You stared absently out of the kitchen window above the sink as your hands scrubbed robotically at the dinner dishes. At this point, you could probably wash dishes in your sleep but you were particularly distracted today, you just gazed out into the darkening sky as the evening stretched on. Looking down at your soapy hands, and realized that in your daze, you hadn’t even registered the fact that you’d been washing the same dish for the past ten minutes. Sighing and giving your head a small flick to the side as if to physically shake yourself out of it, and placed the spotless plate into the drying rack.
The Hewitt family was a full house, so there was inevitably plenty of tableware that needed to be cleaned every night after supper. Everyone in the house had to pull their own weight, so you were assigned dish-duty— and a well lot of other things at first- as soon as you’d dubiously consented to become a member of the family. Out of all of the skeptical Hewitts, Luda Mae trusted you the least, so you had a lot to prove those first dreadful months of staying with them. It was hard work, and you had a really hard time adjusting to this kind of life, you were a city kid! You weren’t used to living that way, and so it was a huge strain on not only your physical health but your mental health as well.
You hid it well in the beginning, just soldiering through all the things Luda had you do without complaint, and still, she and many of the others were incredibly hard on you about every little thing. You started losing a lot of sleep after your prescription of night meds ran out, and since you were too intimidated to ask to pick up more you just suffered silently. You were sluggish and zombie-like while you did your chores after that, and if Luda noticed she sure as hell didn’t say so. If anything she got even harsher because your sleep-depravity started to negatively impact your work ethic.
Thomas was worried about you and it showed, but you were too exhausted to explain your problems even to him.
And then everything went to shit when you ran out of antidepressants. If you thought the work was bad before, it became downright miserable when you started going through withdrawals from the medication and your urges to cut went through the roof. The day you just gave up while mopping and collapsed from the sheer exhaustion had been the day everything just came out, it was the first time you lashed out and it surprised everyone.
But it got better after that, at least in a really fucked up way. Because Luda Mae let up on you after that, it was like she finally understood that she could trust you. But that wasn’t what made the most of a difference, after that night you picked back up and an old habit. You’d sworn to never cut again, you did. But you were younger then, you were medicated then. It was torture, but a sweet kind of misery that came with masochism, the physical pain of an injury made you forget about the emotional turmoil.
But like any pain pill, the relief only lasts for so long until you need another dose, another series of cuts in your case. If you thought hiding it from your birth family was hard all those years ago, keeping it from the Hewitts made it seem like child’s play. It was easier when only Thomas cared, but now you have a whole family looming over you.
You had to dress rather oddly to accommodate the relentless Texas heat, and also your compulsion to hide your scar littered forearms. You allowed yourself to lay off the layers of clothing like hoodies and sweatshirts in favor of thin long-sleeved shirts and dresses. They looked a bit strange with jean shorts and the occasional skirt, but you were cool enough and concealed from the waist up so you were happy. Most nights you were brave enough to wear some of Thomas’s plain T-shirts to bed, but you had separate rooms so there really was no risk.
Speaking of the gentle giant you’ve found companionship in, your relationship was… a bit odd in itself. It was something that constantly danced on the borderline of closely-knit friends and lovers. It was like the… ‘people who like each other and know they like each other, but are too shy to initiate an exclusive relationship,’ trope. But not in an awkward way, you’ve never felt more comfortable with someone in your life!
Shaking yourself from your escalating thought process, you set the last dish inside the drying rack of multicolored plates. Flicking the water from your hands you wiped down the flat surfaces of the counter and table and gave the kitchen a once over before swiveling in your heel to retreat to your room as soon as possible.
Your arms were itching madly, but you had to remind yourself that you were still in public eyes. Your mind kept flashing with images of the blade you kept under a stack of magazines in your drawer. Your scabs were tingling almost enough to burn with the anticipation of steel possibly re-opening them. This is what addiction feels like, your body begging you for more of that one special thing, for others it’s drugs. For you it’s pain, the rush of awareness your nerves send to your brain that lets the sting overpower the gnawing emptiness that depression leaves.
You wouldn’t wish this burden upon anyone, not even Hoyt who you’d loathed for months after joining this family. This addiction was a slow death that ate you from the inside until it demanded to spread on the outside, the cuts were like breathing spaces for the dark ocean to bleed out. It was a way to release some of the self-hatred that stayed bottled up inside for too long, and maybe that’s why it was so addictive.
As if karma simply felt like pissing on your flame today you ran into the exact person you did not want to see right then. You collided with a hard chest just as you turned the corner, and two large hands shot out to your shoulders to keep you steady. Thomas’s dark brown eyes stared down into yours and felt yourself relax in spite of your initial panic, no one has ever been able to do that to you just with their eyes alone.
“Oh, sorry, Tommy! Wasn’t paying attention, I just finished up in the kitchen.”
He grunts in response and nods in understanding, his firm grip on your upper arms loosening but not retracting. Simply holding. Things you noticed either because of your body’s hyper-awareness in that area or simply because the only way Thomas can truly communicate with you is through touch and body language. His fingers tug lightly, but not insistently and you gladly comply, leaning into him. You wrap your arms around him and press up against his warmth as his strong arms coil around you and squeeze.
His hugs were the absolute fucking best.
Without realizing it your burning urge to scratch, to cut was dissolving under the pressure of his embrace. That had never happened before. Now instead of longing for something sharp to pierce more holes into your skin, all you wanted now was to drown in Thomas’s affection.
You sighed happily into his chest hearing a similar exhale of what sounded like relief rumble from Thomas’s throat. To him, the moment he got to touch you was the highlight of his day. Touch-starvation made even the smallest kind touches and displays of affection seem almost orgasmic. Not stepping away from him, you simply tilted your head up and rested your chin in his sternum to see him properly.
“Are you done for the day?” You asked eagerly and rejoiced when he nodded with an affirmative noise. He’s practically already given you the ‘okay’ to drag him to your room, but you don’t want to be intrusive if he was doing something before running into you. “Is it cuddle time then?”
An excited grumble rises from him and he nods frantically, clearly not opposed to the idea at all. It’s all you need to hear before sliding past him and tugging him along to your bedroom, his heavy footsteps making the floorboards creak and groan as he trails after you as if on an invisible leash.
You know full well he’d be unmovable if he so chose to be, he’s a hell of a lot stronger than you. But you have him wrapped so tightly around your finger that you don’t have to worry about that. Wherever you go, he goes willingly.
You twist the doorknob and nonchalantly toss it open, leading Thomas into your personal inner sanctum as you called it. No one came in uninvited or without permission from you, so you never had to worry about the two of you being bothered. You give half the credit to Thomas who was a stickler about your privacy, and it was safe to say that most of the family was intimidated by him. The other half went to the Hewitts’ respect for you, which was hard earned. But Thomas has been the only exception to this rule since… well, a long time. A lot of the time he came to sleep with you or vise versa since you had night terrors and he didn’t like being alone at night. This fact compelled you to confide in each other, which normally just meant going to each other’s rooms at 2 in the morning and sliding under the covers.
Friends can do that, right?
You flopped backward onto your bed with a sigh of relief, your back pain already beginning to dull from being hunched over a sink for the past hour and a half. You snort when Thomas follows the suit and the force from his added weight causes you to be pushed off the mattress and into the air before bouncing back down, the springs squeaking underneath you.
You just rolled over and draped yourself over him, wrapping one leg over his and an arm over his sternum. Thomas sighed deeply and wedged an arm under you to hold you close, resting his chin on top of your head. You were content just lying here like this, and never moving.
If only things were that simple.
. . .
Your eyes flutter open when an intense tingling itch shudders down both of your arms, and it’s bad. It was withdrawal, your body was punishing you for not releasing the toxins of your unrelenting negative energy. You let out a soft whimper, beginning to tremble as your blood seemed to gather and pulse in the blood vessels running through your forearms. It was dark in your room, the clock reading 2:31 AM, you must’ve fallen asleep with Thomas earlier. No doubt you felt his huge chest rising and falling underneath your cheek and upper body that was resting on top of him.
Your sleep-drugged mind started racing with flashes of the knife in your drawer, just begging to be dragged across your itching skin. You squeezed your eyes shut, trying to push all of the pain, the temptation away. You felt a lump form in your throat, and your eyes began to sting with salt, muffled hiccups forced themselves from behind your teeth as you sucked in too large of an amount of air.
Thomas has never been a light sleeper, especially given the amount of work he does and the strain it has on his energy. But a gut feeling of alertness shook him awake, there were times when he could literally feel when something was wrong. He woke with a start, eyes blinking wildly and his hand immediately noticing the lack of weight— or rather the lack of you.
He relaxed when he spotted you sitting at the edge of one side of the bed, but his initial relief was short lived because he noticed that you were trembling. He sat up in a hurry, brows creasing in concern and his heart clenching painfully when he realized you were crying. Did you have a nightmare? No, you would have woken him up if you did, you always did.
You were too absorbed to notice the bed shifting, too distracted by the six new cuts streaking blood down your forearms and dropping in between your fingers. Everything was tingling, and you felt everything start to numb as you stared at the blade still cradled in your open palm. This was supposed to help, it was supposed to make it better, and for the first few drags of metal across your skin, it was. But now all you can manage to feel is heavy-weighted guilt, you felt pathetic. Where was your self-restraint? This was a private act, something to be done when you knew there was no possible way of being caught.
Your escalating downward-spiral of emotional turmoil was abruptly torn apart when you felt a heavy hand grab your shoulder. You reflexively toss the knife as far away from you as possible and whip around to face a mortified Thomas, you heard the clatter of the blade behind you and winced as his eyes shot over to it.
Everything seemed to slow down as Thomas’s wide brown eyes flickered from the knife to the damaged and bleeding flesh of your arms and back up to your eyes. Your immediate instinct was to scramble away, but his hand held you in place. Thomas made let out a pained whine, and then you saw him start to panic, breath picking up and eyes glazing. Thomas took both of your hands in his and turned each arm over, heart pounding as he only sees more of your blood, it’s horrifying.
He starts putting two and two together and his heart almost shuts down, because he knows that you’ve done this to yourself. There were countless scars, new and old, ranging in size, depth, and severity. The realization that you’ve been hurting yourself for what looked to be years, and without him knowing was easily one of the hardest things to swallow. And what was worse, he understood.
He’s beginning to hyperventilate, shaking even more than you were. Thomas seemed to collect some sort of rationality because the next moment he was getting up and pickling you up with him. In your haze the only thing you could think to do was cling to him, bloodied arms flying around his neck, legs locking around his middle, and your face buried into his shoulder as he held you up by your thighs. He carried you to the bathroom as quickly as he could, setting you down on the porcelain sink and flicking on the light so he could better assess the damage.
Finding yourself in those next few moments you tried to calm him down, Thomas would be no help to you like this.
“T-Tommy, please calm down, I’m okay! I-I know this looks bad—” He gave you a wild look, not at all reassured or calmed by your words. Of course, you would say you were fine! But he knew you weren’t, and you did too, couldn’t you see that trying to hide it was crushing him?
You watched with wide eyes as Thomas hunched over the counter, arms caging you as he buried his face in his hands.
He didn't… think… think this was his fault, did he?
You reach out and cup both sides of his face, urging him to look at you. He doesn’t comply right away, head stubbornly tilted down in shame. You realize that you aren’t going to get through to him unless you clean yourself up, thinking the sight of your blood is what’s too much for him to handle right now. So you swallow down all the words of comfort and self-blame and choose a different approach.
“Thomas, I have a first aid kit under my bed, if you go get it I can take care of this.”
Your voice is unsteady, and your throat is sore from crying, but you manage to get the words out. Thomas meets your eyes suddenly and doesn’t need to be told twice before he’s rushing out of the room. He’s back within seconds almost, holding out the small box of things you’d collected over the past months to tend to your habit. You mutter out a ‘thank you’ but you doubt it helps. Thomas stays close, watching you rinse your arms in the sink, and cringing at the blood that turned the water a murky, dark red.
You take out an antiseptic and dab each cut with it, whenever you flinch or hiss Thomas would jump. Once you believe you’ve properly disinfected your wounds you start to wrap gauze around one of your arms, but Thomas is quick to take over since this is something he knows how to do. You watch in a mesmerized daze as he wraps up your arms probably better than you could have, and you find yourself gazing lovingly at your gentle giant.
It’s an awkward few minutes after you gather your makeshift medical supply stash back into the box and make sure you haven’t left any blood anywhere obvious. You’d gotten so used to cleaning up blood that had you put in the effort, you probably would have excelled in a law enforcement department, perhaps even something forensic, cleaning up crime scenes and such. It’s a shower thought, but it distracts you from the silence. You instinctively go to pull down your sleeves but Thomas stops you, his thick hands running gently over the layers of bandages. You resist the urge to push his hands away, to shy away from his touch as you’ve done to so many others.
“I’m sorry.” You murmur and his eyes dart up to yours, giving you a disbelieving look, like the apology wasn’t something he deserved. He grunted and shook his head frantically, hands cupping your face and drawing your guilty eyes back to him.
“I’m sorry you had to see me like that. And- and that I never told you, I-I couldn’t tell you, I knew you’d be upset. And I didn’t know what I was doing- all of this never should’ve happened! This has nothing to do with you or anything I just can’t stop. Oh god, you must think I'm—”
You don’t realize that you were starting to cry again, but Thomas is quick to hug you as close as possible. He doesn’t want to hear all those bad things you’re saying about yourself, you don’t deserve to feel bad about yourself, you’re perfect to him. You relax in his arms after a while, and you just hold each other close.
Charlie must have heard you guys moving around and got up to investigate, but he was not expecting to see you two huddled up in the bathroom at three in the morning. He stands in the doorway, looking quite confused, and you can feel annoyance creeping inside of you at the sight of someone other than Thomas when you’re feeling like this.
“Should I even ask?”
You frown and lean over to push the bathroom door shut.
You look back up to Thomas who his fingering your bandages again, you understand he felt bad, but he was gonna mess them up at this rate.
“I’m okay, Tommy, really. You fixed me up, I’m fine now.” You gesture to your wrapped cuts with a reassuring smile, but your breath hitches when Thomas shakes his head and places one hand over your heart. It takes a moment to process, but you realize that it wasn’t just your wounds he was worried about fixing.
“For what it’s worth, you make me the happiest I’ve ever been since this whole cutting thing started.” Thomas looks up at you, listening intently to each word that falls from your lips.
“It’s just… a habit now. Like smoking, or alcohol. You use it to feel better at first, but then you can’t stop once you don’t need it anymore.” And that’s the truth about self-harm, it’s not just an outlet, it’s an addiction that your body can physically or mentally react to. You look curiously as Thomas rolled up his sleeves a bit more and takes one of your hands, he places it over his forearm and if you look closely enough, you could make out the clusters of thin, white scars littered all over his skin.
It dawns on you that he understands. How could he not? It makes so much sense, you know how he feels about his skin disease, and how much pain and discrimination he’s gotten for it. His motivation to hurt himself in the past is completely valid. But it still stings to think he’s hurt himself before, and for reasons almost painfully clear. How must he feel knowing you still cut?
You smile and lift his scarred arm to your lips to press a kiss to one of the worst ones. Thomas watches you curiously, face heating up some at the feeling of your soft lips against his fleshy arm.
“We really are the same.” You don’t apologize for what he went through, or scold, or coddle him over it. And that’s because he had the strength or restraint to overcome the urges to hurt himself, unlike you, and for that, you are proud of him.
Thomas sighs and rests his forehead against yours, closing his eyes as he takes in the sweet scent of your hair. His nose may have deteriorated away, but his sinuses and sense of smell are still very much intact, and for that he is thankful. The huge man wearing human flesh to conceal his own has never felt so comfortable with someone in his life, he felt like he finally found someone that understands.
“Can I say something crazy?” You ask out of the blue, and he perks up at the return of your normal voice, void of the sadness he’d heard in it before. He nods with a grunt of approval, letting you say what you needed to say. He wished he had better prepared himself for what it was.
“I think I might love you.”
He could’ve died right then and wouldn’t have minded one bit, because there’s nothing else you could have said that would make him so happy.
. . .
Disclaimer: I’m writing this off of my own personal experience with a self-harm addiction, I’m medicated and doing well now, but you’re never really the same afterwards. Just know that if any of you are going through that and need to talk, I’m always open to chat, don’t be a stranger.