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Coping Mechanisms

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Tyler wakes up to a weird sound coming from Josh's bunk.

pop. pop. pop. pop. pop. pop. pop. pop.

„It's two in the morning. What the hell are you doing down there?”

Silence.

Then, a tiny voice.

„Nothing.”

Tyler rolls onto his back and closes his eyes again.

pop. pop. pop.

He sighs, props himself on his elbow and listens.

pop. pop. pop. pop.

„Josh.”

Silence.

pop. pop. pop.

„Whatever you're doing, stop it. It's annoying.”

„Sorry.”

pop. pop.

Tyler groans.

He rolls out of his bunk, lands on his feet and pulls the curtain to Josh's bunk open.

The drummer freezes.

The last pop interrupts the silence.

Tyler raises his eyebrows at the sight of a piece of bubble wrap that Josh holds in his hands.

„Are you kidding me?”

Josh swallows nervously.

Tyler snatches the bubble wrap from the drummer's hands, walks out to the lounge and throws it into the trash can.

He comes back, closes Josh's curtain and climbs into his own bunk.

„Go to sleep, for God's sake.”

There's a rusting sound of the sheets and a loud shaky sigh but then everything stops.

Tyler throws the blanket over his head.

He falls asleep.

- - -

Tyler talks.

At least he tries to.

tap. tap. tap. tap.

He can't focus so he gives a seven-minute long answer to one simple question.

The interviever is too polite to interrupt his rambling.

She nods her head and lets him talk instead.

tap. tap. tap.

Tyler hesitates but continues.

„And besides, I think-”

tap. tap. tap.

He takes a deep breath.

„Uhm. I think that-”

tap. tap.

Tyler turns his head to the side and looks at the drummer, sending him a meaningful glance.

Josh doesn't seem to get the hint.

He stares blankly at the floor.

Tyler manages to finish his thought.

tap. tap.

He bites his bottom lip and clenches his fist.

The girl wraps up the interview, shakes their hands and leaves.

They wait for another interviewer to take her place.

tap. tap. tap. tap. tap.

„Josh.”

„Hmm?”

tap. tap. tap.

„Josh.”

tap. tap. tap.

Tyler growls.

„Dude!”

Josh jumps up at the sudden outburst.

„W-what?”

„If you don't stop tapping your feet, I'm gonna break your freaking leg.”

„Oh. Sorry.”

Josh looks at the floor.

The tapping stops.

A man with a microphone walks in.

- - -

Tyler buttons up his shirt and stares at Josh in the mirror reflection.

click. click. click. click. click. click. click.

„Who is getting into the hamster ball tonight?”

click. click.

„Josh?”

The drummer looks up.

„Yeah?”

„Whose turn it is?”

„Turn for what?”

click. click. click.

Tyler sighs.

„Hamster ball.”

„I don't know. Mine? Probably mine.”

click.

The singer ties a tie around his neck.

„What do you want to do tomorrow?”

Josh looks up again.

„Huh?”

„Tomorrow. What do you want to do tomorrow?”

„Tomorrow?”

click. click.

Tyler grits his teeth and puts his hands on the table in front of him, leaning forward.

He's annoyed.

He hangs his head and takes a deep breath.

„It's our day off tomorrow.”

„Oh.”

click. click. click.

„Are you gonna get ready for the show or are you planning to stay here and keep clicking this goddamned pen the whole night?”

Silence.

click. click. click.

Tyler turns around.

Josh stares at the floor.

click. click.

Tyler takes three big steps forward and snatches the ballpoint pen from Josh's hand without any warning.

He throws it across the room.

Josh flinches and stares at him with fear and confusion.

Tyler looks him in the eyes.

„Twenty minutes. And you're still wearing your freaking sweatpants. Go change.”

Josh nods slowly, gets up and leaves Tyler's dressing room.

Tyler exhales.

He glances at the ballpoint pen lying on the floor.

He feels bad.

- - -

The plane shakes.

scratch. scratch. scratch. scratch.

Tyler dozes off once the giant metal box is steady.

scratch. scratch.

The plane shakes again, harder this time.

„Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We are currently experiencing slight turbulence due to a passing storm front. There's nothing to worry about. However, for your own safety, please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts, thank you.”

scratch. scratch.

Tyler opens his eyes and buckles up his seatbelt.

Even if the plane keeps shaking, he tries to fall asleep again.

scratch. scratch. scratch. scratch.

„Please, stop.”

The scratching continues.

Tyler looks to his left and sighs.

„Josh, for God's sake, stop it.”

„Sorry.”

The drummer rests his open palm on his thigh and looks out the window.

Tyler notices the distress on his face but ignores it.

He's about to drift off when the plane jerks one more time and the irritating noise is there again.

scratch. scratch. scratch.

Tyler opens his eyes and looks at Josh, frantically scratching his nails against the material of his jeans.

His eyes are focused on the clouds outside the window.

scratch. scratch. scratch.

Tyler reaches out without thinking.

He covers Josh's hand with his own and laces their fingers together.

He gives them a light squeeze and Josh's head turns in his direction.

He looks surprised.

Tyler smiles reassuringly.

„It's okay.”

The plane shakes again.

Josh's breath hitches.

Tyler squeezes his hand again.

„It's okay. We’re safe. I promise.”

Josh believes him.

He relaxes.

- - -

A cardboard box full of photos waits on the table in front of them.

crack.

Tyler cringes.

He looks around but has no idea where the sound did come from.

He scribbles down his name.

crack.

Josh signs the photo of himself in the right upper corner.

He moves his head.

crack.

„Dude, was that your neck?”

Josh doesn't answer.

He reaches for another photo and signs it.

Tyler frowns but focuses on writing his own name again.

They're alone in the room and there's a big box full of photos they need to sign in another hour.

Josh sighs loudly.

He moves his wrist.

crack.

„This is really disturbing.”

„Sorry.”

The amount of unsigned photos seems terrifying.

crack.

„Josh.”

„Sorry.”

Tyler starts humming a song.

Josh signs another photo.

His hands shake.

He stretches and his elbow makes a noise.

crack.

Tyler throws his arms in the air.

„Josh!”

„Sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Sorry-”

The singer frowns.

„It's- Hey. Josh. You're shaking.”

„I'm sorry, I'm sorry.”

„No, no. I didn't mean to yell. What's wrong?”

Josh rubs his fingers against his eyelids, shrugs and takes a shaky breath.

He hides his face behind his hands.

Tyler gets up from his spot, rounds the table and sits down on a chair next to Josh.

„I'm sorry.”

„No. It's okay. Just tell me what's wrong.”

„I don't know. I don't know! I- I keep thinking- I can't stop- What if... What if-”

He moves his wrist and his joints crack again.

Tyler wraps him in a hug.

„Hey, don't do that. Let's take a break, okay? Come on. Let's get some fresh air.”

Josh shakes his head and lets out a sob.

„But the photos-”

„Screw the photos. The world will not end if we don't finish signing them on time. Come on. We will sit on the balcony.”

He leads Josh outside.

They slide down to the floor and press their backs against the wall.

Tyler hooks his arm around Josh's shoulder and pulls him close.

He kisses the top of his head.

Josh throws his legs over Tyler's thighs and curles up against the singer's side.

He pushes his face into the crook of Tyler's neck.

„I hate this.”

He still shakes.

Tyler starts rubbing his tattooed arm.

Up and down.

Up and down.

„Why am I like this?”

„It's okay. Everything will be fine. You're fine. You're safe. I'm here.”

- - -

The sound is faint but it's still there.

smack. smack. smack.

Tyler looks up and puts his hand on the drummer's cheek.

„Better?”

„Yeah.”

smack.

The bus keeps moving.

smack. smack. smack.

„I'm here. You're safe. I'm here. I'll always be here.”

„I know. I'm sorry.”

„There’s no reason to be sorry. Just relax. Stop thinking. Focus on me.”

smack.

Someone walks into the lounge.

smack.

„Hey, guys.”

Josh hides his face against the singer's shoulder.

Mark stares with worried expression on his face.

„Can I help?”

Josh whimpers.

Tyler wraps his arms around his shaking frame.

He grabs the drummer's head between his hands and kisses him on the lips.

smack.

„Josh, it's fine.”

smack.

„Josh. Josh. Focus. It's fine. Come on. Mark knows. Focus.”

The drummer blinks.

He stares at Tyler but then moves his head to the side and looks at Mark.

„It's okay, Josh.”

„It's... okay?”

„Of course. At least it's less annoying than a bubble wrap popping or ballpoint pen clicking.”

„Oh.”

He takes a shaky breath.

Tyler pulls him in for another kiss.

„Do you guys need anything?”

„Could you please get a blanket from my bunk?”

„Of course.”

Mark comes back with a blanket and Tyler wraps it around Josh.

They're alone in the quiet lounge again.

The bus keeps moving.

„You should get some sleep.”

„Don't wanna move.”

„You can sleep here.”

„I don’t wanna be alone.”

Tyler shifts until he lies down on the couch.

He pulls Josh down with him and throws the blanket over their bodies.

„Sleep. I'm right here.”

Josh nuzzles his nose against Tyler's neck.

„Thank you. I love you.”

„I love you too.”