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Four Members Standing
“How much longer?” Harry whispered.
“We don’t know,” said the doctor as gently as he could. “He’s been hanging on for so long, but .. we know it’s .. it’s soon.”
Harry nodded & smiled. “He’s a fighter.”
The doctor smiled softly in agreement & exited out the room.
“I know you’re waiting for them, Lou,” whispered Harry. “I know you’re holding on for the rest of us as ..” he cleared his throat as it choked in emotion. “As always.”
“I’ll just get through my part then, shall I?” he asked, some little piece of him hoping Louis would open his eyes & reply. “You know how Niall can’t shut up once he gets started so I’ll just ..” Harry trailed off. He took a deep breath & slid his hand into Louis’ pale one, IV trailing from the wrist.
“I’m not going to tell you that you’re special, because everyone who’s met you knows that. You light up the room when you walk in, Lou & that’s the reason .. that’s the reason everyone loves you,” he began, tracing circles with his thumb. Harry felt his throat close but forced himself to keep going.
“I .. I don’t know what kind of person I would have turned out if .. if we hadn’t met & even though I know I’m lucky to have even met you in the first place & even though the doctors told me they’ve done everything they can & even though you’ve had 20 full years of life .. I just .. I can’t help feeling angry, Lou,” Harry admitted, blinking back tears. “It’s not fair that you’re not going to be here, it’s not fair that we’ll never be us five again, it’s not fair that you’re never going to make us laugh again, it’s not fair that I’m still alive because of you, it’s not fair that ..”
Tears were now streaming down his face, but Harry pressed Louis hand to his mouth & kissed it once before he said, “It’s not fair that I never got to tell you that I love you.”
He blinked back the tears & whispered, “So much, Lou. I love you so, so much.”
“Louis?” called a voice outside the hall. “Harry?”
Harry called back quietly, “Here, Niall.”
A blonde head poked inside the doorway. “Harry! God, we were looking everywhere for you, here hang on - hey, Liam! Liam! Lads’re in here.” Niall motioned for the other two to come inside.
Liam & Zayn went immediately to Louis’ side, looking at Harry with anxious eyes. Niall headed straight for Harry.
“Harry! How’re you, mate? We were lost downstairs & the doctors - they wouldn’t tell us anything, it was weird, we were asking questions & they kept just staring at us with these serious faces, d’you reckon that’s a doctor thing?” spouted Niall childishly. “I reckon so, if you have to see sick people all the time, ya might not - “
“Niall,” interrupted Harry gently.
“Yeah, mate?” asked Niall, blue eyes wide. “How’s Lou, by the way? Heard he had the worst of it. Poor guy.”
“Niall..” Harry began. He couldn’t think of any way to say it. “Niall, Lou’s dying.”
Niall’s large blue eyes lost all their joy. He was silent. He shook his head. “No, c’mon mate, you can’t be - ” he looked at Liam to contradict what he’d just heard.
Liam’s eyes were already brimming. Zayn looked down at Louis, still as a statue.
“I’m sorry, Niall but it’s ..” Harry handed over Louis’ hand to the Irish boy. “It’s time to say goodbye to Louis.”
“I .. ” Niall’s voice cracked. “Lou, you can’t .. I .. God, Louis …”
“Thanks for waiting for us, Lou,” Liam said. “People always think I’m the strongest one out of the group but .. I’ve always thought you were .. you were the bravest person I’d ever met. You met every day with a smile, no matter what & I’ve never known anyone brave or hopeful enough to do that. I’m .. I’m going to miss you.”
“We’re scared to be without you, Louis,” admitted Zayn. “I’m scared. You keep us all .. together, you’re what we hold onto when we need it most. I don’t .. I don’t know if there’ll be a One Direction after this ..” he trailed off & bit his lip, trying to prevent his tears. Still one fell, and he wiped it angrily away.
“You saps,” said a weak voice. All the heads in the room snapped to the boy in the bed. “Of course there’ll be a One Direction after this,” croaked Louis. “I’ll still be watching over you boys .. just from .. a better view,” he whispered, smiling softly at the lame joke he’d just made.
“I just can’t believe you’re ..” Niall whispered. “Does it - does it hurt much, Louis?”
“Dying’s a piece of cake, Niall.” whispered Louis. No one laughed. “Boy, you lads are depressing today ..”
“How long have you been awake?” asked Harry, biting his lip.
“The whole while,” said Louis. “By the way, what you said .. I’ve always felt the same..”
“Really? You do?” asked Harry, his hand finding Louis’ once again.
“I do .. more than you know,” whispered Louis, closing his eyes. “Why’d you think I took a bullet for you?”
Harry remembered, the robbery, the masked man, the gun, the bullet. He remembered Louis jumping in front of him at the last second. The scarlet blood spreading over his shirt. The ambulance racing against Louis’ life.
His eyes watered again. “Louis, I’m so sorry, I’ll never be able to forgive - “
“Hey, hey, none of that,” whispred Louis, voice so quiet & weak that the machines keeping him alive were louder than he was. His breath was ragged & he was having trouble getting the words out. “All I want when I leave .. is for you boys .. to be happy.”
He smiled, a bilssful look on his face. “That’s all .. I’ve ever wanted.”
Zayn took Louis left hand & clenched Liam’s as well. Liam reached over the bed to hold onto Niall on the other side. Niall’s hand found Harry’s & Harry was clutching Louis’ right hand tightly.
There were no words, no songs, no thoughts. Only the love felt between five boys who once chased a dream together.
Everyone remembered every memory with Louis. Every laugh, every joke, every time each and every one of them had relied on him to get them through the day. They rem]embered how much he worked to achieve his dreams, how much he loved his family, how very protective he was of everyone he cared for.
Every member had their heads down, uncontrollable tears falling, unbelieving that this was goodbye. Yet as they had learned, they could survive anything together. And so, for what is worth, they stayed, holding hands in a tight circle.
Just like the day they first met, all they had was each other.