Chapter 24 – Breathe

 Once the show that night was over, Niall found himself in Liam’s hotel room once again. Tangled in the sheets was just the two of them together.

He was certain he’d never felt love like this before.

“Liam,” he sighed, his chest heaving as he came down from his high. Every inch of his body felt alive as Liam clung to him.

“Hmmm…” Liam sighed from underneath him, rubbing Niall’s back slightly.

“I’m so happy,” he said simply, using every ounce of the energy he had left to push himself upwards and kiss Liam’s lips.

Liam kissed him back, albeit lazily since he too was completely exhausted.

The two of them drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms silently, just as they had the night before. Just as the planned to every night going forward. It was easily becoming the best part of their days, and neither of them seemed to mind that it was their little secret. After all, it wasn’t difficult for Niall to slip into Liam’s room after the shows.

It would have been completely inconspicuous too, had they not fallen asleep without forgetting to set an alarm.

“Late two days in a row, what has gotten into you?!”

Liam’s eyes fluttered open the next morning at the sound of banging on his hotel room door. Niall awoke too, rolling off of Liam slightly and rubbing his eyes.

“Mmph, what’s goin’ on?” he asked as he began to wake up.

“Louis,” Liam said slightly irritably. “That’s what goin’ on,” he smiled a bit, mocking Niall’s accent.

Niall would have rolled his eyes and smacked Liam with a pillow if fear hadn’t been shooting through his body. If Louis was there then he was going to catch them in the act, and he was going to put it all together.

Suddenly, Niall didn’t feel so much at ease.

“What’s he doing here?” Niall asked, almost in a panic. As much as he was feeling good about things with Liam, this wasn’t how he wanted the others to find out. Not by accident, not by walking in on them, not by finding him naked in Liam’s hotel room, for God’s sake!

He jumped off the bed and scrambled to find his clothes.

“Will you get out here already, Paul’s pitching a fit!” Louis called through the door. “And he wants to know where Niall is, because we tried his room and he’s not in there.”

“Shit, shit, shit…” Niall muttered, struggling to pull his clothes on.

Liam glanced over at Niall and sighed. So much for the secrecy of their relationship going smoothly. He pulled his boxers on and opened the door. “Morning,” he said as he looked down at Louis. If he wasn’t so concerned with Niall in the background, he probably would have laughed. It was rare that Louis was the one running around keeping them all in line.

Liam supposed that was his job, and since he obviously wasn’t doing it Louis had to pick up the slack. After all, it wasn’t like Harry or Zayn would have any of that. They probably didn’t even know what was going on.

“Ah,” Louis said, peering past Liam into the room. “You’re both here then. Good. Get dressed and let’s get going before Paul sends out the search party for me.”

Niall pulled his t-shirt on over his head and looked at Louis and Liam. The two of them were silent, and in fact Niall was sure the only noise in the room was the pounding of his heart in his chest. “Louis,” he said quickly, not knowing how to defend himself, but thinking he should probably say something to rectify this awkward situation.

“Just get downstairs in five minutes,” Louis said, shaking his head. “Don’t worry about it.”

With that, Louis was gone. Liam shut the door and glanced at Niall. He was still breathing heavily but at least he appeared to be calming down. “Are you alright?” he asked, walking slowly over to him and cupping the blonde’s face lightly with his hands.

Niall nodded, feeling much more at ease at Liam’s touch. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m alright. Just startled, is all.”

“You heard what Louis said,” Liam said softly, kissing the top of Niall’s head. “Don’t worry about it.”

Given the circumstances, Niall didn’t know how that was possible. Louis had clearly realized exactly what he’d walked in on. Then again, Louis had known about everything else up to that point and hadn’t appeared to have said anything to the others, so Niall felt he really should have been thanking his lucky stars it wasn’t Zayn or Harry who had come knocking.

“Right,” Niall said, forcing a smile. It was easy for him to pretend that everything was easy when he simply shut the outside world out. Of course, he’d made a pact with himself not to do that anymore, so he figured he was just going to have to deal with things as they came. “I won’t.”

Liam smiled as he pulled away from Niall and picked up the rest of the clothes off the floor. “Good. I’m glad.”

It was six minutes (to be exact) before Niall and Liam met up with the others in the lobby. Louis glanced up at them and simply nodded a quick hello before going back to whatever was occupying him on his phone.

Liam looked down at Niall with a smile, as if to assure him that there really was nothing to worry about. Niall, however, avoided Liam’s gaze. Standing in the middle of the hotel lobby was certainly not his ideal setting for having everyone figure out what was going on.

No, he promised himself, that would have to be done in a much more private area.

He only half listened as Paul listed off their activities for the day. There was nothing that exciting, just a quick drive off to the next venue, some press, a soundcheck, and of course the concert that evening. It was all very routine, which Niall actually found quite settling. At least there was a shred of normalcy in what had been an all around very weird and nerve-inducing morning.


“I swear to God,” Harry said, leaning back in his chair as the boys sat backstage in the catering area later that afternoon. “If I get asked what my favourite song is to perform again, I think I’ll scream.”

“You’ll scream?” Louis repeated, raising his eyebrows. “Like a little girl?” he giggled.

“Yes Lou,” Harry said with a slight roll of his eyes. “Like a little girl.”

Louis shrugged. “Just making sure.”

Niall smiled to himself as he downed the food on his plate. As usual there was an assortment of food for the boys to choose from backstage, and as usual he stuck with his plate of chicken and french fries.

“I just don’t understand why they can’t come up with some more original questions,” Harry sighed, leaning backwards in his chair again and kicking his feet underneath the table. “You’d think that since our fans literally watch every single interview that they’d know all this stuff already.”

The rest of the boys shrugged. Even though Harry wasn’t wrong, there wasn’t really much to add to his musings. Plus they were already tired out from their long day, and they still had a performance to get to that evening.

“At least they’re not really digging deep into our personal lives anymore,” Zayn reasoned, glancing at the others. “Because for a while there it was getting really bad.”

Harry shrugged, and Niall just sat around awkwardly. He knew a large part of the reason for the media’s prying into their personal lives was because of him and his very public relationship mess. He shifted a bit, stuffing a fry into his mouth and staying overly silent.

Liam looked over at him and sighed. It wasn’t hard for him to tell where Niall’s mind had gone. He placed a conforming hand on Niall’s knee, trying to assure him that it was really okay.

This action was just met with Niall jumping up quickly from the table. Liam backed off right away, not even realizing what he’d done. The boundaries of their relationship were still unclear to him, especially since that kind of thing had been fine before. Before – when they were just friends and there were no feelings and secrecy complicating the situation, that is.

The others turned to look at him when he jumped up. Not only was it completely out of character, it came from seemingly out of nowhere.

“Uh,” Niall said, looking at them and realizing that if he’d have just left it alone no one would have paid it any attention. He mentally berated himself for being so stupid and paranoid. “I just… I’m goin’ to the bathroom,” he said dumbly, walking off.

The others eyed each other but shrugged it off. Over the past few months, they were used to Niall’s odd behaviour anyway. They couldn’t expect him to do a complete one-eighty back to how he’d once been.

Liam sighed, feeling guilty but deciding it was best not to go follow him. Instead he picked at his food and gave a quick look at Louis.

Louis just raised his eyebrows and sighed. He quickly stood up and went off in the direction of the bathroom, clearly intent on following Niall and finding out what was wrong.

This was unbeknownst to Niall as he stood in the washroom over the sink, splashing cold water on his face. He didn’t even know why he was acting like such a fool. It wasn’t a big deal, he knew it wasn’t, and he wasn’t sure why exactly he was making a mountain out of a molehill.

“Niall?” Louis asked gently, opening the door and walking into the room.

Niall looked over at him and gulped. He supposed he should have known that their secret was going to come out much sooner rather than later, given how close the entire group was.

“You alright, mate?”

Niall nodded, but he didn’t say anything. So much for facing his problems head on.

Luckily, Louis had that covered.

“Look, I’m just going to come right out and say it, because I’m sick of all this pussyfooting around. I know what’s going on with you and Liam.”

Again, Niall nodded. “Yeah, I know. He told me that he told you.”

Louis shook his head as he stepped closer to Niall. “Not just that stuff, but I know what’s going on with you two now. And maybe it’s because I know the history of it, but it’s not really hard to see, you know?”

Niall shrugged, because he figured he and Liam had been doing a pretty good job of keeping things secret. If he had just let the touch go…

“I’m glad you two got it figured out, really I am,” Louis said, gently touching Niall’s shoulder. Niall didn’t flinch at all, because that was a completely normal thing for Louis to do. “But don’t you think it would be easier if you just told Harry and Zayn?”

Niall knew that it probably would be easier, but every time he pictured himself telling Harry and Zayn that he and Liam were dating and that Liam was his boyfriend he got a terrified lump in his throat. Because what if they didn’t react as easily as he thought they would? What if they were completely against it and thought that it would disrupt the band?

Which is exactly what he told Louis, in no uncertain terms.

Louis just rolled his eyes as though Niall was being completely ridiculous. “Niall,” he said seriously. “You don’t think the band has already been disrupted through all of this? And really, you don’t think that we’re strong enough to deal with the fact that you and Liam are together? Think about that for a second.”

And Niall did. He thought about how much they’d already been through together and how much they’d already accomplished. They’d always been there for each other through thick and thin. Hell, he’d been so sure that they despised him after all of his Alicia drama, but they’d proven that they still loved him and cared about him just as much as ever.

So really, what was he afraid of?

“You’re right,” Niall sighed, turning to face Louis.

“Well of course I’m right,” Louis said cheekily, pulling Niall in for a hug. “So will you and Liam just tell the others already? At least just Harry and Zayn, because you know how Harry feels when he’s been out of the loop,” he said with a slight cock of his head.

Niall laughed. At the very least, he knew that all too well. “Alright,” he said with a nod, and maybe a tinge of nervousness that was barely there anymore. “I’ll have to clear it with Liam, but we’ll tell them after the show tonight.”

Louis ruffled Niall’s hair with a smile. “There’s a good lad.”


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