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*

 

When Liam comes up with the idea, Harry’s definitely skeptical. Actually, skeptical is putting it mildly. Harry is quite nearly horrified.

Dancing?” Harry says for what feels like the hundredth time even though Liam only posed the idea a minute or so ago. “Like…” Harry trails off. He’s waiting for Liam’s face to break, for it to crack into a wide grin that will say - haha! Sorry, Hazza, only joking! - and then for Liam to tell Harry the real, actual idea for the video he’s thought up.

Liam remains silent though, grinning and nodding like a lunatic.

“Like proper dancing,” Harry repeats. He pauses, giving Liam even more time to interrupt. Liam doesn’t. “Ballroom dancing.”

“Well, not ballroom, really,” Liam clarifies. And oh. Well now that makes total sense. Except for how it very much doesn’t. Harry frowns. “More like a...a ballroom, waltzing, contemporary mix type...thing,” Liam says brightly.

“A ballroom, waltzing, contemporary mix type thing,” Harry repeats. He can feel his lips tugging into a smile. As much as he’d like to be cross with Liam, he knows Liam’s only trying to help. Harry shakes his head and laughs quietly. “You’re bloody mad.”

They’re sat in the back of Harry’s favorite coffee shop in all of London. It’s actually nice out, for once, the sun shining brightly even if there’s a bit of an autumn nip in the air. Harry had put on a coat and a scarf when he left his flat this morning, but has since taken them off to push up the sleeves of his flannel shirt. He’d had his hair loose but tied it back when it kept falling in his face as Liam was trying to talk to him.

Harry’s just come off tour is the thing, and Liam’s catching him up on anything he’s missed while he’s been away, including, apparently, an idea for Harry’s next music video. Liam’s not Harry’s manager, but he’s been Harry’s best mate since they both fucked off during their A levels to try out for X Factor. Liam didn’t make it through but Harry did, and then he won, and then the world went absolutely mental about Harry Styles. Harry still can’t believe it.

So Liam isn’t Harry’s official manager or anything, but Harry trusts Liam’s opinions implicitly for whatever strange reason. Liam might not be the smartest person at maths or geography, but when it comes to the music world and general business sense, Liam’s not all that bad.

Like when he suggested Harry release his most recent album at the stroke of midnight with no promo a la Beyonce, and then they both watched it go triple platinum in a matter of days. Or when Liam vetoed every banjo inspired rock track that Harry loves on the album for the first single, in exchange for the melancholy ballad Harry sings with only himself plucking along badly on a small guitar. Liam’s never steered him wrong, not once, during this entire psychotic roller coaster ride that’s been his life for the past few years so Harry cuts him slack and gives him a chance when the things he comes up with are fucking nuts.

This though...This dancing idea…

“It’ll be great,” Liam assures him. “Really. I already spoke to Jeff and he thinks it’s brilliant.”

Harry snorts and spins the spoon around in his lukewarm cup of tea. Harry would like to be done with the business part of this meeting already. He spotted a few fans gathering outside the front window when he first got to the cafe, and it’s only a matter of time before word gets out that Harry’s inside and there are even more fans there, making it impossible for Harry to leave or get home or get anything else accomplished today.

Harry doesn’t mind - he loves seeing his fans and taking pictures with them - but the longer he sits here pretending to argue with Liam about this whole dancing video when he knows in the end he’s going to pretty much do whatever Liam suggests anyway, is less time he gets to relax at home and play with his cat. And, well.

Harry really misses his cat.

“All right,” Harry says. He tosses the napkin from his lap onto the table and throws his hands in the air. “Dancing,” he says, because what the hell. “I can do this.”

Liam grins so wide his eyes crinkle into slits. “You can,” he says around a giggle.

Harry frowns. “I can. I mean, you’re serious about this, right?” He’s not going to agree to this if Liam’s just setting him up to take the piss. Harry can get enough of that when it’s just the two of them out for the night, he doesn’t need to involve Jeff and the rest of his team and an entire bloody dance troop.

“So very serious,” Liam says. He’s got his hands held up and he blinks innocently. Harry frowns again and Liam beams. “It’s going to be brilliant, mate. You’ll see.”

“Brilliant,” Harry mumbles, rolling his eyes before standing up. “Ha.”

*

The day of the auditions is rainy and bleak. Harry had woken up to Catnip snoring loudly on his chest and the sound of rain pattering against the glass panes in Harry’s ceiling.

Harry fumbles with his mobile and Catnip hisses and bats her paw at Harry’s face. She’s a big fat orange cat with green eyes and the permanent attitude that everyone around her is far stupider than she is. She’s probably right. Most of the time Harry feels like Catnip would run away the second the door opens if not for the fact that she probably thinks Harry wouldn’t survive without her around. After all, if Catnip weren’t around who would hit Harry in the face with their paws every time he was sleeping and dig out all the lost socks from under the sofa.

His mobile buzzes with a text alert and Harry nuzzles into Catnip’s neck, scratching under her belly and behind her neck. She pretends to hate it but Harry can feel her start to purr. He moves her to the pillow next to his where she yawns at him disdainfully and flicks her tail in his face, before curling up and falling instantly back to sleep.

Harry swipes open the screen, and sees a string of messages that Liam had texted earlier.

auditions starting todaaaaaaaay

I’ m exciteddddd.

are you excited???

jeff got in late kast night but me and him can screen for u. will call you to come in when we find someone laterrrrrrr.

Harry frowns because that’s bollocks. He doesn’t want Liam and Jeff and whoever else they deemed important enough to screen all the dancers and try and fit someone up with him without him even getting a look at the person. Harry wants to be there himself. He wants to have a say in this too. After all, when everything is said and done he’s the one who’s going to be looking like a daft idiot out there pretending to dance with some sort of fit professional. He should at least have a say in who it is.

I’ll be there in twenty minutes. don’t start without me >:( Harry sends off, then puts his mobile away before anyone can text back and tell him not to come.

*

The building the auditions are being held in is more of a warehouse than a dance studio, with old, high pitched ceilings and dull wood floors. Harry walks into the lobby and tugs his beanie down low on his head, tucking into himself and trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. He knows that all of the people in the lobby are here to dance for him, to audition for him, but he doesn’t want to make things awkward by tripping over someone who’s sitting on the ground doing stretches with his uncoordinated giraffe legs. Whoever it is that gets the job can find out how terrible Harry is after they’ve agreed to dance with him. That part is non-negotiable.

The lobby is filled to the edges with people, all sitting around or warming up in their leggings and dancewear. There’s a low chatter in the air, an excited thrum of energy and Harry feels giddy from it, his chest going light and fluttery as he starts to think about doing a new video and putting out a new song. This is the part about being famous that Harry loves the best; the anticipation of what’s going to come next. It always amazes him, the way things keep going right and getting bigger and better the longer he does this. Being able to look around at all of this today and see it as a beginning has Harry anxious to start.

Harry looks past the doorway in the lobby and into the main room where the actual dancing auditions will take place. There are a bunch of long tables set up with chairs all along one side, and a small stand in the far corner where Josh is manning the music system. The song for the video is playing from the speakers, the sound thin and crackly in the cavernous room, and Josh looks up quick and gives Harry a cheery thumbs up when he catches Harry’s eye.

Harry waves back, then spots Liam and Jeff stood in the middle of the floor with Cal and Ben. Harry makes his way over to them and pats Liam on the back, smiling up at everyone and saying hello.

“Harry,” Cal says, when Harry breaks into their circle. Cal’s smiling but his voice is tight, the air around the group of them noticeably tense. Harry doesn’t need to be a genius to realize he’s interrupted something that’s very clearly two against two if the way Cal and Ben are standing directly across from Liam and Jeff means anything. Harry sighs. All four of them have their arms folded tightly across their chests, expressions grave. Whatever it is Harry’s sure it’s not anywhere near this dire.

“Cal,” he says darkly, crossing his own arms and trying to frown convincingly. Maybe if he pretends he’s in on the quarrel they’ll stop. Harry taps his foot and scrunches his face up and tries to imagine what in the world they could all be arguing about at barely half nine in the morning. It can be any number of things when it comes to these four. Harry’s been witness to it time and time again.

“All right,” Harry says slowly when it’s clear no one is going to speak except him. “I can see we’re all getting along splendidly.”

Liam is the first one to crack, because he’s Liam and he’s the one who always cracks first.

“I still say we get Harry’s opinion and then that’s the one we go with!” Liam huffs and throws his hands in the air. He levels both Cal and Ben with a truly impressive glare and stomps his foot for emphasis. “Harry’s the one who matters, here. It shouldn’t make a peanuts worth of difference, if--”

“A peanut’s worth of difference?” Jeff cuts Liam off and rolls his eyes. He’s teasing to try and lighten the mood but it’s not working today. Harry desperately wishes he knew what they were arguing about so he could try and help out, but no one is actually telling him anything. Jeff is always on Liam’s side, at least, so Harry’s not got to wonder if the two of them are arguing as well. “Is that a British thing, or--”

“It’s not a thing,” Ben says swiftly and flaps a hand in the air. “Liam’s just being Liam again.”

“Well of course,” Liam says with a gasp. His eyes are wide and his mouth is hanging open. It would be funny if Harry weren’t genuinely worried the four of them were going to kill each other. “What’s wrong with that? I think being Liam is a great thing!”

Harry waits while everyone seems content to glare at each other, and then notices Josh motioning at him from the corner of the room. Time, Josh is saying, tapping his wrist and nodding toward the doors where Harry can see people lined up back in the main part of the lobby. Whatever the problem is, they’d all better figure out how to fix it, fast.

“Um. Does anyone want to actually tell me what’s going on?” Harry asks.

Everyone sighs at that, Liam covering his face with his hands and Jeff reaching out to pat Harry on the back. Harry smiles at him and expects him to start filling Harry in, but it’s Cal that breaks the silence, being blunt and to the point like always.

“Liam held an open call for dancers today,” Cal says flatly.

Harry blinks because he’s confused. “Erm. Ok?” he says, licking his lips. “I mean, we are doing a dancing video we decided, yeah? So--”

Open open,” Ben clarifies. “As in, birds and blokes are here.”

And oh. Oh. Harry leans over and cranes his neck to try and get a better look at the crowd he’d made his way through before. He’d barely noticed because he’d been trying to rush through before anyone saw him but it’s true; there are most definitely both birds and blokes here.

Harry shrugs. “Oh,” he says. “All right. So let’s get started.”

Cal gapes and Ben throws his hands in the air, but behind him Harry can see Liam pump his fist and then him and Jeff start to do some elaborate handshake kind of thing. He can feel a smile tugging at the corner of his lips but he tries to keep his expression serious for Ben and Cal.

“Harry,” Ben says, tone grave. “You need to think about this.”

“Really give it some thought, H,” Cal says. He reaches out and pats Harry’s shoulder. “Open is open. You’ve got to commit to giving them all a real go if this is what you decide to do.”

“Male and female,” Ben clarifies.

Harry beams. “Yep. I figure all I need is a good dancer who’s going to make me not look like crap. I don’t care much if it’s a dancing dragon out there; if they’re good enough the dragon’s got the job.”

Cal is smiling a bit by now, shaking his head fondly and Harry knows he’s probably already won him over. Cal isn’t usually that hard of a sell. Ben’s the one who’s always a bit harder to sway. Harry thinks he could argue this with Ben all day long but if he can’t manage to convince him, Ben will never agree. Not that Ben not agreeing would make making the video impossible, but it would definitely hold things up. Ben’s got a lot of experience and connections and Harry just generally likes to have everyone on his team in agreement whenever possible. A harmonious group produce better product, Harry’s found out.

“Hey,” Harry says carefully. He’s stepped closer and put his hand on Ben’s wrist. Ben looks up, and Harry knows from the way Ben’s watching him that he’s not acting like this to be difficult, he just genuinely cares about Harry and wants things to be easier for him.

“I know it might be a bit easier if the video is with...not a bloke,” Harry says. “Like. Like with the press and all.”

Ben snorts. “A bit,” he says sarcastically.

“But like.” Harry waves his hands in the air. “I’ve never made it a secret that I...dance with both outside of work, yeah?” When Ben doesn’t say anything, Harry adds, “It might be good, for a video I mean. Might give people something to think about, two lads slow dancing around if that’s who I think fits. Right?”

Ben watches Harry silently, and Harry can almost see the wheels spinning in Ben’s brain. Harry keeps their eyes locked, tries to let Ben see how much of a non-issue Harry thinks this is, how much he thinks it would be best to let everyone try out, to give every single person there a shot.

Ben looks away. He doesn’t say anything to Harry and he doesn’t ever say the words that he agrees, but he does shout, “All right, fine, everyone! Let’s get this started!” to the room at large, and he doesn’t mention it again.

Liam jumps up from behind Harry and leaps on his back.

“This is going to be great, Hazza,” Liam says and presses a kiss to the back of Harry’s neck. “You’ll see.”

 

*

By the time they all break for lunch Harry hasn’t seen anyone that’s sparked his interest in any way at all. All the dancers have been amazing - Harry can barely walk a straight line at the best of times, and watching all of these professional dancers come in and just dance like this so easily is more than a little intimidating. But there’s not been any one person with any kind of spark. There hasn’t been anyone Harry’s watched and thought, that’s it. That’s the one.

“I don’t know about this,” Harry mumbles after another lovely dancer finishes her routine and beams at them brightly before waving goodbye and walking away.

Liam shifts in his seat and tips his head closer to Harry. “Don’t know about what?”

“This,” Harry says. He glances at Ben and Cal who have their heads bent together and are scribbling all sorts of notes on the papers in front of them. Jeff’s off to the side texting on his mobile and Harry’s getting frustrated.

Even though he hadn’t been sure about the whole dancing idea when Liam first pitched it, it’s grown on him now so much he’s getting more and more disappointed that they can’t seem to find anyone to be in it with him. Harry didn’t think it would be this hard. He hadn’t realized how much he was actually looking forward to learning how to dance - properly dance - to his song until it’s started to look more and more like they aren’t going to find anyone. It’s just all a bit crap.

“All of it,” Harry says around a sigh. “I mean, everyone’s been lovely so far, but there just hasn’t been like…” he trails off and shrugs.

“No spark,” Liam says, understanding everything Harry’s not saying. “I know. I haven’t seen anyone overly special either.”

Harry uncaps his water bottle and takes a long sip, snapping a picture of the label and captioning it H2Oooooooooo my I’m thirsty! before uploading it to Instagram. He’s so busy finding a good filter (he wants the bottle to look empty, but not too empty. He’s not even sure that’s a thing) that he’s barely paying attention when the next person steps up. They moved so quietly that he wouldn’t have even noticed there was anyone there at all, but then the music that had been playing in the room cuts out mid song and the room goes quiet.

Harry looks up and finds a dark haired lad leaning across the speakers gesturing to Josh and handing him a cd. Whatever he says has Josh smiling brightly and the lad smiles back, his laughter floating light across the room. He shakes his hair back and undoes a hair band from his wrist, slipping it over his head and pushing all the hair back from his face. When he’s finished he looks over and catches Harry’s eye. The lad grins slowly and Harry puts the bottle of water down carefully on the table before he spills it all over his lap.

“Is it all right I’ve brought my own music?” the lad calls out. His voice is lilting, an accent laced through it that Harry can’t quite put his finger on.

Harry leans forward and stares. He could try and stop himself but he doesn’t think it would do much good. The bloke is small but lean, tanned skin stretching over sleek muscles and covered in swirling black tattoos all over his chest and arms and hands. He’s got on tight black dance trousers and white jumper that clings close to his skin. His feet are bare, toes curled as his foot flexes over the floor. He looks like he could be wiry but strong, and his hair is long and black and gorgeous.

Harry doesn’t think he’s ever seen anyone as beautiful in his entire life.

“Whatever works for you is fine with us,” Liam calls out when it’s clear Harry’s only going to stare at him and never speak again. Liam cuffs Harry on the back of the head and Harry yelps. He glares at Liam and only looks back toward the floor when he hears the lad laughing softly.

“Who are you?” Harry calls out, more abrupt than he means to. Everyone sat at the desk with him has stopped talking; Ben and Cal are watching Harry curiously and Liam’s already shaking his head, passing half his stack of papers over to Jeff for them to look through.

“‘M’called Zayn,” the lad answers. Harry thinks he should acknowledge him somehow - by nodding or answering or summat - but instead he just stares dumbly, willing his mouth to close before something flies into it.

Zayn cocks his head to the side and grins, sharp like a fox. “Is that all right?”

Harry thankfully snaps out of it, blushing furiously and dropping his head when he hears Zayn chuckling quietly.

“Whenever you’re ready, Zayn,” Jeff calls out and the room goes quiet as Zayn gets into position in the middle of the floor.

Harry’s trying to be objective, but the music has barely even started and Zayn is already more captivating than every other person they’ve seen all day. He’s not even done anything yet and the fluid way his body curls over itself - the curve of his hand on one slender hip - is the most graceful thing Harry’s ever seen.

Then the music starts, and Harry nearly wants to die.

He’s never seen, never witnessed in his entire life someone whose body moves like this. Zayn gives himself over into the music, and every step he takes seems like it’s not it’s own individual move, but just a continuing motion from the move before it and into the move after it. He’s curved but sharp and his movements are light. The faster he goes the less it looks like his feet are even touching the floor, and Harry has to watch closely to make sure he’s not actually floating, or flying.

The music comes to a stop and Zayn stops with it, long dark hair flying out in wisps from his headband. Harry wonders what he looks like with all of his hair down. He wonders if it covers Zayn’s forehead or if he keeps it pulled back even when he’s not dancing. Harry wonders if he can get close enough to see what color Zayn’s eyes are, and what he smells like, and if the stubble on his face feels rough or soft under Harry’s fingers.

Zayn looks down to adjust his jumper. He doesn’t say anything to them at the table, just walks silently over to where he’d dropped his bag off with Josh and reaches down to gather his things. Harry turns and stares at the rest of the table wildly. He knows he’s being irrational - Zayn’s come here for a job, he’s clearly not going to walk out the door and Harry’s never going to be able to find him again - but Harry feels frantic, like this is something so important that he can’t possibly fuck it up.

“I want him,” Harry says bluntly. His heart is beating too fast and he stands up, nearly knocking over his chair in the process. “It’s him. I want him.”

“We’ve still got a few more--” Ben starts, but Harry shakes his head sharply. He looks frantically at Liam and tries pleading with his eyes. Jeff’s already gone over to keep Zayn from leaving, and Harry knows this is it. He’s done.

“Zayn Malik is his full name,” Liam says. He’s holding all of Zayn’s papers and a few headshots and - God bless Liam Payne - a work contract. “Was on a few dancing shows in the past. Always did well enough to get onto the show but never well enough to win.” Liam smiles softly at that. Harry rests his hand on Liam’s shoulder and squeezes gently. “He said on the initial paperwork that he’s not currently working so his schedule is open. That he wasn’t specific about dancing with a male or a female.”

“We should check that,” Harry says. He licks his lips and looks to where Jeff’s talking to Zayn, whatever he’s saying into Zayn’s ear making him laugh. “I’m going to go find out.”

“Harry,” Ben says but Harry shakes his head.

“No. He’s it,” Harry says firmly.

Cal looks at Harry and shakes his head, throwing his hands in the air along with a fistful of papers from the desk. “This is going to be big, H,” Cal says. “Are you ready?”

Harry looks over just as Zayn looks up and catches his eye. He watches Harry so intently that Harry’s breath hitches in his chest, and then Zayn pokes his tongue out and slowly licks his bottom lip.

“Yeah,” Harry says firmly. He’s actually got no idea if he’s ready or not, but it doesn’t matter much. Harry wants this, and he wants Zayn and he’s used to getting what he wants.

He gives Liam a fast grin over his shoulder, then turns back to go tell Zayn he’s got the job.

*

They meet up for coffee before their first rehearsal is scheduled, because Harry wants to have a chance to pretend he’s a least a little bit cool before Zayn realizes just how uncool Harry actually is. Harry’s life basically went from him being the slightly odd kid at uni to a mega famous superstar whose face is on nearly every magazine and advert out there, so he’s got an image to uphold for Zayn. He can’t have Zayn knowing right from the start that Harry actually prefers to spend time on the floor playing with Catnip when he could be going out, or how many times he calls his mum and his sister on any given day.

Zayn probably never needs to know that, Harry’s sure. Because Zayn is cool and mysterious and Harry’s sure he doesn’t call his family every time someone says something nasty about him in the papers, or turn down plans with models and artists just to watch cooking shows on the telly and eat too much pizza.

The door to the cafe swings open and Harry sees Zayn looking around the shop until he finds Harry at a table in the back, far from the windows facing out onto the street. Harry knows the paps are out there - Liam told him earlier that Ben called a few of their regulars to come get some pictures - but he figured Zayn was safe at least coming in because no one knows yet that Zayn’s going to be in the video with him. Harry thinks that should be at least one of the things he explains to Zayn. That when word gets out, at least for a little while, Zayn’s life isn’t going to be anything like he’s used to.

Zayn smiles when he spots Harry, then drops his eyes shyly as he makes his way over. He’s just as pretty as Harry remembers, with his thick black hair and his wide dark eyes, but this time he’s close enough that Harry can talk to him face to face. He can smell Zayn’s aftershave and his minty gum and the cool scent of the outside that he’s brought in on his beat up leather jacket and jeans. He’s got a cigarette tucked behind one ear and he smells faintly of smoke, but it doesn’t bother Harry. He even likes it a bit

“Hi,” Zayn says quietly. He pulls out a chair and straddles it, leaning his arms on the top and planting his feet on the floor. In just one move he’s already cooler than Harry could ever hope to be. Harry wants to die.

He tries his best though, leaning forward and pitching his voice as low as he can. “Hi.”

Zayn makes a face like he thinks Harry’s either insane or that he’s fallen ill. “You feeling okay, mate?” he asks. He scrunches his face up and touches Harry’s wrist. “You sound funny.”

Harry sighs and leans back in his seat. It had been worth a shot, at least. “No, no, I’m fine. I’m…” Harry waves his hand in the air and shakes his hair out. “I’m fine.”

“Sick,” Zayn says happily.

“No, I said I’m fine,” Harry teases. Zayn opens his mouth to protest, but then he catches on and smiles instead, shaking his head and smiling down at the table.

“Oh. I see how it is,” Zayn says.

Harry beams. “Yep,” he says. Zayn looks back up and they spend a second grinning at each other stupidly, before Harry reminds himself that he’s here to look cool and also warn Zayn about everything that comes with being linked to Harry in the papers and the news.

“So all right,” Harry says seriously. He bites his lip and leans forward, trying to pitch his voice as low as he can manage. Zayn leans forward as well, and something curls tight in Harry’s belly being this close to Zayn’s face. He kind of wants to kiss it. He should probably stop thinking those things though. At least during the very first meeting.

“I kind of wanted to meet up with you before we started practicing to go over a couple of things,” Harry tells him.

“All right,” Zayn says easily.

“Because, I mean, I know you read the contract.”

Zayn quirks an eyebrow. “Hmm. Most of it, yeah.”

“Most of it?” Harry squaks. “You have to read all of it, Zayn!”

Zayn shakes his head. “‘S’not going to happen. There were a lot of pages to that thing. I’m sure I got the gist of it.”

Harry honestly cannot believe his ears. It goes to show just how much time he’s actually spent in the industry by now that he knows how shitty people can be. Not him and his people, but you can’t just trust when someone gives you a contract that it’s going to all be in your best interests. Harry’s team could have put any number of things in Zayn’s paperwork. If he was never going to read it then what was the bloody point?

Harry says as much and Zayn just shrugs at him unaffectedly again. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“But what if it’s not,” Harry insists. “Do you have any idea what’s going to happen to your life now?” He’s not trying to alarm him, but Zayn has to know. “People are going to see you with me and they’re going to talk.”

“So let them talk,” Zayn says.

Harry rolls his eyes. “Well yeah, I mean of course. I don’t mind them talking about me but you have to realize they’re going to be talking about you.” It’s the thing that’s bothered Harry the most since finding Zayn and deciding that Harry wants to dance with him in the video. Harry honestly couldn’t care less what people say about Harry slow dancing with a bloke, but Zayn might. Now that he knows how lightly Zayn’s been taking everything else, Harry’s sure he’s got no idea what the backlash to all of this could be.

“What about your girlfriend,” Harry asks. “Won’t she be cross about all the press?”

“No girlfriend,” Zayn says, “though it wouldn’t be a girlfriend as much as a boyfriend.”

And oh. Oh. All right.

“And even if there was a boyfriend, which there’s not, there’s work and things I do for work and then there’s my personal life. They don’t have to be the same,” Zayn says simply. Harry remembers when he thought things were that simple. He’s kind of sad he doesn’t think that way anymore.

“The tabloids,” Harry adds. “They get mad sometimes. Make up all kinds of rubbish about other people just because I’m involved. It’s crap.”

“Sounds it,” Zayn says and flips the chair around so he can sit on it normally, stretching his legs out in front of him. He plucks a straw from off the table and chews on the end. “I make it a point never to read the papers myself though, so it’s fine.”

“The telly too,” Harry says urgently. “Surely you watch the telly.”

“Sometimes,” Zayn says and shrugs. “Not really though.”

“The internet? Gossip sites?”

Zayn narrows his eyes and leans forward. “Mate, do you want me to dance with you?”

“Ugh, yes,” Harry insists. This whole meeting is not going quite according to plan. He runs a hand through his hair and tugs on the ends, closing his eyes and sighing. “Yes. I do. Really.”

“Then relax,” Zayn tells him. He kicks his foot out and taps against Harry’s before hooking their ankles together. “Something tells me we’re going to have our work cut out for us already just trying to get you to learn how to dance without worrying about everything else.”

And that... was uncalled for.

Harry frowns. “Hey.”

Zayn beams at him, his entire face breaking out into a smile. “I mean, I said I watch the telly sometimes, didn’t I? I’ve seen enough to know this isn’t going to be easy.”

Harry sits and stares with his mouth open. Here he’d been trying to be nice, and this absolute cock was taking the piss. “What a total fucking twat you are,” Harry says.

Zayn leans back and crosses his arms over his chest. “Yep,” he says and grins. “So good luck.”

*

“I think I’m dead.”

Harry’s sprawled out on the floor with his legs and arms thrown out to the sides, music thumping low from the speakers. It’s late at night - Harry’s not too sure of the time but it feels like they’ve been practicing for a thousand years and they didn’t start until half four in the afternoon. He hasn’t checked his mobile in a while but it’s dark past the windows and he can see stars peeking out from the clouds when he looks up high into the sky.

“Zayn,” Harry calls out weakly. He smacks his hand on the floor a few times and whines low in his throat. “Zayyyyyyn. I’m dyyyyyying.”

Zayn laughs quietly and Harry rolls his head to where he thinks he hears Zayn’s voice coming from. He finds him perched on top of one of the high speakers, one leg tucked under him and the other swinging slowly back and forth. He’s twirling an unlit cigarette in between his fingers, and his smile is bright.

Harry frowns. “Are you laughing at me?”

“No,” Zayn lies. “Not at all.”

“I think you are,” Harry says and pouts. The studio is huge - bright white walls and windows and a light wood polished floor. Harry thinks that if it’s going to happen, this is an okay place to die. It could have been worse, all things considered. “I think you’re laughing at my pain.”

Zayn chuckles again and then Harry hears a thump from where he’s jumped down from the speakers. A few seconds later Zayn’s next to Harry on the floor, crouched down so the hair that’s come loose from his headband falls down and tickles Harry’s face.

“Would I ever do that?” Zayn asks. He reaches out and pokes Harry on the cheek. Zayn’s breath is minty and his flannel shirt smells faintly of outside and the cigarette he’d smoked while Harry stayed in the studio earlier and rang his mum.

Harry pretends to pout but really he’s having a hard time not breaking out in a grin on the spot. He just really likes Zayn. He likes him so much.

“You would,” Harry sulks. “I’m terrible at this and this video is going to be crap and I’ve got no sleep the past two weeks because you’re the only dancer in the entire bloody world who doesn’t get up until two in the afternoon and then wants to dance until midnight every day.”

Zayn rolls his eyes and takes Harry’s hand, fingers curling in tightly when he pulls Harry to his feet. “It’s barely nine at night,” Zayn says fondly and tucks the unlit cigarette behind his ear. “I’m sure you’ve still got a few hours left in you.”

“A few hours?” Harry complains. He can’t imagine a few hours tonight is going to make much of a difference. Sometimes Harry thinks he could practice dancing with Zayn for a few thousand years and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. “Come on,” Harry wheedles. “Let’s go get some food instead, I’m starving.”

“Not a chance.” Zayn tugs on Harry’s hair and wanders back to the speakers, fiddling with his music before finding Harry’s song to put on for them to practice some more. Harry leans against the wall and watches the way Zayn moves, how his joggers hang loose from his hips and the way his t-shirt clings to his chest and arms. He’s got a ratty old red flannel tied around his waist and his hair is so long is brushes the tops of his shoulders.

The song starts and Zayn slides back, doing a little shuffle with his feet and dancing over to where Harry’s standing. He slides his arm around Harry’s waist, his fingers splayed wide on Harry’s hip, and Harry takes a deep breath and stands straight, trying to pull in from his belly and straighten his back like Zayn told him to do.

“Just a few more times,” Zayn says. His voice is soft and his eyes are dark and Harry can’t stop watching the way his lips move, or grinning at the way one corner of Zayn’s mouth quirks up when he’s trying not to smile. He’s got stubble high up on his cheekbones and Harry wants to press his thumb there and see if he can feel the sharp curve of bone under his skin. “I promise, I’ll go easy on you,” he says and grins wickedly, and Harry can only nod and swallow past the thick lump in his throat.

*

Harry’s more than half asleep when his mobile rings and he answers the call without even looking to see who’s on the other end of the line.

“Mmpfh,” Harry grunts. He keeps his eyes closed and shoves his face in his bedding, balancing his mobile on the pillow next to his ear. “What?”

“Sooooo?” comes Liam’s voice, bright and cheery and far too awake for whatever time it is in the morning. “How’s everything gooooooing?”

“Oh my god, Liam,” Harry groans and yawns. He rolls over and blinks up at the ceiling scratching his chest sleepily. “What time is it?”

“It’s half ten, you lazy arse,” Liam scolds. “And you’ve got to be ready by noon to talk to the nice lady from Sugarscape who’s going to print all great things about you and Zayn later on.”

Even just the sound of Zayn’s name has Harry sitting up in bed, smiling stupidly into space. “Oh,” he says softly. “Oh, all right.”

“Oh my god,” Liam crows. It sounds like he’s clapping or cheering or something equally ridiculous. “God you’re so done for with him.”

“With who?” Harry asks. He picks at a ball of lint on his covers and chews his bottom lip. Liam can be such a cock.

“With Zayn!” Liam says excitedly. Harry presses the mobile closer to his ear because he can hear someone else talking in the background, whatever he’s saying to Liam making him laugh even more. “Jeff want’s to know if you’ve managed to pull him yet or are you still too busy trying not to permanently injure him with your crap dancing.”

Harry glares. “Tell Jeff I said to fuck the hell off.”

“Harry said to--”

“God, Liam, don’t really tell him that,” Harry interrupts. Liam comes back and he’s still giggling and Harry gives up. He falls back onto the bed and covers his eyes with one hand. “Ugggggh, Liam...he’s really great.”

“Who is,” Liam says lightly, “Jeff?” and then he dissolves in giggles one more time.

Harry honestly and truly hates his friends.

“No,” he says, trying so hard to be patient. “Zayn.”

“Oh,” Liam answers, “Zaaaaaayn.”

Harry huffs but doesn‘t say anything, because fine. It’s possible that Harry’s maybe talked about Zayn once or twice or three thousand times since they started practicing together. He’s just--

“He’s just so smart,” Harry says. He can hear Liam murmuring an agreement even though he’s heard Harry say the same things at least a billion times. “He’s so smart and funny. And he’s sarcastic and like, he’s so quiet, yeah? But then he says something and I die laughing.”

“You mean he’s got a sense of humor like yours?” Liam asks. “God help us all.”

“Well no,” Harry says, frowning a bit. “I mean, he thinks most of my jokes are awful.”

“Shocking.”

“And he makes fun of me when I eat stuff that I find in my bag but like, I’m sure I put those things there sometime,” Harry insists. “Granola bars and oranges don’t just grow on trees!” Harry frowns. “Well, oranges do, I suppose, but that’s not the point, really. The point is it’s not like I found the stuff lying on the floor somewhere or summat.”

“Right,” Liam snorts. “Because you’ve never done that before.”

Harry ignores him. It was one time and he was starving. Maybe if Liam was a better friend-co worker-manager type person he would have brought Harry some snacks to that awards show. Does Liam ever think of that?

“He so cool though, but not really,” Harry says, because Zayn is great even if Harry’s now decided that Liam’s a twat for never bringing him snacks. “He’s actually kind of a geek. Whenever I pick him up for rehearsals his flat is covered in piles of comic books and he calls his mum and sisters as much as I do, which is…” Harry bites his lip. “Well, I call my mum a fairly uncool amount honestly.”

Liam hums an agreement. Harry ignores him because he knows Liam’s not judging at least; Liam calls his own mum more than Harry and Zayn call their mums combined.

Anyway,” Harry says, ignoring the way Liam is pretending to snore at him from the other end of the line. “You’re the one who woke me up. What do you want?”

“Just to wake you up, Harold,” Liam tells him. “Paul will be by to pick you up in an hour to get you to Sugarscape by noon. Ring me if you need anything, yeah?”

“That’s it?” Harry asks. He scrunches his face up. “Do I need to do anything else? Call Zayn or anything?”

“For the interview about your single and video?” Liam asks slowly. “Nooooo, but you could always call him like you do every morning just to say hello.”

“Hey!” Harry protests. “I don’t do that--”

But Liam’s already hung up.

Harry frowns down at the mobile in his hand. Liam is such a fucker. He doesn’t call Zayn every day when he wakes up, only most days.

(All right, maybe it’s every day.)

(And maybe he should stop telling Liam about it when he does.)

But whatever, Harry’s up now and if he rings Zayn who’s it actually hurting?

“No one,” Harry says to himself. “No one at all,” he repeats and dials Zayn’s number.

*

Harry’s not sure, but he thinks that every single muscle in his body hurts. His feet hurt and his back hurts and his legs hurt and his arms and shoulders and even his fingers hurt. He’d thought it would get better after he’d been dancing for a while. The first few days were torturous, but Harry thought that would pass and he’d get better and he’d stop waking up every morning feeling like a truck had run him over in his bed in the middle of the night.

He was wrong.

Fuck,” Harry says as he spins too fast and slips out of Zayn’s grasp one more time. Harry’s cranky. He’d gotten a crap night’s sleep and had a long day, and then when he came in expecting Zayn to cheer him up, Zayn decided to be quiet and grouchy himself.

Harry knows by now that Zayn’s not the chattiest person in the world but they’ve definitely fallen into a routine that’s at least comfortable, if not very talkative. Zayn usually smiles at Harry and indulges him when he’s telling one of his stories and Harry’s not entirely sure, but he’d kind of figured the look Zayn gives him most of the time is as least fond, if not overly happy.

Tonight though, Zayn’s sullen and moody and it’s making Harry dance even worse than usual.

Harry didn’t even think that was possible.

“Argh,” Harry says, after he fails to fall back into step after sliding out of his spin. “Enough. Mercy. I give up.” He tucks his fingers inside the sleeve of his white henley and waves the loose material over his head. “I’m surrendering,” Harry says, and that at least gets Zayn to crack a smile.

Harry’s sweating through his clothes and he wipes his face on the collar of his shirt. He digs around in his bag for a water, and at the last second grabs an extra bottle for Zayn and tosses it at him. Zayn’s already got his mobile in his hand though, and is frowning down at the screen so instead of catching it, the bottle of water hits Zayn in the shoulder and falls to the floor.

Zayn yelps and whips his head around, eyes narrowing into a piercing glare. Harry stands with his mouth hanging open and feels his eyes bulge from his head.

“Did you just throw a bottled water at me?” Zayn asks. He sounds stunned. Harry can barely move, not sure if Zayn’s going to burst into laughter or murder him.

Harry shrugs and licks his lips. “Um.”

“Are you mad?”

Harry can feel his cheeks and throat and the tips of his ears go hot. Zayn looks furious, like he might actually come over and strangle Harry with his bare hands right here in the middle of the dance studio. Harry’s trying to think of what to say or how to apologize. All he manages is to do though, is blink widely and whisper, “Oops?”

Zayn stares at him in horror for a second more, before leaning his head back and filling the room with his booming laughter.

“Oh thank fuck,” Harry says. He bends over and rests his hands on his knees, trying to will himself not to pass out. He can hardly breathe, is practically wheezing, but as long as Zayn’s not going to kill him he figures everything’s alright. “I was trying to be nice and toss you a water, not hit you with it, I swear,” Harry insists.

“‘S’nice to see your throwing is as good as your dancing, Hazza,” Zayn says. He’s still laughing though, only looking away long enough to tap out a few more words on his mobile before shoving it in his pocket. “Christ.”

Harry grabs a towel from his bag and rubs it over his head, then leaves it draped over his hair as he goes over to Zayn. He touches Zay’s arm gingerly where the pinkish red mark is starting to form. Zayn gasps and pretends to fall down when Harry touches him and Harry frowns. Zayn can be such a twat.

“I wonder if I get compensation for this,” Zayn moans. His eyes are sparkling and Harry has to remind himself that the best way to prove to Zayn he didn’t mean to hit him would be to not hit him again, like Harry kind of wants to do. “I mean, I know I didn’t read every word in the contract but I’ll have to see if there’s anything under sustaining physical abuse from a mega famous singer who has the most crap aim of a person over the age of two.”

“I’m firing you,” Harry says flatly. He sniffs and pretends to pout. “You can expect your final payslip in the morning.”

“Hmm.” Zayn scratches his chin. “I mean, it would suck being out of a job but overall it might be safer, I’d think.” He giggles then - actually has the nerve to giggle - and ducks out of the way when Harry finally gives up and tries to punch him on the arm. Harry chases Zayn halfway around the studio, but the sound of Zayn’s mobile buzzing with another string of texts again has them both stopping short.

“Motherfuck, what a pain in my fucking arse he is,” Zayn huffs. He digs the mobile from his pocket and glares down at the screen as he swipes it on and starts typing furiously.

Harry touches Zayn’s arm and tries not to peer too curiously over Zayn’s shoulder to see who he’s talking to. For as much as he and Zayn talk about things when they’re rehearsing, Zayn’s surprisingly quiet about his personal life. Zayn chuckles quietly and mutters to himself as his mobile buzzes as whoever he’s talking to answers him.

“Fucking twat, you’ve got to get Niall involved now, don’t you, Tommo,” he says quietly and shakes his head.

“Everything all right?” Harry asks.

Zayn looks up and rolls his eyes. He fingers the cigarette he seems to perpetually have stuck behind his ear and sighs. “Yeah, everything’s fine. ‘S’just my mates - well, one of my mates, really. He’s been on my case because I’ve been tied up at night. Haven’t been around as much lately I guess.”

“Oh, geez,” Harry says. “I’m so sorry.” He feels bad, even though he knows he’s only been holding Zayn up for work things. Maybe he should have pressed harder when he told Zayn to take some time off. They’ve got a schedule for the video filming, but he could have insisted Zayn take some more time if he knew it was going to be a problem. Harry doesn’t want Zayn’s mates to hate him.

Zayn’s shaking his head though, and he pats Harry on the shoulder. “Nothing to be sorry about.”

“No, but I mean--”

“I’m serious, Haz,” Zayn insists. He steps in close. His eyes are dark and from this close Harry wonders if he could count every single one of Zayn’s eyelashes. Harry thinks he would like that. “Practicing with you every night is my job, and I love it,” Zayn says seriously. “Really,” he adds, then grins. “And anyway, Tommo can suck it.”.

As if on cue, his mobile buzzes again. And then again, and then again.

Harry doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, so he nods and lets what Zayn said slide. He vows to make sure Zayn gets a little more time off in the next few days, and pats Zayn on the shoulder, running his hand down until he reaches Zayn’s elbow and squeezes gently.

“Well tonight you should go hang out with him,” Harry says. Zayn starts to shake his head but Harry doesn’t let him talk this time. “No, seriously, Zayn, everything tonight is crap. I’ve been distracted and mucking up every other step and you shouldn’t have to deal with that.”

Zayn smiles gently, his lips quirking up softly at the corners. “You know I don’t mind being here with you, yeah? I love this idea and I think the video is going to be great.”

Harry feels his face go hot, his belly quivering with something like a mix of nerves and anticipation. He’d be a fool to try and pretend he’s not attracted to Zayn - that he doesn’t think every single thing about Zayn is amazing and perfect and sexy - but that’s not something he wants to get into with Zayn right now, not by a long shot.

“I know,” Harry says, pasting on a wide grin and beaming. “It’s because I’m amazing, yeah?”

“The very best,” Zayn says, rolling his eyes.

Harry leaves Zayn to his texting and goes about picking up his things from the floor. He’s got his bag and the rest of his waters and some papers Liam had given Harry to look over when he’s got some spare time. He figures tonight is as good a night as any. It’s not too late and he’ll have some peace and quiet at home. Maybe he can ring someplace and order sushi and have Paul swing by and pick it up on the way to his flat.

“Hey, so, uh.” Zayn’s voice interrupts Harry’s thoughts. He looks over at him and Zayn’s rubbing the back of his neck, looking hesitantly between the floor and Harry’s face. Harry watches him curiously and the longer he looks the pinker Zayn’s face and ears get.

Interesting.

“So me and my friends - I mean - I’m meeting a few of my mates over at this pub we go to sometimes,” Zayn says quickly. “Really low key, nothing fancy or exciting like I’m sure you’re used to, and I’m sure you’ve got plans anyway tonight, but, I don’t know. If you’re not busy you’re welcome to come.”

Harry blinks and stares at him. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Zayn says. He shrugs one shoulder and looks back down at the floor and then over toward the door. “I mean, you don’t have to but if you’ve got nothing else to do--”

Harry is so excited he’s nearly bouncing on his feet. He tries to play it cool though, shrugs and nods as if it’s no big deal. “No, that sounds fun,” Harry says. He’s nearly vibrating with nerves and anticipation. He pretends to cough so he can hide his face and cover his smile and looks down at the floor, kicking at a ball of dust with his foot. “I’ll run home and change and you can--”

“I’ll text you, like,” Zayn says. He’s already backing out of the door but miscalculates his steps and walks into the wall backward instead. Harry is so charmed. “You know. Where I am. With my friends, I mean. Where we are.”

“Cool,” Harry answers. He watches Zayn look behind himself and glare at the wall before turning on his heel and rushing out.

“See you soon,” Zayn calls.

Harry bites his lip and smiles. “Yeah. Soon.”

*

Harry rushes home to shower and change and by the time he’s ready Zayn’s already sent him the name and address of the pub him and his mates are going to be at. Harry’s familiar with the place; it’s small but good for music and Harry’s excited to go there to hang out. He doesn’t want to look like a twat but he also doesn’t want to be spotted by a bunch of fans and have to spend the night hiding in the loo, so he wears a plain black t-shirt and a pair of blue skinny jeans and pulls all of his hair back into a bun to try and keep people from noticing that it’s him, at least for a little while.

The pub is fairly empty though, and after promising Paul that he’ll ring at the first sign of any sort of commotion, Harry’s made his way through the smattering of people and over to the lads he’d just spotted Zayn’s head in the middle of. It’s only Zayn and two others, but Harry figures Zayn must have told his mates Harry was coming because the closer he gets the more he notices the two of them looking over at him, wide grins on their faces.

“Oi! You must be the rockstar!” A lad with a shock of blond hair calls out.

Harry sees Zayn reach over and smack him on the back of the head before hissing, “Piss off, Niall.”

Harry grins. He holds his hand out for Niall to shake, then stumbles forward when Niall pulls him into a hug instead.

“Fuck this hand shaking nonsense,” Niall says cheerily. He pulls back and smacks a loud kiss on Harry’s cheek. “I’ve heard so much about you I feel like I know you already.”

Harry steps back and blinks at Zayn with wide eyes. “Really!” he says cheekily. “That’s good to know.”

Zayn is banging his head against the bar and moaning loud enough Harry can hear him over both the music and Niall’s incessant chatter. Harry pats the back of Zayn’s hair and Zayn reaches over his shoulder and gives Harry the finger. Harry just smiles wider.

“It’s true,” the other lad says. He’s got light brown hair and bright blue eyes and is grinning wickedly at Zayn’s back. He looks up at Harry and winks and Harry’s sold; he officially loves Zayn’s mates. “I’m Louis, I’m sure you’ve heard loads about me. After all, for an otherwise quiet lad Zayn here sure doesn’t shut the fuck up about you.”

Harry claps his hands delightedly and laughs when Zayn finally stands up and tries to cover both Louis and Niall’s mouths with his hands. “It’s lies, Hazza,” Zayn says. He’s got a dark grey beanie pulled over the top of his head and is in a blue button down and a pair of the tightest black jeans Harry’s ever seen on a human. Harry hopes he’s not going to have to speak anytime soon because looking at Zayn is nearly making him choke he looks so good. “Everything either of them says is all lies.”

“Everything, hmm?” Harry asks. His tongue feels thick and clumsy in his mouth.

Zayn narrows his eyes nods. “Yes. Every word,” he says, while both Niall and Louis shake their heads behind him.

Harry looks down at the floor and giggles. He needs a minute to recover from Zayn’s face and try not to look like too much of a daft arse around Niall and Louis. Harry had been worried about not fitting in with Zayn’s friends, or feeling like too much of an outsider around them, but instead he’s immediately comfortable, like Zayn’s friends are his friends. He’s happy for it, but he needs to stop getting distracted by Zayn’s stubble and his jawline and the way his eyelashes are so long Harry can see them fan over the tops of his perfect cheekbones when he closes his eyes.

“So,” Niall says, interrupting the break in conversation with his cheery voice. “I was just about to get a round but since Hazza’s here and he’s the one with the songs on the radio, I think it’s probably his turn to buy, right Tommo?”

“I mean, its the least he can do,” Louis adds. He lifts his chin and sniffs. “Stealing our Zayn away from us night after night.”

“Oh my god,” Zayn whines. He looks like he either wants to die or kill Niall and Louis both. Harry can’t stop laughing. “Are you two fucking kidding me?”

Harry just pats Zayn on the back and steps forward to try and get the bartender’s attention.

*

The four of them stay for the rest of the night tucked away at a tiny table in the corner of the bar. Zayn knows a few of the lads in the band that’s playing, and the singer keeps egging Zayn on, trying to get him to come up and sing.

“You should do it,” Louis says, when the singer’s stopped after yet another song to try and lure Zayn to the stage. “Show old Hazza here what you’ve got.”

“Nah,” Zayn says. He looks over at Harry but then drops his eyes, his fingers trailing patterns through the small puddle of spilled beer on the table. His mouth starts to quirk into a smile and he adds, “I’m already a way better dancer than he is, wouldn’t want him to feel bad when he realizes I’m the better singer too.”

“Whoa ho,” Niall chants. He’d been leaning on the back two legs of his chair, but falls forward at that and bangs his palms on the table. “Are you going to let him get away with that, Harry?”

Harry scratches his chin. “Hmm, Niall. You know, I don’t think I am.”

Zayn rolls his eyes and groans a bit, but Louis is already up and tugging on his arm and Niall’s got a hand cupped around his mouth and is shouting to the singer, “Oi! We’ve got him, lads! He’s on his way!”

“I never actually said yes,” Zayn protests weakly as Louis drags him along.

Louis waves him off and shoves him up the few steps leading onto the stage. Zayn stumbles a bit and turns to glare at Louis so deeply Harry actually fears for Louis’ safety for a second, but Louis merely waves Zayn off and says, “Doesn’t matter a tick. You just get up there and show old Hazza here what you’ve got. We’ll see which one of you’ve got the chops to be on radio every bloody time I turn it on, yeah?”

Harry grumps a bit in Louis’ direction, but he doesn’t pout for long because Zayn’s up on the stage by now, fiddling with the mic stand and joking around with the lads in the band and Harry’s already entranced. Zayn just has a way about him, the way he moves and talks and smiles at everyone, that blows Harry away. He’s captivating - Harry’s thought that since the very first time he’d ever laid eyes on him - and seeing him up on stage now, holding the mic stand between his hands and closing his eyes along with the music isn’t changing his opinion much.

“All right,” Zayn says into the mic and whoever’s left in the pub cheers. Zayn smiles and looks out to where Harry’s standing and smiles slowly, biting on his bottom lip and laughing to himself at whatever the guitarist whispers against his ear.

“‘M’gonna do a song by a friend of mine tonight,” Zayn says with a smirk. “He’s got a new video coming out for it, some sort of dancey thing, and I’ve heard it’s going to be sick. Harry covers his face with one hand and laughs, because Zayn is a huge prat. “Anyway,” Zayn adds, “Let me know how you like it.”

Harry sinks back down into his seat and he peeks out between his fingers as the opening chords of his song start playing over the speakers in the pub. Louis makes his way back to the table and sits down next to Harry, nudging Harry’s foot with his trainer and motioning that Harry should keep looking up at the stage.

“Watch this,” Louis says. Harry opens his mouth to tell him that he was, thanks, and doing quite a fine job until Louis came over to bother him, but then the music goes soft, and Zayn starts to sing, and Harry feels his mouth drop open as he whips his head back toward the stage.

Because Zayn’s not good, he’s fucking incredible.

“Oh my god,” Harry whispers, as Zayn croons along with Harry’s song, the same one they’ve been practicing dancing along to for weeks. Not once did Harry even hear Zayn hum along to the song. He’d never once opened his mouth or sung along or even expressed that he’d ever fucking heard it, much less that he was able to sing it better than Harry ever had. Better than Harry could ever hope to sing it himself. Because Harry is a good singer; he’s great on stage and his voice is decent and he loves what he’s doing, sure. But Zayn is fucking amazing.

“‘S’funny, right?” Louis says, his head tucked in close to Harry’s ear. Harry can’t look at him, can’t take his eyes off Zayn and where he’s singing on stage. He’s leaned forward over the mic, his body curled tight and his fingers stroking up and down the mic stand as he sings. His voice is smooth and rich, and the notes he’s hitting are notes Harry didn’t even know existed until tonight, let alone knew how to sing. “He’s good.”

“Good?” Harry turns to look at Louis for a split second before looking back at Zayn. “He’s fucking perfect.”

“The best part is he was supposed to try out for X Factor the same year you actually won it, isn’t that right, Niall?” Louis says.

Harry gapes and stares from Louis to Niall and back to Zayn. Ha can’t process what he’s hearing.

“He what?”

“He was supposed to try out for X Factor,” Louis repeats. “We all were, actually.”

It feels like all the words Harry’s hearing are mixing with the way Zayn’s singing and nothing is melding right in his brain. He shakes his head and feels some of the hair fall out from the bun at the back of his neck but he can’t be arsed to fix it.

“What happened?” Harry asks.

Louis tsks softly and nods at the stage. “Overslept the day of auditions.”

“Oh my god,” Harry groans. He covers his face with his hands and laughs weakly. He can’t stop thinking about it; Zayn auditioning and singing like the way he’s doing right now. Zayn blowing all of the judges away. Harry being sent home the second he opened his mouth because Zayn was there also, and if anyone had ever heard Zayn they’d never have given Harry a second listen.

He looks up and stares wildly at Louis and Niall. “But what about you two?” he asks, pointing at them accusingly.

Louis shrugs. “When Zayn slept in and we missed our train it didn’t seem all that important to go,” he says. “I had to work that day anyway and was probably going to get canned if I didn’t go in so it was better that I stayed home. Niall was only going along with Zayn and me to try out for a laugh. I wouldn’t have made it that far anyway,” Louis adds with a sharp grin. He nods at the stage where Zayn is finishing up to wild applause. “Zayn’s the one who would have made it, you know. I reckon he would have knocked you right off the show that year.”

“Yeah,” Harry says, staring dumbly at where Zayn is making his way down the steps, stopping to smile and chat with everyone who goes up to him to tell him how great he sounded. Harry’s mind is spinning. He needs a second to think about all of this.

“Yeah, I reckon,” he says.

*

Harry doesn’t so much as invite himself to Zayn’s when they leave the pub as he just shuffles Zayn into the car he’s already got waiting at the curb and gives Paul Zayn’s address. Zayn looks at him curiously but Harry just shakes his head and stares out the window.

It doesn’t take long before they’re pulling up in front of Zayn’s flat. Zayn gets out of the car with a small wave and makes his way up the walk, and when Harry scoots over to follow, Paul give him a long look in the rearview mirror.

“You want me to wait?” Paul asks.

Harry looks back at Zayn who’s standing outside the front door, taking a long drag from his cigarette. Zayn’s hair is a mess and his shirt is unbuttoned halfway down his chest, the silver chains around his neck glittering in the moonlight. Harry can’t stop watching Zayn’s fingers as he holds his fag, the way his throat moves when he swallows. Zayn looks over at Harry and holds his gaze with dark eyes, and Harry steps out onto the street and taps the roof of the car.

“Nah. I’ll ring you in the morning,” Harry says. Zayn hears him and smiles slowly.

Zayn’s flat is in a tip the same way it’s been every time Harry’s ever stopped over. It’s small and homey and now that Harry’s got Zayn into the habit of burning scented candles whenever he’s home it always smells nice, but there’s crap all over the place. Clothes on the sofa and unwashed dishes in the sink. The light in the kitchen flickers over the hob and Harry stands with his hands clasped tightly behind his back as Zayn wanders around and picks random things up, tossing them into a pile in the corner of the room.

Zayn turns off the light over the cooker and the room plunges into darkness. He flicks on the small lamp on the table by the sofa but Harry can still barely see him. He doesn’t mind, though. Harry thinks it might be easier to talk to Zayn like this in the dark.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me that you could sing like that?” is what Harry says first. He doesn’t mean to accuse Zayn of anything - it’s not like Zayn did anything wrong - but Harry feels wronged all the same. He feels like after all the time he and Zayn have spent together, all the things they’ve talked about, that Zayn might have mentioned this one thing. This one, relatively big thing.

Zayn must not get what’s so big about it though, because he just shrugs and says, “Didn’t think it was that important.”

“You just--” Harry drags his fingers through his hair. Zayn can be so frustrating. “You didn’t think it was that important?” he asks. Zayn fiddles with the bottom of his shirt and shrugs. “Zayn, you’re amazing. You’re fucking incredible,” Harry tells him. He crosses the room until he’s standing directly in front of Zayn and curls his hands under Zayn’s elbows. Zayn looks up, blinks dark eyes at Harry and then looks to the side.

“You’re better than me,” Harry says seriously.

Zayn shakes his head. “Nah.”

“You are though,” Harry insists. “It’s not - I’m not saying it to I don’t know, make you feel weird or anything, it’s just the truth. Your voice is loads better than mine.”

Zayn shrugs and it’s odd, how calm Harry feels about it all now. It’s like he’s accepted it: Zayn is a way better singer than Harry is and that’s fine. Harry’s going to do everything he can to make sure that everyone in the world knows that soon.

“You should do this,” Harry says, voice determined. He nods once, mind already spinning with the possibilities. “You can do this. I’ll ring Liam in the morning, we’ll get you set up with some auditions. I’m sure he’s got some songs put on the side for my next album but you can have them. I mean, I hope we can still go ahead with the video,” Harry says. He bites his lip. He didn’t think about that part. If Zayn goes and gets famous the video might be odd after a while. Zayn was meant to be his partner with the dancing, but if they’re both singers it’s different. He’ll have to talk to Liam and figure something out.

Zayn’s shaking his head though, his face blank and eyes wide. “Wait. What?”

“For you to record an album, Zayn,” Harry huffs. Honestly, what is he not getting about this? “You’re amazing. You need to be on the radio as soon as we can set it up. I--”

“No, Harry, wait,” Zayn interrupts. Harry keeps talking so Zayn reaches over and physically covers Harry’s mouth with his hand to get him to stop. “Harry, I don’t want that.”

Harry feels his face scrunch up in confusion. “What?”

“I don’t want that,” Zayn repeats.

Harry doesn’t understand. “But you’re amazing, Zayn. You’re way better than I am. You can be even bigger, even more famous if you wanted, for sure.”

“I don’t want to though,” Zayn says simply.

Harry blinks. “What?” He figures he must be hearing things wrong. “Why not?”

“Haz, your life is great, yeah?” Zayn says. He’s so close Harry can feel the heat from his body all along Harry’s chest. Zayn smells faintly like sweat and smoke from the pub. His eyes are dark and he reaches out and touches Harry’s chest with his fingers, curls his hands around the slope of Harry’s ribs. “Your life’s amazing and you’re so famous and it’s perfect for you. But I…” Zayn shrugs and smiles simply. “I like dancing,” he says easily. “I like to get a job and dance for however long the job needs me and then I move on. I don’t want like, anything as big as what you have. I can’t have anything be so much all the time.”

Harry shakes his head, because his life is a lot, it’s true, but it’s also amazing. He tells Zayn that and Zayn nods and agrees.

“It is amazing, you’re right,” Zayn says, “But it’s just not for me. I want to sing when I want to and be quiet when I don’t. I want to dance all the time. I want to go to pubs and smoke my fags and shag whoever I want and not be the center of attention every second of my life.”

Harry’s heart thumps wildly with the way Zayn’s looking at him and how they’re standing so close. Harry’s still holding onto Zayn’s arms, Zayn’s hands are on Harry’s sides and their knees are bumping together. Harry looks from Zayn’s mouth up into his eyes, and it’s like once he starts thinking about it he can’t seem to stop. The words are swirling around in his head - kiss him, you should kiss him, you could kiss him - and it’s not the first time Harry’s thought it, but it’s the first time he’s thought it and then thought: fuck it and wanted to do something about it.

Harry licks his lips. “Is that like, a thing?” he asks quietly. “Is there anyone you want to shag?”

Zayn shrugs and looks away. He’s quiet for so long Harry nearly pulls back, thinking that maybe he’s gotten it wrong, but then Zayn looks at him again and Harry’s throat closes with how badly he wants him. “It’s possible.”

Harry wants to be the one Zayn wants. He thinks he might be the one Zayn wants, but he doesn’t want to assume anything and mess things up. All Harry knows is the way he watches Zayn, the things he thinks about him, and how he’s noticed Zayn looking at him the same way more often than he’s let on. Harry’s still not sure, though. He’s still got doubts and he doesn’t want to muck this all up by doing something that Zayn doesn’t want him to.

“Zayn, I--”

Zayn cuts him off by surging up and kissing Harry soundly on the mouth. He digs his fingers into Harry’s hair and tilts his head to the side and Harry feels instantly hot and cold all over, his blood zipping like fire under his skin. It’s like he’s going to explode, this insane want he’s felt about Zayn since the first time he laid eyes on him and the way it’s all come bubbling up, making Harry’s chest feel tight and hot. His fingers shake where they’re pressed into Zayn’s biceps and he holds him in place and kisses him back just as deep.

Zayn’s mouth is warm and wet, and he kisses Harry like he’s done it a thousand times before, like the way that they know each other’s bodies and how they move when they dance has all been just a precursor to this. Zayn pulls Harry’s head down and bites at Harry’s lip, Harry moaning brokenly and squeezing his eyes shut because he can’t bear to open them and have this end.

It doesn’t seem like Zayn’s trying to stop it anytime soon, though. He drags his fingers down the back of Harry’s neck and slots his leg in between Harry’s as he leans in, pressing hard against him. Harry turns his head to the side and breaks away from the kiss because he can’t breathe like this. He thinks he might die with how much he needs to touch Zayn, how desperately he wants to get their clothes off, to feel even inch of Zayn’s skin.

“Zayn, fuck, I--”

“Yeah, come on,” Zayn says and takes Harry by the hand into his bedroom.

*

Zayn’s room is dark and the top of the bed is covered with clothes and Zayn’s dance bag and damp towels. He shoves everything to the side and pushes Harry down, smiling as he crawls onto the bed after him. Harry’s hands shake and he shoves them under his head, leans back when Zayn straddles Harry’s lap and tips his head down to kiss him again.

It’s almost too much, having Zayn on him like this when Harry’s been thinking of Zayn’s mouth and hands and skin since the first time he saw him. Harry can’t keep his head from spinning, all he can think about is all the things he wants, how much he needs Zayns to give him.

Harry wants Zayn to press his fingers into Harry’s skin and drag his teeth over him until Harry’s shaking from it. He wants Zayn to bite him; wants his teeth and his nails scratching Harry’s chest and throat until it almost hurts. He wants Zayn to touch his cock and put his fingers in Harry’s ass and stretch him out until he can take Zayn’s dick, wants to feel Zayn filling him up, fucking into him and barely giving Harry time to breathe. He wants to know how Zayn tastes, wants to lick his tattoos and bite his fingers and eat Zayn out until he’s shaking and crying and coming all over himself.

Harry stares up at Zayn and it’s too much, this choking need he’s got. He feels himself shake, tries to steady his hands by gripping Zayn’s waist and holding on and Zayn’s eyes go soft. He touches Harry’s chin and cheek and kisses him gently, trying to calm Harry down with slow kisses.

“Please,” Harry whines. He squeezes his eyes closed and drops his hands to curl his fingers in the sheets. Zayn reaches down and undoes Harry’s jeans, pulls them off his legs and then yanks Harry’s shirt up over his head. Harry would try and help but he feels paralyzed, desperate for Zayn to come back to him, for him to touch Harry and fuck him and make him come.

Zayn strips his own clothes off and then he’s back on top of him, his skin warm and soft. Harry pulls him down so their cocks bump and Harry chokes, letting his legs fall open desperate and needy.

“Fuck, I need you to touch me,” Harry groans. Zayn’s got his head tipped down, soft hair brushing against Harry’s chest. Harry slips his fingers into the back of Zayn’s hair and pushes on his head, moving him down and almost crying when Zayn mouths the head of Harry’s dick.

Harry’s thighs shake and he writhes on the bed as Zayn sucks him off. Zayn’s mouth is so wet, his tongue sliding along the head of Harry’s cock and Harry pushes two fingers into Zayn’s mouth, feels his hips buck when Zayn licks between his fingers. It’s a bit of a stretch but Harry pulls his hand away and reaches behind him and presses his fingers against his hole, Zayn’s mouth popping off before Harry can think to tell him not to move.

“No--” Harry protests wildly, but Zayn just shakes his head and fumbles around under the covers until he finds a bottle of lube, barely stopping to look at Harry before he’s slicking his fingers up and shoving Harry’s hand out of the way.

“”I’ve got you,” Zayn says softly. Harry can’t stop watching him but the sight of Zayn crouched between his legs is almost too much. Zayn’s fingers are shorter than Harry’s but thicker. He presses in not too slow but steady, barely giving Harry time to relax into it before adding a second, and then a third. Harry fucks down on Zayn’s hand feeling his orgasm spiralling up, curling through his body until it’s right there, rattling his bones and bringing him reeling toward the edge.

“Fuck, Zayn, I’m gonna--”

Zayn stops then, pulls his fingers out slow and grins against Harry’s thigh when Harry slaps at his head.

“What the fuck--”

“I don’t want you to come like that,” Zayn says. His voice is dark and Harry shakes from how badly he wants whatever Zayn will give him. It’s scary how Harry would do anything Zayn wants right now. “Could you come just like that, do you think?” Zayn asks, voice low and wrecked. “From just my fingers?”

“I-- Yeah,” Harry gasps desperately. “I mean--”

“How about my mouth,” Zayn questions and Harry’s dick pulses, getting wetter at the tip and smearing against his belly.

Oh,” Harry whines when Zayn pushes against Harry’s thigh, holding it up and to the side as he settles down between Harry’s legs. All Harry can see are spots behind his eyes, colors bursting and flashing as Zayn presses his face against the curve of Harry’s ass, his tongue licking over him and teeth biting down on the thin skin.

Harry’s never been ashamed of anything to do with sex or anything his or anyone else’s body does, but the speed that he comes as soon as Zayn starts licking him, his tongue pressing deeply inside as his hands hold Harry open is almost embarrassing. Zayn hums quietly against his skin as Harry’s body shakes and twists on the bed, his fingers making knots in Zayn’s hair. Zayn keeps going, licking into him and fucking Harry with his tongue until Harry’s pleading for him to stop, his stomach covered in come and his muscles strung out and loose.

Zayn crawls up Harry’s body and his face is flushed and damp. Harry kisses him and tastes himself and it makes him crazy, makes him want to spread Zayn out and mark him up with Harry’s mouth and hands. He wants to bite down on Zayn’s tattoos, drag his nails over him until Zayn’s shaking, red marks and welts all over his perfect skin. Zayn’s close, thrusting his dick against the side of Harry’s hip and Harry drags his hand through his come and curls it around Zayn’s cock, stroking him tight and fast until Zayn freezes and curses and comes all over them both.

Zayn holds still for a second, and then rolls over and flops down onto his back, breathing heavy up at the ceiling. Harry reaches out and touches Zayn’s side, and he can barely move but when Zayn tugs on his hand Harry goes and curls up close to Zayn’s chest.

“There’s a box of tissues on the floor by you,” Zayn says.

Harry nods and yawns. “Mmhmm.” Zayn nudges him, but Harry’s bone tired, his body to heavy and relaxed right now to move. “I’ll get them in a second.”

“Get them now,” Zayn whines. He kicks his foot at Harry’s shin. “C’mon, Haz, I’m fucking gross.”

“Then you get them,” Harry mutters, already drifting off to sleep.

“Useless,” Zayn complains. Harry feels the bed moving around and Zayn leaning over him, his chest warm against Harry’s side. Zayn comes back and huffs, but he cleans Harry off with a balled up wad of tissues and pulls the covers over them both so Harry figures he can’t be all that cross.

“Night, Zayn,” Harry whispers. His eyes are already closed but he feels himself smile when Zayn presses a kiss against the back of Harry’s shoulder.

“Night, Haz.”

*

If Harry thought things would change between him and Zayn when they were dancing after they fucked around, he was wrong. He’d thought that maybe their practice time would suffer, or that they would be too distracted to concentrate, but if anything they get together even more now and practice all the time.

Sometimes before they meet up for the day they get a late lunch, or grab a cup of coffee, just sitting around and talking before they head to the studio.They talk about everything; Harry wants to know everything there is to know about Zayn and he asks him a million questions, tucking the answers away until he has time to really think about them, and put together all the little pieces of Zayn he’s gathered over time.

A lot of nights after they’re done practicing, they’ll both shower and change and go out for a few pints with Louis and Niall, playing darts and listening to music in the pub. Liam has even joined them on occasion, the whole group of them getting along better than any five people who’ve all recently met each other would ever expect to.

A lot of times Harry stays at Zayn’s at night, or Zayn stays at Harry’s, and when they wake up they lie in bed together, touching each other slowly while the late morning light warms the bedroom. It takes forever for Zayn to wake up Harry’s found out, and whenever he’s up first he tries to make it a game to see how much of Zayn’s skin he can touch and lick before Zayn is grunting in his sleep, his hand finding Harry’s hair and twisting it between his fingers before his eyes are even fully open.

As far as the video goes, it’s not possible that Harry’s dancing could get any worse, so this is probably helping in the long run, the two of them being together. Maybe Harry will catch some of Zayn’s gracefulness. Maybe being around Zayn and touching him all the time will have a good, athletic benefit. Maybe one day Harry will be a first class professional dancer, just by being with Zayn so much. Maybe.

When he suggest this to Zayn, Zayn laughs so hard he nearly falls over onto the floor.

“Rude,” Harry scolds. He’s got his hands planted on his hips and is glaring at where Zayn’s bent at the waist, laughing his fool head off. It’s the end of rehearsing for the night and Harry thinks he’s getting better, at least. He might not be amazing but he’s fairly sure that when it comes time to film the video in the next few days he won’t completely embarrass himself. “I mean, it could happen.”

“Mmhmm,” Zayn agrees, sounding very much like he’s humoring Harry. He does stand up though, and slide his hand around the back of Harry’s neck, pulling him down and into a kiss. “Whatever you say, babe.”

And all right, fine. Maybe they don’t do all that much more practicing that night after all.

*

The day they’re set to film the video it’s pissing down rain from the second Harry opens his eyes. He’d stayed at his own flat the night before and only gets a chance to text Zayn once before Paul’s there picking him up with Cal and Ben and Jeff already in the back of the car. Just a fast, miss you, see you in a bit xx text, but at least it’s something.

“You ready, H?” Cal asks where he’s sat across from him. Harry’s stomach is fluttering nervously. He’s got no idea why; he’s filmed a ton of videos and he and Zayn have danced this routine more times than he ever could have imagined. Rain pounds against the windows and Harry feels so off kilter, so unsettled he almost wants to bunk off and tell them all he’ll do the video another day. He checks his mobile again and it’s silent, his text to Zayn still unanswered.

“Yeah,” Harry says, slipping his mobile in his pocket and forcing a grin on his face. “Yeah, m’ready.”

*

Zayn’s already at the location when they get there, stuck over in a corner with Lou fussing with his hair and Caroline tucking the back of the crisp white dress shirt into Zayn’s black trousers. Harry watches him with wide eyes; the way Zayn smiles and laughs with them, how Lou smacks Zayn on the shoulder when he goes to mess with his hair. Shes fixed it back into a slick quiff and Harry doesn’t know how he’s supposed to manage dancing with Zayn with all of these people around when all he wants to do is drag him onto the floor and rip his clothes off.

Harry stumbles over his feet and Zayn looks up, catches Harry as he rights himself and gives him a thumbs up. Harry smiles, his chest loosening up and his nerves starting to even out as he gives Zayn a thumbs up back.

“Careful,” Zayn calls. Harry wants to kiss his smile. “Don’t hurt yourself before you even get started, yeah?”

Harry shakes his head and waves, letting himself be led off to get dressed.

The outfit Liam’s picked out for Harry is similar to Zayn’s but a bit different. The same kind of white shirt and dark trousers as Zayn, but Harry’s shirt is more casual and rolled up at the sleeves to his elbows. Harry’s got a black vest as well, and a tie undone around his neck, and where Zayn’s hair is neatly fixed and his clothes are sharp and pressed, Harry’s a bit more rumpled, his hair pulled back into a messy bun.

The set is gorgeous; gleaming dark wood floors and candles flickering from the brass sconces on all the walls. There’s a tremendous crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and the bottoms of Harry’s shiny shoes echo on the floor as he wanders out, meeting Zayn halfway.

Zayn touches Harry’s arm, he curves his fingers under Harry’s elbow and pulls him in close. Harry tips his head and Zayn is so warm, his body solid and smelling like Zayn’s shower gel and aftershave and the product in his hair. Harry wants to bury his face against Zayn’s neck. He wants to kiss his skin and feel Zayn’s arms around him and not ever let go.

“We’ve got this, yeah?” Zayn says softly.

Harry looks at him and blinks. His throat is tight and he can feel his pulse tripping fast under his skin. He smiles and thinks, I love you, and instead of being worried by that, or freaking out, it’s like something calm and even settles over Harry, a blanket of certainty that no matter what happens, he loves Zayn. He loves him a lot.

“Yeah,” Harry says and smiles. “I know.”

*

The video turns out better than Harry ever could have expected. The song is perfect and the way Zayn looks at him when they dance, the way his hands fit over Harry’s hips, his feet leading Harry across the floor is almost magical.

Harry can’t stop smiling throughout the whole thing. He moves when he’s supposed to and Zayn dances circles around him, looking like every bit the star he’s supposed to be. When he’d written the song Harry had thought of it as a little bit sad and wanting, an ache in his chest whenever he thought about trying to find someone that would fit with him, but now that he’s met Zayn the song is different. It’s not about not being in love, it’s about doing what you have to to keep love once you’ve found it.

The video takes a few hours, and by the time Ben calls that it’s a wrap Harry’s tired and sore and thinks he might want to sleep for a week. Everyone left on the set claps weakly, and Zayn grins at him, his face wide open and happy.

“We did it,” Zayn says and holds his hand up for a high five.

Harry laughs. He feels giddy, like after he’s done this he can do anything. He danced for fucks sake. Really and truly danced.

“It was all you,” Harry says, shaking his head. Zayn goes to argue with him but Harry holds a hand up and cuts him off. “No, honestly, I was total crap. You’re amazing.”

Zayn’s face goes pink, his cheeks and the tops of his ears coloring and Harry steps closer, wraps his arms around Zayn’s back and kisses him softly. Zayn’s lips are full and warm, and they catch against Harry’s as he sighs into Harry’s mouth. They’ve been working for hours but Harry feels completely awake.

He wants to take Zayn out and buy him dinner and drinks and anything Zayn lays his eyes on. He wants to feed Zayn by hand and get him drunk, his lips turning red from bottle after bottle of wine, and then Harry wants to take him home, lay Zayn out on his bed and lick every inch of his skin. He wants to fuck Zayn fast and get it out of his system, and then he wants to do it again slow, make it take hours and hours.

Zayn hums happily against Harry’s mouth, and then he steps back, giving Harry a friendly pat on the cheek and moving away. Harry feels his face scrunch up in confusion. This wasn’t what he’d had planned at all.

“Uhm,” Harry says distractedly. “All right?”

“Yeah, of course,” Zayn says, smiling easily. He holds out a hand and it takes Harry a second before he realizes Zayn means for him to shake it, which he does even if he’s confused as to why. “So this has been fun, yeah?” Zayn says. Harry’s head starts to pound and his ears are ringing. “It was great meeting you, mate.”

Harry can’t breathe. He keeps opening and closing his mouth in shock but then snaps it closed because he’s afraid he might be sick. He finally licks his lips and manages to whisper, “Oh. Ok. Uhm. Right.”

Zayn pats Harry’s cheek again and then turns and walks away. Harry would try and do something - call after him or chase him, but he feels like he’s been taken out by the knees because was this all... what? Zayn pretending? Zayn doing his job? Harry didn’t think that shagging your co-star was in Zayn’s contract but maybe he missed that part. All he knows is that he feels like a bloody idiot. Here he was, wanting Zayn, thinking he was in love with Zayn, and all the while Zayn was--

“Oh my god,” Zayn says, and Harry looks up, mouth still open wide. He presses his lips closed and swallows thickly. He doesn’t trust himself to speak, but Zayn’s grinning, fucking giggling actually, and Harry feels relieved and also like he wants to murder Zayn all at once.

“Oh my god, your face,” Zayn says again, and now Harry does glare. He stomps across to where Zayn’s standing and crosses his arms and huffs. “Man that was funny.”

“No, Zayn, it wasn’t,” Harry says. His heart is finally coming back to a normal pace but his hands are still shaking. He might be sick yet also, it’s too soon to tell.

“No, you’re right,” Zayn says. He tries to force the smile off his face but all it does is twist his lips up in bizarre grin. Harry really hates him. “I’m sorry. I’m--” he giggles again and Harry taps his foot. “Harry, Christ, I’m sorry but honestly, do you really think I could give this up?” He gestures between the two of them and hesitantly steps closer. “Because I couldn’t.”

Harry blinks and when Zayn reaches for him Harry goes, burying his face against the side of Zayn’s neck. “Really?” Harry asks. His voice shakes and he clears his throat. “With me? Because it might be a lot." It’s not that he doesn’t want Zayn because he does, he just wants Zayn to understand that being with Harry isn’t going to be easy. He wants Zayn to be sure.

“People are going to talk,” Harry says softly. He squeezes his eyes shut and feels the back of his throat ache and burn. “They’re going to see us and want to know things. I don't know if you care about that but if you’re with me…” he trails off and shrugs helplessly. “I can’t stop it from happening even if I wanted it to.”

“Harry, I don’t care,” Zayn says simply. He looks up and catches Harry’s eye then leans in to kiss him. It’s soft and sweet and Harry curls his hands over the sides of Zayn’s throat, holds him close and kisses him until they’re both out of breath. “It’ll be worth it.”

“Yeah?” Harry asks. He’s hoping so, so hard. “You sure you want all that?”

“I want everything with you,” Zayn tells him, voice certain. Harry kisses him again and Zayn kisses him back, laughing into Harry’s mouth.

Harry doesn’t know how he got so lucky.

“Well all right,” Harry says, as he takes Zayn’s hand and leads him from the studio. His smile is brighter than the sun. “Let’s do this.”

 

-END-