MIND GAMES [One Direction fanfiction] - 13 and up

Harry Styles was just a normal teenage boy, a normal teenage boy who had a happy life and was quite content to live it the way nature had intended: completely normally, with no weird happenings or crazy adventures. Yet some things, it would seem, are destined to be, and it would appear that Harry’s fate was to be abducted by insane strangers intent on experimenting on him, and their four other hand-picked victims. Harry sometimes feels so alone, even when his best friends are only a few metres away - and he can’t seem to help but be afraid, because there are so very few things left in his life for him to control…

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34. Chapter thirtyfour.

“That. Was. My. Foot.

“Oh, God, sorry –” in his haste to stop standing on Eithne’s small, canvas-clad foot, Louis stumbled backwards and ended up stomping on Niall’s instead, tripping over his ankle, and would have fallen onto Liam as well had Liam not known that he was going to do it and had the foresight to both step smartly backwards and reach out to catch him before he could go sprawling to the floor with a thud and giving their whereabouts away.

“Watch yourself, Louis,” he whispered into Louis’ ear, and then releasing him and sidling back into the darkness again, allowing the shadows to fall like a curtain across his face while he closed his eyes, pressed his fingers against his temples and returning to his world of scanning and examining and sifting through possible futures, discarding useless events and trying to make sense out of the important ones. Liam’s power would never be easy to handle, but there was no way he was going to give up on it. Whether he’d ever gain complete mastery over his abilities remained to be seen; perhaps he was destined to live in a perpetual struggle between balancing the future and the present for the rest of his life. But he wasn’t going to get complacent, or lazy, and if he never managed to completely master it, he’d spend his whole life trying.

“Should we show ourselves yet?” Niall hissed. “Li? What’re you getting? Li. Liam.” He tugged a little impatiently on his friend’s sleeve.

“Working on it,” Liam promised patiently, sounding worn rather than irritable, which he had every right to be – if their roles had been reversed, the headaches, indistinct visions and constant badgering for more details from the others would have driven Louis mad in the space of days – Liam just dealt with it. With remarkably good grace, actually.

They all shuffled uncomfortably in the darkness, awaiting Liam’s verdict for what their next movement should be. Nobody spoke, allowing him to concentrate, but the tension in the room was a physical thing; they could all feel it in the tightness of their chest, the short sharpness of their breaths, the way their eyes flickered tensely from wall to wall, making sure that nobody was sneaking up on them. They wanted to be found, true, but nobody felt comfortable with the idea of being crept up on, somehow. It wouldn’t feel as much like their own plan if they didn’t see it coming, was the unanimous verdict. Understandable, really. They hadn’t thought any of it through anywhere near as well as they’d thought they had.

“I can definitely see something,” Liam said slowly, “but it’s indistinct…uncertain…I can’t get a clear fix on it; could you just move a little to the right, please, Eithne?”

Confused, she blinked her grey eyes at him, but obediently stepped sideways, and Zayn came with her, his hand resting protectively on her arm as he sidled to the right by her side, not moving an inch away from her. He was stunningly protective of the girl.

“That’s better…now to the left? About eight steps should be fine.” There was an almost dreamy tone to his voice, like he wasn’t completely there, and his eyes were vague.

A frown creased Eithne’s forehead, but she followed his instructions, her lips moving and silently framing numbers as she counted the exact number of steps that Liam had dictated. Her expression was wary. Coming to a stop, she looked anxiously at the space which she had just vacated, keeping a close eye on it.

“Thank you,” Liam said, and then he snatched up a long, flat piece of wood off the ground and swung it violently in a neat, vicious arch right through the space which Eithne had previously occupied – except before it could swish through the apparently empty space, there came the sound of a harsh thunk, the sound of wood smacking against skin, and a yell, and there was a loud thud as an invisible body hit the floor, knocked right over by Liam’s perfectly calculated swipe. Dust billowed around Cheren in enormous golden clouds, framing the shape of his body as it settled on him where he lay stunned on  the ground, flat on his back and shell-shocked by the impact and the suddenness with which he had slammed into the floor.

Groaning, he wavered into view, looking dizzy, and sprawled motionlessly for a few minutes on the ground with a dazed expression. Horrified, they all leapt backwards in disgust, and Liam raised the board and swiftly brought it back down again; had he not regained some sense and abruptly rolled over and out of the way, it would have cracked down hard on his head. As it was, Cheren was left struggling to scramble to his feet, still a little unsteady and confused.

Without saying another word, Louis planted his hands on Niall’s back and hurriedly started shoving him along, seeming to realize that the blond was too surprised by what had just happened to start moving on his own. The rest of them followed him, silent in their mutual appreciation for what Liam had just done. Later, they would all be thumping him on the back to congratulate him, but at that moment, their main concern was running – they all seemed to have forgotten that they were supposed to be getting caught.

Zayn remembered first – he stopped dead, holding up a finger to stop them, and Niall crashed right into him, steered by a steely Louis, who was going to let nothing stand in his way. “Wait!” he ordered. “Stop running.”

“Are you mental? Keep moving,” Louis snapped in Niall’s ear, giving him another shove, “don’t listen to him, keep moving!” Niall obstinately let his knees lock, refusing to move another inch, and Louis’ frantic pushes were in vain. “What the hell are you doing? Niall,move!”

“No more running,” Zayn said firmly. “We can’t outrun an invisible guy, or a teleporter. Who can walk through walls. You’d have to be crazy to think we could get away from them. We stand a far better chance by trying to fight.” Sidling closer to Louis, he whispered into his ear, words flying from his mouth so quickly that they blurred together and Louis barely caught them, “the plan was that we let them catch us, remember? I know your instinct is to run, but if the choice is fight or flight, and we need to get caught, fight is our best option. Remember what they would have done to Niall? And what they might be doing to Harry right this instant? Come on, Lou. Are you with us? Strike a blow, for Harry’s sake?”

Louis nodded sharply and stepped back to get himself a little room to maneouvre, his expression hardening. “I don’t know how the hell we’re supposed to fight, though. My power’s purely defensive; I’ve no idea how you expect me to work with that. And Liam, what’s Liam going to do? Predict them to death?”

“It’s my job to worry about that. You leave that to me.” Liam clapped him on the shoulder, looking strained. “I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve; don’t you worry.”

She looked more determined than scared, but as Eithne’s fingertips brushed Zayn’s elbow, she looked a little unsure of herself. “What about me? I haven’t any powers. What do you want me to do?”

He licked his lips contemplatively, then dropped to his knees, felt around on the floor and with a scrape of metal on wood, retrieved what looked like a bit of old piping. Wordlessly, he offered it to her, and she took it without complaint, although her nose wrinkled as her fingers tightened around the metal bar.

“Whack them,” he advised, “and don’t be shy about it. I’ve seen you get aggressive – unleash that inner anger. Think about that time you told me to load the dishwasher and I accidentally dropped six plates and smashed them on the floor. Are you thinking about that?”

Eithne’s livid expression spoke for itself; she settled into a kind of crouching position with the bar raised aggressively over her head, like a cricket bat, preparing to take a swing at the next person to come too close. “Oh, I’m ready.”

For a moment, Zayn allowed a tiny smile to dance across his face as he watched her, and then he nodded to himself. “Excellent.”

“I can’t start hurling fireballs around or setting myself alight in here. There’s too much wood around. The whole place would go up.”

“I agree,” said Louis, “but I’ve figured something out. I think if we can lock some fireballs into my force fields, then they’ll be hot enough to burn people, but the flames will he locked inside, so they can’t set things on fire. You’re pretty much impervious to heat, right? If I can make the fields fast enough, could you throw them?”

Niall answered by cupping his hands into a fist, then hurling a fireball upwards. Louis immediately flicked a force field after it in response – one that flickered into existence around the ball of flames, and then dropped straight downwards, landing easily in Niall’s waiting hands. He took a few moments to test the weight of it, roll the fist-sized ball of heat around in his hands, familiarize himself with it, and then he nodded at Louis and stepped back, tossing the ball from hand to hand as he prepared to throw it.

They had no more time to prepare as Felix leapt straight through the wall beside Niall, landing like a cat on the balls of his feet, shockingly close. Niall being Niall, he hesitated for just a split second before he raised the ball high above his head, and brought it crashing down with the weight of a bowling ball and the heat of an oven, right down on Felix’s head.

After that, they all reacted pretty instinctively, like they were a whole unit rather than four shocked adolescents struggling to cope with the fact that they had been thrust into a fight that they didn’t intend to win. Louis knocked the winded Felix to the ground with another force field, momentarily pinning him to the floor, and then Zayn snatched him up and sent him flying towards the ceiling, then back down again, with such an almighty crash that they were surprised that the boy’s skinny body didn’t burst right through the floorboards and fall right down to the bottom floor. They all stared at his groaning, barely stirring fall in utter shock, astonished at themselves. They’d fought, and for the moment at least, it seemed like they’d won. The whole thing had lasted a matter of seconds.

Stunned, Niall let the fireball contained inside Louis’ force field flicker and die, dampened and extinguished by his lack of concentration. They were plunged into darkness.

A high-pitched, piercing scream made them all jump, and they all floundered helplessly, whirling around as they struggled to locate the source of the noise. By the time another little ball of flames had blossomed hastily in Niall’s right hand, the cry had cut off with a low, gurgling whimper, and the only sounds were Felix moaning weakly on the floor as he struggled to raise his head, the flames in Niall’s hand crackling, and the typical creaks and groans of an old building as the fragile infrastructure realized that it was once again being relied upon to offer support to something other than simply itself, and didn’t seem to like it much.

All heads in the room turned expectantly to Louis, like they thought he might have made the noise – all except for Liam’s; Liam had buried his face in his hands once again, and stood in silence, trying to see.

“What?” Louis asked defensively, wrapping his arms around himself. He pretended not to notice his voice cracking slightly. “I know I’m a little bit camp, but I’m not that bad.”

“Who was it, then? Who screamed?” There was an edge to Niall’s voice that he didn’t much like; fear did strange things to his accent, warping it so that it sounded harsh and snappy.

Zayn spoke up, then, although not to admit to making the ridiculously girlish sound. His brown eyes were wide, and he kept looking frantically around himself, hands grasping fruitlessly at empty air as he struggled to catch hold of someone who no longer stood beside him. “Eithne?” he said faintly, and then panic started bleeding through onto his expression. He paled and his mouth fell open, letting a low gasp escape as he spun around, still searching, eyes flickering from wall to wall and not finding the familiar gleam of white-blonde hair that he was searching for. “Eithne? Where’s Eithne?”

“Where’s Felix?” Louis demanded, having turned back to the place where they had left the dark-haired boy writhing on the floor and found that he wasn’t there anymore.

“Peek-a-boo!” And then a giggle. Like Cheren thought this was some kind of crappy, clichéd movie. But he didn’t show himself.

“Eithne!” They’d never heard Zayn panic before, or seen him get scared, but he’d officially lost it. Twisting around and around like a dog trying to chase its own tail, his head whipping back and forth as he searched for the blonde girl, he had none of his restraint left. He just looked terrified.

“Zayn,” Louis said, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Zayn,” repeated Liam.

“Not now,” he growled, “Eithne! Eithne, where are you? Eithne!”

Zayn!”

Only her voice was enough to break through his desperation; Zayn’s head snapped up and he started sprinting towards the source of the noise. Swearing, Liam sprinted after him, trying to grab hold of his arm; in the darkness, Louis, Niall and Liam were linked together, clinging to each other’s sleeves, belt loops, anything they could hold onto really to make sure that they didn’t lose each other in the darkness. 

They chased Zayn though gaping open doorways, along corridors, twisting and turning towards Eithne’s voice. He could probably have found a far quicker way if he’d thought logically, but for the first time since any of them had met him, Zayn was panicking. So he simply followed the sound of Eithne’s semi-hysterical cries. Sprinting on his long legs, he was near impossible to catch; not even running for his life, but for hers. His eyes were wide, the brown turning cold and hard with panic, like frozen mud, and his caramel skin had turned pale. Every time he faltered, uncertain, his head would whip back and forth until another piercing scream rippled through the corridors, as if she knew every time he lost his way and was giving him a new opportunity to find her…guiding him, almost.

When they found her, she was not alone. Cheren had his arm around her neck in a gesture which should have been an embrace, but clearly was intended to be menacing; he was grinning a little, and running his long fingers down the slender column of her throat, stroking up and down and provoking little whimpering cries to burst from between her teeth. Now that they’d arrived, and she’d stopped hysterically shrieking for Zayn (something which Louis suspected that Cheren had induced, forcing her to scream; judging by the tight line that her lips were now pressed into, holding back most of her sobs, she was fiercely proud and would not have screamed for help willingly) Cheren seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to wickedly caress her, threatening her somehow. Every so often, she’d choke on a sob which she was desperately trying to withhold, and her eyes kept fluttering closed as she shuddered in disgust. Zayn’s jaw clenched, echoing the sentiment; he didn’t like Cheren’s long white hands being on her any more than she did.

“I’d watch where you’re placing your hands, if I were you.”

Cheren raised his eyebrows and lowered his gaze to her throat, his fingers slowly drifting downwards, dipping just underneath the neckline of her borrowed hoodie and making her shudder in distaste. “Why?” he asked tauntingly. “Is she yours?”

“No,” said Zayn. “She isn’t anyone’s. She’s nobody’s property but her own, and correct me if I’m wrong, but she doesn’t particularly want your filthy hands on her. So I’d advise you to re-evaluate exactly what you’re doing, and then let. Her. Go.

“Tell you what; why don’t we let the lady decide? Tell us, then, darling – would you like me to let you go, or would you rather stay right here with me, hmm?”

Eithne opened her mouth, and then slammed it shut again with a snap, closing her eyes and leaning back against Cheren, resting her head on his neck in what could be interpreted as ecstasy, but her expression proved to be terror. Zayn’s own eyes narrowed in outrage as he spotted a flash of metal hovering around her ribs.

“Oh, so you’re going to hold her at knifepoint – that’s not what I’d call letting her decide.”

“People have strange definitions of free will these days. Besides, I’m just polishing my knife on her hoodie, that’s all.” He leered at her. “Maybe she likes living a little…dangerously. Right, hon?” Eithne stayed stonily silent; he pressed the blade against her ribs, and they all heard her sharp intake of breath as first one tear, then a second spilled down her colourless cheeks. “Right, hon?”

“Y-yeah,” she choked, all but paralysed with fright.

“See!” he crowed, raising his eyebrows at Zayn. “What did I tell you? Feisty young girls are easily bored…they crave excitement. That’s something I can most definitely give,” Cheren purred against Eithne’s neck.

“Let her go. LET HER GO, YOU LITTLE SHIT!” It took the combined efforts of both Liam and Louis to restrain Zayn, who was just about ready to knock the smirking dark haired boy to the floor and slash him to bits with the very knife he was threatening Zayn’s girlfriend with. None of them were completely sure when she had started meaning so much to him, but seeing the way he’d lost his cool, the rage in his eyes and the way his face had paled while his ears glowed scarlet with anger, the way he lunged and struggled violently against the restraining hands of his friends…it was enough to show Liam that his prediction had been completely correct; somehow, amongst the whispered conversations and covert floating kisses and the many extra hours of watch duty that Zayn had stolen from the other boys, ‘keeping guard’ over the girl until they had almost all forgotten that they’d ever guarded her in the first place. Somehow, in her relationship with Zayn, care for Niall when he’d gone astray, and all of her calmness and gentle guidance in their next actions, they’d all grown to trust her – Zayn, most implicitly of all. And Liam had known that Eithne would one day mean more to Zayn than anyone else did, but he hadn’t expected it to happen so suddenly, or for Zayn to be so unashamedly desperate about it.

Cheren tutted patronizingly. “Language! Ooh, you foul mouth. Girls don’t like swearing, you know. Along with spitting, and leaving the toilet seat up, swearing is right up there on the list of their pet hates. They absolutely despise it!”

Zayn snarled – and then his whole body went limp, shocking Liam and Louis into loosening their grips. Only that had been his plan all along, and he threw his weight back against them, breaking free. With a hiss of triumph, he launched himself at Cheren and Eithne, and rather than grabbing the girl as they all expected, he grabbed Cheren, twisting him into a vicious headlock and almost turning him upside down. Gurgling, his face turning red, Cheren released Eithne but had the presence of mind to hang on to the knife, which he tried to turn on Zayn.

In the end, he managed to lightly graze Zayn’s stomach with the sharp blade, and when Zayn yelped in pain, Cheren took advantage of his distraction and threw him off, knocking him back on top of Eithne. Zayn’s hand closed around one of her slender wrists, and he hurriedly rolled off her, so that he wouldn’t hurt her. She was shaking, sobbing quietly, curled up into a ball with her head tucked in, cheek pressed against the floor as she cried. Zayn draped an arm over her waist, feeling her tremble, trailing a hand down her spine, and for a moment he seemed to forget that Cheren was standing over him, panting and bent double as he struggled to catch his breath. His face was purple, but Zayn was focused on Eithne’s, which was white. One of his thumbs lightly grazed her cheekbone, swiping a salty bead of moisture from a few centimetres beneath her bluish grey iris. There were more of them clinging to her eyelashes.

“Hey,” he whispered against her hair, feeling it slide against his lips. “Don’t cry, sweet. I’m here.”

She only sobbed harder, fingers twisting in the fabric of his shirt, nails digging into the back of his hand, shaking all over. Zayn hated to see her that way; he lay flat down on the floor, his back to the threat, leaving himself completely vulnerable and with pain from the cut on his stomach spiking through his torso like someone had strapped a cactus to his abdomen. Not that he cared about that – his world now consisted of four colours: the crimson of his hoodie that she wore, the pale, murky blue of her frightened eyes, the pale blonde of her flowing hair where it was spread around her head on the floor like an enormous white-blonde halo (either she’d shaken the bobble out of her hair, or someone had pulled it out, because a light golden waterfall had cascaded down her shoulders, released from the restraints of the band) and her usually creamy skin, turned papery white with shock.

“Did he hurt you, love? Just show me where.” His hands fluttered helplessly over the lines of her quivering body, lingering hesitantly over the lines and curves of her as she shook weakly, too shaken even to answer him. “Tell me now, and I’ll tear him apart. You can watch, or you can close your eyes, I don’t care. I’ll rip him into pieces and then flush the pieces down the toilet and throw that toilet off a cliff…”

Despite herself, Eithne giggled, her laughter contorted with sobs. She managed a brave little smile, her eyes glistening with tears as she squeezed his hand, removing it from the soft curve of her waist so she could squeeze it, hard. “You’re ridiculous.”

His answering smile was small, but instant, and encouraging.

Before he could answer, Cheren had dived down on top of him and was wrestling with him from behind while Niall and Liam fought to drag him off and Louis swore as he frantically hurled force fields into their midst, where they bounced off people’s heads, blossomed between them and made the whole job an awful lot harder, and all the while Cheren was flailing around with a flick-knife in his hand, in serious danger of ripping enormous holes in people. Louis’ main concern right then was getting their most vulnerable element, Eithne, out of harm’s way.

Eventually, at a loss, he yelled, “Eithne! Roll!”

With her hands protectively over her head, Eithne rolled over, across the floor and away from the skirmish with a whimper that went unheard in the scuffle – and the moment she was far enough away from the fight, a field bubbled around her and then she was safe, hands pressed up against the bubble as she stared, panic-stricken, at the four boys grappling on the floor.

Zayn landed an angry but calculated punch into Cheren’s gut just as Liam snatched Niall out of the way in anticipation of the knife that narrowly missed puncturing his stomach. Realizing that he was being overwhelmed, Cheren decided to say a fond farewell to dignity by responding as he often did; calling for assistance on his little brother.

“FELIX!”

Felix came leaping through the wall rather like a ballet dancer, a fan of theatrics as always, with an enormous grin on his face, arms extended as if he was about to pirouette. Clearly he was enjoying the idea of completely humiliating his brother and being his last hope at the same time. Yet his stupidity backfired; he jumped straight through the chipped concrete wall, and fell over one of Niall’s legs that was sticking out as he rolled around on the floor hanging onto Cheren’s knees, growling as he struggled to let him go.

“Yes, brother dear? You c – holy shit!” With a yell, Felix fell over and hit the floor with a smack, hands flying out to catch himself. Disconcertingly, he went right through the floorboards up to the elbows before he managed to right himself, grabbing something inside the floor and using it to halt his fall. He pushed himself back up through the floor, sat up, and then stared in utter shock at the fighting boys. “Cheren, what –”

Without giving him a chance to finish his question, Cheren yelled “PLAN B, LIX. PLAN B!”

Felix’s face hardened; apparently the phrase meant far more to him than it did to anybody else. Hooking his foot around Niall’s leg, which he’d tripped over in the first place, he reached out and pressed the flat of his hand against the bubble which Eithne was caught in, the bubble that Louis had a protective hand on, meaning that as Niall hung on to Cheren, who was having his hair pulled by Liam and punches rained down on his chest by Zayn, they were all interconnected, all touching each other. And Zayn lifted his head and realized with a sinking feeling what was about to happen, that the twins had lain far more careful plans than theirs, and that he couldn’t even shout out a warning to the others because he would barely have time to open his mouths. Their bodies were tangled, linked, and a link was all Felix needed.

A wicked grin lit up Felix’s face as he made eye contact with Zayn.

The world convulsed sickeningly and then twisted inwards on itself and ripped apart, combusting around them in an explosion that painted flames onto the insides of his eyelids, and all Zayn could hear was his own voice relentlessly chanting swearwords like some kind of horrible prayer, keeping him sane because at least there was something real in the world…and he could hear Niall echoing, spitting even more profanities that spilt from his lips even faster than they fell from Zayn’s. And he could hear Eithne crying. She sounded like a tortured kitten.

That sound curled around him like a horrible, icy cold blanket as Felix whisked them all away, and he closed his eyes so that he didn’t have to see the colours pulsing and trickling before his eyes like someone had jumped on a cartful of citrus fruits, and not only were the painfully bright colours (acid green, livid orange, bright yellow) trickling together in a hideous mash of ugly neon shades, but the juices were filling his eyes as well, oozing through his body, searing every inch of him with the pain you get when you smear lemon juice in a cut. But Eithne’s sobs were still louder than his own agonized screams.

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