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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37. Chapter thirtyseven.

“Was he telling the truth?” Louis panted.

“As far as I could tell,” answered Liam, his breathing ragged, “I can see us finding Harry, but the details are still a bit vague…the directions he gave us were sound, though.”

Since Niall was still pretty much incapacitated and struggling to walk in a straight line or keep his eyes open, Louis had ended up making a field around him so that they could essentially push him around like he was in a kind of makeshift wheelchair. Despite his distaste for enclosed spaces, Niall was drained and dizzy enough not to have complained; he was lying dazedly on the bottom of the bubble while it rolled over and over, and Louis was still extremely confused by the physics of the field, because it was turning and moving and basically replicating a hamster ball, but as always, the occupant was lying flat on the bottom of it rather than being turned upside down and thrown violently around. He’d never understood that, not that he was complaining.

In a brief moment of clarity, Niall had dramatically told them to “leave me, I’ll only slow you down…I’ll be alright!” but as Louis sourly pointed out, this was real life, and not to be clichéd or anything, but nobody was getting left behind. And although skinny and small, Niall wasnot light, and Liam’s attempt at a fireman’s lift left him exhausted and sweaty because of the intensity of the body heat that constantly oozed off Niall’s body (although the water had admittedly cooled him off a lot, he was still uncomfortably warm to have skin contact with for a prolonged amount of time) which was about the time when Louis had come up with the idea of rolling him along the corridor in a force field. It was slowing them down a lot, but he was fairly confident that they had plenty of time to get to Harry. They’d left Felix on the floor murmuring to Deino as he pushed her hair away from her neck, checked her pulse, tried to awaken her, and Cheren had still been in a field at that time. It would take a while before Louis got out of range and released him, and Felix was enough of a gabbling wreck to be incapable of coming up with a coherent plan. He’d craved leadership, but when it had been unceremoniously thrust upon him, the stress had almost made him snap under the strain.

Liam closed his eyes again and tried to focus on his memories of finding Harry, whilst Louis and Niall stayed silent, awaiting a verdict from the other boy, who was apparently struggling very hard to control the images in his head; his forehead was creased in a pained scowl.

“There should be a corridor to our left.”

Louis spotted it at the exact moment the words left Liam’s mouth; with a determined, “Right,” he began steering the force field towards it.

“We don’t want to go down that one.”

“Right, okay.” Neatly twisting to his right, Louis righted the field and continued pushing it straight along the corridor they were walking along.

“And there’s a door coming up on the right…”

“Yeah, yeah, I see it!”

“We don’t want that one either.”

Louis gritted his teeth and avoided the intense urge to either punch Liam in the face or ask which door or corridor they did want, because that information might be a little more useful.

“Right, I’ve got it now,” Liam enthused, eyes flying open. “Eighteen steps forward, down the next corridor on the left, then first door on the right!”

“You’re completely sure?” Louis asked, not bothering to keep the biting sarcasm out of his voice. “You’re not about to tell us that actually it’s eighteen doors to the left on the next right corridor, or on the moon or something, right?”

“Ha,” Liam said evenly, without a trace of humour. “You should be a comedian. Do you want to find Harry, or not? I’m one hundred percent sure this time.”

“Okay. I’m sorry. I just don’t want any more false alarms. I need to see him.”

They followed Liam’s instructions in silence from that moment on, rolling the force field down the indicated corridor. Niall had sat up, his hands pressed against the inside of the bubble, hisnose practically pressed against it too, like a child at an aquarium desperately flattening his nose against the glass in an attempt to get a better look. For once, Louis felt no temptation whatsoever to mimic him.

They’d only taken their first few steps down the corridor when Louis heard an absolutely awful noise wrench the air, grab a handful of his intestines and rip them out through his nostrils – or at least, that was what it felt like to hear that first, drunken sob stabbing him in the abdomen with as much force as a physical blow, perhaps more.

Louis recognized the sound of Harry’s sobs almost unnaturally quickly bearing in mind that he’d never actually heard them before.

He’d seen Harry cry before, of course – he’d seen the younger boy stand before him with tears trickling down his cheeks until his whole face was drenched in saltwater and Louis was almost afraid that something inside of him had ruptured and all of the moisture in Harry’s body was leaking out through his swollen tear ducts. He’d watched, speechless with rage, as grief and guilt had infiltrated Harry’s expression, turning him into a tearstained little boy who had broken something and feared some kind of awful reprisal. Then Louis had spat angry words into Harry’s face and watched it crumple like paper clenched tightly inside a fist; he’d watched ten thousand shades of pain splash across Harry’s face like Louis was furiously swiping expressions onto the younger boy with a paintbrush and he’d felt swirls of vindictive relief spiralling through his guts as he’d wrenched Harry apart with his words, piece by piece, reducing him to a torn and broken little boy who quivered before Louis’ vicious, unrestrained anger.

Yet through all of that, Harry had uttered not a word – not until Louis was done with him, anyway; not until Louis had finished turning his tongue into a knife and hacking Harry into little bits with it. It was as if silence was all Harry had left; like his dignity was all he had left to cling to as he was ripped to pieces by the sharp slash of Louis’ harsh words.

He had no such reservations now. His low, persuasive, velvet voice had become an aching mess – contorted into trembling gasps, low moans and ugly sobs. It was terrible; it was like the pure embodiment of pain in vocal form, the kind of noise that clawed your ears to shreds. Hopelessness, exhaustion, agony, the choking sound of someone who had nothing left to call their own except their own life, and was in so much pain that they were beginning to wish they didn’t even have that.

It was what Louis imagined hell might sound like.

He was afraid to open the door and see the face that accompanied that noise – if there was even any face left. It honestly wouldn’t have surprised him if Harry’s face had been scraped away bit by bit with a horrible kind of blunt instrument; at least that would explain the noises. The awful, awful noises that made poor Harry sound like he had a cheese grater stuck in his throat and was choking on it. The noises that Louis were so desperate to stop.

Louis made his mind up right there and then. Already, he’d forgiven Harry – secretly, he’d given up on being angry the moment he realized that his fury really had driven Harry away – and he couldn’t bear to hear anyone make sounds like that, no matter what they had done to him. His fingers were on the door handle, trying the door; it was stiff – no – locked! He hurled himself at it in utter outrage (how dare it stand between him and Harry?) slamming into it with his shoulder, banging it with his fists – kicking, when none of that worked. And in the end, relying on his final defence, he stepped back, gave himself a generous run-up and splayed his fingers and hurled a force field at the door as well as himself, and the combination of the two was enough to not just open the door, as had been his intention; not just break the door, as had been his desire. He smashed the wood, splintering it completely, and as could only be expected, he clumsily fell straight through the space where it had been and landed with a smack on the ground, his sudden loss of concentration making all of his force fields dissipate and the hands he threw out to catch himself not even succeeding in stopping him from slamming into the ground and knocking all of the breath out of himself.

He lay on the floor for a moment or so, cheek pressed against the cool ground, struggling to take in a breath, and then with monumental effort he raised his head and groaned, “Harry?”

The curly haired boy was slumped over a small wooden table that was heaped with papers; the chair he sat in was positioned towards a computer screen the size of a flat-screen TV, and there was a woman with honey-coloured curly hair and enormous glasses staring blankly out at them from the screen. It appeared that Harry was halfway through a Skype call. The woman’s gaze was glassy and unfocused, and Harry’s shoulders were shaking as he let out a low, subdued sob.

It took every ounce of willpower Louis had for him to peel his aching body off the cold floor and crawl over to the chair Harry was sitting in, and by the time he’d gotten there, he could see that Harry was shivering, his head turned to the left, cheek pressing against the desk. He was whimpering quietly, and as Louis reached out to touch him, he discovered that the younger boy was sweaty and his skin was around the same temperature Niall’s was usually at, which was extremely worrying. Carefully, Louis brushed some stray, sweaty curls off Harry’s forehead and knelt down beside him to try and listen to some of the all but inaudible mutters that fell feverishly out of his mouth.

“I’m here,” he whispered. “Harry, it’s me, Louis. I am so sorry. Can you hear me? I’m so, so sorry, I never meant it to come to this. Come on, you’re all right, please Harry, just nod, just say something, please. Squeeze my hand?” He scrabbled desperately for Harry’s limp right hand, which lay twitching on the table, and crushed it within his own fingers. “Please, babe, squeeze my hand if you can hear me?” He wasn’t sure how the babe had slipped out, but it feltright somehow, so he chose not to question it.

There was complete silence, apart from the odd mumbling that came from Harry’s lips, pressed together into a tight line. Louis leaned over him and pressed his lips right against his ear.

“Harry,” he said loudly.

Harry’s long fingers suddenly twitched and then curled tightly around Louis’, almost crushing his hand so that he flinched, but he didn’t utter a word of complaint. Instead, he wrapped his arm around Harry’s shoulders in an encouraging but clumsy approximation of a hug.

“Louis,” Harry moaned.

“Yeah, I’m here. God, I’m so sorry, Harry, I’m so sorry, please forgive me – God, are you okay? I can’t believe what a twat I’ve been, I am so sorry –” His lips pressed against the top of Harry’s head, and he inhaled the incredible scent of his curls even as he gently squeezed Harry’s hand back, afraid to hurt him. “I’m here. Can you lift your head for me? Can you look at me, Harry?”

“Can’t…hurts…it hurts, I can’t…I can’t…I can’t…” It appeared to be the only thing he was capable of saying; trembling even more, he gripped Louis’ fingers with a painful intensity. “Can’t…” He keened softly, and in response, the woman on the screen let out a faint whine.

That was when it dawned on Louis that their mind were still connected, that somehow Harry had established more than just a video link between himself and this stranger. Apparently, Niall had come to the same conclusion; standing beside Harry, he carefully pulled out a sheet of paper from underneath his head, and silently held it out to Louis. A list of names, numbered one to two hundred and fourteen, and one hundred and six of those names had been ticked off in red pen. The ticks grew larger and clumsier as the list went on; the last five names or so had been shakily scrawled in a child’s handwriting, as if the writer’s hand had been shaking so badly that they could barely pick up the pen. It wasn’t hard to imagine, with Harry shuddering so violently in Louis’ arms.

“Please listen to me, Harry. Baby, are you listening? You have to let her go.”

The woman on the screen tilted her head a little, like she was listening, but Harry himself didn’t seem to hear him.

Louis…”

“Come on, Harry, I know you can hear me. Let her go. Let all of them go.”

Harry grabbed two handfuls of his own curls, dropping Louis’ hand, and tugged violently on them, as if ripping his own hair out would distract him from the agony that was ripping his mind to shreds. Frightened that he was going to hurt himself, Louis tugged gently on his wrists, trying to disentangle those long, pale fingers from his hair.

“Let her go, Harry.”

His only response was to cry out again.

“Okay then,” Louis said grimly, “looks like this is going to be difficult. We need to make him more comfortable if I’m going to get through to him; can you grab his feet, Niall?”

Liam grabbed the chair and started pulling it out from underneath him; Niall seized Harry by the ankles, and Louis got a steady grip on his torso. It would have helped if Harry wasn’t solong, his limbs sprawling gracelessly out as the two of them struggled to lift him out of the chair, hastily aided by Liam, who helped to lower him to the ground and then struggled to make him comfortable on the floor with his head resting on Louis’ lap. Louis carefully pushed his untidy mess of curls out of his eyes, which stayed firmly closed. He had gone a very sickly shade of white, and Louis didn’t like it at all.

“Louis? Louis, it hurts,” said Harry pathetically.

Louis gave him a squeeze in an attempt to reassure him, and smoothed down an unruly curl. “Yeah, and it’s going to keep hurting until you let those people go. There’s nothing I can do, I’m sorry. You’re going to have to do it on your own.”

“I don’t know if I can.” Harry forced his eyes open and stared miserably up at Louis, stroking the back of his hand with one shaking thumb. “I’ve been clinging to them for so long I don’t know if I can even remember how to let them go anymore. I’m scared I might lose myself if I try to let them go…like they’re going to take half of me with them.”

“You’re going to have to trust me, Harry. That won’t happen, okay? You think I’d let them take even a tiny bit of you as a souvenir? I’m an annoying twat and I’m incredibly possessive, and now I’ve got you back I have no intention of letting anyone else so much as look at you ever again without having one of their arms ripped off in recompense, so please. You know you can’t do this. Just let go. I promise it’ll be okay.”

Harry choked a tiny little laugh, and his fingertips dug into Louis’ arms; there would be bruises there the next day. “You know I trust you.”

“I don’t know why,” Louis said softly. “Not after all those awful things I said.”

“You didn’t mean them. And I’d have understood even if you did. What I did was wrong…I know that now. I hate this power, and all the awful things I’ve done with it…the people I’ve corrupted, the things I’ve done…you must hate it, too. You must hate me.

“I don’t hate it,” he was told, “it’s part of what makes you who you are. I couldn’t hate that if I tried. And I most certainly do not hate you. You’re all I have right now, Harry. All I want. And I…” he hesitated before figuring he might as well just say it; it had to be said one day, and now was as good a time as any. “I love you.”

Harry’s grip tightened harshly on his fingers, which were rapidly turning numb. “I love you too.”

What happened next was all a blur. Louis leant down to carefully touch his lips against Harry’s, but before he was even halfway there, Harry all of a sudden wasn’t there anymore. Without so much as a yelp, he’d completely vanished, like a pair of invisible hands had yanked him forcefully out of Louis’ arms. Louis almost fell forwards right on his face in shock as he scrambled to keep his balance and urgently looked around the room at the same time, eyes flickering wildly from corner to corner as he looked, and Harry was nowhere to be seen.

By the time he’d sat up and gotten over his momentary disorientation, Harry was gone, and Liam was staggering over to the door with his eyes closed even as Niall hurriedly opened it so that he wouldn’t walk right into it.

Liam’s brown eyes flew open, dazed as they were, and Louis suspected that it wasn’t doing him much good to look at his surroundings because he wasn’t really seeing them anyway through the haze of the vision that had been thrown upon him. “The stairs!” he cried, and took off at a sprint, and the other boys hared off after him, Niall trying his best to stay level with him so that he could open any doors they encountered before Liam ran right into them. 

Not even bothering to keep track of where they were going, Louis followed Liam without question, down a couple of corridors and threw doors that Niall hastily flung open and didn’t bother to slam closed in their wake, and Louis was officially panicking now, because he’d had Harry in his arms and been holding him and about to kiss him and now he was gone 

There were far too many corridors in that building for Louis’ liking, but Liam was like their own personal map, barely faltering for a second as he threw himself through doorway after doorway and skidded around seemingly endless corners, and he knew exactly where he was going, for which Louis was ridiculously thankful. Their feet thumped on the floor, Niall’s bare feet making a slapping sound since he’d burned his shoes into slivers of charred rubber (the smell still hung disgustingly about him) and his clothes had been reduced to burnt rags that hung off his frame in shreds. Liam’s shoes squeaked. Louis didn’t even register the sound his own feet were making on the polished floor as Liam stopped dead, wrenched another door open and the three of them bolted through it, staggering to a stop as they spotted Harry and Felix stood at the top of an enormous flight of stairs, struggling with each other and teetering right on the edge.

Harry looked weary but determined, his teeth gritted, forehead furrowed in a frown, and Felix appeared to be almost enjoying himself as they wrestled on the very edge of the staircase. Of course, it wouldn’t matter to him if they fell; he could probably pass straight through the floor if he had the presence of mind to phase through it. They were grappling on the edge with arms wrapped around each other in an awful parody of a hug.

Of course, Harry had an advantage in both height and weight, being far taller and therefore a lot heavier than the skinny Felix, who looked about as substantial as paper as they each fought for mastery. But Harry was still sweating and shaking with the effort of holding onto the hundred-plus minds that he hadn’t managed to let go of yet, and Felix, apart from being a bit shaken up, was in perfect health.

It was far too evenly matched for Louis’ liking. Every time Felix staggered and shifted closer to the edge, he would haul Harry with him, so that they each hovered right on the brink of an enormous drop and one wrong move, one sufficient stumble and they would both go down. Louis’ heart was in his mouth as he watched them, arms dangling uselessly at his sides, too shocked to even think about creating a force field that could save them both.

The whole world had slowed down. They were underwater, and every move they made was almost comically slowed down in Louis’ eyes. Felix kicked Harry’s shin. Harry ripped an enormous chunk of his hair out. Felix attempted to head-butt Harry and followed it up with a vicious skinny elbow that jabbed sharply against Harry’s ribs, and Harry yelped, which in turn caused Louis to cry out. Distracted by the sound, Harry’s head snapped up again as he gazed concernedly at him.

It was the only distraction Felix needed as he threw his weight against Harry and gave him a shove. Harry staggered backwards and placed his foot on a step that wasn’t there, and then his eyes widened, hands grabbed out for Felix and passed straight through him, didn’t manage to catch the banister in time and he fell, tripping backwards and throwing himself head first down the enormous staircase.

In typical movie fashion, Harry’s fall should have been slowed ten times more in order for maximum effect, but if that had been the case, Louis would have had time to do more than just cry out and stagger forwards one step with his hand outstretched as if he could catch him from that distance. He might have had time to make a field, to do something that would save him. As it was, he was completely helpless, and Harry vanished with a cry down the staircase in a blur of chocolate brown curls, a borrowed red sweater that made him look unhealthily pale and washed out, and off-white Chinos that were too tight for him. And Louis didn’t have time to react, but he had time to take in all these horrible details as the sound of Harry’s head crunched against the staircase and he rolled awkwardly, hit the wall and then bounced off it, around the corner and continued to fall down the stairs and out of sight.

Felix looked up and his grey eyes met Louis’, and then he did what Louis thought was perhaps even more despicable than pushing Harry in the first place: pale eyes wide with astonishment, he breathed out in surprise, and then completely stunned, he laughed.

The scream that ripped its way out of the back of Louis’ throat and shredded his vocal chords didn’t even sound human. His reaction was instantaneous and completely uncontrollable; his hands shot out, fingers unfurling out of the clenched fists they had become, and with another horrible scream, he hurled a force field the size of a small elephant at Felix with the same strength and ferocity of a wrecking ball.

 It hit the skinny sixteen year old in the chest, large enough that it slammed into his long nose with a crunch, and then it was Felix’s turn to yelp and make a desperate grab for a handhold as he staggered backwards, tripping over his untied shoelaces. He fell in a blur of black and white as his hair, hoodie and pale skin seemed to merge into one as Louis’ tears had distorted everything into a fuzzy mess.

His vision had blurred and his eyes prickled with wet heat; he couldn’t even see past his tears because he knew all too well that it would take a miracle for Harry not to be smashed into bloody pieces at the bottom of that staircase. But that didn’t stop him from staggering forwards and rushing down the staircase two steps at a time, almost slipping on a horrible bright red patch on the floor, seeing another on the wall where somebody’s head had collided with the skirting board and left an awful splodge like a smashed strawberry there. As he rushed down the stairs, he sobbed to himself a relentless “please-please-please-please-please-please-please-please-please” as if simply by praying he could reverse all of it, as if he could lurch forward and snag Harry by the wrist before he could fall –

He reached the bottom, and Felix was nowhere to be seen, but it was unmistakably Harry who lay on the floor in a crumpled, broken mess, the floor around him smeared with scarlet, left cheek pressed against the floor. His eyes were closed, his right arm stuck out at an awful angle, and as Louis dropped to his hands and knees beside him, he was crying too hard to see whether or not his chest was still rising and falling.

“Harry –”

He couldn’t breathe, how the hell was he supposed to speak? And he didn’t dare check for a pulse in case he hurt him, barely dared to look at his fragile body where it lay contorted into that awful flattened position on the floor like a broken china doll, and a tangle of swearwords fell from his lips, along with prayers and sobs and other, terrible noises he hadn’t known he was capable of making, and all of it was intertwined with Harry’s name. He couldn’t stop himself from saying it, he was almost hysterical as he cried out, all of him frozen but his lips.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck Harry – oh god – Harry no, no, no, don’t – don’t be dead, shit, Harry please, please, no, don’t do this, wake up, Harry, wake up, you can’t do this to me, you can’t do this! Harry, wake up! Wake up! Harry! HARRY!”

Regaining some kind of control over his limbs, he shook Harry very gently, and the boy’s left hand, which had been lying on his chest, was dislodged and fell to the floor. Louis cringed in horror, terrified that he’d hurt him, and he seized Harry’s hand, almost dropped it again, and then started desperately kissing it with a gentleness that frightened him, sobbing as he layered kiss after frantic kiss onto the boy’s fingertips.

Harry. No, you’re okay, you’re fine, you’re going to be okay. Shhhhh, baby, it’s okay. I’m here, come on, you’re all right. Just lie there, just stay still, we’ll get help, it’ll all be okay, you’re going to be fine –”

Liam had dropped to the floor beside him, as had Niall, but when the brown-eyed boy tentatively reached out to carefully press his fingers against Harry’s neck and feel for a pulse, Louis cried out as if Liam had been about to stab Harry and he smacked the well-intentioned but trembling hand away with a choking sound.

“No! Don’t you touch him!”

“Louis –”

“Leave him alone! Keep your hands off him!” Crying horribly, Louis struggled to shield Harry’s lifeless, bloody body with his own, his eyes streaming. He was still carefully holding the boy’s pale hand as if he was Harry’s life support machine, as if Harry was his, like they’d both die if either one of them let go, although poor Harry wasn’t holding on so much as being held. In a way, Liam could see that it was true. Louis and Harry were a single solid unit, it was clear from the way Louis had held him so carefully; he could no longer imagine one without the other.

“Please, Louis, we need to make sure there’s a pulse and then if there isn’t we’ll know we have to start compressions,” Niall sobbed, his own blue eyes swimming with moisture.

Ignoring the Irish boy, Louis stared at Liam like he was seeing him for the first time, then grabbed him by the shoulder with his free hand. “You! You can see the future! You look, you look right now and you tell me he’ll be all right! Tell me, Liam. Tell me he’s going to be all right, he’ll be fine, Liam, you can see it, he’s going to be okay, Liam tell me!”

“I don’t know!” screamed Liam, “I don’t know all right, I can’t see, I can’t see anything, I don’tknow!”

“Don’t be stupid, of course you know! You see everything! You see what you’re having for breakfast next weekend, for fuck’s sake, how can you possibly not know whether your best friend is going to die or not? Liam, tell me he’s going to be okay!”

Liam’s mouth fell open, but before he could speak another word, they all hesitated. There appeared to be some kind of fog curling around them; a thick, horrible mist that tasted foul when they inhaled it and clung to their tonsils, a thick, cloying white cloud that was what Louis imagined pure numbness would be like. It sucked at their limbs, wrapped around them like a blanket, and Louis wavered dizzily as it seeped thickly in through his open mouth.

“What the hell is this stuff?” Niall asked tearfully, swiping at the fog.

Liam’s eyes widened in horror. “Gas!” he choked. “It’s gas, cover your mouths –”

Niall clapped his hands over his nose and mouth and Liam stifled the misty substance by hiding his face behind his sleeve, but Louis lay miserably on top of Harry, carefully stroking his now icy face with one hand while he dripped tears onto the scarlet sweater the motionless curly-haired boy was wearing. He still refused to let go of his hand.

“I love you, Harry.”

“Louis, cover your nose and mouth up, for God’s sake!”

“Harry, I’m so sorry, I love you so much, I never meant this to happen…I’m going to stay here with you, okay? It won’t be long now…I’ll join you soon enough…” His face crumpled and he closed his eyes, grabbing a handful of Harry’s jumper in his free hand as he buried his face into Harry’s chest.

“Louis, please!”

Niall grabbed Louis by the shoulder, his blue eyes blazing. Despite being muffled behind his fingers, his words were clear enough as he demanded furiously, “For fuck’s sake, Louis, do youwant to die?”

“YES!” Louis screamed, right in his face, “YES I DO, I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING LEFT TO LIVE FOR ANYMORE! Don’t you understand? He’s dead, I’ve never loved anyone else more in my entire life and I never told him how much he meant to me, and now he’s dead, and I’m never letting him go! And they can gas me all they like, because if he’s not alive then I don’t want to be alive either! It’s him and me, and I CAN’T –”

Whatever he had been about to say next was lost as he coughed horribly, spluttered and then his eyes rolled up into his head and he fell back against Harry’s chest, landing on top of the younger boy as he lost consciousness.

Niall’s free hand grabbed frantically at Liam’s wrist and tightened desperately, and Liam could practically feel the bruises forming, but he determinedly wrapped his own free arm around Niall’s shaking body. There were no time for condolences, last words, nothing dramatic or sweet or memorable at all. Just a choking cough rather like Louis’, and then Liam went down as well, collapsing against the floor as his vision started to turn black.

The last thought that crossed Liam’s mind was, But don’t want to die.

He was on his own, then, with three of his best friends lying on the floor around him, and there wasn’t enough oxygen left in his lungs for Niall to convert into flames as he panicked. He flailed helplessly for a few seconds, whimpered pathetically, and then his own eyes closed as he finally gave up and crashed to the floor with a moan, hitting his head so hard that the gas didn’t actually manage to knock him out; it was the blow to the head that prematurely claimed Niall Horan’s last moments of consciousness from him, and he could only be glad that at least he hadn’t fallen victim to that horrible wet, hacking cough like the other boys did, and it was pretty much the only thing he had left to comfort him as the blackness dropped over him, plunging him into complete darkness like someone had pulled a sheet over his head.

Like he was in the morgue already.

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