Nick first met Harry when she slid on her knees and came to a stop between Harry's thighs.
That was the thing about playing in One Direction's home turf: their repurposed basketball court didn't have any bleachers. There was the designated safety distance in place, of course, but when someone like Payne Train put the hit in on Nick, it took a lot to stop her skid. She was just lucky she didn't knock out any teeth this time. And actually, she was lucky she didn't do any damage to Harry.
Nick didn't know Harry was her name yet; all she knew was that the light caught Harry's green eyes perfectly, and her hair looked curly and soft, and her lips were pink and full. Love at first collision, basically.
"Hi," Nick said. She talked for a living, and that was her opening salvo. Well, also, "Sorry."
Harry smiled, and Nick felt it like an arm to the stomach (which, coincidentally, was what Payne Train had just done to her, so she knew the feeling quite well).
"Hi," Harry said back, drawing out the vowel. She even waved a little, and that. That was too much.
Before Nick could do anything else, hands tugged at her arms and she was on her feet before she could tear her gaze away from Harry.
"Jam's over," Rochelle said when Nick finally could look away. "Can you get back to the line?"
Nick nodded. "I'm fine."
"Good. Last thing we need is an injury tonight."
Nick took one more look at Harry, who grinned up at Nick and waved again, before taking the line back.
It would be the last time she'd see Harry for three months.
Nick loved roller derby. She loved that she could take on a name like "Grim Defeat" and draw her number on her bare arm with marker and wear fishnets and knock other women off their skates. She loved skating in general, really, which had disappointed her dad. Not as much as the radio gig had, but if she could take on sport, why couldn't it be football? Nick tactfully hadn't told her father when he'd asked that she hated football kits and also hadn't pointed out the obvious: that roller derby was the only sport she had managed to cultivate talent in.
It was funny that something involving wheels on feet and liberal amounts of pain was Nick's sport. Her sister had laughed in her face when Nick had first told her she'd made it past fresh meat, and she'd laughed even more from sheer incredulity after watching Nick in a bout. Nick understood. If you'd told her back in her student radio days that she'd spend her weekends doing a full-contact sport, Nick would have gotten a hearty chuckle out of it. But when Nick had gotten her first post-uni job DJing at a ratty little club, she'd met people like Mairead and Kate who'd practically lived on roller skates, and that was that. It started out because Nick wouldn't be left behind, and she'd kept it up because it was the best fucking thing in the world.
So breaking her ankle because of an illegal hit gutted Nick.
It wasn't that the hit was illegal, or even that it came from Fab Louis, who seemed to hate Nick for no reason. It was that Nick had to be off skates until the ankle healed, and she couldn't even walk on the damn foot for two months.
The time hadn't been wasted, of course. She'd caught up on all the shows she'd missed while working and playing, and she'd met up with the team at their usual pub after every bout, a scuzzy little place called the Red MacGuffin (or the "Red Mac"). It wasn't like Nick hadn't been social. But she couldn't have strapped on a pair of skates during that time if she'd wanted to, so she couldn't bring herself to go to scrimmages or games, even to cheer her friends on.
Nick couldn't let herself remember how much she wanted it.
Finally, the boot had come off.
Nick had gone straight from the doctor's to the Red Mac. It had been noon on a Thursday, so only Daisy, Fiona, Collette, and Sadie - who didn't have any involvement with the team; she just wanted to support Nick - were there, but they got a lovely level of tipsy, and Nick walked herself to the Tube after without her ankle complaining or getting in the way.
Still, it took another month after she was cleared for activity to get her fitness in place. It took stamina to keep up, stamina she'd lost from weeks in bed with The Simpsons and McDonalds, but the girls took turns helping her out. Rochelle took charge as much as she could - she took her captain status very seriously - but because of work, Fiona and Aimee were the ones who skated with Nick most often.
Rochelle cleared Nick to join the team again just in time for a scrimmage with One Direction and their rookies. Nick figured she'd stay on the bench for the duration - she didn't fancy reinjuring herself for something that wouldn't count officially - but even that much was dicey. The game she'd left in an ambulance had nearly ended in a full-on fight between the teams. She'd been in hospital floating on a nice cloud of painkillers and hadn't cared much, but Daisy had filled her in at home the next morning when Nick asked.
"Absolutely ugly," Daisy had said cheerfully, arranging the flowers all the girls had sent Nick on a table by Nick's bed. "Louis got tossed from the game and was dragged out by Zayn when she refused to leave on her own. Finchy said...well, I don't know what he said, but Louis was going for his throat."
It had taken Nick a moment to remember the real names of the girls in One Direction. She blamed the drugs. At least Matt Fincham was just the referee and always went by Matt or Finchy. "Reckon Louis will cool down by the time I come back?" Nick had asked lightly.
She hadn't needed an answer - omission was better than a lie - and Daisy, being Daisy, knew Nick didn't want one.
Still, Nick was feeling pretty good when she skated out onto the track her first scrimmage back. She'd gone platinum blonde in her absence - she'd needed something to do - and she'd bought new stickers for her helmet, so she felt about as stunning as she looked. Nick's team swarmed her before she could so much as sit down. It had really been too long since she'd last had love taps on her helmet.
When they cleared away, Nick sat and risked a glance at the One Direction bench. She noticed two things: one, Louis looked like she would murder Nick with her cheekbones if she could (and her lovely makeup reflected the sentiment - what a shame Nick couldn't ask her for eyeliner tips), and two, someone Nick didn't recognize was pulling the jammer cover over her helmet. The team was a little too far away for Nick to make out the name on the back of her shirt, and she was hunched over, so Nick couldn't tell who it was.
She leaned over to Rita, who was touching up her lipstick with a hand mirror. "Who's that?"
"When was the last time you were at a formal practise?" Rita asked after a glance away from the mirror.
Nick sighed as Rita pressed her lips together. "When do you think?"
Rita gave her a big kiss on the cheek. Her lipstick remained intact. "She showed up right after your injury in fresh meat intake. Think this is her second time in a full run? One Direction snatched her up quick when they saw how good her speed trials and footwork were, so she's probably got a friend helping her out."
Nick's stomach sank. Someone new and really good wasn't going to do much for Nick's fragile self-esteem...but then the new girl turned around, and Nick knew who she was immediately.
"I saw her," Nick blurted. "Before I got hurt. Nearly mowed her down earlier that night."
"Oh yeah? Maybe you could mow her down again, if you fancy a go. Only a scrim, after all."
Nick shook her head. It would be even worse if she reinjured her ankle in a practise game. "Pure spectator tonight."
Rita nodded and got to her feet, twirling a little on her skates. "Good to have you back, babe."
Nick watched them line up and sighed wistfully, but her stomach wasn't twisting as intensely as it had before, at least. She'd take it.
Despite the bloodthirsty look in every skater's eyes, war didn't erupt that night. Nick stayed on the bench the entire scrim and got to endure Louis's gaze of death every time she passed by, but she also got the occasional friendly wave from the rookie; the name on her jersey read "Bloody Harry".
It was good that it wasn't a formal game since One Direction was very near Primrose Kill's level. Louis seemed to enjoy clobbering Nick's teammates until halftime, when she'd quit in favour of the rookies on her team having a go, and Whammer Woman - the Zayn Daisy had mentioned while Nick was in hospital - had done a pretty good job of keeping Louis from glaring Nick's way by chatting with her for the entire second half. Bloody Harry didn't quite outskate Rochelle in their jams, but she was very good for a rookie, and the constant look of elation on her face was almost too intense to stare at.
Anyway, there were no hospital-level injuries, and Nick got to look at Bloody Harry's killer legs in her shorts, so Nick considered it a victory.
There was a definite space between the Primrose Kill table and the One Direction table at the Red Mac. Nick hated it.
"Why can't we go over and say hello?" Nick asked from behind her wine. Every time she had made a move their way, someone casually asked her for another drink or pulled her into a story. "Rochelle's talking to the Irish one."
"Rochelle's captain," Collette said cheerfully. She wasn't on the team formally, but she often ran practise and had escorted Nick to the hospital before. (Nick had needed stitches on her thigh one time. It wasn't a big deal, and she liked poking the scar every now and then.) Collette brushed crumbs from her burger off her jersey, which sported her name and Nick's number on the back. "And Niall wouldn't hold a grudge against anyone."
"So can I say hello to Niall?"
"They just don't want you to get hurt again." Collette patted Nick's arm. "Or they don't want to get thrown into the street. Take your pick."
Nick sighed and drank more.
She didn't talk to anyone from One Direction until she went to the loo...or, rather, when she came out. Bloody Harry was standing against the wall opposite the door to the toilets, looking a bit messy in the way only time on the track can cause; her eye makeup was slightly smeared, and her hair was a bit sticky in places like sweat had fused it together. She was staring at the floor like she was waiting for a friend.
"Hello," Nick said before Bloody Harry noticed her because, again, Nick was clever as anything. But Bloody Harry grinned and looked directly her way at the greeting.
"Hi." Bloody Harry offered her hand. It made her look about twelve. It shouldn't be charming. "I'm Harry."
"Nick." Nick shook Harry's hand. "Haven't you heard? I'm the enemy."
Harry laughed. "I'm new. I should get a pass for a week or two, yeah?"
God, Nick loved her voice. Northern if Nick had ever heard it, and rich. "You were there the night..." Nick paused to wiggle her hands dramatically. "The night the grudge was born."
Harry gasped and put a hand to her chest. "Not the grudge!"
"I did actually know that." Harry's face softened a little. "I got your number off Daisy that night."
"All your teammates were talking about flowers after the game, and I gave Daisy a tenner to contribute. She'd said you might like a ring in a day or two."
"But you didn't call."
Harry shrugged and stuck her hands in her pockets. "Didn't know what to say. All that came to mind were terrible jokes about broken ankles."
"I like terrible jokes." Nick was going to have to send Daisy flowers. "Can I get your number, then? In the interests of fairness."
Harry looked a little surprised, but she nodded eagerly and carefully recited her digits while Nick put them into her mobile.
"Well," Nick said after her phone was tucked safely back in her bag, "It's been lovely. Must dash."
"Why? Your team think I might corner you in an alley?"
"No. Well, maybe, but I actually have to get to work."
Harry's eyebrows went up. "You have to work now?"
"Soon enough, anyway. Fiona, too." Nick didn't want to leave. She really wanted to chat with Harry more. So, not for the first time, she spoke before she thought about it.
"Actually, do you want to come?" Nick asked.
And that was how Nick and Harry and Fiona and the smell of beer - it always lingered after a couple hours in the Red Mac - ended up in Nick's small studio.
"That was Paramore. A special request for a friend in the studio." Nick nodded at the mic in front of Harry's face. "Say hello to the Internet, Harry."
"Hello to the Internet," Harry said. Her voice sounded amazing in Nick's headphones, as she'd suspected.
"Why don't you tell the listeners what we were up to earlier?" Nick had asked Harry if she was okay with derby talk, and Harry had said "yes" just as easily as she'd said "yes" when Nick asked if she wanted to come. They'd been halfway to the small building where Nick recorded when Harry even asked what Nick did for a living; that was how go-with-the-flow Harry seemed to be.
"We were playing roller derby. It was my first time." Harry grinned at Nick over her microphone. Menace.
"And was it...satisfying?"
They went on like that for a while before Fiona groaned into her microphone. "Time for the next track, don't you think?"
"Suppose it is." Nick wasn't too disappointed. The more music they played, the more Nick could talk to Harry without other people listening. "Here's Bastille. Love this one."
When the track started, Harry asked, "Was that all right? Do you have obscenity standards?"
"I hope not!" Fiona said, standing in a stretch. "Would've been out of a job ages ago. I'm getting more coffee. Anyone want some?"
Nick raised a hand while Harry gave a polite "no thank you", and Fiona dashed out of the room. She was really good at sneaking in and out around tracks.
"That was great," Nick told Harry, rubbing at her own legs a bit. She hadn't played, but it was always good to work tension out. "You're perfect for radio. Lovely voice."
Harry flushed and didn't meet Nick's eyes for a moment. Nick frowned, but a moment later, she looked up at Nick again and said, "Can I take you out for an early breakfast after this? I know a good place a couple blocks from here that should be open."
"Oh." Nick brightened. She usually went to bed right after work on nights she had radio and derby, but some things were worth sacrificing sleep for. "All right then. Any other songs I can play for you in the meantime?"
The place Harry knew was a little coffee shop called Bar Italia, and it was cramped and all the good seating was outside and Nick didn't know if she'd loved a place more on first sight. Harry took Nick's hand to lead her inside, and Nick suppressed a nervous giggle from the feeling of Harry's soft palm in her sweaty one. Barely.
At three in the morning, no one much was around. There was a couple quietly chatting one corner, someone outside scrolling on their phone, and the people staffing behind the counter. It was exactly what Nick liked at this time of night. There was a different, quieter kind of energy than the daytime, but an energy nonetheless.
After they ordered and received their coffee, Nick and Harry claimed one of the outside tables and covered some of the basics of their lives that they hadn't managed to reach in five-minute snippets in the studio.
"Working on my teaching certification," Harry said around a mouthful of food. "Took me a while to land on science, but Gem's pretty good at it, so we have something to talk about."
Nick knew "Gem" was Gemma, Harry's older sister and apparent role model, from their studio chatting time. Harry talked about uni for another moment and then asked about Nick, so Nick went on a little about her own family and her past in the club scene and how she was working on applications for the BBC, Radio London, and Absolute Radio. Nick wasn't unhappy where she was, but having a flat without two other flatmates might be nice, too.
"Maybe you should apply at my work," Nick said. "Your voice is lovely, and the job works well around lectures and derby. I speak from experience on the latter."
"Could do," Harry agreed, but she was deliberately avoiding Nick's eyes like she had at the radio station. Nick followed her gaze. No one much was around, and the person who had been checking their phone on arrival had left, so they had the street mostly to themselves.
"All right?" Nick asked.
Harry nodded. "It was, um. I didn't take puberty blockers. Didn't start taking hormones until I was eighteen, and I haven't sorted out surgery. Not that surgery would do much to my voice. But, um. That's why my voice is deeper. Hormones don't raise it."
"Oh." Nick frowned for a moment until she got it. "Oh. Right. My mate Magda up north had the same thing. Think her voice was a little higher to begin with, but she always complains that she'll never be a soprano."
Harry doesn't smile, but Nick notices she's not clutching at her jumper under the table anymore, and her shoulders are looser.
"Don't think I'd fancy being a soprano," Harry said. "I like my singing voice."
"Can you sing?"
"I'd like to hear that sometime." Nick placed her hand on the table. She wasn't going to reach out for Harry specifically, but it was always good to keep her body language open, she thought.
Her good faith paid off within five minutes. Harry set her hand on top, and they continued talking just like that.
Practise was one of the highlights of Nick's week, particularly since she wasn't playing in games again yet. The league, which only had five teams and was pretty lax in comparison to the more serious derby girls that occupied larger arenas, often shared space, but they all did team-only practises, too. Apparently, Primrose Kill had only practised solo since Nick's injury, which she tried not to think about too much.
Collette loved roller skating - Nick would always associate the sound of her raspy laugh with her quads rolling on the floor - but she stuck to an informal managerial position because she was out of town a lot. She'd done the lessons when Nick had dragged her to practise when Nick was a rookie, and now Collette helped Nick run things when she was in town and raced the other girls in time trials.
That was why Collette was on hand when a chunk of One Direction appeared during warm-ups that Monday and loomed menacingly in the corner.
"I think they want to talk to you," she told Nick, nodding their way.
Nick, who hadn't noticed them before, jumped and clutched at her chest. "Right. Those are faces that want to talk."
"Niall's with them." What was with Niall, making friends with everyone behind Nick's back? She'd seen Niall chatting up Matt at the game on Friday...or, rather, Niall had been talking, and Matt had been the living embodiment of the heart-eyed emoji. "And Zayn's a pussycat."
"That Payne...Liam, she nearly killed me. And Louis did break my bones, if you'll recall."
Collette rolled her eyes. "I'll get the rookies lined up for a jam. Go. Talk."
Nick exhaled heavily, but she did what Collette told her, rolling to their corner but leaving a healthy distance between herself and the other four.
"Hiya," Nick said. "Don't suppose you fancy a go with the rookies?"
To her surprise, Niall nodded eagerly, tying up her hair. "Brought my skates. You coming, Liam?"
Liam was inspecting Nick's face closely. Her eyes don't unnarrow, but she nodded once, hefting a bag over her shoulder, and peeled off with Niall.
Which just left Louis. And Zayn, who was far too put together in her look to go skating right now. Nick maybe stared at her more than she meant to, but to be fair, the air seemed to glow around Zayn.
"What are you doing with Harry?" Louis stepped up closer. For all that Nick probably had a good foot of height on Louis, between her long legs and the skates she was wearing, she felt half Louis's size.
Nick, being Nick, said, "Uh."
"What. Are you doing."
Nick cleared her throat. "Being mates?"
"And who said that was okay?"
"Um, she did?" Nick hadn't seen Harry since they parted ways Saturday morning, but they'd texted to make up for it. Nick squared her shoulders. "She did. And last I checked, she was a grown woman who didn't need a pixie fighting her battles."
Louis's jaw clenched, and Zayn stepped up.
"What Louis isn't saying," Zayn said quietly, "is that she was surprised you would want to be friends with any of us after what happened."
Louis tilted her head and grumbled something in Zayn's ear. Zayn shrugged and said nothing additional to either Louis or Nick. Louis wasn't correcting what Zayn had said, either. She had her arms crossed over her chest and was staring defiantly up at Nick. Nick didn't have much to go on, but their conversation was some kind of gesture, for good or ill.
"It wasn't fun," Nick admitted. "Being laid up all that time. Did you do it on purpose?"
Nick shrugged. It made sense, especially with Louis looking half-ready to jump Nick about Harry in their current conversation. That night had been when Nick had first seen Harry, after all.
Louis's nostrils flared, but the rest of her face was carefully blank. "We play you again next week, Grimshaw. Be ready for it."
And like that, she twirled on her heel and stomped off.
Nick exchanged a look with Zayn.
"I was, like, hoping that would go better," Zayn said with a sigh. "Using her words can be hard for Louis."
"What did she want? To intimidate me?"
"Maybe a little. But I think..." Zayn looked around and leaned in, her voice dropping. Nick maybe got dizzy for a moment off whatever perfume Zayn was wearing. It smelled wonderful. "Mostly she wanted to apologise. She'll get there eventually."
"I hope so," Nick said, and she was surprised to note that she'd meant it. She just had no interest in being enemies with anyone else in the league - what fun was that? - but still, she thought she might harbour a grudge against someone who broke her ankle. "Feel like watching?"
Zayn shook her head. "Just, uh. I get why Louis is so protective over Harry. She's something special."
"I barely know her," Nick said, but she hoped, as Zayn said goodbye and walked away, that she would know more sooner rather than later.
Nick had time to meet up with Harry twice before the next game against One Direction. The first was Harry dropping by the radio show on Thursday the week before, which didn't strictly count because Harry was the one visiting and Nick was getting paid to chat with her on-air. The second was a pizza night at Nick's flat the Wednesday before their next game since Gillian and Henry both had other things to do and it was the only night that week Nick didn't have either work or derby.
The second night was definitely more important because Nick got to return the favour in regards to opening up.
"I came out before I moved out, but only because it was so obvious my family could see it from space." Nick stretched out her legs and scratched at the hair a little. Wednesdays were frequently her grooming nights. "Haven't dated in ages."
Harry nodded, eyes round. "So you and Daisy..."
"Daisy's got a boyfriend, if you can believe it." It didn't mean they hadn't had drunken victory snogs back when Daisy had been single, but what were a couple kisses between friends? "No, I'm the sad target of blind dates whenever one of the girls on the team finds another gay or bisexual woman."
Harry grimaces. "I've been there."
"And you haven't found your soulmate? Love is truly dead."
"Completely." Harry snickers, but then she grows serious and pats Nick's knee. "Thank you for telling me."
Oh, hell. Is that what Nick should have said to Harry when she came out? Nick is no bloody good at these things. Still, worth the effort.
"Same," Nick said. "Can't imagine it's easy."
"It's been really easy so far, actually. My family were nothing but lovely. Gemma gave me half her clothes, although mostly that was because she was off at uni and hadn't fancied cleaning out her wardrobe like Mum had asked." Harry laughed quietly. "And then I met Louis when I started uni, and she's looked out for me since."
Probably too much - Harry very obviously could stand up for herself - but there were worse things than caring too much, for sure.
"You deserve this to be easy," Nick said, squeezing the part of Harry she could reach, which happened to be her elbow.
Harry shrugged. "Maybe. Just means I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Guess that's one of the reasons I wanted to join derby."
"To learn protection?"
"To learn that I can fall and get back up." Harry grinned. "And I have fallen a lot, believe me."
"I do." Nick remembered her own early days all too well. She'd been more bruised than a too-ripe banana. Even now, there were a couple dark spots on her legs, and she could see a fair amount on Harry's as well. "You're an amazing skater. Did you do it when you were younger?"
Harry didn't answer. Instead, she scooted closer to Nick, close enough that Nick could feel Harry's breath warm on Nick's neck.
"Can I kiss you?" Harry asked in a low whisper.
Nick, feeling the breath punch out of her like she had when Harry had first smiled her, laughed nervously. She nodded almost as fast as she laughed, though; she wasn't going to make Harry feel like shit because Nick didn't know how to handle her emotions.
Harry, for her part, tucked one of Nick's platinum blonde strands behind Nick's ear and leaned in for a kiss. She tasted like pizza, and her lips were exactly as soft as they looked.
When Harry drew back, Nick's head spun. There were a lot of questions she could ask, but only one thing could come out of her mouth.
"Wow," she breathed.
"Wow," Harry agreed, and she went in for more.
Nick basically floated into the gym Friday night. She sat on the bench, agreed to be blocker when Rochelle asked, and stared dreamily at Harry across the way. Harry waved and blew kisses. Nick was ridiculous enough to mime catching them and pressing them to her heart.
Louis was sitting on the bench next to Harry, looking baffled. She pulled Harry closer and whispered in her ear, and Harry whispered back. Nick had spent many a game marvelling at how the girls of One Direction looked like they kissed each other's ears when they spoke; it looked as if Harry fit right in.
"Going in tonight?" Daisy asked as she sat beside Nick to fix her laces.
Nick nodded, and then she blinked. "Fuck. I did tell Rochelle I would, didn't I?"
"You can handle it, babe." Daisy rummaged through her bag and pulled out a crystal. "Rub it for luck? I charged it in the last full moon."
Nick might not have set much store in Daisy's crystals, but she rubbed it anyway as she slipped her mouth guard in. Whatever might help.
Playing in a jam was very confusing.
The game itself was simple on the surface: an hour's play divided into two halves. Each half consisted of as many jams as they could cram in, which was basically a play in other sports. Blockers blocked, and jammers came up from behind and tried to score in two minutes (or less, if the lead jammer ended it). Nick had drawn track diagrams in crowded pubs many a time and almost always gotten the point across. It helped that the girls were always up for a mock jam, which usually ended in laughing piles or spilled alcohol.
But Nick, pushing against fellow blockers Zayn and Liam in their first jam of the game, hadn't played officially for months, and there was so much to keep track of when you were in the thick of it. What the plays were. Where your jammer was. (She'd blocked her own team's jammers more than once, even after she'd gotten the hang of things.) Where the other jammer was. What her own feet were doing.
She got through it well, though. No injuries beyond a little wristguard burn from Liam, and since Louis had been jammer, Louis didn't bother doing more than slipping past Nick. Rochelle had managed to take the lead in general, and they ended the jam feeling pretty good about things. Nick was enjoying herself completely and enjoyed the thought just as much that she might get to talk to Harry, currently watching avidly from her bench, at halftime.
Unfortunately, that didn't turn out to be the case. Daisy tried to block Louis during one jam, and she succeeded, but they both tumbled to the ground and started bleeding from different gashes. (Daisy's was on her arm, and Louis's was on her chest.) Nick spent halftime cleaning Daisy up. Harry came in for Louis - as blocker, since she was still a little too green to run jammer, probably - and she grinned nervously at Nick as she lined up.
"Be gentle," Harry told Nick, batting her eyelashes.
Nick rolled her eyes, and when the whistle blew, she did no such thing, but then, neither did Harry.
Louis turned out to be fine with a patch-up, even if she'd been bleeding a little too much to return to the game. Rochelle decided to escort Daisy to A&E after the game, though, "just to be safe". Nick offered to go along, but Daisy said in a voice too quiet for the nearby Harry to hear, "You are buying her a drink to console her for her first loss, and I'm not hearing otherwise." So Nick had seen Rochelle and Daisy off with a kiss to the cheek each, and Nick left with the rest to the Red Mac.
Nick spent most of the evening there telling Harry just how great she had been - Nick had ended up on her arse because of a lovely hit Harry landed and would probably have a just-as-lovely bruise later - and Harry spent most of the evening laughing at Nick's bad jokes. Or maybe they were jokes both of them told. Nick would set them up and Harry would finish them; it was like they shared a brain.
They only turned away from each other when Harry got a text. She frowned as she read it.
"Need to go somewhere?" Nick asked.
"Just to talk over there." Harry waved toward a part of the pub that was a little darker. "You won't leave without me?"
"You want to leave with me?" Nick said. She couldn't fully bite back her smile, and Harry smiled back.
"Yes. Just have to sort out a couple things first." Harry pecked a kiss on Nick's cheek and walked off.
Instead of watching what Harry was up to, Nick elected to go over to Aimee and Annie Mac and Niall, cheering them on as they did shots. Well, Annie Mac wasn't actually doing shots, but at least Nick could understand why she'd be cheering Niall on. Nick stood behind Aimee and rubbed her shoulders encouragingly.
There were enough breaks in the action that Nick could sneak looks at Harry. It didn't seem out of line since she wasn't watching constantly and Harry had said she'd wanted to leave with her. At one point, Harry was deep in conversation with Liam and Zayn. At another, she was looking very intensely at Louis, and Louis was gesturing as she spoke. Harry noticed Nick looking at that point and shot her a smile. Nick grinned back.
She lost track of Harry after that since Beyoncé came on the speakers and both teams burst into a group sing-along. It was Blow, after all. The video had Beyoncé on roller skates, and the song was about cunnilingus; there possibly wasn't a group more qualified to yell the lyrics drunkenly.
It was only when it finished and everyone was cheering and patting each other on the back that Nick heard her name, and Harry was right beside her. Nick gave her a big kiss on the cheek and held out her arms as if asking for a hug, and Harry went right in for it. She was a champion hugger, tucking her face into Nick's neck and holding on tight. Nick had suspected as much.
"All right?" Nick asked her.
"Yeah, just..." Harry pulled back and waved a dismissive hand. "Ready to leave?"
Nick couldn't say yes fast enough. She couldn't leave fast enough either, which her friends noticed. Throwing each other vulgar gestures was just as good as a proper goodbye anyway.
Nick was in a good enough mood to spring for a cab. It wasn't - just - because she was hoping for a cheeky snog on the way. It was just nice to have Harry close and not have Johnny Arsehole leering across the aisle.
Harry did slide in close, arms wrapped around Nick's shoulders, but after Nick gave the driver her address, Harry sighed and said, "Louis spoke to you?"
"Hmm?" Nick asked, eyes closed. She wasn't drunk - she'd made sure of that after Harry had made her intentions known - but she was relaxing.
"Liam said Louis gave you the intentions speech."
"Mmm," Nick agreed. "She can be very frightening for someone so small."
"Louis told me she'd wanted you out of the game that night she broke your ankle. Not that she wanted to break your ankle, but. She'd thought that one referee said you said something crude."
"I didn't," Nick said, even though she was pretty sure Harry knew. "He probably didn't, either. I didn't talk to him that night at all."
"I know." Harry huffed a breath, and Nick could feel the breeze tickle the skin on her throat. "I made Louis apologise to me."
Nick opened her eyes. "You did? Good on you."
"And I told her to apologise to you."
"She doesn't have to do that." Their teams had been great to each other all night. That was all Nick needed. Although having Harry smiling at her was pretty good, too. "It's a contact sport, and..."
Nick's pocket buzzed. She pulled out her phone, and sure enough, there was a text from a number she didn't recognise.
"'Sorry I hurt you,'" she read aloud. "'I won't go easy on you in our next game, but I won't try to seriously harm you, either.' That's nicer than I expected, honestly."
Harry laughed and hid her face in Nick's shoulder as Nick tucked her phone away again.
"Now, no more talk about Louis, if you don't mind." Nick ran her hand through Harry's loose curls. Her hair went to her shoulder and wasn't dyed. It suited her. "I have other people to think about."
Harry rolled her face to look at Nick, grinning.
There was no eager tearing at each other's clothes when they went in Nick's flat; Henry was awake and at his table, scribbling away. Henry didn't look up as they passed by, but he waved at Nick's verbal greeting.
"You'll meet him and Gillian properly," Nick promised as she escorted Harry into her room and shut the door. "If you stay for breakfast, they actually know how to make food. And coffee."
"Cheers," Harry said cheerfully. "Uh, before we get started?"
Nick nodded, crossing the room to put her phone in the speaker dock on her nightstand. Playing music was a token gesture as far as keeping bedroom noises from making their way to the rest of the flat, but she felt it was her duty as flatmate to try.
"I might need to stop here and there," Harry said. She wasn't looking at Nick when Nick looked over at her. "It's not you. I want you a lot."
She said that so casually. Nick shivered and did her best to focus on finding her sexy playlist. "That's fine. Any spots I shouldn't touch?"
"No, everywhere's game. I just feel...weird sometimes. Like things don't fit."
Nick abandoned her phone for a moment and held her arms out as an offering. Harry didn't hesitate on slipping into them, and Nick kissed the top of her head.
"We can stop anytime," Nick promised. "I can go sleep on the sofa, even."
Harry looked up. "Trust me, I'll want a cuddle unless things go really wrong."
Nick decided not to tell Harry that Nick got a bit grumbly about cuddling in bed. She liked close contact with Harry, so it probably would be fine anyway. She quieted her head by moving in for a kiss.
Despite their slower, more tender start, things heated up quickly. They shed their clothes, not bothering to do more than leave them in piles on Nick's floor, and climbed onto Nick's bed. Snogging turned to groping; Harry had eager hands to play with Nick's generous tits, and Harry had sensitive nipples on her smaller breasts. Groping ended when Harry told Nick to sit at the head of the bed, and Nick had just enough time to make sure her music was at a good volume before Harry got her mouth on Nick's pussy.
Fuck, but Harry had a talented tongue. She was a little clumsy with it - if Nick had to guess, she would think Harry hadn't eaten out too many people with vulvas before - but Nick gave her pointers on what kind of pressure and tongue action she liked, and she only ever had to tell Harry once. Harry pulled away occasionally, face flushed and sticky, and asked Nick if she was doing well. Nick laughed a little instead of responding, and Harry would smirk, pleased, as she went back to work.
Nick came with a loud enough shout that Gillian banged on the wall between their bedrooms. Harry definitely looked more smug after that.
"Let me do you?" Nick asked afterwards. Harry had left her adorable pink pants on. "What would you like?"
Harry bit her lip thoughtfully, and if she hadn't adjusted herself, Nick would have been ready to move back. "Hand? Don't take off the pants."
Nick nodded in agreement and reached in. She'd never jerked off a cock before - and Harry had referred to it as her cock once in passing, instead of her cunt like Magda preferred - but Nick had done many sexy things with a dildo before, so she figured it out quickly, shaping Harry's length with her hand and watching Harry's face. Once Nick got a good rhythm, Harry pulled Nick into a kiss, and Harry came into Nick's hand like that.
"Don't ask me if that was all right," Nick said later, after clean-up and a late snack and Nick's standard don't-leave-me-alone notice for any bed sharing partners. As predicted, Harry snuggling in bed - in Nick's bed in particular - was not terrible. "It has to be bloody boring to hear me go on about how perfect you are."
Harry laughed, kissed Nick's nose, and carefully grabbed Nick's ass where Nick had showed her the budding bruise. Nick tickled Harry back until she cried uncle. Then they snogged a little more, and Nick had just enough time to think about just how perfect Harry was until she fell asleep.