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I'll Change My Mind

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It was that time in his life again, when Zayn stares blankly at the computer screen on continuous, cold nights, with his long, spindly fingers poised above the black keyboard without any movement whatsoever, because he just can't write anything, anything at all. And when the thought enters his mind he'd feel stupid, because of course he can write something, just not enough to start a creative flow of meaningful words that make a wonderful image in the minds of his readers, and build up the chapters in his stories people actually like reading. Zayn loves his readers dearly, and reading their disappointed comments and seeing multiple unanswered e-mails makes his heart clench, and sometimes he just want to call it quits. But no, he just can't quit on the only people close to friends he has in his life, like what the people he loved did to him.

So he took his coat and embraced the chill of the cool night breeze, stepping out of his front door before he knew it. He needs to look for the one thing- the one person- he needs to get him out of this stupor. The one person that would finally give him inspiration.

His black trainers thudded against the concrete sidewalk as he went to the one place that never ceases to breathe life into him; to oil the stuck gears in his creative mind, and fill the holes in his fragile heart with something magnificent and plain beautiful, yet so undeniably dangerous that whenever he sees the face that is forever burned into his weak mind and fragile heart, his knees go weak, and it was like his breathing was cut off- with a splendid numbness in his head as he momentarily forgets how to breathe, before the blood comes rushing back to his brain again.

And now, he can't stop the increased rate of his heartbeat as he pushed open the door to the small café he always goes to whenever he's stumped like he is now. Then, as if on impulse, his eyes flew to the calendar hung near the counter, and he mentally slapped himself. He was half-expecting to see him there, behind the counter, serving drinks and pastries and greeting people with that contagious smile of his. But it was a Thursday, which Zayn oh-so-inconveniently forgot, and he never had a shift on a Thursday.

It was when he heard the bells tinkle, and a flare of hope bursted in his chest, only to be extinguished by his imminent reasoning as a man with blonde hair entered, and was replaced by a thick, suffocating feeling of complete and utter disappointment, that things started to take a turn for the worst. What surprise it was when, the moment he turned around, with the pretense of leaving the shop and going home to his warm, cozy bed for another short, sleepless night, he bumped into someone- someone with an ironically hard chest, warm chocolate-colored eyes, and short brown hair.

He stumbled back, and felt himself lose his once balanced footing, but then a warm hand gripped his arm, presumably keeping him from falling to his doom. He felt like a damsel in distress as his felt his eyes close, and his long lashes were flush against his cheeks as he blindly reached out for the person he bumped into- his knight in shining armor (who he fervently hoped was not him, because if it was he would think Zayn was so clumsy and awkward and ugly and ruin the chances of them having a decent conversation and no, Zayn can't have that... but he never did have what he wanted in the first place, so what difference does it make, really?).

He loosened his grip on his shirt, because Zayn knows. Zayn knows how he breathes, what he smells like, what kind of shirts he wore; he knows, and that's what got him in trouble. Because he knows, and doesn't want to stop knowing. More of this beautiful creature in front of him; with his pouty, pink lips, strong, perfectly chiseled jaw, and well-defined muscles. Because, damn it all, he was in lovesmitten, enamoured, charmed, entranced; the heck does it matter?-, like the characters he so dearly loved to write, and being in love meant he could love whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted, regardless of their age, looks, personality, or even their gender.

...Right?

He didn't notice that he was holding his breath until he opened his eyes, and he really wished he hadn't. He stood there, huge hand still on Zayn's arm (and the other one managing to land on his hip, for whichever reason. He felt his face heat up, but made no move whatsoever to dislodge it), with a look of complete and utter concern on his features, and Zayn knew- oh, he just knew- that the look on his face will be gone when he realizes that he just collided with that puny loser his friends liked to beat up for fun at school.

"I-I'm sorry! I swear I wasn't looking where I was g-going. I-I'll just go- I won't bother you ever again, just, please let me go." Zayn stammered as he plead, ducking his head as his cheeks reddened and his eyes shut at the anticipated pain. He waited for it- for the insults, a mocking laugh, or maybe even a snicker- because he was just a loser, nothing more. He was just a speck of dirt on the path everyone walks on- just a tarnish in the life of others. He never deserved anyone's time, so he stood there, waiting to be treated like he always was, waiting for him to take his hands off of Zayn and shove him, punch him, bruise him and scar him, and leave him there, black and blue, to heal his broken heart.

Yet, he was taken aback by the brunet's reaction, and it got him to think just how an angel managed to stay here on earth, and remain uncorrupted by the wickedness of society.

"Oh no, it was my fault, really- and I'm really, really sorry and- what? Oh! Sorry!" Then there was a shuffle, and Zayn felt his hands leave him. His eyes flew open, but he was terribly dismayed to see the exit blocked by the toned, muscular body belonging to the object of his affections. He eyed the back exit just near the bathroom, but he was looking at him pointedly. He felt his body go rigid, and he ducked his head once more, unable to meet the boy's eyes, the question Why? repeating over and over in his head.

Why didn't he get mad at Zayn? Why isn't he letting Zayn get away? Why is he looking at Zayn like that? And why is Zayn completely, madly, and deeply in love with him?

"Hey... uhh, I've... seen you here a couple of times. I don't think we've properly met before. I'm Liam, and you are?" Well, here's the moment of truth.

"Z-Zayn." Was his reply, biting his lip and pulling on the hem of his shirt. Liam didn't answer. Zayn could've said that Liam must've left if it weren't for the fact that he was still right in front of him, with heat radiating from his body in waves.

"Um, I'd like to talk more but you obviously don't want to talk to me, so..." Liam laughs nervously, lifting a hand to rub his neck. "I'll just- I'll just see you tomorrow, then? Here?" If Zayn had actually been looking at Liam, then he would've seen the hopeful look on his perfect face. And maybe if he had, Zayn won't be so set on disappearing for the rest of the week, because no, he doesn't want to see Liam after this, writer's block be damned, because he knew it's all just a façade, and Liam can have any person he likes, and he's just being nice to him- no, he's just pitying him- because Zayn only now realizes that Liam wasn't like everybody else. At least, he doesn't beat Zayn up like everybody else.

But Zayn also knows that Liam won't let him leave unless he agrees, so he nods his heads, and squeezes his thin body through the door after Liam shifted to let him through. He ran and ran and ran and ran, until his legs could take no more. He stopped in front of his flat, pulling on the doorknob hurriedly because he could feel his tears, hot and wet and annoying, spilling from his eyes and onto his cheeks, because life was so unfair, because he loves Liam and Liam shouldn't be nice to him and he shouldn't get his hopes up, because Liam would never like a freak of nature like him. He didn't deserve his attention, nor his affection, much less, because he was a mistake, nothing more.

///

Zayn was getting his books out of his locker. Nothing special, and certainly nothing out of the ordinary. It was Friday, and at least 1/6 of the student body were ditching class to hang out somewhere cool, so he needn't worry about overly packed hallways again (or accidentally being slammed into his locker door, for that matter). Yet he was afraid to look around, despite the 5/6 of the student body still lingering in the corridors, because Liam's locker was just a few doors from his, and there's a probable chance that he would show up- soon. But no, Zayn won't mind, he has no right to, because Liam doesn't actually care for him- it was all just a ploy, because Liam just pities him enough to act all caring like that, and hurting Zayn's feelings, just like what he wanted to do. Soon, he'll be gone- leave him in the dust, like the rest of the people he once called his friends did.

He didn't dare get his hopes up that Liam would acknowledge his existence... or maybe even talk to him, because that just can't happen. There was a law, he always told himself, as natural as the laws of nature- Never associate or make any sort of contact with the loser. And besides, Liam had much better things to do than to exchange a few words with someone he met at the café he works in, right?

So why was it when Zayn turned around, he was greeted by the sight of his love, obviously intending to surprise him, his hands in mid-air and eyes wide? Why was it when he saw Liam's face, the bustling world around them seemed to cease to a halt? Why was it, when honey-colored eyes met with brown, the smallest of smiles erupted on Liam's face? And why was it, when Liam greeted him with a simple Hello, did the smallest of smiles creep up on his face, too?

"Hi." Zayn answered shyly, adjusting the strap of his bag which was currently making a painful dent in the purple bruise on his shoulder. But why? Why was he talking to Zayn, of all the people, in their overly-populated school? Why?

Liam's eyes flickered to his bag. "Oh! That must be heavy. No offense but, you look like you only weigh half of your bag. Here, let me carry that for you." He chuckled softly, and Zayn blushed up to the tips of his ears. Liam's words were so sweet; so charming, so Liam. Oh, Zayn was a love-struck guy, alright.

Then one of Liam's big hands reached out to take the bag, and Zayn flinched away when he noticed what he was doing. Both him and Liam, I mean. Liam shouldn't be offering to carry is bag for him, and Zayn most certainly shouldn't be talking to the captain of his school's basketball team. It could get him in trouble, and Zayn was still in the process of healing from the huge bruises he got from Louis last week.

"I-I'm sorry. I should get going now. I'll just-" He clutched his books tightly to his chest, and set off to the general direction of his classroom. He wasn't surprised, however, when Liam's massive hand encircled on his arm, gently yanking him backwards.

"I know you have much better things to do than talk to me," Liam said softly, his eyes so earnest and beautiful and apologetic and Zayn's resolve crumbled yet again. No, this wasn't a façade anymore. Liam actually wants to talk to him, and the feeling of being wanted, of being sought out, overtook him. Yet he knew it was only a matter of time before... that happened again, so he really should start avoiding Liam as much as he can. "-and I know I'm being clingy but, I really want to talk to you. Here,- in the hallway, I mean- if... if that's fine with you. And, you know what? I'm sorry for yesterday because I really didn't look where I was going, and I figured you wouldn't come back later to the café because you think I'm some annoying jerk-"

"No." Said Zayn. And he surprised himself. Since when did he cut in when people talked? Then his face turned red. "I-I mean, you're not an annoying jerk. You aren't annoying, I just... I-" He let out a shaky breath. Then Liam smiled, and Zayn could really feel the happiness emanating from him in waves.

"You... you think so?" He asked shyly, a small smile on his lips. And Zayn nods, because how can anyone resist that angelic face?

"My offer still stands." He then said, grinning, and Zayn found himself giving his bag to Liam before he can even stop himself.

Chapter Text

Lunch was supposed to be the usual, sordid affair- one which he had every school day, wherein Zayn would pick at the dollop of bland, grey mush he bought from the skinny old lady at the counter with a plastic spoon and try his best to not catch anyone’s eye, lest they do something hazardous to his health (or his belongings, to an extent).

This grotty period in which noisy high school students sit down to eat and/or chatter aimlessly was usually accomplished by reading a book, but Zayn had learnt the hard way that food stains don’t come off of book pages easily. So here he was, surprised, yet again, when Liam bounded up to him as soon as he entered the scruffy cafeteria, a huge grin plastered on his face. A blush, which seemed like a permanent adornment on his face whenever Liam was in the vicinity, spread across his taut cheeks and to the tips of his ears, successfully letting Liam know how much he was affecting him.

“Hello!” He greeted Zayn cheerily, his mirth evident in the way his eyes crinkled from his enormous smile. Zayn’s heart fluttered lightly, like the wings of a butterfly. He liked to think that this beautiful angel was seeking him out, gently prodding him out of his shell because he was just kind like that, however wrong he might be.

Truth be told, Zayn loved how Liam was sticking with him, like they’re glued to the hip. But with the thoughts of danger suffocating him, Zayn can’t let himself be seen with Liam anymore. He just can’t. The cons weighed out the pros, and that was enough reason for him to push Liam out of his life for good, despite the nagging thoughts of him being selfish roaming in his head and the ever-present guilt at the bottom of his stomach- not to mention his everlasting love for the jock, which he was afraid to acknowledge just yet. And Zayn, being the mediocre pessimist that he was, made a rule to himself right then and there- to never, ever let Liam close.

But of course, he just had to break the rule as soon as he made it.

“Hi.” Zayn responded shyly, a smile as big as Liam’s threatening to spill from his lips. Liam replied by pulling Zayn’s arm to a small table at the rear end of the cafeteria, where the doors that led to the soccer field were.

“Man, I waited so long for you! Mr Brown dismissed us early- you know how he is,” Zayn realized that Liam somehow knew that Mr Brown was his homeroom teacher. It’s because Harry’s my classmate, he insisted to himself, ignoring the fluttery feeling he had in his gut. “You had Chem in your last period, right?” He inquired lightly, snapping Zayn out of his daze as he pulled out a seat for him. Zayn sat on the hard plastic chair, his blush turning a deeper shade of red.

“Yeah. How’d you know…?” It was a valid question, Zayn knew. Yet Liam’s face turned a light red, and he quietly muttered, “I just do, okay?” while placing his lunchbox on the table. Zayn found out that Liam looked cute when he blushed, and he also found it cute that he brought packed food for lunch.

“Well, the chem lab is a bit far from here, so you being late is understandable.” Said Liam with one of his adorable half-smiles, brown eyes trained on Zayn, who was trying hard not to look like he was staring and to not look away at the same time. Zayn had to resort to nodding to keep himself from saying something unbidden and forever humiliate himself in front of the only person he wanted to impress.

“‘Re you gonna buy lunch or are we gonna have to share?” Liam joked after a moment of silence passed. Zayn offered him a smile, before remembering his rule earlier. He had to do something before he gets in too deep.

He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. Liam didn’t notice.

“Not that I have a problem with sharing.” Liam added hastily, noting the somewhat pained look on Zayn’s face.

“I… I don’t want to eat.” with you. Damn it, Zayn thought, slapping himself inwardly, why can’t I just be blunt for once?

“You sure? You’re as skinny as a stick, you have to eat something, at least.” He picked up a banana from his lunchbox, offering it to Zayn. A look of concern had long since appeared on Liam’s face, and Zayn was one again stricken with a feeling that made him warm and fuzzy all over.

“Here, you need this more than I do. I’ll spoon-feed you if I have to. And I hate spoons, so that would be quite a challenge.” He added with a chuckle. Zayn let out a quiet, breathy laugh, determined to not show how affected he actually was with the simple statement and do what was needed to be done.

“Liam, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what you’re doing but…” Zayn fought down the guilt that was threatening to choke him as Liam looked at him in wonder.

“Yeah?” Liam prodded, and Zayn plowed on.

“It’s just… I’m not really comfortable wi-with eating with someone.” Zayn spluttered out, and it was true. At least he wasn’t lying. He wasn’t comfortable with people seeing his indifferent eating habits (at least, not close enough to be able to criticise it closely). The smile slowly faded from Liam’s face, and Zayn wished he just didn’t say anything- or that the ground would just swallow him whole, whichever suits him at that moment.

“Oh… oh. I’ll just- I’ll just leave, if you want.” A hopeful look flittered across his face, and Zayn had to look away to say his next words. All the while, his heart was beating fast in his chest, and he had to squish down the guilt he was feeling because it was overwhelming him, and his lungs constricted in his chest as he said the word that had the potential to make or break him.

“Okay.”

His voice soft and quiet, but Liam heard it, Zayn was sure. There was a moment of silence, before Liam gathered his things. He definitely took his time, and Zayn was fervently hoping that Liam wasn’t waiting for him to flag him down again and take back what he said. It was when Liam stood up from the plastic chair beside his, and Zayn’s eyes snapped to the hurt look on the brunet’s face, that he finally relented.

“W-wait.”

Liam stopped in his tracks.

“Yeah?” His voice was quiet- barely over a whisper, and Zayn regretted his words. Liam was only being nice, and here was Zayn, pushing him away like what all his friends did to him. Liam was spending time with him, and not with his jerkface friends, out of choice because he wants to get to know him better, and what did Zayn do? He closed off, and tried to keep his distance, because he doesn’t want to get beaten up, and he regretted his decision. A lot.

“I- actually, I- I’d like the company v-very much.”

Damn being selfish. I’m used to being beaten up anyway.

///

Zayn knew he was in trouble when Liam excused himself to the bathroom and Louis appeared, seemingly out of thin air, yanking him out of his chair and through the double doors with astounding force. His head hit the iron door, and he winced. Louis dragged him to a somewhat secluded spot at the back of the school, and pushed him up against the brick building, the grip on his arm replaced by a steely clutch on his right shoulder. Zayn bit his lip, trying to keep himself from making any sort of noise. His painful bruise was topped with a new one, and the pain burned away his short-lived moments of happiness.

A few agonizing seconds passed, and Zayn tried his best to not writhe under Louis’ powerful grip. The boy’s eyes were on fire, obviously relishing every moment Zayn was in pain. There was no mercy in those dark blue eyes of his- the ones which Zayn were obsessed with not too long ago.

“Listen, queer,” the grip on his shoulder tightened even more, and Zayn allowed himself to wince, knowing full well that Louis wouldn’t notice, “stay away from Liam, or you’ll get a horrible repeat of last year. I don’t want him to become like you.” His words were venomous, and they ripped through Zayn’s heart painfully. Louis cackled, punching Zayn in the stomach hard before walking away.

The double doors slam shut, and the noise of students drifted through the gap before fading away once more.

What Louis said was warning enough, he decided

Chapter Text

As if things can't get any worse, Zayn got a huge surprise (and very nearly suffered a heart attack from it, thank you very much) that Sunday, when someone knocked tediously on his front door. Sunday was really a Sunday, indeed. The sun shone brightly against the cloudless white sky, and, coupled with the rather chilly (but definitely not freezing, for a change) wind that marked the start of spring gave off a bright, cheery atmosphere outdoors. It wasn't really hot enough to sear anyone's skin, so Zayn wasn't surprised to see a whole battalion of people outside, enjoying the sun warming up their faces, which hadn't shown it's face like this for a really long time.

He was surprised, however, to see a begrudgingly familiar blonde at his doorstep, turning his almost cheerful day around in a complete 180.

"Hey." He said quietly, not quite meeting Zayn's brown eyes and missing the scathing look the raven-haired boy gave.

"What do you want?" Zayn's voice was cold and hard and everything a welcoming person's voice shouldn't be, and wasn't even happy in the slightest to see his old best friend come back from where he fled off to three years ago because of his terribly insufferable pride. The blonde sighed in disappointment, pursing his lips. A pleading look took over his usually cheerful face (at least, he was always cheerful before that incident), looking at Zayn straight in the eye.

"I just wanted to visit an old friend--" Zayn took a step back and tried to shut the door, but Niall insistently pushed it open with a brute force that clearly outmatched Zayn's. "Please, Zayn hear me out, at least." He ignored how Niall's begging blue eyes were trained on him, which was a hard task in on itself--because who could resist Niall Horan?--and instead replied with a scathing remark, feeling an unfamiliar venom of anger well up in his chest.

"What more is there to be said? I wasn't important enough to you that you just left me with no one to lean on. If that's what old friends do, then I don't think we were even friends in the first place!" Niall flinched at the mockery in Zayn's voice, and the boy knew he had struck a nerve with the way the Irish lad's head lowered in shame, muscles tense and lips pursed, and guilt flared in the midst of all his red-hot anger and pent up disappointment he had bottled up inside him for years. But he relented, because Niall deserved the treatment he's getting from Zayn, and he's not about to forgive him when he could've easily turned his now-miserable life upside-down years ago when he was still in his life. Instead, he chose to flee, and while Zayn didn't know the exact reason behind his actions, he still had the right to despise Niall for it.

"Please, Zayn, hear what I have to say. It was hard enough that I left you because of my own selfish reasons, and I've always wanted to kill myself for leaving you all alone to your father's wrath." Zayn snorted at the blonde's words, but he couldn't help but notice how nonchalant he was when he said that he wanted to kill himself. Brows suddenly drawn together, he looked pointedly at Niall as he continued. He knew there was more to what his ex-friend's going to say than pointless excuses and alleged ordeals, being insufferably pushy and all, so he silently waited for Niall to press on. "You have no idea how guilty I was that I started cutting, but I thought it was for the best at that time--that it would take away all the pain I constantly felt. It turns out my... habit only added to it."

Ah, there it was. Before Zayn even had the chance to speak and voice his admittedly rude yet weirdly sympathetic thoughts, Niall went all fidgety and started talking again. "I went back because I couldn't take it anymore, I need to talk to you, and the thoughts are getting worse, and--" He watched curiously as Niall took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and looked at Zayn. There was something about the way his bright eyes pinned him down that took his breath away, but not in a romantic sense. Whatever Niall has to say, it has to be important, Zayn could feel it. Turns out he couldn't've been more correct.

"I have Schizophrenia."

Chapter Text

So Niall may have dropped the bomb early, so what? It's not like Zayn won't understand. Zayn's an amazing person. Who's completely understanding. So why would Niall worry about what he would be like if he went all out and told him the truth as soon as possible?

But that's not really the problem. The problem is that Niall doesn't know what the problem is. And this was not the kind of situation he was hoping for, actually. He wasn't expecting a situation straight out of a corny sitcom. No, he was just hoping that he could confide his worries and Zayn would be there to help him. He knew how gullible Zayn was--but he wasn't joking. Joking won't be any fun if he was trying to be serious, anyway, so why joke in the first place?

He knew there was something wrong with him even when he was still a child. However, instead of directly dealing with the problem, he just shunned it away. Instead of accepting that he was different, he ignored it and covered it up with a bright, cheery, happy-go-lucky attitude, a dazzling smile, and a funny persona.

Niall had hoped--knew, even--that Zayn would take him in and listen to his problems with a sympathetic ear, and help him get through this phase. It was the reason he flew back to London from Ireland, after all. He had counted on his friend's willingness to forgive and general sympathy, and, however selfish it may seem, Zayn's traits appeared to be currently working in his favour.

"Skitzo--Schizo what?" The confusion in the black haired boy's eyes was evident. He beckoned Niall inside, albeit a bit begrudgingly, and quickly shut the door behind him. Niall hovered beside the couch, unsure whether to sit before Zayn did.

"Well?" Zayn asked, brows raised, as he settled himself on the blue upholstered armchair. Niall sat down, before meeting his friend's gaze. He felt much more confident now.

"It's a disorder. I... I hear voices, telling me what to do." Niall's hand shook, jerking as he tried to clamp down the urge to pull Zayn out of his armchair--just because he could. The Malik had a pitying expression on his face, making Niall want to balk. "It's hard, especially when I can't control myself from doing things. Like spontaneously laughing, having mental breakdowns, urges to punch or kick or just hurt someone."

The blonde took a deep, shuddering breath.

"So I take it out on myself. When I was having strong, disturbing thoughts about taking a knife and committing suicide, I begged my father to let me go back here."

Zayn looked wary all of a sudden. Not that Niall could blame him--his disorder must've spooked the lad.

"Have you... have you gone to a doctor?" It was a trick question, of course. Zayn knew Niall hadn't--the Irishman was too independent to let his family take responsibility of him, much less place himself in the care of others.

The small shake of Niall's head confirmed Zayn's suspicions.

"'Course not." Said the blonde, expression dark despite his wry smile. Zayn closed his eyes, rubbing a hand over his face.

"'Course not." Zayn echoed, voice hollow. They stayed there for a long time, each lad trying to assess the other, before Zayn came to the conclusion that his life was totally, completely, absolutely fucked up.