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Orange Blossoms and Sea-Salt (Let the Light In).

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i.

His hands were shaking. 

The room was dull with darkness and shadow, but Namjoon swore that under that cover of darkness and fear, he could see the boy- the child- shivering in response. Head bent, cowering, afraid, and small, so fucking small.

In the small slips of silence, the small gasps of air in the dark room, Namjoon felt the rising heat in his face-

“He’s useless, you know,” the bidder growled, “Won’t even present at his fucking age- and he won’t talk- tell you what, I’ll give him to you for half the price- he’s broken goods.”

Namjoon flexed his fists.

“How old is he?”

The silence became bitter; Namjoon could hear the bidder’s sharp intake of breath. The farms were meant for convicts, serial killers, rapists, murderers.

Not kids.

“What, you think he’s an innocent child- his mother whored herself-“

“I asked you how old he is.”

“Sixteen.”

Namjoon swore underneath his breath.

Too fucking young to present, you jackass. 

But still, the sharp scent of orange blossom and sea-salt clung to the air; the boy was close, and Namjoon knew that he was too young; omegas, alphas, switches all presented above eighteen. Always. This was induced fear. This was not fucking presenting. 

He looked away.

 

He paid up, anyway.

And gave the bidder a fucking black eye for his troubles.

 

 

 

ii.

Bringing the kid home was one thing; although he pulled against him from the pits of that iron cage, staring up with wide, too-wide, brown eyes, he still followed after some gentle coaxing… but having Seokjin give him the look was another.

“Don’t,” he whispered, raising his hands while Seokjin pinned him down with that deathly glare of his at the entrance to their house. “Please- this one’s… Yoongi-“ he added, whispering the name as though in explanation. 

The head under him shuddered, and Namjoon looked down to the kid, whose head was buried under the coat he used to cover him. The kid flinched at any contact he made, so he had thrown the hood of his coat over him just so that he could feel…

His scent, Taehyung had told him, was warm, like fire; a family scent, he’d added, furrowing his brows as he tried to explain. Wood, trees; the smell of mint, Seokjin had whispered later that night, his arms wrapped around him and his nose pressed deep into his neck.

Right now, the kid was shivering, clutching the arms of the coat like a lifeline; Seokjin couldn’t even see the kid’s face because it was turned down, hidden.

At the mere mention of Yoongi’s name, though, Seokjin’s eyes widened.

He didn’t say anything; words would be saved for later, when the kid was out of earshot, when he knew that he could say whatever the fuck he wanted about the bent laws of the country they all lived in.

The kid, though, hearing Seokjin approach, stumbled back, pressing into the front door, pressing harder when Seokjin stepped closer again.

The kid wouldn’t speak. Even when he shook, he wouldn’t say a word.

Namjoon swallowed, before he crouched low. “Kid, I know you understand us; I know you’re afraid,” he peaked up into the folds of his coat. A pair of doe-wide eyes blinked back from the darkness; Namjoon clenched his teeth when he saw a smattering of bruises along the kid’s jaw. His bare wrists revealed more, some of them scars that had never quite healed. “Please,” he murmured, “You can pull the hood down; Seokjin here- he’s my partner-“ he gestured over his shoulder to the man in question, who had crouched down and placed his head on his shoulder, breaths soft and quiet against his neck.

“- and my best friend; we just want to help you, that’s all,” Namjoon finished.

The kid blinked back at him; when Namjoon reached for the hood, he flinched, body tensing as if coiled on ice. Namjoon slowly, slowly, tipped the hood back, and the kid’s hair, matted and black, fell into view, his skin whiter than that of a ghost, a pair of round eyes closing and ducking down to hide away, and his scent-

Seokjin breathed in, body tensing when it hit him. 

Orange blossoms and sea-salt, and the waves of the sea washed in Namjoon’s ears.

God, he smelled like fear.

“Aiish,” he murmured, catching sight of the maps of bruises and cuts all over his face and neck. The kid eyes slid shut, nose scrunched, as if waiting for the violence, and Namjoon felt the alpha in him rile up against the heartbreaking sight. A pair of bloody lips released one quick breath after another; Namjoon knew the kid was going to have a panic attack if he didn’t calm down.

When he reached out for his cheek, he blanched.

“The kid’s got a fever,” he murmured, aware of the silence in the apartment, of how everyone else was working, or out, unaware of what was happening here.

“Aiish, poor baby,” Seokjin murmured back, refusing to acknowledge the kid’s scent, chin still resting on Namjoon’s shoulder. “Let’s get you some fresh clothes,” he added. The kid’s eyes were still closed, and he still flinched when he was touched, but Seokjin worked his magic, the gentle, calming wave of mothering warmth that he was, and somehow managed to pull the kid along to the bathroom, into the bath and, then, into a fresh set of clothes.

If Seokjin had seen the bruises, scars, the kid’s protruding ribcage or anything that made him want to curl his hand into a fist, then he waited, baiting his tongue with the promise that he would have a conversation with Namjoon, soon.

If the kid somehow managed to collapse into the warmth of lavender that was Seokjin, and ended up curled over his body later that night, Namjoon chose to say nothing, and if they both woke up finding the kid underneath their bedroom desk in the middle of the night, pulling on his hair as if it was causing him harm, then they chose to remain quiet about that too.

They’d been through a farm-bred before (Yoongi); they’d experienced that measure of fear and suffering before (Taehyung); they knew from previous experiences that when the child tried to pull away, his breaths (jesus, just his breaths) whimpering between them, then they chose to put the blame on the fever (Hobi had had something similar, bruised ribs, and a horrible bout of pneumonia too). 

Seokjin hadn’t complained about it, though; the kid was something irreplaceable between them; he fit into Namjoon and Seokjin on their bed better than Yoongi had when he first arrived, and when the first morning dawned over them, Namjoon had woken up with the kid clutching on for dear life to the front of his and Seokjin’s shirts, murmuring, “Eomma,” in the softest, most hoarse voice he’d ever heard.

Even with the fever, heartbreaking wasn’t the word. 

This was a precious thing that they’d both do anything to protect.

He was theirs.

 

 

iii.

Jimin blanched at the sight of the kid sticking his head up from between Seokjin and Namjoon. He blinked in the doorway, opened his mouth, and at the questioning sound, he saw it, when the kid looked up, and found him.

He shrinked back, making his body as small as possible from behind Namjoon, his eyes (dim, tired, afraid- so, so afraid) peeking up over Namjoon, fighting the rumbles of tiredness as he kept blinking, body tense, shoulders coiled, ready for someone to shout, to argue, to…

“Namjoon?” Jimin said, voice rising a little. Of course, Namjoon being the heavy sleeper that he was, simply grunted, his back to the younger alpha; the kid ducked down further, until his head was completely underneath the blankets, scrambling for safety.

Jimin stepped further into the room, scratching his head.

“Namjoon?”

Namjoon grunted again; Seokjin was the one who sat up, bleary-eyed.

“Jimin?” 

“What,” Jimin said, pointing down to the ball under the covers, “-is that?”

“What time did you get at in last night?” Seokjin murmured, voice low as he rubbed his eyes, completely ignoring the small ball of a shivering human between him and his mate.

“That doesn’t matter- what is that?” Jimin raised his voice a little, tone defensive. 

Seokjin gritted his teeth, before his placed a single finger over his mouth. The younger alpha flared, but obeyed, if only because it was Seokjin; he was more afraid of angering the older beta than he was Namjoon.

“Namjoon brought him in lastnight,” Seokjin murmured, looking down to the covers to what lay trembling underneath them. “A baby, from the farms. Don’t raise your voice. He had a fever last night; it still hasn’t broken.”

Jimin’s mind blanched with every word spoken.

He looked down to the kid.

Jimin arrived in their house before Yoongi, so he could well remember the sight of a farm-bred. But, he knew Yoongi’s ways- he remembered how the older omega was just sick physically- his bidders hadn’t taken care of him in the short term he’d grown in the farms. A little food and rest and he was better.

But this…

Jimin looked down at the child still under the covers; he knew that this was worse; Yoongi had an attitude to authority, regardless of his status as an omega- he refused to let himself be touched when Namjoon, Jimin or Hobi tried to calm him down during his nightmares.

But this kid was just…

A kid. Afraid.

“Hey,” he softened his voice, allowing the honey in his scent to thicken with genuine love. He bent over Namjoon; the older lump of an alpha could sleep through anything, and wouldn’t even register the weight of a body on him. The body under the covers stilled. Jimin smiled. 

“Sorry for being so rude earlier- you surprised me,” he added, ducking his nose down onto the crown of the kid’s covered head. His head stilled.

“I’m Jimin,” he added, hoping that he knew how much he was sorry. 

When the scent of orange blossoms tickled his nose, he looked up to Seokjin and widened his eyes. Seokjin turned sorrowful, shaking his head.

Jimin looked down to the kid, before rolling his body around and crowding in next to Seokjin, where he wrapped his entire body around the furnace of heat under him. Aiish, the kid was on fire

A small flare of worry rose in Jimin (his alpha growled protect in every sense of the word), but when Seokjin wrapped his arms around them both, Jimin chose to close his eyes and cradle himself into the kid, hoping that the fever would break sooner rather than later. 

Slowly, slowly, the kid surfaced, his head turned away from Jimin, who tipped his nose into the kid’s hair.

Slowly, slowly, the kid stopped shaking, and Jimin smiled into his hair again.

Namjoon awoke to find Jimin in the bed, and the kid’s face pressed softly, gently, into his chest, he looked up to Seokjin and smiled at the motherly look on his face.

“Eomma,” the kid whispered again in his fevered dreams. They both looked down in time to see the single tear slip from his closed eyes. 

Jimin looked up from between them both, and caught their expressions.

 

 

iv.

Taehyung fiddled with his phone when he saw the text.

He blinked away the question of whether he could do extra hours (again) tonight.

He felt as though he was always doing bar work these days; with Christmas fast approaching, he guessed that his boss just liked how easygoing he was.

He looked up to the still-undecorated kitchen.

The thing was, he knew what he was, what he was capable of.

He opened his mouth, licked his lips.

He knew what all of them were, to both Namjoon and Seokjin.

Strays.

The streets, the farm, prison

He wasn’t ignorant; he knew that all of them came from broken backgrounds- Seokjin and Namjoon too. 

He licked his lips again, then followed the steaming kettle as it came to the boil.

“Tae…”

He jumped when he saw Namjoon standing in the doorway. Their place wasn’t exactly small, not by any means, but there were times when the alphas seemed to take up space, even more than their bodies could fill naturally.

Taehyung blinked. “Hmm?”

Namjoon stepped into the kitchen, then dove to sit down across from him, and it was then that Taehyung smelled it

Oh.

He tilted his head.

“Where?” he asked, already used to what a new scent in the house meant.

Namjoon pursed his lips, and Taehyung saw how little sleep he got, how tired he was.

He stood up, moving toward his and Seokjin’s room, when Namjoon put a hand on his wrist, stalling him. “He’s sick, very sick, and he’s afraid of being touched- and when you talk, don’t speak too loud, and don’t overcrowd-“

“Yeah, yeah, don’t act like me, so?”

Namjoon blinked. “Don’t be rude,” he said, rephrasing the question. Taehyung smiled. 

Namjoon would never tell him to not act like himself; it was the reason why he stayed here, with them, after all. Omega, alpha, switch; none of that mattered here.

Here, all of them were safe.

 

The kid was awake, doe eyes watching Seokjin as the elder gauged his fever, mouth open as he breathed one raspy breath after another, skin shuddering against Seokjin’s hand. Taehyung put his head on Jimin’s, nestling down into the scent of honey.

The bruises all over the kid’s face made him feel sick.

“How are you feeling, baby?” Seokjin murmured; the kid ducked his head, but his fast breaths were enough to gauge by. “Your fever won’t break until you get some water, food and more rest, okay? I’m going to make you something to eat- would you like that?”

The kid blinked, reaching out to pull on Seokjin’s sleeve, before he jerked, as if realising what he had tried to do, as if it was something bad, wrong. The movement was so fast that Taehyung blinked, thinking that he was seeing things.

Seokjin, however, bundled him up in his arms; when the kid tensed, Taehyung felt himself inhale sharply.

“Like Yoongi,” he murmured. Jimin nodded underneath him.

“He’s really sick, Tae,” Jimin murmured, “Can you smell how close he is?”

At those words, the kid looked up, fever-eyed, blanched, and pried himself away from Seokjin. He tumbled off the bed, and all three of them watched as the kid ducked under a nearby desk, pulling his hands over his head as if to protect himself.

They could hears whimpers in the silence of the room.

The kid was crying.

Seokjin leaned down, murmuring words that Taehyung couldn’t hear, and the kid hiccuped, suppressing a wave of shivers and quiet sobs as his body was wrecked with a fever that he couldn’t control.

Jaenjang, he thought. This was worse than Yoongi. This was the worst they’d ever seen.

“You two,” Seokjin said, reaching down under the table and pulling the kid out, his arms holding him tight when the kid couldn’t grip his bicep because he was shivering so hard, “Call Hobi- tell him we need a doctor ASAP. This is getting worse.”

 

 

v. 

A long while back, at the beginning of summer, Hoseok had been taken in by Seokjin.

He’d just presented, and was kicked out of his all-omega house.

He thought that when he presented, they’d be happy that they had someone there to protect them from the suspicious characters out wandering their neighbourhood, but that wasn’t the case. 

They were afraid of him.

In short, Hoseok was used to fights.

(Actually, he was used to what fights usually led to).

So, when Seokjin was walking home from work one night, and found him lying in the gutter (the alphas from a neighbouring town had found him and decided to have a little Saturday-night fun), he brought him back, promising him food, bandages and a cure for the fever he’d been sporting for the last little while.

Hoseok ended up staying a lot longer; whenever Namjoon wasn’t around, he was usually the one who stopped any aggression from Seokjin’s stalkers (they had the fucking decency to blame it on Seokjin’s scent, for Chrissakes; the smell of lavender wasn’t any reason why anyone should try to stake claim on a mate, fuckers).

Later, when Hoseok decided to try out for medicine (and just after Taehyung had arrived- disshevelled and bleeding out from a knife wound- the actual reason why he became a doctor), it was Seokjin and Namjoon who put him through college (he paid them back, tenfold, when he got his first job at a practise close by).

So, when his phone went off at eleven that morning, and he dumped his hand over it from his bed, he knew who it was; they only ever called when they knew they couldn’t go to anyone else, and when he heard Jimin speak (babble, more like), he knew that they’d brought someone else home.

“H-he’s sick-“

So he grabbed everything, and ran.

Fuck sleep deprivation and shit.

 

He took one look at the kid in Seokjin’s arms and muttered, “Ambulance, now.”

Namjoon stared at him. “We can’t-“

“We don’t have a choice; the kid has something wrong with his ribs.” He crouched down and looked up at the kid from under his sweat-damp bangs. Aiish, this kid was gonna kill him with those eyes.

“He has a fever- and I don’t need to look underneath that shirt to know that he’s holding himself as though he’s in pain.”

The kid winced as if caught.

He winked, then put a finger to the kid’s fevered cheek. “Hey, don’t be afraid,” he softened when the kid flinched. “I know you probably don’t like my type, but I really won’t hurt you- promise.”

The kid closed his eyes.

It didn’t even take a second- not even a half second; he’d guessed that the kid hadn’t heard him.

The kid pitched forward, folded, and Hoseok raised his arms up, catching him as the kid wheezed into his neck, the burning heat of his body claiming him as sure as the darkness. Seokjin was shouting for a phone, but Hoseok heard it in the commotion, and he felt his heart break in two at the warbled sound of it-

“M’sorry.”

 

Hoseok sat on the bed, cradling the kid’s cheek as he lay with his back on Seokjin’s chest. The heart monitor beeped between each breath, and the kid’s eyes furrowed as he slept, but he slept on nonetheless, at peace.

“Three fractured ribs,” Hoseok said, “Multiple occurrences of past abuse, sexual and physical, serious chest infection, swollen glands; the kid’s sporting a fever of 40.1… This is the worst case of farming I’ve ever seen.”

The seriousness of Hoseok’s tone was more than enough for Seokjin.

“Farming should be forbidden,” he swore, weaving his fingers into the kid’s sweaty hair. 

“How on earth a child ended up there is still completely beyond me,” Hoseok commented, watching the child shudder into Seokjin’s chest.

Seokjin pursed his lips as the kid wheezed a breath, clinging tighter to the switch’s shirt. 

“He’s very tactile for someone who refused human contact less than fourteen hours ago,” Hoseok added, “He must know that he has a momma who cares about him very much.” At the softness in Hoseok’s tone, Seokjin blushed.

“Aiiish, stop that,” Seokjin murmured, but his fingers still curled into the kid’s hair, and the kid breathed out a sigh that seemed to melt into his very bones. The drip they’d attached to his arm bent a little, but the liquids that he needed still seeped into his veins.

Thank fuck.

They almost lost him on the way to the hospital because of a fever.

Hoseok also chose that moment to ignore the needle tracks on his arms from whatever… experiment they’d been testing on the kid’s body, too.

Knowing the ways of those bidders, and whatever results would come back from his bloods, he’d ingested a progressive hormone treatment (by force, or by ignorance), and that was why he could smell flowers and the sea so clearly, even over the heavy, bleached scent of the hospital.

The kid furrowed his eyebrows and snuggled closer into Seokjin’s chest, and Seokjin resisted the urge to smile.

“Aigoo, he’s the cutest thing ever and I want to keep him,” Hoseok gushed in one fast sentence. Seokjin rumbled a small, quiet laugh.

 

 

vi.

Yoongi didn’t get to meet the kid until he found oranges on the walls of the house.

His schedule was a nocturnal one; he’d be an owl in the next life what with all the practise he’d been getting, writing lyrics and preparing his next mixtape for release over the last few weeks over a selection of night-time visits to Namjoon’s friend’s studio.

He didn’t even need to see him before he knew what had changed in the house; he came home and could smell the difference- the walls… there were oranges on the walls on their home. 

It made him feel uncomfortable; Namjoon had been sitting at the kitchen table, his eyes boring deep into its surface, as if it held all the answers in the world.

“When?” Yoongi asked.

“Lastnight.”

“The farms?” He asked, knowing what would be the answer.

Namjoon didn’t even bother responding.

“Why?” Yoongi asked, a little afraid, under his breath, and the brokenness in Namjoon’s eyes when he finally looked up made him feel both ashamed and angry at the whole fucking world.

“He’s sixteen, about to present, and was born in the farms.”

Yoongi flexed his fists. Fuck them. Fuck them and their petty, ignorant, screwed up ways of thinking; being an omega, an alpha- fuck, even a switch- had nothing to do with any chosen path in life. 

“Was he being…” he couldn’t even finish the sentence. Namjoon swallowed.

“I was told that he knew, how to… you know. He knew,” Namjoon couldn’t even finish the sentence. A part of Yoongi glazed over what he was trying to say. He remembered, what that actually meant-

He knows what being an omega really means. 

For an alpha, Namjoon’s protective instincts were notoriously strong; fuck, the man had protected all of them when it came to heavy wind from any journalist who came prying about groups like theirs, like GOT7’s, BlackPink’s, EXO’s… but he was too soft when it came to things that broke people- too soft to be able to face certain facts in life- sexual violence and torture.

It was during times like these that Yoongi acted more the alpha than he did; maybe that was why they were such a good fit- Yoongi riled against all of those facts, he cursed them, cursed those who agreed with them…

Maybe, if he wasn’t in the farms, if he hadn’t grown up there, he might’ve been an alpha (the better part of society, he had learned in school, so, so long ago; fuck them all). 

“Where is he now?”

“The hospital- Hobi wants to keep him overnight; he said something about needle tracks and…” Namjoon swallowed, physically paling when he tried to explain to Yoongi. Yoongi completely blanched. No, fuck this, no.

“He said something about testing,” Namjoon added, “It was why he didn’t get the fever until late last-night-“

“Fever?”

“Fractured ribs, and there are needle prints on his arms. He thinks that he might’ve been tested, and that the fever’s the result- or it might just be from exhaustion. We don’t know.”

Yoongi grabbed his coat and made for the door.

“Where are you going?” Namjoon pulled himself out of his seat, following the omega to the front door. 

“Out for a walk,” he gritted out. Visiting hours would have finished- a quick glance at the clock told him it was after four in the evening, but it wouldn’t hurt to go through the streets of Seoul. Heck, he’d probably swing by where Taehyung was working just to check up on the younger omega.

Namjoon’s hand on his wrist didn’t startle him, but the words- “Are you okay?”- sure as hell did. Yoongi cast a glance back over his shoulder.

“I’m fine,” he said, knowing that the past had flashed through his eyes faster than Namjoon would ever be able to understand.

He met the kid before he ever cast eyes on him; whoever this stranger was, Yoongi knew him better than he thought.

Fuck, he was that kid, once upon a time.

 

 

vii.

Yoongi never made a conscious decision to go out and find the kid; it was a lazy winter evening coming ever closer to Christmas Day and, instead of spending his time at the studio, his feet literally wandered into the hospital, and found the kid’s room.

He swore that he didn’t go looking for them- he wasn’t that type of a person- but he heard Jimin laughing, and Taehyung whispering not to tell ‘Kookie’, and a short, wheezy breath followed after; he heard Hobi laughing manically, and Namjoon talking to Seokjin, and he felt as though home was there, right there, amongst those he called his pack, his family. 

He smelled orange blossoms.

He smelled mint then, and lavender, honey and the tell-tale scent of cherry blossoms, ginger and cinnamon and cashmere, and he found himself in the hospital room, his whole family, the pack, all gathered together, talking and chattering amongst themselves.

In the centre of them, he saw the kid, the fading bruises, his wide eyes watching the ensuing chaos around him with a confused expression on his face. His wrist had a bandage; he could see the bandages around his chest underneath the hospital gown. He was smaller than Yoongi imagined, but he knew that it came from the nervous hunch of his shoulders; he didn’t know what to make of them, the rag-tag group that they were.

He turned, and found Yoongi by the door; the fear in his eyes became more tangible.

The scent of oranges and the wash of the sea became more salty, bruised, and Namjoon looked up from where he sat next to Seokjin, finding Yoongi standing at the doorway, watching the kid like as if he was made from something more breakable than glass.

And Yoongi couldn’t move, forward, backward, any-way-ward.

He couldn’t stop staring at the kid.

“Jungkook,” Namjoon leaned forward, voice as gentle as balm. The kid jumped, turned to Namjoon, blinking hard, as if to dispel water from his eyes. “That’s Yoongi. He’s our friend, too; he’s one of our pack.”

Jungkook, Yoongi thought. “Kid,” he said, and the kid jumped again, turning to face Yoongi, a fearful cloud over his eyes. “Is that your name? Jungkook?”

The kid opened his mouth, as if trying to speak. Taehyung and Jimin both stopped talking and looked at the boy, grins widening as Jungkook tried to say something.

When a few seconds passed, the kid looked back up to him, then looked away, embarrassed, his fingers knotting into the fabric of the bedsheets. Hobi cooed, and the kid blushed harder, hunching his shoulders even closer to his chest.

A wash of seawater rushed at Yoongi’s ears, and it soothed him better than anything he’d ever felt before.

He softened, then smiled.

He stepped toward the kid, and let the scent of jasmine and wild rose overflow in the room. The kid caught the scent, and slowly raised a hand to rub his eyes; Seokjin smiled softly. Yoongi knew his scent was a relaxing one- it calmed Jimin on the hardest of nights.

Yoongi reached out, and Namjoon blinked at him, about to say something, but Yoongi was already rubbing the kid’s hair, ruffling his fingers through it as though it were soft, soft sand. The kid didn’t even flinch; he melted into the touch- probably because he could smell the past in his skin, and all of the violence that brought him here, right here, to this hospital room, where he could meet this special child.

“You’ll tell me when you’re good and ready, ‘kay?” he breathed.

Jungkook looked up to him through his fingers as he rubbed his cheek, squeezing one eye shut as his fingers trailed gently over the bruises.

He stared at him for a second, watching him with a glassy-eyed look on his face, and Yoongi could see it, the remains of whatever those bastards had pumped into him.

Phermone drugs; enough to bring on his first heat, or rut.

There were three alphas in this room- Namjoon, Jimin and Hobi. Two omegas- himself (although he wanted to place bets that he was supposed to be an alpha, if not for the fuckers who decided to pull him off the streets), and Taehyung, and one switch- Seokjin.

All of them were here, especially for the kid.

 

“He has a week, maybe two or three, before the drugs wear out of his system,” Hobi had said, earlier, at their dinner table at home. “They gave him so much in such a short space of time that the kid went into shock from it all- that’s why he’s mute when stressed. If he relaxes enough, his first heat, or rut, will come naturally, and be less painful.”

“It’ll hurt?” Taehyung had dropped his chopsticks.

“He’s underage- this is going to hurt, and he knows that; he’s afraid of the pain, because he knows too much of it,” Namjoon had murmured. Yoongi had slammed his glass of water on the table, and shut the entire conversation down.

 

But then the kid surprised him, probably surprised them all.

Jungkook smiled, and he reached up for Yoongi’s arm, delicate, bruised fingers finding his pale-white hands and tracing patterns, soft and gentle, into his skin.

Everyone went silent. Even Yoongi went still.

“Jungkook,” he whispered, voice hoarse, frail, tired. He pulled Yoongi’s arm down to his chest, pushing it gently in, until Yoongi could feel his heart beating like a live-wire in his chest, pulsing hard against his short breaths.

Afraid. Still afraid, of them. But…

“Jungkook,” he repeated, more persistent; listen to me- this is me. “Jungkook.”

Yoongi smiled.

He was still terrified of them.

But he was trying to reach them.

Yoongi heard every word.

 

 

viii.

Namjoon quirked an eyebrow when he found the kid staring hard at his new bedroom, hand fisted in his shirt (wrist still bandaged, but okay to move), shaking (soft, hesitant; the fear had calmed, a little).

“Yeah,” he scratched the back of his neck, “It’s all yours, kid.”

Jungkook stared, even when Namjoon shuffled a little, trying to get the kid to move, but his eyes were rooted to the walls, the bed, the desk, the view outside the window.

He never spoke a word after he introduced himself to Yoongi; he clammed up whenever the younger ones tried to speak to him. Seokjin found it utterly adorable when the kid blushed while Jimin tried to pry a word out of him; Jimin was gentle with the kid, though, and even though he was an alpha, even he found it easier to reach out for him, or to accept skinship whenever Jimin was close by.

They knew he would speak, in his own time.

Yoongi had retreated a little as well, but they all still manoeuvred around the same house, coming and going at different times, but there… Maybe more there than they had been, once upon a time.

Namjoon sat on the bed, and watched the kid still standing in the doorway. 

“You don’t have to stay in this room though- if you prefer the one on the other side of the house, then-“

“Mine?” Jungkook whispered, the single word causing him to shrink at the sound of his own voice.

“Yes, yours.”

Jungkook blinked. “Mine?”

His shoulders were shaking.

Namjoon nodded.

The kid stepped into the room; no, he shuffled into it, and turned, looking at everything, at how neat it was. The house suddenly felt very silent, as if the walls were breathing, listening; Namjoon then knew that Seokjin would probably have his ear to the wall down the hall.

They chose the room closest to theirs; surrounded by everyone, thinking that if the kid was nervous, he would be able to seek out one of them.

“Yours, Jungkook,” Namjoon said, and Jungkook startled, turning to face Namjoon, and in the blink of an eye, the kid looked more lost than anything else.

“W-what do I do… in here?”

Namjoon felt the ground give out under his feet.

Do.

What do I do?

“Whatever you want, Jungkook- this place is yours,” he answered with a smile, the breaking heart inside of him unseen by anyone but Seokjin when he started to cry later that same night.

 

viii.

In the end, though, Jungkook never sought anyone out.

They found him in every corner and room bar their own.

Taehyung found him the first morning after he returned from the hospital in the sitting room, curled up underneath the coffee table, head buried into the carpet.

How he managed to get under there was anybody’s guess; that space was fucking tiny.

Hoseok decided to sleep over at theirs, and on the second morning, he found him in the bathtub. The kid winced when he was carried from the bathroom to Hoseok’s room- aiish, his ribs, he forgot- but Hoseok curled him up in his bed as gingerly as he could, and kept him there until the aching in his back had calmed from the rough night of sleep.

By the third, when it was Seokjin’s turn to go looking for the kid, he found him at the foot of Yoongi’s bedroom door, curled up without a blanket, passed-out, and completely oblivious, the base of his spine digging into the doorframe- reassurance, he guessed, that he wasn’t in a cage anymore.

Seokjin had decided to pull the kid up and sleep with him wrapped in his arms on the floor. The kid curled into his body heat and refused to let go.

“This isn’t right,” Namjoon murmured, fisting his hair in his hands. “The kid should be able to sleep in his own-“

“Don’t,” Yoongi replied, knowing they were out of earshot with the maknaes in the room next door. “He can’t sleep comfortably alone- he’s used to being like that.”

Meaning- he’s used to sleeping alone, or not at all.

“But that’s not right-“

“Give him time,” Hoseok said. “In the meantime, how ‘bout we all sleep with him, take turns or something? He might actually prefer that.”

Jimin and Taehyung volunteered to have a sleepover in Taehyung’s room and the kid followed without complaint, curled up in between them so he couldn’t be found in some random corner of the house the following morning.

Hoseok didn’t even bother waiting his turn; he decided to move back into their house for a while and ended up pulling the kid into his arms when he returned from his shift, making straight for the bedroom, keeping the door ajar so the kid could leave if the alpha’s scent became worrisome. It didn’t even take long for the kid to fall under; he slept with one fist curled tightly into Hoseok’s shirt and his cheek pressed solidly into his chest, feeling the alpha’s heartbeat rather than hearing it.

Yoongi pressed his nose into the kid’s neck one early morning when he found him sitting on the couch, waiting for him to come home. He pulled himself back from Jungkook’s lolling head and stared at him as the kid fought sleep.

“You’re awake at three in the morning, kid.”

Jungkook blinked open his eyes, and smiled at him.

Aissh, it was the smile that got him.

Yoongi gave in, and entangled his sleep-heavy limbs around the kid’s body, pinning him into the cushions of the couch so that he was on the outer end and wouldn’t jostle the kid off of it if he decided to move in his sleep.

The next morning and the two of them woke up with Jimin cooing over them both.

Yoongi growled at them, but Jungkook pressed his nose into Yoongi’s neck and slept on.

And it went on.

 

 

A few days passed, and then the nightmares started.

 

ix.

Jimin freaked when he heard the whimper.

It was just after four in the morning; the Christmas lights that Seokjin had spent a whole morning putting up made glowing colours dance across his vision, but it was the second whimper, followed by the burst of a muffled scream, that made the whole world around him cold-as-ice.

He swivelled his head in the direction of the noise, heartbeat quickening.

The overwhelming scent of orange blossoms pervaded his nose, and his worry increased.

Jungkook.

He whispered his name out loud, stumbling over the bed covers until he felt the lump that was the boy, and-

Jungkook screamed, a peel of sound that bounced off the wall, shredding his ears.

Jimin’s heart wrenched.

A second later, and Jungkook’s body wrenched itself from Jimin’s-

“Shit-“ Jimin reached out and grabbed the kid before he could stumble out of the bed and hurt himself-

The lights went on overhead and Jimin blinked, finding Jungkook’s head of hair first before seeing Seokjin’s worried eyes-

“What-baby- what’s wrong-“

Jungkook’s eyes were closed, but his screaming became louder, and the smells of the sea and the orange blossoms and everything that made Jungkook- the softness of the kid and his small smiles and the way he held their hands as though it was a precious gift- swelled in Jimin’s addled brain-

Fuck, the smell of orange blossoms-

“Jesus, is he presenti-“

“No,” Seokjin murmured, pulling Jungkook, who rasped another scream and had everyone tumbling into the bedroom all at once. “He’s having a nightmare, poor thing.”

Jungkook pushed against him, but it was as though his body couldn’t co-operate; his limbs flopped against Jin’s body, and he howled louder, until Yoongi grabbed the kid from the switch’s arms and pushed the kid’s head into his neck, making him breathe his scent.

“Jungkook, it’s okay- we’re right here, Jungkook, just listen to me, okay?”

Jungkook softened under his touch, then completely deflated, quieting, little sobs breathing down Yoongi’s neck as he seemed to wake up.

Fuck, it was scaring Jimin. He swallowed, sat back into a crouch, and everyone went quiet.

“Don’wanna presen’,” Jungkook was murmuring into Yoongi’s skin. “Don’makeme- don’wanna-hurts-“

Yoongi was rocking the kid back and forth as he mumbled incoherent words into his neck, and fuck, it was burning Jimin to see the kid shake like that, his whole head buried into Yoongi’s neck.

“It’s okay, Jungkook- it’s not going to be like that-“

“S’gonna hurt- scared-‘eomma-“ Jungkook whimpered, but it was clear that the kid was mumbling himself off to sleep again. In moments, they heard nothing but the quickening breaths of each other in the room.

Taehyung reached out and grasped Jimin’s shirt.

Jimin blinked.

They were shaking.

Hoseok released a breath first, then dumped his whole body down on the bed.

“I’m sleeping in here- who’s with me?” He asked, before grabbing Jimin and curling up with the alpha.

When everyone piled into the bed, Jungkook nestled in the middle between Yoongi and Taehyung, nobody spoke a word.

They were all awake for hours afterward.

They didn’t talk about it, not even when the first beams of the sun passed over the Christmas lights, and not even when Jungkook stirred, his head coming up from under the mounds of bedclothes and still bodies.

 

 

The nights after were a wave of nightmares; Jungkook would pull them all from sleep- he’d scream the walls down, his fear a crashing tourniquet against the muffled cries in Seokjin’s, Hoseok’s, Yoongi’s, Namjoon’s shirts, and the rest of them would watch, scared, shocked, as Jungkook mumbled words-

“‘theywannakillme-“
“m’not presenting- no-no-“

“-makeitstop, make the pain stop- hurts-“

-became a fury that burned in their minds.

The maknae was so afraid of presenting that it offset all of them; not once had the kid complained of pain, even when Hoseok had told them of Jungkook’s fractured ribs; his pain barrier was so high that even through the fever he was still coherent enough to say that he felt fine.

But the nightmares were scarring.

They heard him scream ‘Stop’ one too many times; they knew what the kid was seeing in his mind, and there wasn’t much they could do to help.

But Jungkook had watched them when they thought they couldn’t be seen, and something changed, shifted, then.

Namjoon noticed the kid shaking a little more, his eyes clouding over completely whenever he found him in the bedroom by himself. He shied away from them altogether, even when Seokjin would reach out to touch his cheek, the back of his neck or shoulder; he’d jump if Hoseok held him from behind, and tense up altogether if he held him any longer.

The nightmares grew worse.

“You’re sleeping in your own room tonight?” Yoongi asked when Jungkook walked past his door. He ducked his head out and watched the kid wordlessly slip into his room, locking the door behind him. Yoongi watched, silent, and squeezed his eyes shut later that night when Jungkook started screaming again.

At mealtimes, Jimin and Taehyung would see the kid pull away from them, eyes downcast as he ate his food quietly. He hid himself in corners to appear smaller, as if his presence was bothersome; Namjoon growled when he found him sitting in a corner of the hall. It was so unexpected that Jungkook had jumped, and stared up at him with wide, frightened eyes.

They all noticed the dark circles under the kid’s eyes; they knew that there was a cry out for help in them.

It was more than enough to make Jimin sick to his stomach.

 

x.

Namjoon tapped his shoulder.

Jungkook swivelled his head over the kitchen sink. 

His hands were sopping wet from washing the dishes, and when he caught the seriousness in Namjoon’s gentle eyes, he faltered, dropping the plate back into the sink. He huddled back, inched closer toward the sink, when Namjoon’s eyes went wide.

“Jungkook, you can talk to us, you know. You can tell us what it is that’s bothering you.”

Jungkook looked down, his fringe covering his eyes. He nodded, once, but stayed quiet all the same.

Namjoon breathed out. 

“If it makes any difference, I’m afraid of your first time too,” he said. Jungkook stilled. “We want to help you, but if you want to be alone when it happens, then that’s fine too. There’s nothing to be scared of here, not in this house, and never with us, okay? We’re a family, and we’ll always be there for you, if you need help, or someone to talk to, or even if it’s just a hug… we’re always here.”

Jungkook remained still, his head nodding once.

Namjoon licked his lips, scratching the back of his neck, ignoring the pounding of his heart as he spoke. “My first time, God, I was so scared, but Jin were there- he actually found me while I was working part-time at the back of a station, and he…. helped me. Saved me, really; I don’t think I could ever find someone like him out there, for me. We’ve been together for four years, you know; not once have either of us wanted to leave the other, you know?”

Jungkook looked up to him, and Namjoon smiled softly at the shine in the kid’s eyes.

“And Jin’s first time… you should ask us, about it. We want to help, you know? It’s not a secret, our firsts, not here, okay?”

He placed his hands, gentle, on Jungkook’s shoulders, and felt the smallness of them, the way he seemed so fragile…

Aiiish.

“Don’t ever be afraid here. Tell us when you’re hurting, okay? Just tell us.”

Jungkook let a single tear fall, and Namjoon held him, pulling the kid up a little so that he could feel how much he cared, and Namjoon heard the single whimper, the quiet rasp of breath, and Jungkook’s wet, soppy hands clutching hard into his jumper, as if letting go would rend him in two.

He didn’t let go. Not once.

Not even when Taehyung walked in and joined them.

 

xi.

Seokjin put his head on Jungkook’s, smelling his freshly-washed hair. The boy looked up to him from his seat on the couch, and Seokjin smiled down on him, chuckling when the boy blushed hard.

“You’re too adorable, Kookie,” he gushed.

Jungkook flushed under the praise, opening his mouth and then closing it when he couldn’t find the words. He blinked, and looked down, hunching his shoulders.

Taehyung grinned when he saw Jungkook smiling underneath the collared jumper he wore.

The Christmas lights twinkled over their heads.

 

The second time… Jungkook reached for Yoongi’s shirt while he was making coffee. When Yoongi looked down to the kid, and saw him stare back, unfaltering, he smiled, before reaching out and wrapping his arms around the him.

“Kookie,” he whispered into the crown of the kid’s hair.

He swore he felt Jungkook smile into his neck, then relax when Yoongi’s fingers softly trailed down his spine, softening the tension that had gathered there.

Jungkook breathed a slow whine into Yoongi’s neck, and Yoongi laughed.

“So you like back rubs, then?”

Jungkook pulled back, blushing furiously, and Yoongi laughed harder, scratching the kid’s hair and making him fluster all the more.

The radio crooned overhead, blasting a twinkling Christmas melody that would forever remain in Yoongi’s memory.

 

xii.

Jimin watched as Jungkook took his first steps out into the snow, the sleeves of his long, baggy jumper stretching over his fingers as the kid reached out for the tracks of twinkling snowfall.

He grinned when Jungkook caught him staring.

 

Jungkook took the camera from Taehyung, listening carefully to the older’s instructions, and looked through the lens, smiling when he caught Yoongi snoring softly on the couch, the Christmas lights glittering over his pale skin.

He took the photo, the shutter clicking once, and Taehyung grinned wide when he saw the photo on the screen.

“Natural,” Taehyung murmured. Jungkook blanched, eyes wide.

“You’re a natural at taking photos, Jungkook,” Taehyung added, flashing a small smile in Jungkook’s direction. Jungkook remained still, before flushing under the praise.

“Thank you,” he murmured softly in reply.

“Aiiish, I really wish you’d talk more,” Taehyung murmured, his tone as gentle as a breeze so as not to upset the younger. “We love the sound of your voice, Kookie. It’s like a song.”

Jungkook looked away, but the smile was still unmistakable.

 

xiii.

It was Namjoon’s last shift on Christmas Eve when he got the call.

Taehyung was on the other end, breathing heavy, unable to speak a word.

Namjoon cursed.

“I’m on my way, Tae, okay? Just stay there and keep Kookie calm okay?”

“He isn’t able to move, hyung,” the brokenness of Taehyung’s voice scared Namjoon, had him pushing up from his desk and pulling all of his sheets together. He caught Jackson’s eye, and the man nodded, understanding who Kookie was when his co-worker had mentioned the farms a few days previous.

“He’s omega, hyung, and he’s in so much pain- Seokjin can’t calm him down-” Taehyung breathed hoarsely down the line. Namjoon cursed, vision whitening. 

“-he’s broken goods-“

Fuck them.

Fuck all of them.

“Taehyung, I’m coming, I’m on my way. Just stay there, and keep Kookie calm, okay?”

 

 

Chapter Text

i.

“Don’t even think about trying to escape again.”

 

The boy blinked in the darkness. 

His mother’s hands wove through his hair, pushing away at the oily strands to find his eyes. She smiled, and in the shadows he saw her eyes soften. “It’s only for a few days, Jungkook,” she said softly. 

He believed her, too.

Just for a moment.

But, in the end, it made no difference; there was no such thing as escape.

 

 

She screamed. She kept on screaming.

“Don’t even think about trying to escape again.”

 

She stopped screaming.

She stopped.

And he stopped screaming with her.

 

Were there days? Months? Years?

He couldn’t remember. He was scared, body pressed tight against the bars, skin squeezing through the bars as one scream blended into a chorus, a cacophony, and there was no such thing as silence or home.

 

 

His arm was pulled, wrenched out of its socket, and, peeking up through the long strands of his hair, he saw needles and white coats and-

He closed his eyes.

He wanted to be free.

 

“He’ll be an omega, Sir. There’s no alternative.”

 

There was no such thing as escape.

 

He heard their screams every night. He closed his eyes against them; he didn’t want to become one of them, didn’t want to have them do that to him-

 

There was no such thing as ‘No’ in the farm.

 

It hurt.

 

It hurt a lot.

 

“Soon you’ll be put up for the highest bidder, pup.”

 

“They’ll want you on your knees.”

 

“If you survive the heat fever, of course-“

 

“Shit, forgot about that. The heat fever-“

 

He cried. A lot. Begged.

His lost his voice after a while; he couldn’t speak, even when he tried.

 

“Soon you won’t even remember your own name.”

 

“Fucking omega is what you are-“

 

He didn’t care what he was, though; he just wanted to get away.

 

The pain and the hurt and the needles and the blood… all of it bled through his system in the darkness and the shadows.

 

He was too tired to complain anymore. Just scared. On the inside. Just scared. He was going to die. The heat would kill him.

 

For a moment.

He wanted freedom.

Escape. Free. Escape. Free. Escape. Free. Escape. Free. Escape. Free. Escape.

Please.

 

 

ii.

It came out of the blue in the early hours of Christmas Day.

The lights on the Christmas tree flurried against his blurring vision. A creep of feverish heat crawled up his neck and he pulled at his jumper. His stomach turned against the lashing of warmth billowing up from the turtleneck.

He licked his lips.

He knew what was burning, inside him, knew what it meant.

He didn’t want this.

No. He didn’t want this, at all.

He shuddered, trying to close his eyes, to dispel the rising fever with sleep, when he heard Jin-

“Jungkook, do you want to help me with the Christmas dinner-?”

Jungkook blinked awake. He started calling him Jin in his mind. He didn’t really remember why- it might’ve had something to do with Namjoon-hyung, but he couldn’t remember

Jin reminded him of his mother.

He bolted for his room before the heat could get any worse, then slammed his door shut, hoping that it would stop the elder from following him. Bruised ribs twinging, he winced, but Jin’s voice followed him anyway, and he was scared, so, so scared- “Kookie, is everything…”

The elder stopped talking the second he came close to his bedroom door. A quick intake of breath and Jungkook slid down the door, crumpling into a heap the second the heat inside of him rippled over his skin, the scent of heat so thick it made him feel sick.

He shuddered into the carpet, and Jin started to tap on his door.

“Jungkook, do you want me to get Yoongi?”

The tentative voice on the other end reached Jungkook’s ears with such a heartbreaking sound that Jungkook couldn’t help the whine that escaped his lips. A sharp lick of pain, star-dazzling in its intensity, blurred his vision. He wanted to be sick.

“Jungkook, please, answer me-“

 

“He’ll be an omega, Sir. There’s no alternative.”

 

But he didn’t want that. He didn’t want to present, at all.

He wanted to be himself; he wanted to stay the way that he was, unknown, other, different, but Jungkook. He didn’t want to be a omega, an alpha, a beta- he didn’t want a class, a term, a label.

He was Jungkook. Is Jungkook-

“It’s only for a few days, Jungkook.”

His spine twinged, and his stomach churned, and Jungkook crawled toward the bed, where he stopped the second his vision whitened. Heat fissured out over his body, turning and turning his stomach until his breath came in fever-white pants, and he whined into his arm, biting down, trying to quell the pain, trying to-

“It’s only for a few days, Jungkook.”

Hands grazed his shoulders, and the touch alone made him scream. They were going to put more needles in his arms, they were going to pull at his hair and scream in his ears and there would be blood and “This is how a omega acts, pup, get fucking used to it-“

His skin was crawling, and he knotted his hands into the carpet, holding on for dear life as someone cried out for help in the distance.

He was drowning in heat and fire and pain as his stomach rolled again. His head swam; he glimpsed Jimin smiling in the snow, and Taehyung clutching the arms of his sweater and Yoongi laughing into his ear and Namjoon telling him that yes, this room is yours, and Jin ruffling his head affectionately and Hoseok whispering it’s okay, there’s nothing to be afraid of here Kookie andandandand-

He was lost, a smothering wave of darkness overtaking him, and he could see his mother’s eyes through the strands of his hair, and the needles and the whispers and the screams, the screams, the screams-

 

iii.

(“He isn’t able to move…. He’s omega, hyung, and he’s in so much pain- Seokjin can’t calm him down-”)

 

 

iv.

Flustered banging followed by an opening door and Namjoon is there, winded, wide-eyed, an alpha growling for a pup and demanding answers even if nobody knows what those answers are.

Seokjin pointed to the bedroom, his hands shaking as he wrung them mid-air. “I can’t- I’m afraid to move him, he just stopped moving- he just-“

 

v.

“I have him-“

“Careful, don’t jostle him-“

“Aiish, I know what I’m doing, Jin,” Namjoon said, voice low, and Taehyung winced under the alpha’s authoritative growl. Jungkook lay turned in his arms, his face hidden and his frame limp as Namjoon gently plied him onto his chest, the older alpha’s back against the leg of the bed.

A quiet rasp from Jungkook’s mouth and Taehyung breathed a sigh of relief.

“What are we going to do? We can’t have him wake up like that- that was painful-“ he murmured, and Jimin fell forward, his head tipping into the omega’s shoulder blade from behind. None of them had come down from the wails that had shaken the apartment, even when Jungkook collapsed from the shock.

Namjoon had burst through the doors only seconds ago, his eyes sharp and glowing against the twinkling Christmas lights.

“We need to keep watch over Kookie until the fever dwindles,” Hoseok murmured from one corner of the bedroom. Jin had pulled a couple of pillows and sheets from the other bedrooms, and he curled his whole body into one of them, fists white in the bed sheets. “By then, he’ll have calmed down and we’ll be in the clear.”

“And what about…” Yoongi started, before he looked away from the maknae, remembering his own, what it would be like when Jungkook woke up, feverish, his senses heightened, and afraid.

“Knotting?” Namjoon started, eyes serious, voice soft. “I don’t think that he would want that, Yoongi.” They all looked down into the maknae’s face, the rising flush of fever tinting his cheeks pink. A bead of sweat dripped from his damp fringe. “The kid’s too young, don’t you think?”

The alpha’s instincts were already in-tune with the kid in his arms; to deny a bond in a pack wasn’t normal- if it had been any other pack, Jungkook would have been dismissed, or killed. Such was the way of the packs. Namjoon knew better; understood better, and Yoongi nodded, his respect for his leader swelling a little more.

Namjoon tightened his grip on the kid, who shifted, turning in his arms before settling even further into the alpha’s embrace.

They waited on in silence, Jimin crawling with Hoseok until they smothered the kid with their scent. Taehyung watched them, their quietness, and wondered, as the snow began to fall outside, whether Jungkook would be safe, feel safe, when he woke up. 

He curled over Hoseok, nestling his forehead into Jungkook’s neck, breathing in the heat of his body, the spicy scent of oranges and salt and the wash of the sea, and he fell under in that scent, drowning in warmth and the hope that when the kid woke up, he wouldn’t be so afraid, he wouldn’t be in so much damn pain.

He could tell that the kid wanted to be loved; they all did, in their weird pack- but… it was Jungkook who seemed to long for it most of all. The curious glance over his shoulder through the snow, with Jimin laughing softly through the white; Namjoon’s hand on his arm as he explained something to the younger, and the kid’s eyes peering upward, as if looking in wonder toward a father-figure; Yoongi telling the kid that he was a ‘brat’ with a smile in his sad eyes whenever Jungkook buried his head into his side, seeking warmth. 

The longing to be loved, held, cherished, was there.

But the fear was stronger; the fear of being ignored, abandoned, alone.

Taehyung could smell it on him; even more, he knew the feeling- he remembered his sister, her death, his father’s blood on his hands and the knife in his side.

He remembered thinking that he could never be loved again, until Hoseok opened his arms and let him in.

 

v.

Jungkook was moving, restless, in his sleep. Namjoon watched him with sharp eyes.

A bead of sweat slid down the kid’s neck, and Namjoon nuzzled closer to his cheek, swaddling his scent all over the kid.

Jungkook groaned, and he knew that the kid was coming up. A quick glance over the clock and he gritted his teeth; the kid had been asleep for two hours. All of the pack and inched closer and closer as the minutes wore on, but there had been no release from the fever, and Jungkook’s body heat just went up, rose higher, and it worried him. 

A hand squeezed his bicep, pulling on his damp t-shirt and Namjoon kissed Jungkook’s forehead, the omega tipping his nose into his neck as he moved.

“It’s okay,” Namjion murmured as Jungkook’s eyes flickered open, flinching at the rolling scent of alpha pheromones. “I know,” he murmured, “It’s scary, but there’s nothing to be afraid of, okay? We’re all here.”

The rush of Jungkook’s fever mixed with the scent of his heat hit him then, and he groaned, panting, into Namjoon’s neck, pulling at his sleeve and trying to untangle himself from the alpha’s grip. He furrowed his eyebrows, his hands un-cooperating, and his fingers fell into Namjoon’s lamp. He groaned again, a swell of pain shivering up his spine, and Namjoon could see the wetness gather in his eyes. 

His heart broke a million times for him.

“It’s okay- do you want me to let go?” He murmured, but Jungkook shook his head, feeble, dazed, and burrowed a little closer into the alpha’s neck.

“M’scared.”

“Why?”

Hurts,” Jungkook murmured, his eyes squeezing shut, and Namjoon felt it, the tension in the kid’s shoulders, the way his spine felt rigid underneath the blankets he’d used to swaddle the kid.

“Here,” Namjoon lifted Jungkook’s  jumper, his hand splaying out over the small of the kid’s back, the heat of his hand drowning out the pain in the kid’s bones, and Jungkook tensed, before softening in Namjoon’s hold. His eyelashes fluttered against the skin of Namjoon’s neck, and the alpha saw Taehyung reach up and card his fingers around Jungkook’s neck, relaxing the pent-up muscles there.

Jungkook fell asleep again, but not before whispering, “Thank you.”

 

vi.

Seokjin found Jungkook struggling in the alpha’s hold. He’d woken up, bleary-eyed, and heard the kid rustling underneath Namjoon’s strong grasp, trying to ply himself away from the heavy-limped alpha. 

When the kid whimpered, Seokjin knew that he had to move closer, and when he saw how Namjoon lay slumped in his sleep, pulling the kid down with him and effectively pinning him to the floor, he dragged Jimin up and managed to pull the shivering kid from out under the alpha. 

“Shhh,” Jimin whispered, as Jungkook breathed in air, eyes wet and hands shaking. Seokjin winced; Jungkook’s ribs-

He bundled him into his arms and the maknae swallowed, mute. 

“Does it hurt? Where does it hurt, Kookie?” Seokjin murmured into his hair, but Jungkook just pulled on Seokjin’s shirt, trying to nuzzle into his skin. Seokjin pulled his shirt up over his head, dragging Jungkook’s jumper up with his so that the kid could breathe in his scent better.

Jimin took off his shirt when he saw Jungkook relax into Seokjin, his breathing slowing. The younger alpha then reached around Jungkook’s waist and pressed his stomach into the small of his back, easing the cramps that twould cause the younger to stress even more than he should.

“Can I do something to help, Kookie?” Hoseok murmured from over Seokjin’s shoulder, but the kid didn’t answer; Seokjin simply felt his knuckles tighten into his biceps, and the elder’s heart throbbed. Either he was in so much pain that he couldn’t voice what he was feeling, or he was too shy to ask.

“It’s okay to tell us what’s hurting- we can help,” Jimin mumbled into Jungkook’s shoulder-blade. “Our pheromones ease heats- so does our touch, Kookie.”

Taehyung wound up on Jimin’s side, pressing close, his breaths fanning out over the kid’s back. 

“Everything,” Jungkook murmured after a few seconds, and Yoongi tensed under Hoseok, reaching out to hold the kid’s bare ankle, his expression as pained as it was buried in miles of memories he was re-living at that very moment. “Wanna be sick-“

Jungkook wasn’t moving, but Seokjin pulled him up until he was sitting, pulling the bangs away from his face, and the dark circles underneath his tired eyes peeked through.

“Hobi-“ he started, before Hoseok kneeled forward, peering into the kid’s eyes.

“He’s dehydrated and over-tired,” the doctor murmured, before trailing his fingers down Jungkook’s cheek, and Jungkook leaned into his touch, before pulling back, as if trying to keep himself awake, and Hoseok smiled.

“I’ll get him something to drink,” Taehyung said as he stood up, and Hoseok gathered Jungkook in his arms just as Namjoon grumbled awake, noticing the loss of Jungkook.

“Where is he?” Namjoon murmured, and Seokjin pulled on his arm until the alpha lay next to him, reaching out to hold Jungkook’s wrist from where it sat in Hoseok’s hand. When Taehyung came back with a glass of water and Jungkook drank it down, Hoseok bundled him back into his arms and murmured into the crown of his head.

Jungkook fell asleep then, and didn’t wake until the early hours of the following morning, writhing against Hoseok, the fever rising so high that Hoseok pulled the rest of Jungkook’s clothes off to let his skin breathe.

Jungkook’s unquiet rasps in the dark made him worry; all this time, and Jungkook hadn’t complained. Not once.

And the fever would only get worse, he reasoned. Stomach clenching, he remembered what he’d seen as a doctor, the bad stories. He tried to remember the good ones too. 

The ones who made it through.

His fingers tightened into the kid’s neck, and Jungkook swallowed, reaching up to squeeze back when he thought that the kid was asleep.

 

vii.

Yoongi heard the kid rasp in his ear, and it shook him out of his dreams. He sat up, rubbing his eyes and saw Hoseok staring down at the omega, his body curled into Hoseok’s lap, whimpering.

Yoongi opened his mouth, but Hoseok shook his head.

“It’s the fever,” Hoseok murmured in explanation.

Yoongi could tell that if he tried to move the kid, Jungkook wouldn’t notice; he was so far gone under that it made no difference if he was waking or sleeping. Yoongi reached out for his forehead, then reeled back when he felt the heat rising along his skin. A sharp stab of fear overwhelmed; this wasn’t an ordinary heat fever- he wasn’t sure what to do-

“Hobi, that’s burning through his skin-“

“This was what Jungkook meant- what he was afraid of, Yoongs,” Hoseok replied softly. “The fever can kill.”

“I know,” Yoongi said, numb, “I remember.” His first heat in the farms was something he never wanted to experience again. Seeing the heats of the others, too… He shook his head, the anger bubbling under his skin. It was sickening, how much power the alpha’s in those farms held, how much they could take from the omegas who begged for mercy. 

How much they could hurt them and bleed them and make them suffer.

But…

But this wasn’t just a heat, and Yoongi was every bit as scared now as he had been then; God, just looking at Jungkook was bringing those memories back to the surface. His fingers trailed along Jungkook’s sweat-slick shoulder blade, and the pliant form underneath him, the jelly-like feeling of his skin dipping underneath his touch, made him growl.

Jungkook couldn’t feel anything but the fever; he wasn’t aware of what was happening around him, who was there, who wasn’t.

He probably couldn’t have cared less, because he was so fucking sick.

“It probably doesn’t even matter who holds him right now, does it?” Yoongi murmured.

“His body recognises the presence of an alpha- so yeah, it still does,” Hoseok replied.  “But what’s happening right now isn’t really a heat so much as the sickness that comes with presenting so young.” He seemed to hold back then, just a little, and Seokjin and Jimin both sat up as they became alert. Seokjin nudged Namjoon’s arm and Taehyung groaned as he woke up, arms fumbling with the heat from the blankets and cushions.

The darkness in Yoongi’s vision seemed to darken a little more, trying to make him cave under. He knew what Hoseok was trying to say. He knew what was coming, and the knowledge of it wrecked him so badly he was scared for the youngest, scared because he was so fucking helpless.

“I’ve seen it before, Yoongi,” Hoseok murmured, his fingers carding through Jungkook’s hair. “This is what happens, unfortunately. Some kids make it, some don’t; it literally all boils down to how badly they want to survive.”

They stilled.

“You mean he can die?” Seokjin murmured, voice low and dull with fear. The black dots on the edges of Yoongi’s vision yawned wide, drawing him down, but no, he wasn’t caving- fuck no, not if Jungkook was suffering so keenly underneath them, lungs rasping a little harder, a little faster from the stress of his heart under his lungs —

“It’s what he meant, Jin,” Hoseok said, “He’s afraid.”

A tense silence echoed between them. In the distance, Seoul bleated the lingering chimes of another hour gone past.

“The hospital-“ Seokjin started.

“It makes no difference whatsoever; we don’t have anything to help combat a fever like this- it’s all in the body, and even trying to reduce the temperature of an omega makes zero difference.” Hoseok chewed his lip, still carding his fingers through Jungkook’s hair.

“Kookie-“ Yoongi started, and Hoseok shook his head.

“Another glass of water,” he said, and Taehyung was out the door.

They pulled Jungkook up until the kid’s back was settled against Hoseok’s chest, his head turned into the alpha’s neck, and they pulled him from his dreams, they managed to pour a few drops of water down his throat before Jungkook choked on the second half of the glass.

And Jungkook’s glassy eyes stared at nothing at all. The deadness in those irises made Yoongi shrink against the wall, and the darkness was too real, too close to home.

He could hear it, the kid’s chest caving from the beats of his heart, and Yoongi’s stomach dropped, a little more, a little more.

He was afraid. He was very, very afraid.

And he’d never felt so fucking useless.

 

viii.

Hoseok pressed two fingers against Jungkook’s neck.

Too fast.

Too fast.

The pain was dull in his own heart, and Jungkook’s breaths pulled all the oxygen from his lungs, and still his heart was still beating too fast.

 

He knew it was coming.

 

They’d moved him to his bed an hour afterward, and watched, helpless, as Jungkook’s breaths became shorter, and shorter, until they became literally next to nothing at all.

 

Namjoon whined, the sound low in his throat. He fucking whined.

 

ix.

Jungkook stopped.

Jimin felt it, when the omega stopped.

He reached out for Jungkook’s hand, and held it, tight.

Jungkook started again, the sound wet and weak as the kid slumbered.

 

Seokjin nuzzled the damp head of hair, and Jungkook rasped a quiet, so, so quiet whine.

“Come on, Kookie, you’re so strong.” Jungkook’s eyelids flickered, as if he could hear them, lost under the waves of darkness and fever, lips parting, dry and cracked, and Seokjin felt a few drops fall from his lashes, the pain as wrenching as the sight.

Kookie, I love you, I love you, I love you- don’t leave us.

 

Taehyung kissed the inside of Jungkook’s limp wrist. The dam inside his chest was already spilling over; he dare not open his mouth for fear of it spilling out. Jungkook’s skin jumped, a live-wire under the omega’s touch, reacting to the contact, and Taehyung let his fingers close over the kid’s neck, gentle, his scent there soothing against the wash of damp skin. Fuck them; Kookie was like this because of them.

Namjoon had told them, before, what Jungkook had said about his bedroom- What do I do in here?

What do I do in here-

“You’re a part of our family and our home, Jungkook, please stay with us,” Taehyung whispered, mournful.

Please don’t go.

 

Hoseok pressed his lips tighter together. He was sick of this, sick of seeing the kid suffer, as had so many others; they were children, barely able to understand the world as it was, and yet they still suffered at the hands of their elder’s, still barely survived under a regime that swore on the politics of who was weak and who was the strongest.

He growled when he felt it, felt Jungkook slipping again, then tightened his grip on Jungkook’s shoulders, as if pinning him there might actually keep him here, right here.

“Don’t do it,” he kept repeating, over and over again, even if it only made the kid suffer more. “Prove them all fucking wrong, kid.”

But Jungkook looked it, looked ready to just…

The kid was beyond tired, his breaths too ragged, and he cursed, swore, at himself; he should’ve thought to bring a mask, something to help him breathe-

Jungkook hitched his breath, his heartbeat stuttering over Hoseok’s words, his skin so completely flushed he looked whiter than the walls, his pants so weak with tiredness that they sounded like threadbare gauze over closed windows, and the defeated, crumpled body under him seemed to seep deeper into the bed, as if it could swallow him whole.

Jesus, this was fucking heartbreaking.

“Don’t do it,” he urged again. “Don’t do it.”

 

Yoongi gripped handfuls of his hair, pulling until he could feel the pain. The scent of oranges was sickening; if Jungkook died, sweet Gods, if he died-

It was too dark, and he couldn’t breathe under the faraway sounds of a memory so close to home.

They were still there, in his ears, still bleating at him to bare his neck, his backside, anything that they could fuck him with, and he- and he-

Jungkook, soft Jungkook, who rasped for a few more minutes, shyly, under the folds of Yoongi’s bed, who chuckled from behind splayed fingers when Jimin fired a snowball at Hoseok’s face only one week ago, who reached, hesitant, for Taehyung’s hand when Seokjin aimed a spoonful of rice and soup in the direction of his mouth-

“Is that your name? Jungkook?”

Soft, soft Jungkook-

 

Taehyung propped his head on Yoongi’s shoulder, jolting him out of his thoughts. “I think that he’s waking up,” he whispered, his throat as parched as his words.

Yoongi dropped fistfuls of his hair and jerked toward the bed, where Jungkook’s glassy eyes were staring down at his, unblinking, unflinching, mouth parted-

Tired, dark circles, but still…

“Hyung,” he rasped, voice broken.

Seokjin pulled Jungkook up and cradled him close to his chest, the boy wincing when he felt his ribs being squeezed. “Baby, my baby,” he was saying, but Yoongi’s eyes were still stuck on Jungkook’s-

Jungkook, who wouldn’t pull his eyes away from him, who stared long and hard and Yoongi, and willed his heart to beat again, because Jungkook was here, and breathing, and- miraculously fucking alive.

“Pup- come on, show us what you got,” they had said, and here was Jungkook, showing Yoongi everything that he had, in those eyes, showing him that he knew, that he understood, and that they survived.

 

 

Outside, the clock chimed midnight.

The snow was still falling, and Jungkook was still here, and alive.

 

 

 

Jungkook’s eyes squeezed tight then, breaking contact with Yoongi. “Alpha,” he breathed, half-whining into Seokjin’s chest, faint of sound if only for the fact that they knew what came after the maknae presented. In answer, the faint stirring of arousal seemed to permeate from his tired frame, “Hurts-“

Namjoon pulled Jungkook up and into his arms, bundling him there, the relief on his face as instant as the glow of his eyes, the warmth and gentleness in his body. “We’re here, Kookie-“

“Alpha-“ Jungkook whined, his hands trying to reach up for Namjoon, for something to hold, but falling, crumpling into his lap, where he tried to move-

He panted, his eyes turning, glowing, blue, and he arched his neck, submitting, but tired, body aching from the heat, wincing when he moved too much.

“We’re right here, Jungkook,” Hoseok growled, his voice curling in Jungkook’s ear as the maknae arched his back again, “You need another glass of water baby, and a bath too, m’kay?”

Alp-“ he started, breathless, wrecked, and Jimin reached over and sealed Jungkook’s drowsy lips with a kiss.

“It’s okay, Kookie,” Jimin murmured, pressing his hand down on Jungkook’s sweat-slick chest, careful of the healing ribs, drawing his hand down lower, lower again, until Jungkook was moaning, moaning more- “It’s okay; we’re right here, and we love you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

The sea was where they found him.

His back sat turned toward them, spine curved over drawn-up knees and hair fluttering with the sea breeze, skin seeping into the sand as though it were sucking him down into their deep, dark depths. He wasn’t drowning though. Not this time. Simply staring out across the dark waters and even darker sky as though they were possibilities half-submerged in dark otherworlds.

A million lights twinkled overhead, lighting him in their eyes; still, Seokjin released a breath.

“Hey, Jungkook!” he said, making sure to say his name before he touched him, ruffling his hair.

 

 

(There were still dark times, times when their youngest would retreat, shrink, into himself. There were days that became weeks, then months, when he refused to speak, or look at them. Even when he went into heat, there were times when he had trouble saying how he felt, saying anything at all, even as his skin burned and his breaths turned into theirs).

 

 

Jungkook looked up, eyes clear. 

A question lingered in those orbs.

“We’ve been looking for you for ages!” Taehyung said, drawing his arms around him, pulling him back into his chest. Jungkook smiled, accepting the hug; out of all of them, he accepted Taehyung’s contact the easiest.

 


(Even now, when he was scared, when the dark was too dark, and he remembered that he could, that he was allowed, the boy would crawl in beside the elder, squeeze himself into a small ball near the side of the bed. In the mornings, they’d always find Taehyung wrapped around the youngest as though he were a comforter, or the nearest pillow. Many photos had been taken over the years).

 

 

“Sorry, hyung,” the youngest murmured into Taehyung’s elbow, eyelashes fluttering as he flushed. “It’s nice out here.”

Nice, away from the city.

Yoongi had worked himself to the bone to find them a place outside of Seoul. When Jungkook had finished his first heat, Yoongi poured himself into his mixtapes, earning himself enough to gain status in the underground music world.

Then, his work began to flourish.

It wasn’t just a little tapping on the doors of producers in Seoul; the young of society listened, obsessed over the rapper’s music, and the sounds he made and uttered and used, flourished into an outcry, a protest, against norms. Omegas, alphas and betas and abuse, passivity and perceived masculine and feminine thoughts and actions; work and education and fear and dominance and the streets, the streets, the streets, all against the upperclassmen who dared to call themselves superior.

Something clicked. The music continued to play, a battering against the masses, and between it all, Jungkook listened tentatively with headphones too big for his head and eyes so round Yoongi was afraid he’d drive the the boy to tears.

 

 

(He did).

 

 

But, somewhere in between, Yoongi found words.

“Hey, Kookie,” Yoongi murmured over Taehyung’s head, and the little omega perked, looking up, unafraid, to the elder omega’s eyes, to the question that lay there.

Perceived norms in gender and what it meant to be an alpha and omega; more and more, omegas battled for dominance and control in the same ways that alphas longed to be controlled, owned.

 

 

(Here was something new, just budding, a flower too fragile to bloom just yet; the rest of them knew what it might have meant, and Yoongi remained clueless. Naturally. But love did not limit itself to the body; love came and went with the waves of the ocean, the sea, and Yoongi and Jungkook remained, here, and here, and here).

 

 

Yoongi smiled, and ruffled the kid’s hair, gently, softly. Jungkook laughed, a little louder. Yoongi was the only one to draw that sound out.

“Time for food, kiddo,” Seokjin murmured, smiling, and Taehyung drew the youngest up off the sand. “It’s time to go home.”

They’d moved, with Yoongi’s money. Disappeared off the radar, away from the farms and the noisy streets.

Namjoon still done his time in the city, still persevered in shutting down every underground slave-farm within a ten-mile radius of the busiest city in all of South Korea. Worked harder when he came home late in the night to find Jungkook sleeping against the walls close to the door, waiting for the eldest member of the pack. Namjoon would smile, and carry the youngest to his bed (they’d still find him in the morning curled tight to Jimin, the elder’s arms wrapped around his shoulders).

 

 

 

 

 

Daaa~ Kookie!” Hoseok called when they stumbled into the house a few minutes later. The alpha rubbed his nose against Jungkook’s cheek and laughed when the youngest flushed. “Namjoon is cooking, so everyone’s been warned,” he added in a mock whisper. Seokjin went sheet-white.

“Oh, for the love of Go-“ he started, before they all heard the tell-tale sound of glass breaking. Jungkook jumped, like he had so many times before, but this time, it was Hoseok who clung to him, gripping fistfuls of the sleeves of his jacket and holding tight. 

“No, please don’t let that be my wine-glass collection, please,” Seokjin moaned, fingers on his face as he crawled into the kitchen. 

A second later, and Namjoon could be heard begging for mercy-

“I’m your mate- don’t shoot that thing at me-“

“Mate my fucking ass- that glass was fucking expensive, you clumsy-ass idiot-“

Taehyung snorted. “Make-up sex is gonna be lit tonight, guys.”

“Stay out of the west wing yes?” Jimin murmured from behind Jungkook.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Hoseok agreed. 

Jungkook buried his nose into Hoseok’s shoulder and breathed in.

 

 

 

Home.

 

This.

Was.

Home.

 

 

 

 

It was decided, when they moved in, that Jungkook would decorate the walls of the long hallway that divided the west and east wings of the house. 

The twine and nails he’d picked up easily enough, and the photos that he’d taken on the camera from their old home were still as new as the memories they’d had when taking them. He’d spent hours hammering the nails and twine to the wall, using small clips and fairy lights to hang them. Pouring hours into it, while the rest of the pack moved the boxes, unpacked, shouted murder and created chaos around him.

By the end of the night, when the lines of morning were sharpening the skies, they’d found him sitting underneath the bright lights, looking up with wide eyes at the photos, the hundreds of memories they’d made in the last few months lining the walls. Happy memories, funny ones that made them reminisce of times not too long ago; the early days, the later ones, and the ones in the middle where Jungkook felt he was finding them in the same ways that they had found him. 

Once, then altogether.

They slept in the same room that night, and slept on well into the afternoon; all that time, Jungkook remained in the middle.

Whenever they nested together, they always made sure he stayed in the middle (where he was safest).

 

 

 

 

“Whattcha thinking?” Taehyung said.

Jungkook perked. Jimin and Hoseok were playing video games in the background, their voices rising as their avatars went against each other in a duel. 

He shook his head, smiled and dug his face into Taehyung’s shoulder. His mind was still on the stars, the wash of the waves against the shore.

“Hyung?” He murmured. 

“Hmm?”

“You said that I smelled like the sea,” he said, voice barely above a monotone. 

“Yeah?”

“Hyung, why do we have a scent?”

Taehyung shrugged. “I dunno. We just do, I suppose.”

Jungkook nodded into Taehyung’s shoulder, and watched the colours on the television blur into his dreams.

He didn’t see Yoongi’s eyes as they watched him, curious, thoughtful, how they remained, before Jimin’s hands reached out, grabbed his. Pulled him away.

 

 

 

 

 

Safest wasn’t always safe.

 

The nightmares always came back. 

 

This time he saw his mother being dragged into the ocean.

 

 

 

He always woke up in cold sweats and barely-there breaths. The kind that cleaved his chest in two. The kind that made the others wake at the same time as he did- no matter what room of the house they were in. 

He used to scream; there wasn’t anything to scream about now, though- the monsters were dead. Gone. Now, it was just darkness and soft whispers of breaths against the skin of a cheek and Jungkook lying there, believing he was still in his dreams, still stuck inside his head, screaming for a way out when no one would save him.

This time, Yoongi’s fingers trailed along Jungkook’s neck, little ghost lines that drifted along his life-line, all the way down to his hands, where his other life-lines lay, the pads of fingertips soothing over every beat of his heart.

“Just a bad dream, bun,” he said, words slurring between the hands of four and five in the morning. “Just a dream.”

 

 

(Yoongi never told him that his dreams weren’t real; Jungkook was overwhelmingly grateful every single time. Telling him that his dreams wouldn’t hurt him, that they were illusions, made him feel as though he were left in a dark place and told to behave. Beaten into submission and left begging for numbness, again, again, again. Yoongi never told him to go back to sleep, either; he always waited until Jungkook’s breathing evened out, and he’d stay awake, until Jungkook woke up later, coming up slowly from blackout dreams. By then, the elder omega would be out like a light, purple bruises under his eyes softening into a smile Jungkook would cuddle into and hold until the others found them and pushed silent fingers against their lips).

 

 

They fell into each other. 

Step by step. 

Slowly, then all at once. Waves that merged, softened, slowed, then crashed, again, again, and again.

 

 

 

Yoongi wouldn’t understand until he found himself caught staring at Jungkook laughing so hard his cheeks turned red and the sea washed against their waving hands and outstretched fingers.

 

 

Slowly, then, all at once. Wave upon wave, and then something more. Again, again, again.

 

 

 

It would be later in life, much, much later, when the two of them would look out over the sea. They would watch the rest of the pack play in the sand, eyes crinkled, fingers a little more slender and bodies taller, older, more wise.

The water would shimmer with the sun, drench them in light, and Yoongi would pull Jungkook close, whisper in his ear, “That’s what you smell like to me.”

Jungkook, unknowing, unsure, would turn toward Yoongi and murmur, “What do you mean?”

“The waves. The sea. Salt, but softer.”

Jungkook, nose scrunched (it never changed, even after all these years), would say, “Yeah. That’s what everyone says I smell like. The sea, and orange blossoms.”

Yoongi would smile then.

 

He would murmur, softly, “Yes. The sea. That is how we all fell for you. One wave at a time, and then a crash, all at once. Again, and again. Against the cliffs, or basking by the shores of Busan. The sky would reflect you, mirror you, but even as the seasons change and spring comes, the sea would always, always, remain the same, willing to hold all of us close, willing to keep us through the seasons, every year.”

 

 

 

 

(He’d wax poetic about the pack’s scents- Jin would be downright fucking egotistical if Yoongi ever brought this up- but even though everyone was unique, even though they all knew that everyone had something special to give to their group, their family, they all knew that the one person who changed them, who brought them home, who made it worth it, was their youngest).