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across a fragile line (hold me down)

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He feels empty. 

 

 

 

Josh wakes up in his bunk and doesn't remember anything from the night before until he's in his hotel bathroom and spots his crumpled clothing by the shower. He spins around and promptly vomits into the toilet. 

 

Once he's finished throwing up the entire contents of his stomach, he goes to wash out his mouth. He sees his reflection in the mirror and blanches, horrified. 

 

He looks hollow. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

 

 

Josh strips down, pointedly ignoring the way his body protests to the sudden movements. He steps into the shower and turns the water on, making sure it's as hot as he can handle. He scrubs his skin as ruthlessly as he can, knowing logically that there's nothing left to wash off; the shower last night took care of that. But at the back of his mind, there's something telling him that if he manages to wash the feeling of those hands on him, maybe it never happened. 

 

Yes, maybe it never happened. If he can't feel it, if he denies it ever happened, maybe it never did. They're his memories, and it's his decision to forget them. 

 

Maybe it never happened. Maybe he can make it so it never happened. 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

 

 

It's probably half an hour later when Josh finally shuts off the water and steps out of the shower. The feeling on his skin is mostly gone, but it makes the feeling of the cold hollowness in his chest more prominent. He wraps a towel around his waist and scoops his clothes up. He goes to open the door when he sees his reflection in the mirror and pauses. 

 

"Fucking tin man," he mutters, opening the bathroom door and heading for his bag so he can dress.

 

That's when the hotel door opens. "Josh!"

 

Josh freezes on his way to grab his bag. Does Tyler know? Does he see what Josh sees when he looks into the mirror?

 

But Tyler just smiles and says, "Hey man, we missed you for dinner! I saved you a burrito, though."

 

Josh tries to work his mouth into some kind of smile. "Thanks," he says, and even his voice sounds hollow.

 

"Well, you probably want, like, actual breakfast food, not a burrito," Tyler says as Josh starts to inch over to his bag. "And Taco Bell doesn't really keep that well, but I think it'll be okay if you want it now."

 

"Yeah, uh, that would be great," Josh says. He isn't really hungry, but he would be on any other day. And it is any other day, so he's hungry.

 

They both stand there for a moment. 

 

"Are you gonna get changed?" Tyler asks, breaking the silence. 

 

"Right," Josh says, and he busies himself with picking out his outfit for the day. He can hear Tyler heading for the mini-fridge and pulling something out. He quickly dresses before Tyler has the chance to look at him (and notice that something's wrong) (no there's nothing wrong).

 

"Catch," Tyler says, tossing a cold burrito Josh's way. It'll probably taste gross, but Josh has eaten grosser things. "So, we're gonna be stopping by the laundromat today, by the way. If you wanna sort the dirty stuff out." He jerks his head down in the direction of Josh's bag. Josh has a sudden moment of panic, thinking that Tyler knows why the clothes are dirty, knows that Josh is just as dirty, but he quickly realizes that Tyler is probably referring to the way Josh's clothes are scattered across the floor, making it difficult to tell the clean clothes from the ones that aren't. 

 

"Okay. Thanks," Josh says, unwrapping his burrito. It is disgusting, but he can't really taste it. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

 

 

Tyler leaves a couple minutes later, saying something about finding Mark. Josh finishes the burrito and tosses the wrappers into the trash can before beginning to sort through his clothes. They were packed neatly, but Josh had clawed through them desperately last night, trying to find something that wasn't so… tight. 

 

He has most of his laundry sorted when he picks up the shirt he wore last night. 

 

Josh stares at it. If he can't see the shirt, if he can't see the physical reminder of last night, he can forget about it. He can forget. 

 

He grabs the jeans and underwear from last night; the socks and the jacket and even the shoes. Everything must go. 

 

He shoves them deep into the trash bin, tossing a couple of completely full water bottles in after in an attempt to hide them. He doesn't want to have to answer any of the questions Tyler might ask if he sees them. He'll have nothing to say. 

 

Because nothing happened. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

 

 

"You kind of, like, messed with the aesthetic, dude," Tyler says, sounding more confused than angry. 

 

"I– I just needed a change," Josh says, running his fingers through his newly dyed purple hair. 

 

"Oh," Tyler says. "Well, uh. It looks good."

 

"Thanks."

 

Tyler gives him an odd look before checking his phone and saying, "We have an interview in ten minutes, dude."

 

"Okay," Josh says. "Do we have an acoustic session too, or–?"

 

Tyler shakes his head. "No. Some radio station just wants a quick interview or something."

 

Josh nods, clapping his hands together a couple of times in an attempt to ease his nerves. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

 

 

"Cool hair, bro!" the radio host says once Josh and Tyler are seated in the booth, headphones on. "Since you guys can't see it, Josh– the drummer, right? has some badass purple hair."

 

Josh smiles in return, momentarily forgetting that he's on the radio. "Oh, uh. Thanks," he says belatedly. 

 

The host just laughs, waving a hand in Josh's direction before launching into the interview. The questions are all directed towards Tyler, and Josh lets himself drift off. His attention is only brought back when he hears the radio host say, "…was telling my boyfriend about this coffee shop I found the other day."

 

Tyler laughs, since apparently the host was telling a joke, but all Josh can hear is the blood rushing through his ears. The radio host is– is gay? What does he see when he looks at Josh? Instantly, Josh feels… naked. Vulnerable. 

 

He realizes that both Tyler and the host are looking at him, and he clears his throat nervously. "Sorry?" he asks. 

 

The radio host laughs. He does that a lot. "Tyler mentioned that you guys eat a lot of Taco Bell. What's your favorite thing to get there?"

 

Josh rapidly opens and closes his mouth. "Uh– I, uh… I don't know," he splutters. 

 

Tyler gives him a weird look. "We both like the Cheesy Gordita Crunch," he says. 

 

"Cheesy little fat crunch," the host translates. "Yum yum." He laughs again, but he's looking at Josh with an odd expression on his face.

 

Josh looks away, staring at his hands. The hollowness in his chest expands, making it harder for him to breathe. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

 

 

"Since when did you become such a homophobe?" Tyler asks once they're back on the bus. 

 

"I'm not a homophobe," Josh says, but it falls to deaf ears. 

 

"You wouldn't even look at that guy," Tyler says. 

 

"I'm not a homophobe," Josh says again, because he's not. He's not. 

 

Tyler raises an eyebrow. There's some anger in his eyes. "Dude."

 

"I– I'm not. I'm sorry," Josh says. What's wrong with him? He's not homophobic. He's not. "I just– I didn't sleep well last night. It didn't have anything to do with him being gay," he says, and he nearly believes it. 

 

Tyler doesn't exactly look convinced, but he seems to let it go. "I think we're stopping at a pizza place or something soon, if you're hungry," he says, and he walks off to his bunk. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

 

 

"Dude, maybe you should, like, slow down," Mark says, wide-eyed. 

 

Everyone is staring at Josh in varying degrees of amazement. Josh shrugs, throwing the crust of his seventh slice of pizza onto his plate. 

 

"You ate nearly an entire pie," Tyler marvels. 

 

"I was hungry."

 

"Clearly," Mark says. 

 

Josh takes a long drink of water. He wasn't really that hungry, but he was trying to fill that hollowness in his chest. 

 

It didn't work. 

 

"Do you want an antacid tablet or something?" Tyler asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head. "I'll be okay," he says. He'll probably throw it up later. Lately, it's been difficult keeping anything down.

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

 

 

It's not until Josh is in his bunk, stomach shifting uncomfortably due to overeating, does Josh have his first dream (nightmare) since that night (when nothing happened). 

 

He wakes up, gasping and shaking and vomiting up the pizza from the night before all over himself. Tyler is by his side in an instant, pulling the curtain and turning Josh over so he doesn't choke. 

 

"You're okay, you're okay," Tyler's murmuring, combing his fingers through Josh's hair, trying to soothe him. Tyler's getting Josh's vomit on his other hand, but he clearly doesn't care. 

 

Josh is gasping, trying to squirm free of his bedding (why does he have so many blankets?). He pushes weakly at Tyler's chest. Tyler, taking the hint, steps back and helps Josh out of his bunk. Josh nearly collapses when he tries to stand, but he manages to catch himself with the side of the bunk. As soon as he can manage, he staggers off in the direction of the bathroom, Tyler follows him, making concerned noises. Josh steps into the bathroom and slams the door behind him. 

 

"Josh? Do you need any help?" Tyler asks through the door. 

 

"No," Josh croaks, carefully sitting down on the tiny bathroom floor and putting his head between his knees. 

 

Oh, god, he was raped.