Awsten wakes up in a cold sweat with a pulsing pressure in his temples. The bus hums and jostles him slightly as it travels down the freeway, and while he's used to it by now, in this very moment he wishes he couldn't feel it. A quick glance at his phone tells him it's still early, and he can't figure out if he'll be able to fall back asleep or if he should scroll through twitter for a bit. He gets as far as opening the app and seeing the first couple tweets at the top of his feed before deciding against it. Instead, he rolls from his bunk and shuffles to the fridge for a quick glass of water before turning heel and squeezing into Geoff's bunk with him. Geoff sighs lightly in his sleep and lifts an arm for him, and Awsten tiredly tucks himself into his side and closes his eyes. Sleep doesn’t come quickly.
The next time Awsten wakes up, Otto is gently shaking him and Geoff awake. It’s still early, but by now the sun is coming up and the bus is no longer moving. The headache from earlier is still pounding in his head, but now it’s accompanied with a deep, sinking feeling in the middle of his chest and dark, stormy clouds loitering in the back of his mind. He groans and attempts to bury himself further into the bunk, but Geoff lightly pushes at his shoulders and now he has to move. He steals Geoff's blanket on his way out as retribution, and Otto has to take his wrist and pull him toward the lounge in order to stop him from climbing back into his own bunk. Awsten huffs and plops himself into the booth instead with his back against the wall. His entire being feels heavy and miserable, and he wants nothing more than to sink into the earth and call it a day. A month, a year, etc.
Geoff retreats to the bathroom, Lucas is scrolling through his phone on the couch next to Otto, and Jawn is digging through the fridge looking for something to eat. Awsten should eat too, he thinks, but his throat feels tight and he doesn’t think he could keep anything down, so he doesn’t. Instead, Jawn hands him an orange juice and he takes small sips as he waits for it to make him feel a little better. It doesn’t, and he ends up putting the bottle back in the fridge for later. If he feels like it.
It’s a promo day, which means interviews followed by more interviews throughout the morning followed by a photoshoot with Jawn in the afternoon. There’s also a large stack of posters to sign in preparation for tomorrow’s show. Awsten isn’t feeling up for any of it; he feels tired and anxious, and his jaw is getting sore from inadvertently clenching his teeth, but he steels himself for the day anyways, and clings to Otto as they leave the bus. He doesn’t miss the concerned looks Geoff and Jawn are shooting at him, and he definitely doesn’t miss the looks they’re giving each other and Otto, but he doesn’t acknowledge it, just holds Otto’s hand and follows Lucas into the building of their first interview of the day. Today is going to suck .
Each interview feels like an eternity, and most of them are composed of the same old questions. Awsten tries his best to keep up appearances, but the anxiety that has been weighing him down all morning is making him both quieter and more of an asshole. He just can’t deal with any bullshit today. Thankfully, Otto and Geoff help keep him grounded, and their last interview of the day is with James Wilson-Taylor, who always manages to keep the interviews somewhat interesting and fun. Even then, by the time it’s all over, Awsten still feels drained right down to his very core. There’s still the photoshoot to do, but Awsten’s head is buzzing and his skin is on fire and he’s seconds from crying. His persona is crumbling quickly, and he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep going.
The anxiety is creeping through his veins tenfold, and he has to take a moment to calm down. He’s still holding Otto’s hand, but it’s not as comforting as it was hours earlier. He can hear Geoff on the phone with management trying to postpone the photoshoot. It’s not as if Jawn won’t be with them later on anyways, but he still can’t see them agreeing to that. Either luck is on his side for once or Geoff tells them to fuck off, because the next thing he knows Jawn is telling him they’re heading straight to the hotel. Awsten nearly cries out in relief and collapses against Otto’s side. He can make it to the hotel, he tells himself.
The drive to the hotel takes about twenty minutes, but it feels much longer for Awsten, whose headache is getting much worse. His hands are starting to shake now and he can feel the panic starting to bubble in his chest. He spends the ride curled up on the couch with his eyes closed, wishing the oncoming attack away, but the bus moving isn’t helping with anything. When the bus comes to a halt at the hotel, he bounced on his heels in the lobby with his backpack slung over his shoulder and his boys hovering around him as they wait for Lucas to bring the room keys. He feels claustrophobic, and when Lucas finally gives him his key Awsten is immediately scrambling away from the group and up the nearest staircase to their room. Fuck elevators. The walls are caving in. He can feel the dam starting to break as he struggles to swipe the card with shaky hands. On the third try, the door finally swings open and Awsten gasps for air as he drops to his knees in the entryway, his bag falling to the floor beside him.
His ears are ringing, and he pushes his fingertips hard into the carpet in an attempt to cease the trembling. He puts his head between his knees. His vision is black and he can feel flames eating away at his flesh, burning him from the outside in. Simultaneously, he’s never felt colder. Suddenly there’s hands grasping at his shoulders from behind, and he involuntarily flinches at the contact before recognizing the hands as belonging to Geoff and falling backwards into him. Geoff presses his chest into Awsten’s back, rubbing his upper arms, and starts counting softly into Awsten’s left ear. It takes him a few minutes, but Awsten silently counts along as the blinding panic starts to bleed away into nothingness and his breathing begins to even out.
When Awsten finally opens his eyes, Otto and Jawn are sitting on the floor across from them, leaning against each other whilst keeping their distance so as to not overwhelm Awsten any more. He sluggishly reaches out towards Jawn, who swiftly moves forward and pulls Awsten out of Geoff’s arms and into his own, brushing his hair back and asking if he’s okay. He shrugs tiredly and rests his head limply on Jawn’s shoulder. The anxiety is draining out of him, but his stomach still aches and his head is spinning now. He’s not okay yet, but he will be. The four of them stay on the floor for a few minutes more before getting up. There’s a couch by the window facing a flat screen TV, and Jawn guides Awsten to it and pulls him on top of himself. The colourful haired boy rests his head on Jawn’s chest and closes his eyes once more, just for a moment.
Geoff and Otto are speaking softly to each other on the other side of the room, and when Awsten reopens his eyes, they’ve gotten the switch hooked up to the TV and are setting up Mario Kart. Geoff grabs the blue controller and lifts Jawn and Awsten’s legs momentarily to sit on the other end of the couch before resting them on his own and running a hand comfortingly up and down Awsten’s ankle. Otto, instead of sitting on one of the two queen sized beds, sits on the floor in front of them with the red controller, giving Awsten the perfect opportunity to drape his arm over Jawn’s chest and tangle his hand in Otto’s curls. The last thing he remembers is the feeling of Jawn pressing a soft kiss to the top of his head before he succumbs to a much needed sleep.
Today was a terrible day, but at least he has his boys to help him feel a little bit better.