Hoseok smacks Yoongi in the face with a wet rag. The cafe’s closing song, aptly titled Closing Time is crooning softly through the speakers. From the soapy droplets making their way down Yoongi’s face to the way that the cats are all scurrying around, enjoying their last few minutes of freedom before retiring for the night, it is shaping up to be a usual Friday night.
“He’s missing again,” Hoseok says.
Yoongi rubs the water off his face with his shirt-sleeve. “And what am I supposed to do about it?”
Hoseok smacks Yoongi with the rag, again. He makes a face that Yoongi has seen too many times. It’s the stop-being-an-idiot-and-help face. “You’re the cat whisperer around here. You go find him. I’ll finish cleaning up.”
When Yoongi started university, he never would have imagined himself working part-time at a cafe, let alone at a cat cafe. But working in a cat cafe does have its perks: Yoongi gets to hang around cats for the majority of the day, make coffee for himself whenever he’s feeling a little sleepy, and get paid to do it. Yet regardless of the perks, Yoongi’s favorite part of the day is the end.
When Yoongi was first hired, the manager gave him a long and stern warning about the black cat with the purple collar around her neck. Her name was Suga and she was known for ripping up any section of human skin that she could get her claws onto. Hoseok even has a scar running alongside the inner part of his left index finger from trying to pet her once.
The manager stressed that they should just let the cat do whatever she wants to do. She was an old hag of a cat, worn down by her time spent roughing it out on the streets before turning up on the back door of an animal shelter and subsequently at the cat cafe.
Yoongi adores her.
But she doesn’t adore anyone. She barely even gives Yoongi a glance, but he’s the only person that can get her out of her hiding places when it’s time to clean up and close. Other people have tried and tried and tried, but even the manager confessed that if Yoongi wasn’t hired at the time that he was, that they would have had to give her away. She wasn’t friendly with the customers and made cleaning a hellish journey for the workers. They want to give every cat a chance, but sometimes your hand is forced.
Yoongi has thought about adopting her. She’d probably be much happier with an apartment to herself and no one but Yoongi to bother her, but his apartment doesn’t allow for pets and Yoongi is already on his landlord’s not-so-good list (It’s a long story, involving his younger brothers and his friends and too many packages of Mentos and too many bottles of Diet Coke.), so pushing it by bringing in an illegal, grumpy cat is probably not the smartest thing to do.
There are a few places that she could be hiding. Yoongi checks them all and finds her wedged in between the wall and one of the climbing posts, snoozing and ignoring the world around her.
“Hey there, Suga,” Yoongi says, crouching down to the floor. Her eyes flash open at the noise, immediately narrowing down to watch Yoongi’s every moment. Yoongi slowly puts his hand out, letting her come to him. Her nose twitches and it takes a moment but with her, Yoongi has an abundance of patience and overtime pay.
“I still cannot believe she lets you touch her,” Hoseok says a minute later when Yoongi walks up to the register, holding the cat like she’s his newborn child, supporting the neck and all. Hoseok’s counting out the money from the cash register and frowning. “It’s not fair at all.”
Yoongi shrugs. “Cats just like me.”
Hoseok scoffs. “Put her down and help me finish cleaning, Mister Cat Whisperer.”
It’s a slow day and Yoongi has already made himself two expressos. Any more caffeine in his bloodstream and he’s sure he’s going to keel over from an overdose, his hands have already started to shake. He’s not sure what is turning people away from the shop today. Maybe it’s the rainy weather that’s been plaguing the city like a bad cough for the past week. But is there anything better than relaxing inside a cafe with cats while it thunders outside?
The only people in the shop are regulars. They come here often enough that while Yoongi might not know their names, he does know their faces and their drink orders. And that’s all he needs to know, really. The regulars stay in their lane, mostly typing away on their laptops or reading a book, a cat on their lap as they work. The cats know who they are, and the customers know the cats.
Yoongi feels his eyes threatening to slip closed, but he catches himself right as the door chime rings to indicate a new customer is walking through the door. The cafe’s on the second floor, so while the open door doesn’t bring any rain with it, the customer walking through does. Yoongi hates mopping, but he’s so bored today that he’s glad for any task handed his way.
“Um. Just entry for one, please,” the new customer says and Yoongi nods and rings him up on the register.
“So there’s a few rules,” Yoongi says, counting out the change and handing the coins back. “You can stay as long as you want. You’re free to pet the cats and play with them, but please don’t pick them up. And then there’s Suga with the purple collar. Just leave her be. She doesn’t like people very much.”
The customer nods his head in understanding, says his drink order, and then that’s that. Yoongi busies himself with making his drink– a cinnamon latte– and because he has so much time on his hands (and a pile of homework to do he left at home) he makes the latte design art as fancy as he can make it. He brings the drink to the customer’s table and then freezes.
The new customer, for worse or for worse, is smiling as Suga leans into his touch. As he pets Suga. As Suga is allowing herself to be pet. As if Yoongi didn’t have to come to work for weeks with goodies stuffed in his pocket for her to even acknowledge him.
“Here’s your drink,” Yoongi says, putting the drink on the counter and trying to make eye contact with Suga, that traitor.
“Thanks!” the new customer says, dimples in his cheeks as he smiles.
Suga purrs. Yoongi’s never felt betrayal hit him quite as hard as this.
Yoongi is in the back room, trying and failing to wash off whipped cream from a cat whose versions of good ideas are things like Jump Onto A Table Full Of Just-Made Drinks, when Hoseok saunters in.
“His name is Namjoon,” Hoseok says in lieu of a greeting. He has a smirk on his face, the mischievousness floating all the way up to his eyes. “The new customer. Your rival in kitty love.”
“Kitty love? Really? That’s the best thing you could come up with?” Yoongi gives up on washing the poor cat and turns off the water. He grabs a towel and only feels slightly sorry as he begins to pat the cat dry.
“Shush, as if you can think of anything better, Mister Cat guru. Be glad I told you his name.”
“Why did you think I even wanted to know his name?” It’s a bold-faced lie. The weeks have passed and everyone who works in this cafe (and even a few of the regulars. Yoongi swears that the cats gossip about him when his back is turned) know that Yoongi’s been dying to know his name. And they also know that Yoongi would never outright ask for it either.
“Namjoon,” Hoseok says again and he walks back into the main room before Yoongi can come up with a clever retort. The cat he’s trying to dry shrieks as Yoongi rubs a little bit too hard. He feels bad, he really does, and he spends the rest of the time trying to placate the wet kitty and none of the time thinking about how Namjoon is able to accomplish a feat that took Yoongi countless hours in just a handful of minutes.
Namjoon comes into the cafe again. Yoongi is hesitant to label him a regular, but the other regulars have started to recognize him, converse with him as if he were their friend and not a cat-stealing individual.
It makes Yoongi only slightly mad.
Suga is Namjoon’s favorite and Yoongi watches as Namjoon makes his way towards the table closest to Suga’s hiding spot. It’s a bit of a waltz, all the pizzaz and none of the grace, watching Namjoon try to coax Suga out.
This morning Suga was even grumpy with him, so Yoongi isn’t surprised when ten minutes pass and Suga stubbornly remains out of sight and out of the hands of Namjoon. There’s a coil of satisfaction that comes from Namjoon dropping his hands and giving up on his efforts. The other cats that are trying to monopolize his time take advantage of this lull, one jumping straight onto his lap, the other curling through his legs, another nuzzling his arm. Namjoon takes all of this attention in stride and turns his focus to the cats he already has.
“I’m going on a break,” Yoongi says and Hoseok raises an eyebrow at him but still passes him a Pocari Sweat when he asks for it.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Hoseok says and Yoongi laughs because Yoongi wouldn’t do half the stuff that Hoseok would do, both inside and outside of work.
Yoongi screws open the lid and sits two tables away from Namjoon, pointedly not making eye contact. He’s close to Suga’s preferred hiding spot but far enough away that she’ll have to make a full appearance to come near him. He has a small stache of catnip tucked away in his apron pocket on the off-chance that he’s going to need it, but he doubts he will.
“Hey, Suga,” Yoongi says, voice soft and calming. “What are you hiding for, girl?” He waits a beat, two, and then says it again, trying to make his voice as light as possible. Over their time together, he’s found that Suga responds the best to higher-pitched, even tones. She doesn’t do well with loud noises and brash ways of forming words. He calls out to her again and even though she was moody when he fed her this morning, she saunters out of her hiding spot just as Yoongi thought she would.
“Well, aren’t you beautiful today,” Yoongi says, extending his hand. Suga sniffs it tentatively, and when she deems Yoongi a reliable, friendly person she leans in his palm, purring.
“What a good girl,” Yoongi says, petting her soft fur and looking up to see Namjoon looking at him with wide eyes. Yoongi smiles, a warm feeling of satisfaction spreading through his body.
Suga lets out a loud purr and Yoongi decides that this day is his win.
“We’ve talked about this,” Yoongi says, taking away the food bowls as the last bits of the cat food are gobbled up. “Suga, you’re really betraying my trust every time you let him pet you.”
Suga lays on top of one of the cat towers, her tail swinging leisurely from side to side. Her eyes are narrowed and Yoongi feels judged.
“Stop staring at me like that, you know what I’m talking about!
“I’m not jealous!” Yoongi defends. “Okay. So maybe I’m a little bit jealous,” he concludes and he doesn’t say exactly who he’s jealous of because he still has his pride, dammit.
Suga keeps staring and Yoongi has a brief moment of realizing that he needs more friends if he voluntarily spends his mornings airing out his concerns to cats.
Yoongi spends a few more minutes talking to the cats, mainly to Suga as she is the only one that ever seems to be really listening to him. Yoongi opens the cafe without much fanfare. The first hour of work is usually the quietest, the majority of people not making their way to animal cafes until early in the afternoon.
By now, Yoongi isn’t surprised when Namjoon walks in, orders a drink, and immediately gets Suga to curl up on his lap.
Yoongi doesn’t know why — maybe the conversation with Suga drives him to it— but he watches Namjoon and Suga interact for a minute before making his way over to them.
“You’re special,” Yoongi says and then he realizes what he’s said and flushes. This is why he doesn’t talk to people. You can say stupid things to cats and have it be a-okay, but with humans it’s a different story. “I mean, Suga thinks you’re special.”
Namjoon laughs. “I’m special, huh? I guess you’re special too then. Suga likes you way more than she likes me. I’m pretty sure she just tolerates me.”
Yoongi scoffs. “Suga doesn’t do things because she tolerates people. She likes you.”
“She likes me?” Namjoon says, quirking and eyebrow.
“Yeah. Likes you.” Yoongi sits down on the seat across from Namjoon. “Don’t know why, though.”
“Because I’m special. You just said so.”
“I said Suga thinks you’re special.”
“Special enough to do something together after your shift today?”
Yoongi stares. This isn’t— This wasn’t—This is not where he was expecting the conversation to go. “Suga has to stay here,” Yoongi says. “But I get off at 3.”
Namjoon laughs again. Suga, Namjoon’s fingers still brushing through her fur, purrs.
Yoongi decides he’ll do something about the Sugar-problem later. Much later.