The Heart Never Forgets

What’s worse than watching the one you love die? For Liam, it’s having to stand by while they forget who you are. Zayn is dying, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and Liam goes from being his best friend to his caregiver. Somehow, their friendship becomes intimate, and while it should be good, it isn’t, because they know that Zayn will forget about them soon enough. While the mind may obliterate the memories of their love, Liam believes - hopes - that the heart never forgets.

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1. I

 

Zayn was scared. 

Something was wrong, he knew it. He just didn’t know what; he couldn’t remember what. 

Zayn just smiled. 

There was no point in stressing out over something he should or should not have remembered. Stressing was Liam’s job. If Zayn did it, he’d get worry wrinkles, and that was something Zayn wasn’t willing to risk getting.

Nope, Zayn thought to himself. Only Liam can pull stressing off without getting wrinkles. It only makes him more adorable. Zayn laughed as the image of his best friend flashed through his mind. Liam cared so much for everyone around him; he couldn’t help not to: it was who he was. 

Maybe I’ll talk to Liam later, he had decided. He’ll know what’s up with me; he always does. 

And just like that, he followed his band mates, his best friends, on stage to start their concert.

Just like that, he forgot his woes. 

                ---

“You okay, mate?” Liam asked later that night, genuine concern etched across his features.

“Huh?” Zayn asked, unsure as what Liam was on about this time. He always worries for nothing, it’s such a shame.

“Are you okay,” Liam repeated again, this time cupping his band mate’s head to look him in the eyes.

“You seemed distracted out there tonight. Not just tonight, actually; quite a lot recently, if I’m honest.”

“Oh, yeah, sure,” Zayn stuttered out. He wasn’t sure what to say, as he didn’t really know. He hadn’t noticed, at least, and he couldn’t remember anyone else bringing it to his attention. “Just tired and stressed is all, I guess.” he smiled weakly, as if it would convince his case. 

Liam stared at him a bit longer, biting his lip as his mind debated pressing the issue or dropping the matter. He chose the latter, letting out a long sigh of defeat. Liam knew that if Zayn would open up to him, if not immediately, then in time once he himself had time to come to terms with whatever issues he was facing. He just wished he didn’t have to face them alone; why couldn’t Zayn just realize that Liam was there for him, just like he promised? 

“I just worry for you, is all?” Liam said, removing his hands from Zayn’s head, letting his hands drop helplessly to his side. Zayn just smiled, taking one of his hands and bringing him in close for a comforting hug. 

“And I love you greatly for it,” Zayn promised, bringing himself in to plant a kiss on Liam’s temple. They stayed like that for a moment or two, not caring for anything but one another’s close comfort.

Eventually they broke away and leaned on the railing of the roof. It had been Zayn’s tradition. after every concert, no matter what hotel they were in, he would go up to the roof and enjoy a smoke, relaxing under the night sky in silence, taking in whatever city stretched before him. It was so peaceful, so innocent, so unlike Louis, Niall, and Harry’s rambunctious celebrations. To treat their post-concert highs, they’d party late into the night, which is why Liam often found himself joining Zayn, instead. 

“It’s beautiful tonight,” Liam commented. Zayn released the drag of the cigarette he had building within his air, the smoke escaping to the stars, dissipating midway.

“Yeah,” Zayn mumbled in agreement. 

Here, it was just the two of them, sitting atop the roof, legs dangling across the hanging. It was peaceful, as always. just him and his best friend, their presence enough to comfort the silence as they’d look out across the city, simply thinking of their day, the secrets of their past and the mysteries of their future. He thought of himself, of his friends and family; of his career, his band; he thought of everything. Of the role he played in it. He thought it was all one big puzzle, and how he was the missing piece. Except he just didn’t understand how it fit all together; he couldn’t accept or understand the possibility that life was incomplete without him. 

When did I get so philosophical? He laughed at himself, watching more of Zayn’s smoke fill the air, mesmerized by the art of their escape. 

“I’m scared,” Zayn said suddenly, almost absently. Liam looked at him in surprise, taken back by his random admission of fear. 

“Of what?” Liam inquired, trying to search the older boy’s face, but Zayn just continued to stare blankly ahead. 

“I’m not sure,” Zayn admitted with a sigh, putting his cigarette out against the roof side. 

“So, you’re afraid of water, the dark, and heights,” Liam tried to joke. “I don’t think there’s much else you can be afraid of without us putting you in an asylum for your own safety.” 

“Liam, don’t,” Zayn said, finally turning to him, meeting one another’s eyes. Liam’s heart dropped once he saw Zayn’s eyes, the fear and worry that was so not Zayn.

“What is it then?” Liam questioned as he scooted closer to his friend, wrapping his arm around him in an attempt to console the older lad. “Talk to me,” he insisted. 

“I don’t know, Li,” Zayn said simply, with eyes as dark as the night, equally mysterious and so full of uncertainty. “And that’s what scares me.” 

                ---

Liam didn’t sleep well that night. In fact, he may not have slept at all; his mind was racing only with worry for his best mate. He didn’t like what transpired on the rooftop; though it may have been a simple confession, something just felt off. He couldn’t explain it, and it only made him angrier. 

I’m supposed to be there for him; to comfort him… and yet I couldn’t. 

He was beating himself up; he knew it, but he didn’t care. He couldn’t get the image of Zayn last night out of his head. He looked so broken… so vulnerable…

Though he may be teased for his nature to nurture, Liam took his role as “daddy direction” with pride. The boys had come so far during their time together; they grew so close with one another. Liam, however, would always take it upon himself to make sure everyone stayed grounded. he had seen enough documentaries to know what quick fame for young individuals could do to a person, and he didn’t want to let that happen, not now when they had become so close; become a family. So Liam took it upon himself to be the responsible one. It wasn’t difficult; his friends and family had often said he was mature for his age. It happened quite naturally, really. There was no assigning of roles, no pulling of straws; they just fell into their respective roles with ease. Everyone looked up to Liam, and that meant the world to him, that four strangers would think so highly of him. It became his mission to make sure he kept them safe, healthy, and out of too much trouble. He was the glue that kept the band together; the foundation. 

Which only upset him more. Sure, if it were a problem bothering Niall, Harry, or even Louis, g-d forbid, then he would find a way to help them through it. They would overcome it, privately, if necessary, but together. 

But Zayn, Zayn was different. 

Unlike the others, Zayn didn’t come running to Liam to solve his problems. Zayn was too proud for that; he was the type that would analyze the problem himself for as long as he could, picking and prodding until he understood what he was dealing with. He didn’t like to open up. Zayn felt that if he gave his feelings away, he would be giving himself away. Liam didn’t understand it to begin with, but over time, after carefully watching his friend from afar, the realization sunk in. that when someone opens up, they’re trusting the other person completely, that they are passing their problems off to someone else. It wasn’t just the fact that Zayn didn’t believe in dropping one’s problems off on someone else, but that giving away your innermost thoughts and concerns leaves you so vulnerable. Once the exchange of feelings or secrets is made, they have no control over it. Zayn didn’t like not having control over his problems, his emotions. He didn’t like being vulnerable, and he feared of being taken advantage of. 

So perhaps Zayn was a little insecure. 

But Liam knew all that already. He had accepted it long ago. While the others would come to him, he often found himself going to Zayn. Liam felt that it was his job to figure out whatever was going on with Zayn before Zayn opened up to him. Usually, he would get it, at least an idea of whatever Zayn would be struggling with at the time. Other times, Zayn would surprise Liam by taking him aside for a quick chat, just seeking a little bit of counsel from his friend. While Zayn would never ask for help, he would be willing to talk his problems out to someone, if only to let it out. It was nice, being able to listen, to care like that, Liam had decided. 

Liam turned on his bed, punching his pillow because it’s different this time. It wasn’t just that Zayn had no idea what was wrong, it’s that Zayn was scared. He understood Zayn’s fear of the water; Zayn couldn’t swim, it was reasonable. His fear of heights he understood too, I mean, it does look scary high up. He hasn’t quite understood Zayn’s fear of the dark but he supposed it was common enough, Zayn just hadn’t outgrown it yet. 

But how can you be afraid of something and not know what it is? This was the question that plagued him. He just did not understand, and neither did Zayn, apparently. Zayn wouldn’t have come to him if he hadn’t given it serious thought, Liam knew; he wouldn’t have brought it up if he didn’t know what to do. But neither did Liam, and so he was left feeling like he failed his older friend. He felt disappointed in himself when he didn’t have an answer ready, on one of the few times one was needed the most. 

I suppose it’s possible to be afraid of the unknown, Liam considered, thinking about what all that meant. He knew Zayn had always been somewhat of a philosophical person, with the books he’s read and what not, so maybe that’s it? No, that can’t be right. Philosophy was logic; it simply made sense, and even if Liam didn’t understand what it meant, he was certain Zayn did. 

He shifted in bed so that he was lying on his back. Gazing up at the pitch-black ceiling, his thoughts turned once again to the “unknown.” what all did it mean, the unknown? Was it inexistence? Infinite? Was it nothing, yet everything? He thought about it for a bit longer before realizing how absurd his notions were. He sighed aloud to no one.  Though he may not know for himself, he could at least take Zayn to the hospital for a checkup. See the psychiatrist even. I mean, it has been a few months since his last appointment, he reasoned to himself. 

Content with the hopes that the doctors would be able to solve their problems, Liam drifted to sleep. 

                --- 

Zayn loathed doctor appointments. Unfortunately, Liam insisted that Zayn go, after last night. Zayn wasn’t sure what Liam was talking about, but who can say ‘no’ to that face? Liam looked like he had a restless night, stress and worry masking his face. Zayn couldn’t remember what exactly they had talked about that would make him so worried, so he just shrugged it off and attended the appointment if only to calm Liam down a bit. 

The hospital was nice, Zayn had to admit, but he still didn’t want to be here. He didn’t like hospitals. Zayn knew they served a good purpose, with the people they heal and the births they perform, but it still didn’t displace his discomfort. He didn’t like to see so many sick people in one place, just waiting to die, lying lifeless on beds, with no family or friends around to comfort them. He didn’t like the idea that you could just walk in, seemingly fine, only to leave having been diagnosed with cancer or some other life-altering or threatening disease. 

Then there were doctors, and oh, how Zayn despised them. To Zayn, doctors were cruel. That they could perform miracles such as delivering a child, to healing a sick person, it was great, Zayn knew, but then doctors would also be the ones to find all the bad stuff, and deliver that news as well. And sometimes the news was that there was nothing they could do. Or that they may simply ruin a person’s life with the diagnostics they just have to share. 

Though he would never admit it, he respected them immensely for that very reason; that they could be so composed and strong to deliver potentially devastating news on a regular occasion. But that still didn’t mean that Zayn had to like them. 

So here Zayn found himself, waiting impatiently in the waiting room wasting a beautiful Saturday morning as Liam was filling out paperwork, talking with an aid. Look at him, Zayn would muse, glancing at the younger boy with eyes of affection. How he ever managed to become such great friends with Liam, he couldn’t remember. All he knew was that he would repeatedly find himself eternally grateful for it happening, for the younger lad. He took good care of Zayn. He cared, Zayn would think, in a way that none of my friends ever did, ever would. 

Liam returns to sit next to Zayn once he’s finished with the paperwork, and they sit talking idly as they wait for Zayn’s name to be called. Amidst their laughter, Zayn found himself glad Liam was here with him, by his side. He’d rather not ever be at a hospital alone, and he found himself once again grateful for Liam’s constant-yet-unnecessary caring. 

Zayn’s name was finally called out by a nurse, and they were led into a small, empty room. Zayn sat himself down on the bed while Liam browsed the office as they waited for the doctor. Liam couldn’t help himself as he decided to play doctor, picking up a stray stethoscope. He came over to Zayn and instructed him to lift his shirt, and so he did. 

“Now, try to breathe normally,” Liam said, as he placed the cold stethoscope over Zayn’s bare chest. Zayn let out a sudden gasp, shivering slightly, from the coldness of the metal or to Liam’s touch, he couldn’t tell. He looked at Liam, who was looking at him with a mask of seriousness on his face. He laughed, and started breathing in and out as Liam listened, counting his heartbeat and tapping Zayn’s shoulder in time with it. Liam moved the stethoscope across his chest, to the cave of his ribs, and even the small of his back. 

“So am I healthy?” Zayn asked, trying to keep his face as serious as Liam’s, failing miserably as his smile crept out. “Do I get to go home now, Doctor Payne?” 

“Not until I run my own diagnoses,” a light voice sounded from the room entrance, making both the boys jump. The doctor, Elisha, her nametag read, walked in smiling warmly at the two boys as she introduced herself formally.

“My name’s Elisha and I’ll be your doctor.” 

Hi, I’m Zayn.” She’s pretty, Zayn decided, returning her warm smile and extending his hand to greet her. Let’s just hope she isn’t as evil as the other doctors.

“And I’m Liam,” Liam said beside him, smiling brightly, and returning her handshake. 

“Alright, now that we’re all acquainted,” she said, closing the door behind them, “which one of you is my patient?” 

“That’d be Zayn,” Liam said simply. “I’m only here to make sure he gets checked out.” 

“Okay then,” Elisha said, going over Zayn’s medical file. “So tell me about yourself, Zayn; how are you feeling?” 

“I’m fine, really,” Zayn pleaded. He could tell from the sound of his voice that it was unconvincing. With a heavy sigh, he continued: “I’m just a bit tired is all.” 

“It says here that you’ve become rather forgetful lately,” she said, glancing at Zayn for confirmation. 

“Uhm,” Zayn started. He didn’t think he was forgetting things, but Liam’s silent nod beside him told him otherwise. “I guess. Like, sometimes one of the guys will say something that I guess I should remember, but I don’t really know what we had talked about to begin with.” 

“And is this a new development, or have you found yourself absentminded before?” 

Zayn just shrugged; how was he supposed to remember if he had troubles remembering things? It didn’t make sense. Luckily, Liam was there to answer for him. 

“A bit, yes,” Liam admitted. “From when we first met, he had forgot things, you know, small things and what not, but lately it’s become more frequent.” 

“I’m just stressed,” Zayn offered in a mumbled voice. 

Elisha was silent for a moment as she wrote down notes. Zayn looked at Liam and took his hand, rubbing small circles onto the back of Liam’s hand with his thumb. 

“Okay,” Elisha said suddenly, getting up from her stool and walking over to the boys. “We’re going to run a few small tests, check your breathing, your blood pressure, all that fun stuff. Then we’ll run a few quick scans to be safe, to determine if it’s something we should be worried about. Sound good?” She looked at the boys with a warm smile. 

“Yeah,” they said in unison. 

“Good,” she said merrily. “Then if I may please have my stethoscope back…” 

                +*+ 

The “few quick scans” had somehow turned into many long evaluations and tests. So far Zayn had had an MRI, a cat scan, and various tests that required needles. Doctor Elisha had tried to reassure them, stating that they were just being thorough, and though her face betrayed no insincere emotions, they knew they had enough reason to worry. That what should have been a quick checkup had gone to last all day; he could see the sun starting to set outside as they waited in the room they had found themselves in that morning. 

“It’s probably nothing, you know,” Liam said with a weak smile, as if he was trying to convince himself more than Zayn. 

“Yeah,” Zayn agreed regardless, reaching out to squeeze Liam’s knee. Liam’s head rested on Zayn’s shoulder, and they sat like that, enjoying one another’s close comfort while their insides went rampant with worry and fear. 

"Are you scared?" Liam's voice was a scarce whisper. 

Zayn didn’t answer, instead taking Liam’s hand and squeezing it ever so slightly. Doctor Elisha had returned at that moment, biting her lips as she took in the sight of the two boys sitting uncomfortably before her. Zayn was certain she was questioning herself as to if she was ready to do this; it was clear that there was bad news to be shared, even more obvious that this would be the first time she would deliver such news to a patient. 

The awkwardness in the air only intensified when she asked Liam to step out so that she may speak with Zayn privately. If he hadn’t been worried before, the look on his face now made Zayn squirm that much more. He wasn’t ready for bad news if it made Liam that unsettled. Regardless, Liam gave a polite nod and courteous smile to doctor Elisha as he stepped outside, closing the door shut behind him. 

They stood there, Zayn and Elisha, in an awkward silence that Zayn didn’t want broken. To do so would make his problems real; right now they were only imaginative. They both forced themselves to look one another into the eyes, brown against brown, both holding an equal amount of mystery behind them. Elisha’s eyes, however, were slightly moist and significantly red. She broke the silence first. 

“If I may be honest, I was quite shocked to find you as my patient. My first patient on my own, that is,” she explained, trying to ease the situation. “It’s interesting, isn’t it? That one of my favorite singers would be my patient.” Zayn couldn’t help but smile at his doctor’s admission of being his fan. It was indeed interesting to think that he as an artist would give them so much, entertainment wise, but he didn’t really consider one of them may give back, in Zayn’s case, medically. 

“It’s also cruel,” she continued with a short dry laugh, “that I would diagnose you with something terminal, incurable.” Zayn remained silent as he looked at her face value. He felt bad for her, as if he was failing her, not only as her idol, but as her patient. I’m her first patient, and I’m going to die.

“But that’s selfish of me, isn’t it?” she stood up and composed herself, straightening her jacket. “For me to worry about that stuff, when you’re the one that will actually be suffering.” Zayn couldn’t help but flinch at that. 

“Sorry,” she said softly. Whether she was apologizing from his discomfort, her confession, or the diagnosis, Zayn wasn’t sure. Perhaps all at once. 

“So what do I have?” Zayn asked coolly. 

“We were able to diagnose you with early onset Alzheimer’s disease,” she said professionally, assuming her stoic confidence once again. “It’s a rare disease, and it typically isn’t found in people your age, usually diagnosed in people around twenty-five to thirty years, but it can be found as young as fifteen.” 

“That’s the disease where you forget things, right?” 

“More or less,” she confirmed with a nod. “Your mind, your brain, deteriorates. You lose all of your memories, your identity, over the course of the disease. It doesn’t stop with the brain, either. Your body begins to forget how to function properly, too. You’ll lose the ability to speak, to walk, and possibly to breathe on your own. Your heart may need assistance to continue beating. And though you’ll be brain dead, your body will still be alive, however broken, and you’ll rest in medical attention until your heart gives way.” 

“Wow…” Zayn knew he was forgetting things, but this… he didn’t know how to feel. It was madness, impossible. These things just didn’t happen to people like him; he was a good person, he was young. He loved his life, enjoyed it to the fullest. So why me? Sure, he smoked cigarettes and pot once in a while, but was that really a reason to give him Alzheimer’s? If it were cancer, he’d understand; he’d at least have someone to blame, even if it was only himself. But Alzheimer’s? It made no since. How? 

What will happen to me?” 

“It will start slow, and seem innocent enough. You’ll simply forget things, as you’re doing now. It’ll become more and more frequent as the disease progresses. You’ll have difficulties learning new things, eventually you won’t be able to retain them. Your short-term memory will become obsolete as your brain is no longer able to withhold those memories. Basically, the memories you make one day will be forgotten the next. All the while your long term memories are being destroyed. You’ll forget the people you once knew, the people you see daily, and then you’ll forget yourself.” 

“How long do I have?” 

“I’d like to tell you that you have ten years, but I can’t. In most cases, patients have an estimated fifteen years before the disease finally takes over completely. However, it is different in each case, and the patterns are scarce. It’s hard to pinpoint anything when it comes to the development of an individual’s unique Alzheimer’s progression. And you have early onset, so considering how young you are, the fact that your brain has not fully matured, I would say that it will progress quicker than most other cases.” 

“Are there any ways to slow it? Or to help me try and remember?” Zayn was not ready for this. Not at all. 

“I suppose there are things that can help, but it won’t work the way you expect it to. Once you forget a memory, that’s it, it’s lost. You can’t simply remember it again, even if you’re told about it again; doing so is simply learning. It’s a different experience, and you’ll only forget it again, likely faster, too.” 

It didn’t make sense to him, but he nodded anyway, absentmindedly.  

“While there is no way to make this easier, it is my recommendation that you tell someone close about this, so that they may help you through it. This disease is one that will affect not just you, but everyone close to you, and your fans.” 

Zayn hadn’t realized that yet, or was trying his hardest to deny it so far. He thought of his friends: Harry, Louis, Niall, and Liam. Sweet, sweet Liam. Zayn just knew that this would hurt Liam the most, even if he wouldn’t show it. Zayn thought of his best friend, sitting solemnly outside the office. Zayn could see Liam through the glass windows separating them; he could see his best friend wrecked with worry as was all too often. Zayn hated it when Liam worried. 

“No,” he whispered. He couldn’t bear to put Liam through any long term pain. That’d just be torture. He just couldn’t, he wouldn’t. Liam would find out when he finds out, and Zayn realized Liam may be mad at first but he’d have to understand, Liam always did. It took all of Zayn’s effort to lift his gaze from the boy outside to look his doctor straight in the eye, repeating himself once again. “Not yet, at least.” 

“Fine,” Elisha said with a sigh, biting her lip once again. “Of course, I can’t force you, and our doctor-patient confidentiality will be preserved by hospital policy. Since you are of legal age, your condition won’t be shared with friends or family unless we have your express consent. But again, I have to urge you to confide in someone, anyone, before it takes too strong a hold. you may think it might hurt them to know now, but just think of how it’ll be making them watch you suffer while they don’t know what to do, standing by the sidelines in defeat.” 

“They’ll do that anyways,” Zayn said breathlessly. “Won’t they? You said it yourself, there is nothing anyone can do.”

 “Yes,” she said, thrown back by Zayn’s rebuttal. She paused, searching for words, before she continued: “but it’s different, having someone by your side through it all. It’s the thought that counts. I’m sure you saw all the lone patients on your way in…” 

Zayn thought back to them and knew she was right. He didn’t want to be alone. That made him realize just how much he was going to miss out on; while he may die with his friends by his side, he was going to die relatively alone. He didn’t have time to fall in love now. He couldn’t just go out and search for someone to love, only to forget them when he woke up. It broke his heart a bit. He looked up once again to gaze at Liam, who was looking into the room with hopeful eyes. Who needs love when I have Liam?

“Yeah,” he mumbled. “You’re right. But I don’t want to tell them, not yet. Once I do, it’ll be real; it’ll be over. I’m not ready for that, not yet.” 

Elisha reached over to give Zayn’s shoulder a tight squeeze and a weak smile. 

“I am going to schedule you for bi-weekly appointments from here on out, to track the progression. While we don’t have all the answers for Alzheimer’s now, the data we can collect may help future cases, if that’s alright with you.” 

“Yeah,” he mumbled again. 

“I’m also going to tell Liam,” she began, cut off by Zayn’s quick glare. “Not your disorder, but about the bi-weekly checkups. Just in case you begin to forget them, Liam can still bring you.” 

“Oh,” Zayn said, cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “Sorry…” 

“It’s okay,” she smiled politely. Zayn turned to look her in the eyes. 

He got up to hug her in as a gesture of gratitude. 

“Thanks,” he whispered in her ear. He didn’t know where to begin, or what he should be thankful for exactly. It wasn’t like she just told him he won the lottery or anything, yet he still found himself thankful for her kindness and honesty in that moment. He pulled away, and the surprised look on her face made Zayn giggle a bit. He turned and left the office without another word, leaving Liam behind confused. 

The car ride home was filled with an awkward silence that could be heard above the radio. Zayn was still trying to process what he had just learned, trying to come to terms and accept it all, but he couldn’t. His mind was spinning, and Liam’s worried glances wasn’t helping the matter. By the time they got back to their flat, Zayn was mentally exhausted. 

Liam let them in, and Zayn went straight to his room, locking his bedroom door behind him. He didn’t want to be bothered, not now, not for a while. He wanted time to think, to vent, to brood. He loved the boys, but sometimes they didn’t understand that he needed personal space once in a while to be him. Being in a band was intoxicating like that, as if they were addicted to one another to the point where they lost themselves. While the others thought the solution to sadness was one another, Zayn just wanted to be left alone sometimes. 

He could hear the others outside his door, asking in not-so-hushed voices what was wrong with Zayn. In his mind he could see Liam perfectly, shrugging his shoulders in the defeated admission that he didn’t know. Thankfully, none of the boys bothered him that night, save Liam who brought him food, telling him he wasn’t leaving until he ate, promising he wouldn’t force a word out of Zayn. Zayn accepted, making a slight smile appear on the younger boy’s face. Liam wouldn’t stay while Zayn would eat, though. The silence was too much for him it seemed. He’d simply return an hour later to collect the dirty dishes and return with a fresh glass of water. 

Zayn lied awake that night. The more he thought about this Alzheimer’s stuff, the more annoyed he got. He knew he was a forgetful person, he was okay with that, it’s just there were some things he didn’t want to ever forget, memories that were precious to his heart, moments that should never be forgotten. He wanted to preserve them. And if Zayn forgot everything, including himself, then who is to remember him? He knew he’d be remembered by his mates, his family, and even his fans. By the latter, though, he’d only be remembered as that guy in one direction, boy band of the twenty first century. Zayn wanted more than that. He wanted to achieve something of significance in his lifetime, and singing was only the beginning for him. At least, that was his plans during the x factor days. And it wasn’t that Zayn wanted to be bigger, it’s that Zayn wanted to be known. With him, he was nothing short of a mystery to most people. 

Now, his chances of becoming anything more was lost. No, Zayn’s consciousness kicked in stubbornly. Not yet; it’s never too late. He still had time, how much, he didn’t know. But he did have time, enough to do something, anything. He had a lot of talents. He would utilize them, to leave behind his legacy. He would leave behind something which other people could look upon, and finally get a sense of who this Zayn fellow was. He’d leave no mystery, no room for rumors, just truth as he saw it. He’d do that through painting, singing, and even writing. Creativity was Zayn’s strong suit. 

With the realization that sleep would not come peacefully to him that night, he got out of bed and went over to desk, turning on his lamp and powering his laptop up to open Spotify, continuing his emo radio station. He then walked over to his easel as he began to paint his heart out, humming along to the radio, mind continuing to spin. He wasn’t paying any attention on anything other than his mind, mentally creating a bucket list. 

He couldn’t help but realize how hard it was to create one. Had he not been worried about how little time he had, he may have created a list of 100 things he simply wanted to do, just cause. But that wouldn’t have been right, he figured. It would have been meaningless. Zayn frowned as he found himself struggling to come up with things that he simply had to do, things that would hold significance to him and those he did it with.

Zayn knew he wanted to have kids, though he wasn’t sure how that would be possible. He had, at most, ten years, Doctor Elisha had said. Perhaps he can father a child by then… and if so, then perhaps he could fall in love, too. He knew it’d be hard, painful, really, but he had hope that it could still happen, no matter how much he planned to resist it. But who? He tried to think of people he had already met that could possibly be the one.

His mind failed him as he realized he had painted the length of his board. he stepped back to admire his work, and was shocked to discover he had painted a portrait of none other than him and Liam, smiling as they sung to one another under a tree in a park during autumn as the sun set in the distance. Zayn laughed; how he would paint something so vivid without noticing, with so much detail, was beyond him. He didn’t try to interpret the meaning, though. It was Zayn and Liam, and that never needed an explanation as far as he was concerned. 

His arm tired, he signed and dated the painting before placing it in his closet to dry. He then returned to his computer and opened up safari, checking twitter for today’s updates. His mentions were flooded with the usual steady stream of hate, requests to follow, marriage proposals, homecoming dates, and a few asked for twitcams. Now there’s an idea. As usual, he wasn’t in the mood for a twitcam, but the idea of a video diary did spring to his mind. Maybe it’ll help me remember things, he figured, if I kept my own video diary. I could watch myself remind myself things and whatnot. Made perfect sense, to Zayn at least. 

So he did just that. Setting up his webcam, he was greeted with himself on the computer. 

“Hi Zayn,” he said to the camera with a cheeky smile, waving friendlily. “So today, you, I, we, found out that we have early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Yay us! Basically, we’re going to forget everything, our childhood, us growing up, our band, our friends, everything. Eventually, I’ll even forget you,” he pointed to the camera at the Zayn on his screen. “But there are some things that I don’t want forgotten, so I decided that I’m going to make daily video diaries until I forget. I’ll just talk about whatever is on my mind, of memories made that day, or things I remember that I don’t want to forget. I don’t know if you’ll watch these again, but at least the memories will be preserved in some way or another; maybe someone else can cherish them when we can’t.” He ended with a shrug and a smile. 

“I haven’t told the boys yet,” he confessed. “I don’t to worry them yet. Elisha, she’s my doctor, told me the longer I try to ignore it, the harder it will be on everyone, but I just can’t. Not yet.” Zayn sighed heavily. “Not after all we’ve been through. I feel as though it’s too soon, you know? I guess it’s true, and how crazy is it how fast time flies when you’re having the time of your life? It seems like only yesterday that we were goofing off in band camp. Oh yeah, you’re one of five people in one direction! The other four are Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, and Liam Payne.” 

His video diary lasted a few hours. He was desperate to document his feelings and affection towards his band mates, sum up his life til this point, and even went into detail as to how his diagnosis was affecting him so far. By the time he was finished, it was three a.m. he saved the video file, shut down his laptop, switched off the lamp, and snugged peacefully into his bed. As he said in the video, he didn’t have time to worry. What has happened has happened and what will happen will happen, he just had to enjoy the roller coaster of life and wait until it was over. 

                ---

Zayn isolated himself for a week after his appointment, and Liam had grown more than worried. All of the boys had, but none more than Liam, who was wrecked with conflicting emotions he couldn’t even begin to describe. The only time he would see Zayn during that week was when he came and brought Zayn his meals, or returned to collect the dirty dishes, or when Zayn would sneak his way into the bathroom. 

Zayn looked fine enough, but then why is he ignoring us? Liam didn’t understand, and it was driving him insane. He had to find out what was going on and try to fix it, before management took notice and decided to solve it in their own way. Thank god we’ve had this week off, else Zayn would never have gotten away with this. 

Liam decides to pay Doctor Elisha a visit that day, his curiosity pushing him to the point of near insanity. He was worried about his friend and no one at home could or would give him answers, so she was all he could turn to. Her eyes grew wide with panic once she spotted him waiting for her in her office. Clearly she was not expecting him, and clearly she was hiding something. 

“Hello,” she began, composing herself ever-so-slightly. “Is Zayn okay?” 

“Uhm, yes, I think,” Liam said confusedly. “I’m not sure, really. He’s locked himself in his room and won’t come out except to use the bathroom and shower. He hasn’t talked to anyone since his appointment last week.” 

“Oh…” Elisha said, trying to busy herself. She had become increasingly fascinated with a blank sheet of paper during Liam’s explanation. “I see…” 

“Doctor Elisha,” Liam said, trying to get her attention. She was ignoring him now, afraid to say something she knew she couldn’t. 

“Doctor Elisha,” Liam repeated, this time with a slight edge to his voice. Elisha looked up at him from her desk with sad eyes. 

“I’m sorry, Liam,” she said, and he could tell she was being sincere. “I know what you’re here for, but I can’t divulge a patient’s information without their consent. Our hospital and its doctors honor the policy of doctor-patient confidentiality.” 

Liam clenched his fists to keep his anger at bay. When it came to those he loved, like Zayn, if his worry was intense enough, it could lead to anger. It was rare, but it happened. He took a few calming breathes and sighed in defeat, his shoulders sagging warily. 

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I’ll be going, then.” he turned to leave. 

“Liam?” 

He turned around with a snap, “hm?” his eyes bright with hopeful anticipation that she’d crack. 

“Just watch over him, yeah?” 

“Always,” Liam promised with a small smile, biting back his disappointment. 

                +*+ 

To Liam’s immense relief, Zayn is finally out and about the house when Liam returns, once again out of his shell. As soon as Liam steps in to the living room, Zayn’s face lights up as he shouts “hi Liam!” ecstatically. The smile Zayn’s face animates is enough to tug at Liam’s heart, making him forget about his woes. He’s just happy to see his best friend full of life and energy and smiles once again. 

The other boys decide that it’s the perfect moment for a Nerf battle. And so that’s how their day was enjoyed, filled with laughter and darts and Niall cheating and Louis and Harry tag-teaming. 

Later that night, after Harry and Niall had gone to bed and Louis and Zayn were goofing around in the backyard, Liam found himself completing his neglected chores. As he was washing the dinner dishes, two hands snuck up from behind him, pulling him into a tight embrace, arms wrapping around to his front, holding him closely. Liam smiled. 

“Thanks,” Zayn whispered into his ear. 

“For what?” Liam had told Zayn on countless times that he never needed to thank him for what he did, whatever it may have been, and countless times Zayn would ignore him. 

“For taking such good care of me,” he said, removing his arms from the younger boy as he started helping him with the dishes. Liam could still feel the ghost of Zayn’s arms around him; it sent shivers down his spine. 

“The other boys would have too, you know,” Liam said, as if trying to defend them, unsure as for what or why. 

“I know, but I don’t just mean this week. I mean for everything. You’re always there for me when I need you the most, even if I don’t say it or show it as often as I should. I’m really grateful for that, Li.” Zayn looked at Liam and smiled brightly. “Grateful for you,” he corrected. 

“Thanks,” Liam echoed Zayn, blushing. “Anytime.” 

Zayn smiled and returned to rinsing the dishes, putting them away carefully on the strainer to dry. 

“So are you okay?” Liam blurted out. He had been dying to ask all week, and now was finally his chance, and of course he would just let the words tumble out ever so gracefully. 

“Hm?” Zayn asked with curious eyes. 

“Just this past week is all,” Liam explained, already embarrassed. “Just trying to make sense of it, is all.” 

“Oh, yeah,” Zayn replied casually, almost absentmindedly. “I was just tired is all? The doctor suggested I get a lot of rest, stop thinking so much. Would help put an end to my forgetfulness and unnecessary stressing,” he said with a shrug. 

“And did it work?” Liam asked, looking his friend over as if to judge for himself. “Do you feel better?” 

Zayn considered for a moment before answering with a sweet smile, “yeah, I do.” 

“Good,” Liam said, “cause I’ve missed you this week. We have a lot to catch up on, you know!” 

“I’m looking forward to it,” he promised with a wink, complete with a quick peck on Liam’s cheek. 

They finish the dishes with silent conversation and small, warm laughs. Everything is once again back to normal, and he has his best friend back. In fact, he has more than that, he decides, as he thinks back to Zayn that day. Zayn had changed during his week in solitude. Liam could tell by his smile. It shined differently, brighter even, as though he had a new outlook on life. Liam was happy for that. Liam choose to ignore the fact that there was a hint of sadness in the smile that warmed their hearts that day. 

                +*+ 

Life continued on, now that everything was seemingly back to normal. After a generous week off, they were once again back to concerts, interviews, and signings. It never ended. Zayn’s forgetfulness had become more and more apparent, but he would shrug it off as stress and fatigue. Liam was worried, as usual, but he accepted Zayn’s excuses none the less. He knew that Zayn hadn’t been sleeping well, all the boys did. Zayn’s insomnia had come back, and everyone could tell it was taking a toll on Zayn. Unfortunately, no one had been able to understand the cause of the insomnia, what was bothering Zayn to prevent him from sleeping in the first place. Even when Liam would try to talk to him about it, Zayn would simply shrug it off, switching subjects instantly. Liam couldn’t help but feel as though Zayn was pushing everyone away. It hurt because that meant Zayn was pushing him away, and all Liam ever wanted to do was be there for Zayn. 

                --- 

Zayn woke that morning feeling incredibly energized, despite his lack of sleep. He decided to go out for a jog to clear his mind. Zayn usually wasn’t one for physical exertion, but he no longer remembered that about himself. So there he was, jogging non-stop til he found himself in Hyde Park. He stopped for a moment, panting furiously as he tried to grasp the concept of air. Though he may not remember he detested exercise before, he now knows he won’t be doing it again anytime soon. 

It was around noon by the time Zayn began to breathe easily once again. He wasn’t sure how long had been running for but he was quite sure he wasn’t anywhere close to home. He decided he’d better call home and check in before Liam and the boys started to worry and shit, where’s my phone? Zayn began to panic as he cursed himself silently once he realized he left his cell phone and his wallet on the kitchen counter. Good job, Zayn, now you have to walk home.

But he was in no rush to leave, not if he had to walk and his legs were so sore from their recent workout. He took shelter under a large tree, stretching his legs in an attempt to relax them. “Ahhh…..” so the boys are going to be mad at him for not checking in, he couldn’t help that, so he was in no hurry to rush home when the end result would be the same. Instead, he decided to relax his weary limbs, and took a short nap underneath the tree and the rare and radiant clear, sunny sky that stretched across London that day. 

                +*+

His dreams were marred by nightmares of one direction. It’d start with Zayn, slowly breaking, until Harry faded away into nothingness, followed by Louis and Niall. When Liam started to fade, ever so slightly, Zayn simply shattered, leaving Liam to mend the broken pieces with his careful touch, though unable to fit them back together properly. Pieces were missing, pieces that were nowhere to be found. Liam looked distraught and defeated, but he stayed there, whole, yet alone. Zayn’s heart yearned for him. 

                +*+ 

When Zayn woke up, it was already past sunset and fuck, they’re going to kill me. Zayn got up quickly, cursing himself for being so careless, sleeping so long. His back and neck hurt from the awkward way he rested against the tree, and his legs were still weak from the morning run. He sighed, and began the long trek home, praying that Allah would have mercy on him and not let the boys kill him all at once. 

He decided to sprint home, despite his legs’ wishes. He made it to the edge of the park before he pulled a muscle, tripped over himself, and sprang his ankle, all in one fluid, graceful action. He couldn’t help screaming out in anguish. This is just not my month.

Luckily, someone was already running over to assist him, and thank heavens, it was Doctor Elisha. She can fix me up and give me a ride home.

The look on her face as illuminated by the lampposts was one of worry, confusion, and anger?

“Zayn, what are you doing here?!” she hissed, the look on her face leaking into her voice. 

“I was on my way home and I pulled a muscle and sprung my ankle,” Zayn said, wincing as she inspected his leg. 

“Why are you alone?” she asked, as if her message was obvious. Zayn’s blank face told her otherwise. “You still haven’t told anyone of your condition, have you?” she swatted his leg as an act of punishment. 

“Ow!” he shrieked. “I said I would, why’s it so important to you anyways?” 

She looked at him as if he had lost his mind. 

“Because, Zayn,” she said dryly, helping Zayn to his feet, walking him to her car. “like it or not, more than just you worry about you, and like it or not, more than just you are going to be affected by your condition. Are being affected,” she corrected. 

“But I-,” Zayn didn’t understand. If he hadn’t told anyone yet, then no one could be affected by it yet. 

“You had a concert tonight, you idiot.” 

“Oh…” Zayn mumbled. “Fuck.” 

“You’re being really selfish, you know,” she continued to chide him. “You’re just going to make things harder on everyone, including yourself. Why can’t you just let people help you? Why can’t you just trust people? I don’t even care if you can’t let me help you, but you have so many other people that are closer to you than I, so many others that care about you deeply, love you even, and you just refuse, back out. Like Liam.” Zayn flinched at Liam’s mention. He didn’t think of it that way. 

“I’m sorry…” 

“No, you’re not,” she said, matter-of-factly. “You won’t be sorry until you see it for yourself.” 

“See what?” Zayn asked, as she helped him into her car. 

She got in the driver’s seat, started the car, and looked Zayn dead in the eyes before answering: “The worry on their faces.” 

                +*+ 

The ride to Zayn’s flat was silent. They both had too much on their mind to talk; Elisha’s was full of concern and disappointment, while Zayn’s was full of anger at his immaturity and selfishness. He was grateful for the silence, though. He didn’t want his doctor to hear his voice crack, the sadness in his voice, or notice the tears streaming silently down his face. 

She noticed anyways. 

She helped Zayn into his flat and dressed his leg with relaxing ointments and a bandage wrap to help with his ankle. “Where is your cell phone?” 

“I left it on the kitchen island, to your left,” he said, pointing. She came back a moment after retrieving it. 

“Who should I call to let know you’re safe?” 

Liam Liam Liam Liam Li- “Paul,” Zayn said. He wasn’t ready to hear the disappointment and worry in his best mate’s voice. “He’s on speed dial, number nine.” 

“Alright, thank you,” she said, dialing his number and stepping back into the kitchen. He tuned her out as she spoke to Paul. His mind was on the inevitable confrontation that was to follow once the boys returned home. Zayn realized he was in way over his head at this point. He had to tell them. And he would. Tomorrow. After they cool off from today. Seemed reasonable enough. Zayn shrugged it off as Elisha walked back in. 

“They’ll be here once the concert is over,” she informed him. “I’m going to wait with you here until they arrive; you should have someone around you at all times, you know.” 

“Yeah,” Zayn mumbled. 

“How are you feeling?” she asked, with genuine concern. 

“Like a monster,” Zayn admitted. He didn’t know how else to describe how he identified himself like that. He didn’t know what else would put their friends through the crap Zayn had inadvertently done. 

“Well, I didn’t mean that way. Anything I can help with? Medically?” 

“Are you able to prescribe medical marijuana?” He was quite serious in his request; he had long since had a blunt and now more than ever he found himself craving one. He just wanted to let go, and while his mind was going a good job of destroying his memory cells, he still could remember bright as day the fact that he had Alzheimer’s. 

“Yes and no,” she laughed softly. “You have no medical need for them.” 

“But my leg!” Zayn protested, pouting his lips. 

“Not your leg, your ankle, your back, or your head requires any form of recreational drug,” she replied matter-of-factly. 

“But it will take my mind off of my mind getting lost,” Zayn continued, pressing his point. 

“Sorry,” she said, still smiling. 

“Ugh, you’re horrible!” Zayn said, pouting once more. “May I at least have a painkiller?” 

“What for?” Elisha looked at him skeptically; he did, after all, just ask for drugs. She had to make sure he wouldn’t abuse whatever she gave him. 

“I have a splitting headache,” he replied, throwing his head back down on the couch as he raised his hands to cover his eyes. 

“I’ll give you one,” she promised. “And I’ll write a prescription of painkillers that Paul or Liam may have filled, provided that they are the ones monitoring your intake of them.” 

“You worry too much,” Zayn chided. “I’m not going to overdose; believe it or not I still think I’m too young to die.” 

Elisha flinched at that, biting her lip as they let the discussion of Zayn’s inevitable and possibly soon death hang in the air. 

“Let me get you a glass of water to go with this,” she said, and hurried off into the kitchen. When she returned, she helped Zayn take the pill. 

“Thank you,” he said, taking another gulp of water before setting it down on the table stand beside him. “What do you think should be the thing I should most be worried about?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Like, over the course of the disease or whatever… what should I fear the most to lose?” 

“Well, most people would think their lives, but really, that’s over once you find out about your diagnosis. Not just for Alzheimer’s, but any disease, really.” Zayn nodded beside her. “I think you should be worried about forgetting yourself. Once you do that, it’s the end, really. What do you think?” 

“Waking up and seeing the ones you love, who have made a significant impact in your life, and not being able to recognize them,” Zayn said quietly. It had been on his mind for a while, and was the only thing he feared about the disease so far. 

“That’s a good point,” Elisha said, just as quietly. The silence returned to them once more. Zayn slowly drifted to sleep as Elisha took interest in their book shelf, peaking at the selection. 

                +*+

“Where the fuck were you?” Harry shouted, jerking Zayn awake as he shook him viciously. 

“What the hell, Hazza, get off of me!” Zayn said, irritated. There wasn’t going to be an easy way out of this for Zayn, he already knew. 

Harry raised his arm, about to throw a punch when Liam quickly stepped in between them with puffy eyes as red as rubies. Louis and Niall both grabbed hold of Harry, who was fuming violently with a look that could kill kittens. 

“Move, Liam, stop trying to protect him all the time! He deserves to get his arse kicked for the stunt he pulled today and you know it! Jesus, Malik, what was going through your head? Do you want kicked out of the band? Because I’d hate to break it to you, buddy, but your actions lately may very well lead to it. Don’t think that management hasn’t noticed your lack of involvement recently.” 

Liam turned to look at Zayn as he addressed him. “Zayn, what happened, where were you today and why did you miss the concert?" Zayn could tell from Liam’s posture that it was taking significant effort to remain calm. 

“I was, I, I-” Zayn stuttered out, saved as Paul walked in with Elisha. 

“He was with me,” Elisha announced. The boys all turned and looked at the source of the small voice. 

“And who are you?” Harry asked with curiously flirtatious eyes, seemingly forgetting Zayn. 

“That’s Zayn’s doctor, Elisha” Liam answered for her. “What happened?” 

“I found him this evening at Hyde Park; he had pulled a muscle and sprang his ankle,” she said, motioning towards Zayn’s leg as he lifted it for everyone to see. “I’m not sure how long he had been there, he was against a tree when I passed him by.” 

“How’d you get to the park?” Louis asked, confused. “That’s at least five miles away.” 

“I jogged,” Zayn said, tiredly. 

“You what?” Niall asked, laughing. “Zayn Malik does not jog. Zayn Malik does not exercise,” he corrected. 

“I did today,” he said, ignoring the snide. “As you can see, I suffered, which is why I don’t do this often.” 

“It’s because you don’t do it enough that you suffered,” Liam muttered. He turned to Elisha, looking her in the eye. “Will he be okay?” 

“Yes, he’s bandaged up well enough, he just needs to let it rest, and apply ice and ointment to it every so often. I’ve left a prescription for painkillers that I’d like either you or Paul to fill,” she said, making it clear that she wanted them to do it rather than Zayn. 

“And does this have anything to do with whatever you two have kept hidden since that day at the hospital?” Liam questioned relentlessly. Zayn knew he wanted answers, but he didn’t find it fair that Liam would do so by putting Elisha in the awkward spotlight like that; it wasn’t fair. 

“Liam,” Zayn chided. 

“I’m not allowed to discuss a patient’s case like that without their consent, as you know.” 

“Fine, then,” Liam puffed. “Zayn, give her your consent.” 

“What?” 

“Give her your consent,” Liam repeated, not wasting time to bother explaining. 

“Liam, you’re over-reacting,” Zayn said. “Quit trying to force-“ 

They were interrupted by a sudden beeping coming from Elisha’s waist. She pulled out her phone and switched on her screen, before going to gather her belongings. “Sorry, I have to go; I’m needed at the hospital. Please make sure you fill the prescription, and Zayn, don’t forget, you’re scheduled for another checkup this weekend.” 

                --- 

Liam watched as doctor Elisha hurried out of the flat, escorted by Paul with Harry running after her. He didn’t believe her story about Zayn for a moment; there was definitely more to it than either of them would let on, but Elisha give in, and she was already on her way out. Liam sighed, returning his attention to the couch where Zayn was laid out. 

“Where’s Zayn?” Liam asked, noticing the injured boy was missing. 

“Who cares,” Niall said with a shrug. “Harry’s right, after what he did today, he could get lost for all I care.” 

“You don’t mean that,” Louis said, knowingly. He looked at Liam with bright, sad eyes. “He went to his room.” 

Liam just nodded his thanks to the eldest boy. He didn’t know what he was going to say to Zayn, but he knew he was going to have to talk to him. Someone had to find out what he was thinking, and why he had been acting so… different lately. Ever since his first appointment. Liam was tired of playing games, tired of waiting. It had been near a month since that appointment, and Zayn had done nothing but slip ever further away. It had come to the point where it was affecting the band, and Liam would be damned to let that happen without knowing why. 

But not right now, not while he was angry. No, I’m not angry.

Indeed, he wasn’t exactly angry at his older companion, just deep hurt. Hurt that after so long of Liam being there for Zayn, the older lad still didn’t understand that Liam would be there for him no matter what. That Zayn could trust Liam. That Liam wouldn’t judge. That I would care. And perhaps he had been a bit naïve, but Liam had honestly thought they were past the point of keeping secrets from one another. 

“I guess not,” Liam mumbled under his breath, as he went to take a shower. But being angry would be so much easier; would hurt so much less. 

But being angry would mean he didn’t care, when he did, all too much. 

And Liam couldn’t bring himself to not care. Not with Zayn, he corrected subconsciously, Liam himself unsure why. 

He looked up at the shower head as the water rained down upon him, entangling itself with him and his thoughts. the water worked wonders as it worked its way down; soaking up the worry in Liam’s mind as his hand ran through his hair; relieved the ache in his neck, made earlier that day from craning it at awkward angles in search for Zayn; he exhaled deep sighs of relief as the water trickled down his chest, relief that his friend was indeed safe; and his knees grew weak as the water slid past them, because he should not be thinking about his best friend in the shower. 

Liam watched as the water, along with the pain and fear he built up that day, washed away down the drain. 

                +*+ 

After Liam had dried, dressed, and brushed his teeth, he found himself pacing in the hall outside Zayn’s bedroom. He knew he had to talk to him, but he was having second thoughts. What if me pressing the issue only makes him withdraw further? 

He shook his head. No, I am his best friend. I’m supposed to be, at least. I should be there for him regardless; it never should have come to this. This is just as much my fault as it is his. 

His resolve strengthened, he made his way to Zayn’s room, finding the door left slightly ajar. He could hear Zayn talking, his voice rough and mumbling. Has he been crying? Liam poked his head into the room to find Zayn on his laptop, recording himself. 

“I didn’t expect it to happen so soon,” Zayn said to the camera. “They hate me now.” 

Liam was about to speak when- 

“And fuck, the disappointment on Liam’s face.” Zayn’s voice had risen to a level of hysteria, cracking at Liam’s name. He was practically sobbing now. “I’m glad I won’t be able to remember that.” 

Liam removed his head from the doorway, instead bracing himself against the wall outside Zayn’s room. His heart was racing with disproportionate amounts of fear, excitement, worry, and sadness for his friend. What does he mean, he won’t be able to remember? Liam was so close to figuring out what Zayn had kept hidden for so long. He felt guilty for eavesdropping but he rationalized with himself. This is my friend, he needs me, whether he realizes it or not, and I’m going to take care of him. I promised him that.

He turned his head to the doorway, his attention back on Zayn, as he tried desperately to hear what he was saying. 

“They were all worried for me, but you could just tell that Liam was the most. The others were more angry than worried, I think. I’m probably just kicking myself, though. I know they care, like usual, but not like Liam. He looked so wrecked. And it was because of me. Elisha was right, “Liam’s heart rose to his throat, this is it. 

It doesn’t just affect me, they’ll all suffer with me. I mean, I know she was right, I just didn’t want to accept it. Not yet. I mean, what person just accepts the fact that their life is over?” what? “I still don’t want to tell them. Because they’ll have no choice but to accept it. They’ll have no choice but to watch, knowing they can’t help. Fuck, that’s going to kill Liam.” what is he talking about? “But I promised Elisha I’d tell them. After today, I have no choice, really. It’s progressing faster than I expected. Elisha said she’s never heard of it in such an advanced state.” Liam was trembling with worry at this point. He hated long build-ups. 

“I’ll tell them,” he heard Zayn say, with stronger resolve. “But how? ‘Hey, guys, I have this disease,’” Liam’s heart dropped, “‘called early onset Alzheimer’s disorder.’” broken. “‘it’s no big deal, really; I’m just going to lose all my memories, forget all of you,’” shattered, “‘and me, and then die within the next ten years.’” his heart was but dust. “‘No biggie, really; would ya pass the green beans?’” 

Somehow during the confession, Liam had broken out into sobs he had silenced into his hands, afraid to be caught by Zayn’s very personal admission. What. The. Fuck. He suddenly found himself feeling like a total dick for being mad at his friend earlier while, well, while his life was literally coming to a close. What type of friend was Liam anyways? He couldn’t help but question his existence at that point. Liam was unprepared for this; it was unexpected. He didn’t know what to do, but then again, neither does Zayn. He continued listening. 

“Everything’s going to change once I tell them. Everything will slowly start to end. I know I’m not ready for it, and I’m pretty sure they won’t either. Fuck, they’re going to hate me,” Zayn once again broke out in tears. “I’m going to be the end of one direction. I never wanted any of this, you know. I only ever wanted to sing, and even then it was at mum’s insistence. Fuck, now I’m going to ruin the lives of my four best friends, my four brothers, my family, and all the fans. Elisha was right, curse her. and it sucks, really, the fact that I know, I have yet to forget this fact, that I will forget everything, forget all of them, and yet I’ll still be here, and they’ll still remember, even when I’m don’t… even when I’m not here no more.” 

Liam had stepped quietly in to the room, fascinated with horror as his friend continued to pour his heart out, unknowing of the fact he was no longer alone. No, he’s never been alone; he’ll never be alone again. 

“I’m just afraid as to how they’ll react. How they’ll be left to deal with it all, once everything is done. Once I’ve told them… forgotten them… I can’t help but wonder who I’ll forget first. Louis and Niall, with all of their energy, you’d think it’ll be impossible. Harry, my best mate, or Liam. In Sha’Allah, I pray Liam be forgotten last.” 

“Zayn…” the name escaped Liam’s mouth in a hoarse whisper. He didn’t mean to interrupt, but he couldn’t just stand there, watching his best friend so broken, so tortured. He wanted to console and comfort his friend, because fuck, he’s dying?

Zayn turned to look at Liam at the mention of his name. Had Liam’s heart not already been broken by Zayn’s words, the look on Zayn’s face would have crushed it into a fine powder. Zayn sat there, eyes wide, dark and brooding, bloodshot and bright, creating a constant stream of tears that fell down his cheeks, leaving them puffy and reddened. Zayn licked his lips, bit them, unsure as to how to explain, where to begin. 

“I’m sorry,” Liam said, shaking his head as tears fell once more. “So, so sorry.” he said again, making his way to the older boy, wrapping him in his arms, not wanting to let go. 

“Liam,” Zayn’s voice trembled, matching the boys’ bodies. “I didn’t… I didn’t mean for you to find out like this.” 

“Shh,” Liam whispered, burying his face into the Zayn’s hair, kissing his head. “It’s okay,” he promised. Only it wasn’t okay, and it would never be okay, never again. But he didn’t care; he had to say something comforting. At least one of the two needed to be strong, if for the other one’s sake. And seeing as how Zayn would be the one breaking down from this god forbidden disease that meant that Liam had to be the strong one, like usual. 

“But Li-” 

“But nothing, Zayn,” he whisper, cupping the dark haired boy’s head. He peered at him seriously, intensely; letting his words be accompanied by the emotion shown through his eyes, his heart; his soul. 

“I can’t promise that it will be alright,” Liam continued, unsure as to where these words were even coming from; all he wanted to do was cry with Zayn right now. “But I can promise, like I have before, that I’ll be there for you, yeah? No matter what. You won’t go through this alone, okay? I won’t let you.” he kissed the boy, because, it just feels like the right thing to do right now, okay? Ok.

“I’m sorry,” Zayn whispered, shaking his head slightly. 

“I’m sorry, too,” Liam echoed. 

Liam reached over to end Zayn’s video recording, noticing it was still on. He took the Bradford boy to the bed, pulling him down on top of himself, wrapping him closely, whispering sweet nothings as he assured him that he was still there for Zayn, even if Zayn forgets it. 

They laid like that for hours, Zayn’s head nestled gently on Liam’s chest, listening to him breathe as if he was learning it for the first time. They didn’t talk much; there was nothing to say, at least not now. 

“Thank you,” Zayn muttered, sleepily. 

“For what?” 

“Everything.” 

It was the beginning of the end, they both knew, but at that moment, nothing else mattered. All that mattered, all that existed, was in their arms: each other.

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