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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2. We Had To Shake The Shadow Of A Spirit Drifting

A month later the tour is finished and Josh begins to fill out forms for rehabilitation centres. Matt wanted to cancel the remainder of the tour but Josh was adamant to finish it. Every mealtime Matt sits with Josh and then sticks around for the rest of the evening, and he won’t let Josh go to the bathroom straight after he finishes his meals. One or two nights Matt gets sidetracked and Josh manages to slip away to the bathroom, but when he exits Matt is always standing there with a reproachful look on his face and it’s enough to make Josh withdraw in on himself, but Matt always sits and talks about it.

Josh gets looks and glances from the crew and the rest of the band but none of them say anything until Ian walks in on Josh throwing up, stupidly having forgotten to lock the door after him. Ian tells him that he had guessed this had been happening; Josh tries to come up with excuses that he was ill but Ian isn’t stupid and wants to talk to Josh about things. Josh is getting sick of people wanting to talk to him but it’s alright because later that evening Matt slides into Josh’s bunk and they spend the night together.

 

Josh has been admitted a place at a rehabilitation centre an hour drive away from his house. It’s nice there. He ended up telling the other band members that he was going on a long vacation. Of course they had questions, but Josh just ignored them all and focused on what they tell him at the centre. They tell him he has to be there at least three months and they’ll go from there. The first week is disgusting, they keep forcing this gross food down his throat and if he refuses to eat it he has to sit in the canteen with a doctor and finish a whole meal and then he has to go sit and talk to other people all evening. Therefore he finds it easier to simply shovel food down his throat and leave quietly so he can sit in his room and write. He loves to write and he finds it a great escape mechanism. He writes about whatever he wants to but it’s mostly either about Matt or this eating disorder. But mainly Matt. He knows the therapists have been through his writing while he’s out eating in the canteen or at the mandatory group meetings and he knows they read them all but they still ask him about it. He always makes some snide remark and leaves.

 

The best days are when Matt comes to visit. He often brings his guitar and then they sit in Josh’s room and chat and write music and sometimes they just curl up in the vinyl armchair or on Josh’s bed and sit in each other’s arms all day. And they like it. Eventually Matt has to go home but he always tells Josh to call him as often as he can. And he does.

The worst days are when Matt is busy and can’t come to see Josh, and seemingly this is more often because Matt’s working all the time, overtime, and he can’t find time to come see his best friend. And Josh understands, obviously, but that doesn’t make it any easier for him. Josh is alone all day and sometimes he doesn’t want to shower or eat or socialise or even get out of bed but the nurses and doctors force him to. This makes him angry and he goes to the bathroom and sticks his fingers down his throat but it’s only acid and the retching is loud and if a nurse hears, which they usually do, they send him straight to Dr Mackintaro’s office. Dr Mackintaro is the head of this place and it’s like going to the principal’s office only this time, Josh is nearly thirty years old and is under supervision and he smells like puke. He bashfully stares down at his calloused hands the whole time because he hates this place and doesn’t want the lecture but doesn’t want the food in his stomach either. 

Dr Mackintaro sighs when eyes Josh being led in by his therapist and the boy is too weak to resist and all at once he feels like he’s seven years old and has just been caught doing something against the rules at school. Today was bad. Josh had kept his meals down for three days but then there was a fan, a fucking fan recognised him, in a rehab clinic, and she asked him questions. He had gotten up to leave but was told he wasn’t allowed to leave until he finished his meal but he couldn’t and he ended up pushing a nurse to the ground and blocking his room shut so nobody could bother him. But they did, and one dragged him to the doctor’s office.

“How are you feeling, Joshua?” Dr Mackintaro asks him, and he instinctively wipes at his face and looks down at his knees.

“I’m fine. Like usual.” He mumbles.

“What happened in the canteen, hmm?” Josh is angry because the doctor is treating him like he’s five and all Josh wants to do is disappear. But he answers anyway, despite being as blunt as he can be.

“I got mad. So I went to my room.”

“But you hurt Marcus in the process.” Dr Mackintaro shifts his position. “That’s not fair, is it?”

“I’ll write a letter to say sorry. I’ll read it out to everyone. I’ll do anything. I just don’t want to be here.” He says, clearly, firmly.

“Here as in my office, this clinic, or alive?” Dr Mackintaro questions, and the last option catches Josh’s attention. He can’t say the truth because they’ll just mark him down as suicidal and Josh doesn’t want that. So he partially lies.

“I don’t want to be in this clinic.”

“You can’t leave until you get better, Joshua, you know that. If you’re causing harm to other patients or staff, Joshua, you’re going to have to go to confinement.” And then Josh does something a little different. He looks up at the doctor, and makes his face look as menacing as possible because he believes that will help, and he stands up, albeit a little shakily.

“I don’t care. I’ll get better when your nurses stop telling me to do stuff. Put me in confinement. Good. I want to be alone.” He snaps, and then storms out of the room, back to his dorm room. This time, he properly blocks of his room, it’s a struggle but he pushes his bed to the door pulls the window tightly shut. He’s alone now, for sure, so he brushes his teeth and lies on the floor and prepares to try and sleep.

 

This doesn’t go well because he can hear Dr Mackintaro knocking and shouting. He can hear nurses trying to twist the handle. But eventually, they go away when it starts to get dark, and Josh is thankful, because his tears are pooling on the floor and the doctors were only making them worse. And then suddenly, he hears a familiar voice. It’s Matt, it’s his knight in shining armour, and he’s come to save Josh from the terrible thoughts inside his head.

“Josh? Joshy, open the door, please.” Matt says, and Josh leaps up. He tries to pull the bed away but he feels too weak and he cries harder because Matt is there and he can’t get to him.

“I can’t. I blocked the d-door.” He calls, and Matt pauses. “Open the window, then. I’ll walk round. So Josh does and he’s thankful his room is on the ground floor because when he’s helping Matt in he hasn’t felt this happy all day.

“I’m so happy you’re here.” He whispers, as he’s hugging Matt hard, and Matt’s hugging back.

“Come on, Joshy, let’s move the bed back.” So they do and then they curl up on it, Josh bundled in Matt’s chest and that’s all that he needs right now.

“They called for me, Josh. They told me you had a bad day. They said a girl talked to you, and you got angry, and then you hit a staff member? Why didn’t you call me?”

Josh hiccups, and catches his breath before speaking. “I just had a bad day. I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Josh, you never bother me.” Matt pauses briefly. “Dr Mackintaro told me you’ve been to his office over fifteen times in the last three weeks.”

“I-I didn’t know he was keeping track.” Josh murmurs, cuddling closer to Matt’s chest. “I’m such a dumb fuck.”

“Hey now, you’re not. It’s hard, and I don’t know because I’ve never been there. But I can imagine, and you’ve got to keep trying, alright? You can’t be throwing up every day, Josh. That’s not getting better, is it?”

“I don’t mean to do it, Matt, it’s just…” Josh stops, and breathes deeply. “It’s easier when you’re here. I need you here.”

There’s a hesitation and Josh worries that he’s said the wrong thing. But then Matt tilts Josh’s head up with a forefinger to the elder boy’s chin, and then Matt leans in and they’re kissing, and Josh just freezes because he doesn’t know what to do because holy shit his best friend is kissing him. But then he decides that it’s too good a feeling to miss up, and he’s been waiting for this for so long, and he concentrates on kissing back. Josh winds one hand up at the nape of Matt’s neck and the other clutches at a bundle of Matt’s shirt, whilst Matt simply wraps a hand around Josh’s waist and holds his face with the other. And it’s perfect, despite them lying on a hospital bed in the night. Matt’s there and that’s all Josh needs.

Eventually, Matt pulls away, leaving Josh a little breathless, and smiles upon both of their faces. Josh nervously looks away, blushing profusely. It takes a minute of silence before Matt finally pipes up.

“You need to try to get better. I’ll do whatever it takes to help. You can come move in with me and we’ll keep track of everything together. I can’t lose you, Josh, I just don’t know what I’d do without you. Just please, get better. Try. I’ll visit more often, every day if I can, if that helps you.” Josh notices that Matt’s eyes are glassed over so he reaches up and places a kiss on the younger’s cheek.

“I’ll try. It’s always better when you’re here. Without a doubt.”

 —-

Three hours later a nurse tries the door again, surprised to find the door opens easily. When she enters, she sees Matt lying on the bed and Josh curled up in his arms, and they’re both fast asleep, peaceful expressions on their faces. She considers waking Matt up and telling him to leave because visiting hours were over long ago, and she’s not even sure how Matt got in here. Nevertheless, she smiles softly to herself, throws a blanket over the pair, and leaves them be, shutting the door softly after her when she exits the room. She’s noticed Josh’s behaviour, and she checks in on him most nights to find him awake and trying to shake off the insomnia, but today he was sleeping soundly, all thanks to Matt. And she knows that now the brunette is here, Josh’s recovery is going to go a lot faster. 

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