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Part Three: The Ascent.

*

“Thank you so much for your help.” Jongin told Baekhyun when they were locked inside a large, circular room that appeared to have no other way out except for the way he had just come, where he had quickly been introduced to the other liberated test subjects; Sehun, Chanyeol and Minseok, all of whom had had their abilities resurface and had then been rescued by Baekhyun.

Each of them had a gift as unique as his own; Baekhyun had the ability to control and manipulate light, much the same as what Sehun could so with the wind, Chanyeol could do with fire and Minseok could do with ice. Jongdae, it turned out, was pretty much a walking bolt of electricity when he wanted to be, could send out a shock of several thousand volts should it ever be deemed necessary. They were each beautiful in their own way, and yet all the government wanted to do with them was turn them into weapons of mass destruction.

Sometimes Jongin really despised the human race.

“Don't mention it, really.” Baekhyun smiled, but then frowned, “Where’s Kyungsoo- and didn't you have two children?”

Jongin nodded, clutching Jongsik tighter to him, “I do, we had to split up but I’m going to go back for them- I just had to get the baby and the dogs to safety first.”

“I’m sorry Jongin, but I can’t let you do that.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Jongin asked defensively, “You can’t stop me from going back for my husband and child!”

Baekhyun ran a frustrated hand through his mop of wavy brown hair, “I’ve already lost subject sixty eight to this mission, and seven and zero were lost before I got out so I am not losing anybody else. We have to stick together Jongin, it’s the only way we’ll survive.”

“I understand that, really I do, and I want to go with you to wherever it is you’re going next but I’m not going anywhere without my husband and child.” Jongin told him firmly, “Kyungsoo is a test subject too right? We can’t leave him behind anyway.”

“Jongin listen to me, your marriage- your family is a fake, an illusion created to make you believe what they wanted you to believe and-“

“No you listen,” Jongin interrupted angrily, “I did everything you asked me to do without question, so now it’s your turn to listen to me. I don't care how fabricated my life has been up to this point, and I’m sorry that you’ve lost people Baekhyun but do you want to know something? The way I felt my heart break when I had to leave Kyungsoo behind- that was real, and my whole life I never want to feel that way again, so I’m going back.”

“You go get your family, Jongin.” Jongdae spoke up, “We'll watch Jongsik for you until you get back.”

Jongin smiled gratefully before hugging his son close, who had started to cry again at the mention of him going somewhere, “It’s okay little man, there’s no need to cry,” he hushed, rocking him gently, “I’m just going to go get daddy and Dosik, that’s all.”

“Pinkie promise you’ll come straight back?” Jongsik asked, holding his little finger out and looking so hopeful it clawed at Jongin’s insides.

Jongin nodded, hooking his own little finger through that of his son’s, “Pinkie promise.” He said, hugging and kissing him again before handing him over to Jongdae.

“Jongin this is suicide.” Baekhyun tried again, going to grab his arm to stop him from leaving and gasping when Jongin teleported out of his way.

“It isn’t, because I will be back.” Jongin told them all firmly, “Nobody else is dying tonight. Besides, I think I’m getting the hang of this teleporting thing, I’ll be back before you even realise I’m gone.”

“Good luck.” Sehun said, looking as worried as the rest of them.

“Be careful out there.” Minseok told him, and Jongin nodded before closing his eyes again, concentrating hard this time on his home, immediately teleporting himself back to their living room.

Kyungsoo was outnumbered and surrounded by the people they had both thought to be their neighbours – their friends – and Dosik was backing him into a corner of the room, armed with a frighteningly large knife. With the exceptions of himself and Kyungsoo, everybody’s eyes were a sinister shade of red, and though Jongin didn't have one ounce of a clue of what the hell was going on- he knew he had to get his husband out of there and fast.

“You’re not supposed to remember.” Dosik was saying to Kyungsoo over and over, “None of you are, those are the rules.”

“But you saw the man in the television too Dosik, so did your brother.” Kyungsoo said, clearly terrified of his own child.

“You shouldn't listen to subject four, he is nothing more than a traitor.” Dosik said, raising the knife, “We are supposed to be a family, and families do not split up and hide from each other.”

“We are a family baby, we are.” Kyungsoo said, trying desperately to reason with him, “Which is why I need you to come with me so that we can go and find dad and Jongsik.”

“No!” Dosik shouted, charging at Kyungsoo so fast Jongin had to react at a speed he hadn’t even known he possessed until now.

Throwing himself at his son, the force should have knocked the child to the ground but all it did was cause him to stumble before turning the knife onto him so fast Jongin was struggling to wrestle the blade out of his hands; Dosik was so preternaturally strong right now it made Jongin wonder what in God’s name Catalyst Corporation had done to his beautiful boy.

Again and again Dosik tried to stab at him, until Jongin had to shove him away as hard as he could, only for the child to charge him again. Time seemed to slow down then, and though it couldn't have been more than a few seconds, it felt like hours went by when Jongin grabbed for the knife only for the manoeuvre to be followed by a howl of pain from his eldest son.

Jongin watched in undiluted horror as Dosik then stumbled backwards before dropping to the floor heavily- the knife buried deep into his gut and bleeding profusely.

“Dosik!” Kyungsoo all but screamed as he rushed to him, and the blood of his child on his hands had Jongin fighting the urge to vomit.

Dosik’s eyes changed back to their usual glittering brown as Jongin dropped to his knees beside him, Kyungsoo was crying almost hysterically, cradling him close as he tried desperately to stop the bleeding, “You’re okay baby, you’re okay,” he kept whispering over and over again, “Daddy’s here, everything will be fine.”

“It hurts.” Dosik cried, his whole body shaking as he went into shock, breaths coming in short, quick pants.

Jongin dropped to his knees beside his son, “I’m sorry son, so sorry,” he said, forcing the words around the lump in his throat, kissing the clammy skin of his face, “Dad never meant to hurt you.”

“It’s okay dad- I t-tried to hurt daddy…” Dosik all but whispered, unfocused eyes trying desperately to focus on Kyungsoo, “I’m sorry d-daddy…please don't be mad.”

The choked sob that spilled from Kyungsoo’s lips tore at Jongin’s already breaking heart, “I’m not mad baby, and you don't have to be sorry.” He told him, bending to kiss him softly, “Daddy loves you so much.”

“I’m s-scared…”

“Don’t be, we’re here and we love you,” Jongin said, vision blurry with tears, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

A moment later, and Dosik’s tiny body went limp in Kyungsoo’s arms; their son was dead, and Jongin had been the one to kill him. It was an act that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

“No, no this isn’t happening, this can’t be happening.” Kyungsoo cried, still cradling their son and rocking him gently, “Wake up baby please-“ he looked up at Jongin, eyes glassy with the tears spilling down his face in torrents, “Why won’t he wake up Jongin- why?”

Before Jongin could even think of what to say, the rest of the world came back into full and violent focus, and the people that had been clearly been waiting for instruction from Dosik were now advancing on them anyway; they were out of time.

Reaching out, Jongin pressed bloody hands to the sides of Kyungsoo’s face, trying desperately to get his husband to focus, “Kyungsoo we have to go.”

“No! I’m not leaving him Jongin- I can’t.” Kyungsoo sobbed, “I don't care if none of this is real I love my children and I won’t just leave him here to rot with these monsters!”

Thinking fast, Jongin grabbed a nearby jacket slung over the chair and wrapped Dosik up as quickly as he could, “W-what are you doing?” Kyungsoo asked.

“Getting you both the hell out of here.” Jongin said, lifting up his son and telling Kyungsoo to grab his backpack of supplies, before holding his hand out to his husband, who – with tears a constant stain on his face – took it, gasping in shock when Jongin then teleport them all out of the house.

Reappearing only a few houses down on their street – perhaps grief affecting how well his ability functioned – Jongin only noticed that the once good natured people of their beloved town had weapons when it was too late, and Kyungsoo took a bullet to the thigh that had him almost dropping to his knees from the force and the shock.

“Kyungsoo!” Jongin all but screamed in terror, immediately moving himself into the line of fire, desperate to protect both his husband and the fallen body of his young son, “I’m not losing you too.” He told Kyungsoo firmly, staggering when white-hot pain licked up his side and stabbed through his shoulder.

Grabbing Kyungsoo’s arm, Jongin tried to focus on the warehouse where they would be at least temporarily safe, he teleported again, but they were still a few streets away. He couldn't keep his control, daren’t risk trying to move them any further, so he staggered into a nearby alleyway with Kyungsoo by his side, where he lay his son down carefully before collapsing heavily onto the concrete ground beneath them, too weak and too heartbroken to move.

“I killed our son.” He sobbed, tears finally bursting the wall of the dam overflowing with hurt inside him and spilling down his face so hard and fast he could barely breathe, “I k-killed our son!” he shouted brokenly, staring at his shaking, blood covered hands.

Kyungsoo was by his side in an instant, cradling his head to his chest and kissing his hair, “It’s okay Jongin- you did what you had to do to protect our family.”

“But I killed our son!” Jongin howled, “He was our family!”

“Ssh, Jongin,” Kyungsoo hushed, “You saved my life baby so please- don't do this to yourself, not now.”

“You have to keep going Kyungsoo,” Jongin told his husband, staring into his eyes and seeing the reflection of pain so deep he wasn't sure he could ever heal, “You have to get to the warehouse- Jongsik is waiting for you.”

“He’s waiting for us Jongin, and I’m going nowhere without you.”

“You have to go- baby I don't deserve to live after what I’ve done and-“

“You listen to me Kim Jongin,” Kyungsoo interrupted, “Our life might be an illusion, our marriage might be a fake, but that’s just semantics talking- it doesn't change the fact that you are my husband and I love you.” He paused to press a hard kiss to Jongin’s cracked and trembling lips as if to prove a point, “Do you understand me? I love you, and I am not leaving you here- I won’t lose you as well as our son. So you’re going to have to just get the hell up and come with me.”

Despite everything, Jongin managed a small laugh, “So stubborn.”

“Like you wouldn't believe.”

“Kyungsoo?” Jongin questioned, smiling when his husband looked at him expectantly, “I love you too.”

Another kiss, a bond that could not be broken, “I know, now let’s get the hell out of here.”

Coughing and wincing in pain when Kyungsoo helped him to his feet, Jongin somehow found the strength inside himself to lift up Dosik’s body and prepare to carry on.

Thanks to Kyungsoo, Jongin still wanted to live.

-


Moving through the remaining streets much slower than he would like, Jongin stumbled when he went light-headed yet again. Kyungsoo of course supported him as best he could, but it was growing increasingly difficult for his husband to keep them both going when he was bleeding badly too.

Being unable to even lift his feet properly, Jongin tripped and this time Kyungsoo couldn't catch him, and he cried out in agony when his knees hit the floor hard thanks to him protecting his son’s body rather than himself; it was the least he could do after he’d ended his life- the thought had him heartsick all over again.

“Get up Jongin- please,” Kyungsoo begged, dropping down beside him, “They’re right behind us so you have to get up.”

“I can’t baby.” Jongin panted, delirious from blood loss, “I love you.“

“No, don't you dare say that to me,” Kyungsoo cried, “Not when it sounds like goodbye. Now get up!”

With strength Jongin didn't even know that either him or his husband possessed, they pulled themselves to their feet, and Kyungsoo cried out in shock when the street was suddenly alight with the blaze of fire followed by the deadly chill of ice; Chanyeol and Minseok.

Glancing back, Jongin saw their pursuers either being overwhelmed by flames or frozen in place by ice, and the blonde had never been so grateful to see something so out of the ordinary in his life. Sehun brought up the rear of their team, using the wind to blast backwards anybody who continued to try their luck; he even knocked down several lampposts to make it more difficult for the townspeople to follow.

“How did you find us?” Jongin asked when Chanyeol rushed over to them.

“Surveillance. This town is full of it.” The redhead answered, “Here, I’ll take him.”

Jongin panicked when Chanyeol tried to take his son from him, “No please-“

“Jongin, you’re injured, I’ll be careful I promise.”

“Don't hurt him, please.” Jongin begged, though he knew he sounded like a redundant statement.

Chanyeol simply smiled sadly, “I won’t.”

“We have to get out of here right now.” Minseok told them as Sehun took Kyungsoo’s bags from him, “They’re crawling this place like locusts.”

“Where’s Jongsik?” Kyungsoo asked as they moved as quickly as they could towards the warehouse.

“Safe with Jongdae.” Minseok said, and Kyungsoo looked as relieved as Jongin felt, “Baekhyun’s prepping our getaway vehicle.”

Though they made in to the labyrinth much more quickly now they weren’t struggling on alone, people were still flocking behind them; intent on not letting their experiments escape.

“Chanyeol what’re you-“ Sehun started when the redhead moved to the back of the group, his unfinished question being answered when Chanyeol set the entire passageway they’d just come through on fire- the flames as beautiful and brilliant as they were deadly.

“Baekhyun what is it?” Sehun asked, the other man having contacted him through the black device hooked around his ear, “Right, got it. Jongin and Kyungsoo are wounded, we’re going to need the med-kit ready.”

“What’s going on?” Jongin asked as they rounded yet another corner onto another passageway that looked identical to each one before it, “What did he say?”

“Follow his light and he’ll guide us through-“ Sehun paused, giving both him and Kyungsoo a pointed look, “Quietly.”

Jongin nodded, clinging to Kyungsoo tighter than ever, “Don't touch the walls baby.” He whispered to his husband.

“Why not?”

“No idea. Just don't touch them.”

“Ten thousand volts.” Chanyeol told them quietly, “That’s why not.”

Jongin barely suppressed a shudder, then gasped as – as promised – an orb of golden light appeared before them, shimmering in place for a moment before heading down a passageway to their left that the blonde hadn’t even noticed; Baekhyun.

Disorientated and weak, Jongin was finding it hard to focus, hard to keep going and kept stumbling with every other step he took until Kyungsoo couldn't support him anymore and he fell. Before Jongin could even hit the ground Sehun caught him around the middle, keeping him going as his body went rigid with fear when he heard the calling taunts from the townspeople in hot pursuit.

“It seems the little pigs are lost in the pen with only one way out.”

“This is what happens when ignorant swine don't follow the rules- don't understand their place in society.”

For the first time in a long time, Jongin found himself praying: praying that they wouldn't get caught and that they would all get out of this alive.

Minseok stopped suddenly, and Jongin turned slightly to see him open his hands out palms up, frost spreading across his skin, the passageway falling unnaturally cold as moments later stalagmites and stalactites made of ice instead of calcium salts found in caves grew from the floor and the ceiling behind them until they were large enough to meet in the middle- effectively forming a solid barricade of ice and buying them some time.

When they finally made it to the room in the centre of the maze Jongin was beyond relieved to see Jongsik sat in Jongdae’s lap reading a book. When Sehun let go of him, Jongin all but collapsed into the nearest chair, only vaguely aware of his son shouting and practically throwing himself off Jongdae’s lap to go and throw himself at Kyungsoo, who staggered thanks to his wounded leg.

“Jongin!” Kyungsoo shouted when he noticed just how out of it Jongin really was, “Jongin stay with me, you have to stay with me.”

He was only vaguely away of Baekhyun appearing out of seemingly nowhere with medical supplies he vision was so hazy as Minseok helped him out of his torn and bloodied shirt.

“Chanyeol, I need your help over here.” Baekhyun ordered when he’d done tweezing out several bullets that had Jongin biting his other arm hard to keep from screaming in pain and terrifying his youngest son any more than he already was.

“This is going to sting.” Chanyeol warned, and before Jongin could question what he was talking about the redhead was pressing his palms flat to his wounds, and less than a second later Jongin’s scream of agony echoed around the room in response to Chanyeol using his ability to cauterize his flesh and stop the flow of blood.

Jongsik’s was crying hysterically with Kyungsoo struggling to settle him down, and Jongin only stopped trembling so much when Baekhyun gave him a shot of what he assumed to be morphine for the pain before going to tend to his husband’s wounds too.

The moment Kyungsoo set Jongsik down on the floor, his son was barrelling across the room to him, and Jongin bit back a wince of pain as he scooped him up into his arms and held him tightly, “Hey Wolverine,” he smiled, knowing that using the name of his favourite X-Men character always cheered him up, “Told you I’d be back.”

The sound of metal splitting suddenly drowned out all other sound in the room, and Jongin felt sick with fear when he saw the townspeople forcing their way in armed with what appeared to be enough weapons to face off an army in the middle of war.

Were they really so dangerous to Catalyst that they would go to all this trouble to prevent them from escaping and having the freedom they all deserved?

“They’re going to come through the metal!” Minseok shouted as Baekhyun rounded everybody up and all the things they needed to take with them.

“Jongin!” Kyungsoo’s worried shout rang out just as Jongdae turned to face the door, sparks of barely contained electricity crackling between his palms before sending a bolt of what could only be described as lightning at the first person to enter the room.

But instead of simply shocking that one person, the electricity went through them to the next person, and the next, and from what Jongin could see it joined the townspeople with a current of brilliant blue and white sparks.

Each person trapped by the electricity shook violently for a moment before they all dropped to ground almost simultaneously; dead.

“We’re leaving, now.” Baekhyun ordered, opening a trap door in the floor that Jongin hadn’t even noticed, containing a single ladder that led down into the darkness beneath the maze.

“Where does that lead?” He asked, handing Jongsik to Kyungsoo.

“To a single tunnel that leads straight underneath the maze to the other side of town, to an armoured truck that is already packed and ready to go.” Baekhyun explained, “Sehun is already there, waiting for us.”

It was only then that Jongin realised that he hadn’t seen Sehun since he helped him through the labyrinth when he couldn't walk any further, that and- “Dosik, where’s my son?” he asked quickly, ashamed of himself for having not noticed sooner.

“With Sehun.” Chanyeol told him, “The dogs too.”

Nodding, Jongin took Kyungsoo’s hand and squeezed tightly before they followed Baekhyun and the other’s down into the tunnel, grateful for their leader’s ability when he used it to light their way for who knew how long until they were climbing another ladder much the same as the other one, only this one led to a street on the side of town Jongin had never been to or even new existed before.

“I’ve never been so pleased to see a truck in my life.” Kyungsoo said when Sehun opened the doors to let them all in.

Once inside, Jongin felt emotional all over again when he noticed that Dosik’s body was laid on a thin sheet of ice that would keep his body from decomposing until they were somewhere they could bury him and say goodbye properly.

“Thank you.” He said to Minseok quietly, knowing that it had to have been him, who shook his head and smiled sadly as though to tell him not to thank him.

“Why won’t Dosik wake up?” Jongsik asked some fifteen minutes later, when they were on the road to who knew where, Baekhyun was driving and Sehun was navigating whilst Chanyeol, Minseok and Jongdae were in the back with them Jongin and Kyungsoo.

“You’re brother is in a special sleep baby.” Kyungsoo told him quietly, and the choked back emotion Jongin could hear in his husbands voice had him turning to the window so he didn't have to look at what he’d done to his family, “So he can’t wake up right now.”

The guilt was eating away at his insides like maggots, and he couldn't hold his tears back when he felt Kyungsoo lace their fingers together and squeeze his hand tightly, “It wasn't your fault Jongin.” His husband whispered, but Jongin wasn't sure he could believe him.

“I know somebody who can change that.” Baekhyun told them from the front, and Jongin’s attention was immediately caught.

“It’s not possible.” Jongin said, sceptical.

“He’s a healer- an exceptionally powerful one at that.” Baekhyun explained, “He could fix your son.”

“Where is he?” Kyungsoo asked before Jongin could say anything, though he’d be lying if he said his heart didn't skip a beat at the thought of having his family back together as one.

“That’s the catch.” Sehun joined in, “He’s trapped in his own test area and needs to be liberated.”

“Who is he?” Jongin asked.

“Test subject ten- Yixing, was seized from Yunnan in China.” Baekhyun said, “We save him- we save your son.”

“I’ll do it.” Jongin told him firmly, “Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.”

Kyungsoo reached out then, grasping his chin to turn him to face him, “Jongin ah,” he whispered affectionately, “Please think about this, I can’t lose you- not after everything.”

“And you never will baby, I promise.” Jongin told him, pressing the palm of his husband’s hand to his cheek after kissing it gently, “But I have to do this.”

He watched the way Kyungsoo looked down at Jongsik, who was now sleeping soundly in his lap, to the body of their fallen son, “I will fix this, Kyungsoo.”

Kyungsoo smiled at him through the tears gathered in his eyes, “I know you will- you always do.”

Wrapping his arms around his husband, Jongin kissed him deeply, revelling in the comfort and familiarity it brought to settle the turbulence inside him, “I love you.” He whispered against his mouth, and Kyungsoo’s answering I love you too was written on his husband’s lips as he leaned in for a second kiss.

Exhausted, they settled down then, and as he gazed out of the window at the landscape passing by in a colourful blur Jongin knew that no matter what Baekhyun – or anybody else – would teach him about his past in the weeks that had not yet come to pass, one thing would never change; his love for his family and the overwhelming want to keep them safe.

And for now, he dared to think as he felt Kyungsoo relax further into his side as he too fell asleep, that was exactly what they were:

Safe.

~*~

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