They give him scrubs to wear because his clothes are covered in Niall's blood. He puts them on but he doesn't let go of the stained t-shirt he was wearing. He's scrubbed the blood from his hands and arms as best he could, though some of it is still caked beneath his nails. He'll worry about that later. He clutches the shirt in his hands, staring down at the dried brown stains on it. The coppery smell hangs heavy in the air and Liam keeps trying to gently pry the shirt from his grasp but Harry just holds it tighter, whips his head up and glares, green eyes bloodshot, lashes damp with tears. He won't say the words out loud but he's terrified this is the last part of Niall he'll ever hold in his arms again.
"What in the hell is going on in here?" Liam's tone is uncertain, the worry in his voice apparent. He steps through the open front door, bags from the market in both his hands. "Why is there an ambulance out front? Harry!"
Louis, Harry and Zayn come down the hallway and out into the living room. Harry looks like hell, Liam thinks. The ends of some of his curls are matted, caked together with a dark, shiny substance. He's shaking like a leaf, his large hands trembling and it's only then that Liam notes with a gasp that Harry is covered in bright red blood. He drops his bags, glass shattering as the jug of milk hits the floor. He looks from Harry to Louis to Zayn. Zayn is standing there void of expression, save for his lower lip quivering and being pulled tight between his teeth. Liam knows this is what Zayn does when he's trying to reign himself in because he hates to cry in front of anyone. Louis looks as if he's still in a state of shock, as if it hasn't quite sunken in yet. The only one missing is Niall and something twists inside of him like a knife in his gut. "Where's Niall?" He demands
For a minute no one speaks and Liam just wants someone to speak up and tell him that Niall's fine, that there was just a silly accident, that it's funny really, now that you look at it. But the blood covering Harry's hands and clothes tell him that if there was an accident it's a bad one. "WHERE'S NIALL!" He yells out when he doesn't get an answer and Louis' face crumples then, tears leaking from his eyes. "He's slit his wrists," Louis says quietly and Liam thinks he's actually going to die right there and then, that his heart is just going to stop because that's insane, this is Niall for God's sake and Niall would never in a million years try to kill himself.
Liam feels his knees start to give out but then the other three are surrounding him, holding him up and he clings to them for dear life. He's always felt this connection to Niall, this overpowering urge to protect him and keep him safe, as if Niall was his little brother. And now he's failed him, he couldn't keep him safe. Niall was suffering and he didn't see it.
Louis is pacing the waiting room floors, full of nervous energy. He can't stop biting his nails and for once in his life he's not cracking jokes or doing anything inappropriate. For a minute he seriously considers flashing the entire waiting room, just to take the edge off but one look at his friends tells him now's not the time, that this is too serious for anything to take the edge off.
"Come on, stay with us!"
"Oh God Niall no, you can't do this, you can't." Liam's voice breaks as he pleads, sitting helplessly back out of the way in the ambulance. Niall's body is so lifeless on the stretcher, blood all over the crisp white sheets, all over Niall, even in his pale blonde hair. Though his skin is like porcelain his cheeks are usually flushed with a healthy glow but not now, he's completely devoid of colour. Liam can't hold his hand, can't do anything but sit and beg him to be strong, to hold on just a little longer. He reaches out, strokes Niall's hair and prays that somewhere in there he can feel his touch and that it will give him strength.
They've lost track of how many hours they've been sitting by Niall's bed. The room is quiet, too quiet for four anxious, worried boys. The doctor says that Niall was incredibly lucky, that if Harry hadn't found him when he did Niall wouldn't be alive. Still, Niall's lost a lot of blood and they aren't sure how soon he will regain consciousness. While everyone is relieved that he's pulled through they're still terrified about how he'll be when he wakes up. Will he change his mind and wish they had let him die? Will he hate them for saving him?
Harry sits on the sill of the large, wide window, knees drawn up. He's looking out at the night sky, his head on Louis' shoulder. Zayn sits alone in one of the uncomfortable hospital chairs, staring down at the floor. His eyes are dark, almost angry and none of them can tell what he's thinking. Liam sits closest to Niall's bed, rubbing his thumb along the back of his hand gently and trying so hard not to look at the bandages on his wrists. Niall hasn't moved once since they've been there, and Liam finds himself watching the rise and fall of his friend's chest, just to be sure.
When Niall wakes they're all at his side and it's a bit too much for him at first. Liam is sitting beside his bed and his eyes are red, as if he's been crying a lot. He looks about as broken and empty as Niall feels inside. There are four pairs of worried eyes looking at him expectantly and he doesn't know what they want from him. So he turns his head away, burying it in his pillow without uttering a sound. More than anything else he's ashamed of what he's done.
Niall's family wants him to come home to recover in Ireland, to start treatment there under their watchful eyes. But he refuses, so instead the boys rent a quiet house on the beach not far from Niall's therapist. Someone has to be with Niall at all times and more often than not, at his own insistence, it's Liam.
Niall's still weak from losing so much blood and the medications he's been put on make him tired so he doesn't do much but sleep. When he's awake he rarely speaks, and his medication seems to have taken away his appetite. These things are alarming to the other boys considering that Niall's usually a chatterbox with a large appetite but the therapist assures them he's doing well, so all they can do is trust her and just keep waiting, keep hoping to get the old Niall back. Zayn doesn't say it out loud but he's disappointed. He knows it's silly but he'd hoped that once Niall was put on meds he'd snap back to normal and just be Niall again. This quiet, withdrawn boy lying in bed all day is not Niall.
Harry doesn't sleep much these days. Every time he closes his eyes all he can see is the image of Niall lying on the floor bleeding out. He dreams of Niall dying in his arms, he dreams of Niall being already gone by the time he found him. He wakes with a start and a face wet with tears and each time he has to go down the hall and stand in the doorway of Niall's room, just to watch him breathe, to prove to himself that it was just a nightmare. He stands there, leaning against the doorframe for support, trying to steady his breathing. The last dream felt so real that he worries that this is the dream, that Niall is really gone and when he wakes up the bed where Niall is sleeping soundly will be empty and his Irish friend will be only a memory.
Niall's been sleeping all evening. He woke up long enough to eat dinner, if you can even call the small amount of food he managed dinner, but Liam hasn't seen him so much as stir in at least an hour now and he can't help it, he's worried. He spends most of his time these days sitting by the bed watching and waiting. What he's waiting for, he doesn't know. He feels helpless as he watches his friend sleep, feels like they're losing him slowly and if they don't find a way to bring him back he'll be lost for good.
Swallowing hard, Liam stands from the armchair in the corner and pulls the covers back, slipping into the bed with Niall. He shouldn't disturb him, he's still recovering and needs his sleep but really how much sleep can only person possibly get in one day? Niall only wakes long enough to use the bathroom, take his pills, eat and see his therapist, though that's not every day. Liam hesitates but gathers the sleeping boy in his arms, holding him tight against his chest. It gives him momentary relief to be able to wrap his arms around the boy's warm body, to be able to touch him again. It reminds him that his friend is still here.
The blonde stirs, a soft, sleepy noise leaving his lips as his pale lashes flutter open. He blinks slowly, his bright blue eyes looking back into Liam's brown ones, confusion written on his face. "Liam." He says finally, his voice hoarse from sleep and probably from lack of use lately. Liam doesn't think he's heard the sound of Niall's voice in days and hearing it now actually brings tears to his eyes. For a minute the two just look at each other and not a word is said until to Liam's shock, Niall's blank expression falters. His brows knit together, lips turn down into a frown and he breaks down crying. "I'm sorry." Niall says over and over again as he buries his face in Liam's neck, loosely wrapping his still-bandaged arms around his friend. Liam just rubs his back and holds tight, never wanting to let go. He doesn't speak, because he can't tell him it's okay. That would be a lie; almost losing Niall was not okay.
He's quiet until Niall pulls back to look at him, sniffling, his face tear-stained and red. Full of life for the first time in days, Liam thinks. "I don't want to die anymore." He says firmly and the relief swells up inside Liam's chest and bursts through in the form of a sob. "Thank God," he whispers, fingertips coming to rest gently on one of Niall's bandaged wrists. He hesitates, and then ducks his head to kiss each bandage softly. "I can't promise to fix you Niall," he says, their eyes locking. "This isn't a movie and I haven't got any magic. But what I can promise is to be your strength and help you get through the rough times if you'll let me. I can help so that it never gets this bad again. I won't lose you." He shakes his head solemnly and he can see a glimmer of hope in Niall's eyes, maybe even the tiniest of smiles threatening to break through his tears. Niall nods, his fingers seeking out Liam's. Liam links them gently, gives a soft squeeze. Niall's got a long way to go and they both know that. But Liam isn't going anywhere.