Without a Clue

Trigger Warnings: reference to/ mention of domestic violence, reference to/ mention of sexual abuse, reference to/ mention of substance abuse, descriptive depictions of self harm and suicide, death, abortion, and mental illness.

Niall's secretive, always has been, but the world is in utter shock as the news is released that Niall has a son. The two year old blond, Grayson Finn Horan, is simply the most important thing in Niall's life, but when a stunning American popstar, Demi Lovato, starts to work her way into his heart, he doesn't know how to react.

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8. Chapter Eight: The Survivor Boy

(a/n: I am so so so so sorry for how long it took me to update this chapter but I made it a whole lot longer to hopefully make up for it! I usually aim for 3.5k words and this ended up being nearly 5k words! xx :) -s )

 

Waking up always seems to be enjoyable with Niall. Being able to just lie there and hold him is kind of a happy feeling all by itself. It's like I'm actually accomplishing something meaningful; I'm helping him in a way that no one else has (to my knowledge, anyway). I love the way his eyelids flicker slightly as he starts to come out of his deeper sleep and I love the little freckles that span the entirety of his cheeks, but I shouldn't. There's some part of me that simply screams back at me every time I think something like that. Niall's placement in my arms has nothing to do with any sort of relationship between us; it's just two friends helping each other out. He's my friend, just my friend, and that's all I want. However there's two different voices in my head willing to debate about that one.

After Niall fell asleep last night, I noticed another one of his small habits. He repeatedly clenched his hands and opened them again, even stretching out his fingers sometimes. After a few repetitions of this little routine, I started to notice the crescent fingernail marks on the inside of his palm, pink from the constant clenching of his fist. I couldn't imagine why he might do this to the point of actually injuring himself in his sleep, but I felt as if waking him up wouldn't remedy the problem.

I managed to find a solution to this habit of Niall's after only a few more minutes of watching him clench and unclench the fist that was not pressed up against the small of my back. I gently slid my hand into his, hoping not to wake him. His hand immediately started to clench like before, but simply stopped as his fingers laid flush against my hand. His grip wasn't as tight as I had previously expected, and it wasn't as uncomfortable as I thought it would be to fall asleep with his hand in mine.

It seems as if I'm only able to enjoy my morning with Niall for seconds because small cries can be heard instantly through the baby monitor to my right, Niall immediately stirring. His eyes groggily open as his muscles tense and stretch, a quick yawn emitted before he's pulling his hand out of mine and clumsily rolling off the bed, almost landing face-first on the floor.

"I'm coming." He says quietly (and still completely asleep most probably), as if that will immediately stop his child's tears in the other room. I can hear the faint sound of his feet shuffling down the carpeted hallway, and then the screams emitting from the baby monitor only seem to grow as I hear Niall talking softly through the baby monitor.

"It's alright, monkey." Niall mumbles, his voice thick from sleepiness coming through the speaker. There's a small clicking noise, and the baby monitor immediately goes quiets, which leads me to think Niall must have turned it off.

I find it incredibly odd that Grayson continues to scream for a good five to ten minutes after Niall has most likely picked him up and is attempting to comfort him. It just seems out of the ordinary that Grayson would react this way even with Niall in his presence. His cries soften but carry on gently for a few minutes after, but soon enough I can hear his sweet little hiccups as he attempts to stop his own tears.

There's slight shuffling and then Niall appears in the doorway, a sleepy, little toddler on his shoulder. Grayson's eyes are red and his cheeks are streaked pink from his tears, the remaining few still in his eyes, unshed. His little dinosaur pacifier that he never seems to be without definitely accents the clear pout on his face as he hugs his favorite pale green blanket. He looks absolutely adorable in his pajamas and his messy bed head and manages to look more like Niall every time I look at him.

"He usually watches some cartoons in the morning, but there's a drunk teenager passed out on the couch. D'you mind?" Niall smiles softly, motioning to the TV with a nod. I shake my head softly; it's his apartment after all.

"Of course not." He smiles at this, immediately crawling onto the bed and laying extremely close to me and under the covers, Grayson settling more in between us then on top of Niall. The small child glances up at me curiously after Niall gets him settled in the bed, and pulls at the sleeve of my shirt for a moment. I have no idea what this could possible mean, and I'm sure Niall catches the lost look on my face. He smiles gently and extends his arm slowly behind Grayson, as if to say that's what I'm meant to do. I open my arm up slightly, like Niall just did, and Grayson immediately settles himself against me, my arm coming back to wrap around him as my head leans against his.

"He likes you." Niall mentions lightly, a smile obviously displayed on his cheeks as his child lays against my shoulder, sucking on his pacifier lightly as he watches Mickey Mouse dance across the screen. It feels so nice to have Grayson in my arms. There's something about children that has  always made me enjoy their company, but Grayson is different. It's like I've sought his approval because he's Niall's son, and I finally have it. God it's still so weird to think Niall has a son, isn't it?

Niall's position seems to change after Grayson becomes comfortable on my shoulder. Niall scoots back away from me for a moment, and I'm confused about what he's doing until he opens up his arms, raising his eyebrows and motioning to his arms with a nod. I follow his suggestion and shift into his arms, one coming up to mimic mine around his son, and one wrapping around my back.

Now, with my side to his, he lays his head on mine much like I was doing to his child only moments before, and I can feel his lips on the side of my temple as I relax into his arms. It seems like an almost natural position, and I try not to think of how intimate it might look as our legs end up tangled together.

"Is he always that upset when he wakes up?" I ask softly, running my fingers through Grayson's soft blond curls. I turn to look up at Niall from my position on his chest and he shakes his head.

"He's never done that before. Then again he's never woken up alone before either so that makes sense." The shock on my face couldn't be more evident. What does he mean Grayson's never woken up alone before? Has he never slept in his own bedroom? It all seems a bit peculiar to me.

"Really?" I ask, curious how Grayson has managed to make it to two years old without waking up without anyone else in the room.

"Yeah. I think he's only slept in his crib maybe, I don't know, three times? And I've always been there when he has. People always say you're not supposed to let your kid sleep in the bed, that it's bad or whatever, but we both sleep better that way, so, why not? He's just a baby; he doesn't need to wake up and not know where his Da is." I suppose it's just another proof of how close they are, the fact that Niall can't even let sleep in the other room yet. Although, it does make me feel bad that I managed to disrupt Grayson's normal routine.

"That's sweet." Niall smiles softly at this and reaches up to hold Grayson's little hand.

"I'm glad you think so." Niall mentions casually and pauses before continuing, "Lots of people love to talk about my parenting skills, or lack thereof." He nearly whispers, glancing down at his child, who is nearly asleep again against my chest.

"You're doing just fine." Honestly, I think he's doing better than that. With all of the things he has to deal with on a daily basis, he's managed to raise a perfectly happy and mostly healthy child, and even managed to work full time while doing it all alone. I guess the thought never really crossed my mind that, technically, Niall is a single parent, and not many jobs are harder than that. The exhaustion of tour is indescribable, and I imagine the exhaustion of being a single parent is also, so I have no idea how he's managed to survive this whole time.

"You're amazing for doing it alone." I mention softly, Grayson shifting slightly in my arms and facing more towards the TV.  I can see Niall's smile from the corner of my eye. I hope someone's told him that before. He deserves to be told how great he's been doing with all the shit he's been through these past two years, and, even when Niall's unhappy himself, Grayson is probably the sweetest and happiest kid I've ever met. Some parents never really know true sacrifice for their kids, but I can say with confidence that Niall has.

"A lot of people do it alone." He offers, but I shake my head.

"Not like this." He stays quiet after that. I'm not really sure if he knows what I meant, and I really don't want to ruin his mood if he took it the wrong way.

"You've fought for him for so long. Not that many people must have PTSD and be a single parent to a child that is one of the most normal and happy children in the world. You're doing this all alone and doing a really great job. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise ."

He doesn't smile like last time, just glances at Grayson's tired little body.

"I've never known anything different." I suppose he's right. I still can't believe Niall's spent over two years in this state and everyone seems to have given up on making him as happy as he used to be, even himself. I want him to be able to wake up in the morning and want to face the day with a smile. Making someone happy seems so simple, doesn't it? It isn't, though, it's one of the biggest challenges in the world, but everyone deserves somebody that will fight for them.

"Don't you ever get tired of just surviving?" I ask him softly. I wonder if he even wants to truly live anymore. He seems to just be surviving life just trying to make it through the day, not really enjoying anything. That just seems so awful, doesn't it?

"I survive so he can live." Niall mentions quietly, but I can't see any truth to his words. They can both be happy, I know it. I don't see why not.

"Why can't you both live?" Niall seems to frown upon my asking this, as if he's already said the answer in his head a million times over.

"For me to get better, I have to get worse. There's no way around it. I'm all he's got. There's no time to get worse when you've  got a baby." Niall seems to have utterly accepted the fact that he'll never get better, but I refuse to believe that. If it's help he needs, I can be there for him and Grayson. I could be there as a friend if he needed me, however, something leads me to believe that's not exactly what he wants. Helping him get better would be a full time job, no doubt, and, he's right. He couldn't possibly raise Grayson by himself and get worse; that's just not an option.

Niall used to be the rock of everyone around here, the person that made you smile on your worst day. I would give anything for that person to come back, especially so Grayson could see how amazing his dad was and is.  I want him to come back so he can enjoy these little years with Grayson; they won't last forever, after all, and I don't want Niall to wake up one day and realize he let what's supposed to be the best years of his life pass him by without a second glance.

"I'll help you." I say, complete confidence behind my words. I warily glance up at Niall, nervous of how he may react to my offer.

"Please, don't try." He whispers, pain in his voice as he stares down at me. It wasn't the response I could have imagined. I wasn't exactly expecting him to jump at the offer, but I definitely was expecting him to beg me not to try.

"Why?" I ask him. It seems as if he's already thought this out.

"You're gonna give up. Everyone gives up. I mean, I don't blame them, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. I like you. You're kind to me, and I don't want to lose that because you got tired of fighting an endless battle." His voice is gentle as he stares absently through me. I wonder if he notices that this is a common occurrence. His complete emptiness as he talks seems to be becoming more evident the longer I'm around him, and it scares me that he feels so cold. It's like there's no personality left in him at all, and there's some autopilot feature in his brain he chooses to use constantly. The only thing that gives me hope is the small bits of him I've seen. I've seen his smile as he looks at Grayson, and I've seen the love in his eyes as he puts him to bed. These little things seem to be such insignificantly simple aspects of the life of a father, but it shows me more than that. These little moments show me that he's still in there somewhere, and maybe, if he feels safe enough, he'll come back, maybe.

"I'll always be kind to you, Ni. You don't have to worry about that." He still seems incredibly wary of my offer, but nods slightly, a sad, yet gentle smile on his face. It seems as if we lay there for hours before Niall decides it's time for him to go get breakfast ready, and he eventually slips out of the room, leaving me and Grayson to continue watching Disney Junior. He cuddles into my side, and it looks as if he's about to fall asleep again as his cheek smushes against my shoulder.

 

...

 

If there's one word that perfectly describes Ollie Style, it's defiant. It seems as if Niall's been trying to wake him up for at least two hours, doing everything under the sun to get him up. He's even resorted to pushing Ollie off the couch and into the floor, but even that didn't seem to faze the teen. Of course, it's a bit odd that Ollie continues to snooze on the ground as we eat breakfast; it's completely obvious that he's not quite used to the level of partying he participated in last night. It's not until we're almost done with the eggs, sausage, and biscuits that Niall's made (which taste excellent, if I might add) before Ollie slowly shuffles into the room, his eyes squinted shut and hands rubbing at his face.

"Thought we were getting pancakes?" He mumbles, pulling the chair next to me at the bar out and sitting down, slamming his face not-so-gracefully onto the counter in exhaustion.

"Woke up too late for that, mate. Sorry." Niall mentions, and Ollie frowns dramatically, still half asleep. He mumbles some type of profanity under his breath and rubs at his temples, his eyes still clenched shut. He groans dramatically when Niall slams a plate down in front of him, the loud noise making him clench his jaw as Niall smirks.

"Hangover's a bitch, innit?" Niall mentions lightly, and Ollie frowns, glaring up at him.

"You're a fu-" Niall cuts Ollie off, pointing at him dramatically with his eyebrows raised.

"If you finish that word in front of G so help me God I will end you." Niall says intensely, yet with a joking tone hidden behind his words. Ollie seems to be highly confused at this statement, and quickly argues back.

"You just said bi-" Niall cuts, him off again abruptly and motions to his food, as if to suggest he should stop talking and eat. Ollie surprisingly does what he's told and stuffs an entire piece of sausage in his mouth, throwing Niall a childish glare. He turns to the side a bit and makes eye contact with me, his face suddenly contorting into extreme confusion, still chewing the incredibly large piece of sausage in his mouth. Suddenly, his eyes grow incredibly wide as he stares at me, choking slightly as he struggles to swallow his food. He rotates to face Niall with the same wonder-struck look on his face.

I don't think Ollie seemed to have noticed that I was here before now, and to say it took him by surprise is evidently an understatement. He quickly gathers himself as Niall smiles and nods, as if affirming that yes, I am real, and yes, I am in his apartment. 

Ollie narrows his eyes suddenly, looking between Niall and I for a fee moment, then cheekily smirks at Niall.

"So," he says with an exaggerated smirk, "who do we have here, Niall?" His innocent tone is exaggeratedly false as he laughs at his own joke. Niall seems to throw a fake laugh Ollie's way as he sits a glass of water next to his plate.

"Not a chance in hell, that's who." I laugh slightly at the shocked look on Ollie's face at Niall's words, but I don't really understand what prompted that reaction from Niall. That is, I didn't understand this is Ollie's way of hitting on me, and Niall couldn't have shot him down faster. I can't imagine why Niall's snappy attitude seems to have come out because of that. If I'm not mistaken, it would seem as if he's actually jealous of his overconfident little brother. I smile at the cute little line that appears on his forehead when he frowns at Ollie.

Surprisingly, Ollie finishes his food before any of us, and goes back to his previous position on the couch and covers his eyes, attempting to go back to sleep.

"Hey, dumbass!" Niall says loudly at him, and Ollie groans, "What d'you think you're doing?" Ollie sits up suddenly with an annoyed look on his face.

"I'm. Sleeping." He enunciates his words carefully, as if Niall wouldn't understand his sentence. Niall glances at him and then exaggeratedly laughs.

"You're actually going to the hospital to visit your brother who just had major surgery last night, if you didn't know." Ollie suddenly looks incredibly innocent, much like he did the night before. His facial features show that he must be upset. He doesn't argue with Niall and quickly looks around before locating his shoes and slipping them on. He holds up a sweatshirt in Niall's direction, and Niall quickly hums a yes, seemingly understanding that Ollie wants to borrow his sweatshirt.

"Be civil, Olls." Ollie rolls his eyes at this, grabbing his phone and walking towards the door.

"No." He simply states, walking up to Niall's seemingly large collection of keys.

"Which one?" Niall thinks for a second and directs Ollie to a set of vibrant red keys, saying that one of Harry's car is currently in his possession and he'd better not wreck it if he knows what's good for him.

"Love you!" Niall says loudly so Ollie can hear him as he exists the apartment, Ollie replying with the same response, but slamming the door shut. Niall looks to me after that, a small smile seen against his features.

"He's not very happy with me right now." Niall mentions softly before spooning some baby peaches into Grayson's mouth; he wasn't too impressed by Niall's choice of breakfast food this morning. I can't imagine why Ollie would be upset with Niall, especially because Niall did come to pick him up last night and didn't even tell his mother. You would think that Ollie would be grateful.

"His mam and sister are probably there with his brother. He's not too happy with them right now. They really did forget about him. Happens a lot honestly. They're a very busy family." He nearly whispers as Grayson whines and reaches for the spoon in Niall's hand, my do it. That's so horrible, though. I can't believe a mother's child could ever just slip through the cracks. I understand that Harry's mom has four children, one of whom is very sick right now, but it still isn't rational that'd she'd completely forget about something that was evidently important to her kid. Ollie is still a child, only just turned seventeen, whereas the rest of her  kids are adults, two of them already having children themselves. I think she's probably used to her adult children, and treats Ollie the same way, but he's not an adult. However, he's at least mature enough to go visit with Hayden even though he'll have to pretend he's not hurt by what happened, which is admirable to say the least. I'm not even completely sure what happened, but it's evidently important to him. Is being busy really a logical excuse for completely forgetting your own child?

"That's awful." Niall agrees with me instantly, a small nod coming from him just as Grayson drops an entire spoonful of baby peaches down the front of his shirt and into his lap. Despite the mess he's created, Niall lovingly smiles at his child's grown up attempts and quickly reacts with a small laugh to mess he's created.

"Looks like we're having the rest of this meal naked." Niall mumbles to himself as he rids the completely peach covered onesie from Grayson. Grayson responds to this with slight elation, but other than that simply ignores Niall as he cleans up. Honestly, when do toddlers ever prefer being clothed to the alternative? Niall puts a towel down in Grayson's lap as a way to seemingly be able to clean up faster if Grayson manages to drop more food, which he most definitely will.

"I'm gonna go put this with the dirty clothes, d'ya mind?" Niall says and nods towards Grayson, asking in a simple manner if I can watch him for a few minutes while Niall deals with the baby peach explosion of 2017.  Grayson smiles up at me just as Niall leaves and holds up a tiny spoon with a twice as large load of peaches on it towards me. He shakes it a bit, most of the food flying off onto the bar in front of him and all over his body, only making him more agitated as he frowns at me.

"Bite?" It's then that I realize this is Grayson's attempt at sharing with me. I throw a quick of course his way before exaggeratedly pretending to eat the leftover drop of mushed peaches on his spoon. Grayson lets out what has got to be the cutest laugh I've ever heard and his dimples flash shiningly as he puts the almost empty spoon in his mouth. Grayson is most definitely the ultimate cutie; if it were possible to die of being exposed to high levels of adorable I definitely wouldn't still be around. Grayson quickly whines and reaches in front of him, however, and I notice his sippy cup sitting on a counter across the kitchen.

"Do you want a drink?" I ask him softly and he nods.

"Pleasss." He responds. I can't believe Niall's managed to get his two year old to attempt to say please when asking for something; it seems odd that it's even possible to do with such a small child. Nonetheless, I quickly attend to Grayson's request and hop down from the surprisingly tall bar chair next to Grayson, walking over to the far side of the kitchen to grab his small teal sippy cup.

 

That's when I hear it.

 

There's an insanely loud crashing sound, and I'm suddenly completely surrounded by broken glass. I turn around to look at Grayson and make sure he's not been harmed only to find his eyes incredibly wide, tears brimming and ready to fall. I looks as if I may have bumped a glass on the way to the counter, or something along those lines from the looks of the glass everywhere.

 

And just like that, panic sets in.

 

"Please don't cry, Grayson, everything's okay." I tell him, but I'm pretty sure I'm actually talking to myself. I cannot believe I've managed to come into Niall's home and mess everything up. Now Grayson is crying and I've somehow been able to simultaneously scare his kid shitless and cover his entire kitchen with miniature shards of glass. All that goes through my mind is that I need to clean it up. Niall has been so good to me: making me breakfast and letting me stay at his house long after I've overstayed my welcome, and what have I managed to do? Everything wrong that's possible.

I feel hot tears trailing down my cheeks as I try to grab the larger pieces of glass and put them in a pile off to the side as quickly as possible.

 

Do it faster.

 

My heart races as I hear the voice in my head, my lungs rattling and fighting for air. I hear faint murmuring in the air but ignore it as I grab onto more pieces, smaller this time.

 

Faster. Go Faster.

 

My chest feels incredibly heavy as I go faster like the voice in my head has instructed, but the murmuring in my ears distracts me. And then, as if by magic, the murmuring breaks through.

 

"Stop!" It's Niall's voice, and I can't help but look up and search for the source. He's standing right there in front of me, but far enough away that he wouldn't be near the mess. His eyes are wide, but his hands are stretched out cautiously towards me, providing a calming gesture.

"It's alright, Demi. Just, please, don't move. I'll be right back. Don’t. Move." He speaks clearly, and I nod, numbly obeyed his words. He comes back only seconds later with some Nike flip flops in his hands and quickly slips them on. Before I know it there's hands on my waist and I'm being lifted into the air and sat on a counter, my chest still clenching and mind searching for solutions as to the sudden lack of air in my lungs.

Suddenly, I'm being lifted again and carried away, the floor magically clean as my arms wrap around Niall's neck. It makes no sense to me then that the floor has been cleaned in a matter of seconds, but then I realize at least twenty minutes have gone by and Niall has already swept and vacuumed up all the glass.

Niall walks us over to the couch and sits me down next to Grayson who is completely mesmerized by whatever is on TV.

"It's okay, you don't need to cry. It was an accident." Niall says and my eyes are drawn to his position kneeling in front of me. He reaches up to wipe a few tears of my face, and before that moment, I hadn't even realized I was still crying. He quickly grabs at my right hand, pulling it towards him.

"That doesn't look too good." And, oh, right there in the palm of my hand is a pretty sizable cut. He puts a damp rag over it after looking closely to make sure there's not any glass still contaminating the crime scene. Before I can even react to the sting of the rag it's gone and being replaced with a dry paper towel then antibiotic and Band-Aid, a One Direction Band-Aid. Part of me wants to question how he even came to possess those and why, but the burn in my hand distracts me.

"I'm sorry." I manage to choke out through a few leftover tears. He smiles at that, and looking into his eyes suddenly allows my lungs to pull in a decent amount of air, my heartbeat slowing as he wipes the last of my tears off my face.

"Don't be. 'Hated that glass anyways. And besides, I can buy a new glass. I can't buy a new you. Who would be my person then?"

 

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