equilibrium

Loss of Equilibrium - Michael Clifford | Chapter 5

HEY GUYS!! Ok, so I cannot wait to hear what you all think about this!! I hope it’s cute enough and funny enough and there are enough moments to make you happy and also, I hope you like the ending. You can thank Bree for it. :D Oh and it’s super long, so I hope that makes up for me not being able to update regularly! Love you guys and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!! Previous Chapters

A Not So Calm and Collected Dinner 

There was less than an hour until the boys and Liz were going to arrive and I was panicking. I was standing in my room in my bra and underwear, staring at my closet like it was the entrance to Narnia, and I was pretty sure I was having a panic attack because I couldn’t figure out what to wear.

This wasn’t like me. I was Rowan Elyse Edwards. I didn’t have the issue of not knowing what to wear. I didn’t care about what I wore when people were coming over for dinner.

But this wasn’t just dinner. It was Michael coming over. It was Michael coming over for dinner and meeting my family. It was my family meeting the guy I liked for the very first time (Sienna aside) and it didn’t matter that the other boys and Liz were coming too. All attention was going to be on Michael and no one was dumb enough to believe it wouldn’t be.

And obviously, because of that, I needed to make sure I looked great. Not even just great. But really fucking great. I couldn’t look subpar when my family was basically going to be scrutinizing my potential boyfriend.

Especially considering that’s all he would ever be if this didn’t go well.

Emerson and Madison had both been texting me, both of them very excited about how dinner was going to go, but I hadn’t been the most receptive to their excitement and they had been able to tell. So then it switched from them being excited to FaceTiming me and calming me down as I freaked out.

After the nearly hour long FaceTime, I had felt marginally better but I was still at a decent level of panic. Not even Thea could calm me down throughout the day and after a while she had given up on trying. It just wasn’t worth it when I obviously wasn’t going to calm down until the dinner was over.

But I wasn’t going to make the dinner if I didn’t pick an outfit. And with forty-five minutes until the boys and Liz would arrive, I was still outfit-less.

I brought a hand up to my mouth and began to bite my thumbnail. Why was this so hard?

I registered the two knocks on my door before it opened, but didn’t turn around until I heard Jordan scoff.

“Jesus Christ, Ro! Get dressed.” I turned around to look at my brother and sister walking in, Jordan rolling his eyes as he went to sit at my desk. Sienna on the other hand, looked a lot more sympathetic.

“I’m trying.” I promised, turning back to my closet.

“Stop freaking out.” Sienna soothed, placing a hand to my back before going to my closet.

“Yeah, please.” Jordan added in a grumble. “Cause this sure as hell isn’t how you act and it’s weird.”

“I know.” I mumbled as Sienna turned away from my closet, a pair of jeans and a sweater in hand.

“Wear this, okay?” I took the jeans and the black and white moose sweater and nodded. The sweater was something I usually wore around Christmastime, but in a the total surprise of English weather changing in an instant, the sunny, nice day we were supposed to have had actually turned out to be cold and rainy so the sweater worked well.

While I went into the bathroom, I heard Jordan whisper something to Sienna, but I didn’t worry about it as I got dressed. I was sure Jordan was telling her that I was being an absolute idiot for being as nervous as I was, but I didn’t care if he thought that. I had genuine reason to be nervous. I’m sure most girls were nervous when the guy they liked was meeting their family, but the guy I liked just happened to be someone in a pretty successful band and that was something else my parents could use to scrutinize him.

Once I had finished pulling my clothes on, I stood in front of my mirror, wondering exactly what I was going to do to my hair and my makeup when there was a knock on the door. I opened it, surprised to see Sienna coming in, wheeling my desk chair with her.

“Sit down.” She told me with a smile. I did as she said and frowned when she turned me around to face the mirror.

“What were you planning on doing with your hair?” She asked, running her fingers through it.

“No clue.” I admitted.

“Thought so.” Sienna laughed. “Want me to curl it?”

Nodding, I watched as my sister took charge, going around my bathroom and grabbing all the products and tools she would need. Sienna was definitely more into hair and makeup than I was, but being 15 now was a lot different than it was when I was 15.

Sienna plugged in the curling iron and I sat back in the chair and sat up straighter before she started in on my hair.

“Ro, you’re shaking.” She murmured after a few minutes and I sighed, trying to stop.

“Sorry.”

“It’s going to be okay.” Sienna promised me. “Don’t worry.”

“But I am.” I countered. “He’s so much different than anyone I’ve ever dated or even liked or—”

“That’s not a bad thing.” Sienna interrupted. “So he has some tattoos and dyes his hair and is in a band. Who cares about that? Mum and Dad certainly don’t. All that matters to them is that he cares about you and that he’s good to you and that you’re happy.”

“You’re right.” I let out. “I don’t even know why I’m so nervous. We aren’t dating.”

“But you like him.”

“But I like him.” I confirmed, watching as Sienna continued to curl my hair effortlessly.

“Just breathe. Things are going to go the way they go and there’s no use dwelling on them.” She said, finishing my hair.

Letting out a small laugh, I stared at my sister in the mirror. “When the hell did you get so smart?”

Sienna smirked as she went to my vanity and grabbed some of my makeup, turning to face me.

“Well, besides the fact that I was just born with it, I have some awesome parents and a pretty rad big sister, too.” She admitted with a smile.

I smiled back at her as she began to put foundation on my face and blend it. “Thanks for this, Si.”

“What are sisters for?” She grinned before going back to doing my makeup.

Sienna was quick with my makeup and within ten minutes, I was out of the bathroom and sitting on my bed as she grabbed a pair of shoes out of my closet. “Wear these.”

I took the pair of white Keds and the socks she was holding from her before beginning to put them on, just as Jordan came back into the room.

“How’s your knee?” Jordan asked and I shrugged.

“Aches a bit, but it could be worse.” I admitted. It wasn’t really bothering me, but I had done pretty well of keeping myself loaded up on ibuprofen.

“Just try not to hurt yourself today, okay? Besides the fact that I don’t know if Mum could handle another trip to the A&E, I really don’t think it’s good manners to end dinner early for it either.” Jordan added and I didn’t bother looking at my little brother as I flipped him the bird.

“Piss off.” I told him and when I got a chuckle in response, I just smiled. My siblings were doing a good job of making me feel less nervous and for that I was grateful. 

Once I had finished tying my shoes, I stood and went over to my mirror, checking my reflection. Sienna had done my makeup so that it looked subtle and natural and my hair was in loose curls. I looked really good actually and I had no one but my little sister to thank. 

“You look great, Ro.” Sienna smiled as I turned around and Jordan nodded, giving me an encouraging smile. Even though I knew Jordan might pull a bit of the protective brother role out, I knew he was just going to do it to make my Michael more nervous and in the end, he had my back and wanted it to go just as smoothly as I did. And I felt better knowing they both had my back.

Just as I was about to suggest going downstairs, the doorbell rang and I froze, my shoulders tensing and my eyes going wide as I looked at my siblings. I felt myself begin to shake and I tried to take a deep breath.

“Relax.” Sienna advised. “Mum and Dad are gonna love him, so stop worrying.”  

“I hope so.” I admitted, trying to get myself to stop shaking before I went downstairs.

“He came over to check on you last night. Mum and Dad pretty much love him already, so unless he really screws up, he’s gonna be fine.” She placated.  

I nodded, thankful for my little sister’s soothing words. “Yeah.”

“Don’t worry. It will be fine.” Jordan told me and I nodded as he gave me one last smile and left my bedroom.

“Just breathe and it’ll be fine.” Sienna promised before she too left my room.

Taking one last deep breath, I made my way out of my room and started down the stairs. I took my time, noticing that I was still slightly shaking, but I still tripped on the last step. Catching myself, I stopped and took another breath.

“Relax Rowan.” I told myself before I shook my head to clear it and walked to the door.

“Hey!” I said as I opened the door, smiling in amusement when I saw all five people huddled on the doorstep, trying to stay out of the rain. “C’mon in.”

As they came in, they all mumbled hello’s and I felt myself get less and less nervous as each of them smiled at me. Michael was the last one in and he gave me a timid smile and I relaxed a bit when I saw that he was just as nervous as I was.

Once they were all inside and I had shut the door, I gestured to the coat rack behind them. “You all can leave your coats there. I hope the ride over wasn’t bad.”

“Not at all.” Liz said, hanging up her coat. “We were all very excited.”

“Except Mike because he’s nervous.” Calum began, earning a glare from Michael, before sniffing. “What’s that amazing smell?”

“Dinner. Mum wanted to treat you all to a traditional English roast.” I smiled before smiling once more at Michael. His shoulders were tense, but he gave me another small grin and seemed to relax a bit when I grinned at him.

“What’s that include?” Ashton asked.

“Tonight it’s roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli and carrots, and Yorkshire pudding.”

“My mouth’s watering.” Luke admitted with a grin. 

“Yeah, that sounds great.” Michael agreed and I was happy he said something. As nervous as I could tell he was because he was messing with his bracelets way more than normal and he was literally stiff as a board, he was at least trying to act normally.

“I’m glad.” I smiled. “I’ll give you all a tour of the house, but first I want to introduce you all to my family.”

Everyone nodded, Michael’s small smile leaving his face instantly. I tried to give him an encouraging grin, but he didn’t respond so I let him be. Giving the other boys and Liz a grin, I led them into the kitchen. Mum, Dad, Jordan, and Sienna were all standing and leaning against the counters and when we came in, they smiled at us.

“Okay, so introductions!” I began once everyone had gotten into the kitchen. First I turned to my family as I pointed down the line. “This is Calum, Ashton, Michael, Luke, and Liz, Luke’s mum.” After, I turned to the band and Liz. “You all know Sienna, but this is my younger brother Jordan and my parents Caroline and Peter.”

“It’s lovely to meet you all. Rowan talks about you all very fondly.” Mum gushed, her eyes going to Michael for just a second longer than the others before looking at me with a wink. She had seen pictures of him before, but apparently she thought he was definitely much more attractive in person. Which he was but that wasn’t the point. I could feel my cheeks redden at the fact she had winked at me, I had a feeling that it was going to be a constant for the night because I figured my family would tease me at every possible opportunity.

“She does.” Dad agreed. “And it’s very nice to meet you all.”

Jordan smiled and nodded and Sienna smiled at them all before Liz spoke up.

“Thank you for inviting us over for dinner. We’ve been looking forward to it.”

“Of course! Rowan mentioned you cook for the boys a lot so I’m sure this is a nice change for you, Liz.” Mum laughed. “Dinner should be ready within the next half an hour or so, so Ro why don’t you show the boys around a bit while the rest of us have a nice chat, yeah?”

“Sounds good, Mum. We’ll be in the den afterward.” I told her as I motioned for the boys to follow me out of the kitchen.

I took the boys around the house slowly, pointing everything out to them that Michael had seen the night before. Michael was quiet the entire time and anytime I could I would turn to look at him. He was still tense, but he had stopped fumbling with his bracelets. Instead his hands were in his pockets and he was pressing his lips together. Once the tour was done, I led the boys back downstairs and towards the den, but not before tripping on the last step and falling forward.

I was thankful when I felt hands on my arms and I looked up to see Michael making sure I was steady, a worried frown on his face.

“Thanks.” I responded with a grin. The others were all looking at me and I smiled at them before they relaxed, but Michael still didn’t say anything. Instead he just nodded slowly and let me go before he followed me into the den. I stayed by the door, watching as all the boys filed in and went over to the couch before I shut the door.

I had a feeling it was more of the boys doing than Michael’s when I saw that he was sitting by himself on the other side of the sectional so I went and sat down next to him.

“How’s your leg?” Ashton asked when he noticed my hand go to my knee and rub it slightly.

“It’s alright.” I shrugged, feeling Michael’s eyes on me. “Aches a bit, but nothing too bad.”

“Good.” Ashton nodded. “Emmy mentioned she was worried that it was worse than you were letting on.”

I raised a brow at Ashton as he mentioned Emmy. “Oh? Is that all she mentioned?”

Judging by the smirk that came to his lips and the look he shared with Luke, I knew that not only had Emmy spilled the beans on how I had been freaking out, but so had Madison.

“She mentioned a few other things.” Ashton grinned and I rolled my eyes.

“Other than you leg, how have you been, Ro?” Luke asked.

“Not bad. Homework keeps me busy. I have a break soon though.”

“When?” Calum asked.

“Starts April second and then I’m off until the seventh. It’s usually a reading holiday, but I won’t be studying.” I admitted, taking a second to glance at Michael. He was being completely quiet and I saw that he was once again messing with his bracelets. He had told me once before that this was a nervous habit of his and I wished I could have calmed him down, but I was a bundle of nerves as well.

“Well that’ll be nice you have a break.” Luke said as I turned back just in time to watch Calum get up and go to the bookcase on the far end of the wall.  

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.” I smiled.

“Guys, come look at this!” Calum exclaimed and immediately Luke and Ashton got up, going over to him and examining whatever he was holding in his hand. It looked like one of Dad’s old records and I shook my head and let out a giggle before looking at Michael. He was looking down at his lap and was still messing with the bracelets on his arm, but I took advantage of the fact that the boys were otherwise occupied.

“Hey.” I mumbled softly and smiled at him easily when he looked up at me.

“Hey.” He said just as softly.

“You okay?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yeah.”

I nodded slowly. “Okay.” I said. “But it’s okay to be nervous.”

Michael nodded and went back to looking at his lap and I frowned slightly. I had freaked out earlier and still kind of was, so he was definitely entitled to his own sort of freaking, but I didn’t like seeing him so quiet. It wasn’t something I was used to and I didn’t like it.

I was about to stand up and pull him out of the den to talk to him more privately when there was a knock on the door. We all turned to look at the door as it opened, Jordan leaning against the doorway.

“Dinner’s ready.” He said, eyeing the boys and especially Michael. He wasn’t doing it rudely, but he was definitely trying to play the protective brother role.  

“Thanks Jor.” I said, looking at him with a pointed look. Jordan gave me a half smirk before nodding and leaving the den, shutting the door behind him.

“Well, he’s definitely playing the scrutinizing brother, isn’t he?” Ashton asked with a chuckle, looking at me and Michael.

“He’s an idiot.” I sighed.

“Most brothers are.” Luke added and I laughed softly.

“You’d know right?”

Luke nodded with a grin as I stood, heading toward the door. I opened the door and stood back as Luke, Ashton, and Calum left the den, but as Michael went to follow, I reached out and grabbed his hand. He stopped immediately, turning to look at me and I pulled him back slightly, shutting the door.

“What are you doing?” Michael asked confused.

“I figured we’d have a quickie before dinner. Loosen you up a bit.” I shrugged and watched in amusement as Michael went completely pale.

“Rowan….what…!?” He spluttered and while it was funny, I did feel bad for making him panic even more.  

“Will you relax?” I asked, stepping closer to him and grabbing his other hand in mine. “I was joking.”

Michael let out a shaky breath, taking one of his hands and running it through his black and red hair. “Don’t joke about shit like that right now, okay? I’m having a hard enough time trying to concentrate on not completely fucking things up so I can’t tell the difference between you joking and being serious.”

“I’m sorry. I just need you to relax.” I told him, squeezing the hand I was still holding. “You’re doing fine. Sienna already loves you and my parents already think you’re a great guy, especially after you came over last night. You have nothing to worry about, okay?”

“I can’t.” He admitted. “I know we’ve been joking about dating, but it’s not a joke to me, Ro.”

“It’s not a joke to me, either.” I promised him, my heart swelling with the admission that it wasn’t just me feeling this way. “I just want you to relax and not be so nervous. I don’t like seeing you like this.”

“I don’t want them to not like me.” Michael mumbled, looking down at the floor and I stepped closer to him, my body almost pressed against his.

“Hey.” I murmured, getting him to look up at me. “Be you and there’s no way they won’t like you.” I assured him with a smile.

Michael nodded, finally relaxing a bit. Keeping one of his hands in mine, I headed to the door, but stopped when Michael pulled me back.

“What?” I asked, seeing the furrowed look on his face.

“Your brother doesn’t like me.” Michael stated and I giggled softly.

“Mikey, he doesn’t know you. He’s trying to be a protective brother, but in reality he’s a chicken shit 15 year old. He’s just trying to make you nervous.”

“It’s working.” Michael pointed out.

“Are you really going to let a 15 year old get to you?” I asked with a raised brow and after a moment Michael shook his head.

“Alright then.” I said. “Now, let’s go eat, okay?”

With a nod, Michael followed me out of the room and I was happily surprised to see Ashton, Luke, and Calum waiting for us in the living room. With a smile at the boys, I led the five of us into the kitchen and to the table where Mum, Dad, Sienna, Jordan, and Liz were already seated.

I went and sat down next to Sienna and watched as the boys filled in the empty seats. I was a little surprised when Ashton sat down next to me, but then I saw Michael sit down across from me, next to Liz, and I realized it had been done on purpose. He had probably done it in case Dad wasn’t okay with him sitting next to me, but I was sure the fact that he could look at me if he was nervous was part of the reason too. I gave him a reassuring smile as Luke sat down next to him and Calum sat at the end, across from Dad.

“We hope you’re hungry, boys!” Mum stated as she got up and went over to the counter, picking up the plate that the roast was on and bringing it back to the table.

“Always!” Calum promised, watching as Mum placed the roast on the table.

“Everyone dig in!” She said with a grin and everyone began to serve themselves. It was a bit chaotic, but it was nice to have everyone there. I couldn’t help but watch Michael as we continued to fill our plates and I could tell just how nervous he was as he passed dishes around.

We were just settling in, most people done getting things when Dad spoke up. “Will someone pass the pepper please?”

Everyone began to find it and I saw that, conveniently, it was located right in between Michael and I. Giving Michael a smile and a small nod, I watched as he nodded and reached for it. As he reached for the pepper grinder, I could see he was shaking and just as I was about to say something, he knocked over his glass of water, the water going all over the table.

“Oh!” Mum gasped in surprise when she heard the glass hit the table and I saw Michael go bright red as everyone turned to look at him.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Edwards.” Michael mumbled nervously, putting his hands in his lap.

“Oh, honey, don’t be.” Mum brushed it off with a grin, getting up and grabbing a rag. She motioned for Michael to stand up and he did while Mum mopped up the spill. “You are not the first person to knock over a water glass at this table.”

“And I can almost guarantee you won’t be the only one tonight.” Jordan added. “Rowan’s here.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked my brother, turning to look at him.

“You knock over something at least three times a meal, that’s what it’s supposed to mean.” Jordan smirked at me and I felt my cheeks go pink.

“He’s right.” Sienna agreed before getting up and grabbing Michael another glass and filling it with water.

“Don’t feel bad, Michael.” Dad told him with a grin. “Spilt water isn’t something to worry about.”

“Not at all.” Mum affirmed. “Rowan’s done a lot worse before, trust me.” While that earned a small, nervous chuckle from Michael, I gaped at her.

“Mum!” I huffed. “Don’t be rude!”

“S’not rude if it’s the truth.” Jordan shrugged as Mum and Michael sat back down. I rolled my eyes before looking at Michael and seeing that while he was still red and still very tense, he wasn’t as mortified.

“It’s okay.” I mouthed to him and when he smiled softly at me and nodded, I felt better. Once everyone had gotten situated, we all began to dig in. We were all quiet for a couple minutes as we started in on our meals, but it didn’t last long.  

“So boys, Liz was telling us you’re doing a five countries in five days tour.” Mum said after a few minutes. “That sounds exhausting, frankly.”

“I’m sure it will be.” Ashton admitted, taking the lead like he usually did. “But we’re excited to get to see our fans there and play some songs for them.”

“You lot don’t really have any downtime do you?” Dad asked, bringing up a piece of roast to his mouth.

“No, not really, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.” Luke said.  

“What’s your schedule like now?” Jordan asked and I was glad to see that he wasn’t interrogating them.  

“We have a bit of free time, but we’re doing a lot of recording and then we have some things planned at the end of the month.” Calum said before turning to look at Michael. “Isn’t that right, Mikey?”

Michael choked on a carrot but nodded, coughing, and after a moment he cleared his throat. “Um, yeah, we do. We have some signings before we do five countries five days and then we head to America to start filming videos for our next singles and then we start our American tour.”

I gave Michael an encouraging smile and when he gave me one back, I was happy to see that he seemed to be relaxing a bit.

“Lots of traveling. I’m not quite sure how you all handle it.” Mum admitted with a laugh.

“Well we have each other and our crew is like family too, so it doesn’t seem too bad.” Calum shrugged.

“Ashton, you have a girlfriend don’t you?” Sienna asked and I tensed up as I turned to look at her, but she just gave me a wink. When Ashton nodded, she continued. “How does that work?”

I turned to look around the table and I could clearly see that Mum, Dad, and Jordan were all equally interested in knowing the answer. Turning toward Michael, I could see he had tensed up again, his fork and knife held tightly in his hands, and was staring at the drummer like he was depending on him not to ruin things.

“It’s not that hard, honestly.” Ashton shrugged. “Emmy and I have been best friends for a long time and we were apart a lot before we ever got to together, but she’s understanding and we talk all the time. I don’t feel like I have to choose between her and the band and that’s nice. Obviously some days are harder than others, but it’s not impossible. Especially when you find the right girl.”

“Does she come visit you a lot?” Mum asked.

“She does when she can.” Ashton told her. “She’s in uni, so that comes first, but if she has a break for a couple of weeks and nothing else planned, she’ll come see me. But like I said, uni comes first.”

“What about you three?” Dad asked.

“None of us have girlfriends.” Luke said.

“You don’t have a girlfriend yet.” I added and when Luke glared at me, I grinned sheepishly.

“Yeah, yet.” Luke continued, a pink tint on his cheeks. “There’s this girl from back home. Madison.”

“And you two are single?” Sienna asked Calum and Michael, who both nodded, Michael nodding a bit slower as he looked at me. I smiled at him and he gave me a quick one back.

“So does that mean you just pick up girls at clubs or…?” Jordan asked.  

“We could if we wanted to, but if we’re going out we tend to just want to unwind and have a good time with mates. We’re teenagers though, so yeah, girls are a part of that sometimes.” Calum shrugged before pausing. “Well at least for me right now. Ashton’s never gonna be single again, Luke’s pretty head over heels for Madison, and Michael, well, everyone knows why we’re here so yeah.”

Everyone chuckled, tense ones coming from both Luke and Michael as they turned to glare at their friend. I felt myself blush at Calum’s words, but he was telling the truth. Once the laughter had died down and Luke and Michael had quit glaring at Cal, my dad cleared his throat.

“So boys, what type of guitars do you play?” The mood changed instantly, the attention being pulled away from just Michael as all four boys got a little more excited. Michael even pepped up and I saw him relax a bit as they all began to fill Dad on in their preferred choice of guitars to use on stage.

After that, dinner continued smoothly, everyone just kind of getting to know one another. I watched as Michael relaxed more and more as it went on, even joining in on the jokes and stuff that were being thrown around, but I could tell that he was still nervous.

Throughout it all, there were a few times I would catch Mum and Dad glancing at each other with smiles and then they would look at me and nod, their own way of telling me that these boys were good ones and that they liked them, especially Michael.

Once dinner was over and Mum brought out the chocolate cake he had made for dessert, I had figured the easy conversations would continue and I was glad to see that after everyone grabbed a piece and settled back down, that’s how it seemed to go.

I wasn’t sure how it started, but at one point pick-up lines were brought up and Jordan mentioned something about needing good ones to use on this girl he liked in his class and of course the boys and even Dad were willing to help him out. Everyone was laughing at the ridiculous ones coming out of people’s mouths and I couldn’t believe how well it was all going.

“Do you know what my shirt is made of? Boyfriend Material!”

“If you were a vegetable you’d be a cute-cumber.”

“Let’s play Titanic. You be the iceberg and I’ll go down.” Michael froze the second it had left his lips and everyone turned to him, the laughter stopping. I could see the panic on his face and I just stared at him with wide eyes. He was going red as the silence continued and I tried as best as I could to think of a way to help him out.

“Michael…” Ashton finally mumbled and Michael looked at him, his eyes begging him to help him out. Ashton was the one who knew how to handle parents, especially in situations like this, and I knew Michael was praying Ashton could come up with something.

Glancing at Luke and Calum, I saw that they were staring at each other, looks of disbelief and panic on their faces as the silence continued. I went back to looking at Michael and I could tell he was seconds away from losing it. Frantically, I turned to look at Mum and Dad. They were both sitting there, eyes wide and mouths slightly agape. I caught Dad’s eye and hoped to God that my silent pleading was enough.

“You know, I used one similar to that on a lass I met in a pub in uni.” Dad began, a smirk coming  to his lips. “Three years later, she married me.”

“Peter!” Mum scoffed, her cheeks reddening as everyone else began to let out chuckles and I took a quick look at Michael. He had stopped looking like he was going to shit his pants, but his shoulders were still completely tense and instead of laughing, he had his jaw clenched shut.

“What?” Sienna laughed. “Oh my God. Dad, you never mentioned you picked Mum up with a dirty pick-up line!”

“And you definitely didn’t mention it had worked.” I added, still kind of in shock that not only had Dad broke the tension, but that he had actually gotten Mum with a sexual pick-up line.

“What was the line?” Jordan asked, a huge smirk on his lips.

“Peter, don’t you dare!” Mum threatened, pointing a finger at him as he opened his mouth.

“Ah, c’mon Caro, it’s not that bad.” Dad chuckled.

“Oh, yes it was! Way worse than the Titanic one and I cannot believe that 19 year old me fell for it.”

“Kids, don’t let your mum lead you to believe she’s as proper and saintly as she’s saying.” Dad told us and I let out a laugh, half in relief, while Mum let out an indignant huff.

“Don’t start something you don’t want to finish, Peter.” Mum told him, a glint in her eye. Dad looked at her, a curious smirk on his lips. “I have stories of my own that I’m sure our children would find absolutely hilarious.”

Dad’s smirk fell and Mum smiled proudly. “That’s what I thought.”

“Wow, Dad. What does Mum have on you?” Jordan laughed.

“Plenty.” Dad admitted with a sheepish grin while Mum started to get up from the table.

“I still want to know what the line was.” I admitted.

Dad turned to watch as Mum left the kitchen before turning to us all. “It dealt with horses and that’s all I’ll say.”

The boys, save for Michael who was still tense and keeping his mouth closed, all began to laugh and my eyes went wide when I got a pretty good idea of which one it was. I saw Sienna frowning for a moment before it clicked and she went red, her hands coming up to her mouth, making Liz laugh.

“Daddy!” She gasped, an embarrassed giggle coming from behind her hands.

“Peter Thomas Edwards!” Mum screeched as she came back in to the kitchen. “You did not tell these children what you said!”

“I didn’t!” Dad defended with a laugh. “Just what it dealt with.”

“I cannot believe I married you.” Mum let out, sighing heavily.

“Whatever you say, Caroline.” Dad chuckled, looking at us all with a wink.

Mum rolled her eyes before looking at us. “If you all are done, we’ll all head into the living room and we can move our chat to a more comfy location.”

“Sounds fantastic.” Liz said, giggling as she stood. She grabbed her plate, but Mum waved at her.

“Don’t worry about that. We’ll get it later.”

“You mean we’ll get it later.” Jordan retorted, standing from the table and stretching.

“Well, yes, honey, that’s why I had kids.” Mum told him and Jordan frowned when Liz laughed and nodded in agreement. Mum and Liz shared a grin before leaving the kitchen and Dad glanced at us.

“I think your mother just found a new partner in crime.” Dad mumbled.

“Well, looks like we’re keeping your mum, Luke.” Sienna shrugged with a grin before following Mum and Liz into the living room.

Luke laughed as the boys stood and then Dad, Jordan, and the boys all headed toward the living room. I reached for Michael’s hand, holding him back slightly and when Dad turned to look at us, he nodding knowingly before glancing at the fridge.

“Will you two stay back and grab some beers for us all?”

“Of course, Dad.” I said, smiling gratefully as he gave us a reason to stay behind. Once Dad had nodded, he left the kitchen and I waited a few moments before turning to Michael. Almost immediately I watched as he went and leant his back against the counter, letting out a groan.

“I royally fucked up.” He mumbled.

“Michael, no.” I shook my head.

“You be the iceberg and I’ll go down?!” He exclaimed, looking at me with wide eyes. “Now all your parents are going to think is that I’m some horrible guy who can’t keep it in his pants and is going to corrupt you with sex and oh my God, the only thing that could have been worse is if I had held up a sign that said ‘I want to fuck your daughter’.”

“Michael, stop.” I stepped closer to him, resting my hands on his waist. I felt him let out a low breath when I did, but I ignored it. “It wasn’t that bad. You’re worrying way too much.”

“I want to make a good impression, Rowan.” He told me. “I want them to like me. I want them to be okay with me.”

“How do you know they’re not?”

“Because I’m a fucking idiot and are you forgetting the pick-up line about going down on a girl?”

“Are you forgetting that I’ve already told them so much about you and they know how amazing you are?” I asked, making him stop. “Michael, they know how sweet and amazing you are. They saw that last night when they found the note you had left and the fact that you had come over at all says a lot. They already like you and they understand that you’re nervous. They aren’t going to think you’re an idiot.”

Michael sighed, bringing one of his hands to my hip. “I just don’t want to have ruined any chance I have.”

“You haven’t.” I promised. “I know my parents.”

“Alright.” He mumbled and I smiled at him.

“Can you do something for me then?” I asked and he nodded. “Please, please, please relax. I know you’re nervous, but I keep worrying about you being so tense. Just relax and go with the flow.”

“I’m trying.” Michael promised. “It’s just hard.”

“I know.” I smiled. “But you’re doing great.”

Michael smiled softly, looking me in the eyes. “Do you think I’m an idiot?”

I smiled at his soft question, the worry in his eyes evident as I shook my head. “Not in the way you’re meaning it right now. You’re the best kind of idiot, Michael. You make me laugh and you make me smile and you make me happy.” 

Michael’s eyes brightened as he took in my words and the smile that came across his lips was amazing. He put his other hand on my other lip and his eyes darted down to my lips quickly before looking back up at me. I nodded slightly and waited as he slowly began to lean in.

“Ro?”

I let out a soft sigh as Michael stopped and I stepped back from him, leaving him leaning against the counter, a small frown on his lips. “Yeah?”

I turned to watch Mum and Dad walk into the kitchen and out of the corner of my eye I saw Michael stand up a bit straighter while I tensed up too.

“You both can calm down.” Mum laughed lightly. “We just wanted to chat with you two.”

“Yeah, we wanted to get to know Michael more on his own.” Dad said as he and Mum went and rested against the opposite counter. I looked back at Michael and I could tell how nervous he was as he looked at with wide eyes, but I gave him an encouraging smile as I went to stand next to him.

“So, Michael, how are you?” Dad began.

“Good.” He said, glancing at me quickly. “A bit nervous though.”  

I smiled a bit at his admission and so did Mum and Dad. “I know the feeling. I was the same way the first time I met Caroline’s parents. Her dad hated me.”

“He did not.” Mum countered with a sigh before looking at Michael. “Don’t believe a word he says, Michael. He’s just saying that because my dad kept making fun of how nervous he was and has never let him live it down.”

Dad rolled his eyes and crossed his arms across his chest, but smiled as he turned his attention back to Michael. “Don’t feel bad for being nervous. That was my whole point.”

“Thanks.” Michael smiled softly.

“Tell us about yourself, Michael.” Mum said and he froze.

“Um.” He started. “What do you want to know?”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” Dad asked.

“No.” Michael shook his head. He was still tense, but I was proud of the fact that he was talking normally and wasn’t showing signs of nervousness in his voice. “That’s why it’s really nice to have the boys. They’re the brothers I never had.”

“Are you really close to your parents then?” Mum asked.

“Yeah, really close. I’m not closer to anyone else, actually.” Michael admitted. “I miss them a lot. I talk to them every day.”

“I bet they miss you, too.” Mum smiled. “I know I’d miss my baby.”

“Yeah, Mum does. She’s happy for me though. And really proud of me.”

“As she should be!” Dad chimed in. “You’re smashing it and you’re a fantastic lad. I can tell you had some great parents and great leadership in your life.”

“Thank you, sir. That means a lot.” Michael said smiling at my dad.

“Liz seems fond of you as well.” Mum brought up and Michael laughed.

“She’s my second mum, really. I was really secluded before I was friends with the boys and in the band and when I became friends with Luke, she kind of just took me in whenever I was around.”

“She spoke very highly of you earlier. She’s very proud of you. Of all of you.” Mum told him and I loved seeing the smile that came onto his face. I looked at Mum and Dad and they both smiled at me, giving me a nod.

“Anyway, that’s really all we wanted, so why don’t we all head into the living room?” Dad asked, pushing himself off the counter.

“Sounds good.” I said, smiling widely.

“Good.” Dad said, going to the fridge. “Michael, want a beer?”

“Please.” Michael responded immediately and we all laughed as we each took a beer and grabbed one for everyone else except Jordan and Sienna and headed into the living room.

*****

It was almost one AM by the time my parents and I were walking Liz and the boys to the door. Jordan and Sienna had both gone to bed hours before and the rest of us had enjoyed playing a few games of cards and drinking a few beers before finally we all collectively decided to call it a night, mainly because the boys had an interview the next morning.

“Thank you so much for having us over, Caroline. I think I speak for us all when I say that we all very much enjoyed it.” Liz said with a grin.

“Yes, it was great Mrs. Edwards.” Ashton agreed.

“You’re an amazing cook.” Calum added.

“Well thank you, Calum!” Mum laughed. “You lot are welcome over anytime, okay?”

“You shouldn’t tell us these things, Mrs. Edwards.” Luke warned. “We’ll just stop by anytime we’re in London.”

“You’re more than welcome, lads.” Dad said. “Anytime you need an actual meal and not hotel food, just drop on in.”

“We’re seriously going to.” Michael told him.

“Good. We’d be glad to have you.” Mum told him just as there was a honk outside the door.

“Well that’s our ride.” Liz said. “Thank you again.”

Mum, Dad, and Liz all exchanged hugs and goodbyes before Mum and Dad began to say goodbye to the boys. Each of the boys hugged Mum and kissed her cheek, giving Dad firm handshakes and telling them they’d be around soon.

“Don’t forget to lock up before you go to bed, Ro.” Dad told me as he and Mum started toward the stairs. “Good luck tomorrow, lads!”

“Thanks!” They all called and I turned to the boys and Liz, opening the door and stepping into the chilly air. It had thankfully stopped raining but it was definitely cold.

“Thanks for having us over, Rowan. It was great.” Liz said giving me a quick hug. “We’ll see you soon!” Giving me a wave, Liz headed to the van and got in.

Luke, Calum, and Ashton each gave me hugs and said quick goodbyes before the three of them jogged to the van, getting into the backseat and then it was just me and Michael left on the porch.

“So it wasn’t too bad, was it?” I asked, crossing my arms across my chest as a breeze went by.

“No.” Michael admitted. “I guess I didn’t totally fuck things up, then.”

“You didn’t fuck things up at all.” I promised, giving him a grin. Michael returned it before looking quickly to the van and then back to me.

“I don’t really know what our plan is after our interview tomorrow, but I’ll text you. Maybe we can hang out or something.”

“I’d love to, but I have a lot of homework I need to do.” I admitted. “But later on this week?”

“Yeah, of course!” Michael nodded. “We’re going to be doing a lot of recording and stuff, but yeah, definitely.”

“Okay, just text me and we’ll figure it out from there.” I said, shivering as another breeze passed.

“Ro, go inside.” Michael said.

“I will.” I promised. “Once I say goodbye.”

Michael smiled before coming toward me and wrapping me in a hug. I let my around go around his neck and smiled as he hugged me tightly. “I had a really good time tonight.” He mumbled into my ear.

“I did too.” I replied. “Thank you for doing this.”

“Thank you for calming me down.” He replied, pulling back just enough to look at me. “I’ll see you soon?”

I licked my lips as I stared at Michael’s lips before looking at his eyes. “Yeah, of course.” I whispered and Michael was quiet as he looked at me for a second before smiling and beginning to lean in.

I smiled as I leaned in toward him, really hoping that the third time was the charm. When we were just a few centimeters away from each other, Michael paused and I was tempted to close the gap between us myself, but Michael finally leaned all the way in and pressed his lips to mine.

The kiss wasn’t slow, but it wasn’t eager either. Instead our lips moved together in a perfect rhythm, the taste of Michael’s mouth flooding my own. I could feel Michael smiling into the kiss and that made me smile too, which after a few more moments of us kissing made us pull apart.

We stared at each other for a moment, both of us smiling widely with our eyes shining brightly. Michael wasted no time and leaned back in, this time a bit more eager and I giggled, Michael swallowing my giggles with no problem.

“Yo, Mike, quit sucking face! We gotta go, lover boy!” I heard Calum call with a chuckle and with an embarrassed giggle, I pulled back, my cheeks burning pink, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the fact that I had been kissing Michael or Calum’s call. Probably both.

“Fuck off!” Michael called back, turning around to flip his friend off. “I’m coming, you fucker!”

Turning back to me, Michael gave me a final grin, the biggest one of the night, and leaned in and pressed his lips to mine once again. He moved his lips against mine quickly before pulling back. “I’ll see you soon.” He promised, letting me go.

“Okay. Have fun at your interview tomorrow.” I told him, a huge smile on my face. I knew I looked like an idiot, but Michael was smiling like one too so I didn’t really care.

“Have fun doing your homework!” Michael said, walking backwards toward the van.

“Yeah, I’ll try!”

With a final wave and a final grin, Michael turned to the van, pushing Calum in as Cal laughed loudly before getting in and shutting the door.

I put my fingers to my lips as I watched the van drive away and after a few moments, I shook my head and went inside, the smile never leaving my face.

“Everything is connected by the one thing that is everywhere no matter were you go, no matter how big or how small, something filled with nearly an infinite amount of energy even though we perceive it as completely empty due to it’s structure forming an infinite scalar fractal of perfectly-balanced geometry, a vector equilibrium we call SPACE.”

4

trollslottet’s list of Folk and Folk Metal bands: 7/?

EQUILIBRIUM is a German folk metal band, founded in 2001. Their music combine elements of folk music, black metal and symphonic metal with various other influences. Their riffs reflect traditional Germanic melodies and their lyrical themes focus on Germanic tales and mythology. They’re also responsible for the most brilliant and epic instrumental track of the whole folk metal genre: Mana (give it a try if you think this is an overstatement).

My favorite album: Sagas

Songs: DämmerungBlut Im Auge