*Winner of Movellas' Fanfiction Royale Competition* "How many nights does it take to count the stars?" | As the boys sit down and pen the final song for their album, they're asked to reflect back on the sudden departure of one of their own members. *Songfic Entry for Fanfiction Royale Competition*


3. n.h



"Yo, Horan. C'mere a minute." 

Niall looked up to see a spray painted Zayn motioning towards him. He shrugged, turned off the television, and walked towards his friend. Not without of course first grabbing the roll of paper towels upon the table and throwing them to him. 

"Thanks, mate." Zayn smiled, wiping his hands with a wad of them. 

"That's nice." Niall said, standing before the once blank wall now filled with black lines and sketches. It was different from the typical colorful art Zayn tended to paint. 

"Something new, you know?" Zayn replied, sitting back and studying his own work.

"Yeah, man."

Zayn sighed a bit, pulling out a box of cigarettes from his back pocket. He seemed off, that was certain. The other boys had noted it too, figuring Zayn was just in one of his moods. Niall, although knowing this, still stayed behind. He figured that what Zayn needed was some company, and maybe to stop smoking so much. Besides, it had been so long since the two had talked. Niall missed his friend, even though he was only a few steps away from him at all times. It was a weird concept really, but after being together for so long, he figured it was only natural they would want to be on their own sometimes. 

"I thought you quit." Niall muttered, sitting down next to him. He recalled that at least from the last time they had spoken.

There was a cool breeze coming in from the open window, typical for an English spring. Niall stretched his arm to open it wider, just so the smoke wouldn't continually hit his face. 

 Zayn shrugged, lighting his cigarette, "Shit happens."

"That's my life motto." Niall quipped.

"So much for Yolo."

"Hey, now, that's the motto."

Zayn rolled his eyes, "Don't act like you know shit about Drake."

"I know enough."

"Right. Says the fan of Justin Beiber."

"We're in a boy band." Niall says, reminding Zayn that they were in no position to judge.

Zayn stayed quiet, even though Niall expected him to say what he always did. That whole, "Yeah, but we're a fucking cool boy band." But he didn't. In fact, he just seemed to resent the fact.

The mood in the room shifted, it was obvious Zayn was growing weary as Niall became more tense. Zayn couldn't help himself though, he just needed to say what was on his mind.

"Doesn't it bother you sometimes?" Zayn asked.


"The fact that nothing changes. That it's like you're stuck?"

Niall furrowed his brow, not quite sure what Zayn meant, "Stuck?"

Zayn sat back, against the blank wall, "I don't know. It's like..." He leaned his head against the white wall, taking a long drag from his smoke and letting his exhale fill the air around them with the smell, "The world keeps turning, but we're still here. Nothing's changed. I don't want it to, or maybe I'm just scared of it changing."

Niall shrugged, sitting in nearly the same position, avoiding Zayn's eyes. He wasn't very good at this kind of conversation and it made him feel guilty, he knew Zayn had been acting rather off the past few months, he just didn't know what to say to him. 

Zayn exhaled again, "It's like I'm frozen, but the world still turns. Like it's going faster than a million miles, but we're all stuck, here, in this bloody perpetual cycle. And you can't fight it, not without losing, you know?"

"It's just a couple more months." Niall tried to reason. It was obvious that Zayn was still sore about how the contract renewal had played out. 

"It's always just a couple more months or a couple more days, or another album or maybe another tour. It's always something, it never changes." 

And what could Niall say? Nothing. All he could do was sit next to his friend as he smoked his cigarette with his stained hands. All he could hope was that he would be okay. 

But Zayn could feel Nialls apprehension, he knew that the Irishman had an aversion to overly sentimental notions. Perhaps he had overstepped his bounds. So he laughed it off, putting Niall a bit at ease, "Sorry mate, must be going stir crazy from being locked inside all day. What with the missus gone and the paps outside on my street."

Niall grinned his trademark boyish grin and nodded in relief. Zayn just missed his fiancé, that was all. He just wanted to leave the house without being photographed, not a big deal. They had been dealing with these things for so long already, it was just kind of matter of fact to Niall. 

"You want to play FIFA?" Zayn asked, knowing it would distract Niall. That hopefully it would just make him forget he had even brought anything up. He'd rather he just forget, it didn't matter anyway.

"Yeah, sounds good."


I don't know if I could've said anything in that moment. I don't even know if I noticed. When did I notice that he changed? A week before he left? A few day? What could I have said anyway? I didn't understand his pain. I didn't know what he was feeling. I'm not going to pretend I fucking did. We were just so different. I always tried to not leave anything behind that I would miss. He always longed for the things he couldn't take with him. I loved him like a brother, but I can never say I understood him. Maybe that's why he didn't tell me that he was leaving. Maybe that's why the last thing he said to me was "Horan, come on now. I'll see you in a couple of weeks. Don't be a girl about it." He couldn't tell me the truth, but maybe I wouldn't hear it. 

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