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The Man Who Sold the World

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It’s a running joke now, Zayn’s ability to attract the drunkest person in a ten-mile radius. It used to just be at parties when he’s cornered by a sobbing girl who’s broken up with her boyfriend or at gigs when the bloke next to him at the bar wants to fight him because he thinks Zayn’s trying to jump the queue, but now it happens everywhere. In the street, on the bus, at the ATM. Last week it happened in McDonald’s. Not on a Saturday night when everyone’s drunk, but at eight-thirty on a Wednesday morning. He was just standing there, waiting for the dude to come back with his hash brown, when all of a sudden there was a guy next to him, reeking of beer and defeat, his eyes wide as he offered to suck Zayn’s dick for it.

It’s a gift, his mother says (that Zayn’s so approachable, not that strangers offer to suck his dick for hash browns, which is one benefit to all this) but as super powers go, he’d much rather be able to fly. He can’t, though, so this is his cross to bear, it seems, being a magnet for drunk people. So when he gets back to his motel to find a guy asleep outside his room, he isn’t entirely surprised, because of all the rooms he could have passed out outside of, of course it’s Zayn’s. But then it’s Friday night – and not any Friday night, the last Friday of South by Southwest – so this guy isn’t even the first person Zayn’s seen passed out tonight, the streets littered as a day of drinking and going to one gig after another takes its toll.

It’s the first time Zayn’s been to South by Southwest. He’d heard it was like this; Austin invaded once a year by skinny kids in skinnier jeans who can’t take their drink and sleep where they fall, like the one currently at his feet. Mardi Gras meets Woodstock, his editor calls it, but it’s more like Glastonbury with pavements. It has the same atmosphere, that same restlessness that makes Zayn’s stomach turn inside out every time a band comes on stage because they could be the band and this could be the night he tells stories about in ten years. But there are no fields, no tents, no trudging around in Hunter wellies caked in mud. There are no flower crowns, either, or bindis like at Coachella. It’s just gig after gig after gig, so between the jet lag and the long walk back to the motel, Zayn’s about ready to collapse.

This is what he has to do, though. His editor at The Guardian told him that if he wants off the blog than he’d better write something worth putting in print so Zayn has been to every gig he can get into in the hopes of finding a story other than the Meet [enter band name here], the next Arctic Monkeys ones that everyone else is writing.

That’s how he ended up at the Petite Noir show, which he shouldn’t have gone to, he knows, because it was already arse o’clock and he knew that whatever he told himself about setting his alarm for 4 a.m. so that he could write his piece wasn’t going to happen as soon as he saw his bed. So he has to do it now, even though it’s going to be shit because it’s 2 a.m. and he’s had 172 beers and can’t remember who he’s seen today. But he has to try because if he has to write another quiz about album covers he’s going on a rampage around The Guardian offices, knocking over pot plants and hiding the Fair Trade peppermint green tea.

So fuck it. If this guy wants to sleep outside his room, he can have at it. Zayn has neither the time nor the energy to cajole him back to his own, especially in a motel like this, which isn’t the sort of place you want to be hanging around outside of at two in the morning. It’s not that easy, of course, because as soon as Zayn leans over him and opens the door, the guy stirs and rolls onto his front so he’s half in and half out of the room. When he presses his cheek to the carpet and starts snoring again, Zayn curses under his breath. ‘Alright, mate. Time to go back to your own room.’ He nudges him with the toe of his Converse but the guy just mutters at him to fuck off then curls up into the foetal position. He looks so content – a mess of hair and limbs, his hand balled into a fist on the floor next to his cheek – that it’s all Zayn can do not to boot him in the arse. But as he considers it, the guy lifts his head and cracks his eye open to peer at him through his hair. ‘The fuck you doing in my room, man?’

‘This is my room, actually,’ Zayn insists, then huffs because he can’t believe that it’s two in the morning and he’s arguing with a stranger over a piece of shit motel room that smells of Cheez-Its and perfume. Not even nice perfume, the cheap stuff you buy from blokes down the pub – Channel no. 7 and Yves Saint Laurence. But given that all he does is write quizzes for the blog, referring to himself as a staffer at The Guardian is stretching it. He doesn’t even have his own desk so they weren’t going to pay for him to go to Texas, were they? His editor agreed to get him accreditation, but the rest was up to Zayn, so after rinsing his credit card on the flight, this piece of shit motel room he’s fighting for, is all he can afford.

Not that he had much choice; everywhere in Austin booked for the festival. Zayn was sure he’d be sleeping on a park bench but then he found this place the night before he flew out. It doesn’t even have a website, just a string of one-star reviews on TripAdvisor, but it has a bed and right now that’s all he wants so if he has to fight this guy for it, he will. But the guy pays no attention, just sniffs and clambers to his feet. ‘Don’t you fucking-’ Zayn starts to say as he turns and stumbles into the room, but it’s too late as he falls back onto the bed.

In the few seconds it takes Zayn to get to him, the guy is sparko again and lying on his back, spread-eagle on the middle of the bed like a hairy, tattooed starfish. ‘Oi!’ Zayn kicks him this time. ‘Get up.’ When he doesn’t respond, Zayn reaches for his wrist and pulls but it’s like when he was a kid and his Mum would try to make him go to bed and he’d turn into dead weight. If the neighbours had looked in, it must have looked like she was dragging a dead body across the living room. Trying to get the guy to move is much the same. Worse, actually, because he’s not ten-years old, he’s a grown man with heavy limbs and a floppy head and he will not budge, no matter how much Zayn pulls and tugs and swears at him.

After a few minutes, Zayn’s breathless and sweating, his leather jacket a little heavier on his shoulders as he gives up and steps back to shrug it off. When he throws it on the end of the bed, he looks at the bedside table, considering calling reception to complain. But this is a $40 a night motel off Interstate 35, the sort of place with cigarette burns in the carpet and a funky smell in the fridge that you see on the news under the banner, The 8-hour siege ended here so of course it doesn’t have a phone. Or a reception, just a woman in a DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS t-shirt who only looked away from the TV long enough to give him his key.

Zayn’s about to take the ice bucket into the bathroom and fill it with cold water when he looks at him – really looks at him for the first time – and takes a step back. It can’t be, Zayn thinks, covering his mouth with his hand to stop himself laughing, but it fucking is.

It’s Harry Styles.

Zayn does laugh then because it’s like seeing a real life unicorn, his heart fluttering in that same way it did the first time he saw him at that gig in Manchester five years ago, back when Zayn was sixteen and all life was about was getting drunk and kissing strangers to Sex on Fire. Now Harry is someone he only sees on the cover of SPIN (or worse, on TMZ) so for a second he’s sure it can’t be him. Surely he’d be staying at the Four Seasons not this shithole, but Zayn knows that face – that mouth – and fucking hell, it really is him.

Zayn heard a rumour 17 Black were doing a secret gig at the Empire Garage tomorrow night but he didn’t believe it because 17 Black haven’t played a venue that small since Zayn saw them at 93 Feet East a few years ago. But there he is and Zayn’s suddenly giddy. Not that he’s particularly fond of 17 Black. He used to be. Their first album was incredible, but then they had a number one with Sneaker Freaks and lost it. They didn’t lose it, that isn’t fair, their stuff’s good, just too commercial for a hopeless snob like Zayn. But then he’s a music journalist; he’s supposed to be a snob. He’s supposed to sneer when bands that used to play 93 Feet East start selling out stadiums. So no, they aren’t his thing, but Harry.

Every once in a while someone comes along who’s bigger than the music they play, than the band they’re in, the stage they’re on. They can’t be contained behind a mic and a guitar and spill out everywhere, like sunlight through glass, warming everything they touch. Harry Styles is this generation’s Pete Doherty – their Liam Gallagher – and just like them, he can’t be arsed any more. He’s become a tabloid darling, known more for who he’s shagging than what he’s singing, and while that’s all part of his charm – the loveable cad all the girls want to fuck and all the boys want to have a pint with – it does absolutely nothing for Zayn. But 17 Black doing an acoustic set in a small venue with a sticky floor and sweat dripping off the ceiling? Fuck yes Zayn wants to see that because he knows Harry will be back to the slightly awkward, overexcited Harry he first saw in Manchester five years ago.

Back then Harry was like him. Or at least he made Zayn think that he was like him. He dressed like Zayn and was too skinny like Zayn and it made him feel like he – the quiet, half-Pakistani kid from Bradford – could do anything. Because even then, in that tiny room at the back of that tiny pub, where the sound was shit and Zayn couldn’t see a thing, Harry had it. Whatever it is. He looked at you like he was about to kiss you and Zayn wanted him with a hysterical, adolescent need that had him going to all their gigs and wanking over photos of him in the NME. That’s how he ended up a music journo, funnily enough, because that’s what he used to say to 17 Black’s security guard, Terry, when he was trying to get backstage, that he wanted to interview Harry for his blog. He became known as the blog boy, something he hoped Terry never referred to him as in front of Harry because it made him sound like a pimply virgin in a Metallica t-shirt when he was actually a pimply virgin in a Run-D.M.C. t-shirt.

There’s a huge difference.

Terry was faintly amused by Zayn, though, and even took pity on him once when he realised that he’d travelled from Bradford to see 17 Black at Madame Jojo's. He said that he could go backstage as long as he behaved himself, which Zayn had no intention of doing, possessed by the idea that Harry was going to be his first. But when he found him, he was in the band’s dressing room, kissing a girl with Sharpie black hair and it kind of broke his heart. Actually, there was no kind of about it, Harry smashed Zayn’s sixteen-year old heart to smithereens. He sulked for weeks, furious with himself for teasing Doniya for her crush on Marvin Humes when he was doing exactly same thing with Harry.

So maybe his aversion to 17 Black is down to more than them selling out but still, seeing Harry laid out on the bed in front of him is enough to make him feel sixteen again. Zayn’s first instinct is to take a photo of him (actually, his first instinct is to rip into his jeans and suck him off until he gives himself lockjaw) but that would be shady as shit, especially when he notices that Harry’s t-shirt has ridden up to expose his stomach. His skin is shockingly pale under the black cotton, pale and smooth and perfect, only interrupted by the leaves tattooed on either side of his navel that fan out as though they’re reaching out to touch his hips. I have to get a photo of that, Zayn thinks, but as he’s taking his phone out of the back pocket of his jeans, Harry snuffles and rubs his nose with the back of his hand.

Zayn freezes, sure that he’s about to wake up, but when Harry starts snoring again, his shoulders fall and he leaves his phone where it is. But he’s always half-naked, a voice in his head says as he thinks about how Harry saunters around on stage, his black shirt unbuttoned to his navel, and when Zayn considers it, he has to get out of there because he can’t be in a room alone with him a second longer. It’s bringing out a side of himself that he really doesn’t like. So he grabs his bag and heads to the bar next door. He was determined to avoid it (the Confederate flag hardly a welcome mat for half-Pakistani gay guys) but his motel is about forty miles north of No One Gives A Fuck so if it’s still open, he’s going in. It’s gone 2 a.m. so it shouldn’t be, but Zayn isn’t surprised to find it is because it doesn’t look like the sort of place to abide by licensing laws.

The bar isn’t busy as such – especially not compared to some of the bars downtown where you can’t even get close enough to the bar to order anything – but it’s busier than Zayn expected. He holds his breath as he walks in, but when he’s brave enough to lift his chin, he’s surprised to find that most of the people in there look like him. South by Southwest truly is the hipster invasion because the bar, which is exactly how he imagined it would be, complete with a pool table, a neon green shamrock and a sign that reads, SOUP OF THE DAY: JIM BEAM, is dotted with people his age in fedoras and plaid shirts. It’s oddly comforting, especially when he passes a table of friends who are laughing, obviously still buzzing from their last gig and the long walk back to the motel. There’s even a woman in the corner tapping furiously on her laptop, no doubt trying to get something to her editor before 9 a.m. as well. He recognises her – she’s from the NME, he thinks – but he doesn’t know her well enough to approach her, which is confirmed when she nods at him then looks back down at her screen.

So Zayn sits on one of the black vinyl stools at the bar. He’s the only one there, which is good because he doesn’t need the distraction. So when the bartender who, with his thick beard and tattoos looks like something from a Patrick Swayze film, approaches, Zayn does the sensible thing and asks for a glass of water. ‘Having engine trouble, brother?’ It takes a moment to realise what the bartender is saying but Zayn smiles as he remembers doing the same thing in that pub in Newcastle after a gig at The Cluny when he ordered a water and the woman behind the bar asked him if his car radiator was overheating. So he chuckles and orders a Jack and Coke, which he doesn’t drink as he rushes to get his piece done.

It’s pure gibberish, he’s sure, but at least it’s in and Zayn can finally get some kip. But it isn’t until he’s walking back to the motel and wondering if mercurial is the right word to describe an electronica band from Connecticut that he realises what an idiot he is and stops dead in the middle of the car park. There he is, scrabbling around to make the gig sound like Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and Harry Styles is passed out on his bed.

Harry Styles.

What was he thinking? His editor will kill him if he finds out – actually kill him dead – because Harry only features in the tabloids now. He hasn’t done a proper interview for years and what sort of fucking journalist is he because he didn’t even think to ask him for one. He tips his head back and groans as he realises that this is the story he’s going to be telling in ten years, the one about the time he had Harry Styles in his bed and left him there. So when he walks back into his room to find him still asleep, he has to stop himself cheering.

Zayn goes over and pokes him to check that he’s still breathing (because a story about Harry Styles dying of an overdose in his bed doesn’t quite have the same ring to it) and when he groans, Zayn tiptoes across the room and into the bathroom. When he shuts the door he turns to look at the mirror and asks himself, Okay. So how are we going to play this?

He considers calling his editor to ask what he should do, but he’ll only get his hopes up and promising him an interview he can’t deliver will ensure that he’s writing for the blog forever. So he paces, because that’s what Zayn does when he’s thinking, he paces. There isn’t much room in the bathroom, though, but he does it for long enough to come up with a vague plan to charm Harry with pancakes when he wakes up. But as he’s wondering what he’s going to do until then, the door swings open and hits him on the arm.

‘The fuck you doing in my room, man?’ Harry asks with a furious frown as he wanders in, his voice slow and still sticky with sleep.

It would give Zayn a hard on if he weren’t in blinding pain.

‘This is my room,’ Zayn reminds him, rubbing his arm.

‘Piss off or I’m calling security,’ he hisses, padding over to the toilet.

There he is, Zayn thinks as he watches him, the Harry he’s been warned about. He’d heard Harry was a nasty bastard when he doesn’t get his own way (not that that happens very often anymore) but he thought it was bullshit, all the stories he’d heard about the drinking and drugs and demands. Don’t ask him to sign anything. Don’t ask for a photo. Don’t ask about Sneaker Freaks. Don’t ask about his tattoos. Zayn knows how these things get blown out of proportion. Plus, how could that sweet kid with the clumsy smile who used to make him think that he could do anything grow up to be so vile? But there Harry is, telling him to piss off.

Usually Zayn would tell him to piss off right back but then Harry unzips his jeans and he loses the ability to speak as all he can think is, Don’t look at his dick. Don’t look at his dick. Don’t look at his dick. Don’t look at his dick. But of course he does because when Harry Styles whips his dick out, you look at it. It’s perfect, long and thick, thick enough to make Zayn lick his lips as he imagines how trying to take all of him would tug at the corners of his mouth.

Harry smirks when he catches him looking, making a point of brushing past Zayn when he flushes the toilet and walks over to the sink. ‘If you want to see it again, mate,’ he says, winking at Zayn in the mirror over the sink. ‘You’re gonna have to buy me a drink.’

Then he’s gone. When Zayn recovers enough to be able to walk again, he gets out of the bathroom to find Harry putting on his leather jacket. ‘That’s mine,’ he tells him, but Harry ignores him, patting it to let Zayn know that it’s his now as he strides towards the door.

Zayn snatches the key off the table and follows, still rubbing the building bruise on his arm. Harry’s already halfway across the car park so Zayn trots to catch up and when he does, Harry’s going through his pockets. ‘Smokers are jokers,’ he says with another wink when Zayn snatches his cigarette box out of his hand, but before he can put it in his pocket, Harry pulls out a napkin. ‘Who’s Jake?’ he asks with a curious smile, but Zayn snatches that, too. He’d forgotten it was even in there. He only took Jake’s number to get rid of him (and his wandering hand that kept slipping into the back pocket of Zayn’s jeans while he was trying to watch Petite Noir) so has no intention of calling him, but he suddenly has Harry’s attention, his eyes a little wider – a little brighter – which is more flattering than it should be.

Zayn bites down a smile as they walk across the car park, side by side. The white and red BLATZ sign in the window of the bar is off and when they get closer, Zayn can see that the rest are as well, but when Harry pulls the door, it’s open. ‘We’re closed,’ the bartender says when they walk in, not bothering to look up from the wedge of notes he’s counting. He’s behind the bar with only the light over the pool table on so everything has a slightly greenish tinge. It makes him look even more menacing but Harry is undeterred, walking towards him. ‘No you’re not,’ he says with a sniff, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a handful of crumpled notes. When the guy stops counting and reaches under the bar, Zayn’s heart stops, sure that he’s about to pull out a shotgun, but he drops a set of keys on the bar in front of Harry. ‘Leave the keys with Darlene when you’re done,’ he says, nodding towards the motel and with that, he’s gone, leaving Zayn alone with Harry in the empty bar.

A Sam Cooke song starts playing, his voice quiet and tender, like the last cigarette of the day, and Zayn’s legs suddenly don’t feel as steady as he walks towards Harry. He’s fiddling with his phone and when Zayn gets to him, he holds his hand out. ‘My phone’s dead,’ he says, which Zayn supposes is Harry for, My phone’s dead, can I borrow yours, please? Zayn ignores him, and when he does, Harry stares at him. ‘Dude, I need to call my manager to get me out of this shithole.’ He holds out his hand as if to say, Come on, but when Zayn nods at the payphone in the corner he says, ‘Give me a quarter, then.’

Zayn gives him a look that lets him know that he isn’t getting shit and when he climbs onto one of the barstools, he sees the corners of Harry’s mouth twitch. He’s testing him, Zayn knows, pushing him to see how much he can get away with like a toddler with a new babysitter. ‘Fine.’ Harry nods across the bar. ‘I’ll have a Jack and Coke, no Coke.’ Zayn tilts his head at him, and Harry does smile then – slow and wicked – as he walks behind the bar.

‘I’ve never been behind a bar before,’ he says, shrugging off Zayn’s jacket.

‘What? Never?’

‘Nope.’ He throws the jacket on the bar and rolls up the sleeve of his black t-shirt to expose the G tattooed on his shoulder. ‘We were playing pubs when I was too young to drink in them.’

‘That’s sad.’

Zayn doesn’t realise he’s said it out loud until Harry frowns. ‘Why?’

‘You haven’t done any of that normal stuff.’

‘What normal stuff?’

‘I dunno.’ Zayn shrugs. ‘Working in a pub and going to uni and living in a house with six other people and fighting over whose turn it is to buy bog roll.’

‘I do normal stuff.’

‘Like what?’

‘Like this.’

‘This isn’t normal.’ Zayn laughs. ‘You know this isn’t normal, right? Bars don’t just stay open because you want them to.’

Harry licks his lips and smiles. ‘They do for me.’

‘You wouldn’t know normal if it bit you on the arse.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘When was the last time you did a load of washing?’ When Harry rolls his eyes, Zayn points across the bar at him. ‘How much does a pint of milk cost?’

‘Who gives a shit?’

‘Come on, Styles. Humour me.’

‘I dunno. £5.’

‘You think a pint of milk costs £5?’

‘All right. £3.’

‘No wonder you’re such an asshole.’ Zayn shakes his head at him. ‘You’ve lost all sense of reality.’

Harry pretends to be offended, but Zayn can tell he’s amused. ‘Excuse me?’

‘You know you’re an asshole, Styles. Deaf people and dogs know you’re an asshole.’

‘Am I?’

‘So far tonight, you’ve told me to piss off out of my own room,’ Zayn counts off each thing on his fingers, ‘taken my leather jacket and talked to me like I’m your fucking lackey.’

Harry smiles, clearly not sorry at all. ‘People usually do what I tell them.’

‘I’m not people.’

‘What are you then?’

‘Not your sort of people.’

‘What’s my sort of people?’

‘The sort of people who let you talk to them as if they’re your fucking lackey.’

‘You’d be surprised what you’d do for me if I asked.’

‘You’d be surprised what you’d do for me if I told you to.’

Zayn’s heart is beating so hard he can feel it in his fingers. Harry’s must be too, because he hears him suck in a breath, but Harry shakes his head. ‘I don’t do as I’m told.’

‘You will for me.’

There’s a moment of silence as they look at each other across the bar and Zayn can feel his heart in his throat now, fluttering wildly like a trapped bird. But then Harry throws his head back and laughs and when he looks at Zayn again, his pupils are black.

‘What are you going to make me do?’

‘Let’s start with a drink.’

When Harry hesitates, Zayn’s sure he’s going to tell him to piss off again, but to his surprise, he turns and takes the bottle of Jack Daniels from one of the shelves behind the bar then reaches under it for two shots glasses. He licks away a smirk as he puts them down in front of Zayn and when he’s filled each one, Zayn takes one and raises it as if to say, Cheers.

‘It’s been a while since anyone spoke to me like this,’ he says as he knocks it back.

‘Yeah?’ Zayn puts the glass down and pushes it towards him. He doesn’t even want another one, just wants to know if Harry’ll do it and when he does, he feels his cheeks flush.

‘Just my sister.’

‘Wanna know the best bit?’ Zayn smiles sweetly. ‘You don’t even know my name.’

Harry shakes his head and smiles as if to say, Touché.

‘You got any sisters?’ he asks as Zayn downs the shot. He shouldn’t have, because it makes his head is spin. When he holds up three fingers, Harry nods. ‘That explains a lot.’

Zayn wipes his mouth with his hand. ‘About how I know how to deal with divas?’

Harry smiles again. He’s enjoying this, Zayn knows. He is, too, as he swallows back a giggle and taps the rim of his shot glass with his finger.

Harry holds up a finger. ‘You gotta earn this one.’

‘Yeah?’

‘Twenty questions. If you refuse to answer, you have to take a shot.’

‘What are we, thirteen?’

‘I’ve never played it before.’

‘Are you guilting me into playing twenty questions?’

‘Maybe.’

‘Okay. But you have to answer them, too.’

Harry nods. ‘We’ll take it in turns.’

‘You should know, though,’ Zayn stops to look at him from under his eyelashes, holding his gaze for a moment longer than is comfortable, ‘I’m a journalist.’

Harry gasps theatrically and Zayn can tell from the way his eyes get brighter that it’s not because he’s surprised; it makes it more of a challenge.

‘Who do you write for?’

The Guardian.’

The Guardian,’ Harry repeats, eyes wide as if to say, Get you.

‘The blog,’ Zayn adds.

‘How long you been working there?’

‘A few months. Since I graduated.’

‘Where did you go to uni?’

‘Manchester.’

‘So are you living in London now?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Whereabouts?’

‘Hackney,’ Zayn says then frowns. ‘Hey! I thought we were taking it in turns?’

Harry shrugs, clearly unrepentant.

‘That was like ten of your twenty questions, Styles.’

Zayn points at him across the bar and Harry looks down at his finger as though he’s going to bite it, but thinks better of it and refills his glass.

‘Okay.’ He puts the bottle down with a smile. ‘First question-’

‘You just asked about ten,’ Zayn interrupts.

‘They didn’t count.’

‘That isn’t fair.’

‘It’s my game.’

‘Fine,’ Zayn concedes for the first time and Harry notes it with another smug smirk.

‘When was the last time you cried?’

‘I thought you were gonna start with something easy.’

‘Like what?’

‘Like, I dunno, my name.’

‘Fine.’ Harry chuckles happily. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Zayn.’

‘Zayn,’ Harry repeats as though he’s tasting it.

‘My turn,’ he says with a playful smile. ‘When was the last time you cried?’

When Harry laughs, Zayn doesn’t think he’ll answer, but he lifts his shoulder then lets it drop. ‘Last night, actually. When we played the Alamodome.’

‘That’d probably make me cry too.’

‘It wasn’t because of that, though.’ Harry avoids his gaze, tracing the rim of his shot glass with the tip of his finger. ‘The last time we were in San Antonio we played Boneshakers.’

‘Yeah, but that’s a good thing, right? The Alamodome’s a fucking stadium.’

‘I know.’ Harry dips his finger into the whiskey then licks it. ‘But I didn’t feel anything. I looked out at the crowd and I couldn’t see anyone, just a blur. We could’ve been anywhere.’

‘Do you miss it?’

‘What?’

‘The smaller venues?’

‘‘Course. Feels like a hundred years since we played somewhere that didn’t feel like an airport hanger, though.’

Zayn gets that because it feels like a hundred years ago to him, too. He’s never loved anyone like he loved 17 Black. There are better bands, bands that changed things – who changed him – but he doesn’t love any of them the way he used to love them, with utter, uncontainable adoration. Zayn’s about to tell him that, tell him about the first time he saw them at The Night and Day Café in Manchester, about how he had his first kiss to Wanderlost and thought of him the whole time, about how being so close to him after all this time is making his chin tremble and the edges of his heart soften, but Harry winks at him.

‘My turn. Did you like looking at my dick?’

He sniggers like a school boy and Zayn knows what he’s doing, Harry’s said too much too soon so he’s trying make light of it, steer the conversation back to something sillier.

‘You have a nice dick,’ Zayn tells him, because he also knows that’s Harry’s way of asking if he’s gay and he’s not going to make the same mistake of saying too much too soon.

‘Nice?’

‘I’ve seen better.’

Harry’s cheeks flush at the challenge. ‘Wanna suck it?’ Harry says and Zayn smiles, letting him know that he’s needs to wait his turn to ask that, but he adds, ‘I’d let you suck it.’

Zayn shivers but isn’t knocked off course. ‘Who last broke your heart?’

‘I don’t have a heart.’ Zayn’s about to tell him to take the shot when Harry sighs, ‘Her name was Miranda Austin. We grew up together. She drove me to rehearsals and helped schlep our equipment to gigs and bought me the train ticket to London when the A&R guy from Sony called, asking to meet. That’s who Wanderlost is about.’

Zayn feels a sudden stab of jealousy and it’s like tripping up on the curb. ‘Yeah?’

‘Except it’s not.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It’s about me, I guess.’ Harry puts his hand in his hair. ‘Miranda knows what she wants. She wants to get married and have kids and live in a house with school photos on the walls and toys in the garden and I don’t know what I want, I just know that I don’t want that.’

‘I thought you wanted this?’

‘I did, too.’

‘Come on, Styles.’ Zayn tilts his head at him. ‘You fucking love it.’

Harry fists his hand in his hair and shrugs. ‘Do I?’

‘I’ve seen you on stage. You’re the perfect rock star. You were born for this.’

‘Maybe.’

‘Maybe? So you didn’t love headlining Glastonbury or working with Bowie?’

‘‘Course, but it isn’t all headlining Glastonbury and working with Bowie, you know.’

‘Harry, please! You’re full of shit. I’ve seen your rider.’ Harry dips his head and smirks. ‘142 peonies, linen napkins not paper, one bowl of M&Ms, yellow ones removed.’

‘What?’ Harry tries not to laugh and fails. ‘I get bored on tour.’

‘You’re an asshole.’

‘Hey! This was supposed to be about how Miranda Austin broke my heart.’

‘Fine.’ Zayn humours him. ‘So how did Miranda Austin break your heart?’

‘I know what you’re thinking.’

‘What am I thinking?’

‘That I dumped her as soon as I got famous.’

‘Nah. I was thinking that you dumped her because she forgot to remove all the yellow M&Ms.’ He grins, but when Harry doesn’t, he softens. ‘What happened?’

‘She didn’t wait.’

Zayn watches his Adam’s apple rise and fall in his throat as Harry licks his lips and swallows and it’s all he can do not to reach across the bar and touch it with his finger.

‘Who was your first love?’ Harry says, changing the subject.

You, Zayn almost says, but he looks into his glass

‘Andy Junot.’

‘Andy Junot?’ Harry notes the Andy, but there’s no trace of amusement in his voice, just gentle curiosity, as though he’s a kid touching something he’s afraid of breaking.

‘Yeah. We met when I was sixteen at a gig in Manchester.’

‘Where?’

‘The Night and Day Café.’

Zayn rubs his mouth with his fingers so that he doesn’t have to look at him, but of course he does and Harry is smiling clumsily. ‘We played our first gig there.’

‘Yeah?’

‘I used to go the Night and Day Café all the time and we’re meeting in Texas.’

‘Maybe we did.’

‘Did what?’

‘Meet at the Night and Day Café.’

Zayn doesn’t look at him as he thinks about all of those gigs when he elbowed his way to the front, breathless for a glimpse of him, and Harry doesn’t even know.

‘We didn’t.’

Zayn still isn’t brave enough to look at him, his cheeks stinging. ‘How do you know?’

‘I would have remembered.’

When Zayn finally lifts his eyelashes, Harry’s smiling. Not grinning or smirking in that filthy way that makes Zayn’s skin feel too tight, but really smiling, his face suddenly an open window. They’re going to fuck, Zayn’s 90% sure of it. Okay, maybe 85% – Harry is law unto himself, after all – but Zayn’s done this enough times with enough guys with dirty fingernails and the smell of curiosity and whiskey on their breath to know that much. He’s surprised because Harry Styles is the poster child for heterosexuality, a serial shagger whose schlong, it’s said, deserves a knighthood for it’s tireless work in the entertainment industry. But then Harry keeps licking his lips and Zayn keeps noticing that he’s licking his lips and their hands keep inching closer across the bar so the tips of their fingers are almost touching.

And yeah, they’re totally going to do it.

‘My turn.’ Zayn points at him. ‘How did you get that scar?’

Harry touches his chin. ‘Tried to climb a tree and failed.’

‘How old were you?’

‘Nineteen.’

Zayn chuckles. He likes how it feels, the tickle of it in his chest.

‘What does your tat mean?’ Harry nods at him and it takes Zayn a second to realise that the collar of his t-shirt has ridden down enough to expose his collarbone.

He traces it with his finger. ‘It’s Arabic for Walter, my granddad’s name.’

Harry doesn’t say anything, just nods.

‘What do the swallows mean?’

‘Sailors used to get them done. They’d have one done before they left,’ Harry presses his finger to the spot the right swallow is under his t-shirt, ‘and the second done the day they got back.’ He touches the one on the left. ‘They thought it guaranteed the sailors safe return.’

‘How much do you want to make a seaman pun right now?’

‘So bad!’

They laugh and Zayn doesn’t know if it’s the booze or Harry but his head spins.

‘Speaking of seaman,’ Harry says with a lascivious wink. ‘Spit or swallow?’

He’s doing it again, flying away like a bird when you try to take a photo of it.

Zayn doesn’t humour him this time. ‘Depends.’

‘On what?’

‘The guy.’

‘Would you swallow for me?’

‘If it tastes like Jack Daniels.’

Zayn smiles sweetly and holds up his glass.

But Harry is undeterred and reaches for the bottle. ‘Open your mouth.’

‘What is this? Spring break?’ Zayn puts his glass back on the bar.

‘Come on it’ll be fun.’

When he waggles his eyebrows at him, Zayn almost tells him that if he wants to kiss him, just kiss him, but he can’t lie, he’s enjoying Harry’s efforts, cheesy as they are. So he does as he’s told. He closes his eyes as he waits for Harry to lean across the bar, his wrist grazing Zayn’s chin as he pours some of the Jack Daniels into Zayn’s open mouth. The splash of it shouldn’t be a shock, but it is and Zayn swallows hard, trying to catch a drop that slips from the corner of his mouth with his tongue. He doesn’t, though, and lets his chin drop to catch it with his finger. He does it so quickly it makes him lightheaded. Or maybe that’s the booze. And maybe it’s the booze that has him making a show of wiping his mouth with his fingers, his thumb sweeping along his bottom lip before he stops to lick it.

Or maybe that’s for Harry.

It’s noted, his pupils even blacker as Zayn licks his lips one last time.

‘My turn,’ Zayn says when he does. ‘Who was the last person you kissed?’

‘Like fuck I remember that!’ Zayn arches an eyebrow at him and when he does, Harry bites down on his lip and smiles. ‘But I know who the next person I’m going to kiss is, though.’

Zayn rolls his eyes. ‘Smooth, Styles.’

‘Who said it was you?’

‘It’s me.’ Zayn reaches over and takes the bottle from him.

‘Really?’

‘Yeah.’

‘What makes you so sure?’

Zayn raises the bottle to him then tips his head back to pour some of the Jack Daniels into his mouth. He can feel Harry watching him as he does it, waiting for him to swallow, but Zayn doesn’t. He closes his lips, holding the whiskey in his mouth as he lowers his chin to look at Harry. He gestures at him to lean over the bar. Harry hesitates, but his eyes are alight and when Zayn climbs off the stool and gestures at him again, he does as he’s told.

Zayn hasn’t done this since he was seventeen. It should feel silly – the sort of thing teenagers do at parties, like Spin the Bottle and Have You Ever? – but it doesn’t feel silly at all when their lips touch and Zayn passes the warm whiskey into Harry’s mouth. He moves his head back so that he can watch Harry swallow it, and when he does, Zayn brings his hand up and swipes his thumb across Harry’s mouth. It makes Harry’s breath catch in his throat – Zayn hears it – and his eyelashes flutter and he waits.

Zayn knows that Harry wants him to kiss him first. His hand is still cupping Harry’s cheek so he can feel how hot it is, can hear how hard he’s breathing, but Zayn can be an asshole when he wants to be too. So he sweeps the pad of his thumb across Harry’s bottom lip again, but this time, Harry’s tongue slides out to lick it and when he does, Zayn slips it into his mouth his stomach flipping when Harry starts to suck. The tips of their noses are touching now, their faces so close that Harry’s is just a blur, but Zayn can feel his hair against his cheek and the heat of his tongue curling around his thumb, but he refuses to give in.

When he pulls his hand away, his thumb slipping out of Harry’s mouth with a wet POP, Harry grabs his wrist and tugs him back towards him. Their mouths almost collide over the bar, but Zayn makes sure they don’t, pulling back a little so Harry has to come to him and when he does, the force of it is enough to make every bone in Zayn’s body shiver. Harry lets go of Zayn’s wrist to cup the back of his neck, pulling him closer. He opens his mouth to Zayn straight away, groaning when their tongues touch. When Zayn doesn’t too, Harry brings his other hand up to pull Zayn’s hair until he does and Zayn finally lets go.

It’s breathless and kind of sloppy, both of them on tip toes. The edge of the bar is digging painfully into Zayn’s stomach, making it even harder to breathe, and it must be doing the same to Harry because he lets go of him with a breathless, Fuck this and peels his mouth away. Zayn hears the bottle of Jack Daniels fall out of his hand and onto the bar as Harry starts climbing towards him. He steps back to give him some room, Harry sending one of the shot glasses flying with his knee as he clambers up on to the bar. Zayn can hear himself panting as he takes another step back, thinking he’s going to jump down, but Harry sits on the edge of the bar and puts his legs around Zayn’s waist, pulling him towards him.

Their mouths do collide this time and it’s stunning in every sense of the word, like a blow to the head or looking up at the sun or biting a bolt of lightning and feeling the buzz of it his teeth. Zayn doesn’t just see stars, he sees stars and moons, sees the edge of the earth and the end of time and whatever other fucking metaphor he can think of that describes how kissing Harry was like tasting the sky. Not just tasting it but drinking it, gulping it down until his blood is blue and his lungs are clouds and his heart is a ball of fire in his chest.

It makes him feel superhuman. He must be to lift Harry off the bar like that and carry him over to the pool table. When he sets him down on the edge, Zayn doesn’t even know how he does it without breaking their kiss, not with his skinny legs. But he doesn’t break them either as he kisses Harry until he can’t any more, until Harry is falling back onto the pool table and Zayn is between his legs, pushing up Harry’s t-shirt to mouth his chest instead.

It’s strange, seeing this body that he knows so well, Harry’s tattoos and tea coloured nipples and the sharp V lines that meet somewhere under his black jeans. He’s thought about this so many times, in the shower when he’s breathless and blindly fisting himself, or when he was with Andy and he couldn’t get off without thinking about coming on Harry’s face. But now it’s happening he doesn’t know what to do with his hands, his mouth. He wants to kiss him everywhere, to lick a line across his hard stomach and bite the soft skin on his hips.

‘You like that?’ he says into Harry’s skin because he wants to know – needs to know – but when he doesn’t answer, he lets his front teeth catch on his nipple. Harry hisses, his whole body twisting as Zayn takes his nipple between his teeth and tugs. Gently, but just enough to make Harry say his name when he does. It makes Zayn’s cock twitch in his jeans and he almost unbuttons them because Jesus fucking Christ what’s wrong with him? He’s about to come just from sucking Harry’s nipple. But then Harry arches his back and says his name again and Zayn’s hand finds his other nipple, circling it with his thumb until he feels it harden. When he does, he sweeps his mouth over the swallows tattooed on Harry’s chest and licks that one, too, his tongue circling it while he pinches Harry’s other nipple between his finger and thumb. That makes Harry squirm and gasp, Fuck me, so Zayn does it again, pinching a little harder this time, so hard that his nipple goes red.

‘Fucking get in me,’ Harry says when he’s caught his breath. His eyes are half closed and his cheeks so flushed that it’s all Zayn can do not to bend him over the pool table and fuck him until the only thing he can say is Zayn’s name. He wants to. He wants to pull Harry’s hair and bite his shoulder, make him pant and swear, make his skin weep and his legs weak, and he will, but he’s enjoying this, lapping at his nipples while Harry wriggles with delight.

‘Please,’ Harry pants. He doesn’t have to beg but Zayn likes the sound of it, likes how weak his voice is and wet is mouth is. ‘Please,’ he says again. It’s a word he hasn’t said in a while, Zayn’s sure, and he likes that too, likes how vulnerable he looks – how desperate – when Zayn cups the crotch of his jeans with his hand and Harry grinds into his palm.

‘I don’t even need to touch you and you’d come.’ Zayn doesn’t mean to smile, but he can’t help it as Harry closes his eyes and turns his cheek away. But he doesn’t stop rolling his hips, the light over the pool table catching on his sweaty skin so he looks like he’s made of glass. ‘Come on, get yourself off,’ Zayn tells him as Harry thrusts into palm. He gives his cock a gentle squeeze through his jeans, and Zayn can’t help that, either, or the way his lips part when Harry shudders. He brings his hand up to cover Zayn’s, holding it there as he rolls his hips, but Zayn pulls away. ‘Put your hands over your head.’ To his dismay, Harry does as he’s told, reaching up to grab the edge of the pool table and Zayn almost comes himself.

‘Always get what you want, don’t you, Harry?’ he says, looking down at him on the middle of the pool table, arms over his head and his feet flat, knees beant as he rolls his hips over and over, grinding against the zip of his jeans. Zayn shouldn’t, he knows, but he reaches down to sweep his hand across Harry’s stomach. He feels his muscles clench and he lifts his hips with a whimper when Zayn slips the tips of his fingers under the waistband of his jeans. He gets as far as the elastic of his underwear then stops, Harry whimpering again – even needier this time – as Zayn pulls his hand away. ‘Well, you’re not going to get me.’

When he looks at Harry, he’s frowning fiercely as if to say, Yes I will and he’s right but he doesn’t need to know that just yet. So Zayn straightens, Harry’s gaze following him as he walks around the side of the pool table to stand near his head. The muscles in Harry’s stomach clench again when Zayn strokes it with his hand, Harry’s eyes still on Zayn’s as he moves it up his chest. His skin is pink and sticky, his nipples tight and his tattoos even blacker under the sweat, like they’ve just been done. Zayn stops to press his finger to one of the swallows under Harry’s collarbones and when his hand moves up to his neck, Harry sucks in a breath, his hips stilling as Zayn squeezes it. Not hard, but just enough to feel the stuttered bat, bat, bat of his pulse against his thumb as he takes Harry’s face in his hand.

‘You gonna fuck me or what?’ Harry says when he does, his frown even fiercer.

‘Anyone ever told you that you have a dirty mouth?’

Zayn smiles, dragging his thumb across his bottom lip. Harry sticks his tongue out to lick it so Zayn pushes it into his mouth, choking back a gasp as Harry sucks on it.

‘Is that what you want me to do to you?’ he asks. When Harry nods, he says, ‘Show me.’ So Harry does, his cheeks hollowing as he closes his eyes and sucks Zayn’s thumb deeper into his mouth. ‘Don’t even need to touch you,’ Zayn reminds him. ‘Gonna get off on the promise of it, aren’t you?’ Harry shakes his head. ‘Wanna suck my dick like that?’ Harry nods this time. ‘Been thinking about it, haven’t you? Wanna know if I’m cut, don’t you?’

Harry opens his eyes again, his knuckles white as he clings onto the edge of the pool table. His hips are rolling steadily. The friction of the zip of his jeans digging into him must be driving him nuts. It looks as if it is, Harry’s cheeks flushed and his hairline silvered with sweat as he sucks Zayn’s thumb so hard it hurts. ‘That’s it,’ Zayn breathes, the inside of his mouth unbearably soft. Harry bites down when he comes, his whole body shuddering, and that should hurt too, but the sight of him is almost enough to make Zayn come in his pants as well.

Harry’s bucking so much that he doesn’t hear Zayn undoing his jeans so when Zayn pulls his thumb out of his mouth he gasps, his mouth opening enough for Zayn to slide into his mouth. Harry groans greedily as Zayn feeds him his cock, his hips bucking as though he’s going to come again when Zayn starts fucking his mouth. The sound is obscene, loud and wet, Harry gagging desperately. Zayn thinks it’s too much, but when he tries to ease back, Harry’s head follows so he can keep sucking him. It feels so good that Zayn puts his hand on the side of Harry’s face and presses his cheek into the pool table. ‘Fucking take it,’ he pants, thrusting into his mouth, and he does, the muscles in Harry’s arms straining as he tries to keep his grip on the edge of the pool table. The hum of Harry moaning around his cock is driving Zayn fucking nuts. He’s so close, so close. One more thrust. One more. One more.

Then he’s stepping back and telling Harry to stick out his tongue as he fists himself. But Harry presses his lips shut and closes his eyes. Zayn takes the hint, letting the first stripe land across Harry’s mouth. Zayn isn’t able to control it then as he closes his eyes and throws his head back, saying Harry’s name again and again as he comes.

 

+++

 

Zayn fucks his mouth until it’s passed, until he’s too weak to even move his hips. Then he steps back and wipes his forehead with the back of his hand as Harry does the same with his mouth. It’s no use though Harry’s face a mess, so Zayn reaches down to tug at the hem of his t-shirt, which is pushed up as far as it will go so it’s gathered under his armpits. ‘Here,’ Zayn breathes and Harry lets go of the edge of the pool table and lifts his shoulders so Zayn can peel the t-shirt off. When he does, he wipes Harry’s face and hair with it, before leaning down to give his nipple one last bite. Harry giggles when he does, covering it with his hand as he sits up with a satisfied sigh. He closes his eyes and leans down to kiss Zayn, his tongue slow and familiar in his mouth. He groans when Zayn steps back and says, ‘Come on’ but doesn’t question him as Zayn takes another step back from the pool table to button up his jeans.

 

+++

 

They remember to lock up which is a miracle given the state they’re in, Harry topless, his black t-shirt tucked into the back pocket of his jeans as they kiss walk back to the motel. They’re not even looking where they’re going, stepping on one another’s toes as they somehow navigate through the car park to Zayn’s door.

‘Hurry up,’ Harry whines, biting the back of Zayn’s neck as he struggles to get the door open. ‘I need you in me so bad.’ He nuzzles him this time as he tries to slip his hand down the front of Zayn’s jeans. Zayn almost drops the keys, but somehow manages to get the door open, then Harry’s mouth is on his again, his tongue slipping over his as they stumble towards the bed. When they get to it, Zayn peels his mouth away and pushes Harry onto it. He lands with a bounce, but when he recovers, his hands go to the front of Zayn’s jeans.

Zayn stops him, taking another step back. ‘What do you want, Harry? Tell me.’

‘You.’

‘Tell me.’ Zayn puts his hand in Harry’s hair and tugs his head back so Harry looks at him, not his crotch, and Harry gasps, delighted.

‘You.’ Zayn pulls his hair a little harder this time. Harry grins. ‘Your cock.’

‘Yeah?’

‘In my mouth.’

‘Yeah? Did you like getting your mouth fucked?’

Harry nods.

‘Want me to fuck your ass like that?’

When Harry nods again, he looks up at him, all big eyes and pink cheeks.

‘No,’ Zayn says nonchalantly, even though he feels anything but.

Harry blinks at him when Zayn lets go of his hair. ‘What?’

He can feel Harry watching him as he walks across to the armchair in the corner by the window. Before he sits down, he adjusts it so it’s facing the mirror, takes his phone out of his back pocket and sets it down neatly on the table then does the same with his wallet and his cigarettes. When they’re in a neat row, he hears Harry say, ‘But Zayn.’

‘If you want it,’ Zayn tells him, turning to sit down. ‘Come and get it.’

Harry’s on his feet before Zayn can light a cigarette.

‘Take your clothes off,’ Zayn tells him, taking a drag then blowing smoke rings into the space between them. Harry sticks his finger through each one as he walks towards him, and when he’s in front of him, he makes a show of getting undressed slowly. Not that he has much to take off, but there’s enough to make Zayn’s dick stir in his jeans again.

When he’s done, he stands proudly in front of Zayn and rightly so. Even with his awful tattoos that Zayn has laughed at so many times, he’s beautiful, his skin still pink and sticky and his nipples tightening under the heat of Zayn’s gaze. But then he’s always been kind of partial to his body, even if he doesn’t quite understand it, Harry, always the contradiction, a maddening mix of lines and curves, from his protruding collarbones to the swell of his hips.

Harry’s stroking his cock but the look Zayn gives him is enough to make him stop as Zayn spreads his legs points to the floor. He doesn’t need too say it – Get on your knees – because Harry already is, but he likes the way it sounds, likes how firm his voice is. ‘What you waiting for?’ he asks when Harry kneels between his legs and looks up at him, waiting for his next instruction. Harry doesn’t have to be told twice, but when he peels Zayn’s jeans open and takes his cock in his hand, he doesn’t start going at it, like Zayn thought he would, he takes his time, sucking him slowly – almost lovingly – while Zayn smokes his cigarette.

It doesn’t take much to make him hard, Harry’s hair almost as soft as his mouth as it falls across his stomach. When he sweeps it away with his other hand so that he can watch Harry’s lips stretched around him, he wants to pull his hair, make him whimper, but Zayn catches himself playing with it, twirling it around his finger as he smokes his cigarette and tells him how good he is. Harry deepthroats him then and the shock of it is enough to make Zayn hiss and thrust up. Harry gags, coughing as he pulls back, a silver thread of saliva still connecting the tip of Zayn’s cock to Harry’s bottom lip. But as Zayn’s cooing at him, his hand on the back of Harry’s head as he tries to ease back into his mouth, Harry looks up.

‘Got anything?’ he asks and Zayn’s glad one of them is thinking about that because he probably would have fucked him raw just so that there was no space between them, not even a condom. Zayn stubs out his cigarette and reaches for his wallet, flipping it open and taking out the condom he keeps in there with the receipts and loose change. When he looks up again, Harry is on his feet and leaning down towards him. Their mouths meet in another slow, deep kiss as Harry kneels on the armchair – one knee on either side of Zayn’s hips – and God he tastes good, like Jack Daniels and him and something else, something that has Zayn reaching around to cup Harry’s ass with both hands. When he does, Harry breaks their kiss to reach back for Zayn’s left wrist pulling it away. Zayn stops, thinking he doesn’t want to touch him there, but Harry brings Zayn’s hand up to his mouth and starts sucking on his middle finger. He maintains eye contact as he does, stopping when it’s wet enough and purring contently when Zayn reaches around and begins to ease his finger inside him.

‘Want this.’ Zayn kisses the warm patch of skin under Harry’s chin. ‘Want this so bad.’

‘Want me?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Want you, too. Want you inside me. Need you inside me.’

‘Gonna fuck you, Harry.’

‘Yeah?’ Harry pants against his mouth when Zayn tries to kiss him. So Zayn kisses his cheek instead then bites his neck.

‘Yeah.’

‘Deep?’

Zayn doesn’t say anything, just pushes his finger into him as far as it will go and holds it there. When Harry arches his back, Zayn could come like this, the two of them grinding into one another and trying to kiss, their mouths, but when Harry starts rolling his hips, fucking himself with Zayn’s finger he can’t.

‘Turn around.’

Harry helps Zayn roll on the condom before doing as he’s told. ‘Sit,’ Zayn tells him when he does, taking his cock in his hand as Harry lowers himself onto it. Harry whines as he does, his head falling forward and Zayn knows it hurts, knows that he should have spent more time opening him up, but God it feels so good. ‘Relax.’ Zayn kisses shoulder. ‘Take a deep breath.’ Harry does and after a few moments, he begins to sink down onto him. Zayn puts his hand on his hip, letting him know to wait, to get used to it, before squeezing it. Harry takes the hint and slowly – slowly – Zayn feels him give way to him until he’s finally inside him. Harry groans with relief and when Zayn looks up to sweep his hand up his back, he catches sight of himself in the mirror and has to bite his lip to stop himself coming.

‘Look up,’ Zayn breathes. Harry does and it’s an effort, Zayn can tell, but when their gaze meets in the mirror, Harry smiles dopily, his cheeks red, and it’s beautiful.

Fucking beautiful.

‘That feel good, babe?’

Harry nods.

‘Like me inside you?’

He nods again.

‘Gonna show me how much?’

‘Yeah,’ Harry pants, his fingers curling around the arms on the chair.

‘Show me.’

Harry lifts himself up with a long groan.

‘Slowly,’ Zayn tells him when he does, hands on his shoulders to stop him tipping forward. ‘That’s it, babe. That’s it,’ Zayn coos when he eases back down onto him.

‘Like that?’

Zayn’s head tips back onto the chair. ‘Yeah. Like that.’

‘You gonna fuck me now?’ Harry asks, looking over his shoulder at him.

Zayn opens his eyes and smiles slowly. ‘Tell me what you want.’

‘For you to fuck me.’

Zayn slaps him on the ass and Harry takes the hint, lifting himself up again.

When he sinks back down onto him, Harry makes eye contact with him in the mirror.

‘Want you.’

‘Want what?’ Zayn asks when Harry stops to lick his lips.

‘Want you to hold me down.’

‘Do you like being held down?’

Harry nods and Zayn slaps him on the ass again, telling him to hurry up. He uses the arms of the armchair to steady himself then inches back down onto Zayn’s cock with a whimper.

‘Answer me.’

Zayn reaches up to pull his hair and Harry whimpers again. ‘Yes.’

‘What else do you like?’

‘Your fingers in my mouth.’

‘Yeah?’

Zayn lifts his left hand, but Harry is already dipping his head to meet it, his mouth open. Harry starts sucking, his mouth warm and wet, and Zayn isn’t sure what happens after that, he just remembers pushing his fingers in so they’re knuckle deep in Harry’s mouth and pulling him back against his chest. His head lolls back onto Zayn’s shoulder as he does, his hands slipping on the arms of the chair as Zayn starts thrusting up, pounding into Harry so hard that he’s panting and moaning around Zayn’s fingers. Then Zayn can’t focus on him any more, or on the mirror. He can’t even hold his head up, only stare up at the ceiling as he fucks Harry. ‘Take it,’ he keeps saying over and over, the room filling with the sound of skin on skin as Zayn fists Harry’s cock with his other hand. He comes first, sudden and messy over Zayn’s knuckles, so Zayn takes his hand out of his mouth so Harry can catch his breath.

‘That’s it, take it. Take it,’ Zayn says through his teeth, letting go of Harry’s cock to grab his hips with both hands. He tries to say it again when he comes, but he can’t as he thrusts up once then twice then three times, his whole body shuddering. Zayn doesn’t even have the energy to kiss him, just lets his mouth fall open so Harry can dip his tongue into it as he moves his hips in careful circles until Zayn’s breathing’s calmed. When it does, Zayn kisses him back, hands on his face, holding him as though he’ll fly away if he doesn’t.

 

+++

 

A few hours later, when he wakes up to find Harry gone, he isn’t surprised, but it hurts more than he thought it would as he kicks back the sheet and goes into the bathroom to wash the smell of him off his skin. When walks back into the bedroom, he can still smell him, on the thin curtains and shitty sheets and he hates himself when it brings a tear to his eye. Zayn can’t look at the chair – his phone, wallet and cigarettes still in a neat row on the table next to it – blindly reaching for his cigarettes and walking away in case the chair smells of Harry too.

He’s about to light one when he hears a truck pulling into the car park. It’s a distinct sound, one he shouldn’t know given that this is the first time he’s travelled further than London, but after mainlining Friday Night Lights last summer he knows the sound well. It’s an old truck – a pick up, probably – it’s door creaking as it opens then slams shut. He’s definitely in Texas now, he thinks, shaking his head, but then there’s a knock on the door and he stops.

He keeps his hand on the front of the towel to secure it as he pads over, unsure who it is but it’s gone eleven so it must be the chambermaid with her trolley, but it’s Harry.

‘Come on,’ he says with a grin when Zayn answers the door.

‘Where?’

Harry doesn’t tell him, just tells him to get dressed. And he doesn’t tell him when they’re in the pick up, either, just smiles to himself as it bounces along a road that Zayn’s pretty sure leads nowhere. But that’s the point, Zayn realises when he finally pulls over and clambers out. They’re in the middle of nowhere, nothing but fields and the midday sun high over their heads, warming Zayn’s scalp as he follows Harry towards the back of the pick up.

He’s brought breakfast – eggs and coffee and donuts – which they eat with their fingers between more questions. (‘Red sauce or brown sauce?’ ‘Favourite Led Zepp album?’ ‘When’s the last time you lied to your mum?’) When they’re done they lie on a blanket at the back of the pick up and look up at the sky.

‘Haven’t seen that in a while,’ Harry says with a contented sigh.

‘Big, isn’t it?’

When Harry doesn’t reply, Zayn turns to look at him to find him asleep, his eyelids fluttering and his hand balled into a fist by his cheek. Zayn must fall asleep, too, because the next time he opens his eyes, he’s curled into Harry, his head on his chest. I knew you had a heart, he thinks, as the sound of it lulls him back to sleep.

 

+++

 

Before Zayn heads back to London he has a swallow tattooed on his hand. It’s not like Harry’s just an outline that Zayn caught himself drawing into the corner of his Moleskine that morning while he waited for Harry to get out of the shower. Harry’s eyes widen when he sees it, then he catches himself and shrugs like it’s no big deal because he really is an asshole.

‘You’re supposed to get the swallow at the start of a journey, not the end,’ he says, making a show of tutting and rolling his eyes, but he’s holding Zayn’s hand like he hasn’t seen him for three months not three hours and Zayn’s not enough of an asshole to tell him that.

So he just shrugs as well. ‘Who says it’s the end?’