Justin leaned back on the bed, closing his eyes and breathing in deep. Today wasn’t one of the better days, but rather, he was exhausted and at the bottom of his emotional reserve. They had a show later that night, and right now, he couldn’t find a way to close his eyes.
It was too quiet, but the radio beside his bed was just out of reach, and he couldn’t muster up the energy to roll over to reach it. He needed something, his head whirling with the lack of any noise. He began to hum, his own song from years prior filling his room, his head, trying to end the deafening silence.
The clock radio read that it was only 3 AM, but he hadn’t slept yet. Zack had fallen asleep early that night, seeming to transfer his own difficulties with insomnia to Justin. As for his other band member, Justin could tell Zach had fallen asleep around 1 when the tweeting about his difficulty sleeping had stopped. Knowing both men had trouble sleeping typically, Justin was hesitant to wake either of them.
As his humming tapered off in the middle of the song, tears began to stream down Justin’s face, no reason available to him. He just felt like shit, and his emotional state was out of whack, and he had no explanation of why. He hadn’t dealt with feelings like these in years, when he was going through puberty and high school and that awkward stage of finding his identity and his place in life.
But now, depression was hitting him harder than ever. It had been slowly building for weeks now, or rather, even months. And right now, it was culminating, forcing him to deal with his pain while being unable to do anything but endure it alone.
He finally worked up the energy to pull himself out of the somehow uncomfortable hotel bed, glancing at the clock again. The time read 3:23, and Justin knew he had to get out, into the fresh air, into the lights of the city at night. He pulled on his sneakers and a sweater, grabbing his phone, keys, and wallet, and left the room quietly so as not to disturb anyone else along the hall of the hotel, knowing full well they were paying a huge rate for these rooms and so everyone else on the floor must have been, too.
He made his way to the lobby, still bright even at this time, with a college-age girl manning the service desk. Long fingernails tapped away at a screen, her long, jet-black hair falling like a curtain over her face, presumably to hide the expression of boredom etched upon her face. Justin could hear her sigh as he approached, putting her phone on the counter.
“It’s 3:30 AM,” he heard her say, voice dripping with contempt that he had distracted her from her late night usage of Snapchat. “What do you want?”
Justin looked at her apologetically. “I’m sorry, I- I just wanted to know if you had any idea what’s still open right around now? I’m here with my band, new to the area, and want something to do. Anything.” His thick Memphis accent made the words somehow feel shyer than he felt, and he couldn’t help but blush apologetically.
“What are you, 40?” The girl asked, and Justin couldn’t hide his wince. Did he really look that old and tired? “Grow up, there are Denny’s and bars around, and a couple clubs, but they sure as hell won’t let you in looking like that.”
Justin took a deep breath, fighting not to get upset with the girl, because he knew that she probably didn’t usually have to do much on her shift and he had interrupted her routine. “Alright, thanks,” he murmured softly, padding away, pausing to say one more thing before leaving the lobby. “And I’m 37.”
As he stepped out into the cold nighttime air, he looked at the gleaming colors of the lights, mesmerized and so lost. They were gorgeous, and humbling. However, they also made him feel even less real, less impactful, less worth it. He glanced around, a few cars still going from here to there, many of them with Uber stickers on the windshield. He took a deep breath before wandering off down a street he had never heard of.
He continued to wander until he came to a bar, glancing at the time as he wandered in. 4 AM. The bartender glanced at him. “We close in an hour,” he said gruffly. “Chicago ordinance.” Justin nodded and made his way to the counter, glancing around, only a couple guys still left there. He called for a shot of whiskey, mind and body exhausted yet wired.
The bartender got him the shot and set it in front of him. “You look like shit… Why are you out drinking at this time? I don’t recognize you.”
Justin huffed and downed the shot, nodding for another. “Insomnia… Usually doesn’t hit me, but I guess Chicago decided to say fuck you to my ability to sleep.” He swallowed again, knowing there was something deeper than that as the bartender got him another shot. Justin looked into knowing eyes that somehow invited him to continue on.
“I… I’ve been dealing with something resembling depression, I guess. Haven’t gone through it since high school, when I came out as gay.” Justin frowned. “Been touring with my band, I’m from Memphis, and I guess… Well, I guess you could say seeing them excited made me happy, but triggered it at the same time. I guess I just… Feel like I’m not worth their time.” He downed the second shot, debating before nodding for one more.
“Slow down, kid,” the bartender said, and Justin actually took a moment to look at the face watching him, years of wrinkles and a gray beard making this man look so wise somehow. He had to be about sixty. And as Justin processed his wording, he sighed.
“To you, I’m a kid. To the teen in the hotel lobby, I’m an old man. What happened to being in my 30s and happy? Before a mid-life crisis, after the hard living of my 20s… Still looking young and handsome but not like a kid?” Justin’s elbows propped up on the bar almost of their own accord as he buried his face in his hands a moment before they ran to his hair and he was left staring at the countertop, which started to get wet with more tears.
Justin knew he was far more upset with himself than anyone else right now, and he slowly went through the past few days silently in his mind before the 3rd shot of whiskey was set in front of him. He downed it and looked at the clock, surprised it was already 4:45 AM. He looked back at the bartender. “Thanks…”
“Anytime, kid.” The bartender smiled knowingly. “Now go, don’t waste away the new day that’s coming.” He nodded to the door and Justin stood, stumbling a bit until he was out the door, calling for an Uber to get back to the hotel they were staying at.
By the time he had been picked up and driven back to the hotel, another half hour had passed and dawn was about to come. He stumbled into the hotel lobby, a shift change evident as the girl was no longer there, but rather the staff that manned the place in the morning.
After stumbling to the elevator and inside, he managed to find the right floor and somehow make it back to his room without falling on his face, 5:30 AM on the clock radio as he managed to fumble with the door and his card key until it opened.
He collapsed heavily onto the bed, feeling almost like a zombie as he thought about what he had and hadn’t told the bartender. Sure, he had told him that he wanted his bandmates to be happy but that he was also upset at their excitement, but why?
And then it dawned on Justin. He was upset because… Their excitement wasn’t about him. It was about the tour, and the music, but it wasn’t about him. And he wanted them to be excited about him, wanted them to want him, just like the old song.
He had fallen in love with Zach and Zack.
The clock sounded its morning alarm as 6 AM hit, Justin being shaken from the thoughts he had been drifting through idly. At this point, he was exhausted, and maybe a little drunk after 3 shots of hard whiskey, and his depression was doing nothing but growing. He knew he would be expected in an hour to go and check on Zack and Zach and make sure they were okay, but that wasn’t going to happen, not today.
Light started to peek in through the shades on the windows that were only halfway down. Justin groaned as a headache began to take hold of his exhausted mind and body, and he stood, looking around through his bags noisily to see if there were any pain pills.
He wasn’t sure if he could be heard outside his room, and he grabbed his phone, rubbing at tired eyes to relieve their blurred vision before sending off a tweet to the internet. “I haven’t slept yet. Damn you @ZackMack513 for passing your insomnia on to me.” That tweet was immediately followed by, “To any of my fans coming tonight, if you want to bring me coffee to the meet and greet, I’d love it.” Somehow, even slightly drunk and exhausted, he managed to make no typos.
He dropped his phone on the floor accidentally, hearing a crack and frowning as he picked it up and saw a now-cracked screen. His search for the pills and tweeting had taken a while, and he hadn’t realized it, and as he swore loudly at his broken phone, he heard a knock at the door.
“Justin, man, it’s Zack and Zach,” he heard the familiar voice of Zack Mack, the youngest member of their trio calling out to him. “We just saw your tweet, Justin… Are you okay? Let us in.”
Justin huffed, standing shakily and making his way to the door to let Zack and Zach in. “You look like shit,” Zach said, his lack of a filter or sometimes even common courtesy hitting everyone, even one of his best friends.
“Thanks, Zach,” Justin said, deadpan. “I totally wanted to show you my model beauty after not having slept at all.” He found himself glaring at Zach, who covered his nose.
Zack looked at Zach, then Justin. “You’re drunk,” he said, looking Justin up and down. He pushed his way past Justin, looking around the room. “You’ve torn this place apart, Justin.”
“Just a little buzzed,” Justin said defensively, falling on his ass as Zack pushed him aside, watching Zach come in after him. “And I have a headache, I wanted pain pills.”
Zack huffed. “You could have come to me for some sleeping meds, Justin. I usually have Zzzquil for when it gets bad, you know that.”
Justin struggled to his feet. “You were asleep, for once in your damn life. I’m sorry I didn’t want to wake you. I’m sorry I’m too defective, and good at ruining tours, and I’m sorry for dampering your excitement because I’m not good enough. I’m fucking sorry.”
Zach was the one to respond to that. “Oh, come on, Justin, don’t be stupid. You’re part of this tour, too, and now you’re just being an idiot. Get your ass into bed, you need to try to sleep before the show-“
“I’m not going to be able to sleep all alone!” Justin cried out before clapping his hands over his mouth. How did that manage to slip out? He saw the shortest member of their three piece tour open his mouth, probably to retort, but then saw Zack hold up a hand to silence Zach.
“Justin… There’s more going on than what you’re letting on.” Zack frowned before guiding Justin over to sit on the bed, passing his own room key to Zach. “Go get the ibuprofen and Zzzquil out of my bag, Zach.” Despite being the skinniest member of the band by far, when it came to matters like these, Zack had a somewhat commanding presence that neither Zach nor Justin could question.
As Zach left the room, Zack pulled Justin close, hugging him. “Come on, Curly, tell me what’s up.” Justin felt himself dissolving into the arms around him, breaking down and bawling loudly as he collapsed against his Beanpole.
“I… I haven’t felt this bad since h-high school, since I c-came out, I-“ Justin cut himself off, tears falling. He felt a gentle hand rubbing his back, encouraging him to continue, and just as Zach walked back into the room, Justin found himself letting it out. “I’m in love with you and Zach!”
All three men froze, Zach and Zack stunned into silence and Justin horrified that this would mean rejection from his best friends. He couldn’t take that, couldn’t lose them. It would kill him. If he lost them… He would find a way to kill himself because he couldn’t take that kind of loss.
Motion returned as he pulled away from Zack, almost ashamed, as he crawled back into the king-sized bed that felt too large for him in this vulnerable state. He cowered in the center until Zack crawled back with him and Zach came to sit on the other side of him, boxing him in.
He heard Zach set the meds on the side table next to the clock radio, which now read 8 AM, and he felt both men moving closer to him, Zach curling up nearly on top of him and Zack reaching around them both protectively.
“You’re not gonna have to sleep alone… We’re still both a little tired, and were kind of worried to see your tweets and that you didn’t come check on us… And so we’re gonna give you some ibuprofen for that headache and we’re gonna give you some Zzzquil and then we’re going to talk about this later, but we’re not leaving you.” Zack’s words were almost commanding, yet somehow caring at the same time.
Justin felt Zack stand to get him some water and felt Zach pull away, hearing him tap out pills into his hand. And soon he was being handed two ibuprofen caplets, and he took them with the water, hearing Zach measure out the sleeping meds as he took them. And soon the liquid was being handed to Justin, and he was downing it, coughing at the taste. He glanced at the label and read a blurred “Mango Berry”.
He handed the glass and the measuring cup to Zach and heard those being set on the table before he curled up tiredly, watching as Zack pulled the shades the rest of the way down. And soon, Zach was curled back up against him, and Zack was climbing in beside them both, draping his arm over Justin and pulling up the blanket. Justin glanced at the clock once more, 8:30 AM, before looking back at Zack.
“Sleep, Justin,” Zack said. “We’ll still be here when you wake up.” Zach was already starting to doze off and Justin nodded, cuddling close to them both as he closed his eyes and fell asleep to the gentle sensation of Zack’s guitarist hand in his hair.
When Justin awoke groggily, the clock radio read 2 PM, and he whimpered softly as his head started to hurt again, still tired and worn down but not quite so much so. Instantly, Zach and Zack were cuddling him protectively, running hands through his hair and rubbing his neck and shoulders.
Justin sniffled softly, sneezing a little and wiping his nose on the sleeve of the sweater he had pulled on the night before. His own eyes searched for Zack’s. “Think I’m getting sick.”
“Well, lucky for you, we don’t have another show after tonight for a couple days… Let’s get you into a shower…” Zack’s words were almost like a mother hen and Justin couldn’t help but scoff.
“I’m older than you… And m head hurts again.” Justin’s words were weak in his exhaustion, but he tried to exert some vocal force.
“Maybe, but I think right now, I’m the responsible one, and that you should shower.” Zack nodded to Zach, who pulled out 2 more ibuprofen caplets and handed them to Justin. “I’ll grab you some water, and then you’re going to shower, and make yourself presentable for the fact that we have to meet fans in 2 hours. I’ve heard a couple of them may bring you some coffee.”
Justin smiled weakly as Zack left to get him some water, looking at Zach. He saw the short man smile softly and he leaned against Zach a moment before pulling himself out of the bed. In that moment, Zack returned with the water, and Justin took the pills, gulping down the water thirstily as a slight hangover became evident. He hadn’t had that many shots that fast in a while, and even though he wasn’t as drunk as he could get, it was enough to fuck him up the next day, or, rather, later that day.
He watched Zack smile gently at him, then looked at them both. “We… We need to talk.”
“We do.” Zack nodded. “But you need to shower.”
“Can you… Come into the bathroom with me, so we can talk while I do? I want to get it over with. It’s not like either of you haven’t seen me naked and drunk before.” Justin’s words felt spiteful on his tongue, wondering if the fact that he was into them would make them uncomfortable.
He watched Zack and Zach look at each other, a silent conversation between the two of them that he had never really understood until the shortest man nodded and the thinnest man spoke. “Sure, we can talk while you’re in the shower. Go get in and we’ll be in there in a moment.
Justin nodded and gathered a change of clothes and made his way to the bathroom, starting the water and stepping in. Sure enough, both Zac(h/k)s were in there with him moments later, just as he was getting ready to wash his hair.
It was silent other than the sound of water falling for a moment before Justin spoke up. “I need you guys to tell me what you think.”
No one answered for a moment. Justin’s anxiety grew until finally, Zach spoke. “Well, Justin, I mean… I love you too, I mean, I don’t know about Zack here, but… I’m willing to give this a try. I mean… I love you both, I don’t think I’ve been hiding it, but I guess it wasn’t very clear.” For once in his life, Justin was grateful that Zach always said what was on his mind.
Zack took another moment before speaking, in which time Justin managed to rinse his hair out. “Well, I mean… If you two want this, I think I do too. I love you both and you’re important to me. I just… Wish you had told me sooner.”
Justin swallowed guiltily, glad the fog on the glass door of the shower hid his expression. “Well, next time, I’ll be sure to tell you earlier. But this time, I think… I wanna share my life with you.”
The water turned off and Justin shyly moved towards the door. “Can you hand me that towel?” He asked, and found Zach’s hand reaching out to him. He took the towel, drying his hair slightly before tying it around his hips and stepping out.
His tired eyes gazed into Zach and Zack’s own, wary, hoping this wasn’t all just some twisted dream or prank. He slowly let himself grab his clothes and let the towel fall from his waist, pulling on his underwear and jeans quickly, then his shirt, before looking at the two men before him and blushing again, only now self-conscious of his body.
Both men stood in unison, and Justin swallowed before softly making his way into their arms for hugs. They wrapped themselves around him and he felt more tears falling, only this time, the act felt cleansing to him, and he felt like he was going to be okay again. He pulled away after a few moments, looking at them both before letting his lips touch Zach’s in a kiss (since they met first), then pulling away and letting his lips touch Zack’s.
Both kisses felt electric, and Justin felt pure need for the two men that he loved. Pure need to just be close, and be protected. It may not have seemed like it when they were playing, or when he was in public, but Justin was easily the most broken of the three. And he had feared that he wouldn’t come together again.
But now, he knew, he had his two repairmen by his side. And they stayed by his side for the rest of that day, even walking into their own meet and greet where a young girl with blonde hair halfway to her shoulders stood with a cup of coffee, ready to greet them all. And he finally felt ready to share his life with the world, and he found himself kissing Zach and Zack again, then grinned as he watched them kiss, smiling as he made his debut to the world as who he really was.