Chapter 1 – Regrets Unraveling

Niall barely made it to the bathroom in time before crashing his knees down in front of the toilet and emptying the contents of his stomach. He clutched the sides of the bowl as he heaved, barely able to catch his breath. Tears stung his eyes; he would have been worried he might choke if his mind wasn’t so crowded with other thoughts.

When he was finished, he lifted his shaky arm to flush and collapsed on the floor. He ached all over. His back was in pain, his stomach hurt from being twisted up in knots only moments ago. His head hurt and there was a dull throbbing sensation behind his eyes. But most of all, Niall’s heart pounded in his chest, feeling as though it might literally break at any second.

He took short, shallow breaths as the cold tile of the floor pressed against his cheek. Oddly enough, it soothed Niall ever so slightly. The coolness seeped into his skin and brought a little bit of colour back to his face. Still, beads of sweat lined his forehead and matted down his soft blonde hair.

He kicked the door closed with his foot. Normally, he hated tight spaces, but in that moment he really couldn’t care less. He groaned slightly, closing his eyes.

In the darkness, all he could see was her face. Her beautiful face that was now gone, taken from the world. She’d done it herself, but Niall knew better. He knew that no matter what had happened at the bitter end, this was all his fault. The fact that she’d taken her own life was merely a detail in a bigger story. The root cause would always be traced back to him. He would always be the reason that she was no longer breathing.

He was sure he would never be able to forgive himself.

Even though there were hot tears brimming his eyelids, Niall couldn’t bring himself to actually cry. He was still much too in shock. One moment he’d been sitting on the bus enjoying a quick game of Call of Duty with Louis, the next his phone was ringing.

Even though it was just moments ago, he had to slowly piece it all back together. He must have answered the phone, thinking it was a little strange that Alicia’s mother would be calling him. He had assumed that she would have wanted nothing to do with him after all that had happened between the two of them. Niall had thought she was out of his life for good.

And now, he supposed, she was.

The soft, sad words rang through Niall’s mind like bells. Over and over again he them.

“Niall… Alicia’s gone… we found her in the bathroom this morning. She took a whole bottle of anti-depressants. I’m sorry… I just thought you should know.”

She just thought he should know. If he wasn’t so sick, he would have been outraged by her choice of words. Why did she think that he ought to know? Why was it so important that she call and tell him this awful news?

Niall knew the answer to that. It was because Alicia’s mother was loving and considerate. She would have done anything for her daughter, and she loved her unconditionally. She had to be in shock, she had to be grieving. Niall had been a part of their family by extension for so long, that it must have only felt natural to let him know what had happened.

Not to mention that he was the reason for her depression. He was the reason that she’d probably had the medication in the first place. Niall briefly wondered if Alicia’s mother had called to tell him just to hurt him. So that he would feel the same overwhelming pain that her daughter had felt.

The loss and the dull heartache that would never quite go away.

But in that moment, none of those things mattered to him. Niall pressed his eyes closed and tried to steady his breathing as the bile began to rise in his throat again. The more he thought about it, the more it made him sick.

He didn’t know what he was supposed to be feeling.

Guilt was the easiest and what seemed to overshadow every other emotion that was running through his body. He began to wonder if there was something he could have said or done differently. He wondered why Alicia hadn’t just called him and told him what was wrong.

It was another question he knew the answer to. Alicia hadn’t called him in ages. He could hardly remember the last time they’d spoken. It had probably just been formalities. Nothing serious. No long winded goodbye.

Still, he would have listened. He swore to himself he would have listened. But now she was gone, and the only thing that Niall could hear was silence.

***

Louis sat on the bus staring blankly at the television screen. He sighed as he leaned back onto the palms of his hands and waited for Niall to return to their game.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked him, giving him a raised eyebrow.

Louis just shrugged. “Waiting for Niall to come back.”

“Where’d he go?” Harry asked, still giving Louis a weird look. “You’ve been sitting there forever.”

Louis shrugged. “I don’t know. His phone rang. It must have been important because he walked off rather quickly.”

“Probably some girl,” Harry laughed, going back to playing with his own phone.

Louis nodded his head in agreement as he looked back at the television screen. “Probably.”

It was no secret that ever since his breakup with Alicia, Niall had become something of a manwhore. The others hadn’t said much to him about it, they figured he just needed to get it out of his system. After everything that had happened to him, a relationship was the last thing that Niall wanted to jump back into.

So instead, he took full advantage of the fact that there were no shortage of girls willing to jump into bed with him.

After a couple minutes of silence, Liam walked into the entertainment room and eyed Louis and Harry. “Where’s Niall?” he asked, holding up the blonde boy’s Blackberry. “His phone was just lying on the ground where anyone could step on it.”

Harry and Louis gave each other a look. “I don’t know,” Louis said. “He left when he got a call and hasn’t been back since.”

The three boys stood there silently for a moment before Liam piped up. “Well, it’s not like there’s many places he could be. It’s a bus after all.”

The others nodded in agreement. “Well, when you find him, tell him that he’s going to have to wait to get his turn in Call of Duty,” Harry said, moving to sit beside Louis on the floor and picking up the spare controller. “Because his spot just got taken.”

Liam rolled his eyes and walked out of the entertainment room. Normally he wouldn’t be so impatient, but Niall’s discarded phone worried him. Niall’s phone was almost like his life force, as he was constantly texting and on twitter.

That, and Liam had always been over protective of Niall. He walked through the area with the bunks, but only saw Zayn sleeping in his. The curtain of Niall’s was drawn, and all that sat in it was his laptop and backpack.

Niall wasn’t in the kitchenette either.

So, Liam deducted, he must have been in the bathroom. He glanced over in that direction, and his suspicions were confirmed as the door was closed. He shook his head a bit, but didn’t go looking for his friend. It was widely known that Niall liked to cure tour bus boredom by having what he referred to as “quality time” in there.

Liam pushed the image out of his mind, just as he always did. He tried not to let himself think about Niall that way – it never led to anything good.

So he sauntered back to the entertainment room and sat down on the couch. He watched Louis and Harry play their game for a few minutes. Soon enough, the round ended. The two boys laughed and were about to start playing again, when they saw Niall walk into the doorway.

He leaned against the frame, but didn’t really make eye contact with any of them. The colour had come back to his face, but it was still whiter than usual. His eyes were red and he looked at the ground with a lost expression.

“You back for another round?” Louis asked, holding up the controlled over his head, ignoring Niall’s obvious distraught expression.

“Huh?” Niall asked, looking up at him. He’d nearly forgot he’d been playing games with Louis before the phonecall. It seemed like hours ago, when in reality it had only been about ten minutes.

“Call of Duty. I was whooping you,” Louis explained, giving him an odd look.

“Oh,” Niall said, not moving from his position.

Louis and Harry gave each other a look. They just shrugged, and looked back at the screen, intending to start playing the game themselves again. It was clear Niall wasn’t in the mood.

Liam, on the other hand, looked at Niall with concern. Over the past year, he’d seen Niall looking lost and distraught a number of times, but nothing like this. He looked empty… which was alarming. Under all the drama Niall had dealt with, he’d somehow still managed to keep his head up.

“Niall, you okay?” he asked carefully.

“Uh,” Niall gulped, trying to remember to breathe. “Yeah… Alicia’s dead.”

With that, Louis and Harry snapped their heads away from their game and looked at Niall. Liam’s eyes grew wide. He certainly hadn’t expected Niall to say that. And Niall was still standing there, his mouth hanging half open, looking as though he didn’t know what to do, and like he hadn’t quite registered the information himself.

“W…what?” Louis stammered.

“What happened?” Harry asked, his voice full of curiosity and disbelief.

Niall looked down at the two of them. Normally he would have made a joke about them playing off each other, and how alike they were, two peas in a pod, he would have said. But at that moment he didn’t care. “She killed herself.”

There was a thick silence in the room after that. No one said a word. No one asked why. That was a question they knew Niall wouldn’t be able to answer. Besides, they were sure they already knew why.

“I think I’m goin’ to go lay down…” Niall said, leaving the room slowly and presumably walking towards his bunk.

Liam, Harry and Louis shared a look. It took a couple moments before any of them spoke up, making sure to do so only once Niall was no longer within earshot.

“Do you think one of us should go check on him?” Louis asked quietly. “I can’t believe she…” he trailed off, not daring to say it.

“You can’t?” Harry asked in disbelief. “She was always calling him crying before they broke up. It wasn’t like she was all sunshine and roses. She was really unhappy.”

“Harry…” Liam cautioned.

“What?” Harry asked, looking at him. “It’s not like it wasn’t true, just because she died, it doesn’t change that.”

Louis rolled his eyes, ignoring Harry’s ranting. It wasn’t going to help anything. “Should we go check on him?” he asked again, looking up at Liam.

If anyone was going to go check on Niall, it would have been Liam. They’d been the first in the group to become close friends, and were arguably closer than even Louis and Harry. But along with that, Liam also knew Niall inside and out. “No,” he said slowly. “I think we’ll just give him some time to come to terms with this.”

Louis nodded and looked back at Harry. They both went back to their game with an unspoken understanding that now, they were in need of a distraction from this devastating news.

Liam looked over at the doorway where Niall had been standing only moments ago. His heart broke for his best friend. Even though all he wanted to do was go over to the bunk and comfort Niall, he withheld. There was nothing he could do for him at the moment, he knew Niall wasn’t ready to talk. But when he was, Liam was ready to listen.

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