There's something about the sound of waves breaking along the shore, the salty smell of the air, the smooth sand getting between his bare toes. There's something about it all that has always made Michael feel calmer.
It's what he misses the most when they are on tour. Quiet sunsets at the beach, when the sky is orange and the breeze gets colder and it makes him shiver because he always forgets to grab a jacket before he goes out.
He remembers countless conversations with Calum lying on the sand of this beach, when they were younger. Maybe that's why it makes him feel at peace, because it reminds him of Calum and his warm eyes that fit perfectly with the warm weather.
Michael never misses the chance to spend sunsets at the beach when they go back home in a break. He leaves alone every day, takes his shoes off and walks along the shore, his feet sinking in the wet sand. When the blue starts turning orange, he sits and stares at the sky, thinks about how much he wishes he could do this every single day of his life, not only a few days every couple of months.
Today's the last day of their break, they are leaving Sydney tomorrow to go back to touring the world. He's kinda sure he should be more excited than he actually is, but he misses it all too much. The salty air, the breeze, the smell of his house, his mom's hugs.
Though he misses Calum too, and that's what makes him feel a little bit more excited about going back on tour. Only a little bit.
He thinks he shouldn't miss him, not when they have spent almost every single day of this year together. But that's exactly why he misses him this much, he guesses. He got too used to having him around all the time.
Michael got too used to Calum's brown eyes, and he likes them more than orange sunsets. He got used to his smell, cheep cologne trying unsuccessfully to cover the smell of tobacco, all of it mixed up with Calum's own scent, and Michael likes it more than the smell of salty air. He likes the sound of his laugh more than the sound of waves crashing along the shore, too. And he'd rather have Calum's body pressed against his warming him up than this cold breeze making him shiver.
Michael hasn't seen him since the day they got back to Sydney, both of them too busy spending time with family and old friends. Nights at the beach never feel the same without Calum.
He wishes he could get that feeling back, the awe he felt when he was a kid. When he would stare at the imponent wide open ocean and Calum would ramble sitting beside him about what they could find on the other side. When they would lie on the sand and look up at the starry sky, and Calum would ramble about how they would go to the moon, one day.
That's what Michael does every day, tries to bring back that feeling he left here when he first left Sydney with the band, that feeling he can't find in other city (but, nights at the beach never feel the same without Calum).
“Hey, idiot!” Michael turns around knowing who he's going to find walking towards him even before his eyes find Calum, too used to the sound of his voice to not recognize it everywhere.
He's wearing shorts, a gray hoodie, same flip flops he has since he was fifteen, and a warm smile on his lips.
“Here, I knew you'd forget it” he says when he reaches Michael, throws a red hoodie into his lap before he flops down beside him.
Michael smiles when he puts it on, because it smells like cheap cologne and tobacco and Calum. And because Calum always used to bring two hoodies with him when they were younger, knowing Michael would forget his.
Calum doesn't talk, just sits there with his arm pressed against Michael's, looking at the wide ocean with dreamy eyes while Michael looks at him.
“You ready to leave tomorrow?” Michael asks, bumps their shoulders together, paints a crooked smile on Calum's full lips.
“Yeah, I'm always ready to leave” he says, he sounds and looks tiny in the quiet of the night “I haven't packed my stuff yet, though.”
Michael is pretty sure Calum should be packing right now, and he wants to ask why he's here, how he knew Michael was going to be at the beach tonight (as if Calum didn't know he never misses a chance to come here whenever possible). He hopes Calum is here because he misses Michael as much as he misses Calum. So he doesn't ask, in case the answer is different.
It's already late and Michael feels like they might disappear between the dark sky and the dark ocean. He wouldn't mind it too much, disappearing with Calum. They've always liked getting lost together.
“Do you remember” Michael starts, leaning closer, because the night is cold and Calum is warm. Calum is always warm “our conversations here, when we were younger? You've always been ready to leave, even back then.”
Calum turns his head and stares at Michael with the same dreamy eyes he was staring at the ocean, as if Michael is just as wide, as interesting to look at, as if he wants to discover every corner of him. And he probably does, just like Michael wants to know every corner of Calum. But it's been too many years, they've known each other for so long, there's probably nothing new to learn.
“I made it” Calum says, and he means we made it “See what's on the other side of the ocean, I made it. Though we still have to visit the moon.”
Michael touches his left forearm absentminded, rubs his thumb over where his tattoo hides under Calum's hoodie. And he thinks he can feel it, that awe he felt when he was a kid, when Calum theorized about what they could find, how it would be way more interesting than this boring city they were trapped in, and sometimes Michael allowed himself to believe him.
Now, he knows Calum was right. But still, he wouldn't trade this boring city for anything. Would always choose his boring city over unexplored new ones and sold out shows ever night.
“But you weren't like me” Calum takes his eyes away from Michael to look at the sky “You wanted to stay here. Sometimes I feel like you still want to.”
Michael still wants to, sometimes. He wants to come back and never leave again. And he feels bad about it, someone like him who could go anywhere, wanting to stay at home. But the world is too big and he feels too small and doesn't want to get lost. Even though he wouldn't mind getting lost with Calum. Wouldn't want to come back and stay here without Calum, either.
“When you left to Brazil” he remembers out loud “It was the first time I thought of leaving this place. Even though I was terrified, I wanted to leave with you and make sure you'd come back” Or stay there with you if you never did, he thinks, but doesn't say it (he has a feeling Calum knows it, anyways).
“It was the first chance I got to leave this place, and the first time I didn't want to.”
Calum looks back at him and smiles with the world in his eyes, like he used to. He puts an arm around Michael's shoulders and presses him closer, like he used to. He leans in and kisses the corner of Michael's mouth, for the first time.
And Michael thought there was nothing left to learn about Calum, he couldn't have been more wrong.
He cradles Calum's face between his cold hands, moves a little bit until their mouths fit perfectly, and kisses him the way he used to dream of (kisses him the way he's never stopped dreaming of). It's gentle and slow, it tastes like salt and childhood and Calum. Michael has never felt calmer in his entire life, even if his heart is pounding faster than ever.
Michael runs his tongue over Calum's chapped lower lip, wanting to deepen the kiss, and Calum starts laughing against his mouth. He moves away, pulls his head back and laughs facing the sky, his eyes wrinkled, his mouth open, his laugh loud and chirpy. Nothing has ever felt so right.
It's been so long since the last time this beach felt like home to Michael he's almost surprised when he feels it again, now. He laughs with Calum, even though he doesn't even know why they are laughing.
“Do you remember when I told you I was leaving to Brazil?” Calum says when he stops laughing. He's flustered and out of breath, he looks so happy and carefree, like a little kid “It was right here, in this beach. But it was- it was earlier, we couldn't stay out this late back then.”
Michael remembers, of course he does. He remembers the fear he felt and wanting to run away from his best friend for the first time in his life (for the last time in his life). But he shakes his head because he likes listening to Calum remembering things about their past.
“I tried-” Calum laughs again, biting his lips, sinking his fingers into the sand “I tried to kiss you and you pushed me! Do you remember?” and Michael laughs again, because how could he ever forget? “You pushed me and you were so angry 'Calum what are you doing!! That's disgusting!!'” Calum screams in a ridiculous high pitched voice, mocking Michael.
“Shut the fuck up” Michael punches his shoulder, but he's still smiling, it seems he can't stop “I was a kid!”
“You were sixteen!”
Michael moves forward, grabs Calum's arm and pulls him closer until they are nose to nose.
“I said shut up” he leans in to kiss him again, and suddenly he's lying on his back over the sand, Calum's laugh resounds in his ears happier than he's ever heard it.
“Revenge!” he screams and is running towards the shore before Michael can even get to his feet.
“Come back here you fucker!”
They run along the shore, they laugh until their throats get sore, and smile until their cheeks hurt. They chase each other, fall on the sand and roll around. They tickle each other, and fake fight and bite and scratch until they are too tired to keep moving.
They lie there, in that beach that saw them grow up, Calum stretched over the sand and Michael stretched over Calum. They kiss, they keep learning each other as they've been doing their whole lives, discover each other's mouths and skins. They kiss laughing and kiss out of breath, trembling for the cold breeze and the other's fingers over their bodies. Michael feels giddy and happy and awed (nights at the beach always feel the same with Calum).
It's the first time Michael is ready to leave. He will miss this, but he knows he'll be back with Calum by his side.
And no, he won't be able to watch the sunset at the beach every night. But he knows he'll get to see Calum's face when he opens his eyes every morning. It will make up for it.