They had always been together. Bloom couldn't remember a time without his older brother standing with him, protecting him, working in his interests. Steven might pull some crazy stunts. He regularly weaved tales to attract the naive and innocent, as was his job in the con business. But he would never pull a fast one, never play his younger brother Bloom. And few things could piss him off faster than harming his brother. As those who tried could testify, retribution was swift and often painful.
The first time Bloom figured it out was their third foster home. He had knocked over the milk at the table, and his new-found 'father' slapped him for it. He was eight years old, and had lived two without parents. Granted, he might have deserved some sort of punishment, but Bloom could never remember actually being hurt by his father, real or temporary. He looked up at the man with tears in his eyes, ready to start bawling the way any normal eight year old would. Suddenly, Steven came to his rescue by sucker-punching their 'father'. They had transferred out within the week, having only lasted ten days. But regardless of moving again, Bloom was optimistic. He knew that as long as Steven was there, nothing would happen.
The second time, it was a little more serious. Steven was 17 and wanted freedom, while Bloom was 15 and still working out his emotions. Their new 'father' was an infamous con man known as Diamond Dog, who had promised to teach the brothers everything he knew in exchange for a piece of their profits. It seemed like a decent deal at the time, and Steven admired Diamond Dog. There was something about him that bothered Bloom. He could never quite put his finger on what exactly it was. His stomach always bothered him around Diamond Dog. The man never hurt him, not like other foster fathers Bloom had experienced. And the things they were learning helped them improve their rough skills at conning others.
So Bloom left it alone, glad that Steven was enjoying himself. That was the important part of the equation, as far as he was concerned. Then, one night, when Steven was sleeping off some bruises in the area designated as the infirmary, the Diamond Dog made his move. Bloom could not remember being more terrified of anything than when the older man had gotten way too close to him and whispered that Bloom could do some things for him. He didn't have the guts to break Diamond's iron grip on his shoulder, or to pull away when he kissed him full on the mouth. All he could do was pray Steven would come to his rescue somehow as he struggled.
And then suddenly Steven had appeared, walking in on them. Bloom had never been happier in his life when Steven ripped Diamond Dog off of him and demanded an explanation. Diamond Dog couldn't come up with anything, sputtering piteously that Bloom had led him on. Steven grabbed him by the collar and dragged him out of the room. Minutes later, Bloom heard a scream of agony that shattered the silence. Steven came back and told him to pack, that they were leaving now. They left by the moonlight, determined to strike out and run the con business on their own without any supervision anymore.
That night, Bloom had lost any respect he held for the Diamond Dog. He never asked Steven exactly what he had done, because he didn't need to know. All he knew was the simple truth. Nobody messed with Steven Bloom's brother. Knowing that gave Bloom the confidence that kept him sane through 25 years of constantly shifting stories and covers, when every week he assumed a new identity. Steven had his back all the time, no matter what the situation. No matter what...
"The day I con you, Bloom, is the day I die..."