Niall is asleep within minutes. I rest my head down on his chest, his soft snores vibrating throughout his body. I trace shapes on the inside of his arm, feeling his soft skin twitch every now and then, making me smile.
After knowing Niall for a month, I figured out that he can’t stay up as long as he desires to. No matter how hard he tries, I know he won’t be able to stay up with me, so I agreed to at least let him sleep out here.
My eyes start to droop and I immediately climb off of him, criss-crossing my legs on the floor and pulling the guitar into my lap. My fingers land on the fret board to form the first chord of Justin Bieber’s Pray. I strum through the chords quietly, humming along the melody. By the bridge, I’m singing out the words.
“I pray for the broken-hearted,
Pray for the life not started.
I pray for all the lungs not breathing.
I pray for all the souls that need a break.
Can you give ‘em one today?
I just can’t sleep tonight.
Can someone tell me how to make a change?
I close my eyes and I can see a better day
I close my eyes and pray.
I close my eyes and I can see a better day
I close my eyes and I pray, ohh.
I close my eyes and pray.”
For some reason, tears are flowing down my cheeks as I finish. I close my eyes and sniff, wiping away part of the steady stream running down my face.
“Maci?” Niall’s groggy voice says.
I open my eyes quickly and wipe away the rest of the tears, not wanting him to see - but I’m a little late.
“Love, it’s okay,” he coos, sliding off the couch and wrapping me in his arms. “I’m sorry I drifted off. I won’t leave you again.”
My heart swells. “You don’t have to,” I say quietly into his shoulder.
“I want to.”
“By that,” I say. “I mean you shouldn’t. You have a show tomorrow.”
“I don’t care,” he says flatly, holding me tighter. “I’m staying up, whether you like it or not.”
Despite my current state, I laugh a bit. “You know you can’t stay up long,” I say, glancing at the clock. “It’s 3:30 in the morning, and you first woke up at around three. You don’t normally get up until ten, and I guarantee that you won’t last from now until tonight.”
He shrugs. “I’ll be keeping you company.”
“You know you can’t stay up that long.”
“I know I can,” he says, getting up to go the fridge. He pulls out a Pepsi and sits beside me on the floor, popping it open.
I sigh. This boy is determined. “You’re an idiot,” I say blankly. “I love you,” I peck his cheek. “But you’re an idiot.”
He chuckles and pecks my lips. “I’m an idiot blessed with an amazing girl, who just so happens to hold my heart.” He takes my hand and places it over his heart. I smile as I feel his pulse underneath my hand. “I love you too,” he whispers, kissing my forehead.
I rest my head against his chest and breathe in his scent, feeling it calm me. I know it’s a bad idea, but I like having someone stay up with me. I play with his fingertips as he hums softly to me. All of the sudden though, he stops. Looking up at him in confusion, I see there’s a smile on his face.
“What?” I ask hesitantly.
“I’m taking you out tomorrow - er, this afternoon,” he says, no sign of a question. “Before sound check, I’m taking you out.”
I put my head back on his chest and wrap my arms around his middle. “Mmkay.”
“Be back by four,” Paul says to us sternly, handing Niall the keys to the ‘1D Van’, as they call it.
Niall nods, but Paul doesn’t seem convinced. “I promise to have him back by four,” I say with a smile, and Paul laughs a little.
“Alright,” he replies, walking back into the tour bus.
Niall takes my hand and opens the passenger’s side door for me, then jogs around to the drivers side. He hops in and turns the key in the ignition. We pull out of the concert hall’s parking lot and onto the street.
“Aren’t you a little cautious?” I ask. “You know, because of what happened at the rink with the girls?”
Niall chuckles as we pull up to a red light. “It’s one noon on a Monday. They have better things to do than be out patrolling the town for Niall Horan.”
I peck his cheek. “Like getting ready to see One Direction?”
He smiles. “Exactly.”
The light turns green and we continue down the road. Since it’s a work day, the traffic isn’t too bad for a big city. “Where are we going?” I ask casually.
“It’s a surprise,” Niall sing-songs. He holds out a bandana. “I’m going to need you to put this on,” he says.
I make a weird face at it but take it from his hand. “What for?”
“It’s a surprise,” he says in the same voice.
I roll my eyes but tie it our the back of my head to cover my eyes. “I wonder what the people passing by us will think when they see me blindfolded in Niall Horan’s van.”
“Okay, now you just made me sound like a rapist.” I laugh loudly and lean over the divider to kiss his cheek, but I miss because I can’t see. “My shoulder is definitely feelin’ the love,” Niall says sarcastically.
I thump his shoulder and cross my arms. “Just keep driving.”
He laughs, and I feel the van turn a corner. We ride in silence for a bit, then I feel the van coast to a stop. I hear Niall unbuckle his seatbelt and I go to do the same, but his hand stops me.
“Stay here,” he say, pecking my lips. I hear the car door open and him climb out. “And don’t take the blindfold off.”
“Okay,” I huff, sticking out my lower lip.
“I love you,” he hums before shutting the door.
“Love you too,” I grumble, even though he can’t hear me.
I’m left to twiddle my thumbs for seventeen minutes and forty-three second - yes, I counted, because that’s how bored I get. The trunk suddenly opens, making me jump.
“Niall?” I ask, turning in the seat.
“I’m here, Love. Don’t take the blindfold off!”
I chuckle and turn back around as I hear him slide something - heavy, by the sound - into the back. The trunk closes and a few seconds later his door opens and the car starts again. I hear him buckle his seatbelt and he takes my hand, squeezing it gently. A loud yawn comes from his mouth and I frown.
“You’re tired,” I say, more a statement than a question.
“I’m fine,” he replies.
“No, you stayed up with me, and now you’re tired.”
“I stayed up for you,” he says. “And I don’t care how long I have to stay up, you’re not going through this alone.”
I sigh heavily. “This is a bad choice on you part,” I grumble. “You have tons of lyrics to remember, and you don’t function the best when you’re tired.”
“Maci, those lyrics have been burnt into my brain. I’m not going to forget them, not even when I’m tired.”
“So you admit you’re tired?” I question, knowing I’ve got him.
He groans and squeezes my hand. “Yes, fine. I’m tired. But so are you. And however long you stay up, I stay up.”
I heave another sigh, knowing full well that I’m not going to win this. “Fine,” I grumble, resting my head against the window. “How long until we get to wherever it is you’re taking me?”
“We’re here,” he says happily, and the car comes to a stop.
“Thank goodness,” I say, moving my hands up to the blindfold.
“No!” Niall says hurriedly, taking my hands away. “Not yet. Stay here for just a minute.”
“Again?” I sigh.
“Yep. Now hold on.” His door opens and shuts.
If I could, I would roll my eyes. The trunk opens and I hear him move around some stuff, the run away hurriedly across - grass? Hmm. There’s a rustling a little bit away from the van and I smell blooming flowers. I inhale the scent, feeling it relax my body. I feel myself needing to yawn, but I contain it and continue listening.
Niall’s heavy footsteps jog back up to the van and past the open trunk. My door opening makes me jump, and I feel Niall take my hand. “Don’t take the blindfold off yet,” he says, helping me step out of the vehicle. He leads me around the van, stopping and turning me toward the open trunk.
I hear him fumble with something - a case, maybe? He lets out a breath and wraps his arms around my waist from behind.
“Okay,” he mumbles, kissing the back of my neck. “You can take it off now.”
I smile and remove the blindfold, my eyes taking a moment to adjust. When they do, I gasp. Sitting in the trunk, right in front of me is a [guitar].
“Do you like it?” Niall murmurs, pulling me closer against him.
I turn around. “For me?” I ask, my eyes wide as I point at myself. He nods. “I love it!” I squeal, throwing my arms around his neck and burying my face in his shoulder.
He chuckles and kisses the spot behind my ear. “Go on, try it out.” I do another little squeal and he lets me go.
I grab the guitar and sit down on the edge of the trunk, closing my eyes as I play a well-tuned G chord. “It’s amazing,” I breathe. I feel Niall’s lips on mine and I smile. “You didn’t have to get this for me.”
“I wanted to,” he counters, as always. I open my eyes and shake my head, pecking his lips again.
“I thought you said we were having lunch,” I say as I stand up and set the guitar back in its case.
“We are,” he says, pulling me into an embrace.
“Where?” I mumble into his chest.
He kisses my forehead and pulls away, taking my hand. “Here,” he says.
I take in the beautiful scene in front of me. We’re in a park, the beautiful green grass bending softly in the wind. The breath-taking trees around the park hold blooming flowers, making the air smell wonderful. The bright sun warms my skin comfortably. This scene seems so familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
I smile as Niall begins leading me to one of the trees, and I see that he’s set up a little picnic for us. He sits down on the blanket near a basket while I stay standing, just looking at what he’s prepared for us.
“Aren’t you going to sit?” he asks with a chuckle, seeing my wide smile.
I hold my finger up. “Just taking in the scene.”
He shakes he head with a smile and reaches into the basket pulling out - chicken. I’m about to sit down when something clicks.
I’ve seen this before.
My stomach drops and my smile disappears. Plaid blanket, chicken, sitting under a tree, the park, smell of flowers. All that’s missing is…
“Oh God,” I whisper, my legs trembling.
“What is it?” Niall looks up, concerned.
I can’t hear him, though. My mind is going a thousand miles an hour. My dream. Oh God. Where is he? I know he’s here, where is he? He’s going to take this away from me, too! This always happens, I knew it would. Oh God, I was right. He was right. I can never get away.
Suddenly, I whirl around, my back to Niall. “Where are you?” I scream. “Hit me with your best shot, I’m RIGHT HERE!”
“Maci!” Niall shouts. I hadn’t even noticed that my hands are shaking until Niall grabs them.
“No!” I shout, tugging away from him. “This is between me and him! Where are you!?”
“Maci!” Niall shouts, gripping my shoulders and spinning me around. “Who the hell are you talking to!?”
“My father!” I scream, and Niall’s face shows complete shock. I can’t take it anymore. It feels like all of the energy leaves my body. My knees buckle and I collapse, landing on my back, my legs bent out to the side. “My father,” I whisper again, feeling the tears prick in my eyes.
“Oh my God!” Niall blurts, kneeling down beside me. “Maci, look at me. Are you okay? Maci!”
My eyes can’t find his face. I’m stuck staring at the beautiful blue sky. “I can never escape him,” I whisper. “Never.”
“Maci,” Niall says hurriedly, and I feel his hand on the back of my neck, pulling me into a sitting position. I fall back into him, not being able to support my own weight. “Maci, look at me. Please, please look at me.”
I find the energy to guide my half-open eyes to his face, full of worry. “Mmm,” I mumble, squeezing his hand.
He lets out a big breath. “Maci, your father isn’t here. I am. You’re safe.”
I don’t know how, but I find the strength to sit up. Niall still holds me in his lap, giving me a sense of support. No tears fall from my eyes, but I feel like I’m crying enough to fill an ocean. Strained whimpers leave my throat, and my breathing is shaky, my heart beating fast.
“Where is he?” I squeak.
“Where is who, Love?” Niall asks quietly, brushing a piece of hair out of my face.
“Where is my father,” I say, wincing. “He’s here, I know it. I’ve seen this all before, I know he’s here.”
Niall’s body tenses. “Maci,” he says. “No one is here but us. Your father is back in Florida - all the way across the country. There’s absolutely no way that he’s here.”
I turn around to look in his eyes. “Promise?” I whisper.
“I promise,” he says, wiping a tear from my cheek that I didn’t know was there.
With that, I throw my arms around his neck, making him fall back onto the blanket. I bury my face in his chest, inhaling his comforting scent. It feels like we sit this way forever, Niall stroking my hair as I attempt to calm myself. I’m finally brought back into my sane thoughts by Niall’s large yawn.
“You’re tired,” I mumble, sitting up.
“So are you,” he counters, pulling me back down on top of him.
I groan and roll off of him, clear across the blanket. “You need a nap before the show. What are you running on, five hours of sleep?”
He shrugs. “I’ve had less.”
I shake my head. “Not when you’re performing. Lets go.”
I manage to pull him up and lead him to the van. He makes me stay in the vehicle while he goes and packs up the food we never got to eat. Niall shoves it in the trunk and closes it, jogging up to the driver’s side and climbing in. We drive back in silence, holding hands over the divider.
Niall pulls into the lot behind the concert hall next to the tour bus. He opens my door and takes my hand as we walk into the bus. We mumble ‘hello’s to Liam and Paul sitting in the front room and try to avoid the competitive and noisy boys in the back room. Niall closes the door between the back room and the bunk room, muffling most of the sound.
“Up,” I say when he turns to me, pointing to his bunk.
“Not without you,” he says.
I roll my eyes and put a hand on my hip. “Stop being difficult. Up.” Niall shrugs. He quickly grabs my waist and swiftly lifts me up. “Hey!” I protest, but I’m already in the bunk.
Niall enters quickly, laying on his side so I can’t get out over him. Sliding the curtain closed and putting us in darkness, he grabs my waist and pulls me closer. “If I sleep, you sleep.”
“You know that I’m not going to fall asleep,” I say flatly, turning in his arms so I’m facing the wall. I cross my arms and jut out my lower lip when I feel his lips press to the back of my neck.
“Then you should know that I’m not going to fall asleep either.”
I sigh heavily. “Fine,” I grumble, closing my eyes and taking deep breaths.
Niall’s grip tightens on my waist. “Really?”
“Yes,” I sigh. “I’ll fall asleep.”
“I love you,” he whispers, and I can practically hear the wide grin on his face. I groan in response but meet his lips when he offers. I turn back over and close my eyes.
He doesn’t know that I know how to act asleep. I slow my breathing down, also slowing my heart rate. After about three minutes I subtly add in quiet snores. As I do, Niall’s body seems to relax and he lets out a deep breath. His breathing slows and his grip loosens on my waist - I know then that he’s asleep. I sigh heavily and carefully peel his arms from around me. Carefully, I inch over him, closer to the curtain. I don’t make it, though, because his arms snake around my waist, pulling me down on top of him.
“Two can play at the acting game,” he mumbles, nuzzling his face into my neck.
I groan. Then play the game we shall.