Chapter 12 – Never Meant to Feel This Way

The bus drove through the night to the next stop on the tour, and the boys were given a welcomed day off when they arrived.

All of them checked into their respective rooms and spent the better part of the day sleeping. Even Niall, who had been restless as all hell into the late hours of the night managed to fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

The night wasn’t without its dreams, however. And lately, Niall’s dreams were becoming more and more vivid. Waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat with his heart pounding was a regular occurrence for him. Especially on the nights he found himself less than sober.

He woke up late in the afternoon, just before dinner time. For a second, he debated going downstairs to the hotel restaurant. Then he quickly reconsidered. After all, he didn’t quite want to run into any of the other boys.

Especially Liam.

Niall ran a ran through his hair and sighed as the image of his best friend crept up into his mind. Liam was always smiling, always happy, always up for a laugh. He’d never judged Niall, not even know that things were so horrible with him and he’d made so many mistakes.

But now there was no way Niall was ever going to allow himself to go back to that friendship. As much as scared him to let it go, it scared him even more when he thought about the way Liam’s lips had pressed against his own, and the way their skin felt rubbing against each other. He shook his head, as if to try and rid the memory from it, but it didn’t work.

It was just as vivid as ever. The only difference was, it hadn’t been a dream.

He took a deep breath and tried to steady his breathing, not wanting to give in to thinking about Liam that way and actually admitting to himself that he was somewhat fond of the memory. He was determined to deny to himself that he had actually enjoyed the experience with Liam and had actually felt comfortable when he’d been in his friend’s arms.

He shook his head, opting to skip dinner and instead went rifling through his bag. Deep at the bottom of his suitcase, he pulled out another plastic bag of cocaine. Liam had gotten rid of the bulk of it, but that wasn’t all that Niall had kept on him. After all, he wanted to make sure that he’d never have to go without.

He clutched the bag in his hand and sat down at the desk. Clearing a space on the table, he poured some of the powder onto the surface and fixed it into a clean line using his credit card. It wasn’t the first time that he’d done this, but it was certainly the first time he’d done so in a hotel room.

But desperate times called for desperate measures, and he wasn’t about to go out to the club. Not with everyone watching him, as he was so sure they were going to be doing after his display of paranoia the day before. The other boys had been careless, and they hadn’t realized that Niall had been listening in to their conversation.

Niall leaned back in the chair and took a deep breath as the drugs entered his system. He was already beginning to feel more alive and less gloomy and alone. He began to wonder how he’d gone so long just drinking alcohol and having a laugh with his friends in the pub. The rush cocaine gave him was always so much sweeter.

He was pulled out of his trance by a light knocking at the door. Niall snapped his head towards the noise and felt his heart race. Who could possibly be there interrupting him? Moreover, how could he get them to leave? He took a deep breath, thinking that maybe if he ignored the sound, whoever was there would go away.

He gulped a little, thinking that it might have been Liam. He didn’t know what he would do if it was. He was torn between wishing it in fact was Liam, because he really did want to see his friend, and hoping desperately that it wasn’t, because he didn’t know what to do with what had happened between them. He didn’t know how to act around Liam when all he wanted was to forget it had happened while at the same time sort of hoping for it to happen again.

“Niall?” he heard a deep Bradford accent call his name. He breathed a sigh of relief and slight disappointment. “Open up, mate. It’s Zayn.”

Niall rushed to cleaned up the desk. He threw the remains of his bag of cocaine into his suitcase, only slowing down to take extra care that it was hidden away from view. He slipped his credit card back into his pocket and wiped the table down with his hand.

“Just a second,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady as he walked towards the door. He checked his reflection in the mirror and wiped down his face, trying to make sure there was no evidence left on it. His heart was still beating fast and his eyes were wide, but there was no physical evidence that he was high out of his mind. He nodded his head a little at his reflection, as if it reaffirm to himself that nothing was off. Out of sight, out of mind.

He sighed again, opening the door and putting his hands in his pockets, trying to act nonchalant.

“What’s the craic?” he asked causally.

“Just wanted to see if you’re alright,” Zayn said, eyeing him.

Niall shifted a little, worried that Zayn could tell that something was wrong. Or maybe that Liam had told him about the cocaine and that was why he was here. Or worse – that Liam had told him that they’d had a little make-out session and now Zayn was here to try and convince Niall to talk to him and sort it out.

Or even worse still – Zayn knew about the make-out session and was here to try and convince him to go back over for another round.

“And clearly you’re not,” Zayn said, eyeing him oddly as he shoved his way into the room. “Talk to me, mate. I know that you’re going through a lot, but maybe if you open up to someone -”

“I don’t want to open up to anyone!” Niall nearly shouted as he paced around the room. He looked down at Zayn, who was now sitting on the hotel bed with his hands folded over each other in his lap. The last time he’d opened up to someone, he’d found himself naked in bed with his best friend, and he couldn’t for the life of him push that memory out of his mind.

It was beginning to haunt him just as much as the thought of Alicia dead on her bathroom floor.

“Alright,” Zayn said slowly, not moving from his position. “Why don’t you come downstairs to dinner with us, then? We miss hanging out with you, Nialler. It’s been such a long time since the five of us have felt a part of a group.”

Niall shrugged, not meeting Zayn’s gaze. He didn’t want to go down to dinner with the others. Especially if Liam was going to be there. Which he most certainly would be, if it was going to be the five of them. The thought made Niall positively ill as the image of Liam’s lust filled eyes flashed inside of his mind once again.

“No,” he muttered, absentmindedly scratching his arm in frustration.

“Why not?” Zayn pleaded. “What have we done that you’re shutting the five of us out?”

Niall continued scratching his arm harder, letting his blunt, bitten nails dig through his skin. “I…I don’t know,” he forced out. He considered for a brief moment telling Zayn what happened, so his friend would just leave him alone. He quickly reconsidered when he realized that wouldn’t be the case. Zayn would look at him in disgust, tell him that this was the last straw, that he was positively disgusting and that he was out of the group.

“Whoa, Nialler,” Zayn said, standing up and gently pulling Niall’s hand away from his arm. “You can’t be that itchy,” he laughed a little, looking at his friend’s scratched up skin with pinpricks of blood beginning to poke through.

Niall shrugged, tapping his foot instead.

“If you won’t talk to me, maybe you’d rather talk to Liam?” Zayn suggested lightly.

It was innocent enough – everyone in the group knew that Niall and Liam were best friends. They were arguably the closest out of the five boys, even Louis and Harry. The suggestion wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, and Niall knew that under any normal circumstances it would be Liam sitting in his room begging him to talk instead of Zayn.

But these weren’t normal circumstances, and Liam was avoiding him for the very same reason.

Because what they’d done was wrong and bad and neither of them wanted it to happen ever again.

“No,” Niall said softly, feeling his heart speed up again. This time, it had nothing to do with the cocaine.

Zayn sighed, putting his hands in his pockets and eyeing the Irish boy. He looked broken – a shell of his former self. His eyes were glassed over and he was breathing heavily. “Niall,” Zayn said quietly, cocking his head to the side and trying to meet the younger boy’s eyes. “We all really want to help, but we can’t if you don’t let us in. So come on, why don’t you and I go over and talk to Liam. He’s locked himself in his room too, and I reckon he needs a friend just as much as you do. You two could probably help each other.”

Niall looked up at Zayn in horror. If only he knew how much helping each other he and Liam had done, he probably wouldn’t be suggesting such a thing.

Niall imagined himself jerking away from Zayn and screaming at him that no, he really didn’t want to go see Liam at all. He wanted to stay as far away from Liam and his help as possible.

But he didn’t. Even in his inebriated state he knew that doing so would only show Zayn that something was very, very off. Zayn would prod for information, he’d find out and… Niall didn’t want to know what would happen next.

So instead he nodded slowly, allowing Zayn to take his hand and lead him out of the hotel room. The two of them walked silently down the hall, and Niall watched his hand carefully. Zayn’s touch both comforted and scared him. He didn’t know which feeling was more powerful, so he kept clinging to him.

He only clung to him tighter as Zayn stopped in front of Liam’s hotel room and tapped on the door.

Liam answered almost instantly. A look of confusion and possible happiness washed over his face as he saw the two boys standing there.

“Hey Li,” Zayn said with a smile. “Look who I found.”

Liam just nodded. Niall looked at the ground.

“I didn’t think it made sense for the two of you to be alone in your hotel rooms moping about, so I brought him here.”

Again, Liam nodded. Niall continued to look at the ground.

Zayn watched them both with confusion. “I know you’re both going through a lot, but you’re best friends. If anyone can help either of you…well…” He motioned towards the two boys, dropping his hand from Niall’s and nudging him a little into Liam’s room.

Niall looked back at Zayn, but he couldn’t quite leave and tell the two of them to go to hell. That, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. So he used the fact that he didn’t want to risk Zayn figuring everything out as his personal justification for stepping into Liam’s room.

“Could you give us some time alone?” Liam asked Zayn quietly.

Zayn nodded, looking relieved that the two boys were at least going to wallow in their own self-pity together instead of alone in their respective rooms. “Yeah,” he said. “Of course.”

Liam nodded a quick thank you to him and shut the hotel room door.

Niall glanced around the room with worry.

“Nialler,” Liam started softly, not knowing what to say to his friend.

Niall shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to sit down and risk something else happening. He looked at Liam for a split second. His friend looked so concerned and sad. He almost wanted to kiss the pout of his face.

Then he berated himself for thinking such a ridiculous thing. Had Liam not kissed him in the first place, none of these thoughts would even be crossing his mind! It was Liam’s fault. Liam was the one to blame for adding to his stress. Liam was the one to blame for making everything awkward and confusing.

“Why’d you do it?” Niall asked sharply, beginning to pace around the room because standing still was proving to be an impossible chore.

“Do what?” Liam asked, raising his eyebrow.

“You know!” Niall shouted. “You know what, so don’t play dumb. Why’d you…” he looked up at Liam, hoping his friend would get it and that he wouldn’t have to utter the words “Kiss me.”

Liam indeed got it. In fact, he hadn’t wanted to explicitly get it so quickly so that Niall would have to say it out loud and admit to himself what had happened. Because it was obvious that the younger boy was in complete denial. Which had been the story of his life for the past few months, really. Niall had always been good at taking life in stride and ignoring any problems that were thrown his way.

Now that he had real, big problems to deal with, that coping mechanism wasn’t working out so well for him.

Liam sighed. What was the reason he’d done it? He was so madly in love with Niall that it made his heart hurt. He had wanted to kiss away his pain and hold him close and feel his life next to his own. Instead, he shrugged. “You looked so sad,” he admitted. “You looked so lost and sad and you thought that you were horrible,” he mumbled. “I wanted you to know that you’re not.” It was a far cry from admitting to Niall that he loved him, but it was a start.

Niall looked up at Liam and stopped pacing around the room for a moment. He watched as Liam looked down at the ground, looking just as ashamed as Niall had felt earlier that day. Was it possible that his friend was feeling just as much regret about it as he was? And if that was so, Niall wasn’t sure why he was hurt by that.

“Liam,” Niall said softly, not really knowing what to do, but gulping down some air to try and steady the beat of his racing heart.

Liam met Niall’s eyes sadly, and for a moment, Niall understood what Liam was talking about. All he wanted to do was hug his friend and wipe the pout off his face. Niall inched closer to him, wrapping his arms around him and hugging his friend tightly.

Liam clung to him, holding his friend and rubbing his back slightly. The two boys breathed heavily. Liam, because he was filled with relief that Niall didn’t actually hate him. Niall, because his body was so filled with intoxicants that he could hardly think clearly.

Niall pulled away from Liam slightly, but the two of them still held onto each other. They searched each other’s eyes for a moment, before leaning in closer yet again. But this time, instead of nuzzling his head in Liam’s shoulder, Niall craned his neck upwards to meet Liam’s lips with his own.

Liam had half a mind to push Niall away, but he didn’t. He loved Niall and wanted this to happen far too much to put a stop to it. Instead, he let Niall’s mouth move against his own, holding him tighter still as the two of them stood there. Niall kissed him so easily and effortlessly, he didn’t even care that they were complicating their relationship further.

He moved his hands from their resting place on Niall’s back and slid them upwards, letting them get tangled in his friend’s short, highlighted hair. He gingerly touched Niall’s cheek as his tongue entered his mouth.

Niall clung tighter to Liam, digging his fingers into his friend’s clothed back. He pressed himself against him, wanting to be closer, ignoring all of the cautions in his mind and instead responding only with the cues from his body.

Liam pulled away from slightly, as he had to for them to proceed any further. He opened his eyes slightly and looked down at Niall.

Niall’s eyes were half-closed and bloodshot, his breathing was short and shallow and he looked up at Liam. His friend’s brown eyes watched him, and that was when Niall registered what he’d just done and what he’d initiated.

It had been easier when he could just blame Liam, but now that he was the one who had started it?

“Oh God,” Niall said, jerking away from Liam’s grasp. “We can’t, I didn’t…”

“It’s okay, Nialler,” Liam said, reaching out to rub his friend’s arm slightly. That was when he noticed the marks on his friend’s arm. Coupled with his nervous attitude and his rapid heartbeat, it wasn’t hard for Liam to figure out what had gone on. His tone did a complete one-eighty as realization hit him. “You’ve been using again, haven’t you?” he asked harshly.

“No,” Niall lied. “I haven’t done anything.”

“You’re lying,” Liam shook his head, glaring at Niall. “You’re lying to me; your best friend. I asked you to stop it and you didn’t.”

Niall rolled his eyes, finding it easier to focus on arguing with Liam rather than the fact that they’d just kissed again. “It’s not a big deal, Liam,” he shrugged.

“It is a big deal,” Liam nearly shouted at him. “It is, because you’re becoming someone who I don’t even know. I don’t even particularly like this side of you or who you’re turning into.”

“I really couldn’t care less,” Niall almost laughed.

“Just go,” Liam said to him, running a hand through his hair. “Get out.”

“Gladly,” Niall spat, walking briskly out of the room and slamming the door behind him.

Once Niall was gone, Liam took a deep breath. He sat down on the bed and looked at the floor. He wished he could put his feelings for Niall aside, but of course he couldn’t. Instead, he took a deep breath, put his head in his hands and let the sobs that had been building in the back of his throat spill over.

He hadn’t a clue how to help his friend, and until he figured that out, their relationship was going to suffer. Whatever the definition of it was – or if they even had one at all anymore.

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