Word Count: 4,380
Summary: Xiumin isn't sure when food became the enemy. Luhan isn't sure when the Minseok he fell in love with became Xiumin.
Warning: This fic contains eating disorders, self-harm, suicide(past) and mild language.
A/N: Well this is my first fanfiction...there's no smut or anything, just a lot of angsty fluff. I've already posted this on AFF but apparently not many people take AFF seriously? Well anyway, I love feedback, just please be constructive and not OMG THIS SUCKS, please tell me how i can improve.
There are .1 calories in a grain of rice.
Xiumin isn't sure when food became the enemy. If he thinks hard enough, he remembers it beginning somewhere between being rejected by a girl for being "too fat" and transferring to a school where nobody knew him. Where nobody knows Fat Minseok.
Here they know skinny Xiumin. Xiumin, who all the girls smile at when he talks to them instead of ignoring him and laughing behind his back. Xiumin, whose face is no longer soft curves but sharp angles. Xiumin, who hasn't eaten real food in almost a year.
Xiumin remembers a time before food became evil. Back then he ate whatever he wanted and enjoyed it. He didn't think he was fat, not really, but then he met that one boy in middle school. He was Chinese, a transfer student. Xiumin, no, Minseok, didn't really think much of him, until one day the Chinese boy, with cruel laughter in his eyes, pinched Minseok's cheek, hard, and in terrible Korean, said, "Fat Minseok! Like bao zi!"
Xiumin can still hear the laughter of the entire classroom. He stopped eating lunch the next day.
40kg. Too much. Not enough.
Xiumin's fingers taste like sweat and shame as he forces them down his throat. Hurry, he thinks. Hurry before it's too late. His mother got suspicious after he stopped eating entirely for a while, so he switched tactics. He eats when people can see him, when it would be suspicious not to eat. He lets them see the disgusting fat-waiting-to-happen as he forces himself to swallow even as his shrunken stomach screams in protest and his mind panics.
After he finishes choking down the last bite he can handle, he forces himself to wait a few minutes before asking to go to the restroom. Then he throws up every last swallow of food until he is empty again. Pure. Clean. Empty.
Xiumin's past comes back to haunt him during the first week of September. The sun is blazing but Xiumin is wearing a sweater and he's still shivering. A sudden wave of dizziness makes him lean against a wall and that's when he hears a voice. A voice that sends shivers of fear running through him. A voice that, though it's Korean has gotten better, still clips the wrong syllables and emphasizes the wrong vowels and sounds thoroughly Chinese.
"Minseok? Is that you?"
Xiumin looks up, his face covered in a cold sweat, and sees a pretty Chinese boy with big doe eyes and soft blonde hair.
He barely whispers it, but Lu Han hears it, smiles, and pinches Xiumin's cheek as if they were friends.
"Hello Bao-" he giggles, but Xiumin, a burning sensation growing in his chest, slaps the Chinese boy's hand away.
Even that small violent effort takes an absurd amount of energy, and Xiumin breathes heavily, trying not to faint. Eventually the world stops spinning and he manages to focus his eyes on Lu Han.
"If you touch me again, I will kill you," he snarls with the venom of a long-kept grudge.
Lu Han looks taken aback. Xiumin, still a bit dizzy, pushes past him and staggers away, pulling his sweater closer to hide his shuddering frame.
The human body requires 2,000 calories a day to function.
It's too cold. Xiumin feels numb, even when he draws the razor over the jutting bones of his hips. The pain is nothing more than a throb, even though blood is trickling down the shower drain, but it takes his mind off of Lu Han and the hollowness in his chest and the infuriating insistent whine of his stomach, which craves food it can't keep down anyway.
Lu Han's smiling face swims in front of Xiumin and Xiumin scowls, pressing his thumb into the four wounds on his left hip, wincing and sighing in relief as a fresh wave of pain sweeps over him, erasing Lu Han from his mind. He turns on the shower full blast and leans against the shower wall, his eyes closing as he lets the heat turn his skin pink.
Vaguely, as though from a distance, Xiumin hears the bathroom door open, and then Lu Han's voice makes his eyes snap open.
"Oh! I'm sorry! I didn't realize, I should have knocked! Forgive me," his voice is loud and gentle and somehow makes Xiumin feel like every bit of oxygen has been sapped from the room. It chills Xiumin from the inside out and he resists the urge to drop to his knees and scream.
His knees still wobble and he tries to shout at Lu Han to get out, but Xiumin's voice dies somewhere in his throat and he only moans weakly. For some reason this makes Lu Han come over to the shower and throw the curtain open, his eyes wide and fearful.
Xiumin is too shocked to do anything but slide to the floor. Lu Han's eyes lock onto the still bleeding cuts on Xiumin's hip and he makes a noise that sounds almost like a sob.
"What-" Lu Han begins, but Xiumin cuts him off, his shock now replaced with the same anger that he felt on seeing Lu Han that morning.
"What the fuck are you doing here."
The way Xiumin says it, the sentence sounds more like an accusation than a question, and Lu Han looks into Xiumin's face with a mixture of fear and worry.
"I am your roommate now."
Xiumin stares at him, not believing the words coming out of Lu Han's mouth. Lu Han takes Xiumin's pause as an opportunity to look back at Xiumin's cuts.
"You hurt yourself."
That brings Xiumin back to reality.
"And what makes it your business if I did?" He snaps, standing up abruptly and nearly falling over as his vision goes dark. Lu Han catches him, his hands encircling Xiumin's arms that are barely more than skin stretched tight over Xiumin's bones.
Xiumin's vision clears and he yanks out of Lu Han's grip, staggers to the towel rack, and begins to dry himself off, only vaguely embarrassed by the knowledge that Lu Han is staring at him.
"You are too skinny."
Xiumin freezes. The towel slips from his fingers and falls to the floor. He has to concentrate very hard on just breathing.
"What?" Xiumin whispers, feeling the same mixture of shame and rejection and hurt that he had first felt when Lu Han had called him fat.
He expects Lu Han to speak again, but instead he feels Lu Han's fingers trace the lumps of his spine and the curves of his ribs and the sharp angles of his hips and the knobs of his elbows. Xiumin shivers but he doesn't pull away from Lu Han.
"I should not be able to count your ribs, Minseok."
His old name breaks whatever spell Xiumin had been under, and he jerks away from Lu Han's light fingers, glaring over his shoulder at the Chinese boy.
"Don't call me Minseok," Xiumin says flatly, before walking out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
I do not have an eating disorder.
Xiumin expects Lu Han to say something about what happened in the bathroom last night, but Lu Han doesn't. Instead, Lu Han just stares at Xiumin, as though he can see through Xiumin's clothes to the living skeleton underneath. This annoys Xiumin more than he wants to admit, and he doesn't know why it annoys him so much. It just does.
It doesn't help that Lu Han ends up sitting behind Xiumin. Xiumin has to resist the urge to turn around and stare back at Lu Han's huge, judging eyes. But he has enough trouble just focusing on the lessons with his vision spinning and his head pounding and his stomach making traitorous noises, so he does his best to ignore Lu Han.
Lunch finally rolls around and Xiumin takes out his "meal" reluctantly. The packaging on the bread crinkles loudly and he swallows, hard. This is his least favorite part of the day. In the dorms it's easy to not eat since his mother isn't around to worry and his father isn't there to tell him how much of a disappointment he is. But at school he has to keep the illusion up; the illusion of Xiumin, the boy who eats food and is healthy and normal.
He manages to open the bag despite his shaking hands, and, despite the terrified screaming in his head, takes a bite out of the bread. He hates this part. He hates how every part of him screams in fear that this will bring his weight back up and yet weeps with joy at the delicious flavor that assaults his tongue. He always forgets just how good it tastes, just how much he wants to keep eating and enjoy every second of it. He forgets how hard it is to control his body after it has the smallest hint of food. Before Xiumin realizes what's happening, the bread has been devoured and he's actually licking his fingers, his starved stomach howling for more and screaming that it's too full at the same time.
Xiumin takes a shuddering breath and crumples the bread wrapper in his bony fingers before standing and walking very carefully to the door. He pauses to throw the wrapper away, and somehow stops himself from sprinting to the bathroom. Not that he'd actually be able to sprint. He's fairly sure he would faint from the effort.
He walks, calmly and quietly, to the bathroom, where he chooses a stall, locks himself in, and pukes up his meager lunch. He kneels on the bathroom floor for a moment, his forehead pressed against the cool porcelain, his eyes watering from the smell of bile, and Lu Han's comment from last night comes back to haunt him.
"You are too skinny."
A sob catches in Xiumin's raw throat and his eyes water with real tears. Is he never going to be good enough? Is he always going to fall short of everyone's expectations? His father, his teachers, Lu Han, all of them said the same thing: You are not good enough.
He cries until he hears the bell signaling the end of lunch. Hurriedly he wipes his eyes and blows his nose and cleans the vomit off of the corners of his mouth and stands up, flushing the toilet.
Xiumin opens the door of the bathroom stall and freezes. Lu Han is standing just outside of the stall, his face completely unreadable. Once again Xiumin feels as though there is no air left to breathe. He's grateful that he's holding the stall door, since his body is threatening to crumble.
"What were you doing in there?" Lu Han's voice is soft and surprisingly fragile, like he's going to break into pieces at any moment. Funnily enough, that's exactly how Xiumin feels as he struggles for air.
How long has he been standing there? Did he hear me crying? Did he hear me throw up? What does he want? What more could he possibly want from me?
"Is this…Is this why you are so skinny?"
Xiumin notices tears in Lu Han's eyes. Why on earth is he crying? For some reason this makes Xiumin angry.
"Why do you care?" Xiumin growls, trying to push past Lu Han, but Lu Han is much heavier than Xiumin and stops him easily.
"Because you're killing yourself!" Lu Han's voice sounds almost hysterical.
Xiumin laughs mirthlessly, the sound bouncing harshly around the room.
"Even if I was, I still don't see why it would matter to you. It isn't like we're friends."
Lu Han looks confused, which in turn confuses Xiumin. When Lu Han speaks, his voice is a little hurt.
"What do you mean, we aren't friends?"
Xiumin stares at Lu Han for a long time before realizing that Lu Han is being completely serious.
"You…you don't remember. Don't you remember what you said to me? What you did to me? Don't you realize that you-" Xiumin chokes on the last words, the words he has never said, and might not ever be able to say. Don't you realize that you broke my heart? I loved you.
Instead, Xiumin closes his eyes and orders himself not to cry. When he finally opens them again, he fixes Lu Han with a cold stare.
"There is no way we can ever be friends. After all," Xiumin says with a bitter laugh, "you're the one who made me do all this."
He isn't sure why he says that. Maybe he just wants Lu Han to understand that Lu Han killed Minseok and Xiumin is the only thing left behind. The words have a physical effect on Lu Han. His face twists up and he backs away from Xiumin, his hands coming up to cover his mouth. A muffled sob escapes from his hands and Lu Han starts crying while Xiumin looks on with a mixture of smugness and confusion.
Xiumin still isn't sure why Lu Han is crying about all this. After all, shaming someone in front of the entire class is not how most people treat their friends. The fact that he never tried to contact Lu Han after he transferred schools might have told Lu Han that they were not friends, but apparently Lu Han thought differently. He watches Lu Han cry for a moment before starting to walk out of the bathroom.
"Wait!" Lu Han cries out, his hand catching Xiumin's shoulder.
Xiumin pauses, his hand on the doorknob.
"Would it make it….better if I apologized?" Lu Han hiccups, his voice almost a whisper.
Xiumin is silent and his knuckles are white from gripping the doorknob so hard.
"No," he says, his suppressed anger seeping into his voice. "No it wouldn't."
Sticks and stones break my bones but words are what will kill me.
Xiumin is no longer Minseok. But he remembers when Minseok first met Lu Han. It was the start of Minseok's last year of middle school. The teacher said that there would be a transfer student, and Minseok, like most of the other boys in class, hoped it would be a pretty girl. A pretty single girl.
It wasn't a girl, but the Chinese boy who stood in front of the class was so pretty he may as well have been a girl. Minseok didn't think he was the only boy to feel his heart beat faster at the first sight of Lu Han. But when his heart continued to speed up when Lu Han was around, he realized that he had fallen for the Chinese boy. Hard.
No one could've blamed him, Lu Han was beautiful, with his big doe eyes, soft hair, and angelic smile. He was also thin. Sitting next to him, Minseok felt ugly and fat and unworthy, but he couldn't stop himself from falling in love with Lu Han.
For a while, a brief, fleeting while, Minseok almost convinced himself that Lu Han felt the same way about him. He deluded himself into thinking that there Lu Han's smile was different when it was directed at Minseok, that Lu Han liked to brush their hands together "accidentally" when they sat next to each other, that Lu Han blushed just a tiny bit when Minseok told him that he was pretty.
And then everything shattered and reality was revealed. Lu Han was just like everyone else who was lining up to tell Minseok how he had failed in some fresh new way.
"Fat Minseok! Like bao zi!"
No one controls me but me.
The memory fades and Minseok is Xiumin again and he is standing in a bathroom with his hand clenched around the doorknob and Lu Han's hand is on his shoulder and it feels like it weighs a million kilograms. But Xiumin can't bring himself to shake it off. He realizes that Lu Han is speaking, and has been saying the same thing for the past few minutes.
It sounds like a prayer and Lu Han is whispering it over and over again, as though saying it more than once will make Xiumin forgive him. As though two words will outweigh five.
"Do you even know what you're apologizing for?" Xiumin asks abruptly. He can't see Lu Han's face but Lu Han stops apologizing so Xiumin knows Lu Han heard him.
"I'm sorry that I made you do this," Lu Han says, and his hand touches Xiumin's left hip, where the four cuts still throb a little. Xiumin says nothing, but allows Lu Han to touch him.
"And I'm sorry that I made you do this," Lu Han's other hand presses past the loose, baggy uniform and touches the sunken curve of Xiumin's stomach.
Xiumin knows that technically, Lu Han is hugging him, and he hates himself because part of him is enjoying it. Minseok is enjoying it.
"We should-" Xiumin starts, and then stops because his voice is thick with tears. He clears his throat and tries again. "We're late for class."
He starts to turn the doorknob but Lu Han suddenly clutches Xiumin to him in a real hug and buries his face in Xiumin's neck.
"I don't care, Minseok." Lu Han's voice is muffled but Xiumin hears him well enough.
"I'm not Minseok. My name is Xiumin now," Xiumin says tiredly.
"Minseok is Minseok," Lu Han says stubbornly before loosening his grip around Xiumin's thin shoulders and spinning him around. "And I don't like seeing Minseok kill himself."
Xiumin smiles sadly.
"You don't have to worry about that. Minseok is already dead. I'm Xiumin."
Lu Han frowns, like he doesn't enjoy hearing Xiumin talk like this. Then he shakes his head and looks into Xiumin's eyes.
"Then I don't like seeing Xiumin hurt himself. Please, don't…don't cut yourself."
"It's none of your business what I do to myself. So keep the fuck out of it."
This gets Lu Han angry. Xiumin has never seen Lu Han angry before.
"I will not keep out of it," Lu Han almost shouts. He's crying again, Xiumin notes. "I don't want to watch another person die!"
They are in their dorm room. Xiumin doesn't actually remember how they got there. One minute they were standing in the men's bathroom, late for class, and Lu Han had shouted that he didn't want to watch another person die, and the next minute, Xiumin was lying on his bed and Lu Han was sitting next to him.
"What just happened?" Xiumin mumbles, propping himself up on his elbows.
Lu Han's mouth twists.
"You fainted. I carried you back here," Lu Han says. "When was the last time you ate?"
Xiumin looks away.
"I ate lunch. You saw me."
"I mean it. When was the last time you really ate, and didn't throw it up afterwards?"
Lu Han's voice is like iron and Xiumin bites his lip.
Xiumin lets himself fall back onto his pillow and closes his eyes.
"I don't remember."
Silence engulfs them but neither boy seems willing to break it. Xiumin cracks open one eye and looks at Lu Han. Lu Han's eyes are looking at Xiumin, but he seems to be staring past the boy on the bed. Something Lu Han said earlier nags at Xiumin, and he sits up with some effort, crossing his legs.
"Hey," Xiumin croaks, and Lu Han jumps, blinking three times in quick succession before looking at Xiumin's face.
"You said that you didn't want to watch another person die," Xiumin continues, looking down and picking at the long sleeve of his uniform. His eyes flick up to Lu Han's face before going back to his sleeve. "What did you mean?"
The silence comes back and stretches into awkwardness. Xiumin regrets bringing it up, since Lu Han doesn't seem willing to answer him. Just as Xiumin is about to tell Lu Han to forget it, Lu Han speaks.
"I had a little brother."
Once again Lu Han's voice sounds fragile, like he will shatter if someone touches him. Xiumin doesn't say anything, but he looks up at Lu Han's face, letting the Chinese boy know that he is listening.
"His name was Zitao, but I called him Tao. No one else called him that. Just me."
Lu Han looks down, and he swallows hard.
"We were two years apart and we were inseparable. But…something…something happened to him last year, and he changed. He stopped eating with the family. He always said he wasn't hungry, or that he ate earlier, but he got so skinny."
Xiumin realizes Lu Han is staring at his wrist, where the sleeve has ridden up just a bit and Xiumin's skeleton wrists can be clearly seen. Self-consciously, Xiumin tugs his sleeve down, but Lu Han is looking off into the distance again, his eyes looking wet.
"By the time I realized something was wrong, it was too late. I came home from school one day and Tao didn't greet me. I thought it was weird; Tao always greeted me. Always. I went looking for him. I knew he was home, his shoes were by the door, but as I walked through the house calling for Tao and he didn't answer me, I got this weird feeling. Something was wrong. Finally I heard the bath running and I knocked on the door."
Lu Han takes a shuddering breath and closes his eyes.
"I heard him….moan, and he sounded like he was in pain, and I just panicked. I kicked the door down and…and…"
Lu Han looks like he is crumpling into himself, his arms folding over his chest and his legs drawing up onto the chair.
"He slit his wrists. There was blood everywhere. There was so much blood and I couldn't stop it. I couldn't stop the bleeding. I couldn't save him. I held him in my arms as I watched him die."
Lu Han is crying so hard by the end of his sentence that Xiumin can barely understand him. But he understands enough. He remembers the terrified expression on Lu Han's face last night after Xiumin moaned and Lu Han flung the shower curtain aside in a panic.
"I'm sorry," Xiumin says, feeling stupid because those words never make anything better and he's only saying them because he has to say something. He doesn't know if Lu Han even hears him though, since Lu Han is crying and saying something in Chinese that Xiumin doesn't understand.
Without realizing it, Xiumin reaches out and puts his hand on Lu Han's arm. After a moment, Lu Han grabs Xiumin's hand and just holds it, as though Xiumin is the only thing that is real in this world.
"Please," Lu Han gulps, suddenly looking straight into Xiumin's eyes. "Please. Don't. Not anymore. Not this," he says, touching Xiumin's left hip, "and not this," he loops his fingers around Xiumin's wrist, squeezing lightly. "Please, Minseok."
Xiumin bites his lip and looks away from Lu Han. He can feel heat where Lu Han's hand is gripping his wrist and he knows he's blushing and he really doesn't want to feel this way because it makes it hard to be Xiumin. This is the first time in a long time that he hasn't wanted to be Xiumin. For the first time in a long time, he wants to be Minseok.
"I'll try," he finally says, not sure if he's lying or not.
They sit for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts.
"Did you know," Xiumin says softly, looking at his crossed legs, "that when we were in middle school, I had a crush on you?"
Lu Han's grip on Xiumin's wrist tightens just a little and Xiumin hears the other boy's breath hitch.
"You…you did?" Lu Han replies.
Xiumin smiles a little.
"Yeah. But I know you didn't like me back."
"No! No I did! I liked you a lot!"
Xiumin looks up and frowns.
"I don't mean as friends."
"Neither do I."
Xiumin's mouth drops open. Lu Han liked him? But then, why…?
"Then why'd you call me fat?" he blurts out. "Why'd you hurt me like that?"
Absently, Xiumin rubs at his left hip and his cuts throb. Realization dawns on Lu Han's face.
"Is that why you did this?" he says, shame written clearly across his face. "I did this to you?"
Lu Han kneels on the floor and presses Xiumin's hands to his face.
"Please forgive me Minseok. I never meant…I never wanted to hurt you like this."
I forgive you, Xiumin thinks, the words surprising him by being sincere.
Xiumin's heart pounds in his chest. Is this a dream? Is this really happening? He's hated Lu Han for so long, blamed him for everything wrong in his life, but the feeling of his forehead against Xiumin's hands and the way Lu Han's hair is tickling Xiumin's wrists is melting the wall around Xiumin's heart.
"I forgive you," Xiumin says out loud, though it's barely audible.
Lu Han looks up and smiles. It's that beautiful smile that crinkles his eyes and Xiumin finds himself smiling back. Lu Han leans forward and Xiumin doesn't realize what's happening until Lu Han's lips are pressed against his. His eyes are open, but Lu Han's are closed, and Xiumin finds himself admiring just how long Lu Han's eyelashes are.
When Lu Han pulls away, Xiumin realizes he doesn't want to stop kissing so he grabs the back of Lu Han's neck and pushes those beautiful lips back towards him. Lu Han laughs, but lets himself be pushed back into another kiss.
Somehow they both end up tangled on Lu Han's bed, their hands laced together and Lu Han complaining gently about Xiumin's bony elbows. They just kiss for a while, because they both know that if they went any further Xiumin would not be able to handle it. But for Xiumin, it's enough. And for the first time in a long time, he doesn't think of himself as Xiumin.
For the first time in a long time, he lets himself be Minseok.