"See you tomorrow, Leo hyung." The last of the backup dancers smiled at Taekwoon in the vanity mirror as he wiped his makeup off with the wet tissue. Taekwoon muttered a quiet "Thankyou for your hard work." as he heard the door click shut.
He was alone in the small changing room assigned to him now, after completing his promotional performance at The Show. He could hear the other idols and their staff bustling about outside, preparing for and coming back from their stage performances.
He tried to ignore the slight trembling of his hands as they wiped the last traces of makeup from his neck. His head was also heavy and warned of an incoming headache. He made a mental note to take an advil before bed, ignoring the distant red light flashing somewhere in his head.
"Don't panic, it's because of the stress. Youre okay." He said out loud as he balled his hands into fists to stop the trembing, but they seemed too weak to accomplish that.
Letting out a sigh, he brought his fingers to his temples and massaged them while shutting his eyes. He tried to stand up but fell back into the chair when the dizziness hit, the sudden fall making his head pound ever more. His thighs felt like jelly and Taekwoon felt his eyes sting. He gulped down his helplessness and forced his eyes close, a few hot tears rolling down his cheeks.
When he opened them he saw the bottle of strawberry milk his manager had left his on the vanity and he was suddenly aware of the hollowness in his belly. He felt bile creep up his throat, but his trembling hands reached for the cold bottle anyway.
"You can't take the headache medicine on an empty stomach, Taekwoon." he reasoned with his angry thoughts, trying to soothe them, trying to soothe the way his gut twisted in repulsion yet his stomach growled in need.
His fingers slipped on the cover as he peeled it away and quickly pressed the opening to his mouth before his eyes had a chance to glance at the calorie chart. He forced himself to chug half the bottle in one go, before his hands whipped away the bottle, seemingly of their own accord away from his mouth and on the floor, the plastic bottle hitting the tiles and pink strawberry milk spilling messily everywhere.
Taekwoon felt his whole body shudder voilently and his lips tremble, a wide array of emotions hitting him at once but mostly disgust and panic and fear. Fear.
No. Not this again. He had been so careful this time. Right? He had been careful with his diet. Careful not to fall back into old habits of starvation. He had forced himself to swallow the two small meals he took in a day. He had even started eating two small meals instead of one after he started passing out between takes during the shooting of his music video. He made a point to swallow the small bites, to not throw them out after chewing, like he had done the previous year. Even if he didn't always finish his meal.
He then remembered how he'd completely neglected any solid food the past few days, making excuses about being too busy with promotions.
Taekwoon reclined in his chair and covered his face with his hands, taking deep breaths, trying to calm his erratic heart.
When did the monster creep back up again? He had been feeling the self doubt again, the slight roundness of his cheeks had started bothering him again, he had started putting extra time on the treadmill, on the weights, on the-
"Hyung?" His body jerked at the smooth voice that called out to him and he whipped his head back to see Hongbin's face, before his head got dizzy again, definitely not a good idea.
"Bean, what are you doing here?", he slowly stood up and forced a smile.
Hongbin's sparkling eyes were fixated on the mess on the floor however, but they slowly met Taekwoon's and narrowed just a little.
"I came to see you. Why is there milk on the floor?" He asked calmly, settling down on the sofa next to the door, legs slightly parted and back straight, placing two paper bags on the coffee table infront of him.
Was Hongbin deliberately ignoring the fact that Taekwoon looked like a mess and asking about the stupid milk? Taekwoon took him in. It had been a while since he'd last seen him. Both of them hadn't had the opportunity to meet again after the 7th anniversary celebration. Hongbin looked relaxed, wearing a baby pink oversized hoodie and light wash jeans.
"When did you come in? I didnt hear you." Taekwoon asked instead making his way beside Hongbin on the sofa as he unpacked the contents of the paperbags, the delicious scent of hot food flooding his senses, making bile rise up his throat again.
"Right after you threw the bottle of milk on the floor." Hongbin said nonchalantly, separating the copsticks and placing them on the lunch box infront of Taekwoon.
"Eat up, I got you some good black bean noodles."
"I'm full." Taekwoon managed to choke out. His mind at war again. Hongbin wasn't asking questions and he didn't know if he was happy about it or not. He couldn't tell what he was thinking.
"You look like death, hyung." Hongbin said, slight concern lacing his voice.
"Thanks." Taekwoon deadpanned.
"You know what I mean."
But silences were always comfortable with Hongbin. He had never forced him to make conversation, or talk a lot. Or "come out of his shell". He had always respected Taekwoon's silent nature.
"I couldn't come see you during your album preps. Sorry about that."
Taekwoon waved his hand as if to say dont worry about it. He took his eyes off the bento to look over at Hongbin who was staring back with a strange expression, his hair was longer now, Taekwoon noticed, his bangs softly falling against the smooth skin on his forehead, some into his eyes.
Instinctively, Taekwoon's left hand reached to his face and swept the soft brown hair off his forehead to one side. Hongbin grabbed his wrist. Taekwoon expected him to jerk it away like he always did. Hongbin was never fond of displays of affection, public or private. But his soft fingers held his wrist lightly and brought it down, his eyes narrowing slightly. Taekwoon could almost see the gears in his mind shifting.
Hongbin held his wrist tighter when he tried to pull away. "Hyung-"
Hongbin's forehead creased. "How long?"
"How long what?" Taekwoon challenged, his walls going up instantly. His chin slightly wobbling, tears stinging the corners of his eyes. He blinked them away and pressed his tongue to his palate.
"Don't be stubborn, hyung." Hongbin's voice was calm. Taekwoon could feel his eyes sting again, he looked away.
"I'm right?" Hongbin asked, moving closer to Taekwoon, trying to make eye contact, but Taekwoon only looked away. "I'm right?"
Taekwoon tried pulling his hand away, his heart started pounding. When Hongbin held it even tighter, Taekwoon couldnt hold it in and he broke down and let the sob escape his lips.
Suddenly his wrist was free, but before he could cover his face with his hands he was being pulled into a warm chest, the scent of musk filling his nose and the soft fabric of the hoodie against his cheek. His tears streamed down silently as Hongbin's strong arms enveloped his shoulders.
"I dont know how it happened." Taekwoon whispered so lightly he wasn't even sure Hongbin had heard. His voice shaking.
The younger boy kept holding him.
He'd let him down. Hongbin had been there every step of the way the last time he had stopped eating. Hongbin had never been good at affection but he had held Taekwoon close and gone through the recovery plan his doctor had given him. He'd been persistent and never left his side.
And now Taekwoon had let him down.
He broke his promise. He's promised to never go on a diet without telling him or Hakyeon.
"Are you angry, Bean?" He whispered again.
Hongbin kissed the top of his head, wordlessly. Taekwoon smiled inspite of himself.
Despite the circumstances, his heart swelled knowing Hongbin was like this with only him. Beautiful but dismissive Hongbin. He was like this with only him. Probably not a good idea to think that way about your bandmate.
"Especially when he's only helping you out."
"what?" Hongbin pulled back, a quizzical expression adorning his features. "N-nothing." Taekwoon stuttered and pulled back, he suddenly felt cold.
"I'll eat some. I think." Taekwoon opened the lunch box and swirled around the noodles with his chopsticks. Trying to muster up the courage and to quiet down the voices in his head going on and on about calories and msg and bloating. His hands started to tremble again. Fuck.
Suddenly the lunchbox was snapped shut. He looked up to see Hongbin taking out another lunchbox out of the paperbag.
"I forgot about the side dish." He clicked open the box and put it infront of Taekwoon. "These are just baked veggies, hyung. Wanna try this instead?"
Yes. He wanted to say but he was already picking the broccoli between his chopsticks and taking small, hesitant nibbles. They slowly changed to proper bites. Hongbin slurped on the noodles next to him.
"Will you go see Dr Park with me? I dont have any promotions tomorrow." Taekwoon asked, hesitantly meeting eyes with Hongbin. Hongbin stopped slurping and nodded.
"I'm sorry." Taekwoon looked at his feet, squeezing his own knee with his free hand. He still felt ashamed. Hongbin said nothing for a while. Then he just took Taekwoon's hand and intertwined his fingers and gave it a squeeze. Before he could pull back, Taekwoon held his hand tighter and looked him in the eyes. Hongbin smiled back at him. His dimple showing.
"I'm sorry." He said again.
"Shut up hyung." Still smiling. "I'll pick you from your house at 9"
Taekwoon couldnt help but smile, and swept the hair out of Hongbin's eyes again. Hongbin rolled his eyes, "Stop that. Dont be annoying."
"And stop staring. Eat your food."
Taekwoon picked up his chopsticks again. He didn't nibble this time.
It was going to be okay.
It was going to be okay, he thought, as Hongbin absently drew circles on his palm. Their fingers still interlocked.
It was going to be okay.