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…


33. Chapter thirtythree.

He only went out to buy milk.

At first he wasn’t sure whether they would let him go, especially as the last time he’d popped out for milk, they’d ended up chasing him across the country and all the way into Ireland, and Liam was out for the count, sleeping on the sofa with ice piled up on his forehead to try and keep his temperature down, drugged up to the eyeballs with painkillers so that he could get some proper, undisturbed sleep for the next few hours, and unable to vouch for him. But after checking that they did indeed need milk, and making Niall swear on most of the things he loved (including his mother’s life, and Nandos) that he wasn’t going to do another runner, Zayn had rather suspiciously let him out – although not without warning him that several of his limbs would be violently and unhesitatingly detached if he dared to so much as put his little toe into a strange alleyway on the way to the supermarket.

He was wearing a snapback underneath Liam’s grey hoodie, which cast a lovely shadow across his face. He hadn’t bleached his hair in a while, so that the slowly browning roots were beginning to take over, slowly creeping up the sides so that only the top was still blonde, and the rest was chocolate brown. He looked most unlike himself; most of his friends from home wouldn’t have recognized him, drowning in loose grey fabric as he was. He’d borrowed Louis’ aviators, and they kept sliding irritatingly down his nose so that he had to keep pushing them up to prevent them from falling down his nose. Wearing loose charcoal-coloured sweatpants of Harry’s that he’d purloined when Louis had been mooning around the house looking depressed rather than lingering in Harry’s room (he’d picked up this totally weird habit of smelling Harry’s clothes for some unfathomable reason, seeing as Harry hadn’t taken them with him, but even Louis drew the line at walking around with his face buried in his best friend’s trousers; he wouldn’t notice that Niall had taken them) he basically looked like one of many hundred chavs loitering on the streets of London. It wasn’t a comparison he liked, but if it kept him out of harm’s way, he supposed he could contend with the dirty looks and misapprehension from pensioners.

Niall was just crossing the quiet, practically deserted road when he heard it.

He thought it was a cat at first, and who could blame him; the only discernible noise was a snuffling, a weird rustling sound, and then the clang of a metal dustbin lid, making his head snap up in surprise. His head jerked so sharply that the hoodie fell down, the material pooling around his shoulders, so that his bright green snapback, not the most conspicuous item of headwear, was exposed. Swallowing, he glanced around, burying his hands in his pockets and trying to stand up a little straighter so that he looked taller.

“Is anyone there?”

A strange snuffling noise, and then clinking, like something was nosing glass bottles around, came from a nearby alleyway. A more curious, less wary teenager might have gone to investigate, but not Niall. He stayed cautiously rooted to the spot, hands buried in his pockets, staring towards the source of the commotion and knowing that he probably should be comforted by the knowledge that he could easily barbeque anyone within a ten foot radius of him but also knowing that he wasn’t, really. There was a difference between knowing you could do something and actually having the inclination to do it, and when it came to it, Niall wasn’t certain he could burn a piece of toast, let alone a person.

“Kitty?” He called. Pause. “Pussy?” He chuckled softly at the dirty joke; the innuendo gave him some slight sense of reassurance. “You okay down there? If you’re not, give me a miaow. If y’are… don’t say anything.”

There was no answering sound, which was what Niall had wanted; ideally, he would have turned his back on the noise and continued on his way. But he felt bad, and he felt uneasy, and he wouldn’t much have liked to be a cat in a lonely street like this, with only tin cans and the odd wandering hobo for company. Oh, and a suspiciously piss-like aroma, if you were unlucky. Lovely. It wasn’t the most charming deserted street he’d ever found himself on.

“I’m way too soft for my own good,” he grumbled to himself as he scanned the street and then  jogged across the road, heading towards the sound. If it was a cat, he could always stroke it or something, for moral support.

If not…well, screaming and running were both high on Niall’s ideas list, and he reckoned he could have a fair pop at both of them.

He poked his head around the corner, checking for an ambush, but when none was forthcoming, and no angry chavs with Dubstep blaring from their headphones leapt out at him brandishing knives and spitting threats with dropped syllables so that half of their words became a jumbled, meaningless mess (‘oiright, mate, we dun’ wan’ no trouble, just give us your wallet or somefink and we’ll say n’more bout it, innit?’ for example) he dared to venture a little further towards the bins from which the noise was being emitted, forgetting to heed Zayn’s warning about not straying one inch from the street he’d set out on. It was suspiciously quiet now, and he wasn’t sure whether he liked it; the silence made him feel almost as uneasy as the ominous rustling had.

Bringing his hands out of his pockets, Niall satisfied himself that there was no one about (no one friendly, at least) and raised his right hand to shoulder height, clicking his fingers and then summoning a tiny fireball into his hand. He could have done it without the theatrics, but it was cooler that way. Cupping the flames protectively in his palm, he edged forwards, jaw tight, eyes flickering from wall to wall as he did so. If anyone jumped out at him, they’d be getting a face full of flames; the moment he instinctively went to hit out at an assailant, he’d burn them, intentionally or not. It didn’t do any harm to have a little light, either. Not that he was scared of the dark, but if you didn’t have to be in pitch blackness, some illumination was nice.

Soft footfalls padded on the ground, making him jump; they were his own. Gentle breaths sounded stupidly loud, bouncing off the walls, but they were his, too. Niall wasn’t really at home in enclosed spaces; his breathing quickened and he whirled around at the sound of breaking glass only to found that he’d trodden on a fragment of a broken bottle in the ugly black shoes he’d borrowed off Zayn, and cracked it even more.


“Holy sh –” Niall yelped and spun around, his left hand waving uselessly in the air while he stupidly brandished his right towards the source of the sound, mouth hanging open as he struggled to think of a suitable threat to make, or something clever to say (all that came to mind was ‘burn, baby burn!’ which wasn’t particularly inspired, even for him) – but he found himself dropping that hand in shock, careful not to let the flames hit his leg and singe his trousers; he dampened them down enough to still give him some light, but not to leap high enough to burn his clothes. He’d reduced enough outfits to cinders lately.

Niall crouched down on his knees, careful to kick the glass shards out of his way first so that he wouldn’t end up spouting blood like a fountain full of red food colouring from his legs. Squatting down in front of the source of the noise, he squinted at it in utter disbelief, raising his hand like a torch so that he could see better. Sure enough, his eyes weren’t deceiving him.

“Holy sheep…Michael?”

It was his sheep; unmistakeably his sheep; it had the same dopiness, the same dazed expression, the same eyes…and there was just something about the way it wobbled as it stood staring adorably at him, like it had missed him. His sheep!

Niall had no idea how an incredibly stupid and rather slow sheep had managed to make its way all the way from the Scottish Highlands to South London, but he wasn’t complaining, and he knew it was his because as it ambled closer, bleating expectantly, he could see that a tiny bit of its tail had been singed off. That had been his doing; whilst hugging it, he’d gotten a little overexcited and a couple of sparks had lit up its tail, and although he’d hastily extinguished them, none of the boys had noticed and the sheep hadn’t seemed unduly bothered (come to think of it, he wasn’t sure whether it had noticed, either). He would have recognized it anywhere.

Secretly, he’d christened it ‘Michael’, after his childhood imaginary friend, and he’d kind of missed it. No one tended to rely on Niall; he was the baby, the cute one, he wasn’t often in charge, wasn’t used to having someone look up to him. Michael was stupid, and it was always up for a cuddle, which suited Niall, because he was a cuddly kind of guy.

Extinguishing the flames in his palm and plunging them into darkness, he threw his arms around its neck, burying his face in its side, and hugged it very hard. Yes, he was an eighteen year old Irish guy hugging a sheep in a backstreet in London – weird, but normality had never mattered much to Niall, and a friendly face was a friendly face, even if it did belong to a sheep.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, his hands raking down its back as he stroked it, glad to have someone around who wasn’t going to get all suspicious of him every time he went to get milk, or get annoyed when he sat eating rather than contributing to discussions, or all of the things which seemed to get on the boys’ nerves. He was enthusiastically smacking its side like dog lovers often did to their dogs when his fingers encountered a weird bump, there was a strange zing as something shocked his fingers, and it flinched away from him, bleating pitifully and dancing off to the left as if he’d hurt it.

Niall was perplexed. “What the…?” A frowned creased his forehead. “Come here, boy. Let me see. Let me see, come on.” He made coaxing noises, holding out his hand, and Michael hesitantly stumbled forwards, nosing his fingers. Careful not to hurt him again, Niall searched through his wool for the weird shape, and when he found it, rather than brushing it with his fingers again, he parted the wool around it so that he could see what it was.

A strange kind of circuit-board had been fused to the skin underneath the wool, in a pink patch of skin that had been shaved bare, and Niall couldn’t see any visible join or gap that he could use to prise it away – he would have been afraid to try anyway, in case he hurt Michael. Whispering to the sheep to calm it, he leaned in a little closer, holding back the fur with one hand while he illuminated the alleyway with the other, squinting so that he could see. The wires and little bits of plastic meant nothing to him – but there were letters etched in manufactured, computer-generated block lettering at the top of the board.

“N-E-E-P,” Niall read aloud, and then scratched his head in confusion. “What on earth is –”

“Surprise, kiddiewinks!”

Niall yelped and fell over backwards, the flames going out again in his shock, and raucous laughter erupted around him as Cheren appeared apparently from thin air (though really he had been there all the time, Niall realized, but invisible, lurking and listening for god knows how long), bent double, clutching his knees and roaring with laughter. Straightening up, he wiped one of his grey eyes – and then all of a sudden he was fiercely disciplined again, his expression cold, without the trace of a smirk lingering on his thin lips. He walked over to Niall with his hands in his pockets, and looked boredly down at him like he was an extremely uninteresting museum exhibit.

“Well, what have we here? I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with N. N for naughty, running away…N for nuisance, proving rather hard to find again…N for notorious, N for naive, N for Niall. Did you really think we couldn’t find you, hmm? Did you really think you could escape?” Cheren started prowling around with his hands behind his back, keeping a careful eye on Niall as he did so. “Well, this is a turn up for the books. Where are the others, hmm? Where’s Bubbles?”

“What have you done with Harry?” demanded Niall; it took him only a few seconds to make his fist set on fire, flames licking his hand all the way down to his wrist, and he held it threateningly in front of himself, like a flaming boxing glove. “I’ll burn you! Tell me where he is, or I’ll burn you!” He was proud of how strong his voice was; he didn’t hear the slightest shake.

“All in good time, all in good time…I think we have other matters to discuss first…such as; it’s time to fetch your little friends…Felix is out searching right now; it’s only a matter of time before he finds them anyway. Why not make it easy? I’m sure if you feel like cooperating, we can make sure that things are a little less hard on you…” His tone was compelling, almost seductive, and Niall wasn’t buying it.

“Yeah, I think I’ll pass, thanks. We stick together; I’m not going to betray them.”

“Oh, you do, do you? Funny, that – some of the other members of your little dream team didn’t seem to get the memo…you’ve been double-crossed, my friends. We didn’t abduct Harry; Harry came to us. And now we have him, you’re at a major disadvantage. You don’t even know if this is happening, do you? It could all be inside your head…” He continued silkily, whispering right in Niall’s ear, “this street, this scenario, it could all be happening in your imagination…or Harry’s imagination, depending on how you look at it…”

“You get away from me, or I’m warning you, I will burn you! I may not be in the perfect position to burn all of your hair off, not evenly at least, but I can certainly make a good effort to singe your eyebrows off, and then you’ll look pretty fucking stupid, let me tell you! So get back, or I’ll do it!” He was borderline hysterical, but he channelled it as aggression, not wanting Cheren to see quite how unnerved he was to have been so surprised by an invisible boy materializing apparently from nothing right in front of him – the flames leapt higher, and burned bright, and with the light from them reflecting in his eyes, Niall felt almost brave.

Cheren snapped, “I’m the one making the bargains!” But he did look a little less certain, and Niall derived a small bit of satisfaction from that. “Now tell me where they are!”

“Make me!” They both knew he wasn’t going to give up without a fight, but their problem was this; Niall wanted to tell him, so that they could all be taken, and he’d forgotten his role for a moment. He was supposed to be the baby, to beg and grovel and spill all of their secrets like a bucket of water that had been kicked over, to give Cheren whatever he wanted in exchange for promises which were lied through his gleaming white teeth. But he’d shown his true colours, as a fighter, and a loyal friend, and now he had to figure out how he could lead the boy back to their hideout and get them captured, whilst giving the boys some warning, and making it look convincing so that Cheren wouldn’t know they’d planned to be caught in the first place.

He had to improvise, and fast; he had to feign some kind of emotion, and he chose cowardice. Leaping to his feet, he scrambled backwards, looked frantically around, and then rushed back into the street, threw himself around the corner and sprinted desperately back the way he had come, the flames on his fist dancing wildly in the breeze that he left in his wake, all the while screeching “LADS! THEY’E COMING FOR US – FUCK’S SAKE, LIAM, WAKE UP, WAKE UP AND SEE, THEY’RE COMING – LOUIS, LOUIS, ZAYN! ZAYN, ZAYN! EITHNE! THEY’RE COMING!”

It wasn’t an Oscar-winning performance, let’s put it that way – but he was running and screaming down the street, so he didn’t really have to bother much about controlling his expression. He focused on putting all of his energy into running faster instead, his feet practically flying as he ran with energy spiking rapidly through his body, spurring him onwards as he fled from the other boy. Distantly, he heard Cheren curse and snap “Felix!” as if he could conjure his little brother from thin air and use him as a personal taxi. Just in case Felix was within earshot, Niall sped up, then deliberately took a wrong turning and doubled back, looping around a random street to make it look like he was trying to lose them, and then hared back off in the correct direction.

Speed, he could do, and surprisingly, as he hurtled down the road he didn’t find many things to trip over. Fate was on his side for once, and he dodged every obstacle he found, making sure not to stumble and fall. He wanted to be caught on his own terms, the ones that he and the others had agreed on, not the ones chosen by Cheren and Felix and Deino.

Luckily, he hadn’t even been halfway to his destination, and his hands slammed into the front door and it burst open only eight minutes or so after he’d set off; puffing and panting, he staggered over the threshold and tripped straight into Zayn’s arms. Zayn caught him and set him upright before he could fall flat on his face, then spotted that Niall was struggling for breath, his cheeks flaming pink with exhaustion, and his jaw dropped.

Niall?” he asked in utter bewilderment.

“They’re…they’re following me,” Niall choked, “right behind me, a couple of streets back at the most – places, everyone! Places! They’re coming!”

Louis paled visibly; Niall could see his face over Zayn’s shoulder and watched the colour leeched from it in an instant. “Shit,” he said, and then he sprinted into the living room in a panic, darting over to the sofa where Liam lay sleeping and shaking him harshly to wake him up.

“They can’t be coming!” Eithne shrieked from a couple of rooms away, through the sound of pouring water, “I’m in the shower!”

“Well get the hell out of the shower, then!” Niall cried impatiently, “we don’t have time! Cheren’s hot on my heels and I don’t know how long we have before he comes bursting in here!”

In a flurry of extremely unladylike swearwords, Eithne burst out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her like a robe, her hair dripping wet, and staggered into the room which, as the only girl, she had been allocated to. The door slammed behind her and Niall turned away hastily, trying to think of anything other than the fact that an extremely attractive girl was haphazardly throwing clothes on in the other room with only a rather flimsy door between them.

“How did they find us?” demanded Liam blearily, staggering into the room supported by Louis, who was carefully preventing him from crumpling to the ground. “What did you do?”

“They did something to the sheep – you remember that sheep? They’ve stuck some freaky gizmo to it and I reckon that’s how they tracked me down; I think the sheep managed to trace me somehow, I don’t know!” His hands flew to his hair and raked anxiously through it. “We’re not ready, we had no warning, this isn’t good –”

Eithne emerged from her room with a steely look in her eye, grimly determined. She’d scraped her sopping wet hair back from her face in a tight ponytail, and had thrown on the bottom half of an old murky grey tracksuit, pulling a scarlet hoodie of Zayn’s over her head. She had no make-up on. She looked terrifying – she was a woman on a mission, and none of them had much experience in dealing with women’s missions. Understandably, they all became rather nervous rather quickly.

She ordered, “Don’t panic. Running around like headless chickens won’t help anybody. Keep a clear head. Liam, you carry on doing that weak and disoriented thing, even after you properly come around; it’s very misleading; will put them off their guard,” she instructed. “Niall, huff and puff some more – look exhausted, come on! Make them think you’re an easy target! Louis, you’re Liam’s walking stick and your priority is him, so you’re not focused properly, right? And Zayn… you’re…well, I can’t think of everything! Act like easy pickings!”

Normally, she would have been resented for taking charge so swiftly, but miraculously, nobody argued; they were desperate for someone to take control, and grateful to her for shouldering the burden. They all scrambled to follow her instructions.

The door creaked, and five heads snapped up in alarm – even Liam’s, although he let it loll wearily against his chest a few seconds later in a facade of exhaustion. They all looked anxiously around, knowing full well that Cheren could be standing behind any one of them at any moment, waiting to pounce. None of them particularly liked the idea.

“If we’re going to get cornered, let’s do it somewhere else. I don’t want them to catch us here, just in case we need to get away and still need a place to go. Come on.” Commandingly, Zayn grabbed hold of Eithne’s hand and yanked her so hard that she squeaked in shock, and then he had whisked her out of the door and was sprinting down the street, still dragging her by the hand and not even allowing her a moment to pause for breath.

Admittedly, nobody was comfortable with the idea of being cornered on common ground; the house was kind of like a haven to them. Niall shrugged and started rushing after them, and still pretending to support Liam, Louis followed, hastily slamming the door behind him, and the five of them set a steady pace as they thudded around the corner, Zayn leading the way with Eithne stumbling along behind him.

It took Niall a minute or so to catch up to Zayn, who took long loping strides on his long legs, but he managed to match the pace he had set and before long he was mere inches behind the Bradford boy, determined that he wouldn’t be the one to plead for Zayn to slow up. “Zayn – Zayn! Where are we going? Do you have any idea where we’re going?” he panted.

“Leading them away,” Zayn said shortly, “as far away from home as possible, and as quickly as possible, so we can at least make some kind of attempt to get this back on our own terms. We were supposed to be in control of the situation and now we’ve kind of lost it – just as well, I suppose; you’re a terrible actor, did you know?”

“I had heard the rumour,” Niall said dryly. Well, as dryly as one can whilst running for one’s life. “But did you have anywhere specific in mind, Zayn? Because that’s kind of vague, y’know – not very helpful.”

For a minute or two, Zayn considered that, frantically scanning the skyline with his brown eyes and looking for a suitable building for them to vanish into, one which would be abandoned yet not completely derelict, and a respectable distance from the home they were struggling to lead Felix away from. Beside him, Niall panted heavily, and Eithne choked for breath in as dignified a manner as possible, and the sounds of footfalls and huffing for breath was the only sound. They could practically see smoke coming out of Zayn’s ears, he was thinking so hard; his mind spinning through a thousand possibilities even as his eyes quickly roved over the buildings as they flashed past.

“That one,” he said all of a sudden, pointing at what appeared to be an old warehouse building that towered over them. The windows were boarded up, the door swung off its hinges. It was hardly the trickiest building to infiltrate, and not the most subtle of choices, but subtlety wasn’t really on their list of priorities.

The five of them veered quickly towards the building, Zayn leading and dragging Eithne beside him while Niall hurried only a few inches behind them and Louis and Liam brought up the rear, Liam still convincingly limping while Louis made an excellent job of pretending to support him. Zayn kicked open the already ajar front door with a bang, making as much noise as possible, and they all scurried inside like a troupe of terrified mice, darting through the doorway and into the shadows.

“They’re tracking us,” Niall said breathlessly, “so they might find the house anyway, but if Cheren saw which way I went, and they follow the scent that’s freshest, then there’s a chance they might miss it.”

“Let’s hope they do,” answered Zayn, “we’ve gone to enough trouble to make it obvious that we’re here. Is everybody all right?”

“Yep,” came Liam’s slightly hoarse answer.

“Fine here,” chirped Louis.

Bending over double with his hands on his knees in an attempt to catch his breath, Niall chimed in breathlessly, “Yeah, yeah, I’m all right too,” waving a hand dismissively, like he didn’t matter.

Zayn didn’t need to clarify whether or not Eithne was all right; he had her so tightly clamped against his side that he could feel every time she breathed. Nodding, he looked warily towards the door, where the only light in the room was filtering in through the open doorway. There were more shadows than light, darkening their faces so that they looked like eerie shadow people, puppets, almost, and even Liam’s tired but welcoming face looked a little ethereal and weird – but there was just enough light to see by, so that they could see the profiles of each other, vaguely make out who was who and where everybody was. It was better than pitch blackness. Taking a deep breath, Zayn hugged Eithne, clapped Liam on the shoulder in a brotherly manner, and then nodded at Niall and Louis, who were both looking around rather nervously at the darkness and the gloom that surrounded them suffocatingly like a thick sheet that numbed their senses and shrouded everything in fuzzy confusion. It was like the dampener on their sight had lessened their other senses as well, leaving them disorientated and uncertain.

“Okay. So here we are. It probably won’t take them long to find us if they really were as close behind us as Niall said they were, in fact, from the sounds of it, they were right behind us, so we should probably just stay here until –”

The door slammed, cutting him off, and Zayn abruptly fell silent as the room was plunged into darkness. Someone grabbed Niall’s wrist and wouldn’t let go, and he couldn’t tell whose hand it was (although it felt like quite a petite hand, so it might have been Eithne) and squeezed him in a vicelike death grip that made him flinch. It was like a scene from a bad horror movie; suddenly they were plunged into darkness. The door creaked and swung open ever so slightly, broken as it was so that it wouldn’t properly close, so that the tiniest crack of light spilled out into the room, leaking a sliver of light onto Zayn’s face. He swallowed.

“Boys,” Niall whispered, “I get the feeling that we’re not completely alone.”

With his free hand, he conjured flames in the palm of his hand, holding them out in front of him like a torch. They grew in size, leaping higher and higher, illuminating the room so that he could see that the person who was gripping his arm hard enough to cut off the circulation to his fingers was in fact Louis.

Embarrassed, Louis sheepishly let him go, and Niall sucked in a breath and rubbed his hand to try and massage some feeling back into his fingers. “Sorry,” whispered Louis.

“S’okay,” Niall whispered back, and then he raised his voice and said a little fiercely, “we don’t like being messed around, so stop playing these mind games and show yourself, you cowardly twats! Stop hiding in the dark and the shadows – come out, come out, wherever you are..” He was astonished at himself; his own daring, the taunts coming out of his own mouth. “Unless you’re too scared, that is…”

“Scared,” Felix grumbled, “now you just wait til we get our hands on you, then we’ll see who’s scared…”

“Felix! Shut up!” Cheren hissed, and there was the sound of a grunt and skin colliding with skin as Cheren presumably elbowed his little brother in the gut.

“Right, so we’re not alone,” Louis said. “That’s all we needed to know; thank you!” Then he tugged on Niall’s sleeve and bolted, and the rest of them chased after him, their feet thudding on the dirty wooden floorboards as they sprinted off into the darkness, knowing that for the chase to be convincing, they would have to make at least some kind of effort to get away.

“Where are we going?” Liam hissed urgently.

“You should know!”

“Yeah, well, clearly I have about as much idea as you do, and that’s the problem! You don’t have a plan, Louis!” They thudded across the room, and Liam’s shin collided with some stairs; he swore, then yanked the nearest person and gave them a shove; aided slightly in vision by infrequent bursts of flame from Niall, who was struggling with the dilemma of whether it was more important to help them see or prevent them from being easily spotted in the darkness. “Until you have a plan, I can’t see a thing; I’m as clueless as the rest of you, which means we’re screwed!” Clearly agitated by being, by his definition, blind, Liam was impatient for once.

“Plans are for people with no imagination. Improvisation never did Napoleon any harm.”

“Napoleon didn’t improvise! Learn your history – but first move your arse; they’re catching up!”

Louis let out a short whine of disapproval at being shouted at, but rather than waste time arguing, he obediently put on a burst of speed, and along with the rest of them, vanished into the darkness with the twins clumsily blundering around on the lower floor that they had left behind.


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