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eighteen year old han sanghyuk’s life wasn’t as interesting, living how a normal teen lived. he was on his last year of high school, ready to take med school in the future. as an only child, his parents took care of him well, making sure to give him the best education and care. as well as reminding him that any other sexuality other than heterosexual was not okay.

that was the only thing sanghyuk hated. he was the most perfect boy with a beautiful smile and bubbly personality, good grades, but one thing that his parents despised the most was that sanghyuk was gay.

not like he told them, his sexuality was a major lie to his parents. he hardly lied to them. except for that.

sanghyuk was busy saving up for university, working at a dollar store between a large city and a small rural town. it was convenient; sanghyuk and his parents lived on the richer side of the rural town which was close enough to the city to be able to visit often.

his friends hongbin and hakyeon worked there on the same shift as well, making work slightly more entertaining. since the three were most known as ‘the prettyboy employees,’ customers would usually flood in during their shift. sanghyuk was always the cashier, pulling change out in a flash thanks to his brains. hongbin would be in the storage room or organizing things while hakyeon would sit pretty behind the desk, girls infatuated with him. when it wasn’t as busy, hongbin would fret over how customers left objects scattering in the wrong categories.

 

it was around closing time, hongbin and sanghyuk were in charge of locking up the doors. hakyeon left early for a family meet up. hongbin had pouted at the oldest, innocently batting his eyelashes begging hakyeon to stay. sanghyuk stared at them disgusted, knowing well enough hakyeon and hongbin were not innocent one bit. they were dating for well over a year with poor sanghyuk as the third wheel.

he remembered when his parents found out his two best friends were dating.

“sanghyuk sweetie, stay away from hakyeon and hongbin please.” his mom had said. sanghyuk had refused. there was no way he’d stay away from his friends. his father had a stern face. “you reject all our blind dates with the smartest and prettiest girls. i’m sure those two have tainted you.” sanghyuk had bit back a retort and had tried to stay calm and collected.

“thats only because i want to focus on my studies first,” he had implied, hoping his lie worked. “i assure you they won’t taint me. there is this cute girl i’m eyeing. i might ask her out.” he had lied about his sexuality once again.

“hey,” hongbin called out, tapping sanghyuk out of his thoughts. sanghyuk flinched, looking up to see hongbin’s pretty face flashing a shit eating grin. “bet you cant win against me in overwatch again,” he teased.

oh, it was on, sanghyuk thought. “you asked for it,” he challenged back, sending the older the same look. hongbin clicked his tongue, grabbing the keys to the store and walking out from behind the counter. “bet?” he asked.

sanghyuk nodded. “fourty.” he challenged, grabbing their coats.

hongbin agreed. “deal, now let’s lock this baby up-” right when hongbin finished his sentence, the bell to the entrance rang. sanghyuk whipped his head around to the entrance, fire in his eyes, pissed that someone dared to interrupt their bet. he glanced at hongbin, who huffed in annoyance.

“we’re sorry, but we’re closing up,” sanghyuk called out. he couldn’t see the customer over the shelfs. he cursed at his height.

“hey hey, don’t worry baby. i’m just here to grab a lighter.” a cheerful voice rang out from the other side of the shelf. “leo’s here cause he wanted to see the ‘prettyboy employees’.”

hongbin rolled his eyes and scoffed. “maybe you should’ve checked the hours and came earlier. we have things to do.”

the owner of the unknown voice stepped out, with another boy behind him. “playing hard to get? don’t worry,” the guy reassured again, “it’ll take a quick second.” he gave a cute grin.

sanghyuk could feel hongbin tense up a bit. the guys did look intimidating but at the same time, really handsome and pretty. the guy who was talking had brown hair with bangs that hovered slightly over his eyes and really pink, pouty lips. he wore a black tee and tracker pants, lollipop in one hand. the boy behind him caught sanghyuk’s eye more. sanghyuk guessed he was leo. he had bright pink hair styled messily (sanghyuk wouldn’t lie but it actually suited him) with a white tank top and black jeans. his sharp cat-like eyes stared down at sanghyuk who shuddered.

hongbin clenched his jaw. grabbing sanghyuk’s hand, he took them to the back counter and took out a lighter. “that’ll be one dollar, but since you decided to come in so late to treat us like a petting zoo, i’ll charge an extra dollar.” hongbin scowled. sanghyuk looked up at the older (and taller might i add) male and felt a warmth grow in his chest. hakyeon and hongbin had a thing with being overprotective over sanghyuk, as if he was their baby. he felt safe in their embrace.

hongbin’s hand that was still holding onto sanghyuk’s tightened when the brown haired guy smirked. “what if i don’t have any money? i’ll give you my name. it’s ken.” sanghyuk cringed. was this guy trying to flirt? hongbin’s grip on his hand tightened and he winced in pain. he squeezed back, trying to signal to hongbin.

thankfully, his grip had loosened, but sanghyuk could still feel leo’s cat-like eyes staring down at him.

“it’s fine, hongbin-hyung,” sanghyuk said softly, looking at hongbin. ah, pulling the hyung card always softened hakyeon and hongbin. it was easy to get anything he wanted. hongbin looked down at the youngest, eyes softening.

“this one’s on me.” sanghyuk said while pulling out two dollars, opening the register and placing the coins inside. he handed the lighter to the ken dude and grinned cutely. “come again,” sanghyuk said cheerfully, “but never this late.”

ken looked at sanghyuk, surprised but supressed a smirk at him. leo’s sharp gaze was more intimidating because of the smirk he sent sanghyuk. the youngest wondered why they kept sending him weird glances.

the tense feeling that hung in the air was gone when the two guys left. hongbin sighed in relief, grabbing his coat that sanghyuk was still holding. “those guys,” hongbin started off, “they’re kind of like drop-outs, kids who just hang around old buildings and smoke their lives away.”

“oh,” sanghyuk voiced out. then realization hit him. “wait-”

“yes,” hongbun cut him off, “when i was younger, i used to do that, minus the smoking. i thought it was cool.” he shrugged it off. deciding to change the topic, hongbin flashed him a smile.

“are we still on that bet or nah?”

sanghyuk nodded, pulling hongbin by his sleeve out of the store, snatching the keys from his hand and locking the doors. “let’s go to the cafe!”

Chapter Text

hakyeon wasn’t surprised to find sanghyuk sulking behind the counter and hongbin looking bright as ever the next day when he entered the store. “how much did you guys bet this time?” he asked.

sanghyuk pouted. “fourty.” hakyeon sighed and glared at hongbin.

hongbin snorted in return. “he asked for it!”

shaking his head, hakyeon grabbed his wallet, pulling out twenty dollars. motioning for hongbin to do the same, who rolled his eyes but reluctantly did so. “there,” hakyeon smiled at sanghyuk, all motherly like. “your fourty dollars are back.” he then turned to hongbin. “as for you, i thought we discussed about not betting over twenty dollars! better yet, not betting at all.” he grabbed hongbin’s ear and pulled him further away from sanghyuk. “what kind of punishment do you think you deserve?” he hissed into the younger’s ear.

sanghyuk stared at the two twenty dollar bills in his hands. he couldn’t accept this. he lost a bet, fair and square. hakyeon was just too kind. he looked up, about to give his hyung the money back after he was finished scolding hongbin— wait. where were they?

“hyung?” sanghyuk called out. the bell to the door rang. sanghyuk groaned. he put the money in his pocket, waiting for his customer to come to the counter. his eyes widened when he saw the familiar pink hair and the lanky body wearing a white tank top.

leo walked right up to the counter, feline eyes trained onto sanghyuk. the latter gulped, shuffling backwards even though there was a counter between them. leo grabbed a lighter from the basket on the counter, tossing it in front of sanghyuk. the boy hesitantly took it, tapping away at the computer for the price. “one dollar,” sanghyuk said nervously. leo nodded, sifting through his pockets and took some coins out. sanghyuk took it, shuddering when his fingers brushed leo’s. leo licked his lips. he handed the lighter to the pink haired boy. “d-do you want a bag?” sanghyuk asked stupidly.

leo gave a small laugh. “no thank you,” he said quietly. sanghyuk’s heart beat faster, noticing the gaze leo gave him was softer.

the silence between them was broken when hakeyon and hongbin stumbled out of the storage room. sanghyuk gave a look of amusement when he saw hongbin with messy hair and a blush on his face. he looked nothing like the tough boy from last night. hakyeon stopped in his tracks when he saw leo, hongbin doing the same.

“taekwoon?” hakyeon said, surprised. sanghyuk was confused. hakyeon knows leo? and his name is taekwoon? hongbin looked confused as well, shuffling awkwardly beside sanghyuk to watch the two.

“hakyeon,” taekwoon murmured, narrowing his eyes at hakyeon. his gaze turned cold. “or should i say, n?” hakyeon flinched at his old nickname.

“don’t ever say that name again,” he growled in return. “i’m not like you anymore.” sanghyuk looked at hongbin in confusion. hongbin returned him a look saying ‘it’s a long story,’.

taekwoon waved hakyeon off, turning his back to leave the store, lighter in his hand. with one last glance at sanghyuk, he left. hakyeon looked like he was going to kill.

the air between hakyeon and sanghyuk was tense. hongbin awkwardly stood to the side, watching sanghyuk confront hakyeon.

“explain,” he demanded. hakyeon looked guilty, nodding.

“okay,” hakyeon sighed. “back in highschool, i’d skip classes sometimes with a certain group of people, including taekwoon. we thought it was cool and fun, and we gave each other nicknames. sometimes we’d fight with other students from different schools who’d also skip classes. i snapped out of it after two years and i left. my group thought i betrayed them.

“i moved schools to have a new start, and then i met hongbin. we-”

“okay, i don’t need your love story,” sanghyuk cut him off. he turned his back to his hyungs, staring at the floor to think. someone touched his shoulder.

“sanghyuk, you should stay away from taekwoon.” hakyeon said. sanghyuk shrugged hakyeon’s hand off his shoulder.

“not like i’m gonna hang out with him,” sanghyuk muttered.

“good, look how close you are to getting in the best school! i don’t want you failing.” hakyeon nagged.

“yes mom,” sanghyuk sniggered. the awkward feeling that hung around them disappeared.

hakyeon rolled his eyes at his nickname. “alright, after our shift i’ll take you guys to the movies,” he said, rubbing his forehead. sanghyuk and hongbin cheered.

hakyeon knew that bringing the younger ones to the movies also meant dealing with their bickering in the car and making sure they wouldn’t toss their popcorn at each other. thankfully both of them were well behaved and were talking about a newly released videogame.

maybe he spoke too soon.

“you should pay for it since you took my twenty dollars!” hongbin bickered.

sanghyuk pouted and shook his head. “only because you keep winning in our bets so hakyeon hyung returned the money for me,” he whined.

they received strange looks from people walking out of the theatre with them, after having finished their movie. hakyeon turned around to face them, hitting them both on their necks by the side of his hand. “shut up or i’m leaving you two here!” he complained.

sanghyuk gave him a smug look. “you can’t leave me here either way since i live right around the block,” he then stuck his tongue out at hongbin. “i don’t wanna sit with him in a car anymore, bye!” and he ran off.

hongbin shook his head defeatedly, gazing in sanghyuk’s direction. “should we be worried about his safety?”

hakyeon shrugged. “he’s growing faster than you being able to read a book, he’ll be fine,” he dodged a punch from hongbin, “what an ungrateful brat, he doesn’t even say goodbye to us.”

sanghyuk wanted to get some rest and just cuddle up into his bed. the walk home was eight minutes long, but sanghyuk decided to take the shortcut path he usually used to get home faster.

turning into the short path inbetween two houses, he tensed when he heard a group of people nearby. sanghyuk quickened his pace, looking down at his feet to avoid eye contact with the group. when he walked out of the path and onto the main street, he sighed in relief.

continuing his walk, sanghyuk swore he heard footsteps behind him. heart beating faster, he boldly turned around only to be faced by a tough looking guy who harshly grabbed his wrist and pulled him back into the pathway. the boy winced, knowing that a bruise was going to form the next day. if he even lived the next day.

sanghyuk cursed at himself for not letting hakyeon drop him off, and laughed at his unluckiness.

“what do you want?” he growled at the group. one of the jerks laughed. they shoved him against the wall, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. sanghyuk felt his head being slammed against the brick wall, feeling his vision blur for a few seconds. he shook his head to clear his vision. another guy sifted through his pockets, grabbing his wallet and seatching through - only to have it tossed to the side.

“shut it, prettyboy,” the dude who laughed at him said. sanghyuk wrinkled his nose. the guy was way too close for comfort and he could easily tell they were all drunk and high.

“what’re you gonna do, huh?” sanghyuk taunted. trying to act confident, he kicked the guy holding onto him and took off.

too late though, he realized, when he was yanked back. a guy clicked his tongue as a signal, and the group started kicking and punching sanghyuk. whimpering in pain, he tried his best to block all the blows he was receiving. he felt his mind haze up, head, arms and chest burning and throbbing in pain. there was a horrible ringing in his head go away, go away just go and he wondered why it had to be him at this time and place.

sanghyuk realized that the beating had stopped. opening one eye because the other was swollen, he saw leo and ken along with another unknown guy giving the other group a staredown.

“get out of our territory,” leo spat out, his voice cold as ice. “this kid here is our prey.” sanghyuk’s eyes went wide, mouth open about to protest but the group left in fear. his heartbeat quickened. were leo, ken and that scary dude going to beat him up instead? he tried shuffling away from them but tensed up in pain instead, finding himself too damaged to move.

“n-no, please..” sanghyuk sobbed, startled that he had started crying without knowing. maybe it was because his stomach was clenching in pain or the back of his head was throbbing horribly. the rest of his body just felt numb, he could only feel the searing pain in the areas where he was brutally kicked and punched.

to his confusion, only leo came forward to him. cautiously, like a predator about to hunt its prey. ken and the other guy left but leo didn’t seem to care.

sanghyuk trembled violently, feeling around his pockets for his phone as leo inched closer. “don’t call…” leo mumbled when he got close enough to sanghyuk, kneeling down. leo’s feline like eyes bore into him, scanning every inch of sanghyuk’s body. “are..” leo hesitated, “you okay? can you walk?” his voice was gentle and caring, much unlike his scary demeanour with his pink hair swept to the side messily and his tattered tank top. not to mention the dog tags he wore.

sanghyuk, who was still a bit taken aback by what happened didn’t catch leo’s words fully but he managed to comprehend. “i can’t even cower away from you, does it look like i can walk?” he replied bitterly. how was he going to explain this to his parents? leo seemed surprised by his sharp response, his body edging away from sanghyuk but his arms still reaching out to examine the back of sanghyuk’s head.

“i saw them smash your head against the wall, i’m presuming your vision is really blurred?” leo questioned softly, feeling around the younger’s head for bumps or bleeding, “how many fingers?”

sanghyuk nodded and squinted at the fingers, his vision getting blurrier as he did. his headache throbbed increasingly and he heard a weird buzzing sound and a shout of his name and—

when he opened his eyes, he immediately shut them again because of the brightness. “han sanghyuk, i saw that! what the hell happened to you? i should’ve drove you back home! i was so worried,” hakyeon fretted. sanghyuk groaned, turning his back to hakyeon and facing the bedroom wall. wait! this wasn’t his bed, nor his room— oh, it was hakyeon’s. he ignored the worrisome comments coming from the older. what had happened to him?

“wait, what even happened to me?” he questioned.

hakyeon looked surprised. “hell if i know!” he spluttered, “someone rang my doorbell and when i opened it you were lying on my porch. did you drag yourself here?”

sanghyuk frowned. “i only remember being beaten up and then...oh,” he realized. it was leo who helped him! he couldn’t tell hakyeon though, the older would probably burst in anger.

“what?” hakyeon asked.

“nothing,” sanghyuk mumbled, “i think i walked here and then blacked out.”

“but why didn’t you go to your house?” questioned hongbin who was standing in the doorway who knows when.

sanghyuk shrugged, the lie feeling heavy on his tongue. he felt guilty lying to hakyeon but at least it was better than him yelling at him.

“i’ll go and get some water for you,” hongbin said, turning away. hakyeon smiled at sanghyuk and patted his head, following the other. sanghyuk sulked.

why did it have to be leo who saved him?