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recoil after impact

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Louis hasn’t come out from his box since he got back hours ago and Niall’s starting to get anxious.

The last time Louis’d been this quiet, they’d barely managed to escape that terrible man who kept wanting to light Niall’s paws on fire. As it was, he’d still managed a nasty blow that made Niall’s back leg mostly unusable for a few weeks.

Zayn saunters in then, thankfully interrupting Niall’s thoughts. He glances toward Louis’ corner and frowns, then makes his way over to Niall.

“Still not come out?” he asks softly. Niall shakes his head.

“Not a peep, not one,” Niall answers. With a sigh he flops down, resting his chin on his front paws. “Any ideas of what’s happened?” Laying like this makes his leg ache though, so he slips onto his side a little, easing the pressure. There’s a low rumble in Zayn’s throat, barely a sound, but Niall murmurs, “S’fine, I promise,” before adding, “where was he before, d’you know? Was gone when I woke up this morning.”

“He was hitting up Regent’s Park, I think,” Zayn answers. He shifts closer, rubbing his cheek along Niall’s. It tickles a bit. Zayn then sets about cleaning the top of Niall’s head. It makes Niall huff — Zayn’s such a softie when it comes to him. Still, it feels nice so he lets it continue.

Zayn’s worked his way down behind Niall’s left ear when he hears Zayn’s stomach growl. It’s always hard to tell with Zayn, he’s so naturally thin already, but food’s been getting more scarce lately. Neighborhood’s wising up, Niall thinks. They’ll probably have to move soon.

The thought bums him out.

He likes this area, to be honest. There’s always music playing somewhere and the little cranny they’ve made their home is comfortable. He’s not really looking forward to a long, fraught trek with his bum leg either. It’s mostly healed, but it still hurts when he’s up for long periods. He knows the other two wouldn’t leave him, but the thought of holding them back or getting them in trouble makes his chest hurt.

There’s another rumble from Zayn’s stomach. “Zayn—”

A swipe of tongue. “Nialler.”

“Zayn, you should—” This run of Zayn’s tongue is right between his eyes, pressing his head down a little and cutting him off.

He tries again. “You should—”

There’s a gentle paw on his head and then Zayn licks into his ear.

“Zayn!” he laughs, rolling to the side and onto his back. Reaching up he presses his paws to Zayn’s face when he tries to do it again. Zayn’s laughing now, too, doing his best to get past Niall’s defense. They play around for a few minutes, until Niall twists too far and his leg twinges. He’s fairly certain he doesn’t make a noise, but Zayn stops anyway.

“Alright then?” he asks.

Instead of answering, Niall asks, “When did you eat last?”

Zayn ignores him, going to work cleaning on his back leg. Glancing quickly over at Louis’ corner — still nothing — Niall nudges at Zayn’s head. “Zayn.” Then, “Zayn, c’mon.”

With one last swipe over his back foot, Zayn straightens up. “I’ll get something when I go back out, I promise.”

He’s already been out twice today, Niall knows. It makes him uneasy.

“Maybe,” he starts, voice quiet. “Maybe I should go out, too.”

“I don’t think—”

Are you crazy?”

He and Zayn both startle at Louis’ yowl. When they look over, Louis’ half out of his box, glaring at them. He stalks over, tail thrashing wildly back and forth.

“Are you crazy?” he yells again. Niall’s never seen Louis so angry and he’s never yelled, not at Niall anyway. “You know what happens to idiots that go out? They get it hit by cars! Because they’re stupid and don’t watch where they’re going! That’s what happens—”

“Louis—” Zayn tries to interrupt, but Louis’ on a roll. All they can do is watch as he angrily paces in front of them, now muttering to himself about trusting idiots and stupid humans. He’s not even looking at them, Niall notices, gaze on some other place or time.

It hits Niall then, that this isn't even really about him. If it ever was at all.

“You’re not to go out,” Louis demands, whipping to a stop in front of them. “You’ll stay here,” he adds sharply, “where it’s safe.”

And then he’s gone before they can respond.

It’s almost eerily silent in the wake of Louis’ departure. When he glances over at Zayn, Niall finds a contemplative look on his face.

“What was that?” he asks, eyes wide.

Instead of answering, Zayn moves closer and starts cleaning behind Niall’s other ear. Niall can practically hear him thinking though, and there’s comfort in that. Niall settles in, knows Zayn’ll be at this for a while.

They’ll wait here for now, like Louis demanded. They’ll wait here, where it’s safe.