from his owner and took a bus to Seoul.
The thunder is what does it.
Jimin, ears flattened against his head, stands up and rubs his eyes. He doesn’t want to spend the night out here, not alone. Definitely not alone.
So, feeling his way down the hall, the panda slowly nudges open the bedroom door as quiet as possible and slips inside.
He can see two lumps on the bed, one much wider than the other, and he assumes it’s Yoongi because of his habit of curling up in a ball (Seokjin’s made fun of it before in conversation).
Jimin chews at his lower lip but there’s a large clap of thunder and he tiptoes over to the edge of the bed towards one of the lumps.
“Hyung.” he whispers, and he reaches out to prod at Yoongi’s shoulder. It doesn’t work so Jimin prods just a bit harder. “Hyung, Yoongi hyung. . . wake up. . .”
The lump moves, uncurling and the very top of Yoongi’s head appears from under the covers. His hair is everywhere, ruffled up and almost hiding his ears. “What, kid,” his voice is gravelly with sleep. “You okay?”
Jimin wrings his hands together. “It’s. . . the storm. I don’t want to sleep alone.”
“Huh. . .” Another clap of thunder booms outside and Jimin flinches. Yoongi opens up the blankets on his side, eyes already sliding shut again. “Well, come on, get in. Don't kick Jin.”
Jimin wonders how Seokjin can still be sleeping with the ruckus but he crawls into bed immediately, squeezing himself on the edge, Yoongi in the middle. He rolls over on his side, careful not to make too much noise again, and he spoons Yoongi when a particularly loud clap of thunder rattles the apartment.
He wraps an arm around Yoongi’s waist to pull him close, fluffy tail sliding under the sheets to curl around Yoongi’s hip. “Thanks, hyung. . .” Jimin mumbles, staring up at Yoongi’s ears poking out from underneath the blanket.
“Yoongi?” Seokjin’s voice is raspier than usual. “What's going on?” The bed shifts under his rolling weight, creaking softly.
“S’okay, jagiya. The kid is just scared.”
Jimin peeks over Yoongi’s shoulder at Seokjin. “M’sorry, hyung. Don’t like storms. Won’t happen again.”
“Ah,” Seokjin murmurs, and Jimin can hear the smile in his voice. “Do you want to sleep in the middle, Jimin-ah? It's okay.”
With some shifting, much to Yoongi’s dislike, Jimin does make his way into the middle where he’s squished between Yoongi and Seokjin and couldn’t feel more safe. Yoongi is the one who loops an arm around his waist and Jimin blinks at Seokjin who’s smiling at him and pulling the blankets higher.
“. . . I like this.”
Even when the storm continues, claps of thunder and streaks of lightning dotting the landscape outside the windows, Jimin relaxes. It's with Seokjin’s fingers carding through his hair rhythmically, the warm puffs of Yoongi’s breath on the back of his neck that lulls Jimin to sleep.
The storm is forgotten and all that remains in Jimin’s mind is Yoongi, Seokjin, and the place he now calls home.