They’ve just stopped for petrol when Harry’s phone rings. He’s browsing through the aisles while Louis argues with Liam about the best flavour of Corn Nuts, so Harry ducks down the next aisle to take the call.
“Hiya,” Nick chirps. “Guess who I’ve got on the show next week?”
“Kourtney Kardashian,” Harry says promptly; Nick’s texted him half a dozen times already.
“The best Kardashian,” Nick says happily. “God, d’you think I could get her on Sweat the Small Stuff? Could you imagine?”
“Not really,” Harry says honestly. “How come you never invite me on the show, Grimmy?”
Nick scoffs. “As though they’d let you. You’re proper famous.”
There’s a row of keychains in front of him, all of them glittery and pink and shaped liked Michigan. Harry’s eighty percent sure that they’re in North Carolina.
“You know what I like about America?” he asks, fingering one of the keychains. They have girls names listed on them: Allison, Anna, Ashley, on and on. Harry rifles through them until he finds Nicole and closes his hand around it. Nick hums a little, a small go on. “It’s so big, like. You can travel for days without reaching the other end.”
“Are you high?” Nick asks, sounding honestly curious. “I prefer a stiff drink, myself, but I know what you One Direction boys get up to on tour.”
“Nah,” Harry drawls. His high wore off at least an hour ago. “Do you want a keychain that says Nicole, or a magnet shaped like a goose?”
“Those both sound hideous,” Nick tells him. “Get me the keychain, then, there’s a love.”
Harry grins and pulls it off the rack.
“Do you like me striped shirt better, or the blue one?” Nick asks.
“The paisley blue one?” Harry places the keychain gently on the counter and digs in his pocket for money. He still can’t wrap his head round the fact that all American notes look the same. “I like the striped, I think. Can I steal it when I get back?”
“Sure,” Nick says. He sounds distracted. “I only need it for Friday.”
“I have a date,” Nick says, his voice curling around the word like it’s physically hurting him. “Need to make a good impression, and all that.”
“For Paul?” Harry asks. Nick and Paul have been dating for only a few months, but Harry knows that Nick gets tired of trying to impress his dates after the first week.
“Oh, um, no,” Nick coughs. “He chucked me, actually. It turns out he liked my connections more than he liked me.”
Harry stops in his tracks halfway to the bus. “What a prat,” he says indignantly.
“I quite agree,” Nick says jovially. “The date’s a mate of Sam’s, name of Jaime. Should I get a peanut sauté?”
“You hate dating,” Harry says, frowning into his phone. “Have you ever even been on a blind date before?”
“Or maybe I should get the red curry,” Nick muses.
“Nick,” Harry says. “Why are you going on blind dates?”
“Obviously I’m not choosing the right sort of people on my own,” Nick says flippantly, which means that he’s probably been thinking about this for a while. “Christ, I may as well just date you, innit. You wouldn’t use me for my connections.”
Harry stumbles over the first step of the bus, causing Niall to look up at him from the couch and shake his head in fond exasperation.
“Although, just being seen with me probably makes you less famous,” Nick’s saying. Harry can’t seem to find his balance.
“Shut up,” he says automatically, then can’t think of anything else to say.
“Are you there?” Nick says after a minute. “Is the line dodgy?”
“No,” Harry hastens to say. He climbs into his bunk and closes the curtain, muffling the sounds of Niall playing FIFA. “I’m here. Have you- what was that you were saying about us dating?”
“That’d be a laugh,” Nick says. “Could you imagine the headlines? Gay for Grimmy, oh, I quite like that. Has a nice ring.”
“Nick,” Harry says.
“Should I get the spicy ginger curry?” Nick asks. “Do I even want a curry, now? Have I overthought this?”
“You have prawn crisps in the cupboard above the fridge,” Harry tells him absently. “Would you- it’d be hard, to deal with the paps.”
“Harry,” Nick laughs. “Are you concerned about my fake feelings for our fake relationship?”
Harry can feel himself flushing. “No,” he says slowly.
“I doubt I have crisps,” Nick says. “You haven’t been to my place in ages, they’ve surely been eaten by now.”
“Are you lonely?” Harry asks. Nick’s never been pressed about dating before; Harry wants to know what’s changed.
“Well,” Nick says, a bit awkwardly. “That’s quite a conversation to have at half eight over the phone, but I suppose I am.”
Harry frowns. He knows that Nick doesn’t like to be alone, and that he’s better served with a house full of people rather than a cold flat with nowt but the telly, but he hadn’t thought that Nick was lonely for love. That’s quite a bit different.
“Are you?” Nick asks.
“I’m always surrounded by people,” Harry says. He’s lonely for Nick, but that’s something he’s never admitting, even at half three on an international call.
“Not quite the same,” Nick tells him. Harry shrugs, even though Nick can’t see him.
“I guess not.”
“Well,” Nick says briskly. “I’m quite allergic to having actual feelings whilst on the phone. I’ll leave you to it, popstar.”
“Ring me later,” Harry says. He kicks his feet against the wall and stares up at the too close ceiling.
“So demanding,” Nick teases, and hangs up.
The thing is, Harry’s been gone on Nick for ages. He’s never properly fancied a man before, and had quite a time last year figuring out that he definitely wanted to snog Nick. Louis still takes the piss for those phone calls.
The other thing is, Harry can’t ask that of Nick. He’s gone most of the year, and while long distance works well enough for Zayn and Perrie, or any of the other lads, Nick needs people around. Nick likes to wake up next to his one night stands and make them brekkie, and rings his friends at least five nights out of the week. Harry can’t ask him to purposefully be alone for the majority of a relationship.
He’s also not sure if he’s ready to come out. He doesn’t even know if he’s bisexual, since Nick’s is the only cock he’s interested in seeing. He’s not sure if it’s a lie to say he fancies blokes, too, when he really only wants Nick.
He doesn’t even think that Nick wants him, anyway. Maybe in the beginning, when Harry was still baby fat and dimples, back when sometimes Nick’s gaze would linger too long on his fingers. These days, though, Nick doesn’t spare him a second glance. They’re mates, now, proper mates. Harry doesn’t want to mess that up by spilling his feelings to Nick only to be rejected. Nick’d be nice about it, sure, but Harry knows that afterward things would be awkward and stilted for a good while. He doesn’t want that.
It’s best to forget it, he knows that. Still, he thinks about Nick sitting in his flat, watching the telly while eating lukewarm takeaway, wanting a boyfriend to lean against. Harry can’t help but wish it was him.
found the prawn crisps, Nick texts an hour later.
Harry’ll never get over the feeling of stepping onto stage and hearing thousands of people screaming for him. It’s lost the shock value, but he still catches the eyes of girls in the front rows and thinks, this is all for us. It’s mad.
Still, it’s nearing the end of tour, and Harry’s reached the stretch where it seems like it’ll never end. He wants to sleep in a bed that doesn’t move or smell like generic washing powder; he wants to go for a walk without half a dozen minders telling him when to be back for rehearsal; he wants to go to the gym without having fans congregate around him.
He also feels guilty for wanting these things. He feels a bit like he’s letting his sixteen year old self down, back when he thought that the rush of even having fans would carry him forever.
He’s got a missed call from his mum when he steps off stage. He ignores it to scroll through his Instagram; he and his mum have been playing phone tag for days, it won’t hurt to ring her tomorrow instead of straight away.
Ed’s posted some fan shots, Alexa has a few selfies that make Harry smile, and Collette’s posted a photo of her and Nick with brightly coloured drinks, both pulling a face. Harry can’t stop the expression his own face is making; surely something fond and tired and longing all rolled into one.
“Hazza,” says a whining voice from behind him, and then Louis digs his chin into Harry’s shoulder and wraps a sweaty arm around him. “Stalking Grimmy, I see.”
“It’s not stalking if they’re friends,” Niall says, giving Harry’s ass a nice squeeze as he shoots past them down the hallway.
“Harry’d definitely like to be friendly,” Louis says, then licks Harry’s ear.
“Geroff,” Harry mumbles, not even trying to dislodge Louis. When he starts to walk towards the green room, Louis keeps a tight grip and lets his feet drag a little, making Harry work for every step.
“Sick note at the end, man,” Zayn says, coming up behind them.
“Thank you, thank you,” Louis says with fake modesty. “I am a professional, after all.”
“I meant Harry,” Zayn tells him; Louis squawks and instantly lets go of Harry to jump on Zayn instead.
“Can we try and not break each other before end of tour?” Liam sighs, right behind Zayn, and when Louis rolls his eyes and turns his back, Liam pounces, taking both Zayn and Louis down in a flailing pile of limbs.
Harry sidesteps them and checks Nick’s Instagram; nothing new.
Niall’s already spread eagle on the only sofa in the green room, so Harry sinks to sit on the floor next to it, letting his head fall against the side near Niall’s feet.
“Y’alright, mate?” Niall asks. Harry can barely see his blond hair around the sofa pillows.
“I‘m just tired,” Harry shrugs.
“None of that,” Niall says cheerfully. “There’ll be time for tired when we’re old.”
“What,” Harry says, starting to smile, “live while we’re young?”
Niall snorts. “Pretty sure none of us are getting some tonight.”
“How very dare you,” Louis says from his clinging perch on Liam’s back as they enter the room. “I have a skype date with Eleanor, Niall, I am most definitely getting some.”
“Some of your own hand,” Niall mutters, and Liam leans over Harry to give him a high five. Louis tugs viciously on Liam’s hair until he none too gently drops Louis off his back and next to Harry.
“Hello,” Harry says formally, as Louis scowls. “I think your skype sex tonight sounds lovely.”
Zayn pauses at that as he’s entering the room, his phone in one hand. “I don’t want to know,” he says, not looking up.
They don’t get back to the hotel until late, and Harry’s just brushing his teeth when his room door opens. He pokes his head out to see it’s Niall, already dressed in his threadbare checked pajama bottoms and not much else.
“I’m bushed,” Niall says, throwing himself onto the bed. “Hurry it up, I want to get at least six hours sleep tonight.”
“'re oo seephing heoh?” Harry asks in confusion, toothbrush hanging from his mouth. Niall only quirks an eyebrow at him, so Harry ducks back into the bathroom.
He’s only a few minutes, but Niall’s half asleep by the time he pads over to the bed. “Shove over,” Harry says quietly, trying to gently tug the blanket out from underneath him.
Niall obligingly rolls to one side of the bed, and waits for Harry to get settled before slinging an arm around his bare waist. None of the boys even bat an eye anymore at sleeping next to Harry when he’s nude.
“What’s all this?” Harry asks, flipping the light off. “Did you need a cuddle?”
“Nah,” Niall says. “Thought you might, though.”
Harry frowns. He hasn’t felt any different lately, other than tired. Touring always wears him down near the end, though. “I’m fine.”
“Y’are now,”Niall says cheekily. “Don’t worry, tour’s done soon and then we’ll be home.”
Harry hesitates - home for Harry is ubiquitous - before he softly says, “Yeah.”
“Now shush,” Niall says, flapping his hand near Harry’s mouth, “can’t a man get some shut eye around here?”
Harry closes his eyes and listens to the soft rise and fall of Niall’s even breathing.
It takes him a while to fall asleep.
Hows the date, Harry texts on Friday, while Louis’ getting his earpiece looked at. Something’s off with the sound, but the technicians can’t quite find what it is, so practice is dragging longer than usual.
still on it, Nick texts back after a few minutes.
Do you like him?, Harry sends. Sometimes he feels like a bloody masochist. is he your type?.
It takes Nick only a second to respond this time. I don’t have a type.
Liar, Harry quickly sends. tall, good jawline, dark hair. likes attention.
harold, nicks sends straight away. Harry tries not to feel satisfied that Nick’s paying more attention to him than his date. you’ve just described yourself.
Harry almost drops the phone.
So date me, Harry wants to say. Instead, another text comes in from Nick. or me. or rylan clark. should i date rylan clark?.
too tall, Harry says pettily, then puts his phone away. If Nick asks later, he’ll say that he was needed on stage.
Gone like a knock on the door, Harry tweets later.
“Harry, love,” his mum says, sounding distracted. “Are you coming home on your break? Goodness, it’s coming up soon, isn’t it?”
Harry’s not sure where home is anymore. A few years ago he’d’ve said Holmes Chapel, but now when he visits he gets disorientated; the glasses and plates all fit in the cupboard the same, the baby pictures of him and Gemma hanging in the hallway haven’t ever been changed, and his room is almost exactly as he left it before X-Factor. Nothing’s changed at his mum’s except Harry. He can’t fit himself into the spaces between, anymore.
“I could do,” he says. He’s been planning on going to Los Angeles to write a bit, but the overcast weather and native voices of London seem like a far better option. “Maybe pop up to see you for a few days.”
“We can come to you,” his mum says. “I’ve been wanting to meet this new boy of Gemma’s anyway, has she told you about him?”
She’s off, chattering about how Gemma’s being so secretive, and is Harry hiding a girl away as well, and oh, did Harry hear about Robin’s promotion at work, it happened last month, she could have sworn that she told him.
Harry’s too warm. The hotel room has a thermostat, but it’s all the way next to the toilet and he doesn’t feel like moving from the bed. He wiggles out of his shirt and trousers and sprawls out in nothing but his pants, instead.
“I miss you,” Harry says fondly as she’s winding down. “I might spend a week in California, but I can come back after that.”
“Well,” his mum says, sounding pleased. “Oh, we could have a nice brunch with Nick while we’re there. Do you think he’d mind? It’d be the weekend, so he doesn’t have to worry about his show.”
“I’ll mention it to him,” Harry says. “I’m sure he’d love to, you know how he feels about you.”
“I do,” his mum says dryly. “Sometimes I think I talk to him more than my own son.”
“What?” Harry says, laughing a little. “When do you talk to Nick?”
“He calls me,” his mum says, like this is a completely normal thing that Harry should have known about. “We chat about, oh, every two weeks.”
“Mum,” Harry says.
“I text with Niall and Liam,” his mum continues. “I don’t see how this is much different.”
“So what’s Robin been up to,” Harry says, changing the subject.
Harry’s not sure why it’s different, either, but he knows it is. It feels more important or summat.
The last show of the tour is mad. Liam hoists Niall up on his shoulders - much to the consternation of security and Paddy - and runs up and down the catwalk, Louis upends an entire water bottle over Zayn’s head during his solo, then slips while trying to run away, taking Zayn down with him, and Harry himself gets hit directly in the dick when someone throws a phone on stage.
It’s a good show, despite his throbbing balls, and Harry’s still high on the feeling long after the show’s ended. His flight to California is a red eye, and Louis’ going directly on holiday with Eleanor, his own flight to St. Lucia only an hour after Harry’s, so they stay awake by playing FIFA instead of trying to sleep.
He crashes almost before the plane takes off, and still feels gritty and jittery from sleep when they touch down. His house is empty and cavernous when he steps inside, his footsteps too loud against the smooth wood floor. He wanders from room to room, opening the windows and doors until the entire place is flooded with sunshine.
Los Angeles isn’t quite home, either. Harry thinks it could be, maybe, if he gave it half an effort. He likes California, with the constant sunshine and bustle. Harry can get lost in the city, among the actors and musicians and hangers-on. He’s only there a few months out of the year all-in-all, if even that, but if he stopped half living in London during their breaks he could make a proper go at it. He has mates here, and something to do on a near constant basis.
There’s something that keeps him from fully settling in here during the breaks, though, something other than the boys and meetings and recording. He feels like he’s still trying to find himself, here.
Ed comes over the next day, and brings Athina and Taylor with him. He and Harry spend a good portion of the day writing and fooling around with Ed’s guitar, while Taylor and Athina sit in his back garden and drink some fizzy vodka thing that Taylor made. It’s easy being friends with her, Harry’s found, easier than waking up next to her and thinking something’s missing.
“Harry,” Taylor calls from the garden at half four. “I’m using your kitchen to cook since you haven’t offered us any food yet.”
“Fine,” Harry calls back, then gets distracted by Ed playing a small riff. “Can I record that and send it to Liam? He’ll think it’s sick.”
When he and Ed wander downstairs an hour later, there’s a cooling spinach pie sitting on the counter.
“Oh,” Harry says; Nick is everywhere, and Harry can’t seem to stop noticing. “I’ve only had that once, Grimmy made it for me.”
“Good lad,” Ed says, holding out a loaded plate for Athina to take.
“I’ve met him, yeah?” Athina says. “Wait, isn’t he the one all the papers say Harry was dating?”
“That’s him,” Ed says. Harry only shrugs and takes a piece of pie; he doesn’t think he’s being conspicuous, but Taylor’s giving him a shrewd look.
“I really liked him,” Taylor says, still looking at Harry. He raises his eyebrows and purposefully shoves a large bite into his mouth. “Don’t you like him, Harry?”
“Course he does,” Ed says, “best mates, aren’t they?”
“Thank you, Ed, we are,” Harry says, after a moment’s chewing. Taylor’s sweet, but she also makes up her mind on a moments notice and thinks she’s right about everything. “Have you drank all the vodka, then?” Harry asks her pointedly, and she instantly drops the knowing smirk and wrinkles her nose at him.
“The early bird gets the worm,” she says primly.
“We were working,” Harry whines.
“Something I didn’t see you doing,” Ed says, pointing his fork at Taylor.
“Haven’t you seen my press, I haven’t dated anyone lately to write about,” Taylor jokes, but Harry can see the slight tightness around her eyes. He sidles up to her and gives her a side hug; she rests her head against his shoulder for a brief second before straightening up. “I’m going on a hike tomorrow, Styles. You’re welcome to come.”
Harry shrugs. “Sure.”
They don’t manage to get back to writing after eating; instead, they settle into the back garden and watch the sun set. There’s an thrumming under Harry’s skin, something he can’t shake, something that he knows but doesn’t want to name.
“Your hat is hideous,” Taylor tells him the next day. Harry frowns and tugs on the brim; he thinks he looks nice. “What’s going on with you and Nick Grimshaw?”
Taylor always goes for the jugular.
“Nothing,” Harry protests.
“I have a crush on Ed,” Taylor says without looking at him. “It’s pretty embarrassing, since he’s completely in love with his girlfriend.” She holds a hand up before he can say anything. “I don’t need your pity, I’ve done enough crying about it. There, now I’ve told you mine, you tell me yours.”
“I don’t think it works like that,” Harry says, but Taylor’s looking at him expectantly. “‘s just not fair, is it? To ask him to wait for me while I’m not there.”
Taylor scoffs. “It’s called long distance, Harry, and a lot of people deal with it. That’s why skype exists.”
She makes it sound so simple. Harry looks out at their view, the entire city spread out beneath them. “I don’t think he wants me,” he admits slowly. “That’s not something I can change.”
Taylor hums. “I think,” she says after a second, “that you’re used to people falling over themselves for you.”
“Hey,” Harry protests, stung.
“You’re very charming,” Taylor says, not unkindly. “That’s not a bad thing. I fell for you.”
Harry doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t like thinking about the fact that he’s hurt people, whether purposefully or not. There’s a very fine line that he and Louis don’t ever cross, but sometimes when Harry catches Louis looking at him he’ll turn away, the same way the he’s turning away from Taylor right now.
“What I’m saying is that you normally don’t need to try,” she continues. “Maybe on this you actually have to try.”
Harry takes off his hat and adjusts his topknot. “What if he doesn’t want me after I try?” he asks eventually.
“Then you get your heart broken,” Taylor says. She’s definitely not looking at him now. “That’s life. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?”
Harry watches as another hiker does a double take when she spots him and Taylor. He gives a small wave.
“Let’s get sushi after this,” he says.
“You’re paying,” Taylor says, looking at him with a small smile. He smiles back.
Jeff comes over to watch some golf, and doesn’t leave for the whole week. Harry likes filling up the empty spaces with people; whereas Nick gets bored easily and needs entertaining, Harry feels like he needs people like plants need the sun. He’s not like Zayn, who holes up alone or with Perrie to recuperate himself; Harry feels most alive when he’s around others.
After the plane lands, he can’t help but think that everything in London looks dull and tarnished compared to the brightness of California. Home isn’t his house here. He has too many rooms, with no company to fill it. He drops his bags in the foyer and looks around for a brief moment, before decided to go straight to Nick’s.
Last time he was in London he couldn’t even stay with Nick like normal, because Nick’d been dating a model and had been loved up for most of the visit. Harry hadn’t like the bloke.
He lets himself into Nick’s flat with the emergency key that Nick gave him; the heat’s on, there’s washing up to do in the kitchen, and there’s a small pile of blankets nested on the sofa. Harry already feels better here than at his house. He kicks off his boots and squirms out of his shirt, then falls asleep on the sofa.
He wakes up to something lightly tickling the bottom of his foot, and when he blindly kicks out, his foot stops in midair. He opens his eyes to see Nick standing above him, holding onto Harry’s ankle and looking amused.
“That key was for an emergency,” Nick says, trying to sound stern but failing. Harry flashes his brightest smile, the one that fans fall over themselves for. Nick snorts and drops Harry’s foot.
“It was an emergency,” Harry says, rolling onto his back. “I missed you.”
Nick rolls his eyes. The good thing about Nick is that he’s never really impressed with Harry, and the bad thing about Nick is that he’s never really impressed with Harry.
“Had anymore dates?” Harry asks. He’d meant to save that question for later, possibly have a lead-in, but he can’t take it back now.
“You can safely sleep on my sofa, if that’s what you’re asking,” Nick says. It wasn’t, really, but Harry doesn’t correct him. “C’mon, then. I’m thirsty, you can at least keep me company while I make coffee.”
Harry brightens. “Oh, can I have a cuppa?”
“Haven’t got any tea,” Nick calls over his shoulder. “I can make you some coffee, as well.”
“Sure,” Harry says. He stretches when he stands, then winces when he feels something pop in his back. “Don’t ever let Louis come over, though. He’d have a fit.”
“Why on earth would I have Louis Tomlinson in my flat?” Nick asks. Harry plops down at the table and rests his chin on his hand. “Your bandmate is a twat.”
“Hey,” Harry says slowly, trying to keep his expression serious. “It’s not nice to slag off Zayn like that.”
Nick scoffs. “I’d have Zayn every which way I could in this flat,” he says. Harry knows he’s not serious, mostly; he thinks that everyone wants a go at Zayn at some point in their lives.
“I’ve had him,” Harry says offhandedly, and enjoys the calculating look that Nick levels at him.
“Liar,” Nick says after a moment, dropping to sit across from him. “You’d’ve rang me as soon as it was done.”
“I never would,” Harry argues. “I’d’ve had a nice long cuddle and a properly tender snog.”
“Stop,” Nick groans, waving a hand around. “You’ll give me an inappropriate stiffy at me table.”
Harry would very much like to give Nick appropriate stiffy’s, even at the table, but instead he stands up to collect the mugs out of the cabinets.
“What’re we doing tonight?” he asks, and Nick scoffs.
“What makes you think you’re invited?”
Harry turns around with a frown. “I’m always invited,” he protests with a whine.
“I’ve got a date,” Nick tells him. Harry purposefully turns away from him to add a splash of milk and sugar to the coffee. “But lucky for you, we’re all going to the pub, so you can tag along. I guess.”
Harry kicks at him when he rejoins him at the table, then tangles their legs together. “Sounds great,” he lies.
Nick’s date David is nice. He doesn’t gawk over Harry or try and pretend like he’s too cool to know who he is. Harry dislikes him immediately.
“What’s got your pretty little knickers in a twist?” Collette says, wrapping him in a hug from behind. Her hair tickles at his face.
“Who says my knickers are pretty?” Harry says slyly. Collette laughs.
“Always such a charmer,” she says. “I’m going to the bar, want anything?”
The bar is where Nick and David are sitting, heads pressed together to avoid being heard over the din of Alexa egging Pixie on in a drinking contest. Harry’s been trying to avoid the bar since David put his hand on Nick’s knee fifteen minutes ago.
“Just a pint,” he says gratefully, and Collette throws him a small kiss as she walks away.
Maybe Taylor was right, Harry thinks, maybe everything’s more simple than he’s been making it out to be. Or maybe they’re both wrong, and everything’s harder than he thinks. He only knows that he’s been resting all break and is still tired. He’s tired of wandering from place to place, and of paparazzi watching his every move, and of Nick dating people who aren’t him.
He’s acutely aware of the fact that he’s out with a group of friends that he hasn’t seen in a long while, and he’s pouting at a table in the corner like a bell end.
He catches Daisy by the waist as she passes by, and plops her next to him on the bench while she shrieks with laughter.
“None of that,” she cries. “Hands where I can see them, Styles!”
Harry tries to ignore the way that Nick’s throwing his head back in laughter from across the room. He has no right to be moping about if he doesn’t have the balls to actually do something about it.
Harry catches a cab back to Nick’s , expecting him to be at David’s for the rest of the night, but he’s just bedding down on the couch at half one when Nick comes home.
“Oh,” Nick says in surprise when he spots Harry. “I thought you’d still be out.”
“I could say the same,” Harry says, surveying him. He doesn’t look as though he’s had a quickie or blowie, but Harry knows firsthand that looks can be deceiving.
Nick makes a face and pushes Harry’s blankets off the sofa, sinking to sit next to him. “Nah,” he says.
“You seemed to like him,” Harry says, hating himself for pressing the issue.
“He was a bit dull, innit,” Nick says. He turns his head to look at Harry; in the dim light, he looks tired and drained. Harry feels the same. “I dunno, popstar, I think I’m just tired of it.”
“Tired of what?” Harry asks. He shifts until he’s looking Nick head on.
Nick waves a hand around. “Dating. Being lonely.”
Harry hums a bit. “Seems a bit contradictory,” he says after a second.
Nick huffs a laugh. “I suppose so.” He falls quiet, then says, “I hate all this beginning nonsense. I just want to skip right to the bits where we fight over which way the loo roll faces and which one of us forgot to bung milk in the cart at the shop.”
“Outward,” Harry says. Nick blinks at him. “The loo roll should face outward.”
“Barbarian,” Nick laughs. “Who faces a loo roll outward? Obviously it’s inward. That’s what civilized people do.”
“Nick,” Harry says slowly. “Do you realize we’re fighting about the loo roll.”
Nick closes his eyes, but still smiles a little. “Are you saying we’re at the relationshippy bits, Harold?”
Harry watches him closely. “Did you ever- did you ever think about me?”
“Think about you what?” Nick says. He opens his eyes to look curiously at Harry.
Harry feels like he might be sick; nothing ventured, nothing gained. “Think about dating me.” Nick doesn’t say anything, just stares at him. Harry barrels on. “I thought, in the beginning, you might’ve wanted, well, me. And I heard what you said on your show a little bit ago, about wooing someone with spinach pie, and I thought, I dunno. I thought you might’ve meant me.”
Nick coughs a little. “Harry,” he says. “Harry, I- you can’t woo someone who doesn’t want to be wooed.”
“But why do you think I don’t want to be wooed?” Harry says plainly. He’s going to be sick all across Nick’s nice sofa, and he’ll have to clean it up while Nick makes excuses about why he doesn’t want Harry. Everything will be awful. “You used to flirt with me, and you don’t anymore. What changed about me that you don’t want?”
Nick opens his mouth, then closes it. He opens it again. He looks rather like a gaping fish, Harry thinks absently.
“You’re straight?” Nick says eventually, sounding flustered.
“Yeah,” Harry says. “But maybe not when it comes to you.”
“Oh,” Nick says, and then doesn’t say anything at all.
“Do you want me to go?” Harry says hesitantly.
“No,” Nick all but yelps. “No, I’m just processing a few things. You, stay right there.”
Harry figures he might as well talk while Nick’s processing. “I won’t be a good boyfriend,” he confesses. “I’m gone over half the year, and there’s always rubbish said about me in the papers, and I don’t always mean to flirt with people, but I do. ‘s why everyone else left me.”
Nick gives a strangled laugh. “Are we skipping right to boyfriends, then?” he asks, sounding choked.
“I don’t like the beginning bits either,” Harry says. “I have this list of reasons why I couldn’t ever tell you that I’ve been half in love with you for ages, but that’s gone down the drain. In for a penny, then.”
Nick still hasn’t said anything. Harry can feel his heart slowly squeezing, crushing any hope that he’d had about this turning out okay.
“Half in love,” Nick repeats, and he laughs again. “You’ve got a little catching up to do, popstar, because I’ve been proper in love with you for ages.”
Harry doesn’t think about it, he just crashes forward until he’s kissing Nick, and Nick opens right up to him. He tastes like vodka, and a little hint of garlic, but Harry doesn’t care.
“Wait, wait,” Nick gasps, breaking the kiss. “We should-”
“Please don’t say stop,” Harry rushes to say.
“I was going to say talk about this some more,” Nick continues, arching an eyebrow.
“Okay.” Harry licks his lips and looks at Nick from under his eyelashes, the same look that used to drive Caroline mad. “Or we can take this to the bedroom. I’ve never done it with a guy.”
“I thought you’d had Zayn,” Nick teases, and Harry stops trying to be seductive to push him off the couch.
Harry tangles his fingers with Nick’s as they stumble up the stairs; Nick’s hand is clammy, and Harry wonders if he’s nervous. Harry isn’t - he’s been imagining this for years. He’d bought himself a dildo last spring, and had practiced deepthroating for a good month before working up the courage to actually fuck himself with it.
The thought of Nick, though - kissing Nick, sucking him, running his fingers up Nick’s inner thigh - he doesn’t need courage for any of that. Harry hasn’t wanked to the thought of anything but Nick for a long time.
“Alright,” Nick says, once they’ve shut the door to the room. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
He’s teasing, but Harry can see the actual worry underneath.
“Yeah, I’m good,” Harry says, herding Nick towards the bed.
“Because we can stop, if it’s moving too quick,” Nick says, but he still steps backwards until his knees hit the edge of his bed. “Whatever you’re comfortable with.”
“Thank you,” Harry says patiently, then sinks to his knees to undo Nick’s belt. Nick draws in a long, shaky breath. “I’m pretty comfortable doing this, though.”
Nick doesn’t say anything, just threads his fingers softly through Harry’s hair. Harry pushes his jeans and pants down in one go; Nick’s hard, and his dick is smaller than Harry would have thought, but he doesn’t care. He reverently slides a hand under the hem of Nick’s shirt and rests it on his stomach, feeling the way his muscles twitch and jerk under his touch.
“Okay,” Nick says, somewhat shakily. “This is all a bit quick.”
Harry quickly draws his hand away and looks up at Nick. His face is flushed and his hair is sticking up in all directions, like his hands have just been in it. He looks so lovely. Harry thought he’d been making sure that Harry was okay with everything, but now he’s not sure.
“Y’alright?” Harry asks quietly. “I’ll stop, if you want.”
Nick abruptly sits down the bed, making his cock slap briefly against his stomach. Harry would snicker in any other circumstance. “I want this,” Nick says. “I’ve just got to wrap my head round it. This isn’t quite how I expected tonight to go.”
Harry nods, and slowly shifts up to his knees, then sits on the bed next to Nick. Nick instantly picks up his hand and tangles their fingers together again.
“I thought,” Nick says after a second, with a light laugh, “that I’d be stuck going on horrible dates where I’d constantly compare them to you.”
Harry frowns. “Don’t date anyone else,” he says, trying to sound authoritative. It comes out as plaintive instead. “I didn’t like any of them, anyway.”
“Yeah, it’s loads of fun seeing you running around with your girls in the papers,” Nick huffs, and squeezes Harry’s hand tightly.
Harry’s sure that will keep happening, even if he comes out as dating Nick, but he doesn’t say anything. After a moment Nick pulls him up the bed to lay down, both facing each other.
“Can I touch you?” Nick asks in a hushed, wondrous tone, holding a hand so close to Harry’s face that he can feel the heat seeping from him. “I’ve wanted to since I met you.”
“You touch me all the time,” Harry points out, but nudges his chin up until Nick’s cradling his jaw.
“Not the same, innit,” Nick says, voice barely above a whisper. He runs his hand down to Harry’s throat, fingers lightly trailing along his skin, causing Harry to break out in goosepimples. He’s thought about sex with Nick so many times, in so many different situations: fast, hard sex in the kitchen in the midst of baking; Nick pressing him into a wall and digging bruises into the skin of his thighs and stomach; early morning blowjobs in the shower while they’re still half asleep.
He’s never imagined quite like this, though. Nick’s room is dark and quiet, only the sound of their breathing to be heard. It feels like when he visited the Synagogue with Ben, like there’s something sacred and rapturous happening inside of him. Maybe this is a religious experience, he thinks, maybe this is where God can be found.
Nick’s feeling his way across Harry’s body, lifting the hem of his shirt until Harry wiggles out of it, and, while he’s at it, disposes of his jeans and pants as well. When he lays back down Nick’s done away with his own shirt, and Harry wants to press closer, until there’s nothing between them.
“Nick,” Harry says, his own voice shaky this time. He hesitantly places a hand on Nick’s bare thigh, and Nick only shifts closer to him. They’re both hard, cock’s curving towards each other, and Harry can’t help but slip his hand down to wrap around the both of them.
Nick moans, and thrusts up a little. The weight of Nick’s cock dragging against his own makes his breath catch in his throat.
“Your fucking hands,” Nick pants, knocking his forehead against Harry’s. “I’ve wanked off to them for years, god.”
“Shit,” Harry says. His cock jumps at the thought. “Can we- what do you want?”
“Right,” Nick says, thrusting again. “Sex, we can sex.”
Harry stops moving his hand and bites his lip, waiting for Nick to look at him. Nick whines a little, but finally opens his eyes and pulls away, looking a little cross.
“We can sex?” Harry says. He can’t help the laugh that bubbles out. “Can we, Nick, can we really sex?”
“Shut it,” Nick grouses, but he’s laughing too. “Are you going to let me get a hand on your dick or what?”
“Can we handjob?” Harry asks delightedly. “And then maybe we can blowjob?”
“You’re going to stop talking now,” Nick says decisively, and catches Harry’s lips in a kiss that immediately turns heated.
He rolls Harry onto his back and rubs down a few times, cock snagging against Harry’s, before he pulls back completely. Harry can’t stop the whine that escapes.
“We’re going to blowjob now,” Nick says seriously, then slithers his way down Harry’s body to swallow Harry down in one go.
“God,” Harry gasps. He can’t help but stare down as Nick bobs up and down, his quiff drooping and his pale shoulders and chest covering Harry’s thighs. It feels like everything Harry’s ever wanted.
Nick pulls off when Harry chokes out that he’s close, and come ends up splashing all across his laurels and moth. Nick kneels above him, and Harry breathlessly watches him wank before his brain catches up and he knocks Nick’s hand out of the way, replacing it with his own.
Nick comes after only a few minutes, his own jizz mixing with Harry’s across his stomach. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, Harry thinks fuzzily, but he’s too tired to try and think of it.
Nick brings him a damp flannel to clean up, then climbs back into bed. Harry immediately rolls into him and burrows his face into Nick’s chest, relishing in the new sensation of prickly hair under his cheek. He falls asleep in minutes.
Harry wakes up to an empty bed, which is just rude of Nick, in his opinion, given Nick’s own issues about it. He definitely wanted to give Nick a morning blowie.
He crankily stomps down the stairs and throws himself into a chair at the kitchen table. It looks like Nick’s burning some eggs, and he still hasn’t turned around to greet Harry with a good morning kiss.
“Coffee,” Harry whines. Nick’s rolling his eyes while he fetches a mug, but he drops a steaming cup in front of Harry all the same. “Hey,” Harry says, winding a leg around the back of Nick’s knees.
“I’m making brekkie,” Nick says. He looks nervous. Harry has no idea why he looks nervous. “Eggs, if that’s alright, although I suppose I have some cereal round here somewhere.”
“That’s fine,” Harry says slowly, so as not to spook him. “Although there’s- we should probably talk, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Nick says, and his shoulders sag like his strings have been cut. He drops into the chair across from Harry and rubs at his face. “Yeah.”
“So, like,” Harry starts, when Nick doesn’t say anything. “I don’t know if I’m ready to come out quite yet, but I think telling my mum and the boys will be fine.”
“What?” Nick says. “You- what?”
“What?” Harry repeats.
“You want to come out to your mum?” Nick says. He sounds confused, which confuses Harry. He’s not sure if it’s the lack of caffeine or Nick just acting weird.
“Yes?” Harry says. “Only I thought, you might not want to be in the closet again. Plus the band knows how I feel about you, anyway.”
Nick stares at him; Harry stares back.
“Okay,” Nick eventually says. “I thought you were going to chuck me.”
“Why would I chuck you?” Harry asks. He’s completely lost the plot.
“You’re, well, you,” Nick says nonsensically. Harry’s very much hoping that he’s misconstruing what Nick’s saying, because otherwise he might start to tear up at the table.
“Right,” he says slowly.
“No,” Nick must immediately realise he’s stuck his foot in it, because he starts backpedaling. “I mean, I thought you might wake up and realise that you’ve made a mistake, with me.”
Harry frowns. “Nick,” he says, leaning forward. Nick leans in as well. “What I said last night, about being in love with you for ages- that wasn’t a mistake.”
“Alright,” Nick says. “Yeah, that’s- me neither.”
“I’ve got no idea how you host radio,” Harry says teasingly. “Given how eloquent you’re coming off right now.”
Nick glares across the table, then swipes Harry’s mug away. It’s quiet for a few minutes, and Harry can hear the quiet tick of the clock, the hiss of coffee brewing, and the muffled sounds of the telly playing from the next room. He feels settled.
“Hey,” Nick says, nudging at Harry’s knee with his own. “I’m glad you’re home, popstar.”
“Yeah,” Harry hums, closing his eyes. “Me, too.”