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READER RESTRICTIONS: 13+

Disclaimer(s): language 

publish date:

Originally published on March 11, 2015

Revised edition published on October 1, 2023

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"If we could only have this life for one more day / If we could only turn back time..."

One Direction, "Moments"

march 2015
Singapore

        “Liam?” Niall tentatively rapped his knuckles against the door. He waited a few seconds, but there was no response. He tried again. “Liam, you in there, mate?”

        Nothing.

        He sighed and tried the handle. The lock held, but Liam's heavy voice suddenly rolled through the wooden surface: "Go away, Ni."

        “Liam, c’mon. Open up.”

        “No.”

        “I’m worried about you.”

        “Well, don’t be.”

        “Why don’t you just talk to us, mate? We’ve barely seen you at all.”

        Liam reverted to silence. Niall pursed his lips and exhaled slowly through his nose. His nostrils flared. He ran his fingers through the plumed blond mass of hair on his head, paused a moment, and begin digging in his back pocket for his wallet.

        “C’mon, man, don’t make me come in there,” Niall warned. He wanted to smile, but his concern was a powerful playfulness dilutent. He knew something was wrong. Sure, Liam tended to be more serious than the other boys; he was prone to the occasional tantrum, he was competitive to a fault. However, as far as Niall thought, things had been great lately--everyone was getting along well. So then, what had suddenly changed?

        “Dammit, Ni. Go away.” Liam sounded more desperate than angry now.

        “No. I’m not leaving you here alone,” he argued. The others had gone out for the afternoon. Niall was the only one whose patience had remained steady. Liam’s unanticipated withdrawal was starting to affect the dynamics of the band.

        “Please,” Liam’s voice cracked from beyond the door and Niall felt his heart fall. Fuck. It sounded almost as if—

        “I swear, mate, you better not be crying,” Niall breathed. He always admired Liam as a keystone of sorts, and right now, he feared that he was crumbling. The blond’s determination spiked and he retrieved the keycard to Liam’s room. With a smooth swipe, he goaded the lock to give away and pried the silver handle downward. The door released and slugged its way open. The scent of lingering cigarette smoke was almost immediately detectable.

        “Shit! I told you to leave me alone!” Liam shouted. Niall saw him across the room, sitting at a chair nearest the window--the curtains were drawn, casting the space into gloom. He looked terrible: his chestnut hair was disheveled, a thick shadow of facial hair plagued his square jaw, and his eyes were puffy and red.

        “My god, what the hell’s the matter, man?” Niall gasped. He stepped forward and closed the door behind him.

        “Nothing.”

        “Um, bullshit.” Niall almost had to laugh. He slowly made his way to the bed at the adjacent wall and sat himself down on the edge of the mattress. He stared at his band mate intently. His heavy heart was pounding with the will to alleviate this problem. He rubbed his pale hands together and rested his elbows on his thighs as he leaned forward.

        “Why aren't you listening to me?” Liam growled, dark pupils flicking to Niall. He retreated further into his chair, pulling the sleeves of his sweater taught around his wrists. He withdrew his jean-clad legs up into his torso and rubbed his socked feet over one another.

        “Because I care. Why else?”

        “Well, if you cared, you’d respect my privacy.”

        “Fuck that.” Niall couldn’t help but unleash his sailor-prone tongue. Seeing one of his closest friends this distraught was both heartbreaking and infuriating. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

        “No.”​

        God, he was stubborn. Niall lowered his head and chewed on his lower lip. Heavy silence filled the room. “Liam, how does you sulking in here solve anything?” he tried again. “The guys, they don’t understand it, mate. I don’t understand it. We’re your friends, your family. And y-you, you’re shutting us out.” He threw his arms up, exasperated. “It’s not like you.”

        Liam’s frown deepened. He closed his eyes and dropped his head onto the small pillow behind him.

        “You can at least give us the pleasure of telling us why you’ve decided to become such an arsehole!” Niall said.

        “You wouldn’t understand.” Liam’s words were like gravel in the air.

        “Why not?”

        “When was the last time you were in a relationship, huh?”

        Niall froze up. “Did something happen with you and Sophia?” he muttered. It wouldn’t be the first time that the pair had dealt with relationship issues, but they’d been so happy lately. It didn’t add up. Unfortunately, Liam sharply inhaled and closed his eyes again. It was a confirmation of sorts and Niall felt absolutely horrid.

        “God, mate, I’m sorry,” he said.

        “Don’t be.” Liam shook his head.

        “What happened?”

        “Ni, leave.”

        “I already told you that’s not happening.”

        “For god’s sake,” Liam hissed. He shot up so quickly from his chair that Niall couldn’t help but flinch. His band mate paced to the door and reopened it. He turned to Niall and gestured for him to exit.

        Niall froze, wide-eyed, brow furrowed, frown insistent. He slowly shook his head.

        “Out,” Liam ordered. His tone was dark and it was a bit unsettling, but Niall swallowed his anxiety.

        “Talk to me. Maybe I can help.”

        “You?” Liam chuckled bitterly. Though the source was negative, Niall was grateful for the outburst. He’d been missing Payno’s smile. Such a gift was ephemeral, however. “How could you possibly? You’re the only one of us who’s single." His words were intending to wound, and Niall knew it. He tried to brush them off again.

        “Doesn’t mean that I can’t--"

        “And it’s no wonder,” Liam spat, voice cracking again, giving away to the bite of a threatening cry. “You don’t bloody listen to people!”

        “W-well--"

        “Niall!” Liam shouted, voice carving into his bandmate's eardrums. The blond held his breath and looked up into his friend’s eyes. Liam met his gaze and his mouth dropped to unleash a stream of eerily calm, collected words: “You are the last person I want to talk to about this, okay?” Niall finally felt Liam’s insult. It crawled into his skin, and it stung. “And right now,” he continued quietly, “you’re the last person I even want to see. So--and I hope I’ve made myself clear--get out.”

        Niall didn’t know how long he’d remained sitting on the edge of the bed. All he really remembered was making his way out and down the hall to his own room, the sound of Payno’s door slamming behind him.

--------------------------------

        It was nearly 12:00am.

        Niall couldn’t sleep. His stomach was in knots. His eyes were heavy with exhaustion. Liam’s words kept repeating themselves over and over in his head. They hadn’t even been as hurtful as they were clumsy and impulsive. Why then, were they sticking so well, gumming up the synapses in his whirring brain?

        Niall had skipped on dinner. He vaguely remembered Tommo asking him if he wanted anything and Harry making some remark about bitchiness spreading among the group like a contagion. This was definitely going to affect their performance at the end of the week. He found himself wondering if the fans would be able to read between the lines, detect the drama currently manifesting behind the scenes, when he heard a quiet knock on his door. It was barely audible--he assumed he’d imagined it at first. But then it came again, louder this time, followed by an unmistakable, “Ni?”

        Liam.

        Ah, how the tables had turned. Niall wanted so badly to ignore him, or to devise some clever, defiant remark, but his body reacted quicker than his brain. He hand flicked on the lamp switch and his feet pulled him to the door. Before he knew what was happening, he found himself opening it, and facing Liam, who’s ghostly face was barely visible in the dark hallway.

        “I didn’t wake you, did I?” his visitor muttered, unable to maintain eye contact.
        “What do you want?” said Niall.

        “May I come in, please?”

        Niall paused for a moment, his mind urging anger and refusal, but his heart, surprisingly mature, had him relent and nod. He stood aside and welcomed his bandmate into his room. Engulfed by the glow of the lamplight, Liam’s pallor was more evident. He was now wearing pajamas almost identical to Niall’s--a thin tank top and a pair of flannel bottoms that draped down and hung just over the tops of his bare feet. The plaid on Liam’s legs was purple whereas Niall's bottoms were an emerald green.

        Niall was going to gesture for Liam to sit down, but he suddenly felt himself being pulled into a tight hug. Liam’s arms were strong, his chest warm. He smelled good, like patchouli and aery musk.

        “I’m sorry,” Liam croaked. Niall could feel his voice in his chest. He didn’t know what to do with his hands at first. He slowly brought them up and placed his palms on his friend’s back. He lowered his cheek softly into Liam’s collarbone.

        “It’s okay,” Niall muttered.

        “No.” Liam sniffed and pulled himself away. Niall looked up into his friend’s shimmering eyes. They somehow looked worse than earlier that afternoon. “I shouldn't have said what I said. I was angry, and I was just trying to get you to leave... and, god, I'm just-- I'm sorry."

        Niall bit his lip and slipped his hands into the pockets of his flannels. “Nah, I should’ve listened to you and just left you alone,” he tried to reason.

        “Shut it,” Liam insisted, shaking his head, pulling Niall into another hug. "God, you don't listen to me when I'm angry; you don't listen to me when I try to apologize..."

        Well, damn. Niall couldn’t help but chuckle. “Nope."

        Liam sighed and released Niall again before making his way over to the bed. He fell forward; belly flopping onto the comforter, his face down in Niall’s pillow. His right leg hung awkwardly off the bed. There was just enough space for Niall to sit down and join his friend.

        “So, what happened with you and Sophia, then?” Niall asked after a moment’s hesitation. He wasn’t sure if Liam’s apology had been an actual invite to talk, but it was worth a shot. Liam turned his head, right cheek still pressed into the pillow, but face now visible.

        “We had a stupid fight. Really bad one, I tell you.”

        “I’m sorry, Liam.”

        “Me too.”

        “You guys aren’t… I mean, you’re still…?” His voice trailed away.

        “It wasn’t a breakup. At least, I don’t think so,” Liam muttered.

        Niall was relieved, but at the same time, his confusion intensified. Why then, had Liam been growing increasingly reclusive? Something didn’t make sense.

        “Well, that’s good, mate. I hope you guys work, uh, whatever it is out.”

        “Yeah, hope so,” Liam repeated somberly.

        They sat together in silence for several moments. Niall glanced over at the clock.

        12:06am.

        “Hey, Ni?”

        “Hm?”

        “How do you feel about us?”

        Niall furrowed his brow and glanced over at Liam’s half-buried face.

        “What?”

        “I mean, do you think that things are still the same?”

        “Same how?”

        “Just, the same? With all of...us? The guys. You think we’re still… good?”

        Niall was completely thrown. “I… Why are you...? Of course! I mean, I don’t—“

        “How long has it been, Ni? Four years, right?”

        He nodded.

        “Sophia says that things are changing. Says that we’re different. The group. Says that I’m more stressed than I used to be. Hates that I've started smoking. Says that the industry’s getting to me, to us…” Liam chuckled weakly.

        Niall thought back to the group’s inception, their first album, their first tour, the videos that they used make together, the random games they used to play… His stomach, the knot recently loosened by Liam’s embrace, was re-tightening.

        “It’s not… it’s not the same, Ni. It’s not like it used to be.”

        Niall frowned. Sure, things weren’t exactly as they’d been when they first started out, but it was ridiculous to think that the group wouldn’t evolve, change and mature overtime. And sure, as they'd been growing, things had gotten a little harder, but it was manageable... Niall wasn’t sure what Liam was getting at. His brain bombarded with a barrage of midnight memories, he snapped his eyes shut and closed his mouth, at a loss for words.

        After a very long break of silence, Liam sighed heavily and turned around on the bed, now lying on his back. He slid his legs up and over, placing his feet in Niall’s lap. Niall instinctively dropped his gaze to his friend’s bronze soles. He felt that Liam had small feet for his height--they both did, considering they were the same shoe size.

        “I'm afraid that one day... if things just continue the way they are, I--" Liam stopped himself and sighed again. Finally, tone much quieter and softer, he asked, "How much longer do you think we’re going to be together?”

        Niall’s heart began to pound, but each pulse was sharp and uncomfortable. So, was this the true culprit behind Liam’s odd behavior of late? “You mean, the band?" he asked.

        Liam nodded. Niall felt the flick of fear in his gut. He really didn't think about the subject much. He really didn't want to be doing it right now. "I can't answer that one," he finally reasoned. This was really unlike Liam. Niall felt almost as if they'd reversed roles.

        “It’s just… It fucking sucks, knowing that this just can’t last forever,” Liam continued.

        “Nothing does. Doesn’t mean we have to worry ourselves about it.”

        “I just can’t imagine a life without you guys in it.”

        Niall laughed. He looked over at Liam who was meeting him with an expected gaze of confused irritation. “Okay, Liam, now you’re being ridiculous.”

        Liam didn’t say anything. His eyes just narrowed. "What?"

        “Look, I think that we’re all a bit aware that this isn’t going to last forever. It’s inevitable. The band will break up at some point. All bands do. Could be in a decade. Could be next year.”

        Liam’s frown deepened.

        “But,” Niall quickly added, “doesn’t mean that we are gonna break up, mate.” He gestured between them.

        Liam took a long, slow breath.

        “We’re going to be in each other’s lives forever," Niall said. "At least, I’d like to think so.”

        “But you don’t know that for sure. What if--?”

        “You're right,” Niall continued, feeling strangely empowered, “but I believe that the five of us will always be together. Somehow. Someway. We’ve just been through too much for it to be different.” He finished with a shrug and a smile. He squeezed Liam’s feet affectionately.

        Liam didn’t say anything for the longest while. Finally, he compromised with an eased, “Maybe.”

        Niall felt terribly sympathetic. As he’d noted before, he really thought of Liam as a central aspect of the group’s connectivity. Him dealing with these recurring insecurities and doubts about One Direction’s future must’ve been horribly combative. Poor Payno was starting to descend into a self sustaining spiraling slope--his fight with his girlfriend, his reclusiveness and persistence to maintain distanced from his best friends--all attributed to a fear of the future, of the unknown.

        Niall’s spinning mind slowed and an idea sparked. Palms still on Liam’s feet, Niall slowly curled his fingers and slid them down and around his friend’s arches. The flesh was soft and cold. Liam gasped and pulled his feet up. He kept his ankles in the air until Niall pulled his hands away. A couple of seconds later, Niall felt Liam return his feet to his lap. And, boom. His fingertips were back on his soles.

        Liam held his breath and pulled his feet away again. “What are you doing?”

        Niall sat up and grinned at his friend cheekily. “Trying to cheer you up, mate.”

        “Quit it.”

        Niall frowned playfully, eyes widening. He pulled Liam’s right foot down and held it there with his left hand. “What’s wrong?”

        “Nothing, just don’t.”

        “Don’t what?”

        “Tickle me.”

        “Okay,” Niall said with a shrug. He began to lightly skitter his nails up the wrinkling foot, heel to toes and back again.

        “N-Niall, st-stahahap! You know that’s nahahat what I meant!” Liam’s deep laugh fluttered into the air through a cracking smile--a truly welcome sight. He tried to use his left foot to kick away at the blond’s increasingly aggressive fingers. Niall caught sight of the little "screw" tattoo on his inner ankle.

        “But you’re laughing, Paaaynooo,” Niall teased, drawing out his words in a low, sultry fashion. Liam kicked again, but Niall grabbed both of his feet and pulled his ankles into his side, locking his left arm around them.

        “Y-you arsehohohole!” Liam spluttered, trying to hold in his laughter. Niall focused in on his ticklish targets, alternating between feet with his right hand. His fingers relished the touch. Liam’s pink soles were doughy and smooth. His bronzed toes were curling and wriggling as Niall’s bony fingertips slid up into the velvety crevice beneath them.

        “AAHAHAHA!” Liam squealed as Niall applied increased pressure to the sensitive skin.

        “You’re loving this, mate, aren’t ya?”

        “Nohoho!”

        Liam twisted himself back onto his stomach, pulling himself toward the opposite end of the bed. He was stronger than Niall, who felt himself being dragged downward as he tried to maintain a hold around his friend’s ankles.

        “Where do you think you're going?”

        “Stop tickling meehee!”

        Niall didn’t listen--no surprise there. Liam’s soles now face up, Niall used his body to trap them beneath his torso. Ten fingers were quickly applied to the flesh, dancing down the insteps, swerving between the wrinkles.

        “Fuhuhuhck!” Liam roared, trying to fling Niall free by bucking and twisting his legs in the manner of a mermaid's flailing tail. Niall began to giggle as he was tossed to and fro, desperate to hold on. His fingers only managed to make contact with Liam's feet every two or three switchbacks, and for only the a few seconds at a time.

        “Mate, pleeheeheease!” the brunette begged. Niall, feeling only slightly opposed to the idea of tickling his friend to utter oblivion, relented. He pulled himself off of Liam’s legs and sat up back on the edge of the bed. He turned and looked at his band mate, who was smiling sheepishly at him from across the mattress. The flush in his face had returned, as had the twinkle in his eyes.

        “I hate you,” Liam muttered, his grin widening. Niall felt his heart flutter with a rebounding energy.

        "Yes, I recall," Niall teased. "If I remember correctly, you said that I was the last person on earth you wanted to talk to. Now isn't that right?"

        Liam frowned.

        "You know what? I've just decided that I haven't forgiven you," the blond continued. "You're an arse, and you deserved to be taught a lesson." With a soaring burst of unwarranted adrenalin, he dove back onto the bed, this time scrambling up onto Liam’s body.

        “No! NO! I'm sorry! What are you doohoohooing?” Liam giggled as Niall began to poke and prod at his fleshy sides.

        “What’s it look like?” Niall knew that his tickle tactics were killing two birds with one stone--he was forcing Liam to laugh and the playful act incorporated nostalgia. The boys used to engage in brief tickle fights all the time back in the day, and Liam was often prone to instigating tickle attacks during performances. 

        “NO, NO!" Liam shouted. "I'm sorreeeheehee! Pleeheeheease!”

        Niall straddled his friend’s waist, still poking into the firm torso tightly wrapped beneath the thin white fabric of the tank top. Liam giggled and held his arms close to his chest, slapping at Niall’s dive bombing hands. He kicked and laughed, his eyes squeezed shut, and a goofy, pearly grin plastered on his face.

        “Nihihihihiall!”

        “Yes?”

        “Nohoho mohohore!”

        “Aw, but Paaayynoo."

        “I cahaahaahn't tahaahaake it!” Liam shot his hands forward, trying to grab Niall’s wrists, but he took the opportunity to dive-bomb the newly exposed armpits. His fingers landed with quick-fire accuracy, plunging into the naked, vulnerable hollows beneath Liam’s large biceps.

        “AHHHHHHAHAHA,” Liam screamed, baritone to tenor. Eyes still clamped shut, he threw his head back against the pillow, the tips of his short hair splaying outward like a paintbrush smashed against a canvas. The dark scruff of his jaw accentuated his long neck. He recoiled his limbs again, the tattoos on his forearms glistening beneath an emerging layer of sweat.

        Niall could barely move his hands, but he didn’t have to do much. The harder Liam pressed Niall’s fingertips into his own smooth underarms, the more he seemed to intensify the tickling.  

        “God, your pits are soft,” Niall acknowledged as he lightly drummed the pads of his fingers into the supple flesh.

        “Please, please, please…” Liam begged, shaking his head from side to side.

        “Keep going?” Niall joked, pressing harder.

        Liam gasped and let his jaw drop, his lips forming an ‘O’ for a brief second before he slammed his mouth closed, pursed his lips and rocked his head back and forth again.

        “Please, please,” he whispered.

        “Liam, I can’t stop! You're not letting me!” Niall giggled, trying to pull his hands out from beneath his friend’s arms.

        “Nohohoho, pleeeheeheease!” Liam kept repeating, his laughter bordering on silent and squeaky. His face was glowing, in expression and in color.

        “LIAM, I CAN'T! You have to let me go!” Niall tried again, with a smirk and a roll of his eyes.

        “Okayokayokay,” he giggled. Niall felt his band mate’s muscles ease up tentatively. Niall slowly pulled his hands up, purposely dragging his fingertips along the seams of Liam’s pecs.

        "Aheehee! Nohoho!” Liam stammered with glee.

        Hands now free, Niall immediately clawed into the brunette’s stomach again, teasing the flesh beneath the fabric.

        “Nononono! NO MOHOHOHORE! You’re kihihihlling me! MURDER!” Liam bucked and shot forward, in the manner of a sit up, bringing his face inches from Niall’s. He twisted and pulled his body to the left, essentially dislodging the blond from his waist. Niall squealed as he lost his balance. He grabbed the bed comforter as he slid off of the mattress, slowing his fall. A few inches later, he was halfway on the floor, head against the carpet, legs tangled with Liam’s, still on the bed.

        Only a few seconds went by before Niall felt Liam pull his legs back, relinquishing Niall to the force of gravity. He slid further, his butt touching the ground, legs still raised above him. With the energy of a rambunctious tot, the burly brunette shot up. Niall felt a strong hand tug at the sock on his right foot.

        Shit. “Hey, whoa! NO WAY!” Niall yelped.

        “You were expecting something else, arsehole?” Liam challenged with a devilish grin.

        Niall was going to protest, but he stopped himself. Eh, Liam was right. He knew exactly what he was getting himself into--he'd foolishly engaged Liam's tickle monster. His attacker ripped the sock from his pale foot. “Careful! That’s my lucky pair!”

        Liam didn’t verbally acknowledge his complaint. He only answered with a tickle attack. Niall felt Liam’s large fingers plug their way into his toes, sending jolts of laughter-inducing energy rocketing up his legs and into his stomach. “Ohohoho shihit!”

        “Not so fun now, is it?” Liam growled with a grin.

        On the contrary: this was quite fun. He was beginning to understand Liam's proclivity for tickle attacks. 

        Liam pulled Niall’s foot up, locking his arm around it. Now Niall couldn’t see it. How unorigin- "AHHHAHAHA! WHAT THE HEHEHEHLL!!" Niall shouted as Liam’s fingers clawed into his sole. The unbearable feeling was prickly and precise. He screeched and grinned as Liam’s nails swirled down his instep and to his heel. God, it tickled like mad. Niall tried to sit forward, but he was essentially trapped in his awkward position, and he did not have the strength to pull his foot free. Liam continued to scritch and scratch at Niall's foot. The blond curled his toes and shook his sole in an attempt to dodge the vengeful fingertips, but it was to little avail.

        "No! AGH! AHAHA! STOP! WHOA! HEHE!" Niall squealed and gurgled with laughter. He pounded his fists against the ground and yanked his leg back fruitlessly. Thankfully, Liam let up much quicker than Niall had. He snickered and released Niall’s foot, giving his band mate a break. Niall took in a grateful puff of air, his lungs swelling. That’s when, Liam, jumped from the bed and scampered down onto Niall’s torso.

        “W-wait, what are you doohooing?” Niall stammered, already smiling nervously.

        “I seem to recall your armpits are your worst spot.” Liam beamed.

        “You wouldn’t fucking daaaAAAAHHHHHRRRRE!!!!! HHAHAHAHAHAHA! FUCK YOUHOOHOOHOO!” Niall couldn’t finish his sentence properly--Liam dove right in, helped himself to Niall’s white pits. His nerves exploded into bursts of pleasant fireworks, his mouth was pried open with the power of a deep throated laugh, and his arms shook and trembled.

        “I gihihihive! I GIHIHIVE! OH GAHAHAHAHD!” Niall begged, his brain going into overdrive--pain and pleasure sensors overloaded.

        Liam immediately stopped, having no trouble pulling his hands from Niall’s tingling underarms. He placed his palms on Niall’s heaving chest and shook him playfully a few times. Niall grinned and closed his eyes before instinctively placing his hands into his own armpits in a mental attempt to make himself feel, well, more at ease.

        “I just don’t have the heart, Ni. Not a monster like you, mate,” Liam joked. Soon, the otherwise silent room was filled with the sounds of panting, as both boys tried to catch their breath.

        Liam moaned and sluggishly rolled off of Niall to the left. He laid himself down next to the blond, placed his feet up on the bed above him as well and stared into the white expanse of ceiling.

        “We even now?” Niall gulped once his heartbeat had slowed to normal pace.

        “No,” Liam sighed, but his smile hadn't dwindled. “I’m still sorry for what happened earlier.”

        “Don’t worry about it.”

        “It's hard not to.”

        “Please, Liam. It’s okay. Honest.”

        Liam hesitated, but he nodded.

        “How you feeling?” Niall asked.

        Liam shrugged and Niall poked his side again, causing him to immediately smile and shirk away.

        “Better, I guess.”

        “Well then, good!” Niall smiled. "Seems like my work is done." He was immensely proud of himself. Liam chuckled and rolled his eyes before both lads returned their gazes to the ceiling.

        Less than a minute passed--his mental concerns temporarily abated and his energy drained from the activities that had just occurred--before the heaviness in Niall’s eyes returned. He didn’t really say anything more to Liam. The two boys laid together in silent content. Niall remembered his transition from reality to dream world being rather abrupt.

--------------------------------

​        The knocking woke Niall up. Ripped from sleep, his senses fired away in slow succession. It didn’t take him long to realize that he was still on the floor. He moaned, his back sore and his neck stiff. A mature sunlight was streaming in through the curtains, filling the room with the cream-colored glow of a promising noon.

​        “Yo, Niall! Liam in there with you?” It was Harry.

​        “Wonder what they were doing last night.” He heard Zayn snicker.

​        “Huh?” Niall moaned. He turned to see Liam, indeed, passed out next to him, mouth agape. A night’s rest had done him some good. Perhaps it had been the talk--hell, even the tickling--but Payno just looked…better.

​        “Niall, you awake?!” Harry tried again, the knocking persistent.

​        “Uhhh, yeeah,” Niall drawled, trying to pull his feet down the floor before shakily standing up. Instead of answering the door, however, he sat back down on the bed and stretched his neck. His eyes floated to the bedside clock.

​        10:27am.

​        Wow. He knew that Liam wasn’t a morning person, but it wasn’t like him to sleep in this late.

​        “Liam in there, too?”
​        “Yeah.”

​        “Tell him that Sophia’s on the phone!”

​        Niall’s heart fluttered. His gaze fell instantly to his sleeping mate below him.

​        “Liam,” Niall goaded. He gently dug the toes of his socked left foot into Liam’s side. With a snore and a responsive smile, he slowly opened his eyes.

​        “W-what?” he coughed softly.

​        “Liam, Sophia! Harry says that she's called,” the blond reiterated.

​        It took a few seconds for it to register, but Liam’s eyes shot open so fast that Niall couldn’t help but chuckle. He leapt to his feet with a surprising grace, but moaned as soon as the soreness settled in from using the floor as a sleeping surface.

​        “Yeah, wasn’t the smartest idea. We could’ve at least gotten into the bed,” Niall joked.

        “What the hell happened?” asked Liam.

​        "Think I tuckered you out,” Niall teased.

​        “Hey, you fell asleep too!”

​        Niall shrugged.

​        “LIAM! Your GIRL-FRIEND!” Harry repeated, now sounding irritated.

​        “Uh, right! Coming, coming!” Liam called, and started for the door.

​        Niall shook his head, expecting to hear the sound of the door opening. What he wasn't expecting was to feel Liam's soft hands take hold of his cheeks. He was in mid-yawn, eyes clenched shut, when it happened, and he looked up just in time to see Liam lean forward and press his lips to his forehead.

​        The warmth in his cheeks was immediate.

​        “Thanks,” Liam muttered after pulling away. “I think things are gonna be okay now.” His voice was airy, but it was tinged with something that Niall hadn't remembered hearing since the band had first gotten together, though he couldn't quite place what it was.

​        Regardless, Niall's eyes followed Liam to the door. As he watched him take the phone from Harry--he, Zayn and Louis playfully massaging his back and tousling his hair as he began his conversation with Sophia--Niall's lips parted into a smile that rivaled that of the Cheshire Cat.

​        The future may have been uncertain, but Niall certainly wasn't. He was positive that this was the happiest he'd been in a long time. Things were gonna be fine...surely. Just fine...

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Author's notes: 

Not only was this my first "One Direction" fanfic, it was my first fanfic--period. I was entirely new to this fandom and, at the time, I was a blossoming admirer of One Direction. I decided to go Niam for this first story -- I'm not sure why, but I found their dynamism the most intriguing to experiment with. 

 

This story is dedicated to my friend, Konrad (pyrokar1990), the young gent who first introduced me to this fandom and to DeviantArt (where this fic was originally posted). He's a fellow writer and a great one, to boot! 

DISCLAIMER: 

Though this story features actual persons and references actual events, it is entirely a work of fiction and is in no way affiliated with, or endorsed by, those individuals. It is written solely for the purposes of entertainment and should not be taken seriously.

REVIEWS: 

"I've never been attracted to Niall and now, let's just say, I AM!...I loved how devilish [he] was! And the way you wrote Liams reactions was fantastic!" @famous&ticklish

"Your story was really adorable. I bet your next ones will be just as awesome. I'm very excited." @ryan

"I am loving you for this story. For voicing my inner thoughts and concerns. So... I guess you are now fully and officially part of this fandom...Welcome! and just like in "Hotel California" -- you can check out any time you want, but you can NEVER LEAVE." @pyrokar1990

"Yesssss I needed more Niam in my life! This was really good and, if you do decide to make more of these, then I'll certainly be looking forward to them!" @khid

"This was sooooo good!!! You're a very talented writer and the premise was wonderfully bittersweet in light of everything that has happened in the past few months. I love your take on the Niam dynamic and this was just a delight in general." @justpretendinevermad

"I can't believe this was your first fanfiction! One Direction isn't normally my thing, but I was allured by the rare pair (I'm challenging myself to read things I normally don't). And gosh, you're an amazing writer! I don't know too much about 1D...[but] the characters feel real and in character...Your short managed to convey them as very well-rounded, which is essential in writing...Very impressed with the introduction of conflicts dialogue-wise, even if romance troubles are a bit cliché. Great job! Love to see more from you!" @kiyuomi

"Wow I have honestly read this fic like 20 times! You really have a talent for writing and your content is so good. I hope you continue to create great work, thank you!" @1dlovely

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