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Red Doored Residents

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Have you ever gone to sleep crying? I'm sure we all have. Sometimes it's a heartbreak. Sometimes it's hard work. Some people cry to sleep after watching a sad movie, whereas others sleep crying because their fed up with their lives. 

We all have cried ourselves to sleep at least once in our lives.

I have fallen asleep with tears in my eyes too. It was a longtime ago. A month ago. Last week. It was last night. I will probably cry tonight as well. And the tears that I cry will probably lull me to sleep like they always have.

Well all have cried ourselves to sleep at least once in our lives. My reason, is a little pathetic.

 

 

*****

 

 

Small feet of twelve years old splashed through the puddles, as labored breaths accompanied the rain. Two boys ran through the crowd that leisured the streets of Hongdae, hauling a small body between them. The head of the unconscious body lolling on and off of the slightly shorter boy's shoulders as the two ran.

People passing by, blind to the three invisible boys, did little to help the desperate two. Jimin only prayed they at least make space for them when they screamed to make way. Taehyung has suggested stopping and asking for help from the 'adults', but the two extra months that he had lived in this world gave Jimin enough experience to know that 'help' was the last thing they would receive from those tall people.

The two boys sprinted towards the junkyard that housed the abandoned luggage coaches of the old steam trains that had once been in use. The once baggage carrying buggies were now their home.

Jimin side-eyed Taehyung, and seeing his breaths coming out in frozen puffs of winter air, pulled at the limp body they were carrying. When Taehyung questioned him with a barely raised eye, because the cold had frozen their faces solid, Jimin replied with what he hoped looked like a smile and shifted the body over his back. An exchange of words wasn't needed as the two boys ran towards home.

Taehyung carrying the three school bags while Jimin hoisted the unconscious body over his shoulders as they ran with an urgency that scared even them.

The holes on their shoes filling up with the muddy slush of crushed, soft snow that seeped in through the plastic shoes.

.....

Namjoon was leaning over the yellow paged textbook, candle in one hand while the other held a tiny pencil and trembled hovering over the too brittle paper. The bright city offered no solace to his aching back as he sat in the dark corner to avoid drunken waywards.

He sniffled and sneezed, placing the candle on the concrete to rub his nose which had gone stiff from the cold. His left hand, which held the candle, cracked as he fisted and unfisted his digits in an attempt to get the blood flowing into those fingers once again.

A cold breeze flew by and the boy further dipped his head into the sad excuse for a scarf that Yoongi had forced upon him, claiming that he needed warmer clothes so he wouldn't get sick. After all, he was their only hope. The only one who they believed would be able to actually go to college with the scholarship he was on.

He tilted his head to look up at the single bulb of the street lamp he was sitting under. It was switched off. Turning his attention towards the horizon in front of him once again, Namjoon waited with bated breath, like he did everyday, for the sun to finally set.

And just like he knew it would, the sun set in exactly a minute and sixteen seconds and the street lamp above head flickered to life. The boy allowed himself to smile for once as he blew the candle out and carefully placed it back in the jute bag he used to carry his books.

Another candle was something not affordable at the moment; he had to be careful not loose the one he had.

.....

As another door was slammed into his face, Yoongi walked away leaving with an angry string of curse words, spit flying behind him. His palms fisted. He huffed his hair out of his eyes as his fingers moved towards the front pocket of the only formal shirt he owned and, as if on autopilot, he produced a cigarette in his left hand while his right fidgeted with the matchstick. 

One. Two. Five. Seventeen. Twenty three drags of smoke later he crumpled the paper that read 'Part-timers Needed' with hatred and stomped it as he wandered searching for a convenience store he hadn't yet visited. They were running out by now.

Another night of shoplifting was in order and Yoongi was not looking forward to it. "Not old enough, my ass!" he muttered under his breath as he took another angry drag at the stick in his hand before he dropped it in the ground.

The fourteen year old casually walked into the store; keeping his head down, he could at least come back if he hid his face ell enough; as he walked towards the fourth isle of the small mart. That's where the packaged snacks were kept. His eyes lingered towards the ramyeon packets longingly but he knew it'd be pointless.

"Even if I steal those there's no point," he chided himself. He smacked his dry lips with frustration and muttered and he chuckled bitterly to himself, "it's not like we can afford a gas stove to boil the damn water. Hmph! Even chopsticks are a luxury."

With the skill of a cat burglar, something he was both proud and ashamed of, Yoongi stealthily but quickly stuffed his socks with a couple of kimbap rolls and shoved several small protein bars into his underwear pocket. People usually only search his jeans if he was caught.

To keep a safe front, Yoongi plucked a chocolate bar off the shelf and made his way to the checkout. All the while he kept his head down low and thanked the Heavens that the little shop was buzzing with people.

He made sure to not speak much to the cashier and kept his gaze firmly planted to his shoes. Getting out was the hardest part of this job, but Yoongi was lucky enough. The cashier seemed invested in a game on her phone.

Having paid for the chocolate bar, Yoongi chose to walk back to the Junkyard which was almost five miles far from where he currently was.

Jungkook needed a crayons box.

.....

The cold bit him through the single layer he wore as Hoseok stood shivering near the charity box. 

It was the third Sunday f the month, which meant that the charity box was going to be restocked. He had arrived an hour early to make sure he could take back as many clothes as possible. Winters were always like a fierce war between the homeless. The twenty something vagabonds eyeing the thirteen year old were a proof of that.

The charity truck bearing the church's emblem, a deep red cross, was soon seen rounding the corner and the ears of everyone present perked up like a wild dog's. Hoseok too braced himself for the ugly cat and dog brawl that he had been taking part in for the last seven months. Before him, this was Yoongi's job. 

Soon as the pristine white truck stopped in front of the charity box the crowd, as if a crashing wave waiting to slam into the vehicle, circled the truck with eager hands reaching up and groping aimlessly at anything they could grab. It looked more or less like a zombie movie scene than anything really. 

A jab to his rib. An elbow in his eye. A stomp on his cold feet which were adorned with plastic shoes. A shove here and a push there. Hoseok, who had been standing the closest to the truck, was now at outside the tight circle around the van that was created in the span of mere seconds.

Hopping on his the balls of his feet to catch a glimpse of what was going on, Hoseok could only make out the opening of the back doors before the crowd stormed towards the back of the truck. The boy too followed suit.

In just forty six minutes, Hoseok counted, the small plaza was devoid of any living soul. He looked down at the scratch marks and grope wounds on his arms and could imagine a bruise being formed near his ribs. His eyes then shifted to the pile of clothes in his hands. A small heap on discolored reds, browns, and pinks. A few torn but still very warm scarves. A rather warm pullover. And three pair of surprisingly sturdy albeit a little workout Jordons; size wasn't a problem, they needed what they could get. Hoseok was proud of what he had been able to salvage.

He walked the rest of the way back with a smile. The three youngsters could finally have proper shoes.

.....

Seokjin stared longingly at the slow moving hands of the clock in the store, willing desperately for time to move faster. He bowed at the customer in front of him; the blood rushing to his cranium with the urgency of a heart attack. He blinked his eyes in an attempt to calm the storm inside his head and smiled back at the lady in front of him. He really needed to sleep if he wanted to stay sane now.

His six hour long shift ended a little too late for his liking but the extra money shut off his complaints. He glanced at the clock again and noted that if he ran back to the Junkyard he would have enough time to rest his eyes for at least three hours before his next shift. Being a fifteen year old high school dropout, part time jobs were the only thing he could get.

He took the flavored sausage sticks and a pack of seaweed crisps that the store gave him and exited the store. His manager was kind enough to offer his some food as he went back home everyday.

Seokjin stared at the sausages in black polythene bag in his hand and was almost tempted to sneak a bite. "There's four in there. It's okay if I eat one, right?" was what his brain tried to tell him but shook his head to get the thought of out his mind. 

He jogged the rest of the way, muttering to himself to keep his train of thoughts away from the growling in his stomach, and the food in his hands. 

"I wonder if Yoongi got that job? Did Hobi manage to get us some clothes? I need to buy Joonie more candles. Kookie is growing taller too. Are Jiminie and Tae back from school yet?"

Nothing worked to keep his mind off of the food in the black bag. His eyes constantly drifted to the plastic carrier as his stomach protested louder than ever.

When he reached however, the hunger vanished, replaced by a cold shiver of worry and fear at sight of Jungkook's unconscious form lying in the middle of the buggy. Jimin and Taehyung hovering over the boy in concern.

 

 

Chapter Text

"What do you mean he just fainted!?" Seokjin yelled at the younger two, looking a little too fierce. 

The two boys looked up with a start at the elder's booming voice and stumbled back a little to create some space between them. Jimin's hand held tightly onto to Taehyung's as said boy slid behind his back, trying his hardest to appear smaller than he already was.

Seokjin huffed a frustrated sigh and ruffled his hair, in a manner to calm himself, before he spoke. "What happened to him? He couldn't have just fainted for no reason." Seokjin kept eye contact with Jimin.

Taehyung whimpered behind his friend and held on tighter onto his hand at the elder's voice. It was too calm. Jimin, on the other hand, squeezed the boy's hand comfortingly before speaking.

"We really don't know hyung. We were walking back from school and he suddenly fainted."

And had he not known the boy since diaper days, Jimin's cool and almost leveled tone of answering would've fooled Seokjin. But Seokjin knew where to look. The sweat on his forehead and the insistent ringing of fingers gave him away. 

Seokjin diverted his attention to the boy hiding behind Jimin. He smiled assuringly and repeated his question to Taehyung, his tone taking a 180° turn. "Taetae-ya. Would you please tell hyung why Kookie fainted?"

Taehyung peaked from behind Jimin's back and replied stammering, "d- doctor said it was ma- ma-" 

Seokjin seeing how Jimin tensed at the boy's words egged Taehyung to continue, "yes Tae? What did the doctor tell you, dear?"

Jimin was squeezing Taehyung's finger as Taehyung spoke unaware, "he said. Something ma- ma? Manufriction? Manu- manufaction?"

"Manufaction? Did he say Manufaction." Jin asked as he edged towards the boy. He made sure to notice Jimin trying his hardest to let Taehyung know not to answer.

Taehyung shook his head vigorously and jumping on his little feet replied, "na uh! It was maru- mari! Urgh! Chimchim!" He turned to the boy in front of him and nagged at him saying, "what was that word the doctor said!?"

Jimin looked away from Taehyung's innocent gaze and roughly replied, "I don't know!"

The elder heaved sigh, closing his eyes in an effort to remain calm. When he opened his eyes he looked back into Jimin's eyes and asked him once again. "You actually expect me to believe that. Do you? Park Jimin?" 

Any other day Seokjin actually would applaud the boy on his nerve. It was a rare sight to see the elder refer to them with their full names. Today, however, the boy's audacity only served to make the elder's blood boil.

"Yes. Kim Seokjin-ssi. I really don't have the slightest of an idea what the doctor said." Jimin never called him by his name before and his eyes were spiting fire as he spoke. Disrespect dripping from every fibre of his being

And Seokjin snapped. He grabbed at the first thing he could get his hands on, in this case it was a pencil case, and threw it at the boy. Taehyung hid behind Jimin's back with a yelp, eyes closed tight.

The case hit Jimin right on the forehead, just above his right eye. The sound of it crashing on the other's forehead was what woke Seokjin up from his angry stupor. His eyes enlarged at the sight of the blood that trickled down the boy's forehead but, before he could so much as move a muscle, Jimin was gone.

Seokjin watched the boy run off outside the junkyard and even though he knew he would regret it later, he didn't follow. Biting his lips with self loathe, he plucked Jungkook's tiny body up and tucking it into his arms and walked out of the buggy.

From the corner of his eyes he could see Taehyung flinch away from him as he walked away. The way Taehyung stared at him, with a mixer of fear and disbelief, made him want to run away as well. But, one look at the unconscious boy in his arms was enough to evoke the sense of responsibility in the boy and Seokjin made his way to the hospital. 

The bag of food forgotten on the dusty floor.

.....

Yoongi turned the corner to find Hoseok limping down the alley, a pile of clothes tucked under both his arms and three pairs of shoes hung from their tied up laces around his neck. The permanently etched frown on his forehead turned deeper when he saw that the soles of the boy's right shoe was coming off with every step he took.

Yoongi sped down the alley and bumped his shoulders with the younger boy. When Hoseok turned towards him, Yoongi pulled the pile out of the boy's hand and without a word walked on ahead. He could almost imagine the shit-eating expression Hoseok was carrying. The smile probably reaching his ears.

"Let's go together hyung!" Hoseok yelled at the pale skinned teen as he ran to catch.

Another three turns later they reach the lone lamp post where Namjoon was still seated. His head lolling to the side and drool dripping from his lips. The two elder boys took the opportunity to snicker at the sight. Yoongi's frown didn't disappear, but it did ease off enough to not make him look like he hated the world, for five seconds.

Beside him Hoseok made a 'Kachek' sound that sounded like a camera shutter going off. When Yoongi turned his head to look at the boy, he saw Hoseok had his hands up, holding an imaginary camera. 

At Yoongi raised eyebrow Hoseok smiled sheepishly and rubbing his hair ducked his head an explained, "normal people usually click pictures in such situations right?" With that he skipped towards Namjoon's sleeping form and shook the boy awake.

Soon they were walking again. Back to junkyard. The two boys in front of him giggling ("it's not giggling hyung!") about some new song they'd heard on the way gave Yoongi enough time to deepen his frown once again.

Hoseok's words echoing in his ears all the way. "Normal" he muttered to himself. A dry laugh issued from his equally dry lips. He looked at the two boys walking ahead of him, now fawning over the clothes they were carrying. A mirthless chuckle escaped his lips as he bit out to no one in particular, "we really aren't normal, are we? Pretending is as good as we can get."

The pale skinned elder shoved his fists deeper into his jeans pockets and rushed past the two, ignoring their calls to wait up. All he wanted now was a good night's sleep. And maybe some food. Definitely some food.

*****

"Malnutrition?" Seokjiin repeated warily. 

The man in the scrubs nodded pitifully at the boy and replied, "yes. I'm afraid lack of a proper diet is the main reason Jungkook here fainted." He patted the sleeping ten year old's forehead gently and smiled as he spoke, "he'll be fine. I've set up a drip for him." The bald man shifted his gaze towards Seokjin, who was on the verge of tears as he rubbing circles on Jungkook's knuckles, and said, "but you should really not let this happen again. It's not the best way to raise a child you know."

Seokjin nodded feebly in reply. His voice wavered when he spoke, "th- thank you, doctor. Thank you."

The doctor, with a fatherly smile, patted Seokjin's forehead. The sensation a foreign touch. He'd forgotten how heavenly a caring touch felt. "I can see you care a lot about him" the man said with a fond smile. "The other boys were concerned too you know."

Seokjin's ears perked up at that. He looked away from Jungkook, long enough to question the man in front of him. "Huh?'

A chuckle followed by another pat of his hair, the doctor explained pointing at Jungkook, "the two boys had actually brought him in earlier. But they ran away when stepped out for a while to get the drip ready for them. Unfortunately being a charity clinic, I'm a little short on staff." The man rubbed his neck sheepishly with a smile.

Seokjin nodded his head in understanding. "I see." Somehow he didn't need to ask why they had fled. Somehow he knew the reason was probably the very reason their maknae was malnutritioned in the first place.

The older cleared his throat and Seokjiin turned to the kind man. This time he placed a reassuring hand over his shoulders and Seokjin let a tear stain his face at the pleasant touch. When was the last time he was held like that? 

"I can understand. I know. They must've thought I'd ask for money. I can understand. How hard it can be. I know. It is hard, right?" Seokjin could only manage a shaky jerk of his head that was meant to be a nod. The reassuring hand moved towards the side of his face, to hold onto his cheeks, and Seokjin cried. "I can't help you money-wise. This place itself is in shambles" he gestured around the clinic with a weak smile. "But I can give you some medicine samples every other month. It won't be much, but you can sell them and get at least a week's worth of food. Okay?"

And Seokjin simply nodded. His movement jerky and his breath unstable. Tears were now wetting his T-shirt. Another fatherly smile, patting Seokjin's hair, shoulder squeeze and a 'It'll be fine'; later Jungkook eventually came to. Fidgeting with the needle he was strapped to.

Seokjin gently patted the boy's tiny hands away and smiled. Jungkook looked up at the boy with his doe-eyes and, his sleepy daze, mumbled, "Hyung. Jungkook's hungry."

.....

Taehyung looked nervously between the two thirteen year old boys and Yoongi, who was pacing back and forth in the buggy. The atmosphere in the cramped cart was cold and frightening and it sent an uneasy shiver down his spine. 

Namjoon, after having counted fourteen sighs escape Yoongi's lips, finally spoke, "hyu-" He wasn't even allowed to get in a word before Yoongi pointed a finger in his face and muttered a 'Don't' threateningly. The scared younger gulped back his words and looked away.

The sound of someone's feet patting on the metal floor was what made the boys' heads turn.

They turned around to see Jin entering through the wide open doorway, piggybacking Jungkook. He stopped midway when he saw all eyes turned to him. Jungkook, who didn't quite get the change in atmosphere, jumped off of Jin's back and raced towards Hoseok crashing into him with the mirth of a four year old.

"Hotoki hyung!" Yelled the little boy to which Hoseok replied with an equally shrill screech. 

The two started to quietly giggle as Hoseok tickled the boy and Taehyung too moved towards the two happy bodies to join in. For a second the cold that had settled between them seemed to have lifted. But that was only for a second.

Yoongi was still looking at Seokjin with eyes that could kill and Namjoon had a bad feeling about the way Seokjin seemed willing to die at the moment. Taehyung was eyeing the silent two eldest with side eyes while he nodded absentmindedly at a very excited Jungkook. Hoseok was trying his hardest not to let his smile slip off his face.

Jimin, was the only one absent. 

 

Chapter Text

Namjoon, Hoseok and Taehyung silently watched the scene playing out outside the buggy, not even glancing at the food that sat in front of the them. Jungkook was digging in, unaware of the chaos that had yet again erupted in their little family. Seokjin and Yoongi were having a glaring match to see who'd burn the other to bits with their eyes faster. And Jimin clung onto Yoongi's arm with puffy eyes, trembling lips and dried blood splotched on his forehead where he'd been hit with the pencil case.


"Who the fuck are you to hit him like that!? Yoongi yelled at Seokjin, his voice never wavering despite the slight age difference. Seokjin blanched at the lack of formality in the younger's words for a second before turning his gaze cold again. But he wasn't the only one shocked. Everyone, save Jungkook, stared at Yoongi open mouthed.


You see, Yoongi was probably the most well-behaved of all of the boys. Of course his lack of motivation to move did play a part. But, he was respectful. At all times. In fact, Namjoon could actually recall several of such instances where Yoongi had "disciplined" him when he refused to listen to Seokjin. So of course it was a shock to see their hyung act that way.

Seokjin, however, stared at the boy unperturbed as he answered back without flinching, "I don't see why I need to answer that question."


He saw a nerve twitch on Yoongi's neck as the boy bit back dangerously, "why in the fucking hell did you do it, you twat!" He grabbed Seokjin's collar pulling him down to his height.


Seokjin remain placid and replied back coolly, "he was lying."


If Yoongi was angry before, he looked ready to murder now.


And he threw the first punch, sending Seokjin flying across the dead train tracks. He lunged at the taller, stronger man, after shoving a protesting Jimin off of himself, and proceeded to punch his sides.


"You asshole!" Yoongi stilled his movements to pull his face closer to his own. "Is that how you deal with kids? Huh!?" A punch, that was sure to leave a metallic taste in Seokjin's mouth. "Don't you see the blood on his forehead!? Huh?" A kick in the ribs that sounded a little too close to target.


"Hyung!" Jimin's voice called out making Yoongi turn back to the boy who had his hands clasped together and looked terrified with large eyes and unshed tears hanging off his eyelashes. Seokjin took the opportunity and flipped him over, now straddling Yoongi. He threw a punch. Then two. Then a knee to the ribs.


By the time Namjoon and Hoseok came after hearing the commotion, both the boys were bloodied and bruised. Yoongi more than the other. Namjoon helped Seookjin up towards the buggy, whereas Hoseok was carrying Yoongi on his back.


And as he climbed up the carriage, Yoongi couldn't help but look back at the brown haired twelve year old, expecting fear, disgust or disappointment to reflect in his eyes, like he could see in the other's. But, the look of admiration made Yoongi smile.


"It was worth the bruised lips and body pain."


Flashback
Yoongi quietly asks the elder boy, "what did you do to Jimin?"


Seokjin avoids both his question and his eyes as he looks around the buggy, questing him back, "where's Jimin?"


"He ran away again!" Yoongi yells back, shaking the tiny carriage with his booming voice. Jungkook looks up from Hoseok's tickling for a second before turning back to ignoring the eldest two again. The other's don't.


Namjoon tenses up at the beginning of a fight anf Hoseok's smile too, falters. Taehyung, too terrified to even move, simpy shifts into the nearest corner, hugging his legs and hiding his face behing the arms that hug his knees. It is the only place he feels safe in. After Jimin.


Seokjin, still avoiding his eyes answers back unsurely, "he... must be at that alley then." With nonchalance dripping from his lips he then continues, "I'll go get him, you have the kids sit down for dinner."


He turns to leave but Yoongi holds his shoulder back. Turning him back he asks threateningly, "what did you do this time? He wouldn't have ever left Taehyung alone otherwsie!"


"I don't know what you're talking about."


A scoff. A deadly glare. "When I came back home with Namjoon and Hoseok, Taehyung was alone! Why!? You know as well as anyone that Jiminie would never leave him alone! He knows how dangerous that is!?"


Seokjin visibly gulps and the lack of anything to say is clear on his face. "I just..." Another gulp. A look of guilt. "I just... punished... him. A little." The shame shining in his features as he ducks his head.


Yoongi fists his hands and bites his lips to swallow the anger before he asks, "did you hit him!? Did you beat him up!?"


"Yoongi-" Seokjin starts but is cut off by the boy as he climbs down the train carriage and marches towards the alley.


*****


"That bastard! I should just-"


"Hyuuung! Relax. I'm okay now."

 

Yoongi looks down at the boy beside him and winces at the blood stuck to his forehead.


He had raced towards the alley that stood between the music street and the confectinary store and just like Seokjin had predicted, Jimin was there. Nodding his head off to the music in the background as he stuck himself to the large glass window staring at the egg tarts that lined the bakery wall. Of course food and music would be the only thing that could make him okay again. After Yoongi, of course.


Yoongi ruffles the younger boy's hair as sits down beside the boy. "Do we need to go to the doctor's?" he asks with a gentle shove of his shoulder.

 

"Unh! Uhn!" Jimin shakes his head a no. "I'm cool! A bandage would do" he says letting his sunshine smile spill. And Yoongi's anger seems to disperse.


They sit like that for a few minutes. Listening to some hiphop song playing in the background and smelling the bakery smell that felt like Heaven. And for a moment, Yoongi feels normal.


They walk back at a slow pace, knowing confrontation was waiting for them back at home. Yoongi asks Jimin of his day, and Jimin replies with several stories about his teacher and even more about his friends. And Yoongi feels normal.


Soon, they had reached home, and the first thing Yoongi did was march upto Seokjin and punch him the face.
Flashback Over

They were all lying side by side on the buggy's floor. Seokjin, then Jungkook. Namjoon, Hoseok, Taehyung then Jimin. And beside the two boys, Yoongi. It took some time for them to cool off after the fight but the two twelve year olds were back to bickering and teasing each other once again. 

It was in the middle of the night that Jimin's eyes opened against sleep and he looked to his left to find that Yoongi was not beside him. He slowly got up, making sure to tuck Taehyung away from the cold, and made his way out of the buggy. Far into the train tracks he could spy Yoongi lying on the dirty ground, staring up at the stars. He walked towards the elder and lay down beside him.

"I'm sorry for fighting." Yoongi muttered and Jimin smiled in reply snuggling into the elder's side. 

And they fell asleep. Unaware of the fact that Seokjin lay awake with tears brimming his eyes at the sight of the two. It wasn't fair. They deserved better. And Seokjin knew what he had to do.

Chapter Text

"A hundred thousand won!?" yelled the gruffly man at the two fifteen year old boys.

The slightly shorter one stepped ahead and gulped before he spoke, "it's the standard rate." He pointed at the sickly boy behind him, who looked more concerned than anything, and said, "he's experienced, so you won't have any trouble getting him to do what you want. And he's fairly tall too so he can easily pass off as an eighteen year old."

The man smirked at the boy speaking and with a sleazy touch to his voice teased, "you sure know a lot about this business kid?" He grabbed the boy's face in his calloused hand and shook his face as he continued, "been around the streets have you?"

The boy jerked his face away from the man's grasp and sharply put out his open hand and bit out, "that will be a hundred thousand won, Sir."

The man smirked and placed the bundle of cash into the boy's hand, pulling the taller boy behind him by the hand. The shorter boy quickly divided the money in half and placed his share into his pocket before shoving the rest into the other boy's hands.

With a single look of despair he walks away. Fifty thousand won in hand. The fate of the other sealed.

 

*_*-*-*_*

 

When Seokjin walks into their small apartment, his eyes are gaunt and his body exhausted. It's been barely over a month that they rented the place but anyone would know that the place is already a safe haven to the boys. He tiredly plucks the apron off the kitchen, his lower back aching a little too much that day, and get's on to dinner.

The others will be home soon.

*****

Yoongi wipes his dripping forehead with a sudsy hand and heaves a sigh as another bucket full of dirty dishes is placed on the platform near the sink.

He finally managed to get a job at the Chinese noodle shop that is a five minute walk from their new apartment. It's a good place and pays really well too. And honestly, Yoongi could wash a hundred peoples dishes is it meant reducing the burden to provide on Seokjin's shoulders.

He frowns at the thought. A day after moving in Yoongi had asked Seokjin where all that money had come from. But Seokjin doesn't tell him where he gets the money to pay for the rent. The bills. The clothes. Food. And Yoongi doesn't ask.

Because they need the money, and something tells Yoongi that the answer won't allow his conscience to take it

*****
Namjoon frowns at the haggard state of their eldest Hyung when he walks in the small one bedroom-bathroom apartment. He shoves off his school bag and walks into the kitchen, forgetting the book report he was supposed to work on for a while.

"Hyung" he mutters as he helps the boy wash the rice to be boiled. When Seokjin turns his attention to the boy, Namjoon can't help but notice how hollow his Hyung cheeks have become. Or how his cheeks are bruised as if he was groped. Or how all life has left his eyes. "You should rest a little. I'll prepare the rice."

Seokjin chuckles while ruffling his hair and Namjoon notes how his hand is lighter on his head than it should be. "You'll burn the house down Joonie-ya" he says teasingly and it's not like Namjoon has a retort to that. So he simply stays by his side. Watching.

*****
Jungkook comes home crying and everyone is in a state of panic because the boy never cries. He is hiccuping and even Seokjin looks at a loss at what should be done.

After almost half hour of soothing the child, of crying and carefully back rubbing, Jungkook finally speaks. "Junghongie hyung! He- He- He d- didn't didn't come to school! He didn't come today!"

A collective sigh of relief passes around the little room they are gathered in as Hoseok smirks down playfully at the boy, messing with his hair, "he'll be at school tomorrow Kookie-ya. That's nothing to cry about."

Jungkook shakes his head adamantly with a pot and rubs his eyes as he explains, "I- I heard Mrs. Yang spe- speaking to Mr. Kwon. Th- they they said that Junhongie hyung was not gonna c come ba- back! They said h- he died!"

No one speaks after that and Jungkook continues to cry until he can't cry anymore. The night passes in a solemn air and no one feels the need to fill the emptiness that has formed.

No one notices how Seokjin keeps avoiding Jungkook that night.

*****
Jungkook is sleeping in the bedroom while everyone sits in the living room frowning at the newspaper that Taehyung had brought back. They can't really afford it, but Taehyung's job as a newspaper delivery boy comes in handy at times. Same goes for Jimin's part time job as the milk-boy.

"It says that there's been an increase in the number of child escorts below the age of eighteen in the city by a forty-two percent." He continues reading the paper with a concerned frown etched onto his face. "i- it says tha- that some were reported lost but later found dead due to the careless... exertion. It says the... business... took place under the Karaoke place near the Myungdang district." He looks up at Yoongi, as if asking if he should go on with Jimin and Taehyung being present but Yoongi simply nods a an affirmative. "There's a list..."

He doesn't read on and something in the pit of their stomachs falls because they have an inkling why. They are scared it might be someone they know.

Jimin pulls the newspaper towards himself and starts reading out the names along with their respective ages listed. "Kim Jieun, eighteen. Park Junsoo, eighteen. Kim Jinhi, eighteen. Lee Minshik, sixteen. Nam Shihyuk, fourteen. Choi..." His lips wobble at the name and the tears start to fall.

Hoseok snatches the paper with urgency in his manner and reads out the name with a heaviness settling into his hearts and the others. "Choi Junhong, eleven."

He was Jungkook's best friend. He was just a year older than their Jungkook.

*****
Hoseok walks down the road with the huge bunny head of his costume tucked under his armpit. It's a tough job but it pays fairly well and he gets free lunch so Hoseok doesn't have many complaints. Besides, he gets to dance around and laugh under the mask so that's a bonus. As he walks down the alley though, his smile falters and he comes to an entire stop just beside the street signs.

Hoseok stares at the scene that plays out in front of him, in front of the red doors of the bar that sits underneath the Karaoke place, near the Myungdang district. He sees Seokjin enter the building, followed by a burly man and another boy about his own age.

Without a second to spare, he runs back to the only place he knows. Because he knows what Seokjin does now. And nothing has him more disgusted than finding out where Seokjin gets the money from.

*****
When Seokjin hobbles into the apartment it is Jimin that greets him. His eyes furrow with unsaid worry when Jimin breaks down in his arms. Crying. Shaking.

That night, Seokjin spends alone in the living room with Jimin crying his arms. Unaware why the boy's tears are falling. And Jimin's insistent cries of "I'm sorry, Hyung. We're sorry." sound foreign to the boy.

He can not begin to fathom the reason why they would be sorry. And maybe at one point during the night, when Yoongi, Hoseok and Namjoon and Taehyung, come out into the living room to sit beside his sleeping form, Seokjin wonders if they know. If they have found out what he does to get the money. But then he shakes his head in denial.

They'd be disgusted if they knew. Not sorry, but disgusted.

*****

It is when Yoongi is trudging back home, when he stumbles upon the scene of the crime. His eyes furrow when Seokjin approaches the tall, handsome man standing outside the red-doored bar and he spies a girl by his side. She looks around Jimin or Taehyung's age and Yoongi stops himself from marching down there and stopping Seokjin.

Because nothing is as it seems.

He watches Seokjin speak with the man, as the girl with ponytails beside him looks around confused. He then pushes the girl towards the man, taking the bundle of cash passed his way. Yoongi watches Seokjin divide the cash and give half of it to the girl, with an increasing sense of disgust. And just when Yoongi thought it couldn't get any worse, it does.

Yoongi leans closer to the yet unaware party and hears Seokjin speak to the girl with a sad edge to his voice, "you'll be fine Woonji-yah." He gestures, to the man behind her and says, "just listen to him okay."

She nods and enters the building and just as the man is going to follow suit, Seokjin stops him. "She's just eleven. Be careful please." Yoongi watches Seokjin heave a sigh when the man roughly agrees to do so and he can make out the glistening tears in his eyes as he says, "you said the same thing about Junghongie too. Please..." Seokjin's voice wavers, "please be careful this time."

The man doesn't answer and simply enters the building. 

And when Seokjin turns around, Yoongi is there. Tears on his cheeks. Disgust in his eyes. Questions stuck in his throat.

*****

"He was eleven! He was fucking eleven and you-" Yoongi finds himself incapable of continuing.

Seokjin, for once, let's guilt color his expression as he mutter back an apologetic reply, "I- I'm sorry. I'm so- so so so sorry."

"Say that to Jungkook who lost his best friend. To the families that lost their children. To the ones you fucking sold, you monster!" Yoongi takes his shirt in his fists and hisses back at him. "We were sorry. We thought it was you! We thought you were being scarified and we felt so guilty we wanted to die! But no!" He shoved Seokjin, who didn't try to stop the punches and kicks that came his way. "You fucking scarified others to keep yourself safe! You fucking killed others, younger ones, just to save your own skin!"

"Yoongi. Yoongi please lis-"

"No!" Yoongi yelled back when the boy started to speak. He held a hand out in warning and continued threateningly. "You really thought that kind of money would do us any good? You think we would want the money you earned by murdering the innocent!?"

"Yoongi, you don't-" Seokjin started in a pleading, desperate tone

"I don't need to understand." Yoongi ruffled his own hair and bit out bitterly, "what if it was me? Or Namjoon? Or Jungkook?" He bore his eyes into the elder's and asked, "would you still do it?"

Silence fills the empty alleyway and Seokjin can feel the static in the air. After what feels like forever he finally replies back in a clipped tone, "it's because I couldn't let it happen to you all that I had to do it."

Yoongi fisted his hands and muttered morosely, "then you should've done it yourself instead of letting eleven year old children get ruined and raped."

Seokjin let a tear fall from the corner of his eyes and replied. "I couldn't risk getting hurt, Yoongi. I can't do that. You all need me." he stares into the pale boy's eyes and with conviction says, "I don't care if you end up hating me for this." Seokjin heaves a shaky sigh and finishes, "but I needed to feed seven stomachs. And I can't trust anyone else with that."

Yoongi finds himself unable to argue.

Because it's true. 

*****

That night they get back home and follow their usual routine.

Namjoon finishes his homework early and then helps Jimin and Taehyung out with their Math homework. Hoseok tells Jungkook a bedtime story while stitching the few hundred dolls he was given by his boss for extra cash. Seokjin is cooking dinner as usual and Yoongi is massaging his wrists while he watches over the others.

And when night falls Yoongi finds himself the only one awake. His thoughts plaguing his sanity. And when he sees Seokjin get up from his bed near the corner table and walk out the apartment, he finds himself following. He finds Seokjin crying and he does the only thing that makes sense to him. 

He hugs him. Letting the boy cry out his pain, his sorrow. His guilt.

And Yoongi finds himself agreeing with Seokjin.

They needed Seokjin. He understands why Seokjin did it. Why he had to save himself. Why Seokjin couldn't let himself get hurt. Seokjin is their pillar. Their only anchor that keeps them grounded. And Yoongi doesn't blame him.

Because at the end of the day, the rent. The bills. Namjoon's tuition and Hoseok's medication. Their clothes. And Food. They depend on Seokjin for it all. And they can't afford to loose him.

So Yoongi doesn't tell the others. And neither does he stop Seokjin. Instead, he joins him.

 

 

Chapter Text

"I can't find Tae or Jimin anywhere!"

***

"Did you find them!?"

"No. I'm gonna drive down to the PC rooms. You go search near the church."

"'Kay"

***

"Taehyungie Hyung! Jiminie Hyung!" 

"Taetae-ya! Jimin-ah!

***

"Shit!"

"What!? What is it Dammit!?"

"Hy- hyung."

"What is it!?"

"Do- Donghyuk hyung..."

"Wha-"

"He saw them n- near... near the Karoake bar."

"What do y-"

"Near the bar with the red... doors."

"Shit!"

*****

"Stop staring at him" Taehyung murmurs from behind his textbook. He looks at his friend with a smirk and continues, "you look like a pervert out to rape him with your eyes."

Jimin rolls his eyes at the boy, before rolling up his own textbook to hit the boy's head with. He spares a glance at the brunette entering the student academy close by and heaves a sigh before shifting his eyes back at the math workbook in front of him. A silence settles between the two friends that is too thick to slice and too heavy to lift. They both know what the other is thinking yet words defy them as they search for consolation in each others steady breathing. 

"Yo! Chimchim! Tae!" calls out the voice of a comrade they wish they didn't have the pleasure of knowing, and they reluctantly turn towards him with a grimace. "Come on up boys. We've got a long day ahead of us" he says a little too joyfully.

Jimin simply drags his messenger bag, that had been Namjoon's second hand, higher up on his shoulder and makes to walk. Taehyung's weak whimper is what stops him.

"B- But..." he hears Taehyung say and it breaks his heart even though it isn't that big of a deal. The third older boy with blonde hair turns to him with warning hanging on the tip of his tongue and raises an eye towards Taehyung. "I- I have a- a test. I- I- I-" He is stopped short by the heavy hand that lands on his back in fake affection as the man pulls him into his side.

"Look here kid." He says with his eyes trained into Taehyung's. "I don't like repeating myself so listen well." When Taehyung nods jerkily he continues, "Out there, nothing is gonna work. None of those wishy washy big words are gonna come in handy boy. Money. That's all that's gonna get you anything at all. It's up to you but if you gonna waste your time here, be my guest. Just remember, after this, even if you want to tag along you ain't gonna get the chance to."

With that he walks away sending a meaningful glance towards Jimin. The two friends stand in front of the yet to open school gates. The early morning mist surrounding them as they contemplate what to do next. Taehyung eyes band of students exiting the academy next to the grocery in the far corner of their right. He earns silently before following the man with weak steps. Jimin stays behind a little longer, staring forlornly at the building. He sighs back a dream and drags his feet behind his friend. 

Their textbooks lie in the puddle in front of the school gates.

*****

"Do you think we lost them?" Hoseok whispers, heaving as he runs further ahead of the other boy. 

Namjoon spares a glance behind him mid-run and steps up harder as he bites out, "I think we did. But best not to risk it." 

They round the corner near the shingled grocery stores and run past the church exit. Hoseok presses the black handbag tight into his chest as he presses harder ahead. Soon they can make out the pawn shop snuggled between the bar and the liquor store. In a final sprint the two boys kick harder and enter the shop, pushing their bodies against the door, slumping down on the ground in a sweaty mess.

A man in his mid-thirties, sitting behind the counter, looks up from the trophy in his hands that he is no doubt polishing with cheap varnish and smirks at them. "Let's see what you got boys" he says. 

Namjoon pushes himself of the ground and plucks the bag out of Hoseok's hands. He throws the bag on the counter and shifts his weight over it too to have a look at the booty himself. 

A few lipsticks, some pens, a textbook, makeup supply and few hundred thousand won, is their loot and Hoseok lets out a smile at the meager amount of money seem to have managed to acquire. "Nice!" Namjoon mutters, his dimples on display.

"Okay boys. Here the money from the bag, like promised." says the man shoving the money into Hoseok's hands. He then scans the other items carefully before calculating something in his notepad. Looking up the man says, "the other stuff's pretty neat this time. Some really branded makeup supplies. I'm guessing you two had to run a lot for this loot huh?" When Namjoon shrugs his shoulders he chuckles opening his wallet and taking out the proper amount of cash and gives it to Hoseok. "Count it, that's thirty five thousand won with interest."

"Thanks, old man!" Hoseok says as he hands the cash over to Namjoon. 

They walk out the pawn shop, bringing their hoods up, and sprint back to their apartment. Their pockets full for once.

*****

Jungkook hides further into the gym locker, waiting with bated breath for the boys to pass his locker. He shoves his fist into his mouth to keep himself from making any noise, as he collects his legs underneath him.

"Where the fuck did that pimp run off to!?" calls out one of the burly boys that are looking around in the locker in a random order. Another one with purple highlights shrugs his shoulder and kicks door beside the locker in which Jungkook is in, making the fourteen year old shudder in fear.

"Oh Kookie Kookie!" The shorter one of the trio calls out. "Come out now Baby boy. We're not done yet."

"Come on out you brat!" Yells the first boy. And Jungkook is almost convinced that he can smell his fear. 

"I think he got away Minho."

The one named Minho kicks the locker Jungkook is in and Jungkook hits his head with the locker wall due to the impact. "That asshole's gonna regret this."

"Come on already. Let's head back to the karaoke bar."

And they leave. 

By the time Jungkook gets back home his knees are bleeding no more and he can swallow the pain enough to pretend that the beatings from today never happened.

He makes sure his blackeye is covered with enough concealer, and prays that Seokjin is too tired to notice.

*****

"I swear they get kinky-er each day" Yoongi mutters to himself as he smokes out a puff of smoke while counting the money in his hands. He crosses the crosswalk with his eyes still trained on the bundle of notes in his hands, taking his usual route back towards the trainyard. A few kids run past him, laughing at some video on their cellphone, and Yoongi spits out the cigarette with disgust as he trudges on. 

When he reaches their old buggy, he opens the door and enters without warning, knowing well enough that Seokjin would be waiting for him inside. And sure enough, when he enters, he sees Seokjin explaining to a girl and her mother the terms of the establishment they run. 

"It is not our responsibility what happens to you Ahreum-ah. We can not compensate for anything."

Ahreum, the girl hiding her face behind a curtain of black hair, looks up at Seokjin with pained eyes and nods her head as she murmurs back, "We- we- we really, really need the money."

Seokjin nods in understanding and flips through the clients booklet that both he and Yoongi carry as he sets up an appointment for the girl. Yoongi tumbles into the buggy and plucks the beer bottle off the ground as he settles himself into the corner, waiting for Seokjin to announce his next drop off location.

It takes five minutes of looking through clients specifications and Seokjin comes up with a suiting match. He gives Yoongi the address to the next drop off and Yoongi gets off the ground speeding out the buggy to get the last of today's works over. The girl rushes behind him, falling into steps with him. Her mother's eyes wet with tears as she sends her daughter away.

They walk around the quiet alleyways to avoid the eyes of the patrol security around the city, as they make way towards the more posh areas of Kangnam. After some time of walking quietly, with his hands shoved into his pockets Yoongi is brought back to earth from his daydreaming by the girl's timid voice.

"Can I... ask for a favor?"

Yoongi raises his eyes at the girl because, sure he's had to small talk to several of his 'workers' before but they had never asked him for a favor before. "Sure," he says with a shrug as they enter the elevator of the apartment complex they were given directions to. "But hurry it up we're almost here."

The girl eyes the blinking button that says 'Floor 9' on the elevator before turning to him.  "Can you kiss me?" he hears her whisper and nothing can shock him more than those words. He stands speechless as the elevator moves up floor 1, 2, 5. "Please?"

"Why?"

The girl looks away as she bites her lips and explains, "I- I- I want... at least my first kiss... to be from my will not and... not... for...ced."

Without warning, Yoongi grabs her chin and pulls her head up, dipping down and capturing her lips into his own. He sees her close her eyes as a tear trickles down her cheeks and it pains his heart as he pressed harder. In that moment, it doesn't matter that Yoongi likes boys as he presses gentle butterfly pecks on her lips, trying to make this kiss the most beautiful one she'll ever have. They kiss until 'Floor 9' is reached and he gives her the sticky-note with the apartment inscribed. 

They part ways and Yoongi never sees her again. His first kiss being too painful to be recalled.

*****

Seokjin gets up with a heavy sigh as he shoves the money into his coat pockets and closes the train buggy's behind him.

As he walks back towards their apartment he stops by the bakery where Jimin's and Taehyung's favorite egg-tarts are sold, buying a piece for both. He stops by the bookstore to buy Namjoon's calculator and buys Hoseok's meds on the way to home. While walking back he counts the meager amount he was able to make today and contemplates whether or not they need eggs right now or if he should cancel the eggs to buy himself some mittens instead. He decides against the mittens, because Jungkook has been growing lately and needs all the proteins he can manage to give the boy.

The walk towards the apartment is a dreary one and Seokjin finds no joy in the happy faces that greet him on the way. He shoves the packets higher up on his shoulders, when a hands grabs one of the packets out of his grips.

"Thanks Yoongi-ya" he says with a genuine smile and the climb the stairs to the rooftop apartment they live in.

The house is empty on arrival and Seokjin eyes the clock wearily because Taehyung and Jimin are usually back by now. "They're probably fooling around at the PC rooms again." Yoongi mutters as if answering Seokjin's unvoiced questions. 

Seokjin starts to prepare their dinner as Yoongi unpacks the grocery, placing everything in the small fridge they bought from the apartment owner. The silence that settles around them is suffocating but inviting and neither feels it in themselves to fill it either.

Yoongi, having finished his assigned chore, settles into the dinner table as he looks at Seokjin work from behind. He marks the torn sleeves of Seokjin's sweater and the cheap utensils he uses that burn his hand from being too hot. He sees how Seokjin winces every time he turns around too quickly because the shoes he is wearing are too tight for him. And it pains Yoongi.

It hurts to know that even after everything they do, even after joining Seokijin, he is still the only one suffering. 

"You shouldn't have given them pocket money hyung," Yoongi says after a while.

Seokjin turns around with a smile and chuckles as he speaks, "I'm earning this money for them, obviously I give it to them too!"

Yoongi frowns as he bites back, "but I don't see why you have to work your ass off just to buy Jungkook a cellphone!" He ruffles his hair angrily when Soekjin simple chuckles, "I mean I get it if you wanna give it to Namjoon because he needs to attend college and lectures and what not, but why Jungkook!?"

"Because he deserves to have things, if not everything, that friends his age have."

"What about you then!?" Yoongi yells but Seokjin remains unperturbed. They've had this conversation too many times. "Don't you deserve what every other twenty year old deserves!?"

Seokjin turns to him with a tired expression and asks, "what's your point?"

"My point is I'm tired!" Yoongi heaves as he stands up with a jolt. "Do we always have to live like this? Hating ourselves and finding solace only while we overindulge the younger ones!? Don't feel like dying when one of 'workers' as you put are being forced for money when you spend it on these brats like it's water!? Don't you feel disgusted!?"

"No."

And the conversation ends with the arrival of Jungkook who excitedly inquires about his cellphone, which Seokjin gleefully tells him they will pick up tomorrow from the store.

Soon Namjoon and Hoseok come back home too, and after waiting for Jimin and Taehyung for too long, everyone digs in the food Seokjin has made. Namjoon and Hoseok help set up the mattress and Jungkook is soon sleeping. And not too long after Namjoon and Hoseok let slumber take over them too.

But, Yoongi and Seokjin lie awake. Because by the time Taehyung and Jimin stumble back home it is two in the morning. Taehyung is dry-heaving and crying, while Jimin tries to calm the boy down with silent mumbles and a worried embrace.

Something is not right, and Seokjin can't hide the fear Yoongi's face is reflecting as they see the boys, quietly get under the covers like nothing happened.

Something is not right, because the next morning when he inspects their clothes there's a wad of cash in Jimin's school bag and there's blood on the hems of their pants.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The sight in front of him brings bile to his lips as Jimin watches the thirteen year old being blinded. Taehyung looks away but the screams of the boy still echo about the abandoned subway tunnel.

The thick wad of cash placed into their hands does little to console their guilt as they walk back home. The boy's screams following them. His blood stuck to their clothes.

*****

"I'm going to ask this just one more time, Jimin. Where did you get this money from?"

It's midnight and Seokjin and Yoongi have Jimin and Taehyung cornered outside their humble abode. The two seventeen and sixteen year old boys are making sure to look anywhere but the two elders in front of them as the mumble an excuse that even they can't here. This is the fourth time this week this has happened and Seokjin is a little too peeved about their absences.

"Speak up Jimin." Yoongi warns as he  eyes the boy. And honestly, Jimin almost gets scared. Because Yoongi never refers to him as Jimin.

"We..." the boy thinks his words through before continuing. "We-" Jimin doesn't even get a chance to word out a lie before Seokjin cuts him off.

The elder boy turns towards the youngest present and with a warm, welcoming smile refers to Taehyung as he asks, "where'd you get that money from Taehyung-ah?"

And it's true when people say some things never change. Because Taehyung hasn't changed much the past five years. Sure he's grown taller than Jimin now, and is no longer the snotty kid Jimin could call cutie. But, Taehyung is pretty much the same small boy that needs to be told what to say and has a hard time lying. And it's no secret that Taehyung still needs Jimin as his shield, if the way he hides behind Jimin is anything to go by.

And honestly, Seokjin hasn't changed much either. Just as he always has been able to, he can read the nervous energy zap between the two friends. He can sense Taehyung's fear and Jimin's agitation. He can feel Taehyung almost telling him the truth before Jimin butts in. "We started babysitting Mrs. Song's children. She... She offered to help with... Our... Financial state. So that we can attend the... academy."

It's a lie. Yoongi knows it is. Because no one knows Jimin better than he does. It's in the darting eyes and the licking of lips. It in the way the boy discreetly squeezes Taehyung's hands to make him stay quiet as he speaks. But Yoongi keeps his words to himself. He doesn't say a word as he leads a very livid Seokjin away, advising the boys to get to bed as soon as they've had their dinner.

For some reason, Taehyung vomiting at the mere sight of food has him up all night.

*****

Namjoon is carrying the lighter of the two bags of groceries because Jimin, being the filial younger brother, offered to carry the larger one. It's a Saturday and upon Seokjin's orders the two boys were out running errands while the other boys cleaned up the apartment. Jimin hums a melody that Namjoon smiles at, proud about the fact that Jimin has an angel's voice. The air between them light as it always has been.

"What are you two up to Jimin-ah?" Namjoon says after a while and the air turns heavy and cold as Jimin stiffens beside him.

"W- what do you mean?"

Namjoon rolls his eyes because the boy is just too easy to read. He grabs the younger boy's hand and leads him to a bench. Gesturing him to sit, he too takes a seat, and explains as Jimin tries to avoid eye contact. "Look, I know you and Seokjin hyung have had your ups and downs." He simple gives Jimin a 'don't even deny it' look when Jimin begins to speak and continues without giving the boy a chance to, "he's only worried about you. About Tae."

Jimin heaves an irritated sigh before looking up at Namjoon. Their eyes meet and Jimin knows that Namjoon he's hiding something. Something big, but he says it anyways, "honestly hyung this is crazy!" He ruffles his hair as e bites out annoyed, "are you saying we have to tell you everything!? We're fine! We're not injured and we're okay! And that's all that matters!"

Namjoon is stunned into silence at the sudden outburst. And he remarks that this is nothing new. Jimin had always been the kindest, most soft-spoken. But, when provoked, Namjoon, and the others, knew how hot-headed Jimin could get. And at times like this he really wishes Yoongi were here because he'd know exactly how to calm Jimin down. But Yoongi isn't there right now and Namjoon needs to get it through Jimin that they only care for him and Taehyung.

"I know you two aren't injured and are fine. But that's for now!" He supresses the urge to shake the younger boy and continued with fisted hands. "What if in the future something happens? Something huge. Something bad!? Like-"

"Then I'll take care of it!" Jimin huffs out and looks away, signalling the end of conversation.

But Namjoon is having none of it. So he turns the boy back around rather harshly and bawls out, "this isn't a bike that can be fixed. It's your and Taehyung's lives on the line! I don't know what you two are doing-"

"You don't need to either!"

"- but I know it's something bad!"

A hush follows after as both the boy's are heaving slightly from anger. The next time Namjoon speaks his voice is several octaves lower and is dipped in guilt and concern, which only hurts Jimin more. "I'm concerned about you. About Taehyung. We all are." He takes Jimin's shoulder in his grasp as he lightly squeezes it as he speaks, "we're worried for you two. We're worried like you were for Seokjin hyung all those years ago. When you found out what he used to do. And I'm terrified, God knows I am."

Jimin sees the hurt in the elder's eyes as he grabs his hand off of his shoulders as he mutters, "you don't need to be. You shouldn't be terrified for us. You have to be terrified of us."

And in that instant, he sees just how much Jimin has grown. His dark circles and hollowed cheeks. And the world of understanding shining behind his youthful eyes. He's still very much the stubborn, never give up Jimin he used to be. But, he's grown into an adult, no longer the boy with childish smiles. And when Namjoon tries to make him see sense one last time "stop acting like a child Jimin. Life, isn't a game. You can't take these things so lightly. It'll ruin you."

He sees just how much Jimin has matured, "exactly. Life isn't a game hyung. It doesn't give second chances or retries. I can't keep hoping for better days to arrive. I need to make them arrive. And you can't keep treating me like a twelve year old."

With that he gets up from the bench and starts to walk away. Carrying Namjoon's burden as well as his own.

The apartment, five minutes away, feels like a thousand miles farther, as Jimin drags his legs. Namjoon following quietly behind.

*****

Taehyung is busy wrapping Jungkook's textbooks with a brown paper cover to keep them from getting dirty again. Hoseok is the only other boy in the room, seeing as Yoongi and Seokjin had taken Jungkook out to get a cover for his new phone and Jimin and Namjoon were out bringing groceries. They are acting out a play to pass the boredom, something they've always done when left to themselves.

It is Hoseok's turn to say the dialogue next but he doesn't. When Taehyung looks back the breathe is knocked out of his lungs when he sees Hoseok lying limp on the floor, reaching out for his meds on the kitchen counter.

The younger boy races towards the other and reaches for the drug before opening the bottle and placing one capsule into the elder's mouth. Fifteen minutes is all it takes for the pain in Hoseok's temple to die out, but his retching in agony and his brutal cries are what remain in Taehyung's mind. This is an everyday occurrence, something Taehyung has seen happen since he was ten or younger. Since he's known the boy. Still, it doesn't make it any easier to witness his happy hyung suffering the unbearable pain.

"Stop looking at me like that." Hoseok's voice breaks through his unconscious replays of the countless times he's seen the elder in pain. When he looks at the boy again, there is smile on his face. Serene, as if he didn't just go through that ache in his head that almost killed him. "I'm fine. So don't worry okay?"

"How can I not?"

A silence settles between them. One that's heavy yet thin. Overbearing, but doesn't beg to be filled. "Is that why you're doing it?" Hoseok asks after a while. Emotions muffled under the glow of the setting sun. Taehyung knows what that 'it' Hoseok is referring to but he remain muted. "If you're doing it because you're worried about me, Jungkook, the others. Money. Then let me tell you..." Hoseok places both his hands on Taehyung's shoulders and turns him to look into his eyes. "Whatever you're doing is never going to be worth it. Never."

"How can you say that?" The boy's eyes furrow with confusion. And Hoseok is struck by just how much of a child Taehyung still is. He is innocent. Too naive. "Maybe it will all be worth the pain... and disgust." At that Taehyung looks away and down at his feet. Biting his lips to keep the tears at bay.

Panic rushes into Hosoek's blood at the implication. It couldn't be a repeat of Seokjin. It just can't be that! Ignoring the danger bells ringing in his ears, Hoseok answer back in a clipped tone, "if it were worth the pain and disgust, then you wouldn't need to hide it."

The conversation ends there as they get back to their individual chores. Others soon file in and Taehyung moves back into Jimin's side, just like he always has. Just before going to bed though, he moves in the place next to Hoseok and asks him what he's wanted to ask the entire evening since.

"Why won't you tell me to stop?" Taehyung whispers.

Hoseok's answer has him up all night. Staring at the sleeping form of Jimin's. "Because if I tell you two to stop, Jimin might run away. And you'll follow him. At least when you're with us, we'll be able to fix you two when you break."

He tangles his fingers with his friend's and closes his eyes. Replaying the last three words Hoseok had said, the entire night.

*****

Namjoon stares longingly at the paper in his hands. It's an audition form, given to him by one of the scouts from the underground club he waits tables at sometimes. They said man had heard him rap once or twice when the crowd died down on late Saturdays. He heaves a sigh as he crumples it up and throws it into the garbage can before walking towards his chemistry class.

An auditioning fee of a measly five hundred won. But Namjoon walks away from his dreams in favor of a scholarship into the college of Seokjin's dreams.

*****

Hoseok reads and re-reads the doctor's report before he hides it under the suitcase never to be seen again.

An operation is the last thing they need when Jimin and Taehyung are still in high school and him and Namjoon are in their last year before they are off to college. He spares a glance at Jungkook's shoes and sees that it's Taehyung's hand-me-down's which were initially Seokjin's.

Hoseok heaves a sigh as he gives a fleeting look at his medication. He could live of that for now. Just until Namjoon graduates from college. Just four more years of pain. Just until at least one of them has an actual paying job.

*****

Yoongi stares at the cash in his hand, twenty thousand won, as the man he was talking to walks away and into his car. He watches the person speed past him and finally let's his tears fall.

Another composition that shall never have his name. Another bout of his feelings exchanged for a few pieces of paper. Another set of lyrics that he had stayed up all night to write, traded for a few hundred won. Another song that he sold.

Another part of his dreams, lost.

*****

The sound of bones breaking and the boom of screams of agony echoing off the subway tunnel's walls don't sound like death calls to the boys. Not anymore. Jimin and Taehyung watch another kid, this time it's a girl, being marred.

They are amputating her legs so she can be used as a bait to attract the more affluent of the society. The man running the business shoves another roll of fifty thousand into their palms and walks away giving his workers instructions to place her near the cafe on Yangang street.

And as the two friends leave they vow to never take the route through Yangang street. Because tomorrow when the sun shines, the girl with the broken limbs will be sitting in the corner begging for dimes. Begging them for cash. And they know that no amount of cash they offer to her will ever compensate.

*****

"Seokjin-ah" the woman mutters over the phone. Voice shaking and words jumbled. "Come back. Please."

Seokjin doesn't respond back. He only listens to the woman weep from the opposite line. His face a perfect poker-face devoid of any humanly emotions. Half hour of her crying and Seokjin finally mutters a quiet, "I'm hanging up now."

"Seokjin-ah! Jin-ah!" the woman calls out in frantic desperation and Seokjin stops his hand from pressing the red button that will cut the call. When she knows he's listening to her she says, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry my child. I'm sorry." Her crying turns to uncontrollable sobs but she continues when Seokjin offers no words of comfort. "I- I- I shouldn't have le- left you at that or- orphanage. But my child! Please!" He hears her breathing erratically. Probably another asthma attack he's well aware of. "Please... Please come back, my son."

At the last word, Seokjin cuts the line.

It's four hours later that his family members come back. Four hours, that he has spent crying, rocking and beating himself, muttering "Umma" over and over.

But the boys don't know. It's been more than three years now, and Seokjin never tells.

*****

Jungkook bites his lips as he pushed into the alley wall behind the school's garbage disposal. He whimpers as a boy much taller than him, much bulkier than him, leans in close enough to let Jungkook smell the cigarettes in his breath.

"I told you not to run didn't I" the taller boy threatens in a whisper. And Jungkook shivers at the boy's cold breath that brushes against his collarbone.

The fifteen year old feels the boy's hard on against his thigh and it takes all his self-control not to start sobbing then and there as he stammers out an apology. The elder boy smirks as he tips Jungkook's head to the side and dips his lips into the bend of his neck. Licking, as he molests the boy.

When Jungkook gets back home, there's a smile on his face. The same of bunny smile his brothers crave. The smile that has them smiling. The smile that is too precious. Because he knows they thrive upon it.

And it hurts to smile, like it hurts to breath. But it's alright. Because everyone is sacrificing something. So he should too right?


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Chapter Text

"Where's Jimin, Taehyung?" Seokjin's voice asks in the dimly lit apartment, Namjoon and Hoseok standing close behind him and Jungkook crying beside Taehyung; his hands groping onto the shoulders of the boy sitting in front of him.

Taehyung tries to avoid eye contact. At least, that's what Seokjin thinks he's doing, because the boy looks in a catatonic shock when he looks up and all Seokjin sees in his eyes is red. "I- I don't know."

It's the stammer that confirms the elder's suspicions and Seokjin bends down on his knees to hold the boy's chin in his warm hands. His heart breaking a little when Taehyung flinches against the gentle touch. "Tell me what happened. I promise I won't get mad; I won't even say a word. I promise."

With trembling lips and bloodshot eyes, and shaking hands and breathless lips, Taehyung mutters fearfully, "h- he... Ju- Jungk- Jungkook... Bully. Bea- beat up... And knives... Bl- blood..." The boy breaks down at the words that he spills, into the arms of the elder boy who looks stunned by the revelation. Of course, nothing makes much sense now, but Seokjin knows enough. All he knew was that Jungkook was being bullied and Jimin somehow found out.

"Shhh... Sssshhh...." mutters the elder as he pulls the heaving boy into his embrace. Seokjin opens his arms to, gesturing Jungkook to come in too, and with a second’s hesitation the boy joins them. Seokjin turns to the two other boys and mouths them too go get some take out. Namjoon races out of the apartment with a quick nod but Hoseok stays behind. Sending a lingering look at the two crying and beaten and bloodied boys. But soon he too takes his leave. 

Seokjin soon pulls away from the two boys and pushes them into the mattress near the heater. He sits between the two boys and pulls the comforter over their bodies, bringing his hands up to card into their messy locks. As the boys close their eyes wordlessly, Seokjin takes in the damage they dealt.

There are marks on Jungkook's neck that look like hickeys and the front of his jeans has white stains as well his T-shirt. His hair is in a mess, like his clients are after a rather brutal session, and the boy's lips have bite marks that just don't make sense because Jungkook doesn't have a biting habit. They are swollen but it doesn't like he was punched. Seokjin ruffles the boy's hair calmly before taking his hands into his own, rubbing at the dry knuckles. He can feel ominous dents in the skin where his veins should be, just below the wrist joint, but he doesn't speak of it. And a odd, sinful smell wafts off his body.

Seokjin spares a look at Taehyung, who's eyes are shot open, staring at the ceiling in shock. The elder pulls his hands out of Jungkook's tight grasp, making the already asleep boy whine just a little, and places it over Taehyung's forehead. Tapping the skin like his mother used to, Seokjin silently asks the boy if he's fine. Of course, Taehyung doesn't reply. Instead he opts to turn his body to the side, snuggling his face into the elder's thigh. His tears, immediately wetting the elder's clothes.

As slumber takes the other boy too, Seokjin is left sitting in the cold. Praying to the lord that Yoongi found Jimin.

*****

"I knew I'd find you here." Yoongi speaks as he walks around the littered streets and in front of the academy building. Without a word exchanged, the pale boy takes a seat beside the boy, pulling out a hot pack and shoving it into Jimin's hands. There are tears in the boy's eyes and blood on is broken knuckles. "Waiting for your crush?"

Jimin simply leans his head on to the elder's shoulder and shakes his head a no, as he watches the last of the students milling out of the academy building. They sit in a comfortable silence for a while, Yoongi blowing hot breaths over the younger boy's fingers to keep them warm. 

A cool wind passes by them and Yoongi only tightens his hold on the boy's hands. Jimin finally speaks in a whisper laced with fear and shame. "He was molesting him, hyung."

It's like Yoongi's blood freezes at the word. His hands stop caressing the back of Jimin's and his lips stay open in disbelief. He tries to calm himself down with the thought that Relax, Yoongi. You don't know everything yet. It can't possibly be one of the boys. It- It can't be. But his sanity tells him that Of course, it's one of them. It must be. They came back together, didn't they?  They were crying, weren't they? They were scared, weren't they? Taehyung and Jungkook. It's one of them. 

"Wh- Who-?" Yoongi's lips don't dare speak anymore. His fingers don't stop trembling and every cell in his body feels like it's been poisoned. 

Jimin, wordlessly looks up from the elder's shoulders and the tears spills as he says a name. Yoongi's eyes watering before the boy even speaks. "-kook."

Flashback {Viewers Discretion Required. Graphic Non/Con}

Jungkook whimpers as the well-built boy moves towards him. They are in the middle of an alley; the dumpster is their cover from the road outside. The boy pulls at his sweater sleeves instinctively as he moves back with shaking legs. 

"Now, now, Kookie" the obviously elder boys tuts. His tongue jutting out to wet his lips as he takes in the younger boy's appearance. "Don't act coy with me~" The sing song tone he uses, sounds like the Devil's cry to Jungkook as the darkness of the alley creates shadows over his bully's face. "Or else I'll hurt you, baby~~"

Jungkook stumbles back to get away, falling on the ground as he stutters an excuse. "M- my hy- hyungs... Th- they come... H- here all th- the time... Th- they'll se- see us." It's a stupid excuse, even he himself knows that, but he'd do anything escape this now. The bully however, merely cackles at his words, pulling Jungkook up from the ground and shoving his back into the alley's concrete walls.

The elder boy pushes himself over Jungkook; his chest touching the younger boy’s, as he places his legs on either of his sides, trapping him. "Nice try, Kookie," he slyly taunts the shivering, whimpering boy. A wet tongue licks at the side of the boy's neck, making Jungkook tear up with disgust.

"Pl- Please... Please Minho." Jungkook's quiet prayers echo unheard along the dirty walls that surround them; being drowned out by the noise of the city cars, chattering citizens, and clubs.

Minho decides to ignore the boy's protests as he starts moving his hips against the boy’s front, making him gasp in surprise and churn in repugnance. He presses his tongue into the back of Jungkook's ears, leaving a wet line dripping from where he licked and moves his hands under his sweater. 

Jungkook tries to stop his wandering hands, but Minho bites at the boy's collarbone, drawing out blood, as he warns in the quietest of threats. "Don't you dare." The younger boy's hands let go of the elder's, and Jungkook brings them up in fists, holding them near his heart to not retaliate.

Minho continues to lick the boy's skin as his hands find their way up Jungkook's torso. The moment the boy feels the cold digits brush his right nipple, Jungkook jerks up and pushes the boy. He falls to the ground heaving and coughing and trying to keep his tears in, which fall nonetheless.

The elder boy ruffles his hair angrily, before kicking Jungkook in his stomach. Jungkook splutters but his tears don’t stop. Minho, with angry steps, bends down to the boy’s heights and gropes his hair, pulling him up. “One more time. One time you try to stop me, I swear to God I’ll rape the fuck out of you. Ya here me?”

With a jerky nod and a hushed affirmation Jungkook wipes his tears. Promising not to make strike back this time around.

Minho pushes back into the same wall; his movements showing a sense of urgency. He moves his hips against Jungkook’s thighs and the boy can already feel the bully’s hardened member.

But, Jungkook doesn’t protest. He lets Minho mark his neck and collarbones with infinite hickeys. He lets the boy bite his nipples, drawing out blood from the sore buds and even more screams from Jungkook’s lips. He lets the bully scratch his face as he goes all tongue.

Jungkook doesn’t push Minho’s sinful hands away when the boy shoves in his into his jeans; rubbing Jungkook limp member to get him to harden faster. Even when Minho pulls the boy’s jeans and boxers down and takes his dick in his hand, Jungkook doesn’t mutter a word. Only biting his lips because it disgusts him more than anything.

When Minho smirks at Jungkook as he rubs his member’s slit Jungkook looks away in shame. When Minho runs his nails along the part, Jungkook shoves his fists into his mouth. When Minho, without warning, pushes his fingers into the boy’s unprepared opening, Jungkook remains mum.

He snivels at the long tendons that carefully rub at his prostrate. And he whines with tears not streaming down his chest, when Minho’s tongue’s traces the boy’s opening. Neglecting the boy’s dick, the bully lathers Jungkook’s anus with saliva, grinning like a maniac at the obvious repulsion on his face.

He continues to work his tongue around the boy’s tight muscles but when Jungkook doesn’t seem any closer to an orgasm he pulls back. The anger on his face makes Jungkook want to hide.

Jungkook watches with horror as Minho hastens to unlock his belt buckle and pull down his pants. “No- No- No!” He whisper-yells, moving away as he pulls his sweater down. But Minho is too quick.

The bully pulls the boy by his hair, making him kneel in front of him. Jungkook shivers as the cold stone floor meets his knees and he isn’t even given a second to find his bearing when Minho shoves his groin into the boy’s mouth.

Jungkook gags around the meat and makes to pull away but finds himself unable to because Minho is groping his hair to keep him in place. “If you won’t cum, at least let me have the pleasure.”

Tears fill Jungkook’s eyes and he closes them before he starts to suck. The moans from the man above make Jungkook’s feel like a thousand leeches are running up and down it and he chokes on the thing.

Slowly, Jungkook feels he’s going breathless. And, just as he is about to gasp for air, two warm hands back pull him. And he opens his eyes to find Jimin hovering over Minho; a murderous look on his face.

Flashback Over

“How… How did you…?” Yoongi manages to imply before he finds himself unable to speak again.

Jimin bites his lips as he replies, “we were coming back from work when we heard someone crying for help.” He turns back to look at the now dark building and bite his lips as he recalls. “We… we saw… Everything… B- But… I didn’t know… I didn’t know it was Jungkook until he… He kneeled- “

“Don’t.” Was all Yoongi said and he got up with a start. Holding on to Jimin’s hands he pulled the boy back down the street he had come from. “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”

Jimin hushed down after that. He didn’t speak the entire way and for once Yoongi was glad. Because he didn’t know how he would fill the silence. Just before he entered their home though Jimin spoke and nothing hurt more than those words.

“You don’t want to know. But Tae and I have seen it happening. Jungkook has lived it, hyung.”

They quietly entered the one bedroom flat, unaware of the fact that Hoseok had been following them from the bus stop.

He’d heard it all. 


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Chapter Text

Jungkook is cooped up the bathroom, refusing to come out; hiding from Jimin and Taehyung. He is sobbing, Seokjin can tell from the sound of his broken breaths and the elder knows something is up when neither of the two boys run to pull him out.

“What’s going on here?” he asks the two standing in the middle of the living room. Hands on his hips, looking down at the two guilty-looking boys. Taehyung, as usual is hiding behind Jimin who, despite his obvious lack of build as compared to the younger, is staring back at Seokjin in silent determination. “Did something happen? Between you two and Jungkook? He’s been avoiding you two since last week.”

When neither Jimin nor Taehyung make to answer Seokjin heaves a sigh and runs a tired hand through his hair as he mutters a string of curse words and walks up to the bathroom door that is still slammed shut.

“Jungkook-ah! Kookie open the door!” Seokjin calls out to the boy as he raps his hands on the wooden door. “Go to school you two.” He tells them without turning back. “I’ll send him over soon.”

The fact that Taehyung rushes out of the room solidifies Seokjin’s suspicions. Jimin stays behind a while and exits with a mere whisper. “He’ll come around soon, right?”

And Seokjin merely nods sending Jimin off. He doesn’t miss the double meaning the sentence holds, however, reeling in the thoughts of what could’ve happened.

*****

Namjoon drags his feet across the kitchen floor. Him and Hoseok have a day off from school today but he finds himself alone in the apartment. Hoseok had ran off to his part time job as soon as the half-day was announced. The boy had been boiling water for ramyun when the he heard the front door open.

When he peeks out of the room he finds Jimin in the threshold, heaving. The boy doesn’t notice the elder as he rushes into the bathroom. The retching sounds from the bathroom making it clear that Jimin is vomiting. Just when Namjoon moves towards the bathroom, though, he finds the apartment door rattle, and stops in his tracks when Yoongi barges in.

“Jimin-ah? Jimin?” the pale boy calls out into the room before following his footsteps, leading into the bathroom.

Namjoon doesn’t move from his spot in the kitchen. Hidden behind the refrigerator, he can hear everything being said, making out the hunched over silhouettes of the boys.

“He won't even look at me, hyung” Namjoon hears Jimin whisper in a horrified voice. “He- He won’t even st- stay in th- the same room as m- me or Taehyung.”

The hidden boy imagines Yoongi must’ve embraced the boy into his arms, because Jimin’s cries turn into muffles against cotton. “He’ll come around, J- Jimin-ah. He- He’ll be fine.”

Jimin shakes his head a no, never moving his face away from the boy’s chest as he feebly responds, “he’ll never forget. He’ll never forget it.”

“He will, Jimin-ah.” Namjoon hears Yoongi try to persuade the boy. But, the way the elder’s voice trembles, makes it hard for even Namjoon to believe him. “We’ll help him. We’ll make him forget.”

The younger boy pulls back abruptly from the hold around him and with wild eyes shoots back at him. “He was almost raped, hyung!” Jimin’s voice echoes in the empty apartment. “Scratch that, he was raped. With what Tae and I saw, Jungkook was pretty much raped.” The boy's voice loses its conviction in defeat. "He'll never forget it."

Everything being said after that sounds like a blend of multiple traffic noises to Namjoon, as he slides down on the kitchen floor. He doesn’t know when the two other boys left and he doesn’t react when the water boils over the pot, extinguishing the burner.

He doesn’t move from the spot until Jungkook comes back from school.

*****

Yoongi watches Jungkook stare at the plate of food in front of him, not moving or eating it. He just stares.

“Kookie-ya?” Seokjin calls him and Yoongi doesn’t miss how Jungkook stiffens at the man’s voice. When Jungkook turns towards the elder, Seokjin smiles and replaces the bowl of rice with a hotter one. “Eat up, Kookie.”

“That’s what he called me,” Namjoon hears Jungkook whisper. And had he not been sitting next to the boy, all his attention focused on him, Namjoon would’ve missed the confession.

Seokjin frowns and slides in the chair opposite the boy and asks in a hushed+ voice, “what was that, sweetie?”

Namjoon sees Jungkook fidget under the elder’s eyes, his words, and hurries to reply on Jungkook’s part, “he said he’s not hungry.” Jungkook looks at him in shock but doesn’t show any other emotion.

Seokjin frowns at the interruption but ushers the youngest into the living room nonetheless. He makes sure to tuck the boy in. When he moves to walk away though, he’s astonished to find Jungkook clutching the hems of his pajamas, silently asking him to stay.

The elder is sure that something is seriously very wrong, because Jungkook isn’t clingy. But, the elder doesn’t ask, instead settling down beside the boy cross-legged. He echoes loud enough for all to hear. “Hoseok and the boys are late today, huh?”

Yoongi’s voice travels through the kitchen as he speaks over the clatter of chopsticks. “Jimin is out cooling off, I’m picking him up in an hour or two. I don’t know about Hoseok or Taehyung.”

“What’s Jimin cooling off for?” Seokjin wonders aloud, not missing how Jungkook looks away from him, biting his lips. “Namjoon? You know where Hobi or Tae are?”

Namjoon doesn’t reply instead humming a no. Seokjin’s frown grows ever so slightly before Jungkook diverts his attention back to himself.

The younger boy takes the elder’s fingers and places them in his hair. “My head hurts, hyung.”

And Seokjin smiles, carding his fingers through the brown hair.

*****

It’s midnight by the time Hoseok and Taehyung are back home again. Seokjin is sleeping beside Jungkook with Namjoon, Yoongi and Jimin following right behind them. When Yoongi had walked Jimin back home, Jungkook had already been asleep. And Jimin was thankful for the instance, because he still couldn’t face the boy.

Namjoon wakes up at the sounds from the kitchen, rousing both Yoongi and Jimin from their slumbers too. The three boys look between each other with knowing looks and slowly gather themselves up and into the kitchen.

They find Hoseok half inside the fridge, looking for food no doubt. Jimin, of course, makes a beeline for Taehyung, who is sitting at the table eating the cold noodles with shaking hands. The elder of the two friends gently takes the utensils from his friend’s hands and asks the boy to wait while he reheats the dish. Taehyung only nods his head wordlessly.

Hoseok staggers back to the table, carrying a box of kimchi and Namjoon follows bringing out the bowl of rice to reheat beside Jimin. Yoongi refills their glasses and offers to make them tea.

There’s an unvoiced question hanging in the air around them, which Hoseok fills as soon as a spoonful of the warmed stew runs down his throat.

“We’ve got him.”

******

{Viewers Discretion Required. Graphic Non/Con}

Taehyung hides behind the pillow in the locked karaoke room, whimpering as he tries to block out the cries for pity and screams for release. The angry grunts and the sound of skin slapping against skin echoes off the walls as the smell of sex blurs his senses. A tear slips down his eyes as he glances at the group of boys.

Reliving the scene that he had witnessed a few days ago, Taehyung finds comfort in the rape that takes place in front of him.

He doesn’t feel disgusted when Yoongi bites painfully into the younger boy’s nipples, drawing out blood as he fondles his exposed body in angry strokes. Taehyung doesn't look away when Namjoon scratches his finger against the slit in Minho's member. And he surely doesn't mind when Hoseok forces his dick into Jungkook's bully's mouth.

Taehyung watches with stifled satisfaction as Jimin blotches Minho’s skin with cigarette burns. When Jimin shoves a beer bottle inside him. When Jimin cries while biting the bully’s crotch. When his friend bites down the boy’s tip painfully before grabbing Minho’s base to prevent him from orgasming. Taehyung simply watches as Jimin, his sweet friend Jimin, turns into a monster.

And when it's Taehyung's turn, the boy doesn't hesitate to ram his fingers into Minho's unprepared hole. He doesn't hesitate to let his fingernails make the boy bleed. Taehyung doesn’t dither when he dives his tongue into the boy’s perky hole, flouting his cries of protest. He doesn't waver to molest Minho because he had done the same to Jungkook. Because Jungkook is back home, crying. Because Jungkook won’t forget.

It is only when Seokjin looms over Jungkook's attacker; when Seokjin pulls his own member out and strokes it tauntingly. It's only when Seokjin thrusts into the pleading boy with utter brutality, that Taehyung looks away.

Minho screams and yells and cries and tries to move away but Yoongi has his hands locked above his head and Hoseok and Namjoon each claim his legs. The boy's cries are muffled by the mouth gag made up of their socks. His eyes bloodshot, implore Taehyung to let him go. To stop the pain. And Taehyung almost feels sorry for the boy. But Jimin starts speaking, and somehow, he doesn't feel guilty, anymore.

"This is punishment" says the shortest boy of the group. He doesn't look at the scene being played out in front of him, and Taehyung follows suit even though the image has burned itself into his memory. "If Jungkook can't forget. You won't either."

A final groan of pain elicits Minho's lips as he faints through his orgasm. Jimin and Taehyung don't turn around though. They can here Seokjin pull out from the boy with a "Pok!" They can here the elders put their clothes back on. The sounds of belt buckles being tightened and zips being pulled up sound more sinister than whispers in the night.

Jimin waits for a cue, for someone to ask him to turn around. And Taehyung waits for Jimin to turn. They can hear shuffling and movement behind them but Jimin and Taehyung dare not turn. They hear sobs and "Ooofs" and whispered "Hurry up".

So, when Jimin makes to turn, offering help, Yoongi shoots him down harshly. "Don't turn around! We'll do it, so don't turn." And Jimin is sure even Taehyung would know why they are not allowed to not turn.

After an excruciatingly long hour of hearing groans of pain and muttered prayers and hushed movements and scraping of furniture against the tiled floor, a hand that is placed on Jimin's shoulder makes the boy turn and Taehyung turns back in tow, frightfully grabbing Jimin's hands.

They don't know what they'd expected, but there are no signs of a gang rape in the room. The scattered bottles have been thrown into the trash and the microphones have been placed in their proper ports. The blood that stained the couches, Jimin notices, has been washed off with alcohol and the smell of sex seems to be vanishing rapidly too.

As they spare a glance towards a sleeping, fainted, Minho, Jimin can’t help but gape. His lips are bleeding, Hoseok’s semen dripping down the corners. His crotch has bite marks and so does his opening, and Jimin feels pride in his and Taehyung’s ministrations. His entire body is marked with hickeys that Namjoon and Yoongi left. And he looks dead to the world after Seokjin took him.

Jimin smiles ruefully at their work before he exits the entertainment room.

Later that night they all have dinner together and Jungkook has a breakdown that takes hours to cure. He pleads them all to stay away. His fingers starting to tremble but he doesn't know why.

When Seokjin nears the boy, Jungkook goes into a full-on panic attack. He dry heaves and hyperventilates. And Jungkook's that feels like his throat is constricting. He turns into a fallen leaf, autumn leaf. Shaking in fear when the elder boy goes to sit beside.

Muttering inaudibly, even though all the six boys understand. "Y- you smell li-like him."

Seokjin takes a bath at four in the morning. Jungkook finally stops crying and falls asleep.

And when Jimin looks, everyone is asleep. Except they aren't. Because each one is reliving the horrible act they performed today.

Yoongi is thinking of the disturbing things he did to the boy. Taehyung thinks about how he'll never be innocent again. Hoseok thinks about how today was the first time he let someone to touch him that way, except that too was forced. Namjoon is thinking about how disgusted he is and how he'll never look at himself the same again.

And Jimin. The boy, as he lies awake knowing well that the others are too, thinks about how he doesn't regret it. And he's pretty sure the others don't either. He isn't wrong in thinking so.

And finally, Seokjin. The boy thinks how his first time was used for revenge. And how he doesn't regret either.

*****

“We’re moving in three days, boys,” Seokjin exclaims over the breakfast table. All six heads turn to him and smiles reassuringly. “Don’t worry, the rent isn’t much. We’ll be closer to the city’s center too.”

Silence once again falls over the boys, but before it gets uncomfortable Yoongi speaks. “Why are we moving suddenly?”

Seokjin, once again, smiles and adds more pancakes into Jimin’s plate as he explains, “the owner of this building is selling his property and all of his tenants are moving out. He’s offering them money or another apartment in the city’s center as compensation.” He shrugs as he continues, “I figured we needed a roof over our heads more than the money so I said we’d move in.

When he sees no one responding, Yoongi draws a breath. “Good. That’s good.” He stares at the boys around the table, before staring at the small kitchen and then back at the boys. “We can leave all our bad memories here and move.”

And, to everyone’s shock, Jungkook is the one who punctuates the suggestion with a reply. “Ye- yeah.” He looks at the two boys sitting farthest away from him at the corner of the table. When he catches Jimin’s and Taehyung’s eye, Jungkook lets himself smile a tiny smile. “Lets… let’s move on.”


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Chapter Text

Jungkook is not okay.

Seokjin stares helplessly at the boy hunched up in the bathroom, dry heaving. Crying as he tries to hide in the corner of the pristine white room. He’s had another panic attack. Much like the first one he’d had three weeks ago after his last encounter with Minho.

Jimin stands on the threshold of their new apartment’s bathroom, Taehyung behind him. The two friends watch how their youngest friend screams into his hands, shivering and whimpering. And it’s clear that nothing has changed. Punishing Minho that way, did nothing. Moving away from it all, did nothing. And suddenly it dawns upon Jimin, that maybe, it never might.

So, much to the chagrin of his own weak heart, Jimin turns away from the sight. Taehyung lingers a while, but he too moves away. Jungkook’s screams follow them even after they leave the house.

***

“How are your classes going?” Yoongi asks Namjoon and Hoseok as he follows them to the grocery store. Hands shoved into his pockets.

Hoseok turns to the man and smiles, albeit not too bright, and exclaims in mock excitement. “It’s great, Hyung! I took up a job at the campus too. Barista. Free Food!”

Namjoon lets out a giggle at the boy's ecstatics and nods as he turns to the eldest. “Yeah! And I registered for that scholarship too! We won’t have to pay my tuition from the next semester onwards if everything works out.”

Yoongi smiles ruefully at the two as they turn back around and start chatting about some new song they’ve heard at the college cafeteria. “You know I’m proud of you two, right?”

Namjoon sniggers and calls back without turning around, “Hyung, you tell us that almost every other day!”

“Yeah! You told me that yesterday when I was taking the trash out and jumped over a puddle.” Hoseok taunts while howling. “Stop being cheesy, Hyung!”

They get back to their chattering and Yoongi can make out some tidbits about the great tunes and the amazing compositions by some HipHop group and he blocks the words out. They remind him of his own compositions that never made it.

As they enter the store the elder boy points to a corner near the instore music department yelling over his shoulders, “you guys get the stuff. I’m gonna browse the new releases. Come get me when you’re ready to pay.” The two nod and are off in a second, and Yoongi strolls towards the CD’s sitting on racks.

He runs his fingers down the spine of the hard, plastic cases. Admiring the artworks of some, while browsing through the names of other new debuts. His attention, however, is soon diverted by the headphone on the side saying ‘Try Me’. Drawn by the little boy humming to an awfully familiar tone, the pale boy reaches over to the second set of headphones.

He reads the display label that describes the song excerpt playing, as he places the device over his ears.

Producer Bang Si Hyuk is back with another mesmerising tune! A smooth violin accompaniment followed up with soft percussions and hints of piano, this is another piece of artisan by the mysterious HipHop group DNH!

 

And the song. The strings and the piano that melds together. The drums that echo in the background, make Yoongi’s blood run cold and goosebumps litter over his arms. It’s his song. His recent composition. The one he’d written the night they’d avenged Jungkook. The violin blares and tears flow down his cheeks as he shoves the headphones off.

And while they walk back only two things resound in his mind. Producer Bang Si Hyuk. And DNH.

***

“Jungkook-ah” Namjoon calls the boy, pulling him out of his bed by the hand. When the boy rouses the elder chuckles, and pulls him behind him, out into the gallery. He sits him in the hammock made from bedsheets and ruffles his hair. “You feeling better now?”

“Yes.” Jungkook’s voice is hoarse from the all crying in the morning. His eyelids still puffy.

And Namjoon leaves it at that. Because Jungkook isn’t okay and he knows that. And asking him over and over won’t change the fact. Call him a practical prick, but he knows how Jungkook’s mind works. It’ll take time and patience. And he knows that.

“Is there any new video game you wanna play?” the elder asks. Leaning into the chair in the gallery. “You want that new Tekken CD? I heard the seventh edition is out now.”

Jungkook shifts in the soft hammock, covering himself in the futon Namjoon had brought out with him. He shakes his head in a negative, and Namjoon nods in understanding. He won’t push the boy. But he’ll keep trying nonetheless.

“It’s cool then.” He smiles and starts rubbing easy circles in the boy’s knees. “You want anything else? Comics? Anime? New cellphone?”

The younger boy once again shakes his head and leans further into his futon. And had it been Hoseok, he’d continue asking. If it had been Jimin, he’d get angry and walk away with tears in his eyes. Yoongi would’ve started talking about the incident; explaining to Jungkook how it didn’t change a thing, how he was still okay. And if it had been Taehyung, he would’ve started crying then and there. Seokjin would’ve ignored the boy’s denial and started listing out other things that Jungkook might want.

But, this is Namjoon.

The elder hums in response and leaves it at that. They sit in a calming silence for a while before Jungkook speaks. The silence lifting like fog on a sunny day.

“Hyung” the boy whispers and Namjoon turns to the boy slowly. He doesn’t want to show how eager he is because Jungkook finally seems to want to talk. “Have you heard this… new song? It’s… called Two, Three.”

Namjoon frowns but quickly fixes his features. Raising his eyebrows in invitation. “No. Why? Do you like it?”

For once, Jungkook doesn’t shake his head but nods instead. “Yeah.” He smiles. And Namjoon can feel tears prickle his eyes because Jungkook is smiling. It’s been three weeks since Minho did what he did, and Jungkook is smiling. He almost wants to scream and call everyone out to see the bunny smile, but he stops himself. “I heard it… in the bakery. When I was coming… back from school… with Seokjin Hyung.”

Somehow, in some surreal world, Namjoon can see the sky shining golden as he watches Jungkook’s eyes light up. He runs his hand through the boy’s messy locks and pulls out his phone. “Let’s hear it then. Good thing this place comes with free Wi-Fi.”

But, before he can even slide open his couple cell phone that he bought with Hoseok ( “Because you two are college students now and need to keep in contact” Seokjin Hyung had said. ), Jungkook is singing.

His hands stop at the power button as Namjoon looks up from the LCD screen. Jungkook has his eyes closed, legs pulled to his chest. A soft breeze plays with his hair as he sways with his. Lips curling up in a smile, a rare, rare smile, as he sings familiar words.

They are words that Namjoon is very familiar with. They are words he had inscribed on napkins when he used to work part time at the underground bar. Words that he had poured out his heart into. Words he had wiped off tables with. Words he thought he’d washed away with cheap alcoholic soap bars. Words he’d written for the very boy who was singing right now.

Soon, Jungkook stops singing, sighing at the end of his melody. And Namjoon can’t help himself asking, “wh- who’s song, is it?”

Jungkook shrugs and smiles as he lies into the hammock looking away at the setting sun. “Some band named DNH. No one knows much about them, though. Just that they’re hidden artists working under some rookie company.”

“… you know who wrote the lyrics?”

“Like I said. They are hidden artists. No one’s heard of them.” Jungkook pouts as he turns to the elder. “I wish I did, though.”

Namjoon whispers to himself as they head back in. “I wish you did too.”

***

Seokjin leans against the kitchen counter, watching a video on his cellphone. Hoseok stands beside him, cutting open an avocado. “Hobi-ya” the elder calls to the younger boy and Hoseok turns to him with a smile.

“Yeah, Hyung?”

Seokjin gestures to the cellphone in his hand and waves the boy over. “Check this out. This is beautiful.” Hoseok slides next to the elder and tilts his head comically watching the LCD. “It’s some rookie group called DNH.”

The video starts with a street view, Hoseok recognises the alley in the right. It’s the one that leads to their old home. In the middle stands a masked man that looks scarily familiar. His face hidden behind a spiked mask, much like the one Hoseok keeps hidden in his backpack.

And then the music starts. A sweet melody fills the kitchen, as a warm voice starts the song. The boy in the middle starts moving. Spinning his body first before dipping his hands down then pumping it up in a fluid push. The dancer lifts his head to the sky, then slides down his knees before spinning in a smooth b-boy move. He pushes himself off the ground, kicking his legs out and turning midway as he jumps up in a clear curve. Dropping to his knees again, the boy touches his feet and grabs his chest in faux pain. As the song nears its end, the boy heaves through the mask, beads of perspiration trickling down his forehead, as he wipes unshed tears from his eyes and waves at the crowd. Ending the dance with a final hook of his hands and a butterfly pose.

“What do you think?” Seokjin echoes. Grinning at him. Hoseok tears his eyes away from the screen and looks at his Hyung with wobbly lips. Seokjin can see the emotion in the boy’s eyes. He cups the boy’s face and croons at him. “Hobi? What happened?”

“W- what was that… what was that Hyung?”

Seokjin, increasingly worried now, wipes Hoseok’s tears gently and pulls the boy into a hug. Rubbing his nape as he replies, scared. “It’s just a music video Hobi. Just a video.”

Hoseok doesn’t question after that. His voice seems to have lost itself. He both wants to know and doesn’t as well. Because everything comes back to him.

How he had cried that day. It was the day he’d learnt what happened to Jungkook. He’d been walking back home after slaving an entire day at the PC rooms and everything hurt. Angry at himself, and the world in general, the boy had donned his mask and let his feelings out on the street.

That night, he’d brought home more money than his part time job had made him. After that night, he’d started dancing. And he’d done it ever since. It was a way to earn money. Nothing more. To him, it was merely a means of survival.

For someone to call it beautiful, Hoseok couldn’t believe it. Somehow, he didn’t want to. Because Jungkook had been hurt that day.

 




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Chapter Text

Taehyung watches from the window sill of his new home as Namjoon and Hoseok stumble back into the entrance of the apartment building. It's been a month since they've moved in but the place doesn't feel any more of a home than the train buggies they'd lived in. Or the pension where things went bad. Turning his attention back inside, Taehyung can't help but sigh morosely at the empty apartment that greets him.

 

Yoongi and Seokjin are out working their new jobs as a swimming pool cleaner and house servant, respectively. Jungkook is locked up in his bedroom, weeping. Taehyung has just come back from school and Jimin is missing. The boy frowns at the knowledge because he remembers leaving for school together but not coming back.

 

He heaves a sigh and pushes himself up from the chair he is seated on and makes his way towards one of the two bedrooms facing each other. He can hear the muffled groans coming from the bedroom opposite to the one he's standing at but doesn't make a move. Because it's been more than a month and they've tried everything.

 

He's accepted the fact that Jungkook won't ever forget.

 

*****

 

Namjoon watches the water boil in the kettle as he holds the ramen bowl in anticipation. His stomach grumbles in hunger and he winces as he eagerly grabs the hot kettle by the hilt. It's nearing 10 but Seokjin is still out working away on his second shift. Yoongi, too, is working the mop in the washrooms of the pool he's been appointed to clean. Hoseok is busy studying for a test for tomorrow and Taehyung is hopeless when it comes to cooking. Jungkook isn't an option. And Jimin hasn't come back home yet.

 

A frown creases his forehead as he reminds himself to ask the boy where he's been when he gets back. Though, not knowing when he's going to get back is going to be an issue in itself. His thoughts are soon cracked into, however, when the whistle atop the kettle hollers. He quickly pours the steaming liquid into four individual cups and grabs two pairs of chopsticks, making his way back into the main bedroom.

 

Entering into the bedroom he shares with Hoseok and Yoongi, Namjoon smiles, relieved to find Taehyung and Jungkook sitting beside the other boy. Taehyung is working on an assignment while Jungkook clutches onto a plush blanket, earphones stuck into his ears.

 

“Put away your books, Taehyung.” He declares, smirking at the boy when he looks up. “It's dinner time.” He sways the tray he's holding dramatically.

 

“Thank you!” Hoseok declares, briefly looking away from his textbook as Taehyung carefully puts away his own. “I'm famished.”

 

Taehyung grins at the pair as Namjoon settles down beside Hoseok and passes two bowls and a pair of chopsticks towards Taehyung. The boy grabs at the two bowls eagerly and makes a quick work of mixing the broth with the noodles, before pulling up a huge mouthful and blows at it. He then turns towards Jungkook, whose eyes are closed as he sways to the beat of some song and nudges the boy to get his attention. When Jungkook quirks an eye at him, Taehyung brings up the noodle-laden chopstick up to his lips and mouths at Jungkook to “eat up.”

 

Jungkook smiles a tiny smile and opens his mouth, taking the offered food, silently. Only after Jungkook swallows his first mouthful, does Taehyung proceed to eat his own. They share a bowl, Taehyung feeding Jungkook while the boy remains mute. And then they share another. And when he looks around, he sees Namjoon and Hoseok have roofed through their own first bowl, close to finishing their second.

 

Namjoon blows at every bite-ful before he places the noodles into Hoseok’s mouth. Talking quietly over the slurps. Explaining a tough equation. Wiping at his friend's lips because Hoseok’s eyes are fixed at the open textbook in front of him.

 

Taehyung smiles at the happy image before his eyes land on the alarm clock next to the bed. It's nearing 12 and Jimin is still not home.

 

*****

 

When Yoongi hobbles into the apartment it is way past midnight. He squints at the wall clock on the kitchen wall to see it reflect the time being 10 minutes to 2. The quiet snores that echo the living room tell him that Seokjin is sleeping on the couch. He bypasses the kitchen, having already had his dinner on his way back, and makes his way to the two bedrooms.

 

Peeking into the first bedroom, he can make out the steady up and downs of Namjoon’s chest, as he lies under the covers. “Hobi,” he calls out to the other boy, who is still working on his assignments. When the boy looks up, Yoongi can make out circles darker than his own coloring the lower lids of Hoseok’s eyes. He leans his head on the door and sighs with a smile. “Go to bed, Hobi. You can finish the rest in the morning.”

 

Hoseok, rubbing sleep away from his eyes, grins at the elder. “I will. Just let me get through this unit. I promise.”

 

Yoongi rolls his eyes and crosses the threshold of the room, towards Hoseok. He ruffles his fingers through the boy’s hair, carding his fingers in a calming manner until the boy closes his eyes for the briefest of moments. “Namjoon is waiting for you to sleep, Hobi. Don’t be up too late, okay?” He reminds the boy before turning around and exiting the bedroom.

 

As Hoseok watches the elder exit, he turns to eyes Namjoon sleeping in the bed. His hands, tightly clutching onto Hoseok’s night clothes. Hoseok closes his textbooks after that and curls up next to Namjoon’s sleeping form.

 

*****

 

Yoongi stands in front of the door for a little too long before his guts allow him to turn the handle. The last time he entered without a knock, Jimin and Taehyung were fighting after the elder had yelled at Jungkook for crying. He bites his lips and leans into the door. Taehyung is sleeping, snuggled under a strawberry hand-me-down blanket. The elder walks towards him and tucks the blanket under his feet, just like he knows he likes it, before making his way to the figure sitting on the window sill.

 

“Kookie?” Yoongi pats the boy’s head after calling his name out, and Jungkook turns to him with a serene smile. It’s serene, the smile Jungkook is sending his way; it’s not true. But, Yoongi will take what the boy is willing to give. He is thankful for even the boy’s fake smiles. Because it’s been days since he’s seen anything close to the real. The fact that Jungkook can fake it even, is immensely gratifying.

 

“You’re late?” Jungkook whispers and it hurts Yoongi. Because it’s been so long since Jungkook has spoken above the murmur he seems to have adopted since the incident. His real voice, Yoongi fears, is lost forever. “Where’s my treat?” There’s faux mischief in his voice but Yoongi is content with it too.

 

The elder chuckles before reaching into his jacket pocket and plucks out a chocolate bar. He teasingly pulls at the boy’s ears before shoving the sweet in his hands. “Here you go again, you brat.”

 

“Thankyou!” Jungkook whisper-yells. So very different than the loud declarations of gratitude Yoongi is used to. Then again, Jungkook isn't loud anymore. His presence, unlike previously, can no longer be felt in the room. Not until he's sought out.

 

They sit like that for a while. Jungkook biting into the candy, staring out the window at the steaming traffic that makes pink noise into the apartment in the wee hours of the night. The breeze that passes through the window, is not cool but stuffy and warm. The traffic under the window too loud but calming. Jungkook leans his head onto Yoongi’s shoulder and continues biting his chocolate, letting out a hum of delight from time to time.

 

And honestly, this is what Yoongi lives for. For Seokjin getting some well-deserved sleep. For Hoseok working hard enough to forget his troubles; Namjoon staying up with his friend until he can’t stay up anymore. Taehyung never losing his innocence and still being adamant about sleeping in the strawberry blanket even though he’s outgrown its length.

 

For Jungkook smiling for once when Yoongi isn’t looking.

 

“What are you thinking, Kookie?” Yoongi whispers into the boy’s hair. Bringing his arms up to rest on the boy’s shoulders. It’s calming the way the boy melts into the side embrace. “I know you’re thinking. I can almost hear it like static.”

 

“Jimin Hyung hasn’t come back yet, Hyung.”

 

*****

 

“Missing your lover boy again?” Yoongi smirks as he slides into the seat in the bus stop opposite the Academy building. He nudges Jimin’s shoulder and snickers a little too lightheartedly. “Why don’t you just go and tell him already. You’ve been staring at him for what? Five years now?”

 

Jimin looks away from the streams of students entering and exiting the academy building and looks at Yoongi who is staring at the scene himself. He watches the moonlight filtering through the glass shed of the bus stop as it falls sinfully, elegantly, over the elder’s face.

 

He smiles.

 

“It’s not a boy I come here for, Hyung,” Jimin smirks, rolling his eyes.

 

A shocked expression colors Yoongi’s features and he turns to the boy with raised eyes. “I thought you liked boys! You like girls!?” There's a hint of despair in his tone that Jimin can make out but rebuffs the idea of it.

 

Instead, Jimin shakes his head in denial and turns back to face the last of students exiting the building. “I come here for the dance studio.”

 

“The studio?” Yoongi sounds incredulous. Because there's no way Jimin goes there for a stupid dance studio.

 

The younger boy nods his head as he starts swinging his legs. “I used to come here with my brother.”

 

A cold emotion settles into Yoongi's spine and he turns to stare at the academy building with water rimmed eyes. “Oh” is all the elder finds himself capable of voicing out before he looks all-day guiltily.

 

“Before the accident. Back when I wasn’t an orphan,” Jimin begins. Voice thick with emotions. Words wavering dangerously. “I remember my parents dropping me and Jisung at the Academy. I must've been, seven. Jisung, five.” The murmur of the street vendors and the quiet of the streetlight closing for the night is the only accompaniment to Jimin's words. “I'd fought with him the day of the car crash.”

 

Yoongi looks up at Jimin's words. Fear and anticipation are brimming in his eyes. Because Jimin never tells. Because he's never heard Jimin's story. None of them have.

 

“I didn't…” Yoongi searches his mind for something sensible to respond with but comes up empty-handed.

 

“I used time blame myself, you know?” Jimin muses at no one. He chuckles dryly as he relays, “I still think it's my fault he died.”

 

The elder clenches his fist at the guilt that Younger's words reflect. “It's not your fault, Jiminie.” He fiercely exclaims. Gritting his teeth to stress on his words.

 

Jimin turns towards him then. Eyes brimming with guilt. Regret. The ugly emotions of despair and hurt. He smiles, almost hauntingly, and shakes his head a ‘No’. “It is.” He shrugs as if he doesn't care. “If I hadn't fought with him. If I'd went back home with him and my parents. If I hadn't done over time during practice. If I hadn't taken the late school bus…” He stops. Jimin's lips tremble and he bites them in an attempt to keep himself from crying. “I'd be there to protect him.”

 

And suddenly, Yoongi can see the scared, hermit of a boy he'd first seen ten years ago. Suddenly, he realizes that Jimin, the seven-year-old boy who'd just lost his family to a brutal car accident, was a loner. An isolated young boy who barely spoke to anyone.

 

Someone who didn't want friends. Who just wanted to stay away from everyone. Someone who they had never imagined befriending.

 

When they'd met the boy, he was quiet, scared and distant. Back at the orphanage, there had been many kids -  just like them - he could have befriended. Kids who were cooler, nicer. Kinder. Yoongi had always wondered why Jimin chose them. He reminisces their old days at the orphanage as he stares at the boy now.

 

He remembers Namjoon was the first one. At the mere age of four. The orphanage was a home to him. His grandmother had been the owner after all. When her son had died, Namjoon had joined the countless number of kids waiting to be adopted.

 

Then Jungkook had arrived. His mother, a college student, and single mother, had given him up four months after birth. Jungkook might not be able to feel it yet, but Yoongi still feels anger bubbling inside him at the thought of it. Sometimes, he blames her for everything Jungkook has gone through. Is going through.

 

Then, Yoongi had arrived. After being kicked out of his fourth foster home. With a bad image and an even worse insecurity complex. Namjoon had reached out to him then. He never says it, but he's always grateful to the boy for that.

 

Following his arrival was Hoseok’s. He remembers very distinctly. How his mother had just left the boy waiting with a promise of returning. Sometimes he thinks he can still see the seven-year-old boy waiting somewhere behind Hoseok’s sunshine smile. At nights when no one can see him cry.

 

When Seokjin came, Yoongi remembers staying up nights watching the boy sleep. He was so much like Seungi, his elder foster brother. The kindness, the patience. The way he calmed Yoongi’s panic attack he had had after a meeting with potential parents. His father used to beat him, Yoongi remembers Seokjin telling him that night.

 

Taehyung had arrived a week after Seokjin. Crying for his parents. Weeping into the strawberry blanket clutched to his side. A fire on the farm his parents worked at had brought him there, he remembers the warden telling him.

 

Jimin had come last. They'd been brothers for two years already before Jimin decided to make his place among them. The boy had been so closed off, now that Yoongi remembers it. He can't really pinpoint the exact day they'd become family.

 

It's like one day they were strangers, and the next, Jimin was one of them.

 

“What are you thinking about?” Jimin breaks his train of thoughts in a quiet whisper. When Yoongi looks up, he sees Jimin now standing in front of him. “Come on. Let's get back home.” The boy says turning around.

 

Silently Yoongi follows until he can't remain silent any longer. “Jimin.” He whispers waiting for the boy to look at him. He gulps when Jimin does. Nervously. “What made you choose us?”

 

Pain crosses Jimin's feature and Yoongi knows. He just knows. And it hurts to know. Jimin doesn't even have to say it before and memory flashes across his eyes.

 

Flashback

Five-year-old Jungkook is crying after falling down the steps of the church's entrance.  Jimin watches from the lone swing set as Jungkook continues crying. His face distorting unpleasantly at the gush of blood from the younger boy’s knees. Jimin looks around from the swing he is seated on for one of the five boys he knows Jungkook is always with.

 

For the tall boy with dimples who always holds Jungkook’s hands when he climbs the monkey bars. The sleepy looking, gloomy boy, who is always watching Jungkook from afar; sending death glares to anyone who tries to take away his toys. For the boy with heart-shaped lips and crescent eyes - the one who reads Jungkook bedtime stories and puts the boy to sleep every day. For the broad shouldered boy who makes sure Jungkook eats all his vegetables. And, for the square smile boy, who calls him Kookie.

 

A look around the quad shows the grounds are empty. Jimin bites his lips and hops off the swing. Contemplating whether he should go help the boy or not. “Mrs. Go told me to wait on the swings, though” he reminds himself. But, soon he’s running towards the younger boy, who has started hiccuping and seems out of breath now.

 

Jimin helps Jungkook up and carries the boy to the church infirmary. He sits by Jungkook’s side the entire time the nurse treats him. Let’s the boy hold his hand when she plucks out pieces of glass from his knee. Let’s Jungkook hug him, drool on him when she dabs antiseptic on his wounds. Jimin pats the boy’s head as he tries to go to sleep and smiles after almost seven months because Jungkook is smiling at him with the most innocent smile he’s seen.

 

And he cries. He remembers Jisung, sees him in Jungkook. And Jimin cries.

 

*

 

“Y- you’ll go away then, H- Hyung?” Jungkook sobs into Jimin’s chest. His hiccups turning more violent with Jimin’s silence.

 

Jimin looks at the five boys surrounding Jungkook and bites his lips in anger.

 

It’s been a month since Jimin helped Jungkook and felt anything close to being alive. Ever since that day, the seven-year-old boy would meet Jungkook at the same quad and they’d play. They laughed and giggled. They ate lunch together. Sometimes Jungkook brought Taehyung, the square smile boy, over and Jimin felt happy.

It’s been a month since Jimin stopped thinking about Jisung. A month since he started seeing his brother in Jungkook.

 

And now, after growing close, after finding his brother again, Jimin has to go.

 

“He has to go, Kookie.” Namjoon quietly mutters and ruffles the boy’s hair, pulling him out of Jimin’s embrace and into his own. And Jimin honestly feels like he can see Jisung being pulled away from him. “There are people who want to adopt him.”

 

“B- B-” Jungkook’s voice is muffled by Namjoon’s shirt and his own hiccups. Jimin’s heart clenches with pain and annoyance. “B- But I don’t wa- want him to go!”

 

Yoongi, the quiet one, then pulls Jungkook in his embrace and whispers in his ears, “but you want him to be happy, right, Kookie?” The fact that despite Yoongi's whispering, Jimin can still hear him, serves to show the pin drop silence that shrouds the seven boys. Jimin eyes the way Taehyung tries and fails to hide his own tears when Yoongi says, “he’ll be happy with his new family. Once he leaves.”

 

That seems to have done it though.

 

Jungkook, as if a dam opened, wails as he shoves his face into Yoongi's chest. His sobs echoing off the church dorms. His body going limp. Taehyung weeps into his own hands, lips wavering and eyes bloodshot. Hoseok embraces him, but his tears seem to never stop following.

 

Soon the warden calls for Jimin and he leaves without a look behind. Without a goodbye.

Flashback Over

 

Jimin smiles ruefully and starts walking again. “Jungkook was the reason, Hyung.” He says, walking away. Never turning back to look at Yoongi's tears. His own tears streaming down his face. “He was the reason we became family. The reason I decided to never leave.”

 

“Jimin…” Yoongi wishes he could add more. He wishes he could console the boy. But he knows nothing will help.

 

“I felt like…” A choked sob escapes the boy's lips. “If I did a good job with him… if I was a good brother to him…” Jimin sighs shoving his hands in his jeans pockets and looking up at the blackened sky. “I felt that I could make it up to Jisung. He was Jisung to me, Hyung.”

 

Yoongi can see the guilt settled into the boy’s clenched back, just like it was ten years ago when he'd first met Jimin. And when Jimin stops in his steps and turns around just enough to be able to see Yoongi, the elder can see his guilt - his regret - flowing down his rosy cheeks in streams of tears as he lets his lips curve up non-committedly.

 

With a voice that breaks, Jimin whispers, “I gave up the chance to a real family for him. And I still failed to protect him.”

 

*****

 

By the time he stumbles in, it's nearing three in the morning. Jimin waves Yoongi good night and enters the Maknae room with hushed footsteps. Though, unlike he'd expected, he finds Jungkook sitting on the window sill looking out at the still alive street.

 

Jimin tiptoes towards the youngest boy and taps his shoulder to grab his attention. When Jungkook turns to him with sleep filled eyes, Jimin whispers to the boy. “Why are you still up?” He cards his fingers through the boy’s hair, watching in amusement how he dips his face into the curve of his palm. “Come on, get into bed.”

 

Jimin pulls Jungkook away and drags the boy gently towards his bed in the middle. He lies Jungkook on the mattress and pulls the covers up to his chin. Gently, he starts patting the boy’s hair, humming the same song Jungkook has been addicted to lately. A while passes before he speaks. He’s aware that Jungkook might not understand him due to his sleep-induced disclarity.

 

“I sorry I yell at you when you cry, Kookie.” Jimin moves his fingers to trace the now sleeping boy’s eyebrows. Watching him intently; as if Jungkook were a butterfly that might flap away. “I’m sorry I get angry when you don’t smile at my jokes. Or when you have nightmares.” He bites his lips, wipes a lone tear that escapes his eyes, before continuing. “I’m sorry, baby. I’m sorry that I can’t fall asleep next to know. That I don’t play with you anymore. That we haven’t spoken for more than a month besides the times when I yell at you for crying or you saying sorry.”

 

A cool breeze pass and Jungkook shifts under Jimin’s caressing hands. Jimin stops, frozen. As if he’s caught in the act of stealing. He waits for Jungkook to make a move, but when the boy’s silent snores fill the room, he relaxes. Letting out a sigh of relief, Jimin returns to his side, patting his stray locks back into place.

 

“I’m sorry I don’t come back home on time. I’m sorry you have to worry about me. That you have to stay up waiting for me. That I’m one of the things that steal your sleep away.” His lips tremble, voice turns wobbly. By now, Jimin’s whispers have turned into a howl of agony and he’s aware that it might wake Jungkook up. At this point, though, the boy doesn’t care.

 

“How could it h- happen, Jungkook? Ho- How… Why didn’t you t- tell anyone?” His voice chokes him, his tears stuck at the back of his throat. But, Jimin continues. Because if he doesn’t say it now, he might never be able to. Because something tells him, he’s the one who hasn’t gotten over the incident yet. He’s the one still stuck. He’s the one who can’t move on. “I’m sorry, Kookie. I- I’m sorry.”

 

Jimin weeps into the boy’s pillows, grabbing him into his embrace. “I’m sorry I couldn’t p- protect y- you.”

 

He continues crying like that. For hours until the sun has risen in the horizon. Unaware that beside him, Taehyung is crying too.

 

 

Chapter Text

Hoseok stares blankly at the letter he’d picked up from the mailbox that morning. It’s in the middle of the night and he hasn’t opened it. The shivering excitement that he’s expect would accompany him in the moment, seems to be missing. He can’t bring himself to smile. Simply stares at the pink letter signed from Jung Yebin.

 

“Hobi?” Namjoon calls from behind him and he is quick to shove the offending yet inviting letter under a calculus textbook. He turns to the other boy with a smile and pretends to be rubbing his eyes out of slumber. Namjoon isn’t fooled however. The simpled boy leans on his elbows and lets his head drop to his shoulder as he asks, “why are you up? Couldn’t sleep?”

 

The elder boy shakes his head pleasantly before switching off the night lamp sitting on his study table and drags his feet across the carpet towards the bunk bed. When he reaches bed he looks up at Namjoon lying at the top bunk before staring at the bottom bunk that is currently empty. Namjoon watches how he bites his lips before sighing and settling into the mattress on the lower bunk. A whispered “goodnight” echoes after that.

 

They lie still like that for a while before Namjoon moves. There’s a cold block of emotions settling around them. In the quiet room, that Namjoon wants to melt before it freezes them. He climbs down the ladder and without a word of permission to Hoseok, pushes his way next to Hoseok’s lying form.

 

It’s like no exchange of words is needed after that. Hoseok settles himself in the crook of Namjoon’s neck as the boy cradles his friend’s body in a side embrace. The warmth that their bodies emit is more than enough to dispel the cold that had taken hold of them.

 

****

 

Seokjin eyes the different colors and shapes of balloon packets that line the convenience store shelf with unbridled confusion and excitement. He reaches out for a packet of bright green but shakes his head remembering that the boy’s favorite color is light blue. After almost an hour of steaming his head off about which colored party balloons he should buy, Seokjin ends up buying blue, pink and red party balloons, of which the red ones are those long noodle balloons.

 

He wonders if he should try learning how to make balloon animals. Jungkook would love that he tells himself as he places the money in the cashier’s hand.

 

As he is exiting the convenience store with more party supplies than he had actually intended to buy, Seokjin can’t help but giggle giddily. He can’t wait to get back home.

 

****

 

Jungkook stares at the endless the party supplies that Seokjin drops in their living hall.

 

The elder had left to get groceries from all Jungkook had been told about, but here he is now, carrying not only groceries but also streamers and banners and a bakery bag. Jungkook is awestruck at the sheer number of streamers the elder pulls out of the plastic bags. He doesn’t think he’s ever even seen these many balloons at once. And he’s pretty damn sure he’s never seen party banners, even back at the orphanage where they celebrated birthdays collectively. One birthday party for everyone born in the same month.

 

A smile.

 

Seokjin wishes the others were there then, because Jungkook spills the most beautiful smile he’s seen the fifteen year old ever give. Shining eyes that flit over the display of goodies, Seokjin had brought. Hands reaching out for the dozens of lollipops and candies that litter their apartment floor. The flush lips, that Jungkook has taken to biting these days, letting out kinkling giggles when he sees the cake Seokjin pulls out from the bakery bag. He wishes the others could hear the tinkling laughter that issues from the younger boy’s lips. Like wind chimes swaying in the wind.

 

“Let’s decorate the house before they get back home, Kookie,” Seokjin declares earning an ecstatic nod from the boy who’s already tearing open a packet of blue polka dotted balloons. And they get to work.

 

****

 

“I don’t know who Jimin is.” Taehyung bites back when he’s pushed into one of the gym lockers. Gritting his teeth when one of the three men encaging him, slam the locker behind him.

 

The black haired man that seems to be the leader growls at Taehyung before shooting a punch into Taehyung's gut. Taehyung bowls over, a strangled cry of pain escapes his lips as he falls to his knees. “You do know who he is, asshole.” The bulky one next to the black haired one gruffs. He kicks the boy’s sides, earning a wince from him and crouches down in front of Taehyun. Pulling at his hair brutally as he continues, “we’ve seen you come to school with him. Where is he?”

 

Even through the pain, Taehyung can sense the danger headed Jimin’s way. The way these men are looking at him, makes him gulp as he, once again, shakes his head. “I have no idea what y- you’re going o- on about.” He winces once again when tastes the blood.

 

Another kick. Another punch. A few more hits and they stop.

 

He’s bloodied by the time their boss crouches next to his eyes. Slapping his face lazily the man smirks, “tell him to return my money when you see him, okay?” The man steps on an open wound on Taehyung’s face, rubbing the heel of his shoes into the bloodied opening. “Or else, we’ll be back.”

 

****

 

“When are you coming back?” Seokjin asks over his phone, Jungkook jumping cheerily in the background. “Alright, then. Tae and Jimin are gonna take the school bus. So could you pick up Hobi and Namjoon from college then?” He must have received an affirmative answer, because he hangs up soon with a “okay. Come back soon, then.”

 

“He’ll be so surprised!!!” Jungkook yells out loud as soon as Seokjin hangs up. So loud, that Seokjin is inclined to believe that Jungkook had been holding it in for centuries to scream out his excitement. He can’t wait for the other to see Jungkook like he is now.


“He sure is!” Seokjin yells back, just excited. The twenty year old ruffles Jungkook’s hair and with sparkling eyes, suggests. “Let’s go buy a gift for him then! Before they get back, hmm?”

 

****

 

Namjoon looks at the letter that Hoseok holds out to him as the two wait in the parking lot for Yoongi to come pick them up. It’s been less than a month since he’s got his driver's permit, though he’s usually too busy making deliveries to actually give them a lift or anything.

 

“Who…” Namjoon trails off when he sees the name printed on the envelope in neat cursive penmanship. It doesn’t take a genius to know whom it’s from. Neither to know that Hoseok still hasn’t read it. “Why haven’t opened it yet?” he asks instead.

 

Hoseok sighs and the wind accompanies his sighs as he shifts his gaze at his feet. Tapping them against the concrete impatiently. “I don’t know, actually” he shrugs. Hosoek turns his eyes to Namjoon’s that are already staring back into his. “I was actually hoping you’d help me decide.”

 

All the vulnerability. The caution. Fear. Namjoon can make out all those scary emotions floating in Hosoek’s eyes and he’s left speechless at the sheer amount of emotions locked in the eyes of the boy  standing in front of him. “Decide?” He echoes back. His own voice sounding unsure. Unpleasant.

 

The boy looks away. As if ashamed for asking help. And maybe he really is ashamed. Regrets ever asking for help in such a small matter as well. But he can’t. He can’t just decide. He just can’t make a decision; take a step that could change everything.

 

“What if she wants to meet me? What if… she wants me back?”

 

It’s out now. The pandora’s box that holds the ugly possibility. Both inviting and hideous. Namjoon gulps at the tendrils of hope in his friend’s voice. And suddenly he feels like the bad guy. Because he doesn’t want her to want Hoseok back.

 

“What if she does?” Namjoon asks. It’s too direct. Too accusatory. Namjoon knows he should’ve eased the inquiry in some form. But, he’s just angry at this point. Angry at the possibility that Hoseok might leave them. That Hoseok could possibly consider betraying them and going away.

 

“I- I don’t know.” Hosoek, once more, looks away to glare at his feet. I want to meet her. See her. Know who she is. Call her Mom… the elder boy chooses not to speak his mind. “Help me decide.” Pleading Namjoon to make a choice for him. Make it easy.

 

Before Namjoon has time to answer, though, Yoongi’s car honking in the distance rouses them from the moment. Wordlessly. Angrily glaring at Hoseok, Namjoon makes it obvious what his answer is, before racing down to the car. Not waiting for Hoseok to follow for the first time ever since they’ve met.

 

****

 

“When are they gonna be here, Hyung?” Jungkook asks for the nth time that day. His excitement seems to have reached its pinnacle and he is literally shivering in anticipation as he waits for his brothers to come back home.

 

“They’ll be here soon, Kookie” Seokjin reassures the boy. He leans over the boy’s head and sticks the balloon to the wall behind Jungkook with a double-sided tape. “Keep blowing the balloons till they get here, though. We’ll decorate the entire house by the time they get here!”

 

Jungkook nods his head frantically and reaches out to tear open another packet of balloons. “Hyung! You can make balloon animals with this red one right!?” He yells out thrilled at the prospect of a party. “I’ll blow them real big and strong and then you can make elephants out of them!”

 

The elder boy chuckles warmly and ruffles his hair settling down beside the younger one. “What do want me to do next, then?” He opens a packet of banners and shows them to Jungkook as he asks the boy, “should I hang this up?”

 

“Yes!” The boy croones. “And we can party hats with the origami paper you brought!”

 

Suddenly, Seokjin is struck with the realization that Jungkook is smiling. He’s smiling and it’s not forced. It’s not fake and Jungkook is genuinely happy. And Seokjin realizes that, at this point Jungkook could ask him to murder someone, and he’d happily comply if it meant he could keep the boy smiling.

 

“Anything you want, Kookie.” He mutters picking up the banners and walking into the kitchen to search for thumbtacks or more tape. “Anything.”

 

****

 

Seokjin looks up from his task of setting the table and waves Jungkook over with a gentle smile when he sees the boy leaning over the window waiting for his brothers to come back. He’s smitten with the boy’s joy for the party, but he can’t risk him leaning off the window sill. “Help me out with the dishes, Kookie. They’ll be here soon.” With a quiet grumble Jungkook moves away. And Seokjin can’t help but coo at the pout that graces the boy’s lips.

 

They are almost done when the apartment bell rings.

 

Jungkook drops the plates he’s holding and races to the door. Giggling as he turns the lock. Ignoring Seokjin’s indignant but amused cry of “be careful, brat!”

 

When the door opens, however, all the giddiness, the happiness, the excitement - the smiles - seem to flicker away like a butterfly flapping it’s wing. Seokjin strains his ears, placing the last of the dishes on the table, for any kind of laughter but nothing hits his eardrums. He doesn’t want to frown, but somehow, he can feel the atmosphere in the apartment turn blue.

 

“Kookie?” He calls out, wiping his hands on the apron he’s wearing before taking it off and hanging it over a chair. “Is Hobi here yet? What’s wrong?”

 

Turning the corner, Seokjin freezes where he stands. Because what greets him isn’t Jungkook hanging off of Hoseok’s shoulders like he’d promised he would when the birthday boy makes an appearance.

 

What greets him is Jimin, carrying a bloodied Taehyung on his back. What greets him is Jungkook, cowering from them in the corner.

 

The Happy Jungkook is lost once again.

 

****

 

“T- Tae… Taehyung Hyung…” Jungkook whimpers, watching the scene in front of him. He stands frozen at the windowsill of the Maknae bedroom, watching horrified as Taehyung wheezes. The blood that covers him, makes Jungkook want to throw up, but that’s not the only thing that makes him nauseous.

 

It’s the way Taehyung looks at him. Broken. Desperate. Begging him to, “l- look away, K- Kookie. P- please, look a- away…”

 

And just like that, everything comes back. The bullies. Minho. Hiding in lockers and running home barefoot. Busted lips and cover up with poor make up skills. Minho. Seokjin working two jobs, Yoongi coming home exhausted. Jimin yelling at him. Minho. Taehyung fighting with Jimin. Minho. Minho. Minho.

 

Seokjin watches, desperate and in utter despair, how Jungkook crumbles back into the gloomy boy he’d come to know. Watches Jungkook curl up near the cupboards, placing his hands over his ears, swaying back and forth on the balls of his feet.

“What happened?” Seokjin looks away and directs his inquiry at Jimin. He can’t bring himself to watch the youngest boy reliving everything. It’s wrong to ignore Jungkook this way, he knows this, but Seokjin can’t watch it.

 

Jimin bites his lips and shakes his head muttering, “I don’t know.” He presses a wet cloth over Taehyung’s forehead and wipes the blood as he continues, “I went to pick him up from class and he wasn’t there. Went to the locker room and found him… like this.”

 

“T- take him away, hyung.” Taehyung whispers when Seokjin looks at him. He eyes Jungkook before turning towards Seokjin again, “tak- take him away, please.”

 

Conflict crosses his features but Seokjin nods his head. He walks over to Jungkook and shakes the boy up from his stance, grimacing at the way the boy jerks at the touch. With a hand help out for Jungkook to take, Seokjin waits for the boy to approach him. Like waiting for a scared animal to come to you.

 

When Jungkook looks at him, his eyes are glassy. All that fear that seemed to have disappeared from his eyes in the morning was back with full force. Back ten folds. “Come on. Come on, Kookie.” Shaky hands extend into his and soon, Seokjin pulls him out the room. Keeping his head down so he won’t have to see Taehyung injured.

 

Just before he leaves, though, Seokjin gives the two boys a look. I’m not done with you two.

 

****

 

Jimin stares at his friend with horror struck eyes as Taehyung relies what happened. “T- They were really s- scary, Jimin. Wh-” He cuts off, licking his lips. The metallic taste makes his lips curls in disgust and he continues, “Who were they?”

 

Taehyung watches Jimin’s jaw set into a grimace. How he clutches the bloodied washcloth in his fists, knuckles turning white. The way Jimin’s eyes turn murderous. And Taehyung is scared. “No one.” Jimin shortly replies, continuing to dab the boy’s wounds with ointment. “It won’t happen again. I promise.”

 

His words are dark, very dark. But Taehyung isn’t scared. Because this is Jimin. He’s never scared when it’s Jimin. “I know.” He whispers back. Smiling and closing his eyes to let Jimin continue. He can already feel the sweet whispering of Jimin’s voice, put him to sleep. “Teach them a good lesson, Jimin. It hurts real bad.”

 

“I will, Tae.” He hears the promise in Jimin’s voice. “I promise.”

 

And despite the constant fights they’ve been in for the past few months. Despite the countless times Taehyung has yelled at Jimin for yelling at Jungkook. Despite the numerous times they’ve fought and ended up not talking for days, Taehyung believes him.

 

He goes to sleep with the smell of antiseptic on his wounds, and Jimin beside him. Cuddles next to the elder as they doze off in the same bed for the first time since ages.







Chapter Text

It is exactly three months after Hoseok’s nineteenth birthday when they start falling apart. All because of a letter and a hiring contract.

 

****

 

Seokjin stares blankly at Jungkook’s back as they walk back home from the boy’s school. He’s started attending a high school near their residence. After that cursed Friday, Jungkook had turned back into the gloomy boy they had all come to know. That night, when Taehyun had come back home bloodied and limping, Seokjin had watched the happy Jungkook disappear horridly in front of his eyes.

 

What is left behind is a boy who talks but only in whispers, laughs but it’s always fake. A boy who eats but never asks for second helpings. Who laughs in the mornings and cries at nights.

 

****

 

Taehyun stands agape in front of the man smiling at him. He eyes the business card shoved under his nose and stares back up at the man aghast. The man pats his back fondly and waves the boy goodbye with a, “we’ll wait for your call.”

 

****

 

Hoseok decides to read the letter. Namjoon is with him when he does.

 

“I’m going to read it, Joonie” the boy tells him while they are walking back home.

 

Namjoon watches Hoseok’s fingers as he opens the letter. How they tremble as he tears the side. He watches Hoseok heave deep, erratic breaths to calm himself down and Namjoon curses himself for feeling nothing but anger.

 

And as Hoseok’s eyes flit over the small piece of marble paper, inscribed with beautiful pearl-like penmanship, he can’t stop his eyes from watering. Because Hoseok is crying, weeping in his hands, as he reads, then rereads, his mother’s letter. His hiccups echoing in the empty apartment.

 

Namjoon doesn’t ask of the letter’s contents, and Hoseok doesn’t tell.

 

What breaks his heart, however, is how Hoseok excuses himself to the balcony to make a phone call. It’s the first time Hoseok is hiding something from him. Something tells Namjoon it won’t be the last.

 

****

 

“When’s the consignment due?” Jimin asks as he enters the rundown factory. He speeds down the corridor towards the only door in front of him. A boy, with innocent brown eyes and a gun, tucked under his belt, close behind him. Trying desperately to match his match his steps.

 

“Three days from today. Eight PM. Byungwon Pier.” The much younger boy parrots back sticking just behind him. Jimin nods and jerks his head at the door once they reach it and the boy hastens to pull out a key from his jacket pocket to open the metal door.

 

As Jimin enters the room, that is filled with the sunlight that filters through a hole in the ceiling, his voice turns a dangerous low. The tenor in his voice gives way to heightened bass and he strolls in leisurely smirking at the man sitting right under the sun hole. Tied to a chair. Bloodied and seemingly unconscious.

 

“You can leave, kiddo,” Jimin mutters, cracking his knuckles as he saunters over to the wheezing man. His voice echoes deviously in the small containment room and Jimin grins maniacally when the man in the chair whimpers at Jimin’s voice. He crouches down in front of the man and the younger boy watches how he grabs the chains wrapped around his body and pull at them. Blood dripping as the metal links digs deeper into the wounded skin. “How’s it going Youngho?” His voice looms.

 

“Y- Yo-” The man tries to form words but Jimin cuts him off as his grip on the chains around the man’s neck tightens.

 

The boy then turns to the younger one in the room, not losing his grip on the chains, and declares in all nonchalance. “You can leave if you want, boy. It’s not going to be pretty. Last warning.” Without waiting for a reply he then turns to the man and pulls out a screwdriver from his jacket pocket. Tapping the man’s forehead ideally with the butt of the device, he mutters in a maniac whisper, “let the fun begin.”

 

The boy stands in the corner of the room never taking his eyes off the pair. The torture continues until the man faints.

 

Jimin pats the boy’s back as he exits the room, using his T-Shirt to wipe the blood off his hands.

 

****

 

Yoongi stares at the order placed in front of him and then at the address in his phone’s GPS. It’s at a music agency that is located quite far from his apartment complex. Fifty pizzas and seven two-liter soda bottles. He can’t help but pat his back for getting such a huge delivery. Because the costlier the delivery is the higher the tip.

 

He’s waiting outside the elevator, counting his tip when he hears it. An acoustic guitar playing the chords he’d stayed late into the night to create a melody out of, followed by a rendition of the same harmony he’s slaved hours over trying to get it just right.

 

His hands go limp by his side and he ignores the elevator ding its arrival as he walks up to the studio with its doors slightly ajar. Peeking through the open slot he can make out a man strumming the guitar and another working on the console. He can barely the ending trails of their conversation so Yoongi edges ever so close to the open door.

 

“It’s a good a beat, but I just can’t come up with the bridge.” Says the man on the guitar as he stops strumming for a while. “Should we used a Five-Five-Two pattern?”

 

The other man, elder no doubt, gruffly refutes the suggestion shaking his head as he says, “it does sound fine, but it doesn’t give me that feeling, you know?”

 

Yoongi watches the guitar guy roll his eyes and slump down into the couch he’s seated on. “Let me guess. That feeling of ‘ecstasy’?”

 

“Yes, you dimwit.” The other bites out.

 

“Maybe if we had the original artist here instead,” his friend begins with a shrug, “we’d already be done with the arrangement by now.”

 

The man on the console turns at that and Yoongi could swear he’s seen the man somewhere, he just put a finger on where exactly. “That’s the thing, though.” He huffs tiredly and continues, “I did go back to his place to look for but they say he’s moved six months ago.”

 

“That sucks.”

 

“It does.” The man acquiesces reaching out for one of the soda bottles on the coffee table. “He sold me some of the best tracks I’d ever heard. Was gonna recruit him even.”

 

Suddenly, it hits Yoongi like a sandstorm. He knows exactly who that man is and without even meaning, Yoongi gasps out in disbelief.

 

The two men turn to him but Yoongi isn’t scared as he steps into the room. For once, he’s anticipating their attention.

 

****

 

Namjoon eyes the boy as he speeds around the room. He knows exactly where Hoseok is going. Knows exactly why he’s trying his hardest to look his best.

 

He turns the other way and closes his eyes. Not responding when Hoseok says he’ll be late. Crying when Hoseok doesn’t even check him for lack of reply.

 

****

 

“An… Acting contract?” Jimin wonders out during recess. He watches Taehyun squirm in his seat and pats the boy’s arms to calm him down. “Show me the card.” He pushes an open palm for Taehyung to give him the business he’s kept safe in his pencil case ever since the man gave it to him.

 

With shaking fingers Taehyun places the card in Jimin’s hand and bites his lips tentatively as he watches Jimin scrutinize it. After a long five seconds where Jimin continues staring at the card, Taehyung speaks again, “I- I think it’s f- fake. Right?”

 

Something in his voice, Jimin can hear it, sounds desperate. Like he wants the proposal to be true. “Why would he suddenly want to offer you an acting gig?”

 

“M- Maybe,” Taehyun begins, scared to be right because he really wants this. He knows he does. Even Jimin can tell he does. “Maybe it really is fake, huh?”

 

Jimin watches the clouds rise in Taehyung’s eyes as he sees the chance go. “Did he tell you why he thinks you’d be a good actor?”

 

The younger boy shrugs and pouts as he explains, “he says they saw me act in the open theater that I went for with my class. But besides that, he said he was mainly just street-casting.”

 

The elder bites his lips at the broken puppy look Taehyun sends his way and despite his misgiving smiles at his friend. “You should try, though.” When Taehyung jerks his head up in surprised Jimin ruffles his hair and continues, “I’ll accompany you. We should at least check this thing out, right?” He waits for Taehyung to nod then continues. “If it’s fake, then that’s that. And if it works out, we’ll count it as good luck.”

 

Taehyung doesn’t say it. He simply hugs Jimin and mutters an okay. He doesn’t say it but he’s grateful to Jimin for supporting him even when he is unsure of himself.



****

 

Seokjin stares at Hoseok, owl-eyed. Yoongi and Namjoon are sending him matching looks too. Hoseok rubs his neck and looks at his new wristwatch once more. With a sense of urgency taking over him, he rolls his eyes at the eldest.

 

“Come on, Hyung.” He begins, tapping his feet. “It’s just a night. My Mom just wants me to spend a night with her and Dad.”

 

“You never…” Seokjin gulps. “You never mentioned you knew your… Mother, Hobi.”

 

At that, a slightly guilty expression crosses his feature but soon Hoseok starts speaking again. “I only met her a week ago, Hyung.” He looks back his wristwatch, gasps at the time, and frantically tries to convince the elder. “Look, hyung. It’s just one night.”

 

It’s Namjoon that responds then, a deep set frown marring his forehead and disappointment in his eyes. “It’s a Sunday night, Hoseok.” His words dripping of venom. “We have a movie night tonight and Jungkook won’t sleep until we’re all sleeping in the living room. You have to tuck him in.”

 

And there are sparks flying between the two, Yoongi can see it and so can Seokjin, but they don’t boast romance. Hoseok is glaring at Namjoon, earning a glare back. Their noses flaring, the two look like they're at their hhair'swidth from punching each other.

 

“Well,” Hoseok begins. Tight-lipped and reserved than ever. Anger apparent in his crossed arms and frowned eyebrows. “Maybe it’ll be better if someone else starts tucking him in then, hmm?”

 

With that, Hoseok leaves without turning back. The other three are left staring at the boy’s retreating back until he slams the door shut behind himself.

 

****

 

“So, Hobi hyung is staying over a friend’s for a project?” Jimin asks over dinner. Namjoon gruffs and rolls his eyes, not at all hiding his take on the matter.

 

Yoongi nods his head, never looking up from his cellphone as he types away. “Yeah. He has a project and…” He looks up then and letting apology shine in his eyes, gets up, pressing his phone to his eyes. “I’ve got a special delivery tonight. Might be late.”

 

He doesn’t even wait for a reply as he speeds past Seokjin and out the door.

 

Neither Seokjin nor Jungkook finish their meal that night, but Namjoon is too pissed to notice. Jimin leaves soon after Yoongi does, claiming he’s found a new job. And Jungkook stays up the entire night listening to Taehyung talk to someone on the phone. Something about movies and contracts and other things that Jungkook doesn’t understand.

 

****

 

“What do you mean you’re required to stay at a dorm?” Seokjin echoes at Taehyun as he reads through the signing contract that Taehyung and Jimin had brought back. “And why exactly do you even have a signing contract? What is this? Why did I not know about this? And why did you agree to these terms before consulting me?”

 

Jimin is the one who speaks on behalf of a bumbling Taehyung who’s already started to question himself. “It’s just for the first six months.” His right hand out in a placating manner. His left hand pushing Taehyun behind his frame. “And the dorms are like a five minute walk from the apartment.”

 

Seokjin stares at Jimin and rolls his eyes, bringing his hands to rest on his hips. “I asked you why I did not hear of this before. And who allowed him to sign this fucking contract!”

 

Taehyung cowers behind Jimin but the other remains unnerved at Seokjin’s sudden outburst. “We didn’t think it was a legit company at first. Didn’t wanna get you all worked up for nothing.” The boy shrugs and looks away as he explains, “and I already check through all the clauses in the contract. It’s legit.”

 

Seething by the now, the elder growls as he pulls at his hair, “I don’t care if it’s legit or not! Who the fuck ALLOWED HIM TO SIGN UP FOR AN ACTING GIG!?”

Jimin never looks away from the elder’s eyes as he mutters quietly, authoritatively. “I did.”

 

Seokjin grits his teeth and leans down into Jimin’s space. Trying to intimidate him as he whispers hauntingly at the still unperturbed boy. “Well then you can be the one to tell Jungkook.”

 

Jungkook watches from the crack of his bedroom’s threshold, holding back tears as he shuts the door.



****

“It’s just for a couple of months, Kookie” Taehyung murmurs into the youngest boy’s hair as he’s packing up a night before his move. There are tears in his eyes and he can feel his shirt go wet with Jungkook’s tears. “I- I’ll come visit everyday. I promise I will.”

Jimin then speaks from his bed, looking dejected as ever. “You can just come and go as you please, Tae.” He gets up and sits down beside the crying pair and pats their heads with a bitter smile. “That’s against you contract.”

At that Jungkook weeps harder but Taehyung doesn’t get mad at Jimin for that. Because he knows that keeping the boy in a false hope would only crueler.  

 

****

 

“You’re leaving too?” Seokjin asks Yoongi weekly as he watches the boy throw in some of his hoodie into a duffle bag.

 

Yoongi, because of guilt (or something similar), avoid the boy’s eyes as he explains, “I won’t be gone long like Hobi or Taehyung, Hyung.” He gulps as he mentions Hoseok’s name, remembering that the boy hasn’t been home - to their apartment - for more than a month now. “It’s just for three days or something.” Rolling up his one and only tie he quietly explains, “just until the new track’s done and then I’ll be home again.”

 

“Jimin hasn’t been coming home at nights either.” Seokjin tries to broach the topic he’s been meaning to talk to Yoongi about. “I think he’s skipping school again. I was wondering if we could talk about that.”

 

Too busy with his packing, Yoongi shrugs nonchalantly and agrees, “yeah sure. We’ll talk when I get back. For sure.”

 

“Yoongi,” the elder boy begins again, “I’m worried about him. He’s-” He’s cut short with Yoongi’s cellphone ringing.

 

This time, Seokjin doesn’t even try to dissuade him as he watches Yoongi leave their bedroom talking to someone on the other line.

 

Suddenly, the apartment, that once used to be too small for seven men, is now too big for three.

 

****

 

Jungkook watches Yoongi carry his duffel bag out of the apartment without so much as looking back. It’s the third time this month and Jungkook has numbed to the feeling watching Yoongi go invokes. It’s Sunday but Namjoon and Seokjin are the only two with him. Jimin is out doing God knows what again.

 

He bites his lips, tightening his grip around the candy bar the pale elder had given to him before he left. “I’ll be back before you finish that, Kookie.” He had said.

 

****

 

Namjoon watches how Seokjin’s eyes fill with tears and at this point he’s not sure if it’s for happiness or because he’s sad.

 

“I don’t have to take that scholarship.” Namjoon admits quietly over the dinner table. He eyes the three empty seats - Jimin is home today, for once. “I’ve got three other from local universities that are closer to home.”

 

“Nonsense.” Seokjin waves him off and caress the letter of invitation that Namjoon had showed him when he had gotten back from college. “You’re saying that because you don’t know what an honor studying in SNU is.”

 

“I don’t want to leave.” Namjoon mutters, letting his tears flow as he watches the younger two boys discuss which movie their are planning to watch tonight.

 

“You could always come visit.” Seokjin tries to remain positive as he makes quick use of his chopsticks to tear flesh from the fish.

 

Namjoon then looks at the elder and with a bitter smile, asks, “like Hobi used to. Or like Tae and Yoongi hyung do once every month or other?”

 

The conversation stops at that and a week later, Namjoon moves.

 

****

 

Jungkook sits on the windowsill of their new home. It's been over six months since Hoseok has moved into his parents home. Four months since Taehyung and Yoongi moved into their respective dorms. Yoongi has already released his first composition. Taehyun has appeared three commercials already. Namjoon is doing well at the university as well.

 

They haven’t come home in months and Jungkook is starting to forget their scents now.

 

“Kook!” Jimin exclaims and Jungkook turns to the boy with a smile. The elder waves a gift bag in his hands and gestures the boy to come over. “I’ve got gifts! It’s Fall again and I have gifts!”

 

“Exactly where are you getting all the money to buy gifts from?” Seokjin wonders as he exits the kitchen. Wiping his hands on his apron he smiles pleasantly at the gummy smile Jungkook is wearing on his lips. He edges closer to the pair and whispers into Jimin’s ears, “I want to talk to about all this.”

 

Jimin goes rigid under the murmuring of his elder friend but gulps and nods his head in affirmation. “Later, though.”

 

They watch Jungkook scan the gift bags with a squeal every time he opens a new one.

 

For a second, Seokjin feels happy. For a second, so does Jungkoook.

 

****

 

“Why can’t you tell me where you’re getting the money to get all this from, Jimin?” Seokjin whispers tiredly as he watches Jungkook through the crack in his the boy’s bedroom’s door and threshold. “All these gifts you get for Kookie and me. This new apartment. The scooter.” He ruffles his hair in apparent fatigue and slumps against the doorsill. “And now you want me to quit my job even? What am I to make of all this?”

 

“I told you, right?” Jimin begins. His voice frustrated, eyes darting. He doesn’t look into Seokjin’s. “I got a job. A good, respectable job.”

 

“Where? Why aren’t you telling me what this job is!” Seokjin is quick to shoot back questions he knows Jimin can’t answer. Except, Jimin does.

 

He turns to look at Jungkook lying in his bed with a peaceful smile on his lips. “I’m giving dance lessons to a boy. H- He’s Jungkook’s age. Lives nearby.”

 

The look on the elder’s face breaks Jimin’s heart. Because Seokjin looks proud. “Really? That’s great!”

 

Jimin can’t look Seokjin in the eyes when he says, “it’s great.”

 

****

 

It’s a month later. In October, when they all meet again.

 

Hoseok, when he comes by to visit them after seven months, looking like a prince. His cheeks are fuller, he smiles brighter. Even his voice booms louder. Namjoon seems to have grown taller. He has become calmer. Looks happier. More satisfied. The bad blood between the two friends seems to have dissolve over the period of seven months.

 

Taehyung comes in the pitch darkness of the night. He’s too famous now to be walking around the roads in the morning. But he’s not famous enough. Not to him, at least. He looks wiser now. Seokjin can tell with the way the boy holds himself. He’s no longer the unsure boy who hid behind Jimin’s back. He’s turned more handsome than they all remember.

 

Yoongi looks like he's been sleeping well too. The worry lines that once marred his eyes are now almost gone. Seokjin is happy to see that he has finally started looking his age.

 

It’s a day before Halloween and everyone is acting like they never left. Like they didn’t miss wishing Jungkook a happy birthday the previous month. Except, the awkwardness is heavy in the air between them.

 

Jungkook hesitates before jumping on Taehyung’s shoulder when the boy enters their new home. He doesn’t want to ruin the boy’s sponsored jacket. Seokjin doesn’t hit Hoseok’s hands when he tries to dip his spoon in the serving bowl. Yoongi and Namjoon seem to have lost all topics of conversation besides the usual inquiries about work and college.

 

They are all waiting for Jimin to come home from his job. And silence rules the apartment.

 

One which no one fills.

 

****

 

The man looms over him and Jimin tries to move but his broken limbs don’t let him. “Next time you interfere in my business, boy. “The man presses Jimin’s fractured leg under his feet, smirking. “I’m not gonna go so easy on you.” He then crouches down beside the whimpering boy and takes out a packet from his shoes. He throws the white powder packet on Jimin’s face and grins as he walks away. “Have fun with that while you wait for the police to get here.”

 

Jimin watches the man walk away. The tell-tale sirens of the police car echoing in his ears. He winces pain trying to leave before the cops get him. He makes sure to stuff his pockets with the drugs packets before he leaves.