Up From A Deep End Dive

Trigger warning; mentions of self abuse in the form of disordered eating. Also frequent swearing, please read with caution. Title taken from Andrew McMahon's song, Learn To Dance, off of The Pop Underground EP. I don't own any people mentioned and these events are one hundred per cent fictional.
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Whilst on tour, Matt notices something different about Josh and is prepared to do what it takes to get things okay again.


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1. In A World Where There's No Tomorrow

It’s twenty minutes before the show, and Josh walks into the empty dressing room to find his outfit. He hasn’t worn it since the Ever After tour, and he smiles at the shiny red fabric. He slips out of the sweatpants he’s wearing and slides into the leather pants. He frowns lightly when he finds it an awful lot easier to get them on now than it was all those months ago. He strides over to the mirror and stares at his reflection. All he sees are creases and wrinkles in the fabric, and he checks again at the back of the tag to make sure that nobody’s switched them for a bigger size. No, they’re his own pants and they’re his regular size. He raises an eyebrow, but instead of thinking it over too much, he simply shrugs it off and continues to get ready for the show.

 

But of course, if the singer himself notices something’s different, then so do the thousands of fans who’re obsessed with his every move. They see the creases and wrinkles in the fabric; they’re not hard to miss with the flashing lights of the cameras reflecting off of them like crazy. When Josh returns in the sweatpants and loose t-shirt after a shower, he finds he has even more Twitter notifications buzzing through his phone than usual. And they’re almost all about the same thing. One fan’s even got a picture of Josh in the pants all the way back on the Ever After tour, and a picture from tonight as a comparison. He winces at the tiny screen, depicting the difference in size. There’s no denying it. He’s gotten smaller, a lot smaller, very quickly. And to the band and some of the more educated fans, this means one thing and one thing only. It was just a matter of time before someone properly confronted him face to face about it.

 

Josh sits in the dressing room alone for a little while, musing things over, before Matt enters the room. Josh looks up, sees who it is, and smiles feebly. Matt jerks a thumb in the direction of the door.

“You know we need to go do some signings for fans.” Matt reminds Josh, and the singer sighs, gets up from the couch and roots around in his duffle bag for a sharpie. Matt stays silent for a moment, before speaking up. “You know, I can hear what the fans are saying about you. And I’m not blind, Josh.”

Josh looks indignantly up at Matt, but doesn’t say anything. He continues to search for a pen or a marker or something so he can sign things with.

“Is everything… alright?” Matt asks, a little quieter than before.

Josh nods vigorously, perhaps a little too much. “Everything’s fine.”

“Josh, please don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not lying.” Somehow the singer is quick to respond, seemingly having an answer to things rather than making up some stupid excuse that is easily see-through and makes little sense.

Matt merely heaves a sigh. “And I’m not stupid. But we have to go talk to fans now.” Josh draws closer to Matt with intentions of following him. “But I’m not done talking to you about this.”

 

After fifteen minutes or so of signing album covers, slips of paper and various other items that are shoved through the chain link fence, Josh starts to grow bored. After ten minutes of posing for pictures with teenage girls ecstatic out of their minds, Josh begins to get uncomfortable and agitated. He glances over to Matt, tugs on his sleeve a little to grab his attention, and then gives the shorter man a look. The brunette nods in understanding and Josh disappears back into the venue, takes his bag and costume and heads for the bus, with hopes of finding sleep quickly tonight.

 

It’s about an hour that Josh has been on the empty bus before he hears voices and footsteps and the slamming of the bus door. He groans inwardly, because he’s convinced he had just been beginning to drift off to sleep. So he pulls the curtain across his bunk and snuggles further into his duvet. He hears a quiet voice speaking in a hushed tone, and then the bunk section’s door is yanked open. Heavy footsteps pass through, and Josh can hear what sounds like Ian and Mike talking about a Halo battle. Josh’s eyes widen when he notices fingertips curl around the fabric curtain of his bunk. He says something incoherent and the person pulls the curtain away about a foot or two. The singer realises its Matt, and he moves over to let the younger man into his bunk with him. They’ve done this many times to chat, to go over some lyrics, or to just have company in a confined space, but never when Josh was just lying in an oversized hoodie and boxers, and when Matt’s face was set in cold stone.

“Do you want to talk to me yet?” Matt asks.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Josh shifts uncomfortably, grabbing his pillow and resting it against wall of the bunk. Matt makes a sound like a ‘tsk’ and pulls out his phone. Josh watches as he opens up his screenshot gallery and then tries to pull the phone away from the younger boy when his eyes flash over the image he saw earlier on that fan’s Twitter page.

“Don’t!” Josh protests, but fails to snatch away the phone. Matt stares down at the photo for a while, and lets the screen time out and fade to black. He looks back up at the taller man.

“I’m not blind.” He mumbles, echoing his words from before. “You’ve stopped eating again, haven’t you?”

Josh stutters on his words. “N-no! Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not that stupid. You’ve seen me eat.”

“Then why-”

“I’ve been watching my weight, that’s all. There’s nothing more to it.”

Just then, Josh’s stomach lets out a low rumble, giving the game away. Josh looks up shamefully.

“Why wouldn’t you tell me?” Matt asks quietly, scooting over so he is closer to the singer. He picks up the boy’s right hand and inspects it closely.

“There’s nothing wrong.” Josh repeats, wondering why Matt is taking so much attention with his hand.

“Your hands are shaking and cold.”

“I was outside.” Josh excuses himself easily, but is cut off by Matt quickly. “Over an hour ago.” Matt points out. “And you’ve got scratches all over your knuckles, look, here.”

Josh had forgotten about that. He too looks down at his hand, his dominant hand, and notices how calloused and raw and scratched up it is. It’s one of those tell tale signs that unfortunately, Josh forgot about. But Matt always picks up on everything. He pulls the grey sleeve of his hoodie down further to cover up the marks in embarrassment.

“Don’t lie to me, Josh. I’m worried, that’s all.”

It’s that point where Josh starts to cry. And the tears fall quickly, easily, because they’ve been held in for so long. And all the guitarist can do is hold the taller boy until he’s able to speak again. And when he does, his words are jumbled and barely articulate, because Matt has figured out the secret he’s been keeping for so long. He’s cross; he’s embarrassed, but mostly just ashamed.

“I’m s-sorry.” He whimpers. Matt just strokes his hand through the singer’s hair and shushes the boy.

“It’s alright. I just need you to talk to me about it. I need to understand.”

Josh swallows thickly and takes a couple of deep breaths before continuing. “Somebody… somebody made a comment. And then there was another, and another, and I couldn’t help but notice them.”

“Was it a fan?”

“There were tweets… from the fans.” Matt cocks his head in confusion, and Josh explains further. “Something about me in a tank top somebody took a picture of, I can’t even remember.” Josh’s voice is barely a whisper, and Matt notices this. He curls up closer to the singer, and the singer reacts by snuggling down into Matt’s chest.

“They led you to make yourself throw up again.” Josh visibly flinches at the words, but Matt carries on speaking. “I swear to god, I’m tweeting about it. How fucking dare they.”

“Don’t be mean; it wasn’t all of them, anyway. It’s alright, I overreacted.”

Matt scoffs lightly. “That’s an understatement. You’re starving yourself to death.”

 

And there’s so much Josh wants to say. He wants to argue against Matt, and he wants to tell him that he is eating, thank you very much. He wants to make some snide comment about something petty, but his sarcastic side is hidden away tonight. Partially because Matt was being so caring about the situation, and by god he was so grateful for this. And maybe it was because he was beginning to realise he was starving himself. Even if he did eat, it never stayed down for long. He couldn’t remember the last meal he kept down. And this was a problem, and he can’t believe that nobody, including himself, realised it until now. Sure, he knows he’s restricting, and he knows he’s throwing stuff up, but stupidly didn’t put all the pieces together and realise he was slipping into a relapse.

 

“Oh god.” Josh says. Then he repeats it over again a few times, because he can’t believe how stupid he’s been. And then he bursts into tears again. He doesn’t want to, but he can’t bring himself to care. But it’s okay now; it’s alright because Matt is here for him and Matt’s paying attention and he cares, oh god, does he care, and Josh feels okay in his arms, with his warm fingertips tracing patterns in his hair. He feels alright and okay and safe and to be honest, that’s all he needs right now. He doubts it would be the same effect if maybe Ian or Brett or Mike were here. It had to be Matt.

 

“What’s gonna happen now?” Josh whispers. Matt leaves a moment’s pause before continuing.

“You’re going to get better. I’m not going to send you away, duh, but if you don’t help me then I can’t help you. I will help you with your meals and we can sort something out that we both agree on.”

Josh plays with the hem on Matt’s shirt. “And the others?”

“They don’t have to know anything.” Matt finds himself mumbling, and he clears his throat. “Though I doubt they haven’t seen the pictures yet. But you don’t have to answer their questions. Tell them to talk to me or something. You shouldn’t be embarrassed, Josh. It’s a relapse. It happens to a lot of people.”

Josh merely sighs and shifts his weight so he’s more laying down than sitting up, and he drags Matt down so they’re lying together. “I feel stupid. And there’s nothing you can say that will make me feel less of an idiot. I… I just need you here to help me out before it gets out of hand.”

Matt nods, understanding highlighted in his eyes. “I’ll do my best.” He whispers these words, but that’s all Josh needs. It’s a form of comfort and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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