Bottom Line

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Seulgi found Jimin at his locker, like usual-- but this time, Jimin wasn't grabbing his books. Instead, he quietly stared in Yoongi's direction, watching as the alpha spoke with his friends. Yoongi seemed happier. Lighter. Less sullen.

Jimin sighed, leaning against his locker door and letting his gaze drop to his feet. Why did he have to be so afraid? Why was it so hard even to watch, from across the hall?

"Are you feeling okay?" Seulgi asked. Jimin jumped, laughing to cover his embarrassment, and nodded.

"He apologized," he said. "He apologized, and he's backed off, mostly..."

"But he's still trying to talk to you?"

Jimin bit his lip, glancing nervously at her. "He wants me to initiate it, mostly. Otherwise... otherwise, he only says things when I transmit by accident."

Seulgi nodded, patting his shoulder. "That's good," she said, then turned her gaze to a few other approaching Omegas. "C'mon, let's go get lunch together."

"Alright," Jimin said softly, closing his locker and glancing at Yoongi one last time. He could have sworn the alpha looked up a moment later, when he'd already turned and joined the group, but he was too afraid to look back.

Lunch was as quiet as usual-- all around them, other groups of students created the noise in the cafeteria, while Omegas hunkered down as close to each other as they could get, heads bowed to avoid the chance of being noticed by their mates.It struck Jimin how wrong that felt-- how they were all together, but somehow apart at the same time. They weren't really connected. In fact, their shared problem pushed them apart, time and time again.

Why were mates so much of a problem?

He knew better than to voice his question, but he couldn't help perking up when one of the Omegas gritted his teeth, rolling his eyes and shaking himself. The other omegas did the same-- perhaps on edge after everything that had happened. Then the whole table flinched as one, a few of the omegas even crumpling onto the table, and Jimin knew it was much more than that.

He watched, eyes wide, as Seulgi dropped her head into her hands, groaning softly. "Is this supposed to be some kind of revenge?" the young woman asked, grinding her teeth. A pause. Then, "You're all idiots."

"What's going on?" Jimin said, reaching out to touch her shoulder.

"Something stupid, that's what," Yoongi said.

"What?"

"Last-ditch senior attempt," Yoongi hummed, irritation streaking between them in a moment. "They want to confirm whether their mates are on suppressants or not all at once. I'm sitting in a classroom with all of them right now."

"Why?"

An image passed between them-- a young man, perhaps an alpha, slumped over his desk, sobbing into his hands. Jimin swallowed as Yoongi looked up, at another alpha who was jumping around, shaking sulky alphas excitedly.

"He doesn't hate me!" the alpha exclaimed, over and over. "He doesn't hate me! He's not on suppressants! He doesn't hate me!"

Jimin bit his lip, shaking the image out of his head. "That's not fair," he said softly.

"Why? It's how we all feel."

"It's blackmail."

"They swore they just wanted to know so they could stop wondering about it."

"But what if they make it worse?!"

"That's why I'm here," Yoongi chuckled. "Any alpha who already has a mate or knows their status is in charge of making sure the others don't stay connected for over five minutes."

"Five minutes?!" Jimin leapt to his feet, and Seulgi flinched away, looking up in bewilderment. Jimin didn't care. "Hyung!"

"Min, please, calm down."

"My entire table is in pain right now," Jimin snarled, grabbing his bag and stomping toward the exit. "Get them out of their heads!"

"There are only thirty seconds left--"

Jimin stopped in the empty hallway, letting out an angry yell and throwing his bag down. How long had the other omegas been in pain before they reacted? How could Yoongi act as if it didn't matter? Of course, the alpha would feel nothing, but to an omega, another thirty seconds of pain would feel like an eternity.

At the same time, it was too short for him to go in and interfere. There was nothing he could do.

"I hate you," he yelled. "I hate you. How could you let them do this?!"

"If you hadn't forgotten your pills that day I would be doing it too," Yoongi said. "It's a tradition. 'First Connection' and all that. Imagine you'd wanted to meet someone all your life--"

Jimin snarled. "Tradition? Connection? Wanting to meet someone? Any Omega who wants to find their mate can initiate contact in their freshman year! Isn't silence enough for any of you?!"

"Jimin--"

"I hate you!" Jimin yelled again, kicking his bag. "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!"

"Jimin, I don't understand!"

"This is why it'll never work!" Jimin said. "Because none of you think about anyone but yourselves! At least Omegas stress about the effects suppressants will have on their mates before they take them! Don't you have any shame?"

Silence.

"No," Jimin said, chest heaving. "You don't. All you can think about is how fast you can dominate someone else. You're just like the rest of them."

Yoongi didn't respond. Jimin stood there, panting, and received a fleeting image of a classroom, deadly silent. Empty.

"I can't believe I thought you might be better," Jimin mumbled. 

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