Chapter 22 – Love Is

“This is The Bert Show and we’re backstage with none other than Niall Horan and Zayn Malik from One Direction.”

Niall looked over at Zayn with a grin. This was the first interview he was doing as part of the American tour. The others had picked up his slack during his sessions with Jessica. But now that he was finding himself feeling better and more comfortable around the group again, he wanted to get back in the swing of things.

And that meant loads and loads of interviews.

“Tell us what the American tour is like,” Bert said, looking at the boys. “Do you guys sit on the tour bus singing road trip songs the whole way, or is it kind of old hat now? Like yeah, we’re toured America before. We’ve made it. Onto the next thing.”

Niall shook his head. He supposed that if you had a mundane job as most people did, then normalcy would set in and everything would become familiar, but his job wasn’t like that. “No,” he said honestly. “It’s always different. I don’t think we sing road trip songs,” he laughed a bit and looked over at Zayn, who just shook his head. “But we do try to get out and see the sights when we can. It’s always really fun, never a dull moment.”

“What’s been your favourite part of the tour so far?”

He and Zayn exchanged a glance. Niall truthfully didn’t know – it had started out so bleak for him, and it seemed like every day was a new favourite since every day felt more and more normal.

It was weird to him that his normal was everyone else’s excitement.

As he was lost in his thoughts, Zayn started to answer the question.

“Uh yeah,” he said. “It’s all been really good, but I guess our show at Disney was pretty cool. It was filmed and I think they’re going to show it on the telly or put it on a DVD or something.”

“And of course right now, The Bert Show,” Niall cut in, wearing a cheeky grin and winking at Kristin, the other radio host. If nothing else, he knew how to conduct himself in front of the press.

“This guy’s always flirting with you,” Bert laughed, looking over at Kristin. “Every time he comes on the show. I bet when they decide who’s going to do interviews as soon as he finds out there’s one with us he makes sure he’s doing that one.”

“Nah,” Niall laughed. “I make sure Kristin’s going to be doing the interview with you, and then I make sure I’m part of that one.”

Kristin laughed and shook her head as Niall suggestively raised his eyebrow at her.

It wasn’t until Niall realized what he was doing that he began to feel slightly awkward again. If he did end up in a relationship with Liam, would he still be able to make jokes like that, or would he suddenly have to start flirting with the male radio hosts?

He didn’t even think he liked guys in general since flirting with girls came so naturally to him. But with Liam, things were different. They were so easy and so complicated at the same time. If only it could just be so simple, if he could just love Liam without worrying about his gender and what this meant for his sexuality.

“Niall,” Zayn said, nudging him back to reality.

“Huh?”

“They asked you what your favourite song is to perform,” he said with a slight laugh, because Niall had gone off into his own little world.

“He was too busy daydreaming about Kristin,” Bert laughed, winking at him.

“Right, yeah,” Niall said, forcing a grin on his face. “Um, I mean the entire concert is a rush but I love performing our new mix of What Makes You Beautiful.”

“You’re not sick of performing that old song?” Kristin asked him.

Niall shook his head. “No, I’m not. I mean I probably would be if we didn’t change it up, but this tour is really cool with the acoustic mix we do between that and Little Things. Obviously I like playing the guitar on those, and I love it when the two songs blend together. The moment the crowd realizes that we’re about to play What Makes You Beautiful and they go nuts is just the best part of every show,” he gushed, and Zayn nodded along with him. “The energy in the arena is literally amazing, every time.”

Bert and Kristin nodded, looking like they accepted the answer.

Niall smiled to himself. Even though he had a lot of internal struggles to work through, performing and talking about his career was something that he was sure he’d always find easy.

The interview went on for a bit after that, talking about the shows and their upcoming album. After a few more minutes, Paul gave them the signal to cut the interview off. Zayn and Niall were quick to thank Bert and Kristin, as they made sure to always do.

“Man I’m starving,” Niall said as he and Zayn walked towards catering. He eyed the containers of food sitting out, and frowned at the lineup of people waiting to eat.

He supposed he could cut the line – they were always told that they could but none of them ever did. After all, their crew and everyone on their tour had to eat just as much as they did.

“We got plates for you guys,” Liam said, waving them over to a table. “The Bert Show always runs long,” he said knowingly.

Niall beamed, sitting down beside Liam. “And four pieces of chicken? Liam, you’re the best.”

“There’s hot sauce on it too,” Louis said, shoving a potato wedge into his mouth. “I don’t know how you can eat that stuff right before a show. I’d have heartburn the whole way through.”

“Louis, you can’t eat anything before a show,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “You wiped the salt off those potatoes because you said they would bloat you,” he laughed. “You are literally so gay.”

Louis glared at Harry and Niall’s breath caught in his throat. He made eye contact with Louis for a short second. He knew Harry’s comment wasn’t meant to be harsh, but it still terrified Niall. If Louis’ odd eating habits made him gay, then what did make him on account of what he’d done with Liam?

Louis just raised his eyebrows and popped another wedge into his mouth. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good for the show,” he said easily.

Harry shrugged and went back to eating his food. Niall let out the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding. He took a bite of his chicken and glanced at Liam, wondering if he’d been as shaken by Harry’s comment.

If he had, he wasn’t showing it.

“How’s your chicken?” he asked.

Niall nodded, grateful that no one else seemed to be making a big deal out of it. Perhaps all of his worries were really for nothing. “Good,” he said as he swallowed. “Really good.”

Liam grinned at him. “Good.”

***

“Atlanta!” Harry shouted as the final notes of their encore rang throughout the arena. “Thank you so much.”

Niall gazed out at the crowd. He couldn’t see many faces on account of the hot stage lights above him, but he could see the flicker of cameras and the occasional glitter of a banner.

He looked over at the other boys as he always did at the end of a show, but he couldn’t help himself from letting his eyes linger on Liam a little longer.

All day long he’d been trying to figure out how he felt and what to do. But it wasn’t until he was on stage where he was completely comfortable and his element that he was able to think clearly.

He was tired and sweaty. The crowd was still screaming. Somewhere in the background, Louis was making his end of the show speech as he always did, but all of that melted away as he watched Liam.

His friend’s face was plastered with a grin that seemed to light up the entire area around him. He was breathing heavily after the high-energy encore and he looked happier and more perfect than Niall had ever thought possible.

Always one to get emotional on stage, Niall walked over to Liam and without giving it a second thought he wrapped his arms around his friend and hugged him tightly.

The crowd probably responded to that, but he didn’t notice. Instead he leaned upwards and whispered to Liam.

“Good show, mate,” he said.

Liam looked down at him and smiled. “You too.”

After that the show couldn’t have ended any quicker. As soon as they were taken back to their hotel, Niall tossed his things into his room and walked briskly down the hall to Liam’s.

His heart felt as though it was thumping in his throat as he knocked on Liam’s door. He’d spent so much time in agony over this, thinking and wondering and feeling confused and lost… but when he’d looked at Liam it had all been so clear and he wondered why it hadn’t been so easy before. In fact, being around Liam (which he wasn’t overanalysing things) had been the easiest part of it all. He’d been so wrapped up and worried as to what other people would think of him, but as Jessica had pointed out, that didn’t really matter. Just Liam’s presence made him feel safe and loved, and that was all that mattered, wasn’t it?

That was certainly how he’d felt when he’d looked at his friend.

People were going to talk no matter what, he’d learned quite a bit about that in the past year. Still, he’d managed to get through it. And all the while, Liam was there. While he was struggling with his own worries and emotions, Liam had come through for him time and time again. It wasn’t what he’d felt for Liam that had been difficult, it had been accepting it.

“Niall?” Liam asked, answering the door and pulling Niall out of his thoughts. “What is it?”

“Can I come in?” Niall asked quickly, because as sure as he felt about Liam, he needed this to happen in private. Not out in the hall for everyone to see.

“Yeah, of course,” Liam said, ushering him into the room and closing the door behind him. “What’s going on? And not to be mean, but I need to have a shower… and you probably do too, you know, just coming off stage and all that.”

“I’ll shower with you,” Niall blurted out, not knowing how to even begin to explain what he was feeling.

Liam looked at Niall oddly. Of all the things for Niall to say after showing up in his room directly after a performance, he certainly hadn’t expected him to say that. Liam felt his heart race. Could Niall have actually made up his mind? “What?”

Niall gulped. There was no turning back now – and he supposed he didn’t really want to turn back. He looked at Liam and felt better. Whatever he was worried about – the other members of the group, the fans, his family… none of that mattered when he looked at him.

And that was exactly the assurance he needed. The normalcy and calmness that being around Liam gave him. That was the reason he was doing this, and that was the reason he knew it was right.

“I’ll shower with you,” he repeated, hoping that Liam understood the true meaning behind those words. “And I’ll lay beside you, and I’ll kiss you and God, Liam,” Niall said, running a hand through his messy hair. “I’ll fucking love you… if I don’t already.”

Liam’s eyes were wide. He couldn’t be sure he was hearing this right. “Are you actually serious?” he asked cautiously. “Because the other day you said…”

“I know,” Niall said quickly, his heart speeding up as he tried to find the right words for what he was feeling. “I know what I said… but I just thought… I didn’t want to wait any longer, Li. Every time I looked at you my heart broke and I finally realized it wasn’t because we’d kissed, it was because we weren’t still kissing.”

Liam very nearly felt tears spring to his eyes at Niall’s words. He’d never known him to be quite so eloquent, but it didn’t matter. “I guess we’ll have to change that, then,” he smiled, inching closer to him.

“Yeah,” Niall replied, his Irish accent thick as he looked up at Liam. His hair was a brown mess on top of his head, his eyes were tired and bright at the same time.

And his lips… Niall had never noticed how full they were before. He stood as tall as he could while Liam leaned down to meet him. Their lips touched slowly, and Liam gently pulled Niall closer, wrapping his arms around the blonde and kissing him more assuredly.

Niall sighed as they pulled away from each other. He reached up and touched Liam’s cheek softly. He felt almost dizzy and the kiss hadn’t even lasted that long.

The last time he’d kissed Liam he’d pulled away and felt horror and confusion. This time he felt warm, safe and completely right.

The smile that played on Niall’s lips nearly brought tears to Liam’s eyes. Not only because this was what he’d been wanting for so long, but because it was clearly completely genuine. It had been so long since Niall had looked truly happy.

He almost wanted to complete the moment by telling Niall he loved him, but he held back. Even though the words had very nearly been said by Niall already, he didn’t want to scare him off by jumping in too quickly.

So instead he just grinned as he kept looking at Niall. “I don’t know what to say,” he admitted.

Niall shook his head. “Neither do I.”

Liam continued grinning as he leaned down to kiss Niall again, this time with more urgency. Niall kissed him back, softly for a second before opening his mouth to let Liam’s tongue enter.

They’d kissed before in the heat of the moment with passion, but it was nothing like this. The sheer moment where they were both so sure that what they were doing was right was unmatched by any other times their lips had met with anything less that sobriety.

Which was ironic, because Liam’s head was certainly spinning.

He pulled away from Niall slightly. “Shower?” he asked breathlessly.

Niall nodded, his lips barely touching Liam’s. He wanted nothing more than to be close to Liam at that moment, and standing naked under a hot stream of water seemed like as good a place as any.

The two of them made their way to the bathroom, stripping off their clothes as they went. As they stepped onto the cold tile of the room, Liam turned towards Niall.

“You’re so beautiful,” he murmured, touching Niall’s toned shoulder gingerly. He leaned down to kiss him on the cheek before turning on the water.

Niall smiled to himself as he watched Liam. He didn’t know why it hadn’t been this easy before – when it was just the two of them, things were simple. Or at least, they should have been. The difficult part was going to be explaining this to everyone else.

But he didn’t have to worry about that now.

Liam stepped under the water and held out his hand for Niall to take. He led Niall into the shower as well as as soon as he was in, their bodies were pressed together. Beads of water trailed down them, and Niall just clung to Liam for a moment, enjoying the feeling of his skin against Liam’s.

He looked up at Liam, his eyes half closed. He was very nearly in a state of complete autopilot, taking cues from his body without even giving them a second thought. It didn’t take long before their lips were connected again, pressed together with more desire than ever before.

Niall rubbed his hands over Liam’s back as the water sprayed him. He moved his legs around Liam to try and increase pressure on his throbbing cock, but it didn’t quite work.

“Mmph,” Liam grunted, pulling away from Niall as he realized what the blonde was trying to do. “Here.” he gently pushed on Niall’s shoulder to get his back pressed against the other end of the shower wall. He leaned down to kiss Niall’s chest and continued a trail of kisses downward. “Better?”

“Ugh, yeah,” Niall moaned. “Much better, Liam, oh…”

Niall shuddered as Liam took his entire length in his mouth. He squeezed his eyes shut as Liam worked his magic on him. It was obvious that this was all still very new for the both of them, but Niall didn’t really care. As far as he was concerned, this was the best he’d ever had.

Liam didn’t stay down there long, just long enough to get Niall good and riled up. He moved back upwards quickly, pressing his lips against Niall’s and his body as well. Niall clung to Liam as he thrusted against him, slow at first, but quicker as things got more heated.

“Fuck, Liam,” Niall moaned, pulling away from Liam’s kiss and biting down on his bottom lip. His body started to shake and he pressed his hand against the wet shower wall to stabilize himself.

“Yeah Niall,” Liam whispered softly in his ear.

Niall moaned softly as he came, shaking and clinging to Liam as his breath caught up with him. He reached down and grabbed Liam’s member, stroking it quickly as he tried to regain his stability.

“Ugh, Niall,” Liam moaned, gripping the younger boy’s sides with his fingers. “I’m so close…”

Niall pumped faster, kissing Liam’s shoulder as he did so and sending the older boy over the edge.

The two of them clung to each other as their breathing steadied. Niall opened his eyes slightly, surveying the shower. He reached over to the shelf beside them and grabbed a complimentary bottle of body wash. After squeezing some onto his hand, he rubbed Liam’s neck and chest until it became a smooth lather.

Liam smiled, taking the bottle from Niall and doing the same for him, instructing him to turn around so he could clean his back as well.

Niall sighed happily as the two of them washed each other under the warm shower. No words were spoken, and none needed to be. This was exactly how he felt at ease. No worries, no complications. Just him and Liam completely and utterly comfortable with each other and the feelings they knew they shared.

Once they were sufficiently cleaned up and rinsed off, Liam turned the water off and handed Niall a towel. He smiled to himself as the blonde dried himself, first rubbing the nubby fabric over his wet body, and then rapidly drying off his hair.

Niall smiled at Liam as he dried himself off easily, placing the towel back on the rack instead of tossing it on the floor like he’d done. Completely exhausted, the two of them collapsed onto Liam’s bed.

They gazed at each other. Their eyes were barely open, but they were both filled with all the love in the world.

“Goodnight, Liam,” Niall whispered, kissing him softly before snuggling up on top of him.

Liam’s lips curled upwards as he took a deep, relaxing breath. “Goodnight, Nialler.”

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