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Youngblood

21. Better Man

December 2017
Ashton:


To the group: 5SOS
From: Luke US
Why does everyone keep saying that we're on a hiatus? We just took a year and a half to make an album

To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
From the web:

Hiatus: an interruption in time or continuity: break; especially a period when something (such as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted

To the group: 5SOS
From: Luke US
Oh

To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
Consider your words: eaten

To the group: 5SOS
From: Michael US
What do you guys think of making WYB our first single?

To the group: 5SOS
From: Michael US
I feel like it really shows 5SOS in the past, present, and future

To the group: 5SOS
From: Calum US
I like it

To the group: 5SOS
From: Me
I'm in

To the group: 5SOS
From: Luke US
Dope


I shove my phone back into my pocket, but it only stays there for a few seconds before it's lighting up again.

To: Me
From: Hannah From Next Door
I miss you, by the way

To: Me
From: Hannah From Next Door
Never thought I'd say that, but it's true

To: Hannah From Next Door
From: Me
I never thought you'd say that either

To: Hannah From Next Door
From: Me
Miss you too <3

To: Hannah From Next Door
From: Me
Btw you're still in my phone as Hannah From Next Door

To: Me
From: Hannah From Next Door
I mean, it's still true, so

To: Me
From: Hannah From Next Door
Even though I'm more than that, now

To: Hannah From Next Door
From: Me
So so much more than that ;) <3

To: Me
From: Hannah From Next Door
Staaaaahp, you're gonna make a girl blush

"Earth to Ashton." I hear my sister's voice just after she's hit me on the back of my head with, I assume, a book or magazine of some sort. Whatever it is, it hurts. "Would it kill you to put the phone away for a minute?"

"Sorry," I say, sending a quick kiss emoji to Hannah before locking the phone and putting it in my pocket.

"How's it going with Hannah?" Lauren asks, kicking her feet up on the couch. Sure enough, she has a magazine in her hands. "I assume good, since you never stop talking to her."

Trying to mask my smile, I nod and play it cool. "Yeah, it's going well so far."

"So far?" An eyebrow quirks up. "Do you think it's not gonna last?"

I puff out my cheeks, letting the air out of them slowly as I contemplate how to respond to that. "It took so long for us to get to this point," I start, thinking out loud. "I'm just kinda worried about when the other shoe's gonna drop, you know? It feels too good to be true."

"Yeah, but if you spend your whole relationship worrying about when it's gonna end, it definitely will," Lauren says with the wisdom of a person who's been married for 20 years. "Focus on the good and cross the 'this might end up not working out' bridge when you get there."

I stare at my sister like she has seven heads. "When did you get so much knowledge about relationships?" I throw a pillow across the couch at her.

She catches it easily and tosses it back. "I grew up."

"When?"

"You've been gone on and off for, like, six years, Ash." She leans back and opens her magazine to read.

"Yeah, but we had a deal," I say sadly. "You were supposed to stay a little kid."

"I wasn't even a little kid when you left," she argues. "I was 10 or 11."

"That's still a little kid." I throw the pillow at her again. This time, it hits her directly in the face.

"Hey!" Mom walks into the room and snatches the pillow up away from Lauren's threatening hand. "We don't throw my nice pillows."

"Sorry…" Lauren and I mutter in unison.

My phone vibrates, to which Lauren reacts with a roll of her eyes. I pull it out apologetically and see that it's not a text, but a phone call from an unknown number with a United States country code. I stand up and excuse myself from the room to answer.

"Hello?"

"Ashton!" I'm greeted by Mellie's voice on the other line. "Did this work? Is it you?"

"Yeah, it's me," I laugh. "Mellie?"

"Yeah!" She's basically shouting into the phone. "Can you hear me? What time is it there?"

"Uh…" I glance down at my watch. "It's about nine in the morning. And yeah, I can hear you."

"It's four in the afternoon here!" She's still shouting. "I've never called someone in another country before!"

I can't help but laugh at how adorable this is, how exciting it must be for her to be on the phone with someone halfway across the world. "Did Hannah give you my number?"

"Yes." She lowers her voice for the first time, but only by the slightest bit. "I wanted to call you personally to let you know that all of your working with me paid off. I got the solo!"

A bright smile grows on my face. "Mellie, that's great! I knew you could do it."

"Thank you for everything," she gushes. "Will you be able to come to the concert?"

"When is it?"

"Next month," she answers. "January 23rd."

"I'll be there." I promise, hopeful that I can keep it.

Mellie and I say our goodbyes and when I hang up, I save her number to my phone straight away, knowing that I'll forget if I don't. "That your girlfriend?"

My mom's voice startles me. "No," I reply, stuffing my phone back into my pocket. "It was the 13-year-old girl she nannies, Mellie."

She looks at me, puzzled. "She was calling you?"

"Yeah, I helped her out with a music thing." I shrug it off to demonstrate that it was not a big deal. "She was just excited to tell me that she got the thing she auditioned for."

"You've grown close to her, then?"

Again, I shrug, a move I do when I'm not sure how to respond. "Yeah, I guess. Her and her little brother. I spend a lot of time with Hannah, so I spend a lot of time with them, too."

"You've grown to care for these kids?"

I nod, knowing the answer to that for sure. "They're good kids. And they mean a lot to Hannah."

"Do they mean a lot to you?" she asks.

"Yeah," One corner of my mouth turns up in a smile. "They're kind of like more siblings. They remind me of Lauren and Harry a bit."

This makes my mom smile. "A home away from home."

"Never thought of it that way, but yeah, kinda."

"Did you know," she says, moving closer to me. "that you've only been here for a week and already, I've seen you and your brother and sister get along better than I have in however many years you've all been together?"

"As evident by the interaction Lauren and I were just having?"

She rolls her eyes, my mother's take-no-shit attitude ever-present. She smacks me on the head, just like my sister. "Yes. Years ago, you would've been at each other's throats by now; even in April when we visited you."

Now that I think about it, she does have a point. I've always had a fairly solid relationship with my younger brother and sister growing up in Australia. But even if it's been months or more since the last visit, siblings still do what siblings do and we argue and get on each other's nerves.

"All I'm saying," my mom continues, wrapping her arm across my shoulders and pulling me into a side hug. "Is that I think that your time spent with those kids in California has made you a better brother and maybe even a better person."

"Are you saying I was a bad brother and person before?" I ask her, playfully offended, though warmed by her observation.

She sighs and removes her arm. "That's the last time I try to pay you a compliment," she announces as she leaves the room.

"Love you, Mom!" I call after her. She responds with blowing a kiss behind her in my direction.

-----
New Year's Eve 2017

To: Me
From: Hannah From Next Door
If you don't get here quick, I might explode

To: Hannah From Next Door
From: Me
Promise? ;)

To: Me
From: Hannah From Next Door
Quit flirting and get your butt home

I'm practically bouncing in my seat - nope, not practically, just straight up doing it - when the black SUV finally pulls up to my house. The car hasn't even come to a complete stop before I'm diving out the door.

"Sir?" the driver calls after me, the car jolting to a stop. "Don't forget your luggage!"

Grumbling, I turn back around and grab my bags, rushing up to my front door. I fish through the pocket of my leather jacket for my keys and stumble to unlock the door and throw the bags inside quickly before slamming the door shut, locking it once more, and heading over to the Hales' house.

Before I can knock on the door, it's open and Hannah is in my arms. Her embrace is warm and inviting. I nuzzle my face into her hair, taking in her scent.

She pulls back to smile up at me. "Hi."

"Hi," I laugh back at her. "I missed you."

"Right back at you." She stands up on her tiptoes, wrapping her arms around her neck to kiss me.

I take a step forward, which she follows, taking her own step backwards. I walk her back, kicking the door closed once I'm fully inside the house.

This time when she pulls away, she smirks up at me. "Guess what."

"What?"

"No one's here." She wags her eyebrows at me. "Kids are still in New York, Luna's still upstate."

One corner of my mouth turns up. "We have the house to ourselves?"

"Uh-huh." She nods slowly. "I have no responsibilities as of right now."

"Hmmm…" I stroke my chin. "What should we do?"

She takes my hand and pulls me toward the stairs. "I don't think you've ever been upstairs, have you?"

I shake my head in the negative. "Not that I recall."

"I think it would only be polite to give you a tour."

"That would be the right thing to do."

In seconds, we're upstairs and outside Hannah's bedroom. My lips are on her neck as she pushes her door open. We fumble around like teenagers who have to sneak in quickly before our parents see.

"The tour stops here." Hannah says, gripping the lapels of my jacket and pulling me toward her bed.

"Fine by me." I growl, kissing her again.

We move to the bed and I lean forward, pushing her back onto it. Kicking off my boots, I straddle her hips, my lips finding her neck once more. She moans at my touch, her fingers tangled in my hair. It's not long before clothes are flying across the room and we meld together into one.

-----

I'm lying on my back, staring at the ceiling, breathing hard. I feel Hannah shift in bed and look over to see her rolling onto her side to face me. She smiles softly, though I sense that she's on the verge of tears. I roll to face her, concerned that she feels we've made a terrible mistake. "What's wrong?"

She shakes her head against the pillow. "Nothing."

"Hannah…"

"Ashton, don't worry," she takes my hand in hers and squeezes gently. "I don't want to turn this into a super serious moment."

I place my free hand on her cheek. "What's on your mind?"

After a long pause, she sighs, acquiescing. "It's just that…this time of year has brought me a lot of pain for many years," she starts, her voice barely above a whisper. "So has…well, that activity. But in one fell swoop, you changed that. So thank you."

I press my lips to her forehead in a gentle kiss. "Any time."

Hannah's eyes move past me. She sits up a little, her brow furrowing. "…is that my bra?"

I turn around to see what she's seeing and find that indeed, her bra is slung carelessly on the lamp near the door. When I face her again, her eyebrow is raised in amusement. "I guess I got a little excited."

We dissolve into laughter, holding each other under the covers. We talk for hours, about my time in Australia and hers in Michigan, our families, life in general. If our lives were a movie, it would have been one of those montage scenes with music playing over the top of it, shots of us just talking fading in and out, all of it eventually culminating in us falling asleep as the sun went down.

However, it's like three in the afternoon on a Sunday, so we have to get up.

"Did I tell you about the party that I'm having at my place tonight?" I ask as I pull on my shirt.

"Oh yeah," she recalls, pulling the dress she was wearing over her head. "I wasn't sure if I could go because I didn't know if I'd be back in time."

"But you are, so you can go, right?"

Hannah smiles over at me and nods. "Yeah, I'll be there."

"Good," I say, moving over to her and placing my hands on her hips. "Because if I didn't have you to kiss at midnight, I'm afraid one of the guys will get drunk enough to try and I'm not sure I'll be able to stop them."

"Or that you'll want to."

"I didn't say it, you did."

Hannah giggles again and I am reminded of how much I love that sound. For so long, she was all scowls whenever I came around, so the fact that I can make her smile, let alone laugh, still feels like a miracle. "Do you need help setting up?"

"No, I got it. I think Calum's coming over a bit early to help, so I should probably head over there." I reluctantly let go of her to grab my leather jacket. "I haven't been in my house in a few weeks, who knows what it looks like?"

"Probably the same way you left it, my dear."

"Rest assured, I am not your dear." I echo her words from our first date.

Realization comes to her and she grins but covers her mouth. "Oh my God, I did say that, didn't I?" I nod, laughing. "Why did you pursue me so heavily? I was so mean to you."

"Was?"

"Shut up." She punches me in the shoulder.

I catch her hand before she can take it away and pull her to me, wrapping an arm around her waist. "Because I knew you'd be worth the fight."

Hannah smiles, reaching up to peck me on the lips. "Always the charmer."

She walks me to the front door, not letting go of my hand until I descend the stairs outside. "See you tonight?"

She leans against the doorway, confirming with a smile, "See you tonight."

Notes

Comments

Please update! I'm dying in suspense.

Kat21 Kat21
11/19/18

Such a good story, I read the whole thing in one day :D Keep up the good work!

nienke5sos nienke5sos
11/7/18

Love, love, love!

Kat21 Kat21
9/13/18

We were so close to everything being good and happy! Ugh. You're killing me. I need good news.

Kat21 Kat21
8/31/18

@Kat21
Thanks so much! I'm glad to hear you're liking it!

misshx misshx
8/25/18