Okay but where’s my fic of Niall taking this road trip to find himself, and he is, he’s figuring out who he is without One Direction for the first time since he was seventeen, and he’s enjoying himself–but then one day he finds himself at a souvenir stand, and there’s a postcard, and he thinks, almost out of the blue, that Zayn would like it. He hasn’t talked to Zayn in months, but there’s something about the foreign country, the peace Niall’s been feeling, that makes Niall buy it, then drop it in the mail. He only realizes later he didn’t even write anything on it.
He does later, though. Because he keeps sending them, postcards from everywhere he’s been, the ones he thinks Zayn will appreciate: beautiful vistas, weird artsy ones, stupid jokes. And he puts messages on some of of them. ‘Saw the cutest dog today’. ‘Climbed a mountain! It was beautiful.’ ‘Just tried alligator. You’d have hated it’. Silly things. Little things. Whatever comes to mind, never the big important things–the ‘I wish I could have made you happy’. the ‘I’m so proud of what you’re doing, I always knew you could.’ the ‘I miss you do you miss me?’ He doesn’t even know if Zayn’s getting them, or what he’s doing with them if he is–there’s certainly no reaching out from Zayn, but it’s not like Zayn could mail something back, and Niall had to change his number from the last one Zayn had–but he likes sending them. Likes feeling that bit of connection, even if it’s one sided.
Then he ends up in LA, in his circuit of the world, and he stops by and sees Harry and everyone else in LA, and out of habit, and maybe a bit of hope, he grabs a Hollywood postcard. He should send it, it’d be easy, but maybe he’s masochistic, maybe he wants to see how Zayn’s doing, so he goes to his house. He only means to slip it under the door (or in the mailbox by the gate, i don’t know how rich people live), but he’s just about to when the door opens, and Zayn’s there, smiling. It’s a shock and it’s not a shock at all, because Zayn is still Zayn, it’s still the smile he only gave to Niall, and Niall’s heart does the same thump-twist that it always did, when Zayn smiled at him like that.
“Was wondering when you’d make your way to California,” Zayn drawls, and takes the postcard out of Niall’s grasp. “Have a good trip?” he adds, and holds the door open for Niall to come in.
It turns out there’s a whole wall, Niall’s postcards tacked against it in something like a map, a collage of the places Niall was, his thoughts, his journey.
“Liked keeping track of you,” Zayn says, with a shrug and a sheepish smile. “Liked feeling like I was a bit along for the ride.”
A year ago, Niall wouldn’t have known what to say, was too lost in the face of everything that was his world collapsing–but he knows who he is now, he’s seen the world with One Direction and without it, and he knows that either way, he likes it best here, with Zayn next to him, smiling soft and hopeful. “You’ll have to come with me properly next time,” Niall tells him, and Niall’s seen the world twice over and nothing will ever be as beautiful as the smile Zayn gives him.