Their favourite part of the show was meeting the fans.
They loved seeing the people who supported them and listened to their music, and it was the least they could do to say hello and take a picture with them, but there were always inevitably a couple that toed the line.
That night, they made their way to the meet and greet as per routine, though they were all a bit more tired than they would normally be due to a not-so-slight delay on the road. A tire had blown out, making them late to the venue. Soundcheck had been rushed (thank goodness they didn’t need to set up instruments, one of the blessings of a cappella), and afterwards there wasn’t much time to prepare for the show.
The show itself had gone well, but they all agreed to take a fifteen minute power-rest before heading to the meet and greet. When they showed up, there was a fan who insisted that she only wanted a photo with Tony and no one else. The rest of the singers were confused, but didn’t deny the request after ensuring that Tony was alright with it.
“Sure, if the rest of the fans are okay with me ducking out for a minute,” Tony had agreed, before being unceremoniously grabbed by the wrist and pulled away with a yelp. He found himself in the corner, separated from the rest of VoicePlay by a crowd of fans, a very enthusiastic young woman pestering him with questions. She couldn’t have been older than twenty, but she was definitely taller than him.
Luckily enough, Layne and Geoff were watching Tony out of the corners of their eyes, Eli and Earl covering for them by taking all the questions and bantering to cover up the quietness from the other two. Usually, Tony was good at deflecting personal or intimate questions, but today he was worn out and was having difficulty figuring out what to say.
“Hi Tony! Oh my god, I’m like, your biggest fan! I know so much about you, but like, obviously I want to know more,” she bubbled, leaning into Tony’s space. He opened his mouth to say something in response, but she continued to rapid-fire before he could speak.
“Okay, can I, like, ask you stuff? Like, are you gay? What do you wear when you sleep? Do you have a boyfriend? Where do your parents live?” The young woman kept stepping forwards, forcing Tony to move backwards until his back hit a wall.
“I, um... no? I don’t think, uh...” he panicked, trying to shrink away from her, eyes flicking as he tried to disengage from the conversation. It got to the point where she was nearly pressed against him, her fingers attempting to grab the front of his vest. The fan was more aggressive than he was used to; most of the fans were respectful and knew when to back off, but this one clearly wasn’t taking any hints.
“Excuse me, but I think we need our baritone back.” Tony smiled shakily in relief at the sight of Layne and Geoff on either side of the fan, Geoff’s deep voice easily cutting through the noise of the crowd and catching her attention.
Tony didn’t bother looking back as Layne whisked him away from the young woman, an arm wrapped protectively over his shoulders. As soon as Earl and Eli saw how pale Tony was and the furious look on Layne’s normally cheery face, they nodded to each other and began wrapping up the meet and greet. Eli took off to find a security guard while Earl made an announcement to the fans, apologizing for the sudden departure of the group.
Glancing over at where Geoff was still lecturing the young woman, Tony froze when she made direct eye contact with him and scowled, even while Geoff was towering over her. She moved to approach Tony again, but was stopped by Geoff and the security guard that Eli had hailed.
Tony folded his arms across his abdomen, looking away from the crowd of fans who were starting to notice the situation and were now whispering and peeking at him.
“Hey, you okay?” Layne asked, shifting to block him from view and putting his hands on Tony’s upper arms. He only looked down and hunched in on himself even further, shaken by the experience and guilty that he had ruined the meet and greet.
Sighing, Layne led Tony backstage, where he immediately enveloped him in a hug. Tony exhaled unsteadily, reciprocating the hug as best he could.
“Thanks,” he murmured against Layne’s shoulder, who simply held him tighter. “Sorry for messing up the meet and greet.”
“You didn’t mess up anything, it wasn’t your fault. Besides, we got your back,” Layne said. Tony rested his chin on his friend’s shoulder and closed his eyes, grateful that he had such protective friends with him, ones that would look out for him both on and off the stage.