He had been doing so well.
“Hands behind your head, mutant! No sudden movements!”
Jimin slowly brings his hands up, doesn’t fight it. The guards don’t let their guns fall, keep them trained on Jimin, and he swallows, a slightly bitter smile crossing his lips.
One of them must be trigger happy, because the next thing he knows, there’s pain blossoming in his right side, and his world goes dark, but not before one last bitter thought.
He had been doing so well.
“Yeah, that’s him.”
Jimin looks up, and his classmate is pointing right at him, slight trembling in his hands. A thick glass panel separates them - bulletproof, fireproof, everything-they-could-manage-proof - but Jimin can still see the fear in his posture. “I saw him,” the guy says, eyes looking anywhere but at Jimin. “He - he used - fire, it was fire, and we were in the chem lab, and he just - he made it explode-”
Lies, Jimin thinks, but there’s a thick mask wrapped around the lower half of his face, translucent so his face can be seen, but keeping his mouth locked shut. He just looks at his classmate instead, stares at him and imagines him going up in flames rather than the lab he had supposedly exploded.
“Thank you for identifying the mutant,” the guard says, sending a vicious glare at Jimin. Jimin grits his teeth as best as he can behind the mask, sending a similar glare at his classmate.
The human that set a school on fire is led away to freedom, while a mutant that has been living as quietly as possible is shunted unceremoniously into a cell, restrained and shackled like an animal.
But then, Jimin supposes, that’s what mutants are to humans - animals, brutes, dangerous creatures that must be separated, contained, and Jimin is one of them.
There’s another boy in the dark cell that Jimin is shoved into. Jimin, too busy massaging his aching jaw - that damn mask - doesn’t notice, until he feels the tap on his shoulder.
Jimin jumps at the deep voice, head whipping around. A pair of mismatched eyes glow at him in the darkness, and Jimin shrieks, scrambling backwards in fear.
“Woah, hey, calm down, I’m not an enemy!” The figure backs up into the faint light streaming from the doorway, and Jimin sees a boy, hands raised apologetically above his head, mismatched eyes still glowing with an odd light. His tell, Jimin realizes after a long moment, reminded again that this is normal, that mutants are always just a little different from humans.
“Sorry,” Jimin mutters, flushing. “I was - you startled me.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured.” A smile accompanies the words, and Jimin relaxes, letting out a deep breath. “I’m Taehyung.”
“Jimin. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.” Taehyung sticks out a hand, and Jimin takes it, a little dazed. “So I guess we’re cellmates now, right?”
“Yeah.” Jimin looks around the small cell, furrowing his brow. “Is this supposed to be a single? Sorry I’m cramping your space.”
Taehyung shrugs. “This cell’s housed more before, don’t worry. At least they didn’t throw you in Seokjin’s room, he almost cried when Hoseok was added. There’s three in there, now.”
Gaping, Jimin tries to imagine it. Three people, crammed into a cell this size? “That’s horrible,” he says, and Taehyung just sighs.
“Better get used to it,” he replies, slumping against the wall. “That’s the norm around here.”
An hour later, Taehyung is leading Jimin through the complex to the mess hall, navigating the confusing paths with ease. “I’ve been here since I was born,” Taehyung says with a shrug when Jimin comments on it. “Kind of hard not to know my way around by now.”
It explains why Taehyung seems so jaded to how mutants are treated in here. Ten minutes later, when Jimin is poking at the unappetizing goop on his plate, Taehyung shrugs again and eats it without hesitation. “Better than the old cook,” he says offhandedly. “There was once the facility almost flooded because everyone had terrible food poisoning at the same time.”
Another boy slides in across from Taehyung, gripping his own plate of goop. Jimin finds himself staring at his bared arms, the swirling patterns marked there moving slowly across his skin.“Yeah, I remember that.” He sits down with a loud thud, and Jimin blinks, startled. He hadn’t looked anywhere near heavy enough to make a sound like that.
“Hoseok’s got a lead plate on his back,” Taehyung murmurs to Jimin, as though knowing exactly what he’s thinking. Jimin just gapes in response, wondering what kind of ability would give him that.
Noticing the shock, Hoseok gives Jimin a tired grin. “It stops my wings from coming out. You’ll see that they try to tailor restraints to each mutant in here. Taehyung’s unlucky, he’s a shifter.”
Shifters aren’t dangerous, mostly, so Jimin can’t imagine what kind of restraint they would force, but Taehyung smacks Hoseok’s arm in warning. “He doesn’t need to hear about that,” he mutters, and it’s the first time Jimin sees discomfort on Taehyung’s features, despite everything he’s already revealed.
Hoseok shrugs as best as he can. “Your call,” he says, starting in on his food. “By the way, I’m Hoseok. You’re Taehyung’s new cellmate, right?”
“Yeah. I’m Jimin.” Pushing his mostly-full plate aside, Jimin blinks a few times as he remembers - “Taehyung mentioned you earlier. Where’s your other cellmates?”
Hoseok opens his mouth to respond, but is interrupted by the sounds of a scuffle from outside the cafeteria. Taehyung sighs, echoed by Hoseok. “Yoongi’s up to it again, isn’t he?”
Jimin peers over at the entrance, watching as a mutant is dragged off, the blue fur on his arms highlighting how they’re pointed at his own throat. Hoseok shakes his head. “Yoongi should know by now that he can’t start fights. I’m still figuring out how he ate before Seokjin adopted him and Namjoon.”
“Namjoon and Yoongi share another cell,” Taehyung explains to Jimin, catching his lost look.
Hoseok, realizing Jimin’s confusion, jumps in. “Yoongi can turn his arms into blades, you see, so they keep his arms pointed at his throat to keep him in check. Namjoon’s super smart or something, they try to keep his arms secured so he doesn’t manage to escape the facility when the guards aren’t looking.”
“Yeah,” Taehyung says, stabbing at his plate. “Nobody has any idea how they get anything done when they’re two of the only mutants that have their arms restrained at all times.”
“We have our ways,” another deep voice cuts in. Jimin jumps, surprised, and turns to see two people there this time. One has pure white hair, and startling white eyes, though from the way he plops into his seat, he has no problems seeing. “But that’s a secret.” His arms are secured behind his back, Jimin sees - this must be Namjoon, then.
The other rolls his eyes, sliding in across from Namjoon. “Doesn’t mean you guys don’t need help sometimes.” Now this is odd, Jimin thinks, because this boy seems completely normal, completely human. He smiles, and there’s nothing odd about it either, or the way he talks, and Jimin is probably staring by now as he watches him feed Namjoon.
Namjoon introduces himself between bites - “No, I’m not blind, but my eyes are my tell,” he explains without being prompted, grinning lopsidedly. Jimin’s gaze flicks up to Namjoon’s hair, and Namjoon laughs - “I bleached that myself,” he confides with a grin. “The guards locked me up for a week, but it was worth it.”
Seokjin is the one feeding Namjoon, but he uses his left hand. A few minutes later, when Seokjin raises his hand to wave at someone across the cafeteria, Jimin sees why - Seokjin’s right hand is missing three fingers, left with only the thumb and pinky intact. Jimin tries not to react, but he must have failed, because Seokjin smiles at him reassuringly. “It happened a long time ago, don’t worry. But it kind of stops me from using my archer ability, which was kind of their goal.”
“They could’ve found a better way, though,” and the boy Seokjin had waved at is joining them too. His tell is obvious - an asymmetrical ring of gold lies on his brow, like a mockery of a crown. It looks like pieces of armor, jagged and uncomfortable, pressing into his brow, but he doesn’t seem to notice it. “They could’ve just chained your hands together so you couldn’t draw a bow far enough.”
“I guess they’re afraid of someone else breaking my chains.” Seokjin is nonchalant. “By the way, Jimin, this is Jungkook. Our ‘golden’ maknae.”
“Shut up,” Jungkook grumbles, pink blossoming across his cheeks as he ducks his head to shovel food in his mouth. There are odd bands on his arms, heavy and tight, digging into his skin. “You know I hate my tell. You’re so lucky you don’t have one.”
Seokjin shrugs. “Didn’t help me any, I still ended up here, didn’t I? And it looks like I’m not the only one without a tell, after all.” Seokjin raises an eyebrow at Jimin, who blinks.
Flushing a little, Jimin shakes his head. “I - I’ve actually got horns,” he says, reaching up to flatten his hair. They’re tiny, dull, and easily hidden under Jimin’s thick hair, but if he flattens it they’re visible.
Namjoon leans in, instantly curious. “How long have you had your powers for?”
“Since I was 13,” Jimin says, blinking. “Why?”
“Did you ever use your powers after you got them?” Namjoon is still peering at Jimin’s horns, ignoring Jimin’s question.
“No, I was trying to hide my powers.” Jimin shifts in his seat, uncomfortable, and Taehyung shoves at Namjoon warningly. Namjoon, belatedly realizing how rude he was being, backs off, a sheepish smile on his face.
“Sorry, just curious. I have a theory that tell development is often related to power use - my power is almost always on - they call it, what, ‘enhanced intuition’ - so my eyes have been white since I got my power, really. Jungkook, there - his crown hasn’t grown at all since he came here. He’s told us that it used to keep growing when he was still at home, but ever since the facility shoved those bands on his arms, he hasn’t been able to use his armor.”
“What is your power, anyways?” Taehyung asks Jimin, suddenly interested. "You've got one of the elemental suppression collars, but what element?"
There are guards nearby, starting to shoo people out of the cafeteria, and Jimin glances over at them briefly before touching his collar and saying cautiously, “I was caught for starting a fire in the chem lab at school.”
Namjoon blinks a few times, then nods slowly. “Interesting,” he murmurs as he stands, giving a slightly apologetic glance to Seokjin who picks up Namjoon’s plate along with his own. “You’ll have to tell me about it, sometime.” He eyes them all, lingering a little on Taehyung, who nods imperceptibly, then leaves.
Taehyung murmurs, “You done?” Jimin looks down at his half-eaten plate, then shoves it across the table to Jungkook, who’s been eyeing it rather hungrily ever since he finished his own food, before standing and following Taehyung out of the cafeteria.
It’s nearly a week later that Jimin meets Yoongi.
He heads to the usual table after finishing with his task for the morning and freezes when he sees an extra person sitting there. The same blue fur Jimin had seen on the first day is clear, and he sees that the new person has his arms shackled to his neck. He’s being spoon-fed by Hoseok, the same way Namjoon beside him is being fed by Seokjin. Jungkook laughs at them, and the guy actually growls back. “Shut up, Jungkook, or you’ll be in solitary with me next time.”
“Yoongi, that doesn’t make sense. The point of solitary is that you’d be alone,” Seokjin says with a small smile, and Yoongi rolls his eyes as he accepts another spoonful of food from Hoseok.
“Yes, it does, we’d both be in solitary if I fought him.” Then Yoongi’s eyes snap up to Taehyung, and Jimin beside him. “Who’s this?”
“Oh, yeah. You haven’t met Jimin yet.” Seokjin beckons Jimin over, and he approaches cautiously, wary of Yoongi’s sharp gaze. “Yoongi, this is Jimin, Taehyung’s cellmate. Jimin, meet Yoongi, our resident troublemaker.”
Yoongi looks Jimin up and down, raises an eyebrow. “You look pretty normal to me. What are you in here for?”
Jungkook reaches over and ruffles Jimin’s hair, grinning when Jimin squawks indignantly back at him. “He’s got horns, hyung, they’re just not very visible. And they caught him for starting a fire in school.”
Amidst Jimin’s yells of “I’m your hyung, Jungkook, have some respect!”, Yoongi looks at him appraisingly, then glances across to Namjoon, who gives him a tiny smile. Nodding slowly, Yoongi grins to himself, and focuses his attention back on eating the food that Hoseok’s holding out to him.
Life in the facility is boring. There’s not much to do outside of the tasks they’re assigned, and they aren’t allowed much beyond clothes and hygiene items (and sometimes not even those), so Jimin spends a lot of his time wandering.
When he’s not wandering, he’s sitting in his cell with Taehyung, chatting. Taehyung has never been outside the facility, and he’s fascinated by the tales of day-to-day life that Jimin shares, no matter how inane. It’s cute, but also heartbreaking. They’re the same age, almost, and while Jimin has been living his life outside taking things for granted, Taehyung has been stuck here without ever knowing anything else.
"What was school like?" Taehyung asks, and Jimin shrugs.
"Not too memorable, to be honest." He'd spent most of school keeping his head down, trying to avoid scrutiny. "Teachers try to make you learn things you'll never use again. Lots of pressure and time spent on homework and studying just to fit the societal norm."
"You sound like Namjoon," Taehyung tells him flippantly, grinning. "When he first got here, he told us how school was just a social construct used to keep the youth naive and brainless, stamping out creativity and individuality, shaping them into machines for the future workforce."
"Bet he still got perfect marks."
Taehyung laughs. "Of course. He's too proud to do otherwise."
Jimin sighs a little, leans back. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I miss school."
Taehyung is silent for a few moments, then reaches out a hand, grips Jimin's tightly. "I can imagine you'd miss your old life. But... if you hadn't been framed, you wouldn't have met us, right? Isn't that a good thing?"
Isn't meeting me a good thing?
Jimin takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly. He tilts his head back, rests it against the cold hard wall of their cell. Thinks about the comfort of his room at home compared to the small cramped space they share. Thinks of his mother's homemade meals compared to the unidentifiable slop served here. Thinks about the odd acquaintances he'd had compared to the friends that know his true nature.
His face breaks into a smile. "...yeah. You're right." Despite everything he's lost, he's gained so much more.
The alarm for lunch sounds, and Jimin shoves himself off the bed with a groan, reaching a hand out to help Taehyung up too. “Good timing,” Taehyung mutters. “I’m starving.”
They pass by Hoseok’s cell on their way, waving to him. “Coming for lunch?” Jimin asks, inviting him along, but Hoseok shakes his head.
“I’ll be there soon, you guys go first.” He grins, waving them off, before returning to his book.
With a shrug, Jimin and Taehyung continue on their way.
When they make it to the cafeteria, Jungkook and Seokjin are already sitting there, Jungkook showing Seokjin a bracelet around his wrist. Across from them, Hoseok slides into his seat, a tray of food already in his hands.
“Weren’t you just in your cell?” Jimin comments with a slight furrow of his brow. Hoseok just gives him a cryptic smile in return.
“Jungkook, where’s your spoon? Did you forget it?” Taehyung asks in turn, and Jungkook grins, raising an eyebrow at Taehyung, who rolls his eyes in response.
Two seconds later, Jungkook is eating with his supposedly missing spoon, so Jimin guesses that Taehyung just didn’t see it. It does look a little warped, though.
By the time Namjoon and Yoongi show up, Hoseok’s already done eating, ready to help the others eat. Seokjin, too, hurriedly shoves the last of the food in his mouth and reaches out to help Yoongi with his meal.
“Seokjin, your mouth’s bleeding,” Namjoon mumbles around the spoonful Hoseok feeds him, and Seokjin reaches up absently to wipe at the cut near the corner of his mouth.
“I just bit my lip I guess, I’ll eat slower next time,” is all he says, and Namjoon sighs.
Jungkook glances at the time and groans, shoving himself up with a sigh. “I’ve got to go, I’m on laundry duty today,” he tells them. “I’ll see you guys later.”
Jungkook’s wrist is bare now, and Jimin wonders where the bracelet went.
One by one, the group trickles out, and Jimin frowns a little at his still half-full plate, feeling like he’s missing something big. Like there’s something that’s right in front of him, but he can’t seem to see it at all.
He returns to his cell later, feeling inexplicably disgruntled. Taehyung’s not around, and Jimin sighs, flopping down on his bed.
A few minutes later, the door opens, and Taehyung comes in. “It’s a little early to sleep, Jimin.”
“Shut up, Taehyung,” Jimin mutters in turn, scowling. “Not like there’s anything else to do around here.”
“You’ve got a point there,” Taehyung murmurs. “Want some water?”
Taehyung’s holding out a plastic cup of water, and Jimin reaches out for it. He doesn’t sit up, though, and the angle’s weird, and before he knows it, the cup is slipping between his fingers and tilting towards the ground.
Jimin doesn’t react fast enough, but Taehyung does. He catches it a few centimeters above the ground, the water barely disturbed. “That was close,” Taehyung says with a smile, holding the cup out again. “Try sitting up this time.”
Jimin thinks he sees a flash of purple when he takes the cup, but it must just be his imagination. “Thanks,” he murmurs, taking a deep gulp of water. “I needed that.”
Taehyung just looks at him, something contemplative in his expression. “No problem,” he says, and that’s that.
Dinner rolls around, and all seven of them are seated together again. Yoongi looks annoyed, glaring at his food, biting angrily on the spoon that Seokjin holds out to him every once in a while.
“Yoongi, come on, don’t let them get to you,” Namjoon says, his voice oddly concerned, and Yoongi just scowls further. “They’re all bark and no bite, don’t worry.”
Jimin doesn’t get it until he’s getting up to put his tray away. As he passes the table behind them, he overhears the conversation. “It would be easy, you know, he can’t use his hands.”
“It would be sweet, wouldn’t it? He can’t even fight back.”
“Yeah, too bad for him. Unless he wants to slit his own throat, he can’t do a thing.”
“Who knows, he might want to after we’re done with him.”
Laughter resounds, and Jimin’s blood runs cold when he realizes they’re staring at their table, at Yoongi. All of a sudden, he understands why Yoongi looks so pissed.
“You know, he’s not the only one that can’t use his hands. What about that friend of his?”
Namjoon, Jimin thinks, horrified, and he twists around in shock.
Behind him, there’s two loud, oddly metallic thunks. Yoongi’s elbows are pressed tight against the table, Namjoon beside him whispering rapidly into his ear. Seokjin keeps his hand wrapped around one of Yoongi’s forearms, trying to soothe him, relax him.
The idiots at the other table don’t seem to get the hint. “Look at the way they’re talking,” one laughs. “You think they’re doing each other?”
“Maybe we can take both of them,” someone else says, and Yoongi snaps.
“That’s it,” he growls. Yoongi stands abruptly, and Jimin barely catches the tiny hint of blood on both his thighs before he’s springing at the other table, arms be damned.
Within minutes, it’s a full-on brawl. Yoongi can’t use his arms, but he’s a vicious fighter, well-used to using his legs by now, and his elbows are still useable for defence. The rest of his friends aren’t afraid of helping either, and Jimin finds himself actually in a fight for the first time in his life.
Before long, other people are joining in, using this fight as an excuse to begin their own battles, and the entire cafeteria is in an uproar. Even without powers, mutants are a force to be reckoned with, and the guards are shifting uncomfortably, watching what is certainly a soon-to-be uncontrollable mob, too scared to jump in and break fights up, too worried to leave the scene entirely.
Beside Jimin, Taehyung takes a punch to the shoulder. It's a hard punch, and Jimin expects Taehyung to maybe bow over in pain, maybe end up out of breath. He gets ready to cover Taehyung, keep him safe while he recovers from the hit.
He doesn't expect Taehyung to let out a sudden hoarse scream, wrenched from his throat, and Jimin gasps, eyes widening when he sees Taehyung crumpling to the ground, gripping his shoulder.
Without thinking, Jimin huddles protectively around Taehyung's prone form. The fight is still in full swing, and Jimin groans when someone kicks him in the side, but he doesn't move from his position.
"Taehyung? Taehyung, are you ok?" Desperate, Jimin calls out in Taehyung's ear, but there's no response, Taehyung still gripping his shoulder tight, his lips white.
Another blow to his face and Jimin is seeing stars but he refuses - he refuses to let go. "Taehyung, Taehyung -"
"Do you smell that?" someone asks.
Smell what, Jimin almost manages to say, before -
And everything goes black.
When Jimin wakes up, he’s back in his cell. He tries to sit up, but his collar is now attached to the bed, apparently, and he can’t move his head. “Taehyung?” Jimin can’t turn to see if he’s there, so he just calls Taehyung’s name instead and hopes he answers.
“I’m here.” Jimin breathes a sigh of relief when he hears Taehyung’s voice. Taehyung doesn’t sound perturbed, despite their situation. “We’ll probably be stuck here for another hour or so, so just go back to sleep.”
Jimin can practically hear Taehyung’s shrug. “This always happens when a brawl breaks out. They use gas to knock us out, then shove us back in our cells and restrain us. Their form of a time-out.”
"No. I mean." Jimin hesitates. "What happened to you?"
"What do you mean?" Taehyung's tone is guarded, wary.
"The blow to your shoulder. Did you get injured there before?"
Taehyung is quiet. Jimin worries for a moment that he's offended Taehyung, then -
"Do you know how shifters are restrained?"
It's never really come up, other than that first day, when Hoseok had mentioned it and Taehyung had cut him off. Jimin blinks. "...no... but wouldn't just keeping them in tight chains or bracelets prevent shifting?"
"That only works if their animal form is bigger than their human form. How do they restrain shifters with smaller forms?" Taehyung asks, his voice monotone, and Jimin furrows his brow.
"They put pins into our bones, our joints, metal pins that prevent us from shifting because they would cause even more damage if we did."
Jimin takes a sharp breath, stunned. "So your shoulder-"
"Yeah." Taehyung's voice is still so flat it hurts. He's been through so much here, Jimin is starting to realize, and it's horrible that he has to suffer like this. That anyone has to suffer like this.
Then Taehyung sighs, his chains rattle a little as he shifts. "It was a long time ago. I've almost forgotten, except when shit like this happens." He hasn't, Jimin knows, remembers how Taehyung had cut Hoseok off, remembers how he still, sometimes, rubbed at spots under his clothes (Jimin had never noticed before, but it's so obvious in hindsight). But if this is what Taehyung wants, Jimin will let things go for now.
“Do you think the others are ok?” he asks instead, and hears a small breath of relief from Taehyung's side.
“...I’m sure they’re fine.”
There’s something just a little off about Taehyung’s tone, like he doesn’t quite believe his words. Jimin finds himself on edge, nervous - if Taehyung is worried, what does that mean for the rest of them?
He finds out an hour later, when their restraints are released and the doors open.
“They took Yoongi,” Namjoon bursts in, gasping for breath. He looks a little worse for wear, bruises blooming on his cheeks, but more concerning is the wild look in his eyes.
Before Jimin or Taehyung has a chance to respond, the speakers crackle to life. All three of them freeze, automatically turning to stare at the speaker, even though logically they know it doesn’t do a thing.
“Attention all mutants. This is an announcement regarding the incident at noon in the cafeteria. The main culprits have been apprehended and will be punished accordingly.”
“That explains where Yoongi is,” Taehyung murmurs, but he doesn’t sound happy about it.
But the announcement isn’t over yet. “Further there is an announcement regarding an event that will occur next week.”
“There will be a public execution for a repeat offender on Saturday. This event is mandatory for all mutants.”
There's a sudden scream, and Jimin jumps. It takes him a moment to realize it’s Namjoon that made that sound, raw, broken. He’s staring at the speakers in horror, fists clenched behind his back, before he whirls around.
The announcement is still continuing, going on about something about the procedure on the day of the execution, but Namjoon is already walking away.
“Where are you going?” Taehyung asks, confused. Namjoon barely spares him a glance before going on his way.
“Go to Seokjin’s cell after this,” is all he says, and then he’s gone.
When Jimin and Taehyung finally make their way to Seokjin’s cell, there’s five people crammed into it already.
Jimin pauses, recounts. Five?
“Yes, Yoongi’s here,” Namjoon says flatly, as though he knows what Jimin’s thinking. “He’s been spared punishment, apparently.”
“Yeah, and here I thought I’d be able to at least sleep peacefully before my execution. Namjoon snores like a truck,” Yoongi says. He’s trying for a teasing tone, but somehow it falls just a little flat.
Jungkook lets out a tiny sob at Yoongi’s words, and Jimin is suddenly reminded that Jungkook is so young. It doesn’t usually show, not when he’s full of sass and disrespect and of course towers over half their group, but right now, he looks his age, wide-eyed and uncertain and scared.
“What are we going to do?” Hoseok is grave, solemn, his usual smile gone in the face of the current circumstances. And yet, there’s no despair in his gaze. As though he trusts that there will be a solution, trusts that they will be able to do something.
Namjoon is silent, but not passive. There’s a frightening intensity in his gaze, a focused fury that seems to saturate the air around him. Yoongi’s gaze, too, is sharp, as though he knows what’s coming.
“We can’t just let them do this,” Jungkook says, his voice shrill with fear. “We can’t, right?”
“Not like we can do anything to stop it.” Taehyung is blunt, his tone flat. “It’s not the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last. There’s nothing we can do.” He sounds callous, cruel even, but Jimin hears the slight waver in his voice. Taehyung’s more affected by this than he’s letting on.
Jungkook leaps up from his seat. He's too high-strung, too jumpy, and in an instant the adrenaline from fear running through his veins has turned into anger directed at Taehyung and his harsh words. "How can you just say that?"
"Well, it's true. Not saying it doesn't change the fact, does it?" Taehyung's voice is flat again, blank, and Jimin's eyes widen when Jungkook actually rears his fist back-
There’s a sudden loud thunk, and a yelp. Everyone turns to stare at Seokjin, who’s sitting on his bed. His hands are clamped tightly around the edge, knuckles white, and the bedframe is crooked, like someone had lifted it and put it back down.
Across the room, Namjoon is standing, his eyes glowing a brighter white than they’ve ever seen before. “Sit down. And shut up.”
Jungkook drops to the floor where he is, the anger doused by Namjoon's order. Taehyung opens his mouth, pauses, then slowly closes it. He watches Namjoon, eyes intent, and Namjoon stares back.
Then Namjoon looks them all in the eye. His eerie white gaze seems to pierce through Jimin, and he fights the urge to shudder. “No, this is not the first time this has happened. But we’re going to make sure that it won’t happen again.”
It’s Seokjin that asks the inevitable question. “How?”
Namjoon’s smile is vicious. “We take down the facility.”
The day of the execution dawns bright and cold. Yoongi is gone from his cell when they wake up, but Namjoon is calm this time, focused.
They’re blindfolded and led out of their cells one by one. Jimin tries to keep track of where he’s going, tries to count his steps, but he can’t quite follow, too confused by the multitude of twists and turns to figure out the route back.
When they reach the arena, the blindfolds are taken off. Jimin swallows hard at the sight of the coliseum-style scene, a giant sand-filled arena surrounded by seats too high for someone in the arena to reach. The thick walls, meant to keep even mutants at bay, surround the entire complex, and even the roof is made of thick concrete, sealed tight to prevent any chance of escape.
Jimin sits, Taehyung beside him, and stares out across the arena to where Seokjin, Hoseok, and Jungkook are seated. They’re sitting by cells, apparently. Namjoon, a few sections down from where Jimin and Taehyung are, has a conspicuously empty seat beside him - Yoongi’s assigned seat, if he wasn’t the one slotted for execution.
The announcer’s voice starts up, but Jimin isn’t listening. He’s staring into the arena, where a door is opening, and a small figure is shoved out. Yoongi, he thinks, watching as Yoongi stumbles a little before righting himself, with a little difficulty since his arms are still bound. Namjoon’s shoulders are tight, and he’s leaning forwards, too tense to relax.
There’s more words from the announcer, but it’s drowned out by the startled murmur when another door opens, across from Yoongi.
Mutants are feared by humans because of their supernatural powers, but there’s more to it. Mutants are also blessed with stronger physical prowess, greater recovery, an immunity to most poisons and venoms. It’s extremely difficult to kill a mutant without being a mutant yourself.
This is why they don’t use human weapons to execute mutants.
Across from Yoongi, a twisted beast steps out. At first glance, it seems almost human, but upon further inspection it’s a monstrosity, limbs too long, too many joints, bulging in odd places, mouth stretched in a grin with too many pointed teeth. It’s a creature made to kill mutants.
This is the executioner. No human weapon can kill mutants, so they made a mutant to kill them instead.
Yoongi, with his arms still bound, is at a great disadvantage. It was never meant to be a fair fight in the first place.
There’s a bell, somewhere, and the mutant drops to all fours, then springs.
Namjoon, too, stands. He’s not the only one, many of the spectators standing for a better view, but he’s the only one that matters. “Now!”
Jungkook’s wrist is bare now, and Jimin wonders where the bracelet went.
Jungkook reaches out, presses his hand to Hoseok’s back. The metal flows up his arm, forming into the hard armor shell that Jungkook hasn’t been able to use in so long. The rings on his arms prevent him from making his own armor, which was what they thought his ability was- it doesn’t prevent him from using other things to attach to himself.
Some of the metal twists, forms a tiny shape- and Jungkook presses the key into Hoseok’s hand, and he grins.
Hoseok, freed of his weights, stands, lets his wings spread- and flickers as he disappears.
“Weren’t you just in your cell?” Hoseok just gives him a cryptic smile in return.
Hoseok’s power had never been flight, only supernatural speed. The wings gave him more control, but even without them, he could use his powers as needed.
Hoseok appears in front of Namjoon, disappears with him. Appears in front of Taehyung and Jimin, who each clasp onto a leg, leaving Hoseok’s arms to carry Namjoon properly. Namjoon’s eyes are blinding, and he mutters, “Just a little more…”
Hoseok doesn’t wait. In the blink of an eye, they’re down beside Yoongi, who’s panting. In the few seconds since the bell has rung, he’s had to dodge several attacks already. His elbow is slightly singed, from the fire that the executioner had breathed.
Jimin and Taehyung stand side by side, letting Namjoon and Yoongi hide behind them for now. Their job is to distract the executioner, hold it in place.
Taehyung slams his hands down to the ground, and the executioner, mid-leap, suddenly slams to the ground. An odd purple-black light crackles under it, and it growls, struggling against the pull.
Jimin thinks he sees a flash of purple when he takes the cup, but it must just be his imagination.
Taehyung was restrained as a cat shifter, but his true power lies in the black holes he generates at will, the pull of gravity that he can alter at any time.
Jimin takes a deep breath, closes his eyes. Power thrums through him, unimpeded by the collar around his neck. He smirks.
“I was caught for starting a fire in the chem lab at school.”
The collar around his neck is aimed at stopping pyrokinesis.
Jimin has never been a pyrokinetic.
Lightning courses through his body, oddly familiar, though he’d never used his power this way. It feels like an old friend, trickling through his veins, whispering greetings,, sparking in time with his heartbeat.
It leaves in a rush of warmth at his fingertips, curving neatly around Taehyung (who doesn’t flinch) and striking the executioner held in place by the black hole under it. There’s a howl, the scent of burning flesh, and the executioner is still for a few moments.
A few moments is more than enough.
A gleaming arrow flies seemingly out of nowhere, a giant bolt, and strikes the executioner in the head.
Jimin glances up despite himself. In the stands, still, Seokjin is standing, his left hand holding an ethereal bow horizontally, his right hand limp at his side. There’s another arrow nocked in the bow at the ready, drawn back with Seokjin’s mouth.
“Seokjin, your mouth’s bleeding.”
The second arrow flies, striking a control panel. The doors in the pit fly open. Their way out is in sight.
The thing they hadn’t fully accounted for was-
There are three doors entering the arena.
“And behind door number 3,” Namjoon mumbles, and Jimin hears Yoongi snort.
“You fucking dumbass.”
A second executioner is entering the arena now, eyes zeroing in on the four still inside. Jimin’s body is still thrumming with electricity, and he aims, fires, but the executioner takes it in stride. He swears.
The executioner turns towards Jimin, alerted by the attack, and starts towards him. Jimin backs up slowly, slowly, and then-
Namjoon is standing in front of him, arms spread out wide. There’s a whirling mass of debris around him, tiny stones and bits of metal- his cuffs, Jimin realizes- forming a barrier, too dangerous for the executioner to approach.
“We have our ways, but that’s a secret.”
With a wave of his arms, the debris flies out like bullets, hitting the executioner with unerring aim. The executioner howls, stepping back, before turning to advance on Yoongi.
Yoongi’s collar is still in place, holding his hands by his neck. The executioner, sensing easy prey, leaps without looking.
It doesn’t even see the blade coming.
The blade pierces through its chest before it reaches Yoongi. There’s an almost startled yelp, and then the blade rips through its shoulder, and it falls to the ground.
Yoongi lowers his leg, and the blade retracts into his knee.
Behind him, there’s two loud, oddly metallic thunks. Yoongi stands abruptly, and Jimin barely catches the tiny hint of blood on both his thighs before he’s springing at the other table.
In another blink, Hoseok, Seokjin, and Jungkook are standing beside them. With a few deft twists of his fingers, Namjoon frees Yoongi from his collar, then Jimin of his.
There is uproar in the stands. The anaesthetic gas is starting to spray, but the seven of them had moved too quickly out of the stands to be affected. Jimin takes a few moments to zap what gas machines he can see aimed into the pit, giving them a few more moments before the gas permeates the air. Hoseok reaches out, and everyone grabs on quickly.
Hoseok can’t fly at full speed while carrying all of them, but it’s still faster than anything else. The surroundings blur as he pulls them into the door Yoongi had come out of.
“Taehyung, which way?”
Taehyung starts barking out orders, his eyes sharp. “Right. Left. Left. Right. Keep going. Left. Left. Right.”
The sequence is complex, confusing. If Jimin didn’t know better, he’d think they were going in circles. But Taehyung has lived in this facility his entire life, has been in every inch of it, and he knows the route to the core.
They’re in front of a set of thick doors. Yoongi pokes at one of them, slices at it. The material doesn’t even scratch.
Jungkook tries next, places his hands on the door and tries to manipulate it, but the metal doesn’t give an inch. Not a natural metal, then, not something that Jungkook can use. He steps back, frustrated.
Namjoon’s eyes are white. “Step aside,” he commands. There’s a control panel by the door.
He stares at it for a few long moments, eyes gleaming a bright white. Seokjin shifts impatiently. “Time,” he warns, and Namjoon takes a deep breath.
He punches in a long sequence of letters and numbers and the door slides slowly open. He grins. “Let’s go.”
The core is the source of all power in the facility. Every door, every camera. The gas systems are hooked up here too.
With a few flicks of switches, and the loss of a few (or a lot) of wires, they pull the plug on the facility.
The room goes dark. The hallways go dark. Everything is underground - without power, there’s no light whatsoever.
The doors, kept electronically locked and shut, click open.
Jimin gropes back, latches onto a hand. Hoseok starts a roll call, ensuring everyone is holding onto him. Jimin squeezes his hand, receives a reassuring squeeze back.
Taehyung’s eyes glow in the darkness. “Hoseok, be careful. Listen very carefully to me.”
Slower than before, Hoseok flies them out of the complex. Taehyung guides him every step of the way, including angles with his instructions now.
Hoseok yelps and drops to the ground, jarring all of them. Jimin lets go to cover his eyes, and beside him he hears Yoongi yelling.
“What the fuck is this?” Taehyung shrieks, his eyes clenched shut, arms crossed over his face. “What the fuck?”
And Jimin remembers- Taehyung’s never seen natural light before. “That’s the sun,” he says, numb.
It’s the sun.
They made it.
Somewhere in front, Jungkook starts giggling. “We did it,” he says, breathless, giddy. “We actually did it!”
“Yeah,” Hoseok says, awed. “We did.”
“Bunch of nonbelievers,” Yoongi mumbles, but the joy is clear in his voice too. “Have a little more faith, yeah?”
“You’re the one that was panicking before your execution,” Namjoon reminds him. Jimin doesn’t have to see to know that the sound after that is Yoongi repeatedly smacking Namjoon’s skin.
“Yoongi! Stop hitting me!” Nix that- Yoongi repeatedly smacking Jin’s skin, accidentally mistaking him for Namjoon. “Namjoon’s on your other side!”
“Don’t help him oh my god-” Namjoon’s yelps echo around them, and Jimin finds himself laughing too, taking deep breaths, breathing in fresh air for the first time in what feels like years.
We did it.
After the exhilaration wears off, reality sets in.
“We still can’t go back home,” Namjoon tells them gravely. “Even though we took down this facility, mutants are still not accepted in society.”
Jimin’s heart aches for his home, his family, but he knows he wouldn’t be welcome there anymore anyways. He nods, quietly accepting.
Taehyung stays silent. This is when Jimin remembers that for Taehyung, the facility was his home. Gently, Jimin reaches a hand out, places it on Taehyung’s shoulder reassuringly. Taehyung takes a deep breath, lets it out.
“Where do we go now, then?” he asks softly, his cat eyes gleaming in the sunlight. The sun is setting, now, dyeing the sky red, casting warm light across Taehyung’s skin. He’s never looked so healthy.
“Where do you want to go?” Jimin asks in return.
“I don’t know.” Taehyung murmurs, but he reaches out, grips Jimin’s hand tight. “I don’t know.”
“Then it doesn’t matter, does it?” Jimin squeezes back, glances around at all of them. “It doesn’t matter where we go, as long as we end up together, right?”
Seokjin has a small, warm smile on his face. “Yeah.”
Namjoon grins, standing. “Then it’s settled.” He brushes off his pants, scowling at the ugly prison garb. “We’re sending Seokjin and Jimin into town first chance we get. I want new clothes.” He starts walking, earning confused stares from the others.
“Where are you going?” Hoseok asks, raising an eyebrow. Namjoon glances back over his shoulder, a grin on his face.
“It doesn’t matter, does it?” He parrots, and Jimin shakes his head, but he stands too.
One by one, they all stand under their own power. They don’t know where they’re going, but they’re headed somewhere that’s not here, under their own free will.
And that, really, was all they’d ever wanted.