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August 2012

"Grimmy."

Nick groans, rolls over in bed, sticking his face into his pillow. 

"Grimmy!"

"Wha," he mumbles, kicking his leg to get the sheet off his toes, suddenly boiling hot. "Go 'way. Shleeping." 

"Bacon or sausage?"

"Leave me alone!"

The pillow under his head gets pulled away, and his head hits the mattress with a thunk. He lifts his face, blinking blearily.

"How dare you," he says.

Harry's grinning at him, knelt next to him on the mattress, hair hanging in his face. 

"Bacon or sausage?"

"What time is it?"

"Not early enough for you to be whining this much. Answer the bloody question, Nicholas."

Nick groans. "Bacon."

 Harry nods, pats his shoulder and says, "Breakfast in twenty minutes. Pour orange juice on your head if you don't get up."

 "Monster," Nick says, not really bothered, and he snuggles into the sheets to enjoy his last moments of peace.

~~~

"Sit down," Harry says, smiling, tucking a piece of hair behind his ear. 

"You don't want me to-"

"Just sit down," Harry repeats, pushing at Nick's shoulders. "I got it."

Nick sits, bemusedly. The table's laid out properly, which - god, are those cloth napkins? Nick didn't even know he owned cloth napkins. There's a cup of orange juice in front of him and he takes a deep gulp, scoots his chair back as Harry comes over to the table with a pan and starts plopping bacon onto Nick's plate. 

"That's good," Nick says, after three rashers, and Harry doesn't stop. "Haz, that's good!"

He's laughing, and Harry stops after five pieces, slides the rest onto his own plate.

"Protein," he says. "You need it. S'good for you."

"Thank you, Dr. Styles." Nick breaks a piece off with his fingers - ooh, nice and crispy, just how he likes it - and pops it in his mouth.

"Poached egg alright?" Harry asks, bringing the pan back to the stove.

"Mm, yes, perfect," Nick says, chewing another bite of bacon.

"You know," Harry says conversationally, as he gently puts the poached egg into a little bowl and brings it over to Nick. "I read this article in The Telegraph about how, like, the way you prefer your eggs cooked can determine your personality type."

Nick snorts. "You read The Telegraph?"

"Shut up."

Nick pokes at his wobbly egg, thoughtfully, and then sighs appreciatively when Harry puts a piece of toast on his plate. If he weren't a popstar, he'd make a sick waiter.

"Anyway," Harry says, sliding into his seat. He bites off the edge of his toast. "Apparently, the average poached-egg eater is likely to have two children and to be a woman."

"You made that up," Nick says.

"Didn't."

"I hate you."

"It's just science, Grim," Harry says wisely, and he breaks into a grin when Nick glares at him.

"And people who like fried eggs have a high sex drive," Harry says, just as he bites viciously into his own fried egg and winks.

"You are definitely making that up!" Nick laughs. "Not that that's not true. Fucking insatiable, you are."

Harry just grins. "Weren't complainin' last night, were you." There's egg yolk on the side of his mouth, and he looks decidedly not sexy, but Nick's stomach still goes swoopy remembering the night before.

"Hush," Nick says, going red. "Eat your eggs, child."

Harry laughs, and his foot bumps against Nick's under the table. Nick has to hide his compulsive grin in his orange juice.

“Hey,” Harry says. “You don’t mind if I stay here a bit, do you?”

Nick looks up.

“Here, like-"

“Here, your flat,” Harry says, and his eyes are very steady. “Here, with you.”

Nick swallows.

“No,” he says faintly. “I don’t mind. What else have I got going on?”

Stay forever, he thinks, as Harry grins happily at him, and he has to shove his mouth full of bacon so he won’t say something stupid.

~~~

October 2014

Thunder crackles overhead and Nick jerks awake when Pig lets out a loud howl.

“No,” he mutters sleepily, fumbling for her, but she wriggles out from under his hands and leaps off the bed. “No, Pig dog, shh.”

She growls for a long minute, circling around the rug, nails clicking.

“Pig,” Nick says, exasperated. He checks the clock – shit, it’s half past one. He has to get up in four fucking hours. It’s a Tuesday, and they’re having bleeding Harry Potter on the show, and Nick needs to be well-rested. “Pig, come to bed.”

There’s another clap of thunder and Pig whines, barks once, and then leaps back onto the bed, crawls pitifully into Nick’s lap.

Nick scritches Pig behind the ears, pets her trembling back.

“Shh, now,” he says, low. “Sh-sh, love. It’s just rain, stupid dog.”

He can hear the rain pelting down outside. Pig’s quivering under his hands, her heart beating fast, and for some reason he thinks about another thunderstorm, last year, another one that woke Nick up in the middle of the night. It was different, though, because Harry was in his bed, and so was Puppy. Nick’s not sure which thing makes his heart hurt more.

He lies back down, fluffs the pillow under his head, holds up the duvet so Pig can cuddle in next to him. No use thinking about the past, anyway, is there? Things are different, and that’s just life, and Nick’s covered it up with a smile and a tattoo and he’s not-

His phone buzzes, and Nick grabs for it, feeling jumpy and uneven. Pig’s sleeping again, curled up next to him, a warm comforting weight.

He swipes his phone open, and – oh god, this has to be a bloody cosmic joke, because it’s Harry. A text from Harry.

Nick steels himself.

Hi grim, the first message says, and then - 

I’m coming home next week. London home. Will I see you? xx

Nick stares at it, his stomach doing several complicated flips like a bloody Olympic gymnast.

You better, he thinks about sending, but is that – too eager? Two years ago it might’ve been fine, it might’ve been a joke, but they’re not-

Yes of course, come over anytime popstar x he writes, and as soon as he hits send he closes his eyes, fists his hand in Pig’s short fur until she makes a sleepy annoyed noise.

Harry texts back in half a minute flat. He never did care much about seeming eager, Harry Styles. You wouldn't have to, with a face like that, would you.

I cant fucking wait to see you xx
I get in Tuesday 

Nick’s considering his response when a flood of emojis comes in – blue heart, green heart, kiss face, thumbs-up, airplane, more hearts.

Nick snorts, sends back a pink sparkly heart and a See you soon then x and falls back asleep, clutching a pillow. 

~~~

The rest of the week looms ahead of him, and by Friday night Nick’s buzzing with anticipation and people are actually starting to notice.

“Babe,” Daisy says, kindly, laying a hand over Nick’s knee while he sips his drink. The two of them are out at some new place in Primrose Hill because Daisy’s heard good things, but so far Nick’s vodka tonic has been mediocre and at least three people are taking photos of them with their phones, so he’s not that into it.

“What?” Nick says, checking his phone for the fifth time in ten minutes.

“You’re going mad,” Daisy says, balancing herself on Nick’s thigh and giggling for too long. She pretends to be a classy healthy lady but the woman can knock back drinks with the best of them. Nick’ll probably have to pour her into bed tonight. “Stop looking at your phone. Am I not interesting?"

“You’re fascinating, love,” Nick says, sticking his phone in his pocket.

“What’s on your mind, Grim?” she asks, very seriously, taking his hand in both of hers. Nick slides his eyes over to the person taking photos. Once upon a time holding a woman’s hand in public would’ve meant rumors in the Daily Mail the next day. Weird.

“Nothing,” he says, and then, immediately, unable to keep it in, “Harry’s coming back on Tuesday.”

Daisy’s eyes go soft and understanding. “Ohhh.”

“Shutup.”

Daisy steals his drink, takes a thoughtful sip.

“How long will he be back?”

“No bloody clue,” Nick mumbles. “Don’t – finish my drink, you awful woman. Give that here.”

Daisy giggles, signals for the waiter.

“Anyway,” Nick says, once their next round is sorted and Daisy’s sipping happily away. “I just, like. Who knows how long he’ll stay, but he’s got tour next year, and – and a house in LA, and, y’know. He’s always leaving. Suppose I should’ve gotten used to it by now.”

“Babe,” Daisy says, sternly. “He hasn’t even gotten home yet and you’re already moping. You’ve got to enjoy yourself when he’s here.”

Nick whines. “I know that. It’s just – shit. All the coming and going. Well, not the coming, that bit’s alright.”

Daisy pokes his side, snorting out a laugh, and Nick grins at her, ducks his head and gulps his drink. 

There’s a pause. Daisy looks very pensive.

“Hey, Grim,” she says. “I’ve got this theory.”

Nick laughs. “Oh no.”

“Why do you always say that when I say I’ve got a theory!” Daisy yelps, hitting his arm. She’s a bit like Harry sometimes, in her deliberate speech, her weird ideas, her big easy smile. Her sweetness. God, Nick misses Harry. He grabs Daisy’s hand.

“Tell me your theory, Daize.”

Daisy stares at him. “Alright, so. You and Harry.”

“Ohh, god.”

Daisy continues, undeterred. “You’re always whinging on about how he always leaves, no offense, babe, but you are – but. Listen. Think about how many times he’s left you.”

Nick wrinkles his nose. “Why would I want to do that? Jesus, you’re a sadist.”

“No, like-“ Daisy sighs, frustrated. “He’s left you, so many times, and every single time he comes back. He comes back to you. Every time he comes to London, he makes the conscioush – the conscious decision to come back to you.”

“You’re drunk,” Nick says fondly. Con-shush. For god’s sake.

“I’m right!”

“What’s it matter if he comes back, if he’s not here all the time?”

“But that’s the point,” she says. “Every other relationship, like, people don’t leave. They don’t ever have that chance to make the choice to come back. They’re just, like. Complacent. They just stay. Together.”

“Still not sounding that bad, Daize.”

“You can go through a whole life never needing to make the choice to come back,” she says, eyes sparkling. “You see what I mean? But Harry could go anywhere. He could shag anyone-“

“Daisy, you’re the worst at this.”

“- but he comes to you!” She smacks her hand on the table. “And that means something! Someday when he stops leaving – don’t give me that face, Nicholas, it’s going to happen, you two’re like an awful romantic comedy. Someday when he stops leaving and he stays for good, you’re just going to be stronger. He’s proved it to you over and over that he wants you. Because he comes back. Every time.”

She stops, lets out a huge breath, and then slurps her drink until the straw rattles against the bottom of the glass.

“You need to go to bed,” Nick says, as she shoves her drink back and lolls against his shoulder. “Let’s get a cab.”

“He always comes back,” Daisy slurs. “It’s so romantic.”

Nick puts an arm around her shoulders. “Yeah, babe. It's a bloody fairy tale.”

He pets her hair a bit while he waits for the bill, and she falls asleep on his shoulder on the way back to his flat.

 ~~~

The first time Nick really properly sees Harry once he's home is in the backseat of a car. Nick's sitting thigh to thigh with Dave, passing a bottle of whiskey back and forth like the responsible adults they are, until they finally pull up to Harry's house to pick him up for some posh arty event they’ve been invited to.

Nick peers out the window, knee jiggling impatiently.

The driver's already calling him, phone to his ear.

"He's always late," Nick says, trying not to sound so stupidly excited. Even though he is, because he’s easy, and it’s been so long.

"Don't mind," Dave says mildly, swigging the whiskey. 

"Children can't be expected to keep track of their schedules, can they," Nick says, making it light and airy to hide the weird ball of nerves in the pit of his belly. 

Dave laughs, and Nick sees movement down the steps, and the gate opens. His heart makes a determined leap for his throat. 

The driver fumbles open his door, opens the door for Harry, and so the first thing Nick hears Harry say, in his slow low voice, is of course, "Oh, you didn't have to do that. Cheers, mate." 

"Of course, Mr. Styles," the driver says, and Harry slides into the backseat. It's an immediate assault on Nick's senses- Harry's leg pressing up against his, the smell of his cologne, the glint of his eyes in the dark backseat of the car. His warm body. Nick drags in a shaky breath.

"Hiii," Harry says, happily, reaching over Nick to shake Dave's hand and then giving Nick a brief kiss on the cheek. 

"Hey, kid," Dave says. 

"Harold, hello," Nick says, trying to keep his voice level. "That's an amazing shirt." 

"Thanks, Grim," Harry says, slowly, leaning close and sniffing Nick's breath. "You smell like liquor. Share with me?" 

Dave passes over the whiskey, and Harry looks at the bottle, laughing a little. It's dark, but Nick can see the way his mouth turns up. He smells so good Nick feels a bit light-headed, though that may be the booze. 

"Jesus," Harry says. "Not playin' around, are we?" 

"Never," Nick says, regaining composure, reaching over to give Harry's thigh a friendly squeeze. Harry twitches, and pulls a face at him. "Catch up, Haz." 

Harry laughs, and tips the bottle back to his mouth. He swallows easily, his long throat working, and Nick looks determinedly away. Wouldn't do to get photographed with a hard-on. Wouldn't do to get photographed with a whiskey bottle, but Nick already knows it'll probably be him who carries it out. Harry's still a wholesome popstar, after all. 

"God," Harry breathes out, wiping his mouth and passing the bottle back to Nick. "That is... awful." 

Nick laughs, and takes a small swallow, wincing as it burns hot down his throat. He does have work tomorrow. 

"I like it," Dave says. 

"You're proper laddy, though," Nick says. "And Harry here only drinks green tea and eats sushi, thanks to me." 

Harry huffs out a laugh, even though he probably doesn't get the joke. He doesn't like to read about himself in the papers much, so there's probably a lot of crap he's missed. A lot of crap about Nick, too. There'll probably be some tomorrow. 

Nick tries his hardest to be bothered, but then Harry shifts against him, holds his hand out for the whiskey again, and Nick just- can't. 

Harry knocks back another shot, the glug of the liquid audible over the radio. 

"Alright," he says, letting out a sharp breath. "They'll have drinks inside, yeah?" 

"Champagne, probably. Might do a vodka for you, Harry Styles." 

Harry shrugs, sticks the whiskey bottle between Nick's thighs, and then leaves his hand there.

Nick looks down at it, then over at Dave, who's scrolling through his phone, unbothered. 

The car slows to a stop, and Harry's hand squeezes around Nick's leg, before his mouth presses hot against Nick's ear. His lips are wet. Nick shivers. 

"Missed you," Harry whispers. "Sit by me, yeah?" 

Nick swallows hard, and the door opens wide, cameras bursting like fireworks, blinding and hot. Harry grins against his cheek, and pulls away. 

Nick hides the whiskey bottle behind his wrist and his stupid grin behind his hand. 

They lose track of each other in the night - Harry saying something in his ear about just a half hour more, Grim, and then I'll come to yours- and Nick ends up in bed, alone. It feels like any other night, except worse, because Harry's in the same city as him and not halfway across the world, and he's still not in Nick's bed. 

Nick's deep asleep, dreaming something vague and unsettling about a rainy day and a late taxi cab and the knowledge that if he's late again, he'll have his tongue cut out - when there's a booming knock on his door. 

He sits upright, and Pig scrambles off the bed and out of the room, barking like mad. 

"Pig!" Nick calls, fruitlessly, scrubbing at his sleepy eyes with one hand. "Shut up! S'just the wind!" 

Except the knock comes again, and then again - three loud taps and three soft taps. Nick checks the clock. Ten to bloody five? 

He staggers out of bed, makes his way down the hall. Pig's whining by the front door, restless, and Nick opens it carefully, not letting her escape. 

It's Harry. 

"Grim," Harry says, his voice thick with drink, his cheeks flushed a dark pink. "Hiyaaa." 

"You are very drunk," Nick says, as he opens the door, lets Harry in to stumble against his chest. 

"M'not that drunk," Harry says, with the practiced air of someone who's been repeating that line for a while. "I'm actually not that drunk." 

Nick snorts. "You do know I get up in a minute? It's ten to bloody five-"

"I'm sorry," Harry moans, his face against Nick's neck. "I didn't mean to, it's just, like, you know, we had a drink, and then a car came, and we went to somewhere, with another drink, and then like, I said-" 

"Alright, love," Nick says, helping Harry walk down the hall. "D'you know what you need?" 

"You?" Harry says, very hopeful and sweet, blinking suddenly-wide eyes up at Nick. Nick laughs again, cups the back of Harry's head. 

"You are quite drunk. And no. You need about two full liters of water." 

Harry just grins, as Nick props him up against the kitchen counter, sets to filling a glass of water for him.

"I missed you," he says, swaying a little. "Missed you." 

Nick lets out a long breath, twists off the tap. 

"Did you?" 

"Yeah," Harry says, and when Nick turns to him Harry's eyes are dark and sincere, albeit a little glassy. "Always miss you." 

Nick hands him the water. 

"Missed you too, Hazza," he says, because he can't not admit it when Harry's right there in front of him, when it's so true it makes Nick's chest hurt a bit. "Even when you show up at ten to five." 

Harry gulps back his water easily, keeping his eyes locked on Nick's the whole time. 

"Can I sleep in your bed?" he asks after he finishes, and Nick nods, quickly, as Harry totters up from the counter and into his arms, again, stumbles with him down the hallway like they're in a three-legged race.

Nick gets back into bed, too, though he needs to be up in about twenty minutes and he might as well just go and make coffee. 

He lies there til Harry falls asleep. It's silly, but he doesn't move a single muscle. Harry's breathing out softly through his open mouth, his eyelashes casting a shadow over his soft cheek, his hair spread dark and thick against Nick's pillow, and Nick stares at him greedily until his alarm goes off and then he sits up, swallows hard, starts his day.  

Harry texts him just after nine, mid-Newsbeat. 

Come home after work if you can x 

Nick tries very hard not to overanalyze the use of the word "home".

Another text pops up, while Nick is still deciding how to respond. 

Sorry again about coming in so late. Want to make it up to you :) what time will you be back ??? Xx

Two kisses this time. Nick breathes a helpless laugh, rubs his hand over his face. Knowing Harry, it could either be a gourmet meal or some weird sex thing. Potentially both. Nick still remembers the let's-eat-whipped-cream-off-each-other night fondly. 

Be back at 11:30. Better be good... he sends, and that's the last he sees of it before Matt practically smacks his phone out of his hand and Nick's back on air. 

He gets home at twenty past eleven, unlocks the front door, immediately breathes in deep. The whole flat smells of sugar, something sweet and caramely, and it makes Nick's stomach growl. There's music blasting from the kitchen, and Nick laughs when he hears Harry belting along to Clean Bandit. 

"Ey, you should cover this in the Live Lounge!" he calls over the music, as he pokes his head into the kitchen, and Harry whirls around, a spatula in hand. He's wearing one of Nick's t-shirts and a tiny pair of pants, and his hair's pulled up in a bun. He also has flour on his face. 

Harry turns down "Rather Be", looking sheepish. "You're early," he says. 

"Don't look so disappointed," Nick jokes, setting his bag down, and Harry puts the spatula down and draws Nick into a long, slow kiss right there in the middle of the kitchen. It feels entirely indulgent, but Nick doesn't protest. Harry's mouth is so soft, Christ. Nick can't keep his eyes open. 

Finally Harry pulls back, licking his lips. He looks suddenly drowsy, pink-cheeked. 

"I'm making lunch," he says, a dimple popping out in his cheek as he smiles. "Here, sit down." 

"Can I help?" 

"Nahh," Harry says, bending down to peek in the oven. Nick doesn't bother to resist looking at his arse. "I got it." 

The table's set the way Harry always does it when he's home, and Nick stares at it, feeling a lump settle heavy in his throat. God, he's missed this. 

He sits down, takes a sip of the water glass in front of his plate. 

"What are we having, love?" he says, when Harry comes into the room with a big bowl of some sort of salad. "And how's your hangover?" 

"Fine," Harry says, laughing. "Told you I wasn't that drunk." 

"You're just young and resilient." 

Harry shrugs. "We're having a salad off Jamie Oliver and some chicken and like, caramel apple cake." 

"Wow, popstar, sounds posh," Nick says, nipping a piece of lettuce out of the salad bowl. Ooh, that's good. Some kind of tangy vinaigrette. He hums appreciatively.

"It's not a big deal," Harry says, blushing.

“My lunch is usually a toastie from Pret or, like, condiments,” Nick says, plucking up another piece of salad. “So this is a big deal for me.”

“So sad,” Harry sighs mournfully, and Nick pulls a face at him.

“Sod off, we don’t all have personal chefs.” He considers it. “Though I guess I do, currently, don’t I. Chef Styles. Open for business.”

Harry’s face goes a lovely shade of pink.

“Don’t try your luck,” he says, looking grudgingly pleased, and he wheels around and goes back into the kitchen.

Lunch is incredible, of course, because in addition to singing and pulling people and taking photos, Harry is also an amazing cook. Nick eats til he can’t anymore and then curls up on the sofa at Harry’s request- Harry’s hangover mysteriously reappears when he’s trying to convince Nick to lie around with him – and turns on the telly.

They argue over the remote until they find a marathon of Friends re-runs and they both exclaim in joy. Harry laughs, puts his head on Nick’s shoulder and a warm hand on his full belly, rubs in gentle circles until Nick’s boneless and half asleep and barely registering what Ross and Rachel are up to.

“Grim,” Harry says sometime later, voice soft and filtering through the haze. Nick opens his eyes. “I’m gonna clean the kitchen. Kip a bit, love, you must be knackered.”

“M’fine,” Nick says, yawning into his palm. “I can help. You cooked.”

“Go to sleep,” Harry says, low, and he pushes Nick gently by the chest until Nick’s lying on his back on the sofa, still feeling full and dazed. Harry tugs a blanket up over him, touches his stomach, his chest. Runs a hand down his cheek.

Nick really is quite tired. Late nights’ll do that to him these days.

“S’alright,” Harry whispers. “Sleep. I’ll wake you up when you’ve got to get ready.”

“Like four,” Nick mumbles.

“Alright.”

The last thing Nick feels is the brush of Harry’s mouth against his forehead.

~~~

They spend the next few days inside. Oh, Nick goes out, he goes to work, he goes to meetings, he does Halloween with Kate, but every moment he’s unaccounted for, he’s home, and with Harry. It feels unreal at times, like some sort of dream – soft and domestic like Nick’s never had, and yet so familiar, cos it’s just Harry. Harry sinks into his life seamlessly – wakes Nick up with breakfast, throws the ball for Pig, provides opinions on Nick’s outfit choices, showers with him in the evenings. Sleeps with him at night, tucked up against Nick’s chest. Nick keeps finding dark long hairs on his pillow. In the days Harry goes off to do popstar things – interviews, book signings, meetings, whatever. Nick doesn’t ask. Some of the meetings are about tour, and Nick knows that – he knows this is all temporary – but he can’t help but luxuriate in it, because it’s all his, right now. Harry’s all his.

They venture outside together on Sunday, because Pix is doing a roast dinner and she’s sick of Nick being a hermit. Harry drives, one hand draped over the wheel as he sings along to Beyoncé, a pudding on the floor of the backseat that he’s made for the occasion.

Dinner’s perfect. Nick is often unfairly swayed by carbs and roast beef, but it really is, it’s perfect. He forgot, a bit, how easily Harry fits in with Nick’s mates – asking Gillian about her latest columns, cooing over Pixie’s handbag, listening intently while Henry describes his Fall 2015 vision. He just fits. Nick watches him secretly – or not so secretly, judging from Pixie’s pointed glances – and it makes his heart feel strange, too big for his chest. Harry catches his eyes sometimes, grins slowly at him.

After dinner they meet in the kitchen, dirty dishes in hand, and Harry takes Nick’s plate, sets it in the sink, pulls Nick toward him and kisses him right there. He settles his big hands at Nick’s waist, and Nick knows he’s being a trashbag but he can’t help but open his mouth for Harry’s tongue.

He hears catcalls from the dining room and pulls back, face hot.

Harry’s biting his lip in a grin.

“Sorry,” he says. “Couldn’t help myself.”

Nick’s chest feels too small again. He gulps in a breath, manages to say, “Poor excuse, popstar.” Harry just squeezes Nick’s hips, lets him go and ducks by him to stick his plate under the tap.

Nick drinks too much wine, to compensate for the weird heart feelings, and at the end of the night he finds himself being carefully escorted to Harry’s car, Harry’s hand cupping his elbow.

“Take good care of him, Harry,” Gellz said as they’d left, and Henry scoffed.

“Oh, he does. Proper housewife, aren’t you, Styles?”

“Leave him alone, Hens!” Nick had said, very fiercely, as he tried to do up his boot laces without kneeling down, and it was quite confusing when instead of being intimidated, they all just started laughing.

Nick tips his head back against the seat of the car, watches Harry driving. His careful eyes on the road. His soft cheeks. He’s so lovely. Nick’s really quite gone for him.

“Hey,” he says.

Harry looks over at him, mouth curving up.

“You alright?” he asks quietly.

He’s always so careful, with Nick.

“Hey,” Nick says again. “I’m, like. Really glad you’re here." 

Harry smiles softly.

“Yeah, Grim,” he says, eyes on the road. “Glad I’m here too.”

“I mean, and I know you’ve got to go, soon,” Nick says, looking up at the ceiling of the car, stretching his legs out in front of him. Ooh, his mouth’s dry. He could go for a water. Or maybe a nice cup of tea.

“Cos you’ve always got to go,” he continues, picking up the thread of his scattered thoughts. “Like. That’s just how it is. Which, y’know. S’not like I’ve got some kind of good track record with relationships, so it’s not like I’ve ever even – had that kind of thing. The staying sort of thing. Someone who stays. So it’s alright. Isn’t it, it’s fine, yeah, it’s fine.”

He trails off. Harry’s hands are clenched around the wheel. Nick stares up at the sky through the windshield. It’ll rain tonight. It’s grey and misty and it’ll rain. Nick shivers, tugs his coat closer to him. He wants to be in bed, suddenly, laying around with Harry under the covers, all hot soft skin and endless legs and frozen ice lolly toes that Nick complains about but loves, really.

“Nick,” Harry says, low.

“No, we don’t need to talk about it,” Nick says, waving him off. His head’s spinning. “We really don’t. It’s alright. Trust me, I know that you’ve got to leave. It’s worth it even though it’s so shit when you leave. It’s not shit once you’ve been gone for a while, but the – the leaving part. That part’s crap.”

Nick,” Harry says again, voice wobbly. “It’s crap for me too.”

Nick looks at him. Harry’s not looking at him, but his mouth is turned down and his brows are furrowed. He’s sad. Shit, Nick’s made him sad. What did Nick even just say? He’s a bit exhausted.

“Well,” Nick says. “Can’t be helped. Can it? You’ve got to go, I’ve got to stay. You’ll get tired of it someday probably.”

“Christ, Nick,” Harry says, low and rough.

“I know I’m supposed to pretend I don’t care.” Nick’s voice is getting mean and curled-up and he needs to go to bed. “Because that’s cool. Right? You just come and stay and leave and I pretend I don’t think about you when you’re gone.”

“That’s not what I-“ the car stops, suddenly, and Nick looks up to see they’re back at his flat. Harry yanks the key out of the ignition with a rough twist of his hand. “That’s not what I fucking want. You don’t need to pretend anything, Grim. I think about you when I’m gone. I think about you all the bloody time.”

Nick laughs, tips his head back and keeps laughing. That’s not how it works.

“Don’t laugh at me,” Harry says, voice breaking.

 “I’m not- laughing at you,” Nick says. “I’m just laughing at how – stupid it feels sometimes. To love you.”

And- oh. Shit. The words hang in the air, heavy.

“Not love,” Nick says immediately, desperately. “You know what I mean. Not love.”

Harry’s eyes are wide. Nick fumbles open his car door, staggers out, wanting to escape. 

“Christ- Nick, wait,” Harry says, opening his own door, grabbing his phone out of the center console. “Wait.”

“I’m fine,” Nick says, shakily, tugging his scarf down around his neck. “I’m fine, let’s just go to bed.”

He makes it to the door before Harry catches up with him. Nick’s fumbling with his key, cursing when it doesn’t fit right away, and Harry takes it out of his hands, gently, unlocks the door and nudges it open.

Nick stumbles inside, balancing himself on the wall.

“I’m a bit drunk,” he says. “Only a bit.”

“Yeah, love, I know,” Harry says softly, and he’s guiding Nick back to sit on the sofa, kneeling at his feet to undo his boot laces.

Nick watches the curly top of his head, stares at him so hard his eyes hurt. Oh, Nick said some stupid things, tonight, didn’t he. The wine betrayed him.

“The wine betrayed me,” he informs Harry, and Harry huffs out a laugh, pulling Nick’s left boot off.

“In vino veritas,” he says.

“No, in vino – stupid, things, that I don’t really mean,” Nick says, stumbling over the words. “In vino lies.”

Harry laughs again, setting Nick’s other boot off to the side, holding Nick’s socked feet in his hands. He looks up.

“Do you want to go to bed?” he says.

Nick nods, pitifully, and Harry stands up, offers him a hand.

They brush teeth side by side, glancing at each other in Nick’s mirror. Harry’s hair is shaggy and soft around his face and his eyes are sleepy. He’s messy when he spits out toothpaste, but he rinses the sink afterwards, and it’s such a small kind gesture Nick nearly gets choked up around his toothbrush. Someone to stand next to, and someone who rinses the sink. A toothbrush next to Nick’s in his shiny little toothbrush cup. It all feels so simple for a minute.

Nick gets into bed while Harry lets Pig out for a last wee. He comes back in with damp hair and with Pig wrapped up in a towel in his arms.

“Raining?” Nick says, looking up from his phone, leaning against his headboard. He’s got his contacts out so Harry’s a bit blurry.

“Yeah,” Harry says breathlessly, scrubbing Pig’s paws with the towel and then setting her on the bed. Pig immediately curls up on Nick’s feet. “Really starting to come down out there.”

Nick wrinkles his nose, sets his phone aside, and Harry carefully pulls back his side of the duvet, gets into bed next to him. There’s something terribly homey about the whole routine. Nick has his own routines, time-tested and familiar, but it feels so nice to have one with someone else. It feels so nice to ask Harry if it’s alright to turn the light out. It feels so nice to gently push the dog out of the way so they can lie pressed together, Harry’s back to Nick’s front and his hair in Nick’s face.

“Nick,” Harry says, when Nick’s half asleep.

“Yeah,” Nick mumbles.

“Love you too,” Harry whispers. “More than anyone else.”

Nick’s eyes come open, and his breath catches.

“You don’t have to say that.”

“I know,” Harry says, low. He scoots forward, turns onto his back, looking up at Nick. “I know. But I do. And I know you think I’m – like, a slag, or I do this with everyone. But I think the way I feel when I’m with you is- it’s the biggest. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever felt for anyone.”

His eyes are glinting, dark and liquid, staring up at Nick.

“Don’t say that if you don’t mean it,” Nick says, voice choked. “Cos I don’t need you to say that.”

“I do.”

“Harry-“

“I do,” Harry says, fiercely, his teeth baring. “I just- I know I’m not allowed to ask you to wait. But I just - if you want to. If you want to wait. God, Nick. I promise.”

He sniffs in hard, reaches up and touches Nick’s cheek.

“Promise I’ll make it worth your while,” he says, and smiles, a trembling little smile.

“God, popstar,” Nick breathes. “What the hell do you think I’ve been doing?”

Harry closes his eyes and laughs in his throat. Sniffles again.

“All I bloody do is wait,” Nick says. “Well, not- that sounds pathetic. I mean. You know I don’t – I just.”

“Yeah, I know,” Harry says, eyes fluttering open. “Me too.”

Nick doesn’t have to articulate it. The way their lives are both so, so good, but they’re better together.

“Someday, though,” Harry says, face going serious. He lifts his thumb, sets it in the middle of Nick’s bottom lip. “Someday I’ll do it properly. You and me. Take care of you for real.”

Nick wants to say I don’t need taking care of.

Bit of a lie, though, and he’s too tired to lie tonight.

“Yeah?” he says instead, as Harry’s thumb slips from Nick’s mouth to his chin.

Harry nods, and pulls Nick down to press a kiss to his lips.

“Trust me,” he whispers against Nick’s mouth. “If- if you can. Okay?”

Nick exhales a shuddery breath, goes easily when Harry guides Nick down against his chest, strokes a hand down the back of Nick’s head. Harry smells like roast beef and toothpaste and Nick’s face is definitely pressed up against a questionable tattoo. God it feels good. It feels so good Nick’s throat clenches, and he has to swallow furiously.

In that second Nick’s never trusted anyone more. He’s not one for epiphanies- those are for cheesy films, not real life - but he still feels this strange soft sense of peace falling over him, like a cool cloth on fevered skin. He just needs to believe what Harry’s saying, and take it as it comes, and someday it’ll happen.

“Someday,” Harry murmurs, like he can hear what Nick’s thinking.

Nick hears Daisy’s lilting drunk voice in his hear, clear as a bell. He comes back every time.

Nick’s just got to believe it until Harry comes back for good. He can manage that.