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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7. Chapter Seven: The Lost Boy

Trigger warnings in this chapter: descriptive depictions of mental illnesses.

Please do not read if you will be affected by any of the triggers listed above or read with caution.

 

 

Niall's fingers lightly run through Grayson's hair for a moment when the small child runs to his side after finally receiving a sippy cup of apple juice that he so desperately wanted. It seems as if Grayson only has two settings: cute and hungry (although he's definitely still cute when he's hungry). The longer I'm around Niall and Grayson, the longer I feel as if there's some part of me that's going to miss them terribly after I'm gone. Even though it's only been two days, somehow, I feel as if my mornings will be empty without the funny babbles of a two year old.

"Alright, little monster," Niall says before picking up Grayson and slinging him over his shoulder, "time for a nap." Grayson whines slightly as Niall starts walking towards his nursery, my heart breaking when Grayson waves goodbye at me with his little, chubby hand.

"Dada! Mom-stars mot map!" I hear Grayson tell Niall in an attempt to get out of this mandatory nap, but Niall is quick to respond that little monsters definitely do take naps. However, by that point the apartment was nearly quiet, and only minutes later, Niall emerges from the nursery with a triumphant look on his face and a different baby in his arms.

"Trade one for another?" I ask softly, and he smiles with a nod.

"'Suppose so." Jensen smiles in Niall's arms while chewing on his little fist. I still can't get over how cute this kid is. Jensen looks up at me with his incredibly large eyes and seems to stare at me, his little smile carrying through the room. Niall's quick to lay him on the soft baby blanket in the living room next to his toys, pulling at his little feet and making silly faces at him before returning to the kitchen.

Suddenly, a soft guitar tune starts to travel through the air, and I have no idea what it is before Niall pulls his phone out of his pocket. He quickly answers, letting out a small laugh before speaking, but for some reason, I can't make sense of the words that come out of his mouth.

"Sa-vah?" The words that start flowing out of his mouth after that are indecipherable, and it doesn't take me long to figure out why: Niall's speaking French. And, this isn't some high school French class language; his words are extremely quick and fluent, his accent incredible. I had no idea he knew another language, let alone used one on a common and casual basis like this. It's apparent that Niall knows what he's doing .

I'm easily entertained watching him shift around the kitchen talking for what feels like hours. Once, I actually hear my name thrown into the mix, and I can't help but wonder who Niall could possibly be talking to and what he's said about me.

It seems as if it's no time before Niall's infamous quick mood change takes hold of him again, and the light tone in his conversation is hurriedly changed to hushed and stern. It's as if something suddenly triggered him, and all of the life leaves him instantly.

After one shaky sentence, Niall hangs up on whoever he was talking to, and turns to face the counter away from me. His hands are placed flat on the counter in front of him, his breath wavering. Through his quiet silence, I can hear him whispering a few words to himself, almost like a calming mantra.

"Niall?" I pause, stepping towards him slowly and continuing, "Are you alright?" He doesn't respond until I place my hand gently on his upper back, trying to glance around his shoulder to see his face. As soon as my hand touches his back, he turns around, wiping his eyes gently and throwing me possibly one of the fakest smiles I've ever seen.

"Yeah." His smile gives me an oddly unsettling feeling, and I'm sure the sympathy on my face is evident. It surprises me how quick his face falls from sad to seemingly angry as he shakes, looking at me like I've betrayed him.

"It's not c-cute." He stutters, angry tears running down his cheeks as he continues to shake. I can't imagine what's triggered this small panic attack, but it seems as if I've done something to make it worse.

"This is fucking stupid." He spits out at me, his tone making me inevitably back away from him. A part of my brain screams at me for backing away. I know he'd never hurt me, or anyone really, and he needs to be comforted. Nonetheless, I can't manage to understand the source of his anger.

"You're just like everybody else." This comment startles me to an extent that the others did not. I've tried my hardest to be here for Niall in the short time I've been with him, and I really thought I was something he never had. His shaking does nothing but increase as his angers seems to fade, a certain vulnerability showing through his features.

"It's n-not cute." He repeats in a whispered tone, turning away from me and wiping tears off his face with shaking hands. For a moment, I truly consider backing further away from Niall instead of attempting to comfort him, but something about his sudden innocence draws me in.

"It's alright." I tell him softly, attempting not to anger him like I did before. I touch his shoulder slightly, as if testing the waters to see if it's alright to fully hold him again. When my hand comes in contact with the soft fabric of his shirt, he gives me a sad glance, tears running down his cheeks.

"I'm s-orry." He chokes out through a hiccup, and that's all it takes for me to pull him back into my arms. He buries his face into my neck as soon as the opportunity presents itself, and I can't help but think about how natural it feels to have him in my arms. Only, his shaking doesn't reduce dramatically like the last time I viewed him in this situation. It only seems to get worse as I hold him close to me, his fingers shaking incredibly hard as they overlap on my lower back.

"What do you need, Ni?" I ask him softly. Whatever I'm doing doesn't seem to be comforting him as it did before, and I can't imagine why. Its seems as quickly as he jumped into the comfort I offered, he pulls away from me, turning away and shakily, slowly walking down the hall.

It's a matter of seconds before I hear some slight shuffling, and Niall appears in the hall with Grayson's sleeping form against him. His shaking has been reduced to almost nothing as Grayson's sweet little cheek is smushed against Niall's shoulder. Niall's eyes are clenched shut, his breath still moving at a seemingly rapid pace as his head leans against his child's. He slowly walks into the living room, sitting down on the couch next to a babbling Jensen still playing on his blanket. Grayson stirs slightly and I can see a new kind of panic come across Niall's face, as if he's ashamed he's brought the child from his sleep.

Just as quickly as Niall managed to get Grayson to sleep he seems to wake up, his eyes foggy and hands searching for some type of comfort. When Grayson's tiny, chubby hand finally finds its way against Niall's lips, I can see an immediate change in Niall's behavior. It seems as if his shaking is reduced to nothing and his tears aren't quite as prominent when Grayson draws his attention. It takes a second, but I finally realize that I really have no clue how PTSD actually affects him, and anything I've done to help him has only worked by chance.

Grayson quietly plays with Niall's face as any small child would, placing both of his hands on either of Niall's cheeks. The mood is lifted dramatically when Grayson's little giggle radiates through the room, Niall having pretended to eat one of his little fingers when it got close to his mouth. It's almost as if this little laugh sparks something inside of Niall, and he's quickly, and genuinely, smiling. It's so obvious from watching all of their little interactions and the love in Niall's eyes: Grayson is Niall's entire world.

Even though Grayson seems content with playing with Niall, it's obvious he's still tired. His eyes droop more with every smile, and soon enough, he lays his head back on Niall's shoulder, playing with Niall's baby blue shirt before nodding off again. This baby must be the easiest child to put to sleep in the world, or at least out of the children I've seen. Niall seems like he's intentionally avoiding making eye contact with me as he plays with Grayson's little fingers. I've noticed this habit off and on during the time I've been here, yet I can't imagine why he would do such a thing.

"Niall?" He finally glances at me, not around me, or even through me, and a bit of relief washes through me.

"Yeah?" His voice is quiet as not to disturb the sleeping child on his chest, but his voice is harsh, evidence of his previous tears. Grayson pulls his attention for just another moment, wiggling and pulling Niall's t-shirt into his little fist, Niall smiling sweetly at the action. His smile distracts me like no other for reasons I can't explain. Maybe it's because it’s such a rare sight.

"You've got a face for a smile, you know?" A wide smile instantly spreads across his cheeks, a childish blush covering them innocently. He seems like he doesn't know how to respond to the comment, so he just continues to smile, looking away from me like before, which draws my attention to my previous questions.

"Why did you say what you did?" The smile on his face doesn't drop instantly like I've seen happen so many times before, but, eventually his features show no evidence of happiness. Some part of me hopes the reason for that is that the smile was genuine, that his happiness was genuine. I just want him to be happy.

"You looked like you were about to step on glass." I'm really not sure what he means, and he catches on to that fairly quickly.

"You know, stepping on glass. Like, um. Sympathy, I guess? Like stupid sympathy. Like treat-Niall-like-he's-three sympathy. The stupid-poor little thing-condescending type. I don't know,"  He stumbles over his words, but continues, "Like, you're afraid if you talk to me about anything that I'll randomly start sobbing. I just want to be a person. When the stepping on glass around me starts, it leads to me being treated more like an issue than a person. I hate that. I hate being an idea." It's almost as if he's accustomed to having these conversations with himself, and he's developed these feelings about things that he can't even explain to other people because he doesn't know how.  What if the reason Niall doesn't know how to explain what he's thinking to me is because he's never had to tell anyone how he feels? It's one of the saddest thoughts I've had.

"You don't need my sympathy." I don't say it because it's what Niall wants to hear, I say it because it's true. Everyone else that he knows seems to be the epitome of poor Niall. He needs someone to be honest with him, to not pity him. I understand how he could feel like an object with the way people talk to him. I would be extremely agitated if the only thing people seemed to notice about me was that I was sad. How has he managed to survive without regular conversations with someone who didn't say every sentence with complete caution as to how he'd react? The question puzzles me for a moment, until the answer hits me: Grayson. Grayson doesn't care about Niall's PTSD, Grayson only knows that Niall is his daddy. He can't possibly comprehend something is wrong to treat Niall with unnecessary tenderness; he hasn't developed the social skills to do so yet. Not only is Grayson Niall's entire world, he seems to also be his refuge from the world, and the thought warms my heart.

"You've been dealt some pretty shitty cards, but that doesn't make you any less of a person." Niall simply shrugs at my sentence, a doubtful look on his face as he busies himself with playing with Grayson's little toes. I can't believe Niall's been dealing with not only evidently severe PTSD and other people treating him like such a child for so long that he can no longer see that his illness is not who he is. He is so much more than PTSD. That's not even a part of him. No one would ever think a kid with cancer had it also as a part of their personality. Why are there such double standards on mental and physical diseases, and more importantly, who the hell managed to convince Niall he was less of a person because of it? How can Niall possibly think he's no longer more than a boy with PTSD? How could anyone let that happen? How could I let that happen?

I knew Niall's wife had passed away: I knew that. His number had always been sitting in my phone, so why didn't I ever call him? Maybe if I'd talked to him, reminded him that he's important to the world, to me, he wouldn't be so empty now. He seems to have detached himself emotionally from these conversations, which is why I always feel as if he's staring right through me when he speaks. The distance from his heart to his eyes, I fear, couldn't be any greater.

"Why'd you tell me it wasn't cute?" Niall shrugs again, his head falling, seemingly embarrassed.

"Some people- A lot of people -think it's cute. Mental illnesses and crying. It's not cute. It's not cute and no one should think it is. I don't know why I said it, though. Honest." There's a hint of anger in his words. It's not directed towards me in any way, but I can hear it clearly in every word he speaks.

"They're not cute. But, you know, that doesn't mean you can't be. Having a mental disorder doesn't define you in any way." I mention softly, and an embarrassed smile soon makes itself known on Niall's face.

"Did you just say you think I'm cute?" A small laugh erupts from him, and the mood changes yet again. It strikes me as odd how seamlessly he manages to pull off the shifts, almost as if he's not even aware it's happening. Nonetheless, I can't help but blush at Niall's observation. In my defense, Niall knows he's cute. Everyone knows Niall's cute, and the proof can even be seen in the tiny little toddler fast asleep on his chest who just so happens to share fifty percent of his DNA.

"I'm not admitting to anything." His smile softens after that, but the lightness can still be seen in his features for a long while afterwards.

 

 

The rest of the day went by incredibly slow, rain eventually setting a steady rhythm against the various windows in Niall's apartment. Niall planned to make take his bedroom for the night, but this time I put up a fight. He'd been limping throughout the day, and I'd thought that maybe sleeping in his own bed might remedy his sore knee. Nonetheless, he refused to let me sleep on the couch.  In addition to that, Grayson managed to become even cuter.

After his nap, Niall put him in the most adorable green one piece that included a hood resembling the head of a T-Rex, cloth teeth hanging down from the hood and over Grayson's face. He ran around for at least a half an hour growling and pretending he was the most vicious creature on earth, but he didn't really accomplish anything but being exceedingly cute. Niall even managed to play into his fantasy, collapsing to the floor dramatically and crying out in overly-dramatic agony every time Grayson "attacked" him. This playing must have worn him down, because he fell asleep even faster than he did for his nap earlier when Niall eventually put him down for the night.

Niall's apartment became quiet quickly after both Grayson and Jensen were asleep, especially after Niall finished cleaning up the toys thrown around in random places.

I thought the day was over, leading me to my current predicament: falling asleep. No matter how tired I am, I can't manage to fall asleep despite the calming rain on the window. I'm not sure if my mind is just on overdrive or the reality of my exhaustion hasn't set in fully. Nonetheless, I feel like I've been lying in the same spot for at least an hour and a half by the time a knock on the door pulls me from my thoughts. I'm get up almost immediately, thinking Niall must need something from his bedroom. When I finally open the door, Niall's standing there, his eyes red, a few tear tracks on his cheeks. He looks a little stunned that I opened the door even though he knew I would.

"I was just- I was wondering," He hiccups from his tears, "If I c-could maybe-" Another hiccup cuts him off, but he doesn't continue, just looks from me to the room continuously. It takes a moment for me to understand what he means, his tears distracting me. It's obvious Niall's just had another episode of something, the tears in his eyes making it completely evident. I suppose he wants to know if he could stay in his room tonight; maybe it comforts him somehow.

The thought doesn't make sense to me, however. I don't think he'd argue so profusely about me taking the room if he needed it. I finally realize he must mean me being there as well, returning the favor from him comforting me the night before. Although, by the time I've realized this, Niall seems to have thought I must mean no from my lack of response.

"I-I'm sorry. I shouldn't have j-just-" He stops at that, turning to walk back towards the living room when I stop him, grabbing his hand and pulling it towards me.

"I'd like that." He seems a little blow away by this, but allows me to pull him into his bedroom, laying down on his bed and pulling him into my arms almost exactly like he did the night before. I wipe a few tears of his face as his head ends up on my shoulder, his arms wrapping around my waist. I can simply feel his exhaustion as he lays against me, my fingers tangling in his curls yet again.

He relaxes against me almost instantly as I play with his hair, so I continue the action until I'm certain he's fallen asleep. I can feel his chest rising and falling with every breath, and, for some reason, that comforts me to a degree I never could have imagined before.  His sweet little freckles are one of the only things I can see as I look down at his fragile figure. Am I really the one comforting him or is it the other way around? His fingers twitch along with his nose every once and a while, and I can't help but wonder what he dreams about. Whatever it is, I hope it is so much better than his reality.

 

 

It’s not the sun that wakes me up this time, it's a soft guitar sound growing louder every second. I keep my eyes closed and will with all my might for it to go away but it doesn't, and soon enough, I feel Niall groggily lift his head from my shoulder, leaning away from me and towards his nightstand. I open my eyes to find him scrunching up his face, trying to see who's calling despite the brightness of his screen in the dark room. As soon as he can find the answer button he places his phone up to his ear, mumbling thickly.

"Olls?" I figure it must be a name, as he seems concerned by the word he's just said. Niall seems incredibly frustrated by whatever the other person has said, but moves into action quickly, rolling out of bed and slipping on some of his shoes in the corner.

"Where are you?" He murmurs as he walks to his dresser, opening the top drawer and pulling out a light grey jacket.

"Of course I'm angry with you!" Niall nearly screams into the phone, almost as if it's Grayson as a teenager on the other line receiving a scolding for being out past curfew. In a matter of seconds, Niall's hung up his phone and thrown it into his sweatpants pocket.

"Sorry for waking you. I have to go pick up my kid brother from a party." He pauses as a look of realization hits his face, "I'll only be gone for a few minutes. Can you, uh- If G wakes up?" He can't seem to word his sentence correctly, but I understand what he means, and nod instantly. Niall's eyes glimmer with relief and thankfulness as he starts to leave the room, but he pops his head back in slightly once he's left.

"There's chocolate milk in the fridge. Gets him back to sleep every time." I take his tip in wholeheartedly as I hear the front door shut gently, quiet filling the air once again. I quickly reach for the baby monitor on the nightstand, turning it up as loud as it will go. It would kill me if I were in charge of the small child and missed his cries.

Although, all my fears are in vain because Niall returns not even twenty-five minutes later, and no cries have been heard.  I feel bad for listening to his conversation, but hearing it is inevitable from the small size of his apartment.

"What were you thinking?" Niall's voice is accompanied by the sound of keys hitting the countertop.

"You're not even legal! Think of what would have happened if that party got busted? What about your ma? What's she gonna think when I tell her about this?" Niall seems increasingly furious as shuffling from the cabinets resonates through the tiny apartment.

"She won't care." I hear Niall scoff at the boy, a younger British accent accompanying this sentence. By now, my curiosity gets the best of me, and I can't help slowly creeping out of the bed to see the new stranger from Niall's room. It's difficult to see him at first, but eventually he sits on the couch at an angle where I can take in his features. He's obviously young, no older that sixteen or seventeen by the looks of it, and his dark brown hair is about the same length as Niall's, but far more curly. His eyes are bloodshot, and it's evident that he's been partying for most of the night.

"She forgot me. They all forgot." He says, staring into the kitchen, and I suppose by association, Niall.

"They didn't forget about you, Ollie." He simply shrugs at this, but I can tell he's about to cry. Niall seems to notice this also, and I quickly see him walk over to the kid, sitting on the couch next to him and handing him a glass of water.

"What's wrong, lad? Today's supposed to be a good day, yeah?" 'Ollie' nods gently, but seems unconvinced by Niall's statement.

"They didn't even show up! No one did! Just my dad. Gems didn't even come. She always comes on R-day." I can simply feel the poor kid's devastation from Niall's bedroom. I'm not exactly sure who forgot about what, but it's obvious it's hurt him tremendously.

"I'm sorry, kid. I should have been there too." Ollie shakes his head at this, giving Niall a sympathetic look.

"You at least called to say you couldn't make it." Niall gives him a confused look, but then it seems as if he's realized Ollie's not just upset that no one showed up, but that they said they'd be there too. Niall seems to close this conversation quickly, however, handing Ollie a blanket and a pillow from seemingly nowhere.

"Now get some rest and I'll take you out for some day-after-R-day pancakes with a hangover tomorrow for breakfast. Sound good?" This seems to cheer the kid up a bit, a small smile on his lips, braces and all. There's no way this kid could pass for eighteen.

Niall gets up and I hurry back to his bed, throwing myself under the covers, but not faking being asleep, just simply lying there as if I haven't gotten back to sleep.  Niall comes in quietly as not to disturb me, but he counters that by tripping over a blanket he managed to drop in the floor upon his quick exit, falling to the ground clumsily. I laugh louder than I probably should, and by the time he gets up, he's properly pouting.

"S'not funny. I hurt me knee." I think he's serious for a moment but the exaggerated pout on his face says otherwise.

After he manages to finally get back under the duvet, he lays his head back on my shoulder, as if he never left.

"Who was that?"

"Ollie Styles." If he means that this kid, obviously much younger than Niall and I, is the younger sibling of the Styles, I'm incredibly confused. You would think after knowing them for years, and all of their business being put out in the media for everyone else to read, there would be no way a younger brother could slip through the cracks (Well, I mean, the fans probably remember him but that's beside the point.). Although, I can believe that he's the younger brother of both Harry, Hayden and Gemma, strictly from physical appearance. His green eyes, dimples, and dark brown hair are increasingly similar to all of them, even though his hair is a bit darker than the twins'.

"At least he called you instead of trying to drive." I mention lightly and Niall chuckles a quick yeah before he closes his eyes yet again. I bet he's exhausted. I decide not to question anything further from him, like what R-day is or why it's so important, but I can't decide if it's because I don't want to meddle in his business or he looks so damn cute with his hair all tossed about like this in his little peaceful slumber.

After a few minutes, Niall laughs lightly against my shoulder but keeps his eyes closed.

"What?" I question his seemingly random laughter.

"Nothin'." He says quietly and sarcastically.

"What, Niall?"  He laughs again, but finally decides to answer me.

 

"When did we become so domestic?"

 

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