“You guys are being challenged!”
Although, at the moment, there was a brief period of quiet from all the bustle and excitement happening in the arcade, Jihyo chose to ignore this statement. She was one point from winning Knock Out Pong, and no other challenge was going to deviate her from finally beating Jeongyeon at this thing.
“Who’s challenging us?” Jeongyeon asked from across the table, not looking up from her rapidly spinning dials as the pellet in the board ricocheted off the walls, the machine spitting out cheesy exclamations every few seconds.
“Wow! Now that was a knockout!”
“Full speed! In-credible!”
“Haven’t you guys been playing this for like 20 minutes?” said Dahyun’s voice somewhere to Jihyo’s left, outside of the dings as she concentrated on not having Jeongyeon knock her out again, or getting distracted and letting Mina into her goal, or-
Something brushed Jihyo’s back, making her jump and her aim go wild. The dial spun out of control, to her horror, and sent the pellet easily back to Jeongyeon’s side, who smirked at her before sinking another goal.
“Blue team wins!” chirped the machine.
Jihyo groaned and stepped back, folding her arms tightly across her chest as Jeongyeon danced around in a circle. Mina came around the side, resting her chin on Jihyo’s shoulder and brushing a strand of hair away from Jihyo’s neck.
“I believe that’s a 10th consecutive game. You owe me now.” Jeongyeon declared, pointing at Jihyo earnestly.
“Get out of my face.” Jihyo growled, before looking at Dahyun with a sigh.
“What’s this challenge now?”
As Dahyun explained importantly that Tzuyu had discovered the laser tag center here at the arcade, and wanted them to play at least one round before they left, Jihyo leaned back into Mina’s warmth. They’d been here for the last couple of hours, in celebration of Sana’s birthday, and while Jihyo enjoyed seeing her friends happy, catching up with them all and getting to let loose for the first time in forever, her favorite part was sharing it all with Mina. They hadn’t had much time together in the past few weeks, and so much the better that they were getting to play games.
Even if Mina was being just slightly competitive. It was fine, though. Jihyo had her own competitive streak.
“Laser tag, hmm?” Jeongyeon rubbed her hands together. “Another thing for me to smoke you all at? I’m in.”
“Don’t be so confident.” Jihyo rolled her eyes, sliding away from Mina so she could weave their hands together. “We’re playing on teams. So they might have to carry you.”
“You care to wager all of your tickets on that?” Jeongyeon asked pleasantly. They began following Dahyun across the room, lights flaring up at them from every direction and various noises clattering: hums from the air hockey table, the overjoyed voices of the game announcers, roars from the car simulators.
Jihyo pulled Mina just slightly against her, squeezing her hand reassuringly as Mina remained quiet. She didn’t always do so well with loud noises, so Jihyo tried to make sure Mina stayed in the present with her, and not getting too caught up in her own head.
“Fine. If my team loses, this wholeeee roll- 1000 tickets- is yours.” Jihyo slipped the thick orange roll out of her pocket and waved it at Jeongyeon teasingly. “But if I win? You’re giving me that giant polar bear plush you won?”
Jeongyeon frowned at her, huffing as they approached the outside of the laser tag arena. Everyone else was already milling about: Tzuyu, Jisoo, and Chaeyoung quietly talking on the benches, Sana talking at top speed to Nayeon, who was listening with more patience than Jihyo could ever muster, and Momo being the only one actually watching the TV with instructions for how to put on the vests properly.
“You don’t even like plushes!”
“But Mina does.” Jihyo said simply.
Jeongyeon rolled her eyes as she went to speak to the attendant. Jihyo was promptly rewarded with a small kiss to her cheek and Mina squeezing her hand.
“Do you care to make a little bet with me too?” Mina asked.
Jihyo glanced at her, detecting that tiny but fierce competitive edge in Mina’s tone as the others began lining up to choose vests. “You don’t want to be on the same team as me?”
Mina’s nose scrunched as she slipped on the vest Chaeyoung passed to her, its chest pad flickering with flashes of bright purple. “Well, it’s not that I wouldn’t like to, it’s just that I thought it’d be more fun if we faced off against each other.”
“You’re lucky you have that luxury, Jihyo-ah.” Nayeon groaned. She was holding her own gun and vest, Sana attached to her back with a beaming smile and arms wrapped tightly around Nayeon’s waist. “Sana didn’t even give me the choice.”
“I like to be close to you.” Sana said, pouting a little until Nayeon turned to kiss her, sighing.
“It’d be really fun...” Mina whispered. Jihyo hesitated, looking at her soft but imploring eyes, and over at who would be Mina’s teammates. Dahyun, Chaeyoung, Jeongyeon, and Tzuyu. Jihyo was fairly certain she could handle those people.
“All right, I’m listening. What are the terms?” Jihyo asked, putting on her own vest and twisting the curly cord of the gun around her finger.
“Well, if I win, you give me half that roll of tickets for Jeongyeon.” Mina pointed at the small bulge in her jacket pocket, consisting of no less than 3500 tickets. Jihyo wasn’t even sure how she’d won that many in just twenty five minutes. Sometimes Mina’s silent persistence intimidated the shit out of her.
“And if I win?” Jihyo questioned. The others were milling around the first door into the arena, Sana still leeching onto Nayeon’s back and chattering away.
Mina tapped her chin with a deceptively thoughtful expression.
“I’ll bake you those chocolate chip bars you keep bugging me about.”
Excitement fizzed within Jihyo’s stomach, her mouth already watering at the prospective winnings. Mina didn’t often bake, but when she did, she often had to make an entire batch just for Jihyo because she loved Mina’s desserts that much. Mina always said she was exaggerating, but Jihyo considered herself a bit of an expert on dessert, and nothing even came close to when Mina baked them.
“Deal.” Jihyo agreed.
Mina beamed, eyes scrunching in a way that made Jihyo briefly forget they were on opposing sides, and leaned over to peck her cheek before following her team into the arena. Jihyo joined her own outside the other door, intrigued by the neon green glow from the visible walls inside the frame, and glanced down at her vest.
“I wish they’d let you customize your own name. Being Thunder is so.....boring.” she complained, tapping.
“I got Spike. I’ll trade you.” Nayeon grumbled.
Before Jihyo could seriously consider it, the attendant was waving them in and shutting the door behind them. The adrenaline began to awaken within her system as Jihyo took in the environment: It was a two story, with several grey free standing walls on the lower floor to crouch behind and a simple balcony above it, with its own set of walls. A faint fluorescent glow was settled over everything, illuminating barrels every few feet and the TVs hanging over the entrances.
“Everyone pick a spot!” Momo shouted. She darted off into the darkness before anyone else could move, and Jihyo exchanged looks with Jisoo as they scoped out the place for themselves.
“I thought the point of this game was not to draw attention to ourselves.” Jisoo said, snorting a little as she looked after Momo.
“Yeah, well...she’s not too subtle sometimes.”
The booming of the arena’s soundtrack fully distracted Jihyo, and she zeroed in on her own wall to hide behind. She raised her eyebrows at Jisoo and gave her a two finger salute.
“See you on the other side, then?”
Nayeon gasped as she skidded to a stop, pressing herself against one of the walls and trying to catch her breath. She should really not be this worked up over a stupid laser tag game. She assumed everyone would think it was just good, clean fun and not take it too seriously.
Currently, she was on her eighth or ninth timeout because Dahyun was acting like a stupid assassin, melting out of fucking nowhere and sniping her before disappearing again. Jeongyeon and Momo were each team’s weak spot, since every time they ran into each other, they chose to scream as they fired, echoing off the walls and alerting everyone to where they were.
She peeked around the edge of the wall. She and Chaeyoung were locked in a tight little face off right now, chasing each other around the lower level and missing every time they shot. But not this time. Nayeon would get at least one shot on the leaderboard before the match ended in....two and a half minutes-?
Nayeon nearly jumped out of her skin when a soft voice brushed against her, and she swung around, wildly swinging her gun up before she squinted and groaned.
“Sana. You scared the shit out of me! What are you doing?” Nayeon hissed. Most of the activity seemed to be happening on the upper level, where she could hear a ton of slapping footsteps and the occasional shriek from Momo.
“Well...I missed you.” Sana shrugged, a smile flickering across her face as she wound her arms around Nayeon’s waist. “And I wanted a little bit of a break.”
“That’s great, babe, but there aren’t really breaks in this game. And Chaeyoung is-”
Nayeon was distracted by Sana’s soft finger on her jawline, turning Nayeon’s face towards her and smiling even wider.
“What are you-”
Sana effectively cut her off with a kiss. All thoughts of flushing out Chaeyoung evaporated from Nayeon’s mind as her hands rested on Sana’s waist, sighing a little as Sana nipped at her lower lip, lips breaking away to trace down Nayeon’s jawline.
“We were only apart for like a few minutes, babe.” Nayeon pointed out breathlessly.
Sana leaned away, earning an immediate whiny pout from Nayeon as she leaned forward.
“Are you complaining?”
Nayeon shook her head eagerly, tugging Sana closer for another kiss, not even minding when her vest vibrated with a dramatic hum and she heard Chaeyoung whoop in delight as she sprinted past them.
55 seconds left in the game.
Jihyo was feeling pretty good about herself. She had a successful 10 kills on her own, mostly from Tzuyu and Momo, but she’d gotten Chaeyoung from across the room and even crept up on Dahyun once. She and Jisoo passed each other a few times, not saying anything but communicating in smirks and small jerks of the head, indicating a good path to take.
Now, all that there was left to do was take out Mina. The love of her life, cutest girl on the planet, and Jihyo’s next victim.
She darted from barrel to barrel, hyper aware of the noise around her and the way that the music could be masking anyone’s footsteps. To her satisfaction, she couldn’t hear anything, and moved on, almost tripping over two lumps behind a wall.
“What the fuck are you two doing?” Jihyo demanded in a whisper to Nayeon and Sana, looking down at them in disbelief.
Sana giggled, hiding her face in Nayeon’s shoulder as Nayeon scoffed and turned away from her, hands sliding further up Sana’s back.
“If you must know, I’m maneuvering my way around this pesky vest. And don’t tell me you wouldn’t do it with Mina. Now go away.”
Jihyo rolled her eyes, aiming a kick at Nayeon and taking pleasure in the protesting “Ow!” before she dashed off again, cautiously creeping up the staircase until she could peek around the corner.
No one on this side.
36 seconds left...
Jihyo didn’t even have time to turn around before she felt someone’s warmth pressing into her back. She yelped as she was spun expertly, back pushing into the wall and arms planting on either side of her.
“Minari?” she squeaked.
Something about this artificial lighting made Mina look even more attractive than usual. But there was no time for that. Jihyo grinned triumphantly, scrabbling for her gun, but Mina’s pout was....distracting.
“Babe, you know you won. Your team is way higher up than we are.” Mina sighed. She leaned in to nuzzle Jihyo’s neck, and Jihyo bit her lip, hoping against hope none of her teammates came up here and caught her in this position.
“Yeah, and when I-”
Mina placed a finger over her lips.
“I just wanted to give you a little something in congratulations.”
Jihyo’s breath hitched as Mina’s mouth traced its way up and over her throat, softly brushing across her cheek and pausing for just a moment before Mina kissed her in earnest.
Jihyo considered herself something of an expert on games and winning, but she really couldn’t help losing her train of thought when Mina was kissing her, especially in that lingering and soft manner she had. She let out a small breath, tangling her fingers in Mina’s hair and barely paying attention to where Mina’s hands were drifting, keeping her eyes closed with a smile as Mina pulled back.
Jihyo’s eyes shot open.
Mina’s gun was pressed against her chest, and a wide, crooked smirk was on full display as Jihyo’s vest flashed red.
“Did you- you- you cheater!” Jihyo spluttered.
The vests and guns faded back to their original clear state, and Mina shrugged as she hooked her weapon back on the belt.
“It’s called strategy, babe.” Mina said simply, and walked away.
Jihyo stared after her incredulously, not even paying attention to her teammates approaching until Momo lightly pushed her shoulder.
“What’s the matter with you?”
“Looks like Mina gave her a bit of her own medicine.” Jeongyeon observed, walking past.
“So who won your little bet?” Sana asked pleasantly. They were waiting for Nayeon and Mina to turn in their tickets and pick out their prizes from the arcade store.
Jihyo rubbed her face and glanced up pointedly. Mina was clutching no less than four plushes, plus what looked like a penguin keychain and a pair of earbuds.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Jihyo mumbled.