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want it to be you and I forever

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*

It’s late and Nick’s dead tired.

Between trying to keep up with work and then Henry’s show over the weekend plus another one today it’s been a long few days. He’s a proper grown up now, is the thing, with a real job and a posh flat and an actual living pet even. Add in trying to fit both Pixie and Dave’s birthday parties into the same night, and Nick’s reminded just how young he’s not anymore.

Plus, there’s the fact that he’s got Harry back for a few days, and well. Not that Nick would ever complain but having Harry added into the equation always makes things a bit more chaotic.

They’re resting now, Nick on one end of the sofa and Harry on the other. Harry’s got his socked feet resting on the edge of Nick’s coffee table. He’s got his white dress shirt open and the top button of his trousers undone, and he’s balancing a near full glass of merlot on his chest. Nick stares at him for a second before looking away. If he thinks about the fact that Harry can apparently balance an entire cocktail on just his abdominals he might not think of anything else ever again.

“All right?” Nick gently nudges Harry’s thigh with his toes.

Harry nods and takes a sip of his wine before placing the glass on the side table. He rolls his head towards Nick, hair splayed against the back of the cushions. “Yeah. Tired.”

“Well that’s what you get living the life of a super famous popstar,” Nick teases. Harry smiles. Nick watches as Harry’s eyes fall slowly shut, his chest rising and falling with steady breaths. “And you’re off to where again tomorrow?”

“LA,” Harry says quietly. “Meeting up with Johnny to get some writing done.”

“You know, you could take a day off,” Nick says. Harry’s lips quirk but his eyes stay closed. “It’s not against the law for you to take a holiday. No one’s seen any of your lot for weeks except you. Zayn’s probably in an underground bunker by now.”

Harry laughs at that and rolls so he’s lying on his side, head still pressed against the sofa cushions. He scoots forward so he’s closer to Nick and Nick turns, stretches his legs out so his toes are shoved under Harry’s thigh. “Zayn’s probably not let Perrie out of his sight from the second she got back to the UK,” Harry says.

“Well would you?” Nick asks. “I mean, in an alternate universe where you actually dated and had a girlfriend instead of hanging around old men like myself all day,” Nick says. Harry tosses a pillow at Nick’s head. Nick catches it and puts it behind his neck and Harry rolls his eyes.

Fiancee,” Harry corrects and oh Christ, Nick had forgotten about that. It’s just so odd to think about someone so much younger than him getting married. Not that he doesn’t like Perrie and Zayn - they’re fabulous, actually - but just the idea of it, of finding someone you love that much that you think: Yes. I’m going to do it. I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you. Well that’s...that’s a lot.

Nick whistles softly. “Zayn Malik is getting married,” he says quietly. “Ssh, listen closely. You hear that?” Harry quirks an eyebrow at him, and Nick grins. “That’s the sound of one billion of your fans weeping at the fact that Zayn’s nearly off the market.”

“Oh god,” Harry sighs. “You’re really a knob, you know that?”

Nick beams. He does know that, actually. It’s one of his life’s greatest accomplishments.

“And anyway,” Harry continues, “I think it’s sweet. Zayn and Pezza are...I don’t know. They’re just meant for this, you know? Meant for each other I mean.”

“God, Harry Styles, you are such a sap.”

“No! I mean…” Harry trails off and sits up. He reaches behind him for his wine and drains the glass before blinking at Nick seriously. “Like this is all great - the touring and the band and singing and all - but like, I think Zayn’s got it figured out, you know?”

“What?” Nick says, lips curled in a smirk. “Make sure to fall in love with a member of Little Mix? ‘M’afraid that’s only going to work for three other lads, Hazza.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Falling in love in general,” Harry says, sounding exasperated. “Finding someone to be with who you really care about. The rest of this is great, but that’s...that’s what matters.”

Nick shrugs. He’s sure Harry’s right, but he’s also sure that this is a conversation better to be had after a good night’s sleep with some caffeine slipping through his veins and not after five straight days of partying and living on nothing but red wine and crackers.

“If you say so,” Nick says.

Harry frowns. “What?”

“Well I mean, look around you.” Nick gestures to the inside of his flat, nodding over at Puppy who’s snoring with her nose stuffed into the corner of her dog bed. “The closest I’ve come to committing to anything was getting a dog and even still I wound up calling her Puppy because I didn’t have anyone else around to tell me not to.”

“That is a truly terrible name,” Harry says darkly. “She’s so cute too; have you thought about changing it?”

Nick narrows his eyes. “No, Harold, and anyway, that’s not the point.” Harry wrinkles his eyebrows and leans his elbow into the sofa, resting his head in the palm of his hand. “It’s just...marriage is a big thing,” Nick finally says. He’s not expressing himself right, he knows. If the way Harry is smirking at him is any indication, Harry knows it too. “Ugh. You’re terrible.”

Harry laughs and shuffles over so he’s pressed all against Nick’s side. Nick curls an arm around Harry’s shoulders and plays with the ends of his hair, settling back so Harry can toss his legs onto Nick’s lap.

He’s missed Harry, is the thing. Nick went from having Harry around day and night for weeks on end to almost nothing for close to eight months. If he’s being a bit clingy tonight then so be it. Harry hardly seems to mind.

“Do you ever think about it?” Harry asks quietly.

Nick looks down at the top of Harry’s head and pulls on his hair. “Think about what?”

“Doing it all,” Harry says. “Finding someone. Getting married.”

Nick thinks for a second, then, “I do, yeah. Of course.”

“Sometimes I think…” Harry says softly. He’s quiet after that but Nick waits him out. He’s known Harry long enough to be able to navigate through the fits and starts of having a conversation with him. “I think it’d be hard,” Harry says, “To find someone, you know? Someone that’s genuine. Someone that I know is there just for me no matter what.”

It’s not the first time Harry’s said something like this to Nick so Nick knows it’s something Harry thinks about. He’s really sensitive, is the thing, and he thinks about things far too much. Nick would take the piss but it’s late and they’re both tired and there’s something about the night, something about the quiet or the late hour that has Nick feeling bold. “I’m sure you won’t have a problem, Harry,” is what Nick finally settles on saying. “You’re a very easy person to love.”

Harry looks up at Nick and beams. “Thanks.”

He watches Nick for another minute, and then he’s licking his lips and sitting up straight, eyes twinkling and oh. Oh no. Nick’s seen that look on Harry’s face before. Nothing good ever comes from that look.

“Oh god,” Nick says. “What?”

“What!”

“You,” Nick says, waving his hand in the air. “What’s going on with you? Why do you have that face on?”

“What face?” Harry blinks. He’s still grinning though, and that’s never to be trusted. “I’ve not got a face on.”

“You do so.”

“I don’t.”

“You do.”

“I don’t,” Harry insists, but before Nick can interrupt him this time he adds, “But if I did, it would just mean that I’ve come up with the best plan pretty much ever.”

“Mmhmm.” Nick stands up from the couch and starts collecting their glasses and the empty bottle of wine. It was a pretty large bottle and it’s completely empty now. This would probably explain whatever horrid idea Harry’s cooked up in his brain. “Somehow I doubt that.”

“I think we should make a pact,” Harry says, ignoring that way Nick’s cleaning up and paying no attention to him whatsoever. Nick glances at the clock and cringes. How in the hell did it get so late? “A marriage pact.”

Nick actually stops at that. “A marriage pact.”

“Yeah, like, for the two of us. What do you think?” Harry’s actually managing to sound like this is a sane plan. Nick would be impressed if he weren’t so worried for Harry’s mental state at the moment.

“I think you’ve gone mad,” Nick says calmly. He turns off the lights and digs out the spare blankets and a pillow from the cupboard.

“But don’t you think it’s a good idea?”

Nick stop and blinks. “A good idea,” he says flatly. “You think we - as in you and me - should make a pact to get married and that’s your good idea.”

Harry beams. “So you agree then?”

“Oh my god, Harry, no! You’re insane!” Nick tosses the pillow he’s holding at Harry’s face. Harry ignores him and stands up. He takes off his watch and strips off everything he’s wearing except his boxers, tossing it into a messy pile on the floor. Nick sighs and picks everything up, folding it neatly and placing the stack on the coffee table.

“I think it’s perfect,” Harry says, grinning widely. “You want to get married one day--”

“Yes, one day.”

“And I want to get married one day--”

“In the future, Harold!”

“So we make a deal, yeah? If neither of us are married by what, the time we turn thirty? Then we get married to each other,” Harry says simply.

Nick stares. He’s waiting for the punchline or for Harry to yell gotcha! and let Nick know this was all just a big joke of an idea. He keeps waiting though, and it doesn’t happen.

“So stay single until we turn thirty,” Nick says calmly. “And then if we’re thirty and not with anyone we marry each other.”

“Right.”

“Like...like in one of those terrible Mills and Boon novels my mum reads.”

Yes,” Harry says and grins. “Exactly.”

Nick snorts. “Right. So this is it then, the moment I’ve been waiting for all my life.” He places a hand over his chest and flutters his eyelashes. “Do you, Harry Styles, take me, Nick Grimshaw to be your husband of sorts at some vague point in the distant future.”

“Yes,” Harry says proudly. “I do.”

“You’re a complete lemon.” Nick walks into the kitchen and shuts off the rest of the lights.

“I’m planning ahead,” Harry calls out. Nick glances over his shoulder to see Harry stand up from the couch, completely starkers with his hair falling loose around his face. Nick has had a lot of insane nights in his life, but this one is currently topping the list. “If you’re not with someone when you turn thirty,” Harry says, “Then you’re mine.”

“When you turn thirty, Harold,” Nick says.

Harry ignores him and starts digging through the pockets of his discarded jeans. He finally emerges with his mobile and a triumphant Aha!. “You’ve got an important call to make?” Nick asks dryly.

“We’ve got to seal the deal,” Harry says. He beams at Nick and fumbles with the mobile in his left hand as he holds out his right. Nick pushes the hair back from his face and shakes his head. Harry wiggles his fingers and huffs.

“Are we actually shaking on this?” Nick asks.

“Yes, and I’m taking a picture. For proof,” Harry explains.

Nick rolls his eyes but he takes Harry’s hand when it’s shoved at him. Harry’s fingers close tightly around Nick’s and Nick’s heart beats wildly against his chest. Foolish, Nick thinks to himself. This whole idea is insane.

Harry snaps the picture, then fiddles with the buttons for a second before holding it up for Nick to see.

On the screen in the two inch box is a blurry Instagram photo of their hands curled together, Nick’s bracelets clear just on the edge of the picture. You can see the throw rug under them and the corner of his coffee table, the telly remote just about to fall off the edge.

Harry’s titled the picture Shakestagram and when he hits refresh Nick sees it’s already been retweeted twelve thousand times.

Christ.

“Shakestagram,” Nick mutters. Harry just smiles and laughs. “Just like Mills and Boon did it.”

“Just like,” Harry agrees.

*

Nick’s sat outside in his garden, sipping on a margarita and listening to Pixie and Aimee chattering to the left of him and Ian and Matt arguing over the grill on his right. Gels is around somewhere and so are Henry and Fiona and Sadie, Nick’s fairly sure. He’d sent Collette into the flat a while ago to get some more drinks from the kitchen, and just as he wonders where his dog has gone, Puppy bounds over and jumps into his lap, Buster and Thurston hot on her heels.

“Well hello there, puppy love,” Nick says and drops his fingers against the back of Puppy’s neck to scratch. “Come to say happy birthday to daddy again?”

Puppy woofs and thumps her tail excitedly against Nick’s thigh. He scratches her a little more before dropping his hand to the arm of the garden chair he’s sat in. The last time he got Puppy too excited with neck scratches, she weed on his leg and Nick’s got not that many plans for the rest of his birthday afternoon, but hiding in his flat and trying to clean dog piss from his shorts is definitely not on the list.

“Oi,” Aimee says and lobs one of Puppy’s chew toys at Nick’s head. Nick catches it in his hand and glares at her. It’s his birthday for god’s sake. “Are we eating soon?”

“I don’t know,” Nick says. He nods toward the grill and smirks. “Why don’t you see if you’re better half has any idea what he’s doing with his sausage over there.”

Aimee narrows her eyes. “I know it’s your birthday but stop talking about my boyfriend’s sausage.”

“Hello!” Ian shouts out, waving his arms over his head. “I’m right here! No need to keep talking about my sausage!”

“Who’s talking about Ian’s sausage?” The screen door bangs open and Nick whips his head around when he hears Harry’s voice.

“Haz! You’re here!”

“And just in time for sausage talk I see,” Harry says, lips curving up into a slow smirk. He’s got on a ripped white t-shirt with the sleeves pulled up over his shoulders and a ratty red bandana tied around his head. Nick thinks the bandana was possibly a shirt of his own in the past. He’s not going to look too hard because he doesn’t want to have to kill Harry on his birthday. That would definitely put a damper on the rest of the afternoon.

“That’s like your own personal super power, innit?” Nick nearly giggles as Harry frowns at him before dropping down next to Nick on the bench. “Showing up to a conversation in time for sausage talk?” Puppy leans over and sniffs at Harry’s hand before sneezing and jumping off Nick’s lap to chase Buster and Thurston around the back half of the garden.

“Rude,” Harry says. He shakes his head and tsks softly. “Rude, rude, rude. Now I’m not sure if I want to give you your birthday present.”

Nick sits up and wiggles his fingers. Harry laughs and shoves at Nick’s shoulder and Nick pretends to fall backwards just to make Harry’s eyes go wide and worried.

“Shit, Nick, are you all right?” Harry grabs at Nick’s arm and pulls him upright. From the corner of his eye, Nick can see Aimee rolling her eyes and Pixie pretending to gag as she watches the both of them. Nick flips them off and turns back to Harry, grinning widely.

“‘M’fine, Harry. Just messing around.”

Harry’s mouth tips down into a frown. “Twat.”

Birthday,” Nick reminds him. “You’ve still got to be nice to me. For the rest of the day and night even.”

“It’s literally the longest day in the entire year,” Nick hears Collette mutter as she comes into the garden, the back door to the flat banging shut behind her. Gels is with her and she agrees, miming slitting her throat and hanging herself from an invisible noose.

Nick’s friends are the actual worst.

“So, erm, anyway!” Harry says loudly. He claps his hands on his thighs and turns to Nick excitedly. Nick feels himself beaming at Harry’s smiling face. He’s fairly sure he looks like a knob but fuck it: it’s his birthday. Harry fumbles in the back pocket of his shorts before pulling out a card that’s gone bent at the edges.

“Lovely,” Nick says when Harry hands it to him. “A card shaped to the curve of Harry Styles’ arse. Quick, someone, let’s get this on ebay and sell it for a trillion pounds. Happy birthday to me.”

“Ha ha ha,” Harry says. He’s stood up now and is kind of spastically motioning everyone else to gather around them, whispering frantically in Pixie’s ear when she passes by. Pixie stops dead in her tracks, eye bulging and her mouth frozen in a small O. Nick fiddles with the card and wonders what the hell Harry’s said to make her look at him that way.

“So,” Harry calls out. His voice is pitched loud enough to be heard over the chatter of the rest of the group. Nick sees Pixie talking animatedly into Aimee’s ear and then Aimee’s eyes bulging wide as she stares at Nick.

“Erm,” Harry continues, “I’ve got a bit of an announcement it seems.”

Nick looks up at him as he slides his fingers under the edge of the card’s envelope. Harry looks smug, almost. He’s smirking slowly and tugging at the hair sticking out of the back of his headband. When Nick catches Harry’s eyes, he even wiggles his eyebrows a bit. “You see, a few months back Nick and I sort of made a pact,” Harry continues, just as Nick slides the card out of the envelope and it opens, a picture fluttering to the ground and Nick’s heart stopping dead in his chest.

“Oh my god,” Nick mutters, because Harry is insane.

“See, what happened was, Nick and I were both sitting around one night talking about one thing or another, and then things happened and blah blah blah. Anyway, we both said that we were going to wait until we were thirty and if neither of us were tied down by then we’d get married ourselves,” Harry says, eyes twinkling with mirth. “So. Well. Here we are.”

Everyone’s gone quiet, but then Ian bursts out laughing, loud enough to startle the birds perched in the branches in the trees.

“Oi, Harry, that’s a good one. I wonder what those things were that happened that night, eh?” Ian says then pauses. “Or actually wait, I don’t want to wonder. Oh God, now I can’t stop thinking about it. Ah! It’s burning itself into my brain - help!” He slaps a hand over his eyes and shakes his head back and forth. “Someone, please!”

Nick hears Matt laughing and then Gels and Henry giggling and whispering to each other. Nick can’t look at them though, all he can see is the printed out picture of both of their hands which has fluttered to the ground and the inside of the card he’s holding which Harry’s written out to say: Time for me to make an honest man out of you.

“My god, you’ll certainly do anything to take the piss out of someone, won’t you, Haz,” Nick says. Harry’s smile twitches just a bit, but then he beams even wider and shrugs. “Anyway, we said when you were thirty,” Nick adds. It’s the only thing he can think of saying, but fuck it if he’s not going to call Harry out on a technicality. He’s close to being convinced that Harry’s gone mad.

Harry shakes his head, lips quirking into a grin. “Noooo. You said that. I never agreed.”

“Right,” Nick mutters. He flaps the picture around in the air, passing it over to Aimee when she grabs for it and rolls his eyes. “Because I’m to believe Harry Styles is trying to propose to me in my back garden using a picture he took with his Instagram. Like this is a actual thing that’s happening to me right now. Ok.”

“I don’t know, Grimmy,” Aimee says, lips curving into a hot pink smirk. She fans herself with the picture before handing it back for Colette to coo over. “I mean, it’s a shakestagram. That’s pretty hardcore.”

“Exactly,” Harry says and beams. “I printed the picture of it and everything because I knew you’d try and back out.”

Henry wanders over and claps Harry on the shoulder. “Smart lad. Grimmy’s a right prick about forgetting deals and bets when he wants to be.”

“I’ve apologized about that night in Ibiza a thousand times,” Nick hisses at Henry grumpily. “Can you please get the fuck over it already?”

Henry just laughs and the rest of the lot seem to back off a bit, talking amongst themselves and pouring more cocktails. The moment of insanity has passed it seems, and Nick’s glad for it. Harry’s a sweet lad and a good mate. Nick can enjoy a bit of a prank even when it’s being played on him. It’s just the kind of bloke he is.

“Anyway, love, this is certainly sweet of you,” Nick says when it’s just him and Harry again sharing the bench. “But I’m going to have to decline.”

Harry shakes his head, and oh. That’s not exactly what Nick had expected.

“But you can’t,” Harry says firmly. “That’s the point of a pact.”

“Harry--”

“No, Nick. We shook on it.”

“He does have a point,” Gels says, wandering over just in time to add her unnecessary opinion, the wretched witch. Nick frowns in her direction, and she beams brightly.

“It’s true,” Finchy adds from the doorway he’s hovering in.

“It’s right there on the paper,” Pixie chimes in with, taking the picture back from Aimee and making heart eyes at it.

Nick might actually brain every single one of his friends. That will be his birthday gift to himself. After this, he’s entitled.

“Right,” Nick says flatly. Everyone’s gone mad, he’s sure of it. “So I’m just supposed to say: Yes! Of course I’ll marry you, Harry bleedin’ Styles! because of a blurry instagram picture and a linguistic technicality. You were supposed to be the one turning thirty, Harold,” Nick adds one more time. “That was the deal.”

“And yet, here I am,” Harry says slyly. “Proposing to you when you turn thirty.”

And it’s - it’s insane, is the thing. It’s crazy. Bonkers. Bananas. Possibly the worst idea anyone has ever had in the history of ever. But it’s also funny as hell because Nick’s fairly sure that out of anything to happen today Harry was probably expecting every scenario except the one that Nick’s going to give him. Harry might be his best mate, but sod it all if he thinks he can take the piss and pull one over on Nick on his own birthday. If Harry wants a game then good Christ he’ll get one.

“Well then, Harold,” Nick says sincerely. He takes Harry’s hand in his, curling their fingers together and squeezing and thinks: fuck it. “I say yes.”

*

Nick’s awoken in the middle of the night by the beam of his mobile screen lighting up every three seconds for nearly an hour straight. He’d tried shoving it under the covers and then into his bedside table drawer, but curiosity finally won out and even though he has a self-imposed rule not to fuck around on the internet when he’s supposed to be sleeping on a work night, he can’t stop himself. He digs his mobile out and thumbs it on, going straight for his missed messages and twitter alerts.

It takes only about half a second of scrolling before he sits up straight in bed, his hair flopping over his forehead and his stomach dropping to the soles of his feet.

CONGRATS, GRIMMY!!!

We love you, Grimmy!

Best of luck to you and Harry both!!!

Those are the first three twitter mentions he’s got, and then he goes into his texts and it’s filled to the top, texts from nearly every person he’s ever met it seems like, friends of his that were at the party and friends from the station and Uni and his sister and his mum - oh fuck, his fucking mum - and Harry’s mum and then a vaguely threatening text from Gemma about being nice to her brother and my god, this is insane. Completely fucking mad.

It all goes back to about half one in the morning, well after Nick had kicked everyone out of his flat and taken a shower and crawled into bed, and there’s the text that’s started it all, a repost of the Instagram picture on Harry’s twitter account with the caption: he said yes!!! Styles and @ grimmers. Stimmers I guess??

And oh my fucking fuck.

*

“Harry,” Nick says into his mobile. He can hear Harry snickering quietly on the other end and he pinches the bridge of his nose. Harry is laughing. Well isn’t that lovely.

“Yes, Nick?” Harry says.

“So it seems like you were a bit busy last night after you left my party, yeah?” Nick hitches the fruit basket Finchy had given him that morning under his arm and glares at the Mr. Harry Styles hoodie LMC had left draped over his chair when it falls from his fingers and onto the ground. How did she even get that made up so quickly, he wonders? If Nick weren’t so annoyed, he’d be impressed. Instead he huffs and kicks the hoodie across the courtyard.

“A bit, yeah.” Harry says cheerily. Nick can hear the rush of traffic on the other side of the line. He wonders where Harry is; if he’s heading off to some kind of meeting to try and get his Twitter account back under control after what had to have been fifty billion retweets of his last message. Nick would quite like to brain him.

“Soooo,” Harry says slowly. “How was your daaaaay?”

Nick laughs then sighs. That seems to be his standard reaction around Harry for the past two days. “All right, Haz,” he says quietly. Time to put this insanity to rest. “You’ve had your fun, haven’t you? Isn’t it time you go online and kindly tell the world that it was all just a bit of a joke?”

“Why would I do that?” Harry asks. Nick’s about to explain to Harry - in very small words exactly what he means - when Harry adds, “I mean, it’s not a joke. Not for me at least. Marriage is a very serious proposition, Nick,” Harry chides lightly.

“I realize that,” Nick says.

“And I’m nothing if not a man of my word,” Harry says proudly.

Nick rolls his eyes so hard he thinks he can possibly see the inside of his skull. “Actually, you’re a world famous multi-millionaire popstar,” Nick says, “So…”

“So anyone would be lucky to have me!”

“There are honestly not enough ways to point out how badly you’re missing the point,” Nick mutters. He’s just out to the edge of the courtyard where he normally meets up with his cabbie, when out of nowhere Harry’s truck pulls around the corner, swinging to a stop a few feet away from Nick, Miley blaring from the speakers and smoke billowing from the exhaust.

Harry pushes open the passenger door and fiddles with his ipod before flashing Nick a bright grin and dropping his mobile into the truck’s cup holder. “Then explain them to me,” Harry says brightly. He nods at Nick’s head and adds, “And hang up your mobile; I’m not on the other line anymore, and you look like a knob.”

“I genuinely dislike you,” Nick says as he thumbs his phone off and shoves it into his pocket. Harry ignores him and just laughs as Nick struggles to get the fruit basket into the back seat, thankful he at least left the Mr. Harry Styles shirt somewhere behind him in the lot.

“Lies,” Harry says. Nick climbs into the truck and closes his door just as Harry pulls away from the kerb with barely a flick of the blinkers or a backward glance. “All lies. Now come on. I’m taking you to lunch to celebrate our engagement.”

Nick pinches the bridge of his nose and breathes out roughly. He’d really thought Harry would be over his prank by now. “Have you actually gone mad? Is this something I need to call someone about?”

Harry laughs and pats Nick on the knee. “Not at all,” he says, beaming, and drives them into the town.

*

It’s the weekend and Nick’s got Aimee at his flat, Puppy and Thurston chasing each other around the sitting room and Aimee frowning at Nick over a glass of really good chardonnay.

“So then he what, took you to lunch and wined and dined you and you decided to go along with this crazy bullshit?”

Nick rolls his eyes and stands up from the table, taking the rest of the bottle of wine with him. If Aimee’s going to give him a lot of lip Nick’s at least going to be drunk for most of it.

“It was just lunch,” Nick says. He decides against telling her how Harry had said it was because he wanted a chance to propose to Nick properly, or how Nick probably could have put an end to this entire thing right then and there but chose not to. Harry had just looked to happy; relaxed and smiling and Nick thought fuck it. If this is what it takes for Harry to have a bit of fun during his time off then so be it. Nick’s gone along with worse things for less in his life, that’s for sure.

“Anyway, it’s all just a joke,” Nick says. He dumps the rest of the bottle into his glass and takes a long sip. Then he takes another. Apparently talking about marrying Harry even as a prank gives Nick the urge to get blind drunk. It’s not a good sign for the future. “He’s just taking the piss and I’m going along with it for a laugh.”

“Mmhmm.” Aimee narrows her eyes and taps her nails against Nick’s kitchen table. He really wishes she’d stop looking at him like that. It’s slightly off-putting. “I think the question though should be why you’re going along with it.”

“Because it’s a joke and I like jokes,” Nick says flatly. “Have you forgotten that? Funny guy, I am.” He can hear the dogs barking at each other from two rooms away and thinks he should probably go check and make sure they’re not killing each other or having sex on his duvet. Either option is awful in it’s own special way.

“Right,” Aimee says. The tone of her voice very clearly implies she doesn’t believe Nick in the slightest. “And you’re perfectly fine with all of it, are you? Talking about marrying Harry. Pretending to marry Harry. You don’t have any messy secret feelings about him that might make this a bit weird or uncomfortable, is that right?”

“Oh, piss off,” Nick tells her. He feels his face go hot and has to look away. “It’s not like that at all.”

“Nick, I just think--”

“No, Aims, look.” Nick shakes his head. “It’s not a whole big thing, yeah? Don’t try and make it into more than it needs to be. It’s just a bit of fun and after a few days Harry’ll get over it and everything will go back to normal. I’m not going to like, poke a hole in the condom and try and get knocked up with Harry Styles’ love child or something.”

Aimee snorts and rolls her eyes. “Now that’s something I’d like to see.”

“No,” Nick tells her. He glares and points in her direction. “No you really would not.”

Aimee sighs, long and overly dramatic but Nick’s used to it. It’s the same sound she’s been making at him for years. “Just be careful, ok?” she says, coming over to hug Nick tight around the middle. Nick tries to shove her off but she’s strong when she wants to be and just clings tighter. “A joke is one thing but I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Nick kisses the top of her head and pats her back. “It’ll be fine,” he tells her, and hopes that he actually believes it.

*

“So I’ve made us a list,” Harry says early the next day over cups of takeaway coffee and a bag of pastries. Nick would be cross Harry woke him up at half nine on a weekend but he did come bearing caffeine and sweets so Nick figures he can let it slide.

It’s sunny out for once, Nick’s kitchen curtains blowing in from the light breeze and the soft sound of birds chirping and cars passing by outside filtering in through the window.

“A list,” Nick says dumbly. He sips his coffee and Harry beams at him, a black t-shirt stretched tight across his chest and some kind of shiny purple thing tied around the top of his head. He’s the most ridiculous human Nick’s ever known.

“Right,” Harry says. He flattens out a sheet of paper on Nick’s kitchen table and smoothes it down under his hands. Nick recognizes Harry’s spiky scrawl all over the page, things underlined and exclamation marks and a big date at the bottom circled in red pen over and over again.

“And what’s that?” Nick asks, pointing to the date. “What’s so special about Saturday the thirtieth?”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Duh, that’s the wedding.”

Nick nearly chokes on his coffee. “The what?” he says, spluttering and flapping his hands around. “That’s in two bloody weeks!”

“Hmm, just under actually,” Harry murmurs. “I mean, I could try for next weekend but I didn’t think Pete and Eileen would be able to make it up until then because I know they’re on holiday. We could always ring them though. See if they’d prefer the twenty-third.”

And no. No no no that’s not what Nick meant at all. “Harry,” he says calmly. Harry beams at him and stands up, tidying the kitchen and getting himself some juice from the fridge. Nick didn’t even know he had juice. That’s probably Harry and his doing as well. “It’s just - I mean.” He licks his lips and tries again. “Don’t you think it’s a bit sudden?”

“Well, I mean, I suppose,” Harry says. He stares off into the distance and Nick thinks that maybe Harry’s going to agree with him and decide this whole thing’s just mad, but instead he shrugs and grins. “But I’ve got the time off now and Christ knows we’ve got enough money to do it so why wait?”

“Oh sure. Absolutely,” Nick says, because really, why not? The sooner the date gets here the sooner this entire farce will be over with. “Makes perfect sense, that.” Harry grins at him and slides onto the chair opposite Nick at the kitchen table. He pushes in until their knees bump and then taps the top of Nick’s head with the edge of his pen.

“Right. So, like I was saying,” Harry says grandly. “The list.”

*

The first thing on the list is to find a place to have the party itself. In all the times of Nick’s life that he’s thought about getting married - and Christ knows there have been quite a few - he’s never quite pictured looking for a restaurant along with Harry Styles, his hair tucked under a bright blue beanie and his grin so bright it nearly hurts Nick’s eyes to look at.

“So it’s not a whole lot of people, I’m figuring, yeah?” Harry’s saying excitedly. Nick can barely manage to nod at him dumbly. He feels like he’s been drunk for days and can’t seem to manage to sober up. “Just like, both of our families, your friends, the lads, maybe some people from the station and my team.” He bites his lip as he parks outside of a small Italian place Nick knows Harry’s been fond of forever. “Shit, that might be more people than I think it is.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Nick says. “After all,” he pauses to put a hand to his chest and blink dramatically. “It’s our wedding! The day we’ve been dreaming of...since we made a drunken pact in our boxers and posted it to Instagram! There’s nothing that will spoil this day for us, Harry Styles! Not one thing!”

“You’re such a fucking knob,” Harry says. He reaches out to smack Nick on the back of the head, then takes Nick’s hand in his and pulls him into the restaurant.

*

They book the restaurant about ten minutes after they walk in, Harry falling in love with the small private room in the back with the stone walls and the candles flickering along the tops of all the tables. It’s proper romantic, actually. Nick feels a flutter deep down in his belly and has to remind himself that this isn’t real, that it’s all part of an elaborate prank that they’ll both be laughing about for years in the future. Nick can’t really think of a time when he’ll think this is actually funny, but he supposes it’ll come eventually.

In any case there’s room for probably as many people as they could ever imagine to invite - maybe even more than that - so that leads them next to the printers shop to have invitations done up and rushed to Nick’s flat by the following Wednesday. After that is the coffee shop for a fast lunch and then the bakery Harry says Louis swears by to set up an appointment to try some cakes.

It’s entirely possible Nick has lost all control over his own life.

“I’ve no idea what’s going on anymore,” Nick hisses into his mobile. He’s hiding in the loo at the bakery while Harry debates the merits of german chocolate cake over devil’s food with the head baker. Nick had started to have a panic attack next to a tray of that morning’s cheese filled danishes the minute they walked in the door and excused himself as quickly as humanly possible. “Aimee, you have to help me.”

“But what am I supposed to do, Grimmy!” Aimee wails. “I can’t do anything if you won’t just bloody tell him this is insane! That’s what you have to do, actually; It’s the only option. Fuck, Nick, you’re fucking tasting cakes now, what’s next?? Going to the florist? Picking out tuxes?”

Nick bangs his head against the wall of the toilet and groans. “We’ve got appointments for tuxes tomorrow. And we’re on our way to the florists right after this.”

“What?” Aimee screeches, sounding more and more hysterical the longer she stays on the line. It’s possible that calling her for moral support in this was a poor decision on Nick’s part. Things to remember for next time. “Nick, you have to stop this! You do realize you’re not actually going to marry Harry Styles, correct?”

And that’s the thing, really. Nick knows that, he truly does. He just...is maybe having a hard time wanting to remember it.

“Psssssssrrrrrrrccccckkkkkkkkk,” Nick squacks into the phone. Call him a coward but Christ, Nick’s never claimed to be anything but. “Sorry, love, can’t hear you, going through a tunnel.”

“You’re at a fucking bakery, Grimshaw--”

“Oops, you’re cutting out, what was that? I should call you tomorrow?”

“You should have your fucking head examined is what you should do,” Aimee shouts. “Calling me from a goddamn bakery then claiming he’s going through a fucking tunnel. I’ll tunnel you, you stupid fucking--”

Nick clicks the phone off and shoves it deep into his pocket.

Well then. That was less than reassuring.

Nick’s still knee deep in the throes of his current panic attack when there’s a knock at the door; Harry’s happy voice chirping at him from the other side.

“You all right, Grimmy? You were looking a little peakish out here before.”

Nick starts laughing and doesn’t stop until he’s in full blown hysterics. A little peakish. That’s one way of saying it.

“Erm, Nick?”

“I’m good, Harry. Fine, really. Fit as a fiddle I am.”

Nick manages to calm down enough to splash cold water on his face, reaching out to unlock the door in time for Harry to see him drying his hands and face with a towel. Harry’s smiling at him softly, his eyes gone crinkled at the corners. His hands flutter in front of him for a second before reaching out to rest on Nick’s hips, tugging him in close enough to hug.

“I picked german chocolate for the cake,” Harry says. He presses his lips to Nick’s neck and Nick shivers. It’s not anywhere near the first time Harry’s had his hands on him or has laid damp kisses on Nick’s skin, but it’s the first time in a long while. It’s the first time when it’s not just as a joke or a friendly peck between mates.

It’s the first time when they’re both standing in a loo talking about the kind of chocolate their wedding cake will be and it’s the first time Nick truly wishes that this were real, that all of this right here - Harry and the wedding and the five tiers of german chocolate and all the trimmings - were all just for Nick.

“That sounds great, Haz,” Nick says quietly, and closes his eyes for just a moment to pretend.

*

Nick wonders if things move this quickly for everyone when they’re getting married. If people have days when they wake up and from the moment their eyes open until they fall asleep that night they do nothing but think and talk and make notes about their wedding. He wonders if it’s normal to lose entire hours of his life to tasting different flavors of buttercream icing, and deciding on what song to dance to the night of the wedding, or if things like this are only happening so quickly because it’s Nick and he’s marrying Harry and as usual whenever the two of them are around things are starting to go a bit mad.

“I still can’t believe it,” Gels says from across his kitchen island. She pretends to sniffle and wipe her eyes as she eats the olives from her martini glass off of a straw shaped like a giant cock. Aimee brought over an entire box of them. His friends are so classy. “Our little Grimmy is getting married.”

“It’s almost like he’s a real grown up,” Pixie crows.

“Next thing you know he’ll have more in his fridge than just chardonnay and rotten takeaway,” Collette chirps from the other room.

“Harry’ll take care of him,” Sadie says forcefully. “He’ll make him eat right.”

From the edge of Nick’s hip Aimee snorts and says, “I’m sure Harry’ll make him eat something at least,” and they all cackle like drunken hyenas.

Nick rolls his eyes. Christ, where the fuck are Finchy and Ian and Henry? He and Harry had said everyone was invited to the stag do but he had no idea he’d have to deal with everyone giving him shit in his own flat for a hour before they even left. Fuck.

“Yes, yes, you’re all hilarious,” Nick says. He fills his own glass with a lot of vodka and not very much soda water and sticks a cock straw into it just to be festive. “I’m so glad everyone’s having such a great laugh over my pretend wedding. It’s all quite a laugh, innit.”

Everyone’s gone though, already wandered off into the sitting room except for Aimee who tucks in close to Nick’s side. Nick hears the bell ring and then Henry’s booming cackle and Pixie’s unladylike snort in his hallway. A second later Nick’s mobile buzzes where it’s lying on the counter and he glances over in time to see, on my way to the club with the lads! see you there soon!! xxx from Harry before the screen goes dark. Aimee touches Nick’s elbow and Nick drains his entire drink in one go.

“You sure you’re ready for this?” Aimee asks.

Nick pastes on his best smile. “To what, have myself a wicked stag do? Of course I am.”

“Nick.” Aimee shakes her head. Her hair’s pulled back in a tight bun and her mouth is painted hot pink and tipped down into a frown. “You know that’s not what I meant. The wedding’s in two days.”

“Two days, yeah?” Nick says. As if he needs reminding. As if he’s not got the date flashing in bright neon in his brain at every second for the past two weeks. “Crazy how fast it went. Time sure flies when you’re pretending to marry your best mate for a laugh.”

“I still think this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever fucking heard of,” Aimee says darkly. “If you’d just tell Harry how you really felt, I’m sure he wouldn’t keep going on with this horrible fucking joke.”

Nick closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. There is honestly nothing he would like to do less than tell Harry he can’t pretend to marry him anymore because he’s actually in love with him in real life. Nick would rather die and be dead before doing that.

“I’m not going to do that,” he says quietly.

Aimee stomps her spiked heel against his kitchen floor and hisses, “I don’t understand you, why the fuck not??”

“Aimee, I can’t just--”

“Oi, are you two ready?” Ian’s poked his head into the kitchen, smiling at Nick and leaning forward to kiss Aimee quickly on the mouth before glancing between the two of them and raising his eyebrows. “Or wait, soz, is this one of those best mate kind of talks that I’ve interrupted? Should I go back out and--”

“Yes, Ian, you should definitely--”

“No, no, not at all,” Nick says, interrupting Aimee and earning the full blown force of her glare. Oh well, they’ll all be out drinking and she’ll forget about him and his current crisis soon enough. “We were just getting ready to go, weren’t we, Aims.”

Aimee frowns at him for another second but Nick just grins back, toothy and stupid long enough that she finally gives up and rolls her eyes, hands thrown high in the air. “Fine, fine. You’re right. Let’s just go.”

*

The club is dark, the music thumping quietly, bass thrumming from under the floorboards and into the top of the bar and the rungs of the chairs they’ve all piled themselves into in their sectioned off corner for the night. Nick leans against the bar and sips his drink, smiling to himself at the sight of Pixie and Liam and Sophia talking about something in one corner and Louis sat with Aimee and Ian on the other side of the group. Gemma’s here and after saying hello to Nick and threatening his cock and balls if he ever did anything to hurt her brother, she’s been fairly attached to Niall’s side for the rest of the night.

Harry slides up next to him, hands smelling faintly of soap from the loo. He ducks under Nick’s arm and tips his head onto Nick’s shoulder.

“‘S’fun tonight, yeah?” Harry says quietly. Nick has to tilt his head down to hear him, Harry’s lips brushing light over Nick’s ear.

“It certainly is, popstar,” Nick says.

Harry laughs quietly. His cheeks are flushed pink from the heat in the club and most likely the double vodka tonics he’s been drinking all night, his laugh smoky and deep. He’s wearing a sheer black shirt unbuttoned to his navel and the spinning lights overhead catch the silver of the chain around his neck, makes it glitter like diamonds.

Nick’s so in love with him he can hardly breathe.

“So hey,” Harry says slowly. He takes a small step back and Nick instantly feels a chill no matter the heat in the club. Harry looks down, bites his lip and Nick can’t stop himself from reaching out to touch, his fingers tapped gently against Harry’s jaw. “I got us something.”

“Yeah?” Nick says. He feels his smile go crooked and stupid. He can’t find it in himself to care to try and fix it. “What’d you get us, Styles.”

Harry’s fussing with the front pocket of his jeans and Nick’s about to make a comment about how he’s surprised anything fits in there at all when Harry pulls out a small black box and Nick’s heart lodges itself firmly in his throat. He feels a quick thumpthumpthump in his chest, and his skin goes damp and clammy. God, but this just isn’t fair.

“I know this is probably a pretty crap place to be doing this, but here.” Harry thrusts the box out. His hand shakes a little and Nick waits until Harry looks up, eyes bright green and blinking, before he takes the box and opens it to two gleaming gold bands.

“They’re really plain but I figured they’d be ok for now and then we could pick out something different if you hate them. I mean. I hope you don’t hate them.” Harry bites his lip. “Fuck. You hate them.”

“What? No.” Nick realizes he’s been staring at the rings in silence and shakes his head. He forces his eyes up and part of him wants to grab Harry and kiss him right here in the club and the other part wants to punch him in the face and yell at him to stop playing around, to end this fucking game now before it gets any worse for Nick. “You’re really going all out,” is what Nick winds up saying, and Harry tilts his head and quirks his eyebrows in something almost like confusion.

“Well. I mean. Did you want to pick them out?” he asks. “I wasn’t sure who was supposed to do what but I figured since I was the one who technically asked you to marry me that I’d--”

And Nick officially can’t take anymore, he just can’t. He can’t stand here looking at Harry and not touch him. He can’t think about marrying Harry without wanting him, and he can’t keep himself from loving Harry more and more as every second passes.

It might all be for a laugh at the end, but for now, tonight, Nick is at his stag do with a boy who is saying he wants to marry him. Harry’s given him their rings and Nick snaps the box closed carefully, keeps it clutched tight in his fist when he reaches out with the other hand to curl in Harry’s shirt. He pulls him closer, Harry tripping over his own feet and giggling helplessly, and Nick closes his eyes and kisses Harry’s smile.

“Nick,” Harry says against Nick’s lips, a happy puff of air between mouths and Nick feels himself grinning into the kiss, pulling Harry closer and sliding his fingers around the back of Harry’s neck, up into the sweat damp mass of curls.

Harry tilts his head and kisses Nick back. Nick thinks he probably should have thought about doing this someplace more private than right here but fuck it: if Harry’s going to give Nick a ring in the middle of their stag do Nick can damn well get his first kiss from Harry there too. Harry tastes minty sweet, his lips are soft and his tongue is warm and slick. Nick squeezes his eyes closed and tries not to think about how he would happily kiss Harry forever.

“Well that certainly took long enough!”

Nick jumps when he feels a hand clap him on the back. He turns around and glares at Louis who’s smiling and laughing like a demented hyena.

“Hello, Louis,” Nick says dryly.

“Hey, Lou!” Harry chirps.

Louis beams. “Hello, lads! We all having fun tonight? I don’t know about you two but I am having an a-mazing time.”

Nick feels Harry laughing where his head is pressed against Nick’s shoulder. He rolls his eyes at Louis who’s rocking back on his heels, his hands clasped firmly behind his back.

“It had been fun, Tomlinson, but then you came along,” Nick quips.

Louis tsks softy. “Now is that any way to talk to your future husband’s best man?”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Lou, you know we said there wasn’t going to be a wedding party. We’re only having our siblings stand up for us because it wasn’t fair to try and pick and choose between the lot of you.”

Louis is shaking his head around and making yapping mouth mimes with his hands. “Blah blah blah I know what you both said but I also know what you actually mean and what you meant was that you couldn’t break the rest of the lads hearts when you chose me over the rest of them. It’s all right, Harry. I understand.”

Harry frowns. “That’s not what’s happening at all.”

“Anyway, if it’s all right with you, Grimmy, I’d like to steal our handsome littlest groom from you for a mo, yeah?” Louis smiles and starts pulling Harry away by the hand. Nick wants to shout out, No! Mine! and stomp his foot until Harry comes back and kisses him some more, but Harry just smiles at him sweetly, leaning back to press a kiss against Nick’s cheeks and drag his fingers over the box Nick’s still got curled into the palm of his hand.

“I’ll be back in a minute, all right?” Harry says. “And then we’ll go back to yours for the night.”

Nick smiles and ducks his head. He tucks the ring box deep into his pocket and waves Harry off. “Just head back when you’re done, popstar. I’ll be here waiting.”

*

Nick fumbles with his keys to the door of his flat, Harry pressed up against his back, his hands sliding around Nick’s waist. Harry’s breath is warm on the side of Nick’s neck. He dips his fingers into the front pockets of Nick’s jeans and Nick’s hands shake so badly he drops his keys on the ground. “Fuck, Harry,” Nick grunts out, frustrated.

“Yes,” Harry says and nips his teeth against the shell of Nick’s ear. Nick feels Harry shift around behind him and then he’s bending down, grabbing the keys and reaching past Nick to slide them into the door lock. “That’s exactly what I’m thinking of: Fuck Harry. Good idea.”

Need kicks hard in Nick’s gut and he groans out loud as Harry finally gets the door pushed open. The door blessedly swings open and Nick has a split second of panic at the silence before he remembers that he’d sent Puppy over to Pixies for a sleepover with Buster and that’s why he doesn’t hear her yapping at him from the first burst of air from the outside.

“Nick,” Harry whines. He presses his hand to the small of Nick’s back and gives him a shove, sending him nearly toppling over feet first into his sitting room. Nick turns around to glare - what on earth does Harry think he’s doing, exactly? - but then he sees Harry’s eyes, pupils blown wide and dark. His lips are bitten red and his tongue is pink and wet when it flicks out of his mouth. “Nick, come on. Kiss me.”

Nick might be a bit slow on the uptake at times, but he’s not a bloody fool.

He surges forward, sliding his hands into Harry’s hair, cupping his face and tilting their heads so he can kiss him slowly on the mouth. Harry walks himself backward until he’s pressed against the wall between Nick’s living room and bedroom and Nick knows he should stop them right now, make them go into the bedroom like civilized humans, but Harry is kissing him back, his wide mouth slanting over Nick’s, tongue slick and soft when it tangles with Nick’s.

Harry’s hands are frantic, touching Nick’s face and grabbing his hair and yanking his shirt from his jeans. He presses his fingers into Nick’s hips and drags his nails up Nick’s sides and Nick is suddenly blindingly hard, his cock thick and fat in his jeans.

“Fuck,” Harry mumbles. He drops his head so their foreheads are touching. Nick can feel Harry’s breath on him. Harry’s skin is hot and his chest is heaving as he breathes. “I want to make you come,” Harry says and Nick nearly does right there, instantly, at just the sound of Harry’s voice. He presses the heel of his hand against himself to try and keep himself together until Harry at least manages to get a hand on him. Nick’s never felt more like an overgrown teenager in all his life.

Harry doesn’t seem to mind though, just pops the button of Nick’s jeans and slips his hand inside. Nick bites his lip so hard he tastes blood when Harry curls his fingers around him. He leans his head on Harry’s shoulder and bites down on the side of Harry’s throat, sucking the skin between his teeth until it goes hot under his mouth.

“Oh - oh--” Harry spreads his legs apart and Nick leans in with his thigh giving Harry something to rut against. Harry’s fingers are working him over, Nick already wet at the head and Harry’s fingers spreading it around as he tugs Nick just on the side of too rough, nearly exactly as hard as Nick likes it.

Nick bites his lip when Harry goes to kiss him again. He can feel Harry moan as he rocks into Nick again and again. Harry’s eyes have gone dark, his breathing stuttering and broken. Nick swallows Harry’s groans, kisses him through it when he feels Harry still and then the damp heat of denim on Nick’s thigh when Harry comes.

“Nick,” Harry says slowly after a minute. His voice is thick and rough. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

“Go harder,” Nick says, and Harry does. He drags his nails over Nick’s hip, curls his fist and tugs Nick quicker and sharper, teeth biting down on Nick’s collarbone and that’s what does it; Nick sucks in a breath and comes so suddenly it’s like he’s been struck by lightning.

“So. Ah.” Nick giggles after they spend a moment just catching their breath and sneaking glances at each other awkwardly. “Isn’t the point of a stag do to have your last fling before the wedding or summat?”

Harry frowns, his eyebrows creasing into a disappointed glare. “Hey.”

“Because, I mean, I think leaving the party with the bloke you’re supposed to be marrying kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?”

“I’m going to give you about three seconds to take that back,” Harry warns. His lips are already quirking into a smile though, and Nick can’t keep himself from grinning back.

“I don’t know, maybe I want to head back out.” Nick scratches his chin and pretends to stare at the ceiling. “I think if I try this again maybe I’ll get it right.”

“Do it and I’m calling off the wedding,” Harry teases, and Nick’s heart clenches tightly for a split second before he has a chance to stop it.

 

*

Nick wakes in the morning to the sound of Harry singing in his kitchen, pots and pans banging around on the stove. Nick didn’t think he actually had any food but after a quick cleaning of his teeth and shoving a pair of glasses on his face he makes it down the hall and finds his entire kitchen table covered with bags from Waitrose, coffee percolating in the pot and eggs and bacon sizzling on the stove.

“Morning,” Nick says, leaning against the doorjamb.

Harry spins around with a spatula in his hand, one of Nick’s oldest button downs hanging open from his shoulders and black track pants sitting dangerously low on his hips. If Nick was worried at all about things being weird between them after the night before he knows not to be anymore. Harry seems just as relaxed and happy as ever. He beams at Nick, then gestures to the coffee pot and the mugs set out on the counter next to it.

“Afternoon, more like,” Harry says. “You want to set up some coffee while I finish cooking?”

Nick fixes their coffees then carries the mugs to the table. Harry follows him over with two plates, each filled with scrambled eggs and bacon and sets them down before coming back with a plate full of toast and a jar of jam.

Nick blinks and fiddles with his fork. “Wow.”

“Hmm?” Harry’s already begun eating, shoveling food into his mouth and only stopping long enough to take a sip of coffee or a bite of his toast. He stops when he realizes Nick’s not eating though, sitting back and rubbing the back of his hand over his mouth. “I mean, it’s all right that I used your stuff to make breakfast, yeah? I didn’t figure you’d mind but if you’d rather I didn’t--”

“What? No.” Nick shakes his head and takes a bite of his eggs. He is truly a certifiable knobhead. “Of course not. I just--” He shrugs and shakes his head. “You just surprise me sometimes, is all.”

Harry smiles back slowly and wiggles his eyebrows before he starts back up eating. “I’m a man of mystery.”

Nick giggles and snorts and Harry winds up laughing so hard coffee nearly comes out of his nostrils. It’s nice, though. So nice that when Harry starts fidgeting with the hem of his shirt and biting his lip, Nick’s stomach drops. This is it, he thinks. This is where it’s all going to stop.

“So I’ve been thinking,” Harry starts and Nick braces himself. He’d known this was coming, he should be glad for it even. It’s so close now of course Harry doesn’t want to go through with it all - the very idea is preposterous. Nick wishes he’d been able to remember all along that it was all part of a silly prank, but damn him and his stupid heart once again for getting involved in all kinds of messy feelings.

“I think we should practice dancing later,” is what Harry says though, all in a rush, so fast Nick nearly misses it entirely.

Nick cocks his head to the side. “You what?”

“Later. I mean. I’ve got to go pick up the tuxes in a bit but after that I was thinking I could come back here and we could, you know…” Harry trails off and waves his hands in the air in a motion that could possibly either mean do the macarena or sprout wings and fly to sweden.

“Dance?” Nick supplies for him.

Harry beams. “Yes. Exactly. For the wedding tomorrow. So we don’t look like knobs out there.”

Because yes. Thinking about what they were going to look like dancing has been the thing on Nick’s mind this entire time. Not the fact that he’s in love with his best friend, or potentially ruining their friendship by going along with a joke that’s bound to break his heart in the end.

No. It’s the dancing that’s the deal breaker.

“Yeah, yeah sure,” Nick says, because when it comes to Harry apparently he’s willing to do any number of ridiculous things just to make him happy. Nick needs to have his head examined. “As soon as you get back we’ll hit the dancefloor,” he says, and Harry just smiles.

*

When Harry had said he’d wanted to practice dancing, Nick didn’t realize how serious he was about it. Not until he wakes up from having a kip while Harry picked up the tuxes to find Harry’s pushed all the couches and tables in Nick’s living room to line the walls and has plugged his ipod into the docking station, soft strummy sounding music quietly filling the flat.

Harry’s changed from his morning clothes and is in a modest black shirt with the buttons even mostly done up and a pair of dark skinny jeans. He’s got on boots and his hair is loose and curling and he smiles at Nick when Nick stumbles from the bedroom like Nick’s the best thing that Harry’s ever seen.

Nick feels his face and chest flush hot. He ducks his head and wishes he thought to wear something to sleep in other than his Dr. Dre shirt and a pair of flannel sleep pants.

“Hi,” Harry says. Nick can see his hand flexing at his hip; fingers spreading out and then curling tightly into a fist. He steps into Harry’s space and Harry instantly seems to calm down, his body settling against Nick’s, mouth lightly touching the shell of Nick’s ear.

“Hi,” Nick says back.

The songs change and Nick vaguely recognizes it though he’s not sure of the name. He knows he’s heard it before but never would have pegged it as something Harry would listen to. The words swirl around in his head and before he realizes what’s happening Harry’s got one hand resting on Nick’s waist, the other curled with Nick’s.

“You going to let me lead, Grimshaw?” Harry asks softly. His mouth is tucked in close to Nick’s ear and Nick shivers as he nods.

“Lead on, Styles.”

They dance slowly, if it can even be called dancing. Mostly they’re swaying back and forth and trying not to step on the other’s feet. He smiles to himself and when he looks over he finds Harry already grinning at him. Nick usually has an inch or two on Harry but being that he’s in just his socked feet and Harry’s still in boots they’re exactly the same height, eye level, and something in Harry’s gaze hold Nick, pins him there until they’re barely dancing anymore at all.

Everything’s gone quiet. The song’s ended and neither of them are speaking. Nick licks his lips and Harry’s eyes drop to Nick’s mouth then back up again.

“Nick,” Harry whispers, “Please - can I--”

“Yeah,” Nick says, “Yes,” because he can’t ever imagine saying anything other than that to Harry.

Harry leans in and kisses Nick so slowly Nick can feel it in every molecule of his skin. Harry’s lips touch his first, his fingers twine with Nick’s hand and curl around his waist. Nick feels like he’s drowning, like Harry’s mouth is the only thing he can feel, and he whimpers, kisses Harry back as gently as Harry is kissing him.

Nick wonders if Harry knows, if he can tell from Nick’s mouth and hands and way he can’t seem to stop shivering that Nick loves him. Nick almost wishes he could. He wishes Harry could somehow figure it out, that it wasn’t something Nick had to hide anymore.

“Bedroom,” Harry says, and Nick can’t do anything but let himself be led. The sun is going low in the sky, the room lighting up with purples and golds. Nick sighs into the kiss Harry lays against Nick’s mouth; tips his head back as Harry kisses over Nick’s jaw and down the front of his throat.

Harry peels Nick from his clothes and Nick shivers. He pulls Harry after him onto the bed and Harry’s already yanking his own shirt off, popping the button on his jeans and shoving them down his thighs. He’s smiling, reaching for Nick with eager hands but Nick’s caught sight of something on Harry’s skin, dark ink curling into a shape so familiar Nick’s heart trips up his chest and into his throat, beating so wildly he’s surprised Harry can’t see it, that he doesn’t know.

“Harry, what’s--” Nick crawls in close and shoves Harry back until he’s splayed across Nick’s bed, pale skin and ebony ink and the mark of a tiny anchor drawn low onto his right hip. “When did you get this?”

“Oh. That.” Harry’s face is pink. He bites his lip and looks almost embarrassed. “A little bit ago, actually. Few months at least.”

Nick tries very hard to think clearly. He blinks and rubs a hand over his mouth. Harry chews on his bottom lip and Nick has to ask, he can’t not know.

“Did you--” Nick starts then stops. Harry wrinkles his eyebrows and Nick says, “I mean, it just looks a little like mine is all.”

Nearly exact, Nick thinks. It’s almost eerily close, as if Harry didn’t just get an anchor inked into his skin, but Nick’s anchor.

“Well,” Harry says softly. “That’s because I got it for you.”

Nick closes his eyes. He concentrates on breathing - deep breaths in and out again - and then Harry is reaching for him, pulling him down into the sheets and whispering into Nick’s neck.

“Is that okay? You’re not mad, are you?”

Nick can’t answer him. He shakes his head and leans in to kiss Harry instead, mouth urgent now, lips pressing hard and fingers digging into Harry’s shoulders. Harry’s perfect underneath him, and Nick takes his time kissing every inch he can find of Harry’s skin. His shoulder and down his chest. Nick noses over Harry’s belly and Harry laughs, bright and open.

“Can I fuck you?” Nick asks, and Harry’s cock jerks where it’s lying against his belly. He nods, legs falling open and Nick reaches over to dig around in his side table drawer for slick and a condom.

He opens Harry slowly, first with one finger then crooking two deeply inside him. Harry tells Nick everything he wants - he babbles when he wants Nick to go deeper and moans softly when Nick’s done something just exactly right. By the time Nick’s rolling on the condom and sliding into him, Harry is damp with sweat, his skin hot and slick to the touch.

“Please, Nick, oh--” Harry bears down and Nick bottoms out. He freezes for a second, waiting for Harry to do something, tell him to move or shift up to meet him. Harry does both, his leg curling around the back of Nick’s thigh as he breathes out, “Harder. Fuck, Nick - go harder.”

Nick fucks Harry slowly, taking both of them apart minute by minute. He kisses Harry’s shoulder, digs his fingers into Harry’s hips and moves them around so he’s fucking into Harry deeper, letting Harry rock back, making him take what he wants from Nick.

Nick comes first, orgasm rippling through him slow like honey and then spilling out when he closes his eyes, the sight of Harry flushed and pink and gorgeous beneath him almost too much to bear. His heart is beating triple time and he slides out slowly, then ducks down to take Harry in his mouth, Harry’s hands settling into Nick’s hair, his body twisting, wrecked and wanting above him.

“Nick, Nick fuck--” Harry gasps before going still and coming down Nick’s throat. Nick swallows almost greedily, crazy with it, then slides off with a pop and pats Harry’s hip. He lies there for a second letting them both try and catch their breath, then reaches over to grab a handful of tissues from the box by the bed to clean them both off with, wadding up the condom with the tissues and tossing it all in the bin.

“Mmm,” Harry hums, pulling the covers over the both of them and leaning his head onto Nick’s pillow. “I could get used to that.”

Nick kisses the top of Harry’s head. He reaches over to flick out the light and thinks about the next day, and the way they’re still pretending about the wedding, and wonders what he’s going to do.

“Yeah,” he says softly and closes his eyes. Questions can wait until tomorrow. “So could I.”

*

Nick wakes in the morning to Harry shaking his shoulder and grinning down into his face.

“Don’t get up,” Harry says quietly. The room is still dark and Nick blinks sleepily at him.

“What?”

“I’m going,” Harry says. “Bad luck to see the groom the day of the wedding and all that.”

“Harry, wait,” Nick says. Don’t go, he wants to add. Or maybe, Why are we still doing this? Can we stop making this into a joke soon?

Harry shakes his head. “No arguments. I’ll see you later, yeah?”

He kisses Nick quickly on the cheek and then he’s gone, the door snicking softly shut behind him.

Nick doesn’t fall back to sleep for a really long time.

*

“I can’t do this.”

Nick hears Aimee suck in a breath on the other end of the line, and he closes his eyes. At least the room’s gone quiet on her end so she’s possibly not having a discussion about Nick’s breakdown in front of Ian or Finchy or any of their other friends. Small favours and all that.

“And you’ve just decided this now?” Aimee chastises.

Nick bangs his head against the kitchen cabinet door. It makes an odd thwacking sound and Puppy comes bounding complete with her clicking nails and a bright pink bow tied around her collar. Nick always forgets that things with bows happen when Puppy stays over at Pixies for a few days.

“I mean,” Nick laughs, slightly hysterically. “Better late than never?”

“Grimmy, everyone you know is on their way to your wedding right now!”

“Fake wedding,” Nick corrects. She seems to keep forgetting the fake part. Everyone seems to keep forgetting the fake part, actually. “I honestly don’t know why you’re all even coming. Didn’t you get the notice this was all a joke? Wasn’t there some kind of pull out in the mailing, Ha ha, this sure is a funny one?”

Aimee’s quiet for so long Nick would think the call had been dropped. “All I ever got was an invitation,” she finally says, her voice sad and quiet. “To a wedding today for you and Harry.”

Nick pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Aimee,” he says warningly.

“Go talk to him, Nick,” she says. Her tone is gentle. Nick thinks he should maybe be worried. If even Aimee’s being this nice to him he’s sure to have his heart broken into a thousand tiny pieces by the end of the day, he’s sure of it.

“Yeah,” he says. As much as Nick hates to admit it, Aimee’s right. “Yeah. Maybe I will.”

 

*

The drive to the restaurant is quicker than Nick would like. He thinks he was supposed to meet Harry there a bit later in the day - the details have always been a bit fuzzy because Nick was trying his hardest not to pay complete attention to them - but he’s fairly certain Harry’s going to be there already and Nick wants to try and talk to Harry anyone else arrives. He also thinks he should have probably changed his clothes, because an orange and white checked shirt and a pair of black skinny jeans isn’t really Nick’s best look, but fuck it. Too late now.

Harry’s in the back room, talking to the head chef about something when Nick comes in. He whips around and goes from happy to see Nick to shocked to covering his face and waving for Nick to leave the room so quickly it would be hilarious in pretty much any other situation.

“What the fuck is wrong with you!” he shouts. “Bad luck! No! Go away! I told you this was bad luck!”

The chef nods along with Harry and then folds his arms over his chest, looking to Nick expectantly. Nick throws his hands in the air. How in the world is it that everyone is against him?

“I know what you said,” Nick says. He runs his hands through his hair and frustratedly tugs on the ends. “I just. Can we talk for a mo? Alone, perhaps,” he adds, throwing a look at the chef who’s currently rolling his eyes.

Lovely.

The chef eventually nods them to a small room off the back of the kitchen. Nick follows when Harry jerks his head and leads him there, his fingers wrapped tight around Nick’s wrist.

This is it, Nick thinks to himself as the door closes behind him and Harry crosses his arms over his chest. Time to end this.

“So hey,” Harry says. He leans in and kisses Nick quickly, taking Nick’s hand in his and twining their fingers together. He’s beaming, his face so open and bright. “What’s up? You all right? Did we forget to do something or--”

“Harry, please,” Nick says roughly. He squeezes Harry’s hand. He’s trying not to feel cross but this joke’s gone on way too far. “Can’t we just-- isn’t this enough by now?”

Harry scrunches his face up. Nick would find it adorable if he didn’t want to punch him quite so much. “Isn’t what enough?”

“This!” Nick shouts. He lifts their hands and gestures around the room, hoping Harry gets that it’s supposed to encompass everything. “The whole thing; the wedding, the prank. All of it.”

Harry’s face turns white. Nick can almost feel Harry’s hand go damp and cold in between his. “The what?”

“The prank,” Nick repeats. “This whole thing. I mean, sure, it’s been good for a laugh - pretending you really want to get married based on a marriage pact we made last year with a handshake and an Instagram photo, but honestly, how far were you going to let it go?”

“You thought,” Harry says. He licks his lips and pulls his hand back. Tucks his fingers under his arms and leans away. “Wait, you thought this was all a joke?”

“Well. Yeah,” Nick says. He feels a lot less certain about it now given the way Harry’s looking at him like Nick’s just told him there’s no more Christmas or birthdays or chocolate in the entire world. Also that he’s cut up all of Harry’s hats and bananas have been declared extinct. “I mean, it’s all been part of a big joke, right? Surely you didn’t mean to--”

“Nick, what part of this all has been funny to you?” Harry interrupts. He sounds proper cross now at least, cheeks going hot and flushed. “Was it when we picked a date or when we were trying out wedding cakes? Was it when we were dancing in your flat or the night when I gave you the rings?” Harry’s voice breaks. He rubs a hand over his eyes and Nick would swear it comes away damp. “Or was it last night when we--”

And oh - oh god, this isn’t what Nick meant to have happen at all. Harry’s supposed to be laughing with Nick right now, telling Nick about all the funny things they’re going to tell their guests when they arrive and there’s no wedding. He’s supposed to have known this was all just a silly prank too. How did Harry not know that? How did they get it so wrong?

“Harry, wait a second--”

But Harry won’t let Nick say anything, just pushes past him and fumbles with the doorknob. “No, you know what, Nick?” His voice is so thick. He sounds like he’s about to cry. “Maybe you’re right,” Harry finally says softly. He barely tilts his head in Nick’s direction and flicks him the smallest hint of a smile. “Joke’s on me, innit?”

*

It’s a hot day for the end of August. Nick feels the sun beating down on the back of his neck as he bursts out the front door of the restaurant, head swinging around wildly trying to find Harry before he makes it to the carpark.

The restaurant is set on a corner and Nick finally spots him just as he’s about to cross the road and head over to his car. The lot is filling up already - Nick can see Aimee and Ian jumping out of their car and Louis and Eleanor wandering across the road with Liam and Sophia right behind them. Anne’s there too with Gemma and Robin and Nick sees her rush over to Harry, face beaming, until she gets closer and touches Harry’s cheek and then her smile tips over into a frown so quickly it would be comical in any other situation.

Nick’s sweating in his shirt. He’s fairly sure he stinks and these might actually be Harry’s jeans if the way they’re riding up his arse is any indication. He runs as fast as he can though, waving his arms over his head and shouting out Harry’s name, and fuck it, maybe he’s in a Mills and Boon novel after all.

“Harry! Harry wait!”

Harry doesn’t look at him but he stops trying to escape at least and stands still waiting for Nick to catch up. It’s not much but Nick’s going to count it as a win anyway.

“Haz, please,” Nick says. He takes Harry’s arm and slides his hand until their fingers are fitted together, squeezing tightly and not letting go when Harry seems like he’s trying to pull away. “Just listen to me.”

“Listen to you what, Nick?” Harry sounds sadder than Nick’s ever heard him. It’s so wrong coming out of Harry’s mouth - Harry who’s always so funny and happy and light. Nick did this, he thinks to himself. He made Harry sad. He’s got to fix it.

“I’m sorry,” Nick says simply. “I’m sorry I didn’t get it. I just - I thought that--”

“How would you think I would do that to you?” Harry says angrily. His eyes are flashing. Nick’s not thrilled with it but it’s better than Harry being sad at least. “Do you really think I’m that much of a dick? Jesus, Nick. Planning a joke wedding? In what world is that even fucking funny?”

When he says it like that, Nick honestly doesn’t know. He looks around quickly, tries to find someone to help him out. There’s loads of people there already, most of their family and friends but they’re all standing silently, watching the two of them like they’re putting on the most dramatic of shows. Christ, they actually are.

Nick looks over to Aimee who’s watching him with soft eyes and a smile touching her lips. Do it she mouths and Nick thinks, fuck it. People want a show? Then he’s going to damn well give them one.

“I didn’t think you were doing it to be mean, H,” Nick finally says. Harry’s watching him intently, his head cocked to one side. “I just. I couldn’t imagine it to be true.”

“But why?” Harry asks, sounding genuinely confused. “That’s the part I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t you think that--”

“Because I’m in love with you,” Nick says in a rush. Harry goes quiet. Everyone goes quiet. They’re all probably as shocked as Nick is to hear the words coming from his mouth. Nick’s not a someone for grand gestures or dramatic declarations of love, but he’s panicked. He has to do this, he has to. If he doesn’t there’s a good chance he’s going to lose Harry and that’s just - that’s not an option.

“I fell in love with you the day I met you and I’ve been in love with you ever since,” Nick says, voice even never mind the crazy beating of his heart. “I’ll probably love you forever because I don’t really know anything about how to do my life without you in it.”

Harry steps closer. He pulls in Nick by the waist and presses a kiss to the line of his jaw. “Nick,” he says softly.

“And I’m sorry if I cocked this all up. I didn’t mean to. I just - I couldn’t believe that it was real because I wanted it so badly.” He tilts Harry’s face up to look at him and kisses him quickly. “I really want this Harry. I mean. If it’s still all right with you.”

Harry’s quiet, biting on his lip and looking deep into Nick’s eyes. Nick just looks back. Let him see, he thinks. Let him finally know.

“So are you the one asking me this time, Grimshaw?” Harry finally says. Nick can hear Aimee shriek in the background and the low hum of their friends and families all tittering around them. Pixie is quietly chanting, “Come on, come on, come on,” and he hears Louis huff, “Oh, for the love of the Queen will someone do something already?”

“Apparently it is,” Nick says. He pushes Harry back a little, just enough to get his hand out in front of him. “We should make a pact, if you will.”

“And what might that pact be?” Harry asks. His eyes are smiling.

“How about two weeks after I turn thirty, if you and I happen to be at a restaurant with all of our friends and family and someone here to marry us we say yes and just do it.”

Harry beams at him and Nick grins back. His chest feels so light, like it’s filled with balloons just to the point of bursting. His hands shake, but then Harry slips his fingers into Nick’s and holds on.

“I say yes,” Harry says, and they shake on it. Someone snaps a picture.

*

Nick marries Harry in the back of an Italian restaurant in his sweaty shirt and a pair of dark jeans which are indeed Harry’s. Harry’s changed into his tux, and Nick argued that he could go back to his flat and get his own but Harry said no, that he wanted to remember everything about this day exactly the way it happened, Nick’s crap outfit and all.

The flowers are perfect and the food is delicious. Everyone has an amazing time and when the german chocolate cake comes out, Nick feeds a piece to Harry and Harry smashes a piece in Nick’s face. He can’t even get mad because he probably deserves it.

All right, he definitely deserves it.

The day they get back from their honeymoon Nick picks up Puppy from Aimee’s and she kisses them both on the cheek leaving matching hot pink lip prints all over them. She tells them to let her know how they like the present she left for them in their flat and Nick’s worried for a second until they get home and find two framed pictures hanging just inside the doorway.

The first is the picture Harry took of them that first night, their fingers curled together in Nick’s sitting room, Nick’s bracelets and the telly remote and the mussed up rug under the table. Aimee’s had printed, He asked, on the bottom in swirly script, and Nick hears Harry suck in a breath before letting out a soft, “Oh,” when he looks to the next one.

It’s a bit blurry because it’s from farther away, but it’s still clearly their hands slipped together as they stand outside the restaurant. Their fingers are curled so tightly Nick can’t tell whose hand is whose. He supposes it doesn’t matter in the end. Not really.

On the bottom of the second picture, Aimee’s had printed, He said yes.

“Just like a Mills and Boon novel,” Nick says. His voice is rough. He feels Harry tip his head onto Nick’s shoulder and leans over to give him a kiss.

“Just like,” Harry agrees, and kisses him back.

 

-end-