Monsters of reality
gen, Changmin-centric, pg
It came creeping slowly, Yoochun is sure. It is not something that could have happened in a night, or in a day or two.
Warning: fic is about eating disorder(s)
A/N: I don't know where this one came from, honest. Half of the time, I liked writing it, half of the time it was a pain in the ass because it didn't want to get written ):
Many, very, very big thank yous to honeyflavor and x_saru_x without whose help and beta-ing, this would not be in the state it is in now (and it would probably have an extremely bad title). ♥♥♥
|It came creeping slowly, Yoochun is sure. It is not something that could have happened in a night, or in a day or two. No, it must have taken several weeks, most likely even months. And, when he really thinks about it, it must have taken a few years. But Yoochun only noticed it when it (may have been) was a bit too late, and he can’t stop blaming himself for not seeing it earlier. |
When Yoochun started noticing, it was with a few playful comments about Changmin’s portions of food turning smaller and smaller, which the young man always defended with “I’m not really hungry” or “I’m tired”. Yoochun doesn’t really remember what happened in the time in between then and now because suddenly all hell broke loose and, Yoochun’s sad having to admit it, they were split into two teams; the Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu team, and the Yunho-Changmin team.
He didn’t see Changmin get dressed in the morning then, he didn’t see Yunho styling his hair in front of the mirror, he didn’t see Yunho cuddling up to Junsu in the couch, he didn’t see Changmin eat. He didn’t see them laugh, not that he and Jaejoong and Junsu laughed either, other than forced, awkward laughs that is. After a month, Jaejoong grew impatient. After a month and a half he grew mad. After two months in complete silence and giving the cold shoulder, they finally reconciled again.
(Yoochun does his best not to think of the in-between weeks that come every now and then, when a smaller kind of hell visits them and they separate into the smaller groups again. He doesn’t want to believe that this, this is reality.)
The first dinner they ate together after The Time They Won’t Speak About (or, as Jaejoong’s named it, The Dark Time), Yoochun remembers staring at Changmin’s plate and the two lonesome fried dumplings and a very tiny amount of lettuce on the side, and then at his own plate with at least five fried dumplings (he’d planned to take more and eventually did, but Changmin did not) and rice in a separate bowl and some sauce and whatnot. He had swallowed his comment along with the third bite.
Changmin would not like Yoochun telling him to eat more anyway, and while Changmin has got a tad weaker (it could be the stress too, Yoochun has tried to reason, or the lack of sleep, but it is obvious that he is just ignoring the truth right in front of his eyes) his wrath has not. He definitely barks more than he bites, nowadays. Yoochun has always been afraid of barking rather than biting.
Jaejoong stares calmly, making Changmin fidget and grab something to hide him from Jaejoong’s watchful eyes. When Jaejoong raises an eyebrow at him, looking at his chest, he too looks down and flushes red. Changmin throws Jaejoong’s undergarments at him and fumbles after something else. Jaejoong wonders when it became like this, Changmin trying to hide his body from their eyes at any cost, only drawing more attention to himself. “I won’t say anything,” Jaejoong says, and it almost echoes in the otherwise silent (too silent, Jaejoong thinks) changing room.
Changmin looks surprised up at him, eyes involuntarily quite wide, but he seems to relax, mumbling something under his breath. He turns around and reaches for his shirt. Jaejoong stares again. Stares at the sharp contours of the other’s backbone, at the ribs he actually can count all the way up to the shoulder blades, at the sharp jut of the hip bone. Then Changmin is dressed and turns to face Jaejoong. They stare at each other in silence for a minute before Changmin resolutely walks out without a word, leaving Jaejoong in a silence that’s choking him (“as as silent as the grave” suddenly gets a new meaning to him). Jaejoong smiles without humor and proceeds to pull a tank top on.
Junsu can’t take his eyes off the thick, angry red lines running all over Changmin’s stomach, the lowest ones a couple of centimeters under the navel, the ones highest up almost touching the visible edge of his ribcage (Junsu’s not sure you actually should be able to see the ribcage that well without stretching). It’s not blood, that’s not it, but they look like somebody’s clawed him. The hot water just turns the marks more red. Changmin breaths out loudly in a rush and that’s when Junsu notices the hand, shaking lightly, fingers crooked and held in the level of his stomach. He feels a wave of nausea hit him, can almost taste the bitter bile in the back of his throat.
Stumbling backwards, he mumbles an “s-sorry, I was just-just going to. M-my shirt. Take. Um.” and almost literally falls out through the door, closing it quickly behind his back. Junsu takes a deep breath and shakes his head, trying to get rid of the image of the angry, red lines on Changmin’s stomach. He stands completely still outside the bathroom for a while, chest heaving slowly and blood rushing in his ears. Then he quietly walks away, hands clenched into fists at his sides and a dark look on his face. When he reaches his empty room, he closes and locks the door.
A day later, Yoochun finds glass shards from photo frames, pieces of a CD looking suspiciously much like a CD Changmin once gave to Junsu (which Junsu had loved), and an armful of torn white paper, in the trash bin. Yoochun’s not entirely sure, but is that a piece of Changmin’s smile he sees in the mess of the papers, too?
It’s late at night, close to 1 AM, Yunho’s standing in the doorway to the kitchen, his original thought of fetching a glass of water after the nightmare he had awoken from forgotten.
Changmin, he knows from the brown hair brushing the neck and the pajama shirt hanging loose on the very thin back, is sitting in one of the chairs at the table, back facing Yunho. A single candle is lit in the middle of the table, casting an orange light in the room. From what Yunho can see, a mountain of ice cream, crackers, bread with honey, bars of chocolate, strawberry and kiwi Pockys, brownies they bought a day ago at the local market, and bags of rice snacks and different chips is towering in front of Changmin. There’s at least three glasses filled with water, milk and some sort of juice standing on the side, along with two empty Ramyeon packages.
The only sound in the kitchen is Changmin’s systematical chewing and Yunho’s heartbeat. Then Changmin suddenly quaffs the content of the three glasses and quickly stands up, rushing away. Yunho stands absolutely still, listening. And there it is, the sound of throwing up, the sound of flushing the toilet and water running in the sink. Yunho hides behind the door frame when he hears Changmin walk into the kitchen through the other opening again.
For thirty long minutes, Yunho witnesses Changmin eat and eat and eat, emerging to the bathroom every now and then, the mountain of food turning into a mountain of trash, and his heart breaks, just a little. It’s not the first time he’s caught the younger man doing this, and every single time Changmin’s looked just as pathetic and lonely. With every time, Yunho can see Changmin tear apart, crumb by crumb; he can see Changmin shed layer after layer. He’s down to bare, white bones, now.
In Changmin’s head, it’s like a battle of power. There’s this side that tells him what’s good for him, what he should do, how he should do it, and then there’s this side that tells him what he wants, tells him that he wants to aim higher, aim higher than he ever has before, aim higher than he is possible of. When Changmin was a child, his mother told him that every person alive has a conscience. Then there are these persons, she had said to him, who has a conscience and anti-conscience, and she had made air quotes at the last word. Inner voice, she had said after a pause, or negative inner voice, depending on if it tells you something good or bad. There are quite a handful of those people too, she had added, and he had believed her. He just never thought he would be one of those people.
The anti-conscience or inner voice or whatever you’d like to call it, or, as Changmin likes to call it, the Monster, breathes down his neck, and haunts him in his sleep. It is the Monster that tells him, in a whispered, raw voice that he is not good enough –aim higher, aim higher, aim higher-, and does he really think he’s worth a shit in this world? Changmin knows that it’s not true, yes he knows that, but that’s the thing. There’s a big difference between knowing something and actually feeling in one’s heart that this, this is true, this is reality.
His real conscience, or the voice in his head that tells him to do what’s good for him, the one that Changmin has named the Hyung, tells him the Monster is wrong, that he should not believe him, pleads Changmin to listen to him instead. But it’s a battle, a harsh one, and more often than not, the Monster wins and Changmin falls just that bit deeper into the dark, wicked spiral with the fence made out of barbed wire locking him in. Some days, Changmin likes it down there, in the dark surrounding him, covering him like a blanket. He feels safe. Other days, Changmin feels like it’s a prison, the dark turning threatening and cold, so cold, and he wants nothing more than to just curl up against a warm body, to be held like a baby and be taken care of.
Changmin freezes, constantly. The Hyung tells him it’s because he’s malnourished, that it’s because he stays up in the night (he’s afraid of falling asleep because he doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring him), that it’s because he’s slowly killing himself. The Monster tells him it’s because he’s been bad, that he needs to be stricter with himself, that this is his punishment for eating as much as 700 calories and only exercising for one hour and a half.
And so he exercises more the next day, eats less and the Monster gives him a grin, a thumbs up, and it’s in those situations that Changmin sees something else flicker behind the awful mask of hardness, thinks that the Monster may not be actually that much different from the Hyung, thinks that maybe they – the Hyung and the Monster – are one. That maybe, the only one pushing him to the edge is himself and himself only. Then the Monster lets the mask fall on again and Changmin lets those thoughts fly out through the window.
They find him curled up on the couch, blankly staring at some show on the TV. Boney hands peek out from a large, red sweater, gripping tightly onto each other around his bent legs. Yunho sits down to his left, at his back, Yoochun sits down to his right. Jaejoong paces aimlessly around in the room while Junsu takes his distance, sitting down on a large pillow on the wooden floor. Changmin leans back on Yunho, who wraps his arms around his waist, feeling how thin it is even through the thick fabric of the sweater. Yoochun quietly reaches over and grabs one of his hands, almost wincing at how cold it is, and starts rubbing it between his, a lot warmer, hands.
Changmin looks from Jaejoong to Yoochun to Junsu to the arms around his waist and sighs. “Hyung,” he says, “hyung.” A cold shiver runs up his back and he marvels how it doesn’t appear to come from outside, but from inside, from his bones and soul. Unconsciously he curls up a bit more into Yunho’s embrace and Yoochun takes his other hand too. Silence takes over the room; even Jaejoong’s footsteps seem quieter. Changmin falls asleep, Yunho’s arms still wound tightly around his waist and his hands still in Yoochun’s. He falls asleep, safe and warm and for a once in a very long time he doesn’t dream of falling into a black hole, or of waking up one day to a world that doesn’t need him anymore. It’s as simple as that.
(What hurts, Yunho thinks, is that he knows he can’t do anything besides this, nothing else than holding Changmin tight, doing his best to keep him warm. This is Changmin’s fight, and he has to fight the battle himself. They can’t do it for him, no matter how much they would like to. But once he falls apart altogether, once he can admit he needs help – needs them – then. Then they can be there to pick up the pieces, to put him together again. )