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does it almost feel like nothing changed at all

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*

 

Harry’s sat at the breakfast bar in Ben and Meri’s kitchen eating a bowl of Coco Pops when his mobile buzzes with a text from Louis.

BAND MEETING AT NIALLS

Harry stares at it. He rubs a thumb over the words then clicks it off with a shrug. The mobile’s silent for a few seconds, then buzzes again:

NOW.

“Huh.” Harry frowns and stares at the screen. That’s odd. He’s barely been back in the UK for a few days and for as much as he knows he doesn’t have anything planned with the lads for weeks. He closes the message again and logs into Twitter.

“All right, love?” Meri flutters a hand over the back of Harry’s hair as she passes. Harry sighs and leans up into the touch, smiling over his shoulder at her. Harry loves Meri.

“Yeah,” Harry says. “Got a text for a band meeting at Niall’s.”

“When?”

Meri’s leaning against the counter sipping her coffee. From under the table Colin bumps his nose against Harry’s knee, and Harry scratches behind his ears absently. He can hear Ben singing horribly in the shower at the top of the stairs. The desire Harry feels to get up from his seat and get dressed to go to Niall’s for a band meeting is shockingly low.

“Now, apparently,” Harry mumbles.

Meri pouts. “Boo. I thought you’d be around to help me in the spare room today for a bit.”

Harry’s mobile keeps buzzing, on and on, the messages from Louis getting more and more frantic the longer Harry sits and watches them while eating his cereal.

Harry I am not kidding

We need you here now

NOW

this is not a joke

HAZZA MOVE YOUR LAZY FUCKING ARSE

Harry drinks the milk from his bowl then wipes his mouth on the sleeve of his flannel shirt. Colin barks when Harry gets up from the table, and Harry crouches down and pats his head, beaming at Meri when she passes by and grabs his empty dish.

“So what do you need help in the spare room with?” Harry asks.

Meri cocks an eyebrow and nods at the still vibrating mobile lying on the counter. “Aren’t you busy?”

“I’ll get there soon enough,” Harry says and follows her out of the kitchen.

*

By the time Harry gets to Niall’s he’s fairly sure that Louis is going to hang him from his feet in Niall’s bathroom, but he doesn’t much mind. Harry loves staying with Ben and Meri, and if Meri needs help with something he’s going to give it to her, not throw her over so he can sit at Niall’s and watch whatever superhero film that Liam or Louis managed to get an advanced copy of. Harry loves the lads but their appreciation for any and all things Marvel leaves Harry a bit bored.

He knocks twice on Niall’s front door then pushes inside when he realizes it’s propped open a bit. Stupid move, Harry thinks. One of these days someone’s going to get into Niall’s house just because he’s too daft to remember to close the door behind him. It’s a wonder he’s not the one who’s had his underwear stolen by a load of fans.

“”Ello!” Harry calls. He stops for a second, because christ that’s a bloody lot of noise, before finally deciphering that the ruckus is coming from the entertainment room down at the end of the hall.

Harry sighs. “Lovely,” he mutters. “Superheros after all.”

What he finds when he gets there is...well, Harry’s not entirely sure what he’s looking at, but he definitely knows it’s not a superhero film.

“Oh, well, look at who’s finally decided to grace us with his presence,” Louis snaps. His hair is flopping down over his eyes, and he blows it away from his face distractedly while leaning over a...pram? Why is there a pram in Niall’s entertainment room?

“Leave him alone, Lou,” Liam mutters. He’s in the far corner of the room with Sophia and Perrie, sorting through bags and bags of things from Mothercare. Perrie is rubbing her face against a tiny pink blanket, and Sophia’s cutting the tags off the tiniest red frilly dress Harry’s ever seen. Harry is thoroughly confused. “I’m sure Harry got here as quickly as he could, right, Haz?”

“I. Um. Yeah,” Harry says. He blinks confusedly at Zayn who’s sitting on the sofa with a pint in his hand watching Iron Man 3 on the telly. Harry knew superheros were going to be involved somehow. “Um, is there something you guys wanted to tell me, or--”

“You know, I still can’t believe it,” Zayn interrupts. He turns his head to look at Harry and is actually beaming, his smile so wide his eyes are crinkling happily at the corners.

Zayn,” Louis warns.

“No, really. I still can’t believe that we’re having this discussion,” Zayn continues, voice light with laughter, “and it’s not about Harry.”

“Wait, what’s not about me?”

Louis stands and throws his hands in the air. “I thought we already came to the conclusion that this isn’t a laughing matter,” he scolds.

“I know we did, Lou, but he’s got a point,” Liam says patiently. “I mean honestly, if you’ve ever thought about us running into this kind of situation, wouldn’t you have bet a thousand pounds on it being Harry who’d got himself stuck in it?”

Hey.” Harry frowns. He might not know what anyone is talking about but he bloody well knows when someone is taking the piss out of him.

“You don’t have room to talk,” Louis says, pointing a finger at Harry and narrowing his eyes. “Seeing as how you were seventy five million years late to the meeting today.”

“Well I’m bloody well here now!” Harry shouts. Everyone goes quiet, Zayn even manages to pause whatever Robert Downey Jr. is doing on the telly, and it’s right then, in the middle of the first split second of quiet since Harry arrived that he hears it.

“Wait,” Harry says, cocking his head to the side and listening more closely. “Is that a baby crying?”

*

Her name is Daisy, Zayn tells him, and she’s the tiniest thing Harry has ever seen. He knows he met Lux when she was just as small, but Lux is so big now compared to this baby that Harry’s having a hard time remembering that she was ever this little.

“Hazza, hey,” Niall says. He saunters into the room with the baby crooked into the curve of his arm like a rugby ball. He’s limping a bit from his recent knee work, and his hair is sticking out of the back of a green snapback. He looks a wreck. “How was LA?”

“It was, um. Good?” Harry scratches his head. The baby is quiet now, sucking happily on a bright blue dummy, and Niall is acting so relaxed Harry’s convinced he’s hallucinating the entire thing. “So. Um. You’ve got...news?”

“News. Ha! That’s one way of putting it!” Niall beams. Harry sits down on the couch heavily. Zayn rubs his back in slow circles. Apparently the rest of them have had time to process this a bit longer. Maybe Harry should have got to the meeting on time after all. “Hey, Tommo, can you chuck me that blanket?” Niall asks.

Louis huffs and grabs the closest pink blanket from the pile Sophia’s stacking next to her knee. “This one?”

Niall shrugs. “Sure. That one’s as good as any.”

Niall tucks the blanket around Daisy and sits down cross legged on the floor in the middle of the piles of baby clothes and blankets and nappies. The baby starts fussing again, wriggling around in Niall’s arms, and he just smiles down at her, bouncing her about on his good knee a bit until she’s quiet.

“So wait,” Harry says slowly. “Zayn said this is supposedly your baby.”

Niall nods. “Yep.”

“Because you came home yesterday and--”

“She was just sitting there on the doorstep in her carseat,” Niall says. Daisy is slowly falling asleep in his arms, and he makes a short whistling sound as he tosses the pink blanket at Liam’s head. Liam raises his eyebrows but somehow seems able to understand that Niall means for him to stretch out the blanket on the floor so he can settle the baby on it for a kip. “Had a few bags of stuff with her and she was sleeping through it all, just the perfect little princess.”

“But, wait.” Harry runs a hand through his hair and looks frantically around the room. “I mean, that’s great and everything. She’s adorable. But you’re going to get a test done, yeah? I mean. You have to.”

Niall shrugs. “Yeah, I suppose.”

“You suppose?” Harry realizes Niall’s had surgery over the break, but he had no idea it would have affected his brain. “Niall. I just. You realize that this could be anybody’s baby, right? Like any girl in the world could have come here and left a baby on your doorstoop.”

“That’s true,” Niall agrees. Harry smiles. He knew Niall would see it his way eventually. “But that’s not what happened. I know she’s mine.”

Harry throws his hands up. “How?”

“Oh Christ,” Louis mutters. “Here we go again.”

“Because she’s got the Horan toes,” Niall says simply.

The room goes silent. Completely and totally dead fucking silent. Harry looks from Zayn to Louis to Liam and then Perrie and Sophia before getting back to Niall who’s grinning down at the baby, running the back of his finger over the top of the baby’s nearly bald head.

Harry licks his lips. “The Horan toes,” he says flatly.

“Right. It’s like, a family trait,” Niall tells him excitedly. “I’ve got them, my dad, my pap. My brother a little bit too, and my great uncle on my dad’s side, well when he was little, he--”

“Can we please skip this part?” Perrie asks, sounding almost desperate. She turns and looks at Harry pleadingly. “I’ve had to hear about Niall’s toes so much today. You don’t mind, do you, Haz? Zayn can fill you in later.”

“Yaaaaaaaaay,” Zayn says quietly.

Harry flaps his hands around. “Right. Fine. I just.” He breathes in, breathes out. There must be some kind of relaxation technique he’s learned in yoga to deal with this. “So you’ve come home and found a baby on your doorstep like you’re in the middle of a bloody episode of Hollyoaks, but that’s all right, you’re just…” He motions to the clothes and pram and everything else baby related that’s filling up the entertainment room. “Just chilling out, having a baby. That’s all, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Niall says, grinning widely. “Now can you go get some more cans from the fridge? I’m parched.”

*

“Well I don’t know about you two, but I think it’s sweet,” Meri says over dinner that night.

Harry’s staring into his plate, pushing the broccoli on it around with his fork. He knows he should be hungry, but all he can think about is Niall and Daisy and what Niall’s doing with her. Is he feeding her right now, too? Is she crying? Did he know to heat the bottle up first? It's possible Harry’s overreacting, but he's watched Niall ruin a bag of microwaveable popcorn before because his attention span sometimes can’t last longer than the two and a half minutes it takes to cook.Taking care of a baby is just...it’s just…

“It’s not sweet. It’s mad,” Harry says. He puts his fork down and shakes his head. “I mean, of course it’s sweet, yes,” he adds when Meri frowns in his direction. “It’s just that - it’s Niall. I mean--”

Ben nods and cuts Harry off. “He’s got a point,” Ben says. He points his fork at Meri then sticks it in his mouth and chews slowly. “Niall’s barely got the sense of a tin of beans. I’d not leave the dogs with him for a day, let alone a human.”

“Well I, for one, don’t think you’re giving him enough credit,” Meri says. She stands up with her plate and cleans it off into the bin. “Niall’s a sweetheart and parenthood is a funny thing, from what I’ve heard. Makes people grow up a lot faster, take on a bit more responsibility.”

“Ha!” Harry says, literally slapping his knee and laughing. Ben rolls his eyes indulgently. Meri just sighs. “Ha ha ha.”

“Harry, you know I love you,” Meri says sweetly. Harry grins up at her just in time for her to smack him across the back of the head. “But you’re being a complete knob about this.”

Harry gasps. “Hey!” He looks to Ben for some help, but Ben just laughs and takes a drink from his glass of water. “You hit me!”

“Because you’re being an idiot, love,” she says, smiling and fluttering her eyelashes at him. Harry frowns and rubs the back of his head. It’s starting to smart. “Oh, please. I barely touched you.”

“I’m very fragile,” Harry says and sniffs. Meri goes to smack him again, but Harry jumps up from his seat and side steps away, laughing as she chases him around the kitchen. “A delicate soul. You’ve injured me. Help! Ben! Abuse!”

Ben completely ignores them both, choosing to finish his dinner and scroll through his mobile instead, the twat. Harry will remember this. He’ll remember it forever.

“Anyway, I don’t understand. If you’re that concerned about him why you just don’t ring him up and ask him about it,” Meri finally says. She's short of breath and holds her hands up for Harry to stop chasing her. Harry does and leans against the counter, breathing heavily.

“I would,” Harry says, then stops. Because this is the problem right here. This is what’s been bothering him all day. “The thing is, though, usually when one of the lads goes off the rails, Niall’s the one I call about them. I just.” He chews his bottom lip and stares at the floor. Meri makes a quiet noise in her throat and comes over, laying her hand on the back of Harry’s neck and rubbing gently. “I don’t know what to do when Niall’s the one I don’t understand,” Harry says softly.

Meri’s quiet for a minute, letting Harry try and work things out in his head. He doesn’t understand how this happened, really. He doesn’t understand what Niall’s going to do about it. And he really doesn’t understand how Niall didn’t tell him, how Harry was the last to know.

“I think you do know what to do though, yeah?” Meri says gently. Harry lifts his head and meets her eyes. She smiles at him and pats his shoulder. “If you really think about it.”

Harry’s quiet because he knows she’s right. He knows what he wants to do. “I’ll be back in the morning,” he says, leaning over to kiss her on the forehead. He looks over at Ben who waves him off without ever looking up from his mobile and bounds up the stairs to the attic to pack his bag.

*

It’s not late when Harry gets back to Niall’s, but the house is dark and quiet already anyway. Harry lets himself in like he did earlier in the day and follows the soft murmur of the telly from the other end of the house until he finds who ever is left in the sitting room sprawled out and sleeping on various sofas and chairs.

Louis is lying asleep with his head and back on the big sofa and his feet on the floor while Niall’s on the other side curled up in a ball with Daisy snoring softly in his arms. She’s in a long yellow dressing gown, her cheeks pink and the light blonde fuzz on the top of her head sticking straight up in the air. Zayn’s snoring quietly in the ugly purple chair in the corner of the room, his legs dangling over the side and head leaned into the cushions.

“You just going to stand there all night like a fucking weirdo, or do you want to help me out over here?” Niall whispers. Harry jumps, startled that anyone is even awake. He puts his bag on the floor as quietly as he can and crosses the room, making sure not to wake anyone else up.

“Nice to see you, too, Daddy,” Harry says.

Niall makes a face. “Jesus fuck, don’t ever call me that again, Harry. Christ.”

Harry snorts to hold back a laugh. From the other side of the couch Louis makes a grumbling sound low in his throat and frowns. Lovely. He’s even managing to scold Harry in his sleep now.

“What do you need help with?” Harry asks.

Niall struggles to sit up, and Daisy whimpers softly. Niall leans down and presses a gentle kiss to her head, and Harry can’t stop smiling.

“Oh god,” Niall mutters. “Can you keep the fucking waterworks off for another minute at least? I need you to take the baby so I can have a wee, and I don’t need you slobbering all over her.”

Harry frowns and holds his hands out for the baby. “You’re going to need to start watching your language more, potty mouth,” Harry tells him. Niall shifts around a bit, and Harry leans in, scoops Daisy up, and is instantly, completely, one billion percent in love with her.

She’s just perfect, really. Tiny and sweet, with her pink skin and her teeny nose and fingers and her wee little head. Harry moves slowly, trying to make sure not to trip over anything lying about, and makes it to an open chair so he can sit down and properly take in the baby in his arms.

Daisy snuffles a little, and Harry leans in, presses his lips to her forehead, and then kisses her soft cheek. “She’s gorgeous,” Harry finally says. His voice is soft and thick. Niall is standing next to him, beaming down at the baby in Harry’s arms, and Harry’s heart swells, pressing almost uncomfortably against his ribs. “How in the hell did you manage to make such a pretty baby with your ugly fucking face?”

“Oi,” Niall says and smacks the back of Harry’s head. Harry yelps and glares up at him. People really need to stop hitting him today. “I thought you were the one going on about language.”

Harry purses his lips and looks off to the side. Niall and his stupid logic. Harry’s not amused. “And I thought you had to wee,” Harry says. He flaps a hand around and waves Niall off. “Go. And get something to eat too while you’re at it. I could hear your stomach rumbling from out in my car.”

“Sick,” Niall says before leaning down and kissing Harry wetly on the cheek. “You’re the best. I’ll be back in a bit.”

*

Harry winds up falling asleep on the sofa for a few hours, Daisy curled close in his arms. He wakes up to Niall kicking his foot as he tosses a pillow in Louis’ face, causing him to splutter in his sleep and fall completely onto the floor.

“Wanker,” Louis grumbles.

Harry beams at him, passing Daisy over to Niall when he reaches for her. “Hello, Lou.”

Louis rubs a hand over his face and frowns. When he sees Zayn’s still sleeping soundly he picks the pillow up and makes his way over to the chair, holding the pillow over Zayn’s face and pretending to smother him. Zayn barely moves, just flings an arm out and gives Louis the finger.

“All right,” Niall says. Daisy is making sleepy sounds in his arms, and he kisses her gently, tucking her head against his chest. “Time for all of you fuckers to go home.”

Louis lets go of the pillow, and Zayn gets up, the two of them slapping and pretending to get the other stuck in a headlock all over the sitting room. Harry watches them quietly, leaning in closer to Niall’s side.

“You sure you want us to go, Ni?” Harry asks.

“What? Of course,” Niall scoffs. He looks at Harry and rolls his eyes. “You think I want you lot hanging around here all night?”

“Well no,” Harry says, “Not Zayn and Louis, of course. They should get home to Perrie and El. But like...I could stay.” He shrugs and looks to where Zayn and Louis are shoving their trainers on and grabbing their jackets from the pile on the floor. “I don’t mind.”

“Eh.” Niall waves him off. “Go back to Ben’s. Me and Daisy will be fine here, right Daisy lady?”

Harry feels his heart flutter in his chest hearing Niall talk so sweet to the baby, and he instantly wants to brain himself for being ridiculous. He really needs to get a grip on his life.

“Do you have anyone coming tomorrow then? Your mum or Denise or--”

“Nah.” Niall kicks some of the pillows on the floor closer to the sofa, and Harry leans down to pick them up, setting them in opposite corners and plumping the middles like his mum always told him to do. “My mum’s gonna come soon, but she’s got work right now. And Denise is still busy at home with Theo. I think Bressie might stop by for a few days, but I’m not too sure how much help he’ll be anyway. Bressie might be even more useless with a wee baby than I am, and that’s saying something.”

“But that’s exactly it,” Harry argues. “You’re going to need help, Niall. That’s why you should let me stay.”

“I’m good, Hazza,” Niall says firmly, and Harry pouts. “Go home. I’ve got this.”

“Come on, H,” Zayn says, coming up from behind Harry and handing him his coat. Harry huffs but shrugs it on. For whatever reason Niall seems bent on dealing with Daisy himself, and if he is, Harry’s not going to argue with him. Well. Fine. He is going to argue with him; he’s just apparently not going to win any arguments. “Niall says he’s got this, and I, for one, am dead tired from helping all day.”

“Wait,” Louis says, his eyes wide and blinking. “You’re dead tired? You? You didn’t get off that sofa once today! You sat there and watched the entire Iron Man trilogy while Liam and the girls and I did everything.”

Zayn shrugs easily. “I was supervising.”

“Supervising,” Louis says flatly. He narrows his eyes and glares. “Is that what you call it?”

“Well someone had to be around to make sure you lot didn’t mess about too much,” Zayn says plainly. Harry takes Niall’s arm and backs them up a step. Louis’s face has gone an interesting shade of red. Harry’s curious to see how long it takes the steam to actually start coming out from his ears. “And anyway,” Zayn says, face crinkling into a smile so wide even Louis is pausing in the middle of his tirade to look at him. “I’m just still in shock that it’s Niall who found himself with a baby in a basket and not Harry. Did we talk about this yet? Because it’s amazing to me.”

“We talked about it, yes.” Harry huffs and grabs his own coat and shrugs it on while Zayn and Louis argue with each other quietly on the way out. Harry looks at Niall and Daisy one last time, but she’s already sleeping again in his arms. Niall’s literally walking behind Louis and Zayn and kicking at their ankles to get them to leave. Well fine. Harry can take a hint as much as the rest of them.

“Ring me in the morning, all right?” Harry hugs Niall with one arm and leans down to softly kiss the baby’s forehead. Her nose wrinkles up in sleep, and she makes a quiet snuffling sound.

“Yep, yep. Now thanks again, lads. Good night, see you in the morning, have a good one,” Niall says. Harry shakes his head and laughs, and follows Louis and Zayn outside.

*

Harry calls Niall first thing the next morning, but it goes straight to voicemail. Harry hangs up before leaving a message. He tries a second time. The same thing happens, so then he calls Zayn, swearing when Zayn doesn’t pick up either.

“Rubbish,” Harry mutters. He’s sat at the breakfast bar again, drinking a cup of coffee and idly scratching his belly. Meri bustles into the kitchen fully dressed and all bundled up in a wooly hat and coat and kisses Harry quickly on the top of the head.

“Morning, love,” she says. “I was surprised to hear you come back last night. How were Niall and the baby?”

Harry frowns. “They were fine.”

“Mm hmm,” she hums. Her lips are curved into a knowing smile. “Niall doing well at the whole baby thing so far?”

“So far,” Harry says huffily. He stands up and takes his coffee cup to the sink. Outside the grass is tipped with icy dew, the sky a pale grey with clouds hanging low. “But it’s been like, a day. I’m sure it’s just not hit him yet.”

“And I’m sure that even when it does it’s going to be fine,” Meri says. She grabs a banana from the counter and peels it, taking a quick bite and using it to gesture around the room when she talks. “Are you headed back over there today?”

Harry shrugs. “Might as well. I tried ringing him and Zayn both, but no one’s picked up yet. Maybe I’ll try Louis and see if he knows how things are going.” He opens a text to Louis and quickly taps in, are you at Nialls?? how are things?? then puts his mobile on the counter and stares at it, willing it to ring.

Meri rolls her eyes and finishes her banana, leaning past Harry to throw the peel into the bin. “Well I’m off. I’ve got some errands to do today and thought I’d pick up a few things for the baby as a present from me and Ben. If you’re still around when I’m home you can take them over there later, yeah?”

“Yeah, all right,” Harry says, just as his mobile buzzes with a text from Louis.

things are fine. all this baby does is eat and sleep. paternity test probably not necessary.

I was thinking of coming over soon

nah we’ve got it for now.. come tonight I’m taking El to dinner ; )

Harry sighs.

“All right?” Meri asks.

Harry sighs again. This is so crap. His best friend has a sodding baby, and no one wants his help to take care of it. This is the actual worst.

“No one needs me,” Harry says, looking at Meri to pout and look as pitiful as possible. Meri rolls her eyes and pats his head some more.

“Rubbish!” Ben says, wandering into the room in a pair of worn out jogging bottoms and a faded black t-shirt. “I was just saying to Mer the other day I needed someone to help me clean out my office. I’ll meet you there in fifteen.” He drops a kiss on the top of Meri’s head and pats Harry on the back as he reaches into the cupboard for a coffee mug.

Harry bites his lip. “Erm. Well. You see--”

“See you in fifteen, H,” Ben says, beaming brightly and smacking Harry on the cheek. Harry rolls his eyes and shoves his mobile in his pocket. Whatever. At least Ben needs him.

 

*

Harry takes what’s probably the third shift of the day, seeing as how Louis was at Niall’s first thing in the morning and Liam is the one who’s leaving now that Harry’s shown up.

“Everything all right?” Harry asks. The house is dead silent. It barely seems like there’s anyone inside at all, let alone a two month old baby and Niall.

“They’re both having a kip in the sitting room,” Liam says quietly. “Zayn said neither of them slept when he was here earlier, but the moment I got in they both passed out.” He furrows his eyebrows and bites his lip. “I’ve been trying not to feel insulted by that all day, to be honest.”

“That’s all right, Liam,” Harry says. He pats Liam’s shoulder then squeezes and leaves his hand there. “No one wanted me here at all today. I’d have been happy to have been fallen asleep on.”

Liam nods and Harry nods with him. They both stand in the middle of the foyer nodding like two utter lemons until Harry stops and physically takes his hand away and sticks it in his pocket. “Well then, I should get in there, see if either of the wee Horan’s need anything.”

Liam pats his back and looks to the pink gift bag Harry’s holding in his other hand. “More presents?”

“From Ben and Meri,” Harry tells him. “Another slew of frilly pink things.”

“Daisy’s going to be the fanciest baby in all of London soon,” Liam says. “I’ve never seen quite so many puffy dresses for such a small baby.”

They say their goodbyes after that and Liam shows himself out, leaving Harry to wander through the house trying to find something for him to do. He’s already poked his head into the sitting room and found Niall asleep on the sofa and Daisy curled up in her little portable cot in the middle of the room. He drops the gift from Ben and Meri on the coffee table and sprawls out in the chair across the room.

The telly is on low--a footie match of some sort playing on the screen--and Harry manages to stay awake for about five minutes before he passes out from boredom.

*

It goes on like that for the next few days. Harry calling to see if Niall needs any help early in the day but no one needing him until late when Niall and the baby are already mostly asleep for the night. He spends his days with Meri and Ben, cleaning out the office, helping around in the spare room when Meri asks him, and bringing over takeaway and presents from his mum and sister and Lou for Daisy whenever he goes to visit Niall.

Niall’s fine. He’s actually coping with having a baby around far better than Harry had expected him to. Whenever Harry gets there at night everything is calm, and the baby is already nearly asleep for the night. Sometimes Niall’s having a kip or puttering around the house tidying things up. Harry’s not watched so many footie matches or ridiculous films in his entire life, it seems like, as he has in Niall’s entertainment room in the past week.

It’s good, is the thing. Niall’s good. Daisy’s good. Harry’s good. It’s all good.

Until it very, effectively, is not.

*

Harry’s knee deep in a pile of papers from Ben’s desk when his mobile buzzes about five times in a row. He digs it out of his pocket and pushes the headband back further onto his head, smiling happily when he sees it’s Niall texting him.

hey hazza you around???

everything’s fine haha just wondering

I mean if you are around it’d be great if you could come over

if not thats fine too haha! we’re good! it’s all good

Harry frowns down at the messages and unlocks the screen, hitting Niall’s number from his favorites and waiting for him to answer. He does, after a minute, a breathless, “Hey, Haz,” barely audible over the screaming baby in the background.

Harry jumps to his feet, already shoving his feet into a pair of trainers and trying to remember where he’d left his keys when he got back late the night before. “Niall. All right? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Niall says. His voice sounds close to normal, but Harry’s known him long enough to hear the panic underneath. Between one breath and the next Daisy wails again, and Harry flinches. It’s so loud over the mobile he can’t even imagine how terrible it must be in person. Yikes. “It just seems like we’re having a bit of an issue here today, Daisy and me.”

“Who’s there with you?” Harry glances at the clock and thinks this is Zayn’s usual time at Niall’s.

“No one, actually,” Niall says.

Harry frowns. “Where’s Zayn?”

“Had to do some wedding stuff with Perrie,” Niall answers, and shit.

“So you’re by yourself? Just you and the baby?” Harry finally locates his keys and coat, shrugging it on and looking for the pad Meri keeps tacked to the front of the fridge to leave her and Ben a note. “Fuck, Niall, you should have rung me earlier. I’ve been calling there every morning trying to see if you need help and every day you always say no so I’m stuck sitting around Ben’s house cleaning out his bloody office,” Harry snaps. “Where’s Liam or Louis?”

“I don’t know, Haz. Out I’m guessing,” Niall snaps. Daisy wails again, and Harry scrawls, GONE TO NIALLS BE BACK LATER onto the pad with a fat black marker pen. “Can you save the twenty questions for later? Are you coming over or not?”

“I’ll be right there,” Harry says and flies out the door.

*

Harry doesn’t think it’s possible, but he feels as if he’s walking into a completely different house this morning than the one that he left the night before. When he left for the night Daisy was sound asleep in her cot, and Niall was watching the telly, feet stretched out and resting on the edge of the coffee table, a bottle of lager dangling from between his fingers. It had been dark and quiet, the refrigerator humming softly from the kitchen.

This morning, though, Harry stops dead in the hallway and openly boggles at the chaos, because shit.

It looks like every light in the house is on, along with the telly, the radio, Niall’s mobile ringing every five seconds and the constant wail of Daisy’s cries overlaying it all. The kitchen is a tip with dirty plates and cups overflowing from the sink and bottles soaking in water in every available space. Every pillow and blanket Niall owns looks to be piled into a heap in the middle of the sitting room, and there are about five piles of clothes (which Harry is hoping are clean, but he’s not too sure) stacked up on the coffee table and the floor and the sofa cushions.

Niall himself is sitting on the floor, Daisy swaddled in a hot pink blanket on his lap. He looks up when Harry enters the room, and his eyes are ringed with red, dark circles shading the tops of his cheeks. Harry crouches down and pats Niall on the knee, and the movement startles Daisy enough that she shoots her tiny arm out from under the blanket causing it to fall down her chest a bit and, well.

“Niall,” Harry says gently. “Is the baby naked?”

“Um,” Niall blinks at him confusedly. He looks dazed. “Yeah,” he finally says and nods. “Seems like. She’s got a blanket on though, yeah? That’s good.”

“Yeah,” Harry says. He leans back on his heels and nods slowly, reaching over to pluck Daisy from Niall’s arms as slowly as he can. “That’s really good. Do you want me to get her dressed for you?”

Niall leaps up at that, startling the baby into crying again as he flails around the room. “That’s the bloody problem, isn’t it!” he shouts. Harry crosses his legs under him and leans his back against the sofa. He has a feeling he’s going to be here for a few minutes.

“What’s the problem?”

“Clothes!” Niall yelps. “Look how many she has!” Harry looks at the piles and nods. Daisy has a lot of clothes. This is true. He’s not sure why it’s coming as such a surprise to Niall at this very moment, but all right. Harry can go with it.

“She does have quite a bit, yeah,” Harry agrees.

“Right. Right!” Niall’s voice has officially crossed over into hysterical territory. Harry had been expecting him to have a bit of a breakdown at some point, but this. This is a full fledged snap. “Piles of clothes. Mountains of clothes. And do you know what I realized, Haz? When I was washing a hundred loads of her forty billion dresses?”

Harry bites his lip because that was a question. He knows it was. But he’s not entirely sure he’s meant to answer it. “Erm…”

“She’s got no trousers!” Niall yells.

Harry blinks. Daisy wails. Niall’s face is bright red, his eyes wide and panicked looking. Harry shushes the baby, holding her close and kissing her forehead until she starts to calm down. He’s not entirely sure, but he thinks he might have to do the same to Niall in a few minutes. In all the years he’s known him he’s never seen Niall quite so rattled.

“She’s got no trousers?” Harry asks.

“Nope! None!” Niall shouts. He’s pacing now, trackie bottoms dragging on the floor. “She’s got a billion dresses - Christ knows Daisy and I can go to about five hundred fancy parties - but she’s got no trousers! She’s got like, five babygros and they all got dirty, so I washed them all. Then went to get her dressed, but she’s only got things to wear to a bloody wedding and nothing to relax in.” He turns to face Harry, and points a finger at him. “Why doesn’t she have any trousers, Harry?” Niall yells some more. “Why not?”

“Um,” Harry bites his lip and thinks about his words carefully. “Possibly because no one has bought her trousers yet.”

“Right. No one’s bought her trousers yet,” Niall says. Everything’s quiet for a second, and then he throws his hands in the air and shouts, “What the hell.”

“Niall--”

“I’ve got a fucking baby, Harry. A baby.” Niall’s eyes are wild and oh. All right. Here it comes. Harry had been waiting for it, but didn’t really expect Niall’s breakdown to be quite as spectacular as it’s shaping up to be.

“Jesus christ, I’m a fucking dad. I’m a dad, and I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. My baby has no trousers. I went to change her and realized she’s got no trousers, so I panicked and wrapped her in a blanket and no clothes and had to call you because I don’t know what I’m doing.” He stops and blinks at Harry wildly, running his hands through his hair and tugging on it. “Harry, oh my god, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing.

Harry pulls the blanket tighter around the baby and stands up, walking over to where Niall’s currently banging his head against the wall, eyes screwed tightly shut. He curls Daisy in close to his chest and puts his other hand on Niall’s shoulder, digging his thumb into Niall’s shoulder blade and rubbing slowly.

“I’ll get her some trousers straight away,” Harry says quietly. “I’ll go buy her a hundred pairs of trousers. A thousand pairs. You’ll never have to do laundry again because I’ll buy her so many trousers that whenever they get dirty you can just chuck them in the bin instead of washing them, all right?”

Niall laughs but it’s thin and sad sounding. He presses his temple against the wall and sighs. Harry holds Niall’s gaze steadily. He only breaks eye contact when Niall looks down at the baby in Harry’s arms and then back up again.

“It’s not about the trousers,” Niall says, so quiet Harry barely hears him. He reaches out and runs his fingers over the soft top of Daisy’s head. Daisy has finally quieted down and she blinks up at Niall, her eyes wide and blue. Niall’s voice is thick when he looks back at Harry, his eyes wet. “Not really.”

Harry steps in closer and puts his arm around Niall’s shoulders, holding Daisy on one side and Niall on the other. “I know,” he says quietly, and presses a kiss to the top of Niall’s head.

*

Niall winds up going out to buy Daisy some trousers after Harry gets her zipped into a clean dress covered in pink and red ladybirds and settled into her bouncy chair with a squeaky toy giraffe. Harry was going to go himself, but he thought maybe some time out of the house would do Niall some good. A little bit of fresh air, interacting with other humans. Things like that.

He tidies up around the house for a bit and gets all of Daisy’s dresses and babygros piled up in a stack on Niall’s bed. The washing up takes a bit longer to sort, so he hooks his phone up to a speaker and sings along with The 1975 while he finishes and puts everything away. Daisy’s actually nodded off in her vibrating chair, and Harry gently takes the giraffe toy from her hand so it doesn’t wake her up with its squeaking by accident.

Everything feels more settled, and he’s only been there close to an hour. Part of Harry is upset that he didn’t realize what was going on, that he trusted Niall enough when he kept saying he was all right when he so clearly wasn’t, but the other part of Harry decides he’s not going to dwell on that. He’s here now, and he’s going to take care of things. He’s good at that.

By the time Niall gets back Harry’s stretched out on the sofa with a bowl of crisps balanced on his stomach and the telly playing a repeat of Bobby Flay that he’s seen at least two other times. Niall’s got a bunch of bags dangling from his hands and he looks better already.

“Mission accomplished?” Harry asks.

Niall grins and quietly puts the bags down on the floor. “Yeah. I got her some trousers and tops and a few extra bibs, so I don’t have to do laundry quite so much.” He scratches the back of his head and looks over at Daisy who’s still sleeping quietly. “She give you any problems?”

“Not a one,” Harry says. He pops a crisp in his mouth and grins. “Been sleeping like a baby.”

“Ha ha,” Niall drones. He flops onto the sofa and kicks Harry’s feet to the side of the coffee table before sticking his hand into the bowl and grabbing a handful of crisps. “Such a comedian. So glad I’ve got you here for my comic relief.”

Harry nudges Niall’s feet with his toes. He thinks about saying something terrible like, you’ve got me here for way more that that, but decides against it and just leans in closer to Niall’s shoulder. “I called Lou when you were out. She’s going to stop by later with some of Lux’s old stuff in case you need it. Ben and Meri are coming over, too to bring some things by.”

Niall watches Harry for a second and then looks away, a muscle tightening in his jaw. His cheeks are flushed pink and he shoves a handful of food in his mouth, chewing loudly. “So everybody knows I cocked it all up already, yeah? That’s good. Better to have the truth out I guess.”

His voice is flat. He sounds hurt, is the thing, and it hits Harry then that Niall thinks Harry called everyone and told them that Niall couldn’t handle the baby and that’s why they were all coming over.

“No, Niall, hey.” Harry sits up and puts the bowl on the coffee table. Niall frowns at him and huffs. He’s staring directly at the telly, and Harry sighs. He puts his hand on Niall’s chin and drags his face around until he’s looking at Harry.

“I didn’t tell anyone about…” he gestures around the room, trying to indicate the idea of everything without saying it. “You know. That trousers issue or anything. Lou had asked me the other day to let her know when I was here in the daytime, so she could come over. And Meri told me this morning she was picking more stuff up for you before you even rang me.” Niall holds Harry’s gaze for a second before looking away and shrugging awkwardly.

“Yeah. Yeah, all right.”

“And anyway,” Harry continues, “Even if I did tell them anything there was nothing bad to tell.” Niall scoffs at that, a low snorting sound coming from his throat. Harry frowns and digs his fingers into Niall’s good knee. “Hey. You’re doing awesome, Nialler. This is...this is a massively fucked up situation, and you’re doing amazing. Way better than me or any of the other lads would have done.”

Niall’s quiet for a second then looks down at Harry’s hand, plucking his fingers where they’re resting on Niall’s knee and then letting them fall back down. “Nah. You’d do all right.”

Harry thinks about it for a second. He scratches his chin and stares into the distance. “Well, yeah. I mean, I’d be awesome at it, but Zayn would be terrible.”

Niall bursts out laughing at that, then covers his mouth so as not to wake Daisy. Harry checks on her, and she’s still sleeping soundly, cheeks pink and warm looking, her tiny mouth moving as if she’s sucking on a bottle even in her sleep. She’s so insanely cute Harry can’t even stand it.

“Zayn would be crap,” Niall agrees. “You had to see him that first day. Kept looking at the baby like she was going to give him rabies.”

“Probably worried she was going to yank on his quiff,” Harry says.

“Be sick on the front of his new Iron Man shirt or summat,” Niall adds.

Harry flops back onto the sofa and groans. “God, if I have to watch the Avengers one more time they better not worry about Daisy, they better be worried about me instead. Do you think I could be sick on their shirts? Do you think that would work?”

Niall laughs and hits Harry in the face with a pillow. They wind up laughing so hard they do wake the baby, but when she sees them both smiling at her she doesn’t do anything but grin and gurgle and reach out her tiny fists for her dad.

*

Lou comes over not long after that with bags filled with clothes and marked 3-6 months and 6-9 months. She bustles into the entertainment room and drops the bags on the floor before clapping her hands together and shouting, “Horan! Where is this baby I’ve been hearing about?”

Niall’s sitting on the floor with Daisy in his lap, and he holds her up over his head Simba-style and whistles. “Over here, Teasdale.”

“Oi! She’s a cutie!” Lou plucks the baby from Niall’s hands and settles her on her hip like she’s done it a thousand times. Daisy doesn’t even blink, just stares at Lou with wide eyes before digging her fingers into the brightest pink section of Lou’s hair. “You doing good with her, Nialler? Everything looks all right.”

Niall looks at Harry and flushes a bright pink before dropping his head. He plucks at a strong on his jeans and nods. “Yeah,” he says quietly. “We’re doing good.”

Harry smiles to himself and grabs the bag of the smallest clothes, pulling open the ties and taking the tiny tops and trousers and dresses out piece by piece. There are so many things he remembers from when Lux wore them that his heart clenches tight in his chest. Lux is so big now compared to Daisy. The thought that one day Daisy will be as big as Lux makes Harry’s head spin.

“So listen, I’ve got some other things out in the car,” Lou says. She drops a kiss on the baby’s head before passing her back over to Niall, who takes her happily. “Some toys and a few seat things Lux used to love. Which way is Daisy’s room? I’ll go grab them and get them set up.”

Niall looks from where he’s blowing raspberries on Daisy’s belly and shrugs. “Oh, she’s not got a room.”

Lou stops dead in the middle of the room and stares at him.

“She what?”

“She’s not got a room,” Niall says again. “I mean, I’ve got her a cot, and I just keep her with me at night.”

“You keep her with you?” Lou asks.

Niall nods. “Yep.”

“And what about her things?” Lou says. She looks at Harry, her eyes bulging wide. Harry shrugs. He’s got no idea what’s got her so riled up to be honest. “Where do you keep those?”

“Oh, you know,” Niall says lightly. “Here and there.”

“Here and there,” Lou mutters. “Here and there.” She quiet after that for so long Harry figures he must have imagined her weirdness from a few moments ago. She’d seemed kind of confused, but now she’s agreeing with them so she must be--

“Niall fucking Horan oh my god, you are a complete fucking knobhead,” Lou shouts.

Niall whips his head up so quickly it’s nearly comical. Harry stares back and forth between them, like he’s watching the most interesting tennis game of his life. “What?” Niall says. “Why?”

“Because you don’t keep a baby with you twenty four hours a day,” Lou yells. “Have you gone mad? Because if you haven’t yet I can assure you, you fucking will if you keep this up.”

“What!” Niall makes a face and rolls his eyes. “What’s the big deal? I’ll get to it eventually.”

“No.” Lou shakes her head and grabs Harry by the hand, dragging him out to the hall. “You’ll get to it today. Letting the baby sleep in his bloody room every night. Is he insane?” Harry’s mouth opens and closes like a demented fish. Lou smacks him on the side of the head - which is unnecessary really. It’s not Harry’s fault the baby’s not got a room - and pulls Harry through the halls. “He’s got to give the baby her own fucking room, Hazza. She’s not a puppy.”

“He doesn’t think she’s a puppy,” Harry says firmly. He frowns and plants his feet on the ground. “Stop being so bossy.”

Lou stops and whirls around, pink and purple hair flying in an arc around her shoulders. Niall’s followed them out from the entertainment room, and he holds Daisy against his hip, coming up to stand next to Harry close enough their shoulders press. Harry feels like whatever’s happening that it’s the two of them against Lou. He’s pretty sure they’re not going to win, but fuck it; he’ll at least make a valiant effort trying to.

“Why can’t Niall keep Daisy in his room if he wants to?” Harry asks.

Niall just his chin out. “Yeah.”

“Oh, you can keep her in your room,” Lou says. She smiles at them brightly, but Harry can see through it. She’s teasing them, the witch. “You’ll just never sleep again.”

“But we’re fine,” Niall insists. Harry doesn’t have the heart to remind him that when he got there this morning Niall was about ten minutes from a breakdown, and Daisy was completely naked except for a hot pink fuzzy blanket. It seems best to leave that unmentioned for the time being. “And anyway if she’s not in the room with me how will I hear when she needs me?”

“You get a monitor,” Lou says and literally reaches over to knock her fist against the side of Niall’s head. Niall kicks at her ankles, and Lou shakes her head and grabs her bag and keys from the entryway.

“I’m leaving. I’m going to the shop and getting you a fecking baby monitor, and by the time I get back I want you two utter knobs to have found a room for this poor baby to sleep in and we’ll set it all up, all right? Jesus Christ,” she mutters as she walks out the door. “Like the poor thing wants to spend her life staring at Niall Horan’s fucking face while she sleeps.”

The front door swings shut behind her, and Harry and Niall stand silently in the hallway. Daisy makes a few soft gurgling sounds, and Niall pulls her close, cupping his hand around the back of her head and cradling her against his chest.

“So, about that room,” he says quickly.

“I’m on it,” Harry answers and bolts down the hall trying to decide which room will be easiest to clear out first.

*

Harry clears out the small room right across the hall from Niall’s in short enough time. There were just a load of boxes stacked on the floor and some of Niall’s off season coats and jumpers hanging in the cupboard. He moves the boxes into the bigger guest room and shoves the clothes to the back of the cupboard and calls it a day.

When Lou gets back she’s armed with a baby monitor and a small stand for them to stack Daisy’s nappies and wipes on for when she’s getting changed. Lou huffs the entire time she sets everything up, glaring in Harry’s direction and pointing her finger at him every few minutes while she huffs and rolls her eyes.

“You have to get her furniture you know,” she says.

Harry nods. “Yes. Furniture. Got it.”

“A changing table. A place to put her clothes. A box for her toys.” She’s ticking things off on her fingers one at a time. Harry nods and agrees with whatever she says.

“Right,” Harry says. He reaches around and scratches the back of his neck. “Is there any reason why you’re telling me all this and not the baby’s father though?”

“Pfft. Niall.” Lou flaps her hand around and smacks Harry on the cheek. “Let’s all just be lucky Niall doesn’t trade the baby in for some pints when he goes out one night, yeah?”

Harry loves Lou but he feels himself bristle on Niall’s behalf. “Hey,” he says and frowns. “Niall’s great. He’s been amazing with Daisy. Don’t say anything about him because I don’t know anyone else who could have had something like this thrown at them and still be happy all the time and not losing their mind because--”

“All right, all right. I get it,” Lou says and pinches Harry’s cheek and. “Niall is wonderful. You’re wonderful. Daisy is lucky to be surrounded by two mister wonderfuls at all times. I understand now.”

Harry huffs. He’s fairly sure Lou does not get it, but that’s fine. He’ll just make it his life's mission to convince everyone how amazing Niall is at everything ever. It should be fine. He’s got time.

“Hey Haz, I’m ordering chinese for dinner,” Niall calls from the kitchen. “You want anything special?”

Harry’s seen Niall order takeaway before. It usually consists of ordering one of everything on the menu except for the things he really likes, and those he gets three of. There will probably be enough leftovers for the next week and a half without Harry ordering a single thing.

“I’m good,” Harry calls. “Cheers.”

“Lou, you staying to eat?” Niall yells.

“Nah.” Lou straightens the last stack of nappies and flicks the light off, leaving Harry in the dark as she walks from the room. Sometimes she’s truly awful. “I’ve got to get home to Tom and Lux. You’ll ring me when you get Daisy some furniture though, yeah? We’ll all come over and help you set it up.”

“Yeah, sure,” Niall says. Harry’s made his way into the kitchen and finds Daisy tucked back into the vibrating seat in the corner of the room. She’s holding the squeaky giraffe by the foot and blinking widely at the three of them in the room. Harry wants to scoop her out of her seat and kiss her face until she can’t breathe.

In a totally non-creepy, normal way, of course.

“You be careful around here, little miss,” Lou says, grabbing Daisy’s purple socked foot and shaking it. Daisy gums on the ear of the giraffe and stares up into Lou’s face. “Make sure your daddy doesn’t leave you outside while he goes drinking in some pub one night, all right?”

“Like I’d do that,” Niall snaps. He punches Lou on the shoulder and shoves her out of the kitchen and into the living room. “Christ, Lou. Go get yourself fucked.”

Harry hears a slap and then Niall yelping in pain, and he sighs. Lou yells, “Bye, Harry!” and he shouts out a goodbye, going through the cupboards and getting some plates out for dinner.

*

Harry’s so hungry by the time the food gets in he eats two entire plates before trying to make any kind of conversation with Niall at all. Not that Niall’s noticed. Harry’s eaten enough meals with him in the past few years to know better than to try and get him talking before he’s done eating.

“Listen, thanks again for today, mate,” Niall finally says, wiping his mouth on a napkin and pushing his empty plate away. Harry nods and keeps eating. He’ll be done at some point eventually.

“‘M’glad to help,” Harry says. He looks down, and Daisy is still sleeping in her seat. Harry really wants to help get her ready for bed in a bit. He’d seen some cute little babygros Lou had put in the bag. One even looked like it had cat ears sewn onto it. Harry can't wait to put it on her and take a thousand pictures.

“I’ll help you tidy up and then maybe we should get the baby ready for bed," Harry says. "We can try and figure out how this is all going to work with her sleeping in her own room for the night.”

Niall cocks his head and stares at him. “Yeah. But I mean, I can do that, Haz. You can head back to Ben’s whenever you feel like.”

And oh. Well. “I’m not going back to Ben’s,” Harry says and eats another bite of food.

Niall stares at him. “You’re what?”

“Not going back to Ben’s,” Harry says. His picks up his glass and takes a sip of juice. He’s so full now he thinks he might burst. “I’m staying here.”

“But.” Niall frowns at him a little. Harry beams. “But why?”

“To help you, knobface.” Harry balls up his napkin and tosses it at Niall’s head. It sails over Niall and falls right into Daisy’s lap. She squeals in delight. “See?” Harry says and beams. “The baby loves me already. I have to stay.”

“But that’s mad, Harry.” Niall stands up and starts grabbing their plates and stacking them in the sink. Harry hunches down and unstraps Daisy from her seat, tucking her in close to his chest. He reckons he has a better chance of Niall not staying mad at him if he’s holding Niall’s baby. Not that he’s scared of Niall. That’s ridiculous. He just...doesn’t want to leave and thinks this is a better way of trying to convince Niall to let him stay.

“Niall, look. You could use the help, and I want to help you,” Harry says quietly. Daisy reaches up and grabs a hunk of Harry’s hair, pulling on it and shrieking. He yanks the bandana out of his hair and uses it to cover his face and play peekaboo. “Plus Daisy would be sad, wouldn’t you sweetheart?”

Daisy gurgles and drools on Harry’s shirt. Harry grins at Niall and bounces Daisy higher on his hip.

“But you’re going to have to go home eventually,” Niall says. Harry shrugs. He’s sure he will, but that’s not for a while. And anyway, he’s got no real home to speak of. Ben and Meri might miss him, but he’s been gone for longer when he’s away on tour. It’ll be just like that, only sometimes he can stop over and bring a baby to visit them. It’s a win-win all around.

“Not sure if you’re aware, but I’ve not got a home now anyway,” Harry says lightly. He smiles at Niall, just letting the edges of his mouth quirk up into a grin. “You’d actually be doing me a favor.”

Niall snorts. He looks down and starts stacking up the takeaway containers. Harry knows Niall likes to handle things himself, that he’s proud to a fault about taking care of his own life and family, but Harry wants to do this. There’s something about this whole thing - Niall being a dad, Niall needing help raising his baby - that has Harry almost desperate to be a part of it.

“I really want to help,” Harry says after watching Niall do as much busywork as he can manage without looking Harry in the eye. Niall finally looks up, and Harry breathes a sigh of relief when he realizes that Niall’s smiling, eyes bright, face open and happy.

“Yeah, all right,” Niall says. He wiggles his fingers and gestures for the baby. Harry hands her over regretfully. He didn’t get nearly as many cuddles with her today as he’d liked. “But quit trying to steal my kid. You want to stay here so badly you can start by doing the dishes.”

Harry laughs and throws a tea towel at Niall’s head as Niall walks out of the kitchen.

*

The next day Harry decides that they need to take Daisy shopping.

“I don’t know, Haz,” Niall says. He’s got Daisy sitting in his lap on the sofa, a cup of coffee resting next to him on the side table. Harry’s got up early and cooked them a huge breakfast. Then he got Daisy from her cot when she woke up and changed and dressed her in a tiny pair of jeans and a bright yellow jumper. He’d tried to stick one of the silky bows in her hair that Lou had brought over, but it wouldn’t stay in the tiny amount of fuzz she’s got covering the top of her head. Harry was afraid she might yank it out and eat it, so he put it back in the box on top of the dresser. He’ll try it again in a month or so.

“You think we should all go?” Niall looks down at the baby, and she gurgles and drools at him. He pulls a ridiculous face at her, blinking his eyes wide and opening and closing his mouth, and she makes a delighted sounding chuckle. “I could just give you a list and my card and have you pick some stuff out. You know what the room looks like and what it needs.”

“We’re all going,” Harry says firmly. He kicks at Niall’s foot and shoves his own feet into the pair of boots he’d stashed under Niall’s sofa. “It’ll do us all good to get out for a while. Plus this way Daisy can tell us what she likes.”

Niall rolls his eyes. “She’s a baby, you idiot. She’s not got an opinion.”

Harry drops his mouth in shocked horror. “Niall Horan, take that back. Of course babies have opinions. Do you think this little lady wants to be stuck in a boring room with no personality? Nonsense!” He scoops Daisy up from Niall’s lap and peppers her face with kisses. Niall groans in the background, but he gets up and starts putting on his trainers and coat anyway.

“What do you think, Miss Daisy Mae?” Harry says cheerily. Daisy stares at him with her wide, blue eyes and blinks slowly. “Do you want princesses or teddy bears? Or maybe you like superheroes, yeah? Football? You don’t have to be trapped by gender preconceptions of what you should and shouldn’t want. There are no girl things or boy things in this house.”

“Harry would know. He’s well in touch with his feminine side,” Niall says, poking his head over Harry’s shoulder and beaming down into Daisy’s face. “Quite the little lady, your Uncle Harry is.”

“Fuck the hell off,” Harry mutters. He shoves Niall with his shoulder and goes to get Daisy’s jacket and settle her into her carseat. “You’re such a dickbag.”

“Now is that a gender neutral thing to say?” Niall chides and tsks softly. “I’m disappointed in you Harry. Maybe I’m sensitive because I have a dick. Maybe I wish my dick really was in a bag. You don’t know.”

“Fuck off,” Harry wails at the ceiling, and Daisy laughs at him from her carseat, unaware that her father is a complete and utter twat.

*

“So when did this all happen?”

Harry looks over his shoulder and grins at Louis from where he’s stood doing the washing up in the kitchen sink. He and Niall had all the lads over for dinner earlier to celebrate finishing decorating Daisy’s room. It had taken an entire week to get everything delivered, but she’s currently sleeping in a green and purple painted room, outfitted with princesses, teddy bears, an authentic Black Widow print, an Arsenal duvet courtesy of Ben and Meri, and Green Bay Packers shades on all the lights.

Zayn and Liam left shortly after Daisy had gone to bed. Harry had assumed Louis was on his way as well, but he’d insisted on helping them “tidy up.” He’s been sat on the sofa watching footie with Niall the entire time Harry straightened up and is currently in the doorway with one empty bottle of pop between his fingers that he leaves in the middle of the kitchen table. It’s the closest to helping tidy up Harry’s ever seen him do.

“When did what happen?” Harry asks. He holds up the milk bottle he’s rinsing out and squints at it closely before deeming it unacceptable for Daisy to drink out of and plunging it back into the water.

“This,” Louis says, gesturing vaguely around Niall’s kitchen. He’s got a smug look on his face, and Harry sighs. “You know, the playing Mr. Mum to Niall’s baby. Moving out of Ben’s on a whim. Shacking up with a bandmate. Any of the above, really.”

“Please,” Harry sighs. “I lived with you for over a year. This is exactly like that.”

Louis shakes his head. “Different. We were young then.”

“But I’m only nineteen now, though,” Harry reminds him. “So…”

“You know what I mean,” Louis says and rolls his eyes. “You and me staying together after the X Factor isn’t the same as you moving into Niall’s flat to help him care for his surprise baby three years later. This is just…” he trails off, shakes his head, and holds Harry’s gaze when he looks up. “This is bigger, and you know it.”

He doesn’t want it to, but hearing the words makes Harry’s chest go tight. Louis is right, is the thing. Sometimes Harry hates having someone like Louis around him all the time. Someone who knows nearly everything about him. Someone he can’t lie to. It’s inconvenient is what it is.

“I know this is like, everything you want, Harry,” Louis says quietly. Harry opens his mouth to deny it, but Louis shakes his head sharply and Harry stops.

“Quit it, Haz. I know you. The homey flat with people dropping in every day to say hello. Hosting dinner parties while the baby sleeps down the hall in her brand new cot with bunnies painted all over the walls.” Louis shakes his head and sighs. “You go out and get papped in clubs with Grimmy and whoever else all the time, but deep down you’re nothing but a homebody. Probably never moved into your own house because you were just waiting for something like this to happen.”

“Right.” Harry huffs and turns back toward the dishes. This is ridiculous. Louis is a twat, plain and simple. “That’s amazing. How ever did you figure it out? I’ve been waiting all my life for Niall to knock up a fan on tour and then for her to drop the baby on his doorstep a year later. What on earth are you doing singing in a band when you could be a member of MI5?”

Louis huffs. “Fine, be properly obtuse about it. You know I’m right though, and one day you’re going to have to admit that.”

Harry will admit nothing. Ever. He’d rather die first.

“Get out of my kitchen,” Harry says, choosing to ignore Louis and kick him in the ankle instead.

Louis snorts and pats Harry’s shoulder. He’s smiling smugly, and Harry takes his hand out of the water and flicks him in the face. “Your kitchen. All right, Haz.”

“Get out of my kitchen!” Harry wails, and Louis just laughs.

*

The next morning Harry’s barely sitting up in bed, the duvet bunched up messily in his lap while he rubs at his eyes when Niall bursts into the guest room, holding a cheery looking baby in his arms with a panicked expression on his face.

“Harry,” Niall yelps, a little breathlessly. He’s pale and his voice is shaking. Harry leaps from the bed nearly forgetting he’s completely starkers until the duvet slides to the floor and Daisy lets out a cheerful sounding giggle. Harry grabs the duvet and wraps it around himself.

“Niall, you all right? What’s wrong?” Harry’s heart is pounding in his chest. Niall looks proper panicked is the thing, so something must be horribly wrong. He rushes forward and grabs Daisy from Niall’s arms, peering closely into her face and eyes and trying to tilt her head back to make sure nothing’s lodged in her throat or something else horrible and traumatic. Daisy giggles some more and yanks on a hunk of Harry’s hair, trying to pull him closer so she can chew on it. So...nothing wrong with Daisy then.

“It’s not the baby,” Niall says. He’s stalking around the room now, kicking Harry’s trainers and boots and whatever else his feet come into contact with on the floor. Harry nuzzles Daisy’s neck and blows raspberries against her skin. “Well. I mean. It kind of is.”

“You’re not making any sense,” Harry says.

“Ugh. It’s just --” Niall finally stops pacing around the room and sighs loudly. He tugs a hand through his hair, and Harry waits to hear what’s wrong. “What am I going to do with her?” he finally says.

Harry blinks. “Daisy?”

“Yeah.”

“Um.” Harry licks his lips. Niall’s not really giving him much to work on. “What are you going to do with her when?”

“Forever!” Niall shouts. He throws his hands in the air, and Daisy mimics him, her chubby fists punching Harry in the chin by accident as she tries to cheer like her dad. “What am I going to do with a baby when we’ve got to go back on tour?”

Harry waits a beat. He could swear this isn’t supposed to be a trick question, but… “You take her with you?”

“Ha!” Niall rolls his eyes and pretends to laugh. “Ha ha ha. Right. I just - just take her with me. On tour. Like, forever.”

“Oh, please.” Harry rolls his eyes now. He hands Daisy back over and lets the duvet fall to the ground as he roots around for some clean pants. “We’re not going to tour forever. Now you’re just being dramatic.”

“Well, we’re going to be touring a lot!” Niall insists.

Harry finds a pair of pants and the jeans he was wearing the night before and tugs them on. He scratches his belly and decides against a shirt for now. This is already way more clothing than he’s used to this early in the day. “So we take her with us,” Harry says calmly. When it looks like Niall’s about to argue he cuts him off. “Lou’s taken Lux forever, and Caroline practically had Brooklyn in the back of a tour bus. No one we travel with is any stranger to baby girls wandering around buses and hotels. It’ll be fine.”

Niall huffs. “Fine. Then what about the shows, huh? What am I supposed to do with her for three hours while we’re performing?”

“Yeah. That’s true.” Harry rubs his chin thoughtfully then shrugs. “Suppose you’ll have to stand outside with a sign and see if you can get someone off the street to do it.”

What?” Niall screeches. “Are you serious?”

“Oh my god,” Harry mutters before reaching out to smack Niall on the side of the head. “Of course I’m not serious, you fucking knob. I’m joking. Ha ha? Making a funny?” Niall just glares at him, and Harry throws his hands in the air. “Mate, what’s going on here? You’re normally so chill about things. Why are you freaking out so badly this morning?”

“I don’t know.” Niall stomps out of the room and makes his way down the hall into the kitchen. Daisy is giggling hysterically, banging her fat little fists against Niall’s back. Harry follows behind them and pulls faces at her the whole time. “Why are you being so calm?”

“Because you’re completely losing your head over this,” Harry says. He crowds up behind Niall and pokes him until Niall sighs and hands Daisy over. Harry kisses her face and cheeks, and she screeches, mouthing wetly at his chin. “Someone’s got to be the calm one. Normally that’s you, but since your common sense has decided to go on holiday--”

“Ha ha ha.”

“Then I guess this time it has to be me,” Harry finishes. He kicks one of the kitchen chairs out with his foot and sits down, leaning Daisy in the crook of his arm and taking the bottle Niall hands over reluctantly. “Everything’s going to be fine,” Harry says quietly. Niall still looks panicked, but his cheeks have got a bit of color in them and he’s breathing a bit easier. Harry’s going to count it as a win. He’s got to take what he can get apparently. “We’ve had babies on the road with us before, yeah? We’ll be fine.”

Niall slumps down into the chair across from Harry and reaches out to gently touch Daisy’s head. She tilts her face up, so she’s looking directly at him as she drinks her bottle, and pauses after a minute to give him a gummy smile around the teat.

“I know,” Niall says quietly. “I know you’re right. It’s just…”

“it’s just that this time the baby’s yours,” Harry finishes for him softly. Niall meets Harry’s eyes and chuckles, shaking his head before looking away.

“It’s daft,” Niall says.

“It’s sweet,” Harry corrects. His throat goes tight, and his heart clenches hard behind his ribs. “Everything’s going to be fine. You’re a great dad, Nialler.”

Niall grunts but doesn’t say anything. Harry finishes giving Daisy her bottle then passes her to Niall, who kisses her cheeks and forehead and chin, cuddling her close to his chest.

 

*

The rest of the day goes by smoothly enough, even after Niall’s early morning panic attack, but when Meri calls that afternoon to see if Harry or Niall need anything for Daisy it only takes him a split second to ask if she and Ben are free to watch the baby that night, so he can take Niall out and get him properly pissed.

“Of course!” Meri says. “We’ve got no plans at all, and I’ve been dying for some alone time with that sweet baby. We’ll be over early enough for you lads to grab a bite to eat and then go out after, all right?”

“I love you,” Harry says sincerely. “Leave Ben and marry me instead.”

“I heard that!” Ben shouts from the other side of the line.

Harry laughs and hangs up, then hurries off to find Niall.

*

The pub is quiet for a Friday night, but Harry thinks that’s probably because they’ve never gone out for the night before eight pm. He’d been worried that Niall would second guess the idea to leave Daisy with Ben and Meri, but the words were barely out of Harry’s mouth before Niall was shoving Daisy into Harry’s arms and telling him he was off to shower and get ready for a night out. If Harry’s honest he didn’t realize how much the cabin fever was getting to him as well, but with the first step they took out of the house they both looked at each other and grinned ridiculously wide, then took off for the car almost at a run.

“More pints,” Niall says, plunking two glasses on the already sticky table and sliding into the booth next to Harry. Harry presses their thighs together and grins, taking a long sip and leaning his head onto Niall’s shoulder. The pub is quiet and dark, local to Niall’s house, and Harry’s not worried about the two of them being spotted here. He’s got Paul waiting outside in a car in case he sees anyone lingering, but it’s not the kind of place people would normally go to look for them.

Harry steps on the top of Niall’s foot under the table and grins slowly when Niall looks down at Harry and smiles.

“Thanks for getting Ben and Meri to come over,” Niall says. “It was a great idea.”

Harry nods slowly. “I do have great ideas.”

Niall shakes his head. “Most of your ideas are crap, actually. Reckon you just got lucky this time.”

Harry stomps on Niall’s foot until Niall yelps, then does it again. “Hey.”

“Come on, drink up.” Niall lifts his glass and waits until Harry fumbles with his own, touching the tops of them together in a toast. “When we finish these I’m getting us shots.”

“Ooh,” Harry says, sitting straighter and taking a long pull from his glass. “I like shots.”

“Then pick up the pace, Curly,” Niall says, before draining his glass.

Harry frowns. He hates when people beat him at things, even if the thing is as stupid as who can finish a pint of beer first. He loves Niall, but he doesn’t want Niall to win anything tonight if it means Harry’s the one who’s going to be losing. Niall starts to stand to head to the bar, but Harry stops him with a hand on his sleeve, pulling him back into the booth.

“Not so fast,” Harry says, then finishes his beer so quickly he gets a pounding ache behind his eyes from the cold. “All right,” he says, words coming a little slower than they were a few minutes before. “Now I’m done.”

Niall grins at him and plucks the two empty glasses from the table. This time when he goes to get up Harry lets him.

“I’ll be right back,” Niall says. “More beer and some shots, yeah?”

Harry nods and the room goes pleasantly spinny. He’s just - he’s happy. He’s just so relaxed and happy and so glad he’s here with Niall. He grabs Niall’s empty hand and twines their fingers together, tugging a little until Niall stumbles and nearly trips back into their booth.

“Get lots of shots,” Harry says, his eyes going wide and mouth hanging open with the unexpected rhyme. “Ooh, get it?” he says happily. “Lots of shots? But not pots. Because sometimes they make spots. And oh, I hope nothing rots!”

Niall stares at him, lips pressed in a thin line. “I’m leaving you here,” he says flatly.

“No, don’t!”

“I’m calling Paul,” Niall says. He’s trying to sound serious, but his eyes are twinkling and his lips are starting to twitch into a smile. “Who are you? I don’t even know you.”

“Liar,” Harry pouts. “You love me lots. Ha ha - get it? - lots.”

“Goodbye, Harry!” Niall calls and heads over to the bar.

“You knew my name was Harry!” Harry shouts after him. “Maybe you’ve got the hots for me!”

He laughs at the table by himself the entire time Niall orders them more drinks, his hand firmly held over his head giving Harry the finger.

*

They stumble home a few hours later, pleasantly buzzed and relaxed. Harry is glad for it. It might not be much, but he’s happy he thought of having the two of them go out and have a few drinks together. He supposes he could have rung the rest of the lads and had them come along too, but to be honest he didn’t really think of it. Things have been going so well with just him and Niall lately that Harry didn’t want to add anyone else in for the night. He kind of just wanted to have Niall a little more to himself.

Meri is asleep with her head resting on Ben’s shoulder when they get back home. Ben smiles up at them when they walk in, nudging Meri awake with a poke to her ribs.

“Daisy was good?” Niall asks.

“Perfect,” Ben answers. Meri stretches and yawns, and Ben stands up to gather their coats. “She’s an angel, Niall, really.”

“So sweet,” Meri adds, smiling at them gently. “She’s such a love.”

Niall’s cheeks go pink, and Harry feels pride bloom warm and comfortable in his chest. He slings an arm around Niall’s shoulders and pulls him in close, pressing a messy kiss to the top of Niall’s head.

“See? I told you she was perfect,” Harry says, then leans over to chew on the collar of Niall’s coat.

Niall rolls his eyes and shoves him off. “It’s a wonder she is seeing as how she’s been living with a knobface like you lately.”

Harry frowns around the mouthful of coat, then leans in close to lick a stripe up Niall’s cheek, laughing to himself as Niall splutters and shoves him off, causing him to trip over his own stupid feet.

After Ben and Meri leave Harry settles on the sofa and wiggles his fingers in the air when Niall comes in with two bottles of beer and a couple packets of crisps. Harry’s already got the remote in his hand, and he’s flipping through the channels looking for some sort of match Niall will want to watch. It’s late, but Harry’s used to Niall’s routines by now. He knows Niall’s not going to bed before relaxing on the sofa with the telly for a bit.

“Cheers,” Harry says when Niall hands him a bottle. He takes a long pull before setting it down on the side table and sighs contently. He feels fuzzy and warm now, comfortable in the nicest way. Niall is pressed all up along Harry’s side on the couch. Their feet are tangled together on the coffee table, and Niall’s arm is over the back of Harry’s shoulders, his fingers tugging on the ends of Harry’s hair. Harry tugs off the headscarf he’s been wearing and chucks it onto the floor. His hair falls loose and long into his face, and he blows it off his forehead, yanking it back with his fingers.

“Tonight was sick,” Niall says. His fingers are still playing with Harry’s hair, twisting the strands around and around before letting them fall back down. He presses his fingertips into the curve of Harry’s neck and shoulder, and Harry shivers, curling in closer to Niall on the sofa.

“I had a great time, yeah,” Harry says. His voice is rough, and he clears his throat. He stares at the telly even though he’s got no bloody idea what’s going on in the match because this is...this is new. His skin is overly warm, and everything around him feels like it’s moving in slow motion. He shivers when Niall curls his fingers over the curve of Harry’s throat and kicks at Niall’s foot, trying to shimmy away from him a bit before all this kind of touching becomes an issue.

“What the fuck?” Niall says when Harry kicks him again as he scratches his nails up the back of Harry’s neck.

“What the fuck to me?” Harry asks. He sits up and blinks, setting his feet firmly on the floor. “What the fuck to you!”

Niall stares at him, the space between his eyebrows crinkling confusedly when Harry flaps his hands around trying to get Niall to understand what he’s implying without using the words. So far it’s not working very well.

“Mate, I don’t know about you, but it’s been like…” Harry trails off because bloody hell, can it really have been that long since he’s wanked? That seems ridiculous. He thinks back in his head again though, and yep, nope, it’s been a while. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve had a wank,” Harry finally says.

“Really?” Niall blinks at him. He looks confused, almost. Like he doesn’t understand what Harry is saying. Harry just stares back at him and widens his eyes. This isn’t exactly the reaction he’d been expecting. “Huh. I had one last night actually,” Niall says idly. “And this morning too, come to think of it. Why haven’t you been wanking?”

Harry’s head starts spinning. He just--

“Because of being here!” he says, trying not to sound as exasperated as he feels. “Because of you! I mean, not you exactly, but being here in your house!”

Niall laughs so hard he nearly falls off the sofa. “Sure. Right. Because my house has never seen a bit of a wank before. Fuck, Harry, have we met?”

“But the baby!” Harry wails.

“Well I don’t bloody well do it when I’m in the room with her, you fucking idiot. I do it other times.”

Harry blinks. His mouth is hanging open. This is like a whole new world to him. “Like when?”

“Erm, not too sure.” Niall scrunches his eyes up and scratches at his chin. “Before I get out of bed in the morning. Right before I go to sleep at night. Sometimes when Daisy is napping. Or playing with you in the living room for a bit.”

“You’ve wanked with her while I was just down the hall?” Harry can’t believe this. He literally can not.

Niall starts laughing and can’t seem to stop. He’s bent over at the waist, holding his middle and cackling hysterically. “Harry, if I didn’t figure out how to wank with you lads down the hall from me after all these years I’d have been dead by now. Dead by lack of wanking.”

Harry falls back into the sofa and huffs, trying to absorb all of this brand new information. He could have been wanking this whole time. Apparently Niall thinks he should have been wanking this whole time. Harry wants to drown himself in the tub. This is terrible. He’s been torturing himself for nothing.

“Do you need to excuse yourself?” Niall teases. His lips are curved in a grin, and Harry crosses his arms over his chest and pouts. Harry can feel when Niall looks at his crotch, which has naturally heard the discussion of wanking and is making itself clearly known that it would like to take part in the wanking proceedings as soon as possible. “I can pause the match you know. If you’ve not wanked in weeks I can hardly see it taking more than a minute or so before you’ve finished.”

“I can last more than a minute, you twatface,” Harry snaps. Niall dips his head in closer to Harry’s face and giggles as he bites on the shell of Harry’s ear. Harry’s dick kicks in his jeans, and he presses the heel of his hand against himself to try and settle himself down.

“I don’t believe you,” Niall says lightly. Harry flicks his eyes up, and Niall is right there, is the thing. His eyes are so, so blue from this close, and his skin is warm, his breath smelling faintly of beer. “I’ve been on tour buses with you, Harry. I already know what you sound like when you’re pulling one off. You’re hardly going to surprise me.”

“I’m going to last more than a minute though.”

Niall shrugs. “We’ll see.”

“Bet I can last longer than you,” Harry snaps back, because honestly, fuck it. It’s Niall. If he can’t have a wanking contest with Niall in his living room in the middle of the night, who can he have one with really?

Niall’s eyes twinkle, and he leans back long enough to yank up his shirt and snap the button on his own jeans.

“Ha! I thought you’d never ask,” Niall says cheerily.

Harry laughs because this is - this is crazy. Mad, really. Then again he never really expected any different from him and Niall.

Harry gets his own jeans and pants down quick enough and looks over to find Niall with his legs splayed open, fingers already curled lightly around his dick. He’s fatter than Harry had expected, where Harry’s just really long but also a bit thick. Niall’s fringe is falling into his face, and Harry reaches up to push it back from his eyes before Niall bats him away with the other hand.

“You have any slick?” Harry asks. His dick is chubbing up, filling his hand as he strokes it, but Harry likes his dick wet when he gets off. He thumbs at the head and wipes off a bead of come, spreading it over the side of his shaft and tugging.

“Yeah. Right here, princess,” Niall says, and spits into his own hand. Harry expects him to grab himself again, so when he reaches over and bats Harry’s hand out of the way to replace it with his own, Harry’s eyes nearly fall out of his head.

“Oh my god, Niall, what are you--”

“I’m wanking you off,” Niall says lightly. He flicks his eyes up to Harry and grins widely. Harry’s chest is tight, his balls pulling up, and he wants to fuck into Niall’s fist so badly he can barely think straight. “Then you’ll do me, yeah?”

“Yeah, yes.” Harry bites his lip and lets his head fall back as Niall tightens his fingers, twisting his fist and working Harry over just exactly right. “Whatever you want.”

“That’s a loaded proposition,” Niall says, and holy fuck, how is he making words right now? Harry’s legs fall open and he reaches down to wrap his fingers over Niall’s, squeezing both their hands almost too tightly around his cock. “Whatever I want?”

“Whatever,” Harry grunts. He watches their fists for another second before looking up, grabbing onto Niall’s thigh with his free hand. “Fuck. Faster, please.”

Niall speeds up his strokes, and it’s over almost comically fast, Harry’s orgasm punching through him lightning quick. He curls over his lap when he comes, breathing harshly through his nose and squeezing his eyes shut. Niall gives him a few quick last tugs then pats his hip and wipes his fingers off on the bottom of Harry’s shirt.

“Told you you’d come first,” Niall says, and Harry kicks him as hard as he can in the foot.

“‘S’no fair,” Harry whines. He’s still trying to get his breathing back to normal but it’s taking a bit longer than he expected. “You cheated.”

“No fucking way,” Niall says. He laughs again, the laughter going choked and thick when Harry curls his fingers around Niall’s dick and leans in to rub the head against his lips.

“Fuck, Harry, you don’t have to--”

“Shut up,” Harry says, and sucks the head of Niall’s dick into his mouth.

Niall’s so hard still that Harry’s jaw aches as he stretches it around the fat length of his cock. It’s not that Harry’s never done this before, but he’s not done it a lot and never with anyone as big as Niall is. He’s salty and hot on Harry’s tongue, and Harry grunts, goes down as deep as he can and opens his throat letting Niall fuck into his mouth.

“Holy fucking christ,” Niall swears. He drags his fingers through Harry’s hair and pulls, holding Harry’s head in place as he rocks his hips up over and over again. Harry touches Niall’s thigh, wanks him a few times, rubs the soft skin of his balls and drags the tips of his fingers down and around the curve of Niall’s thigh. “Harry, pull off I’m gonna come.”

Harry lets Niall’s dick slide from his mouth and wanks him messy and wet until Niall comes all over his belly, Harry’s fingers getting slippery and slick with spit and come. He smiles to himself as he uses Niall’s shirt to wipe up his own spunk and settles back into the sofa against Niall’s side, the footie match still on and the two of them a whole lot happier and relaxed.

Honestly, Harry doesn’t know why it had taken him so long.

*

If Harry had been worried things were going to be weird between them the next day he quickly finds out he’s not when Niall bursts into his room half naked and shoving Daisy into Harry’s arms while he’s still in bed.

“Take her, I’ve got to have a massive shit.”

Niall runs back out, and Harry rolls his eyes, pulling silly faces at Daisy to make her laugh while they sit in Harry’s bed and wait for Niall to finish.

“‘Morning to you too, Nialler!” Harry calls out.

He can’t see him be he’s fairly certain that inside the bathroom Niall’s giving him the finger.

*

It’s like once it starts happening, they can’t seem to keep it from happening all the time.

Being that they’re both in most nights anyway, wanking each other off and blowing each other on the sofa after Daisy’s gone down for the night starts to become part of the routine, as easy between them as Harry throwing Niall’s clothes in with his own in the wash, or Niall automatically making Harry his cup of tea when Harry’s in the shower every morning.

They fool around on the sofa and in the living room and on one memorable occasion with Harry’s front pressed up entirely against Niall’s fridge. Niall had been almost frantic that night, sticking his hand down the front of Harry’s pants and pulling him off quick enough that Harry barely had time to move before he was coming over the front of Niall’s counters. Harry pays him back the next day by sneaking into the shower when Niall’s in there and dropping to his knees under the spray to suck Niall off after he’d settled Daisy in for her afternoon nap.

Sometimes they do it in Niall’s room, and sometimes in the guest room Harry’s been staying in. It’s easy, like hooking up with someone has almost never been before, all smiles and laughs and good natured orgasms all around. It’s like the very best definition of friends with benefits, and Harry’s ridiculously pleased at how it’s all turning out.

It’s just good, that’s all. It’s fun and easy like everything else between the two of them. Harry doesn’t bring it up; Niall doesn’t talk about it either, so of course it was far too much to expect the rest of the lads to keep their trap shut about it as well.

“Well, well, well,” Louis tuts. He’s come up behind Harry in the kitchen when Harry went to get more drinks and food for everyone who was over for the match. He starts up another bottle for Daisy as well. He’ll have to interrupt the fun she’s having playing with Zayn’s hair to give it to her, but it’s a necessary evil. If Daisy isn’t fed on time, she’s quite the menace. It’s one of her most discernable traits as a Horan.

“I see you and Niall have come quite far since the last time I was over, yeah?” Louis continues.

Harry huffs and ignores him as he screws on the cap of the bottle and shakes it around to mix it. He’s got no time for Louis’ riddles, really. He’s got drinks to bring in.

“What are you getting at, Lou?”

“Noooooothing,” Louis says, lips quirked in a sharp smirk. He narrows his eyes at Harry, squinting at the faint traces of the lovebite Niall had left on Harry’s neck a few nights before. Before Harry has time to move away to stop him, Louis comes over and presses his finger deep into the mark, chuckling quietly as Harry yelps and jumps away. “So that’s fancy.”

“Piss off,” Harry mumbles. He busies himself in front of the fridge, ignoring the way Louis is still hovering behind him.

“I’m just surprised,” Louis says, voice laced with laughter. “Last time I was here you were insisting this arrangement was just like when you and I lived together, but we never left fancy markings on each other’s necks from what I remember.”

“Yes, well, you’re old,” Harry snaps. He bumps Louis out of the way with his hip and puts Daisy’s bottle in the crook of his arm and the bottles of Coke between his fingers. “I’m sure you’ve forgotten loads of things by now.”

He’s got himself braced for one of Louis’ snappy comebacks, so he’s surprised when Louis plucks some of the bottles from Harry’s hand and just pats him on the shoulder gently.

“Just be careful, Haz,” Louis says softly. Harry looks up to see if Louis is taking the piss, but he’s not. His blue eyes are serious, mouth set in a grim line. “Don’t go getting too attached or anything. This is great. Niall’s house and the baby and...whatever else is going on, but like, it’s temporary, you know?” He shakes his head a bit. “It’s not all actually real.”

Harry swallows hard. He knows what Louis is saying is true. He does. He just...maybe kind of forgot that, for a little while at least.

“Yeah,” Harry says. Louis curves his fingers over Harry’s shoulder and squeezes. Harry sighs and follows him out of the kitchen and into the living room with the rest of the lads.

 

*

It’s a few days later and Niall is making breakfast when Harry’s mobile rings on the kitchen counter. Harry’s sat next to Daisy’s highchair trying to pick out the pieces of banana she’s squished into her hair with no real luck.

“Can you get that, Niall?” Harry calls over his shoulder. Niall holds a sizzling pan of eggs in the air with one hand and a spatula in the other.

“Um. No?” Niall says and looks at Harry like he’s crazy.

“Ugh. Fine.” Harry looks around for a second before he gives up and wipes his hand on his shirt, leaving the spoon on the highchair for Daisy to do with it what she likes. From the sounds of her excited squealing Harry’s fairly convinced whatever it is he’s going to need a lot more napkins to clean it up.

Harry manages to answer the call just before it kicks into voicemail, and it takes him a second to parse out who’s on the other line, but when he does Harry instantly knows why he’s calling and what it means. It’s like a huge sign starts flashing in Harry’s head - time’s up, it’s almost over - and he can’t seem to make himself look away from it.

“Hazza, hey!” Yianni says happily on the other end of the line. “You all right?”

“I’m good, yeah.” Harry’s voice has gone croaky and thick. He clears his throat and sees Niall look over at him, eyebrows lifted like he knows something’s wrong. “How are you?”

“Good, good. Listen, I was wondering if you had any time today to come over to the house and check some things out,” Yianni says. Harry fumbles with the chair and sits down. Daisy shrieks happily next to him, reaching out so she can wrap her sticky fingers in his hair like she does every morning. The words echo around in Harry’s head - stop by the house, your house - and he can’t look up at Niall, can’t remind himself that all of this, everything currently around him isn’t his.

“Haz?” Yianni says curiously. “Is today not a good time? It’s just that I’ve done some work on the cars, and Mark has made real progress in the kitchen. If you’re around I thought you could check it out.”

“No, no, that’s…” Harry clears his throat. “That’s great. I’ll be over in a bit.”

Yianni hangs up, and everything is oddly quiet in the kitchen. Niall’s got his back to Harry, scraping eggs and bacon onto plates, and Daisy’s finally managed to get some banana into her mouth and is chewing happily. Harry feels sick. Niall comes over and slides a plate of food in front of him. Harry tries to say thanks and smile, but he can’t get his face to move the right way or any words to come out.

“Exciting plans for the day?” Niall asks. Harry feels his face go hot which is ridiculous, really. This is just - this is mad, really. There’s no reason for him to feel like he’s disappointing Niall by not being around for the day. There’s no reason it’s actually disappointing to himself.

Harry forces a smile on his face and nods. He rubs his hand gently over the top of Daisy’s head and grins when she beams up at him.

“Yeah, Yianni rang. He’s made some progress with the cars, and Mark’s been doing work in the kitchen of my house. Might head over in a bit to check it out, see how it’s coming along.”

Niall shoves a forkful of eggs in his mouth and focuses pretty intently on scrolling through his mobile and not looking up at Harry. “Sick. Have fun.”

Harry feels unsettled. He takes a bite of his food, but it sits heavy in his belly. “Do you, um, do you want to come? Bring Daisy along, and we can make a proper day of it?”

Niall shakes his head and shrugs. It’s short and dismissive and when he says, “Nah, think I’ll just keep my girl in for the day. Have a Daddy and Daisy day together, you know?” It shouldn’t hurt Harry, the idea that Niall wants a day to himself with his daughter, but it does. He already feels like he’s not included, not needed. He can’t say he likes the feeling very much.

“Right,” Harry says shortly. “Of course.” He drops a kiss on Daisy’s head as he gets up from the table, cleaning off his plate and rinsing it in the sink before sticking it in the dishwasher. “I’ll just leave you two to it then,” he says.

Niall doesn’t any anything as Harry leaves the kitchen.

*

The house looks amazing. Yianni has done some terrific work on Harry’s cars, and Mark’s managed to move the kitchen from one side of the house entirely to the other. The rest of the rooms had always been in nice shape, and Harry walks around. The artwork he purchased is leaning against the walls waiting to be hung and the brand new appliances with the packing still on them are lined up and ready to be installed.

It all looks lovely, is the thing, He should be thrilled. He should love it. He should be chomping at the bit waiting to move in.

Instead it all just feels lonely.

There’s no high chair in the kitchen; there’s not even a good space for it really. The sofas are plush cream colored fabric. It would be terrible for Daisy to be around them, with the way she eats her food and the absolute messes she gets into. Harry can just imagine the entire bottom of the sofas marked with her tiny hand prints, the material sticky with bananas or peaches or whatever she’d been eating that day. The tables are awful, too; sharp glass edges and corners. There’s no way she’d be able to learn how to walk around these tables. She’d fall and cut her head something awful.

Harry sighs. “You’re an absolute idiot, Harry Styles,” he mumbles to himself. “What the hell are you thinking about?”

He finds Yianni and tells him everything looks fantastic and that he’ll be back in a few days to figure out when he’s moving in. When he drives back to Niall’s he tries not to think about moving at all.

*

Niall’s fine when Harry gets back, and for a second Harry almost thinks he imagined Niall’s weirdness from that morning. Daisy is thrilled to see Harry. She giggles and drools all over him when he rolls around on the floor with her watching Peppa Pig on the telly all day. Niall watches them with a grin then wanders off to catch the footie match on his laptop in the kitchen.

“You want food soon?” Niall calls.

Harry scrunches his nose and thinks. Daisy takes the opportunity to stick her fingers directly in Harry’s eye, and he yelps and sits up, rubbing at his face as Niall rushes back into the room.

“What the fuck?” Niall says.

Language,” Harry scolds. His eye is still tearing, and he rubs it.

Niall laughs. “What did she do to you?” He sounds delighted.

Harry narrows his one good eye and frowns. “She poked my flipping eye out. Your daughter is a menace.”

“Ahh, she’s just a good girl, aren’t you, Daisy love?” Niall scoops Daisy from the rug and bounces her in the air, her giggles getting louder the higher he lifts her. “Poking Uncle Harry in the eyeball. Good work!”

Harry sighs. He crosses his legs and leans back on his hands, watching Niall and Daisy bounce around the room. He feels sad, in a way, and he’s pretty sure he knows why. He doesn’t want to lose this, doesn’t want any of this to end.

Harry wasn’t really expecting that. He might have to figure out what to do about it.

“So,” Niall says, snapping Harry out of his thoughts. “Food?”

Harry looks up and finds Niall smiling happily at him. He grins back and tilts his head to the side.

“Yeah. Sounds good.”

*

Harry sleeps in Niall’s bed for the first time that night, even though neither of them really talk about it. It just sort of happens that way.

They get Daisy settled in for the night, Harry getting her into her babygro and Niall shutting the lights and kissing her head as Harry holds her before putting her into her cot. Niall shuts the door and grabs the monitor from his room, and then they head into the living room, a film already queued up and a bowl of popcorn set out that Harry popped just before getting Daisy ready for bed.

They watch the film next to each other on the sofa, sides pressed together and legs tangled on the floor. Halfway through Harry leans his head on Niall’s shoulder and rests his hand on Niall’s waist, fingers slipping under Niall’s shirt to smooth over his skin.

Niall’s breath hitches. He curls into Harry and presses his lips to Harry’s head. Harry closes his eyes. Everything feels so different between them tonight, so soft and quiet. It’s still them, but it feels like it’s more somehow.

Harry presses his fingers into Niall’s side and Niall shivers. Harry bites at the collar of Niall’s shirt and mumbles, “Do you care about this film?”

“Not even a little fucking bit,” Niall says, and Harry laughs, quick and happy.

They undress in Niall’s room, the lights off, just a soft glow from the hall outside and the moonlight through the windows. Harry pulls Niall down onto the bed with him, the both of them laughing breathlessly against each other’s mouths as they tangle up in the sheets, the pillows smushed against the headboard behind Harry’s head.

It’s not fast or rushed when they touch each other. Harry tips his head back, breathes in a lungful of air when Niall wraps his fingers around Harry’s dick. He’s already so hard, has been pretty much all night, and Niall’s cock snugs up against Harry’s hip, the head wet as it drags over Harry’s skin.

“‘C’mere,” Harry says softly. He moves them so Niall’s on top of him, knees bracketing Harry’s thighs. Harry reaches down and curls his fingers over both of their dicks, bites his lip when Niall moans and drops his head on Harry’s shoulder.

“You too,” Harry says thickly, bumping his wrist against Niall’s hand. “Gimme your hand, too.”

Niall’s hand is warm, damp from the slick of Harry’s cock, and the tips of his fingers are rough and calloused. Harry shakes when Niall sets his teeth in Harry’s neck. He tilts his head back and lets Niall mark him up, lets him take whatever he wants.

It doesn’t take long until they’re both coming, Harry first, his foot hooked around the back of Niall’s knee, holding him close, and Niall just after when Harry wipes his hand through the come on his belly, jerking Niall quick and tight with slick fingers.

“Holy shit,” Niall pants, rolling off Harry to the side and breathing up at the ceiling. “Christ, Harry, that was…”

“I know, I’m a sex god,” Harry teases. He shrugs his shoulder and looks at Niall, grinning widely. Niall puts his hand over Harry’s face and shoves him away. Harry licks Niall’s palm, laughing almost too loudly when Niall yanks his hand away and curses.

“Sex god, my arse,” Niall mumbles. He fiddles with the sheets and the duvet, pulling them over the both of them and sliding back over into Harry’s space. Harry’s surprised for a second - this is new. They usually do whatever it is they’re doing and then Harry gets up and goes back to his own room for the night - but the way Niall’s got his head on Harry’s chest, his fingers lightly curled over Harry’s hip, makes him feel like tonight he’s not going to be going anywhere.

Harry has no complaints.

“More like an overgrown idiot with a huge knob and a great mouth,” Niall says, voice going sleepy and soft even over the insult.

Harry should try and fight back, he knows he should, but he’s warm and comfortable with Niall sleeping against him already.

“‘S’alright.” He yawns and kisses the top of Niall’s head. “I’ll take it.”

*

Harry wakes up in the morning alone.

It takes him a second to realize where he is, but then he’s grinning, thinking back to last night and sleeping with Niall and how maybe he was wrong to worry about feeling the way he did. Maybe Niall was feeling it too. Maybe the idea of Harry moving out, moving into his house got Niall thinking the same things that Harry was, and maybe they’ll be able to figure something out together. If the two of them put all of their ideas together they should be able to come up with some sort of a plan, Harry figures. He’s almost sure of it.

He grabs his pyjama bottoms and pulls them on, running his fingers through his hair and following the sounds of Niall banging around in the kitchen and Daisy chattering happily along with him.

It’s sunny this morning, which is surprising enough. Daisy’s dressed for the day in a bright red top and a pair of stretchy black trousers with a bright purple bow headband around her head. When she sees Harry she shouts happily from her highchair, banging her baby spoon against the tray and sending Cheerios flying in the air.

“Good morning, Princess Daisy,” Harry says, and leans over to kiss her hello. Daisy chatters excitedly, her tiny fists flailing around, and Harry laughs, ticking her under her chin until she starts to giggle and drool.

“Morning, Nialler,” Harry says, a bit quieter. Niall hasn’t said anything since Harry got to the kitchen, hasn’t even looked at him if Harry thinks about it, and that’s...that’s not exactly what Harry was hoping to have happen this morning. It’s pretty much the exact opposite.

Niall turns and gives him what Harry knows is his fakest, most forced smile. “Morning.”

Harry frowns. Niall looks back down into the sink and concentrates far too intently on doing the washing up, and Harry doesn’t like any of this one bit. There’s no food cooking, no early morning chatter. Niall’s barely looked at him, and Harry doesn’t like the idea he’s coming up with as to why.

He makes his way over to the sink to ask Niall about it, but when he does he sees something out in the hall that makes him stop, his entire body going rigid and frozen.

“Niall,” Harry says slowly. “Why are my bags out in the hallway?”

Niall sighs. He takes a deep breath and shuts the water, before meticulously drying his hands on a tea towel and lying it neatly over the edge of the sink.

Niall,” Harry says again.

“Because I reckoned you’d be going soon,” Niall says. Harry whips his head around, but Niall is looking up at the ceiling, down at the floor, at pretty much everything other than Harry’s face. “Thought I’d help get you packed up while you were sleeping.”

“Really.” Harry is...he’s really angry is the thing. It’s not often that he feels this way; it takes him a second to recognize the feeling, but fuck he’s angry. “And you just decided that this morning, yeah?”

Niall shrugs defensively. “Maybe.”

Harry huffs. He yanks a hand through his hair and stalks into the hallway, kicking at his bag and a bag of crisps falls out of the unzipped top.

Harry stares at the bag on the floor then looks up at Niall and frowns. “What the fuck is this?”

“Crisps,” Niall says sharply. “Are you an idiot? You don’t know a bag of crisps when you see them?”

“I know what they are,” Harry says slowly. He can feel his face getting hot. He grits his teeth. “Why are they in my bag?”

Niall sniffs. “I thought you might need food where you go.”

“And where am I going?” Harry says. “Am I going camping? Am I going to the moon? Why the fuck are you packing me a snack, you absolute arseface?”

“Like you’d take a bag of crisps to the moon,” Niall says sarcastically. Harry wants to scream. Niall’s cheeks are pink, and he stomps away from Harry back into the kitchen. “Listen, don’t be a dick. You don’t want the crisps? Don’t bloody take the crisps.”

“The crisps are not the point,” Harry yells. He follows Niall into the kitchen, hands balled into fists at his sides. “Do you want me to leave? Is that it?”

“What? No,” Niall says almost too quickly. He seems to catch himself and adds, “Unless you want to go, because then go. I don’t care.”

“Oh my god.” Harry covers his eyes with his hand and breathes through his nose. “Niall. Please use your words. I’m not in the mood to act out a scene from Love Actually.”

“But you love that film,” Niall says, and oh god, that’s not the point.

“Not the point,” Harry says loudly. He plants his hands on his hips and glares. Niall’s sat down at the table, fingers yanking at his hair. “Niall. Talk to me.”

Niall puts his head down and groans. “Haz, I just...I have no idea. It’s just - first there was Daisy. And then you. And now there’s us and I don’t know, I--” he sighs and when he looks up his eyes are red and puffy. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what you want, and I don’t want to assume and--”

“Ask me,” Harry says, cutting Niall off. His heart is pounding in his chest. He’s stood next to Daisy’s highchair, and he runs his hand over her head, feeling his stomach flutter when she leans into his touch.

Harry wants this so badly he can barely breathe.

“Just ask me, Ni, because I really--” he falters and laughs quietly, his voice getting clogged up in his throat. Niall’s looking at him steadily, and it almost looks like he’s hoping for something, too.

“Just ask me to stay.”

Niall doesn’t. He gets up and touches Harry’s face, kissing his mouth and settling his other hand on Harry’s hip. Harry keeps one hand on Daisy’s head and the other on Niall’s side and he kisses him back and it’s not a question, not really.

Maybe it never actually was.

*
epilogue

When Daisy turns one they have a huge party on the back of the tour bus, complete with balloons and presents and cake. Daisy is wearing a hot pink tutu with sparkles on it, and a yellow t-shirt that says my daddies are morons, courtesy of Louis. There is barely any room, and every time the bus hits a bump in the road they all bounce around and groan. Daisy loves it. She thinks it’s the best thing in the world to have her dads and her favorite uncles and everyone she knows around her with nothing but cake and balloons as far as she can see.

Harry scoops her out of Niall’s lap and kisses the side of her neck, her skin tasting sweet from the icing she’d rubbed all over her hands and face when smashing her cake. Harry drops down and sits next to Niall on the floor, stretching his legs out and settling Daisy between them with a few of her new toys and her old squeaky giraffe.

“Quite the birthday for the princess, wasn’t it?” Louis says. He’s sat on the other side of the bus, watching Harry and Niall and the baby with a fond expression on his face. Rude shirt or not, Harry knows deep down Louis is happy for them. All the lads are, really.

“She’s been so sweet on tour so far,” Liam says. He sips his drink and holds his fingers out for Daisy to grab onto. She takes hold of his hand and tries to pull herself up into a stand, but falls back into Harry’s lap, giggling happily.

“That’s because she’s the best baby ever, Payno, god,” Niall huffs. Harry chuckles and reaches behind Niall to rub his knuckles over the small of Niall’s back. Niall tips his head back and smiles, and Harry can’t help it. He leans in and kisses him gently on the lips.

“Ugh,” Louis complains loudly. “Gross. Stop it. Didn’t I tell you two to stop that shit when people are around?”

“Fuck off, Lou,” Niall says, but he’s smiling when he says it.

“So after all this time it seems like I was right,” Zayn says smugly. Harry lifts his head to find him grinning at the three of them from where he’s sitting next to Louis. Harry raises an eyebrow, and Niall shrugs. Daisy leans over to chew on the strings of Harry’s hoodie.

“About what?” Niall asks.

“It’s almost like Harry was the one who got left with the baby on the doorstep,” Zayn says proudly. “Just like I thought would happen.”

Everyone laughs and Harry shakes his head, curling his arm around Daisy. He pulls her close and kisses Niall once more. “Yeah,” Harry says, “But this is even better.”

 

-END-