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The white-tiled corridor smelled of a mix of chemicals yet looked completely untouched by any hands. The ceiling was lined with fluorescent lights that caused (Y/n)’s shadow to dance beneath her feet. No one else appeared to be in the building with her despite the many doors that stood on either side.

It was quiet aside from her careful footsteps as she tried to make as little noise as possible, even though no one would pay attention. She hadn’t seen anyone in a while as they had left her to her own devices after she had signed in.

“Maybe it’s already begun” she mumbled to herself, feeling like a rat in a maze. She was supposed to go to room 213, which they said would be open, but seeing as there were no numbers by the door and all of them were closed, she was beginning to get discouraged.

Nervousness made sweat collect on her palms and she could feel her heartbeat in her throat at the thought of staying in a room with someone she didn’t know for a week. However, she had known what she was signing up for, so here she was.

Her steps were careful as she continued for a few minutes more, taking in the blindingly white walls and the grey trim on the metal doors. (Y/n) stopped as she noticed an open door a few yards from her and she had to take a deep breath before she could motivate herself to keep moving forward.

The light that poured from the open doorway seemed brighter and she had to squint and let her eyes adjust before she took another step.

She was hit with the overwhelming urge to knock, even though she didn’t know if the room was occupied or not; although it was technically her room, too. Yet she pushed forward, entering the room and looking around, trying not to make a fool of herself.

There was only enough time for her to notice the table in the middle of the room before the door slammed shut behind her. (Y/n) jumped, her skin crawling at the hollow noise. She bit her lip and looked over her shoulder. Everything suddenly felt too real. She was really going to be stuck here.

Silence filled the room and as she contemplated banging on the door and begging to be let out, she heard someone clear their throat behind her. Again she jumped, turning to face a man sitting on the lower bunk of the beds that were cut into the wall.

His fingers were curled into the crisp linen that was fitted around the mattress, no doubt wrinkling it. His head almost brushed the bottom of the top bunk as he sat with his feet together, pulled back against the wall. The expression on his face revealed his nervousness and as he stood up, his posture mirrored his feelings.

He stood and bowed quickly as if he had remembered his manners just then, and he offered an equally rushed greeting and a small smile. She returned his smile shyly, not being able to find her words and instead focusing on his clothes. She couldn’t help but compare his to hers.

He wore beat-up sneakers, what appeared to be basketball shorts and a simple t-shirt while she was slightly more dressed up in flats and a sundress. She moved her gaze up to his hair and as she scanned his face, she realized he had been speaking.

“I’m sorry. What did you say?” she asked quietly.

“Was I really that distracting?” he said with a laugh, his once tense shoulders relaxing in a second as she huffed and mumbled that it wasn’t that. “I said my name is Nakamoto Yuta.”

She swallowed and told him her name before turning to look around at the room they were standing in. The walls were white like the hallway and a small table fit for two people separated her and Yuta. It was a simple wooden set with a square top and square chairs to match. To the right, opposite the beds, was an empty desk with three drawers on the side of the left legs. Farther along the wall, in the corner, was a tiny stove and a sink set in a counter, a small cabinet running next to it on the adjacent wall. She ran her gaze along the wall across from her until she noticed a little alcove beside the beds. Yuta followed her gaze.

“It’s nothing exciting, just a bathroom and a small closet with clothes.” She sent him a questioning look. “What? I already looked at this place over from top to bottom. There really isn’t anything exciting here. Aside from me.”

(Y/n) rolled her eyes, but she felt a grin tug at her lips. At least she wasn’t stuck with someone boring. She did another glance over, noting how the room was probably no more than twenty-five by twenty-five feet.

Yuta crossed his arms over his chest and walked around, following her aimless steps before stopping and taking a seat at the table. She looked over at him and blinked at how his awkwardness had dissipated so quickly. Shaking her head, she continued onward to check out the bathroom. She was disappointed, though not surprised, to find the size of the restroom to be only slightly larger than the size of one on a plane, that is to say, not very big. The closet next to it wasn’t impressive either but, as Yuta said, it was indeed filled with clothes. She shut both doors and exited back to the main portion of the room to find he hadn’t so much as shifted a finger.

“Satisfied?”

“Very,” (Y/n) replied in the same smug tone. She settled down into the seat across from him and laid her head on the table, already feeling exhaustion sink into her bones.

“Can I ask you something?” His voice was low and she couldn’t detect any hint of teasing. She sat up enough to lean her elbows on the table and settled her chin onto her fingers that were laced together, simply giving him an expectant look. “How’d you end up here?”

She pondered the question for a moment before pursing her lips and looking him directly in the eyes.

“Does it really matter if I tell you? You’ll never know if I’m lying or not.”

He opened his mouth to respond but stopped after a moment and leaned back in his seat.

“I guess not,” he said, “but then, why would you tell anyone anything?”

She shrugged, “Do you still want me to tell you?”

Yuta let out a long breath, “I asked, didn’t I?”

“Well, when I was younger it was actually my dream to be put in solitary confinement. This was the best I could do.”

He laughed and then smirked at her.

“My reason is better.”

“Oh, is it?” she asked incredulously.

“I signed up thinking this was part of a dating site.” He threw a wink her way and mocked having his feelings hurt as she made a gagging noise.

“Who would ever in their right mind sign up to be locked in a room together with someone to see if they’re compatible?”

“People who are desperate?”

“Did you just admit to being desperate?” She laughed as realization dawned on his face. He pouted but then smiled after a minute.

After she calmed herself, (Y/n) looked over to the door. The lack of handle unsettled her but for the first time, she noticed the rectangle cut into the wall beside it.

“What’s that for?” She turned to look back at Yuta, who shrugged.

“I’m just as in the dark as you.”

At that moment, the lights shut off with a soft blue glow coming from spots at the base of the walls. She could still see Yuta even though it was dimly lit; her eyes narrowed and he put his hands up to show he was innocent. They took the cue to go to sleep, changing into the new clothes provided for them, (Y/n) locking herself in the bathroom and refusing to come out until he was fully dressed.

He took the top bed and she crawled into the other one, surprised to find it was fairly comfortable, or it might have just been that she was too tired to care. Yet as much as her body told her to sleep, she found her mind racing, never once slowing until it was brought to an abrupt stop.

“Hey, (Y/n)?”

“Yeah?”

Yuta didn’t respond for a moment and she stared up at the bottom of his bunk, mentally willing him to continue.

“Nevermind.” She heard him shift and she drew her lips tighter together. Closing her eyes, she found her mind was empty of her previous thoughts and she drifted off with ease.

Blinding lights awoke her the next morning and she froze as she heard a groan from above, momentarily forgetting where she was. She let out a shuddered breath and sat up, drawing the blanket tighter around her shoulders.

Yuta jumped down from his bunk, stumbling backward and falling onto her bed with a look of shock. She had luckily retracted her legs and he simply smiled at her sheepishly before bringing his hand up to cover a yawn. (Y/n) swung her legs over the side and shivered as her bare feet brushed the cool tile. Standing up, she let the covers fall from her body and was about to go to the stove when she noticed the rectangle by the door had been pushed into the room. She moved to examine the contents, pulling out a stack of paper, a pack of pens and two lunch boxes.

She set everything onto the table and then watched as the cubby slowly retracted back into the wall. Yuta grabbed one of the boxes and unzipped it to reveal an array of personal care products, the same came of the one (Y/n) opened. Secretly she was overjoyed since she had forgotten about all of the small necessities when she had become overwhelmed by the situation the day prior.

They both spent a minute looking through the items before Yuta’s stomach growled loudly. (Y/n) giggled at the blush on his cheeks and then went over to the cabinet, rummaging through the various dried food packages until she found something that, at the least, had some ingredients of certain breakfast foods. She brought another with her back to the table and handed one to Yuta, who simply stared at it for a moment. After casting each other a glance, they both tore the plastic open.

Nothing about the food inside seemed particularly promising, but, despite the look and texture, it was flavorful enough to keep them eating. They pushed the objects on the table to the side and sat down again, (Y/n) sitting cross-legged on the chair as Yuta leaned onto his forearms.

“I don’t remember anything that said we’d be eating dog food,” Yuta spoke up after he had finished chewing. Moving the package around to face her, she snickered.

“You ate it all. I don’t think you can complain that it’s like dog food.”

He huffed, changing the subject immediately, “What time is it?”

(Y/n) looked around at the walls, furrowing her brows, “I don’t think there’s a clock in here…”

“So, we’ll never know.”

She swallowed another mouthful of the food. “But we know the days since they turn the lights off.”

“I guess that’s true,” Yuta said, tapping his fingers on the table as he looked around. “This is going to get really boring, isn’t it?”

“Probably,” she agreed, crumpling the empty package in her hand. She grabbed his trash as well and got up to look for a trash can.

“There might be one in the bathroom,” he said, answering her unasked question.

There was something that she supposed could be considered a garbage chute next to the toilet and she tossed the trash down it before returning to the table.

She sat back down and pulled a piece of paper toward her along with a pen. (Y/n) started doodling and Yuta watched her with mild interest.

“Well, it’s only for one week.”

~

Throughout the week the two spent their time attempting to entertain each other with the various items that came through the cubby. (Y/n) found Yuta to be better company than she had originally imagined, despite all his flirting, as he was humorous and would banter with her anytime she questioned his actions or motives.

So by the end of their one week together, she was almost sad that it was over. The night before their last day, she found herself staring at the paper on the table that had their days tallied on it. She wanted to say something before the lights came on in the morning, but what was she supposed to say to someone she had met seven days prior, who she would likely never see again? He didn’t owe her anything and she didn’t owe him anything in turn.

With time this would be just a weird week that she’d remember in passing. A fleeting moment in her life that she would tell stories about until the memory became too fuzzy to remember the details.

She was saddened by that thought and again tried to think of something to say to him but was discouraged by the sound of his deep, even breathing. Instead, she chose to roll onto her side and close her eyes.

By now her body was used to the rhythm of the day and not a minute after the lights came on, she was awake. Yuta jumped down as per usual and instead of stumbling like he did the first morning, he landed gracefully, already heading over to the cabinet.

If there was anything (Y/n) learned about him in their time together, it was that he could eat. Twice throughout the week food came through the cubby because they had run out. She was glad the people were actually paying attention and didn’t simply let them starve.

They sat across from each other as they ate breakfast. Their conversation revolved around the outside world, speaking animatedly about the people they had left behind and the random pieces of their lives that hadn’t realized they would miss. Silence comfortably hung in the room as both looked at the door. It had yet to open, so they still had time to finish getting ready.

Yuta allowed her to change first with the promise of calling for her if the door did open. When she finished, she brushed past him and sat down on her bed, watching for any sign of movement, her confidence melting away.

(Y/n) hadn’t felt this uncomfortable with Yuta since they had first met, but now she just didn’t know if it would be appropriate to start their goodbyes soon or not.

“Is it weird to ask to see you again after this?” he asked suddenly as he walked back, clothes changed. “I know we’re still strangers but you seem cool.”

She chuckled a little and looked up at him from where she sat. After nodding she clicked the sides of her flats together, anticipation building in her chest. He sat down beside her, placing a hand on her shoulder.

However, the longer they waited, the more they found themselves making quiet remarks that “yes, the door will open,” and “we’ll get back outside in no time.” They waited and waited for hours, (Y/n) practically stress eating the leftover food while Yuta constantly paced the entire length of the room.

And then, eventually, the lights turned off.

~

“Can you stop running? It’s hurting my head.”

(Y/n) didn’t even look at Yuta as he rushed from side to side, speeding up with each lap. She sat at the desk, sketching out her childhood room on one of the pieces of paper they had received. It helped her to remember and, honestly, it was getting harder to visualize things outside of the room with each passing day.

“Are you trying to dig a tunnel with your feet or what the hell?” she demanded, finally turning in her chair to face him. He ran for a few minutes more before slowing and simply pacing the room, sweat dripping down his face and his breathing heavy.

“How else am I supposed to stay in shape?” he asked after a minute.

“Do push-ups or something. Those are less noisy.” She turned back around and refocused on her drawing.

He grumbled to himself and dragged one of the table’s chairs over to the desk from where he had pushed them against the bed. For a while, Yuta watched as she shaded and added definition to the objects. Slumping back in the seat, he sighed.

“I’m bored.”

(Y/n) didn’t respond until he laid his head on the desk and partially on her paper. She pulled the sheet from under him and glared when she saw the paper had been soaked with his sweat.

“I’m sorr-” He wasn’t able to finish before she slammed her work onto the desk and stood up, stomping to the bathroom and closing the door with a bang.

The end of the month had come and gone, yet they were still locked together in the room. The tension had run thin as of late and (Y/n) was simply waiting for their small spats to become much larger until she wouldn’t even be able to stand the sight of Yuta. Recently she had spent a lot of time in the bathroom alone where she could hear him pacing around, either trying to find a way to apologize or cussing her out under his breath.

She took a few deep breaths as she sat down on the closed lid of the toilet, trying to suppress the tears that threatened to spill over. It wasn’t that she was particularly angry at him or upset by his behavior, she understood that he was just trying to live like he had before, but these were the times when she missed privacy the most. Hugging her legs to her chest, (Y/n) leaned her forehead onto her knees.

Her thoughts spiraled the longer she sat there. She missed her home and everyone she used to talk to in the outside world; she missed color, they got pigmented things on occasion but most of their days were spent with a lack thereof; she missed late night drives and blasting music everywhere she went; she missed makeup, not even wearing it, just looking at others with it on; she missed trends, the latest movies, news about what was happening in the world. She felt blind sitting in the room. Nuclear war could be raging outside and she would never know. Of course, there could also be nobody left outside the building and she would never know. It was like Schrodinger’s cat in reverse.

Looking up and around at the room, her heart thundered against her chest and nothing about the tiny space seemed to calm her. None of it felt like home. It wasn’t a place where she could be comfortable because she was always watched. Insecurity weighed heavy on her shoulders at every turn and rarely did she do something that wouldn’t fit into the category of boring.

The last time she had danced around in her pajamas to some stupid pop hit on the radio was too far back to remember and often she found the lyrics of her favorite songs alluding her.

(Y/n) missed books. Stories in general. She missed learning about the adventures of people or watching them avoid psychopaths. She couldn’t even remember the last book she had read or the last movie she had seen in a cinema.

She sniffled and wiped at the tears that were heavily cascading down her face and into her lap, a constellation of stains now on the end of her shirt to connect with the waistband of her sweatpants.

There was a gentle knocking on the door and, when she didn’t answer, it slowly swung open to reveal Yuta with a sullen expression. He awkwardly stood there, shifting from foot to foot as he looked at her and when she finally met his gaze, he averted his eyes. After a moment he motioned for her to stand, which she did slowly.

He hesitated in his actions but only faltered once midway before wrapping his arms around her shoulders. She stood there with her arms at her side, trying to figure out how to respond, until Yuta began gently rubbing a hand along her back, soothing her.

She didn’t hold back as she buried her face into his shoulder and reciprocated the hug tightly. He rocked her from side to side languidly but attempted nothing more. So, for a while they stood there as (Y/n) released all of her pent-up emotion and Yuta did his best to comfort her.

When she eventually pulled back, she wiped at her eyes and then sniffled loudly. In an attempt to lighten the mood, she laughed a little in embarrassment and he smiled at her in a way that showed all his teeth, which seemed to heal her heart in an instant, if that was even possible. (Y/n) blinked when she realized that she had been staring, and with a forced cough, she stepped completely out of his embrace and skirted around him to get back to the main room.

He followed behind her and watched as she sat on the bed before disappearing back into the bathroom, leaving her alone once more. The sound of the shower running was familiar at least and she laid down, wrapping herself up in the comforter and curling up to wait for Yuta to return.

The quiet atmosphere almost lulled her to sleep, but she managed to stay awake with her rampant thoughts. It felt childish to want to hear a story at a time like this but with the warmth of the bed and heaviness of her eyes, she just wanted something different to dream about outside of white walls and empty corridors.

So when the door opened and Yuta walked out after changing, she was tempted to ask him to tell her one. However, her words got caught in her throat as she opened her mouth. He had a towel around his neck that he was using to dry his hair with using only one hand.

The look on her face must have been one of awe as he quirked an eyebrow and in turn, she hid her face under her blanket, rolling to face the wall. The sound of his laughter and of him dragging one of the chairs over resonated throughout the room.

“What do you want?” she asked, voice muffled by the fabric.

“The better question is what do you want?”

(Y/n) rolled over and gave him a disgusted look at the smirk on his face.

“Right now? Kind of want to punch you.”

He shrugged, “If it helps.”

Her eyebrows furrowed in response and the way her nose scrunched up as she thought about his statement made him laugh once more.

“I mean, if it would make you feel better,” he leaned forward and rubbed away a tear stain on her cheek, “Sadness doesn’t suit you.”

She moved her gaze from his face to the tiled floor beside his feet, not sure whether to snap at him or thank him for his efforts.

“So, what do you want?” He looked at her expectantly, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.

“I don’t want anything.”

“You looked like you were going to say something to me but then you stopped. Obviously, you want something.”

“I- You’ll laugh.”

His expression didn’t falter as he said, “Try me.” It wasn’t a demand, more a challenge and the gleam in his eye told her that he was expecting so much more than what she was about to propose.

“Tell me a story.”

Yuta stared at her, processing the request, and in the meantime (Y/n) was pulling her head back under the blanket, toes curling in embarrassment.

“That’s it?” he asked when he finally responded.

She yanked the blanket back down, ready to fight him. But softened at the sight of his smile.

“Sweetheart, I would have told you a story ages ago if you had just asked.”

Already she was beginning to regret her decision of telling him the truth. She watched him mock her for a few minutes before sending an annoyed glance his way and rolling back over.

“Okay, okay, I’ll take it seriously,” he whined, shaking her shoulder to regain her attention, “What do you want the story to be about?”

“I don’t know. Anything?”

“That helps.” Sarcasm dripped from his words and he shook his head, breathing deeply through his nose.

“There was once this boy named Yuta and every day without fail he would hike up the trails of the mountain just outside his village.

“See, when he was younger his father had told him that at the top of the peak was the most beautiful sight and with determination, it could be seen.”

“If this is some ‘climb a mountain to find yourself’ bullshit then you can stop now,” (Y/n) quipped, rolling her eyes at him.

“I hadn’t planned on it but if you keep interrupting me I’m going to make it that way.” He stuck his tongue out and then continued on. “Anyway, he was determined to climb to the top, so, like I said, he hiked the trails every day. It was tough going and with no absolutely clear-cut paths he often has to forge his own way.”

(Y/n) didn’t speak but she was clearly not amused.

“Alright, alright. What do you want to hear?”

“Something that won’t put me to sleep,” she said, rubbing her eyes and suppressing a yawn to prove her point. “Tell me a story like a folktale.”

“What, like Robin Hood?”

“Kind of, but put yourself in again. I liked that.”

“Oh, you like that but you don’t care for my philosophical stories?” He huffed. She widened her eyes and jutted her lower lip out in a pout. “Fine.”

There was once a time when ships carried men for miles across oceans of water in search of riches and treasures beyond their wildest imaginations. Of course, there were the noble-hearted who stayed true to their paths and then there were the notorious villains that roamed the seas, willing to get treasure by any means necessary.

Yuta was a young child when the rise of pirates began. Ever since he heard about the battles at sea and the lands far beyond his own village that held wonders of every kind, Yuta had been dreaming of the day he would leave his small fishing town on the coast to join a crew of sailors. He wouldn’t come back until he held all the world’s jewels in the palm of his hand, he would often tell his mother. She would simply ruffle his hair and kiss him goodnight.

As he grew older his dreams never faded but with time his views changed. He became impatient with the thought of having to wait for the chance to sail so, instead, when a pirate ship docked at their port, he snuck on. Since he was still young at the time, the pirates took him in rather than tossing him overboard to the sharks.

They raised him like one of their own and he grew to absolutely love the lifestyle they led. In the time they spent sailing from place to place, he spent his free time up in the crow’s nest, enjoying the sound of the waves and the smell of the ocean. And when he was old enough he joined in on their escapades and fought with all the strength he could muster.

However, a pirate’s life wasn’t without issues. Some days they would find a seemingly endless supply of coins and other times they would lose a brother.

On a clear summer night, Yuta had been captured by the people of a village they were pillaging and ended up locked in a small dank cell that’s hard walls offered shelter to not only him but the rats as well. But even with the bleak conditions, he waited patiently for his brothers to come get him, confident in their return. They never did, though.

He sat for days in the dingy cell, hoping that they would rescue him and when they didn’t, he grew bitter. Yuta began to hate the very men whom he had once admired because they had turned their backs on him like cowards.

Day in and day out he would seethe at the thought of them. Sometimes he would rant about them as he paced the confines of the cell or just fume in utter silence.

Then one day he looked out the small, barred window and realized he didn’t care anymore whether they came back or not; he didn’t even care that they’d left him in the first place. All he wanted was to go back to sailing.

So he turned his attention to the girl who brought him his meals each day, a young woman named (Y/n). She took pity on Yuta as the days passed and sometimes she would sit and listen to the stories he told of the sea. Eventually, he asked for her help and, although she was hesitant, she agreed since she knew he only wanted out and not to bring harm to anyone in her home.

(Y/n) gathered supplies and managed to sneak the key from the guard’s sleeping form. When he was finally free she led him to a small boat being tossed around by the waves. He climbed down the dock, taking the rope with him and watched (Y/n)’s form disappear behind the wood.

Yuta couldn’t thank her enough but, in fear of getting caught, he simply waved goodbye to her, promising to return and bring her the treasure he found on his journey to repay her. Soon he lost sight of her and then the land and was swallowed up by the darkness as he rowed away.

~

In time both (Y/n) and Yuta realized they were constantly being monitored. Any time they needed something it would come through the cubby hole. The experimenters also made it clear that they would intervene at any time if they deemed it necessary.

“Heads up!”

Instinctively, (Y/n) bent her head down, avoiding the soccer ball that grazed a few strands of her hair. She didn’t know who’s bright idea it was to give him the ball but at least it kept him entertained and out of her hair long enough to let her do as she pleased.

At the moment she was trying to make flowers on her nails with the new bottle of polish she had received that morning. Yuta, of course, was dribbling around the table (Y/n) was sitting at, occasionally kicking it toward the wall only for it to rebound and he’d continue on.

A couple weeks ago he had mentioned how he used to play soccer at any given moment, playing on teams and going so far as to say it was one of the things he missed the most from the outside. Some kind soul had apparently taken pity on him and gave him a ball to mess around with.

Of course, she had complained about him getting his favorite things so her own kind soul had been sending her random colorful supplies: markers, watercolors, and this week, nail polish. Secretly she was elated every time Yuta pulled something for her out of the box, but at the same time, she was also aware that it was a sign that there wasn’t any chance of them being released anytime soon.

He paused briefly to steady his heart rate, looking around at the colorless walls and ceiling. She could see him doing so out of the corner of her eye and when he jerked his head to the side, she accidentally moved her hand in the same motion, destroying her flower. A scrap of paper was the only thing she could think of to fix her design since she didn’t have any cotton swabs and soon she was starting over.

“How do you think they watch us?” he wondered aloud. Yuta had a point considering the lack of two-way mirrors or cameras, it was difficult to know how they were looking in. (Y/n) joined him in looking around.

“Maybe they aren’t looking, only listening.” She shrugged and capped the bottle.

“How are you so nonchalant about this?”

“Why are you so worried about it?”

He pulled the chair across from her out and turned it around to sit in it backward, crossing his arms over the back.

“It’s been a year and you aren’t even remotely curious?”

Again she shrugged, picking around the beds of her nails to get any excess paint off. Her attention wasn’t really fixated on him and at the moment she couldn’t see any reason to listen to his ramblings about the way the room worked. It had become repetitive after three months.

She looked up briefly and was met with his intense gaze.

“What?”

“I’m just thinking,” he murmured, never taking his eyes off of her.

“About?” she trailed off.

“Nothing,” he said, straightening up and averting his gaze. “It was stupid.”

“What was?”

He blinked languidly, seemingly slipping back into deep thought. For a minute she just watched him as he stared intently at the table.

“Yeah, it’s nothing.” Yuta shook himself from his stupor with a laugh and combed his hair back with one hand. There was a pause before she, again, urged him to tell her but he simply brushed her off.

She let it go and went back to picking at her freshly dried nails, tempted to scrape the paint off and start over out of sheer boredom. It didn’t take too long to peel off the polish from her right hand and she had just started on the left when Yuta finally spoke again.

“I’m gonna try something.”

There was silence as (Y/n) chose to selectively ignore the statement. He cleared his throat to get her attention but she chose to ignore that as well. She heard him huff and then the room grew quiet once more.

Nothing good could ever come out of Yuta scheming and then having an absence of sound.

That was when she looked up.

In fact, she looked up just in time to see Yuta crouching up on top of his bed. And then he jumped off of it.

He landed on his left arm and from the crack alone she could already tell he had broken a bone.

(Y/n) shrieked and, as a wave of panic overtook her, she jumped up from her chair, picked it up and hurled it at the wall. Before the pieces could fall to the floor she was already chasing after it, taking one of the legs and running over to where he laid on the floor in a groaning heap, all the while screaming about how much of an idiot he was.

“What the fuck did that accomplish!?”

Through gritted teeth, he replied, “I was testing something.”

She ripped the bottom of her shirt into strips and moved him carefully to the side. Placing the wood against the broken limb, she set the bone and tied it together with strips of the fabric.

He hissed any time she accidentally jostled him and in turned she yelled, “Shut up you did this to yourself!”

“Where’s the sympathy for the victim?”

“There is no sympathy for the victim if they’re also the culprit!”

With a breathy laugh, he closed his eyes and she was able to calm down as she finished. Adrenaline was still pumping through her veins as she looked over to the destroyed chair.

Just as she was about to get up and do something about it, her blood ran cold at the sight of the gas pouring in through vents that hadn’t previously been visible.

She inhaled sharply and brought her shirt up over her nose and mouth, shaking Yuta furiously. He wearily opened his eyes and swatted her with his good hand before he too saw the gas and was on full alert. He started pushing her up off the floor and they both dashed for the bathroom, slamming the door shut, but eventually (Y/n) felt herself slumping against him.

When she opened her eyes again she was back in her bed and she jolted upward. Her ruckus awoke Yuta and he climbed down carefully to sit beside her.

“What happened?” She leaned her head on his shoulder.

“I don’t know.”

He shifted slightly and his arm came into view. She gasped at the sight of the white plaster cast and whipped her head around to the table. There were no remnants of a broken chair and even her nail polishes were neatly lined along the edge of the table.

(Y/n) looked up at Yuta after a moment.

“I have proof to support my hypothesis,” he stated calmly, eyes focusing on the door, “We’re just toys. And the likelihood of us getting out of here is even slimmer.”

~

“You’re going to have to make that smaller if you want it to fit.”

There was a short pause before Yuta turned around in his crouched position on the ground and waggled his eyebrows.

“I fail to see how that was an innuendo. Unless cutting your dick off is something you’re into.”

“Don’t kink-shame,” he said, swiveling around to face the wall again. He attempted to smear the top portion of the tally mark but it made no difference, so instead there was just one long line that was running into the ones above it.

Almost the entirety of the wall by the door was covered in the marks, considering how Yuta had made giant lines at first and had started at about eye level. The amount of days they had spent together was reduced to small flicks of the wrist and black lines so clumped together that they began to blend together the more she looked at it.

He stood up and stretched his arm up over his head as he yawned. (Y/n) was already seated at the table eating one of the packets of dry food they had been given and despite the fact that she looked like a wreck from the amount of days stuck inside and the endless nights of tossing and turning, he still smiled at her brightly and moved to be next to her. Mostly to steal her food, though.

The atmosphere surrounding them was comfortable and despite the annoyed glare she sent his way when he snuck a bite, she was glad to be with him. Yuta pulled his chair over next to her and as soon as he was close enough, she leaned into his side. He wrapped his right arm around her shoulders and pulled her tighter as they looked at the wall.

“What are we going to do now?” she asked with a sigh.

“Wait. It’s out of our control. If anything we just enjoy our time together.”

“So you’ll tell me another story?”

“I never said that. Plus, I tell you one almost every day. Can’t you give me a break?”

“Fine.” She pouted a little and Yuta removed it by kissing her. (Y/n) was about to melt into it but he pulled away just as quickly as he had acted. He had a smirk tugging on the corner of his lips as she smacked his chest with a huff. “You’re such a tease.”

“What? Did you think I wasn’t aware of that? Come on, how long have we known each other?”

“Too long,” she said monotonously.

It was his turn to pout and as she attempted to get up he smothered her in a hug, laying his head on top of hers. Her whining was broken by her giggles and it took a while for her to escape his hold.

They shifted back into the position from before and looked back to the tallies.

“Why wouldn’t you use a different colored marker?”

“Black is morbid like our situation,” he stated as if it was the simplest thing in the world.

“Wow, do you write depressing poetry at night when I’m asleep?”

“Nah, it’s too dark,” he paused, “I do it while you’re in the shower.”

She rolled her eyes but smiled nonetheless.

“I still think you could make it better.”

“Do you want to take over making tallies?” His tone was biting, daring her to say yes.

“No, I couldn’t do that to you. Besides, you would be useless without it.” She smirked, not daring to look at him but she could already see the scowl on his face. Eventually, she turned to him and smiled, watching the annoyance melt from his face as he reciprocated the smile.

“How many are there?”

“I don’t know. I’ve lost count.”

(Y/n) stood then and approached the mural of black lines. She put her hand up toward the top and began to count aloud, moving her hand along as she did so.

“One hundred and forty-two…one hundred and forty-three…one hundred and forty-four,” she paused for a moment to think it over, “So seven hundred and twenty days.”

“Almost two years,” he concluded.

She could see his anger rising but instead of letting it blow up, he let out a long, drawn-out breath and motioned for her to come to sit beside him again. Yuta pulled her close and leaned down, resting his head onto her shoulder and wrapping his arms around her waist.

“You’re right.”

“About what?” A puzzled expression settled onto her features.

“It’s been too long.”

She didn’t say anything and closed her eyes, blocking out the room for at least a little while.

~

“Tell me a story.”

“You’re so demanding sometimes, you know that?”

(Y/n) smiled and asked again.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because at this rate I’m going to use up all the oxygen in this room while telling you stories.”

Usually, Yuta cracked at the first sight of puppy dog eyes, but this time he held his ground. She quit after a minute and crossed her arms with a scoff.

Currently, she was laying in bed and he was pacing the floor while they waited for the lights to go out. She sat up and looked at him as he walked. After a moment he paused, noticing her gaze.

“What?”

(Y/n) didn’t respond.

“If you want a story so bad why don’t you tell one?”

“Because I like yours.”

There was a minute of silence as they stared each other down until (Y/n) eventually relented, leaning back against the wall.

“Are you even going to listen?” she asked skeptically. He shrugged and pulled himself up onto his bed. She whined from her spot and she heard him sigh.

“Come here then.” Immediately she jumped up and took his hands as he offered them, letting him help her. They settled together, tangling their legs as they laid on their sides to face each other. “Are you happy?” he asked, although he couldn’t hide his amusement.

“Okay. Now, how do I do this?”

“You just think of something. Anything. Tell me about you or the outside.”

She pondered his response for a moment, studying his face as she did so. In the three years she had known him, he had seemed to age considerably. Yuta didn’t look bad, in fact, he had aged well, but she knew that worry was causing the lines on his face to deepen and for a moment she wondered whether all the stress would cause streaks of grey to color his hair. That thought made her not want to think about her own appearance, but the mirror had already told her that time was taking its toll as well.

She brushed a few strands from his face and he hummed in reply. His eyes were focused on her and she quirked one end of her lips up slightly.

In the prime of their lives, (Y/n) and Yuta certainly knew that they held their own destinies in their hands. They were both intelligent young adults with good looks to match and a craving for the finer things in life. Fortunately, they had found each other and had stuck together since the moment they had exchanged hellos.

However, the pair were also somewhat dangerous together. They never brought harm upon others but both of them were forever scheming. Sometimes there was nothing worse than a couple with too much time on their hands and an insatiable desire for money.

During the days they would lounge around at home and either roll around in their riches or plan their next heist. Banks were their specialties, although neither of them could say no to attending an enormous event filled with rich snobs to test out their sticky fingers. They had started out small and eventually worked up to robbing banks, which they both agreed were the most entertaining.

Both always made sure to hide their faces on the job, however, Yuta and (Y/n) were notorious for their getaway car. Even the police were confused as to why they used the same car every time but the answer was simple. They used it to disappear. Their black ‘65 Shelby Cobra would have seemed easy to spot among the more modern vehicles, but no matter how long or how hard they searched after the police lost sight of it, they could never find it.

The other reason they used it was because they loved flying down back streets with the top down as they celebrated their successful mission. Yuta would alternate between watching the road and glancing at (Yn) as her hair was blown around, hands in the air, all caution thrown to the wind. She would throw her head back while laughing in delight.

In the end, the two of them would arrive back in the safety of their home at least a little richer. They would dance around and come up with a million ways to spend the cash.

Everything was so easy for them in those moments.

But fortunes dwindle and on the Saturday of one of their runs, they both felt the shift.

In the morning they climbed into their car, Yuta holding the door open for (Y/n), and chatted calmly the entire ride out to their target, a bank on the far east end of their city. They drove in a roundabout manner as always, crossing a rickety old bridge to get there.

They stepped out of the vehicle to walk together and he placed a swift kiss to her lips before sinking into a more professional persona.

(Y/n)’s heels clicked as she climbed the cement stairs up to the front of the building and Yuta tucked one hand into the pockets of his pants as he adjusted the sunglasses situated on his face. A scarf was wrapped around the girl’s neck and lower face despite the warm summer evening and her purse was oversized, black, to match the backpack that was slung over his shoulder.

They shared a look as they entered and it was only a couple of minutes before both had their guns pulled and their expressions became blank, simply demanding the money. It was hastily shoved into their bags and then Yuta grabbed ahold of (Y/n)’s hand and they were running out of the building, grinning broadly as they hopped into their car.

With the engine revving, they took off at an incredibly fast speed, weaving in and out of traffic and almost clipping the other vehicles on the road. The inevitable sound of sirens followed them but instead of panicking, Yuta simply tightened his grip on the wheel and floored the gas pedal, causing them to lurch forward past a van going to slow for their taste.

As the police grew nearer to them, they took a sharp right onto the city’s large drawbridge. All the cars pulled to the side the second the sirens could be heard and that alone allowed the two to dart away. However, it became clear after a moment that something was clearly wrong as they felt the bridge shift beneath them.

The two sides began to rise slowly and even though the employees on the bridge seemed to be quick, the Cobra still made it to the other side without any harm, only added speed.

What neither of them had expected were the police cruisers on the other side. Or rather the aggressive actions planned.

Because Yuta was sure that he could maneuver around them and (Y/n) had absolute faith in Yuta’s driving skills, but neither expected to be rammed into from the side as they sped off the bridge.

The force of the impact sent their car spinning off the road and only stopped as the passenger side collided with a steel support beam of the construction site along the river, the whole frame of the building shuddering from the crash. (Y/n) could feel the metal of the door digging into her hip as she turned her head despite the pain, looking over to see Yuta with his head resting against the steering wheel. Resting wasn’t the right word since the situation was too intense for him to be simply lying there, but he looked so peaceful despite the cut on his forehead and the excessive amount of blood that was beginning to pool in his lap.

She wanted to reach out and wipe away some of the red stain but everything felt heavy and the pain in her legs told her she had her own issues to worry about. Out of the corner she could see her own blood running in thin lines along her nose.

In that moment, all she could think to do was call out to him, but no matter how much she strained her voice or what words she said, he never moved. Not so much as a finger twitch or a flutter of his eyelids.

Just beyond his still figure, she could make out other people rushing toward them. Everything began to blur as she looked anywhere but him and she didn’t bother to keep her eyes open. Soon she lost consciousness completely.

“And…?” Yuta questioned, cracking an eye open despite his sleepy state to look at her.

“And what?”

“What happened after that?” Yuta continued.

(Y/n) shrugged.

A look of annoyance settled on Yuta’s face at her lack of response.

“You wanted me to tell a story and I didn’t feel like wrapping it up with a nice little bow. Not all stories have to end nicely, you know.”

He glared at her but instead of arguing, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her flush against him. She giggled and snuggled closer as the lights clicked off.

~

The boredom that had settled into (Y/n)’s being caused her to slump against the table, resting her head on her crossed arms as she tapped out a random tune with her fingers. Yuta was in no better shape as he laid out on the floor over by their so-called kitchen and wallowed in his own self-pity.

They hadn’t done anything all day and silence had laid heavy between them. Their breathing and her tapping was the only sound that could be heard. And nothing they did seemed to quell their boredom.

Eventually, she leaned back and looked over at him. He was sprawled out, face down and really the only indication of him still being alive was his breathing and the occasional groan or whine.

“Are you still writing your depressing poetry?”

For a moment Yuta didn’t reply and she wondered if he had fallen asleep on the floor of all places, although she had learned that he really could nap anywhere if he was tired enough.

He sat up suddenly and looked over at her.

“It’s what I live for,” he replied.

“Isn’t that supposed to be my line?”

“Do you want to hear a new piece I’ve been working on?”

(Y/n) nodded and he cleared his throat dramatically.

“Roses are red, violets are blue. I don’t remember what those look like, do you?”

She bit her lip and tilted her head as she watched him.

“I was expecting humorous poetry, but that really was depressing.”

He shrugged and scooted back to sit against the counters. At first, there had been a spark of amusement as he spoke, but now Yuta’s face held no expression as he stared off into space. He didn’t speak anymore after that and (Y/n) grew concerned. She called his name and when he didn’t respond, she got down from her seat and crawled over to where he was sitting.

Yuta quietly pulled her into his lap and nuzzled into the crook of his neck as he sighed.

“Do you know what I want more than anything else?” he said finally. She answered him with silence. “To take you on a date. Like an actual, real date where we do a bunch of cliche shit like go to an amusement park and ride the Ferris wheel or have a picnic under a tree in the summer or walk along the beach at sunset and then at the end I would try to kiss you but get too nervous and just leave awkwardly.” He shuddered and pulled her closer as she wrapped her arms around his waist.

“That’s bullshit. We both know you’d never chicken out when it comes to affection.”

Yuta let out a breathy laugh at that.

“I would, though, because I’d want everything to be perfect for our first date.”

She had to close her eyes and take a few deep breaths to prevent herself from crying, her eyes stinging, and when she opened them, she reached up and carded a hand through his hair in a soothing manner.

“I barely remember what we’re in here for,” he said incredulously, “how stupid is that?”

“It’s not stupid.”

“But it’s not exactly something that’s insignificant.”

“But it’s caused you pain, so it’s natural for you to have blocked it.”

Yuta sighed.

“I remember that we were only supposed to be here for a week and they’ve pretty much held us captive. Is that legal?”

“Well, you can deceive your subjects in an experiment as long as no one is harmed and you inform them in the end, but this is probably too far.”

“What were they even testing?”

“It was something about human relationships. How we would interact if left alone together, if we would be friendly or fight,” she explained.

“This is ridiculous.”

“I guess in the end they just wanted subjects to monitor in close proximity.”

He didn’t respond but he was slowly leaning into her touch more and more.

“Do you remember all the doors outside?”

“Yeah, but I never saw inside so we wouldn’t actually know if they had people inside or not.”

“Do you think they forgot about us?” she mumbled.

“They still feed us, so no. But I do think they’ve stopped caring about us. Bastards.”

(Y/n) pulled her hand from his hair, curling her fist and pulling it to her chest. She looked up at him and he held her gaze.

“How much longer do you think we’ll be stuck here?”

She could see the gears in his head turning as if gauging whether to give her an honest answer or not. She didn’t specify, letting him choose.

“I think it’ll be a while. I would say until they don’t need us anymore but I don’t think they’ve needed us for a while.”

“Maybe the experiment is different than I originally thought.”

“Maybe,” he murmured.

They sat in silence and then eventually (Y/n) pulled Yuta closer and kissed him gently, trying to ease any ill feelings he was having. He returned the kiss fervently and lifted a hand, placing it at the nape of her neck to close any distance left between them.

She curled her fingers into his shirt and smiled as he pulled away to look at her. His shirt was, without a doubt, wrinkled now and his hair was disheveled but the grin on his face made her heart flutter, only adding to her initial admiration for his handsomeness. He leaned forward and rested his forehead against hers gently.

“This is going to sound really cheesy,” he breathed, a light pink blush coming over his face.

“What is?”

“That despite the circumstance, these have been the best four years of my life.”

“You’re right. That was incredibly cheesy.” She shoved his shoulder and he laughed with her.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

She leaned her head against his shoulder and he pulled her legs across his lap to draw patterns onto her legs. (Y/n) watched him spell things out and then rub his thumb across where he had written, as if erasing it.

“Why don’t you ever draw with me?”

His ministrations stopped as he looked over at her. He hesitated before speaking.

“It’s embarrassing.”

“To draw?”

“No. The reason I don’t.”

Her eyebrows furrowed. “Yuta, you can tell me. I’m not going to make fun of you.”

“I don’t even remember what most of the things you draw look like outside. Obviously, I know what they look like to you but if you asked me to draw certain things, I don’t think I could. Not that I was great at drawing to start with, but you know what I mean.” His eyes were downcast and though it seemed insignificant, she could tell it was really bothering him.

“So don’t draw anything that exists.”

He looked at her with a puzzled expression.

“Just draw something that never had a ‘real’ form to begin with.”

“I’m not following what you’re saying…”

“Like a dragon. Those never existed so technically you can’t get it wrong. Draw things that are open to interpretation. Or don’t. Who cares? It’s not like the drawings are going up in an art museum. And if these fuckers ever do come out and insult your work I’ll give them a piece of my mind.”

Yuta was silent, watching as she got more and more worked up about the subject and she could feel the heat rising in her cheeks as he smiled at her.

“How did I get paired up with the likes of you?”

“Probably because you’re the exact same way.”

He nodded and chuckled, “True.”

His attention went back to her legs and he began drawing designs again. Closing her eyes, she focused on the feeling of his warm fingers on her calves, smiling as he traced hearts on her skin, invisible tattoos for her and no one else. Even he would forget they were there with time, but she would always know of their existence.

Because even if it was just a way to occupy himself, which she highly doubted, she could tell he poured his feelings into those small hearts that were only the size of a quarter. Creating a collage of minuscule symbols to cover her legs.

Art in a place where there wasn’t anything else.

And she didn’t know how to return the favor because, in the end, this act was nothing more than an expression of affection gone with time.

So instead, when he paused, she moved her hand down toward his and she encapsulated if as best she could, just barely rubbing her thumb across the back of his hand, hoping to send all her thanks to him in that small motion as he had done for her.

~

(Y/n) rubbed at her temples as she tried to curl into the mattress further, her back to the room. As of late, she had been having migraines that were causing their whole situation to be even more unfortunate. They couldn’t turn the lights off, which she was sensitive to, they didn’t have anything to eat besides the weird space food, which wasn’t exactly appetizing to her at the moment, and Yuta, although she loved him, was horrible at keeping quiet. This particular one wasn’t as bad as some of the others and it was quickly subsiding, so she had told him he could move around a little. She could practically see the way he was tiptoeing around but she said nothing since she really didn’t want to initiate a conversation at the moment.

Half an hour passed and the pain had mostly faded, at least enough for her to turn over and watch him as he sat at the table, facing away from her. She traced the edges of his shirt repeatedly to try and focus but also to admire him from afar. It didn’t take as long for him to notice her as she wished it did, but she figured that with his behavior, he had been casting glances her way every fifteen minutes.

“Do you feel any better?” he whispered.

She didn’t respond for a second, blinking slowly and letting what he said sink in.

“Yeah,” she mumbled, moving cautiously to rub the tiredness out of her eyes. He turned in the chair to face her and he sent a soft smile her way, which was comforting, if only slightly. She would have returned it but she had lost most of her energy in battling her migraine so she hoped that he understood.

Yuta shuffled over and knelt beside her bed, pushing a strand of hair out of her face and kissing her forehead with a feather-light touch to avoid harming her.

“Is there anything I can do?” His voice was gentle and she could tell his concern was genuine as he reached down and laced his fingers with hers.

“Can you tell me a story?”

He let out a subdued laugh and rolled his eyes.

“Another one?” he asked playfully.

“Please?” She knew he wouldn’t refuse but asked anyway, throwing in a pout.

Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who lived in a castle nestled in the valley of a mountain range far from any other kingdoms. The kingdom thrived off its natural resources but there were still some things it lacked. So, even though it was isolated, there were still many connections with the lands beyond. Most of them were friendly with them because of trade, as the kingdom to the west where Prince Taeyong resided and the kingdom to the south where Prince Sicheng lived. But there were always going to be relationships that were strained, like the one between the handsome prince’s kingdom and the one to the north: Doyoung’s kingdom.

The two kingdoms had been in a cold war for as long as the prince could remember, but in recent years it had escalated until his parents had to send men north to fight in the full-blown war.

So, although Yuta, the prince, was of marrying age his parents were too busy with the war to use him as part of a business agreement, hence he was never betrothed and was allowed to move whomever he pleased.

However, despite the situation, the prince was restless and although he could marry anyone, he didn’t want to. Instead, he chose to mess around, abandon his studies and cause many problems around the castle as forms of entertainment for himself.

In the beginning, the king and queen let Yuta do as he pleased because they had more pressing matters to attend to, but with time they grew more concerned. He was the sole heir to the crown and he would have to be mature enough to handle the issues of the kingdom diplomatically. They took several measures to try and keep him in check but none of them seemed to work.

Eventually, they cut most of Yuta’s privileges, including where he could roam. He was restricted to the castle walls and, on special occasions, the garden that bloomed behind his home. His visitors were limited as well and the king encouraged no one to pay the prince any mind, believing that the more human interaction he had, the more Yuta would lose focus on his training and revert back to his former self.

He was understandably upset at the whole ordeal, but most of all he was lonely.

All of this occurred as the war reached its pinnacle and suddenly refugees from the borders were traveling closer and closer to the capital city where the castle was.

(Y/n) was one such traveler, coming from a village that had been reduced to ashes by the battles raging nearby. She had left everything she had known behind and she was pleasantly surprised by the warm hospitality she received from the people of Yuta’s kingdom, considering she had grown up on Doyoung’s side and had heard some nasty things about them.

She tried to not burden anyone for too long and ended up traveling around the city quite a bit, and as a result, she had heard a lot of talk of the prince. She wasn’t sure exactly what had happened and all she really knew was that no one was allowed to see him. And when she questioned someone on the reason, people would quickly change the subject in an attempt to get her mind off the subject.

The reaction of the people she asked only fueled her curiosity and before she knew it she was skulking around the borders of the castle, looking for a way to get in. If no one on the outside would tell her, surely someone on the inside would.

At night she was able to spot a break between guards and she quickly scaled the walls, expecting to land near a heavily guarded door, but was instead met with thousands of different flora in a surprisingly small space. She was looking around all the various flowers, most she had never even seen before when a rustling by some bushes startled her.

Yuta had just stealthily climbed down from his balcony when he had heard the distinct sound of someone jumping down from a high place. Or they fell, but he hoped that they were alright at the very least. He peaked up over the top of a nearby bush to see the culprit and was met with a girl looking at him very bewildered.

Nothing was spoken between them for a full minute and then Yuta remembered his manners as she shivered from the breeze that swept by them.

“Do you want to come in?” he asked softly, still trying to avoid getting caught.

“Yes, please. If you don’t mind!” she added hastily.

He smiled at her and motioned for her to follow him. Yuta was going to go to the front gates but then remembered he wasn’t even supposed to be outside. Sheepishly. he turned toward her and said, “We have to climb…”

She looked over to where he gestured, a rope made of sheets was tied together and was fastened around the column of a balcony. He told her to go first, promising to catch her if she fell, and when they were both safely in his room, he introduced himself properly.

(Y/n) was surprised to have met the prince immediately but she smiled and offered her name in return, enjoying the way his eyes lit up as they continued to converse. He was excited because it was the first real conversation he had held with someone other than his parents in years.

In truth he was terrified of being alone because with the minimal contact he had with people in the kingdom, he was afraid that when his parents left, he would be completely alone. They had left that morning in a carriage, going to speak to the king and queen of Doyoung’s land to work out a peace treaty and they weren’t expected back for at least a few weeks,

He begged her to stay with him, at least for the time being, the second he heard of her nomadic tendencies. She gave in after a minute of him pleading and she couldn’t deny that his relieved expression was enough to make her want to stay an eternity if he just asked.

Because he was confined to his room for a majority of the day he wasn’t able to show her to another room and he also worried that she would be found if she resided elsewhere in the castle. So he let her sleep on the bed at night and when he left the room she hid in his closet in case any servants came in.

Yuta would bring her back food when he went down to the dining room for meals and while she ate, he would sometimes watch her. It felt creepy but it had been so long since someone had willingly held a conversation with him, and she was so eager to.

From the letters his parents sent him as the weeks progressed, he learned that the negotiations were still being conducted and that, at the moment, there wasn’t an end in sight. He once told (Y/n) of the situation and she grew quiet, not really responding to him the rest of the day, so he learned to not bring up the war in her presence.

As weeks became months he became worried that his parents would never return and she comforted him, going out to the gardens with him at nightfall so they could talk outside of the confinement of grey walls. Out among the roses is where she finally told him her story, of how the war had destroyed her family and hurt many of her friends and for the first time, Yuta actually had an idea of how this feud between kingdoms was really hurting people.

No longer was this something between his parents and Doyoung’s parents, but it was something that was affecting everyone. And he hadn’t been paying attention.

And at the same time, he blamed his parents for closing off his communication because he might have understood everything sooner if he had heard more sides of the story than just the one his parents told.

Yuta paced around the garden and (Y/n) wasn’t sure whether to let him continue or to stop him before he did anything brash. It was too late, though, because he stormed through the front doors, much to the surprise of the servants as he not only barreled in but had a girl in tow.

He demanded a carriage and when he was refused, Yuta ran back up to his room and began writing to his parents. When she asked, he didn’t tell her what was in the letter but from his reaction to the response he got a few days later, she could tell he wasn’t pleased by his parent's decisions.

Another week passed and then Yuta kissed the top of (Y/n)’s head suddenly and was gone before she had a chance to ask what was going on. He was gone for weeks on end and all she could do was pace around his room. She had no idea where exactly he went and she had no means of getting to where ever he was.

It was her turn to feel completely in the dark.

And then whispers around the castle, which she heard through all the secret passages Yuta had shown her in their time alone, told her that the war’s aggressiveness had seemed to decline and that the widespread battles were slowly stopping as the troops were told to retreat and go home. A treaty was being seriously discussed, they said.

But still, there was no concrete evidence.

She sat on his bed, waiting, hating to play the damsel in distress yet not daring to move.

The sun had just begun to set when there was a commotion from below, and since her curiosity got the better of her, (Y/n) slipped out of Yuta’s room and crept down the stairs, only to see all the maids servants and knights greeting the king and queen on their return home. And in the corner of the room stood Yuta, who was still not being spoken to.

She was about to go to him when the king spoke up.

“I have decided that this ban is over and that the crown prince has matured enough that all his privileges shall be restored!”

The staff cheered and although he smiled, she could tell Yuta was still upset about the whole ordeal taking place. He was swarmed as everyone congratulated him and welcomed him home. Yuta replied to them politely and then he looked up and caught sight of (Y/n) on standing alone on the stairs.

He excused himself as fast as he could, which wasn’t as quickly as he would have liked, and then he ascended up the stairs toward her, slowing with each step.

She didn’t know how to greet him, didn’t know if a simple hello would be enough to convey how much she’d missed him and that she was glad he was back. But he beat her to it by wrapping her up in his arms and pressing his lips to hers and not giving a damn about the audience behind them.

He pulled away a little as they ran out of breath.

“Marry me,” he murmured against her lips. She jerked back and stared at him with wide eyes, waiting for him to laugh and shake his head. He never did, simply waited for her response.

“Yes,” she breathed.

There was a pause it sunk in and then Yuta swept her up in his arms and kissed her again.

The king and queen, along with the rest of the court, sat in stunned silence, but he only turned to face them and introduced her swiftly before delicately holding her hand and leading her down and out the doors. For the first time in a long time, no one stopped him.

“Who were the others?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“Old friends,” he said quietly, looking down at the floor.

(Yn) watched as he contemplated various things, slightly worried that she had upset him, but he perked back up soon enough.

“Do you really want to marry me?” she asked after a minute.

(Y/n) watched as he opened his mouth to respond but something made him hold back.

“Of course I do,” he said, eventually.

“Then why did it take so long for you to answer?”

Again he paused before speaking, avoiding her gaze as he thought out his response.

“I wanted to be absolutely certain and I couldn’t think of a single reason not to,” he murmured.

“I love you.” She looked directly at him even as he looked away shyly.

“I love you, too,” he replied, finally making eye contact with her.

There was a silence as he played with her fingers quietly and she watched his expressions shift every few seconds as he mulled over things in his head.

“When we get out of here I’m going to buy you a castle,” he stated firmly.

She laughed a little, “I don’t want a castle.”

“Why not?”

“Because it would be too big.”

He looked around at the tiny room and then back to her with a questioning glance.

“Everything would be too spread out in a castle. Let’s just get an apartment and work our way up.”

Yuta smiled broadly and climbed up into her bed to hold her close.

“I don’t care where we live but we’re getting a bigger bed.”

It was her turn to smile at him and she nuzzled her face into his neck, breathing in his scent.

“In the mountains,” he added.

“What is with you and mountains?” she asked with a laugh.

“I love them and I want to share them with the one I love.”

She blushed, choosing not to respond.

For the rest of the night, he spoke to her about their soon-to-be home, everything from the kitchen counters to the fireplace to the color of their bedroom wall. (Y/n) then fell asleep to the soothing sound of his voice.

~

She hated this more than anything she had ever disliked in her entire life and the worst part was that she didn’t know how to fix it. Nothing she was doing was helping and the experimenters had yet to intervene.

A couple of weeks ago everything had been fine but then something, she didn’t know what specifically, had come through the cubby hole and infected Yuta.

Days passed and at first, it appeared to be only a simple cold but with the progression of time, it was revealed to be so much more. It went from sneezing here and there to constant coughing fits and a loss of energy.

(Y/n) had pulled the mattresses onto the floor and put all the pillows and blankets on top of it so that he didn’t have to climb up onto the bed to sleep. During the day he would laze around in bed as she tried to entertain him, or at least ease his pain. During the night he suffered from fits of insomnia and she could feel his discomfort as she lay beside him.

He could sleep in small increments during the day but mostly he liked to talk to her to pass the time, and who was she to deny him?

When she awoke in the morning she swore she could feel the hard floor beneath her despite the padding, and she was about to say something when she noticed he was staring off into space. His eyes were trained right above the doorway and when she said his name he didn’t even blink. On his own accord, he eventually pulled his eyes away, body convulsing violently as he coughed harshly.

As he laid his head back onto his pillow, she got up and soaked another of their makeshift rags to lay across his forehead, which was burning.

“Am I an inconvenience?” His voice was hoarse and his eyes fluttered as he tried to keep them open.

“Never,” she said, sitting down beside him.

He was quiet after that and she hoped he had fallen asleep so he could catch up on rest but a few minutes later he spoke again.

“I hate this room.”

“I do, too.”

“Why can’t we leave?”

She stroked his hand soothingly.

“I don’t know.”

“Why did you come here?”

He had asked that question multiple times throughout the years but she had never given him a straight answer. Jokes or vague responses were always how she replied and he always whined. She didn’t plan on telling him now.

“Sometimes life doesn’t go the way you want it to.”

Yuta grew visibly upset at her answer and when he was about to reply, he was thrown into another coughing fit. She pushed his hair off his forehead and repositioned the rag on his head.

For a while he rambled more, asking questions without answers and, at times, speaking complete gibberish. She talked where he let her and he quieted over time. He fell asleep a couple of hours later and (Y/n) took the opportunity to clean some of the things on the bed, trying to get rid of as many germs as possible.

It hadn’t seemed to affect her in the slightest but she was still cautious in case anything did happen; she wasn’t sure she would be able to care for the both of them in that state.

She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, a combination of no actual clock and boredom was the prime reason, but she heard him stir. Again he didn’t call out to her or start talking at all, but instead when she looked over at him he was staring up at the fluorescent lights, squinting at the harshness.

“Yuta?”

He didn’t respond. (Y/n) crept over to where he was and stood over him, blocking most of his vision. It took a minute but his eyes focused on her and the corners of his lips quirked up slightly before falling back into place.

“I’ve never seen the sun.”

“What?”

“I mean I’ve seen photos but I’ve never looked for myself. What if everyone is lying to us, (Y/n)?”

“You’ll go blind,” she remarked, settling onto the mattress beside him.

“It’ll be worth it because at least I’ll know the truth.”

“But if no one was lying would it really be worth it?”

He paused to think it over.

“If I go blind then at least I’ll have seen true beauty.”

“The sun?”

“You.”

She smiled.

“But if I take the hit, you have to as well because I want you to say the same about me.”

“And if I don’t?”

Yuta rolled his eyes and sneezed. He wiped at his nose as he replied, “I already know I am but it would have been nice to hear it from you.”

(Y/n) chuckled and pressed her lips to his forehead, pulling back abruptly as the heat seared her skin. She attempted to cover up her worry by continuing the conversation.

“I think you’re still sleep deprived.”

“How? I just woke up,” he countered.

“Yes, but you’ve gone without a lot of sleep lately.”

His eyes shifted back and forth as he looked at both of her eyes, searching for something she wasn’t aware of. When he found it, or didn’t, she never knew, he looked back up to the lights.

“When was the last time you saw sunlight?”

“I don’t know but I could use a tan,” she joked.

He glanced around the room.

“Do the artificial lights make artificial shadows?”

“What do you mean?”

“We usually think of shadows as being caused by natural light, but then what does that make these shadows?” he asked, raising his arm shakily and looking over at the small, multiple layered shadow that was cast on the floor.

She held her own hand up and peeked at the shadow underneath.

“Technically, since none of the light sources change, you could learn the exact patterns of the shadows as you move. Predictability would be inevitable.”

“And if a variable changed, the light source?”

Yuta thought about it for a moment.

“Then you start over, I guess. Observe, learn, wait for predictability to take over.”

“Seems tedious.”

“Isn’t that life, though? We as humans are curious by nature and we’ll do anything to learn. Even something as cruel as this.” He gestured around the room.

“But learning isn’t a bad thing.”

“I never said it was. I just believe our means of receiving information is corrupt. But who am I to say?” He was overtaken by a particularly harsh cough and she made him lie down completely.

“Ok, Mr. Philosopher, I think you need more sleep.” He didn’t argue and she smiled when he closed his eyes, but her grin was quickly erased as she noticed the thin line of blood that was beginning to run from the side of his mouth. Her heart skipped a beat and her breathing hitched as she tried to wipe it away as gently as she could.

He cracked an eye open at the sensation and she tried to reassure him with a look, but it didn’t seem to be convincing because instead of going back to sleep he murmured out, “It’ll be okay.”

She wanted to cry.

Even now, when he was extremely ill, barely lucid, heavily suffering, he was trying to comfort her. Her throat tightened and she laid down beside him. As she tried to calm her ragged breathing she fixed the blankets around Yuta, tucking him in and making sure he would stay warm throughout the night.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you, too.”

He fell asleep soon after and (Y/n) couldn’t help but look around the room. They had spent five years together in that room and nothing had seemed to make much sense until he talked with that perspective.

With a sigh, the lights clicked off and she closed her eyes, allowing the inky night to envelop her.

~

The light of the room was too bright and (Y/n) wanted to roll over to avoid it but her limbs felt stiff. She tried to force her eyes to open but her eyelids felt incredibly heavy. When she finally got them open after a few attempts, she looked around the room. There were paintings on the wall and a tv in the corner, but little else in front of her. Her bed had rails and machinery lined the wall on her right, and to the left was a large window with the curtains drawn back. On the horizon, the sun was just beginning to peek above the many brick buildings of the city.

Panic clouded her mind as she tried to sit up quickly, but was hindered by the IV in her arm and the sharp wave of dizziness that made her want to throw up.

Her heart monitor had spiked significantly and nurses came rushing in to check her vitals and try to calm her down. People were rushing in and out the door, bringing in supplies, taking out charts and pushing past each other to get to her. It was chaos in the room and as a man stood in front of her, trying to help steady her breathing, all she could think about was Yuta.

She wanted to ask where he was, where she was, but the bile in her throat was preventing her from doing so. It felt surreal to be around so many people, but the room eventually cleared out as a woman in a white coat walked in. (Y/n) couldn’t hear anything other than the ringing in her ears but she watched the woman pull up a chair and sit beside her. The woman’s mouth was moving but she couldn’t hear anything until her hearing refocused all at once, and although it still kind of sounded like she was underwater, she could at least interpret the words.

“Where’s Yuta?” she asked when her throat was relaxed enough for her to speak; it felt extremely dry and her voice was hoarse but she paid no mind.

“Who?”

“Nakamoto Yuta. We- we were locked up in this room together as part of an experiment,” her breath caught in her throat but she kept going, even when she began crying hysterically, “It was supposed to be for a week but- but- where is he? I have to see him!”

“Miss, calm down. It’s okay, here.” She pulled a couple of tissues from the box on the bedside table and (Y/n) took them reluctantly.

It was a moment before she was able to regain her composure but she looked up at the woman expectantly once she did.

“Look, I’m not going to lie to you, miss, I have no idea who you’re talking about but he might have been admitted to a different hospital. (Y/n) nodded and the doctor continued, “Now, can we talk about you for a second? Do you know your name?”

“(Y/n) (Y/l/n).”

“Okay, and do you know where we are?”

“A hospital.”

“Do you know why you’re here?”

She paused to think about it. She had memories of the last couple days nursing Yuta back to health, but he hadn’t shown any indication of getting better. They had gone to bed and she had awoken here.

“No.”

The doctor watched her for a moment in grim silence.

“You were in a car crash―”

“Yeah, I remember that but it was before―”

“And it put you in a coma for five years.”

She stopped.

“No, for the last five years I was in that room.”

“Miss, I think you’re misunderstanding. You were pulled from the crash site and taken straight here.”

(Y/n) shook her head slowly and then burst into tears again. The doctor placed her hand on (Y/n)’s shoulder for a second and then left the room quietly.

She curled up on the bed and recounted all the days she had spent with Yuta. They had felt real; she could remember the way his hair felt between her fingers and the way he looked at her adoringly. It was hard to comprehend that all these memories she held, were possibly an illusion and he… she didn’t want to think about what it meant for him.

Blood spilled into her mouth as she bit her lip too hard and she closed her eyes. Cold seeped into her bones and she couldn’t stop shivering. Whatever reality this was, she didn’t want to be here. So, she tried to force herself back asleep, if that was what it would take to get him back, she’d do so willingly.

However, it proved to be difficult and even in her dreams, he didn’t return to her. All she could see was the suffocating walls of the room, completely empty of anybody but her.

The days following were hard.

She was collected by her family members from the hospital entrance. Her parents cried the second she stepped out of the doors and they wrapped her up in a hug, exclaiming how much they missed her. When she asked why they hadn’t come earlier they shared a glance and talked about how they had both been buried in work. They brought her back to her old childhood room, which now felt extravagant and too flashy. It wasn’t long before she took all the pictures off the wall and hid other little decorations lying around.

Her parents came to check on her often, but most times she ignored them as she hunched over her desk, drawing what she could remember of her previous drawings, of the room, of him.

Everyone thought it was a coping mechanism for having essentially lost five years of her life, but they didn’t understand, couldn’t understand, what it felt to be told that the part of her life that had seemed the most real, was all a lie.

She had once tried to explain the experiment and the room to her parents but they had acted really weird about it, nervously avoiding and redirecting the conversation. Instead, they suggested therapy sessions. For a while, she denied the idea but eventually gave in when being alone with her thoughts became too much.

Her therapist treated Yuta like a hallucination and he tried to get her to practice exercises and take medication to help relieve her of his image, but it felt more like he was trying to have her exorcize a demon. She lied to him more and more with each session about her feelings and how she could barely remember his face, when in fact she could have told him every shade of Yuta’s eyes if he asked.

And with time she started to lie to everyone about how she was “better.”

She just wanted them to leave her alone, which they did.

A couple months passed and she was allowed to move out after finding a steady paying job. She bought the smallest apartment she could find and instead of sleeping on the rickety bed, (Y/n) pulled the mattress out of the frame and put it onto the floor, moving it to the middle of the room.

In between shifts, she drew and when there was nothing left to draw, she wrote. She mapped out every story he had ever told her, the ones she could remember, and the ones she told him. Her desk had completely full journals stacked in large piles covering the entire surface. And when she was having a bad day she would find her favorites and curl up with them on her bed and pretend he was there, smoothing down her hair as he told her the story.

There were days when thoughts of “what ifs” crawled into her mind and those days were the hardest. Because all the stupid dates he had promised weren’t real, she told herself, he wasn’t real. Her heart always clenched as she thought that, as if some part of her was still desperate to hold onto him, still believed that he would show up like a knight in shining armor and sweep her off her feet.

And another part of her would remind her that he had been a prince, not a knight.

Even as each day passed and she could ease her thoughts of him more and more, Yuta was still always in the back of her mind. He wasn’t even a distraction, more an opaque presence that was there for her at any time.

She thought about this as she walked home, her purse hanging from the crook of her elbow as her heels clicked on the sidewalk. (Y/n) was wary of each and every step, avoiding running into anyone for fear of confrontation, but she could sense the others around her as they looked at their phones or at the windows of the shops beside the street.

The sun was slowly sinking, she had actually left work early on this Friday because she had finished early, and the autumn chill had apparently settled in a couple weeks early.

(Y/n) could feel the goosebumps rise on her arms as she silently cursed herself for not bringing along a jacket. She shivered a little, speeding up, as she tried not to think about how the temperature in the room had stayed the same year round. Shaking her head a little, she stopped in front of a crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn.

When it switched, she took long strides to cross the street and was safely on the other side when she heard a commotion coming from where she had just been.

It turned out to be nothing more than an elderly man stumbling and dropping his belongings but she couldn’t help but stop and watch, as many others did, as a young woman helped him gather his things and make sure he was okay. A crowd had formed around them and even as cars started to cross the intersection in between the streets, she could still see the faces of the people perfectly.

She looked around at the spectators and her eyes stopped on a man with dark brown hair and a gaze burning into her. They stared at each other for a moment and she hoped with all her might that he would scan her face, her hair, her clothes, something, and a spark of recognition would light in his eyes and he would come to her as quickly as traffic would allow.

There was no movement between either of them and (Y/n) was tense beyond belief, her heart pounding against her ribcage as she felt longing consume her entire being. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes and as she was about to take a step in his direction, his attention was pulled away by another man on his right. They spoke for a minute before he looked back at her once more as if he felt obligated to give her one last glance, and then he walked away with his friend.

(Y/n) watched him go with a tight throat and a heavy heart. She stood there for a moment longer and then she wiped at her eyes hastily and tried to compose herself. And then she turned away, leaving as well.

She kept walking until she became a ghost of her former self, a shadow.