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The Measurement Of Time

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It takes eight years for eight-year-old Niall Horan to figure out that he's different.

It's when his parents are in the kitchen conversing, his dad uncorking a bottle of wine that smells sour and his mum complaining about her boss at work, the topic of colour arises.

"He hasn't met his match yet, dear."

"And he's forty-two?"

"Forty-two years of living in the grey."

And Niall leans back and looks down at his hands. They're grey; the walls a lighter grey. The flooring is a deeper grey than his hands. The sky outside the windows is a pitch black, white pinpoints in clusters adorning the colourless sea. Everything's either grey, white, or black.

Niall's never found a problem with this, he's always thought it was normal to see monochromatic colours daily, so eight-year-old Niall toddles into the kitchen. He skips over the black tiles and pounces onto a dark white bar-stool. His hands are placed on the various coloured counter-top, and he looks at his mum. Her hair is a light grey, the top of her hair a light silver colour. Her skin is a darker shade of grey than his, thin lines of black trace her features, her eyes a darker white.

"Mum," he states loudly, "what's wrong with grey?"

His mum laughs softly, strands of grey falling over her face as she twirls a warm grey liquid in a wine-glass, "Honey, nothing's wrong with seeing grey."

"When you're young, of course," his father chides as he pours more of the liquid into his own glass. His mum nods silently and looks back at Niall, her eyes shining, "You'll see colours when you find your match."

Niall frowns and looks at his hands again, "Isn't grey colours?"

His parents snobbish, airy laughter bounces off the kitchen walls and straight into Niall's heart. His mum nearly loses her balance, and his father snorts out a bit of the bitter liquid into his work trousers.

His mum pats his head, "Grey isn't a colour; it's a punishment from God."

__ _

It takes 13 more years for Niall to grow bitter of the matches around him.

He hates it.

He hates it when people find their pair and look all affectionate together as they bask in the new colour that swells and overwhelms their optical nerves. Every day, he hears people speak of how great it is to meet their pair. He reads about all the artists who flaunt the ability to finally see the beholden pigments that make up the visible spectrum. Niall hates how everyone thinks colours are important. The colours are just a mere detail on the prominent features of their lives. There're more important things than differing shades, like smiles and moods.

Niall thinks a person's reactions and moods are more important than the colour of their eyes or hair. But everyone seems to worry about just that.

Nobody seems to be able to appreciate the beauty that lies within the black and white. The people he labels as a romanticist miss the point. They can't see how just one hue can contain so many spectra. From just black to white, there are so many shades, and each shade has the capability to express just as much as any other pigment. Niall likes how the smallest difference in contrast makes the black pop up off the white, or the white sharpen against the black, or how the two blend to form a middle ground: A beautiful grey.

Niall finds it ridiculous how indecent people can be. How they spend their whole life waiting for the one to change their 'colourless' view to something more.

Niall finds it unfair, too.

How it feels to be looking for the one in masses of billions and billions of colourless faces. What if you never meet the one? What if they're on the other side of the world and it's impossible for you to meet? What if they've died? It's so unfair that a single person can live the rest of their life in dread because their match isn't there, live their life in a solid confinement of monochromatic colours; however, there's always those select few who meet their match when they're a preteen.

When Niall was in primary, he was walking around the playground with his best friend, Liam, when a fifth-year boy accidentally hit Liam in the head with a football. Said boy came rushing down the playground, mud layered up to his knees and scrapes on his elbows and chin. He had offered to help Liam up, and when the two hands met, the gasp they voiced was all, too noticeable to Niall. He was forced to watch in envy as the dirty boy smiled and giggled as colour swelled in his eyes; he twirled his hands in his eyes and looked in awe at the scenery they'd see for more than four years. Liam kept his eyes locked on the other's, small eyes focused on the way the colour must have adorned the older boy's features. They later learned that the boy's name was Louis.

Ever since then, Niall's spent his life in a quiet solitude; a solitude he was much comfortable in.

So, when he started Uni to study art, he wasn't surprised when number of matches around him grew. He also wasn't surprised when he felt no urge to find his partner.

He swears to himself that he will never succumb to the conspiracy that is a 'true' pair. It's puerile that people are 'meant' to be together. Niall sees so many things that can go wrong, so many things that can split a love apart, so many things that can shatter a relationship into jagged pieces that no longer fit in a smooth, perfect romance.

For those reasons, Niall's content in living in a colourless world. Sure, it's dull, but it's a dull that he's made his own.

__ _

When Harry's six, he asks his parents what it's like, what it's like to see the world for what it truly is, to have their view heightened and magnified into the greatest potentials possible.

His parents look down at him with a soft smile of adoration on their grey lips; their voices are smooth when they explain love and colour. He's told that it's beautiful. He's told that it's breathtaking, and it's more than they've ever imagined colour to be. Harry's also told that it's also not as significant as they expected it to be. His parents say that the colour isn't something that they realise is so important. They say that there are other, more important things in life.

His teacher tells him in primary that colour isn't necessary, that if Harry's lived without it for so long, it doesn't change your spirit without colour. His teacher tells him that he has to learn to either live without colour or to learn how to be patient for the colour.

Harry learns that colour is a gift, a blessing, rather than a necessity.

__ _

It takes Harry 15 years to understand this concept.

It takes 15 years for Harry Styles to start Uni and to study art, a subject that's based entirely off the idea and concept of colours.

And Harry can't wait.

Harry can't wait until the day comes that he meets the one and finally - finally - he'd be able to see the world for real. He'd finally be able to see the beauty that is colour. Every single varying pigment and each individual hue along the unique spectrum matches see daily.

The beauty of a sunrise, the colour of his wired brushes, how pink can be soft, how red can be intimidating, how colour can be colour.

Ever since he was little, it's all that he ever wanted.

__ _

Niall frowns when the students across from him whisper about touching the people in the room to find the one. One of them drops their pencil and tries to graze Niall's leg, but he quickly pulls it back and frowns at the girl in front of him. She angrily pulls back a twirl of her strangely dark curl, her warm grey lips pursed, and eyes almost black as she snaps her head to the front. Niall's unaffected by the dramatic presentation she's giving; her friend sighs inwardly at her actions.

Niall doesn't understand why everyone wants to see colour. They've lived so long without colour; why do they have to grasp the 'uniqueness' that is colour?

He turns his head to look out into the courtyard of his campus. The sky is a deep blanket of soft grey, the clouds a complete white.There's a plethora of black trunks of trees that scatter the field; the flowers blossoming on the branches a pearly white with dark-grey stems connecting to the black branches. The people scattered on the field are varying shades, each person holding a specific shade to their skin, some darker and lighter than others. The football team is sweating, each roll of sweat is a clear colour of their skin. A girl next to another tall girl is blushing a shade of warm grey, her lips a cold white. It's a monochromatic picture, but it's a beautiful monochromatic picture.

A pinch of colour would throw off the balance of this, and Niall frowns as he thinks of the girl's hair as a bright yellow, or what he suspects is yellow.

There's a clatter next to him, and Niall quickly throws his head up to give a scolding look to the intruder of his peace.

He's tall and very lanky. His legs run to the floor like a black river, his feet adorned in a lighter shade of black; his t-shirt is white, small stains of watery grey on the neck and hem. His complexion is a much tanner grey than Niall's own, black ink curls on his biceps and long fingers. He's smiling down at Niall, his teeth are a glinting white and his lips a dark grey; his curls are a wild mass of twirled pigments of grey, chips of paint are stuck in the savage curls. He's standing, and he puts his hand out to Niall, "M' name is Harry Styles."

Niall looks down at Harry's hand; his own hands twitch. He looks back up at the owner of the drawled, deep voice and curtly says, "My name is Niall Horan."

He turns his head away from his hand and looks straight forward to the classroom. He's been in Uni for two years now; he knows that most underclassmen come in and touch every person near them in search for their match. Niall doesn't want to shake Harry's hand.

Harry nods quietly, but he still has that fighting smile on his face. He sits down and looks Niall in the eyes, "What colour do you think my eyes are?"

Niall looks over again, and he studies Harry's eyes for a long moment. The iris' are outlined in a thick black ring, the insides a vibrant grey speckled with warm whites. Niall looks at Harry again, his face emotionless and void of a smile. Harry smiles at him, and Niall answers his question, "They're grey."

Harry's smile doesn't falter, in fact, it seems to grow larger. His eyes squint into thin lines, the pillow dragging under his eyes and two lines forming at the ends. "I bet your eyes are blue."

"And why would you guess that?"

Harry sighs dreamily, "In primary, my art teacher taught us the basis of colours. She taught us how to know them by the shades they were, and your eyes are the grey blue."

Niall cringes inwardly; he's been paired with a colour enthusiast. Niall nods and directs his attention to the front of the room as the professor walks in with a sketchbook in his hands and a shout of, "My name is Professor Malik!"

__ _

"Why'd you choose to study art if you hate colour?"

"Who said I hated colour?"

"You don't like it when I talk about red, or periwinkle."

"Grey, black, and white are colours, too, you know?"

"Oh, so you're one of those people."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You're jealous of people with matches."

"No, I'm perfectly content with the colours I can see now."

"You're a lot like my art teacher from primary."

"Thank you?"

"I liked her."

"You're a lot like my parents."

"Thank you!"

"I hated my parents."

"Oh."

__ _

Niall has a set of charcoal sticks, a pack of tortillions, and a strip of sand paper neatly placed in front of him. Harry has a large set of oil pastels, various coloured pencils strewn across the expanse of his side of the table, and a pastel sharpener in his hand.

Niall had the charcoal stick dusting the page to create a dark cloud over the stretch of jagged mountains. Small dots, either filled in or traced, sprinkled down the clouds and around the mountains, the ambience cold and gloomy. The expanse of the scenery was dotted with soft blacks, bright whites, smudged greys; every shade of the three colours bound to be found in the rough work of a cloudy mountain.

Harry ran his fingers over the waxy feel of the oil pastels, searching for what felt like cobalt blue. He never knew what colour he was choosing, he chose by what felt like the specific colour he was searching for. Without hesitance, he grabbed the thin pastel that was a shade lighter than black and coloured in the sky above his open field. The field was coloured in with a suspected wheat-yellow, the stems of wild flowers coloured a murky green, petals a pearly pink.

Niall's charcoal tumbled into Harry's oils on accident as Niall reached for a tortillion to shade a peak of his mountain. Harry, without looking down, grabbed the charcoal, prepared to colour in one of the petals.

"Harry." Niall rushed as he pointed to his fist, "That's my charcoal stick."

Harry looked at the art tool and laughed, "I almost coloured my flower black."

Without hesitance, Harry gave Niall his charcoal and reached for a light shaded oil pastel, "I needed yellow."

Niall watched as Harry carefully picked a thin wax-stick, a smile on his features.

"Who's your match?"

Harry stopped shading in the flower petals, "What?"

"You can see colours can't you? You're using a coloured pastel kit."

Harry smiled brightly and twirled the pastel in between his fingers, "No, I can't see colours. I just guess on what colour I'm using; what feels like yellow is what I use."

Niall nodded briskly, "That's . . . wow, that's actually really cool."

Harry nodded proudly before he began to colour in his bunched cluster of wild flowers. Niall looked between their works, one colourless and cold, the other colourful and warm. It almost made Niall cringe at how different they were.

As Niall shaded on, Harry's pastels began to roll into his work space. The light sticks of oil mixing into the black chunks of charcoal. Niall sighed heavily as he tediously placed the second stray back into Harry's pastel kit. "Keep your art utensils to yourself, Harry."

Harry didn't even nod to acknowledge Niall's annoyance. He was, too busy colouring in the raising sun on his sketchbook.

It takes three minutes for another one of Harry's pastels to roll into his charcoal again.

It takes a second for Niall to harshly place it back into the set's case.

It takes three more minutes for two pastels to be accidentally picked up by Niall; four seconds for him to shove the oil pastel back into the set. Again.

It's five minutes of peace, and then two minutes of absolute aggravation on Niall's part.

Niall picks up the white coloured pastel and snaps it, chunks of pastel oil cracking in the air. Harry makes a sound of shock and quickly grabs for the snapped pastel. Niall pulls his hands back and snaps the pieces again. He looks at Harry's face, "Keep your art utensils to yourself."

Niall then slams the broken pastel into the tray, and Harry mourns over his loss.

It takes a minute for another pastel to roll into Niall's grasp.

"Harry, don't make me snap this, too."

Harry nods meekly and snatches the pastels out of Niall's hands, larger fingers briefly brushing Niall's palm.

It takes a millisecond for the electricity to course through their fingers and palms.

Niall involuntarily gasps; it's a sharp intake of air, and his palm trembles and causes the pastel to fall to the floor, only to snap into two. The feeling of where Harry's fingers touched his palm pulses in a soothing yet violent manner, and Niall uses his free hand to cover his mouth in awe.

There's a small patch of skin on his palm that's pulsing to life, pulsing in colour. It's not exactly white, but it's a creamy, warmer colour than the sharpness of white.

The feeling of their contact slowly pulses its way up Niall's arm, and he sees the colour bleed into his skin and shirt.

It's not disgusting, it's not horrific. No, it's . . . beautiful. It's blue, and at the same time, it's not just blue. It's not boring, and it's not plain. Just like the black he loves so much, the blue has layers and layers of hues and shades. He sees the light blue run off his fingertips and travel up to his shirt to become a darker, deeper, navy blue. As it reaches the shoulder of his shirt, he sees the most beautiful shade of royal blue in his life.

He's never seen these colours before, but his brain happily shouts the names of the colours that drips off his fingers to colour the world around him.

A thick magenta rolls off his fingers and into the floor; it crawls up the desk in front of him and seeps into the girl's thick curls. The colour of her hair shimmers under the jaundice lighting of the classroom. The blossoms outside the classroom window are a pearly pink, a pink that's vibrant against the gradually browning branches of the trees. The girls are outside again, and Niall can see one of the girl's lips are a deep shade of rose; the taller girl's lips are smudged with the rose lipstick. The sky turns into a sea of blue ashes, the sun a vibrant yellow that pulses with an orange hue to it, and Niall thinks colours are amazing.

A soft orange grows at Harry's fingertips before pulsing to a vibrant red. It's the colour of red that's at the heart of the fire, not, too hot to touch. It drips off his fingers and soaks into Niall's palm, only to race up his arm and over his shirt to soak into his cheeks. It's a beautiful red that slowly grows to a soft taffy pink colour.

Harry sees the colours of the world, but his eyes are drawn somewhere else.

They're drawn to Niall, who's simply radiating the most beautiful globs of colour Harry's ever seen. He's no longer interested in the colours he's been fascinated with and fawned over for the twenty-one years of his life. He's captivated by the single individual in front of him, and he finally - finally - gets it. He understands what his parents had told him when he was six, what his art teacher had taught him, what his neighbors and friends had told him.

It's not about the colours; it's about Niall. It's about finding the love of your life, the person who will cherish you for the rest of both of your lives. It's not about the shade of the grass during spring, or the colour of lint, it's about finding your match. The colour is a bonus to you finding your match, not the other way around like Harry's always thought.

Harry thinks Niall's fair skin is pretty, but he thinks Niall's smile is even prettier.

When Niall's blue eyes, the ring around his pupils a celeste blue that grows into a dark dodger blue, meet Harry's green eyes, a beautiful dark sea green specked with beryl blue and thick black rings around his iris', the colours mix on their own from the glow of their outlines. Everywhere they meet, a beautiful, unique shade of yellow is created. At some parts, it's vibrant and happy just like the sun, like Harry, and at other parts, it's dark and soft, just like Niall's love of all things monochromatic.

And when their lips meet, a soft pink against a bold red, a deep, rich canary yellow pulses. When they pull apart, Harry smiles again, the colour spurting from his red lips to white teeth, and Niall surges with a pretty pink fanned out across his creamy skin.

"Your eyes are green." Niall whispers, and Harry smiles even wider.

"Your eyes are blue."

It takes a second for the two to fall in love.