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i’m better with you (because you give meaning to the words “i love you”)

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it’s still dark when rick’s text comes through.

we’re all packed to go. need me to send a car for you?

hailee rubs her eyes, rolls onto her back before answering please. be ready in an hour. she drops her cell next to her, yawning, dread already setting in her stomach for the six hour drive to mountain view.

niall hasn’t stirred next to her yet, on his back with an arm held hostage by her neck, breathing even. it’s relieving, a little, to see him when his shoulders aren’t tense with anxiety and his eyes aren’t wary of cameras.

(they’d been careful, up to now. the bahamas video was a bad point - he was angry and upset and she was so anxious she’d torn the skin off her nails and wondered if this was the breaking point, had been scared enough to blurt it out to him and he’d just stared at her, sudden clarity in his eyes, opened his arms and said “no, god no, how could i be angry at you for what they posted?”

they’d pulled into target on thursday and her heart had jumped into her throat. “cameras,” she’d warned quietly.

niall had paused for a loaded second, then grabbed his sunglasses and her hand. “let them see.”

she could’ve cried, relieved.)

hailee wants to reach out, trace his face with her fingertips - she tucks her fingers into a fist to stop herself. he needs the rest. she knows he hasn’t been sleeping well lately.

she moves quietly, going through the drawers niall had cleared out for her (“you’re here all the time, might as well have a few,” he’d offered casually when they’d been together six months, and his hands had only shaken a little. she’d taken one and kissed the back of it. “thank you.”), packing what she’d been too tired to last night.

she’s pulling on a shirt - one of his, probably -, sat on the bed when she makes the mistake of looking back.

he’s still fast asleep, arm still slung over where she’d lay, slight frown on his face as if he knows she’s moved away. her heart tugs, warm.

before she can stop herself, she’s reaching out and touching the back of her fingers to his forehead, feather light.

instinctively, his eyes open at the touch and blink the sleep away before he realises what’s happening. “mmph,” he mumbles, clumsily taking her hand and tucking it against his chest.

hailee stifles a laugh. “morning,” she whispers, extracting her hand to lean forward and kiss his cheek.

“come back. s’too early,” he slurs, accent thick.

her heart hurts a little. “can’t. rick’s sending a car.”

he’s wide awake at that. “already?”

“hey, we should’ve technically left last night,” she teases, pokes him in the ribs.

he yelps and pulls her towards him, and as she’s about to kiss him he pulls a face. “fair warning, got morning breath.”

she does laugh then. “shut up.”

he does have morning breath, a little, but they’re not going to see each other until september. she really doesn’t care.

he holds her hair back, she angles them right. it’s open mouthed and sweet, the massage of their tongues making her chest ache with how much she’s going to miss him.

she pulls back first, knows her eyes are as glazed as his. he brushes their noses together. “don’t go,” he whispers, “cancel tour and stay in bed with me.”

she laughs, wet, kisses him one more time, a goodbye and a promise. “i love you.”

(he said it the first time after the masters, more than a little drunk, she’d had to help him to bed. he’d buried his face in her neck, inhaled and sighed. “god, i’m so in love with you.”

she’d froze, waited until the next morning for him to wrap his arms around her from behind in the bathroom, grumbling about the hangover, when he’d said it again, so quiet and vulnerable and a little scared. she’d laced their fingers together over her waist, moved her head back to look him in the eyes and smile. “i’m so in love with you, too.”)

niall wipes a stray tear from her eyes, though his own are filling up too. “ah, the drama,” he chuckles, then softens. “i love you, too.”

hailee buries he face in his neck, just for a moment, before she feels her cell buzz. niall curses under his breath, sits up with her to kiss her again. he studies her face for a long moment, absently smoothing her hair. “call me, okay?”

hailee presses their foreheads together for a second. “always.”