Title: We are Bulletproof (1/?)
Summary: Namjoon doesn’t pretend, not even for a second, that he doesn’t know what Seokjin does to keep them all going. That Seokjin gave up everything so the rest of them could have a chance at something better.
Warning: Prostitution, mentions of consensual underage sex having happened in the past, eventual death.
Namjoon doesn’t pretend, not even for a second, that he doesn’t know what Seokjin does to keep them all going.
He also doesn’t pretend, even for a moment, that he doesn’t know that Seokjin used to have big dreams. That Seokjin was the best in his classes in school, that he was dreaming of going to law school and making lots of money and then helping abandoned orphans like them.
He also doesn’t pretend that he doesn’t know Seokjin had a chance to leave all of them to find a better life for himself and leave the rest of them in the gutters.
He doesn’t pretend that he doesn’t know Seokjin took all their hands out of the abusive orphanage, carrying Jungkook in his arms even though Jungkook was big by then, when he was just 14, Yoongi was 13, Namjoon and Hoseok were 12, Jimin and Taehyung were 11, and Jungkook was 9, found them all a house to live in, and quit school so he could work.
He doesn’t pretend that he doesn’t notice Yoongi’s frown being permanently etched to his face, every time Seokjin comes back to the tiny rented space they share, looking like death and clutching bills in his hands, limping. Sometimes he has bruises on his face, finger-shaped bruises dark and cruel on his thin neck, and the stack of bills he brings home is a lot bigger.
Seokjin is now 19, Yoongi is 18, Namjoon and Hoseok are 17, Jimin and Taehyung are 16, and Jungkook is 14. Seokjin’s been selling his body as a street whore for almost the entire time since they left. At first, Namjoon hadn’t got that was what Seokjin did, even though Yoongi had always understood. Seokjin first worked as a milk boy, a newspaper boy, and a fast food deliverer all at once, running miles and miles every day because he couldn’t afford a bike. One day he’d been out late working at night, some drunk businessman had offered him 20,000 won to give him a blowjob.
Namjoon knows Seokjin takes a lot more now, more expensive than what most street whores charge. A lot more expensive. But Seokjin’s not a normal street whore. Namjoon’s learned Seokjin is somewhat of an exclusive commodity. He’s traded and sought out by the rich, elite businessmen who’s looking for a little racy. Sometimes, Seokjin gets caught in bed by the wife. If he gets hurt by the wives, the men pay him extra. Sometimes, the wives come looking for Seokjin and pay him to keep quiet. Seokjin’s nickname on the street is Jin, the porcelain doll.
It leaves a bitter taste in Namjoon’s mouth, seeing Seokjin come back home when they’re all getting ready to go to school, clutching bills in his hands that he carefully smooths out. Some of it go into the drawer that Seokjin and Yoongi keeps. It’s technically free for any one of them to open and take from, but no one does. Some of it go to Yoongi, who will go deposit it at their bank. The rest of it gets handed out in mornings, for lunch money to the rest of them, and for school fees if Jimin and Taehyung and Jungkook have any.
“Hey, you’re up early,” Seokjin says, smiling tiredly at him. There are bruises on his wrists, and Seokjin walks with a permanent limp now, except when he’s attracting clients. “How’s that song you and Hoseok are working on?”
Namjoon doesn’t pretend that Seokjin could be doing better, 5 years after whoring himself, if he and Hoseok give up music. If they hadn’t dropped out of school to do this. Yoongi used to make music with them, except until that night when Seokjin came home for the first time with bruises around his neck. He’d quit immediatley after that and had found a job as a waiter somewhere, where he toils almost the entire day and adds to the funds they have.
Namjoon knows that if he and Hoseok stop renting out the studio, both Seokjin and Yoongi could have it easier. Yoongi wouldn’t have to get up at 7 in the morning after coming back home at 3am. Seokjin would actually have time to go to the hospital, get a checkup that’s for more than just STDs, and actually get a good night’s sleep. But every time he thinks of quitting, Seokjin smiles, pats him on the head and says, “No, you and Hoseok keep doing what you want. I didn’t mean for Yoongi to quit, either.”
Namjoon isn’t an idiot. He knows the chance they have at success is next to zero. Who wants to listen to a couple of kids fooling around in a crappy studio? Seokjin isn’t stupid, either, and he’s got no delusions about how the world runs - in fact, he probably knows it the best. But he still encourages both of them. “I’ll support you for as long as I can,” he tells them.
All seven of them know that Seokjin’s more likely to die before he hits an age old enough that he’s not attractive anymore. Namjoon can’t quite imagine Seokjun as ‘not attractive’; it just doesn’t happen in his head. But the chances of Seokjin just not coming home one day are high. They’ll never know, Namjoon thinks, and wants to throw up. They’ll never know if someone just left Seokjin to die in a dirty alley, and Namjoon knows that scares Yoongi the most. It scares all of them the most.
“Wait, take money for food,” Seokjin says, when Namjoon shuffles his feet into old sneakers. “You aren’t going with Hoseok?” He hands Namjoon three 10,000 won bills. “Don’t eat fast food. Eat properly. You and Hoseok keep getting thinner and thinner.” Namjoon wants to yell at Seokjin, point out how he’s the thinnest out of all seven of them, ribs countable under the loose shirt he’s wearing.
"Hyung, I don’t need 30,000 won." He mumbles. "Even a bowl of jjajangmyun is 5,000 won. If we get ddukbokki from that place across the street, the lady charges us 2,000 and gives us enough to last an entire day."
"Don’t eat jjajangmyun or ddukbokki. Eat something proper."
“We still don’t need 30,000 won.” Namjoon grumbles. He shoves two of the bills back at Seokjin. “10,000 won is plenty enough.”
Namjoon slams the door in Seokjin’s face before he can say anything. He feels like shit immediately afterward, because he’s perfectly aware Seokjin gave up everything so the rest of them doesn’t have to. The least he could do for Seokjin is be a good kid, but every time he sees Seokjin, always looking like he’s going to snap in half if the wind blows too hard, he’s reminded of everything he’s failed at so far and he just gets pissed.
He seriously considers going back to apologize and instead ends up squatting in front of their door, wallowing in self-hatred until the door opens again and Hoseok comes stumbling out. He catches Namjoon being stupid by himself and sticks his head back in. “Don’t come out, hyung, get some rest. You look like shit.” There’s a soft laughter from inside and Hoseok stick his arm inside, no doubt to rub Seokjin’s cheek. “I’ll get Namjoon fed.”
He closes the door and squats next to Namjoon. “Punch me. I’d feel better.”
"You’re fucking retarded." Hoseok says, but doesn’t punch him. "Why the fuck do you wanna go to the studio at 6 in the morning, anyway? Not even Yoongi-hyung’s awake yet. I woke up because you were being so loud to hyung."
"I dunno. I was - I couldn’t sleep. And I was just waiting for him to come home and then when I saw the bruises on his wrists I just snapped."
Hoseok doesn’t say anything, just scowls at the mentions of the bruises. “Come on, let’s go. He’s getting those bruises to pay for our studio. Might as well use the whole fucking day.”
Hoseok and Namjoon have flip phones. They’re old things that don’t break no matter how many times Hoseok and Namjoon have dropped them. They’d originally said they don’t need phones, period, but Seokjin had insisted on it. “I can’t keep an eye on all of you anymore, but Yoongi can,” he’d said, handing them the flip phones. “I’ll get you the more expensive ones later, once we save more money.”
Yoongi has the same kind, except he doesn’t drop his. They all know how much Seokjin worked and starved so all of them could buy phones so they could contact each other.
Taehyung and Jimin and Jungkook all have smartphones. Seokjin had beamed at Christmas when he handed it to them, looking like he was the one receiving presents. “You know, because, the three of you go to school. And people get bullied for those things.” Taehyung had started crying on the spot as Jimin just stared and Jungkook looked like he was looking at the most fragile thing on earth.
Namjoon knows all three of them barely touch their phones unless they need it, because they’re scared it’ll break or they’ll accidentally download something that costs a huge extra. So it’s weird that Namjoon’s and Hoseok’s phone vibrates hard enough to fall to the floor. “Shit,” Hoseok says, bending to reach for their phones. He flips it open, and frowns. “Taehyung says Seokjin-hyung hasn’t texted him that he’s eaten dinner yet, and that he won’t pick up calls.”
The text to Namjoon reads the same. Yoongi has Taehyung check up on Seokjin all the time, mostly because they’re scared Seokjin will get sick and none of them will know while he’s at home alone during the day. They’ve worked out a system so Seokjin will text Taehyung at about 2-3 in the afternoon, telling him that he’s awake now and that he’s eaten. Namjoon suspects Seokjin doesn’t actually eat (they all kind of suspect this), but the point is he’s up and okay.
Neither of them even hesitate getting up, locking their booth and heading straight back home.
It turns out Seokjin had been just sleeping, dead to the world. “Sorry,” he says, groggily, and when he’s wearing just a loose shirt that hangs off one shoulder, Namjoon can see all the hickeys littered on his pale shoulders. He wonders what Seokjin went through last night that makes him sleep through Taehyung’s multiple texts and calls, and then wonders what other injuries Seokjin is hiding under his clothes. Wonders, for a sick moment, how much more he got paid for doing that. “Taehyung didn’t have to call you guys.”
"Of course he did." Hoseok says, rubbing his chest down in relief. "Let’s get something to eat while we’re here anyway."
Seokjin unsteadily rises to his feet. “I’ll cook something.”
"Hyung, that’s not what I meant-"
"I know." Seokjin smiles, and the sleep’s still not gone from his eyes yet and it makes him look adorably messy. "But it’s been a long, long time since I cooked lunch for the two of you."
Seokjin can make masterpieces from basically nothing, so it’s not to say Namjoon isn’t looking forward to homemade food after always eating out. But Seokjin also looks like he might collapse if Namjoon touches him too hard. Hoseok apparently thinks the same. “Hyung, you cooked last Sunday. Are you sure you don’t want anything to eat out? You never eat out.”
"I want to cook for you guys. I never cooked lunch!" Seokjin insists, and there’s no winning Seokjin. None of them can win over Seokjin. So Hoseok and Namjoon settle for hanging out awkwardly, hovering in case Seokjin actually does collapse. It’s not long before whatever Seokjin’s whipped up in their sorry excuse for a kitchen with the sorry excuse of groceries they have in their fridge smells absolutely mouthwatering.
Hoseok digs in first. “I don’t know how you do it, hyung.” He moans around his mouthful. “This tastes like fucking heaven.”
"Language," Seokjin scolds, but he’s grinning. "It’s like the two of you and Yoongi were born with trashy mouths. You’ve been cursing since I can remember. You used to always get in trouble for it, too."
Namjoon rolls his eyes. “That fucker would have found other ways to hit us even if we didn’t curse.” He doesn’t point out that Seokjin always used to get hit all the time, and he was the always the model student.
Seokjin hums in agreement. He doesn’t eat much, mostly because he needs to stay thin. “Eat up, hyung,” Namjoon chides softly, and Seokjin eats about half the bowl before deciding he’s done. Namjoon eyes the half-finished bowl with distaste. Seokjin’s thin enough as he is, already nothing but bone and skin. It makes him angry when he overhears Seokjin asking Yoongi if he thinks he’s gained weight.
"I think you’d look better with more weight," Hoseok says, a little bristled. "You’re so thin."
Seokjin laughs. “There are newer, prettier boys on the streets now. My shoulders are already too broad. I have to at least stay thin.”
Namjoon doesn’t know how anyone could be prettier than their Seokjin. He’s seen Seokjin in makeup, in full getup right before he goes out. Seokjin never puts on too much or puts on anything flashy or slutty. His eyes gets a dash of thin, black liner on top and white on bottom to make his eyes stand out, a dab of shiny pink gloss on the lips to make his already-pouty lips even more attractive, and clear mascara. He doesn’t dress in tight clothes, or anything flashy or trashy or slutty. He’s always in dark skinny jeans and a cheap t-shrit that he pairs and matches with other accessories to look like it was bought with a million dollars. Sometimes he puts on huge knits that make him look like he’s ten years younger, and when it gets colder he gets a jacket, but that’s it. He just looks like a regular guy on the streets.
And that makes him, in Namjoon’s opinion, exponentially ‘prettier’ than the other hookers looking to get paid.
Namjoon thinks if he could just get the labels to listen to some of their stuff, they’d like it. The stuff he and Hoseok (and Yoongi, before he stopped) make are better than half the shit that’s out there right now, and he’s being as objective as possible. But when you’re two teenagers-dropped-out-of-school working in a rathole of a studio, and all you can send in are mixtapes without any sort of recommendations or agents, most of your hard work gets filtered and thrown out before it even can be listened to.
At first, Namjoon and Hoseok and Yoongi had been in it for the music. Because they liked dropping beats and spitting rhymes. But as time passed and Seokjin spread himself thinner and Yoongi quit to make minimum wage, and Namjoon realized that maybe money couldn’t buy you happiness, but without money you couldn’t fucking be happy. Or live. He wanted to strangle the little flowery idols who sang about not needing money and point them to Seokjin, who gave up everything because they didn’t have money.
So now Namjoon and Hoseok’s goals are to get fucking noticed. They dumbed down their music, to more pop-ized rap than the hardcore hip hop they’d set out with. They stopped being picky with labels. Stopped scoffing at the pop labels and just sent everything everywhere.
If he and Hoseok can get their songs out and start getting loyalties, at the very least Seokjin can stop selling sex. That’s all Namjoon wants. For Seokjin to get his life back.
Sundays are when everyone is home, when Yoongi’s restaurant lets him off for the day, when Taehyung and Jimin and Jungkook don’t have school or even independent study, when Hoseok and Namjoon takes a break from their music-making. Seokjin doesn’t exactly take the day off, but he doesn’t leave until almost midnight anyway, so everyone is home.
To Jungkook, Seokjin is his more than the brother he is on paper. He’s a parent. Namjoon is well aware Jungkook refers to Seokjin as his mother to the other boys at his school, telling them that his mother packed him the lunch. When he needs to get his things signed, he gives them to Seokjin, and the relationship is always ‘mother’. He knows Seokjin knows it as well. Out of all of them, Jungkook probably is the most attached to Seokjin. They all love Seokjin - fuck, they all love one another and Namjoon can’t imagine a world without any one of them - but if Seokjin were to disappear, Jungkook would probably be hit the hardest. Not that Seokjin would disappear, Namjoon thinks hastily.
And on Sundays, Jungkook commandeers Seokjin’s full attention. He’s got his arms wrapped around Seokjin’s waist, lying on the couch with his head on Seokjin’s lap as they all watch a movie. “You’ve gotten thinner,” Jungkook frowns, poking at Seokjin’s side.
“Quit, Jungkook, that tickles.” Seokjin says, stifling laughter. “I haven’t gotten thinner. I’ve been eating more than I usually do.” Jungkook makes a disbelieving noise and tugs Seokjin closer, rubbing his nose into Seokjin’s side. “You never really grew up, did you? You’re still a little kid?”
“Only to you,” Jimin snorts, taking a chug of his soda. They all know - even Seokjin knows - that all of them drink (except Seokjin, who swears alchol is going to give him a gut), but Seokjin is not going to allow underage drinking right in front of him. So they drink soda when Seokjin’s around and Seokjin pretends not to notice the beer and soju in the fridge. “You should see him at school. He’s a monster.”
Jungkook glares daggers at Jimin, but it’s not something they don’t know. Seokjin reads all of the trio’s report cards, highlighting all the bad remarks. Jungkook usually gets the worst, with scathing comments about his cocky personality and attitude problem. The problem is, though, Jungkook keeps up with his studies. It’s hard for him not to, not when they all know what Seokjin gave up to put them through decent education.
Out of all of them, Taehyung is the best at studies. It kind of surprises Namjoon, to be honest, because Taehyung is usually such an idiot. But every single time when report cards come out, Taehyung comes glowing whie Jungkook comes back grumbling and scuffling his shoes, and Taehyung can’t show Seokjin his reportcard fast enough. They’re filled with glowing reports about his performance and personality and fulfillment of role as class president, about how he’s so popular with the other kids and he’s so great at helping teachers and all about how far his teachers expect him to go.
(Jungkook, on the other hand, gets grudging admittance on his exemplary grades followed with scathing remarks on everything else, usually topped with ‘if only he was more like his brother’.)
It’s not the first time Seokjin and Namjoon are called into school for Jungkook. Seokjin’s dressed cleanly in crisp slacks and a button up, and he’s got the air of someone who’s done this multiple times, sitting straight with a resolute face. He’s managed to stuff Namjoon into the same get up, but Namjoon’s sitting low in the chair, slumped and scowling. “Namjoon, please,” Seokjin hisses in a whisper. “Sit up straight, please.”
Namjoon does, for a second, until he’s sliding down again. Seokjin sighs exasperatedly. Usually, it’s Yoongi who does this - they’re the ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ of the group, but Yoongi’s used up all of his off days going to Jungkook’s previous problems, and Hoseok had very coincidentally come down with a stomachache. (Namjoon swears he’s going to kill the bastard.)
"Ah, fuck." Jungkook says, when he’s ushered into the principal’s office and sees Seokjin and Namjoon. "Why the hell are you here and where’s Yoongi-hyung?"
"Oh, god, the three of you are rubbing off on Jungkook." Seokjin moans. "Jungkook, don’t curse. What happened?" He stands up and takes Jungkook’s face in his hands, tilting it up to examine the bruises and cuts that bandaids and ointments have been slathered over.
"Jungkook," the principal says, clearing his throat, "attacked another boy. For the fifth time this semester already."
Seokjin bites his lip. “Jungkook, why? You promised after last time that you wouldn’t-“
"Because," Jungkook snaps, "he called you a two-cent whore. Just like all the other fuckers who I punched the shit out of before that."
There’s silence in the room, and Namjoon’s hands clench beside him. “Jungkook,” Seokjin says, his voice soft. “Don’t curse. There’s no one in here that you can talk to like that. Namjoon, I told you and Yoongi and Hoseok not to curse in front of the boys like that.” Namjoon doesn’t have a reply to that so he just glares at the floor.
It goes to show just how many times Jungkook has got in trouble when the principal tells Seokjin, “I was hoping it would be longer before I saw you again, Mr. Kim.”
"Me too," Seokjin sighs, glaring sharply at Jungkook. Jungkook slumps down in his seat, glaring holes into the floor.
It’s like both of them forgot what Jungkook had spat out. Namjoon is shaking with barely contained anger when the there’s a sharp knock and Seokjin’s express goes carefully blank. Namjoon looks up to see a mean-looking woman walking in with a boy that’s black and blue in the face, a stern looking man behind him. For a moment, surprise flitters across Seokjin’s face, and then he sighs.
This is the brat that called Seokjin a two-cent whore, Namjoon thinks, and has a hard time keeping himself from punching the kid in the face.
The principal introduces both families and the mother starts spitting insults at Seokjin’s face. Namjoon almost growls out loud but Seokjin looks carefully calm. “Bitch, shut the fuck up.” Jungkook snaps, “I was the one who punched your son, not hyung.”
"Jungkook, if I hear another curse or anything else disrespectful out of your mouth again, you’ll regret it." Seokjin hisses. Jungkook scowls at the floor.
The mother stands and points at Jungkook. “He needs to be expelled.” Namjoon thinks that’s a little harsh, considering her son called Seokjin a whore. And boys fucking fight, get the hell used to it. Seokjin, on the other hand, looks like he expected the outburst. “It’s not good influence for the other students to have someone from such a broken family come to school like this. He calls his brother his mother. And his brother,” she hisses at Seokjin, “isn’t exactly the best role model there is.”
Namjoon decides he’s going to punch the bitch in her face. But Seokjin steps hard on his foot. The principal clears his throat. “Taehyung is from the same background. Jimin does fine, too. I don’t think this is as much a problem with his fostering-“
"He’s a PROSTITUTE."
There’s a thick silence in the room. Jungkook hisses but Seokjin grabs him before he can jump up. “I’m sorry this has happened.” Seokjin says. “But as you do know, we are from a difficult family. It’s hard for boys in puberty like Jungkook.” He stands, and before Namjoon or Jungkook can stop him, drops on his knees.
Namjoon stares, dumbfounded, and Jungkook’s jaw drops open. Even the mother looks surprised. “Hyung,” Jungkook hisses, reaching to grab Seokjin. Seokjin doesn’t get up.
"I’m sorry. I know your son’s hurt. I know Jungkook’s a troublemaker, but he can’t face expulsion. I’ll do anything to ask for your forgiveness."
Jungkook is trembling visibly with anger. He grabs Seokjin, yanks him off of his knees, and drops to a kneel himself instead. Namjoon’s jaw hits the floor, as does the boy’s who Jungkook beat. Jungkook hesitates for a moment but then goes into a deep bow, pressing his forehead against the floor. “Sorry.” He says, his voice shaking. “It won’t happen ever again.” His voice is muffled against the floor.
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