Niall was regretting every decision he made last night. No, scratch that. He regretted ever joining a frat. He regretted deciding to go to uni. He regretted ever picking up a drink in his life. In fact, he regretted life.
He heaved one more time into the toilet bowl and when nothing else came up, gingerly pulled himself to his feet. His stomach churned threateningly and he hesitated, hovering over the bowl again just in case. But no, false alarm, it was settling back down now.
He felt weak as a kitten and even flushing the toilet seemed like a nearly impossible task. His head was throbbing, the bright lights of the bathroom were hurting his eyes and his mouth tasted like something had died in it. He stumbled over to the washstand and turned on the cold water, splashing some on his face. He didn't understand how this happened; he had never gotten a hangover before. He was Irish! They didn't get hangovers!
And yet - he looked up to meet his own bloodshot eyes in the mirror staring miserably back at him - here he was.
Suddenly, two tiny figures appeared - one on each shoulder. The one on his right had light brown hair with a bit of stubble and was clearly muscled under his light gray hoodie and low-slung jeans with a red bandana sticking out of the left back pocket. The one on his left had long black hair that was shaved on the sides and tied back in a ponytail and a bit of stubble as well; he was dressed in tight black jeans with slits at his knees and a black sleeveless shirt with a snake head on the front. The both had miniature pagers clipped onto their jeans.
"What the - ?" Niall blinked but the figures - people? - remained. He didn't think he had drank enough to be hallucinating! Just what had been in that green mystery cocktail?
"You shouldn't have had that last shot," the person on his right shoulder said, shaking his head.
"Shit! You talk too?! Who are you?!" Niall shouted, jumping back and then clutching his head and letting out a pitiful moan when that sudden movement worsened his throbbing.
"Whoa! Careful there!" one of them said. Niall felt something tugging at his hair on both sides, and the feel of little feet shifting around on his shoulder. When he chanced a look up at the mirror again, he saw that each of the figures had grabbed a handful of hair and were trying to stay balanced on his shoulders. "I'm Liam," the one on his right shoulder continued with a bright grin, waving cheerily. "I'm your superego."
Niall raised an eyebrow and then looked towards the so-far silent figure on his left shoulder. "Zayn," he said with a short nod. "I'm your id. Good job getting smashed last night, bro." He held out his fist for a fist-bump but dropped it with a shrug when Niall just gaped at him.
"Zayn!" Liam chided. "You shouldn't be encouraging that! It's so reckless. He could have liver poisoning!" Niall glanced over but Liam wasn't looking at him at all. Instead, he was turned towards Zayn and was ducking under Niall's chin to...smile fondly at him? Niall admittedly didn't pay much attention in his psychology class but that didn't seem right.
"Come on, Leeyum, he's just having fun and being young. He'll be fine." When Niall looked over at him, he saw that Zayn was also leaning forward to grin widely at Liam.
"I, uh, dunno what's going on here but am I dying? Cuz I kind of feel like I am," Niall said with a wince.
"Of course you're not! But I'm telling you, that last shot was too much. How many was that anyway? I'd lost count. You should be more careful when you're partying, Niall!" Liam said loudly. Niall cringed and squinted his eyes shut, the noise making his head ache fiercely.
"Shhh..." he begged, waving his hand at Liam. "I can't, my head's gonna split open. Please be quiet." He felt his fingers brush against something briefly and then heard an "oof!" as the weight on his right shoulder disappeared.
"Liam!" Zayn shouted and then the weight on his left shoulder disappeared too.
Niall opened his eyes and looked around wildly when he didn't see the little people anymore. What happened? Were they gone?
"Are you okay, Liam?" Zayn's question came out a little frantic. Niall followed the sound of his voice and saw that the two of them were in his hamper - Liam laying sprawled among his dirty clothes and Zayn standing next to him, pulling him back up on his feet. He must have misjudged the distance and accidentally knocked Liam off of his shoulder!
"Oh, bro, I'm so sorry!" Niall exclaimed but he was completely ignored by the other two.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Liam said with a slight laugh. "Just wasn't prepared. Good thing all these clothes were here, huh?" He brushed himself off and shrugged but Zayn turned and narrowed his eyes at Niall and even though he was only two inches tall, max, Niall found himself backing up before he even thought about it.
"Yeah. Come on, let's go," Zayn said curtly, turning his back on Niall.
Liam looked up, eyes wide. "What? Zayn, we can't go! We're not done yet. He has a class he needs to go to!"
"Liam," Zayn said gently. "He's gonna be pretty useless for the rest of the day. He needs to sleep it off, babe. He can catch up on everything tomorrow."
"Well," Liam frowned, looking Niall up and down. For his part, Niall pouted and tried to look pathetic and sheepish, not knowing why he was even trying to convince this figment of his imagination that he needed a break from life today. Liam finally sighed. "Alright, alright. He can sleep in today." Then he lifted a finger and wagged it at Niall with a stern look. "But no skipping out on tomorrow's lecture! You don't want to be failing uni, now do you?"
Niall shook his head and Liam smiled brightly.
"Good! Right answer! Okay, go sleep!" That said, Liam promptly turned to Zayn and seemed to forget that Niall was still in the room. "Where to next?"
Zayn rummaged in his pocket and pulled out two helmets. Niall's mind boggled. How did he do that? There was no way those had fit into his pockets! He opened his mouth to ask but before he could, Zayn handed one of the helmets to Liam, who had let out a cheer.
"Oh yay, Harry! I love visiting Harry!"
"That's because the two of you share the same love of heights and physical activities," Zayn said dryly.
Liam nodded. "We're like kindred spirits." At Zayn's scowl, he grinned and grabbed his hand. "Not like how you and I are, of course."
"Better not be," Zayn grumbled and then they disappeared.
Niall stared at the space where the two had been for a few more seconds and then shook his head, groaning when the action sent another throb shooting through his skull. Maybe Liam was right. He should have stopped before that last shot. And maybe he needed to stop thinking of those two as anything more than drunken hallucinations.
Harry checked his hair one last time in the mirror before shouldering his backpack in the public restroom. He was the last one of the group to head out and he didn't want to hold everyone back but he wanted to make sure his hair was properly tied up and wouldn't blow in his eyes during the climb. He made some minor adjustments to his headband and hair tie but they looked like they were holding strong.
He nodded and then two small familiar figures popped into place over his shoulders - Zayn on his right and Liam on his left. Both were in their now-customary helmets and elbow and knee pads; they'd started wearing those after their third visit when they realized that yep, Harry was just as clumsy as he had warned them.
"Hi guys!" Harry greeted with a small wave at the mirror. "You're just in time!"
"Oh goody," Zayn muttered while Liam gave a small cheer and plopped down to sit on his shoulder. "Aren't you supposed to be doing a mission trip? Not climbing Machu Picchu?"
Harry wasn't bothered by Zayn's grumpiness. He disliked heights and Harry knew he only agreed to support the hike because Liam was so into it. "I am here on a mission trip. But what's a trip to Peru without a climb on Machu Picchu? It's a spiritually enlightening experience. Don't you want me to be more spiritually enlightened, oh wise superego?"
Zayn rolled his eyes. "I think you're plenty spiritual already, Styles."
Harry huffed a small laugh and made his way back outside, rejoining the group of uni students milling around waiting for the hike to start.
"Zayn!" Liam called over. "Come here!"
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Zayn disappear from his right shoulder and appear on his left. Liam looked up at him and Harry felt him pat the shoulder space next to him.
"Sit next to me," Liam invited. "I'll make sure nothing happens to you, okay?"
Zayn gave a long-suffering sigh but settled down beside Liam. There was a brief rustling and then Harry felt a couple of tugs on his necklace. Brows furrowed in curiosity, he turned his head - carefully, so as not to jostle them - and saw that they had procured a length of rope from somewhere and had wrapped it around both of their waists and then tied it onto his necklace.
"Just some extra precautions," Liam said, noticing Harry's appraisal. He also had his arm linked through Zayn's, their fingers tangling together easily.
Harry bit his tongue, fighting back thoughts of 'awww, they're so adorable!' because he was pretty sure that was not an appropriate thing to think about the pieces of one's consciousness. Not that he had ever thought much about his superego and id but if he had, he thought he would have imagined them to be more at odds with each other instead of complimenting each other and making negotiations and compromises about what Harry should or should not be doing.
The group leader called for everyone to gather around to hear instructions for the climb and Harry fell in with the rest of the group, listening attentively. Liam and Zayn were quiet on his shoulder so he imagined they were paying attention too. When the instructor finished and they started walking, Zayn suddenly asked. "Did you wear sunblock? Are your shoelaces tied properly? Did you bring water? Do you have a first aid kit in your backpack?"
"Yes, yes, yes, and yes," Harry answered easily. Then he added teasingly, "mum."
"Zayn thinks of everything!" Liam declared. Harry couldn't see his face but he didn't have to to know that he was giving Zayn heart eyes. That was his default look for Zayn.
Zayn didn't say anything but Harry imagined that he was probably blushing. Or whispering filthy things into Liam's ear. Harry got a bit alarmed at that - what if his id and superego started making out on his shoulder? He turned his head to peak over again but it looked like they were just sightseeing, with Liam pointing out things of note while they were moving.
The two of them actually stayed for the whole trip and with Zayn's reminders to "stay away from the edge, for God's sake," Harry only had a couple of minor trips but didn't tumble off the mountain and with Liam's encouragement, he climbed up to the top and found a flat place to sit and meditate on life.
They left after Harry was safely back on the bus that would take him and his group back to their lodgings. Harry said a cheerful goodbye and reassured them that he wouldn't wander away from the group and "get lost in the woods or anything like that, stop giving me that look Zayn, that was just one time!" Zayn still looked dubious and like he was resigned to having to come back and rescue Harry from bears again (but really, that was only one time and Harry was much younger then; he's learned a lot about self-preservation in the past two years since Liam and Zayn have been working with him).
Louis was bored. Bored, bored, bored. He idly made another fold in the paper airplane he was crafting, only half listening to the professor at the front of the class. Why he agreed to night classes, he had no idea.
But even as he thought that, two tiny people materialized on the desk in front of him and oh yeah, it was because of his superego.
His superego who was currently surveying the desk with with a frown, taking in the blank piece of paper that was supposed to contain lecture notes and instead was halfway folded up into a plane and the pen lying forgotten on the far edge. His id stood a couple of steps back and watched with fond amusement.
His superego turned his frown up at him and sighed. "Louis! You should be paying attention."
"I know, Liam, I know," Louis muttered. "But it's so boring!"
Liam turned to glance at the lecture slides and furrowed his brows at all the graphs and numbers on display. He flicked his glance over to Louis' id - Zayn - but didn't find any answers there and turned back questioningly to Louis.
"It's macroeconomics," Louis answered, thankful that there wasn't anyone sitting next to him in this back corner of the auditorium.
"Oh....that doesn't really make anything clearer," Liam said sheepishly.
"Exactly!" Louis whispered triumphantly.
Liam shrugged and sat down cross-legged on the desk. He looked back over his shoulder at Zayn and gestured for him to join him, which he did, of course. Louis was barely able to refrain from rolling his eyes. These two.
"Hey," he started after Zayn had joined Liam. "Are the two of you staying partners permanently?"
"Yes," Zayn answered firmly. "Why?"
"No reason. I've just been remembering the guy who was my id before you - what was his name, Liam?"
"Yeah, him. He was a douche."
"He wasn't that bad," Liam protested weakly.
"He got me into so much trouble Liam had to be extra tough to pull me through it," Louis told Zayn who looked speculative.
"And yet I wasn't able to stop you from dropping out of school."
"Well, no, but hey, I'm taking classes towards a degree now and I work at an autoshop during the day and I'm not in jail. Those are all wins in my book."
Liam still looked like he didn't quite believe it and to be honest, Louis was a little flattered that Liam thought he had the potential to accomplish even more things. There weren't a lot of people who thought that; certainly the teachers in his old school hadn't.
Zayn reached over and laced his fingers between Liam's, giving his hand a squeeze and smiling gently at him. "I have to agree, babe. I think you've done great with him."
Liam smiled back gratefully.
"See? You're way better than that douche," Louis said.
"He really wasn't all that bad. He was just very strongly an id. Not everyone can take on both sides of the subconscious. Zayn and I like to switch it up but it doesn't work for everyone."
"I prefer it this way, though," Zayn said. "Keeps things interesting. And it helps us work better together."
"Well, that and the fact that you're practically married," Louis said with a smirk. The two of them blushed but didn't, Louis noted, let go of their hands.
"I just got really lucky to be assigned to Zayn after."
"How did you end up with him anyway?"
"Ben and I had a big row after what happened with you and Paul thought it would be better if we were split up. I didn't fight him on that." And that gave Louis a pretty good idea just how bad the fallout was. Liam never gave up on fixing something. He stuck with everything to the end; it was how Louis got through his adolescence as well as he did.
"So Zayn just happened to be available to fill in?" he asked lightly to distract himself from his memories.
"Yup!" Liam said, looking over at Zayn with a small smile.
"Actually..." Zayn started with a mischievous twinkle. "I had been waiting for Liam to be free for a new partner ever since we graduated. I told Paul that when the time came, I wanted first dibs on him."
"You what?" Liam squeaked.
Louis' eyes widened in delighted fascination. This was way better than he had ever imagined.
"Yeah, so like, I had the biggest crush on you in class and I knew I wanted to work with you and that we'd be perfect for each other," Zayn said in a rush, flushing lightly. "But I didn't know how to tell you and then Ben got to you before I could because you were the smartest one in our class and he had grandiose ideas of himself."
"Oh," Liam said dazedly. "But you were partnered with Eleanor. I thought the two of you were happy together."
"Yeah, we're good friends. I told her at the beginning that it was a temporary partnership and that I was waiting for you to get free."
"Oh," Liam said again. "You were really doing all that?" Zayn nodded and Liam continued, "I didn't think you even knew who I was in class. You were so cool and I was just...me, you know?"
"Exactly. You were you. And I'm not the only one who really liked that. But after Ben, I wasn't taking any more chances."
Now Liam blushed and Louis was sure that if they weren't on the clock, they'd be making out in front of him.
They stayed and kept him company for the rest of the class and then left with quick goodnights (and an admonishment from Liam to remember to do his coursework and some advice from Zayn to go have fun at that party on Friday night which then prompted Liam to remind him not to drink and drive - their goodbyes were never actually quick).
Louis was their last visit of the day so once they left him, Liam and Zayn checked in with Paul on the Executive Cloud before going home.
"How was your new charge?" Paul asked, holding up a clipboard and preparing to jot down notes.
"Extremely hungover," Liam said.
"He knocked Liam over!" Zayn exclaimed, still a little upset about the mishap.
Paul's eyes widened in alarm. "Are you okay?" he asked Liam.
"I'm fine. It was an accident. He should be better tomorrow. Think we might have scared him off of drinking for good," Liam said with a small smile.
"That's probably for the best," Zayn muttered.
"Hey," Liam said softly with a gentle nudge against Zayn's shoulder, "I'm supposed to be his superego, not you."
Zayn sighed and slumped against Liam, who wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "I know. I just don't like seeing you get hurt."
"I know, babe. But I'm fine, promise." Leaning in, he nuzzled behind Zayn's ear and whispered, "but when we get home you can check for yourself. I think a very thorough exam might be in order, don't you?"
Zayn's breath hitched and he ducked his head. Liam smiled smugly.
"Ahem," Paul said, tapping his pen pointedly against the clipboard.
Liam pulled back with a flush. "Sorry, Paul. Anyway, so Niall's sick but he'll survive. Harry lived through Machu Picchu. And Louis' bored but he'll get through his classes. No big crises to report!" He flashed Paul a big grin, and the Coordinator sighed.
"Very well, you may go."
"Great! Thanks, Paul. See you later!" Tugging Zayn along, Liam made a beeline for the wind tunnels that would take them to their home cloud.
"Page us if anything comes up!" Zayn called back. He glanced back just long enough to see Paul wave them off and then looped his arm through Liam's, mind racing ahead to how they were going to spend their evening.