This House Is Falling Apart

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They lose sight of the ambulance almost immediately, mostly because Ashton’s vision keeps blurring and he has to keep pulling off to the side of the road. Nobody blames him. They’re all trying to keep it together now, afraid to be made useless by their frantic minds. Calum’s trying, in desperate rushes of clarity, to convey to them what happened. It weighs heavily, smothering all conversation.

When they finally get to the emergency room, they burst in, stumbling over each other. Luke’s clinging to Calum’s arm, who’s trying to follow Ashton, who has no idea what the fuck he’s doing. Last time he was in a hospital was when Harry was born; Calum, when he got hurt during his football days, and Luke, possibly never. None of them are prepared for this in the least, not that they thought they’d have to be. Everything’s come crashing down in such a short amount of time.

Luke tries to think of how many signs he saw and how many times he chose not to intervene. Didn’t want to push Michael and make him mad, didn’t want to screw things up. For his own selfish reasons. Because he was in love with Michael and wanted Michael to love him back, but there’s a line between being in love and loving someone, and Luke seems to have fallen short of the latter. Luke’s not interested in self-hatred right now, but he knows that maybe if he had been thinking less about lovers and more about love, maybe Michael would be back in their hands.

They find their way to the front desk. Ashton’s visibly gearing up.

“Where’s Michael?” he demands, leaning forward. “We need to see him.”

“Sir, please be more specific,” the man says calmly.

“Michael, I said Michael, he just came in--”

“He means to say,” Calum says, eyeing Ashton nervously, “is that, uh, a boy named Michael Clifford came in probably a couple of minutes ago. Do you know what’s happening?”

The man types a couple of things into his computer. “Right now he’s in emergency treatment. I don’t have any information on that right now, but as soon as they’re done, we’ll try to send someone along to let you know, alright?”

“Can’t you tell us anything now?” Ashton pleads. “Or send someone now?”

“Sir, if you’d like, you can wait up on the second floor,” the man says firmly. “There’s nothing I can do, but it’s quieter up there, and likely that’s where they’ll want you to be.”

Ashton looks like he might lunge over the desk and draw the man up by his collar, but Calum yanks him toward the elevator and Luke follows like a lost kid in the supermarket. The elevator is unoccupied when they step in, surprisingly so, as Luke always pictured the elevators to be busier. In movies, hospitals are different. This isn’t the movies, though. Michael’s life, whether it comes to an end today or not, is more than that.

“How many pills did he take?” Luke asks, biting down hard on his lip until it stings and he’s worried he might bite right through.

“He didn’t say,” Calum says, not meeting his eyes. “The bottle was empty.”

Ashton swears in the silence of the elevator. Luke exhales like the air’s forced out of his chest.

“What do you think they’re doing to him?” Luke ventures fearfully, eyes wide and glassy.

“I don’t know,” Ashton says. “Whatever they do to people who overdose. He’ll be okay.”

“Fixing him,” Calum says, swallowing heavily. “They’re trying to fix him.”

Luke takes a shuddery breath in and sobs on the way out, and somehow Ashton and Calum’s hands find each of his.


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