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Orange Blossoms and Sea-Salt (Let the Light In).

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i.

His hands were shaking. 

The room was dull with darkness and shadow, but Namjoon swore that under that cover of darkness and fear, he could see the boy- the child- shivering in response. Head bent, cowering, afraid, and small, so fucking small.

In the small slips of silence, the small gasps of air in the dark room, Namjoon felt the rising heat in his face-

“He’s useless, you know,” the bidder growled, “Won’t even present at his fucking age- and he won’t talk- tell you what, I’ll give him to you for half the price- he’s broken goods.”

Namjoon flexed his fists.

“How old is he?”

The silence became bitter; Namjoon could hear the bidder’s sharp intake of breath. The farms were meant for convicts, serial killers, rapists, murderers.

Not kids.

“What, you think he’s an innocent child- his mother whored herself-“

“I asked you how old he is.”

“Sixteen.”

Namjoon swore underneath his breath.

Too fucking young to present, you jackass. 

But still, the sharp scent of orange blossom and sea-salt clung to the air; the boy was close, and Namjoon knew that he was too young; omegas, alphas, switches all presented above eighteen. Always. This was induced fear. This was not fucking presenting. 

He looked away.

 

He paid up, anyway.

And gave the bidder a fucking black eye for his troubles.

 

 

 

ii.

Bringing the kid home was one thing; although he pulled against him from the pits of that iron cage, staring up with wide, too-wide, brown eyes, he still followed after some gentle coaxing… but having Seokjin give him the look was another.

“Don’t,” he whispered, raising his hands while Seokjin pinned him down with that deathly glare of his at the entrance to their house. “Please- this one’s… Yoongi-“ he added, whispering the name as though in explanation. 

The head under him shuddered, and Namjoon looked down to the kid, whose head was buried under the coat he used to cover him. The kid flinched at any contact he made, so he had thrown the hood of his coat over him just so that he could feel…

His scent, Taehyung had told him, was warm, like fire; a family scent, he’d added, furrowing his brows as he tried to explain. Wood, trees; the smell of mint, Seokjin had whispered later that night, his arms wrapped around him and his nose pressed deep into his neck.

Right now, the kid was shivering, clutching the arms of the coat like a lifeline; Seokjin couldn’t even see the kid’s face because it was turned down, hidden.

At the mere mention of Yoongi’s name, though, Seokjin’s eyes widened.

He didn’t say anything; words would be saved for later, when the kid was out of earshot, when he knew that he could say whatever the fuck he wanted about the bent laws of the country they all lived in.

The kid, though, hearing Seokjin approach, stumbled back, pressing into the front door, pressing harder when Seokjin stepped closer again.

The kid wouldn’t speak. Even when he shook, he wouldn’t say a word.

Namjoon swallowed, before he crouched low. “Kid, I know you understand us; I know you’re afraid,” he peaked up into the folds of his coat. A pair of doe-wide eyes blinked back from the darkness; Namjoon clenched his teeth when he saw a smattering of bruises along the kid’s jaw. His bare wrists revealed more, some of them scars that had never quite healed. “Please,” he murmured, “You can pull the hood down; Seokjin here- he’s my partner-“ he gestured over his shoulder to the man in question, who had crouched down and placed his head on his shoulder, breaths soft and quiet against his neck.

“- and my best friend; we just want to help you, that’s all,” Namjoon finished.

The kid blinked back at him; when Namjoon reached for the hood, he flinched, body tensing as if coiled on ice. Namjoon slowly, slowly, tipped the hood back, and the kid’s hair, matted and black, fell into view, his skin whiter than that of a ghost, a pair of round eyes closing and ducking down to hide away, and his scent-

Seokjin breathed in, body tensing when it hit him. 

Orange blossoms and sea-salt, and the waves of the sea washed in Namjoon’s ears.

God, he smelled like fear.

“Aiish,” he murmured, catching sight of the maps of bruises and cuts all over his face and neck. The kid eyes slid shut, nose scrunched, as if waiting for the violence, and Namjoon felt the alpha in him rile up against the heartbreaking sight. A pair of bloody lips released one quick breath after another; Namjoon knew the kid was going to have a panic attack if he didn’t calm down.

When he reached out for his cheek, he blanched.

“The kid’s got a fever,” he murmured, aware of the silence in the apartment, of how everyone else was working, or out, unaware of what was happening here.

“Aiish, poor baby,” Seokjin murmured back, refusing to acknowledge the kid’s scent, chin still resting on Namjoon’s shoulder. “Let’s get you some fresh clothes,” he added. The kid’s eyes were still closed, and he still flinched when he was touched, but Seokjin worked his magic, the gentle, calming wave of mothering warmth that he was, and somehow managed to pull the kid along to the bathroom, into the bath and, then, into a fresh set of clothes.

If Seokjin had seen the bruises, scars, the kid’s protruding ribcage or anything that made him want to curl his hand into a fist, then he waited, baiting his tongue with the promise that he would have a conversation with Namjoon, soon.

If the kid somehow managed to collapse into the warmth of lavender that was Seokjin, and ended up curled over his body later that night, Namjoon chose to say nothing, and if they both woke up finding the kid underneath their bedroom desk in the middle of the night, pulling on his hair as if it was causing him harm, then they chose to remain quiet about that too.

They’d been through a farm-bred before (Yoongi); they’d experienced that measure of fear and suffering before (Taehyung); they knew from previous experiences that when the child tried to pull away, his breaths (jesus, just his breaths) whimpering between them, then they chose to put the blame on the fever (Hobi had had something similar, bruised ribs, and a horrible bout of pneumonia too). 

Seokjin hadn’t complained about it, though; the kid was something irreplaceable between them; he fit into Namjoon and Seokjin on their bed better than Yoongi had when he first arrived, and when the first morning dawned over them, Namjoon had woken up with the kid clutching on for dear life to the front of his and Seokjin’s shirts, murmuring, “Eomma,” in the softest, most hoarse voice he’d ever heard.

Even with the fever, heartbreaking wasn’t the word. 

This was a precious thing that they’d both do anything to protect.

He was theirs.

 

 

iii.

Jimin blanched at the sight of the kid sticking his head up from between Seokjin and Namjoon. He blinked in the doorway, opened his mouth, and at the questioning sound, he saw it, when the kid looked up, and found him.

He shrinked back, making his body as small as possible from behind Namjoon, his eyes (dim, tired, afraid- so, so afraid) peeking up over Namjoon, fighting the rumbles of tiredness as he kept blinking, body tense, shoulders coiled, ready for someone to shout, to argue, to…

“Namjoon?” Jimin said, voice rising a little. Of course, Namjoon being the heavy sleeper that he was, simply grunted, his back to the younger alpha; the kid ducked down further, until his head was completely underneath the blankets, scrambling for safety.

Jimin stepped further into the room, scratching his head.

“Namjoon?”

Namjoon grunted again; Seokjin was the one who sat up, bleary-eyed.

“Jimin?” 

“What,” Jimin said, pointing down to the ball under the covers, “-is that?”

“What time did you get at in last night?” Seokjin murmured, voice low as he rubbed his eyes, completely ignoring the small ball of a shivering human between him and his mate.

“That doesn’t matter- what is that?” Jimin raised his voice a little, tone defensive. 

Seokjin gritted his teeth, before his placed a single finger over his mouth. The younger alpha flared, but obeyed, if only because it was Seokjin; he was more afraid of angering the older beta than he was Namjoon.

“Namjoon brought him in lastnight,” Seokjin murmured, looking down to the covers to what lay trembling underneath them. “A baby, from the farms. Don’t raise your voice. He had a fever last night; it still hasn’t broken.”

Jimin’s mind blanched with every word spoken.

He looked down to the kid.

Jimin arrived in their house before Yoongi, so he could well remember the sight of a farm-bred. But, he knew Yoongi’s ways- he remembered how the older omega was just sick physically- his bidders hadn’t taken care of him in the short term he’d grown in the farms. A little food and rest and he was better.

But this…

Jimin looked down at the child still under the covers; he knew that this was worse; Yoongi had an attitude to authority, regardless of his status as an omega- he refused to let himself be touched when Namjoon, Jimin or Hobi tried to calm him down during his nightmares.

But this kid was just…

A kid. Afraid.

“Hey,” he softened his voice, allowing the honey in his scent to thicken with genuine love. He bent over Namjoon; the older lump of an alpha could sleep through anything, and wouldn’t even register the weight of a body on him. The body under the covers stilled. Jimin smiled. 

“Sorry for being so rude earlier- you surprised me,” he added, ducking his nose down onto the crown of the kid’s covered head. His head stilled.

“I’m Jimin,” he added, hoping that he knew how much he was sorry. 

When the scent of orange blossoms tickled his nose, he looked up to Seokjin and widened his eyes. Seokjin turned sorrowful, shaking his head.

Jimin looked down to the kid, before rolling his body around and crowding in next to Seokjin, where he wrapped his entire body around the furnace of heat under him. Aiish, the kid was on fire

A small flare of worry rose in Jimin (his alpha growled protect in every sense of the word), but when Seokjin wrapped his arms around them both, Jimin chose to close his eyes and cradle himself into the kid, hoping that the fever would break sooner rather than later. 

Slowly, slowly, the kid surfaced, his head turned away from Jimin, who tipped his nose into the kid’s hair.

Slowly, slowly, the kid stopped shaking, and Jimin smiled into his hair again.

Namjoon awoke to find Jimin in the bed, and the kid’s face pressed softly, gently, into his chest, he looked up to Seokjin and smiled at the motherly look on his face.

“Eomma,” the kid whispered again in his fevered dreams. They both looked down in time to see the single tear slip from his closed eyes. 

Jimin looked up from between them both, and caught their expressions.

 

 

iv.

Taehyung fiddled with his phone when he saw the text.

He blinked away the question of whether he could do extra hours (again) tonight.

He felt as though he was always doing bar work these days; with Christmas fast approaching, he guessed that his boss just liked how easygoing he was.

He looked up to the still-undecorated kitchen.

The thing was, he knew what he was, what he was capable of.

He opened his mouth, licked his lips.

He knew what all of them were, to both Namjoon and Seokjin.

Strays.

The streets, the farm, prison

He wasn’t ignorant; he knew that all of them came from broken backgrounds- Seokjin and Namjoon too. 

He licked his lips again, then followed the steaming kettle as it came to the boil.

“Tae…”

He jumped when he saw Namjoon standing in the doorway. Their place wasn’t exactly small, not by any means, but there were times when the alphas seemed to take up space, even more than their bodies could fill naturally.

Taehyung blinked. “Hmm?”

Namjoon stepped into the kitchen, then dove to sit down across from him, and it was then that Taehyung smelled it

Oh.

He tilted his head.

“Where?” he asked, already used to what a new scent in the house meant.

Namjoon pursed his lips, and Taehyung saw how little sleep he got, how tired he was.

He stood up, moving toward his and Seokjin’s room, when Namjoon put a hand on his wrist, stalling him. “He’s sick, very sick, and he’s afraid of being touched- and when you talk, don’t speak too loud, and don’t overcrowd-“

“Yeah, yeah, don’t act like me, so?”

Namjoon blinked. “Don’t be rude,” he said, rephrasing the question. Taehyung smiled. 

Namjoon would never tell him to not act like himself; it was the reason why he stayed here, with them, after all. Omega, alpha, switch; none of that mattered here.

Here, all of them were safe.

 

The kid was awake, doe eyes watching Seokjin as the elder gauged his fever, mouth open as he breathed one raspy breath after another, skin shuddering against Seokjin’s hand. Taehyung put his head on Jimin’s, nestling down into the scent of honey.

The bruises all over the kid’s face made him feel sick.

“How are you feeling, baby?” Seokjin murmured; the kid ducked his head, but his fast breaths were enough to gauge by. “Your fever won’t break until you get some water, food and more rest, okay? I’m going to make you something to eat- would you like that?”

The kid blinked, reaching out to pull on Seokjin’s sleeve, before he jerked, as if realising what he had tried to do, as if it was something bad, wrong. The movement was so fast that Taehyung blinked, thinking that he was seeing things.

Seokjin, however, bundled him up in his arms; when the kid tensed, Taehyung felt himself inhale sharply.

“Like Yoongi,” he murmured. Jimin nodded underneath him.

“He’s really sick, Tae,” Jimin murmured, “Can you smell how close he is?”

At those words, the kid looked up, fever-eyed, blanched, and pried himself away from Seokjin. He tumbled off the bed, and all three of them watched as the kid ducked under a nearby desk, pulling his hands over his head as if to protect himself.

They could hears whimpers in the silence of the room.

The kid was crying.

Seokjin leaned down, murmuring words that Taehyung couldn’t hear, and the kid hiccuped, suppressing a wave of shivers and quiet sobs as his body was wrecked with a fever that he couldn’t control.

Jaenjang, he thought. This was worse than Yoongi. This was the worst they’d ever seen.

“You two,” Seokjin said, reaching down under the table and pulling the kid out, his arms holding him tight when the kid couldn’t grip his bicep because he was shivering so hard, “Call Hobi- tell him we need a doctor ASAP. This is getting worse.”

 

 

v. 

A long while back, at the beginning of summer, Hoseok had been taken in by Seokjin.

He’d just presented, and was kicked out of his all-omega house.

He thought that when he presented, they’d be happy that they had someone there to protect them from the suspicious characters out wandering their neighbourhood, but that wasn’t the case. 

They were afraid of him.

In short, Hoseok was used to fights.

(Actually, he was used to what fights usually led to).

So, when Seokjin was walking home from work one night, and found him lying in the gutter (the alphas from a neighbouring town had found him and decided to have a little Saturday-night fun), he brought him back, promising him food, bandages and a cure for the fever he’d been sporting for the last little while.

Hoseok ended up staying a lot longer; whenever Namjoon wasn’t around, he was usually the one who stopped any aggression from Seokjin’s stalkers (they had the fucking decency to blame it on Seokjin’s scent, for Chrissakes; the smell of lavender wasn’t any reason why anyone should try to stake claim on a mate, fuckers).

Later, when Hoseok decided to try out for medicine (and just after Taehyung had arrived- disshevelled and bleeding out from a knife wound- the actual reason why he became a doctor), it was Seokjin and Namjoon who put him through college (he paid them back, tenfold, when he got his first job at a practise close by).

So, when his phone went off at eleven that morning, and he dumped his hand over it from his bed, he knew who it was; they only ever called when they knew they couldn’t go to anyone else, and when he heard Jimin speak (babble, more like), he knew that they’d brought someone else home.

“H-he’s sick-“

So he grabbed everything, and ran.

Fuck sleep deprivation and shit.

 

He took one look at the kid in Seokjin’s arms and muttered, “Ambulance, now.”

Namjoon stared at him. “We can’t-“

“We don’t have a choice; the kid has something wrong with his ribs.” He crouched down and looked up at the kid from under his sweat-damp bangs. Aiish, this kid was gonna kill him with those eyes.

“He has a fever- and I don’t need to look underneath that shirt to know that he’s holding himself as though he’s in pain.”

The kid winced as if caught.

He winked, then put a finger to the kid’s fevered cheek. “Hey, don’t be afraid,” he softened when the kid flinched. “I know you probably don’t like my type, but I really won’t hurt you- promise.”

The kid closed his eyes.

It didn’t even take a second- not even a half second; he’d guessed that the kid hadn’t heard him.

The kid pitched forward, folded, and Hoseok raised his arms up, catching him as the kid wheezed into his neck, the burning heat of his body claiming him as sure as the darkness. Seokjin was shouting for a phone, but Hoseok heard it in the commotion, and he felt his heart break in two at the warbled sound of it-

“M’sorry.”

 

Hoseok sat on the bed, cradling the kid’s cheek as he lay with his back on Seokjin’s chest. The heart monitor beeped between each breath, and the kid’s eyes furrowed as he slept, but he slept on nonetheless, at peace.

“Three fractured ribs,” Hoseok said, “Multiple occurrences of past abuse, sexual and physical, serious chest infection, swollen glands; the kid’s sporting a fever of 40.1… This is the worst case of farming I’ve ever seen.”

The seriousness of Hoseok’s tone was more than enough for Seokjin.

“Farming should be forbidden,” he swore, weaving his fingers into the kid’s sweaty hair. 

“How on earth a child ended up there is still completely beyond me,” Hoseok commented, watching the child shudder into Seokjin’s chest.

Seokjin pursed his lips as the kid wheezed a breath, clinging tighter to the switch’s shirt. 

“He’s very tactile for someone who refused human contact less than fourteen hours ago,” Hoseok added, “He must know that he has a momma who cares about him very much.” At the softness in Hoseok’s tone, Seokjin blushed.

“Aiiish, stop that,” Seokjin murmured, but his fingers still curled into the kid’s hair, and the kid breathed out a sigh that seemed to melt into his very bones. The drip they’d attached to his arm bent a little, but the liquids that he needed still seeped into his veins.

Thank fuck.

They almost lost him on the way to the hospital because of a fever.

Hoseok also chose that moment to ignore the needle tracks on his arms from whatever… experiment they’d been testing on the kid’s body, too.

Knowing the ways of those bidders, and whatever results would come back from his bloods, he’d ingested a progressive hormone treatment (by force, or by ignorance), and that was why he could smell flowers and the sea so clearly, even over the heavy, bleached scent of the hospital.

The kid furrowed his eyebrows and snuggled closer into Seokjin’s chest, and Seokjin resisted the urge to smile.

“Aigoo, he’s the cutest thing ever and I want to keep him,” Hoseok gushed in one fast sentence. Seokjin rumbled a small, quiet laugh.

 

 

vi.

Yoongi didn’t get to meet the kid until he found oranges on the walls of the house.

His schedule was a nocturnal one; he’d be an owl in the next life what with all the practise he’d been getting, writing lyrics and preparing his next mixtape for release over the last few weeks over a selection of night-time visits to Namjoon’s friend’s studio.

He didn’t even need to see him before he knew what had changed in the house; he came home and could smell the difference- the walls… there were oranges on the walls on their home. 

It made him feel uncomfortable; Namjoon had been sitting at the kitchen table, his eyes boring deep into its surface, as if it held all the answers in the world.

“When?” Yoongi asked.

“Lastnight.”

“The farms?” He asked, knowing what would be the answer.

Namjoon didn’t even bother responding.

“Why?” Yoongi asked, a little afraid, under his breath, and the brokenness in Namjoon’s eyes when he finally looked up made him feel both ashamed and angry at the whole fucking world.

“He’s sixteen, about to present, and was born in the farms.”

Yoongi flexed his fists. Fuck them. Fuck them and their petty, ignorant, screwed up ways of thinking; being an omega, an alpha- fuck, even a switch- had nothing to do with any chosen path in life. 

“Was he being…” he couldn’t even finish the sentence. Namjoon swallowed.

“I was told that he knew, how to… you know. He knew,” Namjoon couldn’t even finish the sentence. A part of Yoongi glazed over what he was trying to say. He remembered, what that actually meant-

He knows what being an omega really means. 

For an alpha, Namjoon’s protective instincts were notoriously strong; fuck, the man had protected all of them when it came to heavy wind from any journalist who came prying about groups like theirs, like GOT7’s, BlackPink’s, EXO’s… but he was too soft when it came to things that broke people- too soft to be able to face certain facts in life- sexual violence and torture.

It was during times like these that Yoongi acted more the alpha than he did; maybe that was why they were such a good fit- Yoongi riled against all of those facts, he cursed them, cursed those who agreed with them…

Maybe, if he wasn’t in the farms, if he hadn’t grown up there, he might’ve been an alpha (the better part of society, he had learned in school, so, so long ago; fuck them all). 

“Where is he now?”

“The hospital- Hobi wants to keep him overnight; he said something about needle tracks and…” Namjoon swallowed, physically paling when he tried to explain to Yoongi. Yoongi completely blanched. No, fuck this, no.

“He said something about testing,” Namjoon added, “It was why he didn’t get the fever until late last-night-“

“Fever?”

“Fractured ribs, and there are needle prints on his arms. He thinks that he might’ve been tested, and that the fever’s the result- or it might just be from exhaustion. We don’t know.”

Yoongi grabbed his coat and made for the door.

“Where are you going?” Namjoon pulled himself out of his seat, following the omega to the front door. 

“Out for a walk,” he gritted out. Visiting hours would have finished- a quick glance at the clock told him it was after four in the evening, but it wouldn’t hurt to go through the streets of Seoul. Heck, he’d probably swing by where Taehyung was working just to check up on the younger omega.

Namjoon’s hand on his wrist didn’t startle him, but the words- “Are you okay?”- sure as hell did. Yoongi cast a glance back over his shoulder.

“I’m fine,” he said, knowing that the past had flashed through his eyes faster than Namjoon would ever be able to understand.

He met the kid before he ever cast eyes on him; whoever this stranger was, Yoongi knew him better than he thought.

Fuck, he was that kid, once upon a time.

 

 

vii.

Yoongi never made a conscious decision to go out and find the kid; it was a lazy winter evening coming ever closer to Christmas Day and, instead of spending his time at the studio, his feet literally wandered into the hospital, and found the kid’s room.

He swore that he didn’t go looking for them- he wasn’t that type of a person- but he heard Jimin laughing, and Taehyung whispering not to tell ‘Kookie’, and a short, wheezy breath followed after; he heard Hobi laughing manically, and Namjoon talking to Seokjin, and he felt as though home was there, right there, amongst those he called his pack, his family. 

He smelled orange blossoms.

He smelled mint then, and lavender, honey and the tell-tale scent of cherry blossoms, ginger and cinnamon and cashmere, and he found himself in the hospital room, his whole family, the pack, all gathered together, talking and chattering amongst themselves.

In the centre of them, he saw the kid, the fading bruises, his wide eyes watching the ensuing chaos around him with a confused expression on his face. His wrist had a bandage; he could see the bandages around his chest underneath the hospital gown. He was smaller than Yoongi imagined, but he knew that it came from the nervous hunch of his shoulders; he didn’t know what to make of them, the rag-tag group that they were.

He turned, and found Yoongi by the door; the fear in his eyes became more tangible.

The scent of oranges and the wash of the sea became more salty, bruised, and Namjoon looked up from where he sat next to Seokjin, finding Yoongi standing at the doorway, watching the kid like as if he was made from something more breakable than glass.

And Yoongi couldn’t move, forward, backward, any-way-ward.

He couldn’t stop staring at the kid.

“Jungkook,” Namjoon leaned forward, voice as gentle as balm. The kid jumped, turned to Namjoon, blinking hard, as if to dispel water from his eyes. “That’s Yoongi. He’s our friend, too; he’s one of our pack.”

Jungkook, Yoongi thought. “Kid,” he said, and the kid jumped again, turning to face Yoongi, a fearful cloud over his eyes. “Is that your name? Jungkook?”

The kid opened his mouth, as if trying to speak. Taehyung and Jimin both stopped talking and looked at the boy, grins widening as Jungkook tried to say something.

When a few seconds passed, the kid looked back up to him, then looked away, embarrassed, his fingers knotting into the fabric of the bedsheets. Hobi cooed, and the kid blushed harder, hunching his shoulders even closer to his chest.

A wash of seawater rushed at Yoongi’s ears, and it soothed him better than anything he’d ever felt before.

He softened, then smiled.

He stepped toward the kid, and let the scent of jasmine and wild rose overflow in the room. The kid caught the scent, and slowly raised a hand to rub his eyes; Seokjin smiled softly. Yoongi knew his scent was a relaxing one- it calmed Jimin on the hardest of nights.

Yoongi reached out, and Namjoon blinked at him, about to say something, but Yoongi was already rubbing the kid’s hair, ruffling his fingers through it as though it were soft, soft sand. The kid didn’t even flinch; he melted into the touch- probably because he could smell the past in his skin, and all of the violence that brought him here, right here, to this hospital room, where he could meet this special child.

“You’ll tell me when you’re good and ready, ‘kay?” he breathed.

Jungkook looked up to him through his fingers as he rubbed his cheek, squeezing one eye shut as his fingers trailed gently over the bruises.

He stared at him for a second, watching him with a glassy-eyed look on his face, and Yoongi could see it, the remains of whatever those bastards had pumped into him.

Phermone drugs; enough to bring on his first heat, or rut.

There were three alphas in this room- Namjoon, Jimin and Hobi. Two omegas- himself (although he wanted to place bets that he was supposed to be an alpha, if not for the fuckers who decided to pull him off the streets), and Taehyung, and one switch- Seokjin.

All of them were here, especially for the kid.

 

“He has a week, maybe two or three, before the drugs wear out of his system,” Hobi had said, earlier, at their dinner table at home. “They gave him so much in such a short space of time that the kid went into shock from it all- that’s why he’s mute when stressed. If he relaxes enough, his first heat, or rut, will come naturally, and be less painful.”

“It’ll hurt?” Taehyung had dropped his chopsticks.

“He’s underage- this is going to hurt, and he knows that; he’s afraid of the pain, because he knows too much of it,” Namjoon had murmured. Yoongi had slammed his glass of water on the table, and shut the entire conversation down.

 

But then the kid surprised him, probably surprised them all.

Jungkook smiled, and he reached up for Yoongi’s arm, delicate, bruised fingers finding his pale-white hands and tracing patterns, soft and gentle, into his skin.

Everyone went silent. Even Yoongi went still.

“Jungkook,” he whispered, voice hoarse, frail, tired. He pulled Yoongi’s arm down to his chest, pushing it gently in, until Yoongi could feel his heart beating like a live-wire in his chest, pulsing hard against his short breaths.

Afraid. Still afraid, of them. But…

“Jungkook,” he repeated, more persistent; listen to me- this is me. “Jungkook.”

Yoongi smiled.

He was still terrified of them.

But he was trying to reach them.

Yoongi heard every word.

 

 

viii.

Namjoon quirked an eyebrow when he found the kid staring hard at his new bedroom, hand fisted in his shirt (wrist still bandaged, but okay to move), shaking (soft, hesitant; the fear had calmed, a little).

“Yeah,” he scratched the back of his neck, “It’s all yours, kid.”

Jungkook stared, even when Namjoon shuffled a little, trying to get the kid to move, but his eyes were rooted to the walls, the bed, the desk, the view outside the window.

He never spoke a word after he introduced himself to Yoongi; he clammed up whenever the younger ones tried to speak to him. Seokjin found it utterly adorable when the kid blushed while Jimin tried to pry a word out of him; Jimin was gentle with the kid, though, and even though he was an alpha, even he found it easier to reach out for him, or to accept skinship whenever Jimin was close by.

They knew he would speak, in his own time.

Yoongi had retreated a little as well, but they all still manoeuvred around the same house, coming and going at different times, but there… Maybe more there than they had been, once upon a time.

Namjoon sat on the bed, and watched the kid still standing in the doorway. 

“You don’t have to stay in this room though- if you prefer the one on the other side of the house, then-“

“Mine?” Jungkook whispered, the single word causing him to shrink at the sound of his own voice.

“Yes, yours.”

Jungkook blinked. “Mine?”

His shoulders were shaking.

Namjoon nodded.

The kid stepped into the room; no, he shuffled into it, and turned, looking at everything, at how neat it was. The house suddenly felt very silent, as if the walls were breathing, listening; Namjoon then knew that Seokjin would probably have his ear to the wall down the hall.

They chose the room closest to theirs; surrounded by everyone, thinking that if the kid was nervous, he would be able to seek out one of them.

“Yours, Jungkook,” Namjoon said, and Jungkook startled, turning to face Namjoon, and in the blink of an eye, the kid looked more lost than anything else.

“W-what do I do… in here?”

Namjoon felt the ground give out under his feet.

Do.

What do I do?

“Whatever you want, Jungkook- this place is yours,” he answered with a smile, the breaking heart inside of him unseen by anyone but Seokjin when he started to cry later that same night.

 

viii.

In the end, though, Jungkook never sought anyone out.

They found him in every corner and room bar their own.

Taehyung found him the first morning after he returned from the hospital in the sitting room, curled up underneath the coffee table, head buried into the carpet.

How he managed to get under there was anybody’s guess; that space was fucking tiny.

Hoseok decided to sleep over at theirs, and on the second morning, he found him in the bathtub. The kid winced when he was carried from the bathroom to Hoseok’s room- aiish, his ribs, he forgot- but Hoseok curled him up in his bed as gingerly as he could, and kept him there until the aching in his back had calmed from the rough night of sleep.

By the third, when it was Seokjin’s turn to go looking for the kid, he found him at the foot of Yoongi’s bedroom door, curled up without a blanket, passed-out, and completely oblivious, the base of his spine digging into the doorframe- reassurance, he guessed, that he wasn’t in a cage anymore.

Seokjin had decided to pull the kid up and sleep with him wrapped in his arms on the floor. The kid curled into his body heat and refused to let go.

“This isn’t right,” Namjoon murmured, fisting his hair in his hands. “The kid should be able to sleep in his own-“

“Don’t,” Yoongi replied, knowing they were out of earshot with the maknaes in the room next door. “He can’t sleep comfortably alone- he’s used to being like that.”

Meaning- he’s used to sleeping alone, or not at all.

“But that’s not right-“

“Give him time,” Hoseok said. “In the meantime, how ‘bout we all sleep with him, take turns or something? He might actually prefer that.”

Jimin and Taehyung volunteered to have a sleepover in Taehyung’s room and the kid followed without complaint, curled up in between them so he couldn’t be found in some random corner of the house the following morning.

Hoseok didn’t even bother waiting his turn; he decided to move back into their house for a while and ended up pulling the kid into his arms when he returned from his shift, making straight for the bedroom, keeping the door ajar so the kid could leave if the alpha’s scent became worrisome. It didn’t even take long for the kid to fall under; he slept with one fist curled tightly into Hoseok’s shirt and his cheek pressed solidly into his chest, feeling the alpha’s heartbeat rather than hearing it.

Yoongi pressed his nose into the kid’s neck one early morning when he found him sitting on the couch, waiting for him to come home. He pulled himself back from Jungkook’s lolling head and stared at him as the kid fought sleep.

“You’re awake at three in the morning, kid.”

Jungkook blinked open his eyes, and smiled at him.

Aissh, it was the smile that got him.

Yoongi gave in, and entangled his sleep-heavy limbs around the kid’s body, pinning him into the cushions of the couch so that he was on the outer end and wouldn’t jostle the kid off of it if he decided to move in his sleep.

The next morning and the two of them woke up with Jimin cooing over them both.

Yoongi growled at them, but Jungkook pressed his nose into Yoongi’s neck and slept on.

And it went on.

 

 

A few days passed, and then the nightmares started.

 

ix.

Jimin freaked when he heard the whimper.

It was just after four in the morning; the Christmas lights that Seokjin had spent a whole morning putting up made glowing colours dance across his vision, but it was the second whimper, followed by the burst of a muffled scream, that made the whole world around him cold-as-ice.

He swivelled his head in the direction of the noise, heartbeat quickening.

The overwhelming scent of orange blossoms pervaded his nose, and his worry increased.

Jungkook.

He whispered his name out loud, stumbling over the bed covers until he felt the lump that was the boy, and-

Jungkook screamed, a peel of sound that bounced off the wall, shredding his ears.

Jimin’s heart wrenched.

A second later, and Jungkook’s body wrenched itself from Jimin’s-

“Shit-“ Jimin reached out and grabbed the kid before he could stumble out of the bed and hurt himself-

The lights went on overhead and Jimin blinked, finding Jungkook’s head of hair first before seeing Seokjin’s worried eyes-

“What-baby- what’s wrong-“

Jungkook’s eyes were closed, but his screaming became louder, and the smells of the sea and the orange blossoms and everything that made Jungkook- the softness of the kid and his small smiles and the way he held their hands as though it was a precious gift- swelled in Jimin’s addled brain-

Fuck, the smell of orange blossoms-

“Jesus, is he presenti-“

“No,” Seokjin murmured, pulling Jungkook, who rasped another scream and had everyone tumbling into the bedroom all at once. “He’s having a nightmare, poor thing.”

Jungkook pushed against him, but it was as though his body couldn’t co-operate; his limbs flopped against Jin’s body, and he howled louder, until Yoongi grabbed the kid from the switch’s arms and pushed the kid’s head into his neck, making him breathe his scent.

“Jungkook, it’s okay- we’re right here, Jungkook, just listen to me, okay?”

Jungkook softened under his touch, then completely deflated, quieting, little sobs breathing down Yoongi’s neck as he seemed to wake up.

Fuck, it was scaring Jimin. He swallowed, sat back into a crouch, and everyone went quiet.

“Don’wanna presen’,” Jungkook was murmuring into Yoongi’s skin. “Don’makeme- don’wanna-hurts-“

Yoongi was rocking the kid back and forth as he mumbled incoherent words into his neck, and fuck, it was burning Jimin to see the kid shake like that, his whole head buried into Yoongi’s neck.

“It’s okay, Jungkook- it’s not going to be like that-“

“S’gonna hurt- scared-‘eomma-“ Jungkook whimpered, but it was clear that the kid was mumbling himself off to sleep again. In moments, they heard nothing but the quickening breaths of each other in the room.

Taehyung reached out and grasped Jimin’s shirt.

Jimin blinked.

They were shaking.

Hoseok released a breath first, then dumped his whole body down on the bed.

“I’m sleeping in here- who’s with me?” He asked, before grabbing Jimin and curling up with the alpha.

When everyone piled into the bed, Jungkook nestled in the middle between Yoongi and Taehyung, nobody spoke a word.

They were all awake for hours afterward.

They didn’t talk about it, not even when the first beams of the sun passed over the Christmas lights, and not even when Jungkook stirred, his head coming up from under the mounds of bedclothes and still bodies.

 

 

The nights after were a wave of nightmares; Jungkook would pull them all from sleep- he’d scream the walls down, his fear a crashing tourniquet against the muffled cries in Seokjin’s, Hoseok’s, Yoongi’s, Namjoon’s shirts, and the rest of them would watch, scared, shocked, as Jungkook mumbled words-

“‘theywannakillme-“
“m’not presenting- no-no-“

“-makeitstop, make the pain stop- hurts-“

-became a fury that burned in their minds.

The maknae was so afraid of presenting that it offset all of them; not once had the kid complained of pain, even when Hoseok had told them of Jungkook’s fractured ribs; his pain barrier was so high that even through the fever he was still coherent enough to say that he felt fine.

But the nightmares were scarring.

They heard him scream ‘Stop’ one too many times; they knew what the kid was seeing in his mind, and there wasn’t much they could do to help.

But Jungkook had watched them when they thought they couldn’t be seen, and something changed, shifted, then.

Namjoon noticed the kid shaking a little more, his eyes clouding over completely whenever he found him in the bedroom by himself. He shied away from them altogether, even when Seokjin would reach out to touch his cheek, the back of his neck or shoulder; he’d jump if Hoseok held him from behind, and tense up altogether if he held him any longer.

The nightmares grew worse.

“You’re sleeping in your own room tonight?” Yoongi asked when Jungkook walked past his door. He ducked his head out and watched the kid wordlessly slip into his room, locking the door behind him. Yoongi watched, silent, and squeezed his eyes shut later that night when Jungkook started screaming again.

At mealtimes, Jimin and Taehyung would see the kid pull away from them, eyes downcast as he ate his food quietly. He hid himself in corners to appear smaller, as if his presence was bothersome; Namjoon growled when he found him sitting in a corner of the hall. It was so unexpected that Jungkook had jumped, and stared up at him with wide, frightened eyes.

They all noticed the dark circles under the kid’s eyes; they knew that there was a cry out for help in them.

It was more than enough to make Jimin sick to his stomach.

 

x.

Namjoon tapped his shoulder.

Jungkook swivelled his head over the kitchen sink. 

His hands were sopping wet from washing the dishes, and when he caught the seriousness in Namjoon’s gentle eyes, he faltered, dropping the plate back into the sink. He huddled back, inched closer toward the sink, when Namjoon’s eyes went wide.

“Jungkook, you can talk to us, you know. You can tell us what it is that’s bothering you.”

Jungkook looked down, his fringe covering his eyes. He nodded, once, but stayed quiet all the same.

Namjoon breathed out. 

“If it makes any difference, I’m afraid of your first time too,” he said. Jungkook stilled. “We want to help you, but if you want to be alone when it happens, then that’s fine too. There’s nothing to be scared of here, not in this house, and never with us, okay? We’re a family, and we’ll always be there for you, if you need help, or someone to talk to, or even if it’s just a hug… we’re always here.”

Jungkook remained still, his head nodding once.

Namjoon licked his lips, scratching the back of his neck, ignoring the pounding of his heart as he spoke. “My first time, God, I was so scared, but Jin were there- he actually found me while I was working part-time at the back of a station, and he…. helped me. Saved me, really; I don’t think I could ever find someone like him out there, for me. We’ve been together for four years, you know; not once have either of us wanted to leave the other, you know?”

Jungkook looked up to him, and Namjoon smiled softly at the shine in the kid’s eyes.

“And Jin’s first time… you should ask us, about it. We want to help, you know? It’s not a secret, our firsts, not here, okay?”

He placed his hands, gentle, on Jungkook’s shoulders, and felt the smallness of them, the way he seemed so fragile…

Aiiish.

“Don’t ever be afraid here. Tell us when you’re hurting, okay? Just tell us.”

Jungkook let a single tear fall, and Namjoon held him, pulling the kid up a little so that he could feel how much he cared, and Namjoon heard the single whimper, the quiet rasp of breath, and Jungkook’s wet, soppy hands clutching hard into his jumper, as if letting go would rend him in two.

He didn’t let go. Not once.

Not even when Taehyung walked in and joined them.

 

xi.

Seokjin put his head on Jungkook’s, smelling his freshly-washed hair. The boy looked up to him from his seat on the couch, and Seokjin smiled down on him, chuckling when the boy blushed hard.

“You’re too adorable, Kookie,” he gushed.

Jungkook flushed under the praise, opening his mouth and then closing it when he couldn’t find the words. He blinked, and looked down, hunching his shoulders.

Taehyung grinned when he saw Jungkook smiling underneath the collared jumper he wore.

The Christmas lights twinkled over their heads.

 

The second time… Jungkook reached for Yoongi’s shirt while he was making coffee. When Yoongi looked down to the kid, and saw him stare back, unfaltering, he smiled, before reaching out and wrapping his arms around the him.

“Kookie,” he whispered into the crown of the kid’s hair.

He swore he felt Jungkook smile into his neck, then relax when Yoongi’s fingers softly trailed down his spine, softening the tension that had gathered there.

Jungkook breathed a slow whine into Yoongi’s neck, and Yoongi laughed.

“So you like back rubs, then?”

Jungkook pulled back, blushing furiously, and Yoongi laughed harder, scratching the kid’s hair and making him fluster all the more.

The radio crooned overhead, blasting a twinkling Christmas melody that would forever remain in Yoongi’s memory.

 

xii.

Jimin watched as Jungkook took his first steps out into the snow, the sleeves of his long, baggy jumper stretching over his fingers as the kid reached out for the tracks of twinkling snowfall.

He grinned when Jungkook caught him staring.

 

Jungkook took the camera from Taehyung, listening carefully to the older’s instructions, and looked through the lens, smiling when he caught Yoongi snoring softly on the couch, the Christmas lights glittering over his pale skin.

He took the photo, the shutter clicking once, and Taehyung grinned wide when he saw the photo on the screen.

“Natural,” Taehyung murmured. Jungkook blanched, eyes wide.

“You’re a natural at taking photos, Jungkook,” Taehyung added, flashing a small smile in Jungkook’s direction. Jungkook remained still, before flushing under the praise.

“Thank you,” he murmured softly in reply.

“Aiiish, I really wish you’d talk more,” Taehyung murmured, his tone as gentle as a breeze so as not to upset the younger. “We love the sound of your voice, Kookie. It’s like a song.”

Jungkook looked away, but the smile was still unmistakable.

 

xiii.

It was Namjoon’s last shift on Christmas Eve when he got the call.

Taehyung was on the other end, breathing heavy, unable to speak a word.

Namjoon cursed.

“I’m on my way, Tae, okay? Just stay there and keep Kookie calm okay?”

“He isn’t able to move, hyung,” the brokenness of Taehyung’s voice scared Namjoon, had him pushing up from his desk and pulling all of his sheets together. He caught Jackson’s eye, and the man nodded, understanding who Kookie was when his co-worker had mentioned the farms a few days previous.

“He’s omega, hyung, and he’s in so much pain- Seokjin can’t calm him down-” Taehyung breathed hoarsely down the line. Namjoon cursed, vision whitening. 

“-he’s broken goods-“

Fuck them.

Fuck all of them.

“Taehyung, I’m coming, I’m on my way. Just stay there, and keep Kookie calm, okay?”