I Love You More than You Will Ever Know

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Michael wishes they would say something.

He doesn't like the way they stand in a little huddle at the foot of his bed and stare at him with worried eyes and furrowed brows, silent, but he can hear all the unspoken questions. He feels alone, one against three, powerless. There's a concrete barrier between them he's too weak to break through.

He's fucking exhausted; what more could you expect from someone who went through hell and got dragged back again? But Michael just wants to be able to sit up on his own and not feel dizzy; he wants to be able to talk and not feel like he's going to start throwing up again. He wants to be able to love without being dangerous.

He's so goddamn humiliated, hooked up to wires and deflated of life. He can't even hold himself up.

"Michael," Calum finally blurts out, "fuck, I thought you were going to die."

It's not the right start, and Calum ducks his head, trapped. Ashton comes to his rescue, softer, diplomatic.

"Hey," Ashton says softly. His words are a warm, shaky breath; his eyes are a mist of gold and hazel. "How are you feeling?"

Michael opens his mouth and shuts it abruptly. He doesn't know how he's meant to respond. He feels like shit. His whole body aches and he's empty. And worried that maybe they don't want him around after this. They know, or have to know soon, why he takes the pills, that he takes the pills now. There is no hiding when lies unravel, no privilege when you abuse your independence. Even, as it rests with Michael, unintentionally.

"I'm okay," Michael says, avoiding their eyes like the plague. "It's--okay."

"I'm sorry," Ashton says, wavering. He's trying, helplessly, to see what he wants to see. He wants to see an obstreperously passionate 18-year-old, but he sees exhaustion, and weakness, and hopeless eyes. Michael's a child; he's no stronger than any 18-year-old. In such a sense as to say, a legal year makes no difference. "About, about, I don't know, fuck, I wasn't there for you, I didn't know--"

Michael sighs, just a tiny little breath escaping his aching body. "I'm sorry."

"Stop that," Luke says, quiet. "Please--stop saying you're sorry."

"I just didn't mean to--I didn't mean to do this, and I didn't want to upset you guys."

"Of course we were going to be upset," Ashton says, turning away, "when we found out our best friend had been slowly dying for weeks."

Best friend. It's just a label, and yet, all Michael owns in this world.

Michael shakes his head. Slowly dying, that's not what he thought he was doing. There's no disputing it when you sit in a hospital bed. His judgment can't be found strongest when he's come off of an overdose.

"I fucked up," Michael says simply.

It's disturbing to see Michael in this setting, for a multitude of reason; it's more disturbing to see him without hope. It's a piercing dichotomy between the Michael they thought they knew and the harsh reality that's starting to come to light.

Things aren't how they thought it was; Michael isn't who they thought he was.

"You didn't fuck up," Luke says clearly, and Michael knows what he's going to say in a way before he says it. "You made a mistake. And Michael, I'm sorry about everything."

Michael glances uneasily at Calum and Ashton.

"Maybe it would be best if we go one at a time," Ashton suggests, his eyes reflecting uncertainty.

"Yeah," Calum mumbles. "Luke can go first."

"Agreed," Ashton says. "And, uh, if you don't want to see us after, that's fine. Just get some rest."

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