047; real life

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"Jawn, literally, shut up," Lucas groans, rolling his eyes.  "I've been here barely an hour and we're already doing this?"

"Listen, all I'm saying is, she didn't cry when I held her so she obviously loves me more than you," Jawn replies innocently with a little shrug.  "She loves me most, huh, Skye, don't you?"

"Actually, she loves Thea and me most," Awsten corrects as he comes in with drinks for everyone.  "So, Hopeless wants us in the studio sometime this week if we're all good with that.  They're saying we can take more time if we need and this is mostly just to hear the demos and shit we already have and talk about it all in person.  I was thinking tomorrow if that's cool with y'all?  And while Geoff, Otto, and I are at the studio maybe the rest of you can go have fun without us.  Take the twins out or something."

"Why do they get to have fun?" Otto asks dramatically with a pout.  "I wanna have fun!"

"Otto, I already have two children, not about to start treating you like a third.  Ditch the pout, farmer boy," Awsten dismisses playfully.  "Anyway, for today, Thea and I were thinking maybe we go to Santa Monica?  Walk around the pier a little, maybe go shopping or something after."

"Ferris wheel.  I wanna go on the ferris wheel," Jawn's eyes light up in excitement.

"I'm in," Geoff agrees to it, giving Awsten a subtle look to let him know he's going to want to continue that conversation from the other night.  They haven't had much of an opportunity yet but Geoff is hoping, and so is Awsten.

"Otto?  Lucas?  Travis? Y'all in too?" Awsten inquires, receiving nods.  "Okay, cool.  Thea should be back soon and then we can go, she just had a thing she needed to go to for Shane."


Not long later, the group is loading up in two cars and heading to Santa Monica.  The drive takes a little while, LA traffic drawing it out, but they arrive at a good time, the sun sinking towards the horizon as it sets rather than beating down on them from above.

Geoff and Awsten separate from the group after some time to finally continue their talk.

"So, I'm guessing you wanna pick up where we left off, huh?" Awsten guesses, earning a nod from Geoff.

"I want you to be honest with me here, okay?  You mentioned...when you said you don't blame me, it kinda sounded like you still blame yourself.  Do you?" Geoff gets right into it, knowing there's not really an easy way to do this.

"It's...not all the time.  It's not set one way in my head, y'know?  Or, I guess you don't know.  Some days, most days lately, I can look at it a little more clearly and I know that it's not on me...but sometimes I just feel like it is my fault.  I coulda left her.  And, I fucking hate the thought of doing it to anyone but, the people online who say I coulda, uh, fought back, protected myself or whatever, they're not wrong.  I wouldn't do that 'cause...y'know, hurting people is fucked up but I coulda done it and it woulda been justified as self-defense.  But I didn't.  I just...some days it feels like I just let her get away with all the shit she did," he rambles out an explanation.  "It's just another thing I deal with.  There are good days and bad days but the bad days are at least getting easier to deal with."

"Are you still doing therapy?" Geoff questions, unsure whether or not Awsten stuck with it.

"Yeah," he tells him with a nod.  "Gonna be doing that for a while, probably.  It helps a lot.  It's hard but it helps.  I'm going day after tomorrow, actually.  After Lucas heads out with the band he's touring with...and I got some other plans too for that day.  Maybe."

"Other plans involving us or something you're doing on your own?" Geoff seems a little hesitant to ask, mostly because Awsten was hesitant to bring it up.  "And why maybe?"

"Not a hundred percent sure I wanna do it.  And, if I do, it'll be something I only take Thea for.  If it doesn't go to plan, I don't want y'all seeing me have a full-blown breakdown.  I know you wouldn't mind but I would.  But...the thing.  Right.  So, this group reached out and, basically, they help people get out of or, uh, adjust and get help after getting out of abusive relationships.  They wanted me to tell my story, show people you can get out and...live again, and that they're not alone and there are people who wanna help.  Wasn't gonna go for it at first but...I don't know, I've been thinking on it a lot, remembering how fucking lonely and scary and shitty it always felt.  I remember always, fucking always wanting to talk to someone and get them to help or at least say things would get better but I was always scared and...it felt like there was never anywhere I could turn.  Looking back, I know I coulda gone to you or any of my friends and family and you woulda helped but..." Awsten trails off, giving a little shrug.

"You could've," Geoff mumbles, "I...I know that whatever was going on in your head was making it harder but I wish you woulda come to me, or someone.  I hate knowing we were all there through all of it and we never saw."

"It's not your fault.  I hid it, she hid it.  There was no getting around and seeing it when we were so fucking careful about it.  I was scared to let any of you know.  I'm sorry," Awsten tries to push down the guilt, hating thinking that any of the people he cares about might feel guilty for what happened.

"Don't be...I'm not trying to put it on you or say you were wrong for not asking for help 'cause I don't know how you felt or what was going on that made you not feel safe talking to us and I don't think I'll ever know.  You don't gotta be sorry just, please, don't try to take things on your own," Geoff says, trying to make sure he gets his point across right.  "We're all on your side here, Aws."

"I know, and thank you," Awsten replies, pausing briefly, "I just couldn't see it before, back when everything was happening.  That's why I'm going through with this, with telling my story.  I fucking hate thinking that there are people out there feeling the way I did.  I know I can't help all of them but...even if it's just one person who finds my experience and sees it and realizes that they're not trapped and they're not alone and they can walk right out the door and go somewhere for help...I'd do it for that one person."


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