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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5. V

 

The past week had been crazy, Zayn had decided. A pure emotional roller coaster, one he wasn’t riding alone. Many things had happened due to Zayn’s actions that had tested his friendship with the others, and he was glad that they succeeded.

He had finally come out, expressing his interest in males. While he never thought of it as important before, never thought it’d be necessary to confess his attraction to other males, he was glad that he did. Certainly, he didn’t think much of it, as what he said about finding love and keeping it personal came straight from his heart, but he couldn’t help but feel proud to know that his friends accepted him nonetheless. Even more, he was happy that his close friendship with Liam did not change because of it.

The thing that immediately overshadowed his abrupt coming out parade was his announcement of his condition. Needless to say that, just like his coming out, it had not happened in a way he planned or expected. The opportunity just presented itself, and so he took it willingly. His momentary relapse in memory only strengthened his admission.

What had followed had been equally unexpected. When Zayn imagined himself letting the other boys in on his secret, he expected understanding and hugging and crying. He didn’t consider the fact that they may be hurt and offended and subsequently angered by keeping such a big secret from them. It hurt to know that they felt that way, to know that they were mad at him for a condition he couldn’t control.

But things worked out, and for that he was glad. Within a day his friendship was tested in ways he never imagined. The pillars that initially held them had been torn down in grief and anger, only to be rebuilt anew with a strengthened foundation made of increased love and confidence.

Zayn had three of the greatest friends anyone could ask for, and on top of that, he had Liam, who had been nothing but supportive for the past few weeks, for the past always. With that knowledge, Zayn was no longer as scared as he had been before. He wouldn’t be alone, as Liam had promised; he had loving friends that would be there with him every step of the way until all was forgotten.

Rather than fear how long that would be, however, Zayn had decided it best to simply celebrate them and their friendship for all it was. He hated the fact that they sometimes looked at him as though he were fragile – he wasn’t an invalid, nor was he dead yet. He knew they were just worried, that they cared, but they were doing it in ways that made Zayn feel as though he were already dead. He just couldn’t handle them coming to him with his condition on the tip of their tongues. But he was willing to be patient, to let them come to terms with it on their own, to pull themselves out of their denial and come to accept fate for fate.

And they were, slowly yet surely, which is how they ended up accompanying Zayn to his next doctor’s appointment, if only to prove to Zayn they truly did care and were dedicated to stick by his side.

“Well, hello,” Doctor Elisha said as she walked in, giving a surprised glance around the unexpected additional visitors situated throughout her office.

“I told the guys, and they really wanted to join me today,” Zayn said with confidence. “Some more than the others,” he chuckled, giving Harry a knowing glance. Harry’s face took on a furious shade of red as he looked away shyly.

“Well then, I am very pleased to know you have finally confided in your friends. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but you will need their help to get through this.” she gave everyone a reassuring smile, as the boys leaned in to wrap around Zayn.

“So, then,” she continued. “I take it one of you will be Zayn’s caregiver?”

“A what?” Louis asked.

“Zayn will need a caregiver, someone to look after him and help him with basic and complex needs. While I don’t expect him to need one immediately, you never know when he may forget something essential, or get lost or something – anything. The caregiver will be there to provide support to the sufferer, Zayn, and they will help him through the duration of the disease, to clothe, feed, transport, et cetera. It is a full time job within itself.”

The guys all glanced at one another in silence, but Liam spoke up.

“Naturally, I will be.” he wrapped an arm around Zayn and leaned in to him.

“Are you sure?” she asked questioningly. “You can hire someone to look after him – it is a big responsibility and will be quite taxing. Being a caregiver is not an easy task, especially if you have such a close bond.”

“What do you mean?” Niall asked.

“Well,” she began as she took out a pamphlet and passed it around. “Caregivers are usually in a constant state of worry. They will blame themselves frequently for things out of their control, and often sink into deep depressions. while the caregiver will attempt to focus all of their attention and energy on the sufferer, often they forget about their own needs, pushing it off as unimportant in comparison to the sufferer’s needs. This is not true: as a caregiver, the most important thing you should know is that the most important person is you.

“The caregiver will need to take care of their own needs before that of the person in their care. If they do not, then it will affect poorly on them both. It is common that the caregiver forgets this, and thus the caregiver dies for the lack of attention they’ve paid themselves. Not only will it end the caregiver’s life, but it may also cause extreme problems for the sufferer they were meant to care after.

“depending on how far along the sufferer is, how much they’ve forgotten, the caregiver may be the sole person they trust, and it could be near impossible to replace the caregiver with someone the sufferer doesn’t know or cannot remember.

“Aside from death of the caregiver, you should know that in due time, your life will revolve around his. Your personal wants will need to come last, priority being your own needs followed by the sufferer’s. There may come a point where the sufferer is unable to be anywhere other than by your side – it is hard for some to accept, the lack of personal space being part of it, but it is a must.

“Additionally, though in close space with the sufferer, you may feel completely alone and isolated. Depression will come, swift and painfully. It is recommended that caregivers seek some sort of counseling to help them through this, as well as the sufferer.

“Basically, if you are serious about being Zayn’s caregiver, then you accept the fact that your life will revolve around them, that you’re basically giving up your own for however many years, and focus completely on them. Outside friendships and relationships may become strained due to it, as well. Are you utterly committed to being Zayn’s caregiver? If not, as I said, paid caregivers are available, and may be easier for you all to manage, saving you all for the emotional turmoil that will be guaranteed.”

Listening to her words, Zayn grew increasingly agitated. With what she had said, he didn’t want any of them to be his caregiver, especially Liam. He knew Liam cared about him, but that would be too much to ask of the younger boy, much more than Zayn was willing to allow. He refused to process the idea of Liam being an emotional wreck due to Zayn’s condition, and he knew that Liam would be too worried about Zayn to take care of himself. Zayn just could not allow Liam’s health to deteriorate just so the younger lad could take care of him.

But Liam spoke right after Elisha finished, without missing a beat.

“No, we’re not going to have a stranger take care of him, I will.”

“What?” Zayn asked, disbelief etched on his face and sounding through his voice. Did he not just hear her? He turned to face the younger man. “Liam, you can’t, I can’t let you, I won’t…”

“You don’t have to,” Liam said defiantly. “But I’m going to anyways.”

“Liam…” Zayn said, shaking his head.

“Let’s give them a moment, yeah?” Harry asked, as the other boys got up, murmuring their agreement. “So, doctor Elisha, is it? I have a pain, right here…” he said, grabbing her hand and placing it on his chest, above his heart, as they walked out of the room, closing the door behind them.

“You’re not going to talk me out of this,” Liam stated matter-of-factly, as soon as they were alone.

“But Liam -“

“No but’s, Malik.”

“Liam, you can’t do this, it’s too much. You heard what she said!”

“I don’t care what she said,” he said softly with indifference. Reaching out to place both his hands on Zayn’s shoulders, he stepped closer, pressing their foreheads together as he continued.

“All I care about is you,” he whispered, pressing a kiss into Zayn’s temple.

“But Liam, I know you, and you’re going to do exactly what she said a caregiver shouldn’t do: you’re going to worry about me too much and not take care of yourself. I don’t want you to take care of me at the expense of your own health and happiness.”

Liam smiled sweetly at that, letting his hands drop from Zayn’s shoulders and into the older boy’s own hands.

“I know,” he whispered, “and you’re probably right. But I still don’t care. I’m going to take care of you just like I promised, okay? And I’ll make sure that I take care of myself, too, that way I don’t leave you lost and alone. It’ll make me unhappy if someone else does when I know it should be me. I’m going to take care of you, you just have to let me.”

“But why, Liam? Why do you want to do this? Why would you want to just drop everything in your life?”

“Because,” he whispered again, smiling this time as if the answer were obvious. “It’s you, and I love you, and no one would be able to take better care of you than me, and I know that if the situation were reversed, you’d do the same for me.”

And Zayn could only cry in response, because Liam was right – Liam was always right. Liam did love him, Zayn knew that, and he couldn’t deny the fact that no one would be able to take better care of him than Liam would - indeed no one has ever cared for him like Liam has – and if the situation were reverse, had their roles been different, Zayn would have argued the exact same points Liam had.

Had the situation been reversed, Zayn most certainly would not take “no” for an answer.

“I love you, too,” he whispered back, squeezing Liam’s hands for added effect.

“So does that mean you’ll let me be your caregiver?” Liam smiled through his words.

“It’s like you said,” Zayn replied, mirroring Liam’s grin. “If the situation were reversed, I wouldn’t take no for an answer.” Liam laughed at that.

“We’re going to get through this, okay?” he kissed Zayn again, taking his tears away. “I promise.”

“But how can you be so sure? How can you be so confident when you know what to expect is nothing positive?”

“Because it’s us,” he answered knowingly. “We’re going to do this together, just you and me. I don’t care that it will be difficult, I don’t care that you’re going to die, well I do but you know what I mean… it’s there, it’s going to happen, but until then I just want to be with you and take care of you like I promised, okay?

“You’re my best friend, Zee. I’ll do anything for you if it’ll make you happy, you know that. it doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow or the next day or anything in the future, all that matters is you’re happy and safe and loved right now and every now after, but only when we get there.”

Liam’s words had broken Zayn in ways unimaginable, due to the intensity of the love they carried, along with the emotion resonating from the younger boy’s voice. Most people would assume that the greatest thing to happen to Zayn was entering the x factor, and subsequently being a part of one direction, but Zayn would argue that no, the best thing that ever happened to me was Liam James Payne.

Because how perfect was Liam? So sweet and caring and full of love, always there at the drop of a hat when Zayn needed him, and never far from reach when Zayn didn’t need him. Zayn loved Liam, and he was glad to have such a supportive best friend.

“I don’t want to lose you, Liam,” he confessed, because really, Zayn was nothing without Liam, he knew that now.

“You won’t have to,” the younger boy assured him with a soft kiss of the lips. “I’m not going anywhere.”

 

                +*+

 

“So Liam is going to be your caregiver, then?” Dr. Elisha asked. They were alone in the room, Elisha having asked to speak with her patient in private.

“Yeah,” Zayn mumbled his answer, nodding his head. She gave him a worried glance.

“If you’re not comfortable with the idea, then we can find you another caregiver.”

“No, I’m fine with Liam being my caregiver,” he said quickly.

“Really?” her voice betrayed her skepticism.

“Well, sort of. I know it won’t be easy, nothing will be easy with this,” he laughed nervously. “But it’s Liam, and he’s always taken been there for me, and he just can’t not take care of someone he loves.”

“So how do you feel about that?”

“I’m worried beyond belief, actually. I don’t want him to get hurt or suffer like you said caregivers do, and I know he’s going to. I just… I wish it’d be easier, I hope things won’t get too out of hand, for his sake.”

The doctor studied her patient keenly for a full minute before Zayn let out a nervous cough.

“What?” he asked, flustered against her stare.

“I’m just considering your relationship with Liam is all.” Relationship. For some reason Zayn couldn’t grasp, the word stuck out amidst the others.

“He’s my best friend is all,” he said softly with a fond smile, gazing at said boy through the glass windows.

“Sure,” she said, sounding seemingly skeptical. “If he is going to be your caregiver, then, you two will need to fill out some paperwork that I can have drawn up, that way he can properly manage your estate and finances when you become unable to.”

“That’s fine,” Zayn nodded. “I trust him. He already has access to most of it, anyways.”

“Okay, and have you discussed what you’re going to do with your career?”

“Bleh,” he huffed. “We don’t want to break up until I can’t perform adequately, which won’t be for a while, right? But either or, our management team knows, but Simon said he’d sue me if I don’t make it through to the end of our contract.”

“And when does that end?”

“In four years.”

Silence. Elisha looked at Zayn as if he had lost his mind.

“I know what you’re thinking, Elisha: I clearly don’t have four years, but I would really not want to waste the rest of my time fighting a losing battle.”

“It shouldn’t be a losing battle, not when medical reasons are involved, especially for conditions like yours. I’m afraid to say it, but you may end up in one sooner than you think.”

“Why is that?”

“I took a look at your scans from your last visit and compared them to that of your first one. The scans show major deterioration between the two. Frankly, it’s a rather alarming rate at the how fast it is accelerating.”

“I don’t remember much Urdu,” Zayn offered. “I know I was fluent in it, and I still remember a bit of words, but not much.”

“When was the last time you spoke it properly?”

“Eh, since I was ten? I haven’t really spoke it since I was a child, I guess. I did occasionally on family visits, though, but not much.”

“it’s quite unusual that you can recognize you’ve forgotten something, though I suppose it does make sense if it is something like a language, still having memories of speaking it fluently and then suddenly not remembering certain words.” Zayn just shrugged.

“So then how long do I have?”

“It’s still hard to be sure, but judging from the rate of acceleration, I’d say no more than a year or so, two, at the most.”

Zayn suddenly became extremely light-headed. Two years was a lot less than any of them initially imaged, and two years wasn’t even guaranteed, that was just if he was lucky. His head was pounding abruptly with the knowledge.

“Okay,” he managed to whisper, though his voice was small. There wasn’t much else he could do but accept the fact he was going to die quicker than expected. He looked up and saw his friends outside the room and realized that more importantly than dying, he was going to forget them sooner than expected. His eyes caught Liam’s, and it took all of Zayn’s willpower to turn away so that the younger boy wouldn’t see him cry.

He didn’t want to forget Liam that soon.

Elisha got up and wrapped a comforting arm around him, pulling him in for a close embrace, offering her shoulder for the young singer to cry on.

“It’ll be okay,” she insisted, rubbing his back as he continued to sob. “You have four great friends out there ready to help you through it, and one loving caregiver, right?”

“Ye... yeah” he mumbled between his sobs.

“I wish I could tell you that you’ll get through it just fine, but we both know that isn’t true. But what is true is that those guys love you and will help you every step of the way, alright? They’ll help take the pain away, help you adjust. It’s hard right now because you know what to expect, but it’ll be easier as it goes on, once you start forgetting. It may sound harsh but it’s true, and all of you may be thankful for it at some point.”

“I guess…” he sniffled. No longer crying, he pulled himself away. “Thank you.”

“For what?” she asked, eyebrows knitted in confusion.

“Words of encouragement and comfort.”

“Don’t thank me. I’m your doctor, it’s my job to make you feel better, and I’m already messing that up.”

“Aren’t doctors caregivers?”

“In a sense, yes, why?”

“Because a very incredible doctor once told me that caregivers may often blame themselves for things out of their control.” Zayn smiled as he watched Elisha let out a warm laugh, blushing.

“Then thank you, Doctor Malik, for making me feel better.”

“Anytime.”

 

                +*+

 

The energy in the stadium was electrifying, Zayn thought, as he gazed at the sea of people before him on stage. Here he was, in his natural born element, singing on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans; he couldn’t imagine himself being anywhere else at that moment.

The energy wasn’t just exhilarating, but intoxicating. It gave him a high that smoking did not, and he loved the sensation it brought. He immersed himself in it, letting it carry him as he sung his heart out.

This was part of his job, and he loved it completely, especially to work and perform and act like a complete idiot during a sold-out concert with his four best friends. What could be better?

Unfortunately, the concert was coming to a close. They just finished singing Zayn’s favorite song, “Tell Me a Lie,” and had just two more songs before it’d all be over for the night. Next being “More Than This,” followed by their signature song, “What Makes You Beautiful.”

I’m broken, do you hear me?” Liam’s voice sung across the stage. Zayn loved this song. Rather, he loved singing it with Liam. Their vocals, their solos, were just made for one another in this song, Zayn figured.

When he opens his arms and hold you close tonight, it just won’t feel right…” Harry sung. Zayn made his way to center stage to join his slowly swaying friends.

If I’m louder, would you see me?” Niall sang, seated on the couch. Zayn found himself standing next to Liam, the younger boy’s eyes bright and happy.

And when I see you on the street…” Zayn wrapped his arms around Liam, who made his knees weak in time with the song, falling to the ground on his knees, making Zayn laugh.

When he opens his arms and holds you close tonight, it just won’t feel right…” they sung collectively, Zayn reaching out to help Liam back up. Arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders, they sang out to the audience, until Zayn’s solo began.

I’ve never had the words to say,” he sang, removing himself from Liam’s embrace as he turned to serenade the younger boy, a tradition they kept. Certainly, this was why he enjoyed singing this song with Liam.

But now I’m askin’ you to stay, for a little while inside my arms,” he belts, pulling his arms around himself in a self-embrace.

And as you close your eyes tonight,” he continues, pointing at Liam, “I pray that-”

He freezes.

His mind blanks.

His eyes grow wide.

He doesn’t remember the next words.

The words he’s sung hundreds of times before.

The words he co-wrote.

He forgot the words.

The words he’s meant to be singing.

Right now!

It takes but a second for his band mates to realize what’s happening, and already Louis is finishing Zayn’s solo, while Niall took Liam’s as the younger boy ran to Zayn’s rescue, escorting him back stage, leaving behind a crowd of thousands utterly confused.

Liam!” he shrieked, tears already flowing freely. “I’m so sorry! I don’t know what happened! I knew the words and I was singing them and then just, I couldn’t, they weren’t there, I couldn’t remember, I’m so sorry!”

“Shh,” Liam lulled, cupping Zayn’s head and brushing away the older boy’s tears away with his thumbs. “It’s okay, it’s wasn’t your fault.”

“Yes it was!” Zayn wailed. “I can’t believe I forgot the words, that was so embarrassing and I’ve let you all down, I’m so sorry!”

Liam looked at him sympathetically before taking his hand and leading a distraught Zayn to their dressing room, where they’d be free of questioning glances from the back stage crew. Once alone, he sat Zayn down on the sofa, seating himself next to him and taking the tanned hands within his own.

“I’m sorry,” Zayn mumbled again. “I’m so so sorry, you guys must hate me.”

“Zayn,” Liam said in a wounded voice. “Don’t say that, stop telling yourself that. We don’t hate you, okay? We know what to expect so that if stuff like this happens, we’ll be able to fix it. It’s not your fault.”

“Yes it is, if it wasn’t for me and my stupid disease then you guys wouldn’t have to deal with any of my crap.”

“If it wasn’t for you then we wouldn’t be where we are now,” Liam tried to convince him.

“Exactly! If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have had to take me off stage.”

“No,” Liam corrected patiently. “If it wasn’t for you there wouldn’t be a one direction. You had your Alzheimer’s before then, so stop beating yourself up. And it isn’t your fault regardless, it could happen to anyone and you know it. We’ve talked about this. Why are you beating yourself up so much after this?”

Zayn didn’t answer. Why did Liam always have to be so nice? So caring and gentle? Why couldn’t he just yell at Zayn and tell him how much he hates him, how much he’s ruining their lives by being such a big bother.

“Zayn?” Liam asked again in a much softer tone, squeezing Zayn’s hands in hopes of a response. Zayn looked away, and Liam just let out a small sigh before leaving the sofa.

Zayn couldn’t do this, it was too much already. He had humiliated himself and his friends on stage, and Zayn just knew things would only get worse from there. It was already bad enough that he knew he’d be the cause of one direction splitting up, due to his inability to fulfil the band’s needs. Unless, of course, they found someone to replace him. He wasn’t sure if they’d do that, and he tried not to think about that too often.

But still, he couldn’t help but think he was holding his friends back. He knew how much they loved singing – it was everyone’s shared passion, that’s why they auditioned for the x factor in the first place. And because of me and my stupid condition, they’re being robbed of their chances of advancing further into success.

Liam returned next to him, bringing with him a box of tissues. Wordlessly, he offered them to Zayn, who took one graciously.

“Thanks,” he mumbled before blowing his nose. Despite the disgusting noises he was making, Liam stayed next to him, looking at him attentively with unobtrusive attachment. Zayn felt he didn’t deserve the younger boy’s affection, but convincing Liam that would be a battle Zayn didn’t feel like having.

“You know we don’t think you’re holding us back,” Liam said softly, as if he had read Zayn’s mind mere moments ago. But then again, this was Liam, and Liam knows everything about Zayn – he could read him like an open book.

“Well I feel like it,” Zayn found himself saying. “You guys would be better off without me.”

“No, we wouldn’t,” Liam whispered, though this time with a warm smile. “You, sir, are irreplaceable. We couldn’t substitute you even if we wanted to, which we don’t.”

“But why not? It was all of your dreams to be big and sing and I’m not going to be able to do that anymore.”

“Because it was your dream too,” Liam reminded him, “and we’ve been in this together since the beginning, all five of us. There is no One Direction without you, and none of us – none of us – would want to live our dreams without you.”

“You’re just saying that…”

“Zayn, stop it,” Liam ordered, though his tone was still gentle. “You know that isn’t true so just stop trying to deny it. Don’t blame yourself for everything you can’t control and more importantly, don’t push us away whenever something like this happens.”

Liam’s sincere words made Zayn fall silent and look away.

“Don’t push me away,” Liam mumbled his plea, snapping Zayn’s attention back on Liam, whose eyes now threatened to produce a waterfall of tears. Zayn cursed himself at the sight, for in his moment of self-loathing he had unintentionally hurt his dear best friend.

“Li, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean- I’m sorry, please, please don’t cry Liam -” too late. Now he had even more reason to hate himself – not only had he hurt Liam, he made him cry, too.

“Shh, don’t cry, Li,” Zayn whispered, taking Liam into his arms, pushing his head against his chest. “I’m sorry, love, I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean to hurt you, just please stop crying, Liam.” he placed a series of kisses on the younger boy’s head as he said his pleas; it always pained Zayn to see Liam cry, and when the he did cry, Zayn cried along. It’s just how things worked.

“I know you didn’t,” Liam croaked, “but you can’t do that, you have to let us help you. You have to let me help you, you can’t do it on your own.”

“Okay,” Zayn promised, “alright, I’m sorry, Li, just stop crying. I promise, I’ll try not to shut you out.”

It took a moment for them both to relax, as they gently caressed the tears off of one another’s faces.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” Liam said.

“Don’t be sorry, Li, it wasn’t your fault,” he assured him.

“It wasn’t your fault, either,” Liam said, gazing into the older boy’s eyes with a serious expression.

“It was none of our fault,” Zayn said with growing confidence.

“That’s right,” Liam smiled as he softly kissed Zayn once more that night, this time on the lips. It was sweet and delicate, pure and innocent, nimble and comforting – all things Liam. Zayn let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding in as Liam finally pulled away. How he managed to make Zayn feel alive, even when he wanted to do nothing more than crawl into a deep abyss of eternal darkness, Liam was always there to make it all better, to kiss it all better.

Liam was the light within the darkness of Zayn’s life. Even when Zayn felt utterly hopeless, even when he tried to shut everyone out and secluded himself, Liam’s light would always shine through, inspiring him along.

“We’ll get through this,” Zayn said. “Together.”

“I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

They smiled at one another, giggling at their puffy faces, forgetting the world around them until they were joined by the rest of the boys, bringing them back to earth.

“Are you okay?” Harry asked as he entered the dressing room, Niall and Louis in tow.

Zayn looked at Liam, who squeezed his hand.

“Yeah,” Zayn said confidently. “Are you guys? What happened after we left?”

“We finished the concert of course,” Louis said.

“Liam was worried that something like this might happen, though none of us believed him,” Niall explained.

“But it’s a good thing that he made us prepare anyways,” Harry said, thanking Liam. “We all went through the songs and re-arranged solos, in the event that you forgot mid-concert. Then naturally, Liam would escort you out leaving us three to cover for you two.”

“You guys really have everything planned out, don’t you?” Zayn asked, mesmerized by the amount of care his friends were giving him, simply because they loved him.

“Well, not everything-,” Niall began, but was cut off when both Louis and Harry slapped him up side his head. “Ow!”

“But mostly, yes,” Liam finished for the Irish lad, chuckling at the shenanigans. “And whatever we don’t have planned, we’ll figure it out and deal with it when the time comes, right everyone?” the three boys nodded their heads in agreement. Zayn’s heart warmed significantly.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you guys,” he admitted.

“Don’t feel bad,” Liam said for everyone, “’cause we don’t know what we’d do without you.”

 

                +*+

 

Management was more than displeased with Zayn’s mid-concert memory loss. It had caused quite a significant media scandal. the tabloids were filled with ‘reports’ exposing reasons and speculations as to what happened that night, most baring ridiculous notions of Zayn experimenting with drugs, which apparently explains his frequent visits to the hospital and constant fatigue.

As usual, he ignored the nonsense. One of the good things about his disease, Zayn realized, was that he’d be able to forget about the stupid things in life rather quickly, what with his short term memory ebbing away. He should probably be more worried, but with him between being the recipient of constant hate and frequently being misjudged, he couldn’t care less. Stuff like that just didn’t matter, and so he forgot them quicker than most.

Still, management was unhappy, and an unhappy management resulted in five unhappy boys, and that specific set of five unhappy boys resulted in millions of unhappy fans, which in turn left an unhappy management even unhappier. It was an unending and chaotic cycle.

Naturally, Zayn was blamed, because apparently he was intentionally sabotaging his own career, that he wanted to be humiliated in front of thousands of people, that he could choose when he forgot something and what that something would be.

He was certain that that wasn’t the case, but he knew well enough not to argue it at that point. Plus, Liam convinced him that he was done beating himself up for stuff like that.

“If you can’t help it, then fuck it,” were Liam’s exact words. And as always, he was right. It was just like Elisha had said, you can’t blame yourself for something out of your control. If he did, it’d only make things harder for everyone. It was a tough lesson to learn, and one he’s certain he’ll end up facing again someday, but Liam promised they’d get through it together, so Zayn decided not to worry.

Instead, he tried to focus on what the new expectations his managers were presenting to him.

it turns out that he had forgotten more than just the lyrics of more than this, and try as he might to re-learn them, he’d forget them soon after. It was frustrating for everyone; for management to keep pushing him to remember, for Zayn to try hopelessly to retain it, and for the boys to sit helplessly as management ignored their pleas to cut Zayn some slack.

so then, rather than cancel any performances, since the cost of refunding tickets was apparently worth more than Zayn and his health, his management team turned to lip syncing.

The notion was as foolish as it was embarrassing; Zayn was not a lip syncer. He was born with a natural ability to sing, and he was quite good at it. But deep down, he knew he had no choice, there was just no alternative.

Lip syncing had proved much different than singing. There was no passion, as it was more acting than it was expressing. Zayn quickly decided that you can’t just act a song. Singers expressed themselves through their words; they let their voices free as it touched other people’s hearts and souls. Actors expressed themselves through their actions and expressions, but with a dialogue to guide them.

Lip syncing was silent, and only required him to pretend that he were singing, but he couldn’t just act it out if he couldn’t sing, couldn’t express himself the same way. The idea was equitable to a mime singing an opera: though his face may move, no sound would come out, thus making it dull and boring.

It held no passion.

And it showed, as he took the stage again. Though he had practiced his lip syncing for a week, the lack of passion was clearly evident. The heartfelt voice just did not match the detached face Zayn couldn’t get rid of.

So it gave the press something new to report: after five shows of dispassionate lip syncing, Zayn had been called out. He thought that surely that would’ve been the end of it, that management would have finally decided to give up, but he couldn’t have been further wrong.

Management’s new plan was to dispel the rumors by stating it was just a technical error, a delay in his headset. They attempted to remedy it by having Zayn cover songs he remembered acoustically outside the studio.

The plan worked.

And so Zayn found himself lip syncing once again. The press still noticed the difference, but with the knowledge that Zayn’s voice was still in perfect condition, they backed down. Thankfully, the concert days ended quickly after, and he wouldn’t have to worry about another concert or tour for at least a year.

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