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Zayn can still feel the bass reverberating in his bones, even though they left the club hours ago, finished up their last Vegas show long before that. It’s the best kind of feeling.

“Zayn!” Louis yells from across the room, spilling half his drink when he flings his arm out.

“Nope,” Zayn shakes his head, holding the ashtray on his chest with one hand so it doesn’t slip, “Niall’s turn.”

“It’s my turn to ask a question, Louis. Don’t cheat.” Zayn doesn’t think it’s fair to say Harry’s the drunkest of them all because they’ve all been at it for hours, but Harry’s the only one who tips over when he points at Niall. Zayn laughs at him and Harry glares at him before turning back to Niall and asking, “Truth or dare?”

“Quick question, Harry,” Louis interrupts, “has anyone picked truth yet tonight?”

Harry sways on his feet while he thinks about it. Zayn snickers and Louis claps his hand over Zayn’s mouth -- or, he tries to, but ends up smacking Zayn in the nose, mostly. Harry doesn’t notice.

“No?” Harry looks to Niall for help. “No.”

“No,” Louis says, wiping spit from where Zayn’s licked his hand across Zayn’s forehead. “So maybe we don’t have to ask every time?”

“But what if someone wants to pick truth and I’m just robbing them of the option? You can’t not ask, Louis, there’re rules.”

“There are rules,” Zayn echoes, mimicking the whine in Harry’s voice. Niall’s the only one who laughs at his impression. Zayn holds his hand up for a high five but Niall’s all the way across the room and too busy opening a fresh lager to notice.

“Well there are,” Liam’s arguing, hands on his hips. He’s got a drink in each hand though, so it’s less authoritative than it should be.

“Thank you, Liam,” Harry says pointedly while glaring at everyone else like they’ve betrayed him gravely. “There are rules and they are important and as I was saying, Niall, truth or --”

“Dare,” Niall picks, ignoring the way Harry frowns at him for interrupting.

There’s a long pause before Niall says, “Haz?”

“I’m thinking.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake.” Louis chucks a shoe at Harry, who successfully dodges it but ends up falling anyway, taking Liam down as he goes. Zayn laughs so hard he can feel tears gathering at the corner of his eyes.

By the time he gets it together, Louis and Niall are red-faced with laughter too and Harry’s still not thought of a dare. It’s been like this all night, long pauses while Harry thinks up the stupidest dares imaginable. Zayn can’t believe they’re still playing this dumb game. Though Louis getting Niall to send dick pics to Eoghan had been pretty hilarious, so it’s not all been bad.

“Jesus, you are shit at this,” Zayn says when Harry taps his chin like he’s solving an equation. He hits Louis’s arm until he passes Zayn’s drink up from the floor. He frowns when he realizes it’s mostly ice now. “Here,” he says, handing Louis the ashtray so he can roll off the sofa.

“Oi, watch it!” Louis throws the spilled ice back at Zayn. He raises his eyebrows, Zayn’s joint already dangling between his lips, “Make me one too?”

“I’m not your butler,” Zayn shakes his head and stumbles out of the room while Louis flips him off.

There’s half-empty bottles littered over every surface of the bar. Zayn gives up looking for anything specific and just takes the first one he sees, pours himself a drink with a heavy hand and does a second one for Louis. And Liam, even though he’d not asked. Zayn thinks he’d been running low, though. Plus it’s nice to have like, a minute to himself to breathe. It’s early yet in the tour so it’s not like he’s had time to get properly exhausted, but things’ve been go go go since they got into town. He was glad when everyone’d decided to leave the club early in favor of coming back here and -- alright, it’s not technically a quiet night in, but sort of. In like, theory.

He can hear Louis yelling again, probably about how boring Harry’s new dare is. Zayn gathers up the glasses and walks carefully back.

“What’d I miss?” He nudges Liam with the toe of his boot until Liam takes his drink.

“Absolutely nothing,” Louis says, sitting up to take his glass from Zayn.

“Niall stood on the balcony naked for a full minute!” Harry says at the same time. He’s beaming like a proud parent. Behind him, Niall’s pulling his shorts back on.

Zayn stares at Harry. “That was your dare?”

“Took him ten minutes to think up,” Louis says.

“It was not ten minutes,” Harry says, “don’t exaggerate.”

“Was too, timed it.” Louis rolls onto his stomach to keep Niall from twisting his nipple. Niall gets the joint from him in the process; Zayn’s pretty sure that’d been his goal the whole time.

“How’d it go, Niall?” Zayn asks, lying back down on the sofa, tipping his head over the arm so he can look up at Niall. It makes him dizzy so he has to stop, twisting so he’s not looking at Niall not upside-down.

Niall shrugs. “Not bad. Bit of a breeze.” He wiggles his hips and his eyebrows suggestively; he’s gone all flushed from the alcohol. “Felt nice.”

“See?” Harry says, smacking Liam in the chest when he points, “Niall liked it.”

“No shit,” Zayn snorts. “He loves a good willie in the wind, hardly counts as a dare.”

Zayn grunts when Niall lands on his stomach, knocking the air out of him. “Don’t act like you don’t love it, too.”

“Your willie?” He pulls a face that makes Niall laugh even as Zayn’s pushing his palm into Niall’s face, trying to shove him away. Zayn’s hand ends up all slobbery but Niall won’t let him wipe it off on his shirt, keeps smacking Zayn’s hands away. He’s got the advantage because he’s got leverage and balance and Zayn’s legs pinned under his bodyweight. It’s not fair. Zayn tries to pinch him but is thwarted almost immediately.

“Are you even playing?” Niall asks. He’s got Zayn’s wrists in his hands and Zayn twists them uselessly, “Or are you just here to criticize?”

“‘Course, I’m playing,” Zayn says. “Harry made me kiss Liam for twenty seconds, remember?”

On the floor, Louis moans like he’s still upset at how terrible that particular dare was. “It’s a dare, Harry, not ‘do something everyone here has done before,’” he’d yelled while Zayn shuffled across the carpet on his knees like they were at a year 8 birthday party.

“Should I be insulted by that?” Liam had asked right before Zayn kissed him, and Harry’d said yes while Louis yelled no and now Zayn’s laughing all over again just remembering.

“Oh yeah, forgot about that already,” Niall lets go of Zayn’s hands and raps his knuckles on Zayn’s breastbone, “that was a dumb one. No offense, Harry.”

“My turn!” Louis announces, sitting up before Harry can mount another defense. He points at Liam, who immediately drains the rest of his drink in preparation. And then leans over to steal Niall’s lager.

“Thief!” Niall yells, reaching a minute too late, coming up with air. Zayn catches Niall’s shirt so he doesn’t go tumbling to the floor.

Louis’ saying, “Liam, I dare you to stand on the balcony railing and let me tweet a picture of you.”

“With no pants?” Liam asks, already getting up.

“What?” Zayn asks, while Niall claps and laughs, at Louis’ dare or at Liam’s question, Zayn’s not sure.

“No,” Louis says as they all troop outside, “no one said with no pants, Payno.”

“Keeping our pubes off twitter in 2015!” Harry cheers, giving a little fist pump while Liam hands his phone to Louis. It looks sick, really, Liam on the ledge, the Strip in the background.

“Put your arms out,” Zayn says, holding his out so Liam’ll copy him. It’s proper gangster, with the bottle in his hand, his hat cocked just right.

“Say ‘Tommo’s dares are better than Harry’s!’” Louis orders and Liam lifts his middle fingers just before Louis takes the picture. It’s the best thing Zayn’s seen in ages.

“Brilliant,” he says, reaching out to take Liam’s drink, taking a swig before he actually helps Liam down.

“Yeah? S’not even that scary,” Liam says, but Zayn doesn’t lean over to see. “The railing’s like almost as big as my feet.”

“What’re you writing?” Niall tries to read over Louis’ shoulder, the two of them elbowing each other and laughing. “Hashtag throwback Thursday, c’mon, Tommo, yes! Sick!”

“It’s Zayn’s turn,” Harry says, coming up and hugging Zayn from behind. “And mine. Me and Zayn.”

“Alright, Haz,” Louis tosses Liam his phone, laughing when Liam tries to catch it and misses completely, “have at it.”

Harry lets Zayn go and takes a deep breath, clearly proud he’s prepared this round. Zayn takes advantage of his freedom to hunt for his drink, half-listening while Harry says, “I dare you to call Grimmy and tell him you’re in love with him.”

Zayn finds his drink by the end of the sofa, miraculously unspilled. He takes a long drink before turning around and eyeing Harry’s phone in his outstretched hand.

“Tell him I’m in love with him or you’re in love with him?” he asks.

“You are.”

“Pass.” Zayn lies back down.

“Fine, that I am,” Harry says.

“Pass.”

“Jesus Christ, Zayn,” Louis says, “we’ve been over this. Pass isn’t an option!”

Zayn shrugs. This way’s been working for him so far. Got him out of Louis’ order to do pull-ups from the chandelier, didn’t it?

“Yeah, Zayn,” Niall sits on the sofa by Zayn’s feet, holds out his hand until Zayn shares his drink, “there are rules.” He laughs when Harry pouts.

“Louis,” Liam says, “why can’t I --”

“Alright,” Harry says, bending down, blowing his whiskey-soaked breath directly into Zayn’s face, “marry Niall. I dare you.”

There’s a gasp and when Zayn looks over, Louis’ face is lit up like Christmas. Harry’s got a brochure for Las Vegas wedding chapels in one hand, clearly from one of the information books lying around the suites. He waves it in Zayn’s face triumphantly.

Zayn looks between the two of them and their smiling faces and then to Niall, who’s not stopped laughing since Harry proposed it. Proposed, technically, Zayn laughs to himself. Louis’s eyebrows go up and it feels like another dare on top of Harry’s, like Louis’s daring him not to pass.

“Guys, Louis changed my twitter password!” Liam yells sadly, holding his phone out for everyone to see; Niall literally slides off the sofa and onto the floor, he’s laughing so hard.

Zayn cranes his neck so he can see Harry better. “Yeah,” he says, “alright.”

&&&

Niall’s not sure what’s going on, just that Liam’s yelling about his twitter password and Harry’s doing some happy dance and Zayn is still holding Niall’s fecking beer, which --

“Give me that, thieving bastard,” he says, taking it back.

“Niall,” Harry sighs, “what’s his is yours.”

“Not yet, Harry,” Louis says, “not until these twatfaces get up.”

“There’s so much to do,” Harry drops the brochure he was holding and rests his hands on top of his head, “you need rings and… stuff.”

“Well put.” Louis kicks Niall in the arse until he gets up.

“Kicking doesn’t make me go faster.”

Louis extends a hand to pull Niall to his feet. Niall in turn does the same to Zayn.

“Wait! Zayn’s got to like, propose.”

“Harry,” Zayn rolls his eyes, “I’m not --”

“So you expect me to elope with you, just like that, without even asking?” Niall folds his arms across his chest. “Thought you’d treat me better than that, Zayn.”

Zayn sighs, put-upon; behind him, Harry claps delightedly and pushes on Zayn’s shoulders until he sinks to one knee. Niall can’t help it; he bursts out laughing. Zayn’s annoyed face only makes it funnier.

“Here.” Harry pulls the elastic band out of his hair and twists it up before giving it to Zayn. He leans down and whispers something in Zayn’s ear.

“Niall Horan, will you -- ow,” he winces when Harry flicks his neck, but when Zayn starts up again, the disaffected tone is gone, “will you do me the honor of marrying me tonight and winning this bloody game of truth or dare?”

“I didn’t say that part!” Harry whines. “That’s not romantic!”

“Oh, Zaynie,” Niall tries to stifle his laughing when he lifts his hand to his mouth and bats his eyelashes at Zayn, breathes quick like he’s about to start crying. “I thought you’d never ask!”

He holds out his hand for the ring.

“Other one, mate,” Zayn laughs and gestures for Niall’s left hand so he can slide the elastic on Niall’s ring finger. He’d twisted it up so it loops around Niall’s finger multiple times and doesn’t slip right off. Niall touches it carefully, impressed by his forethought. And then he launches himself at Zayn, grabs his cheeks in his hands and presses kisses all over his face, fake-sobbing while Zayn laughs and tries to push him off.

“No, Niall, why’re you on the floor again?” Louis asks. Niall ignores him in favor of blowing a raspberry on Zayn’s neck, right below the line of his beard. “Get up, both of you, it’s time to go.”

Niall lets Harry pull him off the floor, watches while Louis does the same to Zayn.

“You changed it to twat?!” Liam glares as Louis starts herding everyone to the lift.

“You wouldn’t have known to try it if it wasn’t true, Liam.”

Niall catches Zayn’s elbow, pulls him to the back corner of the lift. He has to brace himself against the wall when it starts moving. “We’re doing this, then?”

“It was a dare. There are rules,” Zayn says, his head tipped close to Niall’s, smiling with his tongue pressed behind his teeth. Niall laughs; this is going to be sick. Bragging rights for forever. Fucking amazing. The doors ding before they open and everyone spills out.

“Niallllllll,” Harry calls, already out of sight, “let’s goooooo.”

“Alright, but if you leave me at the altar, I’m telling everyone about what happened in Berne last year.” Niall high fives Zayn to seal the deal, laughing when Zayn goes a little pale and wide-eyed before he slaps Niall’s palm. He jogs out of the lift, trying to figure out which way Haz’s gone.

“What happened in Berne?” he hears Liam ask, and Niall can barely jog he’s laughing so hard at the way Zayn darkly says, “Nothing.”

**

“Harry, wait.”

Harry’s got a mind of his own, though, and he won’t slow down no matter how many times Niall yells after him.

“Still don’t get why we had to split up,” Niall says as Harry opens the door to some fancy jewelry store. Niall blinks at the bright lights. He’s pretty sure it’s arse o’clock in the morning and this place has no business being open; Las Vegas is amazing.

“It’s bad luck to see the groom before the wedding,” Harry says like Niall’s the biggest idiot he’s ever met. And then Harry promptly walks into a glass display of necklaces. If they weren’t in some fancy store, Niall’d be on the floor laughing; he has to settle for doubling over and pointing.

Harry pushes his hair back and straightens up. “I’m trying to help you,” he says, the words slurring a bit, and then he lights up, pointing behind Niall. “Rings!”

He pushes Niall to the display cases while an older employee who looks like he definitely wishes his store would close at least one of the twenty-four hours in a day, sighs and asks, “Can I help you?”

“Yes, please,” Harry peers at his name tag, “George. This man here needs a wedding ring.” Harry throws an arm around Niall’s neck and pulls him in close; Niall tries to nod.

George shows them tray after tray of rings but they’re all terrible.

“This one’s nice,” Harry holds one up, “I like the gold.”

Niall shakes his head. “Too boring.” All of these rings are so boring. Niall moves down the counter, away from they trays George’s pulled.

“Are these conflict-free diamonds?” Harry asks. Niall snorts to himself and squints at the cases. Everything’s starting to bleed together; Niall has to lean in to see the rings properly. He knows it as soon as he sees it, though.

“Haz,” he says, tapping the glass. “Haz. Harry!”

It takes Harry and George a minute to get to where Niall’s stood; apparently he’s strayed far from the wedding ring section.

“This one.”

Harry’s eyes go wide when he sees what Niall’s pointing at. George grimaces, asks, “Are you sure?” as he unlocks the case and pulls out a skull ring that’s got diamonds for eyes. Niall and Harry nod in unison. It’s fucking perfect.

“What size?” George asks. Niall blinks at the ring in his palm and then looks at Harry, who shrugs.

“Dunno, like maybe --” Harry holds out his own hand and then makes Niall do the same, “d’ya think, like…” He trails off, shrugging again.

George presses his lips together. “It’s not for you?”

“No,” Niall says, “it’s for my -- it’s for Zayn.”

George nods like he’s got any idea who Niall’s talking about. Harry slips the ring on his own finger and says, “Probably this size, right?” and Niall nods because sure, good enough.

“That one,” he says, taking the ring back from Harry, and George sets about getting together the paperwork.

“Oh no.”

“What?” Niall looks up from the ring. It’s fucking ridiculous. Zayn’s gonna love it.

“We forgot -- you don’t -- quick, trade pants with me,” Harry says, pulling at the hem of Niall’s shorts.

“What? No, get the fuck out of here.” Niall shoves him away, cackling when Harry falls a little. So fucking pissed.

“They’re old and blue, though, and you need both those things plus,” he counts on his fingers, “two other things!”

“I’m not wearing your disgusting pants, Haz.”

“You’re disgusting.” Harry slumps against the counter, dejected, before spotting a pen resting on the case. “Hold still.”

He’s drawing on Niall’s bicep before Niall realizes what’s happening. “The fuck?”

“Hold still,” Harry repeats, fingers tightening on Niall’s arm. “Look -- it’s old, see?” He holds the pen in front of Niall’s face, close enough to see that it’s all chewed up.

“Ew.”

“Shush,” Harry goes back to drawing, brow furrowed like he’s concentrated on not messing it up, “it’s old, so there’s that, but it’s new to your skin, yeah? And it’s not our pen so it’s borrowed and,” he pulls back, reviewing his work before grinning, “it’s blue!”

“Are these interlocking hearts?” Niall twists his arm, trying to see.

Harry taps him with the chewed-up cap, beams proudly when he says, “And your initials!”

“This looks so stupid.” Niall laughs and tries to look at it in one of the small mirrors they have for trying on necklaces.

“But at least your wedding won’t be cursed now!”

“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Niall says.

George, back with the paperwork, sighs again. “It’s definitely not,” he tells them, and takes Niall’s credit card.

**

“Oh, in here,” Harry says. Niall swings in a large arc when Harry grabs his arm and makes an abrupt left into a bar. Niall’s just glad they’re all able to drink in America finally; that’d really put a damper on all their past visits.

“Shots!” Harry tells the bartender, “Two, whatever y’like. No, four. Don’t want you getting cold feet.”

“Won’t.” Niall shifts the bag with the ring to his other hand and settles on a stool next to Harry. The bag’s one of the nice velvet ones, got the store’s name embossed on it and all that. Doesn’t seem like the type of thing that should touch a sticky bar top.

The bartender sets them down and leaves them alone. Harry pushes two glasses towards Niall.

“My dearest, sweetest Nialler,” he clicks their glasses, “may the wind be ever at your back and may your husband blow you.”

Niall wants a fucking medal for not choking on his shot, he’s still laughing that hard. Husband. For fuck’s sake. He’s downing his second shot when Harry’s phone starts ringing.

“What do you mean where are we? It‘s none of your business. Where are you?” Harry asks. “No, he’s not chickening out, Liam.” He makes a face at Niall; Niall makes one back and does Harry’s shot when he’s not looking. “Yeah, we’re on our way, just like, five more minutes. Ten, tops.”

“Ask him Zayn’s ring size,” Niall says, throwing money on the bar. It seems like enough. All their bills look the same, it’s so weird. Stupid.

“Zayn says his ring size is ‘fuck you.’”

“Great, s’what we got.” Niall pulls Harry towards the door and hopes to god Haz knows where they’re supposed to be going because he’s just realized he hasn’t got a clue.

&&&

Zayn can hear Harry and Niall coming before he sees them and then there they are, dancing a conga line around the corner.

“Nice hat.” Louis flicks the brim of Niall’s new groom snapback, “did you have to wait for them to embroider it?”

“Yes! There was a little shop right in the lobby,” Harry says, “well not a shop, more like a stand? A kiosk, I guess you’d call it.”

“Cheers, Hazza, no one cares,” Louis says, frowning when Zayn hits him in the side.

“Looks nice,” Zayn tips the brim down so he can see it better; the font’s one of the old ones, the kind that’s all curly and ornate. It’s cool. Niall waits for Zayn to let go before he tips his head back up.

“We doing this?”

“We’d be done already if some people hadn’t stopped to have clothing handmade,” Louis says.

“It wasn’t handmade, there was a machine,” Harry argues, “it didn’t take that long, and hey, why’ve you got cigars?”

“Zayn got ‘em for us,” Liam tries to blow a smoke ring and fails spectacularly, “as like, groomsmen gifts.”

Harry turns to Niall, wounded. “You didn’t get me anything.”

“They didn’t get me anything either,” Zayn offers even though he knows there’s no appeasing Harry.

There’s no slighting Louis, either, and he smacks Zayn’s arm and says, “What are you talking about? All this is my doing.” He gestures to the entire chapel.

“Pretty sure it was Harry’s dare, yeah?”

“All this,” Louis repeats, his arms spread wide.

“What do you want, Haz? Here, whatever, go buy it, I don’t care.” Niall shoves his whole wallet into Harry’s hands.

“It’s not the same if you don’t buy it, it’s got to come from your heart.”

Louis covers his face with his hands; it doesn’t help to muffle his scream. “If Zayn and Niall aren’t married in the next twenty minutes, I’m calling it a forfeit.”

“You can’t do that!” Zayn’s jaw drops; Louis’s not the gamemaker or whatsit, that’s not fair. “There’s no time limits.”

“Be right back,” Harry says, dragging Niall out, and Zayn is not losing this because Harry’s having a strop over feeling left out.

It’s fine though, because they’re back in under five minutes and Harry’s wearing a flower headband crown thing Zayn thinks he remembers seeing in the front by the till. This chapel has a till. He starts laughing again. It’s fucking ridiculous.

“I’m going to be the flower girl --” Harry wrinkles his nose, “flower bearer? Flower person and that means I get to go in first.”

“Zayn’s the groom so technically he gets to go in first,” Liam says.

“I will let Harry go in first if it means we can get this fucking over with,” Zayn says, feeling hysterical. Maybe he should’ve bought himself a cigar, too. Liam’s looking pretty fucking relaxed right now.

“Just what every groom wants to hear right before his wedding.” Niall presses a sloppy kiss to Zayn’s cheek and then prods him forward. “Alright, let’s go. Who’s marrying us, Elvis? Michael Jackson? Cher?”

“Just a normal man,” Zayn lets himself be led toward the chapel. “Did you want Cher?”

Niall shrugs. “Hadn’t thought about it one way or the other, really. Oi, lads, hands in,” he stops and makes everyone circle up and then it’s just like getting ready for a show, everyone’s eyebrows going up and down, Niall and Louis doing a dumb chant while the rest of them are a second behind, all their hands going up and down while Niall yells, “one, two, three, wedding!”

**

It’s the fastest wedding Zayn’s ever been to and he can’t figure out if he’s glad because they’re fucking crushing it at truth or dare or if like, he’s sad because everything’s blurring together.

“Did you write your own vows?” the officiant asks and Zayn blinks at Niall. “Or did you want to repeat after me?”

“No,” Zayn sways when he shakes his head. He doesn’t want to say some dumb thing about obeying Niall; he may be pissed but he’s got enough wits about him to know that’ll end horribly. “Our, uh -- we’ve got our own.”

Niall looks confused but shrugs at the officiant and Zayn’s suddenly glad it’s Niall up here with him because anyone else’d be pitching a fit about Zayn changing the plan with no warning.

“You can start any time now,” the officiant says gently and Zayn realizes he’s just been stood here like a moron.

“Sorry. Sorry,” he says to Niall, specifically, and then his mind forgets every word he’s ever learned and it’s like, blank. He slips the ring onto Niall’s finger, this gaudy, emerald and diamond-encrusted four-leaf clover they’d found right as they’d walked in the door. It’d felt like a sign.

“Love it,” Niall says, soft enough that Zayn thinks he may be the only one who hears. He bites on his lip to keep from smiling so hard; he’s supposed to be thinking of something to say. Only he can’t. Niall waits, rocking on his feet, and Zayn does the only thing he can think of, reaches over and touches him, beep beep boop.

Someone -- Harry, Zayn knows it’s Harry -- makes a noise like a choked-back sob. Niall grins before he motions for Harry to pass him the sickest ring Zayn’s ever seen. He can’t help the quiet noise he makes when he sees it, Niall’s fingers curling up against his palm like he gets it. Zayn makes a fist, is still admiring it when Niall leans to poke Zayn the same way Zayn’d just done him.

“Was that it?”

They both nod and the officiant takes a breath but he doesn’t look phased which Zayn finds reassuring. “Alright, just repeat this last part after me,” he says and they do and then Zayn’s leaning over to kiss Niall, laughing when he realizes that means two of Harry’s dares have ended with him kissing someone tonight.

“That is a terrible kiss, Zayn,” Louis complains, “Niall, I’d ask for a divorce immediately.”

“Fuck you, Louis,” Zayn throws his arms up in the air, “I win!”

Niall squeezes their joined hands. “We win.”

He’s grinning when Zayn looks at him, fringe peaking out through the band of his backwards snapback. “Yeah, alright,” Zayn concedes and then Niall’s jumping on his back, demanding to be piggybacked down the aisle. “S’that all I am to you? A means of transportation?”

“Yes,” Niall nearly topples them when he twists to slap Zayn’s arse to get him to move.

&&&

“Are you kidding me, Tommo?” Niall yells, but his voice gets lost in the chants of “DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT” coming from the other side of the door. “I’m fucking starved!”

“No nachos until you’ve made up for that shit wedding kiss,” Louis yells, at the same time as Harry says, “I can think of one thing you can eat!” and then they both crack up laughing.

“I’m going to kill them all,” Niall promises, ignoring the way Liam’s started humming “Let’s Get It On.”

Zayn’s given up all hope apparently, because now he’s just sprawled on the bed, legs dangling over the edge, a magnum of champagne resting on his stomach. Louis hadn’t even had the decency to lock them in here with two.

“Some wedding night,” Niall laughs, taking the champagne, swigging directly from the bottle. Zayn lifts his head up and waggles his eyebrows before flopping back down again.

“Never thought I’d have an audience for it,” he says, voice low and slurred, eyes closed. Niall winces, remembering the rough patch after he and Perrie’d split, how close they’d come to -- not this, hopefully, but the gist of it. It was so long ago; Niall’s not thought about it in ages.

Zayn laughs at nothing and sits up, taking back the champagne. If he’s not bothered by it, then Niall’s not going to be either.

“D’ya think they’re ever going to shut up?” Zayn wipes mouth with the back of his hand, his ring catching the light. It makes Niall laugh every time he sees it. He fucking loves Las Vegas.

“Not likely.”

“Fuck off!” Zayn yells at the door.

“No you,” Louis calls back, and then something’s coming through the crack under the door.

“Are those condoms?” Zayn asks and Niall moves closer to see.

“Yep. Thanks, Haz!”

“Be safe!” Harry says, his voice clear like his mouth’s near the bottom of the door, too. Christ. He shoves more condoms through, a truly ludicrous number of them, and Niall shakes his head.

“Did he buy a new box?” he asks, crawling onto the bed to sprawl out next to Zayn.

“What’s worse, if he bought a whole new box for us or that’s his tour supply and he’s wasting it right now?” Zayn puts the champagne on the floor and pulls off his shirt before he budges up next to Niall, moving pillows around until he’s comfortable.

Niall laughs and chucks his own shirt onto the floor. When he lies back down, the ceiling wobbles when he looks at it. Shit. He must be more drunk than he thought. Thank Christ they have a travel day tomorrow. Or no. That’s worse. Bus hangovers. Zayn pats him on the hip when he groans, leaves his hand there, thumb swooping back and forth over the waistband of his shorts. It’s nice. Soothing.

Outside, the three of them start their chant up again. For fuck’s sake. Niall grabs his phone from the nightstand and sends Louis a picture. “There, we did it,” he yells to them.

“Oh, god, Niall,” Louis yells back once the message’s gone through.

“But maybe that’s like, proof?” Harry suggests and Zayn laughs at the telltale sound of someone getting smacked upside the head.

“Sent him that picture of your prick?” Zayn asks, still laughing, and Niall hums. It was a terrible plan though because it only makes Louis angrier. Like poking a lion.

“Maybe we should just like,” Zayn trails off for so long Niall thinks he’s passed out.

“What?” He turns his head, expecting Zayn to be asleep, but Zayn’s looking right at him. Zayn moves slowly, like he doesn’t want to spook Niall, rolling over, their legs slotting together before Zayn ever touches his mouth to Niall’s.

“Alright?” he asks. Niall slides his palm up Zayn’s back and pushes between his shoulder blades until Zayn just does it already. It’s better than it’d been in the chapel. Niall thinks they should take the picture now, send it to Lou and boom, done with it. But Zayn’s slowly relaxing into Niall, deepening the kiss, and if the only thing Niall gets out of this marriage is a good snog then it’s plenty.

Niall rolls them, getting Zayn on his back. They can text Louis in a bit. First, he wants to see if he can find all the places Harry’d spilled champagne, starting with the dip in Zayn’s neck. He likes the way it makes Zayn squirm when he drags his tongue across his skin.

“C’mon, yeah,” Zayn digs his fingers into Niall’s side.

“What?” Niall lifts his head, unsure of what Zayn wants, and lets Zayn drag him back in for a kiss. He can feel Zayn getting hard against his hip, knows Zayn can feel him, too. It sends heat rushing up his back, all his nerve endings lighting up at once, like Zayn rolling his hips has flipped a switch.

Zayn’s got Niall’s pants shoved halfway off his arse before he pulls back. Niall’s hips jerk but Zayn’s far enough away that there’s no friction, nothing. The sound Niall makes would be embarrassing if he cared.

“Is this --”

“I swear to god, Malik, if you ask me if this is okay I will punch you in the dick.”

Zayn bursts out laughing. “Fuck you,” he grumbles, shoving Niall’s pants the rest of the way down before licking his palm, “I’m trying to be a good husband --”

“Jesus, Zayn, shut up.”

Zayn laughs but he does, settles for kissing Niall while he wanks him. It’s good, so good, until Zayn slows down. Niall pushes into his fist. “Zayn.”

“You’re not gonna help me out?” Zayn sounds fully desperate. When Niall opens his eyes, Zayn’s smiling like it was a joke but his eyes are dark and Niall knows it really wasn’t. It still takes a minute for his brain to catch on before he’s pulling at Zayn’s pants. Zayn exhales a long, shaky curse when Niall gets his hand around him and then he’s moving his hand faster again, getting Niall back to the brink.

It’s hard to concentrate enough to pull Zayn off too when Niall feels like everything inside him is right on the edge. He keeps trying to kiss Zayn but it’s a mess, their mouths gone sloppy and uncoordinated the closer they get. Niall’s surprised when Zayn comes first, his teeth digging into Niall’s bottom lip hard.

“Fuck,” Zayn sounds like he was surprised by it too. Niall gives him a moment to breathe, kisses the curve of his jaw, the corner of his mouth, and is rewarded for it when Zayn pulls it together enough to kiss back while he wanks Niall. It doesn’t take much for Niall to come, his vision going fuzzy around the edges.

He’s still coming back from it when he feels Zayn roll off the bed, coming back with a flannel so Niall can clean himself up. Niall feels drunker somehow, his limbs uncooperative as he tries to shuffle under the covers while Zayn laughs at him, his face half-mashed in a pillow.

“Fuck it.” Niall gives up. It’s not all that cold in here, he doesn’t need a blanket. He’s asleep almost immediately, only conscious long enough to feel Zayn shifting on the mattress, his knee bumping Niall’s through the layers of bedding.

&&&

Someone’s pounding on the door just out of sync with the pounding in Zayn’s skull. The door flings open and it’s Paul yelling, "You were supposed to be on the bus ten minutes ago. For the love of -- put some fucking pants on and let's go, neither of you's fucking packed a thing, Jesus."

It takes a minute for Zayn to realize Niall’s in bed with him, arse on display for all to see. Well. At least he’s not the only one late for the bus.

“Five minutes,” Zayn says, praying that maybe he’ll die in the next five minutes and not have to ever get out of this bed.

“What part of ‘ten minutes ago’ was confusing to you?” Paul pulls Niall by the ankle until he starts sliding off the bed, landing on the ground with a thud.

“‘m going.” Zayn sits up before Paul can get to him.

“Zayn?”

“Yeah,” Zayn would lean over the side of the bed to look at Niall, but he’s pretty sure the end result would be horrifying, his stomach rolling at the mere thought, “we overslept.”

“I think I’m dying,” Niall says, sounding like he really means it. “Every bone in my body hurts. I can’t find my pants.”

Paul plucks them off the floor and throws them at Niall. “You have five minutes to get your arses on the bus.”

“Right,” Zayn sighs, willing himself not to puke, “we’re going.”

Trying to pack is a nightmare, though. His room is a tip and he ends up throwing things into his bag haphazardly. He’s at the point where he doesn’t give a shit if he leaves anything behind. He doesn’t care about anything except lying down.

“You going to help him?” Paul asks when Zayn leans against the wall outside Niall’s room.

“No.”

Paul rolls his eyes and shoves him. “Go the fuck downstairs then, get on the bus, do something useful.”

The rest of the lads are already there when Zayn stumbles onto the bus. Liam's got his phone to his ear, looking so miserable that he doesn’t even notice when Zayn waves to him. Harry shakes his head no when Zayn points at Liam and really that’s for the best because it means Zayn has nothing to do but crawl into his bunk and pass out.

**

He wakes up feeling less like death, thank god.

“Where are we?” he asks when he finds Louis and Liam and Harry having a cuddle in the lounge.

“Arizona?” Louis shrugs. “You missed the stop. Got you a Vitamin Water; it’s in the freezer.”

“Thanks.” Zayn wedges himself in between Louis and Liam, curling up so his head’s on Liam’s chest. “Please tell me you lot’re poorly, too.”

“We are in tip-top shape and it’s rude of you to imply otherwise.” Zayn kicks Louis in the shin and he laughs. “Yeah, we’re all in a state, love. Some of us worse than others.” He reaches over Zayn to rub Liam’s stomach.

“Party too hard, Liam?” Zayn presses his nose into Liam’s shirt sympathetically.

“Something like that,” Liam says, and then Louis’ passing his phone over for Zayn to have a look. It all comes back to him as soon as he sees the picture under the tweet, @Real_Liam_Payne: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME #tbt. Zayn’s whole body flushes hot with shame. It makes sense now why Liam was on the phone earlier looking like someone’d kicked his nan.

“How bad is it?”

“‘m not allowed on Twitter for a ‘long long long long time.’” Liam pulls a face; Zayn knows he’s trying to seem annoyed but really he’s upset.

“Chin up, Leemo,” Harry says, “at least you weren’t naked.”

Zayn laughs, vaguely remembering Liam offering to drop trou for the picture.

“Least who wasn’t naked when?” Niall comes in, scratching his stomach under his vest. Zayn’s pretty sure it’s the same outfit he was in yesterday.

“Liam, last night.” Louis passes his phone to Niall and they all watch as he reads it.

“Bad?”

Zayn’s head goes up and down when Liam shrugs. “Think they’re done yelling at me for now.”

It’s quiet for a long moment, a depressing air settling in the room.

“Niall was naked in my bed this morning,” Zayn says, hoping to break the tension.

“So were you!”

“I was not,” Zayn argues, even though he definitely was. Niall laughs and makes a face like he knows Zayn’s lying even though he’d been on top of the duvet and Zayn’d been under it.

“Oh my god,” Louis starts to laugh, clapping his hand over his eyes, “I forgot you idiots got married last night.”

“What?” Zayn sits up so fast his vision greys out. Niall looks down at the hideous ring on his finger and his jaw drops. He looks from the ring to Zayn and then back again. Zayn’s got a fucking horrible ring all of his own. Shit. He holds up his hand, his voice catching in his throat when he says, “Niall.”

“Oh my god,” Harry says. He sounds very far away. Everything sounds like it’s happening far away, like Zayn’s gone into a tunnel and the only thing on the other side is Niall and that garish clover on his hand.

It’s coming back to him in snatches, just like Liam on the ledge had: agreeing to Harry’s dumb dare; the ring in a display case all by itself; waiting for Niall in the chapel; Louis locking them in the room, after. Zayn’s ears burn; that explains waking up naked, at least.

“Wait,” Liam says, hands out like he’s refereeing a match, “you’re telling me they got married and I’m the one getting shouted at for a full hour this morning?”

Louis collapses in hysterical laughter.

&&&

“D’ya want anything?” Zayn tosses the room service menu over after he lets Niall in, “I’m getting a chicken sandwich.”

“Get me a burger?” His hangover’s mostly gone but he still feels like he needs something to soak up whatever’s left. He watches SportsCenter while Zayn orders, fiddles with the ring on his finger the whole time. It’s huge -- he can’t believe he didn’t notice it until Louis brought it up.

“Be here in a bit,” Zayn settles on the bed next to Niall, startling him. Zayn opens his mouth and then stops, thinking. He’s still got his ring on, too, Niall notices. He remembers how long it’d taken to find one that felt right.

“It’s weird,” Zayn says, “the stuff I can like, remember about it.” His face twists up like he’s not sure he’s making any sense.

“Me too,” Niall nods, because Zayn is making sense. It’s hard to get a handle on everything; they’d talked about the stuff they all remembered on the bus and most of it had come back to him like a dream, blurry and faded, but there are some parts he just knows. He reaches over to touch Zayn, beep beep boop. Like that.

Zayn bursts out laughing, does it back quick before holding out his fist for Niall to bump, his ring digging into Niall’s knuckles when they meet.

“Fucking Las Vegas,” Zayn sounds like he still can’t believe it. Niall laughs because he definitely can’t. What a shitshow.

“At least you won,” he points out.

“More of a joint effort, I think,” Zayn winks at Niall just to make him laugh.

“Can still hear Harry blubbering through the whole thing.” Niall wishes he had a picture of it but there aren’t any, they’d checked everyone’s phones on the bus, only found one on Tommo’s of Niall and Zayn with their arms twined as they tried to drink champagne. Niall’s not sure if he’s relieved there’re no pictures or disappointed. Bit of both, he supposes.

“Oh god,” Zayn groans, remembering, “he did, didn’t he?”

“Told me it was one of the most beautiful days o’ his life.” He’d whispered it right into Niall’s ear before trying to convince Niall to let Harry stand on a chair and pour champagne into his mouth. It had made a mess but had been hilarious, right up until Louis dragged Niall away and locked him in a bedroom.

Niall feels his face flush. He keeps his eyes on the telly when he asks, “We’re good, yeah?”

He knows Zayn remembers that, is the thing. Niall hadn’t when Paul’d woken them up, but once everything started coming back to him, snogging Zayn had been at the top of the list. And he’d seen it in Zayn’s eyes on the bus, the second he remembered too, the way his ears had gone all red. It’s shit to pretend nothing happened; that only breeds weirdness and that’s the last thing Niall wants.

He makes himself look at Zayn even though it’s hard to wait for Zayn to look back.

“‘Course we are,” when Zayn looks over he’s smiling, his face open and honest, “wouldn’t’ve married you if we weren’t.”

“Think you would’ve married a llama if Haz dared you to last night,” Niall says as a weight he didn’t know about lifts itself off his chest.

“Nope,” Zayn gets up to answer the knock at the door, “only you, Niall. This,” he gestures down his body, “is all for you.”

**

“Aw, isn’t that sweet,” Louis says when Niall sticks his foot out to hold the lift door open while Zayn runs down the hallway. “And they say chivalry’s dead.”

“Stuff it, Lou,” Zayn says, but Louis keeps going.

“It’s sad for the rest of us, really. Now there’s one less good fish in the sea.”

“Jealousy’s unbecoming, Tommo.” Niall slings his arm around Zayn’s neck, pulling him in to kiss his cheek. The best way to fight fire is with fire, and Louis’s not going to shut up about them getting hitched until they get annoyed or he gets bored.

“Wait,” Zayn says after a minute, “you’re saying Niall’s a good fish but I’m not?”

Louis smirks while Zayn sputters, outraged.

**

“Has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say, Niall?” Harry stares pointedly into the mirror, waiting for Niall to acknowledge him while Lou fiddles with his hair. Niall says nothing. The lads’ve been taking the piss out of him and Zayn since they remembered. Every time Niall thinks they’re running out of steam, he’s proven wrong.

“Alright, you’re done, I’m off to find my child.” Lou pats Harry’s shoulder and leaves him still pouting at Niall’s reflection.

“Zayn?” Harry tries.

“Nialler, do me a favor,” Zayn says, “give Harry a slap, would ya?”

“Doing your husband’s dirty work for him,” Harry laughs when Niall halfheartedly smacks him on the arm, “I never.”

“Marriage is a partnership,” Zayn says, not moving his feet when Niall makes to sit on the sofa. Niall sits directly on his legs, wiggling until the boniest parts aren’t digging into his arse.

“You’ll never guess what Liam found,” Louis says, bursting through the door, Liam hot on his heels.

“Louis, I said I wanted to tell them.” Liam’s been in a bit of a sulk ever since Vegas. He’s allowed, Niall figures; they’re all just waiting for him to pull out of it.

“What’s up?” Harry pulls his knees up, spinning in his chair.

“Well, I was looking for my --”

“Liam had your marriage license in his wallet!”

“Bloody hell, Louis,” Liam smacks him in the stomach. Zayn’s pushing at Niall, trying to get him to get up so they can both get off the sofa and over to the paper Liam’s holding up. Niall snatches it straightaway, holds it so they can read it at the same time. Sure enough, there are Zayn and Niall’s signatures, and Louis’ on the witness line, all sloppy but still undeniably theirs.

Zayn frowns. “Why’s it all creased?”

“I didn’t want to lose it?” Liam scratches the back of his neck. “I think I remember Niall giving it to me for safekeeping so I folded it up really carefully.”

Niall shrugs. He vaguely remembers signing the form, rocks paper scissors-ing with Zayn to see whose name got to go first.

“At least you signed mostly on the line,” Harry says, pointing to the way their drunken scrawls sort of droop as they go across the page.

“Five minutes, lads,” Paul pokes his head in the door. His eyebrows go up when he sees them all crowded nearby. “Signed what on the line?”

There’s no way Paul’s going to believe any lie they tell, not with the way all five of their heads whip up at the exact same time.

“Autographs for a fan?” Liam tries anyway. Paul takes a step into the room, shutting the door behind him.

Niall surrenders the paper easily when Paul tries to take it; it seems useless to hide it from him. How he’s managed to not find out by now is impressive enough.

“Erm,” Zayn’s shoulder digs into Niall’s when he leans into him, “Niall and I got drunkenly married in Las Vegas?”

Paul looks at the license and then at Zayn and Niall and then back at the license.

“Surpriiiiiiiiise,” Harry says quietly.

Paul laughs so hard he has to lean against the wall to stay upright.

“Shit,” he says eventually, trying to get his breath back, “fucking idiots, you lot are.” He shakes his head and laughs again. He’s still got the license in his hand. “Right, shit, you’ve a show. Alright. I guess you’ve managed to keep it under wraps so far?”

They all five nod. Niall feels like he’s run a marathon, his heart’s pounding so hard, the panic of Paul finding out giving way to this. It wasn’t the reaction he was expecting. One look at Zayn says they’re on the same page.

“Good, keep it that way. I’ll try to -- who knows where to start,” he claps Zayn and Niall on the shoulders, laughing, “fucking married.”

“Till death do us part,” Niall grins and gets smacked upside the head for it.

“Get out of my sight, go do your sodding jobs, all of ya.”

&&&

“Nope, married couples share a room,” Paul shrugs, them’s-the-breaks. Zayn’s starting to think he’s getting a little too much joy out of this. Everyone is. Better than the alternative, he guesses.

“Could go back to the bus,” Niall offers, but Zayn shakes his head. They’ve just spent ages on the bus; he’s looking forward to a real bed since they got to the arena earlier today. Since they left the last city, really.

“Good lads,” Paul laughs even harder when Zayn glares at him, “such a lovely couple.”

“C’mon, sweet cheeks.” He gets Niall by the wrist and pulls him away, Paul still laughing as they go.

Niall frowns as they step onto the lift. “Not a big fan of sweet cheeks.”

“Pumpkin? Muffin? Hubby-o-mine?” Zayn suggests, pulling Niall closer and closer until Zayn can hang both arms around his neck. He’s still riled up from the show, has no idea how long it’s going to take him to come down. Niall bites him through the collar of his shirt, equally slaphappy.

“You can refer to me as the love of your life or nothing at all,” he leads the way down the hall, checking the numbers on the doors until he finds theirs, all the way at the end, “gotta be some perks to this marriage thing. Shit.”

He stops right in the doorway so Zayn smacks into his back.

“He booked us the fucking honeymoon suite?” Zayn feels the hysterical laughter bubbling up inside him. There’s a bottle of champagne chilling on the desk, rose petals arranged in a heart on the duvet. “What were you saying about perks?”

Niall drops his bags and dives onto the bed, petals bouncing around him. “Look how huge it is, Zayn!” He rolls to one side and then all the way back to the other. The petals are going to stain his clothes, Zayn thinks distractedly, before shouting “Cowabunga!” and jumping right into the middle, cutting off Niall’s log roll.

“So far we’ve got this room, the champagne, rose petals,” Niall ticks the perks off on his fingers, “the sickest rings in the entire world, I didn’t check but my heart tells me there’s a jacuzzi in the loo.”

“Your heart tells you?”

Niall presses his palm to his chest, thinking. “Yes. Everyone’s jealous of our amazing marriage,” he resumes counting, “I technically get to snog you whenever I want.”

Zayn laughs. “Excuse me?”

“That’s like, a building block of marriage, Zayn.” Niall rolls onto his side. “It was in the vows.”

Zayn knows Niall’s taking the mick, is the thing, but there’s something in his voice that makes it seem like maybe he isn’t, not entirely. Heat rushes through his veins when he remembers snogging Niall in Vegas. He shakes his head, “I don’t remember that.”

Niall pets his cheek, his fingers gentle along Zayn’s beard. “That’s because you were very, very drunk.”

Zayn cracks up. He can feel Niall laughing too, the bed moving with it. When he looks over, Niall’s face is pink. Zayn brushes a stray petal out of his hair, lets his fingers scratch at Niall’s scalp when he does it. Watches Niall bite his lip as he inhales sharp through his nose.

“Building block, hmm?” Zayn’s already leaning closer. He knows of one surefire way to get rid of this post-show adrenaline, knows that neither of them’s gotten off with anyone since the wedding so it’d be good. Quick. Easy. It was all those things last time. They’re both here and this bed is so big.

“I think it’d be irresponsible not to, y’know?” Niall’s hand is the lightest pressure on Zayn’s hip, like he’s toeing the line too, both of them unsure of how far the other’s going to go.

“Irresponsible.” Zayn feels like his own voice is coming from very far away, blood rushing through his ears when Niall’s eyes drop down to his mouth. Fuck it. He pulls Niall into him, rolling so Niall’s half on top of him while they kiss. The last time comes back to him in bursts -- the curve of Niall’s hip under his palm, the spot on Niall’s neck that makes him groan.

It’s not the same, though. Feels more frantic this time, more urgent. Niall licks along the seam of Zayn’s lips, pushing his hands up up up under Zayn’s shirt before dragging his nails back down. Zayn feels like he’s drowning, like he can’t get enough. It’s the afterburn of the show, makes everything flare brighter.

“Best idea we ever had,” Niall’s teeth are sharp against the tendon in Zayn’s neck.

“The wedding?” Zayn gets his hands under the waistband of Niall’s shorts, pushing everything down in one go, “Or this?”

“Yes,” Niall groans when Zayn grips his cock, gives it a good few strokes, “fuck, Zayn.”

Zayn licks his lips, bites his bottom one, “I wanna -- can I try something?” He doesn’t wait for Niall’s answer, just shuffles backwards before ducking his head, licking up Niall’s prick.

“Yes, Jesus,” Niall grips the bedspread like he’s going to fly away if he doesn’t hold on, “what a stupid fucking question.”

Zayn pulls off to look at him. “I feel like you shouldn’t be insulting me while I’m down here. Bit rude, innit?”

“Zayn?” Niall says as sweet as he can manage with his voice thin and breathless. His hips jerk, pushing into Zayn’s fist. He reaches out to catch Zayn’s cheek, thumb sliding along Zayn’s bottom lip. He waits until Zayn’s looking directly at him to smile. “Blow me.”

“Maybe I don’t want to now.” Zayn licks his lips, tongue catching Niall’s thumb. Niall’s eyes flutter closed and his hips jerk again; Zayn’s dick twitches.

“Yeaaaaah,” Niall breathes out when Zayn starts sucking him again, sloppily now, focused on holding Niall’s hips to the bed more than anything. “I’ll do you next,” Niall promises, babbling, “shit, so good, Zayn, shit,” and then he’s tugging at Zayn’s hair, knuckles pressing hard against Zayn’s skull in warning before he comes.

He pats Zayn’s shoulder clumsily when Zayn sits up. He’s gone red all over. Zayn presses the back of his hand to it to see if it’s as warm as it looks. Niall grips his arm, holding him there, blinking slowly while he gets his breath back.

“You gotta,” he says after a minute, knocking Zayn sideways, crawling over his legs. “Just give me a warning, yeah?”

Zayn nods and feels his whole body catch on fire from the warmth of Niall’s mouth.

**

They have the room for four days. It’s stupid to let the whole thing go to waste.

“Want me to pull you off in the jacuzzi?” Niall offers after their third show, already shucking his pants.

“What kind of husband would you be if you didn’t?” Zayn laughs and follows suit.

It’s easy, it’s fun. It’s Niall. Zayn can’t think of any better options, can’t think of anything other than how good Niall’s calloused palm feels against his skin.

**

“I’ve created monsters,” Paul laments at the bounce in Niall and Zayn’s steps when they board the bus to the arena, “Frankenstein One and Frankenstein Two.”

“Frankenstein was the doctor so technically you’re Frankenstein,” Zayn points out, laughing at the way Paul’s knuckles go white around the door handle.

“If it’s any consolation,” Louis says, “they were monsters all along, people were just blinded by, I don’t know, their sparkling personalities.”

Louis cackles when Niall and Zayn flip him off in unison. Paul slams the door shut harder than usual. He makes sure they share again in the next city, a less exciting room this time with a bed that’s not the size of a small country.

“Gotta say, we really miss the champagne, Paul. How’re we supposed to keep the romance alive without rose petals in our sheets?” Niall drops into Zayn’s lap, nicking a strawberry off his plate.

“You got them champagne?” Harry asks jealously.

“I had to go to a three hour meeting on responsible alcohol use and the internet yesterday,” Liam says.

“Was it better or worse the second time around?” Zayn asks, sticking his tongue out. Niall knocks away the grape Liam chucks at Zayn.

“Haha! Wedding forcefield!” He makes a wierd bzzzzh forcefield noise, swiping his forearm in front of his and Zayn’s faces. Liam chucks grape after grape, but Niall deflects them all.

&&&

Niall wakes up to someone banging on the door. He’s not got pants on this time, either. It all feels a bit like deja vu.

“What?” Niall asks when he answers his phone. On the other nightstand, Zayn’s is still buzzing away.

“Open the door, fuckface,” Louis says, “TMZ found your marriage certificate.”

**

They have options, management says, but they’re all really the same in the end.

“I mean, what’re we going to do, lie and say it’s fake?” Niall looks at Zayn instead of looking at the handful of other people in the room, an unknown number of them conferenced in over the phone. “It’s clearly not.”

They’ve got the notarized form, a nicer version than the wrinkled one Liam was carrying around for days. Niall’s not sure where that one ended up. With Paul, he assumes.

“Yeah can’t we say like, ‘sorry, we were drunk and it seemed like a laugh?’” Zayn bumps the toe of his boot against Niall’s ankle. Niall bumps him back.

In the end, they decide it’s easier to own up to it.

“You should’ve come to us immediately,” someone Niall’s never met says. He shrugs, feels Zayn fist his hand in the back of Niall’s vest.

“Next time, we will. First call, definitely,” Niall promises. He knows someone’ll yell at them later for not taking this seriously enough, but whatever. It’s not like they did it on purpose.

“D’you need anything else?” Zayn’s already inching backwards when he asks, waiting for just one person to shake their head no so they can bolt. He launches himself onto Niall’s back once they’re in the hallway, chin resting on the top of Niall’s head. “Went better than I expected, honestly.”

Niall pauses to hitch him higher. When he thinks about it, he supposes Zayn’s right.

**

“It’s strange,” Liam says during the Twitter questions portion of the show, “but every single question we’ve got tonight is the same.”

“I wonder what that could be,” Harry says, mouth still full of ham sandwich. Niall sees Zayn roll his eyes from across the stage. The band starts playing Here Comes the Bride and it takes the crowd a second to catch on but when they do, it’s deafening.

Someone’s behind Niall, pushing him forward, towards where Louis’s shoving Zayn, who’s already laughing, head thrown back a bit like he’s never heard anything funnier. Niall feels the same thing welling up inside him and at the last second he stops resisting, runs the last few steps and throws himself at Zayn.

It’s a miracle Zayn catches him, really, but he does, with one arm under Niall’s knees and his legs braced. It’s like he could carry him over a threshold without blinking.

“Sick,” Zayn laughs, his other hand smoothing over Niall’s back. Niall feels his arms slipping against the sweat on Zayn’s neck; he tries to hold on tighter.

“Ladies and gentleman,” Liam yells, “can we get a round of applause for the happy couple?”

**

“That was mad,” Niall scrubs a towel through his hair, feels a bit better after the shower. It wasn’t enough to calm him down after a show that insane but it was a start.

Zayn turns off the telly before scooting to the foot of the bed. His hair’s still damp from his own shower, sticking up all over the place. “Knew it would be.”

“Yeah, alright, you’re a genius.” Niall’s skin prickles when Zayn slides his hands up the backs of his thighs, up under his towel. A droplet of water rolls down Niall’s chest; Zayn catches it with his tongue, mouth curving into a smile when Niall hisses.

Zayn pulls at the knot in Niall’s towel, letting it fall away while he’s still licking a path across Niall’s abs and Niall balls his hands into fists and thinks for a dumbfuck drunken dare, things’ve worked out pretty well so far.

&&&

“For the record,” Louis steals Zayn’s cig and takes a long drag, exhaling right in Zayn’s face, “it’s weird that you’re so chill about all this.”

“All what?” Zayn leans back against the brick wall of the venue and digs out a new cig for himself.

Louis waves his hand through the air, “this. Is it a cry for help?”

Zayn barks a laugh. “No,” he kicks out, catching Louis in the thigh, “it was a joke, they’re sorting it out, and until it’s all sorted, who cares? It’s just Niall.”

“Yeah, that’s it,” Louis snorts before he lets it go entirely.

**

Louis’s singing an entirely different song onstage later when he gets Zayn in a chokehold and turns to the audience with his lower lip sticking out.

“Did you know that Zayn and Niall never got a proper reception?” he asks, waiting for the awww from the crowd. “I know, right? Terrible shame. Zayn was really broken up about it, weren’t you, Zayn?”

“No,” Zayn says, getting a pinch for it while the crowd laughs.

“I know, it’s alright,” Louis pets his hair soothingly, “we’ll make it up to you.”

“Please don’t,” Zayn says to Louis, not to everyone, but he knows it’s useless. Whatever Lou’s cooked up is happening, come hell or high water.

“Can you believe these wonderful lads never got a first dance?” Harry asks, making the same exaggerated pout Louis had. Liam’s frogmarching Niall over as Harry talks about the beautiful ceremony and how much love he still has for the beautiful city of Las Vegas.

“I had nothing to do with this,” Niall hisses.

“No shit.” Zayn’s still got Louis’s arm around his neck.

Harry’s got the whole crowd doing a chant now, “FIRST DANCE, FIRST DANCE, FIRST DANCE.”

“I want a divorce,” Niall jerks his thumb over his shoulder, “from them.”

The band kicks up and Louis lets go of Zayn so he can push him at Niall. Zayn dramatically rubs at his throat, gasping for breath. Behind Niall, Liam’s rolling his eyes. The rest of the lads sit down on the far side, leaving Zayn and Niall alone while the band vamps.

Niall shrugs and holds up his hand, his other arm going around Zayn’s back. The only way out is through. Zayn does the same, fits their palms together, and waits for whatever song Louis’ chosen to start.

He’s expecting something cliched, At Last or The Way You Look Tonight or Last First Kiss, even, something that’s a big joke for everyone to laugh at. It’s not, though, and he feels the way Niall’s breath hitches when the opening strains of Desperado start. It throws Zayn so much that it takes him a moment to remember they’re supposed to be dancing.

The lads are singing, all of them at once, but Zayn can’t hear anything over the way Niall’s singing along softly, his knees knocking against Zayn’s as they move in a small circle around the stage.

Zayn catches sight of Louis with his lighter out, Harry and Liam with their phones up, and he starts to laugh. Anything to distract him from how blue Niall’s eyes look, the way his lips are brushing against Zayn’s jaw while he sings. Zayn’s palm is so sweaty he feels weird about it, wants to pull it out of Niall’s hand and wipe it on his jeans.

The song ends and the stage shakes with how loud the crowd cheers. Niall pivots them in one last circle and then dips Zayn. His stomach drops and he feels like he’s going to fall, fingers gripping tight to Niall’s arm, his back.

“I’m not gonna drop you,” Niall says, laughing at the way Zayn’s clutching him. He rights them both easily, leaves his arms around Zayn.

Zayn scowls, “I know,” and Niall laughs even harder before they’re both bowled over by Harry and, a second later, Louis and Liam.

**

“Come back to mine?” Niall’s eyes are dark and Zayn feels like something’s sat on his chest when he nods. They’ve had separate rooms since the news came out, Paul apparently done with his pranks. They hadn’t even lasted two nights before Niall was texting Zayn to stop by, he had something he needed a hand with. rmr u took an oath he’d added along with the engagement ring emoji, like Zayn needed more encouragement, hadn’t already been throwing on his trackies.

“Here.” Niall slips him a key, fingers deliberately brushing Zayn’s and he has to try desperately not to think about the way Niall’s arms had looked when he dipped Zayn, veins standing out the same way they do when he when he jerks Zayn off at night. He digs his fingernails into his palms and wills himself not to get hard in the back of the van.

&&&

“Niall. Wait. Stop.” Zayn actually pushes at Niall’s head, the harshest warning Niall’s gotten since they started this whole thing. He licks at Zayn’s neck one last time, teeth scraping his skin. “Niall.”

Zayn shoves him harder and Niall sits up this time, holding himself up so his weight’s not wholly settled in Zayn’s lap. He’s got some sense of common courtesy. Zayn swipes at the mark already blooming on his neck, pressing until he winces.

“You gotta stop leaving these,” he says, neck twisted like he’s looking at himself in a mirror.

“Sorry.” Niall’s not, really, but Zayn’ll bitch until he apologizes and it’s easier this way. He bends back down, aiming for the other side, but Zayn stops him with a firm, “No.”

“No?” Niall laughs.

“You didn’t have to sit through Lou’s tirade today,” Zayn says, holding Niall back with a palm in the middle of his chest. “‘Took an extra ten minutes to get it covered up right.”

Niall wrinkles his brow, confused. He hadn’t noticed anything weird when they were getting made up for the interviews this afternoon. “Looked fine, though.”

“S’not the point,” Zayn says.

“What is the point then?” Niall’s antsy. He’d been half-hard before they started all this and now. Well, he could probably roll over and go to sleep, with all this yapping Zayn’s doing.

“No marks where people’re gonna see them. Here?” Zayn points to the new one on his neck, “bad. Here,” he points to his chest, “okay. Got it?”

Niall nods slowly. He touches Zayn’s collarbone, “What about here?”

“Bad.”

The curve of Zayn’s playing card tattoo.

“Okay.”

Niall bends down and mouths at the skin there, not hard enough to leave a mark, but enough to make Zayn’s breath catch. He drags his fingers across his chest, to just above Zayn’s nipple. He taps it and Zayn nods slowly.

“Okay.”

He can feel Zayn’s heart thudding under his palm; Niall bites at Zayn to keep from grinding down against his hip. He touches Zayn’s neck, fighting back a smile when Zayn shakes his head. He slides his hand lower, to the dip in Zayn’s neck, negative again. After the third no in a row, Zayn twists, spilling Niall sideways.

“Yeah,” Niall threads his fingers through Zayn’s hair, grinning while Zayn kisses along the curve of Niall’s pec, “show me.”

**

“What the shit, Malik?” Niall stomps out of the changing area backstage to where Zayn’s riding his skateboard up and down the hallway. “What the shit?” he yells again.

“Are you yelling at me?” Zayn comes to a stop in front of him, kicking his board into his hand.

“Yeah, you,” Niall points to love bite Zayn’s left on his chest, completely uncovered by Niall’s top. “What the fuck happened to the No Fly Zone?”

“The what?” Zayn laughs.

Niall draws an imaginary line across his chest and Zayn laughs again.

“It was up here, mate.” Zayn lifts Niall’s hand, redraws the line much higher while Niall sputters.

“What the fuck’m I supposed to do now?”

Zayn stares at the mark for so long Niall feels himself going red. “Dunno. Wear a different shirt, I guess?”

**

“This is fucking ridiculous,” Niall mutters, staring at himself in the mirror.

“What is?” Zayn comes in half-dressed and Niall takes a minute to notice that all the marks he’s left on Zayn are in the right spaces. None of this bruises-on-your-arm nonsense.

“This!” Niall gestures to the fingerprints on his bicep, the love bite on his chest. “I look like I was attacked!”

“By what,” Zayn snorts, fingers prodding the bruises on Niall’s arm, “a Lilliputian?”

Niall’d laugh but Zayn’s not the one stuck wearing raglan shirts at every show, sweating his balls off night after night. “I adhered to your stupid rule,” Niall complains.

“It’s not my fault,” Zayn crowds Niall against the sink, fingers fitting against the bruises he’d left last night, the ones on Niall’s arm and the matching set on his hip, “you’re so pale.”

“Yeah, that’s the reason,” Niall rolls his eyes at Zayn’s blatant lie. He knows firsthand how Zayn gets off on it. “My husband’s a vampire.”

Zayn noses at Niall’s jaw. “Sounds like a movie my sisters would watch.”

“Zayn,” Niall warns when he feels Zayn nipping at curve of his neck.

“Yeah, I know.” Zayn licks over the spot and then pulls back enough to kiss Niall proper. “Make it up to you?”

“You can try,” Niall says, bracing himself against the counter as Zayn sinks to his knees, his teeth sharp against Niall’s hipbones.

**

“Niall,” Harry pulls at the sleeve Niall’s not got around to rolling up yet, “we miss your chest hair,” he drags it out, whining as he flops into Niall’s lap, “why’ve you been hiding it from us?”

He tugs at the neck of Niall’s shirt, pulling it down, mouth dropping open when he sees. “Oh.”

The look on Harry’s face is too much, the way his mouth is making a perfect O, his eyes fixed on Niall’s chest. Niall’s skin prickles with it, not in the good way.

“Get off me, you lug.”

“Wait, no, give me a sharpie, I want to see if I can play connect the dots,” Harry’s still talking when Niall shoves him off his lap and onto the floor.

“Least ‘m married, ya slag,” Niall bends down to flick the spot where Harry’d had a mark so bad Lou’d yelled at him for five straight minutes last week.

“That’s hurtful, Niall, I can’t believe you’d say that to me.”

Niall’s still trying to smother him with a cushion when Louis walks in. He takes a minute to take in the scene: Harry’s muffled shouts, his flailing hands, Niall sitting on his stomach, before he grabs a cushion.

“Need a hand, Nialler?”

&&&

Zayn can hear the shower running when he lets himself into Niall’s room, Niall singing Beyonce loud enough to carry through the walls. Zayn laughs as he toes off his shoes and sneaks in to see if he can embarrass Niall.

“Scared me,” Niall pulls back the curtain, shampoo suds still in his hair. He doesn’t look very scared, hadn’t even jumped when Zayn’d started singing along. He flicks water into Zayn’s face, “Comin’ in? Or have you already had a shower?”

Zayn has but he steps out of his trackies anyway, leaves his clothes balled up on the floor next to Niall’s. The spray’s hot when it hits his back; Zayn gasps involuntarily.

“What’d you get in on this side for?” Niall puts his hands on Zayn’s waist to spin them around, moving Zayn out of the water’s path.

“I always get in on this side,” Zayn reaches behind Niall to test the water on his arm, let his skin get used to it, “d’you get in from the back?”

“No.” Niall tips his head back, rinsing the suds out. “Only if it’s been running for ages, I guess.”

“Yeah, well, next time,” Zayn shrugs, brushing suds of Niall’s forehead. He’d been wide awake when he came looking for Niall, still jumpy from the show, but now everything’s starting to slow down, the tiredness seeping in with the steam from the shower. Maybe he should go back to his. Let Niall finish up in peace.

He doesn’t much want to leave though, selfishly wants to get off without doing any of the work. That’s the best part of all this, the whole marriage perks; there’s no like, expectations attached.

“Y’alright?” Niall holds Zayn’s hand to his chest; he hadn’t realized he’d been running it up and down his front until Niall’d stopped him.

“Yeah, sorry, just --” Zayn watches a water droplet run down Niall’s neck and then shakes his head, trying to clear it, “tired, I guess. Dunno, just hit me.”

“How tired are we talking?” Niall moves closer, guiding Zayn’s arm around his neck, “Like, too tired?”

Zayn shakes his head, fingers playing with the wet hairs at Niall’s nape. Niall’s so warm from the shower that Zayn shivers when Niall fits their bodies together.

“Thank Christ,” Niall kisses him, keeps darting in and the pulling back just far enough to talk, “hate to have to get a mistress.”

“Seems like it’d be a lot of work,” Zayn agrees, mouth on Niall’s jaw. Niall spins them, a slow shuffle until the spray’s hitting Zayn’s back. It’s not as hot now, it feels good beating down on his skin. Soothing, like.

“What’d’ya want?” Niall asks, hands slipping over Zayn’s skin. Zayn doesn’t know. He wants a lot of things suddenly, doesn’t know how to narrow them down. He feels like he’s finally waking up, a second wind coming on. “Zayn?”

Zayn moves so one of his legs is between Niall’s, steps closer so Niall’s pressed up against the wall, swallowing the gasp Niall makes at the cold of the tiles against his back. He rocks his hips into Niall’s, the smooth wet expanse of Niall’s skin feeling so good against his cock. “This.”

Niall’s hands slide down to cup Zayn’s arse, holding him there while he thrusts. “Yeah, alright,” his head hits the wall with a thunk, “this works.”

Zayn hides his laugh in the column of Niall’s throat. The steam makes it harder to breathe, the air thick and heavy. All Zayn can do is concentrate on how good Niall feels against him, the water making everything slipperier, better.

He’s already so close, his orgasm gathering like a storm deep in his gut, that when Niall reaches between them to wrap his hand around both their cocks Zayn nearly loses it. He manages to hold out for two, three strokes, and then he’s coming, biting down hard on the skin where Niall’s shoulder turns into his neck.

“Oh fuck,” Niall grits out and then he’s coming too, one hand digging into Zayn’s arse to hold him close.

“Great,” Niall scrubs his hand over the mirror later, wiping away enough steam to see the bite Zayn’s left, “cheers for that.”

“Sorry?” The exhaustion’s back again, worse than before, everything in Zayn’s body feeling heavy. Even swiping a towel over his hair is taxing.

“Yeah yeah,” Niall snaps his towel at Zayn, laughing when it lands with a crack and Zayn winces, “I’ve heard it all before.”

He manhandles Zayn towards the bed, pulling back the duvet so they can both climb in. Zayn’s still damp in parts, can feel the sheets soaking it up. He’s asleep almost immediately, the last thing he registers is the light shutting off, Niall’s feet nudging his as he settles in.

**

“Have you been checking your messages lately,” Paul sneaks up on Zayn when he’s smoking, like he was waiting until he was distracted to approach, “or are you just deleting them straightaway now?”

Zayn plays dumb. “What messages?”

“Don’t you think this has gone on long enough?”

“Marriage is forever,” Zayn watches Niall circle the lot on his Segway, laughing while Louis tries to hit him with a football. He looks over when Paul doesn’t laugh. “What’s the big deal? It’s funny, you know it is.”

Zayn sticks his thumb out as Niall goes by again.

“You, of all people,” Paul starts, and then Niall’s stopping in front of them, asking, “Should a pretty thing like you be hitchhiking?”

Paul snorts and Zayn feels better about it, sees Paul roll his eyes as the two of them try to figure out a way to balance on the Segway.

“That looked serious,” Niall says once they’re far enough away.

Zayn shrugs. “Divorce stuff.”

Niall blows a raspberry into the wind. Zayn laughs despite the spit flying into his face.

“Tried t’corner me the other day,” Niall says while Zayn wipes his face on Niall’s shoulder, “told him our union was purer than freshly fallen snow. Thought he was gonna smack me.”

“Surprised he didn’t,” Zayn’s lips accidentally graze Niall’s ear and the whole Segway lurches.

“Only ‘cause Lou and Liam went past with a bucket of water balloons, taking bets on whether or not they could hit the crowd along the fence.”

Zayn can feel it all along his front when Niall laughs. He holds on tighter as they take a corner, both of them leaning forward so they’ll pick up speed.

**

“Christ, are you almost done in there, I’m getting my arse handed --” Niall pushes open the door of the bus toilet and stops dead. Zayn’s got the tape half-peeled off, the top half of his new tattoo exposed.

“Five minutes,” Zayn promises. He’d tossed his controller to Harry to come in here but when FIFA’s involved that’s akin to leaving Niall alone, especially against Liam and Louis.

“That’s what you got?” Niall comes further into the tiny room, pulling at Zayn’s hip until he turns so Niall can see properly. He gestures to the bandage, “Can I?”

Zayn feels like his brain’s turned to jelly as he nods. Niall’s fingers are careful as he pulls the bandage the rest of the way off. “This is --“ he thumbs the red mark left by the tape, his voice so low Zayn can barely even hear it, “Zayn.”

It’d seemed like a good idea last night when Zayn’d seen a page of family crests in the design book, had pulled up Horan on his phone almost immediately. Now, in the unbearable silence, he sort of understands why Louis’d stared at him for so long after Zayn’d showed him the transfer.

“He’s fully cracked, Payno,” he’d yelled across the shop, shaking his head, “someone mark down the date and time!”

“It’s like,” Zayn’s mouth’s gone dry, tacky, “it’s supposed --”

“I know what it is, shithead,” Niall splays his hand out, the point of the crest in the webbing of his thumb. His other hand curls around the back of Zayn’s neck, dragging him in for a kiss, pushing his tongue into Zayn’s mouth, deepening it immediately, like they’ve been shagging for hours instead of stood here in the loo.

“It’s alright, then?” Zayn knows Niall can feel his heart going like mad in his chest. Niall laughs, low and throaty.

“I swear to god, Malik,” he grabs Zayn’s hand, pushes it so he gets a good grope of Niall’s half-hard cock, “if we weren’t on this fecking bus.”

“Yeah?” Zayn squeezes once, just to hear Niall groan, and then leans in to kiss him again. Niall goes with it for a minute before pulling away.

“You and me, later,” he says, cheeks gone pink, already backing out of the room like he needs to put physical distance between them, “gotta make time for each other, keep this marriage alive.”

“Dunno,” Zayn calls after him, already getting back to cleaning the new ink, “I might have plans, like.”

Niall comes back just to flip him off.

&&&

The interview’s boring as shit and it’s not even their last of the day. Niall catches himself drifting off during one of Haz’s stories, spinning his ring around and around on his finger, watching the green of the stones bounce off the light, refracting green over every surface, trying to make the shapes splay across whatever Louis points at: his shoes, the cameraman’s trousers, the back of Harry’s head.

Niall doesn’t look up until he registers Zayn tipping his head back in his chair, leaning into the back row to grin at Niall. “Yeah, it was a joke, like,” he’s saying, already sitting up again, “but who wouldn’t want to be married to Niall?”

The other lads all raise their hands.

“Even you, Harry?” Niall shakes his head, playing up his betrayal, “No, don’t put your hand down now, it’s too late, I know where your heart lies.”

He leans forward, lacing his arms over Zayn’s shoulders. He tucks himself close, so they’re cheek-to-cheek, and smiles directly into the camera.

“I just didn’t want to upset Zayn,” Harry stage whispers to Louis, “you know how he gets.”

“Oh, look," Liam claps delightedly when Niall and Zayn turn to glare at Harry in unison, “just like a proper married couple!”

**

“Are we having a car boot sale?” Harry strolls up like it’s every day he finds Niall knelt on the floor, the contents of his bunk strewn everywhere.

Niall paws through another pile of clothing, one he knows he’s looked through already. “Can’t find me hat.”

“This one?” Harry pulls one of Niall’s snapbacks out of the pile he’s chucked into Liam’s bunk, keeps pulling out hat after hat, “Or this one? Look familiar? Maybe this guy?”

“No,” Niall says, and then, when Harry keeps it up, “Haz.”

“Got it, emergency, sorry,” Harry boosts himself into the upper row, uncurls his legs until he’s braced across the aisle, “what’s this specific one look like?”

“Black,” Niall’s distracted, still rooting around through all his things. He always keeps track of his stuff, isn’t like Zayn, leaving all and sundry in hotels because he can nick a fresh whatever from the first open bag, “and white, you know with,” he waves his hand over his head.

“The one from Las Vegas?” Harry laughs.

“Yeah, was gonna wear it t’the show tonight, thought everyone’d love it.”

Harry’s low hum isn’t quite the reaction Niall was expecting, raucous laughter would’ve been appreciated. Even a little chuckle, maybe.

“What’s happened?” Zayn jogs onto the bus with heavy footsteps. “Someone set off a bomb?”

It’s offensive that Zayn’s horrible joke makes Harry laugh harder than the idea of Niall wearing his groom snapback at the show.

“If it isn’t the groom,” Harry says cheerfully. Niall pitches more clothes into Liam’s bunk; maybe he’s left it in the last hotel? He could probably get Paul to call someone to check.

“Ha ha,” Zayn fake laughs, “can you get me my smokes?”

Harry does some weird balancing act to reach into Zayn’s bunk for them.

“Everything okay?” Zayn pats Niall’s back and he grunts, “Fine,” without looking up from the depths of his bunk. There’s only so much space in here, it has to be somewhere.

“Here you go,” Harry tosses the pack to him, “always glad to help my favorite groom.”

“Are you having a stroke or summat?” Zayn asks him.

“No, but I like your hat.” Harry’s foot connects with the back of Niall’s skull.

“What the shit, Haz?” Niall whips around and it’s only then that he realizes what Harry’s been going on and on about. “Are you wearing my hat? Did you steal it from my bunk?”

“Steal?” Zayn touches the brim, laughing, “What’s yours is mine, yeah?”

Niall clenches his jaw and Zayn stops laughing, his face going soft. He pulls the hat off and hands it back carefully. “Sorry, lost my sunglasses and wanted to bike a bit. Didn’t think you’d mind. Didn’t think you’d notice.”

“I did,” Niall starts folding his things, trying to get them back in some semblance of order. It’s such a stupid thing to be upset over. Their crazy schedule must be getting to him more than he realized. Usually it takes longer for him to start to lose it over minor things.

“Hey,” Zayn sits on the edge of his bunk, careful not to dislodge any of the piles. He touches Niall’s arm, featherlight, “Niall,” he says, and then stops, looking over Niall’s shoulder. Niall turns and sees Harry watching them with interest. He doesn’t pretend to look away, just smiles and waves at them both.

“Come for a smoke with me?” Zayn taps Niall’s elbow. “I’ll help you sort this later?”

Niall thinks on it for a minute before he nods, pushing up. “Let’s go.” He grabs the groom snapback as an afterthought, slips it on as they step outside.

He keeps waiting for Zayn to say something about it as they walk past the busses, away from the fences the fans are already lined along, to a quiet corner. Zayn’s quiet though, only acknowledges Niall to offer him a cigarette and then again when he sits on the ground, pats the space next to him for Niall to sit as well.

Niall kicks his feet out and tips his head against the brick wall behind them. It knocks his hat askew, makes it so the sun’s shining directly in his face. It feels sort of good, everything warm and relaxing and bright. Niall doesn’t fix it.

Zayn crushes the butt of his cig into the ground, dusting his hands off on his jeans before touching Niall’s knee. “Better?”

Niall nods. He does, mostly. Maybe he just needed a time out from everything. It’s worked almost as well as a quick kip.

Zayn knocks his knuckles into the brim of Niall’s hat, tipping it up even more. “You know there’ll be pictures of us both in that hat all over the internet now?”

Niall squints in the sun, at the way it lights Zayn up from behind, makes his whole face look like shadows.

“Probably already are.”

It seems like the type of thing he should be concerned about but he really can’t be arsed.

&&&

Zayn’s seen Niall play the guitar thousands of times before. Tens of thousands of times. He’s seen Niall play the guitar infinitely more than he’s seen his cock and yet walking into the dressing room to find him sat on the sofa in just his shorts and that damn groom snapback he’s been insisting on wearing all the time these past few days, testing out some new arrangement, makes Zayn feel like he’s been whacked upside the head with a cricket bat.

“Hey,” Niall grins when he sees him stalled in the doorway, “tell me what y’think of this, if it’s good I think we should see if Payno’ll let us try it out?”

He launches into an acoustic version of “Diana,” his voice quiet, hesitant almost, as he picks his way through it. His voice cracks on the chorus and he looks up quickly, blushing even as he laughs at himself. Zayn feels like all the air’s gone out of the room.

Niall scratches the back of his neck when he finishes, his lip caught between his teeth.

“Niall, that’s --” Zayn doesn’t know why he can’t think of words, why he can’t think of anything except chucking that bloody guitar on the floor and snogging Niall’s brains out right on the sofa.

“Oi oi oi, ten minute warning!” Louis comes rushing through, tea in one hand, nerf gun in the other. He shoots at Zayn, cackling when the dart lands right between his eyes. “Get your shirt on, Niall, no one wants to see Zayn maul some poor girl for staring at your tits all night.”

“Really good,” Zayn says finally, still looking at Niall. He’s not sure if Niall can hear what he says over all the ruckus Louis’ making, but Niall smiles all the same and Zayn has to remind himself that they’ve a show to do.

**

They’re doing Happily, Haz and Zayn lazily do-si-doing on the chorus, acting like prats as usual, when Liam sidles up next Niall for his verse, reaching around to grope Niall while he sings. Zayn feels a surge of adrenaline watching Niall laugh and knock Liam’s arm away, puts the sudden burst of energy into his riff on the final chorus. He still feels like he’s going to fly out of his skin.

It’s like that for the rest of the show. He chases Louis up and down the risers, helps him hold Liam down while they dump bottles of water onto his face as he valiantly tries to keep singing. The only thing he doesn’t do is goof around with Niall. He doesn’t trust himself with it, not when he feels like there’s a hurricane brewing inside him. Like he’s a landmine that could explode any minute.

They’re lined up at the end, doing Best Song Ever the same as always, the anticipation of being done so strong Zayn can taste it, when Niall reaches over, his arm swinging out the only warning Zayn gets before Niall taps him, beep beep boop, same as always.

His smile’s so bright and his hand barely touches Zayn’s shirt. It still feels like something inside him’s been detonated. Zayn grins back and then pivots to his other side, tries to see how many times he can poke Harry’s arse before he flinches away.

**

“Jesus,” Niall throws his leg over Zayn’s, stilling it, “you’re shaking the whole backseat, what is your problem?”

“Nothing,” Zayn keeps his voice low so as not to disturb everyone else. They’re all practically falling asleep on the ride back to the hotel. Even Niall’d been quiet, just dicking around on his phone. Zayn’s the only one still keyed up. “I’m fine,” he says, even though he feels drunk on everything in a way he hasn’t since the first tour.

Niall watches him for a minute, assessing. Zayn’s skin prickles with the effort of staying still. After a moment Niall goes back to whatever he’d been doing, the screen casting a dull glow on his face. He leaves his knee hooked over Zayn’s.

Zayn stares out the window and digs his nails into the upholstery to keep from drumming his fingers on Niall’s thigh.

**

He tries to keep it together until he’s in his room, even though his back muscles are starting to ache from holding himself so tensely.

“Fucking arsing,” he fumbles with keycard, watches as it keeps flashing red. It turns green on the fourth go and Zayn breathes a sigh of relief. Maybe he’ll change into shorts, call someone to sit with him while he goes down to the gym. Harry does it all the time. Maybe Niall’ll be up for a go when he gets back.

“Hey,” he hears, Niall’s hand catching him just above the elbow, “can I come in?”

He doesn’t wait for Zayn to respond, muscling him forward so the door can swing shut and he can shove Zayn up against it, licking into Zayn’s mouth hungrily, already pushing up his top, his callouses rough against Zayn’s abs.

“Don’t you,” Zayn manages, “want to like, shower?” because that’s usually how this goes, the two of them finding each other later rather than sooner.

“I can if ya want,” Niall moves his leg so his thigh’s a firmer pressure against Zayn’s dick, “d’ya want me to go?”

Zayn really, really doesn’t. He hauls Niall back in for a kiss, wishing there were a way for Niall to be closer or something, because the door’s solid against his back and Niall’s pressed against him from chest to hip and Zayn still feels like he’s going to spin away.

“Was a good show tonight,” Niall starts walking backwards, pulling Zayn with him.

“Yeah,” Zayn skims his palms over Niall’s sides, pushing his vest up as he goes. Niall lifts his arms to let Zayn push it off completely, “was like, electric.” He still feels breathless from it.

Niall pivots at the last second so Zayn’s the one falling back, hitting the bed with a bounce. He kicks off his trainers and pulls off shorts and pants at the same time, raising his eyebrows when Zayn stares for longer than a minute.

“What’re you waiting for,” he pulls on Zayn’s leg hair, jarring him out of it, “a gilded invitation. This ain’t a peep show, get on with it.” He smacks Zayn’s thigh, laughing when Zayn hisses.

“Thought it wasn’t a peep show,” Zayn jerks his chin to where Niall’s sprawled on the bed, slowly fisting his cock while Zayn struggles to unlace his fucking boots.

“Maybe if you’d hurry the fuck up,” Niall twists his wrist, gasping on it, “you’re the one who looks like he’s going to go mad if he doesn’t get off and yet -- fuck -- you’re still fully dressed.”

“Niall,” Zayn barely recognizes his own voice. It’s like he’s lost all fine motor skills, getting tangled in all of his clothes as he tries to shed them.

“Fucking idiot,” Niall laughs when Zayn gets his arm caught in his shirt. He reaches for Zayn before he’s fully free, helps him kick his jeans off. “Finally.”

“You’re telling me,” Zayn settles on top of Niall, feeling slightly less like he’s going to catch on fire when Niall’s mouth opens readily under his.

“Hold up,” Niall stops kissing him when Zayn hooks his leg around Niall’s, his foot sliding along Niall’s calf, “do you still have your sodding socks on? Zayn.” He sits up. “Zayn.”

“What?” Zayn tries to pull Niall back in by his waist, but Niall resists until Zayn sits up, and pulls his socks off, grumbling, “fuck’s sake,” as he does it. “Better?”

“Yeah, cheers,“ he palms Zayn’s hips, dragging him down the duvet, “married for a month and he’s trying to leave his socks on for a shag,” Niall mutters against his skin. “Disgraceful.”

“More of a comment on you than me,” Zayn says, hand settling in Niall’s hair. Niall’s breath is warm on his cock and Zayn thrusts shallowly, bumping against his lips before Niall moves away. Some embarrassing, primal part of Zayn wants to cry out at that, or force Niall back down, something.

“Really?”

“No,” Zayn says hurriedly when Niall sits up, “I’m a terrible husband. Socks. Rubbish. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, y’are,” Niall grins and then his mouth’s on Zayn’s prick, fucking finally, and the groan that Zayn lets out is so loud he’s sure whoever’s next door is going to complain. It’s not enough, though. Zayn feels like he’s got an itch he can’t scratch, something that burrowed deep in him that he’s got to dig out like a splinter.

“Niall,” he tugs Niall’s hair until he pulls off, his mouth slick and shiny. Niall’s dick slides against Zayn’s abs as he crawls up his body, his knees bracketing Zayn’s hips.

“Okay?” Niall asks, so close their noses brush when Zayn nods. He kisses Niall because he’s not sure, because this thing burning bright inside him like a supernova isn’t getting any duller and kissing Niall grounds him.

“I think,” Zayn slides his hand over Niall’s spine, bump bump bump, and takes a deep breath. Niall shifts his weight, his dick catching Zayn’s as he thrusts against him, “shit, Niall, want you -- want you to fuck me.”

Above him, Niall goes stock still. Zayn takes advantage of the pause to flip them, rolling Niall onto his back so Zayn can rut against his hip. He sucks a mark next to Niall’s nipple. None of it feels like enough.

“Seriously?” Niall asks, his hand hot on the back of Zayn’s neck. He squeezes, nails digging in when Zayn doesn’t say anything. “Seriously?”

“Yeah,” Zayn’s face goes hot but he wants it so badly he doesn’t care. “Like, if you want.”

“I dunno,” Niall screws up his face, holds it just long enough that Zayn wants to pretend he was kidding before Niall laughs, “of course I do, dipshit, Jesus.”

“Fuck’s sake,” Zayn drops his head into the curve of Niall’s neck, biting at his collarbone, “you’re the worst.”

“Yeah yeah,” Niall threads his fingers through Zayn’s hair, hips jerking when Zayn nips at just the right spot, “you can divorce me after I fuck you.”

Niall’s tone is light but his eyes are so dark and every sound Zayn tries to make dies in his throat. All he can do is nod.

Niall scrambles off the bed, comes back with the “intimacy kit” from the minibar. Zayn remembers how hard they’d all laughed when they first found them, back when they’d started staying in the right kind of hotels. He drops the condoms and lube on the bed and kisses Zayn until he feels like he’s going crazy from it, so worked up he can’t catch his breath.

“C’mon,” he pushes at Niall’s shoulders, flailing blindy for the lube, finding it and pushing it into Niall’s chest, “what’re you waiting for? A gilded invitation.”

“Get fucked,” Niall laughs.

“Trying to,” Zayn shifts; he feels like his whole body is humming.

Something in Niall’s face changes, his voice going rough when he says, “I know,” as he strokes Zayn’s cock. It’s too dry, makes Zayn gasp even as his hips jerk.

“How d’you --” Niall starts, slicking his fingers, “like, what’s the best --”

“I don’t know,” Zayn’s whiny with need, feet skidding along the sheets as he tries to inch closer to Niall.

“Jesus Christ, we’ll do it this way then,” Niall rubs small circles on Zayn’s knee with his thumb. “Just like, tell me if it’s bad, yeah? Like, say ‘pineapple’ or something.”

“You want my safe word to be ‘pineapple?’”

“I don’t know!” Niall’s voice goes hilariously high-pitched and Zayn wishes that he weren’t knelt between his legs with lube all over his hand because Zayn suddenly, desperately wants to kiss him.

“S’fine,” Zayn settles for kicking Niall’s side gently, “‘pineapple,’ got it, I promise.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Zayn nods, his voice cracking when Niall presses his finger in hesitantly. He sucks in a sharp breath, his whole body going tense. It takes a minute for it to feel good, but when it does, “Fuck.”

“Okay?” Niall asks, grinning when Zayn nods, gritting out, “So good, Niall, so fucking good.”

Niall works up to it, takes his time, until Zayn feels like one raw nerve, clutching at the sheets as Niall curls his fingers, searching for just the right spot.

“Alright, c’mon,” Zayn’s voice sounds wrecked already, worse than ever before, like he’s spent the night deepthroating Niall and then gone and smoked a pack, “do it.”

“Or what, you’ll punch me in the dick?” Zayn laughs to cover up the noise he makes when Niall pulls his fingers out. Las Vegas feels like it was so long ago, months and months instead of barely one. What a fucking rollercoaster.

It’s nothing like Zayn expected, different from just Niall’s fingers. He throws his arm over his eyes, groaning into his bicep. Niall slides his palm all the way up Zayn’s torso until it’s covering the crest. He doesn’t say anything at all, just waits for Zayn’s breathing to come a little easier before he starts to move.

“Shit, Zayn,” Niall drags his mouth over any part of Zayn he can reach. It’s full sensory overload and all Zayn can do is choke out curses while Niall’s thrusts steadily pick up speed. He catches Niall blinking at him, eyes glazed over, mouth working like he’s trying to remember something, “this is fucking amazing. You’re,” he corrects, “you’re fucking amazing.”

“Fuck,” Zayn gasps out, straining up until Niall gets the hint and leans in close enough for Zayn to kiss him, so sloppy and desperate it hardly counts as a kiss. Zayn reaches between them so he can get a hand around his cock, trying to match his strokes to Niall’s thrusts. The buzzing in Zayn’s brain gets louder and louder, insistent. He knows he’s gripping Niall’s shoulder hard enough that there’ll be marks.

“So good, Zayn,” Niall shifts, hitches Zayn’s hips a fraction higher, finding that sweet spot again, and that’s all it takes to set of sparks behind Zayn’s eyelids. He comes all over his fist, feels it like a punch in the gut. Niall doesn’t last much longer, coming with a low groan that rumbles through Zayn’s every fiber.

Zayn’s spent, gone fully boneless while Niall pulls out. He can feel the ache already, knows it’ll still be there tomorrow, but all the pent-up energy from earlier is gone. Now he mostly feels settled.

“Zayner,” Niall drags his knuckle along Zayn’s cheek. Zayn blinks up at him, smiling dopily as Niall climbs back onto the bed with a damp flannel. Zayn takes it, drops it on the floor after.

“Could go sleep in my room,” Niall offers, hooking his ankle over Zayn’s, not touching him anywhere else, “‘s less of a tip.”

“Yeah,” Zayn nods. That sounds better than sleeping here, all scrunched up in one corner. If only it didn’t involve like, moving. “Gimme a minute?”

“‘Kay,” Niall reaches over to where Zayn’s hand’s resting on his chest. He twists Zayn’s wedding ring until the face is going the right way, facing out instead of turned into Zayn’s palm. “Let me know when.”

&&&

“Ladies and Gentlemen, look at Niall’s glow, even after a month in.” Harry wraps his arm around Niall’s shoulders, pulling him close under the hot stage lights. “Going, you know, strong.”

“Did you say Strong?” Louis pulls a shocked face while Zayn laughs next to him, “what a segue, Harry.”

“Do you think,” Harry squeezes at Niall’s shoulder, bumping their hips together, “we could dedicate the next song to Zayn and Niall?” Niall just laughs, shaking his head. It’s been a few shows since any of the lads really made a big deal of things, and he knows that Hazza’s trying to keep it up. Knows what he’s doing.

“I think we have to,” Liam adjusts his snapback, punching at the air in Niall and Harry’s direction. “Lads, let’s get it going.”

The crowd erupts as the opening riff for Strong starts up, and Harry leans his mouth down close to Niall’s ear, whispering sloppily, his lips catching at the side of Niall’s cheek.

“Okay, Nialler?” He says, reaching down to pinch at Niall’s side, Niall squirming away from him. “Having a laugh, right? For your anniversary.”

“Yeah, ‘course.” Niall reaches up to tug at Harry’s headband, laughing and catching Zayn’s eye from across the stage. Zayn smiles at him, brilliantly, before adjusting what Niall knows is his Pow! earpiece and launching into the song.

It’s hot, the heat prickling at Niall’s skin as Zayn sings and moves around the stage easily, looking loose and relaxed. Harry grins over at Niall when he catches Niall staring, making a heart with his hands over his face and laughing, gesturing for Niall to do the same back. Rolling his eyes, Niall does, pushing at the sleeves of his tee, wishing he was wearing one of his vests instead. He can feel the sweat trickling down the small of his back as he dances along with Harry, Harry laughing so hard he misses the beginning of the chorus.

“Get your shit together,” Niall whispers in Harry’s ear afterward, Harry’s eyes going wide as he laughs and shoves at Niall’s shoulder, Niall remembering too late about the mark there Zayn had made with his bruising grip a couple of nights before. It throbs, just a little, and Niall has to fight not to think about Zayn spread out on the bed, asking Niall to fuck him, how tight he was; Niall wills himself to start listing off every current Derby player because there are probably thousands of camera phones on him right now.

Niall Horan Stage Boner Zaynniversary Houston!, he can imagine the youtube videos now. Probably favorite a few on twitter to get the fans really going. Not that he wants them to, though normally Niall wouldn’t give two shits. Likes to see what might happen. But now, a month out from this with bite marks all over his chest and busting a nut with Zayn, his fucking husband every night, Niall figures it can’t really get much crazier. It’s sick, really. How it’s fucking crazy but in an odd way that’s working a bit. Been all pro so far.

Harry nudges him, and Niall realizes it’s his go, striding over to Zayn as he sings his bit. Zayn picks up his own mic and faces him, mouth quirking up as he harmonizes. The crowd loses his shit then; it’s like it’s all flowing through Nialls veins, surging through his hand when he hooks his fingers in the neckline of Zayn’s shirt when they’re done, thumbing at the spot on Zayn’s collarbone that makes him make the noise that always goes straight to Niall’s dick. Like Niall’s playing with boner fire, or something.

Zayn drops the mic from his lips the second Niall does so, and even though the crowd is going insane Niall can still tell from the form his mouth is making that it worked.

“Happy Anniversary, Darling,” Niall announces, going deaf from the noise that erupts, “to at least a couple of days more. At least.” He reaches out like he’s going to tap at Zayn, but something in him veers away at the last second, resting his palm flat on Zayn’s stomach instead.

“Cheers,” Zayn says, not even into his mic, and then Louis starts yelling about how he needs a bucket to puke in, since the view is disgusting him.

**

“Should we get some proper room service in, for this very important day?” Niall flips through the menu as Zayn walks back in the room from his shower, “I’m sorry, did I marry a diva? Are you wearing a robe?”

Zayn shrugs. “All the towels were wet, we left the do not disturb on the door last night so they didn’t change anything out. And are you just letting yourself in now?”

“Don’t give me the key if you don’t want me to come.” Niall purposefully drops the “in” from the end of the sentence, waggling his eyebrows over at Zayn from where he’s sprawled in his chair.

“Don’t be a twat,” Zayn laughs then, dropping the robe and rifling through his suitcase from where it’s open on the floor, pulling on a pair of pants before launching himself on the bed. Niall forces himself to study the menu further. “What d’ya want?”

“You to suck me off,” Niall laughs at Zayn’s mildly shocked expression, “and I don’t know, some chips.” Zayn’s eyebrow slowly makes its way back down from his hairline, and then he’s reaching down for the robe, balling it up and whipping it in Niall’s direction.

“Chips would be nice,” he says, after a moment, staring up at the ceiling before looking over cross-eyed at Niall. “They still have ‘em?”

“It’s only one in the mornin’,” Niall laughs, “and I think we’d make it work anyway.”

“Don’t like,” Zayn’s nose is wrinkled up, “using who we are just for some chips.”

“Depends on how good they are,” Niall says lightly, wondering how Zayn can still be like this, ages and ages after they all started, “but they go ‘til three, so it’s what they’d do for any drunken eejit staying here.”

“Were you drinking while I was in the shower?” Zayn asks, flipping on his side and looking over at Niall.

“No, but I think that it still counts, innit?” Niall shakes his head, “I feel the same as I did the night of our blissful union, just from like, show adrenaline.”

“Doubt it,” Zayn shakes his head, “unless you were booting backstage at some point to rally for more.”

“I don’t mean to correct you, because I don’t think that’s good for the marriage,” Niall reaches for the phone, “but that was Hazza. And frankly it’s an insult to an Irishman that I’d ever waste alcohol like that.”

**

“Last one, we’ll split it,” Niall breaks the chip in half mostly evenly, poking the bigger piece between Zayn’s lips as he’s sprawled out next to him on the bed. It’s too late, far too late, nothing fucking on the telly but porn without the good bits and commercial programs, so Niall had Zayn put on some playlist he’d made while they ate, soft R&B that swells up something raw in Niall’s gut.

“Pretty good,” Zayn says, after chewing a minute and swallowing loud, “glad you got two orders.”

“We’re growing boys,” Niall shrugs, some riff drifting over from Zayn’s docked phone pricking up along the back of his neck. “Gotta have a lot to eat.”

“Think we’re done growing,” Zayn huffs out a groan as he sits up, dragging the tray off of Niall’s lap and leaning over, the muscles of his back working under the mostly blank skin there when he drops it to the floor with a clatter.

“Dunno, don’t count me out yet,” Niall laughs, softly, reaching out to land his thumb on the crest still standing out stark on Zayn’s chest, the ink fresh and unfaded. Zayn inhales sharp, and Niall doesn’t look up at his face. “Still think I can make it to Harry’s height. Minus the quiff.”

“‘S good to have dreams,” Zayn laughs quietly, then reclines back, reaching for his phone and starting up a new song, something even slower, like syrup slow. “What time d’we have to be up again?”

“Seven? I think?” Niall grabs his phone from where it’s resting next to his hip, “I set my alarm for seven, so let’s say half of.”

“And it’s, what, two?” Zayn takes the phone from his hands, fingers grazing across the screen as it lights up. “Nice, Nialler.”

“Oh, Louis did that,” Niall takes it back from Zayn, glancing down at the lock screen of his and Zayn’s hands, their two fucking great rings standing out in the center. “Thought it was hilarious.”

“Cool.” Zayn sits up then, running his hands up the sides of Niall’s thighs, fingers skittering against the skin. Niall reaches back blindly, chucking his phone at the nightstand before Zayn curls his fingers into the waistband of Niall’s pants, easing them down over his arse. “Lift your hips, yeah? C’mon.”

“Figured you’d wanna,” Niall shifts, helping Zayn untangle his pants from his legs, “get some sleep.”

“Still a bit keyed up,” Zayn leans on his elbow, pulling at his own pants, “we can just, and then.”

“I did order it earlier,” Niall can hear how his voice comes out, thick like the song playing over them, “but I know you need your beauty rest.”

“Not planning on taking a long time,” Zayn laughs, curling his fist loosely around Niall’s cock and pumping it once, Niall already gone rigid before Zayn ducks his head down to mouth at Niall’s hip, tongue dragging over the already fading mark there.

“Efficiency,” Niall chokes out, “it’s what I’ve always wanted in a partner.” He arches his back, head sinking into the pillow when Zayn circles his thumb, slow, over the head.

“Was thinkin’,” Zayn grins up at him, “about that. Y’know, efficient.” He shifts, pushing his hips toward Niall, his cock trailing wet along Niall’s side, and Niall can see the flush creeping up his chest, laughing when he realizes what Zayn’s getting at.

“Yeah yeah,” Niall nods, digging his heels into the mattress so he can move down the bed, palming at Zayn’s hips when he moves until he’s settled closer to Niall. “You good?” Niall asks, his breath fanning out over Zayn’s cock and his lips brushing against the hot skin there as he does.

Zayn’s hips stutter for a second before he answers. “Good,” he says, licking a stripe over Niall, slow, and Niall wonders if this is how most people celebrate their month anniversary.

“One month is blowjobs,” Niall says, before closing his mouth over Zayn and hollowing his cheeks, Zayn’s choked laughter groaning out of him, humming around Niall in this fucking fantastic way that’s just. It’s going right in the pro column.

**

It’s funny how all tours end up the same, following the same pattern. It’s the sick high of the first phase, getting into a new rhythm, new venues and crowds and the newness of a setlist. That’s the one thing Niall looks forward to, however long down the road it’ll be before they’re small again, when they can switch things up whenever the fuck they want. Then there’s the end, when it’s the pull between being so fecking sick of it and never wanting that final show to come.

But. The middle. It’s the worst, sometimes. The excitement caused by the wedding has died down enough that they’ve really settled into that rut, when it’s three shows in a row and they’re all so bone tired that it’s all sniping at each other and falling asleep in weird places, and just. Really hating some stuff.

Especially now, when Zayn and Niall have to have a talk with Paul before the show, the two of them unable to dodge him anymore since Louis and Liam had fucked off the day before and broke Niall’s Segway.

“What does it matter if we get divorced now, or later?” Niall asks, feeling squirmy under Paul’s glare while Lou fusses with the back of his hair and Zayn stretches out next to him, his feet heavy in Niall’s lap.

“It is appalling,” Paul shakes his head, “how you two, all of you, grown men, seem to think this is just hilarious.”

“Niall’s got a point, though,” Zayn points out, the toe of his boot grazing Niall’s wrist, “‘s not like it’s a secret.”

“The longer you two continue with this,” Paul points at them, his eyes hard and not with that smile behind them Niall’s used to, “the more it seems like not a dumbass drunk night.”

“We’re on tour,” Niall shrugs, “we’ll do it after. There’s gonna be people protesting even if we do it now, or later.”

“This is our third show in a row here,” Zayn looks exhausted to Niall, bags under his eyes for fucking days, “talk to us after we’ve had at least a day break.”

“I’m getting the paperwork ready, and you two let me know when you’re prepared to take some responsibility.” Paul laughs then, finally, “never thought it’d be you two to give me the biggest headache of my life.”

“Aw,” Louis pipes up from where he’s laid out across the room, clearly not asleep like Niall thought, “give Liam time, Paul. He’ll never disappoint.”

Niall closes his eyes as Lou starts spraying at him, fingers gripping at Zayn’s ankles while he listens to Louis’s protests as Paul takes care of him.

**

Niall wonders if the Paul encounter really did Zayn in for real, or if he didn’t realize how tired Zayn had gotten, but he’s slow during the show, sluggish. It’s awesome, at first, Louis laughing delightedly when Zayn deadpanned every twitter question with a “Pass”, Harry poking at Niall’s side and whispering something about cheating at Truth or Dare, Zayn sitting on Liam as he did the fifty press ups Louis dared him to.

But now. They’re half a beat into Best Song Ever, which none of them wanted to do, but in a very close vote it won out over What Makes You Beautiful as the final encore, and Niall looks around, suddenly aware that Zayn’s singing, but nowhere in his line of sight.

“I said can you give it back to me,” comes Zayn’s voice, slow and sort of monotone, Liam and Louis laughing in the distance, “you said, never in your wildest dreams.” Niall looks over then, realizing that Zayn is fully on his back, laying on one of the ledges along the back of the stage. He’s holding his mic like he’s the main event at a wake, clutched in both hands on his chest, and it’s the funniest fucking thing Niall’s ever seen. Makes him a little sad.

“And we danced all night,” Harry’s bumping up behind Niall now, propelling him forward as they all slow it down a bit, Josh adjusting the beat for them to match the tone Zayn set, “to the best. song. ever.”

Harry’s pushing Niall to the ledge over next to Zayn, laying out himself across from them. Niall knows without looking that Louis and Liam are matching them on the other side, all of them flat on their backs, singing slower and slower until it’s just a recitation, Niall biting his lip to keep from laughing.

They finish like that, the crowd clearly confused but still cheering madly, and when Niall sits up so they can at least do a proper bow he catches Zayn’s gaze, who looks tired but bright, all jumbled up in Niall’s brain.

“Think we should do it like that every night,” Liam’s saying when his arm lands around Niall for them to wave their goodbyes, “that was a proper laugh.”

**

Niall almost doesn’t go to Zayn’s when they get back, hesitating in his room over his suitcase. He’s always a little more organized with his stuff than the others, but the arrangement he and Zayn have had since Vegas means it’s even more so than usual, everything still rolled up tight and folded careful, Niall usually stopping to just pick up a pair of clean pants and some trackies or sweats before going to Zayn’s for the night.

Zayn had slept the whole way back to the hotel, his head tipped against Liam’s shoulder in the back of the car while Niall had started a thumb war tourney with Louis and Harry just to help keep them all awake. He’d smiled sleepily at all of them when Liam hoisted him up and out of the car and into the hotel, and Liam had asked Niall if it was okay if he took him to his room, raising his eyebrows like Niall would what? Get jealous? He’d laughed then, Louis making some joke about thou shalt not commit adultery until Niall twisted at his nipple through his shirt, hard.

So Niall’s not sure, but his bed is still made after three nights now, and he can’t figure out how to fucking turn down the A/C, and Zayn doesn’t snore, so. He changes quickly into fresh everything, his hair falling down over his forehead, damp from the shower he took right after the show. He’s considering just flopping down on the bed when his phone chirps from where he tossed it on the table when he got in.

can’t rmember ur rm #. coming?

So that settles that. Niall shuffles down the hall, past Haz’s room where he swears he can hear Harry singing inside, probably Skyping with someone, past Liam and Louis’s silent doors, before stopping at Zayn’s and letting himself inside, exhaling when the click of the keycard flips the little light to green.

“Zayn?” Niall calls out, into the darkness of the room as he feels his way out, trying to remember the layout so he doesn’t fall and split his head.

“Hey,” Zayn says, quietly, from where he’s already burrowed under the duvet in the center of the bed. “Couldn’t sleep.”

“Didn’t have that problem earlier,” Niall pulls his shirt up over his head, dropping his sweats next to the bed as he slides in next to Zayn, shoving up so their foreheads touch. “Can’t sleep without me, eh?”

“Not that,” Zayn’s voice sounds like it’s coming out from under layers and layers of something, “just got used to you, I guess.”

“Huh,” Niall’s not sure what to say, pushing back so he can see Zayn’s face, his eyes adjusted to the dim light now.

“Dunno why,” Zayn sighs then, laughing low, “it hit me all today. Fucking spent.”

“It’s about that time,” Niall pushes forward, fitting against Zayn and nosing along his jaw until Zayn sighs with it, Niall feeling like he’s searching for something. Comfort. Heat. He’s not sure. “Y’know?”

“S’pose.” Zayn tilts his head up, exhaling when Niall’s lips push against his neck. “Was sick, the end though. I just couldn’t be arsed.”

“Payno will kill us all if we ever do it proper again,” Niall licks his lips deliberately, letting his tongue dip out and taste at Zayn’s skin.

“Really feel like I’m contributing,” Zayn laughs, groaning in the back of his throat and pulling Niall against him then, flush up, catching Niall off guard when he’s already licking into Niall’s mouth.

“Ah,” Niall wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but he’d figured that at most they’d end up doing a spoon and then passing out, but Zayn is kissing him like he’s drowning and Niall’s air. It’s enough of a difference, closer to how things were the night they’d fucked, and Niall wonders if that’s why he’s feeling a touch breathless.

Zayn isn’t moving to start something new, though, tangling his hands up in Niall’s hair and not pushing forward or reaching for Niall’s cock, starting to fill up in his pants already, or clawing at his arse like he does when they’re like this and he wants a little more, to try something new. His hips aren’t restless on the bed, and he’s breathing slow and even as he pulls back to kiss Niall’s neck. It’s nice, in a way Niall’s not used to. Like he could sleep right now without worrying about coming first and it’d be just as grand.

“Sorry,” Zayn slurs against Niall’s neck, patting at Niall’s hair with his hand. “Bit rubbish right now.”

“Thank God,” Niall traces his fingers idly over the lines blurred in the dark on Zayn’s arm, “that Paul’s getting those papers sorted. What a shit husband.”

“Shove off,” Zayn says, after a moment. He doesn’t move.

“Make me,” Niall grins in the dark, feeling like he’s diving underwater. He moves his fingers up and over and back down, settling to trace at the crest on Zayn’s skin instead. Zayn scratches at Niall’s scalp, comforting, and murmurs something Niall doesn’t catch.

&&&

Zayn feels infused with something, like the energy of the crowd is crawling under his skin. But in a good way. Like he hasn’t felt in the past week or so. He’s fully amped up, jumping on Louis’s back as they all explode backstage after the show.

“Oi,” Louis ducks out of Zayn’s grasp, “you on something? Looking forward to the next 24 hours in a fucking bus?”

“Louuuuis,” Zayn draws out his name like he knows Louis hates, “just. Was a good crowd tonight, yeah?”

“Sure,” Louis shrugs, pulling at his mic pack, “it was a show. We’re sleeping on the bus the next two nights, and El can’t join up for another three weeks.”

“Sorry you’re stuck wanking, Lou, really.” Zayn puts on a pout, smiling when Lou reaches out to cuff his ear, pausing before he continues, sincere, “I am really sorry, though. Know how hard it is.”

“Used to know,” Louis corrects, a wicked gleam in his eye suddenly, “until you and Niall got married and started getting off with each other every night.”

“It’s,” Zayn pauses, the thrum of it all still pounding through his veins, “it’s a good arrangement.” Louis snorts then, reaching around and tucking his hand into Zayn’s pocket, nodding over to where Niall and Liam are having some sort of press up contest while Harry and Josh referee over them.

“Bet it is,” Louis smirks, “bet it really is, you giant twat.”

“It’s just that it’s,” Zayn watches as Niall switches over to a one handed press, feeling hot at the back of his neck, grateful when Harry launches himself on top of him until he collapses and Liam starts crowing and high fiving Josh, declaring himself the winner while Niall twitches underneath Harry. Zayn can hear how loudly he’s laughing.

“Zayn,” Louis snaps his fingers suddenly, and Zayn feels jerked back to reality. “It’s what? Stop thinking about dicking Niall and have a bleeding conversation, Jesus Christ.”

“Sorry Lou,” Zayn would go for a dick punch, but he’s off kilter enough that Louis would be able to overtake him easily, and then never let him forget it.

“Save your sorrys,” Louis rolls his eyes, “and I am not kipping on your bus tonight.”

**

“Starting to get to me, lads,” Liam is saying from where he’s sprawled out across from Zayn, “it’s like I can feel the adrenaline draining right out.”

“Shame,” Zayn says, shifting so Niall’s head isn’t pressed directly against his junk as he scrolls through something on his phone, stretched out in Zayn’s lap. “I’m still up, like. All go.”

“Yeeeeeeah.” Niall whispers, pumping his fist and tipping his head back just enough that Zayn can’t quite convince himself he’s celebrating over something on like, twitter or something.

“Harry says we’re stopping for a quick something, it’s a bit garbled I’m afraid,” Liam frowns down at his phone, “think I might pop over to their bus if you two are gonna be up a bit, alright?”

“‘S fine, Liam,” Niall turns his head then, to look over, and Zayn lets his fingers tangle in the dark brown hair curling over his ear. “Not quite ready to give in yet.”

Zayn watches Liam gather up his things, still feeling restless hours after the show. Might’ve been different if Liam hadn’t climbed up on the bus, saying he brought the new Better Call Saul set, if they fancied staying up a bit more. Zayn had thought everyone was sick of the two of them at this point, not wanting to be around to see Niall blow him to sleep, like. But then Liam was talking about how Sophia was so busy with the wedding plans she wasn’t sure she’d be able to come for ages, a furrow in his brow that made Niall meet Zayn’s eyes and it. It was understood.

Zayn’d figured chilling out with Liam would’ve helped, would’ve calmed him down or set off that bone deep exhaustion at the thought of being on the bus for the next forever, ages until the next night in a hotel, this tour overbooked with more dates being added every day. But instead, Niall had flopped down in his lap almost immediately, the rocking of the bus setting Zayn more on edge than he’s felt since before the wedding, even. He’s not sure why. And now.

“Still up, yeah?” Niall’s asking, and Zayn realizes that Liam’s gone, the bus idling with a dull buzz that echoes in Zayn’s ears.

“Yeah,” Zayn shifts his hips, looking down and meeting Niall’s eyes, “you fucker.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Niall shrugs, grinning up at him, his shoulders bumping up against Zayn’s thighs. “We were just chilling with Payno. Just a normal lads night.”

“Ugh,” Zayn groans, reaching down to scratch at Niall’s scalp again, feeling pleased when Niall’s eyes go dark against the movement of his fingers, “was a good show tonight, yeah?” Like he needs to hear it from someone else, that it wasn’t all in his head.

“It felt,” Niall’s forehead wrinkles up like it does when he’s thinking of the right word for things, Zayn usually supplying it if he’s stuck, and Zayn smooths his thumb over them, bump bump bump. “It felt bigger,” Niall finally decides, nodding up at Zayn.

“Bigger, yeah,” Zayn echoes, tugging at Niall’s hair and bending over until he realizes there’s no real good angle. “Can you,” he starts, pushing at Niall, “can’t get a proper snog in, this way.”

“Bossy,” Niall huffs, pushing himself up on his elbows and pressing a quick kiss against Zayn’s lips, brief, before surprising him by swinging his leg over ‘til he’s got a knee on either side of Zayn’s hips, arse settling back on Zayn’s thighs. “Like this?”

“Somethin’ like that,” Zayn mumbles, tilting his chin up and meeting Niall in the middle, letting his hands settle at Niall’s hips, the fabric bunching in his fists when he tries to urge Niall forward as Niall laughs against his mouth.

“Impatient,” Niall catches Zayn’s wrist where it’s resting against his side, tapping his fingers against the pulse point there. “If the bus is a rocking….”

“D’you think anyone’s gonna show up?” Zayn asks, nodding toward the front of the bus. They haven’t started moving yet.

“You kidding?” Niall leans back, starts laughing hysterically, it vibrating through Zayn’s bones.

“What?”

“Harry told me that while he still supports our union, it’s not fair anymore and he refuses to share a bus again until we’re divorced.” Niall’s shoulders are shaking with how hard he’s laughing, “he was real serious about it.”

“Lou’s being a tit about it as well,” Zayn grips at Niall’s thigh, sliding down a little to fit against him better.

“Just jealous, y’know,” Niall grins, hand reaching down suddenly to squeeze at Zayn through his sweats, Zayn’s hips bucking up ineffectually against the weight of Niall holding him down. “Of our married perks.”

“Still,” Zayn chokes out, “maybe we could uh, go to m’bunk? Just in case.”

“Can’t say I’ve gotten off in a bunk with someone else before,” Niall looks contemplative. “Worth a try.”

“Yeah, we all know you’ve been able to handle it alone without any issues,” Zayn grips at Niall’s wrist and holds it away from him, to give himself a chance.

“Yeah, well,” Niall slides back, standing up and tossing a look over his shoulder for Zayn to follow, “now that I know what you sound like when ya come, I’ve got like, all the scientific proof I need to know you weren’t just snoring or something.”

“To be fair,” Zayn pulls his shirt off after he sees Niall do the same before boosting himself up into Zayn’s bunk, “I would usually wait and do it in the bathroom.”

“Can we stop talking about your tour wank preferences,” Niall’s pulling at him already when Zayn slides into the small space, feeling even smaller when Niall starts mouthing at his neck, “and just get to it?”

“Now who’s being bossy,” Zayn starts, his words dying in the back of his throat when Niall slots his leg between Zayn’s, rocking up in the same moment he kisses Zayn, tongue licking against the seam of his lips. Zayn tries to keep his movements small, fitting himself against Niall with his palm pressed carefully between Niall’s shoulder blades, feeling the muscles of his back shift as he kisses him deeper.

“Hey,” Niall reaches down, pushing at his trackies and Zayn’s sweats, laughing when Zayn makes a frustrated noise, “shoulda got my kit off before climbing into this bloody thing.”

“Yeah,” Zayn tries to lay still when Niall untangles his trackies from his legs, kicking them down the end. He’s surprised when he stretches out his arm and is met with Niall’s hot skin, cock already curving up between them. “No pants?”

“Seemed like too much extra work, t’ put ‘em on,” Niall huffs out, pushing at Zayn’s sweats again, “guess I shoulda clued you in, eh?”

“Jesus,” Zayn feels the buzzing in the back of his head again, batting at Niall’s hands and licking at his palm before gripping Niall, kissing down his chest and trying to maneuver down his body, “really wanna,” he starts, head bumping against the low ceiling of the bunk. “Fuck.”

“Shit,” Niall’s breathless, laughing, “here, there has to be a way to make this work.”

“Yeah,” Zayn tries to clear his head, hand stilling on Niall. He kisses Niall, partially out of habit, partially because he just wants to, Niall moving against him slowly, thrusting shallowly into Zayn’s loose grip.

“Maybe,” Niall’s voice is low, “you lay on your side, yeah?”

“I am on my side,” Zayn tries to make his brain catch up. “What d’ya want?”

“Did you,” Niall kisses him, slow and dirty, and something switches in the back of Zayn’s brain, “steal any of those kits from the last hotel?” His hand reaches down and lands on Zayn’s arse then, his grip hard enough to bruise, and Zayn forces his mind to work. Oh.

“Uh, yeah,” Zayn rolls over, half falling out of the bunk with a loud thud, Niall rasping out a low laugh above him while Zayn searches through his bag, knowing he had shoved one of the ridiculous intimacy kits there half as an afterthought when they left the hotel. It had come in handy before, so why not again. He finds it right at the bottom, under a crumpled pack of cigs. “Got it.”

“Yessssss,” Niall whispers, so low that Zayn has to work really hard to hear it. “Toss it up, yeah? Get your kit off.”

“Fuck,” Zayn doesn’t bother opening the box, chucking it up to Niall and dropping his pants on the floor, kicking them in the general direction of his still open bag. When he boosts himself back up Niall is flat on his back near the edge, ripping at the opening of the package.

“Here, climb over me,” he says, hand guiding Zayn as he clumsily tries to maneuver over him, “figured it’d be safer, this way?”

“How?” Zayn reaches over, pulling the curtain mostly closed, figures that’s better. It’s warmer, immediately, darker, the one strip of light from the front of the bus slanting in over Niall’s shoulder.

“Don’t wanna,” Niall tosses one of the breath mints at Zayn with a laugh before palming the packet of lube and condom and throwing the rest near their feet, “like, fuck you out of the bunk.”

“Thoughtful,” is all Zayn can think to say before leaning over and kissing Niall once, lingering there for a moment before turning deliberately on his side.

“Fuck,” Niall breathes, against the skin of Zayn’s neck, “let me know if like, any of this is not okay?”

“I will punch you in the dick,” Zayn starts, Niall’s sudden chuckle behind him making him trail off, “just get on with it.”

“Sorry I can’t do like, a proper snog,” Niall’s saying, but it’s not an apologetic tone of voice, and he’s already reaching around to wank Zayn, rocking forward as he does so to slide the head of his cock against the curve of Zayn’s arse.

“Uhhh,” Zayn can’t do anything other than groan, something hot flaring strong deep in his gut when Niall’s hand is gone, his forehead pressed against the back of Zayn’s neck as Zayn hears the packet tear open, Niall’s fingers cool and slick against him a moment later. He circles them for a couple of seconds before he pushes one in, making Zayn’s cock twitch with anticipation, a low gasp sneaking out of his mouth.

“The safe word is ‘Desperado’,” Niall whispers a few moments later, when Zayn is already half gone, rocking back against Niall’s fingers in time with the bus, moving now, wherever the fuck they are, wherever the fuck they’re going, Zayn doesn’t care as long as Niall keeps it slow like this, fingers curved and letting Zayn find the right spot.

“God,” Zayn laughs hollowly, “you been saving up that one?” Niall’s mouth is gone from where it was licking patterns against Zayn’s neck then, and when Zayn cranes his head back he can see that Niall’s got the condom between his teeth, ripping it open.

“Figure it’s so many syllables you’ll never manage it,” he grins, spitting the wrapper out and moving his fingers out of Zayn, slowly, Zayn making a noise he should probably be embarrassed by, “sorry,” Niall mutters.

“Selfish bastard,” Zayn tries, exhaling so he won’t fly out of his skin when Niall’s rocking into him, slow and careful, his hand on Zayn’s thigh and holding him steady until they’re slotted together fully. It’s a full minute then of Niall breathing against him brokenly, deep and uneven, and when Zayn twitches his hips slightly Niall moves, this stuttering thrust that’s big like a crowd.

Niall,” Zayn says it without thinking, and it’s like it echoes around them, loud and needy and desperate, and Zayn’s surprised it even came from his mouth.

“Shitting fuck, the driver’s gonna hear ya,” Niall’s fingers are tracing up over his neck then, hand settling over Zayn’s mouth lightly. “I like it, but this okay?”

“Desper,” Zayn starts with his words muffled against Niall’s palm, pushing back tentatively against Niall again, feeling full, feeling a lot of things he’s not sure he can put words to, “ately okay. Desperately.” He wraps his hand around Niall’s wrist, forces out a laugh.

“Cunt,” Niall bites at Zayn’s shoulder, hand pushing against Zayn’s mouth harder this time, “we don’t make jokes about safe words. Unless it’s me. S’ok then.”

“Niall,” Zayn just says, until Niall starts thrusting again, shallowly at first, speeding up when Zayn bites at the flesh of his palm. It’s not quite enough, with Zayn on his side, giving him no real friction, so he grabs at Niall’s other hand where it’s gripping hard at his thigh, tangling their fingers together to wank Zayn off proper, Niall finding an angle that makes things blur around the edge of Zayn’s vision with every thrust.

“It’s so fucking hot,” Niall’s voice sounds wrecked, his lips pressed into Zayn’s neck, and it’s this moment of total sensory overload, Zayn not sure if Niall’s talking about the crowded air of the bunk, smelling like sex and Niall, or what they’re doing, which is overwhelming suddenly.

They’re in a fucking bunk, and Niall’s got his hand pressed so hard into Zayn’s mouth that his wedding ring is digging into the side of Zayn’s lip, sure to leave a mark later. It’s not just a snog in a hotel room, or getting off every bleeding night in a real bed. It’s close and hot and Niall, and Zayn’s not sure where Niall starts and he ends, not sure if he wants to try and separate the two.

He hooks his pinky over Niall’s where their hands are joined to wank him off, and Niall makes this noise like Zayn’s never heard before, like he’s saying something but not, thrusting up into Zayn with such force that his hand barely muffles the noise Zayn makes, coming over their hands without warning, hard enough that he loses where he is for a minute, like he’s turning inside out.

When he comes back to it, Niall is still snugged up next to him, inside of him, his tongue tracing lazily over the sweat pooling in the dip of his neck. Niall moves his hand then, fingers dragging along Zayn’s lips, slowly.

“Gonna,” he starts, pulling out of Zayn carefully, Zayn wincing at the loss. “Huh.”

“Yeah?” Zayn hears himself ask, feeling disconnected from the question even as it leaves his mouth.

“Guess you can’t get your husband used to king sized beds,” Niall’s words are normal, but his voice sounds so thin, “and then bring ‘im here to this breadbox. Got standards.”

Zayn can’t stop thinking about how he still feels so connected to Niall, feels unprepared, feels struck dumb and wonders how much of this is due to his post-orgasm haze when Niall’s fingers land on his hip, grazing against the ink of his gun. After a second, they press there, more deliberately. “Yeah?” He asks.

“What?” Zayn struggles to make his brain work, struggles to meet Niall’s eyes, turning carefully on his back, “Yeah. Ha.”

“I’ll go get a flannel,” Niall grunts when he hops down out of the bunk, pulling the curtain open. The cool air sends a rush of gooseflesh over Zayn’s skin. He feels out of sorts, closing his eyes until Niall’s back and pressing a warm, damp flannel to his skin, cleaning him up silently, humming something under his breath Zayn can’t place.

“Hey,” Niall says then, and Zayn opens his eyes to see how Niall’s eyes look wide, and still dark, the pupils nearly fully blown out, a flush high on his cheeks. “I think I’ll let you sleep here, yeah? I’ll go t’ mine?”

“Oh.” Zayn can’t tell if he’s relieved or not. “I guess.”

“Just t’ give us more room,” Niall offers, dropping the flannel on the floor and tossing Zayn’s pants up to him. “Here.”

“Cheers.” Zayn forces himself to pull them on, that deep ache that feels good pulling at his muscles. He takes the duvet Niall hands him from Harry’s bunk, dropping his on the floor.

Niall’s across from him now, staring over with his eyes half lidded, pillow bunched up under his head. He doesn’t close his curtain, so Zayn doesn’t move for his either.

“Get some sleep,” Niall mumbles, his arm falling out of the bunk like it’s reaching toward Zayn as he falls asleep, Zayn watching him. After being tangled up with Niall for the last however long, like, Zayn doesn’t think his bunk has ever felt so big, so roomy. Like he can stretch out all over.

It’s a few minutes later of watching Niall snore lightly across from him, face open, before the light gets to be too much for Zayn and he closes his curtain, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, his bunk still smelling like Niall’s in it.

**

“Zayn?” It’s Niall’s voice, quiet, that wakes him up, hopefully hours later. Zayn feels sluggish and stiff as he reaches for the curtain, squinting in the light. It takes a minute to realize they’re not moving.

“Hey,” Zayn scrubs at his face, wishing he didn’t sound so fucked out. Niall’s eyes are big as he watches him, the hood of his sweatshirt up as he leans against Zayn’s bunk.

“Paul, uh,” Niall looks away as soon as Zayn makes eye contact, “we gotta have a quick meeting, today. Finalize things.”

“Things?” Zayn still feels confused, half asleep. A part of him wants to pull Niall into the bunk for a quick cuddle to help him wake up.

“It’s the day of our divorce, Malik.” Niall would sound like he’s joking, but his thick morning burr cracks on Zayn’s surname, and it’s that which finally makes Zayn’s brain function.

“Thought we were,” Zayn’s not sure what he’s saying, “just gonna do it whenever.”

“Dunno,” Niall shrugs, looking down and adjusting his hood over his head so Zayn can’t even see the shadows his eyelashes cast on his pale cheeks. “Paul said this morning it was sorted, and we might as well get him off our backs. Seemed non-negotiable.”

“Oh.” Zayn raises himself up on his elbows and reaches out, poking at Niall’s shoulder and noticing the way his ring catches the light. “Nialler.”

“Yeah?” Niall meets his eyes then, looking tired. Something about it makes Zayn’s face burn hot.

“Thanks for the, y’know.” Zayn doesn’t know how else to say it, or even what he’s saying.

“Welcome,” Niall breathes out, under his breath, “‘m gonna go get some coffee, I’m tired as fuck and don’t feel like dealing with anything without caffeine.”

He shuffles off, the slow gait of his walk making Zayn wonder.

&&&

Niall’s three cups of coffee in, Paul on the phone with someone when Zayn finally shuffles into the room, one of the offices at the venue. It’s a quick one and done show, Niall really wishing they weren’t gonna be on the bus again tonight.

“Hey,” Zayn grunts, sitting down next to Niall.

“Hey,” Niall pushes his fingertips against the mug of tea he’d gotten for Zayn, until it’s in front of him. “Might be cold.”

“Thanks,” Zayn takes a sip, swallowing hard. “Not bad.”

“Great.” Niall ducks his head to look over at Zayn while he swallows, listening to the end of Paul’s phone call. There’s a mark peeking out from the collar of his shirt, fresh from the night before, and it all hits Niall again like a punch to the fucking gut.

Like. Something had changed, and he knows Zayn felt it too, worried that Zayn had had a bloody aneurysm when he came, he went so quiet, had clenched around him so tight, tighter than before. Niall was afraid he’d said something then, hoped Zayn went deaf enough for a moment so he couldn’t make it out.

It was less about getting each other off, somehow. Even now, when Zayn meets his eyes and smiles, tightly, something big and huge swells up in Niall’s chest, like he wants to fucking climb inside Zayn or something else not actually possible. Sort of like the embarrassing stuff he used to take the piss out of Louis for, hearing him saying these treacly things to El on the phone late at night. But it’s Zayn, and it’s fucking confusing, married or not.

Not, soon enough.

“Alright, you two.” Paul shoves some papers across the table. “Sign these, and the lawyers will take care of the rest. Let you know when it’s done.”

“That’s it?” Zayn asks, and his voice sounds rough. Niall swallows against it.

“Sign.” Paul chucks a couple of pens at them both, and Niall flexes his fingers, watches Zayn flip through until he finds the page. Watches him sign.

**

It takes about a week, but Niall somehow gets used to the new routine, sleeping in his own room, in his own bunk. And it’s not that he and Zayn are actively avoiding each other, not at all, it’s like the only thing that changes is how they spend their nights. And it’s the worst thing that’s happened, Niall hates Vegas for giving him this thing that now is no longer a thing.

“Alright?” Zayn asks him one night, startling him as Niall waits outside of Harry’s door, promising him they’d go out.

“Uh,” Niall follows the easy line of Zayn in his hoodie and trackies, everything looking soft even though Zayn’s got these pointy bones that used to leave little dark bruises in weird places on Niall’s skin, taking fucking forever to fade. “I guess.”

“We’re alright, I mean.” Zayn ducks his head down, adjusting his glasses. “Wasn’t sure how to bring it up, like.”

“We were always,” Niall starts, but something in how Zayn’s face changes makes him stop, knows it’s too much for them both. “Yeah, course we are.”

“Good,” Zayn nods, looking down again, “going out with Haz?”

“Said I owed him,” Niall forces himself to laugh, “after my weeks of being tied down.”

“I was a very demanding husband,” Zayn says after a moment of Niall holding his breath, “it’s good you’re rid of me.”

“Dunno if I’d go that far,” Niall allows himself, and Zayn smiles then. He doesn’t say anything else, just holds up his fist to bump it to Niall’s before he walks to his room, weird without their rings in the way. Niall wants to ask Zayn where he put his, if it’s at the bottom of his bag or somewhere with Louis or on a chain around his neck. Like Niall’s is. It was Liam’s dumb idea, Niall scoffing when he suggested it after Niall’d said how weird it felt.

**

“Hazza,” Niall says, looking at Harry flip through some books, “if you don’t know what you want, then maybe you don’t need a new bloody tattoo.”

“I told you,” Harry looks over at him, eyes wide, “I know what I want, I just want to get the right inspiration.”

“You always say that, and then a few months later you’re yowling over some new ink you got to cover up the old ink you hate,” Niall sighs, wishing that Harry’s plans for going out included more alcohol and less watching him get inked, too much a reminder of all the times Niall would fall asleep, boneless after Zayn got him off, tracing over the lines on his skin. Niall really wonders when he turned into a right fucking cunt about everything.

“I just want to get a koala, because of how much we all love Australia,” Harry laughs, pointing at the book, “though I quite like this one.”

“We could have at least had one pint before we came here,” Niall doesn’t bother looking at what Harry’s pointing at. “Or two, even.”

“Don’t like to get pissed before I get a new one,” Harry shrugs, “but I promise, after this we can drink your troubles away.”

“Didn’t say I’ve got troubles,” Niall feels like he’s in a ridiculously shit mood, wishes he hadn’t come at all, trying not to think about his encounter with Zayn in the hallway. “Ran into him, while I was waiting for ya.”

“Zayn?” Harry gets up before he’s even finished asking, coming to sit beside Niall, waving his hand at the girl hovering nearby, waiting for Harry to make a decision.

“No, Louis. We had a real heart to heart chat.” Niall snorts, can’t help himself.

“No need to be a shit, Niall,” Harry says easily, his hand closing over Niall’s forearm. “You are aware that you two are just, miserable sad sacks now, right? We’re all really riding a rollercoaster with you here. The high of the wedding, the high of the constant fucking, the low of the divorce.”

“It wasn’t constant,” Niall finally lies, half-heartedly.

“The stains on Zayn’s duvet that somehow made it to my bunk says otherwise,” Harry pulls a face, and Niall laughs in spite of himself. He had wondered whatever had happened to that.

“You weren’t meant to see that,” Niall traces the lines of Harry’s rings, over his fingers. “Dunno, Hazza. Dunno how I feel.”

“I know you better than anyone, Nialler,” Harry wiggles his fingers, making Niall laugh, “and you both know how you feel, you’re just figuring it all out, I suppose. Don’t think any of us meant the marriage to turn into what it did, really.”

“And what did it turn into?” Niall studies Harry’s face as he considers. It feels like it takes too long, Harry humming and squeezing at Niall’s fingers while he opens his mouth and then closes it again.

“To be determined?” Harry finally says, and it makes Niall feel better by half, leaning forward to plant a sloppy kiss to Harry’s cheek. Harry grimaces, wiping at it with his hand and laughing. “Seriously though Niall, what do you think of this one?”

“Uh,” Niall looks down, focusing, “the notes?”

“Looks almost like one of those crazy runs Zayn does sometimes, yeah?” Harry points to the notes, “like, in tattoo form. Surprised he hasn’t done it yet, I should take a picture.” He pulls out his phone, and something tugs inside of Niall, makes him reach up for Harry’s hand, stopping him.

“Hazza,” Niall takes a deep breath, “I’m about to make your whole bloody life right now.”

“No.” Harry whispers it, looking like Niall just told him it was his birthday and Christmas all in one.

**

“Harry,” Niall whines, from where he’s laid out on Harry’s bed, “my hip hurts.”

“Honestly, this is a little embarrassing,” Harry knees up the bed to settle next to Niall, pulling at Niall’s shorts. “It’s a pretty small piece, no wonder you’ve avoided it so long.”

“I have some regrets,” Niall moans, as Harry picks at the edge of the bandage, “because it fucking hurts and also because Zayn won’t give a fuck.”

“Knew I shouldn’t of taken you for a pint after,” Harry says under his breath, “miserable sod. You’ve had major knee surgery and never complained so much, is this because you miss your husband?”

“Yes,” Niall says, feeling miserable. It had really hurt, he’s not sure how all of them do it so bloody often. At least Harry had held his hand, after the two of them worked it out with the artist so it wasn’t just random notes, but the run that Zayn does in Don’t Forget Where You Belong that Niall had fucking loved even before, years before. It felt good. And also hurt like a motherfucker.

“Thought I wasn’t supposed to take this off yet,” Niall swats at Harry’s hand as he peels back the bandage, the tube of whatever he’s about to slather on Niall in his grip.

“Relax, Niall,” Harry breathes, running his finger over the sensitive skin and making Niall jump, “I’m an expert now, I have my own method of after care.”

“You just wanted to touch me inappropriately,” Niall clenches his teeth, grateful that Harry’s at least trying to be careful. It reminds him a little too much of Zayn, taking off his bandage in the bus loo.

“Yeah, that’s my whole plan,” Harry snorts, “I dared you to get married to Zayn so that you’d go mad for him, get divorced, and get a tattoo. Then I’d make my big move. You found me out.”

“Fuck you,” Niall breathes out, Harry’s hand fanning over Niall’s burning hip.

“Don’t want Zayn’s sloppy seconds, anyways, been there, done that.” Harry grins up at Niall, waggling his eyebrows, until Niall laughs, finally, through the clench of his teeth.

**

The worst of the ache has subsided a few days later, Niall not wanting to die when he pulls on his pants in the morning, avoiding Louis chasing him around the stage to swat at his hip, fuckface Harry telling both him and Liam immediately, the two of them showing up in Harry’s room and arguing for what felt like fucking hours about ointments and how much air does a tattoo really need and fuck all else, Niall had finally fallen asleep. When he woke up, they were all piled over him. It was nice. Niall was starting to hate sleeping alone.

Real nice. Until that night’s show, when Louis had aimed a punch right at his hip halfway into the opening song, Niall almost passing out right there on stage while Louis laughed and ran over to the other side, bumping fists with Liam.

It’s nice, though, a much better show, and Niall’s not sure why, but he feels more comfortable in his skin around Zayn. Like having this little bit of Zayn inked into his skin grounds him, reminds him that things are shit, but maybe not forever. Or even if it’s forever, he has this fucking stupid reminder of it.

So. He goes back and forth on it, really.

But it’s good, Zayn is back on his game, vocals-wise, Niall not realizing until he unleashes a sick riff that he’s been less of himself, lately. Makes Niall want to try and talk to him, not sure what to say, but sure that “come back to mine” would precede it.

They’re still doing the dumbfuck Best Song Ever ending, and this time Niall nods at Liam so he can take his place, close enough to Zayn that when they’re singing, they almost touch. It’s probably the stupidest thing Niall’s ever done, but it makes him feel good.

Good enough that he slots himself next to Zayn at the goodnights, something that hasn’t felt right lately, like if he touches him he’ll fly apart. And Zayn must feel the same, because he grips at Niall’s side, hard, when they bow, keeping his hand anchored there for a minute before it travels down, hitting at Niall’s hip before he realizes what’s happening, Zayn’s fingers pressing in hard enough that it makes Niall suck in a breath, hard, turning his head and biting at the inside of his cheek. Unfortunately, it all happens so fast that he means to turn to Liam, on his other side, but instead ends up full on meeting Zayn’s eyes, whose face falls.

“Okay?” he mouths, concern crowding the lines of his face.

“Yeah,” Niall nods, turning and making his exit quickly, so fast that Zayn’s still got a hand on his arm, following.

“Looks like Zayn’s figured something out,” Louis crows as soon as they’re back, him slinging his arm around Niall’s neck. “Took you a fucking week.”

“What,” Zayn starts, eyes flitting down to Niall’s hip.

“Niall got a bit of ink,” Harry’s with them then, followed by Liam, creating the first post-show huddle they’ve had in ages, Niall feeling flushed.

“A screw?” Zayn asks, still looking confused. “Or.”

“Lads,” Liam says, nervously, “maybe...we should not be here for this?”

“Payno,” Louis moves his arm from around Niall to pinch at the bridge of his nose, “is now the time to be responsible?”

“Don’t think Niall would mind?” Harry asks, looking over at Niall, who can’t stop staring at Zayn.

“I’m just,” Niall nods his head at Zayn, gesturing for him to follow, “can the rest of you fuck off, please?”

“I cannot believe,” Louis is wailing behind Niall as he legs it down a hallway, hoping the dressing room will be mostly deserted, grateful when it is, even more grateful when he can hear Zayn behind him. And only Zayn. Thank fuck.

“Alright,” Zayn crosses his arms when the door is closed behind him, “what was that about? Did you really get ink?”

“Well,” Niall shuffles his feet, stepping closer to Zayn, “yeah? Went with Hazza, last week.”

“Here?” Zayn asks, already pulling at the hem of Niall’s vest, the ones he’s been able to wear again, most of the marks Zayn left faded or gone entirely.

“Here,” Niall pulls up his shirt, feeling weird and exposed when he pushes down his shorts and pants, Zayn’s sharp intake of breath making his face burn hot. “It’s notes.”

“Oh, are those notes?” Zayn chuckles, low, and his fingers hover in the air above Niall’s skin, Niall holding himself back from stepping into Zayn’s touch.

“They’re, like,” Niall starts humming, then outright singing, waiting for Zayn to get it, “you know?”

“Me?” Zayn whispers, his face gone pale under his beard.

“It just. It felt weird, not wearing the ring anymore,” Niall can hear how he’s babbling, “so I got this instead? And I don’t know, Haz is a bad influence.” Zayn is just looking down now, his brow furrowed, and Niall makes himself stop, knows that Zayn needs time, like this. Reminds himself it’s just how he is.

“Yeah,” Zayn does touch him then, just above the tattoo, and Niall bites down on his lip so hard he can taste his own blood. “It’s sick, really well done.”

“Uh huh, I felt its artistic merit was really something,” Niall feels on edge, feels it slip out before he can stop it. “That’s what the focus is on.”

Zayn drops his hand. “Niall.”

“Sorry!” Niall doesn’t bother pulling up his shorts, loosens his death grip on his vest so it’ll fall back down instead. “I just. What the fuck, right?”

“Don’t really know,” Zayn says, slowly, “what I’m doing. We’re still alright, but. I don’t know, Niall. Like. What I want. Do you?”

“Well,” Niall thinks about it, really thinks, for a moment, Zayn staring at him with this patient gaze, “not really. I miss it, though.”

“Me too, but,” Zayn runs his hand through his hair, making it stick up everywhere like it does when he first wakes up in the morning, “I guess I don’t know if we should, like, get back to it unless we….I don’t know.”

“Yeah,” Niall nods. The worst part is, he does get it. Wishes he didn’t.

“It’s weird, you know,” Zayn holds out his hand, rings on every finger but the one, “for me, too.”

Niall thinks about how just behind him is his ring on its chain, somewhere amongst his stuff.

“Guess it’s still To Be Determined,” Niall mutters, softly, stealing Harry’s term for it. When he looks up, Zayn’s face is more relaxed.

“Yeah,” he says, “I like that.”

&&&

Zayn waits until he’s half asleep and safe in his bunk, alone on the bus, before he thinks about it. Niall’s face when he had accidentally touched his tattoo was a little too close to Niall’s face when he’s about to come, flaring up concern for Niall’s pain and also something deeper, something that Zayn had to tamp down immediately so he wouldn’t get hard right there on stage. It’s been a long time, too long. It’s amazing how soon Zayn forgot how interminable tour can seem when he’s all pent up, unspent, even more when the person he’d love to be rutting against after a great show is right there, touchable but not. It’s a weird line, in Zayn’s brain.

He’d thought that when they’d stopped, it be that, a full stop. That everything would stop with it. Except that’s not at all what happened, him feeling lethargic at shows, knowing that Niall is laughing less, something terrible pulling at his chest whenever he falls asleep and Niall’s not there next to him. He knows that he misses Niall, but he wonders how much of that is how much he’s a creature of habit, and Niall was a really great routine. How much is Niall, himself.

Zayn lets his fingers drift down low on his stomach, dipping under the waistband of his pants, thinking about how Niall’s skin still had that pink newness of fresh ink. Zayn’s known Niall going on over five years now, and for five years Niall’s been adamant about one thing. They all know that Niall’s easy, you can convince him to do anything. Except that. Niall’s hard line in the sand.

Except for how he’s now permanently marked with something that’s somehow both his and Zayn’s. Which makes Zayn hard as fuck, to think about, already smearing wet against his palm when he circles his hand around himself to thrust into his fist. He’s more breathless by half than he is after a run around the stage with Louis, just from thinking about Niall for a few minutes and barely touching himself.

It quirks something up, in the back of his mind, feeling empty without Niall next to him. He turns, then, on his side, moving down the bunk by muscle memory until he’s looking at the wall the same way, as that night. It’s unhealthy, he knows, and he’s two strokes away from grabbing his phone and calling Niall to talk him through it, even though he knows that he can’t do that.

The thought, though, of Niall’s thick, sleepy voice, probably catching around his Rs, makes Zayn tighten his grip, twisting his fist over the head of his cock faster. He turns his head so he’s not looking at the wall when he comes, squeezing his eyes tight and thinking about how much he misses Niall.

**

The next morning Louis’s leaning against the wall in the alley behind the venue, smoking and thumbing through something on his phone, when Zayn finds him. He nods up at Zayn when he approaches, handing him his cigarette and lighting another, the two of them silent for a moment in the morning stillness.

“I’m not really,” Zayn takes a long drag, exhaling it in Lou’s direction before continuing, “doing okay, Louis.”

“No shit.” Louis speaks around the cig between his lips. “Never would’ve guessed. You hide it so well.”

“Your dare really fucked me up,” Zayn huffs out a laugh, watching the smoke curl around the edges of his vision.

“As much as I love to take credit for this shit, you can blame Harry for this one,” Louis’s voice is about as gentle as Zayn’s ever heard it, and it makes him feel even worse.

“Guess I’ll go find him, then.” Zayn drops the butt of his cigarette, reaching out and swiping Louis’s from his hand.

“What do you want then?” Louis asks, after a moment.

“Not to feel like shit,” Zayn kicks at a pebble on the ground, feeling like he’s working up to a proper strop over it.

“And what would help you get there, I’m not dragging it out of you here.” Louis’s reached the end of his patience, and that pushes Zayn into feeling less lost, somehow.

“Being with Niall,” Zayn mumbles, looking down at the pavement and not meeting Louis’s eyes.

“Well that’s sorted,” Louis’s voice sounds mildly surprised, “I thought that would be much harder.”

“Or not,” Zayn says, laughing when Louis punches him, hard. “Ow, fuck.”

“Whatever it is,” Louis shakes his head, “with him, not with him, you two are miserable twats and it’s bringing us all down. Watching you two be idiots. For fuck’s sake. You’re one thing, we’re used to that, but it’s unnatural for that Irish prick to be anything but smiles and sunshine. You should hear Harry’s list of complaints about it, ‘bout a mile long. Payno’s been holding meetings every other day, and I want to blow my brains out.”

“I’d apologize for my emotional turmoil, Lou, but I don’t really feel like it.” Zayn steals another cig from Louis’s lips, laughing.

“Sort your life out.” Louis mock warns, before starting to laugh himself.

**

The divorce is final on a Friday.

Paul wakes Zayn up with it, calling him a full half hour before he’d had his alarm set.

“Congratulations, it’s final.” Paul’s voice is so loud, Zayn holding the phone as far away from his ear as he can while still hearing. “Already informed your ex-husband.”

“Thanks, Paul, I’m hanging up.” Zayn tosses his phone over the side of the bed then, pressing his face into the pillow and groaning loud, so loud that he barely hears the knock at his door.

“Who the fuck,” Zayn swings his legs out of bed, stumbling to the door and not bothering to look before swinging it open, “this better be fucking good.”

“Don’t know if it’s good,” Niall runs his fingers through his hair, looking like he just woke up and then rolled around until every strand stood up on end. “But it’s me. Can I?”

“Uh,” Zayn steps back, suddenly really aware of how he’s just standing there in his pants, Niall in a full jumper and sweats. “Yeah.”

“Paul call you?” Niall asks, sitting on the edge of Zayn’s bed slowly, lowering himself like it’s two years ago and his knee is acting up.

“Just now,” Zayn realizes that Niall must’ve come as soon as he’d rung off. “Said he’d already told you.”

“Yeah, it’s.” Niall shakes his head, “fucking weird, how it’s done and dusted. Just like that.”

“Well.” Zayn sits so he’s next to Niall, a strip of space between them, “to be fair, it started just like that, innit?”

“I would appreciate being pissed right now, actually,” Niall laughs, leaning over and knocking his shoulder against Zayn’s once, before straightening back up.

“Got the minibar,” Zayn offers, sneaking a smile over at Niall’s profile, how he’s slumped over.

“I’d end up pukin’ on stage later,” Niall says softly, “but thanks.”

“Isn’t that an insult to your Irish sensibilities, like, to say that?” Zayn feels uneasy; Niall is so quiet, Niall is so calm.

“Not be from t’alcohol,” Niall grimaces, like he’s saying too much, and he really is, his words sinking down in Zayn’s stomach. “I’m being broody, don’t mind me.”

“Niall, I,” Zayn starts, reaching over the palm at Niall’s knee, thumb running circles over the dip of his kneecap.

“Nah, I get it.” Niall shakes his head, and his laugh then is the flattest Zayn’s ever heard. “It’s too much, not enough. Whatever.”

“You are being broody,” Zayn tests out the joke, speaking carefully, not moving his hand.

“I don’t know why I came here, figured this was the best place. Only place, really.” Niall shrugs, and it’s like he’s not even talking to Zayn, more to himself than anything.

“I was just gonna fall back asleep until someone had to come drag me out,” Zayn admits, digging his nails into Niall’s skin until he looks over at Zayn, “don’t want to do anything.”

“Yeah,” Niall smiles then, looks more like himself, “have a pity lie in.”

“Exactly, like,” Zayn pauses, tapping his thumb on Niall’s leg. “Just gonna do that now, if you wanna join.”

“What, here?” Niall looks confused for a moment, his hand resting on top of Zayn’s, a really light touch.

“Why not?” Zayn shrugs. “Exes can sleep in the same bed.”

“I think Paul mentioned something about that, if I’m remembering right,” Niall says, slow, “my heart, it knows this.”

“I’m just gonna,” Zayn slides his hand out from under Niall’s, crawling up the bed and burrowing under the covers, feeling like he’s trying to not startle Niall by making sudden movements. It feels ridiculous. When he pokes his head out, opening his eyes, he’s not surprised to see that Niall’s already pulled his jumper up over his head, knee walking up the bed to join Zayn.

“Haven’t got a proper sleep in ages,” Niall mumbles, kicking at the duvet until he’s under it fully. “Gets cold, when there’s not you next to me.”

“My bunk is the worst,” Zayn whispers, not touching Niall even though he could, “feels too big now.”

“Now who’s being broody,” Niall’s grinning now, looking more like himself, like a punch directly to Zayn’s solar plexus.

Zayn doesn’t say anything else, can’t really, and the sound that he makes when Niall tips his head against his shoulder is loud. So loud they both start laughing, Zayn feeling like he could sleep for years.

&&&

Niall wakes up to Zayn saying his name, and for a second he’s very confused about where he is or really, when it is. Then he remembers, Paul calling him about the divorce being final. Him stumbling over to Zayn’s and making a right arse of himself, and Zayn inviting him to have a cuddle.

“Don’t wanna get up,” Niall says, realizing suddenly he’s speaking into Zayn’s chest. He sits up suddenly then, feeling like he’s been electrocuted. “Oh.”

“That was a real quick turnaround,” Zayn says, low, “don’t wanna get up to up just like that.” He snaps his fingers, the bags under his eyes dark and pronounced. Niall reaches over, smoothing his thumb under one of them, and when Zayn’s eyes flutter closed his eyelashes brush up against the tip of Niall’s finger.

“Surprised no one’s come to drag us out the bed,” Niall murmurs, dropping his hand. Zayn doesn’t open his eyes.

“Radio interview got postponed ‘til tomorrow,” he opens his eyes then, and Niall forces himself to not look away. “They texted, you were already asleep.”

“And you woke up?” Niall laughs, leaning back on his hands so he can put a little distance between them, “now I know something’s off.”

“Took me a bit to fall asleep,” Zayn looks flushed, Niall notices, something that he’s never really seen Zayn do unless he’s worked up, “I wasn’t watching you sleep, or nothing.”

“So what you’re saying is,” Niall holds his breath, “you were watching me sleep.”

“I believe I said the opposite of that,” Zayn groans, hand swatting at Niall’s leg.

“You did, but ya brought it up without needing to,” Niall laughs, feeling right on the edge of hysterical, “which means it’s like, the truth. ‘s how you operate.”

“You don’t know me, Horan,” Zayn reaches for Niall’s leg again, this time resting his palm on the flat of his thigh. It’s hot, through the layer of fabric there, and Niall feels the hysteria drain out of him.

“To be determined,” Niall dares to say it, knowing that he’ll at least get some reaction from it, wanting to say more. He knows that if it was Haz or Louis or even Payno, anyone really, he could’ve been real outright with it, let’s just go for it. But Zayn needs time to settle into things. Like now, when he’s staring up at Niall, hand radiating heat up and down Niall’s leg, not saying a bloody word.

“Something like that,” Zayn smiles, looking down, and Niall knows that it’s to himself, not for Niall, not for anyone else. Can practically see the wheels turning in Zayn’s mind as he moves his hand then, walking his fingers up and down Niall’s leg once before dropping it. Which is for the better, really, Niall willing himself not to get hard even though just being this close to Zayn in a bed makes his dick twitch in his pants.

“So I guess,” Niall’s not sure how to play it, now, past knowing he’s just gonna start going with his gut on things, “I’ll go back to mine? Shower and get ready for the day, s’pose.”

“Yeah,” Zayn nods, “yeah. Me too. Gonna see you after?” He sits up then, leaning over to bump his fist under Niall’s chin, a feather light touch that drives Niall absolutely mad.

“Course.” Niall scrambles off the bed before he can change his mind. “Dunno if anyone told you this, but we’re in a band together. Kinda stuck with me, for at least a bit more.”

“Where’s the paperwork for us to sign for that?” Zayn grins, and Niall thinks it might almost reach his eyes.

“I’ll talk to Paul ‘bout it,” Niall stretches, walking backward toward the door, nearly going arse over ankles when he bumps up against Zayn’s bloody bag, suddenly just wanting to get the fuck out of there, “start a band trial separation. The lads are gonna take it so hard.”

“Might want to check,” Zayn calls out, when he’s already out of sight, not following Niall to the door, “bet you a hundred quid Louis’s already got something in the works.”

Niall’s laughing when he closes the door behind himself, nearly running right into Liam as he turns to go down the hall. “Oi, Payno, watch it.”

“Niall, I-” Liam starts, eyes looking past Niall’s shoulder at where he was coming from, “you at Zayn’s?”

“Sort of?” Niall lets his words trail off into a question, grateful as fuck that he didn’t run into Louis or Harry. Liam is definitely the best option.

“You not sure?” Liam laughs, and Niall relaxes, “think you’d be sure, Zayn’s hard to miss.”

“No shit,” Niall leans back against the wall, head hitting behind him with a thud. “Divorce is final, just found myself over there.”

“Oh.” Liam steps forward then, fitting himself against Niall’s side and gripping at Niall’s waist. “You okay with it? You two are, ah. Confusing.”

“If it’s confusing to you, Liam,” Niall tilts his head so his temple is pressed against the hard bone of Liam’s shoulder, “imagine how it is in here.” He points to his head, twirling his finger in the air. “Gone a bit mad, really.”

“Thought it a bit weird, at first,” Liam says, sounding like he’s thinking through his words carefully, “two of us married? Not as a laugh, like. It didn’t really feel like a proper laugh, not after the beginning bit, right?”

“Sure,” Niall waits for Liam to continue, solid against him. He hopes no one else runs into them, Niall cuddled up against Liam and feeling like a tit.

“Proper weird.” Liam reiterates, laughing quick, “but then, I don’t know, it seemed like it fit. It wasn’t that odd anymore. Made sense to me. Now though, it’s all a bit shit really, innit?”

“It’s more than a bit shit, Liam.” Niall breathes out, “but it’ll right itself in the end, right?”

“Most things do.” Liam shrugs, jostling Niall’s head in the process. Niall groans, standing up straight and rubbing at his face, sure he looks like he’s gone entirely mad.

“Thanks, Payno.”

“For what?” Liam smiles though, hand coming up to rub at the back of his neck, looking chuffed like someone told him he was doing a sick job at something.

“Just for bein’ you,” Niall pulls at the end of Liam’s nose, claps him hard on the shoulder. “C’mon, let’s go get some breakfast before I gotta face the day, this mess I’m in.”

**

“We’ve got a bit of a sad announcement to make,” Louis says halfway through their set, his mic sending a rush of feedback into Niall’s earpiece, setting him on edge. The crowd must sense something too, because they’ve gone quiet like they’re doing a show in bloody Japan. “About everyone’s favorite newlyweds.”

“Now now,” Harry pipes up as the crowd makes this sound of mass disapproval, Niall agreeing with them, “everything has to end sometime, yeah? Some sooner than others.”

“As of today,” Louis intones, his words echoing, “we are now a band of three blokes and two ex-husbands.”

Niall wants to crawl into a hole and die; any hole, any manner of death will do. He looks over at where Zayn’s sat, on the edge of the stage, a tight smile on his face while Liam rubs at his back. The crowd is going crazy now, Louis standing there and waiting for them to calm down. Haz is suddenly next to him then, leaning over and whispering correctly for once in his fucking life.

“We thought it’d be better to do it this way,” Harry says, “on our own terms, like?”

“How is it our own terms when it’s Zayn and I’s divorce?” Niall keeps a smile on his face when he really, really wants to glare at Haz and punch him right in the junk. Right in the babymaker.

“We knew Zayn would never agree to it,” Harry shrugs, the roar of the crowd seeming larger and larger to Niall when he fakes out a big laugh, like Harry’s saying something hilarious. “Better this way, for you both. For all of us.” He runs off then like he knows Niall’s about to hit him, fucking off to where Louis’s standing.

The thing is, Haz is right. It’s better to do it this way, keep up the joke; we got drunk and married, look at us prance around the stage like the fake husbands we are, now let’s all cry fake tears that it’s over and get on with our lives. It’s the right way to play it, and it makes Niall so angry he could shoot fucking lasers from his eyes. At all of ‘em. Louis and Payno and Dan, fucking Dan, who’s playing the opening strains of Desperado behind them all, and the crowd that’s laughing now along with Louis, who’s making some dumb shitting speech about beginnings and endings in life.

And especially at Zayn, who’s standing next to Louis now, that dumb fake fucking smile on his face, ducking his head down like he’s bloody shy, Harry and Liam singing End of the Road together while they sway off to the side. Everyone just eating it up. Niall’s gonna get Louis for this one, steal all his weed and stuff it in the nearest bin, burn all of Harry’s favorite headbands or sew up all the holes in his jeans. Niall’s still plotting how he’s going to get back each and every single one of them, fuckfaces all, when Louis turns to Zayn.

“Zayn, any last words? A speech, perhaps?” He holds out the mic, thrusting it in Zayn’s face, and Niall takes a step forward despite himself. Lou wouldn’t, he really wouldn’t unless he knew Zayn was okay with it first, is the whole long and short of it.

“Not much for speeches,” Zayn starts, glancing back at Niall, quick, Niall’s stomach bottoming out fully before Zayn continues, “but Niall was the best husband I ever had.”

There’s a beat, and then the entire crowd erupts, cheering hard, Niall glancing down and seeing every girl in the front row entirely losing their shit, and he’s never felt more of a kinship to their fans than at this moment, feeling like he’s having a tsunami level meltdown internally.

“Settle down now,” Louis’s shouting into the mic, but if anything they get even louder, Harry and Liam jumping all over each other. Niall walks closer, getting up to where Zayn is still standing, bumping up next to him.

“Niall, Ex-Mr.Malik,” Louis says then, and Niall knows that to anyone else it would seem normal, but there’s something careful in Louis’s eyes, and Niall fucking appreciates him suddenly, more than he ever has, “d’you have anything to add?”

“Zayn really said it all, I think,” Niall manages, turning to meet Zayn’s eyes, knowing that he’s probably giving too much away in front of this huge fecking crowd when he reaches over to touch Zayn lightly, beep beep boop.

“Beautiful,” Louis says, a rushing in Niall’s ears when Zayn grins over at him, eyes blinking hard.

**

“Lads, I’m thinking drinks, I’m thinking full on divorce party,” Harry says, from the backseat. They’re on their way back to the hotel, Niall feeling boneless and spent, nudged up against Louis’s side and leaning into him. To Louis’s credit, he’s only pinched Niall’s nipple hard once, called him a twat twice.

“Divorce party?” Liam asks, turning from where he’s next to Louis, “don’t think people do that, Harry.”

“Sure they do,” Harry’s voice sounds too bright to Niall, not bothering to turn around and see what face Zayn has on next to him. “Or at least, we can go out. Get proper pissed.”

“Seems to me that’s what got us into this situation,” Louis’s voice rumbles through Niall when he speaks, his arm draping down over Niall’s side, feeling heavy.

“Well we’re not going to go that far,” Harry laughs, “right Zayn?”

“Fuck off, Hazza,” Zayn mumbles, and Niall smiles, into Louis’s side.

“There we go,” Louis’s voice sounds encouraging, “that’s my Zayn.”

“I just thought,” Harry’s voice has an edge of hurt to it, “we could have a lads bonding night. Feel better about things.”

“I’m in,” Liam says, Harry whooping behind him.

“If it’s your treat, Harry, I’m in as well.” Louis pats at Niall’s arm. “Nialler?”

“Um,” Niall says, pausing when Zayn speaks up from somewhere behind him.

“Why not?” his voice is unreadable, and Niall holds his breath.

“Fine,” he says, “whatevs.”

“Not the enthusiasm I was going for,” Harry’s fingers land in Niall’s hair, from behind, “but I’ll take it.”

**

Niall’s sitting in his hotel room, trying to psych himself up for getting ready to go. It’s not on. He glances over at his phone, realizing that he’s been sitting on the edge of the bed in his pants for the last quarter hour, just lost in his own thoughts. He tries to remember the last time that’s happened, and keeps coming up with never. Still can’t be arsed.

He doesn’t want to go out. Doesn’t want to do shots, doesn’t want to get pissed, doesn’t trust himself not to corner Zayn in some disgusting club bathroom and leave a mark on his neck so dark it’ll never get covered completely.

There’s a knock at his door, and Niall’s ninety percent sure that it’s Haz, ready to manhandle him into an earring or something to go out. Niall shuffles over, and when he opens the door an inch it’s Zayn instead, something warm flooding out in Niall’s chest.

“Hey,” Zayn says, then his eyes glance down at Niall’s state of undress. “Oh. I told the others I’d come get you, that we’d meet up.”

“They already left?” Niall takes a step back, letting Zayn come in before shutting the door behind him.

“Yeah,” Zayn stands, awkwardly, shrugging out of his jacket and dropping it on the floor. “Harry wanted to get a head start, said he waits for no Niall.”

“That’s Haz,” Niall whispers, brushing past Zayn to walk further into the room, deciding to settle up at the head of his head, resting his back against the pillows. “I was getting ready, showered and everything, but.”

“Didn’t know if you really wanted to go, it seemed like,” Zayn sighs, perching himself on the edge of the bed near Niall’s thigh.

“I just don’t,” Niall sighs, suddenly sick of waiting around for Zayn to be okay with shit, “I don’t feel like celebrating.”

“Me neither, like,” Zayn looks away, his profile rigid, “I hate it all, really. What it’s become.”

“It’s absolute shit.” Niall agrees, bumping his knee against Zayn’s hip, feeling flushed from the inside out.

“We’ve really made a mess of it,” Zayn smiles then, his face so affectionate Niall wants to grab the pillow next to him, scream into it.

“I didn’t really expect this to become a whole thing,” Niall starts, taking a deep breath and staring at Zayn’s hand on the bed instead of his face, “and at first it was just a laugh, and getting off with you was great, but somewhere in there I got like, confused. It got….bigger.”

“Bigger,” Zayn echoes, and his fingers flex as Niall watches them.

“I stopped wanting to just get off, and how it was so easy and fun, and it’s like, I wanna just…” Niall trails off, frustrated that he can’t find the right words, wishes Zayn would help him out, “with you, I guess. Is what I’m saying. Not like an arrangement, we don’t even have to be bleeding married ever again, I just. I hate this, the not feeling like I’m allowed to touch ya.”

“I…” Zayn starts, and then his fingers are fumbling under Niall’s chin, forcing him to look him in the eyes, “I want to, too. And it’s not just about….all that. The shagging parts.”

“I mean,” Niall laughs, leaning into Zayn’s touch and feeling wound up tight, “we called them perks for a reason, right?”

“Are they still perks, even if we’re not married anymore?” Zayn shifts, and then he’s kneeling over Niall, his face looming close and his breath fanning over Niall’s face. “Or is it just us?”

“Ask me again later, after I’ve come at least three times, just absolutely spent.” Niall skirts his fingers up over Zayn’s sides, pushing up under his shirt. He’s surprised when Zayn grins, ducking his head and pulling his shirt over his head, hair sticking up at all angles.

“Three times, eh?” Zayn dips his head down, pressing his lips carefully to the side of Niall’s mouth, “That’s a lot for me to live up to.”

“We are making up for weeks of bullshit,” Niall laughs, pulling Zayn down so his weight settles down on top of him, groaning at the sudden pressure. “So yeah, three times.”

“Niall,” Zayn kisses him then fully, licking into his mouth for what’s an entirely too brief time before pulling back, “we’re good, yeah? Gonna do this?”

“We just said we were,” Niall pushes up his hips, grinding into Zayn’s thigh so he’ll get it, “so yeah, we are.”

“I don’t want to have it be unclear, like,” Zayn groans, leaning back to fumble at his flies, Niall laughing when he almost falls over on top of him, “like before? I’m trying to learn from past mistakes. Be less of a twat.”

“Ah,” Niall feels a dark heat flare up in his stomach as he watches Zayn ease his jeans and pants down his hips all in one go, cock already half hard. “Louis’s been yelling at you.”

“He gave me some notes on my behavior,” Zayn shrugs, grinning as he skims his hands up under Niall’s thighs to pull his pants down over his arse. “But can we stop talking about anything else but how much I missed this?”

“What part did you miss?” Niall asks, feeling breathless when they’ve both finally got their kits off, Zayn’s skin hot when they tangle together.

“Dunno,” Zayn runs his hand down over Niall’s chest, fingers catching at Niall’s collarbone before he kisses him softly, pulling back to say, “this,” before pulling at Niall’s hair, hard, angling it to kiss him deeper.

Niall’s about to rocket straight off the bed when Zayn’s tongue is exploring his mouth, pulling at Niall’s hair so hard that it shoots straight to Niall’s dick, can feel that he’s already leaking and Zayn’s not yet touched him, rutting hotly against his hip as they make out for what feels like ages to Niall. Niall moves his hand down the slope of Zayn’s back, fingers dragging over the bump bump bump of his vertebrae until he’s palming his arse, trying to pull him closer, get a little friction.

“Oi, c’mere,” Niall whispers against Zayn’s neck, pushing his tongue against Zayn’s pulse, going a million beats a minute. “C’mere,” he says again, his voice low to even his own ears, not sure what he wants except for Zayn to be closer, as close as possible.

“Not yet,” Zayn says, against Niall’s lips, “here.” He slides down Niall’s chest then, cock dragging down Niall’s leg as he mouths at Niall’s chest, taking Niall’s cock in his hand and lifting it from where it’s curved against Niall’s belly. He gives it a firm stroke, a little too dry, and Niall’s hips shoot off the bed so forcefully that Zayn laughs, his hand coming down to hold at Niall’s hipbone, keeping him steady.

“Embarrassin’,” Niall pants, throwing his arm over his eyes for a second, sparks exploding behind his eyelids from the impact of it all, “the things you do to me, Malik.”

“Oh, I’ve got a mental list,” Zayn’s voice is like a whole different pitch, and when Niall looks down, biting back a mix between a laugh and a moan, he sees Zayn dip his head to press his lips right to the center of Niall’s tattoo, keeping his loose grip on Niall’s cock, not moving his hand and driving Niall mad. “Lemme know if it’s too sensitive still, yeah?”

“Fuck, yeah,” Niall’s whole body is on edge when Zayn’s tongue traces the ink lightly, prick jumping in Zayn’s hand when his teeth graze the skin. It’s a whole new sensory experience, and Niall wonders if this is how it feels whenever Zayn gets new ink, if this is what it felt like whenever Niall touched him on the crest, after. It hurts, but not really. Like it’s a spark, setting off something inside of Niall that he’s not sure if he could find again. Fucking fuck. “Shit, Zayn.”

“Good?” Zayn asks, into Niall’s skin, nipping at the ink again before dragging his tongue over and up the side of Niall’s cock, over where his fingers are still loosely circled.

“Pick a bloody thing, and do it,” Niall gasps out, hands clenching in the sheets, “or I’ll never suck you off again. Barely back to it, and I’ve already gotta sanction you.”

“That’s rude,” Zayn laughs, licking his lips, the tip of his tongue catching at the head of Niall’s cock, Niall’s hips having a mind of their own again. “Was thinking, though,” he moves his hand again, slow, “wanna do something, if it’s okay?”

“Yeah?” Niall would let Zayn do pretty much anything, at that moment, cut Niall open, take his blood, lick him for days, whatever the fuck. Zayn’s not saying anything, just wanking Niall slowly, his other hand curling around Niall’s thigh and moving it over so it brackets Zayn’s side. Something in Niall wakes up then, and he wonders, hopes, that it’s what Zayn is asking. “Want you to, yeah?”

“To what?” Zayn looks up at him then, suddenly looking shy, and Niall wants to equal parts belt him one and snog him forever. Frustrating prick.

“Fuck me.” Niall whispers it, just those two words making his cock twitch in Zayn’s grip, Zayn groaning like he really felt it. “Never was able to get up to it, before. Wanted it.”

“Yeah,” Zayn dips his head down, pressing a gentle kiss to the side of Niall’s prick, and Niall finds that he has to blink against everything welling up inside himself. “Equal partnership, yeah?”

“C’mere for a second first,” Niall laughs, pulling at Zayn’s shoulders and kissing him softer than he means to by half. “I got some stuff, in me bag.”

“Shit, yeah.” Zayn scrambles off the bed so fast that Niall starts laughing, so hard his stomach starts to ache with it when Zayn’s back, tossing the packets next to him. “No need to laugh, Nialler, ‘s been a while.”

“I’m half laughing at you, half laughing at how I feel like it’s ages since I’ve been fucked,” Niall gets out, before Zayn’s leaning over and kissing him again.

“Well, you haven’t yet, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Zayn’s voice is tinged with something Niall can’t define, like he’s already concentrating hard as he kneels back between Niall’s legs, moving Niall’s thigh so it hooks over his leg.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Niall watches Zayn slick up his fingers, “it’s like a metaphor, y’know, like it didn’t actually happen, I was saying it for the effect.”

“That’s not a metaphor,” Zayn says automatically, brow furrowed as he laughs, shuffling forward and placing a steadying hand on Niall’s stomach, Niall taking a deep breath as Zayn asks, “okay like this?”

“Just get on with it, twenty bloody questions, I swear,” Niall’s laugh comes out strangled with Zayn pushes forward with his finger then, slow. “Jesus fuck.”

“Not the safe word, Niall,” Zayn whispers, “if you recall.” He knees at Niall’s thigh then, pushing it up as he kisses him, over and over again, Niall finding a rhythm with his hips that matches the curl of Zayn’s fingers as he slowly adds more in, letting Niall get used to the stretch of it. It’s a lot, even more when Zayn ducks his head down to lick at Niall’s collarbone when he pulls them out, Niall’s gut twisting up in anticipation when Zayn rolls on the condom, raising his eyebrows at Niall. “Good, still?”

“Better in a second,” Niall reaches up, unclenching his fist from the duvet and trailing his fingers down the side of Zayn’s face, cupping his cheek when Zayn pushes into it, his eyes dark as they meet Niall’s, “so get on with it, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Zayn breathes out, instead of some smart remark, and anything Niall would have thought to say in the next moment, the next year, flies completely out of his head when Zayn is pressing forward, the blunt pressure of his cock everything. Niall hooks his leg around Zayn, digging his heel into the back of his thigh to tell Zayn that it’s okay, keep going, do it, tries to remember how to speak, gets used to how Zayn feels inside of him. Like everything’s amplified, like Niall’s too full of everything, in every sense. He’s got all those treacly things running through his mind again, and he can’t decide which of them is the most apt for how he’s feeling. The most wretched.

Fuck,” Niall groans, when Zayn starts moving, encouraged by Niall’s lips at his neck, his nails digging into Zayn’s arse. “You were holding out on me.”

“What d’you mean?” Zayn grits out, dragging out of Niall slow before sliding back in faster on the upstroke, catching at something that makes Niall wonder, distantly, where his inhaler is. He’ll probably bloody need it in a minute.

“It feels just as bloody amazing on this end of things,” Niall moans, this loud noise that he’ll have to laugh at himself for later, when he’s not about to fly apart at his seams, “hogging it all for yourself. Called bagsies on getting fucked, and I never even knew.”

“Fucking hell, Niall,” Zayn laughs, his voice a rasp, “you figured me out. Guess I’m stuck on this end of it now.”

“Didn’t say that,” Niall tilts his hips up, trying to get some friction on his cock against Zayn’s abs, “but we’re gonna queue up, take turns. Fuck.”

Zayn’s laughing again, and Niall can hear himself start to babble nonsensically when Zayn reaches between them, pulls Niall off in time with his thrusts, fucking Niall down into the bed. It doesn’t take much, Niall right on the edge when Zayn bites at his chin, forcing Niall to meet his eyes. It’s a really intense gaze, Zayn’s pupils blown out fully and the side of his lips quirking up like they do when he’s well pleased about something. Niall strains up to kiss him sloppily, almost missing Zayn’s mouth entirely when he comes between them, sparks firing off in the back of his brain.

Niall,” Zayn sounds distant and half broken when Niall can hear again, him rocking into Niall almost too hard, right on the edge of Niall’s sensitivity, when he comes too, Niall feeling it from the inside out, his leg sliding down like a reflex alongside Zayn’s as they both go still.

“Don’t move yet,” Niall drags his fingers down Zayn’s back, gone a dead weight on top of him, “like being crushed.”

“I don’t weigh that much,” Zayn protests, nipping at Niall’s neck, his hand sliding down Niall’s arm until their fingers intertwine.

“For once in my life, Zayn,” Niall squeezes at Zayn’s fingers, “I was being entirely serious.”

&&&&&

“Don’t drool on my trousers.” Zayn reaches behind him to grip at the bar of the coat rack, worried he might pull it down completely when Niall tongues around the head of his cock.

“Excuse me,” Niall pulls off, Zayn groaning at the loss of Niall’s mouth. “I’m doing some of my best work here, and you’re accusing me of being sloppy? I will pull you off so fast, Zayn, and then who’s gonna have a giant jizz stain on their trousers for everyone here to see?”

“Your mouth was really wet, is all,” Zayn pants, carefully threading his fingers through Niall’s hair, not wanting to mess up Lou’s hard work. “Christ, your hair is stiff.”

“That’s not the only part of me that’s stiff,” Niall raises his eyebrows, reaching down to press his palm against the front of his trousers.

“Charming.” Zayn should’ve showed some semblance of willpower when Niall’d cornered him in the hallway and pulled him into the closet, but Zayn’s pretty terrible at turning Niall down when he’s licking into his mouth and reaching for his prick, mumbling something about how he’s been going mad without him.

“I am,” Niall licks a circle around Zayn’s cock, swallowing him shallowly as he wanks him off fast and hard, Zayn no longer caring about spit stains, he’s so close. Niall gags slightly when Zayn comes suddenly a couple of minutes later, too late to warn him, the sound of it giving Zayn a minor heart attack. “Great fucking wedding gift, Malik, thanks for the heads up.” He licks at his lips, red from being stretched around Zayn’s cock, and grins up at him. “Worst fucking husband in the world.”

“Not your husband yet,” Zayn pulls at Niall’s shoulders, kissing him deeply before pulling back, reaching down to palm at Niall’s hard dick. “Wait, I don’t think you’re supposed to see me before, I should probably go.”

“Don’t think,” Niall pushes his hips into Zayn’s hand, “it counts the second time.” He pulls at Zayn’s tie, straightening it where it’s gone a bit crooked.

“I think it counts every time.” Zayn drops to his knees before Niall can say anything else, pulling at his flies and getting his mouth on Niall, his beard scratching against the fabric of his trousers.

It’s ten minutes later when they make their way back into the room where the lads are all waiting, Louis pushing his tongue out into his cheek and raising his eyebrows until Zayn realizes his flies are still undone. Shit.

“Danny, don’t you agree,” Liam’s saying, “that these rings were fine when we were all pissed, but now? Come on, right?”

“Offered me money to get rid of ‘em,” Louis calls out, from across the room. “Surprise, Payno, I don’t need money. I do need to laugh at those rings for the next forever.”

“They’re our rings,” Niall shrugs, grinning over at Zayn, “why would we get new ones? We picked them out ourselves.”

“I was a witness to it,” Harry frowns from where he’s draped over a chaise in the corner, “Zayn, Lux and Brooklyn wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to give ‘em flower girl lessons. Told me I was silly.”

“I cannot imagine why they’d say that,” Zayn blinks, shaking his head. Somehow, a wedding that they actually spent time planning is turning out to be more of a disaster shitshow than five drunk fucks stumbling around Vegas.

“Theo,” Harry announces loudly, the toddler laughing when he hears his name, running up and throwing his arms around Niall’s legs. “Was a very good listener.”

“D’ya want an award Haz?” Niall laughs, lifting Theo into his arms and rolling his eyes over at Zayn, “we’d be lost without your guidance in teaching a 4 year old how to walk in a straight line.”

“Does anyone else have any complaints or other concerns for Niall and I to take care of before our, you know, wedding?” Zayn asks loudly, the room going quiet for a moment.

“To be honest,” Louis announces, “I wish my flask wasn’t empty already.”

“Maybe don’t tell me where you hid it, next time,” Niall shrugs, ducking Theo’s hand when he reaches for his tie. He looks over at Zayn, hard enough to make Zayn fidgety, wish they hadn’t left the closet so fast.

“I took a hit of it too, Lou,” Zayn admits, meeting Niall’s eyes. “Your fault. It’s not a wedding without a little shot of something. Niall and I don’t know any other way.” He shrugs, Louis clearly mid-sputter.

The door opens then, Paul bursting into the room with a dark look on his face, taking all of them in.

“Jesus Christ, I’m meant to wrangle you lot til the end of my days,” he starts, calmly, before raising his voice, “we are trying to have a wedding here, if the wedding party wants to join us?

It sparks off a flurry of movement in the room them, Niall handing Theo off to Greg and reaching to pull at Zayn’s wrist, thumb pressing into the skin there.

“Yeah?” Zayn asks, not surprised when Niall bumps up against him fast, pressing his lips to his softly. Then, pulling back with a satisfied sound, kissing him again, open-mouthed and not for public consumption.

“Kiss for luck?” He grins, still holding onto Zayn’s wrist, and Zayn fights to stay upright.

“You ruined it,” Harry’s right behind Zayn now, hooking his chin over Zayn’s shoulder and looking at Niall, wrapping his arms around them both. “Couldn’t wait for just a little bit more, it’s like you’ve never been married before.”

“Well great,” Louis groans, “if it’s ruined then there’s no point in me sticking around, I’m gonna head for the nearest bar. Who’s with me?”

“If you say one word right now,” Zayn shakes Harry off and leans into Niall again, “I will divorce you so fast.”

Niall starts laughing, so hard that Zayn can’t even kiss him properly, feeling drunk over it all.