Slow Burn

"Oh say, do you know?
I'm a fool in a one man show
I'm a broken stereo, out of time
So how, does it feel?
All alone, is it so surreal?
'Cause the ghost of survivor's guilt can be so unkind"

Eloise Cecilia Hemmings (Lucy) is the twin sister of the one and only Luke Hemmings.
The Catch: the fans have no idea she exists.

Lucas Robert Hemmings is the twin brother of Lucy Hemmings.
The Catch: he's not all that great at being without her.

What happens when Lucy is forced out of "hiding"? How will the fans react when she starts dating Ashton Irwin? Will Luke be able to protect his little sister, or will the real world break them, and the band, apart?


3. Chapter 3

I hate airports. There’s always so many people, and they’re so big…I like my alone time; I’m good at being on my own. But this? This is a little too much. I’m exhausted from the long flight. I miss home. I miss my brother. It’s a weird sort of limbo, where I am. I miss my mum and I want to go home, but I also feel a pull towards my brother here in America.

I sigh and lift my small suitcase from the floor at my feet, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. Mikey had been kind enough to send cab to pick me up and take me to wherever their tour bus is parked, I just have to find the man… I look around, searching for the cabbie. Shortly after, I spot a man in jeans and a T-shirt holding a sign with “Eloise Cecilia” written on it. I smile and walk over to the man, readjusting my bags.

“Are you Eloise?” he asks with a smile.

“Yes sir,” I respond as he takes my suitcase from me and leads me out to a car. The man tosses my bag in the back with me, then holds the door open for me. I nod my thanks and slide in as he shuts the door behind me. “Do you know how long of a drive it is?” I ask. Mike neglected to give me any details…

“It’s about 20 minutes away. Is that alright?” He starts the engine and pulls out as he meets my gaze for a second in the rearview mirror.

“Sounds good to me. Thanks!” I lean back into the seat, pulling my cell phone out of my boot.

Me: Hey, I’m on my way. Be about another 20 minutes. You guys around?

Michael responds instantly.

Mike: We’re just on the bus. Got an interview in an hour so you’re good

I pocket the device and watch as Los Angeles flies by. I’m surprised by how different L.A. is from Sydney. I can’t even begin to count the ways the two cities differ.

In no time at all, the car stops the parking lot of the building owned by some radio station. I shrug, not overly concerned. “Uh…” I realize that all my money is currently in an Australian currency. “Did Michael already pay you?”

The driver laughs and nods as he takes the car out of park and I close the door. The van drives away and I take a moment to stand and look at the bus. It looks deceptively small on the outside, but Luke has showed me the interior during one of our Skype calls, so I know he fares just fine inside. It seems like I’m standing outside for ages before I pack up the courage to approach the vehicle, suddenly seized by nerves. “Come on Lucy,” I whisper to myself, “you’ve come all this way. Just knock. Just knock. For goodness sakes, he is your brother. Just knock on the door!”

Before I can change my mind, I bring my knuckles up to lightly rap against the metal door a few times. I hear sounds of confusion within; apparently nobody told Luke I was coming.

I hear Mikey shout, “I’ll get it,” followed by approaching footsteps. The door swings open, narrowly missing me, revealing a grinning Michael. “Come on in.” He retreats back up the stairs as he grabs my small duffle from me.

I climb the steep steps, then pause and give Michael a hug. “Thanks, Mike.”

He smiles as he returns the hug. “Don’t mention it, Squirt.”

“Mikey, who’s there?” Luke calls.

I frown at a mischievous looking Mikey as he drops my bag and walks further into the bus to flop down on the couch next to my brother. “Just a friend stopping by for a visit.”

I step through the doorway, taking in the sight of my brother. He looks the same as always, slouched on the couch, phone in front of his face, one leg slung over the other, ankle on knee. The image brings a smile to my face. God I’ve missed him…

It takes him a few seconds to look up, but when he does, his expression is priceless. His eyebrows draw together in disbelief as he slowly sits up, placing his feet on the floor. His eyes clear and his mouth hangs open just slightly. He suddenly looks years younger. He suddenly looks carefree. But it’s the glassiness to his eyes that causes my heart to skip a beat. Tears. He’s holding back tears.

The instant I blink, his strong arms are suddenly wrapped around my waist, lifting my 5’7” frame from the floor as he buries his face in the crook of my neck. I wrap my arms around his neck and we cling to each other as if we were being physically pulled apart. After a few seconds, I realize he is shaking and my neck feels wet.

“Luke…” I mumble against him. I bring one hand up to the back of his neck, trying to comfort him. “Shhhh… You’re ok. You’re ok…”

If at all possible, his grip on me tightens. I chuckle in response. My brother holds me for a few more seconds before setting me back on the ground, eyes locked on mine, his hands on either side of my face. My hands come up to cover his and I smile at him. He grins in response and hugs me again.

“What are you doing here?” He’s excited and happy and it makes my heart flutter; I was so worried he’d be angry with me for some reason.

I wrap my arms around his waist and give him a quick squeeze. “I came to see you! I missed you.”

I pull away and he continues to interrogate me. “I missed you too, sis. But how did you know? How did you know to come? How did you get here? Did Mum pay for the flight? I’ll have to pay her back.”

I laugh at his string of questions and hold my hands up. “Woah, Luke! One or two at a time!” He laughs along with me and sheepishly smiles an apology. “Ok, um… I knew you missed me because, well, I’d hoped you had. I know I missed you, and I figured it was the same for you. Plus, the guys told me you did when you went to go get food during our Skype chat the other day. Uh, I knew to come because texts, calls, and Skypes aren’t the same as being here in person. I can’t hug you from the other side of the road. I flew, then Mikey arranged for a cab to bring me here.” Luke looks back at his friend and gives him a ‘thanks’ before turning back to me. “No, Mum didn’t pay for the flight; I did. I work 6 days a week, I’m done with school, and I have a lot of money saved up.” I shrug and lean against the doorframe.

Luke grabs my duffle from the ground and leads me through the first portion of the bus, back to the bunks. “How long are you staying?” His voice sounds sad, almost far away.

“I’m not sure. How long do you want me to stay?” I hadn’t really planned a length of time to stay, I just packed and bought a ticket. I’m not prepared for more than a week, though.

He tosses my bag on one of the lower bunks, then leans against the one above it. “This is my bunk. You ok being under me?” I nod. “Well, I’d like you to stay the whole tour, but I know that’s not a reality. How long can you stay?”

I pull out my phone and check my calendar. “I’ve gotten a week off with the studio, but I can stretch it out to two weeks maybe.”

Luke nods, scratching his beard. “Think you can stretch it?”

I nod. “Just remind me to call Abigale later when the time isn’t insanely unreasonable over there, yeah.”

Luke nods and smiles pulling me in for another hug. “Guys,” Ashton shouts at the top of his lungs, walking through the bunk area, “time to go!”

My brother groans and looks at the roof, drawing a laugh from my mouth. “What? You don’t want to go?”

“No! I just got my sister back! And now I have to leave again…” he seems genuinely frustrated.

I draw my brows together into a frown, “Luke, relax.” I can’t help but chuckle at how emotional he’s being. “I’ll come with you. I can just sit behind the cameras and watch you; I won’t make a peep.” I stick my tongue out at him for a split second, earning me a laugh.

“Sounds like a plan, sis.” He then wraps his arm around my neck and pulls me into a headlock. I scream as he starts to rub his knuckles against my hair. Calum appears in the doorway and laughs at us, causing Luke to pull away. I immediately fix my hair from where he messed it up as I stick my tongue out at him. He just rolls his eyes and walks past me. “You coming, Luce?”

“Right behind you,” I reply, poking his spine. He shudders; I know he thinks it feels weird when I do that, so I take pleasure in doing it just to piss him off.

I know he’s rolling his eyes at me, even though I can’t see him. I follow him and the other boys out and across the parking lot to the radio station’s building. Now the location makes sense. The entire walk, Luke rests his arm on my shoulders. He knows I hate it because it makes me feel short, but I allow it just this once because of his prolonged absence. The boys all chatter around me, occasionally directing comments and questions to me, which I answer. But I’m quite content to just watch the four interact. They’ve grown so much since Luke’s covers in our house. I’m proud. So, so proud.

We enter the building and the boys are suddenly bombarded with girls. Before we reach that point, though, a member of their security team takes me through another door. I’m grateful I don’t have to deal with the mob and the screaming. I’m already pretty decently claustrophobic, so being in that would not be ok for me. I’ve seen how those things have gone… Teenage girls scare me. I mean, I know I’m still one, but I’m turning 20 this year, these girls are like 15-17 on average. I shudder at the thought.

The man leads me to a kind of waiting room in the building. I can see the room the boys’ interview will be held in. It’s like a fishbowl.

It takes another 10 minutes before 5SOS makes their entrance. It takes another 10 minutes for the interview to start. During that time, I pass the minutes texting Mum about how things are going and that I’m safe. She appreciates the updates, but I know she’s tired. Fucking time zones… Makes so much more sense why Luke and I sucked at keeping in steady contact.

Once the interview begins, it proceeds rather swimmingly. Until about ¾ of the way through when the interviewer comments on how Luke seems a bit happier of late. Which normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but all the boys fall silent and Luke unconsciously turns back to look at me with a mildly panicked expression. Mine matches his.

Ashton tries to cover the awkward moment, saying, “Oh, he just had a close friend of ours stop by for a visit.”

The interviewer isn’t satiated though, damn chick. Girls are always more willing to prod… She points out that, “The boys seem to have brought Luke’s ‘friend’ with them to the building! What’s her name? Invite her in! Come on, guys!”

Luke looks back to me; I’m wildly flailing my hand across in the “NO” gesture, eyes wide. “Uh...She’s a little shy, she’d rather not. She’s only been in L.A. for about a half an hour, so I don’t want to overwhelm her.”

The interviewer is disappointed, but she accepts it. The boys all collectively breathe a sigh of relief. The questioning is over about 5 minutes later and my brother comes back to collect me. “Sorry about that,” he mumbles in my hair as he presses a kiss to my head.

“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him with false brightness. Once again, a security guard takes me away from the group, safely (and secretly) leading me back to the bus.

I’ve got a few minutes alone since it will take the boys a few minutes to get through the crowd of screaming girls. Savoring the moment alone (I know I won’t have many, if any, for the subsequent couple weeks), I take a tour of the bus. It’s actually quite spacious when you’re the only one on it. The back lounge has a TV and a couple gaming systems, the sleeping area has 8 bunks, and the front of the bus has the bathroom, a mini kitchen, a couple couches, and a tiny table. Plenty of space for four, well currently five, people to live comfortably.

I curl up on the couch in the back, leaving both the mirror dividers open so Luke can see me (he tends to get a little overprotective and I don’t want to worry him). I think back to when Mum was on tour with the boys. She was away for a few months, but I was at Uni so it wasn’t a big deal for me. Luke said she kept the boys from doing stupid shit. I’ve been with them for an hour; I totally get what he meant.

Another 30 seconds go by before I hear the boys crashing up the steps. I think Ashton or Calum trip because the boys all start laughing, then end up lying in a pile on the floor. They get up a few moments later and I can see my brother look around the bus for me. He spots me in the way back and gestures for the boys to follow him. The other three obey and soon all the boys are sprawled out on the couch. Luke sits next to me, pulling me so I’m on his lap. I cuddle into his chest, cursing jet lag. Back home, I’d be fast asleep. But right now? Nope. I’m expected to be wide awake. This adjustment is going to be a bitch…

“Well, that was awkward,” Ashton states as he pulls his knee up to his chest, wrapping his arms around it.

“No joke,” Calum concurs.

I shrug against my brother. It was awkward, but so are they. Luke sighs, wrapping his arms around me, running his hand up and down my arm. “I…” He looks down at me.

Michael seems to know exactly what Luke is trying to say. “How do you want to play this, Luke?”

“I just want to keep her safe.”

“Luke…” I moan, “safe and secret are two very different things.”

“I know…” He continues to run his hand up and down my arm, gently lulling me to sleep. I fight unconsciousness, though I do let my eyes slide closed.

Ashton frowns at my brother, adjusting his position to better face him. “Why is she a secret, mate? I mean, everyone knows you have brothers; everyone knows we have siblings. So why keep her from the world?” His voice is hushed, signalling that he and the boys must assume I’m asleep.

It was a good question. One Luke had clearly thought long and hard about. “Her life is perfect the way it is. I don’t want that to change. I don’t want people to treat her any differently or try and be her friend just because I’m her brother. She needs to be free to do whatever she wants to, without any possible hindrance from our career.”

“Makes sense,” Calum interjects. “So I guess we’re back to the original question, how do you want to play this?”

I just know Luke is playing with his lip ring right now, deep in thought. “She’s not a secret, the interviewer made that very clear. But it’s also not been announced to the world that she’s my sister. I guess we just go with the ‘close friend from home’ story you used in the interview today, Ash. Thanks for that save, by the way.”

“No problem.”

Now that the issue of my presence in his life is settled, I actually fall asleep, grateful for the rest.

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