Taemin took off the messy wrapping he had put together earlier that day. His eyes stayed fixed on what was inside as his mind fell into nothingness. The connection between his hands and the roasted flesh happened in no time only to be sealed by the approval of his mouth. He moaned despite him at the invading taste he had fantasized on over and over again as he had made his way home and had sat through the others chatting session. He had found himself exhausted of his day, but not so much that he couldn't wake up for a late night treat. This was the moment he had longed for, the moment he found himself more and more in as time went by. It didn't even surprise him that he was standing in the same spot right now than he had a few days ago; he was past fighting it. He bit again into the meat, teeth gnawing a little at the harder parts, ripping strand after strand after strand of that whole pile before him, until it was completely gone. His chest heaved as he finally caught his breath. It had only been a matter of seconds he realized as he saw the time hadn't changed. But he didn't feel like it was over. His appetite sent the signal that he was in need of more. He tiptoed to the refrigerator and buried his head inside as he opened it wide. There was much of everything that could regularly be found in there and that wasn't good. His eyes screened the whole picture several times, trying to pick out what would soothe him first. He instinctively reached for the milk and started gulping it down. Halfway through he stopped, a hiccup leaving his lips as he did so, before he started again not minding the white lines running along his neck as he was trying to take in more than his mouth could contain. His breathing became heavy again as he put the carton down and looked back inside. His eyes then caught the rest of lasagna that Jinki had brought back home the night before and soon he was digging into it, fork rapidly found to make his task easier. He hummed in content as the cold softness rolled over his taste buds, the cheesy flavour sending him further into his frenzy. That too was over too soon. He needed something else... something sugary this time. He opened the freezer and bit his lip as he saw the ice cream pop up into view. He took the container out only to see how doomed he was. It was mint chocolate chip ice cream. His favourite. But before guilt could reach him, he had already blocked it out with the burning cold the first scoop sent to his brain. No thoughts could be thought; only pleasant numbness remained. He planted the spoon he had taken out right before again into the green block of sweetness and let himself indulge some more. He felt his legs shake the more he kept at it to the point of bringing him to the ground, legs folded and his upper half bent slightly towards the ground. He was almost there, he could feel it, only one more spoon, or maybe two...
His heart jumped as he suddenly saw feet not far from him. He looked up instantly and froze as he saw Jonghyun standing there, confusion and shock plastered on his face. Taemin immediately dropped the spoon, only to wrap his arms around himself. This wasn't happening. It just couldn't. He shied away from his gaze, trying to pretend like nothing had been uncovered, like he hadn't been found. Somehow, he managed to get up and started placing the empty containers he had rummaged through in a pile before going to the pantry to take out a plastic bag. But as his hand took a hold of it, he was stopped by another hold. Another hand was squeezing his forearm bringing him to completely halt.
'Taem...' Jonghyun voiced carefully. His eyes were searching, but he got no response.
'Tae...' the older one reiterated in a more assured tone as he turned the other towards him. He finally found his eyes, but shivered as he was hit by the emptiness lodged in there. He shook him lightly, trying to get him back with him.
'I hear you,' Taemin finally signified, looking at him but not really seeing him.
'What's going on?' Jonghyun instantly inquired, his panic showing through.
'Nothing's going on,' the younger one responded mechanically as he tried to move again, but was held into place.
'What were you doing, Tae?' the other persisted, although keeping his voice gentle.
'I'm going to bed now,' Taemin dodged as he took a step back.
Jonghyun took his hand in his. 'Okay, I'll walk you there.'
Taemin retrieved his limb sharply. 'What the ? It's right over there,' he snapped as he felt mocked.
'I know pretty damn well, but if you're not going to tell me anything I need to be reassured somehow,' Jonghyun laid out as he attempted to create contact again.
'There's nothing to be worried about,' Taemin insisted, not taking his hand away this time.
'So you weren't emptying our refrigerator just now?' Jonghyun dared.
Taemin knew how stupid he'd sound if he blatantly denied what the other had just witnessed, but he couldn't acknowledge it to be true either.
'Is this the first time?' Jonghyun sought calmly.
Taemin blinked a few times, taken aback by questions he couldn't hide from. He shook his head from side to side, feeling his disgust towards himself seize him at the throat.
'I need to hear it, Tae. What were you doing?' Jonghyun tried again.
The younger one looked down, his throat heavy with words and feelings intertwined. The lump he couldn't swallow down like the food he just had grew bigger as his eyes started stinging. Images of his previous episodes came rushing and hit him with a pain that couldn't be subsided anymore. A tear fell along his cheek and another joined; soon, his face was stricken with his hidden weakness; his hidden battle.
And suddenly he was wrapped tightly into a strong embrace, making him instinctively bury his face into the crook of the smaller one's neck. He stayed there for a while, just crying and breathing hard between sobs, trying to catch himself but never quite being able to.
Jonghyun didn't let go, instead helping him to reach calm by drawing circles on his back. Slowly, the agitation that he felt running through the other's body settled down and he pulled back.
'Come,' he said as he held his hand out. 'You should rest,' he finished as he saw that the other didn't move.
Taemin wiped the remnants of his sorrow off his face before allowing himself to meet his stare. 'I can't... You just saw me... I... this is bad, I...' He felt his heart rate quicken, anxiety hitting hard after peace had just barely invaded him.
'It doesn't matter, Tae,' Jonghyun uttered to reassure.
'Yes, it does,' he voiced in a much louder tone than he'd intended.
'It does...' he then repeated in a lower voice.
'Now you know how disgusting I am,' Taemin fully realized as he regained his senses.
Jonghyun's eyes widened in surprise. 'Why would I think you are?'
'You know damn well why. This... what you just saw... anyone would be disgusted by it...' He held himself again. 'I am too...'
Jonghyun stepped closer. 'I'm not. I'm just worried, Tae...' He sighed. 'It's just... I've never seen you so sad, heck I've never seen you cry like that...'
Taemin could feel the care in his core. The hoarseness that had tinged the other's voice shook him. 'I'm sorry, Jjong,' he let out to ease the despair he had passed on to his friend.
'No, I should be... I feel like I've failed... I...' The older one stopped. 'Have you talked about this to anyone before?'
'No,' Taemin replied instantly. 'I was never going to tell anyone...' He looked down. 'Who could understand...' he thought out loud.
'I can't say that I understand, but I want to.'
Taemin sighed. 'It's complicated.... I... I can't even explain it to myself.'
'What were you thinking right before?' Jonghyun asked.
The younger one cocked an eyebrow. 'What?'
'Right before you started eating... What was going through your mind?' he reformulated.
'I...' Taemin paused to think. 'I don't even know... I was... I was thinking about the food...' he admitted with uneasiness.
'And then what?' Jonghyun kept on.
Taemin felt his mind rushing this and there, looking for an answer that he could feel close.
'And that I'd feel all better after I... after I ate...'
'And if I hadn't walked in on you, would you have felt better?'
'Yeah... at first... but...' Taemin brought a hand up to massage his neck.
'But... the emptiness... it always comes back quickly,' he shared with a little more ease.
'Like what's the point to all this, huh?' Jonghyun guessed.
Taemin blinked. 'Exactly...'
'We all have our vices, Tae. And I probably shouldn't speak for the others, but we all have those thoughts... We've all gone to really dark places...' Jonghyun put out for thought.
'But you all... you are all strong. I just... I keep falling into this and it's getting worse...' Taemin confessed as he felt his chest tighten. He could feel the anger install itself as he could the tears coming again.
'If only you knew, Tae... It's hard to let some thoughts out, even to your family,' he said as he looked straight into his eyes.
'But all of us, we're still here. And I think what has kept us here is being together,' Jonghyun pointed out.
Taemin nodded lightly.
'You're our strength. We're all each other's strength.' He brought a hand to his cheek, caressing it softly.
'I'm here, Tae.'
The younger one's chin trembled. 'I know...' he croaked as he felt the cracks multiply.
'And whenever you feel it coming, that urge, come find me,' Jonghyun ordered.
Taemin retracted a little at that. 'You're not always going to be there.'
'I know, but it's a start. And with the promotions starting soon, we'll be around each other a lot so please... please Tae,' Jonghyun signified vehemently.
'Jjong, it won't just stop like that, I-'
'I'm not saying it will,' Jonghyun cut in. 'If you still have to... eat,' he chose, 'eat, but at least you'll have someone there. I'll be there,' he finished as his hand dropped and he locked eyes intently with him.
Taemin felt his chest squeeze again. But this time it was different.
'Okay,' he finally acknowledged.
Jonghyun closed in on the remaining distance left between them. He peered at the taller one, replacing locks of hair here and there.
'I'm glad I couldn't sleep,' he uttered, which made the other chuckle.
Jonghyun smiled as he caught the glimpse of light that usually illuminated the other's eyes.
'I am really tired now though,' he continued.
Taemin held out his hand this time.
'We both need rest.'