The next few days passed like a movie, except that Niall just wasn't watching. He floated in and out of the scene whenever he had to, keeping his distance and staying silent. The beds grew more stained each day, but Niall wasn't bothered anymore.
He'd simply given up.
Niall sighed, picking absently at his plate of food. This was the first time in his life that he wasn't actually hungry. Behind him, Zayn was attempting to strum his guitar to some depressing version of I Wish. Louis and Harry had gone for a walk, and Liam was upstairs in the shower. Even though he was still a few good metres away from Zayn, Niall could feel the angry frustration biting with canine teeth every time the other boy moved.
Why was it so hard for Zayn to love him back? How did he even know if he was straight, if he wouldn't even give it a try?
Zayn's voice called out in a whine. "Niall, come help me with the chords. I'm screwing everything up."
Niall resignedly got up and walked to him, sitting down on the mauve couch that only Louis was gay enough to appreciate. There was no point trying to avoid him anymore. Zayn was too beautiful, too innocent, to be subjected to Niall's anger. Besides, all of this was Niall's fault, not Zayn's.
"How far did you get?" he asked, quietly taking a seat beside him.
Within the past few days, Niall's attitude toward Zayn had changed. He was something like a hot potato now, to be caught and dropped, caught and dropped. Holding on for too long would be dangerous, would destroy the calm exterior he'd taken so long to compose.
It wasn't worth it, not when Zayn wasn't interested in being more than a brother anyway.
"First verse," Zayn mumbled. "It's pathetic."
"It's alright," Niall said. It wasn't often that he knew something Zayn didn't, and for once he felt quite in control of the situation. Even if it was something as trivial as guitar-playing. "Let's see where you went wrong."
Zayn sighed, surrendering as he handed the sheet music to the other boy, who took less than a second to figure out what was wrong.
"You wrote the wrong letters for the notes," Niall smiled slightly at such a stupid, innocent mistake. "This is an F, not G. This is A, not B. And this right here is a D sharp, not just D."
"This is hopeless," Zayn groaned.
"Its not," Niall said. "Don't worry, we can figure this out in a little bit."
Zayn seemed to believe him, and he let Niall sit there with him for another hour, going through the basic guitar strums. Once he got it and could play the notes by himself, Niall sang in tune to the music.
"And I see you with him, slow dancing, tearing me apart 'cause you don't see. Whenever you kiss him, I'm breaking, oh how I wish, that was me."
At some point the others came along. Louis and Harry slow-danced to the music with awkward dramatic steps, and Liam joined Niall on the vocals. They hung around there for a long time, singing and dancing. After a while, Louis grabbed a bottle of vodka and some Coke for mixing. He handed out the shots the boys while they danced, but Niall felt like he was drinking more than anyone else.
"Harry, don't leave!" Louis gasped dramatically, falling to his knees with one arm stretched toward Harry like a dream fading too quickly. "I need you with me!"
Harry let out a noisy giggle as he collapsed beside Liam. "Don't you know, I'm with Liam now?"
"Get your filthy hands off me, Harry," Liam, as usual, was trying to save his dignity while slurring helplessly. It was a strange juxtaposition to witness.
Niall watched, amused, as he continued washing down large gulps of the drink. Every mouthful added another spectrum of haze over his senses, but he enjoyed the lack of worry. He couldn't seem to care much about anything, not under the influence of vodka.
Louis lunged toward Harry and started fake-snogging him, as Zayn burst into laughter, rolling over on his back and stomach. Niall liked watching Zayn laugh, it made him smile to see the usually serious guy take a break. It made warmth squeeze his heart. It made him want to reach out and touch his face, run his fingers down the smooth tanned skin -
Niall forced down the last shot and exhaled, leaning back and feeling relieved how quickly the ache had vanished. The stupor of drinks rendered him immune to the darkness that was swallowing him over the past few days.
Around him, the boys were trying to come up with the most outrageous dares for each other.