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they are two, alone.

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When Han Sooyoung came to in her sterile white room, surrounded by the soft beeps and whirrs of machinery and the noises of outside muffled like they’d been smothered with a pillow, she was disoriented.

She couldn’t understand what she was doing here, in this place, until she tried to move her arm and flinched in pain when the ache all along it flared, sharply burning. She dropped back onto the bed with a whimper as the pain slowly receded from the plaster-coated limb, and was replaced once more with that heavy, almost full-body numbness. Maybe it was medicine that was being given to her through the needle in her other arm; she didn’t know, and there was nobody around to ask.

… or maybe there was? When she managed to scooch back enough to get her head up on the pillows properly she noticed her room had a second bed, the monitors beeping just slightly out of time with hers. The boy lying still within it was bruised all over, and bandaged in some places, his brow furrowed and sweaty with some sort of fever dream that made his thin black hair stick to his skin.

Sooyoung watched him silently for a long moment, then looked toward the visitor chairs.


She tried not to let the disappointment stab at her, but she couldn’t help the tears that stung the corners of her eyes anyway. Maybe it really was too much to think that one of her parents might be here. At least they brought her here at all. She should be grateful, she thought, but her mouth was dry and bitter.

The boy suddenly made a noise, and Sooyoung startled a little, watching him as he blinked blearily at the ceiling. It took him longer than her to come to, she thought, as his gaze slowly tracked across the room and met hers.

They stared at each other for a long moment– he must have been a year older, maybe two?-- before Han Sooyoung rasped out, “... Hey.”

The boy seemed confused that he was spoken to at all, and looked around the room as if searching for someone else before looking back to her. “Hello?”

“What’s your name?”

“... Kim Dokja,” the boy said, uncertainly.

Han Sooyoung huffed. “Isn’t that kind of a weird one?”

“Mm. I get that a lot.”

“So Kim Dokja,” she says, smiling when he grimaces at her rude address, “What happened to you? You look like crap. You jump outta the window or something?”

The atmosphere seemed to chill suddenly. Kim Dokja’s face went dreadfully pale, his eyes dull, and all at once he seemed to shut down. He turned his face away.

Oh shit, Sooyoung thought, eyes wide. All of the humor drained out of her and left a hollow pit in her stomach. What the hell were the chances? She hadn’t expected… Well, what did she expect, really? That he was here totally beat to shit for normal reasons? If it wasn’t that, it would have been something else just as terrible. Of course he would be reluctant to speak of it, even if it wasn’t like this.

For the next few hours, she struggled to say something– anything– but she couldn’t get the words out. She was too stubborn to apologize, and too awkward to say she understood, and too embarrassed to admit that she was here for a similarly awful reason.

She wanted to tell him what happened to her. How she’d gotten on her bike and rode out as fast as she could onto the road, never looking, just to see what would happen. Just to see if anybody would notice. That she understood what it felt like that he, too, had his visitor chairs sit cold and unoccupied.

But nothing came out. Everything she tried to bring up felt like sand on her tongue. Not good enough to say to him, and her own traitorous throat not brave enough to sound it out. She just needed to…

Something on his bedside table caught her eye. It was a dark cover with splashes of color; she recognized it instantly as the print copy of a webtoon she’d also read before.

“... I’m Han Sooyoung,” she tentatively said, and wasn’t surprised when he failed to answer her. She waited another moment before continuing, “Do you like books?”

This seemed to get the boy’s attention, because after an uneasy moment he looked back at her again, and nodded.

Something like relief flooded her. “I have an idea for a book, you know. One day I’m gonna be real famous. Do you wanna hear it?”

“What… is it about?” He asked cautiously.

“It’s about,” she started, and then stopped to think. “... It’s about surviving.”

Kim Dokja’s eyes widened, and for the first time she saw the spark of something in them. Maybe it was just interest, or maybe hope, or something more. “... I’d like... to hear your story. Han Sooyoung.”

Something like pride flared in her chest, and she grinned. “Really? You mean it? Okay– well, it starts something like this.

“There’s a regressor named Yoo Joonhyun…”