Flooring the car probably a lot faster than I should be, I finally pull to a stop outside of Perrie's house. Jake gets out, saying he'll go and knock. I let my eyelids fall shut as I lean my forehead against the cool plastic of the steering wheel.
He was inside that house, on a bed. Unconscious, according to Perrie. She hadn't let on much over the phone, but by the sounds of it he wasn't in a good shape. Sighing, I clench my shaking hands and open the car door. Getting out, I slam the door before locking it and turning to see El running down the pathway towards me.
"Crystal," She breathes, crashing into me. Mustering a smile, I relish in her warmth and familar scent.
"Hey," I whisper as she pulls away.
"I've missed you," She tells me gently as we turn and head back towards the house. I don't reply, too caught up with emotions and thoughts to think of a reply. In truth, I'd missed her too. I'd missed them all. I enter the house, followed by Jake and Perrie, only to be crushed into a hug by Susie and Darcy.
"Hey guys," I say into Susie's mass of hair. They all begin talking to me, asking questions and I manage to give them short but honest replies for a while before my patience begins to wear away.
"Where is he?" I ask, breaking the silence. Perrie gives me a sad look.
"Upstairs in the guest room." She replies and I nod, standing up.
"Crystal, you don't have to go right now." El says gently but I shake my head.
"It's what I came here to do, so I need to get on with it." I reply with a slight shrug, already feeling myself on the verge of tears. They don't answer, instead letting me head into the hallway and ascending the stairs. Once at the top, I look around the darkened landing before heading towards the door of the guest room. I draw in a shaky breath before reaching to the handle, pulling it down and pushing open the door. The curtains are drawn and the light on dimly, the room smelling strongly of vomit and sweat. I cast my eyes to the limp body lying on-top of the covers and then to the figure hunched on a chair beside it. Louis stands up, looking at me before silently placing a hand on my arm and leaving the room. I stand, frozen in my spot, as he closes the door and the room is once again left in silence. The only sounds coming from his heavy breathing and my inhale of breath. I walk towards him, taking a seat on the chair that Louis had stood from. I draw it closer to the bed, looking at his body in the low light. He looked... unrecognisable. His hair was nearly fully brown now, his natural colour taking hold. His eyes were shut, mouth and cheeks covered in thick stubble and painful looking gashes all over his exposed skin.
"Niall," I breath out, reaching and placing a hand gently on his withered arm. His eyes shoot open at the contact, taking me by surprise. His bloodshot eyes find my own before I break the eye-contact, uncomfortableness seeping in. My chest was aching. I couldn't breathe properly. Part of me craved to bathe and care for him, whilst another was screaming at me to leave and never look back.
But I'd already done that once.
I couldn't do it again.
Seeing him in this state made me feel.. responsible and guilty to a far extent. Sighing, I tut as he wheezes for breath, trying to form words.
"Don't," I coo softly, stroking my hand along his arm. He lets his eyes slide shut as I stand up, making my way to the en suite. Once inside, I grab a flannel and try to hold back sobs as I dampen it with cold water. Folding and wringing it out, I head back into the room where I prop his head up with pillows and help him into a better sitting position. I place the flannel onto his forehead, watching his breath falter with the relief it brings him.
"Shh," I murmur as he tries to form coherent words. He closes his mouth and I smile gently, running my hand along his arm soothingly.
After a while of sitting with him, the urge to get him clean overwhelms me. It looked as if he hadn't cleaned himself properly in weeks, months even. I stand up and pad across the room where I enter the bathroom again and begin run the bath, checking the temperature as the water rises; like what I did with Cee. My heart pulls at the thought of my - our - daughter. She'd missed Niall like hell, always bringing him up and asking when he was coming to see us. It broke my heart to try to imply to her that he wasn't; and probably never would.
"Niall," I call softly, leaning in the doorway of the bathroom. He opens his eyes at the sound of my voice, looking at me in recognition.
"Come on," I say, walking towards him. I fumble for a moment. How was I going to get him in there?
"I'll be two seconds." I tell him before slipping out of the room. I walk into the living room to see everyone staring at me expectantly. Jake stands up, opening his mouth to say something. I cut him off with a shake of my head.
"Harry?" I ask, the curly haired boy looking up as he hands Darcy a doll.
"Can you help please?" He stands up and ruffles Darcy's curls before I leave a stranded looking Jake in the living room with all the others. God knows how this must look to him.
"I need you to help me," I explain, walking up the stairs beside him.
"I've run a bath but I can't get him there alone." I say and Harry nods, sniffing as we enter the room again.
"Hey," I say softly to Niall, who's weary eyes flicker open again. Harry stutters momentarily before pulling back the covers and slipping an arm under Niall's arm. I go to the other side, swinging his feet around so they touch the floor.
He reeks of alcohol and vomit.
Groaning slightly with the effort, I manage to help Harry prop him up and lift him from the bed. Then, slowly, we inch towards the bathroom. Once inside, Harry leans him on the side of the bath and I thank him, watching as he casts me a worried glance before closing the door.
"Right," I murmur, checking the temperature of the water one more time. I look towards Niall, to find him staring down at the floor. I walk to stand infront of him, gently reaching down and taking the hem of his greying t-shirt in my hand. I deliberate for a moment before gently lifting the t-shirt and helping him take it off over his head. I place my cool palm onto the warm exposed skin of his chest, watching as his eyes slide heavily shut.
"Oh god," I murmur under my breath, taking in the sight of his pale and blotchy skin. He looked tired and withered, not in any fit state to be moving around and acting normal. I remove my hand from his chest, instead trailing it up to his cheek. Cupping it, I frown at the rough feel of the thick stubble. I help him take his jeans off, leaving him in his boxers. He remains silent, only sound a quick intake of breath as I lower him into the warm soapy water. I watch his muscles relax against the warmth and pick up a shower scrunchy. Covering it in some of the body wash I find on the shelf beside the bath, I gently begin to rub over his skin. The water quickly becomes an off brown colour with the dirt and grim falling from his body as I continue to lather and scrub gently at it.
"How did you get in this state?" I sigh, rubbing gently over his shoulders.
"You left." He states, voice low and raspy; taking me by surprise. I stop, hand raised in shock. I ignore his comment and begin to wash him again; lifting his legs to get to them. After he's washed I find a cup and wet his hair, washing and rinsing it out. He watches me the whole time, his breathing deep and even.
"I'm going to shave you, okay?" I ask, looking at him, to which he doesn't reply. Sighing slightly, I search for a razor and shaving cream before applying the cream over his sore looking skin. Taking the razor in my hand, I gradually and as gently as I can, begin to shave off his thick stubble. After it's done, he immediately looks slightly better; not as tired or worn-out. I rub over the newly exposed skin with a flannel before asking if he's okay to get out and get dried. He nods once in reply before I breath out, wiping my hair away from my forehead with the back of my hand. I leave him alone in the bathroom, heading into Zayn's room to get him some clothes. After finding some sweats and a t-shirt, I grab a pair of socks and head back into the spare room. I open the bathroom door cautiously to find him sitting on the edge of the bath-tub; towel clenched around his shivering body.
"Oh, Niall." I murmur, reaching towards him. I dry the rest of him before leaving him once again to change into the clothes.
What the hell had happened to him?