Michael had been in the tour bus's tiny bathroom for the past twenty minutes, trying to get a hold of himself. He usually ended up in this position after witnessing Luke flirting with some person or another, and it was honestly ridiculous. He shouldn't still be getting upset about this after years of pining after his best friend who clearly did not feel the same way about Michael, but alas, here he was again.
Michael was in the middle of muffling a soft cry when there was a knock at the bathroom door.
"Michael, you've been in there forever! I have to shower, hurry up!" Calum's voice came through the door.
"I-uh-sorry. Be out in a sec-" Michael tried to make it through his sentence, but was cut off by his own sob.
"Mike? Are you okay?"
"Y-yeah, of course. I'll be-" sob "-out in a second."
"Michael, let me in."
"There isn't room for t-two people in here."
"Just open the goddamn door and stop being stubborn."
Michael took in a shaky breath, wiping his eyes, before opening the door. He was met immediately with Calum's eyes filled with concern, and it made him feel even worse.
"Just, come on. We'll get you some tea and we can talk."
Michael nodded hesitantly, wiping under his nose before following behind the younger boy into the bus's kitchen. Calum fixed a cup of tea for each of them the way they both like it, before bringing them into the back lounge with Michael trailing behind.
For a long while, Michael just quietly sipped his tea and avoided Calum's gaze. He had kept this secret to himself since he was sixteen, and he wasn't really prepared to let it out in the open, even if it was just to Calum. Michael could still remember the first time he realized he felt this way about the blond boy.
They had been young sophomores when Michael really met Luke. Back then, Michael's only real friend had been Calum. He wasn't exactly an outcast, people just never stuck around long once he got close to them. He knew that he'd always felt things a little too strongly, overreacted to trivial occurrences. When Michael got angry, he got really angry. And when he was sad, he would break down. He was an emotional rollercoaster, and he understood why all his friends decided that their lives would be easier without him. The only one who always stood by him was Calum.
When Luke came along, Michael was nervous. Calum had never connected with any of his friends quite like he did with Michael, until he met Luke. As much as the dark haired boy assured his best friend that no one could replace him, Michael had his doubts. What if the only reason Calum had stuck by him all this time was because he hadn't found anyone better? What if all it took was this new boy in Calum's life to take away the only person Michael had left? And what if Michael did become friends with Luke, but Luke left like everyone else always did?
Michael's anxieties were taken out on Luke in the form of insults and cold shoulders. As much as the blond boy tried to befriend Calum's best friend, Michael continually pushed him away. When they were forced to spend time together by Calum, Michael was rude and dismissive. After a while, Michael surmised that Luke hated him, when the other boy stopped trying to be friends with him and instead began reciprocating Michael's rude attitude. Michael was heartbroken. He hadn't realized until then that the reason he was so scared of growing close to Luke and then losing him, was because of his feelings for the blond. Despite his cruel words and refusal to associate with the other boy, Michael was constantly getting caught up in the blue of Luke's eyes, or the way his nose scrunched up when he laughed. He was infatuated with the other boy, and he'd ruined any chance he had with him because of his anxieties.
Over the next year or so, the two boys moved past their original differences and became close friends. Sometimes Michael even felt closer to Luke than he was with Calum. But there was forever in the back of his mind that nagging feeling, that Luke would never reciprocate his feelings. Michael was terrified of ruining their friendship, still stuck with his high school fear of his friends leaving him behind, so he kept how he felt a secret, from everyone. If no one knew, nothing could go wrong, right?
"Michael, please talk to me."
The blond boy was shaken from his thoughts, looking up from his now cold tea to Calum's expectant expression.
"I-I don't know how to tell you this. I don't even know if I want you to know."
"Mike, if it's making you this upset, I need to know. I want to help."
Michael swallowed hard, shifting his gaze back to his tea, unable to look at the immense concern in Calum's face.
"It could ruin everything. It will."
"Nothing you could say could ruin anything between us. I'll always stick by you, you know that."
"Not between us. Between-" Michael cut himself off.
"Between what?" Calum's voice was gentle, encouraging. It almost made the blond want to just tell him everything.
"I-I can't." Michael stood up abruptly, his eyes going wide with panic. "I'm sorry, Cal, I just can't. I can't ruin everything because of my own selfish feelings."
"Michael, wait." The blond was stopped in his path out of the lounge by a hand on his arm. "You can trust me. You can tell me anything. Please talk to me."
It was only because of the desperation in Calum's voice that Michael turned around, sitting back down. He breathed deeply for a moment, considering once more if this was worth it, if he was willing to put everything on the line. And then he jumped, and there was no going back.
"I like Luke."
Silence. For a moment, that was all Michael was met with. He swallowed, and it sounded loud in the quiet lounge.
"What do you mean, exactly?" Calum finally spoke.
"I-I have, like, feelings for him. Non-platonic feelings."
"How long have you felt like this?"
"Since we were sixteen."
"Since we were sixteen?"
Michael nodded again.
"And he has no idea?"
"Why were you crying?"
"I-uh. He was, like, flirting. With a girl, at the bar earlier. It's stupid."
"It isn't stupid."
"I have a breakdown every time he flirts with someone! I'm fucking pathetic."
"No you aren't. Don't think that, Michael."
Michael sighed , biting his lip to keep down frustrated tears.
"You must really like him, huh?"
"I think I love him." It was a whisper, almost inaudible, but Calum heard it.
"You have to tell him, Michael. You can't keep torturing yourself like this."
"No! I can't tell him, are you crazy?"
"Because he'll hate me!"
"He will not! He could never hate you. You need to tell him, Mike."
"Calum, I can't. Please don't make me tell him, he can't know. It'll ruin everything!"
The tears were welling up again, now fueled by desperation and anxiety.
"Michael, hey, calm down. I won't make you do anything. It's okay."
A calming hand on his back willed the tears away.
"I just-I was such a dick to him, when we first met. I almost screwed up my chance at having him in my life at all. I can't do that again. I can't lose him."
"If you really do like him, you need to tell him, Michael. He could never hate you."
"If you really like who?"
The sudden presence of a new voice made Michael jump in his seat, his heart rate picking up speed. He'd know that voice anywhere.
"No one." Michael rushed to cover his tracks.
"Ooh, who is it? Do you have a crush you haven't told me about, Mikey?"
"No. It's nothing. Leave it, Luke."
"It doesn't sound like nothing." Luke's voice lost its teasing edge, his eyebrows drawing together. "Why won't you tell me? You told Calum."
"I don't have to tell you every little detail of my life." Michael's voice had turned harsh, resorting immediately to his automatic defense mechanism.
"I thought we told each other everything. You never keep things from me."
"Maybe I do. Maybe you don't know everything about me, ever think of that?"
"Why are you being like this?"
"Just leave me alone, Luke. Fuck."
With that, Michael pushed past Luke and out of the lounge, climbing into his bunk and closing the curtain. God, what had he done?
It had been over a week since Luke last spoke to Michael.
It had been eight days of cold shoulders and ignoring any attempts Michael makes to talk to him, and the older boy was dying. When they were on stage, Luke stuck to the middle and Calum's side, never venturing toward Michael's area. Even when they played Voodoo Doll, Luke wouldn't do their signature playing of each other's guitars.
That was bad, but when they weren't on stage, it was worse. Luke acted as if Michael didn't exist. He ignored him every time he spoke, steered clear of him whenever they were on the bus. Michael had stopped going out with them after the first night when Luke separated from him immediately and spent the whole night dancing with girls and disappearing into the bathroom with them.
Michael was miserable.
He was proven correct in his assumption that he wouldn't be able to survive without Luke in his life. It had only been eight days, but Michael was falling apart. It was clear to Calum and Ashton, but Ashton still didn't know why Luke was acting this way. It probably would have been clear to Luke, too, if he bothered to realize Michael existed. Michael spent every night crying quietly in his bunk, rarely getting any sleep. His eyes were perpetually red and puffy. The only time he ventured out of the bus was for shows. He had grown so distraught over all of this that his nails were bitten to the point of bleeding.
Calum kept telling him that he should just explain everything to Luke, just be honest. But Michael just couldn't bring himself to do it. If this was bad, he couldn't imagine what would happen if Luke found out and decided to leave him for good. Michael reasoned that the other boy would have to get over this at some point, but he wouldn't be able to take it back if he admitted his feelings.
"You coming out with us tonight?"
It was nice that Calum asked every night, despite the fact that Michael never did anymore. He shook his head as an answer.
"Michael," Calum kept his voice low, not wanting anyone else to hear. "You could just tell him, get this all over and done with."
"And lose him for good? No way."
"You're destroying yourself. I hate seeing you like this."
"I'll be fine. Go, have fun."
"I can stay, if you want. I don't mind at all." Calum had offered this every night, as well. The answer was always the same.
"No, you should go. I want to be alone anyway. Have fun, Cal."
With a frown and a defeated sigh, Calum nodded. He patted his friend on the shoulder, then closed Michael's bunk curtain once again and followed the others out of the bus.
Michael spent the night crying, as usual. He worked himself up almost into a panic attack multiple times, somehow managing to calm himself down. By the time the others returned, Michael had tired himself out completely and retreated to his bunk. But even after everyone was asleep, he still lay wide awake, staring at the roof of the bus. This happened almost every night now. Michael had struggled with insomnia at a few different points in his life, and now it was back. He not only felt drained of energy from lack of sleep, but was also forced to think about the situation with Luke all night every night.
After hours of staring at the ceiling with his headphones in, Michael decided that he needed to get up and move around. He might as well have some tea, if he was up anyway.
Pulling out his headphones, Michael slipped his phone into his pocket and climbed out of his bunk. After fixing himself a cup of tea, Michael headed into the lounge. He was stopped in his tracks when he stepped into the lounge, met with blond hair and blue eyes.
Luke was sitting on the couch, his headphones in as he watched something on his laptop. Michael's breath caught in his throat at how beautiful the other boy looked with his messy hair and tired eyes. He wished he could stay there forever, just admiring the other boy and pretending things weren't all fucked up.
But then his dream world was shattered, as Luke looked up and caught sight of Michael standing in the doorway, gripping his mug of tea like his life depended on it. Luke immediately pulled off his headphones, shoving his laptop to the side and getting up. As he went to push past Michael and out of the lounge, the older boy reached out and grabbed his arm without thinking.
"Let me go." Luke's voice was low and laced with slight anger, but it was the most beautiful sound Michael had ever heard, after so long without hearing Luke speak to him.
"Luke, please don't go."
"I said, let me go."
"I miss you so much. I miss us."
With a desperate sigh, Luke wrenched his arm free. "Why would you tell Calum and not me? I thought we told each other everything! Why don't you trust me, Michael? What did I do wrong?"
Michael staggered back, almost like Luke had hit him. Placing his mug on the table, he took in a deep breath, biting his lip to keep his tears at bay. He could see tears brimming in Luke's eyes as well, and that only made him want to cry more.
"You didn't do anything wrong, Luke. It isn't your fault. There are just some things I can't tell you. I'm s-sorry." Michael's voice broke on the last word. One of the tears that he had managed to hold in until now slipped down his cheek, and he rushed to wipe it away.
"Fine, Michael. Whatever. If you can tell everyone else these secrets that I'm not allowed to know, I guess you don't need me."
Luke began again to step out of the lounge, his path no longer blocked by Michael since he had stepped away in shock earlier. Michael felt desperation clawing at his throat, panic overwhelming him as his hands began to shake. And then the words began launching themselves out of his throat without his consent.
"It's you! It's you, Luke, it's always been you. I couldn't tell you because I couldn't bear the thought of losing you over my stupid fucking feelings. I love you, and I hate myself for it."
By now, tears were slipping down Michael's cheeks freely. He couldn't control his sobs anymore, letting them take over and cause his body to shake. He probably looked like a complete idiot, and he had probably just ruined his friendship completely, but there was no going back now. It was all out in the open.
"Please, don't say it. I don't think I can bear to hear you say it."
"You don't even know what I'm going to say." Luke's voice was soft, a sharp contrast to Michael's desperate sobs.
"Please don't hate me. I can't lose you over this, I can't lose you because of my stupid feelings."
"I'm not going to leave. You aren't losing me."
Michael shook his head, choking out another sob as he slipped to the ground, his back against the wall.
"I'm so sorry, Luke. You have no idea how sorry I am."
"Mikey, hey. You have no reason to apologize. Please stop crying."
Michael was surprised by the feeling of strong arms wrapping around him, surrounding him in a tight embrace. His breathing began to calm slightly as Luke whispered sweet reassurances into his ear, rocking him back and forth slowly. After a few minutes, Michael was only sniffling, and his body was no longer shaking. He swallowed hard before wiping his eyes and turning his head to look at the boy behind him.
"I-I'm so sorry, Luke."
"Michael, you have absolutely no reason to apologize. You did nothing wrong."
"I ruined us! We had such a great friendship, you're my best friend in the whole world. And I ruined it."
"You didn't ruin anything."
Michael gasped softly as Luke lifted a hand to wipe the tears from the older boy's cheeks.
"Didn't you ever consider the fact that maybe I felt the same way?"
Michael's eyes widened. "I-what?"
"Did you ever think that I might like you back?"
Michael shook his head slowly. "No. You're-you're Luke Hemmings. You're gorgeous, and talented, and sweet, and you could have any boy or girl you want. Why would you ever want me?"
Luke's eyebrows drew together, confusion filling his face. "You have no idea how amazing you are, do you? You are so beautiful, Michael. Honestly, I think you're the prettiest person I've ever met. And you are so amazingly talented, more than I am. Your voice is so gorgeous, it encompasses all your emotions in it when you sing. You play guitar like a god, and play piano so beautifully. And you are the nicest, sweetest person I have ever met. You make my day so much brighter, just by being you. Why would I ever want you? Why wouldn't I?"
"Luke." Michael's voice was soft, breathless. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying, I like you too. I-I don't think I love you yet, not like that, but I definitely think I could one day. But I have feelings for you, stronger than I've ever felt for anyone."
"For me? You like me?"
Luke smiled softly, cupping Michael's cheek in his hand. "I do, Mikey. I really do."
Kissing Luke was better than Michael had ever imagined, and that's saying a lot. It was like every fairytale coming together at once, and like fireworks igniting all throughout his body. Luke stole every breath from Michael's body by pressing their lips together, but the older boy had no complaints.
When they eventually separated, Michael could not stop smiling, feeling slightly dazed. Luke liked him back. Luke didn't hate him. He wasn't going to lose the most important person to him.
"I'm such an idiot."
"What?" Luke's eyebrows drew together in confusion once again.
"I can't believe I've hidden my feelings from you for so long, and been so paranoid about them, and now we're sitting here on the bus floor at 3 in the morning and you just kissed me. It's just-surreal, I guess."
"I hate that you lived in fear for so long over this, but I'm so glad that you finally told me, Mikey. I don't ever want you to feel alone or scared like that again."
"As long as I have you, I'll have no reason to feel that way. You make all of that disappear."
Luke smiled at the boy in his arms, his hand going up to cup the side of the older boy's face. He couldn't believe that they had both been this stupid. But that didn't matter now, all that mattered was that they were together, and happy.