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If Love's a Drug, Show Me the Science

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Niall is lying down on his couch when Sophia’s head appears above him, a little frown on her lips. Niall wonders what she could be upset about, because he knows she must be done with finals if she’s here right now, and Niall would kill to be finished as well but he’s got one, no, two more left to do. Honestly, he doesn’t know if he’ll make it.

“Everything alright there, babe?” Sophia asks, brushing hair out of Niall’s face with a gentle sweep of her hand. Considering that Niall doesn’t exactly know how he got on his couch, not really.

“Um,” Niall starts to sit up to talk to her, but he stiffens when he feels an ache in his muscles and he winces all the way back down until he’s stretched out and flat. Truthfully, his back doesn’t hurt too bad. It feels a lot like he’s just come off a really rigorous workout, but Niall hasn’t gone to the gym in days because he’s been working on final papers for the last week and, probably due to the way he’s been sitting, his back is now completely fucked up. Great. “I’m fine, Soph.” Niall says, throwing an arm over his eyes. “What’s up?”

“Harry’s been texting you and you haven’t answered,” Sophia walks around the couch until she can sit down by Niall’s stomach. She puts a gentle hand on his chest, “so he insisted on coming over.”

“Hi, Niall!” Harry calls from somewhere in the kitchen and Niall tries to sit up again, frantic, because Harry shouldn’t be left unsupervised anywhere , but he moves too fast and the twinge gets sharper and he can’t hold back a pain-filled noise. Sophia pushes him down and her frown deepens.

“Does your back hurt, Niall?” She asks, because of course she’s sharp as a tack and her nails are just as biting, digging through Niall’s shirt as she narrows her eyes. “Why didn’t you call us? Have you taken anything for the pain?”

“It wasn’t hurting before, Sophia.” Niall sighs, because it wasn’t aching near as bad as it is now when Niall woke up this morning and went to class, not even when he came home to write the desperate conclusion on an essay due at midnight. Niall glances over at the clock, and his heart sinks a little to see that it’s closer to ten than it is to nine. Niall struggles more fervently against Sophia’s hand, “Let me up.”

It’s embarrassing that Niall needs Sophia’s help to sit up, and his left knee buckles when he tries to stand, but Niall struggles through his pain to get to the kitchen, just in time to see Harry harmlessly washing the dishes Niall’s been too busy for lately. He feels kind of bad. “Leave them, Harry. I’ll do them,” Niall says, embarrassed, but Harry just shoots Niall a winning smile over his shoulder, shrugs carelessly, and gets right back to it.

“Niall, you’re falling apart.” Sophia laughs, and it might not be cruel, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ring true with the way Niall can’t quite keep up straight without leaning on the doorframe. Niall knows they’re just worried about him, but he almost wishes they wouldn’t. “And you didn’t hear how loud you were snoring when we came in,” Sophia says, like the final nail in the cross.

“It’s finals,” Niall says it like it’s an explanation, and it kind of is a good enough reason for Niall to be taking a nap before pulling an all-nighter. He wishes he could say that’s what this is though, but he’s just so tired that he wants to take a 10% late penalty for his essay and kip right back up on the couch for the rest of the night.

“It’s more than that.” Sophia glares at him before grabbing at his arm, pulling him off the door frame and tugging him out of the kitchen. Niall is helpless to do anything but let her manhandle him, wheezing when she shoves him to sit down on the couch again. “You’re in serious pain.” It’s not a question, but Niall nods his head anyway. Sophia sighs, giving him a look that screams obviously . “Why didn’t you just say so? Harry, come here.”

And, like he’s an eager lap dog and Sophia patted her thigh, Harry comes trotting into the living room, rubber gloves gone but a plastic apron still tied around his waist. “Hiya,” he smiles, slow and syrupy, like Niall didn’t just see him in his kitchen. Harry sits down beside Niall on the couch, “Don’t worry, Doctor Styles is here.”

Niall rolls his eyes. “Environmental Science and Ecology, Harry, you’re not exactly a med student,” he says, and Harry pouts but Niall can’t worry about that when all he wants to do is go take a long hot shower and not concern himself with the effect it’ll have on his water bill. But he can’t do either when Sophia is prodding at his shoulder until he turns around, until his back is towards them.

“Harry, you have great hands. Rub his back.” Sophia demands, and Niall can’t see her face right now but he bets that her frown hasn’t lessened in the slightest.

Without complaint, Harry sets his hands against Niall’s shoulders, his thumbs just against Niall’s spine, and he starts rubbing around with the barest amount of pressure. Honestly, it’s not too bad, but it isn’t exactly helping either, and Niall’s eyes are just gently slipping shut when Harry does something bad, pressing too hard in the wrong place and Niall cries out and jerks away.

“Ow, ow,” Niall whimpers, putting his hand to the place where it hurts and none too pleased that he has a new ache to contend with.

“I’m sorry!” Harry hugs Niall to his chest, his arms wrapped around Niall and his plastic apron crinkling between them. He rocks them for a second, his chin on Niall’s shoulder and Niall fighting back a tear or two. “Do you, like, feel better though?” Harry asks after a moment, his lips against Niall’s cheek, and Niall doesn’t have the heart to tell him the truth.

“Yep, all better.” Niall lies through his teeth, twisting around in Harry’s arms in time to see the unimpressed look on his face and Sophia behind him, her skin lit up and pale with the light from her phone.

“Sophia,” Harry whines, looking over his shoulder. “Shouldn’t he just go see,” Harry cuts himself off there though as Sophia puts her phone to her ear and bites at her thumbnail in a way that looks delicate on her but will always, undoubtedly, seem gross on Niall.

It’s obvious when the person on the other line picks up because Sophia straightens up and smiles wide as though she’s about to give a press conference. “Hi, it’s Sophia!” A pause. “I’m good. Actually, I have a new customer for you.” Then she’s rolling her eyes and shooting Harry a glare that promises retribution. “No, it’s not Harry in a wig. His name is Niall.”

Niall stiffens at the sound of his own name, but he knows well enough that there’s no stopping Sophia when she’s on a roll.

She laughs, “Yeah, I know!” She walks forward until she’s standing beside Niall and then she puts her hand on his head and Niall only manages to resist for a second before he’s tipping into her hand. The way her fingers stroke through his hair is irritatingly reassuring. “His back is seriously hurting so, as soon as possible?”

She’s nodding her head before the murmuring voice Niall can hear on the other end of the call is finished talking, “Okay, I’ll let him know.” One final pause and then Sophia is pinching her phone between her cheek and shoulder so that she can cross her arms in front of herself. “No, he doesn’t have a choice,” she rolls her eyes, speaking in that same knowing voice. Then, she beams again, wide. “Anyway, we should go out for coffee soon!”

Sophia walks away from the couch, nodding her head and saying her goodbyes before she tucks her phone back into her purse, set away on Niall’s living room table. “Okay!” She claps her hands, and squeezes her way onto the couch between them, scooting Harry to the side so that she can span an arm across Niall’s shoulders. “You have a massage booked for tomorrow, 2pm.”

“Soph,” Niall sighs, trying unsubtly to shrug her off because the feeling brings back the thought of Harry’s painful rub down. “I don’t have the money for a massage.”

“Luckily for you, it’s free.” Sophia pulls her arm away, thankfully, to pat against Niall’s elbow instead. “I have an in with someone, an Exercise Science major with a concentration in Physical Therapy.”

Harry jumps in there, leaning close against Sophia’s back, “Bressie! I was going to tell you to call him,” and then he pouts, like he’s upset Sophia didn’t wait for him to suggest it first. Sophia gives him a flat look and that seems to be enough to prompt Harry to get up off the couch and wander back in the kitchen, the sound of running water filling the air again.

“As I was saying,” Sophia turns back to Niall, shifting into the space that Harry left on the couch. “You have a massage, tomorrow, at 2pm, with Bressie. I’ll text you his address. All you have to do is go there, give your name, and point out the place where you have pain. His hands will do the rest.”

Niall hesitates but, it sounds like a blessing that he can’t afford to turn down right now. “Is he good?”

Sophia’s mouth curves in a wide smile, and she looks startlingly like the cat that got the canary. “He is so good, Niall, you have no idea.” And she’s practically foaming at mouth, nearly moaning at the thought of this guy’s hands.

Even Harry’s head comes poking out of the kitchen, and Niall can hear the sink still running so he almost wants to yell at Harry that he pays for water, but Harry has this goofy smile on his face and there’s a high chance Harry won’t even listen to him anyway. “I wanted to pay him the last time, it was so good,” he says, and then he’s gone again, quick as he came.

Still, it seems weird that this guy would just give out free massages for so many people, for virtually no good reason. Niall almost can’t believe he would. “Why does he do it?” Niall asks, because he’s starting to think that this guy is just some creep looking to get his hands all over unsuspecting people and, free or not, Niall isn’t going to go anywhere near him if that turns out to be true.

“Practical experience.” Sophia says simply and, okay, yeah, that actually make sense. “He gets real life work experience and you get a free massage, Niall. What are you complaining about?”

“I’m not complaining!” Niall argues. He just wants to be sure that, if he goes to this place, he won’t wind up coming out worse than when he went in. “I’m not.”

“Good,” Sophia says with a certain tone of finality that Niall knows this conversation is over. Then, Sophia is standing up and collecting Niall’s laptop from his work desk, bringing it back over and dropping it in Niall’s lap. “Now finish your essay or you’ll get late marks.”

Niall doesn’t even try to argue with her. He finishes his essay, and then they order a pizza and curl up together on the couch, Niall’s head on Sophia’s thighs and his feet in Harry’s lap. He’s asleep before the first meet-cute montage.

Niall has an exam the next day, from 9AM to noon, that he has to wake up early to cram for, so when he’s done and back in his apartment around one o’clock, he doesn’t hesitate to take a well deserved nap.

Which means it’s about ten minutes to two when he wakes up and remembers, oh yeah. He has something to do today.

Luckily, the address Sophia sent him isn’t too far away from his flat as it is, and with a lot of running around, it’s barely five past two by the time he gets there, and he’s only a little out of breath. Except, when he does get outside the guy’s apartment, all of his fears start to come back to him and it makes him hesitate after he knocks on the door. But there’s no time for doubt because the door swings open and Niall feels his tongue go thick in his throat.

All this time, and no one told him anything about the person he was going to see. A heads up would have been nice.

Because the man standing in the doorway, and there really is no mistaking him for a man , is hitting at least seven of Niall’s top ten yes please kinks, most of all by looking like the kind of person you could bring home for christmas dinner while simultaneously looking like the person who would fuck you against the wall in your childhood bedroom after your parents went to sleep.

This guy is just so big , all broad shoulders filling in his doorway attractively and standing at least a head taller than Niall is at 5’8. Niall can automatically tell why he wanted to go into physical therapy because, though he’s not swollen with muscles, he’s thick and strong looking. And Niall is suddenly anticipating feeling his hands on him, because if the guy looks this good, how bad could it be.

Except, staring. Niall is staring and that is never attractive for anyone to do.

“Uh, hi.” Niall finally manages to get out, dropping his gaze down to his feet instead of anything else because, if he lets his eyes roam, he won’t be able to stop himself from blushing like wildfire. “I’m Niall,” but it’s rude to introduce himself while not making eye contact so Niall carefully looks up, his eyes on nothing else but the guy’s face. “I’m, um, looking for a Bressie?”

“I’m Niall Breslin,” the guy says, holding out his hand, and huh , what are the odds of that. “But all my friends call me Bressie. You can too.” Niall shakes his hand, feeling his palm dwarfed against Bressie’s, but he can’t deny that he is excited to feel those fingers against his skin. “Come in. Sophia sent you?” Bressie turns around to lead the way into his apartment and, god, he has an amazing ass.

Niall has half a mind to run away and go yell at Sophia for not warning him when Bressie looks over his shoulder and raises an eyebrow in a perfect arch. “Coming?” He asks, and Niall has to struggle to swallow back a moan. By the end of the day, he might very well be.

Niall follows Bressie into his apartment, letting the door swing shut behind him as he leaves his shoes by the entryway. Bressie’s apartment is clean with strong colors and functional furniture, long open spaces that invite the eyes to the floor to ceiling windows at the back of his flat.

Bressie moves to his couch and pats the space beside him, and Niall goes over like a cat to the call. “Would you like something to drink? Something to eat?” Bressie offers.

“No, I’m fine, thanks.” Niall is quick to say, trying not to oogle Bressie’s apartment too much but it’s a nice place. He can see Bressie moving out of the corner of his eye though, so he looks over cautiously to watch as Bressie pulls out a notepad and a pen, the paper with his name in neat block letters at the top. It’s weird .  

“Alright,” Bressie taps his pen gently against the notepad before he twists to face Niall. “So your back hurts?”

It seems like an obvious kind of question, because he’s here for that, but Niall isn’t going to be rude so he just nods. “Yeah, from finals and shitty posture,” and he gestures vaguely to his neck and then his lower back.

Bressie nods his head and then he starts to write something down, and Niall almost feels like he’s at therapy instead of some guy’s apartment, but Bressie doesn’t twist away from Niall too much so it’s not like he couldn’t see the notepad if he really wanted to. And, if the questions turn weird, he’ll definitely ask, but for now, he’s content letting Bressie scribble down what he needs to.

“Have you ever gotten a massage before?” Bressie asks, meeting Niall’s eyes again.

Niall shakes his head. “No, not really. It’s a luxury I can’t afford.” Which is nothing to be ashamed of because Niall can’t think of exotic incense and sticky oils when he’s still trying to make rent every month. “I mean, at least something more than just Harry rubbing me down.”

“Harry.” Bressie stops there, his pen pulling off the page mid-loop as he looks up, and there’s a carefully blank look on his face, an almost imperceptible twitch in his eyebrow. “Your boyfriend?”

“No, no.” Niall rushes to say, maybe a little too quickly, but the thought of dating Harry is just, no . “No, uh, Harry Styles? Maybe you know him?” Because, if what Harry had said yesterday was true, then he’s probably known to Bressie much in the same way that he’s a familiar face in the student-run coffee shop and the print store on campus, in the same way that he’s been banned from both of them for outrageous behavior that Niall now recognizes as being uniquely Harry.

“Oh, yeah. Him.” Bressie shifts back against the couch, and Niall hadn’t realized Bressie had leaned in so close. “He’s a bit of a character, isn’t he.” Bressie looks over at Niall and his smile looks undeniably more like a grimace but Niall pretends not to notice.

“Yeah, definitely.” Niall laughs and, for the first time since Bressie closed the door behind him, he feels like he’s finally relaxing.

“So,” Bressie continues, putting his pen back to paper as he finishes what he was writing. “I would just like to get an idea of what you’re expecting, coming here.” Bressie looks up expectantly and Niall winces. They were doing so well, but now he feels the pressure of performing again, of being right.

“Um,” Niall toys with the hem of his shirt like a nervous habit. “A massage? And, uh, less pain?” Because those seem like the obvious things he would want coming here and, saying anything else would be unseemly so, yep. Niall is just going to stick with those answers.

Bressie smiles at Niall sweetly though, in a way that makes something low churn in his stomach. “There’s no right answers, so don’t worry about it.” Bressie says, and then he’s scribbling something else down. Niall arches up a little to see now, because he’s curious. Bressie’s just written down what Niall said, in point form, answers that seem silly on paper now.

“Do you have any triggers?” Bressie looks back up when he continues, “Any sensitive places or spots you don’t want me to touch?”

Niall hesitates, looking down at his hands just so that he doesn’t have to meet Bressie’s eyes. “Um,” because it’s a weird question, but he tries to remember that there aren’t any right answers here, like Bressie said. “No, not really.” Niall says quietly, shrugging his shoulders.

“Alright.” Niall watches Bressie write out something short, and then he’s setting his notebook aside entirely, clasping his hands neatly in his lap and meeting Niall eye for eye. “Would you like a safeword? Some people find that comforting.”

If Niall thought he was stumped before, he blinks now and tries not to blurt out the first thing that comes into his head, because it’s a choked out what the fuck and that isn’t too polite. “Safeword?” Niall says instead, a soft question laced with uncertainty.

“Yeah,” Bressie nods encouragingly. “It’s just something short you can say that instantly lets me know you want me to stop or you feel uncomfortable.” Oh, Niall knows what they are, but he has never thought of them used in this context before. And, before he can answer, Bressie continues, “Or we can just use the stoplight system? Green, for everything is good; Yellow, for slow down or we need to talk about something; or Red, for stop touching and call your emergency contact. I have Sophia down for that, by the way, unless you’d like me to get in touch with someone else?”

Honestly, Niall doesn’t know what to say. He lets himself stammer for a few seconds, feeling his cheeks glow bright and then he shrugs, “No, uh, Sophia is fine.” He pauses, purposely, hesitant before he continues, “I’m here for a massage, right?”

“Yeah,” Bressie laughs the word out and Niall lets the sound ease him. “I just like to make sure that everyone is as comfortable in this space as possible.” It’s sweet and, if Niall had any more concerns about this whole thing, they’re gone now. He feels good about it, in fact.

“The stoplight system works, then, thanks.” Niall says.

“Great,” Bressie pens it down and then he puts the whole pad away again. He crosses his legs at the ankle and turns to face Niall properly now. Niall’s struck, a little, by just how big he is, really. “I think that’s it, unless you have any questions for me?”

Oh, yes, Niall has tons questions, probably starting with ‘are you single’ but none of them, least of all that one, are in any way appropriate, and Niall doesn’t even want to admit them, doesn’t want to be another Harry, so he just shakes his head and says, “No.”

“Alright,” Bressie stands up from the couch and Niall follows his lead, wiping his clammy palms down the length of his thighs in what he hopes is a subtle move. “You can get changed in the bathroom,” Bressie gestures down a narrow hallway behind them that forks off in three doorways Niall can just barely see into. “There are towels in the closet, or you can leave your underwear on if that makes you feel more comfortable.”

Niall will take the latter, thank you very much. Niall nods his head at Bressie and drifts off to where he pointed the bathroom out, feeling like he’s taking every single step really carefully, even when there’s a shut door between him and Bressie.

Niall strips all too slowly, peering around him after he peels off every piece, like he expects to find a hidden camera or something. He doesn’t, and by the time he’s down to his briefs, he realizes they’re starchy with sweat from his run over, stained from more than one tub of movie night ice cream. He can’t keep them on.

It’s a disheartening realization, but Niall just huffs and shoves his underwear down to his knees, kicking them off his ankles.

But, when Niall is finally naked in a stranger’s bathroom, his vision starts to go spotty.

It’s not a panic attack, not a full one at least, but Niall’s heart races in his chest and he can’t see straight, and he has to take very careful breaths for a long time before the world goes right again.

Niall doesn’t know how long he’s been in here after that, but it feels like forever. For some reason, he thinks Bressie will be angry if he takes too long, but Niall finds he can’t move. Why can’t he move?

Then, there’s a knock on the door. “Niall?” It’s Bressie, and Niall’s eyes instantly find the doorknob, ready to see it turn, but Bressie, respectfully, doesn’t open the door between them. Niall must manage to make some kind of noise because Bressie continues, “I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Take your time.” And then his steps pad away.

So, no pressure. But his check-up is enough to get Niall to open the narrow little closet door beside the sink where he finds a clean stack of white towels.

Niall unfurls one of them, expecting to see like a face cloth or something that small, but it’s a good size towel, easy to wrap around his waist. It means he doesn’t feel naked and that abates his nerves a little.

Still, Niall hesitates when he opens the bathroom door, and he shuffles carefully out, his discarded clothes pressed against his chest in a last ditch effort to cover himself.

While he’s been gone, Bressie’s set up a massage table where his coffee table was, and he’s moved his couch back a bit so there’s walking space all around the table.

Bressie’s standing by the table, in fact, laying a thin blanket out over it—for sanitation reasons, Niall guesses—but he must sense Niall behind him because he soon turns around. Bressie meets Niall’s eyes steadily, and he doesn’t even say anything about the time it took him to change. All he does is hold out his hand and gesture at the bundle in Niall’s arms. “Would you like me to take those?”

It’s hard for Niall to hand them over, his last security blanket, but he does, and Bressie sets them neatly on the couch. Shy, Niall wraps his arms around his chest tightly, twisting away a little when Bressie walks back over to him. It’s hard to meet his eyes. Niall wonders if anyone has ever told Bressie how intimidating he is.

“Ready to get on the table?” he asks, nodding over his shoulder to it.

Niall nods his head, because it’s either that or delaying it, but the further he puts it off, the worse he’ll feel. So, Niall walks up to it, turning around so he can hop up onto it, and he prays to anyone listening above that his towel doesn’t fall off when he does. It doesn’t. Small blessings, Niall supposes.

Bressie moves to stand right in front of his knees and Niall is just that much more aware of their size difference when he does because the table comes up to Bressie’s hips, if that, where its height was way past Niall’s navel as he stood by it.

Sitting on the table puts them at an even height, but Niall still has to look up to see Bressie’s face.

“I think we’ll start face up,” Bressie says, though it sounds like half a question and he does wait for Niall to nod before helping him lie down. Bressie’s hand is big on his shoulder, but soft, and he doesn’t move it immediately when Niall is flat on the table. He squeezes Niall gently, “I’ll go put some music on.”

Niall resists the urge to watch him as he moves away, but instead he stares at the ceiling of Bressie’s apartment and he focuses on trying not to lose himself like he did in the bathroom. It’s a comfort, knowing that Niall could just say ‘Red’ and this whole thing would stop before it even started. Bressie was right in having them do that.

Niall lets his eyes shut and, somewhere in between the time that Bressie walked away and Niall finally releases that last thread of doubt, music has started playing. And Niall recognizes it.

Niall had thought Bressie was going to put yoga music on, or something equally relaxing, but it’s The Blizzards instead. They’re not typical massage ambience music, but Niall likes them and Bressie must too, or he must’ve gauged that Niall did at least.

“Their new song is good,” Niall mumbles as Bressie walks back over to table, grinning down at him despite the meekness of his confession.

“I thought you might like them,” Bressie says, “You look like the type.” It makes Niall want to ask what the type looks like, but then again, he doesn’t want to speak at all, not when he sounds so weird. “Ready?” Bressie asks him, and he has one hand gently shaking a bottle of what must be massage oils, but he reaches out with his other hand, so he can rest it on Niall’s chest, just high enough not to be dangerous. “Color?”

“Green,” Niall says, softly, and Bressie lifts his hand.

Bressie pours oil into his palm and then he rubs his hands together, and Niall must be so tense that it’s visible because, when Bressie puts his hands down on Niall’s chest, he doesn’t move them just yet. “Relax,” he hums, and it’s much easier said than done but Niall squeezes his eyes shut and nods his head, and when Bressie starts to move his hands, he does his best not to flinch.

Bressie actually starts on his arms, rubbing his biceps and then his forearms, massaging even down to his fingers. From there, he goes back and forth between Niall’s chest and his legs, and it’s not as bad as Niall was scared it was going to be. In fact, Bressie is, to put it plainly, really talented , though Niall had no doubts about that.

If Niall knew just how talented he was going to be, though, he probably would’ve worn a muzzle.

It’s just that, Niall keeps moaning , when Bressie gets into a particularly good knot on his pecs, sure, but also when he slides both hands down Niall’s thigh and lets his nails just gently graze over the skin, like he knows what he’s doing. It makes Niall mewl and the music is just quiet enough not to cover it up, so Niall is sure Bressie hears it, clear as day.

Niall must be scarlet by the time Bressie gets back to his shoulders for the third time, because his skin is tingling and he’s not altogether sure if it’s because of the oil or if it’s just him.

Either way, Niall is embarrassed, hot in the cheeks, and his head is spinning a little, dizzy-like, and if that wasn’t enough, he’s hard. Not fully stiff, thank god, but his cock bunches up the towel enough that Niall feels like it’s obvious.

Niall regrets that they didn’t start on his stomach, but maybe that would’ve been worse.

When Bressie pulls his hands away, Niall actually misses his touch. He even opens his eyes to make sure nothing’s wrong and Bressie’s smiling down at him. “Everything okay? Color?”

Niall nods his head and hums, “Green,” as though he could say anything else when Bressie is the one touching him.

“I think we’ll get started on your back now,” Bressie says, and then he holds out a hand. “Need help turning over?” Yes, Niall does, because he feels like he’s jelly in his bones. Bressie curls an arm around Niall’s shoulders to help him sit up, and Niall is grateful for it. Maybe Niall even leans into it more than he needs to.

And then, just as Niall is twisting over onto his tummy, he feels the towel start to loosen and sag.

Niall chokes and he darts a hand down to clutch at it before it can fall any lower, and in doing so, he tips over right into Bressie’s chest. If Niall could die, he’d probably want to, right now.

“Whoa,” Bressie laughs gently, steadying Niall at the shoulder before he falls, and then his hands drop to Niall’s hips. He lifts Niall up like it’s nothing, like he weighs nothing, to sit him down on the table.

Niall looks up and his heart skips a beat. It feels like that moment in a romantic movie when the main love interests see each other for the first time and the world goes slow and hazy, and there’s the perfect music playing in the background. But it’s just The Blizzards.

“Are you okay?” Bressie asks, and his hands are still on Niall’s hips.

Niall swallows, thickly, and he nods, fisting his hand around where he’s still holding onto Bressie’s shirt. “Sorry,” Niall mumbles, trying to figure out how he ended up here, but Bressie just smiles at him.

“It’s all good,” Bressie glides his fingers up Niall’s spine, and Niall has to fight the urge to arch up into Bressie’s chest. Bressie finally stops when his hand is cupping the nape of Niall’s neck, and he dips his head enough that they’re looking straight into each other’s eyes. “Color?”

Niall doesn’t even have to think about it. He just licks his lips and the word spills from his mouth, “Green.”

Bressie helps him lie down, and Niall was right before, in thinking that being on his stomach is worse, because he feels more vulnerable like this, the long stretch of his bare back just ready for Bressie’s taking.

Bressie doesn’t even warn him before he sets his hands down on Niall’s back, wet with oil, so Niall jumps a little at the first touch, but Bressie just hums until Niall settles underneath him.

It feels more deliberate this time, when Bressie kneads his palms into Niall’s skin, but that only makes sense because Niall did say he had trouble with his back. Niall thinks he might also be worse with noises, but at least now he can muffle them into the towel cushioning his face.

Bressie turns Niall into a puddle on his table, soothes him so much that Niall can’t even remember the pain he supposedly had. He’s so good at it, in fact, that Niall falls asleep. He doesn’t mean to, of course, but he shuts his eyes at one point, and he lets himself get swept away by the push and pull of Bressie’s touch, and the next thing he knows, The Eagles is softly playing and Niall blinks himself awake.

Niall rises up on his forearms gently, peering around until his eyes land on Bressie. He’s right there on the couch so it’s not like Niall is alone, but he isn’t just sitting and watching him either. At some point, Bressie got a book from somewhere in his apartment, so now he’s wearing square glasses that make Niall sore on the inside.

It takes a second for Bressie to realize that Niall is awake. When he finally looks up, he smiles at Niall fondly. “Hey,” Bressie hums, standing up from the couch, setting his book aside but he keeps the glasses on, though Niall isn’t sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing for his heart. “Don’t move just yet. How do you feel?”

“Green,” Niall mumbles, propped up on one elbow so he can run one hand through his hair. Then, he stutters, “I mean, good. Sorry.”

Bressie walks over and sets his hand low on Niall’s back. “That’s okay.” His hand is mostly still, but his thumb, just gently, strokes over Niall’s skin. Niall can’t help but shiver. “Let me know when you’re ready to get up.”

Except, it doesn’t seem like Bressie is going to go back to his book or the couch, but more like he’ll just stay right by Niall’s side until he says so.

Niall holds out his hand, and Bressie takes it.

Bressie wraps an arm around Niall’s waist and helps hoist him off the table, holds him into his side when Niall’s knees buckle a little bit. He doesn’t let Niall go, not even when Niall pulls his hand away to adjust the towel around his hips.

“You can take a shower, if you want.” Bressie offers, squeezing Niall’s side sweetly. “Some people find the oil makes them sticky.”

Niall nods his head, just because it’ll give him some time alone, some time to settle down, though he always finds showering in a strange place seems to just unsettle him even more. Still, Niall washes up quickly, using soap that smells uniquely like Bressie, before pulling a bigger towel from the same closet that he found the first one in.

Niall, maybe, subconsciously, memorizes the name of the soap in Bressie’s bathroom. He wants to buy some for himself when he leaves.

Niall shuffles out of the bathroom when he’s finished, ruffling his wet hair with the towel, his clothes back on. It feels weird, being so dressed in Bressie’s flat now, weirder still when Niall can’t find Bressie where he left him.

Niall glances around cautiously, and then Bressie walks out of his kitchen. He has a bowl of fruit and a water bottle, and he gestures for them to move back over to his couch. “I’d like to see you eat something before you go.”

It’s the kind of carefulness that makes Niall feel tingly in his toes.

Niall curls his legs carefully underneath himself as he sits on the couch, and takes the bowl from Bressie’s hands, and he lets himself tip against Bressie’s shoulder when he sits down beside him because he has a feeling Bressie won’t complain about it.

“What are you reading?” Niall asks when Bressie reaches out for his book again.

“Frankenstein,” Bressie admits, flipping over to the cover so Niall can see it. Niall’s surprised, though he doesn’t know why he is. Bressie’s smart and, undoubtedly, talented, but Bressie takes Niall’s wide-eyed look with a gentle laugh. “Serves me right for taking a literature class.”

Niall cracks a smile for what feels like the first time in a while, reaching out to leaf a finger through the book. “I liked the frame narrative,” Niall admits quietly. He feels Bressie physically turn and look at him, so Niall shrugs. “I took a class once too.”

Bressie hums thoughtfully, and then he tucks a finger under the bowl, to tip it up closer to Niall’s mouth. “Eat.”

So, Niall does, and he drinks the water, and when he’s done, he feels like it’s time for him to go. Niall stands up slowly, feeling like he’s fitting new in his body, and Bressie watches him move, stretches his arm out into the warm spot that Niall left behind.

“You’re heading out?” Bressie asks, looking up at Niall, and he speaks like Niall has the option to stay.

Niall nods. “I should go,” he says, shrugging and padding down his pockets to make sure he has everything he came with.

When he starts to head for the door, Bressie follows him. “I’d like to see you again,” he admits and, for a second, Niall’s heart leaps in his chest. “Are you free on Thursday? For a follow-up meeting?”

Oh. Niall had thought, that maybe , but he was wrong. It’s not all disappointing though because Bressie stays right on his heels, even when Niall steps out into the hallway of his complex. “That sounds good.” Niall breathes, and he finds it hard to turn around, even as he keeps backing away. It’s like Bressie’s a drug and Niall is addicted. “See you.”

Bressie beams at him, holds up his hand, and he looks reluctant to shut his door between them.

Niall heads back to his own apartment feeling like he’s in a daze, like with every step he takes, he gets further and further up in the clouds. His keys jingle loud when he unlocks his front door, and he almost isn’t surprised to find Harry sitting on his couch, eating his cereal.

Harry barely has to take one look at Niall before he’s grinning like the cheshire cat, nodding his head even though Niall hasn’t said a word yet. “I know, right?”