Arin blinked down at the scale in disbelief. His old enemy, the same fucking twenty pounds he’d been battling since he’d finally gotten an inch closer to his goal weight, was staring him in the face, the numbers cold and unfeeling before his eyes.
Suzy had reached her goal weight after struggling to get back on track for so long, and her mood of victory was well-deserved. And Dan, fresh off the tour bus, had been lamenting that he’d lost ten pounds over the course of the live shows. Arin would think, lucky motherfucker, but knew also that Dan hated it, knew it was a victory for the lanky singer when he tipped the scales at 160.
A soft knock on the bathroom door that held just a hint of impatience. “Hey, Ar? You done in there, babe? I have to take a shower.”
It’s Dan, his voice slightly worse for wear. Arin is immobile, frozen on the scale. He has enough self-preservation to nervously pull his sleep tee further over his bulging stomach. He can’t bear to sleep just in boxers, in bed with both of his beautiful, skinny lovers.
Dan hesitantly pushed the door open. “I’m sorry, dude, but I’m gonna be late for voice therapy, and…” He paused. He could sense the tension in the room, could taste it in Arin’s posture. He knew Arin better than almost anyone, barring Suzy, and he could see Arin wasn’t himself.
“Arin?” Dan walked forward, tilting his head. “You all right, buddy?”
Arin sighed, nodding. He didn’t want Dan to worry, especially when Dan did have to be somewhere very important. “Yeah, don’t worry about me.” He laughed weakly. “Daily weigh-ins, y’know?”
Dan looked torn, like he wanted to say something else, but Arin dodged any further questioning by muscling his way out of the room. “I’ll let you shower, man. You need to get to your appointment.”
“You sure?” Dan raised a curious eyebrow. His voice was actually cracking like a pre-pubescent teen, and Arin wondered why he was wasting breath at all. Dan practically insisted on communicating solely through texting after getting home from tour, so that he didn’t damage his already damaged vocal chords even further.
It broke Arin’s heart to think Dan was risking his career and his lifeblood just to fuss over something that wasn’t important. It was his own fault for cheating on his diet and not trying hard enough to keep the weight off, obviously. He nodded, already turning to go. “Yeah, I’ll go see if Suzy needs anything.”
Dan nodded, but his eyes were distant, lost in thought. Arin was hoping against hope that Dan was thinking of new lyrics, or deciding if he wanted to play Space Quest 5 for the Lovelies. He knew Dan was actually worrying about him…but it was a bit too painful to actively think that.
Arin closed the en suite bathroom’s door, separating himself from Dan. He didn’t need to be reminded of his boyfriend’s gorgeous, lanky body, the ridges of ribs that etched shadows into his skin, the bumps of his spine like a stegosaurus’ spikes, the miles of tanned skin with just the right amount of salt and pepper body hair, the sweet sounds Dan’s musical voice made when it was pulled with just the right amount of pressure…
He was perfect. And Arin was imperfect, unworthy to stand next to Dan. A fat, ugly blob of a person, just like nearly every Game Grumps Animated.
Arin reluctantly stripped, trading out his black tee shirt for another one from his wardrobe. His fingers hesitated over the pair of jeans draped over Suzy’s vanity chair, but he quickly decided against that. The constricting waistband would just remind him that he was overweight, and would probably give him a muffin top, too. So, he grabbed a pair of black harem pants and slipped on some flip flops. He was now back in his “fat slob” clothes.
It was only fair. It was what he deserved.
Arin looked at his figure in the mirror, frowning. He hated his tummy, soft and squishy even though he was working out. His muscles stayed beneath the skin, unlike Dan’s wiry muscles and the outlines on Suzy’s biceps and thighs. His muscles were hidden by the fat that poured over his body like water whenever he opened his mouth just a little too wide, or he let himself cheat, or got stressed.
Arin stared into his dark eyes in the mirror and wished (perhaps not for the first time) that doing an anorexic diet and saying the things that anorexics said about himself actually worked, instead of falling on his big, dumb ears, and only making him want to curl up and die instead of giving him the motivation to actually do something about the squish of his ugly body.
Enough looking at the mirror. Time to say hi to Suzy. Arin took a deep breath and tried very hard to feel genuinely happy. He felt like he could maybe fake things a little with Dan, but Suzy knew what to look for as far as his low moods. She was incredibly hard to fool.
He walked into the kitchen, passing Mimi, Mochi, and Otto without greeting them, and wrapped his arms around his wife. Suzy, busy preparing her morning coffee, leaned back against him, offering him a sleepy smile.
“Morning, babe,” she said cheerfully.
Arin kissed into her neck, making her giggle at the ticklish sensation of his beard on her bare shoulder. She smelled like blackberries and incense, spicy and masculine. It wasn’t a cologne that he or Dan owned. Suzy just liked those types of scents. He basked in it, just as he always had. Her smell, the feel of her, small and fragile, in his arms. The fact that he was able to kiss her like this, to hold her tightly to him.
She was talking. Her soft voice rushed over him, and he made an effort to listen. “…filming with Holly, and then I’m going to the grocery store, and maybe the farmer’s market. Dan really liked those peaches from that one vendor. You know, the old guy who I’m pretty sure is a witch, and his wife? They practically gave me a whole bushel for ten dollars!”
“I think that’s awesome,” Arin replied honestly, beaming. “Those peaches were fucking good!”
Arin let go of Suzy and husband and wife turned to see Dan leaning against the doorframe, looking smarmy as ever. Even dressed in comfortable, casual clothing, he looked beautiful, jeans already sliding down off his hips. Dan’s smirk grew. “You went and ate all of them before I could get back, you fucks.”
“Hey, man, isn’t it abusive to curse at your spouse, or some shit like that?” Arin retorted, grinning smartly. Dan rolled his eyes and bent to give Mimi a scratch.
“Dan!” Suzy scolded. “Don’t you have a better belt?! I can practically see your ass.”
Dan was up like a shot, readjusting his jeans, face tinted pink. “Oh, my God, Suze,” he sputtered. “It’s not my fault I was losing a pound a night doing a nation-wide tour!” He coughed over a voice crack, and Suzy fondly rolled her eyes, manually adjusting his jeans for him.
“I know it isn’t. I swear to God, though, if you lose any more weight before we can get it back on you, I will pack meals for you to take with you. In brown paper bags, like a kid!” She frowned, warning him in a mostly playful, but still somehow serious, manner.
Dan laughed nervously, holding up his hands in surrender. “All right, all right.” He leaned down to kiss her. “I love you. If you go to the farmer’s market, can you try and find those carrot cake muffins again? Those were a-freaking-mazing.”
Suzy tilted up to meet him. “I’ll do my best. Love you.”
Arin watched his two loves kissing. There were times when, during the early bits of this polyamorous thing, seeing the two of them kissing made him feel unwanted and left out. He thought those feelings had faded long ago, but…
Something about knowing that they were so beautiful, and that he was so hideous…it didn’t make him jealous, not really. Just sad. When he watched them kiss, it was like sparks were flying. He couldn’t imagine kissing him was anything more than pity.
And all because of twenty fucking pounds.
“Yo, Earth to Arin!” Dan called. Arin winced. Dan shouldn’t be straining his voice like that.
Arin mustered up his best “Disney magic” smile. A smile that had long ago become synonymous with pretending to be happy. “Yeah? What’s up?”
Dan waggled his keys at Arin. “Y’mind driving me? I feel like if I get behind the wheel, I might barf.”
“Oh, shit, dude. You all right?” Arin asked, walking over to accept the keys.
Dan shrugged, nodding. “Yeah, I think it’s just all the traveling, y’know? It’s messin with my steeze.” Suzy gave him a reassuring squeeze and a kiss on his jaw, which was the only thing she could reach from where she was.
“Try sucking on a cough drop or chewing gum, okay, babe?” Suzy cooed. “That might help a little.”
Dan smiled shyly. “Will do. Thanks, Scuze.” He kissed her one last time, then shimmied out of her grip, following Arin to the door. “C’mon, Big Cat. I think I still have some lozenges in my glovebox.”
Arin couldn’t help smiling at the pet name, even though the emphasis on the word “big” didn’t really help much.
Despite claims of nausea, Dan was rather animated. Between sucking on the lozenge, he recounted to Arin a few fun things that had occurred during the show. Someone wearing a banana costume had showed up to three of their shows within the same area, and it was so nice to have a groupie of sorts. Everyone screaming the lyrics of “Danny Don’t You Know” back at him. A very, very sweet girl who apologized profusely when she accidentally touched his hand as he was headed to the bus. Several people in homemade Sexbang costumes and capes.
He sounded so dreamy talking about it, and Arin couldn’t help but wish he could do it, too. He couldn’t handle the tour. The stress of being away from work and Suzy both had taken a toll on his mental health, and the cramped quarters of the tour bus had put him on edge. Worse yet, he couldn’t be as affectionate with Dan as he would’ve liked to be. Dan was keeping their relationship pretty private, which was fine, but it had hurt Arin just a bit to be so close, and yet so far, from Danny during that trip.
Backing out made him feel like hell, but continuing would’ve been worse.
“So, it’s all worth it then, huh?” He said before he could stop himself. He can hear the bitterness in his voice, a tone he’d often used to deliver Ryland’s lines during the filming of Good Game.
Dan hesitates, letting his chin drop off the hand that’s resting on the edge of the door against the window. “Yeah,” he says carefully, “of course it is. What do you mean?”
Losing weight, Arin thinks. God, that must be the best way to do it. Get sick with nerves before going onstage, ending the shows hungry and sweaty and five pounds lighter. Instead, he shakes his head. “Nothing, sorry. Just thinking out loud.”
Whether Dan believes the lie or not is unclear, but the rest of the car ride is silent as death.
Dan goes to voice therapy at a general place for physical therapy, which Arin didn’t know, even though he knew the address to get here. They park and go in. Arin gets scared for a moment that Dan is mad at him, but the older man gently takes Arin’s hand in his, squeezing it as they walk up to the door. When Arin looks over at him, he’s smiling. And Arin can’t help but smile back.
Arin sits down on one of the waiting room chairs while Dan checks in. The walls of the receptionist area are mint green. There’s a TV playing what he thinks is TMC, judging from the content, though he can’t hear the volume, and he doesn’t care about reading the subtitles. The chairs aren’t actually uncomfortable, and are all a slightly darker shade of green than the walls. The carpeting under his feet is a muted blue, and feels cheap and scratchy. There’s a fish tank on the other side of the room that has a little castle that looks like the office building they’re in right now and lots of fancy goldfish swimming lazily around. There’s also an area designed for young children, with a small bookshelf, a softer carpet that is made up entirely of primary colors, a play table, and a few dozen plastic toys and dolls. It’s an eyesore in a place that’s so carefully crafted to be zen, and Arin finds that funny enough to start chuckling.
Dan, finished with checking in, sits down next to him and gives him a look. Arin shakes his head. “It’s just the kid’s area stands out in the worst way.”
Dan chuckles. “I never noticed that. Guess I’m used to the way kids fit into adult spaces, though.”
Dan’s name is called, and off he goes, answering polite questions from the nurse that shows him in. Or, at least, she’s dressed like a nurse. Arin’s not entirely sure if the lady Dan sees for his vocal chords is actually a doctor, or a glorified masseuse. He’s not complaining, though; Dan always sounds a thousand times better after he’s gone to his appointment.
About an hour has passed. Arin’s been futzing around on his phone, trying to play Pub G without getting an overage charge on his data plan and occasionally trying to watch the movie playing on the silent TV without reading the subtitles. (They’re always a few seconds behind, and it’s ticking off his ADD.) After about fifteen minutes or so, Dan re-emerges and heads to the desk to, supposedly, make another appointment. He usually has at least one follow-up appointment so the vocal lady can check in with him, see how things are going, but it’s usually a week before tour, and that’s not for a while yet.
Arin stands up as Dan finishes at the desk, and they walk out to the parking lot together. Dan looks half-asleep and halfway to cloud nine, and Arin is suddenly very glad he’s the one driving.
When they get into the car, Dan stretches like a lazy cat, and his shirt rides up. Arin gets a look at Dan’s tummy, rolled slightly because he’s sitting, but still flat, and he both wants to press fervent kisses to it, and hide away forever until he looks like that. Which he never will. Which somehow makes it worse.
“Whaddya think?” Dan asks, and Arin realizes Dan had been speaking.
“What?” Arin asks, very intelligently.
Dan huffs a fond laugh. “I said, I’m starving. I suggested sushi. Are you down?”
Arin nods. Sushi. Sushi is healthy, and a roll is usually filling enough to get him through the day. It’s a safe food, really. Lots of good fats and protein. “Know a good place around here?”
Dan grins. “You know it, dude. Here, turn left…”
Not for the first time, Arin thinks Dan looks cute like this.
Unsurprisingly, Dan is always starving for a good 48 hours after a tour, having to skip snacks and even sometimes full meals due to the crazy schedule they have to follow. He orders double what he’d usually eat, and can actually finish it most of the time, something that’s super rare for him, considering how moody his stomach is.
Right now, he’s putting away his salmon roll at a good clip, already halfway finished. Arin’s poking at his sashimi. It’s delicious, but he’s trying to go slow, draw out the experience, to trick himself into feeling fuller. He’s already feeling a bit bloated and uncomfortable, since he didn’t realize that this shirt is actually a bit form-fitting. Either that, or he grabbed the wrong size this morning. Yikes.
Dan muffles a burp and takes a sip of his tea before diving back in, clearly intent on finishing the second roll, even if indigestion follows. The table’s conversation has been fairly nonexistent, but Arin can live with that. More than half their lives are spent talking to each other. He doesn’t mind the silence.
Suzy’s been texting him with farmer’s market updates, and sent them both a few selfies of her in the Grump Space recording room, filming with Holly. It’s adorable, frankly, and Arin almost can’t believe that it’s real.
He’s busy smiling doofily at Suzy’s latest impeccable selfie when Dan shifts, sitting back in his chair and stretching luxuriously like a happy cat. Arin notices the empty plate and smiles warmly, glad that Dan has some tasty food in his belly.
Dan burps, lightly resting a hand on his stomach. Arin notices that it’s slightly raised, and feels a little thrill in his own stomach. It’s likely the rice expanding in his belly, but it’s still oddly thrilling to see Dan full in a way he can’t really explain. He nudges Dan’s tea a little closer to him by way of encouragement, and Dan sips at it, groaning softly.
“Fuck,” he smiles sleepily at Arin. “That was so good, man. I needed that.”
“Good,” Arin purrs. Yeah, Dan looks good with ten pounds on him. He looks healthier, stronger, a little less like the wind won’t blow him over. He’d look good with twenty pounds on him; a softer belly, less wiry biceps, no more ribs and spine. If only Arin could give Dan the twenty pounds he needs to lose. No doubt at least ten of it would disappear completely after a tour.
If only his weight could be tied to Dan’s. He wouldn’t mind struggling to gain weight instead of lose it for a change.
“Hey, Ar?” Dan’s voice is one of curious concern, which makes Arin look up like a deer in headlights. “You doin’ okay in there?”
“Yeah,” Arin smiles. “Sorry. I’m feelin’ a little tired, I guess.”
“Me too,” Dan admits, yawning. “Voice therapy always relaxes me, and, honestly, I don’t think I slept as well as I should’ve the last few nights on tour.”
Arin frowns. Poor Dan. “I’m sorry, dude.”
Dan waves it off. “Don’t be sorry. It happens after I’ve been away from you and Scuze for a while. I start to miss sleeping with you guys.”
For some reason, that makes Arin blush, and he pretends to be busy with his chopsticks. It’s not surprising that Dan misses him, but…with the way Dan talks sometimes, it’s like he finds heavier bodies gross or unworthy in some way, no matter how much he might protest the opposite. How could Dan possibly love sleeping with a body he should find disgusting to look at?!
“Arin?” Dan leans forward with a soft grunt, placing his hand over Arin’s. “You gonna finish your sashimi?”
Arin shakes his head, trying to get his voice back under control. He can feel the sobs building up under his skin, and it’s honestly terrifying. He doesn’t want to cry in front of Dan. Not when Dan needs to rest.
“Let’s go home,” Dan suggests. “We can both take a nap. I think it’ll make me feel like less of a zombie.”
Dan strips down and climbs into bed.
“Uh,” Arin runs a hand through his hair. “I’m not really that tired…I should be answering some emails, anyway, so…”
“Baby,” Dan says, rolling over and looking at him. He’s in his glasses, contacts taken out, and he looks super nerdy, which is adorable. His curls are sprawled out on the pillow, looking like a nest of those curly-haired guinea pigs. “I’d really like to snuggle you. Please?”
Arin sighs, but he can’t really say no. Since he took his shoes off at the door, he just climbs on top of the covers and sits, waiting for a further cue from Dan.
Dan shifts onto his back, tugging the covers up. “In here, smartass,” he says in a tone that is somehow both affectionate and annoyed.
Arin’s lip quirks upward, but he obliges. Now, he feels weirdly exposed, even though he’s fully clothed. Dan is practically naked, and okay, he’s obviously too thin, even with a belly full of sushi, and Arin can clearly see the dark circles etched into his skin. But he’s just so…
He’s graceful and clumsy and funny and sweet, childish and devilishly handsome. Thin and beautiful.
He is everything Arin isn’t. That thought alone makes Arin want to cry, and he closes his eyes, suddenly wishing he wasn’t here right now.
Dan kisses him, a simple press of lips to lips, but Arin jumps back like he’s been burned, and he can feel the tears leaking out of him, but they won’t stop, and now the sobs are coming.
“Arin?” Dan sounds worried, which only heightens Arin’s anxiety. He both wants to push Dan away and pull him closer when the older man wraps his long arms around him. It’s embarrassing, to be crying over spilled milk. “Can you tell me why you’re crying? Is it something I did?”
Arin shakes his head. The last thing he wants is for Dan’s neurosis to kick in. Then they’d both start panicking.
Dan kisses his forehead, and holds him closer. “Okay. It’s okay, Big Cat. I’m here. Just let it all out.” He starts running a hand down Arin’s back, and suddenly, Arin can’t handle being touched. He shifts away, out of Dan’s grasp, and Dan pulls his arms back immediately.
“D-don’t touch me…” Arin sniffles. “I…I can’t…”
“Okay,” Dan says agreeably. “Okay. It’s okay. Here.” He rolls over again, reaching for a tissue box, and plops it in front of Arin. He waits while Arin blows his nose, brown eyes thoughtful and troubled.
“Thanks,” Arin says once he’s calmed down. “I’ll let you, um…”
“I can’t sleep,” Dan replies immediately, “not when my boyfriend feels like he’s gross.”
Arin freezes. The polar ice caps begin to reform in his belly. “How did you…?”
“Suzy noticed something was off,” Dan explains. “To be fair, so did I. This morning, you looked as if you hated every inch of your skin…” He smiles sadly, reaching out a hand, palm up. An invitation, an offering of comfort, if it’s needed.
It is. Arin takes it, squeezing gently.
“I lied about feeling barfy, although,” Dan chuckles ruefully, “my body feels like I’m chained to a concrete sidewalk, so I’m glad I asked you to come along. But I knew I couldn’t leave you alone, to stew in your own thoughts. I didn’t want to. I know what it’s like to hate yourself.”
“No, you don’t,” Arin replies, suddenly angry. “It’s not the same! You don’t know how it feels to fail every diet, to stand next to two gorgeous human beings every day, to be so fucking fat…” He spits the last part out like poison. “It’s no wonder the fans draw me like they do. I’m hideous.” He draws his hand back from Dan, and hides his face in the pillow.
Dan’s gentle touch follows a stifled sob. Then, Dan’s lips press against his forehead, his hand, his arm.
“You are perfect,” he says. Arin faintly hears the door open. There is the sound of bedclothes rustling, and then Dan is back, his voice low in Arin’s ear. “And we can prove it to you.”
“It’s very hard to like your body,” Suzy says, her tiny hands holding one of his big ones. “I understand that. And I know that what we say isn’t going to cure the bad thoughts in your head.” She kisses his cheek. “But it’s armor, to help you defend yourself from the intrusive thoughts.”
“Yeah,” Dan says, returning from the bedroom. He is wearing a plain black kimono, tied loosely at his waist, and he sits down beside Arin, taking his other hand. “Those suck for everyone.” He looks over Arin’s head at Suzy. “You wanna start, or should I?”
“You go ahead,” Suzy says graciously.
Arin turns slightly towards Dan. Their knees are touching. Arin smiles, and looks up into Dan’s warm, murky eyes.
“Nothing keeps me as warm as one of your hugs.” Arin looks away, smiling, but Dan pulls him back towards him. “It’s true, all right? It’s true. You fuckin…” He smiles. “You’re a walking heated blanket, and I’m always cold because I’m so damn thin, so it’s nice to cuddle up to you, because then, I’m cozy as fuck.” He presses his forehead against Arin’s gently, and then pulls away slightly. “And your body…is fucking sexy, dude. I can just,” he winds his hands around Arin’s waist, fingers gently squeezing his love handles. “I can just grab onto you while we fuck. And it’s super fucking hot. And when you lie on top of me when you’re fucking me?” Dan’s eyelids flutter, and Arin blushes upon realizing that Dan is slowly getting aroused. “It’s like…nothing I’ve ever experienced. And your tummy…god…” Dan kisses at Arin’s neck.
Suzy wraps her arms around him, pulling her to look at him. He does, which makes Dan’s distracting kisses stop. “You are perfect,” she says to him. “I think gaining weight was actually the best thing you could’ve done.”
“Wha…?” Arin gapes. “Really?!”
Suzy nods, kissing him deeply. When they part, her liquid pools of blue are aglow. “You look so good now, like this is the weight your body was meant to be. Your shoulders and chest filled out nicely, and yeah, the muscles helped, but even if there wasn’t any muscle to you at all, you’d still be smokin’ hot. And as a bonus,” she smirked, snuggling into his chest, “I agree with Dan about everything.”
Arin swallows. He can’t believe it. His lovers…love him. “You love me?”
“Sure do,” Dan says smartly.
“Even twenty pounds heavier?”
“Especially twenty pounds heavier,” Suzy grins.
“What can I say, Big Cat?” Dan slides in under his arm to cuddle up, too. “You look better chubby.”