Niall emitted a loud, painful sneeze. He whimpered immediately after as his sinuses erupted in pain.
He groaned and reached for a tissue. Niall looked into the mirror in his dressing room and watched himself wince as the tissue rubbed his raw nose.
He coughed clearing his throat of phlegm. He slung his guitar over his chest and sniffed.
Just get through this one rehearsal.
Niall walked up the steps to the stage and found himself out of breath.
Harry, Zayn, Liam and Louis filed onto the stage.
“There you are Niall.” Harry said with a smile. Niall stifled a cough and smiled back.
“This concert is amazing; we have to smash this last rehearsal.” Liam said.
“Yes Liam.” Louis droned. Liam looked at the others warningly then broke into an excited smile.
Niall tapped the neck of his guitar and smiled fleetingly at them all. Something flickered across Harry’s face and he stared at Niall with suspicious eyes. The other boys didn’t notice and disbanded, taking their places on stage.
Niall shot his eyebrows up questioningly at Harry and moved off. Harry shook his head and kept his eye on Niall. He noticed the flush against his pale skin and his watery eyes.
Harry grasped his microphone stand and turned towards the empty seats.
Niall strummed his guitar and tried to sum up all motivation to carry out this rehearsal. Every time he sung it scratched his throat painfully, every time he jumped his head rushed. He fought for breath at the end of every song.
It was during Harry’s solo in One Thing that Niall’s body decided to fail him. Harry had his eyes trained on Niall throughout the entire rehearsal and didn’t miss the warning signs that Niall was about to collapse.
He dropped his microphone instantly and caught Niall before he crashed to the ground.
Niall’s eyes stayed open and looked up Harry.
“I’m sorry.” He said meekly.
“Bloody hell Niall, I knew you were sick! Why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t I say anything?” Harry ranted; he set Niall on his feet again and led him to the edge of the stage to sit down.
Harry pressed the back of his hand to Niall’s forehead, it was burning.
Liam passed Niall a bottle of water as he sighed and held his head.
‘I’m sorry.” He said again. “It was just this last rehearsal; I thought I could get through it.”
Niall felt the pounding in his chest and wiped his nose of his jacket sleeve.
“Obviously not.” Liam said. Zayn squeezed Niall’s shoulders.
“It okay to be sick Niall.” Louis said.
Band managers and people from backstage rushed over and fluttered around Niall. Harry grasped Niall’s hand as his eyes threatened to close.
Paul informed them that their rehearsal would be cut short and Niall had a few days to recuperate before their flight to America.
“Paul, he needs to go to bed and see a doctor.” Harry said firmly. He nodded.
“I’ll drive him back to his.” Harry helped Niall up and he leant heavily on Harry’s shoulder as they walked out.
Harry got the keys out of his jeans pocket and unlocked the car. He helped Niall in the front seat and handed him some tissues and water.
Niall coughed and rested his head against the seat.
“You scared me.” Harry said. Niall turned his head and opened his eyes. Harry didn’t take his eyes off the road.
“I didn’t mean to. I know you knew something was wrong at the start, I’m sorry for making you worry.”
Harry looked at Niall for a moment. His heart surged for Niall and heat swirled in his abdomen. He clenched his jaw and looked to the front again.
“Don’t do it again.” Niall chuckled and closed his eyes.
Harry stopped the car outside their apartment complex. Not surprisingly, Niall had fallen asleep in the car.
Harry opened the passenger door and unbuckled Niall’s seatbelt. He looped his arms around Niall’s back and legs and carried him up to his apartment. He lowered Niall onto his bed.
Harry bit his lip as he considered taking Niall’s pants off and changing him into tracksuit pants. He settled for taking his jacket and shoes off.
Niall slept soundly in his bed, oblivious to the light kiss placed on his forehead. The covers were pulled up to his shoulders and he breathed heavily onto his pillow.
Harry jolted awake as he heard the water running from the shower in Niall’s bathroom. He checked the time on his phone and realised he’d fallen asleep on Niall’s couch.
He went into the kitchen and turned the kettle on.
Five minutes later Niall appeared with wet hair. He’d changed into a fresh shirt and flannelette pyjamas pants. His bare feet padded against the tiles.
“Put some socks on Niall.” Harry chastised the blonde boy.
“Why are you still here?” Niall said weakly.
Harry shrugged and placed a cup of tea and toast in front of Niall.
“Making sure you’re okay. A doctor is coming to see you later.”
“I’m fine.” Niall said thickly and nasally.
“Very convincing when you can’t even pronounce ‘fine’ properly.” Niall chuckled and sat on the kitchen counter. He dragged the plate of toast towards him and lifted a piece to his mouth. He winced as the rough toast hit his throat and made him cough.
“Don’t, if it hurts.” Harry took the plate from him and turned his back on Niall. He pottered around the kitchen and then placed a bowl of steaming porridge in front of Niall. He squeezed a bottle of honey and drizzled it over the bowl. He slid a spoon across the counter.
“You don’t have to take care of me.” Niall grasped the spoon and ate a mouthful of the porridge. He smiled in appreciation as it slid down his throat with ease. He added more honey.
“I want to.”
“You’ll get sick.”
“I won’t touch you then.” Niall sniffed and continued eating his porridge.
“Thank you.” He said sincerely.
“Get some rest; I’ll be round later with soup.” Harry grinned at Niall before leaving his flat.
“Did you see the doctor?” Harry asked. He entered the tissue littered living room and chuckled at the sight of Niall. He was curled under a blanket
“Yeah.” Niall mumbled thickly under the blanket. “Gave me antibiotics.”
“How are you feeling?”
“My head is sore, feel drowsy.” Niall half whispered, his voice raspy.
Harry frowned sympathetically at Niall. He placed a large Styrofoam cup on the coffee table in front of Niall. He looked from it to Harry.
“Chicken soup!” Harry declared and sat in the armchair opposite Niall. “Are you hungry?
“Not really.” Niall said apologetically.
“There’s definitely something wrong with you if you can’t eat.”
Niall laughed, which turned into a cough.
“Don’t touch the tissues.” Niall said warningly. “I don’t want you getting sick.”
Harry rolled his eyes.
“I’ve got an immune system the strength of an army tank Nialler, I’ll be fine.”
Niall cough-laughed again. He reached for the soup and ate a little of it.
Harry rested his elbows on his knees and leaned forward. He cupped his chin with his hand and watched Niall eat. Niall fell asleep soon after.
Harry entered his own flat that night with a smile on his face.
He stopped by Louis’ open door and watched him pack in a flurry.
“Haven’t you left yet?” Louis asked incredulously “I thought I was the last one.”
“I’ve been with Niall. I might leave tomorrow actually.” Louis straightened up and dropped the shirt in his hands.
“What?” Harry asked.
“You’ve been looking after Niall, instead of going home?”
Harry shifted uncomfortably.
“So what? He’s sick and it’s not like he can go home for the next few days.”
Louis smiled and shook his head knowingly.
“What?” Harry demanded.
“You and Niall.”
“Well… Yeah, I guess.” Harry admitted.
Louis quirked an eyebrow.
“Don’t get sick mate.”
Harry chuckled. He left Louis to pack and lay down on his bed. He smirked and rolled over as he thought of Niall before falling asleep.
“How’re you feeling?” Harry asked Niall the next morning. He held two pills and a glass of water and offered them to Niall.
“Fevers gone.” Niall sat up on the couch and took them from Harry. He winced as the pills went down his throat.
Harry sat next to Niall on the couch and smiled at him. Niall smiled back until realisation dawned on him.
“What the hell Harry!” Niall burst angrily, he erupted into coughs and his face turned red.
“What?” Harry asked, shocked.
“You’re supposed to spend these days at home, with your family! Not taking care of me!” Niall took a drink of water to clear his throat.
“I don’t care; you deserve to be taken care of.” Harry shrugged.
“You should be with your family.”
“I am, I’m with you.” Niall crossed his arms and scowled at Harry.
“I’m sorry. I’ll leave tonight.” Harry help up his hands. Niall eyed him off.
“You’re forgiven.” Niall said stiffly.
“Why are you taking care of me?” He asked.
Harry tapped his fingers against his chin.
“Because I care about you… As in, a lot.” He said slowly. Harry rested his elbow on the back of the couch and turned to Niall with anticipation.
“You care about me?”
“Yes.” Niall stared back at Harry with soft eyes. On impulse, he reached for Harry, to touch his face. His hand paused before settling on Harry’s knee.
Harry leaned his head close to Niall’s.
“Don’t.” Niall breathed.
“I won’t.” Harry let his face linger near Niall’s, his eyes drawn to Niall’s lips.
“I’m going to kiss the shit out of you when you’re better.” Harry said bluntly.
“Stupid germs.” Niall said bitterly. Harry nodded in agreement. He lightly trailed his fingers across Niall’s cheekbone. Niall closed his eyes at the touch.
For the rest of the day the two boys sat side by side on the couch. Their hands rested centimetres apart from each other. Occasionally Harry’s hand would twitch with desire to hold Niall’s hand.
Harry let out a long audible sigh. He turned to face Niall.
“I have to go.” Harry said with a sad tone in his voice. Niall nodded understandingly at him.
“Have a good time at home.” Niall sniffed. Harry pushed himself off the couch and lingered in front of Niall.
“Harry.” Niall said insistently.
“I’m going, I’m going. I just… Don’t want to leave.”
“When you get back, I’ll be all better.” Niall said reassuringly.
Harry nodded and gave Niall a wistful look before leaving out his front door.
Harry leant his head back against his seat in his car. He wished, more than anything, to be able to stay with Niall.
“Are you excited?” Harry’s mother asked him as they walked towards the door, Harry with his bag in his hands. Her excitement showing more than his.
The last three days involved multiple cups of tea and moping around. His desire to be with Niall only strengthened.
“Yeah, of course.” Harry laughed. His mum grasped his hand.
“Your heart hasn’t been in this visit.” Anne stated. “It’s with someone you have to get back to, isn’t it?”
Harry look at his mother in astonishment. She gave him a knowing smile and patted his cheek.
“You’ll take care of yourself?” Harry saw the tears shining in her eyes. “And Niall too?”
“I love you mum.” Harry said in disbelief, shaking his head. He hugged her tightly and kissed her cheek.
“I’ll talk to you later.” She nodded tearfully and pushed him out the door.
The excitement finally swirled in his stomach, not at the thought of America, but the prospect of seeing Niall again.
Harry almost fell out of his car in his hurry to get up the apartment complex; he’d been jumpy with anticipation the entire car ride from Holmes Chapel.
He rounded the corner quickly and stopped right outside Niall’s door. His breath caught in his throat as he lifted his hand to knock on the door.
“Harry! What are you doing! Get your stuff, we’re leaving soon.” Liam interrupted. Harry’s hand faltered and he turned to Liam.
“You’ll see Niall later.” Liam pushed Harry down the hallway to his own apartment and waited for him to enter.
Dejectedly, Harry opened the door to his apartment. He sat on his bed and rested his chin in his hands. He stared uninterested at his luggage, all ready for America.
The disappointment of not getting to see Niall alone filled him up with despair.
In the back of Harry’s mind, he registered a knock on the door and made no attempt to get up.
“Harry! Can you get that?” Louis yelled from his room. Harry huffed and got to his feet.
Harry swung open the door. A wide smile spread across his face. It was Niall.
“Hey.” Harry said breathlessly. His eyes hungrily absorbed Niall’s toothy grin and the way he nervously wrung his hands together. He noticed Niall’s considerably healthier complexion.
“Are you…? All better?” Harry asked, biting his lip.
Harry’s hand left the doorknob and gripped the back of Niall’s neck, pulling him forward. His other hand cupped his cheek. Their lips met and Harry’s heart soared.
Niall’s hands made their way under Harry’s shirt, his touch left blazing trails along Harry’s back.
They kissed until Niall felt his lungs were about to burst.
They broke apart reluctantly, breathing heavily and still tangled in each other’s arms.
“Well worth the wait.” Harry laughed. He hugged Niall tightly, as if he’d never let him go.
“Not being able to touch you was unbearable.” He whispered into Niall’s ear.
“I know.” Niall laughed and tried to pull out of the hug but Harry drew him back tightly.
“I’m never letting you go.”