Nick is having a very nice sleep when his phone cuts through the unconsciousness of his brain and tears him from it. Cringing at the noise in the darkness, he whimpers pitifully, reaching a hand out for his phone. Whoever is on the other end is going to get a good shouting, or at least a muffled 'fuck you' before he hangs up.
“What?” He answers brusquely, not bothering to open his eyes.
There's a short pause before a woman's voice speaks softly. “Hi, Nick? It's Anne, Harry's mum.”
Nick is sitting up before she finishes the sentence, his heart already starting to race. The reasons for Anne to be calling him at fuck o'clock at night- or in the morning, Nick still isn't sure- are all bad. Not one of them is good.
“Anne?” He says, feeling much more awake now. “What's wrong, what's happened?”
She hesitates again, her breath a little shaky. “Harry's had an accident. He was on his motorbike, I'm not sure of the details. But he's in hospital in LA and I thought- well, I thought you might want to know.”
Nick only manages to digest a few words at first, just accident and motorbike and hospital. And finally LA, because he's halfway around the bloody world and Nick feels stuck, frozen, useless.
“Is he okay?” Nick asks thickly, but what he really means is how bad is it because no one hops up and walks away from motorbike accidents.
She shudders softly into the phone and Nick can tell she's crying, trying to keep it together. Nick's heart aches for her, for how scared she must be.
“I don't know,” she answers quietly, sounding lost. “I'll let you know as soon as I hear. I know what he means to you.”
Nick swallows back the sudden lump in his throat and he squeezes his eyes shut, not letting himself get emotional. He thanks her and says goodbye before she hears it in his voice, how terrified he is.
It takes about ten seconds to decide what he's going to do and he walks out of the bedroom, finding his laptop on the coffee table in the living room. As he boots it up, he tries not to think of Harry, bruised and broken on a hospital bed, maybe even worse. He tries not to think about how it probably doesn't matter to Harry that Nick's not there, even if Nick feels awful not being there. Harry has lots of mates, constantly has people around him, many of whom look out for him. Nick's presence probably wouldn't do much.
And yet, as Nick's laptop comes to life, he starts searching for flights, the quickest way to get to LA. Whether it's a scrape on his chin or much worse, Nick needs to be there. He's needed to be there for weeks, missed Harry like mad, but now he can't ignore it, that little tug he feels in his chest whenever Harry's away.
He finally sees the time, 1:04, and as he looks through flights, he sees that the earliest available doesn't leave for another nine hours. He's not sure how he's going to just sit around for nine hours, but he books it anyway, adding on a return flight for two days later, only because he needs to buy a roundtrip ticket to show customs.
After he's bought the ticket, he leans back on his sofa, worry and fear itching under his skin. Harry's still so young and, even though he often acts like he's Nick's age, he's not. He's twenty years old, practically a teenager, and he's probably scared. Anyone would be; Nick certainly would be.
He tries to assume the best, that Nick will get out there and Harry will already be out of hospital, a couple of scratches and a big smile. He'll probably already be trying to get back up on the motorbike. He tries to assume that, but his mind keeps going back to the worst. He keeps seeing an image of Harry unconscious, black and blue from head to toe, and he feels sick.
Picking up his phone again, he dials Harry's number just in case. It rings and rings and, just as Nick is about to give up, the line is picked up.
It's not Harry. Nick had really been hoping it would be Harry.
“Yeah, hi, Cal?” He asks unsurely, not knowing the bloke well enough to know his voice over the phone. But he'd assumed Cal would be the one with him.
“Hey, did you hear?” He sounds sort of frantic, like he's trying to juggle a million things at once. It makes sense, Nick thinks.
“Anne called and said he had an accident. How's- how's he doing?” His squeezes his eyes shut and clenches his fist to ignore how afraid he is to ask, to force himself to stay calm.
He can hear Cal speaking to someone else, his voice having gone distant. A moment later, though, he's back, speaking into the phone. “He's in surgery now, they're assessing the damage,” he says like he's said it a dozen times already.
Nick can feel his eyes growing hot behind his eyelids, his chest seizing up. Not just a scrape then.
“He'll be okay, Nick,” Cal says firmly, as if he can sense what Nick is thinking.
Nick nods to himself, even as tears spill from the corners of his eyes, his calm dissipating. “What hospital is he at?”
Cal gives him the name, but he says he has to go then, something about Liam calling. Nick lets him go, immediately typing the hospital name into his phone in case he forgets. Next he texts Matt to tell him he won't be there for the rest of the week. Luckily, it's a Thursday so Nick may only have to miss two days, but if Harry asks him to stay longer, Nick knows he will.
But Harry won't ask him that. He never has before.
The first time they kissed, Harry had stayed over the night before, sharing Nick's bed. They'd had breakfast and, a bit later, Nick had driven Harry home. Parked in his drive, with the engine running, Harry had turned to Nick and kissed him quickly before hopping out of the car. They didn't talk about it until the next time it happened when Harry was drunk and smiling against Nick's mouth, the kiss not so quick that time.
“I like kissing you,” Harry had said simply when Nick asked what he was doing.
It started a thing with them. When Harry was in London, they often found themselves snogging in Nick's bed after a night out or on a Sunday afternoon, just because. And then late one night Harry had suggested they have sex, asked Nick if they could, and they ended up fucking slowly under the covers. It was Harry's first time, like that. Nick felt guilty about it for weeks.
Nothing's really changed since then, even if it feels a bit like it has. Harry's away more, spends more time in LA than in London when he's not on the road, and Nick knows what that means. It means that any feelings he might have for Harry aren't returned. It means that the thing between them had only ever been casual, just sex between friends. Nick was stupid to let himself fall for the boy, he really was.
Even knowing that, though, when Harry comes back and shows up at Nick's door, Nick still pulls him inside and kisses him. He still lets Harry touch him, lets him drop to his knees, gives him anything he wants. Nick has never had great will power, so he takes what Harry gives until he's gone again. He's gotten pretty good at ignoring his feelings about it.
But now Harry is so far away and he's in surgery and Nick can't ignore it anymore. He's in love with the boy, has been for a long while. Even when he was dating other people, when he gave it a shot with Nicco and Jonny, he still loved Harry. He thinks they both knew, actually, they realized Nick was hung up on someone else from the beginning. He tried, though, he really did. But then Harry came back and Nick felt that flip in his chest at the sight of him, something he'd never felt with the other blokes. Even though he was terribly fond of them, they just didn't make his heart stutter in his chest, didn't make his breath catch in his lungs.
He's never told Harry. He's never even considered it.
Nick doesn't sleep. He sits in silence and nearly rips his hair out, waiting impatiently for an update that never comes, until his alarm goes off. That's when he calls Aimee and asks her to drive him to the airport.
“What do you mean?” She asks groggily, confused. “The what?”
“Airport,” Nick says again, bouncing his leg. He's already packed, just wants to get moving. Sitting still is torture. “Come pick me up and I'll explain.”
“Are you okay?” Her voice is thick and rough from sleep, muffled like she's still lying on a pillow. Nick hears Ian's voice in the background asking what's going on and Nick shakes his head to himself.
“Harry's had an accident,” he says, struggling through the words that hurt too much to think about. “I need to get there. Please just come.”
“Oh god,” Aimee says softly into the phone. “Okay, I'm on my way.”
Nick thanks her before hanging up, then spends his time pacing around his house as he waits.
When she arrives twenty minutes later, she's in a pair of Ian's joggers, pooling around her ankles where she's wearing brown Uggs, and a loose t-shirt that Nick can tell she's not wearing a bra under with a hoodie over it. She obviously got straight up out of bed, her hair still matted on one side, and Nick loves her so much.
As soon as he sees her, he starts crying.
“Oh, love,” Aimee says softly, rushing over to him and gathering him in a hug. “Oh, Grim, I'm so sorry. Have you heard anything else?”
Nick shakes his head, feeling foolish, but he's bloody terrified and he can't help it. “Not in a few hours. Cal said he was in surgery. I'm too scared to call again and see if he's out.”
Aimee rubs his back for a few minutes until Nick calms down enough to pull away, wiping his face. “I'm sorry to wake you up like this,” he says, looking away.
“Don't,” she says firmly. “Don't apologize for that, not ever.” Her face softens as she reaches up to comb through Nick's hair, brushing it back where it's drooping over his forehead. “You know I'd go to hell and back for you.”
“Probably already have,” Nick says over a humourless laugh.
She smiles warmly, her eyes sad. “And I'd do it again and again.”
Nick draws in a shaky breath, nodding, because he knows she would. And he would, too, for her. They're family, the two of them, always have been and always will be.
“Let's get you to the airport, alright?” She suggests softly, nudging her head toward the door.
“Yeah,” Nick answers, his voice weak. “Yeah, let's go.”
He plugs his phone into her charger in the car to make sure it doesn't die from how constantly he checks it, waiting for news. And yet, he can't make the call himself, can't move his thumb over Harry's name to call, to see if he's out of surgery, if he's stable.
They're assessing the damage, Cal had said.
Nick feels nauseous as he stares out the window, the city passing by outside. He has no idea how he's going to make it through the flight.
Just before ten o'clock that night, Nick lands at LAX. It feels like the next morning to Nick, of course, with the time change and the incredibly long day he's had. He'd had a long layover in New York and he's only been able to get a few hours of fitful sleep in and his nerves are shot. All he wants is to see Harry, to curl up with him and fall asleep listening to his heartbeat.
He starts crying again in the cab, quiet tears of exhaustion and fear slipping down his cheeks as he stares blankly out the window. Part of him wants to urge the cab driver to go faster and part of him wants to tell him to pull over. He settles on neither, clenching and releasing his fists on his lap, his heart beating rapidly.
He'll be fine, Nick tells himself. You'll walk in and he'll be fine.
When his phone lights up with a text, he opens it quickly, deflating when he sees it's from Fincham. He'd talked to him briefly after getting to Heathrow that morning, explaining what was going on to the best of his knowledge. He hadn't had much to say, though, and he'd told Matt he'd let him know when he knew more.
Nick types out, not yet, on my way to the hospital now, then pockets his phone. It's been something like twenty hours since Nick got any information and he knows it would be sensible to call, to see what's happened, but he still can't bring himself to do it.
He does know that news of Harry's accident is spreading, but no details of his condition have leaked. He also knows that people have put two and two together, realizing that Nick's absence from the show is related to Harry. Nick doesn't care, though. Nothing matters more than seeing Harry's face right now.
When he gets to the hospital, his hands are shaking and his legs feel wobbly as he makes his way into the building, fluorescent lights shining brightly over him. He's glad he's a nobody in America because he looks like complete shit and the pap shots would be terrible.
“How can I help you?” A nice looking woman behind a long desk asks when Nick walks in that direction.
“I'm looking for a patient, Harry Styles,” Nick answers and, as the words come out of his mouth, he realizes. Of course they're not going to let just anyone in to see him. With news of his accident being reported, they've surely secured Harry's room to make sure fans don't sneak in.
“Identification,” she prompts, kindly, but also with an air of suspicion.
Nick's not sure what good his ID will do, but he takes it out and shows her, already reaching for his phone as she looks it over. He'll have to call now, to get Cal down to let him in.
“Alright, Mr. Grimshaw,” the woman says, handing back his ID. “Down the corridor on the left, there are elevators. Take one to the third floor and you'll be greeted by security. Show them your ID again,” she says, nodding her head at the card in Nick's hand, “and they'll point you where to go.”
Nick stares at her, baffled for a few seconds before he asks, too tired and nervous to play games. “Why are you letting me in? I could be a crazed fan.”
He's about to get angry at the thought of them letting anyone in, when she shakes her head, smiling. “We have a list of people coming in. You're on the list.”
Nick hesitates, surprised. He hadn't actually told anyone he was coming. “Oh,” he says slowly, confused. “Alright. Well. Thanks then.”
He walks away then, heading to where she'd said the lifts are. Pocketing his phone, he keeps his ID out, holding it in his slightly sweaty hand as he's shut into the lift. He gets nervous all over again then, his stomach twisting uncomfortably with worry. He has no idea what to expect, but he needs to know. He needs to see.
When the doors open, there's a large man in plain black clothes standing there and he gestures for Nick to step out into the hallway, holding out his hand and saying, “ID.”
Nick, already prepared, offers it over. He's relieved there's more security than he'd thought, glad no one will be sneaking in and getting photos of Harry to throw up on the internet like it's anyone's business. Nick sort of wonders if it's even his own business. He hasn't seen Harry in weeks.
He has to force himself not to cry as the security guard gives his ID back and tells Nick to head down the hall to the left, where there's a small waiting room.
When he gets there, he sees Cal, who looks even more exhausted than Nick feels. He looks unshowered and pale, like he hasn't left the hospital since this began. Nick is grateful for that, grateful he was here.
“Nick, hey,” Cal says when he spots him, giving a weak smile.
“Is he-” Nick starts, cursing his hands for shaking where he's wringing them together. “Is he okay?”
Cal hesitates, looking unsure, and Nick feels his heart drop so hard that it makes him want to be sick right then and there. He holds it together just long enough to hear Cal's answer, though.
“He's pretty banged up. A few broken bones, was unconscious for quite a while. No internal injuries, though, and the doctor said that's quite the miracle.”
Nick can feel his bottom lip tremble, his eyes go hot with tears, but he shoves it down, forces himself to stay calm. No internal injuries is good, really good. No lasting damage. “Okay,” he answers shakily, nodding. “You said he was unconscious? Is he awake now?”
“Yeah, Liam's in with him now,” Cal says, then stops himself. “Oh, here he comes.”
Nick turns to see Liam Payne walking out of the room at the end of the hall, his phone in hand. As soon as Liam spots Nick, he smirks tiredly, walking straight for him.
“Knew you'd come,” he says softly, then pulls Nick in for a hug.
It's strange because he and Liam have never been friends, have never really spent time together in a non-professional way. They'd bumped into each other at parties and clubs a time or two, but not long enough to develop any serious friendship.
But now Nick clings to Liam and feels the younger boy cling back, as if they do this often, as if it's nothing out of the ordinary.
“He's alright,” Liam whispers in his ear as they hug. “He's- he's gonna be alright.”
Nick swallows heavily, nodding into his shoulder, then pulls away. He can't walk in all teary and sad. He has to keep it together, has to be positive for Harry.
“Can I see him now or,” Nick asks, not bothering to finish the question.
Liam chews on his lip for a moment, studying Nick, then nods. “Yeah, go on,” he encourages, tilting his head toward the door. “Just, he's a little out of it from the drugs so don't be surprised if he acts strange.”
Nick nods and takes a deep breath, wiping at his face to be sure no tears have spilled over. His fingers come back dry so he reckons he's ready. After taking one step, though, he stops, turning back to Cal and Liam.
“Hey, just curious, how'd you know I'd come?”
Cal gives him a weak smile, the dark circles under his eyes prominent. “You asked for the hospital name,” he says, shrugging. “When I told Liam I hadn't heard from you since that, he said you were coming.”
“I heard you missed your show,” Liam adds kindly. “Harry already said you wouldn't come, though, so it'll be a surprise for him.”
Nick focuses on his breathing as he processes that information, nodding his understanding. Harry didn't think he'd come. Maybe Harry didn't even want him to come.
He's here now, though, and nothing is standing between them except a stretch of empty hallway and a door. He walks toward it, shaking out his arms before he reaches for the doorknob, turning it slowly.
The last time Nick saw Harry, the boy was in London for a bit of promo for his band. They'd texted a few times, Harry letting Nick know he'd be in town and Nick asking what was on the agenda. They didn't make plans, not like they used to, and when Harry showed up at Nick's door one night, he looked older, more tired than the last time Nick had seen him.
Still bloody gorgeous, though. Nick's heart still flipped in his chest at the sight of him.
“Can I sleep here?” Harry had asked, his gaze flicking everywhere, never solidly landing on Nick's eyes.
Nick had pulled him inside, tugged him to the bedroom by his hand. They'd been silent as Nick undressed Harry, sliding the clothes from his body, uncovering tattoos he didn't yet know. When the boy was standing there in just his pants, Nick could see that he was hard so, even though he looked exhausted, Nick lowered to his knees, peeling his pants off as well.
“This okay?” He'd asked, looking up as his hands skimmed the tops of Harry's thighs, closer and closer to his dick.
Harry had nodded, lip bitten in a way that Nick didn't read as simply lust. That was there, of course, but there was something else. Nervousness, maybe, or worry. Nick didn't pay much attention, though, just wrapped his fingers around Harry's cock and took him into his mouth.
Harry had always been heaven to suck off, never surprising Nick by fucking his hips forward, always clean. Nick had spent his time on it, slowly slicking up the length with his spit, licking and sucking gently at the head, until he finally began bobbing down the length, cheeks hollowed.
“Missed y- your mouth,” Harry had mumbled around shuddered breaths, pausing just long enough to make Nick wonder if he had changed his mind about what to say. Maybe, Nick thought, maybe he was going to say missed you.
Not that it really mattered. Or maybe it did. Nick had never really decided.
He sucked Harry greedily until he came, swallowing as he shot into his mouth. He closed his eyes, feeling Harry's cock pulse on his tongue, fingers buried in his hair. He stayed on his knees for a moment, letting Harry slip out from between his lips and resting his forehead against Harry's hip as he caught has breath.
When he'd finally gotten up, they fell into bed and Nick felt a hand slip into his boxers, curling around his dick. He'd almost pushed it away, almost told Harry not to worry about it, but the feeling was too good to push away.
“How's LA?” Nick had asked as Harry jerked him off.
Harry had kissed his neck then, not the biting kind of kiss Nick had felt from Harry before, when he was turned on and they were fooling around. This one was soft and careful, Harry's mouth trailing up under his jaw and then finding his lips.
“Easy,” he'd answered quietly, his thumb sliding under the head of Nick's cock, wet with precome.
Nick had come before he could ask what that meant. He didn't think of it again afterward, the two of them falling asleep in silence, touching everywhere.
Harry's eyes are closed when Nick quietly opens the door, giving him a moment to just look. The boy is in a bed in the middle of the room, not quite lying back and not quite sitting up. His cheek has a reddish-purple bruise over it, his hair falling over his face. His right leg is in a cast, held up above the bed by a sling, and his right arm is in a cast as well. He's wearing one of those awful paper gowns and Nick can see enough skin to see that his left knee has a large plaster over it and his left arm is covered in scrapes and bruises.
He's a mess. He looks terrible, beat to hell, but he's alive and Nick is in the same room as him. That's all he needs to breathe out slowly, feeling relieved. He's still an emotional wreck, hands still shaking as he closes the door behind him, but Harry is alive and he's going to stay alive.
As Nick takes a step closer, Harry's eyes blink open and Nick can feel his throat swelling, tightening as Harry looks at him with sunken eyes, bruised either from fatigue or the accident, Nick's not really sure. It reminds him of the last time they saw each other, when Harry looked so tired on Nick's doorstep, except now he looks younger, smaller. He looks fragile and Nick isn't sure how to protect him anymore and that's scary.
“'M I dreaming?” Harry asks flatly, his voice as rough as sandpaper.
Nick takes another step forward, seeing how chapped his lips are, dry and pale and still so pretty. “No, love,” Nick answers, attempting a smile. It's a bit wobbly, though, not quite the reassurance he was going for. “I'm really here.”
Harry doesn't answer for a long moment, just staring at Nick, completely still. Finally, he says, “I think I'm still unconscious.”
Nick frowns, then makes his way to the far side of Harry's bed, on his left side. Carefully, he reaches down, gently slipping his hand into Harry's. His skin is warm and soft and Nick wants to touch more of him, but he's not sure what's hurt and what's not. It seems like his left hand is the only part of him that isn't bruised.
“You're not unconscious,” Nick says softly, his own rapid heartbeat and Harry's fingers being the only things he can really feel right now. “I, uh, heard and now here I am.”
Harry blinks slowly, his gaze unwavering. His pupils are huge, his eyes glassy, making him look proper stoned. Which he surely is. Nick probably looks like a hallucination right now.
“Just like that?” Harry asks, licking the dryness away from his lips.
Nick glances toward the door, seeing no movement outside, so he sits on the very edge of the bed next to Harry's good leg, pulling a chapstick out of his pocket. Uncapping it, he leans forward, carefully wiping it over Harry's bottom lip. He's so gentle that he's not sure how effective it is, but he doesn't want to risk hurting the boy more.
“Well, with a long day of flying in between there, but yeah. Basically. Just like that.”
Harry lifts his arm as Nick tries to smear the chapstick over his lips, sliding it up Nick's arm, touching like he's trying to be sure he's real. Nick ignores the pang in his chest, just pulls away from his lips, pocketing the chapstick again.
“You're really beautiful,” Harry says, almost dazed. “I almost forgot.”
Nick is torn between emotions, not sure whether to focus on the flattered blush rising to his cheeks or the pain of hearing that Harry almost forgot him. Everything feels like too much and Nick can't pick one thing to feel, all of it crushing him. He's so tired.
“You're beautiful even when you're all broken,” Nick answers, his throat spasming again.
Harry's arm drops away then, like he's too weak to hold it up. His hand finds Nick's again, though, so that's enough.
“You're shaking,” Harry says softly, his voice rough even in a whisper.
Nick nods, biting down on his quivering bottom lip. “You scared me, pop star,” he whispers back, sort of hoping Harry won't remember this tomorrow.
Harry lets his eyelids fall then, his brow furrowed. Nick wonders how badly it hurts, how much pain is sneaking past the drugs. He wonders if there are injuries he hasn't seen yet, hidden under his skin or the thin material of his gown.
“I dreamed about you,” he says, eyes still closed and voice mumbled. “You and me, we were-” He stops then, shifting a tiny bit, head dropping to the side. Nick wants more, wants to talk more and look at him more, but he feels calmer now and Harry clearly needs the rest.
He starts to slide his hand away from the boy's, to leave and let him sleep, but then Harry stops him, frowning.
“Don't go,” he says, barely squinting his eyes open. “Stay with me?”
It's the first time Harry's asked him that.
Nick sits down again, finding Harry's hand. He'll stay as long as Harry wants.
He's not sure how long he's been asleep when he wakes up to the sound of someone entering the room. Looking up, he sees Gemma stepping inside, a paper cup of coffee in each hand.
“Ooh, sorry,” she says quietly, cringing as Nick sits up in his chair from where he'd had his head resting on Harry's bed, next to their linked hands. “Didn't mean to wake you.”
Nick glances up to be sure Harry's still asleep, finding that he is. The scrapes and bruises covering his body are jarring, like he'd forgotten about them when he fell asleep. Now he has to readjust, remembering the events of the past day.
“'S alright,” Nick croaks out, offering Gemma a weak smile as he wipes at his face with his free hand. He's still bloody exhausted and, when he finds a clock on the wall, he sees that it's not even midnight. He hasn't slept more than an hour or so.
“Here,” Gemma says softly, offering a coffee to Nick with a warm smile. She seems fully rested, if a bit less made up than Nick is used to seeing her.
“Cheers,” he says, reaching for the cup without letting go of Harry's hand. “Did you just get in?”
She shakes her head, gaze falling to Harry's face. She doesn't look away as she answers, fussing gently with his hair. “I was already here. Or, well, I was out in Malibu for the day. I just went back to Harry's when Liam got in to get a few hours' sleep and grab some clothes for him.”
Nick watches her watching Harry, the fond smile on her face as she combs his hair back. She must have been terrified twenty-four hours ago, must have been even more of a nervous wreck than Nick. She's calm now, though, surely relieved that his injuries didn't turn out to be anything worse.
Nick takes a sip of coffee, nearly groaning out loud at how good it tastes right now. “So, Liam was nearby too?”
“Florida,” she says simply, pulling her hand away from Harry's hair once she's satisfied with it. After a long moment of just looking at Harry, she sighs and turns to Nick. “So, you're here.”
Nick isn't sure if there's a question hidden in that statement, so he just nods, then takes another sip of his coffee. He doesn't think about how rarely he's missed his show, how he didn't miss it when his sister had a huge fight with her husband and called him crying, when Collette had a nervous breakdown, when his dog passed away. He doesn't think about how quickly he made the decision, how he didn't really have to think about it at all.
“The other lads coming?” He asks, trying to divert the conversation along with his own thoughts.
“Don't think so,” Gemma says, cradling her coffee cup. “Not that they don't want to be here, but Harry's on the mend now and it's a long trip.”
Nick knows it's a long trip. He just took it and he tries not to hear the meaning behind her tone, like she's poking at him, trying to get him to tell her something.
“Nick,” Harry's mumbled voice says next to him and Nick turns quickly, finding Harry's eyes still closed.
Nick stands up from his chair, leaning in closer. “Y'alright, love?” He asks in a whisper, not sure if Harry is awake or not.
Harry's head moves just a little before settling, still again. Just when Nick thinks he's fallen back to sleep, he speaks again, his mouth barely moving and the words coming out slowly, murmured. “'M so in love with you.”
Nick's mouth parts in surprise, gaping at the boy who appears to already be asleep, his breathing gone slow and even. He drops his gaze down to their hands, thinks he's shaking again as he processes what Harry just said, his chest squeezing in on his lungs.
Flicking his eyes up to Gemma, he tries to play it cool, shaking his head. “He's just- it's probably just the drugs.”
It is, he knows. It's certainly just the drugs and Nick will see when Harry wakes up, when he's feeling better. He'll see that nothing's changed.
“Nick,” Gemma whispers sadly, head tilting as she frowns at him across the bed. She hesitates before saying more, looks like she's trying to decide whether to say it or not. Finally, she speaks again, her voice soft and careful. “It's not just the drugs.”
Nick doesn't move, feeling his heart thump against the walls of his chest, fast and heavy. “Can I ask,” he says, clearing his throat, “what makes you think that?”
She looks away then, wiping her lips together as she turns to Harry, studying his face. It takes a minute, but she finally answers, still looking at her brother. “Normally I'd mind my business, but you just dropped everything to fly out here and I think we both know why,” she says, then sighs, looking up to Nick again. “I don't think it's just him, so I'll tell you that I've known for a while that he's mad for you. Always has been, really.”
Nick coughs, careful not to be too loud even though he can barely focus on that, too busy with his racing heart and his trembling hands. “What?” He asks rather stupidly, staring at her.
She cringes a bit, her expression soft and sympathetic. “He told me a long time ago,” she says. “He's never stopped, you know? He's always loved you.”
Nick's hand feels clammy in Harry's and he carefully pulls it away, wiping it on his jeans. “He bought a house in LA,” he whispers, looking down at the broken, sleeping boy. “He's spent more time there than in London this past year, I-” He cuts himself off, shaking his head because it doesn't make any sense.
“He didn't think you wanted him,” Gemma explains, then chews on her bottom lip the same way Harry does when he's worried. “You do, though, don't you?”
Nick almost laughs at that. Harry is pretty much the perfect boy. Aside from being terribly good looking and financially secure for the rest of his life, probably, he's one of the best people Nick's ever known. Maybe even the best, number one, first place. He's kind and charming and funny even when he's not funny and Nick has always known that, in a different world, a different life, he would have done everything he could to make an honest man out of him. But in this world, there's too much crap that's gotten in the way, careers and age difference and the fact that Nick has never wanted to hold Harry back from anything.
But he's here in a hospital room with Harry in California while another DJ fills in for him at his dream job and it doesn't feel like he's missing anything, not really. It feels like maybe everything he really needs at this point in his life is right in front of him.
“Fuck,” he chokes out, feeling panic swell inside him.
Gemma opens her mouth, looking concerned, but Nick cuts her off. “I need a minute. Just- if he wakes up, make sure he knows I haven't left? Tell him I'm still here?”
He barely registers her nod before he's bolting out of the room, working to breathe evenly. When he gets to the waiting room around the corner it's empty, just a couple of security guards at either end of the hall. The others must have gone to get some rest or at least grab a bite to eat.
He walks to the wall where there's a window and he leans next to it, looking out as the city lights shine against the darkness of the night. Pulling out his phone, he dials quickly, bringing it to his ear.
“Grim, you okay?” Aimee answers quickly, sounding worried.
Nick stares ahead, feeling his throat clench again, tears threatening to form. He feels like a complete mess, can't keep his emotions in check for anything.
“How long d'you reckon I've been in love with Harry?” He asks tightly.
Aimee hesitates for a long moment like she's trying to decide how to answer that before she finally replies. “Not sure,” she says, her tone gentle. “Long while, I suppose.”
Nick nods, closing his eyes. He's still so tired and it's midnight and he just wants to curl up with Harry on that hospital bed and stay there for a good portion of forever.
But it feels like something huge is happening right now, like he's opening a door and walking into a new phase of his life. He feels the change, overwhelming and important, and it's enough to keep him awake a bit longer.
“Think you're right,” Nick says, dropping his head. “I think maybe- now, maybe, that has to mean something.”
Aimee doesn't respond, but Nick can hear it in the silence, that feeling he gets when she hugs him. It's comforting enough to stay on the line for a minute, just listening to the silence and knowing she's there.
“I might have to put him first,” Nick finally whispers, mostly to himself, wiping at his closed eyes with the hand that was just holding Harry's.
“Grim,” Aimee says quietly. “He'd never ask you to sacrifice anything to be with him, you know. He cares about you too much.”
Tears fill the space between Nick's eyes and his eyelids, leaking out at the corners. Even thinking about it is too much; this whole situation is too fucking much.
“I have to go back in,” he says instead of acknowledging her statement.
They say their goodbyes and Nick wipes his eyes again, not sure he's ever going to get himself together until Harry is out of the hospital, maybe not even then. He walks back into the room, seeing that Gemma is sitting in the corner, reading a magazine as Harry continues to sleep. She glances up and gives him a knowing smile, then drops her gaze again, flipping the page.
Nick takes a deep breath and goes to his previous spot next to Harry's bed. Sliding his hand into Harry's like it belongs there, he leans down to gently kiss the boy's forehead.
“I'm so in love with you, too,” he whispers, just in case Harry is listening in his sleep.
Then he sits down in the chair, resting his head on his arm where it's propped up on the bed.
He's not going anywhere.
When a nurse comes in around two in the morning to check Harry's vitals and change his bandages, she takes one look at Nick's awkward position before she leaves and comes back with a cot. She sets it up silently, pushing it right next to Harry's bed, then hands Nick a pillow. He thanks her sincerely and climbs into the bed, his body feeling about as rough as Harry's looks. Once he gets settled, he reaches up to hold Harry's hand again, not worried about how sweaty their palms are.
The next time he wakes up, it's no longer night, the sun lighting up the room through a window Nick hadn't even noticed the night before. He could probably sleep for a few more hours, maybe days, but there are fingers drawing shapes over the back of his hand and Nick blinks his eyes open, sitting up.
“Hey,” Harry says softly, looking much more himself than the night before.
Nick smiles through his sleep haze, standing up to get closer. “Hi,” he replies, eyes dancing over Harry's face.
His eyes are brighter now, not quite as sparkling as they usually are, but there's life in them. Nick doesn't have to squint to see the boy behind the drugs now.
“You're such an idiot,” Harry says, shaking his head a little. “You missed your show.”
Nick very carefully sits at the edge of Harry's bed, smiling down at the boy. He probably looks terrible himself, hair a mess and pillow creases on his face, but he doesn't care. “You're the idiot,” Nick points out, wishing he could touch more of Harry, wanting nothing more than to give him a hug. “No more motorbikes for you. Maybe even all vehicles, I'm still thinking about it.”
Harry doesn't laugh, just smiles up at Nick and nods a bit to appease him. “I've missed you,” he says, voice whispered.
Nick takes a deep breath, steadying himself. He needs to do this now, while Harry's lucid and there's no one around. Reaching up to touch Harry's cheek, staying away from the bruise on it, he slides his fingertips over the soft skin.
“I was so scared,” he says, his voice wavering slightly. “You were hurt and I wasn't there and I love you, you know? I love you.”
Harry stares back, eyes widening just a bit, going all big and doe-like the way they do. Nick isn't discouraged, though. Nick is done with not saying things just because he's afraid.
“Do you think you might want to give this a real shot? Be with me for real?”
Nick swallows nervously as Harry parts his lips, no words coming out. Maybe this was too much, too soon. Maybe Nick should have waited until Harry was feeling better to spring this on him, but he can't wait anymore, not now that he's been reminded that Harry isn't invincible. He can't wait because Nick's whole life is sort of depending on this moment, Harry's answer.
“I'll stay here,” he says quietly, completely sure of his decision even though it makes him tremble. “I know you love LA and I'll stay. I won't leave.”
Harry's eyes manage to stay wide even as he furrows his brow, mouth dropping open more. “You're not-” He stops, shaking his head and takes a deep breath before starting over. “I like LA because I don't have to think of you here,” he says, then cringes when Nick drops his head. “I mean, not like that. I mean when I go to London, it's like you're everywhere. It's like I'm being pulled toward you and I thought you didn't want- I thought it was just me.” He tilts his head, confusion written all over his face. “I like LA because I can breathe easier here. Missing you still hurts but- but I can breathe.”
Nick's heart thumps heavily in his chest as he processes this, as he stares into Harry's eyes. He loves him so much that his insides twist until they hurt.
“Are you saying- what are you saying?” He asks, not wanting to get too excited if Harry's about to point out all the reasons they still can't be together. Nick will find a way to fix every one of them, though, he'll get rid of all that crap keeping them apart.
“I'm saying I've been in love with you all along and of course I want to be with you,” he says, one corner of his mouth lifting. “But I'm still on the road all the time. And you still need to focus on your career-”
“And I'm telling you,” Nick interrupts firmly, “that I'll stay. Here. If you want me, I'll- you'll be the most important thing. You are, you're the most important thing.”
Harry's chest rises and falls as he stares back at Nick for a long moment before his face crumples and he reaches up to pull him closer. Nick goes easily, careful not to lean against him when he dips his head, lightly pressing his lips to Harry's.
“You're an idiot,” Harry says quietly between kisses.
Nick smiles into the boy's mouth, having missed the feeling of his lips.
“You're the idiot,” he whispers back before kissing him again.
Harry doesn't let him stay, in the end. He doesn't push it until Saturday night when he insists that Nick go back to London, saying they can do this and Nick can still do his show. They'll figure it out, he says. And even after repeating that he won't leave without Harry, Nick eventually concedes after Harry promises to fly out as soon as he's fit to.
The flight back is horrible, but Nick has a promise to take with him and that has to be enough.
And when, a week later, Nick goes outside to see Harry being helped out of a black car by a large man, another one pulling a wheelchair out of the boot, it really is. It's enough.
After quite a bit of trouble maneuvering the steps into Nick's flat in which the large man almost has to carry Harry, they finally get settled on the sofa, the handlers shutting the door behind them.
“Hi,” Harry says, a bit breathless and his hair flopping down in his face. “Might have to do something about the stairs.”
Nick grins and combs Harry's hair back with his fingers. Leaning in, he kisses the boy, his anxiety dissipating now that he's here.
“I'll move,” he whispers.
And he would. He'd move to make it easier for Harry to be with him. He'd do anything, really.
For now, Nick is happy to try to have it all, but he knows that, if he can't, Harry is the last thing he'll sacrifice. If he has to quit his job or move or go on tour with the band, he'll do it. He's been so lucky in his life, lucky enough that he's had to redefine his wildest dreams because he achieved them. Now, though, his wildest dreams are all Harry, just Harry.
And Nick will do whatever it takes to make his dreams come true. He always does.