Picture Imperfect (Niall Horan)

{Book 4} When Niall Horan falls, he falls hard. The moment he lays eyes on Cassie Barnett, he's in too deep. Past relationships —including the one with Amabel's ex best friend— have not gone as planned. Is he the reason for breakup after breakup? Cassie Barnett has eyes for Niall's best mate, Zayn. Niall's desperate attempts at getting her attention just might be enough for her to fall for him instead. Could she be just what he's been waiting for?

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6. Niall

6 - Niall 

Cassie's house is really something, but I can tell she is shy about showing off her home. I'll admit, it was a little strange seeing her room since we have only met a few times, but I like that she is comfortable with us, with me. There are pictures of her, her dad and Angie all over the wall and sitting in frames on dressers. I want to know more about her birth mother but I will have to wait to ask her about that.

Zayn makes me jealous of him when he sits next to Cassie on the couch. I play the guitar instead and I am honestly surprised when she doesn't know Through the Dark. It wasn't a single and I don't know why I expected her to know it. It's just that every person that comes up to us or that we know knows our music so this is a little surprising. When I ask Cassie if she knew the song, I was taken aback by her answer.

"No," she says. "I don't really know your music."

"Oh." I love that she is honest with me, and didn't lie just because of who I am.

"Surprised?" she asks.

"No... well a little," I admit.

"I just like other styles of music, I guess. I have nothing against you guys, your music or what you do or stand for, I just like other bands and I just never really listened to your music like Marley did. It's nothing personal," she tells us. Everyone is thinking about what she said, but I'm smiling. She looks so beautiful and I am just thinking about how I have never met someone like her. She really is incredible. "What?"

"Nothing," I shake my head. "So what bands do you like?"

"I am a huge fan of Lifehouse," Cassie smiles. "They're so amazing. I absolutely love every single one of their songs."

"I've never heard of them," Liam says.

From his spot on a chair, Louis adds, "Me either."

"Well you're missing out. I really like Nickelback and 3 Doors Down."

"So more like rock music, then?" Parker says.

"I guess," Cassie shrugs. "Most of my friends grew up listening to the Backstreet Boys; I grew up listening to Aerosmith."

"Have you even listened to one of our songs?" I ask her. I know I am dwelling on this but I think that if she really listened to us she would enjoy it.

"Um... I think it was Little Tight Dress. Marley showed me that one."

"It's Little Black Dress," Zayn corrects her. She smiles up at him and I frown.

"Whatever," she rolls her eyes, something that she does often. I love it; her eyes are so brown and gorgeous. "I listened to that one, and While We're Young or something and uh... Happier!"

"Live While We're Young and Happily," Louis laughs.

Cassie shows us one of their songs and they actually aren't terrible. I hadn't expected her to like this type of music. She hasn't seen them in concert, and I can tell by her eyes that she wants to. I imagine taking to her one, the smile on her face as I show her the tickets. I would make it the best night of her life and we would fall in love.

"Too bad," Zayn says and Cassie and he lean back on the couch. My eyes nearly pop out of my head when he wraps an arm around her shoulder. Harry notices and shakes his head at me. I try to suppress my glare at them but it's difficult. Doesn't Zayn know that I fancy her? I don't know, but that should be me!

"I'll get you to like our music, Barnett," I tell her, getting her attention.

"Excuse me?"

I want her to like One Direction for what we stand for, and our music. "You'll like us, I promise. Even if it's the last thing I do."

"Good luck, I think you're going to need it."

That sounds like a challenge to me. Just then, I think of an idea and I know exactly how to carry it out. "Hey, can I see your laptop? I think I want to check out some more of that Lifehouse music."

"Of course! Here," Cassie grins and hands me her laptop. Immediately I go to the iTunes store. "Niall... what are you doing?"

Harry laughs when he sees what I am doing. Guessing her Apple ID password is so simple and she tries to stop me but fails. I am doing her a favor, she will thank me later. I buy all three our albums and pre-order the fourth one. I move them to her playlist and grin triumphantly. She may be annoyed with me, but I find it amusing to see her angry. Her arms are crossed over her chest and her bottom lip is stuck out. I see Zayn staring at her, but she doesn't notice. Of course she doesn't.

******

A few days later, we are on the bus waiting for Cassie to get here. She wasn't able to spend time with us Monday or yesterday since she had classes and had to study. It felt like much longer than twenty-four hours, but time didn't drag too long since we had interviews on the telly and radio. All of the fans seem excited for the new album and I hope they like it, we worked hard on it. I am not too worried though; they seem to really like everything we do.

This bus is boring and I am so bored. Everyone is just lying around. I don't want to just sit here the whole day. Just as I am about to ask Louis if he wants to play some football, the door opens and Cassie walks in. I sit up and stand, I'm not really sure why.

"Hi," I say.

"Hey Niall," she smiles. I love the way she says my name. Why can't she like me instead of Zayn? Speaking of Zayn, he walks out of the bathroom and his eyes light up when he sees her.

"When did you get here?" he asks, walking over and giving her a hug. My fists ball at my sides.

"Just now," she answers, pulling away. "Everyone seems dead here, what's going on?"

"We're just bored," I sigh.

"Did you want to go out?" Zayn asks her.

"I don't know. It's really hot out so I don't think I want to do anything outside."

"We could see a movie?" I ask her. "I could take you, if you want. If you don't that okay too, I just think that would be a good idea, if y-you know...." I ramble and she stops me.

"Sure, I would love to see a movie with you," she agrees and I smile widely. Yes! I'm going to a movie with Cassie! "Zayn, would you like to come?" she asks, making my smile disappeared. Of course she is inviting him, why wouldn't she? It's obvious that he likes her and from what I can tell, she likes him too.

"Sure, just tell us what movie you want to see and we can go," he says.

"Here," I say and hand Cassie my laptop.

"Thanks," she thanks me and I smile at her. I don't want to be rude to her even though I am so frustrated that she likes Zayn and not me. I liked her first!

"Oh! There's one starting in twenty minutes! It's the one about Ancient Rome! Can we see it?" Cassie asks, looking at me.

Honestly, I have no interest in seeing that movie, but I can't say no to her. "Sure," I agree and Zayn does too.

"We're going to a movie," Zayn tells everyone else. "Does anyone else want to come?" We receive multiple no's so we leave and get into Cassie's car. It's really nice and for a minute I wonder how she has a car this nice but then I remember that her dad probably has more money than the lads and I combined.

"The movie theater is just a few blocks down." Cassie turns up the air conditioning. Even though the drive is a few blocks, we need it. It's got to be a hundred degrees plus humidity.

When we pull up to the theater we find a parking spot close to the doors. It's almost empty. Of course it is; it's a Wednesday afternoon. Zayn offers to pay for the three tickets and Cassie looks at him like he just gave her a million dollars. I roll my eyes and stuff my hands in my pockets. Honestly, I feel like the third wheel when I was the one that suggested we go to the movies. We find our seats in the middle and center of the room. By the time the movie starts it's just us and another couple.

"How long as this movie been out?" I ask Cassie, who is sitting between Zayn and I.

"A few weeks I think," she whispers, the lights dimming.

The movie actually isn't terrible, and I find myself getting really into it. When I look over at Cassie, she is feeding Zayn popcorn and my hands clench around the armrests, my knuckles turning white. This is fucking annoying and it hurts, if I am being honest with myself. I don't like it that they are rubbing it in my face. Then again, neither of them knows that I fancy Cassie. I spend the rest of the movie trying to focus on what's happening on the screen and not what's going on beside me. When the lights come on, I realize I only remember the beginning of the film. I can't remember the rest of it. Cassie and Zayn were distracting me.

"Give me a minute, I've got to use the loo," Zayn says to Cassie. Am I invisible, does he not see me?

Cassie and I awkwardly stand outside the bathroom waiting for Zayn. "So did you like the movie?" I ask her.

"Yes! Thank you for suggesting we come here, Niall. I had wanted to see it for a while now." The smile gives me almost makes me forget that Zayn is here, too.

"You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it."

"Ready to go?" Zayn appears beside me.

"Yeah," I say and we get back into Cassie's car. "Are you coming back to the bus with us? It's only two, you're welcome to stay and hang out with us."

"Sure. I can study later tonight," she agrees and I'm glad. I don't think I can stand seeing Zayn and Cassie together anymore so I think I need to talk to him about her. They're not even dating and I would break down if they did.

Within five minutes we're back on the bus. "Did you like it?" Marley asks when we walk inside. She is sitting on Louis' lap and he kisses her cheek, making her smile. They're great together. Marley is pretty awesome. She does our makeup and is Caroline-our wardrobe designer's-assistant.

"It was pretty good," I answer her and look for something to eat. Cassie sits down next to Louis and Harry, who is on his phone. He's been on that thing non-stop since Amabel left. It's a good thing we're leaving at the end of this week so that he can see his girlfriend.

"I loved it! I wanted to see it for a while and thanks to Niall I finally saw it!" Cassie grins and puts an arm on my shoulder. On the inside I revel in her touch and nearly collapse because I love the way she's touching me; on the outside, however, I am giving her a shy smile while my cheeks heat up. This is what she does to me, and she hardly sees me as a friend. Yes, I'm sure we're friends but I would do anything to change that. I just love the way she is so kind, yet will defend herself.

"I almost fell asleep," Zayn laughs, and I narrow my eyes at him. How was he about to fall asleep? He and Cassie were giggling the whole time. I refrain from rolling my eyes at him.

After another hour of video games and hanging out, Cassie leaves, claiming she has some classes at five and then studying. She really does a lot of it. She must be a great student. There are so many things about her that I love.

"Niall!" Zayn calls me from the bunks.

I walk over and hop in my bunk. Zayn and I are on the bottom across from each other. "Yeah?"

"You know Cassie?"

I roll my eyes. "Yeah. What about her?"

"I think I might ask her out."

My breath gets lost in my throat and I start coughing. "You... what? Do you even know her that well?" Keeping the scowl off my face is harder than I thought. He doesn't even know her! Well, I don't know her that well either but I wouldn't ask her out when we have only known her for about a week or so. I would ask her out as friends, just the two of us, and take her some place she hasn't been before. We would laugh and even though I would really want to, I wouldn't kiss her. I would ask her out again and before she knew it, she would fall in love with me. I wouldn't rush or pressure her into anything; I would be patient because I know someone like her isn't around all the time.

"What? Do you not think I should?" Zayn frowns.

"Um... Well, I mean do you... fancy her?" I force the words out as they tear me apart with every syllable.

"Yeah, mate, I do," he grins and I try to be happy for him but I just can't.

"Do you think she likes you back?" God I hope not. But why wouldn't she? The thought makes me really mad and upset but I wouldn't blame her. She's gotten very close to Zayn very quickly so I wouldn't be surprised if she fancied him too.

Zayn rotates his phone between his hands. "I don't know... I hope so."

I don't.

"I'm sure she'll say yes," I give him a tight smile. "Good luck mate."

"Are you cool with this, Niall?"

I stop and turn back around. "Why wouldn't I be?" Oh, 'cause you know, I'm sort of crazy about this girl, too. I'm pretty sure I liked her first and I really don't like you for basically stealing her from me.

Zayn shrugs. "I thought maybe you fancied her too or something."

"What? No! Me? I don't like Cassie," I reply too quickly.

"So it's okay if I ask her out?"

"Yeah why wouldn't it be?" I almost snap at him. I really wish he would stop asking my permission, it's like he's rubbing it in my face. "I'm sure she'll say yes," I add to soften the blow.

"Thanks, I'm glad you're cool with this," Zayn says and claps a hand on my shoulder before walking away.

I keep thinking that he stole her, but he didn't really. I didn't want to ask her out just yet. We just met! That would be weird, right? I guess I'm not as confident when it comes to girls as Zayn is, which is strange when you think about it. I had a very serious relationship with Sam, and Zayn has been single for a long time. He and Cassie have a lot in common and we are not similar in any way that I can see so far. It's not like I didn't have the chance to ask her out; I was just waiting for the right moment. For Zayn, apparently, the right moment is now because I hear him on the phone with her now.

I pull the curtain back after I lie in my bunk again and try to get some sleep. It's hard since it's the middle of the afternoon. Eventually, after an hour and a half of staring at the ceiling, I give up and go to the front part of the bus to see if Louis will play some FIFA with me.

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