As soon as the announcer said, “Go,” all the contestants disperse in all different directions, heading off to find their requested item but Hyukjae is the only one to head back toward his dormitory stands.
Krystal watches as several people from their dormitory quickly descends upon Hyukjae, circling around him like a group of sharks caught in a feeding frenzy and Hyukjae is their caught prey.
“What does it say on your paper?” someone inquires amongst the crowd.
“What do you need, Hyukjae?” another asks.
“Glasses, a hat, a soda can, or what? Tell us already!” a new voice demands.
“No, as if it would ever be that easy!” the familiar voice of Amber, anxiously frets. “This is the same event last year that made Yesung cried when they wanted him to find a lobster, like where are we going to find a lobster in the middle of a mountain?!”
Several more people join the ruckus, their voice intermix in the cacophony in a distilled noise until Hyukjae raises his voice above them all, effectively shutting them all down.
“No, it’s not any of that,” he says and carefully extracts himself from the group, bypassing them entirely, as he head directly toward their section of the stands, the crowd gingerly following behind him.
He stands right in front of Krystal and Sulli, who sits at the first row of the stands, staring up at their section.
“It seems,” Hyukjae says evenly, voice betraying nothing and face carefully blank, and he doesn’t quite look at anyone as he say it, “I have the ever popular request of finding my favorite person for the scavenger hunt.”
He holds the paper up for them to see and right on it, it clearly says: Please find your favorite person and bring them to the judging table.
And just like that all eyes in the stands and around them turn toward Donghae and Krystal feels a twinge of pity, when she turns around to look up as they all descend upon him like a pack of vultures.
“W-what,” Donghae says warily, his apprehension seems to rise with every second, “why are you all looking me like that.”
Krystal’s sister, sitting right beside Donghae in the third row of stands, gives him a look. “Donghae, go,” Jessica orders, giving him a little nudge in the direction of Hyukjae. “We know it’s you anyway.”
“Come on, we can’t lose to Ruby Red Dorm. They’re ahead of us by twenty-two points, ugh,” Youngwoon bemoans above them. “Donghae, go with Hyukjae already.”
“And if we lose again like last year, Heechul is going to make coats off our skin like he been threatening to do,” says Henry further down, shuddering violently at the horror of Heechul.
There’s an anxious murmur of agreement among them and the thing is they’re right because as the competition heats up, there’s less points to earn and they can’t afford to give any up if they want take the home the Interdorm Cup this year.
Donghae abruptly stands up and spins around, his hands fisted at his side and he must have been a sight for the people above them because they flinch back as though they had seen the face of an angry god. “Shut up, you can’t make me go and you haven’t ask what Hyukjae wanted yet—”
“Donghae,” Hyukjae says softly, but the word stops Donghae dead in his track and draws all the attention back to him.
Donghae slowly turns back to Hyukjae, his cheeks flaring, and he stands rigid and awkward in his spot. “I—“ he starts and then stops as he shakes away whatever been bothering him. “You don’t have to pick me, it’s okay if you—“
“Come,” Hyukjae beckons, face still but the hands that he hold out, tremble slightly in nervousness and the crowd holds their breath as Donghae stares at it for a while before stumbling along toward Hyukjae, almost in a dazed, caught in the pull of Hyukjae’s voice.
He tentatively takes Hyukjae’s offered him and Hyukjae lace their hand together in a tight grip, dragging Donghae toward him and then they’re off toward the judging table.
Everybody in their dorm let out a sigh of relieve. “Gosh, did they have to make a drama out of all of this when it’s pretty obvious who Hyukjae is going to pick anyway,” Jessica says, snorting in obvious displeasure and the entire dorm seems to be in agreement with that statement.
“Oh, oh, it looks like Class 2-A, Lee Hyukjae of the Sapphire Blue Dormitory is the first to come back and seems to have chosen, Lee Donghae as his, get this, most favorite person. How cute!” Kwanghee voice booms over the speaker. “I remember last year, upperclassman Boa had the exact same request and who can forget her forcibly dragging Yunho to the judging table and he kept trying to make a run for it and ended up tripping over his own two feet, and wasn’t that fun to watch? And now if it was me, you know who I pick? Come on guys, guess! Of course it would be—“
“Someone please shut him up before I have to,” Krystal groans beside Sulli, covering her face in exasperating.
“Hey, don’t be mean,” Sulli scolds but the smile on her face say it all.
Krystal lifts her hand away, eyes darting across the field until they descend upon Hyukjae and Donghae awkwardly standing in front of the judges table, Hyukjae’s stance is stiff like a statue while Donghae looks like he’s about to melt away in embarrassment as Boa teases them about something.
“You know,” Krystal hears Sulli suddenly says, dragging Krystal’s attention back to her companion and she reluctantly pulls her gaze away the comical situation before them, “your sister once told me that a couple of few years ago that particular request used to be ‘the person I love the most’ but they changed it since it was so embarrassing for the competing students that rarely anyone completed it.”
Krystal, tilts her head curiously. Huh. “Would that have change the result of Hyukjae’s request if the words were phrase any differently?” she asks.
Sulli appears to think about it and then an amused shake of the head. “No.”
“I didn’t think so either,” Krystal agrees after a moment as she recalls the pair of disaster that is Donghae and Hyukjae.
“A bold declaration of love in front of everyone, that takes a lot of courage,” Sulli says, sighing wistfully. “How romantic.”
“Of course you would think that,” Krystal scoffs, rolling her eyes skyward. “But it’s more like a public humiliation.”
“It’s humbling and sweet,” Sulli insists, leaning toward her and closing the space between them.
“Whatever,” she says dismissively but Sulli continues to smile at her as though Krystal’s perpetual grumpiness is endearing.
Sulli reaches for Krystal’s hand and despite Krystal pushing it away at first, she gives in eventually as Sulli tangles their hands together the way Hyukjae and Donghae had and Krystal doesn’t have the heart to push it away again, because the truth of the matter is if it was her, Krystal wouldn’t have even consider the thought of choosing anybody else but Sulli to take to the finish line, however incredibly embarrassing it is for her.
Love, Krystal thinks, a little helplessly, is merciless and we’re all a slave to her whims as she watches Hyukjae and Donghae as the first pair to make it to the finish line to the boisterous scream and shriek of the crowd, both of their face going completely red, but still holding on to each other hand.