In a State of Denial: Chapters 6 & 7

Ha! Part 1 of 3 of my project-that-must-be-finished-today project complete!

 

SIX

You’re thankful for the distraction, it kick-starts your brain back into bodyguard mode; a mindset you never should have left to begin with. Except—

Niall is running a confused hand through his already bedraggled hair (part of which may have been your fault) and his wide eyes dart quickly around the room, finally landing on the door as a loud fist beats an unsteady rhythm into the wood.

“Mate, let’s go, something’s up,” comes an equally accented voice from the other side that you recognize as Harry’s.

You grab a sweatshirt that’s been draped across the chair nearest you and throw it at Niall, immediately walking in the direction of the door. “Let’s go.” Your voice is surprisingly authoritative and Niall’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, but he does not hesitate to follow you, tugging the sleeves of the jacket on as you pull the door open. A surprised Harry Styles stands on the other side and his gaze darts quickly to the boy behind you who—though he’s fully dressed—appears slightly disheveled. He says nothing, but you can almost swear that there is a slight curve to the shape of his lips that isn’t normally there.

“What’s happening?” Someone else asks, Zayn, as he and Louis emerge sleepily from one of the rooms across the hall. They also glance at you with curious expressions, but the whirring of the alarm and the frantic rush of other guests pouring from their rooms doesn’t give them much time to ponder the fact that you aren’t a member of their usual security team.

“Stay close,” you order as several more guards form a half moon shape around the boys. There is no clear path to an exit as streams of guests pulse into the emergency staircase, and a bottleneck quickly forms in the stairs as the guests trying to exit from above floors collide with those from your own.

A horror story for a bodyguard.

Paul isn’t among the men currently surrounding the boys—there are four of you total—but a blonde guard next to you (Geoffrey is his name) volunteers the information before you can request it, his finger pressed to the communications piece in his ear.

Shit, you silently curse to yourself. Your coms unit is still sitting on the dresser in your room. You never put it on after being woken up earlier.

“Paul is down in the parking garage,” Geoffrey says, referencing the four story underground parking lot located directly beneath the hotel. “The elevators are not an option; they’ve been shut down for safety reasons.”

“Is this real?” you ask and the other guards share a communal look—it’s the same question that’s running through all of their minds. “Is there really a fire?”

Geoffrey’s face stiffens and you notice a vein at his temple pushing toward the surface of his scalp. “We have to treat it like it’s a real fire, whether or not it is.”

“So what does that mean?” Zayn asks, his dark brows furrowing. “You think someone might have done this to—?”

You can feel the anxiety building up in the small crowd around you, and you know there is only one option.

Judging by Geoffrey’s expression of immense displeasure, he has also figured that out.

You whistle, gathering the attention of the boys and your fellow bodyguards over the nervous yammering of the crowd. “The stairs are the only option.”

Geoffrey nods. “Paul is in the process of getting the bus pulled around the side of the hotel so the boys can board. I’ll take lead and try to clear some space.” He gestures to the relentless swarm of people in the staircase. “Stay close and stay together. For the sake of saving time, each of you—” he points to the guards standing around the bandmates. “Stick closely to whoever’s room you were just in. Liam, Harry, you both will be with me. Keep the boys next to the handrail and form a barrier on the outside.”

Everyone nods and Geoffrey straightens his shoulders, gesturing for you to follow as he guides the group into the onslaught of human bodies that make up the emergency staircase. He uses his wide frame to jostle people around, forcing space for the boys and their guards. You are squished somewhere in the middle of the crowd; Harry and Liam’s backs are pressed closely to your chest, Zayn and his bodyguard Luke—like you, one of the younger members of the staff—following close behind. And to your right is Niall, his blonde hair shoved into his hood, his blue eyes wider than normal as adrenaline and nervous energy pulse through his body.

Your eyes are alert, rapidly scanning back and forth over the crowd in front of you as you keep tightly pressed against your charge, daring anyone to try to get any closer. The jostled collage of browns, blondes, reds, and blacks of people’s heads, and the pounding echo of hundreds of footsteps against tiled stairs, is disorienting to you.

It’s no wonder you almost jump when you feel something soft and warm press into your palm, fingers lacing with yours.  You wonder if it is more dangerous than not to be attached like this, but you disregard the thought when Niall’s hand squeezes yours tightly.

He’s  afraid.

They all are.

Without a second thought’s hesitation you squeeze back.

 

SEVEN

It’s almost unsurprising when the lights go out.

Almost, but not quite.

Niall’s hand tightens around yours and you jerk forward, stumbling down a step as the crowd behind you begins to panic. The emergency lights continue to flash, but otherwise it is complete darkness; darkness, rampant breathing, the scream of the alarm, and the beginnings of mass hysteria as people attempt to merge with the already body-flooded hallway on the ground floor. Soon the railing that is blocking the boys on one side is going to run out and you are not sure how four guards are supposed to keep them protected on all sides.

“W-what do we do?” Niall pants in your ear and you have to stop yourself from letting out a panicked yelp. You don’t know. This isn’t exactly a situation you are prepared for. As a bodyguard you are supposed to be ready for anything, but the anything that you are used to is screaming girls on car hoods and excited mobs of pre-teens. It certainly isn’t making out with one of your charges and then leading an understaffed charge away from a possible fire and down the emergency staircase into a mob of unknowns.

“Just stay by me,” you instruct. You can tell the rail ends when Niall makes a noise of panic before pressing closer to you in the darkness. The boys’ voices grow in mumbled alarm as your group condenses even further. By the flashes of the fire alarm, you see the other guards move to flank the boys, covering them on each side as they are forced even closer together. Niall is still tucked close to your right side and you make sure to whisper, “Don’t let go of my hand.”

You think you see him nod but you can’t be sure.

The doorway comes into view and you know this will be the hardest part—getting the boys through all together. “Door,” you say loudly, hoping the other security guards behind you can hear, and then you are through, jostling people aside with a bought of rough shouldering and a sharply wielded elbow.

You are about to shout ‘clear’ when something with a hard edge comes slamming down on the back of your skull. And then all you see is darkness.

~~~~~

Waking up is anything but a walk in the park. A splitting pain shoots through your head and you can see lights sparking at the back of your eyelids. Not the most reassuring of side-effects.

A grunting sound off to your left makes you instantly tense and you are unsure you want to discover the source; although you think you might already know. You can only hope you are wrong.

“So what do we do?” a soft female voice murmurs and your stomach tightens. You aren’t expecting that. Female assailants are uncommon but not unheard of. Truthfully, the thought had crossed your mind, but you were hoping you were wrong. “Just leave them?”

“He shouldn’t be lying on the floor like that,” says another voice. “I think we hit him too hard. Oh my god, what do we do?”

“Why would you hit him, Victoria? He’s going to be pissed when he wakes up! This was supposed to be about getting the boys to fall in love with us, remember? Not to give them concussions!”

There’s a second groan, this one deeper than the first, a different voice, and your heart is officially sinking in your chest. No, no, no… Everything you had been trying so desperately to avoid—to protect the boys from—you had failed.

Maybe, you remind yourself. It isn’t over yet.

You slowly open your eyes to peer cautiously through your lashes, but not wide enough to catch the attention of the girlish preteen voices. There are three unmoving figures on the floor next to you; their silhouettes slowly coming into focus. The nearest one has a blue sweatshirt, gold locks sticking out the top, but his face is shielded from your view. The other two are harder to make out. Both have dark hair and one is wearing a black and yellow…what is that? A batman t-shirt.

Zayn.

Damn.

Next to him is Luke, the first of the figures to shift, moaning something incoherent, but his eyes never open. This immediately causes a ruckus with the smattering of nervous voices, and the first girl—Victoria was it?—gives a resigned sigh.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now, I guess. I just don’t get why you grabbed those two—” There’s a good chance she’s pointing at you right now and you make sure to keep very still. “—instead of the rest of the members. Weren’t they all together?”

“Yeah but there were two other guards and I think the big blonde one might have seen me. I don’t know. But by the time we could hit the first four, the others were too close. Even in the dark they would have—”*

“Yeah, whatever, fine,” Victoria spits. “Just make sure Niall and Zayn don’t have any permanent damage done.”

“H-how do we…” another girl starts and the voice named Victoria scoffs.

“Wake them up, stupid.”

There is the sound of shuffling feet and suddenly a pair of pink ballet flats are hesitantly nudging Niall’s head. “Um, excuse me?” a timid female voice says. Try as you might, through squinted eyes you cannot see her face, only her short, tanned legs and the edge of her white lace skirt that doesn’t quite reach her mid-thigh. “N-Niall?”

He groans, turning over just enough that his face is pointing toward the ceiling, and his blue eyes flutter open. “W-what…?” he starts. He jerks to the side, wincing. A hiss escapes from his lips because of the sudden movement and he puts a hand to the back of his head. When he pulls it away there is no blood, at least none that you can see, and relief floods through you. But it’s not enough to keep your chest from convulsing as the girl leans down toward him. She has jet black hair that hangs past her shoulders in long, dark curls. There is a blue ribbon in her hair, tied into a tight bow near her temple, and her make-up is intense: thick black eyeliner that comes to a point at the edge of her lash lines, and sapphire lipstick that looks like it belongs somewhere in the twenties, and not here…Wherever here is.

She can’t be more than seventeen.

“I’m Melanie,” she says gently. “Do you know your name?”

“I-I’m sorry,” Niall stutters, propping himself up on his elbows and crab-crawling a few steps backward. “Who are you?”

“Melanie,” she says again, as though this is the only explanation required of her.

“Hello Melanie, I’m Niall.” He slowly lifts himself until he’s sitting forward, legs crossed in front of him. You resist the urge to give an indignant snort; haven’t they already covered this? And why is he introducing himself? You don’t say anything (for obvious reasons) and he continues. “Is there something I can do for you?”

“W-we just want to make sure you are alright,” Melanie says hesitantly. Her voice is irritatingly soft.

“We?” For the first time he glances around at the others in the room, the others you still cannot see, and he nods. His face is stiff and slightly pained but not panicked. At least that is a somewhat good omen. “Hello,” he says to the others, and is replied to in a chorus of quiet greetings.

Now Zayn begins to stir and you can sense that Luke is not far behind (if he is even unconscious at all; you have no way to tell). Melanie shifts her weight so that she is standing between the two boys, her eyes glued to the now moving Zayn as he pulls himself into a semi-upright position, a stream of air forcing its way from between his lips as he, too, is confronted with the nasty ache of his skull.

“Niall?” he asks, eyes darting to the girls standing before them.

“This is Zayn,” Niall says quickly, and for a brief moment his eyes flash over to you. The you who is—for all intensive purposes—still unconscious. The you that was supposed to have protected them from this exact scenario. As quickly as the thoughts come they are gone, and you have the overwhelming urge to wrap yourself in your own guilt and not get back up again. You force that last one from your mind; it will not help you now.

“Hello, um, ladies,” Zayn says, rolling his shoulders gingerly and wincing when the muscles near his neck cramp. There is a high-pitched refrain of squeals before the group is vehemently shushed by a single voice.

“Hello, Zayn, my name is Victoria. It’s nice to meet you.”

“And you,” he says, meeting Niall’s gaze. The blonde can only give a minute shake of the head; something to say, I have no idea what is going on.

“Like I said before,” Niall interjects before Victoria can go on. “What is it that we can do for you?”

“Nothing in particular,” the girl says, stepping forward. You can see her shoes now: black Mary-Janes with a pair of jet black stockings tucked inside. “We just want to know about you: your likes, dislikes, favorite food, preferences in a girlfriend—”

Zayn is visibly upset by the last thing they list. “I have a fiancé.”

“Yes, but he doesn’t,” says one of the girls, and you can see her finger pointed at Niall whose blue eyes are growing wider by the second. “He can pick one of us.”

“You weren’t even really supposed to be here anyway,” Victoria confides in the darker haired boy, and a hand set with long, elegant fingers runs its way through his hair. Or more accurately, it attempts to, but he jerks away quickly. “Testy,” she snaps. “That’s not very nice.”

You should interject now. No, you have to.

The girl in the Mary-Janes crouches down to face-level with the boys and now you can finally see her. Red hair, like strands of flame, is tucked back into a neat French braid that weaves its way down the center of her spine. There is a black headband pushing her bangs from her face, and her green eyes are quite large as they stare (with a surprising lack of empathy) at her two captives. Everything about her features from the freckles that outline her nose to the small dimples in the lower corners of her cheeks would have one believe girl-next-door. Everything but her eyes; those are a freakish kind of empty.

“Niall, you don’t have a fiancé. You don’t even have a girlfriend. I think I can help you with that. What do you say to me being your girlfriend?”

No. Absolutely not.

You don’t realize you have said this aloud until everyone in the room, including Zayn and Niall, are looking at you with wide eyes. Oh well, you knew the charade wasn’t going to last forever, you just wish it could have been a little longer than this.

“I’m afraid you’re wrong,” you tell the girls, slowly shifting until you are able to crawl onto your knees, and then from there make your way to your feet. “Niall does have a girlfriend.”

His blue eyes meet yours but you can’t tell what’s in them—not right now. Panic, sure, but something else; something familiar that you can’t quite put your finger on.

“A girlfriend?” Victoria sneered mockingly. “Are you going to tell me it’s you then?”

“Yes,” you say simply and her mouth drops open just a hair. “It’s me.”

 

 

*Author’s Note: I realize that logistics wise this is inaccurate seeing as how I described the female character as being behind Liam and Harry when they’re on the stairs and that gets switched up when she’s kidnapped, but I’m just going to ask you guys to go with it. K, cool? Thanks! If there are any other mistakes that you notice, though, feel free to comment and I will correct them!

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