Title: We are Bulletproof (3/?)
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.
Yoongi punches both of them in the face when they get to the hospital, pale lipped and shaking. Namjoon wishes he’d do it again so he can somehow ease the throb that’s in his chest, but Jimin stops Yoongi. “Hyung, stop.” There are splotches of red on Jimin’s sleeves and it makes Namjoon’s stomach lurch.
"Is that- Is that Seokjin-hyung’s-"
Jimin looks down at his sleeves and looks sick. “I came home early from school and he was on the kitchen floor. He wasn’t bleeding - just - there was blood on his lips and he kept coughing up blood and I just kept wiping it away. He had the stove on and I guess he burned himself when he fell unconscious, because he had a burn on his arm. And I don’t know - if I came just a little later the house might have - he might have-“
Namjoon doesn’t want to think about it. Hoseok looks sick, and the exhilaration from earlier in the day is gone. “He apparently had pneumonia.” Jimin says. “Taehyung and Jungkook are still at school. They have independent studies, and Yoongi told me not to tell them yet. But.. he’s had it for a while, and it got really bad. That’s why his fever never went away and he started having side pains.”
"But - but people don’t die or anything from pneumonia, right?" Namjoon asks, his hands shaking by his side. "Is - is it really bad?"
Yoongi doesn’t even look at him. “People don’t die from pneumonia when it’s caught early. He’s had it for weeks, and all we gave him for it was Tylenol and antibiotics.”
Namjoon thinks this is how it feels, to have your world come crashing down around you.
Seokjin looks so pale and small, in a dull hospital gown. His eyes are sunken, his lips blue and chapped, his skin cold and clammy. There’s a tube in his lungs to take out the fluid collecting there, an oxygen mask fitted over his mouth and nose, and an IV tube running into his arm. There are so many machines beeping next to him, but Namjoon’s eyes fall on the bandages around his left arm.
A burn, from the stove. Seokjin was probably cooking for him and Hoseok, so they’d have something warm to eat when they came back. The thought makes Namjoon turn on his heels and run to the bathroom to heave into the toilet bowl. The fire had still been on when Jimin got home. A little later, just a little later, and the entire thing could have gone up in flames. With Seokjin still inside, vulnerable and helpless and unconscious. The thought makes Namjoon heave the rest of whatever he’s eaten.
Yoongi looks even paler than Seokjin, if that’s possible. He has Seokjin’s hand in his, rubbing circles into the back of his hand. Jimin has a book open on his lap that looks like homework, but he hasn’t taken his eyes off Seokjin.
Hoseok looks sick. “This is our fault. If we - if we just stayed home-” he tells Namjoon, breaking off where he’s unable to continue, and Namjoon chokes on how true that is.
They get a text from Taehyung at 10, asking where the hell everyone is. Yoongi tells Jimin to reply back and within 30 minutes Taehyung and Jungkook are at the hospital, bursting in to the 6-person room and crashing through it to the corner where Seokjin is.
"Oh my god," Taehyung whispers, collapsing to his knees next to Seokjin’s bed and fumbling for his hand. He stops when he sees the hand Yoongi isn’t holding is bandaged and instead clutches at the sheet covering Seokjin.
Jungkook is frozen where he’s standing next to Jimin, eyes wide and face so pale he’s blue. “Is he going to die?” Jungkook whispers.
"No," Yoongi snaps, his eyebrow twitching. "He’s not going to die. Jungkook, don’t even say shit like that."
Yoongi makes Jimin and Jungkook and Taehyung go to school the next day. “I quit my job.” Yoongi tells Hoseok and Namjoon. “I’ll find another one when Seokjin’s better, but taking care of him is priority right now. You two go to the studio.”
Namjoon feels like shit. He sits at the stupid rathole of a studio and Hoseok stares at the music spread out before them. “Maybe we should stop,” Hoseok says, voice soft. “And find jobs like Yoongi-hyung did.”
"I was thinking about that, too." Namjoon says, ripping the blank paper in front of him for no reason. "There’s no point doing this if - if Seokjin-hyung is.." He doesn’t continue because he can’t imagine a world without Seokjin. But Seokjin looks so fragile and weak, and he’s still not awake. He wants to punch something.
It’s another day before Seokjin wakes up. Yoongi texts all of them when he does, and tells Jungkook and Jimin and Taehyung not to even think about cutting class, or he’ll cut their throats. But Hoseok and Namjoon slam the door to their studio shut and run to the hospital. “Hey,” Seokjin says, smiling underneath the oxygen mask. His voice rasps, nothing like the sweet honey Namjoon is used to hearing, and it makes Namjoon tear up again. “Sorry for worrying you guys.”
"Sorry," Hoseok cries, collapsing to his knees and clutching at Seokjin. "I’m so sorry, hyung. If we’d just been there - if we’d been there then -"
"Don’t be stupid," Seokjin scolds, ruffling Hoseok’s hair. "It’s my fault. I should’ve gone to the hospital when Yoongi said."
But if they’d been there, they could have gotten Seokjin to the hospital earlier. Could have prevented, at least, the burn on his arm. Hoseok rubs Seokjin’s blanket between his thumbs. “Hyung, Namjoon and I, we’re thinking of quitting music. We’ll go look for jobs, then you don’t have to work so hard.”
Yoongi smacks both of them over the head. “Don’t be fuckers.” He snaps. “I only yelled at you that day because I was pissed at Seokjin getting sick. I wasn’t mad at you. Don’t give up music. I didn’t give it up just so you can do the same. Seokjin didn’t get this sick for you guys to just quit. You guys keep at it. And produce something no one can say fucking no to.”
All the same, Hoseok and Namjoon hang around the hospital, scowling at the shitty hospital food. But Yoongi forbids them from bringing anything in to give Seokjin, since Seokjin has to be incredibly careful about what he’s eating.
Seokjin’s weak and pumped full of painkillers, so he spends most of the time sleeping, and - to be honest, it’s kind of nice. To see him sleeping. Seokjin usually sleeps during the day when Hoseok and Namjoon are out making music, so it’s kind of a first for Namjoon to see Seokjin sleeping, even if it’s with an oxygen mask fitted over his lips and a tube inserted into his lungs. He looks peaceful, like he doesn’t feel any pain, and Namjoon guesses that he kind of doesn’t, not with all the painkillers.
And Namjoon’s kind of forgotten about the entire Coolio thing until his phone rings shrilly one day. “Hello?”
[Hey, is this Rap Monster?]
Namjoon blinks. “Uh, yeah. Who’s this?”
[This is Coolio’s agent. I’d like to talk to you, J-Hope, and Suga about coming over to Los Angeles to work with him.]
"No, you should go.” Seokjin insists, squeezing Yoongi’s hands. Yoongi’d said no from the beginning, voice stern, telling Namjoon and Hoseok to go by themselves. “Yoongi, you’ve always wanted to do this. Plus, the TV station is going to pay you to go, right? You’ll get paid to do what you love to do, and that’s - I never wanted you to give up music.”
“You’re more important than music,” Yoongi says, squeezing Seokjin’s hands.
Hoseok makes a noise in his throat. “That’s – hey, he’s more important to us than music, too.”
Yoongi makes an exasperated sound. “That’s not what I meant. I just – Not like this. I can’t leave Seokjin like this.”
Seokjin squeezes Yoongi’s hand again. “Don’t be stupid. This is a good time to go. You won’t have to worry about looking after me after I come back home early in the morning. I’m going to be in the hospital, so it’s not like I can get in any danger.”
“You get lonely.” Yoongi points out, frowning. “I’m not leaving, hyung.”
“Taehyung and Jimin and Jungkook will be here every night.” Seokjin smiles at Yoongi, and Yoongi sighs. Namjoon rolls his eyes. The battle’s done. “Come on. Go be Suga again. I know you miss it. Just promise to email every single day.”
It’s only for two weeks anyway, so there’s not much fuss over what they have to pack. Seokjin’s made Jimin a list of things to help the trio pack, but wqNamjoon kind of wishes Seokjin could actually help them, because the four of them are just shoving stuff into their bags without folding anything. “This is a mess,” Yoongi sighs, stepping on the contents of his bag anyway and zipping it shut. “How are we going to bring all this back?”
“Are you guys excited?” Jimin asks, grinning and hyper like he’s the one going to Los Angeles. “Man, Los Angeles. We’ve never even been on a trip.”
Yoongi smiles a little sadly, ruffling Jimin’s hair. “When we come back and Seokjin gets better, we’ll go somewhere close. Stay the night.”
Jimin grins at that and helps Hoseok step on his mess of clothes so they can zip that bag shut, too.
They have to make passports, and Namjoon’s suddenly very glad Seokjin always filed official papers, because their passport-making goes by without a hitch. Seokjin’s pneumonia is getting better, and he goes through another surgery to take the tube out, but he still needs the oxygen mask to breathe well. But he looks less pale, less fragile, and there are less machines beeping in the room, so Namjoon hangs around and talks loudly, annoying the other patients in the shared room. But Seokjin’s smiling, Seokjin’s laughing, and who the fuck cares about everyone else?
"I can’t believe we got so lucky." Namjoon says, shaking his head and tracing patterns on Seokjin’s arm. "Getting paid to learn under Coolio, getting our plane and food and hotel paid for - I mean. So lucky, you know?"
Seokjin chuckles. “You didn’t get lucky. All of your hard work paid off, that’s all.” He pats Namjoon’s hand. “I’m so happy for all of you. I’m glad Yoongi’s getting to work on what he loves doing, again, instead of working at that stupid store.”
And if everything works out, if people start hearing their music and liking it, maybe Seokjin can stop going out every night to whore himself out. Namjoon squeezes Seokjin’s wrist tight and rest his head on Seokjin’s head. “We’ll succeed,” he tells Seokjin, and Seokjin’s other hand comes up to rest on top of his head, stroking his hair. “And then we’ll protect you.”
Seokjin’s hand is warm on his head, and Namjoon thinks he can kind of understand why Jungkook calls Seokjin his mother. “You don’t need to protect me, Namjoon. I’m bulletproof.”
The airport is a little crazier than Namjoon had thought it would be, but Yoongi takes them through like he’s done it a billion times. The meet the other boys on the show and the PD explains they’re going to start filming as soon as they board.
From now on, they’re Suga and Rap Monster and J-hope, not Yoongi and Namjoon and Hoseok. Namjoon tests the names out, and it feels weird but not unpleasant on his tongue.
Yoongi collects everything he can from the flight. Ticket stubs, little packages of peanuts, and even the blankets that have squares that read ‘don’t take out of the plane’ stitched onto them. Namjoon points out he doesn’t really have any more room in his bag, and Yoongi scoffs. “I’m smarter than you, Namjoon.”
By the time they get off the plane, Yoongi is holding a second bag. “How much did you even shove in there?” Hoseok rolls his eyes, opening the new rucksack thrown over Yoongi’s shoulders. “Well, Jimin’ll be happy. He likes free things.”
"That’s why I brought a second bag."
Namjoon had been kind of worried about filming, but it turns out it was for nothing. He learns to ignore it, and Hoseok kind of is born to fool around on camera. Yoongi stays quiet for the most part, but sometimes he does something idiotic and the camera loves him.
Most of all, Coolio loves them. He tells them off camera, “The three of you gonna go far. You three and Kidoh. I see real talent in the four of you.”
Namjoon’s chest swells with pride - he’s happy they’re doing so well and he’s happy Hyosang’s getting recognized, too. The PD always tells them they’re doing well. “The three of you are gonna be stars of this show, I just know it.” He says, treating them to expensive dinner one night. “You’ve got the back story, you’ve got the looks, you’ve got the talent - man, you’re gonna go big, trust me.”
The three of them gather around the public computers every single night without fail, typing a lengthy email to Taehyung every day. The camera catches that, too, and Namjoon’s pretty certain that’s going to go out as some sob story, and he can’t care. Especially when they all crowd around and read Taehyung’s reply, about how Jungkook’s doing in school, how Jimin’s formed a dance club, and how Seokjin’s latest checkup showed he was healing well.
"He’s doing fine," Namjoon tells Yoongi, noticing Yoongi’s gaze lingers for a while on the picture Taehyung sent of the three of them gathered around Seokjin’s hospital bed. Seokjin looks a lot better, some of the life back in his face. He even has the oxygen mask off in the picture, even if it hangs around his neck. Taehyung’s email explains he can breathe a lot better now, and his chest pains have more or less gone.
Yoongi smiles. “I know.” He prints the picture and pays 10 cents for the color printing.
On their second to last day, they’re more or less free and Hoseok wants to go look around downtown LA. It’s kind of cool, but flatter than Namjoon’s used to in Korea. “We should get something for Seokjin-hyung and Taehyung and Jimin and Jungkook. It doesn’t have to be anything big or anything.”
They decide on an LA Dodgers snapback for Jimin, spiky studs for Jungkook, and an LA Lakers jersey for Taehyung. They’re looking around for what to get Seokjin, and Namjoon spots Yoongi holding a pink teddy bear. When Namjoon comes over, Yoongi looks up and smiles. “What do you think?”
Namjoon thinks he can’t think of anything else more perfect.
The presents are tucked away safely in Yoongi’s second bag. The plane ride is way too long and way too short. Too short to be saying all their good-byes to all the friends they’ve made newly, and too long until they can see Seokjin and Taehyung and Jimin and Jungkook again.
Yoongi’s got Seokjin’s pink teddy bear in his hands, a smile playing at the corner of his lips as he rubs at its head. They go through customs and they don’t have to deal with baggage claim. “Wait, guys.” The PD calls after them. “Give me your phone numbers. I’d like to contact you again about your music. You know Mnet’s under CJ E&M, right? I think you guys will go far. I haven’t been wrong yet.”
Yoongi gives him their numbers, and on the way out, he turns the phone on. It vibrates almost immediately, and while Hoseok or Namjoon might have dropped it out of shock, Yoongi just picks up. “Tae-“
[Hyung!] Taehyung’s voice is loud and sobbing, and they all freeze. [Why didn’t you pick up? It said your plane landed ages ago-]
“We had to go through customs. What’s wrong?” Yoongi’s hand is white around his phone. “Is it – Is it Seokjin-“
There’s a loud sob at the Taehyung’s end. [Seokjin-hyung went into surgery last night. Something’s wrong with his lungs again – I don’t know – Jimin’s passed out from crying so much – can you – Hyung, please, we need you.]
The pink teddy bear sits in Jimin’s lap as Jimin grabs it and sobs. He’s getting an IV for all the fluid he lost crying, and Hoseok’s trying to calm him down. Yoongi’s not with them. There’s only a few of them allowed in the IC unit at once, and Yoongi’s past the glass, looking down at Seokjin, who looks so pale and small again.
“What happened?” Namjoon whispers.
“His lungs got infected again.” Taehyung answers, his voice trembling. “I don’t know what happened. He got a fever again, and the doctors got all frowning and they were talking about taking a chest x-ray again and then he started coughing up blood.” Taehyung shudders, rubbing his elbows. “A lot of it. It was all over the place. They said it’s because he was so weak to begin with. His immune system is so low, so it wasn’t a good idea to place him in the 6-person room because he’s so much more prone to catching something. They told me that we should consider putting him in a single room next time, but can… can we afford that?”
Namjoon clenches his eyes shut, pressing the heels of his palms into his eyes. He looks up again at Seokjin, who looks so weak and fragile. There are so many more machines than before, when Seokjin was first hospitalized. “We’ll make do. Anything – anything to get Seokjin to heal up.”
Each night in ICU costs an arm and a leg. “We’ll save up for your colleges again,” Yoongi says, pulling out their bankbook and staring at the amount inside. “We’ll put out the more urgent fire first.”
“You were saving for our college?” Jimin repeats, snatching the bankbook from Yoongi’s hand. Namjoon peeks over. There’s a pretty impressive amount in there, and Yoongi rubs his face. “I don’t – I don’t need to go to college.”
“Don’t be stupid.” Yoongi hisses. “Of course you’re going to college. All three of you. It was Seokjin’s biggest stress that he couldn’t send Namjoon and Hoseok to college.”
“We dropped out of school,” Hoseok protests.
Yoongi glares at them. “Yeah, well, Seokjin didn’t see it that way, and you three are not going to argue that point with either him or me right now. Once the rest of the money from the broadcast station comes in, we should be able to scrape by even with him in a single room.” He sighs, squeezes his eyes shut and pinches the bridge of his nose. The room is silent. “Taehyung’s on his way to a scholarship. Jimin, Jungkook, I know it’s not fair, but… I need you two to work harder. Try to aim for even a little aid when you get into college.”
Jungkook rubs his face. “That’s perfectly fair. Taehyung-hyung shouldn’t be the only one working his ass off. I was thinking of just looking for work after school.”
“Me too.” Jimin confesses. “I thought Taehyung would be the only one going into college.”
Yoongi gives them a long look. “Let’s never mention that to Seokjin, or he’ll have an aneurysm.”
The first thing Seokjin does when he wakes up is apologize. Namjoon just pats his wrist, even thinner than before and fights the urge to hit something. He’s no longer in ICU, and the single-person room is nice, Namjoon thinks, but it makes Seokjin look sicker and smaller. Or maybe he is sicker and smaller. Namjoon can’t really tell.
Yoongi sits by Seokjin’s side, rubbing soft circles into Seokjin’s pale hand. Yoongi was always the palest out of all of them, but now Seokjin’s paler than he is.
Not pale, Namjoon thinks. Green. Or blue. There’s an unhealthy, sick color to Seokjin’s usually perfect, glowing skin. He looks like each breath is costing him too much to take, and Namjoon feels like he’s breathing a little less each time.
“I used up the kids’ college fund.” Yoongi tells Seokjin.
Seokjin frowns, and shakes his head minutely. “Shouldn’t have.”
“I think keeping you alive is a little more important.” Yoongi snorts, thumb still rubbing circles into the skin between Seokjin’s thumb and index finger. “It’s okay, we’ll build it up again.” Seokjin nods, eyes sliding shut again.
The tube is back in his chest, and the rasp is back in Seokjin’s voice. Namjoon suddenly feels like Seokjin isn’t going to wake up again so he jumps, lunging to grab Seokjin’s hand. “You’ll wake up again, right, hyung?”
Seokjin smiles and lifts a hand to pat his head. It’s attached to a lot of tubes and wires. “Of course. Don’t be silly.”
To Namjoon’s infinite relief, Seokjin does wake up, and he looks a little more alive. “See?” He tells Namjoon, who’s hovering behind Yoongi.
Namjoon and Hoseok can’t really leave the hospital room because they’re scared they’ll lose Seokjin while they’re gone. Hyosang comes around once to pick up their key because the person who’d rented the space before wants to use it again. “Hi, Hyosang,” Seokjin smiles, when Hyosang knocks.
Yoongi’s brow creases. “You’ve met Kidoh?”
“He came over.” Hoseok says quickly. “Once. While you were working. We went out to get spicy tuna rice balls and ran into him.”
Hyosang raises an eyebrow at Yoongi, like he wants to say something. But he seems to decide against it. “You guys know the show’s airing today, right?”
“Oh!” Seokjin says, and then winces as his chest is jostled. Hoseok and Namjoon and Yoongi all sit up a little straighter. “I’m okay,” Seokjin says quickly. “Sat up a little faster than I should have. I want to watch.”
Hyosang sits by Yoongi, and Yoongi glares. Hyosang ignores it and grins at Seokjin. “Hey, you’re still really pretty even on your sickbed.”
“Oh,” Yoongi says, glaring death. “Oh, you are not. Don’t even dare. I will end you.”
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