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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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"Oli!"

 

He awakes in the tiny shower of the bus to the banging on the door. Not the first time on that tour. Gasping for air he reached to close the cold stream.

 

"Fuck... Oli answer!" Matt keeps yelling and slamming the door with his fists.

 

"Gimme a minute! For fuck's sake..." Oli yells and starts to climb up. He leans on the wall, and takes few deep breaths, trying to chase away the dizziness.

 

"What the fuck was that? On top of you using the water you..." Matt starts as Oli swings the door open dripping water on the floor.

 

"Stop nagging, it doesn't suit you", Oli mumbles and pushes past the drummer, trying to hold the towel on his skinny waist. Just seeing the judgement painted on Matt's face makes him angry.

 

"What were you even doing there?" Matt keeps going, totally ignoring Oli's words.

 

And Oli ignores his. At his bunk he grabs a clean shirt and pulls it on, the shirt sticking to his wet skin.

 

"Oli!"

 

He doesn't even bother to look at the drummer. There is no point. Matt would just go on, asking what and why, and he can't answer those questions. So he rather pretends the other doesn't exist. When he has the clothes on he walks past the bunks, heading to the driver.

 

"How long?"

 

The driver glances at him, "Few hours."

 

"What? How?" Oli frowns, chewing his nail.

 

"Traffic. One lane was shut down at one point completely and we were basically standing still for an hour."

 

Fuck, Oli thinks. Based on that he didn't sleep long. Which explains why he feels like he is still drunk.

 

"You passed out?" Dan is suddenly by his side and he flinches.

 

"Fainted. Or something", he mumbles in return, knowing that there will be more words behind those few. More worry, more caring. It makes him want to puke and the only thing he can do is try to get away. But he is on the bus, stuck with the others.

 

Dan gives a sigh and Oli knows what's coming. They can all see how he is fading.

 

"Don't. It's enough that Matt keeps bugging me."

 

"Well at least eat something", Dan waves his hand in the air. Oli actually listening to him would be a new thing so he doesn't bother to push.

 

Rolling his eyes Oli goes to the counter and picks up granola bar just to make the other silent. Dan watches him but doesn't say a thing anymore. Too many eyes in the bus. Too many people that keep judging. A little voice chants in the back of his mind, reminding him that it didn't matter. That he didn't matter.

 

Huffing at himself and his stupid mind Oli goes back to his bunk and shifts the covers searching for the notepad he keeps there. That and pencil will help him pour out the stuff. None of it matters, he knows it, but the thoughts make him insane and writing it down gives him a moment of clarity. Or emptiness, which is a familiar feeling too.

 

Meanwhile in the front of the bus Vegan stares at Jona and Matt who are arguing wordlessly. It was clear to him there will be a full blown fight soon and he doesn’t want to see it. No one likes a dick in a tour bus and now with Oli in that state, he won't be able to handle it alone. The two men keep glaring at each other and slamming cupboard doors and items on the tiny table.

 

“Quit that fucking bullshit”, Lee growls as he saunters past them to the back of the bus.

 

“What?” Jona says and Vegan can’t do anything else than roll his eyes at the tone. The guy is again on that certain mood that can push them all over their limits. No wonder Matt is pissed off.

 

“Don’t be a fucking cunt”, Matt mumbles. First Oli and now Jona acting up and he really can’t take it in a crowded bus.

 

“Who is the cunt? Huh?” the other continues and Vegan lets out a frustrated huff.

 

“Seriously. The fuck you doing? If you two wanna fight can you at least wait till we are out of this fucking thing? Or maybe even do it after the show. Don’t think they want to witness it”, the bassist asks, trying to remain calm.

 

“You’d think that…” Jona starts again, but Matt got to his feet and throws his hands in the air, interrupting the other.

 

“I’ll be the bigger person and leave.”

 

“Bigger person? Since when?” Jona snorts as the drummer turns on his heels.

 

Matt doesn't answer him anymore. He waves his hand in the air and walks away.

 

“Idiot. I don’t get why you want to pick up a fight. Bored or not, I don’t give a damn. This is a wrong place”, Vegan grumbles.

 

“The only one being an idiot is Matt. And what are you going to do with Oli?”

 

“What do you mean?” the other continues, ignoring the remark about the drummer.

 

"He is a fucking mess! I can already see this tour getting cancelled!"

 

"You think I don't see that?! And is the tour the only thing you worry about? What about him? As a person? Aren't you worried at all that he will actually crack and do something to himself?" Vegan says and Sam approaching them and giving him a look makes him realize he probably shouldn't have said it.

 

"Yeah sure, Oli this and Oli that", Jona rolls his eyes, "I am getting sick off the bullshit."

 

"God, you really are a fucking cunt", Sam states and Vegan raises his eyebrow.

 

"Sam..." the bassist starts not really wanting the others to get involved. The situation was way too delicate to be opened to others.

 

"He can probably hear the talk", Sam answers then, guessing what the other was about to say.

 

Rolling his eyes Jona stands up and leaves them. He doesn't give a shit really, but his urge to really fight had left with Matt.

 

"Fuck", Vegan gasps and sits down.

 

"You think? You really need to find a way. You know the tour or lost money isn't an issue for us, like it is to him", Sam says pointing at towards the receding back of Jona, "but it will be a fucking mess if he falls apart. I know it has already started."

 

"I don't have any solutions. I wish I did", the other mumbles rubbing the bridge of his nose. How could he even? Watching his friend slowly closing himself off and turning into a shadow of what he used to be wasn't really something he wanted to do.

 

"Well, you, we, something... need to figure it out fast. I don't like to say this, but I do feel like it's already too late."

 

"Too late meaning?"

 

"I don't know what the fuck is going on in his mind, but if he is really given up... What can we really do? It's like... I don't know. Watching a train-wreck", Sam chews his lip. He doesn't even have ways to say it. He is terribly worried but also annoyed that they don't tell him everything. That Oli doesn't tell anything.

 

Vegan nods. He acknowledges it. Maybe even too well. But he doesn't have any answers. "I'll try to... well he probably won't talk but I can try to talk to him. Maybe he listens."

 

"And us... don't worry about it. It's not like we haven't seen all kinds of shit", Sam squeezes his shoulder compassionately.

 

And in his bunk Oli stares at the blank page, tapping the pencil to the paper. Maybe he had fallen in love with the ghosts in the walls. Or maybe they are in love with him. He can’t tell them apart from the shadows anymore and sometimes the darkness came with a coldness that he felt down in his bones. Shivering at the memory he presses the tip of the pencil to the paper and moves it. Stroke after stroke and soon letters form to the page. Then they are words. But when the first sentence forms he realizes it doesn't make sense. Nothing makes sense. They were actual words, but somehow he doesn't understand them. Maybe he had lost the meaning behind the words. Maybe he had never known what they actually meant and only made his own meaning.

 

"Oli. Can we have a talk?" he hears behind the curtain that keeps him inside his little bubble, separating from the others.

 

"Sure", he answers sarcastically and waits until Vegan pulls the curtain open just enough to see him. He hates that look. The worry and pity in the bassist's eyes as he tries not to frown.

 

"The nightmares are back?"

 

Oli glances at him, wondering does everyone know. Am I that loud? Then he shrugs and nods, "Yeah."

 

"Bad?" Vegan continues.

 

"What do you think?" he huffs and taps the pencil to the paper. Maybe he needs to be more drunk to not see any dreams.

 

"You screaming so loud that you wake us all up... You know, that high pitched squeal you have... It fucking sounds like someone is torturing you."

 

"How nice", Oli notes and tries not to cringe when the shiver runs through him. His nightmares had never been really consistent or tied to reality. Maybe that was why they were so horrific.

 

"You need help."

 

"Fuck you", Oli mumbles. Here comes the judgment again. I don't care. I won't care.

 

Vegan chews the inside of his cheek. It isn't the words but the tone that tells him enough. It's not about the band or the tour. It's way past that. Oli cares about those. He always has cared about doing his job. It's himself he doesn't care about.

 

"Last time... What if it had ended differently?" he continues.

 

"And then?" Oli shoots a glance towards the other and turns then back to the page. Now even the words seem to judge him. They hadn't talked about the last time. Not the fact that he had disappeared for the whole night without saying a thing. No shoes, no phone. Just the jeans and ripped shirt on and heart heavy with the pain.

 

"We were scared to death that we would have found you in some ditch, dead."

 

“And? I don’t give a shit. Nor should you.”

 

How many ways can you say you don’t care? Because Oli was running out of them.

 

“Let’s take a minute and think about if we would have been elsewhere. And a few months forward. I don’t believe a second that if it would have been winter that you would have actually turned back inside. You had your jeans, but that was basically everything. What if you had frozen to death? The bleeding wasn’t too bad, but… Have you even thought about it?” Vegan continues, thinking Oli doesn't quite understand. Or maybe he just hopes that he interprets wrong.

 

“I have. And I don’t want to anymore. I am sick of thinking”, Oli huffs. He can only remember how he felt then, not really the circumstances. The unbearable cacophony in his head. And then the others found him and it was even worse. The questions. So many words that he couldn't understand. Maybe that was wrong with the words. There were too many to keep up with.

 

Vegan feels someone staring and when he turns his head he sees Lee standing some feet away, listening to them. The guitarist seems obviously distressed and Vegan sighs heavily. He only wishes they could do something. There's only one way and it was down. But he just doesn't know how long until they will hit the bottom.

 

Oli counts to ten. He is getting anxious again. Vegan hovering there doesn't help. But he really doesn't want to tell the other to piss off. Again. He doesn't deserve it. Not like the drummer whose attitude to him is way worse.

 

"We're almost there", Sam comes to rummage his bunk, trying to find his phone, "Glad to have one day off."

 

Oli's heart sinks. He forgot that they did. It means that he will have a longer time to spend with others. More of the overwhelming judgment, that is slowly tearing him apart. He doesn't even know how he will handle it. On stage, he could focus on that feeling. The sound of the roaring crowd that could immerse him, and sink all his feelings.

 

He swallows thickly and tries to figure a way out. Even the idea of sharing a room for one night with Matt as they normally did sounds horrible to him. Someone watching his every move and now he doesn't know is he just being paranoid or is he right.

 

"Pretty chuffed to spend a night in a hotel. Next one will be...uhm, in like ten days", Matt notes just then and Oli can't ignore the sarcastic tone in it.

 

If it only would be that easy. For all of them, it means that there will be more space. Which was fine for Oli too. But it also means that they would watch him more closely. From a bus, you can't really just leave. A hotel was a totally different thing. And they all were well aware of it and Oli also knows that is his actual plan. He can't take it. As the others will leave for dinner, he himself will refuse and find some quiet place. Then maybe return when the others are sleep. He only needs to be back on time at the bus, and everything else beside that is secondary. The only problem now was will they believe when he says he is going to bed. And as he stares at Vegan who has his eyes locked to his, he knows this whole tour will be a mess and he won't survive in one piece.

 

Obviously, Matt reads him perfectly and shakes his head, "Dunno why it's a problem for you."

 

"Well, you don't have to get it. Just leave me the fuck alone", he huffs and tries to pull the curtain back but Vegan stops him.

 

"Do you really want to do this?"

 

"No, but he is forcing me", Oli frowns feeling cornered.

 

Want to. It was ridiculous. Like he wanted any of that. The only thing he wanted was to play the shows. After he leaves the stage there is nothing that would make him care. Nothing that matters.

 

"We're here!" the driver yells, hoping that everyone will leave the bus quickly so he can too.

 

Oli pushes Vegan aside to gather his things. Now the noises, people rushing past him and him faltering on his footing make him want to scream. He just wants to be alone. Alone in his broken mind to figure out how to survive to the next day.

 

Lee glances at him, still looking apprehensive, as he grabs his bag that has only a few necessities to stay for a night. Not that he cares about any of that either. At least now his shirt is fresh.

 

With a heavy sigh, he follows the others inside the hotel that looks like it really wouldn't be even worth that little money they had paid for the rooms. JJ and his crew disappear instantly as they get the keys and suddenly he realizes that even the tiny nonjudgmental behaviour that JJ offers is gone.

 

Matt hands him the other keycard keeping his stare at him, like asking is Oli still fine with sharing the room. He just takes the key and follows the others again, now to the elevators. Reluctant, but acknowledging there is no way out. The familiar squeeze around his neck is back and he has to focus so that he doesn't let it show.

 

"Let's meet in the lobby in fifteen?" Dan suggests as they find the right floor, and everyone nods an agreement. Except Oli.

 

"Oli?" Vegan says with a deep frown.

 

"Going to bed", he mumbles.

 

"No, you are not. We are going to eat. You need to eat too. You can sleep after", Matt says with a firm tone.

 

"I am not hungry. And I am not a fucking kid."

 

"Then stop acting like one", Matt growls, reaching his limit.

 

"Fuck you, Matt. Don't come and tell me what to do on my own free time", Oli answers in same exact tone but his anger is directed to Jona who had stepped forward, ready to get physical.

 

"Stop!" Vegan pushes Jona away roughly, clearly frustrated.

 

Oil shakes his head, deciding it's his cue. While the others keep arguing he skips to the right door and opens it quickly listening to yells echoing in the corridor. He slams the door shut and throws his bag on the floor. After a few steps, he is in the safety of the bathroom and locks the door behind him. Matt might have the key to the room but he will need more than that to get him out from the bathroom.

 

He slumps on the floor choking for air. Clawing his neck he tries to breathe but it feels like all the oxygen had disappeared and what he had left was some burning bitterness that is filling his lungs. If there is a way out of the situation he can't find it. Slamming his head on the wall he keeps chanting the only words he knows by heart now- can't do this.

 

 

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Chapter Text

 

 

 

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He stares at the others. Everyone is talking. So obnoxiously loud, not letting each other to finish their sentences. But all he hears is that. He doesn't register what they are talking about. Nor does he care. Wondering do they realize he doesn't listen he moves a piece of carrot with his fork, not putting it to his mouth.

 

"I don't get your issue. It's food", Matt says to him and he raises his eyebrow.

 

"I can see that. Am not blind."

 

"Well eat for fuck's sake. Don't say you have bulimia or something like that."

 

"Anorexia would be the correct term I believe. And no, I'm fine", Oli huffs and pushes the plate aside, now just to make a point.

 

"You sure?" the drummer turns to look at him, annoyed.

 

"Yeah. And I really don't like that you are joking about such serious thing."

 

"It wasn't a joke. It was an honest question", Matt points towards the plate.

 

Sure Oli had only eaten maybe one quarter. Sure he hadn't eaten any breakfast either, or nothing the night before. He remembers the last time he ate was the morning when he had fallen asleep on the hotel bathroom floor. Or was it then? But he is fine. It wasn't like he has an unhealthy way to see his body. Nothing like that. He just doesn't care. Thinking about the word makes him cringe but he ignores the thought as Matt pokes him, trying to get his attention.

 

"Fuck off. I am just not hungry."

 

Oli wonders why does he always have to repeat everything again and again before they believe him. Or maybe they never do, they just finally stay quiet and stop insisting until next time comes.

 

"That's not logical", Matt continues and he has enough.

 

Pushing the chair back with a loud creaking noise he jumps to his feet and tries to leave. Like it would be that easy. Matt grabs his arm frowning and his mind freezes. How much he wants to hit the other he also knows it won't stop any of it. Most likely just cause more problems.

 

"When is the bus call?" he yanks his arm free and looks Vegan who is the only one clearly staring at them.

 

Another annoying thing. They were all pretending. Lee was pretending he doesn't hear them, pushing the food on the plate as he had done. Jona was pretending he doesn't want to yell at him. The rest probably pretended they don't even know them, minding their own business.

 

"In half an hour", the bassist answers looking now at Matt who is staring back like asking for help to the situation.

 

"Good", Oli says and turns around. The sooner he is back on the bus the sooner he can get the alcohol in his system.

 

"Why didn't you say something?" Matt groans at Vegan when Oli leaves them.

 

"Like what? You think your nagging will help? You can see he barely is present", the other points out.

 

"And your ignorance will?"

 

"Fuck you. I am not ignorant. I'm trying to find a way. If you have noticed it's not that easy."

 

"And meanwhile we will just put up with his lies?" Jona butts into the conversation causing Lee to huff barely audibly.

 

"What? It is the truth", he continues when Vegan glances at him.

 

The bassist doesn't get the attitude. He feels it's stupid and in vain. And it's only going to escalate one day.

 

"Maybe, but you two are only making it worse", he lets out a sigh.

 

Jona throws his hand in the air towards Matt, "Didn't do anything."

 

"I'm seriously having enough of this bullshit. It's your ego that's in the way", the bassist stands up to leave.

 

Matt doesn't bother to answer either. He knows he is probably being annoying. But he couldn't just watch everyone ignore Oli's behaviour. Or whatever Vegan was doing. It bothers him that the bassist was so silent. Even if he is trying to figure it out. But he himself just couldn't sit there and watch without saying anything. Jona was another thing. It was clear he was only seeking for a fight and he wonders how long it will last until it blows up. And what then? The other bands won't just bail because they fight, but it will affect their relationship in future. No chance of getting another tour or any help in future if they don't fix their issues.

 

Jona leaves quickly after Vegan and Matt is left there with Lee who seems utterly confused. On the other end of the table, Dan gives him a worried look which only confirms his thought how they need to fix it. Whatever it was that Oli was dealing with.

 

As Oli steps in the bus, he lets out a heavy sigh. It's a strange feeling when he equally much hates being in the tiny space as in the hotel. In bus, they all knew he is there. No escaping. And that means they weren't watching him as closely as in a hotel. But during hotel stays he had always a chance to just run. The chances were just rare, as well as the nights spent in hotels. He is counting days to the next night in a hotel, and at the same time, he is ignoring the passing time completely.

 

“You wanna talk about it?” Sam asks carefully.

 

One night again. Then he will be back on the stage. He can deal with that. Get drunk and avoid the others. He remembers he has a gin bottle somewhere still. Oli shakes his head absentmindedly, not really registering the words. Letting out another heavy sigh he opens his bag. A few seconds later he has the notepad on his hand and his mind is ready to be spilt on the paper.

 

“Dude. I wouldn’t ask this if I wouldn’t see that something is up”, Sam continues stopping his actions.

 

Maybe it is the approach. Or maybe it is the fact that Sam isn't in his band, and for a while, he feels sorry. Mostly sorry for the other bands that they have to deal with this.

 

"I get it. You know, not being able to talk. But... I would really appreciate if you would. Talk. At least something."

 

But how do you talk about a thing when you don't even know how to put it in words? Oli thinks, but then he remembers he doesn't even care. And then he feels absolutely stupid. It's him and not the others. But apparently, they are going down too, at least in one way. If they would only learn to leave him alone.

 

The bus is slowly filling up with people and talk and Oli wants to throw up. The familiar squeeze around his throat is there and he wonders how can he handle it. That how can he just be there. All those judging stares. They ask questions and he doesn’t have any answers.

 

Lee passes him quickly and Oli notices again how hard it is for the other to look at him. He can’t even read anymore why. Is it pity or worry? Lee wasn’t as angry as Matt and Jona, but the way he forces himself to ignore him makes Oli cringe. But maybe that is best. He can barely deal with all the others.

 

As the bus driver closes the doors and heads away from the city centre Oli swallows and pushes the notepad under his pillow. Not that it really matters, but the others reading the random rambling he puts there wouldn’t help with anything.

 

Skipping past the rest of the bunks he gets to the kitchen area and glances around. He knows the gin is there but he can’t remember when he put it. Chewing his lip he starts to search. Not that big of an area, but his mind tells him to do it quick. He can already see where it would lead. When he reaches the shelf where they keep the cereal he knows he is in the right place and there the bottle is. To his luck, no one is paying attention to him as he walks back to his bunk and dives in. 

 

Hesitating for a while he grabs the curtain and pulls it, covering only half of the bed. It was dark enough for the others to not notice instantly that he was drinking, but also open enough for them to not start to bug him instantly. And that means a longer time for him to get drunk. Fetching out the notepad he lets out a sigh while rolling the cap off of the gin bottle. He takes a long swig from it and cringes as the liquid burns in the back of his throat. Lee passes the bunk and by instinct, he hides the bottle between himself and the wall. Not because he feels guilty, but because he needs more time. More time to get drunk and find the numbness. Chase away the emptiness that was gnawing him constantly, reminding there really is nothing for him there in the world.

 

Another cringe when he hears Jona's obnoxious voice in the back lounge. Bringing the bottle back to his lips he takes another gulp and picks up the pencil. The words start to flow effortlessly but he realizes soon that it won't matter. He is writing words onto a notepad that are just that. Just words. And then he realizes that it has always been. Just words in the correct order for them to mean something, but at the same time, they never have meant anything.

 

"Oli."

 

Dan interrupts his train of thought while he is just swallowing another gulp of the alcohol and he is well aware of what is coming. The only problem is that he still has some decency and when he can easily tell his band's members to fuck off, he doesn't want to do that with the others. Because after all, he is professional. At least one part of his brains are.

 

"What?" he answers and out of courtesy pushes the curtain more open so Dan can see him properly.

 

"Can we talk for a sec?"

 

"Why does everyone want to talk to me suddenly?" Oli sighs and glances at the drummer.

 

Dan stares back, not turning his head even though Oli knows his stare must be hostile. The other looks worried, but not in the annoying way as Matt or the sad way as Lee. Somehow to he the eyes transmit that Dan is genuinely interested, but on the other hand that might have been even a worse thing. That it's not just what's happening to the band confusion, but how this is happening to my friend.

 

"Because you don't talk to us."

 

"Right. Nothing to talk about", Oli answers the gin bottle now burning on his grip. Dan had probably seen it, but at least he doesn't dare to lecture him.

 

"I know. Sam mentioned it. Don't think we talk behind your back, it's not like that. But we all are worried."

 

"Not JJ", Oli snorts, happy that at least few people in the bus didn't question his every move.

 

"He is too. Of course, he cares. But his way to deal with it is different", Dan explains patiently.

 

Oli rolls his eyes. Always the caring.

 

"Is this something I have to deal with the rest of the tour now huh?"

 

"Oli... I wish we could help you."

 

"In what? I am fine", the other swallows and tightens the grip around the neck of the bottle. He doesn't know how long he can take it anymore.

 

"Yeah", Dan answers to his luck and stands up, "But... We are here. I mean... Has something happened?"

 

"No", Oli frowns and he is really hanging on the last thread of patience.

 

"Okay", the drummer nods and after one final look leaves him alone.

 

Exhaling heavily Oli rubs his neck as the choking feeling returns. Not that the scratching and clawing would help, but it's a distraction. Raising the bottle on his lips he wonders how can he survive to the end of the tour if this keeps happening. He will lose his patience. He will forget that they are his friends.

 

As the alcohol burns again through his veins making him intoxicated, driving him to the wonderful numbness he shifts taking a more comfortable position and focuses again to the page in front of him. He had been going somewhere with the words and now they look stupid again. Or maybe he was drunk enough for everything looks as stupid as his life did.

 

Next, he wakes up to the bus rattling and laughter echoing in the back lounge. Wasn't his plan to fall asleep, but at least some time passed, he realizes. Stretching he stumbles as he tries to get up. He scrunches his nose and glances around glad that no one caught him trying to find the balance. He heads to the toilet almost paranoidly listening to the others, aware that the shit will hit the fan if someone catches him now. Not that his mood had been good in months, but now the drunken haze in his brains is really heavy. And loud. So much noise.

 

Washing his hands he stares himself in the mirror and instantly knows how bad of a mistake it is. It's not the dull skin and sunken eyes that make him cringe, but the piercing emptiness. There is nothing. Seeing the same emptiness he feels inside was overwhelming. He leans his on the sink and drops his head down. He had been fucked up all his life but maybe this is finally the bottom. But the thing is that he needs to push through. Gigs, interviews, fans. Everything. Friends. All the caring. And now he feels like choking again. Biting his lip hard enough for it to hurt he pushes it aside, knowing it will wait for him when he least expects and gets out from the toilet.

 

He walks to the kitchen grabbing a soda can from the fridge and looks out from the bus. It was getting dark and he can barely see city lights in the far distance. That means that they had still time until they were there, and he isn't in the mood to check the correct time from the driver. After all, it doesn't even matter. A night in the bus as normally and based on the laughter in the back lounge the others weren't going to sleep anytime soon. He cringes at it as he cracks open the soda can. His mind is buzzing and he isn't sure is it just the alcohol or everything else. How can something so empty be so loud?

 

The bus rattles forward, moving across a fielded area as he looks outside. The crooked reflection from the window makes him snort inwardly. With a sigh, he shakes his head and turns around on his heels. But he loses his balance again and stumbles against the fridge, cursing.

 

"You got to be kidding me", Matt is suddenly there, leaning against the counter.

 

"What?" Oli mumbles and right then he realizes he is way drunker than he thought he was.

 

"You. Drunk again", the other point out his state frustrated.

 

Oli rolls his eyes. He really isn't in the mood for the lecture. Pushing past the drummer he walks back to his bunk and before Matt says more he crawls into the tiny space and pulls the curtain close. Not that it would prevent Matt from talking, but they always have had an unspoken rule in the bus that if a privacy curtain closed the person didn't want to be disturbed. Everyone respected the rule. At least usually. For the past week, Oli hadn't been any more so sure the others did. Know he feels Matt lingering in the corridor like he is thinking what to say. Rolling his eyes he grabs the bottle and takes a long swig. Slowly his mind goes back to what he was writing before he fell asleep and he grabs the pencil to continue from there.

 

But he is disrupted again with loud yelling and cursing. Before he can do a thing the curtain is being pulled open.

 

"What the fuck is this?" Jona yells at him.

 

"Can you just fuck off?" he tries but Jona grabs the bottle from his hand.

 

"No, I can't. Do you realize how fucking stupid this is?"

 

"I'm not fighting you so just give it a rest!"

 

 

Jona is in the exact state of mind everyone hates to see him. Only there to win, no matter how.

 

He pulls the bottle back but next Jona's hand is on his collar and he is yanked on the floor.

 

"What the fuck is your problem!" he screams and now it feels like the whole bus is at a halt. Everyone is staring at the scene.

 

Lee covers his mouth in shock glancing at Matt who looks absolutely frustrated. Vegan is scared that the drummer will butt in. Tim shakes his head and pushes Ali out from the way, towards the kitchen area. JJ and his crew on the back are still, all eyes focused on them. Sam stares at Jona and the twins at each other. No one knows what to do. Everyone has their own thoughts of what the worst case scenario would be and they all are scared that it could go there. That it isn't that far after all.

 

"You. You can fuck yourself up all you want, but don't go dragging us with you", Jona continues.

 

"And in what fucking way I am? Haven't cancelled shows, haven't fucked up interviews."

 

"But you will!"

 

Jona really isn't having it, but neither is Oli. He scrambles up to his feet, huffing. He might be drunk but it doesn't mean he would just stay there and listen for the accusations.

 

"So you are going to remind me every fucking day about the mistakes I might make in future?" Oli screams back at him, swatting away the hand that is trying to grab his collar again.

 

"I said will make, not might. I know it. Of course, I will because it will destroy everything then!"

 

Oli doesn't even know what to think now. Same time he is so mad he wants to punch the other, and the same time he wants to throw up.

 

"No", he swallows taking a step back.

 

"Are you even listening to me!" Jona pushes him and he almost falls on his ass, at the last second taking a grip from a bunk edge.

 

"Stop! What are you doing?" Vegan grabs Jona's arm having now enough of the fighting. It was all going downhill way too fast.

 

"Trying to make a point and him to listen", the other growls.

 

Oli shakes his head, "I'm refusing to listen to your bullshit. I am fine. Everything is fine, innit?"

 

But the deafening silence that follows makes him realize he is alone with the thought. As always.

 

"Fuck this", he mumbles and grabs the half-empty gin bottle from the floor.

 

"I wasn't finished!"

 

He hears the yell but ignores it as he walks past the sad stares that follow him, towards the driver. The other two bands stay quiet, no one of them dares to stop him. And he knows why. If his eyes look to them as empty as they do to him, they must have realized they have already lost him.

 

"Can you please pull over?" he slurs at the driver, his patience so thin that he isn't sure should he scream or cry. The driver frowns but obeys anyway.

 

"And what the fuck do you think you are doing? You can't just leave the bus. And I was still talking to you", Jona is still at it, even though Vegan basically hangs on his arm trying to pull him away from the other. Even Matt looks now that he has had enough of it. 

 

"Watch me. I said I won't listen to you and you sure as hell won't force me", Oli answers.

 

Then it's seconds of pure chaos when Jona charges at Oli despite the others trying to stop him. Everyone seems to yell, except Lee who stares sadly at the scene. He doesn't understand where it all went wrong.

 

But it ends as quickly as it started. First Jona's fist lands on Oli's face who gasps as the blood starts to pour from his nose. And he grabs the first thing his other hand feels, that happens to be an empty beer bottle, and smashes it on Jona's head.

 

He doesn't even separate the words from the yelling anymore that are blurred by the alcohol in his brains and the need to escape. Stumbling he finds the bus door and the cool night air hits his face. Still squeezing the gin bottle in his other hand he walks to the dark field beside the road. For a long while, he can hear the yelling behind. Sounding like Jona was trying to go after him. But he doesn't care. He had stopped caring for a long time ago. The blood keeps running from his nose but he ignores the taste on his lips as he takes a gulp from the bottle. He doesn't even know where he is going or how big the field is. The only thing he knows is that he needs to get as far as possible from the noises echoing behind him. Enough noise inside his head.

 

"Fucking asshole!" Jona keeps screaming while Vegan and Dan try to keep him from not running after Oli.

 

"I think we need to get him checked out", Sam mumbles staring at the blood that is soaking already Jona's t-shirt.

  

"What about him?" Lee asks, meaning Oli that is already disappeared from the view.

  

"I will fucking kill him", Jona growls and Matt rolls his eyes. The drama was too much for him.

  

"Shut up and sit down."

  

The other obeys reluctantly while Dan goes to pick up a first aid kit. Lee chews his lip and Vegan stares into the darkness.

 

"So tell me again how your ignorance is working huh", Matt retorts causing Vegan to turn to look at him.

 

 "Fuck you Matt. I already told you that won't help. He needs to correct his ego and you your attitude. How's that?"

  

"Oh and that will fix him?"

 

"Guys", Sam sighs.

  

Vegan looks from Lee who is avoiding eye contact to Matt who is staring back defiantly and further to Jona who is still fuming while the blood keeps running from his scalp. The others stay silent, whether trying to find something to say or to not say a thing.

 

"Fine. Where is the flashlight, I'm going", he says finally.

  

"Are you serious?" Dan grimaces, knowing it's still the right thing to do.

  

"Well, it doesn't look like any of these will", the bassist waves his hand in the air in front of his band's members.

 

"And in that state...", he continues as the driver hands him a flashlight.

 

"Yeah", Sam mumbles staring with him at the dark field when he steps outside.

 

He swallows thickly, closing the zipper on his hoodie. It's not like he is scared of the darkness surrounding them, but the one that is waiting for him when he finds the singer. And still, in the back of his mind, there is a voice reminding him that there is an if.

 

 

 

----------------

Chapter Text

 

  

 

Oli doesn't know how long he had walked before he stopped. His pulse hums in his ears and the hand gripping the bottle hurts. Something had happened but his mind couldn't find the missing piece. All he knows is that he is alone in a field. Alone in his broken mind. As the cold wind blows shuffling the hay it feels like it blows right through him, making him shiver. Wiping his nose he glances at the liquid in the bottle and takes a sip. The burn feels heavenly, but the buzzing in his head won't stop.

 

At some point, he awakes from his thoughts when he flashlight is turned off behind him. He doesn't turn to check who it is.

 

"He is bleeding pretty badly."

 

Then it all comes crashing back in his mind and he really wants to disappear.

 

"We have still some driving..." Vegan continues but Oli answers with a vague grunt.

 

With a sigh, the bassist sits on the ground ignoring that the hay is wet. He is pissed off but knows he can't leave. It might have been just a dark field but Oli is lost in his own mind and he would never find out alone. And being worried is overpowering the anger.

 

He doesn't know how long they have been there in silence until he opens his mouth. "I know you're miserable."

 

"Shit... You think?" Oli snorts. That was a nice word for it. It just isn't all. It was so much more complicated than a single word could ever describe.

 

"And that I apparently can't help."

 

"Such a cliche innit? No one can."

 

"And the booze does?" Vegan arches his eyebrow. It's weird to talk to someone who he can sense and hear but not see.

 

"It does. Somewhat. I wish I'd have something stronger."

 

The other sighs and glances back towards the bus in the distance. He can only see that the lights are on. There was no knowing what would be going on when they would get back. With another sigh, he turns his head back to Oli and then the flashlight back on. Oli is standing, swaying slightly, eyes focused to something in the distance. Probably to nothing really, as Vegan doesn't see anything.

 

"We should get back."

 

"Yeah", Oli swallows. Maybe alcohol did help some, but his mind was still whirlwind, nothing to grasp onto.

  

"And please behave. We still have so many days ahead."

 

"I will fucking kill him if he touches me", Oli grumbled.

  

"No, you won't. I'll handle it. Besides, he isn't the only one mad. But he is the only one bleeding."

 

"Awesome", Oli mumbles and turns around reluctantly. Even now he almost loses his footing but manages to keep his balance after all.

 

"Ready?"

 

"To get yelled at? To get babysat? To sleep a night in the fucking tin-can so that I could sleep then another night in it? Yeah, of course, I am", Oli says gloomily.

 

Vegan doesn't even bother to answer. How much he has to say, nothing feels right. Maybe there isn't anything to say anymore.

 

Oli takes a gulp from the bottle and follows the other back, towards the bus. With every step, he wants to run more than with the previous one. But he can't just quit. He has the band. And the fans. And that bus, full of angry people, is his only way to continue.

 

"How nice, you decided to come back", Matt opens his mouth just on the same second as they enter the bus.

 

Vegan shoots a glance at him and Matt throws his hands in the air, backing away. Oli ignores him and everyone staring. He wants to disappear, but at the same time, he wants to yell at them to stop. Stop staring, stop talking, stop everything.

 

"You fucking piece of shit!" Jona storms out from the back lounge but Sam steps in front of him before he reaches Oli. They stare at each other, apparently fighting wordlessly who will give up first.

 

"You two are not starting a fight too", Vegan says when neither of them budges.

 

Sam hates the whole thing. Oli shouldn't have hit Jona with the bottle, but technically Jona started and right now he is madder to Jona continuing it than Oli who is barely present.

 

"I have something to say to him and I am not yelling over you. Move the fuck away", Jona snarls finally.

 

"You can say what you want tomorrow", Sam stares back defiantly.

 

Oli scratches his neck. He doesn't want this. Any of this. Most of his friends seem overcharged, strained to their limit. Only needing a proper push to burst out of their seams.

 

"Can we all just fucking move on", tiny voice of Lee's asks and for once it isn't a question but a command.

 

Jona cocks his head but doesn't break the eye contact with Sam. Oli walks past them towards his bunk and he takes a step but Sam blocks his way again.

 

"You heard him."

 

"Not until he fucking apologizes!" he growls as Oli doesn't even look at him.

 

"Fuck you!" Oli spits back, still not bothering to turn. In any other circumstance, he would have. He would have done it without asking. But now, he knows Jona is only trying to stir. To make a point.

 

"Yeah yeah, you got to whine enough. Fuck off and let him be", Sam says and for a moment Vegan fears Jona will punch him too.

 

"Where's the driver?" Dan asks as finally the tension eases up slightly and Jona walks to the fridge.

 

"Behind the bus, still. I think", Matt lets out a sigh and glances at Oli who scrambles in his bunk.

 

Oli tries to shut the noises off around him. He is exhausted. And drunk. To the point that he doesn't know anymore is he exhausted because of the fighting or because he is so drunk. The bus rumbled on and he shifts. The bottle on his hand rolls on the floor but it's almost empty anyway so he doesn't bother to pick it up. Shaking his head he listens it thud against something.

 

The arguing in the corridor continues and he feels like crying. The feeling is overwhelming. They are arguing because of him and all he wants was to be left alone. To be unnoticed, ignored. They shouldn't care about him. They should forget he exists and be happy that he doesn't care. The lump in his throat burns and he closes his eyes trying to breathe. He doesn't hear Jona anymore, but the rest won't stop. Maybe it isn't that bad anymore, but it's still arguing. Still loud and he wonders will it ever stop. What does he need to do for them to understand him? After a while, the voices quiet down and the buzzing inside his head gets louder. Shifting he tries to find the sleep but his mind wouldn't shut down.

 

"You awake?" Dan's voice sounds strangely hoarse.

 

"Yeah."

 

Once again Oli doesn't want to be rude, even though he really just wants to be alone. Dan opens the curtain slowly and hands him a bottle of water.

 

"You will have a hell of a hangover tomorrow. Please drink."

 

"So, what, you are going to help me?" Oli snorts sarcastically.

 

Dan doesn't faze but lets out a sigh. "I will. If I only can."

 

"I love how I am having these same conversations over and over again."

 

"Okay. I get that", Dan mumbles. He knows they were going circles. But there must be a breakthrough somewhere. Right?

 

Dan stares at him compassionately, waiting for him to continue. He huffs loudly but cracks the bottle open and drinks half of it. Just to please his friend.

 

"You know you look horrible."

 

"Well thank you for pointing out the obvious. I like to avoid the mirrors just because", Oli rolls his eyes.

 

"I meant the blood. Fuck, mate... This can end badly", the other says and now Oli can sense someone else standing next to Dan, listening to them. Not that it would matter, everyone hears everything on that bus anyway. Whether now or later.

 

"I already told I have never even been late at a show or interview. This tour might not be easy but I will deal with it", he slurs heavily.

 

"I was talking about you. The way you are dealing with yourself. That can end badly", Dan raises his eyebrow.

 

Oli isn't following. Maybe because he was so tired. So drunk. How he is dealing with himself? He really isn't. More like he is trying not to deal with himself. Shut it away and not let it bother. But how can you really when it's already inside?

 

"Have you thought about it?"

 

"Huh?" he frowns, fidgeting with the bottle cap.

 

"What will happen if you lose yourself?"

 

But that isn't even the point. They must know that he is long gone.

 

"This is getting really old", Oli huffs now, not wanting to answer the question.

 

Maybe there was no point. In anything.

 

"Yeah, so it is", Dan answers, meaning the same thing, but from their point of view.

 

"Never has been", Oli's mind continues his previous thought and before he notices he has blurted the words out.

 

"What?"

 

"Nothing. No point. Anywhere. In anything. In any way", the other mumbles.

 

"Fuck", Dan shakes his head realizing Oli has disappeared inside his own head.

 

Oli catches his sad glance and it cuts like a knife. And same time it repulses him. He wonders is it the alcohol. It was supposed to numb him, but instead, it makes him feel things he doesn't want to. Even if they are just tiny slivers, he doesn't want them at all.

 

Next time he opens his eyes he is sprawled on the floor, the pungent odour of vomit tainting his shirt and filling up his nostrils. The lights are so bright and he closes his eyes again.

 

“Oli”, a voice somewhere above him says and he shivers. He feels nauseous, his head is pounding and his face feels funny. A wonderful way to wake up, he cringes at himself, but then he reminds himself that it’s nothing that he doesn’t deserve. Again.

 

“Are we in hurry?” he mumbles realising his other arm is numb.

 

“No”, the voice answers again and the frustration in it is so clear that he wants to tell the owner of the voice to piss off.

 

“Did you sleep there?” Sam suddenly steps over him, frowning.

 

“Dunno”, he answers and rolls on his side to pull himself up. Sam gives him a hand and grimaces then when he sees his shirt covered in puke.

 

“Oli.”

 

“Don’t even fucking start it, okay”, he huffs and ignores the worried stare, and Vegan who stays still next to Sam.

 

The weirdest part for him was how they had suddenly started to care. He had always searched help from the alcohol, it wasn’t a new thing. And it never had been a problem before.

 

Trying not to think about nausea that washes over him he grabs a towel and skips to the shower. After a good fifteen minutes, he still feels horrible, but the fact that the smell is gone relaxes him a bit. Shaking head at his mirror image he gathers the clothes and steps out from the tiny booth that serves as a toilet and a shower. His luck they even did have a shower on the bus on that tour.

 

“You look even worse than yesterday. And that is a lot said when your face was covered in blood”, Matt rolls his eyes but pushes past him not waiting for an answer.

 

Meanwhile, Oli keeps staring at the spot on the floor that seemed now spotless.

 

“Don’t want more fights”, Lee mumbles glancing at him carefully.

 

“I can clean up my own fucking mess”, Oli snarls and with that, he acknowledges that he is being rude. Again. Why was it so hard? They want to help, he doesn’t need it. He doesn’t want to be rude, but he also wants them to leave him alone.

 

The other sighs heavily and he rolls his eyes. “Fuck. Thanks, but seriously you all just need to leave me alone.”

 

“Yeah… I guess”, Lee stares at him cautiously, like he doesn’t know what to say. Oli had changed so subtly at first, but then it suddenly wasn’t that anymore. And then, it came to this. This sullen creature that was just a shadow of what it used to be. Often a catatonic stare that so suddenly could fill with sparks of anger. It might be part of Oli now, but Lee didn’t want to see it where it could lead.

 

“It’s not like I want to be a burden. Just stop caring. Way simpler that way”, Oli says and turns to put some clothes on.

 

Lee keeps staring at his back, still confused. The way Oli shuts himself off chills him to bone. It wasn't even his friend anymore.

 

Then Jona crawls out from his bunk and they both freeze. Oli shifts uncomfortably when he catches a glimpse of the wound on Jona's head. It isn't as bad as he thought, but after all, it's his actions that matter, not really the outcome. Then he sighs and decides he just better get over with.

 

"I really didn't mean that. Okay?"

 

"Yeah. It's fine", the other answers and Oli isn't quite sure is it genuine with it or not. His tone is strained but at least he doesn't start a lecture.

 

"Jesus. Those bruises look horrible", JJ laughs as he sees his face.

 

"Thanks, mate", he huffs in return and pulls a shirt on. JJ was the only one that never said his worries out loud.

 

After a while, they were all gathered in a diner and just a glance at the dirty yellow walls made Oli want to puke again. And the way they all seemed uncomfortable around him, like waiting for something to happen only made it worse.

 

Some nonsense babble, more awkward laughter and few surreptitious glances later he feels again choking. Staring at the door that opened when more people came in he rubs his throat. It was all wrong. It's like someone had torn his life up and then put it back together in the wrong order. Distorted images, fragments of something that it used to be. And then he can't take it anymore.

 

"Oi!" Matt yells behind him as he runs out from the building.

 

The venue was just around the corner and that is his plan. Back at the bus, he would be trapped, but the venue had more dark corners. More places to hide into.

 

It is really just wishful thinking. He knows they will find him soon. But just a moment. Just ten minutes alone.

 

Finally, he finds a dressing room and after asking a crew member to leave with a shaky voice and getting a weird look back he is alone.

 

The panic is squeezing his heart and he is sure it's all in vain. Whether alone or not, he really never is. The thoughts are flooding up his mind and then the distant memory of a nightmare appears. A dark room, just like that now, filled with shrill noises and loud bangs. Hands grabbing him and pulling him apart. Bones cracking and limbs twisting. And no blood. Absolutely no blood because that belongs to another nightmare.

 

He tries so hard to get his breathing to steady but it's like breathing fire. His lungs are collapsing as he curls in coughing for air.

 

"Fucking can't", he mumbles to himself wiping the persistent tears that prickle his eyes. He doesn't understand anything and it's beyond frustrating.

 

After what feels like an eternity a stripe of light appears on the floor. Blinking he stares at it, quietly, knowing already what's coming next.

 

"Mate... Too much drama", Matt's voice says before it steps in.

 

"Fuck off."

 

But the feet approach and then the other is already hovering over him. Slowly he sits up and pushes himself then to his feet. He leans on the wall, shaking. Matt keeps staring at him, wanting him to say something.

 

"You can't keep doing this."

 

"Fuck off!" he yells, and now he can see how Matt takes a step back. It's almost like the colour drains from his face. Maybe it's the tone. Maybe it's his expression, but it doesn't matter.

 

"I care. I really do", Matt swallows thickly. The anger emanating from the other is imaginable, but it would be wrong to leave.

 

"I know you do. I have fucking heard that too many times. From all of you. You all fucking care so much. Sometimes I feel like that's everything you have! Fucking bullshit", Oli paces, not knowing what to do.

 

"Dunno what to do."

 

"Then fucking don't! Don't do shit. Stop bothering me, stop caring. Just leave me the fuck alone", Oli yells again absolutely frustrated. The other is still staring at him, like demanding answers.

 

"I can't just..." Matt waves his hand in the air, "I know I can be a shitty friend but I can't just witness you slowly kill yourself."

 

Oli shakes his head. It's out of his hands. He can't even function anymore. "Don’t fucking lie. You won’t even miss me when I’m gone."

 

"You already are. And we are still here, you arsehole."

 

 

 

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Chapter Text

 

 

 

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Another show done. Another breather. Another time to be alive. To feel alive. And when the lights go down Oli knows that is left on the stage. And what follows him is the darkness inside him, now able to take a proper grip. Glancing towards the roaring crowd he follows the others to backstage. Pick up your belongings, the little you have. Back to the bus, and towards the next city. He swallows thickly as he wipes the sweat from his face to a towel. The others walk around him and he feels like it's all going in slow motion. The buzzing seems touchable, all of them excited because of the show. He does too, but not in the same way. He wants back because the stage is the only place where he doesn't fall into his dark thoughts. The only place where he can actually relax. Reluctantly he follows the rest out from the venue, feeling like surrounded by some haze.

 

Matt had been scowling at him angrily since they got back to the bus. He knows Matt is pissed off, but what was he going to do about it? It is on them, not him. He doesn't want them to be angry at him. Just leave him alone. Tom pokes him and hands a granola bar. He stares first the bar and then the other but decides to eat it anyway.

 

"Great show. Sorry I keep repeating it but that's what it is", Dan says passing them.

 

"Yeah, except his singing was sloppy", Matt notifies, raising his eyebrow.

 

Oli doesn't look at him. Silently he chews the granola bar that tastes like cardboard now and stares at the floor.

 

"In your opinion. I disagree. It wasn't", Sam says, grabbing a soda from the fridge.

 

"It was", Jona butts in.

 

Now Oli just wants to yell at them. He doesn't even care was his performance what they claim it to be, the fans would tell the truth later, and he would then make sure it won't happen again. The stage is his home, after all, he doesn't have reason to make it feel uncomfortable. And that it would be if he would fuck up the only thing he is good at.

 

Lee senses the mood change and leaves silently towards the bunks. He really doesn't want to stand there and watch it all blow up, which he guesses was coming.

 

"So what's the issue? I know Jona just wants to fight. That's clear. But Matt? Oli wasn't bad", Dan asks, raising his eyebrow. He has no idea why are they arguing again.

 

"I didn't say he was. I said the singing was sloppy", Matt crosses his arms on his chest and leans against the cupboard.

 

"Same shit", Oli frowns. And again he wants to puke. Why do they make him so easily so agitated?

 

"I was just agreeing", Jona says but everyone ignores him, knowing he was still pissed off because of the fight the other day.

 

Vegan turns around mumbling, "Fucking cunt."

 

"Matt, seriously. I watched the set from the side-stage. You know you don't even hear everything perfectly while you're playing. So maybe you are wrong", Sam tries to explain, interrupting whatever is coming from Vegan's mouth. He feels Matt is onto something, trying some weird approach to the issue.

 

"Nah. He has given up. Soon he will be total shit and the bottles thrown at us are justified", Jona continues and Sam turns to look at him angrily.

 

Oli decides it’s not even worth it and shakes his head. He stares them all, like waiting that they do something. Say something. Something else than where it is going. Sam keeps also staring Jona, not really knowing what to say at this point. But Jona snorts and Oli just knows the guitarist is bored, wanting to fight.

 

"Fuck you both", Oli growls pointing at Jona and Matt and leaves before the situation escalates.

 

Just the same thing, different day. Jona wants to fight and Matt tries to get under his skin. Lee disappears when the tension gets too much and Vegan is there in the middle, trying to get them to stop the arguing.

 

Crawling to his bunk he shivers. It's all again crashing down on him and all he wants is to be ignored. He can hear the rest keep talking but he ignores it.

 

"Shit", he mumbles and rubs his neck.

 

"Mate, it's alright", Dan is suddenly there, staring at him.

 

He shakes his head. Not because he doesn't agree, but because he wants to be alone. It's all in vain anyway.

 

"Seriously. I don't know what's Matt's issue, but Jona... he is just mad."

 

Oli blinks and stares the other. He feels too exhausted to even open up his mouth.

 

"Are you drinking today?" Dan asks, looking slightly uneasy.

 

"Does it matter", Oli breathes, and it isn't even a question.

 

"I don't know. Does it? I know that if Jona would have given up the last time it wouldn't have gone to that but..." the other mumbles, not knowing how to put it in words.

 

"So you're going to start that too huh."

 

"Oli. Listen. We are worried. I don't mind you drinking. But it's not just that anymore. You are running and that's... not good."

 

"He seems so worried", Oli huffs sarcastically, meaning Jona who was talking loudly at the other side of the bus.

 

"Fuck him. He apparently has his own issues and thinks that pouring it on you is the way to go. I don't know is there really anything we could do about it though."

 

"I'm fucking suffocating", Oli gasps and even though his throat is closing in he doesn't mean here and now.

 

Dan stares him again lost in the words. He wants to say so many things, but he is scared that if he says something wrong or in a wrong way Oli will either bolt or shut himself off again.

 

Oli shifts and turns his gaze to the duvet. He wonders how can it hurt so much.

 

"What do yo need?" Dan decides it's maybe best to ask than to give advice not even knowing to what he was giving them to.

 

"I..." Oli starts but ends the sentence there. What does he really need? Besides them leaving him alone. If he would know the answer wouldn't he had already done something to reach it. To solve the issue.

 

"Please. There must be something", Dan asks again.

 

"Tranquility", Oli murmurs after a while. Maybe it isn't the full truth, but it is part of it. Most of what he knows.

 

"Right. Okay. That's understandable", the other answers, but he needs more.

 

“I can’t… I can’t even breathe anymore.”

 

“Are you drowning because it’s easier than swimming?” Dan suggests watching as Oli rubs his face.

 

Oli’s eyes fixate to the end of the bunk. So many words and yet again they seem meaningless. Or maybe they aren’t, he just can’t find the right ones amongst the wrong ones.

 

“Maybe you are scared.”

 

“Do you think I fucking want this? I can’t breathe, but I still can feel”, Oli gasps desperately, but he knows Dan, like all of them, think about the situation differently.

 

“You know that’s not what I meant”, Dan says and turns as Sam brushes his back, gesturing him to drop it there. Sam has seen it all too, and he acknowledges they are yet again going in circles.

 

Oli shakes his head. He knows. He knows so damn well it. And yet the words sting.

 

He watches as Dan leaves with the same sorrow in his eyes, followed by Sam. Now it’s just him and the words fighting inside his mind. He decides that it’s time to grab the notepad since he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s still in the same place as he left it in, under his pillow with the pencil, but as he opens it, everything seems irrelevant. Closing his eyes he claws his neck as if the nails digging into his skin would give any relief. Painfully he comes to the realisation that the worst part was that he couldn’t control his own mind anymore. That even how hard he tries there is no way out.

 

“Hey, you want something?”, JJ stops in front of his bunk peeking in. The way JJ behaves towards him is so different than the rest did, that it often surprised him. Dan says JJ cares too, but in a different way. Oli prefers this type of caring. The constant talking was exhausting.

 

“Booze”, he sighs, but it’s more just a joke than a real request.

 

“Sorry mate, we are out of it. But the drive isn’t too long”, JJ smirks and he nods.

 

Concentrating back to the page, with the words he last time added there, he shakes his head once again. The others are still talking, but even the angry edge in it is now gone. The laughter pierces his ears and he grimaces. Maybe it’s the thought that he will never have that feeling anymore. The laughter reminds him of the days when he could feel joy. The genuine joy that was so warm and peaceful. Now all he has is this. The empty words that stare back at him, making him numb. How can numbness hurt? And it's not the same numb that alcohol causes. That’s the numb he wants. To the point, that it’s not fun anymore.

 

Vegan walks past the bunks hesitating in front of his. The bassist looks like he wants to say something, but Oli doesn’t want to hear it. They shouldn’t care if they weren’t ready to see where it will lead. He doesn’t even understand it. Why care of something that is already gone? He had told it to them, and yet they still won’t listen.

 

“What?” he grunts as Vegan just lingers there, not even properly looking at him.

 

“Sorry.”

 

“About what?” he frowns, not keeping up.

 

“For Matt being a dick”, Vegan sighs and finally looks at him.

 

“Nothing new there. He has his reasons.”

 

“Right. And Jona…”

 

“He has a reason too but if he doesn’t stop… You fucking know I won’t deal with that bullshit”, Oli says.

 

“Yeah, but we are in the middle of a tour”, Vegan answers glancing at Lee who stares at them from his bunk.

 

“I don’t give a shit. I can’t even do my job if he doesn’t stop bugging me. As I said, I have done my part. Let me have my free time then too.”

 

“Yeah, but…” Vegan swallows. He really has only but’s. Because either way he was losing his friend, and he doesn’t know what to do. Denial was certainly not the way to deal with it, but what if he would just push Oli further away if he would try harder?

 

“But what? This is my life. Can I please live it as I want?” Oli frowns and now he really wishes he would have some gin left.

 

“So it is. But what if you don’t see it yourself? You are falling apart. I thought it was slow, but it’s way faster. And…” the other lets out another sigh.

 

“Yeah. And. There is always but, and, if… But no one says why.

 

“So there is… I can’t help if you don’t even give me any place to start”, Vegan says and he can notice Lee’s expression change. Maybe Lee was the first one to actually give up?

 

“Then don’t. Matt probably told you what I said to him in the dressing room? Let me fucking be. I don’t need your concern. I don’t need your caring.”

 

Vegan stares him now bluntly. He has heard that same thing in other ways. It isn’t anything new to him, but still, it hurts.

 

“And then what? You're fading! Are you so fucking blind that you don't see it?"

 

Oli huffs, annoyed, deciding he has heard enough he jumps out from the bunk. Pushing past the other he tries to chase away the arising panic. Now the only place he can be alone on the bus was the toilet.

 

He knows Vegan is just a leap away but as he slams the door behind his mind relaxes just that tiny fraction as he realises he got the door locked before anyone could reach him. Huffing the air out he spins in the tiny space. As it would help. And he knows already it was a stupid decision. How can that tiny tour bus toilet that is more like a closet relieve any of his panic. The only thing missing there is the eyes that were either sad, despiteful or just plain hateful. He doesn’t want any of those and maybe the worst thing is that he can’t even properly differentiate them from each other. Now he huffs some more and spins around again.

 

Breathe in, breathe out. He squeezes the sink with his hands but refuses to look into the mirror. He knows what's waiting there. He must look even worse than before. The bruises had gone deeper purple, parts starting to change to greenish-yellow. But even that doesn't diminish how dark the shadows under his eyes are. In his eyes too. He knows it without looking in the mirror. And maybe he is scared to see what's behind those shadows.

 

He hears the knock on the door but instead of answering he squeezes the sink harder, knuckles getting white. His insides were twisting as he gasps for air. He counts the breaths as his ears start to buzz. There was no way out of it, and he knows it too well.

 

More knocking and now the sound is mixing with the buzzing in his ears. Now it's already pure cacophony. And the pounding only gets louder. The bus rattles forward and in a tight curve, he almost loses his balance.

 

"Oli!"

 

He fights so hard that he doesn't scream back. It's already too much. It's already past that line he always tries to not cross. Clawing his throat he squeezes his eyes tighter shut. All again caving in on him and he doesn't know how to stop it.

 

"Oi! What the fuck..."

 

In the other side of the door, Vegan throws his hands in the air. Lee stares at him from his bunk, overwhelmed.

 

"What?" Matt frowns as he notices Vegan staring at the floor.

 

"No idea. He locked himself up there", the other answers.

 

"And doesn't hear you? What's he doing?"

 

"I don't know. All I can hear is heavy breathing", Vegan answers.

 

"This is fucking ridiculous", Matt mumbles and walks to the door, past the other.

 

"Oli. Open the door."

 

Oli hears the words but he doesn't even know how to respond. He wants to be alone and meantime he doesn't even know what is going on with him. Feeling like he is suffocating he opens the tap and turns it as cold as it gets. Quickly he splashes his face with the cold water, but it does nothing. Now he is shaking and sure he will pass out. The oxygen burns in his lungs and Matt's shouting only makes it worse. How can it all be so confusing?

 

"Seriously!"

 

"Matt I don't think that works", Vegan notes and the drummer shots a glance at him.

 

"Don't fucking start it again", he says as Matt keeps staring at him, his eyes conveying how frustrated he is.

 

"Well, I need to use the toilet and I can't when the door is locked!" Matt yells at him and Vegan knows there's no use in trying to calm him down.

 

Inside Oli spins around again. Now the small toilet doesn't seem such a good idea anymore. But he can't leave either. He stares at his hands that are trembling and gasps for air. Even the oxygen seems to be disappearing. But they are there and he just can't leave.

 

But Matt keeps slamming the door with his fists and Oli lets out a desperate whine. It's too much. Why can't they see it? Chewing his lip he tries to focus to stop his hands from shaking, but the buzzing in his ears is so loud that it almost buries under Matt's yells. But only almost.

 

"Come on! Open the fucking door already!"

 

Oli claws his throat again, as it would help with the breathing. Nothing will and he knows it too well. As Matt yells again and pounds the door he opens his mouth to scream back but nothing comes out. Absolutely frustrated, feeling cornered he slams his fist to the mirror only breaking it to pieces. The panic inside him doesn't let go off his lungs, and now the blood running down his fingers and dripping onto the floor make him want to vomit. He spins around and slumps on the floor. Swallowing thickly he pulls his knees to his chest, listening to the cacophony of his own thoughts buzzing, the fists pounding at the door and Matt yelling. He tries to calm his breathing. He tries to focus on something else. Anything else. But nothing helps. But he is fine. Right?

 

"Seriously why the fuck..." Matt says as he finally manages to bust the door open, but before he gets further he catches the mirror shards and the blood on the floor.

 

"What the fuck happened?" he swallows and suddenly all the anger in him had dissolved, leaving only frustration behind.

 

And Oli doesn't even answer. The only thing he can do is try to breathe. Even when the air is still burning and he feels like passing out.

 

"Not fucking again", Jona peeks inside and rolls his eyes as he sees Oli. He doesn't get why Oli doesn't get his shit together. They were on tour and it was beyond embarrassing at this point.

 

"Shut up", Vegan mumbles and approaches Oli. He cringes when he steps onto the mirror pieces.

 

"Come on", he gives the other a hand but Oli doesn't even look at him. His eyes stay closed and to him, it seems like the other has disappeared somewhere. But he can clearly see the hand is bleeding what worries him.

 

"Good lord", Jona whines and Vegan just wants to slap him.

 

"Okay, I still don't get your fucking attitude but can you at least save it for later. You sound like a bitch and it's getting really old", Sam is suddenly there gesturing Vegan that they should help Oli up.

 

In the tiny space, it takes a lot of effort, but finally, they manage to get Oli up to his feet. Oli is still shaking, but a tiny part of him is glad to be out from there.

 

"I don't know... is this a bad movie or something", Matt mumbles as the two help Oli to his bed.

 

Oli feels still like suffocating and the way the rest stare at him just makes it worse. So much worse. He pulls his knees to his chest again and closes his eyes. The noises around him, every single one, are so loud. Like piercing through his skull.

 

They all seem to be just as lost. Jona finds the whole situation annoying. Lee had woken up to the yelling and is now staring at them worried. Matt thinks this isn't Oli and that the whole thing must be a joke. Vegan thinks Oli needs help and also that Oli won't accept any. Sam is just speechless. He stares at Tom who ponders where did it all go this wrong.

 

"We... we need to get the bleeding stop", Vegan is the first to get his brains to function and despite Oli still shaking he steps away and walks back to the toilet. The toilet paper was his first thought, and he doesn't even try to figure out another solution.

 

"What now?" Matt asks as he returns and instantly grabs Oli's hand pressing the paper there.

 

He shakes his head in return. He doesn't know what to do. Oli is still absentminded but at least he lets Vegan help with the hand. The bassist listens to the breathing that is somewhere between shallow and panicked and he ponders should they just call an ambulance.

 

"Is it bad?" Sam asks softly.

 

Turning the hand he checks the cuts and shakes his head again then, "No. I don't think he even needs stitches or anything. Can you grab the first-aid kit?"

 

Sam nods but it takes a while before he is able to move. Oli looks totally lost, but so are they all.

 

"Fucking circus", Jona huffs and goes to his own bed causing Tom to throw his hands in the air.

 

Now Oli is just staring in front of him and somehow Vegan feels weird to look at his eyes. The eyes that had gotten so void lately, had now shadows that make his insides twist. He only hopes it's temporary. That his friend is still somewhere there.

 

"It's never going to end. Right?"  Oli whispers, and Vegan doesn't even know is it a question anymore.

 

 

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