How in a moment, Michael had transformed from a shining god to the Michael Luke knew first, angry and careless. Like he didn’t really care if Luke loved him back.

Luke did love him back. Maybe still does. He doesn’t want to love someone who says the kind of things Michael said, but he knows that he’ll keep coming back to Michael again and again. So he says he’ll come to pick Michael up, even if it means that he sacrifices his pride to do it.

---

Nobody knows what to expect. Michael doesn’t know if anyone will come to pick him up at all. Ashton doesn’t know if he’s supposed to take a side.

Luke isn’t sure what he’s meant to do, or what Michael will look like. It's been over a week. It feels like longer.

And he’s still afraid.

Ashton keeps close tabs on Luke, making sure that in his daze he doesn’t wander off in the wrong direction, yanking him back when he strays. He sends up a prayer that Luke will tell him what happened and that the cloud around his head will dissipate with Michael’s return.

It does, but not in the way Ashton hoped.

When Michael walks through the terminal (looking a whole fucking lot worse than he did when he left), Luke freezes entirely, falling behind as Ashton moves forward to hug Michael. Ashton falters, caught between two best friends who both look equally paralyzed.

Michael stops coming toward Ashton, seeing the hesitation in his eyes and feeling the hesitation creep into his own blood, and Luke keeps staring at Michael, afraid that if he so much as blinks he’ll be gone again.

Ashton gives in and moves toward Michael again, still glancing back at Luke. His hug with Michael is weak and brief, partially due to Michael’s lack of motivation, and partially due to Ashton not wanting to betray Luke, who looks stricken.

“Hey,” Ashton says uncertainly. “Thanks for coming back.”

“Yeah,” Michael mumbles, eyes straying to Luke and shifting his backpack on his one shoulder. “Didn’t know if you’d come--” He trails off and moves slightly forward so Ashton is to his side, getting a full view of Luke.

Ashton can feel the tension blanketing the air, and he fights himself as he says the words. “I’ll go find your luggage,” he says uncomfortably. “I’ll...be back.” He can maybe identify Michael’s suitcase, undetermined yet, but although he hates to leave Luke at a time like this, he can tell he’s holding them back from a normal interaction. There are too many things unsaid that need to be expressed in his absence.

Michael says distantly, “Okay,” but his eyes never leave Luke.

Luke doesn’t look too bad.

Michael still feels bad.

Luke looks paralyzed. Michael’s paralyzed, too. He can sense Luke’s tentativeness, the uncertainty nearly palpable to Michael’s over-heightened nerves. Luke doesn’t move, doesn’t take his eyes off Michael, just keeps staring at him with that deer-in-the-headlights look with those glassy blue eyes, and Michael could just lie out on the runway and let a plane run over him.

Luke thinks Michael looks terrible. Beautiful, still, to Luke, but terrible, all dark-rimmed eyes and slumped shoulders and fuck, maybe he’s even lost a bit of weight, but Luke can’t tell if he’s looking for signs of destruction or if he’s seeing it, and he thinks maybe he’s seeing it. And he’s mad, or more like crushed that Michael doesn’t love him, or at least said so, but he’ll let it all go, because he can see Michael imploding slowly.

There’s feet of space between them, people moving around them in a blur, but neither wants to be the first to close the gap. It’s smothering, the air, like it’s all too easy to suffocate.

Michael doesn’t know how he finds the voice to say it, but he breaks the silence.

“Hey.”

A week, and that’s all Luke gets. He’ll take it.

“Hey,” Luke says, sounding too close to choking.

“I came back,” Michael says, his face turned down but his eyes up on Luke’s face, blinking through his pale lashes.

“I know,” Luke says, his throat seizing up.

“I don’t think you want me here,” Michael says awkwardly, sinking a little further. “But I couldn’t stay in Perth.” He waits for Luke to say something, ask why, before remembering he changed Luke before he left. Scared him. Luke looks scared now, in a way Michael doesn’t care to see.

“I know,” Luke says again, and Michael droops lower and lower. He melts under Luke’s wide eyes, eyes so sharp and clear they were meant to be glass.

Michael sees the horrible strangled expression on Luke’s face, recognizes the way he keeps his eyes open longer than necessary and looks up at the ceiling to hold back the tears he doesn’t want Michael to see. He reaches up with his sleeve and rubs at the corner of his eyes before dropping his gaze back to Michael.

Michael’s exhausted. The silence kills him. Luke’s short answers kill him.

“I’m sorry,” he says finally.

“I know,” Luke says, voice pitched too high, and then falls forward onto Michael, wrapping him in spindly arms and holding as tight as a trembling 18-year-old boy can manage.

---

(A/N) count on once a week updates now that I'm back in school, k :) thanks for being awesome again guys. kinda tired, generally a little out of it, so I'll keep it short for now, and just please comment and vote and stuff, I know I've been kind of inactive, but I'm doing my best right now. Sorry I can't upload more often, and sorry this is a little short too. getting really into all caps poetry, a good one for Michael is on the side. goodnight xx

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