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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2. II

 

 

 

Zayn woke up early. Though he slept for only a few short hours, it had been the best night’s rest, and the longest amount of sleep that he had enjoyed since the diagnosis. He didn’t complain that he was being robbed of his sleep, though; he had too much to do, too little time. 

He smiled as he felt warm breath breeze the back of his neck. Liam had been so good to him last night, so gentle, so calm, so Liam. Zayn nearly regret having to get off of him and on with his day, but he had friendships to salvage; he and Liam shared a bed frequently, so he could snuggle with him again later. 

He gently removed himself from Liam’s tight grip; it was as if Liam didn’t want to ever let go. Zayn smiled as he freed himself, glancing back at the boy on the bed, sleeping in peacefully, smiling in his sleep.

Sweet dreams,” Zayn said, before scurrying out of the room, closing the door softly. 

He went to the fridge and got two giant slices of cake out, neither of which would be for him. Getting Niall to forgive him would be easy, he figured; if he went in with ammunition Niall wouldn’t dare defend himself against. He poured a glass of milk to go with it, and made his way to the Irish lad’s room, knocking gently on the door. 

Niall opened it, a smirk appearing on his face as he saw his visitor. 

“What do you want?” blunt, as usual, always the charmer.

“I brought cake?” Zayn said, questioningly, as he moved the plate into Niall’s view. Niall’s eyes grew wide with hunger as he licked his lips, cupping his belly. He then turned to Zayn, narrowing his eyes once more. 

“Are you trying to bribe me, Malik?” Zayn knew he had him, as the blond boy’s lips curled into a smile. 

“I just want to talk, yeah?” 

“Fine,” Niall said, opening the door for Zayn as he took the plate right out of his hands. Zayn rushed in, taking a seat at Niall’s desk, placing the glass of milk beside him. 

“So what do you want?” Niall repeated again, with a mouth full of chocolate cake. 

“I just wanted to apologize,” he confessed. “I didn’t mean to miss the concert, I’m sorry I’ve been so out of it lately, I just-” 

“’s’okay, mate,” Niall said cheerily. Zayn glanced at him confusedly. 

“You’re not still mad at me?” 

“How could I be mad at you? You brought me cake!” Niall practically shrieked. “None of the other guys bring me cake when I’m mad at them.” He grunted, making Zayn chuckle. 

“You don’t even want to know what’s been up with me?” 

Niall set his food down, serious mode activated. 

“Look, if you want to tell me, then you can, but I’m not going to push you for an explanation like the other guys might. Not til you’re ready. Just tell Liam, yeah? He beats himself up caring about you too much, it practically kills him to see you mess up or not be on the high pedestal in the heavens he places you on.” Zayn was certain he was blushing. 

“Yeah, I did,” Zayn muttered, clearing his through. “Well, he knows, now anyways.” 

“See? It’s all good then. So long as Liam knows, everything will be fine; he’ll take care of it.” Niall said it with a smile, his eyes bright blue and gleaming. So certain, so wrong.

“Yeah,” Zayn muttered back. “I’m going to go fix things up with the others now…” 

“Yeah, no problem; thanks for the cake, mate, and get better, yeah? If not for you or us, then for Liam. You should have seen him yesterday,” he said, laughing at the memory as Zayn’s stomach churned. 

That didn’t go as expected, Zayn thought to himself. He was glad he was able to patch things up with Niall, sure, but his comments about Liam only made him feel even guiltier. He sighed as he braced himself to meet with Louis, unsure of how the oldest boy would even react. Zayn wasn’t sure what to expect from Louis, considering he was, after Zayn, Liam’s best friend. While Liam and Zayn had definitely shared the closest friendship, Harry and Louis followed close after with their own. And when the boys weren’t with their closest counterpart, they exchanged; Zayn and Harry’s best friendship would be paralleled by Liam and Louis’. It wasn’t that they loved Niall any less, it’s that Niall typically preferred the company of something he could eat. He had an unhealthy relationship with food. 

Zayn tapped softly on Louis’ door. Please don’t answer, please don’t answer, please do-

The door flew open, revealing Louis’ bright face and cheeky smile. 

“Hold on a second, el,” he said into the phone tucked between his ear and shoulder. “What is it, Zayn?” 

“Can we talk?” Zayn pleaded, though he’d rather run away than face Louis’ scrutiny.

“El, I’m going to have to call you back…. mhm… yeah…. okay, I will… love you, too, bye.” he returned to his bed, throwing himself on it. “You had better start explaining yourself,” he said, raising his hands to rub his forehead, a clear indication he had been stressing on this subject for a while now. 

“I’m sorry,” Zayn said simply. 

“Sorry doesn’t change what you did, you idiot,” Louis sneered. “you had us all worried sick yesterday; it was so unlike you to just up and leave, not leave a note or anything, and for god’s sake, Zayn, why didn’t you take your cell phone? Liam near had a heart attack, fearing the worst of you.” 

“I’m sorry, Lou,” Zayn repeated. “Look, really, I am. I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry I’ve been acting so different, I really am. I can’t say it won’t happen again-” 

“What the hell do you mean, ‘you can’t say it won’t happen again’?” Louis huffed. “How many more concerts are you planning to miss? Is this some type of joke to you? Toying with everyone else’s careers? Emotions? Seriously, Zayn, what’s gotten in to you?” 

“No, I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean the concert thing, not at all,” Zayn stammered, his pleading eyes meeting Louis’ piercing blue ones. he took a deep breath and started rambling: “I meant, well, I’m just going through some things right now, and I haven’t been managing properly, I’m sorry again, and I thought I could handle it all on my own, and you have to understand I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want them to worry or feel like I placed a burden on them or anything, but I was wrong, I can’t handle this on my own, I was an idiot to think I could when elisha said from the start that I wouldn’t, that it’d only make things worse, but I just couldn’t, I just can’t… and then when Liam found out last night, fuck, the look on his face, and I know I have to tell you guys still but I’m not ready yet but I promise and I’m sorry and fuck will you please just forgive me, I’m so so sorry.” 

Louis looked at Zayn, shocked, as the younger boy had reduced himself to a shamble of tears as he forced the words out. 

“Uh, okay,” Louis whispered. “Look, listen… come here,” he reached for Zayn, pulling him in for a tight hug. “I didn’t know you were going through anything; none of us did. I’m sorry, okay? Don’t beat yourself up too much. I don’t know what’s got you so shaken up, but you said you told Liam, right? So then don’t worry, okay?” Louis forced a weak smile; he wasn’t sure how to console Zayn, for Zayn never showed this much emotion to anyone besides Liam. On rare occasions, and when about Liam, it’d be Harry’s shoulder he cried on, and even that was different and difficult. But this was Louis, and Louis didn’t know just how to deal with this type of Zayn, broken and vulnerable. It scared him to see that a boy as put together and as reserved as Zayn had somehow come undone. 

“I’m sorry,” Zayn croaked. He knew he was repeating himself, but he just wanted to make certain that the others knew just how sorry he was. 

“It’s fine,” Louis said. “Just stop crying. If you cry, I’ll cry, and you know what crying does to this face. God, I’ll wreak of sadness for a week, and you know how I can’t deal with that, like I can’t even…” Zayn knew Louis was joking, though uncomfortably; it was always Louis’ way out, to lighten the mood in an intense situation he didn’t know how to deal with, complete with his regular dose of sassiness. 

Zayn just sniffled his nose and wiped his tears away. 

“Sure thing, Lou,” he said, hugging the older boy once again before turning to leave. 

“And Zayn?” Louis called as Zayn reached the door, turning to look at Louis who was now seated at his vanity table. “Try and cheer up, okay?” he said with a devilish grin, winking. Zayn just nodded and smiled, leaving Louis to his makeup. Once outside, he leaned against the sturdy mahogany door, and exhaled a huge sigh of relief. Three down, only one more to go.

Zayn wasn’t sure what he was going to say to Harry, not that he knew what to say for the others, either. But he knew Harry was not going to make this easy on him. He compared his two closest friends: whereas Liam gets hurt, Harry gets angry. Zayn didn’t like hurting or angering either of them, but it did happen on occasion, and he had found that it was much easier to fix Liam’s hurt feelings than it was to mend the divide caused by Harry’s anger. But then again, Liam and Zayn were closer, so of course they’d get over things faster. But Harry, Harold holds grudges.

Zayn sighed; he couldn’t blame Harry forever holding a grudge. the only times the curly-haired boy would get angry was if he had felt betrayed in some way, in which case his anger towards whomever would likely be well-deserved. The problem was, that if left unfixed, Harry would forget the reason he was angry in the first place, though that didn’t mean he wouldn’t still be angry at you. He’d find some way to exact his revenge, transforming his anger into a cruel joke, like the time he put blond hair dye in Zayn’s shampoo. 

But they always got past things, eventually. Zayn just wanted to make sure he was forgiven before they both forgot the reason Harry was mad. 

He toed his way through the hall, past Niall’s room, when he saw Harry make his way to Zayn’s own room. 

“Hazza?” Zayn asked curiously. 

Harry turned at the call of his name, bringing his hand to scratch indignantly behind his curls, embarrassed to have been caught early. 

“I, uh, I wanted to talk to you.” 

“Me too,” Zayn confessed. “I was actually about to go see you.” 

“Oh?” 

“Yeah,” Zayn nodded, closing the space in between them. “I wanted to apologize for everything, make sure we were still okay after yesterday. You’re not still mad at me are you?” Zayn asked, bracing himself, because Harry’s punishments were the worst. Zayn feared the next thing that would happen is he’d wake up without a quiff. 

“Oh, yeah,” Harry said, as if he hadn’t been thinking about it. “Yeah, definitely. and no, I’m not mad, I mean I was, but then after I heard what happened, my heart decided to take pity on you, yeah?” they both laughed at that, the awkwardness in the air disappearing suddenly. 

“Are you okay, though?” he asked, genuine concern lighting his brilliant green eyes as he gestured to Zayn’s injured ankle. 

“Yeah,” Zayn admitted, looking down to inspect it himself. “I just have to keep my weight off it is all.” 

“That’s good…” Harry muttered, almost to himself. 

“Is that it?” Zayn was confused; why was he about to go into Zayn’s room if that was all, and he wasn’t mad? 

“Hm?” 

“Is that what you were about to go in my room for? To check out my ankle?” 

“Oh, no,” Harry said in a low voice, enriched by deep laughter. “No, no no. I wanted to ask if I could go with you to your next doctor’s appointment,” Harry confessed. 

“oh,” Zayn said out loud, while silently screaming no no no no no, I’m not ready for you to know yet please no no- “why? It’s just a boring checkup, besides, Liam usually goes with me…” 

“Well, I know, it’s just,” Harry stammered, flustered. He was once again playing with his curls, his voice raising ever so slightly. “It’s just, uhm, your doctor, Elisha, was it?” 

“…yes?” 

“Do you think she likes me?” 

It took everything in Zayn’s power to kneel over and laugh; he did it anyways. “Harold, are you serious?” 

“What?” Harry asked with a hurt-felt expression. 

“It’s just, you saw her for like, two minutes,” Zayn said, still laughing. “I don’t even think she paid you much attention, she was talking to Liam the whole time.” 

“So? She so noticed me, I mean, how can you not notice these curls. That’s why they’re there, Zee!” he finished his statement by flicking his hair, finally laughing along with Zayn. 

“I don’t know, Haz; the way you were looking at her, you may have scared her off. You did see how eager she was to leave, right? And it was only after you started staring at her with those creeper psycho stalker eyes some of the fans give us.” 

At this point they were both latched on to one another, holding one another up so they didn’t both collapse with laughter. 

“I am so not that bad,” Harry protested. Zayn just imitated the love-struck expression Harry gave Elisha last night. 

“Oh my god, Zayn!” Harry shrieked with embarrassment, cupping his mouth with wide eyes. “How could you let me stare at her like that and not do anything?! What type of best mate are you? Oh my god, she probably hates me now.” Harry lowered himself against the wall opposite Zayn’s bedroom door, hanging his head in shame. Zayn knelt beside him, patting his friend on the back. 

“It’ll be okay, mate,” Zayn promised. “Maybe if we can teach you how to courtand not obsess, then you’ll have a shot at her.” 

“Court?” Harry asked incredulously. “What do you mean court? Harry styles does not court; he shouldn’t have to! Girls are seduced by the curls, that’s just how it works!” 

“Not this time, buddy,” Zayn said with a sympathetic shake of his head. His lips turned into a grin, “besides, it’s about time we turned Harry styles from a womanizer and into a gentleman, don’t you think?” 

Harry’s eyes grew wide as he feigned fear, “a what?”

“A gentleman,” Zayn repeated. “With irresistible locks,” he added, running his hand through the younger boy’s hair for good measure. 

“I’m too young to be a gentleman!” Harry protested. “It just so happens that I was blessed with these gorgeous curls from a young age. I need a girl, a wild one, one that’ll party with me.” 

“Harry,” Zayn said, shaking his head in disbelief. “You’re crushing on a doctor.” 

“What’s your point?” 

“Doctors aren’t girls, Hazza; they’re women. Professional.” 

“I like women, too, remember Caroline?” Zayn rolled his eyes. 

“She works in entertainment, Harry.” 

“Ugh fine,” Harry spat in defeat. “Teach me how to be a gentleman. Does this mean I get to accompany you to your next checkup?” 

“Maybe,” Zayn promised. “I may have to warm her up for you, or at least give her a warning that Harry the beasty styles wants her.” 

“Deal,” Harry agreed happily. 

“What are we going to do with you, Hazza,” Zayn chuckled, as Liam walked out of Zayn’s bedroom. 

“Oi! Hi Liam!” Harry shrilled. “What were you doing in Zayn’s room? Long night of make-up sex, eh?” he waggled his eyebrows. 

“You have no idea,” Liam sighed. 

“Whoa,” Harry said, raising his hands in protest. “I didn’t actually need a confirmation on your sex life, mate.” 

“We were talking,” Zayn said, hitting the youngest boy. “That’s all.” 

Zayn looked up at Liam, who was still standing in the doorway. 

“Good morning, Li,” he said with a smile.

                —-

By noon the flat was empty save Zayn and Liam. Louis had plans with Eleanor, Niall went on a mission to find London’s best candy shop, and Harry decided it was time to posh himself up- definitely not because he was smitten with a doctor of class- by seeking out a gentleman’s club. Deciding their large home was too empty with just the two of them, they opted to go out, in which they found themselves in the park Zayn stumbled upon the day before.

It was much more peaceful this time round, Zayn decided. Not simply because he hadn’t just exhausted himself, but because he had the comfort of his best friend to enjoy the beautiful day with. Plus, Liam brought food along, planning a peaceful picnic in the park. 

Zayn couldn’t help but smile as he sat down on the picnic blanket, watching Liam unpack all the food. How he didn’t notice Liam had brought food with him was beyond him, but he was glad none-the-less. He hadn’t realized until now how hungry he was; amidst apologizing to the boys, he completely forgot to eat breakfast. Thinking back to it, he was pretty sure he didn’t give Liam the opportunity to eat, either, before suggesting they go out and do something.Goodness, Payne, why are you so amazing.

“What’s this?” he asked, pointing to the sandwiches. 

“This,” Liam said, handing one to Zayn, “is a tuna fish sandwich.” 

“Yuck,” Zayn replied, crinkling his nose. 

“Too bad, you’re eating it.” Liam’s voice wasn’t rude, but did contain a trace of forcefulness. Zayn cocked his eyebrow in response. 

“I read that these foods can help with memory enhancement,” Liam explained with a sigh. “Keeping your brain cells healthy and all. I know they won’t stop it, but I’m hoping it’ll at least slow it down?” Liam glanced over at Zayn, a questioning look expressed across his features. Zayn just smiled, nodding his head in thanks. 

“So I take it you’re going to be enforcing a diet upon me now, yeah?” 

“You bet,” Liam smiled, throwing a blueberry at Zayn as he caught it in his mouth. He savored the taste before swallowing and sticking his blue tongue out at Liam. 

“Brilliant,” he chuckled, as he tried one for himself, imitating Zayn’s facial expressions. 

They munched together in between laughs, until Zayn broke the silence. 

“I’m going to miss this stuff.” he knew it was probably a bad time to address the pink elephant in the park, but reasoned it’d need discussed sooner or later. 

“Are you scared?” Liam’s eyes were so warm, so caring and understanding and Zayn could just drown in the caramel orbs right then and there. 

“A little,” Zayn shrugged with admittance. “I try not to think too hard about it, you know? Like, I think the main thing I fear right now is if I’ll still be able to experience some things.” 

“I don’t understand,” Liam confessed, scrunching his face up as he tried to make sense what Zayn was saying and damn it how does he always look so adorable with those puppy eyes?

“Well,” Zayn sighed; he wasn’t sure he understood, either, but he did feel it was right. “Like, I know I’m going to forget things and all, but I don’t want that to prevent me from doing things I could have, would have, done otherwise. I just don’t want my life to end just because my life is ending. Does that make sense?” it was Zayn’s turn to look confused, however, Liam’s changed with understanding. 

“Yeah, definitely,” he comforted, taking another bite of his sandwich. Zayn smiled, happy he could connect with his best friend so well. “Is that why you do your video diaries? As like a form of external memory storage?” 

“Erm, I guess. Like I know I’ll forget things, as I said, but if I record my memories or whatever is on my mind, they’ll stay; they’ll still exist in some way, somehow.” 

Liam nodded, continuing to eat in silence. Zayn looked to the ground, fidgeting with his food as he took a deep breath before continuing. 

“Honestly, I think I’m doing it most because I’m afraid to be forgotten.” he looked up at Liam who was staring back at him with a look of incredulity on his face. 

“What do you mean ‘afraid to be forgotten’?” Zayn could tell by the look on Liam’s face that he had hurt the younger boy’s feelings. He cursed himself as he cringed inwardly. 

“Well, this whole stuff has put things into perspective for me. There is no way to prevent any of us from forgetting anything, ever; who is to say that you won’t forget me one day, too? I just don’t want to be forgotten; I want to leave something behind, leave a mark, a memory, a legacy behind. I don’t want to die being remembered as the lad from that band who got Alzheimer’s and forgot everything and everyone – I want to be remembered for me, which, me being me, is something I don’t just show to other people… I mean, I’ve got this image, this ‘bad boy’ image and what not, and I accept it, I don’t really care, you know? But then, even with some of my closest friends, they don’t really know me as well as you do, you know? So they’ll just remember this image, this avatar of myself that I project, while the real me is forgotten with myself. No, I want to preserve it in some way. Preserve me.” 

During the course of Zayn’s ramblings, Liam’s face managed to switch from puppy dog to chameleon, changing expressions from hurt to confused to sad understanding. Liam reached over to place a comforting hand on Zayn’s shoulder, who had begun shaking in fear, tears threatening to flow through his long lashes. 

“Zee,” Liam started affectionately, gazing intently into Zayn’s eyes. “You will never be forgotten, okay? And even if and when everyone else does, I won’t, okay? I promise.” 

“But how do you know?” he challenged with wounded eyes. “How can you be so sure?” 

“Because I love you, Zayn,” Liam told his best friend with the warmest of smiles that only Zayn would ever have the privilege to see. Liam took hold of Zayn’s hand, placing it against his own chest as he continued his explanation, “and the heart never forgets that.” 

Zayn’s tears fell freely, as Liam used his free hand to brush them away with his thumb, caressing Zayn’s puffed cheeks gently.

“I mean that, okay zee? And I’ll even help you if you’d like, to distinguish yourself, okay? You’ll be remembered, I promise, your legacy or whatever will be yours.” he squeezed Zayn’s hand that was still pressed up against Liam’s own heart. “I’ll never forget you, okay? So don’t even worry about that; don’t ever think that way again.” 

Zayn was still crying, but he nodded nonetheless, pressing a kiss into the palm of Liam’s hand still held against his face. Because Liam was right: Zayn wasn’t alone. Zayn just prayed that Liam would be able to live up to his promises; the thought of Liam forgetting him was unbearable.

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