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heartbreak boy

Chapter Text

yugyeom’s already broken by the time he begins to notice.

he’s twenty-one now, far past the age of childhood, but he still feels it, still feels as if he’s the awkward teenager who stumbled into an idol group with not a single idea of what self-confidence was. when he looks past it, past the growth of lanky limbs and the sharpening of his features, he truly hasn’t aged at all. he’s still in slight denial about his sexuality, dramatising any tendencies that appear that little bit more typical of someone on the opposite side of the spectrum to ensure that no one guesses, no on realises. he’s still lacking any sense of understanding of what it means to feel whole, to feel as if the world is actually treating you right, to feel like the pieces of your heart are sewn together and not like the tape that keeps them close is forever near to tearing. he’s still in love with the six who will never adore him the way he does them.

and he’s accepted it, accepted that he’ll likely never get happiness as a concept and accepted that he’ll never be able to hold them in his arms. accepted that the concept would likely disgust them, disgust them as much as he is disgusted by himself. it’s harder to accept what he later sees.

mark and youngjae are abnormally close, he realises one night, curled under his sheets in a dorm that feels so strangely empty now, the loudest members no longer filling the large space with their typical noise. despite records showing that a mark tuan truly does live with them, yugyeom never sees him, never witnesses that mop of red hair and that pretty grin, because the other is always out at youngjae’s (youngjae, whose infectious laughter yugyeom can sometimes still hear echoing in empty corridors), under the guise of visiting for coco. but there’s something in the two’s eyes when they explain that leaves yugyeom confused and wishing for answers.

he’s watching the two of them engage in some kind of playful argument with what he hopes is barely noticeable fondness in his eyes when he begins to pay attention to the affection apparent between jinyoung and bambam. it’s the way jinyoung smiles that shocks yugyeom to the core. it’s bright, the skin at the edges of those sparkling eyes crinkling and teeth seeping into his grin, nothing like the look of thinly veiled irritation that takes over every inch of jinyoung’s face when he falls into another fight with yugyeom. and the answering look of impish mischief and not contained happiness hurts, because bambam doesn’t even peer at him in that manner. not anymore.

yugyeom hadn’t picked up on it until now, but jaebeom's leniency, no matter how the fans view his possible fondness for any of the members, tends to be apparent mostly towards jackson. jackson could scream at his highest possible volume when jaebeom's head is splitting apart from a migraine and yugyeom imagines that the anger would sizzle away the moment he witnessed those infamous puppy-like eyes. it’s even more visible in the way jaebeom allows jackson to touch (to love ) more than the others, how he sinks into strong arms and doesn’t run away. jealousy burns in the pit of his stomach and yugyeom doesn’t even know who he’s more envious of.

it doesn’t hit him, the significance of it all, until it’s far too late.

all of them are participating in a movie night, the first in so long and yugyeom’s glad that the loneliness he’s become far too accustomed to has began to melt away from the more permanent presence of all of them. he can’t help but feel the outcast, as always, though. the horror film blaring away on their slightly grainy screen is terrifying to the others but yugyeom doesn’t find it at all frightening, as he never does. thankfully, it gives him time to place his attention on the boys surrounding him when they won’t notice. and then he sees.

jaebeom has his arm slung over jackson’s shoulders, who has seemingly squeezed himself as close as physically possible into the other‘s side. youngjae’s practically in mark’s lap, a not unusual position for the more clingy members, but their fingers are tangled together and entwined in a way that would be hard to break. jinyoung’s hand is resting on bambam’s thigh and the two are squished tightly together on the small space of the couch left for them. then there’s him. yugyeom. always on the outside, cross-legged on the floor with a blanket curled around his thin frame to mirror the warmth those above him are likely feeling.

two. two. two. one.

the gasp that tumbles from his lips is inevitable.

“you alright, gyeom-ah?” jinyoung whispers, hearing his slight exclamation but not at all raising his voice out of worry (because yugyeom isn’t worth it, never has been), doing his best to not disturb the others.

“i’m fine, hyung.” his lips are forced into a fake grin, laughing it off shakily as if he was somehow scared by the events showcased in a fictional world and as if the horror taking place there has anything on yugyeom’s genuinely scarring reality.

when yugyeom slips away to the room he now only shares with his own troubled thoughts, he can’t stop what fate has decided for.

“i guess i should have expected it,” he laughs to himself, quietly, hidden by the noises of the other’s mixed laughter and screaming at whatever is playing now. they’re perfect. perfect for each other. while i’m just me, good old broken yugyeom. what worth do i have? what’s the point of even trying?

maybe yugyeom could hold off on the urge when he at least believed he wouldn’t have to witness love around him every second of every day.

but now, it’s impossible to stop delicate fingers from curling around a razor blade.

Chapter Text

yugyeom hates the lemon yellow hair falling over his forehead almost as much as every other part of himself.

he can't stop his fingers from running through the vibrant strands on instinct, tangling and pulling with little care even when the slight force burns at his scalp. yugyeom had been prepared to argue with the hair stylists the moment they presented the bright hair dye to him, had been prepared to voice every complaint (because he already looked bad with his natural dark strands, but he'd look even worse with the colour bordering on abnormal in its light) - but had bit down on his lip, hard enough to bleed, because any insecurities of his own didn't matter, never would and never will. the fans laughed, the staff laughed and, most importantly, they laughed the moment they witnessed the sun shining on top of his pale skin.

everyone's eyes seem to focus upon him more than ever and it leaves worries and concerns festering deep inside. he can't force away the thought that he looks disgusting, the curve of his cheekbones and the peek of his nose ever highlighted by the blinding yellow, and he's thankful that the stylists have shoved him in more oversized clothing and longer sleeves, hiding the cuts he doesn't want to be noticed and an expanse of skin that's too sickly pale under thick material. bigger sweaters and shirts allow him to pretend, allowing him to act as if he isn't thinning more and more everyday that passes, allowing him to convince himself that the body he inhabits is perfect under it all and the sight of it in the mirror every morning doesn't send his brain into a spiral of self-loathing.

"yugyeom-ah!" it's a distant call, but yugyeom manages to catch it, turning on his heel to find the photographer nearing with every step. the sight of a familiar face that doesn't connect at all to the horrors yugyeom is too used to lets a slightly more genuine smile take over his lips, comfortable enough around the other from the multiple shoots the two have conducted together. "it's time for your solo shoot." he explains, tilting his head as he peers with a wise gaze that yugyeom is slightly fearful of. "are you alright?" he questions, a frown slipping onto his features.

"i'm fine, hyung," yugyeom forces his most overly bright smile, moving into position without a second thought. photoshoots like this are a normality now, something yugyeom's accustomed to, and the photographer doesn't even need to direct him as he tilts his head to the best possible angles (angles that help distract from the worst aspects). it doesn't take long, but every click of the camera reminds yugyeom of his hidden problems, of how self-hatred is present just under the surface and of how he can't help but think of how none of his supposed beauty will shine through in the many picture taken of him (beauty he's sure has never existed). as the end of his own shoot closes in, he begins to fidget, the staff likely writing it as the nervous but overwhelming amount of energy he's attempted to showcase in recent months, the excitement that is simply fake to prevent anyone realising how deep the sadness runs in the boy who is meant to be the most cheerful of them all.

"good job, yugyeom-ah!" the photographer is grinning and it takes all of the strength yugyeom has left in him to respond in earnest, tugging at the thread falling from the bottom of his sleeve in an attempt to distract himself from the way the stifling atmosphere is dizzying him. the staff are all smiling, clearly pleased by the pictures that yugyeom cannot see, but yugyeom has a tendency to convince himself of things that aren't clear - and he can't stop himself from shoving his dark emotions into the possibly only positive thing he's witnessed today, wondering if the smiles are more out of pity and compassion than true happiness.

"thank you," he still bows deep at the waist, hoping the slouching of his long frame hides the way his eyes are beginning to turn hollow. he can only imagine the fond glances he'll receive from staff still not used to his overpoliteness, but it does nothing to change the repulsion prickling at his skin.

it does nothing to stop the sorrow that claws down chest and rips at his somehow still beating heart the moment he slips into the dressing room and sees it all.

the others are near ready for their own shoots. youngjae catches his eye and smiles, long hair falling over his eyes, and he's so breathtakingly handsome that it almost hurts to meet his stare. "you're already finished?" he questions and yugyeom swallows at the sound of his voice, so fucking gone for this boy that even just hearing his soft tones leaves him shaken. he's shaken in a different, more damaging way when he notices how mark is right at youngjae's side, looking down with an affectionate gaze he will never be allowed to experience, and suddenly the smile that was real and true for just a second is tight and strained at the corners.

"yeah," he murmurs, trying his best to play his clear show of a lack of enthusiasm on exhaustion as he compulses himself to let out a yawn, rubbing at his eyes (in a manner that hides the tears that form involuntarily at the corners).

"tired, gyeomie-ah?" there's a teasing smirk on jinyoung's face as he peers over his shoulder, a stylist seeming annoyed as she attempts to fix the mess of hair upon his head. "what were you even up to last night?"

cutting my wrists with a razor and crying myself to sleep, yugyeom thinks, but of course the words don't fall from his lips. instead, he rolls his eyes at the attempt of taunting (that hurts, because jinyoung's malice is never focused upon anyone but yugyeom - and even if these words aren't meant to hurt, it's the tone itself that screams to yugyeom that he's worth nothing) and curls up on the couch, squeezing his eyes shut and attempting to block out the world around him.

it's hard to escape hell, but yugyeom will always try.

 

Chapter Text

yugyeom's lanky limbs are aching in protest but he can't push himself to stop.

the practice room is empty apart from the bag resting by the door and the faint tones of music and the little boy with a heart too broken to mend. the beginning of their title song echoes through the room for what feels as if it's the hundredth time (and maybe, just maybe, it's getting near to that) and yugyeom drops to his knees, a small whimper falling from his bitten raw lips at the sharp stab of pain through his bruised skin and strained muscles - but he ignores it, ignores the way the stretching of his sickly arms sends shocks of hurt all the way from the tips of his fingers to the tip of his shoulders, ignores the way his ever-thinning legs shake and tremble as he forces all of his strength into lifting himself off the hard ground when all he wants to do is curl up in a ball and let the coldness of the floor soothe his burning skin, ignores everything and tries to pretend that everything is alright and he can't feel how his body is starting to shatter as much as his mind is.

every small move of his body still manages to be sharp, precise in the manner he is known for now, but if someone looked closer, they'd see the exhaustion present on every inch of his face (with heavy, darkened circles painted underneath sunken in eyes that reflect the sleepless nights when the reality is too much for him to experience with an semblance of excitement but the realm of sleep is too much for him to handle, haunting him with nightmares of what could of been and dreams of what is) and how his whole form is shaking, a slight sluggishness to each step to match how he's quivering like a leaf barely clinging on to a branch, barely clinging to its safest place. his lips form each sound in silence, wincing at the noise of the boys who follow him wherever he goes, reminders of them in every inch of his life from the dances he has to perform to the walls surrounding him filled with memories of their laughter and their breakdowns from the stress. it's hard to avoid the way his own mind taunts himself for not sounding as beautiful as the others' soft or hard tones filling his ears and it's even harder to push away the thoughts that accompany their voices, of their more normal moments where they panicked over their own insecurities and yugyeom had to dig his nails into his palm to hold himself back from spilling his guts (that they're perfect, far too perfect for their own good, and he just isn't and never will be).

and when he spins on his heels, too lost in his own self-hating headspace to notice the world around him, everything goes wrong. maybe he had been blinded by his own fatigue, maybe he had been unable to truly see anything but his own need to keep going - but now he is physically unaware as well, vision gone blurry and his mind gone dizzy, and his legs crumble beneath him, palms slamming against the ground hard enough that a sound that expresses a mix of his own shock at his own pitiful state and the agony that sizzles to soreness throughout his barely stable arms escapes him.

it hits him now that this is probably the time to stop.

tears involuntarily sting at the corners of bleary eyes as yugyeom finds himself unable in so many ways - unable to even rise from the ground, just barely able to crawl over to his bag, unable to feel anything but a strange mix of numbness and suffering. collapsing against the way and squeezing his knees as close to his chest as humanely possible, yugyeom can only sniffle, blinking back the water that threatens to spill over and taint his face with the reminders of his own pathetic state. he loses himself in it, wallows in his own torment and keeps himself stuck in his cycle of woe - tilting his head back against the wall and staring up at the ceiling and thinking about what's past that, about the sky above that's likely turned dark by now, stars scattered in patterns and lights dotted randomly, like his moles that are hidden beneath layers and layers of makeup except for one - and wonders what it would be like to be one of them, no meaning in the world other than to be breathtaking, to be pretty for those below, and god, he wishes he could be beautiful-

the sound of his phone ringing cuts off his self-loathing before it can spiral out of control and yugyeom, in his typical muddled manner, can't decide whether or not he's thankful for that.

"hey, jinyoungie hyung!" his tone is perky and matches the perception everyone else has of him as a cheerful young man with a heart of gold that matches his hair and a permanent grin that scrunched up his face - but, in actuality, in stark contrast, he's blank, eyes hollow and lips sank into a thin line, and he imagines, peering into the mirror across from him, that he appears closer to a motionless corpse than a living, breathing human. or maybe that's an exaggeration. he's never been able to view himself as anything other than disgusting, after all.

"yugyeom-ah." jinyoung's voice is hard but there's an essence of clear worry to it - but yugyeom finds it difficult to accept that the other even cares, not when harsh words are all he manages to hear from the other's soft lips that he sometimes wishes would do something far more intimate than cruel teasing. "where the fuck are you?"

yugyeom flinches at unusual curse from the other, but continues with his act of innocence and naivety when all he desires is to stop pretending that everything's fine, to stop acting as if every word out of jinyoung's pretty mouth doesn't make him want to break down into sobbing. "i'm at the practice room?" he lets it sound more like a question than anything else, trying to force confusion into his tone when he knows exactly what's wrong. "what wrong, hyung? did something happen?"

"yugyeom-ah, its ten o'clock at night." the exasperation is so evident that yugyeom shrinks into himself, full of fear of what is to come. "get home. now."

"o-okay, hy-hyung," he stutters.

the call ends and yugyeom is alone again. he gets up on shuddering legs, balancing against the wall as he throws his bag over the shoulder, leaving the one place he felt like he could go to for an escape. teetering on wobbling limbs, he screams at himself to keep going, to keep moving.

to keep on walking to a home that doesn't feel like home anymore. to keep on walking to the boys who have destroyed him, have ruined him, more than they will ever realise. to keep on walking, even when strength seems like a concept he'll never understand.

yugyeom keeps on walking.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

the streets of seoul are vibrant, but yugyeom can sense no life in this city.

neon colours clash are they fly past his vision, lighting up the signs that hang over bars that have never been touched by pure hands. intense music rattles buildings and leaves the road shaking underfoot, half-lost men and women who are still on the verge of losing their sanity in a bottle of beer are perching on the pavement and yugyeom can feel the bile rising up his throat at just the sight of fellow fallen souls drinking themselves to death.

alcohol always seems so inviting. yugyeom knows it better than he knows himself. his hyungs, his reasons for everything, once laughed over his aversion to the glasses always left full at parties. he told them he was a lightweight, and maybe he wasn’t lying, and maybe the thought of accidentally spilling the reality he hid behind bold-faced lies and a smile that was nothing but forced terrified him more than he’d ever admit. maybe. or maybe his avoidance was fueled by the memory of a sixteen year old boy stealing alcohol from his mother’s cupboard and pouring the bitterness down his throat without care till he was choking on it, smothered by it, till he woke up with a pounding headache and little memory of the night before and his thighs and fingertips sticky with the blood coating his thighs, all because he realised that his affections were not accepted in this kind of society. maybe.

no matter the reasoning, yugyeom turns his head, tucks his trembling hands away in any space that warmth will invade and keeps on walking. keeps on walking, keeps on telling himself to forget about the past that will never stop haunting him, keeps on pretending that things are okay, that he’s okay. walking’s easy, even if his legs burn from overuse and his lungs feel close to caving in. he can manage that. but no matter how hard he tries, it’s a little hard to achieve the other promises.

it takes little time to reach the dorm. yugyeom knows these streets like he knows himself - with a vivid understanding that leaves his sense of stability collapsing (because these streets are hell itself in earthly form - for three blocks away is where upperclassmen punched and kicked and burned faggot into his skin with words alone and left bruises that will never fade, even if the discolouration is nonexistent in the years that have passed - for on the corner of a nearby road was the exact spot where yugyeom witnessed his last moment of heavenly happiness, drunk off his mind, near dancing through the streets with little awareness and too much grace for a boy broken beyond repair, remembrance of what is and not what he hopes for not yet hitting that fragile mind - for just outside this door was where yugyeom watched cars drive away and boxes be moved and those he clings to for safety leaving him behind, as everyone always does, as he himself did eventually, because some days he wonders if he’s even yugyeom anymore and not just an empty shell).

it’s empty. of course it is. the lights may be on and the signs of a late night rendezvous may be visible in the empty packets of food scattered across the couch, but there is silence in this vacant space. no distant sounds of shuffling from mark’s more violent sleeping habits (because yugyeom still remembers the times they spent together on tour, squished in the same bed as mark uncharacteristically flailed and yugyeom couldn’t stop his unrequired fondness because he’s far too gone, far too gone to care about the lack of sleep that etched ever darker circles underneath his eyes). the tv is turned off and the buzz of soft noise from whatever old drama jaebeom would switch to on those nights he just couldn’t let his heavy eyelids fall shut cannot be heard (because sometimes, when nightmares that are little more than reminders of yugyeom’s own fate and his impending sense of sorrow - because he’s hyperaware of the fact that he’ll never be able to stop this never ending fall and that maybe the only way he’ll even reach victory is if he gives up on trying to fly and instead lets himself topple over the edge - he finds him and perches ever so carefully next to him and will try to write away his worries as he listens to that honey-like voice that makes him melt in a false sense of security). the three who are never here are as absent as ever and yugyeom can feel the remnants of their presence in every inch of this broken home, in the polaroids that litter the walls and the items they always leave behind.

yugyeom simultaneously hates and adores this place and it’s so typical of him and his fucked up mindset that he doesn’t even pay attention to the contrast anymore.

he resists the urge to throw his jacket off and immediately throw himself into the nearest shower. sweat coats to his sickly skin and yellow strands are plastered to his forehead, but there are bandages around his dainty wrists and he can’t risk it, can’t risk the possibility that one of them will see, even if the dorm is as opposingly quiet to yugyeom’s racing heartbeat as it possibly can be. simply sighing into the tranquility that still manages to be suffocating (because yugyeom likes the peace now, used to hate it and enjoyed filling it with every noise possible to remind himself that he isn’t alone and there are people by his side now, but now he’d rather be closed in by the knowledge that he isn’t worth anything - because he can’t stop his own self-loathing and would rather just let it take over till he’s nothing but a unrecognisable shadow of his former self), his eyes meet his own in the reflection of the tv screen. black, black all for the eyes can seen in that small square - and yugyeom wonders, wonders if a world in black and white with no hope for joy would feature a yugyeom who fought against what was and instead was colourful in a way yugyeom himself couldn’t even strive for. because no matter what, no matter what universe or what time, yugyeom will always be the outsider.

“yugyeom-ah.” the voice is hard and belongs to a regal figure standing in the doorway to the kitchen. “what the fuck were you thinking?”

“nice to see you too, hyung!” he quips, attempting to conceal the flinch that shivered through him without warning at the sudden appearance of the one man yugyeom is finding it harder and harder to be around. he’d never admit, not even to himself, but jinyoung scares him, terrifies him, leaves him shaking in the middle of the night in the nervous acceptance that he’ll never live up the others expectations. and right now, jinyoung is goddamn petrifying. he shouldn’t be, clad in a soft sweater with a messy bedhead and a twisted expression that borders on a petulant pout, but rationality isn’t one of yugyeom’s strong points and the sight of him alone is enough to have yugyeom quivering in a way that he hopes isn’t noticeable.

“cut the bullshit, yugyeom.” jinyoung stalks forward, movements admittedly sluggish, but there’s that fire in his eyes. maybe that’s what unsettles yugyeom the most, because yugyeom feels as if he’s ice, cold in his own self-hatred and cutting in more ways than one, while jinyoung is the one thing that can melt through his solid exterior and leave him feeling as if vulnerability is his only trait beside his cowardice (because he still can’t say out loud that he’s been torn to pieces so many times that he doesn’t understand what it means to be whole) and his self-deprecation (because he hates but loves the way jinyoung makes him feel and yearns for more, because he wishes nothing more for his buttons to be pushed to the point of self-destruction). “do you see how late it is?”

“i have eyes, hyung, i think i know what time it is.” blatant sarcasm was, admittedly, not the best choice to go with and jinyoung's hand curls around his wrist so tight it stings - and there's a flash of anger inside that yugyeom is not used to, because how hasn't he noticed yet? yugyeom is skin and bones. the thinness of his limbs is ever emphasised by jinyoung's strength and if jinyoung tilted his head ever so slightly up he'd witness the sunken eyes and overly sharp features of a heartbreak boy lost to his own overwhelming emotions. jinyoung's oblivious, they're all oblivious - and for a split second, yugyeom fucking hates them.

and then he's back down on earth and the rage softens and yugyeom is lost again in dark eyes.

“i’m-” he falters, swallowing heavy when a heavy gaze lands upon his quivering features that he tries his best to settle into an apologetic look typical of him , the boy who used to be and not the boy he is. the almost sulky downward curve of his mouth and the widening of big brown eyes is childlike and naive, everything he is believed to be and everything he no longer is. he figures that the yugyeom that seems like a distant memory now would react with rambling speech and a flustered expression and so he goes all out, eyes meeting the ground like a kid being scolded after an especially explosive tantrum. “i’m sorry, hyung, i- i didn’t mean to! i lost track of time and-”

jinyoung’s hand squeezes. it shouldn’t make yugyeom freeze more than his already corpse-cold body could manage but it does, because he feels it, feels the reopening of cuts hidden behind layers and layers, feels the blood start to seep through paper-thin strips that wrapped far too quickly around far too small arms, feels his self-control being to snap. breathe. he tells himself. keep calm. but he can’t and the words fall out of loosened lips before he can even think of stopping. “h-hyung,” he chokes out. “hyung, you’re hurting me.”

yugyeom’s smart . he knows he doesn’t seem it, not with how little intellect is visible in his everyday life, but there’s a difference between the book-based intelligence the one in front of him holds and the ability yugyeom himself has kept secret under a facade of willful ignorance. street smart. he’s street smart, can take one look at a guarded person and figure out there ins-and-outs in a matter of minutes - because he fears the hurt that will eventually come from paying no attention to the smaller details of things, because even his childhood taught him that humans are monster and monsters are humans and there is little to differentiate the two, because yugyeom can’t misjudge otherwise he could end up dead in a ditch somewhere no one knows. he’s smart and he can see the quick shine of shock in the other’s cold features, before it’s gone to jinyoung’s typical stoicness when it’s yugyeom that’s involved.

in front of him, jinyoung pretends not to care. but jinyoung’s an actor, a manipulator, a stone cold liar. he’s good at what he does and he cares too much and it’s a mix yugyeom figures will kill the other one day.

jinyoung won’t apologise. he’ll never apologise. he’s got too much pride for that. but he steps away and casts a quick glare over the lanky form wavering slightly in front of him. yugyeom can feel the exhaustion encroaching, creeping in, and it takes everything, every bit of strength left in his weary soul, to not let the slight appearance of innocent alarm sink into the wanted expression of nothingness, of blankness, of shattered eyes and lips formed into a line. it’s not hard to guess that he’s got the other convinced that he’s still him . there’s a lack of suspicion in his presence, no tension in his shoulders or in the movements of his tired limbs.

yugyeom can’t act. he knows he can’t. but he can pretend . he can pretend he’s the boy he once was, because at least he felt that way once. he can’t be different, can’t be another person entirely, but he can be what he was before the resurrection, before the reincarnation (yugyeom would compare himself to a phoenix rising from the ashes if he had enough self-worth to view himself as comparable to something so majestic - although he wouldn’t consider himself too far off from being subhuman anymore). there’s a distinction there, he thinks.

jinyoung doesn’t speak for a few moments and all yugyeom can do is shift nervously, hoping for an escape. he’d rather not bleed out right in front of one the men who, intentionally or not, was the puppeteer of his downfall while he was just a simple puppet, waiting fervently for the day where there were no strings on him, coercing him further and further to tipping off the edge of the world. he watches, mouth zipped shut, as jinyoung turns the corner without a word, as he always does (because everyone leaves him in the end, because he deserves to be alone, right?). but he stays, not moving, not even moving, just stuck to one spot, because he couldn’t deal with the disappointment on that pretty face if jinyoung didn’t want to see him go, not now.

there’s a package shoved into his hands and yugyeom blinks, momentarily confused, peeling away the wrapper to reveal one of his old favourite treats from the little bakery just a couple of streets away ( old - just why can’t he stop using that word?). his lip quivers involuntarily and, noticing the expectant gaze of his hyung, he bites into the food with sharp teeth as sharp as his tongue and the razor he keeps taped underneath the bathroom sink. it tastes of sugar and spice and everything nice - and the bitter side of yugyeom rejects it the minute it touches his lips. he loved this once, he tells himself, forcing himself to smile and not focus on how everything leaves him queasy. his tastes are twisted now and he much prefers to metallic taste of blood when he bites down on his tongue a little too hard to hold back the protests when jinyoung pushes a little too hard or bambam says something silly that hurts far more than it should . “thank you, hyung.” he’s not thankful. he can’t find it in himself to be.

jinyoung doesn’t truly reply.

“don’t do this again.” it’s a command, an order, and the authority in his voice sends shivers down yugyeom’s spine. jinyoung doesn’t know that yugyeom is wrapped around his little finger, doesn’t know that yugyeom doesn’t need to be directed, doesn’t know that yugyeom is far too fucking gone for him. he doesn’t know. he never will.

none of them will.

jinyoung disappears and leaves yugyeom to his own self-reflection.

the cake is left half-eaten in the trash.

it’s a fitting metaphor if yugyeom’s ever seen one.

Chapter Text

disgusting.

it's a sneer that echoes through yugyeom's ever pounding mind when his sunken eyes meet the reflection in the waiting room mirror. the reflection of a boy who maybe, if you squinted and didn't pay attention to the finer details, could be considered not broken. sometimes, yugyeom wonders, wonders if his hyungs ever played close enough attention to see the shrinking of his already frail frame or to notice the way he curls in on himself, shoulders slumping down and fingers clinging to anything he can get his hands on to keep him grounded down to the earth he isn't even sure he wants to stay on anymore. sometimes, he wonders if he even wants to know how little they've always cared.

the stylists were somewhat kinder with this choice, though they will never understand the significance to the one they view as bright and cheerful and as sugary sweet as the melody that pleads for the self conscious to consider themselves just right (how fitting it is, yugyeom thinks, that in the one song about loving yourself yugyeom could barely contribute to the reassuring lines). the pairing of a high-necked black piece and a hanging shirt made of soft silk (that somehow scratches against damaged skin because nothing feels good to yugyeom anymore, absolutely nothing) is wonderful at hiding the body yugyeom has always been ashamed of.

yugyeom pulls at the collar with a mix of disinterest and repulsion. it's hard for yugyeom to act like he even gives a damn about himself anymore and even if he thinks that all the tight jeans do is emphasise how close his bones are to freeing themselves from their pink and bruised cage, the displeasure the sight would cause is nothing compared to the displeasure that has already overwhelmed his entire being. but there is disgust hidden in his brown eyes (that sparkle - not from the excitement the others will feel from finally being on stage again after so long - but with fear and knowing and unshed tears that will likely stain his pillow in the coming late hours) because the turtleneck chokes him as much as his anxiety does when there is noise from all sides and people pulling and prodding and poking at limbs that he had already ruined enough on his own that he didn't need help from strangers who somehow couldn't even be considered that (even when yugyeom knows that the material is far too thin and that the cold is prickling at his skin and that this is all just in his shattered head).

the shirt that drapes off his broad, bony shoulders is a dark red, one that everyone else would simply see as a colour, just a fucking colour - but to yugyeom it's so, so much more. it's a violent shade that only yugyeom knows in the dark of night when he's staring up at white tiles and lounging in water tainted by his own blood. the reminder of yugyeom's secret (one of his many, many secrets that he's kept behind the lock and key of falsified innocence) is one that is stifling, tightening the hold already present around his neck and he takes a few calming deep breaths that do nothing to still his screaming heartbeat.

"yugyeomie, you okay?" jackson's deep tone throws him off kilter for a brief moment, a flush rising to high cheekbones as it hits that he fits the definition of freak exactly, his eyes locked on a mirror image that can do nothing but highlight his own insecurities. his dainty fingers flail for just a moment as his mind runs quick through scenarios that can make him seem as normal as he can, despite being a soul stuck in a vassal that doesn't feel like home, despite acting as overly enthusiastic as possible that he's ensured those around think he is influenced by more than his own energy levels.

they comb through his hair on instinct and he focuses on one idea, morphing his sharp features into what he hopes is a convincing enough expression of embarrassment. "um," he stutters, tilting away from jackson's puppy dog eyes in a manner awkward enough that it matches the boy too small for his large body that his hyung used to know (now, yugyeom's convinced that his old inability to feel comfortable in his own skin was because his very inner being was malformed, imperfect, not made to exist in any form). "is m-my hair okay?"

it's a silly concept, because, even if every inch of him makes his stomach churn in horror, the others will view it as just a little piece of the puzzle, but it plays off jackson's want to please and immediately, the older is up on his tip toes, running his fingers through the dandelion growing from yugyeom's scalp. jackson hums when he comes into contact with tangled strands and all yugyeom can do is stare down at his feet, pretending that his lip isn't starting to quiver. the touch is gentle, even with the large difference between the pair (yugyeom is fragility incarnate and jackson is all muscle, but yugyeom's tongue is sharp and jackson is the equivalent of candy) and yugyeom can only remember what used to be, what once was, when jackson protected his slightly smaller self from the night terrors that haunted him for years and have never quite left him alone. he's still that kid that sobbed into his hyung's chest, scared of monsters under the bed - only he's mortified that he himself is the monster this time.

the yellow of yugyeom's strands only emphasises the sickly quality of his skin. yugyeom had always been pale, always, a slightly lighter shade compared to everyone around him, a fact society had dictated he should be proud of (the same society that wanted to tear him delicate limb from delicate limb for even daring to fall for the same gender). but it's worse now, as if the fact that he drains the blood from every inch of his body with a jagged razor is painted upon his skin, as if mother nature wishes for everyone to see how he's slowly falling to the metaphorical plague that was his addiction.

"there we go!" jackson's out of close proximity almost as fast as yugyeom could initially feel his warmth against his shivering spine and he's torn between missing the touch and being fucking terrified of it. "stylists must have missed a spot, yugyeom-ah."

"y-yeah," yugyeom replies weakly, as if moments before he was hunched over on the bathroom floor close to ripping his hair out from the roots until the tapping of bambam's heeled boots on the ground outside brought him out of his self-hating space to find nail-shaped mark curved into his palms and scratches on his wrists and tears ruining his makeup. "thanks, hyung."

"no problem!" jackson's smile is blinding and yugyeom wants it to stay, but in a flash, he's gone, tumbling over to jaebeom's side as he's met with an inviting grin. yugyeom watches, his lips turned raw from biting to hold back the sobs he knows are ready to escape, hands curled into fists resting in his thighs as he tries not to think about it. they're happy, he reminds himself. the without you goes unsaid, but it's an undeniable fact that yugyeom accepted far too long ago.

i told you so, didn't it? the voice in head mocks.

nobody needs you.

 

Chapter Text

yellow means many things.

on those nights when sleep seems an impossibility (because when he closes his eyes, his darkened vision is filled with the demons that run rampant in his pretty little fucked up head, and when he curls under silken sheets, he's only ever reminded that he'd feel far more at peace - or maybe not, because discomfort comes with those things that seem unreal - with calloused fingertips trailing every bump and dip of his scarred skin), yugyeom likes to read. likes to scour for information, meaningless little words that truly have no effect on his health that is spiralling down to a level of hurt unknown, because he likes to cling onto the tiny details. maybe they don't matter in the long run, but the surety and certainty he can find in words engraved into paper (that can only be erased by tearing and ripping and the violence yugyeom could never enact on anyone but himself) is an anchor.

a temporary anchor, but an anchor nonetheless.

one of the smaller books he cradles like a precious jewel in his always shaking grip relies on colours, spells out what obvious attachments can be found to the almost as large range of emotions. red is for love. blue is for sorrow. excetra, excetra, excetra. yugyeom has his own ideas.

red is that little flash of mark's hair in the artificial flickering light of the dorm that they still haven't gotten fixed (an imperfection in a perfect space, almost like yugyeom himself is, an entirely flawed star ready to fade away as those around him burn brighter and brighter) as he tugs youngjae into another game, just one more, laughing in his hyper way that simultaneously warms yugyeom's heart and turns it to ice. red is the blood that taints the water streaming down yugyeom's fragile wrists, escaping down the drain as the evidence of the crime scene is washed away and yugyeom's heavy eyes from the lack of rest grow even more heavy with tears that threaten to stain his pale cheeks as his barely audible sobs are hidden by the drops hitting white tiles. red is the colour yugyeom fixates on the most - the pink but dark plush of the lips he so desperately wishes he could kiss, the makeup painted just above bambam's shining eyes, the stark lines across his tummy that his own nails scratched deep. it's the colour he cannot escape, the colour that seemingly doesn't want to let him go, the colour yugyeom himself doesn't want to lose sight of, even if it's the one that pains him the most.

yellow is different. happiness. energy. hope. this is what the blinding colour supposedly refers to. yugyeom can't help but disagree. to him, it's a beacon, a signal, that focuses attention sorely on the heartbreak boy. here he is. the words echo through his mind. the pretender. it's somewhat over dramatic, he laments, but so is the colour the stylists carefully worked into his hair without a care in the world. they do not understand. they do not see how it marks him as an outsider in the way he has always feared the most. parted across his forehead, the contrast between the sun and the sickness of sand is apparent, carving out the even sharper curve of his jaw and the sunken shape of his glazed over eyes for everyone to gawk at.

it's just his luck that he can't quite seem to escape yellow either.

the shirt drapes over his chest, hanging loose as all clothing does now. yugyeom has dug so far into his closet that he's discovered those old pieces that clung to his softer frame in the days before his group was a thought on anyone's mind, but even those act as if they were styled oversized. he's sharp now, bones close to shearing open skin all the way from the harsh curve of his collarbone to the legs that he can't prevent from trembling under the weight of his hollow frame, and when he peers back to nights before, he remembers jinyoung's fingers curling all the way around his dainty wrist. yugyeom hates the height others think is a gift, despises how he towers over everyone because it marks him as different, utterly different, and if his young years have taught him anything, it's that differences (whether it be the chubby cheeks that earned him childish tauntings in the school yard or the desires that adults banned as they whispered in one ear, angelic, that god hates sinners, while the devil whispered in the other and spurred him further on into the depths of hell) should be eradicated, destroyed, burnt to ashes - but now he's tiny. not prettily tiny, with gentle curves and endearing everything, but harshly, his limbs eaten at by his own insecurities till they're nothing but skin and bone.

yugyeom used to think he could be like a phoenix rising, beauty formed from something grotesque. and then the voices of people he couldn't escape laughed - your dancing looks a little heavy, yugyeom-ah - and fingers prodded - yugyeom-ah then began a diet right after that comment, he just worked hard without knowing what will happen - and the monsters in his head grew a little bit louder - as always, you look disgusting, right, yugyeomie? - and then suddenly beauty didn't look like a concept yugyeom would ever be able to understand.

the shirt is blinding, blindingly golden, and the only one of seven that doesn't hide away every inch of skin. thankfully, his wrists are of (mainly) smoothed out skin, apart from minuscule white lines that can only be seen if you looked close enough with the agenda of finding broken souls or heartbreak boys. ashamed as he might be to admit it, the minute the news of a comeback broke, his wrists lost a best friend and his razor gained a new one in the form of his previously blemished tummy and his semi-scarred thighs. yugyeom has been playing this game of hide and seek for years and he's good at what he does (possibly, as heartbreaking as it sounds, because he's the only one hiding and no one else is even trying to find him) and the switch is new but as effortless as the fake smile that slips on his lips the minute jaebeom rounds the corner.

"hey, hyung!" he chirps, arm thrust up into an over enthusiastic wave and lips strained wide and the skin around his eyes crinkling enough to hide the dark circles that even a thick coat of concealer cannot fully camouflage - all as it should be. jaebeom's responding grin is hauntingly perfect, like every other feature held by the older man, and the bouncy manner the leader has began to act in is enchanting. there's a kind of vibrancy to him now, evident in his relaxed posture and the way the tension has finally been washed away, calm crashing in waves over him as if a flood managed to destroy every little worry that marked his skin with early wrinkles and jutted out his chin. the energy that causes dark eyes to sparkle in yugyeom's direction is true and real and brand new, and yugyeom is eternally grateful that he's finally softened now, even if the happiness was something yugyeom himself couldn't - and could never - contribute to.

witnessing that energy die, however, is something he can easily attribute to his own failings.

"hyung?" yugyeom questions, voice pitching up slightly when soft hands cradle his wrist and a thumb carefully, ever-so-carefully, brushes over the small scratches lined up against the curve of his arm. his lip quivers and his breath hitches and he isn't sure if it's because of the touch that he has always craved against his undeserving self or because of the reminder of what he did to himself on that tiled floor, clawing till it took what felt like hours to scrape away the blood caked under his nails. "oh!" he exclaims, awkwardly, trying to escape those knowing eyes that cast over his frame. "i woke up with these, i think nora must have got to me during the night..."

jaebeom doesn't know that yugyeom locks his room every night for fear of his pitiful cries being heard despite how they are muffled into a tear-soaked pillow and despite how it is an impossibility, for the rooms surrounding his are empty more often than not. jaebeom doesn't know that yugyeom bites enough at his own nails out of the anxiety that gnaws away at his rationale to form claws on human fingers, claws that tear at his own in an almost crazed, animalistic fashion as he watches any sense of sanity he had left melt away. jaebeom doesn't know a lot of things. yugyeom hides a lot of things. it's a system that's working for the both of them.

jaebeom frowns, likely at the thought of his precious cats tearing into one of his groupmates (and nothing more, yugyeom has to remind himself, abolsutely nothing more), but the possibility of someone caring, of someone focusing on the heartbreak boy just this once, makes yugyeom's heart sing and tears prick at the corners of his eyes. the old yugyeom would be lost in his own fantasy by now, imaging jaebeom treating him like he was actually worth praise and protection, bringing his hand up to his mouth and letting his lips coast over the scratches and everything would be okay again - but he isn't himself anymore. he knows better than to rely on some romantic daydream to give him the hope he so desperately needs.

dramas always do that, don't they? one kiss brushed against an injury and suddenly the pain is cast away by love and devotion and affection. it's wrong. it's utterly wrong. not even the purest love could save yugyeom now.

a call from the other side of the room forces jaebeom to let go. yugyeom's arm drops limp to his side, skin tingling from tender touch almost as much as it does under a blade, and the flush rising over his cheekbones is inevitable. but he has no time for longing, not when he needs to mask every imperfection present in his features. his disguise slips on - his lips pull into a more believable grin, a bounce in more evident in his steps, his eyes sparkle at the premise of performing - and partially, it's not fabricated, because on stage is one of the only places yugyeom even feels alive anymore, but partially it is, because yugyeom thinks he doesn't even understand the definition of alive anymore.

the curtain falls.

where you wanna go, or what you wanna do?

i want to be anywhere but here, yugyeom thinks.

here is subjective. but deep down, yugyeom knows what it means.

here is simply hiding another word.

alive.

 

Chapter Text

purity is an interesting concept to yugyeom. 

there's so many meanings to that word and sometimes he feels as if he can't count them all on his fingers, marking each number on each digit as if he's still the dumb child who tripped into the trainee's practice room and was met with some of the men who would end up ruining his days in the best way. maybe being innocent is the equivalent of moral goodness, the inability to do wrong that yugyeom cannot see in his own sinful bones. or maybe it's religious virtue, the fervency to follow god's words, when yugyeom stopped believing in those sort of tales when people took hatred against those they don't understand as the gospel truth, or when it seemed as if heaven itself had stopped shining down upon him. or maybe it's chastity, the unknowing nature of sexuality and all it entails. or maybe it's just purity, a naivety to the world.

in all of its forms, it's a word yugyeom feels uncomfortable with. 

-"you're pretty pure, gyeom," jeongguk mutters with a smile on his face, unaware of the shock it sends spiralling through yugyeom's hollow form. the spoon filled with vanilla ice cream pauses on its travel to his open mouth and yugyeom's reminded of the pout that travelled across his face when jeongguk informed him they'd ran out of chocolate. yugyeom acts pure, in the petulant curve of his lips and the childish shine in his eyes and the high pitch of his sweet voice. but that's all it is, an act. playing pretend.

"pure? what do you mean, guk?" the words are forced out between his teeth, scraping his unwilling throat. it hurts more than it should to question him and it takes all the strength in his vulnerable tiny little body to hold himself back from curling into a defensive ball. he's sprawled on jeongguk's bed and the instant change would be too obvious, too much even for the bambi-eyed boy grinning at him from the other side of the room. 

"it's just-" yugyeom braces himself, nails digging unnoticably into his palms in a nervous attempt to ground himself. jeongguk looks contemplative, teeth seeping into his bunny-like smile, and yugyeom knows that the only pure one in this space is the boy staring at him, not the boy who refuses to meet anyone's gaze. that's why no anger flares up in his muddled mind, because jeongguk is oblivious, he doesn't know, he never will. jeongguk doesn't see him enough to truly witness the horror hidden behind pale skin, and the only people who could are those yugyeom could never envision himself becoming hardened towards. "it's hard to explain. you've got that look about you, ya know?"

yugyeom knows. god, he knows. everyone takes one look at his heart-shaped smile and the manner in which the skin around his eyes crinkle and the long lashes that flutter over his high, protruding cheekbones and they see purity incarnate. they hear his sugary, sickly tone and write him off as young, too young. but he isn't pure. he takes one look in the mirror and sees the sharp dip of his collarbone and how it looks oh-so-ready to break through the fragile layer that protects every inch of yugyeom's unprotect-able frame. he sees skin and bones and weakness and what could only be worthy of disgust-

"are you alright?" a hand tentatively presses over the curve of yugyeom's shoulder and he jerks out of his self-hating headspace, blinking as the walls of the dressing room appear around him once again. his reflection is in the mirror, a perfect reflection of his imperfections, from the noticeable dip into his minuscule waist to the brittle appearance of his limbs to the yellow strands that contrast with his sickly shape. sunken eyes meet sunken eyes. and then a figure steps into his vision.

"seriously, are you alright?" youngjae's demanding voice is atypical of his bouncy personality and the the sharpness that overtakes his soft features is even more unusual. his long hair falls into his eyes, so utterly handsome. youngjae turns heads when he walks past even moreso now, as if eyes cannot tear from the curve of his jaw or the bubbly laughter that shakes his entire frame. maybe once yugyeom would have been envious, if the thought didn't make his skin crawl. 

"yugyeom-ah." harsh tones are an unknown from this love's mouth and yugyeom comes crashing back down to reality, hyperaware of his own unresponsiveness. this, this inability to not feel grounded to earth, isn't new. it's doing it in front of others that is. youngjae's hand tightens almost painfully and yugyeom cannot meet the gaze full of heated worry that travels over every ridge of his burning face. his lip is quivering and concern is flooding youngjae's expression-filled face and all yugyeom wants is to go back, go back even if it hurts, go back to being on his friend's bed filled with shame at his own blatant lies because at least then he didn't have to experience this. 

"i- i'm sorry." maybe he is. maybe he isn't. yugyeom doesn't know anymore. "i don't think i've gotten much sleep." his voice is weak, wavering, and he feels so, so fucking tired. not tired in the way they expect, from the overworking and the lack of eating and the stress, but from this, from the fact that he can feel his walls crumbling around him from just a slight expression of care. 

there's more he could say. (i don't remember the last time i slept good. maybe it was months ago, maybe it was years. every night i wake up wanting to scream but i can't and there's always demons clawing at my arms and legs and keeping me pinned to the bed and all i want is bambam back to soothe me but he fucking left me all alone. it's sleep paralysis, i know it is. but it feels so real. and even on the lucky nights i have nightmares where i see my own body lying bloodless in the bathtub, drowning in red as one of you steps in and finds a corpse instead of the boy who loved you so much it killed him. i'm so tired, hyung.) there's more he won't. 

youngjae's hand brushes his hair from his forehead, traces the bridge of his nose, strokes over his cheek. the intimacy leaves a flush of red in its wake. yugyeom would cry if he felt he had any tears left in him.

a call echoes. it's time for their performance. youngjae steps away.

yugyeom peers at himself one more time.

-white. purity, innocence, goodness. yugyeom's finger traces the words and a scoff builds up in his throat. this is a colour that could never be associated with him.-

he resists the urge to tear the white shirt from his skin.

it would only show his scars after all.

 

Chapter Text

yugyeom’s pretending to sleep.

he’s done this too many times to count, whether it be in the van under the watchful eyes of his leader, attempting to steady his breath as to no gain questioning over why he was that little bit shaky during practice, or whether it be for his own benefit, lying in his bed with his eyes burning from the lack of rest but still refusing to shut, trying his best to pretend that everything’s going to be okay. pretending this way is a little harder than most. yugyeom can effortlessly mould himself into what he once was, vibrant and bouncing with energy even if the circles under his eyes were just a little too dark, but he has never know peace in the dark. it’s one of the only things left from the original him, but, as always, it’s a quality, a fault, worthy of discontempt.

the couch in the dressing room is uncomfortable, to say the least, but it’s scratchy fabric keeps yugyeom tethered to reality more than the soft silk of his prior shirt did. his tiny figure is now surrounded by material, colours that don’t force bile up his throat in the horror of the innocence everyone assumes he holds, and in some ways, he’s thankful for it. but in other ways, he isn’t. the material is rubbing the still not yet healed scratches on his wrist raw and it takes everything in him not to tremble in frustration. yugyeom’s not sure if it’s frustration at his own idiocy in not bandaging his broken wrists or if it’s just the ever present frustration at his own existence that’s rising to the surface. knowing him, and his self-destructive self, it’s likely both. 

“yugyeom-ah.” there’s a soft voice invading his space and yugyeom’s breath almost hitches. almost. “yugyeom-ah, it’s nearly time for the performance.” bony fingers brush through the strands lying across his forehead and it would be comforting if yugyeom wasn’t plagued with knowledge of what this care really is - a hyung looking after a younger brother. platonic. brought on by years of building blocks and not genuine lightening between them. no electricity when their hands meet in the initial greeting or captivation when the other grows from a unsuspecting, unfeeling, unaware child to a skeletal man with little more than bones and his own delusional mind. there’s nothing romantic about this, just forced love for the fucked up dongsaeng they all ended up stuck with until the eventual fallout. 

the fingers travel, touch prickling at curve of his razor sharp cheekbone, and it’s nearly reminiscent of the intimate touch hours before. but yugyeom won’t let himself be swept away again, lost in youngjae’s aura of everything’s going to be okay, it’s all okay. nothing’s okay. he’s in control now and that makes everything worse. under yugyeom’s fragile hands, the world blackens, the sky turns to grey and rain pounds against the sidewalk. everyone loses their individual colours. the pink of bambam’s lips, the black of jinyoung’s never-changing hair, the white of jackson’s teeth when he smiles - it all fades away. yugyeom’s a walking disaster, a ticking time bomb ready to blow at any second. he’s already falling and at this rate he’s about to take everyone down with him.

“yugyeom-ah.” the quiet tones are a little firmer now, finger pinching at his cheek in a worthless attempt to snap the boy who isn’t even lost in his dreams back to the harshness of the real world. maybe yugyeom was lying when he persisting in his ideas that he isn’t a good actor. who knows? manipulation is his closest friend now, apart from his own self-loathing and his pretty collection of little blades, and maybe he’s become so good at fooling everyone around him that it’s a skill even working on himself. “yugyeom. wake. up.”

there’s a spark of anger. again. he’s got his hands all over yugyeom’s skin, the same skin that stretches over the ridges of bones and muscle, the same skin that’s so pale that yugyeom looks on the verge of permanent collapse. doesn’t he feel it? how yugyeom exudes vulnerability, from the hollowness of his once prominent cheeks, from how his limbs could easily snap under any weight, from the tear-like shine in his wavering gaze. sometimes, like this time, yugyeom listens to that nagging little voice in the back of his head. they don’t care. why would they? you’re worthless to them. what good is a heartbreak boy who can’t even sing or dance? they need someone good enough to perform on stage. they need each other. they’ll never need you. you could waste away in front of them and they wouldn’t give a fuck-

his hold is getting stronger with each second that passes and yugyeom doesn’t want a bruise to become another blemish on his unattractive features. internally sighing, he gives up his act. a prolonged whine. lashes fluttering as he tries to pry open his eyes. pawing at the hand still clinging to his face. “hyung, leave me alone,” he groans, blearily glaring up. mark’s smiling, lips twisted into a smile at yugyeom’s misfortune, and yugyeom can barely stop himself from grimacing at the colour adorning his head. red haunts him everywhere, a constant reminder in one of the boys who yugyeom can’t get out of his head when he drives a razor through his wrist. 

“we’re going on in a couple of minutes, yugyeom-ah,” mark grins, skipping off to youngjae’s side while yugyeom’s still grumbling. of course that’s where he goes. of course youngjae responds with a wide smile. of course they look happier together than yugyeom could ever make either of them.

the minute he’s out of sight, the minute after the staff quickly check over his makeup and clothes, the minute after everyone stops giving a damn about him for nothing more than what the fans will think, the act drops. yugyeom’s falsified tiredness, with all the typical signs in an inability to to focus, melts to the exhaustion only he knows, in constant vigilance and a haze over his mind. he’s so fucking tired. everything hurts.

but the show must go on.

and as they all find themselves waiting on stage for the opening tune, what yugyeom truly knows turns to what everyone else thinks he knows. blank-faced misery is snapped away to bouncy energy as soon as the camera lands on his face, an utterly fake heart-shaped smile overtaking the broken and cracked frown that once adorned him. it’s ironic, yugyeom thinks, that he looks a certain way. his lips curve into a valentine’s day surprise but he gave his heart away along time ago. his cheeks used to puff up into apples but the thought of food makes him wince. he’s got a dandelion growing on his scalp but he withers as each day goes by. 

appearances are deceiving, after all.

 

Chapter Text

there's only thin glass separating yugyeom from the rain.

his finger tips gently press against the window, chill spreading down his knuckles and settling over his palms. it's a pretty sight to him, strangely. yugyeom can remember the years when he had appreciated the sun beaming down above him, like a piece of paradise up in the clouds. he finds solace in this now, in water pitifully hitting itself against the earth and the curve of buildings and the people passing by. it's fitting. maybe, if yugyeom cared a little less, he would be the rain's friend, just barely lashing out in his pathetic anger. but he cares too much, is overflowing with it, and it pools over like a river without a dam, the uncontained mess flooding his senses.

the car jostles and yugyeom's fingers slip away, just as the sight of the others falls from his grasp. maybe he was just transfixed on the rain, or maybe there was still a part of him that couldn't tear his gaze from youngjae's arm sliding over mark's shoulders or the way jaebeom grinned happily at jackson when he thought no one was looking or how bambam quietly tangled his fingers with jinyoung's. he's alone, curled up in the back of a van with the only comfort the sweater hanging from his frame that shouldn't be so oversized and a speechless driver who's name he can still pull from his meddled thoughts.

in truth, he's alone. he's always alone, even when he's walking through bustling streets or surrounded in a dressing room or on stage in front of thousands. that's his existence now. a lonely one. he laughs like the world is ending with an undeniably new tone and lights up with golden strands and constellations across his cheeks - and yet no one listens, no one sees, no one cares. he's to utterly noticeable and yet no one notices him at all. it doesn’t make sense, but then again nothing in yugyeom’s life does.

sometimes, yugyeom wonders what made him so worthy of ignorance. not him, not the current him, with sickness tainting his skin and an inability to keep his jumbled thoughts still and self-destruction waiting on the tip of his tongue - but what he once was, what he still seems to be. before this, he was deserving of some attention, wasn't he? or maybe he wasn't. maybe he never has deserved anything. after all, he was and is too much of a contradiction. too loud but too soft spoken. too tall but too dainty. too caring and yet not caring enough, not for his own sake. too selfish and yet not selfish enough, keeping his mouth shut. he's a mess of opposing traits and non-complimentary colours and with that in mind, he can understand the distaste that would bestow those staring upon his broken form.

but- yugyeom tries to be kind. amiable, considerate, thoughtful. he memorises staff's names and shakes the photographer's hands and squeaks through greetings to seniors and juniors and trusts with all of his heart to those who don't deserve to be forgiven and bites back the bitter insults resting on the tip of his tongue. he's kind. but then he presses a hand to the stomach that rumbles in consuming hunger and can feel flatness and the outlying ridge of ribs even from underneath such thick material. but then he watches as the boys who he has once considered family and now considered both his undoing and his uplifting walk further and further away from him. but then he's all alone and he's falling apart and he can't help but think over why the world can't be kind to him in return. he doesn't blame the rain for its tiny, meaningless rebellion.

it doesn't take long for the dorm to come into view. it doesn't take long for yugyeom to thank the driver with an utterly forced smile. it doesn't take long for the door to push open to empty hallways. it doesn't take long for yugyeom to crack.

yugyeom doesn't cry. he breaks down on camera only once, a pivotal moment in the realisation of the truth behind why his heart hurts so much when it comes to the people he can't escape. jaebeom's unrestrained anger (fake, fake, fake, he should have fucking realised, it's things like this that make him care so much about being able to discern reality from fiction) has tears rolling down his cheeks. sometimes, just barely, his eyes sparkle unshed water as he peers over his hyungs and the green sea. yugyeom doesn't cry - outside of the comfort of his own room of course. because when he's in his own space, the tears won't stop, cascading down his face, and his voice cracks on choked up sobs, fingers between his teeth to muffle every noise.

he’s toed off his boots and that was as far as his feet could carry him before he shattered across the hallway floor, big fat tears dripping from the corner of his burning eyes as he attempts desperately to rub them away, sniffing into his sleeve. everything hurts. his limbs achs with permanent exhausation, pain forming just abrove his brow and spreading acros the bridge of his forehead. fingers clutch for some kind of grasp against the wall, legs wavering dangerously. the nights of restless no sleep, the never ending practice in the dark hours stuck in the company building while imprisoned by his own will, the constant performances and scrutiny, the stress from their concern and his own worries that everything will crash down around him - it has all led to this.

his vision blurs.

and then there’s a boy already like a corpse lying motionless on the carpet.

and still no one will care.

 

Chapter Text

yugyeom wakens to the softest of touches skimming over his skin.

there's unknowingness, for a second. it washes over him, the forgetfulness new and foreign for the boy who memorises every single moment or touch or word, and for a moment, he's drowning in tranquillity, in a strange ocean where nothing aches and no cuts sting and his old age naivety has returned. the knowledge that he's pushed himself so far past his own breaking point that his tall frame broke into tiny pieces on the doorstep of a home in name alone and the realisation that someone has discovered his dainty body curled into a ball as to protect himself from the skeletons in his closet and the monsters of his own creation just around the corner - it itches at every inch of him. but, for a minute or two, there's just a heartbreak boy who doesn't remember his sorrow and whoever is holding him in their arms. for a minute or two, there is calm, not the sorrow or dread or numbness of everyday, but the kind of peace that settles in unstable bones and has him breathing steady. for a minute or two, yugyeom forgets.

then there are fingertips brushing gently over his forehead, warm palm resting over his cool skin and yugyeom burns under the barely there touch, the starved and utterly human heart of his craving more affection. but his cynical brain, not driven by pure emotion but by stone cold fact, the part of him hidden away behind the face of 'the most positive member' - a medal he once showcased with pride but has grown too heavy for him to carry with a genuine smile on his face - laughs at his own yearning, a cackling thing the pierces through any sense of serenity. there is no romance to the press of soft hands, but concern, crafted out of expectations for how you should treat someone crumpled at your feet. there is no cradling a precious treasure in their arms, but rather a careless action that means fucking nothing. 

they'll never love you. don't forget that.

"yugyeom-ah, wake up." yugyeom knows that voice so utterly well, even with it's deep and soothing tone hidden behind a frantic urgency. even in his dreary state, mind still half-foggy from unconsciousness, he'd recognise any and all of his beloved hyungs' voices. his eyes flutter open and the artificial light that floods his sense is anything but pleasant, but the sight of jaebeom, worn with panic and something even heavier than that, something clearly more overwhelming, is even worse. his forehead is creased, skin pulled so tight by his deep frown and permanent stare that his twin moles are barely visible. the vice grip on yugyeom's weak heart tightens with guilt and discomfort and the fact that jaebeom had grown so openly bright, vivid in his energetic happiness, and he's ruined that, took the newfound joy in his trembling fingers and torn it to shreds right in front of the other's eyes.

"jae-jaebeom hyung," he manages to mumble, but his words are croaky and low, almost inaudible. he's so tired and he can't remember the last time he drank water and his stomach groans in improvement of his self-destructive habits and there's so much more he wants to say that gets caught uncomfortably in his throat. i'm sorry i'm such a fuck up, hyung, i didn't mean to worry you, i just stopped giving a damn about myself a long time ago, i don't care but everything hurts and i just want it to stop, i just want you and everyone else to stop pretending to feel anything for me, please stop holding me, please put me down, please-

"you idiot," jaebeom sighs into the silence, pinching the bridge of his nose as he looks down at yugyeom, a mix of irritation and anxiety plaguing his features. yugyeom doesn't blame him for the insult. he is, after all, an idiot who fell too deeply for those he had always known would never reciprocate the all consuming feelings and instead of moving on with his life he just let the pain of rejection engrave itself forever into his skin in the form of paper thin scars. yugyeom wishes he was a little sharper, a little more cold and calculating and a little less passionate and sensitive, wishes he had ever had the strength in him to move on. but he doesn't. he's a vulnerable victim of the quality too many people have praised. he hates himself for it.

"if you felt this ill, you should have told me, gyeom," jaebeom continues, somewhat softer as his gaze passes over every ridge of yugyeom's sickly face. ill. maybe yugyeom could pass as that, maybe the hollowness of his once animated eyes and the far too defined curves of his cheeks and the fatigue that enveloped his entire frame could be written away as a passing sickness, but nothing could explain away the cuts on his wrists and the red rimmed around his eyes. "you don't need to keep this to yourself, i'm here to help you."

no one can help me, yugyeom thinks, but his quivering lips form other words, ones less damaging and just as heartfelt. "i-i'm sorry," his high-pitched voice stumbles and shatters, trailing off in exhaustion as his throat tightens, every part of him screaming in protest. yugyeom can't bring himself to say anymore, to continue on with heartfelt speech that still manages to turn him ashamed and cracked. jaebeom deserves so much more, deserves the truth and nothing but it, but yugyeom is a coward who can't bring himself to reveal his inner demons. i'm sorry, hyung, that you're wasting time on a mistake.

"it's okay," jaebeom pacifies, but the attempt feels forced, and yugyeom curls into himself with shame, the humiliation of ever hurting the people he holds so dear. "i'm going to carry you to the couch and then i'll get you something to eat, okay?" yugyeom could say no, could wrestle himself out of those comforting arms that he will never earn the right to be held by and throw himself out onto the streets and let himself rot in the autumn air. but, he's too selfish, nodding against his better inclinations and burying himself into jaebeom's broad chest.

yugyeom tries to convince himself that maybe someone will finally notice.

that help will finally come.

it's a weak attempt. 

it doesn't work. 

Chapter Text

love is a strange thing.

yugyeom is plagued by an emotion the world around him revered, feelings immortalised in roses blooming in store windows and nameless figures curled in each other’s arms and the soft hum of songs drowning in romance. in all of it’s forms, it was seen as a natural, lovely thing, something to anticipate, tales of it whispered between classmates waiting for their turn while yugyeom sat with his head down and his chest heavy and the weight of knowing on his shoulders. love was nothing precious. it’s a growth on yugyeom’s heart, a tumor growing and growing, a ticking time bomb threatening to explode. 

he was naive once, too. under the covers, material uncomfortable over his raw arms, he pressed his fingers shallowly across the bruises on his pale skin and wished for an escape. love was the solution. when he found himself a knight in shining armour, a prince charming who would sweep him off his feet, his worries would wash away like blood down the drain in the dead of night. on the acceptance letter for jyp entertainment, the words were a simple agreement of status, but he saw underneath in invisible ink the possibility of acceptance amongst others, a home, and that adored emotion that was love.

and then he had lost half his body weight in two months and purple was spreading across his cheekbone in the shape of a manager’s fist and there was a permanent ache across every inch of his still growing frame and the boy who he loved didn’t love him back.

falling for jaebeom had been so easy. he was everything yugyeom had ever wanted - a strong figure who cared unconditionally and supported without complaint and directed with a helping hand. on a few of those unforgettable nights, when that trainee (the one that carved a scar in yugyeom’s fraying mentality that never healed and the others laugh about now, just as some stoic hyung who was a little overbearing, when that wasn’t it all, it couldn’t have just been that when he’s the monster under yugyeom’s bed and the owner of those dark eyes that haunt his mind when sleep is impossible and his body is stuck shell shocked in paralysis) pushed hard but not too hard, comfort was so easy to seek out in a warm voice over the phone. (it became obvious after a whole, after secluded solitude and the demons ranting in his head, that in these moments yugyeom was nothing but a nuisance relying on the only form of human contact he’d seen positively in years, but for a while, it had seemed like such kindness.)

it’s blurry, after that. yugyeom isn’t so sure of the others, when simple brotherly admiration had malformed itself into yugyeom’s untimely undoing. he just knows that overnight suddenly those innocent feelings transformed into chains that locked around his weak, oh-so-weak, heart and refused to release him. he’s in a prison and his only inmates are the memories that fog his mind - jackson’s puppy dog eyes when he yearned for something so bad and mark’s quiet voice trembling over unknown words and youngjae’s heavenly voice echoing through the practice room and jinyoung’s exasperated smile that wrinkled the skin around his eyes and bambam’s gentle touch in their shared room in the early hours of the day - and the desperate path of self-destruction that has no turning point. love is a life sentence and he’s the guilty party of believing too much that his problems could be solved when it’s his destiny to have a tragic downfall. 

it’s a tragedy and yugyeom is center stage, a withering figure wasting away on white sheets. there’s a warm hand intertwined with his own, as if he’s clinging on to the last thread of life as his energy bleeds out of him. but then he blinks and the dramatic edge fades and he’s staring at the dull ceiling of his dorm room, the glow in the dark stickers he and bambam had clumsily stuck there when they were both sleep-deprived and bored useless in the sunlight. his wrists itch and there’s a dryness in his throat and the faint feeling of wrongness as the memories of jaebeom’s disapproving face and the harsh feeling of slamming against the floor flash through his mind. he’s such an idiot. he’s slipping, mask cracking as each day goes by, and he doesn’t have the energy to lift his arms and move his disguise back into place. he’s a criminal on the verge of getting caught, sirens echoing in his muddled head, a sick sense of realisation passing over him.

“you’re awake,” a soft voice murmurs next to him and yugyeom looks up through the haze to meet mark’s gaze. there’s a smile on his pretty face, but it’s strained and so evidently false and yugyeom’s stomach drops at the sight of such blatant disappointment. mark laughs so loudly and his tone can so easily slip into a whine and his eyes are bright with a childlike wonder, but beneath that cheerfulness hides the eldest of them all who resides on the border between calmness and raging anger. he’d never admit but yugyeom is scared of mark the most, terrified of the intelligence in those knowing eyes, knowing that one simple mistake could be the ruin of the imaginary boy they thought was their precious maknae. everything could come crashing down and yugyeom can already sense the devastation in the air. “we’ve got a lot to talk about.”

“put me out of my misery already, hyung,” yugyeom croaks and mark chuckles, brushing soft fingers through the tangled mess of yellow, voice already rising up in volume again. and as mark begins his lecture, tell us when you’re feeling unwell, don’t keep this kind of thing to yourself, we want to take care of you, yugyeom wonders why he laughed.

it wasn’t a joke.

kill me, he pleads.

no one answers.