The worst thing about being the leftover member of the band, Niall thinks, is at times like these. He gets it, he really does, he wouldn’t want himself either. He’s been put down his entire life, always been told he was never good enough. Never good looking enough for Sam to say yes to his invitation to the formal, never smart enough to get any more than a B, never helped out enough around the house, never good enough at football to make the team, never enough. Even when he went to X Factor, he wasn’t good enough on his own, and don’t get him wrong, he absolutely loves being in a world famous boy band, but he wishes he could have been good enough for the judges to love him by himself too. But when he’s curled up in his bunk alone with the curtain drawn and wet streaks down his face, that’s when all he wants is to be good enough for the four other boys snuggling together on the couch out the back.
When they had first gotten together Niall hadn’t thought much of it. Hell, he didn’t even realise for the longest time. They had all been pretty tactile with each other, so when Harry and Louis walked around back stage holding hands, or when Zayn sat on Liam’s lap for the entirety of breakfast one morning, Niall though nothing of it. But when he got back to the bus one night after a jam with the band and had found the boys all in a pile on the couch, no idea where one of them started and the other three ended, something inside of his brain clicked. Oh, he had thought, as he quietly made his way to the back undetected. Oh, of course. Because of course they would all see the sunshine inside of each other that he would see on a daily basis. Of course they saw the love they all shared together as a band. As friends. As a unit. As something more. And of course Niall would fail to be included in that. Of course they wouldn’t want him to be a part of… whatever they had become in the time it had taken him to notice that the friendly touches probably weren’t so friendly anymore.
Usually it was fine. Usually they still talked to him and he would get to spend time with them individually and it would be fine. But when two or more were around, he never got any attention from them at all. And that was fine too, he supposed. If he had someone to love that loved him in return, he would want to spend as much time focused on them as possible too. But it stung when they would leave part way through a conversation, or when he made plans with one of them only to have them cancelled, or worse, when they would forget to tell him that they have better offers instead and Niall was left waiting for a person who would never show. The gigs were the same as ever. Full of energy and smiles and that was the most attention he would get from the boys. And even when they would focus on each other and not him on stage, he still had his guitar to hide behind and he was fine. Everything was fine.
But right now, on the night of his birthday, he was curled up alone in his bed at 7pm. He had been so excited, so damn excited, when he had woken up that morning. His birthday was always one of his favourite days, and when he was younger he used to celebrate all week. He was 21 now, and they had the day off, so he was content to just spend his favourite day with his boys, maybe play a couple of video games, kick a ball around or watch a few movies. But of course, that’s not how the day went. He had woken up at 10, which is a bloody great sleep in for a pop star, with the biggest grin on his face. And as he stretched and took breath, the beautiful aroma of cinnamon French toast wafted into his nose. Could this day start off any better?! He had thought, rolling over and out of his bunk. And apparently it could, because when he got to the dining area the boys had empty plates in front of them, and nothing set out in front of Niall’s seat. No worries, he had thought, they probably just got hungry and ate my share.
“Morning boys!” he had said, not wanting to let the lack of French toast ruin his day. They had grumbled out their morning greetings in reply as Niall went over to the counter to find his packet of weetabix. As he carefully extracted the three pieces he wanted, he waited for them to remember to say happy birthday to him and for them to pull out the presents he was sure they had stashed somewhere. Not that he had spent an hour yesterday looking for them, or anything.
“Oh, Ni.” Louis started to say. There it is, he had thought.
“We’ll be off to the zoo today.”
So it wasn’t the ‘Happy Birthday’ that Niall had been expecting, but never the less it was the zoo, and Niall bloody loved the zoo. The red pandas were his favourite. They were so tiny and fluffy! His grin had returned just thinking about them. He definitely wanted to get a red panda stuffed animal when they had finished looking at all of the animals. And an ice cream, because that was just a tradition.
“So yeah, we’ll see you sometime this afternoon!” Oh. His face had dropped. Oh, okay. They were off to the zoo. Without Niall. They were off to the zoo without Niall and it was his birthday.
“Also we’re out of milk sorry; Li used the last of it in his coffee.” They were off to the zoo without him on his birthday and there was no milk for him to have his weetabix with.
“And Zee got pissed at Fifa last night and broke the controller. We’ve ordered a new one, but we won’t be able to pick it up until tomorrow.” They were off to the zoo without him on his birthday. There was no milk for him to have his weetabix with. He couldn’t play video games at all today. And within the span of five minutes, Niall had gone from expecting one of the best days of the year, to accepting the fact that no one wanted to celebrate the day he was born with him. He had just stood frozen facing the counter as they all got up, rough housing all the way to the back bedroom so they could get changed and head off to the zoo. Without him. On his birthday. Niall had taken so many deep breaths in through his nose and out of his mouth that by the time he could move again, they had already left.
Niall was still in his sleeping attire when they had gotten back to the bus later that night. He had thought about going off to find someone willing to play a bit of footy with him before he had remembered that the crew had the day off too, and they probably wouldn’t want to see him either. Who would? They had walked in carrying bags of take away foods and zoo memorabilia. Brilliant, Niall had thought, I’m starving. After the weetabix and milk fiasco of the morning, Niall had ended up having dry toast for breakfast, because of course, of course, they would be out of butter and jam too. He had skipped out on lunch and was waiting for dinner, because even though they hadn’t remembered to say happy birthday to him, they always had take out on Fridays nights. It was a bus tradition.
“Hey Ni, we ate while we were out, but of course Louis ordered too much, so I told him he had to bring it back and finish it for lunch tomorrow.” Except apparently none of it was for him. Because of course they would forget about him eating too. Of course.
“We’re gonna finish watching The Walking Dead now Ni, see you later.” And that was that. They had forgotten, they had completely forgotten and now they were kicking him out of the lounge so they could all curl up together and exist without him around. They had forgotten his birthday and they had forgotten to feed him. He was surprised they had remembered his name really. Curled up in alone in bed at 7pm on his birthday with the curtain drawn and wet streaks down his face, Niall wishes he could disappear.
The worst thing about being the left over member of the band, Niall thinks, is when he’s quite sure that they wouldn’t blink an eye if they woke up one morning and he just wasn’t there anymore.