Actions

Work Header

ripped at every edge but you’re a masterpiece

Chapter Text

Felix’s childhood was filled with smiles and sunny days at the beach. He excelled in school and sports. His parents called him golden.  Every time his mother was on the phone with her friends Felix would hear her brag about her wonderful son. His father would ruffle his hair with pride for Felix’s achievements.

 

But as dawn goes down to day, nothing gold can stay.

 

When JYP held auditions in Australia, Felix didn’t tell his parents that he went. He lived by the motto that it is always easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. When he finally told his parents he had passed through auditions, and wanted to pursue his success in Korea, they didn’t forgive him. They didn’t yell, in a sort of fiery rage that Felix had been nervously anticipating. His father just huffed and his mother frowned, but then that excruciating moment was over as if Felix hadn’t said a thing.

 

His parents never lashed out at him. He almost would have preferred they had. (However, he supposed that whether by fire or by ice, his world as he had known it had ended). Instead, they just stopped loving him. He didn’t obey the limits of the mold that they wanted him to anymore, so they moved on to focusing on his sisters. As much as he tried, he couldn’t bring himself to resent his sisters or even his parents. He hoped his sister could bring his parents the happiness that he ultimately failed to.

 

His parents dropped him off at Sydney Airport while his sisters were at school. They hadn’t accepted his dream, but rather just stopped caring about him. His mom didn’t cry, or whisper one final ‘I love you.’ His dad didn’t help him with his luggage, or even glance out the window as his son wished him goodbye for an indefinite future. They didn’t even pat him on the shoulder. But their actions spoke louder than words, and it was as if they had sneered and growled, ‘good riddance.’ He felt like he had been disowned.

 

At that moment, Felix realized that if he boarded that plane, he would definitively cease to be their son.

 

He didn’t look back.

 


 

 

Trainee life always sucks, especially when you’re new to an agency, and don’t have any friends to rely on yet. It sucks even more when you’re in a foreign country, and your knowledge of the language ends at annyeonghaseyo . Felix got used to being alone, and smiling blankly when someone would speak to him in Korean. He started to pick up bits of the language, but his sentences were still short, choppy, and mostly aided by charades and wild gestures.

 

And then he met his team.

 

At the time he had no clue what was happening. In broken English, a staff member had tried to explain the survival show he’d be on, and gave him a thick packet of papers. He never even looked at the papers, it’s not like he could understand them.

 

Chan was the first person he met from the group that would ultimately become Stray Kids.

 

In an unmistakable Australian accent, Chan had said “Nice to meet you! My name’s Chan, or Chris, if you’d like.”

 

Meeting Chan felt like finding a part of himself that he hadn’t known was missing. Chan was his first everything: his first friend, his first soulmate, his first crush, his first kiss. Most importantly, Chan was his first home.

 

Felix still didn’t understand Korean, but he was learning, and he had Chan by his side at least.

 

Unfortunately, meeting the rest of his team was mostly unremarkable. It was just a blur of faces and foreign words to Felix, who had reverted back to his role as the confused smiling foreigner. Bless his soul, Chan had tried as much as he could to help, but Felix was a lost cause. For starters, Felix was terrible with names. Felix was also terrible at Korean. So of course, Felix was especially terrible with Korean names. He was determined to remember at least two names, but he wasn’t even certain about one.

 

Was it Hyunmin or Hyungmin—it was neither.

 

However, this awkward stage didn’t last for long, and Felix soon knew their names well, and Korean well…enough. He had finally found his real family; a family that accepted him and supported him unconditionally.

 

He was eliminated, and his world came crashing down; he was losing his family again, and even this time it was his fault. His fault, for being too much and not enough.

 

Chan tried to comfort him, but his words only made Felix cry more. Felix cried into everyone’s shoulder. He felt pathetic, because even as he wallowed in his self pity, he knew he didn’t deserve to feel bad for himself. Everything was his fault. Even as Chan laid next to him, Felix had never felt more alone. He couldn’t sleep that night.

 

He turned to speak to God

About the world’s despair;

But to make matters worse,

He found God wasn’t there.

 

For the next week or so (Felix wasn’t sure how long it was, time didn’t matter, nothing mattered) life became grey and dull again. Days that had once been vibrantly filled with his friends and excitement on the survival show, were now identical and mundane. Each day he followed the same routine: wake up, cry, go for a run, study Korean, go to practice with random trainees, rinse and repeat. Sometimes he couldn’t get out of bed and pretended to feel ill, though he hardly had to act.

 

After a while, Felix could hardly recognize himself. Instead of seeing cute cheeks and a lean, yet strong, frame, a stranger stared back from the mirror. He looked gaunt and frail in ways that he hated, but again, it was his fault. Besides his appearance, he had already gone down two belt holes, and was on the last one; clothes are expensive, he literally couldn’t afford to get smaller. At the weekly weigh-in, a staff member mentioned something about needing to manage his figure better, but that was it, and Felix was once again forgotten, as the next trainee stepped on the scale.

 


 

 

By some miracle, Felix was un-eliminated. He wasn’t religious, but if he were, he would’ve headed straight to the chapel after practice. Returning to the group saved his life, or at the very least, made life bearable again.

 

Once he walked into the studio he was immediately entrapped in hugs, and clobbered with pats on the back. He had thought he would cry, but all he could do was smile until his cheeks hurt, he had already used all his tears during his week of wallowing.

“I’m not letting you go again,” Chan whispered into his hair.

 

“I know. Thank you, Chris.” Felix tightened his grip on his best friend.

 

Being with his team felt like breathing.

 


 

 

Their debut was only a month away, and they were practicing from dawn to dusk nearly every day. Despite the rigorous schedule, Felix had noticed he was starting to look and feel like his normal self again. By returning to his team, the overwhelming sensation of being hopelessly lost disappeared, and was replaced by passionate enthusiasm and a normal appetite.

 

By the time practice ended, most of the members had prostrated themselves on the floor in some way. Jisung was nearly asleep. Manila file folders were passed out to each member. The label on the front had their names spelled out in Korean. Felix’s brain felt fried after practice, but he noticed his said Yongbok. He wrinkled his nose is dismay, ugh. Some of the others had opened their folders, Felix didn’t care what was in there, all he wanted was to shower and sleep. He closed his eyes and rested his cheek on Changbin’s shoulder.

 

“These are your new diets until you debut. Follow them. If we discover that you haven’t, there will be nonnegotiable consequences,” A lady in a smart blue pant suit addressed the group, she spoke in such a robotic way, that Felix wondered just how many file folders she had passed out before. Tens? Hundreds? Or—god—thousands? Felix mused deliriously.

 

“Each of you have a diet precise to your basal metabolic rate, constructed to begin with a 500 calorie deficit and designed to decrease by 100 calories for each of the five weeks leading up to debut, until you reach a 1000 calorie deficit. One week after debut, you will gradually return to maintenance calories.”

 

“What the fuck?” Changbin whispered to Felix, who responded with wide eyes and a bewildered shrug.

 

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean any disrespect, but this is absolutely unnecessary. None of my members need to lose weight, and some cannot afford to lose any weight.” Chan’s shoulders were tense with barely suppressed anger, as he grit out words and forced a diplomatic affect.

 

“This is standard protocol mandated by JYP for every group that debuts under the company. This is not optional,” she paused and sighed. Felix noticed her white knuckled grip on her clipboard. She tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear, and continued in a softer, sympathetic tone, “I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do.”

 

Her shiny black stilettos clicked against the floor obnoxiously as she left. The door shut softly behind her and an obliterating silence blanketed the room. Chan leaned against the wall and slid down to a sitting position. He brought his knees to his chest and put his head in his hands.

 

“I’m sorry,” Chan croaked out tearfully, “As a leader I’m supposed to advocate and fight for you guys. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ve failed you.”

 

Felix knelt in front of Chan, and pressed his lips to Chan’s knuckles. He rested his forehead against Chan’s and whispered in English, “You haven’t failed us, we’ll figure this out, I promise.”

 

Chan rested his forehead against Felix’s.

 

“You can’t promise me that, but thank you,” Chan said as he linked his pinky, with Felix’s cute, smaller one.

 


 

 

The diets sucked, to say the least. Felix didn’t care about how it affected him, but he hated what it was doing to his members. Minho had lost his energy and passion, and Jeongin had cried all night after management scolded him for eating bread. It was terrifying when Jisung collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital.

 

As much as they wanted to tell management ‘fuck you’ and quit the stupid diet, they couldn’t. They were too close and too desperate now to debut, they couldn’t do anything that might cause their debut to be postponed. However, they also couldn’t slow down their training to accommodate their diets; debut was rapidly approaching and they had to be perfect .

 

Felix had to be perfect. He wanted to prove his parents wrong, he wanted to prove JYP wrong, he wanted to prove himself wrong. He could do this. If fans wanted a willowy, paper-thin idol, then Felix would give it to them. By any means necessary.

 

The instance in which he comprehended his own mediocrity was horrible. Felix stopped following the diet after the first week. Actually, he stopped following any sort of diet. He just ate as little as possible. He knew it was stupid, but he wanted to stand out. He wasn’t the best dancer, singer, rapper, or (obviously) Korean speaker, but even if he looked sickly and hideous, at least he’d be noticed. Oftentimes, in the K-POP industry, bad press and criticism from K-netz is better than remaining unknown.

 

 

It was nine days before debut. Felix was determined to be perfect. He had managed to convince Chan to practice the choreography with him in the studio. Felix glanced at the clock, it was just past midnight, and yet he still had so much to do; it felt hopeless.

 

After a brief water break, Felix stood up from his spot on the floor, and woah his vision went completely dark for a moment before the sensation subsided. Chan was still laying on the floor, but glanced up warily when he noticed Felix starting the song again.

 

”Maybe we should quit it for the night, yeah?” Chan called out from the his spot next to the water cooler.

 

Felix just waved his hand dismissively and with wobbly legs, he continued to practice. He felt mostly fine, albeit woozy, so he confidently performed a more dynamic, twisting move from District 9’s choreography. A mistake. A wave of nausea came over him, and he doubled over into a crawling position. He began to vomit up a disgusting, watery mixture of blood and bile.

What the fuck? He thought as his arms gave out beneath him. As started to lose consciousness and his weak body shuddered on the floor, he noticed Chan rushing toward him, and shouting something that sounded vaguely like ‘Felix.’

Chapter Text

The last time Felix fainted was during football camp when he was in fourth grade. He had a natural athletic ability, and was good at most sports. Yet, he was terrible at football, and undoubtedly was the worst at the camp. For a year or so, he had been overweight as a child. His parents wanted a perfect , thin son, so they handed him a brand new shiny ball and nearly forced him out the door. For the first few hours—despite being absolute crap—he actually enjoyed it. Since he was so bad, no one had any expectations for him. So when he did something even slightly mediocre he received high-fives and smiling encouragement.

 

When it came to scoring a goal, Felix had the aim of a blind man. Unfortunately, it wasn’t surprising when his ball went into the bushes again. He had started to feel nauseous, so he took a sip of water and attributed it to the heat. His vision was dark at the edges and his ears were ringing, but he continued to look through the bushes for that stupid ball.

 

Despite fainting face first into the bushes, his pride hurt more than his bruised arms and bleeding face. He was so embarrassed he refused to return to football camp, and could hardly make eye contact when he thanked the instructor who had pulled him from the shrubs.

 

My poor baby. I should’ve made sure you ate breakfast,” His mom had crooned while caressing his wounded cheeks, and gently cleaning his scrapes with cotton balls soaked in hydrogen peroxide. She had cared about him then; he was her baby , her perfect baby who could do no wrong.

 


 

“Felix, c’mon mate. You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay.”

 

The voice was too loud and Felix felt a cold finger on his pulse. How annoying. Felix’s eyelids felt too heavy to open, and he couldn’t move. He groaned to tell the annoying person to quit it.

 

“Shit. What do I do? Um, Felix it’s Chan, c’mon please wake up.”

 

“Chris.” Felix gurgled in response, probably drooling everywhere. If Felix had been embarrassed after fainting at summer camp, he was immensely humiliated now.

 

“Woojin can you come to the studio?” Chan asked. All Felix could hear was unintelligible static in reply. “Yes, right now! I’m having a bit of an emergency and I don’t know what to do and I’m freaking out a little bit!”

 

The obnoxious beeping from the phone indicated that Woojin had hung up.

 

“Chris,” Felix said again, but more clearly. He opened his eyes slightly, “Ugh, too bright.”

 

“Felix, stay with me, I got you.”

 

“Okay,” Felix replied simply. He whined, “Hurts.”

 

“What hurts? Your head?” Chan asked, immediately sounding impossibly more worried. Chan’s hand was cold but sweaty as he laced his fingers with Felix’s.

 

“Yes, did I hit it?” Felix tried to get up, but immediately Chan’s hand pressed firmly against his chest.

 

“I don’t know if you hit your head, so don’t move until Woojin gets here.” Chan’s voice sounded shaky and tight with nerves, like he was either about to throw up or cry.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“Shhh, it’s okay Felix, you’re okay,” Felix wondered if Chan was trying to convince himself at this point.

 

The familiar click of the studio door shutting echoed through the studio.

 

“God, Chan. What happened, did you beat him up?” Woojin teased, but immediately stopped smiling once he saw the tears welling in Chan’s eyes.

 

“He fainted, and I think he’s okay, but I don’t know if he hit his head or not.” Chan’s voice broke, “I’m really scared, Woojin.”

 

“If there’s a chance he could have a concussion we should go to the hospital. I’ll call management.” Woojin, rubbed Chan’s shoulder reassuringly, but sounded grim.

 

“What happened?” Felix asked quietly. His voice sounded foreign to his own ears; he almost sounded scared.

 

“I don’t know baby, but you’ll be okay,” Woojin replied, as he brushed the hair out of Felix’s eyes.

 

“Okay,” Felix replied simply.

 

The room was quiet and almost peaceful for a few minutes while they waited for help to arrive.

 

The peace was short lived.

 

Oh! Fuck! Roll him on his side so he doesn’t choke.” Chan exclaimed, as Felix started to gag and cough up bile and water. Woojin rubbed his back comfortingly despite how repulsive Felix knew he looked (and probably smelled).

 

Suddenly, unfamiliar hands were on him and voices were barking orders, as Felix felt himself being hoisted onto a stretcher. His eyes were open but he felt like he was having an out of body experience. His vision was blurry, and his head was foggy, but everything was still too much, too bright, too loud.

 

“Go with him,” Woojin said to Chan. “He’ll need you.”

 

“Thank you, Woojin. I’ll call you when we get there.” Chan choked out, grasping Woojin’s hand like a lifeline.

 

Woojin pressed a silent kiss to Chan’s forehead, and then Chan was whisked away into the ambulance and everything was quiet. Chan massaged small circles with his thumb onto the back of Felix’s hand.

 


 

Felix didn’t know why he was in a hospital or how long he had been there. There were no windows, but Chan was asleep in the chair next to his bed, so he knew it had been at least a few hours. He noticed he was hooked up to an assortment of machines, some beeping, others just silent hunks of metal. Holy cow he was in a hospital gown.

 

Oh my god, someone undressed me.

 

Felix felt flushed with embarrassment as he buried his face in his hands. He tried to calm down, he could always dwell on it later: some time in the future while he should be sleeping, but instead will relive every single embarrassing moment of his entire life.

 

“Chan,” He whispered.

 

“Huh, what?” Chan muttered groggily.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“Crap, I have to let the nurse know you’re up.”

 

“Chan, please. What’s happening?”

 

“I promise I’ll tell you later, but right now it’s really important that you get the help you need.”

 

“But—“

 

“Do you trust me, Felix?” Chan looked Felix dead in the eye.

 

“Yes, always, Chan.” Felix sighed and leaned back onto his pillows.

 


 

 

Felix had never realized that there were so many tests hospitals could administer. The doctor explained his results in big words that Felix didn’t know, so Felix was glad he had asked if Chan could stay. Felix tried his best to look like he was listening; he nodded or murmured an ‘oh I see,’ every time the doctor looked at him expectantly. However, Chan was actively paying attention, and his brow was furrowed as he listened, asking question and visibly concerned.

 

Apparently, Felix wasn’t as good of an actor as he thought he was, because as the doctor left, he asked Chan to explain to Felix his results.

 

“What’d he say?” Felix asked nervously.

 

Chan slid into the bed next to Felix and put an arm around him. “You really scared me, bub. For starters, you have a mild concussion, which is why you probably don’t remember what happened. Even though we’re debuting soon, you’ll need to take it easy for a little while,” Chan trailed off, seemingly trying to work up the nerve to say something else.

 

“Felix, have you been eating?”

 

Felix couldn’t stifle the sharp intake of breath that he took.

 

“Of course. I mean, we’re all on diets for debut, so none of us have been eating enough.” Felix spluttered.

 

“Don’t give me that,” Chan replied, sounding unusually stern, “You’re malnourished Felix, you’ve lost so much weight, your heart is beating is beating so slow, and it fucking terrifies me.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“What? No, don’t apologize! That’s not what I want,” Chan pinched the bridge of his nose, and tried to calm down.

 

“We’re all on diets, but you’re the only one in the hospital. Felix, please just be honest with me.” Chan sounded desperate, which only added to Felix’s guilt.

 

“When I got eliminated, I thought my world was over. I had no group, and by coming here—to Korea—I had no family to even go to. I had nothing; no future, and I had cut ties with my past. Getting added back to the group was a second chance. I knew I had to be perfect this time, I couldn’t afford to be anything less. I tried so hard, Chan. Losing weight was just another thing I had to do to debut, I couldn’t fuck it up.”

 

Felix wasn’t lying, he just wasn’t telling the whole truth. It was true, since his childhood he had always been taught to strive for perfection. It was also true that being eliminated almost ruined him. He just chose to not admit that starving himself gave him a sense of control, one that he had been desperately grasping for since the days of his youth, coping with overbearing and manipulative parents. A sense of control he craved even more since becoming estranged from his family, and feeling lost and unwelcome in a foreign country. Once he had broken the news to his parents about his plans to become a trainee under JYP, he had essentially been starved of love: parental love, and consequently, self love. Instead, he was fed with uncertainty and unhealthy coping mechanisms. He didn’t want Chan to know just how much elimination had affected him, how he had felt so worthless and powerless, and that it gave him piece of mind to at least feel like he had control over his own body.

 

As much as Felix wanted to pour out his heart, he already felt so guilty for all the stress and inconveniences he had already caused Chan. It wasn’t important, anyway. Chan had enough to worry about with their debut rapidly approaching without Felix burdening him further. Felix felt in control and knew he could go back to normal at any time, if he wanted to. He could handle it himself.

 

But Chan seemed satisfied with Felix’s half-truth and snuggled Felix into his side a bit closer.

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t notice before—“

 

Felix cut Chan off, “Don’t apologize, I’m the one who should be sorry.”

 

“Hey, you didn’t let me finish,” Chan nudged him with his elbow good naturedly, “I was going to say, that you also have to try to take better care of yourself, or come to one of us when you feel this way. We can talk, we can make it better.”

 

“I promise,” Felix lied.

 

Chan linked their pinkies and smiled softly.

Chapter Text

After overnight observation for his concussion, the doctor sent Felix home.

 

Chan slept peacefully during the ride back to the dorms, but Felix couldn’t relax. He drummed his fingers against his thigh, and shook his right leg restlessly. He was so nervous; he felt like he was on his way to the dorms for the very first time, except instead of being shaky with anticipation, we has nauseous with dread. The sky outside was ash gray, as clouds from day lingered into dusk.

 

When their manager dropped them off outside of the building, Felix wondered what would happen if he ran. However, he immediately dismissed the idea; Chan would definitely catch him, it was stupid. Felix walked as slowly as he could, Chan didn’t mention it, he just coaxed Felix forward with a gentle, but insistent hand on Felix’s back.

 

As they approached the door, the cold hand of dread gripped onto his lungs; he couldn’t get a deep enough breath no matter how hard he tried.

 

“Chan, can we please not make a big deal out of this? I’m okay with them knowing about my concussion and fainting and everything, but I just don’t want anyone to worry about me. I’m perfectly fine.”

 

Chan looked like he was about to retort, but his face softened inexplicably, and he nodded.

 

The dorm was quiet, so Felix toed off his shoes and hoped that he would be able to make it to his bunk without disturbing anyone.

 

Luck had never been on Felix’s side.

 

Felix always thought the white chunky Fila sneakers were a bit ugly, something that a grandmother might wear to the supermarket after an exciting night of bingo at her local church. As Felix tripped over one of those godforsaken shoes he had never hated them more.

 

“God, Felix!” Chan exclaimed, reaching to help Felix off the floor.

 

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Felix waved his hand dismissively.

 

“Are you sure? Wait, do you need to sit down— oh my god, should we go back to the hospital, I can call—”

 

“I’m fine! I just tripped it’s no big deal,” Felix tried not to sound exasperated.

 

“Felix?”

 

Darn, they heard him.

 

“Felix, we were so worried!”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“What happened? I heard you went to the hospital.”

 

Bodies swarmed around him in a frenzy, and voices mingled to form a cacophonous roar.

 

“Hey, stop it. Calm down and give him some space,” Chan’s reassuring voice and warm touch grounded Felix.

 

Most of them begrudgingly trudged to the living room like scolded children. Including Chan, who probably intended to lecture them further. However, Changbin lingered in the hall with Felix.

 

“I care about you, Felix,” Changbin said simply. Felix simply nodded in response, he didn’t trust his voice to not betray him. Changbin hugged Felix tightly, and Felix buried his face into the crook of Changbin’s neck. Changbin hesitated for another moment, before leaving Felix alone, and joining the others.

 

Felix stalled as long as he could; he got a drink of water in the kitchen, and splashed some water on his face, too. He knew he shouldn’t inconvenience his bandmates any longer, so he finally managed to drag his leaden feet to the living room. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of himself in the hallway mirror; the dim lights cast dark shadows in the hollows of his cheeks and collarbones. He almost looked sick, how strange.

 

When Felix stepped into the living room, he was reminded of when he had to give presentations in school. Eight pairs of eyes gazed at him expectantly, but he had no idea what to say.

 

Nope, his brain screamed. This time he gave into the idea of running away.

 

Felix steppes into the room and awkwardly made eye contact with each member, then immediately turned on his heel and walked right back out the door.

 

Chan jumped up and slung a stern arm over Felix’s shoulder, steering him to the couch. In his ‘leader voice,’ Chan whispered into Felix’s ear, “Stop running away.”

 

Begrudgingly, Felix perched himself on the armrest of the couch. Chan rubbed apologetic circles on Felix’s back.

 

“So, this is awkward,” Jisung muttered under his breath, scratching the back of his neck.

 

“Felix, are you dying or something? What— hey, ouch !” Minho rubbed his side painfully.

 

A chorus of groans erupted, along with a ‘Minho, what the fuck.’

 

“It’s alright, Minho,” Felix managed a small smile, “I just overworked myself and collapsed in the studio. Just got a little concussion, that’s all.”

 

“Did you just say little ? Felix,” Woojin sighed, and stood up to wrap Felix in a tight hug, “It’s okay to not be okay. We’re your family; you don’t have to always be strong; you can show weakness in front of us. We just want to help you be healthy and happy.”

 

“Thank you,” Felix whispered into Woojin’s flannel shirt. He couldn’t bear to look Woojin in the eye; he felt too guilty; he didn’t deserve this kindness.

 

A cheerful Twice song suddenly started to play from Chan’s phone: Dance the Night Away.

 

Chan blushed slightly, but looked serious when he saw who was calling.

 

“I’ll be right back, it’s management.”

 

Chan walked into the kitchen, and Felix could faintly hear Chan answer the call. Seungmin and Changbin tried to include Felix in a conversation, but all Felix could do was stare at the wall and focus on the nervous, cold bead of sweat slowly travel down his spine. Despite his sweat, he shivered. No matter how many boiling hot showers he took, he couldn’t seem to get rid of the chillin his bones.

 

To Felix, it felt like it could’ve been either seconds or days that Chan was on the phone. Time seemed to be standing still while Chan was gone, but once he returned, it felt much too soon.

 

Breathe in, breathe out, Felix reminded himself.

 

“—Okay, bye,” Chan strode into the room and returned to his spit on the couch. An obnoxious beeping noise rang out from his phone, signaling the end of the call.

 

“So, uh, management called about Felix,” Chan paused and made eye contact with Felix. Felix nodded in response, indicating that it was okay for Chan to continue.

 

“Um, they said that in light of Felix’s incident , all group members will be pulled off the diet immediately. They want all of us to still eat healthy, but they also want us to be strong enough to have a successful debut, especially Felix.”

 

“Why especially Felix?” Jeongin asked innocently. “Is it because of his concussion?”

 

“Felix just has a habit of, uh,” Chan glanced at Felix’s panic stricken face. “He sometimes forgets to eat. It’s really important that he doesn’t forget so his body can heal quickly and he can regain his strength for debut.”

 

Chan’s answer seemed to satisfy most of the group, markedly Jeongjin who smiled and said to Felix, “Don’t worry, I’ll remind you. I won’t let you forget!”

 

Felix tried to return the smile, and hoped it didn’t look like a grimace.

 

The conversation dissipated soon after that, as Chan went into the kitchen to start making dinner, and most of the group followed, either to help or (more likely) steal food from the pan while Chan wasn’t looking. However, Woojin, Changbin, and Jisung lingered. They all  looked like they wanted to say something, but not in the presence of the others.

 

Jisung huffed and gave up first, “Take care of yourself, Felix. Stay healthy!” Jisung pressed a tender kiss to the top of Felix’s head, then ruffled his hair. Felix took Jisung’s hand and held it gratefully. Their touch lingered as Jisung slowly pulled away, and joined the others in the kitchen.

 

The air in the room seemed static with tension, as both Woojin and Changbin seemed ready to pounce on Felix. Ultimately, Woojin was no match for Changbin’s stubbornness, and just hugged Felix tightly.

 

“See you guys at dinner!” Woojin called out, at that point, already in the Kitchen.

 

Felix studied the expression on Changbin’s face. Normally Felix had a sensitive understanding of Changbin’s emotions, but Changbin’s expression was indecipherable. The unfamiliarity made Felix feel uneasy. It didn’t seem like Changbin was going to say anything even if Felix sat on the couch for the next year. Felix scoffed and started to get up.

 

Changbin caught his wrist. “Felix,” He breathed.

 

Even though Felix was a few centimeters taller than Changbin, he felt small and intimidated.

 

“You’d tell me if something was wrong, right Felix? You can trust me, I promise.”

 

“Of course, but don’t worry about me too much!” Felix elbowed Changbin jokingly, “It’s all good! I just need to be more careful.”

 

Liar. A quiet voice in his brain chided.

 

Changbin nodded, seeming more at ease after what Felix said. He took Felix’s hand and pulled him into the kitchen. Felix forced a cheery smile, but almost wanted to cry.

 

Burden, burden, burden. He reminded himself.

 


 

Felix sat between Chan and Changbin at dinner. It felt like he had been lured into a trap. Felix wondered if anyone else noticed the absurdly large portion of pasta that Chan had piled onto Felix’s plate. In comparison to Chan’s plate, Felix had at least twice the amount of pasta.

 

“Eat well, Felix!” Jeongin smiler at him from across the table. Felix just nodded weakly.

 

Everyone else had started to eat, but Felix just moved the pasta around his plate, as his stomach churned in disgust. Changbin squeezed his knee, and gave him a quizzical glance. Felix tried not to gag as he took his first bite.

 

Felix fell into a trancelike state: bite, chew, swallow, rinse and repeat. Felix didn’t finish his plate but Chan seemed happy enough with the amount he did eat, if the firm pat on the back was anything to go by.

 

Once the table was cleared, Jeongin asked if they could play a board game together. It was nearly impossible to deny the youngest anything, so of course, everyone easily complied. Felix couldn’t understand even a bit of the instructions but just tried to copy what everyone else was doing. Inevitably Felix lost the first round of the game, but he didn’t mind, since he was actually having a good time. He was glad no one was taking pity on him or helping him unfairly, just because he wasn’t fully fluent in Korean.

 

Suddenly, an unpleasant, searing rush of acid made it’s way up his throat.

 

“Sorry—ugh—I’ll be right back,” He managed to choke out, as he frantically stepped over Changbin’s legs.

 

He rushed to the bathroom, and shut the door securely behind him. The bathroom lights seemed too bright, and his head hurt. Breathing erratically, he struggled to calm down. He turned on the sink and cupped his hands beneath the running faucet. He drank some of the cool water from his hands, and it soothed his throat, but it did little to soothe his upset stomach.

 

Felix barely made it to the toilet before his dinner came back up violently. As he shuddered and retched into the toilet, he wanted nothing more than to just be held.

 

“Felix? Are you okay?” He heard Changbin call from outside the door.

 

“Yeah, I just don’t think dinner agreed with me,” He replied weakly.

 

In the dorm, it was no secret that if you jiggled the bathroom door handle just the right way it would open. It allowed for great pranks and even better blackmail material, whenever Chan was caught flexing in the mirror, again. For once, Felix was happy about the terrible lock when Changbin poked his head into the bathroom.

 

Wordlessly, Changbin sat next to Felix on the tiled floor and pulled him into a one-armed hug. With his other hand, Changbin stroked Felix’s hair.

 

“I’m sorry. I know I probably look and smell disgusting.”

 

“Shh, it’s okay. You’re okay,” Changbin replied, and pulled Felix closer.

 

That night, Felix tried to muffle his sobs with his pillow so he wouldn’t disturb anyone sleeping.

Chapter Text

Despite both management’s and the doctor’s orders, Felix continued to lose weight during debut. It gave him something to think about besides how much he had grown to hate himself. His stage outfits grew looser on him, but he liked it.

 

He started to get better at faking a smile, but  debuting actually caused him genuine, unadulterated happiness. Debut was the best day of Felix’s life. Even if he had died the very next day after debut, he would have died happy. Having a successful debut was proving his parents wrong, but mostly proving himself wrong: he was capable, he wasn’t completely worthless. Felix felt completely powerless during the first week of debut, but in a good way; for once he didn’t mind not being in perfect control. But once this blissful high disappeared, all that was left in its wake was apprehension and insecurity. Felix once again slowly began to crumble.

 

Felix had woken up that morning already knowing it would be a bad day. Although he had been in Korea for a few months, he was struggling to understand what his bandmates said to him. He just couldn’t focus on anything, much less on a language besides his native tongue. Logically, he knew that if he mentioned it, his bandmates would be more than happy to help him, either by talking slower or even by talking in English. However, he didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, since it was his fault for being stupid and struggling with a language he had been learning since he first came to JYP. Most of all, he didn’t want to disappoint his members, who had been congratulating him for his progress in learning Korean (he was already a disappointment to his parents and himself).

 

Surprisingly, Felix’s breaking point was not Hyunjin having to repeat himself four times. It also wasn’t how Felix struggled to pronounce familiar song lyrics during practice. His breaking point was when they were watching a movie together—a funny one he supposed—and everyone was laughing, except for Felix, who just didn’t get it . Felix felt dumb, lonely, and trapped . The air was suffocating him slowly, he needed to get out.

 

“Be right back,” Felix called over his shoulder, one arm in his windbreaker and already halfway out the door.

 

“Hey, wait!” He heard Chan exclaim.

 

“Forgot something in the studio!” Felix yelled back.

 

No one responded.

 

Felix didn’t bother waiting for the elevator, he needed to get out, he couldn’t wait any longer. Despite their dorm being located on a higher floor, Felix didn’t hesitate to sprint down the stairs to the first floor. He bursted through the building’s front door, and took a gasping breath of the crisp nighttime air. Without a minutes rest, he started to run down the sidewalk, past building after building. He didn’t know where he was going, but his feet guided him forward, so he obeyed.

 

He didn’t know how long he was been running but his legs felt weak and rubbery. He knew he had reached his destination. Before him was a bridge. Not any particular bridge, just a simple drawbridge above a grey harbor. The choppy waves looked dangerous, and probably lethally cold; it made them seem somewhat warm and inviting. The wind rustled his jacket, which billowed like a flag.

 

He pulled his phone out of his pocket, and its shiny screen lit up. He had texts from nearly everyone he knew, he was almost surprised Park Jinyoung Pd-nim hadn’t texted him.

 

I’m okay, just took a walk, will be back soon. He sent to the group chat, then put his phone on airplane mode. He felt guilty for worrying them; he didn’t deserve them to care about him.

 

The wind’s roar echoed across the expanse of the wide harbor. Unlike the dependably sunny weather of Australia, Felix never was able to predict the weather in Korea. He wondered if a storm was coming.

 

The bench next to the bridge looked wet and hard. Felix trudged over to it and sat down on the pathetic thing. With a mind entirely empty, he stared at the horizon across the tormented waves.

 

Finally, Felix returned to his dorm. The front door’s soft click seemed impossibly loud in the otherwise silent space. Felix was happy to see an empty living room, he wouldn’t have been able to forgive himself if anyone had lost sleep waiting for him.

 

“You’re back.” Changbin mumbled from his lower bunk.

 

“You don’t sound very happy to see me,” Felix half joked.

 

“Shut up and come here so I can cuddle you.”

 

Felix knew Changbin was blushing by the way he smushed his face into his pillow.

 

“Of course, you big softie,” Felix snuggled into Changbin’s side.

 

“Felix, are you okay?”

 

“What?”

 

“Don’t play dumb, you literally ran away today.”

 

“I’m sorry, I was just overwhelmed, because I was struggling with Korean today.”

 

“Why didn’t you say something?”

 

“It’s embarrassing, I don’t want to burden you guys any more than I already do.”

 

“Don’t say that; you’re not a burden.”

 

Felix didn’t reply, so Changbin just sighed and held Felix closer.

 

“Changbin,” Felix whispered, hardly audible. “Do you ever feel overwhelmed and hopeless, like nothing you do even matters?”

 

In the dim light, Felix could just make out Changbin’s frown, “Maybe sometimes, if I’m having a bad day, but in general not really, no. Felix you don’t feel like that, do you?”

 

“No, just sometimes. I guess today is just a bad day,” Felix easily lied.

 

“Tomorrow will be better,” Changbin promised him, locking their pinkies beneath the duvet.

 

Felix wished he could believe him.





VLives were one of Felix’s favorite things about being an idol. He loved knowing that across the world Stays were tuning in to watch. Felix hoped that their VLives brightened the day of even just one person. But with VLiving came the challenge of squeezing all nine members into the couch. Undoubtedly, fitting 9 grown (or almost grown) men into any relatively small place would be a challenge; but fitting onto a three-person couch was like playing human Tetris.

 

“Felix, can you move? You’re crushing me,” Jeongin groaned.

 

“Brat, you move,” Felix replied good naturedly, as he scooted the other direction.

 

“Now you’re crushing me!” Seungmin cried playfully, pushing on Felix’s shoulder.

 

“God, shut up! Play sardines or something so we can actually start the VLive,” Minho huffed, rolling his eyes.

 

Felix hunched self consciously into himself, but no matter how small he made himself, he still felt too big. He knew that Seungmin and Jeongin were just joking, but a small part of him wondered, Am I really that heavy?

 

Once Minho pressed record, Felix put on a blank mask. As their recording progressed, Felix still felt like he was taking up too much space. Every comment and quip he made fell flat, he wasn’t charismatic even in the slightest. He felt undeserving of every inch he occupied on the couch. The lights were too bright and his bandmates’ voices made Felix’s head throb. He wondered if it was his concussion affecting him.

 

“My head is bothering me,” Felix whispered to Chan, whose eyes widened in concern as he simply nodded.

 

“Anyway, thank you, Stays! We are so grateful for all of your love and support for our debut, we will work even harder!” Chan glanced the other members to make sure that they realized the VLive was ending, “We’ll be going soon.”

 

“Bye!” All nine boys chimed in.

 

As soon as he was sure the camera was no longer recording, Felix slouched forward and put his head in his hands. Jeongin rubbed his back soothingly, as Felix leaded into the younger a bit.

 

Don’t crush him, he thought bitterly, despite his discomfort.

 

“What’s wrong?” Woojin cooed gently.

 

Felix just groaned in response.

 

“His head is bothering him, probably from the lights and noise,” Chan explained for him.

 

“Right, his concussion,” Woojin nodded solemnly.

 

“Idiot, you should have told us sooner,” Changbin sighed, with an unmistakable tenderness in his voice.

 

“He should lay down somewhere dark and rest,” Chan looked at Changbin, “Can you help him to your room?”

 

“Of course,” Changbin nodded.

 

Felix put an arm over Changbin’s shoulders, who supported him with a firm arm around Felix’s waist. Together, they began to walk slowly to their room.

 

“You’ve gotten so skinny,” Changbin frowned as his hand brushed against Felix’s ribs.

 

“What are you talking about?” Felix scoffed disbelievingly.

 

Felix gently lowered himself into Changbin’s bottom bunk. It would have been much too dangerous for Felix to try to climb to his top bunk considering his dizziness. Felix snuggled into Changbin’s blankets; they smelled like him.

 

“Hold on, I’m going to bring you water and a snack. Be right back,” Changbin dimmed the lights as he left the room.

 

The dorm was unusually quiet as the others didn’t want to disturb Felix, and worsen his condition. His eyes were closed but he knew Changbin was back before he even said anything by the soft shuffle of socks against the floor, as Changbin hummed some unknown melody (perhaps a future song).

 

“Here, I have a water and a yogurt, why don’t you sit up and try to have some.” Changbin nudged Felix slightly.

 

“No,” Felix grumbled.

 

“What do you mean no ? Do you want crackers? Or how about—”

 

“I’m not hungry,” Felix interrupted him, and put his arms over his head.

 

“C’mon, how about crackers? Have something, maybe you’ll feel better?”

 

Felix ignored him.

 

After a few minutes, Felix fell asleep, and his  breathing evened out to soft huffs through his nose.

 

“I’m scared for you, sometimes,” Changbin whispered to Felix’s small sleeping form, as he climbed into the bed next to Felix.

 

Chapter Text

Felix groaned softly as he rolled out of Changbin’s bed. It was still in the early hours of the morning, but it wasn’t a particularly busy day either, so Felix knew no one would be up before noon.

 

He stumbled into the bathroom, and shut the door behind him. It was pitch black in the windowless room, but Felix didn’t feel compelled to turn on the lights. The darkness surrounded him and he could almost forget he existed; he felt at peace. Shaking himself out of his stupor, he flicked the lights on and squinted into their harsh white glare.

 

He stared pensively at the glass scale situated in front of the shower. The last time he had weighed himself was in one of the last few months before he left Australia; he was just curious. Since his childhood, his weight had gradually increased to a seemingly set point of a healthy 60 kilos in his teenage years, but fluctuated between 55 and 65 kilos. Indeed he had stepped on a scale since arriving in Korea, but it was only for agency-mandated ‘checkups,’ so he had never paid attention to the number.

 

As he stepped onto the scale, Felix supposed that it couldn’t be a bad thing just to check. After all, Chan weighed himself nearly everyday, since he was trying to bulk up, and was one of the healthiest, happiest people Felix knew. Felix focused on the grounding sensation of the cool tiles beneath the soles of his bare feet, and tried to ignore that he was almost afraid of knowing his weight. Finally, he managed the courage to step onto the scale.

 

Boxy black numbers danced around on the scale’s small display before finally settling on a number. The scale read 50 kilos. The amount was a bit less than his lower end of normal, but not ridiculous, he had always been on the thinner side of average anyway.

 

Felix felt oddly disappointed. He knew he was slim, but it was still more than he had expected. Even though he knew it was impossible, a small part of him had hoped for the scale to show nothing. He supposed it could be worse, but he regretted stepping in the scale in the first place. It annoyed him that his weight bothered him. For most of his life, his weight had just been a meaningless number, never something of value in his life. He knew it was silly that he was letting an arbitrary value affect him.

 

So what? The rational part of his brain asked. But he still stared at the scale in dismay.

 

He ignored that voice and turned toward the mirror. His face looked sallow and gaunt, and he grimaced, running his fingertips over the dark circles beneath his eyes. Had he always looked that bad?

 

Next, he lifted up his shirt, and turned sideways. He wrinkled his nose as he scrutinized his appearance; he could see the outline of his ribs, but there was still a bit of pudge clinging to his midsection unattractively. Somehow, he looked uglier and heavier after weighing himself. He wondered if he had just been blind to it before, and if knowing his weight was making his flaws reveal themselves to him. Regret made his stomach clench, as he realized how stupid he had been to reject Chan’s invitations to go to the gym together. He wondered if he should start taking vitamins like Hyunjin, if he was going to have an unattractive body, at least his skin could be glowing.

 

Felix struggled to tear his eyes away from his reflection, but he finally did, and stumbled back to bed, where Changbin was still sleeping peacefully. Felix slipped under the covers and Changbin unconsciously wrapped his arms around Felix’s middle, pulling him closer. Despite Changbin’s reassuring warmth, a numbing, emotionless sensation was starting to permeate Felix’s mind. He wondered if he was still asleep somehow, and if this uncomfortable, out of body feeling was just a strange dream. But he knew with certainty that this wasn’t something he could just wake up from, as he was already fully conscious. He snuggled impossibly closer to Changbin, and hid his face in the crook of Changbin’s neck. Felix prayed to wake up from his deadened reality.

 


 

Most people think that sadness is the heaviest feeling that they will ever come to know, but there is absolutely nothing heavier than the weightlessness of emptiness bearing down on the soul.

 

Nicole Moon


 

Several hours passed by the time Felix woke up again. He heard chattered conversation coming from the kitchen, Jeongin’s chirpy voice mixed with Hyunjin’s softer one, while Seungmin’s sang softly, pleasant tones lilting gently through bedroom doorways. They were probably getting ready for school, and would be going in a matter of minutes. Felix thought about getting up, and sending them on their way, but the bright sunlight cut through the blinds and his head throbbed in protest, so instead he pulled the covers over his face completely.

 

Changbin rolled onto Felix, and Felix had the breath knocked out of him. Not because Changbin was heavy, but because Felix could feel sturdy muscles shift beneath Changbin’s soft cotton t-shirt.

 

“So bony,” Changbin groaned, as he begrudgingly rolled off of Felix.

 

Felix felt himself flush with pride, but quickly recovered, his midsection was soft and mostly covered in pudge, Changbin must have been mistaken.

 

“So heavy,” Felix teased back, pushing his depressing thoughts to the back of his mind for later.

 

Changbin just smiled sweetly, as Felix grabbed the water bottle that had been sitting on the floor since the night before. Felix carefully unscrewed the bottle and took a swig.

 

“Felix, what are we?” Changbin asked bluntly.

 

Felix inhaled sharply, and immediately started to choke on the water he was drinking.

 

“Wait—shit, don’t drown on me,” Changbin started to hit Felix on his back aggressively.

 

“What—,” Felix barely managed to choke out between coughs.

 

“Y’know, we cuddle and shit, so like, are we a thing ? Can we be a thing?”

 

“God, you’re such dork,” Felix huffed a laugh under his breath, still half choking.

 

“So is that a yes? No pressure though, I just—”

 

“This has to be the worst confession ever,” Felix cut off Changbin before he could start rambling.

 

Felix rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help the flush that rose to the tops of his cheeks, “Are you asking me to be your boyfriend?”

 

“I mean, yeah,” Changbin scratched the back of his neck. “I guess in hindsight I could’ve chosen a better time to ask.”

 

“I’ll be your boyfriend Changbin,” Felix smiled tenderly. “I mean, we already were sort of dating anyway. Now we just have a new label for something old.”

 

“You’re right,” Changbin trailed off, a happy glimmer in his eyes.

 

“Stop looking so content, it’s weird on you.”

 

“Okay, boyfriend,” Changbin smiled mischievously.

 

“Why are you mentally 12 years-old,” Felix groaned in fake exasperation, as he let himself be pulled back under the covers.

 

Like an octopus, Changbin wrapped his limbs around Felix, and the sheets became tangled between their legs. Felix was enjoying the warmth, until his stomach grumbled, its obtrusive sound ruining the intimate moment.

 

“Are you hungry? Let’s get up and eat then,” Changbin started to unwrap himself from Felix.

 

“No, wait.”

 

“What?”

 

Felix couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse to put off breakfast, so he sighed in defeat and climbed out of bed. He slipped on a white Champion hoodie over his sweatpants and t-shirt, then took Changbin’s hand. Together, they strolled into the living room, and were greeted by the sight of Chan sprawled on the couch, his head in Woojin’s lap.

 

“What do we have here?” Chan wiggled his eyebrows and smirked, blatantly jerking his head at the couple’s intertwined fingers.

 

“Shut up, you’re embarrassing them,” Woojin chuckled good naturedly, and carded his fingers through Chan’s messy hair.

 

“Hey, didn’t you just buy that hoodie, Felix?” Woojin glanced suspiciously at Felix.

 

“Yeah, why’s it so big?” Chan sat up.

 

“It must’ve stretched in the wash.” Felix hoped he didn’t look like as much of a liar as he felt.

 

“But things normally shrink in the wash, right?” Changbin chimed in unhelpfully.

 

Fuck, Felix internally cursed himself.

 

Minho walked into the living room, face puffy and seemingly just had gotten out of bed.

 

Minho furrowed his brow, “Is something burning?”

 

Shitshitshitshit—,” Chan scrambled off the couch and ran into the kitchen, Woojin trailing behind him.

 

Felix still felt on edge after having narrowly avoided confrontation. He’d have to be more careful, but for now, he thanked whichever supreme deity that was looking out for him.

 

“Let’s go see what he did,” Changbin urged Felix forward.

 

“Chan, tell me, how do you burn rice? It’s rice, for goodness sake!” Woojin scolded Chan, disbelief pervading his tone.

 

“I forgot,” Chan admitted sheepishly.

 

“You forgot? Oh my god, how in the world—,”

 

While the others bickered, or just enjoyed the spectacle, Felix snuck over to the front door and slipped on his sneakers and tennis jacket.

 

“I’m going out,” He called over his shoulder, but the others were too preoccupied with trying to salvage their breakfast to notice.

The door slammed behind him and the sound echoed down the empty hallway. Felix’s limbs felt heavy, and his mind felt foggy, but he pushed himself forward, his gym key jingled in tandem with each step he took.

Chapter Text

In the corner of the gym’s locker room, Felix curled up into a fetal position, as his stomach cramped and his heart palpitated. He was shaking violently, and wondered if this is how he would die.

 

Felix had been feeling off all morning, but had ignored it. While he ran relentlessly on the treadmill, his vision became dark around the edges, but he pushed through it. As an idol, his priority was to look good and please his fans, his health came secondary. He knew that he wasn’t the best singer, rapper, or even dancer in the group, so he couldn’t afford to look less than perfect since his talent would not be able to compensate.

 

Once the shaking passed, he pushed himself up from the floor. Felix was not going to die, he was just being dramatic. It took him almost a minute to remember his locker combination, and once he did, he realized he had already taken his belongings out. He felt strangely slow, as if he were wading through a pool of syrup.

 

“Hi, Felix!” A cheerful voice snapped him out of his stupor. Felix closed his locker, and saw Jisung holding a yoga mat and a water bottle.

 

“Hey, Jisung. Since when do you do yoga?”

 

Jisung chuckled, “Today’s actually my first day. I noticed my flexibility isn’t as good as it used to be, and Minho loves it when I’m flexible.”

 

“Okay, shut up! I’ve heard enough!”

 

“Care to join me?” Jisung winked.

 

“Thanks anyway, but I was actually on my way out when you got here.”

 

Felix started to walk past Jisung, but stumbled as he began to shake again. Jisung caught him by his arm, the playful atmosphere ruined.

 

“Wait, dude. You look like you’re about to pass out.”

 

Jisung rummaged through his bag and pulled out a protein bar, “Here, eat it.”

 

“It’s nothing, my head is probably acting up because I got a concussion last month. I’ll eat back at the dorm.”

 

Felix couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten. Was it yesterday’s lunch? Or the day before?

 

“No, you should still have something just in case. I don’t want you to faint on the street.”

 

“Fine.”

 

Felix snatched the bar from Jisung’s hand and tore off the wrapper. He bit into its chocolate coating and chewed mechanically. It tasted like sawdust on his tongue.  The white nutrition label was stark against the darker packaging.

 

At first he wanted to cry, all of his hard work was ruined.

 

But then, despair heeded to anger.

 

“I’m not a kid, you can’t tell me what to do.”

 

“What?” Jisung looked absolutely dumbfounded, “Relax, it’s not a big deal.”

 

“Shut the fuck up.”

 

Felix didn’t expect Jisung to react just as harshly.

 

“How dare you, Felix. I’m your friend and I care about you, don’t talk to me like that.”

 

“I’ll play nice if you stop doing things to belittle me.”

 

“Since when have I tried to belittle you? Where is this even coming from? I swear you’re just making shit up at this point!” Jisung ran a hand through his hair, exasperated.  “All I did was give you a protein bar because I care about you! The others might be oblivious, but don’t think I haven’t noticed what the fuck you’re doing. You don’t eat!”

 

“It may not be the healthiest way, but It fucking works. Stop acting like you give a shit,” Felix bumped his shoulder against Jisung aggressively as he approached the door.

 

Jisung scoffed, “Fine. See if I care when you faint and crack your head open on the sidewalk.”

 

“Hope I do!” Felix replied snarkily over his shoulder, finally leaving the locker room.

 

Felix’s anger dissipated as soon as the gym’s glass door swung shut behind him, a shocking numbness in its place. He knew he was being an asshole, so he almost ran back in to apologize, but his pride stopped him.

 

Sweat was beading on his brow by the time he had walked back to the dorm. He tried to catch his breath in the elevator. Had the walk always been that hard?

 

Felix paused in front of the door, hand hovering nervously above the handle. Preparing himself for confrontation, he opened the front door. No one was there. He breathed a sigh of relief and toed off his shoes.

 

Felix walked past the kitchen to his room, and his stomach grumbled in protest. Instead of eating, he changed into loose sweats and snuggled beneath his covers. An indeterminate amount of time passed, and Felix was growing impatient. Despite it still being the afternoon, he was exhausted. But he couldn’t sleep.

 

Groaning, he got out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom. He examined the labels of bottles in the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. The names of medicines in Hangul blurred together to an indecipherable mess. Finally, amongst the sea of unfamiliar words he found what he was looking for: Chan’s sleeping pills. They had a pretty name, Lunesta. They were also a lovely baby blue.

 

Felix’s hand trembled as he shook a few pills into his palm. He felt guilty for taking Chan’s pills without asking, but he hoped the other wouldn’t mind. After all, Chan rarely took them and probably wouldn't notice if any were gone.

 

Felix swallowed the pills dry, and returned to his bed. Within a few minutes he started to feel lighter. Since he didn’t have a schedule later that day, he allowed himself to succumb to sleep’s tendrils and be pulled into a dreamless slumber.

 

It was dark outside his window when Felix woke up, but he could hear conversation coming from the living room. He checked his phone. It was almost midnight. He realized he had slept for almost ten hours. How had he not heard anyone come in?

 

Felix noticed he had multiple new notifications, and opened the most recent one: a text from Chan.




Chan

 

Come to the living room when you wake up.




Felix had a feeling that he was going to get lectured for his squabble with Jisung. So be it. He already felt like the biggest jerk in Korea, might as well rehash it.

 

Slipping on a pair of fuzzy socks, Felix silently padded into the living room. To his chagrin, conversation halted as soon as his presence was noticed. It was so obvious that they had been talking about him. The other members bid goodbye and escaped to their rooms, leaving Felix and Chan alone.

 

“Felix, I’d like to discuss something with you,” Chan tried to smile as he patted the couch cushion next to him, but he sounded grim.

 

Felix could almost hear his mom chiding him, “You cause nothing but trouble, Felix.”

 

“If this is about Jisung, I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again.” Felix stared at his feet.

 

“Jisung? What are you talking about?” Chan sighed, “Just sit down.”

 

“Why does this feel like an intervention?” Felix joked, trying to lighten the mood.

 

Chan didn’t laugh.

 

“Recently, some of us noticed that you haven’t seemed like yourself,” Chan began, placing a hand on Felix’s knee. “We’re here for you, if you want to talk.”

 

“It’s nothing, I’ve just been tired recently. Don’t worry about me,” Felix tried to smile, “I’m fine, really.”

 

“I’m not going to play cat and mouse with you Felix, you’ve lost so much weight and I never see you eat anymore.”

 

“I eat plenty, and I can take care of myself, Chan. Stop worrying about me. ” Felix replied defensively.

 

“How can I not? You’re shrinking to nothing right in front of us!”

 

“You’re deluding yourself.” Felix laughed humorlessly.

 

“Why can’t we just have a conversation about this?”

 

“Because there’s nothing to talk about!” Felix exclaimed, voice shrill. “I’m leaving, this isn’t worth my time.”

 

“Fine.”

 

Felix stormed into the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind him. Angrily, he threw his clothes onto the floor and stepped into the shower. But for all he tried, he couldn’t stay mad at Chan. Felix knew that he had been an asshole, but by apologizing he’d be admitting that he had a problem. Felix didn’t have a problem.

 

Felix started to cry. He hated himself for being so mean to his friends. In middle school, when he had gotten into a petty fight with another boy, his mom had punished him accordingly. She didn’t feed him for three days following the incident.

 

You don’t deserve it, she had said when he sat at the dinner table with nothing in front of him.

 

This is what you get for misbehaving, she reminded him as his small frame was tormented by sharp hunger pains.

 

Wrapping himself in a towel, he turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. The shiny porcelain toilet called for him.

 

This is what you get, a sinister voice in his mind crooned as he kneeled in front of the toilet, and shoved a finger into his mouth. He choked, but persisted. To his sick delight, amongst water, blood, and bile, he noticed a bit of brown that must’ve been the bite of the protein bar he had eaten.

 

Before leaving the bathroom, he stepped onto the scale for the second time that day.

 

49 kg.

 

A morbid thrill sent shivers down his spine. How lovely.

Chapter Text

Frantically, Felix rummaged through his closet. Every pair of jeans he tried on slipped off of his frame like water on an oil slicked rock. For the most part, Felix was able to get away with oversized clothing, since it was a huge trend in Korea, but his clothes were starting to look plainly ridiculous on him! Even compression leggings barely clung to his hip bones. 

 

It made him feel sick.

 

Finally, he understood how hideously fat he must’ve been before. Such obscenely large clothes had fit him perfectly. The mere thought was absolutely repulsive.

 

The way fabric hung from his body felt like success. He still had a long way to go, but he was fueled with hysterical determination.

 

“Felix, are you ready? We have to go!” Jeongin knocked on the door, but intrusively poked his head in.

 

Felix scrambled to hide his body from Jeongin, swiftly shoving his legs into drawstring pants. 

 

“Yeah, I’ll be right out!” Felix tried to sound excited, but his tone had an underlying strained cadence.

 

Jeongin simply smiled at him in reply, but the glint in his eyes seemed sad and mournful. Dutifully, Felix followed Jeongin to the company car.

 

Felix sat in the last available seat, which was next to Jisung, so he braced himself to be ignored, if not yelled at by the other—he knew he deserved it after how he had treated his friend at the gym. Instead, Jisung spared him a pitying glance and a gentle pat on his knee. He felt like a little child being comforted after throwing a tantrum. It was much worse than the harsh words and icy glares of an argument.

 

Felix had never felt more alone. As he stole quick, sneaky glances at his bandmates' faces, he noticed they all shared a similar morose look, and averted their eyes every time Felix caught them obviously staring. An uncomfortable air settled over them like a thick blanket of snow. It was as if they all knew something that Felix did not. Even surrounded by his closest friends—arguably family—he felt like a stranger. A lonesome black sheep amongst a field of white woolen creatures. 

 

When they arrived outside of the company building, Seungmin was the first to scramble out of the van, followed by Chan and then the rest of the members. Felix was the last person to rise from his seat, and stumbled as he stepped onto the sidewalk. Fortunately, Changbin caught him before he could collide with the cement.

 

Changbin gasped softly as he wrapped one hand around Felix’s upper arm and the other snaked around his torso. The fabric of Felix’s clothes sunk beneath Changbin’s grip and his fingers encircled Felix’s arm completely. 

 

“Felix.” Changbin breathed sadly.

 

“What?” Felix bristled.

 

“You’re nothing but skin and bones.”

 

“No, I’m not.” Felix shrugged off Changbin’s worried hands.

 

“We’re supposed to be boyfriends. You’re supposed to talk to me!” Changbin sounded close to tears.

 

“I’ll talk to you if you have something important to say!” Felix snarled and stomped into the company building. 

 

Changbin stared in horror and disbelief, and wondered where the young man he used to know had gone.

 


 

After a brief dance practice as a group, they broke up into smaller units: 3RACHA went to have a meeting with JYP producers, while Woojin, Jeongin, and Seungmin met with their respective vocal coaches. The dance line remained in the studio, Hyunjin turned on hip-hop music with deep bass that reverberated against the mirrored walls, and looked at Felix expectantly. Felix smiled and nodded, beginning the routine he had choreographed.

 

When Felix danced, he was fearless. He could look in the mirror and without picking apart every flaw in his appearance. Calories and kilograms were temporarily forgotten as he focused on the sharp lines and power of each move. Sweat beaded on his temple, but exhilaration kept him upright and he continued to obey the music.

 

By the time dance practice ended, all three boys had collapsed in heaps of exhaustion on the floor. They had arrived at noon, and it was nearing the early hours of the evening. Minho groaned as his phone buzzed in his back pocket, but lazily pulled it out and examined the notification.

 

“Chan says that the rest of the band will be getting dinner soon in the JYP cafeteria, if we want to meet them, or we can order something for delivery.” 

 

“You can meet them if you want, but I’m not moving. I vote for takeout.” Hyunjin mumbled from his spot on the floor.

 

“That good with you, Felix?” Minho asked.

 

“Yeah, sure.” Felix ignored the feeling of dread churning in his gut.

 

“Takeout it is. I’m thinking fried chicken.” Minho dialed the restaurant’s number, after Hyunjin flashed him a thumbs-up.

 

Felix’s throat was dry, and his tongue was awkward in his mouth. He felt trapped.

 

A few minutes of silence and labored breathing passed, before a soft knock on the door alerted them of the food’s arrival. Minho stood and sauntered over to the door and opened it. He fished out a clump of crumpled won bills from his pocket, and accepted the aromatic plastic bag. 

 

The three boys sat cross legged as they gathered around the food. A steaming box of greasy, breaded meat was handed to Felix. Of course, it looked and smelled incredible, and Felix’s stomach grumbled loudly. 

 

“Wow, you must be hungry.” Minho commented, raising an eyebrow at Felix.

 

“Not really.” Felix lied, and avoided eye contact. Reluctantly, he picked up his chopsticks and brought a cube of pickled radish to his mouth. Side dishes he could deal with, but just the thought of the fatty oil that the chicken was fried in made him feel nearly sick. 

 

He pushed the chicken around with his chopsticks, and watched as the grease darkened its cardboard box. 

 

“Why aren’t you eating Felix?” Hyunjin stared pointedly at Felix’s untouched meal. 

 

“I had a big lunch.” 

 

“Are you sure?” Minho leaned set down his chopsticks, and leaned forward. “I don’t believe you. Chan asked me to make sure you ate.”

 

“Fucking hell.” Felix stood up angrily. “Everyone always belittles me and treats me like a kid that needs to be taken care of. I’m going home.”

 

“That’s because you can’t seem to take care of yourself!”

 

“Wait—hey!” Hyunjin called out as Felix left the room, but was only met with the slam of the studio’s door.

 

Sighing, Minho picked up his phone.

 

“Chan? Hey. Felix just left, he says he’s going home.”

 

“Did he eat?” Chan asked hopefully from the other end of the line.

 

“No, and he’s mad. What are we going to do Chan? Why won’t he let us help him?” Minho asked desperately.

 


 

Aggressively, Felix unlocked the door and walked inside the dorm, the door rattling on its hinges as he kicked it shut. Not bothering to take off his shoes, he entered the kitchen.

 

He was furious, on the verge of tears, but also on the verge of a violent binge. Felix’s mind attempted to reason with his body, but rationale was lost on visceral hunger. 

 

“If they want me to eat, I’ll fucking eat.” Felix grumbled to himself as he rummaged through the cabinets. Vindictively, as he threw packets of chips on the floor, and squished slices of bread in his fists so that the food looked grossly inedible.

 

After an entire pack of Oreos and half a jar of peanut butter, Felix found himself arm deep in a box of Cheerios, and overcome with disgust and regret. He didn’t even like Cheerios, but he continued to bring fistfuls of cereal to his mouth. 

 

Felix had never felt so out of control. As he shoveled cold rice into his mouth his mind was blank with fear. Had he been even somewhat coherent, he might have appreciated the irony of it all; his need for control ultimately resulting in the complete loss of it. 

 

Finally, Felix managed to stop eating, and rested his forehead against the cool marble of the counter. Nausea was creeping up the back of his throat; it wouldn’t be hard to purge.

 

Felix walked into the bathroom and shed his clothes. He avoided the mirror, afraid of what he’d see. Then, he stepped into the shower, and turned on the spray. 

 

The food came up easily, splattering around the drain below. His teeth scraped against his knuckles but the pain grounded him.

 

He thought of what his friends would think of him if they saw him like that. He thought of his parents, and choked around his fingers as he sobbed. 

 

Felix continued to prod at the back of his throat, until all that came up was bright yellow bile. It burned, he deserved the pain.

 

It wasn’t enough. 

 

Felix forced his fingers deeper than he had ever dared to before, purposefully scraping at the back of his throat. Pain, unlike he had ever felt before, overtook him and he collapsed against the tiled floor. Weakly, he coughed. Bile tinged dark red with blood dribbled from his mouth. Sharp, daggers of agony in his chest and abdomen wracked through his feeble body as his vision grew dark. The water still sprayed against him, but he hardly noticed it, as he succumbed to the tendrils of darkness. 

 

Deliriously, he wondered if he was dying.

 


 

“Please, answer.” Changbin pleaded as he was met with the robotic voice that indicated his call would be sent to voicemail. It was the seventh time Changbin had called Felix without response. 

 

Even though Changbin knew that Felix was probably just angrily ignoring him, he couldn’t shake the sense of doom that something was wrong.

 

The group had gathered in the studio again after dinner, and was rehearsing together, while Changbin paced in the hallway anxiously. 

 

“Are you okay?” Woojin asked, as he and Chan stepped into the hallway, and shut the door behind themselves.

 

“Yeah, just worried about Felix. Even though it’s probably fine.” Changbin hung his head wearly.

 

“Go check on him, then. You’ll be too distracted to practice, anyway.” Woojin patted his shoulder, in an attempt to console him.

 

“I’ll go with you.” Chan decided. 

 

“Great, I’ll call for a car to take us.” Changbin unlocked his phone for what felt like the umpteenth time.

 

“Don’t wait for us.” Chan told Woojin, and pressed a tender kiss to the other’s cheek, before jogging after Changbin.

 

The car ride was tense, as Changbin restlessly bounced his leg, while Chan futilely attempted to make conversation. Changbin was inconsolable with worry, which was starting to put a strain on Chan, too.

 

“Finally.” Changbin muttered, as he got out of the car and nearly sprinted to the building’s front door, Chan trailing on his heels.

 

They bypassed the elevator in favor of the stairs, which they took two at a time. Chan fumbled with his keys, but soon managed to jam them in the metal fixture and unlocked the door. 

 

The only light in the apartment emanated from the kitchen and bathroom doorways. Hesitantly, Changbin poked his head into the kitchen. Cabinet doors were carelessly left open, and food was scattered across every available surface. Everything about the room before him seemed to be in chaotic disarray.

 

“Chan, get over here!” Changbin choked out.

 

“Oh god.” Chan’s voice was tearful.

 

They scrambled to rush to the bathroom. The open door revealed Felix’s pale, skeletal frame lying in a pool of his own vomit. Dried blood was caked around his mouth, while red-tinged saliva still dribbled from cracked lips. Felix’s cheeks—that were once robustly flushed with life—were now gray and hollowed, streaked with fallen tears.

 

“Call a fucking ambulance!” Changbin cried and rushed forward. 

 

Changbin gently pulled Felix from the water and wrapped him in a fluffy, white towel, trying to ignore how light Felix felt as he lifted him. He cradled the boy’s emaciated frame to his chest, and sat down next to the toilet. Even through the thick towel, Changbin could count each of Felix’s ribs. In Felix’s matted hair, Changbin tried to muffle his sobs, while Chan urgently barked out their location into the receiver.