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Damnatio Aeterna

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Jungkook crouches low behind a tangle of dead bushes, the low light of the moon reflecting off snow-covered ground. He hears shouts in the distance, angry snarls as orders are shouted at his former pack. If they get too close they’ll pick up his scent, especially with the blood dripping from him right now. If they see the trail of blood, he stands no chance.

He winces as he crawls away from the bush, dragging himself backward, away from the oncoming pursuers. If they find him he’s as good as dead. They have no choice now, no matter how much some of them may have respected him when he was their leader. The strongest of them have banded together to cast Jungkook out. The others will comply, for survival if nothing else.

As Jungkook pulls himself to his feet he feels fiery pain shoot through his body, seeping into his very bones. Every inch of him is decorated with cuts and bruises, the bones in his left leg shattered, blood dripping down the side of his head. He can’t seem to see straight and he fears of what other damage their torture may have done to him.

The pain between his legs alarms him; they had beaten every inch of him with baseball bats and crowbars while he’d been tied down. Every inch. With the amount of trauma his body suffered from the pack’s abuse, he would be amazed if he made it out of this with everything intact.

If he even makes it out alive.

Jungkook stumbles through the snow with near-frozen bare feet, ragged clothes wrapped around his body and drenched in blood. He feels light-headed as he grasps at nearby trees, trying to keep his balance to hobble away. His back aches with the unhealed burns from the iron and he wants nothing more than to drop into the snow and let the cold of it ease the pain.

He keeps going, the bark of one tree giving way under his weight as he grips it. It falls to the ground alongside several drops of bright red blood, glaringly obvious against the stark whiteness of snow. Horrid, sharp pain zaps through his left leg.

Jungkook still doesn’t stop, the shouts growing louder. He can see the edge of the forest, the distant lights of a city.

The night seems to rapidly grow darker around him, the pain overwhelming, the need to stop and rest overpowering his drive for survival. He’s so tired. If he just gives up, if he just stops, he will probably die soon. He could just give up, let it all end. What does he have to live for now, anyway?

They have already killed his mate, broken his spirit, destroyed him in every way they could. He’s lost the love of his life, his pack, his unborn child, everything. He could just give up, stop feeling the pain both in his body and in his heart.

But the city lights call to him, call him forward.

There’s a shout behind him, too close, and he picks up his pace as much as he can, blackness still closing in around him. He stumbles past a clump of trees, his leg nearly giving out underneath him, and he crashes through a bush and to the edge of a hill.

His feet slip on the snow and the loose dirt beneath it, dragging his already broken body down a large hill. As he falls, the shouts grow more distant again, the aches in his bones increasing, and when he reaches the bottom of the hill he finds he has no will left to move. His body has given up on him, unable to lift even a finger.

Snow drifts down around him, the snow on the ground chilling him. All he can do is stare up at the sky, at the moon taunting him, and wait. Wait for the cold to take him, for the blood to leave him. Wait for death.

Wait for the sweet hands of the reaper to drag him down, to take him from this pain so he can join her, join his mate in the world beyond this one.

Somewhere in the distance he hears a voice and he thinks its his old pack, arriving just in time to watch him die. But as it grows closer he realizes he doesn’t recognize it, he’s never heard this voice before.

“Yoongi, over here!”

Or that name.

“The hell?”

“He’s hurt.”

“He’s an alpha. Tae, step back. Let me look at him.”

“He’s hurt, Yoongi.” Footsteps crunch through the snow, closing in on Jungkook. “We need to get him back to—”

Shouts from Jungkook’s pack grow nearer again, somewhere around the top of the hill if Jungkook’s not mistaken.

“Shit. Fine, help me lift him, Tae.” Hands grab at Jungkook’s shoulders and, if he had the strength, he would have winced at the pain coursing in waves over his body. “C’mon, big guy. Fuck, you’re heavier than you look. Got his legs, Tae? Alright, let’s go.”

Jungkook feels himself lifted up and away from the cold snow, his vision going totally black now, the moon vanishing from sight. His body goes numb, defending itself from the unbearable pain coursing through it right now. He can hear his rescuers bickering back and forth but he can’t make out the words.

His body shuts down, his mind following, and he fades into darkness, wishing for nothing more than for this to end. The last thing he sees is the image of his old mate, smiling back at him, and the feeling of tears down his cheeks.

 

3 Months Later

 

Jimin holds his cards to his mouth, peering at the others around the table as he waits. Waits for someone to fold, someone to call. No one moves a muscle, all eyes darting around to get a good read on the players. Jimin sits with his signature wicked grin—the one he seems to have on his face at all times. Everyone thought it was a tell when they first started inviting him to poker games but they soon learned that’s just his natural state. Park Jimin doesn’t have a tell and it’s infuriating.

He eyes Seokjin across the table, quirking his brow at him, and the omega slams his cards down with a sigh. “I fold,” he grunts, lacing his fingers together and resting his chin on them. His fold causes a domino effect, everyone folding one by one, throwing their cards down until it’s only Jimin left.

With a quick lick of his lips, Jimin sets his cards down and the table explodes into raucous jeering, disappointed groans and shouts. A pair of twos. That’s all he had.

Jimin laughs to himself, gathering up the little pile of cash and ration cards in the middle of the table. He leaves a few behind, just to be nice, and pockets the rest. “Good seeing you, boys, but I gotta get to work.” He stands up, stretching his hands above his head as the others curse at him, Seokjin throwing a crumpled napkin at his head.

He laughs, head shaking as he makes for the stairs, rushing up them two at a time and darting out the door and into an alley. Cool spring air hits him as he steps outside, boots splashing through puddles left over from the melting of winter. The alleyway smells of rats and garbage, mingling with the scent of gasoline wafting from the main street, beaten up cars chugging along.

This city has gone in the shitter, a complete opposite from what it used to be, all bright and shiny and dotted with neon signs. Now the streets hide beneath a thick layer of muck and sludge, the buildings dingy with their windows busted out, often decorated with dried patches of blood from alphas finding the need to show their dominance through fist fights or worse. Broken street lights line the roads, pelted with rocks so no one sees what happens when night falls.

Along the side of one particularly filthy brick building stands a line of plainly-dressed people, waiting for their turn to claim their rations. Everything is given in moderation these days, based upon the number of ration cards you manage to earn through fulfilling your duties to your community.

Just working a job isn’t enough anymore, in order to rebuild society everyone must contribute to the government’s efforts to reclaim their homeland. Assisting in community service is the only way to earn a good number of the necessities you need to survive. Money from your own job buys the rest.

It hasn’t been that long since the human race nearly met its end, just ten short years since the outbreak of a disease nearly killed everyone, spreading across the world like wildfire. It took several of those years just for scientists to find a cure, meanwhile society collapsed, everyone too ill to work. Cities fell into chaos, people doing everything they could to survive, every man for himself, governments collapsed. It’s just in the last two years that humankind has found any semblance of order again, barely.

It’s different all around the world but here in Seoul and the surrounding areas they enacted laws, curfews, assigned jobs and community service to the citizens. No one out past 10 P.M., everyone that can work has to, every citizen must dedicate a certain number of hours per week to community service to help rebuild society, and only offspring-producing pairs can mate in order to rebuild the population.

As obnoxious as the laws can get sometimes, Jimin abides by them without much complaint. But not everyone is as content as he is. Some have turned their backs on the law, choosing to live outside of the city. City dwellers call them ‘packs’, groups of barbaric humans who live off the land, killing or imprisoning anyone who comes too close to their territory.

Jimin knows the inner functions of packs all too well. He grew up in one before they were all slaughtered for trying to wage war on a nearby town, desperate to steal their supplies and feed their young, like himself. Jimin and the other children were lucky enough to be taken in rather than killed, and he’s lived in the city ever since.

It was during his early years in the city that he presented as an alpha and since then has been watched carefully to see when he would choose a mate. Thus far, Jimin has found no one worthy of his time, not enough to bond himself to them for the rest of his life, anyway. He’s perfectly happy with being alone, working as a lowly mechanic in a run down garage, playing poker for extra rations. No need to change any of that just yet.

Jimin darts across a muddy street, dodging and weaving between cars until he reaches the other side. He turns his hat around backwards, shoves his hands into his oversized jacket, and kicks open the door of the garage as he reaches it. It slams open against the wall, making everyone turn and frown as he enters, his boss, Yoongi, clasping his hand over his heart.

“Jesus, Jimin, is that really necessary?” he growls, tossing an oily rag at the alpha, who simply dodges it with a laugh.

“Gotta make sure everyone knows I’m here, that way they know real work’s about to get done.”

Yoongi snorts. “Right,” he grumbles before shooing away a few other workers. Jimin steps up beside the beta, watching the other mechanics as they work, he leans back against the wall and slides a little closer to Yoongi.

“Here,” Jimin murmurs, slipping a few ration cards out of his pocket and into his friend’s hand. “For Tae. Get him some medicine.” He watches and Yoongi gives him a silent nod of thanks and pockets the cards. “How is he doing?”

“Not good,” Yoongi says, taking a deep breath. He leans back beside Jimin. “Still sick.”

Jimin nods, hands back in his pockets again. “Sorry I haven’t been around to help lately. Is there anyone to watch over him while you’re working? Should he be alone right now?”

“He’s fine. Our friend is watching him right now.” Yoongi nods for Jimin to follow him as he heads through the garage, towards a car covered in grey tarp.

“Friend?” Jimin asks, eying Yoongi curiously. Yoongi and Taehyung aren’t particularly social people, being both betas who mated when they were young, before they fully understood the risks behind it. They can’t produce offspring together and the repercussions for mating despite that would be severe. They tend to keep to themselves because of this, afraid that befriending the wrong person would eventually end in them being torn from each other.

Jimin hasn’t spoken with either of them lately, not about anything personal, all three of them too busy to take much time out of their schedules for their friendly nights of banter they used to take part in. Jimin’s been running the garage while Yoongi takes care of Taehyung so they don’t see each other much. He hasn’t heard of any new friend in their lives. He tries not to be jealous.

“You remember that alpha we found a few months ago?” Yoongi asks, and Jimin feels himself grow tense. “He stuck around after he healed up. Started working with Taehyung around the bar. He—”

“Wait. Wait, wait, wait,” Jimin steps in front of Yoongi, stopping him in his tracks. “You’re telling me some fucking alpha you took in from a fucking pack has been living with you? And that he’s taking care of Taehyung while you’re gone? An alpha, alone with Tae— Yoongi, are you insane?”

Yoongi covers Jimin’s mouth, glancing around as Jimin slaps his hand away. “It’s fine, Jimin, calm down.” He sighs, arms crossing over his chest. “I trust him. He’s a good kid.”

“A pack alpha is not a good kid, Yoongi. No one from a pack should be trusted. Especially not an alpha—”

“Jimin.” Yoongi grabs Jimin by the shoulders, giving him a gentle shake. “Listen to yourself. You are an alpha from a pack.”

“I’m from a pack and I presented as an alpha after that, I never had the mentality that those alphas get after leading a pack, I don’t have that ego—” Yoongi lifts a brow. “I don’t have that kind of an ego, I just have an ego. There’s a big difference. Just…” Jimin sighs, lifting his hat and brushing his hand through his hair. “Just be careful. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to Tae.”

Yoongi smiles, head down. He nods. “Thanks, Jimin. I appreciate your concern,” he says, “but I trust the kid. He’s an alright guy.”

“If you insist,” says Jimin, turning to the covered car. “Now, one more question before you tell me what this is.” He looks over at his friend and Yoongi frowns, recognizing that sly grin Jimin always gets right before he says something annoying. “You, Tae, and this alpha boy… You guys aren’t doing what we used to do, are you? ‘Cause then I’m gonna get real jealous—”

Yoongi slugs him on the arm, hard enough to actually hurt. Jimin dances away from him with a laugh, Yoongi huffing and shaking his head. “No, Jimin,” he grumbles, “you’re the only person to have ever had the honor of being involved in our sex life. And what do you mean ‘what we used to do’, like it was a regular thing. It was once—”

“Twice.”

Twice.” Yoongi huffs. “We were all drunk the second time around, it doesn’t count.”

Jimin cackles as Yoongi steps around him, grabbing the tarp and yanking it off, all the while grumbling about how irritating he finds Jimin, questioning why he keeps him around. Jimin’s just about to cop another witty remark when he turns and his eyes land on the sleek profile of an old, beaten up Mustang. He feels his eyes go wide, hears Yoongi laugh at him.

“Holy shit, Yoongi,” he says under his breath, his hands all over the body of the car, ghosting over the hood covered in peeling paint, eyes scanning the cracked windshield. It’s in terrible condition but he’s sure they have all the tools they need to fix it. “Does it still run?”

“Still runs.” Yoongi pats the roof of the car, smiling down at his friend as Jimin leans down to duck in through the busted out window. “Hoseok found it, hauled it back here with his truck the other day. I know how much you’ve been wanting to fix an old car up.”

Jimin can’t stop the childlike grin on his face as he peers around inside, fingers trailing over the cracked leather seats. “This is a Boss 429, isn’t it?” he asks, glancing through the windshield to see Yoongi nod.

“Yeah.” Yoongi shoves his hands into his pockets. “I just thought, you know, this was the least I could do to thank you for everything you’ve done around here.” Jimin pulls out of the car, straightening up to watch Yoongi with wide eyes. “This place would have gone to hell, just like everything else in this city, if you hadn’t been here to keep it going. And the ration cards, picking up my slack on community service. I don’t— I don’t know what we would have done without you—”

“Stop.” Jimin waves a dismissive hand. He fidgets with his hat, twisting it around again to pull the bill of the hat low over his face. He’s bad at feelings, bad at expressing them, bad at accepting them. “Thanks,” he mumbles, staring down at the car with a fondness in his eyes he’s never had when looking at another person. He hears Yoongi laugh, feels a hand slap his arm.

“You’re welcome, Jimin.” Yoongi reaches up smack the bill of his hat. “Now, get to work. Set a good example for the rest of these lowlifes around here.”

Jimin snorts, pushing his hat back up and giving the car one last look before Yoongi covers it again. He heads into the fray of the garage, into the midst of his stupid, wild coworkers, tools in hand, and dives right into the smell of oil, the slick feeling of grease.

The world outside passes by without him paying it any mind and he loses himself in his work, hands and arms covered in black, and he doesn’t notice when Yoongi’s alpha friend stops by, picking up the ration cards Jimin had given him. He doesn’t notice when he walks right by him until it’s too late, the alpha scent wafting past him, and there’s something alluring enough about it to have Jimin rolling out from beneath the car he’s working on.

He sits on the concrete floor, covered in grease and grime, hat askew as he watches the retreating back of an alpha he’s never met, all brown hair and broad shoulders. Jimin watches him as he vanishes through the garage door, out onto the main street, then looks to Yoongi, fidgety and anxious in his office.

Jimin crawls back beneath the car, promising himself to stop and visit Taehyung soon. He needs to figure out this alpha’s angle. He knows pack alphas, he doesn’t trust them. He just hopes Yoongi knows what the hell he’s doing.

 

-α-

 

That awful hacking, wheezing sound greets Jungkook again as he steps back inside the apartment, signaling that Taehyung still hasn’t improved since he left. He shrugs his jacket off, letting it fall on the floor as he makes his way to the beta’s room, the one he shares with Yoongi. If Taehyung could see him shedding his clothes all over the apartment and not washing the dishes he would kill Jungkook, string him from the balcony or something.

“Tae, you okay?” Jungkook asks. It’s a stupid question. Taehyung hasn’t been okay for weeks now. It started as a simple cold at first, but it just kept hanging around. His fever started rising and his breath grew shorter and more ragged as the days went on. Yoongi says it’s because he won’t let himself rest and recover, so they’ve both banned him from working until he’s at least a little healthier.

There’s a groan from Taehyung’s room as Jungkook steps inside, tearing at the foil around the little tablets. There’s still water in the glass beside the bed and Jungkook sighs. “You need to drink more.”

“Bring me some whiskey and I will,” Taehyung says with a raspy laugh, earning a grin from Jungkook. The mattress dips to one side as Jungkook takes a seat, the pills tumbling into his palm as Taehyung pushes himself upright. He looks like hell, dark circles under his eyes and hair plastered to his forehead with sweat.

Whatever is wrong with him, Jungkook and Yoongi have both gone through the same but recovered just fine. That just makes it all that much more concerning that Taehyung hasn’t been able to, especially since they don’t have the resources or the money they need to get him to a decent doctor, just those back alley surgeons you only go to when you’re desperate.

“Take these,” Jungkook says, slapping his hand over Taehyung’s mouth before he can protest and tossing the pills in. He watches as Taehyung grimaces but grabs his water anyway, chugging it all down.

He shudders, handing the empty glass over to Jungkook. “How did you get those? Not the shop supplies, right?”

Jungkook shakes his head, staring down in the glass. “No,” he says, assuring Taehyung that their black market storage is well intact. He hasn’t used any of their supplies for Taehyung, just as he asked. “Someone gave Yoongi ration cards for medicine.”

“Good. I don’t want our supplies wasted on me. We need those for bargaining for more important things.” Taehyung sighs, pushing back his sweat-drenched hair. He looks down at Jungkook’s hand where he fidgets with the glass. “Who gave him the ration cards?”

“No idea,” Jungkook says as he stands. “Some guy from the garage won them in poker and gave some to Yoongi.”

Taehyung hums, flopping back in his bed. “Jimin.”

Jungkook stops in the doorway, turning back to furrow his brows at Taehyung. “Who?”

“His name’s Jimin. I’m surprised we haven’t gotten around to introducing you two yet. He’s an alpha we’ve known for years.” Taehyung rolls onto his side, one arm hanging off the edge of the bed, the rest of him sprawled across the entirety of the mattress. “He was a pack member, too.”

“Oh.” Jungkook turns away from him, swallowing hard as he heads for the kitchen, grabbing one of their jugs of drinking water and refilling Taehyung’s glass. He stands there a moment, recollecting himself. Even thinking about his pack makes him freeze, makes him remember the horrors of those many nights before he escaped.

Sometimes, when he thinks about it for too long, he can feel the burning of the iron on his back again, the metal biting into his wrists and ankles, restraining him. He remembers the feeling of his bones cracking under the force of metal and wood as it crashed against him.

It’s funny, in the moment he couldn’t feel anything, he had gone numb to the pain, removing his very consciousness from his body until it was over, until they took a break to eat around their campfire and he took the chance to escape with little more than his face intact. They had decided to leave that for last—the new alpha in charge had said he wanted the honor of carving up that pretty face himself, once Jungkook was too weak to fight back at all.

Jungkook grips the glass, taking a deep breath and stopping himself from shaking. He has to remind himself where he is, that he’s inside his new home right now, not out in the woods. He’s not bleeding out in the snow banks again, he’s not running for his life, he’s not waiting for it all to end. He’s here. He’s in Seoul. They can’t find him.

He breathes in again, then heads back to Taehyung and sets the newly filled glass back down on the nightstand. “Need anything else?” he asks, and Taehyung opens one eye to peer up at him.

“A shower, probably. I think I stink. I can’t tell.”

“You do. No running water, though,” Jungkook says and Taehyung sighs. “Don’t worry. I’ll head down to the shop, make a few trades, get us some money and get that back on today.”

“Wasting all our fucking money on medicine for me.” Taehyung buries his face into a pillow and groans. “No fucking reason—”

“There’s plenty of fucking reason,” Jungkook snaps, eyes burning into Taehyung. “Like not letting you die. That’s a pretty good reason, I’d say.” He pulls the blankets up to cover Taehyung’s back. “Don’t let Yoongi hear you talking like that. Neither of us will ever hear the end of it.”

Taehyung chuckles. “I know. Don’t tell him.”

Jungkook just nods, slowly backing out of the room. He can sense Taehyung drifting off by the slur of his words, the limpness in his limbs as they sprawl across the bed. He steps out and pulls the door mostly shut, leaving a crack so he can hear if Taehyung calls for him.

He drops onto the couch in the middle of the room, staring up at the ceiling, arm tucked behind his head, the scars on his back scratching against his shirt. Sometimes the memories become too much and he feels himself slipping into a panic, his heart racing and sweat beading on his temples.

He hates it. He’s an alpha, he’s supposed to be strong, capable of caring for and protecting a mate. But he can’t. What he endured has made him weak, it broke the powerful alpha he used to be, stripped him of everything he had. He lost his omega, his mate, his love. She was ripped from his hands, quite literally, taken by the same alpha that had him strung up and tortured. Jungkook had been forced to endure his own torture as the alpha took his mate, forced himself on her against her will, beat her. He had to watch, suffering in his own pain, as she faded, slowly succumbing to her wounds.

Jungkook sits upright, blinking away tears, teeth clamping down on his lip hard enough to draw blood. He drops his head into his hands, fingers trembling as they push back his hair.

These days he has to keep himself constantly busy or he falls into memories like that, less than pleasant things he wishes he could forget. Then again, if he forgot he would have nothing left to drive him. Those memories are all that keep him going, keep fighting to recover, to heal and regain his strength so he can go back.

Someday he’ll get his revenge or he’ll die trying.

Jungkook crawls off the couch, snatching his jacket off the ground and checking on Taehyung one last time before heading out. He needs to head to their shop, get that money he said he would so they can get their water turned back on.

He works with Taehyung in what is essentially a black market. When he first came here and the two betas took him in he had intended to work at the garage with Yoongi, the idea of fixing cars much more appealing than breaking the law, considering he’s already hated for what he is. But the others at the garage hadn’t seemed too thrilled at the idea of a pack alpha joining their ranks. Especially one like him.

Sterile. He’s not even a useful member of society. Most think he shouldn’t even be alive, that he’s a waste of space and supplies. And to a degree they’re right. He can contribute to society in some ways but he’ll never have offspring, he’ll never help bring the world’s population back to what it is. He’s surprised the laws don’t say something about his kind being killed on the spot.

No. Instead they’re added to a registry. Public knowledge so that others can’t be fooled into mating someone who can’t give them children. So here Jungkook is, hated for being a pack alpha, disgraced for being sterile, stuck in a city he never wanted to be in.

All because of one power hungry alpha he had been kind enough to take into his pack when he was young. He wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him, he wouldn’t be sterile if it hadn’t been for the torture they had put him through.

He would have children if they hadn’t killed his mate.

Jungkook sighs, rubbing at his eyes as he walks, the smell of dank streets washing over him as cars pass by, horns blaring, splashing murky water onto pedestrians. Armed guards eye him as he goes and he avoids their gaze, worried they’ll use any excuse to start a fight. He thinks of all he can to distract himself from thoughts of his past, taking in deep breaths whenever someone bumps into him on the street.

Every second he has to remind himself that no one is attacking him here, it’s not like it is outside the cities. There are laws here, protecting him. Still, it sets him on edge to even be outside the apartment. It had taken weeks for him set foot out the door after Yoongi and Taehyung had taken him in.

Even now he sees figures that aren’t really who he thinks they are, silhouettes of those walking ahead of him, imagines they’re someone else. Strangers morph into his old pack members right before his eyes and he feels himself freeze, his mind telling him to run but his body locking itself into place, fear flooding his veins. He never used to be afraid of anything.

It’s only in the past week that he’s actually been outside more than inside. It took him forever to be comfortable on these streets, secure enough to walk alone to the little bar that serves as the front for Taehyung’s black market trade. Maybe one day he’ll even join the poker games they host in the basement below. Taehyung swears on his and Yoongi’s bond that their friends are all kind, that they wouldn’t judge him for what he is.

Jungkook wants to believe him. He trusts Taehyung, he trusts Yoongi, but everyone else in this city is a damn menace to his kind. He has his doubts that their friends would be so willing to greet him with open arms.

He steps inside the bar, shouldering the door open, and looks up to see a bored Hoseok leaning on the counter, flipping through the pages of a newspaper. It’s funny how a simple ten years after the fall of society has dialed them back at least fifty years into the past. No more cellphones, no internet, limited cable.

Humanity really fucked up somewhere along the way and mother nature didn’t hesitate to sink her vengeful claws into them when she got the chance.

“Hey, Jungkook,” Hoseok says without looking up. He does his best to act friendly around Jungkook but the alpha can sense wariness from the omega. In his case, Jungkook can’t place any blame.

Scars tear their way down the right side of Hoseok’s otherwise flawless face, his right eye dull and grey in contrast with the deep brown of the other. His hair hangs, slightly shaggy, in his face to hide what it can of the scars. Though he tries to say they don’t bother him Jungkook can tell that sometimes the stares of passersby or patrons in the bar start to get to him. Ever since then Jungkook’s made a point to tell Hoseok he looks good every time he sees him.

At first he had been terrified of Jungkook, refusing to be anywhere near him until Yoongi started bringing him around, rejecting his compliments and shying away. Jungkook didn’t understand it at first until Taehyung told him in confidence that Hoseok used to scavenge outside of the city and had a run-in with a pack alpha who decided Hoseok was exactly what he wanted, so he took what he desired with no remorse.

Jungkook had stopped Taehyung right there. He didn’t need to know the details. He already knows all too well the minds of pack alphas. Of course, city alphas aren’t much different but most of them do tend to abide by the laws. And what happened to Hoseok certainly isn’t legal within city limits.

“You look good today, Hoseok,” Jungkook says, as always, then smiles when Hoseok looks up at him. “Nice jacket.”

“Thanks.” Hoseok tugs at the collar of the sleek, dark grey bomber. “Found it the other days while I was skulking around a store on the edge of the city.”

Jungkook stops on his way to the back of the bar and turns to the omega. He cocks his head to one side. “You’re scavenging again?”

Hoseok gives him a nod, a genuine smile spreading across his face. Apparently he had always been a bright and chipper person before Jungkook met him. He thinks he sees a bit of that old Hoseok shining through now. “Yeah. Can’t live my whole life being scared, can I?” he asks, and Jungkook detects the slightest catch in his voice when he says that, but he’s trying to be strong. Jungkook respects that. It’s more than Jungkook has done in the months he’s been here.

“I’m glad,” Jungkook says, hovering in the back doorway, arms crossing protectively over his stomach. “Find anything else good?”

“An old car,” Hoseok says with a smile. “I left it with Yoongi. You should stop in and see it sometime. It’s pretty cool.”

Jungkook returns the smile. “I will, Hoseok,” he says before the bartender gives him a nod and returns to his newspaper. Jungkook ducks into the back, slipping a key out of his pocket and turning to a padlocked door. He tells himself as he opens up the entrance to Taehyung’s stash that if Hoseok can heal from what happened to him, he can heal from the trauma of his last nights with his pack.

He just wishes it was as easy to do as it is to say.

 

Taehyung, much to Yoongi’s displeasure, insists on coming down to the bar mere hours after Jungkook had given him his medicine. “It’s the weekend and everyone just got paid. They’re all gonna want to get drunk and we need the money, so I’ll be down there to help,” he had said, earning several passive-aggressive grumbles from Yoongi until he finally gave in and stopped blocking the door to let Taehyung through.

He also insists that Jungkook take the night off to mingle rather than work, even though that’s a terrible idea. He doesn’t know how many times he’s told Taehyung that trying to befriend people in this city only makes them hate him more. City dwellers are already suspicious enough of his kind, approaching them only reaffirms in their minds that he has some ulterior motives hidden beneath his boyish smile.

So he sits quietly in the corner of the bar, his second glass of gin resting on the table in front of him, untouched thus far. He hadn’t even asked for it, Taehyung just brought it over in hopes of loosening Jungkook up and encouraging him to actually speak to someone for once.

It does nothing to ease his nerves, he still feels on edge, jumpy every time someone passes him. He swears he can feels hands around his neck as a particularly drunk man crashes against his table and startles him. As soon as he’s alone again Jungkook chugs the rest of the drink and slams the glass back down on the table.

He tells himself he’s imagining the feeling of eyes on him but he’s not. Across the way, sitting on a stool at the bar, is a man with a backwards hat, a vest of black leather. He watches Jungkook over a glass of amber liquid, swishing it around in front of him.

Jungkook doesn’t even have to catch his scent to know that he’s an alpha. Everything from the way he carries himself with his shoulders squared to the unwavering eye contact he makes with Jungkook. He doesn’t falter for a second. There’s no hesitancy like there might with an omega, no disinterest of a beta. Jungkook can’t tell if it’s a challenge or if the man is simply curious and has no shame of being caught staring.

Whichever it is, he doesn’t look away until Taehyung slides along the bar to say something to him. There’s a familiarity between the two of them as the alpha asks Taehyung something Jungkook can’t hear, which Taehyung responds to with a laugh and a dismissive swish of one hand. No doubt denying that he’s sick and should be resting right now.

He looks like hell but he keeps fighting through it anyway, doing his job. Jungkook feels guilty just sitting back and watching but the last time he tried to get up and help Taehyung had sent the bouncer after him. So he stays put now.

His eyes drift to his empty glass, waiting for it to kick in, waiting for it to at least calm him down. He doesn’t expect to suddenly become sociable once it hits him, he just hopes it at least makes him feel less like he needs to run from this place every second, like he needs to hide, to escape.

“Gin?” someone asks, and Jungkook nearly leaps out of his seat. His eyes snap up to find the alpha with the snapback standing over his table, his empty glass left on the counter and a glass of gin in his hand now. “Jesus, don’t shit yourself. I don’t bite.”

Jungkook straightens up in his seat, watching the alpha closely as he takes a seat across from him. He glances at the gin. “Looked like you were more of a whiskey guy a second ago.”

The alpha chuckles and sets the glass of gin down between them. “Actually, it was aged rum,” he says as he leans back in his booth. At a glance, his size might make some think he’s not alpha material, but Jungkook doesn’t have a doubt in his mind this guy could lead a pack just as well as he can. He has that air of confidence about him, like nothing in the world could make him doubt himself. “I’m Jimin. You must be Jungkook.”

“That’s me.” Jungkook licks his lips, eyes locking with the other alpha’s gaze. Taehyung must have told him. Jungkook doesn’t like not knowing as much about someone else as they know about him.

“So you’re a pack alpha?” Jimin asks and Jungkook tries not to seem fazed by that question. Typical city alpha, just bombarding people with questions, prying for things they don’t deserve to know. Entitled, all of them.

“Yeah.”

“And you live with Taehyung and Yoongi?”

“Yes.”

“And you don’t have a mate?”

Jungkook almost answers with a “not anymore” but decides against it. He doesn’t need to throw a drunk pity party with some stranger in a bar. Not tonight, anyway. “No,” he says, short and clipped. Jimin’s eyes narrow and Jungkook fears he may have detected the waver in his voice. He doesn’t even like talking to Yoongi or Taehyung about his old mate, let alone a man he doesn’t even know.

Jimin leans forward, lean, muscled arms crossing on the table before him, his eyes never leaving Jungkook. “How do you deal with your ruts?”

“Excuse me?” Jungkook almost chokes on his words.

“You don’t use Tae or Yoongi, do you?” The alpha narrows his eyes at Jungkook further.

“No. What the fuck—”

“Do you even still have ruts?” Jimin lifts a brow. “You’re sterile, right?”

Jungkook feels his blood run cold, jaw clenching shut. He grabs the edge of the table to keep from launching himself over it. When he speaks again the anger rings clear, though he tries his best to hide it. “Do you always ask intrusive questions like this?”

“Do you always whine about people asking things that are public record?” Jimin shoots back, and he returns to leaning back in the booth, arms relaxing at his sides. His head lolls back slightly, exposing his neck and Jungkook finds it hard not to trail his eyes over it, down to his collarbones.

“Things that shouldn’t be public record.” Jungkook swallows. The slight roundness of Jimin’s cheeks gives him a false look of innocence but the smirk on his lips warns Jungkook of something darker, something hiding behind those deep eyes, reflecting back the low lights behind Jungkook. “People have a right to their privacy.”

“You still have that outsider, pack mentality,” says Jimin. He heaves a dramatic sigh. “That’ll get you killed around here, saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.”

“What the hell do you want from me?” Jungkook hisses through his teeth. He leans forward, pressing in on the other alpha’s space. If this guy wants a game, Jungkook will play along. Jimin’s never led a pack, probably never set foot outside the city, never seen the horrors Jungkook has. He doesn’t know who he’s talking to.

Jimin slides the glass of gin across the table to Jungkook. “Drink,” he orders but Jungkook’s eyes stay on him, ignoring the beverage. “I’m looking out for my friends. I used to be one of your kind. I know how you think.”

“You don’t know how I think,” Jungkook retorts, pushing the gin back. He doesn’t believe him. There’s no way this baby-faced contradiction of an alpha was ever part of a pack. As pretty as he is, he wouldn’t survive a day. “I’ll pass, thanks.”

Jimin just smiles at him but there’s nothing friendly behind the look he gives Jungkook. He slides out of the booth and stands, straightening his leather vest and turning to look at the alpha that still grips the table like his life depends on it. “You look like you could use it, though,” he says, then that smile drops from his face like a rock. “Careful what you do around my friends, Jungkook. You’re not the only pack alpha around anymore.”

He starts to move away but Jungkook won’t let him have the last word. He calls him back. “Jimin, right?”

Jimin rolls his eyes as he turns back around. “Yeah.”

“Were you the leader of your pack, too?”

There’s a moment of hesitation before he answers. “No.”

“How long ago did you come to the city?”

Jimin works his jaw, teeth gritting, and Jungkook knows he’s gotten the best of him now. “I was still a kid.”

Jungkook holds back a smile. “Then you don’t know what it really means to be free,” he says and Jimin seems to twitch at that. “You can’t say you understand a pack when you were barely old enough to even know what that word means. You were never a pack alpha. You’re a spoiled city boy. So, yes, I am the only pack alpha on these streets.”

Jimin looks like he wants to respond, his lips curling at Jungkook, but then he just lets out a single laugh and shakes his head. Nothing more escapes him as he turns on his heel and heads back to the bar.

Watching him retreat, Jungkook grabs the glass of gin and knocks it back in a single gulp. Jimin doesn’t look at him again but his scent lingers around Jungkook’s head for the rest of the night, overpowering his senses. He tells himself it’s the alcohol finally taking effect.

But a sober Jungkook knows it’s more than that. Jimin’s scent is enticing, drawing Jungkook to him though he doesn’t move. It’s a problem, he knows, because he hasn’t been this tempted by the scent of another since his former mate, and Jimin’s an alpha.

And an asshole, at that.

Jungkook can’t let himself want another alpha and he doesn’t even understand why he would.