Ed couldn’t help the excitement that was buzzing under his skin. He figured it was normal, though, he hadn’t seen Ellie in what felt like ages. This time, at least, she had talked to him pretty consistently. There had been times that Ed wasn’t sure that him and Ellie were happening. He knew that Ellie hadn’t really been looking for a relationship, or at least not with him, but she said it herself that she wasn’t really looking for a friend either. So if it wasn’t platonic he felt secure enough in the place they were at now to call it a relationship. She had booked a room in the hotel on his floor, although at this point having two separate rooms was practically throwing their money away.
They both arrived a bit earlier than they needed to and Ellie came around to his room. Ellie kissed him immediately, wrapping her arms around his neck, looking at him like she had never been happier. “I missed you,” Ellie said, giving him a smile. “Did you miss me?”
“You know I did, love,” Ed said, kissing her again. Sometimes he wished they both weren’t constantly on tour, that they could see each other constantly, or at least more frequently. Ed loved what he did, but he always saw the downsides when he was with Ellie.
They spent a bit of time talking. That’s all they really had time to do although they both kept stealing kisses from each other. She slipped away after a bit to get ready for the VMAs saying, “Wait until you see me on the red carpet.”
When he saw her again it was while they were taking their seats at the show and Ellie had changed into a different dress. “Don’t know which dress I like better,” Ed said when she sat down, kissing her on the cheek. “You look beautiful, though.”
Ellie smiled at him. “Thanks.”
He grabbed out to hold Ellie’s hand as the show started. There was a second where Ellie started to pull her hand away, but then she kept it there. If that had placed any seed of doubt in his head it was erased during the rest of his show because she hugged up on him, let him put his hand on her thigh and every vibe she sent off seemed to say that she was perfectly comfortable being subtly couple-y. The biggest bit of distance was when Harry and one of Ellie’s friends came over for a picture and even then their legs were still touching. There was a moment when he noticed Harry give Ellie a weird look, but she seemed to look puzzled by it as well.
“Another friend asked me to sit with them, that’s alright, right?” Ellie asked halfway through the show.
“Yeah, it’s fine, I’ll see you later,” Ed said.
Maybe the smile instead of an actual answer should have been his first clue because after the VMAs Ellie seemed to completely disappear. It wasn’t the first time, Ellie had perfected the art of disappearing into thin air. However, the timing was a bit weird, because he didn’t think it was too much to expect for his own girlfriend to be at his party. He decided that he probably just hadn’t seen her yet, though, and carried on with the party. Finally, he asked Taylor, “Do you know where Ellie’s at?”
Taylor shrugged. “I haven’t seen her all night.”
Ed thanked her and then started properly looking around. He heard Harry call him over and went over to where him and Louis were hanging out. “Sick party, bro,” Louis called out and Ed smiled and thanked him.
“Hey, don’t figure you guys have seen Ellie all night, have you?” Ed asked.
Harry shrugged but then asked. “Is something going on with you and her?”
“Uh, yeah, she’s my girlfriend.”
Ed noticed Harry and Louis exchange a look and frowned. “Does she know she’s your girlfriend?” Louis asked finally with an almost protective tone in his voice.
“Why wouldn’t she?”
“Twitter, mostly,” Louis said with a dismissive shrug that grinded on his nerves.
Ed looked over at Harry who looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable. “Niall might have mentioned they were going to hang out tonight,” he admitted.
“Oh,” Ed said, relaxing. “Where is he then?”
Louis opened his mouth, closed it, looked at Harry who shrugged and nodded. “Niall told us to tell you that he was sorry he was missing your party,” Louis said finally.
Ed let out a brisk laugh. He knew what this was starting to sound like, but he didn’t want to believe it. “What?”
“Ellie’s with Niall and neither of them are here, you don’t need us to connect those dots for you, mate,” Louis said.
Ed his mouth to say something, he wasn’t sure what, but calling Louis a twat crossed through his mind before he reminded himself that none of this was really any of their faults and turned and walked away. Harry caught up to him before long, which he was kind of expecting because Harry was one of his best mates. The problem was that so was Niall. Maybe not as close as Taylor or Harry, but he was close enough that the possibility of Niall hooking up with his girlfriend hadn’t even crossed his mind. He knew about them kissing at V Festival, but when he asked Ellie about it she said it had been nothing and not to worry about it. Naturally, Ed had assumed that that meant that Ellie had at some point mentioned that she had a boyfriend and that that had killed things off. He had thought about texting Niall himself after it happened, but he didn’t want to be the kind of guy who staked out his property because he knew he didn’t own her and Niall wasn’t the type to cross any lines especially if his friends were involved. But now Niall was with El - he didn’t even want to think about that.
When Harry reached for his arm, Ed pulled his arm away. “Niall wouldn’t do that,” Ed said, shaking his head in denial. Niall flirted a lot, and sometimes it was even with girls that were taken because he saw it as harmless, but Niall never went farther than that with girls that were taken.
“Shouldn’t you be saying that Ellie wouldn’t?” Harry asked softly. “Because Niall’s been talking about her all month. I don’t think he knows you’re dating her.”
“Of-course, he does, Elle would have said something,” Ed said rolling his eyes but Harry was right. He wasn’t saying that Ellie wouldn’t because he wasn’t sure that she wouldn’t.
“Come on, Ed, this is your party, enjoy it,” Harry said. “Where’s Taylor? She’s always a riot.”
Ed raised an eyebrow, momentarily distracted from all the shit that was happening. “You want to go looking for Taylor?”
“She can’t top calling me out during the VMAs, so I figure it’ll be alright,” Harry said with a shrug. “We know how to be civil.”
Ed shrugged. “Alright.”
For the sake of keeping up appearances, he went through with the party pretending he was having a good time. But he was gutted, and the way his friends were treating him made it worse, because even though Harry did it while Ed was off getting a drink he noticed him talking to Taylor and the rest of the night Taylor was practically plastered to his side. He appreciated the sentiment but the more his friends tried to distract him, the more he thought about Ellie in bed with someone else. Taylor noticed when he was trying to get wasted to drive the thoughts away and made him stop which Ed didn’t resist because he didn’t really have the energy to argue with his best friend. As the party ended she even offered a few of them to come up to her room for an after party of sorts.
“I just want to sleep, Taylor,” Ed said and Taylor shrugged, not looking convinced, but she wasn’t going to argue with him either.
When he reached his floor, though, he ended up knocking on Ellie’s hotel door, desperate to believe she hadn’t cheated on him. Not tonight, at least. It was one thing when they were on tour and hadn’t made any promises to each other about not seeing other people (although Ed thought it was implied), but it was another thing when they were in the same city, in the same hotel, in the same fucking hotel floor. Surely even if there were no promises she had to know that was fucked up. And Niall, he didn’t even want to think about Niall, because it just made his brain hurt. Ellie didn’t answer her door and Ed knew that she a light enough sleeper that she would have if she was even there.
Ed went to his room and took out his phone, because the only way to reach Ellie when she disappeared was through a text. “This is fucked up, I hope you both know that. This isn’t how this works.”
There was no answer from Ellie, but he wasn’t really expecting one.
“Are you going to be texting your girlfriend the whole time?” Harry asked.
“Not my girlfriend,” Niall reminded him although he knew it was no use. Whenever he so much as looked at another girl the other boys teased him calling her his girlfriend. This time they were referring to Ellie who he had been texting since they kissed at V Festival. It wasn’t as incessant as it could have been. There had been girls he would text non-stop when there was something there, but Ellie didn’t always answer which was alright. It had been clear from the beginning that Ellie wasn’t looking for anything serious, and Niall was on tour and had just a breath of time before he started the next one so he wasn’t looking for anything serious either. Although if he were, Ellie would be the perfect girl for him.
“Is that a yes?”
“No, Ellie’s going to the VMAs too,” Niall said. “She’s staying in the same hotel as us.”
“Does that mean I should call off the surprise sleepover in your room after Ed’s party?” asked Louis.
“You’ll be too shitfaced to make it to your room let alone mine,” Niall said calmly, not rising to the bait like Zayn might have. Louis was hardly all talk no action, but Louis didn’t answer to threats either.
“I’m never too shifaced to cockblock you, Nialler,” Louis said, his voice sugar sweet.
“Who said we’re even going to shag?” Niall said, rolling his eyes. He wasn’t opposed to the idea, but he wasn’t expecting anything either. “We’ve kissed, once.”
“At a Kings of Leon performance,” Harry said emphatically.
“You should have sex to Sex on Fire with her,” Zayn said to but whatever Harry was going to say off, not looking up from his phone. Liam was asleep, his head leaning on Zayn’s shoulder.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with them getting ready for the VMAs and then the red-carpet appearance. He saw Ellie briefly and despite thinking she looked beautiful, he didn’t make any moves to catch her attention or go up and talk to her. Maybe later he could get her to sit next to him but for now he didn’t want to call any attention to the two of them. He didn’t see her again until halfway through the show.
“Hey,” Niall said when he saw her, not reaching out to hug her or kiss her anything, mindful that there were always cameras. It was hard, when she looked like that.
“Sorry, I promised, um, y’know, Ed Sheeran I’d sit with him part of the time,” Ellie said, her smile bright and happy. That was something he adored about Ellie, that she always looked so happy.
“Yeah, I know Ed, great guy,” Niall said. “You’re going to his party later, yeah?”
Something almost like a frown flashed through her face, but then Ellie was grinning and nodding. “Yeah, I was planning on it.”
Niall raised his eyebrows. “Was?”
Ellie shrugged giving him a coy look. “Am, unless I get a better offer.”
“Oh,” Niall said not helping the smirk on his face. In a teasing voice he said, “Not sure you’ll get one then, Ed throws a sick party.”
“I know, but I prefer more...exclusive parties,” Ellie said. “For example. you...me...some champagne, y’know, more intimate that way.”
Niall laughed but they both knew he was considering it. They didn’t say anything else about it, but the suggestion was ever present at the back of his mind even after they split up when the VMAs were over. Ellie caught up with him while he was waiting for the elevator, planning on changing and then catching up with her at Ed’s party. “I can get a champagne bottle...if you’re up for it that is,” Ellie said, biting her lip and looking up at him through her eyelashes. Looking at her alone gave him butterflies and he knew saying no wasn’t an actual option in that moment.
That pretty much settled things. He knew Ed wouldn’t care, especially if he knew he pulled a girl. Niall told her his room number and said, “Give me twenty minutes to freshen up and come by.”
Harry came by his room to go down with him. “Nah, I’m staying here,” Niall said. “Ellie’s coming over for a bit.”
There was a weird look on his face and Niall said, “What?”
“It’s none of my business but...do you know what you’re doing with her?” Harry asked.
“Um…” Niall laughed because that was a weird question. Liam was Daddy Direction, but even he just rolled his eyes and told them to use a condom, he didn’t have much to say about them hooking up with anyone (except Zayn, but those were different circumstances). So it was especially weird to hear it from Harry who usually was too busy starting up his own trouble to get cross for them doing the same, and earlier in the day Harry had been supportive. Niall rubbed the back of his neck and jokingly asked, “What do you think?”
“Do you think that’s smart?”
“What do you mean? We’re both adults, Hazza.”
“Okay, whatever. I’ll tell Ed not to miss you then.”
Ellie came over to his room after about a half an hour, holding the champagne bottle she promised. “Let’s celebrate that award of yours, yeah?” she said. They had barely opened the bottle and taken two sips, though, before they were kissing and Ellie was pushing him back on the bed. Ellie was fast and enthusiastic, all smiles and soft sighs and Niall thought it was probably good that they didn’t go to Ed’s party because they would have probably ended up making out the whole time judging by how irresistible Ellie was to him now that there were no cameras. The first time was over perhaps faster than Niall would have liked but she just smiled, pushed the champagne bottle into his hand and whispered, “We have all night.”
The next morning when Niall woke up he was a bit hungover and Ellie was gone. Niall wasn’t surprised even if he was disappointed. Time with Ellie was fleeting. She seemed to pop into his life as fast as she popped out of it. And if he was honest, even if he didn’t go looking for that in every girl he hooked up with, he kind of preferred it. It was easier when it came time to leave. Ellie was a different case, though. He hadn’t expected to feel as strongly as he had felt last night. In interviews when he had described what kind of girl he wanted, someone pretty, nice, laidback, had a good sense of humour, etc, it felt like he had been searching for someone like Ellie. It’s not like he was in love with her or anything but he faintly realized that if she wanted a relationship with him he would have agreed without a second thought.
And it hadn’t been only him either. When they had finished off the bottle of champagne and Niall was laying back in bed with Ellie both tired out and blissful, listening to Ellie tell him a story of her in high school in a calm and drowsy voice he had said, without even thinking about it, “I wish you were mine.” and Ellie had looked up at him with a soft look. “I am right now.”
There was a knock on his door and Niall stood up and pulled on a pair of boxers. A hopeful, maybe naive part of him assumed that maybe Ellie just left for a bit, so he was a bit surprised to see Ed on the other side of his door.
“Hey, bro. Sorry, I’m a bit of a mess, just woke up,” Niall said with a bit of a sheepish grin.
“Nah, it’s alright, you had a busy night, yeah?” Ed said, the aggressive tone to his voice surprising Niall a bit. Partly because he had never heard it coming from Ed before but mostly because it was directed at him.
“Um...yeah, a bit,” Niall said said with a bit of a frown. Maybe Ed was upset with him for missing the party but that wasn’t really like him either. Either ways, he checked, “How was the party?”
“It was fine, I’m more interested in your night,” Ed said shouldering past him as he invited himself into the room. Niall frowned but shut the door as he watched Ed seemingly take inventory of the room. He saw the empty champagne bottle on the bedside table. “Don’t suppose you drank that by yourself, did you?”
“Okay, what’s happening here?” Niall asked.
“What? Are you going to tell me you weren’t with Ellie last night?” Ed asked crossing his arms. “Cause Harry already sold you out.”
“Sold me...what?” Niall asked, but he was starting to get a bad feeling in his stomach. This confrontation felt to familiar to one he had had in past when some guy accused him of sleeping with his girlfriend. But that didn’t make sense to Niall. “I told him to tell you.”
Ed gave him an incredulous look and Niall felt his stomach tighten. He had seen Ed talk about other people, the way his face took on an almost calm sense of anger. Ed never had had it directed toward him before, though, and he didn’t like it. It wasn’t the most threatening sight he had ever seen, but usually Ed took a lot of things in stride, and Niall was one hundred percent sure he hadn’t done anything wrong. “Are you into her?” Niall asked finally, not totally believing that Ellie did anything wrong either. After all, they had both mentioned Ed last night and Ellie hadn’t mentioned anything that warranted this reaction from Ed. And the way Ellie had looked at him last night made it impossible for Niall to believe that there was more to this that Niall hadn’t seen beforehand. It had to be Ed’s problem.
For a few seconds there was a tense silence as Ed searched his his face as if trying to figure out if he was lying. Then Ed uncrossed his arms, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “You didn’t know,” Ed said finally. He let out a tired sigh, “Yeah, Niall, I’m into Ellie. I’m so into her, actually, that I was under the impression that me and her were dating.”
There it was.
“But I...she never said…” Niall said with a frown.
“It wasn’t official,” Ed said with a bitter edge to his tone. “I never asked for, like, commitment or anything. I thought it was obvious, though, that when she was with she was with me.”
Niall bit his lip, because he had had the same impression of Ellie. He might not have been necessarily expecting sex from her but the way she talked and flirted with him since V Festival, he just figured that they were both in tune that while they were in the same city it was just the two of them. And while she hadn’t disproven that, if she was involved with Ed in one way or another then it wasn’t just them. Maybe it wasn’t even just Niall and Ed, but he discarded that thought because he couldn’t take that possibility. “Seriously, Ed, I had no clue,” Niall said and then groaned as something hit him. “That’s probably why she didn’t want to go to the party.”
“So when you kissed at V Festival then, that wasn’t a rumour?”
“No. Did she say it was?”
“She said it was nothing,” Ed said with a shrug. “That you kissed her, but that it was just a kiss, nothing else.”
“Guess it was nothing then,” Niall said and it wasn’t until Ed looked away that he heard what his voice sounded like. Like he had just lost someone. Which was ironic considering he was starting to feel like he never had anything to lose in the first place.
“Maybe it wasn’t,” Ed said, but it sounded like he was talking more about himself. Niall didn’t believe that, though, you couldn’t have something real if you were sharing it with someone else. He didn’t say anything because he figured that Ed knew it too.
Ed stood up gave him a tight lipped smile and clapped on the back as he headed toward the door. “Are we cool?” Niall asked, as Ed opened the door. “Because I really mean it, Ed, I wouldn’t have gone after her if I knew. We’re friends, yeah?”
“Can’t blame you for not knowing,” Ed said with a shrug and then he was gone.
Niall sighed, took a shower and got dressed before he went over to Harry’s room. There was no answer so he went around to all the boys’ rooms until Liam answered the door to his room. Zayn and Louis was passed out in the room and he was pretty sure it was Harry’s curls he saw behind the bathroom door. He didn’t question it, they usually ended up together at the end of a night, just kept his voice quiet as he said, “Harry was right, I didn’t know what I was doing with Ellie.”
“I know, I heard,” Liam said sympathetically, or as sympathetic as someone could sound when they were hungover. “Was it worth it?”
“I didn’t know, Liam.”
Liam raised his eyebrows and then grabbed his phone. He pulled a picture of Ellie and Ed sitting together holding hands and then a twitter post from Ellie said that she held hands with many of her friends. “I didn’t see any of that, though,” Niall said. “I was with Ellie most the night and then Ed came over this morning.”
“Who the fuck is making noise?” Louis demanded turning around, when he saw Liam and Niall at the door. His face softened considerably and Niall supposed they had all found out last night. “Hey, Nialler.”
Harry opened the door wider to show that he was indeed laying on the floor. He waved with a sympathetic look on his face. Niall looked over at Zayn who had rolled over too, but his look wasn’t pitying at least. He just shrugged and said, “Shit happens. Did you put on Kings of Leon?”
“Pity, maybe next time.”
“Nah, there isn’t going to be a next time.”
“That’s our Nialler,” Harry said as he nakedly crawled from the bathroom to the bed, seemingly unaware of how ridiculous he looked. “Come have a cuddle.”
Niall went over and laid between Harry and Zayn as Harry immediately cuddled into Niall. He didn’t even think about how Harry was naked because it had stopped being weird after about the third time. “I really didn’t know,” Niall muttered, feeling a bit embarrassing.
Harry shushed him. “We know. Not your fault you liked her. Sleep now.”
Ellie looked down at the text from Ed and chewed her lip. She looked over at Niall who was still sleeping, with a faint smile on his face, feeling guilty in a way she wasn’t expecting. Guilt was never supposed to be a part of this. Yesterday...last night...she hadn’t been thinking clearly. All she had been focused on was that she liked them both, but Ed had become something consistent in her life in a way Niall was never going to be. And yet, Niall still looked at her the way Ed did, like he never wanted to let go her. It was selfish, but she had wanted to feel like she was in a relationship without being in one. She had let herself sink too far, though. Last night the thought of Niall seeing her with Ed at the party, which he would have had they gone, had made her feel sick but Ed’s text make her want to throw up. Ed was right that things didn’t work like this, but she wasn’t sure how they were supposed to go either.
Initially, she had been planning to stay until morning, but she was close to crying and she didn’t want to give Niall any explanations. She slipped out of bed and slipped her clothes on. It was early enough that she was able to sneak to her hotel room without anyone seeing her. She had glanced at Ed’s door for a few seconds but she wasn’t quite that insensitive. Plus showing up at Ed’s door with rumpled clothes and messed up hair smelling of champagne, sex and Niall’s cologne probably wouldn’t win her any points.
Once inside her room she immediately took a shower, thought about answering Ed’s text but didn’t know what to say in her favour and then went to bed. She lazed about in bed when she woke up, wanting to hide from the world and the mess she had made of things. When the sun started to fall she finally took out her phone and skipped through all the missed calls and texts to reply to Ed. “I know. I’m sorry. Don’t blame Niall.”
Ed’s reply was almost instantaneous. “I don’t. I blame you.”
Ellie frowned down at her phone, but she knew she deserved it, even if she didn’t want to hear it. She pulled up Niall’s phone number and pressed the call button. In reality, she wasn’t sure what for. She wasn’t trying to salvage anything, it was more like she wanted to see if everything was ruined. Niall picked up after a few rings and didn’t say anything for a few seconds. “Didn’t expect to hear from you,” Niall said finally, his tone unemotionally in a way she hadn’t known was possible from Niall.
“Why not?” Ellie said, trying to keep her voice light. “You’re not just a one night stand.”
“I know I’m not,” Niall said.
Ellie heard a faint ‘Is that her?’ in the background and then a few seconds later the sound of a door closing. “If you have something to say to me then say it, Ellie,” Niall said. “I’m not Ed, I’m not going to play any games with you.”
“That’s not what I’m doing,” Ellie said, her mouth going dry. “I...I like both of you. I didn’t make any promises to either of you.”
“Just because neither of us asked for anything doesn’t mean we didn’t want anything,” Niall said, with a tired sigh. He didn’t even sound angry which made it worse. “You did this wrong. You should have talked to us, he had a right to know and I had a right to decide.”
“You would have said no,” Ellie said quietly, knowing she sounded pathetic.
Niall let out a cold laugh. “I know why you didn’t tell me, doesn’t make it better, though. I’m the one who had to tell your boyfriend this morning that I would never cheat with my mate’s girlfriend if I had had any clue.”
“I’m sorry,” Ellie said and although she knew that she should have left it at that, she added, “It’s not cheating.”
“In my experience, when someone thinks they dating someone, it’s for a reason.”
“I’m sorry,” Ellie repeated, her eyes stinging like she was about to cry.
“I’m not mad at you and, I don’t know, it’s probably fucked up but I don’t regret anything,” Niall said and hesitated for a moment before saying, “Last night was great and I really like you, but I’m done. Ed’s my friend, and I’m not going to fuck around with that.”
“Bye,” Ellie said, trying not to sound like she was crying.
Ellie waited to hear the click signifying Niall had hung up before she hang up too. She sat there for a second, letting her phone fall on the mattress. Then riding on something nearing desperation, she walked out of her hotel room and straight to Ed’s door, knocking loudly, trying to stop crying. Ed answered the door. For a moment, he didn’t do anything but look at her then he sighed, rubbed a hand over his face, and pushed the door open to let her in. Ellie walked in and sat on the edge of the mattress.
“I should have told you,” Ellie said, looking up at him.
“No, you shouldn’t have done it,” Ed said. “You like Niall, whatever, you think there aren’t any girls in this hotel I like?”
“I didn’t think -no,I didn’t know we were together,” Ellie said. “I thought this was just...something for the both of us to have.”
“This isn’t about our relationship, this goes past that,” Ed said. “If it was just a matter of not talking it through, of not thinking we were committed I could move past that. But we’re in the same fucking hotel, Ellie, you didn’t even think about me. You didn’t think, or didn’t even care, that I was right downstairs while you were having sex with one of my friends, who you told me that there was nothing going on with.”
“I didn’t think, but I did care. I care about you, I really fucked up, but I want you, Ed.”
“This isn’t how you figure it out,” Ed said angrily. “You don’t figure out you want me by having sex with someone else. It’s too late now.”
“No, Ed,” Ellie said, grabbing his arm. He moved his arm away gently, stepping away from her, giving her a look like she couldn’t convince him out of this one. “It’s not too late, it can’t be. I fucked up, but we can move past this, we can. Give me another chance, I’ll be the best bloody girlfriend in the world, I promise. Just...please, don’t let this be over.”
“I want to give you another chance, Ellie,” Ed said, giving her a look that made her heart twist because he was looking at her like she was something he couldn’t touch. “But how am I supposed to trust you? Maybe you didn’t think, but it was like you didn’t care or respect me or what I wanted. You can move past this because I didn’t make you feel like shit, like you weren’t important to me, but I can’t.”
“So this is it?” Ellie asked, feeling pain that she hadn’t thought she would feel. Ed had somehow crawled into her skin and embedded himself there so seamlessly that she hadn’t realized how important he was to her until he started to rip himself away.
“Yeah, this is it.”
Ed reached opened the hotel door and stepped aside, the cue for her to leave. She walked out but turned around to face Ed when she had passed the threshold. Even though her shoulders were shaking from the crying she leaned up and kissed him. Ed kissed her back, but it still tasted like a good-bye, and he was the first one to pull away. For some reason, that felt more like a door closing than the click of the door a few seconds later.