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Just an empty shell

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Oli stares at the wall and counts to ten. Then to twenty. Someone had walked in and he can only try to guess which of his bandmates the person was. He reaches fifty when he hears the huff.

 

"Thirty minutes. You should join us", Matt mumbles.

 

He doesn't answer. Of course, he's well aware of how late it is. Just ten minutes ago he checked. But the idea of going there and getting stared by the others makes him cringe. Could he just play the show without them questioning his every motive? Letting out a sigh he continues to stare at the wall despite Matt still waiting for him to react properly.

 

"You know. Could get changed?" the drummer says now, his foot tapping the floor.

 

He could yes. Maybe he has worn the same shirt for three days, and also slept in it. Maybe it was longer. He wasn't counting anymore.

 

"Oli..." Matt tries a different approach, and but Oli can hear the frustration in his voice.

 

"Don't fucking start with that", the singer snaps and jumps up walking past the drummer.

 

As he reaches the other room they all turn to look at him. Jona raises his eyebrow and ignores him then, while Vegan tries to do the same but fails miserably. Rolling his eyes Oli sits down and grabs a water bottle from the table. If he pretends its vodka, maybe it works.

 

The crowd goes crazy as the previous band starts their last song and Lee shifts next to him. No one says anything because they all are scared of what might happen. Vegan thinks that next time Oli will be ripped apart by the audience and he will be the one that has to pick up the pieces. Literally. Jona fears that the gig will be cancelled and he will have to fix the problems later. Lee wonders would Oli actually just bail and leave them if they would push him enough. Matt knows Oli will handle the show, but what happens after is another thing. 

 

And sleeping on the same bus with someone who wonders every minute why is he even breathing anymore isn't what any of them had expected. Especially now when they share it with two other bands. Not that they really did even get it. They saw something was off but none really knew what or why was Oli so weird. And wasn't he always weird?

 

But neither did Oli. He sighs and hangs his head low, staring at the door that leads to the corridor. The crowd was roaring and in any minute they would stand up and walk there. Any minute he would have to open his bubble enough to perform. He feels as Matt's eyes lock to his shoulder. Like he wants to get an eye contact, but same time is afraid of it. The emptiness in his eyes was unbearable to all of them.

 

How do you keep living when you think you are already dead? Oli doesn't have any answers, he just knows that somehow no matter how he fucked up he would wake up the next day to another day that he didn't want to see.

 

"Let's go!"

 

There was the cue and he stands up. Keeping his eyes on the now open door, ignoring the rest he walks out to the corridor. The rest follow him and Oli can feel the stares in his back.

 

"Oli do you..." Lee frows, but stops when the singer grunts angrily. He doesn't even care what Lee was about to say. Whatever it is, he doesn't care.

 

"Let's just..." Matt scratches his head, but they are guided towards and now the silence amongst them was a safe place.

 

Either way on stage Oli feels like he is dancing on the edge of the knife. Maybe a tiny glimpse of life there. But there it was left. When the darkness falls on the stage again as the last note fades he feels it embrace him. Twisting like swirls of smoke around him it buries him under. The crowd is still roaring and buzzing but he knows that it's not forever.

 

"Oi!" Matt yells and he forces himself to turn around and leave the crowd.

 

Back to the bus. To the people that were his friends but also people, he was trying to distract himself from. Because they were also making him feel. And being numb was a bliss.

 

He steps inside the tour bus just after a few minutes the smell of sweat and burning toast fills his nostrils. His stomach turns, but not to the smell but for the voices that go silent. Most of them. He hears JJ in the back lounge and Dan talking to someone, but rest are either ignoring him or just not caring enough to react.

 

"We good?" the bus driver behind him asks and sits on his seat. Not a surprise he was the last one on the bus.

 

With a nod, he turns and walks forward. Lee's eyes follow him but he doesn't show that he noticed it.

 

“Okay so…” Vegan starts but Oli shakes his head and walks past him. The bassist turns to look at Matt who shrugs. They know they can’t do anything now. At least not right now when Oli barely hears them.

 

Oli walks past Tom who is watching a movie with Ali in his bunk, both laughing and not really paying attention to him. He walks past Sam who is just changing his shirt after a shower and frowns when he glances him. He walks past Jona who looks like he has something to say but stays quiet anyway. In the back lounge, he slumps down on the worn leather couch. He chews his bottom lip and thinks. JJ shakes his head and hands him a bottle of gin that looks like it hasn’t even been opened yet. Oli thanks him wordlessly, knowing that in an hour he will be shitfaced. Ready to embrace the numbness.

 

“That…” Matt sighs, suddenly there, and stares as Oli rolls the cap of the gin bottle and downs fifth of it in a blink of an eye. He knows that even if Oli would be drunk on stage it would be fine for the crowd. Oli would be fun and apologise for his behaviour. And then do it again the next day. Because he was a professional like that. It isn't unfamiliar to him either, but the darkness in Oli’s eyes is making him cringe. This isn't Oli getting drunk because he just wants to be drunk. This is something more and the memory of the last time makes his skin crawl. The darkness that emenates from Oli was so blinding that he barely recognises his friend anymore.

 

Oli can hear him. He can feel the stare. He acknowledges the frustration and hesitation. But he doesn’t lift his gaze. Stretching his neck he turns to look at the card game JJ and Realbad are playing. He doesn’t even know what it is, but it’s better than the look in Matt’s eyes. The cap of the gin bottle he throws at Matt’s direction without looking the other. It could have been a bratty gesture if only his state of mind wouldn’t be that dark.

 

Matt huffs slightly and glances at JJ who frowns. He doesn’t give a shit what a grown-up man is doing and he can see Oli is having a hard time now. And secondly, he doesn’t want to have any problems.

 

“Matt, piss off”, Oli mumbles soon. He is irritated by the fact that the other is staring at him like a baby sitter and he doesn’t need that. He is fine. He is absolutely fine and would be even better soon when the gin would buzz through his veins and numb his feelings.

 

“Oli, seriously! Last time we… we…” Matt starts but swallows then when Oli shoots a glance towards him.

 

He fucking hates it. The fact that he is stuck in the bus with all the others. Nowhere to escape the judgement. And he doesn’t even know is Matt actually worried or does he just want to nag. When did it happen? He can’t even read his friends anymore.

 

“Listen. Last time you left and it took us ages to find you. We were worried because you were… not you. Oli it wasn’t a minor thing. And you were still bleeding. Fucking hell…” the drummer reminisces the last time and shakes his head.

 

“So? I am here now, innit? So what the fuck do you expect? Huh? Just stare at the wall? Go to bed? I will. It’s not like I could just fucking disappear. Right?” Oli slurs already.

 

Matt chews his bottom lip an inch away from a fit. He wants to say so many things but those empty eyes staring back at him tell him it is in vain. JJ and Realbad know the situation, but it is visible in their faces too how they do not want to get involved. Their game continues and Oli huffs and brings the bottle to his lips again. The liquid burns heavenly on his throat as it goes down. Chasing the inebriation, trying to reach that heaven.

 

The singer laughs sarcastically and raises his eyebrow when Matt just keeps staring at him. He is well aware that his drinking isn’t the issue. It never had been and it shouldn’t be now either.

 

“Let him drink his head straight”, Jona grabs Matt’s arm.

 

Oli snorts barely audibly. He knows the gin, or whatever was his choice of alcohol at the time, will just blur the lines. Just numb the worst pain. Not actually get his head straight.

 

“So, you don’t want to join?” Oli winks and swirls the liquid in the bottle mostly just to annoy Jona.

 

Jona gets the hint and turns around on his heels. It was not quite what Oli sought, but close to it and he leans back to the couch satisfied that he managed to drive away one person that was getting on his nerves. Matt glancing after Jona reminds him that Matt is always there. Like now. The judging never stops.

 

“Score!” Realbad yells and slams his cards on the table.

 

JJ laughs and slaps his back, and then starts to divide the cards again. Oli sighs barely audibly and sips his drink again. Those two are gold. They don't question him.

 

“So no one’s gonna join me? Huh?” he opens his mouth again with a full slur now knowing that there won’t be any responses.

 

Except that there is. Vegan slides onto the lounge and past him and sits down. “Sure.”

 

“Huh?” Oli frowns. Not like he couldn’t share his bottle but this was a new thing and he still feels weird. But on the other hand, it shouldn’t matter. And if the bassist would get drunk too maybe he would leave him alone.

 

“Drink?” Vegan says and pulls the bottle from his grip forcefully.

 

Oli is dumbfounded. It’s like the bassist is fighting him wordlessly. But he can't really say no now either so he watches as the other sips the liquid and gives the bottle then back to him.

 

Matt stares at Vegan like trying to find a reason for this but the other gives him a blank stare back. Oli laughs again and Matt turns around leaving the rest behind. He knows Oli is trying to get on his nerves and when the options are him staying and arguing which would lead to a fight or just leaving he takes the latter now happily. He is too tired to fight.

 

It doesn't take long for Oli to find that blissful state. Vegan tries to take only small sips, not really even wanting to be drunk. Oli falling further and further into himself was what worries him. Side glancing the other and how his eyelids start to hang low he grimaces inwardly.

 

But Oli is far gone. Finally, his mind is fogged with alcohol, blurring all his thoughts. Just a wonderful state of mind. He stands up abruptly to give space for Alex who joins the card game that JJ and Realbad are still playing, but stumbles and falls on the floor on his knees.

 

"Didn't...", he mumbles when Vegan pulls him to his feet and starts to direct him to the bunk, "even drink that much."

 

"Yeah you did", the other answers and glances over his shoulder at the bottle that is almost empty.

 

"Fucking hell", Oli manages to mumble. His drunken mind wants back to the bottle, but Vegan doesn't let him turn around. Finally, he accepts it and doesn't fight back when he is pushed to his bunk.

 

Falling on the mattress he frowns at Vegan's expression. Apparently, he isn't drunk enough to pick up the clear emotions from his friend's face.

 

"You can't continue like this."

 

"Why? Who says I can't? I'm not hurting anyone else than myself", Oli groans and turns his back to the other. His mind adds that he isn't even hurting himself when there was nothing to hurt. Even the hangover feels like a perfect punishment.

 

Vegan stares Oli's back even though he acknowledges the singer isn't going to say a thing anymore.

 

"But, he is", Sam suddenly says silently from the top bunk and Vegan doesn't know is it more of a question or just a statement.

 

Letting out a sigh the bassist leaves the two singers alone and walks to the kitchen to fetch a bottle of water to himself. Matt's worried eyes greet him and he shrugs.

 

 

"That shit... What's happening? It's like... he has given up."

 

 

"Yeah. I have no idea what we should do", he answers.

 

 

 

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