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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25. Chapter twentyfive.

There was silence all around; it caused the air to thicken and become stifling, so that it felt like they were all wading. Their progress was slowed and they struggled to move, to even breatheproperly, each inhalation catching in their lungs and lingering there before being released in a low gasp at various different times. Liam thought he might choke on his. Forget a lump; it was a screwed up ball of paper and someone had jammed it down his throat – and covered it in superglue so it couldn’t be dislodged.

Mere moments ago Niall had been swaying dazedly in the middle of the hall, his pupils dilated, eyes wide with shock, mouth hanging open slightly, struggling to focus as the girl with the impossibly dark hair and glossy red mouth trailed her pointed nails down his chest, watching the longing shudders rack through him with something caught between amusement and contempt. The Irish boy had been shaking all over, and Liam could only feel sympathy towards him – aching sympathy radiating through his chest, because pure lust was racing through Niall’s whole body and he was quite literally shaking with the effort of not collapsing at the girl’s feet.

The ridiculous thing was that she wasn’t the prettiest girl any of them had ever seen. Her mouth was too wide and her eyes too dark, the veil of mascara on them too thick so they she looked a bit like a racoon when she fluttered her eyelashes. She was wobbling slightly on her stilettos and her backcombed hair was falling out of its style slightly, disintegrating into a floppy dark mess. In fact, the harder Liam looked at her, the more she looked like a thirteen year old trying to look sixteen, and that was when he began to wonder whether her beauty was quite so unearthly after all.

There was an odd confidence to her stance, like she expected them to react so strongly to her, and Liam blinked and frowned because either she was extremely overconfident or she had reason to believe that they were all going to fall at her feet. Liam could only think of one reason for that; she had some kind of power that would control them, and that made a lump of ice settle heavily in the pit of his stomach.

He watched the girl trail her fingers down Niall’s chest again, and she took a couple of steps around him, appraising him and seeming pretty pleased with what she saw. Her plucked eyebrows raised and her pointed pink tongue flickered over her lips, making them glossier so that she started to look like she had carefully anointed her mouth with blood. It was somewhat disconcerting, actually, especially because her pointed white teeth gave her a distinctly wolfish look, and Liam felt a little afraid of her. Scanning the room to see everyone else’s reactions, he felt a mixture of worry and relief over what he saw.

Harry had his arms folded across his chest and was looking extremely unimpressed, his shrewd green eyes fixed intently on the girl, his nose wrinkled in displeasure, like he didn’t much like the look of her. Once he got past the dizzying rush of emotions his body was having towards her, Liam could wholeheartedly echo the sentiment. She was too pleased with herself, and her features were either over-exaggerated with several unnecessary layers of make-up (her extremely boldly outlined eyes and bright red lips) or paled into insignificance beside the rest of her (she appeared to have an unnaturally small nose). In fact, Harry seemed to be more interested in Louis; his eyes kept anxiously flickering over to the older boy’s face as if he were trying to judge his reaction to the girl. Feeling a stab of sympathy for him, Liam wondered whether Louis really was as oblivious to the fact that his best friend was ridiculously in love with him as he would appear to be.

That diverted his attention to Louis, who had a mixture of expressions on his face; confusion that his body was reacting so intensely to a girl when he’d been cheerfully and unrestrainedly gay since as long as he’d been old enough to start wondering why girls were suddenly important and to him they were only as relevant as they’d ever been – in other words, not very. But Louis was blinking with huge eyes at this girl, half of his body straining towards her while the rest of him inched away, and Liam wondered how it would feel to so desperately want something that you were completely sure you should have had absolutely no interest in.

Eithne was hanging onto Zayn’s wrist in what looked like terror, seeming as unaffected as Harry by the girl, perhaps more so. Zayn seemed to be struggling to focus on the blonde girl rather than the dark, gritting his teeth – and as Liam watched, he took Eithne’s hand and tightly squeezed her fingers, so hard that the girl winced and it wouldn’t have been surprising to hear her hand break.

Liam’s attention was snagged by a strange gurgling noise from Niall; his head whipped back to the blond boy only to realize with horror that the dark haired girl was lazily caressing his neck with a razor, tapping it lightly on his skin. Where she had produced it from was a mystery, but Liam was kind of busy watching with an odd, terrified numbness creeping through his limbs as the girl touched Niall’s neck with the sharp edge, smirking in derision as she watched Niall tremble with every stroke of the icy metal on his skin. She was tauntinghim, and as Liam watched the sweat bead on Niall’s forehead and his blond hair begin to stick to his clammy forehead, for the first time in his life he felt that he truly hated someone. He despised this girl for teasing Niall so viciously, for playing such a deadly game – and, shuddering as he was, Niall was incapable of stepping away from her. Apparently, he was incapable of doing anything. On the other side of the room, Louis was frantically flexing his fingers and trying to create a force field around him, but not even the faintest of violet frameworks was bubbling protectively around the Irish boy. The panic trickling through the room was tangible.

Niall’s breath came in shuddering, choking gasps, like he was struggling not to start screaming in the girl’s smug face. Liam was beginning to have that problem himself. In fact, he was struggling not to punch her. Or grab her by the hair and slam her into the ground. By nature Liam was a gentle person, but when someone he cared about was threatened, he could be dangerously impulsive – he was determined not to lose his temper, but it was proving to be shockingly difficult.

An ugly laugh echoed throughout the room; a hideous sound that delighted in the fear on Niall’s face and his wide, scared eyes. It was as awful as it was mesmerizing, and they all turned to stare at the source of it; the girl with the black hair was laughing at them, laughing as she traced another steady line across Niall’s throat.

At that precise second, Niall panicked – he cringed, flinching so hard that the razor which had been brushing his skin slightly flashed across his neck and cut a deep, ugly gash into the pale skin of his throat.

The whole room was filled with gasps, but Niall stayed wide-eyed and silent as he clapped his hand to the cut, and pressed very hard. Thick, sticky red spurted through his fingers and started cascading down his hand, and he blanched at the sight of it, shuddering horribly as he staggered backwards away from the girl, who threw a disgusted look at the razor in her hand before hurling it away, like she hadn’t actually intended to cut him. Maybe she hadn’t. Niall’s teeth dug into his lower lip, turning that as white as the rest of him, and as his mouth started trembling as much as the rest of him, they all realized that he was shaking like a leaf. His fingers were scarlet and they were a horrible, garish contrast to the rest of his face, which had all the colour leeched from it. Shock registered, but little else seemed to be on his mind – not pain, although his eyes suddenly filled and there were tears trembling like diamonds at the corners of his eyes, ready to spill down his face in a waterfall as steady and fast as the blood pouring from his throat.

Liam stared fiercely at Niall, refusing to allow his own fear to show, because if he let Niall see that he was afraid; he, who had always been strong, unflinching, who had always been there to care for Niall, for everyone, who had always been a pair of supportive arms to hand out a hug and who had forced a brave smile onto his face for the sake of everyone else. The leader, Liam Payne, who never would admit to being a leader but guided them all from the sidelines, in the shadows, steering them all onto the correct path while never allowing them to realize what he was doing. Who was content to shy from the spotlight and make sure that he always took care of everyone. His eyes stung, but he met Niall’s petrified gaze with a calm one of his own, and he prayed that his eyes would convey the message that he couldn’t communicate, because his mouth was sealed shut so that he wouldn’t cry out.

In the end, Harry passed on the message for him, lifting it from his head and conveying it powerfully through the room. Some of Liam’s calmness seemed to have found him; even as a couple of horrified tears trickled down his face, ran down his neck and dampened his shirt, Harry seemed to absorb some of his friend’s determination and responsibility, and general composure, and exuded an aura of serenity that crept through the room. Harry’s mental voice was almost too calm to be reassuring as he uttered the words Liam wished Niall could hear, and they all paled at the sound of them, because although Harry was coherent, his restraint was not enough to keep his words private between his and Niall’s head.

There was a terrible sadness in his tone as he said softly, Be brave.

Niall choked, an awful, hacking cough that came deep from within his chest, and they all saw the first trickle of blood begin dribbling from the corner of his mouth, dripping sickeningly down his chin, and he reached up to wipe it away, smearing it across his face. A low whimper slid from between his teeth, and the trembles that were making his whole body quiver uncontrollably.

They all stared at him, aghast, as the blond boy desperately let his wide-eyed cerulean gaze flicker from face to face, lingering longest and most sadly on the deep blue eyes of the girl who had sliced the gaping hole like a second mouth into his neck. And then Niall’s knees gave way, his legs crumpled beneath him, and he fell to the floor with a low moan as deep red began oozing across the floor, forming a terrible puddle as Niall’s life ebbed out of him with the thick scarlet liquid.

Liam lost control of himself for the first time then; his hands flew out with a cry and he staggered forwards, a sound almost as terrible as Niall’s cough tearing from his throat as he cried out and lurched towards the boy’s still body, desperate to help in some way, any way, even though there was nothing he could do –

 

~*~

 

That very same cry came exploding from Liam’s mouth as he jerked into a sitting position, grabbing hold of a metal handrail to support himself. Releasing it, he groaned to himself and buried his face in his hands, shaking his head and berating himself for his moment of panic, glad that no one else had been around to see him yelp like that. To see Liam, the unafraid and untouchable Liam, reduced to a gasping mess by a nightmare would have scared them all.

 

Seven, he said grimly to himself, and he wiped his clammy forehead and turned around to make sure that he hadn’t awoken anyone else with his gasp.

Harry was the first who Liam knew for certain was asleep; his head was tipped back against the seat and his mouth wide open, and he was snoring softly, although it was a comforting sound rather than an annoying one. One of his large hands was lying close to Louis’ thigh beside him, gripping the lining of his pocket like he couldn’t bear not to touch him, but was afraid to be more bold, to touch him more openly. That made Liam feel impossibly sad, because he was sure that if it was comfort Harry sought, Louis would happily of given it to him. If it wasn’t… well, from what Liam had seen of the future, Louis wouldn’t mind giving him a bit more than that, too. He grimly shook his head to rid himself of the mental image – and filed the new vision away for future reference. When they next bought themselves adjoining rooms in a cheap hotel with thin walls, he would be taking the room furthest from Harry and Louis’. If he had his way, the memory of the sounds of colliding skin and cries of pleasure leaking through the walls would just be a memory.

Louis was a more silent and dignified sleeper, eyes and mouth both neatly closed, although his whole body was tilted slightly towards Harry as if the longing he disguised so well during his waking hours was finally being revealed in sleep. A frown creased Liam’s forehead as he wondered why the two weren’t already together when it was so clear that they felt such strong adoration for each other – but when he thought about it, things that were obvious to everyone else were often incomprehensible to those involved. One day, Harry and Louis would admit how much they cared for each other; he would watch them hold each other every night and smile to himself, because in a world as cruel and confusing as theirs had become, it was nice to see people who had someone to hold. It made him wonder if maybe, however awful the world could be to them, it always did something to compensate, to make things right.

Harry and Louis deserved each other, and Liam smiled right then as he thought about just how right they were for each other, and he couldn’t wait until the day that they both plucked up the courage to look each other in the eyes and admit it.

Eithne was curled up against Zayn, her head lolling on his shoulder, long blonde hair falling across his chest so that it looked like he had a long golden beard sprouting from his chin. That sight amused Liam even more; while he’d been feigning sleep in order to give them privacy, Eithne had been making shy conversation with the Bradford boy, and he had responded almost laughably easily. Flirtation had progressed into a full-blown silly conversation, Liam sometimes struggled to keep the smirk off his face every time Zayn said something stupid and inwardly kicked himself, and Eithne giggled every time. In fact, Liam had just been waiting for them to kiss, and was half disappointed when they didn’t. It felt like he spent all his time waiting for his friends to pluck up the courage to make a move on each other these days, which really seemed pretty pathetic when he thought about it. But they had fallen asleep before he did, before he dared, (Liam the protector had to outlast the others, stay awake to watch over them for the sake of his own sanity; it was kind of like his self-appointed job) and he had only had the satisfaction of seeing them snuggle up to each other as they slept. For once, Zayn was revealing openly what a massive softy he was, and it brought another smile to Liam’s lips.

Smiling was something Liam felt awful for doing, bearing in mind the vision he’d just had forced upon him. Drawing a shaky hand across his forehead, he exhaled heavily, swallowing down his panic. It always shook him up when he saw something like that, something which made him feel quite so useless and weak. But seeing it meant that he could prevent it, and prevention was good.

One day, Liam was going to present Niall with a list of situations to avoid in order to thwart several horrible deaths, and that list was growing. Truthfully, Liam wasn’t completely sure it was the right thing to do, to change Niall’s future, but with every death vision growing more horrible and traumatic than the last, he was now just waiting for a spare ten minutes to sit down and write that list.

Drowning; fleeing in a panic from the Irish police, who waved their tasers at him and threatened him with electrocution if he didn’t stop running at that exact moment. Knowing that his one defence, to burn them, would never be enough, and not having the heart to try. Too kind to disfigure them, and afraid of the consequences if he allowed them to catch him. He would climb the railings overlooking the ferry port and throw himself over the edge, just so that they couldn’t force answers out of him. The water would suck him down, extinguish the flames that licked his body as he panicked, and Liam would watch from above, holding Harry back as he screamed Niall’s name. He didn’t know where Louis was, why no force field came and blossomed around Niall, why there was no one to save him. All he knew was that if he could intercept Niall’s journey to Mullingar before it was too late, he could stop it from happening.

Hit by a lorry as he ran across the street. It was for the stupidest of reasons; a small girl was about to step into the road and grab the ball she had dropped, and a car was heading towards her. Being the incredible person that Niall was, he couldn’t watch her die – he rushed straight at her, ready to knock her back onto the pavement. Only the ridiculous thing was that the car wasn’t even going to hit her. It was turning left, down another street. And little Niall, the small Irish one, who had never been very large or very visible…high up in the cab of his enormous delivery lorry, the driver didn’t even see him. He ran Niall straight down. This time it was Louis who started screaming first; Harry had already dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands, and he just crouched on the pavement shaking, because no one could survive that.

Electrocution. A horrible accident, made all the worse by the fact that Zayn caused it. He lost his concentration while levitating, and sent Niall shooting straight up through the power lines of an electricity pylon. The sound of sizzling as that small body was fried would haunt Liam forever, the soundtrack to his nightmares – and hauntingly, nobody screamed that time. Or if they did, the sound was drowned out by the sound of Niall’s whole body burning with a type of fire that he was not immune to; the electrical kind.

Shot, by a skinny soldier with acne who’d only just managed to get into this rank and who was terrified by the idea that a blond boy the same age as him had been classified a dangerous threat and was apparently on a level that he barely had clearance to deal with. Almost paralysed with fear, the boy had been unable to move any part of his body other than his shaking finger – and he’d used that finger to squeeze the trigger as Niall ran past him, whirling around and burying a bullet into his brain. He followed that atrocity by shooting Harry as well, and Liam had never heard Louis make a more horrific noise than the one he made at that moment, when Harry went down. He had never seen a bigger or more fiercely explosive force field as the one that burst from Louis’ fingertips when Harry fell with a cry into the snow – it was so insanely uncontrolled and powerful that it hit the soldier with the force of a ten tonne truck and broke his neck in a second. It was that kind of response that terrified Liam, that had made him almost afraid of Louis, that had showed him just how much Louis loved Harry. He had woken with tears in his eyes and dread in his heart.

Captured by the government and then cut open and examined for the purposes of medical science. He died on the operating table. Liam wasn’t exactly there for that one – he just remembered looking up and seeing on the news that the body of eighteen year old Niall Horan, missing for eight months previously, had finally been released to his family so that they could mourn and bury him with some form of dignity. Harry had warped the mind of a very influential and connected official in order to find out the details and fill in the gaps.

Stabbed. That was perhaps the most brutal of all, because it had nothing to do with Niall’s powers. He was walking down an alleyway late at night when a group of six teenagers tried to attack him and steal his wallet. Niall wasn’t having any of it and was ready to fight back, but they had already stabbed him and run off before he could frighten them off. That was Niall’s problem – he was too kind. Too slow to react because he was loathe to hurt anyone. Liam could do what had to be done, but Niall? He abhorred violence; could never lay a finger on the most disgusting criminal in the world even to save everyone he loved. And so he had died in Liam’s arms.

And now this new atrocity; having his throat slit by this ridiculously alluring girl. Nausea bubbled in Liam’s stomach and he struggled to keep his breakfast safely grounded in his stomach. It seemed insanely cruel that he should have to be tormented by visions of this nature about Niall, for God’s sake.

Shuddering, Liam closed his eyes and hunched up in his seat. He’d never slept well on planes. Somehow, miraculously, Harry had gotten them a flight on a plane which he’d had commandeered for the very purpose, and he’d also had all the ferries to Dublin which Niall could possibly have boarded stalled for at least three hours. Their plan was to cut Niall off before he could make his way to Mullingar – or, not that Liam had mentioned it, before he could arouse the suspicions of the Gardaí (the name for a group of Irish policemen, a piece of information which Zayn had offered off with an extremely smug look on his face) – an idea which in theory was simple, but in practice was far from it.

Too tired to even attempt to look for the possible outcomes of the day ahead, Liam drifted off into an uneasy sleep, but he was by no means comforted by the lack of visions for the rest of the night. Seeing misfortune made him sick to his stomach and painfully worried, whereas seeing nothing at all made him edgy and paranoid. By now, he was getting used to knowing what was coming. Besides, he’d never liked surprises.

 

~*~

Niall knew he looked shifty. It was almost embarrassing, the amount of times he checked over his shoulders for pursuers, took little detours to make sure no one was following him, and got lost several times in the convoluted corridors of Dublin ferry port. Still, if he could successfully lose himself, that meant that it was more than likely he’d also lost anyone who might be tailing him, so that was something at least. The back of his neck was still prickling, though, as if he’d tied a hedgehog inside the collar of his shirt. Crowds made him uncomfortable, and the unshakable feeling of someone watching his every mood did nothing to lessen the feeling.

 

It was lonely, travelling on his own. Everything was far too quiet at all the wrong moments, and he was reluctant to catch anyone’s eye in case he brought curiosity crashing down around his ears. A couple of people’s gazes alighted on him in moments of boredom, but Niall solved that problem by moving quickly and ducking out of sight every time he caught someone looking.

The ferry had been delayed, adding another couple of precious hours to his journey. The others couldn’t have failed to notice his disappearance by now; they would be formulating plans, and quickly. Niall feared and despised Louis and Liam’s organizational skills at that moment; they could be catching the next available ferry to come and head him off right at that precise moment.

Perhaps he had been selfish, haring off to Ireland on his own. After all, it wasn’t as if the others weren’t missing their families as well. Louis had four little sisters at home, and he missed them like hell. Harry mumbled nonsense about his mum in his sleep, in between bouts of snoring. Zayn had a battalion of younger siblings, too, and Liam constantly worried about his own parents, wondering whether they were coping without him. Niall had a mother who he hadn’t told “I love you” anywhere near enough, a father who’d always been quietly supportive and brilliantly funny and never failed to crack a smile onto his son’s face, who had wanted to call him Niall because it rhymed with “smile” and he wanted a happy little boy. He also had a brother who he’d only just really started to like, and Jesus, Niall missed him too. He missed all of them.

Truthfully, the others were just stronger than he was, and they all had something else to keep them going. Harry had his love for Louis, which burned more brightly every day and made the fiercest of Niall’s flames seem pathetic in comparison. Louis had…well, a certain protectiveness for the curly haired boy if nothing else, and surely it was something more, even if he wouldn’t admit to it. Liam had his urge to care for them all, his instincts to look after all the boys like he was their mother. Now Zayn had Eithne to focus on. And Niall was just a lonely little boy who kind of wanted his mum, and what lonely little boy wouldn’t abandon everything for the chance of seeing her?

He bought cheap coffee that tasted like liquidized cardboard, and sat delicately drinking it in the cafe, uncertain of why he was dawdling other than that he didn’t really know what he was doing next. The drink made him feel sick after a couple of sips, so he left it to cool in front of him, as if it would taste better cold, and sat brooding with his chin resting on his hand.

A blonde girl with a grey beanie crammed over her head was making the mistake of ordering the same coffee that he had, and he pitied her for it. She wore a denim skirt, purple tights and a black jumper which clearly belonged to a guy, and he watched her curiously, his eyes playing idly over her dirty black Converse sneakers without really registering. Weird clothes. Was she doing it on purpose to make a statement or did she just have an appalling sense of style? It was hard to tell.

The girl turned, and he made the terrible error of looking straight into her eyes, which widened enormously. She whirled around and made a grab for someone beside her, and then Zayn appeared out of the crowd and suddenly he was staring at Niall too, his brown eyes drilling straight into him so that colour splashed across his face like someone had thrown bright red paint at his cheeks.

Hastily pushing his chair backwards so that it squealed harshly on the floor, Niall began attempting to make his exit, head spinning, trying to work out what to do next. He needn’t have bothered. A hand landed on his shoulder, gripping firmly, and he closed his eyes in resignation. Caught. He recognized the familiar hold, which was both reassuring and a little awkward. There was a wistful moment where he wished that it had been someone else’s hand, because truthfully, Liam was too sympathetic and he would be nice and try to have some empathy, and that would just make Niall feel guilty.

He couldn’t stand there with his eyes closed all day. Might as well get it over with. Sighing heavily, Niall opened his eyes and slowly revolved around to face the disappointed brown eyes he had known would await him, and found that Liam was indeed stood there, flanked by a very critical Louis and apparently thoughtful Harry, who was looking quizzically at Niall and apparently, for once, not seeming to notice their oldest friend. It was more than a little bit mortifying to find himself being stared accusingly at by three people, and Niall blushed hotly.

“Well,” said Liam disapprovingly, “someone went a long way to buy milk.”

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