Title: We are Bulletproof (4/4)
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.
That was longer than I originally planned… There will be an epilogue.
It’s really, really weird to see them on TV. Seokjin is entranced, and Namjoon keeps checking his reaction to all they’re saying. Their back story is kind of bared to the world, now, the way they were orphans and how the oldest brother worked his ass off to keep all of them together. Seokjin sniffles a little but doesn’t look offended that their story’s out there, so Namjoon relaxes a little. Seokjin giggles at everything Yoongi and Namjoon and Hoseok do, and he calls Hoseok over so Hoseok can explain the little inside jokes that makes him laugh a little more.
When the thirty minutes are over, Seokjin’s asleep on Hoseok’s shoulder, a smile lingering on his lips. Hyosang catches the smile on Yoongi’s face as Yoongi tucks stray strands of Seokjin’s hair away from his face. “I didn’t even know that story. So you aren’t actual brothers, huh?”
“We’re actual brothers,” Yoongi says, and Namjoon feels his chest fill with pride. “No one else is going to tell us otherwise.”
Jimin and Jungkook and Taehyung have already watched on their phones, which gets them a scolding from Yoongi. “You’re supposed to be studying during independent study, not watching variety shows.”
“But it’s your variety show.” Taehyung points out. “There are a bunch of articles about you guys! You guys have fans already.” He shows them screenshots of articles he found, including the ones that have topped portal sites. Namjoon kind of can’t believe it – the comments are good. There are some who don’t believe their story, but a lot of them are supportive.
Hoseok’s bright personality has already gathered a lot of adoring fans, and Yoongi’s cool-but-sometimes-idiotic twist has caught a lot of interest. Namjoon himself has quite a number of supporters and he just can’t quite believe it.
The next morning, Namjoon gets a call from their PD. [Hey, Rapmon!] The PD gushes. [I knew you guys would be a huge hit. We’re already getting calls asking about some of the boys, and the three of you are getting the most requests. Once the song making hits air, you’ll get even more interest, I swear. We’ve already got requests for the three of you to appear on stuff like Mnet Wide. I think Beatles Code and Weekly Idol are interested, too, except they’re trying to figure out how to make that work.]
“Uh. Wow,” Namjoon replied, wishing he was more articulate for times like this. “What should we do?”
[Pick up your phones when I call.] The PD laughs. [And have a lot more stories about your lives on hand! Although I’m sure you guys do. Tell Suga and J-hope I said hi. I’ll be back in touch!]
They get called on Mnet Wide Entertainment News, and Hoseok’s wide eyed and jumpy. Yoongi looks calm but Namjoon can tell his nervous from the way his finger keeps tapping on his elbow. Seokjin had dressed them all, telling Taehyung and Jimin exactly what to dress them in. Namjoon’s never seen some of these clothes before, and Yoongi says they’re gifts Seokjin got from his patrons that he never wore. They’re a little big on Hoseok and Yoongi, but Seokjin smooths out lines and angles with agile fingers when they all come to get their outfits approved.
"Whoa," Hyosang had said, when they walked in. "I’ve never seen the three of you look so fly."
The makeup artists gush about Yoongi’s baby skin, ask if Namjoon’s skin is naturally dark, and laugh at all of Hoseok’s jokes. Yoongi’s studying the script like it’s the most interesting thing on earth, Hoseok’s looked over it once and told Namjoon he’d just wing it.
He feels a little shitty Seokjin’s at the hospital by himself while Taehyung and Jimin and Jungkook are at school and they’re here doing this. But Seokjin had been so excited about them being called to appear on other things and had asked for the hospital staff to put on Mnet so he could see his brothers. (The hospital staff, of course, had put it on just for Seokjin, because no one is not charmed by Seokjin.)
The interview goes pretty well. Hoseok carries most of it at the beginning, but when Namjoon gets comfortable he starts talking better, easier, and he’s less hyper, so he gets more said. Yoongi mostly nods and has one-word answers, but he glances at the camera and smirks and a female writer lets out an involuntary squeal that gets everyone laughing.
Three days after Mnet Wide is aired, Hoseok gets their first fan gift. It’s nothing big, just a bunch of candies and chips, but Hoseok’s jaw hits the floor when a pretty girl comes up to him at the convenience store, blushing, and hands him a bag full of things that looks like she just bought from the store. “If I knew I was going to run into you here, I would have brought the gifts I bought you,” she says, fanning her face. “Hoseok-oppa, hwaiting! I really like your music! Namjoon-oppa, you too!”
She then runs off, giggling and waving. “Hoseok-oppa,” Namjoon teases, pitching his voice into a squeal.
"You’re just jealous you don’t have a fangirl." Hoseok shoots back, grinning. "Wow, look! She bought all the things Jimin likes."
Namjoon raises an eyebrow. “Is there a junk food Jimin doesn’t like?”
When they get back to the hospital, rice balls in one hand and the junk food in the other, Hoseok starts gushing to Seokjin about the girl as Jimin snatches the bag and starts going through it. Yoongi’s nowhere to be seen - a little weird, Namjoon thinks, seeing as Yoongi never leaves Seokjin’s side at the hospital.
"He got a phone call." Seokjin tells Namjoon, noticing his search. Hoseok’s still talking about the girl, patting Seokjin’s hand and making big gestures. Seokjin looks sincerely intrigued, and Namjoon stands up to find Yoongi. He doesn’t need to bother - Yoongi walks in, almost crashing into Namjoon in the process. He doesn’t look happy. Hoseok’s hyper rant dies at Yoongi’s face, and Seokjin frowns, looking concerned. "What’s wrong?"
"Nothing," Yoongi says, although they realize it means I don’t want to talk about it. Seokjin lifts the arm Hoseok isn’t holding to pat Yoongi on the head, and Yoongi closes his eyes and sits on Seokjin’s other side, fingers as light as a feather across the wires and tubes in Seokjin’s arm. “Hyung, I love you a lot. You know that, right?”
It’s a whisper, a confession, and something in Namjoon’s gut twists. He glances at Hoseok, who’s looking at his hands, Taehyung, who’s determinedly glancing down at his book, Jimin, who’s got his eyes focused on the bag of junk food, and Jungkook, who’s staring out the window. He doesn’t hear Seokjin’s reply - he doesn’t think Seokjin has one, but when he looks back, Yoongi and Seokjin are smiling at each other, Seokjin’s hand back on Yoongi’s head.
By the next day, Namjoon gets why Yoongi was pissed. He gets a call from the Mnet Wide PD, asking if they could come to the hospital and film Seokjin and the rest of their brothers. [You guys could go really big with this!] She tells them. [Viewers love a sob story. You just gotta show them it’s real. I tried to convince Suga yesterday, but he got really mad at me. Can’t you convince him somehow, Rapmon?]
Namjoon fights from growling out loud. “No. People don’t have to believe our story. I’m not putting Seokjin-hyung or Taehyung or Jimin or Jungkook in front of the camera. Seokjin-hyung’s supposed to be resting. I don’t think coming in front of a camera will do that.”
[He doesn’t have to do anything, Rapmon. He can be asleep. In fact, that’s even better, since he’ll look sicker.]
[Rapmon. Don’t you get it? This could be your step into fame.]
"PD-nim, the reason why Suga-hyung and J-Hope and I make music is… It’s true that we love doing it. But a big reason is so we can protect Seokjin-hyung and our little brothers. Bringing them into harm’s way - any kind of harm’s way - isn’t part of that plan." He hopes he’s as polite as he wants to be.
Silence greets him, but when the PD speaks up again, her voice is softer. [Fine, all right.] She’s trying to sound exasperated or angry, but her voice is gentle, and Namjoon smiles despite himself. [Tell Suga I said I’m sorry. And if any of your brothers ever change their mind - it doesn’t have to be Seokjin! Just any one, let me know first, all right?]
"Okay, PD-nim. Thanks for understanding."
[You and Suga and J-Hope owe me another showing on Mnet Wide, got that!]
"We’d be honored." When Namjoon comes back to the room, Yoongi rounds on him. "I said no. And I think she got the point. I don’t think she’s going ot bother us anymore." Yoongi snorts, like he won’t believe it, but he beelines back to Seokjin. Seokjin’s asleep, and it still scares Namjoon a little, like Seokjin won’t wake up. He looks like death, sometimes, his skin so pale it’s blue, veins visible underneath his skin. He eats, but very little and only fluids, and his fever isn’t getting any better. The wires wind around his arm like spiderwebs, keeping all sorts of numbers on the machines that tell doctors something but don’t tell Namjoon anything except for the fact that Seokjin’s still alive.
They get called out for all sorts of shows, and Namjoon can see it’s stressing Yoongi out because he spends less and less time with Seokjin and Seokjin’s spending more and more time alone, especially with the three kids’ final exams coming up. But Yoongi bares with it because even though Yoongi tries not to show it, Namjoon sees him check their bankbook more and more lately, always sighing and folding it carefully before sliding it back into his bag.
Sometimes, when Seokjin and Yoongi think Namjoon is asleep, head in his arms resting in Seokjin’s lap, he hears Seokjin and Yoongi talk about money, Yoongi sighing heavily and Seokjin sounding worried.
Today is one of those days, when Namjoon’s mastered the art of breathing evenly so he can overhear conversations like this. Seokjin’s hand is on his head, stroking the back of his head and Namjoon fights not to actually fall asleep under the gentle hand. “I could leave.” Seokjin says. “This hospital is costing us a lot, isn’t it?”
“You’ve got a tube stuck in your chest and you’re pumped full of painkillers.” Yoongi snaps, and Namjoon thinks he knows what Yoongi looks like even though he can’t see his face. “Just heal up.” Yoongi’s voice is quieter. “That’s the most important thing right now. Everything else can come after that. Money from the broadcast stations are enough to hold us over. I think I might start looking for another job again.”
Seokjin’s hand is warm on Namjoon’s head and even in the hospital, Seokjin smells good. Comforting. Nothing artificial, just – Seokjin. He doesn’t like chemicals or medicine. He just smells like home, and Namjoon sighs slightly, snuggling into Seokjin’s hand. Seokjin chuckles lightly, patting his head. “He and Hoseok are working hard lately, huh.”
“He’s a big baby,” Yoongi says, and Namjoon can hear the eye roll in his voice. “He depends on you a lot. We all do, I guess. But Namjoon especially.”
“I know.” Seokjin answers, simply, brushing his hand on Namjoon’s forehead. “Remember that time he got caught feeding that stray cat behind the orphanage?”
Yoongi snorts in response. “Yeah, and you just took the blame for it. I remember. There are a plenty of things we did wrong that you just took responsibility for.”
Seokjin’s voice is gentle. “It’s because you guys are my little brothers. I protect you guys.”
Namjoon feels his chest tighten at that, and Yoongi says what Namjoon wants to say most of all. “No,” Yoongi whispers. “We’ll protect you, now .”
As more episodes air, they get more requests to show up on other variety shows, even mainstream ones. They get a couple of calls from entertainment companies that Yoongi refuses right off at the bat. They’re not looking to be celebrities, after all. They do get a few offers to come show their songs from companies, and Namjoon is surprised because they’re not the top entertainment companies, sure, but they’re still companies everyone’s heard of. One meeting in particular goes pretty well and Hoseok tells Seokjin all about it when they get back, with exaggerated hand motions that makes Seokjin smile.
Yoongi’s smiling, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. He looks worried, and Namjoon knows why. Seokjin went through another surgery to remove the tube again, and he hasn’t looked too good since then. The doctors blame surgery being stressful on someone as weak as Seokjin, and that examinations show there’s nothing particularly wrong with him. He’ll get better with rest, is all they’re told.
But Seokjin doesn’t look like he’s getting better. He looks weaker every day, looks like he’s about to shatter into pieces with a single touch.
One day, Yoongi tells them he’s going to take Seokjin out of the hospital tomorrow. “We’ll go on a trip,” Yoongi says, patting the top of Jimin’s head. “We’ll go to the beach. You wanted to go on a trip, right?”
Jimin doesn’t look happy. He looks like he’s going to cry.
None of them can actually drive, so they take the train. Seokjin sleeps most of the way, head resting on Yoongi’s shoulder. They talk like nothing’s wrong, peeling eggs that Seokjin boiled in the morning and eating junk food Yoongi surprisingly buys for them.
The vacation house Yoongi’s rented out for the day is nicer than Namjoon expected, and they unpack, Seokjin dozing off on the blanket Yoongi’s spread out for him in the corner. Yoongi coaxes him awake for lunch that he doesn’t eat.
It’s still early spring, so there aren’t that many people at the beach. Taehyung and Jimin and Hoseok go into the water anyway, soaking the bottoms of their shorts and kicking cool water at each other. Namjoon has Seokjin on his back, his arms tucked securely around his legs and under his hips to steady him. “Namjoon, I want to go into the water, too,” Seokjin says, and Namjoon hesitates.
“The water’s still cold, hyung,” Jungkook says. “I thought I was going to freeze my ass off.”
Yoongi’s expression is unreadable. He then smiles sadly, pats Namjoon’s shoulder and says, “You think you can brave a bit of cold for Seokjin?”
So Namjoon kicks his sneakers and socks off and Yoongi helps him roll his jeans up. The waves lap at his knees anyway and Seokjin laughs when Taehyung kicks water in their direction. Seokjin’s bare toes kick at the water, sending little droplets into the air. “Can you let me down?” Seokjin asks, squirming a little.
“Hyung, you can barely stand on dry land. The waves are kind of strong here. And the water’s cold.” Namjoon says, gripping harder. Seokjin sighs but doesn’t say anything, kicking at the water.
Yoongi comes up beside him, jeans soaked to the knees where he hadn’t bothered to fold it up. He carefully pushes up Seokjin’s sweatpants up to mid-thigh, folding it over and over again. “Let him down, Namjoon. We’ll hold him. Let him down.”
Namjoon looks up, eyes shaking, but Yoongi nods. Namjoon bites the inside of his cheeks but carefully slides Seokjin down, grabbing his arms tightly to keep him from swaying in the ocean. Jimin comes over, shorts thoroughly soaked, and frowns. “Hyung, is this really okay?” He reaches out to grab Seokjin’s hands. “The water’s cold.”
“It’s okay.” Yoongi says, and none of them comment about the tremor in his voice.
They got pissed drunk, except Yoongi and Seokjin, but Namjoon sits in front of the door. When Jungkook tries to grab the door handle, Namjoon stops him. “Stop. Yoongi-hyung and Seokjin-hyung are in there.”
“I want to see him.”
“Don’t.” Namjoon says, burying his face in his knees. “He doesn’t want to show us. Sit.”
Jungkook looks like he wants to fight him, but he collapses between Jimin and Namjoon. Jimin’s staring dully into space, Taehyung on his other side. Hoseok is already crying and Namjoon wants to tell him to stop. No one’s dead.
Namjoon stares up at the sky. They’re all silent, listening to the conversation inside.
Yoongi’s voice is calm, gentle. He was always gentle to Seokjin, Namjoon remembers. He’d always yell at the rest of them to stop being so rowdy in the house, to do their homework, to do laundry, to clean up, but never at Seokjin.
“Sorry,” Seokjin says, voice almost inaudible through the door. “Take care of them, okay?”
“Yeah, I know.”
"Thank you for bringing me here."
"You’ve never seen the ocean before. Jimin and Taehyung and Jungkook, too. I wanted to - I wanted to show you. Before it was too late." Yoongi’s voice chokes on the last sentence, but he clears his throat. "I wish it was warmer."
"I like it, like this. It’s warm enough. The water was kind of cold, though. I hope the kids don’t catch a cold."
Yoongi snorts at that, a laughter failed and faded into something sadder. “They’ll be fine. They-” He pauses. “I don’t know if they’ll be fine. But they won’t get sick.”
Namjoon wants to laugh and cry and scream at that. There’s silence for a while and Namjoon fears the worst, but then Seokjin speaks up again. “I’m sorry. The kids’ college tuition…”
"Don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of it. You’ve done enough for all of us. Don’t worry about that. You trust me, right? I’ll take care of it."
"I do trust you.” Seokjin agrees, and then says, “You’ll take good care of them. And take good care of yourself. That’s important.”
There’s silence past the door again and Hoseok is bawling now, hands shoved to his mouth to keep from making too much noise. He doesn’t bother wiping his tears away, just lets them drench his hands. Jimin’s crying, too, face buried in his hands, shoulders shaking. “I’m sleepy,” Seokjin’s voice says, barely audible.
"Don’t- Not yet. Stay awake for just a bit longer." Yoongi’s voice is desperate, now, none of the calm it used to have. "Just a bit longer. Should I call the kids in? They’re all listening outside, anyway."
"No. I don’t want them to see me like this." Seokjin answers. "Jungkook - he’s probably going to go a little haywire. Let him be for a bit, Yoongi. It’s not good to keep it all in. But don’t let him stray for too long. He needs to… keep up in school. I promised Jimin that I’d let him dance, you know? I told him if he got good grades.. I’d go look for a dance studio so he could learn."
"I’ll do that." Yoongi says.
"You expect me not to cry?"
"I guess not." Seokjin laughs, and he doesn’t sound like he’s in any kind of pain. "Taehyung - Taehyung’s going to go so far. Let him do whatever he wants, okay? Whatever studies he wants to do, support him for me. And Hoseok and Namjoon - they’re doing so well on their own. Tell Hoseok never to stop smiling. Tell him he always gave me hope."
Hoseok reaches for the doorknob, face blotched because he’s cried so hard, and Namjoon swats his hand away, rubbing at his cheeks angrily. The tears won’t stop, and now Jungkook and Taehyung are crying, too, trying to stifle their tears with their hands. “Namjoon is going to do well, even without me. He was always going to succeed. I was always scared, you know, that he’d realize how well he could do and just… leave us.. But Namjoon wouldn’t do that.”
"He’s going to be fine."
"Yeah." Seokjin sighs. "Yeah, all of you will be fine. And Yoongi.." There’s a pause. "I always loved you, you know that, right? I mean, I loved - all of you - but I-"
"I know." Yoongi says, and his voice is shaking. He sounds like he’s in so much pain. "I know; I know. I loved you, too. More than anything."
"I’m sorry. For everything."
"You’ve nothing to be sorry for. If anything, I’m sorry. I should have - if only I wasn’t so selfish at the beginning.."
"You were never selfish. I never wanted you to give up music."
"I never wanted you to die.” Yoongi says, and that’s the breaking point because Jungkook rises and shoves the door open. Seokjin doesn’t look surprised, just beckons them over. Yoongi rubs at his face, a failed attempt to hide his tears from the rest of them, and Jungkook throws himself by Seokjin’s side, grabbing at his hands.
"Don’t go. Don’t go, please, please, please.” Jungkook whispers, bringing Seokjin’s hand to his cheek. “Don’t go, don’t go. Mom, mom, don’t go.” He starts bawling, calling Seokjin mom and Seokjin just pats his face.
I’ll go to church, Namjoon thinks, all of a sudden. I’ll go to church every Sunday. I’ll stop cursing, I’ll never drink, I’ll never even think about smoking. I’ll be a good Christian. If there really is a God up there, you can’t take him from us. He squeezes his eyes shut and clasps his hands in prayer to a God he’s never believed in before, and thinks, desperately, over and over again.
Hoseok’s crying the loudest, begging Seokjin to stay with them, and Taehyung’s bawling for the first time Namjoon’s seen. “Don’t cry, guys. I’ll be okay.” Seokjin says, reaching to pat all of them at least once. “I’m just going to sleep.”
"No, no, hang on,” Jimin begs, clutching at Seokjin’s hand, but Seokjin only smiles at him. “Hyung, please.”
"You’ll all be okay."
Namjoon doesn’t ask, later, how Yoongi knew Seokjin would die that day. They have a quiet wake except for Hoseok’s crying. No one really comes to visit at the wake, except Hyosang, dressed in black jeans and a hoodie. “Sorry,” He says, looking ashamed. “I don’t have a suit.”
“We don’t, either.” Namjoon says, quietly, pointing to their own outfits. “I don’t think Seokjin-hyung would care. Thanks for… coming.” He’s suddenly glad he introduced Hyosang to Seokjin. That someone else outside of their family is here to recognize everything Seokjin did. Yoongi stands quietly, nodding to Hyosang and moving to make space.
Hyosang fidgets in front of the wake, glances at Yoongi, and says, “Hey, I didn’t know you too well, but still. I know you weren’t pretty just on the outside.” Yoongi laughs quietly on the side. “Yoongi’ll do a good job taking care of – you know. Your family. I wish I could have gotten to know you better.”
He shuffles out and they sit in the front, Hyosang pouring a shot of soju for Hoseok. “You’re underage, aren’t you,” Hyosang notes, but that’s the end of that. “He didn’t look like he was on his deathbed.”
Namjoon takes the shot and Hyosang pours him another one. “The repeated surgery was too much for him. He wasn’t that healthy to begin with. I think his body gave up.” He finishes the second shot and rolls the empty shot glass between his fingers. Hyosang pours him another one. “He’s in a better place. This world wasn’t good to him.”
“It had you guys, though.”
Namjoon doesn’t have an answer to that. He empties the shot and just snatches the soju bottle from Hyosang’s hands, gulping down the bottle. Hyosang doesn’t stop him, but Hoseok does, slapping him on the back of the head to get him to stop. His face is dirty with tear tracks, cheeks blotched red. He hasn’t stopped crying since Seokjin passed. “Don’t be a fucker,” Hoseok says. Hyosang takes the bottle back, orders another one, and pours both of them a shot. “Seokjin-hyung didn’t like us drinking.” Hoseok says, and Namjoon wants to smack him. He just takes his and Hoseok does, too.
Hyosang pours them another. “I think he’ll understand today.”
It’s not long before Hoseok’s got his head on the table, mumbling incoherently. Namjoon’s on the verge of passing out himself, but he’s aware Yoongi comes to sit by them. “Here. You look like you need a drink.”
“I need to get the kids home.”
“I’ll get you three home. Take it.” Namjoon turns his head to catch Yoongi taking a shot. Yoongi pats Namjoon’s cheek. Yoongi hasn’t said much during the entire day. He had just stood in front of the wake, eyes staring forward. Hyosang pours him another shot. “What are you going to do, now?”
Yoongi swirls his glass, downs the shot and slams the glass back down onto the table. “Work my ass off.”
The crematorium is a little too quiet for Namjoon’s tastes, but he guesses it can’t be anything else. It’s early in the morning as they set up the little glass cabinet Seokjin’s ashes will go into. Jimin shoves the pink teddy bear into a corner, sniffling. The picture Yoongi printed out in the hotel is framed neatly and put in front of the bear, along with an old picture of all 7 of them. Namjoon feels his chest tighten again at the sight. Seokjin’s laughing, holding Jungkook on his lap and trying to keep him still as they all pose. It hurts, thinking he’s never going to see that laugh again.
“Wait – wait, I have one more.” Namjoon pulls out a piece of folded paper from his pockets. It’s a little crumbled on the edges and he slides it under the teddy bear’s foot. No one asks what it is, and Namjoon watches Yoongi pull the glass window shut.
Seokjin’s smiling at them, but Namjoon will never be able to see it again.
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