Genre: Drama, suspense
Summary: Jaejoong is a creature of the streets picked up by Mister “Daddy” Kim. Changmin keeps track of the money and maybe feels some sympathy for one of Daddy’s pets.
Warnings! Child slavery/sex slavery (implied), big age difference, I swear this isn’t child porn
A/N: Much better than the original idea I had for this. Prompt 87.
It is hard for Jaejoong to describe his first memories. They are from a time when words were lost on him and all he can remember are shapes and sounds. Beside him was the horrendous stench of rotting garbage, piss, and vomit with worms wiggling about. He’d squat in that spot every night as the streets were empty and the only heat was the warmth of a polluting pipe. No one bothered him and he could usually last without too much harm.
He remembers the other person who would eat the dirt. Just the dirt. To this day Jaejoong doesn’t remember what it really was. Jaejoong didn’t know there were different genders until later, but it was a girl eating that dirt. And it was a boy just like him who was picked up by a car at night. Car, he learned that word from Changmin. It was the name of the loud beast with glaring eyes that stopped by the boy and ate him.
Jaejoong wasn’t eaten by a car. He just woke up one day in Daddy’s arms, clean but hungry. “And how old are you, cutie?” Jaejoong didn’t understand the noises coming out of Daddy’s mouth. All he wanted was food and water, who was this guy? He was bigger than all the other people he had met. He was bigger and had a louder face, and his hands wrapped around his entire waist when he held him. He was so different and Jaejoong didn’t understand. So Jaejoong said nothing.
Daddy held Jaejoong, moaning and whining for food and warmth, for several hours. He simply held him and stroked him and touched him enough to make Jaejoong feel very different. Daddy whispered sweet things into his ears, but Jaejoong doesn’t remember what he said.
“Such large eyes…”
“You’ll be beautiful when you grow up…”
“Adorable when you can’t talk…”
One of Mister “Daddy” Kim’s men came into the room and took Jaejoong away to eat. It is one of Jaejoong’s best early memories. Whatever he ate, it made his tongue very happy and his tummy stop crying. Jaejoong couldn’t use utensils and ate with his fingers, but it didn’t matter, he wasn’t given any in the first place. It might have been a small bowl of rice, it could have been a five star meal. It’s a precious memory.
He was given new clothes, the first outfit he had ever worn. A clean pair of pants, a shirt with stiff sleeves, underwear. Jaejoong didn’t earn shoes until much later. The worn blanket he had previously wrapped around his body disappeared. Daddy burned it, someone told him years afterward. It reeked of defecation. It reeked of poverty.
Jaejoong couldn’t speak and couldn’t understand other people. In a room of under developed children, Jaejoong was the furthest behind. He recognized some words like “drunk” or “shit head” or “bastard” but other things escaped him. Jaejoong responded to “hey idiot” better than his own name. The name Daddy gave to him that first day. It was his name? What is a name? He didn’t understand even that.
As Jaejoong grew to understand language more, he could interact with the other boys Daddy cared for. Boys were always coming and going, and the oldest ones would take it upon themselves to care for the younger. One day a ten year old boy was brought in. Jaejoong knew he was ten because he yelled it to everyone who would listen.
“What is ten?” Jaejoong asked Byunghae, the Hyung who watched over Jaejoong the most.
Byunghae pet Jaejoong’s soft hair and smiled. “It is a number representing his age. He has lived for ten years. I have lived for twelve.”
“What is my number?” Jaejoong asked, snuggling his face into Byunghae’s bare chest.
“I’m not sure, maybe six? You looked five when you came in and a whole year has passed.”
The ten year old boy was rowdy and loud. He had come from a family, why was he here? What is a family? We are a family, Jaejoong. The ten year old was taken away, he came back bruised and bloody. The ten year old boy became quiet.
At nights in the little room where all the boys stayed, Jaejoong with snuggle up with Byunghae and a few others. They shared a blanket and body heat. Byunghae no longer had a shirt, he had outgrown his last one a long time ago. Jaejoong doesn’t remember him ever having one.
Every year, once a year, Daddy would play with him, telling him it was a celebration of their meeting. They’d play and Daddy would ask if he felt good and Jaejoong learned that it didn’t matter if it did or didn’t or if he said it did or didn’t, Daddy would keep playing with him and keep asking.
Byunghae Hyung became one of the boys who slept away at night. Jaejoong had heard about it, but he didn’t know what it was. Just the older boys left the younger ones and started to sleep somewhere else at night. During the day they were in the shop working for Daddy, during the night they did not return.
Jaejoong missed Byunghae Hyung, but he soon became the one with little ones sleeping at his side at night as he absorbed their heat through his bare abdomen. He was the one now explaining why they should never look the big Hyungs in the eyes, never make noise, never move. The big Hyungs didn’t like the boys the same way Daddy did.
When Daddy asked Jaejoong if he felt good, more often than not, Jaejoong answered yes.
Their meetings became more frequent. He was one of Daddy’s favorites. Daddy even said “it’s a damn shame you have to start in two years. Damn shame you can’t be twelve forever.”
“I want to stay by Daddy’s side more often.” When Jaejoong said things like this, Daddy would give him a kiss on the lips with a rare gentleness to it. Jaejoong would say anything if it would lead to things that actually felt good. These kisses felt good. They were like little bits of praise Jaejoong didn’t know he was starving for.
“Daddy wants to stay with you too, my Jaejoong”
It was several conversations like this that led to Jaejoong working the check in desk of Daddy’s store. He’d stand behind a counter and take money and hand over keys and direct men to see Daddy and call for one of the big Hyungs if someone looked suspicious. That is how Jaejoong met Changmin.
Changmin walked in through the front doors of the shop. Jaejoong had never seen such a handsome person before. He was even taller than Daddy. He walked to Jaejoong’s counter, dropped his briefcase on top, popped it open, and removed several papers. “I need to see Mister Kim.”
“Daddy is in a meeting right now. He is with the other boys getting them ready for tonight.” Changmin frowned at the word ‘Daddy’ and again at the mention of the other boys.
“I see. Well, when he has time, tell him Changmin Hyung came and needs to discuss numbers with him.” Jaejoong nodded along and smiled.
“I know what numbers are. I’m the number six.”
Changmin paused from putting his papers away and stared at Jaejoong. “Who told you that you were six?”
“Byunghae hyung. He said he was twelve, the other boy was ten, and I was six.” Jaejoong felt very proud of himself for remember so much and beamed at the older man.
Changmin sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, pulling his jacket suit sleeve down enough to show off his glittery watch. “Boy, the number associated with age is not stagnant. It changes over time and gets larger. Numbers change. They get bigger and smaller and can do many things. You were six a long time ago, but now you are older. How old? Hmm, Jaejoong, have you ever been in the other parts of the shop?”
Jaejoong shook his head. A lot of the words Changmin was saying were too big and he had never heard them before, but he knew this question. Sometimes men would ask him with grins on their faces if he had even been back there, if he would like to go back there with them.
“That’s right, you look too young to be fourteen. Too young to be here.” Changmin’s voice trailed off as if he knew something Jaejoong didn’t. But Jaejoong didn’t really know that much, so it wasn’t surprising.
Changmin visited the shop frequently, whether he needed to see Daddy or not. He would often stay in the front with Jaejoong. He taught Jaejoong to count, he taught him the alphabet, how to read, how to write. Jaejoong knew he was grateful. Changmin would always say, “These skills are the only things that will save you one day.” To Jaejoong, staying with Changmin was the only thing that could save him.
When the leery men and their golden tickets came, asking for a room and maybe Jaejoong’s company, Changmin would pull Jaejoong behind him and stare them down. Then at night when men would ask where he was, why isn’t he running the counter, where is Jaejoong, Changmin would take Jaejoong away and read with him.
“Why doesn’t Daddy teach me these things?” Jaejoong asked from his seat on Changmin’s lap. They were in a private room, one that Jaejoong would eventually use with other men, reading old folk tales together. Jaejoong hesitantly sounded out the words, being careful of the re-syllabification of letters (“That word is not mat-itt-eo-yo, it is ma-si-sseo-yo, to be tasty.”)
It was topics like these that Changmin tried to avoid. He was already breaking so many rules by spending time with Jaejoong, the next worse thing would be to turn Jaejoong against his Daddy. “Jaejoong, you know that Mister Kim is not your real father, right?”
“But who else will take care of me like he does? That’s Daddy’s job, isn’t it?” Jaejoong had a curious look on his face as he curled into Changmin and shared heat with him.
The whole situation was risky, but Jaejoong was worth it, Changmin knew it. He gently rubbed Jaejoong’s back, luring him to sleep. “Yes, but it can also be a lover or a good friend. It just has to be someone who won’t betray you, ever.”
“I’d never betray Hyung, so can you be that person for me?” Jaejoong mumbled, falling asleep before Changmin could answer.
At the tender age of thirteen, Jaejoong had fallen in love with Changmin, the man formerly trusted with taking care of Mister Kim’s hidden funds. Not long after that night, Changmin had gone to Mister Kim asking for Jaejoong to be exempted from the boys of the night. Everyone remembers what happened afterwards. Daddy took a gun to Changmin’s head and threatened to blow it off. Changmin called Mister Kim a perverted pedophile. Daddy blew a nice hole in Changmin’s briefcase.
Jaejoong was manning the counter when Changmin stumbled out of Daddy’s office with the smoking briefcase. His face was flushed and he couldn’t pull himself to his proper height. Daddy followed him, waving his gun and cussing up a storm of words Jaejoong can’t remember. He can only remember running in front of Changmin to stop Daddy from pulling the trigger again.
Daddy was really mad. His face was the color of hot chili sauce. “Have you been sleeping with him?” How should Jaejoong answer? Daddy clearly didn’t want to hear that Jaejoong had fallen asleep in his arms sometimes. But it was the truth. Changmin Hyung felt safe.
“You don’t have to answer him, Jaejoong,” Changmin grunted from behind the boy.
“Don’t have to answer me! Me? I’m the one who saved you from the streets, what right do you have to deny me?” Mister Kim yanked Jaejoong away from Changmin, his grip so tight Jaejoong’s skin had already started turning purple.
“This is being saved?” Changmin gasped out. “Jaejoong is doomed to suffer with you!” Bang, bang, Daddy’s gun went off two more times and Changmin crawled out with a trail of blood following him.
That night Daddy punished Jaejoong. He smacked him and squeezed him and made him squirm. Jaejoong didn’t return to the counter for two weeks. In that time, he healed in the attic and kept company with the other boys. Using the dust coating every surface of the room, Jaejoong taught the boys how to count and recognize Korean letters. Fifteen days since the last time Jaejoong had seen Changmin, he was escorted back to the counter because of “popular demand.”
Before the doors opened for the night, Daddy led Jaejoong into the back room. There Jaejoong saw the boys who slept away at night. They were so beautiful chained to beds, dressed with pretty makeup, and oiled so their skin glistened. So beautiful the way their heads would loll to the side, the way their eyes held an empty gaze with Jaejoong, the way they looked starved but so hungry. So hungry for human contact. So beautiful.
Daddy held Jaejoong from behind and whispered into his ear, “Do you want to live this life?” A man came in and played with the center boy the way Daddy played with Jaejoong, but instead of a shy smile and innocent whines, this boy was crying. “Or do you want stay with Daddy?”
“Do I have a choice?” Jaejoong whispered. Daddy grinned and carried Jaejoong to the front desk, his hand firmly under Jaejoong’s butt.
It was with the faintest horror that Jaejoong recognized the boy as Byunghae.
Someone was supposed to stay with Jaejoong the entire night. Changmin was no longer there to protect him from the hungry customers and their shiny golden tickets. Lewd “I want you tonight” and “are you still not old enough yet, baby?” But Mister Kim called for aid and the man watching Jaejoong left in time for another one to come in.
He rushed to the counter unlike a customer. “Is Mister Kim around?” He was sweating profusely and red in the face. He smelled.
Jaejoong shook his head but said nothing more. The man look back and forth between Jaejoong and the Daddy’s office. “Aish, I don’t have time for this!” He reached around the counter and pulled out a paper and pen, frantically scrawling a note across it. “Give this to Mister Kim as soon as possible. It is urgent!” And he left as quick as he came.
Shim Changmin. Police. Raid. Tonight.
Jaejoong ate the note. Ate it and it tasted good. One of the tastiest memories of his life. The stakes were high, and his heart wanted to leap out of his chest and run away, but he held the pen with a firm hand and wrote a new note. Daddy would never suspect.
Shim Changmin taken care of.
He knocked on Daddy’s door and one Daddy’s men answered and took the note from him. Daddy looked at it and nodded, tossing it into the fireplace. When he saw Jaejoong, he smacked someone and someone followed Jaejoong back to the front. The next half hour passed relatively quietly until two men walked in without a ticket.
“I’m here to see Mister Kim.” The ahjusshi on the left looked too eager to be in a place like this, but the ahjusshi on the right had a deadly stench.
“Do you have a ticket?” The ahjusshi on the right placed a paper in front of Jaejoong, politely despite his demeanor. The paper had many words on it, but Jaejoong could read Warrant of Arrest on the top. He nodded and crouched under the cabinet.
It was a loud night. Lots of guns, lots of crying. Jaejoong ran away during the commotion. Far away, he didn’t know where to go but far. Changmin was gone, gone for a long time. “Reduced sentence for cooperating with the police,” the judge said.
Jaejoong’s earliest memories are hard to describe. But there aren’t enough words out there to describe the moment Changmin walked out of prison fifteen years later and Jaejoong was there waiting for him. Changmin had buzzed hair and a small limp and he was no longer wearing his prison uniform, but Jaejoong recognized him by his tall prideful figure and handsome face. Changmin was walking slowly towards him when Jaejoong ran up and embraced the man he had wanted to hold for so long.
“I went to school and I got jobs. I learned so much so I would never go back to that life. I waited for you.” Jaejoong sobbed, holding Changmin in an inescapable hug.
“How old are you, my Jaejoong?” Changmin’s voice was hoarse, possibly from the smoking habit he picked up in prison.
“Are you sure you’re not six? You look so young.” Changmin held his face. “I can’t believe this is really you.” From behind the glass during prison visits, Changmin was never able to get a good look at Jaejoong. Face to face, the reality was all too real.
“This is me, Hyung. I don’t need to be adopted, and you wouldn’t be able to with your criminal record, but can you still be the person who will never betray me?”
His strongest memories are of when a nice grandmother let him skin fish and remove feathers from chicken. He put his first paycheck under his pillow that night and prayed that it would multiply by a thousand times. When he cashed the check, the bills were the softest he had ever felt.
Jaejoong vividly remembers the certificate he received for completing high school education. He was twenty-two. Jaejoong bought two slices of cake and brought them to the prison to share with Changmin. The guards kindly let them eat face to face. The sweetness was more than a wedding cake.
The first place he lived in and paid for was quaint, but there were signs that someone else lived there and that was enough for Jaejoong. Two toothbrushes, two sets of bowls and cups, two pillows on the bed, two chairs. Jaejoong was waiting for Changmin. The ache of waiting for Changmin, Jaejoong understood. He’d never forget, and he’d never let Changmin be taken away again.