Nightmare (Luke Imagine)
This was requested. Includes ot4 angst. Slight suicide trigger warning, but it’s in a dream!
Failure. Hatred. Loneliness.
It was always the same for Luke. While most people had nightmares involving monsters and death, his were full of depression and rage and being abandoned. Full of loveless nights and broken promises; washed up has-been’s and ruined relationships. Luke vividly remembers his nightmare issues starting when he was eight, and the boys in his class bullied him because of his weight. He remembers crying out for his mum, and laying in the bed between his two parents. He remembers being eleven and his dad sitting next to him as the doctor explained that Luke got nightmares probably due to stress. He remembers switching schools, and having such terrible nightmares that he would stay up entire nights, listening as Jack would sneak into the house well past midnight. He remembers everything. He always does.
When he got too old to cry to his mum, he dealt with it by making music. He would sit in his room and quietly sketch lyrics and melodies down. Once he became friends with Michael and Calum, though, things got better. And Ashton, well, sometimes Luke felt like Ashton was a ray of light. None of them knew about how his nightmare disorder, but the four of them talked about their stresses of tour and the band aloud, leaving Luke with a clear mind before bed.
At least, it used to be that way.
There was a time when all the boys were treated equally, more or less. Sure, some of them got shit occasionally, but it was never really a big deal. They had each other, spent every waking moment together, and that was enough. Luke’s nightmares had even taken a backseat. Their tour was like a giant party.
Everything was fine.
And then everything wasn’t.
It started with Luke’s immunity taking a hit. He couldn’t catch a break and was up almost every night for a week, trying to smother his coughs and sniffles. Some nights he would wake everyone up as he vomited into the toilet on the bus. The band and crew knew it wasn’t his fault, obviously, but after so many nights of no one getting sleep, everyone became testy. Nothing settled quite like Luke’s exhaustion though.
The next hit came with pictures of him walking around with some girl in a club. He couldn’t remember her much, but apparently the fans had done their homework and deemed her as a terrible person. So, that was the second.
The third came from within his own band. The best friends were slipping due to stress, and Luke noticed. He noticed everything. He could tell the days when Michael’s depression was especially bad, knew when Ashton was over exhausted because he would get plain mean, and Calum was smoking more than ever. Everything was plaguing them. The tour is too long. Over a hundred shows. They were tired.
When the nightmares started back up again, Luke would wake in a cold sweat, breathing heavily and stuffing his fist into his mouth to muffle his sobs on the nights he awoke in tears. His bunk entirely too small, and he was trapped with the fear of waking up everyone on the bus. Every day was packed with activities, and there was simply no time to lose sleep. So, he kept it to himself.
It was an early morning when Liz called, checking in with her boy and sharing her usual complaints about how Luke had forgotten to call, again, and it had been close to three weeks since any of his family had heard from him. He muttered a half-assed apology, letting silence fill in as Liz didn’t respond for a moment.
“Luke?” She finally asked, voice sounding how it used to when he was much, much smaller.
“Have you been alright?”
Luke rolled his eyes, trying to choke his irritation down. “Yes,” he bit out. “Just fucking tired.”
“… is it nightmares again?” Luke groaned. Liz knew, of course she knew. He wanted to die.
“I’m fucking twenty, mum,” he bit out. “I don’t need you worrying about me.”
He knew she was only trying to help, but he couldn’t stop the irritation from rolling off him in waves. He was exhausted.
“I know you’re upset, but please let someone know. Do the boys know-”
And just like that, Luke hung up. He hung up on his mum, then abruptly smashed his phone repeatedly on the counter top of the bus while swearing loudly, causing everyone to stumble in.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Their manager asked, rubbing at his eyes in irritation.
“Did you sleep at all last night?” Calum asked, eyes red from sleep. “You look like shit.”
“Yeah, well you smell like shit,” Luke snarled, bristling as they seemed to attack him. “Always smoking your fucking death sticks. It’s like we live on a fucking tobacco farm these days.”
The hurt that surfaced briefly in Calum’s eyes was almost instantly replaced with disgust, and Ashton came to his defense, shoving Luke lightly on the shoulder.
“What the fuck, man?” Ashton said, rolling his eyes. “First you throw some tantrum and break your phone, then you take it out on us? Grow up, Luke.”
And there it was again, the overwhelming feeling that Luke would never be good enough and never be needed. That he was on his way out. His whole dream was ticking on a clock, and time had run out.
“Listen, as much as I love waking up to yelling, I fucking hate it,” Michael grumbled, slouching on the couch and looking hungover. He picked up Luke’s broken phone and they all watched as a shard of glass fell from the screen and onto the table nearby. “Fuck, you really are a monster without your morning coffee.”
“More than that,” Ashton huffed. “Princess here is being a straight up bitch.”
“Just go back bed, Luke,” his manager sighed, already texting something into his phone, probably to get Luke a new one.
“Sleep for the rest of eternity if you want. Whatever it takes,” Calum grumbled, making Michael and Ashton let out shorts barks of laughter. Luke felt angry tears sting in his eyes and turned quickly, stomping back to his bunk like an eight year old and wishing he had a door to slam. He felt like the world was against him. And honestly, it was. He was sure of it.
Once in the confines of his bunk, Luke started to cry. Really cry. He felt his shoulders heave and dug his nails into his palms, wishing he could suffocate himself and just end it. He was so tired. So fucking exhausted.
He eventually fell asleep, which he definitely had not wanted to do. And just like he had feared, his dreams soon morphed into ugly, disgusting things that had him in tears all over again. It was blurred, but he felt every horrible emotion run its course through his body. He was so afraid.
And then it stopped.
The dream shifted, and Luke suddenly became aware that he was on a ledge. Or something. His feet were bare and there was metal beneath them, and his ears echoed a strange sound akin to screaming. When he looked down, he saw a sea of people, but none looking at him. They were looking directly below him. He followed their gaze to see Michael, Ashton, and Calum performing, seemingly flawless with Luke not there anymore. His heart pained as he got an impossibly close view of their smiling faces. He was at least two hundred feet up, and Luke realized he was standing precariously on the bridge that let the light crew do their magic. But he was alone up here. No one was with him.
There was no railing or anything. He could fall at any moment.
“We are 5 Seconds of Summer!” Luke heard Calum shout from below, the crowd erupting in cheers. No one missed him. No one would. What was left for him?
Luke didn’t think much as he let a sob rip from his chest. He watched his ex-bandmates for a moment longer before throwing himself off the platform, screaming as the ground rushed up.
Michael hadn’t really done anything productive that day. After Luke’s episode, him and Calum had resorted to sitting in the front of the bus quietly conversing about different music they’ve been into. Ashton eventually joined them, and their manager came up with the schedule. The next day was full of interviews.
“Okay,” Calum conceded quietly. None of them had a choice either way, no matter how tired they were.
Just as their manager was ready to check on the driver, a loud whimper sounded from the closed off section of the bunks. Everyone bristled at the noise, feeling strangely vulnerable suddenly.
“Was that Luke?” Ashton asked as another sounded, this one louder. It sounded like he was in pain.
“He must be having a nightmare…” Michael trailed off as their tour manager started towards the back, ignoring Calum’s snort.
“Let him live it out,” Calum rolled his eyes. “He deserves it.”
Ashton shot him a look as their manager opened the door to the bunk section. But as soon as he started in, he stumbled back as an ear-splitting scream pierced the air, and Ashton watched in horror as Luke’s body rolled off his top bunk and fell the several feet to the ground, his head smacking against the ground harshly.
“What the fuck?!” Michael yelled, bounding over and pushing a stunned Ashton away and shoving his manager out of the way. Luke was writhing on the ground on his back, his lips and face shiny with spit and tears. Michael knelt next to him and shook his shoulder. “Luke, wake up!”
Luke’s eyes sprang open as soon as Michael’s hands had made contact with him, but what happened next scared everyone even more. Luke brought his hands up to his throat and seemed to be choking.
“Holy shit, fuck, call, like, a fucking ambulance!” Michael swore, trying to sit Luke up. Their manager ran to the front of the bus to get his phone and Calum and Ashton came forward, squeezing themselves into the small area.
“What’s- what the fuck?” Calum breathed, trying to get Luke’s red eyes to focus on him. All of the sudden, Luke’s choking seemed to stop, and he leaned forward and curled his knees up so his head was in between them, breathing ragged.
“Holy fuck, are you okay?” Ashton asked, rubbing Luke’s back and trying to get his heart to chill the hell out.
“It was- it wasn’t real. Jus’ a nightmare,” Luke mumbled quietly, more to himself than anyone.
“Should the ambulance still come?” Their manager asked from the door way with wide eyes, phone pressed to his ear.
“No!” Luke gasped, coughing on his mucus from crying so much.
“Yes,” Ashton insisted, using his hand to brush up Luke’s sweaty forehead to show the large bump once the hair was lifted up. “Dude, you fell, like, five feet. You might have a concussion or something.”
“Luke, how long has it been since you slept?” Their manager asked, hanging up and apparently opting out of an ambulance for now. “Like, really slept?”
Luke wanted to lie and just shrug, say something like ‘oh, this hasn’t happened before’. But he couldn’t. He was so tired. He started crying.
“I-I… maybe two weeks? I can’t remember.”
“Fuck.” Their manager’s phone started to ring. When he looked down, he looked up quickly at Luke. “It’s Liz.”
Luke didn’t reply, just shrunk into himself as he shuddered with sobs. He heard their manager take the call and walk out of the bus. He couldn’t even look at his bandmates.
“What’s going on, Luke?” Michael finally asked, hesitantly. “Be honest. Please.”
“I… I used to get nightmares. A lot,” Luke finally said, his eyes in shadows due to the dim lighting and his hair. They still hadn’t moved from the floor, but Calum took a seat on the edge of his bunk. “It got bad, so my parents got me checked. They’re stress related.”
Ashton squeezed his bicep, a signal that they were listening and were there. After a second, Luke continued.
“They started again, a bit ago,” Luke sniffled, wiping his snot on his arm. “They’ve gotten worse. So lately, I’ve just… stopped. I don’t go to sleep anymore. I’m so… so fucking tired.”
“You’ve gotta sleep, Luke,” Michael spoke quietly, standing up. “You look wrecked, man. You’ve gotta go see a specialist about this, or something.”
Luke nodded softly, scrubbing at his eyes in an attempt to calm himself. He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve them being so nice to him.
“It’s stress related, so maybe we’ve just gotta…like… de-stress you. I think we’ve all been kind of shit to each other so we’ve been bottling up our issues. Maybe it will help if we start talking about them again.” Ashton’s hand was on Luke’s back again, just resting there.
“Yeah,” Luke spoke quietly. “That would help, probably.” He looked up at Calum, who had been fairly quiet. “I’m sorry. I know you can’t help smoking. Sorry I’ve been a dick.”
Calum shrugged. “It’s fine. I know it’s not good for any of us. I’ll try harder to quit.”
Luke felt placated at that, and Ashton and Michael helped him stand and they made their way to the back of the bus. Calum started the Xbox and turned on Fifa, leaving the second controller out. When Luke didn’t grab it, Michael did, so they sat crammed together on the couch, not talking but just relaxing together, like they used to.
“Hey.” Their manager walked in and Calum paused the game. “Just got off the phone with Liz. She wants you to call her later.” Luke nodded. “Nightmares, huh?”
“Sucks,” Luke replied.
“I’ll try to schedule less promo. It might hurt the song charts-wise, but you’ll still make more than enough of a profit. It’ll give you more down time. And I think the choking bit was sleep paralysis. Apparently, quite common.”
“According to who?” Michael asked.
“Web MD,” Their manager grinned, flashing his phone.
“Thanks,” Luke said. He nodded and walked off, leaving the four boys together once again.
“From now on, we tell each other if we aren’t okay, alright?” Ashton asked, not having to look at his boys to know they were all nodding.
Calum and Michael ended up playing the game for hours, and eventually Luke just couldn’t keep his eyes open. His head still kind of hurt so Ashton gave him some medicine (along with a cookie and a glass of milk) and Luke fell asleep in the now-dark lounge area of the bus. When Calum finally called it quits, Michael looked upon his sleeping best friend.
“What do we do if he has another?” He asked, light brushing Luke’s hair away from his eyes.
“We’ll stay here with him through the night and wake him up,” Ashton simply states. “Because that’s what best mates do.”