Behind the Lens

When Emma moves to London with a job at Syco Records and the boys from One Direction as her new neighbors, she is thrilled with the new, positive change of pace in her life. But when Emma starts to fall for Niall, will he reciprocate her feelings? And if he does, will Emma's past haunt her, keeping her from moving forward, or will Niall be what she needs to finally see herself as more than just the disaster behind the camera?

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1. Moving In

 

I had finally finished unpacking my things and setting up my new flat. It was big, and had a great, open layout. I sighed happily, finally in a place all my own. I was living in a flat in the middle of London's busiest district. Syco Records was just a few minutes' drive up the street, and the Thames wasn't much further. In fact, I had landed a position at Syco Records after signing on to be a photographer for whatever artist they decided to pair me up with: that being how I could afford to live in such an amazing flat in such a pricey part of London.

The floors were hard wood -cherry, I believed- and the walls of my flat were bare brick, most dark, rusty red, but some so faded they were almost gray. The only wall that wasn't brick was the one that separated my flat from the one next door. Whoever lived on the other side was my only neighbor, as I had a corner flat. I planned to use that wall as a sort of art project. All I needed now was some spray paint and a good idea. But that could wait, because now I just wanted to go sit out on the balcony of my new home until my recently purchased furniture arrived.

I slid the glass door open, deciding to see what I could do about giving it a sort of stained glass effect. The moment the door was opened, I became distinctly aware of two things: first was the frigid, late-autumn air, and second was the raucous laughter coming from the balcony of my neighbor.

Outside sat a small, round, wrought-iron table, with four matching chairs. I had no one to share them with, but that was alright. Moving to London was a fresh start for me, and a fresh start included making new friends. Maybe I'd have some decent coworkers for the more elaborate photo shoots, and if not then maybe the artist would at least be pleasant. Maybe I'd be put in the stage crew for the artist, and my fellow crew members might not be too bad.

Thinking to myself about the prospects of new friends, I sunk into one of the chairs facing out towards the view, not directly facing my neighbors, but not completely facing away from them, either. I was shy and didn't want to outright introduce myself, but I wanted to give them a chance to see me and make the initial interaction.

I hid my grin as I heard my hopeful little plan working. Out of my peripheral vision, I could see a group of people. From the sound of their voices, there were only guys. That was fine by me; I was more of a tomboy than a girly girl anyway. I couldn't tell how many there were, but I was beginning to hear them point me out to each other.

I ducked my head down and bit my lip happily when I noticed one of them standing up and walking over to the railing that separated our balconies. They must've been studying me and sizing me up before they decided to say anything, so I raised my head and looked over to see a surprisingly familiar face. The kind smile that had been on my face quickly slid off in a moment of utter shock. "Oh!" I squeaked.

Standing on the other side of the railing was Harry Styles. I wasn't one of those Directioners or anything, except that I secretly was. I was a little in awe seeing him standing right there. Enough so that I didn't notice that the other boys were sitting in the chairs behind him until they began coming to stand by him one by one. Each time a boy stepped up, I got a little more star struck.

"Hi," Harry grinned.

I swallowed hard, pushing down my nerves, and smiled at them. "Hi, I'm Emma Chambers." I stood up and took a step toward the railing, extending my hand.

"Harry Styles, at your service, love," he said, taking my hand and kissing it like a Renaissance gentleman, looking in my eyes the whole time. I know I blushed. I just know.

"Zayn Malik," Zayn interrupted, swatting Harry away and taking my hand. "And I apologize for our friend here. He's er, had a lackluster love life, recently. He's pretty much willing to take anything with two legs and a pretty face." Oh, hello blush, old friend. I see you've returned again.

"Not just anything with two legs. Some of us are special!" Louis cried, throwing his arms around Harry, who proceeded to throw his leg around Louis' and make some rather hilarious -and mildly vulgar- sounds.

I laughed. "And hello to you, too, Louis," I giggled.

"I'm Liam Payne." Liam introduced himself quietly, with a soft smile playing at his lips as he took my hand and gripped it firmly.

"Hi, Liam," I smiled at him. I didn't so much mind the volume and energy the others had, but it was nice to know that at least one of them contained a little bit of normality to him.

"And that makes you Niall." I turned to him, not really needing to pretend like I didn't know who he was. After all, I kind of had a massive fangirl crush on him.

He took my hand and gave me a small smile I knew was meant to hide his braces. "Nice to meet you, lass."

"Lass?" I giggled. When his face immediately dropped in embarrassment, I quickly amended, "Oh! I didn't mean to offend you! I've just never met anyone who's ever actually called me lass! It's--it's cute, really! Endearing, even. Oh god, I'm sorry. And now I'm completely embarrassed."

I noticed that ours hands were still clutched, and his hand, a decent size bigger than mine, was extremely warm and soft. He gave my hand another squeeze, maybe in thanks, at least that's what I hoped, and slowly pulled his hand away.

He gave me a smile just a little bigger than before. "It's alright. Lass." He grinned.

"So! Who's apartment is this?" I asked.

"That'd be me," Niall said, raising his hand. "Liam is next to me, then Zayn, then Stylinson, of course."

I chuckled. "I love that you use those nicknames, too," I admitted.

Harry hopped the railing separating us. "Mind if we take a look around, love?" he asked.

"Don't be such an intruder, mate," Niall laughed.

I waved my hand dismissively. "It's not a problem. But I'm still waiting for my furniture to be delivered, so really all there is to look at is the dishes in the cabinets and my photos on the walls."

"Photos?" Louis asked, hoisting himself over the iron bars.

I nodded. "I'm a photographer."

"Let's go see!" Louis and Harry cried, not waiting for the other guys to climb over and join us.

I followed them in and stood by the door while they walked around, admiring my flat.

Liam came to a stop in front of a black and white picture I'd taken last year at my brother's wedding. It was of our sister's six-year-old daughter, who had been the flower girl. The picture depicted her smiling and laughing, tossing up a handful of light pink rose petals. The petals were caught suspended in the air, and everyone around had been smiling brightly. They weren't caught in the photo with my niece, but I remembered the memory fondly. It had been the calm before the storm.

"This is amazing," he admitted. "When was this?"

"My brother's wedding last summer. That's my niece, Sasha."

"Damn...." Harry mumbled. He stood in front of a photo I'd taken at my Sweet Sixteen. We'd had it on the roof of my family's old building. It showed the purple and lime green paper lanterns that were strung up around the perimeter of the roof and my best friend and her high school-sweetheart-turned-husband as they slow danced in each others' arms. This one was full color, and beautiful.

"You're amazing," Niall blurted.

"Definitely," Zayn agreed.

"These are insane. Tell me you're professional," Louis begged.

I blushed. I knew I was good, but I still tried to maintain a certain level of modesty. "I actually just signed at Syco Records as a photographer," I admitted.

All of the boys' heads snapped over to me. "Really?" Harry asked excitedly.

I nodded my head shyly. When it came to praise, I immediately got self conscious. Which made no sense, but when has the female mind ever been synonymous with sense?

"Photo shoots or tour?" Zayn asked.

I shrugged. "They'll tell me when I start tomorrow. I just moved in today when they sent over the papers saying they were paying for my flat here."

"You got moved in in a single day?" Louis questioned.

I bit my lip. Back story or no back story? "Let's just say that there wasn't a lot of packing to do." That would just have to suffice.

"Where's your bedroom?" Harry asked with a wink, effectively changing the subject and back tracking to his previous attempt at flirting.

I rolled my eyes. "It's down the hall. But I've got no furniture, as you can see, and that includes a bed. And," I checked the digital clock I'd set up to make do until I'd had time to get everything settled in, and saw that it was going on 10 o'clock, "it looks like I'll be without until at least tomorrow, because the movers didn't make their window tonight."

"Why don't you just crash on Niall's couch tonight?" Liam suggested. "I'd suggest mine, but I've got company, and I wouldn't suggest Louis and Harry's flat, and Zayn will probably have company later tonight," Cue a pointed look I didn't need explained, "plus Niall's is closest for you to come back and get ready in the morning. We can even take you to the studio, if you like."

"Oh, I couldn't ask that, I just met you!"

Niall shrugged. "It's no problem. And I'm the nice one; I don't bite," he grinned.

I giggled a little. "Are you sure it's no trouble?"

"None at all, lass!" he assured me. "I wouldn't mind having some company that isn't any of these wankers."

"Oh, you love us!" Louis cried, throwing his arm over Niall's shoulder and nuzzling into the crook of his neck.

"Yeah, yeah. It'd still be nice," Niall laughed. "If you're up for making friends with a rowdy boy band, that is," he added, looking at me.

"Sure," I nodded with a smile. "I could use some new friends." 

 

"Ooh, drama?" Louis sniffed out.

I laughed. "Nothing for you lads to worry about, believe me."

Louis nudged Niall's shoulder. "You've got her tonight. Weasel it out of her, yeah?"

Niall shrugged. "If she wants."

Louis blinked at Niall. "Who are you? Gossip, Nialler, we want gossip! Be an obedient little leprechaun!"

I saw Niall wince at Louis' words, but he let it slide, plastering and close-lipped smile onto his face. "I'll see what I can do just for you, Louis."

"Yes!" Louis shouted, fist pumping the air.

Seeing Niall's uncomfortable expression after Louis' joke, which I was sure he meant harmlessly, I laid a hand on Niall's arm and said, "Well, it's been great meeting you all, and we'll have to make sure to hang out, but I'm pretty beat from moving in and what with my first day at a new job tomorrow, how about we call it a night?"

I received a chorus of agreements, and noticed the grateful look in Niall's eyes.

We all exchanged the usual when friends disperse, and I received hugs from each of the boys before they all headed back through Niall's flat while I found some pajamas and got myself ready for bed. When I was bed-ready but presentable, I headed outside and over to Niall's flat.

"Niall?" I called out.

"I'll be out in a minute," he called.

So I glanced around the flat and plopped down on the couch. A moment later, Niall came out with a plain white tee shirt and sweat pants on. "You can have my bed if you like," he offered.

I shook my head. "Absolutely not. The couch is just fine for me, thank you."

He eyed me. "Well then I'll at least stay out here and keep you company. Hold on while I get some blankets and pillows." He left again, returning a minute later with his arms loaded down. I leapt up and jumped to help him, relieving him of a large white comforter with a black design and a body pillow.

I tossed them on the couch and noticed: "Where are you going to sleep?"

"On the floor," he shrugged.

"No!" I argued.

He smirked in a nonthreatening way. "It's my flat, lass."

I scowled. "That's a dirty trick, Horan."

"I know," he smiled childishly.

After setting up our sleeping areas, me on the couch and Niall on the floor, I turned out the lamp, which had been the only illumination since I'd come into the flat. I'd have to get a better look at the place in the morning.

Laying in the dark and hearing Niall's breathing was so soothing that when he spoke, it startled me so bad I jumped, nearly jerking my pillow off the couch.

"Thanks for earlier."

"What do you mean?" I asked, even though I was pretty sure he was referring to Louis' earlier comments.

"He's usually better about jokes like that," Niall said, knowing I'd get eat he meant just from that.

"I could tell he didn't mean any harm. But I could also tell when the damage had been done, anyway. I've always been mocked for my height -I'm only 5'- and I've grown up back and forth between Ireland and the border between Britain and Wales, so I've heard all the same leprechaun jokes." He wasn't prying about other things, so I could at least share that much with him.

"He didn't mean any harm," Niall agreed. "I just take it better some times than others."

I nodded, despite knowing he couldn't see it. "I understand that. And hey, Niall?"

"Yeah?"

"You don't have to be afraid to smile around me just because of your braces. I want to see everyone smile all the time. That includes you."

I glanced at him through the dark and thought maybe I was detecting a hint of a blush on his cheeks. But if it had been there, or if it had only been a shadow, all trace of it was gone when he quietly whispered, "Thanks, lass."

 

A/N: Alright guys, I've already received a few comments about the height conversation between Niall and Emma, so I'm going to clarify: Yes, I am aware that Niall is 5'7. I never outright stated his height in the chapter (believe me, I went back and checked, just to make sure I hadn't made a typo), I simply compared Emma's short stature to his. No, 5'7 isn't really that short, but he has always been considered small for his age, and has stated that the only reason he wasn't made fun of for it is because he always tried to be nice to everyone. That being said, I don't think 5'7 is short either, but no one is short to me, considering I stand at just 5'1. Basically, it's a guy thing. He is the shortest in the band, after all. The others are either 5'9 or 5'10, depending on who it is. So. Now that I've taken care of that, feel free to review with any other mistakes you catch or suggestions you have! (: And that like button? The favorite link? Feel free to click on those, too. (; Or check out my other stuff! I've got a Harry Styles one shot up, as well as loads of other randomness. But now I'll stop my rambling, assuming I haven't scared you off. I hope I haven't....

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