Chapter 14 – Silence Is So Loud

The boys were ushered into a private waiting room in the hospital after Niall was admitted. The ambulance had come to the hotel and the boys had followed quickly behind it in a car, meeting up with Paul once they got there.

The air was thick and quiet. No one said a word as they occasionally made eye contact with each other. Eleanor held tightly onto Louis’ hand. Zayn tapped his foot on the ground, texting Perrie every so often. Liam looked at the ground and didn’t do or say anything.

Harry glared at him as he watched Liam over and over again draw in a shaky breath. It had taken everything he had to not give Liam a piece of his mind when they were in the car. When Liam had explained to them that Niall wasn’t just sick with the flu – that he was sure he’d had a cocaine overdose.

A suspicion that had been confirmed by Paul once they’d been ushered into the room.

“Knock it off, Liam,” Harry muttered, shaking his head and looking at the ground.

The others all turned to look at him as he broke the silence.

Liam glanced up at him in shock and confusion. As far as he was aware, he wasn’t doing anything. In fact, he’d just been sitting there quietly, occasionally chocking back a sob or trying to steady his breathing.

“What?” he asked shakily.

“I said knock it off,” Harry said louder, giving Liam a look. “You don’t get to sit there and look sad, like you feel bad that all of this happened.”

Liam looked at Harry in confusion. Of course he felt bad that all of this had happened. He didn’t understand why Harry was taking his frustration out on him. “What are you talking about, Harry?” Liam asked, looking at him tiredly. “I haven’t done anything.”

“Yes, that’s just the problem, isn’t it?” Harry spat, leaning over in his chair so he could get a better look at Liam. “You haven’t done anything. There’s not a bloody thing that you’ve done. You knew about this, you knew he was doing cocaine, but did you tell any of us? Did you tell anyone?” he nearly shouted.

Liam looked away from Harry. The other boys didn’t say anything. Instead they just let Harry rant – with good reason. Even though his words were harsh, they weren’t untrue.

“No,” Harry snarled. “You didn’t. You kept it to yourself and didn’t say a word about it.”

“I thought I could help him,” Liam mumbled, knowing how much trouble that sentiment had caused. Still, it was his only defence for his behaviour as of late.

“You thought you could help him?!” Harry shouted, walking over to Liam and standing in front of him. “Well, look how well that turned out. You didn’t help him, Liam. You nearly killed him!”

Liam couldn’t quite argue with that, so he just looked away from Harry and stared down at the ground, tears welling up in his eyes again. Harry was right – in his efforts to try and control the situation and help Niall himself he’d only made it worse. He hadn’t fixed anything and he’d only pushed his friend further over the edge. There was nothing he could have done to stop it and he’d only let the problem go on by keeping it to himself.

“Enough, Harry,” Louis said softly, walking over to Harry and gently putting his hand on his friend’s shoulder, pulling him away from Liam. “Yelling at him isn’t going to help.”

“He should have told us,” Harry said, turning his head to glare at Liam as he walked back to his seat.

“Yes, he should have,” Louis said calmly, looking at Harry then looking back over at Liam. “But we know now, and there’s nothing we can do.”

“You’re lucky you found him when you did,” Harry said slowly, sitting back down in his chair and continuing to glare at Liam, ignoring Louis’ pleas to stop. “You think you feel guilty now? You’d feel a hell of a lot worse if he was dead.”

“Shut up, Harry,” Liam muttered, not wanting to hear anything more. He didn’t care that Harry (and likely the others) were upset with him. The only thing he cared about was that Niall was going to come out of there okay.

Harry scoffed and leaned back in his chair, knowing that he’d gotten his point across. He was upset with Liam, yes, but screaming at Liam and placing the blame on him made this easier for him to cope with. It gave him something to focus on other than the fact that Niall was being treated for a cocaine overdose of all things. It drove him mad that there was nothing he could do or could have done for his friend, and in a weird way, that made him understand where Liam was coming from.

But Liam was a physical manifestation where he could place his blame, so he continued to project his anger onto him, albeit silently.

“I’m going to make some calls,” Paul said, looking over at the boys. “We’re going to have to cancel the last couple of European shows.”

The four boys just looked at him intently, waiting for him to continue.

“Fans were at the hotel and saw the ambulance. They’re going to wonder what’s gone on with Niall,” he said slowly. “You’re going to get asked about it, and you’re going to have to answer. He’s got the flu, and going out on stage tonight made it worse,” Paul said, looking at the four of them as if to convince them that was what had actually happened.

They nodded, not daring to say a word of protest.

“The word ‘cocaine’ is never to be uttered in public, got it?” Paul asked, looking at them sternly.

Again, the four boys nodded silently.

“There’s more,” Paul said, looking down at his emails and typing furiously as he spoke to the boys. “For the remainder of the tour, when you go over to the states next week there will be a counsellor joining you. She’ll mostly be with us to help Niall, but if any of you need to talk to her about this or anything, don’t hesitate. We can’t have this happen again. We can’t let anyone’s problems get this out of control.”

More nodding, along with some uncomfortable glances shared between the boys.

“I’m really sorry it had to come to this, boys,” Paul said regretfully. “We should have gotten help for him sooner.”

And just like that, the four members of the group, Paul and Eleanor joined in a six-way group hug. No matter their anger and frustration with each other over the situation, they all had one thing in common at the moment.

The hope that Niall was going to be okay.

***

The night spent in the hospital waiting room droned on and on. Paul was on and off the phone, talking with management and getting things in place for the counsellor to join them once they were shipped over to the states in a few days.

Zayn had nodded off in his chair, as had Harry. Louis and Eleanor were talking softly, playing games on their phones and trying to keep their spirits up.

Liam was the only one who continued to gloomily look at the floor and feel sorry for himself. With good reason. Every time he looked at the others he only felt envy and remorse. He wished he was removed enough from the situation to be able to relax enough to sleep, like Zayn and Harry. He wished he had something to do to keep his mind off of it, like Paul did.

He even wish he had someone to lean on, like Eleanor and Louis.

But he didn’t. The person he loved and wanted to lean on in times such as this was the very person he was worried about at the moment. So he just sighed to himself, looking at the ground, feeling awful and wishing he could change it.

He wished he could go back in time and tell Paul that Niall had been doing cocaine. He even wished he could go back in time and not have kissed Niall, because he was certain that had been a part of what had pushed Niall so far over the edge. He wished he would have just pushed his friend away when he’d come onto him again.

Not because he hadn’t wanted to kiss Niall, but because he’d seen to shock in his friend’s eyes when he’d realized what he’d done. He didn’t even know why Niall had kissed him again in the first place, because it seemed like he really hadn’t wanted to.

But anything Niall did lately was a mystery to Liam, so that shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Liam looked up as a doctor opened the door to the private room. He motioned to Paul, and Paul hurriedly left, shutting the door behind him. Liam glanced over at Louis and Eleanor, who just shrugged, and gave him a sympathetic look.

Liam looked up at the ceiling, and before he had time to start back into his downward spiral of self-pity again, Paul returned.

“Niall’s awake,” Paul said softly, looking at the other boys.

At his words, Zayn opened his eyes from his light sleep. He nudged Harry, and Harry opened his eyes as well.

“Niall’s awake,” Paul said again, addressing the two boys who had just woken up.

A sigh of relief was shared by all five of them in the room.

“He’d like to see you,” Paul said, looking over at Liam. “You can go in and talk to him if you’d like.”

Liam glanced around at the others, unsure if he actually should go talk to Niall and if he had blessing from them to do so. After all, they very clearly blamed him for what had happened. Was it really right that he was the one to go talk to Niall first?

“Go on, then,” Harry said, yawning a little and waving Liam towards the door. “He asked for you, after all.”

Liam nodded, feeling a little bit better as he stood up and left the room. He met the doctor outside and was ushered down the hall towards Niall’s room. The doctor, opened the door to Niall’s private room, and Liam nodded a quick gratitude to him as he stepped inside.

He took sight of Niall, and sighed with a little more relief. Tears welled in his eyes for what felt like that millionth time that night as he saw his friend. He was hooked up to a heart monitor, and the constant stream of blips would have annoyed him in any other circumstance, but instead he found them to be comforting.

It meant Niall was alive, and that he was going to be okay.

“Nialler,” Liam breathed, sitting down next to him and looking at him with concern.

“Hey,” Niall said, his voice hoarse as he turned his head to look at Liam. “They said you were the one who found me.”

“Louis and I, yeah,” Liam nodded, not taking his eyes off his friend.

“Thank you,” Niall said gratefully, gulping down the lump that threatened to rise in his throat. When Paul had told him that Liam was the one who had suspected something was wrong and had even gone so far as to convince Louis to break the door down, Niall had felt a mix of emotions. He had been so angry with his friend, so hurt and so confused as to what was going on with their relationship.

But more than anything, he felt that same sense of comfort and relief. Liam didn’t hate him. Liam hadn’t wanted him to die. Liam obviously didn’t think he was terrible at all. Through everything that Niall had done, both to Alicia, himself, and even to Liam, Liam didn’t hate him at all.

And that level of love, whether romantic or not, Niall couldn’t even comprehend.

“I wasn’t going to let you die,” Liam said, and at his words both boys tears spilled over. Liam leaned over, and Niall hugged him tightly, clinging to him and sobbing into his chest. Liam’s sobs were quieter, tears just fell down his face as he steadied his breathing, letting out all the stress that had accumulated over the course of the evening.

“Promise me, Niall,” Liam said, pulling away and looking at him. “Promise me that now, you’ll be done with it. No more drugs, no more going out and partying…”

Niall just nodded. This time, he meant it. He never wanted to feel the way he’d felt hours ago ever again. That awful feeling of helplessness and fear that he was going to die in the hotel room bathroom in a foreign city without anyone knowing about it until it was too late.

“No more shutting me out,” Liam said softly, looking in Niall’s eyes.

“Liam,” Niall started, not quite knowing what to say. He was still confused and lost and scared. He didn’t even know what his feelings for the older boy were, if he had any at all. “I don’t…”

“I don’t care about any of that other stuff,” Liam said, shaking his head slightly. “Anything that happened with us doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about it, we don’t have to talk about it,” he assured him. “I just want you to go back to being my best friend.”

Niall nodded with relief. That, he could do. He didn’t want to have to worry about any growing feelings for Liam or any sexual attraction and what that meant. He didn’t have the mental capacity to do so, and he wasn’t sure he ever would. Not for a long time, anyway. He wasn’t in the right mind to think about falling in love with anyone, let alone another boy. “Okay,” he said softly. “I won’t shut you out.”

Liam smiled at him, and reached up, wiping a stray tear away from Niall’s eye with his thumb. He leaned over and hugged his friend tightly again.

They’d hit rock bottom, but from here on out, things could only get better.

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