According to what Eunhee had told her, five days has passed since Lara had woken up. But it could as well be ten days- or fifteen for that matter- as she had no other way to know. The room had no windows at all. Four pristine white walls with an en suite bathroom and an empty closet.
The sheets were surreally soft and her reflection on the mirror seemed more of a ghost. There were no mirrors in the Catacombs. Every time she went to the bathroom she made sure to look in the mirror to remind herself that was her: with small nose, rosy lips and fair skin.
It still felt awkward seeing her own face. Sometimes, when she woke up in the middle of the night and passed through it, she would move her fingers and touch different places on her face to make sure it was real. Other, when she was bored, she would spend her time making different faces and studying how they looked in her. She had discovered the scar on her neck was much smaller than she thought and much less visible than it felt. The memories still hurt.
Life was comfortable. The morphine swimming in her veins numbed the pain and every time she pressed the red button by her bed a nurse would come to attend whatever need she had. Sometimes she just needed somebody to talk with. Her favorite was a woman with sharp eyes and dark hair whose name was Kang Seulgi.
Seulgi was the one who gave her the nicest conversations. She told her things about the world she now lived in. Sometimes Lara just wanted someone to tell her what was real and what wasn’t. It had been a nice surprise to discover there were actually places full of sweets and that desserts weren’t just cinnamon muffins.
It was Seulgi who helped her wash while she trembled. In the Catacombs she had grown to dread taking a shower. If Eunhee wasn’t with her she would end up curled in a nook with blood swimming bellow her eyelids and her cheeks stained with tears.
But with Seulgi it was different. She sat her down on a little plastic stool and caressed her skin with a soft loofa. Feeling warm water sliding down her skin was a nice pleasure she hadn’t quite gotten used to yet. Seulgi let her enjoy the nice sensation of cleanness left in her body. She never asked about the scar creeping on the inner face of her left thigh or the nasty worm-like bruises on her back, clearly a sign of mistreat.
But life in the hospital was far from being a fantasy.
Lara, who had yearned for daylight, had grown to hate the pale lights of her cubicle just as much as the moldy lights that had painted the walls of the Catacombs. She hadn’t been able to see yet what her books described as a stunning sunset.
Although she knew the code to get out of her room, she had only gotten to a white empty hallway. She suspected she was, once again, confined underground. The only way to go up was the elevator in front of the nurse’s central bureau. There was always some nurse who would tell her to go back to her room as she needed to rest.
Eunhee hadn’t spoken a word about Baekhyun yet. “Boss’ orders”- as she said. That day Eunhee had a watch that read nine thirty when she had come to visit. Given the scrambled eggs and the nice hot tea, Lara knew it was in the morning. Once again, when she had asked about Baekhyun, Eunhee had started to fidget with the silver bracelet she had been wearing since the first day Lara had seen her outside the Catacombs.
“We’ve already talked about this” she had sighed “You know I can’t tell you. Boss’ orders”
“You can’t even tell me?” Lara had retorted “I just want to know if he’s okay. Can’t you just tell me if he’s alive or- “
Lara completely froze. She didn’t know how to take that. Was she sorry because she couldn’t tell her? Or was it because Baekhyun hadn’t made it? For the first time in five days Eunhee dared to look her in the eyes while talking about him. And for the first time in eight years Lara couldn’t read what her gaze told her. It told her absolutely nothing.
Never had silence felt so heavy between them. So painful. After a moment Eunhee had stood up from the bed and, leaving the empty plates on the table, she had headed for the door. Before she could live Lara’s voice stopped her.
“If you don’t tell me, I’ll figure it out myself”
And now, what she guessed were twelve hours later, she couldn’t help her head from spinning around Eunhee’s last words before she had left. “You’ll regret it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you”
Regret it? Why would she regret knowing about Baekhyun? She had gone through different possibilities. Knowing his abilities, his range of wins in the Catacomb’s tournaments and his unknown whereabouts (because it was “boss’ orders”), Lara suspected he could be some sort of top-secret agent. That way nothing could be known about him. But then, why had Eunhee told her she would regret it? Would they come to silence her? It was far too unlikely.
A little voice in her head whispered that Baekhyun hadn’t made it. After all, she hadn’t seen him since they parted on the early hours of the Escape. She knew the rules: only three prisoners could escape. She was alive. Eunhee too. Yixing was in China and there wasn’t a reason why Eunhee would lie to her about it. And Baekhyun… Where the hell was him?
Eunhee could have perfectly made out the “boss’ orders” part just not to tell her anything. Baekhyun being dead would explain her being shifty about the topic and her warning. Lara didn’t want to believe it. Although it was completely possible, in her heart it was impossible Baekhyun was dead.
Her untouched bowl of soup stared at her from the tray on her lap. She had lost appetite. The food they gave her tasted like heaven compared to the rancid taste of the Catacomb’s dry food, but she was just unable to eat.
She put the tray aside and turned off the lights. Luckily, she could catch some sleep.
Icy water cascading over her back. Foreign hands creeping through her skin. Lips attached to her neck and harsh claws gripping her hair. A piercing scream, the glare of a knife’s blade and blood. A pair of seething eyes. A different pair of eyes, pupils blown and staring into emptiness.
Lara woke up with a racing heart and a sore dry throat. She got up from bed slowly and, with the sole thought of getting out of there and getting some breathable air, she entered the four numbers on the door panel to escape her room. As usual, the hallway was utterly silent, the only person there the barely awake nurse on the front desk.
The lights had been turned off, the only source of clarity the faint green glow of some sort of panels on the walls and the pale light coming from the front desk.
She gripped the bannister lining the wall and took a deep breath. She just needed to walk for a bit. Her leg protested with the first step. For what she had been told, the bullet hadn’t broken any muscular fibers. It had been more of a deep scratch. But she had torn her catheter to walk freely and she was already missing the cold numbing feeling morphine left as it made its way through her veins.
A few steps later, the satisfaction of being able to walk vanished when her knees gave in and she lost control of her legs. Cursing under her breath, she closed her eyes and braced for the impact.
That was the end of her midnight journey. The nurse on shift would come to help her, she would take her to bed and connect her again, probably giving her some tranquillizer, so she would fall asleep.
Instead, she felt strong arms wrapping her from behind and her back collided with a warm chest. Lara knew every single curve and dip on that chest by heart. Even with some expensive cologne masking his natural scent, he still smelled the same.
Plush lips kissed her hair and she sighed.
She hadn’t felt that safe in ages. The arms wrapped around her waist turned her around slowly. She could finally see him. His puppy bright eyes, the freckle on the right corner of his lips and every single eyelash. His hair looked much softer and she couldn’t resist the urge to touch it.
Her fingers felt like they were floating.
His sweet eyes looked concerned, trained on hers and scanning her face, his pink soft lips pursed. Then, he smiled.
“You really can’t stay still, can you?” He ruffled her hair “Even with two bullet wounds you can’t stay resting in bed”
She shook her head, nuzzling into his warm chest. Having Baekhyun with her, right there, right then, felt like every fantasy she could ever have had come true. He was there, comforting her and kissing her head. On the outside world. Alive. She had spent five days killing herself with the thought that maybe Baekhyun was dead after all. Five days of longing, wishing and regretting.
But Baekhyun’s warm embrace had the power to dim all the bad thoughts, all the bad years and the nightmares she woke up to. She wrapped her hands around his waist and brought him closer -if that was possible. Her ribs protested, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. The pain was making her feel dizzy, but that didn’t matter anymore.
She had to feel him. She needed to feel him. Maybe this was once again a dream, after all her mind liked to play dirty tricks on her, maybe he would disappear back to the shadows if she didn’t hold him tight enough.
She knew- in her current state of mind- she couldn’t afford that again.
“It feels so real” she whispered
Baekhyun stopped petting her hair to try and pry her off. He still hadn’t had a chance to check Lara’s wellbeing. He hadn’t seen her in so long and the only thing had seen that nigh was her falling figure and the top of her head.
She didn’t let him, though.
He sighed “What does?”
“I’m real, Lara”
She laughed faintly. It sounded bitter and lifeless. “I can’t be sure of that. I can’t be sure of anything. Eunhee couldn’t tell me anything about you. Not even if you were alive.” Her voice broke. She was breathing heavily. “I feel this is all a bad dream. I don’t even know if this is better than the Catacombs. At least there I had you. Now I don’t even know if you’re alive or- “
She didn’t realize she was crying until Baekhyun managed to pry her off a little and brushed her tears away with he pad of his thumb. “You’ve been through a lot” She nodded. “But I’m here now” She was still clutching at his shirt, feeling his warm skin through the thin material.
“Where were you?” She asked softly, hiding her face behind a curtain of her own hair. “How did you get out?”
He looked down “sorry, I can’t tell you”
She scoffed and made to step back, but she collapsed again and he held her close. She didn’t fail to notice the nurse standing two meters away from them warily.
“So, what are you now? Some kind of top-secret agent? Why can’t anybody tell me anything?” Her breaths began to shorten, her tears fell harder. She knew this was going to end up in a nasty panic attack.
Normally, Baekhyun would be the one who soothe her with his soft voice and warm embrace. He would pet her hair and breathe deeply with her until she regained control. Lara would then melt in his chest’s warmth and she would fall asleep, tangled in his arms.
She wanted to have him near, hugging her while sleeping so the nightmares couldn’t get to her. She wanted to see his smile and feel his arms wrapped around her when she woke up. But not like that. Not when the necklace he had given her felt so devastatingly cold and he was keeping secrets she needed to know.
Lara was done. Baekhyun kept protecting her and taking care of her as if she were still twelve. They had told her being eighteen would make her an adult, responsible of her acts in the outside world. Maybe Baek had been on one of his mysterious journeys when they had explained that, because Lara had turned eighteen two months back and he still treated her the same
“Lara, look at me. I need you to breath deeply” he said, tentatively
“No!” She screamed. She pushed him off and fell on her with a dull thud. Every single bone in her body felt like burning. He took a step forward and reached for her cheek. She glared at him and slapped his hand away “Don’t touch me”
“Let me help yo-”
“Help me?” she breathed “I was so happy to see you, to know you are alive” she tried to breathe. She was getting dizzier and talking was harder by the second “But you are just like the others. Hiding things- “she had to stop for a moment “I don’t even know If you are real anymore”
“Lara please. I don’t like seeing you like this”
She managed to scoff
She couldn’t even see what was happening anymore. The prick on her heart got stronger and stronger. Dark blotches swam through her vision, covering Baekhyun’s lips and his delicate fingers. She thought he was saying something but couldn’t make out whatever it was. Her ears could only register a high-pitched beep and her frantic heart.
She thought she cold see Baekhyun nodding to where the nurse was supposed to be before she felt a sharp pain on her neck and everything melted into darkness.
She woke up to the faint beating of the heart monitor. She expected the pale lights and the smell of breakfast. She expected the silky feeling of the sheets and the numbing sensation of morphine in her veins. She half expected last night’s events to be just a dream, but a quick look around the room told her they weren’t. Because what she was not expecting at all was ash blonde hair sprawled besides her legs.
Baekhyun was sleeping next to her.
Hey! Here's the update, before this week ends as I promised!
I know the plot is still a little bit slow, but I need to introduce the situation. It will get moving in about two chapters, probably one and a half depending on how I manage to organise things.
Once again, thank you for giving my story a chance!
Until next time