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One Dream (Cont.)
Niall's meager attempts at small-talk have me doubling over and laughing while I push the stroller. After a couple minutes of it, though, he gives up and cuts to the chase.
“He calls you mum,” Niall began after my giggles subsided.
I nod. “He does.” I try to say only true things that will not make Caleb confused. “I’m the only mom he has, or knows.”
He reads my expression correctly and an understanding light nests in his eyes. “So… Ronan has a kid.”
“Yeah. Caleb’s three in a couple weeks.” Niall’s expression softens in response to something in my voice. He moves a bit closer to us so that his arm brushes my shoulder as we walk.
We talk for a while about nothing consequential. Somehow we end up on the subject of the Alan Carr interview and Niall tells me that he’d seen me on tumblr and had been curious. Harry, of course, had been curious as well; just not as much as him.
“Why wasn’t Harry?” I ask as I tip the stroller back to get it up over the curb. He doesn’t answer right away and I look over at him.
Niall shrugs self-consciously. “I think you’re really cute.” He says it fast and covers it by clearing his throat. “Harry was more curious about Ronan.” He shrugs again and fleetingly meets my eyes.
I stop in the middle of the sidewalk and stare at him as my mind spins sickeningly around. “You think I’m cute?” Caleb shifts in the stroller and turns to glare up at Niall.
“Who are you?” He asks in his sleepy, baby voice.
Niall crouches down, looking relieved that he can dodge my question. “I’m Niall,”
“You’re in mummy’s room.” Caleb tells him and my face heats.
Blue eyes meet mine and they’ve got a mischievous light. “Am I?” Niall grins up at me.
“Yeah,” Caleb smiles but the smile quickly turns into a frown. He fights against the straps holding him in the stroller. “Mummy,” He complains and I walk around in front of him to let him out. Caleb attaches himself to my leg as I fold up the stroller and tuck it into its backpack.
“I’ll carry it,” Niall offers as I’m slipping my arms into the straps. I let him take it and I pick up Caleb. “Yes,” He says and grins down at my confused expression. “I think you’re cute.”
I flush and shake my head, smiling when Caleb buries his face in my shoulder. I press a soft kiss to his hair and turn my smile towards Niall. “Thank you, you’re not too shabby yourself.”
Niall scoffs, shoving my shoulder playfully. “I think I’ll take it back now.”
We round another corner and I notice that we’d walked all the way to Rosamine’s. The familiar slab rock exterior calms my racing heart for some reason. As our conversation moves to the safer waters of what I’m studying at school, my voice sounds natural.
*May’s gone. We can dine on our gourmet cold Chinese food now*
I shift my hold on Caleb so I can text Ronan back.
*We’re on our way*
We turn and start back the way we came. I only just start noticing that we’d been collecting quite a large caravan. There were at least twenty girls trailing behind us; they freeze when we turn around. Niall grumbles under his breath but smiles brightly at them. They take it as an invitation and rush forward, taking pictures.
“Are you and Vonny dating?” “Aw, who’s this?” “Are you two dating?” “You two would be so cute together,”
“We’re not together.” Niall squeezes into an opening someone left by taking a breath.
I pipe up, eyeing the girls warily. “This is Caleb.” He shifts against my neck when I say his name and sits up, awake. “Hey baby,” I whisper into his hair and he tightens his arms around my shoulders.
Caleb wipes his nose on his sleeve and eyes the girls standing around us. “Mummy, when are we going home?”
“We’re going right now,” I murmur and I guess the girls are part bat because they clear out so we can keep walking. Once we’re a couple blocks away from Niall’s fans, I glance up at him. “I heard you grumbling,” I tease and am rewarded with his smile. My heart flutters in my chest.
“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t as well-known as I am.” He throws his arms out before tucking his hands behind his neck. “I mean, I love our fans. I just wish that sometimes I could walk the streets like this and not be recognized. This all is a dream come true,” Niall’s shoulders try to run away into the sky. “But sometimes I want some privacy to just be me. I don’t want to be Niall Horan, One Direction all the time.”
“Yeah, I understand.” I nod along as he vents; we’re almost to his apartment.
Niall peeks at me from the corner of his eye. “I’m sorry,”
I offer him a smile that says not to worry about it and shift Caleb to my other arm. We cross the road to his apartment and stand in the driveway, somewhat at a loss. Finally Niall shrugs and starts pulling his arms out of the straps. He sets it on ground, letting it rest against his shin.
“Horan, Zayn is expecting you in 30 minutes.” Harry shouts from the door, startling us both. We look over and he’s leaning against the doorframe, watching us.
Niall mutters something in Irish before turning to address his band mate. “I know what time it is.” He turns back to me and shuffles forward, opening his arms. I give him an awkward one-armed hug, flushing when I feel him kiss the top of my head. “I’d offer you a ride home- and I’m sorry I can’t, but Zayn is expecting me.” He says as he releases me.
“You’re fine, we can walk.” I eye the bag on the ground and contemplate my way of action. How am I going to open the stroller without waking Caleb? Niall fixes the problem by catching my eye and noticing the dilemma. He leans down and starts unfolding the stroller.
When it’s set up, I carefully lay Caleb down and strap him in. “Thank you for letting me walk with you,” Niall offers into the silence.
“You’re welcome, Niall. Thanks for coming to walk with us.” My shoulders start climbing and I smack them down. We stare at each other for a minute or two before he says something.
“I’ll text you later, alright? When are you getting your new phone?” Niall starts backing towards his door.
“Next week. I need a different number because I didn’t realize that my old Facebook has my number on it.” I roll my eyes. “I don’t even get on Facebook.”
Niall grins and turns a bit as he reaches the doorway. “Text me,” He says as a goodbye. I wave, totally dorklike, and keep walking.
La la la
Ronan is sitting on the couch when Caleb and I get home ten minutes later. His eyes are red-rimmed and it may be because of the crumpled papers he’s holding in his hands. “Rone,” I say it gently and ease onto the couch next to him, his son still sleeping on my shoulder.
“Claire said that she will never fight for something that isn’t hers. She doesn’t want him now and never will. She said to tell my ‘whore girlfriend’ to keep Caleb…” Ronan crumpled the paper between his fingers with each inflection. “I’m just… I can’t do this. What if I'm a terrible dad?” I lay Caleb down and wrap my arms around my best friend’s neck.
“You’ll be a great dad, Ronan. When you’re not, I’ll be here to pick up the pieces. I know you'll try harder than anyone else to be a good father to your baby.” Ronan pulls me into his lap, tucking me under his chin and wrapping his arms around me.