summary: in which zayn shows liam that things don’t always have to be so complicated.
word count: 1,792
Liam sat alone in the library breathing in the dust covered pages of an old textbook that had taken him way too long to find in the stacks. He was completely alone, but then he sat down on the corner of the table and all of the sudden, Liam wasn’t so alone anymore.
He should have expected it, knowing Zayn as well as he did; but still. Liam wanted to sift through pages without having to bother with words and sentences and misconstructions. He didn’t want to have to speak. This was a library after all.
“What?” Liam said, finally, when the silence became too heavy.
“I wanted to know if you wanted to go for a walk,” Zayn answered simply, quietly.
“It’s cold,” Liam replied, turning a page. He knew Zayn was smirking even though he hadn’t yet taken the time to look at his face. Liam just knew and it was there, that awkward trace of a smile on his mouth while he tried to come up with just the right words to make Liam leave his post.
“Yeah,” Zayn answered. “But that’s not really the point is it?”
“So we’re going for a walk so I can breathe in second hand smoke and be cold?”
“I won’t smoke,” Zayn promised, but they both knew he was lying.
“So I’ll just be cold.”
“I just want to talk to you without having to whisper.”
And Liam sighed because sometimes Zayn just says things that sound so simple, but mean so much even though Liam doesn’t really want it to. He says things about Liam reminding him of summer and heat and freedom. Zayn says Liam makes him feel like he can breathe again even though his lungs are constantly filled with smoke that is more than likely killing him from the inside out. Zayn says he feels like Liam gives him reason and he’s thankful and Liam can’t bring himself to be annoyed or angry anymore because Zayn just says things like that without thought.
He closes the book, still agitated but smiling, because even though Liam wouldn’t admit to it out loud Zayn was pretty important. His eyes were the color of sandpaper, or maybe the wood of his closet door, or maybe it was something like caramel mixed with honey, but the last one felt a little too romantic so Liam decides on sandpaper even though Zayn isn’t really rough in the slightest. Zayn’s eyes reminded Liam of autumn; of wet leaves and tea. He was the smell of a bonfire and pot smoke and whenever he smiled it always reached his eyes.
But Liam ignored all of this.
Or he tried to.
When they step outside, the cold embraces them. It clogs up their skin and crawls up their fingernails. Almost immediately, Zayn pulls his ever ready pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket and lights one up.
“You said you wouldn’t smoke,” Liam reminds him.
There’s the smirk, the quiet quirk of his lips that makes Liam’s skin burn and his heart stutter.
Zayn’s hand brushes against his, but he doesn’t take it. Liam just didn’t feel like it and he wasn’t sure if that was unusual or not, but he also couldn’t bring himself to care. All he could smell was cigarette smoke. So yes, second hand smoke and cold. This is what he was getting.
And this was his problem with Zayn. He did things without thinking. He cared and he was earnest and honest in ways that Liam found to be nothing less than admirable. But he was also reckless and thoughtless and he smoked even though he knew Liam hated it. He lived life without thinking of the consequences of his decisions and figured that somehow everything would work out and it was all so easy even though Liam felt it was clear that that wasn’t always the case. Zayn saw people as straightforward and simple while Liam saw them as complicated and involved. Liam felt as though Zayn saw the world through rose colored glasses that he refused to take off and while that could sometimes be a bit beautiful and poetic and slightly endearing it was also an endless frustration because something Zayn just didn’t get it.
“So what did you make me leave for?”
Zayn shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know; I feel like I’ve been avoiding you.” HE takes a drag off of his cigarette, the ash lighting up before he exhales. He says it like it matters, but not in a way that’s extremely problematic; like it’s something that can just be fixed and then everything will be fine as if nothing happened. And the thing is, Zayn is probably right about that because it isn’t a super big deal, but Liam also finds it annoying how uncomplicated Zayn believes the world to be.
“Really now,” Liam says in a tone that he’s hoping sounds more noncommittal than it really is.
“Yeah; I guess I’ve been busy, but I don’t think that’s really it.” Zayn pauses, tapping some excess ash off of his cigarette before meeting Liam’s eyes. “Can I tell you something?”
The way he says it (can I tell you something) almost sounds desperate and it eats at Liam’s stomach and burns his sides and makes his heart feel like it’s falling, slipping down past his ribs and landing somewhere in his stomach.
Liam shrugs his shoulders. “Sure; if you want to.”
Before he answers, Zayn takes another hit and his fingers are shaking when he exhales smoke that Liam has to swat away from his face. Liam almost wants to chastise Zayn for at not even making the effort to blow the smoke in a different direction, but decides against it because Zayn looks a little lost and nervous and, dare he say it, scared and it doesn’t seem like the right time.
“I love you,” Zayn says, finally, turning to face Liam. It’s a little too dark to see his eyes clearly and make out the real emotion behind the words, but Liam still searches, trying to decide if Zayn is really serious or not.
“Are you fucking with me?” The word feels harsh and crass on his lips because Liam doesn’t really curse, but he doesn’t really need this right now. He doesn’t need Zayn pretending and thinking that life is as simple as finding a boy and deciding you love him. It’s more than that. There are feelings and external factors that play into things and you can’t just show up at the library and ask the boy you’re kind of seeing to go for a walk and deal with the cold and your cigarette smoke so you can tell him you’ve decided you’re in love.
It doesn’t work like that.
“Why would I fuck around about something like that?” Zayn asks, sounding hurt. But it’s just a little; not enough to make Liam wish he hadn’t asked.
“I don’t know,” Liam says, shrugging his shoulders. “I just wanted to make sure.”
“Well, I’m serious. Care to make any retort?”
And even though he doesn’t dare do it, Liam kind of wants to cry because he suddenly feels overwhelmed and in too deep. He’d had it all planned out in his head. If he ever really did love this boy with the sandpaper eyes that reminded him all too much of autumn, he would never admit to it. He’d planned on pretending not to care as much as possible so that, in the end, he wouldn’t have to deal with the embarrassment.
But just as people are unpredictable and complicated, so is life, and this is what it’s like.
This is what it means to have someone say it; someone who isn’t a parent or a friend. To have someone look at you like they want to kiss you and arch into you and be as close as humanly possible because they love you and that’s a part of what love means.
“You love me,” Liam repeats slowly, his words working around the words trying to feel each vowel and consonant and syllable to figure out what it all means because he really doesn’t know. He just knows love is an emotion he’s never really felt for another person. He doesn’t know if it’s that dull ache he feels in his chest at the mere thought of Zayn or the fond irritation he feels whenever Zayn’s lips quirk up into that annoying smirk. Liam isn’t sure if love is the tingling sensation he feels to his very core whenever Zayn’s lips curve around his name. He just knows that it’s different and scary and new.
“Yeah,” Zayn answers easily even though his voice wavers a little. “Is that so hard to believe?”
Liam shrugs. “Kind of.”
“Well I do.”
Zayn says it like he says everything else: like it’s easy and simple and what it is. And Liam thinks maybe it kind of is like that. Sometimes. Maybe some things are as simple as yes or no and the butterflies he feels fluttering around in his stomach whenever Zayn walks into a room. Perhaps Zayn is right about a few things and some feelings are as easy as opening your eyes and really seeing a person for the first time.
Kind of like Liam is doing right now.
“Okay,” he says.
Liam nods. “Yeah. I’m not going to say it back right now because I’m still not sure what it all means, but… okay.”
Zayn grins and it reaches his eyes (just as it always does because even though he’s kind of thoughtless and carefree everything he does is real). “Okay then.”
And that’s it. It’s simple and it’s not that complicated because even though Liam thinks he’s complicated and a little bit messy Zayn looks at him and he sees simplicity and love because being with Liam is really that easy. He tosses his cigarette to the ground, using the toe of his shoe to put it out, before taking Liam’s hand in his own and lacing their fingers together.
When Liam looks down his eyes are warm and his smile is fond because he knows that this is Zayn saying it really is okay; that things can be slow and some things take time and he’s cool with that. He’s saying that things don’t need to be rushed and messy; they can be slow and simple and them.
And even though he doesn’t dare say so out loud, Liam looks into Zayn’s eyes (eyes that remind him not so much of sandpaper, but caramel and honey because maybe it is okay to be a little bit romantic) and thinks that he loves him too.