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Long Time, No See

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 “What kind of nut job has an alarm that goes off at 6:17 in the morning?” Michael moans when shouting in his ear forces him into consciousness and refuses to let go.  

“That would be me,” the low voice of a man replies from where a body was tucked in beside him. Michael huffs at the man and searches his memory for a name and comes up blank.

“You don’t seriously get up this early do you?” Michael asked.

“Nah, I just listen till the second alarm goes off at seven. Which is a much more respectable time to get up,”

“That’s still too fucking early,” Michael moaned.

“Just shut up and listen,” he grumbled as the latest pop song starts to play.

“You enjoy this shit?” Michael asked.

“5 Seconds of Summer isn’t as bad as people think mate,”

“You had your dick up my ass not even 6 hours ago and now you’re calling me mate?”

“If you don’t stop talking I won’t hesitate to kick that ass out of my bed,” he threatened and that shut Michael up. He didn’t want to be kicked out of the warmth before 6:30 in the morning with a dull ache in his ass.

As they settled back down Michael turned his attention to the song. Since it dropped a week and a half ago it’s been all anyone talks about. Michael avoided it as much as possible but even he knew the song was called ‘Beside You’ and was written about a guy one of the band members had dated in the past.

Michael had already learnt to not highlight the parallels between some of the lyrics and his last long-term relationship. He ends up feeling as badly as it ended.

The song came to a close and the radio presenters shouting thankfully pulled him away from the dark turn his thoughts were about to take.

I’m back here with the guys from 5 Seconds of Summer, Calum, Ashton and Luke. How are you guys?

We’re good,” A familiar voice replied and Michael’s breath caught in his throat.

How’s it feel to have released this single?

Good, this is a song Luke’s been working on for a few years now. Trying to get it right. It came up when we were looking at songs to put on the album. Then Calum took a red pen to it and…” That must be Ashton talking

Now it’s perfect,” There was the familiar voice again, his heart clenched painfully in his chest.

Well Luke, if you’re the original writer, do you mind sharing where the inspiration came from?

Uh sure, just before the band took off, I had this friend. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. He was actually the one who taught me the more complicated things on guitar. But, uh, when the band took off he didn’t want any part in it,” Luke trailed off. Oh fuck! They’re not going to talk about him are they? Michael thought he would never hear that voice again. He’d missed it.

I remember we had to rewrite half our songs so that Lukey here could actually play them,” The sound of Calum's voice was more welcomed, it felt like forever since I’d heard it. Hearing that Calum was still taking the shit out the others made Michael smile.

Does this friend happen to have a name?” The interviewer asked. The silence went on for a beat too long before one of them spoke.

We’re not going to invade his privacy like that,” Ashton eventually said.

Yeah, we won’t share his name. But I think I can say that I always called him Mikey,” Michael thought the Luke sounded reflective.

Well there you go guys. Beside You was inspired by an old friend called Mikey,” The interviewer announced before moving on with the conversation.

So you guys have got a break now, what are you planning on doing?

Chilling out mostly,” Ashton said, “Going to spend some time with family,

Yeah, it will be good to see home again. Eat some good food,” Calum joked.

Michael zoned out as they kept talking about the upcoming album and other things that had been going with the band. Once another song started playing Michael’s one night stand started talking again.

“You really don’t like those guys do you?”

“What makes you say that?” Michael asked diplomatically, trying not to give away that he knew who they were talking about.

“You tensed up while they were talking about the song’s inspiration,”

“It’s nothing,” Michael defended and wriggled to move away from the guy whose name he still didn’t know.

“You going to shoot through soon?” He asked, letting the subject drop.

“Not a bad idea,” Michael replied and the man let him up off the bed.

“Well you were good, might see you again?” He asked. Michael knew there was little chance of that, they both did. But that seemed to be the social standard when you wake up with your one night stand.

“Yeah,” Michael said after picking up his socks and getting boxers on before following the trail of clothing back through the house to the front door, dressing himself as he went.

-

The sound of Luke’s voice haunted Michael the whole walk home. It had been years since he’d let himself think about Luke or even Calum. Since they’d gone off galavanting around the world, sharing the music they’d all made together. Michael hadn’t followed their career at all after they’d left home. It was too painful at first and then the people around him were invested enough that he hadn’t felt the need to.

The pain in his ass had surrendered to his pounding head which is undoubtedly what led to him ending up in a stranger's bed. By the time Michael made it home he could barely stand from the spinning in his head.

He stood slumpt against his door for several moments before he gathered enough wits to find his house key in his pocket. It took several more moments before he was able to get the key in the lock and open the door.

Once he was successful he walked to the kitchen, took a couple panadol then proceeded to crash on the couch.

After lying motionless on the couch for an hour he had begun to feel human enough to move to his bedroom. So he filled a water bottle, stripped down to boxers and a t-shirt before setting some music playing softly and going back to sleep in his own bed.

-

Sometime mid morning Michael felt like the beating in his head was coming back. It wasn’t till the shouting started that he relaxed, this wasn’t his hangover coming back for round two.

“For fucks sake Michael! Open this bloody door!”

“Piss off!” he yelled back, slowly making his way back to the living room. By the time he got there they were already letting themselves in, so Michael flopped on the couch, turning to face his guests as they entered.

“Dude, you awake?” Calum asked.

“Unfortunately,” Michael groaned. “How the fuck do you know where I live?”

“Asked your mum. You should call her some time, she misses you,” Calum dropped down on the couch underneath Michael’s legs.

“Okay, better question. Why are you here?” Michael demanded.

“We missed you Mikey!” Calum exclaimed.

“Oh piss off,”

“Someone’s not in an agreeable mood,” Ashton said sitting on the edge of the coffee table near Michael’s head.

“Fun night; rough morning. Need I say more?” Michael groaned and closed his eyes. But that didn’t stop him from hearing Luke snort but still refuses to acknowledge his presence.

“The offer still stands,” Calum said quietly, “if you want to,”

Michael finally looked up to find Luke sitting on the other chair not looking at his phone, but refusing to look anywhere near Michael.

“I’m good mate,”

“So how have you been?” Ashton asked.

“Oh, you know, the usual. What about you guys? Anything new?” Calum and Ashton glanced at each other before Ashton stood.

“You got any coffee in this place?” he asked dragging Luke into the kitchen.

“So you wanna tell me the real reason you decided to drop by?” Michael asked eliciting a sigh from Calum.

“He misses you, you know,”

“He’s really showing it,” Michael replied.

“We had to talk about it this morning. On radio,”

“I know,”

“You know? I thought you didn’t want to know what we were up to?”

“My latest one night stand listens to the station and his alarm went off at too fucking early in the morning,”

“Jeez, when did you get in?”

“Before 7,”

“No wonder you’re in such a shit mood,” he mused, “Look, we’ve got a 2 week break at the moment and Ash and I think that the four of should spend some time together,”

Michael groaned. “We broke up for a reason, Cal,”

“I know, but he’s hurting and it’s affecting our work,”  

“Well what do you expect me to do about that, huh? Or did he not tell you how things went down?” Michael demanded, moving so he could sit up and face Calum, moving into his space. “Did he not tell you that he left me out in the cold after he broke up with me? That’s right, he broke up with me! He didn’t want to be a gay rockstar! That’s the reason I refused the band every time you offered, because he didn’t want to me around any more. Did you think that maybe now I can’t stand to be around him? I hurt too you know,” Michael was struggling to keep his voice down.

“Shit, Mikey. Why’d the two of you always have to be so complicated?”

“What’s more fun in life than overly-complicated relationships?”  

As they laughed bitterly, Ashton and Luke came back into the living room carrying two cups of coffee each. Ashton was quick to hand his second one off to Calum leaving Luke standing in the middle of the room holding two cups of coffee before he moves forwards enough to place one on the table in front of Michael.

There was heavy tension in the room until Michael picked up the cup and took a sip. Luke reclaimed his place on the second arm chair and Ashton threw himself down between Michael and Calum.

“So?” he asked and Calum nodded cautiously. “Alrighty then! Michael, put some pants on. We have things to do,”

Michael sighed and left the room to change into clean clothes.

“Are you guys ever going to let this go?” Luke whined.

“Just because you get all butthurt when anyone called Michael is mentioned, or anything reminds you of this Michael, doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends with him,” Ashton pointed out.

“But forcing me to spend time with him during our time off?”

“Luke, mate, I think you need to give him a second chance,” Ashton tried again.

“Ash, I think we should just leave it alone,” Calum said, putting a hand on Ashton knee.

The two boys were staring at him when Michael returned to the living room.

“Alright, where are we going?”

“Well there’s this party tonight we’re going to, but until then I was thinking we could go to the beach,”

“I have nothing to do with you guys for years and the first thing you want to do together is drag me to the beach?” Michael demanded.

“Told you that wouldn’t work,” Calum gloated. Michael glared at Ashton for a moment before relenting.

“Fine, did you guys have a car or do we need to take mine?”

“Are you saying that you managed to get your licence?” Calum was surprised.

“And keep it,” Michael said proudly.

“We’ve got a ride, so just grab a towel and we can get going,” Ashton rose from the couch.

Michael backed out of the room to get a towel and a pair of boardshorts before following Calum out to the car. Michael wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but for some reason it wasn’t the beat up Honda Ashton had been driving in high school.

Luke was behind the wheel and Ashton was beside him, already setting up some music. Calum sat next to Michael, squished in with bags and other junk while they got settled in for the hour and a half drive to the coast.

-

Michael was in a daze once they got out of the car. He was still half asleep and so followed Calum like a little lost duck to the changerooms. However once they got into the water it was a different story.

Even in the middle of the day, the water was, refreshing. Ashton’s attempts to start a splashing war didn’t help matters, in Michael opinion. Luke was still acting standoffish around Michael, but he’d relaxed enough so they could throw water at one another.

After they were all soaking, Calum and Ashton decided to swim further out while Michael wanted to retreat to an umbrella on the sand. They all went their separate ways, leaving Luke standing in the shallows until Calum turned around to make shooing motions to send him towards Michael.

Michael had made himself comfortable on a towel by the time Luke reached him and didn’t react when Luke dropped down on a towel beside him.

“I don’t care how famous you are, if you try to talk to me I’ll fill your mouth with sand and pray you choke,” Michael said when Luke took a deep breath.

“Fair enough,” he sighed in response before settling down.

“I’m serious,”

“I know Mikey. I’m sorry, but you don’t have to forgive me. I know that what I did was awful,”

“Don’t call me Mikey, Luke. I’m not ready for that,”

“Okay,” Luke nodded stiffly. He’d been thinking about what it would be like seeing Michael again since their break-up, but he didn’t imagine it going like this. On the upside there wasn’t any screaming or tears yet. Although given a few more minutes and Luke himself might be the one to change that.

-

“We go through all the effort to drag you out here to have some fun and you end up sleeping the day away!” Ashton complains.

Michael grumps at being woken up from his nap. The sun had been warm on his skin, but Calum and Ashton were cold and wet. Which led to Michael being cold and wet when then decided to lay down on top of him.

“You know I hate swimming in the open ocean,”

“And now you’re cooked like a roast chook,” Calum added.

“I’d say he looks more like a lobster,” Ashton mused.

“Fuck off,” Michael whined.

Michael didn’t see the third person joining them under the shade of the tree, but he didn’t miss the bottle that hit him on the back of the head.

“What the fuck?” he cried.

“I think it’s for your sunburn,” Calum said slowly.

“What is it?”

“Aloe Vera,”

“God, yes please,” Michael moaned.

Michael felt Calum and Ashton roll off him before another body settled itself at the top of his ass. The aloe vera was cold on his back and shoulders, but whoever was rubbing it was was being really gentle. Being generous with the gel, not pressing too hard but still massaging, spreading it around evenly.

“So where do we wanna go for food before the party?” Calum said stretching out on the ground in front of Michael.

“I’m always down for pizza,” Michael moaned.

“I was thinking something like Quiznos,” Luke said from somewhere above and behind Michael.

“I’m not going to be able to sway you guys with something really healthy like sushi am I?” Ashton asked

“If you have to ask,” Calum replied and Ashton let out a sigh.

“I vote for Quiznos then,”

“Three to one, we’re going to Quiznos!” Calum announced, “Give me a hand, Ash?” Michael watched Calum be pulled up before realising. If Calum and Ashton were in front of him, who did that leave to be on his back?

Michael was frozen as the person sitting on his back lifted itself off.

“Come on Michael, up you get,” Luke encourage patting him gently on the shoulder.

“What on earth happened to you guys? Health freaks,” Michael muttered while he attempted to slow his beating heart rate. It was working fine until he sat up and found Luke staring at him.

“Come on Mike,” Calum interrupted their staring contest, “You need to get out of the sun,”

“And us health freaks are hungry for some spinach,” Ashton added.

“You guys are gross,” he mumbled before propelling himself upwards. Unfortunately he misjudged how strong he was in this moment and went pitching forward into the three other boys. Luke quickly wrapped his arms around Michael’s waist to hold him steady.

When Michael was balanced enough to look up into Luke’s eyes, he could see the smart-ass comment he wanted to make. But it never came. Luke let Michael stand on his own, while Calum and Ashton tried to hide their snickers.

“Asshats,” Michael shoved past the two of them, moving towards the car.

“Please don’t say anything, okay?” Luke demanded once Michael had walked off.

“About what? The fact that it’s been three years and you still want to suck each other’s faces off?” Calum asked.

“I don’t think he wants anything to do with me anymore,” Luke replied in a small voice.

“Aww, poor little Lukey. A famous rockstar who can’t even pull guys he went to highschool with,” Ashton mocked.

“Yes, yes. Everyone laugh at the kid who can’t get laid. Are we going to go eat now?” Luke snapped taking off in the direction Michael had moments before.

“They’d been getting along so well earlier,” Calum whispered as he and Ashton walked towards the car.

“I think you were right,” Ashton announced in the same tone.

“Don’t know why you doubt me, I always am. But what was it about this time?”

“Luke was the one who fucked things up last time. Now he’s looking for forgiveness, at the very least, but Michael is nowhere near ready to give him anything,”

“Sounds about right,”

“God, I hope things end alright for them,”

“Why are you so invested in their relationship?”

“Because they’re the cutest couple I’ve ever seen,”

“I have to agree with you there. You two ready to go?” Calum asked as they got to the car where Michael was standing by the front passenger door, while Luke was at the door behind the driver’s seat.

“We’ve been waiting for you two,” Luke said ripping his door open and moodily climbing inside. Everyone else followed suit and Ashton took off for the closest Quizno’s.

-

Michael and Luke managed to keep the awkwardness down while the group ate. This was achieved by sitting as far away from each other as possible, pointedly not looking in each other's direction and only conversing with Calum and/or Ashton.

“We should get going soon,” Calum interrupted Michael and Ashton’s riveting conversation on Dragonball Z.

“Yeah, come on Mikey,” Ashton stood up, “You can borrow some of our clothes,”

“Um, okay,”

So they cleared their table and piled back into the car before taking off for the hotel the boys were currently staying at.

-

When they arrived Ashton dragged Michael into his room and started throwing clothes at him.

“Just grab something that fits and smells clean,”

“Seriously?”

“I can at least remember the last time I did washing. I can’t say the same for the other two,”

“And when was that?” Michael asked, holding the shirt he’d sniffed at arms length.

“A couple a weeks ago,” he shrugged.

“That long ago?” Michael raised an eyebrow before laughing, “Man, you would not survive in the real world,”

“Oh yeah? When was the last time you did washing?” Ashton demanded throwing another shirt at Michael.

“Two days ago and two days before that and two days before that,” Michael dropped all bar one of the shirts.

“Sounds like you’ve really got your shit together,” Ashton sounded impressed while Michael just shrugged.

“Ehh, some days are better than others,” Michael walked into the bathroom to change.

“Come on, we need to get a move on before the other two fall asleep,”

“Jeez, if you guys aren’t feeling great, why do you insist on going out?” Michael’s voice came through the door.

“It’s good to spend some time out with friends. And it’s been awhile since we’ve had some fun,” Ashton answered. There was silence while the two men finished changing.

“How’s this look?” Michael asked, stepping out of the bathroom.

“The shirt looks great, but are you sure you don’t want to borrow a pair of jeans?”

“I tried, they don’t fit me,”

“Oh, well we’ll see if Luke or Calum have any that fit,”

“Luke’s should,” Michael said before stopping in his track.

“Aww shit, Mikey,” Ashton groaned.

“I’m fine,” Michael said, moving away from Ashton’s offer of a hug.

“You know that Cal and I are here if you want to talk about it,” he offered, letting his arms drop back to his sides.

“It’s been three years. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to talk about it,” Michael whispered, a single tear running down his cheek. This time Ashton didn’t let Michael push him away and wrapped the younger man up in a tight hug.

“He promised!” Michael abruptly yelled, fighting against Ashton’s hold for a moment before giving up.

“What did he promise, Mikey?” Ashton asked gently; Michael sniffed.

“Just before you guys got noticed. He promised that we’d always be together, no matter where life took us.

“We’d spent the day together when one direction tweeted your cover and he was so happy. Talking about the future of your band. I made some comment about how he better take me along to award shows and shit like that when he got all quiet,” Michael buried his face in Ashton’s neck, remembering the uncertain look on Luke’s face after he’d said that. He tried to detail what happened next, but found he couldn’t. The lump in his throat wouldn’t budge while he was thinking about the harsh words Luke had screamed at his face, the names and stories Michael had been ignoring for years.

“He kicked me out after that. Screaming about how he couldn’t be gay and famous,” Michael summarised.

“Fuck!” Ashton whispered.

“It was cold and raining that day. Ben saw me walking at the end of the street and insisted giving me a ride home. Liz called the next day, because Luke was refusing to tell her what had happened,” the tears were running freely by this point.

“He’d told us that you didn’t want to hold him back from his dreams, that it had been a mutual break up,” Ashton said quietly, trying to not upset Michael further.

“I probably said something like that while we were yelling at each other,” Michael said with a humourless smile.

“No wonder you didn’t want anything to do with the band after that,” Ashton remarked.

“Yeah,” Michael sighed.

“I could take you back home, you don’t need to hang around if it’s making you uncomfortable.

“Nah, it’s fine. It’s good to see you guys again. I just need to avoid talking with,” he pauses to take a deep breath, ”Luke, so that we don’t get into another fight,”

“Well if you change your mind, the offer is still there,”

“Thank you,” Michael said sincerely before pulling away “Now are you ready? Because we need to find me a pair of jeans that fit if we’re going to go out tonight,”

“Alrighty,” Ashton cheered, picking up his room key, wallet and phone, “Let’s go,” he announced before leading the way to Calum and Luke’s room.

“Hey!” Calum shouted when they entered, “Are you guys ready to party?!”

“Almost, but I think you’re more than ready,” Ashton ran his eyes up and down Calum’s body. Purely to see what he was wearing of course.

“I was born ready,” Calum replied.

“Okay, sure,” Ashton dismissed, “Either of you got a clean, spare pair of jeans Michael can borrow?”

“Try these,” Luke says off-handedly, throwing a pair of black skinnies in Michael’s direction.

Michael moved off into the bathroom to put the jeans on. Almost tearing up again at Luke’s scent clinging to the jeans, but grinning when he pulls them up and they fit perfectly, other than being a couple inches too long, but he just left them to bunch up around his ankles.

“Looking good,” Calum said when he emerged.

Luke glanced up and took his time to check Michael out. The way his jeans clung to his legs and Ashton’s shirt hung off his shoulders. His red hair looked soft and fluffy and the slight stubble on his face made him look older in a way that did things to Luke. The light in his eyes reminded Luke of how things used to be, before the break up. The thought of how ruined Michael looked, standing outside in the rain three years ago makes his heart clench painfully and he has to look away. He distracted himself by taking another shot from where he and Calum had been pre gaming.

“Okay, let’s go before you two are so drunk that they don’t let you in,” Ashton said.

“Alright, but you realise you’re deso,” Calum called, slapping Ashton on the back.

“Dick,” Ashton muttered as he led the way down to the car.

Luke was quick to follow, so Michael waited for Calum to gather his things.

“Are you alright? When you came in you looked like you’d been crying,”

“I had been,” Michael admitted.

“Shit, what happened?” Calum asked, moving towards Michael.

“I told Ash what happened between between Luke and I,” Michael moved away, ending up standing out of the room.

“Oh,” Michael thought he sounded upset.

“He was just there. It doesn’t make him more important than you,” He was quick to assure,

“No, no. I get that. I was just wondering if I would get to hear the story?” Michael nodded, reaching for Calum’s hand while they walked down the corridor.

“You will. I just don’t think I can talk about it again tonight,”

“That’s alright. Do you, um, do you mind if Ashton tells me?”

“Yeah,” Michael said, relieved that he wouldn’t have to relive the experience anytime soon, “Go for it,”

“You’re going to have to tell him it’s okay to tell me,” Calum said, stepping into the elevator behind Michael.

“I think I can manage that,” Michael reassured.

They took the rest of the elevator ride in silence. Somewhere around the third floor Calum stepped up to Michael and tightly wrapped his arms around him.

“Thanks,” Michael muttered thickly when the elevator stopped.

There was silence and no contact as they walked over the the car. Michael rode shotgun this time. While Calum and Luke were sorting themselves in the back seat, Michael leaned over to whisper in Ashton’s ear.

“Cal’s got some questions. I said you’d answer them for me,”

“Uh, sure,”

“Thanks,” Michael moved back to sit properly in his seat again, “Feel free to gossip afterwards,” Michael chuckled.

“We don’t gossip,” Ashton defended.

“Ready to go party?!” Calum interrupted.

“Hells yeah!” Michael cheered while Ashton put the car in first and started the car moving.

-

The party was louder than Michael had expected, but there was more than enough alcohol that he wouldn’t have to remember that fact in the morning.

Calum dragged Ashton off as soon as they got out of the car leaving Michael and Luke to awkwardly make their way inside together, without making it seem like they were together .

Michael made a beeline for the hard liquor and starts drinking before Luke was even aware of where he’d gone.

“Hey, don’t get too wasted,” Luke warned, taking a beer for himself.

“You don’t tell me what to anymore Luke,” Michael snapped before downing the first shot and going off for another one.

As he stumbled around Michael was surprised at the faces that he recognised. Seeing Rian from All Time Low made him freeze in his tracks until someone knocked into him from behind sending him crashing to the floor.

He’d grabbed someone’s t-shirt as he fell and pulled them down on top of him.

“Jeez Mikey. If you wanted me you just had to ask,” Calum joked before helping Michael stand.

“There’s so many people here,” he whispered into his ear causing Calum to laugh.

“Yeah, you do get used to it. Go get another drink. I always find that helps,”

“I’ve already had a lot. I’m not sure if I should,” Michael was still leaning heavily on Calum’s side.

“Ashton’s walking around sober. He’ll make sure we don’t injure ourselves, or anyone else,”

“I’m going to hold you to that,” Michael slurs.

“I’d expect no less. Now, go get shit-faced,”

“Yessir,” Michael executed a sloppy salute and took off for where he last recalled seeing the booze.

Sometime later Ashton finds Michael laying on a kitchen counter without a shirt while a guy and a girl do body shots off him at the same time. Everyone shouts when they start making out over Michael’s chest and the guy with the vodquila bottle moves them away.

“Who's next?!” He yells and a familiar blond steps up to Michael’s hip. “Alright blondie, you know how this works. Straddle him and don’t let any roll onto the bench,”

Ashton watched with a sinking feeling in his chest as Luke climbed onto the bench and settled himself on Michael’s upper thighs. The liquor was poured over Michael’s torso and gathered in his belly button, the dips of his collarbone and between his pecs. Once the bottle was clear Luke winked and leant down. He began licking and sucking his way up Michael’s chest while the people around cheered him on.

When he finished sucking a hickey on Michael’s neck he moved further up to give Michael a bruising kiss. Ashton found himself unable to watch. After a full minute the bottle pourer broke them up to the displeasure of the crowd.

“Why don’t the two of you go find an unoccupied room,” He suggested before pushing Michael off the bench towards Luke, who accidently let him crash to the floor. Ashton darted forward while Luke laughed. Once Ashton managed to get Michael standing again, not an easy feat mind you, Luke stepped up on his other side and wrapped an arm around Michael’s waist.

“I’ll watch him,” Luke said.

“I have no doubts about that,” Ashton said tightening his grip on Michael’s ribs and the hand hanging over his shoulder.

“Please,” Luke begged, “We’ll sit on a couch together and won’t do anything!”

Michael chose this moment to lift his head and giggle like a school kid, then turned into Luke’s neck and started kissing anywhere he could reach.

“Are you sure you’re going to be able to keep him off you?” Ashton joked leading them to an empty chair by a wall.

“Yeah,” Luke glanced away, ashamed.

“I know what happened between the two of you,” Ashton whispered once Michael was seated and playing idly with their hands by their sides.

“What?! How?” Luke demanded, moving fast into Ashton’s space in an attempt to appear threatening.

“Mikey told Cal, Cal told me,” Ashton explained.

“Oh,” Luke deflated, his hand falling back within Michael’s reach.

Ashton smiled sadly.

“You aren’t going to kick me out of the band, are you?” Luke sounded heartbroken.

“God no Luke, I just don’t want you to break his heart again,” When Luke looked up Ashton could see the start of tears in his eyes.

“Trust me, that’s the last thing I want to do. Ever!” Ashton nodded.

“Just watch him while I round up Cal. We’ll talk about this later. Right now I think it’s time we get moving,”

Luke sat down next to Michael who was delighted that he could now throw himself over Luke’s lap and  reach Luke’s hair with his hands and his neck with his mouth.

-

“Come on Cal, you can show us how good your dancing is back at the hotel,” Ashton reasoned.

“But I want to show everyone now!” Calum whined, still refusing to get off the pool table.

“Please, I left Michael mauling on Luke’s neck, who knows how many marks he’s going to leave,”

“You left the two of them alone!?” Calum demanded, jumping down into Ashton’s arms, instantly more clear minded.

“Michael is wasted and Luke promised he was just going to watch him,”

Calum just sighed and grabbed Ashton’s hand before walking off into the crowd, muttering about stupid bandmates and lovesick idiots.

Once Ashton was able to successfully lead Calum to where he’d left Michael and Luke. Michael was curled up on Luke’s lap like a little kid playing with his hands nattering his ear off about something. To give him credit, Luke was watching very carefully, both the crowd and Michael. Luke straightened up when he saw Ashton and tried to shake Michael out of his train of thought.

Somewhere along the way something went wrong, causing Michael burst into tears before Calum and Ashton could reach the other two. Michael had turned his face into a confused Luke’s collarbone. Ashton and Calum were quick to descend on the pair, creating a hug circle around Michael.

Pressed against his side, Ashton could hear the words hidden in Michael’s sobs.

“...leave me? I thought you loved me. You said that you loved me, then kicked me out not even an hour later! I still love you. Take me back, I’ll do anything…” Ashton looked up to see Luke’s bottom lip trembling with tear filled eyes. That was when he decided to take action.

“Come on Mikey, let’s get you home,” Ashton was trying to pull Michael away from Luke, but he didn’t go anywhere until Calum grabbed his other arm and they worked together to pry him off. Michael then wrapped himself around Ashton while Calum grabbed a shaking Luke and they made their way out to the car.

Michael was still blubbering incoherently in Ashtons ear but Luke wasn’t able to mutter more than one line to Calum before shutting down.

“I can’t believe how badly I fucked up,”

-

Luke was given shotgun so Michael could curl up with Calum on the drive back to Michael’s house. When they arrived, Michael voiced his disdain about being alone tonight so Ashton made the executive decision that they’d all crash at Michael’s place.

Ashton corralled Michael into changing and getting into his own bed. Luke borrowed a shirt from Michael’s laundry basket before curling up on the couch. Calum just stripped down to his boxers before crawling in bed with Michael.

Ashton filled glasses with water for everyone, leaving them on bedside tables or coffee tables with painkillers near his sleeping friends before kneeling beside Michael’s bedhead.

“Mikey, are you still awake?”

“Yeah,” he whispered.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Cuddle?” He asked and there’s no way Ashton could say no to that pout, so he too stripped down and joined them on the bed letting Michael settle peacefully between himself and Calum before dropping off to sleep.

-

When Luke woke he was alone on an unfamiliar couch. He was dehydrated, but was glad that someone had left a glass of water on the table for him.

He looked around slowly before he remembered that he’d crashed on Michael’s couch, but he was surprised to find that he couldn’t see Calum or Ashton either on the other couch or the floor.

It wasn’t until after he’d relieved himself that he found Ashton in the kitchen putting bread through the toaster.

“How are you this morning, Lukey?” Ashton asked brightly.

“Dead,” Luke said, wincing when his throat felt like sandpaper and his voice sounded even worse.

“And how are you feeling about what happened last night?” Luke groaned and dropped down on to the kitchen bench. “That bad huh?”

“It’s one of those things that I can’t bear to think about so I don’t,” Luke whispered, that didn’t hurt his voice so much.

“That’s fair reasoning, but I think it’s coming to bite you in the ass now,”

“Yes, thank you for that brilliant observation,” Luke muttered sarcastically.

“Um, how much of last night do you remember?” Ashton asked slowly.

“All of it, I think,” Luke replied even slower, “definitely enough to I fucked up real bad three years ago and Michael should want me dead,”

“He doesn’t,” Ashton felt hopeful for his friends broken relationship.

“I remember that too,” Luke sighed, “I just, I have no idea what to do,”

“I think everything should be on his terms from here on,” Ashton said slowly. He knew that his friends trusted his judgement and often came to him for advice, but even he didn’t feel like he had the right to mess around in Michael’s life.

“And I agree, but I still need to apologise first,” Luke stated firmly.

“Because he deserves it or because you’re sorry?” Ashton questions.

“Both,” Luke said with conviction.

“How come you never told us the truth Lukey?” Calum asked, wrapping his arms around Luke from behind.

Luke didn’t speak for a moment, choosing to take a deep breath and get the words straight in his head first.

“I knew how close he was with the two of you and I didn’t want you to hate me, because the big reason Michael didn’t want to be in the band was because of me,” Luke said evenly.

“We don’t hate you, Luke,” Ashton laid a comforting hand on Luke’s shoulder.

“Think you’re the stupidest shit in the world? Without a doubt,” Calum added, “But we could never hate you. Especially not because of some couple’s argument between you and Michael,”

“But it affected band-stuff,” Luke protested.

“So?” Ashton asked, “It was Michael’s choice and he factored your relationship into that. Now, I’ve made toast. Who's hungry?”

“Someone made food?” Michael asked from the doorway, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“Yeah, toast,” Ashton said, stepping forward.

“Gimmie,” he pouted, reaching for the pile Ashton had made.

“Go sit down, I’ll bring you some,” Ashton waved him away.

“Thanks Ash,” Calum smirked and followed Michael to take a seat on a couch.

“Are you going to be okay Luke?” Ashton asked.

“I think so. I just need some time to process and talk to Michael,”

“Okay,” Ashton smiled sympathetically before dividing the toast onto four plates. “One more question,” he paused before walking out of the kitchen.

“Yeah?” Luke paused, he seemed relieved that his best friends weren’t going to tear him limb from limb for being a fuckwit.

“Why haven’t you called him Mikey since we’ve been hanging out with him?” Ashton questioned.

“He asked me not to,” Luke said quietly.

“Oh,” was Ashton’s eloquent response.

“Yeah,” and Luke was gone, taking two of the plates with him.

-

Ashton took Calum home after breakfast so they could spend some time with their own families on their break. Luke had called Ben and Jack, but neither of them could make it over to Michael’s house until at least 11. Luke also didn’t want to cut anymore into Ashton’s family time by asking him for a ride home. Besides, Luke still needed to have a conversation with Michael.

Once Calum and Ashton left, Michael disappeared somewhere in the house and Luke heard the shower turn on.

While Michael showered, Luke cleaned up in the kitchen and lounge where they’d eaten. By the time Michael reemerged, Luke was redressed in his clothes from the previous day and the plates had been washed, dried and put away.

“You’re still here?” Michael asked, surprised.

“Yeah, Jack’s not going to be here for at least another hour,” Luke paused, “I can wait outside if you’d prefer?”

“Nah, I was just going to watch telly until my shift this afternoon,”

“Oh, where do you work?”

“Uh, this afternoon? EB Games,”

“This afternoon?” Luke questions.

“Gotta pay the bills somehow,” Michael jokes, while also avoiding the question, before settling on the same couch as Luke and channel flicking until he found something he liked.

Something he liked turned out to be a rerun of How I Met Your Mother.

As they relaxed in each other’s presence they relaxed on the couch and by the end of the first episode Michael was lying on his back with Luke in his arms and his head buried in Michael’s neck.

“Ashton told me that you wanted to talk,” Michael whispered as the credits rolled. Luke nodded slowly.

“Kinda. I have some things that I need to tell you, all I ask is that you listen,”

“I think I can manage that,” Michael said before turning down the volume of the TV. “You know you can speak now,” Michael nudged after Luke was silent for several moments.

“I’m trying to think of what to say,”

“It sounded like you knew what you wanted to say,”

“I know what I want to tell you, I just don’t know how to say it,”

“Why don’t you just come out with it?” This caused Luke to take a deep breath.

“Okay, but please let me finish before you say anything,”

“Absolutely,”

“Alright. First of all I’m sorry. For… well everything really. I’m sorry for kicking you out into the rain that night. I’m sorry for what I said then not explaining what I meant when it upset you. I’m sorry for ignoring you afterwards.

“I’m sorry for making things awkward to the point where the four of us couldn’t hang out together anymore,” Luke had tears rolling down his cheeks by this point. Michael knew this because he could feel them against his neck. “I’ve hated myself for the last three years because of how I treated you. I struggled to form new relationships because I’m terrified I’m going to fuck everything up!

“I have panic attacks before every meet and greet, because most fans expect hugs. Almost all human contact scares me now, because of how badly things ended between us,” Luke finally stops for a breath and lets out a small sob. Michael tightens his grip around Luke and struggles to hold his promise about not interrupting. Luke choked over the next part of his monologue. “Anytime I see something in our fans, or anything really, that reminds me of you, it makes my heart clench, tears prick behind my eyes and I get so pissed at myself I just want to curl up in a hole for the rest of my life,”

It was at this point that Luke erupted into inconsolable sobs.

Michael kept to his promise and didn’t speak, other than to make soothing noises into Luke’s ear until the end of the next episode.

Michael sighed. “Lukey, your brother is going to be here soon so I need you to take a deep breath and calm down enough so he doesn’t decided to beat the crap out of me for making you cry,” Michael begged, chuckling a little at his joke.

Luke gave a weak smile before trying to match his breathing to Michael’s. Michael started running his hand up and down Luke’s back in an effort to soothe him faster.

“My brothers love you,” Luke sniffed, “They’re not going to hurt you,”

“I hope you’re right. Family dinners would be awkward as fuck if your brothers spent the whole time glaring at me,” Michael whispered.

“Family dinners?” Luke propped himself by placing his hands on Michael’s chest, so that he could look into the older boy’s eyes. “What are you trying to say?”

“I’m trying to say that while I don’t forgive you yet, I did enjoy hanging out with you and the guys again. I missed having you around and I am sorry you’ve felt that way for the past few years,” It was Michael’s turn to pause for a breath, “I don’t want to jinx anything, or for either of us to set expectations of getting back together. But, uh, I wouldn’t mind being friends again. If that’s okay with you,”

Luke hardly dared to breath. Michael wanted to be friends with him? After everything that happened?

“Is everything is okay Luke?”

“Are you sure you want to be friends with me again? I was truly awful to you,”

“You’ve been tormented by it for the last three years and have spent the half an hour crying about it into my neck. There’s no way you're not sorry about what you did. If you’re willing to let me, I think I’m ready to be part of your life again,”

Before Luke had the chance to reply the doorbell rang. Michael sighed and pulled Luke against his chest again.

“Who is it?” Michael called out.

“Jack! Apparently you have my brother!” Jack called back. Michael smiled down at Luke.

“Door’s open; if you want him, you’ll have to come and get him!”

“You, are an idiot,” Luke muttered but snuggled further into Michael’s body.

“Guilty as charged,” Michael whispered back. “But your idiot. Right?” Jack walked into the room then and took a moment to survey the scene.

“Right,” Luke replied with a giggle.

Jack hadn’t seen or heard neither hide nor hair of Michael since Ben gave him a ride home in the middle of a thunderstorm and Luke spent a week locked up in his room crying, several years ago. It had been a rough month for everyone who knew the two boys, but Jack was happy to see the two of them together again and not ripping each other to shreds.

“Did you want to come home Luke, or spend some more time here?” Jack asked quietly, trying to not destroy the peaceful atmosphere around the two boys on the couch.

Unfortunately that was all it took to pop the bubble. Luke jumped, pushed on Michael’s chest and sat up.

“Umm,” Luke hesitated looking down at Michael’s open face, “I probably should go home, say hello and shit,” Jack didn’t think he was the one being spoken to.

“Of course,” Michael said, pushing Luke backwards so he could sit up, “Just, uh, could I get your number first?” Michael offered his phone, dug up from one of his pockets.

“Yeah, sure,” Luke said, taking the phone and putting his number in before standing to leave with his brother.

Michael got up to see them off, getting a hug from each of them before the got in the car. Luke just giggled in his ear while trying to crush Michael’s bones.  

Jack whispered in his ear, “Glad to see you again mate. Hope you stick around this time,”

“That’s the plan,” Michael had replied before letting the middle Hemmings brother go.

Once the car had disappeared around the corner, Michael ran back inside, threw himself on the couch and pulled his phone out of his pocket before he stopped.

What could he possibly say to Luke?

It would be simple enough to say ‘ Hey ’, but where would he go after that? They were just beginning to be friends again, he didn’t want to fuck anything up.

After an agonising five minutes he decided that, despite its connotations, a conversation about the weather is not a bad place to start.

Michael: Hey

Luke: Hey

Michael: So this heat killing you yet?

-

Michael felt dead after his shift at EB games. The hangover hadn’t helped anything.

He’d just gotten home when his phone beeped telling him that someone had ‘called in sick’ and ‘could you work tonight?’ at the pub. After just standing in the hallway for a minute he decided to forgo crashing on his bed until he felt semi human again and going straight for the work uniform and going down to the pub now. The extra $16 he would earn wouldn’t go astray.

So he sent a text to his boss saying I’ll be there in 20 before driving off with the speakers blasting so he wouldn’t be lulled asleep by the sound of the engine. It’s a thing that happens to people and Michael couldn’t afford any car damages at that point in time. Or any point really.

At least he hadn’t been stuck in the kitchen. Working the bar was much easier than any other job when dead on your feet. Just ask for ID of anyone who didn’t have wrinkles or gray hair.

Michael just about shat himself when he saw tall and blond in the line. By the time the person made it to the front of the line he was shaking like an Australian in Canadian winter. Upon locking eyes with Jack Hemmings his whole body relaxed to the degree where he’d thought he would melt into a puddle of Michael on the floor.

“Hey man, how ya going?” Jack greeted.

“I’m great, what can I help you with?” This was not the kind of bar where chit chat was accepted. That was around the corner of the counter.

“VB,” Jack answered, “Luke said that you were working at EB games. What are you doing here?”

“That was this afternoon,” Michael pointed out, “It’s night time now,”

“Two jobs huh?” Jack handed over a 20 to pay for his drink.

“Multiple,” Michael corrected fiddling with the register to get Jack’s change.

“What do the guys think about that?”

“They don’t need to know,” Michael put the opened bottle up on the counter, “It’s not their problem,”

“Look. I can’t speak for the other two, but I’m sure they feel the same,” Jack started the aging man behind him clearing his throat obscenely, “Luke wants this stuff to be his problem. Regardless of what happened between the two of you,”

“It’s not as easy as that,” Michael muttered.

“I didn’t expect it to be, but it’s something to think about,” Jack tapped the bench and walked away leaving Michael with his head spinning and wanting to run away from the glare of the aged man.

Did Luke really talk about him that much during the afternoon? Michael didn’t dare let himself think that this meant there was hope for him and Luke. Luck didn’t work that way for Michael.

-

Two days later, Michael was forced to do something he never thought would happen. He had to turn down an invitation to hang out with friends. Any other night he would have been able to blow off work. But Wednesday night was uni night. Which meant lots of drunk uni students trying to relax and have some fun at the expense of Michael’s free time.

Calum: Are you sure you can’t just call in sick or something?

Michael: I’m sure

Ashton: Then we’ll just have to come see you. Which pub do you work at?

So Michael told them and that seemed to be that.

Michael was glad that Luke hadn’t mentioned that he had another job. Maybe Jack had mentioned that it’s not something he wanted as public knowledge.

So Michael wasn’t surprised when Calum, Ashton and Luke approached the bar an hour and a half into his shift. However the crowd of people hovering around them being kept back by two beefy looking blokes was a shock.

“What’s with the entourage?” Michael asked.

“Fans,” Calum dismissed, “You get used to it,”

“No you don’t,” Luke muttered.

“Alright, what do you want to drink?”

“A round of beer, I think,” Ashton said. Michael nodded and got their drinks. When he turned back around one of the security guards was talking to Ashton.

“This would be easier if you just found a table and had drinks brought to you,”

“He’s our friend. We wanted to say hello. Half of those people look too young to be in here anyway,”

“I can get security to throw them out if you want,” Michael offered.

“We can manage,” The security guard snapped and walked towards the crowd.

“Sorry,” Michael muttered to his friends.

“It’s alright,” Calum soothed, putting his hand on Michael’s arm.

“They just don’t like us going out as a group when we’re on break. We tend to draw a lot of attention,” Ashton explained.

“Clearly,” Michael joked and handed the drinks over, his grin didn’t drop until after his friends had taken a seat at a far table.

Once their idols disappeared from sight and the security guard made his presence known, the crowd dissipated. Leaving only the older couples having dinner and the uni students looking to get drunk off their asses.

“I hope you weren’t chit chatting on the job,” Michael’s manager said from the kitchen doorway.

“Why would I? There’s no time for chit chat on uni night,” Michael answered without turning around. He didn’t want to be distracted while  pouring drinks for a group of girls clustered around where he was tending the bar. He also didn’t like looking at his boss, he was nice enough, but no amount of manners stops a person from looking creepier than the Joker.

Both Calum and Ashton had come back to the bar for more drinks before his 10 minute break, so Michael took another round over to their table for them to share (Michael had a lemonade; no drinking on the job).

“So you finally decided to join us?” Calum cheered when he walked over.

“Yeah, I’ve got a break so I thought I’d bring you guys another round,”

“Thank you, kind sir,” Ashton mocked, bowing as best he could over the table getting giggles all around.

“Alright, drink up! I wanna hear about what you guys have been up to,”

“Well, we’ve just released a new EP,” Ashton started.

“Don’t give me that bullshit. Give me shit that you can’t or won’t share with everyone,”

“Okay, while on tour these two fuck on a regular basis,” Luke announced.

“What the fuck!” Ashton cried.

“Why would you just come out with something like that?” Calum demanded.

“How did you even know?” Ashton yelled.

“Notice how they didn’t deny it,” Michael quietly pointed out to Luke.

“There’s no such thing as privacy on the bus,” Luke replied, “There are so many things that I didn’t realised actually happened in real life until I heard these two going at it,”

“How much have you heard?” Ashton looked quite pale.

“Assume I heard everything you’ve done on the bus and have seen most of the things hidden in your bags,” Luke shuddered, “Please tell me you clean those things before they go in your bag. I’d rather not think about where those things have been while I’m wearing your clothes,”

“Maybe you shouldn’t wear our clothes,” Calum shot back.

“He can’t help it,” Michael added, “apparently other people’s clothes are better than his own,”

“See! Someone agrees with me,”

“Oh, I’m not saying that I agree with you. Just sharing a reason why you do it. I could share the other reason, if you want,” Michael taunted.

“Don’t you dare,” Luke lept to Michael’s side to secure a hand over his mouth. Michael had forgotten what it was like to have Luke so close. The teasing coming back so easily. Plus, his warmth plastered to his side felt like coming home after a full day of work.

“You know what? As long as we’re not as sickeningly cute as they are, I can live with it,” Calum said.

“I agree,” Ashton said, finishing off the rest of his drink, “The two of you sicken me,” This was directed towards Michael and Luke who still hadn’t separated.

Michael tried to speak, but the sounds came out all garbled through Luke’s hand. It wasn’t until Michael licked his palm that Luke retracted his hand.

“As I was saying,” Michael said, “At least we’re cute sickening, unlike the two of you seem to be,”

“He’s right,” Luke affirmed.

“You can’t really be siding with him!” Calum complained, pointing at Michael.

“He brought beer. You two have brought me worries about what exactly made the stain on the clothes I was wearing. And I know not all of those were food,”

“So you’re saying Michael is better than us?” Ashton cried in a shrill voice.

“Fuck yes,” Luke replied.

“I can’t believe this, this mutiny,” Calum said.

“Ladies, ladies, please,” Michael soothed, his arms raised over the table, “There’s plenty of me to go around,”

Calum laughed, Ashton wrinkled up his nose and Luke moved closer to Michael, attempting to climb onto his lap while sitting on his own chair.

“But more for me, right?” Luke asked in a small voice. Michael looked down at him, smiling gently before nodding.

“You can have all of him Luke,” Ashton replied, “I have my own,” and he wrapped his arms around Calum.

“But I want a piece of Michael,” Calum whined, playfully reaching over the table towards Michael.

“I think I could spare you this,” Michael smirked, flipping Calum off.

“I mean,” Calum paused, “It’s not as long as Ash’s fingers, but I’ll take what I can get,” He shrugged.

The three drunk boys succumbed to hysterics while Michael sat there feeling slightly gross.

“That’s all you going to be getting from my fingers, Cal,” Michael said before moving to stand, “My break’s almost over, I need to get back over there,” and he jerked his thumb over towards the bar.

“I guess we can let you go,” Ashton sighed once he could speak again.

“If we must,” Luke finished.

“You must, but we’ll catch up later, yeah?” and he was gone, leaving Luke feeling cold and strangely empty.

“Are you okay Luke?” Calum asked.

“I’m not the only one who misses him, am I?” Luke had tears start to form in his eyes.

“Of course not,” Ashton assured, moving around the table to put his arm around Luke, “We just miss him differently,”

“You never told us how your talk went the other day,” Calum prompted gently. Ashton turned to glare at his timing, but Luke answered regardless.

“He said that he’s not ready to forgive me yet, which I totally understand. But he also wouldn’t mind being my friend again,”

“And are you okay with that?” Ashton asked.

“It’s better than the alternative,”

“What alternative?” Calum asked.

“Being kicked out to the street and told never to come back,” Luke’s voice broke as the tears started to stream down his face.

“Michael couldn’t do that to you, Luke,” Calum said from his other side, running a hand up and down his back, “Not even if you removed all traces of pokemon from the earth except for his memories,”

“Although he might make you stand in the hall until you fixed it,” Ashton mused.

Luke nodded, but he didn’t really believe them.

“Luke,” Calum said firmly, yet gently, “I’ve known Michael for a long time, yeah? So trust me on this. If Michael didn’t still love you, he never would have given you a chance. He wants you back in his life just as much as you want him back. He just doesn’t want to get hurt again,”

“So what exactly do I need to do to show him how sorry I am?” Luke sniffed.

“Give him time, but let him see that you still care without smothering him. He’ll come back to you,”

“You sure?” Ashton’s heart clenched at how hopeful Luke looked, Calum had better know what he’s doing .

“Positive,”

-

There was always someone at Michael’s house now. A place that had just existed for Michael’s downtime was now brimming with life.

“There he is,” Calum cheered when Michael walked through the front door.

“Man, I thought we worked crazy hours,” Ashton said.

“Clearly you were wrong,” Michael flopped down onto his couch, knees hanging off the end and his head buried in pillows.

“How many jobs do have?” Calum asked.

“At the moment? Three, but I also do one off stuff as well,”

“Like what?” Calum sounded interested.

“Helping neighbours and stuff clean out pools, or mowing their lawns, helping people in their houses, that kind of stuff,”

“Why don’t you just get a full time job?” Ashton asked.

“I have a full time job,” Michael replied, “It’s called time management,”

At least Calum laughed at that.

“Why did you never get a cat?” Calum asked into the silence.

“Well, there are a few people who would say that my bills are more important,” Michael turned around so he was lying on his back.

“Seriously? You work three jobs and you can’t afford a cat?” Ashton demanded.

Michael sighed, “I probably could,” he conceded, “But I work so many hours. It wouldn’t be fair. Besides, I’m saving up to travel,”

“You could come traveling with us,” Calum suggested quietly.

“I already said no,”

“You don’t have to perform or anything. Just come be, I don’t know, emotional support or something. Come see the world with us, Mikey,” Calum begged.

“Sorry Cal,” Michael muttered. Calum let out a frustrated sigh.

“You talk to him,” he spat at Ashton before walking away.

“He’s just trying to help,” Ashton moved to sit on the arm of the couch near Michael’s head.

“I know,” Michael sighed, “and I love him for it. I’ve just, I’ve worked so hard to get here, I don’t want to throw it all away,”

“He’s not asking you to do that, he just misses having you around,” Ashton said in a gentle tone, “We all do,”

“Come on, lay it on me,” Michael sighed, “What’s your speech?”

“No speech. You have a far better idea of what’s good for you than we do,”

“Then what is it?” Michael pressed.

“I accept that you don’t want to be in the band and that you plan on getting what you want your own way. I’m all for that,”

“But?”

“But we always did write great music with you around. Why don’t you help us with that? It can be here, or over in LA, doesn’t matter. But music was always your dream too Michael, there’s no reason to shut it out of your life completely,” Ashton was running his hands through Michael’s hair at this point, gently pulling on the red strands.

“I could never,” Michael hated that tears were forming in his eyes. He sat up to pull Ashton on to the couch, so he could wrap his arms around him and sob desperately into his chest.

“I asked you to talk with him, not break him,” Calum admonished, from the kitchen doorway.

“He’s fine Cal. I think everything is going to work out from here,” Ashton replied confidently, still soothing Michael, “Everything is going to be okay,” he whispered, pressing his lips to the top of Michael’s head.

-

Michael had gone to a food court, to get lunch between shifts, when he ran into Luke. Almost knocking the two of them to the floor.

“Do you ever watch where you’re going?” Luke asked.

“No, I find it distracting,” Michael replied sarcastically, his hands on Luke’s arms to steady himself.

“Can you spare five minutes to eat with me?” Luke asked.

“I can do ten,” Michael grinned before leading the both of them to an empty table.

“Why don’t you ever drop by? Either Calum and or Ashton are always at my place,”

“This is the first time mum has really let me go for the whole day, I jumped out of a window while she was distracted,” Luke joked.

“You better be kidding, mama Liz can be scary and if she comes looking for you you’re on your own,”

“She loves you,” Luke smiled gently.

“That doesn’t make her any less scary,” Michael shot back.

Luke was about to reply when two teenage girls stepped up to the table.

“Hello, can we help you?” Luke asked, turning a bright smile to the two girls.

“Um, hi!” One of the girls giggled.

“Uh, yeah. We saw you sitting here and we just wanted to come say hello,”

“We are sooo sorry for interrupting,”

“Don’t worry about it,” Luke dismissed, “It’s nice to meet the both of you, what are your names?”

Michael was lost. What had happened to the shy little Luke who blushed when a girl, or anyone attractive really, even looked in his direction?

“I’m Sarah and this is Louise,”

“Well Sarah and Louise, would you like a photo?”

“Um, yes please,” Sarah stuttered.

“MIchael?” Luke asked once the girls had pulled out their phones.

“Sure,” Michael nodded, jerkily, taking both the phones and snapping a couple photos for the girls.

“Thank you so, so much,”

“We can’t wait to see you perform live again,” The two girls gushed as they started to retreat.

“Your welcome, I look forward to seeing you,” Luke replied, waving them off.

“Does that happened often?” Michael asked once they were long gone.

“No,” Luke replied, “Usually they’re not so calm,” He laughed, but Michael didn’t think it was a joke.

“Maybe you should come over for dinner one night,” Michael offered, “I doubt there’ll be any fans there,”

“That sounds great,” Luke smiled softly.

“6 o’clock Sunday night sound good?” Michael asked.

“Sounds perfect,” Luke replied.

Michael inhaled the rest of his sub before standing.

“Well I should go, but I’ll see you tomorrow night,” Michael gave Luke’s shoulder a quick squeeze before leaving.

-

Luke was nervous. Calum and Ashton had given him all the hugs in the world, but his hands were still sweating when he walked up to Michael’s front door. After knocking twice Luke listened to Michael make his way through the house, tripping over his own feet on his way to the door.

When Michael opened the door, he was disappointed to see Luke there. Luke picked up on this and couldn’t help the hurt from showing on his face.

“Sorry, did you not want me to come? I’m sorry, I should have called or something-”

“Luke, stop,” Michael said firmly, setting his hands on Luke’s shoulders. “I did want you to come, just breathe. Come inside, take a seat,” Michael moved to let Luke it and followed him through to the lounge room.

“Why did you look disappointed then?”

“I was, uh, trying to cook you dinner and things didn’t go to plan. So I begged mum to bring something from her freezer. I was hoping she would get here first so you wouldn't laugh at me,”

“I’m going to be laughing at you for the rest of our lives, Clifford. You’re not getting away from me that easily,”

“Then I hope you’re a good cook; it is not my strong point,” Michael laughed.

Someone else knocked at the door and Michael sighed.

“See! You couldn’t have waited five minutes, got held up at some traffic lights or something?” Michael asked, making his way towards the door.

“Hey mum. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Michael gushed.

“Hello, mama Karen!” Luke shouted, causing the woman to laugh.

“I told you things would work out Michael,” Karen said before walking further into the house, “Hello Luke, how have you been darling,”

“I’ve been keeping out of trouble,” Luke answered.

“That’s great, dear. I’ll leave you two to enjoy your dinner and remember, you’re both welcome at my table at anytime,” she smiled and walked back out of the house after wrapping her arms around Michael for a hug, “Look after each other,” she whispered and then she was gone.

“I’ll go put dinner on,” Michael blushed, ducking into the kitchen.

Luke took several deep breaths and tried to dry his hands on his jeans before Michael came back.

“Shouldn’t be too long. Do you want to watch something while we wait?” Michael sat next to Luke on the couch.. Luke felt sick. He knew that if he didn’t ask now, he never would and dammit if he was letting Michael go a second time!

“Can I ask you something first?”

“Sure,” Michael said, turning to face Luke. His piercing green eyes looking through Luke’s soul.

“The ARIA’s are happening in a couple of weeks and 5 seconds of Summer has been nominated for a couple things,” Michael nodded slowly to show he was listening but not understanding where Luke was going with this. “And I was wondering, if, maybe, you would, uh,” Performing in front of thousands was easy, what was so damn hard about a question? Thankfully Michael always knew what to do to.

“Just breath Luke,” he soothed, taking the other man’s hands in his own, “Nice and slow. Think about what you’re trying to say,”

“Come with me!” Luke shouted once his lungs were functioning again.

“Huh?” The shout had thrown Michael off guard and the words themselves weren’t clear either.

Now that he’d gotten it out there, it was easier to say again.

“Come with me, to the award show. As my date,” Michael was slow to catch on to the significance of this, but once he did not even plastic surgery could take the grin off his face.

“Are you for real?”

“Completely,” Luke assured.

“Luke,” Michael breathed, “Yes!” he screamed, pulling Luke towards him while standing so they could spin in the middle of the room. Their combined clumsiness sent them crashing to the floor, but the good cheer remained.

“Does this mean we’re dating again?” Michael asked.

“If you’re ready for that,”

“I was born loving you,” Michael replied, finally kissing Luke. For the first time in three years.

Chapter Text

The Hemmings family dinner went much better than the Clifford one, according to Luke.

From the moment he had stepped into the house all Daryl had done was glare at him. Karen was being nice enough, but she didn’t do anything to stop the torment Luke was being put through.

After dinner, Daryl pulled Luke into the lounge room saying something about watching the cricket, while Michael and Karen hid away in the kitchen to give the two men some space.

“Why does dad insist on talking to Luke?” Michael whined.

“He’s just looking out for you darling,”

“I can look out for myself mum,” Michael replied.

“We know that, but we’re your parents. It’s our job to protect you and while we respect your decisions, we don’t like to see you get hurt,”

“We talked things through mum, we worked everything out,”

“This is more for our peace of mind than yours darling. And if Luke is still the same charming boy he was back then, we’ll have no problems,” Karen smiled softly.

“He’s not the same person mum,” Michael whispered, “None of us are, that’s a good thing by the way. But we’re going to be fine,”

“I know,” Karen whispered back and wrapped her only son up in a tight hug, “I know,”

-

Michael’s parents had always been supportive of Luke, so to see Daryl’s hard glare on him for a change scared Luke.

“So how have you been, Luke?” Daryl asked in a conversational tone a stark contrast to his body language.

“I’ve been good, it’s nice to have a break and spend some time back home,” Luke tried to smile and relax.

“How much downtime do you get?”

“That depends, all up I think it’s about 2 months each year,” Luke guessed.

“And the rest of the time you’re working 24/7?” This had started to sound like an interrogation.

“Or travelling,” Luke nodded.

“So what part of your job makes you think that you can be invested in a stable relationship?”

“There’s nothing that says I can’t,” Luke knows it’s not a real answer, or a good one, but it’s the best he can come up with on the spot.

“So you’re dating Michael because you can, not because you want to,” Luke spluttered.

“Of course I want to, I wouldn’t do it otherwise,”

“Let’s cut to chase shall we?” Daryl moved forward so he could lean into Luke’s space better, “When you get into a relationship with someone, there are two ways it could end; marriage or a break up. If you have no intentions of marrying him someday, it would be in your best interest to break up with him sooner rather than later,”

Luke had nothing to say to that, what could he? Of course he knew that, who didn’t? And he did want to spend the foreseeable future with Michael. But marriage? That just seems too big for the two of them at the moment. They’re not even twenty!

“You don’t need to decide right now, but the sooner the better. He’s already been hurt once by you and I don’t think he would pull through a second time,” Daryl finished, sitting back in his seat.

Luke nodded slowly in understanding.

“I’m taking him to the ARIA’s,” Luke said at last, “It’s here, in Sydney, about a week from now,” Luke sighed trying to get Daryl to understand Luke’s side, “It’s one of the things that came up in our break up. When he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with himself. We were talking about where the band was going and contingency plans. I started thinking about what would happen if I rocked up to an awards show with a guy as my date. I freaked out, I’ve seen how things like that were and are portrayed in the media and I didn’t want that kind of attention for either of us. I just wanted things to be normal, like it would have been if I’d taken a girl,” Luke’s hands were flying as he explained and Daryl nodded along a frown etched on his face, “But I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter what other people think and I’m trying to make it up to him. So I can’t say if we’ll ever get married, but I love him and I never want to hurt him,” Luke finished.

“Very well,” Daryl nodded and Luke could see the understanding in his eyes, “So are you boys going home tonight, or are you spending the night here?”

“We’re going back to Michael’s place; Calum and Ashton were going to come over for a movie night,” Daryl’s glare faded from his eyes.

“And how are they going?” Luke relaxed at the change of topic.

“They’ve both been good, glad to get some time off to recharge the batteries before we get back into things,” Luke joked.

“Well we’re not going to keep you, although Karen may be planning on loading you up with food,”

“Well I won’t deny that, this seems like the best meal in ages,” they both chuckled at that. The woman herself appeared in the doorway.

“Have you two finished your conversation?” she asked gently.

“Yeah, I think we’re done for now,” Daryl answered.

“Alright Luke, Michael’s ready to go,”

“Okay, well I’ll see you both later than,” Luke excused himself and walked through the house to find Michael at the front door holding a full coles bag.

“Everything okay?” Michael asked taking Luke’s hand in his free one.

“Fine. Just wanted to talk that’s all. Come on, we’ve got some movies to watch!” Luke cheered.

-

Calum and Ashton were waiting at the door when they got home.

“And where have you been?” Ashton demanded as they were walking up the path.

“Mum invited us over to dinner, it’s not like we could say no, is it?” Michael answered.

“We thought that you’d forgotten about us,” Calum cried.

“We could never forget about you,” Michael soothed.

“And I kind of need you two, you’re kinda an important part of my band,” Luke added.

“We’re the only important part of the band. You’re just there to make us look good,” Ashton grinned.

Michael let them into the house before they started fighting and disturbing the neighbours. Luke was quick to claim a place on the couch for him and Michael. Calum got set on deciding which DVD’s to watch and Ashton helped Michael get food and drinks for them all to share.

“You just going to lie there?” Ashton asked on one of his trips, bringing popcorn this time.

“I’m just here to look pretty aren’t I? Just doing my job,” Luke smiled innocently from where his long body took up the whole couch.

“You’re insufferable,” Calum muttered from the floor in front of the TV.

“And yet you work with me. I must be doing something right,” Luke shot back.

“Actually we were planning on replacing you with Michael, just haven’t found a good time to tell you yet,” Ashton said as he got comfortable on the single chair.

“Is this true?” Luke gasped.

“Yeah, sorry Luke. It’s just the way things worked out,” Michael looked apologetic as he sat behind Luke so he was leaning on the armrest with Luke between his legs.

“You guys all suck,” Luke grumped.

“Maybe later,” Michael whispered in his ear.

“And where the fuck am I meant to sit?” Calum asked after he put something on and turned to find no free chair for him.

“There’s room at my feet,” Luke offered.

“Or on my lap,” Ashton added cheekily.

“I’ll sit on the couch,” Calum said, lifting Luke’s feet to sit underneath them.

“Thank you,” Michael said, “I do happen to be fond of that chair,” Michael dug his feet under Calum’s thighs while Luke just let his rest against the armrest, his calves on Calum’s lap.

“Let’s get this party started!” Ashton yelled as Calum started the movie.

-

Michael was asleep by the end of the first movie. While the second movie was loading, Ashton spoke.

“So how are things going between the two of you?”

“Things are going good,” a lazy smile made it’s way across Luke’s face as he fiddled with Michael’s hands which were resting at the base of his ribs, “Real good,”

“So have you worked out all your, uh, issues?” Calum asked.

“Not you guys too,” Luke whined as he threw his head back onto Michael’s shoulder.

“What do you mean?” Ashton asked. Luke lifted his head to look at Ashton.

“For the past week it seems like everyone we know has been asking me if I know what I’m doing. Warning me not to hurt him again. Saying that getting back together is, basically, the worst idea I’ve ever had,” Luke listed off.

“Like who?” Ashton asked over the start of the movie.

“Well Daryl, today after dinner and I think Karen was having words with Michael. Then there was Ben, when we went over there the other day and while they didn’t say anything, mum and dad kept giving me these looks. And now you two don’t want us together! Does anyone have faith in our relationship?”

“It’s not about having faith,” Calum soothed, “It’s about wanting the best for each of you,”

“And,” Ashton raised his hands before Luke could get defensive, “we just want to make sure that what’s best for you right now, is each other,”

“Would everyone else be using the same reasoning?” Luke asked in a small, defeated voice. No one had yet to offer him any comfort or support, just reminders of how badly he fucked up the first time and consequences if it happened again. All his worries about this relationship were left unheard and they were driving him insane. Because what if they were right?

“Of course they would,” Ashton comforted, “Everyone wants things to work out, they’re just expressing their worries in the only way they know how,”

“Some of their words hurt,” Luke mumbled as he curled further closer to Michael who wrapped his arms tighter around Luke, keeping him safe; even while asleep.

“Well you know what you need to do then, don’t you?” Calum asked.

“Somehow I don’t think the answer is to eat a dozen doughnuts,” Luke muttered.

“No,” Calum smiled, but Ashton laughed, “You need to prove them all wrong. Stay together, love each other, talk about any problems you have. Show everyone that they were wrong about you and that nothing will keep you and Michael apart,”

“We’ll support you both, every step of the way. But only if you promise to make it work,” Ashton said gently.

“I promise,” Luke nodded.

“Alright, well I think we’ve got another movie to watch!” Ashton cheered, the sudden noise woke Michael, who jumped, pulled Luke closer and turned him into the seat of the couch to keep him safe before bitching about missing the end of the last movie.

Yeah, we can do this. Luke thought.

-

To put it simply; Michael was losing his shit. The award show was in five days and Michael had just realised he had no idea about any of it.

How do these things work? What would he do while Luke was busy? What on earth should he wear?

Fortunately, Ashton gave amazing advice, if you were willing to listen.

Which is how Michael ended up on the Irwin doorstep at 6 o’clock at night, surprised by how much Harry had grown.

“Can I help you with anything?” he asked again.

“Yeah, is Ash home? Damn you’ve gotten big!”

Harry smiled shyly. “Yeah, he’s home. Come in. Ash!” he yelled after Michael stepped inside.

“What?” Ashton’s voice called back.

“Michael’s here!”

A series of loud thumps echoed around the house before Ashton appeared in the hallway.

“Brilliant,” he said as he reached for Michael’s arm, “Let’s go,” and Michael was whisked away to Ashton’s bedroom.

“I was wondering when you were going to turn up,” Ashton said, settling on his childhood bed.

“You knew I was going to freak out and come to you for help?” Michael lay down over the foot of the bed.

“I do give the best advice,” he pointed out.

“So are you going to help me?” Michael asked.

“I’m not going to teach you how to suck his dick,” Ashton warned.

“I already know how to do that,” Michael replied, “What I need help with is this award show shit,”

“First of all; gross. Second, as a date all you have to do is sit there and look pretty. Keep our seats warm while we perform,” Ashton grinned.

“You guys are performing?” No one had said anything about that to Michael.

“Yep! You can’t stay away from our music forever,” Ashton said smugly.

“Damn it,” Michael whispered.

“Oh, do you know if Luke told management we’ll need another seat?”

“I’ve got no idea, probably not,”

“I’ll do that now. There doesn’t tend to be much floor space,” Ashton pulled out his phone and sent off a couple text messages. “Alright, that should get sorted out soon. Anything else you needed help with?”

“What on earth should I wear?” Michael whined, covering his face with his hands while he curled up into a ball.

“Something warm, it’s always freezing in these things places. Make sure there aren’t any stains. Try not to wear anything with rips or holes, unless they’re meant to be there,” Ashton advised.

“You make it sound so complicated,” Michael moaned.

“We usually get told what to wear, or given a limited selection to choose from. I can try and grab something for you, or you could come with us?” Ashton offered.

“When are you going?”

“Tomorrow, I’ll come pick you up,” Ashton decided.

“What time? I work tomorrow,”

“Oh, um, in the morning I guess. If we can convince Luke to get up that early,” Michael nodded slowly.

“That should work. Drop me off at his place before you get Calum, I’ll make sure he’s up,” Michael smiled.

“Do I want to know?” Ashton groaned.

“If you have to ask then I doubt it,” Michael grinned.

-

When Luke woke he felt like his limbs weighed 1000 tonnes. He couldn’t even lift his head to investigate why he was ripped from an, enjoyable, dream so harshly.

It wasn’t more than a few seconds later that he realised the dream wasn’t simply something his mind had come up with while he slept.

After he came Michael face appeared in his line of vision, blanket still over his head.

“So you are awake,” he grinned, his lips shiny and voice rougher than usual.

“I’m dead,” Luke moaned, “You killed me. I can’t move,”

“And all it took was a blow job,” Michael mused as he crawled up to lay next to Luke.

“Well I’m glad you're happy, but I need to get up. I have things to do today,”

“I know,” Michael grinned, “I’m coming with you. This morning at least. I figured you would enjoy my wake up call better than Ashton’s,”

“What was his?”

“A bucket of water,” Michael guessed.

“Hmm, I have to agree, the orgasm was better, but I still feel like jelly,”

“I love jelly, Maybe I’ll have to eat you out,” Michael whispered and licked the side of Luke’s face before ripping the blankets off the bed. “Come on! TIme to get up!” he called as he ran out of the room.

Luke groaned loudly before gathering the strength to pull himself off the bed and get dressed and fed before they had to go.

“I hate you,” Luke muttered as he sat at the table next to Michael.

“No you don’t; you just hate mornings,”

“I also hate people who wake me up in them,”

“What about people who give you blow jobs?” Michael whispered. Luke held his gaze for a moment before looking down at his breakfast.

“Okay, I’ll forgive you this time. But next time you won’t be so lucky,”

“I think you underestimate my charm,”

“And I think you underestimate my hatred of mornings,” Luke replied.

“Fair enough. Now hurry up. Ash should be back soon,” Michael urged.

“Alright alright,”

-

The amount of people was not something that Michael was expecting. From the moment they stepped in the door there were people fawning over Calum, Ashton and Luke. Michael hung back, standing by a wall but that didn’t stop anyone staring at him like ‘what the fuck are you doing here?’

After Ashton spoke to someone who had been holding shirts up to his body a short woman walked up to Michael before looking him over critically.

“Hmm,” she mused before walking away.

“Just relax,” Calum said, walking over to him, “These people know what they’re doing,”

“I just don’t think they like me being here,” Michael confided.

“To be fair, they don’t like any of us being here. A few of them have been at photo shoots and we get a bit shitty by the end of those. And we’re young, we always want to do our own thing. That’s pissed off more than a few people,”

“Three teenage Australian boys. How could you possibly piss anyone off?” sarcasm dripped from Michael’s voice.

“Beats me,” Calum shrugged as he smiled and turned away to try the offered shirts.

Michael was soon ushered into a change room where he had clothes being thrown at him to try on.

He ended up with a grey ¾ sleeve t-shirt and a leather vest, black skinny jeans like everyone else and instructions to wear black shoes of some kind. By the time he was ready to go, the other boys had already loaded their things into the car so Michael didn’t get to see what they had yet.

“Food time,” Calum cheered, claiming shotgun before either Luke or Michael got the chance. Not that they minded in the slightest.

“Is it always that chaotic?” Michael whispered to Luke once they were on the road.

“It can be. The awards show will be worse with interviewers trying to talk to everyone and people moving around everywhere. But we can take you straight to our seats to wait for us. We’re one of the performers this year and we’re really close to the start, so there’s a chance we may not get to our seats until after we’re finished on stage,”

“Do you not want me at the interviews?” Michael knew that them showing up as a couple was a big step for Luke, but what was the point of going there with him if he’s not going to be there with him? Michael couldn’t see any .

“It’s more that they’re really nosey and we have to pretend we’re okay with it,” Luke explained, interrupting Michael’s internal dilemma, “Besides, they can say some rude things, just through ignorance most of the time. But it happens and remember I know how you get when you’re offended by someone and I would hate for management to force us to break up,” Luke had slipped his arm behind Michael while he spoke.

“They can do that?” Michael asked in a small voice, music really is a rough business.

“KInda. They can keep me away from you by keeping me away from home as much as possible, set me up with some girl as a publicity stunt, or drop the band from the label for not upholding the contract.”

“That’s bullshit,”

“We know, but that’s just the way things are,” Luke shrugged, “So will you okay with sitting by yourself for a little while?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” Michael whispered, “But you will sit next to me, right?”

“I’ll hold your hand the whole time,” Luke promised, “Besides, you never know who’s going to be sitting around us. We were near The Veronica’s last time,”

“God,” Michael breathed, “That’s amazing. My boyfriend is a famous rockstar, hanging out with other famous music people,”

“I have been for a while,” Luke reminds him, but he’s not bragging, just stating a fact.

“Yeah, but it’s been awhile since you were my boyfriend, not some famous guy I dated when we were kids. And I hadn’t really thought about what that meant before now, wow!” Michael was in awe. It went unnoticed by both of them that Michael had made a joke about their break up but Calum and Ashton shared a secretive smile in the front of the car.

“If you two are finished sucking face back there, we’re here,” Ashton said and turned off the car in the Nando’s car park.

-

Two nights before the award show, Michael found himself alone out the front of his parents house gasping for breath as he tried to contain his panic. Once he’d calmed down enough to enter the house he was swept up in the arms of his mother who had been standing just inside the door.

“I was starting to think you were going to walk away,” she said her arms tight around her son.

“Was just trying to think of what to say,” Michael sniffled.

“What’s wrong sweetie?”

“I don’t know,” Michael sobbed, the tears falling again.

“Well come sit down. Do you want a cup of tea?”

“Okay,” Michael nodded letting his mother lead the way to a couch in the lounge room.

Michael had wrapped himself up in a blanket by the time Karen appeared with their drinks. Some animal documentary played on the TV that Michael tried to pay attention to.

“Thank you,” he whispered as he took the tea from his mum’s hands.

“What’s got you worried?”

“It’s, just this, thing,”

“Has this ‘thing’ got a name?”

Michael sighed, “The awards show. I just think that maybe it’s not such a good idea anymore,”

“What makes you think that sweetie?” Karen prompted.

“What if no one wants me there?” Michael whispered desperately.

“The boys want you there. Luke wouldn't have invited you if he didn’t,”

“I don’t think Calum and Ashton think it’s such a good idea,”

“I thought they supported you,”

“They did! They do, but just like everyone else they think we’re rushing back into things,”

“Do you and Luke think you’re rushing into things?” Karen asked gently. Michael shook his head.

“No, everything we’ve done so far has felt right. It’s just that,” Michael sighed, “the ARIA’s are a big thing to some people and Luke is kinda famous now, things are a little different for him,”

“You still love him though, don’t you?” Karen asked.

“Of course,” Michael answered without hesitation.

“And he loves you back?”

“Yes,”

“And you support each other’s decisions?”

“Yeah,”

“So are things really that different?”

“I guess not,” Michael mumbled. Karen placed her cup on the coffee table and moved towards her son to wrap him up in another hug.

“I think Luke knows what he’s doing. He wouldn’t invite you to a public event if he didn’t want people to know about you, would he?” Michael shook his head, unable to form words. It was such a simple statement, but it meant so much to Michael.

“My baby boy,” Karen sniffed, “Everything will be fine. You and Luke just have to remember to talk through your troubles instead of yelling at each other,”

“That’s not funny mum,” Karen smiled.

“You’re right. It’s not. It’s just me being a mum and being a mum I can see that the two of you will be together for a long time,”

“So why can’t Calum and Ashton see that?”

“Oh they can see it. Everyone can. They’re just trying to look out for the both of you and at the moment that means making sure both of you are ready to get back into a relationship with each other. I know that you can make your own decisions and I respect that you know what’s best for you. But they remember you as a teenager and haven’t see you grow into a man. And I think we all remember how much Ashton loves to take care of people,” she chuckled.

“Do you think everything will work out okay?” The fear had faded from Michael’s voice, but it hadn’t gone yet.

“I know it will sweetie. You just have to have a little faith,”

“Okay,” Michael whispered. Between his panic earlier and this conversation he was feeling drained and soon fell asleep in his mother’s arms.

-

Calum and Ashton came by in the early morning the day of the awards show. Michael was disorientated from the tossing and turning all night as he struggled to sleep through his nerves.

“How you feeling Mikey?” Calum asked from his seat at the edge of Michael’s bed.

“Tired. Why the fuck are you in my bed room?”

“We wanted to check on you before the show,” Ashtons said from the doorway.

“Well I’m still going,” Michael groaned.

“Glad to hear it,” Ashton said, moving into the room, “But we just wanted to check that you’re doing okay,”

“In here,” Calum added, tapping Michael’s forehead. Michael sighed.

“I’m fine. A little scared, but I think that’s to be expected,”

“Once we’ve performed we won’t leave your side,” Calum promised.

“Thank you,” Michael whispered rearranging his blanket to hide his face better. Calum lent down to wrap his arms around the Michael blob. Ashton joined him on the other side. “I know that you care, but can you please get off me? I’m flattered, but you’re not the guys I want in my bed,”

“Three years later and you’re still gross,” Calum groaned.

“Relax Cal, we knew what we were getting into,” Ashton tightened his grip around them both.

“I’m feeling the love guys, you can let me go,” Michael whined, “and I just woke up so if you don’t move you'll feel another kind of love,”

“That’s what Luke is for, we’re here to annoy the shit out of both of you,” Ashton said but he did angle his body away from Michael’s.

“The other option is we show you our love,” Calum joked, reaching towards Ashton to run both hands obscenely over his body.

“Gross! Get off my bed,” Michael shoved the two of them, “I don’t want your love,” Michael whined.

“Well we’ll take it somewhere it’s wanted,” Calum pushed himself off the bed and walked out of the room.

“We’ll come pick you up around 2, make sure you are dressed and ready to go,” Ashton said as he took hold of Calum’s arm and led him from Michael’s house.

Michael lifted his head and almost screamed when he saw that it was not even 7:30. Instead curled himself back up in his bedding to get a few more hours sleep, cursing the mere existence of Calum and Ashton.

-

Luke was frantic. There were so many things that could go wrong in such a short amount of time. The only way to make sure they didn’t was to keep moving; redo the things he’d done ten times over already, just to be sure it was all perfect. Like fixing his hair, organising his things in his room and bag, cleaning the kitchen and fussing over his clothes.

Calum and Ashton reached their breaking point when Luke started to nag them about getting dressed and mess with their hair.

The two men quickly decided the only way to restrain Luke’s nervous energy, was to restrain Luke. So with one of them on either side, Luke was forced into a cuddle on the couch with two pairs of strong arms wrapped around him.

“You need to breathe,” Ashton told him.

“Everything is going to be fine,” Calum added.

“Fine is not good enough! I need it to be perfect, we need to be ready. Why aren’t the two of you dressed yet?” Luke demanded, still struggling in their grip.

“Because there’s still hours to go,” Ashton soothed, “And you need to take a break. Cal’s right, everything will be fine and if it isn’t that’s not our problem. So why are you so worried?”

That stunned Luke for a moment. He hadn’t considered that there was a reason he was so nervous for this particular show. But he didn’t want to think too hard about that. There were still things to be done, like his hair now that Ashton had messed it up while trying to calm him.

“Is this something to do with Michael?” Calum asked quietly and Luke felt the fight drain out of him at his boyfriend’s name; leaving him slumped in his bandmates arms and finally able to catch a breath.

“I think it might,” Luke replied before he felt tears start to prick behind his eyes. “Fuck!”

“Hey, it’s nothing to get upset over,” Ashton said.

“But what if it does all go to hell?” Luke asked through the tears trekking down his face, “This is important to Michael. It has to be perfect!” Luke wailed.

“And it will be,” Calum sighed, “I don’t know if you two have talked about it, but he loves you. We know this is important to him. He’s just happy that you’re bringing him along. That’s what he wanted isn’t it?”

“But is it what he still wants?” Luke cried.

“It is,” Ashton said. The tiny bit of hope Luke was showing on his face almost broke him. Those two needed to work on their communication, “Why don’t you text him?”

“But what do I say? I don’t want him to know I’m freaking out!”

“Give me your phone,” Calum reached his hand out. Luke gave it up without question.

Luke: Are you excited for the show?

“There,” Calum handed the phone back.

“What did you do?” Luke cried, “He doesn’t need to know I’m freaking out!”

“And he doesn’t, but I wouldn’t keep him waiting,” Ashton nudged Luke’s hand.

Michael: I can’t wait, what about you?

Luke: I’m just glad you’re with me this time

“I thought you didn’t want to seem desperate,” Calum noted before Ashton could shut him up with a slap to the head. “Hey!”

“I think he’ll see it as a sign of love,”

Luke thinks Ashton is far better at this comforting thing.

Michael: So am I, I’ll see you in a couple hours ;) love you

“I told you so,” Ashton laughed in Calum’s face.

Luke: I love you too

“You sicken me,” Calum muttered, but he still had a tight grip on Luke.

“Are you okay now?” Ashton asked into the hair by his ear.

“I think so,” Luke replied quietly.

“Is there anything we can do to help?” Calum asked.

“Get your damn clothes on, I don’t want to be waiting for you two to get dressed,” Calum sighed.

“Fine, I guess we can do that,” And with a final squeeze around Luke’s ribs Calum left to get changed.

“See, everything’s fine,” Ashton said before he followed Calum.

“I don’t want to hear you two getting freaky in there!” Luke yelled once he’d noticed that they’d both gone into the same room.

“Damnit!” Calum called back. Luke laughed and took another deep breath before standing up to fix his hair. Everything would be fine.

-

Michael disagreed. It was 11:30 when he woke up again and that’s a good time to get up, particularly if you have shit to do.

He was about to get in the shower when his phone buzzed with a message.

Luke: Are you excited for the show?

Well no shit, he’s waited years for this.

Michael: I can’t wait, what about you?

Luke: I’m just glad you’re with me this time

Such a sap, Michael thought, why do I love this idiot? At least they’re both thinking along the same lines.

Michael: So am I, I’ll see you in a couple hours ;) love you

Luke: I love you too

Since he now had his phone in the bathroom, Michael decided he may as well listen to music while he showers and what could be better than his boyfriend’s music? After finding the 5 Seconds of Summer spotify playlist Michael spent half an hour in the shower just listening to his boyfriend’s voice and being blown away by how good he is.

Don’t be mistaken, Michael knew Luke could sing, but that’s easy to ignore in a single song that you try to ignore every time it comes on. When you listen to half a dozen songs, one after the other it’s a different story. And the actual music is amazing. To the point where Michael is starting to wonder if it’s possible to be sexually attracted to music. Because that would answer a couple questions that he’s currently got, like whether it’s weird to be jacking off to songs his friends have written. They would never hear of this Michael decided quickly before turning the water off before things got any more, out of hand, than they already had.

Once he’d slipped the shirt on and jumped around like a madman to get into the damn jeans Michael made breakfast and waited for his hair to dry before he’d think about styling it. He’d flicked on the TV for something to watch while he ate and found himself watching cartoons meant for small children. Like really small children.

He dumped his bowl in the kitchen sink before going back to the bathroom to look for the stuff he uses to style his hair. Michael found it in the back of drawer. Then he just stared at his reflection until an idea popped into his head.

It took longer than he’d expected. It was just after 1 when he’d finished trying to recreate Yugi Mutou’s hairstyle with it all sticking up in the back. But Michael kept his own fringe style; one side covering his forehead ending over his eye and whatever won’t reach over his eye just hanging down towards his ear.

After that he has nothing to do until the others pick him up so he ends up back on the couch watching little kids TV shows and playing games on his phone to pass the time.

“Why are you watching play school?” Ashton asked causing Michael to jump.

“I wanted to watch something and this is all I could find that didn’t shit me to tears,”

“A kids show?” Luke asked slowly, before he fell onto the couch next to Michael and wrapped an arm around him.

“It’s better than the latest on which country has been bombed, or flooded or the fact that no one wants the refugees that just want to live without fear they’re going to be killed, or worse, at any given moment,” Michael replied.

“Fair enough,” Calum shrugged and sat down on Michael’s other side.

“Guys, we should get moving?” Ashton said.

“But it’s story time,” Luke pouted.

“Please?” Michael added with his attempt at puppy dog eyes turned to Ashton.

“Fine, but as soon as the book’s over, we’re leaving,” he threatened.

“Thank you Ashy,” Calum yelled as he leaned over the back of the couch to wrap his arms around Ashton.

“Come on, watch your show so we can go,” Ashton walked to the empty spot on the couch and pulled Calum onto his lap.

“And they think we’re gross,” Michael whispered to Luke without any attempt to keep quiet.

“You are gross, we are cute,” Calum shot back.

“If you don’t shut your mouths we’ll leave right now,”

Ashton got his silence until the end of the book.

“Have you got everything?” Luke asked Michael, as he fussed over his hair and clothes.

“Yes,” Michael answered.

“Wallet, phone, keys?”

“Yes!” Michael replied firmly.

“He’s being doing that to us all day,” Calum stage whispered.

“I have not!” Luke defended, dropping his arms.

“You have,” Ashton confirmed, “But it’s time to go now mother,” and he dragged Calum out of the house behind him while Luke spluttered.

“Bitch,” Luke muttered.

“Hey, breathe,” Michael rested his hands on Luke’s shoulders, “Everything’s going to be fine,” he leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on Luke’s lips. It was only a peck, so when Michael pulled away Luke’s lips followed his in an attempt to keep things going and he whined loudly when he couldn’t find Michael’s mouth. “There’ll be plenty of time for that later, right now we need to get in the car so they don’t drive off without us,”

Luke grumbled the whole way out to the car parked in the driveway. Michael stopped short when he realised it wasn’t Ashton’s car.

“Huh?”

“Uh, we get driven to events like this so we don’t have to look for a park or get mobbed in the car park. Also so there’s enough seats for security,”

“You guys really are famous, aren’t you?” Michael laughed nervously as he approached the door of the backseat.

“You doubted us?” Luke feigned shock and Michael gave him a condescending look.

“I was always the better guitar player,” Michael pointed out.

“Yeah, was, past tense. I’m better now,” Luke bragged, with a gentle slap to Michael’s ass to get him to hurry up.

“Hey!” Michael called, landing safely in a seat and clicking his seat belt.

“What?” Luke smiled smugly. Michael didn’t reply, knowing it wouldn’t end well for him now that Calum and Ashton could hear.

“You two couldn’t get that out of your system before joining us?” Ashton asked dryly.

“Apparently not,” Michael replied as he made a show of reaching for Luke. But he stopped when he caught the eye of the beefy looking man in the front seat. Must have been part of their security team, but he didn’t make Michael feel very secure.

A single glance from the man silenced Michael, but nothing could have stopped him from taking Luke’s hand for comfort. Luke smiled at Michael when they linked hands and squeezed back every time Michael looked for the comfort.

-

The car slowed as they approached the venue and Michael held Luke’s hand so tight he thought his circulation was being cut off.

“I need you to keep holding tight, okay?” Luke reminded Michael who nodded in response.

“Why?”

“We’re going to take you through to our seats before we do any interview which means we’re going to have to fight our way down the carpet and I don’t want you to get pulled away,”

“This is intense,” Michael whispered as the shouting from outside grew louder.

“Ready?” Luke asked. Michael nodded and when the car rolled to a stop moments later Luke opened the door and started pulling on Michael so they could get moving. Michael understood why Luke had worried that he’d get pulled away. There were multiple camera flashes going off every second and the shouting of hundreds of questions as well as just general screaming. Luke tugged on Michael’s hand to get him moving, someone shoved him from behind and Michael went stumbling in Luke’s direction. It felt like hours later that they made it through to the doors, but it couldn’t have been more than three minutes.

Luke put his hands on both of Michael’s shoulders.

“Breathe, we made it,” Luke soothed. Michael sighed.

“I know, that was just more intense than I’d imagined,” Michael let his head drop against Luke’s shoulder.

“Usually the reporters are much better contained,” Luke said as something caught his attention over his head, “I think Cal and Ash have found our seats, why don’t you go sit down?” Michael nodded and let himself be led through the aisles to four seats labeled ‘5 Seconds of Summer + Guest’

“How long will you be?” Michael asked Luke desperately.

“Not long,” Luke answered, “I’ll be back as soon as I can get away,” he promised and then the three of them walked away. Michael watched them go but relaxed when Luke turned around to smile at him.

So Michael sat on his phone, too scared to talk to the people that slowly made their way into the hall and sat down. Other than replying to polite hellos Michael didn’t speak to anyone. He was starstruck more than once.

-

“So Luke, I’m sure that everyone has been asking but when 5 Sceonds of Summer arrived at the ARIA’s today there was someone else in the car with you? Who is he?”

“He’s an old friend we ran into just after we went on our break,” Luke answered. She wasn’t wrong. Every interviewer so far had asked some version of that question with varying degrees of niceness, this was one of the nicer versions, but he’s still getting a little sick of it. Not that he doesn’t love talking about Michael, but these aren’t the people he wants to talk about Michael to neither can he say the things he wants to to these people. Besides there are far more important things these people could be asking about.

“Yeah,” Ashton was picking up the ball this time trying to change things up and keep Michael out of the press as much as possible for someone dating the frontman of 5 Seconds of Summer, “We owe a lot of our early days to him so it’s nice that we get to show him how far we’ve come,”

“So he’s the fourth second of summer. Is there a fifth hidden away somewhere?”

“Nah, just the four of us originally,” Ashton assured.

“And where is he?”

“Keeping our seats warm I hope,” Calum laughed.

“You said that he helped a lot when you were getting started. Is there any chance he’s going to rejoin you now that you’ve been reunited?”

“That’s something we still have to talk about,” Ashton said.

“But he has agreed to help us write more music already, so we were thinking of doing some of that before we go back on tour mid next year,” Luke added.

“So we’re to expect a new album next year then?” she asked.

“There’s nothing planned at this point, but I would say some time in the next two years(?) there’ll be something,” Ashton said looking at his bandmates for confirmation and received nods in return.

“Well I look forward to seeing you perform tonight and I can’t wait until the new music comes out. Good luck 5 seconds of summer!” the interviewer cheered for the end of the interview, “Thank you boys, is that you all done?” Calum breathed easier now that the camera was turned off.

“Yeah, we were going to head back inside now,” Ashton answered.

“Good luck,” she said again then started looking for her next target, letting the boys go.

Luke didn’t stop for anyone now that he had the all clear to go back to Michael. Calum and Ashton stopped to talk to people they recognised or got recognised by.

“Hey Mikey,” Luke said as he wrapped an arm around Michael.

“Hey,” Michael whispered back as he slid his phone into his pocket.

“Are you alright?”

“There’s a lot of people here,”

“Yeah, there is but I’m right here,” Luke squeezed his hand before pecking Michael’s cheek.

“How long until you have to go up to perform?”

“We’re the second act, so when the house lights go down we need to move back stage, but after that I promise to not leave your side,”

“Okay,” Michael nodded and pulled Luke in to get some more kisses before the show started. It wasn’t until Calum returned that they pulled apart.

“You two realise you’re not alone here,” Calum pointed out.

“Yes, but this is fun,” Luke replied, leaning in for another kiss.

“Ash, help me. They’re being gross again,” Calum whined.

“So long as they’re not sucking face when the cameras are on us just let them go,” Ashton soothed.

“I thought you had my side,” Calum muttered.

“I do have your side but I also think they should be allowed to get this out of their systems so it’s not a problem later,” Calum sighed, he wasn’t a fan when Ashton used reason to shut him down.

“Fine!”

“If everyone would like to find their seats, we’re starting in 5 minutes,” A presenter on stage informed the crowd before disappearing off stage again.

“Does that mean you have to go soon?” Michael asked Luke.

“Yeah, but it won’t be for long, okay? And I’m coming right back here,” Luke patted Michael’s thigh then threw his arm back around Michael’s shoulder.

Michael nodded sullenly before leaning in for more kisses. Just being so close to Luke was helping calm his nerves.

“I can’t wait to see you perform,” Michael whispered as the lights dimmed.

“Looks like that’s going to be sooner rather than later,” Luke said as Calum and Ashton rose from the seats and started to make their way backstage. “I’ll be back here as soon as it’s over,” Luke promised with a final kiss as he followed his bandmates and again left Michael alone in a strange place.

Given that the show was about to start, Michael didn’t bother trying to use his phone as a distraction or talk to any of the people around him. He wasn’t important here anyway.

He wasn’t important here.

Is that why Luke didn’t want him sticking around years ago? Because quitting the band meant that he wasn’t worthy of being in a place like this?

Michael was looked around wondering how it would look if he were to get up and walk out. If anyone would notice, when his phone buzzed in his pocket.

Calum: I can see you. Take a deep breath for me and relax. You are here to have fun.

Michael grumbled at how predictable he was looked up to see if he could spot Calum at the side of stage.

Michael: I know that, I’m fine.

Calum: He stills loves you and he wants you to be here for this. What happens between you two afterwards, happens. But BOTH of you deserve this.

That was that then. Michael would stay for as long as he had to, then he could escape and catch the train home. Save them all the trouble of taking him home after making amends to a fight from a relationship that had died three years ago.

-

“Maybe you were right,” Ashton whispered to Calum, “we should just lock them in a room together for a few hours so they can sort out all their issues,”

Luke paced up and down the wings, muttering about how “the show has to be perfect” and “what if something fucks up” and, Calum’s favourite so far; “what if he thinks we’re so much better than we really are?”

“Can I put him out of his misery yet?” Ashton asked.

“You can try, but I don’t think anyone other than Michael could help at the moment,”

“You say that like they’re one person in two bodies,”

“You saying they’re not?” Calum retorted. Ashton snorted as the opening act took to the stage. Then panicked when he couldn’t see where Luke had wandered off to.

“Shit,”.

From the wings, Calum could see Michael sitting alone and freaking out in his own quiet little way. Sighing, he pulled out his phone to see if he could help at least one of them.

Calum: I can see you. Take a deep breath for me and relax. You are here to have fun.

At least it’s something.

Michael: I know that, I’m fine.

Calum hopes that Ashton is having better luck with Luke.

Calum: He stills loves you and he wants you to be here for this. What happens between you two afterwards, happens. But BOTH of you deserve this.

Michael didn’t reply to that which only worried Calum until Ashton and Luke returned. Luke still looked worried, like he was going to run any second now. That could be why Ashton had his arm firmly around Luke’s back.

“Are we ready to rock?” Calum asked.

Luke refused to meet his eye, but Ashton whooped.

“Fuck yeah! Let’s do this,”

“I’m not sure if I can,” Ashton groaned at Luke’s reply.

“We just talked about this,” he whined.

“But there are so many things that could go wrong!” Luke cried.

“Mate, calm down. It’s just one song, then you can go back to clinging like limpets,”

“We do not!” Luke cried.

“You kinda do,” Ashton said, “but that’s fine and we promise we’ll only drag you away if we win an award and it will just be for a moment,” Ashton promised.

Luke nodded and looked back out to the crowd from behind the current act.

“I just don’t want things to go wrong again,” Luke muttered. He’d seen Michael in the crowd looking nervous.

Ashton, who had heard him thanks to his still firm grip on Luke, replied:

“They’re not going to go wrong. Because you have learnt from your mistakes and are going to talk about any problems as they arise,”

“And we mean properly talk, not just scream at each other,” Calum added, yet found a sudden fascination with his nails when Ashton glared at him.

“And we are always going to be here, supporting you. So are your families. I know they may not be showing it at the moment, but they do. And that boy out there loves you to bits. He may kill me for saying this, but he was scared to death about coming here, in case you had changed your mind, that this whole thing was just a bad idea or a prank. This is what your relationship needs. Neither of you are amazing at keeping secrets, so bringing Michael here isn’t just about righting past wrongs, it’s about letting people know that you’re together, even if you don’t outright tell people anything,”

“But what of the outcome? People are going to know now,” Luke whined, “and I didn’t talk to you guys about how it would affect you!”

“It’s not going to affect us,” Calum butted in again, “If people can’t accept you for who you are, then we don’t want to know them. It’s not the 60’s any more, it’s time for everyone to pull their heads out of their asses,”

“Are you sure?” Luke peered up at Ashton with his big doe eyes.

“Positive, we like having Mikey around too ya know,” Ashton giggled. They all felt comfortable now that they felt everything was going to work out. A stagehand interrupted their group hug moments later.

“Uh, you guys are on in less than a minute, if you want to get ready to go on,” Calum and Ashton looked to Luke to see if he was ready for this.

“Thanks,” Luke said to the stage hand before he looked back at his friends, “Let’s do this,” he said and walked off, missing the huge grins that overtook his friends faces.

“You heard the man,” Calum nudged Ashton and took off after Luke, “We’ve got a song to play,”

-

Michael grinned when Luke came back until he pressed his sweaty body against Michael.

“You guys are amazing,” Michael breathed into his face before kissing him.

“Thanks,” Luke replied before melting into Michael. Now that relief that everything was fine had consumed him he didn’t want to be separated from Michael for even a second. So Luke decided to forgo his own chair and just sit in Michael’s lap.

“Can’t believe how good you’ve gotten,” Michael whispered between kisses.

“Try to keep it down,” Ashton whispered, “We’re not the only ones here,”

“Oops,” Michael whispered.

“I don’t care,” Luke pressed another kiss to Michael’s lips, “Just want to kiss you,” another kiss, “I never want to stop kissing you,” and another kiss, “Never want to be away from you again,”

“I love you,” was all Michael could reply.

“Love you too,” Luke replied, stole one last kiss then turned to face the stage again. Michael wrapped his arms around Luke.

Michael didn’t want to be away from Luke either, but that wasn’t something that could be avoided at this point of their lives. Maybe a few years from now Michael will join the band or they’ll arrange something that will let him come on tour with them. But Michael didn’t want to get bogged down in the future right now so he pressed another kiss to Luke’s neck and watched the stage.

-

5 Seconds of Summer didn’t win any awards that day, but Luke didn’t care. Michael had let him sit on his lap for the whole show.

Afterwards Michael was introduced to some of Luke’s famous friends and all of them seemed happy to meet Michael. Most of them offered genuine well wishes when they were told Michael and Luke were dating, some of them couldn’t resist pulling the two men into a hug.

“So glad to see you happy again Luke,” one had whispered in his ear when pulled in for a hug.

“I can’t believe these people really like me,” Michael murmured to Calum as they made their way through a much calmer crowd back to the car.

“They’re seeing you and Luke happy together, anyone who can do that to Luke at one of these things is considered pretty special,”

“You’re saying I’m special?” Michael asked.

“I guess I am,” Calum laughed, “But I mean it in the best way possible,”

Michael laughed and followed Calum into the car. Luke had gone off to find Ashton when Calum insisted on walking Michael back to the car.

“I guess that it really is because of you, isn’t it?” Calum asked into the silence the car offered.

“Huh?”

“The fact that Luke was always so shitty about award shows,” Calum offered, “because that’s what caused you to break up,”

“We broke up because we didn’t know how to talk to each other,”

“But the award show was part of it, wasn’t it? It was the catalyst,” Calum pressed.

“Uh, sure; yeah,”

“Mike,” Calum whispered and moved forward to wrap his arms around Michael. “We all missed you. I’m so glad to have to back,”

“I’m not joining the band,” Michael reminded him.

“I know, not yet at least,” Michael smiled, “but we’re going to stay in contact now. And we have a writing session soon which I recall someone saying they’ll join us for,”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Michael grinned in response.

“You better not be trying to steal my boyfriend,” Luke said as he and Ashton slid into the car.

“Wouldn't dream of it,” Calum said and surrendered his seat to Luke.

“Besides I won't let him,” Ashton said.

“Do I not get a say in this?” Michael asked.

“You need to be part of the band to have an opinion here,” Calum told him.

“That's okay, I’ll just let Luke speak for me,”

“How long till he regrets that choice?” Calum stage whispered to Ashton.

“It’s either in five minutes, or never,” Ashton replied.

-

Michael and Luke went back to Michael’s house that night while Calum and Ashton went home to their own families.

“This is nice,” Luke whispered to Michael once they were in bed together, naked under the bedsheet.

“It is,” Michael agreed.

“You know that shit’s going to get messy from here, don’t you?”

“I know, but I intend to make it worthwhile,”

“So do I,”

-

Luke was right.

Over breakfast, Luke got a call from management that he stepped out of the room to answer. Michael tried to listen, but he couldn't hear Luke’s whispers over the kettle boiling.

When he came back in he wrapped his arms around Michael’s middle and pressed his nose into Michael’s neck.

“There are some people who want to meet you,”

“That doesn't sound good,” Michael replied.

“It’s fine, they just want to make sure you're good for my image and shit like that,”

“Still sounds rather daunting,”

“I’ll be right there with you,” Luke promised, “but we should be going soon, they want to meet you this morning,”

“Why the rush?”

“With all the media coverage last night it's better to contain things now if it’s all going to go to shit,”

“Fair enough,” Michael whispered, “but I still don't want to go,” Michael turned to face Luke and buried his face in the man’s shoulder.

“We can call up Calum and Ashton and go to lunch after?” Luke offered.

“Okay, but I have to work this afternoon,”

“What time does your shift start?”

“One,”

“I think we can be finished before then,”

“Alright,” MIchael nodded as he moved out of Luke’s grip, “Just let me eat first,”

“When you’re ready,” Luke told him before walking back to the bedroom to get dressed.

Michael sat at the table stewing for another five minutes before he started moving again having decided that getting this over with is the only way to move forward.

He felt disconnected as he changed out of PJ’s, followed Luke’s directions to where the meeting was being held, parked the car in the street and followed Luke into the building.

Michael was aware that this disconnection isn’t a good thing, but it did mean his anxiety wasn’t bothering him so, silver linings.

Luke approached a door marked Matt Emsell with purpose and Michael couldn’t stop himself from reaching out taking Luke’s hand in his own. Luke turned and flashed a smile in his direction before squeezing his hand and opening the door.

“Hey Matt,” Luke greeted the man sitting at a desk inside the room. It was a small office, just enough room for a desk and two guest chairs.

The man glanced up and smiled at them both.

“Take a seat,” he mouthed to them before refocusing on the conversation he was having over the phone. Luke was already pushing Michael into a seat.

“Breathe,” he whispered as Matt ended the phone call in a sharp tone.

“Hello again Luke,” he greeted, “and you must be Michael?” he offered his hand to the two boys.

“Yeah,” Michael nodded in response, as he shook the offered hand.

“It’s nice to meet you. Unfortunately we need to have a tough talk right now but I’m sure the guys can tell you I’m usually not so much of an ass,”

“Usually,” Luke emphasises.

“That’s enough out of you,” he said to Luke in a light tone, “So the two of you are dating?” he asked, straight to the point.

“Yes,” Michael replied his voice firmer than he felt inside.

“And I understand that you had some sort of relationship in the past? Before the band became famous?”

“That’s right,” Michael nodded again.

“So why did you wait three years to reach out again to Luke?”

“Huh?” Michael asked. He wasn’t the one who reached out to Luke, or any of them.

“This isn’t the first time a friend of a famous person has reconnected to try and earn some fame for themselves,”

“What the fuck are you trying to say?” Luke demanded, sitting up straight and adjusting his posture to appear threatening.

“I need to know why all this is coming up now,” Matt said calmly.

“Calum,” Michael said softly in an effort to be a peacemaker.

“Calum?” Matt asked.

“Yeah,” Luke expalined sharply, “him and Michael were friends for years before I met either of them. He hadn’t heard anything from Michael since one direction found us, none of us had. So Calum tracked down Michael’s mum so he could see him again. Ash and I just tagged along for the ride,”

“I thought you were still mad at me?” Michael questioned.

“I wanted to apologise,” Luke whispered, “I was wrong and needed you to know that,”

“Boys, this is touching, but there’s some more things I need to know,” Matt interrupted. “Namely, what are you expecting from this Michael?” Michael stared blankly at him for a moment.

“What do you mean?” he asked. Does this guy not understand the purpose of a relationship is to test compatibility for marriage?

“In the public eye, what you hope to gain from being Luke’s boyfriend?”

“The public has no business in my relationship with Luke, beyond the fact it exists,” Michael stated defensively. Luke placed a gentle hand on Michael’s arm.

“He wants to be my date at events. He wants to see me for more than a few days at a time. Just like any other couple,” Matt nodded along, “Calum asked if he wanted to write with us next year,” that got him to choke.

“You want to what?!” he cried.

We want him to stay with us while we write next year,” Luke said in the same tone. Michael was glad that the conversation had moved from their relationship for a bit, he didn’t feel comfortable talking to strangers about details of their relationship. “And,” Luke added when Matt looked like he was going to shut the whole thing down right there, “If you want to stop us that needs to be a whole band meeting,” Michael took Luke’s hand in his to show his thanks. Luke turned and flashed one of his bright smiles.

“Is that a subtle way of saying that Calum and Ashton support your relationship?” Matt asked with a wry smile.

“No, it’s a subtle way of saying that even if you want to screw me around, Michael will not be shoved out of the picture again,” Luke squeezed Michael’s hand while keeping eye contact with Matt until the older man backed down.

“Fine, the boyfriend can stay, but you’ll have to appear together in a few interviews over the next few months. I hope you know what you’ve gotten yourself into,” he said to Michael, “this isn’t a gentle stroll in the park. We’ll organise to record at least two interviews before Christmas and have a contract written up by the end of next week,” he muttered scribbling on a piece of paper in front of him. “I assume I can just email that to Luke for you to read over?”

Michael nodded, “Yeah,”

“Alright, you will have to come back here to sign it and then we’ll get this shitstorm sorted. Now, is there anything else or are we done for now?” he asked Luke.

“I think we’re done for now,” Luke smiled, “Bye Matt,” he called as he dragged Michael out of the room.

“That was rough,” Michael whispered as they walked out into the heat.

“It gets like that sometimes. I’m sorry for taking over the conversation and snapping at the end there; I knew he wouldn't take it well I just didn’t think it would be that bad,”

“That’s fair enough,” Michael told him as they got the car, “But now I think it’s time for lunch,”

“Agreed, let’s see what pain Calum and Ashton have decided to inflict upon us,” Luke joked as he pulled out his phone. “Oh dear god,” he whispered, “It’s worse than I thought,”

“What?” Michael pulled out into the street.

“Ashton is cooking ,” Luke told him in a horrified tone.

“It’s not too late to change our plans, is it?”

“No, but I don’t think he’d take very well to that, remember I still have to work with the guy,”

“Alright, but if I get sick I’m blaming you,” Michael threatened before he started driving towards Ashton’s suburb.

-

Two months later

“Are you ready for this?” Luke asked as he pulled Michael towards the front door.

“I’ll never be ready,” Michael squeezed Luke’s hand before stepping up to the front door. “I’m suddenly not so sure about this,” Michael whispered.

“It’s just like when we were kids,” Luke promised.

“So pretending to play a song then sneaking away to suck each other off?” Michael joked.

“More like writing a whole song in a day and sneaking off to eat. Or have a nap. It must have been a while since you've been to one of these with us,” Luke knocked on the door.

“It has and that sounds tiring,”

“It is, but so worth it,” Luke promised as the door opened.

“Luke!” the man yelled, pulling Luke away from Michael and into a one armed hug. “Nice to see you get here in one piece,”

“It’s good to be back man, how you going?”

“It’s great, can’t wait to see what new ideas you guys are bringing to the table,” the man laughed. Michael squeezed Luke’s hand again.

“Oh! Michael, this is Feldy. Feldy, this is-”

“Michael! I’ve heard so much about you,” Feldy greeted, “It’s nice to be able to put a face to the name,”

“Hi, uh thanks,” Michael stuttered as he put out his hand for a handshake which Feldy ignored for another one armed hug.

“Come in, come in the other two should be here soon. They got stuck in traffic,”

“Got any food?” Luke asked as he pushed his way into the house.

“We ate, like 20 minutes ago,” Michael whined at him.

“There’s juice in the fridge, but we’re not having lunch until Calum and Ashton arrive,” Feldy said firmly.

“I’ll show you around,” Luke grabbed Michael’s hand and pulled him into the living room. “This is the living room, the bathroom is down there,” Luke pointed down the hallway, “And we write either in here, outside or in one of the studio rooms upstairs,”

“This place is really decked out, isn’t it?” Michael asked as he gently sat down on the couch, pulling Luke down on top of him.

“Feldy is a producer, he kinda needs to have all this stuff available,”

“Fuck,” Michael whispered, leaning back into the chair.

“What?” Luke sounded concerned.

“I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that my boyfriend is famous,” Michael admitted as he pulled Luke closer into his chest and buried his face between the other man’s neck and shoulder.

“Well any songs you help write will have your name on it too,” Luke whispered.

“Really?” Michael didn’t know they would do that for him.

“Mmm, it’s all part of the legal shit. You could register all your old songs too,”

“Old songs?” Michael feigned ignorance.

“The one’s you’ve finished and keep under your bed,” Luke said knowingly.

“Ugh,” Michael groaned. He didn’t like to think about some of those anymore, there had been a lot more join the pile under his bed when they broke up the first time. It was a rough time.

“Feldy will be able to walk you through it. It’s easy enough and protects all your original material,” Luke soothed.

“I don’t look at those things once they go under my bed. I don’t want to play them or have anyone else look at them,”

“Just a name and the pages scanned is all that’s needed,”

“Why are you pushing this?” Luke shrugged.

“It’s habit I suppose,” Luke whispered as he turned around in Michael’s arms. “I can’t believe you’re here with me,” he smiled.

“I’ll be here for as long as you’ll have me,” Michael replied and he leant in to steal a kiss.

“Forever,” Luke whispered his promise  into Michael’s mouth, before going in for more kisses.

“Do you two do anything other than suck face?” Ashton asked some time later. Michael and Luke jumped apart in shock.

“Yes, but I’m not going to share those details where children live,” Luke replied.

“Gross,” Calum whispered.

“Well are we going to get writing?” Ashton asked.

“Feldy said we could eat once you got here,” Luke pouted.

“Looks like you’ve already done that,” Calum muttered before leaving the room.

“You aren’t going to be gross the whole time, are you?” Ashton asked, “We really do have to get stuff done,”

“Food!” Luke yelled before taking off towards the kitchen.

“I think we can focus on music when we have to, Ash,” Michael told him as he stood up.

“It’s great to have you around again Mikey,” Ashton whispered thickly as he pulled Michael into a tight hug.

MIchael just nodded as he held Ashton close. Since getting his friends back Michael had realised just how much he’d been missing out on. And just how much band stuff they did together in high school. He’d gone from seeing these people everyday to facebook messages with Ashton and classes only with Calum while Luke would only be in the same room as him if he had to, then they all took off for London and they lost all contact with each other. Since being reunited he’d hardly been separated from Luke for longer than it took to piss since they patched things up which led to not much time for Calum and Ashton.

“So have you decided whether you’re joining us on tour or not?” Ashton asked as they walked into the kitchen themselves, Ashton’s arm over Michael’s shoulders.

“I don’t think I will be. Not for all of it at least. The rough idea was to stay with you guys until you finish the Australian leg then go back to what I had been doing until you finish the tour, maybe joining you for the last show or something,”

“That’s great,” he whispered before guiding Michael into a chair, “Now, we can eat!” he cheered.