Calum's point of view.
The first thing you should know about Michael is that from a very young age he gave out very little about himself. From when I met him at age ten to when he was about thirteen and a half, he talked a lot, but not much of importance came out. Not to say that he spoke of unimportant things, but more that he never said anything about himself that wasn't completely obvious or above the surface of who he really was deep down in there. From age thirteen to age sixteen he didn't really talk much at all.
When I say I met Michael, I mean that I met the body of Michael Clifford and about one-sixteenth of the actual boy. He was ten, he was pale, he was blonde, he liked video games... that sort of thing I knew. From ten to twelve he thought romance was gross and after that he thought it was stupid. He was very opinionated when he mentioned his opinions and I learned later on that his excessive sarcasm was a sort of force field.
Music was our bridge, and ultimately it was what made him trust me. At least that's what he tells me. If my mum hadn't been close with Michael's mum we wouldn't have met. If we hadn't agreed on music we wouldn't have become friends. And if our connection over music hadn't made Michael trust me, I wouldn't have found the larger part of the iceberg that was Michael. He trusted me enough to show me why he wore long sleeves all year round, why he never swam, why he got jealous when Ash and I started dating. He didn't like me like that, he was just really damn insecure. Ashton called him a recluse until Michael told him too. I didn't really realize the significance of him telling us until Ashton and I realized that even his mum didn't know.
After he told us, though, we only got a glimpse of him. Not the scars- he started wearing t-shirts or rolling up his sleeves around us so we got used to those. We only got a glimpse of who he was because we never talked about it. I'd ask him, I'd promise never to judge (after all, he'd gone through my coming out years with me), I'd promise to listen anytime and anywhere. He said he wasn't good with words unless it was music. So Ash and I dropped it but we observed, we out pieces together. We got to know some if him which was more than anyone else. And he seemed to appreciate our efforts and our loyalty to him. He said it must be difficult, but under all that sarcasm and the layer hurt and anger we sort of stumbled upon was a kid Ashton and I both liked. So yeah- we stuck with him.
Michael was seventeen when Ash told me he'd be gone for the holidays and a week before because his cousin and aunt and uncle were moving next door to him and his family was going over there to visit and help move them. We promised to skype very night because we're a close couple, and Michael promised to crash the party a few times. Ashton told us that his cousin was only a bit younger than us and that we'd probably love him. I felt a bit excited through my sadness at Ashton leaving for several weeks, but Michael closed off. He locked himself in his room and only came out to say goodbye the day Ashton left. I couldn't coax him out until Ashton skyped the first time. He finally told us he kept worrying that we were gonna ditch him. I remember feeling guilty because Ash and I had only talked about his cousin since he'd first mentioned him and Michael always thought we were better than him, that we were going to drop him in a figurative ditch and go on our merry way. Well, I told him that as long as I was Calum Hood I wasn't gonna leave him behind. Then Ashton cracked a joke about me getting his last name as we started fighting over what last name we would use. Michael smiled a bit and back then that was like a laugh- a little tug upward at the corners of his mouth.
Once I'd gotten a full toothy smile and Ash had talked about it for days, telling me he really thought Michael was better. He wasn't, but he'd taken a step forward and his cuts turned to scars and stayed like that eventually. He'd still have break downs sometimes and I saw him have a few panic attacks, but he'd stepped forward.
At the next skype call, Michael and I curled up on my bed and Ashton introduced his cousin, Luke. The kid hardly spoke at first but he was bouncing around by the end and Michael had full on smiled four times. They also shared a lot of favorite band and hit it off rather well. Michael still didn't talk a lot but Luke seemed to be having an animated conversation at him that Michael did a lot of nodding to, and Ash and I spent most of the call looking at each other hopefully.
The second call with Luke was even better as Michael started talking more in complete sentences than he usually did, with his just one or two word answers or trailing off when he decided people didn't want to listen- regardless of whether or not they did. They started talking about guitar types and companies and while I understood what they were talking about, poor Ash was at a loss. He was the only one who'd met Luke more than once and he didn't know what to say to him.
We ended the call and Michael left half an hour later, so I called Ashton back and discussed Michael and Luke. We agreed to talk on the phone alone after Skype calls and I hung up and went to bed.
After the third skype call Ashton told me that Luke couldn't stop talking about Michael. He said that Luke's mom claimed to know everything about him and said that she was looking forward to meeting Luke's friend at the same time Luke did. Luke mentioned her teasing in a call but claimed that it was about both of us and his excitement about getting to know us. We didn't call him out on it.
On the sixth skype call I realized that Michael was talking to Luke more and more. Eventually he started talking more than Luke and Luke would sit there and smile like he knew what he had accomplished. I started wondering just how observant the kid was.
On the tenth skype call Michael was gesticulating more wildly than I had ever seen him gesticulate when Luke noticed the scars. In person they stood out, still puckered and pink, but on camera they were harder to see. Michael seemed to know immediately and he stopped talking, staring at Luke before getting up and walking out.
Luke seemed really upset and we told him what we knew. Then we gave him Michael's phone number and Ashton sent him to another room to call him.
I'll admit that I listened in on Michael's side of the conversation, but it honestly was only because I was worried about him. He seemed to care very deeply about what Luke thought of him and I wanted to make sure he understood that Luke was only upset because he was sympathetic. Luke's always been really empathetic.
Luckily Michael decided to answer and they talked for a long time. I remember Michael cried and I had never known him to cry in the seven years since I'd met him. I have no idea what Luke said to him, but Michael told him things he'd never told me. There was something about their sudden friendship that kept me from feeling hurt by it- after all, Ash and I talked about things I never mentioned to him, though they were mostly about him.
After that they started skyping each other every night and we only joined in sometimes and for a short while. Ashton and I got to talk freely about whatever without those two talking over us, though Ash's time was limited by packing.
It was two days before they arrived that Michael told me he liked Luke. He was sleeping over at my house and he just sort of...spat it out. Not vehemently, it was actually sort of soft; it just felt very sudden. He said that he thought he did but his telling me told me they he knew for sure. He always thought through everything he said to be sure of it- when he wasn't around Luke.
I told him to ask Luke out. He told me I was crazy.
I'll never forget when he and Luke first saw each other in person, though. Luke and Ash came over to my house and Michael was in the living room. Luke went in there and sort of just said hi and the next thing I knew Michael was off the couch and they were hugging each other like best friend who hadn't seen each other in years. I think something in Michael sort of snapped because he started crying on Luke and it took me a minute to realize that Luke had been crying first and that he was holding Michael's wrist and I felt like I shouldn't be there. Ash and I left them for a bit and Michael told me later that something in Luke's eyes made him follow my advice and tell him how he felt. After that I started feeling more confident about Michael and he started talking more. To everyone. He told his mom about the cutting. He told me and Ash a lot about how he'd felt when he had first done it. He let us in and confided in us. All because if Luke. Needless to say, I couldn't dislike Luke. Maybe we'll be related some day- after all, Ashton's my boyfriend and Michael is my sort of adopted brother.
The next day Luke saw my bass and suggested that we form a band. I'll let you guess at what happened with that and I'll just leave you with one last thing- it blew our minds.