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Part Two: In Hades.

*

When Jongin woke up the next morning to Kyungsoo’s 7AM alarm instead of his own earlier wake up call, it was to find the space in bed beside him empty; apparently his husband was already up. It made him wonder if Kyungsoo was still angry with him, but inside Jongin knew that he still wouldn't be able to just let everything go, knew that he’d try again and again to make his husband understand that he genuinely believed that there was somebody out there watching them- and he was terrified.

The night before, Kyungsoo had gone ballistic when he’d discovered what Jongin had done to his arm – had refused to even look at the grisly discovery he’d made – and had told him that if he couldn't sort himself out, if he was going to keep scaring the kids and cutting himself then he needed to get professional help.

It had broken Jongin’s heart.

“How’re you feeling this morning?” Kyungsoo’s voice asked softly, and Jongin sat up in bed to see his husband hovering in the doorway, looking unsure of being around him for the first time in their whole relationship.

“Okay I guess.” He said, not knowing what to say to put things right, “Do you want me to take the boys to school?”

Kyungsoo shook his head no, “I can manage, don't worry.”

“Baby don't do this, please.” Jongin pleaded quietly, “You’re not a single parent so don't go acting like one- I’m not going to fuck things up again.”

“I know, and I’m not.” Kyungsoo insisted, “You can make their breakfast if you like- they love it when you cook scrambled eggs on toast. Other than that, you need to rest.”

“Eggs it is then.” Jongin smiled, trying to ease the weird tension that seemed to be trying to settle between them, “I’m going to be so late for work today, I slept through my alarm.”

“No, you didn't. I switched it off when I woke up.” Kyungsoo told him, “I phoned in sick for you too, thought you could do with a few days to get yourself back to normal.”

Normal. Jongin wasn't sure he even understood what that word meant anymore.

“Sure, I feel fine though.”

“But you’re not fine, Jongin.” Kyungsoo sighed, sounding stressed as he finally crossed the room to sit beside him on the bed, “Babe you’re having delusions, nightmares and cutting yourself- none of that is fine.” He leaned over to kiss his head gently, “But you will be, because I love you and I’m here for you, okay?”

Too stunned by what were obviously Kyungsoo’s true thoughts, Jongin simply nodded, watching his husband then leave the room to go and check on the kids whilst he got himself up and dressed in the nearest comfortable trousers and shirt he could find.

Kyungsoo didn't believe him- his own husband thought he was seeing things and at least a little unstable; it hurt more than Jongin had words to describe.

Breakfast turned out to be a rather hectic affair, with him juggling cooking breakfast and making packed lunches as Kyungsoo rushed around getting the boys’ bags ready for school. It was almost as though their fight last night had left them off balance, struggling to get going again the next morning acting like none of it ever happened.

Jongsik seemed to have made a complete recovery from the upset of yesterday – he hugged and kissed Jongin good morning as usual – but Dosik still seemed off; a little quiet and subdued maybe, though he ate his breakfast with no trouble.

“Keep an eye on Dosik,” Jongin whispered to Kyungsoo when the boys were gathering their things, “I think he might be coming down with something- the flu maybe?”

Kyungsoo nodded his agreement, “Yeah I thought so too, I even took his temperature earlier- so far though everything’s normal.”

Jongin waved them all off with a smile that was far cheerier than he felt, before locking the house up to take the dogs for a long run in the hope that it would help clear his head. It worked – sort of – until he noticed that there seemed to be far more of their neighbours out of their houses than usual, in their gardens, walking up and down the streets, and none of them looked particularly pleased to see him passing by them.

Sure they were polite, waving to him as they always did every morning, but they no longer looked like the friendly people he’d grown to know over the years; to the point where he ended up taking the dogs on another route home on the way back because he didn't feel safe.

Perhaps Kyungsoo was right. Perhaps he really was sick and needed to see a doctor before this got any more out of hand than it already had.

No he told himself firmly as he let the dogs off their leads in the hallway and locked the front door behind him you’re not going crazy, that tracker is a physical thing- not a delusion.

Ignoring his husband’s advice to rest and ‘recover’, Jongin set himself back up with his laptop at the kitchen table to continue with his research, hacking into the computer network from work to try and dig up more on that creepy institution and find out what had really gone on there, because he was sure as hell it wasn't special care for people suffering from debilitating mental illnesses.

Less than a couple of minutes into his search, and he found himself blocked once again by yet another error message- Kim Jongin you are unauthorized to access this system so please refrain from doing so.

The fact that his name was on it had Jongin jumping backwards out of his chair, staring at his laptop screen with such horror anybody would think it had pulled a gun on him, his eyes were so wide with fear.

Moving swiftly around the house, Jongin checked that all the doors and windows were locked before sitting back at his computer, using online newspaper archives to try and locate information on any strange occurrences that had happened as far wide as he could think of and tried to correlate where they had happened in the hope of making a connection; he was starting to feel like a detective in one of Kyungsoo’s favourite crime dramas.

An hour of reading through what felt like endless articles and writing down any information he thought might be relevant, Jongin had discovered that the town he and Kyungsoo lived in was what you might call a hot zone, reports of people disappearing or changing dating back too far for it to just be coincidence- but at the same time so subtle you wouldn't notice if you weren’t looking for it.

Without a shadow of a doubt Jongin was now convinced that something sinister was going on here, and he and his husband were somehow being thrown right in the middle of it.

When the blue light of his laptop webcam suddenly lit up without warning and a video window opened up Jongin actually cried out when the image remained fuzzy for a moment before clearing to reveal a man who seemed strangely familiar to the blonde, despite knowing that he had never seen this person before in his life.

“What the fuck?” Jongin blurted before he could stop himself.

“Hello Kim Jongin, I am test subject four- but you can call me Baekhyun.” The man introduced himself, “I am the one who has been sending you messages all this time.”

Jongin wasn't sure whether to be relieved or terrified that he finally had a face to go with the words and wasn't just going crazy, “What the hell is going on here Baekhyun? Why are you sending me messages? Why was there a piece of fucking metal in my arm with the number eighty-eight on it? Why-“

“Jongin, I’m currently on a private connection to talk to you,” Baekhyun interrupted Jongin’s spitfire questioning, “But it won’t last for long, they’re behind us- but never far enough for us to lose them completely which is why I need you to listen to me very carefully.”

Though burning to ask who they were, Jongin nodded and remained quiet as Baekhyun spoke again, his words making the blonde feel cold all over, almost as though ice was wrapping itself around his heart and lungs, and squeezing tightly until he couldn't breathe properly, “The device embedded in your arm was your own personal tracker, we all have or had them- call it a gift from a corporation known as Catalyst. From the day they took you, you became test subject eighty-eight, the man you live with test subject twelve. You were both seized by Catalyst and relocated to where you are now, to be integrated into the illusion you’ve grown to call life.”

“As far as I’ve been able to find out, there were twelve of us in total, twelve test subjects placed in various walks of life to be monitored on how well they adapted to their surroundings and how long it was before they started to show their abilities- if they did at all.”

Abilities, what abilities? Jongin wanted to ask, but daren’t open his mouth to do anything other than gasp in shock at what he was hearing.

“You were taken from London, twelve was taken from Colorado.” Baekhyun continued, fixing him with a pointed look, “Jongin, you and your husband had no contact before becoming a test subject.”

“What’re you saying?” Jongin asked, though he already knew where this was going.

“Your marriage is a fake, part of the illusion to make for a more convincing test scenario.”

Jongin felt sick, “But…we have two children-“

“Another gift from Catalyst, I’m afraid.”

“But I remember the day we brought them home,” Jongin tried desperately, tears in his eyes, “Baekhyun I have more than seven years of memories I have built with Kyungsoo- they’re my family and now you’re trying to tell me that none of it is real? Because it felt real enough last night when me and Kyungsoo fought after I’d left our kids at school waiting for me for hours when I got too wrapped up in this bullshit to even realise what time it was!”

“I’m sorry Jongin, truly.” Baekhyun said, “But it’s the truth. A great deal of your memories were implanted as another way of making the program more believable and therefore more effective.”

Jongin wanted nothing more than to sit there and sob, “Why are you telling me this?” he asked, “Why now?”

“Because you are remembering.” Baekhyun told him, “Through your dreams you’re remembering where you came from, what they did to you- and the corporation will want to prevent that at all costs; we not supposed to remember, ever. Anybody could be an enemy now Jongin, even your own children.”

“How is this even possible? How did you figure all of this out and then escape?”

Baekhyun heaved a sigh that seemed incredibly long suffering, “Right now all I can tell you is that Catalyst Corporation work in the kind of bio-engineering that would give anybody nightmares in their quest to built the ultimate weapon; genetically modified human beings-“

“Us.” Jongin cut in, “The test subjects.”

Baekhyun nodded, “The drugs they were feeding me started to wear off gradually, I still don't know why, all I know for sure is that everything started on the day of the eclipse- and I mean everything. But regardless, I saw my chance and I took it- I had to kill people to escape my test area Jongin, and I’ve since been trying to track down the other test subjects to free them too.”

“So…what do I do?” Jongin asked, “It’s not safe for us here anymore.”

“There should be an area of town that will be mostly unused, run-down, and will have little to no surveillance. That will be your extraction point. In two days my team will come for you and-“

“Baekhyun?” Jongin asked, panicked when the signal wavered, breaking the other man’s voice up until it finally cut out and the screen went blank once more, “Baekhyun?” he asked again, but there was no response.

Jongin was alone again- but at least now he knew what it was he had to do to keep his family safe.

-

Later that evening, when the children were playing together upstairs and he was sat on the sofa with Kyungsoo curled into his side, Jongin couldn't help but wonder just how much of this was real?

Were they in love with one another the way they thought they were, or was it just something that had been programmed into them like computer software, the way Baekhyun said? Jongin’s life felt so real to him – safe, secure and everything he’d ever wanted – and it had his heart beating out of time to think that it was anything but what he believed it to be.

“So, what did you end up doing with your first day off?” Kyungsoo asked, breaking his train of thought.

“I took the dogs for a good long run,” Jongin said, but knew before he’d even thought of a lie to tell him he couldn't do it- they had both been lied to enough, “And then I had a video call from Baekhyun.”

“Baekhyun, I don't think I’ve heard you mention him before. Who is he?”

“He’s the man who finally told me the truth.” Jongin said honestly, “About why all this has been happening to me.”

Kyungsoo sat up then, gazing at him with round eyes full of concern, “The truth- babe what’re you talking about?” he asked, “the truth about what?”

“Our lives. They’re not real, Kyungsoo.” Jongin told him, and once he’d started, he couldn't stop.

He told his husband everything. About the test scenarios and the institution. Where they were both taken from and their implanted memories- everything. Jongin wasn't surprised when Kyungsoo stood up and stepped away from him, looking horrified, but it was still like a knife to the gut it hurt so badly.

“How could you even think for one second that this Baekhyun is telling you the truth?” Kyungsoo asked, angry and upset at the same time, “How could you think that our life together is a lie?”

“Twelve people have been kidnapped Kyungsoo, twelve people just like us who are being monitored by some government programme to see-“

“Enough.” Kyungsoo interrupted, “You’re being ridiculous!

“I’m not!” Jongin shouted, angry that his husband wouldn't just listen to him, “Baekhyun has arranged for us to be extracted two days from now and-“

“Our children are upstairs right now Jongin, this has to stop. Or are you going to tell them that they’re not really yours- that you don't love them?”

“Baby please-“

“You’re really starting to scare me.” Kyungsoo told him quietly, “I love you Jongin, I really do but you’re starting to sound like a fucking paranoid schizophrenic!”

Anger flared white hot inside of him, “I’m not crazy!” Jongin shouted, “I’m just trying to protect our family!”

“Damn it Jongin, we don’t need protecting!” Kyungsoo yelled, grabbing the nearest thing to hand (the television control) and throwing it at him hard.

One second, the control was flying through the air, the next Jongin was at the opposite side of the room, the control abandoned on the sofa; apparently, he had just teleported.

“What the hell just happened?” Kyungsoo asked, looking as shocked as Jongin felt, “How did you end up over there when you were just sitting right here?”

Jongin thought for a moment, trying to process what had just happened, “I think this was the special ability Baekhyun was talking about. I have the power to teleport.”

Though dizzy and kind of nauseous, Jongin felt as though a huge piece of the puzzle had just slotted into place, like he had spent his whole life sleepwalking and now for the first time- he was finally awake.

“How is that even humanly possible?” Kyungsoo asked, literally staggering backwards away from him.

Jongin looked at him, “I don't think I’m human.” He said, “I don't think either of us are- not really.”

He watched his husband leave the room then, only to return with one of their knives from the kitchen, and for a heart-stopping moment Jongin thought that Kyungsoo really was going to try and stab him. That was until the brunette was kneeling down at the coffee table, left arm over the glass, where he then sliced open his arm in much the same way as Jongin had done the previous night.

Minutes later Kyungsoo was digging out his own tracker, and he promptly burst into tears that tore at Jongin’s soul to witness; the last thing he’d wanted to do was cause his husband pain.

“Baby-“ he said softly, crossing the room to him and pulling him into his arms, pressing a hand over the wound tightly to stem the flow of blood.

Kyungsoo cried openly then, his body shaking with the force of his sobs, “Is…is anything we have real Jongin?” he asked brokenly, “A-anything at all?”

“I don't know.” Jongin told him honestly, “But I’m going to find out.”

“H-how?”

“By meeting Baekhyun and the others at the extraction point.” Jongin said confidently, “I’ve already been looking into any strange anomalies in this town, and from what I can make out it looks to be the old warehouse across town that we need to go to. I think that’s our extraction point.”

“Will this plan work?” Kyungsoo asked, “Will it keep our family safe?”

Jongin nodded, squeezing his husband tightly, “It has to.” He said quietly, “Are you with me now?”

Kyungsoo leaned over to press a kiss to Jongin’s lips that tasted of a fear they had never experienced before, “I’m with you, Jongin.” He told him firmly, “Just tell me what I have to do.”

*

Two days later, and they were as ready as they were ever going to be to leave the life they had built together, the life they had grown so attached to. Jongin had double-checked the map of the town he had printed out, and was pretty much certain that the only area of town that didn't really get used was the old warehouse building.

Baekhyun managed to get one last brief transmission across – that Kyungsoo was present for too – and he promised them that he was going to do all that he could to get their family to safety.

“Do you really believe this can work Baekhyun?” Kyungsoo asked, sounding as unsure as he looked, “We have children and I don't want to jeopardise their safety for a wild goose chase.”

“I have already liberated test subjects, ninety four, sixty one, ninety nine and most recently- test subject twenty one, who says he knows you Jongin.”

“Knows me- how the hell?” Jongin started, confused until another person joined Baekhyun on the screen.

Jongdae!” he exclaimed, immediately recognising one of the only people from work he had genuinely liked, “You too?”

“So it would seem.” Jongdae nodded, “They got me out just a few days ago.” Though they were words that comforted Jongin, gave him hope, they were followed by words of warning, “Whatever you do, make sure you act normal, or you will be hunted.”

The transmission ended not long after that, and Kyungsoo went about packing supplies whilst Jongin mapped out the quickest, safest route to the warehouse.

“Kyungsoo!” he called, when a glance out of the bedroom window had fear twisting low in his gut like a poisonous snake, “You need to come and see this!”

“What is- oh my God.” Kyungsoo gasped when he came to stand beside him, where they both found themselves staring at the people who they had always thought to be their neighbours lining the street and approaching the house.

“We’re leaving, right now.” Jongin said, already heading to the door, “I’ll get the kids.”

“Dosik, honey who are you talking to?” he asked when he walked into the living room with Kyungsoo right behind him to discover his eldest son on the phone.

When he got no reply, Jongin reached out to him to try and pull him towards him, then staggered backwards when Dosik’s eyes suddenly turned blood red- just like the men in his nightmares.

“You should not remember anything.” Dosik said, voice cold and monotonous, “You are to stay here forever.”

“Daddy doesn't remember anything.” Jongin told his son, sensing danger and trying to protect his husband, “Only me.”

As it turned out, Kyungsoo didn't want protecting, “Actually, that’s not true.” He said quietly, “I just didn't want to believe what I was seeing, being wheeled away on a hospital gurney, being forced to take drugs I didn't recognise and then locked away in a cell for days at a time.”

“You must return to the facility for reprogramming.” Dosik said, and Jongin turned on his heel and all but ran to the kitchen where Kyungsoo had left their belongings ready to go.

“We have to go Kyungsoo.” Jongin told his husband when they couldn't physically move Dosik let alone make him go with them, lifting up a frightened looking Jongsik and holding him tightly with one arm, their bags and the dog’s leads in the other.

“I’m not leaving without our son.”

“Kyungsoo don't be stupid.” Jongin said, “Look at his eyes baby, look at the colour of them- he’s not our son…he never was.”

The slap Kyungsoo landed on his face was swift and hard, “They both feel like my children Jongin!” he shouted, “And I will not abandon either of them so if Dosik is staying then so am I- end of story.”

The sound of banging on the door had them both jumping in surprise; the townspeople were trying to break into their house. Jongin watched in amazement then as Kyungsoo suddenly ran to the door, raising a leg before stomping his foot down so hard the impact tremor split the earth beneath them, causing a canyon to open up and separate them from the people outside.

“I have no idea how I just did that but it’ll buy us some time.” Kyungsoo said quickly, “I couldn't park outside the house today so my car is a couple of houses over, take it and get the hell out of here.”

“Kyungsoo no, I’m not leaving you.”

“You have to.”

“What will you do?”

“Snap Dosik out of it and then meet you at the warehouse.” Kyungsoo told him, “Now go, get our baby out of here, Jongin.”

Having no choice but to agree, Jongin nodded, kissing Kyungsoo hard, “Make sure I see you soon.”

“You can count on it.” Kyungsoo smiled, though there were tears in his eyes that told Jongin he was going nowhere as he kissed Jongsik and told him to be good for dad and that he loved him.

Though his heart screamed at him in protest, Jongin took Jongsik, the dogs and half of their supplies out of the back door and crept around the side of the house and down the street as quickly and as quietly as he could; even the dogs were uncharacteristically quiet.

“Shit.” Jongin cursed when he got to Kyungsoo’s car only to find the tyres had been slashed; somebody had gotten there first.

Knowing that he had maybe minutes at most, Jongin did the only thing he could think of, closed his eyes and concentrated hard on the alleyway he knew was a couple of streets away. Seconds later he knew from the bottomless pit feeling in his stomach that he had teleported, and opening his eyes he was relieved to find that he had done it successfully; they were all still together and in one piece.

Not wanting to risk things going wrong by trying to teleport further when he had no idea how to really control this long dormant ability of his, Jongin decided to make the rest of the trek on foot, feeling guilty when he had to comfort Jongsik along the way, who was frightened and upset and wanted to know why his daddy and big brother didn't come too.

Cursing their luck when they got spotted a couple of streets away from the warehouse, Jongin had no choice but to run when the townspeople gave chase, and he had to take a leap of faith when he finally got to the dilapidated looking building and run straight inside without assessing how safe it was first; he hadn’t got the luxury of time to consider his options right now.

Once inside, Jongin was shocked to discover that the inside was nothing like the outside; it was literally a labyrinth that he figured he had to find the centre of to be anything close to safe. Making a split second decision on which way to go to protect his son, Jongin headed right, soon getting lost in the maze and hoping that he wouldn't be followed.

Trying to stay as quiet as possible, Jongin almost swore out loud when his phone suddenly rang, but when he answered it was to find Baekhyun on the other end, with instructions on how to navigate the labyrinth.

Following Baekhyun’s words exactly – he didn't even want to know why he wasn't allowed to touch the walls – Jongin almost tripped over the dogs they were all in such a rush, and ended up having to empty one of his bags of some of his supplies to put the dogs in together so that he could carry them as well as Jongsik, who was now clinging to him with a vice like grip that only a terrified child possessed.

“It’s okay baby,” he whispered, “We’re nearly there.”

He only hoped that what he was saying turned out to be true.

Hearing movement not too far behind him had Jongin moving faster, his heartbeat a wild thundering in his ears that he thought might stop altogether thanks to the sheer force of relief he felt when he rounded a corner and into a small group of men- two of whom he recognised as Baekhyun and Jongdae.

“It’s alright Jongin, you made it.” Jongdae said, voice soft and comforting.

Jongin wasn't ashamed of the fact that there were tears on his face as he finally led his youngest son to the closest thing to safety that they had.

If in fact there was such a thing as safety for them, anymore.

*

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