Liam had thought he was cute ever since he had sung Baby on the steps during Bootcamp.

The look on his face when they were put into the group and told they were going to judges houses? Adorable.

The way he had jumped five feet in the air after being told they were through to the live shows? He was smitten.

Staying in the same room with him, joking around, sharing the same experience of a lifetime had really helped their friendship to grow and blossom. They were close – there was no doubting that. Over the few short months that they had lived in The X Factor household together, Liam had found himself growing increasingly more attracted to the blonde boy.

To the point where it wasn’t just infatuation anymore.

There were times when he had felt he should tell him. He’d had many opportunities. Even though they lived in a house with all the other contestants, the two somehow always managed to find time to be alone. They would talk and have their own conversations that no one else would ever dream of being able to understand.

Liam had almost told Niall the evening after Beatles Night. The poor boy had been so upset, thinking he hadn’t done a good job, and that he’d let the group down by being off. It had been all he could do to not blurt out that he didn’t think he’d let them down at all. That it wasn’t possible for him to let them down – to let him down. They had been sitting outside, and Niall’s face had been mixed up with a pout and self-doubt, and Liam had almost leaned over to kiss him, but he froze once he’d realized what he was about to do.

And that’s when he himself began to feel self-doubt.

Ever since then he had worried that though they had a close bond and friendship, him confessing his affection would just make things awkward. He didn’t want Niall to suddenly start looking at him differently. The very thought terrified Liam. Not being with Niall was difficult, but the thought of losing him was much worse. So, as he continued to fall harder, consequently, he had to try harder still to keep his feelings hidden.

Until the night before the final.

All the boys were in their room, trying to fall asleep. Zayn had never had any trouble with that and had been out like a light the moment his head hit the pillow. Louis and Harry had been goofing around for a bit, but eventually, they’d dozed off as well.

Liam stared up at the ceiling, and he heard a gentle tapping.

“Niall?” he whispered.

“Yeah?” he heard the blonde boy respond from the bunk underneath his.

“What are you doing?”

“Tapping my foot,” he said in his thick Irish accent, as though it was completely obvious was he was doing. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Liam said quickly, leaning his head over the side and looking down at Niall. “Are you nervous?” he asked.

“Terrified,” Niall admitted.

“Come on,” Liam said, pulling a sweatshirt over his head and hopping off his bunk. He nodded his head towards the bedroom door.

Niall gave him a look, but pulled the covers off himself and followed Liam out of the room, and onto the back porch of the house.

“What’re you so nervous about, then?” Liam asked as the two of them sat on the steps. This hadn’t been the first time they’d done this, but sitting there the night before the final, Liam realized it was probably going to be the last.

Niall shrugged and looked down at the ground. The cold air made him shiver, and Liam put his arm around him. It was a friendly gesture, but to Liam, it meant the world.

“I don’t want it to be over,” Niall said quietly.

“The show’s ending, Nialler,” Liam said lightly, knowing full well that wasn’t what Niall had meant at all.

“I know,” Niall said, rubbing his hands together. “I know that, but I meant that I don’t want this to be over. Us, as a group. What if we don’t win? Are we going to go our separate ways again?”

Liam pulled Niall in closer. “Do you honestly think that would happen?”

Niall shrugged. “No… but if there’s even a slight chance that it would, that I would be without you…” he trailed off, looking at Liam, and then quickly looking away.

It only lasted a split second, but Liam was sure he saw something flicker in Niall’s eyes. Was it possible that Niall felt the same way? That Niall was also longing to kiss him, and that he was also afraid of what might happen if he did?

“Niall,” Liam said softly, leaning in closer to the boy, so their noses were almost touching. “That’ll never happen. No matter what happens with the group, that’ll never happen with us,” he said seriously.

He watched as Niall’s eyes searched his own, and then he took a deep breath and just went for it. He rubbed his nose against Niall’s, finally leaning inward. He closed his eyes and allowed his lips to rest on the younger boy’s.

“I love you,” Niall said quickly, before Liam had the chance too.

Liam just smiled, grateful that Niall felt the same way about him. He shouldn’t have been surprised, really. The entire time they’d known each other, they’d always been on the same wavelength.

“I love you too,” Liam whispered, kissing Niall once more. Niall shivered, but of course it had everything to do with the cold weather, and nothing to do with the fact that Liam was sitting right close to him.

“Come on,” Liam said, standing up. “Let’s go back inside.”

Niall offered him a grateful smile and nodded at him, following him once again back into the house, and back into their shared room.

The two boys slept soundly in their own bunks, not wanting to have to explain anything to the others the next morning. Still, both of them felt more secure and at ease than they had in a long time.

That peaceful feeling carried over to their performance the next day. The song the group had chosen was fitting – the very first one they’d sung together. Niall glanced over at Liam during the chorus and the two shared a knowing look.

No matter what happened that evening, they both knew that what they had was forever. It was bigger than any singing competition or boyband. Their connection was far too strong to lose.

It was love.


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