Chapter 13

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Niall sat in the examination room, swinging his legs. They had x-rayed him countless times, prodded at his bruises and pretended they hadn't seen the blood on his clothes and the scars on his wrists. Now, they were simply waiting for the results. Louis leaned against the wall, looking bored and didn't even try to make conversation. The air between them was awkward after their shouting match in the car, and Niall hated it. He just wished that he never would have gotten beat up.

The doctor walked into the room with a clipboard. Her eyes flitted to Louis in the corner of the room before turning back to Niall. "Three of your ribs are bruised badly. There isn't a lot we can do about that." She looked back at Louis, "Can I talk to Niall alone?"4

Louis rolled his eyes and left the room. The docotor turned back to Niall. "Mr. Horan, we saw the scars. Do you cut yourself?"

Niall rolled his eyes and pulled back his sleeves. "Yeah, but this has nothing to do with why I'm here."

"The skin on your wrists is weak. We're worried that it won't be able to properly heal. We can't stop you from doing this, but we thin k it might be a big problem in the future. If the skin is damaged beyond repair, it might never be able to properly heal. You vould have to get skin grafts, and those can be pricy. This isn't a requirement, for you to be healthy, but I recommend some wrist braces for a few weeks, jist to let the skin heal. We can include them in the cost of treating your injuries, which your insurance covers. The inly possible problem is that the braces are lock on. We typically have people give the keys to two different people so that theu have to get the keys from both people to undo the braces. Just because our patients have a tendency to want to take them off. We can give one of the keys to your boyfriend, do you habe any input on who the other one goes to? A friend? A parent?"

Nialls eyes widened. "Do I really look that gay?"

The doctor chuckled a bit. "Your boyfriend is standing outside. That's a pretty dead give away."

"What are you talking about?" Niall asked, confused.

"The young man waiting outside. Isn't he your boyfriend?" The doctor asked.

Niall spit out a bitter laugh, hyper aware of the pain in his ribs. "No way in hell. Lou is just a friend."

The doctor raised an eyebrow. "A friend who you call 'Lou'?"

Niall bit his lip, realizing the doctor was right. In this situation, It did look like Louis was his boyfriend. But he honestly wasn't. "I-I've known him for a long time." He cursed hinself, himself, knowing the stutter would just undermine him.

The doctor gave a little smile, assuming she had won. "Regardless of his relation to you, you can guve him one of the keys. Who else do you want to hold on to one?"

Niall Sat there silently. He didn't want anyone else to know about his habits, and the only other person He could think of that knew about them already was Liam. But he didn't want to guve a key to Liam. It woupd be hard to get it off of him if he needed to unlock the braces. Which he knew he would. He could already feel the urge to cut coming on and he wasn't even home yet. He still had to sit through a dinner with Liam and his parents, and likely Harry too. This day was Just getting to be a bit overwhelming. He wasn't sure how much more He could take without release.

"Niall?" The doctor asked. Niall shook his head.

"There isn't anybody. Can I jist take the key myself?" Niall suggested.

The doctor shook her head. "We both know that that isn't a good idea. The skin needs time to heal. You're going to have to find somebody, or we'll guve the key to your parents."

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