Title: Fifteen Ways to Love a Man Who Hates Himself
Word Count: 500
Warning: allusions to self-esteem issues, self injury, disordered eating, sexual abuse.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, but I do take liberties with them for no financial gain.
Notes: Inspired by this fic which is based on this poem.
1. Sit next to him on the flight home and trace the word ‘stay’ repeatedly on his thigh with your fingertip, hidden underneath the the table. Pretend not to notice when he stills with recognition at the shape.
2. Memorise his tattoos. Learn how many of them cover scars.
3. Kiss his bloody knuckles after he’s done punching the wall, before you clean the wounds.
4. Make a deliberate effort to not hold back your expressions when he touches your body; make it unequivocally clear how he is making you feel, that it is almost always good, and when it’s not it can be remedied.
5. The first time you tell him you love him, when he looks you in the eye and asks in absolute disbelief “how can you?”, don’t cry.
6. Feign kind amusement as you protest every time he talks about himself pre-you as ‘slutty’ and ‘whorish’ and ‘desperate’. Remind him that he only ever says those things about himself. Act as if that doesn’t make your chest hurt.
7. Let him kiss the track marks at the crook of your arm and tell him he could never have stopped them, until he’s convinced.
8. When you notice he’s starting to skip meals and drink weight-loss shakes, develop a sudden interest in cooking. Insist on him being the tester for your experiments in buttery potatoes and hearty steaks until he starts to smile during mealtimes again.
9. Tell him he’s beautiful. Don’t be discouraged if he never believes you.
10. When he starts to have a panic attack as you’re stroking the insides of his thighs, stop touching him. Don’t touch him again until he calls for you. Put your hand on his chest and talk him through controlling his breathing until his heart rate stops thundering against your palm.
11. Never, ever tell him that you’ve spent nights lying awake picturing him at twelve being broken by large, cruel hands, your mind fleshing out the threads of stories and inference you’ve collected over the years.
12. Try not to be obvious when you count how many replacement razorblades are left.
13. Don’t call him ‘daddy’ as a joke. Don’t call him ‘boy’. When commentary on how hot and tight and good he feels tumbles from your mouth, make sure he’s still there with you.
14. Tell him you don’t want anyone else when you talk to your exes, even though he insists he’d not worried. When he grips you tighter those nights, return the sentiment.
15. Never burden him with the thought that you can’t imagine going on living without him. Pray he knows it anyway. Hope he’s stronger than you in that regard.