“No,” Zayn says sternly. “No, you can’t do that.”
I pull away from him and sit back down on the couch. “Who’s stopping me?”
“Your body, Maci,” he says. “You can’t stay awake forever. Think this through. Sooner or later you’re going to have to fall asleep, and what then? You’ll be so wired from not sleeping that you probably will have nightmares anyway!”
I shake my head. “The nightmares wake me up anyway, so what’s the point in trying?”
“It’s not healthy to stay awake this long,” Zayn reasons.
I shrug him off. “It’s not healthy to have reoccurring nightmares, either.”
Zayn pinches the brim of his nose and sighs. “Why isn’t Niall in here with us? Why isn’t he in this conversation, too?”
My eyes widen. “Don’t bring him into this,” I say hurriedly. “Don’t tell him - please, please don’t. I don’t need him to worry about me. This is my own problem, not his. And not yours, for that matter.”
“Maci, he loves you. Niall deserves to know something that could be putting your health in danger.”
“My health is not in danger,” I say sharply. “My sanity is. I’ll stay sane if I don’t have nightmares. And given that every time I try to fall asleep I have one, I’m protecting my sanity.”
“You’re not making any sense,” Zayn says, sitting down next to me. “You know better than this, Maci. You’re just tired. Please, please get some sleep before we get into Denver.”
I shake my head. “No. No, no, no. I don’t want to see my father’s face again, ever. And if I see him while I’m sleeping, then I don’t want to sleep.”
Zayn puts his face in his hands. “You do know that one way or another you’re going to fall asleep, right? It’s just the sleepiness talking, Maci. You’re not thinking straight. Don’t do this to yourself. You’re setting yourself up for the nightmares to get worse.”
I shake my head again. I’m thinking perfectly straight, I’m awake as ever right now. “How can they get worse if I’m not having them?”
“Maci,” Zayn breathes. “Listen to me. You have to sleep sometime, whether you like it or not. It is a fact that sleep is essential to the simplest of functions in our bodies. Don’t set yourself up for both failure and worse dreams.”
I shrug him off, despite how right his words are. I know that I’ll have to sleep again sometime. But who says that has to be any time soon?
“Maci,” Zayn says quietly. “If you do this to yourself, I’ll be forced to bring Niall into it - if, of course, he doesn’t notice it by just looking at the state you’re in now.”
I wince, remembering the mess I must look like. “Most of the look is from the nightmares,” I reply. “A quick wipe of the makeup, brush through the hair, and change of clothes will have me looking normal.”
“And the bloodshot eyes?”
I stare at him for a minute, then think of something. “My contacts are bothering me.”
Zayn rolls his eyes. “Everyone here knows very well that you don’t wear glasses or contacts.”
I huff and cross my arms. “Why can’t you just worry about yourself?”
“Because you mean something to all of us,” he replies without hesitation. When I don’t say anything, he sighs heavily. “Just promise me that you’ll sleep at least six hours a day.”
“I don’t make promises I can’t keep,” I say flatly.
“You made a promise to get some sleep last night. And look where we are now.”
“So if I broke that promise, why are you asking me to keep another?” I counter.
Zayn huffs under his breath and seems to count to ten in his head, looking at the ceiling. After a bit he takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
“Fine,” he says at last, looking back at me. “Stay awake as long as you can. Good luck. I won’t tell Niall. You can explain it to him when you get wired.” He gets up and walks over to the door. “I’m not going to say that I won’t be here to talk about it if you need me, because I am,” he says quietly over his shoulder. “Just… Don’t do anything any more stupid than this.”
With that, he pushes himself into his bunk and slides the curtain shut, not giving me any time to reply. I look down at my hands and notice that they are shaking, probably from my lack of sleep. Sighing, I grab the guitar once again and play a few soft rhythms.
Now I just have to convince Niall that I’m okay.
The boys first begin to stir around 9:30, surprisingly early for them. I hear a curtain slide open and a groggy Harry pads out into the room. He grumbles a ‘hello’ at the bus driver and I and grabs a Pepsi from the fridge. After he chugs it down, he plops back into his bunk and the curtain slides shut.
This type of thing is repeated for Louis as well, except a little slower. Louis really is quite a sight when he’s tired. His hair sticks every which way, his pajamas wrinkled, and tired eyes. He, too, goes back to bed within a couple minutes.
Liam walks out a says a chipper ‘hello’, checks the time, then decides he wants more sleep. If only I could sleep…
No. Don’t even start. I will not have those nightmares.
Then Niall appears from the doorway. “Good morning, Love,” he says tiredly, pecking my cheek.
I give him a small smile, glad that his morning vision isn’t always the best. “Morning,” I reply.
“How long have you been up and around?” he asks, walking to the counter for his Chex Mix.
“Oh,” I say, thinking. Since about three. “Only a little bit.”
He nods. “I missed waking up to your beautiful face.”
A large grin spreads across my face and I wrap him into a hug. “I’m sorry,” I say jokingly. “Next time, I’ll be sure to be there when you wake up.”
Niall rolls his eyes and kisses the tip of my nose. “I see you’ve been practicing,” he says, gesturing to the open guitar case on the floor.
You have no idea. “A little,” I reply, shrugging. “I want these darn callouses to form.” I hold up my hand, looking at the red and raw tips of my fingers.
Niall takes my hand in his and brings each finger up to his mouth, kissing the ends. “It’ll take time. Maybe a week or so?”
Or less, now that it’ll be the only thing keeping me up. 266 “I guess I’ll just have to keep practicing,” I say with a smile, my lips brushing over his nose. “I thought you got to take this off last night,” I say, tapping the metal on his healed nose.
Niall shrugs. “Never got around to it, I guess,” he shrugs. “Will you help?”
I smile widely and carefully reach up to his nose. I peel the medical tape from over the edges and throw them in the wastebasket just next to the couch. The metal plate just sort of falls off and I catch it in my hands before tossing that, too.
I gasp as I look back at his face - just how I remember it on the first day the we met. No metal strip in the way, no medical tape to cover it up. Just Niall.
“I love you,” I say, kissing his nose, then kissing his lips.
“I love you too,” he replies between kisses. I pull away after a bit.
“Now how about another song?” I ask with a smile.
“This one is trickier,” I tell Niall, strumming a C bar chord. I’ve come to hate bar chords in the past day. They’re just a little too tough for my not-so-tough hand to play.
“I know,” he laughs, helping me press my fingers down. “Bar chords have never been my favorite.”
“When are we stopping for breakfast?” Louis moans, stumbling sleepily into the room.
“No idea,” Niall replies, not paying him any attention while he helps me.
I see Louis shrug and go back to the bunk area. “PAUL!” he screams, and I hear the woosh of a curtain. “GET YOUR LAZY BUM UP! I WANT BREAKFAST!”
I hear a deep growl and a yelp. Louis comes scurrying out of the bunk area like a scared puppy. He darts to the corner of the room and curls into a ball.
“What did he say?” Niall asks, laughing uncontrollably.
Louis juts out his lower lip. “He said wake him up later.”
Niall and I take off laughing. Louis just pouts on while we hold our sides. Don’t mess with Paul, I guess. That is beyond hilarious, especially for Louis.
Harry comes stumbling into the room, scratching his head. “Babe, was that you screaming?”
“Yes,” Louis says sharply. “But Paul is not in the mood.”
Harry laughs and runs over to Louis, pulling him into a hug. “Awwwh, did Paul scare my Lou Bear?”
“No,” Louis says defensively. “I just don’t want to bother him. He’s very… Grumpy when he’s sleeping.”
“You would think you would have learned this by now,” Liam says, walking in. He takes a seat next to Niall and I and crosses his legs.
“What time is it?” Zayn grumbles, coming into the room.
“11:00,” I reply, checking my phone.
Zayn eyes me weirdly and I know he’s trying to tell me something, but I look away so I don’t have to see it. I’ve made my decision.
Paul suddenly stumbles out into the room, thwacking Louis on the head as he passes. He crouches to talk to the bus driver, murmuring quietly about breakfast. After a few seconds he stands up to face us.
“We’ll stop for breakfast in thirty minutes,” he grumbles before stomping back to his bunk.
We wait for quite a while before anyone speaks. “Well then,” Louis mumbles, rubbing his head.
“I’m going to go freshen up,” I say, handing the guitar to Niall. He smiles and I lean down to peck his cheek. “Be back in a minute.”
I ignore the look Zayn gives me on the way back to Niall’s bunk. Digging through my duffel, I pull out this [Polyvore] and some makeup wipes. I head into the bathroom and use the wipes to get the smeared mascara off of my face, then change. I pull my hair up and brush out the ends, then walk back out into the front room.
Zayn is talking to Niall on the couch, and my chest heaves. I walk over as calm as I can manage and sit next to Niall on his side opposite Zayn. I shoot Zayn a look but he doesn’t seem to notice, going on and talking to Niall about music. The tightness in my chest ebbs a bit when I realize that they aren’t talking about me, and I let out a subtle breath.
“Hey!” Louis suddenly shouts, making me jump.
“What?” I ask, confused, along with everyone else.
Louis playfully glares at me. “Stripes are my thing.”
“Thank you!” Louis yells in the drive-thru window, making the worker squeal. He skipped back onto the bus along with Paul, holding several bags of food.
The bus driver peels out of the McDonald’s drive-thru and back onto the highway. I’m handed a bag with a snack wrap and small fry, along with a Pepsi from the fridge.
“I swear,” I say. “You boys have an endless supply of Pepsi.”
“That’s what you get for doing a commercial,” Liam says, digging into his burger.
“Mmm,” I nod, biting into my wrap.
We eat in silence, most of the sound the the bus’ tires on the road and the occasional crumple of a food wrapper. The silence starts to kill me after a while. That’s one of the things about me - if it’s quiet, I get tired. And considering that I’m running on three hours of sleep; I get really tired.
I feel my eyes start to droop and I blink rapidly, but subtly. Against my will, I let out a big - and I mean GIANT - yawn. I quickly wipe away the sleepy tears that come to my eyes. This is something everyone catches.
“Wow, Love,” Niall muses, wrapping his arm around my waist. “You look tired. How much sleep did you get last night?”
“Uhmm,” I say hesitantly, my chest constricting. My gaze momentarily flashes to Zayn. His jaw is set and he’s looking at me expectantly. I look back at Niall. “A bit,” I tell him, playing with my hands.
“Maybe you should get a nap in?” Niall says with a smile.
“No,” I say a little to quickly. I swear, I’m getting jumpy. I do a mental face-palm and compose myself. “I want to stay out here with you.”
“Isn’t that just adorable?” Harry says sarcastically. I stick my tongue out at him.
“Really, Maci,” Niall chuckles, pulling me closer. “If you’re tired, you should have a nap. We won’t be in Denver for another three hours.”
“Really,” I say. “I’m okay.” I lean my head on his shoulder - big mistake.
My eyes start to close and I grunt in frustration. I feel Niall’s laugh vibrate my head, making me even more tired, if that’s even possible. Oh God, no. I can’t fall asleep. But I can’t open my eyes. I feel like a thousand pound weight was just placed on my eyelids, restricting any movement at all. I can feel myself start to slip into a dream, and I try to cry out but I can’t.
“You should take her to your bunk,” I hear Zayn say quietly.
I mentally growl at him. He knows I don’t want to fall asleep. Dammit, Zayn! Help me! I jolt as someone’s arms slip under my knees and back, swooping me up bridal style.
“Shh,” Niall says when I let out a whimper. “It’s okay, Love, I’ve got you. You’re safe.”
If you only knew, I cry mentally as I slip into unconsciousness.
“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.
My hand closes around nothing, and my mouth drops open. I do a full 360, trying to find Niall - but he’s nowhere in sight. I cringe, thinking about what’s going to happen - I’m alone with my father. And this didn’t end well last time. Oh God.
“Where’s lover boy now?” my father mocks behind me. He lets out a cruel laugh as he strides the rest of the distance to me, and I can feel his hot breath on my neck.
I gasp and my eyes fly open to reveal - nothing. Wherever I am is pitch black. I can still feel my father’s hot breath on my neck as I shift uncomfortably. Someone grunts behind me and I freeze. That’s when I realize that a pair of arms is wrapped tightly around my middle - and someone’s hot breath is on my neck.
I gasp and roughly shake their arms off of me. When I hear the person groan close to my ear I fly up against the wall, cowering in the corner. Where the hell am I? I press my back hard against the wall as the dark silhouette moves to sit up.
“Maci,” their groggy voice groans. They reach out to grab my wrist and I yelp, yanking it away. “Maci, are you-”
“-Just let me be, Dad!” I shriek.
Almost instantly the person freezes. “Oh God,” they say, moving away from me. “Oh God, Maci, I’m not your father.”
A curtain swishes open to reveal a blinding light. I try to keep my eyes open to be sure he doesn’t try anything, but I can’t. My eyes shut tight and I start to whimper, my shoulders trembling.
“Maci,” the person says. “It’s alright. You’re father isn’t here. It’s just me. Please, please don’t be afraid.”
As quickly as my eyes can adjust, the outline of a person starts to form. Then, the details slowly fill in. Blond hair… Blue eyes… Concerned look… Oh my God-
“Niall!” I cry, throwing myself into his arms. He seems hesitant at first, but his arms find their way around my waist. Sobs wrack my body as Niall strokes my hair to comfort me. It must have been an insanely long time before I sit up. “I’m s-sorry, I d-didn’t mean it. I just… I j-just had-”
“-You had a nightmare,” he finishes for me and I nod, my bottom lip trembling. “I get it.”
No, you don’t. I bury my face in his chest, breathing in his comforting scent. “W-where are the b-boys?” I ask, noticing the lack of noise throughout the bus.
“We’re in Denver,” Niall says. “They went to stretch their legs about an hour ago.”
“When’s soundcheck?” I mumble.
“In about an hour.”
Wonderful. I have to pull myself together in an hour before I become Lou and Caroline’s doll. Not that I have a problem with it - I actually quite enjoy getting dressed up. I just want to avoid any questions about the dream - or rather, nightmare.
“Do you want to tell me abo-”
“-No,” I cut him off, squeezing his shoulders. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
He grunts in agreement and nuzzles him face in my neck. “How long are we in Denver again?” I ask. Something about the altitude is hurting my head.
“Three days, not counting today,” he answers after thinking a bit. I nod and snuggling into him.
I finally calm my breathing down and the stinging in my eyes goes away, but we stay in each other’s arms. After a while I start to get tired again, but I force my eyes open. There’s no way I’m falling asleep without setting an alarm. I remember in psychology class that the human mind starts dreaming after being asleep for about thirty minutes. I’ll set an alarm for twenty, just to be sure.
I never want to see my father’s face, hear my father’s voice, smell my father’s liquor, of feel his touch ever again.
And if that means no sleeping - then so be it.