you're sweet like candy in my veins - rosesarepink (2024)

Sohee feels the buzzing of his phone from his back pocket more than he hears it, groaning into his pillow. His clothes are stuck to the sweat over his skin, uncomfortably so, and that's what convinces him to move his body. He was about to fall asleep before Sungchan even got here.

Resigned, he grabs his green Iphone 11 and turns it on, his lockscreen (a picture of him and Wonbin on the ferry) blinding him. He aggressively turns his brightness down before checking the notification.

Sungchanie
i'm here

Sohee sits on the edge of his bed, quickly writing back a curt 'on my way' just so that Sungchan knows he saw his text. He's honestly tired out of his mind, but he also doesn't feel like cancelling on his friends like that, so he sighs heavily and tries to flatten the mess that is his hair.

"Going out with Sungchan?" His mother addresses him as he walks past the living room, where she's watching a movie on the couch. She doesn't look at him, her eyes fixed on the TV hanging on the wall. She has a mug between her frail fingers, and she brings it up to her mouth to blow on whatever is inside it. It must be hot, Sohee thinks.

"Yeah, we're going to eat somewhere with the others." He hums as he puts on his old dirty red shoes. His grandma gave him those for his sixteenth birthday and he somehow got emotionally attached to them.

"Have fun! Tell Sungchan I said hi." Sohee hears his mom yell out and he answers with a dry will do before wearing his coat. Sohee's mother knows Sungchan's one through work, so naturally, Sungchan easily became her favorite friend of Sohee's. Sorry, Wonbin.

Sohee noticed the weather has gotten a little chilly in the past days, and he's not up for catching another cold yet, so he zips his coat up safely in a way he knows Chanyoung would definitely make fun of. He joins the cold air outside and makes sure that the door is closed before making his way to Sungchan's blue Honda Civic.

Sohee gets inside the car and smiles at Sungchan when he sees the other. He's grateful that Sungchan kind of became his taxi driver ever since he got his license months ago. His friend has always been the one to offer, though, so Sohee tries not to feel bad.

"You look so tired." Sungchan points out, the melody of Twenty One Pilots' Heathens becoming louder in the tight space as he slightly turns up the radio.

"Wow." Sohee buckles his seatbelt while Sungchan starts driving. "Hello to you too, my day was great and all."

Sungchan laughs. "Sorry, but really, I'm just kind of worried. I know you've been stressing like crazy about CalArts." At least Sungchan has the decency to look shameful, even if Sohee knows his eyebags could startle even a doctor.

Sohee sighs, looking out the window. Sungchan’s right, he has been losing sleep ever since he received a letter from California. Thing is, he doesn't want to go to some random university in Staten Island to waste his future there. He's passioned by art, mostly drawing and painting, but he knows his mother isn't particularly fond of it. She loves that Sohee is artistic, even supports most of his work, but she's been oral with her thoughts about Sohee leaving home to attend some artsy school.

Sohee knows the reason. Since his father left them, she has been terrified of abandonment, and that's what she considers Sohee would be doing by moving out for studies. Sohee feels horrible at the thought of leaving her alone, but he's also been dreaming about going to CalArts ever since he found out about the institute. Those are the reasons why he spends considerably more time staring at the One Direction poster on his ceiling than sleeping since he learned he was accepted at the university of his dreams.

It's useless, but he can't help it. The more he thinks about it, the more he gets headaches. Thinking about it actually makes him more confused about what his final decision is going to be, so he tries to change the topic rather abruptly. "My mom says hi."

He loves having a friend as caring as Sungchan, but hates that it’s so easy for the other to see right through him. Sohee gets insecure about how transparent he can be in his facial expressions and body language. People around him often know little, but so much about Sohee. Mainly because there isn't much to know about him. This is proven in the way Sungchan frowns at him when he notices the sudden need for Sohee to change the topic of the conversation. "Yeah? Tell her I say hi back."

Sungchan most likely notices the way Sohee stays tense afterwards, because he reaches a hand out to shake his shoulder softly and smiles. "You don't need to care about all that now. Let's go eat."

He's right. They're going out with their friends (eating at some cheap restaurant and talking about their regular lives until Shotaro gets carried away enough to mention Sung Hanbin or Eunseok decides that getting up on a table and singing a Girl's Generation song is a good idea) and that's what Sohee needs at the moment : leaving his quiet home for some time to join the decent chaos that his friend group is.

By join, Sohee mostly means that he's going to sit quietly, probably between Sungchan and Chanyoung, and laugh at whatever stupid topic Wonbin and Eunseok are arguing about. Just another friday.

They get to their destination after Sohee subconsciously goes into a spiral in his head for god knows how long and Sungchan has to tell him they arrived to wake Sohee up from his tormenting thoughts. Sohee, kind of embarrassed, gets out of the car in one breath.

"Ever been here?" Sungchan walks next to him to the restaurant, which seems decent. It has that fast food aspect but also looks like a legitimate restaurant where Sohee would probably go with his mother.

"Huh-huh." Sohee shakes his head as they enter the place. There aren't that many people, Sohee happily notices. Sungchan and him make their way to their friends' table.

Sohee later ends up sitting between Sungchan and Shotaro, facing Wonbin. Chanyoung and Eunseok are on his friend's sides, occasionally stealing some of his fries.

"I swear to god, if one of y'all put their hands even close to my food again I'm cutting a finger off." The edge of Wonbin's voice is agressive, ever so charming. Chanyoung giggles while Eunseok pulls a dramatic act of being scared. Sohee witnesses the scene before him with a sip of his strawberry milkshake.

"You won't even eat those." Shotaro points out, and Wonbin gives him a dirty look because he, like everyone else, knows Shotaro only decided to speak up to mess with him.

"So? I still paid for them."

"Exactly. You paid for something you won't even eat. You'd rather waste money and food than give it to me?" Eunseok reasons out, even if it's all bullsh*t because Eunseok only wants to annoy Wonbin. Works pretty good, in Sohee's opinion.

"I would rather eat cat food than give you anything, really." Wonbin smiles meanly and Shotaro gags. Sungchan grimaces next to Sohee.

"Nasty." Sungchan comments, before turning to Sohee's pity of a plate. He only ate half of his burger, which is unusual. All his friends know Sohee has an impressive appetite.

"Can I take that?" Sungchan asks, pointing to his meal. It isn't uncommon for them to share food, and Sohee is bloated with more anxiety than food, so he easily agrees. Sungchan takes the half and finishes it in three bites.

"Aw." Eunseok reacts to the interaction. "See, Wonbinnie , that's how a good, well-behaved citizen should act. Giving his rests to the peasants." Sungchan rolls his eyes at Eunseok insinuating that he's a peasant, used to his teasing. Chanyoung laughs.

"Glad that you know your place in this hierarchy as a peasant. You're rarely so accurate." Wonbin takes one of his fries and brings it to Eunseok's mouth. Eunseok slaps his hand away and Wonbin winces.

Their antics eventually come to an end when Eunseok's phone buzzes loudly on the table. Eunseok grabs it mindlessly, but the notification seems to be an important one because his eyes lock on the screen, eyebrows furrowed and thumbs moving.

"Don't tell me it's your stupid game again." Wonbin interferes and Eunseok responds with a simple "Shut up.", clearly more interested about whatever is going on in his phone.

Sohee's curiosity spikes at the word game . He doesn't believe that Eunseok can get that busy because of a notification from animal crossing or something.

"A game?" Sohee speaks up.

Shotaro turns to him. "Yeah. Nerve. A lot of people are playing it." Sohee feels Sungchan's body tense up next to him.

"It's bullsh*t." Wonbin adds. "They get all your infos and then give you dares to accomplish while promising you certain amounts of money. I'm waiting for them to hack Eunseok's bank account." Eunseok acknowledges him with a raise of his middle finger.

Sohee frowns. "Dares? Like truth or dare? "

"More like dare or dare." Shotaro corrects. "I play too. When you sign up, it gives you the choice to be either a watcher or a player. People who sign up as watchers give views to the players. There's a sort of home page with the most popular players on there, some of them have like, millions of views . Basically, you have to record your dares for it to count, and they're all posted on your account."

"Millions?" Sohee repeats, dumbfounded. That means millions of people know about this game and Sohee doesn't.

Chanyoung speaks up as well, "I signed up as a watcher. It's pretty entertaining watching those people do crazy stuff for money." Sohee can't believe that even Chanyoung knows about this game.

"You should sign up and become my watcher so I can beat Shotaro, Sohee-ah." Eunseok adds on, and Shotaro throws a fry at him.

"Do you know about this game?" Sohee turns to Sungchan, needing to know that he isn't the only oblivious one. That weirdly makes him feel left out.

"Yeah." Sungchan admits. "I signed up as a watcher out of curiosity, but I don't really like that game."

Sohee sighs and doesn't care if he sounds dramatic. "Am I the only one who's never heard of that game?"

"Yes, thanks to your innocence." Wonbin reaches out to pat Sohee's head, making the shorter one feel humiliated. "You're better off not knowing about that stuff." Sohee knows that isn't Wonbin's intention, but he makes him feel like he's a sensitive child who would throw a tantrum at any negative situations. Sohee's entourage has this weird habit of treating him as if he was delicate like glass, and it came to a point of annoyance sometimes. Right now is one of those times.

Shotaro almost lays on the table to speak to Eunseok. "Did you get a new dare?" Sohee finds himself being uncontrollably interested. Human curiosity, the weakest.

Eunseok only nods, focused on his phone. The table falls in silence, everyone's focus being on Eunseok's phone.

After a few seconds, Eunseok turns his screen back to them. "Play rock paper scissors with a stranger for $50." He recites what's written on the screen. Under the white glowing text, there's two boxes. A pink Reject and a green Accept.

Shotaro boos. "Boring."

"That's still a good fifty more than you in my pocket." Eunseok smirks and clicks on the green button. He hands the phone to Wonbin, asking (ordering) him to record him.

Sohee wordlessly watches as Eunseok makes his way to a group of girls sitting around another table, asking one of them to play rock papers scissors . Sohee can't help the secondhand embarrassment clenching down on his throat, having to fight the urge to look elsewhere. Weak, he ends up with one hand on his open mouth and the other hiding his left eye.

Eunseok, however, has never looked more relaxed as a girl stands up to play the game with him. She wins, and Eunseok thanks her before coming back to their table. His smile stinks of victory.

Eunseok thanks Wonbin as he hands his phone back to him, his smile never leaving his face. "How easy was that?"

So easy I almost puked only watching it happen, Sohee wants to say, but keeps to himself. He guesses he's the only one feeling embarrassed, even Sungchan has the corners of his lips poking up into a smile. Chanyoung moves his chair back to high-five Eunseok.

"Hehehe!" Eunseok exclaims and shows off his screen to them. It indicates that he has won fifty dollars.

"Is that actually going into your bank account?" Sohee asks, suspicious. Making money has never been that easy, it has to be a scam. Sohee remembers how he came home one day to his mother panicking because she had clicked on a link someone had sent her by text message. They called Sungchan and he took care of it, but Sohee stayed skeptical about those things.

"Duh." Is Eunseok's casual response, like that happens to him everyday. Well, it must, if he's been playing this game all along. Sohee still refuses to believe it.

"We're entering an era where people can earn money by humiliating themselves online." Chanyoung says matter-of-factly, crossing his arms.

"That was only fifty dollars." Sungchan adds, and Shotaro scolds him for speaking with his mouth full.

Sohee can't help but want to know more. "How much can you earn from those dares?" He considers 50 dollars a lot, especially if it's earned by simply playing a game of rock paper scissors with some stranger.

"Let's just say a lot more than fifty bucks." Shotaro answers, his face telling. He looks around the table before his eyes lock with Eunseok's.

"I've seen people doing dares for like ten thousand dollars." The youngest says, taking a sip of his cola. Sohee gapes at him.

"I'm sorry, what?" He must have misunderstood, because there is no way this underground game Sohee never heard of before gives people this much money. Chanyoung has to be lying.

Even Wonbin looks back at him, eyebrows pulled together in a frown. "Ten thousand dollars? You're trolling." He seems to have the same opinion as Sohee.

"No, I swear! You can look it up." Chanyoung assures.

Eunseok nods. "He isn't lying, but the dares they're asked to do are really dangerous. I don't think even I would do them." His tone is serious, hinting that he's not playing around.

"Yeah, it's crazy." Shotaro lets go of the hot-dog he's eating. "There's people stealing police guns, guys hanging from rooftops and more weird stuff. Kinda scary, to be honest."

Sungchan pops in, arms crossed on the table. "Yeah, a guy apparently died last year in Seattle because of a dare. He and his friends hung from one of those huge construction cranes like, 200 feet in the air. His hands slipped, you can guess what happened after."

Sohee gasps, the atmosphere around the table falling dark at the mention of something so serious. Chanyoung is eating quietly while Wonbin is listening carefully, eyebrows furrowed the slightest. Even Eunseok and Shotaro look uneasy.

"Last year? How come I've never heard of it?" Sohee doesn't believe something that big happened and it wasn't all over the news.

"Nobody really talked about it, I found out while doing some... browsing on the internet." The way Sungchan speaks while looking down at the table doesn't reassure Sohee. "The game and the people who play are good at hiding that stuff and most authorities don't believe that a game can kill people. There's not enough complaints, anyway."

That brings more questions from Sohee. "What kind of browsing are you doing on the internet?"

Sungchan shrugs the question off, eyes wandering everywhere but at Sohee. "You can find anything on there if you're searching for it. When I heard about Nerve, I couldn't help but search some stuff up. With a game like that, it's impossible to think that nothing tragic has ever happened."

"For someone who doesn't like this game, you sure act like you know a lot about it. It might not even be real." Eunseok reasons, unbelieving. "I really don't think it's that serious, it's just a game. It would be put down if someone died, and even then it's their fault for putting their lives at risk."

"That's what you think." Sungchan argues quickly. "But this game, it's brainwashing. You said you wouldn't do any dangerous dare, but once you decline one dare, you lose all the money you've accumulated over the past months with this game. Do you really think you'll be able to let go of it so easily? It makes you addicted to win more and more money until you fail."

The silence that follow Sungchan's argument is telling. Sohee is surprised that Eunseok doesn't find something to argue back with. He also has a hard time buying what Sungchan is saying because, someone dying, seriously? Sohee's also sure the game would've been banned and sued if it really happened.

"It's probably just a rumor to scare people." Shotaro breaks the silence and tries to shrug nonchalantly. "We're careful. We only play for fun."

No one dares to say anything. Sohee sits back, sensing the tension. He looks up at the clock on the wall and notices how late it’s gotten.

"Sure." Sungchan tries to lighten up the mood with an easy-going smile. "Just, stay careful out there guys."

⋆⋆⋆

Sohee frowns at Niall's face on his ceiling, feeling like his head is going to burst. As always, his brain is flooded with the thoughts of his mother, university, and only now something is new ; a weird and unsettling game. He has gotten more scared to hang out with his own thoughts lately.

"...like, seriously, I didn't believe someone could be this stupid— Are you even listening to me, Lee Sohee?"

Sohee blinks at Wonbin's voice coming from his phone's speaker. He feels the back of his neck becoming warmer. "Yeah."

He hears Wonbin sigh through the phone that's laying next to his face on his bed. They're on facetime, but Wonbin only has a view of Sohee's ceiling since the latter is too lazy to hold his phone. Sohee feels bad that his mind, once again, drifted away from what Wonbin was saying. If he remembers correctly, he was ranting about someone he works with. He's not so sure, though.

"Can you put your phone up against your pillow or something? I'm tired of seeing this damn poster. I'm just about to see Liam Payne's face in my dreams, and I don't want to have nightmares every single night."

Sohee puffs at the insult, bringing his phone up. "Hater." He huffs before placing his phone against his pillow.

"What's got your mind so busy?" Wonbin asks, and Sohee can see that he's genuinely concerned by the look on his face. His friends know that Sohee hasn't been feeling the best lately, so their suspicions are heightened every time Sohee has a weird behavior. Like he does now.

He decides to be honest. After all, amongst all their friends, except for Sungchan, Sohee always felt like he could talk about anything with Wonbin the most. And well, also Eunseok, when he wasn't all just jokes and sarcasm. "I don't know, it's weird. I can't stop thinking about that game."

It has barely been a day since their discussion at the restaurant, and for some reason, that game has rented a place in Sohee's brain. He can't even begin to understand why it's been on his mind all day.

Wonbin looks surprised. "Nerve? Is it because of what Sungchan said? Don't worry about it. Like Taro said, it's probably a rumor."

"No, not that." Sohee shakes his head, frustrated. "I don't know. I kinda want to... I don't know."

"You kinda want to what? Sign up?" Of course, Wonbin hits right on the nail.

Even though Sohee isn't sure that's what he really wants, he feels like he needs to do something . "I don't know." He repeats for the third time. "Yeah, I could sign up."

"You don't have to install this game just to support Eunseok and Shotaro, Sohee-ah . I'm pretty sure Eunseok was kidding."

Sohee frowns at Wonbin's assumption that Sohee would sign up for his friends and not for himself. "What? No, it has nothing to do with that. I could also sign up as a player."

"What?" Wonbin's reaction is immediate, and he sounds like Sohee just told him something crazy. Sohee has to hide his annoyance. " You wanna sign up as a player?"

Sohee rolls his eyes to avoid the pain his friend's words bring to him. "Why could I not? Eunseok and Shotaro did."

Sohee can tell that Wonbin is trying to school his facial expression. "Eunseok and Shotaro are idiots. And they've done things like this before. You've never..."

"I've never what?" Sohee interrupts him, fed up. "Gone out of my way to do something I want? Done something that was remotely not boring?"

"That's not what I meant, Sohee. I'm just worried for you." Wonbin’s tone flattens.

Worried . Everyone's always worried about him. Like Sohee can't make his own decisions. He's not made of porcelain, damn it.

"My mom's calling for me." Sohee blatantly lies. He feels like he's throwing a tantrum but he can't help that he's frustrated. He's tired of always being underestimated, of always being told what he should and should not do. "I need to go."

"Sohee, I'm sorry." Wonbin says, but Sohee barely hears him. "Text me later?"

"Yeah." Sohee answers knowing he has no intention of doing so before ending the call. In the back of his mind, he knows he's being kind of dramatic. He knows Wonbin meant no wrong, he never does. But there's an itch that he needs to take care of and it seems like there's only one solution right now.

Sohee gets his laptop and turns it on, feeling like he's on a mission. He sits up against his headboard, putting his pillow against his back for comfort. He searches up Nerve on Google and clicks on the first link that comes up.

On the screen, it's plain black before text appears. In big, Nerve is written in white. Then, there's two boxes. Watcher or Player . Green or pink.

Sohee feels anxiety mixed with excitement swimming down his chest. He's really doing this. Knowing that he's about to do something that will finally get him out of his box feels fresh and stressful. That's why he's doing this, to face his fears.

Sohee has lived his entire life making decisions that concerned himself for others. When he was twelve, his father left him and his mother. Sohee stopped going to school for a month to be with his mother and support her. He never told her about how much he struggled to keep up afterwards and how he almost failed his classes. At fifteen, he wanted to work at the same diner Sungchan worked at, but his mother thought it was too far and dangerous in the city, so Sohee accepted to work at the convenience store down the street instead. Nobody knows Sohee had a crush on Sung Hanbin before Shotaro did, because he stopped entertaining the idea when he learned about Shotaro's feelings and decided that Shotaro probably had more chances than him anyway.

And now, Sohee received an acceptance letter for his dream school, but he's considering not going because he knows his mother wouldn't take it well.

He needs to do something for himself, for once.

He isn't sure why, but even just the thought of clicking on the tormenting bright pink player button feels like a life changing decision. So he drags the mouse to the side where pink shines the brightest.

He flinches as a robotic voice speaks up, plenty of different images appearing on his screen.

"Hello, welcome to Nerve. You have chosen player. Nerve is a direct democracy, watchers decide your dares. The two players with the most watchers by the end of regulation will advance to the final round where the winner takes all. Watchers can watch from anywhere but are encouraged to film live, so don't be alarmed. There are three rules : One, all dares must be filmed on the Player's phone. Two, there are only two ways to be eliminated : fail or bail. Three, snitches get stitches. Thank you for keeping Nerve a secret. Good luck, player."

The whole thing is kind of disturbing, he has to admit. A bunch of meme videos are playing in the background, and Sohee doubts his decision for half a second before coming back to his senses. Playing one dare won't hurt him.

After the introduction video ends, the screen loads. Sohee is surprised when his phone screen lights up. Like on his laptop, it's plain black except for a yellow box with ENTER ID and a fingerprint below it. Sohee places his index finger on the fingerprint. On his laptop, text appears.

Are you ready for your first dare?

⋆⋆⋆

"Wait, where?" Sohee has to distance his ear from the phone because of Sungchan's screeching, running down the stairs with his hoodie in hand.

"Colonnade Diner, we have fifteen minutes. That's where my first dare is."

"Wait wait wait." Sohee opens the door and sees Sungchan laying on his car. He hangs up. "Dare as in Nerve dare? You signed up as a player ?"

Sohee huffs as he gets into the car, putting on his grey hoodie. The sun is still shining outside which makes it warmer than yesterday. "Is it that hard to believe?"

Sungchan sits down as well, shutting the car door. He looks blankly at Sohee before mimicking an explosion around his head. Well, at least that gets a giggle out of him. They both buckle up before Sungchan starts driving.

"Why did you sign up? You usually stay away from those things." Sungchan wonders, eyes on the road.

Sohee tries to not get offended like he did with Wonbin. "That's exactly why I signed up. I need to do something different for once, get out there, even if it's only signing up on some stupid game."

Sungchan frowns. "If this is about your mom and Cal—"

"This has nothing to do with my mom." Sohee interrupts him, sighing. "What if I just wanna have fun like the rest of you guys?"

Sungchan stops at a red light. "Did you forget about what I said yesterday? A guy died, Sohee."

Sohee makes a face. "I don't believe that, honestly. Eunseok said it, the game would've been put down if anyone died."

"Is not as simple as you guys think." Sungchan argues, the light turning green. "It's not like there's a single server."

Sohee rolls his eyes at Sungchan's nerdiness. "I don't even know what that means."

"Everybody that logs into the game becomes a new server." Sungchan explains. "For the game to be shut down, every single person who signed up would need to delete their account. That's basically impossible."

Sohee looks at him. "You could be pulling that out of your ass, for all I know."

Sungchan smiles. "What you see on the internet, it's only ten percent of what's on there, you know? When you dig deeper, that's where you find the real stuff."

Sohee snorts at whatever that's supposed to mean. "Okay, Mr. Hacker . We don't all spend our saturday nights on the dark web." He says, knowing well whatever he does during his saturday nights isn’t any more entertaining.

" Ha-ha. " Sungchan lets out dryly. "I don't understand why you're doing this, honestly. It's not worth the risk. We can go have fun somewhere if you want, we don't need that game."

Sungchan doesn't understand, which doesn't surprise Sohee anymore. He looks out the window. "I'll only do one dare, Sungchan. It's not dangerous." He can't see but he knows that Sungchan is looking at him because of the prolonged silence.

"Alright." is Sungchan's only response. They don't speak again until their arrival at Colonnade Diner.

Sohee feels a little like throwing up when they enter the place. He's really doing this, there's no backing down now. Even if he's kind of sulking at Sungchan right now, he's thankful that he's there with him. He holds onto the hem of his hoodie for dear life, looking around. It's a nicely lit diner, and there's some people sitting in the booths.

"What's your dare?" Sungchan pipes up behind him and Sohee looks back at him. They stand there and Sohee takes his phone out, looking at the loading screen. He chews on his bottom lip nervously.

He almost gets an heart attack when something finally pops up. Kiss a stranger. There's a countdown of five minutes and a price of $100.

"Kiss a stranger?" Sohee cries out, staring at the screen like the dare will magically change itself into something else. He more than kind of feels like throwing up now.

"Sohee, I will give you a hundred dollars right now." Sungchan says, baffled by the dare. Sohee turns around and keeps walking.

"Are you seriously about to kiss a stranger?" Sungchan whisper-shouts as he follows behind him. Sohee looks around. He makes eye contact with an old man sitting in a booth who smiles at him. Deargod.

"It didn't specifically say where to kiss them. It could be a peck on the cheek." Sohee reasons out, for himself or for Sungchan, he doesn't know. He gulps his anxiety down. He's not going to bail out now. If he finds someone who looks clean, it shouldn't be too bad.

"Still." Sungchan says. They navigate through the different people sitting and standing around them. They walk past a man burping. Sohee kind of wants to cry.

He doesn't want to kiss anybody here, mainly because Sohee has never kissed anyone, even on the cheek (except for his mother). He can't believe that's how his first peck is going to happen. His phone lights up and there's an HURRY UP on the screen. Sohee notices a view counter in the upper right corner. There's already twenty people watching.

Oh my god. It feels real now.

"I need to hurry." He informs Sungchan who's following closely.

As they turn into another service area with different booths, Sungchan points at someone. "Just kiss that guy."

That guy looks like one of those big truck drivers and he's drinking beer. Sohee looks at the almost empty pitcher next to his glass. He certainly doesn't look clean, but Sohee is stubborn, so, "Okay, I'll kiss that guy." He says with forced enthusiasm, looking up at Sungchan with big eyes.

"Yeah, that's what I said." Sungchan sends back. Sohee takes a deep breath, eyes closed and all, and stretches his neck.

"I'm gonna do it."

"You're gonna do it." Sungchan echoes, clearly mocking him. Sohee throws a mean look his way before looking at the trucker. A cold shiver runs down his spine. He can't do it.

The trucker gets up from his booth and Sohee discovers, behind him, another guy. He's reading, the book covering his face. Sohee recognizes it,The Little Prince.It’s the same book his father gave him for his eleventh birthday, he briefly notices.

"What about that guy." Sohee signals at the guy with the dark hair and the bomber jacket. "He reads."

The trucker walks past them. Sungchan reacts exaggeratedly. "Wow, he reads. Better make your choice before time's up."

Sohee can hear the clock ticking in his head. He takes another deep breath and clears his throat, giving his phone to Sungchan. "I'm kissing that guy. Record me, don't miss it."

"What is this, mission impossible?" Sohee doesn't laugh at Sungchan's joke, feeling his heartbeat in his ears.

"I can do this." He mumbles to himself. He flattens his hoodie and starts walking slowly to the guy, man , sitting two booths away from him.

From what he can see, Sohee thinks he's probably around his age. He takes the time to observe his attire as a way of delaying his sentence : chunky boots, a plain pair of jeans and awhite t-shirt under a biker jacket. There's also asilver chain around his neck, and Sohee can see the black hair that's put up on the man's head.

The closer he gets, the louder his heartbeat is. He looks back at Sungchan, who's sitting in another booth across from him, with Sohee's phone in hand. He signals for Sohee to go on.

As long as he doesn't throw up on the guy, it can't be that bad. Sohee bites the inside of his mouth and takes three more steps before standing next to the booth where the other man is. He must sense his presence, because he looks away from the book to look a Sohee.

Sohee isn't ready for pretty, cat-like eyes staring back at him and a bone structure men would go to war for. Now that he can see his face, he notices black and sharp, triangular-like earrings on each of his earlobes.

In a second of weakness, he forgets where he is and what he's supposed to do. It isn’t long before he knocks some sense into himself, though.

Say something smart. "The Little Prince. That's my favorite book."

The guy's eyes travel up and down Sohee's figure. Sohee has never wanted to disappear more than in this moment.

"Is it?" When he speaks up, his voice is low, lower than Sohee expected it to be. It's pleasing to the ear. "Do you have a favorite character? I like the fox, personally."

Sohee didn't expect the guy to strike a conversation. He gains confidence with the help of his friendly tone and what seems like nonjudgemental eyes.

"I... I like the rose.” The guy nods but doesn’t say anything. He’s waiting for Sohee to continue.

Sohee clears his throat. “Um,she's kind of the reason the little prince went on his adventures at all, and she embodies the message that love comes from investing in other people. She's seen as vain and naive, but— well , the prince still loves her because of the time he has spent watering and caring for her— sorry, i'm totally nerding out on you here." He laughs nervously, embarrassed that he just went on a tangent about a child's book in front of a (beautiful) stranger.

The stranger, however, shakes his head with a teasing smile. "No, don't worry about it. I asked."

Sohee remembers why he's here in the first place and looks back at Sungchan, who's mouthing at him to do it, his eyes focused on the phone. Sohee cringes internally at what he's about to do before facing the stranger again.

The guy is looking up at him patiently and Sohee doesn't know what to do. Should he ask? That's weird. Should he just go for it? Even weirder.

"Um." His voice shakes and he cringes at himself for it. "Can I ask you a favor?"

The guy’s eyebrows lift in brief surprise before he nods slightly. "Sure. What can I help you with?" He puts the book on the table, giving him his whole attention. Sohee might explode.

Oh god, he doesn't know how to ask. He doesn't want to ask. With that in mind, he panics and bends down quickly to give a dry, fast peck on the stranger's cheek.

As soon as he acts, regret chokes him up and he jumps off the booth, looking wildly at the guy like he was the one to kiss him. To his surprise, the stranger looks barely shaken. His eyes are slightly bigger, but he doesn't look outraged like Sohee assumed he would.

Still, Sohee can't bear the humiliation of being in front of him for any longer, so he mumbles a quiet ‘I'm sorry’ he isn't even sure is audible and runs to where Sungchan is, hiding himself in the booth. Sungchan is never going to let him live this down.

"Oh my god I can't believe I just did that." Sohee cries, hiding his face in the palms of his hands. He feels the tears coming up.

Perfect at making him feel better, Sungchan echoes, "I can't believe you just did that. Why am I embarrassed for you?" He hides as well, half of his body under the table. With all his height, he can’t hide much, and the sight would be comical if Sohee wasn’t so close to crying.

"Please tell me you got it." He says, figuring at his phone Sungchan is currently fidgeting with.

"I got like, enough to make a f*cking Netflix original, sh*t." Sungchan throws the phone on the table and Sohee groans.

Scared that the stranger followed him, Sohee takes a peek outside of the booth, behind him. He isn't there anymore. "Where'd he go?"

Sungchan moves his head up, trying to see. "No idea, let's get out of here."

Sohee's phone starts making weird, money-like noises, as if he just won the lottery. He grabs it in a fast movement, his hands shaking. "Lee Sohee, a hundred dollars has been wired to your account." he looks up at Sungchan, gaping. "Should I check?"

"You should totally check." Sungchan answers sarcastically and Sohee kicks at him under the table. He's about to go look in his and his mother's shared bank account before he gets distracted by something on the other side of their booth.

There's a guy singing the song that's playing through the diner’s speakers, You Got It by Roy Orbison, as he's dance-walking through the clients. It's the guy.

"What is he doing?" Sohee asks, bewildered.

Sungchan looks as confused as him. "No idea."

Sohee looks as discreetly as he can, hiding his mouth with his hands. The guy is doing the most, hands touching shoulders and heads as he steps from one table to another, doing twirls. Everybody seems to enjoy it, though, looking at him with bright smiles. Some are even singing with him. Sohee can't really tell if they're laughing at him or at his antics.

"Oh my god, he's coming over here." Sohee states, terrified. Sungchan looks as unpleased as he is, but they both can't go lower under the table without looking like absolute idiots, so they sit back properly. The guy is now in the same area as they are, unashamedly walking on the tables.

When Sohee looks back, the guy is looking at him.

He turns back to Sungchan. "Don't tell me he's singing for me right now."

Sungchan shakes his head an points around, trying to make himself small in the booth. "No, it's a dare." He mumbles, and when Sohee looks at the people around them, they're all holding up their phones in his direction, clearly recording. It all starts to make sense.

"Anything you need, you got it. Anything at all, you got it." The stranger is singing while looking down at Sohee as he jumps from tables to tables before reaching the one across from Sohee and Sungchan's booth. He jumps off the table in a spectacular way that makes Sohee laugh out of both amusem*nt and embarrassment.

"Babyyy, you got it."

As everyone starts clapping, Sohee does the same as courtesy. Sungchan only claps out of embarrassment, he can tell by the way he side-eyes the stranger. A girl comes up to him and gives his phone back with a congratulation. He thanks her before looking back at Sohee.

"Wow." is all Sohee can say, cheeks turning crimson at the attention he’s given. Everyone around them goes back to their previous occupations, which Sohee appreciates. The stranger looks like he doesn't care either way. "Congratulations for winning your dare." He adds, because he doesn't know what to say.

The guy smiles and tilts his head at him. "Same goes to you."

Sohee has to force himself not to hide further under the table. "I'm so sorry. I should've asked, but I panicked and—"

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it." The stranger interrupts him and practically sits on Sungchan as he installs himself across from Sohee. "I didn't know— I'm sorry," He adresses Sungchan who has to move and quietly say ‘I was sitting here.’ before he goes back to what he was saying. "I didn't know that was coming, someone told me to sit there and gave me this book. They told me to wait and act like I was reading it."

Sohee huffs, confused. "Yeah, my favorite book. The Little Prince ."

"Yeah, cause it's on your instagram." Sungchan pipes up. "They've got all the information about you, Sohee."

Now that he thinks about it, it's concerning. Sohee tries to ignore yet another shiver.

The stranger chimes in, eyes all on Sohee. "Sohee?"

"Um, yeah." Sohee nods, assuming he wants to know about his name.

The stranger nods, contemplating. "Cute. That's korean, right?"

Sohee decides to skip over the fact that this man called his government name cute and nods shyly. "Huh, yeah. I moved here when I was like, two, so I'm basically american."

The stranger hums and Sohee doesn't know what to do with the attention. He doesn't like the way the guy's eyes roam over his features, like he's trying to learn them by heart. Sohee has never felt learned . It's weird.

Eventually, the guy's phone buzzes, and Sohee can guess what it is. He smiles and gets up from the booth, running a hand through his hair. "Well, I'd like to stay here and talk all night, but I've got a game to play. Good night to you... guys." He glances at Sungchan and smiles again at Sohee.

Sohee's phone buzzes at the same time the stranger opens his. He reads the text on the screen. Go to the city with him. The price is $200 and there's already a hundred views. Holy crap.

They both look at each other at the same time, speechless. Sungchan frowns at them before taking Sohee's phone in his hands.

"Seems like the watchers like seeing us together, huh?" The stranger leans on the booth, relaxed. Sohee doesn't know what to say, looking at Sungchan for help.

Sungchan immediately tries to reason him out. "You can't even go to the city, right?"

He's right. Sohee's mother would kill him if she knew he went to the city, especially with a guy he just met. "Yeah, I can't go to the city. I wasn't really playing anyway, just doing one dare." Sohee shrugs and looks up at the stranger. He looks puzzled.

"Are you sure? I mean, it's two hundred bucks." He says, gaze fixed on Sohee. It’s starting to be unsettling.

"Yeah, he's sure." Sungchan answers for Sohee, glaring at the stranger. They both look at each other for a second and Sohee starts to feel uncomfortable. He’s never been good with tension.

"Do you always let him talk for you?" The guy glances back at him while throwing his finger in Sungchan's direction.

Sohee sputters. "N-No. I don't." He throws a dirty look at his friend. Sungchan only shakes his head at him.

The stranger looks between the both of them before sighing. "Well, if you change your mind, I'll be outside. Nice meeting you, Sohee . " He winks before turning his back to Sohee, walking away. Once again, Sohee is speechless. He hopes Sungchan can't see the red that's probably spreading all over his face right now.

Finally by themselves, Sungchan lets out a nervous laugh. "That guy is something." Sohee puts his hand on his forehead and looks back at Sungchan, no hint of a smile on his face.

A beat of silence. "No." Sungchan says.

Sohee wants to explode. "I mean, two hundred bucks, right?"

Sungchan stares at him like he expects Sohee break into a laugh and say that he's joking. "If you really need two hundred bucks, I will give you two hundred bucks, okay? You said one dare."

Sohee looks a Sungchan for five seconds before smiling apologetically, standing up. "I'm sorry."

"Are you serious? You're leaving me here?" Sungchan whines as Sohee walks past him. Sohee has half the heart to feel bad and shouts back a "I'm sorry, I'll text you!" before heading outside.


⋆⋆⋆

Sohee feels his nails nearing to cut skin into his palms because of how hard he's tightening his fists behind his back, anxiety running over him like a truck. However, excitement and curiosity for what's to come makes it easier to breathe. It's nothing like him to follow a stranger like that. That's part of why it's so exhilarating.

It's night time now, the sun sleeping under the blanket that is the horizon. Blue neon lights are enlightening the parking. He spots the stranger sitting on his bike with a helmet in hand, like he knew Sohee was coming and was waiting for him. Confidence is not something this guy lacks of, Sohee thinks.

When he reaches closer and stops walking, the guy smiles. "Long time no see."

Sohee is slowly getting used to the other's witty comments, and so he scoffs. His lips curl into a nervous smile and he fidgets with his own hands, balancing himself back and forth on his heels.

"I'm gonna be honest, I don't usually do things like this. I might not be the best partner." He knows that, whatever expectations this guy might have, he won't reach them. He's seen how carelessly he was accomplishing his dare, like it was nothing to him. Sohee isn't confident like that.

The stranger's smile doesn't budge. "Yet, for some reason, the watchers matched us up. Don't overthink it, it's only a ride. I won't make you drive." He tilts his head to the right, looking at Sohee with one corner of his lips turned up. Sohee briefly thinks his eyes look soft and wonders if they always do.

He wants to roll his eyes but doesn't, because, well. He doesn't think they're close like that yet . He clears his throat, trying to assert some sort of authority, but his pupils shake and he's sure it's noticeable even under the dark lights. "I don't know your name."

"Seunghan." The stranger— Seunghan , immediately replies. Sohee is glad he can finally associate his face to a name.

He stays silent in deep thoughts, only the wind and the disrupting laughter of drunk teenagers nearby being audible. "Well, Seunghan , If I feel uncomfortable, I'm out."

Seunghan nods. "Of course."

Slowly, Sohee walks up to him and grabs the helmet he's offering, their hands brushing in the process. He avoids Seunghan’s gaze and climbs up being him carefully. He puts the helmet on as Seunghan places his phone in a holder with the dare ready, the countdown of fifteen minutes only waiting to be started.

"First ride, pretty boy?" Seunghan asks as he puts on his helmet and starts the engine. Sohee doesn't think he can get redder at this point.

He nods but realizes the other can't see him. "Yeah."

"I'd suggest holding tight, then." Seunghan presses on the pink Accept button under the countdown on his phone before it stars going down. Sohee barely has time to tighten his arms around Seunghan's waist before they start moving.

They exit the parking as the engine roars and Sohee doesn't have a choice but to put his chest flat against Seunghan's back, their thighs touching and Sohee's hands holding Seunghan's shirt over his stomach. Unsurprisingly, for someone like him with little to no experience, the intimacy of their position makes his heart flutter. He feels stupid for letting his body react so vividly and he decides to ignore the feeling, letting himself be distracted by the view surrounding them.

He's never been on a motorcycle before, and it feels great. He feels his body being hit by fresh, cutting wind even if his frame is protected by Seunghan's. It's weird, but undoubtly nice. He turns his head to let his eyes wander on the pedestrians and the other vehicles around them. The lights that disrupt the darkness of the night shine on the streets. He finds a strange sense of comfort in it.

Seunghan suddenly speeds up and Sohee, taken by surprise, holds tighter. He can feel the warmth of Seunghan's body because of how close they are.

By the time they get to the Manhattan bridge, Sohee is more comfortable on the bike. The tension filling his body eventually left him and his nerves loosened. He smiles to himself as he's fully capable of enjoying the sight before him now. There are cars all around in a stream of traffic, but not enough for them to be slowed down. When Sohee looks to his left, he's met with a view that renders him speechless. From the bridge, he can see the city lit by the skyscrapers that lighten the sky. There's different tones of blues and purples leaving traces from the windows and it's shining brightly even from where they are. Sohee doesn't remember the last time he saw something so beautiful.

He wants to giggle at the feeling that's bubbling up in the middle of his chest, but he gets rid of it by shaking his shoulders. He bites his lip to hide the smile that he can't seem to control, and, in a bold movement, decides to rest his head on Seunghan's shoulder. He knows he might be putting way too much trust in someone he doesn't know at all, but he feels safe in the back of Seunghan's motorcycle.He's never felt this free, and he can barely process it because of the overwhelming reality of the situation.

They get past the bridge and into the city, and Sohee stares, bewildered at everything he sees. He doesn't expect it when Seunghan adresses him.

"Hey, you should try screaming." He shouts under his helmet, turning his head slightly.

Sohee laughs when he responds. "What? No."

Seunghan doesn't take it for an answer. "Come on, let it out." He says, and then screams like people do at an amusem*nt park. Sohee chuckles at the absurdity of it all.

He still follows, deciding that it doesn't matter if what he does is embarrassing, because he's currently living the most fun moment of his life. He lets out a shout that needed to be released, all his excitement previously stuck in his throat. He can tell that Seunghan is amused by the way he says, "Yeah, that's it." Sohee can't find it in himself to be embarrassed.

They eventually get deeper into the city and Seunghan parks his bike in front of Bergdorf Goodman. He turns the engine off and gets rid of his helmet. Sohee follows. "We're here. It'll be fifty dollars, sir."

They both get off the motorcycle and Sohee huffs, sensing the humor. "I'm not sure your driving is worth fifty dollars, sir." He teases back, landing him the helmet. He can still feel the adrenaline running through his veins. In a way, it gives him the courage to play into these little games.

Seunghan squints at him, taking the bait. "What do you mean? Don't you know I played in Fast and Furious?"

Sohee snorts. “Wow. Vin Diesel, but with hair?”

Seunghan clicks his tongue. "I’m even better than Vin Diesel." He claps back, and that's the end of their meaningless but amusing conversation. Sohee doesn't mind, it makes him feel at ease.

Sohee can only laugh as he takes out his phone, throwing a look at the expensive-looking store. "Am I supposed to come in with you?"

Seunghan grabs his own phone and frowns at it. "It doesn't say anything about that, so I guess not." He puts it in his pocket and eyes Sohee carefully. "Will you be okay?"

Sohee pauses for a second, hesitating. He didn't think about how he'd go back home, but he'll manage. "Huh, yeah. It's getting late, so I'll make my way back home."

Seunghan looks unsure, gaze going from the store to Sohee. "Are you sure? I can call you a cab."

Sohee appreciates the effort but he's too shy to accept the offer. "Oh no, don't worry. I'll be fine." He smiles and Seunghan smiles back. Sohee feels his heart doing a backflip inside of his ribcage.

"Okay, well. This was fun, but I need to go." He says apologetically, gesturing towards his phone. Sohee nods and watches wordlessly as Seunghan sends a last look at him before walking to the store. Sohee frowns at the wave of disappointment swimming in his body. Well, fun's over, and now he has to find a way to go back home.

He sighs and looks around, eyes catching everything they can in oblivious curiosity. Reality hits him rather violently, and a knot creates itself in his throat. He feels stupid for relishing such a short moment of happiness.

Before he can even take a step, Sohee's phone buzzes. It's a new dare.

His disappointment turns into confusion and adrenaline makes its way back into his veins. On the black screen there's a Try on this suit, with a price of $500. There's also a picture of an outfit and Sohee guesses this is what he's supposed to wear ; a silk suit in the shade of a deep purple. The cropped blazer is left open to let view to a black lace shirt.

Sohee sighs once again and looks at the store. He's here, so he might as well do it. It is five hundred dollars, after all.

He starts with slow, unsure steps towards the big store namedBergdorf Goodman before full on jogging, hopeful that he will somehow run into Seunghan. Because of his mother's overprotectiveness, Sohee isn't used to being alone in such public and crowded spaces, which causes him to be overly nervous. Seeing a somewhat familiar face would soften Sohee's nerves, even if he's pretty sure he can't exactly call Seunghan's face familiar . They've known each other's existence for barely an hour, but Seunghan was never anything but kind to Sohee up until this point, he even made sure that Sohee would get home safely. Or maybe Sohee is too innocent for his own good.

As he enters the store, it's obvious that he doesn't belong there. He probably looks like he's lost his way and found himself here, in the middle of designer clothes and bitchy gossips. He can tell that's the way it is when a middle aged couple walk past him and stare at him for a beat too long for it to be harmless. Sohee can't blame them, he imagines he looks out of place in his vintage jeans and hoodie.

His eyes roam over the inside of thishuge store before he finds the receptionist. It's a tall man wearing a classy suit and a pair of glasses. He's giving someone a bag. The clothes they bought, Sohee presumes.

Like on a mission, Sohee makes his way to the man with faux confidence. Fake it 'til you make it, right?

It's already a low blow when the receptionist's polite smile falls off his face as he meets Sohee.

"Hi, how can I help you?" The man wears his smile back carefully, eyeing Sohee up and down, undoubtely judging his outfit.

Sohee clears his throat. "Hi! Can you tell me where I can find this?" He says, and then shows the picture of the outfit he's supposed to wear as a dare on his phone.

The man's smile doesn't falter, but the way he blinks is unsettling. "Your mother is calling."

Confused, Sohee frowns and takes his phone back to look at the screen. The man is right, he is indeed getting a call from his mother.

He briefly thinks about hanging up on her but knows that it will bring him more trouble than not, so he excuses himself and steps away, bringing the phone to his ear.

His voice breaks when he speaks. "Mom?"

"Sohee!" Sohee panics for a second, thinks that Sungchan called his mother to tell her everything and that's he's going to get the scolding of his life, but he knows Sungchan would never snitch on him like that. "Why did we get a hundred dollars out of the blue?"

Sohee breathes out, relieved. He should've expected that his mother would notice a random hundred dollars added to their bank account. He tries to come up with an excuse that makes sense, noticing that people are looking at him weirdly. "Oh, that. It's just Eunseok, he owed me money because of that time we went bowling."

His mother stays suspicious. "A hundred dollars over bowling, Sohee?" He doesn't miss the disappointment in her tone. "You shouldn't spend so much money on things like that."

Sohee huffs, knowing that he needs to end the call as soon as possible. "Technically, it's Eunseok's money, mom. I gotta go, Sungchan's waiting for me."

A lady asks him to move out the way, and Sohee startles, stepping back. She doesn't give him another glance. "When are you coming back, Sohee? It's getting late." He hears his mother say through the phone.

"I don't know, might sleep at Sungchan's." He answers, praying that she accepts it and lets him hang up. He can't stay here, with all these people judging him. He has a dare to do.

"Okay, sweetheart. Tell Sungchan I said hi!" She says, and Sohee wants to cry out of relief. He tells her that he will and hangs up, the picture of the outfit reappearing.

He walks back to the receptionist and shows him again. "Sorry, this is what I was looking for."

The man's face stays unnaturally still, and his eyes move up to look into Sohee's. "Third floor."

Sohee mutters a quick thanks before walking to the elevator, face on fire. He notices the countdown has already started, wondering if he'd done it by accident. There's only ten minutes left.

When he arrives on the third floor, he immediately starts looking for the outfit. The other people there must see that he's in a rush, looking at him like he's an alien. Sohee doesn't care, his brain set on one goal : finding the outfit on the picture.

It's somewhat entertaining, like a game. Sohee doesn't understand how something so ridiculous can be so fun, but he understands Eunseok and Shotaro now.

He finally finds it, and he double (triple) checks to make sure it's the right one. The fabric looks even more expensive in real life, and Sohee feels a pang of anxiety at the thought of touching, wearing something that's worth so much. He has half the mind to check the pricetag on the back of the mannequin.

He swears he almost jumps away when he sees the price, eyes going wide. "Four thousand??" he whispers to himself, unbelieving. Oh, this is such a bad idea.

He starts undressing the mannequin in an act of idiotic pressure which he realizes when a woman appears before him, almost making his soul leave his poor body.

"Please don't undress the mannequin." She says, smiling but her eyes telling. By her outfit, it's clear that she works here. "What size are we looking for?"

Sohee curses internally because he's about to, once again, make a fool out of himself. He has no idea what size he is, and a quick look at his phone tells him there isn't much time remaining.

Sohee laughs nervously. "I'm not sure."

The woman only stares at him. "I'll look."

Sohee groans when she goes away, wanting to peel his skin off. This is definitely going on the most embarassing things that happened to Sohee list made by Chanyoung. To distract his mind, he checks his phone. The countdown is at three minutes.

A minute passes and Sohee bites his nails, trying to look normal. He swears he's going to lose it if he's done all this to lose this stupid dare. Like the light at the end of a tunnel, Sohee watches as the woman walks up to him with the suit.

"Tell me if you need a bigger size." She tells him as she hangs the clothes in the cabin Sohee is standing in front of. He doesn't think about the implication that he could need a bigger size but not a smaller one, too busy throwing himself in the cabin, ready to try on the suit. He thanks her and closes the door, throwing his phone on the floor.

He doesn't think about the fact that many people are watching through his phone right now as he undresses himself quickly. He's careful when he puts on the very expensive outfit, not even able to imagine having to pay for it. He starts with the pants, then the black lace shirt, and finally the cropped blazer.

He almost trips over his own feet as he walks out of the small space, phone in hand. Thankfully, there's no one near to see him, so he doesn't look like a fool. He brings the phone up to show that he's wearing the outfit. There's no countdown, only a black screen, and Sohee fears he ran out of time too soon.

"Are you serious?" He aggressively taps on the screen, patience running short. Thankfully, after some time, his phone lights up and lets him know that he wonfive hundred bucks. Holy sh*t.

Sohee stares dumbly at his phone and then smiles, relief and joy washing over him like a clean water fountain. Now that anxiety is out of the picture, he puts his phone on a chair nearby and walks up to a mirror, his own frame appearing before him.

He admits that it takes a second for his brain to register that the person he is looking at is himself. He wonders how the woman was able to find a size that fits him almost perfectly, gaping at the way the pants fit around his hips. The lace shirt leaves an abstract view of his skin and shows off his waist that’s on the smaller size. There's no denying it, he looks good.

He moves around in the suit, gawking at himself. He would never have the guts to do so with people around, but he's alone, so he takes his sweet time. It's weird, looking at his reflection in this new sort of light, but it's pleasing. Then again, it's not like Sohee will ever really wear something like that. Let it be because of the price or the seduction of it.

He sadly smiles to himself in front of the mirror. Let this be his little gift, a stupid secret for himself. He knows he can look good, but others won't. This is all something he could but will never be. He could stare at himself for an hour but that would be meaningless, so he steps back and bites his bottom lip, thoughtful. He decides it's best to go get dressed in hisreal clothes before he loses his sense of logic.

He nearly gets a heart attack when someone speaks behind him. "Sohee?"

Sohee almost loses his balance when he turns around, gasping for air. He probably looks stupid, overreacting at the smallest sound, but it all doesn't matter when he finds Seunghan's frame before him, in all his glory.

"Seunghan?" He sings back, taking in the man in front of him. He's also dressed up, and Sohee can't say he isn't affected. He's simply wearing a pair of black pants and a black dress shirt, the three first buttons unbuttoned, but it still makes Sohee react embarrassingly easily. If Sohee tried to ignore how attractive he looked before, he definitely can't now.

Thankfully, Seunghan doesn't seem to notice Sohee checking him out because he's busy ogling Sohee himself. Actually, Sohee doesn't think he's ever been looked at inthat way, so he doesn't know how it feels like, but he's not stupid. Seunghan is openly staring at him, at his chest, at his legs. It makes Sohee burn all over.

Seunghan's eyes finally meet his and Sohee finds surprise in them. "What are you doing here?" He finally speaks up, his voice raspy around the edges. He coughs and Sohee laughs nervously.

"Got a dare to try this on." He explains, figuring awkwardly at his own body with his hands. He doesn't know what to do, unfamiliar with the attention, so he tries to shift the focus on Seunghan. "I'm guessing your situation is similar."

"Huh, yeah." Seunghan nods and rubs the back of his head, and Sohee thinks this is the least composed he's looked yet. "You look... great."

Sohee plays with his hands, not knowing where to put himself. It's not the best compliment someone could ever get, but it spreads a certain warmth all over his upper body. He thinks it's because of the sincerity in Seunghan's eyes. He's genuine.

Sohee decides that he might as well do the same. "You too." He says, trying to not smile so big as to not embarrass himself. He guesses he's feeling so weird because he's never been complimented like that by someone so undeniably attractive. A part of him doesn't want to believe it while the other wants to bask in the attention.

Seunghan smiles back and, there it is, that playful glint in his eyes. He starts walking up to Sohee in slow steps and Sohee, feeling cornered, almost gets scared. He has to force himself not to step back. "Well, you know, you're almost perfectly dolled up and everything."

Sohee isn't sure he understands. "Almost?"

Seunghan stops walking once he's one step away, his smile promising. Sohee can guess how many hearts that exact smile left broken. "Let's find you some shoes, yeah?"


⋆⋆⋆


Sohee can't help the giggle that escapes his mouth when Seunghan kneels before him with a shoe in hand. He's sitting on a bench, red shoes discarted with only white socks on. He wants to be embarrassed at Seunghan's act but only finds himself amused. It's not like anyone is there to see them.

"Will you offer me your foot, darling?" Seunghan's tone is overly sweet, and Sohee gets red in the face at his choice of words.

In all honesty, he babbles. "That sounds so weird."

Seunghan, unfazed (Sohee learns he's rarely fazed), only smiles innoncently at him. "It's only weird if you think about it weirdly." He argues, as if Sohee was the perverted one. He knows it's only teasing, but he levels Seunghan's stare with a dry look.

Sohee doesn't like feet in general, but he certainly doesn't like people touching his feet. Yes, feet are weird, but it's not mainly because of that. It feels intimate, for some reason. But, since Sohee is stubborn and he'd feel embarrassed to reject Seunghan, he brings his right foot up.

To his surprise, Seunghan only takes hold of his ankle. His grip is gentle as he guides Sohee's foot in the shoe, and Sohee finds himself blushing at the care of his actions. Sue him, his lack of experience with physical touch leveled his standards to zero. He still thinks it's sweet when Seunghan does the same with his left foot.

In typical Seunghan fashion (Sohee thinks he's learned a lot about the other for such a short period of time knowing him), he has to interrupt this moment with some type of witty comment. "Can't believe you wear size seven."

Sohee doesn't silence his gasp, taking his foot back to himself in offense. "Seven and a half ." He corrects, knowing well it doesn't make that much of a difference. He then grabs Seunghan's shoes, which are next to him, and looks at their size. "You're one size bigger than me." He deadpans.

Seunghan nods as if he doesn't know what that argues with. "Yeah, bigger . That's the keyword."

Sohee rolls his eyes and stands up, feeling the shoes. He goes back and forth on his heels, noticing that the shoes make him slightly taller.

Seunghan steps back, gazing at him. "Twirl for me?"

Sohee’s expression must be hilarious because Seunghan goes into a fit of laughter, toppling over himself. Sohee sighs but laughs as well, wanting to push the other away. He's annoying, but in a likeable way.

"Okay," Sohee exclaims, taking the other pair of shoes on the bench and pointing at Seunghan with them. "your turn."

Seunghan puts his hands up, laughing at Sohee's sudden authority. "Yes, sir." He accepts, sitting on the bench where Sohee was seconds ago. He abruptly brings up his foot too high and Sohee grabs his leg to bring it down, kneeling before him. When his laughter dies, he gets shy at their position and decides to ignore Seunghan's stare. They’re silent when Sohee puts the shoes on, but it’s not necessarily awkward.

It's Seunghan's turn to stand up now, and he actually twirls for Sohee. Sohee giggles with his hand over his mouth, feeling like a kid. Hanging out with Seunghan makes him feel like a kid. Not in a bad, irresponsible kind of way, but more like in an i'm having fun without feeling the need to do or say anything because nothing is serious and nothing really matters way. Seunghan makes him feel like it's okay to laugh at his stupid jokes and to do meaningless things just for the thrill of it. He makes him forget he has a real life to go back to after this.

Because this isn't the real him. Sohee would never do this, but he decides to indugle in the feeling for tonight.

That's why he doesn't falter when Seunghan takes his hand and forces him into a twirl, directing him. He only laughs out of pure joy and doesn't know how to feel when he doesn't recognize the sound that comes out of his mouth.

Seunghan lets go of him, keeping some distance between the both of them. "Look at us, we could fit in with all those assholes of New York."

Sohee snorts in sudden bravery. "Are you sure this title doesn't fit you well already?"

For half a second, he gets scared that he might've offended Seunghan, because it might've been a joke, but they probably aren't close enough to talk like that with each other yet. All his worries turn into dust when Seunghan grins, placing a hand on his heart. "Ouchie, Sohee-ah. You sure know how to break a girl's heart."

Sohee snickers, glad that Seunghan took his words well. He guesses he has to, with all the teasing Sohee has been victim of, it's only fair. He thinks about asking Seunghan to stop teasing him so much, but he finds out that he doesn't want to. He wants him to keep doing it.

Before he can find something to answer with, Sohee sees something light up in the corner of his eye. It's his phone, on the bench. He's getting a call from Sungchan.

This gives him a cold shower and any anxiety that escaped his body in the past hour comes back full force, reminding him of who he is and of what he's doing. He sees Seunghan looking at his phone as well, his face shadowed by an emotion Sohee can't recognize. "Prince charming?" He asks, looking back at Sohee.

Sohee grabs his phone and turns it off, biting his lip. "Huh— yeah." He sits on the bench in a swift motion, his energy drowned. "I should probably get going."

Seunghan sits down next to him, his gaze leaving Sohee's side profile burning. He can tell that Seunghan knows there's something he wants to say, and he feels the need to explain himself. "You know, I'm not always so easily controlled. All of my friends, even my mom, they're way too overprotective."

Sohee bites down on his bottom lip regretfully, aware that he's most likely oversharing and that Seunghan could not care less. However, he hears the man hum comprehensively next to him, and his presence is somewhat comforting. He doesn't think Seunghan is going to say anything before he speaks. "That must be pretty annoying."

When Sohee turns his head to look at Seunghan, the other is smiling at him. It's not a pity smile. It’s small, but real. Sohee thinks most of the emotion comes from his eyes.

He doesn't think he can ever get used to be looked at in that way. Like he's cared about, like he's listened to.

Sohee understands that Seunghan is inviting him to open up, so he takes it. "Yeah, it is. I know they're only looking out for me, but it gets tiring." He frowns, trying to make sense of his emotional turmoil. "I'm thankful, but I wish they weren't so like, overbearing all the time."

Seunghan nods, frowning as well, Like he's determined to fix this issue for Sohee. Sohee thinks it's sweet. "I don't think the problem is that they're worried for you. I think you feel as if they underestimate you, like you can't protect yourself."

Sohee's face lights up, and so does his heart at someone finally understanding him. "Exactly! Honestly, it's kind of my fault. I've let them protect me that much for years and now, it's like it's impossible to get out of that fort they've built all around me." It's freeing, being able to say this out loud without the constant fear of being judged. The next breath Sohee takes feels fresher than anything.

Sohee thinks he must misinterpret the fondness he finds in Seunghan's face. "You should let them know how you feel."

Sohee sighs at that, not because of Seunghan, but because of his problems when it comes to, well. Talking about anything that’s remotely close to his feelings.

"I've done it, but they don't understand." He pauses. "I'm like a baby to them, I don't know what I'm saying and I don't know what's good for myself."

In what Sohee thinks is an attempt to lift his mood up, Seunghan teases like he does best. "A baby, huh? You do give that impression."

Sohee huffs out a laugh and doesn't regret it when he pushes Seunghan away by the shoulder, too shy to meet his eyes. In false panic, Seunghan defends himself. "I'm not saying it's because of your actions! It's the babyface."

Sohee rolls his eyes. "I do not have a babyface."

He hears Seunghan scoff next to him, but refuses to look at him. "Whatever you say, baby."

Weak, Sohee ends up gazing at him, flustered. He can't hold the eye contact for more than two seconds before looking down at the floor. It's almost shining, how interesting! (It’s not, but he has to find something to ignore the fire that Seunghan brings to his soul, setting it aflame.)

"Honestly, and this is going to sound a little sad, I don't think I've ever had as much fun as I did tonight." Sohee admits.

He should be over it by now, but he’s still scared of being judged. Of Seunghan saying nothing, looking at him like he's a weirdo, like most people do. That's never what happens, though.

"The night has only started." is Seunghan's response, and like anything the other does, Sohee doesn't expect it. He understands that Seunghan is inviting him for more fun, meaningless adventures.

When he meets cat-like eyes, his breath stays stuck in his throat. He wants to say yes, i wants it so bad, but how greedy can he get? How much can he take until he gets hurt?

Sohee can't tell if he's being a coward or logical when he answers with, "Let's get dressed and I'll see?"

Seunghan seems to be pleased with his response, immediately getting up. "Sure. I wasn't hinting at any situation in which we wouldn't be dressed."

Sohee isn't sure if he wants to laugh or cry at that, thankful that Seunghan isn't looking for his reaction. His poor heart isnotgoing to make it at some point.

They both go into their respective cabins, Seunghan's one being on the other side of the room. When Sohee enters what he remembers being the cabin he changed in, he finds it empty, none of his clothes in sight.

His first thought is that he mistook his cabin for another one, that this isn't really the one he changed in, so he leaves and goes into the next one. When he also finds it empty, he feels like something isn't right.

It's when he leaves the fifth cabin in a row with nothing but his phone in hand that he starts panicking, looking under the bench, chairs, hopeful that he'll find his clothes somewhere . It doesn't make any sense, they couldn't have disappeared into thin air. When he catches a glimpse of the lady who helped him earlier, he calls for her. "I'm sorry, did you take my clothes?"

Obviously, she frowns at him and shakes her head. Sohee is full on panicking now.

He goes back into a cabin, typing furiously on his phone, not knowing what he's looking for. He tries to find some sort of reasoning for this. He doesn't believe someone would've stolen his clothes. The people who come here probably wouldn't find any worth in them, anyway.

He almost cries out when the cabin opens to reveal a Seunghan that’s still in his previous attire. He joins him and, the cabin, while being big enough to make space for two people, is still pretty small. Sohee tries to take a step back when he looks up and Seunghan isright there, but he's already against the wall.

He’s confused, and he doesn't care if what he asks is stupid. "Did you take my clothes?"

Seunghan shakes his head as he looks down at him. Sohee had noticed that Seunghan was taller than him, but from this distance it’s even more obvious. "No, my clothes are gone too."

Sohee looks around, about to ask for a solution, hoping that Seunghan has one, before both of their phones buzz at the same time. Sohee stops breathing for a second, knowing what this means.

They hold their phones so they can look down at the screen and Sohee reads the dare written on the black screen.Leave the store. The countdown of two minutes has already started, and there's a price of $2,500.

Both Sohee and Seunghan's gazes leave their phones to meet each other and, while Sohee knows he must look completely shocked, he doesn't like the look on Seunghan's face.

“No.”He states, knowing that Seunghan is not about to suggest bolting out of this store with these clothes still on, no sign of their actual clothes anywhere.

Seunghan clicks his tongue and tilts his head like the decision is torturing him. When he tries to take Sohee's hand in his, Sohee pushes it away. "No!"

"We have to make a run of it, Sohee, there's no time." Seunghan tries to convince him, grabbing his wrist gently. The softness of his touch contrasts with his words.

Still, Sohee takes his arm back, petrified, because, "I'm not about tostealthese clothes!"

Seunghan lets go and sighs, looking around like the walls of the cabin will give him a solution. "We don't have a choice, Sohee."

The idea that appears in Sohee's head is probably the worst and the best thing he's ever thought of. Seunghan must recognize it in his face because there’s suddenly a glint of hope in his eyes.

Sohee clears his throat as he looks at the time remaining.One minute and forty-three seconds. "Well, technically, it doesn't say we have to leave with the clothes on."

A beat passes and Seunghan's mouth expands in a terrifying smile. "f*ck, you're a genius." He says, and then takes his shirt off.

"Woah!" Sohee shouts, hiding his face in the palms of his hands. He slides next to Seunghan as far away as possible while the other laughs at his state. "I— I'll go in another cabin." His words are muffled as he escapes, face red. At this point, red might become the natural tone of his skin.

When he's outside, the terrifying idea he just came up with hits him. He doesn't have the time to ponder over it, though, so he grabs Seunghan's sneakers and throws it in his cabin for good measure before taking ahold of his own red shoes. He swiftly goes into the next cabin and undresses himself, trying not to think about what he's about to do. He can barely think at all.

Sohee curses at himself when he realizes today is the day he decided to wear his most embarrassing undergarments : blue boxers with bears. He's about to bail out when he hears knocks from the cabin next to his.

"sh*t." He mumbles, putting on his red shoes. He hears Seunghan talking to him but his brain blacks everything out, and for a second he fears he's going to pass out. He thinks about his mom, his friends, and what they would think. He decides it doesn't matter.

He goes back to reality when one look at his phone tells him there's barely over a minute remaining and he takes a long breath before leaving the cabin. He finds Seunghan waiting for him.

He ignores the other's exposed body, refuses to look at it, and looks around. They're lucky there aren't that many people in this specific area, but their way to the elevator might get tricky. "We're really doing this?" He asks weakly, and Seunghan's grip on his hand is all the reassurance he needs.

"Follow me." is the only warning Sohee gets (as if Seunghan wasn't forcing him to do so by holding his hand) before they start speedwalking through the mannequins, careful with their surroundings. Sohee really hopes Seunghan knows where they're going, because he doesn't remember anything right now.

He finds it hard to believe they still haven't ran into anyone at some point (he's aware many people are seeing them through their phones anyway but he finds it less embarrassing than in real life), and obviously that's the moment he and Seunghan come face to face with a woman who almost drops her purse when she sees them. She actually screams and Sohee wants to curse at her for potentially bringing more attention to them. He doesn't expect it when Seunghan takes a sharp turn to their left and he almost trips when his arm follows faster than his feet.

He thinks he hears Seunghan apologizing but he barely registers it because they run into another woman, this time with a little girl holding her hand. The woman shrieks and hides the girl's eyes with her gloved hand, looking at Seunghan and Sohee with pure horror. Sohee tries to hide himself behind the other but Seunghan starts running to their right. Sohee understands why when he sees the elevator.

Seunghan clicks on the button multiple times before the door actually opens and they both enter the space in one breath. Seunghan presses on the first floor button and Sohee lets out a cry of relief when the doors of the elevator close.

Seunghan's laugh startles him and Sohee turns to him with curiosity. When their eyes make contact, Sohee's line of sight goes down without his permission and he quickly looks away, shameful. He can see Seunghan looking away as well in the corner of his eye, and he wonders if the other is as flustered as he is.

His heart drops when the elevator indicates it's on the second floor, which means the doors are about to open and someone is waiting outside. He freezes when that exactly happens ; the doors reveal a couple laughing before the enjoyment falls from their faces when they catch the shocking picture Sohee and Seunghan must create, almost naked in an elevator. The step they were taking stutters and the four of them stay unmoving for a second before Seunghan's hand interlaces with Sohee's and he brings them out of the elevator by forcing his way between the couple.

Seunghan takes them to the escalator and they run down the stairs, passing by a poor man who has to move away in shock. Sohee notices Seunghan is holding up his phone in front of them with the hand he isn't holding Sohee with, and realizes he should do the same. He tries to bring up his phone to record himself as they run on the first floor, and now there's a lot of people. He doesn't care, the adrenaline making him numb and Seunghan's grip stabilizing him as they bolt through the crowd with a bunch of muffled apologies. Sohee doesn't realize he's laughing before his cheeks start to hurt and his eyes start to water, doing his best to keep up with Seunghan.

They finally make it to the entrance and the receptionist only looks at them while they run through the big doors, the cold air hitting their skin once they’re outside. Sohee realizes there's people waiting for them but Seunghan doesn't give him the time to look while he guides him through the crowd, running to his bike on the other side of the road. The people are screaming at them, Sohee notices. They're cheering for them.

"Holy sh*t!" He shouts out when they make it to the bike. He feels like he's in a dream. He notices there's bags hanging on both sides of the motorcycle, with the name Bergdorf Goodman on them. He frowns. "Are these our clothes?"

Seunghan looks into one of the bags and grabs whatever that’s inside. "Well..." His hand comes back up with the black dress shirt he was wearing earlier. "I guess you could say they are."

"Are these stolen?" Sohee is horrified at the idea of someone stealing for them. Seunghan looks deeper into the bag before taking out the receipt.

Sohee is so confused. "How is that possible? Who bought this?"

Seunghan shrugs as if it's the last of their concern. Sohee guesses it is. "Probably a watcher with daddy's money."

Sohee looks back at the people in front of the store looking at them, recording them. He remembers he's almost naked and rummages through the bag to dress himself, suddenly coming back to his senses. So many people must've seen him like this, god. He wants to puke at the thought of it.

As Seunghan dresses himself as well, he winks at him. "Cute panties, by the way."

Sohee tries not to take too seriously the fact that Seunghan called his undergarments panties. To hide his embarrassment, he voices his thoughts. "You're an idiot."

Seunghan smiles like it's the best thing anyone has ever told him and Sohee finishes getting dressed, the blazer protecting his body from the cold temperature outside. He couldn't explain the emotions he's feeling right now, it's almost euphoric.

It becomes even more overwhelming when a certain sound comes from his phone. He holds it up with his trembling hand to read $2,500 has been transfered to your bank account. He squeals, unashamedly jumping on his feet. Seunghan watches him, seemingly amused.

"Already thinking about the number of cute underwear you'll be able to buy with this?" He teases.

Sohee throws him a look. "Shut up. Did they strike you this much? Or have you never seen cute underwear before?" He risks a joke, trying to have the upper hand for once.

Unsurprisingly, Seunghan aims higher. "With a cute boy in them? That's one sight I get to see when I’m lucky enough." He leans on his bike, and oh, Sohee is weak. He's so weak, he can only respond with a stubborn huff and a roll of his eyes, looking away and hoping for his face to go back to its natural color.

It's late, but the city is alive. There's many cars on the streets and pedestrians on the sidewalks, couples walking hand in hand and friends pushing at each other. As he stands there, next to Seunghan's bike, Sohee realizes he doesn't want to leave. Not yet.

Seunghan seems to be thinking about the same thing, waiting for Sohee patiently. The way he looks at him doesn't put pressure on him, but it does light him on fire. Sohee doesn't want to escape that feeling, whatever it is.

That's why he smiles at Seunghan and says, "Where to?"

Seunghan smiles back, grabbing their helmets. "St. Mark’s?"

Sohee nods and takes the helmet Seunghan offers him, putting it on. The engine roars as Seunghan turns it on, and they both get on the motorcycle. Sohee's arms set around the other's waist. He sighs in contentment when Seunghan turns his signals on and joins the traffic on the road. There are sparks exploding all over his body. He doesn't think anything could ruin this night for him, too far gone in his own world to notice all the phones recording them.

When he feels his phone buzz in his pocket long enough to notice he's getting a call, he ignores it and holds Seunghan tighter, floating in the tones of blue and purple enlightening the city.

⋆⋆⋆

Sohee and Seunghan walk side by side, hands grazing every now and then. Sohee feels like an inexperienced teenager when his heart flutters at the simple touch, but then realizes he quite literally is. He's just never lived the typical teenage crush experience.

It feels like a dream, walking down some street in Manhattan with a beautiful man he met a few hours ago, cracking jokes and talking about whatever. It almost feels too easy.

"Okay, though one." Seunghan's eyebrows are furrowed, and Sohee almost wants to laugh at the seriousness on his face. They've been playing a game of twenty questions for the past half an hour, but Sohee lost count after Seunghan started to ask ridiculous questions like what is your favorite positon (to sleep in, of course) and how many underwear do you have with bears on them. This resulted in Sohee punching his shoulder and Seunghan going into a fit of laughter. Now, Sohee expects another question he'd rather not answer when Seunghan throws away, "What's your favorite color?"

The question is normal, which is the polar opposite of Seunghan, so Sohee is suspicious about the other man's intentions here. "Green. What's yours?" He answers, lifting an eyebrow up at him.

His suspicions were right, because Seunghan's smile turns into a sh*t-eating smirk. "Orange. But, I don't know, I've been seeing a lot of pink on your face, and I like it."

It's quite ironic how Sohee starts blushing in that moment. With a bashful grin, he defends himself, "My blood circulation has problems. Don't let it flatter your ego." Then, in an attempt to change the topic, he scowls at the other. "Orange? How can that be your favorite color?"

Seunghan looks offended, hand on his chest and stepping away like he's been hit. Sohee rolls his eyes at his dramatic act and keeps walking. The biker eventually catches up to him. "Orange is beautiful . Orange is the color of the sky when the sun rises. What's better than the start of a new day, with new opportunities?"

The way he explains it is quite beautiful, but Sohee can't give him the satisfaction of marveling at his choice of words. Instead, he scoffs. "How poetic."

"Oh, let me guess. You like green because it's the color of grass, of nature?" Seunghan humors him.

Sohee stays silent for a second, avoiding Seunghan's eyes. "...Yes."

"Boring." Seunghan adds fuel to the fire, loving the ability he has to annoy Sohee. "Don't get me wrong, green is nice, but there's better colors."

Now, it's Sohee's turn to be offended. "Boring? How is green boring? Green is everywhere, and there's so many shades of it." He argues, sensing the crease he has between his eyebrows.

His heartbeat fastens at the way Seunghan looks at him, seemingly entertained by the fact that Sohee is so passionate about defending a color, out of all things. Sohee can't be mad at Seunghan for not hiding the fact he doesn't take him seriously at all.

"There's many shades in all colors, darling." Seunghan still says because, of course he has to have the last word. Sohee guesses that's why he's so entertaining to talk with.

Seunghan is an interesting person, with interesting characteristics and mannerisms. Sohee thinks that it’s essentially what makes his charm.

He can't even react at the pet names anymore, coming to the realization that Seunghan doesn't put much weight on them and is only trying to play with Sohee's heartstrings. If it works, the other doesn't have to know.

There's a lot of pedestrians on the sidewalks for this time of the night, and Sohee never realized how much life people brought to the city, even during nighttime. He doesn't know what time it is, but he doesn't want to look at his phone. He prefers enjoying every last bit he can get of this cherished moment. He guesses it's probably close to midnight, but he isn't tired, his body buzzing with an unfamiliar feeling he doesn't want to get rid of.

They both come to a halt when their phones buzz in unison, disrupting their small moment of peace. Conscious of what this means but still curious, Sohee takes out his phone like Seunghan does.

The dare Sohee reads makes the muscles in his body tense, and it takes him some time to realize what he's looking at. Dumbfounded, he looks up at Seunghan to find the other already looking at him.

"That's insane," is all he can say, searching for Seunghan's thoughts in his eyes. The other doesn't respond, his face unusually lacking of any emotion. He mostly looks like he's waiting for Sohee to voice more of his opinion.

Sohee thinks he might've gone insane, because this is a bad idea. Actually, this is worse than a bad idea, but he smiles all the same when he speaks up again, "Let's do it."

Seunghan must feel similarly because his face doesn't immediately light up. He's not convinced. "Are you sure?" He checks, because this isn't any kind of decision.

Sohee shrugs the stress off, trying to look unfazed. "We're here to have fun, aren't we?" He says, and then lifts his hand, palm up. "Guide me?"

That's when Seunghan's charming smile comes back to his face, as he grabs Sohee's hand forcefully. Sohee thinks he's never looked more like himself. "Of course, milady."

⋆⋆⋆

Sohee still thinks this is the worst idea he's ever agreed to when he stands next to Seunghan, who's currently looking throughout the different tattoo options they have to their disposition. As much as he knows he shouldn't do this, excitement makes his legs weak. He tells himself that he's always wanted a tattoo anyway, and what better moment would there be to get one than right now, when he's enjoying himself more than he ever has in his life?

"What about that one?" Seunghan turns to him, finger on a dragon with a fireball. Sohee scrunches his nose and shakes his head. This doesn't appeal to him at all.

Seunghan rolls his eyes and Sohee is taken aback by the other's newfound sass. "You're so difficult." Seunghan mumbles as he turns the pages, looking for a new tattoo to recommend.

"Hey!" Sohee grabs his arm and shakes him up, and the way Seunghan's face stays down with an unwavering smirk tells him that this reaction was exactly what the other wanted. "I will have this on me for the rest of my life, you're lucky I'm even letting you choose it."

"Well, it's not like you had a choice." Seunghan grunts, and he's right, the dare said it explicitly : Let Seunghan choose your new tattoo. The more he thinks about it, the more he's convinced that he's insane. If someone had told him a week ago, or even this morning, that he'd let a stranger choose what would be inked on his skin forever, he would've never believed it.

Although, he doesn't know if he should consider Seunghan a stranger. For some reason, it feels like they've known each other for a lot more than a couple of hours, and Sohee is reminded of why he's so relaxed in the other's presence when Seunghan looks up at him with a comforting smile and a silly wink. "Don't worry, we'll find you something you like."

Sohee is sure of it, and he shows his gratitude in the sincerity of the smile he sends back. Seunghan's gaze zeroes in on his mouth for half a second before going back on the book, and it goes by so fast that Sohee thinks he might've imagined it. He decides to ignore the way his stomach does the thing .

After Sohee declines around ten new tattoo possibilities, (one of them being a cat's butt, come on) Seunghan seems to give up, abandoning the book to lay his upper body on the table. He turns to Sohee. "How about a bear?"

Sohee glares at him. "Mention this one more time and I will punch you."

Sohee has started to notice Seunghan's tendency to smile widely at his insults like they're the best compliments he's ever gotten. He looks ridiculous, and Sohee has to repress a smile himself.

"I am so scared right now." is what he comes back with, his body telling the opposite. He's leaning on the high table, looking at Sohee like he could spend the night here, listening to the other's threats. His posture is confident, and it annoys Sohee as much as it allures him.

Before Sohee can throw in another insult, the tattoo artist interrupts them. "Made a choice?" He asks, walking in their direction.

"Not yet." Seunghan answers instead of Sohee, and the guy looks between the both of them. He's covered in tattoos, which makes sense, but he still intimidates Sohee. He guesses it'd be better if he trusted the guy, since he's going to mark him forever, but he can't help it.

Sohee gets startled when Seunghan stands straight in a quick movement, looking like he's got an idea. Sohee doesn't know if he likes the look on his face or not. Then, the biker grabs a paper and a pen, hiding what he's drawing to Sohee.

On alert, Sohee moves closer to Seunghan, entitled to his right to know. "What? Is this for my tattoo?" He wants to hit the other when Seunghan moves further away.

"Yes, but don't look." is Seunghan's response, and that doesn't calm Sohee down. Actually, it does the opposite.

Sohee tries to take a peek again, but Seunghan blocks him out with his arm. "What do you mean don't look? This is my tattoo!"

Seunghan doesn't give him an answer as he runs away with the paper, and Sohee is more than puzzled. He watches as Seunghan shows the drawing to the tattoo artist and says, "Can you do this but better?" and the tall, tattooed man nods in approval.

"What are you doing?" Sohee asks when Seunghan comes back to him, paper no longer in sight. He thinks it's a fair question, since there are some things he should be aware of right now. He's rendered utterly speechless when Seunghan smiles at him and lifts a hand up to tuck a strand of Sohee's hair behind his ear.

"Do you trust me, Sohee?" He asks, his gaze filled with a kind of softness and sincerity Sohee isn't familar with, and he thinks he would agree to anything the other man is saying right now. Although, he's in shock, and he's still stubborn.

"No." He answers, fighting against the urge to favor the other's wishes in front of Seunghan's stare. He thinks he's holding up a pretty good fight until Seunghan looks away for a second.

"Listen," He starts, and then looks back at Sohee. "You will love this, I promise. It's worth the surprise."

Sohee only stares for what feels like a minute. Seunghan is asking him to trust him. He doesn't want Sohee to know what's going to be tattooed on him. It doesn't make any sense, and it's plain stupid. Under any other circ*mstances, he would never agree to this. Nobody would agree to this.

There’s a tingle dancing on his skin and he looks away, chewing on his bottom lip. "Seunghan..."

"Hey, I'll show you if you want to, okay? I'm just saying, you'll love it." Seunghan brings a hand up to put it on Sohee's shoulder, leaving the skin under his blazer burning. Sohee admits the touch is comforting though, and it helps to ground him. He notices the way that Seunghan is talking to him, about him, like he's known him for a long time.

"How do you even know I'll like it?" We're basically strangers to each other , is what Sohee is implying here. The deflated expression he expects to bloom on Seunghan's face never comes, instead there's a playful smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

"Oh, I've been following you for like, four years, spying on you in your room, noting down every single information there is to know about you." Hishand leaves Sohee's shoulder. "I'm kidding. But, believe me, I know you'll love it." He repeats once again.

Sohee is too weak and innocent, and he's hyperaware of his flaws in this exact moment as he plays with his fingers. "You promise?" His voice is so small that he barely expects Seunghan to have heard it, but he receives a confident look as a response.

"Pinky promise." Seunghan nods and brings up his little finger, and Sohee almost lets go of his facade to laugh. Pinky promises are so on brand with Seunghan, he thinks, and brings up his own pinky to lock it with the other's. It's silly, but it's a part of Seunghan he's learning to like. It's a reason why he's so easy to trust.

Sohee sighs, trying to get rid of the sickness in his stomach. "I swear to god, if it's a bear or something—"

"I would never." Seunghan persuades him, hands coming up in the air. Sohee only rolls his eyes and shakes his head at him, acting like he's not one joke away from passing out. In the back of his mind, he agrees, Seunghan wouldn't do that.

Next thing he knows, he's sitting down on a chair, writhing in pain. He had to take off his blazer and unzipped the back of his lace shirt, since he chose to be tattooed on the back of his right shoulder. It's a safe place for it, since it can be hidden easily and the tattoo artist, Quanrui, assured him it shouldn't hurt too much. Sohee doesn't agree with that.

Seunghan is standing up in front of him, holding his phone horizontally to record him. Even if he isn't that close, his mere presence brings Sohee a dose of comfort. He would wonder why Seunghan's sole existence is so comforting if he wasn't so busy clenching his teeth to mute his pain, not wanting to show too much of his horrible pain tolerance.

But, well, he's only a teenage boy (turning eighteen never made him an adult, in his opinion), so he eventually groans, letting his head hang pitifully between his shoulders. " God, it hurts." He vocalizes, his voice shaking despite his best efforts. "Are we close to done?" He asks in hope. He's been sitting here for a good twenty minutes, and he's already given up on his composure.

"I'm just working on the Y in Daddy ." Quanrui replies, ridiculously composed in contrast to Sohee.

Sohee looks up at Seunghan with big, concerned eyes, and like always, Seunghan laughs wholeheartedly at his expense. He shakes one of his hands in a dismissive manner, still holding the phone with the other. "He's f*cking with you."

"Are you joking?" Sohee turns his head to adress Quanrui, who laughs quielty. His tone sounds terrified even to himself, and it's a clear mirror of how he's feeling. This might just be the bad joke that makes him pass out.

"Yeah, don't worry." The artist guarantees, and Sohee sighs. His heart needs to catch a break, or else he's going to have a heart attack of some sort. This would definitely be the last straw, but he's distracted from his annoyance when the needle inks a sensitive area. Taken by surprise, he cries out in pain.

"You shouldn't be scared, your friend made a good choice." Sohee doesn't know if Quanrui keeps talking to reassure him or to distract him but, either way, he's thankful.

Seunghan seems to take pity on him because he lets go of the phone to grab a chair and sits next to Sohee, giving him all of his attention.

Sohee never knows what to do with Seunghan's focus so blatantly on him, and he's in desperate need of a distraction, so he starts blabbing. "You know, in Japanese culture, if you lie about a pinky promise you get your little finger cut off."

Sohee thinks Seunghan doesn't look intimated enough, even if that result wasn't his intention. "Are you threatening me?" Seunghan asks, tilting his head. Sohee gets distracted by the way a piece of hair falls over his eyes.

"N-Not really." He doesn't have time to cringe at the way he stutters because a sharp pain blooms in his shoulder. He whines, and his hand closes around Seunghan's forearm before he can think about it.

Before Sohee realizes, Seunghan smiles at him in amusem*nt. "Are you trying to drag me down in your misery?"

"Shut up." Sohee whines again. Even if he doesn't want Seunghan to stop talking, he just needs to be mad at someone to feel better. He hears Seunghan laugh and, actually, he takes it back. He does want Seunghan to shut up.

Seconds pass by and Sohee notices Seunghan has taken his hand in his and started fiddling with his fingers, even taking the time to draw over the lines of his palm with his own index finger. When the pain gets less distracting, Sohee feels a full body shiver slice through him at the gesture.

"Talk to me." Seunghan asks in an attempt to distract his mind so the pain is more bearable. Sohee's heart becomes warm at the thought of Seunghan caring for him. "About your friends. What are they like?"

Sohee gathers his thoughts, closing his eyes. "Well, we have our little friend group. You— Ouch . You've seen Sungchan, at the diner. He's my best friend, I've known him since we were in kindergarten." He opens his eyes and sees that Seunghan is listening, nodding for him to keep going. "Then there's Wonbin. He's also a close friend, I feel like I can tell him anything. When we met— Ow , I was kind of scared of him, but once you know him, he's a sweetheart. I met Eunseok through Wonbin, he's kinda weird but in a good way. I think you'd like him." Seunghan smiles and Sohee tries not to get too distracted by the soothing motion he's doing with his thumb on his palm.

"There's Shotaro, who's always up for a good laugh. He's very sweet, but sensitive. I'm not as close to him as I am with Wonbin and Eunseok, but I think we're similar. Everyone likes him, so..."

He drifts off, an ugly feeling blooming inside of his chest at the casual jealousy he's always felt for his friend. He guesses it all comes down to their shared attraction for Sung Hanbin and Sohee's never-ending admiration for Shotaro. It's too easy to be envious of Shotaro, who is so kind and beautiful.

"Finally, there's Chanyoung." Sohee smiles at the thought of the youngest. "He's a year younger than the rest of us, so he'll stay in highschool while we all go to university. Most of us are staying close, though, so I don't fear our departure. He's very kind and innocent, we all have a soft spot for him." He finishes off, his shoulders less heavy than they were a minute ago.

When Sohee looks back at Seunghan, he loves how attentive the other looks. Like Sohee's life is worth being attentive for.

Because, more than not, Sohee's friends are the biggest part of his life. He'd agree that they're also the most interesting part of his life, and he doesn't know how he'd live without them. In a way, they're what molded him as a person. Seeing Seunghan being so interested in them shows that he truly cares for Sohee and the people who are part of his life.

That's the reason why it's so unsettling to see it, right in front of his eyes. Sohee has never thought about someone caring so genuinely for him while knowing so little. It means that the way Sohee has presented himself all night was good enough for Seunghan to want to be interested.

"Sounds like you've got great friends." Seunghan says quietly, still playing with Sohee's fingers. "I have some decent competition."

Sohee has to take the time to understand what Seunghan is implying, looking into the other's eyes intently. He wants to be friends with him, which means it wouldn't be over after this night. Sohee can't even lie to himself and think that he'd be against it.

"You're acting like someone would fight to be my friend." He decides to say, unsure of how to react.

"I would." The rapidity Seunghan answers with should be alarming, but Sohee is more impressed than anything else.

He snorts. "Sure you would." He looks away and it's a mistake, because when he doesn't have Seunghan's face in his vision to keep him grounded, the pain multiplies itself. He flinches, his face immediately scrunching up in pain. Seunghan soothes him by softly stroking his bare upper arm before interlacing their fingers together. When Sohee opens his eyes, he can only stare at the sight of their hands, noticing that Seunghan's skin tone is slightly paler than his. He thinks it's beautiful, like everything else Seunghan is made of.

"You'd be surprised." The biker argues. "I can throw a good punch or two."

Sohee laughs, both the pain and Seunghan's absurdity making him delirious. When his body tenses, so does his hand, and Seunghan responds by holding it tighter.

He's overwhelmed with the amount of affection the other bathes him with, his hand tingling with so much excitement and giddiness that he almost can't feel it. Seunghan's hand feels rough against his, which isn't that surprising since he's a biker, and Sohee knows that he's officially gone when realizes he likes the texture.

"I'm done." Quanrui interrupts their little moment, and Sohee is finally ridden of the constant needle piercing through his skin. He sighs, his body now void of any uncomfortable pression. "You can go have a look in the mirror over there."

Sohee stands up and accidentally breaks off the hold Seunghan has on his hand, leaving the skin of his palm cold and dull. He tries not to think much of it as he walks towards the mirror, feeling the frequency of his heartbeat in his ears.

The rational, more logical part of him is terrified at the thought of not liking his tattoo, while the other part that's naive and optimistic wants to believe that Seunghan was right, and that he'll love it.

He locks eyes with Seunghan who stands behind him in the mirror as he turns over slowly. He takes a steadying breath before his eyes find the spot on his shoulder with reddened skin and fresh black ink. He's glad he took the time to find his breath, because it's punched right out of him the moment he realizes what the tattoo is.

He's left speechless. "Seunghan." He chokes out, staring at the art on his shoulder. "A rose."

"Do you like it?" Seunghan asks, and for the first time tonight, Sohee recognizes uncertainty in his voice. When he feels like he's able to, his gaze leaves the rose to find the man standing behind him, through the mirror. The glint in Seunghan's eyes reveals that he's waiting for Sohee's approval. He's scared he doesn't like it.

When Sohee finds his voice again, he turns around to look directly at the other. "I— I love it. You remembered?" He asks, even though the answer is obvious.

Seunghan brings his hand up to stratch the back of his head, eyes on the floor. "Huh, yeah." is his answer, and Sohee figures out in delight that he's shy . Sohee would take his sweet time to tease him about it, but he doesn't want to ruin such a sensitive moment.

He looks back at the mirror, admiring the rose on his shoulder. It's pretty small, but a decent size for a shoulder tattoo, in his opinion. The lines are fine and precise, all coming together to create the image of a pretty and delicate flower. Sohee has to admit Quanrui is a talented artist and regrets ever doubting him. The tattoo is perfect.

He voices his thoughts, "It's perfect." He continues to inspect the flower before turning around to smile at Quanrui. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Quanrui smiles back, and he suddenly looks a hundred times less intimidating when his teeth show. "You should thank him, that’s what he drew." He nods at Seunghan.

Sohee gulps, his throat dry as he looks back at Seunghan. Like always, the other already has his gaze directed at him. "Mine was way sh*ttier, to be fair."

Sohee leaves the mirror to approach Seunghan. "Thank you, Seunghan." He hopes the other can see the honesty in his eyes. He ignores the funny feeling twirling in his stomach at their prolonged eye contact. If he wasn't so emotionally vulnerable at the moment, he would probably be red.

"Of course." Seunghan exhales, his eyes never leaving Sohee's. "I told you you'd love it."

Sohee can't stop himself when he grins. "I'm going to think you have a crush, remembering all these little things about me and all."

Seunghan's expression falls in annoyance as he turns his head. "Alright, cut it out." He grunts while Sohee's giggles echo in the tattoo parlor, uncaring of his environment. As long as Seunghan is in it, he has no complaints.

⋆⋆⋆


Sungchan adjusts the heater in his car, making himself comfortable. He lets out a sigh of relief when he's sat adequately, grabbing his tablet to turn it on. He's parked in an alley, listening to a Twenty One Pilots playlist on shuffle through his speakers and smacking on some fries he ordered at the diner earlier. After Sohee left him.

He bites on a cold fry as he opens a new safari page. He's determined to find some interesting stuff about the guy Sohee ran off with, and when Sungchan searches for interesting stuff on the internet, it's usually never anything positive. There's something that just seems dishonest about this guy, and Sungchan will investigate until he finds it.

Thanks to a quick research and years of experience with browsing, Sungchan already found the guy's name through his Nerve profile. At least, the name he pretends to have. Seunghan.

It wasn't very hard, because he's popular. He's even close to being in the top 10, and that only feeds into Sungchan's suspicions. He wonders what the guy had to do to deserve his rank. Knowing this game's history, he believes it could be something concerning.

"Who are you, Seunghan?" Sungchan mumbles to himself, typing the name on the safari search bar.

He's disappointed when he doesn't find anything, not even a Facebook profile. The fact that there's close to no information about him raises Sungchan's worries, his eyebrows furrowing when he comes to a realization. He has to be faking his identity.

When his nerves become so prominent that he can't stop his leg from shaking up and down, Sungchan grabs his phone and tries to call Sohee for the tenth time. Like the nine times before, he doesn't get an answer. Although, this once he decides to leave a message in his friend's voicemail.

"Sohee, I don't know why you're ignoring me, but I'm f*cking worried. Call me back, please ." He hangs up, closing his eyes and exhaling slowly.

At least he knows he's alive and apparently unarmed, since he's been watching his Nerve profile. He doesn't know why Sohee is doing all of this, and he's scared that he's being manipulated by the other guy. The last time he did a dare was more than an hour ago, and now Sungchan is stressed again because he can't know about his whereabouts.

He thought about calling Sohee's mother, but he knows Sohee would claw at his throat for it, so he didn't. He even thought about calling the police, but that's equally as bad as calling Sohee's mother. Sungchan doesn't know what to do anymore.

It's been almost four hours since Sohee has gone with that stranger and hasn't reached out to anyone, which is unlike him. It's not like nobody has tried to contact him, too. After his first failed call, Sungchan left a message in their friend group on messenger :‘ Sohee ran away with a weird guy an hour ago and he hasn't been responding to any of my messages. If y'all can reach him plz let me know’.

Wonbin was the first one to respond, saying that he also tried to call Sohee but got ignored. Eunseok, Shotaro and Chanyoung answered shortly after that, and they've been keeping each other updated since then. All their attempts have been unsuccessful. Saying that they're all worried would be an understatement. They all know it's not like Sohee to deliberately ignore his friends.

Chanyoung was the only one who was optimistic and told them that Sohee was only having fun, that they shouldn't worry so much. Sungchan knows they're at some party right now, most of them most-likely wasted at this time of the night.

When Sungchan realizes he hasn't checked Sohee's Nerve profile for half an hour, he goes to the app like it's a reflex. He doesn't expect to find anything, but he can't contain the curse he lets out when he's proven wrong.

"What the f*ck? A tattoo?" He wishes his eyes were deceiving him when he looks at all the videos on his page. All with Seunghan.

He has a lot of viewers too. More than ten thousand.

"What are you doing, Sohee?" He asks under his breath. Convinced that he needs to do something, because Sohee clearly doesn't know what he's doing, he exits Nerve to type a certain phone number on his phone app. If he needs help, he knows exactly the person he needs to contact.

"Hello?" A voice echoes in his car, replacing the song that was playing beforehand.

"Donghyuck, are you busy?" Sungchan directly asks, not having the time nor the energy to decently greet the other.

Donghyuck takes it with humor. "Sheesh, dude. You on business?"

Sungchan frowns at his vocabulary. "Nobody says that."

"Everybody says sheesh if they need my help." Donghyuck argues and Sungchan figures he must be playing ping pong by the sounds in the background. "What do you want?"

Sungchan doesn't ask him how he knows he's in need of help, since it must be quite obvious in the urgency of his tone. "You're watching Nerve, right?"

Donghyuck lets out a short laugh. "Of course dude, we all are." By we , Sungchan guesses he's talking about himself and the bunch of nerds he's locked up in some studio with.

"Okay, well, I've been trying to make some researches about this guy, Seunghan, but I can't find sh*t." He says, holding the phone in front of his mouth.

"Oh yeah, Seunghan. He's cool." Sungchan has to repress an annoyed sigh at Donghyuck's enthusiam. "He's playing with your little friend, Sohee right? Could be you but you missed your chance, huh."

Sungchan clenches his jaw. "Yeah, sure." He hears someone shout in defeat on the other line and Donghyuck laughs. "I've been looking through his profile and everything, and I can't find any information about him."

The noises come back on Donghyuck's line. "You tried Google?"

"Of course I tried Google, do you think I'm stupid?" Sungchan is starting tolose the amount of patience he has left.

"Chill out, you dramaqueen." Donghyuck fights back, and it doesn't help Sungchan's case at all. "Must be a ghost, then."

Sungchan bites on his tongue. "I don't think it's funny. I'm calling you ‘cause I wanna try on aruba ."

There's a pause on Donghyuck's line, even the noises stopping. "What? No."

"Don't be a bitch, Donghyuck, come on." Sungchan knows he must sound desperate, but at this point he would admit he is. Sohee's safety is in play here.

"No, you're not ready for that sh*t. You're gonna mess up my rating." Donghyuck’s tone is serious.

Sungchan rolls his eyes at his argument. "I'm not gonna mess up your rating. I'm not gonna buy guns and stuff, man. I just need a quick little research."

"No, Sungchan, it's not happening." Donghyuck persists and Sungchan groans.

He aims for the heart. "I'm worried about Sohee, dude. What if something happens to him because of this guy, and I couldn't stop it because you didn't help me? It would be your fault."

Sungchan knows it's working because of Donghyuck's deflated tone. "You're a bitch, man." He can hear him hesitating for a couple of seconds before, "I'll send you a pass key."

"Finally, thank you." Sungchan can relax, sitting back on his seat. "I'll owe you."

"Yeah, you will." Donghyuck agrees before he hangs up. A minute passes and Sungchan receives a text message.

hyuck

here you hoe

don't do anything dumb you stupid bitch

> key linked

Sungchan huffs at the other's sweet messages before his attention focuses on the key. He grins as he copies it, going straight to aruba . The screen loads for a couple of seconds before there's a search bar asking for a referral key. Sungchan pastes it there and waits for the results.

"I love the internet." He says to himself when feed appears. There's multiple images, most of them displaying illegal stuff like drugs and guns. Sungchan scrolls down until he finds a search bar, and betweenm arketplace and forum , he selects the latter.

For his researches, he goes with the most blatant things about the guy. He searches up Seunghan nerve dare motorcycle, hopeful that this will give him something to work with.

At first, he only finds forums from anonymous users, such as,'I love nerve, this year is crazy',
'so many players this year, makes a lotta $$$',
'NYC round has been solid so far',
'THIS sh*t IS GETTING HUGE'.


Sungchan scrolls through a lot of them before he finds something about Seunghan.

The user says 'This guy could win' , displaying a gif of Seunghan unlocking and using a motorcycle with a text that clearly says STOLEN BIKE. Sungchan can't say he's surprised, but he's still hit with an unpleasant feeling. Under this post, there's another one.

'I can't believe that he's playing again after Seattle' , the forum says, and Sungchan's heart falls to his feet. If this is what he thinks it is, this is the worst possible outcome. He doesn't even want to play with the thought.

He doesn't want to scroll further, but curiosity gets the best of him. The next forum says 'Last year was HECTIC' , and the gif shows Seunghan sitting on a construction crane with another guy who's hanging from it. It's visible that the crane must be very high up in the air, because instead of seeing the ground, there's clouds everywhere. Sungchan pales. "Holy sh*t."

This confirms his suspicions. The guy who died last year, Seunghan was with him.

Sungchan calls Sohee.


⋆⋆⋆

"Do you wanna get tattoos?" Sohee asks as they exit the tattoo parlor, Seunghan following close behind him. The whole procedure was less stressful than Sohee thought it would be, and right now he feels like he could do anything. Like he's on top of the world.

After admiring the rose for another good ten minutes, Quanrui kicked them out to make space for new clients. Sohee dressed himself and paid for the tattoo with his credit card (that was under his phone case, thank god), and now they're here, the cold hair hitting their faces. It's not that cold and it's pleasing, so Sohee doesn't mind.

He hears Seunghan walking behind him before he appears on his side. "Yeah, but I'll leave tonight for you. Maybe tomorrow night?" He winks and Sohee feels risky.

"Oh, I can't always book my nights for you. I’m a big sleeper." He risks a glance in Seunghan's direction, but thankfully the other is looking up ahead.

It becomes a problem when Seunghan decides to turn around and walk backwards, because his playful gaze stays on Sohee. "Believe me, if you're with me, you won't feel like sleeping."

Sohee scoffs, trying not to laugh. "Ew."

Seunghan frowns at him, but the smile doesn't leave his face. With that, Sohee can tell whatever he says next will be full of sh*t. "You're a little perv, I didn't even say anything." The biker prompts, and Sohee gapes at him.

"If there's a perv between you and me, it is not me. Don't blame me when you're so obviously starting it, you hypocrite." He spits, trying to be intimidating. Seunghan's smile doesn't falter.

"I'm sorry." He does not sound sorry at all. "But the way you get so offended at being called a perv tells me all I need to know."

Sohee snorts. "You're the one still thinking about what I wear under my clothes, by the way."

He wishes he could knock the grin off Seunghan's face. "You mean your undies?"

Sohee sends him a mean look. "They're not undies. Can't you tell the difference between boxers and undies?"

"I'm sorry, but those were way too small to be boxers." Seunghan argues and, yeah, Sohee is red again. Just when he thought his blood circulation started working.

Sohee decides to ignore Seunghan’s eyes, trying to shift the focus away from himself. "See? You're still thinking about it."

When he looks back, Seunghan is shrugging like there's nothing he should be ashamed of. "You brought it up."

Sohee sighs in surrender and shakes his head. "I will kill you."

"Sounds like a whole lot of fun." Seunghan answers right back, and Sohee wonders how much ammunition of comebacks he has. That's something to test out, he thinks, but not tonight.

Seunghan ends up taking Sohee's side again and Sohee takes advantage of that by pushing him away. Seunghan pushes him back and they go on with their immature banter before they reach the spot where Seunghan parked his motorcycle.

Before he can grab the helmets, Seunghan’s phone buzzes. He sends a funny look to Sohee when he takes it out.

"Jerry's calling."

Sohee frowns, but he's biting his lip not to smile. "Is that a Totally Spies reference?"

"Totally."

Sohee doesn't even have the heart to laugh at Seunghan's bad joke when the biker checks his phone. Sohee doesn't have to ask what it is, he's gotten used to it at this point.

Although, when he sees Seunghan's frown, he's curious. "What does it say?"

Seunghan looks up to him, the lines on his face softening. "Get to sixty miles per hour." He checks his phone again. "Alright, easy-peasy ."

"Okay?" Sohee says, also weirded out by the seemingly banality of the dare. He guesses they shouldn't be complaining.

"You ready, Sam?" Seunghan grins at him, and Sohee scoffs.

"Yeah. You ready, Clover? Or something?" He sends back, taking ahold of the helmet Seunghan's holding his way. "That's a character, right?"

Sohee isn't sure if Seunghan is laughing with him or at him, but the biker nods. "You don't know your Totally Spies characters? Shame on you."

Sohee rolls his eyes at his immaturity. "Sure, shame on me."

Just when he's about to put the helmet on his head, Seunghan's phone buzzes again. The biker frowns at it for a second, and when he looks back up to Sohee, his eyes have lost their color. He looks speechless. When there's no playful smile blooming on his face and they’re left in a complete silence, Sohee feels that something is wrong.

"What? What does it say?" He asks, and Seunghan looks away, sighing towards the empty alley next to them. Sohee waits patiently, nerves eating him before the other eventually brings his phone up for Sohee to see.

Sohee reads the dare carefully. Get to 60MPH blindfolded. There's a price of $10 000 and a countdown of two minutes.

Sohee looks up at Seunghan, dumbfounded. "Blindfolded? On the motorcycle?" He wants to laugh at the absurdity.

When Seunghan doesn't look nor respond to him, Sohee loses every thought he's ever had of laughing. "You're not going to do this, right?"

Seunghan stays terrifyingly quiet and Sohee can see the way he's clenching his jaw under the streetlamps. It drives him insane that Seunghan won't look at him.

"Seunghan? Right?" He insists, letting go of the helmet to step closer.

When Seunghan finally looks at him, Sohee doesn't like the determination on his face. "I have to." is his answer. That’s not the one Sohee expected.

He frowns at him. "What do you mean you have to?" He argues. "That's dangerous , it's not worth it."

Seunghan isn't telling him anything, but Sohee can tell that he wants to say something , clenching on his teeth and ignoring Sohee's eyes like he has to physically force himself to keep quiet. It doesn't make any sense, none of this does.

"I have to do it, okay?" He repeats, and it doesn't sound any more convincing. Seunghan is trying to keep a stone facade, but Sohee can tell he's nervous by his mannerism. He won't look at Sohee in the eye and he's not explaining enough.

Sohee repeats himself as well, confused and disoriented. "You're seriously about to do this? Really?"

For the first time, Seunghan snaps at him. "You don't get it." He turns around, leaving Sohee with the sight of his back.

Sohee feels like he's getting a door slammed in his face, forbidden to enter. He follows after Seunghan, even if he’s not really going anywhere.

"I don't get it? How am I suppposed to get it if you're not telling me anything?" He reasons out, asking for Seunghan to make sense out of this.

Seunghan turns back to him but distances himself further away, and their lack of proximity pains Sohee. Seunghan doesn't want to be close to him.

"Cute." Seunghan scoffs, and it's void of any affection. The mockery and disdain in his tone cause Sohee to flinch, who steps away with a frown. "You'd think it's that easy."

Sohee doesn't understand what the other is implying, but it hurts all the same when he feels like Seunghan is belittling him. He doesn't understand where it's coming from. He's never seen him like this.

It must show on his face because it takes a few seconds for remorse to appear in Seunghan's eyes. He closes his eyes and runs his hands over his face. "sh*t, I'm sorry. I don't know why I said that."

Sohee doesn't say anything back, still frowning at him. Seunghan eventually walks back to him with a few steps and Sohee feels less uneasy when he's closer. "I'm an asshole, I'm sorry." He apologizes again, and Sohee offers him a smile that doesn't reach his eyes.

"You are." He agrees and stares into Seunghan's eyes to find something. He doesn’t find anything. Seunghan is still blocking him out.

"Listen," Seunghan starts. "I swear, Sohee, I'm not lying to you. I wish I could, but I really can't tell you. I need to do this, trust me."

Trusting him is all Sohee has been doing tonight. He tells himself that there's limits, that he'd be an idiot to believe him because Seunghan shouldn't have anything to hide if he is who he claims he is. But it's the glint in his eyes, the pure fear and resentment, that convinces Sohee. Seunghan isn't lying.

It should come off as a warning, the fact that Seunghan is hiding something from him, but Sohee is focused on something else. "How are you gonna do this?" He asks, referring to the dare.

Seunghan sighs for what feels like the hundredth time. "I'll be okay." It's a lazy response, because they both know he won't.

Sohee doesn't believe himself with what he's about to propose. "I'll do it with you."

"No." Seunghan doesn't waste any second to shut him down and Sohee glares at him.

He crosses his arms. "How are you going to do this, then?" He asks, and the silence he receives as an answer is enough to prove his point.

"I'm not bringing you in this." Seunghan doesn't falter. The tension between them almost chokes Sohee up. He doesn't like fighting with Seunghan, but this, what they're talking about, in itself, is insane .

Sohee lifts his chin up, determined. "You're not bringing me in anything, I am."

"You don't know what you're getting into, Sohee." Seunghan says and that sentence has been thrown in Sohee's face so many times that he's become numb to it.

"I don't care whether you think I know what I'm doing or not." He shoots, getting angry. "You should know that."

Sohee can tell Seunghan is trying not to get angry as well. "Don't. You said it, it's f*cking dangerous."

Sohee guesses it must be because of the pression that's been building up in his chest all night, but he finally lashes out. "And that's exactly why I wanna do it with you!" He shouts, his voice breaking mid-sentence. "I'm sorry, but if you do this alone, it's a suicide mission. You're going to kill yourself on that bike."

Sohee realizes there's tears welling up in his eyes, and he hides his face from Seunghan, turning around. He curses under his breath, trying to get his emotions under control before he faces the other again. The worry on Seunghan's face makes him embarrassed.

Sohee sniffs. "Please, Seunghan. There's no way you'll be able to do this alone. Let me help."

Finally, Seunghan's facade is falling over, and Sohee is able to recognize the softness in his eyes. "I don't want anything to happen to you." He admits, and Sohee's heart is warm again.

"It'll be fine," He assures, trying to convince himself as well. "I'll tell you what to do. If we're careful, it'll be fine."

Seunghan doesn't look convinced, running a hand through his hair and making a mess out of it. "f*ck." He curses before his gaze finds Sohee's. It seems like he can't lie to himself anymore, he knows this dare is impossible to complete alone. "sh*t, okay. Let's do it."

Sohee smiles to hide the fact he's terrified. Seunghan does the same. The next moment passes in a blur, Sohee feeling dizzy. They don't discuss it, and it's easy to sense that both of them are terrified. All he knows is that one moment, they're sitting on the motorcycle, putting their helmets on, and the next they're waiting at a red light. Seunghan's visor is lifted, since there's a sticker he put on there. He found it in his saddlebag, the sticker big enough to hide all of his faceshield, therefore his vision, saying'NEW YORK F***ING CITY'.

Sohee grounds himself by holding Seunghan as tight as he can. He doesn't care if he looks weak in front of him anymore, he's way past that point. He still can't believe what they're about to do.

This isn't kissing some stranger on the cheek, or trying on some outfit in a rich store, or running in a public space half-naked, or getting a tattoo. This is a real risk. They could be seriously endangered, and it's Sohee's responsibility to protect them.

The red light becomes blurry and Sohee knows it'll be green eventually, making him hyperaware of everything. Of the way Seunghan's shoulders go up and down when he breathes, of the noises made by the cars around them, of the sound of his own heartbeat going haywire. Sohee's skin tingles when Seunghan tugs his hand over his own stomach in a comforting manner. As much as Sohee appreciates the contact, it doesn't ease his nerves.

"You ready?" Seunghan asks with a shaky breath.

Sohee doesn't think he'd ever be ready for something like this, but he still answers, "Yeah."

That seems to be his cue, because Seunghan looks straight ahead and brings down his visor, making him blind to the world. He starts the countdown on his phone that's placed in the phone holder to make sure it's recording and Sohee can hear him exhaling through the helmet. "Remember, you're my eyes."

They're already five seconds down when the light turns green, and Sohee brings himself closer to Seunghan, if that's even possible. "It's green."

That's all he needs to say for Seunghan to press down on the accelerator, already going to eight miles per hour. They get past the intersection in shaky movements, Seunghan's composure being overtaken by his nervosity. Sohee panics for a second, but they get on track quickly after.

"Are you okay?" Seunghan shouts over the loud noises of the motorcycle.

"Y-Yeah." Sohee assures, but the bike starts to swerve.

"Okay, you need to stay focused, Sohee." Seunghan is trying to help him, but it only adds to his panic. "I know it's scary, but you gotta talk to me."

"Okay, okay, wait." Sohee tries to communicate, but he's getting choked up. "You're going in the other lane, stay here."

He's not being precise enough, because Seunghan doesn't understand how far from their track they are, therefore he doesn't move enough. "Are we good? Is it good?" He hears the other ask frantically.

"Oh my god." Sohee exclaims when he sees a taxi catching up to them, on their right. "Taxi on the right, taxi on the right! "

They almost collide with the yellow car before Seunghan moves away stiffly, although there's still an inconsiderate distance between the vehicles. Sohee makes eye contact with the taxi driver, who rolls his window down.

"Hey!" The guy shouts. "You've got a sticker on your helmet!"

Sohee is too busy to answer him, realizing Seunghan is moving them closer to the taxi. "Seunghan, there's a taxi on our right! Go left!" He screams out, but it's too late.

Sohee puts his hand on the other car when he's sure the bike is about to graze it, trying to push himself away. It magically works, because the bike moves back to the left, but the taxi driver curses at them.

"What the f*ck? Are you crazy?" The guy shouts, driving away, and Sohee has the decency to shout back a million excuses.

"Sorry! I'm sorry!" He says, but his attention is quickly shifted when Seunghan is moving too far to the left. They're getting dangerously close to the bushes separating the different ways of the road, and Sohee screams out, "You're too far! Right, right!"

Sohee took too long to inform him because they're quite literally on their way to collide with one of the bushes. Groaning, Sohee gathers all the strength he has in his body and grabs Seunghan, leaning to the right. This results in Seunghan's body leaning to the right with the motorcycle, and they're back on track.

"Okay, I think that worked, yeah? Are we good?" Seunghan speaks up, clearly confused about what just happened. Sohee nods to himself more than to the other, who can't see him.

"Yeah." is all he can say, still in shock. Seunghan is moving straight ahead, his hands holding so tight on the handlebars that his knuckles are turning white.

"Keep doing that, okay?" Seunghan tells him. "Just lean to wherever you want to go. You're in control."

"Okay." Sohee says, leaning to the right so that they're in the other lane, no cars in their way for now. They come across another intersection. "Green."

"Alright, you're doing great." Seunghan assures. Now that they aren't in danger, Sohee takes the time to breathe.

When he notices there aren't a lot of cars around them, Sohee advises, "Speed up."

"Your wish is my command." Seunghan answers right away and complies. When there's a car in their way, Sohee simply leans to overtake the vehicle. He realizes it isn't that hard, actually. He notices they get past the taxi they encoutered earlier.

He takes a peek at Seunghan's phone to know how fast they're going. They just reached thirty miles per hour and there's one minute and thirteen seconds left to the countdown. Sohee has hope.

"We're at thirty miles." He informs Seunghan, who isn't able to see. "Halfway there."

He doesn't wait for Seunghan's response when they get to another intersection. "The next light is..." It turns green. "Green."

When they get past this one, they meet with another. "It's green."

The other answers enthusiastically. "Okay, we got this." Seunghan speeds up and Sohee leans to their left, overtaking a car. He spots the next intersection.

"The next light is..." It's green, but it turns red.

"What is it?" Seunghan pipes up when Sohee doesn't finish. "Stay with me, Sohee, what's going on?"

Sohee thinks he's making the most idiotic and impulsive decision he's ever made in his life when he shouts out, "It's green! Speed up!" And he grabs over Seunghan's hand to accelerate.

They sneak between a car and a truck, almost getting hit by the latter. Thankfully for them, the truck's driver breaks right before they can get ran over, and Sohee screams in fear, hiding his face in Seunghan's neck.

"Are you okay? What's going on?" Seunghan asks when they're past the intersection, and Sohee lifts his head back up.

"Yeah, don't worry. The next light is green." He answers, leaving Seunghan's hand so he can hold onto his waist safely.

"Okay, we're doing this." Seunghan encourages, speeding up a little bit. Sohee realizes they're only going to thirty-five miles an hour, and there's fifty-nine seconds left.

After a couple of seconds, Seunghan makes sure, "We're clear?"

"Yeah, still clear." Sohee answers, and that's when he catches sight of an older lady calling the taxi on their left. She's on the sidewalk to their right, and the taxi is changing lanes in front of them, signaling that he's going to park there.

It's so sudden that Sohee doesn't have the time to say anything, only yells as he leans with all his force to the left, dodging the taxi. They enter a separate lane that's taking them somewhere else.

"Holy sh*t, what was that?" Seunghan asks, completely oblivious.

Sohee can't answer right now. "Don't worry about it, speed up!"

"Time check?" Seunghan asks as they get into a tunnel. The orange lights are blinding, and Sohee flinches at the aggression.

"Fifteen seconds." He answers with the best of his capabilities.

"Speed?" Seunghan says, and Sohee answers right away. "Forty-six, forty-seven—“

"Yo!" Sohee is startled when they reach a van to their left and the door opens, the people inside adressing them. They're all recording, and a girl yells out, "We love you!". Most of them have a mask on, except for the girl, and Sohee would find it disturbing if he wasn't so high on adrenaline right now.

"Love you too!" Seunghan sends a finger heart their way before he speeds up, driving past them.

Sohee looks at the speed, alarmed, and puts his hand over Seunghan's to accelerate again. "Let's go!" He shouts, uncaring that they're in the middle of the road. They're lucky there aren't any more cars in sight.

There's four seconds left. "Fifty-seven, fifty-eight, fifty-nine." Sohee cries out. "Sixty!"

He screams at the top of his lungs, feeling invincible. "We did it!" He sees Seunghan lifting his visor and looking back at him with a huge smile, before they notice what's ahead of them.

There's the Grand Central Terminal, and they're driving right into it at sixty miles per hour.

"Oh, sh*t!" Seunghan exclaims, immediately pressing on the brakes. But they saw it too late, they're too close and there's no way the bike will stop in time.

Seunghan seems to be thinking the same thing because, in a swift movement, he maneuvers the motorcycle so that the wheels can't keep turning, pulling to the left. When the wheels are perpendicular to the direction they're going in, it does help to slow them down, but the ground must be slippery because the bike loses its balance as it falls down, throwing them to the left and off their seats.

The impact is decently violent and Sohee thinks he hasn't landed on the ground well, because after the shock of falling, he feels pain in his right knee. He's also aware he has hit his head when he feels a slight migraine forming, but after all, he's okay.

He sighs when he frees himself from the helmet, glad that he still has all his body parts but worried about Seunghan. It's too soon to move, his body still processing the shock. It doesn't help that Sohee's back was already sensitive because of the tattoo.

He tries calling out, "Seunghan?" But his voice is weak, and he doubts the other can hear him. He slightly starts to panic when he realizes Seunghan isn't near him, which means the bike dragged him further away.

"Sohee!" He hears a familiar voice shout out and he's instantly relieved. He lifts a hand up to show he's alive, hearing the other running to him.

"Sohee, f*ck , are you okay?" He's happy to see Seunghan's face intact, panicked but intact, looking back at him.

Sohee frowns at Seunghan's distressed state. As far as he knows, he isn't gravely injured, and Seunghan looks fine, especially since he was capable enough to run to him.

"I'm okay." He nods, sitting up so he can take a better look at the other. "Are you okay?" He holds Seunghan's face in his hands, inspecting it. Seunghan won't even look at him, staring at his knee.

"Your knee." He speaks up and Sohee follows his gaze.

He realizes why it hurts. He probably fell on his leg when he landed on the ground, which caused him to graze his knee. The fabric of the pants is broken, leaving a hole where his injury is. It's not that bad, but there's a bit of blood. Sohee is more upset about the pants, honestly.

But, even when Sohee looks back up, Seunghan is still staring at his leg, and Sohee realizes he's shaking. "Hey, Seunghan, what's going on?" He frowns, concerned.

Seunghan looks back at him and seems to also find out he's shaking. He tries to hide it, but Sohee takes none of it. "Did you hit your head?"

Sohee grabs his face again and Seunghan almost falls on him, sitting on him, but Sohee couldn't care less, feeling the jitter of the other's body against his own hands.

He's guessing Seunghan is having a panic attack of some sort and caresses his hair in an attempt to soothe him. "You're okay, I'm okay. There's no reason to be scared, okay?"

Seunghan is only staring at him, and Sohee can tell he's slowly coming down from his high. When he comes back to his senses, Seunghan flinches at the realization that he's sitting on Sohee's legs.

Sohee forces him to stay there, shaking his head. "It doesn't hurt, I swear." He assures, and Seunghan frowns even though he sits back down.

When they just stare at each other for a beat too long and the realization of what they just did falls on him, Sohee starts laughing like a maniac. He holds onto Seunghan, trying to keep himself grounded, but he can't stop the vomit of laugh that's coming out of his mouth.

"Why the f*ck are you laughing?" Seunghan's frown deepens but he struggles to speak without laughing as well, and he ends up joining Sohee in his delirium. They must've hit their heads pretty bad, or it's only the shock of what happened overtaking their actions. Sohee doesn't care either way, he's just happy to be with Seunghan.

Their faces get closer as they laugh, their breaths eventually mingling together. Sohee doesn't mind the proximity, soaking himself in it, and giggles when their noses touch. He thinks Seunghan shouldn't look so good after escaping their deaths.

Only now, he hears a car moving next to them, people cheering for them, but he ignores it. He doesn't think his attention should be on anything else other than Seunghan, who's laughing with his hair all up in his face right in front of him.

Seunghan is staring at him too, his finger coming up to trace Sohee's nose, and then his lips. Sohee chuckles at the gesture, grabbing Seunghan's wrist like an anchor. Next thing he knows, Seunghan is holding his chin and pulling him into a kiss.

Sohee feels many emotions bloom in his chest : shock, uncertainty, realization and heat. They all get mixed up with each other, making him confused, but all he's sure of is that Seunghan is kissing him and that he's kissing back. Feeling the need to grab something, he holds onto the other's nape.

Seunghan is kissing him softly, and Sohee tries to follow his lead as best as he can. After all, it's the first time he ever gives into the intimacy of kissing someone, and he's thankful that Seunghan seems to be taking it slow with him. Nothing seems forced, and Sohee decides to stop overthinking to give into the moment.

He holds onto Seunghan's shoulders, onto his nape, even running his hands through his hair. Seunghan smiles into the kiss at the gesture and Sohee smiles back. The biker takes this opportunity to lick into his mouth, surprising Sohee.

Sohee isn't sure how to react, tries licking back timidly as he sits up properly, holding Seunghan's face. Seunghan responds by opening up Sohee's mouth with his thumb on his chin, giving him another flick of his tongue. Sohee takes the message and lets him take the lead happily.

Seunghan pushes slightly on Sohee until he ends up on his back, his head laying on the ground. Sohee giggles as Seunghan follows him, placing his hands on both sides of Sohee's head. "What are you doing?"

Seunghan smiles down at him. "I'm kissing you properly." He answers, and this time, Sohee is prepared when he dives back into him. He welcomes Seunghan with enthusiam, opening his mouth and holding his nape, letting him do his thing.

Seunghan kisses him dumbly until they have to catch their breath, and when they part, they smile at each other like teenagers. Sohee gets distracted by something in the corner of his eye, turning his head. He sees a figure far away, holding up a phone. They're being recorded.

Remembering where they are, Sohee blushes and hides his face with his hands. Seunghan senses that Sohee is uncomfortable and asks, "What's wrong?"

"Someone's recording us." He mumbles, and Seunghan looks around them, before he finds the figure. He also seems to be getting a reality check and sits up on his knees, holding a hand up for Sohee to take. Sohee takes it and they get on their feet, stretching their limbs. Sohee thinks he could be feeling worse, given the situation they just went through.

So many things happened in the past thirty minutes that he feels a bit dizzy as he wobbles on his legs. He's taken by surprise when Seunghan holds him by the shoulders steadily and leaves a quick peck on his lips before grabbing his hand, guiding them towards his bike. "Let's go eat, I'm f*ckin' hungry."


⋆⋆⋆


Sohee takes a bite of the pizza Seunghan bought them, and he only now realizes how hungry he was. All the constant adrenaline and stress made him forget about his basic human needs, but he's glad Seunghan brought him back to them. Pizza with extra cheese is the best thing to eat after almost dying, he thinks.

They eat quietly as they wander around in the streets, sometimes running into other people. Sohee likes the silence and likes that he and Seunghan are comfortable with it. He doesn't feel the need to fill it with forced words, content with their shared peace.

They walked to the closest pizza place they found, because Sohee didn't want Seunghan to drive in case he had hit his head without realizing and, well. It never hurts to walk a bit. They pushed the bike somewhere safe and then Seunghan insisted to go rinse Sohee's injury in some public bathroom. Sohee had winced when Seunghan used a soaked paper on his knee, but after the blood was gone, they realized the injury really wasn't that bad.

After that, they let their legs take them wherever, chewing on their pizzas. Sohee laughs when Seunghan gets cheese on his nose (he has no idea how that happened) and Seunghan raises his middle finger at him. It only makes Sohee laugh more.

At some point, a source of light piques pikes Sohee's interest, and with Seunghan's hand in his, he walks towards it. He finds out it's a carousel and he turns to the biker. "Up for a ride?"

Seunghan scoffs at him, but his thumb is drawing over Sohee's index. "I don't know, are you tall enough for that stuff?"

Sohee lets go of his hand to slap it, rolling his eyes. "You're barely taller than me." He states and walks towards the carousel, leaving Seunghan behind. He can hear the other following him, though.

"I’m much taller than you." is Seunghan's mature response, which makes Sohee snort. He turns around and sends the other a playful look when he steps into the carousel and holds onto a horse. Seunghan follows him.

When Seunghan is done with his pizza slice, while Sohee has stopped eating his, he eyes it not subtly. "You gonna eat that?"

Sohee turns his head to look at him, and then looks at his pizza slice. He's eaten half of it, but he isn't hungry anymore. It is huge, in Sohee's defense. He shakes his head at Seunghan, and the biker grabs the slice to finish it in two bites.

Sohee blankly stares. "I don't know if I should be impressed or disgusted."

When Seunghan responds with a wink, Sohee lets out a small laugh. They quielty walk through the horses of the carousel, and Sohee marvels at the beautiful architecture.

After some time, Seunghan speaks up. "Listen, Sohee. I really am sorry for what I said earlier." Sohee doesn't expect the apology, looking back at Seunghan with big eyes. He can see the remorse still present in the other's face. "I was mad, not at you, but I still released my anger on you. I don't even know why I said it, I just felt like I needed to be an asshole."

Sohee nods, understanding. "It's okay, I forgive you."

While being forgiven, Seunghan doesn't look satisfied. "You're being way too nice. Can you at least insult me?"

Taking the easy route, Sohee decides that making a joke will lighten up the mood. "Do you like being degraded, or what?"

For once, he has the upper hand on Seunghan, who's gaping at him. "I knew you were a little perv!" He says, and Sohee explodes into a fit of laughter.

After he calms down, he coughs soflty. "No, but seriously, it's okay." Sohee assures, admiring the details on a horse's face. "I'm guessing you still don't want to tell me what that was about."

Seunghan stays silent for too long and Sohee sighs. He understands Seunghan doesn't owe him anything, and he respects it, but a part of him is scared that Seunghan is deliberately hiding something from him for a reason . Maybe he's looking too much into it, and Seunghan has a valid reason to keep this secret to himself.

"I'm sorry, I really can't tell you." Seunghan ends up answering, scratching the back of his head.

Sohee decides that he doesn't want to make it a big deal. "It's whatever." He shakes his head, trying to change the topic. "By the way, I feel like I know way less about you than you know about me."

Seunghan smiles at him, like he's thanking Sohee for talking about something else. "Come on," He tilts his head at him, clearly teasing. "You know my favorite color and my favorite position."

"To sleep in." Sohee adds in a hurry, glaring at the other who only responds with a childish laugh. "I don't know about like, the real stuff, I guess you could say."

Seunghan shrugs, walking lightly on his feet. "Shoot."

Sohee thinks deeply about what he should ask until he comes up with a question he deems good enough as well as not overly intrusive. "Why do you play Nerve?"

Seunghan hums, looking away as he considers the question. He answers eventually, "To help with my family. They struggle a lot financially, so yeah." Sohee is scared he might've touched on something that's sensitive to Seunghan, but at the same time, Sohee has told him about his problems and it's helped so far, so he'd like to do the same.

He briefly wonders if it has anything to do with Seunghan's need to complete these dares, like the consequences he will face would be too big if he declined them. It would make sense, that he's sending all the money he's earning to his family and doesn't want to lose it all because he decided to bail. He doesn't ask about that, though.

"That's brave." He compliments instead.

Seunghan lifts his gaze at him, and a small smile appears on his face. "Thank you."

That makes Sohee curious about another thing, "How long have you been playing?"

Seunghan becomes stiff and looks away, as if he's deciding on what to say. Sohee frowns, reading the other's body language. He thinks that this reaction is weird, but he also might be overthinking like he was doing earlier. This seems to be a touchy subject to talk about, so Sohee decides that he shouldn't think negatively of how Seunghan decides to approach it.

"Some time." He answers, and Sohee can't help but think that it's eerily vague. Like Seunghan isn't giving much information on purpose.

Sohee thinks it's fair to ask for some specifications. "Which means?"

Seunghans shrugs, still not looking at him. "Well, it's complicated. An accident happened, and I stopped playing for some time, but I'm back."

The word accident doesn't make Sohee feel any good. "An accident? Like what?"

He dugs too deep and only realizes it when Seunghan's breath stays stuck in his throat. He gets ahold of himself and looks at Sohee. "Nothing too bad, don't worry about it." He answers with a smile.

This is Seunghan setting boundaries, Sohee understands, and decides to respect it. "As long as you didn't get hurt." He concludes.

That seems to take Seunghan somewhere else, as he bites on his lip. "Yeah, by the way..."

When he drifts off, Sohee turns his gaze to him. Seunghan isn't looking at him again, but at the ground. "Thank you for helping me earlier. You probably saved my life."

Sohee feels a smile slowly creep up on his face. "Of course. I wasn't going to let you kill yourself."

Seunghan smiles too when he looks up, but it's teasing and Sohee knows that he's going to crack some kind of joke. "I'm going to think you have a crush, risking your life for me and all."

Sohee is the one who looks away now, watching the lights of the carousel shining around them. He feels his face becoming warm at the idea of what he's about to say. "Well, I thought we made that pretty clear."

He doesn't look, but Seunghan's silence proves his surprise at Sohee bringing up their kiss. Sohee is also surprised, since it's not like him to be confrontational. But, well, he feels like he really has a connection with Seunghan, and he likes him.

After a few seconds, Seunghan hums. "You think? I honestly don't remember, maybe we should do it again so I—"

"Don't push your luck." Sohee cuts him out but represses a smile. He likes how easy it is to talk with Seunghan, even about things that usually make him anxious. It's like the other knows it stresses Sohee out, so he tries to make it less serious for him. It's his way of telling Sohee that it's fine, that he doesn't mind whether they talk about it or not.

This pushes Sohee to take the risk to speak again. "This sounds crazy, and I know we've known each other for like, five hours, but I like you. I like... being with you." He finishes awkwardly, not used to being so blunt about his feelings.

He can't look at Seunghan, feeling too vulnerable to look into his eyes, and the silence that follows his confession terrifies him.

Seunghan speaks up after some time, "It does sound crazy, but I feel the same."

That makes Sohee turn his head, but the other isn't even looking at him, staring ahead of them. He finds it funny that Seunghan might be as shy as Sohee, which makes it hard to have eye contact. Seunghan isn't shy, or at least, he hasn’t been with Sohee. He’s only been confident and provocative, so Sohee having that effect on him now makes him feel all funny inside.

He can't even manage to process the fact that Seunghan likes him . "You like me?"

Seunghan finally looks back at him, and the surprise on his face makes him look adorable. "Of course I like you. You're funny, too kind for your own good, you're able to take my jokes, also weirdly satifying to mess with, and you're the only person I know who doesn't get annoyed at me after one hour of my presence. Honestly, that's hubby material. And that's if I don't mention you being gorgeous, too."

Sohee is stunned, only able to stare back at the other. He's never imagined someone feeling this way about him, especially someone who he feels the same for. It makes him a bit dizzy, but Sohee hides it by holding onto one of the horses. Seunghan is literally sweeping him off his feet, too perfect for this world and definitely too perfect for him.

Deciding that he's shown enough of his vulnerability, Sohee jokes, "I get annoyed with your presence, I just don't show it."

Seunghan scoffs at that. "Sure you do. Is that what makes you so red in the face? 'Cause, you just look too cute, I might want to annoy you every second from now on."

He's such a sweet talker, and Sohee hates (loves) it. He looks ahead, knowing that if he wasn't already red, he is now. "I hate you." is the best he can come up with, flustered at being caught.

"Say that again and I might fall in love." Seunghan sing-songs, his light tone indicating that he's messing with him.

Sohee looks directly into eyes. "I hate you."

That shuts Seunghan up, who looks like he's being offered a challenge. Always up for one, he dodges the horse separating them to walk towards Sohee. When he takes Sohee's hands into his own, Sohee gets a full body shiver. Seunghan slightly looks down on him, and Sohee waits for his next move. "You're asking for it. You want me at your feet."

Sohee blushes at the way he says it, his voice having a small whine to it. "Aren't you already?" He sends back, biting on his lip playfully.

Seunghan's gaze lowers on his mouth at the action, and he nods slightly. "Yeah, you're right." He says, and this time Sohee expects it when he goes to kiss him. He accepts the kiss with a smile, unable to control it, and tugs at Seunghan's hair.

This time, it's messier, because Seunghan doesn't move as slowly as he did earlier, leaving no time for Sohee to follow him. He pushes Sohee lightly on the horse, and Sohee uses it to lean on. He lets Seunghan take full control and hopes that no one is watching, fisting at his shirt. The way Seunghan holds his waist and the small of his back lights him on fire, and he wishes for this moment to never stop.

When he goes to pull at Seunghan's hair and pulls too hard, Seunghan groans into the kiss. Sohee suddenly feels like he's too warm, stroking the other's face softly as an apology, and Seunghan pushes him against the horse, harder this time. This pulls a small sound out of Sohee, and the biker swallows it greedily.

At the back of his head, Sohee knows they should stop it there, because they're in a public space and he knows he would puke if he saw people eating each other's faces like they are doing right now. It's the only reason why he isn't necessarily mad when his phone rings, disrupting the silence and interrupting them.

Seunghan gets off him, frowning at the sound. Sohee frowns as well, because he thought he had put his phone on silent. He guesses that, during all the action they had earlier, it’s not impossible that he pushed on the button accidentally.

Sohee gets his phone out while Seunghan still hovers over him, looking at the screen. It's a call from Chanyoung.

Sohee declines it, sighing. He has ignored their calls and text messages all night, and it confuses him that they're still calling. He feels kind of bad, but he doesn't want to break this moment with Seunghan. After all the times Sohee deprived himself for his friends, they can wait.

"Chanyoung." Seunghan reads out, and then looks at Sohee. "Youngest, right?"

Sohee smiles and uses his hand that isn't holding his phone to play with Seunghan's hair. "You've got great memory for an idiot."

Seunghan leans into Sohee's hand and closes his eyes, smiling wider at the insult. "Thanks, love you too."

He knows he's kidding, but Sohee can't help the butterflies that explode in his stomach at the words 'love you' coming from Seunghan's mouth. He decides to ignore the feeling, subduing his smile.

When Seunghan opens his eyes, he looks at Sohee's lockscreen. "Who's this?" Sohee looks back at him, and then at the picture of him and Wonbin.

"That's me and Wonbin. We were on the ferry." Sohee explains, weirdly thankful for the question. Seunghan always somehow finds a way to make him feel like he's interesting. "We had so much fun that night, especially at the time this was taken."

Seunghan hums, attentive. "Pretty."

Assuming he's talking about the setting of the picture, Sohee smiles. "I know, right? The sunset was so beautiful. Eunseok took it, he's got great photographing skills."

"I was talking about you, but the sunset too, I guess." Seunghan says.

Sohee can't control the warmth that spreads from his ears to his collarbones, and he feels the need to remove his blazer to be able to breathe. Seunghan won't stop attacking him, and Sohee's armor is breaking apart.

Sohee can't take it, but he acts like he can, rolling his eyes. "You're such a sweet talker. You talk like that to every guy you meet in a diner?"

Seunghan shrugs, his eyes scanning Sohee. "Only the pretty ones, yeah."

Sohee pushes him at that, and Seunghan squeaks when he almost falls off the carousel. Sohee laughs and grabs him by the shoulders, which is hard since he's still holding his phone, and puts his free hand on his mouth to silence him. Seunghan licks his palm and Sohee flinches back, grimacing.

"Disgusting." He exlaims, making the most out of it. "You're forbidden to touch me from now on." He says, turning his back to Seunghan.

In typical Seunghan fashion, he doesn't accept prohibition. "Noooo." He whines as he follows him, getting into his space. Sohee giggles when Seunghan rubs his nose in the space between his neck and his shoulder. He acts as if he's tapping on his phone to ignore him, but he accidentally clicks on a notification. It takes him to instagram, and next thing he knows, he's watching someone's instagram story.

He soon realizes it's Eunseok's, from thirty minutes ago. He can't see much in the video since the camera is shaking a lot, but it's clear that he's at a party.

Seunghan must be watching as well, because he mutters, "Looks like he's having fun."

He's hugging Sohee from behind, and Sohee can feel his breath on his cheek. "Yeah." Sohee plainly answers, not sure of what to think. The thought of his friends makes him anxious, for some reason. Maybe because they're representing his life, and Sohee doesn't want to go back to that right now. He wants to stay here, with Seunghan, ignoring all his problems because Seunghan allows him to. Because Seunghan helps him to forget.

Although, Seunghan clearly can't tell. "I feel like going to a party. Wanna go meet your friend?"

Sohee doesn't expect this proposition, breaking Seunghan's hold on him when he turns around to face him. "Right now? Why?"

Seunghan simply shrugs, playing with the hem of Sohee's blazer. "Why not? It'll be fun to meet your friends." He says, before he notices that Sohee is frowning. "Unless you don't want to."

Sohee shakes his head, feeling mixed emotions. "It's not that I don't want to..." He tries to soften his voice. "I've been ignoring them all night, and I feel like they might not be too happy to see me."

He wants to laugh at Seunghan, who looks like a kicked puppy right now. "What are you saying? Anyone would be happy to see you." He argues.

Sohee raises an eyebrow at him. "Stop trying to give me your god complex, it's not going to work."

Seunghan smiles like a brat. "Baby boy's got jokes on him." He says, acting all surprised.

Sohee shakes his head and grimaces. "Don't call me that."

"Okay, sweetcheeks."

"Seunghan."

"Okay, Mr. Sohee." Seunghan lifts his hands up and, if he didn't want to ruin such an attractive face, Sohee would punch him. "Wanna crash to this party or not?"

Sohee sighs, but he knows well that he can't say no to Seunghan. Still, he points out, "You don't even know where it is."

Seunghan tuts at him. "I know my way around, come onbooboo." He invites Sohee to follow him with a flick of his hand as he gets off the carousel. Sohee scoffs in disbelief but joins him, taking Seunghan's hand in his own to ignore the thumping of his heart.


⋆⋆⋆


Sohee holds onto Seunghan's arm when they're waiting in the elevator of the building where the party is. He still has no idea how Seunghan knows it's here, but he doesn't have the heart to ask him when he's stressed out of his mind. He feels weird for being so anxious about meeting his friends , who he should be the least anxious with. He just has a bad feeling about this.

"You okay?" Seunghan senses his fear, looking worriedly at him.

Sohee nods, exhaling a shaky breath. "Yeah. It's just my brain being stupid."

Seunghan frees himself from Sohee's hold on his arm to grab his hand, interlacing their fingers and bringing it up to kiss it. "I'll fight off anyone who makes you feel the tiniest bit annoyed, yeah?"

Sohee's heart beats faster. "Okay, big guy." Sohee humors him. "Good luck doing that with your five feet nine."

"I’m like, five feet eleven. " Seunghan corrects, pout audible in his voice.

The doors of the elevator open and Sohee takes the opportunity to run away. "With shoes on, maybe."

Seunghan chases him and they run in the hallway like kids until they reach the apartment where the party is taking place. It's pretty obvious, the music being loud enough to hear on the outside. Sohee feels the anxiety creeping back into his bones, and he considers asking Seunghan to leave.

He takes a steadying breath and convinces himself that everything is okay and that he's overreacting. After all, if anything happens, Seunghan said that he'd take his defense. He gives a look to the other, who's already watching him carefully.

"Get behind me!" Seunghan cracks a joke and grabs Sohee to hide him behind himself, knocking on the door. Sohee laughs at his absurdity.

Sohee doesn't recognize the guy who opens the door. He seems to recognize them, though, smiling with all his teeth.

"Yo! They're here!" The guy shouts out, and there's exclamations coming from the appartement. The next thing he knows, they're getting dragged inside.

There's a lot of people, and it's clear that the party has been going on for hours now. Everyone looks completely wasted, and the smell of alcohol is too strong for Sohee's nose.

Many people are surrounding them, and it overwhelms Sohee, who's never really been to this kind of party. However, Seunghan looks like he's in his natural habitat, dabbing up everyone he comes across. The sight makes Sohee smile.

Some guy comes up to him — Sohee thinks he recognizes him from Wonbin’s circle of friends, Sion? — and he's surprised when he's being offered a hug. "Yoooo! You guys are celebrities!"

Sohee laughs a little at Sion, who can barely stand on his feet. His words bring a sort of realization, more of a reminder, to Sohee. A lot of people have been watching them, but Sohee had stopped counting their number of viewers, too engrossed in Seunghan to care.

He doesn't know how to feel about that, because that means everyone saw him almost dying. Obviously, he knew that but, this is very much dragging him back to reality. It feels real , now that someone else talks about it.

Fully recognizing Sion by now, Sohee decides to ask, "Hey, have you seen Wonbin?"

Sion nods messily. "Oh, yeah! He's probably here somewhere." He answers, and Sohee kind of wants to help him find a place to sit. He doesn't have time to, because as quickly as Sion appeared before him, he's now gone.

Someone grabs his hand and Sohee realizes with relief that it's Seunghan. The other smiles at him, questioning if he's okay, and Sohee smiles back. They get deeper into the sea of people, getting cheered on and clapped for. Sohee has never been the victim of so much attention all at once, and he's thankful Seunghan is in front of him because he wouldn't know how to react. Overwhelming would be an understatement to describe how it makes him feel.

Someone grabs him again and Sohee almost shouts in surprise. He feels Seunghan holding tighter on his hand, probably a reflex, and he looks up to whoever almost gave him a heart attack.

When he recognizes Jaehyun, who's currently ruffling his hair, Sohee laughs. It's Chanyoung's older brother.

"Hey, Sohee!" He adresses him after his attack, and Seunghan frees him of his hold when he sees that they know each other. "So what, you're famous now, and you're going to act like you don't know me? Come on, tell them how I've been like a brother to you." He says, pointing to all the people surrounding them.

"I didn't see you!" Sohee informs him, because it's true. Jaehyun is right, especially three or two years ago, he was always driving them around and buying stuff for Chanyoung's friends. He's the closest Sohee's ever had to a sibling.

When Sohee shifts his focus on the person next to Chanyoung's brother, he tries to school his facial expression upon seeing Sung Hanbin. He's looking back at him with a smile, gorgeous like he always is.

"That was cool what you did out there, Sohee." Sohee wants to pinch himself to see if this is a dream because Hanbin not only talked to him but apparently knows his name too. Well, it does make sense since they’ve grown up around the same people, but still.

He hasn’t seen him for a year now, since he’s older and graduated to university. Sohee would be losing his marbles at seeing his childhood crush here, if he hadn't met Seunghan.

But, well, he did meet Seunghan, and the idea of having Jung Jaehyun's attention isn't as exciting as it used to be when the biker is standing behind him, not so subtly listening to their conversation.

"Thanks." Sohee smiles back, and he doesn't have the time to say anything else when Seunghan moves beside him, pulling on his arm.

"Let's go meet your friends." He says, and Sohee wants to laugh at his neediness. He smiles at Hanbin one last time and waves his hand as a goodbye before he gets pulled by Seunghan to somewhere else.

When they're around new people, Sohee makes an effort of scanning everyone's face, hopeful to recognize one in the crowd. He doesn't notice that Seunghan is staring at him. "You're blushing."

Sohee looks back at him, eyes wide. He hadn't noticed, but now he does feel the heat spreading on his face. Sohee doesn't understand why Seunghan feels the need to point it out now, though.

"Oh my god, are you jealous?" He asks, connecting the dots. He must hit right on the nail because Seunghan looks away in shame.

"No." He blatantly lies, and Sohee wants to giggle because he's being too cute. "But why are you blushing?"

Sohee snorts, forcing Seunghan to look back at him by taking his face between his hands. "I told you not to let it flatter your ego. I just get embarrassed easily, you'd know that." He says, smiling when Seunghan looks back at him. The biker grabs his waist and Sohee lets go of his face to put his arms around his neck.

"Alright, alright." He accepts, nodding slightly. Sohee feels the way he pokes at the small of his back rhythmically with his finger. "But don't blush at other guys too much."

Sohee scoffs at his display of possessiveness, since they haven't even put a name on what they are yet. He thinks it's sweet, though, and obviously there's a tint of humor in the way he says it.

Sohee is about to retort with some teasing before he sees Chanyoung when he looks over Seunghan's shoulder. Sohee pushes on Seunghan's chest to get free of his hold and then grabs his hand, walking towards his friend. Seunghan stares at him bemusedly through his actions but doesn't stop him.

"Chanyoung!" Sohee calls out when they get to an audible distance and Chanyoung turns around with a confused look on his face. When he sees Sohee, he smiles in recognition.

"Sohee!" He calls back, and then he looks at Seunghan. His smile doesn’t exactly deflate but it freezes, and Sohee guesses it's out of politeness but he's still thankful. "You're here."

"Yeah." is the only thing Sohee can answer. He's glad he ran into Chanyoung first, since he's definitely the calmest one. Even if Chanyoung was mad at him, he wouldn't be hard on Sohee.

"Hey, man." Seunghan suddenly lifts his hand up for a handshake with a big smile and Sohee gets scared for a second, before Chanyoung accepts it. Sohee's brain fuzzes when he sees them shaking hands. "You having a good night?"

Chanyoung nods shyly, taking a sip out of his red cup. "Yeah, it's fine. Everyone's too wasted now, I'm probably heading back soon." Then, he turns his focus on Sohee. "Sohee—"

"Sohee?" Sohee recognizes Wonbin's voice before he appears from behind Chanyoung, frowning at him. Sohee doesn't think he's ever seen him look this drunk. His eyes are glassy and he's leaning on Chanyoung to stand properly. He doesn't look too happy, that's for sure.

"Hey." Sohee greets him, every muscle in his body tensing. He doesn't know what to expect from his friend, because Wonbin rarely gets drunk, and when he does, he tends to get overly emotional.

He's right to be scared. "Hey?" Wonbin repeats after him, and Sohee gets hit by a wave of nausea at the venom in his voice. "That's all you have to say, really?"

Sohee is speechless for a second, his brain not working. He didn't expect his friends to greet him with rainbows, but he didn't expect this . He didn't expect Wonbin to look so disgusted of him.

He feels Seunghan grab his hand, his way of telling him he can be used as an anchor, and Sohee uses him happily. He holds the other's hand like his life depends on it, hoping that he’s not hurting Seunghan. Wonbin's eyes zeros in on the action.

"We should go talk." Wonbin speaks up again, his gaze staying on Seunghan for a second. He doesn't offer any polite smile like Chanyoung did, he blatantly glares. "In private."

Sohee feels anger bloom in his chest. He's dismissing Seunghan right in his face, disrespecting him. "No." He answers, and surprise shadows over Wonbin's face. "Anything you have to tell me, he can hear it."

He tries to look strong, keeping a straight posture. Seunghan tugs on his hand a little, wether to thank him or to warn him. Sohee's mind is too blurry to differentiate the two. When he sees Wonbin about to speak up, he does it before him. "Where's Shotaro and Eunseok?"

Wonbin's face goes from annoyed at being interrupted to confused. "You don't know?" He asks, frowning, and Sohee doesn't even know what he's supposed to not know.

"What?" He says, nervous. Whatever Wonbin is about to tell him doesn't feel like good news.

Wonbin turns his head, looking over his shoulder. Sohee follows his gaze and finds an open window. There's a ladder joining this window to the twin building that's right across from this one. Someone placed this ladder against the two windows, and it looks like it's meant to be a passage. "Eunseok got a dare to walk across that ladder but he fell and almost broke his leg. He bailed." Wonbin explains.

"He fell?" Sohee repeats, dumbfounded. His blood runs cold. There's no way Eunseok would've survived this fall, they're on the tenth floor.

"Well, he fell on the ladder." Wonbin nods like he's explaining something as simple as their homework. He isn't looking at Sohee, his mind lost somewhere else. "I still thought he was going to die when it happened."

Sohee can tell Wonbin has had a long night, his eyebags prominent and his eyes red. He feels bad for adding to his evident stress. "Will he be okay?" He asks as he realizes he wasn't the only one who almost died tonight. He wasn't there to support Eunseok, and it pains him.

He doesn't have to hurt himself over that though, because Wonbin does it for him. "He'll be fine, but he's at the hospital with Shotaro. You would've known if you answered one of our calls."

Sohee's chest hurts and his eyes burn. A small part of him understands where Wonbin is coming from, but the biggest part finds it unfair. "I didn't know." He defends himself, hating how weak he sounds.

He can sense how tense Seunghan is next to him, while he's subtly stroking his thumb over his palm in a soothing motion. Although, All Sohee can think of is Wonbin in front of him who's looking back at him in a way he never has before. When he speaks up, his tone is mean. "Of course you didn't know. It's not like anyone tried to reach you, right?"

Sohee frowns in disbelief, and then scoffs. The people around them are noticing their argument and the party has become quieter, leaving the spotlight on the both of them. Sohee is too engrossed in his own feelings to notice the phones pointed in their direction. "I'm sorry that I was too busy enjoying the best night of my life instead of putting all of my attention on my friends for the first time ever." He retorts, an ugly feeling spreading in his stomach.

Now, it's Wonbin's turn to scoff. "It's funny you say that, because I've spent probably the worst night of my life, seeing both of my friends almost die, and getting no f*cking news from you! How hard is it to answer with a short message or just a call to let us know you're okay? We wasted all of our night worrying and you don't give a sh*t about us."

It's clear that Wonbin is drunk, because he's never talked like that to Sohee before, but it's also clear there's a hint of honesty in what he's saying. That's how he truly feels.

However, being attacked so bluntly in front of so many people who are listening, Sohee wants to fight back. He feels the way his heart is beating out of his chest, making him weak on his legs, but he doesn't show it.

"I'm sorry, Wonbin, that for once in my life, I did something for myself." He feels like he's going to throw up. "I always do what you tell me to, and usually I'd feel bad, but I don't. Stop acting like I owe you anything. I never asked you to worry for me, so don't act like I should be grateful. It's f*cking suffocating ."

Wonbin looks like he's about to cry, and Sohee doubts he looks any different. "Oh, yeah? Suffocating, really?"

"Yes." Sohee stands on his ground. "I'm not a kid. I don't have to answer your texts, or your calls, just because you feel like I can't protect myself."

"Sohee." Wonbin calls out, taking a step towards him, and Sohee fists his hands in apprehension. He thinks he's crushing Seunghan's hand. "Maybe people treat you like a kid, because you act like one."

There are people gasping around them, and Sohee only now realizes how many people are actually listening. It's overwhelming, and with Wonbin's words thrown at him, Sohee feels the need to get out of here as fast as possible. He doesn't want to cry in front of so many people.

"Wonbin." Chanyoung interferes, knowing that he's going too far, that he's going to regret what he's saying, but it's too late. Wonbin is spiraling.

"No, Chanyoung." Wonbin refuses. "I mean, look! You're risking your life for this guy that you don't know a single thing about—"

At the mention of Seunghan, Sohee gets defensive. "You don't know what you're talking about. Leave him out of this."

Wonbin shakes his head at him with a pitying smile. "He's manipulating you, Sohee. It's so f*cking clear. You're helping him with all these dares and—"

This time, Seunghan interrupts him. "Hey , you don't know me, alright?" He argues when Wonbin is trying to insinuate that he's using Sohee.

Wonbin shifts his gaze to him and laughs mockingly. "Come on, don't act like you're not trying to get into his pants."

Some people are laughing around them, and for the first time in his life, Sohee hates Wonbin. Chanyoung is tugging on his arm, trying to make him stop, and Seunghan is standing still beside Sohee.

"You're being an asshole." Sohee decides to say, trying to hide the sobs that desperately want to come out of his throat. "What are you saying? That someone like him couldn't be interested in someone like me?"

Wonbin blinks slowly while he fights off Chanyoung's hands away from him, and it's obvious that he's out of it. "You're blinded, Sohee. The only reason why he's with you is because of this game."

Sohee can only shake his head in disbelief while Seunghan starts to take his defense. While they argue, Sohee's phone buzzes. He takes a subtle peek when nobody's paying attention. Finish Eunseok's dare.

It's stupid, and it's useless, but Sohee can barely feel anything at the moment. He only wants to prove himself, and to prove Wonbin wrong.

When his attention comes back to their current situation, Wonbin is pointing his finger at Seunghan rather aggressively. "Every time he's been in danger tonight was because you dragged him in there. Don't expect me to trust a f*cking word you say."

The world around him becomes blurry, and Sohee only has one goal. He doesn't care that there's other things to focus on right now, he needs to reach that window.

Wonbin thinks Sohee can't make decisions for himself? That Seunghan forced him into this? He'll show him.

Sohee walks past Wonbin and doesn't care when he bumps into his shoulder, forcing him to take a few steps back. Whatever Seunghan is saying, he doesn't finish it. When he reaches the window, Sohee crouches to fit through it as he throws one of his feet outside, on the ladder.

"Sohee, what are you doing?" Wonbin's voice becomes louder with worry and Sohee places his other feet on the ladder as well, grabbing securely at the wall with his hand.

Seunghan is at the edge of the window in a second, looking up at him. "Don't do this." He pleads, but Sohee doesn't hear any voices except the one inside of his head. It spurs him on.

Sohee slowly spreads his arms on both sides of his body to create balance, his phone recording in one of his hands. He tries his best not to look down.

But he has to, since he's stepping on a ladder, and he doesn't want to fall in between the steps. When he gazes under himself, he almost slips out of pressure. He's really high up and falling would definitely be fatal.

He hears Wonbin’s sobs and Seunghan's screams behind him as he walks forward shakily, trying to ignore the view under the ladder. There are people waiting for him by the other window, some encouraging him and others telling him that he doesn't have to do this.

When he reaches the middle, the ladder shakes under his weight, and he gasps in fear. He thinks he hears his name being shouted but he can't even tell who it is, too focused on not falling. The people in front of him and cheering, telling him he's almost there, and in a few quick and risky steps, he reaches the other building.

Sohee turns around as he steps down into the open window, finally on solid ground. Wonbin's face stares back at him, and Chanyoung is close behind. He doesn't see Seunghan.

The people around him are chanting his name, but Sohee is in shock, and he needs out. He feels his body shake as he walks through the crowd, wishing he had a hand to guide him. He finds the door and when he finally gets outside, in the apartment's corridors, breathing gets a little easier.

He feels like his brain is about to explode, and more than anything, he wants to go home. He's taken by surprise when he walks into none other than Sungchan, who looks like he's been searching for him.

He catches his breath, and the way he looks at Sohee is unfamiliar. "So, was it worth it?"

Sohee has no idea what he's talking about, but his tone is sour, and Sohee still feels sick from his fight with Wonbin. He tries to walk past him, "Not now, Sungchan, please."

But Sungchan stops him. "Wait." He grabs his wrist and Sohee looks at him in shock. "He brought you here to fight with Wonbin, did you know that?"

Sohee is utterly confused until Sungchan brings up his phone, displaying Seunghan's Nerve account. It shows his latest dare. Get Sohee to fight with his friends.

"Do you still trust him?"

Sohee reads it. And reads it again. And again.

It's right there, a solid proof, but Sohee can't believe it. Seunghan wouldn't do that. The Seunghan he knows would never.

Does he even know who Seunghan is?

He takes a few steps back, scared that he's going to pass out. The walls are getting closer to him, crushing him, and he can't breathe. "I need to get out of here." is all he can say before he dashes out.

All he wants is to find the elevator to get out of this damn building, but of course, when he takes a sharp turn to his right, he almost bumps into Seunghan.

He's struggling to breathe, and it makes sense since he probably ran up a lot of stairs to get here this quickly. When he tries to reach out for Sohee, the latter moves back. Seunghan frowns, puzzled at Sohee's sudden rejection.

Sohee doesn't plan on beating around the bush. "You brought me here as a dare?" Sungchan proved it to him, but he still needs Seunghan's confirmation.

Seunghan's perplexed expression turns into more confusion and then realization, and his lack of response is an answer in itself. He stills and only stares back at Sohee, a shameful look spreading all over his face.

Sohee sees red. "What the f*ck?" He flinches back as if Seunghan had punched him, and it feels like he did. His chest hurts so much that he shakes. "Why?"

He's pleading for Seunghan to make sense out of this, because he can't understand why he would do this to him. After all they've gone through together. After all that Sohee did for him .

Seunghan opens his mouth as if he's going to explain but something seems to catch his interest in the corner of his eye because he turns his head to look to his right. Sohee follows his gaze and finds someone with a mask at the end of the corridor, recording them.

Seunghan takes ahold of Sohee's wrist and drags him into another corridor, forcing him to follow. Sohee's stomach is too weak for him to protest, so he lets himself be guided until they find the elevator.

A gasp is forced out of him when Seunghan throws him into the elevator with uncharacteristic violence. He corners Sohee and, for a second, Sohee is scared of him.

"Listen." He says, lifting his hands at Sohee like he's an animal he's scared to trigger. "It's more complicated than it looks."

Sohee is tired of Seunghan telling him empty words that he doesn't further explain. "More complicated than it looks? Do you know what it looks like to me? I just had a fight with two of my closest friends! How much money did that give you?"

"No no no , it's not about the money—"

Bullsh*t, Seunghan keeps telling him bullsh*t. "How many things did we do tonight that was actually a dare?" He asks, fearing the answer. "You taking me to St. Mark's?"

Seunghan only stares back at Sohee before he closes his eyes pitifully, nodding. Sohee realizes there's tears running down his own cheeks.

"Seunghan." He sniffs and closes his eyes for a second, steadying his breath. "I swear to god, if our kiss was a dare—"

"No. No, it wasn't." Seunghan cuts him off, but his words mean nothing to Sohee. He could easily be lying right now, like he did all night.

Sohee feels betrayed, but most of all, he feels stupid for trusting Seunghan so blindly. Everyone warned him and he still held onto his misleading hand, being guided into a pit.

As much as he's trying to get ahold of himself, he's crying so hard he can't speak. He can only look at Seunghan who's staring back at him and wonders how he can still look at Sohee so fondly after what he did.

His whole body hurts, and he needs comfort, but not Seunghan's. He needs to get away from him.

Seunghan has a pleading look on his face. "Sohee, please, you need to trust me—"

Sohee finds use of his voice again. "Trust you? That's what I've been doing all night! How can you ask that of me?" Sohee looks bewildered at him.

Seunghan nods at him. "I know, I know—"

"I mean— Eunseok almost died tonight!" He cuts him off again, uncaring. "We almost died tonight." Now that the adrenaline is leaving his veins, he realizes how crazy it all turned out to be and how dumb he was to give into it. "I'm going to the police, this is insane."

When Sohee tries to walk past him, Seunghan panics and presses on every button of the elevator, making it shriek and stop. "What are you doing?" Sohee cries out.

"I'm sorry, but you can't do that. Going to the police is the last thing you want to do." Seunghan tries to convince him, and the way he's looking at Sohee with tears in his eyes makes it hard for Sohee not to willingly trust him like he did all night.

"Why? Because I'll lose the game?" He says humorlessly, reaching out to push on the emergency button. The doors open and Sohee escapes as soon as they do, wiping the tears off his face.

"No, no it's not about that—" Seunghan follows close behind, before catching up to him. "Please, Sohee, you're in shock. Let's sit down and I'll explain everything."

Sohee only shakes his head, his energy running out. He doesn't have it in him to fight with everyone he loves. The accumulation of it makes him so sick to his stomach, he's surprised he hasn't thrown up yet.

He pushes into the door and gets out of the building, Seunghan still on his tail. He hides his face when he's met with camera flashes as soon as they're outside, a group of people recording them. It frustrates him, he's had enough of it.

"Move! Get out of my f*cking way." He hears Seunghan shout behind him, probably being blocked by the small crowd of people. Sohee spots a police car parked in front of the building and sighs in relief.

He thinks he hears Seunghan getting closer, but he starts running towards the car. "Officer!"

When he gets next to the car, where the police officer's window is rolled down, Sohee catches his breath, trying to gather his thoughts.

"Can I help you?" The officer asks and Sohee looks down to the man.

"Huh— yes. I'm playing this game, it's called Nerve. And— and it's really dangerous. I'm scared someone's gonna get hurt." He stutters through his words, trying to make sense of what he's explaining. It sounds crazy, even to his ears.

"Snitch!" Sohee looks away for a second, to Seunghan's direction. He stopped following him and he's disappearing through the crowd of people screaming at Sohee. As he steps away, he doesn't look scared, he looks terrified . For the first time, Seunghan leaves him. He runs to his bike, and leaves.

The officer looks in the same direction. "That game, are they playing it too?"

Sohee nods, fear setting in his bones. The officer looks confused, staring back at Sohee. "Is there a crime being committed?"

Sohee is speechless for a second, frowning at the officer. He doesn't understand . "No, but someone could die tonight." He tries to explain, and then takes out his phone. "I mean, it's all on my phone, you can see."

The officer only stares at him, unimpressed. The people, who are mostly wearing masks, are chanting the word ‘Snitch!’ and it's starting to unsettle Sohee. Coming to the realization that this police officer won't help him, he takes his phone back and walks off hurriedly, away from the crowd.

When he looks back at his phone, he notices he's getting a call from his mom. If she's calling him at this time, it must be urgent, so he answers.

"Mom?" He asks, hiding in an alley. It's barely lit and he can’t see any people around.

"Sohee! What's going on?" He hears his mother cry out through the phone. "Our bank called me, all the money is missing from our account!"

Sohee keeps walking, disoriented. "W-What?"

"Baby, did anything happen to you? Are you in trouble? Please, just tell me what's going on." She pleads, and it tugs at Sohee's heartstrings.

"It's okay, mom, I'm gonna fix this—"

He stops talking when a man appears right in front of him. There’s a bat in his hand. His red hair is put up in a ponytail, and Sohee steps back from his menacing figure.

"Fix what? Sohee? Hello?" He hears his mom through the phone, but he can't answer her. The man is getting closer every time Sohee tries to step away.

Sohee notices he's pointing his phone camera at him, lifting the bat with his other hand. "I'm sorry." He speaks up. "But I gotta win this game."

Sohee sees the bat coming his way before it all turns black.

⋆⋆⋆

The first thing Sohee thinks when he wakes up is, holy sh*t his head hurts.

He opens his eyes carefully, but his vision is blurry and his brain can't make sense of what's surrounding him. His body feels sore, and he realizes he's laying down on a hard surface.

He tries to sit up using his hands, but there's no strength left in his arms, which causes him to fail pitifully. "Oh god." He cries to no one, hearing his own voice echo through the space around him.

Suddenly, fluorescent lights brighten up the place and Sohee closes his eyes at the aggression, the pain in his head worsening. He moves back the best he can, and when he feels a wall behind him, he uses it to lay on, sitting up.

When Sohee opens his eyes, his vision turns white before his environment appears around him. He's in a container.

His heart drops as he remembers what happened, his blood running cold. To think someone brought him here while he was unconscious makes him want to peel his own skin off. It's more than unsettling.

Curious at the faint pain spreading on the left side of his face, Sohee reaches out with his hand to touch. The skin on his cheek burns when he makes contact, and he flinches, crying out weakly. When he looks at his hand, there's blood.

"Oh my god." The realization of everything that's happened is slowly falling on him. He can't even tell when he started crying, but he feels the warm and heavy tears running down his cheeks like water fountains. Violent sobs are rocking his body and he brings his knees to his chest, hugging himself. He wishes he was home more than anything.

He thinks about Wonbin, about Seunghan, about Eunseok, who's in the hospital. He sobs through all his thoughts, wishing all of it turned out for the better. It just feels like everything crushed down on him at the same moment. He had the world in his hands and now he's left with nothing. It's a freezing cold realization.

When he's done with his breakdown, he looks around himself, feeling like he's stuck in a nightmare. His mind clears up, and he understands the seriousness of the situation. He's in danger.

Before he has the time to plan on how to get out of here, a small TV at the other side of the container he hadn't even noticed turns on, a bunch of images appearing one by one on the screen.

Sohee uses all his remaining strength to get up, using the wall for support. He limps towards the TV, trying to make sense of what it's showing to him.

A robotic voice startles him. "Hello, Sohee. You broke the rules, you are now a prisoner. We told you not to snitch."

Sohee barely considers what he's hearing, watching the pictures and videos of him appearing on the screen. A video of him undressing himself in the store's cabin, a picture of him with prison bars edited on it, him getting tattooed. His mind is confused as he stares wildly at the screen, trying to take all the information in.

"Now we control your life." The voice continues, and Sohee's mouth becomes dry. "We control your family. We control your future."

The pictures on the screen become more and more unhinged. His Facebook profile, his bank account, his birth certificate. His house. His mother's passport.

"The only way out is to win the final round. Go to the Staten Island ferry and the watchers will find you. See you in the finals."

Sohee feels it coming and he can only fold on himself when he throws up, gagging at the unpleasant feeling. He sobs through it, holding his own body, letting it all out.

When he's done, he spits what's left in his mouth, grimacing. He feels like he's been hit by a truck, but as miserable as he's feeling right now, he tries to stay strong.

The first thing he needs to do is to get the hell out of here. His first idea is to kick on the container's doors. Even if he knows it's most likely not going to work, he still braces himself, kicking down on the hard surface as hard as he can. It shakes, and with a second try, the door magically falls.

It's noisy when it comes in contact with the ground. Sohee's face scrunches up, because he has no idea who's around and bringing attention to himself might be the worst idea at the moment.

His survival instincts to the roof, Sohee gets out of the container carefully, checking if there's anybody around. He knows it's a high possibility that someone's luring, waiting to attack. He sighs in relief when he finds no one.

He takes in his surroundings. He has no idea where he is. It looks like one of those outdoor self-storage facilities. The is ground dirty under his feet. When he turns around, he finds a huge boat parked about a hundred meters away from him. He decides to run towards it.

He passes next to it, trying to find an exit to this place. He ends up in an alley and decides to find a more open space, now knowing how easy it would be for him to be ambushed in here.

He thinks he walks for ten, fifteen minutes, surrounded by containers and construction cranes. He hasn't met anyone, and it's eerily quiet. He has his arms around himself as he walks and looks around, paranoid.

Suddenly, he hears someone running in the distance. He's walking next to a sort of mini-house, and when he finds a small spot he can fit through, he hides there, putting his hand on his mouth to silence himself.

"Sohee, I'm gonna catch you!" An unknown voice shouts out, but it sounds far away enough. It doesn't alert Sohee, at least for now. However, this tells him that he's being searched, and that means no good.

Sohee removes his hand from his mouth and lets his head rest on the wall, exhausted. The best he can do for now is get out of this area, to possible safety, and then he'll go from there. He doesn't know exactly who is searching for him, although he guesses they’re random watchers sent by the game.

He thinks about his mom and wants to cry again, but he's out of tears and of energy. God, he hopes she's safe. A shiver runs down his spine at the thought of her passport on that TV.

He's so stupid. He shouldn't have told the police, should've listened to Seunghan—

"Sohee!"

Sohee screams out when a hand grabs his face, hiding his mouth. He tries to fight it off until he sees Seunghan's face appear before him. "Shhh . It's me."

Upon seeing him, Sohee feels different things. He's still angry, obviously, but he's also hit by a wave of pure relief at seeing a familiar face. Seunghan lets go of him and Sohee only stares back for one beat before he falls into him, crying into his chest. When he thought he had no tears left to cry, he was wrong.

Seunghan embraces him, softly stroking his head. "Thank god I found you, are you okay?" Hearing his voice gives Sohee a little bit of energy.

After some time, Sohee sniffs as he steps back, shaking his head. Seunghan wipes his tears and gasps when he sees the blood on his face. "Who did this to you?"

Sohee sobs. "I don't know . " He sounds wrecked. "I don't know what's going on."

"Okay, okay." Seunghan holds him by the shoulders and makes him sit down on the ground. He sits across from him, and since there isn't much space in the tight spot, their legs touch. "I'll explain."

Sohee gulps. He's still resentful, but after everything that went down, he needs Seunghan. And, more than anything, he needs to know what's going on after being kept in the dark for so long.

"Tell me everything ."

Seunghan nods, thinking for a second. Sohee waits patiently until he's ready to speak. "Okay. Last year, I played Nerve in Seattle. I was with these guys, Yuta and Mark. We became partners to do all these dares. It was easy money at first, but it became way more dangerous than that. One day, we got a dare to hang from this construction crane, two hundred feet in the air."

He catches his breath before he continues. "Me and Yuta, we didn't want to do it. We thought it was batsh*t crazy, that no amount of money was worth risking our lives. But Mark told us that whether we did it with him or not, he was gonna do it. So, me and Yuta went with him, since we thought that we could potentially save his life if things were to go bad. Now, I realize we were stupid."

Seunghan shakes his head at his own words, and Sohee can tell that it's difficult for him to talk about this. He reaches out for his hand, and Seunghan looks up at him with surprise in his eyes. He still accepts the comfort, though.

"Mark did it. He hung from the construction crane, and even while he was doing it, we told him that he didn't have to. He didn't listen, and when he tried to lift himself back up, his hands slipped. I reached for him, but it was too late. Even then, if I had grabbed his hand, I was so unstable on that crane that he would've dragged me with him to our deaths." Seunghan is looking in the distance. Sohee can tell he's traumatized by the look in his eyes. He saw someone die right in front of him.

Only hearing this story gives him goosebumps, he can't imagine how Seunghan feels. The best he can do is interlace their fingers to show his support and keep listening.

"After that, Yuta and I went straight to the police. We tried to get the game shut down, told them everything in details, but they didn't believe us. They said we shouldn't have gone up on that crane, and even wanted to arrest us." He exhales and pauses when someone yells out, far away from them.

He brings his voice down. "Then, the watchers went after us. Everything that had to do with us, they ruined it. They got my mom fired from her job, they sent us pictures of our home at night in the mail. They even followed my little brother to school."

"My god." Sohee feels for him and for his family. He can't even begin to imagine what that feels like.

"Yeah." Seunghan reads into his reaction. "I had move away to protect my family. Me and Yuta, we became prisoners of the game."

"Prisoners?" Sohee repeats, not quite understanding everything.

"Yes, that's the third option. Watcher, player and prisoner ." He sighs. "I'm trapped, they'll never leave me alone, and I don't know for how long my family will be safe. The only way out is to win."

This answers so many questions that were stuck in Sohee's head. Seunghan's obligation to complete these dares, the suspicious way he acted sometimes, how badly he reacted when Sohee hurt his knee. It triggered past trauma in him, he thought he might see someone die again. Sohee can't even be mad at him for his fight with Wonbin anymore. He didn’t have a choice and probably didn't say anything because he didn't want to drag Sohee in this.

Sohee thinks about what Seunghan has told him. The only way out is to win . "Then, you have to win."

"No." Seunghan shakes his head, and Sohee doesn't understand. "You're a prisoner too now. You need to win."

The realization dawns upon him. You broke the rules, you are now a prisoner. He was too out of it to understand what this all meant earlier, but now it's becoming clearer.

Still, he protests. "No, you were in this before me. It wouldn't make sense—"

"Sohee, you don't understand." Seunghan dismisses. "Not only you are in danger, but your family, your friends, everyone you've ever loved is too."

Sohee puts his own hand on his forehead, trying to calm down. "What about your family?"

"My family is safer than yours, for now." Seunghan answers and doesn't let him the time to ask any other question. "Listen, I have a plan. You and I, we're gonna go to the final round against each other, and I'll lose."

"What?" Sohee exclaims. He doesn't like this idea. "How—"

"Eunseok's dare gave you first place." Seunghan explains, his tone convincing. "I asked the watchers to give me a dare that will knock Yuta out of second place."

It's far from the best case scenario, but Sohee doesn't know what else to do. He doesn't want for Seunghan to lose, but when he thinks about his mom, his friends— they can't be in danger because of him.

Seunghan's phone buzzes, and the sound has become a trigger for Sohee. He hates it. Seunghan takes out his phone to see what's written on the screen, showing Sohee at the same time. Stand by for your next dare.

"sh*t. I need to go." He announces, standing up.

Sohee's irrational fear comes back. "No, wait—"

Seunghan helps him to stand up. "Don't worry, I'll take you somewhere safe."

"Are you sure there isn't any other way?" Sohee asks, pleading for the impossible. He knows there isn't, but he still hopes he can wake up from this horrible nightmare.

Like expected, Seunghan shakes his head apologetically. "There isn't. If it's not me in the finals, it's Yuta you'll be against. And he'll do anything to win."

Sohee bites on his lip as he looks away, unable to think properly. If Seunghan says this is the only option, then it must be. He looks back at the other and nods. "Okay, let's do it."

⋆⋆⋆


The car is awfully silent. When Sungchan looks at Wonbin, who's sitting in the passenger's seat, he looks pathetic. His heart pangs at the sight.

It's useless, but he tries to comfort him with his words. "It's not your fault, Wonbin."

Chanyoung moves in the backseat, and it's painfully loud when it cuts through the tension in the air. Wonbin sniffs. He's been crying nonstop for the past hour. Sungchan is impressed that he's still going.

Well, he can't say he's feeling better himself.

"f*ck, I just hope he's okay." Wonbin's words are barely audible, he's still handling his liquor. The way he speaks is barely comprehensible, but at least he's more sober than earlier.

They've been driving around, searching for Sohee, but it hasn't gotten them anywhere. They have no idea where he is, and Sungchan only hopes his corpse isn't laying down in a ditch somewhere. He doesn't even want to imagine the possibility.

While he's slowly losing his mind, his phone that's connected to his car’s speakers rings. Even if it's an anonymous caller, he picks it up immediately. "Hello?"

"Sungchan, it's me." Sohee's voice echoes through the car and Wonbin shrieks.

"Oh my god, Sohee!" He sobs. "Where are you?"

Sungchan feels like he can finally breathe properly, knowing Sohee is alive and well. His hands tense on the steering wheel, ready to go anywhere to pick him up.

"I'm going to send you my location." Sohee says. "I have to hang up, okay? But I promise, I'm safe, you don't need to worry about me."

"Okay." Sungchan answers, stopping at a red light. "We're coming to pick you up."

"Thank you. I love you guys, see you." He confesses before he hangs up. Chanyoung is practically out of his seat, nerves on fire, and Wonbin and Sungchan look at each other.

They decide to trust Sohee. If he says they don't have to worry about him, they won't.


Sohee is terrified at the idea of letting Seunghan go again, but he knows he has to. They're standing in front of each other under the blue hue of the underground parking lights, knowing it's time to part. But it's clear neither of them wants to.

"Be careful, okay?" Seunghan tells him, staring at Sohee like he's scared it's the last time he'll see him. It doesn't help to ease Sohee's nerves.

"I should be the one telling you that." Sohee weakly smiles, but Seunghan doesn't react. He only looks at him. At his eyes, at his lips, at his nose. Like he's trying to keep the memories of his face.

Seunghan exhales shakily, stepping away. "I'll see you at the finals."

Before he can get away, Sohee wants to do one last thing. "Wait." He says, and then reaches out for a hug. He holds Seunghan as tightly as he can, and Seunghan does the same, stroking Sohee's back.

When they split up, Sohee still has his hand around his wrist, wanting this moment to last longer. "Whatever dare they give you, don't let it kill you."

"You know, it'll take more than a dare to get rid of me." Seunghan smiles at him. Oh, how Sohee had missed that smile.

He goes to sit on his bike, throws his helmet over his head, and Sohee watches as he drives away, out of the parking. It's colder now that he's alone, but Sohee doesn't have to worry about that, because he catches sight of a blue Honda Civic not long after.

The car stops in front of him and Sungchan, Wonbin and Chanyoung get out hurriedly, walking towards him. Sohee's first reflex is to tense when he makes eye contact with Wonbin, but the latter runs to crush him into a hug.

"I'm so sorry." is the first thing he says, and when he takes a step back, Sohee shakes his head at him, dismissing. All he wants to do is explain everything to them.

Sungchan goes to hug him next, and Chanyoung and Wonbin eventually join.

"Wow." Wonbin sighs into Sohee's neck. "Who thought a group hug could be so therapeutic."

Chanyoung laughs, and Sohee wetly snorts. Sungchan is silent, but they all know he's smiling. While Sohee has been avoiding their company all night, it feels so good to be with his friends again.

"Alright." Sungchan breaks their hug, which causes Wonbin to groan childishly. "Let's get out of here."

He goes to walk back to his car, and everyone seems to comply except for Sohee. "Wait, guys. You're going to hate what I'm about to say."

They all stop moving, and Sungchan glares at him. "What, again?"

"I broke the rules of the game, so they're threatening me." He doesn't know where he should start, but he thinks saying the most important things first will help.

"Who's threatening you?" Wonbin asks, frowning. Sohee doesn't blame him, there's still some things he hasn't understood himself.

"The viewers." The puzzled look doesn't leave their faces. "I'm not the only one in danger, you guys are too."

His friends share a look. "What can we do?" Sungchan asks.

"Seunghan is going to do this dare that'll get him second place, and—"

"Wait." Wonbin cuts him off. "Seunghan?"

Sohee gazes at Wonbin carefully. "Yes, I know you don't trust him, but I do. And I'm asking you guys to trust me ."

Wonbin looks down, and then behind himself to Chanyoung. When Chanyoung nods at him, Wonbin turns back to Sohee. "Okay, what's the plan?"

"Seunghan and I will be against each other for the final round, and he said he'll lose so I can win, but—" He hasn't told this to Seunghan, because he didn't want to make him more freaked out than he already was. "Even if they leave me alone, they're just gonna do it to somebody else."

"What?" Sungchan exclaims, a confused look on his face. "Are you saying you want to stop the game?"

Sohee nods, and Sungchan shakes his head at him. "That's impossible, there's nobody to stop. It's just a bunch of anonymous people." Chanyoung nods in support of Sungchan’s words.

"They're not as anonymous as we think." Sohee tries to make a point. "When you think about it, they're all humans behind their phones."

When he's faced with silence, he continues. "Sungchan, you told me this game is an open server. Do you think you can change the code?"

Sungchan thinks for a second, and then shrugs. "Yeah, but it's gonna take time."

"If we find a distraction, would it be enough to buy us some?" Sohee tries his best to make this work, because it could not only save him, but a lot of people. It could save Seunghan.

Wonbin looks intrigued. "Do you have anything in mind?"

Sohee lifts his gaze up, unsure of his idea. "Maybe, but I don't know if it'll work. We'd need to find a way to make contact with him."

"Who's him?" Chanyoung rightfully asks, and Sohee shakes his head.

"It doesn't matter for now, I'll tell you later." He shifts his focus on Sungchan. "What I'm asking is, can you do this?"

"Maybe, but..." Sungchan drifts off, digging into his brain. "I don't have the equipment to be able to do all of this."

Wonbin scoffs at him. "Come on, you're a professional nerd. I'm sure you at least know someone who's enough of a loser to have all the stuff to operate this."

Sungchan comes to a halt, and he looks like he has someone in mind. "Yeah, actually. I do."

⋆⋆⋆

As soon as he gets off his motorcycle, Seunghan has a bad feeling about this.

He follows the game's instructions, the rhythm of his heartbeat getting faster by the second. He arrives to Sixth Avenue, at the corner of Fiftieth Street, and he stops walking as he sees the Radio City Music Hall. He turns on his feet, unsure of where to go from there. He waits for more information.

His phone buzzes, and he looks at it hastily. Go to the roof.

He's in front of a building, so that's where he guesses he's supposed to go. When he lifts his head to look at how high up it is, he sighs. This can't be good.

He enters the building and takes the elevator, knowing the stairs would be a death wish. The amount of time he has to stand there and wait to get to the highest floor is pure torture, and with cold silence surrounding him — except for the occasional sounds of the elevator, Seunghan is stuck with his own thoughts.

After waiting for what feels like forever, he finally reaches the last floor. He looks for the staircase that will take him to the roof, and when he finds it, he enters and walks up. Now that he's so close to his destination, he doesn't know if he wants to drag it out or end it as soon as possible. All he knows is that he wants to go back to Sohee, and that spurs him on.

When he opens the door to go outside, he realizes how windy it is up there. He shivers and walks out slowly, spotting a viewer that has the flash of his camera pointed at him.

He makes the mistake to peek down from where he is, and upon seeing how high up this building actually is, he tries not to be nauseous.

"Hey," The viewer adresses him, blinding him with his flashing light. Seunghan flinches, looking back at him. "Climb the cranes." He says, pointing his flash to Seunghan's right.

He looks in that direction and deflates. There's a big tower crane on the roof, and the working arm is hanging away from the building, directly over the city.

Seunghan lets out a small laugh in disbelief. He looks back to the viewer. "You're a funny guy, huh?"

The viewer only stares back at him, and Seunghan can see his eyes through the holes of his mask. Disturbing.

He shakes his shoulders and gives himself some pats on the leg, fighting against his instinct to run away far from here. He needs to do this, for Sohee.

From there, he forces himself to black out. He makes sure that he's holding on securely as he climbs up the tower mast, but he blocks out everything else. He has to, or else he'll be haunted by Mark' face, by his screams. He can't go back there now, he needs to stay focused.

At some point, it gets harder to climb, because this crane is high up and Seunghan is becoming more tired every time he lifts his own weight. He doesn't know how close he is to the top of the crane, because he doesn't want to risk looking around himself. If he looks down, he's scared he'll lose it.

In sudden panic, he decides to look up, and realizes he's maybe three steps away from the top. He gathers what's left of his energy to climb up and groans when he finally gets to the jib.

He takes a break, catches his breath before opening his eyes. There's no use in fighting it, he has to look.

He holds onto the crane when he sees the city, so small from where he is. The cars passing by look like ants, and Seunghan shakes at the thought. He needs to stay strong.

("You don't have to do this!"

"Yes, I do!"

"Mark, sh*t!")

Seunghan slaps himself. "sh*t. Wake up, wake up."

To the best of his abilities, he stands up, grabbing everything he can to stay balanced. Knowing he has to walk to the end of the jib, he clenches his teeth so hard it hurts.

He tries to calm himself down, knowing that, with nothing to grab or lay on, one shaky movement will end it all. One slip, and it's over. Seunghan has seen it with his own eyes.

So, he inhales and exhales, focusing on his body and his balance. The first step is the worst, but after that, he tells himself he's closer every time he moves forward. The worst of it all is that he's forced to look down, be reminded of how close to death he is, just to be sure that he's stepping on the crane securely.

He moves slowly, his pulse skyrocketing every time he thinks the next step is the fatal one. It messes with his head, and the pressure is unbearable. When he finally gets to the end of the jib, he holds onto the light there and finally breathes. He's surprised he can even breathe at all.

He looks around himself, over the city. Being so far from the ground makes his stomach churn, but he holds it all in. He exhales shakily, already preparing himself to climb back down.

A drone appears too close for safety and Seunghan moves back, still holding onto the light. He hides his face and curses under his breath. "What the f*ck?"

The drone whirrs loudly, and Seunghan realizes there's a phone connected to it. He tries to read what's written on the screen, but it's too far. Thankfully— or not in this instance, a robotic voice reads it out loud for him.

"Hang for five seconds. Hang for five seconds."

"Ah, sh*t." Seunghan holds himself against the light. He doesn't want to move, but knows he has to. The game is forcing him to face the same nightmare he lived a year ago. But this time, he's Mark.

For the first time in his life, Seunghan prays to god. Please, don't let me die like this.

He stops thinking and starts climbing down, his hands sweaty. He breathes loudly through it, and once he's at the edge, he releases his legs from the crane so that he's hanging in the air.

"Hang with one hand. Hang with one hand." The drone taunts him.

"Motherf*cker." Seunghan curses, closing his eyes. His biceps are hurting, and with the idea that the longer he waits, the weaker he'll become, he lets go of one hand.

That causes him to tip slightly to the left, and he's met with a breathtaking view of the city right in front of his eyes. Seunghan screams out, "One, two, three—"

He catches his breath. "Four, five!"

He sends a middle finger to the void under himself and goes back to hanging off the edge with two hands, slowly lifting his body up. He hooks his leg on the crane for support and cries out as he lays on the edge of the jib.

"Congratulations, you have completed your dare." The monotone voice assaults his ears like a siren. "You are in the finals."

"f*ck you." Seunghan still finds it in himself to mutter, evening out his breath.

"Watchers will find you on the F train." The drone informs him before disappearing out of his sight. Seunghan wants to cry, but he barks out a laugh instead, still in shock.

"I'm coming, Sohee." He mumbles under his breath, bracing himself to get the hell off this tower crane.


⋆⋆⋆


Wonbin huffs, impatience getting the best of him. Chanyoung and him are waiting for Sungchan in the car, and he can't stand the bad music that's playing on the radio, so he turns it off. In hopes that it'll make time pass by faster, he stares at the picture of him and Sohee he has as his lockscreen : they share the same, a photo of that one night they took the ferry and the sun was setting beautifully.

It only makes him feel worse, so he turns his phone off. It's too quiet, until Wonbin hears the sound of a chip cracking.

He sighs in disbelief, turning around to look towards the backseat, at Chanyoung. The younger has found a bag of chips god knows where, and he's caught with his hand inside the bag.

"Are you seriously eating right now?"

Chanyoung looks dumbfounded and slightly scared, lifting his dirty hands up in defense. "Sorry." He says, gazing back at Wonbin with big eyes.

Wonbin rolls his eyes at him and turns back around, huffing for the hundredth time. "Unbelievable." Everything is getting on his nerves right now, especially Chanyoung.

"I can't believe you're eating while all of this is happening . " He thinks he hears Chanyoung getting rid of the bag of chips as he crosses his arms. They dropped Sohee at the ferry minutes ago, clarifying their plan, and Wonbin is terrified as well as annoyed. He's annoyed at Chanyoung for being so normal about this, and at Sungchan for taking so damn long. He's literally about to dash out of this car to go find him if he's not back in one minute.

Like the Lord answered his prayers, Sungchan appears and slides into the driver's seat, slamming the door behind him.

Wonbin immediately attacks him with questions. "So? Was he there?"

Sungchan nods, and Wonbin's shoulders go down a little. Well, at least, that's one thing going their way.

"It's gonna work?" Chanyoung asks from the backseat, and Sungchan looks ahead nervously as he starts the car.

"Yeah, if he doesn't stab us in the back." Sungchan answers and starts driving.

They drive for about ten minutes, and Wonbin can't stop fidgeting. Sungchan must've noticed he was hurting himself, peeling the skin around his nails as a bad habit, because his right hand leaves the steering wheel to slap at Wonbin's. Wonbin glares at him but Sungchan doesn't look back, his attention on the road.

When they arrive to their destination, Wonbin is the first one to get out of the car. Chanyoung follows, and Sungchan leads them inside this weird place Wonbin has never seen before. There's a garage door, and once Sungchan places his thumb on some sort of fingerprint lock, it opens.

"What is this place?" Wonbin watches as fluorescent lights are revealed behind the garage door.

"Your worst nightmare." Sungchan answers easily.

"Why? Because it's full of nerds?"

Sungchan smirks at him. "Yeah."

They walk between ping pong tables, many matches in play. Wonbin has to move back when a player throws his paddle his way after losing.

"No, but seriously," Wonbin tries to keep up behind Sungchan and Chanyoung. "What is this place?"

There's a door at the end of this never-ending series of ping pong tables and Sungchan opens it. Wonbin huffs at being met with silence as they enter a new room. It's calmer in here, and some guy stands up from behind his computer when he sees them.

"Yo, Sungchan!" He exclaims, running a hand through his pinkhair. "You ready to get this started?"

Sungchan goes up to him and smiles. Chanyoung and Wonbin stay back, unfamiliar with everyone and everything in here. Wonbin judges silently as they engage in some weird handshake. "Yeah, is the botnet ready?"

Wonbin gazes around himself curiously. Botnet, sure. Whatever that means. He notices of a big TV hanging on the wall to his left, unsurprised at seeing Nerve displayed on the screen. Sohee vs Seunghan in the finals. Forty-five minutes and thirty-eight seconds remaining. Wonbin bites ate his nails, and grunts when Chanyoung slaps his hand away.

"Yup. We just gotta enter it into the system." Pink hair figures at the five different laptops on the ping pong table in the middle of the room. The next time he sleeps, Wonbin is sure he'll dream of ping pong tables.

"Oh and, huh—" Sungchan turns back to them, like he's suddenly remembering who he came here with. "This is Wonbin and Chanyoung."

Pink hair waves his hand at them with a beaming smile. "Yo, I'm Donghyuck. Welcome to paradise on earth, or most commonly known as The Cloud."

He forces both Chanyoung and Wonbin into a handshake, and his clumsy grip unstabilizes Wonbin on his feet. "Saw your friend Eunseok dropping out— no pun intended. That wasn't pretty."

Wonbin fakes a smile, a bit weirded out. Chanyoung grins like the people pleaser he is.

"Okay, let's take this game down." Sungchan calls out from where he's sitting down to type on a computer. Wonbin gets closer to see, but he doesn't understand anything the other is doing.

"So, how is this gonna work?" He asks, crossing his arms.

Sungchan looks up at him for a second before his attention goes back to the screen, fingers moving fast.Wonbin kind of wants to laugh at him, but he's too in awe to do so. "Basically, it's like Wikipedia, everyone can change the code, but the majority needs to approve it. And this baby right here—" Wonbin grimaces. "Our precious botnet, can outvote everyone."

Donghyuck sits down in front of another laptop, cracking his knuckles. "I've got an army of bots waiting for orders."

Sungchan's phone rings, startling Chanyoung. Wonbin snorts at the younger while Sungchan answers, bringing the phone to his ear. "Hello?" Sungchan pauses, Wonbin hears someone speaking on the other line rapidly but can't quite understand. "Don't worry, he's fine. Wait— I'm gonna send you an address, okay? Meet me here and I'll explain everything."

He hangs up. "It's Sohee's mom, she's coming."

Chanyoung furrows his eyebrows. "You told her to come here? Isn't she like, gonna freak out?"

Sungchan shrugs and goes back to typing. "Probably, but I didn't have many choices. She said she was gonna call the police, that could've ruined our plan."

Wonbin sighs and sits on the chair next to Sungchan. "Like the cops would ever do anything about this sh*t."

He takes another peek at the TV on the wall. Forty minutes remaining. He looks at his lockscreen and tries to swallow the nervosity stuck in his throat.

⋆⋆⋆



Sohee looks down at his lockscreen to act as if he's not completely unaware of what he's doing, walking with messy steps on the outside of the ferry. When the wind picks up, he throws his hood over his head.

Before leaving, Sohee had changed his outfit for some clothes they found in Sungchan's trunk. A pair of dark grey skinny jeans and a red zip up hoodie, which makes him perfectly not stand out. He doesn't know why Sungchan even had clothes in his trunk to begin with but really can't complain considering the situation he's in.

He tries to take a look at the people he meets on the ferry in hopes to find a watcher, but it's hard not to look suspicious with his eyes under his hood and his head low. He keeps searching with great motivation, because he got told they'd find him here. One of these creeps with masks has to be somewhere on this ferry.

He gets inside and sighs out when he's not being slowly murdered by the cold anymore. He looks around and sees no one, so he keeps walking with his phone in hand. As much as he's trying to not look weak, these people scare him. He can't help but think one of them is waiting in a corner, ready to attack him. He thinks about the red-haired guy with the bat and, when he shivers, it's not because of the cold this time.

Sohee keeps walking until he looks to his right, his feet suddenly unmoving. There's a guy with a puffer jacket and a black balaclava that's hiding all his head. Sohee clenches his fist and he's reminded that a familiar hand isn't there to hold his. He doesn't move until the guy signals to follow him, turning his back and walking forward.

Sohee forces his feet to move, looking around carefully. While they walk, the guy suddenly takes a turn and Sohee loses sight of him. He follows his path and, when he turns, he sees an abandoned balaclava and a brown paper bag on a table.

There are some people around, and Sohee feels like they're all watching him, even though they aren't. Even when there's nothing to be anxious about, he's constantly on edge. Maybe it's because he has no idea of what he's doing and where he's going. It's making him go completely mad.

He gives one last look to his surroundings before he starts to walk, trying to look natural. He doesn't even know how to make walking look unnatural, but he feels like that's exactly what he's doing right now. When he reaches the bag, he dodges the black mask and grabs it swiftly, hoping no one has seen him. The bag in itself isn't suspicious, but Sohee knows the way he's acting is making it looks like he's grabbing drugs or something. He wouldn't know how that works, anyway.

He walks far away (as far as you can get on a ferry) and sits on an unoccupied chair, in an area that looks deserted for the most part. He turns his head every angle he can to be sure that nobody's looking his way, and finally opens the back to look into it.

He might as well have grabbed drugs, because there's a gun in this bag. A small piece of paper, too, but Sohee is more alarmed about the gun part. He gasps and looks up, scared that somebody might be looking over his shoulder even though that's not very likely to happen.

He uses his hand to slowly take the piece of paper between his thumb and finger, noticing that his hand is slightly shaking. When his hand is out of the bag, he can see an address written with a lazy handwriting. His stomach churns at how real this suddenly feels. As much as he wants to see Seunghan, he doesn't want to meet him in these circ*mstances, mostly because he has no idea of what they're going to be. They're going to fight for the finals, who knows what kind of sick and twisted dare these people can come up with.

Sohee takes another peek at the gun and the bad feeling he has in his chest only increases.



Sohee keeps walking, eyes following the map on his phone. When he arrived on land, he put the address in Google Maps and followed its directions. Thank god for all the tools they have these days, otherwise he would never have found his way alone.

He's been walking for too long, he can tell by the way his thighs burn. He thinks about all the calories he's burned tonight and wants to laugh at the thought. His nervosity is making him lose his mind, apparently.

The only reason he's still going is because Google Maps is telling him he's arriving in less than ten minutes, which is one of the only good news he has gotten in the past two hours. His heart is getting a break, although Sohee knows that won't last too long.

He briefly wonders how much he's matured in one night, but these thoughts get lost far in the back of his head when he gets a visual of where he's going. In the distance, a huge sort of arena isn't being hidden by the trees anymore. Sohee takes a deep breath and walks faster towards it.

After walking for what feels like forever as much as it feels like not long enough, he meets a person wearing a mask at the entrance. Sohee walks carefully until he's three steps away.

The guy stares at him, only his brown eyes being revealed under the skeleton mask. He doesn't smile at Sohee, and Sohee doesn't expect him to.

For some reason, he also doesn't expect him to open his mouth, but he does. "Ticket."

Sohee blinks before he realizes what the ticket is. He digs into the pocket of Sungchan's hoodie and grabs the gun, showingit.

The guy takes it and checks if it's loaded. When he's done, he gives it back to Sohee.

"They're waiting for you." is all Sohee gets as a warning to hurry his way into the arena. Sohee does, not knowing what to expect. He notices how fast his heart is beating and tries to calm down, to no avail.

When he gets inside, he notices the place looks more like a bullring, where gladiators used to fight for blood. There's a lot of people all around, looking like spectators in a theatre. The whole scenery makes Sohee's blood turn cold.

People are chanting his name and screaming nonsense, which is very unsettling. Sohee tries to stay hidden under his hood when he knows all the attention is on him. Not having any choice, he forces himself to be brave and walks to the center of the ring, blinded by all the fluorescent blue and red lights.

He thinks he sees a figure on the other side of the arena, and when he recognizes black clothes and dark hair, he starts to run, forgetting about the crowd of people all around him.

He speeds up until he can look at the details of Seunghan's face, who’s running towards him as well. Before they can reach one another, a voice echoes loudly in the vast space. "Players, stop."

Two steps away from his source of comfort, Sohee's body stops without his consent, motionless with fear. Meeting Seunghan's soft eyes makes him want to take those two steps and give into the warmness of his body, needing to be as close as possible. Seunghan's eyes speak enough for Sohee to understand, don't be scared . Sohee hopes Seunghan can read him as well.

"Back up." The voice orders and they take a few steps away from each other, even though all Sohee burns for is to reach Seunghan.

He gets rid of his hood and looks around, facing the watchers going crazy around him. He's their entertainment, he realizes harshly. Their main act.

When the voice comes back, Sohee tries not to tremble in dread. "Players, show us your weapons."

One look at Seunghan lets him know they're thinking the same thing. Seunghan shakes his head at the ground before taking his gun out of his pocket, and Sohee follows him.

The crowd goes crazy in exclamations, cheering at them like they're animals in a circus. Sohee doesn't feel like what is around him is real, like he's stuck in some sort of alternate reality. It's too overwhelming to think properly, and Sohee blocks out everything except Seunghan to keep what's left of his sanity.

He loses it as soon as the voice reappears, "First to shoot wins."

The crowd explodes in laughter and applauds while Sohee's world crumbles to his feet. He looks to Seunghan in panic, his chest rising uncomfortably and Seunghan only closes his eyes in defeat, clenching his jaw.

"Twenty seconds on the clock." Sohee shakes his head, wants to scream, to cry, to shoot at everyone around them. To do anything but complete this dare.

“Begin."

"Do it." Seunghan calls out to him, bracing himself, but Sohee still shakes his head. All he can hear is the deafening sound of the crowd and he feels like his head is about to explode. He can't think at all.

Fifteen seconds. Seunghan is talking to him, but he can't hear. Sohee lifts his hands up, the gun shaking in his hold. "I can't do this." He says weakly.

Seunghan shakes his head stubbornly and points at him, like he's trying to reach for Sohee. "You have to do it, Sohee. Shoot me in the foot, it's fine."

But his voice betrays him, even with all the noise around them, Sohee can hear how scared he is, too. Sohee wants to hold his hand, his frame, and apologize for everything that's happening.

Ten seconds. Sohee doesn't answer, and Seunghan becomes more persistent. "Think about your family, Sohee! You gotta do it, come on!"

Sohee's brain goes over everything that's happened in the past hours, like someone looking through their souvenirs after a trip they've been dreaming of for their whole life. He thinks about meeting Seunghan in that diner, doing all those stupid dares with him, kissing him. And now he's supposed to do this?

Sohee tries to regulate his breathing, using both of his hands to point the gun towards the man before him. He only struggles to breathe, unable to inhale properly. He's panting, not believing what he's about to do. There are too many thoughts in his head, but there's also none at all. He's blacking out.

The crowd's chants join the robotic voice. "Five, four—"

("The Little Prince. That's my favorite book.")

Three . Sohee holds the gun tightly until it leaves marks on his palms.

("Is it? Do you have a favorite character? I like the fox, personally.")

Two . He closes his eyes.

("I... I like the rose.")

One . Sohee thinks about the ink on his back. About what it'll mean to him after all of this.

He shoots.

Seunghan flinches, blinking in confusion. Sohee had redirected his aim, shooting at the ground next to him.

The crowd is booing loudly, disappointed at the show presented to them. Some of them are even screaming insults in rage.

Sohee can only shake his head apologetically at Seunghan, throwing his gun on the ground. "I'm not doing this."

He starts to walk off, hearing Seunghan's steps behind him. Before he can turn back to the other, two piercing gunshots ring in his ears and across the whole arena. He flinches as a reflex, ducking his head and looking for the cause of the sounds. Seunghan stays close to him through it all.

"I'll do it!" Someone growls and Sohee sees it. A guy with a yellow smiley mask on, jumping on the ring. He's holding his gun up in the air proudly, showing off his own intimidating presence. Sohee takes a few steps back when the guy walks in his direction.

He eventually stops walking and, with his free hand, takes his mask off. Sohee immediately recognizes his red hair tied in a high ponytail.

"Did you guys miss me?" He screams out to the spectators, and they answer with the same energy, hollering like teenage girls at their favorite band's concert. Sohee almost trips over his own feet, thrown off by the act.

"I say we do that dare again," Red hair suggests, and Sohee panics when he directs his gun at Seunghan, who's standing in from of him. "With someone who has the balls to f*cking play."

Seunghan has his own hands up in the air, breathing unsteadily. "Don't do this, Yuta."

Sohee suppresses a gasp at the realization that this is Seunghan’s friend. Or well, what used to be his friend.

His feet finally catch up to his brain, and Sohee runs to hide Seunghan behind himself, causing shocked indignations all around them. Seunghan grabs him by the arm to reverse their roles, while Yuta slightly backs off at seeing how out of control Sohee is.

"Back off, pretty boy." He threatens, aiming at him and Sohee doesn't doubt his ability to keep his promises, so he lets himself being thrown aside by Seunghan.

At the peak of his anger, he turns around, enraged by everyone's absurdity. "Is this what you really want? For us to kill each other?" He shouts to the crowd in astonishment.

His screams for help fall into deaf ears. "Yes!" Yuta answers for them, like he's the voice of reason and they'll follow whatever he does blindly. Everything he says, they echo as a way to put his message to life.

Yuta is only encouraged by the exclamations of the spectators, throwing his hands around like a maniac. "Of course that's what they want!" He spurs them on himself, giving and taking greedily. Sohee tries not to deflate at the sight.

He loses all the dignity he has left, only an ugly kind of fury swimming through his veins. "Oh yeah? What if I dragged one of you in here, huh? Would this still be so funny to you all?" He shouts at the bystanders, frustration clear in his voice. When the crowd quiets down and he's met with no answer, he goes on. "Why don't you take off your stupid masks and reveal yourselves?"

He randomly points at someone, a girl with a typical ghostface mask hiding her identity. "You! Take off your mask!" He gets booed at, but it doesn't scare him this time. "Easy for all you cowards to be so brave when you're hidden in the crowd. Don't you see you're still responsible for what happens tonight, even if you're just watching?"

His monologue is cut by Yuta's mocking laugh. "Holy sh*t, y'all believe this?" He figures at Sohee like he's an idiot. The crowd unsurprisingly wastes no time to agree with him. "Remember, play to win!" He chants with them.

Sohee keeps looking around, catching Seunghan in the corner of his eye. "You guys really want someone to die, for a game?"

Their cheers get louder, and Yuta scoffs like it's the most obvious thing. "Yes, that's what they want."

Provoked by his condescending demeanor, Sohee wonders how gutsy this guy really is. He stares back in the same manner, tilting his head.

"Then shoot me."

Yuta stills for a second, surprise washing over his features. "I dare you." Sohee adds for good measure.

"What the f*ck,Sohee?" Seunghan runs back to his side, shaking him by his shoulders like that'll bring him back to earth. But Sohee is gone.

A co*cky grin makes its way back to Yuta's face, and he nods in agreement. Then, he turns his back to them, talking — or, more like screaming — to the watchers. "Who wants me to shoot him?"

He makes his way all around the ring, jumping with his fans, repeating the same question over and over again like it's a mantra. When Sohee feels Seunghan's warm hands setting on the sides of his face, he lets his gaze fall on him.

He holds onto Seunghan's wrist and feels his fast pulse. "I won't let him." Seunghan assures, but Sohee shakes his head. He wants to cry, but it's not the moment, so he bottles it up and pushes himself away from the other's warmth in an attempt to protect him. If he's Yuta's target, he wants to be as far away from Seunghan as possible.

He notices a change in the huge screen hanging over the crowd and reads hastily what is displayed.Shoot Sohee? Yes or No.

"No!" Seunghan yells out to the spectators, figuring wildly with his arms to catch their attention. "Vote forNo!"

Yuta, on the other hand, is pulling at the opposite end of the rope. "Vote Yes if you want me to shoot him!"

Sohee can only stare at the text, the final decision of how his existence might end being made right in front of him. It seems so simple.Yes or No.


Somewhere else in the world, a girl is alone in her room, the screen of her phone enlightening her face. She bites on her lip and presses onNo.


At a party, a guy is completely wasted, drooling on his phone. He doesn't know who Sohee is. He presses onYes.


In the next room, Sung Hanbin presses onNowithout thinking. Sion, barely standing on his side, does the same.


In the streets, a couple is walking hand in hand, looking down on their phones. The girlfriend shakes her head at her boyfriend, and they both press onNo.


A man is sitting behind a computer in his work office. He’s the only employee left. Bored out of his mind, he presses onYes.


Shotaro is sitting next to a hospital bed, glancing at his friend. He presses onNo, his eyebrows pulled together in a frown.


In the crowd of the arena, a girl looks around behind her mask and presses onYes.


Next to her, a guy screams out to encourage the spectacle in front of him, pressing onYes.


On the other side of the bullring, another girl presses onYes. And so does the person next to her.


In the midst of the storm, Seunghan grabs at Sohee's hand. "We need to go, right now."

But Sohee fights his hold, pushing him off, while Yuta continues with his masquerade until the countdown goes down to zero.

The Yes or No disappears off the screen, leaving place for the final choice.

Yes flashes in blue.

Before he even has time to think, a gunshot echoes off in the sky, and Sohee collapses to the ground.

He hears the excited shrieks from the crowd, hears all the roars and the claps. But they're all buried by Seunghan's cries.

Seunghan falls to the ground with him, tears staining his cheeks. He holds onto his frame and sobs brokenly. "Help! Call an imbulance!" He calls out, even though he knows it's no use.

Sohee has his eyes closed, and it only worsens his panic. He doesn't realize how quiet it gets around them, his attention on one single person. When he tries to lift Sohee's upper body, his frame is too easy to move around, and his head hangs loosely with no support. Seunghan stops breathing at the sight. "Sohee?" He cries out.

When there's no answer, he interlocks their fingers together. Sohee's hand is frail in his, unmoving. "Sohee , f*ck, answer me!"

His despaired screams get lost into the silence of the arena.


InThe Cloud, Sungchan nods at Donghyuck, who taps on his keyboard expectantly.


Back at the arena, every phone lights up, displaying a loading icon. On every watcher's screen, their full name pops up, with the same allegation. You are an accessory to murder . Sign out?

A girl sighs, shaking her head in disbelief. She signs out.

People around her gasp, whispering, "That's my real name." With no other choice, they sign out as well.

One by one, every watcher and player signs out, making their way out of the bullring, like the movie has ended and they're going back home. Seunghan is still on the ground, hugging Sohee tightly, like his body might disappear at any moment. He cries into his neck, apologizing in his ear.

When he detects a movement close, he looks up to see Yuta, who's slowly walking towards him with his phone in front of his face. He doesn't need to ponder over his own actions when he grabs his discarded gun and points it at the red-haired man.

Something knocks it off his hand, and it takes a few seconds for Seunghan to realize it's Sohee.

"Wait—Stop." Sohee speaks, and Seunghan stares in bewilderment. "I'm okay, I'm sorry—"

He's interrupted when Seunghan hugs him, holds him as close as possible, breathing into his neck. He's still crying, the shock of thinking he's lost him consuming him. Sohee hugs him back, runs his hands over his shoulders and through his hair comfortingly, whispering apologies. Seunghan doesn't understand what's happening, but he doesn't care. All he cares is for Sohee to be okay.

When they part, Seunghan realizes Sohee is crying as well as he wipes Seunghan's tears off his face. "I'm so, so sorry. I couldn't tell you."

Seunghan looks up in realization. "You were in on this?"

Yuta doesn't look as intimidating as he did minutes ago. He look worriedly at the both of them, nodding. "It was his idea." He explains, throwing a look at Sohee. "His friend Sungchan met up with me, that's why I'm here."

Seunghan still struggles to understand. "The gun?" He chokes out while Sohee strokes his arm.

He notices they're the only ones left in the bullring when he looks around, and Yuta throws his gun on the ground, next to him. "Blanks."

Yuta offers his hand to Sohee, and instinctively, Seunghan wants to stop him until he sees Sohee smile, accepting the offer to stand on his feet.

"You scared me." He confesses as he gets up.

Yuta smiles as well. "You scared me ." He says back, and they both help Seunghan to get on his feet. When they're on eye level, Yuta looks nervously at him. "We're cool?"

Seunghan lets out a shaky laugh, slowly recovering. "Yeah, man."

They share a small, weird handshake and Yuta chuckles when he steps back. "We're f*cking free, bro."

Seunghan frowns, and Sohee remembers there's a major part he missed. He tugs at his arm so Seunghan looks back at him, and he does. "Everyone signed out. There's no more game, you're free."

Seunghan is still dizzy with shock, so he struggles to believe what he's hearing, holding onto Sohee for support. He's free, his family is free. Sohee is free. It feels too good to be true, but this time, he doesn't have to brace himself for disappointment. He's here, with Sohee, and he couldn't ask for anything more.

"Yo," Yuta calls out, backing away. "Text me, and meanwhile, watch out for him." He points at Sohee. "That guy's scary as sh*t." are his final words before he takes out his phone, walking off.

There's only one viewer left in the game, and it’s Yuta. He presses on Sign out , and the screen goes black.

Sohee falls into Seunghan's chest, hiding his face in his neck, breathing him in. After everything, touching him feels unreal. Seunghan embraces him, kissing the top of his head. In this moment, he can only think, "I wished we met in different circ*mstances."

Sohee looks up to him, and Seunghan shivers at the unfamiliar amount of love he finds in the other's eyes. A soft smile blooms on Sohee's face. "I don't."

⋆⋆⋆


The sun is rising as they sit in front of the Manhattan bridge, leaving traces of orange and pink in the sky. Sohee is laying down on his back on the long stairs while Seunghan is sitting face to him on the lower ground. Sohee sighs in contentment, leaving the gorgeous sight in front of him to let his head fall to his right, finding Seunghan's gaze already on him. His eyes, the slope of his nose, his lips, Sohee can't help but think he looks so beautiful that even the gorgeous tones of pink and orange that surround them have no beauty in comparison.

Sohee tries to read Seunghan's mind but breaks into a giggle when Seunghan brings his finger up to poke at his nose. "You know, I was scared that you only looked good when it was dark and not during the day. Fortunately, you're not too bad."

Sohee rolls his eyes and flicks Seunghan's hand away from his face as Seunghan lets out a mischevious laugh, falling on his back. Sohee joins him on the ground and sits on his lap, bringing his upper body back up by grabbing his shoulders. "And you're better at flirting during the night." He retorts.

Sohee uses his hands to brush through Seunghan's dark hair softly, his heart fluttering at the way the other's eyes soften and at how his mouth stretches in a lazy grin. "I'm better at a lot of things during the night, I'll let you know."

Sohee shakes his head at his ridiculous behavior but can't subdue the smile forcing its way to his mouth. To ignore it, he looks back at the city, his mind wandering. A minute of comfortable silence passes in which they can only hear the birds chirping in the distance.

"And what, now?"

When he looks back at Seunghan, he sees himself in the reflection of his eyes. "Now? I'll take you on our second date." Seunghan replies, with a rapidity that impresses Sohee.

"Oh, was that our first date?" He asks, amused.

"Sure was. Left an impression on you, didn't I?" Seunghan jokes and Sohee has to gulp down another laugh.

He shrugs. "Meh. T’was pretty boring." He answers to provoke him, and it works. The other raises his eyebrows like he does every time he feels challenged.

"Playing hard to get?" He asks, his thumb going back and forth over Sohee's cheek in a way that makes Sohee's heart skip a beat. For a second, he observes Seunghan. He gets lost in the darkness of his eyes before diving into a kiss that the other reciprocates with as much passion.

The way Seunghan has one hand on his waist and the other on his face, keeping him as close as possible, has Sohee stuttering in his movements as he runs his hands through his wavy locks. He can feel Seunghan smiling into the kiss, and it reminds him of the first time they found themselves in this sort of position.

They part softly, Seunghan keeping his hands on him. Sohee doesn't expect it when he speaks. "I know a place where they make great pancakes."

For some reason, the fact that Seunghan is still thinking about food makes Sohee laugh. Seunghan observes his reaction. "Are you laughing at me?" He asks, almost offended, but the corner of his mouth is curling up, betraying him.

Sohee coughs the laugh away, regaining his composure. "No." He lies. "I don't even like pancakes."

Now, that drags an outraged gasp out of Seunghan, who pushes Sohee off his lap. Sohee laughs at the childish action while the other stands on his feet. "Wow, way to ruin our relationship. Anything else in mind?"

Sohee's laugh dies down, and he glares at him when Seunghan offers a hand. He slaps it off and gets up by himself. "What about waffles?"

Like he can't help it, Seunghan is already glued back to Sohee's side, almost hugging him. "Aye, captain." He replies, and Sohee rolls his eyes despite his blush. He pushes him off and walks towards Seunghan's bike, parked in front of the stairs.

Seunghan whines as he follows, desperate for physical touch. Sohee can't help but laugh at his attitude.

He turns around and leans on the motorcycle, kicking when Seunghan tries to get close. "So, where to?"

Seunghan shrugs, giving up on trying to latch onto Sohee. "You lead the way, my love."

Sohee crosses his arms and tries not to visibly react at his choice of words. "I thought you knew your way around?" He tilts his head teasingly.

He finds it amusing how easily Seunghan smirks back and goes to grab their helmets, nodding to himself. "You're right. You're gonna eat the greatest f*cking waffles of your life, you'll see." He states like he's trying to prove himself.

Sohee doesn't budge, his eyes following Seunghan. When he's offered a helmet, Sohee only looks at it. "I'll see."

The city around them is peaceful likes it's never been, and the breeze is the only reminder that they are outside, that this is real. As he looks into the biker's eyes, the way they shine reassures him that he hasn't made a single bad decision since they have met. Like they were meant to be here, right now, where the grass is green and the sky is orange.

Seunghan puts the helmet on Sohee’s head, slapping it down. “I’m gonna need to buy you a bear-helmet or something. You’d look so cute in that.”

Sohee smiles brightly. "Shut up." He groans and joins him on the bike.

you're sweet like candy in my veins - rosesarepink (2024)
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