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For betas, violence isn’t a necessity. For an omega, it’s their only solution to survival. You’re either strong or you’re either unfortunate. If you’re the latter, you’ll most likely find yourself forced on your knees in a dingy alleyway with a beta fucking you with a cock that’s gone unwashed for months. If you’re the former, you’ll land in a few punches, grab your pants before you make a run for it, and live another day before the cycle begins again.

In a city where realistic goals are an intangible feat and dreams are extinct, Jimin doesn’t have many options. He doesn’t have much luck with strength or fortune, he’s a delivery boy. A delivery boy born with a small build, a pretty face, and a fully functioning womb, which apparently is the only attractive feature to betas trying to fit in alpha shoes. Strong or weak, Jimin lets no one touch him without his fucking consent. And maybe he gets into too many fights, maybe he’s looking for one, if that makes him strong, he sure doesn’t feel like it.

You do what you have to. It’s not living, just surviving, but that’s okay. It’s not about him. It’s not about what he wants, what he feels, it’s about getting enough money to feed his brother and pay rent. Live another day, one more day and maybe something good will happen. So what if he gets beat a few times? So what if he’s had betas grabbing at his ass on more occasions than he can bother to count? At least he’s not dealing with alphas. At least he doesn’t have to deal with a knot in his ass, or teeth sinking into his neck. Jimin can live with bloody knuckles and split lips. He won’t die from a black eye.

He’s not strong, but he’s gonna damn well act like it.

“Fucking Christ…” Jimin steps out onto one of the seedy corners of the metropolis, hissing through his teeth from the bruise forming over his right eye. His thighs burn, and his ankles protest as they carry him through to the building at the end of the street. Once he makes it there, he pushes through the doors with a long, relieved exhale.

“What the hell happened to you?”

The second Jimin strides into the barren job centre to retrieve his credits for the long hours of back-breaking work, he’s greeted by his long-faced employment agent. Or as most people will call him, Ducky. Jimin’s pretty sure his real name is Kim Duk-Joo, but he doesn’t talk to him much outside of the centre anyway. Jimin tries to limit his time within the building to five minutes, the monotone grey walls and the endless lines of glass booths dragging his mood down to an all-time low. The smell of piss in the corner gives him a headache, the low-quality lightbulbs above his head intensifying the pain. The humidity is high from the summer heat, it’s sweltering. The air conditioner is broken to pieces in another corner, and he wonders how Ducky can even last this long in a place caught between Satan’s ass cheeks.

“Last delivery. I got elbowed in the eye,” Jimin sighs wearily. He waves his wrist watch above the scratched-up scanner on the counter of the booth, the scan coming to life in green and blue flashes, causing the screen of his watch to flicker for all of two seconds.

“I told you. That shit ain’t a job for an omega,” Ducky tells him, his lips thinning. “You’re better off-”

“Being a housewife?” Jimin laughs humourlessly.

Ducky glances at him judgementally from beyond the glass. “I was gonna say, you’re better off doing something safer.”

Jimin knows he shouldn’t be working a beta’s job, but omega jobs require him to lay under a middle-aged horny motherfucker and let him go balls deep in him. No fucking thank you. He can’t allow his omega status to prevent him from providing the best for his brother. Plus, every damn corner he turns in this part of the city is dangerous. It doesn’t matter what job he has. Even if Jimin can find a job elsewhere, or just walk away, what good would it do? How far can he go? The other districts didn’t welcome their kind. Street rats and corner dwellers, that’s what they are.

“There’s nothing safe about this place. What is there left for me to even do?” Jimin murmurs distractedly. With one last scan of his watch, he withdraws only to scowl at the number displayed under his credits. 600. That’s not enough to buy a loaf of bread. He made 10 deliveries within three hours, that should’ve earned him a good 1200 credits. Should’ve gotten a few hundred more for nearly getting fucked in the face.

Ducky sighs, running his hand through his thinning hair. While Jimin is busy glaring at his watch, hoping that his brother won’t notice him not eating tonight, the older man turns to his computer. “There’s an opening for a lab assistant job that I was saving for someone else. Got it a few months ago, but there was no one interested in it.”

“But... I didn’t go to college. I don’t know anything about lab work.” Jimin gives up on trying to destroy his gadget and turns to Ducky with furrowing brows.

“Just…give it a shot. It might be better than the deliveries,” Ducky reasons, gesturing for Jimin to scan his wrist watch again so he can transfer the job description.

Warily, Jimin does so, bringing up the screen to his face immediately to check the information. Much to his surprise, there’s not a lot written. His employer’s name is provided, but there’s not much else about them from what Jimin can see. He also notices that there’s an alarming lack of details about the job itself too. However, what catches his eye is the amount of credits he would be given for even showing up. 10, 000. He can buy groceries with that, make JiHyun a proper meal. It’s shady as all fuck, but it may be worth it to check it out. The reason for his cautiousness is that this job has been available for months, with decent pay, yet no one has snatched it up. His rationality warns him not to risk it. JiHyun already hates that he does delivery jobs. If he somehow disappears to never be seen again, his brother would be alone. On the other hand, his desperation tells him that perhaps this Kim Namjoon will be sane enough to work with. For 10, 000 credits? They’ll be good for a week.

“Think about it,” Ducky encourages. “I get that it’s suspicious, but… I’ve met Doctor Kim. He’s a good man. Plus, you don’t need qualifications for this job. He’ll probably have you cleaning the bathrooms in his lab.”

Jimin’s face scrunches in thought. He trusts Ducky. He’s known him for a few years, coming and going through the job centre despite it being a giant health code violation. No other centres will take him on, and he’s grateful to Ducky for even giving him five minutes. Though he’s done a few shitty jobs, he never blames the older man for it. He should probably trust him on this one too.

“Yeah…I’ll think about it,” Jimin says with a grateful smile.

“There’s no rush. Doctor Kim will most likely take anyone at this point,” Duck shrugs.

“…Better than the deliveries, right?”

“Right.”

Jimin leaves the job centre with sweaty palms and the scent of piss clinging to his shirt. The night air does nothing to cool his feverish skin, less so to his throbbing eye, and for a second he wonders if his heat is approaching. Not likely. The first signs of his pre-heat won’t start until the end of the month. It’s the middle of August, it shouldn’t be early. However, he makes a mental note to double up on his dosage of suppressants anyway.

With hurried steps, he weaves through the streets, avoiding drunkards, deserted paths, and empty alleyways, sticking to the more public route with crowds of sticky bodies and drugged up young adults so he’s not caught unawares. The city’s night life is not much different from the daytime, the ostentatious neon lights above the strip clubs and restaurants drowning out any stars that may appear. It’s busy, smelly, and perfect. Jimin prefers this over the silent streets he has to go through to get home. He hates having to glance over his shoulder every five minutes. The paranoia stays with him even when he’s safe within the walls of his apartment.

His stop at a local convenience store to buy a few snacks is a small reprieve. He can’t afford anything more than a few bags of chips and a bottle of water, but it’ll have to do. After that, he spends five minutes wandering aimlessly down the aisles, wishing that he can grab whatever is on the shelf and not worry about checking the price each time. Later, when he realises that he might look like a thief, he goes to pay.

“That’s 400 credits… pretty omega,” the employee tells him, his eyes travelling lower than what is appropriate.

“Thanks,” Jimin shoves his items in a bag, then swipes his wrist over the counter. He doesn’t hide his shudder of disgust, his features twisting in a grimace.

“I could give you a discount-” the beta tries.

“No thanks,” Jimin brushes him off and scurries out of the convenience store to trek back down the street.

Arriving at his apartment complex, Jimin veers for the mail boxes to quickly check for anything important. His landlady, a round, heavyset, elderly woman jerks awake from behind her post at the front desk when Jimin accidently closes the box too loudly. She grunts when she notices him, small eyes narrowing slowly at the impolite awakening. Jimin almost wants to apologise, but he doesn’t exactly have the best relationship with the woman.

“Coming in late again,” she says snidely.

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ll try to come back earlier next time,” Jimin replies. They both know that it’s a hollow promise.  

“An omega shouldn’t be working.”

“If I don’t work, we don’t eat,” Jimin sighs heavily, then changes the topic hastily. “Is JiHyun asleep?”

“The boy wouldn’t let me into the apartment. I gave up checking on him,” she shakes her head.

“It’s fine. I’m sorry for bothering you. I’ll make sure he doesn’t do that again.” Jimin tucks the mail under his arm and strides away to the elevator.

“You should be here for him,” she calls after him.

“I’m trying” Jimin replies, his head bowed.

“Try harder.”

He does the best that he can. Implying that he doesn’t only makes him feel all the more incompetent. Caring for his brother is his whole life. It’s only ever been just him and JiHyun. For all that they’ve been through; their father’s death, their mother’s disappearance, the poverty, Jimin makes sure to give JiHyun the best of the best. Jimin will work through his heats just to buy enough crackers for his brother’s lunch boxes. He’ll settle for less just so he has something to show for when he goes home. How much harder should he try?

The apartment is dark when Jimin sneaks in. The only light guiding him through the rooms is from the moonlight through the windows, streaming over the couch in the living room to show JiHyun’s tiny form, curled up under a blanket. Jimin tiptoes towards him. He sets the bag of snacks down on the coffee table as he’s kneeling to tuck the blanket tighter around the little boy.

“You should be sleeping in the bedroom,” Jimin whispers.

“Wanted to wait for you,” JiHyun replies almost instantly.

“You didn’t have to.” Despite himself, Jimin smiles.

JiHyun hums sleepily, his arms stretching out towards Jimin to be picked up. “Up, up.”

Jimin brushes his hand through the boy’s hair gently before he scoops him up and holds him tight to his chest. The blanket comes with him, hanging precariously over JiHyun’s shoulders. He feels guilty for leaving his brother by himself while he works, but he can’t afford a sitter and their landlady can only check up on JiHyun so much. However, he’s aware that his brother is capable by himself. Jimin taught him everything he knows, it’s never too early for a child to know how to be self-sufficient, especially with their lifestyle. Even though Jimin wishes JiHyun could stay young for a little while longer, enjoy all the things that come with being a kid, their situation calls for some responsibility from them both. Fuck, there’s never a day where Jimin doesn’t wish he can give JiHyun a better life. His brother deserves so much more than a one bedroom apartment that barely has heating.

He considers that lab assistant job. It wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.

“You smell weird again,” JiHyun mutters into his shoulder, sniffing around Jimin’s neck.

Handsy betas come with the job of delivering. Some managed to get their hands on him before he dashed away, some went for the subtle approach of letting their hand linger on his as they signed for their package. He knows JiHyun is more sensitive to scent than he is, he can smell any changes in Jimin with just one whiff. He hates coming home like this, smelling of some unwanted beta, it takes him hours just to get rid of the residue on his clothes. The scent invades their home like an unwelcomed guest.

“Ah, I’m sorry. I’ll take a shower right now,” Jimin reassures, taking them both into the bedroom. He keeps the lights off not to stir the little boy, then sets JiHyun down on the queen-sized bed, letting him climb under the covers himself as the older grabs some clothes and walks into the bathroom.

Jimin jumps in and out of the shower, scrubbing himself raw for two minutes under the freezing spray until he’s sure to catch hypothermia. Right after, he dries off, shivering out of his skin and slips into the sleep clothes he wore the previous night, reminding himself to do laundry later. Once he hangs up the towel to dry, Jimin pads back into the bedroom to check on JiHyun. It’s not quite late enough for him to sleep yet, but he has to be sure that the little boy will be awake early tomorrow for school. He doesn’t have to be in for work until mid-morning, he has time to do whatever he wants for a while.

He contemplates searching up Kim Namjoon to satisfy his curiosity. Doctor Kim. He’ll assume that the man really does have a P.H.D and is not relying on a technicality.  

“Jimin…”

“What’s up, bud?” Jimin sits down on the edge of the bed, his hand immediately seeking the little lump that is his brother.

“You’re giving presents again tomorrow?” the little boy asks.

The first day Jimin became a delivery boy, he’d told JiHyun that he delivered presents. Christmas isn’t that celebrated in their apartment anymore, but Jimin knows how to sweeten the truth to keep JiHyun ignorant of what really happens behind the scenes. He may not hide many things from his brother, but the little boy should in no way be exposed to the ugliness that goes on during his deliveries. Ah, but that doesn’t stop their landlady from complaining openly about it. No wonder his lies come to light so soon.

“Yeah. That’s my job,” Jimin smiles, though he doubts JiHyun can see it in the dark.

“I don’t like it,” he grumbles, his head peeking out from the blankets just to pout at his older brother.

“I know you don’t,” Jimin sighs. He’s a broken record at this point. “It’s just something I have to do. If I don’t then what would I put in your lunch boxes?” He tries for another smile.

“You don’t have to. I don’t need lunch boxes,” JiHyun sniffles, crawling close to snuggle into his side. “If I don’t have lunch boxes, I’ll be okay.”

Jimin shakes his head, his hand stroking over the boy’s back. “No. You need lunch boxes. How else will you grow to be big and strong?” Jimin playfully tickles his sides, but JiHyun doesn’t laugh, only squirms away.

“Omegas aren’t big or strong,” he says, shoving his head back under the covers.

“What? Who told you that?” Jimin frowns.

“Everyone…”

Jimin’s lips turn into hard lines. He knows what JiHyun has to face at school. Even with a place full of omegas, it’s not the healthiest of environment for the young boy. His teachers have been too worn down by society itself, his classmates taught to be submissive – to not draw attention. JiHyun grew up with Jimin, grew up believing that omegas were the strongest people on Earth. However, spend enough time in a place where you’re told otherwise, Jimin isn’t surprised to find JiHyun beginning to sway. That did not mean that he will stand for it. JiHyun deserves to know that he’s more than his status.

“You don’t have to believe them.” Jimin picks the boy up again and cradles him gently. “We omegas are amazing. We can do anything. Even ignore people that tell us the opposite.”

“B-But…” JiHyun’s voice wavers, on the very edge of crying. “W-What if I can’t?”

“Then you tell them what I tell you.”

JiHyun looks unsure for a moment, then smiles timidly. “I kick butt better as an omega.”

Jimin laughs proudly and hugs his brother close, rocking them back and forth. JiHyun squeals and clutches onto him tighter. “You got it!”

It doesn’t take a lot for the little boy to fall asleep after that. In the meantime, Jimin busies himself with scrounging up whatever he can find in the fridge to make JiHyun lunch tomorrow. He doesn’t care too much if he can’t eat, as long as he doesn’t give the other parents more reason to look down on JiHyun than they already do. While he’s scrambling around in the kitchen, he pulls up the information he can find on Kim Namjoon. He feels wrong for researching a man he doesn’t know. He just has to take precautions. However, once again, there isn’t much there that Jimin can find that would make the man untrustworthy. The absence of any criminal records or faults is a reassurance. It makes Jimin feel better about the job. Ducky may be right; Doctor Kim will probably make him do some manual labour. Who knows, but luckily it doesn’t look like he’s killed anyone.

“Graduated from one of the best schools in the city?” Jimin whispers in astonishment, reading along on the holographic screen above the counter beside him as he stirs some sort of concoction in a large pot. “He must be knee deep in student loans.”

The more Jimin reads, the more he’s convinced that Kim Namjoon may be a little too perfect. What he doesn’t understand is, why he didn’t write more about what the job will entail. That’s the only reason that Jimin is having doubts, so he tells himself to wait a day. If he’s still not sure by tomorrow, then he won’t take the job.

There’s a chance that he may get experimented on.

Although Jimin will take any job that Ducky will give him, he always knows what he’s getting himself into. Regardless of how ‘clean’ Doctor Kim is, Jimin hasn’t met him personally yet. Plus, his lab is located in the West of the metropolis, Jimin only ever goes there when the packages get mixed up and the rich are too scared to cross over to the East.

Tomorrow, he promises himself. He’ll decide tomorrow.

 

Jimin doesn’t come to a decision that next afternoon. He’s unsure why he’s being so indecisive. Maybe it’s because he would have to travel all the way to the West to get there. That takes him fifteen minutes with the bullet train. Conflicted, he thinks he should turn it down. Anyway, does he really want to deal with rich assholes staring at him every second he’s there? Jimin isn’t winning the best dressed award in the East side, and those aristocrats can smell an outsider from a hundred miles away. It doesn’t sound like a good time.

He’s thinking about heading back to the job centre to refuse and thank Ducky for the offer, already on his last deliver of the day, when he realises where he’s heading next. Talk about your bullshit coincidences. He’s got a box for the West. He needs a signature from Kim Namjoon. He swears…if Ducky has set him up, he’s going to take the most dangerous job he has listed. He’ll have the man losing the rest of his hair by the end of the week.

Jimin’s got a fucking rock in his throat just thinking about making this delivery. Then again, Namjoon isn’t expecting him. He doesn’t know that Jimin is considering a job with him. All he has to do is get Namjoon to sign for the package, then leave. Quick and painless.

He plays those words on loop while he gets the next train to the West. The ride is smooth. He sits in the corner of one section, the package tucked under his arms. The train isn’t overly packed, thankfully. Everyone has a seat of their own that pertains a respectable distance from each other, which Jimin is relieved about. He’s too exhausted to deal with some creep groping at his ass while he’s sardined – in a mix of teens, and mothers with screaming children. He’s lucky that no one even glances his way. The passengers are almost all made up of business men. He supposes he shouldn’t expect for any of the rich to come to the East on a willing vacation.

Jimin gets off on the third stop, the carriage nearly empty, save for a beta couple. With the package securely held under his right arm, he strolls out of the station to join the late afternoon crowd.

The West is affluent. Jimin only gets the chance to come here once every few weeks, each time he leaves with the sense of awe still with him. The district is too…tidy. Too neat. Everything is always in its place. There’s no trash, no graffiti. It has no character, or is that Jimin being jealous? Can very well be both.

On his way to Namjoon’s lab, Jimin takes a moment to appreciate all the miniature aircrafts floating above his head, displaying an assortment of advertisements about skin care and energy drinks. At times it’ll switch to some brand name clothing he’s only seen in magazines. That’s where he loses interest. How the hell do these people live? Doesn’t it all get annoying after a while? Jimin is already losing his mind simply standing on the street. He couldn’t be happier to arrive at a small building hidden away behind a bakery. He spends two minutes drooling over the cakes in the windows before he rings the bell on the less fanciful building, waiting for someone to let him in.

The door opens, but he’s only met with an empty hallway.

“Doctor Kim?” Jimin calls, stepping inside with a cautious glance over his shoulder. He enters what seems to be a reception room. There’s an empty desk, a few chairs and a dying fern in the corner. It’s a mood killer if he’s ever seen one. “Doctor Kim! I have a package you need to sign for!”

No answer. The door did not open by itself without prompting, someone must know he’s here to have let him in.

“Doctor Kim? I really need you to sign for this package!” He tries again. “Hello? Is anyone here?” He shifts nervously from one foot to the other. He thinks about leaving the package on the desk and forging the signature himself, but that’s a dumb ass plan because the scanners will know if it’s fake.

Jimin stands in the hallway for a while, wondering if he should go find Namjoon himself. He can’t get his credits if he doesn’t complete all his deliveries. He can’t be late home again either. So, he squares his shoulders and walks down the hallway. Can’t believe he’s wasting his time on this. This could’ve been so simple. He could’ve been in and out in five minutes at most! Why the hell did he have to go look for this man? Namjoon better hope there’s nothing incriminating in his lab, because Jimin is feeling petty.

“Well crap…” His voice echoes through the hall.

The further he travels, the chillier the place gets. From the outside, the building didn’t look this large. He doesn’t really know where he’s going. He’s sure he’s lost now. The walls are so bare, with an absurd number of doors on each side. They all look identical, small lamps hanging above the threshold, no cracks to give him any indication that he was going in circles. He jiggles the handles of a few of them, all turning out to be locked, leaving him with no hope.

Jimin’s about to turn right back around and head to the reception again when a soft yelp is heard on his left. The first time, he ignores it. The second and third time, he’s curious. He advances down the hall again, coming to a halt at a set of double doors. He peers through one of the windows first, knocks, then goes inside.

The room is filled with examination tables, the floors made of steel grating. There are jars and clipboards littered all over the place. The whole room is a tripping hazard.

“Goddammit!”

Jimin jumps in terror when he sees a rush of water flying into the air from the middle of the room. Amid the commotion is a man in a lab coat, his blond hair limp and wet on his head. The man frantically throws out his arms to protect his face, the burst pipe he’s trying to tend to gives him no opportunity to get closer than a few inches. Jimin doesn’t dare to approach, afraid that the package will get wet with him.

Another spray of water soars high, nearly touching the ceiling, and the man growls out more profanities.

“Er…hello?” Jimin scoots closer.

The other whips around, grinning sheepishly to reveal an endearing set of dimples. “Hey! Hi! Could you hand me that wrench?”

“…What?” Jimin looks around himself in confusion.

“That wrench over there.” He gestures to one of the tables to Jimin’s immediate right.

“Okay…” Jimin hands over the tool and watches as the man disappears under the open flooring. There’s a clank and another curse before it all shuts off. He can feel some of the cool air sieve through the hairs on his arm, sending a chill through his whole body. “Um…”

“Hi! Yes, sorry! I’m Kim Namjoon! You can call me Doctor Kim. Or Namjoon. Doesn’t matter.” The man climbs out and straightens up. While he’s walking closer, Jimin has to take a step back so he’s not in the vicinity of his beta scent. His clothes are soaked, the room is humid, which makes the typically mellow scent of a beta almost too pungent.

“Jimin! It’s nice to meet you!”

Jimin scrambles for words, any words. He doesn’t want to be rude, he really doesn’t but how do you respond to something like this without coming off as rude? “How did you…know my name?” he eventually asks, nearly swallowing his tongue in the process.

“The front door has a security scanner. Anything you have on your watch gets sent to me,” Namjoon explains, pushing his wet hair out of his eyes. It flops right back over his eyes, causing him to huff in annoyance. Looking closer, he sees that Namjoon’s got a mating mark on the side of his neck. It shouldn’t make Jimin so relieved, but it does. Dealing with a beta is difficult, but a mated one is tolerable. “And…Ducky called me a while ago. Said you were thinking of taking the job.”

“…Did Ducky by any chance say anything else? I knew he would do something like this,” Jimin grumbles.

“Anyway! You have a package for me?” Namjoon shifts topics quickly, clapping his hand once and sends water flying everywhere. For a man that is soaking wet till water is dripping from the bottom of his lab coat, Namjoon is quite calm, cheerful even.

“Yes. I just need you to sign.” Jimin shifts the box to one arm, then holds his watch out for Namjoon.

As the doctor is reaching for him, ready to set Jimin free with a press of his thumb, they’re interrupted by a shorter man bursting into the room from the other side. Jimin almost groans at just how close he was – almost tasting freedom. The other man makes a ruckus as he strides to them, tripping on knocked over equipment. The floors are wet, it’s slippery, and the man nearly gets his legs sliding right out from under him. Thankfully, he catches himself on the edge of the table, grunting furiously when Namjoon snorts at his accident. Once back on his feet, his nose scrunches up, showing his distaste for the surroundings. The man is smaller than Namjoon, almost exactly Jimin’s height, with silver coloured hair and a lab coat draped over one shoulder. He stops on the other side of the gap Namjoon was working in and shakes his head.

“You got it fixed? Didn’t just duct tape it back together?” he asks, his voice shocking Jimin with its deep quality.

“You should really trust me more,” Namjoon mumbles, shaking out his coat, which has droplets hitting Jimin in the face. It accomplishes nothing other than to get his surroundings that much wetter.

“I barely trust you to boil an egg with supervision. What makes you think I would trust you with this?”

Jimin glances between them, tempted to scratch his head and laugh at the same time. Their exchange is different. He assumes Namjoon is the boss considering his name was the only one listed in the job description, so this is surprising to him. Jimin doesn’t know what kind of work they do here, but he isn’t that brave enough to give his boss shit without thinking about the consequences first.

“Look, I got it done anyway. Let it go!” The blond flails his arms in exasperation.

“You’re the one who broke it in the first place,” the other man murmurs slyly, his eyes catching Jimin’s before the omega glances away. Jimin wouldn’t say that his gaze is cold or mean-spirited, just more intimidating than anything. “So, it’s safe for me to bring them in now? Or are you still not done jerking off in here?” he asks crudely.

Namjoon groans and waves his hand. “Yeah, yeah. You can bring them in now. I’ll put the grate back.”

“Go change your clothes while you’re at it. You’re dripping.”

Namjoon turns back to Jimin and gives an apologetic smile. “I’ll be right back, Jimin. You stay put. I’ll come back to sign for the package then we’ll talk about the job. Sound good? Okay!”

Jimin opens his mouth to object, however Namjoon is already putting the grate back in its place then skipping away out of the room. He has half a mind to reach out, pull him back by his coat, force him to sign for the fucking package so he can get the hell out of here, but luck really likes to kick him in the balls, because Namjoon is quick to exit the room, leaving behind only a faint scent trail. Feeling abandoned, Jimin stands awkwardly, avoiding the other man’s gaze. He’s being studied, he can feel it, though he rather not make a comment about it.

“You’re Jimin?” the other inquires sceptically, almost making Jimin jump a mile into the air from the abrupt question.

“Yes. My name is Park Jimin,” he replies.

“Hm. Min Yoongi. I help around here,” Yoongi says. “You applying for the job?”

Jimin chews on the inside of his cheek, tapping his fingers anxiously on the package. “No. No, I’m not.”

“Not what I heard,” Yoongi remarks, making his way around the room to tidy up and wipe the tables dry with paper towels.

They lapse into another silence, this one less painful. Jimin has a million questions to ask – and a few hundred more things to say – however, he’s not sure if Yoongi is the right person he should be taking this to. Yoongi is the blunt type. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. Jimin can tell he would be getting short, smartass answers from Yoongi rather than well-explained ones. He’ll save them for when Namjoon returns. For now, he settles for watching Yoongi’s energy levels deplete the longer he cleans. He really looks like he’s sagging little by little.

“Hey, kid. I got a question.”

“O-Oh. S-Sure. Go ahead.”

“You good at looking after people?”

Jimin blinks, shuffling back while Yoongi picks up some books from the floor. They’re all ruined now, soaked so that the pages stick together. Yoongi heaves a long sigh as he lays the books open on the tables to dry. He meanders through the tables, scooping up touch pads and chairs till he finally gets to the one nearest to Jimin, where all the tools Namjoon has left lay. From where he stands, Jimin can tell that Yoongi is a fellow omega. His scent is richer than Namjoon’s. Sweet and spicy. Vanilla and cinnamon sticks.

“I have a baby brother. So, yeah...” he nods.  

“Are you an asshole?” Yoongi stops in front of him with a brow raised.

“…No?”

“Can you keep your mouth shut?”

“Yes? I don’t understand. Why are you asking me these things?” Jimin runs his hand through his orange hair. He feels flustered.

“You can take care of people. You’re not an asshole and you won’t blab. Sounds to me like you’re pretty perfect for this job,” Yoongi tells him, walking away to pick up the fallen stools.

Jimin exhales through his nose in frustration. How easy must it be for Yoongi to talk this way? The situation is a little more complicated. If those are the only requirements for the job, then absolutely anyone can work here. It doesn’t have to be Jimin. “What exactly can I even do here? You seem like you have everything under control.”

Yoongi snorts loudly. “Clearly.”

Jimin purses his lips, not wanting to say anything about the state of disaster the room is in. It’s not his place, and he plans to turn down the job offer anyway. It’s too weird for him here. He doesn’t know what they’ll have him do – what sort of thing they’ll have him take care of. Maybe a pet, but even then, he isn’t sure he’ll like it.

“Don’t you need to at least do a background check on me or something? You don’t even know me.” Jimin crosses his arms in defiance.

Yoongi shrugs. “Namjoon says you’re clear.”

“And you’re just gonna believe him?” Jimin frowns.

“I’ve never not taken his word so far,” the older man gives him another shrug before he’s going to the door. “Stay here. I’ll be back.”

Jimin wants to reply with where else would he go? Namjoon is nowhere in sight, he still has the fucking package of whatever it is he’s ordered. He’s basically stuck here. He can’t say any of that however, because Yoongi is out the door before he knows it. Jimin wants to scream.

Thankfully, it isn’t long before Yoongi returns. This time, he brings along three more people with him. All betas. Namjoon nowhere in sight.

The three newcomers are dressed in plain t-shirts and sweatpants, their wrists bare of any devices, unlike Jimin, and Yoongi. The two at the front with Yoongi, hanging off each of his arms, both have large smiles on their faces. One brunet, the other a honey blond. They both crowd into Yoongi, the brunet closer in height to the disgruntled looking man. The honey blond is taller than them both, but slender with model-like proportions, while the brunet is lean…and apparently just as clingy as his fellow beta is. They don’t take notice of Jimin at all, too caught up in annoying Yoongi, which Jimin finds extremely amusing. He doesn’t miss the blush creeping over the older omega’s cheeks.  

The third beta hangs behind them, his physique much smaller and meeker than the others. He hides behind the black bangs that hang over his forehead, and seems to shrink even further into his clothes when he sees Jimin. His large eyes avoid the omega’s entirely when Yoongi escorts them all to the examination table nearest to Jimin to sit down. The smallest beta clasps his hands tight in front of him in a timid stance, his shoulders bunching, looking everywhere else but in Jimin’s general direction. The other two, however, are more than eager to greet him. Although Yoongi shushes them sternly, they still grin and wave at him from where they sit.

“This is Park Jimin. He’s thinking of applying for the job of being another one of your caretakers,” Yoongi introduces him.

Jimin looks to Yoongi slowly, puzzled. “Um… Hello.”

“I thought you said it would only be you and Seokjin?” the honey blond asks.

“We need more hands around here before the transition,” Yoongi answers.

“What? You scared we’ll bite you?” the brunet grins.

“Shut up,” Yoongi grins back mockingly. “Anyway… Jimin, this is Jung Hoseok, Kim Taehyung, and Jeon Jungkook.”

“Nice to meet you!” the three betas say in their own unique ways. Jungkook’s voice quiet beneath Hoseok’s and Taehyung’s cheerful tones.

Jimin is too lost to pay attention to the conversation that picks up afterwards. Yoongi is apparently taking some DNA samples from each beta, and Jimin isn’t brave enough to question it. Instead, his eyes naturally begin to drift over to Jungkook’s feeble figure in the corner. The boy’s head hangs low, chin almost brushing the top of his chest. There’s something about him that somewhat reminds Jimin of JiHyun. His pheromones draw out a protective instinct, something that’s unfamiliar but not unpleasant. It doesn’t help that the other two look healthier than Jungkook does. They look well taken care of, meanwhile the boy looks too gaunt for Jimin’s liking.

As Jungkook’s eyes flicker over the wet desks to distract himself, they accidentally meet Jimin’s. They hold the connection for a mere five seconds, but it’s enough for Jimin to lose all the air in his lungs. There’s something fiercer in those eyes than what his posture suggests. Dark and almost starving, Jungkook pins Jimin in his place. The world stops, and something ignites a scorching wave of heat in his stomach that spreads all the way to his chest, to his reddening cheeks. As if on instinct, Jimin feels a keen bubbling up in his throat, his thighs suddenly trembling. Saliva collects at the tip of his tongue, a word he so wishes to moan, dripping with honey and intense wanting hangs at the very edge, ready to spill from his lips.

“Jimin,” Yoongi’s calls gruffly. “Can you get Jungkook to give a saliva sample? The brat doesn’t really listen to me.”

“W-What?” Jimin’s head whips up. He sees that Yoongi has his hands full with Hoseok and Taehyung, who are giving the older man a hard time by wiggling about too much. “W-Why can’t you do it?” he asks childishly.

“Did you not hear what I just said? If I could, I would,” Yoongi replies. “It’s not hard, just get a cheek-swab sample.”

“I hardly think that’s a two-man job,” Jimin deadpans, taking the cotton swab and the small plastic bag Yoongi hands him anyway. His reluctance to go anywhere near Jungkook is plain to see. Merely making eye contact almost gave Jimin a heart attack, getting closer would surely kill him. And it appears that he’s the only one who feels this way, because Jungkook looks unbothered by the news.

“Don’t be difficult,” Yoongi sends him a look, effectively kicking Jimin into action.

Head down, Jimin slouches over to Jungkook, staring at the boy’s sneakers. His heart pounds hard against his ribs, Jungkook’s fixation on his face the one thing keeping Jimin from dashing away. Self-consciously, Jimin rubs his chin with one hand, shuffling forward a tad more until his thighs almost brush Jungkook’s knees. The younger’s eyes bore into him, his body just as tense, if not more than Jimin’s. Thinking he can get it over with, Jimin lifts the cotton swap, dragging his gaze up to Jungkook’s lips, breathlessly waiting for them to open so that he can get the sample. A pause follows, and Jimin realises that he’s been staring at the tiny mole under Jungkook’s bottom lip without doing anything else.

“E-Er…”

“If you two are done staring at each other,” Yoongi scowls.

“O-Oh s-sorry!” Jimin squeaks. He receives a few snickers from Hoseok and Taehyung, and even a small smirk from Jungkook.

Not wanting to anger Yoongi any more, Jimin gently takes Jungkook’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, urging him to part his lips. Jungkook jolts a little in place, caught off guard. Wordlessly, Jimin encourages to open his mouth, smiling in a way that he thinks is reassuring but is probably more like a nervous twitch. The second he does so, Jimin nearly punctures a hole through his cheek getting the sample. Once it’s done, he throws the swab into the bag, jumps back and thrusts it towards Yoongi, his face redder than strawberries.

“Alright, now that’s done, it’s dinner time,” Yoongi announces, paying no mind to whatever moment Jimin was having. “We should head to the kitchen. Jimin you can follow. Namjoon will meet us there.”

As though a bucket of water has been dumped over his head, Jimin’s cheeks cool. He’s dazed for a moment, disoriented and baffled by what’s just happened. The other three don’t seem to care all that much that he’s quiet. He wishes he feels guiltier for not caring to talk.

Yoongi leads the three betas out the door they came through, Jimin toddling behind like a lost duckling. He doesn’t want to go anywhere near Jungkook. The further they are from each other the better.

He’s so out of place here too, a stranger in someone else’s home.

“Jungkook, make sure you eat something this time. You can’t be this thin once you turn,” Yoongi scolds, patting the smallest beta on the back as he walks passed.

Jungkook scowls. “I know.” His voice his thin, as if he hasn’t used it in a long time.

Jimin doesn’t want to ask why Yoongi is speaking of ‘transitions’ and ‘turning’. He’s almost too scared to even speak to any of them, but that doesn’t stop the other two betas from cornering him on their way to the kitchen.

Taehyung hovers over his right shoulder, Hoseok on his left.

“So, Jimin! You’re really gonna be our new caretaker?” Taehyung asks with a toothy grin.

Jimin recoils at the sight of his sharp canines. “I’m not really sure yet.”

“You should consider it,” Hoseok says, bumping their shoulder gently.

They’re friendly, perhaps too friendly, but that’s not really a problem for Jimin. The real issue is that he’s an omega surrounded by betas. He doesn’t know how Yoongi does it. It must be a handful. Another thing, he’s too out of the loop. He has no clue what’s happening; if these betas are sick, if they’re under Namjoon’s care. They look perfectly healthy to him, except for Jungkook. Whatever is going on here, whatever the reason for these three betas to be here, Jimin is apprehensive to find out the answer.

“I have a little brother at home. I can’t leave him alone for too long,” Jimin pipes up.

“We’ll discuss your hours later,” Yoongi tells him over his shoulder.

Jimin nods, his gaze trailing over Jungkook’s back without permission. Fuck, what’s going on with him? There’s something niggling at the back of his mind and he can’t pinpoint what it is. The kid can’t be any older than he is. Attractive, yes, but Jimin isn’t looking for a mate. Jungkook’s scent holds the same bland quality belonging to any other beta he’s ever been near, nothing significant about it. So, why does Jimin feel like he’s burning from the inside out when Jungkook looks at him? He knows he’s looking at him, he doesn’t stop – stealing glances when he can, because he feels it on the side of his face.

His stomach is about to turn itself upside down.

“Alright! Stew should be done by now.”

“Woo!” Taehyung cheers.

Jimin doesn’t realise they’ve arrived at a different section of the building already. The change in environment and atmosphere has his head spinning. This looks more like a home compared to the previous rooms. Complete with a living room, a kitchen, clean furniture, and everything one would need to spend the rest of their life comfortably. Jimin glances back down the hallway to be certain that he didn’t step into a wormhole, before turning back to eyeball the room in jealousy.

“Everyone take a seat,” Yoongi instructs, breaking away from the group to stroll into the kitchen.

The betas go sit at the dining table in the corner, leaving Jimin to stand restlessly by himself at the doorway. He still feels hot from the encounter earlier, his senses going haywire for absolutely no reason. He doesn’t know what to do.

“Seokjin is busy with the bakery today, so I’m in charge of cooking,” Yoongi’s voice cuts through the sounds of chairs scraping across the floor and the excitable mumbling between Taehyung and Hoseok. “Seokjin is Namjoon’s mate. He should be back in a couple of hours.”

Jimin leans forward to peer into the kitchen. “Another beta?” he calls.

“Yeah. I’m the only omega here. My dumb fucking luck…” Yoongi mutters.

“Jimin, come sit with us!” Taehyung eagerly pats the surface of the table.

Jimin smiles wanly, eyes flittering to Jungkook for a second. He swallows down his gasp when he sees that the young beta is watching him in a tense silence. His pale pink lips are parted, his eyes heavy, weighing Jimin down further and further as he walks over to sit across from Taehyung. Jimin feels his face burn again, so he busies himself with fiddling with the package he has on his lap.

Once Yoongi serves the betas a bowl of stew, he places a mug of coffee in front of Jimin, a carton of milk and a tiny bowl of sugar cubes following right after. Jimin sends him a small grateful smile before dropping three cubes into the coffee, then a few drops of milk. Jungkook continues to stare, he can see the beta watching his every move from the corner of his eye, as if satisfying his hunger with Jimin rather than the steaming stew in front of him.

Jimin squeezes his legs together, his stomach twisting in knots.

Yoongi soon sits down beside him, his omega scent doing wonders for Jimin’s sanity. They both take this chance to bask in a minute of peace as Taehyung and Hoseok eat their food. Whereas Jungkook doesn’t touch his spoon, doesn’t move, his gaze firmly on the table now. Jimin wants to ask what’s wrong, why he’s not eating, however, by the look on Yoongi’s face, this is a regular thing.

“Jungkook…” Yoongi says sternly.

“I’m not hungry,” Jungkook growls back, his fists clenched on each side of his bowl.

“I’m not letting you fucking starve. I’ll feed you myself if I have to.” The older omega narrows his eyes.

“I said I’m not hungry.” Jungkook crosses his arms and glares into the living room.

Namjoon and Yoongi expect him to take care of a child like this? Someone that will not eat when there’s food right in front of them? Jimin barely eats one meal a day and this kid says he’s not hungry. That doesn’t sit right with Jimin.

“I swear to-”

“It’s alright,” Jimin cuts in, pulling Jungkook’s bowl closer to him.

Everyone freezes in their place, Jungkook’s head snapping up to Jimin in shock. Taehyung and Hoseok are obviously holding in their laughter, their shoulders shaking. Yoongi is cautious, stiff, poised in case Jimin makes the wrong move.

“I’ve dealt with this before,” Jimin reassures Yoongi as he scoops up a spoonful of the stew. He blows on it a few times, then bravely leans over the table. His other hand cups under the spoon, waiting for Jungkook to get over his shock. “Say ‘ah’.”

For a second, Jimin wants to apologise and curl up in his chair in embarrassment at the way Jungkook and Yoongi are looking at him, but he suppresses it. Jungkook doesn’t seem to be getting the right nutrients, and Jimin is all too familiar with the feeling of starvation.

“Jungkook,” Jimin calls again, his voice tender. It’s the first time he’s saying Jungkook’s name. The word feels precious on his tongue, like something that should be savoured. “Say ‘ah’.”

The beta opens his mouth and allows Jimin to feed him the spoonful without complaint. He holds the spoon in his mouth for a little too long, his eyes locked with Jimin, who smiles proudly.

“It’s a fucking miracle…” Yoongi shakes his head, sagging in his chair in disbelief.

Jungkook rolls his eyes, saying nothing in retaliation.

Jimin sits back down, places the spoon in the bowl and pushes it towards Jungkook. “Eat up. You shouldn’t waste food.”

Yoongi, Hoseok, and Taehyung watch their exchange with bated breaths, apparently on the edge of their seats as Jungkook makes no move to eat by himself. He glances to the bowl, then back to Jimin, expression expectant. Jimin copies the gesture, tilting his head in question. Seemingly getting the message, the omega sighs in defeat then scoots to the chair in front of Jungkook to resume feeding him himself.

“You can’t be any older than me. I think you can feed yourself just fine,” Jimin complains light-heartedly.

Jungkook grunts, parting his lips when Jimin feeds him another spoonful. His stare doesn’t leave Jimin’s face. He’s quiet for the most part, only humming and grunting whenever Jimin says something. His hands stay at the edge of the table, his nails digging into the wood as if he’s restraining himself.

“Ah…but you’re cute,” Jimin giggles.

“He’s 22 years old,” Taehyung tells him with a smug grin.

Jimin splutters, spilling some of the stew down Jungkook’s chin. “Ah, I’m sorry-” He hands Jungkook a napkin hastily. “22?! Then you’re only 2 years younger than me.”

“Hey! Me too!” Taehyung exclaims, waving his spoon in the air.

Jimin can’t wrap his head around how a 22-year-old man can look so small. Jimin is petite (but with a firm build, mind you) and he seems to be so much bigger than Jungkook is. Damn, even Yoongi looks bigger than Jungkook.

“You should eat more. Get stronger,” Jimin tells him, continuously spooning stew into Jungkook’s mouth.

Taehyung and Hoseok chuckle at that, and Yoongi cracks a smile.

“What? What did I say?” Jimin looks at all of them, the space between his brows creasing.

“Kid, did Namjoon tell you anything about this job?” Yoongi asks.

“Um…Well, no. We only talked for a few minutes,” Jimin shrugs.

Yoongi sighs. “Then what do you think you’ll be doing here?”

Jimin casts them all a quick look, confusion colouring his face once more. “You said I’d be a caretaker? I thought I’d be cleaning bathrooms or something. I don’t have a medical degree or anything.”

“You don’t need one,” Yoongi waves his hand dismissively.

“What? What do you mean I don’t need one? I’m pretty sure I must at least have some sort of medical background to assist in a lab…” Jimin is getting progressively more irritated by the second.

“Here’s the short rundown then. We usually have special volunteers coming to help. Volunteers that can be trusted. No need for any medical experience. Since this is a government run project, there are a few of these labs littered all over the metropolis.  The volunteers make their rounds, but Namjoon thinks it’s best for the experiment that we have another permanent carer,” Yoongi elaborates.

“Whoa, whoa, you’re going way too fast.” Jimin puts the spoon in the nearly empty bowl and turns his body to Yoongi. “You’re saying these things but I have no clue what you’re talking about!”

Namjoon, dry in his new clothes, finds them like that, and has no trouble scooting right in to join the conversation. “We need you as another guardian for Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jungkook. We already have Yoongi and my mate, but they’re going to be a handful soon. We need one more person that can watch over them while they undergo the transition.”

“Ah! That word again! What transition?” Jimin looks to Jungkook, but the beta is focused elsewhere.

“Their transitions into alphas,” Namjoon tells him, his face blank as he waits for Jimin’s reaction.

“…What?” Jimin blinks. Did he hear that right? “I’m sorry. I don’t think I heard that right.”

“No… You heard it right.” Namjoon gives him a tight-lipped smile. “We’re creating alphas.”

“Alphas are extinct.” Jimin shakes his head slowly.

“Exactly.” Namjoon takes a deep breath through his nose, leveling Jimin with a patient look. “Six months ago, the government launched The Parity program; an experiment to finally integrate alphas back into the world. They believe they’ll restore the balance in our society. Create artificial alphas that can one day lead to them being naturally conceived,” Namjoon clarifies.

Jimin jumps from his seat so fast he knocks back his chair, startling everyone at the table. “Do you not remember why they went extinct in the first place?! Alphas are aggressive, they’re greedy, and possessive! They killed their own kind for power! Did I mention they were aggressive?!”

“Kid, get a hold of yourself,” Yoongi frowns at him.

“Jimin, we understand the risks of reviving the alpha population. We have this under control. The government has picked the best betas around to undergo the transition. Non-violent, non-aggressive people that can barely hurt a fly,” Namjoon gestures to the three betas, two of which puff out their chests in pride, wide smiles on their faces.

“Yeah, but then they’ll be turning into alphas! You know! Alphas?! With knots and teeth?!” Jimin’s arms flail in exasperation. He completely misses the way Jungkook’s cheeks turn red from his words. “How can you know you won’t be repeating history?!”

“We don’t know,” Namjoon heaves a sigh. “However, isn’t it worth the risk? For scientific advancement? And…for the peace of our world? Besides, we’ve created an environment for the alphas to release their aggression. An isolated community where they can live out their lives without putting the rest of the citizens in the metropolis in danger.”

Jimin pulls at his hair in frustration, his bangs getting pushed back from his forehead.

He doesn’t want to believe what he’s hearing. Surely everyone must know how horribly disastrous this can go. Just picturing every worst-case scenario in existence that can be the outcome of this experiment has Jimin wanting to sprint back home and hold JiHyun tight. He doesn’t want to get involved with this. Fuck this. Fuck this plan. Fuck the government for wanting to disturb the peace. Jimin can handle betas howling at his ass, but alphas? Holy shit, there’s no way he’s dealing with any alpha bastards shoving their knots in him. No way in hell. He’s survived this long, he’s held out for years in the hopes that things will get better. This…this makes it worse. No omega on Earth will be safe again. The scale will be tipped in the alphas’ favour, and Jimin knows, he just knows, everything will be in chaos again. Haven’t they learned anything at all from their ancestors? Why did they want a repeat of their mistakes? They are fine the way they are now. Why change that?

“Where? Where are you keeping them?” Jimin inquires, his jaw clenching.

“The woods. Forests, sometimes mountain towns. All outside of the metropolis,” Namjoon replies. “We believe that if the alphas get in touch with nature again, like our ancestors, they wouldn’t be so aggressive.”

“Look, Jimin,” he pauses in uncertainty. “I know this is all too much right now, but statistics show that alpha aggression only got worse when technology began to advance. Greed came along. Everyone wanted power, but if we took that all away again. If we got back in touch with our wolves, with our natural instincts again, we might be able to create a balance – a peace that we haven’t had in hundreds of years.”

“You don’t know that. You said it yourself that you don’t know if it’ll work out!” Jimin argues. “You’re putting lives in danger. More than you already are. How about instead of creating alphas, the government tries to fix the mess in the East? There are people starving out there and you’re more concerned about bringing alphas back?!”

“Jimin, calm down.” Namjoon holds his hands up.

“Christ, would you just relax? You’ll be out of that shit hole soon anyway,” Yoongi adds. “They have plans, you just have to wait.”

“Can we please focus?” Namjoon pinches the bridge of his nose. “Jimin, we’d like for you to be here for the experiment. We need more help.”

“You’re creating alphas and you want two omegas to care for them? Do you not see the flaw here?!” Jimin exclaims in dismay.

“We plan to move the three of them to a pack right after their transitions. They’ll find their own omegas. Their own mates. At best, they’ll see you both as simple caretakers,” Namjoon tries to placate him.

Jimin shakes his head vigorously, taking steady steps backwards towards the door. “No. No, you can find someone else. I can’t. I have a brother, I can’t leave him. If something happens to me…” Jimin whirls around on his heels and starts towards the exit.

“I’ll raise your salary to 500, 000 credits,” Namjoon calls after him.

Jimin stops with his hand on the door. He can’t turn around, can’t let them know he’s interested. “Why would you do that?”

“This is the first time I’ve seen someone get Jungkook to eat his meal.” Jimin hears Namjoon stand from his chair. “If you can do that again, if you can get Jungkook to eat, I’ll pay you 500, 000 credits every week. If you continue to stay with us during the experiment, I’ll consider raising the amount.”

Jimin peeks over his shoulder slowly, worry etched into his features. He can see Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jungkook still at the table, watching the whole exchange with wide eyes. Jungkook especially, does not look away from Jimin for a second, and that scares him.

“It’s not like you’ll be doing it alone,” Yoongi says.

“Exactly, you will not be alone. Yoongi, Seokjin, and myself will be right here with you,” Namjoon nods.

“Unless you’re off doing god knows what.” Yoongi sends Namjoon a glare.  

“Anyhow…” The doctor directs his attention back to Jimin. “That’s where we stand. As a bonus the government will cover any injuries you might sustain. They’ll cover insurance and costs. Anything.”

“…This is an awfully open topic for a government project,” Jimin comments sceptically. “You don’t even know me.”

“Like I said before, once you stepped through the front door, there’s nothing on your watch that I won’t know about. If I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t have left you alone in the lab in the first place,” Namjoon smiles.

“No wonder the job description was so…empty,” Jimin gives Namjoon and Yoongi a sidelong glance.

“So, do we have a deal?” Namjoon cocks his head.

Jimin makes up his mind without thinking twice about the cons. If he does, if he thinks too much on it, he’ll have second thoughts. And 500, 000 credits can get him and JiHyun out of the East, into a better home. He promised he would give his brother a better life. Whatever becomes of him, he’ll make sure JiHyun is set with the money he earns. This isn’t about him. He has to do what’s best for his family.

“Deal.”

Namjoon, Hoseok, and Taehyung beam at him, while Yoongi and Jungkook start to clear the table.

“Alright. Then let me sign for that package and you can be on your way,” Namjoon says, beckoning Jimin over so he can press his thumb against the screen of his watch. That’s all it takes. “I’ll deposit the credits directly to your account. It’ll be much better if you moved to the West so you’re closer to the lab.”

“What? Why?” Jimin wrinkles his nose.

“We might need you for emergencies. In a few weeks, the betas will go through their changes. If anything goes wrong, we want you here asap,” Namjoon tells him, tapping away at Jimin’s watch.

Jimin puffs out of his cheeks in thought. “I don’t know the neighbourhood. I’m not sure how to even go about buying a new apartment in the West.”

“My mate will help you.” Namjoon releases his wrist and smiles down at him. “If you go into the bakery at the front, he’ll be happy to speak with you about it.”

Jimin nods, prepared to sprint out the door at any moment. He casts one last look at the betas, sending Hoseok and Taehyung a wave when they smile at him. He stops at Jungkook’s back, the young beta at the sink washing the dishes as Yoongi whispers to him. He becomes uneasy seeing them brushing shoulders, so he tears his eyes away back to Namjoon.

“Okay,” Jimin nods again. “I’ll be off then.”

“I’d like for you to start on Friday. As soon as possible.”

“That’s fine,” Jimin hums, inching back. “I’ll see you on Friday.”

Then he’s taking off down the hallway, through the lab, the reception, out the door. He doesn’t glance back, too afraid of what he’ll see. Only when he’s outside does he breathe in deeply, falling forward to place his palms on his knees. The omega gulps in two large mouthfuls of air, wipes away the sweat sliding along his jaw. He’s not going to think about what he’s just done. For all he knows, he’s just going to take care of three betas. No experiment, no alphas, basically just a babysitting job. Yup, he’s done tons of babysitting jobs. That’s all it is.

Clammy in cold sweat, Jimin steels himself to step into the bakery.

The inside is a child’s most cherished dream. Jimin was already drooling from the cake display at the window, his mouth’s practically a waterfall when he smells that freshly baked bread coming out of the oven, and the sweet vanilla icing on the cupcakes at the front counter. He hardly notices the man watching him behind the display cases, soft endearing smile on his plump lips as he observes the way Jimin gawks openly at the colourful macaroons on show. Jimin takes an embarrassing amount of time with his nose pressed against the glass, breath fogging up the case. He wonders if he can spend the credits he just got from Namjoon to buy JiHyun something sweet. Since they can afford it now, he wants to go crazy.

“Can I help you with something, cutie?”

Jimin hops to his feet, his smile guilty. “Er…I’m looking for Seokjin? Namjoon sent me here but I wasn’t sure who…” he trails off.

“Ah, and what has my mate sent you here for?” The man, who is quite obviously Seokjin, asks.

“Oh. H-He told me that you could help me find an apartment around here,” Jimin explains, trying to hide his blatant reluctance.

Seokjin’s eyebrows disappear beyond his pink bangs, which comically reminds Jimin of the strawberry icing on some of the cupcakes. “Oh?” From his expression, Seokjin has grasped the situation already.

Jimin bobs his head slowly. “I’m the new babysitter…caretaker, whatever. I start on Friday. He said that I should move here in case of emergencies.”

“Do you not live around here?” the older asks. “I didn’t catch your name, by the way.”

“Park Jimin,” he replies. “I live on the East side. I’ll be moving my little brother here too. I heard this place is safer…”

“I don’t believe the East is that bad,” Seokjin says as he pulls out a batch of glazed donuts from the display.

“Try living there,” Jimin rolls his eyes.

“Well, I’ll be happy to help you find a new home, Jiminie! Just give me a day or two!” Seokjin hands him one of the donuts then puts the rest of them in a paper bag.

“Thank you. I really appreciate it.” Jimin accepts the donut with a worn smile.

“It’s the yeast I can do,” Seokjin giggles. “We’ve been looking for someone to fill that spot for a while.”

Jimin snorts a little around his bite of the donut. For a beta, Seokjin doesn’t look the very threatening type. Then again, neither did Namjoon. It’s oddly comfortable. The fact that they are mated to each other helps. However, even if they aren’t mated, Jimin gets the feeling he needn’t worry about either of them.

“Did you meet the troublemakers yet?” Seokjin questions, his hands busy with packing up the other baked goods into bags.

“Yes. They’re…nice,” Jimin hesitates.

“Just nice?”

What else is he supposed to say? He didn’t stay with them for too long. Jungkook didn’t speak to him at all. He doesn’t think making grunting sounds counts as a real conversation. Hoseok and Taehyung were kind, which is all he can really say. They were cheerful and welcoming, but Jimin was too caught up in trying not to leak all over his underwear to really pay attention to them. He admits that it was rude of him, so he promises himself to work harder the next time they meet. He’s their new caretaker, he’ll have to get to know them anyway.

“I like them,” Jimin murmurs. “They’re a little strange, but nice.”

“What about our Jungkookie? He’s the youngest.” Seokjin peers at him curiously.

Jimin shrugs, attempting at nonchalance. “I-I can’t really give my opinion. I just met him.”

“I see… They all are a little odd, no?” Seokjin chuckles. “Bu…ah… those kids can be pretty fun.”

Jimin doesn’t want to point out that the man sounds far much older than he appears, and stuffs the rest of the donut into his mouth. “Mmhm. Anyway, I should get going.”

“Sure, sure. Let’s exchange numbers before you go,” Seokjin suggests, outstretching his right arm.

Jimin mimics, gently holding his wrist watch beside Seokjin’s as they trade numbers. “Thank you again. I guess I’ll see you in a little while.”

“No problem. Oh! Here, take these home with you,” the beta offers, holding the bag of a dozen donuts out to him.

“Don’t you need them?” Jimin frowns.

“Nah. I’m done with the hole thing,” Seokjin laughs.

“…You know what, I think I’d rather have the cupcakes…” Jimin says under his breath, holding his laughter at Seokjin’s pout.

As Jimin is shuffling out of the bakery, Seokjin’s voice stops him mid-stride. “Don’t worry too much about Jungkook, alright? He’s a good kid. I’m sure you can already tell.”

The omega wonders if these people have some sort of freaky telepathic connection… or very well hidden cameras, because he thought he’d kept his feelings about Jungkook vague. Was he that obvious about his discomfort?

Jimin wouldn’t say that he’s worried about Jungkook as a person, but rather about his behaviour. He shudders to think about how the younger man will change once he becomes an alpha. He makes Jimin squirm as it is, he doesn’t want to know what Jungkook will be capable of in a few weeks. The idea terrifies Jimin because he isn’t well acquainted with Jungkook yet. He can’t take Namjoon’s word for it like Yoongi can. Although he can see Hoseok and Taehyung being harmless, he’s not so certain about Jungkook. And from what he’s read about alphas, they’re ‘biologically superior’ to omegas. Stronger, braver, more brawn than brains. Jimin hopes to whatever higher being that is up there that Jungkook won’t end up like that.

“I can.”

 

Seokjin calls him on Thursday night, raving about a certain apartment that’s apparently just perfect for Jimin and JiHyun. His brother doesn’t quite comprehend the full situation, but goes along with it when Jimin takes him over to the West right after school to meet Seokjin at his bakery. The man gushes over the little boy for a full five minutes on the way to the apartment complex. And continues to play with JiHyun all throughout the tour Jimin makes of the new potential home. He ends up buying it, loving Seokjin’s choice. He didn’t want to be picky with it. As long as it has electricity and a working heater, he’ll settle for anything. Fortunately, Seokjin had kept his financial situation in mind and had picked a two-bedroom apartment that was just right for the Park siblings.

After parting ways at the train station, Jimin allows his brother to fall asleep on his chest on the ride home. It leaves him some time to think.

Everything has been moving so fast, he can’t handle it all at once. He feels like he’s been dropped in the middle of a maze, blindfolded. Though, Seokjin, Namjoon, and Yoongi have reassured him that he would not be alone, he feels awfully like the only person in the dark. The thought that he would be seeing Jungkook again tomorrow makes it worse.

The boy hasn’t left his mind since their first meeting. Really, he shouldn’t be calling him a boy. Jungkook is a full-grown man. But here’s the thing about that: if Jimin starts accepting Jungkook as a man, it means he would have to also accept the feelings that realisation brings with it. Lusting after a man that hasn’t said one word to him is a little…

“Urgh…” Jimin groans softly, the back of his head thumping against the top of his seat.

He can’t close his eyes and forget either. Each time he closes them, he sees Jungkook’s staring back at him, ravenous and ready to leave burns on his skin. He’s taken to sleeping on the couch these days, not wanting to disturb JiHyun every few hours he wakes up in a cold sweat. It’s torture. He barely sleeps. His heat isn’t close yet either, so he can’t rationalise to it being due to his body preparing him for breeding.

Christ, that word. Breeding.

Ever since Jungkook, that’s all he thinks about. Breeding, being bred, having children. He finds himself lying on his sides more, his arms curled protectively around his flat belly, wishing that there was someone behind him to spoon him. He’s resorted to sleeping with cushions against his back to ease the ache – the longing, to stop that needy whine that remains at the back of his throat. Jimin reminds himself that all omegas have some sort of need to be bred, a biological instinct that tells them that if they are fertile, they should be having children. Until now, all that was a load of bull to Jimin. Many omegas go without children, living on perfectly happy with their lives. Jimin had believed he would be the same. The chances of him having children was far to none. By the time that JiHyun is fully grown, he’ll be too old to be desirable as a mate. Jimin had come to accept that.

Although he does fantasize about it from time to time, he recognises that he won’t have one of his own. He resigns himself to being alone, occasionally permitting himself to dream of a mate that will most likely never exist; dreaming of the pups, he won’t have. Anyway, who wants to experience morning sickness, and swollen feet?

“What am I thinking?” Jimin clenches his eyelids shut.

He’s never had this problem before. He’s never wanted children, not right now anyway. He doesn’t want to think about the reason behind that. He can’t. He has work to do, a life to live. He should be stronger than this.

Jungkook be damned, he has shit to get done.

 

At four in the morning that Friday, Jimin wakes up to Yoongi grumbling from his watch about how Jungkook hasn’t eaten for over eighteen hours. The older omega conceals it well, but Jimin can hear the worry in his tone. Upon Yoongi’s persistence, Jimin drags himself from the couch and stumbles through the packed boxes into the bedroom to get clean clothes. It isn’t until he gets into the bathroom that he realises his underwear is smeared with his own slick. Blushing, he changes out of them hurriedly and stuffs them in the laundry basket under layers of hoodies and t-shirts. He can’t remember the dream he was having, not that he wants to anyway, but he has an inkling.

“Jimin?” JiHyun calls out to him at being woken up.

“Hey, go back to sleep. I’m just slipping out for a bit,” Jimin reassures, tucking the little boy back in with a peck on his forehead. “I’ll be back before you wake up for school.”

Jimin places one last kiss to the crown of JiHyun’s head before jogging out of the apartment. In a rush, he catches the first train to the West, unthinkingly paying for more than he should for a ticket. His sleep addled mind doesn’t care that he might look a little deranged muttering to himself in the corner, but there’s only a couple of people there with him. It gives him that much more freedom to recover from his dream before he gets to the lab. The sooner he shakes the arousal off, the easier it’ll be to face Jungkook again. May he be struck by lightning if he ever meets with Jungkook again with slick dripping down his thighs. He already has trouble trying not to moan at the thought of him.

The streets are still lively when Jimin emerges from the station. He sticks to himself, his head bowed under the hood of his jacket, his eyes drooping. Getting to the lab, he lets himself in with the code Namjoon sent him the day prior, and ambles down the unnecessary number of hallways to arrive at the main examination room.

He spots Namjoon sitting at one of the tables, screens of x-ray charts floating before him. It doesn’t seem like he’s noticed Jimin yet, so the omega clears his throat to grab his attention.

“Jimin!” Namjoon rotates in his chair and smiles wearily up at him. “Thanks for coming so early in the morning. Sorry we had to call you in.”

“It’s alright,” Jimin shrugs.

“Jungkook should be in his room. You know we wouldn’t call you in like this if it wasn’t important,” Namjoon sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“Really, it’s okay. Yoongi said he hasn’t eaten anything?” Jimin scratches the back of his neck. He doesn’t find being alone with Jungkook all that appealing.

“He hasn’t eaten a whole lot since you came by a few days ago, in fact,” Namjoon tells him. “We’ve tried everything. He loves my mate’s baking but he didn’t touch a thing when Seokjin came by.”

That does get Jimin concerned. The issue that Jungkook refuses to eat anything without him makes him guilty. “Which room is he in?”

“Their rooms should be labelled. Yoongi is in the kitchen, he’ll tell you where to go,” Namjoon says, and it’s all the words he needs to head into the other section.

He discovers Yoongi sitting in the living room rather than the kitchen, lounging on the couch with the television blearing some sort of music show. He’s not alone either. Hoseok and Taehyung are sprawled out on each side of him. Hoseok playing with a gaming device, while Taehyung has his head in Yoongi’s lap, his arms and legs flailing in the air to copy the dance moves shown on screen. Occasionally, Hoseok will look over and laugh, tell Taehyung that he’s doing it wrong. The older omega doesn’t look up when Jimin stops beside him. He looks tired, and all Jimin wants to say is that he relates.

“Hey, guys,” Jimin greets shyly.

“Jiminie!” Taehyung cranes his neck to beam at him, waving wildly.

“Hey, Jimin. Come to see Jungkook?” Hoseok asks, mischievous grin and all.

Jimin’s cheeks colour, all he can do is nod.

“His food is on the counter. Just go down that hall there,” Yoongi drawls, jerking his chin towards the other side of the room.

Jimin swears this whole place is one giant hallway after another.

He picks up the tray of food on the breakfast bar and walks down to Jungkook’s room, his legs stiff – heavy like lead. His heart pounds at the sight of Jungkook’s nameplate on one of the five bedroom doors, his palms sweaty and disgusting. He honestly shouldn’t be so anxious, shouldn’t be getting this worked up. Jungkook is just a beta… a beta that will become an alpha in a few week’s time. A beta that, with just one meeting, has him aching.

Yes…just a beta.

Being sure to wipe his hand on the side of his jeans, he knocks three times.

“Jungkook? It’s Jimin,” he calls. “Can I come in?”

Jimin expects some sort of silence, or a grunt, or a mumbled consent. What he gets, is Jungkook noisily wrenching the door open not two seconds later, as though he was only an inch away from it, waiting for Jimin to come knocking. Coming face-to-face with Jungkook again reminds him of all those sleepless nights he’s been lying on the couch, hips wiggling back against the cushions behind him, in need of something that isn’t there, that won’t ever be there. The ghost touch of a bigger, warmer hand that rests securely on his waist, trying to tug him back further to leave no space. Flashes of himself rutting back runs through his mind, his hand shoved in his sleep pants, his other hand covering his own mouth to not make too much noise. Seeing him now, dishevelled, clothes rumpled, and hair pushed away from his forehead, he pictures Jungkook holding him in his sleep, his smaller stature still a comfort. And speaking of sleep; evident by the dark bags under the beta’s eyes, it isn’t just Jimin experiencing a bout of insomnia.

“Hi,” Jungkook breathes, shuffling back to let Jimin in. Jungkook’s lips are slightly chapped, most likely due to running his teeth over them so much. It makes Jimin want to reach out and comfort him, run his fingers through his hair, kiss the stress lines away. Then he reminds himself how inappropriate that would be.

“Hi, yourself,” Jimin chirps. He holds his breath when walking passed, keeping his mind off of how suffocating the small room is. “It’s…cosy in here.”

“It’s small, but I like it,” Jungkook says from the door. “We’ll be moving soon anyway, so it really doesn’t matter.”

“Ah…” Jimin is scrambling for something to say, but comes up short. There’s a tingling at the top of his spine that intensifies the closer Jungkook looms in behind him. The feeling travels, going all the way down his spine, around to his stomach to curl below his navel. He can hear Jungkook’s breathing, steady but shallow compared to his own. “S-So, I heard you haven’t been eating!”

“I haven’t been hungry,” Jungkook replies.

Jimin turns, setting the tray down on the bedside table. “You still have to eat. You’ll end up becoming ill if you skip your meals, Jungkook.”

The younger stares unblinkingly at him, hands twisting and untwisting the hem of his black shirt. At the very least, it makes Jimin relieved that he’s not the only one nervous to be in such close proximity. Jungkook is swaying a tiny bit on his feet too. Jimin doesn’t know if that’s due to him or the hunger.

“Come sit down. I’ll feed you.” The omega sits at the edge of the bed, patiently waiting for Jungkook to sit beside him. It takes a bit of coaxing, but Jungkook does finally take a seat, his back ramrod straight, his Adam’s apple bobbing each time he swallows. Jimin ignores it all and brings the tray onto his lap.

“Why…” Jungkook begins, then clears his throat. Jimin gives him a curious glance. “Why are you here?”

“Oh.” Jimin keeps his eyes on the steak he’s cutting into bite-sized pieces, more of a distraction than anything. “Yoongi called me. He said you wouldn’t eat. You shouldn’t worry him like that, Jungkook,” he lightly scolds, holding the first piece of steak up to the beta’s lips.

“I didn’t feel hungry,” Jungkook repeats. He pliantly parts his lips, takes the meat between his teeth, and chews slowly.

Unknowingly, Jimin stares for too long, licking his own lips discreetly. “If you wanted to be fed, you should just ask Yoongi or Namjoon to do it,” Jimin teases, averting his gaze to the plate. A fruit tart sits on a plate at the corner of the tray, he dreads knowing that he will have to feed Jungkook that too. He’s not going to survive.

“I can eat on my own,” the other mutters.

“Yeah? Then, why don’t you?” Jimin shoots back, playfully nudging another piece against Jungkook’s lips.

The younger makes an annoyed sound to hide the flush on his cheeks and the tip of his ears. “I’m not a child! It…um… It doesn’t taste as good as when you do it.”

Jimin presses his lips together to hide his pleased smile. “If you don’t mind me asking. Why don’t you wanna eat? You’ll need your strength for your…er…change.”

“I don’t eat that often,” Jungkook murmurs through a chew. “It’s always been this way, I guess. My mother says I’ve always been small, or whatever.”

“Is that why you’re here?” Jimin cocks his head.

For the first time, Jungkook smirks. Not the genuine smile that Jimin was hoping for, but at least it’s something. Jimin doesn’t want to admit that the smirk has fire running through his bloodstream, and he hopes that Jungkook doesn’t notice the way his body gets hotter at the sight of it.

“To be an alpha? Yeah. My family thinks it’ll be good for me. I think they just want me out of their hair,” Jungkook shrugs.

“That can’t be true…” Jimin frowns softly as he stabs another piece. “Why would they want to get rid of a cutie like you?” he giggles.

Jungkook wrinkles his nose adorably, his lips pouting. “I’m not cute.”

“What? Of course you are! You’re very cute, Jungkookie!” Jimin smiles brightly, offering another chunk of steak.

“You know, I won’t be cute for long,” Jungkook leers. There’s a glint in his eyes that has Jimin’s courage plummeting to his stomach. The heat festers and coils tight, his blood abruptly rushing south. Jungkook shows a hint of something that Jimin finds frightening. Even as a beta, there’s something distinctly alpha about Jungkook that does not bode well for Jimin. “In a few weeks, I won’t be small anymore. So, you might as well enjoy this now before it ends.”

Jimin’s tongue is heavy in his mouth, his throat becoming dry. He knows all of this already. He knows Jungkook isn’t going to stay a beta. The younger reminding him only causes his anxiety to rise. “What if it doesn’t work?”

“It’ll work,” Jungkook replies confidently. “There are already alphas outside of the metropolis. Why wouldn’t it work for me?”

“I like you as you are,” Jimin mumbles, peering up at Jungkook under his lashes.

“I’ll be better as an alpha,” Jungkook adamantly shakes his head.

Jimin sighs. “What’s so wrong about being small?”

A pregnant silence hangs over the room, Jimin’s heart thumps so deafeningly in his own ears, he’s afraid Jungkook may hear it too. He’s almost angry with himself for causing a shift in the air. It’s alarming how Jimin doesn’t know what Jungkook will do next. It had been going so well. They were finally having a conversation! He thinks that’s some progress. Jungkook isn’t necessarily shy either. He stares too much, but Jimin doesn’t consider that a bad thing. Now they're back to that silence again. It’s tense, almost stifling. The lack of response has Jimin shifting on the bed, one of his small stubby fingers tapping nervously against the handle of the tray.

When he sees Jungkook’s hands reaching out, he forces himself to sit as still as humanly possible. The beta takes the tray off his lap, calmly placing it down back on the bedside table. Jimin follows his movements, or rather, he watches the small veins on the back of Jungkook’s hands.

“Jimin…” Jungkook’s voice is too controlled for his liking. It’s, dare he say it, authoritative. This is the first time he’s saying Jimin’s name, and the omega has to bring his thighs together as a precaution. “I don’t want to become an alpha just to be bigger.” He rolls his eyes. “I’m not in this to have a…knot... I want to stop feeling so useless. It’s not the strength that I want. I want to feel like I can finally do anything without having to check my health. I’m…”

Jimin chances a glimpse up at Jungkook’s face, finding a man not that much younger than him with the same determination he knows he has.

“I’m done being weak,” Jungkook states. “There are people I want to protect now,” he whispers, turning his face away to conceal his blush again. “I can’t protect them with fucking noodles arms.”

Jimin tries to hold in his laughter, he really does, but it doesn’t last long. He doubles over, a loud cackling leaving his lips. He all but flops onto Jungkook’s lap, the beta throwing out his hands to try to catch him, but Jimin leans back just in time to flail onto the pillows instead. He allows himself a minute or two to catch his breath, but when he hears Jungkook beginning to chuckle along with him, it starts all over again. The room quickly fills with the chimes of their laughter, Jimin going so red in the face he thinks he’s about to cry. Jungkook is barely holding it together, shoulders shaking as he watches Jimin throw himself around in his mirth.

“It’s not funny! I was being serious!” Jungkook exclaims, the heat behind his words completely extinguished by his snickering. “Stop laughing!”

“I-I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Jungkookie,” Jimin pants, heaving himself up again. “You’re just so damn cute. I didn’t know what to do.”

“Oh, shut it.” Jungkook crosses his arms, attempting to pout even though he can’t stop smiling.

“Sorry, sorry.” The omega wipes his eyes, grinning still. “I get how you feel. I do, I promise,” he says, holding up a finger when another giggle bubbles up in his chest.

“Are you done…” the younger deadpans.

Jimin replies with another laugh.  

Jungkook sucks in a sharp breath. “You know what? Now that I think about it, having a knot will be pretty cool,” he smirks, satisfied the second Jimin’s cackle dies off.

He clears his throat loudly, avoiding Jungkook’s eyes again, cheeks red for more than one reason. “Yeah. I bet. You’ll have lots of fun by yourself,” he retorts.

“I’ll have my mate.”

Jimin suppresses his urge to cringe at that. “Why’re you so sure you’ll find a mate that soon?” he snorts, picking at a loose thread on the duvet.

“Namjoon said there are omegas outside of the metropolis just waiting for an alpha to claim them.” Jungkook watches for Jimin’s reaction carefully, though the older man doesn’t give much away. “It won’t be hard to find an omega.”

“Hm,” Jimin hums, lips pursing. “You shouldn’t really talk like that. Not every omega will present their ass the moment they see you. Aren’t you being a little too much?” He grimaces.

“I’m kidding,” Jungkook smiles softly, his hand seeking Jimin’s on the bed. His hand is soft, somewhat damp, but so is Jimin’s. Much to his disappointment, Jungkook’s hand is larger than his, with long fingers that wrap securely over his. The size difference is both irritating and heart stopping. “I’m sorry, I was only joking. Anyway, I won’t be looking for a mate since-” Jungkook cuts himself off as a blush crawls up his neck, up to his cheeks.

“…Since what?” The omega squints at him in suspicion.

Their eyes meet for a split second, then again for longer when they both get over the initial embarrassment. Being held under Jungkook’s gaze isn’t as burdening the second time around. There’s less intensity behind them, and more of a yearning. Jungkook holds his gaze hostage there for longer than Jimin can handle – until he feels his own cheeks heat up again. Infuriatingly, it takes near to nothing for Jungkook to make him feel like he’s sinking into a trance. The back of his neck begins to twinge with strain from sitting so rigid, but he doesn’t dare make a move. One blink, and Jungkook’s eyes blow up so wide Jimin is concerned about what there might be in that steak.

“Nothing. Forget it,” Jungkook shakes his head. He moves the tray back, to his own lap this time, and continues to eat on his own, his hands shaking.

Jimin wonders how many of Jungkook’s unspoken words he will never get to hear; if they’re what Jimin thinks they are.

“You really are still just a kid, huh?” Jimin chuckles breathlessly. He takes the fork from Jungkook’s fingers and resumes feeding him, out of his own wanting this time.

“You’re only two years older!” Jungkook groans.

“Yeah, so that means you should damn well respect me!” Jimin grins cheekily.

Jungkook makes a small exasperated sound that’s complimented by a dramatic eye roll.

Their conversation flows naturally after that. Jimin is amazed by how easy it is to talk to Jungkook. They have the same sense of humour, sometimes giving each other shit for a comment the other makes. It’s fun, it’s freeing. He doesn’t have to hold his tongue, doesn’t have to check for any cusses that may fall out of his mouth. Jungkook laughs at them, finds them cute, coos at him whenever he blushes after catching himself. He learns that Jungkook isn’t the touchy type, not with him anyway, not yet, because every time Jimin folds himself in two out of laughter, he’ll scoot away to let him land on the bed instead of over his legs. Jimin isn’t offended really, not with the way Jungkook will share his fruit tart with him.

“Are you excited about being a part of a pack?” Jimin subconsciously wipes a dot of cream from the corner of Jungkook’s mouth and licks it off his finger.

Jungkook freezes up, his movements mechanical as he takes another bite of the tart. “Yeah.”

“How many packs are there outside?” Jimin asks, picking off the strawberries from the dessert and popping them into his mouth, paying no heed to the way Jungkook would follow the swipe of his tongue over his bottom lip.

“Namjoon says there’s about 20 total. As of right now,” Jungkook informs him, eyes glazed and heavy-lidded.

“You won’t be separated from Taehyung and Hoseok, right?” Jimin cocks his head.

“Nah. Namjoon and Yoongi wouldn’t do that,” Jungkook waves his hand. “They need us all together to keep an eye on us. We’re the last batch to be turned.”

“Batch. Makes it sound like your some kind of baked good,” Jimin giggles.

“My buns are pretty fresh,” Jungkook jokes.

Jimin doesn’t like how effortless it would be to fall for Jungkook.

 

He’s heard about soulmates, about betas and omegas falling in love on the first meeting. He’s read it in books, in magazines, he’s seen it on television, on billboards. There was really no excuse for Jimin not to believe it, because there’s evidence.

Soulmates were prevalent in their society because of their wolves. Now that the whole of civilization is no longer in touch with their primal nature, all their traditions were lost with the invention of the microwave. It’s an interesting topic that he hopes to one day ask Namjoon about, however, he wishes the thought wouldn’t be accompanied with the image of Jungkook’s smiling face each time. He tells himself it means nothing. He only left Jungkook an hour ago, so of course the sight of his bunny teeth would still be fresh in Jimin’s mind.

The excuse turns dry when a few more hours pass, after JiHyun goes to school, and Jimin is still fucking thinking about it. He’s too tired to even argue with himself. What would be so bad about Jungkook being his soulmate anyway? He’s nice, funny, good to look at, adorable in his own way. What was the harm of considering it? Jungkook seems to be interested, so wasn’t it about time he let someone take care of him now? Plus, Jungkook is set in his goals to be an alpha, to be someone that can protect his pack. And Jimin’s so exhausted with everything; with the move, with the experiment, with life in its general crappiness. Isn’t it about time he let someone else take the burden?

“What a load of bullshit. Get a hold of yourself, Park,” Jimin hisses at himself.

As punishment for his careless thinking, Jimin eats any and all calorie heavy goods they have in their fridge. In mourning for his none-existent love life, Jimin situates himself on top of the kitchen counter with a tub of chocolate fudge ice cream in his lap. He mentally apologises to Jungkook. Of course, Jimin would cling onto the very first beta that shows the slightest interest in him – that’s not a complete asshole. He was alone for most of his teen years…and his adult years. The furthest he got was a light peck on the lips from his high school sweetheart. It’s amazing that he’s still a virgin, really. If he’s willing, he can go straight to a bar and let the best-looking beta buying him drinks take him home. He’ll just feel dirty for it.

While he’s scraping the bottom for the last spoonful of ice cream, Namjoon calls from his wrist. Rudely, he grunts in answer.

“Jimin, I know you’ll be coming in soon, but…I’d rather you not,” Namjoon starts.

“Huh?” Jimin sets the tub down, wipes his mouth, and brings his watch up to see Namjoon’s face at a low angle. “Why?”

“Jungkook is eating by himself just fine now. Seems like you’ve done a good job of helping him.” Namjoon’s smile is strained, forced. “Don’t worry, your 500, 000 credits will be in your account every week. For now, we don’t need you to come in.”

“W-Wait…I…”

“You still have to move to your new apartment, right? So why don’t you focus on that? One thing at a time, okay? When we need you, we’ll call you. Take this chance to relax, spend some of the credits you’ve earned,” Namjoon’s words become more rushed as he speaks, getting higher in octave, his syllables slurring.

“W-Wait, Namjoon! I haven’t done anything! I don’t think feeding Jungkook a few times is worth that much credit. Why can’t I come in and help around the lab or something? I’ll cook and clean,” Jimin insists.

“No. No, that’s not necessary. It’s alright. I promise we will call you in when we really, really need you,” Namjoon squeaks, which would be funny if Jimin wasn’t so damn confused.

“C-Can’t you at least tell me what’s going on? There’s so much I still have to ask you!” Jimin says in a panic, hoping that Namjoon won’t hang up on him.

“Send them in text, I’ll answer as many as I can!” Namjoon’s face gets shoved into the camera, his nose taking up most of the screen.

Jimin reels back, craning his neck away as though Namjoon’s was physically close. “Is everything okay over there?”

“Fine, fine!” Namjoon exclaims. “I have to go, Jimin. Don’t worry, just wait for my call!”

“O-Oh, Okay-”

His screen turns black and the noise cuts off. Jimin feels lightheaded, the barrage of events hitting him full force. He’s concerned about why Namjoon was in such a hurry to keep him away from the lab. In a moment of rebellion, he thinks about heading down there to make sure everyone is alright, then thinks better of it. He should do as he’s told. Namjoon wants him to stay put. On the bright side, he has more time to spend with JiHyun now. That means he can help his little brother adjust to their new apartment, to a new environment. He can finally enrol JiHyun in a better school. He can do so much while he’s free. Keep his mind off of it.

The phrase ‘easier said than done’ has never rung more true that early afternoon, where Jimin finds himself lying in bed, listening to Jungkook’s voice message for the fifth time. An hour ago, Jungkook had left him a message through Namjoon’s device, reassuring Jimin that everything was okay, that he needn’t be anxious about anything. The omega convinces himself that Jungkook was telling him the truth, but he can hear the falter in his voice.

“Hi, Jimin. I-It’s Jungkook. I wanted to – Taehyung get away from me – I wanted to leave a message because Namjoon said you were worried.”

Jimin smiles in amusement at the scuffling sounds, assuming that Taehyung was trying to mess with Jungkook while the younger was leaving a message for him. There’s some more murmuring, some sighs, and a few yelps where Jimin thinks Jungkook might’ve kicked the older boy. He giggles each time Taehyung is heard on the line, yelling something embarrassing much to Jungkook’s chagrin.

“Anyway, what I was saying was, don’t be worried. I’m totally fine!” Jungkook chirps. Even if the sound is fake, Jimin appreciates the effort. “I don’t want you to worry. I…I can handle this on my own now.”

Jimin nuzzles against his pillow, rubbing away the tears that collect at the corners of his eyes. He’s disappointed, he can readily admit that. He was so prepared to take care of Jungkook now that they have gotten acquainted. Something bigger must be going on for Namjoon to demand that he not come in.

“I…um… Shit, I thought this would be a lot easier to say through a voice message, but – fuck – it’s really, really not. I…” Jungkook fumbles, groans, and tries again. “I really appreciate you listening to me earlier. Look, I’m really fucking shitty at expressing stuff, so I’m just gonna say this. Thank you. I know it’s your job to take care of me – to take care of everyone! B-But…just…thanks.”

Jimin giddily grins to himself, tucking his legs in as the butterflies nesting in his stomach soars to his chest. His cheeks dust with a light pink that he’ll deny was ever there in the first place.

“T-Thanks for coming to help me this morning. I’ll do my best to eat on my own now. So…” Jungkook’s voice trails off.

“Don’t worry about me,” Jimin whispers Jungkook’s next words, his message already committed to memory.

“T-That’s not to say I don’t n-need you around. I-” Finally having had enough of torturing himself, Jimin turns off the message and rolls over to shut his eyes. His face cools gradually, leaving him with a cold, emptiness.

It doesn’t matter how comforting Jungkook’s words may be, his paranoia tells him that both Namjoon and Jungkook are keeping him in the dark for a reason. Whatever that reason might be, it better be good because Jimin doesn’t like how terrified he is of the future.

He rolls over again, landing on his back. His eyes slide open to be greeted by the crusty ceiling, which he spends five minutes staring at, picking out every peeling scale of paint there is. Once he eventually gets tired of moping, he lifts his right wrist to his face again and taps the screen.

“Hi, Jimin. I-It’s Jungkook. I wanted to-” 

Jimin needs something. Anything to give him a moment of relief from the aching in his core. He ponders getting out of bed and scarfing down another tub of ice cream, but he doesn’t want to get sick. By the time he makes up his mind to stay in bed, Jungkook’s message loops for another 2 times. While it plays in the background for the third loop, Jimin snatches up his other pillow and embraces it to his chest. He needs something.

“What do you need, Jimin?”  Listening to Jungkook ramble on so many times, he can hear the beta talking next to him now. Going off script. Loud and clear. “Tell me what’s wrong, hm?”

A low whimper escapes him. With the beta’s sweet voice ringing in his ears, Jimin imagines him there. In the bedroom with him. It’s a source of comfort at first, a reassurance that Jungkook is okay, that nothing bad is happening to him at the lab. Simply picturing Jungkook sat at his bed side, talking to him about nothing in particular has his breath hitching. He would look so pretty under the gold of bright sunlight in his bedroom, all doe eyes and beautiful smile. Jimin thinks it’s so endearing that Jungkook’s features are a little large for his face. Makes him unique, interesting to look at. Jungkook may be small now, but Jimin knows he won’t be that way forever. He can’t really imagine all the ways Jungkook will change as he becomes an alpha. All he knows is that he’ll be…bigger. Taller, perhaps. Hopefully not too tall, because Jimin doesn’t like the disadvantage of his own height, he doesn’t need a cocky son of a bitch like Jungkook looking down on him.

“You look tired. You should sleep!” Jungkook would say, carding his long fingers through Jimin’s bright hair, fingertips brushing over his scalp. “You’ll be good for me and get some rest, right, Jimin?”

Innocence like that should be cherished. But it’s inevitable that it doesn’t last long. He doesn’t expect it to take a turn. Doesn’t realise that all of his pent-up frustration was bursting at the seams. Everything makes a one-eighty turn, which has Jimin flipping onto his side again, lip tugging between his two front teeth, trying to muffle any moans. He buries his face in his pillow, sheets rumpling around his legs, half kicked off the bed.

“No? You don’t want to be good?” Jungkook would give him a mock-disappointed expression, fingers dancing down the side of Jimin’s jaw, until they grip it tight. “Then what am I gonna do with you?”

The beginnings of his arousal licks tantalisingly low in his belly, dragging out strings of tiny keening sounds from his plump lips. His face becomes red and sweaty, and he’s barely done a thing. Sucking in deep breaths to calm his furiously beating heart, his hand travels to palm his slowly hardening cock over his shorts. Gently, he traces the outline of his dick, wonders how much larger Jungkook would be compared to his own. Omegas aren’t physically impressive, it’s how their made, and there’s really no point in getting upset about it.

Doing one last circle of the leaking head, his hand eventually moves to his ass, dazedly feeling his slick create a wet spot in his underwear.

“Look at how dirty you’re getting,” his imaginary Jungkook clicks his tongue.

Jimin whines, dipping his hand under his shorts and underwear to coat his fingers with the slick on his cheeks. When he’s tempted to touch himself, to press his finger against his rim and imagine that it’s Jungkook’s tongue on him, he realises maybe Jungkook wouldn’t want that. He seems like a tease. He wouldn’t want Jimin to touch himself right away, he isn’t going to be kind. In Jimin’s mind, Jungkook is cruel, likes to tease and torture, drag out every moment so Jimin’s writhing beneath him. Yeah, he thinks that fits Jungkook’s image just right. It’s alright if none of it is true to real life, Jimin is far too delirious to care.

“You wanna touch, baby? Did I give you permission to touch?” Jungkook shakes his head.

“P-Please, Jungkook… I want to – I want it so bad, please just let me…” Jimin mewls.

“Ah…that’s not my name is it, Jimin? What do you call me when you want something?” Jungkook smirks wolfishly down at him, dark eyes ready to swallow Jimin whole. “What am I, baby?”

“A-Alpha…”

Chapter Text

Two and half weeks go by in absolute silence. Jimin receives no calls, no messages. He doesn’t hear from either Namjoon or Jungkook. He has regular conversations with Seokjin every other day, but the man rarely speaks of anything other than his bakery, or about a new recipe he has been attempting to master. Jimin internally confesses that he feels ashamed for thinking of nothing but Jungkook during every second Seokjin is rambling. The shame amplifies as his temptation to ask how the betas are grows. He wants to know if anything is wrong, he wants an update on their progress. The betas are supposedly going through their transitions this week, or so he believes. Seokjin is careful to not give too much away, expertly skirting around the subject. Jimin is aware that he doesn’t have the right to ask for answers. He’s a new employee, in fact, he hasn’t officially started his first day on the job yet. Of course, if the hour he spent with Jungkook at five in the morning counts as work. Seokjin is in no way obligated to inform him of anything if he doesn’t want to, but that doesn’t stop Jimin from being racked with nerves. It doesn’t stop him from biting his nails, or pacing along the space between his kitchen and his living room.

He thinks he’s losing hair from all this anxiety.

At least he has his own bed to mope around on now. His own space to roll restlessly in without any fear of disturbing his little brother.

JiHyun is having the time of his life owning a separate bedroom, until night time arrives and he needs Jimin to check under his bed and in his closet for any scary ghosts. Jimin finds it adorable, and wonderfully distracting, so he has no complaints whenever JiHyun begs him to do his nightly routine of flashing a light beneath his bed to scare off any lingering monsters. Unfortunately, that’s usually the highlight of his days.

Despite how the West offers so much in terms of entertainment, Jimin can’t bring himself to get out of bed. It takes for JiHyun to come crying into his room about breakfast in the morning to motivate him to stumble out from under the warmth of his covers. Then he’s right back in bed once he’s sure JiHyun is distracted. It’s strange, he’s never felt such a bone-deep tiredness before. He barely does anything while JiHyun is out playing with their new neighbour’s dog, he should not feel this exhausted! What’s even more bizarre is, Jimin gets agitated much quicker these days. Everything aggravates him, nothing seems to be satisfying. He’s fidgety, whiny, sometimes even aggressive if someone so much as looks at him peculiarly. Thankfully, JiHyun doesn’t see these sides of him. Jimin ensures that he’s smiling at all times when the little boy is in the room.

“Maybe you’re going into heat,” Seokjin tells him mid-afternoon on a Friday.

Jimin gnaws on his bottom lip. “I guess… It is due in a few days, but I’ve never gotten so weird about it before.”

“This can be a sign of your pre-heat. Yoongi gets especially grumpy when he’s going through his pre-heat. He gets the munchies mostly, which I suppose is a good thing considering he barely eats,” Seokjin mumbles, obviously distracted by something else. “I’ve helped him through some of his heats. By helping I mean, I usually stand on the other side of the door and ask him if he needs food, and that’s about as far as Yoongi lets me go in,” he laughs.

Jimin giggles along, picturing a pre-heat and in heat Yoongi, snapping his teeth at Seokjin, demanding food to ease the pain. For an unmated omega, it’s tiresome to go through a heat without assistance from either an agreed heat partner or a mate. It’s just… painful. “Yeah, it’s bothersome.”

“Namjoon and I had offered him a consensual heat agreement years ago, but Yoongi is too stubborn and too strong of an omega to allow it. You omegas, you’re all very hard-headed. There’s no weakness in asking for help,” Seokjin tuts.

“Hm…” Jimin decides to change subjects quickly, wanting to avoid having this discussion through the communicator. “I think I’m just worried. That’s why I’m like this. I haven’t heard anything from Namjoon.”

“Ah... Don’t-”

“Worry about it? Yeah, you’ve said that already,” Jimin interjects with a pout.

“Yah! Don’t you think it’s rude to interrupt an elder?!” Seokjin exclaims indignantly.

The omega scoffs loudly, toeing on his shoes as he prepares to pick JiHyun up from his new school. Since it’s steadfastly nearing the end of August, the school requires for their new students to attend an introductory day before September. The idea goes right over Jimin’s head. It’s unfamiliar; he feels out of place in the West like he knew he would, but JiHyun loves the new change of pace, so he pushes forward. That seems to be the theme for this month, pushing forward. That seems to be the theme for Jimin’s life in general.

“I’m sorry. Continue,” Jimin laughs softly. Shrugging on his jacket, the omega waddles out of the apartment. He swings his right arm in a half circle once he’s out, allowing the security system installed at the entrance to detect the device on his wrist, transferring a command for the door to lock automatically behind him. It’s odd having such responsive technology. Back in the East, the security at his old apartment seldom worked. That’s why he’d resorted to teaching JiHyun about keeping a manual baseball bat beside the bed. In the West, there’s more of a chance of Jimin being hit in the head with one of those miniature aircrafts than being robbed.

“Ah, forget it. I know that you’ll worry anyway,” Seokjin sighs dramatically, his image going fuzzy with static as Jimin moves to the elevator.

“I – I don’t know – I feel bad,” Jimin admits. “I’ve done nothing so far to earn all the credits Namjoon is giving me. I didn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it.”

“Well, of course you didn’t earn it,” Seokjin rolls his eyes. “You’re just getting paid in advance for all the work you will be doing in the future. It’s a demanding job, taking care of alphas.”

“I wouldn’t know, I haven’t done much,” Jimin retorts. He brings the screen up closer to his face, pulling an overly pouty expression at Seokjin. “Why won’t Namjoon call?”

“Are you whining about my mate not calling you?” Seokjin laughs, his arms flailing up then down again, whether he was preparing to tell a joke or to fight Jimin through the communicator, the omega isn’t sure. “Aren’t you being too bold?!”

The urge to rub his temples in exasperation is overwhelming whenever he speaks with Seokjin. Originally, he thought that the older man would be more mature than this. But contrary to his sophisticated good looks, Seokjin is childish in his own way. Though he does have his moments of motherly behaviour that has Jimin wondering how he had ever survived without him, they are few and far between. On days like this, where Seokjin is feeling especially mischievous, Jimin thinks that even JiHyun is more mature than the beta.

“Can you please stop dodging my questions?” Jimin groans, slumping his way out of the elevator.

“Give it time, Jiminie. Namjoon always has a reason for everything that he does,” Seokjin counsels, his image rocking back and forth with the sound of sticky dough being kneaded. “Use your credits while you can. I hope you’ve been spending it wisely.”

Jimin rubs the back of his neck with his other hand, shouldering his way out of the main exit after throwing the guard stationed in the lobby a short smile. “I’ve been spending it on food,” he replies.

“Food? That’s a given, isn’t it?” Seokjin peers at him in amusement.

“Um…well… I’ve been feeling kinda homesick,” Jimin says slowly. “So, I took a trip down to the East a couple of days ago. Visited Ducky. He said if I didn’t have much to do I could spend some time at the homeless shelter. I’ve been…buying groceries for them with the credits. Since it’s garbage government money anyway.”

“Aw… That’s sweet of you, Jimin,” Seokjin grins. “You can always come and help me at the bakery too, if you wanted.”

“Really? I thought I was prohibited from going anywhere near the lab?” Jimin says sarcastically, stumbling through the streets to get to the public school. It’s a five-minute walk from the apartment, which is convenient because he can be there in a flash if there was ever an emergency.

“You’re not prohibited. They just don’t need the assistance right now,” Seokjin sighs.

“Mmhm,” Jimin hums, unconvinced. “Anyway, I gotta go. JiHyun will be waiting for me. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Alright,” the older man says with a nod. “Jimin, don’t think too much on it. Everything will be just fine.”

Jimin stares down at his watch, ready to tap and hang up. “I know. Thanks.”

The call ends and Jimin stands at the gates of the public school, forlorn. He can’t stay still, he can’t do nothing all day, he has to keep himself busy somehow, which is ironic taking into account how he’s been wasting his time in bed for the past 2 weeks. Nonetheless, he’s still restless. Jimin has to keep moving, has to be productive and useful. Even at home, even when JiHyun can do things for himself, such as grab snacks, and clean up his toys, Jimin always tries to help. He needs to feel needed.

“Jimin!”

Among the firsts to rush out of the school building, JiHyun barrels right into Jimin’s awaiting arms, his small backpack bouncing on his back. There’s chocolate all over his mouth and cheeks, his hands sticky as they latch onto Jimin’s neck. The older grunts quietly as the squirming little ball of energy nuzzles against his cheek, rubbing the scent of wild flowers into his skin. Jimin laughs and cuddles his brother back, catching a whiff of other scents on him, some lighter than others. JiHyun must have been in a puppy pile with the rest of his classmates, Jimin assumes by the way his black hair sticks out in all directions and how his little overalls are wrinkled. He’s glad the other kids are taking a liking to him. JiHyun deserves more friends his own age. Kids who will love him and play with him, and see how wonderful the little boy really is.

“Hey, buddy! So, how was it?” Jimin grins, taking JiHyun’s backpack from him and slings it over his own shoulder, meanwhile keeping his arm tucked under the little boy’s bottom.

“It was awesome!” JiHyun squeals, shoving his sticky fingers into his mouth. “The teacher was – he was really, really nice! And – and he gave us chocolate coins when we did good, and then we took a nap and – and everyone was laying all over me and they smelled really good!” he exclaims, drool dribbling down his chubby fingers and the corners of his mouth.

“They smelled really good, huh?” Jimin giggles as JiHyun nods enthusiastically. “It’s called a puppy pile, bud.”

“A pup pile?” the little one asks, tilting his head at his brother.

“Yeah, it’s what pups do to bond. It means they think you’re a part of their pack,” Jimin explains, wiping away the drool with his shirt sleeve. “They must really like you to do that with you.”

JiHyun’s mouth forms an adorable ‘o’, eyes wide and starry. “They do like me! They gave me lots and lots of kisses!”

“Kisses?” Jimin fake gasps loudly. “You’re not allowed kisses, you’re only little!”

JiHyun laughs delightedly, kicking his stubby legs.

Their journey home is an adventurous one, as it always is. Jimin hangs onto JiHyun’s every word, the boy babbling and wiggling in pure joy as he tells his older brother about all the little games he’d played, and all the pups he’s met. From his smile alone, it’s safe to say that the school is far better for him than his previous one.

“Hey, how about we go for some shaved ice?” Jimin smiles while JiHyun cheers his agreement.

For the remainder of that afternoon, leading to evening, Jimin spends his time cleaning up after JiHyun’s messes. From the spilled shaved ice, to the syrup on his shirt, to the toys he litters all over the living room once they get back home. It’s only when the younger goes to bed that Jimin has the time to himself. It’s during these times that he gets to collapse onto the couch with all the snacks in their cupboard and eat his worries away. Softening those hard lines of muscles in his stomach by shoving heavenly glazed, sugary pastries into his mouth one after another. Fuck it, right? Not like anyone’s gonna see his body anyway, it’s not like Jungkook would care-

“For the love of-” Jimin stops that train of thought right there.

There’s something unsettling about the way Jungkook invades his every thought, every moment, almost as if he’s stubbornly trying to cling onto Jimin’s existence without having to physically be in his presence. Jimin thinks there’s a name for people like him, he believes that name is: being fucking annoying. Alright, so maybe his bitterness towards the situation has a hand in his childish name-calling, but it’s better to be angry than to be sad. When Jimin gets sad, he internalises it, lounges around in his bed and listens to Jungkook’s voice message for the hundredth time. When mad, he turns on the dance channel, lets the anger melt away with the sweat on his skin. Or, if he’s feeling especially angry, he’ll just curse the young beta out. Straight and simple.

Jimin wouldn’t say that he has a quick temper, but there are certain things that get to him, that set off alarms. Being ignored and kept ignorant is one of them.

“They told you to stay put,” Jimin hisses under his breath. He’s standing up now, having worked himself up too much to sit. His thumbnail held between his two front teeth, Jimin paces. “You should listen to them. It’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal…”

An hour of pacing the living room, Jimin gets a bout of dizziness that lasts for ten minutes. He chalks it up to the stress, and snuggles back into the couch with his head tucked between his knees. It’s not a migraine, he’s sure of that, but more of a light-headedness that lingers for too long. His vision spins, his hands shake, and the hairs on the back of his neck raise in distress. Usually, he’s given a subtle warning before these things happen, some sort of headache or nausea. This hit him all at once, sending him in for a whirl. He doesn’t know what brought it on, the symptoms aren’t of his pre-heat or of an ordinary stress headache. It feels like someone is trying to pry him open, shifting through his thoughts one by one with no regard for the effects it may have. He feels oddly violated in a way, like he’s no longer alone in his own body.

After a while, he mistakes the ringing on his wrist for the one in his ears, realising it too late when it cuts off. He doesn’t have to wait long for it to ring again, and the second he sees who’s trying to get in touch with him, he leaps up from the couch. Forgetting his shaking legs, Jimin answers the call as he’s stumbling into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

“Jimin!” Namjoon’s grinning face greets him. “How have you been?”

“Hi, N-Namjoon,” Jimin croaks. “I could be better.”

The other’s expression morphs into one of concern. “Are you alright? You look pale.”

“I do?” Jimin laughs weakly. He grabs a glass from the cupboard above his head, rinses it out quickly, then fills it half way up with cold water. “A dizzy spell, I think. I’ll be fine. What did you call for?” He drinks as he waits for Namjoon to speak, the beta watching him closely.

“I was going to ask for you to come in today. Hoseok and Taehyung have entered their first stage of the transition. I wanted to ask if you could lend a hand, but if you’re sick, you can come in tomorrow,” Namjoon says, waving his other hand.

Jimin bites his tongue, suppressing the need to ask why Jungkook wasn’t included in that sentence. Maybe he’s turning a little later than Hoseok and Taehyung. He is the youngest among them after all, so it would make sense for him to go last. Then again, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to all turn together? God, the anticipation is eating him from the inside out. “No, no. I’m good, I can get there in five minutes.” Jimin downs the rest of his glass and leaves it in the sink to dry, giving himself a few seconds for the dizziness to dispel before he rushes towards the front door to put on his shoes.

The shivers pass, and all is well again in no time. Suspiciously. Jimin, one foot half-way in his shoe, brings a hand up to his chests to rub circles over his heart. There’s a bitter aftertaste in his mouth that he has no clue how he got in the first place. He downed a glass of water not a minute ago, why did his tongue feel like he just licked a strip of metal?

Concluding that it isn’t worth the concern for the time being, Jimin shoves his feet into his shoes, grabs his jacket and scurries out the door. On the way, he activates the Nanny system in the apartment in case JiHyun wakes while he’s gone. He’ll have to thank Seokjin when he sees him for suggesting the handy system in the first place. Not only can he check up on JiHyun whenever he wants to, it allows the younger boy to call him at a press of a button. It makes him feel better about leaving for any sort of errand in the time that JiHyun is asleep.

“The code is the same,” Namjoon says, reminding Jimin that he’s still on call. “We’ll see you when you get here.”

“Alright!”

Dressed in only a thin white t-shirt and black jeans, Jimin shivers, zips up his black hoodie and stuffs his hands into his pockets. With September right around the corner, the nights have become cool. The summer’s heatwave almost completely erased to leave behind a mild breeze that comes with the promise of autumn. The chill does nothing for his rapidly beating heart, however. He can already hear the blood rushing to his ears, can feel the bile rising in his throat. He tries not to think too deeply about it. He’s overreacting. It’s not going to do him any good if he vomits.

On the way to the lab, Jimin discovers the one drawback to living so close by; it takes seven minutes for him to walk there, which leaves him no time at all to compose himself. He feels his whole-body pulsing with adrenaline. He’s practically vibrating as he enters the code at the front entrance. He didn’t bother to see if Seokjin was working in the bakery, his mind too jumbled, his footsteps too heavy as they move him through the reception room, down the hallway to stop at the double doors of the examination room. Jimin stands, frozen at the door for god knows how long. He can’t quite manage to grasp on to any of his thoughts, and as his mind works, he stares blankly at his sneakers.

It’s been so long. Two, nearly three weeks, in fact. What if Jungkook doesn’t remember him? The beta had seen him twice, spoken to him once. Jimin wouldn’t blame him if Jungkook didn’t remember his name at all. He can’t be angry about it, they’re barely friends. Not even acquaintances yet. Fuck, they hardly have a caretaker/patient relationship. The idea of Jungkook having no memory of him isn’t that farfetched, but Jimin hopes he’d made a good enough impression on him for the younger boy to at least know his face. Does he sound desperate? Fuck yeah, he does.

The moment Jimin has enough courage to open the doors, he nearly topples forward from someone pulling it open before him. He squeaks in surprise to see Yoongi standing there, lips upturned into an amused, albeit slightly unimpressed, smile. The older omega has a black face mask tucked under his chin, his lab coat draped loosely over his shoulders. There’s conversation happening further inside the room that he doesn’t pay attention to, but he wonders how long he’s been spacing out to not notice Yoongi’s footsteps making their way towards the door. Must’ve been a long time.

“You just gonna stand there? You like our door that much?” Yoongi teases, turning his back and striding over to the middle of the room, where Namjoon, Hoseok, and Taehyung sit.

“…Er…sorry…” Jimin trails off.

The two betas are side by side atop one examination table, shirtless, Namjoon on a stool between them with a hovering tablet beside him. The first thing that Jimin notes is the glaring differences in Hoseok’s and Taehyung’s appearance compared to the last time he’d seen them. Perhaps the fact that he’s seeing them without shirts is the cause of his confusion, but he’s sure that they both have grown. Both in muscle tone and in height. Though there’s not much change in Hoseok’s stature, he is sitting beside Taehyung, who can make Jimin feel like the smallest person around. Nevertheless, both betas seem to have shed their lankiness. They’re leaner in build. Even from the doorway, Jimin can see the power in their stance. They look proud – their chins held high, their chests puffed out. Their eyes are sharper, more alert. When they turn to him, their faces light up, their grins exuding an animalistic quality that has Jimin stuttering in his steps. The way they show off their canines, how they glint with unintentional threat, makes his limbs lock up. 

Their scents are what catch Jimin off guard the most. It’s well known that betas don’t have much of a scent. Their personal perfume is often described as dull, going so far as non-existent. Experiencing a beta turning into an alpha is a phenomenon that Jimin didn’t believe he would ever witness. It’s as if Hoseok and Taehyung had been caught in the rain, their scents wafting off their warm skin in intense waves. Enticing and poignant in their own special ways.

Everyone relies on scents to recognise their friends and family. Although Jimin didn’t know the betas too well yet, he could tell which one was which without having to look at them before today. Now, it’s as if he’s meeting them as new people.

They’re terrifying. 

“Jiminie!” Taehyung is the first to break him out of his trance, his bubbly call of the omega’s name immediately dismissing any doubt that these betas are the overly cheerful ones he met two weeks prior.

“Hi, guys,” Jimin greets in return, cautiously making his way closer.

“Did you miss us? I bet you missed us,” Hoseok laughs, pointing at him jokingly.

“I did,” Jimin giggles. Thank goodness neither of them have lost their happy dispositions. How heart-breaking it would be to see these two lose their smiles to muscle mass.

As though realising his arrival for the first time, Namjoon pivots in his chair and gives Jimin a dimply smile. “Good to see you again, Jimin! I’m sorry we took so long to call you in,” he apologises.

“Hey. No big deal,” Jimin lies. None of them need to know that he has been tearing his hair out over this. None of them need to hear that he’s eaten his weight in desserts from anxiety. He’s here now, ready to get to work, ready to help with anything that he can. That’s all that matters.

“So!” Namjoon claps his hand once. “Now, that you’re back, I’d really love for you to run some tests for me.”

“U-Um, sure. What do you want me to do?” Jimin blinks rapidly.

“Since a certain omega can’t bring himself to even touch our newest alphas-” Namjoon remarks snidely, throwing a glance over to Yoongi, “and refuses to get anywhere near them. I’d like for you to assist me this time, Jimin.”

“I’m not going anywhere near those teeth,” Yoongi snaps, crossing his arms.

Jimin shuffles on his feet, unsure if he’s the right person to be asked to do this sort of thing. He’s not cut out for this. He can cook, clean, help bandage a few cuts and bruises, but science wasn’t his thing in high school. Getting into fights with beta delinquents was his thing in high school. Trying not to get fucking jumped in the boy’s locker room was also another thing he specialised in. “Er… A-Are you sure you want me to?”

“You’ll be fine. It’s not overly complicated. Just follow my instructions. We’ll go step-by-step,” Namjoon reassures.

Jimin gives an uncertain nod and steps closer to Hoseok and Taehyung. They look harmless, yet Jimin finds no comfort in knowing that they’re so near. He doesn’t want to offend them, but if he was braver, he would be on the other side of the room with Yoongi.

“Let’s start with the height measurements.” Namjoon passes him a wireless body scanner. A handheld little device that Jimin only need to wave to collect the data.

The process goes on from there. Once height is done, they move onto chest, torso, and limb measurements. Both Hoseok and Taehyung behave civil, kind, and gentle with him all the way through. He’s astounded to say the least. Books, movies, and magazines could’ve never prepared him enough to meet two living alphas. The reason why he’s not as blown away as he should be is because he knows that Hoseok and Taehyung were not born alphas. They were betas first. Artificial alphas, made to look, feel, and behave like the alphas that had once roamed centuries ago.

Jimin almost doesn’t believe that they’re alphas at all. However, from the way their eyes track the slightest touch of his fingertips, he can tell that his omega status was testing their restraints. They don’t dare touch him without his permission, thankfully; kept in place by a firm look from Yoongi a few paces away. His and Namjoon’s presence in the room a comfort, their familiar neutral scents helping Jimin’s heart maintain a regular pace. Though for a moment of recklessness, he wishes it wasn’t so steady.

He wants to question the elephant in the room.

“Thank you. That’s all for now, Jimin.” Namjoon smiles widely, accepting the scanner from his hand.

“No problem,” Jimin replies a little numbly.

“So, as I told you over the call, Hoseok and Taehyung have entered their first stage of their transitions. With the data, I believe we now have a more accurate account of their development! You’re currently looking at our last two alphas!” he beams.

Jimin knows that Namjoon expects him to celebrate, however, all he can manage is confusion. Hoseok and Taehyung can’t be the last to transition. What about Jungkook? Where is Jungkook? Why isn’t he here with them? He should be here, sitting proud and strong as an alpha. As the confident young man that he’d told Jimin he wanted to be. So, why isn’t he here? Why didn’t Namjoon mention him, include him with Hoseok and Taehyung? Jimin has too many questions, he wants to whine, and whimper. He wants to fucking whimper because Jungkook isn’t here. After so many fucking goddamn days of worrying about seeing the asshole again, he’s not here. He’s not in the room to stare holes into Jimin’s head. He’s not here to make sly remarks. He’s not here where Jimin wants him to be. And god, Jimin wishes he didn’t feel so empty because of it. “Last? What… W-What about Jungkook?”

Namjoon’s face falls. He glances over to Yoongi, who returns his look with a raised eyebrow, the face mask that he had pulled down under his chin earlier that is now back up over his mouth and nose gives nothing away. The two communicate silently for a moment, then the older omega is giving Namjoon a shrug, jerking his head to Jimin as though to say “get on with it”.

“Jungkook has already moved into Pack 020,” Namjoon begins, holding a hand up to stop Jimin from speaking over him when he opens his mouth. “It was his decision. Jungkook didn’t want to wait, so we decided that we’ll try an early transition. There’s no cause for concern. He’s moved into the new pack nicely. He’s with alphas that have also been personally taken care of in this lab. In fact, he’s due to move onto his second stage of development into a full alpha in a couple of days. That’s why we called you here.”

Jimin leans back against the nearest table, crossing his arms over his chest. “Oh, okay,” he whispers. An early transition. Jungkook has already become an alpha. He was the first out of the three betas to go, to change, to leave, and he didn’t even have the decency to tell Jimin about it. None of them had any thought to call him and inform him about this. Did it even matter that he is also a caretaker?

“Since Jungkook is to go into the second stage very soon, it would make sense for us to move Hoseok and Taehyung into the pack now. That means we’ll require more hands. This is when the job truly becomes hectic,” Namjoon explains carefully. He’s giving Jimin some time to process, which the omega appreciates. “Given that Jungkook is further along in development than Hoseok and Taehyung, we have to quickly take this opportunity to record any side-effects that may have been caused by his decision to go early. Just in case the symptoms can occur in the others. I tried to reason with him but you know how he is. That brat is too hot-headed for his own good. I was scared that it might be too soon given his physical state, but from what I’ve heard from the other members of the pack, Jungkook is doing just fine. Though, I do fear that his rut will be more intense than what most alphas experience,” the doctor mumbles, mostly speaking to himself now.

Disregarding the rush of blood pumping through his ears at the word ‘rut’, Jimin focuses on the flood of information. “What are the stages? How many stages are there?” Jimin inquires, stealing glances at the two alphas in the room.

“Well-”

“We don’t have time for this,” Yoongi interjects. “If we want to make it to the pack by sunrise, we have to leave right now. You two can talk more in the car, but we don’t have time,” he says before he’s turning to the alphas. “Hoseok, Taehyung, go grab your things. Or go naked, if that’s what you barbarians prefer.”

“Are you sure we’re the alphas here, Yoongi?” Hoseok smirks, hopping down from the table.

“Go, before your knots fall off,” Yoongi clears his throat, tugging the face mask up further on his face to hide his flush.

Hoseok and Taehyung stroll their way out of the examination room, throwing grins full of sharp teeth at Yoongi over their shoulders. Jimin watches on from a distance, thoroughly entertained by their interactions. He has a feeling that he won’t ever have to worry about those two. Yoongi will take care of them just fine on his own.

To regain his attention, Namjoon taps his wrist gently. “We’ll be staying with the pack for 2 weeks. Although we do have a lodge in the woods of our own, I strongly suggest you bring some warm clothes.”

The words take a minute or two to register in Jimin’s mind. “W-Wait! Wait, whoa, what do you mean we’ll be staying with the pack for 2 weeks? I can’t go for 2 weeks! I have a little brother!”

“Bring JiHyun along!” Namjoon grins. “Maybe this is your chance to teach him about our ancestry.”

“I don’t know…” Jimin shakes his head.

“It’ll be good for him!” the doctor insists. “Plus, Seokjin told me he attended his introductory day today, which means he won’t be entering the school until mid-September. This is your chance to show JiHyun life outside of the metropolis! There are volunteer omegas and betas out there too if you’re worried about his safety. And there are pups that are already growing within the pack. This will be good for him, and you, to see what it is like to be a part of one, to be involved in the dynamics-”

“Alright! I get it, Namjoon!” Jimin scratches the back of his head vigorously to show his frustration. “Fuck, this is driving me crazy! First you tell me absolutely nothing about what’s going on here. You kept me out of the lab. Then you call me in two weeks later to tell me Jungkook has already left. Now you expect me to just go along with this?! I could’ve had plans!” 

“What plans?” Yoongi raises an eyebrow.

“I don’t know! Plans! I could have em!” Jimin shakes his arms about for emphasis.

“I’ll meet you back here in twenty minutes?” Namjoon smiles warmly.

“In twenty-two minutes!”  Jimin huffs then stomps away to the door.

 

Grouchy all the way back to the apartment, Jimin punches the code for the lock release on the door, because waving his hand isn’t passive aggressive enough for his taste. He doesn’t bother to take his shoes off, and instead darts through the rooms to turn on the lights one by one. Technology can suck his ass, he needs to let his anger out in some way and putting on the dance channel right now wouldn’t do anything for him. Before entering JiHyun’s room to wake the little boy up, Jimin goes to his own first. He doesn’t even have a suitcase for the love of god, how is he going to survive two weeks in the wilderness?! That’s the thing, he’s not. He’s a city boy, always has been. He’s never gone camping, never even stepped foot outside of the metropolis. He didn’t know what was even out there in the first place! The fact that Namjoon and Yoongi may have more knowledge of the outside then he does is great and all, but Jimin swears he won’t last a day in the woods. He has to worry about JiHyun too. Worst case scenario would be that one of them would get eaten by a bear.

“Crap, crap, crap.” Jimin scowls to himself as he shoves all his clothes into two backpacks, settling for one pair of shoes along with the ones he’s wearing. He didn’t get the opportunity to go shopping yet, so he’ll have to settle for plain shirts, jeans, sweatpants, all of his underwear, and a few pairs of socks.

That lodge better have a washing machine or he’s screwed.  

His own luggage done, Jimin quietly ambles into JiHyun’s room. The little boy is soundly asleep, his moons and stars nightlight in the corner glowing softly. Jimin almost doesn’t want to wake him, however, it’s going to take JiHyun ten minutes to get out of bed, five more minutes for Jimin to pack his things, and another five to convince him to get dressed. That in mind, Jimin tiptoes across the room to the bed. He kneels beside JiHyun’s head and carefully pets his hair.

“JiHyun, you gotta wake up, sweetheart,” Jimin coos sweetly, leaning down to nuzzle their cheeks together. “Come on, bud. We’re going on an adventure.”

JiHyun murmurs incoherently and snuggles back into his pillow, his eyes unwilling to open. Jimin sighs and gently pushes the covers off his shoulders, tickling his sides to get a reaction. The little boy whines and squirms, finally peeking up at Jimin with dark droopy eyes, making him want to coo again. He feels guilty for disturbing the boy’s sleep.

“Morning, Jiminie,” he yawns, making grabby hands at the older.

“Not morning yet, sweet pea. But we’re gonna go on a little trip, yeah?” Jimin scoops him up and cradles him to his chest. “Can you get dressed for me? I’m gonna pack some of your things.”

Once JiHyun nods, Jimin carefully sets him on the floor, encouraging the little one to toddle towards his wardrobe, his eyes half open from sleep, his tiny face all chubby and swollen. In the meantime, Jimin packs most of JiHyun’s clothes in his own bags, stuffing one full of socks, underwear and shoes, the other with shirts and pants. He makes sure to grab all of JiHyun’s coats and scarves too, not wanting his brother to get sick out in the woods. The last thing he should be worried about is a common cold.

He’s done before JiHyun gets dressed, his brother dozing off, sitting on the floor, his t-shirt collar not even completely over his head. Jimin laughs softly and crouches down before him. He teasingly pokes at his pudgy stomach, then tugs the t-shirt down all the way. JiHyun smiles up at him drowsily, leaning forward to sniffle into the crook of his neck. Jimin croons softly, apologising for making him get up, and helps him into his shoes.

“You can sleep on the way there, bud. I won’t wake you again,” Jimin says, kissing his forehead as he’s carrying the bags and his brother out the room to the front door.

As an afterthought, Jimin stops at the door, lifts his watch up to his face and makes a quick transfer of half of his credits to the shelter he’d been visiting. Not like he’ll be using any of it in the woods anyway. His leave is such short notice too that he feels like he needs to leave something behind. He can’t have the staff at the shelter worrying about where he’s gone, so he leaves them the credits and a short message explaining the situation. All those credits will do no good sitting in his account for two weeks or more. Besides, Namjoon pays him by the end of every week. It’s government money, he should feel no qualms about giving it away to those who need it more.

As soon as that is dealt with, Jimin looks over his shoulder and frowns. There’s a nagging voice at the back of his mind that tells him he’s forgetting something. “Lights off!” he calls into the apartment, the lights immediately going out. “Security system on. Space unoccupied until further notice.”

“Where are we going, Jiminie?” JiHyun whispers against his collar.

“To some place fun.” Jimin smiles to hide his unease. “We’re going camping.”

“Camping?” JiHyun repeats, then yawns loudly.

“Yeah, camping. It’ll be great. You’ll still get to play with other pups, don’t worry,” Jimin soothes, trying to balance both JiHyun and the bags on each of his shoulders while he’s manoeuvring out the door.

Despite his desire to rebel against Namjoon, Jimin power walks back to the lab with a minute to spare. It’s a relief that he can wander around with JiHyun in the dark without the need to look over his shoulder in fear. There are less drugged up teens and more finely dressed event goers than the East, which he has to admit is a little better. At this point, JiHyun is more alert, his head swivelling from left to right in curiosity. Fortunately, Jimin gets to the bakery before JiHyun starts to ask where they’re going again, the others already waiting for him at the entrance, two cars parked in front. Seokjin is with them now, standing with Hoseok and Taehyung to keep them in check. Yoongi is partially hidden behind Namjoon, picking up their bags to load them into the cars.

They’re all in casual wear, Namjoon substituting his lab coat for a pair of thick rimmed glasses, while Yoongi has switched his for a hoodie. It’ll take a while for him to get used to this.

“Jimin, you’ll be riding with Namjoon and Yoongi,” Seokjin says, dragging the alphas with him to the second car. “I’ll take Hobi and Tae.”

“Is anyone going to tell me exactly where we’re going?” Jimin asks, letting his bags slide off his shoulders when Yoongi comes to retrieve them.

“Pack 020 is a small community located in the woods to the North. It’s a patch of untouched territory, containing only one other pack. It’ll take about 9 hours for us to get there. You’ll love it,” Namjoon says.

“I’m guessing you guys have been there before.” Jimin carefully opens the backseat door and climbs inside with JiHyun clinging to him like a baby koala. He settles in behind Yoongi at the driver’s seat, buckling his brother into the middle before he grabs his own seatbelt.

“It’s beautiful out there, Jimin. The world outside has been overtaken by nature. It’s telling us that it’s time to go back to our roots!” the beta exclaims, then sheepishly apologises for startling JiHyun, passing them both a blanket to protect them from the chill.

“You make it sound so great. I’ve never actually been outside,” Jimin mutters. He drapes one of the blankets over JiHyun, tucking the littlest omega into his side.

“You’ll love it. I know you will. It’s exhilarating out there. Each day, we’re getting more and more people willing to join packs,” Namjoon informs him, getting comfortable in his own seat, ready to set off.

“People are willing to go live in the woods?” Jimin scrunches up his nose.

It takes some time for Namjoon to answer, Yoongi stealing away his attention to get him to set up the automatic directions. Jimin takes that time to look through the back window at the second car. It’s too dark for him to see anything but he waves anyway.

“The metropolis can be somewhat…oppressive. Constraining,” Namjoon begins. “Although we’ve evolved, and our society has lived on without alphas, there is an instinct in us all that yearns to be out in the wild. Wolves are never meant to be kept in captivity. We all want peace. No more West and East. No more rich and poor. Omega or beta. No separation. Equal.”

“Except…” Jimin sighs. “We won’t be equal. Not with the alphas around.”

“The alphas will learn. We’ll teach them. We won’t make the same mistakes again. If we want peace, it starts with this,” Namjoon says, turning in his seat. He smiles at JiHyun, who’s falling asleep, then looks to Jimin. “If you read books dating back to centuries and centuries ago, alphas were a civilised class. As a matter of fact, there never used to be classes or a hierarchy at all. We used to be much simpler. A wolf was a wolf. Anyone can take on the role of leadership and display dominance over others, whether omega, beta, or alpha, because the only way you can tell a wolf is weak is if they didn’t run with the pack.”

Jimin bumps his head against the car door and groans softly. “Couldn’t you have told me this earlier?”

“I should have, I know that now, and I’m sorry,” Namjoon nods. “I didn’t prepare you for this at all, huh? My bad.”

Yoongi snorts at that.

“You could’ve sent over a pamphlet or something, that would’ve been nice,” Jimin sighs tiredly.

“Pamphlets? Aren’t those outdated? Anyway, I told you that you could send in any questions while you were out of the lab,” Namjoon reminds him as he’s turning back in his seat.

The dark makes it difficult to see anything, but that doesn’t compare to the nothingness outside. The moment they’re exiting the gates of the metropolis, Jimin thinks he’s going blind. One of his hands stay clenched in his lap, his other wrapped around JiHyun. The child blissfully unaware that they’re entering an unknown world. The car goes silent, the air serene as they venture out further. Jimin doesn’t know how long he stays up, doesn’t count the minutes that pass while he’s thinking over Namjoon’s words. The songs Yoongi plays on the radio help. The familiar beats smoothing out those worry lines on his forehead. He recalls adoring music when he was younger. Just before JiHyun was born, he remembers hearing his mother sing, attempting to copy her himself in another room. The music, combined with the pleasant darkness of the road they’re taking makes him feel nostalgic for that reason and for no apparent reason at all. He thinks he likes the peacefulness out here.

“You can see stars out here.”

Jimin starts at Namjoon’s voice. “Stars?” he gasps, practically smashing his face against the window to look up at the sky. And there they are; millions upon millions of little balls of light dotting a black canvas. A bright speckled sky, winking and glittering. It takes his breath away. He’s never seen so many. In his entire lifetime, Jimin’s sure he’s only seen five in total. Stars aren’t so special really, that’s what people tell him. He shouldn’t be so fascinated, or childishly excited about seeing them. Well…why can’t he? What in the world can be more intriguing and beautiful than stars? Jimin has yet to find anything that can compare.

“Beautiful, right?” Yoongi joins in, and Jimin can hear the smile in his voice. “It’s damn freeing to be out here.”

The younger omega nods, though Yoongi can’t see him. He agrees.

The next time Jimin hears anyone speak again, it’s JiHyun waking him, the little boy standing up on the seat, his shoes taken off, his seatbelt unbuckled. The car is parked on a curb of a random street in an unfamiliar little town. Jimin can tell they’re far out of the metropolis, because he can see mountains over the little stores and houses. Disoriented, Jimin pushes up in his seat and rubs the sleep from his eyes. The air is refreshing, even in the car. Somewhat foggy, but the sun is out, hidden behind clouds. When he looks out the window, he can see Namjoon and Seokjin in the organic food store, at the counter with brown paper bags in their arms. Little ways away, Yoongi stands by the second car, Hoseok and Taehyung inside, both alphas kneeling on the seat closest to Yoongi, pawing at the glass like excited dogs, while the omega ignores them both.

They’re the only ones roaming the streets, which tells him that it’s too early for anyone else to be awake yet.

“Jiminie…” JiHyun whines, wrapping his arms around his brother’s neck. “Are you awake now?”

Jimin grabs the boy and places him on his lap. “Yeah, I’m awake. How long did I sleep?”

“All night!” JiHyun replies, snuggling in. “Namjoonie said that I shouldn’t wake you, and I tried but I wanted to see you,” he pouts.

The older laughs softly. “Aw, it’s alright. I guess I would’ve woken up sooner or later anyway. Let’s go see if we can get you a snack!”

Wrapping one of the blankets around them both, Jimin hops out of the car with JiHyun. Namjoon and Seokjin notice right away, waving him over. Yoongi gives him a small nod, chewing away on an apple that he looks reluctant to be eating. Jimin sends a small wave to him and the alphas before he shuffles into the organic store.

He’s never seen something like this before. The only reason he knows what it is, is because of the sign out front. Sure, they have street markets in the East, but there isn’t anything that looks like this. So many fresh fruits and vegetables, all so colourful and vibrant that Jimin thinks he may still be dreaming. The store is quaint and clean, one section smelling strongly of coriander, the other of zesty oranges and apples. This is what they have outside of the metropolis? This is what he’s been missing all his life? This is what the people he grew up with were afraid of… All this vibrancy, this fresh air, they’re all ignorant of it. He didn’t know this much brightness existed in a world he thought that could only be made of greys and blacks.

“JiHyunie! I have a juice box for you!” Seokjin calls, beckoning the little boy over.

Jimin sets him down and lets his brother run over to the beta. Distracted by the pyramid of red apples, Jimin almost doesn’t hear Namjoon stand beside him. The older man doesn’t say a word, admiring the neatly stacked fruit silently. Jimin is sure that they’ve been gawking at a pile of apples for too long, Seokjin and JiHyun already out of the store to pass out snacks to Yoongi and the alphas, leaving Jimin and Namjoon behind.

“We’ll be okay, right?” Jimin eventually whispers.

“I can’t say,” Namjoon replies with the same sombreness.

“That’s not good enough.”

“What do you want me to tell you, Jimin? I can’t see into the future.” Namjoon finally looks at him.

The omega looks up at him imploringly, his lips pressed together. “Tell me that things will be okay. That this won’t backfire on us. Betas are all safe and good against alphas, but what about omegas? What about my brother? What will happen if all this turns to shit?”

“I don’t know,” Namjoon confesses, which is the scariest thing Jimin has ever had to hear.

“Then lie to me,” Jimin snaps.

Namjoon blinks, his brows furrowing. “The experiment won’t backfire. You’ll be fine. Everything will be okay. We will be okay.”

Jimin sniffles and hastily wipes away the unshed tear in his eye. He nods in thanks, then walks out of the store, the blanket around his shoulders fluttering behind him.

He finds Yoongi and JiHyun already in the car. Seokjin and the alphas having taken off down the street first. As he’s getting into the backseat, Yoongi glances at him through the rear-view mirror. Jimin can’t summon up the strength to talk to him at the minute, so he watches JiHyun sip his juice box and munch on the chocolate bar he’s sure Seokjin had tried to convince him not to tell Jimin about. After they set off again, the groceries stored away in the trunk, Yoongi and Namjoon speak in hushed tones between each other. Jimin knows he shouldn’t be listening, however, he’s beyond caring at this point.

“He’s not a kid, Namjoon. He’s only a couple of years younger than us. Just fucking tell him,” Yoongi hisses.

Namjoon shakes his head vigorously at him, his eyes wide in exasperation at Yoongi’s words. “It isn’t the time. I don’t want to tell him this way.”

“Whatever you have to tell me, just tell me, please,” Jimin makes himself heard. “We have about three more hours before we get to the pack, right? I’ve gone two weeks knowing nothing, so this is your chance to make it up to me.”

Namjoon exhales heavily, running a hand through his hair. “I want to warn you about the next few stages that the alphas will be going through.”

“Alright.” Jimin gets comfortable, prepared to give Namjoon his full attention.

Apprehensive, Namjoon takes his thick rimmed glasses off his face and wipes the lenses on his shirt, buying himself time. “The process is; we give the betas a small dosage of a serum that’s combined with the remaining DNA samples from the last living alpha. Would you like me to go into that further?”

“My brain hurts already,” Jimin comments.

“I’ll take that as a no. Nice and simple then,” Namjoon says, smiling comfortingly. He’s not being patronizing from what Jimin can tell, that makes him feel less inferior for not being as well educated. “There are three stages that Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jungkook will go through as they fully transition. One, physical enhancement. Two, changes in behaviour and habits. Finally, three, learning to shift.”

“…Shift?” Jimin furrows his eyebrows.

“Yes, shifting. Our ancestors believed that shifting into our wolf skin makes us more bonded to nature. We…become a part of nature itself,” Namjoon gestures grandly with his hands. “But more on that later. All three betas have entered their first stage. Physical enhancement. Now, Hoseok and Taehyung won’t notice their behavioural changes until another few weeks, Jungkook on the other hand has most likely picked up on his alpha instincts already. What I’m trying to get at is, you need to be careful around Jungkook. I’m going to be blunt with you, Jimin, he probably thinks you’re his mate. And with Jungkook sinking deeper into an alpha mindset, he’s going to be…a lot more assertive.”

Jimin doesn’t expect himself to blush or squirm at that. Supposing that anyone else was in Jungkook’s place, Jimin would brush it off, scoff, and move on. He surely wouldn’t be feeling a warmth blossoming in his chest if it was someone else other than Jungkook. He should be numb to it, uncaring, but the news makes him light.

“I can handle myself.”

“Jimin, we’re not saying that you can’t. We’re saying that at this stage, Jungkook is going to need a little more than a few strong words,” Yoongi gives him a pointed look from the mirror. “If he’s in that mindset, he’ll be convinced that you belong to him, and you need to set him straight. If…you don’t want to be his mate, then you need to tell him bluntly. No sparing his feelings. The sooner you break his heart, the easier it’ll be for him to mend it and move on.”

“Unless…” Namjoon continues. “You do want to be his mate.” A glimmer of excitement appears in Namjoon’s eyes, a hope that Jimin shies away from.

“I don’t really wanna answer that,” Jimin replies, glancing at JiHyun to make sure he’s not listening. Sure enough, his brother’s attention is out the window at the passing trees.

“But- but, just think, you would be our very first mated pair! Alpha and omega, soulmates, a soul-bonded couple. The very first our team will have!” Namjoon rambles. “Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Imagine the amount of data I could record! We can finally see a courtship ritual, a mating ritual, a marriage!”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Namjoon! I didn’t agree to anything yet!” Jimin laughs nervously, his face red. His heart batters against his ribcage painfully, his whole body buzzing alight with something he’s too afraid to admit. He doesn’t want to think about mating, or courtship, or marriage. He won’t have time for any of that. He can’t handle a mate and a little brother at the same time, he’s only one person.

“Can’t you at least think about it?” Namjoon grins like a child.

“This may be just an experiment to you, but this is my life,” Jimin glowers slightly. “I can’t be selfish right now. I can’t throw my life away and go live in the woods. I’m flattered that Jungkook probably thinks I’m his mate, but the fact of the matter is, I can’t be.”

Namjoon doesn’t try to convince him any further. The rest of the journey is spent in a lull, a melancholy atmosphere that goes right over JiHyun’s head. He’s doing this for his brother. His own happiness comes second. He’s here to do a job, not to mate.

At the three-hour mark, they arrive at the edge of the woods. The road is deserted. About a quarter mile out of the small town they stopped at, the tarmac turned to dirt, causing for a bumpy ride. It feels like they’re the only ones in the whole world. Jimin isn’t certain he’s seen any other soul apart from them and the shop owner since they left the metropolis. It’s creepy, oddly isolating. He’s aware that most of the population lived within the dome, but he didn’t know that there was such a lack of human life outside of it. He’s grateful he’s not alone out here. He would’ve lost his mind ten minutes in. Which is why he probably shouldn’t ever be left alone anywhere out here. Seeing Seokjin and the two alphas waiting for them at the end of the ride, raring to go with their luggage on their backs, is a sight for sore eyes.

“Thank god. My ass was about to fall off,” Yoongi groans, peeling himself off his seat.

Namjoon and Yoongi climb out first, stretching their stiff limbs before they go to retrieve their own bags. Jimin stays in the car for a few minutes to help JiHyun with his shoes and coat, wrapping the little boy in a blanket burrito. The fresh breeze hits his face the instant he hops out, the wind pushing back his hair, whipping against his cheeks. After being stuck in the stuffy car for hours, it’s a nice change.

“Why aren’t you carrying any bags?” Yoongi asks Seokjin.

“And ruin my outfit? We have alphas for a reason,” the oldest beta retorts.

“You’re such a princess,” Yoongi smirks.

“You say that as if it’s an insult,” Seokjin guffaws. 

Hoseok and Taehyung have most of Seokjin’s and their own luggage, though they don’t seem to mind. They actually look quite cocky and proud to be able to lift as many bags in their alpha arms as they can. They’re making a bet with each other from what it sounds like to Jimin. However, they’re not going to get far by trying to trip each other over with every step they make. Jimin wouldn’t be surprised if one of them just fell right over with the amount of stuff they have on their backs. He also can’t help but think that it looks kinda fun. Hoseok and Taehyung look happy, carefree, and he wishes he could join them – joke around with them. He wonders if he still can.

“We have to hike for about ten minutes to get to the pack,” Namjoon tells him as he helps Jimin juggle his bags and the little boy in his arms.

“Here. I’ll carry JiHyun for you,” Seokjin volunteers, holding his arms out eagerly for the pup.

“Thank you,” Jimin smiles, adjusting his bag straps on his shoulders. Seokjin isn’t listening at all, already carrying JiHyun off down the path cutting through the trees. Jimin isn’t bothered, he trusts the man to take care of his brother.

Slow as he always is, Jimin walks behind the group on their hike. While Yoongi is at the front, taking up responsibility of navigating them through the woods, Jimin strolls along at the back, oohing and ahhing at the trees and the woodland creatures scurrying up along the branches. Jimin has never seen real trees before. Back in the metropolis, there are only artificial, holographic trees. He only knows what the natural ones look like because of television and books, none of which compare to the real deal. These trees reach high towards the sky, taller than any building Jimin has ever seen. They don’t make him feel small, but rather protected. The air out here smells free of any toxins and chemicals, no factories around to pollute it. He supposes it would be nice for them to breathe in clean oxygen for a change.

“Dude…” Taehyung slows so he can fall into step with Jimin.

“Dude,” Jimin replies with a smirk.

“It’s time we bonded,” Taehyung states, throwing an arm around Jimin. Oddly enough, Jimin doesn’t think much of the new alpha’s scent. Neither Hoseok nor Taehyung really have that sort of effect on him. That isn’t to say they’re not appealing. They just remind him too much of his childhood. Taehyung, with his syrupy scent, takes Jimin back to all those candy stores he used to stand in front of, waiting for someone to open the door so that the warm scent of caramel would waft his way. Hoseok takes him to the playground, his scent of vanilla ice cream and chocolate. He brings back memories of the summer breeze that would blow back his hair as he soars high on the swing set. Childish, but dearly loved.

“Like, let's become best friends.”

Hoseok, hearing them talk, slows to walk with them as well. “Is it me or does Yoongi’s ass look particularly good today?” he asks them both.

Jimin giggles, his hand coming up to his mouth.

“I heard that, asshole,” Yoongi calls to them, causing the three to snicker.

 “Well, it does!” Hoseok calls back, ducking down quickly to dodge the little rock Yoongi throws at him.

The rock ends up bouncing off one of the tree trunks behind Hoseok, which causes Yoongi to scowl. “Fuck you!”

“Language!” Seokjin reprimands as he covers JiHyun’s ears.

“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted,” Taehyung clears his throat. “We’re gonna be best friends.”

“Oh yeah? Why are you so sure about that?” Jimin raises an eyebrow at him.

“Because you stink of loneliness and you’re our ticket into Yoongi’s pants,” Taehyung rolls his eyes.

Jimin snorts.

“It’s because I wanna be your friend. You seem cool! What other reason do I need?” The other tilts his head at him. “Also, you smell of those sour candies I used to have as a kid and I think it’s a sign that we’re supposed to be platonic soulmates or some shit.”

Huh, so it wasn’t just Jimin. 

“…Taehyung, you barely know me,” he laughs, trying to shrug off the alpha’s arm but Taehyung is adamant. He tightens his hold on Jimin’s smaller shoulders, tucking him into his side. Jimin tries to pinch him in the armpit as a last resort, causing the alpha to jolt away with a yelp.

“Behave,” Seokjin tells them.

Jimin and Taehyung murmur in acknowledgement, like scolded children.

“Anyway, so what if I don’t know you? You’ll be spending two weeks with the pack. We’ll have plenty of time to know each other. Anyway, you’re gonna be my brother-in-law soon,” Taehyung grins, showing off all his teeth.

Jimin cocks his head, curious. “What do you mean by that?”

“You’re Jungkook’s mate, aren’t you? You know, his soulmate? These things are a once in a lifetime deal,” Taehyung wags his eyebrows at him.

Jimin bats his arm away and quickens his steps to hide his blush. “I’m not mating with him, and… even if I was going to, I wouldn’t be your brother-in-law,” he scoffs. It’s nice to know that the group is in full support of him mating with Jungkook, but it feels as though they think he’s already agreed to it. Though Jimin wants nothing more than to throw caution to the wind and do whatever his gut tells him, he's gotta be realistic. By the end of the two weeks, he will go back to the metropolis. If Namjoon no longer needs him, then he’ll have to find a new job. He won’t come back unless Namjoon asks him to, and who knows how long he’ll have to wait to be called in again. He can’t do that to Jungkook, he can’t do that to himself.

“Jungkook is my baby brother, I mean, sure, not by blood, but all that doesn’t matter.” Taehyung waves his hand, both he and Hoseok rushing to catch up to him again. “He’s family, and you’ll be family too. You guys should you know, make some pups… It’s obvious that Jungkook wants to put some pups in you. That kid is as subtle as a train wreck. Anyway, I’ve always wanted a big family, and I don’t know when I’ll have one of my own,” he pauses to glance dreamily at the back of Yoongi’s head. “So, you two need to start getting busy and make me an uncle already.”

“Firstly, my uterus is not yours to control. Thank you. Secondly, no,” Jimin huffs, shivering at the thought.

“Alright, okay. I’m just… suggesting. What can I say? I’m an alpha. I think breeding is hot,” Taehyung shrugs.

“C-Could we please not talk about pups right now?!” Jimin’s going to burst into flames if he continues to blush this frequently. “Y-You’re thinking too far ahead, Tae,” he stutters, cupping his cheeks with his small hands in an attempt to cool his flush.

“But you’re considering it, right?” Hoseok asks, replacing the weight of Taehyung’s arm for his own on Jimin’s shoulders. “Ah… You cute tiny omegas! So indecisive. Look at you! You’re such a cutie! I just wanna pinch your cheeks so bad!”

“Ai… Enough already.” Taehyung shoves Hoseok gently to the side and pats Jimin on the back. “I bet by the end of these two weeks, you two will already be mated! I bet 20, 000 credits on it!”

“Tae, you don’t even have any electronics with you, let alone credits,” Namjoon reminds him. “Instead of taking stupid bets and annoying Jimin with your breeding kinks, why don’t you and Hoseok run the rest of the way and get the bags to the lodge,” he says, shooing them off.

The alphas groan, doing as they’re told anyway. They detach themselves from the quivering omega and split from the group to jog the rest of the way to the pack grounds. That leaves Jimin with some peace and quiet to allow his blush to calm. He’s in a little bit of disbelief that Taehyung can talk so freely about breeding. That isn’t an alpha thing at all, that’s just general crudeness. Jimin hasn’t spoken to anyone at all about his own desires to mate and have pups. Not with his mother, not with his landlady, not even with his fellow omega neighbours. It’s really surreal to him that Taehyung and Hoseok have no shame in discussing it with him. Perhaps it would be fine if they were omegas too, but they aren’t. It’s somewhat embarrassing.

“Ah! We’re here!” Namjoon declares.

Jimin, too consumed in his thoughts to realise they’ve come to a halt, finally looks over to be met with countless log cabins in a circular formation. From where he stands, he estimates that the whole pack expands to about a mile wide, spread out over grassy plain. The area open and ungated.

Inching closer to the front of the party, Jimin stares in awe. It’s nothing like what he pictured. When he thinks of ‘pack’, he pictures caves or tents. Heck, even just a very large rock. He doesn’t imagine a diverse community of cabins in various sizes and forms. He doesn’t imagine the pack grounds to look so beautiful and welcoming. There are omegas and betas congregating on front porches, talking and laughing, some bathing in the mid-morning sun. There are alphas roaming freely, either patrolling or just bored. There’s a group of pups running around, their laughter infectious as they tumble and play fight on the grass. In the centre of it all stands a grand fire pit, unlit but still holds a sort of splendour that has Jimin gasping in wonder. The stones that craft the pit have a combination of colours that Jimin thinks adds character. He can’t wait to see what it’ll look like once it’s lit.

Set apart from the cabins, there are three larger buildings at the opposite end of the grounds. One stands imposingly in the middle, its dark high wooden pillars an intimidating sight. To oppose its neighbour, the one on the right, though larger than the other two, has its doors wide open, but Jimin isn’t close enough to see what’s inside. However, by the way the pack members are coming out with food in their hands, he’s going to guess that it’s the kitchen. The one on the left is the smallest out of the three, yet still impressive compared to the normal cabins. This one, Jimin has to step to the side to get a clearer view of. Nothing about it is too special, but the potted herbal plants by the door and makeshift gurneys on the porch tell him that it may be an infirmary, or a cabin belonging to a doctor – a healer.

Overall, the pack is remarkably spacious.

“Our place isn’t far,” Namjoon says, gesturing for them to follow. He takes off to the right, down a stone path that stops at a set of cobblestone stairs which leads to a lodge built against a small hill, overlooking the pack grounds.

“Oh, finally,” Yoongi moans in exhaustion once they get to the very top.

“This is where we’ll be staying,” Namjoon informs him. “It’s made so that we won’t get in the way of the environment the pack has created. They don’t welcome technology or anything from the metropolis. It ruins the atmosphere of their home.”

Jimin nods his understanding.

Their lodge is more modern than those of the pack, hopefully with more electricity. Upon entry, they discover that the inside is dusty and unmaintained, a cloud of particles rising into the air from the gentle breeze flying in through the doorway. The group shuffle in awkwardly, their bags hitting the frame while they squeeze inside. With the exception of the entrance hallway, the rest of the lodge is roomy and accommodating. It doesn’t compare to some of the apartments he’s seen in the West, however, it’s better than the slums he and JiHyun lived in back in the East. It’s all pretty straightforward. Living room, open kitchen, and four bedrooms down a hallway. The other doors, he assumes are the bathrooms.

“Ugh, so much cleaning to do,” Seokjin whines. He sets JiHyun down on the floor and hops about the place to open all the windows, clearing out the dust. “Namjoon, leave the door open. This place needs to be aired out a bit.”

Getting to work, everyone pairs off to help Seokjin with scrubbing the entire lodge clean. Only an hour in and Jimin huffs at the mess they’ve made. There’s a pile of stained sheets in the corner, stripped from the beds, left to be washed later. The curtains on the windows get tied up, the doors left open. Yoongi and Namjoon have gone off somewhere in seek of the fuse box, leaving Hoseok and Taehyung to help Seokjin with turning over mattresses in each bedroom. Their bags are also left in the corner of the living room, where JiHyun sits in one of the rocking chairs, given the task to guard over their belongings.

Thank goodness, it’s near the end of summer.

“Here, bud. I don’t want you getting overheated.” Jimin hands JiHyun a juice box, using his sleeve to wipe away the sweat on the little boy’s forehead.

“I like it here!” JiHyun grins, taking the juice with both hands.

“Yeah? It’s nice, right?” Jimin smiles. Squatting down in front of the rocking chair, he surveys the whole room. They’ve got a lot of work to do.

“Mmhm!” The little one nodded, sipping happily on his drink, his cheeks warm and pink from the sun streaming through the windows. “Can I go play, please?”

Jimin thinks about it. He doesn’t want JiHyun to get lost. They’re in the woods and anything can be out there. However, it’ll do him no good to sit around all day. On the other hand, JiHyun is his only support. He’s feeling on edge, nervous, his stomach knotting itself out of anticipation. No one has said a word about Jungkook. He’s afraid to ask, he’s afraid in general. The younger could be lurking around any corner, waiting for an unsuspecting Jimin. Namjoon didn’t mention anything about where Jungkook could be. Jimin doesn’t want to give any of them the satisfaction of seeing him curious of the whereabouts of a certain alpha. He supposes he can stay by himself for a while. He doesn’t want to hold JiHyun back from getting to know the pack. Anyway, he has Seokjin with him.

“Sure. Take Taehyung or Hoseok with you, okay? I don’t want you going too far out. You can go onto the pack grounds, but you have to hold someone’s hand the whole time, deal?”

JiHyun feigns a thoughtful expression, then nods enthusiastically. “Deal!”

Yipping cheerfully, JiHyun manages to drag Taehyung out of the house to play, the alpha looking more excited than his brother does. Jimin wishes he could join them, but he’s been tasked with cleaning the kitchen. Seokjin is taking no bullshit, regardless of how tired they all are from the journey. None of them will be getting any rest until the place is spotless. Weary as he might be, he has to agree that he would rather sleep on a clean bed tonight.

“Have fun!” he calls after them.

Jimin finds solace in cleaning the dirty countertops and sitting among the unpolished pots. They keep him preoccupied. He doesn’t need a mind to wash the dishes, or wipe the inside of the refrigerator. The good thing is, he has to do it all by hand. There’s no program for him to use. No tool or tricks. There aren’t any distractions here. No obnoxious noises, only birds, and sounds of rustling leaves. It feels like the world has finally slowed down to a pace that he likes. Jimin knows he shouldn’t get attached to this peace, but it’s so difficult not to drown in the ambiance.

He can hear JiHyun’s laughter from somewhere distant that’s followed by a louder cackling that he knows is coming from Taehyung. To his right, Seokjin and Hoseok are grunting and complaining about the beds. Outside the window, at the back of the lodge, he can see Yoongi and Namjoon fiddling with the fuse box.

He’s strangely comforted.

Without realising that his peace would be disturbed, Jimin turns his back to the living room. He stretches on his toes to reach the cups on the highest cupboard, his fingertips barely brushing the glass. A huff leaves his lips, his arm straining. He tries for another minute, his fingers wiggling to no avail. Too absorbed in his quest to reach the glasses, Jimin doesn’t hear the purposeful footsteps coming in from the front door. He doesn’t notice that there’s another presence in the room. He mistakes the sweetness of this new scent for one of the alphas, but doesn’t know which alpha it is.

“Hey, whoever you are, could you help me with this?” Jimin drops down onto his heels again before he spins to face the newcomer.

Dark intensity slams him back into the edge of the counter. The air stills. The sounds of the outside world falling quiet and muffled, floating off. It lasts for only a second, a second that could’ve been an eternity for all Jimin knows, before everything snaps into place again. A smouldering stab of heat sinks in his stomach, fire seeping into his every pore. His body buzzes to life, his head pounding with unexpected lust. To his horror, Jimin feels his knees trembling and his forehead breaking out into a sweat. He wants to close his legs and tug his shirt down, hide his indecency – conceal the rapidly growing tent in his jeans from the familiar unblinking eyes. But the thing is, his hands are shaking too much. He can’t say a word either, his tongue heavy, his throat swallowing dryly. He doesn’t seem to be capable of doing anything at all. He wants to cry, wants to demand to be closer. The alpha too far away, not close enough for him to be drenched in his mouth-watering scent.

Then there’s a sound. Something deep, growly, and full of authority that rumbles and shakes through his bones. Jimin doesn’t fathom that it’s coming from the alpha until he’s sinking. All thought, logic, rationality gone, Jimin keens in reply. The alpha’s eyes widen, his pupils dilating with flecks of red swirling within his brown irises… Then he groans. A deep, tortured sound that drips sweetly off his lips when Jimin whines for him. The omega is dripping in his own slick, his hole clenching around nothing, wanting, needing. The alpha knows this, can scent it in the air, his nostrils flaring as Jimin manages to grasp the bottom of his shirt to cover his crotch.  

Jungkook.

Alpha.

Jimin sobs from where he stands, his heat scent leaving his body in violent waves, his warmth pulsing through the room. It’s an invitation. An invitation he’s sending out to the only alpha in the room, hoping, wishing that he’ll close the gap between them and hold him; put his hands on him, soothe his burning skin. He feels faint, aching from his head to his toes. Jungkook. Jungkook is here, he’s finally here. He can help. He can stop this hurt, this pain now. He’s here. God… His alpha, his mate. He’s here to take care of him, to ease this ache. Finally. Oh fuck, finally.

He's sure he’s so far gone in his deliria now that he can’t tell what is what. Jungkook’s scent is overpowering even from the opposite side of the room. It wraps tight around him, teasingly dancing around him, coaxing him to breathe in deeper. Jimin doesn’t have the right amount of brains cells to name all the mix of perfumes. All he knows is that it’s intoxicating, positively addicting.

If Taehyung and Hoseok take him back to his childhood, Jungkook takes him home.

“…J-Jungkook…” Jimin stumbles forward around the counter separating them. It feels like he’s taking a million steps, the alpha too out of reach for his poor shaking legs.

Jungkook is kind enough to meet him half-way, their bodies slamming together messily. He’s taller, nearly a head taller than Jimin now. Big, strong, broader, protective, safe. Jimin doesn’t care for what his brain tells him, whether it’s spurring him on or convincing him to run away. He’s going to trust the instincts at the back of his mind, let his sanity slip between his fingers in exchange for a moment of Jungkook’s skin on his.

Jimin,” Jungkook breathes, wrapping both arms around Jimin’s waist. “My mate. Fuck… Jiminie…”  

“I-I’m here. I’ve got you,” Jimin mewls, his hands shooting up to bury themselves in Jungkook’s dark locks. “Jungkookie…” he sighs happily, letting the alpha nuzzle into the crook of his neck.

Every little touch is explosives. His body tingling, vibrating with the need for more. He thinks Jungkook can sense it too by the way the omega clings to him as tightly as possible. He doesn’t want to leave one gap between them. He can’t. He won’t allow it. He needs to be closer, so much closer. He wants to feel bare skin, have Jungkook lying over him, his weight on him, grounding him. Jimin wants him inside, buried deep, never allowed to leave.

A-Alpha…h-hurts…” Jimin moans, his feet lifting off the ground when Jungkook holds him up, letting his legs wrap around his waist.

“Where, baby? Where does it hurt?” Jungkook growls, nipping along Jimin’s collar bone. He doesn’t use enough teeth to break skin or leave any marks, but the warmth of his mouth is all that Jimin really needs.

“H-Here…” Jimin reaches back and slides one hand down the back of his wet jeans. His fingers come back coated, slimy with slick, dripping over his palm and down his wrist. “I… It’s so hot…”

Jungkook doesn’t hesitate to bring those fingers to his lips, his hand carefully holding Jimin’s wrist to keep him in place, his other hand securely under the omega’s ass. His mouth wraps around each digit, sucking on them. At the first taste, Jungkook’s eyes roll to the back of his head in pleasure, his tongue eagerly curling around the space between his fingers.

Jimin pants desperately, watching Jungkook lick down his palms, chasing the stray droplets. He takes this chance to see the differences in his alpha. How much he’s changed from the last time they met.

Out of all three alphas, Jimin thinks Jungkook has changed the most. He fills out his t-shirts more. Lean like Hoseok and Taehyung, yet slightly more muscular. His arms especially are impressive. They hold Jimin so securely, keeping him from shaking apart. His biceps flex under Jimin’s featherlight touch as his fingertips trace over the veins running up his forearms. His shoulders are broad, his torso firm, his legs strong, his thighs meaty and thick, like they can hold them both up for hours. Jimin really wants to test that. He wants to see how long Jungkook can stay on his feet for him.

“Alpha… My alpha,” Jimin croons, clean hand coming up to cup Jungkook’s defined jawline, fingers rubbing over rough unshaven patches that he finds far too endearing.

“Yours. All yours, Jiminie,” Jungkook whispers, his gaze following the littlest movements.

“Mine?” Jimin smiles, tangling his fingers in the strands at the nape of Jungkook’s neck.

As though in a trance, the younger backs him up to the kitchen counter and sets him down on the edge. Jimin bites his bottom lip, relishing in how Jungkook swallows thickly at the action. They don’t dare to speak, too scared to break the moment. Jimin simply marvels at how wonderful it is to have Jungkook here. What the hell was he even getting anxious about before?

“You already have me,” Jungkook whispers again.

“Mine,” Jimin whimpers. He grips the back of Jungkook’s shirt, making sure the alpha doesn’t get an inch away from him.

Jungkook brings their foreheads together, his eyes heavy-lidded. “Wanna be yours… Waited so long for you…”

The alpha takes long deep breaths of Jimin’s scent, and the omega can pinpoint the second that Jungkook’s self-control snaps. Holding Jimin’s hips in a bruising grip, Jungkook experimentally rolls his hips, grinding up against him. The material of their jeans rub together, providing just enough pleasure to last them a second. The two moan in unison, panting and groaning into each other’s mouths, which have yet to even connect in a kiss. They know they’re thinking the same thing when Jimin locks his ankles at the small of Jungkook’s back, bringing him closer till his knees knock the stools at the counter.

The omega tilts his head, waiting expectantly. He watches Jungkook’s eyes travel down, hungry stare landing on Jimin’s pink lips, his tongue tracing over sharp teeth in a predatorial gesture.

“Oh shit.”

To Jimin’s extreme displeasure, Jungkook gets wrenched violently from his grasp. He nearly falls forward without the support, knees quivering, the longing in his chest roaring to life as his alpha gets dragged farther and farther away. Jungkook isn’t having any of it either, snarling and hissing at whoever has him by the arms, tugging him to the other end of the room.

“N-No…” Jimin sobs, arms reaching out for Jungkook, his fingers clenching and unclenching in a grabby motion. “A-Alpha…”

Before Jungkook can react, Seokjin swoops in and picks Jimin up from the countertop. He rushes down the hallway and into one of the first clean bedrooms. Jimin struggles weakly in his hold, clawing at his arms to be let go, chanting a mantra of Jungkook’s name, pleading for his alpha to come get him. Seokjin doesn’t listen, is unbothered by the scratch marks on his arms. He sets Jimin down on the bed, then quickly switches places with Yoongi, who locks the door behind him. Not half a second later, Jungkook comes banging at the door. Jimin jumps and whines, keening so loudly that Yoongi shakes his head at him.

“Kids,” the older omega sighs.

“Fuck! Unlock this fucking door!” Jungkook demands, kicking at it once for good measure.

“Jungkook, if you break that fucking door, I’m gonna break you,” Yoongi threatens as he quickly exits and blocks the entry with his body. “Get a fucking hold of yourself. You really wanna mate after ten minutes of seeing each other again?!”

“That’s none of your business! Let me through!” Jungkook reaches for the door handle, but is intercepted by Namjoon.

“Yoongi, go. I’ll handle this. Go get whatever Jimin needs for his heat. Make sure JiHyun doesn’t worry too much,” Namjoon instructs, nudging Yoongi away before the ravenous alpha gets violent. Though he doubts Jungkook will ever hurt any of them, he can’t take that chance. He doesn’t know the ins and outs of soulmates yet. It’s obvious that after getting a taste of his mate, it’ll be difficult for Jungkook to detach himself.

“J-Jungkook…” Jimin mewls on the other side, his nails scraping against the wooden door, begging to be let out, or for his mate to be allowed in.

“Look,” Namjoon starts, placing his hand on Jungkook chest when he sees the alpha shivering at the call of his name. “Jimin isn’t stable right now. He’s in heat, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. You appearing out of nowhere must’ve triggered something much worse, but right now, you can’t go in there. I won’t let you.” He shakes his head, fixing Jungkook with a stern look.

Neither of them are in their right minds to be responsible about this. It’s Namjoon’s job to make sure that they don’t dive into this prematurely. He doesn’t want to see them regretting their decisions in the morning. It doesn’t matter how much it pains him to keep two soulmates apart, if they even are – though this is more than enough confirmation of that – they’ll be thankful later that they didn’t go too far. In addition, Jimin wasn’t even sure that he wanted to mate with Jungkook three hours ago, and he’s certain that hasn’t changed. He may have a strong reaction to Jungkook now, but it was the heat talking. He wants Jimin to be completely sure, because Jungkook also deserves to be with someone that will love him wholly.

“He needs me. He needs me,” Jungkook rumbles, his fists clenching. “Let me in!” he yells.

“No! Not until you both agree to this, sane-minded!” Namjoon shouts in return, pressing his back against the door.

“Agree?! He’s my mate!” Jungkook roars.

“I don’t give a fuck if you’re mates, Jungkook. Neither of you are in your right minds at the moment. Do you really fucking think Jimin would be remotely okay with you going in there while he’s like this? While he’s unable to give you full consent?!” Namjoon snaps. “I’m protecting you. I’m protecting the both of you. Trust me, once that heat clears, you don’t want to have to face the regret that will come next.”

Jungkook shakes, his frame trembling with rage and desperation to be with his omega. “I-I have to go in there. I have to help him.”

“You are helping him. You’re helping him by staying on this side of the door,” Namjoon placates, resting his hand on Jungkook’s shoulder to keep him grounded. “Without a written agreement, it’s rape. There’s no fucking sugar coating it, Jungkook. You’re not a child anymore. It doesn’t matter if Jimin is begging you, or telling you it’s okay. It doesn’t matter if you think this is right, or that this is how you should mate, without Jimin’s clear consent, it’s rape. It’s force-bonding. You know what heat does to an omega, and now that we know you two are bound, I think you’ll thank me for stopping you. You don’t want it to happen like this, Jungkook. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.”

Jungkook seethes silently.

“You can be mad at me all you want for the next few days. You can hit me and throw tantrums all day long, but this isn’t about you.” Namjoon nudges his shoulder, the alpha’s eyes flashing up to his, full of defiance and irritation. “You’re not the one in heat, Jimin is. Now, I’m going to go help Yoongi gather things for his heat. I’m trusting you not to break down this door. I won’t separate you from your mate, but you will. Not. Open. This. Door.”

Cautiously, Namjoon side-steps along the wall then takes off into the living room. He keeps a watchful eye on Jungkook all the way, stopping to tell Seokjin to come to him immediately if something goes wrong. His mate nods, smiles, and kisses him before he leaves to help Yoongi find whatever they have to make Jimin’s heat much more bearable.

Jungkook doesn’t leave the hallway. He paces back and forth in front of the bedroom, a restless wolf. Jimin makes it worse, with his pleas and moans, trying to unlock the door for Jungkook, but the alpha doesn’t budge. He looks tempted, reaches for the doorknob more than once, but always loses his nerve and continues pacing. He’s prowling, trailing his blunt nails across the walls, growling and sneering. Hoseok and Seokjin watch him from the end of the hall, feeling sorry for the poor alpha, whose mate resumes to permeate the lodge with his heat scent.  

“Jungkook?” Jimin calls softly.

“Yeah, baby? I’m here. What’s wrong?” Jungkook drops to his knees in front of the door. He feels like a pervert peeking through the keyhole.

“N-Need you… P-Please. I can’t – fuck – I can’t handle this on my own. I need you in here,” Jimin cries softly, curling in on himself, his arms wrapping around his middle.

“No… What are you talking about, Jiminie? You’re a strong omega. O-Of course, you’ll get through this. I’ll be right here. I won’t leave you, yeah?” Jungkook’s forehead thumps against the wood. He can still smell Jimin on his clothes, in his nose, on the roof of his mouth, on his hands, and in his hair. He regrets not kissing him right away when he had the chance.

“I don’t feel so strong right now,” Jimin admits.

“I’m gonna talk you through it, alright?” Jungkook says, his nails sinking into his palms painfully. “You hearing me, little omega?”

“Mm,” Jimin mewls beautifully. He crawls over to the bed and grabs one of the pillows, stripping out of his clothes as he goes back to sit at the door. Jimin gets on his knees, places the pillow between his legs and slumps forward to rest on the floor, his ass high in the air. When he shifts, his pink, leaking cock rubs over the pillow, the cotton case kind to his sensitive skin. He doesn’t wait for Jungkook to talk, too lost to be obedient.

“Jimin?” Jungkook knocks once on the door, concerned by the silence.

“‘M here…” he replies, his hips jumping at the sound of the alpha’s voice. “Want you in here…”

Jungkook places more of his weight on the door and closes his eyes. “I know, sweetheart. I want to be in there too.”

“Then, why aren’t you?” Jimin hiccups, rutting forward against the pillow, wishing it was Jungkook holding him.

“You know, I want nothing more. I wanna hold you, and scent mark you, and fuck you so badly. We just have to wait a while,” Jungkook reasons. Jimin isn’t the only delirious one. The alpha is tearing himself apart from the inside out trying to keep himself on his side of the door. In the time that Jimin is too consumed in his heat to be the adult, it’s Jungkook duty to take up the role.

Jimin whimpers, his heavy breathing growing louder. “Want… Want you to fuck me.”

“I wanna fuck you, Jiminie. So, so bad. You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for you. Every single day I thought of you,” Jungkook confesses, pressing the heels of his palms against his eyes. “I wanted to see you so bad. And now you’re here, but I can’t even fucking touch you. I can’t help you through your heat. Fuck. I’m your mate. I-I’m supposed to help you…”

Jimin sniffles. “Alpha…”

“Are you listening to me, Jimin?” Jungkook asks, touching his temple to the door. “Or are you too far gone?” he laughs bitterly.

“Mm…”

“It’s alright, you can touch yourself. I wanna hear you,” the younger groans.

“O-Okay,” Jimin sighs. When humping the pillow becomes unsatisfying, Jimin reaches back his right-hand to smooth down his lower back, his fingers sliding between his cheeks and over his rim, stopping to trace over the tight ring of muscle. Globs of slick pour down his perineum and balls, wetting the pillow. His mind is too muddled to have a clear image of Jungkook with him, so he uses his voice as his anchor.

“What are you touching, little omega? Tell me,” Jungkook requests.

Jimin buries his face in his other arm in humiliation. He’s red all over, his cheeks so hot he thinks they might melt off. “I-I’m touching…d-down there…”

The alpha chuckles lowly. “Down there? You mean your hole, baby? Is that what you mean?”

“Please, don’t make me say it,” Jimin whines in distress. He’s a not accustomed to this for goodness sake. He’s only had a handful of heats. Usually his suppressants would do the trick of ridding him of the fever. He does his best to keep on top of his medication, setting aside some money to make sure he never runs out. Jimin’s confident in his sexuality, he knows his own body, he’s just never been with anyone else, especially not someone that is his soulmate.

“You don’t have to be embarrassed, Jimin,” Jungkook reassures. “Shit, I really want to be in there with you. Wanna touch you so bad.”

Jimin closes his eyes, his face scrunching at the feel of his middle finger slipping passed his rim. Easy and slippery, he searches along his walls for a while in seek of his prostrate, getting frustrated at how long it takes with his short fingers. Jungkook would do a much better job of this. His longer fingers would find it in a matter of seconds, rendering Jimin a drooling mess as he fingers him open. Maybe he’ll use his tongue, lick over his rim, fuck his tongue into him, let Jimin ride his face. Fuck, the omega would love that. He would love to sit on Jungkook’s face, allow the alpha to eat him out for hours and hours.

“Wanna know about the first time I popped a knot?” Jungkook asks, his voice growing gruff, strained with his own arousal climbing. “I was thinking of you. Shit, when aren’t I thinking of you?” he sighs. “It happened about a week ago. Couldn’t sleep for hours, so my mind kinda drifted. You were the only thing keeping me sane when I was here by myself. Can’t really count how many times I’ve jerked off to you, but this time was different. I thought about you, wrapping your cute little fingers around my cock. You’re always so sweet in my dreams, Jiminie. So pliant, and adorable. I think about fucking your face a lot too. Wanna see those pretty eyes staring up at me when I’m filling your mouth with cum. God…I...” Jungkook stops to lick his lips. “I wanna stuff you so full.”

Jimin’s moans come louder at those words.

“I want to stuff your ass with so much cum,” Jungkook growls. “You’d like that wouldn’t you, baby? Have your alpha fill you up, keep you all nice and full even when you sleep.”

“Y-Yes…” Jimin hums, already three fingers deep now, his fingertips pressing and rubbing over his spongey sweet spot, his hips jerking faster over the pillow.

“Sounds so good, doesn’t it? I could fuck you to sleep, fuck you in the morning, and during lunch, and dinner, and during showers,” Jungkook continues, listening for any changes in Jimin’s darling noises. “All day, just you and me. I’m gonna scent mark you, and mate you. I’m gonna make sure every alpha in this whole pack knows who you are.”

It should scare Jimin that Jungkook is speaking this way. For him, he’d like to get to know his partners before they’re talking about scent marking and mating. His inexperience with dates aside, Jimin knows that he wants to know more about Jungkook before commitments come into play. However, it all feels too right for the alpha to speak so confidently about such an important topic. Jungkook is so convinced they’re meant to be that he has Jimin believing it.

“Talk to me, Jimin. Tell me you’re okay,” Jungkook says.

“I-I’m alright,” Jimin gasps, his back arching in reaction to his fingers pressing hard to his prostate. The pleasure wrenching a high-pitched shriek out of his throat.

“You’re doing so good, baby. Are you imagining me there with you?” Jungkook waits, receiving a breathy affirmative. “Am I fingering you or fucking you?”

“Fuck…fucking.”

“Am I doing good?” Jungkook snorts.

“So good,” Jimin giggles.

“I’ll do even better when I actually get my hands on you,” the younger man moans with him. “Have you spread out over the bed. You’d take me in so well. I bet I could slide right in. You’d probably be already soaking wet. Your little asshole waiting to be stuffed with my cock.”

Jimin doesn’t take much time to come after that. One last push from Jungkook, and Jimin is in the clouds, thrusting against the pillow one last time. His body pulsates and jolts with the aftershocks of his climax, strings of cum smear the sides of the pillow, sticking to his legs when he moves to flop onto the floor. Unfortunately, he’s still hard and needy. His fingers won’t be enough for long. He can’t go on like this, alone. He feels so unsatisfied and empty. Jungkook is right outside his door, could help him relieve this stress. He’s so close, kept out by a thin slab of wood that he can effortlessly kick down. Jimin wants to beg him to do it – demand Jungkook to please his mate, however, it would be wrong of him to test Jungkook’s patience. They’ve both waited this long, they can wait a couple of days more.

“Jimin?”

“Yeah... I’m here.”

Chapter Text

Jungkook loses his mind on the third day of Jimin’s heat. Any hint of coherency is lost within endless hours of waiting outside his mate’s door. His omega’s suffering whimpers and keens fill his body with aches that he doesn’t have the energy to brush off. It’s become painfully evident that his constant presence outside Jimin’s room is shoving him deeper into his aggressive mindset. He believes he hears Namjoon commenting about it at some point, but he can’t tell how long it has been since then. Namjoon doesn’t approach him, none of them do. Even JiHyun, who cries and wails for his brother every hour is too scared of Jungkook to go anywhere near the hallway. For that, he feels shameful. To make a pup cry, it’s almost blasphemy. He wants to comfort JiHyun. He is his mate’s only kin, and Jungkook wishes he can pick the young pup up to console him. He knows it’s better that he doesn’t. He’s too wound up, too tense. Whenever Taehyung or Hoseok even remotely step close, he snarls, hissing at them with bared teeth. They always startle, forgetting that the territorial alpha is patrolling the hallway. They don’t take it too personally, but Jungkook senses their annoyance with him.

“Isn’t this too much? Don’t you think something’s wrong?” Seokjin asks, sliding into a seat at the unkempt dining table. From here, he has a view of Jungkook leaning against Jimin’s door, which is about to collapse in on itself from how much it has been scratched, punched, and kicked.

“Something is wrong,” Namjoon confirms, putting his head in his hands atop all his books and research notes. “Hoseok and Taehyung were not this aggressive when Yoongi went into heat. Something must have gone wrong.”

“Well, Yoongi isn’t Hoseok’s or Taehyung’s soulmate.” Seokjin turns back to his mate, reaching over to comb his fingers through his hair. “…Is he?”

Namjoon leans into the touch, closing his eyes. “I’m not actually sure. If they are, then they’re a pretty strange case. I wouldn’t be surprised, though. Maybe it’ll be good for Yoongi.”

“It couldn’t be the serum, right?” Seokjin worries his bottom lip, allowing Namjoon to take hold of his hand.

“There’s a possibility that it can be. I’ll check with the other alphas in the pack first before jumping to conclusions,” the doctor says, opening his eyes to see his mate shifting anxiously in his seat. “Hey. It’ll be okay. For now, Jungkook’s stable. As long as he doesn’t go too far…”

“Right. Okay,” Seokjin nods with a shaky inhale. “I’m gonna go see if JiHyun is alright. Poor baby’s been crying so much.”

Namjoon hums, tilting his head up for a kiss before Seokjin leaves the room. He watches him go, wanting to get up from the table and follow him out. Of course, he can’t. He has to stay – has to keep an eye on his patient. Namjoon’s job is to make sure all his alphas are safe and healthy. Jungkook hasn’t eaten for hours, perhaps days. Although his appetite has improved immensely from what it was while he was a beta, Namjoon can tell that his own well-being is not much of a concern for Jungkook when Jimin is near. Which, to the doctor, is extremely unhealthy. He supposes it comes with finding your soulmate so soon. Having something this dear, this precious, you’re bound to do anything to keep it. Even sacrifice your own health.

Jungkook is so young, so naïve in a way. He knows what the alpha is thinking. He thinks that everything will just fall into place; that Jimin will agree to the mating, will agree to the bond. Knowing that they’re soulmates, Jungkook believes that there’s already a set course for them. Complex as he is, Jungkook can be simple minded at times, which can be a good thing now and then. But not this time. Not when there’s a fifty percent chance that Jimin will say no. Namjoon admires that Jungkook is always willing to try. What he’s concerned about is that Jungkook will be convinced that there’s no force in the world that can stop them from being together. Namjoon wishes that was the case, but unfortunately, it’s not.

He hopes to the high fucking heavens that Jungkook won’t break down if or when Jimin rejects him. He can already feel it. There’s a sort of dread that fills the room every time they hear Jimin speak, the way his words become firmer than the day before, hinting at his returning lucidity. None of them speak of it, but it hangs heavy in the air.

Fuck!

Namjoon startles at the yell from the hallway. He scrambles up to watch Jungkook run his nails along the walls beside Jimin’s door repeatedly, going over the marks he’s already left, his fingers full of splinters. The alpha neither winces or flinches at them, his eyes fixed on the door handle. The muscles in his shoulders are coiled way too tight, his back looking agonisingly stiff. The hallway itself is worse for wear; the walls between each door accumulating numerous claw marks with Jungkook’s blood and cum seeping into the cracks. The alpha has no shame in relieving himself, not even when the others are present in the living room. The only time he doesn’t dare to do anything inappropriate is when JiHyun is near.

“Oh, Jungkook…” Namjoon mumbles sadly. If only he can get close enough to reassure him. He wonders if Jungkook can even talk with a mouthful of bared teeth.

The second stage of his development has begun, Namjoon notes. Rather than take baby steps like Hoseok and Taehyung, Jungkook is running before he’s learning to walk.

“J-Jungkook…” A small mewl emits from the room. Jimin’s voice is breathy and high, his body coming down from a quick release.

Jungkook returns the call with a pathetic, needy low whine. He doesn’t notice Namjoon slipping away, out of the lodge all together, too consumed in Jimin’s cloying scent wafting through the gaps. Crazed, Jungkook slumps down on his knees again, his cheek squished up against the door, tongue lolling out of his mouth as his hands frantically tugs his cock out from his pants. Using Jimin’s moans to drag him along to the edges of his orgasm, Jungkook palms at himself, making sure that his damaged fingertips are spread outwards, away from skin. It’s not as pleasurable as before. In fact, it’s almost maddening that he can’t get off properly. He’s been hard for days. There’s only so many times he can fuck his own hand before it becomes downright tiring. And Jungkook isn’t conscious of it either.

On day two, Jungkook was shoved aside for another presence to take control. Though he doesn’t like to think of it as a separate being, he hates knowing that a part of him can be so selfish. It doesn’t have a name, or a face. One thing Jungkook knows is that, on the second day of his mate’s heat, he’d slipped up, which gave way for something to grab a hold of his consciousness. It hasn’t left since, abandoning Jungkook in the corner of his own mind. Another thing he knows is, it just wants Jimin. Its desire is simple. There’s only pure craving. While Jungkook hopes that he will get to know Jimin better during the courtship, this thing in his head has absolutely no doubt that they’re supposed to be mating. There’s no question, no hesitation, all it wants is their mate. And, fuck, Jungkook thinks he’s going crazy by the way he addresses it as a different entity when he’s aware that it’s his alpha nature making itself known.

Extraordinarily, he doesn’t feel that ridiculous. Jungkook signed for this, he handed Namjoon his life for this, he’s read about this. There’s no reason for him to panic. He trusts himself, he just doesn’t fucking like knowing that he lacks such self-control.

“Alpha…” Jimin keens, a shriek following as the smell of fresh slick hits him.

Jungkook can tell that Jimin’s orgasms are becoming less intense, less taxing on his body. He’d reached his peak on day two – screaming, squealing, sobbing Jungkook’s name into his soiled pillow. He’ll cry and moan till it rings in Jungkook’s ears, his omega’s pleading words, his ways of bribing the alpha to come into the room still fresh in his mind. Jimin has a way of getting at Jungkook’s every single weakness when he’s desperately trying to get off. He tells the alpha whatever he wants to hear, convinces him that it’ll be alright if he just fucked him once. He can do all the work, ride Jungkook until they’re both spent. The alpha wouldn’t have to do a thing, wouldn’t even have to lift a finger, so Jimin tries to tell him.

It’s torture.

“I’m here, I’m right here, Jiminie,” Jungkook groans, timing the flicks of his wrists with the squelch of Jimin’s fingers fucking insistently into himself.

“N-Nngh! Fuck…” Jimin pants, high pitched mewls coming one after another.

Jungkook puts himself in the room. Closer. Not too close – at a distance where he can graze his fingers over Jimin’s ankles. Maybe he’s a masochist, but he doesn’t think he can touch Jimin right now. He’ll be content with just watching. His mouth waters simply picturing Jimin spreading his legs for him, ass high in the air, neck craned to the side so they can meet eyes. His pace quickens at the visual, hand tugging and squeezing around the head of his cock until the back of his fingers are a mess with precum.

Unfortunately, it ends all too soon, Jimin’s moans drowning in the pillows and sheets, his orgasm coming and going. It’s not mind-blowing, but it’ll do.

While Jimin takes the time to catch his breath, Jungkook jerks off slowly, growing fatigued.

“J-Jungkookie?” Jimin calls timidly.

“Hm?” he grunts, his wrist rolling as his palm slides stickily over his dick. He’s so close, throbbing in his hand, his balls tightening, the muscles in his thighs shaking.

“I think… um…” the omega falters. He moves quietly within the room, and Jungkook can almost see Jimin getting up on his wobbling legs, his hands on the wall to brace himself. He must be so sore, his poor omega. Jungkook is sure it’s not easy for Jimin to spend a heat all by himself. The thought that Jimin is going through torment is more painful to him than anything he’s ever known.

Clearing his throat, Jungkook tries to speak through the lump in his throat. “Yeah?”

“I’m… mm…” Jimin pants loudly. The springs of the bed squeak suddenly, telling Jungkook that the older man is sitting down.

Jungkook pauses, his eyes flying towards the doorknob. He waits for Jimin to finish the thought, his palm making circles over the head of his cock, pushing more precum from the tip. The pleasure is dull, almost muted. The intensity having dissipated hours ago, leaving Jungkook a whimpering little pup, moaning miserably. His arousal boils slowly just under his skin, and it annoys him to no end that he can’t conjure up a solution that doesn’t involve scratching himself raw.

This can’t be natural.

I’m so fucked…” Jungkook mutters, biting hard on his bottom lip as his abdomen clenches and he’s sputtering his load all over the door. There’s no passion, just obligation, and he knows he looks pitiable. With his hand sticky with cum, he stares at the pads of his fingers that bleed and sting from continuous mistreatment. He’s laughable. 

“Jungkook.” Jimin’s voice is hoarse and soft. “C-Can you please do something for me?”

The alpha scrambles up, tucking himself back into his jeans. “Yes. Yes, anything.”

A few seconds pass without any request, and Jungkook worries if he was too ready, or too eager. Thankfully, Jimin doesn’t take too long to muster up the energy to talk again.

“Can you call for Yoongi? Or Seokjin? I need my bag,” Jimin says.

Jungkook swallows thickly. “Are you alright? Do you need anything else?” he asks, wiping his hand clean on the side of his pants.

“N-No…I’m alright. I just need my bag.”  

When it seems like Jungkook is too unsure to comply, Jimin takes a deep breath then releases it with a loud exhale. “Baby, please. I need to get out of this room,” he tries again.

Coming out of a heat isn’t easy. Especially when he’s only been through a handful of them. The room is humid and confining, the windows fogging over from his high body temperature. He’s on the last few flashes of his fever, the heat no longer churning his insides. All he wants is to take a shower and get some proper food into his stomach. He wants to go outside, get some fresh air. He wants to see JiHyun – to make sure that his brother is alright. He has to take care of himself before he has to inevitably face Jungkook.

Dealing with Hoseok and Taehyung had made him assume that all the artificial alphas would be the same; mild tempered and light-hearted. Though he shouldn’t generalise, it’s the only method of comfort Jimin knows within this situation. The alphas were labelled as hostile, barbaric, and arrogant by all known books throughout history. In hindsight, Jimin shouldn’t have been so presumptuous. He let his guard down to be proved very wrong.

It was too much, it still is, and Jimin… Jimin can’t handle this. He’s not ready. Jungkook wants so much. He wants his omega, his soulmate, and whatever the fuck else Jimin can be. Meanwhile, Jimin has only recently calmed down from his heat. He needs to tackle one thing at a time. He doesn’t want to hurt Jungkook, he doesn’t want to reject him either, but as the elder of the two, he needs to let it be known that he has no intention of rushing into this if he’s going to stay.

“Jiminie?” Jungkook calls in such a small tone Jimin wants to coo. “Can… Can I please just see you for a moment? Before I go get Yoongi, I just want to see you.”

Jimin sucks his bottom lip between his teeth, his hand rubbing down the side of his face. He feels disgusting. He’s sweaty, grimy, crusty with cum and slick. He can’t think of a worse idea than to let Jungkook see him right now, but he wants it too. He needs the comfort. And yeah, okay, so he’s a little conflicted about his so-called soulmate, but that doesn’t mean he’ll deny himself the luxury of having Jungkook close.

“Sure.”

The omega heaves himself from the bed, shoves on his old shirt and wobbles over to the door. He unlocks it slowly with a shuddering breath, stalling for time by resting his hand on the knob. He can already smell the musk of the alpha outside, Jungkook’s scent filling his nose overwhelmingly fast. Before, Jimin’s first initial thought was that the smell took him home. Without the influence of his heat he realises, not only does Jungkook take him back to the comfort of family, he smells idealistically of the home Jimin has always wanted. Neither masculine or feminine, just all very distinctly Jungkook, and he loves that.

Once the door finally swings open, Jimin sees the evidence of Jungkook’s own struggles in the time he was lost in his heat smeared all over the wood. He doesn’t get the chance to tease the alpha about it, however, because the moment he looks up, he’s engulfed by strong arms. Wrapping one around his shoulders, one around his waist, Jungkook snuffles into the crook of his neck, his body lining up with Jimin’s all too perfectly. The lust is drowned out by an itch to be closer. He finds himself relaxing into Jungkook’s chest willingly. Despite their unhygienic conditions, Jimin’s arms come up to wind around Jungkook’s torso, his fingers meeting at his back. Everything is always a little raw after coming out from a heat. His senses are delicate, so to have the alpha smooshed against him sort of makes him want to sneeze.

“Hi,” Jungkook breathes into the side of his neck.

“Hi, yourself,” Jimin laughs.

“Jimin… I’m really-”

“Let’s talk about it later. This changes nothing,” Jimin says sternly. “We need to talk about this properly, together as a team. You and me, okay?” He waits to feel Jungkook nod, the younger man whining lovingly into his skin. “But right now, all I want is a shower and something to eat.”

“Okay,” Jungkook whispers, nuzzling him affectionately. “Fuck… you smell so good.”

“I smell bad,” Jimin snorts, letting one hand slide up into Jungkook’s hair. They’re both greasy and clammy, it’s tempting to ask if Jungkook wants to shower with him, but there’s no way Jimin’s ever going to ask him out loud. “I only smell good to you because…”

“You’re my mate?” Jungkook pulls back a few inches to stare down at his face. “Yeah, I guess that can also be the reason, but you’ve always smelled good to me.”

Jimin wants to look away, cover his blushing cheeks. Although Jungkook has broken out of his more beta mannerisms, he has failed to control his habit of staring. The omega almost doesn’t want to talk, knowing that Jungkook’s eyes would trail down to his lips to watch them move and curve over each syllable. He feels incredibly self-conscious, especially with the messy state he’s in. It’ll take a while for Jimin to be accustomed to Jungkook watching his every move. Though he’s aware it’s not completely out of lust, Jimin still squirms under his gaze.

“You’re an alpha now. Must be different,” Jimin mumbles, his arms falling limp to his sides.

Jungkook shrugs. “Not really. I’m taller, which is fucking awesome, but I’m still – I don’t know – I’m still…,” he trails off, leaning down to nose along Jimin’s jawline. The omega freezes up, eyes slamming shut as he feels Jungkook exhale hotly against his skin. His hand on his waist makes this all too real, too tender – sharp nails dragging over his t-shirt enough for Jimin to feel the nip but not the pain. The older feels his spine tingle, his eyelashes fluttering, his knees grow weak, his moment of self-consciousness nearly abandoned.

“My senses are heightened. Feels like I’m seeing everything for the first time again. But, I’m still me. I’m still… me, I think.”

Jimin smiles softly, stirring himself out from his stupor. “Still you,” he agrees, gently petting Jungkook’s bangs.

Truthfully, Jimin wouldn’t know what to do if Jungkook isn’t himself.

“Anyway, I should – I really, really should – get cleaned up.” Jimin leans back away before the temptation to kiss Jungkook pink lips becomes too much.

“Okay.” The alpha nods, making absolutely no move to let him go at all.

Jimin laughs nervously, attempting to take a step backwards, which only results in Jungkook tightening his arms around him. He doesn’t seem to be conscious of it by the look on his face. Jungkook’s spellbound, his gaze roaming across Jimin’s face, drinking him in like a man who’s gone without water for weeks. The action should make him feel uncomfortable, yet it has the opposite effect. Jimin feels cherished. It’s a good feeling given the fact he has dry slick painting the insides of his thighs and hair too greasy for his liking. He guesses it’s one way to boost his confidence.

“Baby, you’re gonna have to let go,” Jimin sighs, wriggling in his hold.

Jungkook’s breath hitches, his pupils dilating so wide Jimin is convinced they’ll swallow him up. “Say that again.”

Jimin stares up at him with wide eyes. Honestly, the term of endearment drips from his tongue far too easily. ‘Baby’ is too intimate now that he realises what he’s done. Too fast, way too fast. They’re skipping over too many steps. This is what Jimin was trying to avoid in the first place. He has to dial it down a notch.

“Jungkook,” he whines. “Come on, I feel really gross.”

“Your heat isn’t completely gone yet.” Jungkook frowns, sliding his hot palm over Jimin’s forehead and the omega crunches up his nose at the scent of cum on his skin. There’s something else mixed in there, when Jimin notices what that metallic scent is, he gasps loudly.

How delirious must’ve he have been to be so ignorant of all the commotion going on outside his room?

“What – how did you – what the hell happened?!” Jimin grabs his hand, turning it from side-to-side, inspecting it with a mildly horrified expression.

“Um…” Jungkook gnaws on his bottom lip. “Nothing. It’s fine. It’ll heal,” he reassures. He pulls his hand from Jimin’s grasps and finally drops his other arm from his waist.

“What are you talking about?! That’s definitely not fine!” Jimin exclaims, taking a step around Jungkook to look into the hallway. His eyes widen again at the claw marks on the wooden panels, stains of blood and semen darkening the oak. His hand flies up to his nose, the scent of Jungkook invading his nostrils more than ever.

“I’ll clean it up,” comes Jungkook’s gruff voice.

“Jungkook, did you even take a step outside since I went into heat?!” Jimin asks, whirling around on him, causing the young alpha to start, his eyes flashing in guilt. “You can’t be doing this to yourself! Did you eat?! Have you even taken a drink at all?!”

“Why does it matter? You were in heat, you needed me!” Jungkook argues, crossing his arms over his chest, and it takes Jimin about a second to frown at how rudely Jungkook’s shirt stretches over his pectorals.

“I didn’t need you starving yourself! I’m supposed to be taking care of you!” Jimin slaps his bicep gently.

“Pretty hard to do with slick pouring out of your asshole,” Jungkook scoffs, smirking slightly.

Jimin turns a whole spectrum of reds. “Get out! Out, out, out!” he exclaims, pounding his weak fists against Jungkook’s chest, but that only makes the alpha step back further into his room.

“Alright! Alright!” Jungkook snickers, switching positions with Jimin so he’s standing in the hallway again. Before he leaves, he puts his hands on either side of the frames and leans in close to the older man’s personal space.

Jimin’s natural response is to stiffen in his spot.

“Come look for me when you’re done, okay?” Jungkook says, and Jimin sees the awkward young beta lingering in the edges of his confident alpha demeanour. Jungkook is hesitant almost, as though he’s scared that Jimin would reject him right away.

Jimin nods wordlessly, reaching for the door to close it. Jungkook doesn’t leave immediately, instead, he stays where he is, watching as Jimin closes the door slowly, their eyes never wavering from each other. Jimin can feel that familiar warmth soaring up to his chest again, strangling the breath out of him. The last thing he sees is the afternoon sunshine lighting up the red speckles in Jungkook’s eyes.

His alpha is frightening in a different way. 

 

Yoongi arrives at his door with his bag and a couple of breakfast bars five minutes later. He’s not too effected by the smell in the room, but he gags slightly when he sees the mess Jungkook has made in the hall. Jimin is ready to be offended for Jungkook, then realises that Yoongi isn’t doing it to be dramatic. The alpha’s scent must be too strong for his sensitive nose. And basing his knowledge off of what he knows about mates in general, most people would be turned off by the scent of a ‘claimed’ person. His and Jungkook’s bond has set. Even without the bite, or the rituals, meeting one’s soulmate causes an immediate change in both parties. Jimin can’t imagine what Jungkook must smell like to Yoongi right now. Also, given that there is only a thirty percent chance of anyone getting to meet their soulmates nowadays, Jimin wonders if that’s the case for people with regular bonds.

“You look like shit,” Yoongi says, handing him one of his backpacks. “You sure you’re good? It’s only been three days.”

“I’m okay.” Jimin nods. He hugs his bag tightly to his chest, glancing over Yoongi’s shoulder to ensure that no one else was around to see him do the walk of shame to the bathroom. “I can’t stay in this room anymore. I’ll lose my mind.”

“Hm,” Yoongi grunts, turning in circles, his gaze landing on the unmade bed and the wet slick patches on the floor. “Christ, kid… Were you trying to lay claim to the whole damn room? It’s gonna take me a week to sterilise this place.”

Jimin rubs the back of his neck shamefully, bending down to pick up the rest of his clothing. “I’m sorry. I’ll help.”

“Just go clean up. Go see JiHyun.” Yoongi waves his hand dismissively, already going around the bed to strip off the linens.

Jimin gives him a big appreciative smile then strolls out. He pauses just by the bathroom, hand coming up to trace over the claw marks Jungkook has left. They’re deep and jagged. Was Jungkook even aware that he was doing this? Seeing proof of the alpha’s aggression sends a cold shiver down his spine. If Jungkook can do this to the walls, what can he do to Jimin? How much self-control does Jungkook possess for Jimin to remotely feel safe in his hands? Does he even want to think about this? He had no say in Jungkook’s transformation, had no say in the bond that unavoidably came with his transition. He doesn’t know if he’s willing or if fate is trying to convince him he is. Oh whatever, he’ll deal with it when he’s not feeling like he barely crawled out of a hole.

He lets out a breath of relief when the warm water hits his back, his fingertips and toes stinging from the sudden change in temperature. The chill inside the lodge is enough to give him a cold, and after sweating for three days straight, going from hot to cold, Jimin admires how Jungkook could hug him for so long. He spends forty minutes in the shower, washing every inch of himself until his skin is red and the steam of the spray makes it hard for him to see.

His limbs stiff and creaky, his ass sore, Jimin takes his time slipping into his clothes, hissing under his breath every few seconds because of his aching back.

“I’m gonna go look for JiHyun!” Jimin calls to Yoongi on his way out of the lodge, one of the breakfast bars caught between his teeth. 

“He’s in the nursery with the other pups!” Yoongi replies, sticking his hand out of Jimin’s room to give him a wave.

Jimin hums, trying to recall if he’d seen a nursery on his first day at the pack. He didn’t get a very good look at the whole place considering Jungkook had put him into an early heat, so he hopes that someone will direct him to the right place if he asks.

Taking the short trip down the cobblestone stairs to the pack grounds, Jimin stops at the bottom, nervously pushing his hand through his hair. The day is new and bright. Although he can feel the temperature drop, the sun is out, providing small patches of warmth between the tree branches. The pack is brimming with energy, some chopping wood, some skinning their kills for dinner, some going about their own business, whatever it is that might be. No one around gives him a second glance, and it’s only now that Jimin notices their difference in attire. Most of the betas and alphas are in shorts and tank tops, some forgoing the shirts all together. The omegas are more bundled up in layers, with jackets and scarves to protect their necks. From the chill or from an alpha’s forcing bite, Jimin can’t tell. Jimin, himself, is only in white long sleeve shirt and jeans, it’s clear he’s with the researchers.

Avoiding any contact with wandering alphas, Jimin nears the fire pit in the middle of the grounds. He spots Taehyung and Hoseok sitting around the edge, both only in shorts too, revealing their tan skin. To Jimin’s confusion, they’re not alone. Gathered around by their feet, a group of betas and omegas sit with them. From a distance, their conversation seems to be one-sided, Hoseok rambling off about something or other.

“Hey, guys. Sorry to interrupt but do you know where the nursery is?” Jimin asks politely, shy around the new faces.

“Jiminie! Jimin, you’re alive!” Taehyung exclaims, hopping out from the group to pounce on the innocent omega. Though Taehyung is lean, his weight comes more from his height and despite how Jimin is probably much stronger even with Taehyung’s new status, his long, flailing arms make it difficult for Jimin to keep his balance. The alpha doesn’t help by wrapping all his limbs around him, tipping them both over backwards. They land hard on the gravel, Jimin pinned and breathless under his friend.

“Urgh…” Taehyung winces, but he speedily recovers. “Hey! Whoa… You stink! I’m so glad you’re okay!”

“Argh…” Jimin groans from beneath Taehyung, the back of his head throbbing from his collision with the ground. His half-eaten breakfast bar is probably all the way across the grounds by now. “Well, I was okay…”

“Good to hear!” Taehyung grins down at him, the sunlight bouncing off his blond hair, making him shine. “You still stink, though. Not in a bad way, but it’s, like, overly sweet. Makes me kinda wanna plug my nose, to be honest.”

Jimin rolls his eyes and pats both his hands on Taehyung’s chest, signalling him to get off before they both get covered in dirt. “Yeah, that makes sense,” he sighs, sitting up once Taehyung pushes himself into a sitting position, crouching over Jimin’s legs.

“So, this proves that you’re Jungkook’s soulmate, right?” Hoseok comes to squat down beside them both, placing his hand atop Taehyung’s head. “The connection was recognised, right? ‘Cause you’re stinky to everyone else.”

“I’m fresh out of my heat. Give me a few days.” Jimin lightly shoves them both as he stands up. “It’s pretty obvious already, isn’t it? Don’t make a big deal out of it. I’ll handle this on my own.”

“A big deal?! Are you shitting me? Do you not realise how huge this is?! Okay, how many people these days get to say that they’ve met their mate?” Taehyung squawks, almost falling on his bottom if it wasn’t for Hoseok’s firm hold.

Truth be told, the idea hasn’t completely set in yet. Jimin accepts and understands that this is what it is. Soulmates exist, and Jungkook so happens to be his. Up till now, the weight of it hasn’t gotten to him. He wants to give himself a pat on the back for not sinking into a full-blown panic attack because of it. It’s not only a huge deal, it can very well be the most crucial stage of his entire life. He’s preventing himself from thinking too far ahead. Whether he accepts or rejects the bond, it’s going to be messy. More than messy, it’s going to be catastrophic.

“Tae, you’re making it bigger than it actually is,” he scoffs exaggeratingly. “The only reason people don’t find their mate is because betas have weak scents and omegas are too scared to go near them. Plus, they’re too busy asserting their own dominance over us to actively seek out mates,” Jimin scowls, brushing the dust off his shirt.

“Why are you trying to kill the romance?” Taehyung pouts up at him.

“I-I’m not!” Jimin splutters. “A-All I’m saying is, it’s not that big of a deal!”

The concept of romance isn’t lost on Jimin. He actually really enjoys it. He loves those old cliché romance movies. They get his heart fluttering, his body light, his cheeks turning pink. They hold an endearing place in his heart. He isn’t ashamed that he likes romance, however, it’s a whole lot more difficult in real life. He and Jungkook are not conventional mates, they go against every ideal that’s been present for so many years. Alphas are not supposed to be alive in this day and age. And the direct consequence of that is every single romance novel and movie now is based around the dynamics of beta/beta, omega/omega, and beta/omega relations. Jimin doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into by mating with an alpha. All he hopes is that he won’t be living with a knot in his ass 24/7.

“Anyone told you, you think too much?” Taehyung tilts his head at him, still squatting.

“Many times,” Jimin chirps, flicking his finger lightly against Taehyung’s forehead to make him lose balance. The alpha yelps, his arms flapping out before he falls onto his ass. “Now tell me where the nursery is already.

“It’s next to the kitchen. You won’t miss it,” Hoseok says, gesturing to the three larger buildings Jimin had taken note of on his first day here.

“Thank you!” Jimin grins and takes off passed the fire pit, Taehyung yelling dramatically behind him.

The nursery is a modest sized cabin with a sign above the door that tells him that it does indeed hold the entire pack’s litter of pups. The largest building beside it is bustling with life, the pack members chattering and loitering without a care. In front of the nursery’s open door there’s a tiny black chalk board with numbers, he assumes, to remind everyone of how many there are currently. Eleven. Thirteen if he counts JiHyun and Jungkook, who’s sitting in the middle of the playroom, surrounded by said pups. Or should he say drowning. The alpha doesn’t look to be moving at all as the children pile and climb all over him, his eyes closed, seemingly at ease.

Jimin watches for a second then turns his attention to the rest of the room.

The cabin is one large space, holding a miniature kitchen in the corner with bottles and milk formula on the countertops. The floor is made of a soft sponge material, the furniture all plastic with no sharp corners to be seen. There are no electronics anywhere in sight, and although Namjoon had told him the pack did not allow any technology, Jimin is confused as to how things would work without it. How will the pups be entertained? How will they sleep with nightlights or singing mobiles? How do they store the milk if there is no refrigerator?

“Jiminie?”

At the sound of his brother’s unsure call, Jimin’s eyes flicker around the room quickly to find JiHyun. Out of curtesy for the caretaker in the corner, eyeing him calmly, he shakes off his shoes on the porch and steps inside, ready to catch JiHyun when he comes shooting into his arms.

“Jiminie!” JiHyun cries, whimpering into his brother’s neck from relief.

The older omega feels like crying with him. Holding JiHyun again is beyond refreshing. The little boy’s pure wildflower scent keeping him from collapsing. After three days of not being allowed to hold JiHyun, neither of them smell much of each other anymore, so Jimin quickly remedies that by keeping his brother close to his neck, nuzzling their cheeks, and rubbing his hands down his back. The pup sobs into his collar, tears staining his shirt. JiHyun won’t let him go, clinging onto his back with tight little fists. Jimin lets him, yearning to make up for the days he’s not been able to take care of him. He feels like a failure of a caretaker. He takes suppressants for this reason alone. It was stupid of him to forget his pills at home.

“Oh!” one of the pups yell excitedly. “It’s JiHyunie’s bro!”

The rest of the pups follow suit, greeting Jimin in varying levels of enthusiasm. Jimin smiles back at them, waving one hand while the other stays firmly around his brother, who can’t stop hiccupping. The pups, eight out of eleven of them, come rolling and tumbling over to the siblings, smiling wide with the occasional missing tooth. The younger pups, the toddlers and babies stay with Jungkook, curled shyly around the alpha as they peek over at Jimin.

Jungkook is awake now, his head turned to the side, his bangs parting carelessly over his forehead, watching Jimin with blank features. His eyes on the other hand are vehement, swirling with mixes of affection and deep longing. Fortunately for Jimin’s heart, the pups make it hard for Jungkook to move any closer to him. However, it’s also excruciatingly adorable how Jungkook doesn’t mind the babies piling on him. He supposes with the parents busy, the pups need a strong alpha presence around. Or Jimin can just be talking out of his ass because he’s not actually sure any of the facts he’s read in books are true.

“I’m Taeyong!” the first boy to speak up says, throwing his hand in the air. His black hair bounces happily with him, his eyes gleaming.

“I’m Jaehyun.” Another boy, standing behind Taeyong, waves to him politely. “It’s nice to meet you.” He’s soft spoken, almost more mature than his age suggests.

“I’m Taeil!” the oldest looking pup pipes up, then gestures to the others. “That’s Dongyoung, Ten, Yuta, SaSung, and YoungHo.”

Jimin greets them all, keeping his arms wound around JiHyun in case his brother begins to cry again. “Hi. I’m Jimin,” he coos. “And what about the other little ones?”

Everyone shuffles into the middle where Jungkook continues to lay motionless. The alpha smiles softly up at him, instantaneously causing a blush to rise to his cheeks. Jungkook wiggles his arm out from one of the pups and begins pointing out who is who.

“Mark and Dong-Hyuck,” Jungkook gestures to the two tiny toddlers curled up on his chest, then to the one asleep on his left side. “SeJun. He’s from a pack just west of here. His parents got injured in an accident and their pack isn’t as developed as ours is, so he’s staying with us until they recover.”

Jimin nods, watching in great amusement as Taeyong and Ten begin to mess with Jungkook’s free arm, tugging on him, playing with his fingers. The alpha gives them a warning grunt that the pups only laugh at, but don’t stop. Beside Jungkook’s head is an opened first aid kit, a roll of bandages unravelled all over the floor. He gathers the alpha was in the middle of patching himself up when he was avalanched by children.

“How did you end up like this?” Jimin laughs.

“I-” Jungkook purses his lips in embarrassment. “I was making sure JiHyun was okay. He was crying when I got here. Seokjin was also here a while ago, but he went to go to help in the kitchen. I thought I could keep an eye on JiHyun while you were – you know – cleaning up and stuff. Then I got caught.”

Jimin blinks owlishly. He’s touched that Jungkook is making an effort to get close to JiHyun. One of the many reasons Jimin is often afraid of finding a mate is because he isn’t sure they’d be good for his brother. He can’t have a mate that won’t accept the little boy as Jimin’s top priority.

“Oh. Thank you,” Jimin says with a bashful smile, bouncing JiHyun on his knee to distract himself.

“JiHyun, I thought you wanted to clean my hand for me?” Jungkook nudges JiHyun’s socked foot, grabbing the attention of the sniffling boy.

Comforted by his brother’s presence, JiHyun crawls out from Jimin’s arms and dutifully sits down next to Jungkook, dragging his hand onto his lap. Jungkook and Jimin look on in fondness while JiHyun grabs at all the bandages on the floor and sets it beside him. He pulls the first aid kit closer too, searching through it before he finds the tweezers. This is where Jimin decides he should step in. As clever as JiHyun is, Jimin can’t trust him to remove all the splinters in Jungkook’s fingers without poking an eye out.

“Here, sweet pea, let me do that. Why don’t you go fix Jungkook’s other hurts,” Jimin suggests, prying the tweezers from JiHyun’s hand. “Go see if your kisses can heal him. I think he needs it.”

“Kisses!” JiHyun cheers. He wipes his nose quickly with the sleeve of his shirt then begins climbing over Jungkook to get to the other side. He all but nearly steps onto SeJun, who yips softly in his sleep. “Where does it hurt?”

Jungkook pouts slightly and points to his cheek. JiHyun nods determinedly and pats Jungkook gently on the cheek before he kisses the same spot. The alpha groans and clutches his heart, startling the other children splayed out on him. He immediately panics and tries to get them to go back to sleep, which they do.

“Do you like pups that much?” Jimin whispers, tentatively taking Jungkook’s hand. He faces his palm upwards and smooths out his fingers to see the damage. The splinters are deep, however, he can tell that Jungkook has taken great care as to not make it any worse for himself. Thankfully, he and his injuries are clean.

“To be honest, I didn’t think much of them before,” Jungkook confesses, absentmindedly tapping his cheek again, acting as though he’s still hurt to get another kiss.

JiHyun furrows his eyebrows at him, confused as to how his healing kiss did not work the first time. So, he kisses him again. Then again for the third, fourth, then fifth time. Once he sees that Jungkook is still in ‘pain’, he looks up at Jimin with helpless teary eyes, on the verge of bawling because he can’t ‘save’ the alpha. His older brother coos at him, reassures him that it’s all fine and that Jungkook just needs more kisses than most do.

“So, this is primarily an alpha thing, huh?” Jimin smirks.

Jungkook’s eyes narrow, the corners of his lips twitching into a leer. “I’ll let you figure that out.”

“Don’t talk like that in front of the pups. It’s inappropriate,” Jimin clicks his tongue, shaking his head disapprovingly. He keeps his eyes on his task, pinching out one splinter at a time. He apologises whenever Jungkook flinches, his muscles twitching under Jimin’s fingers. Some are right under his skin, which calls for a little more work from Jimin to carefully remove them. There are so many too, and this is only the right hand.

“They won’t understand what I’m even saying.” Jungkook rolls his eyes.

“No, but I will, and this isn’t the right place to be talking about that sort of thing,” Jimin scolds. He closely inspects Jungkook’s fingers to check for any stray splinters, when he finds none, he picks up the antibiotic ointment from inside the kit. He spreads a generous amount all over Jungkook’s hand, feeling sour about the difference in the sizes of their fingers. As he’s reaching for the bandages, he discovers Jaehyun already sitting there, holding them out for him. The little boy had probably been hovering over him all this time and Jimin just didn’t realise it.

“Thank you, Jaehyun.” He grins, causing the little boy to scurry away and hide in Jungkook’s left armpit in embarrassment.

The alpha lets out a deep rumbling, a call to calm the pup.

“Jiminie! What do I do?! Jungkook hurt!” JiHyun cries in distress. He’s kneeling by Jungkook’s head, each hand on the alpha’s chin and forehead as he repeatedly pecks him on the cheek.

Jimin presses his lips together to suppress his giggle. “He’s fine, JiHyun. He’s just being a big faker,” he teases.

Jungkook makes a small noise in protest, but doesn’t make a comeback.

Switching from the right to the left, Jimin treats Jungkook’s other hand quickly, not wanting to disturb SeJun. This time, both JiHyun and Jaehyun watch him, fascinated. Jimin works fast, his fingers nimbly applying ointment before the bandages. Though he’ll acknowledge the little ones, he doesn’t extend the same kindness to Jungkook, who eyes him with the same heated expression as he’s always had. Jimin believes that if he doesn’t give him the attention that he wants, he’ll win somehow. If only the alpha would stop smirking, as though he knows what Jimin is thinking. It’s infuriating.

“Do you mind if we go somewhere else to talk?” Jimin looks over, finally. Chest aching, he’s aware of his own breathing now. He tells himself that if he breathes too harshly, Jungkook will notice, but if he breathes too lightly, he’ll die. The agitation sits right at the surface and he just wants to take a big gulp of air.

“Sure. I have the perfect place,” Jungkook nods.

With careful manoeuvring, Jungkook scoops up the pups on his chest and places them down on the mat. SeJun whines at first, sniffling, rolling onto his belly in search of Jungkook’s warmth. He ends up by Jimin, sleepily climbing into the omega’s lap to continue his nap. While Jungkook is brushing himself off, Jimin rocks SeJun to the caretaker in the corner. She gladly accepts him, then shoos Jimin and Jungkook out.

“JiHyun, I’ll be back, alright?” Jimin kneels down in the doorway, his brother having followed him out. “Will you be okay to play with your friends while I’m gone?”

JiHyun frowns. He peeks up at Jungkook, then at the other pups in the room. “Will you go away for a long time again?”

“No, no,” Jimin hastily reassures. He isn’t happy to be parting with his brother either, but he knows he needs to have this discussion with Jungkook before they move on. “I’ll be back soon. We can go get dinner together, deal? If you feel tired or sleepy, go look for Taehyung or Hoseok. Or maybe Seokjin, okay? Don’t wander off on your own.” He cups his brother’s face with both hands, pleading with JiHyun to understand.

“Okay.” JiHyun relents, burying his face in Jimin’s palm, whining unhappily.

“Wah! You’re such a big boy now!” Jimin croons, bending down further to give the pup an Eskimo kiss. “Go play with your friends as much as you can.”

As soon as JiHyun waddles back into the nursery, Jimin jumps up to put on his shoes. Underestimating how close Jungkook was standing behind him, he bumps clumsily into the younger’s chest as he’s turning around. Jimin doesn’t have to look up to know that Jungkook is flashing him a wide grin. He chooses to pay him no mind, stepping around him to walk off the porch.

“So where do you wanna go?” Jimin inquires, strolling a step behind the alpha.

“I know some place nice.” Jungkook says, walking off ahead with such self-assuredness that Jimin daren’t question him.

Off the pack grounds, passed the lodge, Jungkook leads him down a long dirt path that’s separate to the one the group had hiked along on their way here. Jimin keeps tightly to Jungkook, afraid to lose him if he takes his eyes off him. The younger man seems the type to get lost. Really, it’s just an excuse for Jimin to do more than stare, because the way Jungkook’s new shirt hugs his shoulders and torso should not make him want to whine like he’s in heat all over again. The alpha doesn’t saunter or strut, but he walks proudly, level-headed, almost unintentionally cocky. Jimin had gotten one or two glances at Jungkook before only now to see how much he’s really grown. Dammit. He’s grown so much in such a short span of time it’s unfair.

Feeling eyes on him, Jungkook peers down at Jimin with an inquisitive look, smiling coyly at Jimin’s fast reaction to look away. The second Jungkook turns back to the path ahead, Jimin risks a few glances at him from the corner of his eye. Jumping from scrawny to muscular, Jungkook carries himself with more poise than Jimin has ever seen him. He likes that. He likes knowing that Jungkook is more confident in himself. Despite how Jimin feels about this experiment, he admits that seeing Jungkook happy makes him glad.

“Jimin, you’re staring,” Jungkook smirks.

“You’re one to talk,” Jimin retorts, sliding his hands into his pockets to hide how clammy they are.

“Oh, you notice?” The younger cocks his head, his shoulder leaning to the right as though he can’t hear Jimin from all the way up in the clouds.

The bastard.

“Hard to miss with you drooling,” Jimin shoots back.

“You’re not so subtle yourself,” Jungkook grins.

Jimin exhales through his nose, crosses his arms and looks away. The trees are beginning to thin. He believes he can hear a river nearby. The birds nesting in the trees chirp every so often, the mix of random sounds of nature brings him back to that same serenity he keeps feeling. Like a home he’s never known, the woods bear a sense of safety – of belonging. He figures he would feel more exposed out here, more vulnerable to the wildlife, instead, he’s secure. It helps that Jungkook is with him. He knows where he’s going. The alpha’s slightly swaying steps tracing a path that he’s travelled along multiple times, his feet already mapping out the forest.

Their excursion comes to an end at the edge of a cliff. Gone in his own thoughts, Jimin can’t tell how far they’ve walked out from the pack. They’re atop a river, standing before a large protruding rock which hovers over the water. The view from this height is gorgeous, the overview of the trees on the other side of the river is breath-taking. Everything is still green, leaves clinging onto the last few weeks of summer.

“Everyone knows about this place,” Jungkook tells him, walking to the edge of the rock to plop down with his legs hanging off the end. “Haven’t gotten around to really finding my own place yet,” he whispers like a child with a secret.

“Whoa… It’s beautiful,” Jimin whispers in case he disturbs the peace the place holds. Carefully, he shuffles over to Jungkook and sits beside him, facing away from the edge. He doesn’t do well with heights.

“So…” Jungkook begins. “No bullshit, right?”

As though they were on pause this whole time, the matter at hand comes back to them. Jimin is grateful for the time he had to adjust.

“Right.” Jimin breathes in deeply, bracing himself.

At a glance, Jungkook is doing the same thing, straightening his back, squaring his shoulders. He’s preparing himself for whatever is to come. And god, Jimin wishes he can tell him something good. They can pretend all they want that the issue isn’t present, but one way or another, they’re going to have to be adults about it. There is nothing Jimin hates more than a misunderstanding that could’ve been easily avoided.

“I can’t stay with the pack, Jungkook,” he mutters, drawing his knees up to his chest. “I can’t make JiHyun leave the life we’ve just built in the metropolis to live here. There’s so much to be done in the East too, and in the last week, I finally feel like I’m making a difference. I can’t be here.”

“And I can’t leave,” Jungkook replies, his tone quiet, subdued. “Not yet anyway. I can’t go until I’m a fully developed alpha. That’s what Namjoon told me. If I leave the pack, if I go back to the metropolis, it could end badly. For me, and for the people around me. Plus, the stigma surrounding the idea of alphas being alive again… I can’t leave.”

“Then, that means we wait,” Jimin sighs. He places his head on the tops of his knees, face turning towards Jungkook, who looks back at him. A fresh breeze soars from the river below, ruffling their hair, seeping through their clothes, carrying their scents high in a swirling mix of bitter sweet longing. Jimin can’t enjoy it, not right now.

“I don’t wanna wait,” Jungkook admits, his voice wispy as the wind. “You’re here now. I’ve waited two weeks for you already.”

“Jungkook, we don’t know each other that well. Can’t we spend some time to know more about one another before we think about mating?” Jimin implores. He’s not above pleading. He wants Jungkook to understand that he also wants to try, that this isn’t all one-sided. They’re no star-crossed lovers, they have the chance to make this work. They have time. It doesn’t have to be so dramatic. They need to take it one step at a time.  

“I have two weeks, right?” Jungkook leans closer, his hands flat against the rock beside his left leg. “Two weeks for me to convince you to stay.”

“Technically it’s a week and four days,” Jimin corrects, resting his cheek on his folded arms. “You don’t have to convince me to do anything, Jungkook. Let’s just focus on becoming friends.”

“Friends.” The alpha rolls his eyes. “I thought we already were friends, but I guess I was the only one here who did,” he jokes.

“Stop it,” Jimin laughs, shoving him lightly.

Falling back to silence becomes second nature to them. The good thing about sitting in silence with Jungkook is that, it’s not so much that they don’t have anything to say, there’s just no need for words for them to enjoy each other’s company.

“We’re gonna be okay, right?” Jungkook asks, insecurity driving him to scoot closer until their shoulders are brushing. “This isn’t the end. We still have a chance? I still have a chance?”

Jimin thinks about it. He really, really thinks about it. Setting his self-doubt and anxiety aside, the idea of mating Jungkook is more than okay. It’s perfect. If Jimin would allow himself one sliver of selfishness, he could let go. His life back at the metropolis was subpar to say the least. He had no family or friends to leave behind. He won’t need to worry about credits or currency or a job out here. JiHyun will adjust. Realistically, his brother is quick to adapt, there is no reason for Jimin to worry about his brother at all. Using JiHyun as an excuse to reject Jungkook because of his own insecurities will most likely be something he will never live down. At least he’s aware of himself.

He’s scared.

Not about the move, or the experiment, or that his life could make a drastic change. He’s scared of Jungkook’s feelings and what it does to his own mentality. He’s afraid of Jungkook getting too close. Jimin has survived on his own for twenty-four years, dreaming of an ideal mate that is sweet, kind, funny, good-hearted, good with JiHyun. Coming up short with perverted assholes, pretentious douches, and self-entitled betas. Then suddenly Jungkook appears. He’s almost too good to be true, and Jimin doesn’t trust it. He recalls his long-time fear about his own naivety; latching onto the first person that shows interest in him. Never questioning, blinded by infatuation.

Fate can throw shit at him all it wants, but Jimin won’t let that affect his logic.

“Jimin?” Jungkook nudges his shoulder.

“Hm?” Jimin sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, trying to hide the heavy, throbbing dread in his stomach.

“Will you let me court you?”

Before he can prevent it, a giggle bursts from his lips. “Court me? Isn’t that a little outdated?”

“I – well yeah – I guess it is. But won’t you at least let me try?” Jungkook turns his body towards him, his complete attention on Jimin. The gesture is flattering, if a little pressuring.

“Alphas. Why was I ever afraid of you guys in the first place?” Jimin chuckles. He shoves Jungkook with his shoulder, the alpha retaliating with a smaller shove of his own, a grin stretching wide over his face. Smiling like this, Jungkook looks far younger, more innocent.

“So, is that a yes?” Jungkook asks, his eyes big and hopeful, twinkling with what Jimin can only describe as puppy love.

“Yes,” Jimin nods, plopping his cheek back on his forearm, a content smile playing around the corners of his mouth. “I’d love that, Jungkookie.”

The younger puffs out his chest in pride, leaning back on his hands so he can look up at the sky. “I’ll make you happy, I promise,” Jungkook says with so much conviction that Jimin feels shameful.

“Is that what you need to do?” Jimin furrows his brows. “Make me happy?”

“It’s what I want to do,” the alpha’s answer is immediate. “You’re my mate.”

“No, yes, I know that. But what about you? What about your happiness, Jungkook?” Jimin frowns in concern at Jungkook’s carefree expression.

“You’re my happiness. You and everyone else.” Jungkook’s smile suddenly turns very brittle. His reply catches Jimin by surprise. Who knew Jungkook can manage anything more than a smirk. “Seeing you, seeing the people around me happy, makes me happy. I’m good as long as you’re good. You should be happy, I’ll take the burden.”

Jimin feels his eyes sting and his nose burn from the oncoming tears. He turns his head away towards the forest, not letting Jungkook see how much that had gotten to him.

“It sounds kinda dumb, I know. In general, I feel better knowing you’re all healthy,” Jungkook reassures. He puts most of his weight on his left hand and looms into Jimin’s space. “Are you worried? You think I can’t handle myself?”

The omega buries his face in his knees, praying that Jungkook won’t see how endeared he is. “How did you grow up so fast?” he sniffles.

“We’ve only met three times, Jimin,” Jungkook laughs, bumping his forehead against Jimin’s temple. “You didn’t even see me go through the first stage.”

“I imagine you just bulked up overnight,” Jimin breathes, watching Jungkook from the corner of his eye. “Did any of the muscle go to your head?”

“Which head?” Jungkook smirks.

“Jungkook, don’t be gross!” Jimin exclaims in mortification, shoving Jungkook harshly to the side, his legs kicking up in the air to keep his balance.

The alpha’s laugh rings through the trees and down the valley to the river, his chest and shoulders shaking in hilarity. Jimin on the other hand has his hands over his face, his neck and ears red. This is not something he wants to be talking about right after he gets off his heat. His body grows warm from the mere thought. It’s more humiliating now as he’s remembering his own behaviour back at the lodge – the way he’d begged, pleaded, and mewled for Jungkook. The shame and disgrace of his actions come one hit at a time.

“Hey, I’m only kidding,” Jungkook tries to make amends.

Jimin shakes his head behind his hands. “I know. It’s not that.” He takes in a deep breath through the nose and peeps through his fingers at Jungkook. “I just… I remember what I did before. I’m… I’m so sorry, Jungkook. That probably wasn’t easy for you.”

“You’re embarrassed now? Really?” Jungkook shuffles closer till his mouth is right to Jimin’s ear. “What’s to really be ashamed of? Heats make you do shit you regret. Don’t they teach you that in high school?”

“They didn’t teach us about alpha and omegas bonds,” Jimin scowls. “They didn’t teach us about knots and whatever other monstrosities you have hiding!”

“Ah, it’s alright, Jiminie,” he growls, teeth lightly grazing Jimin’s earlobe. “I can teach you all you need to know. You won’t have to be embarrassed next time.”

Jimin shivers, his ear tingling with the slightest touch of Jungkook’s lips. He wants to recoil, slap a hand over his ear and run for his life. Bad idea to be out in the middle of the woods with a horny alpha. Jimin should withdraw, convince Jungkook to talk to him more about their situation, but what does he do when Jungkook’s scent dances so, so tantalizingly around him, entangling with his own? What’s a poor little omega like him to do with such an alpha?

“Big talk for a pup,” Jimin whispers. He decides that Jungkook’s going to have to work for it.

Already tasting the challenge in the air, Jimin plants his hand on Jungkook’s chest and pushes him backwards. Lips parted wide in a silent yelp, Jungkook stumbles back onto the rock. One step ahead, the older shoots up from the ground and takes off into the shade of the trees, cackling madly at his advantage, forgetting that he doesn’t know the way back to the pack grounds on his own. The adrenaline goes straight to his head. Hearing Jungkook shoot up, heavy, loaded steps colliding with the dirt in warning, Jimin takes off further through the trees, the fact that he was very likely getting himself lost slips from his mind. All he knows is that his heart is hammering too hard in his chest, and his cheeks are sore from smiling so wide.

 “Oh, little omega, you really don’t know who you’re playing with,” Jungkook growls from a few steps behind him.

Jimin squeals in fear and tries a weaved path to lose the alpha. Unfortunately, Jungkook is faster than Jimin imagines, able to catch up with him in no time. Jungkook doesn’t look like he’s trying. Jimin suspects he’s falling a few steps behind to wait for Jimin to make some sort of mistake. A slip up so that he can swoop in.

They run far, straying off the path they’d taken to get to the cliff. Jimin isn’t thinking. He has to go, has to run.

He feels so liberated. Every step he takes his legs ache so wonderfully. He wants to play in the trees, tumble around on the leafy floor. He wants to scream, yell, cry till his voice is gone. He wants to let go, lose his grip on his own sanity and enjoy the moment for what it is. Jungkook’s footsteps remind him that he can’t. That’s not a dream for the now.

“You know, if you wanted a chase, you should’ve waited for my rut! You ruined a perfectly good conversation!” Jungkook calls.

“I don’t wanna talk to you anymore!” Jimin lies, pumping his arms and legs faster. It’s no use. He’s fast, he’s just not as fast as Jungkook is. Damn his stamina.

“Well, that’s hurtful!” Jungkook shouts in mock hurt.

Jimin throws his head back, laughing. “You deserve it! You little mutt!”

Jungkook growls loudly. Out of spite, his speed picks up and he’s running right beside Jimin in no time. To show off, he goes on ahead, rounds the trunk of a tree and intercepts Jimin’s path, his arms spread wide, waiting for Jimin to stumble into him. The omega shrieks in delight and skids on the ground in time to change directions. He takes off deeper into the woods, Jungkook hot on his heels.

“Really! Why are you running away? Afraid I’ll bite?!” Jungkook snickers.

“Yes!” Jimin answers seriously, his laughter dying. Yes. He’s afraid of being bit. He’s afraid of all the promises that Jungkook’s presence holds.  “Yes. I’m scared.”

“W-What?!” Jungkook sounds concerned.

“I don’t wanna face you while I say this. I – I have more I wanna say!” he confesses.

“Jimin, you don’t have to be afraid of me! I’ll hear you out! Anytime!” Jungkook assures him, grunting slightly when he has to jump over a small rock to catch up to Jimin.

“I can’t talk to you. Not face to face. If – if I do, I know I’ll do something – something I’ll regret! A-And I don’t wanna ever regret doing anything with you, Jungkook, but you’re really bad for my heart!” he bellows, his throat already straining.

“You couldn’t have just told me like a normal person?! Instead you decided to run?!” Jungkook exclaims in disbelief, laughing loudly at the ridiculousness.

“L-Look! I panicked, okay?! This is my first time too, you know!” He yells over the wind blowing passed his ears. He’s losing breath with each word, but he knows he has to get this out of his system. Staying stationary would be far more nerve-racking. He needed to do something. Running away was the best option. He needs the wind to drown out his yells. There should only be him and Jungkook around to hear his words. It’s better this way.

“This is my first time too, Jimin! You’re not alone in this!” Jungkook keeps a couple of paces between them, and wants to thank him.

Jimin shakes his head, his hair billowing out behind him. “No, you don’t get it. I’ve – I’ve never dated before, I’ve never been with anyone either. JiHyun has been my life since he was born and I accepted that! Then suddenly you come along?! And you’re kind, and sweet, and you make me laugh! I just – I can’t help but feel like this is a blessing in disguise! And the only reason I’m feeling like this isn’t because of anything you’re doing but… but I know that I’ll be the one to ruin it!”

“Jimin, what are you talking about?!” Jungkook asks.

“I don’t trust myself not to ruin this, because I know! I know that some sick, sick part of me wants this to end badly! It’s what I deserve. The rest of my life has been shitty so far, why do I get an out now?! Why do I get you?!” Jimin screams.

“The world isn’t against you!” Jungkook insists. They part for a minute, both taking different routes around a particularly large tree. They meet on the other side, step-for-step, but Jimin doesn’t dare to look over at Jungkook. “You’re allowed to appreciate the good things that come your way!”

“I can’t! You know why?! You wanna know why?! I work for everything that I get! I’d rather shoot myself in the foot than be seen as weak!” Jimin pants. In the middle of a clearing, where the gaps in the trees get larger, Jimin stops, his chest heaving, his face covered in sweat. He hears Jungkook stop behind him, his breathing softer than his own. “I’m the disobedient omega! I’m the insolent little bitch that takes his suppressants like candy because he doesn’t wanna be seen in the streets on his hands and knees for any interested beta! I’m a man, I’m too wilful, too independent, too prudish. I own those things! I wear those names like a badge, and I was ready to carry them to my grave. But then what happens?! You come along and everything is wrong!” He whirls around. He’s not angry, nor annoyed. He’s lost. Oh, so lost.

“…Jimin,” Jungkook croons, trying to reach out for him.

“I’m not a pretty little omega,” Jimin sighs. “I can’t be weak. I’ve spent years proving that I was more than my brand. I thought I was above acting cute, and small, and innocent. I thought I would be okay with being alone for the rest of my life. Most omegas do it. But… now you’re here and you pull these things outta me. And I want to be affectionate, I want to make you happy, I want to spend the rest of my life letting you prove all my doubts wrong. But if I do – if I let myself be seen as something other than independent, then I lose. I show JiHyun that it takes just one person to bring me down.”

 “No… No, Jimin…” Jungkook looks as though his heart might break. 

The quietness in the woods is ear-splitting. Jimin can hardly focus on the leaves above their heads, or the chirps of birds, or the crows screeching from distances. All he sees is the tender emotion on Jungkook’s face, the way his eyes droop and soften in affection, making Jimin want to shy away. He almost does as soon as the alpha wanders over to him. Short of breath, his cheeks burning, his stomach doing summersaults, Jimin braces himself for anything and everything. He doesn’t know if Jungkook is doing this on purpose, however, it feels like an hour has gone by without his knowledge. As Jungkook’s getting closer, Jimin expects him to reach out to touch him, but he freezes mid-step. Suddenly, his head shoots up, listening for another set of footsteps beyond the trees protecting them. It happens so fast, Jimin grows dizzy. Jungkook’s reaction is instant, as though his whole body is attuned to the woods. Setting their tender moment to the back of their minds for later, Jungkook moves close in precaution.

The apparent shift in mood is severe. Jungkook would not sense a small animal and become this alarmed.

Jimin opens and closes his mouth, debating whether he should speak. Something, or rather someone has spooked the young alpha.

 “Jungkook…” he mouths.

“Sh…” Jungkook holds up a hand.

The footsteps are heavier than Jungkook’s, bigger than any man. They’re almost beastly; cracking branches and thudding over crunchy leaves. Jungkook stops to listen, cocking his head from the right to the left, his nose high in the air to scent. Jimin’s never seen someone scent the air before. Not in this way. It works for Jungkook, because the omega can tell from his rigid shoulders that he knows something is heading their way. And it’s not some harmless deer.

“Jungkook? What’s wrong?” Jimin reaches for his arm.  

“Up,” Jungkook commands. He grabs Jimin around the waist and guides him to one of the trees in their nearest vicinity.

“W-What?!” Jimin squeaks, digging his heels into the dirt.

“Jiminie, please, listen to me. Climb up. I’ll help,” Jungkook urges, climbing up the roots that stick out from the trunk, side-stepping until he’s under the lowest branch on the tree. “C’mon.”

Jimin takes his hand, granting Jungkook permission to lift him so he can grab onto the branch. He accidently kicks him in the shoulder on his way up, but Jungkook waves it off.

“You get up here too!” Jimin demands, throwing his hand out at him expectantly. Jungkook doesn’t listen, doesn’t take his offer. “Jungkook! Jeon Jungkook! Whatever is out there, you’re not going to fight it alone! Come back here or I’m coming down!”

The area is unnervingly still. Frightened by what’s lurking in the shade, the birds stop their songs, the wind halts. Jungkook is left on his own in the middle of the clearing, his back to Jimin, who wiggles restlessly on the thick branch, his legs tucking in so he doesn’t get grabbed. They’re both sweating profusely, from the run and from the anticipation. Jungkook stands on guard, fists clenched at his sides as he waits for something to leap out from behind the bushes. Even from his perch above, Jimin can see the alpha’s muscles grow taut, his jaw clenching.

It’s reckless of him, but Jimin would like to be down there with him. He knows how to fight, to defend himself. Probably has more experience than Jungkook does. It makes more sense for him to help than to sit up in a tree wondering how long it’ll take for Jungkook to get mauled by a bear. Alpha or not, no one can handle a bear without a gun. In the zoos, back at the metropolis, the keepers had needed the strongest tranquilisers to put some of the bears in captivity down. He’s fearful to find out what bears in the wild would be like.   

“Jimin,” Jungkook speaks up, his voice echoing eerily. “Don’t come down until I tell you to. Only me, you got it? Don’t come down until I get you.”

Jimin opens his mouth to protest, his words dying to make way for a shout when something bolts from the bushes. A big mass of dark hair and gleaming teeth hurls towards Jungkook at lightning speed. Thankfully, the alpha was prepared enough to leap out of the way, causing the beast to slam head first into the trunk of Jimin’s tree. He grunts as the branches shake, the leaves falling like rain, his grip on the trunk loosening.

The thing moves fast, but it’s unmistakably a wolf. Not just any kind of wolf that Jimin has ever seen in books or at the zoo. This one is larger, reaching to Jungkook’s height on its four legs, slobbering and growling furiously. It circles the alpha, Jungkook following its steps, his eyes steady on the creature. Jimin isn’t sure if Jungkook’s brave or too stupid to realise that he’s no match for something this big with his bare hands. Jimin feels the temptation to climb down. They’re better as a team. They can run together, back to the pack where they’ll be safe.

“Don’t!” Jungkook shouts, causing Jimin to freeze. “Jimin, I told you. Don’t come down!”

At Jungkook’s tone of voice, the wolf interprets it as a challenge. Claws extended, it lunges at Jungkook, snarling and hissing through its teeth. Its claws slice through the air, but Jungkook is equally as fast, dodging and rolling to maintain some distance.

“Christ, Jungkook, just let me help!” Jimin exclaims, his legs rubbing together in fear as he realises the wolf is preparing for another attack.

A sickening thud is his answer. Out of instinct, he closes his eyes, only to force them open again to see what had happened. God, his mate is down there, fighting a goddamn wolf mutant and he’s stuck up in a tree, helpless. Except… he’s not completely without any aid. He still wears his watch, he never takes it off in the first place. He can call someone, get them to come and help. The flaw in that plan is, he doesn’t have the connection or the signal to call anyone. He has an old model, he won’t be able to reach anyone in time. He can’t run either, he can’t tell which direction will lead him back to the pack, he’ll only endanger himself more.

“Jungkook!” Jimin shouts, bouncing anxiously on the bough when he sees the alpha get flung against another tree, his back colliding with the solid stem. The wolf prowls over to him, saliva dripping from its long jaw, its paws pounding the ground with every step. “Jungkook… fuck!”

“AHHH!”

His ears ring with the earth-shattering sound. It takes him a few seconds to distinguish it as Jungkook’s scream. The wolf startles at the tortured howl, confused. And Jimin is about ready to jump down to be the distraction. He doesn’t know what is happening with Jungkook, the wolf’s body blocking out most of his image. All he sees is the alpha’s limbs twisting in on themselves, the sound of his bones breaking reverberating through the trees. Jimin cries out with him, whining and whimpering at the pain as if it’s his own.

While the wolf is distracted, Jimin sneaks his way down from the tree, however, not without snapping off a branch to use as a weapon. Panicked he may be, but Jimin can’t go down there without something to defend himself. His own fists won’t do. He’ll only need to distract it for a little while, lead him far out so he can come back and check on Jungkook. He’s not the best climber, nor does he have the right amount of upper-body strength to heave Jungkook up a tree, but he’ll die trying. He’s not going to let Jungkook perish on the forest floor in the middle of nowhere. Jimin has the chance to do something, he’s going to take it.

Tip-toeing so his back is between a gap in the trees, Jimin bends down, picks up a stone before flinging it at the wolf’s back. It yips in pain as the stone clips its shoulder blades. Seeing the culprit, it turns from Jungkook to redirect its attention to Jimin, teeth bared, nostrils flaring to pick up his scent. Jimin reacts first by spinning around on his heels and sprinting off. He doesn’t need to look back to know it’s chasing him. The wolf’s low growling is enough indication that he’s being hunted.

Jimin’s surprised at himself for not freezing up. He’s terrified. He’s never dealt with wildlife like this. A city boy through and through, never in his nightmares did he think he would be facing a six-foot-tall wolf snapping its teeth at his ankles.

“Crap, crap!” Jimin pushes himself further, his energy rapidly declining. He can’t slow down here, though, he can already feel the wolf at his back. Luckily, he remembers how to return to the clearing. So, he does a few loops around trees, skirts around some rocks, and jumps over some fallen logs, throwing his hand out to catch himself, using the momentum to shoot around and head in another direction. When he’s brave enough, he’ll reach back with the branch in his hand and whack the wolf on the nose to stun. Once he manages to get the creature a few more paces behind, he heads back to Jungkook. Although he knows he hasn’t lost the wolf yet, he hopes that he can help Jungkook in time to run away together.

The moment he gets to the clearing, Jimin feels his breathing stop.

In the middle of the trees, Jungkook writhes in agony. His arms and legs have twisted in odd angles, his body pulsing, dripping in cold sweat. Half of his body is covered in fur that Jimin accidentally mistakes for dirt at a first glance. When he steps up for a closer look, he discovers that it is definitely fur. It grows from Jungkook’s back to his arms and his legs in weird patches. A mix of wolf and human, Jungkook thrashes violently, his toes digging into the dirt for stability. Jimin can’t muster up the courage to get closer, he’s frightened stiff at the alphas appearance. He recognises that in these situations, he should be helping, but he doesn’t think he can get close enough with the way Jungkook is clawing at the air, his nails black and sharp, his back arching and bowing in anguish. To be frank, it’s not a pleasant sight to behold. Especially when Jungkook’s head snaps to him, their eyes meeting and all he sees is ferocity and pure anger, his irises a menacing red, sending shivers of dread down his spine.

“Tree… now…” Jungkook grunts.

For once, Jimin doesn’t put up a fight. With sheer determination alone, Jimin scrambles up into the tree again, wheezing tiredly. He hugs the nearest bough, keeping his legs up so that the wolf doesn’t see him from his seat. Once he’s settled, his eyes go back to Jungkook, wearing a concerned crease between his brows.

He’s caught between man and beast, half-way through a shift that’s gone horribly wrong. Jimin can’t take his eyes off Jungkook’s flailing figure on the ground, the alpha’s spine bending and curving. It seems like he’s about to reach full shift every few seconds, but then something holds him back and he’s pulled to the half-way point again, bones rearranging themselves before snapping back in place. Jimin’s stomach churns with a threat of vomiting from worry and fear, Jungkook’s loud, pained grunting causing bile to slither up his throat.

The other wolf comes bursting out of the trees again not long later, sniffing the air curiously. He takes no notice of Jungkook. He’s a threat not worth combatting. Jimin knows its searching for him. Or rather he is. Since Jungkook’s going through his own shift, Jimin is more than certain that this wolf is another alpha going through his last stages of his transition. The only thing he can’t comprehend is why he’d attack them in the first place?

“Hey!” Jimin yells down. “I’m up here!” He’s going to buy Jungkook some time. He doesn’t want the other wolf going anywhere near him while he’s like this. Jimin’s going to do whatever he can to protect his stupid soulmate even if he gets dragged down this tree.

“Here, puppy!” he mocks, whistling at the wolf. “You stinking mutt, over here!”

The wolf growls at him, his upper-lips curling over his sharp teeth. When he gets to the bottom of Jimin’s tree, he lifts up on his back legs, his front ones coming to rest on the trunk. Fortunately for Jimin, he can’t reach any higher for the omega, though that doesn’t stop him from snapping his jaw and barking at him.

“Oh, fuck…” Jimin curses softly. The weight the wolf puts on the tree jostles the branches and Jimin nearly loses his grip.

Cleverly, the wolf repeats the action, pushing off the trunk to thud his front paws against it again to shake Jimin down. The omega makes an annoyed sound, scrambling to keep a hold on the bough he’s sitting on. Whoever this wolf is, Jimin has a few strong words for him. He’s getting dizzy with all this rocking about, and the only thing he can think to do is close his eyes. The quaking lasts for a whole minute, he counts in his head, however, then, the sounds of battle come all at once. The first indication is the large body hitting the floor. What follows is more snapping of teeth, and the subsequent hurt whimper. Clutching on for dear life, Jimin listens to the pounding claws, the rustle of fur, the snarling, growling, yowling as someone bites and tears into the other. Jimin only opens his eyes once everything is quiet again. When he dares himself to look down, he sees that the wolf is gone, and so is Jungkook. The one evidence he has left of his alpha is the shredded clothes in the centre of the clearing.

“Oh god… Oh my god…” Jimin looks everywhere he can; to the other trees, further into the woods. He climbs up higher to get a better view of the whole area and yet he still can’t spot Jungkook or the other wolf anywhere around. He waits with bated breath, chest and heart clenching in concern.

Jimin believes it’s stress that makes him whine. The noise he makes is in a different pitch this time, breathy, sullen. Not necessarily a call for help, but a call nonetheless. A part of him is reaching out to Jungkook, trusting that the alpha will answer, reassure him that he’s alright. Jimin can climb down to look for him, but Jungkook was insistent that he not leave the tree until he comes to get him. The other wolf may be out there still, Jimin shouldn’t risk it.

“Come on, Jungkook. Where are you?” Jimin utters, swinging his head left to right, thinking Jungkook will walk out of the bushes any moment. The woods provide him no help, it gives him no sign that the fight is over. However, the birds, the sounds of nature, and wind returns five minutes later, bringing along sunshine to light up the clearing.

The moment the alpha does appear, battle worn with scratches and bruises littering his body, Jimin can tell from the get-go that it’s not Jungkook. Even naked, in his blood stained human form, Jimin can see the hungry redness of a lingering wolf in his eyes, how they never fade as he gets closer. He walks different from Jungkook, more boastful than Jungkook would dare to display. Jimin can recognise it all the way up here that Jungkook was lost somewhere in the woods, and this monster has taken his place.

“Mate…” Jungkook cranes his neck to look at him from below, his lips, cheeks and chin smeared with the mark of his win.

Jimin watches with thinly-veiled distaste. “Where’s Jungkook?”

The alpha blinks in shock, his eyes narrowing. “I am Jungkook.”

“Bullshit…” Jimin scoffs, finally allowing his legs to dangle from the branch.

The wolf’s expression darkens to something unreadable, however, Jimin is far from afraid. Jungkook is safe, that’s all that matters to him. “Mate, please come down…”

“I will as soon as you leave,” Jimin dismisses.

“No…” he sighs, shuffling over the roots of the tree to get closer to the omega. Jimin’s dangling feet kick out at him, keeping him away. “Don’t make me come get you,” he warns.

“Try it,” Jimin fumes quietly, pulling one leg up to take off a shoe. He holds it high above his head, threatening to throw it at the other if he makes one wrong move. Jungkook wouldn’t address him as mate, he wouldn’t go that far, wouldn’t be that brave as to give Jimin that title yet. Whatever it is that is speaking for him, he doubts Namjoon has a name for it.

“Come down, little omega. It’s alright. I won’t hurt you,” the wolf sweetly beckons.

“No, you’re not – no,” Jimin vigorously shakes his head. He wiggles on his ass to get to the trunk, away from the edge where the bough is fragile. Put enough of his weight on it and he’ll be tumbling down right into Jungkook’s awaiting arms. Regrettably, the closer Jimin gets, the lower he becomes to the ground, giving Jungkook more opportunity to grab at him.

“Mate!” he huffs in complaint, outstretching his arms in case his omega slips. “Jimin! Come down, right now!”

“Fuck you! No!” Jimin kicks his legs out again when the wolf reaches for his dangling foot.

“Mate, please don’t be difficult. I don’t want you to fall!” he cries out, desperate now, his nails sinking into the bark to stabilise himself. “Get down!”

“Jungkook said I shouldn’t get down until he comes for me,” Jimin argues, hugging the trunk.

The wolf growls in exasperation, red eyes flashing. He doesn’t seem too angry, but Jimin wouldn’t put it passed him to climb up to retrieve him. Coming down on his own would be the better choice, but Jimin didn’t trust the alpha not to do anything to him when he does. The blood on his hands tells all about what he can do. Jimin doesn’t want to end up like that.

“No, no, no, come down,” he whimpers, his fingertips just brushing along the bottom of Jimin’s shoe. He stands on his toes, pathetically pawing at Jimin’s foot. “Jiminie, come down. Please, mate…”

Jimin stares back at him. He looks defenceless, vulnerable, more of a pup than Jungkook was. Whatever the hell it is, he’ll pretend that it’s still Jungkook. Jungkook wouldn’t hurt him, he’s positive of that. He can’t stay up in the tree for too long either. The sun is beating down on his back. He’ll sooner get heatstroke and fall naturally, but he’d rather preserve his dignity and climb down himself. He’ll err on the side of caution for now. If they make it back to the pack, he’ll ask Namjoon all about it. That is to say that the wolf will let him out of his sight. It won’t be easy getting rid of him.

“…Alright. Okay. I’ll climb down,” Jimin concedes. “But you have to step away for me to come down-”

“W-What, no, Jimin. Come down right now. I’m not leaving you! I’ll catch you!” The wolf shakes his head, holding his arms out for him again.

Sighing in defeat, Jimin obeys. Quickly, he puts on his shoe to make his way down.

True to his word, Jungkook catches him by the waist before his feet can touch the ground. He scoops him up and jogs down the roots to collapse onto the dirt with Jimin tucked into his lap, cooing all the while. It barely affects him that Jimin is blushing and trying to squirm away. He doesn’t notice that Jimin is looking anywhere but at him, his unclothed state making this a lot more uncomfortable.

“Jimin,” Jungkook drawls, tucking his face in Jimin’s neck. “My mate…” He nuzzles against him, rubbing his hands all over Jimin’s sides, up his shirt to get at his skin. He’s scent marking. Or he’s doing the less sexual form of scent marking. If it keeps the alpha calm, Jimin will let him. He actually finds it quite pleasant having Jungkook’s scent on him. Pungent enough that he can carry it around for the rest of the day. It’s when Jungkook’s hands wander to his belt that he snaps out of it.

“Hey! Nothing below the belt,” he scolds.

Jungkook glowers. “Why? I’m your mate, I should be allowed to touch you,” he says.

“We’re not mates yet. You can’t touch me, not there anyway.” Jimin crosses his arms.

“You need to smell more like me. You can’t go walking around unmarked, the other alphas will attack too,” Jungkook persists. “I won’t touch you under the belt, but please let me scent mark you for a little while longer.”

The omega is at a loss. “Fine. Go ahead.”

The alpha rumbles happily, burying his hands back under Jimin’s shirt. His fingers dance over the omega’s spine, tracing over his muscles and shoulders. One of his arms go around to his stomach and his chest, Jungkook taking his time to splay his palm over Jimin’s heart. He doesn’t lean too close into Jimin again, aware of the blood on his face.

“Jungkook.” Jimin shifts awkwardly, straining against the arm wrapped around his back, keeping him tightly pressed to the other. What an inappropriate time to be cuddling. “You didn’t kill that other wolf, did you?”

“Of course not,” he hurriedly denies, head shooting up to show his remorsefulness for scaring him. “This was just a warning. I would never kill a fellow pack member unless I have to.”

Jimin gulps, frozen under Jungkook’s watchful eyes. “They were a part of the pack? Do you know who they were?”

The alpha hums, bringing Jimin closer to his bare chest. Jimin’s doing all he can not to think about Jungkook’s lack of clothing. “Yugyeom. One of my friends. He must’ve shifted without realising. First times can be painful.”

That’s not something he wants to hear. If the shift is painful, how many of the alphas will be able to handle it? How many of them will turn out like Yugyeom and attack the rest of the pack? Namjoon better have answers prepared for when he gets back. He hates not knowing what is happening to Jungkook. Will all the alphas shift the same way as Jungkook had? Watching it was gruesome, how must it feel to be stuck between human and wolf?

“Jungkook, we have to get back to the pack.” Jimin pats his bicep, feeling too hot pinned up to the alpha. He’s practically a furnace.

“Will you run from me?” Jungkook grumbles, taking Jimin’s face in his hands so he’s unable to avoid eye-contact.

“No. I won’t run away from you anymore,” Jimin gives in, placing his smaller hands over the back of Jungkook’s.

“Do you trust me?” Jungkook lets him slide off his legs so he can crawl over him.

Jimin gets tongue-tied, the alpha’s gaze on him is intimidating. The smell of blood on his skin is overwhelming. The hands framing his face sticky from sweat. Jungkook looks unbothered by it all, his one concern is hearing Jimin’s answer.

“Yes.”

“Then, let’s go.”

Jungkook hauls them both up onto their feet, keeping his hands on Jimin’s waist for absolutely no reason at all. Not like Jimin’s going to complain or draw attention to it. He won’t test the limits of Jungkook’s patience, not with how deep in his alpha space he is. Jimin isn’t sure if that’s the right term for it. Namjoon hasn’t shared that information with him. He figures that’s his own fault. Namjoon was probably planning to warn him about what signs to look for, how to pull Jungkook out if he sinks too far. For now, all he can do is wait.

Chapter Text

“Now! Open it now!”

Jimin’s shout blares across the pack grounds, the command ringing in his own ears. His feet are gentle as they hit the earth, his urgency muffled by grass. Behind him follows another set of footsteps, these ones thump, kicking up dirt beneath big paws. And Jimin is too afraid to glance back to see how close Jungkook is – to know the distance between the alpha’s teeth and his back. Short of breath and losing hope by the second, he cuts right down the middle of the grounds, heading straight for the second largest building. The sight of the dark pillars is a blessing. He tells himself that he only need to make it inside and everything will be okay.

“10 seconds!” Namjoon yells. The doctor stands at the opened double doors of the Elder’s Den, a regular stopwatch gripped in his hand, his eyes frantically seeking Jimin’s as the omega makes a last mad dash up the steps. Jungkook is not far behind at all, in fact, he’s about an inch away from brushing his wet nose against the nape of Jimin’s neck.

“5 seconds!”

“I get it! I get it!” Jimin tumbles in, the tips of his shoes catching on a step and causing him to launch into the air. He rolls further into the Den, his body naturally curling inwards to protect himself. His head throbs from the hall, but the triumph makes it all worth it.

He lays prone on the floor for endless minutes, concentrating on the rise and fall of his chest. When Jungkook comes to a stop above him, pressing his side into Jimin’s back, the omega turns to look up at him. The large black furred wolf huffs softly, his breath rustling through Jimin’s bangs, cooling the sweat on his forehead. Temporarily incapacitated, Jimin stares dazedly up at Jungkook, his mouth wide open, greedily sucking for breath, his arms and legs spread out like a starfish on the floor of the Den. Jungkook watches him in silent smugness, his head dipping down to nose along Jimin’s jaw. The older man says nothing, listening to the summer breeze whistle through the room.

“2 minutes and 35 seconds. That’s a record!” Namjoon announces on his way over.

“Tell me… again… why you’re making us… do this,” Jimin huffs and puffs.

“You said Jungkook’s first shift was horrific. His last stage of development is approaching fast. We both know that Jungkook wouldn’t give a damn what we tell him. I scolded him enough to last a lifetime, now we’re just gonna… work through it. Rather than discourage it and allow him to do it unsupervised, we’re going to be here to try and go at his pace,” Namjoon explains, patting Jungkook’s large head in congratulations. “You’re doing well. The shift took you a whole minute, but you’re getting the hang of all your limbs. It’s progress!”

Jungkook whines happily, folding his legs under himself to place his head on Jimin’s stomach.

“Oof…” the omega grunts.

Witnessing Jungkook shift for the second time the day after their run-in with Yugyeom had Jimin wondering how he’d fought the other alpha off in the first place. His second attempt, though no less painful then the first, was more uncoordinated. After a long discussion and a firm scolding from both Namjoon and Seokjin about the recklessness of a forced shift, especially with Jimin present, Jungkook had convinced them that he could do it again. He could be better. Jimin doesn’t buy into his confidence. Whenever Jungkook answers fast and with sureness, Jimin becomes suspicious. His wariness is founded when the second attempt is a much more excruciating experience than the last. Jimin is sure he will be hearing Jungkook’s screams in his nightmares for years to come, because watching the alpha writhe on the floor for the second time then stumbling on his four legs, disoriented and in agony had Jimin wanting to claw at his chest. As if to torture Jimin further, Jungkook’s lack of mobility in his wolf state had him crashing into cabins and trees, had him stumbling and collapsing on his paws.

Hence the ‘therapeutic’ exercise.

Jimin isn’t the only one to express his displeasure about being bait, however. Namjoon calls it motivation when he makes the whole group run from the entrance to the rear of the pack with a slobbering alpha racing after them like a competition.

Hoseok and Taehyung clearly fare better, it’s Yoongi, Seokjin, and himself that have to suffer.

“Urgh, you’re heavy,” Jimin groans, weakly nudging Jungkook’s muzzle.

The alpha does the equivalent of rolling his eyes before he brings his head up again to nuzzle into Jimin’s neck. His chest rumbles, and Jimin thinks that’s as close as he’s ever going to get to hearing Jungkook purr. He’s fearless in his wolf fur. It’s become common for Jungkook to touch him without his usual hesitance these days. That, however, does not go the same for when he’s on two legs rather than four. Jungkook is significantly bolder when he’s drooling like a big puppy dog. Fluffy and harmless, the alpha knows it’s much easier for Jimin to return his touches when he’s unable to make his smug comments. 

“Could you two not do that in the Elder’s Den? This is a pretty precious place,” Taehyung makes himself known. Not as out of breath as Jimin is, there’s a healthy flush on his cheeks from his own run prior to Jimin.

The Elder’s Den is almost magnificently bare. Its singular room holds nothing more than a large round table that stands imposingly in the centre. Shaped in mahogany, the Den feels ancient, yet ageless all at once – untouched. Jimin remembers comparing it to a courtroom or a throne room of sorts when Namjoon had shown it to him earlier. The only decoration that makes it remotely welcoming is the handmade cloth banners dangling from the ceiling, the stitching wide, clumsy, and Jimin can tell some of the pups had helped to make them by the tiny handprints they’ve left on the cloth with homemade paints. There’s a mix of old and new, some traces of the metropolis still lingering in the breeze, though not as overpowering as the musk of wood that was painstakingly carved and cherished for months. Not only is the Den precious to the pack, it is the gathering place for the ruling betas and omegas. Jimin doesn’t quite know the events that go on in this place, but the high, glass doom ceiling is more than intimidating.

“The people in this pack fuck in public, they’re fine,” Yoongi wheezes in the corner.

The rest, Hoseok, Yoongi, and Seokjin, are splayed out on the sides, their hair mussed, their bodies exhausted from the sprint. Yoongi has JiHyun curled up against his chest, the little boy drifting in and out of sleep, lulled by another omega scent. His brother has been taken with Yoongi for a while, so he finds out from Seokjin’s whining before. Much to everyone’s chagrin, the feeling is reciprocated, and Yoongi takes any opportunity to hold JiHyun. Even though he looks somewhat reluctant to, Jimin sees how careful the older omega is with the pup. His brother has some charm, he supposes.

“We’re not doing anything,” Jimin says, irritably pushing his orange bangs from his eyes, which start to sting from sweat.

“You’re being cuddly. If you’re gonna be cuddly at least have the decency to let us join,” Taehyung huffs, flailing his way over to flop down next to Jungkook so he too can rest his head on Jimin’s stomach.

Hoseok, Yoongi, and Seokjin follow. The cheerful alpha cushions his head on Jimin’s thigh, while Yoongi gets comfortable on his other side, his legs thrown over Hoseok’s chest. Seokjin takes to Jungkook’s right side, leaning his back against the soft fur. They criss-cross, their limbs tangle, and Jimin wonders why this isn’t as uncomfortable as it should be. Soon, Namjoon also comes to join, sitting cross-legged on the floor, next to his mate, their hands magnetically seeking each other’s. Taehyung is fast asleep in seconds, mouth open, eyelashes fluttering, but never fully closed, which makes for an amusing sight. Yoongi has JiHyun napping on his chest, but the boy doesn’t stay that way for long. Once he catches a whiff of alpha, his eyes slide open to meet Jungkook’s giant head. Groggily, he climbs out from Yoongi’s arms, crawls across Jimin entirely and goes to hug the wolf’s muzzle, his head resting just between his large eyes.

Jungkook looks slightly startled, his eyes wide, frantic, flickering to Jimin as though to ask if he was trusted enough for this. Like the good little trouper that his brother is, JiHyun had handled Jungkook’s shifts rather well. Although it was difficult to watch, the amiable pup was never afraid to approach Jungkook.

“Fluffy…” JiHyun yawns, his little hands coming up to grip each of Jungkook’s ears.

The wolf winces.

“Dammit, when is it my turn to be cuddled?” Hoseok whines.  

“You’ll get your chance,” Yoongi reassures him.

Everyone shifts to get more comfortable, stretching out over each other. Buried beneath all their limbs, Jimin sighs contentedly. Despite how little he knows of the rest of the group, he finally feels at home. These six have been more of a family to him than the faceless acquaintances he’s had over the last twenty-four years of his life. He knows his future is with them, regardless of what will happen with him and Jungkook, he’s found a place to belong.

“That’s strange,” he hears Namjoon mutter.

Craning his head towards the doctor, Jimin blinks up at him. “Everything okay? Shouldn’t Jungkook be changing back by now?”

Namjoon hums in contemplation. “The last few times his body shifted back naturally. I guess he’s got a better hold on it now…”

From his furrowed eyebrows, Jimin assumes there’s more to say. “Do all alphas turn out different?”

“Yeah. It’s reliant on their genes,” Namjoon says. “Everyone reacts to the serum differently. Some will take longer than most, some go full steam ahead. The changes – their body’s natural progression into alphas is somewhat intermittent. Though there are three stages, they can occur at any point.”

“And they know what they’re getting into?” Jimin hears himself asking. “They volunteer for this.”

“It isn’t by random choice. We don’t accept any harmless beta off the street. We do background checks, blood tests beforehand. We research their family history. We go all the way back through their ancestry,” Namjoon informs him.

“What do you mean? What does that have to do with it?”

The sudden rise in noise startles Taehyung and JiHyun out of their sleep. The second the pup discovers the cause, he whines grumpily. Jimin shushes him, rubbing his back to calm him before he picks him up from Jungkook’s snout to place him on the wolf’s two front legs, the fur of his chest soft and long enough for JiHyun to grab a fistful and hold on. Jungkook lowers his head and nuzzles into the pup’s chubby cheek.

Jimin almost feels jealous.

The moment he’s sure JiHyun is safe, he returns his attention to Namjoon.

“You know how the alpha population had eliminated itself? Well, they’re not entirely gone. We’ve found that over the years, alpha blood still flows within direct descendants. That means there’s a better chance of our artificial alphas to conceive alpha children. Take Jungkook for instance; his bloodline was made entirely out of alphas, pure-blood alphas. Heck, everyone has a little bit of alpha in them, even you, Jimin. Though it might be faint.” Namjoon gestures towards him.

“Yeah, I bet he wants a little bit of alpha in him,” Taehyung cackles from his stomach.

As punishment for his teasing remark, Jimin slaps his hand against the crown of Taehyung’s head. “Don’t speak nonsense.”

Ignoring their little jabs at each other, Namjoon continues. “I know it’s a scary thing. I’ll take blame for not telling you the whole story, but know we’re gonna do everything we can to make things better this time around.”

“People say that alphas are better off dead for a reason. They were corrupted.” Jimin’s lips thin as he stares up at the ceiling, avoiding Jungkook’s eyes.

“In a society where hierarchy is deeply present, your opinion on certain topics can change based on the environment around you. One class gets wiped out, the next highest takes its place as the dominant, retelling stories in their perspective. You’ve been taught about the corruption of alphas. And you have every right to be wary of them, Jimin,” Namjoon comforts, placing his hand on his shoulder. “The people of our generation and the one before us painted the alphas as brainless barbaric people, but they never told us how honourable they were; how protective, good-hearted, selfless, and self-sacrificing they were. History is in the view of the winner, the losers rarely ever get to tell their side.”

“We don’t know how alphas actually were back in the day, we’ll probably never know. The books we have now that had documented their existence could be biased. Who really knows,” Yoongi continues from Namjoon. “But, hell, does it really matter? They’re people, and people should be treated as people. Alpha, beta, or omega, we’re all gonna die sooner or later,” he shrugs.

Jimin squints slightly, biting his tongue to suppress his need to remind Yoongi that he was also wary of Hoseok and Taehyung in the beginning. He wonders what’s caused his change of heart.

“…That’s not where I was going with it, Yoongi, but I guess that works too.” Namjoon shakes his head.

Jimin laughs softly, causing Taehyung and Jungkook to grunt at the movement. “That works.”

“Oh. Jimin, before I forget,” Namjoon recalls, glancing around the room with a quiet look of warning. “Remember tomorrow is the full moon.”

 

Namjoon’s words stick to him like a bad omen till the next morning. Jungkook’s abnormal behaviour solidifying the creeping, crawling sensation up his back. After his final shift the day prior, the alpha’s eyes have remained red. The colour not as glaring as it is seconds after a shift, but the blood red specks are ever present. His penchant for following Jimin’s every move has also grown alarming, specifically when Jimin can’t so much as step outside the lodge without Jungkook stalking a few paces behind him. The omega is forgiving. He understands that Jungkook’s actions are not quite aligned with his thoughts, and if his apologies that come every five minutes are anything to go by, Jungkook isn’t fully aware of what he’s doing. Though Namjoon’s foreboding behaviour has him feeling slightly skittish every corner he turns.

“What does Namjoon mean remember it’s the full moon today? Of course, it is. It’s the end of the month,” Jimin murmurs to himself.

Reclining back and almost clonking his head over the edge of the fire pit, Taehyung cocks his head at Jimin. “It’s the Lunar Gathering tonight. Plus, us alphas go a little cuckoo during the full moon,” he says nonchalantly.  

Having evidentially been too caught up in his own thoughts, Jimin notices – for the first time – that he and Taehyung are the only ones sat amidst chaos. That isn’t to say they’re doing absolutely nothing. Taehyung is brushing down some old furs on his lap. Albeit messily.

Dazed out of his mind that morning, Jimin had gone out onto the pack grounds in seek of Taehyung and Hoseok before Jungkook was able to catch him. He doesn’t know where his alpha goes at night. He’d assumed he would sleep in the lodge with the other two alphas, but he’s never there unless he’s meant to be. Using that to his advantage, Jimin had snuck out at dawn to find Taehyung barely awake, swimming in old furs with a brush in one hand and a bottle of fragrant oil in the other. Hoseok nowhere to be seen. Jimin had taken a seat next to his friend and they’d both spent an hour trying not to fall asleep on each other.

Jimin can’t remember when the other pack members began to filter out of their cabins to start the preparations. In his own world, Jimin had spared only a second to guess that this was just the norm for them. He doesn’t notice the smell of incense and oils being burned on the porches of the cabins, doesn’t see the pack members heading off into the woods with wicker baskets to collect berries for paints. He barely sees Taehyung working through the furs, or smells the spices wafting all the way from the kitchens, rudely reminding him that he hadn’t eaten much this morning. The kitchens have never smelled this good before.

“Cuckoo…” Jimin echoes slowly.

“You’ve read books, you know what happens on a full moon.” Taehyung nudges him lightly as he drizzles the scented oils over the fox fur in his lap, combing the perfume into the pelt. He mutters a little bit about how the rookies are always stuck untangling the furs, but Jimin makes no comment on that.

“I don’t know everything, Tae.” He rolls his eyes. “The libraries in the East had a lot of romance novels. They usually romanticised a lot of the situations. The real stuff is mostly kept in the West, right? You kinda need credits to go into the Archives.”

“Ah, right, credits,” Taehyung mumbles absentmindedly.

“Anyway, what is this Lunar Gathering? As much as I love Namjoon’s metaphors and philosophical mind, I’m running on one energy bar and a sip of JiHyun’s apple juice,” Jimin sighs, scratching the back of his head. “Please make it as painless as possible.”

“It’s a pack tradition, man! Every pack has its traditions. Pack 020 has the Lunar Gathering. It all depends on the region you’re from,” Taehyung explains, smacking his hands violently together as he tries to rid himself of the sticky oils on his palms. “The Lunar Gathering is basically an assembly on the day of the full moon. It’s actually just a glorified story time. The Elders come out from their hidey-hole in the Den, stand out here and tell us some old tales. It’s also when me, Hoseok, and Jungkook are getting officially welcomed into the pack. Shit’s a party.”

Jimin laughs softly, expelling a puff of air from his nose. “Is it like a ceremony?”

“Something like that!” Taehyung nods. “We get all nekkid and they paint on us. Gonna be a good show.”

“You have no shame,” Jimin snorts.

“I haven’t felt shame since Year 495. I came out naked and crying, might as well be consistent,” Taehyung declares proudly, sticking out his tongue.

“You’re consistently naked and crying?”

“Wait.”

The omega cackles loudly, throwing himself against Taehyung’s shoulder, nearly causing the alpha to drop the glass bottle of oil. While Taehyung scrambles to explain himself, Jimin is wiping away his tears of mirth.

“Okay, so why doesn’t Namjoon tell me all of this? Why does he have to be so vague about everything? He only gives me answers when I ask directly. He’s really starting to drive me crazy.” Jimin pats his cheeks dry, sniffling quietly.

“Maybe… he wants you to experience it yourself. This is your first time here, instead of talking, why don’t you just feel,” Taehyung breathes theatrically, one arm making a swooping motion over the pack grounds.

Jimin’s eyes sweep over the cabins. He takes in the brightening sunlight peeking above the roofs, blinking away the tears when he refuses to blink. The small chill in the air that comes with the sunrise makes his throat dry but somehow refreshing. The buzzing conversation from the other pack members bracing themselves for the night to come has him feeling less alone, and the first thing that comes to mind is that, he would love to wake up to this every day. Ever since arriving, he’s felt nothing but peace here. Excluding the incident with Yugyeom, Jimin so far has enjoyed his time at Pack 020. Not because he has to for JiHyun’s sake, or for his job, but because the woods have given him more freedom than the metropolis ever has.

“I feel pretty hungry,” Jimin states, getting up from the grass. “Want me to bring you back anything from the kitchen?”

“I’m not allowed to eat until tonight,” Taehyung replies, eyes wide like a wounded puppy dog.

Jimin purses his lips not to giggle. “Maybe if you chew on the furs you can stave off the hunger,” he teases, skipping away before Taehyung can swing at him with the comb.

“I would eat you if I could!” Taehyung yells after him.

“You wish!” Jimin sniggers obnoxiously.

The omega laughs all the way into the kitchens, Taehyung’s complaints fading to the background with the increasing volume of clattering plates. Immediately on entry, his stomach growls. The aroma of freshly grilled meat and baked pies giving his legs the strength to weave carefully through the low tables, taking care to not step on any hands on the way. He’s surprised to see Jungkook in the kitchen when he peeks in through the doorway behind the counters, less so when he notices JiHyun right beside him.

Due to the uncleanable stains in Jimin’s room, JiHyun has been staying in the nursery with the other pups. Which means Jimin misses him terribly and is constantly wondering if his brother is playing nice with the others. It’s great for JiHyun to have more than one caretaker now – caretakers that unabashedly adore him, but Jimin feels neglected. And seeing as the pup has Jungkook wrapped around his fingers now, he gets less and less time with him.

“It tastes icky,” JiHyun whines. 

Peering around the doorway, Jimin sees the two cooking together. Jungkook, with an adorable pink apron tied around his narrow waist, is holding a baking tray in his hand which contain what appears to be a batch of cupcakes that have been burned to charcoal. Jimin doesn’t want to interrupt so he stays hidden. Thankfully, Seokjin is manning the counter for breakfast today and only spares him a strange glance.

The kitchen is a flurry of activity and scents. Jimin can hear the meats sizzle on the stoves, can taste the juices on his tongue. From his hiding spot, he can identify Jungkook and JiHyun and the sticky sweetness of honey and cream. Aside from the chard blocks that were previously known as cupcakes, the warm aroma of meats, vegetables, and various confectionaries makes his stomach cramp. 

“Yeah… it’s gross,” Jungkook concurs, setting the tray down on the counter where JiHyun sits. “But that’s why we have frosting! Frosting makes everything tastes good.”

“It’s ugly…” JiHyun scrunches up his nose at the haphazard way Jungkook is spreading the frosting over the cupcakes.

“No, no! It’s got character! See?” Jungkook brings the cupcake closer as though to let JiHyun have a closer look. The pup goes cross-eyed and jumps when Jungkook smears the frosting onto the tip of his nose.

Jimin presses his lips together to stop himself from giggling, his shoulders still shaking as he watches JiHyun attempt to lick the cream off his nose with the tip of his tongue. Jungkook is both cooing and laughing at the pup, setting the cupcake down to pick JiHyun up from the counter. Rather than help him clean up, the alpha scoops more frosting with his finger and dots JiHyun’s cheeks and forehead, making the little boy wiggle and giggle.

“You see, this is why you don’t call people’s cupcakes ugly,” Jungkook cracks up, throwing his head back in a show of manic laughter.

JiHyun puffs out his cheeks and grabs onto Jungkook’s shirt to heave himself out of his arms. Jimin can tell Jungkook is used to this because he barely reacts to the pup climbing all over him to get to his shoulders. Once JiHyun is seated with each leg in a near choke hold around the alpha’s neck, he wraps his arms all the way around Jungkook’s head and buries his face in his hair, rubbing back and forth to clean off the frosting.

“Ah! Dirty!” Jungkook hops around in a circle, though he’s careful that JiHyun doesn’t fall from his shoulders. “Messy little pup!”

Jimin doesn’t know how or when his hand had migrated to his heart. He’s about to burst. He’s so warm. He wants to join them so desperately. He wants to be a part of the joke. But, they look so happy he can’t bring himself to barge in, he wants to see them bond some more. Hearing Jungkook’s laughter mix with JiHyun’s is such a soothing sound. He doesn’t feel quite so jealous anymore.

“Messy! Messy!” JiHyun giggles, using Jungkook’s ears as handles to keep himself on his perch.

“Ah… We’re both messy. Don’t tell your brother about this, okay, JiHyun?” Jungkook sighs, shaking his head at his cupcakes. “If he knows I can’t cook, he’s gonna think I’m an incompetent kid. And I ain’t letting him win on that,” he mutters, shaking his fist in determination. With one hand on JiHyun’s back, Jungkook picks up the tray with his other and dumps the destroyed cakes into the trash.

“Jiminie eats all my stuff,” JiHyun points out, entertaining himself by rubbing spikes into Jungkook’s hair with the use of the frosting. “Even the burnt stuff.”

“Yeah? That’s because he’s a good brother,” Jungkook chuckles, a blush rising high on his cheekbones at the mention of the omega.

Jimin pulls back to lean up against the wall, sliding down to sit on his ankles. He feels like he’s seeing and hearing something he shouldn’t be. He knows the heart-fluttering smile on Jungkook’s lips is not something he should’ve witnessed. It has his stomach doing flips that have nothing to do with his hunger. And he can’t help that his hand naturally trails down to his belly, fingers gripping tight at his sweater. Something in the back of his mind whines about the flatness of it, yearning for something he can protect.

“Jiminie is the bestest,” JiHyun announces. From the soft smack and the small grunt he hears from Jungkook, Jimin can tell his brother had most definitely smacked the alpha a little too hard. “He’s mine, though. So, you can’t touch him.”

“Oh? Really?” Jungkook sounds genuinely curious. “Can I ask why?”

Jimin’s other hand comes up to rest on his cheek, his face beginning to ache from how widely stretched his smile is. He can see Seokjin roll his eyes, but the beta makes no move to stop him from melting into the floor.

“Why don’t you just go in there?” Seokjin whispers. “They’ve been at this for about an hour now. Get them out of my kitchen. Jungkook is wasting all my ingredients.”  

Jimin opens his mouth before it firmly closes again at JiHyun’s voice. Keeping himself concealed behind the doorway, Jimin sneaks a look into the kitchen.

“Jiminie told me he won’t ever leave me,” his brother says. “But you’re going to take him away from me,” the pup sniffles, his words muffled in Jungkook’s hair.

Jimin has never heard JiHyun tell anyone such a thing before. Was the difference in his relationship with the others and Jungkook that obvious that even JiHyun would be concerned? Despite how Jungkook had begun to court him only a few days ago, he supposes their lingering stares on each other haven’t been too subtle.

“Hey, hey,” Jungkook soothes, gently picking JiHyun up from his shoulders to hold him to his chest. “I would never take your brother away from you. I’d like for him to stay here – with me – but I want you to be here too.”

It takes a while for Jungkook to get JiHyun to calm down. The pup’s sniffling turning to soft whimpers as Jungkook rocks him back and forth. By this time, the other pack members helping in the kitchen are getting slightly agitated with them. Jimin is tempted to reveal his presence in the room, however, his desire to see how the alpha would handle the situation wins over.

“Tae says you’re going to put pups in Jiminie’s belly, and you’re going to replace me.” The little boy rubs his face into Jungkook’s chest, drying his tears.

“Son of a – Taehyung…” Jungkook sighs audibly, just as exasperated with the other alpha as Jimin is. “JiHyun, that won’t be for a very long time. Plus, that’s up to your brother. But…” Jungkook cups the back of JiHyun’s head to get him to look up at him, the pup’s eyes big and teary. “When that day comes, I know Jiminie will still love you no matter what.”

Jimin’s silent coos drip from his throat to his stomach – his belly so warm he hugs his knees to rest his cheek on top of them. Eyes soft, he stares as Jungkook lets JiHyun nuzzle their cheeks together, scent marking. Not everyone can be so open about scent marking in public, but with a pup, it’s almost considered neglect for the ones they cherish not to. It seems like JiHyun is finally accepting the idea that Jungkook could be more important to Jimin than a mere friend. Though he doubts the pup has accepted him as family, he certainly has given the idea of Jungkook courting his older brother a chance.

“Was Tae lying?” JiHyun mutters, wiping his nose on Jungkook’s shirt collar.

“Yeah,” Jungkook smirks. “We should teach him a lesson, right? Lying is bad.”

“Oh.” JiHyun furrows his eyebrows. “Then, am I bad too?” he asks.

“Hm? Did you lie about something?” Jungkook looks apprehensive, bracing himself for the worst.

“I told Seokjin that I liked his fruit tart but it tasted icky,” JiHyun confesses loud enough for the beta at the counter to hear.

“Well, then why did you eat it all?!” Seokjin cries squeakily, throwing down the towel at his waist to the ground melodramatically.

JiHyun throws his head back in peals of laughter, unaware that Jungkook is not joining in with him. Jimin’s cover is blown by Seokjin’s outburst, leaving him pinned under Jungkook’s surprised gaze. To prevent this from becoming far more awkward, Jimin picks himself up off the floor and shuffles casually into the kitchen. By this point, Jungkook has a smile of utter complacency on his face that Jimin doesn’t understand.

Jimin clears his throat softly. “Hi, I didn’t mean to… um…” His gaze rises to Jungkook’s hair, the black locks on the top of his head curling up in all directions from JiHyun’s handiwork. He laughs silently, his shoulder shaking. “Er… Let me get that for you.”

Jungkook stays perfectly still, intently watching Jimin take the cleanest cloth he can find to run it under some water at the sink before he gets on his toes to clean the frosting off Jungkook’s hair. They’re nearly chest to chest, JiHyun squished between them, shoving his sticky fingers into his mouth then wiping them on Jimin’s shirt. The omega can’t muster up the strength to scold him for it this second because he’s all too aware of Jungkook’s breath on his cheek and his hand on his hip. Jimin looks anywhere but at Jungkook, his lips pursing. Doesn’t matter how many times he’s been on the receiving end of the alpha’s stares, he’ll never get accustomed to the way it makes heat rise straight up to his cheeks.

“I made you cupcakes,” Jungkook tells him, shifting JiHyun from one arm to the other when he’s done.

“I know.” Jimin blushes, hanging the wet cloth up to dry. “Thank you. F-For the cupcakes, and for taking care of JiHyun for me.”

“Eh. Piece of cake. JiHyun keeps me in check,” Jungkook laughs, shifting closer until Jimin can taste him at the back of his throat. “I’ll make better ones. The cupcakes I mean. They were… experiments,” he says lamely, scratching his nose in embarrassment.

“They were experiments the first three times, then it got sad…” Seokjin remarks.

“I’m glad you were here to see me waste all the flour!” Jungkook retorts.

“Yeah! I’m glad too!” Seokjin replies sarcastically.

Before Jungkook and Seokjin delve further into their mini argument, Jimin cuts in. “Ah! Cut it out!” he laughs loudly in exasperation. “We’re disturbing the other pack members. Seriously, you two…”

Seokjin scoffs and pivots around to tend to the platters on the counter, keeping the assortment of pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage warm. Jimin stares after him, or rather, he stares at the food Seokjin is serving, all but salivating over himself. However, just in time to stop his grabby little hands from stealing any food, Namjoon pops around the corner with some papers tucked under his arm. He stops at the counter for a second to kiss his mate on the cheek, then turns to regard Jimin and Jungkook. His expression is far from serious, but for Jimin, Namjoon perpetually carries a sense of dread with him. The omega is constantly waiting for some sort of bad news.

“Jimin, Jungkook, can I have ten minutes of your time?” he asks, gesturing his head to the door.

“Sure. What’s going on?” Jungkook sets JiHyun down, letting the boy run to Jimin.

“Heat and rut agreements. I need you both to sign them in front of witnesses.” Namjoon waves the papers in his hands. “Tonight is the full moon. I expect that you both already know what that means, so before anything happens, I’d like to be prepared. I know you’re busy with the preparations, but this won’t take long.”

Jimin shares a look with Jungkook, their brows raising in unison.

They haven’t talked about it.

After Jungkook’s first shift came chaos. Their conversation left on the back burner for another day, it bothers him that they never got the chance to finish it. So far, they haven’t discussed all the trials and tribulations that would come with a distant mating. They just want to get started, they’ll deal with it as it goes.

 “Okay, let’s go,” Jimin agrees. He hesitates for a second, staring down at his brother. He’s spent so little time with JiHyun in the past week that he’s having separation anxiety with the mere thought of leaving him behind. Namjoon assures him that it’ll take ten minutes, but many things can happen within ten minutes. He doesn’t know if he wants to let go, but JiHyun makes the decisions for him by babbling about the scrambled eggs.

“I’ll look after him, Jiminie. You go,” Seokjin volunteers.

Jimin sucks on his bottom lip, reddening it with his excessive worrying. JiHyun notices this, and returns his look with a curious one, big eyes blinking innocently.

“We’ll be back in ten minutes.” Jungkook brings up a hand, running the pad of his thumb over Jimin’s lip to get him to release it. He immediately catches himself, dropping his hand smoothly to ruffle JiHyun’s hair. “He won’t get in too much trouble while we’re gone.”

Jimin runs his tongue over his bottom lip discreetly, catching the warmth of Jungkook’s touch still tingling over his soft skin. Namjoon has turned away by now, thumbing through the pages of the agreement so that he doesn’t look like he’s intruding, even if Jimin can see the pleased smile playing on the corners of his lips. Paying no heed to that, Jimin eventually yields and carries JiHyun to the front where Seokjin awaits with open arms, and transfers the pup over. JiHyun doesn’t ask any questions, knows by experience that Jimin is called away often for work. He’s easily distracted by the food, tipping dangerously out of Seokjin’s arms to reach for the scrambled eggs.  

“Don’t misbehave, pup,” Jungkook grins. He takes off his apron to leave on the counter, then goes to tap the tip of JiHyun’s nose with his finger. “We do that together.”

JiHyun giggles, clasping his hand around Jungkook’s finger, keeping a hold of him as Jimin moves in to kiss the pup on the forehead. His side brushes against Jungkook’s hip while he does, the alpha running far warmer than he expects.

“Okay, come on.”

After some prompting, they both pry themselves from JiHyun to follow Namjoon out, waving as they go.

Their walk to the Elder’s Den is short, Jimin falling a few steps behind – intrigued by the pack members hanging from roofs and balconies to put up paper lanterns. The decorations for the Gathering isn’t quite as flashy as the holiday festivals back in the East. Jimin is used to the automatic glow lanterns, the electronic fairy lights, the holographic streamers. Here in the pack, there are handcrafted tapestries with intricate patterns that seem to tell their own stories. There’re woven garlands around each column of every porch on every cabin, wild flowers of yellow and red fluttering brightly in the morning light. Wreaths hang on all the doors, fashioned with pine needles, herbs, and every last summer flower they can find out in the fields.

The wind picks up all the pollen on the flowers, causing his nose to itch, but the whole area is a feast for the eyes.

“I’ve spoken to the Elders, and they’ve agreed to sit in as witnesses too,” Namjoon informs them just before he opens the doors of the Den.

“I’ve never met them,” Jimin says. He doesn’t recall meeting them at least. There aren’t many of them in Pack 020, but he’s never seen anyone that has the distinct look of authority around here.

“They’ve been away at Pack 019, negotiating treaties with the pack’s Elders there. They want to make sure that our bonds with the other packs are solid. We’re still relatively new, small in size, so there’s a bigger chance of us being overrun by a more aggressive pack,” Namjoon says, pausing by the front.

“I thought all the packs were more controlled. Aren’t there researchers keeping an eye on them?” Jimin whispers.

The Elders are already seated at the round table in the Den, muttering between themselves. They look relatively young, middle-aged. A mix of men and women, of betas and omegas, and only one alpha from what he can scent in the air. Jimin now knows why he thought he’s never seen any of the Elders mingling within the grounds, they don’t dress any differently from their other pack mates.

“We’re not tamers, Jimin. We’re not here to keep them in line, we’re here to just record their progress. Guide them through the process. From there, it’s all up to them what they want to do,” Namjoon whispers back. “It’s a territorial thing. When in a pack, you want a big one, a strong one. Some rely on numbers, some rely on loyalty and individual strength. As we are a small pack with pups and young alphas, right now we need more numbers.”

“But weren’t Hoseok and Taehyung your last patients? How would we expand?” Jimin asks, not catching the pleased glint in Jungkook’s eyes.

“Seokjin, Yoongi, and I will be joining the pack on a later date,” Namjoon tells him. “After we hand over the records for our last three alphas, we will be moving into the pack as official members – as family. Myself as one of the Elders. Seokjin will open up his own bakery within the pack, and Yoongi probably plans to get some writing done. He’s been very interested in music lately …”

Jimin stares open mouthed at the doctor. He didn’t know that the others were set on joining the pack. He figured that they would all go back together, that they’d visit the pack now and then to check for progress. It never crossed his mind that Namjoon, Seokjin, and Yoongi would willingly give up all their worldly possessions to live with the pack. Hell, it makes sense, but where does that leave Jimin? They’re not giving him many options. He’ll be left without a job again. God, that’s so fucking selfish of him, but how else should he be taking this? It’s difficult not to feel as if he’s being abandoned.

What about me, is just at the tip of his tongue.

“Oh.” Jimin says nothing more. He has one more week to revaluate his decisions. He has time to panic.

“Cool, Seokjin’s making a bakery in the pack? Jimin would be an awesome assistant,” Jungkook chirps, trailing his hand down Jimin’s back.

Jimin smiles softly down at his feet, grateful for what Jungkook is trying to do. “Let’s just sign this agreement.”

They come to a stop before the round table, the Elders silent at their arrival. The unfamiliar faces intimidate him, and Jimin feels himself retreating slightly, partially hidden behind Namjoon, meanwhile Jungkook is about two inches from his back. The Elders are quite regal in the way they hold themselves, their backs straight in their chairs, heads held high as though the position they’ve been given has replaced their spine with steel. They watch them with mild intrigue. No malice from what Jimin can tell.

“Let’s begin.” Namjoon nods to Jimin and Jungkook, gesturing for them both to step forward as he places the papers onto the table. “Usually, there is a ritual for this. A small ceremony for you both, but seeing as Jimin is still a citizen of the metropolis, he has to abide by their laws.”

Jimin bites his lip, staring down at the agreement, his stomach crumbling in on itself. A harmless heat agreement can do this to him, what will happen when he and Jungkook finally mate?

“Amongst witnesses of this agreement, you both must state clearly that you’re consenting of these terms,” Namjoon reads from the papers, pausing to collect their reactions.

They both nod. Jimin wrings his hands at the hem of his shirt, and Jungkook shuffles closer to him, his hand going up to mess with his hair on occasion.

“The agreement requires your signatures and a full statement from you both. So, please read out this paragraph to the room.” Namjoon slides the second page over to Jimin, who picks it up and holds it out in front of himself and Jungkook.

“Under the Metropolis Government’s heat consensual laws, I understand that I have permission to spend my monthly heats and ruts with my willing heat partner,” Jimin and Jungkook read aloud together, the alpha just a word or so behind. “While I am not to mate with my heat partner without their permission, my heat partner and myself give over full consent. If a mating takes place, the contract will end. If my heat partner finds a mate of their own, the contract will end. If my heat partner takes action without my full consent, the contract will end, and they will face legal consequences. I understand the full terms and conditions of this agreement, and will readily accept punishment if I break any of these rules.”

Namjoon nods once. “Do you both agree that you have chosen the right partner?”

“Yes,” they answer.

“Do you both agree that you are ready for the aftereffects of being heat partners? That you may one day mate? Or go your separate ways?”

“Yes,” Jungkook replies without missing a beat.

Jimin falters for half a second before he berates himself. He can be selfish, he can let himself have the things that he wants, the person that he wants. He doesn’t know what will happen from here on out, but he knows he wants Jungkook. That’s enough.

“Yes.”

Namjoon smiles when they finish, then schools his features quickly to hide how giddy he actually is. “Awesome – I mean, wonderful. Now, please sign, here.”

Jimin doesn’t think twice. He takes the pen first, signing his name on the dotted line. He hands Jungkook the pen next, stepping away to let the alpha write. Their signatures look neat beside each other – official. And it’s a relief knowing that they would no longer have to fear each other.

“Congratulations, guys.” Namjoon grins. “You’ve taken your first steps.”

Jimin meets Jungkook’s eyes for the briefest of seconds, all wide smiles. It’s not much, they’re moving at their own pace. This is still a start.

“Seems you’re quite taken with our new addition, Mr. Park,” one of the Elders addresses him. He’s a man in his mid to late thirties perhaps, his eyes dark and calculating. He’s the only alpha in the room apart from Jungkook, his strong presence outweighing those of the betas and omegas that make up the rest of the council. He’s the only one to address Jimin directly, unafraid to meet his eyes.

“Yes, sir…” Jimin replies slowly, almost unsure.

“You’re our first pair to bring us an agreement from the metropolis. Am I right to assume you will be returning there?” he asks, crossing his legs under the table, his gaze steady.

“Yes. I have to. My brother will be entering school there soon.” Jimin tries to hide the waver in his voice. He has a feeling if he shows any sort of nervousness around this man, he’ll be eaten alive.

“There are schools here. However, I do understand your plight. But what about you? Have you thought about joining us?” The other alpha gestures to him with an eyebrow raised.

“Gong Yoo,” another Elder snaps, shaking her head in disapproval.

“O-Oh… um…” Jimin stutters, his ears reddening.

“We haven’t decided yet. There’s still the option of me returning to the metropolis with Jimin,” Jungkook pipes in, his hand seeking Jimin’s wrist. The simple brush of his fingers has Jimin’s toes curling in his shoes. His side nearly brushing along Jimin’s arm, making him break out in goosebumps. The warmth and comfort radiating off his sun-kissed skin has the omega wanting to squeeze his eyes shut.

“Where Jimin goes, I’ll follow.”

The Elders are silent. Jimin and Namjoon are dumbstruck.

“Your development isn’t complete, Jungkook. That would be unwise,” Gong Yoo replies. “Another thing, you know what happened to our ancestors when they encountered technology – with greed and money. We can’t risk you going out there.”

“With all due respect, sir. That’s my choice.” Jungkook fumes.

Gripping Jimin’s wrists gently, the alpha guides him out of the Den, leaving Namjoon behind. Jimin stumbles, glancing over his shoulder at the doctor, who looks much prouder than he predicts. Jimin can’t imagine how Namjoon must feel to see Jungkook grow right before his eyes. He’s proud of Jungkook too. He isn’t sure what happened during the two weeks they’ve been apart, but to see Jungkook transition from a stick of a beta to a strong, wilful alpha, has emotion swelling in his chest. It must’ve taken so much for Jungkook to stand up for himself.

Once they’re outside, the doors of the Den closed, Jungkook drops his wrist and tilts his head to the sky, breathing in deeply through his nose. Jimin smiles softly, reaching out to rub reassuring circles onto Jungkook’s back. The alpha takes some time to calm himself, his anger simmering down with each pat of Jimin’s hand. Something tells him Jungkook doesn’t speak back to those of authority often. He’s touched that the alpha would stand up for him so quickly.

“Are you alright?”

Jungkook waves his hand, taking one last long breath. “Yeah. I’m good. I don’t really like being in there.”

“Hm… It’s not exactly the most welcoming of places,” Jimin nods. “It’s okay now. We’re out. We should get back to JiHyun before he starts searching for us himself.”

Jungkook smiles his agreement, leading them back towards the kitchens. In the time they were gone, the place has gotten rowdier as the pups are starting to wake up from their sleep to join their parents for breakfast. There’s a group of young alphas by the entrance, huddling by the wall. They don’t look threatening, but the way Jungkook’s back stiffens at the sight of them tells Jimin there’s a problem.

Once they get closer, one of the alphas, one of the tallest among them, looks over and spots Jungkook approaching. He hastily pushes himself from the wall and breaks off from the group. Jungkook’s immediate response is to take Jimin’s hand, tugging him into his side.

“Jungkook!” the young alpha jogs over, his brunet hair bouncing as he goes. The rest of his friends look on with small frowns.

“Yugyeom, I don’t have the time,” Jungkook brushes him off, side-stepping to get around him.

Jimin blinks up at them both, surprised to see Yugyeom in his human form for the first time. The alpha holds no similarities to his wolf. With the exception of his height, he’s as threatening as JiHyun. A handsome alpha among handsome alphas, Yugyeom is all long limbs and puppy dog charms. If Jimin didn’t know any better, he would think it farfetched that the man had shifted into a monstrous wolf that had attacked him only a few days prior.

“Hey! At least let me apologise to your… friend,” Yugyeom pleads.

“I’ll take that apology,” Jimin says, gently shaking Jungkook’s hand off to face Yugyeom.

“You’re… Park Jimin, right?” Yugyeom gives him a friendly smile. “When I went to Namjoon for my check up, he told me your name,” he explained.

“Ah,” Jimin bobs his head in understanding.

“I’m really sorry about what happened the other day. My friends were teaching me how to shift and I kinda lost control. First shifts are a real bitch,” he apologises, rubbing the back of his neck. “I took some time to heal. Namjoon had to make me force shift back or else I would’ve been stuck like that for days. Hah. I got a pretty cool scar from it though!” Yugyeom exclaims, sliding up the sleeve on his left arm to show off the impressive marks that stretch all the way from his wrist to his elbow. Jimin can imagine how deep the teeth had bitten.

Jimin stares wide eyed at the scar, lips forming an ‘o’ in fascination. “Did Jungkook do that to you?” he asks, pointing a finger to the younger man beside him.

“Yeah. Pretty badass, right?” Yugyeom chuckles. “It kinda snapped me back out of it. It helped, but I know I probably could’ve killed you. So, again, sorry about that.”

“Apology accepted.” Jimin smiles back.

The omega can hold grudges quite well, but he knows the attack wasn’t intentional. Yugyeom was experiencing his first change. Jimin can imagine that it’s overwhelming to be conscious in a body that you’re not in complete control of. Namjoon had sat them down the second they returned to elucidate the matter. It isn’t the alpha’s fault. Not having been born in a pack, in the woods, the patients will not have the natural instinct to shift as they would do as pups. They aren’t accustomed to the shift, to the pull of nature, and that can be harrowing for most of them. What got to Jimin during Namjoon’s explanation is that, he was diagnosing Jimin as well as Jungkook.

“We weren’t born in packs. We never grew up shifting from one form to the other. The older we grow, the more difficult it is to experience a first shift. It’s painful.”

“I get it,” he reassures. “No harm done.”

Yugyeom opens his mouth to say thank you when Jungkook cuts in, his hackles raised, his fists balled up. “You almost killed my mate.”

“Jungkook!” Jimin gasps, putting a placating hand on his alpha’s chest, pushing him away. “It was an accident.”

“I know – I know I did, and I’m sorry,” Yugyeom says, holding his hands up in surrender. “I lost control for a split second.”

“Jimin almost got hurt because you lost control for a split second,” Jungkook snaps, his face looming ever closer to Yugyeom, who is doing his best not to anger his friend any more. “You could’ve killed someone!”

“Jungkook!” Jimin turns and stares the alpha down. “You’re being unfair. It was an accident. You’re all learning how to handle this at your own pace. You don’t have the right to scold anyone. I know you’re angry, but if I haven’t said this enough already, I handled myself just fine. I’m okay.”

Jungkook looks as though he’s about to protest or argue, his shoulders rising with his temper. However, just one shift in Jimin’s expression and he’s deflating, tension washing off his back. He has to remember where he is. There are pups around that can get frightened. It’s the Lunar Gathering tonight, Jungkook doesn’t need to cause a scene right before he gets welcomed into the pack. If Jimin can prevent him from starting a fight in the middle of the grounds, he’ll do it. He’s not above scolding Jungkook.

“It’s been a hard couple of days,” Jimin sighs, avoiding eye contact with any of Yugyeom’s friends that stand at the entrance of the dining hall. It’s already awkward enough. “Yugyeom is apologising, Jungkook. Stop fighting or you’re going to lose your friend.”

Jungkook sighs with him. “I’m sorry too,” he says to Yugyeom. “I shouldn’t have gotten angry. I don’t know what’s been happening these days, I’m just so… never mind. I accept your apology, man.”

“Hey, it’s cool. You were protecting your mate. I would do the same.” Yugyeom holds out his hand as a peace offering, bringing Jungkook in for a brief hug and a couple of pats on the back. “Meet me in two days so I can kick your butt.”

“Pft… You sure you’re gonna recover fast enough?” Jungkook snorts. “You’re fucking on.” 

Jimin glances between them, smiling at their playful behaviour. Although Jungkook is close with Hoseok and Taehyung, he’s different with Yugyeom. Being the youngest within their group, Jimin guesses it’s due to Jungkook wanting to respect his elders as best as he can. Yugyeom on the other hand is most likely the same age, he’s someone Jungkook can relate to.

“So, are you two pups done?” someone calls from within Yugyeom’s friend group. “We’re starving over here, and there’s a table clear – wait – shit, nope. There goes our table.”

“Sorry, Jackson.” Yugyeom rolls his eyes. “Gotta go, I guess. I’ll see you two at the Gathering. Save a space on your arm for me.” He nudges Jungkook’s shoulder. “If you get to leave one on me, I get to return the favour.”

Jungkook laughs, his sour mood now gone. “Got it.”

Jimin and Jungkook head back into the kitchen right after they part with Yugyeom. As they walk, the backs of their hands brush, and Jimin thinks it was the spur of the moment that made Jungkook take his hand before. He’s disappointed. He should be bolder too. He can’t keep relying on Jungkook to make the first moves. He has to put in his own efforts. And while they’re manoeuvring their way through all the bodies lounging on the dining room floor, Jimin snakes his fingers through Jungkook’s. He prays his hands are not as sweaty as he thinks.

“Where you go, I’ll follow,” he mutters, repeating Jungkook’s words in the Den.

“Hm?” The alpha turns in confusion, his fingers going slack for a second before they close tightly around Jimin’s.

“It goes the same for me,” Jimin says a little louder. “Where you go, I’ll follow. It might take me some time to work things out, but I want you to know that I’m for this courtship as much as you are. It probably seems like I’m not. We haven’t had enough time to talk about it with everything going on, but I want to be clear. I…”

They stop by the counter, Seokjin and JiHyun waving at them from where they are stationed by the pies. They’re out of earshot, so Jimin steels himself to say this now before he loses his nerve. Maybe it’s not the right time. After the agreement, after the confrontation with Yugyeom, Jimin feels like if he doesn’t say this now, he won’t get the chance to with how hectic things are. Jungkook needs to know. Fuck expecting him to work it out on his own, Jimin is going to make sure the alpha knows he wants him too.

“I want this to work,” he admits. “I’m not going to get to say this often, but whatever happens, whatever doubts you might have in the future, remember that I want this. Whether we stay here or we go back to the metropolis. If we have to wait and be apart for a short time, I don’t want to ever come back to you and hear you ask if this is okay. This is more than okay.”

“Compromise,” Jungkook says.

“Yes! Compromise!” Jimin grins excitedly, hoping to high five the alpha. “We can compromise. We’ll work it out together.”

“Right, and Jimin,” Jungkook pauses, bringing their joined hands to his lips. “I already know that you want me. I never doubted it.”

Everything goes still. Like with ever minimal contact he has with Jungkook, the world disappears for a moment to come back louder and more vibrant. Every nerve, every cell and atom that make up his whole being sings when Jungkook presses a kiss to the back of his hand, the alpha’s eyelashes just brushing over his knuckles. Jimin can feel his knees turn wobbly. And if there was ever a moment in his life that he can compare to those kissing in the rain, best friends to lovers, long distance romance movies he wishes he can hate, it would be this. Right in the middle of the dining hall, holding up the line at the counter with annoyed pack mates at their back, Jimin thinks the moment is imperfectly perfect.

“You’re so cocky,” Jimin smirks.

“Yeah, well, it’s what you signed up for.”

 

By the time the sun is slinking down over the hills to scatter stars over the dimly lit sky, Jimin had successfully taught Jungkook how to make the most basic of cupcakes. The kitchen silent now, the cooks having gone out to set up the feast by the fire pit, they work in one corner, bathed in dusty orange and pink sunrays. Though the alpha had insisted that he could do just fine on his own, since they were supposed to be one of his courtship gifts to Jimin, the omega convinces him that he would rather Jungkook not give him food poisoning for his first gift. They ended up compromising. Jimin would help him bake the cupcakes, Jungkook would decorate them to his liking, without Jimin’s assistance.

JiHyun sits on a chair beside Jimin, acting as their food tester. Jungkook sneaks him pieces of chocolate sometimes behind Jimin’s back, but the omega already knows what they’re trying to do.

“You’re going to give him a stomach ache. There’s a feast later too. If he’s full on chocolate he won’t finish his dinner,” Jimin reprimands the alpha light-heartedly.

Jungkook smiles discreetly, not saying a word as he works on decorating his first dozen cupcakes. Jimin watches him from the corner of his eye, taking in how delicate Jungkook’s features are when he’s concentrated. With the tip of his tongue sticking out from the corner of his lips, he spreads the frosting diligently over the tops, wanting it to be perfect. He likes seeing Jungkook like this; soft, happy, thinking of nothing else but the cupcakes that seem to be his whole world right now. Jimin likes the overly dominant, cocky alpha attitude, it’s hot, but getting to watch Jungkook triumphantly fist pump the air in success every time he manages to get a cupcake to look half-way decent makes him realise he’s lucky Jungkook is the first choice.

“You’re getting more frosting on yourself than the cupcakes,” Jimin giggles.

“Don’t distract the chef, Jiminie,” Jungkook pouts, his eyes so focused on his task, almost like he’s not talking to Jimin at all.

“It’s getting pretty late. I’m gonna take JiHyun for a bath, okay? I’ll meet you at the fire pit later,” Jimin says, picking the pup up into his arms. “Try not to destroy the kitchen while I’m away.”

Jungkook nods silently, trying to steady his hand on the piping bag. He’s bent in half over the counter, the tips of his black hair dipping into the bowl of whipped cream beside his head. Jimin knows he’s going to be picking hairs out of his cupcakes later. It’s the thought that counts and Jungkook has worked so hard to impress him. Hopefully he won’t choke.

“Jimin!”

Just on his way out through the exit, he hears Jungkook’s footsteps heading towards him. He turns just in time to see the alpha come to a stop in the middle of the doorway, his hands gripping the frame, his body leaning forward to invade Jimin’s space. They both look surprised, but neither of them move to part.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, readjusting his arm around JiHyun.

“The Gathering tonight,” Jungkook says, licking his lips. “There’s a ceremony where the pack gets to use the paints to mark our welcoming. I… I want you to be the last.”

Jimin’s eyes go wide. Jungkook’s expression is so earnest, he doesn’t know what to say. Jimin isn’t aware of how important these things are. He’s not a part of these traditions. Well, there’s no better time to start learning than right now. “O-Oh…” he breathes. “I… er… Where?”

Jungkook picks up his free hand and slides it up to his chest, to his heart. His fingers are tender around the back of his hand, his skin somewhat sticky, though Jimin doesn’t mind. “I’ll save you a spot,” he says in a whisper. For no one else but Jimin to hear.

The omega feels a whoosh of heat and affection spread all throughout his chest, squeezing at his lungs until he can no longer breathe. He’s okay with that, because Jungkook’s scent of home love and happiness is making it difficult for him to function as it is. That mingling with the faint smell of cream and chocolate on cupcakes that have been handled with the utmost of care, Jimin wants to cry.

“Will you mark me? Please?” Jungkook looks nervous by Jimin’s lack of response.

“Y-Yes,” Jimin nods eagerly. “Yeah… Yes, of course I will.”

Jungkook bites his bottom lip to contain the wide smile on his face, his features lighting up despite how his back is blocking out the sun, and he’s a looming shadow over Jimin. He’s still so beautiful. Too beautiful for it to be fair.

“Thank you,” Jungkook says, his eyes so soft and affectionate that it makes Jimin shy away in embarrassment. “I’ll see you in an hour then, when everyone is ready. I’ll save you a spot by the fire pit.”

“O-Okay.”

Numbly, Jimin turns and stumbles out of the dining hall, hugging JiHyun so tightly to his chest, the pup whinges at him. Once he gets outside, the fresh air neither helps his pounding heart nor washes away the scent of puppy love in the air. He thinks it’s stronger out here. And he understands why when he walks down through the grounds and all he sees is blossoming romance. Everyone is sitting on their front porches, looking more smitten with each other than Jimin remembers ever witnessing. This must be an important night if every member of the pack is cuddling up to someone.

The lanterns are lit now, illuminating his path back to the lodge. It’s all so festive, Jimin is excited for what the rest of the night will entail. He and JiHyun have never been a part of any traditions, not even when their parents were still around. They didn’t have anything like that. Namjoon was right, it’s good for JiHyun to be out here. It’s good for Jimin too.

“Jiminie… Sleepy…” JiHyun whimpers, turning to hug Jimin around his neck, his head resting on his shoulder.

“I know, sweat pea. I know.” Jimin rubs his back as he opens the doors to the lodge, getting instantly assaulted by the sounds of battle in the living room. JiHyun jolts in his arms, scared by the loud noise.

“Hey, you’re back! Almost time for the Gathering. You ready?!” Taehyung yells over the noise of his video game. He’s sitting upside down on the couch, his controller held above his hanging head. How he knows what he’s doing on screen is a mystery Jimin doesn’t want to uncover.

Jimin walks over and turns down the volume. “Aren’t you supposed to be getting ready?”

“All I need is my birthday suit,” Taehyung replies with a toothy grin. “Unless I wanna put rhinestones on myself, I don’t need to do much.”

“Why would you put rhinestones on yourself?” Jimin sighs, walking towards the hallway to get to his room.

“I’m an expensive boy!” Taehyung exclaims, huffing at Jimin’s back.

“Did you manage to get all the furs clean?” Jimin calls over his shoulder, leaving the door to his room open so Taehyung can hear him. He sets JiHyun down on the bed and lets the pup nap for a bit. He’ll return to the nursery in a few hours but Jimin wants him to be awake for the stories.

“Dude, if I didn’t then the Elders would have my ass roasting over the pit,” Taehyung response with a scoff. “Why did I get the furs though? Hoseok got to go out and chop wood. That would’ve been way more fun. I could chop wood!”

“No, you’d snap like a twig if you so much as lift up an axe,” Jimin chuckles, pulling his shirt up over his head. “Alpha or not, I don’t think you have the right strength for chopping wood, Tae.”

“That’s so hurtful, Jimin,” Taehyung whimpers. Jimin can practically see him sniffling to himself.

“Expensive boys don’t chop wood,” Jimin smirks, grabbing a clean towel on his way out to the bathroom. Before Taehyung can make a comeback, he shuts the bathroom door behind him and strips off the rest of his clothes to shower. It’s regrettable that he has to wash Jungkook’s scent off his hands and arms, however, he’ll see the alpha again in an hour. Then again, it still doesn’t feel like enough. He hasn’t been scent marked since their incident. He misses the subtle touch of Jungkook on his clothes everywhere he goes. He’s tempted to ask the alpha for one of his shirts to sleep in, but they’re not that brave with each other yet.

Once he’s gotten a taste of it, he wants it more and more.

Getting out of the shower twenty minutes later, Jimin runs his towel roughly through his hair then ties it loosely around his waist. He saunters out of the shower to hear JiHyun and Taehyung in the living room, the two of them now sharing a friendlier game. Peeping around the corner, he sees JiHyun sat between Taehyung’s legs on the floor, his hands pressing random buttons on the controller the alpha is holding for him. They’re both talking at the same time, JiHyun happily teaching Taehyung about a puzzle that the older is not comprehending. It’s oddly hilarious for Taehyung’s distress alone.

“Playing nice?” he asks, returning to his room to get dressed.

“Tae is bad!” JiHyun squeals. 

Jimin snorts loudly. His brother is a patient kid when he wants to be. He’s glad to know Taehyung is in good hands.

“It’s not my fault…” Taehyung whines. A furious sound of button smashing follows, then a groan. “This is hard. Let’s just go back to playing that gun game. You can’t play puzzle games without Holo Screens.”

“It’s okay,” JiHyun consoles. “We can play a different game.”

Jimin keeps an ear out for them both as he changes, smiling to himself. When Seokjin and Namjoon come back to take their showers, he strolls out into the living room to take JiHyun for a quick bath because the little boy is reluctant to leave Taehyung unattended.

“Why don’t I take care of JiHyun for a while, Jiminie,” Seokjin says, smiling disarmingly. “You go and join everyone at the fire pit. I can take JiHyun to the nursery omega later. He can play with the other pups.”

Jimin furrows his eyebrows. “That’s suspicious.”

“Yah. I’m giving you more time to spend with Jungkook! Be grateful at least!” Seokjin says, clearly flustered. “Anyway. JiHyun, and I have way more fun together.”

Jimin squints at him, not entirely convinced that what Seokjin is telling him is the full truth. On the other hand, Jimin’s been told that Seokjin and Namjoon have been mated since their school years. Seeing as they’re unable to have children of their own with their careers so predominantly a part of their daily lives, Jimin can handle Seokjin taking JiHyun off his hands for a night.

“Alright. Fine. But… Please don’t feed him anything sweet. He won’t fall asleep that way.” Jimin gnaws on his lip, handing JiHyun over to Seokjin.

“Oh. Remember tonight is the full moon. Some of the alphas will be shifting without warning, so I suggest you be on the lookout for that,” Seokjin warns him, skipping away down the hall to get JiHyun cleaned up.

“What?!” Jimin yells after him in shock. He whips around to Namjoon next, who smiles softly at him.

“Let’s focus on the festivities, yes?”

“Are you kidding me…” Jimin deadpans, so obviously tired of his own ignorance.

“Dude, it’s not a big deal. It’s just that, we have a harder time during the full moon. You’ll be fine.” Taehyung waves his hand. He stands up from the floor and turns off the television. “It’s not like we go rabid. All the alphas here have been around much longer than we have. They shift whenever they want. On the full moon, it’s just a little different.”

Jimin turns to Namjoon again, stalking over to him. The doctor backs away quickly, his face paling. “Namjoon, why the hell do you have to be vague about every single thing? This is infuriating. If you’d just told me these things from the start I wouldn’t be this clueless.” He’s not yelling, which is worse for Namjoon.

“If I tell you every single thing, it would be boring! You can’t ride a bike by being told to, you learn and you experience,” Namjoon defends himself.

“Urgh. I think telling me that I would be among thirty or so alphas who’re gonna go crazy when the moon comes out is a little different,” Jimin argues.

“You’re going to be fine. You have very strong betas and omegas around. We won’t let anything happen to you. Jungkook won’t let anything happen to you,” Namjoon reassures him with a pat on his back.

“No, actually, I can take care of myself,” he frowns, crossing his arms.

“Do you still want those pamphlets? I could make ‘em for you.” Namjoon says whimsically, flashing him a warm smile. He’s not taking Jimin seriously one bit.

“Are you mocking me?” Jimin narrows his eyes playfully, pushing Namjoon away to head to the door. “Forget it. I’ll figure it out myself. You guys are no help. No help!” The omega shakes his fist at them as he’s leaving the lodge.

It isn’t until Jimin arrives by the fire pit that he realises that the Gathering isn’t going to start for another thirty more minutes. Everyone’s bustling about, setting up tables and preparing the logs for the fire. He spots Hoseok and Yoongi not too far away, lounging on one of the porches of a random cabin. They’re laughing together, which isn’t an unusual sight. It’s always whenever Yoongi is with Hoseok or Taehyung that Jimin gets to see him smile this big. He’s easy-going with Namjoon and Seokjin. They’re his oldest friends, he behaves differently with them. With Hoseok and Taehyung, the alphas seem to lend some of their own energy to Yoongi, bringing out his dorky habits and gummy smiles. Jimin thinks it’s endearing.

“How was wood chopping?” he asks as he approaches the bottom step of the porch.

“It was fun. Tiring, though. I’m sweating like a pig. I should go shower.” Hoseok beams up at him. “You stay. I’ll be back in time for the stories!” The alpha hops up, bounces down the few stairs, pinches Jimin’s cheeks quickly, then is off towards the lodge.

Jimin rubs his face disgruntledly, taking a seat next to Yoongi.

“You good for tonight?” the older omega inquires, resting his cheek on his fist.

Shrugging nonchalantly, Jimin doesn’t give too much of his fear away. “I’ll be fine.”

“I heard you signed a heat agreement with Jungkook today.” Yoongi smiles lazily. “He’s been raving about it since I got back.”

Jimin feels his face overcome with bashfulness. “He’s been talking about it?” he asks, playing with his fingers.

Yoongi smirks and rolls his eyes. “Yeah. I had to physically push him to go shower. He wouldn’t stop smiling like an idiot. You two are pretty sickening… in a good way,” he teases.

Jimin whines softly, bringing his knees up to hide his face.

Meeting your soulmate is the opposite of what Jimin was told as a kid, or from what he’s read in book. It’s not all sparks, Jungkook doesn’t write him poetry or sonnets, he doesn’t spend all day daydreaming about Jungkook, but when he does, when he gets time to himself to think about him, Jimin can tell he’s falling fast. They both are. He’s actually okay with that. Not that it’s much of a shocker.

“When a good situation presents itself, kid, you take it.” Yoongi sounds amused. “If you think too hard, you’re going to let yourself down. Also, my job isn’t to give you life advice, so could you just realise it on your own?” he sighs.

Jimin laughs, lifting his head up. “Thanks.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Yoongi dismisses it. “Stop moping around. You’re stinking up the place.” The older man jumps down the porch and stretches his arms. “It’s almost time for the Gathering. Find yourself a good spot. It’s gonna be a long night. And… don’t go near any strange alphas. Stick with who you know.”

“Alright.”

After Yoongi leaves to check on Hoseok and Taehyung, Jimin sits to watch the pack members skip around. He asks one of Yugyeom’s friends, Jaebum, who is finally lighting up the fire pit if there was anything he could do, but the alpha merely shook his head. So, Jimin settles on watching him throw in log after log, making the fire climb higher and higher, then letting it calm. Just as magnificent as Jimin had pictured it.

Some time later, couples come by to lay out the furs Taehyung had cleaned earlier that morning. The pups come out of the nursery to play soon after. They don’t go near the fire pit, but they dance about at a distance from it, throwing up their hands in imitation of the flames.

Not long later, everyone is coming together to begin the celebration.

The second JiHyun was released from Seokjin’s arms, he goes to play with the other pups, effectively ruining all the efforts the beta has put in to make him look presentable. The other pups, mainly Taeyong and Ten, have no issue with helping JiHyun dirty his newly washed overalls with grass stains and dirt. His laughter is the only thing Jimin can hear.

Seokjin and Namjoon are standing with the Elders, quietly conversing. From Namjoon’s animated expressions, it’s not something overly serious.

Yoongi, Hoseok, and Taehyung are off to the side by the food table. While Yoongi is doing his best to prevent Taehyung from eating any of the food, reminding him that only the pups are allowed to eat early, Hoseok is stealing snacks behind his back. The moment Yoongi turns away, he shares with Taehyung, who’s grinning from ear to ear. They meet Jimin’s eyes a second later, freezing, caught red handed. Jimin shakes his head at them, a sneaky smile on his lips.

“What are you doing sitting by yourself?” Jungkook appears in his peripheral vision, clean, shaven, and without a shirt. It isn’t his first time seeing Jungkook with some article of clothing off. However, with him standing under the evening glow, and the warm orange light of the lanterns high above their heads, and the twinkling fireflies buzzing by to make the area that much more extraordinarily magical, Jungkook looks far too handsome for Jimin’s well-being.

“Ah. Did you come to see me?” Jimin cocks his head.

“Nothing like that,” Jungkook jokes. “You just looked lonely.”

“Hm.” Jimin purses his lips. “I’m not that lonely, but I sure would love a strong alpha’s company.”

“I’m not a strong alpha, but I think I can try.” Jungkook offers his hand, tugging Jimin up.

Now that the whole pack is joining together around the fire pit, Jungkook takes a minute to find them a spot on an unoccupied fur pelt. No one is alone, every person has their own loved ones around, piling on each other to get comfortable. The pups, JiHyun included, are in their own group, watched over by the nursery omega. Some couples have their pups tucked between them, some are in a group large enough to cover half of the area. All in a mix of tangled arms, legs, blankets and pillows, they cuddle up, ready for the night. Following their example, Jungkook sits first, then pulls Jimin down onto his lap, winding his arms around his waist to press Jimin’s back to his chest. The omega sits unnaturally stiff for a while, attempting not to wiggle around too much.

With each breath Jungkook takes, Jimin can feel his chest rising and falling. He can barely swallow down his whimper in time. It’s too hot. Jungkook’s lips just inches from his neck, his bare chest warming Jimin’s back until it’s sweltering.

“You’re so hot today,” Jimin mutters.

“Thanks.”

“No. Jungkook, I mean, your skin is really warm.” Forgetting his momentary bashfulness, Jimin cranes his neck around to glance up at Jungkook. “And you smell… different too.”

“Must be the full moon.”

Jimin bites his tongue. He’s thinking too deeply, he knows he is.

“Hey! Scoot over.” Taehyung appears, bringing along the rest of the group with him.

Knowing what to do, Jungkook slides his long legs out from under Jimin so he’s sitting on the furs between his thighs. He leans back on his hands and Jimin follows, stretching his legs. Taehyung uses both of them as head rests, while Hoseok sits on the same side with Yoongi between his legs. Taehyung takes that as his queue to throw his other half over Yoongi’s lap, turning on his back to gaze up at the stars above.

Yugyeom’s group is beside them. Jimin only learning their names after Jungkook introduces them. Similar to his own group, the other seven are stacked over each other, blankets thrown around messily. They’re just as rowdy as they are.

“Everyone comfortable?” Namjoon settles down on Jungkook’s other side with Seokjin sideways on his lap.

“Do we always have to do this?” Jimin laughs, dragging Seokjin’s legs over his and Jungkook’s, narrowly missing hitting Taehyung on the top of the head.

“Yes…” He receives a chorus of replies.

The Elders are already in position at the fire pit, all of them standing on low platforms. They’re adorned in traditional garments for the ceremony. In fine robes and lunar patterns, they hold an otherworldly aura about them. They stand tall, gathering the attention of every single person.

“Good evening, young ones.” An elderly woman steps up to address the crowd. Her voice is lilting, pleasantly soothing. “I see another feast has been made successfully.” She smiles, her friendly wrinkled features brightening at the soft cheers she gets in return.

“As you all know, tonight’s Gathering is quite the special one. We have our last three alphas joining the pack,” she announces, gesturing to Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jungkook, who sit up in alert, waving their arms cheerfully, which gets some laughs from the others. “Now remember, although we are small in number, we are the strongest together. We may have few, but we rely on our individual strengths to make this pack prosperous. We are family, we are a community. We are equal here.”

There’s a collective mumbling of agreement, some cheering louder than others. Jimin claps along, liking the woman already.

“As all of you know, we start our celebration with a tale. Something to get the pups to sleep before we start our real celebration,” she laughs. “Now, I know some of you are new to the tales we’ve been retelling here at each Gathering. But I don’t see any harm in telling them again,” the woman cackles when one half of the crowd groans.

She starts with The Rogue. A classic bedtime story that even Jimin has heard of before. Every child in the world knows the story. It’s one of the most beloved ones for parents to scare their children with. However, the twists in the woman’s voice makes it seem like he’s hearing it for the very first time. And the story goes as is: There once was a rogue in the woods. A lost, sombre wolf, who’d been exiled from his pack, sent away to rot. So tortured by his wrong doings and loneliness, the rogue prowled in his furs all day and night. His mouth full of sharp teeth, his eyes full of fireflies, he roamed through the trees on full moons scaring off hunters and villagers as he waited – hungry for something no one could satisfy. It is said that the rogue had powers, that he had the ability to manipulate the woods to trap unsuspecting hunters from leaving his territory. His fur so black, he’s a shadow in the night. However, intimidating as he may be, he’s not to be feared. With only a shred of his humanity left, he knew that he could not spend eternity dwelling on his misgivings, and so it is said that the rogue acts as a guardian for his woods, protecting those within it.

Jimin remembers his mother telling him none of that. She’d told him that he’d been monstrous, a killer that would hunt down naughty little boys that disobeyed their parents. Well, doesn’t he feel foolish.

“Whoa…” Jimin whispers, more immersed in the story than the pups are.

“He’s still guiding us today. Protecting us, healing us.”

As the story comes to an end, another one begins. And then another; The First Alpha. The Fearless Omega. The Beta that crossed over two worlds. By the time Jimin notices the moon up ahead, the nursery omega is carrying the pups one by one back to the nursery. JiHyun is fast asleep already, tucked into a ball with his thumb in his mouth, his cheeks so rosy Jimin wishes he could kiss them goodnight.

Once the nursery doors are closed, everyone lets out a breath, moves to stretch and dig into the feast.

Taehyung moves away from them first, jumping up to rush into the crowd at the tables. He ends up getting into a mock fist fight with BamBam on the way, both of them fighting over a drumstick. Yoongi and Hoseok get up next to go to break them up before someone ends up with a bloody nose.

“I’m going to check on the preparations for your ceremony,” Namjoon moves Seokjin from his lap and heaves himself up onto his feet.

“Okay,” Jungkook replies, leaning forward and practically bending Jimin in half. “God, I love those stories,” he yawns.

Jimin huffs and nudges him back, his thighs aching from the stretch. “I don’t remember that first one being so nice when I was younger,” he says. “My mother told me a completely different version. I told JiHyun the same one too. Well, instead of hunting down naughty children, I changed it to stealing all the candy.”

Jungkook laughs. “Ah, that’s definitely less traumatizing.”

Taehyung returns ten minutes later, balancing three platefuls of food on his hands and on his forearm. He plops back down next to Jimin and Jungkook, handing them one plate to share. The other plate going to Seokjin. Yoongi and Hoseok come back with drinks of fresh rain water and some homemade wine, passing them each a cup.

“This happens every Lunar Gathering?” Jimin asks the whole group.

“Yup,” Seokjin answers. “This is the tradition. Though, personally, I think we do this all the time anyway. The full moon just makes it more special.”

After their small break, their bellies full and their bodies warm from the wine, the pack settles again. Though this time, everyone is told to get back on their feet. Some groan, some protest, and some remain sitting.

“Please stand!” The Elders order over the crowd.

With some help from Jungkook, Jimin hops up on his shaking legs and almost crashes straight into the alpha’s chest. Steadying him with a hand, Jungkook guides him to the front.

The pack has formed a tightly knit circle by the fire, only one of the Elders, Gong Yoo, is standing in the centre, holding two ceramic bowls of red paint in each hand. He waits for everyone’s attention to be on him first. Jimin can see him breathing in the high energy from the crowd. They’re all buzzing with excitement. Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jungkook look ready to jump right in, their chests puffed out, their chins raised.

“On this day of the full moon. On our 15th Gathering, we welcome three new alphas into our pack,” Gong Yoo proclaims. “Jung Hoseok. Kim Taehyung. Jeon Jungkook. Please step forward.”

The three permit themselves a second, taking in deep breathes. Once ready, they step out from the crowd, and turn to face the pack. Jungkook, having already been without a shirt, has to wait for his two fellow alphas to strip off their garments. Once their chests are bare, Hoseok and Taehyung smile over at their group, meanwhile Jungkook’s eyes seek out Jimin, who smiles in encouragement, cheeks bunching, and eyes curving delightedly. The alpha continues to stare, as though nothing else matters. For the first time, Jimin doesn’t look away. He meets Jungkook’s gaze straight on, his cheeks already pink from the wine, or was it Jungkook’s lingering body heat on his back?

“As our new alphas, we expect you to behave as any of us would. Respectful, kind, helpful, strong. We expect you to protect the pack, help us flourish. We don’t rule with fear, but with equal voices. Do you agree?” Gong Yoo questions as he sets one bowl down on the edge of the fire pit to dip two of his fingers in the paint. He raises his fingers to Hoseok’s forehead first, hovering while he waits for Hoseok to answer.

“Yes.”

One crescent moon is draw in the middle of Hoseok’s forehead, some of the paint dribbling down the bridge of his nose. In the dim lighting, the paint almost resembles blood. Jimin knows better. He’s seen some of the chefs mashing up the berries to make said paint.

“Do you agree that, we, as alphas, have a duty to our pack to be good? To be honourable? To not fall as our ancestors had once done?” Gong Yoo moves to Taehyung.

“Yes.” Taehyung receives the same crescent moon markings over his skin, however, rather than his forehead similar to Hoseok’s, his are drawn on the back of each hand, the paint trailing and dripping off his fingers.

“And do you agree that as a pack, we are stronger together? That we can build a family that will be remembered for many years to come? That we will set a better example for our future generations?”

Jungkook pauses. He takes one last look at Jimin, dark eyes flickering back from him to Gong Yoo. “Yes.”

Gong Yoo inches closer, stepping to one side then to the other, drawing the crescents onto each of Jungkook’s biceps.

“Do you give yourselves over to this pack? Will you carry us on your backs? Pick us up when we fall? Will stay loyal, even when you’re asked for betrayal?”

“Yes!” All three alphas shout, their voices loud, echoing, washing over the grounds.

The Elder smiles, satisfied. "Then I welcome you to pack 020.”

Everything happens all at once. Jimin hardly has the time to blink, to call out to his friends. The pack is already bursting into action, rushing forward to grab all the paint they can to mark any skin they can reach. From a gap through the bodies, he notices Yugyeom approaching Jungkook, he’s the next to mark him, and as promised, he draws a similar marking onto his arm as Jungkook had left on his. Every person gets to draw something on the alphas, their eager hands flying, touching any skin they can have. Jimin gets shoved slightly, left behind with Seokjin and Yoongi. From a distance he can hear Hoseok and Taehyung’s boisterous laughter, the alphas’ heads bobbing in the sea of excited pack mates. Jimin wonders how long the paint will last, if the alphas are expected to wear it around for a couple of days after the full moon to signify that they are indeed pack members now. It looks like fun, but there was no way Jimin was going to venture into that. He’ll be trampled.

Fortunately, he doesn’t have to wait long for the crowd to disperse. Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jungkook are already cutting their way through, their bodies and what is left of their shorts are all covered in drawings and patterns. Some just smears and blobs.

Jimin can hear his heart in his ears when he sees Jungkook veer towards him, with the bowl of paint in his hand. His eyes are large and full of mirth, his hair tousled by multiple good-natured ruffles, and Jimin can almost feel the second his heart flips itself upside down at the sight of his broad smile. Jungkook doesn’t stop to talk to anyone else, he doesn’t look at anyone else. And Jimin feels so special knowing that he’s the only person that Jungkook believes is worth pushing through a crowd of people for.

“I told you I’d save you a spot,” Jungkook breathes.

Jimin looks down slightly to find that the spot right above Jungkook’s heart is clear of any markings. It’s invitingly bare. Jimin wants to fill it. He doesn’t like seeing how empty that space is. So, without hesitation, he takes the bowl from Jungkook, dipping his hand into the paint before lifting it to his chest. Jimin smiles up at the alpha first, then presses his hand over the empty place. Jungkook's skin is blistering, his heart beating just as fast - going in tandem with Jimin's. And, god, it feels like he’s doing so much more than just filling a space.

“Thank you,” Jimin sniffles, retracting his hand to see the perfect handprint on Jungkook’s sun-kissed skin. “Thank you for being so patient with me. For sticking by me. I know it must’ve been hard for you to chase me everywhere. You don’t have to anymore. I’ll be right here. I’ll adjust.”

“Where you go, I’ll follow, right?” Jungkook says.

“Right.”

The rest of the celebration goes by in a blur. Jimin doesn’t remember anything but the burning press of Jungkook’s hands on his hips and his breath on his neck. He can vaguely recall Hoseok and Taehyung dancing around him, tugging him back and forth to the drumming music that’s being played by the pack’s musicians. Distinctly, he thinks he hears the sound of something tearing under all the cheering. There’s a growl here and there, more animal than man, but the wine has him so dizzy, he can’t bring himself to think too much on it. Apart from that – apart from being in a kaleidoscope of colour and movement, Jimin only remembers Jungkook right by his side, smelling like nothing he’s ever known. He believes it’s the wine that has him walking on clouds. How it makes him bolder, prouder, more assertive than he’s ever been. How it makes him pull Jungkook into a dance. How it makes him pull Jungkook closer, their faces inches apart, their lips almost brushing. Jungkook has to lean down over him, his face flushed, his eyes closed. Jimin feels himself get up on his toes slowly, fingers digging into Jungkook’s naked sides to keep himself stable.

However, like all drunken moments, it has to end.

Once the disorientation and confusion sets in, Jimin doesn’t register that Jungkook is slipping out of his arms and slumping to the ground until he gets taken down with him.

That sobers him up real quick.

“J-Jungkook?” It takes thirty seconds for Jimin to blink himself back to his right mind. He’s pinned under half of Jungkook’s body, the alpha trembling above him. Jimin is crushed under his weight, but as he’s trying to push him off, his hand stings with the burn from the searing heat. He’s feverish. More than feverish, there seems to be a raging fire right beneath Jungkook’s skin. He’s gone limp, unmoving. Thankfully, he’s breathing from what Jimin can feel on his shoulder. “Oh my god, Jungkook.”

“What happened?!” Namjoon comes running, rolling Jungkook off the omega. The crowd is thinning now, the celebration disrupted by the commotion.

“W-What’s happening,” Jimin stutters, getting up onto his knees, his hands hovering over Jungkook’s shaking form. The heat from his body is so strong, Jimin has to pull his hands away in fear they’ll be scalded. Luckily, the alpha is unconscious, though he’s breaking out into sweats.

“It’s the full moon,” Namjoon replies.

“What?! Then why isn’t everyone else like this?! Why aren’t Hoseok and Taehyung like this?!” Jimin cries, not realising that his two alphas friends have disappeared long ago. He’s so bewildered by the shift in the air. All he can do is watch as Jungkook begins to convulse, shaking ever more violently. He’s writhing on the ground, fingers digging into the dirt, bringing back memories of his first time shifting. “Why is this happening?!”

“Alphas experience the full moon differently, Jimin! No two people are the same,” Namjoon says in a rush. He signals for someone over his shoulder but Jimin doesn’t know who. He can’t take his eyes off of Jungkook.

“We have to get him inside. Back to the lodge. He’s going into rut.”

Chapter Text

The logs in the pit are grey and crumbling to cinders when sensation returns to Jimin’s fingers. He can feel the last remnants of warmth on his arms. He’s been sitting there for quite some time, getting a grip on his sobriety. The grounds are hauntingly quiet, the winds too still to muffle the sounds of chains clinking to his right, to his left, behind him, getting louder as the night drags on.

Every single cabin door within his direct vicinity has been locked tight, bolted shut. Incense sticks have been knocked aside, the garlands and wreaths discarded on the floor. Anything joyous that the Gathering has brought has been snuffed out in minutes.

Namjoon and Seokjin had disappeared to the lodge, from what he can recall. Yoongi, he believes, vanished long ago with Hoseok and Taehyung. Jimin is the only one left at the pit, stewing in fear and nervousness – sitting among the furs. He should’ve went with them, should’ve stuck by Jungkook’s side the whole way there. He shouldn’t have been such a coward.

How does he handle something so… enormous? A rut is such an extremely vital part of Jungkook’s development. It’s monumental. He’s been anticipating this.

How… how will he handle being Jungkook’s first and last?

What expectations has Jungkook already set for him, and how on earth is he ever going to fulfil them? Soulmates, bond mates, just mates aside, in what world is the first time ever perfect? Being inexperienced as they both are, Jimin can’t imagine their first time being anything other than an awkward jumbling of limbs and strange noises.

Ah, but this isn’t about him. He’s not the one in heat. He’s not the one behind a closed door. This is about Jungkook.

Jimin will confess; he’s made many bad decisions in his life. He’s ran away from so much. He’s denied himself so much. God forbid, Jungkook would never be a mistake, but there are so many things that can go awry. What if he’s not good enough? What if he can’t please Jungkook the way the alpha wants him to? What if, what if, what if. This is his chance to do right by Jungkook. The alpha has laid himself bare for Jimin. He’s offered a courtship. Jungkook wants to do this at Jimin’s pace. Now that it’s time for Jimin to assure Jungkook that he’s what he wants, he feels like throwing up his heart.

“Jimin!”

At the entrance, shrouded beneath the dimming lanterns, Namjoon skids to a stop. He’s in a panic, his appearance rumpled, his eyes distressed.

Getting up onto his knees to stand on his feet one at a time, Jimin brushes off the grass stains on his jeans and strides over. The doctor’s lips part to say something more, but Jimin only brushes passed him, patting him on the back as he goes.

“I know,” he says shortly. “He needs me.”

Shaking out of his shock, Namjoon jogs to catch up with him. “Okay, that’s great, but… Jimin, you have to realise, this isn’t a heat. It’s a rut. You’ve never experienced this before. What’s worse, it’s a forced rut, and it’s fucking dangerous,” Namjoon cautions, grabbing his arm gently just as he’s stepping through the threshold of the lodge.

“What do you mean?” Jimin frowns, his nose twitching, his stomach twisting.

Jungkook had left behind a trail. The scent is faint on his way up to the lodge, just enough to keep his feet moving, but the second Jimin takes a step into that hallway, he almost stumbles right back into Namjoon, his legs going numb with each intake of breath. He wants to drop to his knees, curl up in the scent of cocoa butter. It’s Jungkook. All of it, sticking to Jimin’s clothes, to his hair. It’s in his throat. It’s all he can smell. Nothing else seems to matter.

“Namjoon, j-just tell me now, or I’m going in there.” Jimin holds his breaths, trying not to breathe in too much. He does his best to ignore it. He doesn’t know whether Jungkook is even making noise or not, he can’t bring himself to listen that closely.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Namjoon hurriedly says, shaking his hands about in a rush. He hates having to put his friend in this position, but Jimin doesn’t exactly have all day.

“Namjoon,” he calls. “Jungkook. Needs. Me.”

Namjoon bounces lightly on the balls of his feet, his anxiety growing more prominent. Jimin can already see him losing hair from distress. “O-Okay. Okay, okay.”

“Yes?” he prompts.

The doctor makes a series of incomprehensible noises as he gathers his thoughts. “Right. Um… Shit – okay. I don’t know how much this is gonna help, but… there’s this condition – it’s called the Black Oestrus. It occurs in omegas?” Namjoon waits for Jimin’s unsure nod. “Right. S-So, when an omega loses a mate they go into a state of deadly heat some time after. It’s almost like they go into a shock. They stop eating, drinking, everything. And when they go into heat, their bodies become – er… I guess it just becomes confused. Heats and ruts take away at least 5% of your water and body fat, but when you’re not feeding it, it ends up taking more, or what it can. Soon, the organs collapse and consequently, the omega dies. In alphas, there’s a similar thing. We don’t have a name for it yet since we haven’t seen it happen often, but the symptoms are similar enough to compare the two. This sudden rut is taking Jungkook’s body right to the very edge, and he’s about to tip over. I’m not saying that you should mate with him today, but you need to make sure he doesn’t go into a shock. Keep him focused on something. You need to make him eat and drink. He’ll forget, I know he will. That will only make things worse. You have to make sure you stay on top of that.”

“Well, then let me go.” Jimin takes another step inside.

“No! No! Wait, just hear me out,” Namjoon squeaked. “It’ll take five minutes, I promise.”

Jimin nods.

“This isn’t gonna happen every full moon. Just keep that in mind. Jungkook’s been through a lot this past week. That incident with Yugyeom for instance. With all of that influencing his body, and going through a rut on top of that, I want you to know what you’re getting yourself into.” Namjoon runs a shaky hand through his hair.

“…It’s not really the moon, is it?” Jimin asks.

Namjoon takes a deep breath, filling his cheeks before releasing it. “You know how some of us will get migraines during the end of the month? It’s like that - it’s not really the moon’s influence. It’s biology. Alphas are made to be biologically superior. They heal faster than we do. For a cut about an inch deep, it takes betas and omegas ten minutes. For an alpha, it takes seconds. However, there’s a certain amount of healing they can use. There’s a limit. They reach that limit every 30 to 31 days. With all that power to heal all the time, keeping them as invincible as they can be to protect the pack, they can accidentally misuse it. That’s why you see some alphas changing without will and some going into rut. It’s the result of that misuse, some of them will not have enough energy to keep a grip on themselves, because in the end, all that stress and pain that should have been there to heal naturally...”

“It all comes back at the end of the month,” Jimin finishes for him.

Namjoon nods. “The more they suppress natural healing, the more of that energy is wasted. And either they shift, go into rut, or… they go insane when that limit is reached.”

“But? T-There has to be a but, right?!” Jimin stutters. How can a race that is supposedly superior so self-destructive?

“They come back to themselves the next morning. If – and that’s a big if – they’re kept within a familiar place with people to watch over them. Locked tight till morning. It’s not as serious as I’m making it sound. The bottom line is, Jungkook doesn’t need us, he needs you.”

Jimin feels the energy drain from his body, pooling at his feet. It’s a lot to take in.

“Anything else?” He rakes a hand through his hair.

Namjoon’s lips thin in reluctance. “He’s – well how do I say this – displaying an abnormal amount of aggression. Towards us anyway. It’s not by nature, and I’m worried that there’s something else that’s causing it.”

“So, I should be aware of claws,” Jimin replies sarcastically, throwing his hands up in exasperation.

“Make sure to use condoms,” is Namjoon’s last bit of advice before Jimin is walking further into the lodge and down the hallway.

Seokjin is in the living room with a pair of earplugs, and when Jimin passes, he waves wordlessly. He doesn’t bother to ask if everything is okay knowing that the beta would not hear a word he’s saying. He wishes he had his own pair, just to hear himself think. Though, he fears that the earplugs would not be enough for him right now. He wants to run more than anything, however his feet still carry him down to his room, where he knows Jungkook would be holing himself up in.

It’s strange, the harder his heart beats, the louder his environment becomes.

The whole lodge pulses with energy so raw Jimin has to have a hand on the wall to keep himself upright. His other hand is sliding up and down his hip, wiping away the sweat that collects on his palms. When he listens, he hears Jungkook’s laboured panting, can imagine his strong chest heaving as he buries his nose into Jimin’s pillow, clawing at the sheets. There’s no other soul in the lodge with them. Only Seokjin, who acts as a guard for their safety. Jimin isn’t sure what will happen, or how things will turn out, but he trusts Jungkook. 

He won’t deny that it’s a little soon – that it’s too early for him to give it all up for someone he’s known for less than a month-

Fuck it.

He doesn’t want to think anymore. Any thought feels so unnecessary. All he knows is Jungkook needs him, whether that be in body or in mind, he needs Jimin there.

The rest of the world can wait.

Coming to a halt at his room, time feels non-existent, and everything shifts with his last breath of clean air before Jungkook drags him in through the doorway – no need for a single touch as Jimin carries himself in of his own accord, his chest aching with the thick, heavy scent of alpha. His alpha.

Jungkook is in the same state he was carried off in; shivering and panting, his skin pallor, clammy with cold sweat. He’s tucked under Jimin’s blankets, red paint smearing the fabric. Some of it is crusting off his chest and arms, and with a start, Jimin can still make out his own handprint.

Supressing the need to shuck off his shirt, Jimin circles the bed and sits on Jungkook’s left. The humidity in the room is thick, so much so that Jimin feels moisture collect on the hairs of his arms. Jungkook’s body heat alone is fogging up the windows, and Jimin still can’t wrap his brain around how painful this must be.

When he touches his shoulder, Jungkook flinches, his skin damp and sticky, though not as scalding hot as it was. His eyes travel back down to the handprint, intact as though Jungkook had protected it from smearing all the way to the lodge. The thought of his alpha cherishing that one handprint so much that the rest of the paint on his body is already washing away, evokes a whine so needy that he feels flushed right after. The thought is enough to make him squirm, enough to soak the back of his boxers with slick. Being this close to Jungkook, getting hit with waves and waves of his rut scent, it makes Jimin want to mewl.

“You shouldn’t b-be here,” Jungkook croaks. His eyes are firmly closed, not fully conscious, yet his nostrils flare, picking up the additional scent in the room.

It makes Jimin’s legs close tightly together, hoping his arousal isn’t that apparent.

“Jungkook…” is all Jimin can say. He’s never seen Jungkook look so ill. Even as a stick of a boy in his beta body, Jungkook did not look this haggard. Jimin so dearly wants to comfort him. If he could take away some of his pain, share it with him, he would. Seeing tears collect in the corners of Jungkook’s eyes, his skin turning a startling pink from the fever, Jimin wants to take it all away.

“I…” the alpha pauses to lick his dry lips. “I didn’t want it this way.”

Jimin nods. “I know, Jungkookie, I know.”

“No…” Jungkook shakes his head, or rather, it flops from side to side. “No. I wanted – fuck – I wanted this to be perfect. I just needed more time.”

Jimin bites his lip.

The exit is right there. He can go. He can give Jungkook the time that he needs. He can wait outside the door, just like the alpha had done for him all those days ago. Jimin tells himself it would be easy to leave, but his feet won’t allow him to, and he finds that he really does not fucking want to.

“We have time.”

Jungkook blinks once at the ceiling, then tilts his gaze back to Jimin. “I had so much to say. I wanted to tell you –” he stops again, his breathing ragged, “that what you said in the woods, I didn’t get to reply.”

“Y-Yeah?” Jimin touches the back of Jungkook’s hand that rests atop the blankets. “What is it?”

Jungkook turns his palm upwards and intertwines his fingers through Jimin’s. He stares down at their hands for a long time, building himself up for something. “I want you. Not because you’re an omega, not because you’re my soulmate, I want you because you’re… Jimin, because if there’s one person I would give my life to, it would be you. And – and wanting someone… it doesn’t make you weak. You could never be weak for loving someone. N-Never. No matter how you love, you will never be just an omega. Not to me.”

Jimin closes his eyes to prevent the oncoming tears. He bows his head as emotion swells in his throat, choking out all his words. It shouldn’t have taken for Jungkook to say these things for Jimin to realise that he’s been running for nothing. He should’ve gathered that himself, he should’ve trusted his own instincts. Now, Jimin just feels so undeniably ridiculous.

“I know why you’re here. I know what Namjoon told you,” Jungkook rasps, his hold loosening in case he scratches Jimin with his claws. “If you don’t think you can do this, I won’t make you.”

“Jungkook, I-”

“No. Just listen to me,” Jungkook interrupts, shaking his head. “I know what I want. I know that I want you for the rest of my life, but-” he cuts off, his lips pressing together, “but I don’t know if you want that too.”

“N-No, Jungkook – I – Of course I do-”

“Jimin… if you’re going to do this, I need you to tell me you want it.”

The matter isn’t something that he can treat lightly. He can’t take his time, promise Jungkook he’ll think about it and get back to him later. This is happening now.

He looks at Jungkook, really looks at him, and he sees a man waiting for the rest of his life to begin – a life that he hopes Jimin will be a part of. He’s the same man he’d met in Namjoon’s laboratory, still a beta wrapped in alpha. He picks all of that out. Never mind titles and statuses, Jungkook is, in all aspects, a peculiarly wonderful person. Like himself, Jungkook is more than his status. Alpha or beta, Jungkook is made for him. It shouldn’t have ever mattered what Jungkook was. He’s never changed. Although he’s grown more into his body, his sweet personality has remained. Jungkook isn’t a child, he’s an adult that knows what he wants in life and is willing to go get it. He’s a man. He’s everything that Jimin wants, and what JiHyun needs in another guardian. Jungkook has never pushed him into doing anything he’s opposed to. He’s there, he’s waiting, he’s prepared to love an omega that isn’t even sure of himself. Jungkook had worn his heart on his sleeve for Jimin, knowing full well he could get hurt, but he still wanted him anyway.   

Jimin has spent so long running himself into wall after wall that he’s put up to protect himself. From what? He’s been so convinced that he’s going to ruin it in the end that he almost didn’t let himself try. All Jungkook has done is give him the chance for something wonderful. And he almost fucking denied it. Even now, he can go if he wants – leave, and know that nothing will change. Jungkook won’t hold it against him, he won’t be less interested. However, Jimin doesn’t want that. He hates that. The idea of leaving Jungkook shouldn’t be an option in the first place.

He knows for a fact that he and JiHyun will be fine, wherever they are, whatever they’re doing.

What is there for Jimin to fear now? What is there for him to cling on to, to convince himself that he doesn’t deserve a mate? He does. He wants Jungkook, and that’s it. He wants anything and everything Jungkook will give him, and he’s finally, finally ready to give himself in return. If he’s going to allow himself one good thing in his life, it should be Jungkook.

“I want you,” he breathes. The revelation is heavy, but freeing.

Jungkook looks alive, his eyes lighting up more than Jimin has ever seen them. Then he’s surging up, face getting nearer, set in fierce intent. Jimin’s breath gets caught half-way, and his first reflex is to close his eyes.

The kiss is awkward. It’s evident neither of them know what they’re doing; Jungkook diving in tongue first, their teeth knocking together. Jimin makes a confused startled noise, trying to follow the motions. Jungkook tastes of belonging. Almost so perfect that Jimin forgets that the alpha is trying to devour him. It’s a mess of lips and drool, they don’t know how to do this, but it makes Jimin smile, which eventually dissolves into giggles.

Jungkook huffs softly through his nose, one hand coming up to cup Jimin’s jaw, drawing him in closer, heads tilting to the side so their lips would slot more comfortably. Peeking at Jungkook with one eye open, Jimin sees that his other arm is shaking to support his weight. The alpha is in no condition to be doing anything strenuous, so Jimin, still amused, pushes him back down onto the pillows and presses a chaste kiss to his mouth.

“Perfect,” Jimin sighs happily, pecking Jungkook’s lips two more times.

“You’ll stay?” the younger asks, breathless and disoriented.

“Yes,” Jimin replies, resolute.

Jungkook caresses the hairs at the nape of his neck, staring admiringly up at him. His eyes soften with his smile, and the tears that gather at the corners catch Jimin off guard. He wants to ask what’s wrong, but Jungkook is gently tugging him down to kiss him again. This time, it’s slower, more tender. They’re in no rush. They have all the time in the world. Jungkook makes use of that – pulls Jimin closer till the omega is laying above him, one hand fitting over the handprint on his heart. They breathe each other in, the heat starting to rise.  

“So, it took me a whole week to wear you down, huh?” Jungkook teases, his nose affectionately bumping against Jimin’s.

“Shut up…” Jimin laughs, readjusting himself on the bed. He ends up with his legs on either side of Jungkook’s torso, his hands sinking into the pillows at the alpha’s head. “I already told you from the start that I wanted you.”

“Yeah, but I wanted you first,” Jungkook smirks, craning his neck to kiss Jimin’s chin. He moves on from there, to his jaw, hot breath fanning over Jimin’s flushed skin.

“Mm…” Jimin closes his eyes, baring his neck. The simple action has Jungkook growling into his throat, the sound going straight to Jimin’s groin. “Why don’t we call it a tie?”

“A tie? Sounds like losing to me,” Jungkook snorts.

Jimin shakes his head fondly and pushes off the bed to sit upright again. Before Jungkook can protest, he takes off his wrist watch and sets it down on the nightstand. The alpha follows him, weak and feverish but insistent, he keeps his arm around the omega, gravitating towards him. Once the chains of uncertainty have been unlocked from Jimin’s ankles, there’s no stopping Jungkook from doing what he wants now. They’re finally on the same page, there’s no holding back, and that excites Jimin more than it scares him.

“Let’s clean you up a bit, yeah? You’re staining my sheets,” Jimin suggests, slowly retracting from Jungkook’s hold.

Jungkook makes to get up with him, eyes wide and pleading for him not to leave. Jimin giggles at it, leaning over to bring Jungkook down for another kiss. It’s soft, no more than lips, making Jungkook smile into it. Jimin can’t resist smiling himself as his hands come up to brush through the hairs on the sides of Jungkook’s head, lifting himself up so he has a better angle. They breathe steadily through their noses, wanting more time to be as close as possible.

“I’ll be right back, I promise,” Jimin murmurs against the alpha’s mouth.

“Okay…”

Jungkook is wary to release his hold on his hip, his nails gently nipping Jimin’s skin through his jeans. To appease him, Jimin bends down once more to place a kiss to his cheek. Having missed the way Jungkook closed his eyes, Jimin watches as his lashes flutter open again as he’s pulling back. Crimson meeting chocolate brown.

Regardless of how many times he’s seen them, Jimin will forever be astonished by the vibrancy and fervour he sees in them. The look in Jungkook’s eyes say that he would rather have Jimin drag him along than be left for even a second. The omega simply smiles, prying Jungkook’s fingers off his hip one by one. The second he retreats, he can feel the tension throb in the air, almost knocking him off his feet. Jungkook’s sickly sweet smell of lust and the fresh wave of Jimin’s slick is so cutting, he’s afraid to walk in case he wobbles.

“Stay here, o-okay?” Jimin grabs onto the bed post and heaves himself up, hoping that Jungkook won’t tease him about the wet patch on his jeans. Thankfully his shirt is just long enough to cover it.

The alpha doesn’t reply. Jimin can feel him there, however, his gaze more present on Jimin’s back and ass.

Swallowing down a whimper, Jimin ambles out of the room and into the kitchen to grab a bowl, filling it with warm water. He doesn’t see Seokjin anywhere in sight, the beta probably gone with Namjoon somewhere. It’s just them in the lodge now. They’re free to do as they wish, to make as much noise as they please.

Jimin carries that thought with him all the way back to Jungkook, the bowl in his hands and a wash cloth on his arm. His heart rams more violently against his ribcage with each step he retraces back to the alpha, fingers pathetically gripping onto the bowl until his knuckles are white. The anticipation claws at his stomach, his teeth chewing and biting his lips relentlessly as he nudges the door, enters, then closes it with his foot. He doesn’t look up at Jungkook while he’s making his way over. He’s sure the alpha can already sense his arousal by now, if not before.

Jungkook lifts himself up from the covers at his approach, the blankets sliding dangerously low over his hips. Jimin holds his breath until his eyes water and his chest tightens, his fingers twitching with the urge to protect his nose from the onslaught of Jungkook’s scent. Sooner rather than later, he lets go of the breath he’s been holding and returns to his seat on the bed. Jungkook kicks off the blankets as he’s dipping the cloth into the water, pulling it up to wring it out.

“What? Can’t look at me?” Jungkook chuckles faintly, sounding just as nervous as Jimin feels.

The omega rubs his nape with one hand, feeling the flush reach to the tip of his ears. Hastily, he yanks one of Jungkook’s arms onto his lap and begins to scrub the paint off his palm. “What do you want from me?”

“Look at me,” Jungkook requests, his tone low, resonating from his chest.

Jimin involuntarily shivers, fiddling with the cloth, not quite brave enough to look up. The mood has changed drastically from the moment he’d left the room. After calming down from the heat of their first kiss, Jimin can almost say that he’s satisfied with just that. Though he knows Jungkook would disagree. “I don’t want to.”

“Oh?” Jungkook challenges, leaning forward, his head cocking to the side, getting close but not close enough for Jimin’s liking.

“I’m trying to…” Jimin purses his lips, glancing at Jungkook in the corner of his eye. “Stop.”

“I wanna see you,” he whispers, dropping a kiss onto Jimin’s forehead. When the omega shakes his head, he does it again, pressing his lips to his temple.

“I’m right here,” Jimin says.

“Then you should be looking at me.”

Embarrassed and slightly turned on by his commanding tone, Jimin pouts, continuing to refuse. “Stop it. I have to clean you up or my sheets are gonna stain… red…” he trails off towards the end of his sentence, dazed by the way Jungkook lifts his chin up with a crook of his finger and gives him a brief kiss. Jimin’s eyelids fall shut, the gentle kiss taking most of his breath away. Opening them again, he’s greeted by Jungkook’s predatory smile.

“Beautiful,” he growls.

Jimin moans loudly with abandon, throwing the cloth to the side in favour of pushing Jungkook back down onto the bed. He couldn’t give a shit if his sheets stain now.

The alpha is ready to catch him, winding his strong arms around his waist to pull him on top. Jimin goes in teeth first, catching Jungkook’s bottom lip, tugging on it till it’s red. They both groan as Jimin slots himself into Jungkook’s lap, clothed cocks straining beneath jeans and tattered shorts.

Jimin can tell Jungkook is hesitant to touch him, his claws ever so gently scraping along the exposed skin of Jimin’s lower back. The omega doesn’t mind. The thrill and adrenaline from it pumps like ecstasy through his veins, lighting a fire under his skin. He wants to feel Jungkook’s nails draw blood, stain the sheets with more red. He doesn’t care, he wants it, and he tells Jungkook as much as he rolls his hips over his crotch, the alpha’s tongue sliding along his own, all drool and hot breath.

“J-Jimin…” Jungkook looks fearful.

“Sh…” Jimin quickly shushes him, pulling Jungkook’s hands around by his wrists. “It’s okay. I trust you.” He presses soft kisses over the pads of his alpha’s fingers, letting Jungkook cup his cheek.

“Tell me if I hurt you,” he says.

Jimin nods.

The alpha has him on his back in a matter of seconds with renewed energy. He can smell the mix of his own stale scent and of Jungkook’s fresh one on his pillow. Love, adoration, and something he can’t quite pinpoint. While Jungkook is slowly tugging his shirt off for him, Jimin turns his head to bury his face in the pillow, taking in a mouthful – the breath dissolving into a content hum. Once he looks back, he discovers Jungkook watching him. Sitting slouched over between his thighs, the alpha makes a path from his face down to his bare chest with his half-lidded eyes, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he gulps.

“Always staring,” Jimin jokes, opening his arms for Jungkook. He gestures for him to come closer, ready to wrap his arms around his broad shoulders when he clambers up his body.

“You still seem like a dream,” Jungkook mumbles between kisses, his claws clinking against Jimin’s belt buckle. He waits for the omega to lift his hips to pull the leather strap from the loops, flinging it over his shoulder immediately.

“I’m here, baby. I’m here.” Jimin busies himself with sucking bruises into Jungkook’s jaw while the alpha unbuttons his jeans and pulls them down to his ankles. He kicks them off quickly, hands dropping down between them to do the same for Jungkook. Now left in their boxers, they pause to soak in their combined scents. Jimin can’t detect or separate his own from Jungkook’s, can’t tell exactly what it is, but by the look on the younger’s face, it must be something nice. Watching Jungkook’s pupils dilate, hearing his breathing pick up, Jimin feels seared by the thought of the mere scent of them together can make Jungkook go wild.

“Fuck…” Jungkook hisses, burying his face in the crook of Jimin’s neck, where the scent is most pungent.

Jimin tips his head to the side, giving Jungkook access. He figures he should be frightened by how much control Jungkook has lost within his rut, yet all he can think about is the way the alpha uses more lips than teeth when he nips against his skin, how his hair tickles his chin, how his body aligns with his own – perfect and so right. There’s no fear when it comes to Jungkook, no doubts, no second thoughts. No thoughts at all. He’s unconcerned, free of worry, more at ease than he’s been in a long time.

“Jimin,” Jungkook calls softly from his neck, his fingers tugging on the waistband of Jimin’s boxers, the tip of his nails just scratching over Jimin’s lower abdomen, eliciting a gasp. “Can I?”

Jimin leans his cheek against Jungkook’s temple, staying quiet just to tease him for a second, as though entertaining the thought. Unsurprisingly, Jungkook gets restless after the first few seconds tick by, pulling back to see Jimin’s face. His eyes are wide and earnest, brows furrowing. Jimin can’t resist the temptation to lean up and kiss his forehead, coming back with his lips salty from sweat. He nods his consent, giggling into the rough kiss that Jungkook gives him right after. He wants to tease him again about how eager he is, however, Jimin is the same. He knows Jungkook is holding back for his sake. He can see the alpha’s restraints beginning to snap one by one. It’s probably not wise to make him wait for too long.

“Yeah… go ahead.”

Jungkook slides his boxer briefs down his legs deliberately and excruciatingly slow, leaving open mouthed kisses down his stomach. Jimin has his hands cupping the sides of Jungkook’s head, fingers scratching gently over his scalp. The alpha growls at the sight of Jimin spreading his legs for him, angling his lower-half so the boxers slip right off; slick slithering down his thighs, his underwear wet and sticky.

“You’re so fucking wet already…” Jungkook groans at the rich scent, looking tempted to bring the boxers up to his nose.

“And you’re hard,” Jimin scoffs, pink from his neck to his ears.

Jungkook gives him a dark look. “Would you believe me if I said it’s not the rut?”

Jimin pouts and nudges him to continue. Jungkook wastes no time in removing his own underwear a second later, throwing them carelessly across the room.

Expecting for Jungkook to come right back to him, Jimin frowns when the alpha remains stoically still between his legs. They stare at one another curiously, their eyes roaming, searching. Jimin’s are imploring, confused as to why Jungkook isn’t making a move. Then again, Jimin can very well make the first move too.

He does just that.

Grabbing the back of Jungkook’s neck, Jimin pulls him towards him till their lips collide. As much as he appreciates how Jungkook is trying to show some semblance of control, Jimin is at his limit and he doesn’t think he can get any wetter. The spot beneath him is already sopping with slick, his rim fluttering around air.

“Jungkook, please. No more thinking,” he pleads, cocking his head to allow Jungkook to mouth down the column of his neck, sucking reds and purples all over his throat.

After a while with no response, Jimin falls back onto the pillows, hands sliding along Jungkook’s biceps. The alpha lowers himself with him, following his example. He’s hesitant again, so it takes a little encouragement for Jungkook to come any closer than dangerously hovering above him. He’s adorable, the way he’s so cautious with every single touch. While Jimin would love nothing more than to be fucked and pounded into the mattress, he understands that Jungkook might want to take this slow.

“Baby,” Jimin calls, straining up to bump their foreheads together. Jungkook’s eyes snap to him in alarm, dragged out from his head by the endearment. “It’s okay. You’re alright, you’re not going to hurt me, I promise. If you do I’m sure I’ll probably like it,” he laughs, trying to lighten the mood.

Jungkook worries his lower lip, making the dimples in his cheeks pop. He doesn’t say much, or give any hint that he’s agreeing with Jimin’s words, but the rut is far too overpowering for any coherent thought, and soon, Jungkook breaks under the pressure. Jimin doesn’t fully know how regular ruts work, never mind a forced one, however, the way Jungkook runs his tongue over his gleaming teeth before he abruptly grabs Jimin’s ankles to pull him closer, sliding him off the pillows, making him lose all the breath in his lungs, has Jimin hoping it’s this way all the time.

He’s nothing like an omega in heat – nothing like a beta at all.

“N-No foreplay?” Jimin tries for confidence but is given a mildly humiliating stutter.

Rather than the smug smirk that Jimin expects to see on Jungkook’s face, he shakes his head, quickly wiping the sweat from his temples. “How long do you think ruts last?” he answers with a question of his own.

Jimin guesses the same number of days as his own heats. Though he’s only been through a couple, he knows that heats last for up to three to five days. He’s given a headshake at that, the alpha’s lips curling subtly in amusement.

“Ruts can last up to four days minimum,” Jungkook says, trailing his heated gaze down the whole of Jimin’s body. His stare lingering on the way Jimin’s thighs tremble ever so slightly, the flushed head of his cock already damp and beading with precum. “I can eat you out later.”

The words pool straight down to Jimin’s groin, turning him into a needy mess. The fresh rush of slick pouring out of his clenching hole doesn’t get passed Jungkook, and Jimin nearly slams his legs closed at the way the alpha’s eyes grow darker at the sight. Abandoning every rule, every standard he’s set for himself, Jimin arches up when Jungkook leans down to kiss him chastely, plump lips hanging open in pants, attempting to follow after him. When he doesn’t get what he wants, he boldly wraps his legs around Jungkook’s waist and presses the alpha flushed against him, the underside of their cocks brushing. Jungkook doesn’t look like he minds one bit, in fact it’s probably the best move Jimin could’ve made.

“S-Shit… w-what do we need? Lube?” Jungkook asks, desperation marring his face.

“No. I-I’m already wet, it’ll be alright. We’ll just take it slow. We do need a condom though,” Jimin reassures.

With Jungkook already so far gone and unable to concentrate, Jimin does most of the work himself. Seeing as how he’s already dripping from his asshole, there’s not much that needs to be done in the first place. Jungkook watches him the entire time, glancing between them at Jimin’s exposed hole to his cock standing between his legs. Jimin has one hand cradling Jungkook’s jaw as the other one moves down, his middle finger stopping at his rim, meeting a glob of slick. He’s covered in it. He’s never produced this much in his entire life. His finger goes in with little to no resistance at all, sliding in smoothly. It’s an odd feeling at first; he’s fingered himself during his heat, he knows that he just needs to take it slow.

“So fucking gorgeous,” Jungkook murmurs, watching Jimin’s face for any changes. He aches pitifully for the alpha. Jungkook can’t so much as touch himself without fear of catching his claws on something. His hands have to remain on the bed, for both of their sake.

Jimin smiles up at him, keeping eye contact as he pushes his fingers in further, curling the digit to find his prostate. The moment he does, his eyebrows screw up, lips falling open. Jungkook looks so fascinated, curious about the process, but it ends all too soon. Jimin permits himself a few strokes to the bundle of nerves before he’s forcing himself to pull his finger out.

“C-Condom. I think the guys left some in my nightstand,” Jimin tells him.

Jungkook jumps into action, wrenching the drawer in the nightstand open to find a pack of condoms sitting between Jimin’s books and devices. He tears one out, shuts the drawer and hands it over to him. Both too impatient to go any slower, Jimin rips the packet open with his teeth. After sharing a look with Jungkook, he takes the alpha by the base of his cock and rolls the condom on. Jungkook’s head flops forward to rest on Jimin’s shoulder, already trembling from having Jimin’s hand on him. The omega laughs breathlessly and promises to suck him off at another time.

Ever so careful, Jimin guides the head of Jungkook’s cock to his entrance. At the mere contact, Jimin is sent into a spiral of heat, his belly quivering. Jungkook takes over from there, slipping in at a snail’s pace. He pushes himself up slightly to gauge Jimin’s expression, ensuring that he isn’t hurting the omega. Jimin has his eyes closed at this point, but he feels how close Jungkook is. The tip of his bangs brushing over Jimin’s bare forehead, his breath on his lips. The pain is bearable, it’s a pleasurable stretch – a sting that he comes to like after a while. Jungkook makes it easier, nuzzling their cheeks together to give Jimin some sort of distraction.

“You’re… fuck – you’re so fucking hot,” Jungkook moans, keeping his hips stationary, simply sitting inside Jimin is almost enough to make him pop a knot. “So tight… you’re so good, Jimin.”

Jimin throws his arms around Jungkook’s neck loosely, opening his eyes to see that his alpha is just an inch away from his face. He’s red from his neck all the way to his hairline, Jimin most likely the same. They’re sweating profusely. Jimin wouldn’t be shocked if steam begins to rise from Jungkook’s back.

“Am I hurting you?” Jungkook asks.

Jimin shakes his head, feeling the mattress dip under Jungkook’s hands on each side of his shoulders. Is it wrong for him to want Jungkook to lose control? Would it be too much of him to ask for the alpha to hurt him, if a little? Not that Jimin gains any sort of pleasure from receiving pain, he simply wants to feel Jungkook as much as he can. Jungkook being inside isn’t enough. He wants Jungkook scorched into him, etching his shape inside him. Fuck, he wants to be left gaping open to be stuffed full later on. He wants Jungkook to leave something of himself behind.

“M-Move… please, god, just move,” Jimin mewls, shifting his legs. The slight motion has them inhaling sharply, Jimin instinctively clenching around Jungkook’s cock.

“Kiss me first,” Jungkook demands, gently rocking back and forth.

Jimin gasps quietly, hands seeking Jungkook’s – for something to hold onto. He gives himself five seconds to get accustomed to the delicious sting, then lifts off the bed to close the gap between them. He kisses the corner of Jungkook’s mouth first, moving to his chin to the little mole there, finally up to his lips. Jungkook responds sweetly, tentatively curling his tongue around Jimin’s. The kiss is slow with the right amount of intensity for Jimin to have drool dribbling down his chin, for him to roll his hips, fucking himself down on Jungkook’s dick a couple of times.

Everything is a blur of violent thrusts and the slap of skin from there. The kiss sets off a bomb in Jungkook, Jimin doesn’t know if he can handle. If he goes a little limp as the alpha is furiously slamming into him then he doesn’t notice. Fucking him brainless that’s what Jungkook does. He would be lying if he said he dislikes it. Jimin likes it a little too much. He loves that with every thrust Jungkook makes, he moves an inch closer to the headboard. He admires how focused Jungkook looks as his cock pistons into Jimin’s hole, pleased that the omega needs this just as much as he does.

“A-Alpha…” Every word, every sound Jimin tries to make comes out wanton.

“W-What, baby? What’s wrong?” Jungkook hunches down, his punishing pace never stuttering.

Jimin attempts to speak again, his words rattling with his clacking teeth. Jungkook’s thrusts are powerful and consistently harsh, making Jimin’s ass jiggle every time his hips make contact. Jimin fucking loves it. “N-Nothing. I just wanted to – fuck – to say it.”

If possible, Jungkook’s eyes grow starrier, crimson bleeding into brown, swirling in a mix of man and wolf. His kisses turn fiercer, more breath-taking, less forgiving. Jimin takes it all, using Jungkook’s biceps as his one anchor, jolting up the bed before sinking back down to be fucked over and over. He realises it should be painful, however, all those days of pent up lust, all those moments of lingering glances and touches have made this all so goddamn worth it.

Jungkook is blindly thrusting, with no goal other than to get Jimin to make more of those sweet noises that pour from his lips. It builds, the lava in his belly, the pleasure climbing higher and higher. Occasionally, Jungkook will angle his hips just right, the head of his cock perfectly striking his prostate to evoke a guttural moan, his body bowing and shivering for more. Jimin whines and paws at his chest, his hole swallowing around the alpha’s length, coaxing him to move again. Jungkook doesn’t slow, doesn’t give Jimin any time to breathe. His teeth bare on instinct, and Jimin stares, wide eyed, at the gleaming sharpness of them.

Lost for words, Jimin pulls Jungkook down into his neck, moving with him, chasing his release.

The first time Jimin feels the swell of Jungkook’s knot, he’s lost in the intensity, clawing at the alpha’s shoulder blades. Although he knows it’s coming, there’s something missing. Each time Jungkook’s growing knot tugs on his rim, his stomach sinks, his mind screaming that there’s something wrong. Jimin doesn’t know what, but it sits frustratingly at the tip of his tongue. He’s steadily reaching the edge of his orgasm, his cock blushing red, leaking all over his stomach. He’s burning from the inside out, every cell in his body wailing that he needs more than this.

“Bite me.” The words are leaving his mouth before he’s fully processing the meaning of them.

Jungkook’s hips stall suddenly. They don’t have much time to think, to ask if they’re sure they want to go this far during their first time, all they know is that it feels right; this is what they’re meant for. They’ll talk about it later, they’ll get to it when the time calls for it, for now this is all Jimin can think about, this is all Jungkook wants to do. Perhaps it is a mistake to make such an important decision in the heat of the moment, but the thought of regret doesn’t cross Jimin’s mind once.

Jungkook doesn’t pause to think either, picking up his pace again to get them both right on the verge of coming. The alpha is more careless with his claws now, the sharp tips breaking the skin on the tender flesh of Jimin’s thighs as he drags the omega down on his cock. The first graze of Jungkook teeth on his shoulder has electricity sparking up his spine, ending at his nape where he tilts his head, giving Jungkook more. Offering more. 

"You better stop me now if you have second thoughts," Jungkook tells him, his breathing ragged.

"No. Never." Jimin shakes his head.  

Jungkook releases a shaky exhale, his back going stiff, his lower half moving to keep the pleasure they've gained. The alpha doesn't hesitate, he's simply mapping out the perfect spot, leaving behind kisses to those spaces he's rejected. He times it well, makes sure he's hitting all the right places to get them to the end.

"Deep breaths for me, baby," Jungkook whispers. 

The alpha is the first to come, his thrusts slowing to a gentler pace, being more mindful of his knot expanding. With the younger’s cockhead snuggly nestling against his prostrate, it takes Jimin no time at all to follow right after, his ankles locking tight on Jungkook’s back, arms straining to hold on. His body goes rigid with the climax and the sharp sting to his shoulder. The bite is far more painful than Jimin could’ve imagined, less mind-blowing, less… everything. There are no fireworks behind his eyelids, no sparks go off in his head. He doesn’t see white, all he sees is Jungkook.

Jimin’s blood dripping down his chin, Jungkook unlatches himself from his shoulder, eyes clouded. Stunning.

His arms collapsing on themselves from exertion, Jungkook lowers on top, his body draping lazily over Jimin. His cheeks are red, there’s sweat trickling down from between his brows, his hair is a nest of locks ruffled in all directions. Maybe Jimin is still coming down from his high, maybe he’s just disoriented, but the most amazing moment of being bitten by Jungkook is the knowledge that he’s now an alpha’s mate.  

They lie in silence for all of one minute, panting into each other’s mouths, Jimin gasping at the pulse of Jungkook’s knot rubbing incessantly over his prostate. He doesn’t feel quite full. He’s not stuffed with cum as Jungkook had promised him. So, he does what he can by tightening his walls around the alpha now and then, milking him into the condom. 

“You’re so beautiful,” Jungkook whispers. He doesn’t dare to kiss Jimin yet, even if he looks like he wants to do nothing else, with blood drying down his chin and all.

Jimin smiles, his hands falling limp from Jungkook’s neck. Brushing aside the ache in his healing shoulder, and despite Jungkook’s grimace, he props himself up on his elbows and licks his blood off the alpha’s lips.

 

Three hours in, Jungkook has him on his hands and knees, kissing, sucking, fitting his teeth over his mark in a frenzied, insatiable cycle. The alpha keeps his shoulders pinned to the bed, his sturdy warmth on Jimin’s back just enough to keep the omega from tipping over into insanity. His hands feel desperate as they eagerly pull Jimin back to meet him half-way, willing to plunge right into the abyss, to leave the world behind if it’ll grant him a second longer inside his omega.

Jimin doesn’t let out a squeak, his words in his throat, tightening around his teeth, the taste so bitter he takes the sheets into his mouth and tries to muffle his screams. All he gets is Jungkook. Sweet and salty on the linens, on his body, in his mouth, in his blood. And that makes him ache. Jimin’s presence isn’t in the room, there’s no shift, no difference in Jungkook, he’s not there. Jungkook doesn’t smell of him, doesn’t feel of him; he holds none of Jimin within him, and that makes him cry out in distress.

Jungkook growls comfortingly, nosing into the back of his head, hoping the gesture will calm him.

Jimin tries to flex his back, bowing his spine in a weak effort to shift Jungkook off. He wants to turn around, wants to feel Jungkook under his hands. He’s drowning in his own desire for a place in the room, his scent barely there.

The action startles Jungkook, his weight lifting an inch from Jimin’s back. Unexpectedly, he takes it to heart, believing that Jimin is trying to buck him off, that his mate is trying to reject him. Any other time, Jimin would reassure him that, that isn’t the case at all. Jungkook’s expression flickers from confusion to one of pure heartbreak, as though Jimin pushing him off is the worst thing imaginable to the alpha, to any alpha. When he reaches for Jimin, his fingertips grazing over his cheekbone, the omega shakes his head.

Jimin makes the first move by hooking his right leg around Jungkook’s right hip, flipping them over. Unfortunately, Jungkook is well prepared to catch him, ready to roll them back. Jimin struggles beneath him, weakly hitting his fists against Jungkook’s naked chest. It takes a second for the alpha to understand that Jimin doesn’t want to run, he simply wants to take control. That pacifies him somewhat, and he’s more willing to go along with it for Jimin’s sake.

“Still,” Jungkook playfully growls into his ear, breath ghosting over the shell, his teeth tugging on his lobe.

Jimin ends up on his back often, which serves to agitate him more as Jungkook tries to insist he stays down. He goes as far as to bare his teeth at Jungkook for every second he keeps him pinned. The only response he gets is a sweet kiss to the jaw, his alpha preferring to placate him with assuring coos and affectionate rumbles.

Jimin huffs in irritation, strands of hair matting to his forehead and temples. With all the strength he can muster, he pushes Jungkook back onto the mattress once more, quickly clambering over him, his legs going around to straddle his hips. His hands go to rest on each of Jungkook’s shoulders, feeling his muscles flex under his fingertips, relaxing, melting under him. Their lips meet briefly, bumping foreheads, their smiles bright. Jimin thinks he’s won, thinks that Jungkook will hold still and let him scent mark him the way he wants, however, the alpha rolls them again, and Jimin is right back to where he started.

Instead of taking this as a defeat, he lifts his head up to fit himself into the crook of Jungkook’s neck, rubbing his scent over him as much as he can in case Jungkook retreats.

The alpha does. He takes it all with him, opting to hover above Jimin’s body, already too far away. And he’s smirking, smug as can be when he sees Jimin writhe. Then he’s completely off him, shuffling back on his knees to sit, crouched, at the bottom of the bed. He waits, fascinated by what Jimin will do. Jimin watches him, panting, his arms and legs shaking from the missing warmth. Goosebumps rise on his skin and he’s keening unhappily, rolling onto his side to crawl over to his alpha. Jungkook smiles lovingly, leaning down to welcome Jimin back into his arms, the omega nuzzling their cheeks together, purring.

Jungkook lays them back down on the rumpled blankets, observing Jimin silently while he makes a home for himself on Jungkook’s stomach. His hands roam and draw patterns over Jungkook’s pectorals, exploring until he’s satisfied. After he grows tired, he wiggles down to sit comfortably over Jungkook’s narrow hips, his expression shy for a minute as he contemplates what to do next. Brows knitting together, Jimin reaches back and runs two of his fingers over his slicked rim. He then outstretches up to Jungkook’s head, bringing those fingers to his lips.

“Fuck…” Jungkook breathes, his jaw going slack to allow Jimin to run his fingers over his tongue. He lets it slide down his throat; warm and sweet, it goes down with one gulp.

Jimin does it two more times, shamelessly watching Jungkook drink down his slick, loves the way some of it drips down his chin to his neck. Jimin rubs it in, doesn’t let one single drop go to waste. He makes sure that Jungkook’s skin is shiny with it, until he’s happy with his work.

“Jimin,” Jungkook says, voice strained.

Done with his neck, Jimin moves down. He smears his wet fingers down the middle of Jungkook’s stomach, noticing that the younger is holding his breath, his chest stuttering to a halt. And when Jimin does it again, wiping more of his hot slick over his chest and stomach, Jungkook’s eyes roll back inside his head.

“Mine,” Jimin growls, sucking his own fingers into his mouth, collecting as much slick and spit as he can before he bends down and lets it all trickle out from his tongue onto Jungkook’s stomach. Globs of it spill over Jungkook’s skin, making him shiver. Some of it travels further, slipping under Jimin’s balls to Jungkook’s cock, the omega using the slipperiness to grind his ass back against him.

They both shudder, Jimin mewling, Jungkook replying with a deep grumble.

The room clouds with heat and pheromones, sizzling with the new bond. Jimin barely feels Jungkook slamming him back into the mattress before his mind goes hazy and his vision blackens.

 

At dawn, Jimin wakes up with the birds. Limbs creaking and an alpha plastered to his back, he yawns into his pillow, wincing under his breath as Jungkook’s cock slips out from his thoroughly abused hole. They’d stayed locked together all night, soiling the sheets with cum, sweat, and blood. Jimin can’t remember a time he’s been this sore, this isn’t even the end of it. He suspects that Jungkook will be waking up any minute now, horny and prepared to fuck him for breakfast.

The sun is out, just peering in through the gap in his bedroom curtains, bathing the room in golden rays. Jimin would appreciate it more if he could hear anything other than his erratic heart.

Caged in Jungkook’s arms, Jimin realises he’s waking up next to his mate for the first time. Flashes of events from the previous night has him tucking his legs up towards his chest, his hands covering his flushed face. They mated. Knowing shit all about each other, they mated, and although it feels like nothing has changed, Jimin hasn’t an ounce of shame for his decision.

He belongs to someone.

He’s the one person that Jungkook can call his own. He’s trusting the alpha with a part of himself. That should scare him considering he’s been plagued with his own insecurity for so long, but to fuck with it. Who else in this goddamn world would he willingly trust to be a part of his life, of JiHyun’s life, other than Jungkook?

No one else.

However now he’s in a different predicament. He has the responsibility of reminding Jungkook to eat. It’s been hours since either of them has taken a drink of water, but he’s getting nowhere with Jungkook’s arms trapped around his waist. He’s afraid the alpha will wake up before he can leave the room. Jungkook won’t let him step a foot outside if he tells him he’s leaving to get them food. Jimin isn’t positive how Jungkook would take that given how he’d growled when Jimin had wanted to go to the bathroom a few hours ago. His best chance of leaving without getting caught is to do it now, while Jungkook is practically comatose.

Ignoring the hardness of Jungkook’s dick sliding along the back of his thighs and the aroused blush on his cheeks, Jimin wiggles his way from under his arm. Instantaneously, Jungkook grumbles in his sleep, groping the vacant space in seek of his omega, who is half-way out of bed. Jungkook looks unbelievable adorable in the morning light, hair splayed over his pillow, the blankets haphazardly thrown over his hips. Jimin wants to crawl back into bed with him, quickly chastising himself for nearly giving into temptation.

“Food… Real food first…” he murmurs to himself, toeing the nearest article of clothing towards him; his boxers. Doing his best not to moan in agony at his lower back, Jimin bends to grab his shirt along with it. He slips them on as he stands, waddling like a new-born infant to the door.

He heads into the kitchen with his hand on the wall, his legs straight, his other hand supporting his back, a deep grimace on his face. Namjoon is sitting in the rocking chair in the living room when he enters, looking startled at his appearance. The shock lasts half a second, then he’s bouncing up in pure unadulterated joy.

“Good morning,” Namjoon greets, hopping discreetly on the tip of his toes.

“Morning,” Jimin replies quietly, shuffling around the kitchen to grab whatever he can get his hands on. Apples, bananas, pears. He’s pretty sure he grabbed a handful of nuts from somewhere, he just can’t remember where. He pays Namjoon no attention for the first five minutes of washing fruit, slicing them up and dumping it all in a bowl, hobbling along from the fridge to the counter to grab all the bottles of water. He’s aware that Namjoon is there, eager to ask him if things had gone alright the night prior, but Jimin isn’t ready to answer his questions.

“Anything on Yoongi, Hoseok, and Tae?” Jimin glances over his shoulder.

“They’re fine,” Namjoon answers. “They wouldn’t go too far. They’ll be back.”

Another few minutes of silence go by and Jimin suddenly hears a choked gasp from the doctor on the other side of the breakfast bar. He turns slowly, the collar of his shirt dipping lower over one of his shoulders.

“Did you two…” Namjoon tilts his head in befuddlement. “Did you two mate?”

Jimin wasn’t expecting such an odd reaction. Out of all the people in their group, he thought Namjoon would be the most excited for Jimin and Jungkook’s mating. Now that he’s here, ogling the mark on Jimin’s otherwise unblemished skin, he seems more confused than anything.

“Y-Yeah. We did,” Jimin nods, hand automatically going back to cup the new scar.

Namjoon’s eyebrows pinch. “Why don’t you smell any different?” The words are said under his breath, like an afterthought.

Jimin frowns, twisting his neck to look down at his mark, wondering the same thing. So, it hadn’t been just Jimin that had found it strange that Jungkook’s was the predominant scent. While it is said that alpha and omega scents are equally as pungent in their own uniqueness, often blending well together, Jungkook had the command in the room last night. Jimin nowhere to be found.

Within the hour of their mating, Jimin and Jungkook should’ve been thoroughly drenched in each other. Instead, Jimin had to scent mark Jungkook himself, and because he hadn’t thought about it at the time, he knows now how peculiar that is. As a couple, as a marked pair, Jimin and Jungkook should smell of bonded mates. They should smell different, they should feel different.

Does it vary for certain couples? Jungkook is his soulmate, that alone should’ve made a change in them both. Did the bond set? Did they do something wrong? If the bond hasn’t set, if it doesn’t take, Jimin doesn’t know what he’s going to say to Jungkook. But what does it matter? They’re together. Bond or not, mated or not. 

“Hey, hey, don’t panic,” Namjoon says. He comes closer, circling the counter, then skids to a stop two paces away. “You have changed. It’s just barely noticeable.”

Jimin slides his hand from his mark to his neck, unconsciously rubbing what he has left of Jungkook’s scent on his fingers on his neck. The action catches Namjoon’s eyes, his gaze zeroing on his wrists. The beta’s nose twitches, his hand freezing in the air when he makes to touch Jimin’s shoulder.

The omega flinches away, backing up against the counter, eyes wild.

He shouldn’t smell of anyone other than his alpha.

Swallowing thickly, Namjoon retreats. “How many bite marks do you have?” he asks.

“… Just the one,” Jimin answers.

“And how many does Jungkook have?”

The omega blinks slowly. “None.”

The deep-set worry lines on Namjoon’s forehead eases. He chuckles softly, shaking his head. “So, that’s it,” he laughs to himself, his hands resting on his hips in relief.

“What?” Jimin anxiously wrings his hands at the hem of his shirt. “Is there something funny about this? At least let me in on the joke,” he complains.

“You’re not mated,” Namjoon states, smiling reassuringly at Jimin’s wide eyes. “I didn’t think you two would go this far so soon. I thought you’d at least give it some more time before you even thought about…” he trails off, gesturing to Jimin’s mark.

“It felt right.” Jimin squares his shoulders and straightens his spine.

Namjoon grins in amusement. “Alpha and omega mating rituals are different. It’s not all sex and bites. It’s a level of intimacy that I wouldn’t fully understand as a beta. Although I’ve studied the intricate details of a bond, I can’t fully comprehend it because I could never feel it for myself. If anyone knows the ins and outs of alpha and omega bonds, it would be the alphas. What I can tell you is that, they require four bites rather than just one. Two for each partner,” he says, his hand finding his own mark on his neck. “For them, it’s far from shameful to wear an omega’s bite.”

Jimin’s grasp on his shirt loosens. It’s not relief that he feels, but hope. This doesn’t mean that their bond did not take, it means they have time. He’s disappointed, however. Sad to know that Jungkook would not be wholly his. His alpha. He had hoped that once the two weeks were up and he’s forced to go back to the metropolis for a time, Jungkook would be claimed, mated and missing Jimin every second he’s gone. Now there is a chance that some other omega can claim him. And that is fucking unacceptable to Jimin.

“Why didn’t Jungkook notice anything? He should know this stuff, right? Why didn’t he say anything?” He frowns.

“I can’t speak for him, but I’m guessing it’s pretty hard to think about anything other than sex when you’re in rut.” Namjoon gives him an apologetic smile.

“So now what?”

“That’s for you to decide. If four bites aren’t given, you’re just at a standstill. One bite to signify your belonging to another. Two bites to seal it. As per tradition back in the day, alphas and omegas would go off into the woods by themselves, and they’d come back with their partner’s bites. These days it doesn’t happen often, but it is said that a mating in the woods would strengthen a bond for all of eternity,” Namjoon shrugs.

Jimin sighs softly, the tension slowly pouring from his taut muscles. “That’s so complicated…”

“It’s nature, Jimin.” Namjoon smiles. “Sometimes nature can’t be explained with science. It is what it is, it’s how we’re made. We can spend years trying to pick it apart, but we’ll get nowhere. We know it exists, it’s there. No amount of experiments can explain what it is we feel.”

Nodding, Jimin turns back to his tray of food, his fingers trembling.

Namjoon lets him stall for time in the kitchen, giving him space to think.

Jimin tries to prevent his possessiveness from unravelling. He has faith in Jungkook. Asking the alpha to mate him now would be too much for his poor heart. Asking him to wait for Jimin to come back would be all too painful. After the two weeks are up, Jimin will be forced to return to the metropolis for a short period of time, they’ll be separated. They’d have to hold on until then. 

“You okay?” Namjoon eventually speaks again. From a safe distance this time.

“Yeah. I think so,” he pouts, drumming his fingers over the counter, deliberating over how he would break the news to Jungkook. He’s surprised the alpha hasn’t questioned it. Jimin can’t blame him, Jungkook is still fucked up in his rut. He hasn’t said one coherent sentence since their first time.

“How is Jungkook holding up?” Namjoon taps his foot nervously. The dark circles under his eyes are evidence that his worry had lasted throughout the night.

Jimin fiddles with the bottles of water, rotating the caps between two fingers. “He’s doing fine, as far as I know. He’s been –” Jimin sniffs in embarrassment, his hand coming to scratch his nose, “he’s been growly.”

Namjoon scoffs. “Growly?”

“Yes! Growly!” Jimin exclaims, his voice rising an octave.

Namjoon laughs. “If you can joke like that I’m guessing he hasn’t don’t anything to… hurt you?”

Jimin shakes his head, popping a cashew nut into his mouth from within the bowl. “No. He hasn’t spoken properly for at least six hours, though. I don’t know if that’s any cause for concern,” he says, raising an eyebrow.

Namjoon hums. “That can simply be one of the symptoms of a normal rut. Nothing abnormal? No eye colour changes? I mean, apart from red of course. No attempt at a shift? Violent tendencies? Headaches?”

"Nope." 

"Huh. I wonder how long it'll take him to get to that point," Namjoon murmurs thoughtfully. 

"What?" Jimin blinks. 

"Nothing. So, no fur growing in odd places? No ears or a tail?" 

The corners of Jimin’s lips turn down, shaking his head again. “No. None of that. But I really do wish his claws would retract, or whatever the hell they did. If I get any more scratches, people are gonna think I got mauled by a mildly pissed off house cat,” he huffs, lifting up his shirt to show his stomach. His soft, peachy skin blossoming with purple love bites and long red grazes. They’re in the process of healing, disappearing one by one, Jimin can’t say he didn’t enjoy receiving them.

There’s a particular gruesome looking scratch on his hip that he points to. “Does this look like I was gnawed on by a bear? I swear I didn’t feel him do this…”

Namjoon has his hand over his mouth, his shoulders shaking. “Looks like you’ve had a good time.”

“Yes, I love being pinpricked every time my alpha touches me,” Jimin says sarcastically. If he’s surprised by the fact that he had referred to Jungkook as ‘his alpha’ out loud for the first time, he doesn’t show it. He especially isn’t going to react to it now seeing the mirth in Namjoon’s eyes.

“Ah, but I don’t think it’s normal for Jungkook to have his claws out for this long,” the doctor points out, striding into the living room to pick up a black leather-bound notebook from the coffee table. He flips it open as he walks back to Jimin, humming a nondescript tune under his breath. “When you were in heat, his claws would only extend for five to ten minutes. Normally, his body would get tired of it and would force them to withdraw. I guess this could be due to his misuse of his healing abilities, but that would have the opposite effect. He wouldn’t keep his claws for that long.” 

“They’ve been there for hours,” Jimin says, glancing over at the book.

“Better be safe than sorry.” Namjoon takes a pen from his pants pocket and jots the information down. “Hey, do you mind doing me a favour?”

Jimin cocks his head. “Uh… No – sure – what’s up?”

“I need a blood sample,” he says, setting his pen down to reach into his other pocket. He comes back with a palm sized white rectangular tube that holds the symbol for the metropolis’ central hospital on its casing.

The appearance of the symbol has Jimin blinking rapidly, not accustomed to seeing any modern hints of the metropolis in the pack.

“Jungkook won’t let anyone touch him other than you right now. I need some blood so I can keep tabs on him,” Namjoon explains, offering the syringe over to him.

“Whoa. Namjoon, you keep forgetting that I’m not certified for this sort of stuff.” Jimin backs up. “I can’t draw blood from Jungkook alone, what if I do it wrong? I could hit the wrong vein or something!”

Namjoon rolls his eyes. “Jimin, relax. You don’t have to do it right now. You usually have to wait about 12 hours without food to get the sample. It’ll be easy. The syringe has a sensor. Doesn’t require much work. It’ll find the correct vein for you, and you’d only have to let it guide you through.” He demonstrates by removing the cap to reveal the needle. “The antiseptic wipe is on the other end of the tube. Wipe Jungkook down with that first,” he says, tapping the top of the syringe. Then, with his thumb at the side of the tube, he clicks twice until a green light blinks from just above the needle. “It’s simple. The difficult part is getting Jungkook to stay still.” He smiles, capping the syringe before he hands it over.

Jimin’s cheeks puff out in uncertainty, his hands held in front of him, weighing the syringe delicately. Scared that he’ll drop it, he sets it down on the tray between the fruit bowl and the bottles of water. “Okay. You… You better stay here, alright? J-Just in case I end up killing him.”

“I’ll have the shovel ready,” Namjoon snorts. 

Jimin gives the beta a long deadpan expression, nearly missing the stomping steps of an alpha coming into the kitchen, eyes narrowed till they land on Jimin. He looks wrecked, wretched, with nothing but a towel around his waist, hastily knotted at his hip, his bulky thighs barely contained. All at once, Jungkook’s scent hits him, leaving the rest of the world bland. The alpha calls out for him, telling him how much he’s missed him in one small noise.

He shouldn’t have left.

Gone for too long, Jungkook bleeds back into him, bringing along a whole feeling he’d left inside his room, never intended to be witnessed by anyone else but them. Dismissing Namjoon, Jungkook stalks over, and it’s on pure impulse that Jimin’s legs go weak, his lower back hitting the edge of the counter. The alpha is across the room in seconds, hands cupping Jimin’s face as he noses along his hairline. Jimin grips his wrists, using them to keep himself from falling.

“You weren’t there when I woke up,” Jungkook grumbles, brushing Jimin’s bangs aside to kiss his forehead.

The omega whimpers apologetically. “I know. I’m sorry. I was getting food.”

“You should’ve woken me up,” the younger sighs. He drops one arm around Jimin’s waist, dragging him close.

Jimin winds his arms around Jungkook’s middle, displaying his neck for the alpha to scent him. Jungkook makes a pleased rumbling at the invitation, dipping down to brush his lips over Jimin’s pulse, his palms tracing the curves of his hips. The omega exhales happily, nails dragging across Jungkook’s shoulders. He moans lowly at the path of kisses Jungkook makes along his collar, his lips warm and soft. Too soon, Jungkook straightens up to drop one more kiss to the crown of his head.

“Let’s go.”

“Actually, Jungkookie, I have one more thing I wanna talk to Jimin about,” Namjoon pipes him, making himself known.

Jungkook peers at the doctor over his shoulder, teeth baring on reflex. Namjoon tenses up a the hiss Jungkook makes through his teeth. He patiently waits for the alpha to recognise him as not a threat, Jungkook sniffing quietly at the air around him, chest rising and falling. After he deems him harmless, his stance relaxes. “What about?”

“His plans for the end of our visit,” Namjoon replies, his posture disarming as to not offend or upset the territorial alpha. “I’ll be making last minute check-ups for the next few days, I need to talk with Jimin about his decision to stay now so that I can alert the Elders.”

Namjoon’s tone is neutral and clear. Though he knows not to challenge Jungkook, he is the older of the two, respect is still a must. Jimin can see it on his face that Jungkook isn’t even supposed to be out in the open. Forcing him out of his sanctuary to find his omega with a beta, Jungkook is doing extraordinarily well to not claw out Namjoon’s eyes on the spot.

“I’m coming back,” Jimin cuts in quickly. “I’m going to sell the apartment in the West, sign JiHyun out of school, then we’re coming back here with you guys. I-If that’s okay.”

Sedated by the news, Jungkook refocuses his attention back on Jimin, his bottom lip caught between his teeth, his eyes falling heavy. Jimin can already feel it on his hip what Jungkook wants. He keeps him still, leaning away from his approach to peek over at Namjoon, who shifts awkwardly on his feet on the other side. The corners of Jungkook’s lips curl in unhappiness at being denied something, but Jimin only shushes him further.

“I want to make it as quick and painless as possible. I don’t want JiHyun to get confused,” he explains. “I… we want to be a part of this pack. I think it would be great for JiHyun. For the both of us. If I can, I want us to be a part of a family again,” he mumbles shyly, fidgeting with the frays on the towel around Jungkook’s hips. Perhaps he’s asking too much. Who knows if the rest of the group see him as anything more than a carer/ colleague. He’s making awfully big decisions for a person who’s known them for a little over a month.

“We’d love that, Jimin.” Namjoon smiles, and there’s so much relief and excitement there, Jimin begins to relax. “I’ll inform the Elders.”

 Jimin nods his gratitude, breaking away from Jungkook to pick up the tray of food. Suddenly, his centre of gravity shifts and he’s being hoisted into Jungkook’s arms. The bottles of water tip over, Jimin catching them with a loud yelp before they fall to the floor. He grumbles, lightly smacking Jungkook’s shoulder for not warning him.

“My legs work fine,” Jimin pouts, kicking gently for emphasis.

“I never asked if they didn’t,” Jungkook replies without missing a beat, exiting the kitchen to walk back down the hallway.

“Jimin, I should probably also mention-” Namjoon calls after them to be instantly cut off.

“You’re done talking,” Jungkook growls.

Jimin hears Namjoon’s exasperated sigh, almost wanting to scold Jungkook a little bit himself. He waves a hand above his head in apology, if he flicks Jungkook’s forehead on the way down he gives no reaction. They’ll pick up the discussion at a later date. Jimin doesn’t want to know what would happen once Jungkook’s patience runs out while they’re not by a bed. He supposes he can handle Jungkook, his current worry now is the rectangular syringe clinking against the fruit bowl, reminding him that he would have to find a time to get a blood sample from the alpha. That won’t be easy when Jungkook is already in a lustful craze.

“Food first, Jungkookie,” Jimin says, carefully hopping out of Jungkook’s arms, landing gracefully on his toes. He places the tray down on the nightstand, caught off guard again when Jungkook nudges him off balance onto the bed. He lands on the soiled sheets with a dull thud, blinking up at Jungkook in stunned silence.

The alpha wastes no time, kneeling before him to slide off his boxers. For a second, he buries his face in one of Jimin’s thighs, groaning at the heady scent of slick beginning to leak from Jimin’s entrance. The omega swallows loudly around a whimper, legs drawing up to close around Jungkook’s head. Chuckling, Jungkook pushes his legs open again, throwing them over his shoulders, tongue darting out to run his tongue over his inner thigh, eyes watching Jimin intently. The heat flares up around them, flicking titillating at Jimin’s stomach.

“You can feed me while you ride me,” Jungkook smirks, discarding Jimin’s shirt, then his towel.

Retrieving a condom on his way, he scoots them up to the headboard, his hands firm on Jimin’s hips to drop him down onto his lap. Jimin loops his arms around his neck, pressing back against the hardness rubbing along his cheeks and thighs. After a while of Jimin making no other move, struggling to overcome his shyness, Jungkook reaches around to roll on the condom, using the wetness between Jimin’s cheeks to coat himself. Smiling encouragingly, he takes his cock in hand and waits for Jimin to sink down, gradually easing himself in. The omega shudders, mewling sweetly at being full again.

They sit, flushed in the smoke of their mixing pheromones, Jungkook slumping down against the headboard in intoxication. He rocks his hips upwards, heels digging into the bed, toes curling into the blankets to restrain himself from fucking into Jimin like he wants to. He can do it too, Jimin wouldn’t complain, but Jungkook is trying to be considerate. Jimin wonders how long he can hold on for.

Towering above Jungkook like this, he feels in control, he feels powerful. He’s never heard of any man, beta or alpha, allowing the omega to take charge. For beta’s, it’s beneath them, but to have Jungkook, an alpha, a superior class, let Jimin take control like this, it makes something in Jimin purr. Pleased and proud of his alpha, he lifts himself up, Jungkook staying inside by sheer will, and slams himself back down into Jungkook’s lap. He commands the pace while Jungkook’s hands lie docile on his hips, the alpha’s moans guttural, almost pained as Jimin begins to bounce.

Spellbound by the omega, Jungkook doesn’t open his mouth fast enough when Jimin holds a slice of apple to his lips. He gets poked on the chin instead, and is rewarded with a giggle from Jimin.

“Say ‘ah’,” Jimin pants.

Jungkook takes the slice between his teeth, tongue curling around Jimin’s fingers to lick off the juices. His eyes don’t leave the omega’s face for a second.

Jimin boldly stares back, his hands blindly reaching for more slices of fruit, holding a handful in his other palm as he feeds Jungkook one piece at a time. And like a good alpha, Jungkook eats without complaint, turning his face to chase the stray droplets of juice escaping down Jimin’s wrists.

“Such a good baby alpha,” Jimin teases, swirling his hips. He grinds down slowly, picking himself up a few inches to drop back down, grinning.

Jungkook whines, his head flopping to the side, and all Jimin can think is how much he wants to bite every inch of him. His guilt for his own selfishness does not compare to the ache he has in his teeth. He wants to sink into Jungkook, mark him as his own, return what the alpha has so lovingly given him. Then there’s that feeling of power again. To have a say in what he wants, in how he wants it, it gives Jimin a rush. It’s not every day an alpha will give him the option to do as he pleases, so when Jungkook smiles and offers him his wrist, Jimin doesn’t waste a second more.

The first drop of blood goes down easy, Jimin too gone in the pleasure to care for the metallic taste on his tongue. Something soars in his chest, taking his lungs into a vice grip. The bond tightens, draws him in taut, but it’s still not enough. They’re not all the way there yet, and it’s so painful to know that there’s a space to yet be filled. He can only pray that he won’t make Jungkook wait too long before they fill that gap.

A kiss to his forehead brings him out of it, tearful eyes reopening. He can’t remember when he’d closed them.

“Such pretty eyes.” Jungkook presses the words into his lips, causing Jimin to go pliant. His nose scrunches up as the alpha laps up the blood on the corners of his mouth, moaning at the taste of himself on Jimin’s salty skin.

“You’re mine,” Jimin asserts. There’s enough conviction in his tone to suggest that he means that in more ways than one. They may not be mated, but Jungkook is his in every other sense.

“I’m yours,” Jungkook agrees, enveloping Jimin tightly, sliding him further up his lap, “and you’re mine.”

The weight in the air dissipates, and the solemn quietness is drowned by moans to squelching, wet smacks. Jimin’s bounces turn vicious, his thighs stinging from the exertion. Jungkook loves watching him fuck himself down, pretty cock bobbing and bumping against his stomach. Jimin’s shyness lingers around the edges of his gaze, his cheeks bright with humiliation at his own lewd behaviour. Jungkook is reassuring. He doesn’t push, doesn’t ask for more than this. He’s more fixated on Jimin’s expressions, entranced by his red lips and drooping eyes.

Once it becomes too much, he’ll find solace in the crook of the omega’s neck, growling and whining like a pup in need of attention. As a softy, Jimin readily hands it to him. Never failing to kiss Jungkook’s cheeks, or card his fingers through his hair.

Jimin runs out of fruit to feed Jungkook right at the second his knot fattens, leaving him with no other option but to stay put – sated, sticky, and panting against Jungkook’s chest. As he’s reaching for the bottles of water, his fingers brush the cool plastic of the syringe. With some reluctance, he takes it from the tray, holding it against the sunlight.

“What’s that?” Jungkook asks, scrunching up the sheets with his hands to wipe their stomachs down.

“Syringe,” Jimin answers. “Namjoon wants to get a blood sample.”

“Right now?” The younger frowns, throwing the dirty cloth off the bed.

“No. Gotta wait 12 hours – here,” Jimin hands him a bottle of water, “keep yourself hydrated for me, baby.”

Jimin gets the blood sample late that night, in the same position against the headboard. Jungkook makes no sound or comment as he picks the syringe off the nightstand again.

Swiftly, he finds the cotton tip on the other end of the syringe, soaked in antiseptic liquid, and wipes down the crook of Jungkook’s arm with it before he uncaps the needle. Following Namjoon’s instructions, he clicks twice, waiting for the green light to appear. The device flickers to life, scanning Jungkook’s outstretched arm upon being held before it. Jimin holds his breath as it works, releasing said breath once the green dot discovers its correct place.

“Didn’t think I’d have to see another needle in my life after leaving the lab,” Jungkook chuckles quietly.

Jimin pecks him on his nose reassuringly. “No experiments, I promise.”

Jungkook smiles wanly, not really believing that.

The omega gives him another kiss, on the lips this time to lighten the prick of the needle. He wants this over, quick and painless. He thanks the heavens that he doesn’t have to do anything at all. The syringe works automatically, the only indication Jimin has that it’s working is the red line filling up at the side of the tube the more blood is extracted. It doesn’t last more than a minute. Jungkook gives no reaction, his eyes concerningly blank. It’s only when Jimin pulls out the needle and caps it again that Jungkook comes back to himself, smiling into Jimin’s soothing palm on his cheek.

“You really hate it, don’t you?” Jimin whispers, feeling disgusting for holding the syringe for so long.

“Not my favourite feeling,” Jungkook admits.

Jimin lies with his alpha under the blankets for hours before Namjoon gets the blood sample. Jungkook is more important to him than the test, and it’s obvious he needs Jimin more right now than ever. He endures it, loves every single second of it. He tells Jungkook that he wants to be ruined. He lets the alpha ride out his frustration, lets him take and take and take till Jimin knows there’s not a part of him Jungkook doesn’t have. And the alpha returns it tenfold; doesn’t neglect to tell Jimin how much he’s cherished. He doesn’t let Jimin forget it.

The next morning is when Namjoon receives the syringe with the sample, thrown unceremoniously into his hands through the gap in the bedroom door, the slicing odor of a hostile alpha too much for anyone to stay within the lodge for any longer than five minutes. Without turning his back on Jungkook, he backs away down the hall, concealing his fear from the glowing eyes that track every misstep. The second he turns to leave, the last thing he hears is Jimin's broken call for his alpha. 

Chapter Text

 

When the mattress turns into an unrecognisable heap of shredded ribbons and springs, Jungkook takes them to the wall. He’ll hold Jimin up in the air, press him to the door and the windows, until he’s eventually fucking him unconscious into the extra pillows and blankets on the floor. It’s mindless sex for a while, Jimin barely awake for most of it. The alpha makes it so that his omega wakes to him warm, pulsing, and knotted inside him each time.

Every few hours, Jungkook is met by the same brilliant brown eyes staring back at him, smiling with warmth and pleasure as he pants into Jimin’s neck; his teeth snug over his mark, his cock trapped between his walls.

They lose count of the hours – of the days that have gone by. Unlike Jimin’s heat, Jungkook’s rut worsens.

The alpha doesn’t speak much anymore. Not a curse, not a single syllable. He snarls and grumbles, hissing and baring his teeth, but says nothing recognisable. He doesn’t let Jimin out of his arms, or his sight. He never allows the omega to get an inch close to the door unless he insists. He lashes out if someone gets too close, if they stay too long. Thankfully, Jimin doesn’t question why he keeps them shut inside, isolated, stewing in the smoke of pheromones and sex.

Jungkook doesn’t have an answer for him anyway.

He refuses to allow Jimin to open the windows, or clean the stains anymore; he makes sure the omega learns not to erase all of his hard work. Jimin must understand that he’s doing it out of necessity. His mate shouldn’t be stepping out of the room without Jungkook’s scent burned into his skin – he shouldn’t be leaving the room at all. So perhaps Jungkook gains too much pleasure from rubbing his cum into Jimin’s belly and thighs, relishing in the mess he makes. If Jimin tries to clean himself, he whimpers and whines and repeats the process. He fucks Jimin right in the middle of it so the omega doesn’t have the strength to spare to attempt it again.  

Namjoon comes around at sunrise of day three (or so Jimin tells him) to check their progress. Jungkook can’t recall what the doctor had wanted. Nothing else mattered but the sound of the restless alpha wolf pacing his mind, snarling at the beta on the other side of the door. Jungkook’s lips had curled in a sneer, his hackles raising as his body bowed and coiled tight over his mate, protective instincts coursing through his body.  

His possessiveness weighs the heaviest when Jimin is asleep, when he catches Jimin’s face in the warm morning light, or as the shadows play across his features during twilight. He doesn’t feel so out of reach anymore. He’s real, and warm – all solid lines and soft words. And Jungkook’s heart grows a little bigger every time Jimin says his name, his voice wispy and fond as his hands seek to grip the alpha’s hair, pulling him close to press his kiss to his forehead. Jungkook’s loved, he knows, it just feels like he’s on the edge of a dream, ready to be woken up.

“Jungkook…”

Jimin doesn’t open his eyes. Jungkook knows Jimin can feel him moving above him, his knot bulbous and snug against his prostate. He sees him try to blink awake, shaking hands coming to rest on Jungkook’s chest. Every inch of them is sticking together with sweat, their bodies melding with dry cum and spit, some crusting off Jimin’s thighs. He can hear the squelch of himself spilling into the condom, the short bursts of release racking through them both. He wonders if Jimin can feel the warmth of Jungkook’s cum inside him, contained by the latex.

“It’s so hot,” Jimin pants, pushing his bangs back from his sweaty forehead. He whimpers as Jungkook moves, the knot tugging on his already swollen hole.

Peeking up at Jungkook, he lets his head flop back, one hand falling to base of Jungkook’s cock, feeling along the mouth of the condom till he reaches skin that is wet and slippery with slick. Jimin likes the connection, Jungkook realises. Always curious, always seeking touch to make sure Jungkook’s there. The alpha doesn’t mind one bit, leaving himself open at all times to let his mate’s hands roam over him. His touch warm, a constant comfort. It makes Jungkook almost forget the irritation of something wild that wanders the back of his mind, prowling, waiting for the moment it can sink its claws into something. No matter how many times he buries himself in Jimin, it stays, stronger. Annoying.  

He doesn’t know if he should call it bloodthirst.  

“You think so loudly,” Jimin whispers, fingers dancing up to rub circles into the alpha’s hipbones.

Jungkook grunts, pushing himself up to kiss Jimin senseless. A rough mesh of lips and tongue that leaves Jimin sagging into the pillows. Jungkook breathes heavily through his nose, soaking in the scent of roses and something soft, bruising Jimin’s mouth with his kiss. Pushing harder, he seeks the taste of himself behind Jimin’s teeth. He slides himself up, back hunching as his teeth tug at Jimin’s bottom lip to hear his mate’s sweet voice moan his name again. Jimin’s hands make a home in his hair, palms cradling his head, keeping him there. Fuck, he’d rather die than let go.

“Alpha,” Jimin gasps against his lips.  

Jungkook opens his eyes slowly, tongue licking a fat stripe over Jimin’s lips one last time, causing the omega to shudder under him. He leans back with the intention of moving them onto their sides, but is stopped by Jimin’s whine.

“Come back…” he says, fingers cupping Jungkook’s jaw to pull him back in, pecking his lips over and over.

Jungkook isn’t one to deny Jimin anything. He stays, arms cramping, hovering over his mate for the omega to litter as many kisses onto his face as he can. Jimin’s lips grow chapped by the time Jungkook collapses onto him, eyes half-lidded and lazy while he nuzzles into the omega’s neck.

Once the knot reduces enough that he can pull out, Jimin is wide awake.

Jungkook’s body turns stiff, his muscles burning from keeping himself poised over the omega, afraid he’ll crush him if he moves. The only thing making it all worthwhile is the way Jimin looks at him. Full of adoration and warmth, praising. Of course, Jungkook preens, his chest puffing out with pride.

“So good to me,” Jimin whispers, craning his neck to peck Jungkook once more on the chin.

He wants to say something back, tell his mate how much he loves that he’s here with him. His canines just feel too large, too sharp and biting. He doesn’t trust himself to speak, not when he knows he can snap at any moment. Fuck, he doesn’t know what he’ll do, but he’s becoming acutely aware of his own limits… of his breaking point. Wherever that is.

“Such a good alpha.” Jimin smiles into his jaw, petting his sides.

Jungkook smiles back, all teeth and no warmth.

There aren’t many ways in which Jungkook can say he needs a distraction. A rut is distracting enough, however, there’s something bigger brewing beneath his skin that he hopes Jimin won’t catch. And he’s not too creative in his current state of mind, so he just moves.

Jimin watches him with curiosity, one hand trailing up Jungkook’s biceps as his alpha slides himself down between his legs. Maybe it’s not all for Jimin when he settles with his head in his thighs, since Jungkook is the one who gets the pleasure of eating the omega out until his belly is full of his slick. He gets to look up at Jimin as he writhes around his tongue, Jungkook can’t imagine a better view. Being between Jimin’s weak legs, having the omega under his hands, panting, sobbing as he holds one of Jungkook’s hands to his stomach, rolling his hips to get the alpha to go in deeper. Jungkook always complies, never denies him anything. He’s mindful of his claws as he feels along the soft lines of Jimin’s lower abdomen, pretending the omega’s womb is already thriving with life.

“J-Jungkookie,” Jimin cries brokenly, squeezing his legs around Jungkook’s head, thighs warm and rubbing over his ears.

Jungkook hums to his call, using a knuckle to spread one of Jimin’s cheeks, his nose brushing along his perineum. He licks long and hard, flattening his tongue over the puckered hole to taste the rich thickness of the slick that oozes out in globs.

Jimin squeals, tummy quivering at the obscene slurping sounds Jungkook produces.

He can smell blooming roses, in his nose and in his mouth, the scent rising high to the ceiling until his own scent is engulfed in it. He loves it. He delights in the way Jimin squeaks, how his other hand comes to fist in Jungkook’s hair.

Disappointingly, Jimin’s walls neither tastes of him or his cum. He wishes he can change that, pump load after load of his seed into the omega until his belly bulges. Filling him up with a litter of their pups, and watch him grow, be there for every moment his belly swells with child. Jungkook groans at the image, gripping Jimin’s hand gently to tug him down onto his tongue. The omega responds by swirling his hips, coaxing Jungkook in.

“Please… please, please, please,” Jimin pants, chest stuttering.

Jungkook makes sure he doesn’t come too soon, huffing each time Jimin’s hold tightens in his hair to pull him back. He shakes it off, unlatching his mouth all together to blow hot air on Jimin’s thoroughly used hole, revelling in breathless moans. When Jungkook delves back in, with a purpose this time, Jimin makes a sound so delicious it makes Jungkook’s eyes cloud over. It’s high pitched and so achingly sweet Jungkook wants to bite him again. And the blush that runs from Jimin’s neck to his ears is so gorgeous that the alpha feels shaken.

“Fuck!” Jimin’s back arches, coming back down with a smooth roll, his ass grinding down into Jungkook’s face.

Chest rumbling with arrogance, Jungkook stares up at his omega, trying to capture every moment of pleasure. No other alpha can make Jimin feel this good. No other man can ever witness how stunning he looks on the verge of coming. No one. Not a single fucking soul gets to put their hands on his mate. Jungkook would fight tooth and nail.

“J-Jungkookie…” Jimin calls. He pats his hair to gain his attention, then waits for Jungkook to look up before he speaks again, “w-wanna sit on your face. Please… please…”

The alpha’s eyes nearly roll back into his head at the request, all too happy to flip them over, to have Jimin climb up his chest to his face. Jimin hovers a little in hesitance, letting Jungkook wiggle and get comfortable on the pillows. Jimin’s thighs are trembling on either the side of his head, relaxing once Jungkook presses reassuring kisses into the already red and purple splotches he’d gifted from their previous rounds. He smirks at the unsteadying breath Jimin releases, and pulls the omega down onto his tongue. Jimin cries in surprise, scrambling, accepting Jungkook’s hands as they circle around and stay at his stomach.

“Oh god – oh fuck,” Jimin curses, keening shamelessly.

The alpha closes his eyes briefly, licking up from Jimin’s rim to his balls, going back down to circle the ring of muscle with the tip, repeating the process a few times until Jimin tells him that it’s enough. To Jungkook, it’ll never be enough. It isn’t if he can’t taste Jimin’s insides painted with his cum. He won’t be satisfied till then.

“Such a dirty alpha,” Jimin giggles, the flush on his face so beautiful, Jungkook can’t take his eyes off him. “I – I know what you’re thinking, Jungkook. You wanna stuff me up?” he asks, wiggling his ass over Jungkook’s mouth. “What – you wanna fill me with your cum next time?”

Jimin knows what Jungkook wants. His hands don’t stray from his stomach for too long. The implication is clear.

Jungkook growls, eyes glinting with approval. “Is that what you want, little omega?” he asks, voice deep and gravelly due to disuse.

Jimin jerks in surprise. He hasn’t heard Jungkook speak in who knows how many days. It isn’t until now that he realises he’s been yearning for the alpha to talk again. “I…”

“Is that what you want?” Jungkook repeats huskily, tugging Jimin’s hips down over his mouth. The sound that he elicits from the older is one that’s caught between a whimper and something downright obscene. “Wanna carry my pups? Give me a family?”

“Fuck,” Jimin hisses.

“You’d look so pretty, all big and knocked up. Could fuck you every day. Make you have litter after litter,” Jungkook murmurs hotly into his skin.

“God…” Jimin groans, holding Jungkook’s wrists in a vice grip, the pads of his fingers brushing over the mark he’d given Jungkook all those days ago.

It’s appalling how smitten they both are at the idea of having pups of their own. Whenever Jimin even remotely implies that he’s thinking about it, Jungkook is ready to jump. Whenever he lays his head on Jimin’s flat belly, or caresses his chest, the omega purrs. He probably isn’t aware of it, often delirious with post-coital bliss to be conscious of the little sounds he makes when Jungkook kisses along his chest down to his thighs. He sleep talks too, often searching back for Jungkook’s presence around him, whining incoherently about feeling empty. Jungkook usually soothes him by shuffling in closer to hug him to his chest – to growl into his neck as a comfort for them both. He can’t give his omega what he wants yet, and there’s a petulant part of him that wants to say fuck it. If his mate wants pups then he’ll give him pups. As his alpha, Jungkook has no other duty than to keep his mate happy. It’s the primal part of him that says it’s okay. Any other part of him is too silent to oppose.

The alpha is so fucked in every possible way for his mate.

“You want my pups, little omega? Want your alpha to fuck you until you’re fat with our children?” Jungkook snarls, lazily gazing up at Jimin, who looks back down at him, his hair fanning across his flushed cheeks. 

Jimin sobs, nodding his head vigorously. Letting his hand slide down, Jungkook makes Jimin circle his ass over his mouth, the alpha keeping his jaw slack for him to ride his tongue. From the way his belly quivers, and his thighs begin to press harder around Jungkook’s head, he’s about to come. Jungkook, running out of patience, licks into Jimin’s walls rougher, plunging in and out till finally, Jimin clenches down around him. His nails dig into the back of Jungkook’s hand, his whole body stiffening up as strings of cum paint his stomach, some landing in the alpha’s hair and forehead. The room fills with Jimin’s laboured breathing, his hips jerking and convulsing as Jungkook laves up the remaining slick between his cheeks.

“W-We should eat proper food soon,” Jimin says, carefully sliding down to sit in Jungkook’s lap. “We need to get cleaned up too.” He leans over to wipe off the cum and slick on Jungkook’s chin, blushing to his hairline.

Jungkook shakes his head. “Hm.”

“You need to eat a real meal this time.” Jimin thoughtlessly makes a grab for the sheets on the floor to wipe the rest of himself off, the small action causing his wolf to snap his teeth. “Jungkook? Are you listening?” 

He picks himself up slowly, crawling onto his hands and knees, forcing Jimin to fall backwards in surprise. His lips pull back, a possessive grumble reverberating deep from his chest as he bares more than just his canines.

Something in his mind pauses in surprise at how feral it all sounds, but he shakes it off. He musters it up to being the cause of his rut. Then again, he hasn’t been in his right mind in a while.

“J-Jungkook?”

The alpha runs his tongue over his exposed teeth, his dark hair falling over his eyes. On impulse, Jimin backs up, mouth opening and closing, while Jungkook stalks closer. A growl, a warning, builds in his throat at his mate’s retreat, his claws dragging along the wooden panels of the floor, keeping himself restrained. He doesn’t want to scare Jimin, but he’s not finished with him yet. The omega wants pups, doesn’t he? What sort of alpha would Jungkook be if he denies his soulmate anything? Jungkook is going to give Jimin the world. If the omega would just hold still.

The way he takes himself farther and farther out of Jungkook’s grasp only makes it that much more devastating for the alpha. The intent behind it isn’t rejection. He understands this, yet a snarl not of his own volition rises in his throat. His mind tries to convince him that Jimin wants to be chased, and hunted down. Any other day, Jungkook would gladly indulge Jimin in his games. Today, the clawing in his chest is relentless. Though oddly, he doesn’t have the right energy to challenge it. Jungkook doesn’t have the strength to play games, his cock hard and heavy between his legs already. He wants the omega to stay still.

“Don’t. Run,” Jungkook growls, moving one step closer, the words not his own.

Jimin’s eyes widen. Jungkook wonders if there’s something on his face that causes the flicker of fear to appear in those pretty eyes. He’s unaware that it is indeed fear that has Jimin paralysed. The shift in the alpha’s demeanour, the way his own eyes flicker from madness to having a dangerously loose grasp on reality, it does more than confuse the omega. Jungkook sounds unlike himself, but it resonates with a being in him that’s a stranger even to Jimin. He can’t put a name to it, he doesn’t know what it is. Stubborn and difficult to ignore, with one purpose, it reaches out for Jungkook. The alpha’s pheromones taking grip to reel them both in. Jimin lets it happen, too lost in his own delirium to fight it.

“Let me take care of you,” Jungkook insists, taking Jimin by the ankle to pull him towards him.

Jimin whines involuntarily, his hands reaching for Jungkook, his head tilting to bare his neck. There’s an urge nestled deep in his chest, a whisper in his ear, a hint of a whimper echoing at the back of his mind. He’s curious.

“Jungkookie.”

Jungkook yanks him closer in silence, slotting himself between his legs. Jimin doesn’t resist, spreading his knees wide so Jungkook’s cock slides right between his cheeks. The alpha lifts each leg up onto his shoulders, sitting up to bend his mate in half. Jimin grunts softly, grabbing Jungkook’s biceps to keep himself balanced. Their eyes meet fleetingly, Jimin too embarrassed to say anything.

“Gonna put some pups in you, yeah?” Jungkook’s smirk is stiff. It’s automatic, as though with every word he becomes more detached from himself, his consciousness drifting elsewhere while his body remains, looming over his mate. “I wanna see your belly heavy with my cum.”

Jimin whimpers, canting his hips for his ass to meet Jungkook’s naked cock, the head teasingly catching against his rim. A fresh rush of slick reaches Jungkook’s nose, and he wants to cling onto it. Cling onto something.

“M-Mm… Please… please, I want it.”

Kissing Jimin as slow as possible, Jungkook carefully grips himself and slips right in, Jimin’s hole loose and slippery from spit and slick. They moan together. Warm, that’s all Jungkook can understand. It’s new and raw, the feeling indescribable. It leaves them both speechless, unbreathing for a solid few seconds as a hot flash of something powerful ricochets down Jungkook’s back. Jimin’s trembling fingers dig into his arms, trying to hold on, his eyes clenched shut. Neither of them relax, the connection intense enough to make them cry. He can feel Jimin everywhere around him, his sweet scent burning his nose, filling his lungs, clinging to his insides. He’s so weak, terribly unsteady to the point where he physically jumps at the tapping paws he can hear echoing in his imagination, as though the sound is directly in his ears.

His wolf is waiting for its turn. Jungkook has had his fun, has had his time with their mate, he can step down. The sound brings him back to Jimin’s heat, how the alpha wolf had skulked around in his head for days, constantly on the edge of ripping the bedroom door apart. It’s counting on Jungkook to slip up so he can take his place.

Its growing presences stirs up a panic in Jungkook. However, he’s nearly there already. He’s on the cusp of letting go. Jimin is such distraction too. His inviting warmth coaxing him there. This moment too special for him to care about anything else. It feels like more than just the first time they’re together skin-to-skin, there’s something that’s slotting into place – finding one more piece of a bigger puzzle.

Nngh… Jungkook – god – feels so good,” Jimin groans, his back lifting off the floorboards, head thrown to the side as Jungkook sets a violent, punishing pace. “H-Harder… please…,” he says, grabbing his nape to pull him down. “Alpha… alpha… I – I want – oh fuck – I want pups. I want our pups. Please, please, please.”  

Jungkook shudders, pausing to adjust himself before his hips piston into the omega. The sloppy, wet noises of frantic thrusts is joined by loud pants and the occasional cry from Jimin. He’s embarrassingly close to coming all at once, yet there’s a numbness to it all. He’s gradually slipping, his wolf ready to take his place. And there’s that panic again. He meets Jimin’s eyes once more, the omega straining up to peck his lips, his body bouncing along the floor. Watching Jimin unravel makes something dark curl tightly in his chest, spurring his thrusts to go deeper, harder, faster, fucking long moans out of the omega. Still, he feels like he’s not there at all.

“Knot me,” Jimin demands, using Jungkook’s arms as leverage to meet his harsh pounds.

Jungkook grunts, half paying attention. Any train of thought he has gets jumbled up, he can’t make sense of anything other than the way his wolf demands for Jimin, Jimin, Jimin. Almost ear-splitting.

He should’ve questioned the insanity behind it. He doesn’t.

“Jungkook,” Jimin says more firmly, eyes soft, mouth hanging open.

The round barely lasts more than five minutes, both too strung out, too overwhelmed by the new sensation. Jimin comes with a choked moan, his eyelids slamming close, his stomach wet and splattered with his own cum, pooling into his belly button. Jungkook on the other hand is hit with a bout of nausea he can’t shake. His world whirls out of control, his mind suddenly in a flurry of emotion and conflict. And amidst a particularly hard thrust, his eyes close, his head hangs forward and he’s plunged into darkness before he remerges into something frightening, as though his heart had stopped all together only to be resuscitated back with something missing.

The moment Jungkook’s aware that his knot is swelling, he pulls out. A split second of clarity is all he needs to stop himself from being locked inside. His wolf roars in agony, in fury, snapping its teeth and slashing its claws. Tearing into him from the inside out.

Jimin sobs in displeasure, collapsing back onto the floor ungracefully, his chest heaving violently.

The last bit of restraint he has snaps, and he immediately finds his temple slamming against the far wall, out of his control. His arms are numb, his legs are moving on their own. Blood roars in his head, his ear burning from the violent collision. He registers Jimin’s startled cry, his mate weakly scrambling up to reach out for him. He tries to tell him no, instead flings himself as far away from the omega as possible. He doesn’t trust himself, doesn’t know what’s gotten into his head. It doesn’t matter if he knows he won’t hurt his mate, he can’t take any chances.

“Jungkook… Jungkook!” Jimin calls out to him, alarmed. His eyes are wide, perplexed, hand outstretched in caution.

Jungkook groans, hands going to clutch his head. He cowers against the wall as the world pulses red, his skin crawling with the signs of a shift. He growls in confusion, flinching from Jimin’s touch. He can’t be here. If he shifts, he can’t be in the same room as Jimin, in case he hurts him. The bedroom won’t accommodate his size. He has to get out now.

“Jungkook, baby, talk to me,” Jimin pleads, on the verge of tears.

His post orgasm glow has yet to disappear, so Jungkook takes it all in now. He burns the image of Jimin’s beautiful face into memory before he heaves himself up onto his feet to scramble out of the room. Jimin cries out after him, left on the cold floor to stare at the empty doorway. Jungkook forbids himself from looking back, afraid that what he’ll see will be the end of him. He can imagine what he’s done to his mate, left him all alone. He howls in agony for it, more wolf than man, his feet stumbling to take him through the lodge, his sides slamming up against walls and counters as he attempts to escape. In his urgency, he believes he hears Namjoon and Seokjin yelling something at him, he can’t make out what.

Their voices are carried away with the wind, and Jungkook doesn’t care to chase after them. He knows when he’s gotten to the edge of the woods when the scent of pine and wet soil reaches his nose. His wolf commands him to turn back, return to their mate. Jungkook’s never disobeyed before, he’s embraced his alpha nature up to this point. However, the anger boiling in his gut tells him that the last place he should be is near Jimin. His mate can’t see this.

His freshest surviving memory is the dirt pounding under his paws.

 

Jimin gets intercepted by Namjoon on the way out of the lodge, ripped bedsheets tangling in his limping legs, a wince forcing its way passed his lips each time his feet greet the floor. He brushes the beta off, an instinctive growl stirring up in his throat. He’s hurt, he’s tired, but more than anything, he’s scared. He can’t shake the look he’d seen on Jungkook’s face. The torment, the confusion, the vivid fear pooling in those big, too innocent eyes. Jimin was too dazed and stupefied to decipher the snarls that had hissed through his teeth, broken words sizzling in the humid air, his heart plummeting to his stomach at the sight of his alpha so distressed. Jungkook had thrown himself against the wall, skittering back like a scared wild animal, his claws cleanly slicing into his temples and cheeks as he clutches his head.

Jimin’s whole world had shattered at the sight of him, so vulnerable and small in that moment. He doesn’t give himself a second to think about the rejection he’d felt at Jungkook’s withdrawal. How that had nearly torn him in two. His hurt and worry going hand in hand, jumbling into a web of disorientation and sorrow.

The creature nesting in his mind cries out louder, sullen. It tells him they’ve been rejected, and Jimin’s natural response is to deny.

Toes digging into the dirt, Jimin halts at the tree line. His feet dip into the prints of Jungkook’s paws – small and too human compared to the dent in the soil. Jimin can feel him better this way, the energy that Jungkook’s leaves behind is still fresh. But it doesn’t last for long at all. Their bond can’t reach that far – not strong enough to keep them linked that long. Like a quick slice to the throat, it leaves him gasping. His body missing something.

“Fuck!” Jimin hisses to himself, squinting into the dark depths of the woods, hands trembling at his sides. He can’t see a thing, can’t make out the shape of any of the trees at all. He won’t find Jungkook like this, not when his legs refuse to take him further, his limbs locking up in fright.

JUNGKOOK!” Jimin’s yell is cracked around the edges, tears springing to his eyes. His nose burns, cheeks turning ruddy from the cold. He’s shivering, though he’s not so sure it’s from the weather.

A piercing howl cuts through the chilly air as a response, the sound reaching high over the trees to the moon. Agonized. Jimin doesn’t have to see a thing to recognise it as Jungkook. His heart thuds against his ribs, and without thought, a whining keen leaves his throat. His stomach churns and knots into itself, he feels so wretched that keeping his arms around his tummy won’t be enough to hold him up for long. His mate is suffering, that’s all it takes for Jimin to get his feet moving again.

“Jimin, stop!” Namjoon cuts him off, skidding to block his entry. His arms are thrown wide to the side, his eyes frantic, and there’s sweat beading at his hairline.

“No.” Jimin side-steps him, getting about two steps in before Namjoon is yanking him back by the forearm. He stumbles, ankles wrapping around the ends of the sheet.

“You’re not thinking,” Namjoon says through clenched teeth. “Do you wanna get killed?!”

Jimin picks out the only words he can bother to hear. Fiery anger rapidly pouring into his bloodstream, throbbing through his veins. He can’t take it. He can’t take listening to Namjoon anymore. He’s had enough.

“Let me go!” Jimin barks up at Namjoon.

“Going after him won’t do anything! You’re just going to put yourself in danger,” Namjoon tries to mollify him. “The best thing to do right now is to let him ride this out. There are wolves on patrol around the outer perimeter of the territory, they’ll handle him. They won’t let anything happen to him.”

Jimin stares up at him in sheer disbelief. “Jungkook just went cra – just shifted and you’re telling me to just let him ride it out!? What if he gets hurt?!”

“Have a little more faith in him.”

Jimin shakes off his hand, shoulders squaring despite all the aches in his muscles. “You said he needs someone to keep him grounded. You told me he needed me. He needs me now, so let me go.”

“No. There’s nothing you can do for him right now. It’s just – look, these things happen,” Namjoon says.

“No! You caused this. If I’d known-”

“You would have done what?” Namjoon shakes his head.

Jimin shoves Namjoon roughly in the chest, his wildly foolish hostility getting the best of him. His chest hurts, and the only explanation for that is his mate is gone, and how he could be injured, could be putting someone else in danger. He can’t afford to stand around, hoping things will be okay, that’s not how this works. They were supposed to be in this together, no matter what happens.

Jungkook needs him, that’s all he knows.

“Why the fuck don’t any of you ever warn me about any of this?! Huh?! If I knew some of the shit you guys keep locked up, I would’ve done something!” Jimin snaps, voice raising with his fury.

Namjoon’s lips harden into a straight line and he looks away, shoulders stiff with reluctance. “I couldn’t.”

“Couldn’t?! You couldn’t what?! My mate is lost in the woods, rogue, because you couldn’t?!” Jimin exclaims.

Namjoon clenches his teeth. “I couldn’t – I can’t… tell you directly.”

“Why?! Why? What’s the big fucking deal?!” Jimin argues, pacing restlessly.

Shaking his head, he reaches for the omega again. “We can discuss this later. You can’t be out here. Some of the wolves haven’t returned. Some of them haven’t… come back,” he says.

He falters. “Yoongi?” he asks, the older omega’s disappearance during the Gathering coming to mind. The horror of the full moon had not been kind to any of them. Yoongi is dealing with two alphas, Jimin doesn’t know how that must feel.

“He’s fine. Hoseok and Taehyung – they’re fine. They’re with Seokjin right now,” Namjoon replies. “We have to go, okay? We can’t stay here.”

“They’re okay?” Jimin has to be sure.

Namjoon nods. “Yes, they’re fine. They’re a little banged up, but they’ll be fully healed by morning. They’ll be able to see us off.”

“What… are you talking about?” Jimin’s eyes narrow.

“Our trip is over. We have to go back to the metropolis.”

Jimin bristles. They’re leaving? Just like that? They’re abandoning the alphas? God, he hopes Namjoon isn’t seriously implying that they’re leaving before fixing this. The alphas still need them. For Namjoon to decide to leave right in the middle of a disaster is beyond cowardice, it’s morally wrong. Jungkook is lost somewhere, stumbling through trees without a way back home. No matter how tall and strong Jungkook may be, fear and insanity spares no one. Jimin rejects the very idea of leaving him out there. That is the one thing Jimin will never allow Jungkook to get used to. Being left behind – thinking Jimin doesn’t care.

They can stay a few more days. What’s the urgency?

“We’re not leaving them.” Jimin stubbornly grips the top of the sheets that’s knotted at his hip. “I’m not leaving Jungkook.”

Namjoon groans. For the first time, he looks frustrated, aggravated even. Jimin hasn’t seen him lose composure like this before, not so much that he would look downright mad at Jimin. In a way, it’s better. At least now he knows Namjoon is as effected by this as he is. Now he knows that the doctor is just as lost for words. It gives him satisfaction to know that there are some things that even Namjoon can’t explain.

“You can’t keep doing this, Namjoon. You’re going to have to start talking to me,” Jimin seethes, quieter now.

The older man gives him a pleading look. “Please, Jimin. Later. I’ll explain everything – just later. You have to get back inside.”

Jimin’s chest wells with discontent. There’s a violent jolt at his core, reminding him that Jungkook is gone, is lost to the pack and to him. He’s so frightened of what might become of his mate if he leaves. What if Jungkook comes back and he’s not there, waiting for him? Jimin can already see the disappointment in those big eyes. How would Jimin live with himself if he goes, even for just one day?

“Come on.” Namjoon takes his wrist.

Jimin turns his back, about to surrender, accept the arm his friend offers to take him back into the lodge when the hairs at the nape of his neck stand on edge, pulling taut in awareness. A bell chimes in his ear, and his first instinct is to look back. He thinks he’s imagining it. Blames it on his disoriented mind. But then the ringing comes again, gentle but with a nondescript tune, like the windchimes that hang above the doors on the Elder’s Den, twinkling with the shift of the wind. Jimin twists his head around to gaze back into the forest, his eyes narrowing as he peers through the trees.

“Jimin,” Namjoon coaxes him out of.

Seeing nothing, disappointment sinks low in his tummy. Jimin gives in, turns away from the trees once again and follows Namjoon back into the lodge, missing the red, sorrowful eyes that track his every step.

 

Seokjin brings him one of Jungkook’s shirts the following day.

He puts it up to his nose and tries to blink away his tears.

The tension runs high in the pack, some of the missing alphas having left behind some cracks in the community. Coming out after the full moon unscathed is rare. Jimin’s not the only one missing a mate either. Many of his fellow omegas are patiently waiting for their alphas to return. Jimin doesn’t want to know what’s happened to those alphas; the ones that have no one, that have no link back home. He was surprised to hear that many of the alphas in the pack are experiencing the same symptoms Jungkook had.

Unfortunately, that was all Namjoon could tell him before he was off planning for their trip back to the metropolis.

After watching the betas pack up their equipment, a yell just at the tip of his tongue, Jimin sneaks away to the edge of the woods to stand there, in the open, hoping to find some sign of Jungkook. Having gotten no sleep the previous night, Jimin slumps down at the bottom of one of the trees in exhaustion, stretching out his legs before him. No one bothers him, no one speaks to him. The omegas that wander by give him looks of empathy – offering him their condolences with their waning smiles. Their urge to comfort him is pungent, the scent coming off so strong Jimin folds up in on himself and buries his face into Jungkook’s plain white t-shirt. Hiding.

Hoseok comes by with JiHyun not too long into midday, looking worse for wear. The cheerful alpha has bag under his eyes, his hair uncombed, and some healing scratches on his hands, though Jimin doubts that it’s another wolf that had hurt him. The marks look too human. There are some on his forearms too, and along his exposed collar bones, going up to the red and purple splotches littered on his neck. Jimin doesn’t have to look to know that there are some on his back. His appearance like his own.

Although the last thing Jimin needs is to be around another alpha in fear that Jungkook will smell someone else on him later, Hoseok is a welcomed sight, the pup he has in his arms more so.

JiHyun watches him carefully, his large eyes and puffy cheeks red from crying. He’s in one of Jimin’s shirts, his long-sleeved stripped one that serves more of a dress for the pup. He’s dwarfed in it, swimming in stripes – in his older brother’s scent. He’s chewing on the sleeve nervously, his other hand clutching the front as he sits comfortably on Hoseok’s arm, his little legs swinging.

“Could use some company?” Hoseok smiles down at him.

Jimin’s lips wobble as he smiles back, hand coming up to cup one of JiHyun’s bare feet, feeling his tiny wiggling toes. “Please.”

Hoseok sits in front of him, cross legged with JiHyun in his lap. The pup leans back against him, eyes trained on Jimin, but making no move to crawl over to his brother. His button nose twitches every so often, picking up the differences in Jimin’s scent, how it has changed since he’s last seen him. Jimin almost wants to cry, sob, make the most wretched sounds he can, because his brother doesn’t recognise him now. JiHyun doesn’t know who he is, not by scent anyway. The pup doesn’t know what to do, can’t tell if he likes it.

“How’re you holding up?” Hoseok asks, his expression set in pure concern at the way Jimin curls around Jungkook’s shirt.

“I’m fine,” Jimin replies too quickly, wincing at how fake it tastes on his tongue. “H-How about you? I haven’t seen you since the Gathering.”

Hoseok chuckles. “I’m good! Getting better. Apart from a few scratches here and there, I’m…” he sighs contently. “I’m holding up just fine.”

Jimin smiles. “Good to hear. I was pretty worried about you guys.”

“We’re okay, I promise,” Hoseok grins. “What about you? Namjoon told us what happened. We’re worried about you too, you know.”

“I’m… I’m…”

“Angry? Sad?” Hoseok supplies with a small smile. “It’s okay to be. I would be too.”

“…Yeah.” The omega wipes his nose with the back of his hand. He can’t tell what he’s feeling really. He can be angry with Jungkook, but he also understands that the alpha was doing what he thought was best.

“I’m surprised you two moved so fast,” Hoseok confesses, hooking his chin over JiHyun’s head.

Jimin watches them longingly, too afraid to touch his brother in case he startles him. The pup is getting used to the new changes, sniffing under the collar of Jimin’s shirt to scenting the air. All Jimin wants is to tuck him into his neck, hold him as tightly as he can.

“It felt right,” Jimin says. They’re the same words he’d said to Namjoon, and no matter how many odd looks he gets, they will always ring true. “It was-”

“No need to explain.” Hoseok shakes his head. “I know the feeling,” he chuckles, rubbing the back of his neck, his fingers delicately tracing over something unseen, his wrist holding two other bites.

“It’s not complete,” Jimin says. Showing Hoseok the mark would be too much. Fresh out of a mating, Jimin has no desire to show any other alpha Jungkook’s claim. “I don’t know if we’re going too fast, or too slow or what. I don’t know.”

“See, wolves don’t have a habit of waiting. It’s instinct. You have the rest of your lives to be what you want, to make whatever future you want together. You have time. It’s not that deep, but at the same time it’s… deep,” Hoseok snorts.

The omega bobs his head sadly, eyes looking to the sky. It’s overcast, adding to Jimin’s dreary mood.

“He’ll come back,” Hoseok reassures. “Jungkook has always been the type to act first and think later. He’ll come back, there’s no way he won’t. He didn’t go through all that crap 2 weeks early to throw it all away now. He’s been waiting for you a long time.”

“Waiting for me…” Jimin mutters, smiling into the fabric of the shirt.

“We talked about soulmates a lot, you know. About you,” the alpha tells him, running his long fingers through JiHyun’s fluffy hair. “Before you came along and then the first time he met you. It was… amazing how quickly he accepted it. Actually, it was pretty concerning. I mean, the kid’s never been great at feelings. He couldn’t look me in the eyes when he said thank you for the first time. It’s that… Namjoon told us that Jungkook came from a long line of purebred alphas, the purest of the pure he says, and maybe that’s why Jungkook could tell. Hah! Lucky son of a bi – gun found you in a second while Taehyung and I had to wait three years just to bite Yoongi,” he laughs, clearly not all that exasperated by it at all.

Jimin chuckles weakly with him, his chest tightening in fondness. He likes hearing about Jungkook, likes knowing the bits about him Jungkook otherwise wouldn’t tell him. He finds hearing about the alphas’ lives before he entered generally fascinating. He’s never thought that far back. He knows nothing of how they lived before the experiment, it’s never occurred to him that they were as normal as he is. Or… as normal as one can be living in the West with luxuries at your fingertips.

“So, he’s gonna come back sooner or later.” Hoseok pats him on the knee.

“I know he will, I’m more confused about something else,” Jimin sighs, idly playing with one of JiHyun’s feet as he talks. He wants to coo, wants to nom on them like he used to, hear JiHyun squeal in laughter. He’s missed his brother so much, being this close to him is more than he can ask for.

“Oh?”

“Just… the way he left,” Jimin says. “It was like he couldn’t even control himself. He looked so scared and I didn’t know what to do. Have you ever seen anything like that? H-Have you or Tae ever…”

Hoseok shakes his head slowly. “Me and Tae? No. I mean, forced shifts are quite common. There’re triggers for most alphas. Sometimes it’s the full moon, sometimes – I don’t know, something else. Shifting is a tricky thing. We both got over it pretty quick – what happened at the Gathering, but since Jungkook went into a rut, that can mess you up in ways I haven’t even experienced yet. There are just some things you can’t control.”

“He still shouldn’t have run away from me,” Jimin argues.

“Right,” Hoseok says patiently. “Right, you’re right, he shouldn’t have, but I’m sure he just wanted to keep you safe. I know you probably think that Namjoon has all the answers, but the truth is, we’re learning as we go too.”

“I…” Jimin scrunches the shirt in his hands. “I just want him back.”

“And you will get him back.” Hoseok shuffles closer and plops JiHyun onto his lap. “Knowing Jungkook, he won’t stay out there for long.”

Jimin closes his arms around his brother, pulling him up to his chest. The pup’s scent acts as an immediate balm to his nerves, sedating him with the fragrance of wild flowers. JiHyun squirms, giving him a curious look as he wiggles to get close to his neck. Jimin holds still, letting the pup get a better footing, his long sleeves flopping over Jimin’s shoulder while he stands up on his thighs. He whimpers softly in wonder, sniffing along Jimin’s throat in seek of familiarity. He’s wary of the new scents, clearly recognising one as his brother and the other as Jungkook’s, but Jimin doesn’t know how much his brother really likes the alpha’s scent – if it’s different for the pup.

Jimin rubs his jaw over JiHyun’s soft hair, picking up hints of Hoseok and Yoongi. Once JiHyun settles in his arms, drawing his legs up for Jimin to cradle him properly, he stays at the crook of his neck, Jungkook’s shirt draped over them both, creating a cocoon of scents. Jimin’s eyes close slowly as he rests one hand on JiHyun’s back to keep him near.

“Jiminie,” JiHyun cries, small and soft.

“I’m here.”

He can’t keep doing this to JiHyun. He can’t continue to disappear for days at a time without telling his brother where he is. Regardless of how much JiHyun has gotten used to it now, he’s supposed to be the responsible one. Jimin’s his only carer, his brother, his guardian. He has a job to do. Moping around won’t bring Jungkook back any sooner. JiHyun needs him, he’s not going to disappoint him again.

 

Seokjin says they can stay in one of the other rooms for the night. Rather than sleep, he lays awake to listen to the wind rattle through the lodge, whistling and howling. JiHyun has already dozed off on the other side of the bed. The pup on his back, with his hands balled up into tiny fists on each other of his head. Jimin reaches over now and then to hike up the blankets, his fingers caressing over his brother’s chubby cheeks.

The sheets are cold on his side, almost unwelcoming. He’s still shaking off the last fragments of Jungkook’s rut from his mind, though the memory of his alpha’s warm chest at his back survives. He’s been so spoiled, having Jungkook around, constantly at his side, fulfilling the needs of that pesky omega side of him that whines for the alpha’s undivided attention.

Wearing Jungkook shirt to bed makes it easier. He whimpers into the collar, hoping to catch a whiff of Jungkook’s rich scent on the fabric but it’s gone stale. His belly clenches in loneliness, his body curling up, arms holding his middle, he can’t sleep without Jungkook. The only appropriate substitute are the pillows – lined up over his back, Jimin folds his legs up on his side to fool his body long enough so that he can fall into a listless sleep. The absence of solid muscle and hot skin tears a doleful whine from his throat. He’s grown too used to being in Jungkook’s arms when he sleeps. There isn’t a place in the world that compares. No feeling has come close.

He half-expects himself to crumble in shame, yet the feeling never arises. The rejection continues to sting long after Jimin comes to accept that it wasn’t him that had done Jungkook wrong. He’s entertained the thought that maybe asking for pups was too forward for their first time – for their first mating. They’re both too young, their bond too fresh, and perhaps that had been what had scared Jungkook off. Or… maybe it was too appealing. Whatever it was, Jimin is positive Jungkook wouldn’t ‘reject’ him without good reason.

A part of him isn’t surprised by his lack of concern. He’s taking it in stride. There are more pressing matters that deserve his attention. How he feels about Jungkook should be unquestionable. That’s a bridge he’s already crossed. His one fear now is that Jungkook won’t come back to him. God forbid, if his alpha doesn’t return the next morning, Jimin will personally go hunt Jungkook down himself and drag him back by his ankles. Running away from Jimin is the worst thing Jungkook can do for himself.

 

The sun hasn’t properly risen when Jimin shoots up in bed. His limbs heavy, his mind foggy, his teeth too big for his mouth, his fingers too numb, he gets up dizzy and sick to his stomach. Everything feels wrong and out of place. Absently, his mind tells him Jungkook should be here, beside him. The fact that he’s not, the fact that JiHyun is also missing, makes getting out of bed that bit more harrowing. He notes that whatever had disturbed him from his sleep was internal; something that had little to no courtesy for his well-being, something that is still emotionally raw.

“Jimin? Are you awake?”

It takes a bit for Jimin to recognise the voice belonging to Seokjin. The beta is on the other side of the door, his brain provides helpfully.

“Y-Yeah, I’m up,” Jimin replies, throat scratchy and dry.

Not fully present, he waddles to the door. His lower back screams in protest at the abrupt movement, his knees immediately buckling in agony. Tripping his way over, he blinks rapidly in the dawn of the new morning, too scared to open his eyelids all the way due to the dull pulsing ache at the back of his eyes.

“You look terrible,” Seokjin says once he sees him.

JiHyun is with him, held in the beta’s arms, chewing on a piece of toast, eyes closed in delight. He’s dressed in one of Jungkook’s sweaters this time. Jimin’s wants to scoop him up and hold him but thinks better of it when he feels how shaky his limbs are.

“Whoa. Did you get any sleep last night?”

Jimin doesn’t dignify that with a response, feeling his head pound as the lodge itself vibrates with a strange new energy. His skin tingles in tension, the gradual scent of anxiety and misery weaving through every crack in the walls making his eyes tear up. The smell is putrid and sour, but he knows why it’s there. He knows to whom it belongs to. There’s a twinge of sweetness beneath it, a sort of yearning, a call that is solely directed at him.

“Jungkook.”

Seokjin goes rigid, his gasp choking off at the stare Jimin pins him with. He licks his lips anxiously then answers, “…h-he’s in the basement.”

Jimin doesn’t find it in him to wonder why his friend looks so scared. It’s not wrath that Jimin feels, but desperation. He’ll question it later.

Feet moving without a clear plan, Jimin side-steps passed Seokjin to get to the basement. Already he can hear muffled murmurs of conversation from below the floorboards, recognising Namjoon’s deep voice seeping through the gaps. He can hear chains rattling against concrete followed by a thud of a heavy body, and he assumes the worst.

The basements door isn’t far, passed his own bedroom, at the very end of the hallway. He’d assumed it was a bathroom at first, but after some exploring, he’d discovered that there was nothing more than another bedroom. A simple one, with a twin sized bed pushed to the corner and a few tables and chairs to make it appear somewhat homey. Jimin wouldn’t call it cosy, in fact he would call it a prison. The place is unsettlingly bare, with no other source of light than a singular faulty bulb hanging poorly from the ceiling to cast weak shadows along the walls. To see Jungkook in there, tucked into one of the corners like a captured animal, makes Jimin dig his nails into his palms.

The scent of cocoa powder, dirt, leaves, and overall smell of earth thrives in the room, hot, humid and breath-taking, hitting him all at once.

Jungkook’s in his furs, stretched out over one corner of the room with his large head resting upon his paws. Namjoon stands a few paces from him, arms crossed as he observes Jungkook’s languid form. As Jimin is hobbling down the stairs, both turn their attention to him, quiet apprehension settling over the room. Jimin has eyes only for Jungkook, his mate’s red gaze unnervingly steady when they hold contact. The omega’s body warms with every step, a pleasant shiver crawling along his arms.

The basement is dark with the lack of natural sunlight, so much so that Jungkook’s black fur blends into the shadows, as if he can sink right in and leave Jimin standing in his lonesome. His eyes, blinking flashes of crimson, being the one thing keeping him tethered to the real world – to Jimin, for Jimin.

Now mated, seeing Jungkook in his furs draws out a visceral, all-consuming… feeling from him. He can’t explain what it is for the life of him. He doesn’t know what it is. It’s there, it’s the way Jungkook looks at him in return – it makes him want to yell to the sky, to tear at his own flesh.

Jimin wants to reach out to him. What stops him is the lingering disappointment and anger he feels for Jungkook’s previous actions.

“Jimin…” Namjoon calls his name, his faint tone almost nervous.

“Namjoon, can you give us some privacy,” Jimin says, gripping the railing at the bottom of the steps tighter before he adds, “please?”

The reluctance in Namjoon’s loaded steps take him mid-way up the stairs. He pauses and throws a look over his shoulder at Jungkook. Jimin’s stare is unwavering on the alpha’s face, the wolf’s eyes flickering between Namjoon and Jimin, as though pleading with the doctor to not leave him alone with his furious mate.

Namjoon knows better than to oppose, and he makes the right choice by hightailing it out of the basement.

After the sound click of the door closing, Jungkook rises cautiously onto his paws. The steel cuffs around his ankles jingling with the move, he lifts heavily, as though all that strength and fur, the regret and longing was physically weighing him down. Jimin hasn’t been this close to Jungkook’s wolf for quite some time. The need to feel his mate’s body under his fingers, to check that he’s real and alive, is so devastating that Jimin takes four mindless steps towards Jungkook before he forces his legs to stop. Jungkook is holding his breath, Jimin can tell. He’s doing the same.

“They chained you up,” Jimin whispers, his words more for himself than for Jungkook.

The alpha whimpers in affirmation, sitting back on his hind legs, his head hanging low in a rare show of submission. A remorseful pup – a stark contrast to his towering body. He’s bigger than Jimin remembers, bigger than he would be in his human skin, even while standing. Though perhaps it’s the basement’s restrictive size that makes it so. Jimin doesn’t bother comparing their heights, sparing his own pride from the blows it’ll take. Instead, he glances to the large leather belt strapped around Jungkook’s middle, blending into his fur. The alpha doesn’t strain, and he’s breathing just fine. That’s one thing Jimin doesn’t have to worry over. It’s the cuffs around his limbs that have him chewing on his lip.

How did Namjoon ever get Jungkook to the basement without Jimin’s knowledge? They probably made quite the ruckus on the way in.

“Jungkook,” Jimin calls, firmer this time.

The wolf’s shoulders hunch, shifting his weight from one paw to the other, still unwilling to meet Jimin’s eyes again. No more than a scolded child. However, he does let Jimin know that he’s listening, keening softly. Jimin says softly, but with Jungkook being a wolf that size, it’s bound to be difficult to accomplish anything resembling tenderness. And yet…

“Jungkook,” Jimin sighs, his hands coming to perch on his hips, “look at me.”

The alpha hesitates, picking up his head to finally, finally look Jimin in the eye.

“You ran away from me.” Jimin watches as Jungkook flinches at that, going back and forth between slightly skittering backwards against the wall to straining against the chains to get closer to Jimin. Like he’s trying to make up his mind on whether he wants to cower or be comforted. Jimin could reach for him so easily, wrap his arms around his neck and pet his head, whisper sweet nothings into his jaw, let his words seep into Jungkook’s skin, to tangle in his fur.

He doesn’t, because he’s still hurt.

“Mates don’t do that to each other,” Jimin sniffs, his nails dipping into the skin of his hips. “You shouldn’t have run from me. You don’t get to make those kinds of decisions alone. Scared or not, shifting or not, you don’t ever run away from me.”

Jungkook whines unhappily, protesting, his ears flattening atop his head. Jimin can hear it in his tone, how Jungkook is crying, how much he wants to say that he was doing it to protect Jimin. But the omega doesn’t understand. They were supposed to be together on this. Jimin would risk a limb for Jungkook, which is a far cry to what he would’ve risked at the start. Jungkook would do the same. No doubt his alpha would run through a minefield if Jimin was on the other side. Perhaps it’s the mating talking, but Jimin prefers to think that he would do it out of his own freewill.

“I could’ve helped. I could’ve called for help. We could’ve done something for you,” Jimin scolds, voice cracking at the last minute, his emotions spilling forth.

They are mates, they are a unit, a team. Jungkook doesn’t get to decide to leave him behind like that. Not anymore.

“You can’t just make choices like that alone,” Jimin says, hands shaking now, bottom lip trembling. “We’re – We’re meant to work as a team. We work together. I’m – You and me – We promised. Wherever you go, I’ll follow. But I can’t if you won’t let me. We… We… are supposed to be in this together.”

Jungkook whimpers louder. Bolder in the face of his hysterical mate, he stretches out to gently brush the tip of his nose along Jimin’s jaw. His scent now right under Jimin’s nose, he feels no guilt in taking a deep lungful of it, allowing Jungkook’s familiar musk to mingle in his blood, sink into his very bones. He’s been in no contact with anyone else but Namjoon, and the omega in him purrs that his alpha had the sense to not let any other omega touch him. That doesn’t mean his anger has been distinguished, he still stands stubborn and adamant for a while, hands clenched while Jungkook nuzzles the side of his face, pressing his wet nose into his cheek. Jungkook is warm, his fur soft, and his touch just light enough that it causes something inside Jimin to break.

“Don’t… Don’t ever do that again. Don’t ever leave me, worrying whether or not you would come back.” Jimin caves in, raising his arms to hug Jungkook’s giant head. He grips the hairs at the alpha’s temples, feeling his snout dig into his stomach. It’s uncomfortable, but Jimin is too exhausted to think or do anything about it. “It isn’t fair. Fuck, I was so worried. I – I…”

Jimin stops talking, too overcome with emotion. Jungkook makes an inquisitive noise, but all Jimin can manage is to step closer to hide his face in his mate’s furry neck.

“I couldn’t feel you, or scent you,” Jimin sniffles. The words aren’t what he intended. They leave him too easily. “You were gone so quick, it hurt. I didn’t know what to do – I – I tried to go after you but I couldn’t. I couldn’t feel you anymore.”

One day. Jungkook had been gone a whole twenty-four hours, and Jimin had felt utterly hollow. That scares him, knowing the kind of influence Jungkook’s absence has on his body. His relief, however, overshadows that fear. Jungkook is safe, he’s back and sane, for the most part. As far as he can see, Jungkook is alright, no harm has been done to him physically, though he isn’t so sure about his emotional well-being.

“Please don’t ever do that again,” Jimin repeats, pulling back to cup the wolf’s jaw, bringing him down until they’re eye-level. “We can help you here. If there’s something wrong, if you’re not feeling okay, we’re here. Namjoon is here, he can help.”

Jungkook shakes his head, blinking slowly. A sound rumbles from deep within his chest, and not for the first time, Jimin realises how huge Jungkook is compared to himself. Even the chains around him are large to accommodate the size, and just watching Jungkook move and breathe is otherworldly.  He has enough power in his jaw alone to snap Jimin right in half. He can disagree, be the alpha that he’s supposed to be, but he doesn’t. He lets Jimin talk, and that makes the omega soften a little.

“…Are you okay?” he asks, which is the first thing he should’ve said. “You’re not hurt, right? Should I unlock the chains?”

Jungkook huffs, shaking his head again. He brings his head down to press his forehead to Jimin’s, big eyes blinking innocently. The omega can’t resist smiling, his fingers stroking through the thick patches of fur at the sides of Jungkook’s head. The bond loosely snaps back into place, his omega is glad to have their alpha back, happy to see him unharmed.

“Rut gone?”

Jungkook bobs his head, rolling his eyes.

Jimin blushes. Well, that settles that then.

“You better not try anything like that again.” Jimin sinks to his knees, bringing Jungkook down with him. “I wanted to go look for you. I even yelled at Namjoon, which I still think he deserves. But the next time you so much as think about it, I’m going after you – gonna pull you back by the ears.”

Jungkook grumbles in agreement. Jimin can already see the exasperation on his face if he were human. This doesn’t mean much without an actual promise, however, Jimin will take what he can for now. He doesn’t want to waste any more time arguing. Namjoon had given him one more day to wait for Jungkook. With Jungkook back, there’ll be nothing else for them to do but to return to the metropolis for a while. The one detail that’s keeping him from objecting is that they’ll be returning within a few weeks’ time.

“Now that you’re safe,” Jimin begins, “I can start packing.”

Jungkook cocks his head.

The omega smiles, stretching up to kiss Jungkook on the forehead, soft lips meeting fur. “Our two-week visit is over. Though I feel like I spent most of it being in heat or helping you with your rut. I guess I’ll just have to learn more about the pack next time,” he says.

The alpha’s eyes narrow, not fully understanding what Jimin is saying.

With earth and grass still under his paws, Jungkook hasn’t quite shaken off the wilderness. For whatever reason, he can’t process those words. What’s happening? He’s back, isn’t he? Everything should be fine. He’s here now, so where is Jimin going? His mate can’t leave, he can’t leave him.

“I’ll be back,” Jimin is quick to reassure. “I just have a few things to take care of back in the West. Plus, Namjoon has to test those blood samples you gave him. We have to make sure you’re okay,” he explains, absently caressing Jungkook’s ears, smoothing down the hairs on the top of his head.

If a wolf can look displeased, Jungkook’s expression is the closest to it. Jimin can’t tell what’s bothering him. Jungkook knows that he’s coming back, that he won’t be gone for long. They’ve talked about this, Jimin has told him more than once that he’s going to stay with the pack. Now, he’s shaking his head, looking every bit the hot-tempered wolf as he curls one leg around Jimin, forcing him into the furs at his chest. The omega grunts, throwing his hands out to cushion the fall, his knees scraping along the floor.

“J-Jungkook, stop,” Jimin chuckles anxiously, leaning back, however despite how many attempts he makes at getting up on his feet, Jungkook tugs him back down, gradually putting more of his weight on Jimin’s legs, preventing him from inching away. His heart picks up in apprehension as he grabs a fistful of Jungkook’s fur and tries sliding himself out from under his paws. He gets about half-way when Jungkook growls at him, and it’s the sharpest, most rageful sound the alpha has made at him. Jimin can’t do anything but stare – aghast – his eyes wide. His every muscle is going taut in dread, his stomach sinking to the floor.

“Jungkook… please,” he whispers.

The alpha refuses to move, caging Jimin in with powerful legs.

“Baby, I have to go.”

Instantly, Jimin regrets those words. They only make Jungkook grow more restless.

“Jungkook, I promised you that I would stay, and I will. Right now, though, I have to go take care of things back home. It’ll only be a few weeks. Not long at all, okay?” he soothes, trailing his hand up to his mate’s jaw again, hoping it’ll calm him.

Jungkook snaps his teeth lightly, disagreeing, his growls resonating from his chest, the vibrations travelling all the way up Jimin’s arms and down his spine. The omega flinches back, which serves to add to Jungkook’s agitation.

Now he has more reason to be scared, but he musters up the courage to speak anyway, “Please, Jungkookie…”   

To his surprise, Jungkook does release him, though Jimin doesn’t understand why until he sees the wolf’s back bow unnaturally, his fur receding to make way for tan skin. Jimin reels back, giving Jungkook space for his limbs to twist and shorten, joints creaking and snapping. The alpha’s breathing is loud and heaving as his legs straighten out and his claws retreat, leaving bloody, chipped fingernails. It wasn’t a pretty sight the first time Jimin had witnessed it, and it’s less so now. Being just a couple of steps away from it has Jimin feeling his own aches, sensing that it would be all too easy for him to bend and break if he wants to try.

Jungkook spends a moment catching his breath, the smell of hurt, anger, and most of all rejection rolling off his back in warm steam to burn itself into Jimin’s nose. A minute passes with silence, Jimin holding his breath, well aware that his heart may be beating louder than anything in the room. He watches, there’s nothing for him to do, Jungkook isn’t moving. He can’t see a thing with the alpha’s head bowed. He won’t know what will happen if he speaks. Jungkook isn’t himself. One wrong move from Jimin and he…

He realises, that it doesn’t matter how many of them he meets, alphas continue to be one of his biggest childhood nightmares. Jungkook’s existence should be more to him than that, and yet.  

“Jungkook…” he calls in concern.

Jungkook shows no reaction, crouching on one knee, his shoulders rising and falling with every breath. Jimin is too afraid to touch him, in case he disturbs some sort of after shift ritual. It’s surreal enough just to be this close to Jungkook, the chains holding him when he was still in his furs now too big for him. He can slip right out, and fuck, Jimin can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“You’re,” Jungkook speaks between pants, “leaving…”

Jimin eventually meets his gaze, throat closing up at the frenzied, barely-contained hysteria behind Jungkook’s eyes. The look sears through him, bringing the temperature in the room up until Jimin feels a bead of sweat slide from his nape, down his back. In an instant, Jungkook’s nostrils flare at the scent of his mate’s nervousness, the sweet perfume buried beneath bitter fear. Jimin swallows audibly, taking in a breath of cocoa powder and earthy musk, the two scents he’s grown to love so dearly that are now tearing up his insides. Jungkook looks furious, as though leaving is the worst thing in the world – as though Jimin is breaking his promise.  

Just as he’s opening his mouth to speak again, Jungkook lunges forward without warning, hands clawing at the air, trying to grab at Jimin before the omega yelps and falls back, landing on his ass, his tailbone connecting with concrete. Jungkook tries again, scratching at the floor, snarls and growls ripping its way passed his teeth, one of his ankles trapped in one of the cuffs, preventing him from getting any closer. Jimin is gasping, shell-shocked, and disturbed that his mate would lash out at him. His heart shatters, seeing Jungkook desperately try to yank his ankle from the cuff, eyes crazed to the point where Jimin can’t recognise him. It’s a lost cause, his ankle would turn black and blue before he has it free, yet Jungkook doesn’t seem like he gives much of a damn about that as he pulls harder, causing the chains to rattle and bang against the wall behind him.

“J-Jungkook… Jungkook, stop! You’re going to hurt yourself!” Jimin screams in distress.

The alpha whips around, lurching towards him to lay stretched out along the floor, his lips held back in a sneer. “YOU’RE NOT LEAVING ME!”

Jimin’s hands shoot up to his ears, his body jolting and quacking at the yell. Tears roll down his cheeks without his notice, his feet kicking to propel himself backwards, away from his mate. Something is wrong, something is so, so wrong. Jungkook isn’t himself. Jungkook isn’t like this. Jungkook… Jungkook didn’t ask for this, something must have gone wrong. Something must have made him this way. Jimin can’t think, can’t speak, he doesn’t know what to do, he doesn’t know!

The omega digs the heels of his palms to his eyes, wiping away unshed tears. He slowly gets up, going on his hands and knees first to move onto his feet. Jungkook watches him with bated breath, twitching with every sound. Jimin makes to rush over and help, but the alpha chases after him, blindly grabbing at him, not realising that Jimin is trying to help, trying to free him. By the look on his face, the omega isn’t sure if he wants to anymore.

After a few more failed attempts, Jimin retreats again.

“O-Okay, okay, I-I’ll stay, just please stop pulling! Jungkook, I don’t want you to hurt yourself!”

He doesn’t listen.

“Get back here. Jimin! Don’t you dare leave,” Jungkook demands, grunting in frustration that his hands can’t reach that far. He paws at the floor by Jimin’s feet, leg shaking as it incessantly tugs at the cuff on him. His palms are scraped bloody, his chest, stomach and knees bruising from how much he’s throwing himself around. “Jimin! Get. Back. Here. Now!

“Oh god… Oh god…” Jimin mutters, his mind bellowing incoherently, he can’t make out a word. He wants to go to his mate, tell him he’s not going anywhere, however he also wants to make a run for it, escape the basement while he can, while he’s sane enough to use his legs. He knows that the longer he stays, the more of his rationality is peeled away.

“Jiminie…” Jungkook calls again. “Jiminie… please, don’t go. Don’t go. Stay. Stay with me. Please. Please. Stay with me. DON’T GO!

Jimin presses his palm to his mouth as he sobs. He can’t do anything for him, he can’t do anything at all.

“Jimin, Jimin… mate… mate, please,” Jungkook begs, holding his hand out to him, whimpering.

Their bond ripples with a despair, disliking the distance. If Jimin concentrates, he can sense Jungkook’s insanity beneath it all, intangible but fierce.

Despite his better judgement, Jimin reaches for him.

Thankfully, before Jimin’s fingers can graze Jungkook’s palm, the basement door slams open, and two sets of frantic footsteps come barrelling down the stairs. Jimin can’t hear a thing above the roaring in his ears, his mind lost in the deep redness of Jungkook’s irises. He vaguely feels someone lifting him under the armpits a moment later, dragging him to the stairs as the other, Gong Yoo he believes, does his best to calm the raging alpha down. He barely has time to process, to tell them no. He can’t leave Jungkook, not right now, but he knows that if he stays here, he’ll never leave. He goes without a word, his feet trailing along the floor, his fingers numb.

The Elder blocks most of his view of Jungkook, his stance wide as he regards the younger alpha. They exchange a few growls, one-upping each other until it is Gong Yoo that asserts his more dominant nature over the room, causing Jungkook to whine and whimper, to cower back, lowering his head in submission.

“Go! Now!” the Elder yells.

Jimin should be there, comforting his mate, instead he goes lax in Namjoon’s arms, allowing his friend to carry him up the steps, unable to take his eyes away from Jungkook, who roars after him, a sound that’s thunderous and mournful – a sound that shakes every bone in the omega’s body till he feels physically ill.

 

They make a stop at a small town named, Ukiyo, about three hours after their departure from the pack. The same town they’d visited two weeks ago. Namjoon tells him that it’s a tiny community caught between the pack and the metropolis, a mix of both lifestyles. The place holds no more than a hundred people, and it’s not as quiet as Jimin had initially assumed. Turns out that it’s rare for the streets to be deserted around here, especially the main square in the centre of town where a market has been set up, brimming with people wandering, shopping for their variety of fruits and vegetables. That’s where Namjoon and Jimin make a stop to rest.

Seokjin, Yoongi, and JiHyun follow not far behind, all looking as haggard as Jimin feels.

They haven’t discussed the incident back in the lodge, in too much of a hurry to get out, to get away. And it’s not as though Jimin had put up too much of a fight when Namjoon makes him hike to the edge of the woods to guide him into a car. By then, Seokjin, Yoongi, and JiHyun had already taken off down the road, having prepared for this moment long before Jimin had regained his bearings. The ride to town had gone with minimal talk, Jimin shaking for the whole three hours, curled up in the backseat, breaking out in a cold sweat as he feels the bond stretch itself thin, until it finally snaps half a mile out of the pack. Namjoon had listened to him sniffle for the whole three hours, nausea threatening to make him throw up all his insides in longing.

They decide on a diner. A retro themed, charming little place that apparently ‘served the best burgers in town’. Namjoon has to talk him out of the car, gentle words that give his legs enough strength for him to gather his broken pieces from the car seat and stand up all on his own. Seokjin is the one who herds him inside, keeping a close eye on him as he takes JiHyun from Yoongi to cradle him to his shoulder, soaking up the pup’s scent.

The diner is warm and inviting, the waitresses behind the counter grinning at them as they enter, though Jimin can’t recall how he’d ended up sitting in a booth so fast, JiHyun already out of his arms and in a child seat at the end of the table. Seokjin is beside him, talking quietly in his ear, his voice muffled. Jimin can’t decipher anything other than the keening omega in his head. He can see Seokjin’s lips moving; the way his eyebrows are furrowed tell him his friend is concerned. It goes on like that for god knows how long. In a blink of an eye, Jimin is watching a plate of food and a drink being set before him by an unknown hand. He doesn’t look up, already transfixed on the fizz in his glass of soda, the straw in his beverage bobbing lightly. He follows it with his eyes. Up and down, up and down, breathing in tandem with it – chest rising, falling, working to get a grip on himself.

The world comes back to him at the sound of JiHyun’s cry. As if he’d been somewhere else since he’d left the basement, reality returns in a whoosh; the noise of knives and forks on plates grating his ears, the laughter in the other booth obnoxious, the chattering from the locals outside the window just to his left, Seokjin’s voice as he coos at the pup, whose cries drag him right back to the surface.

His vision refocuses, eyes wildly searching for the source of the sobs.

JiHyun is thrashing in his highchair, banging his fists unhappily. Fat tears are rolling down his cheeks, his nose scrunching up and his mouth is opened wide to gasp for breath. His whole face is flushed in distraught, and without a second thought, Jimin’s body dives forward to pick him up from the chair, carefully hovering over Seokjin before he settles down into his seat again, rocking the pup in his arms.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m here,” Jimin whispers, hastily wiping away his own tears as JiHyun calms down to sniffles, hand clutching the front of his older brother’s shirt. “I’m here, JiHyunie. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

The others are kind to give him some time to compose himself. It gets better, with JiHyun so close, acting as a salve for his raw wounds.

He manages to finish his burger in an hour, his brother helping him with the fries. The others converse among themselves, involving him if they need to. Jimin appreciates it, though he doesn’t say it. He listens, distinctly aware of what conversation they’re having but his focus is on JiHyun and the ache in his own chest. His head is light, the screaming from before now silent. The emptiness in his core might be the worst thing about it.

“-min,” Namjoon’s voice is heard from the other side of the booth. “Jimin.”

The omega looks up, scanning his friends’ faces, blinking rapidly in surprise. “Yeah?”

Namjoon tilts his head in worry. “We wanted to know if you’re alright.”

“I’m okay,” Jimin answers softly, tightening his arms around JiHyun to make sure the pup doesn’t slide off his lap.

“You wanna try another lie?” Yoongi regards him blankly, even beneath his face mask he looks just about done. This is the first time Jimin’s properly looked at him in perhaps five days. There’s a subtle change in Yoongi, apart from his now mated scent, his entire demeanour is more relaxed, sated. It’s the new light in his eyes that stands out the most, how there’s silver lining the edges of his irises. Marked, mated, claimed. No doubt the bond between him and his two alphas can withstand the distance. Jimin is envious of that. 

“I’m okay. Just… something to get used to,” Jimin replies, combing his hair back from his forehead.

Yoongi doesn’t push, turning his attention to Namjoon. “Keys,” he says, holding his hand out.

Namjoon looks confused, but hands the car keys over anyway. Without further explanation, Yoongi switches their keys and stands from the booth, gesturing for Jimin to follow him out of the diner. Once realising that Jimin isn’t following, he stops at the exit, raising an eyebrow at the table.

“Come on. You’re riding with me the rest of the way. Leave JiHyun with the betas,” he says, pulling the door open to step outside.

Jimin frowns, doing as he’s told anyway. It’s difficult to convince JiHyun he won’t be gone forever, the pup already crying again, clinging to his shoulders, wailing at the top of his lungs. He insistently keeps his head buried in Jimin’s neck, soaking his brother’s skin with tears. When Seokjin tries to take him, JiHyun cries even louder, which causes a disturbance in the diner. The waitresses in the kitchen pop their heads out in worry, scents of concerned omegas rising steadily.

“Just a few hours, JiHyun,” Jimin croons, cupping his brother’s head. “You’ll have so much fun with Seokjin and Namjoon, yeah? I won’t be far, and you can always ring-” he pauses, glancing down at his bare wrists. He left his communicator back at the lodge.

“It’s alright. The car has a video call system,” Namjoon says, cautiously pulling JiHyun from the omega’s chest. “We’ll ring if something comes up. You might not wanna keep Yoongi waiting, or he’s gonna leave without you. Trust me, he’s done it before.”

Jimin drops a kiss to JiHyun forehead, then shuffles out of the diner, crossing his arms over his chest to keep Jungkook’s t-shirt from slipping off his shoulders. He regrets not throwing on a jacket.

The outside is chilly, causing Jimin to mourn the diner’s warmth and the smell of greasy food. The streets are still busy, some of the venders in the market smiling over at him when they see him glancing at their homegrown vegetables and handmade pies and jars of jam. Everything is so fresh and vibrant like the first time he was here, he wants to take a picture. He wants to capture every single detail in case he never gets to come back. However, without his watch he’ll have to settle for ingraining it to memory.

He would like to come back here someday.

“I’m gonna leave without you!” Yoongi calls from the car.

Quickly hopping into the passenger seat, Jimin gets comfortable in the quietness. Yoongi doesn’t talk to him, preferring to tap his fingers idly on the steering wheel, and Jimin can’t think of a nice way to broach the subject of his concerns.

“Are you – I mean – I… um…” Jimin stutters, not sure how he should ask.

“I’m alright,” Yoongi answers, giving him an amused look. “Just need a minute.”

Jimin plays with his fingers, doing his hardest not to allow the awkwardness to get to him. There’s so much he would like to ask Yoongi. If he’s okay. If he’s in trouble. If he’s handling being away from his alphas as badly as Jimin is.

“What? Are you gonna ask me something or not?” Yoongi raises his eyebrows.

“I – er – I don’t wanna pry,” he stammers. “I just wanted to know if you were okay.”

“What – you think I can’t handle being mated to two alphas? I’ve dealt with way worse than them,” the older snorts loudly.

Jimin nods slowly, staring at his hands in his lap. “Did you want it?”

“They weren’t the only ones waiting for three years.”

They sit in a lull for a bit, enjoying the sunlight streaming through the windows, warming their arms. Jimin glances over at the older omega every few minutes. He feels guilty for having forced the man to comfort him. However, out of any one in the group, it’s Yoongi who would understand his plight the most. He’s not the easiest person to talk to, and frankly Jimin is slightly scared of him, but he’s been helpfully blunt when he needs it.

“You can cry if you want,” Yoongi says as he’s starting up the car.

“What?” Jimin blinks.

“Listen, being tough all the time gets tiring. If you wanna cry, cry. Be sad about your mate. Complain about it. Just don’t go spewing bullshit about how you’re fine when it’s just us around.” Yoongi pulls off from the curb and starts off down the street to join the main road once again. “Who’re trying to fool?” 

“Yoongi…” Jimin shakes his head in confusion.

“We have four hours until we reach the metropolis, and there’s gonna be a load of fuckery waiting for us there, so get it out now,” Yoongi grumbles. “Get your shit together before we arrive because, kid, I swear to you, you can’t be curling up and crying about your alpha in the city. Do it now while you got the chance.”

Jimin’s lips harden in surprise. “What do you mean? What is happening in the metropolis?”

“You think people are gonna like knowing that there are alphas in the world now?” Yoongi snorts. “You ever heard of mob mentality? One dickhead gets angry and the rest follow. We’re keeping these things under wraps for a reason. If you start talking about alphas in the middle of the streets in the West, they’re gonna ding you in the head with those mini aircrafts.”

“You didn’t do such a good job of keeping it under wraps. You sent job advertisements for caretakers,” Jimin says, cocking his head, “and I thought we were supposed to be reintroducing the alphas into society? Not keep them a secret.”

“You’re better off talking to Namjoon about that,” Yoongi sighs, shaking his bangs from his eyes.

“To be honest, I feel like I’d get better answers from you,” Jimin admits. He pulls his legs up onto the seat and hugs them to his chest.

“Just keep your mouth shut when we get back,” the older says, glancing at him pointedly. “The experiment is a whole lot more complicated than you might think. Yeah, the government wants to integrate the alphas back into our world, but not into the metropolis. Like we told you, we don’t want the alphas getting corrupted by the city life. We want them free, and it’ll take a lot of work, but we want everyone else in the metropolis to be a part of that too.”

“…You want everyone to abandon the dome?” Jimin gapes.

“That’s the plan,” Yoongi shrugs.

Jimin considers that. Of course, Namjoon has spoken about the equality being in packs will bring, about freedom, and no separation from the rich and poor. Admittedly, it sounds far better now than it did before. Then again, the people of the West would not be so willing to throw away all their earthly possessions to go live in the wilderness. It’s hard to break away from a lifestyle that is considered the norm for hundreds of years. Jimin knows he’s the same. He isn’t all that savvy to all the things the pack has to offer, but he’s trying. He has JiHyun and Jungkook there, he has his friends, he isn’t alone.

“Will it work?” Jimin asks.

Yoongi shrugs again before replying, “Who knows? Both Namjoon and President Kim were pretty confident in it.”

“…President Kim… He’s still alive?” Jimin looks up at the older omega in shock.

“What? Of course he is! Why did you think he was dead?!”

“Well… We don’t get much news about him and the last I heard of President Kim was that his son was about to take his place. I figured…” Jimin trails off in embarrassment.

“…You really shouldn’t assume people are dead just because they’re retiring,” Yoongi laughs, “but yeah, President Kim was the one who created the program in the first place. He’s got pretty good ideas. Good man.”

Jimin has heard as much. President Kim is their 68th in service, and has been around since Jimin was born. He can’t put a face on him though, the man isn’t really one for public appearances. From what he’s seen on television, President Kim has done a lot for the metropolis. People say he’s a kind, reserved man, without much of a presence within the dome. His spokesperson, his daughter, is the face Jimin sees often in the streets; on banners, papers, and television. The man himself is easily forgettable, but his work and his influence in the cities is great. Jimin will let his neglectful actions towards the East slide for now.

His son on the other hand has a much bolder personality than his father. He’s got some ridiculous plans that Jimin is thankful he won’t be in the metropolis to see.

“Anyway. We’re trying to take this slow, and when I say slow, I mean it’ll probably be years before everyone leaves,” Yoongi tells him.

Jimin nods. Yeah, he gets that. Making everyone leave all at once would create a riot. That’s the last thing they need right now.

“Do you… Do you by any chance know what’s wrong with Jungkook?”

Yoongi sighs and shakes his head. “No, but I’m glad Namjoon got that blood sample first. We’ll get it tested. See what’s up then we’ll work from there,” he tells him. “Don’t worry about it too much. If it was really something the pack couldn’t handle, we wouldn’t have left. Since Gong Yoo seems to have things under control with Jungkook for now, we gotta take this chance to work before – I don’t know – before something else happens to the kid.”

“I’m a hypocrite, aren’t I?” Jimin scoffs. “I scolded him for leaving me, for hurting me, and then I go and do the exact same thing.”

“You don’t have control over things like that,” Yoongi says. “Jungkook was a danger to himself and to you. In situations like that, you’re better off being apart. He made the right choice by running from you. And I know it hurts, but this is beyond mates and bonds, Jimin. If there’s something really wrong with Jungkook, then no amount of hugs and kisses can cure it.”

Jimin closes his eyes, not wanting to hear any more. He can’t stand the thought of there being anything wrong with Jungkook, or the other alphas for that matter. Getting a blood sample from Jungkook was painful enough, to see his mate get subjected to more experiments would make him lose his mind. He prays there’s nothing wrong. He prays that when he gets back to Jungkook, he won’t find someone else waiting for him in his place.

Jimin rests his chin on the tops of his knees, staring forward at the long stretch of road before them. It’s empty, peaceful. He can sit here for hours, not think about a thing. He realises that, during his discussion with Yoongi, he’s been wonderfully distracted. Yes, the idea of being apart from Jungkook is unbearable, especially now when he knows the alpha is suffering from something neither of them understand. It helps that he’s thinking of something else, a new hope for their future.

“Yoongi?” Jimin calls, waiting for the older omega’s grunt of acknowledgement to speak again, “thanks.”

“…Yeah.”

 

Chapter Text

“A letter came today.”

Conversation stills.

Yoongi and Seokjin are the first to react. Moving in unison, they bound around the counters in Jimin’s kitchen to approach the tall figure at the door. Yoongi stops next to Jimin, who stays seated at the breakfast bar with JiHyun in his lap, their hands sticky with the blueberry pie Seokjin had brought over.

Seokjin shuffles through the rooms to get to his mate, hand seeking Namjoon’s shoulder.

They’ve been spending a lot of time in his apartment recently. Having no alphas to tend to every single hour, their days largely consist of daytime television and paperwork, often ending the night with dinner.

Jimin’s given up prying answers from Namjoon. He settles on waiting, no matter how anguished he is every single night.

It’s all so mundane. They’re still adjusting to their temporary return to city life, and Jimin is ready to tear at his own chest to satiate the yearning constricting his ribs.

He’s eager to get back to the pack. He doesn’t feel at home here anymore. Although he’s familiar with the city’s bustling mid-day rushes and overcrowded streets, he misses the clean air of the woods, the damp soil, the petrichor after days of heat. He misses knowing that if he wanders out alone, he can be lost in the trees, no path the same as the last. He misses the clumping dirt under his nails, the grass on his toes, cupping sunlight in his palms. He misses Jungkook. And he can tell the others do too.

Namjoon in particular has grown quite antsy. Right from their re-entry into the dome, to currently standing in Jimin’s living room doorway, there’s a layer of uncertainty in his scent that has everyone squirming uncomfortably.

“A letter?” he asks.

Namjoon nods gravely, wiping the sweat from his brow. “From the Metropolitan Royal Order.”

Jimin sits up in alert.

“What? What is it?” Seokjin slides his comforting touch down Namjoon’s arm, brushing away the grime of city air.  

Jimin gives Yoongi an anxious sidelong glance, which the older omega returns.

The doctor inhales deeply, fingers pinching the bridge of his nose, his shoulders tense. “It’s a warning. They’ve increased the number of punishments for anyone who speaks about the program with outsiders, or uncertified assistants.”  

Namjoon’s voice is quiet, the downturn of his lips adding to the severity of the news. 

“Me.” Jimin breathes.

All eyes turn to him, the insinuation in the air thick as fog. The words, this is because of me, forces itself up his throat and presses down on his tongue, churning a sour taste in his mouth.

“What is it exactly? The Metropolitan Royal Order?” he says instead. “I thought you were working with the government.”

Namjoon meets his eyes, sombre but resolute. “The Metropolitan Royal Order is different from our usual government. It’s the league of scientists working directly under President Kim.”

“And you’re one of them,” Jimin states, blunt but not accusatory.

The beta hesitates to nod. “When I got accepted four years ago, they told me never to trust anyone outside of the organisation, it’s practically law, though not a written one,” Namjoon tells him, pursing his lips as he ambles further into the living room. “They make it so you have no other choice but to trust your classmates, your colleagues, your superiors. They make you afraid by telling you that the world isn’t going to understand any of the shit we wanted to do.”

Jimin listens. At this point, there’s no other option.

Before he continues, Namjoon shucks his bag off his shoulder and sets it down on the coffee table with a thump. He reaches in to come back out with a few tools; a screwdriver and a miniature scanner in a shape of a hand sized cube.

Jimin scrutinizes it, saying nothing. 

“I never really believed in that bullshit,” the betas mutters, rushing over to the nanny system Jimin has on the wall next to the kitchen. The screen is black, but the blinking light beneath it is a sign of activity. “I knew that everyone was corrupted one way or another. Except for Seokjin and Yoongi, I never really got on well with many of my other co-workers. For a while we were a unit creating higher forms of technology. I hated it. I wanted to leave so badly, I stayed when President Kim introduced the Parity Program, and because I really believed in what he was planning.”

Pausing, he brings up the butt of the screwdriver and breaks the screen of the system.

Jimin’s gasp of surprise is brushed off, and he’s forced to watch Namjoon take out the screws in each corner to pull off the cover, disabling it. He works quickly, cutting wires of red, blue and green, seemingly aware of what he’s doing, but his hands are clumsy.

The other three look on in concern as Namjoon’s anxiety curls around him in waves of acrid stench. His fingers are quivering, periodically wiping away beads of sweat collecting at his temples. The room is abruptly on high alert, and the distress in Namjoon’s movements have them all jittery. Jimin can feel his back go rigid. If it weren’t for JiHyun in his lap, he would start quaking.  

“Namjoon…” Seokjin reaches for him, but his mate is already off to the front entrance again.

The sound of the security system’s deactivation cuts through the air a second after, the resounding, shrill beeping startling them all. His electricity immediately powers down, plummeting them into a near darkness.

When Jimin makes to open the curtains in the living room, Yoongi instructs him to keep them shut. He can’t hear anything other than his own breathing, rattling fearfully in his chest. Fortunately, the traffic outside the building is lively. It eases some of the stress pulsing in the room, but the eerie stillness Jimin can feel on the back of his arms and neck is immensely unsettling.

Jimin shifts, bouncing JiHyun lightly in his arms when the pup makes an upset noise.

“J-Jimin…” his brother whimpers, scrabbling at his shoulders to keep close.

“Sh… it’s alright, I’m here,” he coos, abating his own fear by holding JiHyun tighter.

“I’m sorry.” Namjoon comes back in, using his watch to illuminate his way. “I brought candles. We should light them now.”

“Namjoon, what are you doing? What’s happening?” Jimin’s heart is frantic.

The doctor pulls out a few large candles from his bag first before he goes on to say, “remember what we told you about those ‘special’ volunteers? About how they’d make their rounds through the labs in the West? Yeah, forget that,” he goes on before Jimin can get a word in, “I started turning all the volunteers away about four months back. I told them we didn’t need them anymore, not ones from the organisation.”

The first candle is lit.

“They’re medically experienced, trained, approved, and are specifically sent to us. I already had Seokjin and Yoongi. I didn’t want a stranger. I… I wanted someone that wasn’t a professional. I – we – we needed someone who could be trusted.”

Jimin blinks, stopping himself from pointing out that, he too, had been a stranger at the start. “You lied to me.”  

“We had to say whatever we could to get you to accept the job,” Yoongi pipes in, taking the other candles from Namjoon to light them up on the kitchen counters. He at least has the decency to look somewhat guilty. “We’d probably look shadier If we told you that we were breaking a few rules.”

One by one, the candles flicker to life. Seokjin is sure to stick close, placing one candle next to Jimin to ease the disturbance coursing through his body. In a way it’s nice, the candle light. They give the apartment a nice, warm glow. He hasn’t seen a candle since his mother was around. The smell of a blown-out wick still remains to be one of his favourite scents, plunging him back into memories of shadow puppets and childish giggling. It reminds him of Jungkook, of a home he’s left.

“Jimin, you still with us?” Seokjin asks, petting the back of the omega’s head.

He glances up and smiles weakly. “Yeah. Sorry. What were you saying?”

“The warning,” Yoongi reminds him.

“It’s an official warning. A strike. Two more and it’s an automatic revoke of our licence. We’re… gambling a lot,” Namjoon says, surprisingly more composed now, though not unkindly. “I went behind their backs. I hired you illegally. They must’ve gotten suspicious, and now they’re giving me a warning. Either I fire you, and force you to stay away from the alphas, or I get a 4-year sentence in jail, plus a 6-year suspension from the labs. And this is just from one strike.”

Stunned, he does a sweep of the room, taking in Yoongi’s unreadable expression and Seokjin’s concerned one. Jimin’s head buzzes.

Sighing, he sags in his chair. “Didn’t you send an ad for the job to every centre? Isn’t that basically waving a red flag above your head?”

“I… I gave that ad specifically to Ducky, whether he realised it or not, and no other job centre in the East. We didn’t want news spreading. We needed someone without any knowledge of the project. We needed – we were hoping someone kind enough would come and take it,” Namjoon explains.

“You trusted a stranger more than your own organisation?” Jimin stares at them all, strangely touched.

“I already knew they would find out sooner or later, but I wanted to see how long it would take. That’s why I was so hesitant to go into greater detail, if you were ever somehow interrogated you would have less knowledge to supply. More ignorance, less punishment. I just needed you to be a real caretaker for the alphas. However, after seeing how Jungkook reacted to you that first meeting, you sort of forced my hand to involve you. Neither me nor any member of our team were allowed to speak with you about the project. But… we figured it would be okay if we gave you some basic information.”

Jimin snorts. “Basic information. Is that what you’re calling it now?”

Namjoon shrugs as though the possibility of a 4-year sentence in jail wasn’t a looming blade over his neck. “We trust you.”

Seokjin shakes his head, his hand finding Jimin’s shoulder this time, light fingers kneading in reassurance. “We knew what we were in for when we hired you. It wasn’t just a last-minute decision. For most of the alphas that have come and gone from our lab, we’d worked with the volunteers over the course of – what – three months? There was always some kind of hiccup. Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jungkook were our special cases. We’d known them for years before the experiment. It’s horrible to say this now, but we didn’t want anything going wrong with those three.”

Jimin soaks it all in. It’s liberating to know that there was more to this – more to the secrets and reluctance from Namjoon. He’s berated himself for weeks, believing that he was of no help to them at all. He’s done nothing, contributed nothing. And something tells him that what they wanted anyway. 

“Am I a part of your experiment?” His eyes flash to Namjoon, keeping him pinned.

“You weren't at first,” the beta confesses.

“And you still want me here? Even though I’m not with Jungkook? Even if I might not be helpful in anyway? You want me here? With you? You’d risk your lives for this?” He has to hear them say it.

“You’re important,” Seokjin answers first. “You’re important to us, to Jungkook, and to Hoseok and Taehyung.”

“You’re our friend. We’re a family. I think that’s reason enough to risk some jail time.” Namjoon smiles. He seems more relaxed, oddly enough.

“Also, we need you here, to help with whatever is happening with Jungkook. Right now, we don’t have a goddamn clue what’s going on. The results for the blood tests haven’t arrived yet. There’s still so much to do, and with the organisation now monitoring our every move, we have to be a little more careful. We don’t want this to turn into an all-out war. So… I’m gonna need all of your watches,” Namjoon says, holding out his hand, “please.”

“Are they…” Jimin glances over to every device he has in his apartment, alarmed again.

“This whole city is wired from the apartments to the sewers. Better safe than sorry.” Seokjin removes his communicator from his wrist to pass it over to Namjoon. “Just… don’t break it. It’s still expensive.”

Namjoon smiles and presses a kiss to his mate’s cheek as a promise, gathering up all the communicators. He takes out the power sources before stuffing them into his bag, shoving them to the very bottom.

He returns to the kitchen a moment later to stand in the middle between the counters. Spinning in a full circle, he holds the scanner in his hand at an arm’s length from his body. Small as it is, the scanner is powerful enough for Jimin to see the blue sensor tracing over all surfaces, flashing prettily along his bare arms and the side of his face.

“Well, I guess if we’re gonna be breaking laws today, I might as well join,” Yoongi sighs, though he looks happy to have something to do.

While Yoongi migrates over to the living room to take another scanner from Namjoon’s bag, Jimin whips his head between them, finally processing the fact that his friends are willingly going against a system they’ve known for years. They’re breaking rules for him, risking their jobs and their lives for him – for the alphas, for Jungkook. If he’s ever doubted his place in this group, he had utterly misjudged.

“How many laws are we breaking exactly?” Jimin asks, keeping his voice low as a precaution. He cradles JiHyun to his chest to the point of suffocation. So, so nervous.

“Eh, a few. Starting from the moment we hired you.” Namjoon waves his hands about in a general gesture. “We made the decision, and we knew the consequences. I’m not even going to think about how many we’re breaking right now. Rather than just a warning, I’m surprised they didn’t give us the death sentence already.”

Seokjin instantly reaches over and claps his mate gently on the back of the head. “Don’t say that. If I lose any of you, I’ll kill you myself,” he threatens light-heartedly, giving each and every one of them a playful glare, even JiHyun, who he gets on eye-level with.

“We’ll try,” Jimin chuckles.

“We’re not risking it all for nothing,” Namjoon sighs, rubbing his head, a pout on his lips. “Jungkook’s situation is too important. We can’t let him stay in the pack in his current condition, and if we were to fire you, we’d have one hand short which makes the risk of losing Jungkook in more ways than one that much higher. Then we’d have an uncontrollable alpha on our hands. If the organisation has even one reason to say that we’re incapable of treating Jungkook, they’ll send him to a different lab, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting that happen.”

“4 years in jail,” Yoongi snorts, his shoulders raising in nonchalance. “It could be worse.”

Jimin’s chest wells up with warmth, his eyes rushing with tears. “Guys… I…”

 “We know,” Yoongi says, a little smug.

Jimin stands and wordlessly extends an arm towards Seokjin. The older man walks into his embrace with a smile, enveloping both Jimin and JiHyun before Namjoon joins them without prompt. The betas hold him tight, their long limbs meeting, wrapping securely around his back. Feeling something missing, Jimin glances over Namjoon’s shoulder at Yoongi. The older omega avoids his eyes, busying himself with the last candle. It takes a minute, but Jimin eventually manages to catch Yoongi’s eye again. They battle it out for a while, Yoongi finally relenting when Jimin gives him a pleading look. Shaking his head in fake exasperation, he squeezes his way into the hug. It’s cramped and smelly with Namjoon’s sweat dripping all over them, but Jimin can’t stop his tears.

He’s grateful to have them.

“We… should start moving,” Yoongi coughs from between Namjoon and Seokjin, retracting from the hug first.

“How are we even going to do this? They have scanners and cameras everywhere at the main entrance. They’ll know,” Jimin says, gnawing on his bottom lip. “We won’t be able to get out of the dome without raising more suspicion.”

Namjoon nods in agreement, retreating to continue his scanning. “We’ll have to be cautious. None of this leaves this apartment. Try not to contact anyone. We always meet here if something comes up. I’ll handle the cameras at the main entrance, I have just the man for the job.”

Jimin frowns. “What about your families? Your other friends? Won’t they be wondering where you guys are?” he asks, glancing between the three.

Seokjin chuckles sullenly. “We don’t have to worry about that. Our families cut ties with us a long time ago. Yoongi was living on the streets in the East for most of his teen years. Namjoon and I came from the outskirts of the West, we ran off together. Like teenagers do, I guess,” he sighs, lacing his fingers with his mate, who seems to be occupied, but Jimin can tell by the way the tips of his ears flush pink that he’s listening intently still.

“I…I didn’t know that about you guys,” he mutters, pursing his lips. He should’ve asked, should’ve at least made an effort to get to know his friends a little better.

Namjoon goes on to tell him about the one-bedroom apartment he and Seokjin had occupied during their time in school, working their way to opening a bakery as per Seokjin’s dreams. Later, after Namjoon had entered the Metropolitan Royal Order, he’d located his lab to the warehouse in the back. They met Yoongi down the line, selling disks of his music, getting by on his own, but had been persuaded to become a volunteer with Seokjin when Namjoon had convinced him that he would earn better money. They’ve known each other for years, the alphas for three, and it wasn’t until three months prior did Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jungkook become their final alphas.

“Yoongi made awesome music! He worked really hard,” Namjoon chuckles, pocketing the scanner before walking away to the living room to continue his work.

“Never regretted it,” Yoongi says, scratching his nose to hide his blush. “As for friends… we don’t have many. I think you guys are the only ones I would commit a crime for. You fucking owe me.”

“Why, Yoongi. What would we owe you? Isn’t our friendship and unconditional love for you enough?” Seokjin gasps, placing a hand over his heart in mock-hurt. “We’ll pay you with affection.”

“You can keep it.” The older omega rolls his eyes.

Jimin laughs under his breath.

Despite the looming prospects of a disaster hanging above their heads, he swallows it like a pill. It’s not as though he can afford to freak out anyway. There’s no time. They’ve a lot to do, Jimin has had his chance to mope the first four days, now he has a reason to get back up on his feet. In all honesty, it’s a lot to take in – a lot to absorb in a matter of fifteen minutes. One wrong move and they could be facing severe punishment. However, that’s not exactly what terrifies him. He has people to lose now. JiHyun, his friends, his mate, in a blink of an eye they could be gone. For most of his life, he’s had no one else to protect but his brother. He doesn’t know whether to be elated that he’s gained more people he can consider family, or be devastated by the fact that he could lose them within a day or two.

“Hey, don’t think so loud,” Yoongi says, cutting his string of thought. He’s stepping up to him with another scanner in hand, soft eyes shadowed under his bangs. “Everything’s going to be fine. We’re here with you.”

Jimin accepts, and gets up from the stool to hand JiHyun to Seokjin. He stares at the cube in his palm, then down the hallway to the bedrooms. “I know,” he smiles tearfully.

They split up. Namjoon takes the living room, Yoongi searches the bathroom, while Jimin and Seokjin wander through the bedrooms. Carelessly, he allows the beta to follow him into his own room, which is in a state of disarray, not in the right condition to make walking around easy. He ignores the nerves pinching at the top of his spine and stumbles through the clothes and boxes for any electronics. Seokjin trails behind, holding JiHyun, who is dozing off in his arms, his head flopping back against the beta’s bicep.

His laptop is the first to go, thrown onto the bottom of the bed with the pile of tablets. Anything with a camera and microphone, Namjoon says. Anything that can be used as a way to listen into the apartment, he has to be rid of. Although he mourns the loss of them, given how expensive they were, he’s not going to need them for long.

“You went a little crazy with the clothes, huh?” Seokjin chuckles beside his bed, peering into a stack of boxes that have been carelessly labelled ‘clothes’; his excitement to pack shown by the way the letters are lazily scribbled along the cardboard.

“What can I say? I like not being naked,” Jimin joins in with the sarcastic laughter Seokjin responds with, turning back around to search through his closet.

A beat of silence follows them, and Jimin’s just about ready to take his belongings back into the living room when he turns to discover Seokjin staring at the wall behind the headboard of his bed. He can’t tell what he’s gazing at, the room too dark, and the only candle is within Seokjin’s other hand. The beta has it lowered, his back blocking most of the light. Jimin’s shadow dances faintly as he comes to stand beside him, curious about what’s piqued his interest. But his friend’s quietness makes him hesitant to find out. Seokjin is quite often vocal about most things, to see him this still scares him, especially in the darkness.

“Jimin, what is this?” The beta lifts the candleholder closer to the wall, revealing scratches that have cleanly peeled away the wallpaper to unveil the concrete beneath. They curve downwards, as if someone was playing, absentmindedly running their nails along the patterned paper. The marks are thin, not made by human fingers – the slashes too sharp.

“What…” Jimin stares in bemusement. He’s never noticed them before. He’s certain they weren’t there a few days ago. True that he’s been a little out of it, but surely, he would’ve seen the scratches just inches above his head.

“Did you make these?” Seokjin frowns in concern.

The omega leans forward to trace his fingertips along the marks. It couldn’t have been him. His nails are always cut and maintained. With JiHyun around, they have to be blunt, in case he hurts his brother. Yet… no one else has had access to his room apart from himself, JiHyun, and now Seokjin. His security system has been on at all times, he’s barely left his apartment. When he thinks about it, the likelihood of it being his doing is high. He’s been experiencing a few odd things since he’s been back.

“I… um… I haven’t been sleeping well lately,” he admits.

It’s those four sleepless nights he’s spent whining and rutting against his pillow, they have him dead on his feet during the day. The few hours that he does get to sleep, he wakes up with his mind numbingly blank, recalling no dreams, having no thoughts. The possibility of him sleepwalking isn’t so strange.

Seokjin stares at him with a contemplative crease between his brows. “You haven’t been looking too well. And your eyes-”

“Guys! Can you come in here for a minute?!” Namjoon’s loud call startles them both.

Jimin rips his hand away from the wall and rushes out after Seokjin to get to the living room, throwing only one glance over his shoulder at the scratches before he slams the door closed behind him. Seokjin didn’t get to finish his sentence, but they can deal with it later.

Getting back, they find Namjoon and Yoongi huddled up around the coffee table, one lone communicator between them. It’s ringing, and vibrating softly. Someone’s calling them, but before he can tell Namjoon to hang up, he catches the flashing numbers on the screen, recognising it as his own. The tension ripples within the group, they know what accepting the call will risk. Someone can be listening in. They’ve gotten this far, they can’t be so reckless so early.

“What’s going on?” Seokjin looks panicked. “Who’s calling?”

“Me,” Jimin states, kneeling down next to Namjoon. “That’s the number for my old communicator. The one I left at the pack.”

“Let’s see who’s calling,” Yoongi shrugs, picking the device up. He holds it in the air so that the screen is in sight, then accepts the call.

The picture is full of static for a moment before it gives way to Gong Yoo’s distressed expression. They all collectively breathe in relief.

“You couldn’t have picked up a little sooner?!” Gong Yoo barks harshly, pushing his hair from his forehead.

“I’m sorry. We’re in a tight spot at the moment. Communication is going to be a little difficult from here on out,” Namjoon explains.

“Yeah? Well, that’s the least of our problems right now,” Gong Yoo sighs, pulling the communicator away from his face.

From the background, Jimin can tell he’s in the lodge, standing in front of one of the bedroom doors. He looks worse for wear, the dark bruises under his eyes a tell-tale sign of his own stress. Their separation hasn’t been easy on anyone it seems.

“What’s wrong?” Jimin squeezes forward, grabbing the edges of the communicator to tilt it for a better view. “Is Jungkook alright? Are the alphas?”

“The alphas… they’re fine. The lost ones from the full moon have returned and are recovering,” Gong Yoo says, shifting carefully on his feet, which causes the image to go unfocused. “Jungkook on the other hand… I think it’s best that I show you, but before that, Namjoon, I have some news to discuss with you.”

Jimin pulls away for Namjoon to take his place. He’s relieved that the alphas are unharmed, but it looks like Jungkook hasn’t come back to himself from the incident in the basement. He doesn’t want to jump to conclusions, however, by the grimness of Gong Yoo’s appearance, there isn’t any other way Jimin can take it. Jungkook hasn’t gotten better.

Jimin whimpers openly, curling forward to hold his stomach, suddenly nauseous. He’s burning from the inside, the blood rushing right to his head as he rests against the floor. Two hands come to rub his back, large and soothing, but vastly different in the way they comfort. They ease some of the pain, though not as much has he’d like. He hates for anyone to see him like this, breaking under a few words. He doesn’t want to imagine the pain if he’d ever lost Jungkook for real.

“A few of the neighbouring packs visited us yesterday,” Gong Yoo tells them. “There’s been reports of alphas going missing. Just a few days ago, one of our hunters had come back saying that he’d seen a few strange people lingering around the edges of the woods. They weren’t dressed like any of the town’s people in Ukiyo. They looked like they came from the dome. From the metropolis. I want you to be straight with me. Does this have anything to do with you or with the organisation?”

Namjoon releases a shaky breath. “Yes. No one outside of the organisation knows about the alphas, not even the Metropolitan police themselves. If… If they have something to do with the missing alphas, I’ll find out how. I-Is there any chance – just any chance at all that these alphas have run away?”

“No, they wouldn’t get too far. All the territories within these woods are about a two-hour distance from each other. Everything is owned, they can’t make their own packs. Unless they wanna take a trip further up North to get their asses frozen, I doubt it,” Gong Yoo grumbles, adjusting the camera again by the sounds of the clatter.

“Dammit. Okay… Okay…” Namjoon takes in a deep breath, holding it then releasing it in a long and wearisome sigh. “I suggest you stop hunting for a few days. Warn every other pack within the forest, make sure no one engages with the men. I’ll get in contact with some of the other labs, see if they know anything about what’s happening. I promise, I’ll get back in touch with you, but Gong Yoo, I’d suggest you throw that communicator away as soon as the call ends. Disable it, break it, throw it in the river if you have to, just get it out of the pack.”

Jimin lifts his head again, less shaken up. He grips the edge of the coffee table and heaves himself up to be in view of Gong Yoo.

“Jungkook?”

“…He’s still chained up,” the Elder replies. Stepping away from the wall, Gong Yoo heads down the hallway to get to the basement door. The image on the screen shakes as he heads down the stairs, switching on the light on the way.

They don’t see Jungkook at first, Gong Yoo having kept the communicator directed at his legs. The sight of the basement stairs has bile rising to the back of his throat, the bitter, acid taste flooding his mouth.

Jimin shifts in anxiety, his chest clenching tight, his heart throbbing in his ears.

Gong Yoo gives them a warning, telling Seokjin to turn JiHyun’s head away before he moves the camera.

Jimin doesn’t know what he was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t Jungkook’s frail form huddled up on a mattress. He’s in a foetal position, his sweat soaked hair fanned out around his head. He looks clammy, and pallor, his skin holding a light-yellow tint to it that’s hard to stomach. His eyes are closed, sunken in, his brows scrunched in agony. His cheeks are hollow, and Jimin can see his jawline too prominently. His shirt is too loose around his frame, and the chains that bind is wrists look too large. Jungkook can slip them right off.

Suppressing the need to sob, he returns to Jungkook’s face. At the corners of his lips, he’s dribbling a substance that of a black colour. Jimin thinks it’s the trick of the light, however when Gong Yoo moves closer with a handkerchief in his other hand to wipe Jungkook’s forehead, they get a better view of the liquid drying on his chin. It’s black, sticky, and shiny on the young alpha’s skin. By the edge of the screen, a metal bucket stands at Jungkook’s bare feet, filled nearly to the brim with the same liquid, dark as ink.

Jimin whines loud in sadness, taking the communicator into his own quaking hands to get a better glimpse of his mate’s face. Jungkook looks ill, extremely ill. He’s shaking, and Jimin’s no better. His alpha seems to be in an immense amount of pain by the way his limbs twitch and convulse involuntarily every other second. His chest rises and falls at a irregular pattern, and all Gong Yoo can do is try to keep him on his side so that he doesn’t choke on whatever he’s expelling from his stomach. Underneath all that, he can still tell that it’s Jungkook. Handsome as he remembers. It kills Jimin to know that he’s not there to take care of his mate himself.

“He started vomiting about 12 hours ago,” Gong Yoo informs him, not daring to wipe Jungkook’s mouth in case the young alpha bites. “It wasn’t like this at first. It wasn’t… black. We thought it would pass, that he would be okay if he just got it all out, but then this stuff started… coming out instead. I know we should’ve contacted you about it sooner but our pack’s shaman hadn’t wanted any intervention from the ‘other world’ as she’d called it. I didn’t think it was wise to leave you ignorant of it either, so…”  

“This started 12 hours ago?!” Jimin shakes his head in dismay. “What is it?! What’s happening to him?! What did the shaman say?!”

“Jimin…” Namjoon places his hand on his shoulder to calm him, and Jimin doesn’t have the heart to shake it off.

“She thinks he’s… rejecting his alpha status,” Gong Yoo sighs, “that his body isn’t handling it well. I…was one of the first alphas to be made, and for months, I’ve never seen anything like this happen with any of the alphas that have come to our pack, or any pack for that matter. But… I wanted to get your opinion on this. I’m not really one with the forest as most of the Elders are, I was also made in a lab, and I know that there has to be something else going on here.”

Namjoon steps up, gently prying the communicator from Jimin’s fingers. “We’ll head down to the lab. See if the blood test results have come. We’ll get back to you. For now, make sure Jungkook stays hydrated and that he’s not hurting himself. Please.”

“Of course,” Gong Yoo nods. “Get back to me when you can. We’ll try our best to stabilise Jungkook. Though I can’t promise you anything. He’s getting weaker by the hour, and he refuses to eat anything. Please just… just find something quick.”

 

They dash out of the apartment during the last evening rush, entrusting JiHyun with Yoongi, who can’t find the energy to match their haste. Avoiding the elevator, they dash down the five flights of stairs to get to the lobby, bursting out onto the streets. They’re met with a lot of commotion. Heavy armoured trucks and construction vehicles zipping passed them, monstrous and imposing as they ride through, disturbing the usual unchanging traffic system with their harsh, quick navigation around the buildings. Jimin watches as they disappear around a corner. It’s rare to see construction work during evening, he notes.

He stares off after them, his gut twisting.

“Jimin, we don’t have time,” Namjoon urges him on.

Storing the odd sight to the back of his mind, he jogs to catch up with Namjoon and Seokjin, their little group continuing down to the lab.

“Baby, did you leave the bakery lights on?” Namjoon halts at the front of the building, peeking through the windows.

The bakery is bare, sadly, the display cases full of fresh pastries and cakes replaced with moving boxes. Seokjin’s decorations have been taken down to leave the walls miserably blank, there’s no charm to it. Jimin wonders how long it’ll be before he can get to taste any of Seokjin’s cakes again.

“No.” Seokjin shakes his head. “I made sure to turn everything off.”

Strolling passed the bakery, they scurry down to the lab entrance. Namjoon takes his cardkey from his pocket, but freezes when he sees that the lab’s door is not only already open, but has been brutally broken down. The security system at the door is beeping pathetically, flashing red in warning of an intruder. It takes just a split second for them to feel their heart plummet.

“In, in, in, c’mon,” Namjoon beckons them inside, pushing away the half-beaten door.

“In?! What do you mean ‘in’?! You wanna go in there while some psycho has broken into our lab?!” Seokjin whisper-screams, fisting his hand in his mate’s sleeve, tugging him back away from the door. “Kim Namjoon, I’m not letting you go in there and getting yourself hurt.”

“What other choice do we have?” Namjoon frowns.

Seokjin’s lips purse in reluctance. They’re close, just inches apart, eyes wide and pleading for different reasons. All Jimin can do is watch from the side-lines, heart aching and still shaken.

“We can find another way. If someone is in there-” Seokjin reasons.

“Baby, there is no other way,” Namjoon lightly cuts him off, taking his mate’s hand to intertwine their fingers. “Together.”

Seokjin’s forehead creases in concern, but he stays silent, allowing Namjoon to guide him inside.

Jimin trails after them, on guard with his fists clenched. He’s thrown a couple of blows here and there in the past. He didn’t survive this long in the East by asking his attackers to let him go nicely. For all of the shit that the place put him through, it at least taught how to fight – how to take care of himself, even if he got hit and knifed. He knows how to run too. He’s great at running, he’s made for it. Sometimes that’s all he needs.

The corridors of the lab are lifeless. With the exception of the muddy boot prints on the once polished floor, their surroundings seem to be disconcertingly intact for the most part. Jimin stays behind the betas per Namjoon’s requests, tracing his fingertips along the wall, following long marks left by a weapon of sorts all the way down to the examination room doors.

All three release a contained breath, their shoes squeaking as they approach. Namjoon is the one to open the doors, his arm thrown out, shielding Seokjin and Jimin as best he can.

Someone is in their lab, lounging atop of one of the examination tables with a plate of Seokjin’s cookies in his lap. The man’s scent is unfamiliar. A beta. He’s young, quite tall in stature with solid lines and strong shoulders. His features are delicate in contrast to his sharp gaze. He seems harmless, almost unperturbed by the situation. More importantly, he’s entirely alone.

Nonetheless, the group enters carefully, looking astounded. Everything is still in its place. Nothing has been touched.

Jimin recognises the man. He’s seen his face projected on banners, and campaigns. Although the omega has never paid too much attention to what goes on in the West, solely for the act of rebellion, he knows where he’s seen this man before. He’s stood behind his father on multiple important broadcasts. He’s spoken of his plans for the metropolis on so many occasions, Jimin has learned to tune him out.

He’s President Kim’s son. Kim Suk-Joo.

“These cookies,” the man begins, gesturing to the plate in his lap, “they’re delicious. You made them yourself?”

Seokjin blinks, startling. “Um… yes, I did.”

“They’re very good,” Suk-Joo praises, grinning. He takes another bite of the cookies before placing the plate down beside him, careless, as though this were his own home.

“Oh! While you were out, I took the liberty of signing for a letter you received today. Seems quite important. In a red envelope and all,” he says, sliding a sealed envelope from behind himself to wave it in the air for Namjoon.

Slowly, as though he’s afraid there’s a catch, that Suk-Joo will reach out and bite him, Namjoon cautiously takes it, holding it to his chest.

“Thank you, sir,” he says.

“Suk-Joo is fine!” The man waves his hand. “May I call you Doctor Kim?”

“Of course,” Namjoon says politely, schooling his features just as quickly, matching Suk-Joo’s pleasantness.

“Hm,” Suk-Joo’s smile widens, a glint of something disdainful flickering behind his dark lashes.

Jimin briefly has a peek of him from over Namjoon’s shoulder, his blood turning to ice at the man’s calculative stare. 

“It’s nice to visit one of these labs for the first time. My father never really… permitted me to see the inner workings. He’s kept this project of his very secret, but you know how it is. Curiosity is quite the temptation. I’m glad I came! It’s very… organised. As expected of you, Namjoon,” Suk-Joo says, hopping off the table to brush off his black slacks.

Namjoon’s lips twitch. “Thank you.”

Suk-Joo spares a moment to survey the lab, leisurely strolling around tables to peruse the charts and papers on the counters. The other three remain standing at the doors, their bellies churning with anticipation. Suk-Joo doesn’t pose much of a threat. He’s not a fighter from what Jimin has found reading some of his personal scandals. Height may be his advantage, but Jimin would be more than happy to knock him off his feet. There’s an arrogance to Suk-Joo, his presence too large, he makes the room feel small.

“You must be wondering why I’m here,” he says, pivoting back around to face them. “I don’t usually make house visits,” he chuckles.

“What can we help you with?” Seokjin asks curtly.

Suk-Joo is unaffected, his smile growing. “I wanted to know how those alphas of yours are holding up.”

“They’re doing well,” Namjoon makes sure to keep it nice and short.

“I see. You don’t have to be afraid of telling me, Namjoon. I am my father’s successor after all. I will be taking on this project soon enough. It’s best that I know…everything,” Suk-Joo insists, clasping his hands together behind his back as he leans slightly to get a look at Jimin, who is mostly concealed behind the beta mates.

“There’s nothing to tell, sir. The alphas have been moved to their packs, safe and sound,” Namjoon tells him, voice levelled and control. He shifts on his feet, blocking more of Suk-Joo’s view of Jimin.

Suk-Joo’s eyes turn back to Namjoon. “Safe and sound... I couldn’t agree more.” His face goes strained, his lips twisting stiffly at the betas.

Jimin is beginning to take notice of his own breathing. Every alarm bell, every gut instinct he’s ever had blares to life. To his horror, he can hear Suk-Joo take in an audible inhale, rolling the scent of Jimin’s anxiety on his tongue. It sends shocks of fear down his spine, and his first thought is to slap a hand over Jungkook’s mark.

“Park Jimin.”

The omega starts. His name drips like molasses from Suk-Joo’s lips. He shudders, willing himself not to squirm at the way the hairs at his nape begin to stand on end. The word feels soiled, the way Suk-Joo purrs it. Even Namjoon and Seokjin shuffle on their feet, tightening the barrier around him.

“I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you yet,” Suk-Joo says, strutting over, his hands digging into the pockets of his slacks, his posture too open and inviting. He stops just before Namjoon and Seokjin, peeking in through the gap between their shoulders.

Jimin clenches his quivering fingers. Even at his lowest point, without his mate, without a bond to keep his feet on the ground, Jimin’s no weakling. He’s dealt with meaner things than the likes of Kim Suk-Joo.

“It’s nice to meet you, sir,” Jimin nods his head rigidly.

“I’m Kim Suk-Joo. If you’re unaware,” Suk-Joo coos, tilting his head. He’s speaking to Jimin as though he were a child.

“Yes. I know you by your father,” Jimin replies, stepping out from his spot. He resists the urge to grind his teeth together, to swallow the tremor in his voice. “I’ve admired him since I was a child.”

A muscle in Suk-Joo’s face twitches at that, a flash of irritation gone in a blink. “…Yes… Many do admire my father. It’ll be a sad day when he retires, I’m sure,” he laughs softly, the sound artificial.

Jimin suppresses his smirk. “Well, he’s done a lot of good for the metropolis. I think everyone will miss him. I’m sure he’ll continue to do more for us even when he steps down.”

The air snaps with friction, and Jimin meets Suk-Joo’s narrowed stare head-on. He understands the repercussions of challenging a well-known politician, even more so their next president, but there’s something in the way Suk-Joo holds himself that makes Jimin want to snap his teeth. It reminds him of how much he hates this side of the dome. In the East, at least he was told straight that he was scum. In the West, he’s always forced into a game. He’s so tired.

“…Excuse me, but… is there anything else you need here?” Seokjin cuts to the chase, wedging himself in-between to prevent any fights from breaking out.

Suk-Joo’s smile drops, and his expression darkens. The shift so sudden, Jimin isn’t quite sure he’s looking at the same man. “Ah, yes. Of course, how could I forget? There is the matter of… him,” he says, gesturing to Jimin.

The other three stiffen. They don’t know how much knowledge Suk-Joo has, how much he’s even involved within the organisation. Jimin had assumed he was one of many politicians scrambling to get his way to the top. Just like any other power-obsessed beta out there. But Suk-Joo is a Kim. He’s got more power in his pinkie than Jimin has ever had in his entire life.

Sighing dramatically, Suk-Joo shakes out a sleeve and holds his watch to his face. “As I was told, you’re not even supposed to be here. This lab already has quite the reputation for allowing omegas to work in such dangerous conditions. I’m concerned. Unlike Min, you have no background in medicine. You didn’t go to college. You were unemployed for quite some time. You’re… a liability. We don’t want two omegas going into heats during emergencies, now do we?” Suk-Joo lowers his arm and cocks his head at Jimin, smiling sardonically.

Jimin opens his mouth to speak, however, before he can, the man holds up a finger.

“Namjoon, would you care to explain? You’ve been issued a warning, as I was told.” Suk-Joo’s expression neither falters nor changes. His demeanour almost too civil.   

Namjoon glances briefly at Jimin, pressing his lips into a taut line. “He’s a friend. He was desperate for a job, so I gave him one.”

Suk-Joo clicks his tongue, clearly not believing the well-rehearsed lie.  “And what’s your excuse for allowing him to stay? You know the consequences.”

Namjoon’s answer is silence.

Suk-Joo sighs once more. “It’s bad enough that the organisation even allowed for Min to train. And now you have illegally hired another useless omega,” he tuts.

Namjoon’s face colours very quickly in anger. And only Jimin notices the way Seokjin sneaks a hand to the nape of his neck. With a touch, Namjoon comes back down.

“What does my father see in you? What does anyone see in you?” Suk-Joo crosses his arms and shakes his head in disappointment. “To be honest, all I see is a soon-to-be criminal.”

“Namjoon has given everything to the organisation,” Seokjin defends, squaring his shoulders to appear bigger, though he wasn’t much taller than Suk-Joo himself. “He gave your father his alphas. We’re here to take care of those alphas. It’s our job.”

Suk-Joo regards them with an impassive stare, one brow cocked. Jimin can’t gauge his expression, and the man hardly gives much away as he turns his back on them.

He walks a couple of steps to the plate of cookies he’s left, tapping his fingers on the tables. Jimin’s heart follows the rhythm, squeezing in trepidation. 

“You know, I’ve never agreed with my father’s plans. This… idealistic scheme to liberate our people from technology, or whatever the hell he goes on about at dinner parties,” Suk-Joo waves his hand dismissively, lolling his head mockingly. “It’s childish.”

“He was right,” Namjoon insists.

“Hah. Technology isn’t the problem. It’s the people.” Suk-Joo spins to face them again, leaning his hip against the edge of a table. “I could understand why he’d want us to abandon the dome, but then he had to bring those little experiments of his into it. And he really believes that those things could be helpful? If their way of helping is by knotting every single omega in our community…”

Jimin feels his face heat up in annoyance. He tightly clenches his fingers into his hands, leaving behind stinging crescents on his palms. Hearing someone reduce the alphas into nothing more than machines that fuck and kill has his blood sizzling. What’s worse, he had once thought the same.

“W-We need the alphas,” he says, trying not to let it show that his knees are beginning to buckle. 

Suk-Joo leers, his nostrils flaring at Jimin’s honeyed scent. “Coming from an omega who has spread his legs for one, your word isn’t so reliable.”

Unexpectedly, both Namjoon and Seokjin jerk forward violently in anger, ready to defend, but Jimin stops them with a shake of his head. He knows that anything he says will mean nothing to Suk-Joo. He’s already partially mated to an alpha, he can no longer be seen as unbiased.

“The alphas are important. Not just to me, but to everyone,” Jimin says, holding his head as high as his wounded pride will allow.

“Your alphas are a threat to the balance of the metropolis. They’ll take everything from us. They’ll rape and slaughter every one of us. Why would you want that? You’re an omega, I thought your kind valued your independence?” Suk-Joo drawls, “then again, you’re mated to one of those things so, I shouldn’t even bother asking you.”

Jimin bristles, but holds his ground. He’s done his fair share of demonising the alphas, he knows better. “There’s nothing you can do about it now,” he argues.

“There’s always something to be done,” Suk-Joo retorts, fixing them with a glower.

“They’re still human. They were betas before. You don’t just lose that,” Jimin affirms desperately, clenching the hem of his sweater between his fingers. Absently, he wishes he had something sharper than his own nails to tear into the fabric.

“Well, it’s never too late to condition them. We’ll keep them in their place. If they know their boundaries, then they’ll be less dangerous for everyone. We can’t have them disturbing the precious system, now can we?”

“The system?” Jimin feels heat rise to the back of his neck, his agitation coiling and drawing taut around his throat. “You mean the system that allows for betas to have more rights than the omegas do? You mean the system that took my mother and my father away? And forced me out of my childhood home with my infant brother? That’s your precious system?!” he hisses, sheer animosity spat from between his bared teeth. “You don’t want the alphas here because they’re a danger to us. You don’t want them here because you’re threatened that they’ll give us more rights than you ever did.”

The silence thrives in the room. Jimin can’t breathe, and if he blinks away his tears, he knows the rage he’s clinging to will disappear with it.

For the first time, Suk-Joo looks shocked. Although he should be satisfied, it does nothing but make Jimin that much angrier. And he about lunges for the man’s throat when he begins to laugh. The sound isn’t quiet, it’s not a chuckle, but a fully belly laugh that’s grating and obnoxious. To make a point, Suk-Joo bends in half in his laughter, slapping his knee as though Jimin had made the most absurd joke. To Suk-Joo, what Jimin had said might as well have been.

His guffaws fade gradually, leaving the other three fuming in their spots as he wipes away the stray tears on his cheek. “Never mind alphas, they should put a muzzle on you instead,” he sneers, taking a moment to collect himself. He’s slow about it, deliberate, as though there weren’t three pairs of eyes drilling into the side of his face. He only straightens up when he’s ready, tugging on his suit jacket as he stands properly on his black leather shoes again.

“Threatened is such a strong word,” he tsked. “Let’s just call it ‘maintaining order’.”

Jimin is trembling. Though he can’t tell if it’s from fury or anxiety. He knows he’s roaring inside his head.

“The alphas won’t be a danger,” Seokjin says, barely holding it together himself. “They’re kept outside of the metropolis. They won’t be exposed to city life.”

“And what about the alphas who refuse to join a pack?” Suk-Joo asks.

“…What are you talking about?”

Namjoon winds an arm around his mate’s waist and tugs him back to his side. Seokjin snaps his head up to him, his features dripping with betrayal.

“Oh? So, you didn’t tell them?” Suk-Joo chuckles, straightening his sleeves to hide his amusement.

“Tell us what?” Jimin barks.

Namjoon inhales softly, preparing himself. “Not… all of the alphas within the program have agreed to join a pack,” he says, drawing the attention back to himself. “Some of them have stayed behind. I only found out recently that one or two of the labs have been keeping them inside the city. I don’t know what they’re doing but, it seems some of these alphas don’t want to leave. They want to stay.”

“W-Well what does that mean?”

“It means,” Suk-Joo cuts in, “that if those alphas get out, they’ll be fucking and killing anything they can get their hands on.”

“They wouldn’t do that…” Seokjin denies instantly.

“We don’t know that. We don’t know what they’ll do, which is why… I’ve decided to act before we find out.” Suk-Joo claps his hands together in finality.

From the corner of his eye, Jimin sees Seokjin grasp onto Namjoon’s arm, and he wishes he had someone to hold onto. He wishes Jungkook was beside him. He wants to bury his face in his mate’s shoulder and forget the rest of the world. Even for just a moment, he wants it.

“What are you going to do? What are you going to do to them?” Jimin feels fear, or even better wrath, grip at all his limps, keeping him immobile, his breath coming in short.

“Well, obviously they can’t be roaming the streets. We can’t let them do what they want. This isn’t the old times. We’ve moved on. The alphas are not the ruling class anymore, and we should keep it that way,” Suk-Joo smirks, slipping his mask back into position.

“What are you talking about?” Jimin seethes.

Slowly, patronizingly, Suk-Joo leans forward. “I doubt you’ve heard, but my father’s health hasn’t been the best these past few months. So, within the next couple of days, I will be taking my father’s place. Meaning, his role as president and his duties within the Metropolitan Royal Order. It will be my right to decide what will happen to the alphas.”

Jimin’s heart pulses in his ears. Getting louder, and louder, and louder. Thumping erratically to the sound of paws pacing the back of his mind.

He acknowledges that it’s there.

It’s never abandoned him. Not since he’d left Jungkook. For a while, during those sleepless nights, he thought it was an illusion of his mate himself – prowling around his insides, swirling his organs into a tangled mess. Unfortunately, it takes Jimin to the brink of violence for him to realise that this wolf is somewhat smaller than Jungkook. A lot less open about its rage, but it’s there beneath the surface. It’s just waiting for that one last straw to drop before it can sink its claws into something.

Sadistically, Jimin hopes that something is Suk-Joo.

“You won’t do anything,” Jimin says, hissing and spitting.

“Is that a threat?” Suk-Joo quirks an eye-brow at him.

Jimin furls and unfurls his hands, his nails more biting than he remembers them. Unyielding, he clenches his jaw. “Yes.” 

Suk-Joo gazes back at him, his aloofness sliding away to show the scorn Jimin’s positive he’s harboured this whole time.

“You should consider your position here, Park. You’re an Eastern rat. You don’t have much of anything going for you other than your pretty face,” Suk-Joo snorts. “I suggest you keep your little threats to yourself. Besides, it’s too late.”

“What have you done?” Jimin’s nose wrinkles.

“I’m not cruel. They have the right to be alive, however… it’s not safe for them to be exposed to the innocents,” he continues, “I’ve built a sanctuary for them. In fact, it’s in construction as we speak. It’s a utopia for them, I promise. A safe place where they can be themselves and not worry about prejudice. They’ll have three meals a day, their own rooms, their own spaces. There’re activities and facilities. It’s a wonderful place. They won’t have to fear,” Suk-Joo waves his hands about as he speaks, as though he’s trying to sell them on something more ordinary. “Of course, with them being so… wild. We’ll have to keep an eye on them. We can’t have them posing a threat. We’ll have observers, keeping them tame.”

The omega can physically feel the colour drain from his face, his head becoming weightless as his body turns cold.  

In hindsight, the place doesn’t sound as terrible as Jimin initially expected. As a matter of fact, it sounds like paradise, however then, Jimin realises paradise doesn’t come with walls. It doesn’t come with tamers, and guards. The alphas will be miserable without the freedom the forest provides them. They’re not meant to be kept behind bars. It’s a prison loosely disguised as a sanctuary – the alphas would be much safer out of it. Lord knows what else Suk-Joo has planned for them in there. Anything he says can hardly be defined as trustworthy.

“…You’re going to put them in a zoo…” Jimin whispers, about ready to shake apart.

“I’d like to call it an alpha enclosure,” Suk-Joo grins from ear-to-ear.

“What’s the difference?” Jimin growls. “You don’t care about them enough to give them something that nice.”

Suk-Joo rolls his shoulders and takes two large menacing steps in Jimin’s direction, his arms folding behind his back. “Smarter than your pretty face lets on, huh? Don’t worry, your little alphas won’t be harmed.”

“What. Are. You. Going. To. Do. To. Them,” Jimin grits out.

Looming forward, Suk-Joo towers over the omega, his eyes narrowing, his grin curling sourly, almost sadistic. He looks positively delighted. “I’m going make good use of them. If their first instinct is to impregnate any moving omega, why not take advantage of it? There are many young childless omegas out there that would love nothing more than to be stuffed with an alpha’s child.”

Jimin stumbles back in disgust. He wants to dig his fingers into his ears. His simmering rage and the burning ache in his canines prevent him from doing so.

“You’re going to ruin this place,” he says, breathless and horrified.

Suk-Joo beams. “I’m hurt, little omega. I’m going to do more than ruin.”

Jimin grudgingly watches as Suk-Joo takes his leave. Even though this isn’t going to be the last time they meet, he hopes he won’t have to see the man’s face again for a very, very long time. Throwing a few punches would’ve been less tiring than that discussion. While he’s sure Suk-Joo has talked himself out of many fist fights with his intelligence in the past, he won’t last long under an angry omega’s fists; said omega being a little tad more on the edge than the regular ones.

The next time that he looks to Namjoon and Seokjin, he finds them busying themselves within the room. He wants to ask what they’re doing, but he doesn’t have to. He knows. They can’t stay here – not with Suk-Joo knowing where they are, when he has the means to enter as he pleases. They have to go, Seokjin pleads with his eyes, urging Jimin along to help him pack all of their important documents.

Jimin doesn’t say another word, he does as he’s asked.

It’s a tense twenty minutes of unspoken words and rushed gestures. Little by little, the lab becomes less homey, the examination room and the living area stripped bare of clothes and belongings. Jimin will miss it. He’ll miss the antiseptic smell and the lingering scent of lost betas that have worn down the chairs and stuck their light pheromones to its leather before it’s overwhelmed with something more powerful. He’ll grieve the first time he’d stepped foot in this place. Although he regrets his past behaviours, he’ll be forever grateful for his stubbornness for credits that allowed him to be where he is now.

Fuck, he’ll miss it.

“We shouldn’t leave Yoongi and JiHyun alone for too long. I don’t trust Suk-Joo not to break down any more doors,” Namjoon says, his words ominously echoing in the near empty space.

“We should know what the results say first.” Jimin gestures to the forgotten envelop at Namjoon’s side, scarlet and furious for not being opened.

“I’m scared to look,” the doctor admits, smiling self-depreciatingly.

“I’ll do it,” Seokjin shrugs before Jimin can make a move. There’s no time for hesitation anymore. They have to get moving now.

Seokjin slides the envelop over to himself and rips open the top without much mercy. He shakes the contents out of the pouch and holds the papers up. He reads for a couple of minutes while Jimin and Namjoon force their feet to stay put. The beta’s expression is emotionless, which unnerves them more. The beta sighs not a moment later, closing his eyes in quiet distress as he hands his mate the results.

The doctor’s eyes roam wildly over the contents, his lips thinning.

“…Fuck,” Namjoon spits, and Jimin hurries to his side to see for himself.

His eyes are quick to skim over unimportant formalities. Getting straight to the results. His heart hammers, ramming vigorously against his ribs, raging war on his insides.

“He’s rejecting the serum.” Jimin’s voice shatters.

He looks to Namjoon for answers, eyes wide and imploring. He doesn’t know what this will mean for Jungkook. Seeing him laid prone on a dirty mattress, looking like death himself, was enough for Jimin to want to run to his alpha on foot. If he has to watch Jungkook suffer for longer, he won’t survive it.

His senses have grown so dull being so far away. He’s detached and persistently aching. He doesn’t want to imagine how much his mate is suffering without him.

“He’s rejecting the pheromones that were laced within the serum. This can happen to those who are incompatible,” Namjoon explains, dragging a hand down his face to wipe away the tears and sweat on his cheeks. “I thought Jungkook was perfectly compatible with the serum. His tests were great. His lineage is strong. He should be an alpha. He was born to be an alpha.” 

Gently, Seokjin takes the letter from Namjoon’s shaking hands and folds it into his inner jacket pocket. “Maybe it’s more than lineage. Jungkook was scrawny when he joined the program. He was a little weaker than Hoseok and Taehyung before the transition. He’s always shown signs of… being a little different than the other alphas. If rejecting the serum is what his body believes is best for his well-being then we should stick with that. The results say that it’s not harmful. Not if he gets the right treatment.”

“What if we can’t get him the right treatment? This is all my fault. I let him go through this. I-It’s my fault…” Namjoon sniffs, his young age more apparent now than ever.

“Gong Yoo was right,” Jimin whispers, eyelashes fluttering to abate his tears. The room is suddenly very large. No one can blame him for wanting his alpha’s arms around him. He’s never felt so insignificantly small. “I’m going to lose him,” he whimpers.

“Enough,” Seokjin says with a bite, heaving bags onto his shoulders. His voice is firm, but it doesn’t matter how strong Seokjin wishes to be in the moment, he’s just as effected, if not more so by the events. He just can’t show it. They’re in this now, they can’t take it back. They’ve sided with the alphas over their own home, over their own government. Second thoughts will only get them killed.

“C’mon. You’re both getting ahead of yourselves. Get up. Both of you. We have to go.”

Not daring to oppose Seokjin, Jimin and Namjoon collect themselves gradually. Wiping away their tears and snot, they pick up the rest of the bags and whatever is left of the lab in their arms.

Jimin steels himself up for the next step.

Like ducklings, they follow the eldest beta out, flicking off the lights one by one. Namjoon is the last to exit, lingering for a bit longer. Neither Seokjin or Jimin rush him. For four years this place has been Namjoon’s and Seokjin’s home. It wouldn’t be right for them to not allow Namjoon a proper goodbye. They don’t know how long it’ll be before they return, though Jimin hopes it won’t be forever.

Neither of them chance a look back at the lab. They remind themselves that it’s alright. They’ll find new homes. They already have one in a pack beyond the metropolis. They don’t have to mourn one that no longer feels secure. It’s alright, it’s fine.

They’re all shivering as they sprint back to Jimin’s apartment, lips caught between their teeth to prevent any tear shed. There’s a considerable shift in the air on the streets. Jimin realises with apprehension that they’re the only ones around. There’s never been a curfew in either West or East. Despite how strait-laced these people were within this side of the dome, the streets are hardly ever empty.

Jimin feels something creep along his back. Something frightening.

“Keep your head down,” Namjoon mutters.

The omega shivers under his layers, flexing his frigid fingers in irritation.

This wasn’t sudden. Suk-Joo had planned to corner them from the moment he knew about Jimin. With a man like Suk-Joo, it's expected that he's able to have the whole city bowing under his order.

The moment they reach the apartments, Jimin shudders. He's happy to be off the streets. An ambush would not be so far-fetched given how Suk-Joo operates. He didn't apologise for Namjoon's broken door, he clearly has no qualms about doing whatever he wants. And Jimin would rather not spend five more minutes out there, looking over his shoulder at any noise he hears. 

 “You guys go up first. I have to make a call.” Namjoon stops in the middle of the apartment lobby, jerking his head towards the elevator. “I’ll be up in five minutes.”

“Are you kidding me?! We’re not leaving you out here alone.” Jimin frowns, falling a step behind Seokjin. He doesn’t like any of them splitting up. It’s leaves more openings for assault. “Isn’t it too risky to be making calls out here?”

“It’ll be okay. I promise I’ll be up in five minutes. If I don’t come up in five minutes, then you come get me, okay?” Namjoon nudges Jimin to walk, his expression pleading for trust.

Jimin purses his lips in reluctance before adjusting the bags in his arms. He concedes, “fine. Just be careful.”

The last thing that Jimin and Seokjin hear before the elevator doors close is the name ‘Tablo’ forming the curves of Namjoon’s lips.  

It’s the same name he hears ten minutes later, blown into the candle fire to slip them back into darkness. The streetlights outside Jimin’s windows are their only guide to get around. He’s glad that JiHyun is asleep and unaware of the adrenaline pulsating in the room.

“Tablo promises to meet us at the exit in twenty minutes. He’s got a car waiting for us to use. The problem is, we’re going to have to walk on foot to meet him.” Namjoon rushes forward to grab half of the bags from his mate’s arms, dividing the load.

“Who’s Tablo?” Jimin asks, pacing fretfully around the living room, JiHyun’s small body already strapped to his chest. The pup is a little too old to be carried around these days, but JiHyun is small for his age. Jimin doesn’t like to remind himself as to why that is.

“A friend. The only other person within the organisation that is tolerable,” Namjoon says, looking uneasy to divulge that information knowing exactly how Jimin would react.

“You’ve asked someone from within the organisation to go against the organisation?” Jimin says in disbelief. “You trust him?”

“We all do,” Namjoon reassures.

Jimin bounces lightly on his toes. “Does he know about… me? Did you tell him?” he asks, grimacing.

“I didn’t have to. Apparently, everyone within the organisation has been informed of it,” Namjoon shakes his head.

While Seokjin and Yoongi make a quick sweep of the entire apartment to be sure they’ve left nothing of importance behind, Jimin stays with Namjoon in the hallway by the front door, slightly trembling. When the beta asks if he’s alright, he brushes him off to lean against the wall for support. He’s exhausted.

“I could’ve stayed with the pack. We should’ve known. We shouldn’t have left Jungkook like that,” Jimin sniffles, wiping his nose with his long sleeve.

“We didn’t know, Jimin. It could’ve been anything. He was doing perfectly fine for the first two weeks. We don’t know what triggered it, and he certainly didn’t show many signs of rejecting the serum,” Namjoon reasons. He pats Jimin on the shoulder, lending some warmth to his chilled skin. “When these things happen, all we can do is hope that we can do something.”

“Can we?” Jimin’s bottom lip quivers.

“God, I hope so,” Namjoon breathes. “It was the right decision to leave. We needed to confirm that there was something wrong.”

“Doesn’t matter. I left him when I promised him I wouldn’t.” Jimin curls his arms under JiHyun and buries his face in the pup’s hair.

“Okay. I don’t think this is the right time to get emotional.”

Yoongi reappears in the hallway with his luggage carried on his back, his face shrouded under a black face mask and a cap that firmly pins his hair down atop his head, a similar look he shares with Jimin, Seokjin, and now Namjoon. With Jimin’s brightly coloured orange hair, they would be spotted within five minutes.

“When is the time?” he sighs.

“When we get you back to your mate.” Yoongi smiles weakly.

Jimin nods slowly, trying not to move around too much in case he wakes JiHyun.

“Alright. I think we’re set to leave.” Seokjin brushes passed them to the front door, slipping his shoes back on. “Everyone set?”

They nod, preparing themselves for the worst.

“Okay. Let’s do this,” Seokjin says, tugging his cap down securely over his face before he exits the apartment first.

The corridors are eerie and deserted. There’s not a soul in sight, and Jimin can’t seem to hear any movement within the building at all. Usually, he can hear his neighbours perfectly well. Despite the thickness of the walls, there aren’t many moments of silence on his floor. His neighbour had children and pets. This place is rarely without some sort of commotion. The emptiness of the hallway makes him anxious.

At the last minute, right before Jimin is crossing the threshold, Yoongi grabs his arm. Namjoon and Seokjin are already ahead of them, checking for any wandering bystanders that could testify to seeing them make a run for it.

The younger omega pauses and gives him an inquisitive look. Yoongi is serious once again, his eyes narrowed in the blackened corridor. Jimin can barely make out the shape of him, but his eyes are as bright as they are terrifying. There’s a glow to Yoongi’s eyes, a fiery edge, a sliver of silver lining his irises. Jimin’s never been up close enough to notice.

“You have them too,” Yoongi comments, like he’s hearing Jimin’s words said aloud. “Ever since we came back from the pack, I thought it was just the lighting, but it’s clearer in the dark. They’ve gotten worse since you got back from the lab,” he tells him.

Jimin’s hand shoots up to his face, his fingertips lightly skimming the skin above his cheekbone. He hasn’t felt any changes within his body. Not to the point that he would get to see it have a physical effect.

“You still sure you wanna choose your soulmate over your home?” Yoongi raises an eyebrow at him before they take off out of the apartment. He’s giving Jimin the option to back out if this is not something he can see through to the end. None of them really know what they’re up against. Suk-Joo may not be as influential as his father. They don’t know what President Kim even thinks of his son’s plans given the news of his sickness. They’re going into this blindfolded.

“You won’t be able to take it back.”

Jimin doesn’t think twice before he answers. “Jungkook’s my home.”

 

Expectedly, they get questioned at the exit. One of the guards get too close for Jimin’s liking – lifting up his cap to comment on his pretty face. Jimin swallows the little bit of saliva he has on his tongue, stopping himself from spitting at the man’s unwelcomed leer. He’s in no place to be touched by anyone right now, let alone an unmated beta who pays no regard to the pup in his arms.

His alpha would not be happy.

Jimin isn’t so thrilled about the proximity either. His skin is already crawling, his organs churning at the smell of a stale beta scent and rancid breath. No one comes to his aid, he wouldn’t allow them to. If any of his friends get defensive, they’ll all look guiltier. So, he endures the hands trailing down his sides to his back, groping his hips and legs to trail up dangerously close to his ass. It’s common treatment. Every omega has felt their fair share of unwanted hands, but with his sanity wobbling on the edge, Jimin is too late to suppress the threatening growl that leaves his throat.

The guard flinches in surprise, taken aback by the omega’s defiance.

“Sir, please,” Namjoon pleads, gripping the straps of his bag until his knuckles turn white. “We’re just heading to Ukiyo to deliver some medicine. We won’t take long or inconvenience you at all.”

“Your omega is the one being difficult,” the guard replies, going back to searching Jimin’s torso for any concealed weapons, lingering less under Jimin’s withering glare.

“Young mated omegas can get like that sometimes,” Yoongi says, appearing the submissive, docile omega, the guard wants him to be. He even flutters his eyelashes enough times to seem innocent.

“Mated? He doesn’t smell mated,” the man frowns warily, daring to take a sniff at Jimin’s collar. “Nothing like a mated omega.”

Jimin wrenches himself a few steps back, his hands balled at his sides. “Are we done here?”

Namjoon and Seokjin wince from the side-lines. Jimin’s mood has plummeted since their encounter with Suk-Joo. Now, within a few feet of the young omega, they could see the beginnings of a wolf flickering to life in Jimin’s eyes.

“One more thing…” the guard starts, strolling over to his station to pick up a few papers from his desk.

Namjoon visibly stiffens as he glimpses the contents. Seokjin takes his arm, smoothing his hand down his bicep to get him to relax, while Yoongi remains unfazed, emotionless but listening. Jimin takes a step closer to them, seeking the comfort of their scents, of his pack.

Jimin doesn’t care if they’re discovered. One way or another, he’s getting out of those doors. If he gets a few scrapes here and there, he’ll heal with time. But no matter what occurs, he’s getting back to Jungkook.

“We’ve been notified that some people like yourselves would be trying to pass by here,” the unmated beta says, narrowing his eyes at them one by one. “I was told not to allow anyone else outside of the dome.”

Jimin clenches his jaw in annoyance.

Yoongi steps up before the younger omega can lay a hand on the guard. “Can’t you make an exception? We’ll only be in Ukiyo until tomorrow morning,” he says. Although he’s abrasive most of the time, not as sweet and charming as some omegas tend to be, Yoongi has his own methods of getting his way. It helps that he’s petite and easy on the eyes. It would fool anyone, beta or alpha. They should be glad Yoongi doesn’t put his allure to use.

Jimin watches with curiosity as Yoongi slides forward towards the guard, gazing up at him with softened eyes and parted pink lips. It’s not quite so uncharacteristic that he would be unrecognizable as the fearsome omega that he typically is. Yoongi only looked like this, dreamy and harmless, when he’s thinking of his two alphas. Jimin knows. He’s watched Yoongi’s eyes glaze over a multitude of times. Until now, he didn’t think Yoongi would ever use it to appear the defenceless omega. He didn’t think Yoongi’s pride would allow it.

Namjoon turns his head away and rubs the back of his hand under his nose. Seokjin glances down to his feet, heat rising to his ears at the rising scent of a willing omega.

Jimin is the only way to know that Yoongi isn’t willing at all. Surprising, considering this is the first time he’s ever seen Yoongi do anything like this. There’s a distinct quality to a willing omega. It’s powerful, but Jimin’s never resorted to it before. The fact that Yoongi’s mated makes only a slight difference. When an omega is willing, they are willing.

To his amazement, the guard’s stare clouds over at the excess pheromones disturbing the air, fogging his mind and judgement. The lightest of pinks dust his cheeks at Yoongi’s earnest expression, and he fumbles for a minute, the papers in his hand forgotten.

“Just let us through. We won’t cause you any trouble,” Yoongi says, steady and cool. He doesn’t have to do anything – doesn’t even have to touch him for the man to lower his defences.

Looking closer, Jimin can tell it pains Yoongi somewhat to behave this way. It goes against many of the expectations he’s set for himself.

The guard splutters and stumbles his way back to his station, his eyes never leaving Yoongi as he walks backwards. “M-Make it quick. You gotta be back by tomorrow.”

Yoongi nods, but doesn’t smile. Jimin can already see the start of a scowl coming through.

It takes five minutes for the entrance to be opened. It’s heavy with metal and use, groaning deeply as it ascends upwards into the white concrete wall that makes up half of the dome. The other half being thick glass. Jimin’s never been this close to the entrance before. He’s never had reason to be. And when he sees a peek of the outside with every inch the door lifts, his heart lightens. It’s dark, but the stars are bright out tonight.

He glances up at them briefly, then sucks in a mouthful of the cold fresh air, his toes curling in his shoes.

Freedom.  

 

Tablo is an older man. In his late thirties. Handsome in his own right. They find him about a mile away from the entrance, leaning on a car, playing a mini shooting game on his communicator as he waits for them. After he sees them approaching, he pushes away from the car and gives Namjoon and Yoongi a clap on the back. He’s got a look about him; a look that Jimin sees often in fathers and teachers. He’s kind and careful with his smiles.

On their walk, Yoongi had told him that Tablo was the only person within the organisation that they trusted. Apart from President Kim himself, Tablo shared their sentiments about the alphas, and had offered help instantly when Namjoon had contacted him. He doesn’t ask many questions, and he seems at ease by Jimin’s suspicious glances. Words don’t stop Jimin from keeping distance though. He’s cautious of the newcomer, he can’t even shake his hand. He should feel guilty about his rudeness, but at least he’s able to muster a shy smile. He’ll apologise when he sees the man again, which he’s sure will be in the near future. Tablo is understanding. If it isn’t for the way he carries himself, Jimin would be warier of him.

Fortunately, Tablo doesn’t stay for long. Seokjin is hurrying them all into the car within five minutes of getting acquainted. They could only spare a few short goodbyes before Seokjin is taking off down the road.

“He’s nice,” Jimin says, leaning back in his seat to get more comfortable. The car isn’t too big. They’re sitting amongst their bags, cramped and warm. He wouldn’t be able to see any of his friends even without the darkness.

“He was my mentor for two years. He helped me through a lot of shit,” Namjoon voice comes from his right.

“Should I trust him?” Jimin bites the inside of his cheek.

“That’s up to you.”

“…What if he reports us?” he sighs.

“I’ve known Tablo for years. He used to substitute in some of my classes. He’s a trustworthy man. He cares about the alphas just as much as we do. Tablo was the one who helped Gong Yoo with his transition,” Namjoon says. “If you don’t want to trust him, I won’t blame you. But... he’s never backed down from his word before.”

They don’t talk about Tablo again. They don’t talk about anything at all for most of the trip. Namjoon and Seokjin fall asleep about two hours in, leaving Jimin awake with Yoongi. However, there’s not much to talk about. They know what they have to do. Their goal is to get back to Jungkook and give him the treatment that he needs. Though one thing does plague him for a while, what if they can’t treat Jungkook? What if it requires them to take him back to the metropolis? They can’t hide him, they’ll lose him to another lab.

Jimin can’t so much as close his eyes. Images of Jungkook’s sick form on the floor, feverish and alone forever burned into his eyelids. His mind is hazy with no sleep, and he refuses to miss any moment he gets to see the stars. They’re a nice distraction from the nightmare they’re about to face. He wants to convince himself he’s ready for it. He’s not.

Their stop at Ukiyo at dawn is short. They only park to get food and stretch their legs before they continue on. This time, Jimin pays more attention to the road. Every rock, every little puddle in the dirt, every changing colour has him on the edge of his seat. When the trees thicken at their sides, he knows they’re close. What has him more nervous are the deep, fresh tire tracks of a pair of heavy vehicles that have ridden through the mud before they had. Jimin remembers their conversation with Gong Yoo, his warning about the men from the metropolis.

They’d been so caught up in Suk-Joo’s appearance in the lab that they’d forgotten to question the man about it. Jimin prays they’re not the reason why the alphas have gone missing. 

Once the flattened road turns bumpy and perilous, Jimin taps his foot impatiently on the floor, waiting for Yoongi to park somewhere safe.  

To their shock, Yoongi slams down on the brakes before they can go any further. The car skids abruptly to a halt, causing a few jolts and cramping necks. The other three protest and complain about the violent stop, their heads spinning painfully.

“A warning would be nice,” Seokjin groans.

Yoongi shushes him as he veers the car towards the tree line. He parks in the shade and hastily turns off the engine. He looks pale and troubled from what Jimin can see in the rear-view mirror. The sunlight of the early morning has the bags under his eyes looking much darker.

“What’s wrong?” Namjoon whispers, panicked.

“There’re trucks over that hill,” Yoongi says, jerking his chin towards the gap in the two trees they’re hidden within, grimacing at the view they have of two armoured trucks parked over the horizon.

There’re no drivers from what they can see. What’s more alarming is the smoke rising from beyond the hill. Thick and grey, it swirls up to the sky, but from where they are, they see no fires.

“Something’s wrong. That’s where the pack is.” Namjoon sounds horrified, but Jimin can’t tell with the bags between them.

“We should walk from here,” Jimin says, already unbuckling his seatbelt. He misses the concerned looks Yoongi and Seokjin exchange.

“Jimin…” Seokjin furrows his eyebrows.

“What? It’s not that far,” he insists, securing the carrier around his torso so that JiHyun is stable. The pup had woken up a while ago, quiet due to his older brother’s overpowering scent.

“It’s not that. It’s…” Seokjin hesitates.

“You’re going crazy,” Yoongi cuts straight to it. “Have you looked at yourself lately? You’re not going out there while you’re reckless. You’re just going to get yourself killed.”

“What – you want me to stay here and wait it out?” Jimin growls, not noticing the way JiHyun flinches and whines at his harsh tone.

“I didn’t say that. I’m saying we should come up with a plan before we go running into people with guns. I’m pretty sure they have guns,” Yoongi says, squinting his eyes at the trucks.

“Guns or not. That smoke is coming from the direction of the pack. What if something’s wrong?” Jimin forcefully pushes his door open and hops out of the car.

Yoongi, Seokjin, and Namjoon reluctantly get out after him. They shudder in the morning cold, tugging their coats and jackets tighter around themselves. Jimin doesn’t give them time to freeze. His mind already a cluster of panic and growls, he rounds the car quickly and unstraps the carrier from around himself to pass JiHyun to Seokjin.

He’s been doing that a lot lately; passing his brother to someone else. The pup is going to resent him in enough time, and a sick part of him wants him to. Jimin isn’t stable. It’s pretty evident by the way the others have been watching him this entire time. Yoongi is constantly on alert around him, Seokjin hesitates whenever Jimin asks for JiHyun back, and Namjoon has been too careful with his words, scared to test Jimin’s temperament. He’s sad that he’s come to this. Broken down into an angry, agitated omega because his alpha isn’t around. It scares him to know that his body and mind can’t go on without Jungkook.

This is what mating an alpha does to an omega? Jimin doesn’t know what to make of it.

“I’m gonna go ahead,” he decides, pressing his lips together to supress his need to whimper. “You guys be careful. I’ll make sure to call if everything is clear. I… I think it would be for the best I go alone. I can get there faster. If I don’t call – then something happened.”

Namjoon tries to protest, grabbing his wrist in time to prevent him from turning away. “Jimin. We can go together.”

“No! No…” Jimin shakes his head. “I need you guys to keep JiHyun with you. He’s safer with you. I’m… I’m not in the right place to take care of him. Please, look after him for me.” He looks up at the two beta mates with wide, tear rimmed eyes, pleading for understanding.

Seokjin looks on the verge of crying himself, but shakes it off and straps JiHyun to his front. “Go. We’ll meet you there.”

“Don’t…” Yoongi sighs and rolls his eyes in defeat. “Don’t be stupid and try to fight anyone if you meet them. Just get to the pack. Don’t stop,” he says, getting back into the car to retrieve something from the glove compartment. “Take this. At least it’s something.”

Yoongi hands him a boxcutter, which he accepts.

“Thanks.”

In a last second of regret, Jimin pivots back to JiHyun. He surges forward and cups his round, chubby face. His brother looks up at him confusedly, his little hand taking one of Jimin’s pinkies, as if he’s asking for Jimin to stay. The pup must be too tired to talk. The thought gives Jimin the drive to lean over and press his lips to the pup’s forehead, staying there to breathe in JiHyun’s wildflower scent and baby shampoo for as long as he can. It’s a promise. He’ll come back. If JiHyun doesn’t make it to the pack before something happens to Jimin, he’ll find a way to get back to his brother again.

He can’t forget that JiHyun is still his life.

With that, he separates from the group, starting with a light jog before going into a full sprint through the trees, off towards the pack, kicking up dirt and leaves as he goes.

Sleep deprived, starving, and weak, Jimin hardly feels any of it. It doesn’t compare to the adrenaline pumping through his system, pushing his legs to their limit. It’s like he’s flying. The forest is still how he remembers it. Colourful, and brimming with energy. If he stops, takes his shoes off and digs his toes into the dirt, he’s sure to feel his ancestors purring under his heels. Jimin hasn’t felt this alive in a long time. Not since his run with Jungkook before their incident with Yugyeom.

This is where we belong, he tells him.

It’s a lot clearer here. That voice, that presence in his head. He’s been given time to befriend it over the past two weeks his feet haven’t touched real soil. He’s used to it. Fuck, right now, he welcomes it. An omega is what it is, and Jimin really should stop addressing it as, well, ‘it’. They’re an extension of himself, or that’s how he thinks it works.

He’s beyond asking questions.

Don’t stop. Keep going.

Above the whistling wind in his ears, Jimin can make out one other real sound. Gunshots. And it’s so, so near. Almost too close for comfort. The first time he hears it, he thinks it’s just his mind tricking him into running faster. The second time, they’re much more real, causing Jimin to almost trip on a fallen log. Not once in twenty-four years has he been so close to gunshots. The East don’t allow firearms, nor does the West. Though that doesn’t stop some of the lurking thieves and rapists from getting creative with cutlery. It’s just unusual to hear a gunshot.

The sound makes him pause in blood-curdling fright, goosebumps immediately rising on his arms. It scares him to death.

Stumbling out of surprise, he pushes his hands through the dirt to keep himself balanced, his billowing bangs prickling his eyes, making them sting with salty sweat. The wind does nothing for his red, moist skin. He’s burning up, but it’s not from the run.

“F-Fuck…” Jimin wheezes, his ankles nearly tripping over one another as he finally finds the familiar hiking trail to the pack.

The gunshots are louder here. Thunderous and intimidating. Jimin’s heart stutters at the thought of the pack being harmed. His pack being harmed. His fears are confirmed by the screams coming from within the grounds, accompanied by the growls and howls of the shifted pack mates, fighting off the assailants running rampant on their territory.

Jimin comes crashing into a tree to stop himself from being spotted by a group of soldiers running by just outside the entrance. His lungs burn and there’s not enough oxygen to fill his whole body. He wants to vomit, but only smacks his lips to get rid of the unpleasant metallic taste in his mouth. He’s sweating all over, fearing that his back will stick to the tree if he stays there for too long.

Gripping the boxcutter tighter in his palms, he peeks around to get a better idea of what’s happening.

From the entrance to the Elder’s Den, there’s more than a dozen soldiers working to take down the bigger alpha wolves either with tranquilizers or their own fists. He has a mind to look for Hoseok and Taehyung amidst the chaos, eyes wildly surveying each shifted alpha, wondering which ones were his two beloved friends. God, he had hoped that Gong Yoo had been wrong. It’s clear they’re from the metropolis, more specifically from the Royal Order. These men don’t care for the well-beings of the alphas, betas, or omegas. They’re here to do their jobs.

To his horror, he spots the omegas and pups huddled up by the fire pit, kept at bay by a few armed men. There are some that are fighting with their alphas, using their smaller size to evade. Although the guns are merely used to intimidate and stun seeing as there’s no bloodshed yet, the omegas are not immune to the butt of the rifles the soldiers aim at their stomachs. They fall to the floor one by one, groaning and hissing and baring their teeth insolently.

Jimin wants to feel proud. He wants to be out there with them, fighting, defending, salvaging what’s left of their pack. But he can’t. If they find him, they’ll put him in cuffs too. He has to find Jungkook before then.

“Fuck… fuck, fuck, fuck,” Jimin chants under his breath, trying not to flinch at the noise of ripping fabric and guns.

He waits for the footsteps to fall away before he runs out in the middle of the fight. Many of the alphas have already taken down half of the men in the area, creating a clear path for him to get to the lodge, which remains intact for the most part.

Not giving himself the time to cower and think twice, he dashes towards the cobblestone stairs. Heart in his throat, he weaves and dodges as many tumbling bodies as he can. He’s about to make it. Oh shit, he’s actually about to make it, his mind yells in triumph.

His breath stops short when he gets intercepted at the bottom, his feet almost slipping right from under him. One of the soldiers find him, blocking his path from the stairs. He’s a large man with a wide upper-body, his hands bare of a gun, his face obscured by a black helmet and visor, adding on to the intimidation.

Jimin curses loudly and grips the boxcutter till it leaves reddening marks on his palms.

He was so close. He can already feel his mate reaching for him. He can feel it, fuck, he can feel it. Jungkook is waiting for him, he’s expecting him. Jimin was supposed to be back weeks ago. He was never meant to stay away this long and now, with the attack, he might not get to see Jungkook again.

What are you waiting for?

Jimin wishes he was above killing a man. It’ll haunt him for the rest of his life, but it’ll be worth it.

As Jimin’s about to raise his hand, muttering madly under his breath about how he would not waste his time on a soldier, a large body of light brown fur sails high above his head, disturbing the hair at his crown. Being quite used to the size of the wolves by now, he barely flinches when his saviour pins the soldier to the ground. The large wolf puts all of his weight on the screaming man’s limbs, keeping him paralysed under his paws. He’s leaner than the rest of the wolves, with a long snout and tail. Despite his position, there’s no viciousness behind his actions.

It’s immediate who he is.

The wolf turns to Jimin, his scarlet eyes blinking in familiarity as he dips his head to him. When the omega pets his ears without fear, the wolf grins as best as he can with a mouthful of sharp teeth.

“Thanks, Tae.”

One last comb through his friend’s fur, Jimin jogs up the stairs. He puts the boxcutter back into his back pocket for safe keeping and scurries right over to the basement door. The lodge hasn’t been attacked, he can tell by the unmoved furniture and lack of footprints. It means the soldiers don’t know that Jungkook is here.

Practically flinging himself down the basement stairs, he slips on the last step and has to ungracefully catch the railing. Not like his legs can work right now anyway, Jungkook’s sickness has him collapsing onto his knees as if it was his own. Underneath the smell of the affliction is the scent of a sorrowful alpha, whining for his mate’s touch. Jimin’s nose burns and his eyes turn glassy at the pungency. In a second he’s shaking, his gut churning and clenching at the sight of Jungkook, chained to the wall, surrounded by pillows and blankets, well taken care of, but gaunt and weak. The bucket he’d seen in the call with Gong Yoo is now empty at the end of Jungkook’s bed, however, at the front of the alpha’s white shirt, there’s a black stain where his mate has most likely thrown up on.

With some effort, Jimin gets back onto his feet and all but falls over Jungkook’s lap, crying out in relief to have Jungkook close again. Tears trekking down his cheeks in utter happiness to have Jungkook under his hands, alive and breathing, Jimin sniffles and hiccups. Although his skin is cold, Jimin doesn’t waste a second to run his palms up Jungkook’s chest to wrap his arms around his shoulders, pulling his head into the crook of his neck.

His alpha doesn’t open his eyes for him. He doesn’t react to Jimin’s sudden presence in the room at all, lost to his illness. Jimin had waited so long to see Jungkook again, he didn’t think he’d come back to a hollow shell.

“Jungkook,” Jimin whimpers, cradling Jungkook’s head to get a look at his face. “Jungkook… I-I’m – I’m so sorry I left. I’m here now, baby. Please, open your eyes.”

Jungkook doesn’t.

“A-Alpha,” Jimin keens brokenly, littering kisses anywhere he can get to. From Jungkook’s chin to his forehead, he sobs into his kisses, and hopes his alpha will open his eyes. “Please, please, wake up. Come on. Come back to me.”

Wretched and devastated, Jimin clings to Jungkook’s shoulders, rocking them back and forth. He didn’t want to come back to this. How are they going to treat Jungkook like this?

He comes to the daunting conclusion that they’re not. They’re not going to be allowed to be in contact with Jungkook at all if they’re caught. He’ll be sent to another lab within the West, helpless and vulnerable under the hands of whoever will get him. Jimin won’t be able to save him. He won’t be able to see his mate again if he’s taken away. God forbid Suk-Joo gets his hands on Jungkook. His alpha will be put in a zoo.

Holding his unconscious mate fiercely to his body, Jimin shakes his head. No. Fuck no.

“Jungkook,” Jimin tries again, shaking the younger man by the shoulders. “Jungkook, it’s Jimin. It’s me. Please, please, open your eyes!”

Jungkook stirs this time, but it’s short-lived.

“C’mon. Jungkook, you have to open your eyes for me, baby. Come. On.” Jimin cups his jaw, fitting his lips over his mate’s cold ones for the first time in two weeks. He tastes of blood and bitterness. Jimin doesn’t care. He’ll take that over kissing a corpse.

Jungkook groans, eyelashes fluttering.

“That’s it,” Jimin gives a watery smile, kissing Jungkook again and again. “That’s my good alpha. Come back to me, Jungkookie.”

“…-min,” Jungkook rasps, eyes firmly shut. His lips are pursed as he leans forward in seek of his mate’s warmth again, his forehead lightly bumping against Jimin’s in his blindness. His nostrils flare to pick up the cherished scent of his omega, lips parting to taste. “Jimin…”

The omega smiles and gives Jungkook another chaste kiss. Though being in his alpha’s arms only offers a short reprieve to the disaster outside the basement, it has relief flooding through his system like water on fire, easing him back to sane-mindedness.

“Hey, you,” Jimin breathes, brushing back Jungkook’s black bangs to kiss his forehead again. He nuzzles and noses along Jungkook’s head, attempting to get as much of himself on his mate as he has time to. Two weeks is too long, being separated has him mewling like an omega in heat.

“You’re real?” Jungkook croaks, his arms draping over Jimin’s waist to have him straddling the alpha’s hips.

Jimin laughs softly, “yeah, I’m real. I’m here, baby. I’m not gonna leave you again.”

Jungkook hums warmly, sniffling into Jimin’s neck to scent him. Out of habit, Jimin tips his head back to give him reign, letting the alpha dizzily fit his teeth back over his claim mark. The omega hisses happily, tangling his fingers into Jungkook’s nest of a hair. Jungkook kisses lazily along his skin for a while, only once daring to run his tongue over the mark. Instantly, Jimin feels the heat flare up between them, consuming his insides in lava.

Jungkook growls in contentment, finally opening his eyes. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” Jimin purrs, tightening his thighs around Jungkook’s waist, his chest flushed to his mate’s own.

“You’re here,” Jungkook moans, mouthing over Jimin’s jaw. He licks up all the sweat and grime on his neck from his run, groaning louder and clearer with every patch of skin. The chains around his wrists clink when he moves again, tugging his omega around him.

“I’m here.” Jimin fists his hands into the back of Jungkook’s shirt, his head hanging loosely to the side, eyes closed and mouth agape in bliss. Just like that, Jungkook flushes through him like ecstasy, leaving nothing untouched or unloved. As though Jimin hadn’t left at all.

The omega allows Jungkook five more minutes to touch, canting his hips back when he feels Jungkook palm his ass, one hand on each cheek. His fingers try to dig in only to be stopped by denim. He growls in frustration because of it, looking up at his mate with an unhappy pout, asking him to take them off. Jimin merely smiles. They can’t stay in the basement forever. The gunshots are a reminder of that.

He needs to get Jungkook out.

“Later,” he promises against Jungkook’s mouth. “First, let’s get out of here.”

Jungkook is too weak to stand by himself when Jimin unlocks the cuffs from his wrists and ankles. Chained up and sick for two whole weeks, Jimin is surprised Jungkook remembers how to use his legs. Turns out he’s almost there, so Jimin has to bear most of his weight as they ascend the stairs back up to the main floor. Struggling with Jungkook all the while tonguing at his neck, Jimin is ready to collapse.

They take it slow down the hallway. Jungkook’s attachment to the side of his body makes him cautious. He doesn’t want them to be caught in the middle of a haze of lust and heat. His cheeks burn just thinking about it.

“What’s happening outside?” Jungkook asks, his eyes on Jimin every second he moves, drinking him in like a starving man on his last cup of water.

“I’ll explain once we get outta here.” Jimin bites his lip. He knows Jungkook won’t appreciate that later. His mate would want to be out there, fighting with his pack mates. He’s not going to be happy that Jimin had stopped him from doing so. Knowing Jungkook, he would insist they come back to get the others. Jimin can’t disagree. He would do the same.

They reach the door together, and right as Jimin’s hand touches the door knob, he hears a foreign series of beeps on the other side of the door. It’s quiet one moment, and the cogs in his mind turn to figure out what it is. He comes to his answer too late when he finds himself airborne and thrown back away from the door after a small explosion breaks through the wood. The shock of it has all the wind knocked out of his lungs, flinging him backwards into the lodge, his side clipping the edge of the counter in the kitchen. The attack doesn’t give him time to register that he’d lost his grip on Jungkook, who is now across the room from him, groaning on the floor in the living room. Jimin’s ears ring shrilly from the explosion, the edges of his vision pulsing black as he tries to stay conscious long enough to get back to his alpha.

Despite the splinters that have pierced into his palms from the desecrated door, he sobs quietly and begins to drag himself across the floor to his mate. Momentarily, he notes that his head is bleeding and his omega is whimpering at the back of it. Effectively subdued by the explosion, he cries with his wolf. He whines and keens highly from his throat, hoping his alpha can hear.

He’s slow. He’s so slow, his body too sluggish to carry him all the way to the living room. There’s debris on the floor that he has to push aside as he crawls, the sleeves of his jacket too tattered to offer him much protection from getting cut.

The blood from his injury drips from his temple and down to his eyes, making him flinch at the sting. He can barely keep them open, but his gaze remains on Jungkook. Only Jungkook. His alpha is already pulling himself up, scrambling to Jimin on all fours, his hand reaches out and Jimin outstretches an arm towards him. So close, they’re almost there. He can graze Jungkook’s knuckles with his fingertips... until Jungkook is wrenched away.

NO!

Jimin screams in distress as he watches his mate being hauled off the floor. There’re no faces for him to direct his fury towards. It all becomes too much too soon. His blood boils right to the surface and his skin draws taut, his bones aching. Suddenly, he has too many teeth, and the scent of smoke, despair and longing is more prominent in the room than it was before.

Jimin sinks into the feeling like teeth into flesh.