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.

4Likes
6Comments
1368Views
AA

3. III

 

The picnic was, in Liam’s opinion, a huge success. It may have been more emotional than the average picnic, much more emotional, but he and Zayn bonded over it all the same. He was thankful for packing a quick, last minute lunch. Even more, he was thankful for Zayn finally sharing his feelings, and more importantly, his fears. Liam was sincere when he said that he’d be there for Zayn, never to forget him. He was determined to help his friend through this; no matter how difficult it may become or how long the path may be, Zayn would not be left to suffer alone.

 

So perhaps Liam felt a little masochistic, then, to not want his friend to suffer by himself, and instead shoulder the burden with him. Though some people may want to suffer through their disease on their own, if only to protect those they loved from seeing them so hurt, Liam wouldn’t allow Zayn to make the same decision. Sure, this would affect, and eventually destroy, their friendship, but Liam understood the significance it would have if he were there for his mate while the disease made its mark. Zayn wouldn’t have to worry alone, or, and it killed Liam to think this, die alone. But that is so far away, we’ve still got many years to prepare.

 

Liam didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s, yet, but that would soon change. It had to; he wouldn’t want Zayn to go in at it alone, learn everything about the disease only to live in fear over what is to come until he forgot about that, too. Instead, Liam would, and then wait until everything comes to pass. he’d have to take care of Zayn, which he was willing, and sit back and watch as his best friend forgot the world around him, he himself in it.

 

He’s going to forget me. The realization had been gnawing at the back of his mind since the previous night. Though he told Zayn that the heart may never forget, he wasn’t exactly sure if it were true; can the heart even remember things? He couldn’t help but wonder what he was going to do if Zayn did finally forget him - no, not if, when - and how he’d manage through it. Once he’s forgotten, he wouldn’t be able to remind Zayn of their previous friendship. He’d have to pretend as if they were just strangers, and he wasn’t sure he was ready for that just yet, if ever.

 

Looking at the smile on Zayn’s face as he talked animatedly about some prank he had pulled with Louis on Harry made Liam push his worries aside. He just wanted to live in the moment, with Zayn, rather than worry of the future that would cruelly put a stop to moments like these. They pick up Zayn’s prescription before Liam drives them home. Today had been an emotionally exhaustive day, and while he was glad to have spent today, any moment, let alone day, with Zayn, he needed the comfort of his other friends now, too, because once Zayn was gone they’d be all he had left.

 

                +*+

 

A week had come and gone since the picnic, and things seemed to be returning to normal. not the normal that Liam was used to, exactly, but a new normal, one he’d have no choice but to submit to if they were ever to get through this.

 

It would take some getting used to, but Liam was already accepting things for what they were. Zayn would continue his video diaries, expressing the importance they had in him and his idea of a “legacy being left behind.” often Liam would be invited to join – though Liam had decided to do his own video logs to document the journey as well - and together, there was emotion; affection. Together they made the recorded memories feel more real, as they laughed and reminisced. Other times, they’d just talk, about everything and nothing at all.

 

The unspoken rule was that nothing mattered while recording a video diary, save honesty. Perhaps it was a little bit ironic to say that outside problems didn’t matter, real problems like Zayn’s Alzheimer’s, but it did make sense. The video diaries were meant to capture them in the moment, to get a piece of their mind and their understanding as they come to terms with their life and those surrounding them. The video diaries captured their interpretations of what transpired, and their insight on what may come. It wasn’t always fear of the future; they scarcely talked of Zayn’s condition – it simply wasn’t the point of the diaries. Certainly, it was what started their new tradition, but it was only to motivate them to take time aside and reflect on what was real and what mattered to them, something they all took for granted beforehand. Everything they did and said in the diaries, from their struggles to their dreams, was expressed in raw thought and emotion.

 

Which is how the video diaries captured their innocence, preserving it. it gave both Liam and Zayn a feeling of hope and relief, something others may find reassuring in the future when viewing their records – that they could be so open and honest and true to themselves as their lives and the world around them seemingly began to break and tumble upon them only to land in the deep, dark, forgetful abyss that would be Zayn’s Alzheimer’s.

 

It was authentic. They were authentic.

 

And Liam would quickly realize the importance in it all: Zayn wasn’t simply leaving behind a record, his own way of saying goodbye, as Liam initially thought. No, it was much bigger, much more meaningful. The reason the unspoken rule existed, the purpose of the diaries, wasn’t necessarily to do with the disease, but to celebrate what is, what could and would be, good and bad. To celebrate life. Zayn’s life.

 

And it broke Liam’s heart, in a warm, affectionate, almost welcoming way. Because here he was, listening to his best friend talking excitedly about something completely trivial that the two of them did that day. Liam watched as Zayn’s face lit up, and he couldn’t help but compare his friend’s features to that of Christmas. Zayn’s face was as bright as a Christmas tree, decorated with love: his mouth, his lips, so full, glistening like the spark of a bauble; his eyes, so pure and beautiful, twinkling like the Christmas lights. And then there was Zayn, who in himself was as warm as a Christmas fire, like the one he and Liam had found themselves snuggling beside last every night last winter.

 

The memory brought back warm feelings of comfort, happiness - safety.

 

Liam looked down and smiled serenely at his hand, entwined with Zayn’s in a way only best friends could. Yeah, Zayn had definitely broke Liam’s heart, in a non-traditional way, albeit. But somehow, every time – as it did happen from time to time - Zayn would piece it back together, gently, warmly. Like right now, when Zayn was celebrating life and all it had to offer, instead of cowering in the fear of waiting to die.

 

Liam’s thoughts were interrupted by the sudden feel of familiar lips being pressed against his cheek.

 

“What was that for?” Liam asked with red cheeks, from the warmth of the kiss or the embarrassment of protesting it, he wasn’t sure.

 

“Do I really need to have a reason to kiss my best mate?” Zayn asked with a pouting lip and a cocked brow, making Liam’s face flare furiously into a new shade of red.

 

“Of course not, love” Liam replied with a smile before rewarding the older boy with a kiss of his own. Just a quick peck on the edge of Zayn’s lips. Liam returned to look at the boy once again, as if I haven’t done enough of that already today. Zayn simply smiled affectionately, before saying his goodbyes to the video log.

 

Now that the diary was done, after two hours spent on it – they seemed to have gotten longer and longer each time – Liam threw himself on to Zayn’s bed, while the owner took his place on a stool in the corner, opposite the bed. Liam raised his head, straining to see what Zayn was planning.

 

“What are you doing,” Liam moaned. “Come to bedddd.” he let his words drag out, indicating his tiredness.

 

“but I’m not tired,” Zayn pouted once again, like a child this time, as he pushed his bottom lip out for dramatic affect.

 

“I don’t care; we’ve had a long day ugh,” Liam sighed, throwing his head back on the bed, pushing the pillows over him as if to lose himself within them. He moved a pillow so that he could peek at Zayn slightly, before continuing.

 

“What could be more important than sleep right now?”

 

“Oil painting!” Zayn replied cheerfully, waving hands that now contained various sized brushes and oils.

 

“Umph…”

 

“Come on, Li; I haven’t done a drawing in over a week! Besides, you don’t even have to do anything. You can go to sleep.”

 

“It’s not that easy,” he was protesting at this point. But his statement held truth in it: after long days, Liam found no easier way to fall asleep than being wrapped in a nice earnest snuggle, either with Zayn or Danielle. But right now only the former was available, and Liam couldn’t believe he was being denied his right to a peaceful sleep in caring arms.

 

“Sorry, love,” Zayn said, shrugging, a smile still on his face.

 

“Liar!” Liam shrieked playfully, forming a grin. “If you really love me then you’d come to bed.”

 

“But I do love you, Li Li, I promise. I love you forever, yeah?”

 

“Uh..ph…” Liam let out an exasperated breath.

 

“Just give me half an hour, then I’ll come to bed. I should be finished for the night by then.”

 

“Fine, but I’m mad at you.”

 

“It’ll be over before you know it.” Zayn head disappeared behind the portrait, focusing on his work.

 

Liam waited a few minutes before groaning in agony, letting his impatience get the best of him.

 

“Oh my god are you done yet?” from the small window of his pillow fortress, he saw Zayn peek his head out from his painting, giving Liam a sympathetic smile.

 

“Not quite, babe,” and just like that his head disappeared once more.

 

“What are you even working on?”

 

“It’s a surprise!” he squealed with excitement. “I thought you were tired?”

 

“I thought you’d be done before I knew it.”

 

“Liiiiaaaammmm,” Zayn said, drawing the name out with a huff. “Why are you being so difficult?”

 

“I thought you just said you loved me,” Liam retorted. If he couldn’t get Zayn in bed then he was going to annoy him like no tomorrow.

 

“That’s not fair!” Zayn said, peeking out to show another pouted lip. “Are you blackmailing me, Payne?”

 

“Is it working?” Liam asked, sounding hopeful. Zayn just winked.

 

“Not quite, love.”

 

“You’re so mean to me oh my god.”

 

“I thought it was Louis’ job to be overly dramatic,” Zayn mused from behind the painting, his arms working in slow, practiced strokes.

 

“We traded roles; he’s going to be daddy direction and I’ll be the new sass master.”

 

“Aw, but I love you as daddy direction.”

 

“Do you now?” Liam said, grinning beneath the pillows.

 

“Mhm.”

 

“And why is that?”

 

“Because, no one cares quite like you. Cause you’ve got that one thing.”

 

Liam threw the pillows off of him, changing his position so he was laying on his stomach, resting his upper body weight on his arms as he stared at Zayn in disbelief.

 

“You did not just say that.” Zayn’s only response to that was lifting his head to give a flash of his pearly whites. Cheeky bugger.

 

“Speaking of Louis,” Zayn said, his voice assuming a tone of seriousness, yet still soft and warm, just for Liam. “And the others, actually. I think I’m going to tell them soon.” Liam sat upright on the bed, sitting Indian style as he looked back at Zayn. Liam knew his friend had been antsy to tell them, but just couldn’t bring himself to do it yet, scared of how things may change.

 

“How soon?”

 

“Tomorrow.”

 

“Oh… that is soon.”

 

“Yeah, I know. But I just want to get it out of the way already. Before it’s too late. Before I forget something again and leave someone hurt or upset or something, you know?” Liam nodded.

 

“Who are you telling first?”

 

“I’d rather do it all at once, if I’m honest. I don’t want a repeat of what happened between you and me,” Zayn said before quickly adding: “all that crying.” Liam was pretty sure he was blushing at the memory of them wrapped around each other in bed that night. It made a smile grace his face.

 

“Like, I don’t know how much I’d be able to take, telling them one on one, watching them each cry for me and all that. I’d rather do it when they’re all in the same room; then we could counsel one another easier, yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Liam said, nodding once again. It did make sense.

 

“I’m proud of you, you know that?”

 

“Why’s that?” Zayn asked, wiping his paintbrushes off before putting them away, joining Liam on the bed.

 

“For being so strong throughout all of this,” Liam answered, placing an arm around Zayn as he pulled him into a sidelong hug, burying a kiss within the boy’s raven black hair.

 

“Does this mean you’re not mad at me anymore?” Zayn said, smiling.
 

“Ugh, I totally forgot about that,” Liam huffed a non-committed sigh. “You make it so hard to stay mad at you.”

 

“Then I guess I won’t have to regret doing this,” Zayn said, chuckling a pillow at Liam. Liam let his jaw drop in disbelief.

 

“Okay, Malik, you better get ready because it is on like Donkey Kong!

 

                +*+

 

Liam awakes slowly only to find himself in an empty bed. He lets out a groan at the fact that Zayn has already started his day so early; that he left Liam in bed without him. Perhaps it was a bit selfish of him, and perhaps it pushed the boundaries of their friendship, but Liam loved waking up to see Zayn sleeping peacefully on or beside him. It certainly put a smile on Liam’s face, brightening up his day and speaking of bright…

 

Liam crawled his way out of bed and to the window that had rudely decided to allow the sun to shine through with a very bright intensity that was unwelcoming at his present stage of waking up. He closed the curtains, scowling, before turning around and nearly knocking over Zayn’s painting easel.

 

Damn it, Payne, you klutz, he chided himself as he made sure the easel was stable again. Incidentally he noticed the portrait upon it, the one Zayn had been working on the night before. A smile formed as Liam recognized the face appearing on the piece as his own. It was an abstract painting. His face, carefully drawn, looked like it had been a photograph rather than a painting. Complimenting his features, and adding to the abstract image, were various swirls, lines, and musical notes. He was looking downcast, eyes closed, with a slight smile appearing on his face. He knew the smile, and realized why Zayn would add it. The smile painted was one Liam only shared with Zayn, and therefore was the older boy’s favorite. It wasn’t overly happy and didn’t show all of his emotion through his teeth, instead it was subtle, delicate.

 

He thought back to the time Zayn explained his fascination over it.

 

“But how can it be your favorite smile if I’m not even smiling?” he was scrunching his eyebrows, trying hardly to solve the mystery that was his friend’s logic.

 

“Because, you are smiling,” Zayn would say simply.

 

“Hardly!”

 

“Not in your lips, no,” Zayn conceded.

 

“I don’t understand,” Liam confessed, giving up. His friend was a mystery he may never be able to solve; it’s what kept him all the more interested, captivated.

 

Zayn looked at Liam, grabbing his face softly with both of his hands.

 

“You smile with this,” he said tenderly. Liam raised an eyebrow, still not comprehending, so Zayn continued, “your entire face, your personality comes to life with it.”

 

“Doesn’t it with all of my smiles?”

 

“Yes,” Zayn admitted, “but not in the same way.”

 

“How, then?” Liam was curious.

 

“It’s much more personal when it’s so reserved,” Zayn explained. “When you smile like that, your eyes sparkle, making them crinkle gently,” Zayn’s thumb brushed against the sides of Liam’s eyes.

 

“Your cheeks turn a faint shade of red – it makes them look warm, more alive,” he added, caressing them with the pad of his thumb.

 

“Your voice,” he said, placing his other hand against Liam’s Adam’s apple, “becomes a whisper as you talk through it, a whisper so quaint that it has you leaning in to hear it, to make sure you don’t miss it, because when you’re smiling, you can’t help but want to know what you’re saying; how you’re feeling. It makes others want to hear, makes them need to hear.” Liam blushed.

 

“And then your lips,” Zayn paused, moving the thumb he had pressed against Liam’s cheek to rest gracefully on Liam’s lips that were parted just slightly. Their eyes connected, never leaving as Zayn smiled and continued, “Your lips just makes it all complete, makes it flow and perfect. The way they curl slightly, it’s genuine, yet so reserved, restrained even. It’s the combination, I think, that makes it so mysterious, as if you’re holding back, afraid to get too caught up in something and completely lose yourself in it. It’s honest, and it shows secrets; desires; hopes; dreams – all of which make people want to learn them, unearthing the truth that is Liam James Payne.”

 

Somehow during Zayn’s explanation, his own face, and more importantly, his lips ended mere centimeters away from Liam’s own. Once Zayn was done talking, he pressed his lips against Liam’s, stimulating a slight moan of shock and quite possibly pleasure from the younger boy with the fascinating smile.

 

And then it was over, lips removed, as quickly as it came.

 

And Liam couldn’t help but smile.

 

The painting was unfinished, but Liam knew this would be his favorite. Once again making sure it was steady on the easel, and that the easel wouldn’t topple over again, he made his way out of the room and into the living room smiling. Though he hadn’t woken up with Zayn, he had been treated to a much better reward, one that would keep him warm all day.

 

“Did you and Zayn shag last night?” it was Harry who asked, eyes bright and green and waggling in a suggestive manner.

 

“No,” Liam said with a hearty chuckle, joining him and Niall on the sofa. “Why do you keep asking that?”

 

“Because, you’ve got that smile going on,” it was Niall who answered this time. Liam’s smile turned into a grin at the response.

 

“Oh, do I now?” the lads nodded their confirmation. “And how, exactly, would my smile mean I got laid? By Zayn?”

 

“Hey now, buddy,” Harry said laughing, “no one said you were laid by Zayn, unless that’s a confession…” Niall burst out with laughter, gripping both the boys on the shoulder as he tried not to double over.

 

“Oh my god, Harold,” Liam said, laughing along. “You know what I meant.”

 

“But Li Li, I don’t!” Harry let out a devilish grin. “I’ve never slept with Zayn in such an intimate way. I thought he bottomed.”

 

“You thought I what?” Zayn asked with curious brows, entering the room with Louis in tow, taking seats on the couch opposite the younger three boys of the band. Harry blushed to that of a rose.

 

“Harry thought you were a bottom,” Niall answered, still laughing.

 

“What makes you think that?” Zayn asked with amusement.

 

“Are we really having this conversation?” Liam asked, astonished the conversation had already come so far.

 

“Yes, Liam, we really are,” Harry replied before sitting up and grinning at Zayn. “Liam said you topped him last night.”

 

“I did not!” Liam squealed, his face turning a new shade of crimson. He raised a hand to cover his face, spreading his fingers slightly to look at Zayn. The older boy just smiled softly back at him.

 

“Did so!” Niall disputed. “But yeah, I totally would’ve thought it’d be reverse.”

 

“Why?” Zayn asked again.

 

“I dunno,” Niall replied, as he and Harry both shrugged. “You just seem like it.”

 

“Well, if it helps settle things, Liam and I were just talking last night is all.”

 

“Right,” Harry said cheekily.

 

“And for the record,” Zayn said, getting up and making his way to the kitchen, “I’m versatile.”

 

The boys all looked at one another in shock and disbelief before getting up and running after Zayn, climbing over one another as they raced for answers.

 

“You’re what?” Louis asked once they reached the kitchen, now interested in the conversation.

 

“You’re versatile?” Liam repeated Zayn’s words questioningly.

 

“Well, I’m still a virgin,” Zayn replied simply.

 

“Then how can you be versatile?” Niall queried.

 

“Okay, I would be versatile,” Zayn corrected. “Happy?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow for confirmation before turning his attention to the refrigerator, making breakfast for the group of lads.

 

“So you’re gay?” Harry asked, disbelief and interest sounding in his voice.

 

“No,” Zayn said after removing a carton of eggs from the fridge. “At least, I don’t think so.”

 

“Bisexual perhaps?” Liam offered, because how did he not know this about his best friend? Sure, the kisses and everything, but this was news to even Liam, not that it’d make a difference in how he felt about the boy.

 

“I don’t know,” Zayn said with a shrug, clearly not worried about his lack of sexual identity. “I don’t really care, you know? Seems so trivial, and then to label it. I just want someone to make me happy, be it a girl or boy, I don’t care. If it’s a boy that I fall in love with, then yeah, I’m pretty sure I’d be versatile, do both. Pretty sure that’d be interesting,” he finished, chuckling.

 

“Interesting indeed…” Louis commented, if only to fill the awkward silence that had taken over the room as the boys

 

“Does that creep you out?” Zayn asked, looking over the boys. Liam could see the worry in his eyes and understood why. Not only had he just come out, if that’s what that was, he would soon tell them of his condition. He’s certain Zayn wouldn’t want them to hate him throughout his illness, but Liam couldn’t speak for the other boys, so he smiled his smile to give Zayn his support.

 

“Nah,” Niall said, moving to join Zayn in preparing breakfast.

 

“Not me,” Louis answered.

 

“Of course not!” Harry said, shocked that Zayn would ask such a question.

 

“Good,” Zayn said, letting out a small sigh of relief, unnoticed by all but Liam.

 

“So which one of us would you shag?” Niall asked, bluntly.

 

“Me, obviously,” Harry said with a flick of his curls.

 

“Hazza, I don’t think those curls work on men the same way they do on women,” Louis said, laughing at the younger boy as he ruffled his hair, taking a seat at stool in front of the kitchen island.

 

“I’ve never thought about it,” Zayn answered honestly. “Believe it or not, I’m not an overly sexual person.”

 

“Oh my god,” Harry said dramatically. “You’re not one of those romantic people are you, who won’t do it with someone until you’re married or whatever?”

 

“That was the plan,” Zayn said, chuckling. “I’d rather give myself up to just one person, make it special, you know? But that’s not going to work. I just don’t have enough time.” he began cracking eggs.

 

“Drama queen much,” Niall quipped. “What are you, dying?” Liam tensed at that while the other boys just laughed, even Zayn smiled a bit. He silently chastised Niall for his insensitivity before realizing that Niall didn’t know any better.

 

“Yeah, actually, I am.” Zayn said simply, his smile still visible on his face, if only faintly, as he cracked the final eggs. Everyone turned and stared at him, unsure if he was joking or not. The room fell silent as Zayn finished cracking the last egg, before he looked up and caught everyone’s stares.

 

“What?” Zayn asked, a confused expression on his face, and Liam’s heart broke yet again because Zayn had forgot mid-thought that he was telling them of his condition.

 

“You just said you were dying, as if it was no big deal,” Louis said, eying Zayn warily.

 

“Oh,” Zayn said, still confused before his face lit up with remembrance of what just happened. “Oh! Yeah, right, sorry.” he blushed with embarrassment, offering his apologies with a sad, faint smile as he began to whip the eggs before him.

 

“I have Alzheimer’s.” while Zayn became suddenly interested in the bowl in his hands, Liam spared a glance at the others. He watched as their faces slowly went from confusion to understanding, to that of realization and subsequent fear and sadness and even anger as everything clicked into place. Liam could see the pain on their faces and in their eyes. He watched as Harry got up and stormed out of the kitchen, only to hear him slam his bedroom door shut. He saw Louis stare in disbelief, expecting Zayn to say something, anything as if to discredit his statement, before he, too, left frustrated, slamming his door shut like Harry before him. Niall had stayed behind, tears in his eyes as he tried to open his mouth to ask Zayn a question like why, as if Zayn could help his condition. Unable to find his voice, Niall slowly walked out and made his way to his own room, and Liam was thankful he didn’t hear a door slam that time.

 

Liam looked back at Zayn, who was still stirring the egg yolks, but this time with tears streaking down his face. Liam got up in an instant to comfort him, pulling him into a close hug, whispering nothings into Zayn’s ears as he tried to reassure him that things would work out, the boys just needed time.

 

They begin cooking breakfast in a comfortable silence, save Zayn’s occasional sniffles, until it becomes too much for Liam to bear.

 

“I’ll be right back, okay?” Liam asked Zayn; he wouldn’t leave him if Zayn didn’t want him to.

 

“M’kay,” Zayn replied, his small voice cracking. Liam gave him a quick, comforting hug before he tracked down the other boys. Finding Niall and Louis’ room empty, he was relieved to find them all together in Harry’s room, talking in hushed tones.

 

“you guys are fucking unbelievable,” Liam said as he let himself in to Harry’s room, uninvited, shutting the door behind him so that Zayn wouldn’t be able to hear his shouting in case it came to that.

 

“How long have you known?” Harry asked, anger in his voice.

 

“That isn’t important-”

 

“Like hell it’s not important!” Harry spat, before repeating in a low, tenacious, almost threatening voice, “how. Long. Have. You. Known?”

 

“This isn’t about me!” Liam yelled, letting his own anger fuel him. “And it isn’t about any of you, either! I can’t believe how selfish you all are being! one of your best friends just confessed that they have a terminal illness, and you all react by running away with anger towards him?” all three of the boys flinched – Liam’s words stung, and that made Liam happy, seeing how they just walked all over his closest friend.

 

“What great friends you are!” Liam continued sarcastically. “He trusted you! He was scared, but he trusted you! All of you! You’re all mad at him like he could control it, as if it’s his fault he got it. You’re running away from him, mad, when he’s the only one who should be mad at this all. The only thing you guys have reason to be mad at is the disease itself.”

 

“Then he could have told us as soon as he found out,” Harry said, unwilling to back down.

 

“It’s not that easy!” Liam shouted at the boy who grew silent under the intensity of his glare. “He needed time to accept it himself, you selfish bastard, before he would have been able to tell you guys.”

 

“Then how come you knew?” Louis interrupted.

 

“Because I cared!” Liam knew what he said was uncalled for, but he didn’t care. He knew the other boys cared about Zayn, but right now they weren’t acting like it. “I noticed something was troubling Zayn, as we all did, so I went to talk to him. And he didn’t tell me - I overheard him. But unlike you all, instead of being angry at him, I’ve been there for him, supporting him, which is what you all should be doing.”

 

Niall, who had remained silent through Liam’s seething, had burst into tears. Liam was glad; for hurting Zayn, they deserved to be hurt.

 


“He wanted to tell you, but he was scared,” Liam repeated once more, his voice a bit softer as he thought of the boy on everyone’s mind. “He has a lot to worry about now. We both thought you would help him through it, at least be understanding, but I guess we were both wrong. So thank you for being the best friends we thought you were.” he said with a snarl, turning to leave. At the door he added as an afterthought, perhaps to add insult to injury: “you better just hope he forgets about this before he forgets about all of you…”

 

Liam returned to find Zayn seated in the dining room, the table set with five dishes served with healthy servings eggs, pancakes, and bacon – save Zayn’s plate - as well as cups filled with everyone’s favorite juices. Liam could feel his heart trying not to break at the realization that even, after what just happened, Zayn still cared about all of his friends to still cook them all breakfast. He took his place beside Zayn, reaching for his hand as he rubbed it soothingly with his thumb. They ate in silence, just the two of them, though Liam could tell by the way Zayn kept glancing around the room, at the empty seats, that he had hoped the others would return and join them.

 

So Liam willingly let his heart break once more.

 

                +*+

 

Liam couldn’t remember the house ever being this silent. The day had been spent with Liam and Zayn cuddling together in the den, as Liam tried unsuccessfully to kiss away Zayn’s pain and tears, attempting to soothe the older boy’s heart ache. Those responsible for it had done their best to avoid the two, and Liam heard them leave the house together at one point at around noon. Liam couldn’t bring himself to care, only finding himself hating them for abandoning Zayn.

 

It made Liam wonder if he was being over protective, territorial, even. Sure, Zayn didn’t need any help defending himself, nor would he ever ask it, but right now he was so broken. He’d never recover from the impact his condition had left on him, and the other boys’ reaction towards it wasn’t helping Zayn’s resolve, either. Liam had thought that the others considered Zayn as their friend, their brother even, as they’ve often called one another. So then why leave? He just couldn’t understand, nor would he.

 

Perhaps they were scared, and rightfully so, but what about Zayn? As Liam said earlier, it isn’t about them – Zayn is the one with the illness, breaking, suffering, dying. If the other boys really were Zayn’s friend, if they truly cared about him like Liam did, then they would be there right now to comfort Zayn, not run off in fear like cowards.

 

And so maybe Liam lost respect for the boys he grew to love as brothers.

 

He looked down at Zayn, finding the lad had fallen asleep on top of him. Liam smiled, pressing a kiss into the boy’s temple before letting out a sympathetic sigh. Though the others may have left, Liam would stay. He had learned at an early age from his favorite childhood movie to never leave a soldier behind. Given, Zayn wasn’t a soldier, but the rule still applied nonetheless. He’d never leave anyone he cared about behind - not ever, not never - it was as simple as that.

 

He cursed under his breath as his thoughts and the silence was interrupted by the ringing of his phone. Without looking to see who it was, he answered it.

 

“You guys are some rightful dicks, you know that?” Liam spat in disgust.

 

“I love you, too, Liam,” came a feminine voice, making Liam blush with regret.

 

“Oh, hey, Danielle,” Liam said embarrassingly. “Sorry about that.”

 

“No problem, babe,” she replied quickly. “So what’s wrong?”

 

“Bleh,” he sighed. “Just a long day is all. A fight with the guys.”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry hon,” she said, genuine concern in her voice. “What happened?” Liam sighed again, unsure as to how to go about this. He hadn’t yet told his girlfriend about Zayn’s condition because, well, it wasn’t his place to tell anyone, really.

 

“Just a big disagreement, I guess you could say.”

 

“About what?” she asked, interestedly. He loved his girlfriend, honestly, and usually he admired her concern, but right now it was simply irritating due to the person’s privacy it threatened to violate.

 

“Zayn,” he answered simply, not sure as to how else he could respond to it.

 

“Is he okay?”

 

“Not my place to say, Dani,” he said apologetically, because really, he didn’t like keeping secrets from his own girlfriend. “But he has me here with him, so yeah, he’s okay enough.”

 

“One of the things I love about you,” she replied affectionately. “Always taking care of others. So what about you guys as a group? Will you all be okay?”

 

Liam didn’t respond for a moment, considering the question for all it was worth. Taking a deep breath, he answered: “I’m not sure. One Direction? No. Us guys? I’m not sure, not after today.”

 

“One Direction? Do you mean you guys are splitting up?”

 

“No,” Liam said. He and Zayn discussed it already, and they didn’t want that to happen for as long as possible, which was another few years at the least, surely. “Not yet, at least, but it’ll happen in a few years most definitely. And if the things between the guys don’t resolve, much much sooner.”

 

“Because of your fight?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Because of Zayn?”

 

“Eh…” way to go, Payne.

 

“Liam, tell me love.”

 

“I just, I don’t know. Well, it just isn’t my place to say anything. I can’t and won’t speak for Zayn.”

 

“Okay, okay,” she said defensively, reacting towards Liam’s raised voice. “Sorry I asked, just worried is all.”

 

“Thanks,” Liam said with a sigh of relief, thankful the interrogation was over. “And sorry.”

 

“No problem, babe,” Danielle assured him. “And I’m sure you’ll be able to fix everything: you always do.” Liam recoiled because if only she knew.

 

“Thanks,” Liam said again, because there was nothing else he could say about it. So he changed the subject. “So what gives me the pleasure of your call?”

 

“Is it a crime for a girl to phone her boyfriend?” she asked, her voice free of offense as she laughed softly. “I’ve just missed you, is all.”

 

Liam bit his lip. With everything happening with Zayn, he had forgotten to enjoy himself with his girlfriend. He hadn’t seen her for at least a week now.

 

“I miss you, too,” Liam replied, just as softly. “How have you been?”

 

He listens to his girlfriend as she talks about her week and dance practices while he runs fingers through Zayn’s hair. They chat with ease back and forth until out of nowhere thunder strikes, bringing rain. The sound, so sudden and close, jostled Zayn from his sleep as he bolted upright in fear, something rather uncomfortable in his and Liam’s current shared position.
 

“Ow, Zayn!” he said with a high pitched voice, as Zayn looked down at him in confusion. “Your knee… is on… my nuts…” Zayn looked down further to see what Liam meant before his eyes went wide in realization as he jumped off of him, muttering quick sorrows. Through the receiver, Danielle was howling with laughter. He found himself thankful Danielle wasn’t the jealous type. Given his job and constant interaction with female fans, as well as his close relationship with Zayn - as Danielle knew they cuddled often - and the fact that he mentioned his nuts, he was glad he heard laughter on the other end rather than yelling. But I’m not even gay so why am I worried about what she thinks of Zayn? He shrugged it off as his recent overprotectedness over Zayn as he rubbed his ‘peanuts’ to ease the pain.

 

Hearing the laughter, Zayn looked at Liam questioningly, mouthing a silent “who’s that?”

 

“It’s Danielle,” Liam replied. “She says hi,” he repeated for her. Zayn’s face lit up as he reached his hand out for the phone.

 

“Hi Dani!” he said excitedly into the receiver. Liam smiled, glad his best friend and girlfriend were both such great friends with one another. Finally free of additional weight, he eased himself off the sofa he’d been pressed against for the past few hours, stretching his aching muscles and rubbing his private parts.

 

“Yeah, I’m okay,” Zayn said, nodding into the receiver. “What all did he say?” Liam paled, forgetting about his earlier discussion with Danielle. He hoped Zayn wouldn’t get mad at him; hoped he hadn’t said too much already.

 

“No, it’s fine. The past few weeks has just been a bit tough on me is all,” Zayn said before looking at Liam. “Praise Allah for Liam, though; I don’t know how I would’ve made it without him.” Zayn flashes a smile at Liam and thank god, he doesn’t hate me. “Sorry I’ve kept him from you, though.”

 

He excuses himself to use the bathroom, leaving them to talk alone. By the time he got back, their conversation was over, and Zayn had returned to lay down in the couch, gazing at the ceiling. Noticing Liam returned, he addressed him.

 

“Danielle sends her love,” Zayn said, smiling.

 

“I’m sorry if I said too much to her,” Liam said, still worried. “I didn’t tell her about your condition, but she did ask questions and yeah,” he said, unable to continue.

 

“It’s okay, she told me, and even apologized for making you feel uncomfortable.” Liam nodded, letting a smile form on his face at the sentiment as he sat back on the sofa, positioning Zayn’s legs and feet above his lap. “She also told me to get better. I guess she heard about my ‘medical absence’ from the concert I missed.”

 

Liam just kept smiling, enjoying listening to his friend.

 

“I love your girlfriend,” he said finally, eliciting a laugh from Liam.

 

“Do you now?”

 

“Yes,” Zayn confirmed. “When are you going to marry her?”

 

“Zayn, I’m only nineteen!”

 

“Oh yeah,” Zayn said with a chuckle. “Sorry, forgot. But you have to do it soon!”

 

“And why is that?” Liam asked, interested as to why he just had to marry so young.

 

Zayn looked him in the eye before responding, “So I can be your best man and experience the happiest day of your life with you.”

 

His statement was innocent enough, but Liam understood the underlying message. He hadn’t given the future much though. To be more specific, he hadn’t thought about his future. He’d been so focused on Zayn’s to worry about his own. And it surprised Liam that Zayn had done the opposite; it warmed Liam’s broken heart. While he wasn’t sure he was ready to get married, if even he and Danielle were meant to be, he didn’t want to deny Zayn of an honor that the older boy was clearly looking forward to.

 

They cuddled together once more as the thunderstorm continued outside, this time Liam being wrapped up in Zayn’s arms. Together they watched as rain trickled down the window, slowly and without order, a seemingly odd reminder of Zayn’s Alzheimer’s.

 

“I’m sorry,” Liam whispered, his face tucked in to Zayn’s shoulder.

 

“For what?” he could feel Zayn’s breath hot against the nape of his neck. It sent chills down his spine.

 

“The others.”

 

“It’s okay,” Zayn replied. “I don’t blame you, or them.”

 

“Then who?”

 

Silence, save the constant torrent of rain hailing down from the heavens.

 

“I blame myself,” Zayn confessed after a moment. Liam shifted so that he could look down on Zayn, searching his face. Finding Zayn was avoiding his eyes, he grabbed his face, forcing their eyes to meet.

 

“Don’t,” Liam said softly, sternly. “It isn’t your fault, don’t you ever blame yourself again, understand?”

 

Zayn’s eyes were tearing up as he nodded his understanding. Liam didn’t remove his hands just yet.

 

“It isn’t your fault the others don’t understand or care. It isn’t your fault this is happening to you, so don’t you dare blame yourself. It could happen to anyone, okay? Don’t beat yourself up. You celebrate life now, yeah? Remember? Like last night?”

 

Zayn nodded again within Liam’s grip, whispering a faint “okay.”

 

“I love you, you know that?” Liam asked, before placing a kiss on Zayn’s temple as if to prove his point. He continued placing kisses around the boy’s face, whispering “I love you” between each and every one: kissing his forehead; the corner of his eyes where the tears gathered, threatening to fall; his nose; cheeks; along Zayn’s jaw; then finally resting them against Zayn’s lips.

 

The kiss was sweet, gentle, and perhaps a bit more intimate than appropriate between two best friends. though it felt harmless, natural even, the realization of what he just did made Liam’s eyes grow wide as he quickly pulled away, laying his head on Zayn’s chest. He could hear a heart beating dramatically fast, though he wasn’t sure if it was his own or the boy’s below him.

 

Silence ensued as the beating steadied, until the matter was addressed.

 

“It makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t it?” Zayn whispered, his voice small and breathless.

 

“Doesn’t what?” Liam asked, uncertain of Zayn’s thinking.

 

“Kissing me after I said I like boys,” Zayn answered slowly, and fuck, Liam had forgotten about the boy’s earlier confession amidst the drama that followed. He cursed himself for his insensitivity; he could understand why Zayn felt so unsure of himself, what with Liam pulling back all afraid like he did.

 

“You don’t have to,” Zayn continued reassuringly, trying to fill the silence. “I mean it’s okay if it’s awkward for you, I’ll understand. You don’t have to kiss me anymore; you don’t have to spare yourself of hurting my feelings.”

 

“No, it’s not that,” Liam said, looking him in the eye for good measure. “It’s not you, I promise, okay? It’s… I don’t know, but it’s not you,” he lied. It wasn’t Zayn, Liam knew, but he himself, because why have I been so caught up in kissing him so much anyways? He figures he shouldn’t be kissing the older boy as much now, lest Zayn think too much in to it but he never has before, so why should things change?

 

He and Zayn were just friends, and their friendship was strong enough to involve multiple loving kisses. Even if one of them liked boys, it didn’t matter – they could handle it; it wasn’t a problem for either of them. Right?

 

“I love you,” Liam repeated, continuing. “I mean it, even if you are gay or bisexual or whatever. I don’t care,” he added reassuringly.

 

“I just don’t want things to change,” Zayn confessed into Liam’s hair, squeezing the boy wrapped within him.

 

“Me neither,” Liam agreed wholeheartedly, not just for their relationship but for everything in general. Because he did love Zayn, as a friend, he kept reminding himself, though why it now of a sudden needed specified in the first place was beyond him - and he dared not think too much in to what that signified - it shouldn’t need to be.

 

“How come you didn’t tell me before, though?” Liam asked, curiously. It was a reasonable question: they did tell one another everything, after all. They probably knew more about the other than they did themselves.

 

“Would it have mattered?” Zayn mumbled, shrugging with indifference.

 

“No,” Liam admitted, “but still, you usually tell me things like this.”

 

“I didn’t think it was relevant.”

 

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

 

“Because we’re not dating,” Zayn said realistically. “I believe one’s sexuality is personal. I don’t think it should have to be shared, or clarified. People don’t go around asking ‘are you straight,’ so why should they ask otherwise in the first place? I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, unless, of course, they’re partnered with someone, man or woman. It’s a private relationship. Because it’s love, not just sex, and both aspects are personal between the two.”

 

“So you’re panromantic?”

 

“Oh, no,” Zayn laughed. “I’m very certain I’ll be quite sexual with my partner, lady or gentleman, but only if I’m in love with them.”

 

“Okay,” Liam said, voicing his understanding. “So, I know you said you don’t discriminate between sexes or whatever, but which would you prefer?”

 

“I don’t know,” Zayn said truthfully. “Maybe a man, I mean, I do relate to them more, naturally. Plus the love making would be much more interesting, being able to receive and give and all that,” he finished, laughing.

 

“Have you ever found someone that sparked your interest?” Liam asked curiously. He wanted his best friend to be happy, and as long as he had known Zayn, he’d been single. Liam sincerely hoped that Zayn would be able to find the love he so clearly desired, before it was too late.

 

“There was this boy…” Zayn started.

 

“Was he cuter than me?” Liam asked playfully. Zayn furrowed his eyebrows in frustration.

 

“I can’t remember,” he sighed, irritated with his condition. “But I think I may have been in love with him.”

 

“Oh really?” Liam asked, eyes bright with delight. “Tell me about it.”

 

“I can’t remember much, though, Li,” Zayn said. “But I know I enjoyed being with and around him.” Zayn grinned before continuing: “I’m certain he lit up my world like nobody else.”

 

“Oh my god, Zayn,” Liam said, rolling his eyes at the cheesiness.

 

“I’m serious, Li,” Zayn said, chuckling. “I just wish I could remember where we knew each another from. Who he was. I think there may have been a connection, but I can’t remember who it was with. What I do remember, is the feeling they gave me, sort of how I feel with you,” he whispered.

 

Liam blushed; if it hadn’t been such a raw statement, Liam most likely would have thought Zayn were flirting with him. And knowing Zayn that was possible, so he accepted the compliment.

 

“And how do I make you feel,” Liam asked, daring to learn just how he affects the other boy.

 

Zayn laughed, awarding Liam a kiss on his temple. “You already know how you make me feel.”

 

“Enlighten me,” Liam urged because I don’t even know.

 

“Alive,” Zayn said in a voice of ecstasy, as if he were suddenly daydreaming, reminiscing. “You make me feel safe, cared for, special – loved.” Loved. It came out as a whisper, a secret he wasn’t sure if he was meant to share. Liam drank it in, feeling content with himself for Zayn thinking so highly of him. It was unquestionably heartwarming, and he knew he reciprocated those same feelings.

 

“I’m certain he feels the same,” Liam said, placing a kiss on the edge of Zayn’s jaw, just because it felt right. He saw Zayn’s eyes brighten as his lips curved into a smile.

 

“I hope so,” he replied, before a comfortable silence engulfed them, accompanied by the steady rainfall outside. Liam fell asleep soon after, lulled by the touch of Zayn’s soft fingers dancing through his hair.

 

 

                +*+

 

It was still raining when Liam woke up, though considerably darker this time. Feeling the hands of the boy he just dreamed about still rummaging through his hair, he smiled.

 

“What time is it?” Liam asked, letting out a long yawn.

 

“A quarter ‘til eight,” Zayn said. “You were asleep for about four and a half hours.”

 

“Why’d you let me sleep so long?” Liam asked, craning his neck to face the boy he was situated on top of.

 

“You seemed so peaceful,” he said warmly. “I didn’t want to disturb you.”

 

“Thanks,” Liam said, yawning again.

 

“But now that you’re awake, will you please get off me? I’ve needed to take a wee for the past two hours.”

 

“Oh my god, Zayn,” Liam exclaimed, scrambling to his feet, helping Zayn up. “You should have woke me!” he laughed as he watched Zayn make a dash for the bathroom.

 

He frowned as he heard his belly make a disgruntled noise. Realizing he hadn’t ate since this morning, he made his way to the kitchen in hopes of finding something appetizing already made. He let out a disappointed groan when he noticed there wasn’t, making a quick mental note to go grocery shopping soon.

 

“So what’s for dinner?” Zayn asked as he made his way into the kitchen, taking a seat at the kitchen island.

 

“Take out, or else someone has to cook,” Liam replied, grimacing. He was hungry and he wanted food now, but both options required effort that he didn’t want to spend.

 

“Let’s cook!” Zayn says cheerfully. “I don’t wanna go out.”

 

“Fine,” Liam said. “Then what are we cooking?”

 

“What are our options?”

 

Liam looked through the refrigerator.

 

“Uhm, let’s see,” he said. “We have cold leftover pasta, salad, more leftover pasta,” he paused before moving on to the pantry. “Oh, and here we have pasta, and there’s some pasta, more pasta and what’s this?” he reached for something in the back of the pantry before bringing it out and inspecting it.

 

“Oh look, pasta!” Liam said with feigned excitement.

 

“Hmm, tough choices,” Zayn said sarcastically. “Would you like some pasta for dinner, Liam?”

 

“Nah, that’s okay,” Liam said, waving it off. “I don’t think we have enough for the both of us.” they both laughed.

 

“Let’s make something homemade. Let’s make goulash soup!” Zayn said with excitement, jumping off his chair to gather the necessary ingredients. “My mum used to make it all the time when I was younger, it’s absolutely delicious.”

 

“And do you remember how to make it?” it wasn’t an insult to Zayn’s memory, just making sure that Zayn knew how to make it.

 

“Yes!” Zayn beamed his remembrance.

 

“Okay then, what all do we need?” he asked, stepping towards the refrigerator.

 

“Uhm, about three carrots, a thing of celery, uhm… a pound of beef, and uhm onions and uhm… uhm…” he trailed off, trying to remember. “Oh, yeah, do we have any turnips or parsnips?”

 

Liam inspected the vegetables laid out in the crisper before pulling out two root vegetables.

 

“These?” Liam asked with a cocked brow.

 

“Yes!” Zayn squealed. Liam smiled at the other boy’s excitement.

 

“So how long does this recipe call for?”

 

“Uhm, about an hour and a half, almost two hours, why?”

 

Liam’s stomach answered for him, letting out a rumbling growl in response to the waiting time, making Liam blush. Zayn chuckled, responding by walking over and placing a sympathetic hand over Liam’s stomach, rubbing it slightly.

 

“I promise it’ll be worth the wait,” he said, smiling, into Liam’s eyes.

 

“It’s not me you have to convince,” Liam said, smiling back. “It’s my stomach.”

 

They work together as Zayn fills Liam in on the recipe, instructing him to help chop the meat and vegetables into their appropriate sizes. it’s fun, except Zayn tortures Liam by not letting him sneak a ‘taste test,’ stating since he’s never had it before, he has to wait until it’s finished or else it’s cheating. Liam pouted but complied nonetheless; if it tasted as good as it smelled, then as Zayn promised, it’d be well worth the wait.

 

They finish cooking at nine o’clock exactly before Zayn leaves to set the table, though not before warning of the consequences Liam will have to face if he sneaks a bite. Though he’s tempted for the promised punishment, he’s much hungrier, so he waits until Zayn returns and they take the dishes of their home cooked meal out to the dining room table.

 

Liam frowns when he notices once again that there are five dishes placed around the table.

 

“Do you really think they’ll be joining us?” Liam finds himself asking.

 

“I don’t know,” Zayn said with a shrug. “But it’s the thought that counts, right?”

 

Liam let out a quiet sigh. He knew Zayn hadn’t yet forgotten what transpired that morning, but was instead pretending things were fine. But Zayn looked happy, proud even, to have cooked such a complex meal and to be able to share it with everyone – even if Liam were the only one there to enjoy it – so instead he just held his tongue back, biting his lip.

 

He took his place next beside Zayn as the other boy was already filling their bowls up before Zayn let out a muttered curse.

 

“What’s wrong?” Liam asked, looking at the boy with concerned eyes.

 

“I’ll be right back, forgot something,” he said, before excusing himself from the table. “Don’t eat yet!” he said over his shoulder as he made his way back into the kitchen, only to return with a bottle of wine. Liam raised his eyebrows in a pointed expression.

 

“Come on, Li,” he begged. “Just for tonight?”

 

“What are we even celebrating?”

 

“Us?” he asked, as if it was an acceptable answer. “Let’s celebrate friendship and please, Li, please? It goes perfectly with the meal, okay, just say yes.”

 

“Ugh, fine,” Liam said, rolling his eyes and letting out a non-committed sigh.

 

“Yay!” Zayn shrieked, pouring their glasses up to a reasonable limit.

 

“Now may we eat?” Liam asked, his stomach grumbling as if on cue, making Zayn laugh.

 

“A toast first, yeah?” Zayn asked back, raising his glass. “To friendships forged in the past, sticking by us to the present, and driving us towards the future.” he smiled at Liam, who raised his glass back.

 

“To friendship,” Liam agreed, as they clinked their glasses, taking a sip.

 

Then, finally, Liam was able to eat and oh my god, this is amazing!

 

“Oh my god, this is amazing,” because telling himself it just wasn’t enough.

 

“Is it really?” Zayn asked, unsure of himself yet smiling at Liam all the same. “You really like it?”

 

“Mmm, yes,” was all Liam could say as he continued to treat himself to edible goodness.

 

“Good,” Zayn said with a sigh of relief. “I was afraid you wouldn’t enjoy it.”

 

“No,” Liam said, putting his fork down. “It’s amazing! It really is; I wish you would have made this before. You should cook more often.”

 

Zayn beamed at him, feeling confident once again, as he began to eat his own creation. They talked amongst themselves for the duration of their meal, discussing food and recipes and favorite dishes. They were halfway through eating when the sound of a door opening and closing interrupted them.

 

Liam and Zayn looked up to see the other three boys walk into the dining room, probably on their way to their rooms.

 

“Hi, guys!” Zayn addressed them with a happy demeanor, smiling widely. “Care to join us? We made goulash soup, it’s really good.” he took another mouthful of soup as if it’d prove his point.

 

Liam glanced back at the boys, noticing them stiffen, before Niall stepped forward to take his place at the table. Seeing Niall join in seemed to be enough motivation for the other two, who filled their spots with wary expressions.

 

“Did you guys have a fun day?” Zayn asked; he wasn’t one for a silence at the dinner table.

 

“Eh,” Harry said, staring into his bowl, clearly waiting for something, anything, to happen. This encounter obviously hadn’t gone as expected.

 

“Where did you guys go?”

 

“You know…” Louis offered.

 

“Yeah… just out…” Harry finished. Niall was silent, save for the hungry slurps he made while eating.

 

“Sounds… exciting?” Zayn asked. The three boys just nodded as an uncomfortable silence dropped over them. After a few minutes of everyone eating in muteness, save the occasional clinks of ware against porcelain bowls, Zayn let out a strained sigh.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said, and everybody stared at one another before looking at Zayn questioningly because what did Zayn even have to be sorry for?

 

“For this morning, I mean,” he explained. “For everything.” he leaned back in his chair, no longer interested in his food, as he played around with the remnants of his soup.

 

“We thought… hoped… you had forgotten about that already,” Louis said a moment after.

 

Zayn glanced up at him and offered a sad smile before saying, “it doesn’t work that way, I’m afraid.”

 

Harry cleared his throat. “How does it work?” Liam could tell by the hoarseness of his voice that the green-eyed lad was wrecked with guilt.

 

“Uhm, well,” Zayn said, not certain where to begin. “basically, it’s a progressive disease, I guess, though one without order I don’t think, and it just takes over my brain pretty much, destroying brain cells, wiping my memories, and impairing my abilities until it doesn’t anymore,” he explained.

 

The lads looked at him as he corrected: “until I don’t anymore.”

 

“And there’s nothing we can do to stop it?” Harry asked.

 

“Afraid not, Hazza,” he answered with an indifferent shrug. “After my memories are gone, it’ll start to go after the parts of my brain that control my body functions. My motor skills, my ability to walk, breathe, all that. The disease progresses into a terminal illness.”

 

“How long do you have?” Niall asked. Always the blunt one. “Ow!” he said, glaring at Louis who had apparently kicked him beneath the table.

 

Zayn chuckled at them.

 

“I’m not sure. Most people have up to ten years,” he started, the boys nodding in response, “but then again, most people are much older than me. I have early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and even for that I’m rather young. my brain hasn’t even fully developed – I’ve still got about five or six years left on that – so it’ll go a lot faster doctor Elisha reckons. Maybe five years, at the max?”

 

“What?” it was Liam who spoke up this time; this was news to him. Zayn ducked his head, refusing to meet Liam’s eyes.

 

“The onset is rarely diagnosed on time,” Zayn explained, his voice small and fragile. “Often people may notice it, but not think too much of it, assuming it’s because of stress or depression or something. I read that people just try to deny it for as long as possible, deny that it can’t be anything other than those, despite the frequency it happens.”

 

“So you’re saying you’ve had this for years already?” Louis asked.

 

“We think so,” Zayn answered him. “We being Elisha and I. I’ve been quite forgetful since before I met you all; since I started puberty, really.” he began scratching the back of his head as a distraction.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said again, though looking Liam straight in the eye. Liam shook his head, taking Zayn’s hand.

 

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Liam said.

 

“Yeah,” Harry joined in, taking Zayn’s other hand. Zayn turned to look at his and Harry’s intertwined hands as Harry went on, “we’re the ones that are sorry.”

 

Louis reached over the table and placed his hand over Harry and Zayn’s, squeezing gently; Niall did the same on his side, wrapping his around Liam and Zayn’s.

 

“Will you forgive us?” Harry asked, his voice cracking.

 

Zayn looked up at him, noticing the redness in Harry’s eyes, before scanning the other faces positioned at him, finding them all equally distressed.

 

“Of course,” Zayn whispered, easing the pent up tension with a small smile.

 

“Whew,” Harry exasperated with a sigh of relief. “You have no idea how good it is to hear you say that. We felt so guilty after this morning, we almost didn’t want to come home.”

 

“Why is that?” Zayn asked, curious.

 

“Because of Liam,” Niall said, shoulder bumping the boy of subject. Zayn looked at him as he blushed in embarrassment, reflecting on the unkind words he said that morning.

 

“We figured he’d kill us no matter what,” Louis explained. “If we didn’t come home or apologize, or even if we did, for what we did this morning.”

 

“well I’m glad you guys came home,” Zayn said reassuringly, “and I’m pretty sure Liam wouldn’t be able to kill any of you if he tried; he cares about you all too much.” Zayn offered Liam a quick wink, making Liam smile a bit.

 

“I dunno,” Harry said, laughing awkwardly, “When it comes to you, Liam can be very defensive. Frighteningly scary, in fact. He said some pretty hurtful things this morning.”

 

“But we’re glad he did,” Niall added quickly. “We deserved it.”

 

“Yeah,” Harry and Louis said simultaneously.

 

“See, Liam,” Zayn said, grinning mischievously. “I told you we had reason to celebrate, and it’s all thanks to you!”

 

“What were you celebrating?” Louis asked.

 

Liam smiled his fascinating smile at Zayn, squeezing his hand, and he answered the other Louis’ question for Zayn.

 

“Friendship.”

 

And so with reconciled friendships, it was Liam who decided that another toast was in order, as Zayn said his speech once again. Today had been a clear testament of their collective enduring friendship, and gave Liam hope that they’d all be able to get through this together. And thus Liam found himself going to bed the same way he awoken that day – content with life and satisfied for all he had and the love surrounding him.

 

 

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...