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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7. VII - Zayn

 

Zayn loves his tattoos. Though he can’t remember why he got some of the ones he has, he knows that the purpose behind them must have held significant meaning if it resulted in to him getting it permanently inked across his body.

Because he’s Muslim, and he knows that it’s forbidden, and while it should have stopped him, it never did.

The tattoos were memories, some of them he no longer remembered. He knows they’re important, though, just by looking at the one he got in honor of his grandfather. Or the microphone, because singing is his life, it’s helped him become what he was today. Then there’s the peace sign, because he was a peaceful person.

And then there’s the yin-yang symbol, which may be his favorite. Being as philosophical as he was, he quite liked the idea of two opposites balancing one another, dependent on one another for their own survival. If there wasn’t one, there couldn’t be another. It’s often relatable to good versus bad, but Zayn laughs at that idea, because they both inspire one another. Good could neither be understood nor defined if darkness didn’t exist, nor could a shadow exist without light.

But Zayn believed that it could also be relative to two people in love. When two are in love, they’re bound to one another forevermore. In such a relationship where emotions are so raw and powerful, they end up depending on one another in ways they may not always realize. Together, they bring out the best and the worst of one another, and together, they make it through anything.

While he wasn’t in love yet, he had hoped he’d be able to find someone to evoke those sort of reactions. for someone to be able to light him up, making him happy, one to calm him down when he was at his worst, as well as one to get him riled up and angry at times so that it’d make it more real.

So maybe it was confusing to understand, but then again, whoever said philosophy was easy?

Still, Zayn’s tattoos held meaning to him, and they were permanently bound to him, which meant his memories would be preserved even if he forgot them. Which is why he decided he wanted four new ones.

“Why four?” Harry asked as he munched on an apple at the kitchen bar.

“’cause,” Zayn said, taking a bite of his cereal. “There’s four of you guys.”

“Okay,” Harry dragged out. “What’s that s’posed to do with anything?”

“I want you guys to come up with something, like a message or a design or whatever, so I can get it inked.”

“Why?”

“Because tattoos are permanent,” he answered, “and it’ll stay even after I forget you guys.”

“Ohhhh,” the curly haired boy said. “I guess that makes sense.”

“Just something that’ll remind me of you or whatever, or of us, I don’t care.”

“Hmm,” Harry hummed.

“No penises, either,” he added quickly, fixing the younger boy with a stern look.

“What?” Harry exclaimed, feigning innocence and gesturing to himself wildly. “I am offended! What even makes you think I’d do such a thing?!”

“Because when I invited you with me to get my microphone tattoo, you switched my design with your own, and that was the design,” he said, chuckling at the memory.

“Ah, you still remember that?” Harry laughed, giving Zayn a pat on the back. “Good times, eh?”

“I can’t believe you were genuinely upset that I caught it in time and changed it back.”

“Well, yeah! You ruined everything!” Harry pouted, though his lips were still turned in a grin.

“It’s okay, Hazza,” he nudged. “Just make it more appropriate and meaningful, ‘kay?”

“Fine,” he sighed. “But you’re taking the fun out of it, so you know.”

“Fun outta what?” Niall asked as him and Louis entered the kitchen.

“Zayn wants to get new tattoos!” Harry supplied. “Four of ‘em, all based off of us.”

“You mean like our faces?” Louis asked as he did a vogue shot of his head.

“Nah,” Harry laughed, throwing his apple core at the elder boy. “It has to have meaning, and apparently penises aren’t meaningful.”

“Still upset about that, are you?” Niall chuckled.

“Always,” Harry pouted some more. “It wasn’t just a prank on you, Zayn, you selfish bastard!”

“Oh, really now?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow curiously.

“Yes,” Harry said, playfully shoving him with his shoulder. “I just wanted to see management’s faces was all,” he said cheekily.

“I wouldn’t,” Liam admitted, making his entrance known.

“Good morning, Li,” Zayn greeted, offering a warm smile, to which the younger boy responded by placing a kiss on the top of his head.

“Good morning,” Liam whispered into Zayn’s ear. “So what are we talking about?”

“Zayn wants new tattoos!” Niall answered.

“With no penises!” Louis added.

“Has to have meaning!” Harry finished sarcastically.

“What they said, added emphasis on absolutely no penises.” Zayn said.

“’Tattoos’? How many tattoos are you thinking about getting this time?” Liam asked.

“Four,” Harry replied for Zayn, who just nodded with a smile as his friend took over. “he wants one for each of us, cause stuff like tattoos being permanent and never fading and holding meaning that penises don’t have so when he forgets about us the tattoos will still be with him, on him, and he’ll forever more have just one penis,” he finished with a sigh.

“I think you’re obsessed, Haz,” Zayn chuckled softly. Harry just shrugged, flashing him with a grin. Turning to Liam, he continued, “Just something to remember you guys by, I guess. Like I don’t remember why I got some of my tattoos, but I know they were important, and yeah, you guys are important and if I’m going to mentally forget you, we can make it to where I won’t physically, if that makes any sense at all.”

“Course it does, buddy,” Liam said gently.

“For mine, you’re getting Oshawott,” Niall said decisively.

“Who?” Louis asked.

“it’s a Pokémon Zayn said I was, cause I’m cute and cuddly and the most amazing person you’ve ever met and you wish you were me because Oshawott is the coolest ever,” he declared proudly.

“I’m not sure I remember saying all that,” Zayn considered, laughing at the Irish lad’s humor.

“You didn’t,” Louis said. “You said I was the most amazing.”

“And that I’m the coolest,” Harry continued.

“I guess that makes me cuddly?” Liam pondered.

“And cute,” Zayn added.

“Hey! But what about me?” Niall cried.

“You’re Oshawott!” they all said in unison, making everyone burst into laughter.

“I guess I’m okay with only being Oshawott,” Niall shrugged.

“I want you to get a little kitten face for me,” Harry said after a moment of consideration.

“Why a kitten?” Louis questioned.

“Because, I like cats and Zayn’s a pussy for not getting a penis tattooed,” Harry answered matter-of-factly, making everyone double over as their laughter intensified.

“I suppose that works, Haz,” Zayn replied after his laughing fit subsided. “A little cartoon Hazza head with cat eats, how’s that?”

“Purr-fect,” Harry replied.

“So how ‘bout you, Lou?”

“I’m not sure, yet,” the Doncaster boy admitted. “Give me a bit to think about it, yeah?”

“Sure thing, Lou,” Zayn said. “And you, Liam?” he questioned, especially curious as to what Liam’s idea would be.

“Gonna go with Lou, here, and ask for a rain check?” Liam asked back, though offering a small smile to express his guilt, since the matter was obviously important to Zayn for personal reasons. Still, though Liam meant no harm, Zayn managed to feel a pang of disappointment that his best friend couldn’t think of something to summarize their friendship instantaneously.

But of course he wouldn’t say that, so instead he smiled back. “Of course,” he said coolly, and tried to ignore the skeptical look Liam was giving him.

 

                +*+

 

Even though Zayn hates hospitals, despite the fact he has visited one frequently for the past few months, he absolutely loves children, which is why Zayn felt particularly cheerful to be participating in a charity event the management had set up for them that morning with the children’s ward. They’d just go in, make an appearance, and hang out with all the kids and have a laugh for a couple of hours.

Only this time, Zayn felt that this gig was much more important, much more personal. The children they all were visiting were suffering from various types of cancers or other terminal illnesses. While the other boys would only be able to try and cheer up the kids, Zayn would be able to sympathize with them, because he, too, was experiencing similar problems.

And so he made it his mission to make sure he gets a smile from every child that day. Children were something precious to Zayn, something he desired to have for himself but couldn’t, and if he wasn’t able to cure them of their illnesses, he could at least make them forget about their worries through the medicine of laughter, right?

He hoped so. He knows it differs by person, but for him, at least, when Liam made him smile, he’d forget about all of his problems and just reveled in the moment. Sure, he enjoyed having fun with his other friends, but it just wasn’t the same as when it was just he and Liam, and he just couldn’t figure out why that was.

Still, these children were suffering, and they needed care, so he devoted all of his attention to them that day, forgetting about the rest of his friends and just losing himself in company of those whole could relate with him. It didn’t take an exchange of words for them to sympathize with one another, just an underlying emotional understanding.

There were hugs and tears and laughter and even more tears, as Zayn comforted his new friends and they comforted him back. Whispers of better days were exchanged, as well as secret hopes of the future, one they all knew they wouldn’t live to see but one they couldn’t help fantasize over. There was singing and dancing and color book masterpieces, even a karaoke session. He even taught some kids how to read.

Before Zayn knew what was happening, the doctors informed him that visiting hours were almost over. He looked up from the bed he was laying in – the occupant of the bed, Emily, had asked for a bedtime story to be read, and Zayn graciously obliged – to find Liam waiting for him to take them home, as the others had already left hours ago.

He looked down on Emily, small and frail, and placed a kiss on her bald head before getting out of bed. He prayed that Emily would make it through her cancer and come out stronger than before.

 

                +*+

 

“It was such an amazing experience,” Zayn said to the camera during his nightly video dairy. “The children, they were all full of life, and even though they were all suffering from various illnesses, they didn’t let it affect their attitude or happiness. It was really awe-inspiring.” he hadn’t been able to stop replaying the day’s events over in his head. As soon as he got home he was singing and dancing down the halls, making everyone question Liam as to if he was okay or if insanity was just a side effect of Alzheimer’s.

“And then this girl,” he reflected, “Emily, her name is. She’s suffering from leukemia. She’s been in the hospital for six months now, but she’s convinced that she’ll get better. The doctors disagree, though, and apparently so does the rest of her family. It was heartbreaking to find out that they don’t visit her often, that they’ve practically given up on her.” he found himself crying then, unable to comprehend how parents could be so uncompassionate.

“Like, I get how it may be hard for them, but what about her?” he sneered.It’s going to be harder for her to have to go through that all alone. It’s scary facing stuff like that alone, and it isn’t fair to her. But luckily, she’s strong and stubborn. If Emily thinks she can get through it, then I believe her. I really hope she does, though, she’s so beautiful and talented, and she deserves to have a good life.”

He continued offering his insight into today’s events as Liam toed his way into the room quietly, not wanting to interrupt Zayn while he was wrapping up his entry. Once Zayn was done, he made his way to his bed, joining Liam who was already sprawled out in exhaustion.

“What’s wrong, Li?” he asked, chuckling at the younger boy.

“Children,” Liam said simply.

“Oh?”

“Mhm,” Liam hummed. “They’re too active.”

“Or maybe you’re just too old,” Zayn teased.

“Hey! You’re older than me and you don’t seem worn out in the least,” Liam noticed.

“I have the stamina of a concert performer, don’t you?”

“Yes but children are different,” Liam argued. “They climb all over you and make you run and stuff and don’t give you the chance to catch your breath.”

“That they do,” Zayn chuckled, pulling Liam into his arms.

“How are you not tired?” Liam wondered. “You were with them for ten hours – we only needed to be there for two.”

“Sorry,” Zayn shrugged, not truly sorry. “Got carried away I guess. Kids just give me a unique energy I suppose.”

“You did look like you had a lot of fun today,” Liam reflected.

“Yeah,” Zayn agreed. “I did.” he felt content with his life then, happy he made an impact on a group of kids while a contemplative silence swallowed Zayn and Liam in bed.

“Zee?” Liam whispered.

“Yes, Li?” he whispered back.

“I don’t think I’m ready,” Liam admitted slowly.

“Ready for what?” Zayn asked.

After a moment, Liam said, “to lose you.” Zayn felt the younger boy tense within his arms, and so Zayn tightened his embrace, snuggling his head into the crook of Liam’s neck.

“Why’s that?” he breathed into Liam’s ear.

“Because,” Liam had started, but had to pause as he tried to figure out which of the millions of reasons he wanted to voice. “Just after today, I guess things hit close to home or something. You seemed so happy and your smile was so bright and I’m not ready for that brightness to leave my life yet.”

“It’ll be okay,” Zayn insisted.

“No it won’t, Zayn,” Liam countered stubbornly. “I’m not ready for this. I’ll never be ready.”

Zayn realized that there were no words he could say that would placate the younger boy, so instead he comforted him physically, wiping Liam’s tears away and soothing him to sleep. Once he heard Liam’s soft snores, he let out a huge sigh. He had thought that as time gone by, things would get easier, but it wasn’t, because they were getting closer.

He reflected on his relationship with the boy entwined within his arms. He wondered what it’d be like to forget him. It seemed unimaginable to forget Liam, his best friend, but Zayn know it was inevitable. With that realization, he suddenly felt scared. it’s the most he’d been frightened since learning about his Alzheimer’s condition, and he finally realized the unknown fear he was referring to on the rooftop that night many months ago: he wasn’t scared of what he was forgetting, he wasn’t even scared of what he would forget – he was only afraid of who he would eventually forget.

And he finally recognized with a sinking feeling in his heart what the source of his insurmountable fear was, as he tried hopelessly to remember when and how he ever forgot falling in love with Liam James Payne. Liam was the yin to his yang – Liam completed Zayn in ways indescribable.

It brought a smile to his lips, because Liam was right, as he always was. Although his mind no longer remembered that he was in love, his heart never forgot. 

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