Title: (feeling) Half-Alive
Summary: Because that is his due – his penance for every wrong word he says and for every wrong thing he does.
Author's Note: Angst. Contains self-mutilation. Also, I'm a bit rusty so I apologise for any mistakes and the very rushed ending. I couldn't phrase it just right. :(
The first time it happened, it was truly an unintended accident.
He was on washing up duty in the kitchen and he had dropped the plate he was holding. It shattered into 3 pieces and a million or so shards, all over the kitchen floor before he could even blink. In a semi-shock state, he panicked and tried to sweep up the pieces – forgetting that his hands are not made of steel, forgetting that he has blood in him to bleed.
It was only when Hankyung shrieked at him to stop from the doorway did he realize there are splotches of red in between the shards of porcelain white. Oh he breathed when Hankyung lifted him by the armpits, set him down on the counter and hissed at the deep cut on the inside of his palm.
He had winced when Hankyung pulled out the remaining shards one by one with a tweezer. The blood had circled around his wrist and stained his denim jeans and their housekeeper had frowned at the blood-red splotches when she came to do the laundry the next morning.
He cannot remember exactly what happened after Hankyung cleaned the wound with antiseptic that made him hiss under his breath and then dressed it so professionally that he thinks his hyung must have been a doctor in a previous life.
The only thing that he can remember is the feel of the blood running through his fingers and how he has never before felt so inexplicably alive.
The cut on his palm healed not long after but the image of the crimson blossoms on the kitchen floor stayed with him for a long time afterwards.
And every time the image burns on the back of his eyelids, he remembers how he has never before felt so inexplicably alive.
The second time it happened, it was because of an unintended accident.
An unintended accident that almost crippled Super Junior – one that tugged the world they knew, out from under their feet.
He doesn’t remember the phone call on that night on the 19th of April. He doesn’t remember rushing to the hospital with his shirt half-unbuttoned or vomiting violently in the toilet when the doctor says He may not make it.
What he remembers though is Kyuhyun hanging to life by a thread and the sharp smell of antiseptic as he prays – begs – for Kyuhyun to live long enough for him to say I’m sorry. Because all that he can remember is cursing at Kyuhyun hours – a lifetime – before the accident and slamming his bedroom door in the magnae’s face for a reason that is so trivial, it is not even worth remembering.
The image of Kyuhyun pale, corpse-like and almost dead on his hospital bed and the guilt – the guilt wrapping itself around his ribs and choking him – became his reason. His reason to feel pain – to deserve to feel pain – because Kyuhyun is dying and the last thing he said was Fuck you, Cho Kyuhyun. Fuck you to hell.
And later when his skin peeled back and the blood circled around his wrist, he whispers I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry – all the while hoping that for every drop of his blood that hits the cold bathroom floor, God allows Kyuhyun another breath to take.
He only stops when the doctor says He’s fine now and later, much later, when Sungmin sees the intersected lines at the crook of his wrist and asks what happened, he lets the truth slip from his lips. An accident. When Sungmin shakes his head fondly you have to be more careful wookie-ah, he doesn’t tell Sungmin that he means a different kind of accident – the kind 2 weeks ago that almost, almost caused them to lose everything.
The third time and the fourth time and for all the times after that, no accident happened.
It was just him and the guilt and the voices in his head telling him it’s your fault your fault your fault every time Kyuhyun winced and clutched his side. The guilt that just gets stronger and stronger every time someone else gets hurt by what he said and what he doesn’t say, by what he does and doesn’t do.
And so he cuts himself once, twice, three times. Because that is his due – his penance for every wrong word he says and for every wrong thing he does.
Then it became harder and harder to fight it – to stop – and it got to a point where he can’t stop (won’t stop). Because it is more than a penance – it is an addiction and he needs it like how he needs oxygen to breathe. Because it helps him to feel real, to feel alive, to feel anything at all.
An accident. He says whenever he isn’t careful and somebody catches a glimpse of barely healed scars peeking out of his sleeve.
(An accident. He repeats to himself later, when he pulls back his own sleeve and sees the meshwork of lines that stop a palms’ length away from his elbow. )
And when they look at him and believe him, he locks himself in the bathroom and does it again and again and again. Because he has disappointed them, because he cannot stop disappointing them, because he cannot stop at all.
The _____ time it happened, an unintended accident almost happened.
At least, that is the official story management is going to tell the press – was going to tell the press – had he not been found in time.
This was no accident Heechul snaps when they took him home from the hospital and cornered him in the living room. Accidents are unintended. These Heechul grabs his arm and holds on tight until tears leak from the corners of his eyes are not unintended.
They strip his room of everything sharp – even his earrings and safety pins – and lock everything away in the bottom drawer of Eeteuk’s dresser. He doesn’t protest at first, that is until he feels the urge – the pressing need to feel the cold metal against his skin.
No Yesung tells him gently when he asks for his razor. (just once, please, I promise). No, enough accidents, Yesung yells when he grows desperate and begs, clutching at the hem of Yesung’s shirt. (please please please). And then Yesung is there to hold him when he sobs uncontrollably afterwards, his shoulders heaving and his breath coming out in strangled gasps.
The next morning, they gather in the living room and create a roster. Donghae prints it out in block letters and colour-coded – a different colour for every name. When he sees the end product next to the grocery list on the fridge, he thinks of a multi-coloured rainbow in 12 different colours and he wonders how everything slipped out of his control when he wasn’t looking.
And so every night, they take turns to cuddle up next to him and soothe him to sleep but there are more tears than actual sleep. Tears that are painful and liberating (he hasn’t cried in years) and endless, so much so that he thinks they would fill up a whole ocean if he bothers to collect them.
The next time it happens again, it is really, truly an unintended accident.
He was cooking dinner and chopping up the vegetables (he is past it enough to use a knife now) when the phone rings and he startled and the hand holding the knife slipped.
He drops the knife in surprise and it clatters to the floor noisily, just barely missing his feet. He cradles his injured hand and yells in the direction of the living room for someone to grab the first aid kit.
What happened Kibum asks casually even as his eyes grow wide at the red droplets staining the kitchen floor and he drops the first aid kit.
An accident. He says and Kibum nods and cleans the wound for him and dresses it with slightly trembling hands. When Kibum’s fingers linger for a second longer on the silver scars near his wrist, he smiles wide enough to show all his teeth and pretends that he cannot see how Kibum’s eyes are too bright and glassy.
An accident he says again when everyone else turns to him at dinner with barely concealed fear dancing in the pupils of their eyes.
I’m fine. It was an accident.
This is his first time saying it without lying through his teeth.