“Right,” Niall starts and Harry makes a noise of acknowledgement, blinking up at the hotel room ceiling. Niall’s sprawled out on the floor to the left somewhere, Harry would check if his brain wasn’t currently doing some hardcore version of the macarena. Much like the one he busted out on the dance floor an hour or so ago. “Snog, marry, kill.”
“Noooooo, I hate this game,” Harry whines. “Why does someone have to die?”
“Alright, alright,” Niall placates. “Just avoid ‘em then if it bothers you that much.”
“Fine,” Harry agrees, trying to work out the logistics of drinking his Corona while still lying flat on the bed. If it doesn’t end up in his eye he’ll call it a win.
“Ben, Corden and,” Niall hums for a second, “Cal.”
“That’s mean,” Harry says but furrows his brow as he thinks. “Snog James, wouldn’t be new. He’s a lovely kisser too, very soft lips. Then, marry Ben. I think Meri would understand, let her keep the dogs obviously. Maybe we could both marry Ben. ” Harry pauses and frowns before saying to the ceiling, “sorry Cal.”
“I’m textin’ him right now.” Niall cackles and Harry rolls to the side of the bed, reaching out with an uncoordinated arm.
“Don’t!” He yells, only to find Niall definitely not texting, still in the exact same position he was when they’d stumbled into the hotel room after Zayn and Perrie’s wedding reception had died down to just as Jesy and Jade started bothering the DJ to put together a Spice Girl’s medley. Harry’s a bit upset about missing that, actually. “Why can’t Cal join? I’m sure I could make it work. There could be a schedule. Like, alternate days and then bank holidays and Sundays off.”
“Christ, Harry. S’just a game, don’t get ya knickers in a twist.” Niall snorts, cracking one eye open and Harry sticks his tongue out. Niall’s shirt is unbuttoned, the top button of his trousers undone too, his blazer balled up under his head as a pillow and he’s resting a bottle of Tia Maria, stolen from the bar downstairs, on his stomach.
“Okay, okay. My turn.” Harry rests his chin over the edge of the bed and watches as Niall takes a swig from the bottle, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Hurry up ain’t got all day.”
“Got it! No, wait, yeah, okay. Tom-- not Atkin, Mcfly-- Fletcher, thingy from the crew-- you know, the one with the hair and, like, the glasses. Had a thing for you for ages.”
“Yeah! Crew Alan and,” he draws out the last word as he tries to think of the final person. “Me. Crew Alan, Tom Fletcher or me.”
“That’s against the rules,” Niall protests.
“S’just a game,” Harry sing-songs, mimicking Niall earlier. Niall flips up his middle finger in return and Harry makes a lazy swipe for it.
“Avoid,” Niall scrunches up his face and Harry moves his hands so he’s resting his chin on them, “uh. Avoid Tom, snog Crew Alan, marry you.”
“You’d marry me over Tom?” Harry says, bewildered.
“You did see his wedding speech, right? You’d give that up for me?”
“Couldn’t do it to Giovanna. M’not a homewrecker, Harry. She bakes me cakes,” Niall says pointedly.
“Can’t believe it. Feel like I’ve won the lottery.” Harry grins and Niall makes a move like he’s going to chuck his bottle at Harry but realises at last minute that it’s still full.
“Alright, calm down,” Niall says with a laugh. “Only marrying you for the money and your record collection.”
“We’d have a great wedding,” Harry continues unfazed as he flops back on the bed, Corona spilling out of the bottle and dripping down his hand. “In a barn. Like, obviously not with all the animals still inside. Well, maybe the sheep, they’re cute. Do sheep even live in barns? Can you train them to sing? We could do it all up, have the priest standing on a stack of hay. So many fairylights, too many fairylights. It’d be a fire hazard. We’d have to have the fire service on stand-by. Channel Four could pick it up as one of their documentaries, World’s Most Dangerous Wedding. Did I mention the chainsaw jugglers?”
“You’re a child.” Niall snorts.
Maybe, maybe the thought has been on his mind a lot tonight, maybe he’d gotten a tad too weepy as Zayn and Perrie exchanged rings but, to be honest, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Maybe that’s the reason Harry had declared a Singles Only after party in his hotel room which consisted of him and Niall and some stolen booze.
“How many do you want?” Harry asks, “children, I mean.”
“Dunno,” Niall answers, “probably ‘bout twenty. A whole herd. You?”
“Same,” Harry nods, the ceiling starting to ripple in his vision again. “Could start a travelling family circus. Or like, become the Osmonds. The Styles Five.”
Niall starts humming ABC under his breath and Harry joins in after a second, making the words up off the top of his head. It somehow turns into a song about how to check if your spaghetti’s properly cooked and has Niall cracking up halfway through. Harry grins up at the ceiling.
“First dance song?” Harry asks once Niall manages to stop choking.
“Somethin’ proper cheesy but classy, yeah?” Niall answers, “Have I Told You Lately?”
“Yes bro!” Harry cheers, leaning off the bed to get a high five off Niall. Their hands slap together a little sloppy and Harry lingers enough for it to definitely be classed as handholding before he lets go. “Rod Stewart’s version though, what a tune. Could get Ed to sing it, he loves a wedding.”
“Don’t think that’s a good idea,” Niall says, grimacing.
“Such a sick wedding,” Harry sighs wistfully. If this was a cartoon, Harry would suddenly have a glowing lightbulb above his head. But it’s not, and all he has above his head is an empty bottle of brandy. “Let’s do it.”
“Do what?” Niall asks.
“Get married!” Harry crows. The lightbulb would burn a little brighter and then shatter into tiny little heart-shaped confetti. Harry might not be above pitching an idea to Pixar. It could happen, they probably follow him on Twitter. “Not right now, obviously.”
“Obviously.” Niall deadpans and Harry shushes him.
“Say in-- like, in the future. When we’re thirty,” Harry starts slowly. “Say if when we’re thirty and we’re both still single, we should.”
“Are you calling me unloveable?” Niall frowns.
“No. I love you. I love you very very much.” Niall pulls a face and Harry pulls one right back. “Which is why I’m serious. S’good to have a back up plan, even if it’s just for the wedding of the century we’d throw. I mean, we’ve got the money for it.”
“Ooo yeah thats what I’ve been saving up for, got a little pot on me bedside table, ‘Niall and Harry’s imaginary wedding fund.’ Been popping 50p in there every time we release a song.” If Harry could be bothered to reach for a pillow, he’d chuck it at Niall.
“Heyyy, it makes sense. My family already love you and I always remember to ring Maura for our monthly catch up. We get on pretty well, don’t we? Already know how to live in each other’s pockets. Shared hobbies, both love golf, won’t be any arguments about you leaving me at home to look after the triplets while you’re out havin’ a game with your mates. We’ll just bring them to the course with us, get them started early. Maybe Bobby Junior could be the next Henrik Stenson.” Harry pauses and watches Niall carefully.
“You’d let me name one of ‘em after Bobby?” Niall says, finally turning his head to look at Harry.
“‘Course.” Harry shrugs, although it’s difficult at this angle. He’s slid further off the bed and is currently nearly upside down. Headrush doesn’t go well with alcohol. “Because you’ll let me name one of them Lightning.”
“Like hell I will.” Niall guffaws and Harry grins.
There’s a moment of silence where Harry considers just passing out right there, head hanging off the bed, because the alcohol’s finally catching up to him in the most unpleasant way. “When we’re thirty?”
“When we’re thirty.” Harry repeats. His eyelids are slowly drooping closed, fingers going slack around the beer he’s clutching. He’s just slipping over the edge when there’s the rustle of material and he squints open one eye to look at Niall.
“We’ve done stupider things.” Niall shrugs.
Harry cheers. Well he tries to cheer but it comes out as a garbled hoot and in return, Niall finally does throw his bottle, it missing by an inch and landing with a soft thud on the bed next to Harry.
“Aw,” Harry says, grabbing at the bottle and clutching it to his chest. “Our first couple fight.”
“Is it too late to back out?” Niall sighs.
“Yes,” Harry says simply, “wait, we need to, like-- make it official.”
“You gonna get down on one knee?” Niall asks, “or we gonna do one of ‘em blood pacts.”
“How romantic,” Harry deadpans and Niall laughs, reaching out both his hands.
“C’mere then,” Niall waggles his eyebrows. “Got a better idea. Show us what I could have in a few years.”
“At least buy me dinner first.” Harry holds a hand to his chest. He manages to untangle himself from the bed sheets, taking a moment to let the world tilt back on its axis as he steadies himself, stumbling towards Niall.
With his feet planted either side of Niall’s hips he sits himself down heavily and Niall lets out an exaggerated ‘oof,’ staring up at Harry. Niall’s shirt's still undone, hanging open at his sides and Harry presses one palm to Niall’s chest, the other just beside Niall’s head on the carpet.
“Fuckin’ hell.” Niall giggles, hair a mess around his head.
“Oi, be quiet.” Harry tries for stern but he’s grinning like an idiot too, “we’re having a moment. We’ll tell our kids about this, we will.”
“If we’re single when we’re thirty.” Niall corrects him and Harry rolls his eyes.
“You do know how to kill the mood.” Harry pouts and Niall curls his fingers around Harry’s sides, digging in to make Harry squirm.
“Sorry, sorry. Harry Styles, oh bestest friend of mine. Will you do me the honour of making sure I don’t spend the rest of my time in the world alone and also help co-host the World’s Most Dangerous Wedding?” Niall bites his lip when he finishes, cheeks tinted pink with flush of too much alcohol and Harry leans down.
“I do,” Harry agrees before he kisses Niall wet and sloppy on the mouth.
It’s more like they’re smiling against each other’s lips, teeth in the absolute wrong places and Niall lets out a loud snort halfway through that sets Harry off and he pulls back too fast, his head spinning.
“Shit, shit. M’gunna be sick.” Harry stumbles to his feet, slapping a hand over his mouth.
“Was it that bad?” Niall frowns, lips glossy from where Harry’d got a little overenthusiastic.
“Kiss was good. Promise,” Harry says, trying to say as few words as possible as he legs it towards the bathroom. “That brandy earlier? Bad. Bad, bad, bad.”
Niall spends the whole time Harry has his head in the loo laughing and taking pictures, but he does get him a glass of water so it could be worse.
On a scale from one to awful the next morning is absolutely horrendous and Harry barely manages a mumbled goodbye from his makeshift bed in the bath when Willie arrives to pick up Niall. An hour of struggling and at least thirty glasses of water later Harry makes his own way out of the hotel, sunglasses on and hat tipped low over his face as he stumbles towards Nick’s car.
“You look like shit,” Nick greets him as Harry stuffs his bag down by his feet and clambers into the car. His own car is still sitting in the hotel carpark and he’ll have to venture back later to retrieve it but right now all he needs is the world’s longest shower and biggest, greasiest bacon sarnie.
“I feel like it,” Harry mumbles, fumbling with his seat belt, “cheers for picking me up, couldn’t face driving.”
“Anything for my dearest Pop Star,” Nick replies and Harry would take it as sincere if seconds later Nick didn’t tap the break a touch too hard sending Harry lurching forward with a groan. “How was the wedding?”
“Lovely,” Harry says through a groan, his forehead pressed against the glass of the window. “Like a real life fairytale. Never seen someone’s eyes actually sparkle until Zayn said ‘I do.’”
“He’s a sweet one.” Nick narrowly avoids hitting a lollipop lady and maybe Harry would’ve been better off driving on his own.
“Mmmm,” Harry agrees.
“Is that a hint of green I see?” Nick glances over for a second.
“What? I feel fine, I’d tell you if I was gonna be sick.” Harry pauses,”wait-- No!” Harry protests, catching on and then immediately regrets it as the invisible band around his head tightens a touch more. “Told you to stop going on Tumblr.”
“And I told you to stop forgetting that you’re a lightweight but here we are.” If Harry didn’t value the bacon sarnie waiting at the end of this car journey he’d push Nick.
“Says boy who cried during 27 dresses,” Nick says and Harry musters up enough energy to give him a look. “Sat next to man who also cried.”
“It’s such a good film though,” Harry reasons and Nick hums in agreement. “I can wait,” Harry adds after a moment, “and if life doesn’t go to plan and I’m wilting away with nothing but my cat army, I’ve got Niall.”
“Niall?” Nick asks, speeding up as they hit the motorway.
“Irish lad? Blonde? Eyes the colour of the sea? Plays guitar? In that band-- can’t remember their name, don’t really like them to be honest, heard they don’t even write their own so--”
“Harry,” Nick interrupts, sounding wholly unimpressed. Harry stifles a laugh. “Are you trying to tell me Niall is your fall back plan?”
“Dont say it like that, makes it sound--” Harry pauses, “unromantic.”
“So signing some agreement saying that you’ll get hitched if you can’t find anyone else is romantic,” Nick says.
“God, it wasn’t like that.” Harry frowns. “We didn’t make up some contract, we kissed on it.”
“You kissed on it,” Nick repeats, although he doesn’t sound surprised. “You two,” he trails off with a shake of his head.
Before Harry can even say anything Nick continues, “where was my proposal though, huh? Aren’t you worried that I’ll end up bitter and alone?”
“‘Course not,” Harry says, “might not be right now, but you’ll find someone perfect. You’re a catch.”
“Don’t be sincere when I’m trynna take the piss.” Nick scowls and Harry grins. “So this it for man of the people Styles then, finally settling down.”
“Didn’t really think of it like that.” Harry shrugs, “but-- I dunno, makes sense. This is the first proper break we’ve had in, what? Four years? It’d be-- nice, I haven’t ever, you know, had that.”
“Had what?” Nick asks.
“The one,” Harry says, wiggling his fingers in front of him like it’s something mystical and magical. There’s been people, lots of them, sometimes at the same time in the same room. But not the floating on air, stomach turned inside out, birds singing affair that Liam always bangs on about.
“So you’re settling for Niall?”
“Heyyy, I’m not settling.” Harry huffs. “Nialls too good to be settled for, I’m punching above my weight if anything.”
“Anyone ever tell you you’re basically a riddle,” Nick says.
“Wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” Harry sighs. “Smothered in bacon, I’m so hungry.”
“We’re nearly there,” Nick says. “How about while you wait to get as old and decrepit as yours truly and run off to the Irish mountains to get betrothed you, you know, date?”
“I do have the time now.” Harry considers.
“Perfect, I’ll set something up right away, keep your schedule clear.” Nick grins.
“Wait, I didn’t--” Harry stammers, caught off guard.
“Shhh, shhh,” Nick soothes. “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Harry doesn’t hear from Niall after that until the following Saturday which is, funnily enough, the same day Nick texts him informing him he’s found a suitable enough date.
He’s sipping idly at his rum and coke, squinting at the art on the wall of the restaurant. It’s a mess of colours, the faint outline of some hybrid half-lady, half-bear sketched across it and he’s just about to snap a picture when his phone vibrates in his hand.
It’s from Niall, a web link followed by, ‘HA HA HA we’ve got t do this !’. He only gets a chance for it to load, a page showing a video titled ‘Greatest Irish Wedding Dance, before he catches sight of his date coming back from the loo, weaving through the tables. Harry bites his lip, grinning as he thumbs back to the text.
On a date sorry, I’ll watch it later .x
It vibrates again.
Ooo I see how it is ! Ring me after tell me yr thoughts. Or tomorrow ya cheeky devil ! xxxxx
“I’m not keeping you, am I?” Hetti asks, polite as ever as she sits back down, holding her clutch bag in her lap. Harry shakes his head as he pockets his phone.
“No, no.” Harry insists and Hetti smiles, the lipstick on her lips freshly applied and bright, “anyway, you were telling me about your gap year?”
“Oh, yes,” she grins, leaning closer across the table.
Hetti’s a friend of a friend of Nick. She’s so very, very Chelsea, undeniably gorgeous and funny even if she spent a good few minutes during their starters giving Harry a dramatic re-telling of the documentary ‘Black Fish.’ But, to be fair, her whale noises were impeccable.
The date wasn’t bad but when they’re outside under the awning of the restaurant, rain hitting the pavement at a steady drizzle, Harry decides to part ways. It’s not even that late and Harry’s not ready to trudge back to an empty house but he politely kisses her cheek and carefully avoids the subject of another date as he helps her into a taxi.
While he’s waiting for his own car, he rings Niall.
“Hello Niall Horan speaking, how can I help?” Niall answers in his most perfectly executed Hugh Grant voice.
“Hello Mr. Horan,” Harry says, “I’m calling on behalf of The Agency for Crap Accents, we’d like to invite you down for an interview.”
“Piss off,” Niall cackles, “that was feckin’ awful. The Agency For Crap Jokes will be after you.”
“They’ve already rang me, like, four times.” Harry grins.
“Alright, stop this now. How was the date?” Niall asks, letting his voice dip and then pitch up on the word ‘date’ so he sounds like an overbearing mother.
“It was nice,” Harry answers, “she was-- nice.”
“Christ, Harry, don’t sound so excited, you’ll make me jealous,” Niall jibes. “Was this a mate then or a club find?”
“A club find-- Like I just found her on the bloody floor, Jesus Niall. She’s a friend of Grimmy’s.” Harry rolls his eyes. “He’s playing matchmaker again, seems to think proposing to my bandmate is some kind of cry for help.”
“I’ll be having words with him, potentially getting married to me is an honour,” Niall says indignantly. “Can’t hurt though, we haven’t had this much time off in ages.”
“I’m already getting bored,” Harry admits.
“Would you rather be finding Louis’ manky socks hidden in your pillows?” Niall reasons.
“I seem to remember those were your socks in my pillow.” Harry corrects followed by Niall’s cackling laughter in response.
There’s a pause of silence as a few cars pass by, headlights lighting up the dark streets. Niall asks, “you off home then?”
“Well, actually,” Harry starts, leaning out into the road to see what he presumes to be his taxi rounding the corner, “there’s a fish documentary I need to watch.”
“What kinda fish?” Niall asks, sounding intrigued.
“Whales. Angry ones.”
“Hmmm.” Niall thinks for a second. “Alright, I’ll leave the door on the latch. Be a dear and pick up some beers and maybe some dessert. Anything that takes your fancy.”
“Already on it.” Harry covers the bottom of his phone as he rattles the address off to the driver and asks if he could stop off at the nearest Waitrose. “Be there in an hour or your pizza is free.”
“Oh yeah, get pizza too,” Niall says. “Hurry now. Love ya.”
Niall hangs up without waiting for a response and Harry fumbles trying to get his seatbelt on.
“Can you stop staring,” Zayn asks, for the fourth time without looking up from his phone.
“But you’re glowing,” Harry says to the side of Zayn’s glowing face, “C’mon, you can tell me. Got a bun in the oven, don’t you.”
“It’s a secret,” Zayn deadpans, finally looking up and Harry frowns at him until he rolls his eyes and tugs Harry towards him, swinging his arm over him and hugging Harry to his side. “I’m just proper happy bro, the honeymoon was ace. Being married’s ace. Life is--”
“Ace?” Harry cuts in and Zayn pinches his cheek.
“Surprised you managed to stay out of the papers,” Liam says, there’s a hot dog bun resting on his forehead and Louis’s trying to get him to stay still so he can take a picture.
They were supposed to be having a catch up BBQ at Liam’s, already a month into their extended break from touring, but it’s absolutely pissing it down outside and no-one thought to buy any food except for some buns and a sad looking basil plant.
Niall’s disappeared into the kitchen, taking it upon himself to save the situation. Harry can faintly hear him rattling off their standard Chinese order down the phone.
“Didn’t really leave the villa, to be honest,” Zayn shrugs and Harry’s head gets jostled with the movement. He whines until Zayn starts petting the side of his face. “’Cept for the last day, went to the zoo.”
“Sex and animal poo, what a romance,” Louis says dryly, finally satisfied with his picture as he takes a seat next to Liam.
“Oooo, what’s the goss?” Niall asks as he makes his way back into the room, tossing Liam a beer before he plops down next to Harry, ending up half on top of him. Harry pats Niall’s leg.
“Zayn had sex at the zoo,” Louis offers.
Zayn reaches over to swat at Louis and Liam manages the truly beautiful feat of spraying beer out of his nose as he starts laughing.
“For fucks sake, Payno,” Louis groans, trying to push Liam’s sodden face away from him as Liam goes to use Louis’ top as a towel.
“Like I’m believing that for a second,” Niall pulls a face and Harry snorts. “Bet it’s lights off, under the covers, Top Gear muted on the telly in the background.”
“Just ‘cause I’m not waking up whole hotels when I’m havin’ a wank,” Zayn shoots back and Niall sticks his tongue out. Harry smothers his laugh in Zayn’s t-shirt.
“Hey Haz,” Niall starts, taking Harry’s hand where it’s still on his knee and holding it between both of his own. “I promise ya we’ll never become one of those married couples, yeah? Might have to invest in a new hip when we’re eighty but it’ll be fine.”
Harry nods, in a very serious manner and kisses their entwined hands. Louis coughs.
“Hang on,” Louis says, holding up a finger and looking around the room. “When did this happen?”
“When did what happen?”
Louis gives Harry a Look.
“Since when were you two—You know,” Liam provides for Louis looking equally as confused.
“Since when we were what?” Harry prompts again, still holding Niall’s hand.
“God, you are the most—“
“Since when have you two been shagging?” Zayn finally says, cutting Louis off.
“Us?” Niall guffaws, face blank and cheeks a smidgen pink.
“Shagging?” Harry looks at Niall and Niall looks at Harry and just shrugs a shoulder. Niall’s doing that rebooting Robot face which Harry has never related to until this moment.
“Wouldn’t be surprised to be honest,” Zayn continues.
“Remember that time they disappeared in—Where was it? Belgium?” Liam furrows his brow as he thinks.
“Yeah, wouldn’t tell us where you went.” Louis narrows his eyes at them, “and now you’re shagging and getting married.”
“We were taking a pottery class,” Harry says.
“Harry made a beautiful vase,” Niall adds.
“Aw, thanks Nialler.” Harry grins. It was a beautiful vase, it’s still proudly displayed in Niall’s kitchen next to Niall’s handmade shiny ball of clay. It didn’t go as successfully for Niall.
“Can we get back to the point?” Louis interrupts. Harry and Niall are still holding hands.
“We’re not shagging,” Harry finally says. “We just made a pact—an agreement of sorts.”
“You joined a cult?” Liam questions, sounding worried. Harry has no idea how Liam came to that conclusion but he’s kind of proud of his creativity.
“No, like. Niall and I decided that if we’re both single when we’re thirty we’re gonna get married,” Harry says, met by a short silence.
“So as soon as it hits midnight you’ll get in your pumpkin and you’re off to the ball?” Louis scoffs.
“That’s not—“ Harry starts but Niall shushes him. Harry shuts his mouth, knowing when to pick his battles.
“Right. Okay.” Louis’ staring at Niall and Niall’s suddenly really interested in the rip of his jeans and Harry feels a little bit lost, detecting something fishy in the air and his order of salt and chilli squid hasn’t even arrived yet.
“Well, we’re very happy for you,” Liam says, slowly, after a moment.
“Thanks Leemo.” Niall grins, looking up from his jeans and not catching Louis’ stink-eye as he reaches out his fist. Very fishy. “Best man goes to you.”
“Oi! What about me?” Zayn frowns and Harry gives up the Sherlock act for a second to squeeze Zayn round the middle.
“You can be mine,” Harry says and Zayn tugs affectionately at a strand of his hair. Louis looks around for a moment, wide-eyed and disbelieving before he slouches back into the sofa, crossing his arms.
“Don’t wanna be part of your rubbish imaginary wedding anyway,” Louis huffs and Harry gasps.
“It’s not imaginary,” Harry protests. “It’s going to be in a barn. Fairy lights. Cupcake tower. Balloon artist. Buckets of them custom M&Ms with our names on.”
“There’s always flower boy-- might need a valet actually,” Niall offers and Louis chucks the discarded hotdog bun at him.
Harry’s got more rice in his hair than in his belly by the end of dinner. He escapes the mess that he calls his bandmates to throw the remains of his Nasi Goreng in the bin, along with the wooden chopsticks that came with the meal.
The sound of the kitchen door swinging open comes just after he fills his glass with water, taking a sip.
“Louis,” Harry starts, back still towards the door. “Put the spring roll down.”
But of course Louis does as Louis wants and he doesn’t just put it down, instead he flings it across the room and it lands with a splat against the cupboard next to Harry’s head.
“Bollocks,” Louis curses, “was aiming for your head.”
Harry knows he wasn’t because if he was he would’ve hit Harry’s head. Semi-professional footballers seem to have good aim. He finally turns around from the sink, leaning back against the counter and crossing his arms to look at Louis.
“You’re cleaning that up,” Harry says.
“Or,” Louis drags out, “we just don’t mention it to Liam until he thinks it’s something he did when he was drunk.”
It’s unfortunate that, that would probably work.
“And speaking of stupid drunken things,” Louis ever-so seamlessly transitions, “you and Niall, huh?”
“Why do I feel like you’re about to tell me off?” Harry asks.
“M’not.” Louis rolls his eyes, still standing in the doorway to the kitchen like he’s blocking all escape routes. Harry could probably take him down if he really wanted to. But then Louis could make his life a living hell for the rest of eternity. More so. Harry stays put. “It’s just-- interesting, is all.”
“Your face is interesting.” Harry furrows his eyebrows, “wait--”
“Alright, alright Harold. No need to get all uppity,” Louis says all over-exasperated. “Just making sure you don’t hurt young Horan’s delicate feelings. Cus Liam would kill you and Zayn would plan it all and I’m not sure if I’d try to stop them.”
“Heyyyyyy.” Harry scowls, “why would I hurt Niall? He agreed to it.”
“Yeah, but you know Niall.” Louis shrugs. Harry does know Niall, that’s why he asked him to potentially marry him. Louis’s not making any sense.
“You’re not making any sense.” Harry scowls.
“I know you have your own reasons for your weird little pact but maybe think about why Niall said yes,” Louis continues in that roundabout way like he’s bloody mystic mog and Harry’s finally starting to understand why people get annoyed when it takes him half an hour to tell them what kind of bread he decided to buy at the shops the other day.
“What does that even mean?” Harry sighs but Louis has decided that the conversation’s over and he backs out of the room, the door swinging behind him.
Harry blinks, blinks again and then glances at the greasy stain left on the cupboard, reaching for a sponge.
Nick’s only warning for the next date is a text with a time and a postcode, signed off with ten sparkle emojis.
Alfie is-- Well Alfie’s a bit of a tosser, really. It starts alright, perfect even with Alfie pulling out Harry’s chair and checking twice that the table he reserved was just far away enough from the kitchen but not right up against the window. Harry likes a guy who thinks about things that Harry hadn’t even considered.
“Think I might go for the rib eye.” Harry hums to himself, flipping the page over again to re-read all the options.
“Heard they do a mean steak,” Alfie offers.
“Oh, maybe not then.” Harry frowns. “Like my steak with some manners, which is quite rare.”
Alfie doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t even fake one. He just sort of stares at Harry for a moment too long before he coughs, slowly closing his menu. All of a sudden, Harry doesn’t trust him. Alfie is the mean steak.
And okay, maybe Harry’s a little distracted, has been a little off since that ridiculously vague conversation with Louis, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that a dinner date is not the time to start trying to beat your next level on Candy Crush.
The night dwindles down to an awkward goodbye and he’s the one that seemingly gets let down easy as Alfie gives him a pat on the back, says he’ll promise to call. At some point. In the future. Which generally means never.
Harry huddles himself further in his coat as he makes his way down the street, reaching for his phone. This is all Louis’ fault, getting into his head and wasting perfectly good spring rolls.
He frowns as he types out, ‘Niall doesn’t fancy me.’
Louis texts back, ‘hahahahaha. Haa. ahaa haha. Ha. HAHAAHAHA.’
Louis’s wrong. Louis’s so so wrong and Harry’s going to prove it. Niall will probably fake being throwing up and then laugh so much he nearly dies and Louis will have to live with the fact he almost killed his bandmate.
Except the phone rings and rings and Harry’s just about to hang up when the click of an answer comes through, the sound of Niall fumbling with his phone before he finally speaks.
“Hi, Hi, Hey Haz. If you’re not dying or like in hospital or somethin’ then I’m really gonna have to ring ya back later,” Niall says, sounding a little out of breath. Harry can hear giggling in the background. Sexy giggling.
“Wha-- no I’m-- It’s fine. Get back to,” Harry pauses, tries to find his tongue again. He’s usually quite good at speaking, he’s been doing it for a while but he feels like the world is tilting the wrong way at the moment, “whatever you’re up to.”
“You sure?” Niall asks, even though there’s the muffled sound of him laughing too, like he’s covered the microphone to hide it. “I’ll ring you tomorrow, yeah?”
“Yeah.” Harry says, the words barely out of his mouth before Niall hangs up.
Niall doesn’t ring the next day, or the next but Harry’s phone starts playing the chorus of Desperado-- Niall’s personalised ringtone-- when he’s just finishing up an eye check.
“Give us a sec, Niall,” Harry says into the phone before he mutes it and finishes up thanking the Optician and paying for the test. When he lifts the phone back to his ear, there’s the sound of Niall quietly strumming his guitar. “Okay, I’m back.”
“Where ya been?” Niall asks, still strumming his guitar. It faintly reminds him of The Sugarhill Gang.
“Just had my eyes checked,” Harry says.
“How’s the ol’ peepers?” He’s playing something like Mayer now, huffing when he plucks the wrong note.
“Twenty twenty, baby!” Harry says and Niall cheers loudly. Harry has to pull the phone away from his ear for a second and send an apologetic look to the old lady trying out some very fetching purple frames.
“Always said you had lovely eyes,” Niall simpers and Harry snorts, holding his phone between his shoulder and his ear as he tries to pry his car keys out of his pocket.
“No need to flatter me Niall, we’re already engaged to be engaged.” Car keys finally free, Harry sets out on trying to actually find his car. He’d been in a bit of a rush before and he’s not sure whether he parked it over the road or over five roads. He frowns.
“Gotta keep the fire of romance alive,” Niall says, “nice to know our kids will have good vision. Whole package if they get your gnashers too. I’ll be providing the intelligence and raw talent, of course.”
“Heyyyy, I love your teeth.” Harry frowns, shielding his eyes with a hand as he looks down the street of parked cars.
“You know that doesn’t mean much, last week you were going on about how much you love baby penguins,” Niall says.
“That I do,” Harry says with a nod. “Just got a whole lotta lovin’ in me, Nialler.”
“Alright, lover boy, settle down. Fancy doing something tonight?” Niall asks as the tune he’s playing turns into a kind of folky version of Led Zeppelin. “I bought a load of Häagen-Dazs and I need someone to watch me eat it.”
“Was thinking about washing my hair tonight, actually.” Harry finally locates his car on his third round of the street, right outside Specsavers.
“Oh don’t gimme that,” Niall huffs and Harry grins. “I’ll wash it for you, we can make an evening of it. Get some fragrant oils, a few candles.”
“Really burning that fire, Niall.”
“I treat you so good,” Niall agrees and Harry laughs.
“Alright, fine, I’ll be there at seven.”
“Six,” Niall counters, “‘m lonely, I’m hearing voices, the curtains are talking to me.”
“Half six.” Harry tries to subdue the dopey grin on his face but it’s really like fighting a losing battle.
“You know, Harry Styles, one day I’ll get tired of your games and I’ll leave you for someone who treats me right,” Niall sighs all over-dramatic. Louis stupid mystical smug face floats around in Harry’s vision like a giant evil floating head.
He’ll be there at six.
Harry’s never been one to beat around the bush, especially with Niall, but once he’s through the door, Niall’s rattling off some story about his golf match earlier today and somehow he’s ended up tucked in under Niall’s animal print sheets, with an episode of Bargain Hunt playing on the telly.
Niall’s made him a fruit plate. It’s apples, bananas and strawberries all cut up to form a smiley face with curly grape hair and Harry’s been trying to think up of a Instagram caption good enough for the past half hour.
“Oh just eat it Haz, didn’t slave over it for hours just for you to stare at it.” Niall knocks their shoulders together, licking the back of the spoon he’d just dunked into his Häagen-Dazs which is balancing on his stomach.
“This took you hours?” Harry frowns down at his phone, fingers hovering over the keyboard.
“Ten minutes, hours, what’s the difference.” Niall shrugs.
Harry settles on ’Berry nice’, holding his phone out to show Niall as he pointedly crunches on an apple slice. Niall rolls his eyes but he’s grinning and that’s a good enough reaction.
“Sooooo,” Harry drags out, “you seemed busy the other night.” It’s halfway between a question and a statement and just bordering the line of too obvious, so he waggles his eyebrows before popping a grape into his mouth.
“Oh yeah,” Niall says, getting that light flush up his neck like he’s an innocent little cherub when Harry knows and has seen far too much to even consider him as that. “Went for drinks with Eoghan and that-- Remember Jess? She was at the pub, got to talking and she came back here.”
Harry remembers Jess in that vague sense that she had hair and a face but he nods anyway, squeezes another grape between his fingers before popping it in his mouth.
“Is that a thing, then?” Harry asks.
“Nah,” Niall shakes his head, putting his spoon in his ice-cream tub before placing it on the bedside table. “It was just that, she’s fun, we had a laugh.”
“I need a laugh,” Harry bemoans, “several laughs. It’s been ages.”
“So, a week?” Niall says and Harry chucks a particularly mushy bit of banana at him. “Go have some laughs, have as many laughs as you can.”
“You offering?” Harry leers.
“You and me?” Niall almost chokes and Harry frowns. Maybe Louis actually was wrong, Niall doesn’t seem to be jumping at the chance. He’s doing that petrified robot face again. “Not sure if you could keep up, I’ve been told I’m quite a handful.”
“Aw, don’t be like that, I’m sure it’s a bit more than a handful.” Harry glances pointedly at Niall’s crotch, holding his hands a few inches apart in front of his face and Niall slaps his arm.
“Shut up. You’re so immature,” Niall says but he’s laughing, covering his face with his hands and falling back against the pillows.
“Maybe we should just save the disappointment until after we’re betrothed, then.” Harry sighs, putting on every ounce of drama he has as he flops back against the pillows too, nearly getting an elbow in Niall’s eye.
“What d’ya mean?” Niall asks. Harry rolls onto his side, propping his head up on his elbow and Niall does the same. Their socked feet brush against each other under the duvet and this isn’t the first time they’ve spent an evening like this together, most likely won’t be the last.
“Picture it, we’re in the honeymoon suite, we’ve both had a bit of champagne, I’ve finished ripping your tux off with just my teeth. It’s all very sensual. There’s rose petals,” Harrys starts. “Then I finally get your boxers down and little Niall just isn’t having it. He’s sad and limp. You try to tell me it doesn’t usually happen but I’m having none of it. My beautiful day is ruined. I make you go kip in the massive bath tub in the ensuite, I give you a blanket and a pillow at least, and then I cry myself to sleep, dabbing my eyes with the remains of the petals. It’s a disaster.”
“Do you ever hear the words that come out of your mouth?” Niall’s dropped down, curled up with his cheek pressed into the pillow.
“Some of them.” Harry shrugs.
“One of a kind, you are,” Niall says through a laugh, although it’s a weird sort of soft laugh, not his usual cackle.
Harry shuffles closer. Niall narrows his eyes.
“Harry,” Niall warns and Harry shuffles that little bit closer. He’s curious now which, really, he only has himself to blame.
“Shhh, Niall,” Harry whispers, “we’re having a moment.”
“Really? With Bargain Hunters on the telly?” Niall protests.
“If you don’t--” Niall rolls his eyes, cutting Harry off.
“Don’t really fancy sleeping in the tub on my wedding night.” Niall says with a sense of finality.
Usually, Harry is very good at reading Niall. To Harry, Niall is his oldest, well-worn and dog eared novel. But there’s a second where they’re a centimetre apart, where Niall’s cheeks are that candyfloss pink and his tongue darts out to wet his lips and he almost stops himself.
Then Niall pulls a face, his mouth down turned into a perfect curve and there’s the edge of a laugh to it and Harry kisses his mouth like that. Which should be weird, but it’s them and it’s probably weirder that this hasn’t happened before.
It’s pleasant, at first. Pleasant and sweet and gentle until Niall presses a little harder and he threads his fingers through Harry’s hair. Harry groans, muffled by Niall licking into his mouth
Harry doesn’t really know what he was expecting, although there have been more than a dozen times he’s thought about kissing Niall and then times he’s actually kissed Niall, but it wasn’t this-- wasn’t Niall kissing him so fiercely and frantically, wasn’t him tightening his grip on Harry’s hair and tugging just the edge of painful.
One second Harry’s on his side and then the next the duvet’s bunched up under him, he’s flat on his back and Niall’s breaking their kiss as he hovers over him.
“Well,” Harry says, already panting. Niall slowly comes into focus, skin flushed all the way from his cheeks to where it disappears under his vest. His lips are wet and his eyes are wide and Harry was not expecting this.
“Yeah,” Niall answers, almost sounds like he’s agreeing. He’s still just staring down at Harry, chest hitching as he breathes and the situation is so bizarre that Harry laughs. Short, disbelieving and then Niall’s grinning too, the thread of the moment between them breaking as they both crack up.
“Is this really happening?” Harry gets out through his laughter.
“You started it!” Niall defends.
“It’s--” Harry quietens, lifting a hand to curl around Niall’s neck and thumb at the heated skin there. “It’s alright though, yeah?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Niall says after a second, his laughter dying down too. He shifts, hips changing angle and Harry can feel Niall’s dick pressed against his thigh.
This isn’t the first time he’s felt Niall’s dick, he’s grabbed it on stage and backstage and under stages and there was that time when it was flaccid and resting on Harry’s forehead once upon a very drunk night ago. But it’s never been thick and hard and making Harry groan and press his thigh up against it. “More than alright.”
“Just being a good citizen.” Harry nods, rolling his hips experimentally. Niall chokes on his breath. “Just helping a mate.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Niall says sweetly and then kisses him, leans down with his hands either side of Harry’s head and slides their mouths together.
Harry’s pretty sure Niall’s tongue in his mouth has severed all connections between the little sparks in his brain that make his limbs work in the way he wants because he’s touching Niall everywhere, can’t seem to keep his hands still. Curling around his neck and then sliding down to his chest, fingers spread across his back and then moving further down.
There’s a small, quiet, bloody irritating voice at the back of Harry’s brain telling him that this shouldn’t feel so good, that every part of him shouldn’t feel like he’s on fire but Niall’s mouth is doing something truly extraordinary on his neck right now and it’s really, really hard to listen to himself.
“Do you think,” Harry starts, flexing his fingers where they’re now pushed up the back of Niall’s vest. “Do you think the others have ever, like, helped a mate?”
“Harry, I don’t really want to think about Zayn giving Liam a friendly blowie right now,” Niall says, pausing his enthusiastic assault on Harry’s jaw. Harry probably shouldn’t want to think about it either but he has eyes and, like, a very active libido. “And I swear to Christ if you don’t shut up I’m going to gag you.”
“You could,” Harry blurts out and Niall lifts his head up from where he’s been talking into Harry’s neck, raising an eyebrow. “Or I could do something more useful.”
His eyes dart down purposefully and then back up to Niall’s face before sliding back down again. Harry’s about to start making wanking motion in front of his open mouth but Niall grabs his hand before he can reach that point.
“I get it,” Niall says half frustrated and half fond, like he’s suddenly gone shy-- which is weird and also kind of arousing.
“So, I’ll just--” Harry doesn’t give Niall a chance to respond, just pushes at his shoulder until they’ve swapped places. The covers are half on the floor which gives Harry all the access he needs as he starts to shimmy down the bed.
There should probably be some sort of slow preparation leading up to this but Harry’s mouth is already watering because he’s some sort of raging cock monster that has been starved for too long so it’s jeans down, boxers next and Harry taking him straight in.
“Jesus, fuck,” Niall yelps but it cuts off at the end, trails into a groan. “Coulda given me some warning.”
Harry hums an apology, hopes it sounds something like ‘well, life is full of surprises.’ But there’s a dick in his mouth, which reminds him--
“Shit,” Niall hisses as Harry curls his fingers around the base of Niall’s dick, not holding back as he starts to wank him off. It’s a little sloppy and way too overenthusiastic but Niall’s making these soft, muffled noises like he’s trying to hold them back and Harry will make him let go if it’s the last thing he does.
Harry can feel himself getting hard-- in an objective way though, really. Everyone and their mother knows Niall is fit and Harry hasn’t had this kind of contact in months. It’s nothing to do with the little voice at the back of his head telling him that friends don’t do this and it’s nothing to do with the fact that sometimes Harry looks at Niall and he just really wants to hold his hand or touch his face or do his shoelaces up for him-- that’s normal. It’s completely normal. It’s the Niall-Effect.
“Shit,” Niall says again, followed by a long groan and Harry would smile if it was physically possible in this moment. “Shit, shit, shi--”
And then his thighs tighten where they’re on either side of Harry’s torso, his hand clutches at Harry’s shoulder and he’s coming right on Harry’s tongue.
Harry tries his absolute best to not look smug when he props himself up on his elbows, resting his chin on Niall’s belly. Niall’s eyes are still scrunched up and he’s breathing slow and heavy through his mouth. He squints an eye open, looks down at Harry before slapping him upside the head.
“Don’t look so smug,” Niall scolds. “You’re like a bloody hoover.”
“You know that from experience?” Harry quirks an eyebrow and Niall slaps him again. “Stop hurting me, I just gifted you with an orgasm.”
“Yeah, like I’m gonna do the same for you now.” Niall huffs.
“S’alright,” Harry shrugs, pushing himself up and falling down next to Niall. “Do it meself.”
Harry goes for his belt, tugs it off and manages to get his first button undone when Niall lets out a long-suffering sigh, pushing Harry’s hands. “Oh shove off, lemme show you some of the Horan magic.”
It kind of really is magic. Harry’s rock hard already, it’s difficult not to be with the taste of Niall still on his tongue but as soon as Niall’s hands are finally down the front of his jeans and wrapped around him he’s honestly seeing fucking stars. Niall’s fingers are slightly calloused and his grip is just tight enough and he’s nuzzling at the underside of Harry’s chin and sliding his other hand up Harry’s shirt, pushing it out of place, to thumb over his nipple.
“Honestly don’t know how you pull with that thing.” Niall taps Harry’s stomach tattoo, shaking his head.
“You should get one too,” Harry manages through a moan, pressing his head back into the pillow. Niall keeps flicking over his nipple, like he just knows and Harry might die right here on top of Niall’s leopard print bed sheets. “Marriage moths.”
“Marriage mo--” Niall cuts off with a guffaw which turns into a full blown cackle, his hand still wanking Harry off with his smile pressed against Harry’s shoulder and for some reason that’s it for Harry.
“Ah, ah. Ahhhhhhhhhh.” Harry’s voice takes the perfect opportunity to break into a squeak and Niall’s still biting Harry’s shoulder to muffle his laughter.
“You sound like a scared hamster.” Niall cackles, wiping his hand on Harry’s top.
“Mm sffj mskd,” Harry mumbles into the pillow.
“I could try,” Harry offers, uncovering his face. “Just give me a few minutes.”
“I hate you.” Niall says, with traces of Harry’s jizz still on his hand and his head still on Harry’s shoulder and his lips kiss-red and glossy.
“I don’t think you do.”
“Mmm.” Niall hums as a response. “Debateable.”
Harry goes straight for Niall’s sides, going to dig his fingers in but Niall grabs his wrists, squawking as he pushes him away. Niall gets a hand over Harry’s face and Harry gets his foot in Niall’s armpit.
It quickly turns into a full house-wide battle, ending up with Harry waving a white tea towel in the air from his hiding place under the kitchen table.
The world doesn’t suddenly stop moving and nothing much changes just. Harry knows what it feels to have Niall’s dick in his mouth. Just another part of Niall’s that’s been in there, really. Except--
Niall’s avoiding him. It’s not in a glaringly obvious way, where Niall sees him across a dimly light pub and dives under a table, but there’s no two AM phone calls to bicker over their favourite type of sausages or a day spent lazing around watching every bad documentary on Netflix and even Niall’s texts are half-arsed.
The whole situation’s a bit weird.
“It is weird though, isn’t it?” Harry frowns up at the ceiling. “I’m not just-- imagining things, he’s properly avoiding me.”
Liam turns around from where’s he’s fiddling about on his computer, a small part of the massive home studio he’s built. “I dunno, everything about you and Niall has always been a bit weird.”
“The whole band’s weird,” Harry reasons, picking at the corner of the sofa he’s laying back on, turning his head so he can look at Liam. “Remember when you and Zayn spent three days making a lip sync video to your homemade Nelly’s Greatest Hits playlist?”
“Yeah but,” Liam says, wheeling his computer chair closer to Harry. “You two are like, weird.”
He looks at Harry with these big, meaningful eyes and Harry has no idea what that’s supposed to mean.
“Okay twitter user Narry Storan, no need to get like that,” Harry says.
“I don’t really know what you want me to say, seeing as you won’t actually tell me what’s wrong.” Liam shrugs, tapping his pen against the notebook in his lap.
“Does Niall fancy me?” Harry says, bluntly.
“What?” Liam chokes, coughs and his pen goes flying across the room. Harry sits up, Liam is the worst liar in the band, this is his chance.
“Liam, look at me,” Harry says slowly. Liam looks at the floor, then the ceiling, then at Harry’s ear and then back at the floor.
“I am,” Liam says, eyes trained on Harry’s knee. Harry bends down, puts his face in Liam’s eyeline and Liam shuts his eyes.
“I swear to God,” Harry grumbles before he pushes off the sofa and launches himself at Liam. The office chair wheels back with the force of a flying Harry, hitting the wall as Harry straddles Liam’s lap.
“Look--” Harry grabs Liam’s face between his hands, “at--” Harry uses his fingers to pry Liam’s eyes open, “me.”
Liam blinks, well he tries to but the way Harry’s holding his eyelids back hinders him a little.
“Does Niall fancy me?” Harry repeats.
“Where would you get that idea?” Liam’s eyes are watering.
“A friend,” Harry answers simply.
“Zayn?” Liam asks and Harry raises an eyebrow. “Louis,” Liam hisses, narrowing his eyes-- but, you know, the Harry holding his eyes open thing. Harry shouldn’t have said anything, he’s probably caused a domestic now.
“So, everyone knows?” Harry frowns, finally letting Liam have control of his face.
“It’s not--” Liam scrubs a hand over his face. “You should really be asking Niall. It’s not my place.”
“I don’t get it,” Harry huffs, feeling strangely annoyed by this band secret. “If he does, why hasn’t he just told me?”
“Probably the same reason you haven’t asked him yet,” Liam says, “bit awkward to bring up, in’t it?”
“I guess.” Harry frown deepens, if possible. His face hurts.
“Do you fancy him?” Liam asks.
“I dunno.” Harry shrugs, not meaning to sound like a petulant child.
“Not really a ‘dunno’ question, Harry,” Liam says. “More of a yes or a no and if you’re unsure maybe think why.”
Harry doesn’t know when Liam became the fountain of wisdom, but he’s not liking the fact that he’s suddenly the voice of reason. Liam’s never the voice of reason-- more the voice of an intense pretend rap battle or that really good Kermit the Frog impression he does.
“Maybe you’re just thinking about it too much,” Liam carries on in response to Harry’s silence. “You’ve already declared him as a suitable husband.”
“He is,” Harry says, because obviously. “He’d be perfect.”
Liam makes a frustrated noise, like when he stubs his toe or when he can’t get the straw into his Capri Sun his first try.
“I’m not gonna spell it out for you,” Liam finally says and Harry manages for a second before he lets out a loud snort. Liam. Spelling. Ha. “Oh shut up, get off me.”
“Noooo, I’m sorry.” Harry throws his arms around Liam, squeezing him. Whatever deep meaningful moment they were having is completely gone as the chair tips sideways and Harry gets a knee to the bollocks. He’ll think about it later, for now he’s got his future children to worry about.
It’s by chance that Harry stumbles upon Niall on a particularly sunny Sunday. He’s passing by a glass shop front when he spots a flash of blonde hair, Niall’s laugh spilling out clear through the open door. Harry stops for a second, peering through the window to see Niall trying on a particularly fetching fedora.
Harry weighs up his options but approaching cautiously is not on the cards right now, Harry’s going to exercise the art of surprise.
“Oi, hats are my thing,” Harry says as soon as he gets within earshot of Niall and Niall whips round, startled.
“Christ, give us a bleedin’ heart attack why don’t you?” Niall gasps, clutching at his chest.
“Sorry,” Harry says, taking the hat off Niall’s head and putting it on his own. He’s already wearing a hat so now he’s wearing two. Perfect. “What are you doing?”
“Getting a suit. S’why I’m in a tailors.” Niall ties a cravat around his neck the completely wrong way, pulling a face. Harry reaches out to tug at it.
“Thought you usually just get it from the sale on Top Man.”
“Says you Mr. Vintage Shop Bargain Bin.” Niall unties the cravat and throws it at Harry’s head. Niall’s acting normal, which is weird. “You off somewhere?”
“Nah,” Harry says. He was actually on his way to go see Nick but he can wait a few minutes.
“Good, need some opinions. Hate this stuff.”
Harry follows Niall to the changing room, sitting down on one of the plush armchairs outside as the salesman gives one of the suits to try and Niall disappears behind the curtain.
“Why’d you need a new one anyway?” Harry asks, twisting to pull his phone out of his pocket.
“Josh’s birthday do,” Niall answers, and then a muffled curse and a bang. “It’s proper dress up, need somethin’ new. Can’t have me and Tommo turning up in the same suit again.”
“Oh, bollocks, that’s--” Harry pauses, scrunching up his eyebrows.
“Next Thursday,” Niall fills in for him.
“I’m off to L.A. then.” Harry checks his phone calendar to make sure.
“What? why?” Niall pops his head out the side of the curtain, a flash of his bare shoulders poking out with him and he frowns at Harry.
“Haven’t seen Jeff in a long time. Zach Braff won’t stop texting me Boyz II Men lyrics,” Harry explains and Niall frowns for a moment longer. “Just need a change of scenery, I guess.”
“Oh,” Niall says, sounding a little off as he disappears back behind the curtain-- not completely normal then. “Sounds like fun.”
“It should be.” Harry shrugs even though Niall can’t see him, trails off and squints at a row of feathered hats in front of him.
It takes another five minutes of huffing and puffing before the curtain gets pulled back.
“Dunno about this. Bit like, wedding-y,” Niall starts as Harry finishes off the text he’s sending. “Like I’m about to walk meself down the aisle, right?”
Harry finally looks up, catches Niall straightening out the lapels of his jacket in front of the floor-length mirror to the side of the changing rooms. It is a bit formal, a bit groom-like, the dark shade of grey Niall loves, a bow-tie that’s definitely a clip on because Harry knows that’s not on Niall’s skill-set, a handkerchief carefully tucked into the pocket. Very groom-like.
Niall looks up from adjusting the buttons, grinning bright and wide as he catches Harry’s eye in the reflection of the mirror.
It’s not like choirs singing and the clouds parting to reveal a beautiful sunny day, it’s more like someone’s poured a bucket of ice water over Harry’s head, flipped him on his head and then punched him square in the stomach. Which has happened on separate occasions.
Harry is suddenly very, very glad he’s sitting down.
“Well, what do ya think?” Niall asks again, turning on his heels and spreading his arms.
Harry’s thinking about that decorated barn with the fairylights and the chainsaw jugglers and Niall pulling stupid faces at him as the vows are exchanged and the quiet sound of his mum choking back tears in the front row. He sees a house and a big garden and their fourteen thousand children and Niall older and wrinkled, swearing at the new holo-telly as Harry cracks up in the background. .
“It’s nice,” Harry manages. His throat isn’t really working because it feels like someone is squeezing and squeezing and squeezing. Niall’s mouth downturns and he glances at himself in the mirror again.
“Alright, no need to go all out on the compliments. Guess it is a bit naff.” Niall starts unbuttoning the jacket before he even gets into the dressing room.
And Liam was right, it is awkward and in the history of Harry’s first trip to Mullingar and late nights in bunk beds and late nights in tour bus lounges and stealing Niall’s hotel key from Paul when he’s feeling homesick and sucking your best mate off because in some weird way that’s an alright thing to do, it’s never been awkward.
Harry can see a tuft of Niall’s hair over the closed dressing room curtain and he glances from it, to the open shop door, back to Niall. There’s an even more awkward excuse on his tongue so he just pushes it down, stumbles to his feet and flees.
L.A. is the perfect mixture of Harry getting lost in his thoughts but then also being so hectic and bustling that he has no time to think at all. Which is exactly what he’s trying to do now.
He’s at some Instagram or Vine or Angry Birds event but there’s just a mass of rich people and an open bar and the people on the door even gave Harry a free keyring.
He mingles and drinks too many Raspberry Refresher cocktails and mingles some more with his lips stained red and another button on his shirt undone and then suddenly he finds himself sneaking through the back entrance and into a waiting car, a steady hand splayed across the small of his back.
It’s stupid, Harry knows it’s stupid but Niall’s all he’s been thinking about for months now and if he’s being painfully truthful then it’s been much, much longer than that and he needs to just not for a few minutes. Even if he is kidding himself.
Ethan is just a touch older, a significant amount taller, that kind of Dentist Advert pearly white grin gorgeous and he kisses Harry soft and short as soon as they get through the door of his hotel suite and then deeper and filthier when Harry presses up and tangles his fingers in his hair.
But-- He’s not three a.m. phone calls just because their voice makes everything a little easier, stupid in-jokes that have gone on for so long they don’t make any sense, a playlist of songs that they ‘need to show you, this band is so sick’, knowing when they need their space and when their space needs to be filled with you.
It’s not being in love with your best friend for a good few years and not realising because you’re a dense bloody idiot who’s got too many of his t-shirts in your wardrobe and too many pictures of him on your phone because you’ve never had the chance to ponder that it’s a little weird.
Ethan pulls back seeing that Harry has turned into the equivalent of kissing a plank of wood because, to put it simply, Ethan’s not Niall.
When Ethan suggests getting room service, maybe a few more drinks to lighten the mood, Harry just knows he won’t order an extra plate of chips for himself because Harry likes stealing food more than he likes eating his own and he won’t put on some absolutely awful rom com that Harry might cry during so it’s just really not worth it.
Harry ends up waiting for his taxi in the reception of the hotel, phone out, held in his hand. There’s Niall’s name stored in his favourites, sitting right in the number three spot just under Gemma and Harry’s thumb hovers for a just a second.
But, his flight back home leaves in three days and he’s watched enough movies to know confessions are best in person where you can either run slow motion across airport arrivals or, if it all goes to pot, run straight back on that plane.
He switches off his phone, sliding it back into his pocket.
Harry’s flight lands on the third day and he’s so tired that he accidentally sleeps through until the evening when he gets home and then Nick wants to go for drinks and his sister rings the day after and then his mum and then Jonny wants a catch up which somehow turns into late night bowling which turns into Harry and Jonny getting kicked out of bowling alley and it ending up in The Sun the next day.
It’s a whole week before he’s squinting through his sunglasses, watching Niall line up his shot, rolling his shoulders and adjusting his grip on his club. It’s obvious that Niall’s carefully avoiding the subject of Harry’s sudden disappearing act in the tailors probably because Harry’s doing a pretty good job of not mentioning Niall’s radio silence.
It’s different now, there’s no way it couldn’t be when Harry’s spent half the game watching the muscles in Niall’s back shift under his polo shirt. That now every time Niall wraps his fingers around his golf club Harry has to take a sudden interest in the sun and the grass and the trees and anything that isn’t Niall.
Which is why it isn’t a surprise that Harry loses by an embarrassing amount, can do nothing but flop back on the grass and watch as Niall struts circles around him, golf club held over his head like a trophy.
“Alright, alright,” Harry huffs. “No need to rub it in.”
“‘Course there is,” Niall says, starting up some sort of alien shimmy move to go with his walk. “Love it when you get all grumpy, always been a sore loser.”
Harry shakes his head, pouting all big and exaggerated until Niall stops Cha Cha sliding across all the neatly cut grass.
“You’re really off your game today,” Niall says sitting down next to Harry. They technically shouldn’t be having a little rest in the middle of the course but there’s barely anyone out today, they’re not holding anyone up.
Harry’s had this whole thing planned out, segue into the subject gently, approach with caution, don’t startle the subject. He had a speech and everything, went over it in his head as he was brushing his teeth this morning. It’s right on the tip of his tongue, about to unfurl from behind his teeth but then Niall leans back, propping himself up on his elbows and he smiles at Harry, so open and gorgeous and--
“Louis,” Harry blurts out, cringing as soon as it’s out.
“What?” Niall says with a confused laugh, glancing over his shoulder to check if Louis’ there.
“Shit, that wasn’t--” Harry scrubs a hand over his face. “I talked to Louis.”
“Good?” Niall says, uncertain. “He alright? We’re planning paintball for next week, should be sick.”
“No, Niall. That’s not what I--” Harry stops himself again, shutting his eyes and taking a breath. “Okay, I’m gonna talk and you’re gonna listen, alright?”
“That’s generally how it goes, Harry,” Niall says and if the feeling of wanting Niall from the tips of his toes to the ends of his bleached hair and knowing it wasn’t so raw and fresh, Harry would smack him. He’s going to kiss him first, if it all goes well, and then remember to smack him later.
Harry sits up, motioning Niall to follow, who does albeit slightly reluctantly. This is definitely a sitting up conversation. If it went wrong before Harry was just going to start rolling away until he hopefully fell in the lake. He’s got some adrenalin fueled sense of confidence right now, though.
Reaching out, he takes Niall’s hands in his-- he’s watched enough films to know that this is the proper way, so that when he retells the story he can leave out the part that it’s so hot that there’s sweat beading on his upper lip and the air has a tang of manure smell in it, just that he held Niall’s hands as he poured his heart out.
“Niall,” he says slowly. “I talked to Louis.”
It takes a second, there’s the sound of someone hitting a golf ball in the distance, a bird disturbing a branch as it flies out of a tree and then Niall’s eyes widen.
“Oh,” Niall says, his first reaction is to try and tug his hands out of Harry’s. Harry frowns, squeezing Niall’s fingers to make him stay.
“Yeah,” Harry says, his mouth gone slightly dry. This is not the big speech he had planned.
“It’s not a big deal,” Niall shrugs and Harry hates the dismissal of it, that Niall’s probably kept it to himself because it’s not a big deal. “You don’t have to do the whole-- you know, letting me down gently thing. It’s just a-- thing.”
Harry’s going to cry. He’s going to cry and probably never stop and they’re both going to drown on a golf course. The club might even open a memorial hole in their name.
“Niall,” Harry says, voice definitely not cracking at the end. He doesn’t want this tentative, careful part, just wanted big proclamations and Harry throwing himself into Niall’s arms. There’s still a way to save it though, maybe. “I just think that-- that maybe we could change our agreement a bit?”
“You breaking up with me?” Niall smiles but it’s tight and it’s brief and Harry squeezes his fingers again. He looks about as nervous as Harry feels.
“No. Not that.” Harry shakes his head. “I was thinking, actually, that maybe we could like-- move the date. Make it sooner? I mean, I’ve got a lot of stuff planned for when I’m thirty, gotta go to the dentist, maybe get a haircut. Could take up a lot of time. Then a mid-life crisis too, that might take up a year or so and it would be nice to have you already there to sit in my new impulse buy convertible too.”
“Right.” Niall blinks. He’s starting to look a little less like a malfunctioning robot and a lot more like Niall. He’s fighting a smile back now. Harry loves his smile. He’d marry his smile alone if he could. The wedding could be a week long festival of appreciation for Niall’s various body parts.
“Maybe we could just like wait ‘til Louis turns thirty? That’s sooner than us.” Harry suggests and then quickly adds, “don’t tell him I said that.”
Niall’s losing the fight with his smile, now. It’s cracking across his face and his eyes are crinkling up and Harry kinda just wants to grab his face between his hands and squish his cheeks together.
“Or maybe,” Niall says, clearing his throat, “we could try that normal people thing. Think it’s called dating?”
“Daaattiiinggg.” Harry sounds out slowly, tongue purposely tripping over the word as he pulls his best deeply confused face. Niall loses then, beaming as he gives out a disbelieving laugh.
“I take it back, I was wrong, I don’t fancy you at all.” Niall tries to tug his hands out of Harry’s but Harry just grips harder, letting himself be tugged towards Niall. It’s the first time he’s heard the words actually come from Niall’s mouth and even though he’s denying it, it makes Harry’s toes go all tingly and his chest tighten.
“Don’t lie,” Harry protests, grinning. “You fancy me, you love me, you want to marry me.”
“Eh.” Niall shrugs. Harry stills for a moment then, glancing down at their joined hands and rubbing his thumb over the back of Niall’s hand.
“Why did you agree to it? To everything?” Harry asks quietly.
“Just thought-- well, I’d take what I could get, I guess. You’re my best mate, Harry, not just gonna chuck that away.” Niall says and then, “oh for fucks sake Harry don’t cry”
“‘M’not.” Harry sniffs. He isn’t. It’s hay fever. “I’m a massive dick, aren’t I?”
“Yeah.” Niall nods.
“I hate you,” Harry mumbles and it’s Niall’s turn to poke and prod and grin all overly fond right in Harry’s face.
“You don’t,” Niall grins and Harry might actually be catching a tan from the glow coming off his face.
“Nah.” Harry gives up quickly, because the quicker he does that the quicker he gets to kiss Niall again. “Don’t think I’ve said it yet, but I like you-- more than I realise. I mean, you’re alright. Maybe more than alright, like above alright. On a scale from not-alright to great you’re a bit higher than okay, but if--”
Harry’s stopped mid-sentence by Niall’s mouth on his. It’s a bit awkward at first, seeing as Harry’s mouth was open and he nearly consumes Niall’s face whole but then Niall laughs, slides his fingers into the hair at the back of Harry’s head and gives him a second before he kisses him again.
Despite the fact that the reception's starting to dwindle down, the dance floor’s still packed and Harry’s waltzed with so many of Niall’s relatives he can’t feel his feet anymore. He’s finally found a brief moment of peace at one of the tables at the back, fairylights stolen off the wall and wrapped around his head as he sips slowly at his champagne.
“Hey, good lookin’. This seat taken?” Harry looks away from watching Liam, Louis and Zayn all crowded around the DJ Decks giggling, which is a worry, but most of the young'uns have left and-- Well, if it beats the filth that was the Best Man’s speech then Harry will be surprised. And also impressed.
Niall’s got a hand on the seat next to Harry, his tie and the top few buttons of his shirt undone, a flush worked up from dancing running up his chest and blooming through his cheeks and the rest of the party turns into white noise then.
They couldn’t wait until they were thirty, not even until Louis turned thirty but Niall’s hair is more brown than blonde and there’s laughter lines sunk into the skin beside his eyes and Harry found a grey hair the other day and made Niall spend the rest of the evening searching for any friends it had.
“All yours,” Harry says, waving a hand at the seat and Niall grins, dropping down on it.
“What’s a pretty thing like you doing all by himself?” Niall continues and Harry ducks his head, shaking his head with a laugh.
“Waiting for my husband, actually,” Harry answers, holding his hand up and wiggling his fingers, light catching on the silver band around his finger. The word rolls so pleasantly off his tongue. “Last I saw he was trying to teach my mum how to dougie.”
“Sounds like an upstanding gentleman.” Niall puffs out his chest and Harry giggles, rim of the champagne flute pressed to his lips.
He places the glass back on the table, turning in his chair to properly face Niall and Niall still hasn’t stopped beaming at him-- Harry can’t really guarantee his face isn’t a mirror image though, he hasn’t really stopped smiling since he woke up. Except for the moment that Niall had looked at him during his speech, the laughter from his previous joke just dwindling down in the crowd and he’d told him how lucky he felt. Harry’s lip had started to quiver and Zayn had to drape a serviette over his face to save him from embarrassment.
“C’mere,” Niall says, just above a whisper but Harry can still hear it clear as day even over the music blaring in the background. Harry cocks his head to the side and Niall grabs his hand, patting his lap and tugging Harry towards him.
Harry’s feet are still numb from all the dancing so he all but stumbles into Niall’s lap but manages to not up-end the chair and have them sprawled on the floor. He’s really too big for this, but Niall just tightens his arms around Harry’s waist and pulls him closer.
“We do know how to throw a sick wedding,” Niall muses once Harry’s settled, his head resting on Niall’s shoulder as Niall strokes his thumb in circles against Harry’s thigh.
“Think we should divorce just so we can do it again,” Harry agrees, watching as a dance circle forms and Eoghan takes centre stage. It’s turned into some sort of Irish vs English dance battle and Harry really hopes someone's filming it.
“Mmm, maybe give it a few days. Quite enjoying this married thing right now.”
“I’m holding you to that the next time you yell at me for leaving my socks on the floor,” Harry mumbles.
“Christ, it takes like two steps further to put them in the washing basket and you could at least--” Harry shuts him up with a kiss because he can and he has before, and now that they’re married he’s planning on using that technique for a very, very long time.
“Hi,” Harry says once he’s pulled back, Nialls face still cupped in his hands. He thumbs at the edge of Niall’s cheekbone, face so close he can see every fleck of colour in his eyes. “Love you.”
Niall scrunches up his nose, mouth open ready to reply when there’s the screeching sound of feedback from the speakers and Zayn’s alcohol thick voice filling the room.
“Oh god,” Harry groans, sitting up to watch the commotion.
“We better go stop him before he starts fingering the air again,” Niall says so seriously that Harry tears up from laughter and Niall has to drag him towards the dance floor.
They leave just before the party properly ends, saying their thank you’s and wishing everyone a safe journey home and getting outrageous catcalls and hand gestures in return. It’s what they were expecting though and Niall buries his head in Harry’s shoulder, chuckling as Harry tells them all off and to watch their language as his mother is here.
Their hotel room is in the adjoining building, an old country manor, and Harry only drops Niall three times in his attempt to carry him there, the last being straight onto the massive bed which ends up with Niall bouncing off the spring matress so high he lands on the floor. Harry flops down on the bed, laughing so hard he can’t breathe and then nearly chokes on a rose petal as he accidentally snorts it up his nose.
It’s perfect. It’s so, so perfect and Harry rolls over onto his back, stupid, goofy smile still plastered on his face as Niall’s giggling quietens down on his position from the floor. It slowly turns silent and Harry’s just about to peer over the side of the bed to check that Niall is, in fact, still alive. That would be an awful way to start their married life when, so far, it’s been probably the best idea Harry’s ever had.
“So,” Niall starts and Harry can see his hand waving just over the edge of the bed. Niall pauses for a moment longer and Harry blinks up at the ceiling. “Snog, marry, avoid.”
Harry groans, chucking the nearest pillow in Niall’s general direction and then, after a moments thought, throws himself that way too.