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to feel a little warm (all by myself, I'm here again)

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*~*~*

Zayn knows the rules.  It's Ramadan.  Not supposed to do anything unholy.  He's even fasting, because for once they're not on tour and he doesn't have to belt his lungs out in front of thousands of screaming fans every night.

Ramadan is supposed to be a respite, a time for reflection, a time of spiritual purification.  A time to renew one's dedication to Allah, and to study the teachings of Islam.

For Zayn, this particular week can really only be torture.

*~*~*

Zayn tells Louis about a month before that he can't go to Jay's wedding.  Louis is bummed, and probably a little bit hurt, but he's always been good at covering up his real emotions loudly, whether it's with anger, forced humor, or exaggerated excitement.  This time it's anger.  Zayn gets it - it's a very special day; the lads' families are basically his own at this point, and everyone is excited that Jay and Dan are getting to tie the knot and declare their commitment to each other in front of all of their family and friends.  The weather promises to be beautiful, and the venue is lush and alive with green foliage.

But Zayn is tired.

It's not even that he's tired of hiding his feelings, because if that were the case he'd be doing a piss-poor job of the actual hiding.  No, it's worse.  Zayn's feelings have been spilling all over the place lately, and it's terribly obvious to everyone except the one person at whom those feelings are directed.  Either that, or the person is deliberately ignoring what he sees, and that alternative is so much more painful that Zayn doesn't really even want to consider it.

That, and he doesn't really want Louis to have time to make arrangements for him, because he knows Louis would try - after all, they know how much of an outsider he feels whenever anything about his religion is brought up, and the lads, bless their hearts, always do their best to make him feel included, no matter what the difference is.  And Louis is pushy when he knows what he wants (and sometimes even when he doesn't) - he's very good at finding people's buttons and pushing them so hard that they'll give him what he wants so they don't have to deal with him again.  Zayn wants to avoid that at all costs, because it will only irritate everyone, and he doesn't want to, or really can't, go in the first place, and he hasn't got any desire to be convinced otherwise.

Zayn tells Louis that the wedding is during Ramadan, and he can't eat until the sun goes down, and he doesn't want to make it awkward for any of the wedding guests, and he doesn't want to make a fuss with catering, and it's too late to change any of the timings.

Louis frowns and throws a hissy fit.  Entirely as Zayn had expected.  In the midst of his apparent anger, Louis throws out the question of why Zayn hadn't told him earlier.  Zayn's heart stops for a split second.  But Louis takes his hesitation for embarrassment about having to ask for special arrangements because he's fasting, and doesn't say anything about it again.

A week later, when they're joking around in the dressing rooms while Louis is trying on a new tux, Zayn tells Louis that he would have been napping during the wedding anyway, because if he has to wait until iftar to eat, he might as well catch up on some sleep.  He'd rather not be awake and hungry, thank you very much.  It seems like a sane thing to do.  Louis isn't fussy about it any longer, answers that he understands.  Zayn knows he doesn't really, but they all make an effort, and that's enough for him.

Zayn feels more relieved that he doesn't have to go to the wedding than guilty that he's lied about Ramadan as the reason for his absence.  He tries not to think too hard about what that says about him.

*~*~*

Zayn gets a text the morning of.  It's from Louis.

             Tommo: It's a madhouse in this place.  The girls have decided now is a good time to prank me, and mum's about to go insane looking for them.  Wish u were here xx

He smiles.

*~*~*

Zayn wakes up from his nap (he wasn't kidding about the sleeping) to find that his phone is beeping angrily at him.  Zayn untangles himself from his sheets, stumbles groggily over to where his phone is plugged into the wall charger, misses his password twice before getting it, and finally manages to unlock his phone.

Harry's left him a rambling voicemail that's almost three whole minutes long.  Probably after he's had a few glasses of champagne - his voice sounds lower and more relaxed than usual, and he keeps giggling throughout, which is always a good sign that he's gotten tipsy.  There's a lot of background noise.

"Heeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyy Zaynieeeeeee! [giggles] I don't really know why I called, but tell your sisters hello from me.  Lou wouldn't tell me why you aren't here, but he didn't seem angry about it, so I guess the two of you worked it out and didn't bother to tell any of us?  Why'd you dooooo thaaaat?  [giggles]  I'm sitting with Lou, not Lou Bear, Lux's mum Lou, and half the guests look scandalised by our outfits but they don't want to say anythinggg... [giggles]  Anywaaaaayyyyyyy I should get back to dinner, I snuck out to call youuuuuu...but I don't want to miss the toasts because Lou's probably gonna make everyone cry so taaaaa, call me laterrrr [giggles]"

Zayn sighs.  He'll probably ask Louis to recount the wedding in detail later.  Knowing Louis, his speech will be wonderful - he was born to perform, born to shine in front of everyone, and there's no better time or place for it than now, for one of the people he loves the most in his life.

*~*~*

Niall texts him a photo of the lads, all four of them, and Lou.  Louis is wearing a navy suit, Niall's taken his jacket off, and the rest of them are wearing various black ensembles.  They're all wearing sunglasses, and none of them are really smiling.  They look much too serious to be attending a wedding.

Missin ya mate x, the caption reads.

Simple, but devastatingly effective.  Always been Niall's style.  Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Zayn grimaces.  And seriously contemplates the unopened fifth of cheap vodka in his bottom kitchen cabinet they were saving for the next lads' night in before mentally slapping himself forcefully for being tempted by alcohol during Ramadan.  He drags himself back to bed instead.

*~*~*

When he wakes up from his nap, Liam still hasn't texted.  Or called.  Or tweeted.  Or anything.

But the photos of Liam are everywhere.  He doesn't even have to look for them.  He didn't even have to go on Twitter, because half of his cousins are sending all of the photos to each other.

Zayn groans and decides to give up all pretense of keeping the day holy.  With the way he feels right now, it's just not happening.  He makes his way over to the godforsaken kitchen cabinet and grabs the fifth, along with the other bottles of liquor sitting on the same shelf that are varying degrees of unfinished.

Zayn decides to play a little game with himself to pass the time.  That's what he's going to call it, anyway.  For every 20 minutes that Liam doesn't contact him, Zayn's going to take a shot.

99 shots of vodka on the wall, 99 shots of vodka...

*~*~*

96 shots of vodka on the wall, 96 shots of vodka...

It's been a whole hour, and still nothing.  Zayn's literally been twiddling his thumbs - he's gotten so bored that he's been playing Candy Crush since the first shot.  He decides that he's feeling much too fucking sober for this.  Time to up the ante.  Two shots for every 20 minutes.  Hell, it's not like he hasn't got enough alcohol to last him the whole night if need be, even at this rate.  Though he'll probably be passed out before then.  If he's lucky.  Sometimes, being able to hold his alcohol well is a fucking curse, Zayn mutters to himself.

*~*~*

90 shots of vodka on the wall, 90 shots of vodka...

Zayn hasn't bothered to find chasers for the vodka.  He wants it to burn.  He starts humming.  "Deep down I know it's best for myself but I, hate the thought of him being with someone else..."

Zayn's been making a list.  Everything he hates about Liam Payne.  His handwriting is shit at the mo, but he can't be arsed to rewrite it.  It goes something like this:

             1. stupid smile

             2. ridiculous muscles

              3. girlfriend

Zayn crosses that one out.  Sophia isn't technically something about Liam.

             4. stubble

             5. big nose

             6. kissable lips

             7. deep brown eyes

             8. taste in music

             9. Batman

             10. 

FUCK.  It's turned into a list of things Zayn loves about Liam.  He shouldn't have expected any less.

Zayn crosses out the entire list.  This is fucking useless.  There is no cure for his feelings.  Except maybe more alcohol.  Which is really a form of procrastination, but Zayn will take what he can get.

*~*~*

84 shots of vodka on the wall, 84 shots of vodka...

"I've got 99 shots and Liam ain't one!  Hahaha get it, because I never really had a shot at him!" Zayn yells at no one in particular.  He's well and truly drunk.  In his empty house.  On the night of his best mate's mum's wedding.  "Fuck my liiiiiiiiiffeeeeeee!" Zayn's yelling dissolves into watery, gasping sobs.

Zayn knows he's an embarrassing drunk, and this whole ordeal is doing nothing to disprove that.  Well, usually he's embarrassingly excitable - likes to fist-pump to all of the David Guetta songs and jump around like a maniac - but his house is no crowded, glowstick-lit club, and he has very few happy thoughts for the moment.

Trawling through Tumblr's #ziam tag is an exercise in masochism.  The masterposts are particularly excruciating.  He puts on some Drake to get him through this shit.  There are pictures and GIFs of him and Liam everywhere, from radio show interviews to one of their Ant and Dec appearances to just walking out on the street.  His hopeless affection for Liam is catalogued in painful, painful detail from X-Factor all the way up to their last tour date only a few short days ago.  All of their stupid Twitter conversations, the clothes they've shared, the one kiss that got caught on tape (Zayn winces.  The kiss was for show, but he had wanted it to be real so badly.), their antics during shows, their selfies taken with fan phones and cameras, Liam's praises of his riffs during Last First Kiss, their duet during Little Things (Zayn cringes at how obvious he is in the video.  He is staring right at Liam, for fuckssakes.  He has fucking "heart eyes".  Ugh.), the little touches that they thought no one else noticed (well, everyone does know that the army of 1D fans are terrifyingly observant, so Zayn supposes it was a stupid assumption), the evolutions of their hairstyles, videos of their first auditions, all of it.

Zayn cries through the exquisite self-inflicted torture.  There are photos of Liam everywhere too, with various commentary that Zayn doesn't bother to read.  Liam in suits, Liam in vest tops, Liam in low-slung jeans that show off the cute, perfect round of his arse, Liam in those sweats on that balcony that almost showed off his dick, Liam in henleys, Liam in baseball tees, Liam in leather jackets, Liam.  Liam with Danielle.  Liam with Sophia.  Liam with Sophia at Jay's fucking wedding.

Zayn can't stand to keep looking at all of these.  Liam could honestly model suits or be the next James Bond or something if he wanted.  He is unfairly fit.  And Zayn can't deny that Liam and Sophia look good together.  Zayn's only saving grace is that he hasn't come across any photos of them actually holding hands.

Zayn keeps sobbing.  He doesn't even know what he's weeping about anymore.  The last 4 years become a blur of unreturned love.  Zayn knows, even drunk, that he's in love with Liam, and Liam will never love him back the same way.  And that's a pill he hasn't been able to force himself to swallow.  His heart breaks a little more with every photo, every memory he's dredged up from the depths of his mind.  Zayn feels boneless.  He's lost the will to do anything but drown in his own sorrow.

*~*~*

78 shots of vodka on the wall, 78 shots of vodka...

Zayn's brain is mush.  He's been alternating between singing, crying, yelling, and various combinations of the three for a while now, and he knows he won't remember shit in the morning.  It's been 4 hours, and still nothing from Liam.  He's given up on taking actual shots, because he keeps missing the shot glass when he tries to pour, and now his floor is all slippery.  Shit, he's gonna have to clean up in the morning.    He's been taking nice long swigs straight from the bottle instead.  Fuck this.  Fuck Liam.  (He wishes.)  He's going to bed.

"Haaaatchiiiii!"  Zayn slurs.  The neighbors are going to kill him for yelling so much.  They've probably already pounded on the wall a few times - it's late now - but Zayn is too drunk to care.

The little furball yaps and dutifully trots over to him.  Zayn's seeing double, so it takes him about four tries to actually scoop the dog up in his arms.  Zayn buries his face in Hatchi's fur and nuzzles the dog for a minute.  Hatchi is warm, and fuzzy, and snuggly, and cute, and most importantly, here.  All of the things he wishes Liam were.  Liam is basically a puppy anyway, right?

Zayn tries to get up, and promptly falls over.  The wet floor is really not helping.  He pulls himself up using the kitchen counter, knocks over one of the handles he's managed to empty tonight, and hurtles unsteadily toward his bedroom.  He faceplants in his pillow, still fully dressed.  Hatchi, the wonderful little bugger, doesn't even try to get out of Zayn's arms, probably sensing that Zayn needs all the actual comfort he can get right now, and not the Southern kind.

"Hatchiiiiiiiiii," Zayn croons.  "No one wants to cuddle with me but you, babes."  He sniffs.  "But you don't even have a choice, do you?  I've just snatched ya up..."  He starts crying again.

Zayn is tired of crying, but his body is being a little shit and won't listen to him.  "Stop crying!" He whisper-yells at himself, to no avail.  Zayn feels like he's at war with himself a lot lately, but this is a new low.  He falls asleep on a wet pillow.

*~*~*

All in all, Zayn isn't terribly surprised that a photo of him sleeping with Hatchi winds up on the internet the next morning.  Morning?  Afternoon?  Zayn has no idea what time it is.  He's also much too tired (not to mention wickedly hungover) to give any fucks.  At this point he doesn't quite remember who exactly he's given copies of the key to, and honestly any one of them is probably nosy enough to have posted something like this.  Except maybe Liam.

That notion makes his head hurt, so he doesn't follow the train of thought.  Thinking about Liam will only exacerbate his headache.

Zayn squeezes his eyes shut, then cracks one open again to catalogue his surroundings.  Somehow, he managed to make it to the bed last night.  And there doesn't seem to be anyone else here.

The muted brightness of the room brings with it a wave of nausea, and Zayn hurls himself out of bed, almost tripping over his own feet, and stumbles like a proper alcoholic over to the porcelain goddess to throw up the contents of his stomach.  He retches until there's nothing but saliva and a foul aftertaste coming up, and flushes the toilet.

The dull pain in his earlobes reminds Zayn that he also forgot to take his plugs out last night.  Fuck.  He pulls himself up on the bathroom counter, leans his side against the marbled stone (but not too heavily, lest he need to empty his stomach again), and manages to get the plugs out.

An hour later, when he's positive there is nothing left in his entire digestive system, his insides hurt from being churned about so much.  Zayn rinses out his mouth with water, halfheartedly brushes his teeth, swallows some paracetamol.  And finally musters up enough nerve to check his phone.

He finds it strewn across the kitchen floor, face down in a dry spot.  Good thing the spilled alcohol hadn't gotten to it.  Zayn is not in the mood to clean right now, and the smell of the vodka makes him want to hurl all over again.  He would order a fry-up from the shop down the street or something, but now that it's daylight he's supposed to be fasting again.  Dammit.

He holds his nose, picks up the phone, and ambles back to his bedroom.  Checks Twitter and his sent texts first, just to make sure he didn't send anything embarrassing while he was drunk.  (Luckily he was too distracted by Tumblr to actually do anything of the sort.)

Suddenly, his phone vibrates - an incoming text.  From Liam, of all people.

             Leeyum: hd a good sleeeeep, didya? ;) xx

Zayn turns off his phone, throws it in a corner of his room, picks up Hatchi, settles into bed, and wills himself not to get drunk again tonight.