Lennon’s heart stops for a second. The screams in his ears are thunderous, the floor beneath his feet seems shaky as he stands behind the stage. It’s Saturday, concert number one of three they have in London.
All of a sudden the lights dim and his heart pounds when he hears his name shouted through the venue. How did he deserve this? He doesn’t deserve this. Nobody should worship him like this. Idolize him like this. He is not good and never will be. Pathetic.
He hears Nate’s voice somewhere behind him, but it’s hard to understand. All he can hear is the rush of his blood in his ears, his heart thumping as he blindly reaches for somebody and that somebody, he doesn’t know who, hands him a guitar. They are ushered towards the stage and he flinches when a hand comes to rest on his shoulder. The grip is strong and feels safe, familiar, his head snapping around to see who it is. It’s Jorja. Her lips are stretched into a wide grin as she tells him not to be nervous or something like that. But he is not nervous, he never is nervous on stage. That is where he feels most secure and comfortable.
Lennon wants to tell her that, he wants to tell her the truth, that he’s been down in a hole for months now, for a year almost, just falling. It started with sleeping pills, he couldn’t sleep. He was losing his mind, everyone knew how fragile he was after what happened with William and they all tried to help.
Jorja was around all the time, hot chocolates and endless Netflix nights. Sam took him to bookstores and Nate bought him a new guitar. They were mostly busy with recording the album for a couple of months and then promoting it, doing gigs and TV appearances in the UK and America.
It all happened over the night - the number one single, the millions of followers, the MTV music video awards, covers of magazines and campaigns for major fashion labels. Creative directors of all famous brands loved him. He definitely didn’t want to go back to modelling but every now and then he would do a guest appearance in some of the campaigns or sit in a front row of a fashion week show - he liked the beautiful clothes and he also liked making his fans happy by using this platform to promote openness and freedom to be whoever they want to be very often wearing gender fluid clothing that fashion brands offered.
It was all exciting and well deserved and ironic - majority of the songs that made that album, one of the best alternative rock albums of the year is inspired by William - his endless inspiration. Because of that fact he would end up crying in front of his friends, sometimes, when he would drink too much, and they hugged him, stayed with him, tried to make him smile or distract him.
He drinks less now but he still can’t sleep and... Well, the nightmares started. The ones with the face of his past - wrinkly face, cold hands smeared with paint and cruelty. And now. He is just numb.
Cocaine usually helps him. He hides it from them because he doesn’t want them to worry, they already lost so much of their time and energy on him, and he doesn’t deserve any of that. But it gets worse now, cocaine fucks him up - like he is on the edge of panic attack.
It should have lasted longer, he snorted enough to get him through the concert. The stage doesn’t comfort him, it makes him more depressed. The stage is the place where Lennon sings all the songs he wrote about him. It all comes back when he sings them. And now when William is back in London, so close to him, when William touched his skin back in the tattoo shop, when William looked like the sun when he smiled... When William is getting married and once and for all is out of Lennon’s life. Then it gets even harder to sing all the songs on a stage.
He steps into the center of the stage, noise ear-shattering. The clicking of Sam’s drum sticks in the back. He swallows thickly. Thousands of souls in front of his aching one. Scared, sad, hopeless, lost soul.
He is on an auto pilot, one song fades into the next. It’s a blur. Until he sees William’s face in the crowd.
He must be imagining it at this point. It’s the drugs, he got it bad. It hits him then, he wants to sing him that song. If William really is here, Lennon wants to sing it to him, remind him of it. He motions to his acoustic guitar and one of the roadies hurriedly gives it to him. Nate and Jorja exchange questioning looks but Lennon walks back to his microphone and is searching for William’s face in the crowd again. He can’t see him anymore. He could be there, he is the head of the record label.
The crowd cheers, they are impatient for him to start. Lennon is looking at that same spot, he has no choice but to sing. He shakily begins, his fingers trembling. His face is completely unguarded, features soft when he sings that one song that he wrote on the night that William left. It’s the first time, he has never performed it live. Every once and a while his hands would move from the guitar strings, fingers drawing shapes into the air and lightly gliding up to the microphone. The music strips every barrier, every carefully constructed wall he usually likes to hide behind, until it’s just him, delicate and vulnerable and achingly lovely.
He sees William again. Then his voice cracks at the last word, realising his face is wet with tears. He blinks into the bright stage lights a few times, looking dazed and disoriented.
The applause and roars that follow is deafening. He clutches the microphone tightly and utters a quiet Thank you before he hastily leaves the stage and rushes back into his dressing room.
When he gets out of bed the next day he feels like he got run over by a bus, which makes sense since, he only fell asleep around 7 in the morning when he finally swallowed sleeping pills.
He knows he fucked up last night, he left the stage crying before the set was even finished. Manager and the rest of the band found him in the dressing room, rummaging through his stuff, trying to find another fix.
He couldn’t find any. Fuck.
They talked about it, not mentioning that he is desperate for some uppers, or downers - not picky, he told them he is sorry and that it won’t happen again. Jorja and Sam took him home afterwards even though he really wanted to be alone. He was actually planning on calling Tinie in order to pick up something that will make him better.
He leaves his bedroom after he puts some clothes on and walks towards the kitchen. Jorja is there, eating cereal. Even though they all own their own houses and flats they are still so close that they hang around each other places often, coming in and going out without question unless someone specifically says that they’re having a hook up or a family member over. But Lennon never invites his hook ups to his home anyway, even before, when he actually did hook up. And Lennon doesn’t have a family.
Walking over the sunshine draped across the tiles of his kitchen floor, he sits down on a high chair, burying his face in his hands. For some reason he feels like he is about to cry, like everything he has been bottling up is just going to overflow any second. She is silent for what feels like eternity, but he can feel her eyes on him. Then she sinks down onto the chair next to him.
- Lennon , talk to me. I love you. You know that, right?
- I fucked up last night, I’m sorry. I’m ...
- No, no...don’t say that. I know that song was ... Anyway. I think... We actually, Sam and Nate, we think that you should talk to somebody about it. - she says and Lennon raises his head a little, he finds her studying him with an expression that’s sympathetic, caring.
- We were thinking therapy would be good for you. It’s ...we don’t know how to... we are here for you, Len, we’ve been with you for the whole year almost and it seems we can’t help you, we don’t know how, you’re just constantly... sad.
- I’m fine. - he is emotionless.
- Yeah you’re fine for a week or two, and when we’re spending time together but... you’re not fine. I mean, I thought you were doing better, but after that fucking Hamilton-Smith came back into our lives...
- I don’t care about him anymore Jorja, I’m over him, he’s just...- Jorja is still watching him while he’s absentmindedly brushing a finger over the tattoos on his arm.
- Don’t lie to me. You are seeing him again? I saw it online, it was ...
- It wasn’t like that. He was just being friendly because we have to work together. It’s nothing else. - he runs a hand over his tired eyes. He doesn’t want to tell her that there’s no way she can understand everything that’s happening.
- I just want to help you, this ... heartbreak, it’s more than that. It’s deeper than just heartbreak. You have to talk to someone who can understand it better and guide you and...
- I need some coffee. - Lennon doesn’t look at her. He gets up and feels strung out and shaky and he is already craving the next fix.
- Lennon, we have another show tonight. You sure you’ll be ok?
- Yes Jorja. I will be ok, I’m sorry for last night. I know Rick must be livid.
- He was but he’s fine now, he is also worried about you and asked if he should talk to, you know...Hamilton-Smith, about cancelling some of our shows if you’re not in a state to perform... - a lump forms in his throat immediately.
- Did he see it? The gig last night? - Lennon asks while he stands at the kitchen door ready to leave.
- I don’t know. Maybe... It’s all over the internet today. You sang that song for the first time and you sounded pretty amazing and then you cried so fans are all over it, commenting, speculating who it is about and shit. - He definitely saw it, Lennon thinks. He needs to get some ...
- Coffee. I need to get some coffee. See you later tonight, Jo. - he is grabbing his keys and a wallet on the way to the door.
- Lennon, mate, you have a bloody coffee machine right here! - he can hear her shout from the kitchen.
- I really crave a Starbucks actually.
Hours later he finds himself in the back of a car and on the way to the concert venue.
He is tired.
He closes his eyes, but it doesn’t help.
Sam called him during the day to tell him they will pick him up and go together to soundcheck but Lennon said he was busy and that he will come straight to the venue. He met Tinie and did a couple of lines at his place. Then he bought some more for later.
When he gets back home, Jorja and Sam are long gone, he almost feels like everything is ok, like he is ok. He will shower and change and go. His impressive five-bedroom ground floor house in Richmond overlooking the river Thames is too big and feels cold and empty so he decides to play some loud music while getting ready. A distraction from his evil, depressing thoughts.
Loud rock is blasting in all rooms from his sound system, he leaves the shower, and reaches for the phone to reply to the messages that are constantly coming. There is Jorja’s, and Nate’s and his manager’s, and a few from journalists he privately knows, asking for a comment and... there is a message from William.
His thumb is moving over it but not pressing it yet. His mind is clouded like the bathroom from the hot shower. He opens the message.
William: Hi, I just wanted to make sure you’re alright after yesterday’s show. Let me know if the label can do anything, we will fully support you. William.
He wipes the foggy mirror with his hand and stares at the reflection. Tries to recognize himself. The only time he remembers being himself was when he had William’s hands wrapped around him while they were moving in sync, on white bed sheets, his blue eyes loving every part of him.
White everywhere. And blue. So blue. Now everything is black and red.
His nose is bleeding. All the coke he’s been sniffing is slowly destroying his nostrils. He wipes it off quickly and then he starts laughing at himself hysterically. What a joke he is.
What a fucking cliche.
All of a sudden his eyes open when the car rocks to a stop. He’s fallen asleep, his head resting against the window. He barely slept 3 hours that morning, even though he took sleeping pills. They don’t help anymore.
Driver opens the back door, and his bodyguard comes from the front of the car. He takes a deep breath before he gets out. He meets everyone backstage and they’re pissed.
- What the fuck, Lennon?? Where have you been? - Nate shouts while the man from the crew is fixing his in-ear underneath his shirt.
- Lennon? You look a bit pale. You feeling ok? - Jorja asks from somewhere. There’s so many people here, everyone is running, talking over each other, someone drags him along, towards the dressing table.
- Come on. - someone says impatiently, grabbing his hand. - I need to fix your hair. - it’s their stylist, he recognized her voice.
- You need to fix his fucked up brain instead. - Lennon hears Nate in the background. It doesn’t hurt, he most definitely agrees with what Nate says.
- Shut the fuck up, Nathan!
That is Jorja, and Lennon wants to turn around and leave. He is causing this.
Everything is too loud and too crowded.
- He’s late. And we’re late. This is Wembley Arena and there are 14 thousand people out there who paid money to... - his voice fades away.
- We were worried, that’s what Nate is trying to say, right Nate? - That is Sam, his voice comes from somewhere. Sam gently kisses his cheek after he leans on the edge of Lennon’s dressing table. The kiss makes him disoriented and more confused.
- I’m sorry, Sam. - it’s barely a whisper. He tries to control his breathing. Somebody puts his in-ear monitor on him.
The concert. He has to sing. But how will he manage? William will be watching him again, he will fuck up again, why is he so pathetic? This is what fucked up childhood does to you eventually. He never stood a chance.
Why did William message him?
Time to snap out of this.
- Let me go. I need to go for a piss. - his voice is smaller than he expected it to be while he is trying to push the technician from him.
- Seriously? Lennon, love, we need to go to the stage in, like, now.
He freezes at Jorjas soft spoken voice, his body tensing automatically, he hates himself for disappointing them.
- Just for a minute, alright? I’ll come back. I promise.
He doesn’t look her in the eyes, runs towards the toilets, he knows the venue so it’s easy to find. Luckily no one else is in there, his own breathing the only sound besides muffled music. He has to hurry up.
The little plastic bag is in his pocket and his fingers are digging for it. There’s more than usual, he thinks, for a moment he debates if he should save some for after the gig but he quickly dismisses that thought, he dumps all of it on the top of the sink.
He takes his wallet and fishes out the credit card quickly and uses it to cut two lines, then he rolls a 20 pound bill. He takes a deep breath, glancing at the door once again.
He snorts both of the lines in a second and it’s bliss.
He braces his hands on the sink and stares at himself in the mirror. Eyes fluttering shut, heart racing.
A smile on his lips.
Nothing can hurt him now. Untouchable. Alive. The banging sound on the door makes him open his eyes and slowly turn around. Someone is calling his name and he rubs his nose to remove the excess powder from it. Then he clumsily picks up all the stuff and exits the toilet but the world on the other side of the door is like a dream.
He is walking on air. The air is hot and stuffy but goose-bumps are flying across his skin. One step, two steps.
Fear. Why is he not fearless?
Last thing he sees before everything goes black is