Julian was shattered.
There really was no other way to explain his current state. Especially not when he dragged himself out of his room every morning, looking as scared and drained as he had going in. How his usually expressive eyes were dull and matted, the skin underneath dark and bruised from exhaustion. How he solely seemed to live on coffee, picking at his food and refusing to eat more than a few bites. How he’d scream in the middle of the night, not stopping, not calming down until Logan and Derek rushed to him and lend him an escape out of terrifying, black nightmares that haunted whenever he closed his eyes.
The actor’s carefully built up walls, his carefully crafted mask and composure had finally given away under the pressure. He’d finally cracked, and the sight was absolutely horrifying to his best friends.
The nights in which Julian didn’t scream were rare, but even when they happened, he looked pale and sick, like he hadn’t slept in years.
Today was like that.
Derek looked up from his books when Julian walked into the common room, his shoulders slumped and his face drawn. The athlete watched him carefully as Julian collapsed on the nearest couch, next to a very worried looking Logan. Derek silently offered him his coffee, and the actor clasped it gratefully, sinking away in the cushions as he put his lips on the edge of the mug and inhaled the hot liquid.
Logan peered at him over his own schoolwork, leaning towards his friend as if he was afraid he might keel over any moment. By the way Julian looked, it wasn’t a complete impossibility.
“You look like shit,” the prefect stated bluntly, earning an exasperated glare from Derek and a indifferent shrug from Julian.
“It happens,” the actor murmured, still listlessly staring in his coffee.
“Did you sleep at all?” Derek asked, closing his book and pushing it aside. “I didn’t hear—you weren’t awake, were you?” he hesitated, glancing at Logan for support.
“We didn’t have to come over,” Logan offered helpfully.
Julian’s listless stare turned into an irritated one, but he still didn’t look up from his coffee. He shrugged again, pressing his lips together. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“So you didn’t sleep at all?” Derek inquired.
“No,” Julian simply answered, and he took a big gulp from the coffee. It was black, stronger than he was used to, burning his throat and his stomach. It felt wonderful, but it didn’t silence the thoughts running rampant in his head. “Did you know they’re sending me mails?”
Logan and Derek glanced at each other, concern obvious on their faces. “Who?”
“The fans. My fans,” Julian elaborated reluctantly, swirling his coffee around with a soft sigh. “And people who’re not my fans, I guess.”
“What do you mean by that?” Logan demanded, concern and a strange protectiveness peaking at the distraught expression of his best friend. And maybe, after all those nights together and after all those intimate moments in which they were hugging and holding onto each other for dear life—maybe after all those moments, maybe they were a bit more than just best friends. Just a little bit more, though. “What do you mean by ‘people who’re not my fans’?”
“I mean,” Julian drawled slowly, like he was explaining mathematics to a child. “I mean I get mails from people who think it’s my fault, who think it’s all my fault. The burning, the students that got hurt, the death.” The words were quick, but the blow they delivered was shattering. Even Julian cringed, bringing up his knees to his chest and closing his eyes for a moment as the hurtful mails drifted through his mind again.
Derek’s jaw went slack and Logan exploded.
Julian set the mug to his lips as if he wanted to take another sip, but changed his mind at the last moment, instead murmuring a quiet explanation. “They’re just—I don’t know—they’re blaming me. Which isn’t completely irrational, since I’m blaming me, but I guess I didn’t expect to find it in my mailbox.” He was rattling now, fidgeting with the mug and barely noticing when some of the coffee slipped out and trickled over his trembling hands.
“They can’t do that!” Logan spluttered, completely out of his mind. “Can’t you go to the police for that or something?” he desperately turned to Derek, who was positively fuming but wasn’t able to find the right words to hurt these people as much as they were hurting his best friend. “Can you?” Logan asked him. “Report people for that?”
Derek opened and closed his mouth a few times, staring at Julian with a raging expression. When Julian kept gazing at him quietly—so much pain and sadness swirling in his eyes that it hurt to look at—Derek forced himself to calm down. He shook his head and reached forward to clasp Julian’s shoulders.
“Jules, listen to me. I’ll call Carmen and she’ll know what to do. And if she doesn’t know what to do, Lo and I will figure it out. Either way, we’ll make this stop. Just—don’t worry—at least try not to worry. We got this. We’ll take care of it. Please take your mind off it, you need a break, Jules. You have too much to worry about right now, we’ll worry about this.”
Julian’s bottom lip trembled and he set his coffee mug on the table before curling up and letting his head fall on Logan’s shoulder. “I’m tired,” he whispered and he closed his eyes to hide the gathering tears.
Logan immediately put an arm around him, pulling him closer and burying his face in his hair. “I know,” he breathed back, his eyes immeasurably sad as they glanced up at Derek. Derek stood up from the couch and moved over to his friends, leaning against Julian as he grabbed his hand and squeezed in it. His expression betrayed the same despair and fear Logan felt, and the prefect wondered if they’d ever be alright again. If the three of them would ever be the same again. Especially the broken actor in his arms, who tried so hard not to scream out in the night, but who constantly lost the fight against his nightmares.
Logan fervently hoped hewould be alright again.
But as Derek and he let Julian lean against them as he drifted away to sleep, hoping against hope the nightmares wouldn’t attack him, he knew they probably wouldn’t. Maybe after a long time—after everything that needed to be said had been said, and after all the nightmares and fears had been pushed back by happier memories—maybe then they’d be alright. But whether they’d ever be the same again?
Logan doubted it.