Don't Let Me Drown

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All he can think of is how badly he’s screwed up this time. He went too far. He squirms (in his head, as if he can move with all these wires and tubes) at the memory of Calum finding him, vague and detached in his head, shouts in his mind how unfair it is that he was just trying to protect Luke and everyone around him and this is where he ends up. He’d be better off dead, rather than in this half life he remains in now. He doesn’t want to face anyone who might have cared enough to stick around through this. Not that the list is long.

But he doesn’t think too long on his shortcomings, because you don’t think so much as dream when you’re unconscious, if there’s any activity in the dark attic at all, and so he dreams of losing control over and over again until the voice in his head is scratchy from screaming for a way out.

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Ashton and Calum meander around the hospital, staying confined to the second floor and never straying far from the waiting room should they be needed, although it wouldn’t make a difference if they were across the floor or in America, since they wouldn’t hear either way.

Their thoughts coincide and bump into each other in the form of words that slip out when they aren’t thinking. Neither could count how many times certain things are said, over and over until they occupy the whole building, invisible to all but Ashton and Calum.

Tonight they aren’t sleeping.

“D’you think his aunt will get here soon?” Calum says quietly, never quite looking at Ashton.

Ashton shrugs, scuffing at the ground while he walks. “Only takes three or four hours, something like that. Maybe five.”

“If she leaves right away, she can get here around three,” Calum says, doing the math in his head. “As good a time as any.”

“Wonder if he’s awake,” Ashton says, on a different train of thought already.

“Wonder what happens when you pump someone’s stomach,” Calum says, trying to keep up with how Ashton’s thoughts jump from car to car.

“Dunno,” Ashton says, and they fall into silence.

It’s bizarrely empty, being half a unit, with Luke at home and Michael somewhere in this hospital. Ashton and Calum were only ever friends through Luke first, and then through the band. It’s wrong without him. And, as they’re starting to realize, without Michael, too. As rocky as the road has been, something made them all codependent.

Calum stops at the end of the hallway they’re trudging through. He shoves his hands in his pockets and stares down at the ground. “Do you think things are going to work out?”

Ashton hesitates to answer. “In what way?”

“With Michael. Luke. The band. Everything. Is it going to work out?”

Ashton pauses, burdened by the weight of the question at hand. “I don’t know,” he confesses. “I—I don’t know. I think—Michael needs to really be taken care of right now, and Luke needs a break.”

“Yeah.” Calum sighs, tragic and slumped. “Uh, Ashton?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you scared? Because I’m really scared,” Calum says, glancing up. “Please say I’m not alone.”

“I’m scared shitless,” Ashton says with a humorless laugh. “But we have to believe that Michael will be okay and all this shit will blow over. I can’t consider anything else right now.”

Calum lurches forward, wrapping his arms around Ashton’s neck and hanging on to him, burying his face in Ashton’s shoulder.

“No homo,” he mumbles, choked, “but I really miss them.”

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