System Failure

Only the obvious things in life are what they really appear to be. If anything gives you doubt, look at it closer. You might find something interesting.

There was once a time where her life was a mess of one's and zero's - the coding that flickered across a screen in a dark room. There was once a time her life revolved around routine and stayed in the realm of the expected.
There was once a time he thought his days of searching would never end. There was once a time where his only hopes of romance remained from watching from afar.
There was once a time she thought love was stupid and unnecessary - unneeded.
There was a time when his life seemed to be predictable and easy.
But time is unstable and always changing. There may be many things that once were, but that's past tense.
Because that was then,
And this is now.

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8. ("1000")

I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.

 

Unfortunately for Chanyeol, she wasn't on the bus the next day. No matter how long he waited, she never appeared at her stop. He didn't have time to come find her this time, though, because he had to catch up on his classes after the day before, when he didn't actually make progress on his project when he said he would.

To double his bad luck, she wasn't on the bus back, or even the bus the next morning. It was as if she was either avoiding him, or something worse.

Her father wasn't trying to kill her, right? She wasn't kidnapped again, was she?

Due to his paranoia, he soon found himself at her doorstep on Saturday, another free day, pressing the doorbell.

 

CHEN: How many have you used so far?

S4INT: Neves dnuora.

CHEN: That doesn't sound good. Have you done anything about it?

S4INT: Srotcod tsurt t'nod I tub, ti rof ffuts edam ev'i.

​CHEN: Yet you trust a random stranger you found online once. That's smart.

S4INT: I ma, liaj ni ton m'i?

CHEN: True. It doesn't mean someone isn't tracing you now.

Seung looks at the separate monitor from her lab top, white symbols flashing on a black background as it sets up a firewall.

S4INT: Erus ytterp.

She leans back and starts to unroll a roll of toilet paper, blowing her nose into the wad and stuffing it into a spare grocery bag she was using as a portable garbage. She rubs her temple as she waits for Chen to respond, wondering where Yoora went for groceries. Knowing her sister, she probably went to Goodwill and repeatedly used their hand sanitizer dispenser until she felt clean.

It wasn't her fault she developed a sickness after being in the rain. It started with a sore throat, but when she was freezing cold and couldn't be bothered to leave the bed, it took a 101.2 degree fever to convince her to rest while Yoora tried to act motherly, which she failed at.

The next night, however, was filled with fever nightmares. She would wake up every five minutes because some random person kept making her solve unbeatable equations and it would make her rise to half-consciousness, shivering and wishing she would die to end the torture. When she went to sleep long enough, she had a dream that she went to high school and sat down at the lunch table, only to pass out and be taken home by Yoora, who accused her of planting ants in the basement. Their hills were all over the walls and even on the ceiling. Afterwards, they went to a farm and Yoora made a child cry, to which Seung jumped in and promised that they would play a game next time and then she was trapped inside a bouncy house by a gang who would throw her against the walls and wouldn't stop.

Let's just say, she isn't looking forward to sleep tonight.

CHEN: What has the computer geek done this time?

S4INT: Keeg gnillac uoy era ohw?

She sneezes painfully and she feels her throat burn, tightening the grip on the blanket draped across her shoulders. It was too cold in the house, not to mention the fact that it wasn't sunshine and rainbows outside either. She could only wait until Yoora came home, or decide to get up and make muffins again, or something to heat up the house.

The doorbell rings and she gives off a cough that makes her wince, feeling like she scraped the entire length of her esophagus.

 

He couldn't hear anything from inside. Was that a good sign? Maybe she wasn't home after all, and she just was avoiding him. Sure, it was better than being in danger, but it didn't help his confidence in their friendship.

No, he could hear something faint. It was alike to a scraping noise, but it also sounded like something, or someone, was being dragged. Chanyeol turns his hands into fists and keeps them by his side until the meticulous sounds of the lock being slowly opened hit his ears and the door opens a crack, revealing a brown eye.

"Hello?"

Her voice was thick and rough, definitely not normal. At first, he didn't recognize her, but she opened the door more and narrows her eyes, nose red and hair mussed beyond control.

"Chanyeol?" She croaks. With a shiver, she steps away from the open door and Chanyeol rushes inside, planning on embracing her or some other dramatic reunited cliché,  but instead grabs her shoulders to get a better look at her once he realized she didn't look good.

Her skin was paler than normal, except for the redness around her nose, and her eyes were glassy. He places a large palm across her forehand and gasps.

"You have a fever." He worriedly mumbles, kicking the door shut.

"Chanyeol, what are you doing?" She asks when he starts to lead her back upstairs and towards the living room. He has to tear his gaze away from her free hair. It's the first time he's seen it down and not either up in a pony tail, or forcefully curled from heat and hairspray. 

Seung lets him drag her over to the couch and lay her down, taking the closest blanket and laying it over her. She shivers and he looks up, wondering what to do next. He takes out his phone and quickly dials the house, walking in a circle. Seung weakly looks at him and produces a roll of toilet paper in her hands, ripping a section of paper off and blowing her nose into it.

"Hello?" 

"Kyungsoo! Help! Seung's sick!" Chanyeol cries into the phone. Seung makes a noise from the couch and narrows her eyes again. She didn't want him fussing over her.

"How sick?" Chanyeol wasn't there to witness it, but Kyungsoo actually dropped the mail in his hands at the first thought of someone being hurt.

"Uh, she has a fever, and nose stuff. Seung, what's wrong?" He asks, placing his palm over the microphone on his phone to look down. She closes her eyes and covers her face with the blanket in annoyance.

"I'm on it." Kyungsoo replies. The phone goes dead and Chanyeol pulls it away from his face to kneel by Seung until she slowly uncovers her head and stares at him.

"Kyungie's going to bring you stuff." He whispers. She huffs as much as she can with a stuffed nose and frowns.

"Why are you helping me?" She asks.

"Because I care about you."

"Why do you care about me?"

"Why not?" 

Seung goes silent, yawning widely and snuggling in the blankets more, shivering still. Chanyeol gets back up to his feet and starting to walk around the house. He texts the address to Kyungsoo and searches for blankets, stumbling on a closet filled with them. He avoids the room with a snoring man inside and brings the blankets back, covering her shaking body with them until she stopped trembling from the cold.

Rethinking on what his mother did for him when he was sick, he goes into the kitchen and wets a washcloth with cold water, coming back and folding it. When he places it on her forehead, she scrunches her nose up and looks him in the eye.

"What are you doing?" She asks. He runs his hands across the blankets on her body absentmindedly and smiles softly.

"Taking care of you."

"Yoora should be home soon." She replies, blinking her eyes. On cue, the door starts to open and Chanyeol races to the top of the stairs, excitedly looking down on the woman entering the house with bags hanging from her hands. She stops and looks up at him with a confused expression.

"Who are you?" She asks. Chanyeol runs down the stairs, almost tripping, and grabs her arm to drag her back up and over to Seung, pointing at her.

"Save her!" He demands. Yoora shifts the bags to the other hand and shakes it to relieve the stress the weight placed on it, giving her sickly sister a weird look.

"You have strange friends." She simply comments, walking into the kitchen. Chanyeol follows with clear desperation.

"You're not doing anything." He complains when she starts to put groceries away.

"I'm not dying!" Seung objects from the living room. Yoora's hands just leave a can in the cabinet when Chanyeol understands that she wasn't going to do anything.

"Seung, you never told me you had guy friends." Yoora calls back, smirking. She reminded Chanyeol of Kai slightly.

"You know I don't have any friends." Seung replies stiffly, followed by a sneeze and the blowing of her nose.

"I'm your friend!" Chanyeol reminds her, pointing to himself.

"Yeah. He's your friend." Yoora agrees. She leaves the rest of the bags on the counter and walks into the living room, Chanyeol trailing after.

"Chanyeol, step away from my sister." Seung orders. He looks between the two sisters and makes a step to the right. They seemed to be having a staring contest of sorts, but he didn't know why.

"Fine, but it doesn't mean I'm not going to let this one slide by." Yoora promises. Seung groans and rolls onto her side, starting to shiver again until the warmth returns to her body.

"We are not talking about this now."

Yoora turns her nose up and looks at Chanyeol, smiling mischievously before sashaying away into the kitchen. Chanyeol goes to kneel by Seung again and places his palm against the cold wash cloth, seeing if it needed to be cooled down again. Her head moves under his touch and he takes it back, watching her with cautious eyes. He didn't have a clue of what he was doing.

"Can you grab the thermometer?" She asks in a hoarse sounding voice. Chanyeol nods his head and looks around a bit, wondering where the medicine cabinet could be.

"Where is it?" he asks.

"It's in the far - wait, no. I'll get it." She shakes her head and throws the blankets off her, retracting at the sudden cold. Chanyeol quickly pulls the blankets back over her and her teeth rattle.

"I'll get it. The far room?" he asks, getting up and pointing the the room at the end of the hall, the door still open from when she checked on the door and never closed it. Seung sits upright with a grimace and stops him with a wild gesture of his hand, "No!"

"It isn't a problem." He assures her, starting to make his way down. Seung throws the blankets off of herself again and Chanyeol rushes back to re-tuck her in. When she's settled, she grabs his wrist and holds him there before he can escape again.

"Yoora, can you get the thermometer?" She asks. Her sister immediately goes into the room and comes back out, closing the door behind her.

"Honestly. Mr. Random dude needs to keep his mouth shut." She mumbles as she tosses the small blue device in her sister's direction, rolling her eyes.

"What did he say?" Seung asks.

"Mr. Random dude?" Chanyeol asks.

The door bell rings and Chanyeol gets back up, glancing at the door down the hall once, but goes down the stairs again and opens the door, more people appearing. Seung makes a noise of discomfort.

"Sorry I took so long." Kyungsoo pants, seeming like he ran the way there. he had plastic containers in his hands and a few friends with him. They all come inside with a gesture from Chanyeol and Seung pulls the blankets up higher, hiding her face.

"What? Did you teleport?" Chanyeol asks, staring at his friend. They came so fast it wasn't natural.

"She's sick, Chanyeol. How could you not be concerned?" Kai asks, smirking as always with his sarcastic tone. Chanyeol makes a face at him as he walks in, trying to place himself between him and Seung.

"Where did all the people come from?" Yoora asks, walking into the now slightly crowded living room. Seung was still under her blankets as Yunjin, Kyunsoo, and Kai stood in place. Yoora's eyes land on Kai and she looks surprised, pointing at him, "You're friends with hot bisexual dude?" 

"He's in the room! You don't just talk about him like that!" Seung scolds from under the blanket, Yunjin giggling when Kai gives Yoora a look of surprise and amusement.

"Oh, she knows me so well." Kai simply replies. Yoora obviously checks him out and smiles suddenly, getting her flirt on. Seung watches them with confused eyes.

"Yoora, don't you have work to do?" Seung asks, narrowing her eyes again. Slumping her shoulders and snorting, Yoora spins on her heel and heads for her bedroom to get ready for practice, taking a bag with her a few minutes later.

"Party pooper." She growls under her breath.

"Do you have a place for me to prepare this?" Kyungsoo asks, holding the containers up. Yoora juts her thumb in the direction of the kitchen.

"The microwave is all yours." She replies, slinging the bag over her shoulder and closing the door behind her as she leaves.

All Seung knew was that she had to get these people out of here before her father woke up. He would flip, and then she would have to kick everyone out on their behinds, even though this was already too many people she didn't trust.

The sound of things being used in the kitchen by two people is overpowered by the staring competition between Kai and Chanyeol. Chanyeol wins and Kai grins, wiggling his eye brows as he goes to follow Yoora. He recognized her from the club.

Seung makes heavy breathing noises of sleep, breathing solely through her mouth. Her nose was probably completely stuffed, and here he was, having staring contests with Kai to get him to leave when he should be watching caring for her.

"Kyungsoo?" He asks, lifting the washcloth to flip it over. Seung scrunches her face in her sleep and relaxes when the cold cloth settles. The owl-eyed man pops his face into the living room in response to his name.

"Yes?"

"What are you doing, and when will it be done?" Chanyeol asks. Seung suddenly wakes up from her sleep and gropes for her toilet paper roll, sneezing painfully from her dry throat into a section of it's wrappings. They all wince from the sound of it, and her dazed look from it's intensity.

 

It was only a fever, Chanyeol reminds himself, when Yoora fails to return home that night. He was scared Kai kidnapped her until Seung drowsily explains that this was normal, refusing to explain why.

It was his fault that he didn't know how much medicine she should take. She was barely able to keep her eyes open after Kyungsoo and Yunjin left. Yunjin warned him about what she would do if she tried anything on her, and made him promise that his intentions were pure.

After trying to get her to stomach the food they made for her, she didn't look any better. If anything, she said she felt like it wasn't going to stay down and he found an old ice cream bucket for emergencies. After a few cups of water, however, she tried to distract him by offering their TV. Her dad came out once and asked who Chanyeol was before he lost his mind.

Quickly, Seung explained that Chanyeol was a friend and shuffled pitifully into the kitchen. Chanyeol followed her and helped her serve her father the food Kyungsoo made and gave him his bottle before he disappeared back into his room, giving Chanyeol a suggestive glance that made his ears turn red when his eyes flickered between Seung and him. She was too busy trying not to throw up to notice.

Now she lay on the couch, shivering as she struggled to sit up. He was next to her, arm wrapped around her, as he tried to help warm her up. Involuntarily, she snuggled up against him and continuously unrolled her toilet paper roll. The used tissues collected in her unused bucket as she fell in and out of sleep. The fever was causing nightmares that were making her delirious. Chanyeol was sure she was rambling something about children in bunny costumes and gangsters at one point, but at one point it turned into helpless sobbing and pleadings.

His hold tightens around her as she cries in her state about letting her sleep. She was begging him to let her just get some rest. He was sure she wouldn't even remember this, but her gasps and muffled cries made him feel empty inside, and completely helpless. The medicine just needed time to work, that's all. She would get through this.

His fingers thread through her long black hair and she calms from the sensation. It was longer than he thought it was when it was up in a pony tail, and smooth despite her poor condition. Eyes fluttering shut, she leans against his chest and Chanyeol only now notices that his position changed.

His back was leaning on the couch's arm and Seung was splayed across him, overheating his body. She trembled and was still at the same time from the fever, but now she stopped crying. Loud snores come from her mouth as he strokes her hair softy, reveling in the feeling of it under his finger tips, never wanting this to end.

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