Chapter 5 – Time Takes Time

Liam waited impatiently inside his hotel room. He tapped his foot on the ground and looked at the watch on his wrist. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed.

Waiting was brutal torture. Danielle was going to be arriving that day to join them for a couple of weeks on tour while she had some time off, but he didn’t know when exactly she was going to arrive. He’d wanted to go down to the lobby to meet her, but of course management hadn’t allowed that. Not with the exponential amount of fans that were waiting there.

So he continued to sit in the room impatiently. He fiddled with his phone, there was no response from Danielle yet indicating where she was. That wasn’t helping his situation. Liam scrolled through his contacts, and his finger landed on Niall’s name.

The boy had been asleep all day, and he had been out the night before. He hadn’t even gotten up to join them for breakfast. When Louis had gone to see if he’d wanted anything, Niall had grumbled something about being tired, and that he would wake up when it was time to go to the venue.

Liam frowned, but he hadn’t said or done anything more. How could he have? Niall was off in his own little world lately, and as much as the others had tried to pull him out of it, it simply wasn’t happening.

In time, Liam was sure that Niall would come around. And hopefully, that time would come soon. He missed his friend’s smiling face, infectious laugh and warm hugs. Now, he just looked like a cold and broken shell of his former self.

Liam’s thought process was interrupted by a light knock on his door. He hopped up from his bed and answered it quickly. It was Danielle.

For a split second, Liam was disappointed that it wasn’t the little Irish blonde. But then he quickly remembered that Danielle was his girlfriend and that he loved her. He loved her only her. At least, that was what he consistently told himself whenever she was around.

“Dani,” he said softly, wrapping her in a tight hug before she even had a chance to enter the room.

“Hi love,” she replied, standing on her toes to give him a kiss on the cheek before pulling away. She walked into the room and Liam shut the door behind them, not taking his eyes off her as he admired the way her body moved.

The two of them sat down on the hotel room bed and glanced at each other. Even though they spent a lot of time apart, coming back together was never awkward. It was comfortable and easy, as though they’d been together the whole time. “How was your flight?” Liam asked, tracing her skin with his finger.

“It was short,” she said brightly. “Just the way I like them.”

“That’s good,” he replied, looking at her. She’d always had a soft and calming aura about her, and Liam welcomed it. It wasn’t as though his own life had been hectic recently, but Niall’s certainly had. And even though Niall’s issues hadn’t reached Liam much, they were definitely affecting him.

Simply put, at the bare minimum, he was worried about his friend.

“What’s wrong?” Danielle asked, as if she knew something was off. It was easy to tell, after having been with Liam for so long.

Liam just shook his head. It wasn’t his place to tell her about the situation with Niall, and even if he wanted to he wasn’t sure what he would say. Part of his worry about Niall was that he had no idea what was going on, or even if anything was. Niall was grieving, and him sleeping all the time and going out to clubs was just a part of that. No matter how unhealthy Liam thought it was.

“Nothing,” Liam said, forcing a smile on his face. “Nothing at all.”

Danielle gave him a look. It was clear that she didn’t believe him, but she let it slide. “I’m so happy to be here,” she said finally, leaning over to hug him again.

And Liam held her tightly, just like he always did. Whatever was going on with Niall didn’t matter at that moment. He tried to push it out of his mind and focus on his girlfriend. Just like he’d been doing for the past year whenever he was around her.

It wasn’t difficult at first, but it got increasingly harder for Liam to stop himself from comparing the two. Niall was his best friend… and whenever he thought about him, he had to remind himself of that little fact. They were friends only, and any feelings he had for him didn’t matter.

Danielle leaned in to kiss Liam on the mouth, but he moved his head to the side and looked over at the clock. “Sorry,” he said to her apologetically, not quite realizing what he’d done. “I just think we’ve got to head over to the venue now. Are you going to come with us?”

Danielle sighed a little, but nodded and gave him a smile. “Of course.”

Liam gripped her hand as the two of them left the room. The rest of the group was already gathered in front of the elevators, along with their security team.

Well, all except for one.

“Where’s Nialler?” Liam asked, perhaps a little too eagerly as he looked around at the others.

Louis just shrugged. “Where do you think? You should have seen him this morning. I tried to take him pancakes and he very nearly bit my head off.”

They all looked around at each other before Paul sighed in exasperation. “I’ll go-” he started, but was cut off by Liam.

“Let me go first,” Liam said, and ignored the look of horror Louis was giving him. He could handle Niall’s attitude. Mostly because Niall tended to drop it whenever he was around.

Paul looked down at Liam contemplatively, but gave in. “Fine,” he said. “But if he’s not out here in five minutes, I’m coming in.”

“Right,” Liam said, shuffling off and leaving Danielle and the others behind. He walked briskly down the hall to Niall’s room, and stopped in front of the door. He sighed to himself, and knocked on it lightly.

No answer. But that wasn’t shocking. The blonde could sleep through an apocalypse.

So, Liam tried again. He knocked a little harder this time. “Nialler?” he said, looking at the wood grain on the door, and growing more concerned about his friend on the other side of it. “Come on, mate. We’ve gotta go to the venue.”

At first, there was no answer. Just as Liam was about to try again, he heard shuffling in the room. Then the door opened. Niall peeked out, but upon seeing Liam was alone, he opened the door wider and gave his friend a look.

“Already?” he asked tiredly.

“You’ve been sleeping all day,” Liam pointed out.

“I was out late last night.”

Liam sighed. Yes, that was becoming a habit for Niall. And yes, it had already been a habit what with his constant partying and girls, but through all of that he’d at least managed to stay professional. Now he was beginning to act like an entitled rock star who couldn’t care less about the fact that he had work to do.

But instead of being angry with him, Liam just felt sorry for him. “Get some clothes on and let’s go,” Liam said, giving Niall a slight nod.

Niall sighed a little and ran a hand through his hair. It didn’t look clean and fluffy, but dirty and matted down. “You can have a shower when we get to the venue,” Liam said to him. “You’ll feel better.”

“Yeah,” Niall replied, only half listening to Liam’s words. He pulled on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. “Let’s go,” he said, grabbing his phone and wallet off the dresser before pushing past Liam.

Liam sighed and watched his friend shuffle down the hall. It pained him to see him starting down such a self-destructive path, but there wasn’t much he could do about it at the moment.

He’d just have to keep his eye on him more closely.

***

Niall sat backstage at the venue in the catering area. Despite what Liam had said, he didn’t feel much better after having taken a shower. He still felt sick, tired and completely unenergetic. The fact that he had to be on stage in a couple of hours wasn’t helping, and he wanted nothing more than to go back to his hotel room and sleep.

He picked at the food on his plate, but couldn’t actually bring himself to eat any of it. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt quite so dejected, but there were a few times that had come close.

The memory that hung most vividly in his mind was when he’d accompanied Alicia to the clinic.

Once they were back in the UK, Niall and Alicia wasted no time getting their predicament taken care of. Because that’s what they were calling it now. A predicament. A problem. Something that could easily fixed because it was only a mistake and wouldn’t happen again.

It seemed as though Alicia was going to make sure of that, as she’d refused to sleep with Niall ever since they’d found out. Of course, he’d tried to reason with her, saying that he couldn’t get her pregnant a second time… but she hadn’t liked that, so he backed off.

Now, he was sitting in the waiting room, playing with his phone and trying his best to look inconspicuous. No one had noticed them walking into the clinic, and for that Niall was glad. They’d gone to one that was in a more rural area, but that didn’t mean fangirls or paparazzi wouldn’t be around.

Still, he didn’t care. He was going to go support his girlfriend and the rest of the would could be damned. They were in this together, and if she was going to have to face the stigma of going to a clinic, then he was too. He wasn’t about to let her face this alone.

Even if that meant the risk of his family finding out would mean they’d disown him.

He tapped his foot on the ground and looked up at the clock. She’d already been in there for half an hour, but to Niall it felt like a lifetime. He just wanted it to be done and over with. To leave and never look back.

As if on cue, Alicia walked back into the waiting room with the nurse. Niall stood up and looked at her. She looked tired, blank and slightly pale. She wasn’t the girl he’d fallen in love with, but that was okay. In time, he knew he’d get her back. That they would make it through this.

He walked over to her, and she nearly fell into him as she wrapped her arms around him tightly. She buried her head in his shoulder, and her body shook with muffled sobs as her tears soaked through his shirt.

He rubbed her back gently, but couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief. “Come on,” he said gently. “Let’s go.”

She looked up at him with a tear stained face and nodded. Neither of them said a word as Niall slipped their hands together while they walked out of the clinic.

It was all he could do to not run down the white halls, but of course he refrained. Instead they walked slowly, but Niall eyed his car in the parking lot when he pushed open the door to the building.

He hit the starter on his keys and let go of his girlfriend’s hand as they walked over to his Renault. He gave her a slight smile as they opened the doors and climbed inside.

Never had he been so happy to drive away from anywhere in his life. Now, it was all over, and they could begin to move on.

“Come on, mate,” Liam said, sitting down next to Niall and pulling him out of his thoughts. “You’ve got to eat something,” he said, then laughed. “Never thought that was something I’d be saying toyou.”

Niall shrugged. He didn’t feel much like eating. He didn’t feel much like doing anything, really. Much less getting on stage in front of a bunch of screaming girls who said they adored him.

How could they adore him? They didn’t know him, and they certainly didn’t know what he’d done.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. But they didn’t seem to care or understand how much at fault he was for all of the chaos and drama that had ensued. He just wanted to forget about it all. And the way to do that wasn’t by standing on stage anymore.

But he wasn’t about to admit any of that to Liam. And there was no way he could get out of going on stage, so he took a bite of the fruit on his plate and looked up at his friend for approval. As if he was some sort of small child.

Liam smiled. Daddy Direction, indeed.

There was a thick silence between the two boys. Niall focused on forcing his food down to appease his friend, but his mind was really elsewhere. He was so tired and strung out that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to fall into bed right after the show, or if he wanted to go out to another club.

He figured he’d probably end up going out, given the adrenaline rush he usually got from performing. At least that would wake him up. That was the good part. Not the screaming fans, but the music and how he managed to get lost in it.

He would just have to try not to focus on all of the girls screaming for him.

“Niall,” Liam started, but faltered. He didn’t quite know what to say.

Niall looked up at him. His mind began to race. What was Liam going to say to him or ask him? And how was he going to come up with a lie so he wouldn’t have to tell Liam that he’d been doing cocaine and making out with different girls in dirty club bathrooms for the past week?

But Liam didn’t say anything.

“Well, I guess I’ll be off to the bus then,” Niall said, standing up and walking away. “Come get me when we have to go on.”

“Right,” Liam said as he watched Niall go. He put his head in his hands. Every day that went by, it seemed like they were growing further and further apart. And he didn’t like it one bit.

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