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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6. VI

 

The house was filled with laughter as Liam watched Zayn play with Lux. Zayn had volunteered to babysit the little angel to give Lou a day off. It was just the three of them, as Louis was off on a date and Niall went golfing and Harry, well, Harry claimed he was sick and needed medical attention immediately, though apparently he wasn’t sick enough as he refused to allow anyone to call an ambulance or take him there. Liam just shrugged – he was certain he didn’t want to know what the younger boy was up to.

He continued to watch Zayn as the raven haired boy sat next to him on the couch, pulling Lux up onto his lap as she took to playing with both his and Liam’s hands, smiling happily.

“Ready to watch a movie?” Zayn asked her playfully. Her response was a bubbly shriek, in which Zayn returned with a chuckle, pressing play on the remote.

Liam closed his eyes as he heard the unmistakable Disney castle intro play, hoping to catch a quick nap.

Alright everyone,” his eyes snapped open. “This is a stick-up, don’t anybody move!” Zayn let out a bark of laughter beside him.

“Oh my goodness, Li,” he giggled. “You should have seen your reaction, it was classic!

“You could have told me you were going to play this,” Liam blushed as Lux laughed at the giant potato toy on screen.

“Surprise!” Zayn teased. Liam gave him a soft shove, though he ended up pulling him closer together as they snuggled with Lux and watched Toy Story.

By the time Buzz Lightyear landed on Andy’s bed, Lux was sleeping soundly, sprawled across Zayn’s lap. He drank in the sight – he realized that that may have been the first thing to ever distract him from Toy Story – as Zayn smiled down softly on Lux, rubbing her small arm gently.

“You’re really good with her,” he observed.

“Yeah?” Zayn asked, looking at Liam with a glint in his eyes.

“Yeah,” he reassured. “With kids in general, actually.”

“I’ve always wanted one of my own,” Zayn whispered sadly, returning his attention to the baby in his lap. Liam didn’t know how to respond to that, and so he didn’t. Instead he tried to focus back on the movie, but he kept getting distracted by Zayn and Lux beside him.

It wasn’t that they were doing anything bothersome, or in fact doing anything that would warrant significant attention, but perhaps that was just it – that they looked so normal.

If Liam were honest - which he frequently was to anyone but himself, something about humility and naïveté – then he’d say that it made him feel slightly uncomfortable.

It wasn’t as though he wanted to deprive his friend of wanting to father a child, but that he knew Zayn had already been robbed of that chance. Zayn wouldn’t want to have a kid only to forget about them, Liam knew, no matter how great of a father Zayn would be. It just wouldn’t work.

But looking and him and Lux, the bond looked so natural, even if Lux wasn’t Zayn’s child. The care and love Zayn emanated was breathtaking – it always was, not just with Lux, but any kid and person Zayn took to.

Except it was impractical, and Liam wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

Relief that it’d be one thing less they had to worry about, yet regret that Zayn would be denied the experience of a lifetime.

They both knew that it wouldn’t work out, that that chance would never be possible.

That didn’t mean they couldn’t hope otherwise.

 

                +*+

 

It’d been two weeks since their last concert, a week since he helped Zayn babysit, and Liam was exhausted. He knew he had no one to blame but himself – he let his care and worry over Zayn increase exponentially as he noticed the younger boy forget more and more. Everything was just progressing faster than he expected, and he was having troubles coping with it.

He tried not to let it affect the others, and while the other guys didn’t take notice, Zayn did.

Your pretty face is wearing thin, love,” Zayn had remarked that morning, before Harry informed him that he was going to watch after Zayn to give Liam a much needed break.

he was hesitant, and tried to resist, claiming he was fine, but Zayn wasn’t having any of it, and off Harry and Zayn went for a day of fun around London, leaving Liam alone with the promise they’d return later and to “try not to worry, Hazza will take care of me”.

He was too exhausted to feel anything other than mute gratitude, as he made his way to his room and collapsed on his bed in hopes of wasting the rest of the day away in nothing short of hibernation.

Fate had other plans.

He got maybe five minutes of rest before his cell phone rang. He decided to ignore it, letting the noise die out, until it started again. letting out a groan he answered it, again without looking to see who was calling – he intended on cursing them out for interfering with his rest.

“I’m trying to sleep,” he rumbled into the speaker.

Well stop trying and get dressed, we’re going out today.”

“Oh, hi Dani,” he said meekly. “Can I do a rain check? I am so so so tired.”

No,” she shot back impatiently, “you cannot. You’re taking me out because I haven’t seen my boyfriend in nearly two months and you’ve hardly had time to talk to me in over one.”

“Right,” he responded, a bit remorsefully. “Alright, fine, I’m getting up – I’ll pick you up in twenty.”

And as much as he didn’t want to, he got up, got dressed, and got ready for a date, if only because he felt guilty for neglecting his girlfriend.

 

                +*+

 

Danielle already had the date planned out: they were going to catch a movie then go dine at some posh restaurant, followed by a walk in the park because ‘it’s a romantic way to end a date’.

Liam was still too exhausted to care, so he let himself be dragged across the city and to the cinema. Danielle picked some romantic comedy he hadn’t seen the trailer for, but Danielle claimed it was supposed to be promising.

He could feel Danielle’s constant stares, glancing at him expectantly throughout the movie. He wasn’t dumb; he knew what she was doing. She wanted the comfort of her boyfriend and she was longing for affection, for him to wrap an arm around her and forget the movie and just kiss her.

But he just couldn’t – he was simply too tired to care. All of his care was being spent on Zayn, whom he was thinking about during the duration of the flick, worried about if the older boy was safe or not. He knew Harry was there with him, and it should have brought him comfort but it didn’t, because Harry was Liam, and no one could care for Zayn like Liam knew he could and did.

And it wasn’t like he meant to be cold to Danielle, he didn’t, it’s just that it was complicated and he didn’t care to explain it even though he knew he couldn’t regardless. He tried not to notice the rejected look on her face as the theatre lights brightened at the end of the movie.

Dinner wasn’t much better. The conversations were short and far in between. Liam was sure he looked tense, his agitation showing, as an awkwardness surrounded them. He could tell others noticed, by the many looks they were receiving. He could tell they knew that this night wasn’t going the way any of them planned.

So the dinner and movie had been ruined by silence, but that was acceptable on walks through parks, right? Just being in the company of your other half was supposed to be enough to make you feel content, complete, but Liam still didn’t feel that way. Instead, he felt like his other half was god knows where doing god knows what getting into god knows how much trouble with Harry; he only hoped Zayn was okay. He hadn’t heard from either of them all day and he was growing increasingly worried.

“Liam?” a small voice beside him called out. Liam looked at the source and for a moment he was shocked to see it belonged to Danielle – he had been so deep in thought and worry that he had momentarily forgotten about her, that they were on a date. He let out a small chuckle at that, because he wasn’t supposed to be the one forgetting things, Zayn was, yet when he wasn’t with Zayn it was as if the only thing on his mind was said boy. It was an interesting reflection.

“Yeah?” he questioned.

“Are we okay…?” she asked, unsure of herself. And there it is, the beginning of the end.

“I think so, yeah, why?” he lied. They weren’t okay, he knew that, but he couldn’t bring himself to say otherwise; too much effort and care would be spent on such actions.

“Because, today, the past couple months… we just haven’t been us,” she explained.

“What do you mean?” he asked, and really, he didn’t know why he was involving himself in this any more than he figured was safe.

“You’ve just been so out of it,” she said hoarsely. “You haven’t paid me any attention in forever, and then today, the first time we’ve actually seen each other in god knows how long, you ignored me the whole time.”

Liam didn’t respond, unsure of what to say. He had been expecting this since they left the restaurant, but it was still unsettling. Even worse, he still didn’t care. And that bothered him, that he didn’t care that he was pretty much destroying their relationship. It’s just he had no effort for it anymore, and he was already struggling to keep up with Zayn. It was just too much for him.

But he couldn’t explain that, not really, not completely at least. He was trapped.

Liam,” she begged, her voice cracking as her eyes welled with tears. “Liam, please – are we okay? Are we… are we going to work out? Will we be able to fix this?”

The moment he looked at her, he instantly regretted it. She was so desperate, clinging to him as he was breaking her heart. He felt bad for her, he really did, but it would be better this way, easier.

“I don’t think so,” he whispered sadly, directing her to the bench as he wrapped her in his arms. Surely, this isn’t the typical behavior a couple shares when they break up; the soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend comforting the girl. But Liam wasn’t a typical boyfriend, and he still loved and cared for Danielle. The problem was it just wasn’t the same, their love for one another. Liam knew it wouldn’t last; it wasn’t strong enough. It wouldn’t make it through Zayn’s condition.

“Why?” she sobbed. “What did I do? Liam, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please, I’ll change, I – please Liam please…”

“It isn’t you, love,” he promised, placing a friendly kiss on the temple of her head. “Believe it or not, as cliché as it sounds, it’s me.”

“I don’t understand, Liam,” she said. “Li, please, don’t do this to me, don’t to this to us.

“Dani,” he responded firmly, though his voice was still gentle. “I’m doing this for us. It’d be better now than later.”

“How can you say that?” she screamed hysterically, removing herself from his arms as she stood up to get away from him. She regarded him coldly before continuing. “What even happened to us? Where did we go wrong?”

“Dani, it wasn’t you, okay, it’s me, me and Zayn and-”

“What?!” she shrieked. Her eyes were wide and her jaw was dropped and Liam was a bit afraid that he would soon understand the saying, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

“You’ve been cheating on me with Zayn?” she exclaimed.

“No! it’s not like that,” he defended quickly, and really if that were the case then he’d be able to understand her resentment, considering it was Zayn that set the two up; Zayn and Danielle had formed quite a close friendship over the years. “It’s just that Zayn, he needs me right now.”

“Constantly for the past two months?” she fumed lividly.

“Yes,” he answered without missing a beat. “He does.”

“What about me? Your girlfriend? What about my needs?”

“His…” he closed his eyes, bracing himself for the fury he expected to follow his words, “are more important.”

Suddenly, his face was very warm and his cheeks felt stunned. It took a moment for him to realize that he had been slapped, and damn, he never knew she was quite so strong.

He looked at her and felt a pang of pity. She was furious and broken and distraught and Liam realized he was losing more than a great girlfriend, here, but a loving friend.

“Danielle,” he said, reaching out for her.

“Don’t -” she yelled, swatting his hand away, and oh, if looks could kill. “ - touch me. Don’t you dare touch me again, don’t even talk to me, just take me home.”

So he did, and the silence between them throughout the ride made the rest of the night seem so loud in comparison. He stopped outside her flat, but before she left he just had to apologize.

“I am sorry, Danielle,” he said. He meant it, too. He never meant to hurt her; he’d never intentionally try to hurt anyone. It just had to happen, before things got harder.

“Did you ever even think of me during the past two months we’ve been apart?” she asked in a voice that held an equal amount of hope and hurt.

But she didn’t stay for an answer, instead she got out of the car and ran into the building in a mess of tears.

So he went home, and Zayn was back and Zayn was happy and that made Liam happy, too.

 

                +*+

 

Sometimes Liam is jealous of Zayn, jealous of his condition, and while no normal person would ever want to have such a horrible disease, Liam finally found himself longing for it. He wanted to forget things. Rather, he wanted to forget her. She had been important to him for a long time; she gave him her heart, and he had broken it. In the end, she wasn’t important enough, at least less important than Zayn was.

That fact troubled him, though, because sure, Zayn was his friend - his best friend, no doubt - but she was his girlfriend. It just didn’t make sense to him; it wasn’t adding up. He had picked a friend over someone he could’ve spent the rest of his life with, and certainly, Zayn’s days were numbered. But then again, that’s one reason he felt he was right with picking Zayn, because their relationship would have expired against their will in due time.

With him and Danielle, they had control over it; with him and Zayn, their destiny was sealed by fate. If Liam wanted to, and Danielle accepted him back, then they could get back together, after Zayn wasn’t there to be taken care of any longer.

But Liam wasn’t that naïve. Danielle wouldn’t take him back, and frankly, he wasn’t entirely sure he’d want to go back. They loved one another at one point but they were never in love. He figured he loved Zayn more than he loved Danielle.

Which only brought him back to his earlier internal struggle as to why he picked him over her, because yeah, he did love Zayn, but why did he feel he loved him more than Danielle? Was it because they knew each other longer? Because they spent more time together? Because they were so different yet so alike in so many ways?

The thoughts were torturous, and one of the people responsible for them was now pulling him down into bed. For some reason that Liam knew but would not presently acknowledge, he had practically moved into Zayn’s room, as their growing need for one another became more apparent. Elisha had once described this as “dependence” and stated it was quite common within the relationship between caregivers and the sufferer, though she said it in a knowing way that hinted at something more than medical, something he was sure he recognized but again, would not acknowledge.

“Babe, what’s wrong?” Zayn queried as they laid in bed together, facing one another on their pillows.

“Hmm?” he hummed, assuming it’d make him seem more innocent lest his voice betray him.

“You’ve been different all week,” Zayn commented.

“Oh…” he said.

it was silent for a moment as Zayn opened his mouth and closed it, seemingly debating on if he wanted to say what he was thinking until –

“I’m sorry about your breakup,” he blurted, his eyes soft and sad.

“What?” Liam yelped in surprise. “How did you even find out?”

“I know you,” he said with a grin. “you’ve been acting different since you got back from your date, and then I got worried and I called Danielle to find out what was up but the phone call didn’t go as well as I had planned…”

“Wait, what?” he said instantly, his voice full of worry. “What did she say?”

“Just a lot of expletives, mostly ‘fuck you, I fucking hate you you fucking fuckhole’.” Zayn let out a laugh as he recited her words. “Between those, though, she told me she never wanted to talk to me or have anything to do with you again.”

“Oh,” Liam breathed out. “I’m sorry you got put into that situation.”

“It’s no problem,” he insisted, before his face turned serious with concern. He reached for Liam’s hand as he placed it within both of his own, right between them. “Are you okay, though? What happened, love?”

“We just weren’t working out,” he shrugged.

“Li,” Zayn began softly.

“It’s fine,” he insisted, not wanting to go in to it too much. He’d much rather leave Zayn out of his personal crises, as the older boy already had enough to deal with.

“Was it because of me?” Zayn asked, his voice faint and laden with guilt. Liam could tell the question wasn’t directed to him alone, but Zayn seemed to be questioning himself. It hurt Liam to know that Zayn blamed himself for this.

“No,” he said, bringing Zayn’s hands up to kiss them. “It wasn’t.” it was a lie and they both knew it, but none of them challenged it. The truth was, it was because of Zayn, due to his condition and Liam needing to be there for him. Yet as much as it was a lie, it was equally honest, because Liam choose to be there for him. He wanted to care for Zayn.

“I’m sorry,” Zayn explained as he pulled his hands away. With tears in his eyes, he turned around on his side, his naked back now facing Liam. That was the first night since the accidental confession that they went to bed without being in one another’s arms, and Liam suddenly found his heart hurting intensely for reasons he couldn’t fathom.

And then it broke as he heard Zayn’s muffled cries beside him. For the first time in their relationship, he didn’t know how to comfort the other boy, to tell him it’d be okay. Because it was different this time, and while it had enough to do with Zayn, it had more to do with Liam and Danielle, and Liam wasn’t sure how to feel considering his breakup broke his best friend’s heart, too.

And so before he fell asleep, he thought back for the final time on the last thing Danielle said to him.

Did you ever even think of me during the past two months we’ve been apart?”

Liam knew the answer, and wondered if it should surprise him or offend him, but it didn’t, neither of them.

The answer was no – all he thought about was Zayn.

And that’s all he thought about as he drifted to sleep.

Zayn.

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