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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.

Chapter Text

Jaebeom has always understood that things aren't meant to last. People come in his life and then they leave. When they go, they leave these little pieces of themselves in him, for better or worse. He'd loved his first foster sister. She'd been nearly ten years older and put up with him every time he'd come yelling "noona noona noona" into her room because he'd had another nightmare. Jaebeom used to have a lot of those. 

Sooyoung had been her name and she'd been beautiful. Jaebeom barely remembered his biological parents; life before seven years old was a blur of screaming and hiding in the hall closet, the air smelling sharp and acrid. But he remembered Sooyoung. How she'd sweep him up in her arms when he got home from school and say, "Beommie's getting so big! Too big for noona to hold, " in this lovely sing song voice. 

Jaebeom would frown and frown until she laughed and kissed him.

Jaebeom noticed she'd left something behind when she went, something small and stuck at the bottom of his throat, like a seed. 

He breathed slowly around it at her funeral and didn't cry; because it hurt, that seed, but he didn't want to lose it. Didn't want to lose her.

It goes on like that, and Jaebeom wonders if it's a curse, to only know what someone meant to you when they were gone. He develops a lot of them, enough that he thought he'd choke on them. He developed so many he started to avoid getting close to people because it made it hard to breathe.

He starts selling drugs at 13 because that's what his parents had done, that's what two sets of his foster parents had done and he'd escaped from the last and had to eat somehow. It isn't so bad, the money was good and he doesn't have to talk much, not to mention the steady supply of weed for himself. He stays away from the harder stuff, using or selling...at least at first. 

It's Mark Tuan who first introduces him to selling something other than weed, and he's insistent about it.

Jaebeom listens, silent, as Mark tells him about his job as a pharmacy technician and then when Mark starts to explain why he needs the money, Jaebeom holds up a hand. 

"Okay," he says simply, and Mark freezes. 

Before he'd been all nervous energy, bouncing his knees, biting at his thumbnail. 

"Okay," Mark parrots, and that's it. 

It happens that way, Jaebeom finds. He meets these people that need him and it makes him feel good, to be able to help. It comes out in time, how Mark had been desperate for the money, needed it for his ailing mother’s surgery, how Jaebeom had saved him, in a way. Jaebeom never thinks of it that way. Mark is his friend. He’d been his friend since the moment they’d met, he’d just known it. He’d just...fit.

Jinyoung is next, and again, the moment Jaebeom sees the boy curled into a ball with these punks kicking him in the ribs, he’d felt this wave of something wash over him. Not anger, or concern, just this knowledge that this was somehow meant to happen. It was easy enough to scare off the kids, they were young and stupid and drunk, and when Jinyoung had looked up at him with these wide, grateful eyes, that knowing that he’d had with Mark was there, like a puzzle piece that had suddenly clicked in to place.

He’d also known that the puzzle was still unfinished, so when he’d met Jackson and then Bambam and then Youngjae, he hadn’t been surprised to feel that knowing all over again. Yugyeom was last, the most broken of them all, probably, and it felt bigger when he finally joined them, bigger still when he finally let them in after months of barely speaking to them, taking the money and food and shelter they offered him but never offering any information about himself.

When the youngest finally did let it out, it was like a dam bursting, with Yugyeom telling them story after story of the awful things he’d gone through before he’d found them, sobbing as Bambam hugged him tight from behind.

They’d all spent the night together, with Bambam wrapped around Yugyeom like a koala on the floor and Mark and Jackson facing away from each other on the couch. Youngjae slept sideways on the old chair Jaebeom had gotten off the side of the road the previous year. 

The room was filled with sweet smelling tobacco, the cloves Bambam had been so fond of at the time, and cheap weed that Jaebeom had been selling. Someone had spilled a bottle of soju so there was this fruity smell, too, and Jaebeom had wrinkled his nose, chucking a blanket over the spill.

He’d been perched on the loveseat, looking at everyone with a fond smile and wondering if he should sleep there in solidarity instead of sneaking off to his room while the others slept, when Jinyoung came back from the bathroom, holding on to the wall like he might float away. Jaebeom, fairly lit himself, stopped himself from laughing at the younger man, getting up and taking his elbow with a smile. 

“Such a lightweight,” he teased, leading Jinyoung to his bedroom.

“Shut up,” Jinyoung mumbled, words slurred, and then Jaebeom did laugh.

It’s the first night they spend in the same bed, but Jaebeom felt that same feeling, that knowing that it’s right, the way Jinyoung slots into his body like a missing puzzle piece. Jaebeom hadn’t ever considered himself affectionate, but nights like this when everything is raw and they’ve all been partaking in any substance available to numb all the awful things Yugyeom had said, all the things it brought up in each of them, he’d sought comfort, and Jinyoung grumbled only for a moment before shifting so that they fit together. Jaebeom slung his arm around the younger’s waist, tucked his face in the space between Jinyoung’s neck and shoulder and he smells like cheap cologne and soju and home.

It becomes a bit of a tradition, Jaebeom resting his hand on Jinyoung’s lower back as they enter a room, leaning his head against Jinyoung’s shoulder on the couch, and sometimes, when things get dark in his head, sliding into Jinyoung’s bed, arm around his waist again, face tucked into his neck, Jinyoung’s hair tickling his face.

Bambam complains, sometimes, that Jaebeom loves Jinyoung more, and Jaebeom laughs because it isn’t true. He loves them all, in different ways. They all need something from him, and he’s happy to provide it, but the reason he can let his guard down a bit more with Jinyoung is because Jinyoung doesn’t need anything from him.

Jinyoung doesn’t need him at all, and if Jaebeom thinks too long about it, there’s this prickle at the back of his neck, this ache in his chest, but he tries not to think about it at all. When Jaebeom thinks about Jinyoung too much, things get complicated, and he prides himself on keeping things simple.

Jaebeom is nineteen when he meets a girl named Karina, small and unassuming but with the widest brown eyes, the sweetest dimpled smile. She can barely speak Korean, having come here for a summer with her father and ending up staying, and he can barely speak English but the way he feels about her is universal and she knows it right away. He’s lost the second she looks up from beneath her long lashes and gives him this small smile, and she makes things easier. He doesn’t think about how he can’t keep selling pills and weed forever when he’s with her, doesn’t think about how shitty everything is, doesn’t think about anything but the weight of her breasts in his hands, the way his heart skips when she says his name, hesitantly at first and then breathily when he’s inside her.

It lasts for seven years, their relationship, and he’d thought it would last forever. 

Before he’d met her, he’d never thought about love, not really. Not like that.

Bambam had girlfriends and boyfriends and every time he’d say something like “This is the one, you guys. I know it.” It never was, and every breakup Bambam would be devastated, crying in his room for days and drinking too much and they’d all put him back together. He’s too young to find the one, too young to really even be dating as much as he does, but they’re all older than they should be, all had to grow up too fast.

After the last one left, a tall and regal looking girl who’d left with no more than a note that said “Sorry, Bam,” with a big, badly drawn heart, Mark had plopped down on the couch after listening to Bambam talk about her for hours.

“Jesus. I’m glad I’ve never fallen in love,” Mark says, popping open a bottle of beer on the coffee table.

Jaebeom had nodded enthusiastically, but it’d been a lie.

Somewhere, in the back of his head, he wondered what it felt like, to feel something so strongly, to be so invested in another person that losing them broke you. 

For now, he considered himself content with taking care of his six friends, with loving them as much as he was able in his heart that could only hold so much, that only knew how much someone meant to him after they were gone. They’d never leave him, those six, and he knew that just like he knew they were all meant to fit together.

Karina, it turns out, didn’t fit like he thought she would.

Before he could propose with the ring Jinyoung had helped him pick out in Japan, she tells Jaebeom that she thinks they should take a break, and Jaebeom nods while his heart leaps into his throat. He’s driving her to work and he has a moment, crazy as it seems, where he wonders if he should drive off the edge of the highway into the river as they pass it, if that would make her stop talking, stop telling him about the guy she’d met and how she was rethinking her life.

He doesn’t ask her not to go. He barely speaks at all and she keeps looking at him with her big brown eyes until he asks her to get out of the car.

“Beom,” she pleads, and her voice breaks and he shakes his head.

“Please,” he whispers, and she goes and he nearly yanks the steering wheel off his shitty car turning around to go home.

Jaebeom feels like he should call Bambam and offer him an apology for thinking he’d been dramatic all the times he’d wailed over his exes, because there’s a fire in his chest. It doesn’t make sense, how much it hurts, how his head feels like there’s a beehive inside it every time he thinks about her with someone else.

He doesn’t tell anyone, just heads to Mark and Youngjae’s apartment instead of going home, starts packing a bowl on the couch without a word. 

Mark gives him a look but Jaebeom can’t be bothered, he’s focused on picking out the stems and seeds from the weed, focused on swallowing over and over to keep the tears in the back of his throat at bay.

He’d never subscribed to the macho men don’t cry mentality, never thought less of the others when they got overwhelmed, but he’d always tended to play his emotions close to the chest. Maybe because until he’d met Mark, he’d been alone, maybe because he thought he should be strong for the others. It’s easier to focus on other people’s emotions rather than his own.

Now, they all seem to be stuck in his throat, like when he was at his sister’s funeral, trying to swallow around that seed in his throat.

Karina had left her own seed, bigger, thicker, and even when he finishes smoking a bowl and can blame his watering eyes on the weed, he’s having trouble holding it back, breathing hard and Youngjae keeps asking if he’s okay.

After deflecting for what seems like the three hundredth time, he snaps at the younger, storms off to Jinyoung’s and finds a bottle of vodka in the back of the fridge.

Jaebeom doesn’t remember much of the next few days, looking back, only that he’d opened up to Jinyoung in a way he hadn’t with anyone else, even Karina. Especially Karina, really. He’d wanted to protect her from so much that it didn’t feel like she’d ever really fit in, after all those years. He supposes he’s always thought of Jinyoung as strong, strong enough to bear some of the burden that Jaebeom shouldered, and that’s why it’d been him that Jaebeom had opened up to. He’s embarrassed, later, when he sobers up a little, thinks of the snot and tears and curling up in Jinyoung’s bed, but he doesn’t know how and he’s not feeling better enough to try, so he keeps sleeping there.

He remembers Jinyoung kissing him, remembers kissing back, grabbing the back of the younger man’s head to pull him closer. He remembers watching the back of Jinyoung’s head, remembers the way Jinyoung’s tongue felt at the tip of his cock, but he tries not to think about it. It makes his chest feel tight, makes him feel like he’s using him in ways he shouldn’t. He keeps doing it, though, and he hates himself for it.

JB doesn't dream, not much. He's a bit of a heavy sleeper, he figures from years of sharing rooms with other foster kids and then when he was older, living in a one room apartment with Jinyoung and Mark. He knows some people go the other way, like Yugyeom who wakes up with a start at the slightest noise, but JB's experiences while not easy, had been gentler than the younger's. So he slept well, and if he did have dreams they were half remembered, he woke up feeling sad or happy or excited instead of remembering details.

The dream he's having now is different, like a memory. More like a set of memories, one after the other like a flood and he whines in his sleep next to Jinyoung, legs shifting under the covers.

Karina was 19 the first night they’d spent together, huddled in the backseat of his car because she'd been in a fight with her mother, tears dried almost frozen on her eyelashes. He had counted them as she’d slept, her mouth parted, snoring slightly from the emotional exhaustion. It's different, now, how he feels, back then it was this seed in the middle of his chest, something blooming and almost warm enough to keep him from shivering in the car.

Now it's like this void, this empty spot in the pit of his stomach and he finds himself wanting to remember more, about what the fight was about or what she said, what comforts he'd murmured into the top of Karina’s head, but then he's gone, lost it like he'd lost her.

Then he's yelling, face hot as he and Karina have their first true argument and she’s crying but her chin is tilted up, jaw clenched and if he could go back in time he'd be proud of her, proud of the way she was holding her ground because surely he'd been wrong even though he doesn't remember what the fight was about.

Jaebeom wants to stop it, if this is a dream he wants to rewind, wants to change his tone, tell her that she’s right and he's sorry instead of storming out into the night, ending up drunk and still angry at Mark's old apartment while she leaves endless texts and voicemails on his discarded phone. 

That isn't the way it works, he supposes, he's not used to dreaming but he finds he hates it, watching all the mistakes he's made and all the things he's done to hurt Karina in the past. 

Showing up high from the new supply they'd gotten at her high school graduation, her standing there with this smile that doesn't reach her eyes because of course she can tell and no one was watching Bambam and so he ends up throwing up in the bushes before they ever call Karina’s name and they all know it's a problem but no one wants to admit it, even Mark rolls Bam a joint to help with the nausea despite knowing he's had far too much to drink. 

She’d tried to tell him, voice that maybe you should all slow down but especially Bambam. "He looks like he's drowning," she'd said. "All the time." JB had waved his hand dismissively, told her that she was over reacting and God, had he forgotten how much she had cared? About him, about all of them. Tears welling in her wide brown eyes as she'd tried to tell him something important and he'd ignored it. Ignored her, like so many other times.

Before he can try to reach out, cup her face, tell her that she’s right, it’s over and he’s somewhere else.

He has Karina bent over the sink at some party, almost too drunk to get off and even in the dream he can see her face in the mirror, pouty, pleas dripping from her full lips and he can feel her cunt clenching around him and this doesn’t hurt as much, at least, but then she’s gasping out his name and “love you love you love you Beommie ,” in jumbled slurred words and that void in his gut widens and widens until he feels nauseous, gasping and sitting upright in bed, heart pounding.

“Beom?” Jinyoung calls, words slurred from sleep, and JB can’t do anything but try to gasp in air, feeling like he’ll never get enough.

Jinyoung rubs his back, murmurs comforts as Jaebeom babbles apologies, tells Jinyoung that he has to call his ex, has to talk to her, and there’s this look on Jinyoung’s face, this flash of something that Jaebeom is too tired and hurt and confused to place.

“I’ll sleep on the couch,” Jinyoung says quietly, taking a blanket and pillow and Jaebeom frowns.

“Jinyoung, it’s your room-” But Jinyoung has already gone, slamming the door behind him.

Jaebeom’s fucked it up, he knows. Fucked up the one thing he has left because he can’t bring himself to talk to any of the others, hasn’t even so much as texted them in weeks. All because of this fucking seed in his throat, this empty feeling in his chest from a girl who seems much happier without him, and why not? Who wouldn’t be? 

When he goes to the meeting with Jinyoung, they’re barely speaking. It’s a new deal, a shipment of weed from Japan, and if Jaebeom hadn’t been in his own head so much, he might have noticed something was off. Instead, he gets out of the car, a few steps ahead of Jinyoung.

The last thing he hears before something hits him in the throat is Jinyoung in an almost whisper, “hyung?”

After that everything is in and out, hears Jinyoung yelling and then everything goes black. Mark is there, suddenly, and then Jaebeom is in the backseat of the car, looking up at his friend.

“You’re gonna be okay,” Mark tells him, but he sounds scared, and Jaebeom opens his mouth to speak but there’s fireants marching up his neck and everything is wet and red before there’s nothing else again for a while.

Chapter Text

Mark had been at the corner store buying a carton of cigarettes when Jinyoung called.

He didn't sound like himself, voice thin and faraway, giving him an address.

"What-"

"Just fucking get here!" Jinyoung tells, in this reedy scream, and Mark knows he's not asking him to come as a friend but as the medic.

He breaks all the speed limits getting to the warehouse and by the time he arrives with his black bag full of supplies he sees blood pooling on the pavement and JB looks so pale Mark is sure he is already dead.

Jinyoung's voice, strained and broken, snaps him out of it.

"I've got my finger in the hole," he rasps. "You've got to fix it."

Mark kneels down and looks into the ragged wound and feels his breakfast churning in his stomach. "I can't...I'm not a surgeon, Jinyoung..."

"You've got to fucking fix it , Mark!" Jinyoung yells and Mark nods.

He puts one stitch in JB's carotid artery there on the pavement and it slows the blood flow until they move him to the car where it pops and Mark's shirt is covered in blood before he can get another stitch in.

Jaebeom wakes up while he's got his fingers slippery with blood and trying to close the artery and he blinks up at him, only once.

"You're gonna be okay. S'okay," Mark says, but it isn't okay because he has his fingers on his friend's artery, the one he'd learned in med school pumps the blood back to his heart and there's so much blood, so much blood his blue shirt is stained red forever and there was blood on the pavement and blood on Jinyoung and how many pints was that, anyway?

When Jaebeom is out again Mark feels like he can breathe and gets in another stitch that holds until they get to the hospital.

It isn't as if Mark didn't know. About Jinyoung. About Jaebeom. About how the two of them dance around each other in this masquerade of being friends, being brothers, when it isn't that at all. When it's so much more. It isn't like he hasn't seen how Jinyoung looks at Jaebeom, but he supposes he'd written it off as gratitude, as a kind of worship.

They all felt a little like that, with Jaebeom, and Mark was no different. 

But now, Jinyoung's white shirt is stained red and he's wringing his hands, looking down at the blood on them. Mark doesn't ask who shot Jaebeom, doesn't ask anything just sits next to Jinyoung quietly.

"You put in the stitch?" Jackson asks, when he arrives, voice just on the edge of angry. "Why's there still so much blood? You didn't do it right?"

Mark stands up, faces the younger man. He doesn't speak, can't speak, just wants to push and shove and hit until this rock in his gut goes away.

Bambam is the one to break it up, tearful, and Mark is almost ashamed.

Jackson storms out and Mark thinks I put in the stitch. Fuck you.

He doesn't realize he's said it out loud until Jinyoung puts a shaking hand on his knee. "Thank you, hyung."

Jinyoung's trembling all over, Bambam is sobbing, Youngjae comforting him, Jackson somewhere probably punching a vending machine, Yugyeom is in the wind, like always, and Jaebeom, their fearless leader, is on an operating table with a bullet in his neck.

Artery, his brain reminds him. Carotid artery, branches off from the aorta, leads up into the right and left sides of the throat.

He takes in a gulping breath, fighting a scream that's rising in the back of his throat.

Youngjae speaks, voice low and calm, and Mark is grateful for the distraction.

"We should call Karina."

Jinyoung's head jerks up. "What? Why?"

Youngjae looks at him as if it should be obvious, his arm still around Bambam. 

"She's his emergency contact, hyung."

Jinyoung looks stricken, just for a moment, before a wall comes down over his handsome features.

"They probably won't tell us anything unless she's here," Youngjae continues, but Jinyoung is up and moving through the automatic doors before the sentence is finished.

Mark sits there only for a moment before following because the more he sits there looking at his bloody hands, the two fingers he'd had inside his friend's neck, he can remember how wet and red and slippery it was, how he could see the muscle, stringy and yellow, and his stomach churns, that scream rising in his throat again.

He finds Jinyoung leaned against the brick outside the hospital, in the smoking section even though as far as Mark knows, he hasn't smoked cigarettes since he was a teenager.

He's rubbing his hands on the thighs of his pants, and it takes Mark a long moment to realize he's trying to scrub the blood off.

"Hey," Mark says softly, and Jinyoung jerks as if it'd been a gunshot instead of a greeting. "Let's go clean up, yeah?"

Jinyoung let's Mark use wet paper towels in the bathroom to get the blood off his hands  and throat, some streaming down into the collar of his button up shirt.

Jinyoung is quiet, as if he's somewhere else, but he's still trembling.

Once they're as clean as they can be, Mark puts his arms around the younger man, gently, and Jinyoung goes stiff, shoulders straight, before melting into him. He doesn't sob like Bambam, just crying softly, clutching onto Mark's collar, and Mark murmurs comforts, rubs his back.

"She doesn't deserve to be here," Jinyoung mutters. "He gave her so much and she just threw him away."

Mark nods, although he doesn't know why she left or what Jaebeom might or might not have done. He knows Jinyoung wouldn't blame Jaebeom anyway. He knows Jinyoung would forgive Jaebeom anything. 

"She wasn't there," Jinyoung continues, sniffling, lifting his head finally.

Mark nods again, words seem to have escaped him, but that's when Bambam bursts in to tell them that the surgeon was there.

Karina is there too, all big brown eyes and hair, like she was when they'd first met her, and Mark would smile if it weren't for the glare Jinyoung was giving her.

He sits quietly until the surgeon asks who put the stitch in, and Mark raises his hand, wincing a little.

"That stitch almost surely saved his life. If you aren't in medical school, you should be."

Mark nods, something bitter and vile at the back of his throat.

He doesn't want to think about how skeletal his mother had been the year he'd dropped out of med school, how her breath had smelled like something rotten, how the operations hadn't saved her after all. Doesn't want to think about how all his medical knowledge has culminated in putting ice on bruises from when Bambam fell down the stairs drunk or a few stitches above Yugyeom's eye after a bar fight, wrapping Jackson's ribs when a bike he was working on fell over on him, and now, sticking his fingers in Jaebom's living flesh, seeing the metal of the bullet underneath all that red.

Mark realizes he hasn't been listening to the surgeon but Jinyoung's face looks more relaxed and Youngjae whoops out a victory yell.

He gathers Jaebeom will recover, in time, and all the energy goes out of him in a whoosh and he'd have slid out of the chair if he hadn't clamped down on the arms to stop himself.

When Jaebeom wakes an hour later, it's Karina he calls for, and Mark thinks that if he hadn't had already known it, Jinyoung's face would have told him everything he needed to know.

 

Chapter Text

Yugyeom doesn't trust people. It isn't personal, it's just that he's learned the same lesson too many times by the time he's sixteen. 

Yugyeom hangs around the chop shop for three days before he officially meets Jaebeom. He needed work and saw one of those flyers with a number on pull tabs. He'd snatched one and found a payphone and in 24 hours he'd had a job at least, if not a place to stay.

He piled newspapers in the corner of the alley next to the shop, found some cardboard to keep the rain out a little, curled up next to the dumpsters. Wasn't so bad. He'd slept in worse.

The thing about Jaebeom, the thing Yugyeom likes about Jaebeom, anyway, is that when he finds him half asleep in the alley, he doesn't look at him with pity.

He just smiles. "Got a room that comes with the job, didn't they tell you when they hired you?"

Yugyeom is sure that's bullshit, but he's grateful that Jaebeom phrased it that way.

He sleeps in the one room apartment above the shop and listens to the noise of Jackson and Bambam working on stolen cars and bikes below and feels warm and safe for the first time in years.

If Yugyeom has ever trusted anyone, he's trusted Jaebeom.

It's fucked up, how his hyung should have never trusted him.

He doesn't mean to flip, never intended to, but when he's 22 there's a girl and a half gram of cocaine and god knows how much soju when he happens upon her boyfriend.

Yugyeom had given him shit at the bar, gotten a bloody nose for it, too, but he'd never known when to shut the fuck up. That's what his first foster mother had told him, anyway, why he deserved those bruises on his upper arms, covered by his sleeves.

"Yo!" He'd called from across the street, and the shorter man had turned, looked stunned somehow, and that's when Yugyeom noticed he had a man against the brick, ziptying his hands behind his back.

Yugyeom starts to laugh, he can't seem to stop it even as the cop has him down on the ground with his knee in his back.

"You can't fucking touch me, now," he giggles with his face against the pavement, and while that's true and Yugyeom can fuck with the cop's girl as much as he wants, it isn't worth it.

Because in exchange, he has to give up Jaebeom, tell them where they're meeting, who supplies them. He gives them bullshit, sometimes, but he can't always and he can't manage to stay sober. He'd say it's because he felt guilty but if he's honest it's been hard for a while now, since he was living on the streets or in someone's broken down car and it was the only way he felt warm.

Guilt is like a tick sucking at the back of his skull, hot and aching, every time he meets Jaebeom's gaze. He's distracted, with that girl of his, and Yugyeom is grateful. It allows him to hate himself a little less.

Everything he has is because of Jaebeom, in the end, and Yugyeom is fucking him over every time he opens his fat mouth to the cops. He hates them, smug fuckers, probably never had to suck a dick for a few thousand won or steal a loaf of bread from the corner store to get through the week. So what if Jaebeom moves a bunch of weed and pills, the occasional kilo of coke? He's a good person. He's the best person, the first to ever show Yugyeom anything approaching kindness.

This is how he repays him.

The day it happens, Yugyeom is laid up in a girl's bed with his nose bleeding from too much coke and too little sleep, staring at the ceiling after a thin few hours of sleep and trying to remember her name. His phone is incessant and he rolls his eyes, figuring it's Bam talking about his new boyfriend or Youngjae trying to talk him into coming to those stupid fights he does.

The girl groans and then runs to the bathroom and Yugyeom wrinkles his nose at the sound of retching but takes the opportunity to tug on his clothes, stumble out of her apartment.

He's walking down the street when he finally checks his phone and his heart drops when he sees the amount of missed calls and texts. 

He only reads one, from Mark.

Jaebeom's been shot. For once in your life, get your shit together.

Yugyeom braces himself against the brick of the nearest building, throws up bile that splatters on the pavement. Mark had sent the address next, but how could he go? They'd see it all over his face, right away.

It's his fault. His fault his fault his fault.

He's doesn't have enough won for coke or pills but he can head to the bar, his girl works there and she never makes him pay his tab.

When he comes to 24 hours later, he only remembers bits and pieces. 

His girl refuses to serve him after his second bottle of soju, accuses him of being drunk when he came in and he tells her she's a nag and her wide brown eyes looked so hurt. Stumbling along the street, falling once, twice, scraped knees. Jinyoung's concerned face, and then Mark, angry, slapping his cheek harshly and yelling "What did you take , goddamnit?" The shower, frigid, making him shiver and his teeth chatter. Crying. So much crying, burying his face in someone's thigh, Bambam, he thinks.

His stomach is rolling the instant he opens his eyes, that feeling heavy in his mouth, like there's extra saliva shooting from his glands. It's inevitable, the vomiting, but he puts it off as long as he can, not moving. It's a half hour before he empties his belly into the wastebasket, and a minute after that Mark comes in.

"Fuck, don't-" Yugyeom starts, his head aches, he can't hear Mark yelling at him again.

Mark doesn't yell, though, leans against the doorjamb and looks at him.

"How long have you been a rat?" His voice is low, soft, almost conversational.

Yugyeom freezes, thinks he could lie, if he wanted, but he's so fucking tired. Bone tired, worse than when he'd been awake for days hiding from his foster mother, worse than when he'd been mugged three nights in a row and could barely sleep for thirty minutes at a time.

It's heavy, this secret, the most heavy secret, and he chokes out a sob.

"Almost a year."

Mark nods, and Yugyeom knows he'll hit him, knows he'll break his nose or his jaw but Mark sits on the bed, takes Yugyeom into his arms.

Yugyeom lets go. He lays it down. All the heaviness in his bones, the ache in his guts, that hot heavy guilt at the back of his head.

He's a rat. He's a fuckup. He's just some stupid kid who needed a job and ended up almost getting his hyung killed but they love him anyway.

They love him anyway, and he loves them back so hard it feels like he'll break apart.

 

Chapter Text

Mark forces Jinyoung home to shower and sleep around midnight, but he's gone less than half an hour. He's antsy the whole time he's gone, like he's missing something, like a limb or maybe, his heart.

He can't take in a full breath until Jaebeom's ex finally goes home and he can get in to see him.

Jaebeom is sitting up, eyes glazed, too pale and his neck bandaged but alive, and Jinyoung has to swallow a sob when Jaebeom smiles at him. 

He sits up and Jinyoung rushes to stop him. "Hyung, please, don't move so much."

The doctor had made it clear that if Jaebeom's heart rate jumped too high or the stitches popped, he'd lose too much blood.

"How are you feeling?" Jinyoung manages, perching on the edge of the bed.

"Better than before. They gave me something for the pain." Jaebeom's voice is hoarse and croaky but it's like a song to Jinyoung's ears.

He feels tears stinging at the backs of his eyes and he fights them back, wanting to be strong, knowing that Jaebeom would end up comforting him.

Jaebeom is looking at him a little too hard. "You're okay? And Mark? There were more gunshots-"

Jinyoung puts up a hand to silence him. "Everyone's okay. They scattered once Mark pulled up, we figure it was a hit." Jinyoung knows he probably shouldn't have said that, knows Jaebeom doesn't need to worry, but he’s so fucking mad.  

Someone shot him. Someone tried to kill him, and what if they had? Where would that leave Jinyoung. With nothing, just an ache like an amputee has, with Jaebeom the phantom instead of a missing limb.

Jaebeom sighs in relief. “Good.”

“Everyone is just a little shaken up about you being hurt,” he continues, and Jaebeom shakes his head with a small wince.

“I’ll be okay. Karina can take a few days off work and help me so that you can handle things on your own until I’m better.”

Jaebeom says this with such confidence that it makes Jinyoung’s heart drop to his toes.

He bites the inside of his cheek before asking. “Oh? Did you guys get back together?”

Jaebeom blinks, his face slack and surprised. “What do you mean, back together?”

Jinyoung’s heart falls further, through the floor if it’s possible, as he realizes that between the trauma and the surgery and the drugs Jaebeom has forgotten his breakup, gone back a month before it happened, and why not? Why wouldn’t he forget? Forget every moment he and Jinyoung had shared together. Not like it meant anything.

He shouldn’t say it. He shouldn’t tell him, but the words come out anyway, bitter like poison, hot and rancid.

“Hyung, she broke up with you over a month ago.”

It’s petty and mean but the hurt on Jaebeom’s face gives Jinyoung some kind of sick pleasure.

Until he speaks. It isn’t angry, isn’t accusing, just a soft, hurt, “oh” that makes Jinyoung want to take it back, want to rewind.

Then tears start slipping down Jaebeom’s face and Jinyoung hates himself. He just had to say it, because he’s petty and jealous and most of all, stupid.

He had known what this thing was, with Jaebeom, and what it wasn’t.

Jaebeom covers his face with his hands, his IV tangling, and Jinyoung shushes him, untangles it and wipes tears from Jaebeom’s face with his thumbs. 

Jinyoung’s internal monologue keeps yelling at him. Is this why you told him, you fucking asshole? So that you could comfort him? So that it’d be you he’s grateful to?

“It’s okay, hyung,” he says, over and over, and it doesn’t help, Jaebeom is taking breaths that are too short, hyperventilating, and the alarms on his heart rate machine start to go off.

Jinyoung feels his own heart racing as he watches the numbers rise, keeps trying to comfort Jaebeom until a nurse comes in and ushers him out.

Mark takes one look at him and stands up, his face full of worry. 

Jinyoung can’t speak, can’t tell him, but luckily he doesn’t have to because the nurse tells them they’ll have to leave. Jaebeom is resting after a hard day.

Jinyoung sleeps in the waiting room, despite Mark’s protests, the discomfort of the hard chair serving as part of his punishment.

The rest of it comes from his own head, berating himself for not pushing Jaebeom out of the way when he first heard that pop, for telling him now when Jaebeom could have lived in blissful ignorance for a few days more.

Jinyoung had always hated himself. It was easy enough to, especially when he lost track of his sisters after his father died, when he’d been unable to find a single other family member to take him in. It’s easy enough to hate himself when he’d been in love with Jaebeom, coveting every smile he gave to anyone else, every look, every touch. 

It’s easy, when he knows that when Jaebeom is home, he’ll cherish every second that he gets to spend taking care of him, being his rock. 

It’s easy, when he knows there’s not a goddamn thing he can do to stop himself.

***

It’s two weeks before Jaebeom gets out of the hospital, and in that time he's managed to fuck things up with Karina all over again.

She'd been at the hospital with him for days, sweet and wide eyed as usual. He could pretend everything was okay, pretend that she didn't go home to someone else when she left the hospital after visiting hours were over, pretend there weren't marks on her throat that didn't match his mouth.

There's a nurse, Hana, who checks in on him every day. She's pleasant but with a smart mouth, and she blushes pink every time Jaebeom smiles at her.

"I think she hates me," Jaebeom commented, and Karina has this odd smile on her face, one he's never seen.

He frowned. "What?"

"She likes you, Beommie. You fluster her."

He blinked, and then laughed, groaning a little when his stitches pull. "Yeah? Think if I wink at her she'll climb out a window?"

Karina laughed, but it's short and almost bitter. It almost fascinates him, that she's affected now when all month she's acted as if it was just another Friday, the day she broke him.

So he continued, can't help himself, has some sick need to inflict the pain on her that she had on him.

"Gotta have some fun in here. Being a single man and all." It comes out more bitter than he'd intended, but he blames the near constant morphine.

"Don't," she said sharply, and he shrugged.

"What? I am single."

Her brown eyes flashed at him. "Sure. And so am I. You've got a nurse already, maybe I should just go home."

All of a sudden, anger rose in Jaebeom's chest, his face felt hot with it.

"Why, got a date? I'm sure you do, you've been out with half the city by now."

It's cruel and he knew it and he was sorry when her face went shocked and still. 

"Okay," she said quietly. "I'll just get some coffee and come back."

She was shaking, and Jaebeom wanted to stop but he couldn't, tears hot at the back of his eyes. He pushed the food tray away from the bed and it just rolled against the wall, not giving him the satisfying thud he wanted.

"Just go home," he said, and he didn't mean it and he didn't want her to go but he didn't want her to see him cry either and it's coming, thick in his throat. 

"Beommie, please. I didn't...it's not really about anyone else, I just need to know who I am without you." Her big brown eyes pleaded with him but it's too late, he's too far gone and his breath hitches in his chest. 

"I bought you a ring in Japan," he confessed. "So forgive me if I'm not too excited about you finding yourself , Karina."

Her face went still again and she pales, but she still doesn't leave.

"I don't want you here," he spit out. "I don't want you here pitying me." The alarms for his heart rate went off and he ignored them. "Stop feeling guilty and fucking go, someone will let you know if I die. I'm tied of pretending to be okay, anyway."

Karina was crying when she left and Jaebeom wanted to scream but instead he covered his face with his hands, taking slow, careful breaths so that the monitor stopped beeping. A sob choked in his throat and fuck, it hurt , crying with this hole in his neck, and it hurt in his chest and his guts. 

He used the morphine pump until it knocked him out for the next few days, until Jinyoung frowned at him, telling him gently that he's sleeping the days away.

Jinyoung brought him back, like he always does.

Jaebeom feels sick, when he thinks about it, thinks of how Jinyoung has been there for him while his world was falling apart and all Jaebeom could do was use him, for comfort and sex and distraction.

So Jaebeom gets the nurse's number before he leaves the hospital, tells himself he'll find a different distraction, stop leaning on Jinyoung so much. 

At home in their shared apartment, though, Jinyoung hovers, anxious, doling out Jaebeom’s medication every four hours on the dot, always watching to make sure his mood doesn’t shift. Although his stitches are mostly healed, the doctor had been clear about keeping stress and his heart rate down for the first few weeks after an artery repair.

Jaebeom stares down at his phone, the second day he’s home, and Jinyoung raises an eyebrow, sits next to him.

“Please tell me that you aren’t thinking of texting your ex girlfriend,” Jinyoung says dryly, and Jaebeom scoffs.

“No. Remember my nurse, Hana? She gave me her number.”

Something flashes across Jinyoung’s face like lightning, and then he turns back to his tea, sipping it slowly.

“Yeah? Good for you, hyung. You should get back out there.”

It doesn’t sound bitter. Jaebeom looks up at Jinyoung curiously.

“You don’t mind?”

Jinyoung looks back at him with the most perplexed look on his face. “Why would I mind?”

Jaebeom’s heart plummets, his brow furrowing because what does that mean? Why does that sting?

“You’re right. I should get back out there.”

Jaebeom escapes to his room, and that works, for a couple of days.

Then all hell breaks lose when Mark calls a meeting, tells them all about Yugyeom, and there’s an hour long discussion (fight, really).

“Witness protection,” Mark says. “He’ll be safe and they’ll get him help, rehab, whatever he needs.”

“No!” Bambam insists. He’s been crying the whole meeting. Jaebeom knows it must hit Bam the hardest, since a couple of years ago he’d been just where Yugyeom is. “You guys sent me to rehab, why not Gyeom?”

Yugyeom sits there, quiet, while they debate, and finally Jaebeom looks the youngest in the eye. It’s hard, Yugyeom can barely keep eye contact with him, chest heaving.

“What do you want, little one?” It’s something Jaebeom hasn’t called Yugyeom in years, since he’d grown taller than almost all of them.

Yugyeom hitches in a breath, and then another before he can speak, his eyes filling with tears.

“W-want to stay with you, hyung. All of you.”

Jaebeom nods, and it’s decided, despite Mark being a bit sulky about it. Yugyeom moves into Jinyoung’s room, and Jinyoung moves into Jaebeom’s, and they go about the business of drying him out.

It’s easier than anticipated, the first few days. Easier than with Bambam, who’d snuck out of the rehab facility they’d sent him to twice, only to be dragged back kicking and screaming by Mark.

They can’t send Yugyeom to a facility, not with the cops up his ass, so Mark finds the right medications to bring him down in the right way, and the younger just sleeps most of the first week. Jaebeom imagines that he hadn’t been sleeping, with or without the drugs.

He isn’t angry with him, although Yugyeom is like a scared mouse every time he sees him, and Jaebeom smiles, puts a hand on his shoulder. Yugyeom avoids him anyway, and Jaebeom supposes he understands.

What he doesn’t understand is why it’s so fucking hard to sleep next to Jinyoung now, even though he’d been doing it off and on for most of his life. It’s just sleeping, after all, but after having been inside of him, had his mouth pressed to his throat-

He chalks it up to the month he’s spent denying himself an orgasm, due to his injury and the risks therein, chalks it up to being overly familiar with the curve of Jinyoung’s spine as he lies on his stomach shirtless next to him.

Then one night, Jinyoung’s rummaging around in a drawer looking for a pair of socks and he freezes, shoulders stiffening.

When Jaebeom looks up from his laptop, asks what’s wrong, Jinyoung shakes his head.

An hour later, Jaebeom goes to turn off the light, and Jinyoung grabs his wrist.

Jaebeom looks at him, confused, and then Jinyoung straddles his waist and he can’t think, his hands immediately going to Jinyoung’s ass, and Jaebeom chokes when he realizes that Jinyoung has been naked under the comforter.

“Jinyoungie,” he starts, and Jinyoung stops him by pressing his mouth against his, tongue hot and searching as it slips between his lips. Jinyoung moans against his mouth and when Jaebeom pulls away he realizes that Jinyoung is fingering himself open, sees the lube on the bed.

Jaebeom laughs softly, of course Jinyoung would have planned for this even though it was spontaneous. It’s why he runs things behind the scenes, considered the face of the group. That, and because he’s so goddamn pretty.

Pretty now as he arches his back, head thrown back and Jaebeom loops a hand around his throat and Jinyoung whines.

He shouldn’t be doing this. He shouldn’t be doing this but his cock is already leaking, it’s been so long and Jinyoung is so fucking pretty, so good, rolling his hips against him. Jaebeom feels like he can barely breathe, and surely it’s because he’s been denying himself, it isn’t because he wants Jinyoung so fucking much.

Jinyoung expertly rolls down Jaebeom’s sweats, slides down on his cock and Jaebeom cracks the back of his head on the headboard at how he feels around him.

It makes a loud thud and Jinyoung laughs, soft and smug. 

“Gotta be quiet, Beommie. Wouldn’t want Yugyeom hearing us.”

Jaebeom groans quietly and Jinyoung rocks his hips forward.

“Need some help?”

Jaebeom raises a curious eyebrow at that and Jinyoung unceremoniously stuffs a piece of fabric into Jaebeom’s parted mouth.

Jaebeom makes a muffled noise, sticks his tongue out to taste the fabric and sure enough, it’s a pair of lacy panties, one Jaebeom hadn’t cleaned out of Karina’s drawer. He can’t stop the muffled moan that comes from his throat, the way his hips twitch up beneath Jinyoung.

There’s something on Jinyoung’s face Jaebeom can’t quite put his finger on, but he’s got this wicked grin and the way he moves .

“Mad at her but still keep her panties in your drawer, naughty boy,” Jinyoung mocks, and Jaebeom feels his cheeks flush with shame, bucking up beneath him.

That hole in him feels wider, yawning, almost, and he hates the way it feels like he could get rid of it, fuck all his pain and anger into Jinyoung and be rid of it because that’s not good. That’s not what he wants for himself or for Jinyoung but goddamnit, he does want to be rid of it.

So he flips over the younger man, fucks him hard and fast and feral, caging him in with his arms, marking up his throat and collarbone, crushing his mouth against his and Jinyoung’s the loud one, anyway, whining and moaning and splashing white and hot all over the both of them before Jaebeom is finished.

After, when Jaebeom is lying on his back in the dark, the panties discarded, Jinyoung puts a hand on his arm and Jaebeom flinches.

“Hyung,” Jinyoung whispers brokenly. “Are we okay?”

“Sure,” Jaebeom says easily, but they’re not. They’re not , everything’s fucked up and wrong and they both know it.

They go to sleep anyway. Keep pretending. It’s what they’re both best at, after all.

Chapter Text

It doesn't bother him. It doesn't . Jinyoung had encouraged Jaebeom to text the cute nurse, figured it would get his hyung out of his own head a bit.

What he hadn't expected was Jaebeom smiling down at his phone, barely listening to Jinyoung at dinner. He hadn't expected Jaebeom to actually like her.

But it's fine. It's fine . Jaebeom had never been his, he'd never even entertained that thought, but it'd been so nice to pretend for a little while. They still slept in the same bed since Yugyeom was drying out, and there's still kissing (most days) and sex (more and more sporadically).

Jinyoung keeps telling himself he isn't sad. He keeps telling himself he's grateful, that all these new memories don't make that bloom ache for more and more and more.

He tells himself he's used to sharing. It goes well for a few week. Jinyoung encourages Jaebeom to ask her out on real dates, helping him pick out clothes and style his hair to hide the scar on his throat.

Jaebeom is pissed when he realizes the bullet has ripped through the tattoo on his neck and Jinyoung can't help but giggle.

"You almost died and you're worried about your ink. Typical."

Jaebeom frowns and tugs at his collar, unbuttoning a few buttons. Jinyoung wonders if it makes Jaebeom panicky now to have something right around his throat or if it hurts, but he doesn't ask.

"Good luck, hyung," Jinyoung says cheerily when Jaebeom leaves to pick up Hana, but the second Jaebeom pulls out of the apartment complex, Jinyoung leaves.

Yugyeom isn't so much a flight risk anymore and Jinyoung knows himself, that he'll just stare at the wall and wonder how the date is going.

So he spends some time at a bookstore, doesn't end up buying anything, and then goes by the chop shop to say hello to Jackson.

Jackson cocks his head at Jinyoung after they've been chatting for an hour.

"Everything okay with you?"

Jinyoung blinks. "Yeah. Of course. Why?"

Jackson snorts, wiping his face and leaving a trail of grease under his eye. 

"You don't know a carburetor from a fan belt, Jinyoung. I don't think I've ever seen you here without Jaebeom." Jackson pauses, gives Jinyoung a curious look. "Is this because hyung is seeing that girl?"

Jinyoung keeps from sputtering on the Americano he'd picked up, but it's a near thing.

"Just giving him the apartment for a while, that's all."

"That's all," Jackson mocks, and Jinyoung wants to punch him for the knowing grin he has on his face.

Jinyoung leaves soon after, wondering if he should order dinner but then that leads to the thought that maybe Jaebeom would stay over at her place and he decides not to think about it just yet.

He's relieved when he sees Jaebeom's beater in the parking lot, he can't deny that, so when he opens the door he's not prepared at all for what he sees.

The cute little nurse on Jaebeom's lap, his hand up her skirt, mouth on her throat. It isn't even that bad, in the scheme of things. Jinyoung had seen worse walking in on Jaebeom and Karina at various parties.

It's different now, though, feels like those vines representing how he feels about Jaebeom are fighting around his organs, squeezing the breath out of him. It hurts so much more than it did before he knew what Jaebeom's mouth felt like against his, before he knew the heaviness of Jaebeom's cock in his mouth, before his hyung had taken to waking him up with sweet kisses along the nape of his neck.

Hana flushes, scrambles with her skirt but Jaebeom just gives him a lazy grin, his hair messy from her fingers in it. His shirt is half off and Jinyoung can see where the tendrils of flame ink on Jaebeom's throat was torn by the bullet, a circle of white flesh around it.

Jinyoung feels even angrier because he's still so fucking hot, even when he's crushing Jinyoung's heart into paste.

"Hana, is it?" He hadn't planned to speak but there's a white hot rage across his vision.

When she nods, Jinyoung's lips twist into some version of a smile.

"Little tip for you. He cums a lot faster if you stick his ex-girlfriend's panties in his mouth, and he's loud so you'd be doing his roommates a favor."

All the color goes out of Jaebeom's face and it feels like a victory. He still slams the door though and when he's in the car, bangs his head against the steering wheel.

He bangs on Mark's door for what seems like half an hour before Mark answers, bleary eyed.

"Shit. You're working night shift again aren't you? I'm sorry," Jinyoung babbles, and he doesn't realize he's crying until Mark pulls him inside, wiping his face with a handkerchief.

"What happened?" Mark asks softly.

"I'm stupid. I'm so fucking stupid ." Jinyoung groans, sitting on the couch and burying his face in his hands.

Mark raises an eyebrow. "Is this about how you're in love with Jaebeom?"

Jinyoung shouldn't be surprised. It isn't as if he's been discreet, the way he looks at Jaebeom. He just thought everyone looked at Jaebeom like that. He says as much to Mark, and Mark laughs.

"Not like you do, Jinyoungie.” Mark sits down next to him on the couch. “So what happened, exactly?”

Jinyoung tells him, embarrassed and devastated in equal measures, and Mark tries his best to hold back a laugh but can’t contain it.

“Hyung!” Jinyoung whines.

“I’m sorry,” Mark gasps. “I just can’t believe you told her about the panties, that’s priceless.”

Jinyoung bangs his forehead on the coffee table.

“I can’t ever show my face again. I’ll have to leave the country-”

Mark pats Jinyoung on the back. “You’ll go back and face the music. You have to. You and Jaebeom keep this operation afloat, and besides, you love him. You couldn’t stay away if you tried.”

“What do I say , hyung?”

“You tell him how you feel, explain why you reacted that way. Had to come out sometime.”

“Have I been that obvious?”

Mark shrugs. “A little, but also, Yugyeom has already told us all that you guys are fucking.”

Jinyoung’s mouth open and closes like a fish.

After two hours of trying to convince Mark to let him stay the night so that he can put off the inevitable, Jinyoung finally heads back to the apartment.

***

Jaebeom has never thought more than a few weeks into the future. His life had always been uncertain, so it didn't make sense to plan for months or years. Things had changed, though, after his near death experience, after learning about Yugyeom, after starting this thing with Jinyoung.

It isn't just about him. It never has been. It's about all of them, it always has been, and he hates himself for being so selfish, especially after the breakup.

So now, he has a plan, one that's for months, years, possibly decades in the future, and he can't tell anyone about it. He's just been trying to live while he can, and Hana had been part of that, a new experience, maybe something to take his mind off his ex but also...maybe to help him think of anything but Jinyoung. It had gotten harder and harder each day, until the younger man is in Jaebeom's head when he wakes up to the time he goes to bed. Hana is a distraction, a fun one, but the look on Jinyoung's face

Jaebeom is surprised when Jinyoung comes home, even more surprised when he kneels at Jaebeom's feet.

"I'm sorry, hyung," Jinyoung says humbly, and Jaebeom swallows.

He hates it, Jinyoung bowing to him, bowing to anything, and he leans forward and grasps Jinyoung's chin, tilts his face up.

"You don't have to be sorry," Jaebeom says huskily. "I just want to know what I did wrong."

Jinyoung starts to cry, then, a sob catching in his chest, and he tries to hide his face in Jaebeom's lap.

Unbidden, Jaebeom remembers this flipped, remembers crying into Jinyoung's lap after the breakup, and he can't stand it.

Jaebeom lifts Jinyoung under the armpits, pulls him into his lap, murmuring comforts into the top of his head.

Jinyoung smells like cucumbers and soap, like home, and Jaebeom doesn't know when that happened or if it had always been there, if Jinyoung had planted his own seed inside Jaebeom years ago.

"Hyung," JB says brokenly, and Jaebeom strokes Jinyoung's hair. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-" 

"It's okay," Jaebeom insists, quickly. He's afraid of what Jinyoung might say, panic tightening his throat. Jaebeom can't think of a worse fate than Jinyoung hating him.

Jaebeom hadn't even thought to be angry, even as Hana gathered her things and left, he'd just been confused. Jinyoung had pushed him to talk to the nurse, had helped him decide on date locations. Jinyoung had been so insistent, in fact, that it left a bit of a bad taste in Jaebeom's mouth.

"Do you think Hana hates me?" 

Jaebeom starts at that. 

"Why? You got a crush on her?" 

Jaebeom had said it as a joke but when Jinyoung pauses, he feels adrift.

"I want you to be happy," Jinyoung says finally. "We could...we could fuck her together. You'd like that, hyung?"

Jaebeom doesn't like the desperate tone to Jinyoung's voice, takes his chin in his hand again.

"Would you ?"

Jinyoung's face crumbles again but he doesn't try to hide this time. "No," he sobs. "Only want you, hyung."

The relief that Jaebeom feels makes his arms go limp, a smile spreading across his face.

"Jinyoungie," he scolds gently. "Were you jealous?"

Jinyoung nods, leaning into Jaebeom, face still miserable.

Jaebeom can't help but laugh, feeling so much joy even though the timing couldn't possibly be worse. He squeezes Jinyoung tightly.

"It's okay," he promises. "I have...I have feelings for you, too." He feels embarrassed to say it, cheeks flushing. 

Jinyoung stiffens in Jaebeom's arms, meeting his eyes. Jinyoung's bottom lip trembles.

"Don't lie to me, hyung. Don't say that."

Jaebeom shakes his head, frowning. "Of course I'm not lying. You think I could be friends with you for years and then start sleeping with you and not develop feelings? I'm human too, you know." He huffs out a breath, offended, but when Jinyoung shifts Jaebeom tightens his arms around him.

Jinyoung is breathing hard and so Jaebeom leans up to kiss him.

Jinyoung moans into his mouth, melting against him and Jaebeom smiles against the younger's mouth, pushing all thoughts of tomorrow out of his mind.

Half an hour later Jinyoung is riding him on the couch and Jaebeom loves watching him like this. He loves the pretty line of Jinyoung's throat, the way he flushes between his pecs down to his bellybutton when he's worked up. He loves the sounds Jinyoung makes, the breathy half sighs of Jaebeom's name, the way he huffs out a breath, frustrated when Jaebeom teases him. He loves the way Jinyoung moves, hips rolling in this tight circle so that Jaebeom's cock drags against his prostate just the right way, the way he drops his hips down faster and faster when Jaebeom groans and throws his head back. 

After, Jaebeom loves how Jinyoung goes boneless, uncaring of the mess between their bodies when he's usually so neat, panting against Jaebeom's throat and murmuring incoherently. Jinyoung looks so beautiful when he's fucked out, eyes glassy, muscles tired, letting Jaebeom carry him to bed.

Jaebeom realizes that he just loves Jinyoung, that the seed planted for him has grown bigger than all the rest, even Karina. After he cleans the younger up and pulls him into his arms, Jaebeom kisses along the side of his face. 

"I love you," he says, softly but fiercely. Jinyoung is already asleep, but that's for the best, really.

It's always like this, that Jaebeom only realizes it when they're gone, but this will be different.

This time, Jaebeom will be the one that goes, because he can't bear to lose Jinyoung.

Chapter Text

Jinyoung wakes up and there's this void. At first he thinks he's disoriented because Jaebeom has insisted on blackout curtains since the shooting and there's nothing but inky black in his field of vision. Then he reaches over, grabs the sheets instead of Jaebeom's broad back, and it shouldn't matter, Jaebeom sometimes (rarely ) wakes up before him, goes foraging for cold noodles from leftover takeout. Sometimes he's in the shower when Jinyoung wakes but there's no sound from the thin walls from the pipes, either.

It could be nothing. It could be nothing nothing nothing.

His mouth is dry when he sits up to turn the lamp on, the sudden brightness putting a jolt of pain through his eyes at the change. Something's missing. Something's wrong , and he can't place it but panic is crawling up his throat.

He's naked, naked because Jaebeom made love to him last night instead of the feral, almost angry fucking they'd been doing for months. He's naked and vulnerable because Jaebeom told him he had feelings for him, that he wasn't fighting this bloom inside his chest most of his life for nothing.

Jinyoung gets dressed in a daze, his mind racing, trying to find what's missing, what's wrong .

He's not even sure if what he's wearing is his or Jaebeom's, the shirt feels baggy on his shoulders but he pads into the kitchen anyway, knots in his stomach.

There's a note on the kitchen counter.

Jaebeom doesn't leave notes. Fucking nobody leaves notes anymore, they send texts, they send messages.

He stares at it and stares at it, as if maybe it'll disappear and everything will feel right again and Jaebeom has just popped over to the corner store to replenish their soju or gone to see Bambam to get more weed.

Yugyeom comes out of his room, eyes puffy with sleep. "Hyung?"

"Don't." Jinyoung's voice cracks. He doesn't know what he means. He doesn't know what to do. But if he doesn't read the note, if he doesn't pick it up--

His hands move without his permission, eyes scanning the page without comprehending it the first time.

Jaebeom has the worst handwriting, he thinks, almost fondly, but goosebumps break out on his forearms when he manages to read the small words.

It's all going to be okay. I love you all.

JB

"Hyung?" Yugyeom says again, and Jinyoung hears it likes he's underwater.

"The cops…." His voice sounds strange to him, stilted and small, like a child's. "they needed to take someone in. You told them what they needed but they needed someone…."

Yugyeom's eyes widen. "No. No, he wouldn't--"

The younger man stops and Jinyoung knows it's because he knows he would, knows he'd never let anyone else take the rap. He'd told him that from day one, that if anything goes down they give his name. Nothing ever had. Not until now.

Jinyoung braces himself on the counter. "You did this," he says flatly, not even looking at Yugyeom.

"Hyung--" Yugyeom's voice breaks, crying already and Jinyoung can't cry everything feels dry and cracked and angry. He turns to Yugyeom, fists clenched at his sides.

"You fucking did this. You ratted us out. And for what? For some coke and some whore? You ratted him out after he took you off the streets, you junkie bitch!" 

Yugyeom chokes out a sob. "Maybe it's not too late, maybe I can fix it, they can take me instead."

Jinyoung feels rage rushing through him and God it feels so much better than that void , that emptiness. He takes Yugyeom by his narrow shoulders, shakes him, hard.

"Have all the drugs fried your brain? He's been gone for hours , he's told them everything-"

There's tears and snot running down Yugyeom's face and Jinyoung suddenly sees him at 17, huddled up under cardboard in the alley. He sees Jaebeom's face, that smile when he'd offered Yugyeom the room.

The anger rushes out of him in a wave but instead of nothing there's everything , there's the knowledge that Jaebeom is sitting in an interrogation chair right now, probably handcuffed.

Jaebeom's gone. He's gone and who knows if he'll ever get back or if someone might kill him in prison or worse, break him, make him into something smaller.

He's clutching onto Yugyeom's shirt now, his knees giving out, dry sobs coming out of him that feel like they might crack his chest.

Yugyeom holds him, hugs him like when they were kids cuddled up in that abandoned house they stayed in for a while, with Jaebeom and Mark taking shifts watching through the windows all night.

Jinyoung had woken up empty but now he's too full, there's so many things he feels, angry and heartbroken and used. He doesn't know how to get rid of any of it.

"Put it down, hyung." Yugyeom says softly, his voice nasal from crying. "You have to put it all down, you can't carry it all. It's too heavy."

Jinyoung takes in a breath that hurts his throat and chest and buries his face in Yugyeom's chest, and the tears finally come.

Chapter Text

It had been before daylight, when Jaebeom plays his fingers along Jinyoung's spine to wake him.

He'd pulled Jinyoung on top of him in the pitch black, and Jinyoung had automatically tried to move to straddle him.

Jaebeom stops him, cups his face in his hands. "Wanna do it the other way," he murmurs, his cheeks hot and he's glad Jinyoung can't see him more than a slight outline because of the dark.

Jinyoung makes a noise in the back of his throat, pleased or shocked or both, and Jaebeom wants to hide his face with his hands but he doesn't, rolls to flip on the lamp with his hand on Jinyoung's lower back. He fumbles for the lube, puts it in Jinyoung's hand. 

"Teach me how," he says, and it comes out low and almost slurred, but he hasn't smoked in hours and only had one beer at dinner.

Jinyoung makes a moan and a sigh at the same time, sits up on his knees and he's naked, Jaebeom can just see the outline of his cock already standing against his slim waist.

He's high on Jinyoung, he realizes as he watches Jinyoung apply lube to his fingers, high on the way his skin feels under Jaebeom's hands, how his back arches when Jaebeom touches it. It fills him up, a whole body full of seeds. He loves Jinyoung now. Loves him right now instead of after, instead of waiting until he's fucked it up or after his bad luck inevitably catches up with him.

It hurts, deep in his chest bone but he chases that feeling, chases that high like when he'd gotten way too into speedballs when Bambam got some and almost ended up in rehab again.

"Jinyoung," he says, but the other words are locked in his chest and he's breathing hard trying to get them out.

"Jaebeom," Jinyoung says, teasingly, dropping honorifics, and he leans into the light just as he dips a finger to swirl around his hole and Jaebeom jerks his hips, hot all over because the way Jinyoung's face looks in the dim light makes him want to say things he's afraid to, things he's afraid for Jinyoung to know.

He tells himself it's because of what he's about to do. He tells himself it's because it would be cruel, to confess and then go.

Jaebeom isn't afraid. He isn't he isn't he isn't. Not afraid of how the man pushing his fingers into his asshole is everything to him, how he'd wound his way into Jaebeom's life in every facet and into his heart, leaving that seed, another one for Jaebeom to eventually mourn. Not afraid of prison, of bare mattresses and shivs and bathroom catcalls. Not afraid not afraid not afraid.

Jaebeom feels a burn first and then Jinyoung waits, rubs circles on Jaebeom's inner thigh.

"Give it a minute, hyung."

"Now you call me hyung, when you've got two fingers in my--" His words end in a cry when Jinyoung shifts his fingers up and a jolt of what feels like electricity jolts up his cock.

Jinyoung laughs, not low and sexy but high and unassuming, his real laugh, his disarmed laugh and Jaebeom loves him so hard. His heart jammers in his chest because he would have always died for Jinyoung, for any of them, but now he wanted to live for him. To be with him, get a job at the fucking corner market, stop slinging drugs and selling hot cars. Jaebeom wants to live and he's too young to have been so ready to die for so long.

"Ah, Jinyoung," he says again, as if the younger's name is the only word he knows and he's leaking precum onto his stomach.

When Jinyoung pushes his cock inside of him, Jaebeom takes in a breath like he's about to drop underwater in the public pool, slide down under the water like a stone.

But there's nothing stone about him now, he's melting butter under Jinyoung's body, putting his arms around his neck, pressing his forehead to his.

He's sensitive in a way he hasn't been before and he doesn't know if it's the role switch or just that all encompassing feeling, something he'd been chasing his whole life with drugs or crime or adrenaline or sex.

Jinyoung kisses all over the side of his face when it's over, like he's grateful, and it makes Jaebeom's throat tighten so suddenly that he turns his face away.

It's something he'll remember, he thinks. Something he'll carry with him. He's handcuffed to the table when the cops come in to interrogate him, hours later, but he's still smiling even when the officer strikes him across the face for it, when he spits blood onto the stainless steel table.

 

Chapter Text

Jaebeom tells them almost everything. It isn't because the cop backhanded him or because they demand it, but because it feels like he's putting down a heavy load with every sentence.

He answers all their questions, no matter how asinine.

"Of course I sold drugs," he scoffs, when they ask what he'd done for money when he'd escaped his foster home at 15. "It was either that or sell my ass and I'd had enough of my foster father taking it for free that weed seemed the better choice."

"And coke?" The cop looks too straight laced to be undercover like he claimed, his shoulders too tensed. Jinyoung would have spotted him a mile away.

Jaebeom shakes his head. "Nah. Not until later."

"How much later?"

Jaebeom shrugs. "I was 17, 18. Guy I was buying the weed from wanted me to move a kilo so I did."

"Name?"

Jaebeom smirks. "Went by Cheese. Never knew his real name and I heard he's in Japan now."

The cop scowls, writing in his little stupid cop notebook. Jaebeom wonders if it comes with the job. Gun, badge, stupid little notebook. 

He holds back laughter, knows if he starts he'll never stop.

He's scared shitless but something about it makes him feel free in a way he never had.

This is the second worst thing that could happen and there's nothing else to worry about. There's nothing else to worry about because the boys will be safe. 

"What are you moving now?"

Jaebeom grins, can't help himself, turns his palms up in the chains. "Not a damn thing."

The cop moves like he's gonna hit him again and Jaebeom shrugs and answers.

"Weed, coke, little bit of H, little bit of molly." He doesn't mention the pills. He can't mention the pills, not ever. The pills trace back to Mark and he's never been in it, like the rest of them were, not really. Mark was cleaner than they were, no juvie record or coke habit. Mark could be a doctor one day.

They ask him anyway.

"Pills?"

Jaebeom shrugs. He knows he has to be careful here, so careful. "Once in a while."

Vague, as if it was once a month instead of every day for years.

"From where?"

"Fuck, I don't know. Random people who took their grandma's meds, people who had it left over from a surgery or something. I never had a steady supplier like I did for coke and weed."

The cop gives him a hard stare and Jaebeom looks back, willing himself not to crack.

Finally, the cop writes in his little notebook and leaves the room and Jaebeom lets out a long breath.

He wonders how long he'd been here. He wonders how long before the Kims find out, before they try to have him killed in prison. He wonders if it'll be a shiv or if maybe someone will just beat him to death in the yard. He wonders if he'll ever see any of them again. He wonders if he'll ever see Jinyoung again.

It isn't as if he loves him more than the others, just in a different way. Just in something that bloomed rather than remained a seed, and where does that love go now? Where do the seeds bloom while he's gone?

Eventually, hours or maybe minutes later, he's lost all sense of time, a dead man walks into the interrogation room and Jaebeom's mouth drops open.

He can't help but grin, laughter bubbling up in his chest. "You look real good for a dead man, Reese."

Reese had been part of their crew for a summer in 2017, or at least as much as he could be while working for the Kims. He was a good kid, Jaebeom thought, and he got along great with Jackson, brought him out of the hole he'd been in ever since his mother passed.

He ran for them sometimes, was the go between for the Kims and Jaebeom, since they always refused to meet.

Jackson was inconsolable when Reese was found dead, shot three times in a triangle, Kim Junmyeon's signature.

"Rumors of my demise were greatly exaggerated," Reese drawls, a hint of a dimpled smile at the corner of his mouth.

Jaebeom notes how he sits down stiffly, favoring his right shoulder.

"They did shoot you." Jaebeom marvels. "Left you alive."

"Barely," Reese says dryly, and rests his forearms on the steel table. "I'm gonna level with you, Jaebeom."

Jaebeom raises a pierced eyebrow. "That so?"

"I'm sure you've figured out that Reese isn't my real name-"

"What is it?"

The man he'd known as Reese starts just a bit. "What-"

"Your real name," Jaebeom says softly. 

He sits there, silent for a long moment.

"Namjoon."

Jaebeom nods. "Ah. Mark said you didn't sound like you were born in Los Angeles like you said."

Reese…Namjoon smiles. "You guys were always observant. Worked harder with you than with the Kims to stay undercover."

Jaebeom nods, considers the matter solved. He isn't angry. Namjoon had paid his dues just by being there for Jackson as far as Jaebeom was concerned. That friendship hadn't been part of his cover. Besides, with a bum shoulder and a faked death, he'd gotten his comeuppance. 

"I don't give a fuck about you and your guys slinging weed and coke and selling hot cars," Namjoon starts. "My beef is with the Kims and I'd like to say it isn't personal, but it is. Junmyeon made it personal."

Jaebeom just looks at him, waiting. Cops like to bargain. That's what they'd done with Yugyeom, given him these options that were all bullshit polished like gold.

"I want info on the Kims. I want to know the names of your contacts there, where you met, who the in betweens are."

"And in exchange?"

"In exchange I don't bring any of your guys in."

"Not even Yugyeom?" Jaebeom knows he's going to do it. He knows it's suicide, knows the Kims have reach enough to have him killed inside in under a week. But he'll do it so that they can all be safe. That's what matters.

"Not even Yugyeom. And you get 18 months instead of 25 years."

"So they kill me inside a week instead of a few months, got it." Jaebeom is going to take the plea but not before he expressed what bullshit it was.

Namjoon sighs. "You'll be in solitary. It's not fun time but you'll be safe."

Safe is a relative term when the richest and most powerful criminal organization in Seoul is after you, but Jaebeom has an ace up his sleeve.

"Drop it down to ten months, and I'll tell you where Junmyeon is hiding out."

Jaebeom can tell that Namjoon is trying not to show that he's floored by this, but his eyes widen.

Jaebeom isn't as good at reading people as Jinyoung. 

Thinking of Jinyoung makes his heart seize in his chest and he smiles at Namjoon.

"I have a number I want you to call, and I want you to let me have one visitor before you book me," Jaebeom says, leaning over the table. "Give me that, and I'll give you directions right to Kim Junmyeon's door."

Jaebeom knows Namjoon can't turn it down the second the man slumps back in his chair.

He'd learned a few things from Jinyoung, after all.

Chapter Text

When Jinyoung’s phone lights up with Jaebeom’s contact flashing on it, his heart jumps into his throat.

It’s a dead man’s voice on the other line, and that’s when Jinyoung realizes they’d all been fucked for much longer than they’d realized.

Yugyeom just stares at him throughout the conversation and Jinyoung can’t be bothered to be angry anymore, can’t be bothered to feel anything but numbness, like everything had gone so tits up that he couldn’t process any of it.

He has to remind himself to speak rather than just nod over the phone, and when he hangs up Yugyeom is bouncing around like a puppy.

“I can visit him,” Jinyoung says, and his voice sounds strained and hoarse. “Only for a few moments, and only me.”

Yugyeom instantly deflates and Jinyoung can’t be the one to comfort him, but he makes sure the younger calls Mark, has him on the way over when Jinyoung leaves to head to the police station where Jaebeom is being held.

He feels like he’s in a dream, his limbs heavy, head foggy, and he barely remembers how he got to the room that Jaebeom is in.

It feels as if he’s rocketed back into his body when Jaebeom looks up at him, gives him a wry smile.

“Fuck,” Jinyoung says, and it’s liquid, tears that he didn’t know he was crying streaming down his cheeks.

“Jinyoung. Baby, ” Jaebeom breathes, and it’s a repeat, his favorite rerun but it breaks Jinyoung all the same, cracks his heart straight through.

He slumps down in the seat across from Jaebeom and the chains connecting Jaebeom’s hands to the table rattle as he reaches for him.

Jinyoung can’t stand the sound, can’t stand that look on Jaebeom’s face so he closes the distance, holds his hands as best he can, really just his fingers because he’s so far across the table.

“I’m sorry,” Jaebeom says, and Jinyoung shakes his head.

“No. No, don’t be sorry. Don’t be sorry, just tell me how we get you out of this.”

Jaebeom smiles, tilts his head and his hair falls over his eye and Jinyoung wants to brush it back, wants to kiss him and forget all about any of this, hope he wakes up from a long and vivid nightmare.

“There’s no getting out of this, honey. I’ve bargained a little information, and I can get out in ten months.”

Jaebeom says this like it’s exciting, like it’s some kind of reprieve but Jinyoung makes a distressed sound in the back of his throat.

“Ten months? Hyung, they’ll kill you inside a week, we can’t-”

“I’ll be okay,” Jaebeom promises but he won’t quite look Jinyoung in the eye and Jinyoung knows he’s lying and oh God this hurts , the bloom he’s felt for Jaebeom all these years is spreading into his bloodstream, clogging up his arteries, he can’t breathe, vines and buds of flowers stuck in his chest and throat and when he finally does take a breath it’s shallow and short and his face is flushed red.

“I can’t...I don’t know how to live without you,” Jinyoung chokes out, and Jaebeom leans as far as he can over the table but he can’t quite reach him and there’s a guard at the door but they can shoot him for all Jinyoung cares, he stands up so quickly he knocks over the metal chair and goes around the table, sits in Jaebeom’s lap and puts his hands in his hair, kisses him hard and hungry with sobs shaking his body.

Jaebeom kisses him back, tilts his head up to give Jinyoung more access and the guard at least turns his back, doesn’t complain.

“It’s gonna be okay,” Jaebeom promises, voice hoarse now and he’s not crying but it’s a near thing, his eyes wet and wide. “We’re gonna be okay.”

“Hyung,” is all that Jinyoung can manage. “Jaebeom.”

“They’ll have me in solitary, you can even visit me. You know where I stashed the money, yeah? It should keep you guys going until I get out, until---until we figure something out. Jackson still has the shop, and that’ll help.” Jaebeom keeps talking as if Jinyoung’s whole world isn’t ending, as if it’s a random Thursday and they’re discussing business. “Watch out for Yugyeom. After this he might...he might relapse, you know? And Jackson. He acts hard but he won’t ask for help when he needs it.”

“Jaebeom, please, ” Jinyoung pleads, but Jaebeom keeps talking.

“I don’t want you to worry. I don’t want you to wait for me.”

Somehow that makes things worse, makes fresh sobs rise in Jinyoung’s throat and he feels like he might explode, like this is all too much for one person to feel, it’s too hard, he won’t make it.

“Fuck you,” he manages to hiccup between sobs. “Fuck you, of course I’m waiting for you.”

He shoves at Jaebeom’s chest but it’s weak, he’s weak. “You asshole. You fucking asshole, coming here to turn yourself in.”

Jaebeom doesn’t move when Jinyoung shoves him, just keeps looking at him like it’s the last time he’ll ever see him and Jinyoung can’t even think about it, can’t even imagine a world without Lim Jaebeom in it. It’s unfathomable.

“I had to, baby. Couldn’t let Gyeom do it. He would have, you know.”

“I hate you,” Jinyoung spits and that’s weak, too, broken and weak, just like the rest of him.

“Yeah?” Jaebeom says easily, as if he knows Jinyoung is full of shit but it’s true, at this moment Jinyoung does hate him, but it doesn’t help even a little because he loves him in equal measures, so hard that it might kill him.

“I love you,” Jaebeom says, and it goes on that list in Jinyoung’s heart of all the times Jaebeom has said it to him and he wonders if this is the last entry. “I love you so much, Jinyoung-ah.”

“Don’t,” Jinyoung gasps, but it’s too late, he’s said it and there’s nothing but bloom in him now, nothing but Jaebeom coursing through his veins and Jinyoung doesn’t know if he’s lost himself or if he’d ever been found in the first place.

If he had been, it was Jaebeom who’d found him.

The guard pulls him up by his elbow and Jinyoung yells, reaching out for Jaebeom who just gives him the most heartbroken look, tears welling and finally spilling after all this time.

“It’s okay,” Jaebeom keeps repeating. “It’s okay.”

Jinyoung fights against the guard, straining to get back, to touch Jaebeom again and the guard has to rip him away, haul him out of the room.

The only reason Jinyoung doesn’t get thrown in jail right along with him for assaulting the guard is that Reese is there, talks him down and gives him a ride home.

Jinyoung stares out the windows, looking at the cherry blossoms that are just beginning to bloom and wonders why no one ever tells you that everything that blooms also dies.

Chapter Text

It gets easier. At first, Jinyoung thinks that it might choke him, the vines in his heart, Jaebeom still in his blood but gone .

They move him after a week, when he gets in a fight with a Kim plant at the prison, move him miles away so that it’s harder and harder to visit him and once, Jinyoung goes three months without seeing his face when Jaebeom gets thrown in solitary for selling cigarettes, of all things.

Jinyoung would have hit him if his cheekbone weren’t still swollen, if his heart didn’t soar at the sight of Jaebeom’s big smile.

The others take it okay, except for Yugyeom, which Jinyoung had expected, and Jackson, which Jinyoung hadn’t expected, despite Jaebeom’s warning. Jaebeom hadn’t been the leader of their gang in name only, after all.

Yugyeom relapses and this time they can send him to rehab thanks to the cash Jaebeom had stashed in the floorboard of their apartment, just under the edge of the bed. He overdoses before that, though, and the six of them spend three panicked hours in a hospital waiting room before he pulls through.

Jackson goes the other way, angry, getting in scrapes and taking turns too hard while racing, escaping the cops by the skin of his teeth more than once and they end up at the hospital again when he steals a car after half a bottle of tequila and rams it into a tree.

He only does probation for the lift since his record had been before he’d been of age, and Jinyoung is grateful.

Things do, eventually, get easier.

It’s not like any of them stop hurting, it’s like they get used to it, like the steady void of Jaebeom becomes something they tolerate, something they’re used to.

It almost disgusts Jinyoung when he stops waking up and looking for Jaebeom, stops reaching out for him in his sleep. It feels disloyal, somehow, and he still doesn’t know what he is to Jaebeom and he doesn’t know if he even wants to know but he doesn’t go on dates, doesn’t so much as look at anyone else.

Once, during a visit that only Jinyoung had been able to make it to, after the move, Jaebeom had tilted his head, given him a slow half smile that made Jinyoung’s heart ache.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

Jinyoung scoffed. “What?”

Jaebeom frowned. “It’s not like I’d be mad. You should be getting out there, enjoying your--”

“Fuck you,” Jinyoung whispered, voice shaking, because he’s angry , suddenly, angry that Jaebeom would even suggest--

Angry because there’s this voice in JInyoung’s head, this voice that asks, “did he ever really love you?” Did he? It plagues him now that Jaebeom’s locked up more than it had before, when he’s alone in a bed that no longer smells like Jaebeom, staring up at the ceiling in the pitch dark.

Then Jaebeom leaned across the table and the chains jangling against the table make Jinyoung swallow, let Jaebeom touch his fingertips while glancing over at the guard. 

“I want you to be happy, Jinyoung-ah.”

Jinyoung hadn’t spoken, his throat tight, just nodded, but despite Jaebeom’s pleading gaze he hadn’t ventured out to hook up with anyone, even after the 8th month.

He’s really still going through the motions, waiting for Thursday when he gets a seven minute phone call from Jaebeom.

The first Thursday of the sixth month without Jaebeom, the phone never rings.

It’s okay, Jinyoung tells himself. Maybe it just got delayed.

It’s possible, it’s happened before and been Friday or Saturday, but this feels different and when the next Thursday comes and goes with no call, Jinyoung can barely breathe.

He calls the prison but like always, it’s leaving a voicemail here, waiting for a call back, and he hears nothing for another two weeks.

Jinyoung is on the verge of calling a meeting with the others to tell them something’s wrong, to try and figure out how to fix it, almost desperate enough to ask Yugyeom to reach out to his contacts on the police force. He’s trying not to show how stressed he is when he conducts business throughout the month, but he’s sure the cracks are showing.

7 months after Jaebeom had been arrested, Jinyoung is waken up by someone using a key in his lock and he jolts out of bed.

Mark is the only other person with a key and only for dire emergencies, so Jinyoung’s heart is in his throat as he steps to the doorway.

“Hyung-” he starts, and then he has to grip the doorjamb to keep from falling over.

Lim Jaebeom is standing in the doorway in the tshirt and sweats he’d been wearing when he was arrested, his hair having grown out from when Jinyoung had last seen him three months ago, almost down to his chin.

It’d been so strange to see him right after the arrest, after they’d shorn the long dark locks that Jaebeom had refused to even trim, that Jinyoung remembered sliding through his fingers. Jinyoung remembers that, viscerally, like he remembers everything.

Now, it’s almost like he’d never left at all, as if in spite of how his shirt was stretched tighter across his chest, how his eyebrow has a new scar, as if he’d just been gone to the store for more soju and the last 7 months were all a nightmare Jinyoung had.

Jinyoung closes his mouth, aware he’s been gaping like a fish, but he doesn’t know what to do, and he doesn’t realize that he’s been holding his breath until Jaebeom drops the bag, smiles big and wide and closes the distance between them in three steps.

Jinyoung has this moment, brief and fleeting, where he wants to take a few steps backward, where he’s overwhelmed, feels like this might be some kind of dream and he’s still sleeping on one side of the bed, and even if he’s not the way he feels about Jaebeom has always been too much, hasn’t it? It always had been, and now---

It’s over quickly, though, because Jaebeom wraps an arm around his waist, pulls him close, rubs his nose against Jinyoung’s cheek.

“Missed you,” he murmurs, and Jinyoung’s heart seems to crack right down the middle.

“Asshole,” Jinyoung curses him, his voice liquid. “I was worried about you.”

Jaebeom chuckles and maybe it is too much, Jinyoung can feel the way it vibrates in Jaebeom’s chest, he’s so close, he can feel the heat of his arms around him and the swell of the bloom in his chest makes Jinyoung hitch back a sob.

“Wanted it to be a surprise.”

“I hate you,” Jinyoung says, but it’s a whine and his arms are going around Jaebeom’s neck and it feels like home to have his fingers back in his hair.

“I love you too, honey,” Jaebeom says brightly, smiling so hard Jinyoung wonders if it hurts his cheeks.

Jinyoung doesn’t have time to ask questions, because Jaebeom kisses him, deep and searching, and the bloom tunes out everything else.

Later, he wishes he had, wishes he had known what he was getting into but, in the end, did it matter?

It’s rare to find your bloom, Jinyoung thinks. And when you do, you give everything to keep it.