Stop and Stare

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Luke starts shaking when Ashton says that Michael finally replied okay to his daily/maybe hourly/maybe whenever the fuck he feels like it come home texts. His heart starts skipping beats when Calum says Michael replied to him too. And he starts to cry, to himself, when he slips into Ashton’s room for a late-night chat and checks his texts feverishly, uselessly, and remembers that Michael doesn’t love him.

His texts the night Michael left had been calm, but maybe not quite truthful, because they didn’t get across how he really felt, and so maybe Michael had convinced himself Luke didn’t care at all.

He didn’t tell Ashton and Calum about what happened with Michael or to Michael. He didn’t know where to start. He didn’t know how to get the words out.

Luke feels a terrible way about Michael. Wants him back, but he’s thought about it so often in the last week that Michael’s become bigger than life, angrier and more frightening, until it got to the point where Luke can barely breathe just thinking of it.

Luke doesn’t know what it’s supposed to feel like, being in love with someone, but it’s terrifying to him to be so powerless.

He’s lost thinking about Michael being a tangible entity again, but with Michael comes the fear again. Michael scares him to death sometimes.

He jumps when the door opens and the grip around his heart relaxes slightly when Ashton comes into focus through the film over his eyes. “Oh, I didn’t know you were in here. So Michael will be in tonight,” Ashton announces, and Luke watches his face drop when he sees Luke’s. Luke hurriedly rubs at his eyes, embarrassed. “Luke?”

“It’s okay,” he tries. “I just--just need a second.”

Ashton climbs up next to Luke on the bed, the mattress tilting to his side immediately. “Hey, what’s going on? Do you not want Michael to come back?”

“No, I do,” Luke says quickly, with as much conviction as he can manage. “I’m--I’m--I can’t--” He can’t find a way to describe it to Ashton without spilling everything that happened, and he doesn’t want to do that.

“Slow down,” Ashton encourages him, brushing his thumb over Luke’s damp knuckles. “Say it slowly.”

“I’m, I’m just nervous,” Luke admits.

“Luke, what happened when he left?”

“Nothing,” he mumbles, sniffling a little.

“I call bullshit, or else you wouldn’t be in my bed and you wouldn’t be crying and you wouldn’t be nervous,” Ashton says bluntly.

“Nothing happened,” Luke insists.

“Come on, you won’t stop crying. All this week. Why won’t you tell me?”

“You wouldn’t like it.”

“That bad?”

“No. You just, you wouldn’t like it. You’d be mad at me.”

“I’m never mad,” Ashton says, trying to relax Luke. “Did he hurt you?”

Luke shrugs noncommittally. “Said some stuff.”

“Bad stuff?”

“Just scared to see him again,” Luke concludes, his voice giving out. He slides down further and nestles into Ashton’s side pathetically. Ashton frowns.

“We have to go pick him up soon. Are you going to stay home? You don’t have to come.”

Luke doesn’t want to chicken out, but his hands shake at the thought of the way Michael says things all low like he doesn’t mean to be heard, how he clenches his jaw when he’s angry, how his wavering voice betrays him.

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