***********************THE NEXT DAY*********************
“We’ve been driving for hours,” Harry groans, flopping down on the couch next to me. I chuckle and nudge his head softly with my foot.
“It’s only been an hour and a half,” Niall says, rolling his eyes.
“Just calm down,” Paul grumbles from his bunk. “We’ll be in Chicago in three hours.”
“Three hours?” Niall asks, sounding panicked. “I don’t think my mix will last that long!”
He looks down at the bag of Chex Mix that we had seen in a shopping mart after the show. I had told him it’s good, and he didn’t even hesitate in buying it to snack on. The bag is nearly half gone, and he’s only had it open since about ten minutes ago.
“You’ll just have to eat slower,” I say, cuddling into him and closing my eyes.
I don’t know why, but I’m still seriously tired. I had originally thought that it’s from blading yesterday, added to the run from the girls - but even a four hour nap and a full night’s rest hasn’t satisfied the tired part of me. Maybe I’m getting a cold? I can’t be certain on anything. The only answer is to sleep until I’m not tired, I guess.
“I think I’m going to take a nap,” I say, taking my head off of Niall’s shoulder. His arms stay around my hips and he looks at me questioningly.
“You’ve been sleeping a lot lately,” he says, giving my waist a tight squeeze. “Are you catching something?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I guess only time will tell. But for now, I’m going to sleep.”
He nods reluctantly and lets go. Niall’s face is still worried, so I lean in to give him a lingering kiss. My cheeks go hot as Louis coughs awkwardly and I pull away to see a smiling Niall.
“I’m alright,” I tell him, flashing him a smile.
With that, I turn and make my way to Niall’s bunk, sliding in and pulling the covers up around me. I close the curtain and breath in his scent that envelopes the blankets, comforting me. Resting my head back on the soft pillow, I close my eyes. Suddenly, I’m brought out of my near-sleeping state by Louis’ obnoxious, mocking shout.
“THERE WILL BE NO S-”
“I get it!” Niall exclaims back, shutting Louis up. The boys all start laughing and I try to tune them out, turning to face the wall.
I hear the curtain swoosh open and a little light comes in, but it still kind of hurts my eyes. I feel a pressure on the mattress behind me and the curtain closes again, putting whoever it is and I in the previous darkness. A pair of arms wrap around my waist and I smile to myself, knowing who it is right away.
“Come to join me?” I ask, scooting into him so my back is pressed to his chest.
“Only if you’ll let me,” he whispers in my ear, and I stifle a shiver.
“Of course,” I reply, feeling his lips press to the spot right behind my ear.
My hand reaches to grip his, lacing our fingers together. I let out a deep breath as his lips press into the side of my jaw, then the back of my neck. His thumb traces swirls on the part of my bare stomach where my shirt has ridden up a bit. I close my eyes, but I can’t stop thinking about his lips trailing gentle kisses up and down my jaw and neck. My eyes still closed, I turn my head to face his and he doesn’t hesitate in pressing a kiss to my lips.
“You know,” I say once he pulls away. “If you keep doing this, there’s no way I’ll be able to fall asleep.”
He chuckles and hugs me tighter to his chest. “I’m sorry, Love. Go to bed.”
I smile at him and peck his lips before turning my head back around. My mind drifts and I can feel myself about to fall asleep when his lips press to my ear.
“Niall,” I grumble, lightly pushing his face away.
“Sorry Love,” he chuckles, pulling me even closer to him. “Rest now. I love you.”
I smile and curl into him. “I love you too,” I whisper back, and finally sleep comes for me.
“This is so wonderful,” I say, biting into the chicken Niall hands me. “Where did you get this?”
“It’s from Nandos,” he says with a chuckle. “My favorite.”
“Well it might just have to be my favorite too,” I tell him honestly, making him chuckle.
I look around at the beautiful park we’re in and play with the edge of the plaid blanket we’re sitting on.
Wait… I’ve seen this before.
The whole scene is cliche, yet I love it anyway. The tree overhead provides some shade from the powerful sun, and the smell of blooming flowers fills the air.
Something’s not right. This has happened before.
I set down the piece of chicken and wipe my hands off with a napkin.
“I love you,” I tell him, and he takes my hand.
“Maci,” I hear someone growl behind me, and Niall’s face twists into one of confusion and anger.
My stomach drops as I recognize the voice. As if on cue, the whole sky darkens a shade and the soft wind stops blowing. The smell of flowers disappears and is replaced by the smell of my own fear. Oh God. Oh no.
I start to shake with fear, my stomach knotting like crazy. Why is he here? What does he want?
I release Niall’s hand and slowly turn as I stand, coming face to face with my father.
“Dad,” I say, my voice shaking.
Only much, much worse.
I take in his tall form. It feels like he’s gained six inches, now towering a full foot above me. He’s wearing all black, only
making his aura darker. I don’t smell any alcohol from him - that means he’s sober. Usually when he’s sober he apologizes, but I sense no sign of remorse in the way he’s glaring at me.
“He doesn’t love you,” my father snarls, taking a step closer.
I stumble back a bit. This feels like a dagger in my chest. I know my father is wrong. Niall loves me. He’s here for me, whenever I need him. I tell myself this over and over, finally feeling some of the emotional pain slip away.
“You’re wrong,” I say flatly. I spin around and reach for Niall’s hand.
Only he’s not there.
I wake with a start, my body shooting up. I let out a pained gasp as my head hits the ceiling of the bunk, and my eyes prick. It’s dark inside the bunk, and my eyes aren’t yet adjusted to the darkness. In a panic, I reach out beside me for Niall.
My hand only fists cold sheets.
My chest heaves and my eyes prick more. I’m scared and I feel alone - a feeling I haven’t even come close to forgetting yet. But for some reason, I’m not surprised. Maybe my dream was a foretelling of something? I shake my head to clear it. No. Niall loves me, but he’s just not here right now. He’s not gone forever - just for now.
Yet I find myself curing into a ball, hugging my knees. I proceed to let the tears flow from my eyes, strangled sobs coming with them. My shoulders tremble and I embrace the feeling of being alone, in a dark room, wallowing in Niall’s absence.
Suddenly, I hear the curtain fly open and instantly someone’s arms are around me. Still somewhat shake from my dream, I cry out - not knowing who is it. My eyes still closed, I push them away, cowering in the corner of the bunk.
“Maci,” they say.
“Leave me alone!” I cry. “Just leave me alone, like I’ve always been!”
The mattress shifts beneath me and a yelp as their arms are around me again. I don’t want to be hurt. I’m already wounded enough.
“Maci, I’ll never leave you alone.”
My eyes snap open at the welcoming tone in his voice. There’s Niall, staring at me with worried eyes, his arms wrapped around me. It takes quite a while for me to register it - but Niall is here with me, comforting me as a cry about something that never happened.
“Oh my God,” I sob, more tears flowing down my cheeks. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t-”
“-I know,” he says, pulling me closer and stroking my hair - something I’ve become very fond of.
“Shh,” he cuts me off, hugging me tighter. “Don’t talk. Just let it out.”
For some reason, I do. I bury my face in his shoulders and I’m sure that my muffled wails can be heard throughout the bus, but I don’t care. The only thing that really matters to me right now is Niall’s arms wrapped around me, along with the realization that he will always be here. He will never leave me alone. Never.
I hold Maci for quite a while after she falls back asleep. As much as I hate her falling asleep again, I know that she needs it. But she had another dream - or rather, nightmare. What’s causing this? Obviously they’re about her father, but he’s gone now. So what’s wrong?
I sigh and reluctantly unwrap my arms from around her. She grimaces in her sleep and rolls over to face the wall. I don’t want to leave her, but the lads will probably want an explanation.
~Back up ten minutes~
After Maci falls asleep, I sit watching her for a while. She’s just so beautiful. I never want her to slip away from me. I’m nearly convinced that I’ll take a nap with her before I hear several feet pound past the bunks and into the back room. Poking my head out of the curtain, I give the lads a glare.
“You’re going to wake her up,” I hiss.
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Louis rolls his eyes, plopping down on Harry’s lap. Harry groans with Louis weight and Louis turns to his. “You know you like it,” he says with a smirk.
With that, Harry grimaces and shoves Louis off of him, making an even louder thump than they had running to the back.
“Stop,” I hiss after I feel Maci shift next to me. “She needs the rest.”
“Come play with us, Nialler,” Zayn says, gripping the controller Liam hands to him.
“If it’ll get you to shut up,” I sigh. I pull my head back in the curtain and carefully unwrap my arms from around Maci.
She shifts noticeably and I wince, but relax when she doesn’t wake up. I swiftly roll out of the bunk and pad softly to the back room, grabbing the Wii controller handed to me. I sit next to Harry while Zayn pushes the game into the console and Liam clicks into Mario Kart. Before I know it, I’m so into the game that I don’t even notice the lads trying to get my attention.
“Niall. Niall. Niall!”
“Quiet!” I snap. “You’ll wake Maci up!”
“Mate,” Zayn hisses. “She already is!”
That’s when I hear the sobs coming from my bunk.
“Shit,” I breathe. I look back at the lads. “Stay here,” I say as I dart from the room.
I throw the curtain open and cringe at the sight of Maci. She’s curled up into a ball, rocking back and forth against the wall. My arms quickly find their way around her, pulling her close to me. I wince as she yelps and shoves me away.
“Maci,” I say, trying to get her to look up. This is just like the last dream she had.
“Leave me alone!” she cries. “Just leave me alone, like I’ve always been!”
This feels like a serious blow to the gut. I falter for only a moment, then I slide closer to her and wrap my arms around her again. Maci yelps for a second time, only making the feeling in my gut grow worse.
“Maci, I’ll never leave you alone,” I say with all the meaning I can put into words.
Her eyes fly open in shock and she stares in confusion at me for a long time.
“Oh my God,” she sobs, tears spilling from her eyes and down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t-”
“-I know,” I interrupt, pulling her closer and stroking her hair.
“Shh,” I cut her off, hugging her tighter. “Don’t talk. Just let it out.”
“Wow,” Liam breathes, rubbing his hand through his hair.
“She must have had it horrible,” Harry sighs, shaking his head.
I nod and put my head in my hands. “I just don’t know what to do,” I groan.
I feel Louis’ hand on my back and I look up at him with a thankful expression. “She’ll get through it,” he assures.
I shrug. “I’m afraid that if I don’t distract her enough from her past, she’ll be afraid of me.” Did I really just say that? I put my head in my hands again. “When we got in a… Disagreement at the restaurant a few weeks ago, I raised my voice - enough that she thought I was going to hit her.” I wince at the memory. “She loved her dad, whether she knows it or not. I mean, he’s her dad. But I just… I don’t want her to think that love includes violence. I don’t want her to think that loving each other means hurting her.”
Wow. That was deep, Nialler. I sigh at my own thoughts. Louis rubs circles into my back, trying to soothe me.
“You don’t have to distract her,” Zayn says. “Just… Get her into something else. Get her interested in something that she would love to do.”
I think about this for a moment. Realizing that this is actually a great idea, I lift my head and stare blankly at the wall. Running through things in my mind, I try to pinpoint a good idea in the jumbled mess. There’s nothing that I’m really good at teaching these things…
I turn to Zayn and thump him on the shoulder. “You are a genius,” I tell him, standing up and shooting to the main room on our bus.
The edge of the case slightly protrudes from underneath the sofa. I crouch down to pull it out and sit down on the sofa with it resting on my lap. The lads pad in the room after me, obviously curious of what I have planned. I flip the latches of the case open and grip the beautifully crafted neck in my hand. I pull out the instrument and slide the case down to the floor.
Strumming a few chords, I check the tune. A little flat - I fix it quickly with the tuning knobs. I play a G chord, letting it ring quietly through the bus. Paul snores loudly from his bunk, not hearing any of the interactions that had gone down. Maci’s soft breathing joins Paul’s loudness and I close my eyes, playing the beginning chords to Ed Sheeran’s The A Team. I sigh as I get into the chorus chords, feeling the wonderful notes clear my mind.
“You’re killing us, mate,” Liam speaks up.
I smile and look up at them, still playing the chords. “I’m going to teach her how to play the guitar.”