Chapter 18 – Get on With the Show

18

The boys spent the better part of the next day getting prepared for their first show of the North American leg of the tour. They had two soundchecks – one without the fans and one with. They had done their usual VIP meet and greet, they’d eaten dinner and now they were standing backstage waiting to go on.

As the day had been busy already, there hadn’t been time for Niall to meet with Jessica again. Truthfully, he was thankful for that, not really wanting to concentrate on his problems while he had a relatively busy day ahead of him.

It was obvious that he was nervous. He took a deep, albeit shaky breath as they heard the familiar noises of the beginnings of the show. The fans screaming as the lights dimmed, the video starting to play, the band orchestrating those first few notes…

Niall suddenly felt very, very sick to his stomach.

“I don’t want to go on,” he muttered to no one but himself.

He felt like total shit every time he thought about the fact that the last two European shows had been cancelled on account of him. Sure, the fans had understood, but they just thought he was sick through no fault of his own. If they had known the truth, that it has been his own stupidity and his own carelessness that had caused all of that to happen, he was sure they wouldn’t have forgiven him.

Much like everything else that had happened. His own carelessness really was to blame for the mess of his life as of late. Although he’d felt a little better after his talk with Jessica the day before, being back at the venue and in the throws of his career reminded him of how he’d felt last time he’d been on stage.

He looked at the ground and clutched his microphone tight in his hands. He only had a minute now before he had to run out on stage.

Because he couldn’t bail, could he? He glanced back at the exit door. Maybe if he dropped his mic and ran, no one would notice he was leaving. Or maybe no one would care and the tour could carry on without him and his messed up self. They wouldn’t have to worry about him getting counselling and getting help. He could just leave the group and go back to London and find his mum and then the two of them could go back to Ireland and –

“Niall?” Liam asked softly, putting his arm around his friend.

Niall was pulled out of his thoughts and looked up at Liam. Again he drew in another shaky breath, but at least he felt a little comforted. And at feeling comforted, he then reeled back a little, because he didn’t like that Liam made him feel comforted. He didn’t want to have to deal with those feelings when Liam had told him that things could go back to normal between them.

But of course, Liam had done those things even before their relationship had entered that grey area. They’d always been affectionate with each other. All of the boys had. To not act in such a way would be worse than to just simply try and go back to normal.

So Niall relaxed a little bit and allowed Liam’s arm to stay around his shoulders.

“Yeah?” he croaked out.

“You alright, mate?” Liam asked, glancing down at him and giving him one of those friendly smiles.

“Yeah,” Niall gulped, but it was painfully obvious he was lying.

Liam gave him a nod of encouragement, know that he was likely nervous about the show on account of the fans that had been disappointed back home. Normally Niall loved performing – well, they all did, but Niall couldn’t get enough of it. He had a true stage presence that was unmatched and since his life had been in shambles he’d lost that spark.

He likely didn’t feel ready to go out on stage at all, but unfortunately with the demanding career that they had, he didn’t have a choice.

“Oi, Nialler,” Harry said, stepping in closer to him and Liam. “You can do this. We can do this.”

Niall nodded, still looking down at the ground. He really did want to be here – but he didn’t want to be here in this mindset. Not when he still had so much self doubt.

“Come on then,” Harry said, pulling Niall and Liam in close and motioning for Louis and Zayn to join in as well. The five of them formed a tight group hug.

They bowed their heads down a little and just stood there, drowning out the fans and the music. They had only a few seconds to do this, but it was better than nothing. They all glanced at one another.

Niall forced a smile on his face, feeling slightly better that he had such supportive friends.

“Too bad we don’t have a little chant or something,” Louis laughed.

They all grinned a little, glancing at each other. They pulled away from their embrace, but Liam couldn’t help stealing another glance at Niall.

He wanted everything to be normal, but he didn’t even know what that line was anymore. Even though everything, he still wanted to be his best friend. And as his best friend, he was determined to show him that he was still loved.

Which was completely messed up, as he was madly in love with him and Niall was well aware of that.

“Let’s do this,” he said, tapping Niall’s shoulder slightly with his hand before pulling back. Niall nodded, and as the music built up the boys took a deep breath, ready to run out onto the stage.

There was no more time to think or over analyze as they walked briskly through the curtains and ran out onto the stage. The music contained to boom around them, giving the crowd a chance to scream and get adjusted to the fact that their idols were on stage.

Niall looked out at all the girls screaming their adoration and undying affection for their group. There were dozens of signs in the crowd, and probably hundreds more that he couldn’t see. Most of them were standard – hearts and glitter and pictures of the boys.

But there were a few oozing their support for him – Get Well Soon, Niall! And the like. Niall felt his heart swell. He knew he probably should have felt more guilty – after all, there was no way that these fans had any idea he was dealing with something much more serious than a bad bout of the flu.

But still, the sentiment was the same. Niall imagined briefly that if the fans ever were allowed to know what had truly gone on, that they’d still be supportive.

But there was no time for him to mull it over as the opening notes to What Makes You Beautifulbegan to play.

He glanced over at the other boys, gulping and smile as they smiled right back at him.

The only one of them who didn’t was Liam, because he had to start singing, of course. Niall’s eyes lingered on his friend as his lips moved to belt out the familiar lyrics that Niall knew well.

“You’re insecure, don’t know what for. You’re turning heads as you walk through the door.”

The crowd screamed as they usually did, and Niall turned his attention back to them with a smile. Insecure? He definitely was. But hopefully soon, he wouldn’t feel that way anymore.

***

“What a show, lads!” Louis laughed as the boys were whisked quickly back to their bus. “I mean, there’s nothing like playing in America! Nothing!”

The others couldn’t argue with that. After all these years, it was definitely still surreal to them that even halfway around the world they still had fans who knew their names and sold out their shows.

Liam nodded as he watched Louis grin with pride, not seeming to care that they were surrounded by bodyguards and that they had to make it back to the bus before the stadium let out and they were bombarded.

He glanced over at Niall, who was preoccupied with wiping his face with a towel. That was probably for the best. Niall had actually seemed like his old self during the show. He was still a little off, but it was likely that none of the fans would have even been able to notice. He was loud, interacting with them and giving his performance his all.

The only thing that seemed off was that he was still less touchy with Liam. But Liam was sure that was to be expected. Besides, he had to admit that when he put his arm around Niall duringOne Thing, just as he always did, it was nice to not have Niall move away.

He had flinched slightly, and hadn’t initiated any contact on his own, but it was a start.

And even though it was small, it actually put Liam over the moon. Because it was a sign that things could possibly one day go back to the way they were.

Which was definitely better than the mess their relationship had been in up to that point.

“Liam!” Louis laughed as the group of them approached the bus. “Where’d you go, mate?”

“Huh?” Liam asked, snapping back to reality as they were rushed onto the bus. “I’m right here, Louis.”

Louis just giggled and gave Harry a look. Liam had to fight to roll his eyes – he would never understand the secret language that the two of them seemed to have.

“Right, but I asked you if you wanted to have a round of Fifa when we got on the bus, and you completely ignored me.”

“Maybe he just doesn’t want to play Fifa with you,” Harry reasoned, and his comment was met with Louis elbowing him in the ribs.

“That can’t be it, because Liam loves a bit of Fifa. Besides, we still need to settle the score from last time.”

“Right,” Liam said. Truthfully, he wasn’t really listening to Louis. Instead, he watched as Niall quietly played around on his phone, walking over to his bunk without a word.

Louis raised his eyebrow and followed Liam’s gaze over to Niall. He glanced back at Liam, the two of them now standing in the kitchenette area. “Yeah, I don’t think Niall wants to play Fifa with you. Though could you be even more obvious that you’d rather be playing with him? I know that he’s good with corner kick Liam, but I think that you’ll find-”

“Knock it off, Louis,” Liam snapped without even realizing how uncharacteristically harsh he was being. It wasn’t that he’d rather be playing Fifa with Niall – he was just concerned for his friend. As he had been for the past few months! The fact that Louis was going on and on about it was just making Liam paranoid. He was drawing too many metaphors from what Louis was saying that weren’t even intentionally there.

In fact, the only reason for Louis to have suspected something was going on was by Liam’s sharp reaction only a moment prior.

“Uh, okay,” Louis said dumbly, unsure of how to react. “So no Fifa then?”

Liam sighed. He didn’t particularly want to play Fifa with Louis, but there wasn’t much else he could be doing. If he didn’t do that, he’d probably just go back to his bunk and attempt to sleep while really tossing and turning and over analyzing things in his head.

So really, Fifa was probably the better of the two options.

“No, sorry, let’s play Fifa,” Liam said, forcing a smile on his face in an attempt to calm himself and not worry so much. “But you’re not playing as England.”

Louis scoffed. “No, of course not. I’m playing as Spain, I want to actually win. It figures you’d play as England…”

Louis continued talking, but Liam didn’t hear much of what he was saying as the two of them walked past the bunks and into the entertainment room. Liam stole a quick glance at Niall’s bunk and sighed inwardly. Things had seemed a little better while they were on stage, but Liam was just going to have to accept the fact that things weren’t going to be fixed overnight.

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