Collection of Prompt-Fics

trick and treat

characters: niall horan, ofc (tilly)
words: 6,5k


Tilly hates Halloween.

It’s a fact of life. The sky is blue, oceans are vast, birds fly and penguins waddle, and Matilda Ellen Carr loathes Halloween with every fibre of her being.

She’s hated the damn holiday since she was a child. Her parents had been invited to a medical seminar for the weekend, and the babysitter they hired had been attentive and wonderful. Until that Sunday night, when she had decided that Tilly was old enough to watch Nightmare on Elm Street.

Tilly most certainly wasn’t - she had nightmares for months after that. It didn’t help that Yvette’s younger brother had waited in Tilly’s closet until she was in bed to start scratching at the walls and moaning ominously, crawling across the floor to give Tilly the illusion that a monster was in her room desperate to pounce. She’d stayed awake almost the whole night through, in case the monster had a particular craving for sleeping five-year-olds.

So now she hates Halloween, and it won’t change any time soon.

It’s an unfortunate thing, considering her best friends enjoy the whole aspect of dressing up as various monsters from films and trick-or-treating. They are all in their twenties now, but that doesn’t stop them from canvassing neighbourhoods for a few hours, begging strangers for sweets until their bags were full. The one thing that Tilly doesn’t mind is the annual party they all attend afterwards.

Louis had started the tradition when they were in uni together. As the one with the largest house - and the oldest of the group, therefore the only one able to purchase alcohol legally - he’d invited their circle over on Halloween five years ago. It had been meant as an excuse to drink and share their treats after traipsing around in the chilly October air, but someone had heard about it and told their friends who told their friends.

By ten o’clock, the house had been full of people that Tilly barely recognised. And it became a thing.

Which is why Tilly’s found herself, for the sixth year in a row, stood in front of her mirror and examining the costume she’d had forced onto her. It wasn’t awful, not really, if only a bit revealing. Greta had been the one to decide the matching outfits - she had planned for this year’s bash since before Halloween last year, and when Greta sets her mind to something, she’s very often a force no one can reckon with. So Tilly accepted the costume with aplomb, though she certainly has regrets now.

Adjusting the bright orange-red wig that sits on her head, Tilly sighs then wraps the gaudy string of pearls around her neck. Bright red lipstick is a beacon against her pale skin, then she’s done. She smooths down the front of her white dress, slips her feet into a pair of strappy flat-footed sandals, and grabs her clutch from the bureau. She can’t find any amusement in the tiny bones that dot the black fabric. Let’s get tonight over with, she thinks grimly as she pulls open her bedroom door.

“Is that you, Wilma?”

Tilly rolls her eyes, though Niall certainly can’t see it through his closed bedroom door. “Who else would it be, a Girl Scout intent on beating you senseless until you buy thousands of cookies?” She sighs and perches on the arm of the couch. “I still don’t see why you couldn’t just go along with what Greta chose for you. What’s a Wilma without her Fred?”

“Didn’t you hear? Wilma and Fred got divorced.”

“You’re an ass. They’re here, you almost done?” she calls out when a knock sounds at the front door.

“Yeah.” His door opens a crack, his head poking through, framed in a soft yellow-white light. “Send Greta in, would ya?”

He shuts the door before Tilly can sneak a peek at what he’s chosen, and she frowns. Never before has he kept his costume a secret - in fact, he’s the worst at keeping anything a secret. He is the only reason anyone found about Liam’s crush on Greta in the first place. It worked out for the best; Liam would never have gotten the courage to speak up, and Greta would have remained completely clueless.

But the fact remains: Niall James Horan can keep no secrets.

“Hey, guys, c’mon in. Damn, Betty Rubble, you’re giving Jessica Rabbit a run for her money as a man’s hot fantasy.”

Greta giggles, shoving a bottle of tequila into Tilly’s hand as she ducks past. “Not-Fred ready yet?”

“Not yet. He’s still making himself pretty. Do you know what he is?”

“Yeah, but I can’t tell you!”

Tilly watches her friend disappear into Niall’s bedroom, something akin to acidic fire flickering to life in her chest. Shaking off the sharp-edged thoughts, she faces Liam, allows him to scoop her up into a tight embrace.


Tilly winces at the volume of Liam’s voice directly in her ear but laughs anyway, striking a pose. “How do I look, Barney?”

“Best Wilma I’ve ever seen,” Liam responds with a smile, kissing her cheek. “Greta is so thrilled that you’ve actually gone through with this.”

“It would be better if someone had agreed to be Fred.”

“Will you let that go already?”

“Of course I -”

Tilly’s mouth goes dry as Niall steps into the living room. Being roommates with the man for three years means they’ve seen each other in various styles of clothing - from formal date-wear to post-breakup comfort of ratty t-shirts and baggy sweatpants. They have seen each other at the best and worst of their mental health.

But the way Niall looks right now is completely new.

Her eyes skim over the expanse of skin on display, from the dip of his collarbone to the hollow of his navel. The leopard-print loincloth exposes his thighs, and Tilly has literally never seen them this bare. How she could have gone without noticing how thick his legs really are, even with denim or swim-trunks covering them, Tilly will spend the rest of her life trying to figure out.

“Mattie?” He frowns, snaps his fingers in front of her face, and she blinks owlishly for a moment.

“Did you shave your chest?”

“Actually, I took him to get it waxed.” Greta doesn’t bother elaborating as she rushes to Tilly’s side. “Found the bone for your hair.”

“Wilma doesn’t have a bone in her hair,” protests Tilly even as she lets her friend shove the bone-shaped plastic through the round bun.

“She does, too. Babe, can you Google whether Wilma has a bone in her hair?”

“I’m on it.”

As Liam busies himself with following his girlfriend’s orders, Tilly glances back at Niall. He’s already moved to find his own sandals. She swallows thickly as the muscles in his back and shoulders shift, rippling under his skin. A sharp elbow to her side, and Tilly turns toward the kitchen. Greta follows one step behind.

“Hunka hunka, yeah?” she mutters in an undertone, and Tilly decides to ignore that particular statement. Forever.

She makes a show of untwisting the cap off the bottle of tequila, pours out a healthy amount into the bottom of two Disney princess cups. Tilly hates the cups. They’re gaudy and what one might find in a home with children. But Niall had seen them on the shelf at Goodwill when they needed to replace the recliner, and he spent the entire time begging for them. Against her better judgement, Tilly had caved and dumped them into the basket.

That should have been the sign that living with Niall wasn’t going to work out.

Tilly passes over the cup with Ariel’s face printed, large and prominent, on the side. “So how did you convince him to get his chest waxed?”

“Wasn’t that hard, honestly.” She swallows the liquor and wiggles her cup for more. “I told him it was an option of me spending ages shaving and trying not to cut off his nipples, or going to get his chest professionally waxed. He chose the less adventurous path.”

Tilly finishes her own shot then heads back to the living room while Greta pours more liquor into the cups for the guys. Once they’ve had their fill of pre-gaming, the quartet makes sure they have their IDs and respective keys; the last thing any of them want is to go home in the morning, hungover and desperate for greasy food and sleep, only to find themselves locked out. Niall’s already lost four keys, and Tilly really doesn’t want to pay another hundred dollars to get a new replacement.


“Why am I even rooming with you?” she asks suddenly, and Niall stares, wide-eyed, at her. Tilly shakes her head. “Never mind. So what’s the plan?”

Liam sets out the schedule for the evening - taking an Uber to the usual neighbourhood furthest from Louis’s, then working their way through surrounding suburbs until they reach his. After that, whatever they do is purely up to the Gods of Alcohol and Good Times. Tilly stifles a giggle when Greta nearly falls on her face as she rushes down the steps to the car waiting for them.

“Hi, who are you here for?” Greta asks, ducking down to speak to the driver through the passenger window.

“Uh, someone named Greta Kennedy. I’m Noah.”

“Guys, he’s not a serial killer!”

Noah gives an uneasy smile but doesn’t say anything as the foursome piles into the vehicle. Tilly tries her best to ignore the warm press of Niall’s arm against hers, the scent of cocoa butter on his skin, the droplet of fake-sweat that slides along the plane of his chest. But it’s harder than it has any right to be. She turns her face to the window, staring out at the buildings they pass, and reminds herself that Niall is nothing more than her best friend.

She doesn’t believe herself.

This is definitely a sign that living with Niall isn’t going to work out.

Moving in with him had only been borne of a desperation to not be homeless. The people she lived with in the off-campus house had been… passive-aggressive at best, downright catty at worst. By the end of the first year, Tilly was barely hanging onto her sanity. All any of them did was fight amongst each other, and she bore witness to a multitude of wrongdoings simply to spite one another.

When they all agreed during a screaming match to not room again the following year, Tilly had gone home with her tail tucked between her legs and tried her best to find a more suitable living arrangement.

Greta already had a dorm-mate, so bunking with her was out of the question. Liam, Zayn, and Harry were living together in a one-room just at the edge of campus. Louis lived with his family, and Tilly didn’t feel right even asking him. Niall had opted for a room in the university’s dorms, and he got along swimmingly with his roommate.

But Tilly had called him up the week before the next year started, panicking because she still hadn’t figured out where she would live. It was far too late to try to find space in the dorms, and she couldn’t afford an off-campus flat by herself. Niall had promised she’d be fine then, within the span of a heartbeat, suggested they live together.

“We could afford it if we split the cost,” he’d said, and she could see the nonchalant shrug so easily in her mind. “And besides, this way, you don’t have to live with awful people.”

Tilly had giggled, the sound airy with her relief, even as she quipped, “I dunno, Niall, you’re pretty awful.”

But that was that. Tilly had gone back to campus and into her new flat. It was surprising that he had managed to find one on such short notice, though she certainly hasn’t complained about it. It meant being able to stay in uni and not having to live with her parents any more.

Tilly is yanked from her reverie by the click of a seatbelt unbuckling, and she looks around to see that the car has come to a stop. She thanks Noah then follows her friends from the car. The others are already waiting for them on the corner, and Greta loops her arms around Tilly’s neck, drags her down the street. A bitter wind rips around them, goosebumps bursting to life on Tilly’s arms. She shivers and snuggles closer to her friend.

It isn’t a full two hours later that the group calls it quits - or, rather, Harry starts complaining that he’s freezing in his Princess Leia costume. Liam reminds the rest of them that they’ve a warm house and enough liquor to stock a shop waiting for them. So they finish up the last couple of houses, laughing when the homeowners cast dubious glances at the group of young adults in costume.

Tilly can’t blame them. There’s something unexpected and odd about seven twenty-somethings dressed as Barney and Betty Rubble, Wilma Flintstone, Brendan Fraser’s version of George of the Jungle, a scantily-clad space princess, Batman, and - surprisingly enough - a sexy nurse. The more shocking thing is that Zayn can really work the skintight, short outfit; high heels; and long, blonde wig. Greta calls out an exuberant thanks as they make their way down the block, back to Louis’s SUV.

“Keep your heads down, Betty and Wilma,” he warns in the caped vigilante’s signature raspy voice, and Tilly groans.

“Why do I have to sit on a lap?”

Greta leans over from where she’s sat on Liam’s lap in the backseat, groaning and waving a hand. “Why do you have to complain so much? Just get in the damn car so we can go get drunk.”

“I hate sitting on laps,” whines Tilly even as she obeys.

Niall lets out a soft oof when she drops clumsily onto his thighs, and she rolls her eyes as his laughter brushes across the back of her neck. With a sigh, she shifts until she’s more comfortable, leans back against his chest. His arms come up to wrap around her waist, and Louis grins with a quick wink then closes the door.

Now that she’s so close, scarcely an inch between their bodies, Tilly nearly chokes on her tongue. She can smell the cocoa butter, his deodorant, and mint toothpaste, no matter how she turns her head. Harry glances back to make sure everyone is situated and that Liam and Niall are appropriately hidden behind Tilly and Greta. Greta smacks the ceiling.

“Get a move on, Tomlinson! I have tequila calling my name!”

Safe. Secure. Right. It shouldn’t be this comfortable, this familiar, to be held in Niall’s lap like this, but it is. Tilly should have known this would happen. Too often, she’s found herself wondering why none of her dates and relationships seem to work out, why the guys invariably cease any communication. It’s only late at night, when she stares up at the ceiling and waits for sleep, that it becomes apparent.

Their smiles never sent her heart racing, and their hands weren’t gentle enough on her back when she was stressed and needing reassurance.

None of them had eyes so blue and clear, she could lose herself with abandon.

None of them - not even Paul - had stayed up with her through pre-exams studying and post-finals waiting games.

None of them had given her their full, undivided attention as she rambled about the silly things that came into her mind.

None of them encouraged her to chase her dreams and do what she was passionate about, telling her it was unfeasible to not take the practical route.

None of them had held her tightly in their arms even as she forced herself to watch the horror film on the television, instead choosing to tease her mercilessly about her fear.

And the harder she tries to pretend otherwise, the harder it is to ignore the glaring truth:

Everything always comes back to Niall.

Niall is the one who sat with her during the endless hours of studying, quizzing her over the lessons and plying her with wine when she wanted to scream.

Niall is the one who lets her cuddle into his side, bury her face in his chest, during every horror marathon without a word.

Niall is the one who listens to every errant thought that pops into her head, no matter how late it is.

Niall is the one who searches for her when she inevitably disappears from the Halloween parties and watches sunrises with her when she can’t sleep and makes wishes with her on faraway stars as if they’re children and wishes do come true.

Niall is the one Tilly is in love with, and if the last two years of living with him hasn’t changed that, then how could any other man do it?

Thankfully, Louis comes to a stop at the end of the long, winding driveway within twenty minutes, and Tilly is the first one out of the car. Her skins prickles in the cold air, a sharp contrast to the heat she can still feel against her back. Shivering slightly, she heads toward the front door on unsteady knees while the others clamber out of the car,

“Where is everyone?” questions Harry as Louis unlocks the door.

“My parents took the kids up to the cabin for the week.”

“Okay, but what about the party?”

Louis shrugs; something tells Tilly this year is going to be different than usual. “The youngest of us is twenty-four. We’ve all graduated and gotten adult jobs. Think it’s about time we grow up and stop having keg-stand competitions with people we couldn’t care less about, don’t you?”

Tilly exchanges a look with Greta but stays quiet. If Louis doesn’t want hundreds of people in his house, drinking the alcohol he and his parents bought, then he can cancel the annual party without having to hear his friends complain. She pulls her sandals off her feet, sets the shoes on the rack, then pads through the foyer to the kitchen. Zayn follows her, and they get to work gathering up bottles and glasses.

If she’s being honest, Tilly is thankful that Louis didn’t follow tradition this year. Ever since someone overheard Greta scolding her for not being in the partying mood a few years ago, Tilly has had to deal with people asking if she’s stopped hating Halloween yet. All Tilly has ever wanted was to spend with her friends the one night a year that all seven of them take off work, trick-or-treating (because they certainly would never let the chance of free candy slip by) and have a few drinks together. The horror films could be skipped, but all in all, this is the only way Tilly can tolerate this stupid, inconsequential holiday.

And now she finally has the opportunity to pretend it’s just another day, even if they are all in costumes.

She grabs as many bottles of liquor as she can hold and makes her way to the theatre room. It’s relatively new, a room that used to hold Louis’s stepfather’s expansive library, but Mark had consolidated his collection of books and relocated them to his study upstairs. Louis and his sisters had put their brains together to come up with a way to convince their parents to install a theatre system, and their wish had come true by that Christmas. If one is going to watch gruesome flick after gruesome flick, Louis’s house is the best place for it.

“When was the last time we did something like this?” Greta asks as she helps Tilly place the alcohol on the cabinet to the side. “I mean, all of us together.”

Liam frowns, and Tilly imagines wheels turning rapidly in his brain. “It’s been... close to a year, I think. New Years.”

“I was home for New Years,” counters Tilly with a shake of her head.

“No, you were here.”

No, because I was in Newark with my parents, and I sent Greta a picture of the storm. Then she said ‘tough luck, buttercup, wish you were here’ and sent a selfie of you lot watching Terminator.”

Greta has the decency to smile sheepishly, though she doesn’t apologise. Tilly doesn’t expect her to - there isn’t anything to really say ‘sorry’ for. Each of them has had to miss out on hang-outs, it’s practically the Law of Adulthood: An inability to congregate with friends is going to be a common theme. They make up for it in time, so it isn’t a huge deal.

Whether it’s coincidence or just the others knowing who she’s most comfortable hiding against, Tilly ends up on the loveseat with Niall, and she passes over the glass of whisky and soda before curling her feet under her. His arm comes up to rest behind her shoulders, his face never turning from the screen. Tilly catches Louis staring at them with a sly smile on his face, but then he winks and reaches for the remote.

“Oh, hell no.”

Of course he would have queued up Chucky, the one film that she detests most. She can deal with the gratuitous murdering done by Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger, but something about a homicidal doll just… freaks her out. She can’t deal with it.

And Louis knows it as well as he knows her hatred of Halloween as a whole. Everyone in this room knows it. But here they are, watching the opening scene to Chucky. Tilly swallows the entirety of her drink in one go then crosses the room to grab the whisky off the cabinet.

If she has to be here for this film, she might as well drink enough that she doesn’t remember it.

Unfortunately, Niall takes away the bottle after she’s swallowed another four shots-worth of Jack. The warning look he sends her tells her not to argue, so she sighs and lets the subject drop. He’s courteous enough to let her use his lap as a pillow.

One film turns to two turns to four. By the time Final Destination comes to an end, Tilly is beyond ready to end the horror marathon. Niall had so graciously allowed her to have another glass of whisky and soda. And to shift so that her legs were thrown over his, her head on his shoulder, his arm over her waist.

It certainly wasn’t enough to distract her from the gore and psychological thrillers on the screen - or the way his fingers had slid up and down her arm, soft as a feather. They were a small comfort, but ultimately, the contact just reminded her that this is all she is ever going to get with him.

Friendship and cuddles that mean far more to her than they do to him.

Tilly swallows thickly at the thought and turns her head to stare at him. Niall must feel the weight of her gaze; he glances at her, raising a brow. She forces a smile and looks around at their friends. None of them seem to have noticed the position she and Niall are in, and if they have, they are either too tired or drunk to care. It isn’t the first time she’s ever snuggled against Niall, and it certainly won’t be the last.

She hesitates then slides a finger gently down his torso, from his collarbone to his navel and back up again. Nothing but smooth skin under her fingertips, slightly sticky from whatever Greta used to make synthetic sweat. She frowns at how unfamiliar it is.

“I don’t like it.”

Niall rolls his eyes and helps her rise to her feet, hands wrapping around her waist to steady her. She isn’t drunk - the alcohol is all but gone from her system now - but she doesn’t mention it. Saying anything would only remove the possibility of him touching her.

“I don’t think you get a say in my chest hair,” he chuckles as he stands.

“I don’t think - oh, shut up.”

Everyone shuffles toward the stairs, Greta being supported by both Liam and an equally-inebriated Zayn. Tilly stifles a giggle when Liam catches his girlfriend, scoops her into his arms, and carries her up the steps. Louis waves tiredly before shutting his bedroom door behind him, and Zayn and Harry make their way to one of the guest bedrooms.

“Psst, Nialler,” Greta hisses, lifting her head from where it’s been dangling over Liam’s arm. “No takin’ ‘vantage of m’ best fren.”

Tilly stumbles to a stop at Greta’s words, staring between her and Niall for a moment. Liam shrugs at her confusion then disappears into the room. His voice comes through the door, but Tilly can’t make out what he’s saying.

“What’s she talking about?” she asks Niall. If she thought he’d answer honestly, she’s thought wrong. All he does is shake his head.

“She’s drunk, Mattie.”

She trails after him to the bathroom, wanting to argue but knowing better. Niall is horrible with secrets - unless they’re his own. They don’t speak any more, moving in tandem to brush their teeth, then he steps out into the hall so she can use the toilet without an audience. After washing her hands, she grabs a washcloth and wipes away the tackiness on her arms, left there by Niall’s chest.

Between her exhaustion and not paying attention, she manages to trip over the seam binder as she exits the bathroom, stumbling straight into Niall’s arms. He huffs out a laugh and leads her to the bedroom, tugging off his wig on the way.

This is her favourite room of the entire house. Better than even the theatre room. Nestled in the back corner of the house, the window provides an unobstructed view of the yard, the trees that line the property, and - just beyond - the lake that they’ve all spent time splashing around in. She’d helped paint the pastel blue walls, now dotted with photographs and framed vinyl records.

She drops to sit on the bed, and Niall carefully peels the wig off her head. He cards his fingers through her hair, ruffling it so it no longer lays plastered to her skull. Tilly closes her eyes and leans into the touch, warm and gentle and so much of what she wants yet not enough.

“Ah, there y’are.”

“Why are you so nice to me?”

The words were never meant to come out. She grits her teeth to prevent any more from coming, and Niall frowns then moves to sit next to her. He pulls her into his side.

“You’re my best friend. Why wouldn’t I be nice to you?”

“You’re just saying that ‘cause we live together,” she scoffs - there’s no doubt that he’s closest to Harry.

“No, we live together because of it.”

“I love you,” she sighs as she flops backwards onto the mattress. “Think Tommo’s family would be upset if I moved in? Because this bed is so amazing, I wanna marry it. Can you marry a bed?”

Only silence meets her declaration, and Tilly’s lips tug downward at the corner before she lifts her head. Niall is staring at her, expression unreadable. Her heart starts racing the longer he stares, the longer he’s quiet, the longer she can’t figure out what he’s thinking. She whispers his name, cocks her head, but all he does is shake his own head and stand up.

“We should get to sleep. C’mon.”

Tilly resists the urge to demand clarification. She knows it’s best to leave him alone when he gets like this, all broody and indecipherable. So she merely follows his lead, lying down once he’s pulled the blankets back.

“Where are you going?”

He glances at her over his shoulder, his hand on the doorknob. “I’ll be back, I promise.”

She can’t say with complete certainty whether he actually says it or not, though she is almost a hundred percent sure that he does. That she hears him mutter something about having no other choice but to share a bed with her tonight. Tears prick at her eyes, and she buries her face against the pillow.

He may say that she’s his best friend, but he’s truly hers. Even Greta doesn’t know everything about Tilly like he does. So hearing him imply that he’d rather be anywhere else but here cuts her deeply.

A small, traitorous voice in her mind whispers that she should have run a long time ago. She should have refused to move in with him, should have continued living with her parents. She should have never fallen in love with him.

But she did, and now Tilly has to deal with the consequences. She could handle the dates he went on, considering she went out with others guys. She could even deal with the relationships and constant presence of whatever girlfriend he had at the time. She was able to smother her jealousy and be a friend.

This, though? Knowing that he’s only sharing a bed with her because the others are full-up? This pain isn’t something she can swallow down and hide.

The door creaks quietly, the latch engaging with a click, and the lights go out with a soft hum. Tilly tries - god, does she try - but she can’t stop crying. The bed dips next to her, and strong arms tug her toward the solid breadth of Niall’s chest.

“I don’t think you should have had whisky tonight,” he murmurs, rubbing her back gently even as she shakes her head. “You always get emotional when you drink whisky.”

“Not emotional,” she protests.

“Then why are you crying?”

“Because you -” She stops suddenly, closes her mouth with a clack of teeth. “Never mind.”

“Talk to me, Mattie.”

“No, just drop it.”

He doesn’t release her; in fact, his hold on her tightens, and she eventually gives up on trying to get away. With a sigh, she relaxes and sniffs back even more tears. He nudges her chin up, as if it will allow him to see her face more clearly through the dim moonlight from the windows.

“What happened? What did I do? Matilda, talk to me.”

The fact that he’s used her given name startles her. He hasn’t called her Matilda since they first met four years ago, not even when he’s gotten upset with her. She’s always been “Mattie” to him. It started because he wanted to call her something no one else does, and now... it’s all he calls her. “Tilly” is used when he’s irritated, and “Dum-Dum” whenever he wants to make her giggle through her heartbreak.

Never Matilda.

Tilly can’t speak. Her stomach clenches tightly, skin growing cold, when he lets go of her. Niall rolls over to face the wall, away from her, and she sniffles as she realises he’s angry, for angrier with her then he has ever been before. The distance between them could span the lake outside, the ocean, continents and galaxies and everything between.

“I don’t know what I did,” he says quietly; Tilly’s breath hitches at how lost he sounds, “but whatever it was, I’m sorry.”

Looking back, she is going to blame the liquor from earlier, the late hour, anything but the fact that this is what she’s been so desperate to do for so long. Her hand shakes, tension bleeding throughout her entire being, and she curls her fingers around his bicep. He lets her pull on him until he lies on his back, but he doesn’t meet her eye. Instead, he stares at the ceiling.

Tilly swallows past the lump in her throat, closes her eyes. Her heart hammers beneath her ribs, and she searches wildly for a way to say this. The words won’t come, though. Not easily.

But they have to.

She has to confess like a sinner before God, or the rest of her life will be Hell. Halloween will be ruined even further, without her friends - without Niall - by her side. She’ll have to move out, sever all ties to these people she loves, if she lets this fester. She will die a lonely old woman with nothing but hatred for herself and this ridiculous holiday, knowing she’d had her chance but ran away from it.

Only speaking the truth can absolve her.

Niall exhales sharply, scrubs a hand over his face. “Just go to sleep, Tilly.”

“No. You’re annoyed with me.”

“I really don’t want to talk about this.”

“I do, though. I want to talk about this and everything else.”

“Tilly -”

“I’m in love with you.”

The room echoes with her words, but the silence coming from Niall is so much louder. Sighing, she presses the heels of her palms to her eyes and breathes as steadily as possible. Still, Niall doesn’t say anything.

The confession leaves a bitter taste on her tongue, coming with the knowledge that whatever happens now, things will never be the same. Tilly hesitates. Then, deciding since the friendship is fractured anyway, she throws caution to the wind.

“I’m in love with you. I have been for a while. And, and it sucks. I don’t want to be. I know, how wonderful for your self-esteem.” Her laugh is watery, wobbling, hysterical. “But you’re just… you’re amazing. You’ve been there for me through so much. Ever wonder why my dates and relationships never panned out?

“Because of you. I was subconsciously comparing them to you, and they all failed the test. Fuck, Niall, Paul was the closest to you, and even he failed. So, yeah, I’m in love with you, and I wish I wasn’t because you deserve so much more than I can give you, but I am. And now our friendship is most likely destroyed, and I don’t blame you if you want me to move out.”

He hasn’t spoken, hasn’t moved, since Tilly started talking, and he is just as silent and immobile when she finishes. She blows out a breath, carding her fingers through her hair, and clambers off the bed.

“I’ll just, uh, I’ll go see if Harry will switch places with me.”


Tilly turns at his voice, soft and broken in the dark, and the blankets rustle as he sits up. She waits for him to say something, anything, whatever could possibly fix this.

In lieu of answering, Niall reaches for her hand, and Tilly goes where he pulls her. The kiss is hard, demanding and sloppy and tasting of mint and whisky. Her head spins as her arms loop around his shoulders, and the world flip-flops when his hand skims along her side, rests on her hip.

“She meant that I wasn’t allowed to force my feelings onto you,” he whispers against her lips. “She didn’t want me to make you uncomfortable.”

Tilly giggles and shoves her hand through his hair. “That bitch. She knew how I feel about you.”

“Maybe she wanted you to use your big girl words.”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

Niall obliges - he does more than oblige. He dives back into the kiss with enthusiasm, hands sliding along her thighs until her short dress rucks up. His thumbs press into her skin, and Tilly knows that it isn’t the whisky she drank that’s causing the lightheadedness.

It’s this.

The heat of his kiss, his hands on her, the way he drinks in her noises like a man dying of thirst in the desert. The tension that sends tremors through her body as his hands push her dress up, up, over her head until she’s straddling his lap in nothing but her bra and panties. She squirms closer, swallowing down his groan.

“Why the Hell are - fuck, you do it.”

Tilly giggles but reaches behind her, twists the band of her bra until the clasps come undone. Niall curses under his breath as she lets the bra fall, and it’s all she can do to not cover herself again.

No one has ever looked at her like this, like she’s a highly-coveted masterpiece, the only one left in the world. No one has ever touched her, kissed her, been so damn close like this. Her fingertips trail along the expanse of his shoulders, his chest, and she frowns.

“I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t like this.”

It’s awkward, trying to remove his costume without removing herself from his lap, but she manages to tug the leopard-print loincloth down his legs. Niall flushes a deep red when she hums appreciatively under her breath. How he managed to hide the fact he’s not wearing underwear, she won’t ever figure out, but right now, her mind is on other things.

“What are you doing?”

“Yeah, like you’re actually complaining about the fact my tits are pressed against you,” she scoffs, softening the blow of her words with a gentle kiss. “Just, just give me a damn second.”

“One, one thousand. Oh, fuck.”

Tilly freezes, stares at him, as his cheeks turn a brighter pink. She files away his reaction to her pinching his nipple and continues searching for the box of condoms she knows is in the bedside drawer. Louis had given them to her the last time she and Niall shared a room. At the time, she’d been upset - did he know about her feelings for her best friend and was taking the piss out of that? Now, though, she’s never been so thankful for someone’s forethought.

Tilly swallows against the nerves that have settled in her belly, even while tearing open the package. “You realise that we can’t go back from this, right? If-if we do this, everything is gonna change.”

“Things changed when I realised I love you,” he promises, and that’s all it takes.

Vinnie was the best she’d had between the sheets. Sure, his technique was a bit sloppy, and he never quite hit the right spots. But he was enthusiastic, a quick learner, and eager to please. Even as good as he was, though, he pales in comparison to this.

As much as the friendship has been thrown out the window, it feels right to be here with Niall. As if she’s worked her entire life to reach this point. As if every mediocre, uneventful relationship has happened so she’d know what it means to love, actually love, and need another person.

What having a home in someone else is like.

Tilly wants to drag this out until all time ends with this right here. She wants to drown in all the sensations of loving and being loved by this man, the one who stole her heart almost seven years ago. She wants to die with the ghosts of his touch and gasps and moans imprinted in her memory.

But best-laid plans and all that.

Desire takes over, and Tilly loses all sense of time, of control. All that she knows is everything he’s giving to her and what she gives back. The world splinters and cracks, pieces collapsing around her, leaving behind only her heart held in the palm of Niall’s hands.

“Best Halloween ever,” Niall mutters as he flops to the mattress beside her, and Tilly has to agree.

Best Halloween ever, indeed.