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P179

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A rustle somewhere behind the bushes made Jimin halt her steps. 

At first her initial thoughts were small animals, probably a rat or squirrel, but the massive movement somehow made her realize it wasn't the case.

She knew it was a dumb decision to walk across the road and towards the bushes but she'd always been having a certain kind of curiosity that could eat her up whole if she ignored it. This kind of trait sometimes brought harm to her at times.

Like that one time she almost got a severe concussion on head because she found a wounded kid and tried to save him from his abusive dad to which he literally swung his baseball bat at her poor head.

Or that one time when she almost fell from two meters stage when she visited her junior’s play simply because the stage looked wobbly and dumbly, she wanted to step on it just to see whether it’s sturdy or not.

 

And in this case, she had to see it, whatever it takes.

 

There was a sigh, so soft to the point it could easily be carried away by the wind. But Jimin's close enough and by that time, her mind had been running miles about what kind of creature lies at the other side.

Truthfully, out of all kinds of creatures, she could never once expect to see a whole freaking human beside the large pine tree looking straight at her with such odd, clear blue eyes with hands hugging the knees. Because there's no way a sane human would be in this kind of place late at night, especially wearing such thin clothes that Jimin's sure one would shiver from cold.

Jimin's apartment keys that dangled from her grip had loosened and fell onto the ground with a loud clanking sound.

 

Jimin snapped out of her shock.

 

A pair of clear blue eyes were still looking at her, gaze void of any emotion as if the prospect of having emotion was foreign for her. Blonde hair cascaded past her shoulders and framing her pale, fair complexion prettily.

If there's anything Jimin should be concerned about was how she found this woman breathtakingly gorgeous amidst the oddity of the situation. The woman looked a lot like a porcelain doll and Jimin would’ve mistook her as one if it’s not for the soft breathing and the movement of her gaze that proved she was indeed a human.

 

"Are you lost…?"

 

Jimin's question was like throwing a small pebble into the void, not receiving any kind of response as the woman kept her gaze on Jimin, her lips didn't move a single bit to form any kinds of words for them to communicate.

 

Now that's weird.

 

Perhaps she's from another country?

 

Jimin racked her brain for any limited foreign words she knew.

 

" Are you okay? " Wow, her English sounded bad. "Konnichiwa? Wo ai ni?" W-Wait, isn't that supposed to mean I love you?

 

Jimin waited for a moment, eyes glinted with hope as she waited for the woman to speak.

 

Alas, nothing happened.

 

Jimin stared at her. She stared back. Just like that, they fell into a moment of silence wearing Jimin had nothing to say and the woman kept staring. With a sigh, Jimin trudged closer and crouched down before the woman so that they’re on the same eye-level.

 

“Are you lost?” She tried again with hand gestures just to make sure the blonde understood her.

 

The blonde blinked and that’s it.

 

Jimin bit her lower lip in confusion. She didn’t know how the blonde ended up hiding behind the tree in the middle of the night wearing a simple white t-shirt and shorts. It was quite bizarre considering the weather these days were not that merciful since winter was coming near and the fact a literal human was here instead of a home made Jimin assume the blonde probably didn’t have a place to stay.

She was probably kicked out from her place or something.

Jimin being the kind-hearted she was, bad for leaving her alone just like that. So it’s just normal for her to bring the blonde to her home right?

Jimin grabbed her keys and put them in her pocket before outstretching her hand carefully, palm faced outwards, testing the water. The blonde’s gaze finally averted from Jimin’s face and towards the outstretched hand, face looking clueless as ever. The blue eyes soon locked with Jimin’s dark brown eyes again, her gaze remained emotionless.

 

Jimin frowned.

 

It seemed as if the woman was a creature from another planet that couldn’t understand Jimin in the slightest. Despite the countless questions lingering in her mind, Jimin tilted her head, silently gesturing for the blonde to hold her hand. 

 

But another thing happened instead.

 

It was rather a cautious move when the blonde carefully leaned in, closing their proximity. Jimin widened her eyes, wanting to lean away to create distance between them but before she could do so, the blonde wordlessly placed her chin on top of Jimin’s palm, her gaze remained locked with Jimin.

 

Jimin’s heart skipped a beat.

 

“W-What are you doing?”

 

She was met with silence once again.

 

Jimin averted her gaze away, feeling warmth coursed through her veins and up to her whole face. The blonde’s skin against her palm felt cold but not to the point it bothered Jimin. Blue eyes still stared at her with the same cluelessness that made Jimin think maybe the blonde either wasn’t from here or maybe she just couldn’t speak.

Jimin sighed yet again, simply resorting to bring the blonde home. To be honest, it was quite a dangerous decision to do so, considering the fact she literally brought a stranger to her home without caring about the possibility that the blonde might be a serial killer or a psychopath that could kill her in her sleep.

Jimin's feet halted in front of her apartment door, casting a glance at the blonde behind her. Emotionless pair of blue eyes looking down to the ground, resembling a lot to a lost puppy that was kicked out from its abode. The blonde lifted her head, matching her gaze with Jimin’s in a swift motion that had Jimin’s heart almost shot out of her ribcage.

 

Out of all the oddities that happened that night, there’s no way Jimin could get used to those eyes staring at her.

 

Yep, there’s no way she’s a psychopath.

 

But that didn’t mean it made things easier.

 

Turns out, this blonde didn’t seem like she knew anything. Literally anything at this point.

 

“Oh my goodness– wait, wait, wait, wait .” Jimin held the blonde’s shoulder to stop her from getting inside when she noticed the blonde wasn’t wearing any shoes, which means her feet were probably dirty from the walk earlier.

 

What intrigued her more was a white band encircled the blonde’s ankle. It looked a lot like a hospital band except there’s no important information written there– only numbers. Jimin squinted her eyes, reading the numbers.

 

P179

 

Jimin tilted her head up just to see the blonde already staring at her.

 

"Okay, I won't ask anything because I know you won't answer me." Jimin stood up again, inspecting the blonde from head to toe. "There's no way you're from any asylum right? Because as far as I know there's no mental institution in this town–"

 

Jimin paused, frowning. Now that she'd taken a good look at the blonde– thanks to the sufficient light in her apartment– she noticed a few small scars around the blonde's arms and nape.

 

The sight somehow made Jimin's heart sink. She could barely contain her worry as she matched her gaze with the blonde. She didn't know what kind of situation the blonde had gotten into, but she knew enough the scars weren't from a mere accident. 

 

Some were light ones but a few of them looked deep enough which seemed a lot like someone had purposely cut open the skin.

 

"You're hurt." Jimin stepped closer, gaze flitted between the scars and her dirty feet.

 

After a moment of contemplating, Jimin sighed.

 

There's really no other way, huh?

 


 

Jimin ended up carrying the blonde on her back all the way to the bathroom to thoroughly clean her feet because it seemed like the blonde was incapable of doing anything at this point. It's not like she's feeling burdened for having to take care of the blonde like a small child who was still learning how everything works– in fact, she was quite amused and curious about the blonde's background.

The blonde was surprisingly obedient when Jimin cleaned her feet and tended the scars, which made it easier for Jimin to finish things up and proceed to sleep the exhaustion away.

 

Well, except this one thing.

 

"Uh…" Jimin vaguely pointed at the plain white shirt the blonde was wearing. The blonde was seated on the sofa, looking up at Jimin who stood parallel from where she was. "Can you take your shirt off– why do I sound like a pervert– nevermind that, you can't even understand me anyways."

 

Jimin hesitantly placed her hand on the blonde’s shoulder, feeling the coldness from the blonde’s skin seeped into her palm. Jimin frowned. She already turned on the heater and she was sure the warmth it provided was enough to warm them both. Jimin’s skin didn’t even feel this cold even if they’re technically in the same place.

She placed the back of her hand on the blonde’s nape and forehead just to feel coldness seeping into her skin. Worried, she stepped closer to cup the blonde's jaw with her both hands but that action somehow made the blonde's head tilted up to face her.

As soon as their eyes met, Jimin finally became conscious of their close proximity. Clear blue eyes were staring deep into her eyes, void of any emotions yet it was enough to make Jimin's face burn.

 

"Y-You're cold." Jimin tried to feign indifference, leaning away. The coldness lingered at the tip of her fingertips even after she let go of the blonde's jaw.

 

Jimin was not dumb to know the blonde was not any normal human being.

From the tag on her ankle, the scars to the coldness of her skin, there's a lot of possibility that the blonde was not something to be taken lightly of. Jimin contemplated kicking the blonde out and hiding under the safety of her blanket but a small part of her felt bad for the blonde upon imagining that she had to be out in the cold for hours without anything to keep her warm.

 

The blonde had no one.

 

The fact somehow tugged Jimin’s heartstrings, reminding her of what she used to feel back when she was younger. The past feelings started to ache, resurfacing back after being buried deep into her heart.

 

Screw me for being so kind.

 

“Raise your arms.”

 

An awkward silence flew by.

Jimin sighed, resulting to just doing it by herself rather than asking the blonde to do it.

 

“I’m going to,” Jimin made a gesture of taking off her clothes, making sure to let the blonde know. After all, it felt rude to simply do it without the blonde’s consent. “Okay?”

 

Jimin waited for a moment for the words to dawn on the blonde’s head but what she didn’t expect was how the blonde silently took off her shirt effortlessly before handing it to Jimin.

Jimin stared at the blonde with mouth agape, her gaze flitted between the blonde and the shirt on the blonde’s grip.

 

That was surprisingly easy.

 

Still dumbstruck, she took the shirt and placed it on the coffee table before reaching for her hoodie that she placed beside the blonde before putting it on her, the latter complied without any complaint.

Once done, she fixed the blonde’s hair, letting it cascade down her shoulders before leaning back to properly see her. A smile made its way across her lips upon witnessing how adorable the blonde could look in an oversized hoodie.

The blonde’s hand reached for her shorts and was about to take them off if it’s not for (thankfully) Jimin’s fast reflexes on stopping her.

 

“Woah, woah, easy!” Her face was flushed red but she could care less. “No need to take that off, I’ll just do this.” She reached for her cargo pants and put them on the blonde, making sure to make it swift because who knew the blonde might do something unexpected again.

 

She heaved a deep sigh once she's done, "I'm surprised you know how to take your clothes off."

 

Probably it was a surge of protectiveness or maybe it was out of empathy, but Jimin found herself leading the blonde into her bedroom, hand in hand just in case the blonde refused to follow her, and tucked the blonde in.

 

"Sleep." Was all she said as she made a sleeping gesture, eyes matched with the pair of blue eyes that were round and wide with curiosity.

 

A moment passed by.

 

Jimin furrowed her eyebrows.

 

"Why aren't you sleeping?"

 

The blonde blinked, the yellowish dim light from the bedside table made her eyes glint prettily despite the lack of bright light. Jimin's voice got stuck to her throat, her heartbeat sounded too loud against her ears.

 

Seriously, why is she so cute for?

 

"Sleep, you know how to sleep?"

 

And Jimin's question was met with silence.

 

"Well," Jimin rubbed her nape, still not used to being replied with nothing except for a pair of eyes staring at her. "I suppose you don't."

 

She bit her lower lip.

 

"That's fine. If you ever need anything, just wake me up." Jimin made sure to do the extra gestures to make sure the blonde understood her. "I'll be outside, okay?"

 

Jimin was about to head out when the blonde gripped her hand, halting her steps altogether.

 

"Why, is there something wrong?"

 

The blonde didn't say much and yet Jimin could easily understand her when she saw how the blonde's free hand pointed to the endless darkness outside the window before softly patted to the other side of the bed.

 

Is she scared to be alone?

 

There was a hint of reluctance as her rational side went kicking in, spitting facts about how they were practically strangers and the blonde could do anything in Jimin's defenseless state.

But those eyes. God, please forbid those eyes from existing because Jimin always found herself giving in whenever those breathtaking blue eyes were looking up at her.

 

Jimin sighed.

 

Sometimes I hate being so kind but who can refuse those eyes?

 

With that, Jimin ended up sleeping on the bed with the blonde on her side. The blonde's hand still wrapped around her wrist to which Jimin supposed she needed Jimin to seek extra comfort.

Sleep came naturally to her, surprisingly. The exhaustion of the day and the situation she went through just now seemingly enough to lull her to sleep.

Just like that, she drifted off to a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

"Holy shi–"

 

"Language, miss."

 

A sigh.

 

"Holy moly guacamole?"

 

The police officer at the other side of the desk simply heaved a sigh, one hand rubbing the temple.

 

"What do you mean you can't find her records?"

 

"Calm down." The officer urged her to sit down in such a calm way, contrasting to his reddened face as he tried to hide his annoyance. Well, he should be feeling like that, considering Jimin literally barged into the police station, dragging the clueless blonde along and literally made a fuss when they couldn't even find the blonde's records anywhere.

 

Such an irreverence.

 

Well, not like Jimin cared. Some of the police officers had quite a vulgar eyes anyways and that's when her respect towards them dropped down to the ground the moment she noticed their lustful gaze settled on her figure as she entered the station.

 

"Does that mean no one wants to find her?"

 

"It's either she went missing but no one bothers to find her or she's not even missing in the first place." He explained, trying to prove his point so that it would pass through Jimin’s thick skull. "And it's not like I can find her records especially when you don't even know her name. Furthermore…" He eyed the blonde up and down, judging. "She looks old enough to take care of herself. There's just no way a person like her is missing."

 

Jimin slammed her fist onto the desk, eliciting quite a loud noise. He flinched at her outburst, not really liking where this was going.

 

"You don't understand!"

 

The whole station went silent, endless pairs of eyes judging her and waiting for her next move. 

Jimin was about to go on a long tirade about how he was wrong for saying the blonde could take care of herself but then she felt a hand in her grip tightened. That’s when she realised they’d been holding hands ever since they came into the station and hadn’t let go ever since.

Jimin glanced at the blonde, blue eyes staring at her with its usual blankness and innocence. Nonetheless, Jimin’s anger dissipated so easily when the blonde lightly tugged her hand. It might mean nothing if it’s Goeun, or anyone else really, but upon the short time of knowing the blonde, she knew the smallest gestures could mean much more than it’s supposed to.

 

Jimin turned towards the police officer and shot the deadliest glare she could muster.

 


 

Jimin approached the blonde who was seated on the park bench with her head ducked down, looking at Jimin’s red sneakers that were worn on her feet. Jimin was quite glad her sneakers fit perfectly on the blonde’s feet because she couldn’t afford buying new ones.

It’s been a few days ever since that fateful night and Jimin had to say the blonde was too innocent, just like an untainted piece of white paper– so clean to the point she didn’t know the basic things such as showering, tying her shoelaces and even eating.

On the first day, Jimin had to take care of everything from the start to finish, guiding the blonde step by step as if she's teaching a toddler instead of a grown up woman. It was quite a challenging task, considering she had blushed quite a lot of times whenever the blonde had to change clothes to the point it's getting exhausting.

Jimin's embarrassed. And the blonde's gaze on her didn't help either.

But lucky for her, the blonde was fast to learn.

At first, the blonde practically knew nothing but as time passed she had caught a few ways to do a certain work– in this case, learning how to properly brush her teeth, showering all by herself and eating (although sometimes, her hold on the cutlery would get loose and she would eat messily that Jimin ended up feeding her instead).

 

Jimin took a seat beside the blonde, handing her one of the banana milks she bought just now. The blonde stared at the drink blankly.

 

“You don’t drink this?” Jimin handed the milk to the blonde, her free hand taking the blonde’s cold hand to receive the drink. "Or...maybe you don't know how to drink this."

 

Jimin brought her own banana milk closer to her and took a sip from the straw, locking her gaze with the blonde to make sure the blonde was looking at her. "Okay?"

 

She hid a smile when the blonde brought the drink closer, before taking a careful sip, imitating Jimin's actions just now. For a moment, there was a clear pause when the blonde looked at her again.

 

Jimin raised an eyebrow, "why, you don't like it?"

 

In response, the blonde simply sipped the whole content, leaving nothing but the empty container. Jimin chuckled. Seems like she really liked that.

Jimin leaned her back against the headrest, staring at nothing in particular. The sky had darkened and time passed so quickly even though Jimin was barely doing anything. 

She never knew she actually spent longer than expected at the police station, arguing with some of the police officers there because they threw snarky remarks about how she was purposely doing this just to get attention.

And if that wasn't the most humiliating words she ever received, she would've just ignored them and acted like nothing happened. But they just knew how to get on her nerves.

If the blonde wasn't there with her, she would've ended up in the cells for punching their ugly face.

She heaved a sigh, trailing her gaze to the blonde beside her. As she stared at how the blonde bit the end of the straw, her mind couldn't help but wander.

 

Jimin couldn't really understand how a person like her existed.

 

It was as if she was just a small kid being exposed to the new life without no one to guide her. It was rare to find someone like that and it almost seemed like the blonde was being caged in the basement or something for her whole life because she literally knew nothing about the outside world.

Did the blonde run away from her home? Or she was kicked out?

But the possibility was less likely, considering the oddity of the whole situation. Even the police officers didn't believe Jimin's words when she said the blonde was akin to a newborn child– fair enough, no one would believe a grown up woman could be like that unless she got hit in her head or something.

 

Wait, did she?

 

Nope, Jimin didn't see any kinds of wounds in her head, just the scars and wounds all over her body.

 

"You really like the drink, huh?"

 

Jimin took out the spare tissues she brought from home and wiped the blonde's lips, making sure there was no trace of banana milk left. She was mindful to bring the tissues ever since the blonde had lived with her because she knew how messy the blonde could be sometimes.

She handed her drink to the blonde, which the blonde took so swiftly and sipped the remaining liquid like her life depended on it.

The sight brought a chuckle from Jimin.

 

"I wonder why you don't talk." Jimin pursed her lips as she took a good look at the blonde, her brown eyes matched with clear blue eyes. Despite knowing the blonde for a short time, it was easy to grow fond of her.

 

Maybe Jimin was always the one who got attached easily and cried it off later on when things didn't go her way but then again, it's not that hard to feel a certain type of way especially when the blonde looked so defenseless and vulnerable despite the lack of emotions she showed.

 

“Where do you come from?”

 

Just like usual, she received no response except for a pair of blue eyes staring right back at her. Jimin took the empty bottles in the blonde's grip and threw them into the nearest trash bin. 

She had tried asking the same question a few times before and yet again, the answer was the same. But at this point she learned to accept the silence as the way it was.

She walked over to the blonde with a smile grazing her lips. But then, a thought crossed her mind.

 

"Wait, I still don’t know your name. Do you have a name?”

 

A blink.

 

Jimin pursed her lips, stepping closer to get a better look. One hand rested on the blonde's shoulder. The blonde's cold skin could still be felt in the palm of Jimin's hand despite the sweater she wore.

 

“Hmm, what should I call you?"

 

The sun was nearing West and the blonde's blue eyes glinted breathtakingly under the yellowish hue from the sunlight. Her blonde hair appeared slightly golden because of the sunlight.

The blonde didn't say anything but her gaze alone was enough for Jimin to get an idea on what to call her.

A genuine smile bloomed on Jimin’s lips. Her hand reached out, resting on top of the blonde’s head and patting it softly. The blonde’s hair was soft against her fingers.

Blonde hair akin to the snow, cold, pale skin and blank gaze– Jimin already had a name in mind.

 

"Winter."

 

~~~

 

(“Alright Winter sweetie, I think it’s time for you to get your own clothes– wait, don't chew my hair band. That’s not food!”

 

*confused eating noises)

 

~~~

 

Winter was actually quite a handful in such a different way than normal people would.

 

Jimin didn’t know what was wrong with her– maybe she’s curious but it’s not like Jimin can blame her– but Winter would occasionally do something out of the ordinary and Jimin didn’t know what to expect. First she would chew off stuff without caring if it’s edible or not and that one time Jimin literally yeeted out of the kitchen just to prevent the blonde from chewing the potted plant that was placed near the balcony.

Second, it seemed like there was some kind of loose screw in Winter’s head or something because Jimin always found herself losing Winter in the crowd or even anywhere as long as it’s outside and had quite a big space for her to get lost.

Jimin didn’t really like staying at home for way too long and she would find some time to take a short walk around her neighbourhood and since Winter’s staying with her, she would bring her along. But Winter somehow found a way to get lost every single time they’re outside.

 

Every. Freaking. Single. Time.

 

It didn’t matter how it happened– it just did. Jimin was just walking along with Winter by her side and the next time she knew, there was no longer a trace of the girl, as if she never really existed in the first place.

Around ten minutes of searching around the place, Winter was found somewhere at the end of the narrow alleyway, or sometimes behind the large trees pulling up some grass mindlessly or somewhere that had cats because the blonde would be crouching down near those cats with her pointer finger barely touching the cat’s nose.

 

(Jimin would be lying if she claimed she’d never swooned at the adorable sight. There were at least hundreds of Winter’s pictures with the cats in her gallery.)

 

Third, Jimin lately found out Winter couldn’t adapt well whenever they’re choosing clothes for her. Probably it’s because of the presence of another person watching over her but Jimin just knew Winter wasn’t too comfortable having someone other than Jimin to accompany her.

 

Like now.

 

Winter literally froze like a statue, gaze blank as it averted to the floor. Jimin simply casted a polite smile at the worker who had been eyeing them ever since they were inside the store before taking a bunch of clothes and excused themselves, holding Winter’s hand to guide her (and to make sure she’s not missing again) to the changing room.

Jimin didn’t really think much when she pulled Winter into the changing room and locked the door because her mind’s too preoccupied on wanting to escape the worker’s scrutinising gaze as fast as she could. The situation started dawning on her when she turned around and locked her eyes with Winter’s.

Well, the worker for sure witnessed them entering the changing room together and if that’s not the most embarrassing thing to happen, Jimin didn’t know what else was.

 

“Here, try this.” She ignored the warmth that spread through her whole face and put the clothes on the nearest stool, taking the sweater that stood out the most– a soft pink sweater with strawberries pattern, handing it to Winter before awkwardly turning around to leave.

 

But Winter seemed like she had another other plan because her hold on Jimin’s hand tightened. Jimin turned around almost immediately, concern etched on her face because the last thing she’d ever wanted was for Winter to be uncomfortable.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Winter didn’t say much, simply tugging her lightly, probably her silent way of wanting Jimin to stay.

And Jimin, who would give up the world even if Winter asked her to, decided to stay. A smile graced her lips as she stepped closer to the blonde.

 

"Alright, you big baby. I'll stay here." Jimin pointed towards the sweater on Winter's free hand. "Now let's try that sweater first."

 

Jimin turned around, facing the door as she waited for Winter to try out the sweater. Much to her relief, it didn't take long for Winter to do so and when Jimin turned around, she was faced with an adorable sight of a blank Winter being drowned under the pink sweater that reached past her thighs.

Jimin never knew the sweater was actually that oversized when it came to Minjeong.

Unknowingly, Jimin's lips stretched up into the widest grin. Her heart swelled with adoration and happiness in each step she took to close the distance between them. Winter's wide, round eyes were locked with Jimin's.

Winter looked a lot like a child, so innocent and untainted. Jimin felt the need to protect the blonde at all costs, holding her and keeping her away from the cruel world and simply wrapped her in the warmth of the blankets and shaped her like a mochi. It sounds impossible but Winter's adorable and Jimin's overloaded brain just wanted nothing but to smooch her–

 

Wait, what.

 

"This one looks totally good on you."

 

Jimin's hand went up to cup Winter's jaw, her skin felt cold under her touch but Jimin paid no mind to it.

Jimin didn't know the exact wording for this feeling but she felt the immense amount of affection and joy doubling up, making her heart pound wildly against her ribcage just by the sight of Winter and despite feeling slightly breathless by the whole thing, Jimin concluded that it's not a bad thing– it was far from it, actually.

 

Seriously, this girl could be the death of me.

Chapter Text

"She can't stay with you forever."

 

"I know."

 

A fleeting silence.

 

"Who knows she might have a family somewhere, and at the end of the day she always has a place where she truly belongs."

 

A place where she truly belongs?

 

Jimin's mind backtracked to when she first met Winter. Full of scars and gaze as blank as a clouded moon, pale complexion akin to a lifeless being– as if she wasn’t an existing human being in the first place.

That sight always brought a question to Jimin. Did she have a place she belonged in the first place?

There was a humming noise intercom followed by the announcement of reaching the destination. The carriage was deserted save for Jimin, her fellow Goeun who sat right beside her and a few office workers. It was quite an usual sight especially at this time of the night. 

It’s late. This was the last train and most of the people in this town probably were home by now. Well, they all at least have a place to come back to, a place that provided comfort and a safe haven for them but Jimin wasn’t sure it was the same for Winter.

 

“I can’t assure you that.” Were what Jimin replied instead.

 

The train came to a stop. The doors slid open and the remaining passengers stepped out of the carriage. There was a palpable pause in their conversation as Goeun’s gaze met hers. It lasted only for a split second yet Jimin knew Goeun could figure her out so easily.

 

“You’ve grown fond of her.” Goeun’s words were like a truck crashing on Jimin. “So bad.”

 

Jimin knew that. But having Goeun voicing it out somehow made her blush profusely out of embarrassment.

 

Jimin turned away.

 

She didn’t like being exposed so palpably like that but Goeun just knew how to get under her skin. She heaved a sigh, feeling slightly annoyed.

 

"She's gonna leave either way."

 

That sentence stung more than it should. But Jimin knew Goeun purposely spitting facts just because she didn't want the same thing to happen all over again. Goeun was her rational side whenever Jimin failed to think straight and Jimin was thankful to have a friend like her because if Goeun wasn't there with her, she would've gotten hurt emotionally more than necessary.

But in this kind of situation, it was hard. It was almost effortless on how Jimin grew fond of that blue pair of eyes. Jimin should’ve created a barrier in the first place, and she knew it’s stupid for not being careful enough but God , only heavens knew how much Jimin resisted from falling into that round and innocent gaze yet she failed, every single time.

Jimin got out of the carriage, Goeun in tow. They both trudged out to the exit, noting how noticeably late they were upon witnessing the deserted road.

 

"There is still a possibility of her being dangerous– some things are way too strange to be brushed off." Goeun's voice rang inside Jimin's head. Even though Goeun was behind her and Jimin couldn't see her face, she knew Goeun was worried about her. "Be careful on your way home."

 

And they both parted ways, leaving Jimin to rethink Goeun's words. 

 

Goeun had a point. She always had. Jimin was not that dumb to brush off the way Winter would flinch every time Jimin's hand accidentally brushed her nape as she was about to shampoo her hair, the slight furrow of her eyebrows whenever she had to eat and the way Winter would cower a bit into Jimin during one of their evening walks whenever she thought she was in danger.

But rather than thinking she’s dangerous, it appeared more like she’s traumatized over little things.

Jimin halted her steps upon noticing a familiar figure crouching near the curb in front of the building where Jimin’s apartment was located. Jimin wasted no time to make her way towards Winter.

 

“What are you doing here?” Jimin crouched down before the blonde so that they’re on the same eye level. The blonde's clear blue eyes locked with hers.

 

Even though she knew Winter barely even felt cold– she never shivered whilst Jimin on the other hand, had goosebumps all over her body caused by the cold weather– Jimin still took off her jacket and wrapped it securely around the blonde's petite body.

 

“You’re cold.”

 

Jimin expected the lack of reply but she was totally thrown off guard when Winter reached for her hand and stood up. Bewildered, Jimin simply followed when Winter led her to the nearest bushes beside the building.

Almost hidden behind the bushes, there was a kitten lying weakly on the ground, breath ragged and front leg injured. A soft whimper left the kitten’s lips as crimson red blood pooled around its injured leg, tainting the green grass underneath.

Jimin instantly went to the kitten's side, thumb caressing its head softly as her gaze trailed up to meet Winter's usual cold gaze.

 

"You found this buddy here?" Jimin took the kitten with both of her hands, mindful to not put pressure on its injured leg. Jimin wasted no time getting into the building with the blonde dutifully in tow, like a small puppy who followed its owner.

 

It’s way too late to find the nearest animal clinic and despite not having good experience in treating wounded animals, Jimin had no choice but to treat this little fellow here.

 

Noooo , don’t cry~” Jimin tried not to freak out when the kitten’s whimper got louder as soon as Jimin put its bleeding leg under the running tap water. The kitten was barely alive, or so Jimin thought, because from its bad condition, it’s quite hard to ensure the kitten would make it out alive.

 

Once Jimin’s done cleaning the wound, she wrapped the kitten in a towel and handed it to Winter who took it silently in its embrace, blue eyes staring down at the shivering kitten whilst Jimin tried to reach the first aid kit at the other side of the cabinet.

 

“Wait for me in the living room.”

 

Surprisingly Winter understood her well and trudged to the living room without any complaint...well, although she couldn’t really talk in the first place.

The kitten was laid out peacefully on the sofa whilst the blonde was crouching beside the sofa, eyes trained on the sleeping kitten. Jimin internally cooed at the sight. It wasn't that hard tending the hurt kitten, thankfully and Jimin was grateful it was too exhausted to even retaliate, only its soft whimper could be heard over time.

Once she's done, she heaved a sigh and rested her forehead against the coffee table. Exhaustion of the day started to take toll on her, both physically and mentally. Her soft breath hitting the surface of the table, eyes fluttered closed. Maybe she'll go to the nearest animal shelter to give this kitten a new place to stay. Jimin was quite busy on her own and she's had Winter to take care of so adding another to the list would surely not a good idea.

Then she felt a hand on the crown of her head. She tilted her head up and turned to the side, just to see Winter's face so close to her, chin propped up on the table, blue eyes staring right into Jimin's eyes.

 

Jimin gulped down the lump in her throat, feeling butterflies threatened to burst out of her chest.

 

"What are you doing?"

 

Winter simply patted her head softly, the action felt so tender and careful– so oddly familiar. It was then Jimin realized that Winter was doing exactly what Jimin was doing whenever Winter did a good job in doing something, or when she finished her task well– be it not wearing her clothes inside out, whenever she's eating well even though a bit messy or whenever she attempted to help Jimin in doing house chores.

Jimin would always pat her head and offer the biggest smile along with the words, "you did well, Winter."

And now that Winter was doing this, she couldn't help but feel like she was being comforted, despite the lack of words uttered. She never expected Winter to remember that kind of gesture, much less doing it.

But the fact that she did it, made Jimin's heart swell with warmth.

 

Jimin giggled, cupping the blonde's jaws with her own hands, "you're cute."

 

"She can't stay with you forever."

 

Goeun's words rang at the back of her head, taunting her with its own sharp truth. Jimin's smile faltered, her brown eyes matched with Winter's blue ones. Those eyes had never been masked with lies and deceit– only truth and innocence that sometimes amused Jimin at how a person like her could exist.

 

“Maybe it’s my sensitive side speaking, but whatever.” Jimin heaved a sigh, looking straight at Winter with a sheer determination that burned so badly to the point her heart was aching. “But I hope you won’t leave me.”

 

Jimin bit her lip, feeling tears pricking up her eyes. Her wish sounded so stupid now that she voiced it out. People were bound to leave one another, someway, somehow. Even if it wasn’t physical, it could be subtle but sometimes it could come in the form of her mother leaving Jimin alone in a place that she was supposed to call home.

She was left abandoned for days– no food nor anything that could ease her hunger or someone to take care of the five-year-old Jimin– until her neighbour noticed her quiet sobbing against the front door. Jimin didn’t know why she decided to wait patiently at the front door even if her mother wasn’t coming– but there’s always a stupidly naive hope in her that her mother would come back home and everything would be alright again.

Much to her chagrin, her hope still hadn't flickered out even when she was sent to an orphanage after the confirmation that her mother had left her and had no intention to take care of her despite Jimin being her own daughter.

Probably she was ashamed to have Jimin. Raising a daughter alone without having a husband itself was a hard task to do so, considering the society that had always been harsh, mercilessly judging and claiming how unworthy of her in the eyes of the world. 

Her mother would be judged negatively with numerous words being thrown at her, be it a whore or bitch. Sometimes Jimin hated how she knew society’s judgement was one of the reasons her mother left her.

 

Sometimes she wondered why she was even given the chance to live when her own family wanted to throw her away.

 

"Winter," she called, "I think I've grown fond of you more than I realised."

 

Winter stayed put, her eyes constantly looking straight at Jimin whilst Jimin on the other hand was avoiding eye contact because she couldn't bear seeing Winter. She didn't want to break down in front of her like this. It's pathetic enough to voice out her insecurities in front of Winter, much less letting Winter see her ugly crying.

She couldn’t afford breaking down in front of people, much less having someone to witness it. Her pride was at stake by having people to witness her in the lowest and she wanted to avoid it as best as she could.

Jimin sniffed and wiped the tears that escaped her eyes before attempting to get up. But a hand encircled on her wrist stopped her from going. Falling into a confused state, Jimin dumbly turned her head to face Winter.

Winter interlocked their fingers together, her cold palm met with Jimin's warm one, sending shivers down Jimin's spine. Winter carefully wiped Jimin's tears using her other hand before her lips stretched up into a smile.

Jimin couldn't help but let out a tiny squeak. Her eyes instantly went wide, mirroring the inner confusion and surprise that she felt at the moment.

Because this was the first time Winter showed a different kind of emotion aside from the tiny speck of confusion and her usual blank, emotionless face.

 

"W-Winter," she heaved out breathlessly, a smile threatening to break. "Oh my god ."

Chapter Text

Winter never sleeps.

 

That's what Jimin learned upon the weeks of staying with her. During the first days, Jimin would usually tuck her in and was about to sleep in the living room but Winter would always hold her hand and stare at Jimin with her usual blank gaze.

 

And Jimin just knew what Winter wanted.

 

Ever since then, Jimin would settle herself to sleep beside Winter. And she would usually doze off to sleep whilst Winter was still wide awake, her round, innocent eyes staring at the ceiling whilst her hand was holding tightly on Jimin's hand.

 

Frankly, Jimin had never once seen Winter sleep.

 

She tried to sleep late, being awake just to see whether Winter was actually sleeping or not. But all she witnessed was Winter's round eyes staring straight at her without any hint of sleepiness, whilst Jimin on the other hand, was about to pass out by how late she actually stayed up.

 

"How are you even able to exist?" Were the last words she sleepily uttered before she drifted straight to the dreamland.

 

(The next morning she was late for work and Winter's curious gaze was on her rushed figure who went all over the house to grab the needed stuff for work.)

 

After a few times watching Winter's behaviour, Jimin concluded that Winter never sleeps and she would always stare at the ceiling– sometimes playing with Jimin's fingers, sometimes fidgeting with the blanket– but never close her eyes to sleep.

 

Jimin was worried, knowing a human's mental health could be affected badly if they didn't get enough sleep. But the blonde didn't seem sleep deprived even though she had never once closed her eyes to sleep.

 

“Yah, don’t look at me like that.” A grumble left her lips as soon as her gaze locked with a pair of familiar blue eyes. Jimin locked the bedroom door with caution, her eyes never once leaving Winter’s gaze.

 

She wanted to force Winter to sleep, whatever it takes.

 

She eyed Winter, who was facing her, sitting with her legs crossed on the bed. She narrowed her eyes. Jimin still remembered how much struggle she went through just to teach the blonde to sit. Their limbs literally tangled together on Jimin’s first try to the point it took them almost half an hour to part away.

 

Jimin couldn’t help but smile upon remembering it.

 

“Now, sleep.”

 

Just like that, their small eye contact competition lasted for a few minutes before Jimin gave up and heaved a sigh. She walked across the bedroom, nearing Winter and gently pushed her shoulders until she’s lying on the bed.

 

“Your eyes. Close them.”

 

Winter tilted her head.

 

Jimin huffed, “okay, nevermind that.”

 

Her eyes accidentally fell on Winter’s nape, noticing the unhealed tiny scars across it. Once again her mind traversed back to the certain time when she first met Winter– the mysterious blonde who came out of nowhere and slipped into Jimin's daily routine so effortlessly.

 

There had been a few times where Jimin wondered about Winter's background. The small things she noticed sometimes were far too suspicious to be brushed off.

 

There had been one time where Jimin got off from work and found Winter hugging her own knees close to her chest, her gaze blank as it trained down to the floor. Sometimes, Winter would stare at nothing and simply get lost in her own thoughts. That happened randomly, be it when she’s in the living room or when they’re having their usual evening walk and if Jimin happened to be by Winter’s side, Winter’s hand would never leave hers.

 

Certain habits were hard to get rid off and Jimin learned that in a hard way. It took her a while to realise that being abandoned was not something normal parents would do to their kid; her old habit of being used to isolation to the point she easily get irritated at loud noises caused by other kids at the orphanage, the way she didn’t bother to talk to anyone else because she was too swept up by the guilt and loneliness of being left by her mother– it took her time to heal.

 

Some habits were gone as time passed, as she grew but some remained. Even after years of being out of the orphanage, she still couldn't get used to eating regularly because she no longer had the appetite to eat like a normal person would. Sweets were no longer her short-term pleasure and she would resort to bitterness instead.

 

She hated the way her brain would mess her up by remembering the lingering yet already nonexistent taste of the lollipops her mother would give her.

 

And now, even the slightest taste of sugary sweets would ruin her mental barrier just in a matter of seconds.

 

(Coffees were good but sometimes she refused to admit the fact she consumed those just to forget her past, wishing to erase every moment she remembered because all those would only give a nightmare to her.)

 

Unknowingly, Jimin’s finger traced the outline of the scar, the blonde’s skin felt cold under her touch. Winter slightly flinched underneath her.

 

She wondered whether Winter was just as lost as her, having no one to rely on, being thrown off like she meant nothing– like she was worth nothing .

 

Jimin’s gaze trailed up to lock with Winter’s blue eyes. Those eyes that held much more than words could describe. Who knows those eyes had witnessed more pain than what lies on the surface, more than lips could tell, more than actions could show.

 

“You poor little thing.” Jimin mumbled under her breath. Somehow, her own words stung more when she realised she’s not that different from the blonde underneath her.

 

Two abandoned, lost souls that had no one who could make them feel their existence was worth every single breath taken.

 

P179.

 

Until now Jimin never knew what the tag meant and it seemed like it would remain a mystery for now (and possibly forever). Winter could possibly be caged in a basement, away from the world just to be harrassed endlessly by a sickeningly heartless psychopath.

 

Jimin’s jaw unknowingly clenched. Jimin was never a cruel person and knowing a fact that a human would do something like this managed to unleash a new side of her that she never knew existed until now.

 

“If I know the bastard that made you like this, I swear I’ll rip them apart like how they did to you.”

 

Her words met with silence. The air that enveloped them felt heavy, dragging Jimin down with its unsettledness.

 

Then it's all too sudden, Jimin concluded, when she knew the blonde could actually speak.

 

“Don’t.”

 

A sharp inhale could be heard clearly amidst the deafening silence of the room. Jimin’s eyes widened with shock. She couldn’t believe her ears at the moment. Winter’s steady blue pair of eyes were locked with Jimin’s surprised ones.

 

Y-You– ” Jimin’s voice came out strangled. She cleared her throat. “You...you can speak ?”

 

"They're...kind."

 

Winter's voice sounded foreign to her ears. It was small, almost childlike and it sounded way too timid, like she's scared of voicing her thoughts. If anything, just hearing Winter’s voice could break her brain more than calculus could do back when she was in high school.

 

"What bullsh–" Jimin stopped herself from cussing before she lost control over herself. "Nevermind that. You can literally speak and you never bother to speak all this time?!"

 

An innocent blink.

 

"I was told to not speak to strangers."

 

Jimin heaved a defeated sigh, wishing to ram her head against the wall. Clearly this blonde hadn't lived in the outside world for way too long to know what that actually meant.

 

"So you don't speak to this stranger," Jimin pointed towards herself, "but you followed this stranger home and slept with her and stayed with her for weeks– but you still did not speak to her because–” Jimin emphasised every word. “ She's . A . Stranger ?”

 

Winter nodded her head and Jimin hated to think how Winter was so obliviously stupid but so freaking adorable at the same time. She didn’t know whether she should be choking her for being annoying or kiss her cheeks for being adorable–

 

Okay Jimin. Stop.

 

“It doesn’t work that way, sweetie.” Jimin could only sigh in defeat, knowing there’s no use in getting mad.

 

“What is sweetie?”

 

“Sweetie is–” Jimin stopped talking, gulping down the lump in her throat, finally realising the fact that she was actually not so subtly caging the blonde underneath her.

 

She cleared her throat and stepped away, resorting to sit at the edge of the bed instead.

 

"I-It's an endearing term to call someone…" she paused, debating whether to add more or simply leave it to that. "Someone you like…maybe?" She muttered the last word with hesitance.

 

It took Winter a few seconds for Jimin's words to finally dawn on her. And when it did, Winter simply nodded her head before extending her arm out, palm facing up.

 

"Why?"

 

"You have to sleep."

 

"Me?" Jimin confusedly pointed towards herself. "What about you?"

 

There was a fleeting silence before Winter replied, "I don't need it."

 

Winter locked her gaze with Jimin, the usual blankness and lifeless eyes were staring straight at Jimin.

 

"They said that I'm not like everyone else. They can sleep, they can feel, they’re normal. But I'm not like them."

 

Jimin frowned, her mind already making up assumptions on the simple statement spoken by Winter. It’s such a simple statement yet it was enough to prove some of her presumption right.

 

“There’s no way you’re actually a specimen being tested in a lab...right?”

 

Winter didn’t reply.

 

Jimin heaved a sigh, reaching out her hand and interlocked their fingers together. The coldness from Winter’s body made her shiver a bit but she could care less.

 

"I can't believe my fate turns out to be like this." And I can't believe the world is being too cruel to her.

 

It's hard to believe. But all the proofs were there, laid out to see. Jimin flopped to the bed, beside Winter.

 

Jimin's mind was running miles and the only thing heard in the room was her own soft breathing. Winter's cold skin pressed against her was pulling her back to the reality of what had happened.

 

"How do you know they're kind?"

 

“They look at me the same way you look at me.”

 

Winter’s words made Jimin turn her head so fast to the point she felt her muscle strain.

 

“With pity." Winter's gaze was set on the ceiling. "But not all of them are like that."

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"Some of them look at me in pity but others simply don't." Winter averted her gaze, locked with Jimin's curious one. "I prefer pity the most. Because that way, I wouldn't have to be treated harshly.”

 

Jimin unconsciously held her breath, taken aback by the words. Rage rushed through her veins, her hands tingled to punch those bastards who treated Winter badly.

 

“You’re mad.”

 

Winter’s eyes were set on her, not judging but simply inspecting. Her clear blue eyes were void of emotions whilst Jimin on the other hand was about to burst upon trying to contain her wrath.

 

“I am.” Jimin heaved a sigh, closing her eyes. “Do you know where your parents are? Where do you come from? Or even anything about yourself?"

 

Winter was silent for quite a long time. Wondering why, Jimin's eyes fluttered open just to have her gaze met with Winter. Winter averted her gaze away. Her voice sounded quiet and lifeless.

 

"Am I supposed to have parents?"

 

Jimin blinked in confusion.

 

"Everyone has."

 

"Why?"

 

Based on the way the conversation was heading, Jimin just knew something was wrong.

 

"Everyone has a family. They have their parents who raise and take care of them, watching them grow up until they're old enough to take care of themselves." Jimin pursed her lips, not knowing how to explain further. "But not everyone has parents who watch them grow, some unfortunate ones have their parents leaving them first when they were young– whether their parents passed away or they simply left their children because they would think it's humiliating to have a child."

 

Jimin paused, biting her lower lip, "well, there are more reasons but for now you just have to understand that."

 

Some people liked to be free without having anything to bound them. They preferred to be alone rather than having a child to take care of, which was why they left their child in the first place. There were also some people who were too in love to the point they were blind to notice the warning signs. And when everything was too late, all left was regrets. Some thought it would be easier to have an abortion whilst some had to take care of their child until they were born.

 

Jimin's parents were one of those people. Jimin didn't know much since she was abandoned when she was young. All she knew was that her mother got drunk on the weekend, drunkenly saying gibberish and claiming she loathed her father for leaving her with such a 'useless' kid and she should've done an abortion back then.

 

Sometimes Jimin wondered why she was even given the chance to live when her own parents hated her existence.

 

"I don't have parents."

 

"Huh?"

 

"I existed because they created me. Then they tested me to see if I'm worth it."

 

She's...not a human?

 

"There are lots of needles and sharp things. It doesn't hurt when they inject me or when they cut open my skin to see inside but I don't want to go through that many times just because my body is reacting differently to the medicine they gave me."

 

“It...doesn’t hurt?”

 

"No," Winter replied monotonously. "But the scars remain, as if reminding me that I'm just one of their test subjects. Those scars look ugly."

 

"Why would they create you in the first place?"

 

"I don't know." There was something in the emptiness of her words that tugged Jimin's heartstrings. "I don't think I'll ever know."

 

Being created solely just to be discarded. The realisation itself brought an immense melancholy to Jimin's heart because she could relate wholly to the blonde's situation.

 

"Humans are quite intelligent beings aren't they."

 

Jimin perked up at the statement.

 

"But some are simply blinded by the meaningless prospect to which they want to possess." Winter's hand reached up, forefinger tracing the air. Her sweatshirt sleeve slightly went downwards at the motion, exposing the scar that adorned her wrist. "As smart as they could be, they're still dumb to think that they are able to gain what is supposed to be ephemeral."

 

There were a lot to be considered. Humans chased for what they didn’t have. For some people it might be wealth, others craved something that could boost their demonic-like ego. It’s quite pathetic to know that and Jimin was not an exception. As much as she wanted to deny it, she was still craving for love– some kind of pure and innocent love that she could never receive from her parents.

 

Winter turned her head to the side, her cold, blue eyes matched with Jimin's.

 

"While me, who is just a test subject for them, have to endure everything for the sake of those greedy monsters."

 

A fleeting silence flew by wherein Jimin's head was up in the clouds, thinking everything and nothing at once.

 

"It's unfair." Jimin remarked.

 

Winter's voice this time was like a caress of the wind in the midst of the deafening night, so soft and gentle.

 

“Nothing is really fair in this world.”

Chapter Text

CW: mentions of blood.


 

All of her life, Winter never thought the world could be this harsh on her. 

 

She didn't know what happened nor how it happened. The only thing she knew was that she woke up to the constant beeping of the machine and when her eyes fluttered open, all she could see was the whiteness of the small room and the numerous wires attached to her whole body.

 

At the side of the bed, there was a woman with her hair tied up into a messy bun, wearing a white coat. She stirred slightly from her sleep because of Winter's small movement to rub her eyes from the irritating fluorescent lights.

 

Their eyes met.

 

Winter blankly observed as the woman's expression morphed into horror before she scrambled out of her seat to call out other people. At that time nothing came to Winter's mind even as a troop of masked people in white robes came inside to check on her.

 

She was thirteen then (or at least her body was).

 

But she was less oblivious than what others thought of her.

 

The room was mundane, void of livings aside from herself. There’s only one bed and the machine that had numerous wires attached to her whole body. She never went out nor did she want to get out of the room. She had never spoken but she knew exactly what they’re talking about.

 

P179

 

9th project, room 17.

 

A confidential project started by a world known CEO that was mad for science and the prospect of eternity. Winter never knew his name but she knew that he’s not a good person, considering how his sinister, ruthless gaze locked with her blank one, the way he held his jaw up high just because he thought he was better than people that worked under him, his clean attire yet mind full of dirty tricks– she also knew she wouldn’t have existed if it’s not for him but sometimes being cease to exist didn’t sound too bad rather than being cooped up in a room, being treated like a literal monster.

 

(When in fact the real monster was outside of the room, thinking he’s better than others for managing to create people like Winter.)

 

Being created solely to satiate human greed– Winter was one of the human clones made under the lab supervision, tested from time to time to see whether their supposed creation could last forever and be the key for humanity to live eternally without even worrying about the prospect of dying.

 

But there were surely weaknesses.

 

Her eyes were blue out of the slightly different genetics they used on her because they wanted to test things out since their previous test subject wasn’t immune to the normal surroundings and died faster than they liked. In return, Winter might be stronger than the previous test subjects and had a quite intelligent mind. Alas, she couldn’t feel any emotions– happiness, empathy, misery, pain.

 

She was injected by many things from then on, just to make sure she was deemed as a ‘success’ yet they never knew a human body could only hold so much. Upon the years of being tested, she’d occasionally throw up blood that tainting the white tiled floor, being operated just because parts of her organs weren’t working out of medication overdose, injected by endless chemicals just to see how much she could handle.

 

It would be a living hell for normal humans.

 

Alas, she’s none of them. Which made it more apparent on how some of the scientists were treating her– like a mere test subject and not a living person that should handle with care because in the end, she could never be like human despite how much similarities she had with them.

 

“Is this how we’re going to spend the rest of our lives?”

 

P135, another test subject who was the same age as Winter (or at least that’s what was written in the records)– a raven short-haired girl who had quite a carefree attitude despite being treated like a lab rat.

 

She had emotions– at least not wrecked up as much as Winter and she liked to be called as Ryujin rather than P135 because she hated to be reminded that she's not a human. 

 

A poor, desperate soul indeed.

 

She's one of the clones that were closest to human beings, be it in behaviour or physical characteristics and mostly she would be deemed as a success if it's not for her organs that were getting rotten as time passed and had to undergo numerous organ transplants.

 

Ryujin had a problem. And unlike Winter who was void of emotions, she had an entirely different one, wherein her organs were slowly rotting despite the endless transplant she went through. It was exhausting and painful at times as it took a while for her to completely heal and by the time she's completely healed, another part of organ started to deteriorate.

 

"Yes." Winter didn't even turn to look at Ryujin, eyes glued on the dull wall before her. "Possibly."

 

Aww , sucks.”

 

Winter casted a glance at the bluish spot on Ryujin’s left arm, knowing well she’ll get another transplant again. There were already a lot of stitches around her body and both of them knew Ryujin wouldn't hold on too long.

 

Ryujin turned to look at Winter, casting a lazy smile.

 

“What’s your biggest fear?”

 

"I don't have one."

 

A hum left Ryujin's pale lips, the remnant of a smile still remained as her gaze shifted into something gloomier.

 

"Seems like you really have no attachment towards anything here– well, who am I kidding, it's not like you can feel anything." Ryujin heaved a sigh, as she casted her eyes up, as if looking at the imaginary endless clouds even though the reality was a dull ceiling of one of the departments in the living hell. "While me, on the other hand, is feeling too much."

 

Ryujin raised her bluish arm, "I wonder whose unlucky human's arm they would take to replace this one. I don't know how they don't even seem to run out of organs to give to me."

 

Things weren’t perfect here– nothing was. Winter was not dumb to think they could make those organs in a short span of time from stem cells. That kind of thing took time, even if they’re working on one organ– heck they literally took almost years just by simply making one ‘perfect’ cell which differentiated into relatively mature cells of various types before becoming the final product, the human clone that could satiate their greed.

 

"How does it feel," Winter tightened her hold around her knees. "Being able to feel emotions."

 

"If you think having emotions is a blessing, let me tell you, it's a curse straight from hell. At least for me it is." A laugh left Ryujin's lips yet it sounded hollow to Winter's ears. "I keep feeling guilty on each organ that is attached to this damned body, wondering whether the owner was brutally killed or something. Because whatever that old scum is up to, I just know it's not something good–"

 

Ryujin violently coughed before she could even continue her ramble. Her body was slouched way too close to the floor and at that time, Winter knew Ryujin was slowly dying. Crimson red blood splattered all over the floor, some got onto Ryujin's hand and her white robe whilst the remaining dripped off her pale lips. Winter simply watched the sight unfold before her.

 

“D-Don’t call them. Just let me be.”

 

Ryujin lifted her head up. Her lips pulled up into a lazy smile as her pained gaze matched with Winter's lifeless one.

 

"You're the only friend I have, Minjeong-ah."

 

Minjeong.

 

Winter recalled the first time Ryujin made up that name for her just for fun and it stuck ever since. Winter knew Ryujin held some kind of endearment towards that name, considering Winter was the only one that stayed with her for the longest time. Others either had died or were killed because the scientists considered them as a failure.

 

Ryujin was the only test subject that ever felt emotions and despite her existence brought good news for the scientists, Winter doubted it was the same for Ryujin herself.

 

"I hope life treats you better than me."

 

Ryujin was gone before she knew it.

 

Years passed by and she was left alone yet again.

 

That is, until they decided to do something to her because she couldn't feel the slightest emotions despite all kinds of hormones and chemicals being injected into her.

 

They threw her away.

 

She never knew the reason why.

 

The only thing she knew, she was lost being at the outside world for the first time. She didn't know how many days had passed by, it's hard to cope up with the appearance and disappearance of the sun since she'd already used to the constant light from the fluorescent lamps and the white rooms. 

 

Until Jimin found her near the bushes and brought her home.

 

Jimin taught her a lot, that a human should eat, should sleep, should do house chores, should go to work– there were many things humans did that Winter never knew they did. It was like humans were so much more complex than the prospect of their existence and more...preoccupied with their current lives just to make sure they weren't left out with anything.

 

Not everyone was like that but some of them surely did.

 

Winter didn't know how to react upon finding out that Jimin didn't treat her like how they usually treat her. The contrast of everything somehow made it hard for her to get used to the new treatment Jimin was giving her. 

 

No one had ever patted her head each time she did good in something, treating her like a kid even when she's actually far from a kid, never threatening or throwing things at her– just when Winter thought humans had only bad sides, Jimin's attitude proved otherwise.

 

Jimin treated her like she's a normal human being, unlike how she's usually being treated. Unknowingly, there was a certain feeling overwhelming her, causing her heart to pound so wildly against her ribcage and made her feel oddly warm when all she ever felt all of her life was only coldness.

 

It was weird how she's starting to notice the slight differences whenever Jimin's around. It was...comforting. Jimin was comforting and warm and all those new feelings came in like a tidal wave. But rather than overwhelmed by it, the feelings simply remained, making her feel oddly reassured.

 

Before she knew it, she found herself smiling over the little things Jimin did, feeling the new feelings she'd never felt before.

 

But it's not only that. It seemed like those feelings came with side effects. Her fingers slightly trembled from time to time, her pupils would dilate and her chest tightened. 

 

Sometimes she would feel exhausted to the point she's the one who would pass out on the bed. It was a bit odd considering she would never get tired or sleep.

 

Winter knew her heart was always pounding ever since she was created but this time, it pounded differently to the point she wondered what went wrong. This never happened all of her life, and if anything, she was more curious about what was happening to her body.

 

So she put her hand against her chest, feeling the fast rhythm of her heart.

 

One, two, three, four, five, six–

 

A snap of a finger.

 

"Are you okay?"

 

Jimin's brown eyes were set on her, her brows furrowed out of concern. Winter's pupils slightly dilated out of their close proximity.

 

“It’s pounding so hard here.” Were all she said, because there’s no use in lying and truth to be told, she didn’t even know her body that well except for the fact that those people used to occasionally do surgery on her from time to time.

 

“Does it hurt?”

 

"No."

 

But it seemed like she said it too early because an immense pain penetrated right into her heart, knocking the breath out of her lungs to the point she was slouching forward.

 

"Y-Yah Winter!"

 

She could barely feel the pair of arms wrapping around her body, preventing her from falling since the pain kept doubling up in each passing second. Black dots started to appear before her eyelids, consuming her vision wholly as Jimin's panic stricken face and voice drowned out into nothingness.

 


 

The constant beeping sound near Winter made her stir.

 

As soon as her eyelids fluttered open, the whiteness of the surroundings made her squint. Despite just waking up, she became hyper aware of everything– the long wires attached to her whole body, the dull ache each time her heart beat, the throbbing of her head. She realised she’s in the same room where she stayed almost all of her life. 

 

Her throat felt parched to the point she was coughing violently. Her brain traversed back to a certain woman with a mole under her lips and a pair of brown eyes that were full of empathy and love.

 

Jimin.

 

Was it a dream?

 

The possibility of it being a dream somehow brought a deep melancholy feeling that washed over her, like a bucket of ice cold water being dumped on her mercilessly.

 

“Hey, calm down.” A soft voice of a woman pulled Winter out of her trance.

 

Winter was way too caught up with her thoughts to notice another presence aside from her in this room. Winter knew her quite well, considering she’s one of the rare people that took care of Winter well.

 

“Why am I here?” Winter couldn’t comprehend what was actually happening. “I-I’m not supposed to be here.”

 

She could remember vividly how she was alone for days before Jimin found her, her inability of doing simply work such as brushing her own teeth, eating and drinking, Jimin’s soft smile and her small hand on top of Winter’s head each time Winter did well in something, Jimin’s tender touches, Jimin’s strawberry scented shampoo during the nights where she subconsciously hugged Winter whilst sleeping–

 

“You passed out.” The woman was clad in a black turtleneck, with no white robe that she usually wore before. Her hair was tied up into a high ponytail, showcasing her jawline and facial features well. Her sharp, feline eyes scrutinised Winter in concern. “They put a chip in you to know your whereabouts and condition. Technically you’re still under our supervision and we know something was wrong the moment your heartbeat started to beat so unusually fast so we brought you here.”

 

It didn’t take long for everything to click. Winter was not that dumb anyways. She thought they threw her away simply because she was no longer beneficial to them but it turned out they purposely doing that just to see how a presence of another human being could make Winter attached emotionally, as well as increasing the possibility of her having to feel emotions.

 

Winter knew something was different ever since she woke up. It felt weird– her whole body felt funny and she was feeling all kinds of things at the same time to the point she's overwhelmed.

 

"We detected some rare activities happening inside your brain and decided to check your blood. Surprisingly enough, the percentage of hormones inside your blood is increasing when they should be decreasing since it's been awhile you're injected with artificial ones." Yeji, one of the doctors assigned for Winter had explained, her voice was monotonous but judging from the slight tremble of it, she knew Yeji was quite terrified of what's going to happen from now on.

 

Winter knew what that meant. 

 

Her eyes fluttered close, simply hearing the sentence that could change her whole life.

 

"You can finally feel emotions."

Chapter Text

“She looks so peaceful.” A boop on the nose yet the passed out woman didn't even budge from her lying position on the sofa.

 

“Of course she would. The medication is quite strong.” Spoke a familiar velvety voice behind her. Another presence settled beside the red-haired woman, her gaze was pensive.

 

This passed out woman was the one who found P179 and took her home– or in other words, a person who made P179 feel emotions despite being emotionless all of her life.

 

And Ningning, P128, somehow envied that.

 

Being created solely for the experiment, P128 had easily found comfort in loneliness and despair. She'd lived all of her life in the confinement of the white walls and needles and blood. She's one of the wrecked up test subjects that ruined the whole concept of a perfect human. 

 

She felt too many emotions all at once, she's boisterous and was quite violent to the point the walls were tainted with her own red blood simply because they were forcing medications on her.

 

P128 was yearning to at least something that could make her feel better, a new wave of emotions that could soften all her calloused edges– she's yearning to feel someone's love but never really had the chance to.

 

(It’s not like she’s going to admit it out loud though.)

 

Lucky for P179, she could at least have something (or in this case, someone) that held a special place in her heart.

 

P128 was not dumb to not notice their dynamic that seemed to mean much more than a mere sympathy. It's something more, and it was suffocatingly innocent and pure to the point it took every fibre of her being to not crash her knuckle against the wall.

 

"I want someone like that in my life." The words she uttered contain a hidden meaning and as much as she wanted the brunette beside her to catch it, she's somehow dreaded for it to happen.

 

She knew the circumstances, and knew the aftermath of what her wishes were. It's never easy, almost impossible even, so she knew to not hope for much. 

 

The brunette chuckled. P128 didn't turn to look at her but she knew there was a ghost of a smile on her lips.

 

"I hope you can find that person, Ning-ah."

 

Tch.

 

There's no need to find that person as she'd already found it. It came in the form of a brunette in a white robe and neat appearance that exuded a 'mess-with-me-and-you're-dead' vibe. The only person who treated her like she's worth keeping rather than being afraid of her. The only person who was willing to call her by her name just because she didn't want her to be left out.

 

Aeri.

 

She's the only one who wasn't even fazed upon seeing Ningning under the pool mess of her own blood, tears cascaded down freely and the traces of needles pricking her skin.

 

"Stop crying. No one's here going to care about the tears you shed. Those selfish little brats aren't going to do something unless it's beneficial for them." Were the first sentence that came out of Aeri's lips as she crouched down before Ningning, gaze pensive with no trace of pity.

 

Fair enough, Ningning didn't need pity (she needed care and Aeri wordlessly provided that for her). But she, out of all people, knew how impossible it would be for her to have a happy ending.

 

Just like hers, she didn't think P179 would also get her happy ending. Not when she's being traced and brought back to the headquarters when they found out about her irregular heartbeat and the increase of hormones in her blood when she was injected with none of those artificial ones ever since she was thrown out.

 

When that happened, Ningning knew they wouldn't ever let P179 slip from their grasp as she was the only one specimen that had the possibility of success. It was quite a bummer, considering Ningning witnessed how attached this human was towards P179 and Ningning could guess their story would end up tragic either way.

 

"Where is Winter ?!"

 

Looks like P179 already has a name.

 

Ningning didn't need a lot of energy to hold the woman from hurting Aeri as soon as she woke up (it was effortless even) but judging from the woman's desperate tone and the way she spoke 'Winter' in such a special lilt– Ningning knew the woman was badly attached to P179.

 

Pathetic.

 

Ningning couldn't help but smirk, knowing how their story would unfold.

 

"Doc, this human is fiesty I wonder how P179 handles her." She purposely spoke just to see the woman's reaction and she could say that she was quite satisfied at the way her eyebrow twitched slightly.

 

It's funny seeing humans express a lot of emotions at once.

 

Anger is a secondary emotion that coated up the inner, genuine emotion that a person feels deep inside their heart. Ningning, who wasn't a stranger to feeling anger, was actually quite lonely and sad on her own and she didn't know how else to vent off those feelings except for being mad. But this woman right here, seemed to be worried about P179 more than she worried about herself.

 

(Since technically she should because she was injected by Aeri to put her to sleep whilst the others took Winter to the headquarters. And Ningning could do more than break one's bones– which concluded that the woman literally had two strangers that were capable of wrecking her up and she should feel scared.)

 

"Why do you care about her? She's nothing but a lab rat." Ningning knew she was digging her own grave by speaking that but really, she's just envious of them and she needed to see how far the woman actually cared about P179. "And it's not like she's a real human. You're just being delusional for thinking she could be with you."

 

Aeri's scrutinising gaze was on her, silent yet reprimanding but Ningning paid no mind to it. Winter and Ningning had quite a similar situation, except that Ningning was positive her situation would end up unreciprocated.

 

What a fool indeed.

 

A hand gripped Ninging’s collar harshly.

 

"You piece of–"

 

Luckily, Aeri was fast to do something before it got out of hand.

 

"Let me introduce myself."

 

Ningning simply smirked when Jimin glared at her. Her childish side was slowly coming out to show itself. She brushed away Jimin’s hand, noting the slight tremble due to the medication.

 

“I’m Aeri and this one is P128–"

 

Aww, what's with the formality?

 

"But you call me Ningning–"

 

" Quiet . P17– I mean Winter was brought to the lab since there have been some changes happening in her brain waves and heartbeat. Things are a bit chaotic there and from the looks of it, it might be good news for HQ and bad news for...you because the possibility of Winter coming back is low."

 

"And you just let them take Winter away?" The woman's tone dropped down instantly, sounding deadly and suddenly Ningning felt like she's walking on eggshells even though she's simply following orders from higher ups.

 

"I work with them. And she," Aeri pointed at Ningning, "she's also one of the test subjects and they said to bring her along just in case something unwanted happens and she could be the scapegoat."

 

Ningning averted her gaze away, slightly hurt by Aeri's words despite knowing the reason why they took her along.

 

Tch, does she need to tell that to this human too?

 

A fleeting silence flew by.

 

"What the heck."

 

Aeri sighed, looking dejected. It seemed like she's faced similar circumstances other than Jimin and was slowly getting tired of it. "What the heck, indeed."

 

"Is that a new slang? Cause all I know is what the fuck–" The rest of Ningning's words were muffled by Aeri's desperate palm against her lips.

 

"You can't just do this. Winter doesn't deserve to be treated this way." Her voice became desperate in every syllable uttered and it didn't take a genius to know Winter meant much more than a simple...whatever their dynamic was. "Please take me there. I need to see her."

 

"No-uh, that's not how it works lady." Ningning clicked her tongue once she'd gotten out of Aeri's deadly grip. "Doc, remind me again why we're staying here instead of following them back to HQ?"

 

Aeri huffed in response but didn't say anything. 

 

Ningning knew why. 

 

Most people who worked there were downright heartless but Aeri was one of the few that wasn't. She knew Aeri actually owed this woman an explanation and to be honest, it was violating the first rule as this was considered a top secret project but damned it, this certain doctor had emotions too and sympathy was one of it (which Ningning didn't understand why a simple empathy could make a cold person like Aeri change drastically).

 

And Ningning simply concluded that feelings make humans weak.

 


 

"Let. Me. Go ."

 

Ningning simply watched as Winter struggled with the heavy chains wrapped around her wrists and ankles, restraining her from moving much on her bed. Despite having a clear glass separating them, Ningning could feel the wrath exuded from the frail body, the madness that seemed to double up in each passing second and the pain each time the chains grazed her wounded skin.

 

And it's all because of a human named Jimin, a person that meant everything for P179.

 

"Pathetic." It was a soft mumble but Ningning knew Winter could hear her even in the midst of the clanking chains. Winter was that observant.

 

Much to her surprise, Winter turned towards her, locking gazes for a whole second before her lips slowly pulled up into a smile. The sight was so sinister and if Ningning was a sane person, she would have freaked out.

 

But Ningning's not a human. She's merely a clone, which was why she found herself smiling back, feeling giddy at the simple interaction between them.

 

"So are you." Winter mouthed. Ningning wanted to laugh at how true it was. "And if you think you're being subtle, yes you are. But not subtle enough."

 

It sure sounded like a small threat, an act of trying to expose her but instead of freaking out, Ningning didn't even budge from her spot.

 

"Try me." Ningning mouthed instead, one finger between her teeth, slightly grazing her nail.

 

"Aeri." If possible, Winter's smile became bigger, her head tilted to the side, as if mocking Ningning in the best way possible. "Uchinaga Aeri."

 

Feelings make humans weak.

 

And Ningning was far from human, but why did the simple name manage to tug her heartstrings so badly to the point it ached?

 

Ningning didn't even get to say another word when the heart rate monitor beep constantly followed by the upcoming footsteps thundering the hallway. Ningning simply stared as Winter laughed.

 

There was a reason why she decided to struggle with the chains despite knowing well that she could never escape from them.

 

Is she trying to kill herself?

 

"What's your motive?"

 

"Nothing...just want to teach them how it feels to lose something precious for them."

 

Winter was slowly losing it, Ningning noted. Her breath ragged and she’s slowly losing focus. Despite this, Winter pulled the chains to the point Ningning could hear an audible crack even from the outside.

 

P179 was definitely a feisty test subject for trying to break her own limbs.

 

And Winter dropped down to the bed, unconscious. Fair enough, considering Winter refused to eat or drink ever since she was admitted here. Not consuming enough nutrients merely could affect a lot, especially when Winter’s condition was like this .

 

But what about your person?

 

That thought went unvoiced when a group of doctors came barging in, P179's frail body easily vanished behind the small crowd. The heart rate monitor displayed a single line. From outside, Ningning could hear the panic voices of the doctors and the red siren blaring throughout the place.

 

Ningning smiled, knowing well how that vicious man would feel upon knowing Winter's attempt to bring one of the most vulnerable feelings those humans had.

 

Winter was smart– and sometimes stupid, for trying to sacrifice herself just to torture that selfish old man.

 

Ningning turned around, stepping away from the emergency room, not wanting to waste her time to witness them desperately trying to bring Winter back. They were all scared, it was clear on their expression. Ningning didn't know what would happen to them if they lost the most important specimen but Ningning had lived long enough to know it would be quite brutal.

 

" Pathetic ."

 

Just when Ningning thought Winter's fate and her fate was pathetic enough– those people managed to surpass it all. They were more pathetic, looking a lot like desperate hyenas trying to devour everything just to survive.

Chapter Text

"You can't do this."

 

“I am capable of ruining you if I wanted to. But you're worth more than that."

 

But as a test subject and not a human being.

 

Winter wished to punch that annoying smirk off his old, wrinkled face. She never thought hatred was this distasteful and now that she could feel emotions– her wrath kept bubbling up to the point she felt the need to break his ugly face with her own hands.

 

"Why are you doing this to me?"

 

His smile grew. "That's your purpose ever since you were created. Know your place."

 

If only she could punch him in the face…

 

"And you think you're that slick, huh? Trying to make me lose billions of money–"

 

It was rather an impulse, a surge of wrath and adrenaline altogether that pushed her further to the point she didn't realise the chains had broken up, loosened and she literally punched him with the chains that were bound to her wrists.

 

He was thrown off to the side at the unexpected strong impact, the metal chains colliding against his skull quite badly to the point it bled, his crimson red blood tainting the tiled floor.

 

Anger bubbled up inside her, threatening to claw its way out and spat its fatal venom onto his already ruined up face. She lurched towards him, pressing the chains against his neck, choking him as hard as she could.

 

Then a sharp pain pricked into her nape, a surge of liquid bursted into her skin and spread throughout her whole body. The chains were pulled harshly by a few men, pulling her back to her seat.

 

Damn it.

 

"This will make her weak for an hour or so. And then we'll proceed with the surgery." Yeji's steely voice could be heard from behind.

 

"You become more violent now that you can feel emotions." The men surrounded him, assisting him to properly get to his feet. His left side of face was badly ruined with blood and wounds and despite her hazy state, Winter literally laughed at how ugly he actually looked. "And what do you all think you're doing ? The chains are clearly not strong enough and you literally let her hurt me?!"

 

Her head started to spin and her vision started to deteriorate. She tried her best to fight off the medication and stay awake because she knew he's going to do something that could ruin her.

 

Their exchanged words started to become a mush inside her head and black dots started to appear before her.

 

"Just what do you even get from all of this?" She could barely recognize her own voice– everything sounded like a slur, almost inaudible even to her own ears.

 

His laughter echoed throughout the room, sounding so vicious and merciless to Winter's ears. He was almost murdered by the chains yet he had the audacity to laugh like that– Winter should’ve just choked him to death.

 

"Money, that's one point. Second, the whole world is desperate for something new and once I find the secret to humankind, I can do whatever I want– and you, dear , is the only catalyst for me to get what I want." He didn't even sound sorry in the slightest. "There are lots of desperate souls who wished for an eternal life, willing to lick my shoes if I told them to. It's quite amusing to see those noble, highly respected people under my feet. It's rewarding and amusing at some point."

 

He had created numerous clones and killed them mercilessly once he knew they brought nothing but burden. He was the mastermind behind the abduction of several people in this town (Ryujin found that out by unintentionally and when Winter first heard about it, she didn't feel anything but now, she felt sick to the core) just because they were out of organs and human samples to create.

 

She could barely register anything at this point, her senses numbed and her sight deteriorated. Nonetheless, she knew he had long stepped out from the lab and there's only her and Yeji here. The silence felt deafening, as if there was a single white noise bugging her eardrums.

 

"U-Unnie."

 

Her desperate plea somehow caught Yeji off guard because she could hear something dropping to the ground despite the blurriness of everything.

 

Sure she's not that weirded out by Yeji's freaked out response. She'd never called her unnie. There's only one person who called Yeji as unnie and that person was none other than Ryujin, a person which Winter assumed had some kind of special bond with Yeji.

 

Dejavu.

 

That's what Winter was trying to trigger.

 

Yeji was the only doctor that was assigned to take care of Ryujin in the matter of organ transplantation and with Ryujin's easy going attitude, Winter knew it was easy for Yeji to open up to her. Winter knew how often Ryujin called Yeji as unnie and despite Yeji declining that at first, she'd grown accustomed to it.

 

"Unnie, please don't."

 

There was a sigh.

 

The scalpel on Yeji's grip loosened. She ended up putting it back on the tray before taking the fallen pills on the floor. A rush of memories raided her like a bucket of cold water being dumped on her. The ghost of Ryujin's smile and her velvety voice still remained at the back of her head, taunting and convincing her that she still hadn't moved on.

 

The memories came by like snippets of film being laid out to witness.

 

Yeji still remembered how Ryujin would barge into her office from time to time, showcasing her infamous whiskers smile that never failed to swoon Yeji– although she never admitted out loud.

 

"Yeji unnie!" If only they were under other circumstances, Yeji would never hesitate one bit to approach her. But much to her dismay, she was a coward and will always be one. "I found a camellia when I sneaked out of the place yesterday."

 

She remembered how Ryujin's face would contort with concern upon seeing Yeji's bruised ankle because of her clumsiness back at the operation room.

 

"Unnie, don't hurt yourself. I’m the only one who is allowed to get hurt. Understand?"

 

Then she remembered a sight of a casual Ryujin leaning against the doorframe, eyes glued to the mercury on Yeji's hand, the one where she tried to play just now because it looked interesting.

 

"Chill unnie you're no fun. The worst thing that will happen to me is dying– I mean, ain't that fun?" There was a lilt in her tone that proved she was half-joking and half-serious about her words.

 

"U-Unnie, please be gentle." Ryujin would say each time before the surgery was carried out and Yeji's heart would ache along with self-loath and guilt because she was included into the part of the project even though it wasn't done willingly.

 

She had to work here just because she needed to pay her younger sister's hospital bills and it didn't help that her father was an alcohol addict (a useless prick) and she had to cover their housing expenses too.

 

And when she stumbled upon this job, she thought her life would get better as the salary was quite high and enough to cover up for everything.

 

It surely did.

 

(Alas, this job troubled her mentally and physically to the point sleepless nights were a normal occurrence for her.)

 

If she were given a chance to turn back time, she wouldn't have chosen to be here. But what could she do? She'd signed the contract and if she violated the rules, she knew she'd never see the light.

 

Things were harsh and strict here even the workers here had a tracker etched on them, tracking them in every move just so they wouldn't do anything that could expose the whole project.

 

" Unnie, I don't think I can do this anymore. " Ryujin had said that one time when she was drugged. Yeji gritted her teeth, holding back the tears upon seeing Ryujin so vulnerable and frail under the surgical lamp, eyelids half-closed and her breathing calm.

 

" I'm sorry, Jin-ah… " Her gloved hand slowly made its way to caress the cold skin of Ryujin's cheek, wiping away the tears that had been cascading down. " I have to do this. " Or else my life is at stake.

 

" It's either you or me isn't it? " Ryujin's chuckle sounded hollow to Yeji's ears and Yeji wished nothing but to drop everything and hug her.

 

" Minjeong. " A breathless gasp as Yeji inserted the needle into her skin. Ryujin let out a soft groan upon registering the pain despite being in the cloudy state. " Unnie, p-please take care of her for me. "

 

All those memories were like a fever dream, almost intangible yet enough to prod her mind to the point she's left with nothing but nightmares.

 

From the corner of Yeji's eyes, she noticed how he's watching her in every move, eyes sharp as if reminding her that she's a mere object being controlled by him and not someone who could make a mistake, or do something that could ruin the whole crazy project.

 

She heaved a sigh, casting a glance at P179 who was slumped on the chair, hands and feet tied down by the heavy chains. The drug was starting to kick in and in a few minutes, Yeji could do a bone marrow test on her and take her DNA sample. If things were going pretty well, P179 would be escorted to another lab and be used as a test subject– which Yeji was certain would be hellish for her.

 

Yeji gritted her teeth, her grip on the tray tightened.

 

God, please forgive me.

 


 

Jimin was lost.

 

It's been a week since Winter was gone and the tears had long dried up after a few days of crying her ass off in her room, not even glancing out of the comfort of the blankets. She felt utterly hopeless in this case, knowing if she went out to search for Winter or even went to the police station to find her, she'd end up walking in a circle, going round and round. 

 

A fruitless attempt by a desperate soul.

 

She was dead worried and the anxiousness pooled within her stomach, painfully disturbing in some kind of way. She didn't know whether her stomach was hurt because of not eating for days or because of the dread but God, she didn't know it could hurt this much.

 

She wasn't surprised if she happened to lose weight. Everything came crashing down on her like a tidal wave and she was given no choice but to drown in its terrifying possibility of what was happening to Winter. She never knew missing Winter could affect her emotional state a lot and she didn't think she could recover anytime soon– well, not now at least.

 

The weird pattern of knocks on the front door snapped Jimin out of her daze. Jimin blinked a few times, brain racking up any possibilities of her ordering stuff online or something but found none. The exhaustion started to take toll on her when she tried to get up from the warmth of her bed, causing her to stumble a few steps and almost crash onto the bedside table.

 

Her eyes fell onto the digital clock on the bedside table.

 

11.55 a.m.

 

Who was sane enough to knock on someone's house in this hour?

 

A groan left her chapped lips as she dragged her feet to the front door, the tiled floor felt so cold and she was slowly regretting her decision to get out of bed. She should've just stayed under the blankets and closed her eyes, praying for the person on the other side to stop and go home or something.

 

She could barely register anything when a brush of cold wind caressed her exposed skin, followed by a slouched figure that slumped right onto her as soon as she opened the door. She stumbled back a few steps, holding onto the figure so they wouldn't fall face flat on the floor.

 

The smell of medication invaded Jimin's nose, heightening her senses after days of being numb.

 

"Yah, W-Winter."

 

Winter chuckled breathlessly, her warm breath caressed Jimin's neck, causing a trail of goosebumps to form all over her skin. A lump formed in Jimin's throat, feeling overwhelmed just by Winter's presence.

 

"U-Unnie," a hand gripping onto Jimin's shirt. Jimin noticed her trembled hand. "I'm tired."

 

Jimin's heartstrings tugged at the simple words uttered by Winter. Tears easily formed in her eyes yet she tried her best to hold them in.

 

But before she could say anything, Winter passed out onto her. Jimin struggled hard to keep their balance. Nonetheless, she noticed how a week of being there gave quite a drastic change to Winter. Her body was more delicate, as if a careless touch could break her whole, her bones were prominent and Jimin noticed the bruises on her wrists. 

 

But what shocked her more was how she could feel warmth radiating off Winter. She was so cold before and Jimin didn't know whether this was a good thing or not.

 

How come she's so warm?

 

She dragged the unconscious blonde to the sofa carefully, mindful to not unintentionally hurt her. A soft gasp left her lips as soon as she registered Winter's condition– lips void of colour, face pale and the bruises around her wrists were worse than Jimin initially thought.

 

She put the back of her hand against the blonde's forehead, noting how hot she actually was. Her face contorted in confusion upon noticing how the blonde was shivering, cold sweats formed on her face.

 

She's having a fever.

Chapter Text

Jimin stirred from her sleep upon hearing a grumble. She wasn't a light sleeper at all but maybe the endless nights staring into nothingness and the constant anxiousness had caused the disruption to her daily schedule to the point she was easily woken up by the small sounds.

 

(Or maybe she's missing Winter too much; even her small noises could make Jimin pay attention to her.)

 

"Is there something wrong? Are you okay?"

 

Jimin was quite fast to stand on her feet to tend Winter, ignoring her aching limbs caused by sleeping with her body leaning against the edge of the bed. 

 

Winter's condition was bad.

 

Her eyes were red and her face was deadly pale. One might mistook her as a corpse, except that she's breathing like how a normal person would. Winter's lips were parted and her eyebrows scrunched. Probably she was trying to form words, any kind of words but favour was not on her side when only a groan left past her lips.

 

"Hey hey, it's okay. Don't rush it." Jimin took the nearest glass of water she prepared the night before and helped Winter to drink it.

 

Jimin held back a gasp when Winter suddenly hugged her soon after she's done drinking. The glass almost slipped from Jimin's grip if it's not for her fast reflexes. Her breath got knocked out of her lungs by how tight Winter's arms were enveloping her.

 

She was a bit glad that Winter was missing her just as much as Jimin's missing her. She put the glass on the bedside table and wrapped her arms around Winter's lithe body, mindful to not accidentally touch any bruises or cuts.

 

"U-Unnie…" Winter's voice sounded so weak and hoarse to Jimin's ears. Jimin was scared she would break in her embrace judging from how frail she appeared to be at the moment. "I'm sorry for making you wait."

 

Suddenly Winter lurched further into Jimin, turning into a coughing fit. Her coughs sounded rash and raw before it was muffled with Winter's own hand over her mouth. When Winter detached from the embrace, Jimin finally noticed the splotches of blood on her palm and lips.

 

Panic struck her instantly, wondering what was actually happening. She stayed rooted in her spot, too shocked to even do anything.

 

Winter raised one hand, stopping Jimin from helping.

 

"I'm okay."

 

Her teary gaze was locked with Jimin and Jimin was stupefied to see the endless emotions dancing behind those blue eyes.

 

"I-I...can we pretend that I'm normal? Just for today?"

 

And Jimin could never say no to that innocent yet painful request.

 


 

Winter seemed so bright the moment she stepped out of the bedroom, a wide smile plastered on her lips as she skipped her way across the living room before flopping onto Jimin's lap like a puppy. No more blood marred her features and despite Jimin's fear of something's happening, she buried that far into the back of her mind.

 

Winter seemed different, in a good way, of course.

 

(But even the good things end.)

 

Okay, Jimin. Don't think of it like that. Just don't.

 

Jimin's hands rested on Winter's sides, fingers absentmindedly playing with the hem of her shirt as Winter made herself comfortable on Jimin's lap, her arms looped around Jimin's neck.

 

"Can we…." Winter dragged the last word for a few seconds before pausing, earning a chuckle from Jimin.

 

"Can we?" Jimin echoed, tilting her head to the side as she patiently waited for Winter to speak. Her lips slowly pulled up into a gentle smile as she watched how Winter's lips pursed and her eyebrows furrowed as she pondered.

 

"Can we stay like this for a moment?" Her voice was small and timid, pink dusted her cheeks. If anything it made Jimin swoon over her more than she thought she would. And that blush? God , the butterflies were fluttering wildly in her stomach.

 

For the first time ever, Winter's warmth was tangible, emanated like how a normal person would. It was a bit odd to say the least, considering Jimin was not yet used to this kind of Winter. But it was a good thing, right? Well, at least she convinced herself that it’s a good thing.

 

A low chuckle left her lips as she ducked down, forehead lightly resting against Winter’s shoulder before she lifted her head up to match her gaze with those heavenly blue eyes. An enamoured smile plastered on her face. 

 

“Of course.” Her voice went softer. “Anything you want.”

 

Winter’s hand reached up to cup Jimin’s jaw. Her touch was gentle and feather-like. Thumb caressed her cheek as Winter’s eyes glued on Jimin. Her round doe eyes glinted beautifully in a way that made Jimin’s heart swelled with an undoubtedly immense amount of love.

 

“Sweetie.” Winter breathed. Jimin unconsciously held her breath, heartbeat loud against her ears, thundering . "Sweetie? Is that right?"

 

There’s a certain lilt in Winter’s tone that made the word she uttered sounded so gentle and sweet, like drips of honey melting into one’s mouth. Hm , immaculately delightful.

 

“You surely learn things quite fast.”

 

Jimin hugged her tighter, bringing them impossibly closer, their bodies flushed against each other. Winter placed her head in the crook of Jimin’s neck, her warm breath lightly caressing Jimin’s nape.

 

“You’re warm.” Winter’s remark was soft, her voice muffled. “You’re so warm…”

 

At this point the butterflies fluttered more fervently but Jimin tried to not let it affect her. It was incredibly hard. But she’ll manage, hopefully.

 

A slow intake of breath. Then a whisper.

 

“I miss you.”

 

Okay– maybe barely.

 

Jimin took a deep breath to calm her nerves, mind wishing for Winter to not notice how fast and loud her heart was pounding against the ribcage. And if Winter did notice, she didn’t say a word about it.

 

“I miss you so much.”

 

Okay, Winter maybe you should stop because I think I might have heart attack on how fast my heart is beating–

 

“I miss you so so much.”

 

Desperation was clear in Winter’s voice, trembling like she was trying her hardest to not cry.

 

“I miss you too.” She whispered, holding the blonde securely in her embrace as the latter finally broke down. Her body trembled against her. Her restrained sobs sounded so painful for Jimin to hear.

 

Maybe acting like it was okay was a bit hard, considering they both couldn’t simply brush off what had happened and what would be happening from now on. Winter was not the same as Jimin. And she wouldn’t stay, whatever it costs.

 

“Emotions are weird.” Were what Winter remarked after she had calmed down. Her voice was flat and emotionless, a stark contrast to how she was earlier.

 

They had shifted their position where Jimin was lying on the sofa, pillow wedged between her head and the armrest whilst Winter was by her side, legs tangled together and her head placed under Jimin’s chin as her arms were wrapped around Jimin’s waist.

 

"There's this weird feeling inside my chest but I don't know if it is the after effects of having my heart beat so fast or not."

 

Worry painted across Jimin’s features.

 

"Your heart beats fast?" Jimin lifted her head slightly, searching for Winter's innocent gaze. She could barely contain her panicked state, especially knowing what happened. "Is it like the last time or–"

 

"I'm okay. It's not as strong as the last time, just…I feel incredibly happy but at the same time" –she pressed a hand on her chest– "Nervous?"

 

It took time for Jimin to fully process Winter's words. And when she did, a relieved sigh left her lips as she relaxed back into her position. A smile bloomed across her face, knowing well there's nothing to be worried about.

 

"Is that a good thing?" Winter questioned. "You seem relieved."

 

"Do you think it is?" Jimin asked instead, a playful smile adorned her features. Light and pleasant.

 

A beat passed by.

 

Winter's features contorted with confusion. Eyebrows furrowed, eyes squinting and lips pursed. Jimin held back a laugh upon seeing her expression. Winter was so innocent, it's downright adorable.

 

"Wait a second." 

 

Jimin got up from her position, propping one hand beside Winter's head so that she's hovering over the blonde. She ran her hand through her jet black hair, letting it cascade down to fall and gather on Winter's side. Her shirt hung low, perfectly showcasing her neckline and collarbone.

 

Winter's expression morphed into horror in less than one second. Clear blue eyes wavered, nervously flitted on the expanse of Jimin's neck, her supple lips yet avoiding Jimin's teasing gaze. 

 

"How do you feel?"

 

"U-Uh…" Winter's hand placed on her own chest. "It suddenly beats so fast. A-And warm. Hot ?"

 

"Honey," she drawled. "You're flustered."

 

"Flustered?"

 

A hum of confirmation from Jimin. A finger reached to touch the tip of Winter's nose. Jimin tilted her head.

 

"Do you like me?"

 

Winter refused to meet her gaze. Cheeks dusted pink. Jimin watched as Winter's throat shifted when she swallowed. Jimin narrowed her eyes.

 

So she perfectly knows what that means.

 

"So that's what 'like' means, huh?" Winter drew her bottom lip beneath her teeth, pondering. Jimin's gaze subconsciously fell on her lips. "Attraction."

 

"You're fast to catch things." Jimin's lips parted open in pure amazement. “Yes, although that’s also a part of ‘like’, liking someone is actually a bit more complicated than that. Feelings are complicated in the first place.”

 

Jimin was not dumb. She’s good at putting a conclusion over the subtle gestures and body language and she’s more than certain that Minjeong had at least some kind of romantic feelings for her, although Winter barely realised it herself.

 

“I see,” Winter nodded, eyes clouded as if endless thoughts were running through her mind. “That explains almost everything I’ve been feeling.”

 

“Hm? What is it?”

 

Instead of replying, Winter’s lips stretched into a smile. Teasing yet at the same time daring. Jimin’s heart skipped a beat. Despite how many times she had seen Winter smile, she still couldn’t get used to how it could easily make her flustered like a high school girl receiving a bouquet of flowers from her crush.

 

“You wanna know?” A pair of arms slinked around Jimin’s nape, warm and inviting. Winter pulled Jimin close, not knowing how Jimin literally had a mental breakdown right there and then upon feeling the dainty fingers caressed the back of her nape like that.

 

Since when did she get so bold?!

 

Winter’s gaze slowly drifted down, eyelids half-closed as she let out a soft exhale. Jimin’s mind went haywire in an instant.

 

“Kiss me.”

 

Jimin didn’t even get the chance to properly register Winter’s words when Winter pulled her down and crashed their lips together. Jimin melted against Winter almost immediately, succumbing into Winter’s warm mouth, tongue melding in together.

 

Jimin’s mind became a mush. Nothing else registered in her brain except for the fingers threading through her hair, fingertips grazing her scalp, almost eliciting a low whimper from her and Winter’s soft lips against her.

 

Winter, Winter, Winter.

 

A wave of emotions washed over her, drowning her deeper and deeper to the point she could barely breathe. Overwhelmed. Reality hit her just as fast and she realised that they were simply holding on the borrowed time. The clock kept ticking and the time kept running until there was nothing left for them except for the anguish and wounded heart. She was walking on the thin ice, waiting for time to break into pieces, broken beyond repair.

 

Winter was no normal human.

 

Winter wouldn’t stay with her as much as she wanted her to.

 

Fate would never be on their side.

 

As they pulled away, Jimin was left breathless. Remnants of tears clung onto her eyelids, blurring her vision. Amidst everything, Winter looked ever so ethereal beneath her. Glistening, pinkish lips parted ever so lightly, unfocused gaze and faint glow of pink dusted her cheeks.

 

“I-I don’t want to lose you.”

 

I love you.

 

A drop.

 

Winter’s hand reached to her own cheek, wiping away a drop of tear that had fallen. Her gaze was glued to Jimin as she did so.

 

“You’re crying.” Winter’s voice was gentle and her touches were comforting as she extended her hand to wipe Jimin's tears from her face.

 

“Please don’t leave me.” Jimin’s voice reflected the desperation, breaking at the end of the sentence, enough to express all of her fears and pain that sounded so broken even to her own ears. “ P-Please .”

 

She didn’t care if she appeared pathetic in front of Winter, the fear lurking at the back of her head grew immensely at the possibility of Winter leaving. The person that she once loved had abandoned her before and she could never handle it if Winter ever left her. Not when she finally found her happiness, her sanctuary, her home .

 

It’s painful.

 

A thumb pressed on her lower lip, Winter’s other hand that was placed on her nape brought her closer until their lips met again for a short, chaste kiss. As she pulled back, Winter’s clear blue eyes were already wet with tears.

 

The blonde smiled, appearing so helpless and broken.

 

“You’re beautiful.” Winter whispered, fragile and gentle. Her gaze oozed so much love and adoration, as if Jimin had hung up the stars in the skies, as if Jimin was the reason why she would keep living. “You’re so beautiful .”

 

God , Jimin wanted to cry more upon hearing that.

 

The world was harsh and cruel. Winter was soft and warm. Jimin swallowed everything and basked in Winter’s presence like there’s no tomorrow.

 

In this case maybe there won’t be.

Chapter Text

“Your hand,” Winter remarked, seeing Yeji’s right wrist was wrapped in gauze. A splotch of crimson could be clearly seen in the gauze. “What’s wrong with it?”

 

“I took off the tracker.” Yeji didn’t offer any explanation but judging from the blood itself was enough to prove that the tracker was indeed planted under her skin. It must’ve been extremely hurt to take it out, knowing it would get melded with the skin over time.

 

A few seconds passed.

 

“You’re crying.”

 

It was the second time Winter had said that sentence, except towards a different person. Her tone also differed. This one was a bit more curious and less emotional.

 

“Don't mind me, just caught up in the past. I can’t believe the stoic and robotic Minjeong back then could finally talk like a normal person.” Yeji harshly wiped away her tears, casting a trembling smile as she did so.

 

Minjeong.

 

It’s been a long time since she had heard that name. Now that she could feel emotions, her heart felt incredibly heavy upon remembering Ryujin, the one who gave her that name in the first place. She blinked away the tears that clung onto her eyelids, feeling a bit frustrated at the tears for forming in times like this.

 

“I hate this.” A grumble left her lips. She reached over to wipe away the tears. Now that she had left Jimin and returned to Yeji’s small apartment, her heart felt oddly hollow. No more the warmth of Jimin’s presence, her patient and soft smiles, her gentle touches. “Why do I have to cry?”

 

With Yeji’s help, she managed to sneak out of the lab and was given a chance to meet Jimin again, even for the last time. Her time was running out and it was clear from Yeji's troublesome expression that once the higher ups knew that Yeji was the one who was involved in this kind of matter, things would turn ugly sooner than they would’ve thought.

 

“You’re a human, of course you would cry.” A soft chuckle left Yeji’s lips as she handed Winter the pills along with a glass of water. “For your fever.”

 

She gulped the pills swiftly and grimaced at the bitter aftertaste. She didn't take the water. Yeji didn’t say anything about the oddity of her taking the pills and instead walked over to the small table that was filled with syringes and small glass bottles containing clear liquid.

 

Three bottles.

 

There was a label in each of them but the sofa that Winter was currently seated on was way too far for her to make out the words.

 

“I’m just a clone.” She couldn't help the foreign emotion that settled within her heart.

 

All of her life, she only knew her purpose was to be one of the test subjects, wondering whether she would be deemed successful or ended up dying like how the other subjects were. They had done a lot of subjects and she’s the latest one– 9th project and would most probably be the last one considering she was technically the closest to how a human being was, save for a few exceptional things. 

 

She’s fast to learn things and despite less than two days Yeji brought her to the apartment, she had learned a lot more than she’d ever learned for all of her life being stuck in the four-walled white room.

 

Yeji had taught her a lot, from how emotions worked and every single one of it so that she could distinguish and get to know herself better, about all the things she should know about being a human and also about how there were only a few of the test subjects left and their focus were mainly on Winter, their last hope on making the prospect of eternal life to happen.

 

“You’re more humane than any of them.” Yeji’s voice was small as she replied, a tinge of sorrow clung onto her tone. A bottle was in Yeji’s hand, feline eyes inspecting the small handwriting. “Maybe more than me, even.”

 

Winter watched, just like how she had always done these past years. Pure regret. That’s what she could make out of Yeji's expression. Her actions seemed to slow down and there was a certain drag in some of the movement, clearly indicating that she was tired of doing all of this.

 

“I’m not a successful test subject, right?”

 

“Unfortunately,” Yeji paused, glancing at Winter. Winter tried to ignore how her heart felt like it’s been stabbed multiple times upon seeing that simple gaze. “You’re a success.”

 

Her pupils dilated. A shaky breath left her lips. Yeji’s words rang inside her head, playing over and over like a broken tape. And then she felt it. Emotions came crashing down on her like a tidal wave.

 

“At first your hormones surpassed the usual amount for a normal person would have, which explains all the blood and the fever since your body is still adjusting with the new changes happening inside. There were so many complications happening and surely you’re exposed to having a lot of deadly diseases.”

 

It would be much better if I would’ve died then.

 

“And I was just getting ready for your cells to multiply in a certain span of time since the possibility for it to happen was most likely–”

 

“Cells reproduce themselves at a higher rate which could lead to cancer.” Winter’s voice was void of emotion as she repeated what she had learned beforehand. Her heart was beating so loud to the point it hurt her chest. “I could’ve died if I ended up having cancer. If that happens, the last project which is the 9th project would be deemed as a failure.”

 

"That's the problem." Winter’s gaze met with Yeji’s solemn one. “You didn’t.”

 

N-No …” Her voice cracked at the end of the sentence. Reality started to dawn on her, dragging her down with its wickedness. “I would rather die than having to face this. W-Why can’t I fail like others?”

 

Winter didn’t shout but the tone itself proved how much she held everything in and now that she had reached her limits, everything came crashing on her all at once. She knew once they caught her, the pain would be unbearable for her to handle as they would surely inject her with another kind of chemical liquids and supplements to put her to a ‘perfection’.

 

She couldn’t bear another day living in that hell, much less spending the rest of her life as an object to own and showcase.

 

Yeji went to Winter’s side with a syringe in her gloved hand, a mask covering her face. One of the bottles was already empty. Winter noticed the pungent smell coming from the liquid, grimacing.

 

“We’ll put an end to this,” Yeji sighed, one hand already reaching for Winter’s arm. 

 

“Wait. What are you doing, you’re killing me already?” Winter slowly back away, panic painted her features.

 

Well, so much for wanting to die.

 

“No, not really…I guess.” A sheepish smile made its way across Yeji’s lips. Although Winter couldn’t see her smile, the way the corner of her eyes crinkled indicated that she was indeed smiling. “It’s formaldehyde. It's a deadly liquid but based on my research you might only fall into a coma for approximately two hours and maybe…a bit of death before the cells in your body regenerate and you’ll wake up like how a normal person would.”

 

Winter narrowed her eyes. “What’s the side effects?”

 

“For that…since I haven’t injected this to you before so I don’t really know.”

 

“Fair enough.”

 

“I’ll try to rig the system and replace it with false information about you so that I could fake your death. Everything will be in chaos once they know about your ‘death’ and by the time the uproar happens,” a shaky sigh left Yeji’s lips. Feline eyes met with Winter’s clear blue eyes. “We’ll end it once and for all.”

 

Winter’s eyebrows furrowed as confusion swirled within. “How?”

 

“I couldn’t do everything all by myself so I already sought help. They’re trustworthy, I promise. I just need enough evidence to frame that old man and maybe make him rot in jail for the rest of his life.” Yeji shrugged. “And I have a bit of connection with some people who worked along with the police so we can make this work.”

 

Winter brought her lower lip between her teeth, gnawing it as she pondered. Her blood boiled upon remembering his arrogant face and cold, deadly eyes set on her like she was some kind of prized possession for his filthy plans.

 

“I want him to suffer.”

 

A sigh.

 

A sharp pain on her forearm. Winter winced. She could feel the foreign liquid flowing through her bloodstreams, glancing up at Yeji with eyebrows furrowed together. Yeji remained calm.

 

“No.”

 

Tch .”

 

“Okay, so here’s the plan…”

 


 

A loud gasp.

 

Winter coughed violently, lurching forward to the point she slipped off the hospital bed not-so-gracefully. The white tiles and an equally white cloth that covered her whole body beforehand were tainted with splotches of dark red blood. Her whole body was aching, as if endless knives were being plunged into every inch of her body and her head was throbbing, loudly and painfully to the point she could barely register anything else.

 

Seriously, it hurts so bad.

 

Her lungs burned badly to the point taking a single breath felt like swallowing down the burning charcoal. She struggled to breathe for a whole three minutes, gaping like a fish out of water before the pain had slowly subsided and she was left lying on the floor. Her blonde hair scattered all over the place, her white robe already marred with the blood and her mouth tasted metallic that she felt like throwing up.

 

She waited for a few more moments for her body to properly heal. Once her vision had cleared up and the headache dissipated into nothingness, she got up to her feet, groaning as she did so.

 

Okay, no more formaldehyde.

 

She heard the door click closed. Turning around swiftly, she was greeted with two men in doctor coats, both equally shocked upon seeing her come back to life. The bloodied mess on the floor didn’t help either. She cracked her neck playfully, noticing the familiar faces. They’re a few doctors that treated her like a freaking animal whenever they’re assigned to handle her. A mischievous smile plastered on her blood marred face, giving off a complete set of a horror experience for the poor two men.

 

“S-She–”

 

She dashed towards them and jumped, giving one of them a flying kick, sending him tumbling back and hitting the door with an audible bang. The other one seemed panicked and tried to run, his hand already reaching the doorknob but she was fast to hold his wrist and twisted it to the point it made an audible crack, his cry of pain went silent instantly as she chopped the back of his neck, his round glasses flew off to the floor as the impact. He dropped down to the floor, unconscious.

 

The first one scrambled up to his feet, attempting to strangle her but she was fast to duck and trip him on his feet. He fell down in a rather comical way and despite finding it entertaining, she tried to not show it too much so as to not break her cool facade.

 

“M-Monster.”

 

She cracked her knuckles. An innocent smile plastered on her face.

 

“I could be a monster just for you.” She grabbed his collar before slamming his nose against her right side of the crown of her head. He went limp in an instant, knocked out. Casually, she dropped his body and quickly undressed him, muttering, “I’m sorry for doing this but you didn’t ask for my consent to slice open my skin either so consider it fair, okay?”

 

Just like that, she went out of the room clad in her own shorts and a grey dress shirt that she stole beforehand. It was a bit big for her but she had to wear it nonetheless. A round pair of glasses (yes, she also stole this) perched on her nose bridge as her hair neatly tied in a ponytail. A white doctor coat finished off her whole look and she didn't even appear out of place, as if she wasn't the one who threw up blood earlier.

 

The hallway was quiet and deserted, as if there were no other living beings residing here except for her alone. Her bare feet padded across the cold tiles, barely making any sound as she made her way to the nearest stairs. The surveillance cameras were no longer functioning thanks to Yeji's help, making it easier to sneak all the way to the top floor.

 

" Oof– "

 

A sudden weight on her back managed to catch her off guard. She toppled down the stairs, sliding off the floor. It was a boy, around twelve years old who was lying not far from where she was, thrashing around in pain. His lips were black, eyes bloodshot red and skin complexion pale as ever.

 

He's one of the test subjects.

 

He was muttering something under his breath, his voice sounded like he was in a lot of pain.

 

“They…’re kill…me…”

 

There were upcoming footsteps coming from downstairs, thunderous and echoed throughout the empty place. A gunshot rang, enough to send Winter in a panicked state. Winter wasted no time running upstairs, coming out from one of the doors only to be tackled from the front.

 

P168, a female subject who was just a few years older than Winter. Eyes white void of any pupil, lips torn apart up until the ears and claws as sharp as needles. She's one of the failed subjects and yet they still kept her because of the rare gene that she owned and they were trying to do research on it.

 

She didn't speak. Couldn't. And she's usually pliant, weak but something must have triggered her to be this feral to the point she pounced on every living thing.

 

Winter placed a sharp kick on her stomach, enough to send P168 skidding across the floor before reaching for the nearest chair and slamming it on the latter– this freaking laboratory be damned.

 

P168 charged towards Winter, seemingly unaffected by the attack when in fact the chair literally broke into pieces. Claws pierced into the skin of her left shoulder and the other one dug deep into her stomach.

 

An agony shout left her lips.

 

That hurts!

 

She elbowed P168's jaw, witnessing how the bone literally dislocated, prodding out of the skin. The latter's head shot up as the impact, her hold on Winter loosened a bit. Winter took the chance to grab the back of her head and slammed her skull right onto the floor. The tiles literally cracked under the pressure.

 

Wow, I never knew I was this strong.

 

But then she felt a cold tip of something pressed against her nape followed by a sharp pain piercing every bit of her body, numbing her limbs and even causing her brain to go overdrive.

 

Winter fell onto the floor, limp and weak. Her vision turned hazy, her limbs were paralyzed and she could barely register her surroundings. Then she noticed it amidst the blurriness of everything. A calloused hand gripping her jaw and a face that she detested the most came into her line of sight.

 

A sickening grin.

 

"So you're still alive."

Chapter Text

Winter was alone.

 

Now being tied with metal chains on her arms and legs, she certainly couldn't escape. The laboratory was silent, save for the low humming of the air conditioner that elicited goosebumps on her exposed skin. Her body was still weak, although slowly healing from being electrocuted and clawed earlier.

 

P168 laid motionlessly on the floor a few feet from where Winter was. Green blood oozed out of the wound on her forehead, pooling on the cracked floor beneath. A tiny ounce of sympathy and guilt resurfaced within the cavity of her heart yet it was easily drowned into nothingness the moment she noticed a small chip planted on P168's inner wrist.

 

A scoff left her lips. No wonder that scumbag was holding a small controller in his left hand.

 

Given the small information that had been thrown out to her, she could conclude that either that scumbag was planning to destroy every single test subject that was created or he used them to protect himself.

 

A loud crashing sound from the outside snapped Winter to reality. Less than a second later, the door broke into pieces and what Winter noticed was that one of the guards literally fled across the room before landing across the lab bench, denting the side of the surface.

 

He probably hit his head, sending him to unconsciousness in an instant.

 

You ,” a furious Ningning stormed into the laboratory with a bloodied nose, torn shirt and hair all over the place. “Broke. My. Nose!”

 

Winter simply watched, her jaw agape.

 

Another guard ran into the laboratory along with a stun gun, trying to attack Ningning but as if she had some kind of sixth sense (at this point, she probably did) to even duck at the right timing and gave a sharp kick right at his skull before he could react and stepping onto his arm that was holding the stun gun, earning a painfully loud scream of pain. She effortlessly took the gun and electrocuted him.

 

For a moment, Ningning stood there silently. Her gaze settled on the lifeless body of the guards before her head slowly turned to face Winter.

 

“What the he– You !”

 

Oh no, she’s deadly mad.

 

Winter subconsciously leaned back as Ningning stomped her feet all the way towards her. A deadly grip on her collar. Then she was harshly pushed back to the point her body hit the wall.

 

Ningning's jaw clenched.

 

"How dare you lie that you're dead!"

 

" Wait– "

 

A sharp punch that sent her a whole week’s worth migrain, her head lurched backward and her ears were ringing.

 

Another punch.

 

Another one.

 

And another.

 

It didn’t seem to end.

 

The pain registered in her brain every single time the firm knuckle made contact with her jaw, her skull.

 

The ringing became louder and the flashes of memories suddenly came through. The sickening grin of those who thought she was nothing but a subject, the sharp scalpel pressed against her skin to the point it drew blood yet all she did back then was watch, how they tried to open her stomach without giving her a dose of anaesthesia.

 

She might not have felt anything back then. But now, her chest wrenched badly and she could feel her own blood boiling inside her veins. The wrath started off as an ember smouldering in her chest had grown to the point of no return.

 

“P128, stop!”

 

Another voice shouted, a painfully familiar voice that Winter could barely recognise thanks to her delirious state. It was rather a subconscious action for her to take the chance whenever the other opponent was distracted, which was why she swung the metal chains across Ningning, her disoriented move caused the chains to barely collide with Ningning’s head, ended up smashing Ningning’s left arm instead.

 

The metal chains clanked loudly amidst the deafening laboratory before her whole body dropped to the ground mercilessly. Her vision became more blurry and black dots started to appear. 

 

Breathless. 

 

“Not again…”

 

And she blacked out.

 


 

The whole place was chaotic.

 

Ningning was chained to the bed because of her sudden outrage (sue her, she was bored) which caused a few male doctors who were supposed to give her a daily dose of that sickeningly green liquid to get hurt. Bruised and wounded. Not that Ningning cared anyways.

 

That’s when it happened.

 

The hushed whispers of the guards along the hallway as they walked passed Ningning’s room, the way she noticed most of the doctors had run all the way to God-knew-where, their frantic footsteps filled the silence. She could care less about it, until a certain brunette wearing her usual white robe came rushing into her room and wordlessly uncuffed the handcuffs around Ningning’s wrists.

 

Slightly trembled hands, troubled and restless gaze and lower lip quite red probably due to how hard she had bitten it beforehand. Ningning knew something was wrong just by Aeri’s expression and gestures despite how hard she tried to be calm.

 

"What's wrong?" Her voice was surprisingly soft as she asked when usually there would be an apparent bite in her tone. And if Aeri noticed it, she didn't say anything.

 

Aeri's hand that was holding her wrist felt gentle, a stark contrast to the painfully tight grip of the handcuffs just now. She simply let the brunette lead her all the way out of the room. Confusion swirled within, growing immensely in size and only left her restless. This was partly why she hated feeling. 

 

She felt like screaming her lungs out yet she swallowed it in. Hard .

 

"The test subjects…" A shaky sigh. "P179 is already dead. And after he knew about it, he went crazy. He planted the microchip into the test subjects and the ones who couldn't handle it were brutally killed. I have seen one of them with the microchip and frankly, he turned rabid to the point one of the doctors had died gruesomely. And guess what, that stupid asshole even had the audacity to laugh when he literally killed a person…just without his own hands and by using a freaking remote controller."

 

Ningning took a deep breath. The wrath she had been containing slowly spilled all over, tainting her heart and rushed through her veins.

 

"And that's not all. There has been a hiccup in the system and it seems like someone has intruded this place. Or worse, if it's more than just a person." A hesitant pause. "He knew. And I think maybe that's why he decided to do mass killing. Practically everyone inside this place is not safe, including all the doctors here. He’s insane . He wants to kill everyone except the ones that would bring benefits to him.”

 

So that's why Aeri wanted her to run away, so she won't be one of the victims. But what Aeri did was against the rules…well, their rules and for sure Aeri was risking her life just by escaping one of the subjects, which was Ningning.

 

But…why her?

 

Her question seemed to be unanswered the moment a loud screeching noise echoed throughout the hallway, its extremely high frequency almost deafening to the point Ningning had to cover her ears. Then everything happened in less than a second.

 

The screams, the blood, the pain.

 

Ningning’s shirt was torn on her stomach, revealing the long wound across her stomach inflicted by P133, a test subject that was akin to a beast. Fur-like skin, sharp canines and claws, eyes crimson akin to the blooded full moon. It should be caged and no one ever dared to let it out. And the fact that it’s still out somehow brought a lot of questions– and rage on Ningning's part– but Ningning could barely think the moment it charged towards Aeri.

 

Her conscience felt like it snapped to half and all she could see was red. Rage shook her from the core to the tip of her fingertips and nothing could stop her as she took whatever she could grab and sprinted towards the beast. More blood spilled down to the floor. At this point she didn’t know whether it was the beast’s, hers or Aeri’s– but she didn’t stop amidst the retaliation she received. Until her arms were sore, until the screeching could no longer be heard and until a pair of soft hands gripping her shoulders, stopping her as well as bringing her to reality once again.

 

Stop .” A hand on her chest, cold palm seeping into the skin amidst the fabric of her shirt in between. The loud pounding against her chest would surely be felt by Aeri’s palm and it brought her a sense of rationality in her, reminding her that she should control herself.

 

“Y-You’re hurt.”

 

She instantly scrambled over to her own feet, ignoring the painful stinging wound across her stomach and left arm as she went to Aeri’s side to check up on her. The doctor’s condition wasn’t any better. It was Ningning’s first time seeing panic painted on her features as she struggled to calm her ragged breath. There was a light scar across her cheek, a deeper wound from her nape down to her shoulder and her white coat was ruined due to the sharp claws and her own crimson red blood.

 

“No.”

 

It was clearly a lie, something that easily slipped out of Aeri’s lips as if it would become a truth at some point. 

 

Certainly it didn’t.

 

But something’s wrong. Ningning’s hunches were proven right the moment Aeri’s usual stable voice became a shaky whisper as her knees made contact with the floor, body hunched forward as if she’s in extreme pain. That’s when Nigning saw it. Aeri’s back was blemished by the deep, long open wounds with the blood gushing out, seeping into the torn fabric of the white coat, blooming ever so endlessly like the growing petals in the midst of Spring.

 

That’s when Ningning realised that the fear of losing Aeri was bigger than the prospect of her dying in the hands of the wicked.

 

Ningning crouched before Aeri, hands cradling her body close to her chest, mindful to not put any pressure on the wound.

 

“No no no no no…

 

“I’m fine, you dumbass.” Despite the pain, Aeri still managed to croak out. “It just hurts like hell .”

 

“You’re gonna die!”

 

“I told you I’m not!”

 

“Yes you are!”

 

“No I’m not!”

 

“But you clearly are–”

 

A loud slap rang throughout the hallway. Ningning held the side of her face that was harassed by Aeri’s surprisingly strong palm despite her being in pain. Now Ningning didn’t know whether she should feel offended, mad or sad. And it irritated her to no end as those baseless emotions swirled within.

 

Control yourself, Ningning.

 

“I,” A hiss. Aeri’s gaze was deadly fiery. “Am. Not. Dying.”

 

Now Ningning felt like crying.

 

Aeri's hands desperately held on Ningning's arms, eyes locked with Ningning's panicked ones.

 

"Go to the lab. Find a white box with my name labelled on it and take out the small tube with a transparent blue liquid in it. Along with a syringe." A shaky exhale. "You better be quick or I'll be fucking dead in no time."

 

Well, of course she wouldn't want that.

 

Which was why she ran as fast as she could towards the laboratory, wanting to retrieve the antidote…or whatever it name was. Aeri must’ve had it as a backup, knowing well that crazy jerk wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest to do anything, even if it means making the other’s life in danger. So it was plausible for Aeri to create her own antidote without anyone knowing.

 

Ningning knew some of the doctors here had at least dozens of backup plans for them to escape from this hell and Aeri was one of them.

 

She knew the layouts of the building well, considering she's the most problematic subject and they literally did everything to fix her, from sending her to the isolation room, taking out her sample in the laboratory, locking her up in an artificial room to observe her brainwaves. 

 

A scoff left her lips. As if they could.

 

But there was surely an obstacle. A big one, even. It was one of the doctors, a tall guy with an obnoxious personality amidst his skillful work. He had always hated Ningning because she had ruined his handsome face one time when she was forced to be injected with that damned red liquid. Not her fault that he used force on her. Of course she would retaliate with force because duh , he’s not the only one who could use force on people.

 

And this time, he tried to insert a small rectangle thing with tiny, sharp needles on it into Ningning. It took just one glance at it to know that it was a microchip. Her blood boiled more at the sight.

 

They struggled for quite a while, considering he had become a bit stronger than he usually was (maybe he did workout ever since that incident) and Ningning had a hard time defending due to his long arms that the microchip barely got onto her each time.

 

"You're insufferable." She spoke between her gritted teeth as she tried to fight him off. He managed to get on top of her, limbs tangling mess as she struggled beneath him.

 

He had his one arm against her neck, pressing it as hard as he could to the point she couldn’t breathe whilst his other arm tried to insert the microchip on her left wrist. She tried to pull his arm away using her free hand but decided against it the moment she realised it was fruitless.

 

She resorted to giving him a swift uppercut at his chin before landing a sharp jab on his rib. Losing his balance, he landed on top of her fully, groaning in pain. She gasped the moment his weight landed on top of her, squeezing the air out of her lungs.

 

This stupid mammal is heavy as heck.

 

His hold on the microchip loosened and she wasted no time grabbing the microchip. Unluckily, he was fast to recover and hovered over her before landing a punch on her wrist that was gripping the microchip. That small rectangle thing slipped out of her grip pathetically, sliding further away from them.

 

" Fu – THAT HURTS!"

 

She clawed his face out of spite using her other free hand, grinning upon hearing his scream. Seeing him unguarded, she elbowed his throat as hard as she could, witnessing the way he struggled to breath before dropping down to the floor, his eyes wide opened, not expecting to face the rapid demise. Neck was certainly most vulnerable and being attacked in that certain spot could surely bring death.

 

"Stupid mammal." She kicked his limbs away from her before picking up the microchip. 

 

The sight itself brought an immense hatred from her. Because of this stupid little thing and that stupid mammal, her time was wasted. She threw it against the wall, seeing it break into pieces.

 

She had no time caring over her bruised wrist, not when there's bigger matter to be prioritised. She thought that the obstacles were over but the universe just knew how to get on her nerves. She was stopped by two guards this time, initially standing outside the laboratory but instantly charged towards her as soon as she emerged to the hallway.

 

If she was angry just now, this time, she literally went through the roof.

 

“Not again, that damned mammal literally broke my wrist!”

 

That was how she ended up fighting with the guards (maybe they weren’t really worthy to be labelled as guards seeing how weak they were) and behold! The fucking P179 being chained inside the laboratory. No wonder the guards were here.

 

And here Ningning thought she was dead?

 

The whole thing was a mess because of a fake death caused by that freaking blonde subject and really, Ningning could barely control her emotions that were burning like a fiery pit of the deepest part of hell which caused her to lash everything out at P179 instead. 

 

And she could barely regret any of her action even after seeing the bloodied face of P179, lying limp on the floor as she was being held back by Yeji, another doctor that Ningning loathed. She hissed the moment she felt a sharp pain on her nape, her thoughts clouded and her vision went blurry.

 

Now she’s left with bruises, cuts and a hazy state.

 

“Did you just– oh great .”

 

She dropped down to the floor. Her gaze locked with Yeji’s apologetic one.

 

Aeri.

 

“P-Please save Aeri.”

Chapter Text

This is the plan.

 

I have to bear with it.

 

A whimper left her lips.

 

A glare directed towards the doctor with a bandage on his nose. 

 

“That fucking hurts!”

 

However, a sickening grin made its way across Winter’s lips upon reminding how she knocked him out at the morgue a few hours prior. Despite his scowl, she could read him like an open book. There was a hidden fear lying beneath his facade even though he was feigning indifference.

 

“Who teaches you scum to cuss, huh?”

 

She jerked towards him a bit and he flinched backward fearfully. Her smile grew. Indeed, she was right.

 

He cleared his throat, knowing he was being watched by his boss from outside of the clear glass that separated the room from the outside. Showing any kind of emotion akin to fear or vulnerability towards the test subject would surely be deemed as a coward.

 

Winter watched as he injected the syringe into the small bottle, her own crimson red blood filled the bottle in an instant. The constant beeping of the heart monitor irked her a bit for some reason and it didn't help that a certain crazy CEO was eyeing her with such a sinister and sinful gaze that she felt downright dirty being looked at.

 

Her heart rate increased in less than three seconds. The doctor casted Winter a curious look upon noticing the sudden spike of her heart rate shown on the monitor.

 

"Out." She harshly whispered between her gritted teeth, her eyes averted to the stunned doctor, noting his tense shoulders. "Before I snap your head with these chains bound on my wrists."

 

Funny enough, he complied rather easily, bringing the small bottle and a few papers (that she guessed probably had something to do with her) along with him. Winter took a deep breath once they were all gone, head rested on the pillows underneath. Her back was aching due to the hard-as-rock bed and she was certain her wrists already formed a bruise due to the tight grip of the chains.

 

At this point it was better if she couldn't feel anything.

 

Actually, Winter was assigned to go to the office, where almost every single information was offered in the system to steal. She was supposed to key in the password that Yeji had told beforehand and transfer the important files into the pendrive, giving them enough proofs to frame that cold-blooded killer.

 

Alas, P128 happened.

 

And embarrassingly enough, Winter passed out after being beaten up to a pulp. Luck was on her side when there was no one except for P128 in the laboratory when she woke up, her weak body resting against the wall and her gaze was blank. It was until a few moments later when Yeji came into the room with a badly wounded doctor that Winter recognised as Aeri. Aeri’s arm was slung across Yeji’s shoulder, letting Yeji support her weight as they slowly made her way to the nearest chair.

 

P128 was sporting a concerned look as she glanced at Aeri. That’s when Winter noticed Aeri’s back. The coat was already tainted red, as if being bathed by the crimson blood beforehand and her already torn black shirt clung onto her back. Yet no wounds were visible on her skin except for the faint long scars.

 

If the blood was new and her own shirt was torn apart, there’s no way Aeri didn’t sport any kind of deep wound because just by seeing that sight clearly indicated that Aeri was indeed the one who got hurt. 

 

Hm…antidote?

 

The idea wasn't that far-fetched considering Winter's blood sample was already at the laboratory each time they wanted to check on the change of her condition and the doctors, including Aeri herself had made numerous test on it so to say that a few of them secretly had created an antidote based on Winter’s gene was plausible. Betrayal was no stranger in this kind of situation and place and Winter knew well if they all were given the chance to fly off this hell, they would be willing to be the pathetic slave even if it meant scarring their humanity.

 

Winter was given no time to dwell on it further when Yeji averted her attention towards her instead.

 

(“Change of plans.”

 

Winter barely even sat up from her lying position when Yeji made her way to her.

 

"Gimme the pendrive. I'll be the one who would be transfering the files instead. P128 and–"

 

"It’s Ningning."

 

For a brief moment, P128 and Aeri had an intense eye contact. Winter couldn't read what P128 was feeling at the moment and the fact that Aeri's back was facing her didn't make it easier either.

 

Yeji's voice brought her back from her own little observation.

 

"Ningning and Aeri will find a way out to escape from this place without being busted while you," Yeji was literally pleading at the moment but it seemed like Yeji could care less about the display of vulnerability. “I need you to hang on. While I transfer the files, they’ll probably take your blood sample to examine further about your case and maybe he’ll lock you up in a room in the meantime, and…” A hesitant glance at P168’s dead body not far from where they were, “that’s most probably not here.”

 

“What if…they want to do something bad at me?”

 

Winter didn’t know why but the sight of sharp things terrified her no end and if anything she didn’t want to encounter the same situation ever again. Just imagining it brought shivers down her spine, her heart wrenched in the most unpleasant way and her stomach twisted just by remembering the foul smell of medication mixed with her own blood.

 

“I’ll make sure to make it quick.” A hand on Winter’s shoulder. An earnest pair of eyes staring right into Winter. “Trust me.”

 

She didn’t know why she put her trust in Yeji so blindly, knowing there’s so many things that could go wrong.

 

Yet she still did.)

 

The siren rang.

 

The lights turned red.

 

Winter opened her eyes the moment she heard the door swung open uncharacteristically loud– it literally slammed against the wall.

 

“Fuck this shit. I’m done with all this bullshit.”

 

Winter raised her head only to be met with an upcoming axe swung towards her direction. With an unnecessarily loud shriek, she tried to defend herself but to no avail because her hands were still bound by the chains that were tied to the bed. She shut her eyes, accepting her fate by having her skull split open in the most gruesome way.

 

But nothing happened.

 

Except for the loud clanking noises of the chains.

 

A shaky exhale. Winter's eyes slowly fluttered open. The chains were cut off and the axe was so close to her hand. If the culprit that caused Winter a year worth of heart attack miscalculated their move a bit, Winter's hand would surely already have her hand separated from her wrist instead.

 

"YOU FREAKING MANIAC– GAHHHH !"

 

Another violent chop on the chains that bound on her left wrist. Winter's wide eyes were glued on the ruined bed and disarray wires. Her heartbeat was so loud against her ears to the point she was certain it would explode soon. The monitor went dead in an instant.

 

Standing ever so gloriously at the foot of the bed, Ningning's sadistic laugh could be heard clearly amidst the deafening siren and the red lights reflected her menacing gaze in a way that made her appear so much like a psychopath.

 

"You heal so fast. I'm jealous."

 

"You nearly killed me!"

 

" Almost ." Ningning suddenly sang, " almost is never enough ~"

 

Winter was about to choke her but Ningning was fast to scramble off the bed.

 

"Now, now. I know you want to kill me but I don't have the ability to heal myself like you do so I suggest that we get out of here first before that crazy jerk abducts you to somewhere else."

 

Winer hastily pulled off the loosened chains on her wrists, sighing in content upon no longer feeling cold tightened chains on her. They hurriedly made their way out, Winter trailed behind Ningning as the latter went past the empty laboratories and sneaked away from the guards.

 

"Aren't you supposed to run away?"

 

A scoff.

 

"I would've," Ningning's tone was callous and unfriendly. “If it’s not for that stupid doctor to ask me to fetch you.”

 

There’s only one person that could make Ningning give in and that certainly wasn’t Yeji.

 

“You’re calling her stupid doctor just to cover up how whipped you are.”

 

Ningning didn’t reply.

 

“You have feelings for her, don’t you?”

 

A loud shout gained their attention. A loud swoosh made Winter duck her head, her hands gripping Ningning’s shoulders to bring her to crouch down with her. Winter glanced up just to see a sharp knife penetrated into the white wall ahead of them.

 

She quickly glanced behind her just to see a stoic-faced young boy run towards them, another knife in his steel-like grip. Behind him was a doctor with a controller on his hand. It took her less time to figure out the boy was controlled and they were surely about to die fast if they didn’t run now.

 

“Seriously, I’m tired of being in this situation!”

 

Winter took the knife from the wall and threw it haphazardly, making sure the latter couldn’t detect where it would land. Indeed, her plan worked because the doctor thought she was aiming for the boy’s head and when it pierced the boy’s thigh, Winter considered that as her win.

 

The boy hurled another knife towards them. And the next thing happened as a surprise even for Winter herself. She saw the whole thing in slow motion, which gave her enough time to dodge away and properly hold the handle just a split second before its sharp tip grazed the shell of her ear.

 

“What the f–”

 

“Shut up P128–”

 

“It’s Ningning you dipshit .”

 

Her annoyed voice irked Winter and maybe it was due to the mix of emotions that caused by the situation she ended up in and Ningning’s annoying behaviour only added the fuel to the flames. Winter turned around, pointing the knife towards Ningning. Its tip was just a centimetre away from touching Ningning’s throat and the latter froze in an instant.

 

“I told you to shut up.”

 

There was a mix of emotions swirling within Ningning’s gaze, something indescribable.

 

“You don’t understand.” There was an accusatory tone in Ningning’s voice but it was gone just as fast as it had appeared. Her voice became more vulnerable, weaker the more she spoke. “I-I just want to feel important.”

 

Winter stopped advancing, realising it was just Ningning being defensive over something she deemed as precious. Their eye contact lasted for a moment as Winter’s cold gaze met with Ningning's glistening one.

 

“Aeri’s the only one who treats me like I’m worth living.” Ningning’s voice broke, clearly showing how much that simple sentence broke her into a million pieces as she laid herself bare to a person that never considered her as important. “It might just be a simple name for you but for me, it holds something deeper than that, especially when she’s the one who gives me this name. It means a lot…at least to a useless test subject like me.”

 

Winter’s grip on the knife wavered as she sucked in a breath. Her mind traversed back to a certain raven-haired woman that treated her like she was worth more than the world. Jimin . Her home, her sanctuary. It was a saddening reality that they lived in, knowing that they’ll end up being broken hearted at the end of the story.

 

A story like them could never end up in a happy ending.

 

Winter bit her lower lip to the point it drew blood. Tears blurred her vision. A shaky sigh left her lips as she tried her best to contain her emotions that threatened to spill out.

 

A rustle behind her.

 

She flung the knife backwards without seeing behind her, already knowing it hit the spot when there was a choking sound followed by a thud. Ningning’s wide eyes were glued on the (most probably) dead young boy. A cuss could be heard to which Winter assumed was from the doctor.

 

“Where do you think you’re going?!”

 

A familiar dreaded voice could be heard across the hallway amidst the loud blaring of the siren.

 

Oh shoot.

 

She barely had time to run when a calloused hand grabbed her shoulder followed by a sharp pain penetrating right into her nape. The pain burst into her blood vessels, eliciting a loud painful scream from her lips. Her whole body went numb. 

 

Not this again.  

 

Her limbs went weak and despite her effort in trying to move, she just couldn’t . She didn’t know what kind of venom was being injected inside her but every single strand of her vein was throbbing painfully, threatening to explode. 

 

She wanted to scream her lungs out from help, to speak, or even anything at this point yet nothing escaped her trembled lips except for a soft gasp that seemed to suck the life out of her.

 

Her body hit the floor in an audible thud.

 

The pain spread throughout her body. Her chest felt like it’s been caved in, heart being ripped out of her ribcage and the veins in her body throbbed painfully.

 

She gritted her teeth.

 

Everything was painful.

 

There were loud ruckus, muffled to her own ears. Ningning’s voice along with other thunderous footsteps could be heard but she could barely register any of it.

 

Is this what dying feels like?

 

Seriously, I'm tired.

 


 

A loud crash.

 

Stumbled footsteps from outside of the room.

 

Jimin struggled to focus. Everything went to deaf ears and she could barely register a loud voice calling for her name followed by a pair of arms shaking her back to consciousness.

 

It was a futile attempt apparently.

 

" Yah , wake up!" 

 

Darkness filled her vision.

 

Then the pitch black bled into nothingness as she found out she’s back to her old home again. Obsolete. Abandoned. Knees close to her chest and chin rested on them. Eyes casted to the wall before her. Stomach hurting due to days of not consuming any food and body shivering out of cold.

 

Empty.

 

She wondered when her mom would come back?

 

Her chest hurts, like an endless knife stabbing through her heart mercilessly. She put a hand on it, grabbing a fistful of her shirt in an attempt to ease the pain. She needed to breathe out this pain. Breathe. Breathe .

 

A choke of a sob. Then she felt it. The way her heart was cracking and breaking, its pieces falling pathetically into a pool of a mess that was her feelings and a wave of uncertainty, misery, abandonment, fear– everything was so intense that she simply couldn’t help but let out a strained, weak cry. 

 

The house was deafening in its silence. No signs of living except for her who was practically shrinking before the front door with a tiny sliver of hope flickering within her heart, hoping the jingling of the keys could be heard followed by a familiar footsteps and a familiar tender voice saying, ‘I’m home, darling!’.

 

Then she was brought back to nothingness yet again.

 

“I miss you.”

 

“I miss you so so much.”

 

Winter.

 

Then the murmurs– voices of people talking.

 

Jimin slowly regained her consciousness. Her head was throbbing and her whole body felt weak. She coughed harshly, feeling her throat incredibly parched for some reason. Her eyes fluttered open and she squinted a bit as the light intruded her eyeballs. The first thing she registered was the white ceiling and the strong smell of the medication practically harassing her nose.

 

It took her a moment to realise she’s actually crying.

 

She wiped away the tears cascading down her cheeks, her mind purposely tortured her more when the ghost of Winter’s hand could still be felt and Winter’s soft, small voice still rang in her ears–

 

“Why am I here?” Her own voice sounded so foreign to her own ears.

 

The voices stopped, as if realising that Jimin had finally woken up.

 

“Jimin?”

 

Goeun’s voice could be heard clearly amidst Jimin’s inner turmoil and confusion. She could barely register a pair of arms bringing her for an embrace, warm hands cradling her body in the gentlest way possible.

 

“You’re such a stupid cow,” Goeun’s reprimanding voice was surprisingly soft, breaking at the end of the sentence, clearly expressing how heartbroken she was.

 

Jimin couldn’t imagine the fear that shot up to Goeun’s heart the moment she barged into Jimin’s house only to find her half-awake, her body trying its best to survive with the insufficient amount of energy thanks to her not consuming anything for the past days, not even an ounce of water. 

 

Goeun might have never seen Jimin in the lowest state, pathetic side of her and Jimin was quite convinced that she had planted a small trauma into Goeun that even the latter was this terrified even though Jimin had already woken up.

 

Jimin didn't really know what happened to her. The days had blurred up into a mess, disarray thoughts and emotions had led up to that point. She woke up with cold sheets and the remnants of shampoo that Winter used clung onto the white pillows. Fear lodged at the crevices of her heart, growing bigger and deeper the moment she realised Winter was gone.

 

She was gone and she brought a piece of Jimin's sanity along with her.

 

She didn't know why she couldn't think like how a normal person would. But the frightening similarity of the situation she ended up with somehow caused her mind to be in a disarray state. 

 

She could barely remember anything except for the fact that she hadn't eaten for days. It was as if she was trapped in her own mind, still in the same old house back then when her mother had left her and she couldn't find a way out no matter how much she tried. Cold tiles beneath, shivering body and trembled fingertips. It was like she was being hauled back to the past, being forced to be caged inside her own nightmare.

 

Stuck in her headspace.

 

Like a wilted flower, she hunched over Goeun, hands gripping onto the fabric of Goeun's shirt as she finally let out a strangled sob that broke her apart, tearing her into pieces. Jimin shook her head back and forth, trying to erase any kinds of thoughts about Winter. Her chest constricted, forcing the air out of her lungs to the point it was hard to breathe. Her head was clouded and she could barely think straight.

 

Truthfully.

 

She felt like dying .

Chapter Text

Thirty one days, she counted.

 

(And still counting.)

 

Almost a month of excruciating absence of Winter and Jimin didn’t know it took a toll on her to such an extreme extent until it happened. She could barely have any control over herself, as if her broken side decided to take over and caused her brain to go in a chaos mode, destroying herself more than she could ever admit.

 

And she didn’t even realise it herself until Goeun broke down her apartment and saved her.

 

Ever since she’s discharged from the hospital, it took her almost a week to recover from those horrendous flashbacks of when her mother left her. Her assigned psychiatrist helped her a lot in healing and Goeun never left her side ever since.

 

Another week was certainly needed to sort out her mind. She stayed at Goeun's place for a while for her mental sake because God knew what would happen if she ended up in her own apartment all by herself again. During that time she didn’t have the appetite to eat nor drink. Goeun had to force the meals down to her throat after at least an hour of intransigence.

 

It took her at least another week to function like how a normal person would.

 

(She’s trying.)

 

Three days for her to learn living with the emptiness in her heart and the constant reminder of Winter lingering at the back of her mind.

 

Now that almost a month had passed, she had got up on her own feet, letting the days pass in a blur. The worksheets and the clients she had to meet moulded up into faceless figures and fuzzy numbers within the memories, distorted by her disarray thoughts and the remnants of pain clawing inside her chest. 

 

It took her a bit of time but she could finally step into her house without any kinds of flashbacks terrorizing the crevices of her mind and she took it as a progress. Baby steps, were what Goeun had told her.

 

The home she would always come back to somehow felt so empty and cold even though nothing’s changed.

 

Except the presence of a certain blonde.

 

Jimin wished to throw every worry, every fear and every concern away because despite how much she tried to act like her thoughts weren’t beating her to death, like the smiles she put up were genuine, her wounded soul could only handle so much.

 

As much as she wanted to blame it on Winter, putting up with indifference and obliviousness about the truth of the situation, she just couldn’t . Because she knew it’s not about her only, it’s unfair to turn a blind eye and put the blame on Winter alone for leaving. She’s not the only one who suffered, Winter probably had her fair share of pain for leaving.

 

Her feelings were reciprocated, Winter loved her too…right?

 

(Unless she came into Jimin’s life just to play with her feelings and went away when she got what she wanted.)

 

“Hey.”

 

Jimin tore her gaze away from the laptop screen, realising that she’d been working without taking an ounce of break for hours. She squinted her strained eyes, struggling to refocus her vision. Once she’s done, her gaze landed on Goeun’s petite figure being engulfed in an overcoat that was too big for her own size. A black beanie rested on her head and a black mask covered her lower face. Despite only seeing Goeun’s eyes, Jimin knew her well enough to easily read her gaze like an open book.

 

And it was clear that Goeun was concerned.

 

“Where are you going?”

 

A frown made its way across Goeun’s face.

 

“Home.” She pointed a finger to the digital clock placed on Jimin’s office table, right beside the laptop.

 

Ah, it’s late already.

 

“You should go home too.”

 

Jimin bit her lower lip. Hesitant. Her gaze travelled across the office, noting almost everyone had gone, leaving the place deserted and void any living beings– well, except for the assistant manager that seemed stressed out of his mind, Goeun who stared at Jimin like she’s some kind of a pitiful kid and yeah, last but not least, the sleep deprived Jimin who had been holding on to coffees in order to make the gears in her brain move to finish up her work.

 

“You go first.”

 

Goeun opened her mouth to retort but Jimin raised a forefinger, instantly shutting Goeun up from whatever she’s about to say. She closed all the opened tabs, mindful to save the progress first before shutting down her laptop. Her bony fingers reached the lid of the laptop, closing it.

 

“Don’t worry. I’m not overworking myself.” Unlike Hyunwoo who seemed like he was about to tear his hair off his scalp, she mused. She pressed her lips into a thin line. “And I just want to have some time alone."

 

A moment of silence flew by.

 

Goeun nodded, respecting Jimin’s decision.

 

“Take care.”

 

Jimin’s gaze followed Goeun’s figure until the latter’s figure vanished behind the closed door. Now the only ones residing in this place were Jimin and Hyunwoo. Jimin took her time clearing up her space, letting the sound of the papers shuffling and the faint constant typing on the laptop keyboard filling in the silence.

 

“Jimin-ssi.”

 

Jimin perked at the call, straining her neck to make eye contact with Hyunwoo across the room. His glasses were no longer perched on the bridge of his nose and instead, gently rested on his head. His tired gaze met hers yet a genuine smile made its way across his thin lips.

 

“Take a break tomorrow. I’ll inform our boss about it.”

 

Pure confusion plastered on her features. 

 

“Why?”

 

He shrugged, returning his gaze to his laptop.

 

“You look like you need it.”

 

A frown marred her face as she studied the loose necktie around his neck and his slightly messy ash brown hair, “you look like you need it more than me though.”

 

A low chuckle left his lips.

 

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, Jimin-ssi. Oh, and one more thing,” he placed his chin on his palm that was propped on the table. His gaze met hers once again but this time there was an unreadable glint in his eyes, reflected poorly against the glow from his laptop screen. She noticed it nonetheless. “Take all the rest you need and if you need to extend your day off, just tell me. You worked hard enough all this time.”

 

Jimin felt like Hyunwoo was hinting something beneath all the words he uttered and it seemed like he was about to say more but he held himself back.

 

And she finally realised what he’d actually meant when he called her one last time before she twisted the doorknob open to leave.

 

“Y’know Jimin, I would be grateful to see if you come back here with happiness radiating off your face like how you used to. Whatever problems you have there, I hope that things will get better for you.”

 

He was genuine about it, she could sense it. It felt a bit odd to be honest, having to receive a small ounce of kindness by someone else who wasn’t that close to her. She wondered if her…unfavourable situation was that easy to be seen by other people. But it was not a bad thing, not when all he wished was for her to be happy again without any kind of ill feelings directed towards her. Just pure sincerity.

 

So with the most genuine smile she could mutter, she replied with a simple,

 

“Thank you.”

 

But only God knew how much gratefulness oozed out from her tone.

 


 

The last train was empty.

 

And she was extremely thankful for that. Having to socialise with people during work could get exhausting at some point and being alone was what she needed at the moment in order to keep her sanity at bay. She took her time admiring the cityscape from the window, witnessing the way the tall buildings were adorned with endless, colourful lights that made the city alive amidst the oddity of the time.

 

She had nothing in mind as she stepped out of the train carriage, dragging her legs out of the station. Excluding her, there were only a few workers at the station, offering her a smile as they made eye contact. She returned the sentiment, not wanting to appear as rude despite not having quite the mood to face people.

 

The air was colder now that Autumn was approaching, just a few days away. She pulled her white coat close to her shivering body, seeking warmth as much as she could. She tried not to dwell on her own thoughts insisting to be known and instead muting them by taking in her surroundings. The light goosebumps of her skin, the rustle of the fallen leaves nearby and the stillness of the night.

 

She took a deep breath.

 

Now, at this moment, there was this question lingering at the back of her mind, its presence was greater than her other trivial thoughts that came bugging her relentlessly.

 

Is she still alive?

 

Heaviness loomed within, settling inside her as if it belonged there in the first place. Anxiousness crept into her heart, effectively making her restless in such a short span of time. There’s this undeniable fear clutching her heart upon the possibility of Winter being dead. It was tangible, considering she didn’t witness it with her own eyes but the absence of the blonde made her mind to think of something that she hated to think about.

 

She halted her steps, eyes closed.

 

A deep breath.

 

Let’s not think about this anymore.

 

A rustle.

 

Her eyes snapped open in an instant. It came from the bushes near the park just a few metres away from her. A wave of dejavu washed over her. She couldn’t help but let a sliver of hope to caress her, cradling her broken heart with its gentleness.

 

Her first instinct was to run towards the bushes, ignoring all the facts that it could be potentially dangerous for her to go there without any kind of precaution. She didn’t really know what she expected to find behind the bushes but as much as she hated to admit it herself, a stupid part of her wished for it to be Winter.

 

“Ah…”

 

There’s nothing here. Probably it was the wind.

 

She pursed her lips, trying to contain the disappointment that collided against her like a truck. She realised she must’ve appeared like a fool, running all the way here while endlessly hoping that Winter would be here at the same place back when Jimin first met her.

 

Even after all this time, Jimin was way too caught up in the past. The ghost of Winter’s presence still lingered, alive within the memories and it did nothing but open the wound, letting it bleed all over again and again. Just like that, Jimin was alone witnessing herself bled her heart out to dry whilst she could do nothing to stop it amidst the bloodied hands and desperate cries.

 

A rush of wind against her made her tresses flutter and a drop of tear slipped out of the corner of her eyes down to her chin. It didn’t take long for her vision to blur and the tears flowed freely down her face as anguish clutched onto her heart, twisting painfully.

 

“Winter, please come back…”

 

Her desperate plea drifted away by the wind so easily, went unheard to the heavens above.

 

Jimin harshly wiped away the tears with her sleeve, looking around her in hope to catch a sight of a blonde girl somewhere near.

 

Nothing. 

 

God, what did she really expect?

 

With disappointment heavy on her shoulders, she dragged her limbs to walk. A walk home felt longer this time albeit it was just a five minutes away. Her gaze was distant and every step felt heavy to the bones. Maybe walking home alone wasn't such a good idea. She really should’ve gone home with Goeun when the latter offered to because she swore she could become crazier–

 

Jimin halted her steps.

 

Have I gone crazy?

 

Leaning against the street lamp, there stood a familiar figure sporting a black and white striped shirt along with jeans. A long black coat and fluffy-looking scarf wrapped around her enough to keep her away from the cold. The scarf covered the lower half of her face and her side profile was displayed for Jimin to witness. Her pitch black tresses slightly fluttered due to the wind and a pair of sunglasses perched on her nose bridge– an odd sight considering it was already night and there’s no sane person who would wear sunglasses at night.

 

Jimin stood there dumbly like a deer caught in headlights as her brain processed the sight, wondering whether it was just a figment of her imagination or it was indeed legit. She blinked a few times and even tried to slap her face until her cheek became red in order to make sure what she saw was not her mind playing tricks on her.

 

As if on cue, that person turned to face Jimin.

 

Jimin literally sputtered out nonsense as if she was a three-year-old kid trying to speak properly before letting out a noise that sounded similar to a crying cat. Her overloaded brain could only do much and she couldn’t even think as she rushed towards the raven-haired woman, ignoring the way she tripped over her own feet twice before her hands gripped on the latter’s collar.

 

The latter was mindful to hold her waist, securing her from falling face first onto the pavement.

 

And guess what.

 

She slapped the raven-haired woman as hard as she could, the stinging pain on her palm became a reminder that it was indeed real.

 

Instead of being offended like how most people would react after being slapped like that, the woman only looked up at her in shock, her pink tinted lips slightly parted yet there was no trace of annoyance visible on her features. The grip on her waist tightened.

 

"W-Why did you slap me?"

 

Jimin bit her lower lip, not wanting the latter to notice that it was trembling.

 

"Please don’t cry."

 

Ironically enough, tears pricked her eyes even more that she heard those words coming out of the latter’s lips. It was like there was a huge lump in her throat, tightened even more when she was trying her hardest not to wail right there and then.

 

Jimin's hand reached up from the collar of the raven-haired woman's coat to her nape and finally rested on her jaw, thumb lightly caressing her cheek as she stared at the latter's face in pure relief.

 

"You're back–" she paused abruptly when a choke of a sob accidentally left her lips. Her face contorted with pain of trying not to cry. " W-Winter ."

 

The now raven-haired woman–Winter– had a smile plastered on her face, a smile full of affection in a way that made the butterflies inside Jimin swarmed wildly as if finally free from being caged by her own fears and doubts caused by the time.

 

“Yeah, I’m back.”

 

Jimin could barely see anything due to the blurriness of her vision and she finally let out a pathetic sob when Winter gently brushed away the baby hair from Jimin’s face. Jimin finally allowed herself to break, leaning against Winter for support as she cried her heart out. 

 

Winter’s voice was soft yet full of reassurance and it only made her let out an ugly, strained sob upon the realisation that it had been a long time since she'd heard Winter’s voice.

 

“And you’re still beautiful as always.”

Chapter Text

Winter was different. 

 

So so different.

 

Jimin didn't yet know whether it was a good kind of different or not.

 

A comfortable silence settled between them as they made their way back to Jimin’s apartment. Their steady footsteps filled in the emptiness until they reached the front door of Jimin’s apartment.

 

“Your hair,” Jimin finally spoke after a moment of silence. She didn’t turn around to face Winter, simply staring at the door as if it was some kind of interesting creature. She busied herself by pressing the password on the keypad door lock instead. “It’s darker.”

 

A casual hum from behind her.

 

“I don’t want to be reminded of who I was– who I am and where I came from.” A low chuckle could be heard. “It makes me feel disgusted by myself for some reason.”

 

Jimin knew she probably touched a sensitive topic based on Winter’s detached tone, as if she’s trying to act like it didn’t bother her much when in fact, the fresh wound still bled.

 

Jimin pushed the door open, stepping aside to let Winter in first before she trailed after her. It felt oddly nostalgic as she remembered the first time she brought Winter home, full of bruises and pale complexion. Now, Winter didn't even appear like she was some kind of an outcast as she blended in so effortlessly with other people one would never expect her to be a test subject.

 

It made Jimin wonder how much Winter had changed in the short span of time– although Jimin practically suffered during that span of time.

 

Jimin turned around to face Winter who was slowly taking off the sunglasses, placing it on the hidden pocket of her coat. Winter raised her head up and Jimin had to let out an audible gasp the moment she met Winter’s gaze.

 

A moment of silence flew by. Jimin’s stare was so intense to the point Winter felt like she was shrinking under her gaze.

 

“Winter…”

 

Winter broke eye contact, clearly bothered by the response she received from Jimin. Her hand reached up to rub her neck in a timid manner as she gazed down to the floor. Jimin frowned.

 

“S-Sorry–”

 

“No, wait! Don’t be sorry!” She just realised that her reaction might appear to be unwelcoming and misleading so she swiftly took off her shoes and went to Winter’s side. Her hand reached out to hold Winter’s wrist in a gentle manner as she didn’t want to scare the latter away.

 

Jimin’s other hand went to brush away Winter’s hair from covering her face before cupping her face, lifting her face so that she’s facing Jimin again.

 

Winter avoided her gaze.

 

“Winter.”

 

“It’s just–” Winter closed her eyes, leaning her face against the palm of Jimin’s hand. A shaky exhale left her lips. “I’m not normal.”

 

Jimin’s heart clenched.

 

Winter’s eyes slowly fluttered open, revealing the different colours of her irises. One of them had such a clear blue hue whilst the other eye was a breathtaking shade of brown. Jimin tried hard to bite back the gasp from escaping her lips. Her eye colours were so magnificent that Jimin found it’s hard to take her eyes off them but an ugly feeling settled within, making her wonder how much Winter had suffered during the time where they were apart from each other.

 

Indeed, some aspects that were deemed as beautiful would surely have its own fair share of pain.

 

“My eyes are different, heck, me myself are so different from the one whom you used to know and at some point I’m just afraid if you’ll hate me for the person I’ve become…” A trembled smile. “That is if I’m worthy to be labelled as that.”

 

There was a lot in Winter’s mind and Jimin didn’t want to push further, knowing it’ll only put a burden on the raven-haired woman.

 

“I wished to be normal for once,” Winter’s glistening eyes met Jimin’s concerned ones, as if searching for a silent comfort, pleading for Jimin to hold her when she fell. “I wished that I was a normal human like you, then maybe I would at least be worth it for you. Y-You…you deserve a lot more than a piece of ruin like me.”

 

Jimin’s thumb brushed away the fallen tears, bringing Winter closer. Jimin closed her eyes the moment her lips brushed against Winter’s forehead for the softest kiss. Winter trembled in her arms almost immediately.

 

That night Jimin hugged Winter as tight as she could as the latter cried in her embrace, wishing for the heavens above to not take away the only piece of happiness that made her feel truly alive in the midst of the harsh world.

 

After all, they both were desperate souls yearning nothing but to be loved.

 


 

Winter didn’t really know what happened after the chaos at the HQ but she found out she woke up in Yeji’s bedroom. It was later when she realised she’d been passed out for almost a week and Yeji had told her about how that scum injected some kind of radiation into Winter’s body before Ningning interfered and brawled with him before the remaining dose ended up injected into his body, just in time as a troop of masked soldiers came into the scene.

 

(Ningning would’ve been the one who got injected instead if it’s not for one of the soldiers that came for the rescue.)

 

He was desperate and if he couldn’t get Winter, no one could, which explained a lot on how he tried to do mass killing on all the test subjects including Winter as soon as he found out that the police had raided the HQ and they could no longer escape.

 

Before they knew it, it was the end for them.

 

And a new start for Winter.

 

(“Technically you’re doing an illegal job by keeping me here,” were what Winter remarked that one time. Her voice was hoarse as she was still recovering and sometimes when she couldn’t even speak she had to use hand signals with Yeji in order to communicate. “I don’t have legal citizenship.”

 

She coughed violently, her weak body was cradled by Yeji as the doctor helped her to go to the bathroom. Blood splattered out of her lips the moment she coughed again, marring the white sink into a crimson mess. The sight itself made her wince and she would’ve dropped down to the floor if it’s not for Yeji’s secure grip on her waist.

 

She closed her eyes, letting darkness filled her vision instead of the crimson red blood. The sink felt cold the moment she rested her forehead against it. A shaky sigh left her lips.

 

If only this radiation could kill me, how wonderful that would have been.

 

Suffering, after all, only for those who were alive.

 

“I’ve settled everything about your citizenship with someone…I know and you don’t have to know further about it but don’t worry, I’ve got everything under my control.”

 

Well, Yeji surely surprised Winter in quite a lot of ways. Winter raised her head, washed her mouth and hands before going back to the bedroom with Yeji’s help. With her head resting against the headrest, she searched for Yeji’s gaze, weakly asking.

 

“Did you just do illegal stuff just for me to have an identity card?”

 

The doctor simply shrugged as she placed two pills onto Winter’s palm. A small smile plastered on her face.

 

“I plan on doing that to Ryujin initially, in case I could sneak her out from that hell and maybe…let her have her happy ending. But luck wasn’t on my side back then.”

 

That’s when Winter realised how much Ryujin actually meant to Yeji. Although Yeji didn’t say much about it, Winter knew Yeji had at least imagined her life with Ryujin, being able to love each other endlessly without caring about the consequences– seeing she had everything planned so effortlessly– and it was such a bummer that things didn’t go their way.

 

That’s just…so sad.

 

“Oh, and your name is Kim Minjeong.”

 

Winter’s lips tugged up into a weak smile.)

 

There was that one time where she stared at the reflection of the mirror emotionlessly, a stark contrast to the whole emotions that raided her endlessly. It was her, indeed. Same facial features, same skin complexion, same body. But her eyes– they were no longer the same colour. One of them was a clear blue sky whilst the other was brown. Her body was thinner, almost similar to a walking skeleton with a prominent jawline and collarbone. Her fingers were bony and the hollowness of her gaze could suck out the life of one’s soul.

 

Insecure.

 

That could be the best word to describe what she’s feeling.

 

But out of all things she would've felt, she was terrified the most. It was over wasn't it? But there was a hint of fear lurking at the back of her mind, prodding her with uncertainty and the possible danger she could be in. She’s scared if one day she woke up and found herself being chained on the bed with sharp surgical instruments scattered around her and the surgical lights blinding her to no end.

 

No escape.

 

It took her time to get rid of those feelings but sometimes she couldn’t get rid of the habit of always inspecting her room before she could confirm it was safe, and also how she sometimes jolted away from the sharp objects to the point she avoided going to the kitchen for three weeks.

 

Jimin.

 

Well, Winter didn’t want to meet her to be honest. Her own reflection on the mirror reminded her of what she actually was– a freaking test subject that happened to be a success yet somehow a failure in terms of being an actual human. There was this realisation that struck her in the oddest time of the hour when she was unable to sleep due to the vivid nightmares of blood and pain, a realisation that she could never be good enough no matter how hard she tried.

 

She had nothing to offer except for her own mess and she was certain no one would want to clean it all up.

 

Except for a lovely, kind Jimin.

 

Which was why Winter felt like Jimin deserved better.

 

It was just a passing thought. At first. But it entered Winter’s mind more frequently these days and despite a small part of her that wanted to let Jimin live her own life normally, another part of her yearned to have a glimpse of her even for a short span of time. That somehow grew in each day to the point it became unbearable– a new feeling that she hadn’t fully discovered yet and hard to navigate– until one day, she decided to throw every single thought that made her think it was all a bad idea.

 

It was hard to not break in front of Jimin and she could only handle for so long until her calm facade broke and she wilted into Jimin’s warm and secure embrace, letting all the insecurities bled away along with her warm tears and broken sobs.

 

Jimin was so soft and gentle. She looked at Winter with full of affection and her gestures were genuine. She embraced Winter without any ounce of judging thoughts, accepting Winter just the way she was and softening all the calloused, sharp edges of her broken self.

 

Winter was far from perfect, far from normal.

 

But Jimin made her feel like she’s enough.

 

Tucked in the warmth of the blanket and Jimin’s arms around her, Winter finally told her everything. From her nightmarish past, her struggles and insecurities– just like that she poured out everything, baring herself naked for Jimin to witness her vulnerability.

 

It was pathetic.

 

At some point.

 

Yet Jimin cradled her like she means everything.

 

"I have always admired your eyes for the longest time." Jimin said that one time, probably realising that Winter was avoiding her gaze more frequently than normal.

 

Winter was not the only one who could inspect one's emotions. Jimin, having the advantages of being a human itself, could easily read Winter like an open book, unlike other people who had trouble trying to figure her out.

 

Jimin was lying on her side, one hand propping the side of her head. Her gaze glimmered beautifully beneath the dim lamp placed on the bedside table as she stared at Winter like Winter was the epitome of the stars itself.

 

Winter averted her gaze away, feeling the butterflies swarmed in her stomach just by a mere gaze from Jimin.

 

"But this time," Jimin's husky voice went softer, as if she didn't want to break the tranquillity that had been settled upon them. "Your eyes are breathtaking ."

 

Winter's whole face heated up. She let out a nervous laugh, hands fiddling with the hem of the blanket. Her insecurities regarding her eyes shrinked into nothingness in an instant.

 

What are insecurities? I don’t know them.

 

"I-It's getting hot here don't you think?"

 

Jimin’s low chuckle greeted her ears followed by a small noise that escaped her lips as she moved. The rustle of the bedsheets could be heard as Jimin settled above her, hovering. Jimin ran her hand through her hair before brushing it all to the side, exposing the expanse of her neck.

 

Winter gulped.

 

Why do I end up in this kind of situation again…

 

“I have something to tell you.”

 

“I-In this kind of position?”

 

Jimin’s eyes narrowed. Winter’s breath audibly hitched the moment Jimin leaned closer, eliciting a giggle from the latter.

 

“Why? You don’t like it?”

 

“It’s not like that, I just– uh, it’s…too intimate ? Well not that it’s a bad thing I just can’t get used to it yet–”

 

A hand clasped her mouth, effectively shutting her up.

 

“Don’t worry, I perfectly understand what you mean.” 

 

Jimin closed their distance as one hand cradling Winter’s face before pressing the softest kiss on her forehead, down to both of her cheeks before nuzzling their noses together, their breaths mingling together. 

 

Winter’s grip on the blanket tightened.

 

Winter swore her heart was going to explode out of her ribcage at any moment.

 

“I have never felt this kind of feeling with someone else before. Uh…” Jimin paused, closing her eyes. A few seconds passed by as Winter–already a blushing mess– waited for Jimin’s next move. Then suddenly Jimin dropped her head, hiding her face in the crook of Winter’s neck.

 

“I can’t believe that I run out of words to say when in fact I have so much to say. Asdfjlkdsh –”

 

“T-This isn’t how confessions are supposed to be in movies.”

 

“This isn’t some kind of confession scene in movies and I’m so embarrassed right now…”

 

Suddenly gaining an ounce of courage after seeing how cute Jimin was, Winter simply chuckled, muttering,

 

“I am so deeply in love with you right now it’s ridiculous.” Then Winter tapped Jimin’s shoulder. “How about we cut to the chase and kiss? Cause I’ve confessed already so it should be enough to have a kiss right–”

 

Winter’s ramble was cut short by a pair of warm lips slotted perfectly against hers. Winter melted into the kiss almost instantly, feeling the butterflies literally raging inside her stomach to the point Winter wondered whether it was actually a pack of wolves instead.

 

But their kiss didn’t last long because Winter had this sudden urge to giggle like a high school girl in front of her crush. It didn’t take long for Jimin to laugh into the kiss too and she pulled away as they became a giggly mess. Winter felt a bit bad for giggling in the midst of their kiss but Jimin didn’t seem to mind as she placed one final kiss on the side of her head, grinning widely like a fool.

 

A perfect ending wasn't what they searched for. Winter could be full of scars and having an anomalous past but Jimin would always be there for her, accepting her past, spending her present with her and possibly the future too.

 

And Winter couldn’t wait for the seasons to pass, for the years to go by.

 

All this time she loathed being a successful subject, but then again, if she gets to be with Jimin. It was worth all the anguish and pain.

 


 

“Oh oh oh!”

 

“Yes, love?”

 

“Y’know, I learned martial arts from the tutorial videos Yeji showed me back then and they’re so cool! I fought those people back at the HQ–”

 

“Martial arts– wait Minjeong, so the one who broke the toilet lid this morning is you?”

 

“Uh…that’s…a bit out of topic, don’t you think?”

 

A sigh.

 

“Okay, I’m sorry. That was me. P-Please don’t be mad at me. I love you so much, you know that right?!”

Chapter Text

WARGH !”

 

A loud crash.

 

“You broke the swing!”

 

“But I just sat on it though?!”

 

“You’re heavy as fu–AHHHHH AERI HELP ME!”

 

Jimin only shook her head upon witnessing how Minjeong sprinted all the way across the park just to put Ninging in a headlock. Nigning’s high pitched scream literally resounded across the empty park but Aeri paid no mind to her as she stretched on the picnic mat.

 

Initially, Jimin brought Minjeong for a walk at the park when suddenly Minjeong ran off the track and towards a certain red-haired woman who was currently touching some grass before she hit the back of her head. Surprised at the sudden aggression caused by Minjeong, Jimin wasted no time to dash towards them and pulled Minjeong away.

 

Minjeong had never once hurted someone, let alone hurted a single fly so this kind of was bizarre and to be honest freaked Jimin out because Minjeong had never once lost control over something so suddenly like that.

 

When the red-haired woman turned around to face Minjeong, that’s when Jimin’s heart dropped down to her stomach. Minjeong on the other hand, didn’t even share the same sentiment, not when Minjeong easily slipped off Jimin’s grip to run away from the red-haired woman who was sprinting as fast as she could to catch Minjeong.

 

Long story short, Jimin met doctor Aeri and the test subject that claimed her name was Ningning at the park and now Aeri and Jimin were seated at the picnic mat Aeri had laid out beforehand whilst Ningning and Minjeong played at the playground like kids.

 

(Not that Jimin blamed them for being childish. After all, they were just a child in a grown up body, being forced to grow up due to the unfavourable situation being pushed down on them so giving them some time to show their inner child would surely make them happy, right?)

 

But really, Ningning seemed like she was having trouble controlling her anger whenever the wind swept her hair into her whole face, when she tripped over her own feet or when Minjeong purposely hit her just because…well, just because Minjeong was a devil kid in disguise. Jimin was afraid if Ninging ever lost her composure and ended up ruining the whole park but Aeri on the other hand didn’t even seem fazed by it.

 

And when Jimin witnessed how Ningning had tried to choke Winter (well, Winter being the menace she was, simply laughed out loud as she swatted Ningning’s arms away), Aeri finally called for Ningning. A wave of her hand was enough to make Ningning rush over to her like a dutiful, loyal puppy she was. Ningning’s lovesick grin and adoration that flooded out her gaze somehow made Jimin’s jaw agape due to how fast Ningning’s emotions could shift.

 

Just when she was about to have an emotional whiplash, Winter ran towards her with her cute grin before flopping right onto Jimin’s lap, arms wrapping Jimin’s neck securely.

 

Ningning, as far as Jimin remembered, was a dangerous, cold-hearted woman with a gaze that literally could kill anyone. And this new change somehow baffled Jimin more than anything.

 

But then Jimin reminded herself that everything was over.

 

No more crazy test subjects, no more pain, no more tears.

 

Change was for the better.

 

Jimin's eyes fluttered closed as she relished on Minjeong's warmth.

 

Minjeong was here with her and she wouldn't leave her for good. Jimin held Minjeong's waist as gently as she could, feeling Minjeong’s body flushed against her, a constant reminder that this was real and not some kind of figment of her imagination due to her messed up mind.

 

One thing Jimin noticed about the whole change was how carefree Aeri and Ningning were than the last time Jimin had seen them– well, during the time where Minjeong was taken away, that is. Back then, it was as if something was chaining Aeri down, her posture was tense and her gaze was icy cold, giving no room for any emotions to spill out. Ningning on the other hand was too playful, purposely doing something to test one’s patience, as if she wanted to see how long did it take until one would start to lose control and give in to the rage just because she could.

 

But now, Ningning resembled a lot like a lovesick fool, only having her eyes for a certain doctor whilst Aeri, well, Jimin could say that whatever feelings Ningning had for Aeri was not unreciprocated, if Aeri’s caring gestures and silent yet loving gaze was anything to go by when she thought no one was looking.

 

Well, Jimin was glad they were given the chance to properly live their life like how normal people would.

 

“This is my number. You can call me if you ever want to meet up.” Aeri had said that one time after giving Jimin a piece of paper scribbled with her phone number. Her gaze was genuine, without any hint of deceit as a small smile plastered on her face. “It’s been a while since Ningning appeared as…untroubled as today– aside from her anger issues, of course. She’s trying to be better and I’m proud of her progress.”

 

Jimin casted a glance at Minjeong who was trying to help Ningning open the yoghurt lid. She couldn’t help but smile at the apparent act of service Minjeong showcased upon finding out how Ningning literally tried to use force on the poor yogurt instead of carefully taking off the lid.

 

Just like Ningning, Minjeong too, seemed to be genuinely happy to have at least a person she could share her memories with. Good memories instead of bad ones with a person that used to have similar experience with her in terms of growing up. After all, they must’ve shared some kind of bond after going through the hardship together, despite the situation that threw them into the lion cage without any preparation.

 

And to see how Minjeong reconciled with the past without being hard on herself somehow brought a sense of pride blooming in Jimin’s chest, immensely proud of how well Minjeong was doing. Minjeong was no longer insecure about her eyes, no longer flinched whenever she noticed the knives in the kitchen, no longer having frequent nightmares about the past.

 

And Jimin too, was no longer dwelling on the past. The remnants of memories about a certain home she was trapped in back when she was young had no longer bothered her, no longer trapping her in her own mind ever since she came to terms with herself.

 

She could never run away from the past despite how much she wanted to.

 

All she could do was let go of the pain, resentment that used to burn her to ashes and accept the fact that despite how much she wanted her past to change, she couldn’t. After all, hurtful memories were what shaped her into the person she was at the moment, giving her a lesson of never being the person like her mother was and instead, being a better version of herself.

 

The world itself was full of pain.

 

And Jimin, amidst the endless wounds she received as she grew up, chose to be kind.

 

After all, from her empathy, she managed to find the love of her life, someone she could proudly say that she’s her home, a comfort place that once had been robbed out of her due to the cruelty of the world ever since she was young.

 

Home, she found that it didn't have to be with her mother. It could also come in the form of a certain black-haired woman with adorable features and charming eye colours that never fails to look at Jimin like she's the one who hung up the stars in the sky, like Jimin was her only saviour from the ruthlessness of the corrupt universe.

 

Kim Minjeong.

 

A new name.

 

Thus a new start for both of them altogether.

 

"How does this work?"

 

There Minjeong was sitting crossed leg on the floor, looking ever so cuddly with the soft cream sweater she wore and a pair of sweatpants. Minjeong’s curious glint was visible under the fluorescent lights as she inspected the small microphone she recently bought back when they were browsing for some clothes for Minjeong. The microphone came along with a small speaker and Minjeong was trying to set it up but judging from her furrowed eyebrows and distressed gaze, it seemed like she couldn’t do it.

 

Minjeong fumbled with the microphone again but only ended up having it slip off her grip and fell onto the carpeted food with a muffled thud. An alarmed look plastered on her face as she guiltily glanced at Jimin who was seated at the end of the couch, head resting on the pillow that was placed on the armrest whilst her legs splayed out lazily across the other end.

 

Jimin had a fond smile on her face as soon as her gaze met with Minjeong.

 

“You still want to figure it out yourself or you want me to help you?”

 

Jimin waited for a moment as Minjeong had an internal debate with her ego whether to give up or not. After ten seconds of silence, Minjeong finally nodded. Meekly. Her gaze was averted somewhere else other than Jimin.

 

Cute.

 

As Jimin made her way to Minjeong’s side, she couldn’t help but plant a soft kiss on the crown of her head. Jimin did her work as fast as possible, noting how excited Minjeong was upon wanting to try something new. It took her less time in setting all of them up and once she’s done, she handed the microphone to Minjeong, silently urging her to use it.

 

Minjeong warily leaned closer to the microphone, eyes glued on Jimin as she muttered, “I love you.”

 

Minjeong’s timid voice wafted out of the speaker and to the air, every single syllable was perfectly caught by Jimin who became a blushing mess the moment she registered those words. Minjeong laughed upon seeing Jimin’s response but it seemed like she forgot that her lips were close to the microphone. Her loud laughter echoed throughout the living room, surprising both Jimin and Minjeong at its high decibels.

 

Jimin took the microphone away from Minjeong’s lips instantly.

 

Both of their laughter bubbled up to the air, filling the whole place with a gleeful atmosphere. Jimin then leaned back, one hand propping her weight as she let Minjeong sang her heart out, one hand holding the microphone whilst the other hand fumbling with Jimin’s phone that displayed the lyrics. In times like these, Jimin wished to have the memory ingrained in her mind. Her heart was so full of adoration and love for a certain black-haired woman to the point it felt overwhelming. But in a good way of course. Jimin wouldn’t want to have it the other way.

 

“Minjeong-ah.”

 

Jimin called for her as soon as Minjeong finished the song. Minjeong had a gullible expression plastered on her face as she raised her head from the phone, waiting for Jimin to say something.

 

Jimin had a lovesick grin on her lips as she tilted her head to the side.

 

“You look so cuddly. Can I hug you?”

 

Minjeong let out a cute giggle as she crawled close to Jimin, settling on her lap. Her legs were wrapped around Jimin’s waist whilst her arms were around Jimin’s neck. Her nose nuzzled into Jimin’s neck before pressing playful kisses along her jaw.

 

“You’ve fallen in love with me so bad,” a teasing chuckle. “Am I that attractive?”

 

Jimin rolled her eyes at the sudden surge of confidence. And shen Minjeong pulled away, Jimin leaned close to nuzzle her nose against Minjeong.

 

“You’re so full of yourself nowadays.”

 

“You love it anyways.”

 

And indeed, Minjeong was right.

 

A dreamy sigh left Minjeong’s lips.

 

“I can’t wait to see your face when you’re old.”

 

A slap on Minjeong’s shoulder. “I know that you’re practically immortal by now but do you really have to wait for that out of all other things?”

 

Minjeong had a bright grin on her face as she replied, “I want to be by your side until my last breath.”

 

Jimin stilled, too caught off guard by the words uttered by Minjeong. It was a nice sentiment, considering Jimin knew Minjeong’s rare condition wherein she’s practically immortal even if she was given such lethal radiation or being hit by a car. Sure she would be injured but at some point, she could heal despite how fatal the injury was.

 

And it seemed like the time would pass like how it normally would for Jimin whilst Minjeong…well, seemed like she’s going to live a very, very long life. Jimin couldn’t imagine if she was the one who would witness her loved one ageing from time to time whilst she would be stuck in time. 

 

There’s something bittersweet in having to spend the rest of her life with Minjeong. Because Minjeong would be the one to watch her die, eventually.

 

That’s just how a mortal was.

 

Nonetheless, Minjeong’s hopeful and painfully innocent tone somehow managed to convince her that maybe forever did exist, somewhere within the timeline of them existing. Jimin could only hope that much.

 

“Don’t be sad.”

 

Minjeong’s voice brought her back to reality. A hand placed on her chest, palm against her beating heart.

 

“I know what you’re thinking.” Minjeong’s gaze was full of warmth and her voice was like a comfort, blanketing all of Jimin’s worries into nothingness. “Let’s just enjoy the moment as much as we can. We still have a long way to go.”

 

At Minjeong’s words, Jimin found herself smiling.

 

“Forever doesn’t sound too bad now that I’m with you.”

 

And Minjeong’s reply came in the form of a heart-fluttering kiss that never fails to make Jimin’s brain go into overdrive. A hand gently cradling the side of her face whilst Minjeong’s other hand gripped onto the hem of Jimin’s shirt. Jimin couldn’t help but smile into the kiss.

 

I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.