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Bloom

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Jinyoung remembers the first time he saw love.

He'd seen fucking , sure, you live on the streets you see it a lot, even as a kid. They weren't even touching each other. Not even looking at each other, just sitting next to each other on a bench. The man wiggled his finger, slow until it brushed the other man's. Like it barely happened. But then they both smiled, at the same time, and there it was.

Jinyoung had stood there, wide eyed, until his sister jolted int o him from behind.

It made sense now, how his sisters gushed about love.

It felt like this blooming in his chest, something almost like hope, when he saw it.

The first time he felt it, it bloomed so much harder it almost hurt.

It was this slow smile, tilt of Lim Jaebeom's head when Jinyoung asked why he'd helped him up when he'd found him beaten in an alley.

"Why wouldn't I?"

Just like that.

Like Jaebeom didn't see how skinny and bruised Jinyoung was, like Jaebeom didn't see how grateful tears welled in Jinyoung's eyes even as he pushed him away.

"Why wouldn't I?"

Jinyoung had only been 15 when he thought: my heart blooms only for him.

***

Jinyoung is 20 when he tells himself it's a different kind of bloom, just a little one. A crush, they say. Just because Jaebeom is his friend. Because he saved him. Because he's...Jaebeom, everyone is a little in love with him. It isn't like he hasn't seen BamBam with his eyes wide and shining because JB saved him too. It's what he did, Jinyoung thought, saved these broken boys and helped them patch up the cracks.

Jinyoung wasn't any different.

By 22 the bloom is full to bursting and Jinyoung watches the others grow into other crushes, other blooms.

"Was it like that with Mark?" Jinyoung asks one night, quietly when Jaebeom is too cross faded to read into it.

"What do you mean?" Jaebeom asks, tilts his head just like that first time.

Jinyoung doesn't know how to answer, how to tell Jaebeom that he saved them all without even knowing it.

Instead he shrugs.

Jaebeom smirks and throws an arm heavy over Jinyoung's shoulder.

"Don't worry, baby. I love you the most."

It's half slurred and Jaebeom is laughing but Jinyoung's heart doesn't know the difference.

It blooms only there. Only for him. 

Jinyoung doesn't keep his sexuality a secret, it never occurred to him to. It helped to have Bambam loud and out and proud and Jaebeom not even blinking an eye, smiling at any girl or boy who came in and out of Bambam's life.

He doesn't talk about it to the others, though. Figures it's none of their business and also,  Jinyoung wasn't fighting to find that bloom feeling the other's were seeking.

He's got his, and it's his secret pride that he's found it. That thing. That bloom

Jinyoung is the first to admit (to himself  at least, not ever the others), that he's got Jaebeom on a pedestal. 

He'd saved him. Once in that alley, eventually again underwater but that's beside the point. Jaebeom would die to save any of them.

But Jinyoung has something special. That bloom, that's just his.

And that bloom? That's sacred. Keeps Jaebeom saving him, day after day, and the elder doesn't even know it. 

 

***

There's all these little moments: Jinyoung's ears going red when he's half asleep next to Jaebeom and Jinyoung hears shuffling, a hitch in Jaebeom's breath and his imagination fills in the rest; when Jinyoung was 16 Jackson had shoved him in the closet at some house party and Jinyoung stumbles in the dark, hits a solid wall of chest and then there's just lips on his and his heart blooms again.

It stings that Jaebeom doesn't even know it was him but he has that moment, his first kiss.

Jinyoung gets frustrated sometimes when Bambam or Jackson brag about guys or girls and wonders if he's missing out.

But then Jaebeom does that head tilt, gives him a slow smile and there it is. Bloom .

No one can take this away from me, he thinks fiercely, over and over. He doesn't belong to me, someone that good has to belong to everyone instead of one but he has every piece of me and that's enough .

It's enough enough enough enough .

If he lies to himself long enough, he'll believe it.

Jinyoung gets well and truly drunk on his 22nd birthday and tells Jaebeom, chest puffed, barely breathing.

"I love you." The room is tilting and his chest hurts and Jaebeom's face blurs in front of his eyes but he means it.

"I know," Jaebeom says softly, gently puts Jinyoung's head to rest against his shoulder.

"I love you," Jinyoung had said again and it comes out like a mumble.

"You're okay, baby. Rest," Jaebeom's words had come from so far away it's hard to tell but Jinyoung will never forget when Jaebeom says, moments later, "love you too."

He counts it in his heart, the seventeenth time Jaebeom has said it back and then the shorter list, the eight times Jaebeom had said it first. Three times it was even sober.

Jinyoung knows he says it to all of them, Bambam and Yugyeom more than the rest but that's okay.

They don't bloom for Jaebeom, not like Jinyoung does. That's only his.

***

Jinyoung doesn't mind sharing. He doesn't . The bloom changes, starts to ache in his chest instead of just warmth, when Jaebeom meets a girl and Jinyoung doesn't think anything of it. At least not until the Tuesday that he sees Jaebeom with her.

Not looking at her. Not even touching her. But when she speaks to him Jaebeom has this smile Jinyoung has never seen and it's like someone had dumped a bucket of cold water over Jinyoung's head.

Jaebeom found his bloom and Jinyoung is happy for him. Happy happy happy . Not swallowing down bitter bile every time Jaebeom mentions her name, soft, like it's safe in his mouth, like if he said it too much he would damage something fragile and precious.

It doesn't hurt. It doesn't it doesn't it doesn't.

***

In Japan, during what Jinyoung thinks of later as the most bittersweet week of his life, Jaebeom asks for his help.

"Sure," Jinyoung says, half listening because Jaebeom knows Jinyoung will do anything he needs.

"I want to buy her a ring."

Jinyoung pauses, everything goes still and quiet in his head.

"So do it," he responds, automatically, bitterness rolling off his tongue when he wishes he could say: please don't ask me to do this. Please don't ask me to give you up because it might be the one thing I can't give you.

Jinyoung tries. He picks out a ring he's sure she'll love, Jaebeom says he's not good at that kind of thing so Jinyoung does it, turns out he can do so much more than he thinks he can, if it will make Jaebeom smile.

And that's it, Jaebeom will marry her and that's that and Jinyoung can keep this bloom in his chest, keep this one, sacred thing and he never has to tell another person.

But then she breaks Jaebeom's heart, breaks him in a way Jinyoung hadn't known Jaebeom could be broken.

Mark texts him: there's something wrong with JB.

Jinyoung heart leaps into his throat when he calls Mark and there is no answer.

He's not acting right. Just a head's up.

Mark is always like this, the cryptic fuck, and if it's not physical Mark has no idea how to handle it. He can tie a stitch in one of them, bandage broken ribs but when it comes to matters of the heart he's lost.

Hasn't found his bloom , Jinyoung thinks. He will. God help him.

Mark's wrong. There isn't something wrong with JB, everything is wrong with him.

Jaebeom doesn't talk much, even on the best days. He plays things close to his chest, probably to protect the others.

Now? Jaebeom tells him everything while chugging a bottle of clear liquor that Jinyoung tries to hide under the couch when JB gets louder, and then starts to cry.

Not cry. Wail like some kind of wounded animal and Jinyoung feels his whole body quake with rage.

Jinyoung is a bad person. He's a bad person because he wants to yank Jaebeom's ex out of the shitty strip club she worked in. He's a bad person because when Jaebeom starts to sob he buries his head in Jinyoung's lap and his heart still blooms, some sick pride in that Jaebeom trusts him enough to break.

Jinyoung is a bad person because right after the breakup, when Jaebeom was drunk or high or both for a full week, Jinyoung took advantage of every moment.

On the second day Jaebeom's face is swollen from crying and Jinyoung won't let any of the others talk to him.

Jaebeom would be embarrassed if they saw him like this, Jinyoung rationalizes.

You want this to yourself ,* is what he knows to be true. You want him to yourself .

***

On the third day then Jaebeom talks him into smoking with him and Jinyoung chokes on the first hit, Jaebeom laughs and thumbs down Jinyoung's lips, blows smoke into his mouth and all Jinyoung can think the rest of the night through the weed haze is: bloom .

Jinyoung is the one who closes the distance, of course he is, and when Jaebeom hitches in a breath, says " baby ," in this low, almost distressed tone, Jinyoung freezes.

But Jaebeom, goddamn him, grabs the younger by the back of the head, kisses him like he means it and Jinyoung had only thought he was lost before. 

It keeps happening like that, and once in a day so bad it felt like a fever dream from start to finish, JB had slammed into the apartment with Jinyoung trailing along behind him.

"Beom," he starts, and Jaebeom is mad. He's mad and hurt and Jinyoung can see it all over his face but when Jaebeom stares at him and just lays a single hand on his belt buckle, Jinyoung follows him to hell.

His feet don't know how to do anything else but follow Jaebeom, it turns out. 

It isn't as if Jinyoung hasn't always known he was weak for Jaebeom. It's just that he never knew it ran this deep.

Because he knows what this is: a distraction, all popped buttons and teeth dragging across flesh, panted breaths, rough and hungry kisses when Jaebeom feels like he's drowning.

Jinyoung knows what it isn't, too. It isn't love. It isn't bloom .

Jaebeom doesn't talk about it much, after that first night, just drinks and smokes too much and sometimes bends Jinyoung over the couch arm the second he walks in the apartment after a meeting, his lips on Jinyoung's neck, grinding against him.

Jinyoung knows he should stop this. Knows he should say something like how it isn't healthy and how Jaebeom should get some help but then where does that leave Jinyoung? 

It leaves him in bed alone again instead of Jaebeom curling up behind him, sometimes crying into the back of Jinyoung's tshirt, it leaves him without seeing Jaebeom sleepy eyed every morning, snuffling out protests when Jinyoung tries to get up before him, dragging him back into bed. It leaves him with his bloom withering into something bitter in his chest rather than growing. 

Jinyoung imagines it like a seed planted when they were teenagers, a seed that grew (bloomed) into a flower and then a vine and then a goddamn field of them. He imagines the flowers taking over all of him, making him more and more Jaebeom's lackey, his slave.

Doesn't matter , he thinks, as he's watching Jaebeom laugh at something Jackson had said, watching the line of Jaebeom's jaw with that bloom warm all through him. I always was anyway.

When it all goes to hell and that bloom feels like it's been ripped from him, like he's cut open and bleeding in too many places to even begin to heal, Jinyoung thinks that it's such a tragedy, how Jaebeom keeps saving him and Jinyoung can't do a damn thing to repay.