Chapter 2 – Fighting to Let You Go

Liam had been in love with Niall since the blonde boy’s nineteenth birthday party.

Coincidentally, and almost heart-breakingly, that had been the same night when Niall and Alicia had met. Liam remembered it well.

The VIP section of the club was loud. Not as loud as the rest of the club, but still loud and still not the most ideal place for people to sit and talk. But, it had been where Niall had wanted to spend his birthday, and seeing as he was stuck in London for the evening instead of being able to go home to Mullingar, it would have to do.

Eleanor and Louis were the last to show up. The raced up the stairs and entered the little area that their group was sitting in, looking down at the plush couches.

“Hey,” Louis said, taking a seat beside Harry and pulling Eleanor down into his lap. “Sorry we’re late.”

“You’re always late,” Zayn said seriously, giving the two of them a look.

“Ah, sorry,” spoke a girl that Liam didn’t recognize. She was skinny, but not quite tall. She had long brown hair that was slightly wavy and wore a shy and friendly smile as she sat down beside Louis and Eleanor. “It was my fault, I was taking too long to get ready.”

Everyone just looked at her, and Liam felt a little better about not knowing who she was. Evidently, no one else did either.

“Oh, guys, this is my friend Alicia. I invited her along, I hope that’s alright,” Eleanor smiled, looking around at the others for approval, before setting her gaze on Niall for a moment. “Happy birthday, love,” she said, grinning at him.

“Yeah, thanks,” Niall replied, leaning over shake Alicia’s hand. “Hey,” he said simply. “I’m Niall.”

“Hey,” she replied shyly, taking his hand and holding it for a moment longer than Liam felt she should have. The two of them looked at each other for a couple of seconds before breaking apart with awkward smiles.

The whole evening he watched Niall and Alicia interact, he felt himself growing slightly frustrated, and he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why. Perhaps it was because they’d taken this time to organize a nice birthday party for him, but he only seemed to be interested in talking to her.

That was nonsense, Liam told himself. Absolute nonsense. It had been a long time since Niall had taken such a liking to a girl. Hell, he hadn’t even had a long-term girlfriend since before they’d been on The X Factor. (Unless a two week fling with Demi Lovato counted.)

It was silly, he told himself. Silly that he was jealous over the attention Niall was giving this girl, instead of the attention he was neglecting to show him.

And that was when Liam realized that his feelings for Niall may possibly have been stronger that just those of friendship.

“What’s the craic, guys?” Niall asked, breaking Liam out of his thoughts and startling him.

He and Zayn had been sitting at the kitchenette of the bus, sipping tea and just enjoying the morning. Well, Liam had been lost in his own thoughts anyway. Zayn was on his phone, presumably texting Perrie.

They both looked up at Niall, unsure of what to say or do. His attitude seemed to be a complete one-eighty from what it had been the night before. In fact, if Liam hadn’t know any better, he’d have thought he’d dreamt the whole thing. Niall seemed to be back to his old, cheerful self.

“Morning, Niall,” Zayn said, when Liam couldn’t find the words. “You’re up early.”

Yes, that was true. Niall was always the last one awake and often had to be dragged out of bed for whatever appearance they had scheduled.

“Well, I did go to bed early,” he shrugged.

That was an understatement. Niall hadn’t left his bunk the entire evening the night before. Not that anyone could say they blamed him, given the circumstances.

“Right…” Zayn replied, glancing at Liam. Liam could tell that Zayn was looking at him for support, as he really didn’t know what to say. And Liam, well, Liam usually knew exactly what to say. They didn’t call him Daddy Direction for nothing.

“Do you want some tea?” he asked Niall, eyeing him. He decided it was best to not mention anything for the moment.

“No thanks,” Niall replied. “We got any food though? I missed dinner last night…” he muttered, rummaging through the small cupboards looking for something to eat.

“Yeah,” Liam said, as he and Zayn continued to watch Niall somewhat intently. “There’s donuts in the fridge.”

“The fridge?” Niall asked, looking back at him with his eyebrow raised, but then quickly opening the vacum sealed door. “Ah, here we go!”

“Yeah, we wanted to keep them fresh,” Zayn said as Niall sat down beside him, placing the box of donuts on the table, after taking one out and stuffing a large bite into his mouth.

“Right,” Niall said, glancing at the two of them.

There was an awkward silence after that. At least, Liam felt it was awkward. Niall seemed to be perfectly content eating donuts, which only served to make the moment more strange. Was it not just yesterday he had looked empty and lifeless at the thought of his ex-girlfriend’s death?

It wasn’t exactly out of character for Niall to be back to his old, happy-go-lucky self so quickly after something upset him… but these weren’t exactly normal circumstances, either.

“Well, I’m going to go lay back down for a bit,” Zayn said, nodding at the two of them as he got up to leave.

Once Zayn was gone, Liam looked across the table at Niall. He sighed. He couldn’t imagine what he must have been going through. Even Liam himself was still saddened by the news. Niall and Alicia had dated for over a year – she’d gotten to know all of the boys. Niall wasn’t the only one who her death was affecting.

Although, it didn’t seem it was really affecting him at all. “Niall…” Liam began, knowing his friend may have been just acting as though he had it together, when really, he was torn up inside.

He’d seen that happen a lot over the past few months.

“Yeah?” Niall asked, looking up at Liam with bright eyes and a mouth full of donut.

Liam shook his head and gave Niall a small smile. It was obvious Niall didn’t want to talk about it. But Liam knew – even though his eyes were bright – they were missing something. That light that was always there didn’t shine as clear as it had before.

“Nothing,” he said finally, with a small laugh. “You’re just getting powdered sugar everywhere.”

***

That night, Niall was back in his bunk. They had spent the last couple of days travelling, and he was eager to get back on stage and start performing again. He needed rush of being on stage and most of all, he needed the distraction.

He opened up his laptop, and frowned when he looked at his background. It was a photo of him and Alicia, taken shortly after they’d started dating. He’d never bothered to change it, but now, just looking at her bright and smiling face made his chest hurt.

He opened up his folder of pictures and looked for something, anything, to change his desktop to. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really one for saving pictures on his computer. Most of them were on his phone. He looked around a little more and finally decided on a picture of himself, Liam and Louis on stage in Florida the year before. It looked a little pixelated since it wasn’t quite the right size, but it was good enough for the moment.

Still, the damage had already been done. While he thought he’d done a good job of spending the day distracting himself and trying to act as if everything were normal, as soon as he’d seen the picture it had all come flooding back.

It was like there was electricity the first time Niall had touched Alicia, and he had simply touched her hand. She smiled at him shyly, and he pulled away, but still kept his eye on her.

Perhaps, without even intending to, Eleanor had given him the best birthday present out of everyone.

“Where are you from, Alicia?” Niall asked after a couple of seconds of silence.

“London,” she said, still smiling at him sweetly. “I’ve lived here my whole life. But you’re not from here, are you?”

Niall shook his head. “I live here, but I was born in Ireland.”

“I’ve never been to Ireland,” she said, still giving him the same shy look. Niall felt drawn to her, and it probably was because she seemed so reserved. Normally, the types of girls he went after were more forward.

The ones that were more likely to have a one night stand. Being away from home so long made it difficult for him to have any sort of relationship. It was strange, he didn’t see any sort of sexual encounter happening with Alicia any time soon, but he was still interested in talking to her and getting to know her. He was still attracted to her.

“You should come visit sometime,” he said a little flirtatiously. “It’s really beautiful there.”

She giggled a little, appearing to get a bit more comfortable around him. “Maybe I will.”

Niall snapped his laptop shut and rolled over onto his side. He closed his eyes and tried to think of something else. He wasn’t going to allow himself to get overly upset about Alicia. It wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t be held responsible.

Those were her actions. She’d taken her own life. She’d fallen in love with him. She’d made the first move. She’d told him she wanted him to be her first.

His breathing grew unsteady as he curled up and hugged his knees to his chest. He didn’t think he loved her any more… when they’d broken up he’d gone through a period of being sad, but their relationship was effectively already dead before it was over.

It was so quiet on the bus that Niall knew everyone would hear him crying, so he took his pillow and scrunched up it against his face. It was getting wet on account of his tears, but he didn’t really care as his body shook with sadness.

He tried to hold it in for a couple minutes, but it was no use. The pillow did little to muffle the noise and soon the wooden beam beside his bunk was being knocked on.

“Nialler?”

It was Liam.

Niall took a deep breath and pulled back the curtain. He attempted to give Liam a look of annoyance, but the concern on his friend’s face made that impossible. He leaned over and wrapped his arms around the older boy’s neck, clinging to him as he sobbed.

Liam didn’t say anything, he just let Niall cry. Despite all that had happened to him, this was one of the first times he’d actually seen Niall break down and allow himself to feel sad.

Though he didn’t like seeing his friend in this much pain, he knew it was probably good for him to let it out.

Eventually, Niall managed to calm down. He pulled away from Liam and looked at him. That was the nice thing about the close bond they shared. He wasn’t embarrassed, he didn’t feel ashamed of himself. Instead, Niall wore a look of gratitude.

“Thanks,” he said softly, wiping his eyes a little.

“It’s what I’m here for,” Liam replied. “Anytime you need to talk. I know it can’t be easy for you.”

Niall nodded, suddenly feeling exhausted. The last two days had been rough on him, and though he still felt depressed, his mind was a little clearer than it had been earlier. “I think I’m just going to go to sleep.”

Liam understood. Now wasn’t the time for a heart to heart. “Okay buddy, try to get a good rest.”

“Thanks,” Niall said, pulling the curtain closed once again.

Liam laid back down in his own bunk and closed his eyes. His heart was breaking for his friend, and he wished there was something more he could do for him. But he knew nothing he did or said would bring Alicia back, nor would it change anything that had happened in the past year.

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