Pairing(s): broken and then reunited Hanchul
Warning: eating disorder
Summary: Heechul has more problems than he likes to admit
He’d always been seen as the strong one, the one who didn’t get emotional. He’d always been admired by the rest of the group for being able to get through even the toughest times without breaking a sweat. But even he could keep secrets in a group of 15, and it was almost too late before anyone realized anything was wrong.
He almost enjoyed his façade, and seeming almost like a girl, and acting almost insane simply because it was expected of him, and acting as though his biggest concern was whether or not his dongsaengs were respectful to him or not. But the others knew there was a deeper, more real side of him. There was proof in the way he took care of Donghae after his father died, or the way he kept his smile for the fans, even after an awful car accident, or the way he cried on stage because he was heartbroken that his best friend had left Super Junior.
But, one of his biggest mistakes was that when he needed people the most, that was when he pushed them away. It started with the stress of being an idol singer keeping him from getting enough sleep. He would stay awake for days, laying in his bed when he had time off, his beloved cats keeping him warm the way Hangeng used to. But he couldn’t sleep. Then, he started to have trouble breathing, especially when he danced. He would laugh it off and blame cigarettes, but inside, he was beginning to sense that something wasn’t right. He started to become nauseated, and couldn’t keep food down, so he would loose weight. And somewhere along the line, he noticed his heart had started to beat faster than normal, and it would hurt. Sometimes so bad that it would be all he could do not to cry.
But all this, he managed to hide from his coworkers and friends, because it was him, and he wasn’t supposed to be the weak one. Occasionally, he would slip up, slightly, and someone would notice that something was wrong, but he would shrug it off, and they would stop asking. If he was really sick, he’d say something, right?
Day after day, he kept pushing himself. He hated himself for being so weak, and he blamed himself for Hangeng leaving. No matter who was really at fault, he could always find the things he’d done to push the Chinese man away. So, he refused to eat. After his schedules were over, he would go to the gym and exercise. He would be there for hours, and then he’d have just enough time to shower and change before the next day’s schedule. He would cover dark circle with makeup, and no one noticed. It was only on rare days off that he would get any rest at all, because he couldn’t force himself to get out of bed. If he let himself slow down, his health problems would get to be too much, and he just couldn’t do it.
One morning, there was commotion in the dorms, and because it was a rare day off, and it was early, he got up to tell the others to knock it off so he could get his beauty sleep. He got about as far as the door before a wave of nausea hit him, and he slid down the wall to crouch until it passed, and he was forced to just go back and curl up in his bed. It was the first time that he was really scared that maybe it wasn’t just exhaustion and over work that was wrong with him.
His door opened, and someone peeked in cautiously. Whispers of, “He’s probably still sleeping. He’s been really tired looking lately,” reached him. He knew that if he tried to sit up just then, he’d get dizzy, and it seemed more important now than ever to make sure the rest of them didn’t worry about him. So, he kept his eyes shut, and pretended to be asleep. The door shut quietly, and, thinking he was alone, a tear slid down his cheek.
He sighed in resignation as he felt the bed dip with the weight of someone sitting on it.
It was the last voice on earth that he expected to hear, and his eyes flew open to see Hangeng’s concerned brown ones looking back at him. Concern turned to shock as Hangeng took in the dark circles, and pale skin and lips. Heechul sat up too quickly, and the expected nausea hit him, and Hangeng grabbed his shoulders gently, and said quietly, “No, it’s ok. Just rest.”
“Don’t look at me.” Heechul whispered, turning his head away, and trying to raise his blanket to cover his face.
“What happened to you?” Hangeng felt like screaming, but he matched his tone to Heechul’s. he reached out and gently stroked his Hyung’s soft cheek. Faced with the one person he knew he couldn’t hide from, Heechul said, “Please…don’t tell the others. It’d kill me if they found out.” Just then, a wave of pain from his heart hit him, and he curled over himself and tried to breathe.
Heechul was finally able to relax, and he said, “I’m fine…really. I promise.”
“No, you’re not, Hyung. Why can’t the others know? How long has this been going on? And how sick are you, really? I came back because the others are worried about you, and they think you’ll talk to me.”
Heechul pushed back his blankets and got up. “Well, I’m fine, so you can just go back to China.”
Suddenly, Hangeng was hugging him from behind. “Hyung, you made me stop hiding, so I’m going to do the same for you. I won’t stand around and watch you die. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that that isn’t what’s going to happen, because it will. Faster than you think.” He whispered into Heechul’s ear.
A slight tremor went through Heechul, and he turned around to face Hangeng. “I hardly helped you. Don’t make a saint out of a sinner. I forced you away, and whatever’s going on with me, I can handle because it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did when you left.”
“W-what…? Hyung, you can’t blame yourself for what happened.”
Heechul slumped forward suddenly, and if Hangeng hadn’t already been hugging him, he wouldn’t have caught him. He felt his shirt begin to get wet, and he held Heechul tighter, comforting him as he cried.
“Get some rest. You look just about ready to fall over.” Hangeng nudged Heechul back toward the bed, and picked up Heebum. “Hey, Heebummie. I missed you.”
“Hangeng…can you stay?” Heechul hated the way his voice sounded so weak and needy, but Hangeng’s face softened, and he nodded, and laid down next to Heechul, pulling his best friend close.
Heechul finally felt as though he could rest, and he closed his eyes, and slept better than he had in ages. Hangeng watched his Hyung’s pretty face finally growing peaceful, tracing the familiar features, and finally falling asleep. He’d flown immediately from Beijing when he’d gotten a call from Leeteuk saying that they needed him in Seoul, and he was tired.
Several hours later, Hangeng woke up. He wasn’t sure why, but something seemed wrong. At first, he thought it was Heebum, who seemed agitated, but he couldn’t explain it, but he was sure it was something else. He reached over to turn the light next to the bed on, and the room was lit with a pinkish glow. He looked down at Heechul who seemed to be still sleeping peacefully. He, shrugged, and turned back over to go back to sleep, but something still seemed wrong to him, and he put his hand on Heechul’s soft cheek, only to find it slightly too cold. Heechul‘s breathing was shallow, and that feeling kept nagging at him that everything wasn’t ok. He was torn between telling Leeteuk or a manager that something was wrong, and staying with Heechul and making sure nothing happened.
As he watched, though, Heechul’s body seemed to stiffen and curl up into its self the way it had earlier, and Heechuls breathing seemed more labored, and Hangeng found himself rubbing Heechul’s back in a weak effort to make him feel better. He was startled to find that Heechul’s heart was beating extremely quickly, and he knew that he had to so something to help his hyung, even if said hyung didn’t want it.
So, as much as he hated to, he slipped out of the room, and went to find Leeteuk.
He found all six of the other members who lived in that apartment sitting in the living room watching a movie. Cat calls and teasing were directed at him as they caught sight of him.
“Hannie, did you have fun as the boy toy?” Someone asked, snickering. But the banter died down quickly as they read the look on his face.
“Hangeng, what’s wrong?” Leeteuk asked, knowing that spending time with Heechul wouldn’t cause someone to look that anguished.
“He’s…really sick, Hyung.” Hangeng revealed slowly. “I mean, he looked like he hasn’t kept food down in weeks, and he’s way too pale, and his heart is…I don’t know…he doesn’t want help, but he needs it. He wants to be seen as strong, but I’m afraid he could…he could die. You have to do something.” He felt the tears in his eyes, but he wondered how the rest of them could have let this go for so long.
Heechul woke up alone, the space next to him on the bed was cool to the touch, and he was sure he’d been dreaming. Heebum was curled up on the empty side of the pillow, and he pulled the cat to him and stifled his cries because, he thought, it’d been a beautiful dream. He held his cat closer but more gently as the now-familiar waves of pain from his heart made his breath catch. As the pain died down, he gingerly got up. He walked over to his closet, and pulled on some clothes, and picked Heebum back up, and walked out of his room and into the kitchen, thinking he could maybe stomach some coffee.
The apartment was strangely empty, and he thought he’d overslept, but there was a note saying that the others who shared this apartment were either in the other one, or called in early, so he sipped at his coffee, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. The room started to swim, and he gripped the counter. He wouldn’t let them find him like this. He eventually made it to the living room and sank down on the couch, waiting for the nausea and dizziness to stop.
Later, he made it to the dance studios for the rehearsal, and the rest of them were already there. He felt their scrutiny, but shrugged it off. The rehearsal was long, and two hours into it, Heechul could hardly move. But he didn’t complain. The last think he needed was the rest of them worrying about him.
Finally, Ryeowook said to Leeteuk, “Hyung, can we take a break? I’m exhausted.” Leeteuk nodded, and glanced at Heechul. The second oldest sat down, breathing heavily. No one said anything, but everyone wanted to.
Ten minutes later, they were all ready to get back to work, and Eunhyuk was about to turn the music on when Heechul let out a sharp gasp, his hand massaging his chest over his heart, and bending over. He cursed himself for not being stronger, and he managed to get out of the rehearsal room, and into an empty practice room. He locked the door, backing away as people rattled and banged on it, telling him to open up. The room started to swim, and then his heart seemed like it was going to beat out of his chest. His legs gave out, and he collapsed on the dance floor.
It took them five minutes to pick the lock, and they finally opened the door. Leeteuk knelt over Heechul, who wasn’t breathing. He checked for a pulse, and at first he thought there wasn’t one, but then he found it. He started with CPR, and as each set failed, he grew more and more panicked.
“Come on, Heechul, breathe, damn it.”
Finally Heechul drew a gasping breath, and then another.
After what seemed like an eternity, the paramedics arrived. Leeteuk had kept his heart going, but Heechul hadn’t regained consciousness, and they wheeled him out on a stretcher like that.
It was late when Heechul finally woke up. He looked around the room, and had no idea where he was. Everything was white or metal, and he panicked. He’d shown weakness, he was alone, he didn’t know what was going on, and he was terrified to lose control. He flailed, trying to get free of the blankets, and as he yanked them away, he accidentally pulled out an IV. Just then, someone came in, and he didn’t know who it was, but he didn’t want anyone to see him like this. Whoever it was, was stronger than him, and pushed him back in the bed, and called for a nurse.
“Why the hell wasn’t he sedated longer?” Slightly accented Korean. Heechul looked wildly up at Hangeng, tears springing out of his eyes, but the Chinese man, although holding Heechul down, was glaring at the nurse. She ran to get the sedative, and Hangeng turned back to Heechul. “Shhh…hyung, it’s ok. We’re going to take good care of you.”
“You didn’t stay…” Heechul’s whispered accusation came, but before Hangeng could answer, the nurse was back, holding a syringe. Hangeng stepped back cautiously, and the nurse gave Heechul the shot, and left. Within moments, he started feeling tired, and Hangeng said, “Don’t fight it, Hyung. Just sleep”
Heechul’s last thought was, “I’m sorry…”
When Heechul finally woke up, it was morning. Hangeng was sitting in the chair next to the bed, asleep. There was a peacefulness in the room, not the scary, stark whiteness that it’d been the night before. Heechul looked around slowly, surprised when he realized that he didn’t feel nauseous. Come to think of it, he didn’t feel any of his usual aches or pains. He started to doze off again, and for once, he felt like he could without worrying about whether he was going to wake up in the middle of the night, not being able to breathe. He was sleeping lightly when he felt pressure on his hand. He woke up slowly. Hangeng was still asleep, but now, he had his head on the bed, and he’d instinctively grabbed Heechul’s hand. Heechul looked around the room again, and the nurse came in quietly. She saw that he was awake, but still she was quiet. She handed him a couple pills, and some water, and said, “You should try to eat something.” He nodded, and then thought about what kind of food the hospital had to offer. Seeing his expression, she laughed, and said, “Your friends brought food for the two of you.” She placed the food on the table, and then shook Hangeng awake gently. He woke up almost lazily, looking up at Heechul first thing, and smiling to see him so awake and well rested.
The nurse left them, and Hangeng helped Heechul to the table. The food was from Ryeowook and Sungmin, and it seemed like they’d decided to feed Heechul all the meals he’d missed in one setting. They ate slowly, and Heechul had never appreciated the taste of food so much. For the first time in what felt like forever, he wasn’t worried about how many calories he was eating, or how much he would have to exercise to counter it. His best friend was back, and didn’t blame him for pushing him away. Everything felt like it fit, and nothing could go wrong.
Heechul was in the hospital for about a month and a half, and during his stay, all the other members came to visit. It was remarkable how beneficial rest, good food, and your best friend were. SM was giving him as much time as he needed, and his contract was being put on hold, and he got to rest and recuperate with Hangeng with him the whole time.
It was finally time for him to go back to Super Junior. He felt stronger than he had in ages, and he thought he was ready. Hangeng helped him bring his stuff back to the dorm, opening doors like a real gentleman. Heebum and Bangshin were thrilled to see him, and he held them both close, cuddling and petting them. When he got to his room, though, he saw a brand new cat sitting on his bed with a big bow around it’s neck.
“I can’t stay, but I couldn’t jut leave without any reminder of myself. Take care of him, and in some ways, you’ll be taking care of me.” Hangeng said, picking up the cat and holding it out to Heechul. It was a Siamese, quite similar looking to Champagne. Heechul took the cat gently, and it started to purr, nuzzling up the Heechul’s neck.
“So, you have to go…?” He said, looking up at Hangeng, who nodded, and held his arms open. Heechul set the cat down, and folded himself into Hangeng’s strong arms.
“It’s ok, Heechul-ah. I’ll be around, and if you need me, you can always call, and I’ll be here.” Then his voice turned serious, and he said, “And Heechul, if you ever, ever feel like you need help, tell someone.”
Heechul nodded, and pressed himself closer.
Hangeng stroked his hair gently, and said, “Are you going to be alright?”
Heechul nodded again, and Hangeng pressed his lips to the other man’s hair, and then said, “Hyung, if I don’t do this now, I’ll regret it forever.” And he lifted Heechul’s face, and kissed him, gently, firmly.
And Heechul kissed him back.
Heechul never did relapse, because now he knew that he had the support of twelve brothers. He and Hangeng called each other every night, and they saw each other every week or so. Their feelings for each other were kept alive until Heechul’s contract ran out, and he resigned. And they were happy. They deserved it.