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No one does it better

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One of the many privileges of having a single room is never having to deal with a roommate waking you up before 10am. That is, unless you’re best friends with someone like Calum Hood. Then you’re woken up, without warning, at any given hour of the day and you’re left to curse your choice in friends.

“Get up, get up!” Obnoxious banging sounds from the other side of the dorm’s door, accompanying Calum’s loud voice. “Up you fucker! We’re gonna miss the French toast!”

Luke groans unintelligible words into his pillow. The wonderful dream he’d been having about a hot, shirtless boy rubbing suntan lotion over his body is completely ruined. Calum’s relentless knocking continues on for another minute while Luke lies there, checks the time, and just wants to die, please.

“Calum!” Ashton’s bright voice joins the noise in the hallway. “Stop it, you’re going to wake the whole floor up!”

“I don’t give a fuck about the floor,” Calum snaps, although he stops the banging. “I care about the breakfast we’re missing because Princess Luke won’t GET UP!”

Luke groans again before he shoves himself up from the bed and stumbles across the room. He rips open the door hard enough to push Calum back, flailing from his spot leaning against it. It’s a small victory, even if he doesn’t fall on his ass.

“I’m up,” Luke growls.

“You’re half naked,” Ashton giggles, gesturing to where Luke’s only wearing a pair of SpongeBob boxers. “The café has a dress code, you know.”

Calum quickly recovers from his fumble and grins wickedly at Luke. “You have three minutes.” Then he takes Ashton’s arm and leads them out of the hall, towards the commons.

Luke rolls his eyes to himself and goes back in his room to get dressed. Stupid of him to pick morning people as his best friends.

The commons are barely alive when Luke eventually arrives for breakfast. All the normal, sane students are enjoying their last two days of freedom and sleeping in before school starts on Monday. Luke envies them, but he can’t help his amused smile when he approaches his friends, found at their usual cushioned booth beside the window. Calum claimed the spot as his throne two years prior, mostly for the view of the emerald pitch outside, his playing kingdom.

Luke finds Ashton frowning in disgust as he eyes Calum across the table. The dark-haired boy has his plate full of four French toast pieces, smothered in maple syrup—pieces that are rapidly disappearing into his mouth.

“Slow down before you choke, Cal.” Luke tells him when he sits down.

“He’s a savage,” Ashton mutters. His own plate is lightly occupied by fruit. Luke gratefully takes the banana Ash offers him. “You’re going to puke on Coach Donald.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Irwin.” Calum says once he finally swallows. “I need to store up as much energy as possible for training today.”

Luke turns a practiced deaf ear to their following argument over nutritious breakfast food. Disagreeing with each other over every topic is part of some bizarre way that Calum and Ashton’s friendship works. Luke gave up long ago trying to understand it and just resigns to playing the peacemaker whenever necessary.

He hopes at some point that the ongoing sexual tension between them will finally be resolved, but that is another thing Luke gave up on forcing to happen. Eventually, Luke had decided, Calum will get over himself and spend his time wooing Ashton instead of antagonizing him. Until then, Luke leaves them to their love-bickering and pulls out the book he brought from upstairs.

“Incoming,” Ashton warns a few minutes later, causing Luke to glance up from his novel. This time his frown is aimed across the room. Luke looks to the double doors of the café just in time to see half of the hockey team burst inside. Instantly the noise volume of the room is amplified as the rowdy boys shout and shove at each other on their way to the breakfast line.

Luke’s eyes scan over the group as subtly as he can, feeling his heart thump in quick, hopeful beats. He checks again and again, but there’s no head of bleach blonde in the group. No number 10 found on the back of any of the maroon jerseys. 

Of course his friends catch him looking. “Aww, look at the disappointment on his face!” Calum coos, much louder than necessary. “Poor little Lukey.”

“Shut up,” Luke whines. He can feel his cheeks heating up and tries to focus back on his book. It’s useless as Calum and Ashton burst into laughter. Ash’s manic giggles are impossible to resist, though Luke bites hard on his lip to not give in and join them.

“It’s okay, Lukey.” Ashton pats his hand, smiling at him appeasingly. “You’ll get to ogle at Michael in class soon, I promise.” 

“Shh!” Luke hisses, casting a nervous eye over at the hockey boys. Thankfully all of them are too preoccupied throwing scraps of sausages at each other to hear them. “I don’t ogle at anyone,” Luke tells them, frowning at the smug looks on his best friends’ faces. “I don’t!”

“Okay, okay!” Calum swallows back his laughter, raising a placating hand at Luke. “Relax, Lukey, don’t get your tutu all twisted up!”

At that Luke rolls his eyes and gets up from the booth. Ashton calls after him as he walks away, apologizing for their teasing, but Luke ignores him. He knows Calum will settle down after he gets his morning drills in—his best friend is always at his most obnoxious at this hour, pent up with unleashed energy. Luke will meet up with them later.

He hadn’t planned on hitting the studio until much later, but he is already up, thanks to those lovable morons. Luke decides to head there anyway. The air is crisp and cool when Luke steps out of Duffy Hall, making him pull his blue cardigan tighter against his body. Luckily the walk to the studio is a short one, just across the large pond that sits in front of their dorm building.

Luke remembers his first trip to Waverly Academy, being only thirteen and swooning over the campus, each new building the tour guide introduced more impressive than the last. It was like something out of a dream—beautiful limestone architecture, endless acres of manicured grass framed by snow-capped mountains in the distance. The arch bridges that decorated the ponds and clock tower at the main entrance added to the castle-like flair of Waverly. The only thing missing was a moat.

Now, four years later, the magic had long since wore off. That might have something to do with the students rather the campus’s fault, though. It certainly determined how Luke plugs in his headphones, blasting Enya and avoids the gazes of most people he passes on his walk. Calum would say the best defense is a good offense, but Luke couldn’t agree.

Luke uses the key Madame Fabre gifted to him last year to unlock the small building that houses the dance rooms. Luke is one of many artistic students to attend Waverly and is grateful someone else’s wealthy daddy donated the funds to pay for the two-story studio (a generation donation following the indoor Jacuzzi in every dorm building and the brand new sushi bar at the marketplace).

Luke’s favorite room on the second floor is perfectly empty when he walks in. It’s the biggest in the building, but Luke favors it because the entire north wall is made of clear glass. A breathtaking view of the whole campus greets you as soon as you step inside. Luke takes a moment to admire the scene before he sets his things down and strips out of his clothes, down to his black tights and a simple T-shirt.

Once his CD is playing in Madame Fabre’s stereo, Luke stretches and warms-up for a couple of songs. His crankiness at being woken up early melts away as the blood starts pumping through his body. A good hour or five could have passed while Luke dances. The sensation that comes with the flow of his movements is indefinable; another world entirely where he can fly across the wooden floors and transforms into a person greater than himself. Someone no one at this school, no one anywhere, can mock or even reach. He’s untouchable.

 

XXXX

 

A few hours afterward Luke spots Ashton sitting on the bleachers. He waves as soon as he sees Luke, one hand tightly holding onto his cup of hot chocolate so it doesn’t spill out.

“Here,” Luke reaches over to take Ashton’s glasses off. They always fog up during cool days like this and it’s usually up to him or Calum to clear them up for Ashton, who never seems to notice. Luke uses his sleeve to wipe them clean then slides them back onto his friend’s face.

“Thanks.” Ashton beams at him gratefully. “Did you have fun practicing?”

“Yep.” Luke leans back in his seat. “Not as much fun as Cal seems to be having though.”

They both look to the field where Calum and the rest of the soccer team are in the middle of an intense round of sprints. Calum of course is barely breaking a sweat, but most of his teammates aren’t so lucky. Luke takes a moment to appreciate the sweat-dampened torsos of the other boys.

Ashton rolls his eyes playfully. “I swear he has some kind of pain kink. He loves the drills more than the actual playing!”

“You would know all about Hood’s kinks wouldn’t you, Ashley?”

Luke cringes at the husky sound of Nate Kingsley’s taunting voice behind them. The tall brunette rounds the bench to face them, a vicious smirk planted on his handsome face. His loyal followers Colton and Marcus flank them with familiar gleams in their eyes that make Luke’s stomach wrench painfully. Here we go…

“Wait a minute.” Colton lets out a bark of laughter. “I thought it was little Lukey that plays Hood’s wife. Or do you two share?”

The nickname sounds crude and wrong coming out of his mouth. Luke hates it almost as his inability to do nothing but sit there scowling as they laugh.

“L-leave us a-alone.” Ashton whispers. It’s nearly inaudible, but it’s more than Luke can produce.

Nate’s smirk twists into a feral smile, flashing flawless white teeth. “What did you say?”

Ashton’s cheeks tint pink and he stays silent this time. It makes Luke angrier than any stupid comments they could make could, seeing his friend so upset. Not for the first time Luke fantasizes about standing up, pushing Nate and his buddies off the bleachers and knocking the laughter out of their mouths. But he can’t move.

“That’s what I thought, sweetheart.” Nate’s dark blue eyes flash to Luke. “Wipe that glare off your face, Barbie. Unless of course you want me to find your tiara.”

Luke feels his breath catch, a horrible mixture of dizziness and nausea punching him in the chest. In his mind’s eye he sees a younger Nate, grinning at him through polished glass. Colton and Marcus are there too, their howling laughter so much louder than the rest of the crowd’s.

He barely hears Ashton’s soft call of his name before a green and yellow ball soars through the air and collides into the back of Nate’s head. Two more balls follow in rapid succession, hitting Colton and Marcus’s heads respectively.

“Hey fuckfaces!” Calum’s voice bellows from the field. “Get the fuck away from my friends before we find out how far I can shove my cleats down your throats!” 

“Hood!” Coach Donald starts yelling at Calum about his language and focus during practice, but Luke blocks the rest of it out of his mind.

Nate rolls his eyes. “Let’s go.”

The other boys follow him as he scurries away, pretending that Calum’s threat didn’t send them running. It almost makes him smile. Luke watches until they disappear around the corner, out of the stadium.

Ashton sighs. “I’m getting really tired of dealing with that whenever we step out of our damn dorm rooms.”

Normally Luke would jump at the chance to tease Ashton about his rare swearing, but his heart isn’t anywhere up for it right then. Luke stays quiet as they wait out the rest of Calum’s practice, his mood steadily darkening. He too is sick of Nate’s harassment, sick of the constant reminders of the worst year of Luke’s life. He’s angrier with himself than anyone though.

All it would take is one time of Luke standing up to them for Nate to back off. Luke’s taller than all three of them and has years’ worth of rigorous dance training behind his punch. He could do it, without Calum’s help. But every time they come near, Luke clams up like he’s forgotten how to speak. He’s left to seethe in frustration when they saunter off until next time.

Ashton thankfully doesn’t try to engage him in conversation, focusing his attention on his sketchbook instead. He’s working on something that involves a superhero that suspiciously looks like Calum. Luke will have to ask him about it later.

Calum’s scowling when he jogs up to them as soon as Coach Donald lets them go. “Are you guys okay?”

“It’s fine.” Ashton tells him, shoving his sketchbook into his pin-covered bag. “Let’s just get out of here.”’

Calum nods, dropping it, and they start heading out of the stadium. They’re about halfway to the exit when someone shouts Calum’s name behind them.

One of his teammates lopes over to them. His bright orange hair is matted to his forehead with sweat. “What’s up, Mason?” Calum asks him.

“I forgot to give you this.” Mason fishes out a scrap of black paper from his bag and hands it to Calum. “There’s a party tonight in Bexley’s lounge. James will kill me if I don’t invite you.”

“A paper invitation?” Calum smirks at him scathingly. “Bro, who does these anymore?”

Mason rolls his eyes. “Can you come or not?”

Calum pauses, glancing at Ashton and Luke worriedly. “Am I gonna have to bring my cleats?”

Mason shakes his head. “This isn’t a party for the brats. Just the boys, a few of the usual suspects. No trust fund dickheads, I swear.”

Calum grins. “Then we’ll be there.”

Chapter Text

Luke remembers his thought-out list of protests and saying “No” at least twenty three times to all of Calum’s best pouting faces, yet somehow he ends up at the party that night. Luke also remembers Cal swearing up and down that he wouldn’t leave his or Ashton’s side for a second, knowing how uncomfortable his friends were going to be. Yet after only two beers Calum is in the middle of the makeshift dancefloor, grinding on some sophomore girl, while Luke and Ashton sit on the couch.

It’s not that Luke doesn’t like parties. He enjoys them actually and can be as outgoing as Calum most of the time. At least he was. Now the last thing Luke wants to do is get stupidly drunk and party with the people that ignore him on their best days (and ridicule him on their worst). The only thing that keeps Luke from walking out the door right then is Ashton. His other friend is completely out of his element.

Luke was forced to become an outcast by their judgmental classmates while Ashton on the other hand seemed to be born that way. He spent his childhood in Sydney like Luke, until his mother’s job had them moving all over Europe for the past seven years. Ashton was a bit of a nomad teenager, never staying in one school or city for more than a few months. He found it hard to make friends and developed a stutter that only added to his isolation. Finally when he was fifteen his mother landed a permanent position in Hawthorne and Ashton was given a generous scholarship to attend Waverly Academy.

As anyone can imagine, the snobby brats of their boarding school didn’t take well to “poor” scholarship kids. But lucky for all of them, Luke and Calum didn’t care about their classmates opinions and took Ashton under their wing. He was an odd ball, sure, but Luke had never met a more positive person with a heart bigger than Waverly’s campus. Together he, Calum and Ashton made an interesting trio of friends. But they were also family and Luke honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Luke glances at his friend, taking small sips of his beer as his hazel eyes survey their classmates warily. Most of them are too drunk to pay them mind, but Luke wouldn’t put it past them. “I’m gonna go the bathroom.”

Ashton looks to him and rolls his eyes. “I’m not a toddler, Luke. You don’t need to sit here and hold my hand.”

“I’ll just be a second,” Luke tells him anyway.

It takes a good five minutes at least to navigate through all the drunken, stumbling teenagers to reach the bathroom, but he manages. Luke’s washing his hands when a sudden thud comes from within one of the stalls. The walls of the bathroom block out most of the pounding music of the party, allowing Luke to hear the boyish gasp that follows. There’s a clang as a belt is undone and then the room is occupied by nothing but wet, obscene sucking sounds.

Heat burns Luke’s face to the tips of his ears. He hastily wipes his hands on his jeans and intends to run out when a voice stops him.

Fuck, Michael. That’s so good.”

Luke’s eyes widen. No. It can’t be him. There’s no way. Luke stays frozen to his spot as the two people finish in the stall. He’ll tell anyone that asks that it was just curiosity and shock that makes him stay. He needs to know if he’s right, even if it means listening to someone else’s blowjob in a bathroom at a party he doesn’t want to be at.

Finally someone unlocks the stall. Luke’s heart hammers out of control as he looks up. He can’t bring himself to look at the person head-on, instead staring behind him through the mirror’s reflection. The door pops open and it’s indeed Michael Clifford who steps out, sending Luke’s stomach dropping six floors. Oh my God.

His lips are a little shiny, Luke notes, but other than that he doesn’t look like he just spent the last ten minutes on his knees. Michael looks good. Really good. He dyed his hair again. It’s no longer bleach blonde but black, streaked through with red. It looks amazing and fits well with the leather jacket he has on, thrown over his jersey and sinfully tight black jeans.

Admittedly that’s what Luke first noticed about Michael three years ago—his legs in his tight jeans, strolling past Luke to sit behind him, in the back of their history class. Three years later and here they are, in a place Luke never thought he’d be.

It can’t be him, Luke had thought, because there’s no way the universe would give Luke this blessing. For his crush to be gay. It’s too good to be true.

Michael meets his eye in the mirror. “Enjoy the show?”

Shit. The first time Luke gets to talk to him and of course it has to be like this. Michael’s smirking when Luke turns around, though he still feels guilty. “Sorry.” Luke blurts. “I didn’t…I didn’t know that you were—” God, he should just shut up. Stop talking, for the rest of his life.

Michael arches his brow. “A fag?”

Luke flinches. He hates that word. Michael must know why too, because immediately his smirk dries up and his eyes soften. “Sorry,” he says, sounding sincere.

“It’s fine,” Luke murmurs. He used to the insults, grown immune to the disgusted looks and uncomfortable silences by now. Calum’s friendship may have put a damper on most of it, but the old wounds still sting.

“No it isn’t.” Michael shakes his head. “It’s fucked-up, what they did to you. I’ve gotten my share of slurs, but it’s nothing like you had it. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

His green eyes are glinting with anger, startlingly beautiful. Luke’s never seen them so close. All of him is so much more breathtaking than Luke even imagined.

“Thanks.” He doesn’t know what else to say; it’s not like Michael took part in his torment.

Then the stall behind Michael creaks, the other person coming out of it. Luke quickly darts out of the bathroom before they can see him. Getting caught by Michael was bad enough.

Ashton is no longer alone on the couch when Luke reaches him. A pretty blonde girl is perched next to him, leaning in to Ash as he talks. The girl throws her head back to laugh at something he says and Ashton stares at her with a small, incredulous smile, like he can’t believe she would find him funny.

Luke catches his eye and gives him a thumbs-up, smiling at Ashton’s blush. He turns to leave the lounge. There’s no reason for him to stay here any longer. Luke finds Calum closer to the door. His teammates are dancing wildly around him, but Calum just stands there, staring off with a strange expression. Luke confusingly follows his gaze until he lands on Ashton again. He’s kissing the blonde now, his hand winding through her long curls.

Oh. Luke’s eyes snap back to Calum, but his friend quickly turns away before Luke can see his face.

 

XXXX

 

Over the summer Luke hadn’t worried much about his first day of school. He imagined his senior year to pass in the same predictable blur as year eleven, with the only difference being the anticipation of university acceptances and possible scholarships. Surrounded by the same people, day in and day out, as Luke eagerly awaited his freedom. He and Ashton spent many lazy, hot summer afternoons lying in the pool at his house, excitedly discussing the days after graduation. They were both ready to move on.

Monday is full of surprises. The morning starts rather standard, with Luke cursing his alarm clock to hell when it goes off at 6am. He fumbles and flails through the dark to shower quickly and change into one of Waverly’s crisp white polos. Their school’s dress code is pretty strict, but they’re at least allowed to wear dark jeans with their uniform tops. Luke throws on a maroon blazer to face the chilly winds outside and goes downstairs.

He’s the second one to wonder down for breakfast, blearily joining Calum at their table. He eats his favorite cereal as Calum flicks grapes onto the booth next to them, each landing into the goalie Mason shaped with his hands. The café is abuzz with first-day chatter, same as always.

Luke looks at Calum and thinks about telling him what happened at the party with Michael. He blushes just thinking about it. Calum will find it hilarious at least and Luke thinks his humiliation might be worth it, to cheer his friend up. Calum would eat a pair of his sweaty athletic socks before he admits to what had him in a mood all weekend, but Luke knows the truth.

Before Luke can start the recap however, Ashton walks up to them. The girl from the party is at his side, smiling at them too sunnily for a Monday morning, in Luke’s opinion.

“Hey guys,” Ashton chirps. “This is Zoey.”

Calum looks up then. His face is completely blank, but Luke can sense his annoyance. After three years of friendship Luke had learned to detect his moods with one glance.

“Nice to meet you, Zoey.” Luke says, as Calum stays silent.

Zoey smiles at him and then touches Ashton’s arm lightly. Calum’s eyes flash as he sees the touch and Luke wonders how Ashton can’t see this. “I’m gonna get a bagel.”

Ashton nods at her before she walks off towards the food line. He turns back to them, his smile bright and expectant. Luke is torn between wanting to smack him and wanting to shelter him from what’s coming. “So, what do you think?”

“There are no girls at our booth.” Calum mutters.

Ashton stares at him. “What?”

No girls.” Calum says between clenched teeth. “At our booth.

“You’re not serious.” Ashton scowls, his stare turning challenging. “Are you?”

Their eyes lock as a dangerous charge catches in the air. Luke doesn’t know what to do, stunned to see this side of Ashton. Their sweet, chirpy Ashton that has never raised his voice at anyone. But he’s pissed now, as angry as Calum, and it’s all wrong.

Zoey returns then with her food and Ashton takes her arm, leading them away from the booth without another word. Calum shakes his head before Luke can open his mouth. “Don’t.”

Luke frowns at him but Calum has his puppy eyes on—too big and sad to get upset with. Luke sighs deeply and lets it go. They finish breakfast in silence.

 

XXXX

 

As luck would have it, Luke enters his third period Literature class and sees Michael sitting in the back of the room. He comes to a halt, causing Ashton to crash into him.

 “Hey!” Ashton squawks, lightly pinching his elbow. “Earth to Luke, hello!”

Luke doesn’t hear any of it, too consumed by the butterflies that fire through his stomach. He always get distracted when he sees Michael—a side effect of his big, pathetic crush—but this is something different. Luke can feel it, even before something has happened.

Michael doesn’t notice the commotion in the doorway. He’s got his headphones plugged in, tapping an unknown beat onto the floor with a scuffed black boot. Luke thinks he looks even more gorgeous outside of the dim lighting of the bathroom, which is really unfair since he’s still in uniform. His white button shirt has the sleeves rolled up and a green striped tie is fitted loosely around his neck.

Ashton scoffs. “Stop drooling.”

He wraps his fingers around Luke’s wrist and yanks him, unnecessarily hard, to their seats. Luke’s nerves simmer down just slightly as class starts. Their teacher drones over the syllabus for the semester, but Luke doesn’t catch a word of it. Ashton rants for the majority of the period, complaining to Luke about Calum’s bitchy behavior that morning and how unfair it is for his best friend to not be happy for him, blah blah.

They’re both being melodramatic idiots, but Luke knows better than to say anything. He makes all the right sympathetic noises like a good friend, rolling his eyes to himself when Ash isn’t looking. In a week they’ll be back to bickering over Cal’s diet and cuddling during their Friday night movie marathons, even though Luke is sitting right there beside them. Same old.

What’s new though is when Mr. Vargas gives them the last ten minutes of the class to chat amongst themselves. Ashton takes a break from venting, finally, and pulls out his sketchbook. For as long as he's known him, Ash never goes anywhere without one of his sketchbooks, always has a pencil tucked behind his ear. The smaller boy is extremely talented, but he refused to publish his work somewhere. It breaks Luke's heart that Ashton doesn't have the slightest bit of confidence in himself. Still, Luke’s content to watch him work, as Ashton draws a scene of a tall skyscraper building with a lone, dark figure standing at its edge. 

Then a husky voice croons into his ear. “Get on your dancing shoes, you sexy little swine.

A shiver ripples down Luke’s back. He whips around and meets Michael’s smirking face only inches away. He’s leaning over the desk, toying with his headphones in his fingers like he didn’t just almost give Luke a heart attack. “What?”

“Arctic Monkeys,” Michael says simply. It takes Luke a few moments to realize he means the band. “You like them?”

“Um,” Luke bites at his lip. Michael’s eyes follow the movement and his brain turns fuzzy, stupid. “Haven’t listened to them, really. They’re not…my type.”

Michael’s eyes find his again. They’re bright, focused, like whatever Luke is saying is actually interesting. “What is your type then?” He purrs.

Luke blinks. Is Michael actually flirting with him? “Instrumental, mostly. Some New Age.” He feels a bit shy admitting this to Michael for some reason. “I like Enya, Yiruma…” Luke bites his lip again, shrugging sheepishly. “I don’t know.”

The bell rings overhead, sparing Luke from saying anything dumb. Michael smiles at him, all soft and coy, like he has a secret. It makes Luke uneasy, even if it’s sexy as hell. “Good to know.” Michael stands up from his seat, stretching out his back like a cat. “I’ll see you later, Luke.”

Luke stares even after Michael’s gone from the room. Ashton comes up to him, his brows raised in disbelief. “Since when did you become friends with Michael Clifford? And why didn’t you tell me about it?”

Luke shakes his head, standing up as well. “We’re not. He just…” Luke has no idea how to finish that sentence, no idea what Michael is getting at talking to him now. “It’s nothing.”

Nothing Luke wants to get his hopes up about, anyway. 

Chapter Text

Ashton and Calum make up the next day. Cal graciously allows Zoey to join them at their booth for lunch. Ashton returns to his bubbly self and gushes to them about how great Zoey is. Luke has to admit she seems like a nice girl. He was reluctant to like her, for Calum’s sake, but he inevitably warms up seeing how happy Ash is around her. And once they start discussing The Walking Dead, even Calum couldn’t hold his stony silence anymore.

Three days pass by without any more interactions with Michael, much to Luke’s disappointment. In their shared class Michael alternates between sleeping in the back and goofing off with his hockey buddies. Ash encourages him to make a move, but Luke is too shy to initiate a conversation.

He convinces himself it was just a phase. Michael got whatever curiosity or fascination he had with Luke, the senior class punching bag, out of his system. Luke really needs to get over his dumb crush, anyway. Michael’s the captain of the hockey team. He could have any girl—or any guy—that he wanted. Why would he ever want Luke?

But then it happens. Friday rolls around at last, bringing the sweet promise of the weekend with it. In Literature Ashton and Luke are discussing their choices for Movie Night, instead of analyzing the Oscar Wilde essay Mr. Vargas has assigned them.

“No,” Ashton says emphatically to Luke’s suggestion. “We are not watching School of Rock again, Luke. Come on!”

“Why not? It’s a great movie, Ash!”

Ashton rolls his eyes. “Because we have every line memorized by now! We—”

“Hey Hemmings,” Michael’s voice cuts in. Luke’s head snaps up to see Michael approaching them. He barely registers the other hockey players in their class, Jackson and Riley, staring after Michael like he’s lost his mind. Michael doesn’t seem to notice, or care. “Are you coming to my game tonight?”

“I—” Luke splutters. Why oh why does his brain have to turn to useless mush whenever Michael talks to him? “Um, what?”

Michael’s red lips curl up into one of his sexy smirks. “My game, tonight. At the arena. We’re playing Greenwood.”

“We’re gonna crush Greenwood!” Jackson shouts from behind him, earning a high five from his friend.

“So?” Michael’s eyes haven’t moved from his. “Will you come?”

Why? Luke wants to ask, but he doesn’t get the chance.

Yes.” Ashton answers for him. He shoots Luke a meaningful glance that he doesn’t understand at all. “He’ll definitely be there. Definitely.”

Michael’s smirk widens into a full, pleased smile. “Good. I’ll be looking for you.”

He winks before he walks away and Luke’s sure he must have died, somewhere between second and third period. Maybe he hit his head on a ballet barre during practice yesterday and this is just a long, beautiful hallucination.

“Oh my God.” Ashton squeezes his arm and looks a second away from actually squealing. “Did that just happen?”

Luke can’t believe it either. A part of him is even convinced it’s some kind of prank, thrown together by the hockey team. They kept their distance sophomore year while the soccer team had their fun with Luke, but now it must be their turn. But the rest of him goes along with it, even if it might be a trap. His heart wants to be believe that Michael was genuine, that the only other openly gay student at their school wouldn’t dare try to humiliate him like that. This time, he lets himself hope.

 

XXXX

 

Luke showers twice that night after ballet and then stands in front of his closet in his boxers for half an hour. What does one even wear to see their crush at his hockey game? Should he dress warm in case it’s cold in the arena? Should he really dress up, even though Michael didn’t make it clear this is supposed to be a date? Is it a date? Luke has no clue.

His door abruptly bursts open, bringing in a blast of the hallway’s air conditioning. Luke immediately regrets leaving his door unlocked for his friends, especially with the way Calum charges inside.

His dark eyes are wide, pointing an accusing finger at Luke. “You were fraternizing with the enemy!”

Luke stares at him blankly, overwhelmed by this ambush. The door is still wide open and he’s practically naked, freezing his ass off, thanks. “The enemy?”

“Worse,” Calum continues, not answering him. “You were flirting with the enemy!”

Luke looks helplessly to Ashton who enters the room after him, mercifully shutting the door. Calum sometimes does this thing where he just jumps into a conversation, without any lead-in to what he is talking about. Ashton seems to be the only one that can catch on to what he’s saying, often leaving Luke completely in the dark.

Ashton shakes his head, exasperated. “Michael,” he tells Luke. “Today in Lit, inviting you to the game. Everyone was talking about it at dinner.” 

Calum nods at this, his eyes still blazing. “Clifford, the freaking captain of our rival team! What the hell are you doing, Luke?”

“Is that what this is about?” Luke asks incredulously. “I’m not even on the team anymore, who cares?”

“I care!” Calum snaps. “You’re my best friend, I can’t have you going to that fucking game tonight, supporting them! Do you not remember what happened last year?”

Luke does remember. After the soccer team’s last game of the season, they had returned to the locker room to find it flooded with what could only be described as fluids from the school’s plumbing system. All of their equipment and personal belongs had been ruined and Coach Donald was livid.

No one had been able to pin the blame on the hockey team, but everyone knew it had been their doing. That prank was only one of many the two teams have been pulling on each other for years, long before Luke, Calum and Ashton had even attended Waverly. The soccer team and hockey team were Waverly’s most successful and supported sports and were constantly in rivalry to outdo the other.

Luke sighs. “Look Cal, I’m sorry you’re not okay with this, but I’m still gonna go. You were perfectly fine with me liking Michael before, what’s the problem now?”

Calum exhales sharply through his nose, as if the question causes him great pain. “Because before you were just panting after him. You weren’t betraying me!”

“Oh stop!” Ashton interrupts, frowning hard at them. “You’re being ridiculous Cal, as usual. Luke isn’t ‘betraying you’, he’s getting the chance to be with someone that might make him happy!” Ashton fixes Calum with one of his intense stares. Luke’s learned that their sunshiney friend can be damn scary when he wants to be. “Don’t you think Luke deserves to be happy, Cal?”

It works. Calum’s glare withers away under Ashton’s scrutiny. Neither of them can stand to upset Ashton for long, but Calum is always weaker. “Of course he does.” He looks back at Luke, his face significantly softer. “You do, Lukey. Just…just be careful, please.”

Luke’s irritation dissolves too. Calum may dislike Michael and the team, but he’s also looking out for his friend. Calum witnessed firsthand how cruel their classmates can be. “Okay, I will. I promise.”

Ashton helps Luke pick out his outfit—winning the two-thirds vote to get Luke to wear his blue beanie with the fluffy ball at the end—and then they walk Luke to the arena across campus.

“This is as far as I go,” Calum vows once they reach the glass doors. He sounds so solemn it makes Luke laugh.

Ashton hugs him. “Good luck.”

It’s like their seeing him off to university, not a high school hockey game. But Luke appreciates the support anyway. He is nervous and he wishes they could be beside him tonight. He’d have to kill Calum to get that to happen though, so Luke says goodbye and goes in alone.

The arena is a lot more crowded than Luke thought it would be. Both sides are filled up with students and even faculty members supporting their respective teams. Luke squeezes into a spot on the side wearing Waverly’s maroon, green and gold. He sits four rows up from the ice, figuring that’s close enough but not too close to seem eager. The ice is still void of players, so Luke messes on his phone until the game starts.

Luke doesn’t know a single fact about hockey. His older brothers watched games when they were all home, but Luke never paid them any mind. Now he regrets that just a bit. He’s lost during the whole game, only cheering a few seconds after everyone else in his section does. Mostly he keeps his eye trained on the jersey painted number 10 and counts down the time until it’s over and he can see Michael.

Luke’s proud to find the majority of the goals are made by Michael. He’s a killer on the ice. When he’s not scoring goals, he slams one opponent into the wall and the other face-first onto the ice when they try to fuck with his teammates. It’s strangely hot when Luke sees who he thinks is Jackson forcibly pulling Michael off of one of Greenwood’s players. Jackson murmurs something to him, calming him down, and they get back to the game.

Luke’s mind briefly wonders into a fantasy where Michael asserts his strength and dominance over Luke, pinning his arms down, wearing his sexy smirk as he straddles him, making Luke beg and plead for relief. Luke hastily shakes those thoughts away before he pops a boner in the middle of the freaking arena. He's still surrounded on all sides by classmates and even some of his teachers. No one could live that humiliation down.

Waverly wins the match, 8 to 6. As the arena starts clearing out after the game’s end, Luke moves to hover around the ice’s edge. The hockey team quickly disappears into the locker room and Luke’s left to stand there awkwardly. Is he supposed to wait for Michael to come out? Did Michael just invite him to the game to watch? It’s all so confusing. Ash would say he’s overthinking it, but no one can really blame Luke for being cautious.

He stays there anyway, if only because he doesn’t know what to do next. After about five minutes other players Luke recognizes start spilling out of the locker room. Luke’s heart jumps into his throat when Michael emerges. He’s changed into a simple black shirt and matching jeans, but his jersey is still rolled up in his hand. He uses it to swat at Riley Sutton’s ass, him and the others laughing loudly as they exit.

Out of nowhere Luke feels a very strong sense of otherness hit him. He’s not one of them. He’s not even a part of a team anymore, can’t claim himself as a hockey rival on enemy turf. He definitely doesn’t belong here. Luke’s throat tightens as he turns to leave, hoping to go unnoticed by the other boys.

No such luck.

“Luke!” Michael’s voice calls out to him.

Reluctantly he turns around. Michael’s grinning at him and it’s almost enough to make up for the aghast looks on his teammates’ faces. “You came.”

Luke tries to not blush under their stares. “Um, yeah.”

There’s something significant about the way Michael breaks away from the team and walks up to him. Luke’s helpless to stop the tingle in his stomach, the hope that flares along with it. Michael comes closer until he fills Luke’s line of sight, blocking the others out almost on purpose. His wide grin grows softer, more intimate. He shouldn’t be looking at Luke like that, but he is.

“Congratulations,” Luke whispers.

“Thanks.” Michael’s long eyelashes flutter in gratitude. On any other guy it would look ridiculous, but on Michael it’s pretty, flirty. “I’m glad you made it.”

“Why?” Luke blurts. His face flushes horribly, but he’s doesn’t completely regret asking. He needs to know, sooner rather than later, if this is all just some big joke.

Michael stares at him, his full lips pursing. “Why what?”

“Why did you invite me?” He asks quietly. “Why would you want me here? I—I’m not…” Luke trails off, unsure how to explain this. It’s embarrassing to say out loud. I’m not like you. I’m an outcast. People hate me for coming out, for quitting my team, for being different. Why don’t you?

Michael seems to understand what he means. “I invited you because I want you to be here, simple as that.” He makes a crossing motion over his heart, smiling charmingly. “No ulterior motives, I swear it.”

Luke says nothing, but a warm thrill rushes through him at the words. He can’t hold back his smile and Michael returns it. “We’re going out to eat. Want to join?”

Luke doesn’t let himself question it and nods. Michael takes his hand, shooting an electric jolt up Luke’s arm at his touch. He leads them after his team trailing out of the arena, the boys still whooping loudly over their victory. Luke is going to miss the rest of Movie Night, but he doesn’t feel bad. Not even a little bit.

Chapter Text

“Sorry, sorry!” Luke apologizes for the third time when his foot collides clumsily with the back of Michael’s boot. It’s nearly pitch black in the school’s car park, save for a few hazy, yellow lights here and there. Luke’s surprised more of them haven’t walked straight into a wall, but maybe he’s the only one lame enough to do that.

Michael reaches over to squeeze Luke’s hip. He dropped Luke’s hand once they exited the arena, much to Luke’s disappointment, but his touch now makes up for it. Michael smiles at him, his teeth bright in the dimness. “You’re adorable.”

The lack of light hides Luke’s blush, but Michael can probably tell anyway. “Which one’s yours?”

“Right this way.” Michael breaks away from the group as pairs or trios of the players locate their respective cars.

 Luke follows Michael to a car parked right next to one of the scarce working light posts. Knowing Michael he probably reserved the spot on purpose, using his captain position to show off his car. It fondly reminds Luke of something Calum would do. They’re more alike than the two would ever dare admit.

Michael’s car is a classic black Mustang, pristine despite its old age. The license plate reads MC 10. Michael digs out his keys from his pocket and unlocks the doors. “Hop in, babe.”

Babe. Luke freezes for a moment, as a huge, dorky smile threatens to break over his face. He bites down hard on his lip to keep it hidden, as his stomach flutters with giddiness. Luke doesn’t notice the other boys coming up behind them until the sound of Michael smacking Jackson’s hand pulls him back to reality.

“Ow!” Jackson whines, though he’s smiling. “The fuck, Mike?”

Michael glares until Riley, on the other side of the car, lets go of his grip on the door’s handle. “No freeloaders tonight." Michael tells them, nodding to the other cars. "Find another ride, bitches.”

Oh,” Jackson says in a sing-song voice. “Looks like we’re cockblocking, Ri. We’ll leave you two alone!”

Luke blushes again as the other boys walk off. Luke thinks Riley glares at him as he passes, but maybe he too is just struggling to see in the dark. Michael pops open the door to get in and this time Luke does the same. The car smells of Michael’s aftershave, mixed in with leather and something sickly sweet.

Michael sees Luke wrinkling his nose and nods to the compartment between their seats, where the butt of a clove cigarette remains. “Jackson, the fucker. I tell him no smoking in the ‘stang and he sneaks them anyway.”

It’s mostly quiet as they navigate out of the car park and to the front entrance of the school. Michael only nods to the security guard at the gate and they pass on through without any of the usual fuss that Luke’s used to when he, Calum and Ashton go out some weekends. Then they’re on the open road, heading into town.

“I don’t have any New Age,” Michael says, throwing him a teasing smile. He has such a beautiful smile, Luke thinks. He even prefers it to one of Michael's sexy smirks. “But see if there’s anything you like.”

Michael stretches out his arm to pull open the glove compartment, barely brushing over Luke but the contact is enough to make the blonde boy jump in his seat. Mercifully Michael doesn’t notice, his eyes still focused on the road in front of them. Luke picks through the impressive amount of CDs crammed into the space, seeing Green Day and the Sex Pistols, among other bands he’s heard of but never listened to. Luke kind of hates that he doesn’t have this in common with Michael. He and Calum could probably talk the whole drive about Blink 182, but Luke couldn’t name a single track on any of these albums.

“I’m sorry,” Luke says softly, turning a CD over in his hands. “My tastes are weird.”

Michael looks over at him. His usual playful smile is missing, replaced by a frown. “You don’t have to apologize, Luke. Music is personal and there’s nothing wrong with what you like.”

There’s nothing wrong with you, is the hidden meaning in that. Luke meets his eyes and this time his smile is easy, genuine. “What’s your favorite?”

Michael scoffs, his seriousness vanishing. If there's one thing Luke's learning about Michael, it's that his crush seems to not take himself or others seriously. But that's not actually true. He cares about making Luke comfortable at least. Luke really wants to find out what else the hockey captain cares about. 

“Like I could choose. Here.” Michael rummages through the stack and pulls out an album Luke didn’t look at yet. “This is one of my favorites.”

Michael slides the CD in and skips over to track five. From the first lyric Luke is pulled in: I woke up this morning with the grudge the size of a short story… It’s not that there’s anything spectacular about the song or the music; it’s not moving in the way Luke’s favorites are to him, but the words are honest, open, even a little vulnerable. They’re Michael.

Once the song fades out Luke smiles at him. “I liked it. Play another one.”

The ride into town isn’t a long one, but Luke soon forgets they had a destination at all. There’s something so captivating about being with Michael, not just because Luke’s attracted to him, but also the way he feels when he’s around the dark-haired boy. Michael seems to whole-heartedly enjoy making Luke laugh. He listens to everything Luke says like it’s the most important thing in the world. It’s intoxicating being around him. Luke thrives under Michael’s attention and the raw energy that animates him. One night together and Luke already feels so gone for him.

Too soon Michael pulls up in front of a restaurant titled Gallagher’s. “They have the best cheeseburgers in Hawthorne.” Michael tells him as they approach the entrance.

Luke also forgets that they aren’t alone tonight, until Jackson saddles up between them, throwing one arm around Luke’s neck and the other around Michael’s. “Soo how was the ride, kids? I sense a lot of sexual tension that hasn’t been taken care of yet. For shame, Clifford!”

Michael shakes Jackson’s arms off of them both and then knocks the boy’s snapback off his head. Jackson’s black curls are revealed to the world in their flattened, greasy state. “I think we should take care of your hair first, Jay.” Michael says sweetly. “You might scare Luke away.”

The other players laugh and jeer as they follow behind them inside. Luke almost shields his eyes once they step through the doors, overwhelmed by the sudden blast of light. Countless televisions of varying sizes are mounted on every wall of the restaurant, most of them featuring sports games or highlights. The other light comes from the center of the room, where the enclosed bar is decorated by red and blue rope lights.

“The betrayal!” Jackson cries as he shoves his hat back on. “This separation has made you mean. I’m going to have to ride back with you guys, for your sake, Mike.”

Luke smiles as Michael rolls his eyes fondly. He follows the captain to the back of the restaurant where a raised platform holds two long tables, pushed together to fit the whole hockey team. Luke happily takes the seat beside Michael, smiling down at the menu each time their arms brush and bump together from their proximity. If only his friends could see him now.

The apprehension Luke felt about intruding on the team’s night out is rapidly erased by the time they all order their food. The hockey boys aren’t that different from Luke’s old teammates—at least, how they acted around him before he quit. They’re a loud, fun bunch and Luke can see how Michael manages to be their ringleader. Along with Jackson, most of the players are welcoming and even friendly towards Luke. None of them seem to share the soccer team’s contempt for him, but maybe that’s because their own captain is gay.

“Excuse me!” Jackson calls after everyone has finished eating. He stands up on his chair, bravely ignoring the disapproving looks from the waiters around them. Out of all of Michael’s teammates, Jackson Scott is definitely Luke’s favorite. His shameless affection for Michael is adorable, not to mention the boy is a riot.

Jackson taps his fork against the side of his drink, grabbing everyone’s attention. “I just wanted to make a little speech about our captain Michael.” He pauses as the team cheers, stomping their feet on the ground in thundering unison. “Mike, you sexy beast, we never could have slaughtered Greenwood tonight without you. You kicked ass, you backhand like a boss, and we love you!”

Everyone cheers again, clinking their drinks together and tossing them back. The room soon erupts with recaps of the game and laughter from all around their tables, but when Luke looks to Michael, his eyes are already on Luke. He smiles that same soft, coy smile that Luke likes to think is just for him. This time though, Luke understands it perfectly.

 

XXXX

 

Michael walks Luke back to his dorms. The gesture is sweet and touches Luke more than it probably should. It’s nearly silent where they linger outside of the doors, the campus asleep, the only noise coming from the soft rustle of wind through the trees.

Luke slips his hands into his coat’s pocket to keep warm, rocking back and forth on his toes. “Tonight was really fun, Michael.”

“Yeah?” Michael smiles at him. He’s twirling his keys around his finger and Luke wonders if he’s nervous. “My friends didn’t scare you away?”

“I’m not scared at all,” Luke whispers.

That’s not entirely true. His heart pounds as loud as a storm inside his chest, in sync with the nerves zipping through his stomach. He still wants Michael to kiss him.

Michael’s green eyes gleam with the mischievous sparkle Luke has already grown fond of. He leans in and Luke stops breathing. Michael’s warm lips brush over his jaw in a soft, sweet kiss. His skin immediately prickles from the touch and Luke aches to feel it everywhere, over every other part of his body. Unconsciously his fingers catch at the bottom of Michael's shirt, pulling him closer, needing more. Michael chuckles, his kisses climbing higher across Luke's skin until finally their lips meet. 

For the second time tonight the world just stops. Luke knew something was going happen when Michael walked over to him. It was one of those moments that you feel in your bones, the change in the air, but he had no idea it would be this amazing. The first moment is soft, breathless. Then the kiss deepens, his stomach dropping down to his toes as Michael curls a hand over his jaw and parts Luke's lips with his tongue. 

Luke can't even pretend to keep his cool at this point. His knees buckle at the feel of Michael's tongue in his mouth, threatening to knock him over. He's never gotten this far with a boy before and it probably shows. Michael's hand slides further up until it's in his hair, his fingers winding gently through the blonde strands. It soothes Luke, even if that wasn't Michael's intention and he relaxes, unclenching his tense muscles at last. Michael's tongue teases over his own and Luke just follows his lead, moaning softly at each new sensation the other boy teaches him. 

Hours or maybe mere minutes could have passed when Michael breaks their kiss. He pulls back only an inch or so, his scent still fogging up Luke’s senses. “I want to take you out. Properly.” Michael whispers. “Next Saturday okay?”

“Why not tomorrow?” Luke blurts. He’s past the point of caring that he’s whining. He'll whine more if it'll get Michael to keep kissing him. 

Michael chuckles, his fingers tracing over Luke’s still-warm cheek. “Can’t tomorrow, babe. Sorry.”

Luke doesn’t want to wait, but Michael calling him “babe” again sooths some of his impatience. “Okay. Next Saturday.”

Michael gives his hip another gentle squeeze and murmurs. “Goodnight, Luke”

Luke stays in the same spot long after Michael leaves, trying to wrap his head around the night’s events. His head is still thick and dizzy from the kissing, his cheeks still hotly flushed. Michael kissed him goodnight. He has a date with Michael freaking Clifford. Luke’s almost afraid to move, not wanting to suddenly open his eyes and be staring at his dorm’s ceiling, with the night as nothing but a dream. But eventually the air’s chill forces him inside the dorms.

He bypasses his room and heads straight for Calum and Ashton’s further down the hall. It’s past midnight by now, so Luke eases the door open, unsure of what to expect. He looks over to the living room area of the suite where his friends are predictably cuddled under their blanket on the couch. One of the Jackass movies is playing on the television and there’s half-eaten bowls of popcorn and candy on the floor, next to an empty pizza box.

Ashton at least had been smart enough to not invite Zoey to Movie Night—a tradition the three of them have held as long as their friendship, with no exceptions. Luke probably won’t get away with missing it, especially for a hockey player. It takes them a minute before they notice Luke, grinning like a dork at the door.

“Dude, where the hell have you been?” Calum exclaims, sitting up sharply. “The game ended forever ago!”

“Uh oh, Cal.” Ashton beams before Luke can say a word, waggling his brows suggestively at Calum. “Lukey looks awfully smitten. It might be time to have The Talk again.”

“Shut up,” Luke grumbles. He breaks away from the door and finds his usual spot on the green velvet couch. He helps himself to some Skittles, ignoring his friend’s stares until Ashton smacks his leg. “Ow!” Luke frowns. “Unnecessary.”

“Explain yourself, Lucas!” Calum orders as Ashton clicks off the television. “What happened? Where did you go? Am I’m going to be kicking Clifford’s ass in the morning?”

“Okay,” Luke laughs, raising his hands in surrender.

He launches into his summary of the night before his friends both pop a vein. He gushes just a bit about Michael’s skills during the game, pretending not to see the numerous time Calum rolls his eyes to himself. He tells them how he thought about leaving, but Michael convinced him to stay, and how Michael wanted to ride alone with him into town. He mentions Jackson too, making Calum and Ashton laugh over the story Jackson had shared at dinner, the same one that had Dex Lindner snorting root beer out of his nose.

Luke only says that Michael had walked him back to the dorm. He falls asleep against Ash’s shoulder before he gets to the best part. But that’s okay. Luke rather keep that memory safe, all to himself.

 

Chapter Text

Saturday evening Luke steps out of the shower to find six unread texts on his phone, all from Calum. They say things like get your ass over here before I stab my eye out with a fork and SOS the obnoxious couple got MORE obnoxious. Luke snickers as he reads them over, unkindly amused at Cal’s misery. He texts Calum that he’s on his way to save him and then finishes getting ready for dinner.

Luke meets Calum and the lovebirds at Slice of Heaven in the school’s marketplace. It’s the best pizza place on campus and also where Ashton often works on the weekends, sending his paychecks to his mother and younger siblings back in Sydney.

Though he was laughing before, Luke does feel bad when he walks in and sees Calum. He’s sitting across from Ashton and Zoey in their booth, his eyes locked on his phone as the two are kissing. They’re not sordidly making out, but the sight of them together is enough to turn Calum’s knuckles white as he clenches the phone in his hands. And Ashton has no idea. If he did, Luke knows that Ashton wouldn’t flaunt his relationship in Calum’s face like that. He’s totally oblivious.

“Hey guys,” Luke calls out, loud enough to startle the couple and make them break away from each other.

“Thank God,” Calum mutters as a bright grin sprouts on his face. “My date is here!”

Luke winks playfully at him, glad to see his friend’s mood lift and takes his seat beside him.

Over dinner Luke does his best to distract Calum, but it’s not easy. The couple is still in their beginning “honeymoon” phase where they can’t stop fawning over each other for more than three seconds and find it perfectly acceptable to hold hands throughout the whole meal. Luke is happy for Ashton, honestly. His friend deserves to be with someone who makes him smile like Zoey does, but it doesn’t stop Luke from thinking Ashton would be so much happier with Calum.

Despite Luke’s best efforts, Calum’s eyes still shift to Ash and Zoey as they tease each other or Ashton blushes at her flirting like he can’t help himself. Calum watches them with a mix of anger and pain and it makes Luke wonder if he’s more upset with them being together or with himself for how it affects him.

As soon as they finish eating, Luke bounces up from his seat. “Dinner was great guys,” Luke tells Ashton and Zoey’s startled faces. “But Cal and I have to go.”

Calum gapes at him like he’s spewing Japanese and Luke widens his eyes meaningfully. It takes the dark-haired boy a few seconds before it clicks. “Oh, yeah. Yeah. We’ve got these…plans to get to.”

He stands up from the booth as Ashton frowns at them. “What plans?”

“Sorry,” Luke lilts, sliding his arm around Calum’s back. “But that’s between me and my date. See you later, Ash!”

Calum laughs into his ear as they exit the restaurant. Once they’re outside Calum shrugs off his arm and gives Luke a mock-scandalized look. “I hope you’re not planning on scoring on the first date, Lucas. I have a virtue to protect.”

Luke shakes his head through his smile. “Come on. There is something we gotta do.”

 

XXXX

 

Luke takes Calum out to the pitch. They smuggle one of the soccer balls from the locker room and pick up on their forgotten one-on-one match. Luke always loved being on the field best at night, finding a familiar comfort in the air’s cool stillness and the illuminating beam of stadium lights. Soccer may not be an active part of his life anymore, but it did shape his past—both the good and the bad—and was the bridge to his friendship with Calum. Luke will never be able to let that go completely.

A large portion of their friendship included coming down to the pitch on cool nights for matches just between them. Calum has always been the better player, but it was never really about winning or advancing their skills. Most times, like tonight, it was about letting out steam, breaking away from everything else for an hour or two and just playing the game. Luke figures if there’s anything that can mend Calum’s pain, it’s soccer. Cal’s first love.

While the times they’ve done this before have usually been light-hearted and full of playful taunts, tonight is different. Calum is studiously silent as he plays, each kick into the net fueled by an almost violent force. He attacks the ball like it’s the embodiment of all his suffering, making himself breathless and sweaty from the effort. Luke leaves him to it, hoping it will be cathartic even if it wears Luke out just to watch.

At some point later they end the game, lying on their backs in the grass with the ball rolled carelessly feet away. Calum’s labored panting is the only sound in the air. Luke wants to say something comforting, wants to say anything really. As a rule they don’t talk about it, even though Luke is sure Calum knows that he knows about his feelings for Ashton. Luke is terrible with words though and even worse at speaking honestly. That’s always been more of Calum’s thing.

In the end he settles for asking, “Are you okay, Cal?”

“I’m fine.”

Luke turns his head to look at him, the grass tickling his cheek. Calum’s face is impassive stone, his jaw locked tight. As placidly as he can Luke whispers, “You don’t look fine.”

A rush of air exits sharply from Calum’s nose. It’s a familiar sound to Luke’s ears, a signal of his friend’s frustration. “It doesn’t matter how I…It doesn’t fucking matter. Okay, Luke?”

Luke bites his lip, doesn’t answer him, because it’s not okay. He finds the courage inside of him to say, “No it’s not. I’d leave it alone if I thought it’d help you, but this isn’t getting any better.” His voice lowers, as if it will soften the blow. “You should tell him.”

Calum springs up, just as Luke expected. “Can we not talk about this?” He hisses. Under the stadium lights Luke can see how red his face is and it hurts him to see his best friend like this, clearly ashamed.

Luke sits up too, slower. “I know you’re scared after…after seeing what they did to me. But even if people react the same way, you’ll survive it, Calum. And believe me when I say that it’s worth it—more than worth all that crap to stop pretending and lying to yourself. To accept who you really are.” Luke pauses, daring to smile slightly, encouragingly. “And you’ll have Ashton.”

Calum raises his eyes to Luke’s and the blonde boy nearly flinches away. “No, I won’t.” Calum growls at him. “Because Ashton is straight.”

Calum pushes off the ground to his feet, not giving Luke a chance to even take a breath before he’s storming away. Calum stops after a few long strides and turns back to look down at Luke, his glare harsh and furious. “We’re done talking about this. And if you ever say a fucking word to Ashton—I swear to God, Luke—I will make you regret it. I don’t need to remind you what happens when you piss off a soccer player.”

This time Luke does flinch. He stares at Calum in numb shock, the betrayal of the words striking him like a punch in the throat. Calum pauses and for a moment his angry mask breaks, revealing a flash of regret at what he’s just done. But the moment passes and he stalks away again, this time not looking back. 

 

XXXX

 

Luke’s barely taken two steps in the direction of the history wing when a hand suddenly clamps down on his arm. He’s forcibly spun around and pressed back-first into one of the tall, wooden lockers that line the hallway. With his heart in his throat, Luke looks up, expecting Nate Kingsley or maybe even Calum to be leering at him. He feels ashamed at the second thought, but the idea crosses his mind nonetheless.

But it’s only Ashton who’s touching him. Luke hadn’t seen him that morning at breakfast, but if the dark hickey below his ear is anything to go by, he had probably been with Zoey. “I need to talk to you.”

The solemn look on his friend’s face is unsettling. Luke’s heart starts to pound. “What’s wrong?” He asks cautiously.

“Luke, I need you to be honest with me.” Ashton stares him down and although he’s nearly half a foot taller, Luke feels like a toddler under his hard gaze. “Is there something going on with Calum? Something I should know about?”

Panic immediately twists his stomach into a painful knot. Still, Luke’s not surprised that Ashton finally noticed something was up. When Ashton had come to his room for their usual video games and snacks the day before, Calum had stayed behind. He hadn’t showed up to dinner either, successfully avoiding Luke since Saturday night. If Ashton wasn’t his roommate he probably won’t have seen Calum at all either.

Luke doesn’t want to lie to Ashton, but he can’t betray Calum’s secret either. As upset as he was, Luke doesn’t fully believe Calum will follow through on his threat. He was just scared and Luke understands that completely, although it doesn’t make their fight any less painful to think about.

“I can’t tell you,” Luke finally says. “I don’t want to lie to you, Ash but it’s up to Calum if he wants to say anything. I’m sorry.”

Ashton’s lips flatten into a displeased frown. He studies Luke’s face for a few long moments, as if he can find the truth there.  At last he nods. “Fine. But I hate having secrets between all of us.”

Luke sighs. “I know. Me too.”

At that Ashton turns around and heads in the opposite direction for his class. With his stomach still churning uncomfortably, Luke continues down the hall to Philosophy.

The guilt that follows Luke all morning is put on hold when he walks into his Literature class. Luke might have been more upset about his fight with Calum if he hadn’t spent the past two days thinking and dreaming of his kiss with Michael. His cheeks still warm remembering it, his lips tingling with the memory of Michael’s plump, sweet mouth on his. Luke’s leg bounces anxiously in his desk as he watches the door, waiting for Michael to walk in and flash him that gorgeous smile.

But it never happens. Michael doesn’t come to class at all, just like he was nowhere to be found in the café that morning. Luke’s disappointed, but hopes to see him later, maybe at dinner. He hadn’t run into him all weekend and two days is more than enough to “play it cool” as far as Luke’s concerned. He wants to see him.

But as Luke’s packing up his things for his next class, Jackson Scott startles him by knocking on his desk. “Hey, Luke.”

When he looks up Jackson is smiling at him knowingly. “Mike signed out for the week. He’ll be back on Saturday.”

Michael had said he was busy, but Luke wasn’t expecting him to sign out of school completely. “Oh.” Luke says softly. “Um, thanks for telling me.”

Jackson nods at him, walking off before Luke can ask the dozens of other questions on his tongue. Where did Michael go? Why hadn’t he mentioned to Luke he was going to be gone all week? At least his disappearance did explain why Luke hadn’t heard from him since Friday, but it didn’t make Luke feel much better.

Ashton leaves the classroom without a word to Luke, still annoyed from earlier apparently. With Calum avoiding him too, Luke is alone with his thoughts for the rest of the day. His hope for them all to make up the next day is squashed when Calum eats with his team at breakfast, far away from their booth. Ashton is off with his girlfriend somewhere, leaving Luke to eat in his room instead. They go on like this for three days, never speaking, never so much as looking at Luke, as if they’re all total strangers.

It’s the loneliest week of Luke’s life.

 

Chapter Text

“Shit!”

Luke’s cell phone slips out of his wet hands, dropping to the carpet under his feet. The knocking that had startled him in the first place continues, growing louder with each passing second. Luke snatches his phone up and exits the bathroom, goosebumps popping over his skin from the dorm’s freezing air conditioning.

“One second!” Luke shouts in the direction of the door. The knocking stops for a moment, as Luke scrambles to find suitable clothing among the mess on his floor. Where the hell are his clean boxers? The peace doesn’t last long, however, as the person waiting resumes their knocking at full volume.

Luke loses his grip on his patience. “For the love of God,” he mutters to himself as he marches across the room to the door. One hand securely holds his towel in place as the other rips the door open. “What is it?” Luke growls. “What the fuck is so important?!”

Michael stares back at him, his brows raised as his red lips curl in amusement. “What a wonderful gift!” He says, his eyes sparkling. “A flushed, wet Luke Hemmings right before my eyes!”

“Michael,” Luke breathes. The other boy’s eyes scan over his body as familiar butterflies break free in Luke's tummy. He feels completely naked as Michael takes him in, despite the thick towel wrapped around his hips. There’s a million things Luke’s been dying to say to Michael all week, but what blurts out of his mouth is, “Your hair!”

Michael grins. “You like it?”

The once black and red combo had been dyed a vibrant, almost indigo-colored blue. The shade somehow made Michael’s green eyes pop even more.

“Yeah,” Luke smiles back at him. “I really do.”

“Good,” Michael says, sounding pleased. It makes Luke blush, wondering if Michael had done it with the hope of getting Luke’s approval. “Are you gonna let me in?”

“Oh. Um, yeah.” Luke steps back and lets Michael slide past him into the room. He stands there awkwardly as Michael walks around, taking in the sight for the first time. As Michael looks over the framed photos of his family and friends on the dresser, Luke finds the courage to ask. “So, you’re back?”

Michael glances over at him. “Yeah, I was out of town for the week.”

Where? Why? Luke longs to know, but he isn’t sure he has the right to ask those questions yet. Michael’s not his boyfriend. Luke doesn’t have any idea what he and Michael are to each other, but isn’t nowhere near close enough for him to demand answers that Michael doesn’t want to give him.

Once the blue-haired boy is apparently done examining Luke’s things, he turns back to him, his playful smirk returning. “Are you going to get dressed? I mean, I don’t mind the nudity but the Village—”

“The Village?” Luke asks incredulously. It takes a few moments for Luke to realize that’s why Michael showed up at his door, for the date he promised Luke last week. Luke’s heart starts to pick up in excitement. Is that where Michael is taking them?

Michael presses his lips together, as if trying to keep the answer from escaping. “Don’t want to spoil the surprise. Put some clothes on and you might find out.”

Luke’s cheeks burn again at the reminder he’s been talking to Michael half-naked. He quickly grabs what he needs from the closet and goes into the bathroom to change. It’s like déjà vu from last week as he and Michael walk together to the school’s car park, only this time they’re alone. It makes Luke even more nervous without Michael’s teammates around to cockblock.

They climb into Michael’s Mustang and drive out of Waverly’s campus, heading towards the town again. One of his CD’s is playing quietly in the background. Luke manages to wait until they’ve been driving about ten minutes before he caves. “Where did you go, Michael?”

Michael frowns, but thankfully doesn’t snap at him for asking. “I was visiting my parents. My older sister Madison came home as well. We had a little family reunion.”

The flat look in Michael’s eyes would suggest the visit was far from the happy, fun-filled gatherings Luke’s family has had in the past. It makes Luke’s sad for him, to hear the bitterness in the other boy’s voice. He doesn’t want to upset him anymore by asking more questions, but surprisingly Michael keeps up the conversation.

“I’m from Brisbane.” His fingers tap against the steering wheel as he talks. “Lived there my whole life. Madison is the one who got to see London, when my parents lived there before I was born.”

Luke picks up on the affection that surrounds his sister’s name. “I’m from Sydney. My brothers and I were all born and raised there. Ben and Jack, they’re both older than me. I miss ‘em like crazy.”

That coaxes a genuine smile out of Michael, one that lights up his face beautifully and takes Luke’s breath away. “I remember Jack, I think. He went here before you?”

Luke nods. “Both of them did. Jack only lasted a year though, before they kicked him out and sent him back home.”

He laughs, remembering the day Jack was expelled, and Michael joins him. Conversation flows more smoothly between them for the drive, carrying on almost effortlessly from last week. Luke forgot how much he loves talking to Michael. Though he blames that on how Michael had distracted him with amazing kisses. 

Luke cuts himself off mid-sentence when the entrance to Spotlight Village looms before them. The Village is a place Luke had heard about many times before, mostly by his older brothers when they come with their friends in the past. It’s an area restricted to patrons 18 and older, filled with high-end nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and the occasional shop. The best part is the entire area is engulfed by the glistening Coconut Bay. Most of the buildings are built on the boardwalk, only feet away from the water and herd of boats.

Michael giggles at Luke’s face. “Figured you would enjoy this.”

He’s right. Luke’s nearly bouncing up and down in his excitement when they near the entrance. They hand their ID’s over at their checkpoint and then are stamped with glowing blue ink before granted admittance.

Once they’re inside Michael faces him, smiling at his enthusiasm. “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.” Luke bites his lip, admitting shyly. “I’ve never actually been here before.”

Michael beams at him, effortlessly easing Luke’s timidness. His energy is so contagious. “That’s perfect actually! I can take you to my favorite place.”

Michael’s hand finds his own, threading their fingers together as he leads them further away from the entrance. It’s surreal for Luke, to be walking down the cobblestone streets of this place from his dreams, with the boy he wanted for three years holding his hand. Luke can’t believe he ended up here.

It takes a few minutes of navigating through the winding streets of the Village, even with Michael knowing his way. Eventually they reach their destination. Michael squeezes between two limestone buildings as Luke confusedly trails after him. They walk down a narrow passage until they seem to hit a dead end, faced with nothing but a brick wall.

Luke opens his mouth to ask what the hell Michael is doing, but the other boy only winks at him. “I’ll go first. Follow close behind me.”

Michael pulls at something on the wall and Luke sees an old, paint-chipped ladder he hadn’t noticed before. Michael takes the first step and starts picking his way up the ladder. Luke isn’t afraid of heights at all, but he still hesitates. After a few moments Michael looks down at him and reads Luke’s expression. “It’s okay, Luke. It’s not far, I promise.”

Luke releases a breath. “Okay.” He decides then to trust Michael and follows him up the ladder. It’s true that they don’t climb for long. The ladder ends once they reach the top of the wall, granting access to the rooftop that Luke had also missed seeing from the ground. Michael jumps down, landing with cat-like grace on his feet, and then holds out his hand for Luke to take.

Once he’s safely standing on the rooftop, the blonde boy smiles at Michael. “You know all the good spots in Hawthorne, don’t you?” Luke teases.

Michael laughs, making Luke feel accomplished. “Maybe not good, but definitely interesting.” His hand slips out of Luke’s grasp, moving to slide sensually around the boy’s slender hip. His fingernails dig into the flesh there with a firm, not-quite painful pressure. Luke’s breath is trapped in his throat as Michael leans in close, purring at him. “I can show you more than places, Lucas. That just depends on how far down the rabbit hole you’re willing to go.”

The transition from playful to dangerously seductive leaves Luke’s head spinning. Even when Luke collects himself and looks down at Michael’s grinning face, he’s not sure if the other boy is being serious or not. But he understands it now—the dangerous edge that drew him to Michael in the first place, the exhilarating thrill that comes with flirting with the unknown.

 It’s not just the secret locations that Michael could whisk him away to or the risk that comes with interacting with Michael’s hockey team, the former enemy. It’s Michael himself. The beautiful, mischievous, confident boy that has the power to make Luke feel and experience things he’s never had the chance to before—never thought he could, with someone like him. But he does have the chance. It’s a risk, getting involved with Michael’s world, but Luke knows he will do anything if it means he gets to have him.

“As far as you go.” Luke whispers back. He can hear as much as he can feel his heart thrumming throughout his whole body, beating in his ears.

Michael’s smile widens. In the eerie glow of the rooftop’s lights he looks like a fallen angel, every part of him dripping with temptation. But Luke stays. He’s made his choice.

 


 

 The rooftop is teeming with life, crowded with other partygoers and flowing alcohol, all illuminated under the blue and purple strobe lights. Luke feels a bit out of place in his clean button-down shirt, but quickly stops caring once Michael hands him a drink. And once Luke has a few of the fluorescent pink beverages being passed around, there’s nothing left to be self-conscious or scared about.

The alcohol lowers Luke’s inhibitions enough that he joins Michael in the sweaty thick of people to dance. He dances freely at first, laughing at his restricted movement in the small space between all the other patrons. Then Michael’s hands find his waist, pulling Luke back until he’s flush against him. Luke pauses, his laughter fading. But like before Michael is there to guide him, moving against his body until Luke finds the rhythm and grinds back on his own.

Michael’s lips are cool against his flushed neck, kissing softly as Luke shivers. It’s surprisingly tender considering how their lower halves are heatedly grinding at the moment. Then Michael’s hand cups his cheek, tilting his head back to their mouths can meet. The angle stirs an ache in Luke’s neck, but he doesn’t care, kissing Michael back hungrily as music pounds in the air and the night becomes their kingdom.

 


 

 “Michael,” Luke giggles into the boy’s neck. “I’m really drunk.”

Michael holds the blonde boy up as they walk, sighing as he says, “I know, Luke. That’s why I’m taking you back. Before you puke again.”

“I’m sorry.” Luke mumbles sadly. “I didn’t puke on you, did I?”

“No,” Michael answers with a soft laugh. “You missed the toilet by a mile, though. Your aim is shit.”

“Oops.” Luke giggles again. He snuggles closer to Michael, not realizing how difficult he’s making it for the other boy to walk with him. “I’m lucky I have you to help me, then.”

“Oi, what do you have here?”

Luke startles at the sudden, new voice that joins them. He blinks dazedly into the darkness. In his drunk state he can make out the blurry shape of the girls’ dorm building some distance away and three figures sauntering up to them. Michael stiffens beside him, sending Luke’s alarms off instantly.

“Fuck off.” Michael growls.

Once they’re close enough Luke sees it’s Nate, Marcus, and Colton in front of them, smirking puckishly. “Ugh, go away!” Luke whines. He stumbles in his effort to face them upright, though Michael is quick to steady him.

“Luke, it’s okay.” Michael soothes him. “I’ve got this.”

“That’s right,” Nate agrees in a mocking baby-voice. “Little Luke has his faggot boyfriend to protect him from the big, bad bullies.”

Luke doesn’t know what comes over him then. The words are like a bucket of ice thrown over him, shocking him into sudden soberness. Luke can see by Michael’s cool expression that he’s hardly bothered by the slur, but something snaps inside Luke. For years Luke has submitted to the harassment and taunting from these assholes, unable to stand up for himself or even for his best friends. But it’s different when they insult Michael.

A fiery, protective urge blazes through Luke and before he has a chance to think about it, his arm slings back and punches Nate Kingsley straight in the face. He hears the disgustingly crunch of bone under his fist and then Michael laughing in disbelief. “Holy shit!”

Luke’s hand burns when he steps back and he’s definitely wide awake now. Exhilarated and terrified as well.

“What the fuck?” Nate snarls. Blood spurts from his nose and then seeps through his fingers when he hands cradle his face. “You’re fucking dead, Hemmings!”

As if on cue Colton rushes forward and socks Luke in retaliation, the punch aimed at his mouth. Luke cries out, stumbling back from the impact and lands on his butt in the grass. His lip stings excruciatingly and he can see his own blood leaking onto his fingers when he touches the wound. Still, Colton keeps coming at him. He’s about to lunge again at Luke when a hand clamps over the back of his head.

Luke watches as Michael yanks Colton away by his hair, the other boy yelling in pain, demanding Michael to let him go. Instead of answering, Michael knees him hard in the stomach and shoves him to the ground. As Colton writhes in the grass in pain, Michael looks up at Marcus, standing there ghost-pale with wide eyes.

“You wanna mess with one of the fags, Ashford?” Michael challenges him.

Marcus shakes his head. He stays frozen when Michael approaches Luke and helps him to his feet. He slings an arm around Luke’s waist and steers them towards the boys’ dorms again. Luke doesn’t argue when Michael takes him past his floor and instead they go to Michael’s room. Still holding onto the blonde boy, Michael pounds on the door, with no apparent care that it’s past 1 in the morning.

“Finally,” Michael breathes when the door opens. Jackson stares at them incredulously as Michael orders. “We’ve got an injured guest here, Jay, move it!”

Jackson moves back, letting Michael guide Luke inside. He lays him back on what Luke assumes is his bed as Jackson flicks the bathroom light on. “Be just a second,” Michael murmurs to him and Luke nods before he steps away.

He can hear Jackson and Michael speaking lowly in the bathroom, probably describing what happened tonight. Luke doesn’t hear any of it, too busy fighting the sleepiness that is threatening to pull him under. Sometime later Michael returns with a first aid kit. He helps Luke sit up against the pillow. When he turns his bedside lamp on, Luke can make out Jackson slipping out the door.

“Where’s he going?” Luke whispers, blinking slowly. “He didn’t have to leave.”

Michael pops open the kit. “Jay’s gonna fuck off for a bit. Give us some privacy.”

Normally Luke would blush at that—or be freaking out about being alone in Michael’s room, on his bed no less. But now he’s just tired and quiet as Michael studies his lip and starts tending to his injury. Once he’s done he lays Luke back down on the bed again, removing his shoes for him and turning off the light. Sometime as Michael is putting away the first aid kit and climbing into bed, Luke falls asleep.

 

Chapter Text

“Morning killer.” Michael’s face is the first thing Luke sees when he peels his eyes open, smirking down at him in amusement. A sharp pounding in his skull immediately sets in, making Luke groan into the pillows beneath him instead of responding. “Here, I got something that’ll make you feel better.”

Very reluctantly, Luke opens his eyes again. Michael holds out a glass of water to him, the other hand occupied by two green pills. “Part one of the hangover cure,” Michael explains. He doesn’t look at all hungover himself, though Luke knows he drank just as much as he did last night. In fact, he looks really good. He's wearing an oversized black sweater with his tight jeans, his collarbones exposed and tempting Luke to run his tongue over them. He might, if he didn't feel so crappy. 

Wordlessly Luke takes the pills, chasing them down with a few gulps of the water. He sits up against the pillows, blinking slowly as the memories from last night flood into his mind—dancing with Michael at the Village, the drinking, running into Nate and his stupid friends back on campus. The rest of it is just fragmented blurs.

Luke licks his lips, his mouth still feeling dry. “I stayed here last night?”

Michael nods. “Took over my bed, actually. I slept in Jackson’s.”

“Oh.” Knowing he and Michael didn’t sleep in the same bed is both a relief and disappointing. “Thanks for letting me stay.”

“Well, you are my hero.” Michael winks at him, but Luke is able to read the seriousness in his eyes. “You broke Nate Kingsley’s nose for me.”

Luke bites his lip, his eyes shifting down to the dark blue bed spread. He remembers the feeling of bone crushing under his knuckle, but even more he remembers the way Nate’s insults had ignited his bones. For the first time in his life Luke understood what seeing red actually meant.

“I couldn’t let him talk about you like that,” Luke answers softly.

Michael eases his finger under Luke’s chin, tilting the boy’s head up to meet his eyes. The way Michael is looking at him right then makes his whole body flush with warmth. It’s how Michael looked at him after Luke came to his hockey game and the night before, when Luke told him he was in. As far as you go, he had said. Luke feels special and powerful under that gaze, like he could take on hundreds of Nate Kingsleys if Michael is waiting for him on the other side.

“Thank you.” Michael whispers. He draws closer and Luke’s breath catches, waiting for it. But Michael only smiles, his eyes flickering playfully. “Now for part two of the hangover cure.”

“What’s that?” Luke breathes.

Michael kisses him, his hands finding their place on Luke’s hips. Luke’s eyes fall close, melting into the other boy’s embrace. He moans softly into Michael’s mouth, shivering when their tongues catch and tangle together. Michael slowly eases him back, laying him down on the bed. Even if the midst of the kissing, Luke’s fogged brain realizes this is the first time they’re doing this and his heart pulses even harder, racing in his chest.

Luke parts his legs to let Michael settle in between them. He can smell Michael’s scent all around him—leather, pepper aftershave and faint hair dye. It calms him down just a bit, at least until he feels Michael’s hands roaming from his waist to his back, slipping under his shirt to touch the bare, heated skin. Michael doesn’t stay in one spot too long, sliding up his back to around his waist and over his stomach. He pushes Luke’s shirt further up until it’s bunched around his chest, ready, Luke assumes, for him to take it off. But he can’t.

“Wait um,” Luke mumbles against his mouth, their lips still sliding together. It’s ridiculously hard for him to stop, but Luke forces himself to pull back. He leans his head back against the pillows for a moment, sucking in deep breaths. His whole body is still thrumming from Michael’s touch and really, really doesn’t want to have this conversation.

Michael blinks back at him, eyes glazed. Luke hates how delicious he looks, with his pale cheeks flushed pink and his already plump lips all bitten and swollen. “What’s up?”

There’s probably a much better way to go about this, but Luke decides to just say it. “I’m a virgin.”

Michael’s brows shoot up into his hairline, his eyes widening. “Really?”

Luke takes his shock as a compliment. “Yeah, really. You’re…you’re actually the first guy I’ve made out with, too.”

“Shit, Luke.” Michael moves back, sitting in his own space on the bed. Luke shivers at the loss of him. He wants Michael close to him, wishes he could hide under his body from how exposed he feels right then. “That’s really…wow.” Michael runs a hand over his face, looking back at him flustered.

“I’m sorry.” Luke sighs, drawing his legs into his chest. He’s still hard in his jeans and it makes this even more difficult. “I should have told you before. It’s just that you’re…”

Michael’s eyes snap up at him. “I’m what?”

“You know,” he mumbles, shifting uncomfortably under Michael’s sharp gaze. Luke doesn’t know to phrase this without making it sound like he’s insulting him. “Michael Clifford. You can have anyone. I mean, I walked in on you blowing a guy in the bathroom…”

Michael laughs, the harshness of his face shattering away. Luke feels his chest unclench at the sound. “That’s true. Look, Luke.” Michael crawls back over to him, resting a warm hand on Luke’s knee. “Yeah, I usually go for guys a little more…experienced, but that doesn’t mean I’m done with you.”

“You’re not?” Luke asks, hearing the hope in his own voice.

“Fuck no!” Michael laughs again, squeezing his knee. This time Luke smiles with him. “Are you kidding? You’re the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever been with. I’m disappointed you won’t let me ravish you right now, but I’m far from done with you, Hemmings.”

Luke looks away, smiling at the other boy’s words as his cheeks burn. “Good,” he murmurs. “I really like you.”

Luke glances back at him shyly, catching Michael’s fond smirk. “I like you too.”

“So, um, we can still kiss and stuff.” Luke continues quietly. “I’m just not ready for that yet.”

“Okay.” Michael nods. “I can do slow. Probably.”

Luke laughs, the sound echoing off the walls when Michael tackles him back down to the bed, tickling his sides. He’s never felt this light.

 


 

 

Eventually Michael lets Luke go back to his room, with the promise of having dinner later. Luke’s smiling like a huge dork as he walks down the hall to his dorm, until he reaches his door. Calum is sitting on the carpeted floor in front of it, toying mindlessly with the laces of his sneakers.

“How long you have been here?” Luke calls out.

Calum’s head snaps up at his voice. “Luke, hey.” He pushes himself off the floor and starts toward Luke, stopping when his eyes land on the blonde’s lip. “What the fuck happened to your mouth?” Calum demands darkly.

“What? Oh.” Luke’s fingers brush over the wound. He had almost completely forgotten about his busted lip that morning, too wrapped up in Michael. “Um, Colton Brigham happened.”

Luke watches his best friend’s brown eyes flash dangerously. “That son of a bitch has a death wish, huh? He’s gonna look like fucking Leatherface when I’m done with him.”

“Calum, stop okay.” Luke sighs at Calum’s incredulous expression. “You can’t show up after a week of ignoring me and try to defend my honor or whatever.”

Calum deflates at Luke’s words. He at least looks guilty. “You’re right, Lukey.” He exhales slowly, crossing his arms over his chest. Luke waits. “I crossed a line—no like, ten different lines that night. You were just trying to be there for me and I threw it back in your face. I’m sorry.”

Luke smiles faintly. “I forgive you, Cal. I know you didn’t mean it.”

Calum nods a bit jerkily. “I, uh, talked to Ashton too.” When Luke’s eyes widen, he quickly shakes his head. “Not about that. I told him about our fight, said it was my fault. He bitched me out for about twenty minutes.” Calum laughs a bit and Luke joins him. “Told me what a douche I was. I agreed and that was that.” He stops to look up at Luke, his stare turning curious. “I came by like three times yesterday to talk to you but you never answered. Where were you?”

“Right.” Luke chuckles awkwardly. “I was with Michael.”

The explosion is slow, but not any less than Luke expected. He waits as it clicks in Cal’s mind. “You were there since yesterday? You stayed the night?”

“Not like that,” Luke rushes out, blushing. “We had a date yesterday. When we got back to campus last night, we ran into Nate, Colton and Marcus. There were giving us a hard time so I, um, punched Nate in the face and then Colton—”

“You what?” Calum shouts.

“He called Michael names.” Luke says a bit defensively. “I just lost it, so then Colton hit my lip before Michael grabbed him off. And then Michael took me to his room to get cleaned up and we fell asleep. That’s it.”

Calum shook his head. “No, no, I need more details than that. Wait, we gotta get Ash.” He takes Luke’s arm and starts dragging him down the hall towards their room. Luke lets himself be pulled without complaint. He’d have to find the time later, to tell his friends how much he missed them.

 


 

 

 

Chapter Text

Luke pauses when he spots Calum’s face among the packed crowd on the arena’s benches. It’s easy to miss, with the way Cal’s head is mostly covered by the large hoodie he’s wearing. But then Luke sees Ashton right beside him, waving Luke over. It breaks him out of his shock and Luke moves to join them, not bothering to contain his wide smile.

“Don’t look so smug,” Calum grumbles at him when Luke sits down. “The game hasn’t started yet. I still have time to bolt.”

“You won’t.” Ashton responds easily and takes a sip of his hot chocolate. “Because we promised Lukey we’d come.”

Calum shoots Ashton such a resentful glare that Luke can’t hold it in anymore and bursts out laughing. Once he catches his breath, he turns to his best friends in the world and goes for a grateful smile instead of a smug one. “Thanks guys, really. I know what a sacrifice it was for you to come here, Cal.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Cal says dismissively, despite the smile curling his lips. He tugs his hoodie forward to shield more of his face. “We love you and all. That doesn’t mean I want the team to find out I voluntarily attended a hockey match.”

A few minutes later the game starts, sending the players spilling out onto the ice. Luke feels the excitement surging through his blood, even more than his first match weeks ago. This time when he finds Michael’s jersey among the other players’, his heart swells with pride and certainty that he belongs here, cheering the captain on.

Even though Calum refuses to acknowledge the scores their team makes, Luke still finds himself enjoying the game. He loves watching Michael dart over the ice like he owns it and laughing when he and Jackson chest bump each other in celebration of goals. He totally understands why the team treats Michael like their god and why they haven’t lost a game all season. Sure, their players are fierce, but they have each other’s backs and they trust one another. They make plays without hesitating, moving like an unstoppable, interconnected force.

Waverly wins again, to no one’s surprise. As the team clears out to the locker room, Luke guides Ashton and Calum over to the concession stand to wait for Michael. They chat mindlessly until the captain emerges and starts walking toward them. Michael has a black snapback thrown over his hair and he’s wearing an Iron Maiden shirt that Luke promptly wants to rip off of him.

Luke should probably try to keep his cool in front of his friends or in front of the other hockey players, at least. But instead his excitement sends him rushing over to Michael, throwing himself into the blue-haired boy’s arms.

Michael laughs at he catches him, his arms winding around Luke’s waist. Luke’s mouth crashes over his in an eager kiss, their audience be damned. There’s no way Luke can watch him play like that and keep his hands to himself.

“Hi,” Luke giggles when he breaks away.

“Hi, babe.” Michael’s grin reflects his own before he nods in the direction behind Luke. “I appreciate the greeting, but maybe we should save it until we’re alone.”  

Luke reluctantly glances back at his friends. Ashton looks amused, but Calum’s expression is caught between annoyed and disgusted. “Okay,” Luke agrees, sighing. He takes Michael’s hand and walks them over to where he left the others. “Michael, this is Ashton and Calum.”

Luke gnaws at his lip as the introductions are made. He’d given them—well, mostly Calum—a heartfelt lecture about how important this was to him and to please be as nice as possible to Michael. Ashton smiles warmly as he shakes Michael’s hand and winks at Luke. “Nice to meet ya, Michael.”

Michael nods. “You too.”

Ashton gives Calum a warning look, but it goes unnoticed as he and Michael are sizing each other up. Dread pools in Luke’s stomach as he imagines the snarky comment that’s about to fly out of Calum’s mouth and set Michael off. The similarity between the two hot-blooded jocks is uncanny and all Luke wants is for them to swallow their pride, at least for tonight, and not kill each other.

At last Calum says, only a little grudgingly, “Good game.”

“Thanks.” A smirk slowly grows across Michael’s face. He nods down at the Misfits shirt Calum is wearing. “Good taste.”

Luke releases a huge sigh of relief and then they’re off to Ashton’s restaurant without any incidents. Much to Luke’s surprise, Michael and Calum get along a lot better than he ever expected. After they order their pizzas for the table, Cal and Michael start an animated discussion over some band Luke’s never heard of. One that apparently deserves much more recognition than the “mainstream shit” that Ash listens to.

“Hey!” Ashton squawks, throwing his napkin at Calum’s cheek. “Leave my music taste alone. There’s nothing wrong with pop, lads!”

They both ignore him, moving onto a major concert that Michael apparently went to over the summer. Luke watches in amusement as Calum enters actual fangirl mode, hovering over Michael’s phone as the other boy shows his photos from the concert. He’s more than willing to sit back from the conversation and share Michael’s attention, if that means having the most important people in his life together.

“Careful Lukey,” Ashton teases him later, cutting into his slice. “Cal might just swoop in and steal your boy.”

Luke rolls his eyes good-naturedly. Ashton has no idea how much that isn’t true. Calum’s whole freaking world already revolves around one boy and that isn’t going to change. “I don’t think that’ll be a problem, Ash.”

 


 

 

After the incident with Nate Kingsley and meeting Luke’s friends, it’s like an unofficial shift happens in their relationship. Luke and Michael are suddenly, really, together. Michael joins them at their booth every morning for breakfast and in their shared class Luke is blessed with all of Michael’s attention (which really means all of his shameless flirting and teasing during the period). Michael is all he thinks about during his ballet practices and Luke texts him every chance he gets, hating every minute they have to spend apart.

“It’s only been a few weeks,” Ashton lectures him after he takes away Luke’s phone, throwing it into his own bag. They’re hanging out in Ashton’s room as Calum and Michael are at their respective practices. Or they’re supposed to be, but Luke had admittedly been ignoring his friend in favor of texting Michael, sneaking in texts when he could.

“I know, Ash.” Luke sighs, laying back on the bed. Ashton frowns at him from his lounging spot against his pillows. “I just like him so much.”

“I’m happy for you, Luke.” Ashton says, though Luke can sense the but that is lurking behind his best friend’s disapproving frown. “But I don’t want to see you get hurt, rushing into love so soon. Just…be careful.”

“I will,” Luke promises. He swallows down his annoyance and nudges Ashton’s leg playfully. “Don’t worry so much, Ash.”

They fall into a peaceful silence as Ashton resumes working in his sketchbook. Eventually Luke crawls up the bed and squeezes in next to him, laughing at the tight fit of the two of them in the small bed. Ashton shifts around to make room, allowing Luke to curl up in his side and see his work.

Luke studies Ashton’s latest drawing and has to blink a few times, not quite believing what he’s seeing. It’s of Calum, sitting at the booth from Slice of Heaven. Luke recognizes the backdrop of the restaurant, a bit faded behind him, and the same hoodie Calum wore to the game two weekends ago. In the drawing Calum is looking down at the table as he laughs, a wide teeth-filled smile on his face, his eyes crinkling around the corners. It’s amazingly real; Luke can almost hear Cal’s laughter in his ears.

“This…this is unbelievable, Ashton.”

His friend shrugs, his smile pleased as he finished off the details in Calum’s hair. When he’s done Luke asks to see the rest of the book and Ashton hands it over, turning his attention to his phone. Ashton answers the incoming call from Zoey and climbs off the bed, leaving Luke to his perusing. Luke has an eerie feeling about what he’ll find as he flips to the beginning of the book, but he isn’t sure if he wants to be right.

The first sketches date back to the middle of their junior year up to the present. Almost every single one is of Calum. The drawings vary from canon shots of their friend at one of his soccer games or sitting in class, staring absently out the window. Some of them are fictional, starring Calum in a superhero costume or on a stage, wearing one of his favorite band’s shirts as a spotlight shines down on him singing.

Luke is speechless, literally left without any words in his brain to make sense of this. He peers up from the book to find Ashton standing over him, done with his call. Ashton smiles at him, a fond glint in his eyes. “He’s so beautiful. Stunning, really. I never get tired of drawing him.”

“Ash…” Luke manages to choke out. “You…?”

Ashton gives him a look that makes Luke feel small. Small and utterly blind in the face of such obvious emotion. “I’ve loved him since the day we met, Luke. There isn’t anything about Calum that I’m not in love with, even the parts that he’s so ashamed of.”

Luke shakes his head. It feels like it might explode. “But Zoey—”

Ashton sighs, dropping down on the bed. “She’s a sweet girl and I do like her, but we both know it wasn’t going to last forever. Not when my heart is always somewhere else.”

“Ashton, you have to say something!” Luke says. He thinks of all the misery Calum’s been in, fighting with him and Ashton and even himself just because he thinks what he wants most he can never have. “Calum doesn’t know—”

This time it’s Ashton who shakes his head. His expression is wistful, but firm. “I would have done it years ago, Luke, if I thought it would change anything. Calum isn’t ready for this yet. It nearly killed him watching what you went through after you came out. The team turned their back on you! What do you think that would do to Calum?”

“He’s heartbroken, Ash.” Luke whispers, watching the other boy’s face fall. “He’s hurting now and he doesn’t have to be.”

“I’m sorry, Luke.” Ashton answers softly. Luke can see that he is sorry, more than any of them ever realized. “But I can’t do that to him. He isn’t ready. When we’re away from this place, maybe.” Ashton takes his hand, smiling sadly at whatever frown is on his face. “I’ll be there the second that he is ready. He’ll always have me, Luke. I’m not going anywhere.”

 


 

 

Michael nuzzles against Luke’s neck, placing a kiss there that makes him shiver down to this toes. “What’s wrong? You’re being quiet.”

“Nothing.” Luke forces a smile at him, aware of how strained it probably looks. “Just got a lot on my mind. But I bet you could take care of that.”

Luke sees a flash of Michael’s smirk before he’s grabbed and pushed down onto the smooth leather of the Mustang’s backseat. As they had every day for the past week, Michael lured Luke out to his car during lunch with the promise of hot make-outs and good background music (currently Good Charlotte’s “Hold On”).

“Oh, I will.” Michael purrs, hovering over him. There’s still too much space between their bodies, but before Luke can press up into him, Michael keeps talking. “First, tell me what’s bothering you. And then I can take your mind off of it.”

Luke pouts, even adding his best puppy-eyes that he learned from Calum, the master himself. But Michael doesn’t budge, only cocking one pierced brow at him as if to say I’m waiting. Luke sighs. “Okay, so, what do you do when your best friends are in love but neither of them wants to tell the other how they feel?”

Michael sits back and Luke lets him go. He could actually use some advice, even though it cuts into his make-out time. “Well,” Michael says. “Do they have a good reason for hiding their feelings?”

“Calum doesn’t want to be gay.” Luke confesses quietly. “And Ashton doesn’t want to force him to come out. Or go through what I did.”

Michael turns his green eyes on him, studying Luke curiously. “I thought you would understand that, then. Want to spare your best friend that torture.”

“It’s not that I want Calum to deal with that too. It’s just…” Luke pauses, biting at his lip as he tries to unscramble his thoughts. Michael stays silent and waits for him to continue. “I don’t regret coming out. It really sucked at first and for a long time, I thought it would always be like that—people judging me, making hurtful comments, feeling so unbearably out of place wherever I went. But it didn’t last forever. I still have the people that really matter around me and now I get to be myself. It was painful but it was also freeing. If Calum does it, then he’ll also get to be with Ashton and both of them will be happy.”

After a few heavy moments of silence, Michael whispers, “But that’s not your decision.”

“I know.” Luke sighs. “I can’t force them and I won’t try. It’s just frustrating.”

Michael cups his hand over Luke’s cheek, stroking his thumb in the way he knows Luke likes. “They’ll figure it out. Now do you want me to distract you?”

For the first time that day Luke cracks a genuine smile. He slides onto Michael’s lap and kisses him deeply, letting all other thoughts be brushed aside for much, much later.

 

Chapter Text

Luke takes a deep breath before he launches his body across the smooth, waxed floors and executes a fanning tuck jump. He lands lightly on his feet in fourth position. Luke raises his eyes to the studio mirrors to check his stance and feels his breath yanked out of his lungs. Through the mirror’s reflection Luke spots Michael in the back corner of the studio, leaning casually against the wooden staircase’s railing.

Michael waves when their eyes meet. “That was really good, Luke.”

His whole face prickles with heat as Luke drops his arms and straightens up. He crosses his arms over his chest as Michael descends the stairs and steps out onto the floor. “You’re not allowed in the studio, Michael.” Luke grumbles. “My teacher will kill me if she finds out you’re here.”

Michael doesn’t listen to a word of his warnings. He whistles lowly, his eyes dropping down to Luke’s legs, exposed in his cotton dance shorts. “You have the most toned legs I’ve ever seen, Hemmings.”

Luke feels his blush crawling down to his neck and chest. He bites his lip, staying quiet as Michael inches closer. His green eyes look so bright and lively that morning. Michael slips his hands over Luke’s shoulders, pouting playfully. “Someone doesn’t look very happy to see me. What’s wrong, babe?”

Luke sighs heavily and admits the truth to him. “I just wasn’t expecting you to come here and see me…like this.”

He feels embarrassed and vulnerable, revealing this side of himself to Michael. It’s not like the other boy isn’t aware of Luke’s activity or skill, but it’s a completely different thing to have Michael there, seeing it with his own eyes. It’s also strange to have Michael standing in the studio—Luke’s safe haven, which neither Calum nor Ashton have ever stepped foot in before.

Michael’s pout shifts into a thoughtful frown. “I can leave, if that’s what you want. You’ve seen my games. I wanted to see you in your element.”

Luke is still embarrassed, but warmth floods his chest at Michael’s words, his stiff muscles slackening. “No, it’s okay.” He murmurs, giving Michael a small smile. “It’s a bit weird, but I don’t want you to go.”  

Michael grins widely and pops a kiss onto his cheek. Luke watches him wander over to the ballet barre across the room and sit down beneath it, stretching out his long legs. “Show me a favorite move of yours,” Michael requests.

Luke chuckles to himself. He doesn’t have a favorite move exactly, considering how he loves all of ballet, including the basics. But Luke knows the perfect, advanced move that will impress Michael. He hasn’t performed it in months, so Luke takes a moment to familiarize himself with the steps in his head. The last thing he wants is to fall on his ass in front of Michael’s expectant eyes.

Once he’s ready, Luke moves to the top corner of the floor, needing the whole space for this movement. Luke begins by plieing and glides into a brief turn. He smoothly transitions by leaping up from the floor into a butterfly jump. He’s only in the air for a moment, but to Luke it always feels longer, like he’s been given wings and nothing can bring him down.

Luke lands on his knee with one arm extended forward and the other behind him. Michael’s eyes are popped open wide when Luke looks at him and he laughs at his stunned expression.

“Holy shit, Luke!” An incredulous smile forms on Michael’s face. “What was that?”

Luke stands up, pride swelling through him at Michael’s reaction. He really likes impressing the hockey captain. “The Butterfly. It’s a move I taught myself, actually. Saw it in a video.”

Michael shakes his head slowly. “Amazing. What else can you do?”

Luke performs a Grand Jeté and several A La Seconde turns before Michael stops him. He sneaks up behind Luke, wrapping his arms around his slender waist and kisses the sensitive skin at the back of Luke’s neck. Luke shivers in his arms, letting out a small moan as Michael presses his lips more firmly, nipping with his teeth.

“Michael,” Luke murmurs. He fails spectacularly at stepping away from him. Michael’s little kitten nips feel too good. “I can’t. I’m supposed to be choreographing right now.”

Michael hums softly, trailing up to kiss under Luke’s ear. “Take a break.”

Luke scoffs, the sound coming out shaky. “I just took one, showing you my best moves. R-remember?”

The newly lilac-haired boy skims his hands further down, tucking his fingers into the waistband of Luke’s shorts. Michael whispers huskily into his ear, “Let me show you my best moves.”

His stomach dips sharply as Luke gets what he means. Though his brain is fogged over with lust, Luke knows it’s too risky. Michael isn’t supposed to be in there in the first place, let alone doing things with Luke. And Luke wasn’t lying. He was given access to the studio until 11 to choreograph his piece for the winter showcase and not even half of it was finished yet.

But then Michael breathes, “I locked the door.”

The temptation is too great and Luke is so weak. He lets Michael drag him over the wall and kiss him properly, stroke his tongue through Luke’s mouth with the taste of mint. They make out frenziedly, making Luke feel like every bit of a horny teenager as he tugs on Michael’s hair and Michael returns the favor, grinding his hip into Luke’s protruding boner.

Luke moans loudly into Michael’s mouth, the friction against his hard cock making his head spin. Michael slides his mouth away then, moving back an inch. He looks so hot, his hair wild, his already plump lips swollen and wet from Luke’s attention. Luke wants to whine about Michael stopping, but the complaint dies on his lips when Michael drops to his knees in front of him.

Luke’s eyes widen. “Michael—”

He breaks off to gasp as Michael eases his shorts off his hips, letting them pool down to the floor. The cold air of the studio hits his inner thighs and cock, but Michael presses into the exposed space a moment after. Michael warms him up slowly, starting by kissing Luke’s knee. He takes his time going higher, dragging his wet lips up Luke’s thigh until he reaches the groin area.  

Luke hisses through his teeth, feeling the other’s boy breath blow over him. His hips buck at having Michael’s mouth so close to his swollen, leaking dick. Michael’s hands flatten over his hips, holding him still as his breath hitches in anticipation. He waits for it, but Michael only ducks down again, kissing Luke’s other knee.

“Son of a bitch!” Luke growls.

Michael pauses his kissing to laugh, peering up at Luke. “Something wrong, Lucas?”

“Stop teasing me!” Luke whines, wiggling under Michael’s hold. “I can’t wait anymore, Michael. Please.

“That’s too bad.” Michael notes, a lazy smirk on his lips. “I’m quite enjoying the show.”

Luke tries to fix him with a pathetic stare, displaying his desperation since Michael doesn’t seem to understand how hard Luke is right now. But the other boy looks away, continuing his agonizing trail up Luke’s left thigh to his groin. Finally Michael rolls the bottom of Luke’s shirt up and takes his cock into his hand.

Michael starts to stroke him then so Luke barely hears his instructions. “Open your eyes, Luke. Look at the mirror. Look at yourself.”

Luke does as he says, his body jerking as Michael twists his wrist over him. His eyes focus on the mirror facing them from the opposite wall, finding their reflection. He sees himself first, his mouth hanging open as he pants, shirt bunched up around his chest and his hands squeezing the ballet barre behind him. Then he looks between his spread, naked legs and sees Michael between them. The reflection only shows the back of his lilac head and his denim jacket, but it’s enough.

“Oh my god,” Luke gasps.

He loses the image, his eyes shutting as Michael slides his mouth over him at last. The other boy goes faster then, knowing somehow that Luke isn’t going to last long anyway. He coats his saliva over Luke’s long cock and works his mouth on him in rapid, wet pumps. Loud moans burst uncontrollably from Luke’s lips, true bliss consuming him in the form of Michael’s hot, skilled mouth.

Pleasure coils tightly in Luke’s stomach and his grip tightens on the barre as Luke feels himself begin to unravel. “M-michael. Fuck. I’m gonna come!”

Michael’s hands squeeze his hips in what Luke guesses is reassurance. He isn’t going to move then. The thought of Michael swallowing his come is more than enough to thrust Luke over the edge. He gasps for air as his breath leaves him, his orgasm pouring over him in a powerful wave. Luke trembles, faintly registering as Michael relaxes his jaw and lets Luke’s cock unload into his mouth.

It takes a minute before Luke can open his eyes, his veins still humming from his high. Michael has already tucked him back into his shorts and stands up beside him. “Beautiful,” Michael says, grazing his fingertips over Luke’s flushed cheek.

Luke finds the strength to latch onto Michael’s shirt, hauling him closer so Luke can kiss him. In his post-orgasm state Luke can only press his lips to Michael’s softly, but he’s sure the other boy can feel how grateful Luke is.

  


 

 

Friday afternoon of the following week, the whole senior class is excused from their last period and herded towards the gym. Luke shuffles inside behind Ashton and Zoey, following the couple to an empty row where they can sit.

The student body is buzzing with energy, as they’re all aware of the reason for this meeting. Every year before winter break, the senior class takes a field trip that last the entire weekend. Each year the trip changes so the seniors are left guessing what their location will be until it is finally revealed.

“Calum!” Ashton spots their dark-haired friend first when he enters the gym with his period. Ashton waves from their spot towards the back.

Calum’s eyes zero in on them and he starts to head over through the current of students, not noticing the two guys surrounding him. Luke’s pulse accelerates as he watches the scene unfold like a slow-motion car wreck, stuck to his seat.

The two boys are both part of the soccer team. The smaller one, Lewis, slinks around Calum, cutting into his path. With a determined smirk, Lewis smacks the books Calum was carrying out of his hands and sends them to the floor. Calum gives him an exasperated eye-roll, thinking it’s just one of his teammates harmlessly giving him shit. But somehow, Luke knows better.

Calum bends down to retrieve his books and the team’s central defender, Adam, comes up behind him. Adam roughly takes hold of Calum’s waist and thrusts against his ass, shouting “Soap drop!”

Luke flinches from his seat as Lewis and dozens of other spectators howl with laughter. Calum snaps up, throwing Adam away from him as he whips around. Luke would hate to have Calum Hood’s enraged face aimed at him, but Adam appears unintimidated, smirking proudly until Calum shoves him hard.

Adam lands on his ass on the gym's floor and Calum follows him like a predator, eyes wild as he towers over him.  “What the fuck is wrong with you, Patterson?” Calum thunders.

Lewis recovers from his laughter and answers tauntingly from behind Calum. “Don’t act like a prude now, Hood. We saw you checking out his ass in the locker room yesterday.”

“Shit,” Ashton mutters from Luke’s left.

In a blink of eye, Calum whirls from Adam to Lewis, lunching at the smaller boy until they both crash to the ground. Ashton rises from his seat and rushes over, but not before Calum lands a furious punch at Lewis’s throat. The smaller boy is wheezing when a teacher pries Calum off of him.

Luke watches Ashton stand by helplessly, waiting for their teachers to escort Lewis to the infirmary. Meanwhile Calum writhes in his captor’s hold, swearing and yelling threats at both Adam and Lewis. Ashton carefully approaches Calum, taking hold of his face until the other boy settles down and stops struggling. Ashton whispers something to him that makes Calum deflate.

The teacher releases Calum then. After he and Adam are both given detention, Calum lets Ashton take his arm and drag him over to where Luke is sitting. Luke wishes there was something he could say to erase the dark, fuming glint in Calum’s eyes, but he doesn’t think there are any words to fix what just happened.

Calum sinks down beside Luke as Ashton returns his spot and the meeting eventually commences. He can feel Calum’s body, stiff like immovable stone, but ready to explode at the slightest threat. There’s no way, Luke thinks, that his friend will ever admit the truth to Ashton or anyone now. Calum is the most stubborn person Luke knows and if anything, Calum will swear to his dying breath that he’s straight just so no one else will get the chance to humiliate him like that again.

It’s announced that their senior trip will happen two weeks from now. They’ll be taking a trip to Emerald Ski Lodge from that Friday to Monday morning. Everyone around them whoops and cheers in excitement, but Luke and his friends are the ones that stay silent, a dark veil still hanging over their heads. 

Chapter Text

Sweat trickles down Luke’s back as he stands directly under the merciless blaze of the sun. More than half of the senior class are sporting sunglasses that morning, among shorts and tank tops to withstand the heat. As the students in front of him are checked off and granted admittance onto the bus, Luke fantasizes about the snow-topped mountains and crisp air waiting for them at the Emerald Resort.

At last Luke makes it to the front of the line and climbs onto the air-conditioned bus. His eyes roam over the seats, searching for a familiar face. There were three buses in total transporting their whole class and there was a slim chance Luke would be on the same one as his friends. He sees Ashton staring out the window of his seat with Zoey curled up on her boyfriend’s chest as he passes.

It’s near the end of the aisle where Luke finds Calum, nearly blending into the seat. His dark haired friend has his hoodie pulled over his head and body stretched out across the seat, feet dangling by the edge. Luke swats his leg once he reaches him.

Calum glances up with a scowl already in place. “What?”

Luke rolls his eyes. “Move your feet so I can sit down.”

Calum sighs like it’s a heavy burden as he sits up, shuffling closer to the window so Luke can sit down. Seated next to him, Luke can clearly hear the loud rap music blaring through Calum’s headphones. The other boy rests his head against the window, paying Luke no attention as the other students fill up the bus. Calum had been acting like an insufferable prick lately and although Luke was sympathetic to his best friend’s misery, he was also fed up with Calum’s bratty attitude.

Now isn’t the place to get into it with him, in front of all of their nosy classmates. But Luke does plan on sitting Calum down at some point this weekend and shake him out of his funk. Ashton was already keeping his distance. Luke didn’t want another wedge to be driven between him and Calum too. His futile plans on getting his friends to work their shit out already is interrupted by Luke’s phone chiming.

The screen reads he has a text message from an unknown number. Curious, Luke opens it and is greeted by a picture of Michael with Jackson plastered against his side. Jackson is grinning at the camera while the lilac-haired boy is wearing an irresistible pout. Both of the boys are wearing matching snapbacks, which Luke finds adorable. Luke had dinner with Michael the night before in his room, but he already misses the other boy fiercely.

A text from the same number arrives after the picture. Mike’s sad he can’t sit with you. I’ll keep him company tho ;)

Luke chuckles, realizing its Jackson who is texting him from whichever bus they’re on. He wishes he could sit with Michael too and cuddle with him for the ride, instead of being stuck with a permanently pissed off Calum.

Thanks Jackson. Luke texts back.

His phone buzzes a moment after, though this time it’s directly from Michael. I miss you, Lukey. See you in three hours <3

A smile stretches Luke’s lips, his annoyed mood brightening even more. See you soon, Mikey <3

  


 

 

Luke is finally alone with his two best friends for what feels like the first time in forever. Luke admits to himself he had been spending more and more time with Michael, but Ashton had done the same with Zoey and Calum had been avoiding both of them whenever he had the chance. All three of them shared the blame.

They had booked a suite together at the ski lodge, so they had no choice but to speak to each other for the next three days. Ashton unlocks their room and the other two enter after him, claiming their respective beds as they set their bags down. Ashton plugs in his cell phone to charge while Luke unpacks his things, preferring to have them arranged neatly rather than living out of his bag.

Calum emerges from the bathroom and heads to the door with barely a glance. “I’m going out,” he mutters.

“No, you’re not!” Luke calls out.

Calum turns back slowly. He glares down at Luke for a long moment, as if giving the blonde boy a chance to take it back. “Excuse me?”

Luke swallows over the lump in his throat. He isn’t one for confrontation and Calum’s hard stare rattles his nerves, but he has no other option. They can’t keep going on like this. “You need to stay, Calum. So we can fix this.”

Calum doesn’t let up his stoic expression and crosses his arms over his chest. “What are we fixing exactly?” 

Ashton cuts in before Luke can answer him, his voice scornful. “He’s talking about your shitty attitude, Calum.”

Luke cringes as Calum’s eyes flash with a familiar wrathful light. “I didn’t fucking ask you.” Calum growls at him.

“Enough!” Luke snaps, standing up from the bed. He can feel his own irritation making his head pound and his blood roar through his veins. “Look at how you’re talking to each other! We’re supposed to be a family. We’ve been all each other has through the hellhole of the past three years and you’re ripping us apart! Is that what you want?”

 Calum looks stunned while Ashton wears his guilt like a mask over his face. The room is cloaked in a stupefied silence as Luke’s heavy words hanging in the air. Luke gnaws at his bottom lip as he lets his explosion settle and sink in for them. He was planning on being the first to apologize, to get the ball rolling and own up for letting their problems with each other being pushed aside for so long. He really should have done this sooner. Only surprisingly Ashton makes the first move.

He releases a deep sigh, as if letting go of a terrible weight on his shoulders, and looks at Calum, his hazel eyes apologetic. “This is my fault. I didn’t want to do this, didn’t want to force you. I was just doing it to protect myself really. It was easier to let you pretend and ignore the truth for so long, but I’m sorry, Calum.”

Calum stills, his expression unreadable. His voice is like a taut wire. Luke can hear the tension running beneath it. “What are you talking about?”

Ashton frowns. He rises from the bed and walks towards Calum slowly. He stops halfway, him and Luke seeing how Calum is locking up like a caged animal. “I know, Cal.” Ashton says softly. “Okay? I know.”

Calum swallows audibly. His dark eyes flit from Ashton to Luke. Compassion stirs in Luke’s chest at his friend’s distress. He wants to give them this moment in privacy, but that seems to be out of his control. Calum’s jaw clenches into a sharp, stubborn line. “I have no idea what you mean, Ashton.”

“Yes you do.” Ashton argues, his voice still gentle. Luke can see in his face that he’s sorry for hurting Calum now too. Ashton takes a breath before the words pour out. “I know that you’re in love with me.”

Calum recoils, backing into the door like the words are a physical blow. He shakes his head frantically. “No I’m not! No. Are you out of your mind?”

“Cal, I’m sorry.” Ashton whispers. “I never wanted to do this to you. But Luke is right. You’ve been miserable—you’ve been hurting—and I still avoided it. You deserve to hear the truth. I’ve known for a long time. You don’t have to go through what Luke did, though, Calum. We’re not going to tell anyone.”

Stop!” Calum shouts, making both of the boys flinch. His face is flushed red, flashing Luke’s mind back to that night on the field. This isn’t going to go well either, he thinks. “Stop it! I’m not—this isn’t—you’re with Zoey! You have a girlfriend and I…I’m straight. That’s it!”

Ashton shortens the distance between them, stopping just before he can touch Calum. He hovers his hands in front of him in a calming gesture. “Please, Cal. Can we just be honest with each other for once?” He lowers his hands, carefully grabbing Calum’s, and the other boy lets him. He stares at Ashton with wide, terrified eyes. “I love you, Calum.” Ashton says quietly. “I love you back. I always have.”

Luke holds his breath. His heart swells with hope that Calum will just let go. Let go of his fear, his anger, and his denial and accept Ashton. He wants nothing more than his best friends to be happy, as they should be.

Calum stares at him for a few tense moments. Luke thinks he might be trembling. But then he rips his hands out of Ashton’s hold and sends the smaller boy stumbling back, away from him. Luke’s hope deflates as Calum’s eyes narrow into a glare. “I don’t love you.” He snaps, tone firm, lifeless.

Calum storms out the door, yanking it shut behind him with a loud slam. Luke leaps away from the bed and over to Ashton. He pulls his best friend into his arms before the tears spill out of his shocked hazel eyes.

 


 

 

A party is held that night after dinner, long after their teachers have completed their room checks for the night and gone to bed. Ashton had skipped dinner to stay in the room and Luke felt obligated to be with him, though Michael begged Luke to join him for the party. In the end Michael’s pleading, bright green eyes won and Luke sent Ash a text to call him if he needed anything.

Luke follows after Michael into the dim rec room. He can’t imagine how their classmates managed to commandeer this room or smuggle alcohol with them from the buses, but appreciates the effort nonetheless.

Michael turns to him once they’re inside, smirking as he takes hold Luke’s shoulders. “You’re too tense. Let me get you a drink?”

Luke nods and Michael pecks his lips before he disappears through the crowd. He hovers by the door, observing his classmates talking and dancing around them. Luke’s body tenses again when his eyes land on the cluster of soccer players across the room. He sees Calum among them, which surprises Luke. He hadn’t seen his friend at dinner and assumed he was off blowing steam somewhere. Of course, for Calum blowing steam meant partying and getting wasted.

Luke can tell Calum is already a few drinks in. He’s talking to a tiny, brunette girl Luke recognizes from his math class, smirking lazily with no trace of the distressed boy from the hotel room earlier. Luke’s frustrated with him for how he treated Ashton, but he still worries for his friend. Calum was partying to forget tonight and that was a deadly combination.

“Hey Luke.” Someone slurs beside him. “That’s your name right?”

Luke glances over, finding Riley Sutton leering at him. He’s seen the tall boy a handful of times this year as Michael’s friend and teammate, but has never had an actual conversation with him. “Yeah,” Luke answers, smiling politely. “What’s up, man?”

Riley grimaces. He’s always reminded Luke of Draco Malfoy, with his platinum blonde hair and sharp grey eyes. Only Riley has several piercings in each ear. “Luke Hemmings,” he continues. “Michael’s new boy toy.”

He’s drunk and Luke should just ignore him, but his words still rub Luke the wrong way. “I’m his boyfriend.” Luke corrects him sharply.

“Are you?” Riley mocks. “That’s cute, that you would think that. But our dear captain doesn’t have boyfriends, Hemmings. Just two months ago it was my cock down Mike’s throat. Now it’s your turn, but soon Michael will be sucking someone else off—or getting fucked by another player after a game.” Riley winks, implying it was him that fucked Michael.

Nausea claws its way up Luke’s stomach, filling up his chest and throat with a sickness he has to swallow down. Behind it there’s prickles of jealousy piercing his veins as Luke realizes it was Riley in the bathroom stall at that party months ago. He was the one Luke heard moaning as Michael blew him. Luke hadn’t paid any mind to who it was then or after, too embarrassed at overhearing. Now having Riley admit it to his face ignites an urge inside Luke to punch him harder than Nate Kingsley.

Luke clamps down on that urge with difficulty. He isn’t a violent person by nature and he has no right to hit Riley just because he and Michael hooked up in the past. Luke wishes Michael might have told him about it, but it doesn’t change what he and Michael have now.

“You’re wrong,” Luke tells him, forcibly calm. “What Michael and I have is different. It isn’t about…sex.” He curses his cheeks as they heat up slightly. They hadn’t even had sex yet, though Michael was showing Luke everything else they could do, being patient and loving when the blonde boy said he wasn’t ready. “He cares about me.”

Riley smirks at him, so condescending it tempts Luke’s temper again. “Listen, kid. You can hold out as long as you want, but as soon as Mike gets what he wants, he’ll be gone—onto the next pretty boy that offers their dick up to him. That’s just the way he is. And you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re any different from the other guys Michael has, literally, fucked over.”

Riley walks away then, leaving Luke standing there with clenched fists and his blood boiling. He could yell at the other boy to mind his fucking business, but it doesn’t stop the pit of dread that opens in Luke’s stomach. What if Riley is right? What if Luke is nothing more than a plaything to Michael, until someone better comes along?

Luke is still tense when an arm settles around his waist. Michael kisses his cheek and tries to hand Luke a beer. When the blonde boy remains stiff, Michael studies him with a frown. “What’s wrong?”

Luke shakes his head weakly. “I…I can’t…”

It suddenly feels like the room is pressing in around him. Riley has torn a hole in Luke’s world and he doesn’t know how to keep it together. He has to get away.

Luke hears Michael call his name, but he ignores it. Luke pushes through the throng of teenagers, his breaths coming rapidly until he reaches the door. He steps outside into the open hallway where he can finally breathe.