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All things considered, deciding to buy a house together was probably the easiest thing they had ever done.

It was far easier than that year when Liam was struggling with coming to terms with why, even though he was happily involved with a great girl, Zayn was always the first person he thought of when wanting to share good news, the one he felt most comfortable sharing his innermost thoughts and deepest fears with, the one he went to for comfort when he got bad news, the one he wanted to watch Marvel movies with, the one he wanted to eat dinner with, the one whose lips he was mesmerized by. It wasn't that he had anything against being with a guy, he just hadn't thought about himself being with a guy. He'd had mancrushes, of course (didn't everyone?), but those were all on celebrities that he had no hope of ever meeting and those were at least partially because of their voices, not just their looks.

But then there was Zayn, who was by far the most beautiful person he'd ever met and was also the funniest and the kindest person. He never failed to make Liam laugh and he never made Liam feel stupid, even when Liam said something he knew sounded stupid. Some of his teasing at the beginning had felt a little hurtful, because in Liam's experience, no teasing was ever just friendly unless it came from Andy, whom he'd known since they were kids.

But then late one night, after they'd moved into their own room at the X-factor house, Zayn had turned off the lights and crawled into his bed and asked him in a hushed voice if he was okay with the teasing, because he'd noticed that Liam would laugh it off but looked a bit strained around the eyes. He'd shaken his head but then realized Zayn probably couldn't see him. But he'd waited patiently and it felt more like Zayn was letting him talk if he wanted to but wasn't pressuring him. And he had sounded genuinely concerned, though Liam knew that sometimes he misread people.

So he'd taken a deep, shaky breath and there, in the dark, with this boy he really didn't know that well but felt safe around, he'd told someone for the first time how even though he'd always tried to be a good person and make friends and be liked, it was never enough for the kids at school and they'd never let him forget that. His family had seen the aftermath of each incident as it happened and he'd always insisted he was fine and didn't want to talk about it and Andy had been through it with him, had told him to ignore the bullies and even gone toe to toe with some of them in Liam's defense.

It was terrifying saying all of it out loud, to tell someone about other kids pushing him or teasing him so that they could have a laugh or sneering at him or making snide side comments just loud enough for Liam to hear when he passed them. He worried that Zayn would figure out he was weak or bad in some way and turn on him too but once he'd started, it was like a floodgate had opened and he couldn't stop the stories from spilling out. With a detached sense of horror, he could tell that he was barely coherent in his telling and it was obvious that he was just holding back tears. He braced himself for Zayn to snort in disgust and leave but he didn't. Instead, Zayn curled closer to him, rested his forehead on Liam's shoulder, and grabbed hold of his hand, squeezing tightly. He didn't say anything until Liam had trailed off with a couple of small sniffles and tear tracks drying on his face, feeling emotionally drained and very grateful for the lack of light. He felt flushed and his palms were sweaty but he didn't want to let go of Zayn's hand to dry them. After a few seconds, when it was clear he wasn't going to continue, Zayn shifted a bit, tilting his head so that his cheek was resting on Liam's shoulder.

"You are a good person, Leeyum," he said fiercely. Liam shook his head, not necessarily in denial but in disbelief that Zayn could still think that after everything Liam had told him. "No, you are. You're kind and smart and funny and wonderful. You have a good heart. You are so nice. You are one of the best people I've ever met. Those kids, they could tell you were a better person than them and they couldn't handle it so they tried to bring you down. But here you are, still fighting for what you want, still soaring over them. You're so brave."

Liam flushed even more and bit his tongue, not knowing how to even respond to that. Should he say thank you? Would that make him sound conceited? Should he negate it? Would that make him sound like he was fishing for more compliments? He didn't know and he felt too tired to weigh the risks of each possible response so he kept mum instead.

Zayn moved to sit up and Liam panicked - oh no, Zayn was offended by his silence and now he was leaving, what should he do? He opened his mouth to say something, anything, but before he could, Zayn lifted his arm up and slid under it so that he could rest his head on Liam's chest and wrap Liam's arm around his back, still holding onto his hand, fingers now entwined. Liam forced himself to regulate his breathing and willed his heart to stop pounding so fast.

"This okay?" Zayn asked softly.

"Yeah," Liam answered a bit hoarsely, glad that his voice came out steady.

"If I ever run into those kids, I'mma kill 'em," Zayn said conversationally. "Just giving you fair warning that you'll have to post bail for me." Liam snorted out a small laugh involuntarily but with that the last of the tension left his body and he felt like he was finally able to relax into the bed.

They laid there in silence for a bit, just breathing, and then, when Liam thought Zayn must have drifted off, he started speaking - about his own experiences growing up in Bradford where, yes, there was a large Pakistani community but that didn't guarantee safety from discrimination. He told Liam about the struggles of growing up a child of two cultures and trying to find his place among them, never feeling like he fully fit in with either. He told him about the slurs thrown at his mother for marrying his father and how he'd lost his temper and jumped at the kid in the middle of the school hallway; by the time teachers had pulled them apart, they were both covered in scratches, bites, and bruises but the other kid also had a broken nose (Liam detected some smug satisfaction still in Zayn's voice over that, but he didn't fault him at all). The other kid had been suspended for a couple of days but Zayn got two weeks for starting the fight and inflicting bodily harm. His parents had been disappointed in him, especially as he refused to tell them exactly what the kid had said that set him off. He did eventually tell his baba who had only shaken his head at him and told him there were better ways to handle it.

From then on, Zayn kept a tighter rein on his temper during school. Off school grounds, though, was another thing. It wasn't like the taunting and the fights only ever happened in school after all; Zayn would hear derogatory remarks at the arcade, by the corner deli, at the park and sometimes they came with shoves and pushes and well, there was a limit to how much Zayn could take before he lost control and lashed back. He always had Danny and Ant with him, though, and they always had his back, wading in after him and throwing punches left and right. The three of them got hurt more than they inflicted pain at first but well, with enough fights, they started picking up tricks and learning what worked and what didn't. He'd kept most of it from his parents but his sister Doniya knew; she was the one who patched them up when they showed up at home with bloody noses and scratches and bruised knuckles. She sighed at them but didn't say anything because she knew what it was like too, had heard similar things when she was in school.

Liam waited a few minutes after Zayn stopped talking to see if he had more to say but he didn't appear to so Liam said softly, "I wish I was more like you."

"No," Zayn responded instantly. "You shouldn't be."

"But at least you fought back."

"No, Leeyum. That was..." Zayn paused, searching for words. He shook his head. "It was what it was. But it didn't solve anything. It didn't stop anything."

"I took boxing lessons," Liam confided. "So that I could fight back. But I never did. I just couldn't. But I knew that I could if I had to. And that helped, a bit."

"You don't have a mean bone in your body, Leeyum."

"No, I think I probably do."

"Well, then, it's the smallest bone in your body. Like, the tip of your pinky finger." Zayn squeezed the appendage in question and Liam smiled, even though he knew Zayn couldn't see it.

They lapsed back into silence and then, as he felt sleep tugging at him, he said softly, "Thanks, Zayn."

"For what? 'm just telling the truth," Zayn murmured back.

"For listening." Liam squeezed him lightly in gratitude. It had taken him some time to get comfortable with all the physically affectionate gestures Zayn and the others had doled out as if they were free but it had always been easy for him to reciprocate with Zayn for some reason.

"Then thanks for that as well. Now go to sleep. 'm tired and we have a long day tomorrow."

Liam chuckled but did was he was told.

They were woken far too early the next day by pounding on their door and Louis cheerfully sing-songing "Rise and shine, sleepyheads! It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the cooks are cooking! Up and at 'em!"

Zayn groaned and lifted his head off of Liam just enough to shout out "Fuck off Louis!"

Louis cackled but skipped away, whistling to himself.

Zayn buried his head back in the covers and then groaned again when Liam shifted under him, stretching.

"Sorry, I've gotta use the loo," Liam whispered as he wiggled out from under Zayn and the crawled over him and out of the bed, somehow managing to wrap the covers around Zayn in the process so that he was cocooned in a little ball of warmth. "Go back to sleep, I'll wake you when I'm done."

Zayn hummed, disappointed at the loss of a Liam but finding the terms acceptable. He went back to sleep and Liam went to start his day.

+

There weren't any major changes after their conversation. Neither of them told anyone else what the other had confided in him and they didn't really talk about it again but there was a deeper understanding between them. Zayn still teased Liam but with every teasing remark came a gentle touch, a small smile, and crinkles in his eyes that let Liam know there wasn't anything ill-intentioned behind it. Eventually, Liam tried reciprocating, hesitantly at first but then more freely when Zayn's smile widened. He'd started joining the others in their friendly bantering, though that was at least partly because of Louis' unrelenting campaign to get him to loosen up and not take everything so seriously (he had another late night conversation about that, with Louis this time, and realized that they both ultimately wanted the same thing but had different approaches to getting it. They had agreed that for the sake of the group, they had to make some compromises so Louis paid attention when things were serious and Liam stopped treating everything they did as a high-stakes business deal and that seemed to work for them).

The boys all became like brothers to Liam. Except for Zayn. Zayn was something else, something more.

He loved all of them, and in different ways because they were all different. But again, with Zayn it was different. There was something else there.

He'd finally figured out what it was he was feeling towards Zayn and in the time that he'd taken to do that, Zayn had agreed to help promote a girl group called Little Mix by having a staged relationship with one of the girls and things were going downhill between him and Dani. They'd had a big row where they each accused the other of cheating (and him with Zayn, no less! If only) and then called it quits.

He took some time to build up his courage and then approached Zayn in what he would consider to be the second most difficult decision in their relationship: deciding to start one. He'd asked Zayn to stay back with him in his hotel room while the others went out, to Louis' catcalls which made Liam blush even though he didn't think the other boy could possibly have any idea what he was about to do, and then they sat on the bed and he stuttered his way through an explanation about what he was feeling towards Zayn and how long he'd been feeling this way, and what he thought it meant, and how he wanted to try it though he wasn't sure it was such a great idea because what if he was completely mistaken? He'd kept his eyes trained on his hands twisting up a napkin because he couldn't bear to make eye contact with Zayn and risk seeing something like pity or disgust.

So he was taken completely by surprise when Zayn broke into his rambling with a loud "Finally!"

"What?" he asked, startled. He glanced up at the other boy and saw that he was smiling excitedly.

"I mean, yes."

"Yes, what?" Liam was getting confused. Had he asked Zayn out yet? He rewound the past couple of seconds in his head, trying to see what question Zayn was answering.

"You're asking me out, right? As boyfriends?"

"Er, yes, that is what I was working towards."

"And this isn't like a prank or anything?" Now Zayn looked a little unsure.

"No!" Liam hurried to reassure him, feeling a pang in his chest that Zayn could think he would pull a prank like this. "I love you. I love all four of you boys. But I think I might also be in love with you? Or at least on the way there. But like, I've never been with a boy. I don't know how it'll be. What if we start something and it doesn't work out? What if we ruin what we already have?"

"Well...obviously I can't say that nothing will change if we do this, Leeyum, but I think we'll be great together. And I'm for it if you are," Zayn said, licking his lips and then biting down on his bottom one.

Liam followed the pink of his tongue as it flicked out and tucked back behind Zayn's teeth and suddenly all he wanted was to just kiss Zayn and find out what he tasted like; they'd had one kiss before, a chaste one that had happened while they were wrestling on the floor and even the memory of that now sent little electric shocks through him.

Zayn's lips twisted into a mischievous smirk and Liam glanced up to see that Zayn had been watching him stare at his lips. Liam flushed.

"So!" Zayn said brightly, sitting up straighter and clapping his hands together. "What are we doing for a date?"

"Er...." Liam panicked, realizing that he hadn't actually gotten far enough in his planning to have made any concrete plans for a date. Why am I such a donut? he bemoaned to himself. But no, he had to focus! He could berate himself later. Think, Liam! What does Zayn like? "We could, er....oh, a movie?" At Zayn's gesture to elaborate, he added "tomo-" Zayn bit back a smile and shook his head just a bit in a negative "-night? Tonight?" Zayn smiled widely now, the one with the tongue pushing up against his teeth and his eyes crinkled up. Liam smiled back and thought some more. It was a bit last minute for them to find a theater and make sure they had privacy and in any case, if they stayed here, there may be some cuddling to be had. It was that thought that made the decision for him (not that he and Zayn had never cuddled, but this would be their first time as part of a date; there was something a bit more thrilling about that).

"We could stay here and see what's on the telly," he suggested.

"Hm, let's do Iron Man, actually. You have that on your computer, don't you?"

"'Course I do. Who do you think you're talking to?" Liam asked in mock affront, feeling relieved now that they were moving away from his awkward declaration of feelings and onto more concrete planning.

Zayn shook his head fondly. "My bad. Why don't you set that up and I'll call down to room service and get a couple slices of chocolate cake?"

"Mm, yum. Are we celebrating?"

"Yeah. And also so we'll have something to lick off of each other," Zayn said with a wink and a lecherous grin.

Liam, who was just getting up to unpack his computer, stumbled and stubbed his toe against the foot of the bed. "Shit! Zayn! You can't just say things like that!"

Zayn just cackled and picked up the phone to call room service.

That night, they snuggled under the covers and cuddled while watching Tony Stark become Iron Man, feeding each other pieces of cake and smearing some frosting on each other's faces so that they could indeed lick it off of each other.

+

They went slowly at the beginning, Zayn checking in with Liam at every step and making sure he was feeling okay about them and Liam feeling terrified about messing things up. It got easier though, as they settled into this new thing between them. (Zayn admitted later under duress of being tickled that he had been nursing a crush on Liam since the X-factor. "It was a full-on schoolboy crush, Leeyum!" he groaned, burying his face in Liam's broad shoulder in embarrassment. "I was nearly at the point of getting notebooks so I could scribble Zayn Payne all over them. Except that's too rhyme-y. Nobody would take me seriously with that name!" Liam chuckled and Zayn glared up at him with a pout. "Guess I'll just have to be Liam Malik, then," Liam said. Zayn looked thoughtful and then nodded. "That would be acceptable. Or maybe we could hyphenate." Liam smiled and leaned down to press a kiss to Zayn's lips. "When the time comes, we'll figure it out, yeah?").

Liam thought he had already known Zayn, with all the time they had been spending together, but he felt like he discovered new things to love about him every day. The way he smiled softly at Liam in the mornings when Liam had to wake him up for interviews, the way he dropped onto the couch next to Liam and snuggled against him when they were watching television, the way he'd steal the Nintendo controller from Liam when he couldn't bear to watch Liam crashing in Mario Kart anymore, the little sighs he made when Liam nuzzled behind his ear, the way he liked to leave marks along Liam's collarbone and stare at them hungrily all day like he couldn't wait to get his mouth back on Liam's skin. Every brush of his fingers against Liam's skin left tingles in its wake, every kiss was branded into memory, every look set him alight. It was so much more that what he had ever had with anyone else before and he reveled in it.

They had ups and downs, of course, and they had disagreements (some big, some small) but they always worked through them and came out stronger. So when they got the song 'You and I' for their third album, it was an easy decision on Liam's part to get one of the lines inked into his skin. It served as both a celebration of them and a reminder not to take it for granted.

When he decided to propose, Liam spent weeks stressed out and tense. Not because he was proposing (he'd known from the beginning that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Zayn in one way or another) but because he couldn't decide how or when he wanted to do it. He'd made and discarded multiple plans (taking Zayn to a fancy restaurant and having the ring brought out in a flute of champagne, doing it while they were in Japan or Australia, doing it on stage, doing it backstage, doing it after an awards show, doing it on the bus) and he'd even gotten the other boys to help but they weren't helpful at all (Louis thought he should stage a synchronized dance number and surprise Zayn with a flashmob, Niall thought he should take Zayn to watch a game and do it when they were featured on the Kiss Cam, Harry thought he should just ask him over breakfast). Liam despaired of ever thinking of anything that was special enough for Zayn while remaining true to who they were. And meanwhile, Zayn had started eyeing them all suspiciously because every time he walked into a room, the others would wink and nudge Liam and loudly whisper "Do it now!" which of course prompted Liam to tackle them so they wouldn't give the game away.

Then Zayn started commenting about how he wanted to add a new ring to his collection and smiling slyly at Liam and he'd nearly thrown up his hands and handed it over because clearly Zayn knew.

He finally settled on a plan: a quiet night after they got home from tour, snuggling under fluffy blankets together in front of the fireplace at Zayn's house and marathoning all their favorite movies. He brought out the bottle of Jack Daniels he'd picked up earlier in the week and the spaghetti bolognaise that he'd made with Trisha's help (he'd called to ask what he should prepare as a special meal for Zayn and she must have had some kind of mother's intuition about engagements because she'd squealed and excitedly wished him luck and then reassured him that it would go well and then patiently walked him through her recipe; then he'd gotten on the phone with Yaser and nervously asked him if he still had his blessing to marry Zayn because it had been some time since he had first broached the topic with him and Yaser had laughed loudly and said "of course! Why are you taking so long?" to Liam's immense relief).

Zayn's eyes lit up when he saw the dish and they ate at the coffee table, sitting on floor cushions and leaning against each other, soaking in the warmth from the fire and talking softly about their future. They debated the merits of living closer to the city for work or living closer to their families, the kind of music they wanted to make in the future, the kind of career they wanted after One Direction ended, how many more pets and what kinds of pets they wanted, how many children they wanted.

When their plates were cleared and pushed aside, Liam cleared his throat nervously and dug the familiar small black box out of his pocket.

"Before we get on with all those plans, Zayn, I need to give you something," he started, setting the box on the table, "and it comes with an important question." He looked up to see Zayn smiling brightly at him, eyes sparkling with delight but not surprise. "You knew this was coming, didn't you?"

"I might have had a few suspicions," Zayn said with a small nod, still smiling.

Liam groaned. "I figured. The boys mean well but they're not subtle at all."

Zayn laughed. "Well, I can't wait to put it on. I'm sure you already know my answer."

"Be that as it may," Liam said firmly, heart pounding even though he did indeed have his answer now, "I worked really hard on this speech, so you're gonna have to listen to it anyway." He rummaged under the table and pulled out a small stack of index cards he'd hidden under some magazines earlier. He waved them at Zayn in demonstration. "I even wrote it down so I wouldn't mess it up."

Zayn's eyes softened and he bit down on his bottom lip. "Okay, but hold it out so I can see it too."

Liam blushed but did stand the cards up on the table between them, angling them so that Zayn could have a clear view too. His hand shook a bit from nerves and the cards trembled accordingly until Zayn reached out with his left hand and steadied them on the other side. With his right hand, he reached over and grasped Liam's left hand and squeezed it encouragingly. Liam took a deep breath and focused on the box sitting prominently between the cards and the edge of the table. He could feel Zayn's eyes settle patiently on him and he peeked up to see him watching him with a small smile. He glanced over at the cards again to get his bearings and then looked up fully at Zayn, staring intently into his beautiful brown eyes and trying to project all of the love he felt for the other man.

"Zayn Javaad Malik, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I feel so blessed to have found you. Never in my life did I think I'd meet someone who would fit me as well as you do. You listen to me when I'm rambling, you laugh at my stupid jokes, and you never make me feel like an idiot for not knowing things. And at the same time, you make me laugh, you amaze me with your art, you have the voice of an angel and the beauty of the stars, you are so smart and so thoughtful and I could listen to you talk about anything forever. I love that you're so kind and giving. I love how much you love your family. I love you. We've traveled the world together and seen so many wonderful things but none of them compares to you. And none of it would be worthwhile without you there next to me. Zayn, I don't even want to think about a future without you. Ten, twenty, thirty years down the road, I'll still want to hear your take on life. I want to discover the world with you, I want to make new memories with you and I want to relive old memories with you. Somewhere is a place that nobody knows and I want to find that place with you and make it ours. Zayn Malik, will you spend the rest of your life with me and marry me?"

Liam held his breath and looked hopefully at Zayn, even though he'd already said yes earlier because what if his speech had sucked and made Zayn change his mind? But Zayn's eyes were shining with unshed tears and his smile was a little wobbly. Liam was about to panic that he made Zayn cry but then Zayn took the cards out of his hand and set them down carefully and then cupped his hand around Liam's cheek and leaned in to kiss him. Liam returned it greedily, wrapping his hand around Zayn's neck, other hand still entwined with Zayn's and resting on his knee.

"Wait, wait, wait," Liam said, pulling back just a bit. "What's your answer?"

Zayn laughed. "Yes. Yes, of course I'll marry you, Leeyum! Now let me see the ring you picked out."

Liam grinned and snatched up the box, opening it and presenting it nervously to Zayn. Inside, the black tungsten ring sat nestled in velvet looking just as elegant and classy as it did at the jeweler's. He'd thought of Zayn as soon as he saw it and knew that was the one.

"It's beautiful," Zayn breathed. "I love it."

"I'm glad," Liam said, smile widening. He gingerly picked it up and slid it onto the ring finger of Zayn's left hand, feeling so much love for this man that he thought his heart would burst.

Zayn touched the ring gently. "It's perfect. I don't ever want to take it off."

Liam nodded, lips twisting a bit when he said "I got a chain for you for the days when you can't wear it" because that was one downside of their lives right now: being in the public eye so much and having the media misinterpret things in the name of selling a story.

"Thanks, babe," Zayn murmured, leaning in for another kiss.

They had a couple of things lined up over the next couple of weeks, interviews in Milan and the video shoot for Midnight Memories. Zayn took the ring off for Milan and kept it on for the video, though after the discussion about them potentially not knowing each other in an alternate universe, Liam wished he had worn the ring. That night, he'd slid the ring back on Zayn's finger and tried to impress in him Liam's absolute certainty that every Liam and every Zayn in every universe had found each other, because the alternative just didn't bear thinking about. He wasn't sure that Zayn completely bought it but at the very least, he was sure that he was able to drive Zayn crazy enough that he only remembered Liam's name for the rest of the night and stopped thinking about anything else.

+

In early February, they decided to change their little family trip to Peter Island (originally meant for both of their families to be able to spend time together) into a vow and ring exchange ceremony. They couldn't yet legally register their marriage in the UK but they both wanted to formalize their commitment in front of their loved ones while they could be assured total privacy. The plan got a bit shaky when the schedules turned out to be almost too tight for the other three boys to join them but they'd been able to move things around so that they could all be there for at least a day.

They did it on the patio outside their villa in the early afternoon with the sun shining brightly and birds swooping over the ocean. Their families laughingly kept them separated while they got ready, steadfastly ignoring both of their pouts. Liam had selected a tan tuxedo with a brown diamond-patterned tie to complement Zayn's diamond-patterned tan Deepak Perwani sherwani. His inner kurta and shawl were a light orange color so Liam pinned an orange rose to his lapel. They both opted to wear sandals in keeping with the island theme. And even though Liam had seen the sherwani before, had even been with Zayn when he picked it out, seeing Zayn in it took his breath away. They met at the center of the patio, their family and friends arranged in a semi-circle before them, the infinity pool stretching out behind them and merging seamlessly with the ocean landscape. Liam was sure that everyone looked beautiful in their assorted dresses and suits but he could not tear his eyes away from the man standing before him.

"Hi," Liam said softly.

"Hey," Zayn responded just as softly. In the background, they could hear one of their mothers already start tearing up.

"You look beautiful."

"So do you." Now both of their mothers were crying.

"I, er, guess we should get started before everyone starts crying," Liam said, flashing a small smile at their families and hearing a few chuckles in response.

"Yes, right, good idea." With a small nod and an intake of breath, Zayn picked up both of Liam's hands and squeezed them gently. "Liam James Payne, jaan, I love you. I have since the moment I met you, probably. You are the most amazing person I have ever known and there isn't anyone else in this world I would rather spend my life with than you. Years ago, you had asked me where I would live, if I could live anywhere in the world, and I said right next to you. Do you remember that?" Liam nodded with a smile because he did remember, remembered feeling ecstatic that Zayn would say that because he wanted that too. "Well, little did you know that was my stealth wedding vow to you. I made that promise to myself and Leeyum, I did everything I could to keep that promise in the past couple of years."

"You did keep it," Liam murmured.

"And I intend to keep it for the rest of our lives together. Wherever you go, whatever you choose to do, I will be right there next to you, your strongest supporter, your biggest advocate, your loudest cheerleader. I swear to you, before our gathered family and friends, that I will love you, respect you, and cherish you for the rest of our natural lives and beyond. Even the gods couldn't separate us." Zayn finished with a quirk of his lips. He turned slightly to grab the gold band in Louis' outstretched hand. "And so, as a small token of my commitment to you, I give to you this ring so that when you look at it, you will remember my love for you." He slid the ring onto Liam's ring finger and Liam blinked away tears. Several members of their families and Harry were now crying.

"Zayn Javaad Malik, I love you. It took me awhile to realize it but you were patient and you waited until I figured it out. I think that you are the most amazing person in the world and I couldn't believe I could be so lucky. But here we are. We've gotten through so much together and I know that we'll be able to overcome any obstacle that gets thrown our way. Nobody knows me the way you do and nobody ever will. I can't wait to start this next stage of our lives together and like you said, I will be right there with you to the very end and beyond, through all the good and bad times, the happy and sad times, the highs and the lows. I will forever be your number one supporter, your shoulder to lean on, your Liam. I swear to you, before our gathered family and friends, that I will love you, respect you, and cherish you for the rest of our lives and beyond. Nothing will ever tear us apart because our love is as enduring as the sea and as steadfast as the mountains; we are fireproof." Liam finished with a grin. Louis handed him a gold band and he slid it onto Zayn's ring finger, settling it against the black engagement ring. "I give to you this ring as a symbol of my love and devotion to you."

They came together for a soft kiss to scattered applause, sniffles, and catcalls.

+

They decided to sign the marriage license and file them while they were touring in Massachusetts and then they spent a couple of days feeling completely giddy and happy in love. It probably spilled over into their performances but they really couldn't be buggered to care.

The main downside of keeping all of this from the public was that they didn't dare wear their rings, especially Liam who wasn't known to wear rings in general. But Zayn came up with an idea to join the rings and wear them as a necklace. So they went to a jeweler at one of the cities they were in and got the rings connected with a clasp and then attached to a simple gold chain.

Halfway through the tour, they had decided to buy a house together. There was some talk about it but it wasn't a hard decision to make. They had already been spending more time together at each other's places than separately in their own homes but now that they were married, they wanted to start officially building their lives together with a new place.

They settled on Surrey, because a lot of high-profile folks had moved there and they hoped that meant that security was top-notch and privacy could be had. They contacted a realtor and arranged a video-chat after she signed a stack of non-disclosures.

She was an older woman, serious and professional who did not bat an eye when she saw who they were and heard that they were planning on buying together.

"What are you looking for in a house?" was her first question after they got through pleasantries.

"Privacy," Liam said firmly.

"And security. Real security, not ones who can be paid off by paps," Zayn added.

"A big backyard."

"Lots of rooms."

"Lots of windows and natural light."

"A space we can convert to a recording studio."

"Something modern-looking."

"And what are you looking to spend?" was her second question.

"Er, we don't have an exact amount -" Liam started hesitantly.

"- just something reasonable," Zayn finished firmly.

She didn't say anything, just jotted something down. "Okay, I'll pull up a few candidates from our databases and send them to you. Let me know what you like or don't like about them and we'll go from there. Anything else?"

The two of them shook their heads and terminated the call. The rest of the tour was spent looking through the potential houses that she regularly forwarded to them for consideration. They often ended up having whispered conversations about them even while they were on stage and, once, during their Make A Wish meet and greet (they'd broken it off sheepishly when they realized a little girl and her mother were waiting patiently for a picture; they posed for a couple of shots and signed a bunch of things for her, and then her mother handed them an antique appearing gold pocket-watch with designs engraved into the back and cover. "For you, as a thank you for all that you've done. I think this will help you find the answers you were looking for in Milan," she told them; there was a line of other children waiting for pictures so Liam just pocketed the watch and thanked her profusely, telling her that he loved watches and really appreciated the gift).

They looked at and discarded many of the houses and finally narrowed the list down to just a couple that they wanted to see in person.

Once the tour ended and they had a chance to catch their breath, they drove out to Surrey to meet up with the realtor and see the neighborhood and the houses they were considering. Louis and Niall insisted on coming along as well, supposedly to "throw off suspicion" but Liam suspected they really were just getting antsy at home and wanted to try to scandalize the realtor. By the time she left them all at the golf course to talk things over, he couldn't tell if they got to her or not; she'd managed to maintain a completely professional look throughout Louis and Niall laying down on every bed to test their springiness (even though they knew that Liam and Zayn were planning on buying their own furniture anyway), Louis loudly making plans for an orgy (which only resulted in Liam flushing and Zayn rolling his eyes), and Niall trying out every cheesy pick-up line he knew on all of them (which was a lot). The four of them debated the merits of each house as they played through the course, Louis and Niall loudly expressing their opinions even though they weren't going to be living there ("but we're going to be visiting tons, Liam, so it's important that we feel comfortable too!" Louis had said with a wide grin).

"I think I like the third one the best," Liam finally decided when they were at the sixteenth hole. "It has a lot of space and that huge backyard would be perfect for Harley and Loki."

"And that pool would be perfect for you," Zayn added with a grin.

"Yes, and you'll have plenty of space in it to learn the backstroke."

Zayn shook his head at that but he had been taking to the swimming lessons like a pro and Liam had confidence that he could soon get him to try surfing. "We can covert the ballet studio to a recording studio," Zayn offered.

"Yeah! And one of the bedrooms can be your art studio."

"The kitchen was really big too. I think we'll be able to fit everyone for the holidays."

"Oh, easily. Our mums'll die when they see that double oven and that fridge. And we can put Arnie by the windows downstairs so he'll get lots of light."

"Well, Nialler," Louis interrupted, throwing an arm around Niall's shoulder. "Looks like our little boys are all grown up, wouldn't you say?"

Niall nodded enthusiastically and pretended to wipe away tears. "Aww, you guys are buying your first house together! That's so precious!"

"That's it, the two of you are banned from coming furniture shopping with us," Liam said, mock sternly. They pulled comical pouts that set all four of them laughing.

They went back to the realtor's office and submitted their offer on the house (the asking price of five point one million pounds), which she reassured them would be accepted, and went home to celebrate with pizza and a game of FIFA. They got the confirmation call the next day and scheduled an appointment to sit down with their attorney to sign the papers in a couple of days.

"We're going to be homeowners, Zayn!" Liam exclaimed happily.

"We're already homeowners, Leeyum," Zayn responded with a fond grin.

"Yeah, but now we'll be joint owners, filing joint taxes." Liam danced a little, just a bit of the Running Man, because he was so excited.

Zayn burst into giggles.

"C'mon, dance with me!" Liam said, skipping across the room to shimmy up next to Zayn.

"There's no music!" Zayn protested, laughing.

"Right, right, good point." Liam turned and snatched up his iPhone from the table, connecting it to Zayn's sound system and flicking through his playlists. "OH, how about some JT?" Zayn flipped him a thumbs up when he looked over and soon, the familiar thumping beats of Sexyback spilled out from the speakers. "I'm bringing sexy back, yeah," he sang, gyrating his hips and smirking at Zayn.

Zayn sauntered up to him with hooded eyes and "The other boys don't know how to act" dripping from him like honey. He rested one hand on the curve of Liam's neck, idly rubbing his thumb along his pulse point and reached up for a kiss, tongue thrusting in and tangling with Liam's. He nudged one leg between Liam's, rubbing up deliberately against his crotch. Liam's hips stuttered and he groaned as he hardened, feeling lightheaded with the rush of blood going south. He wrapped his arms around Zayn's waist and pulled him in tighter, grinding against him in time with the beat. They pulled apart, panting for air, breaths mingling between them.

Zayn suddenly turned in Liam's arms, nestling up against his body and pressing up firmly against his crotch. He wrapped one hand around Liam's thigh and the other around the back of Liam's head and then started slowly moving his hips, closing his eyes and letting the music guide his rhythm.

"Shit," Liam cursed quietly behind him. Zayn smirked. Liam picked up his rhythm easily enough and ducked his head down to nuzzle at Zayn's neck, biting gently and licking over the marks. They lost themselves in the feeling for the duration of the song, letting it build up between them with a delicious friction. Liam's hands roamed up Zayn's chest under his shirt, rubbing circles around his nipples and drawing out a breathy sigh, and down to his crotch, squeezing gently and making Zayn's breath hitch. Zayn's hands, in turn, rubbed up and down Liam's thigh and squeezed the back of his head. The song switched over but they paid it no mind.

"Leeyum," Zayn groaned hoarsely, turning his head in a silent demand. His eyes were slitted in pleasure, cheeks flushed, lips slick from his tongue running over them and a little swollen and red from their earlier kiss. Liam couldn't not lean over and take his bottom lip between his teeth, biting gently and sucking it into his mouth. He slipped his hand under the elastic band of both Zayn's sweatpants and boxers and lightly grasped the base of his cock, eliciting a small gasp from him. He collected the precum gathering at the head and spread it along the shaft, using it to ease the way as he wrapped his hand firmly around Zayn's cock and started pumping up and down, thumb flicking over the head with every pass. Zayn gasped and rocked forward into his hold and then back against Liam's hardened cock. Liam's knees went weak and it was all he could do to stay upright.

Zayn's breathing sped up and became more shallow and his muscles tightened; he was close. Liam thrust up against Zayn's arse and tightened his hold and Zayn's mouth dropped open on a silent sigh as he came. He leaned bonelessly against Liam, eyes closed, lips stretched in a smile. Liam pulled his hand out and wiped it on his joggers. Then he patted Zayn's belly and hugged him close.

"Good, babe?"

"Yeah," Zayn answered dreamily. "Gimme a sec and I'll take care of you."

"It's okay, you don't have to."

"Mm, no, I want to." Zayn turned and brushed a kiss against his lips, winking at him before sliding down to his knees. He pulled down Liam's bottoms just enough to free his cock and then took hold of the base while he slowly suckled on the head. Liam gasped as the warm wetness of Zayn's mouth swallowed him down. He steadied himself with a hand on Zayn's shoulder, gripping tight. When he glanced down, Zayn was looking up at him, pupils dilated and cheeks hollowed as he sucked. His heartbeat sped up and he flushed. He lasted an embarrassingly short amount of time before he squeezed Zayn's shoulder in warning and then came down his throat.

Zayn got up, fingers wiping at the corners of his mouth to clean off the little bit that escaped, and draped his arms around Liam. They swayed gently to the music as they breathed and waited for their hearts to slow.

Softly, Zayn started humming and then he started singing, voice just a bit hoarse, "It's like you're my mirror, my mirror staring back me. I couldn't get any bigger with anyone else beside me."

Liam chimed in and they shuffled around the room, cheeks pressed to each other's, hands clasped, voices rising in harmony.

"And now it's clear as this promise, that we're making two reflections into one."

+

They wanted to go furniture shopping as soon as they had signed the paperwork and gotten the keys to the house but they had a series of appearances to make around Europe, performing Steal My Girl and doing interviews for FOUR. So they had to put it off until those wrapped up in early December and they a bit of time to start moving in before they had to do more appearances.

They checked out some of the Surrey furniture stores online until they found one that had the modern styles that they liked and then called and asked if they'd be able to shop in some privacy; they didn't want to risk having the media find out that Liam and Zayn were furniture shopping together in Surrey. That would bring far more attention than they were ready for. But when they walked in, they were gratified to see that the place was empty, with just a couple of staff members there to provide assistance if they needed any. It was otherwise just them and Paddy.

They had formulated a plan of attack, deciding at home which pieces were most important to get sooner rather than later. They had arranged for management to come take pictures of the place and stage a holiday dinner with Liam's family and Sophia and her sister for the media in a week and wanted to have at least some furniture picked out and ready to be delivered as soon as they cleared all the original furnishings away. Management hadn't minded when Liam told them he was selling his flat in the city and moving out to Surrey with Zayn but they weren't thrilled when he told them they didn't want any publicity stunts to be done in there once they had moved in. They compromised by agreeing to management's request to have one day of pictures taken with Sophia and her sister in the home before they redecorated and then management would keep all the original pieces of furniture in a warehouse, to be used in the future when trying to build up the relationship between Liam and Sophia in the media. They went ahead and okayed the release of the realtor pictures of the house because well, those were just impersonal staged rooms, all neutral colors and no indications of who lived there.

Zayn had also agreed to give management free reign over his old house, which he was holding onto for now to maintain the fiction that he still had his own place and was not moving in with Liam. Their team was satisfied with the terms and Liam and Zayn harbored some hope that they would be able to fully settle into their new home in peace.

"So, I was thinking a long dining table for the dining room for big parties and then a smaller round one near the kitchen for when it's just us," Liam proposed when they entered the dining section of the showroom.

"You mean in the room with the white leather couch?" Liam nodded and Zayn hummed thoughtfully. "That could work. I also want to change out the lights hanging over the table. It's too boxy."

"Yeah, okay," Liam agreed with a shrug.

After some consideration, they settled on a table made of alder wood that could be expanded to seat ten for formal dining and a round hardwood table with a leather underbelly for casual dining.

"I kind of like these chairs with the tall backs and the white cushions. What do you think?"

"Hm, I was thinking what if we went for something bold? Like these red chairs?" Zayn asked, newly-inked hand gesturing at the set of curved-back red-upholstered chairs. Liam helplessly stared at the extension of Zayn's mehndi tattoo covering the back of his hand, mesmerized by the design and all that it represented for them. He stared for a bit too long, as Zayn cleared his throat with a small smile to remind him that he was still waiting for an answer. Right.

Liam tilted his head and tried to imagine their dining room with the light wood table and red chairs. "I think...it's kinda risky. You think we could pull that off?"

Zayn nodded firmly. "I do. If we just stick with a neutral color for the curtains, maybe something with a pattern to make it interesting, but something tan-colored, I think it'll be fine. We can leave the walls white too and just hang up small pieces of art."

"Okay, let's do it." Liam added the product identification to the list he was carrying and grabbed Zayn's hand, tugging him towards a display he had spotted out of the corner of his eye. It featured a small round table similar to the one they had decided on but while other displays had sets of chairs, this one had a curved bench with a dark gray leather seat cushion and a gray cloth back cushion spanning half of the table and two chairs spaced along the other half. "I never thought about a dining bench but this looks neat, doesn't it? We can cuddle while we eat, if we feel like it, or stretch out if it's just one of us there."

Zayn walked around the set up, eyeing in critically. He sat down at one end of the cushioned bench and was surprised to find that it was softer than he expected. "I like it. But we should make sure the leather under the table matches with these cushions."

Liam nodded, jotting down more notes.

"Bedroom next," Zayn announced, leading the way to the designated area in the showroom. "We need to have somewhere to sleep after they take the bed away."

They chose a slim platform bed frame with a slatted wooden headboard and then tried out all of the mattresses, testing for firmness and back support and enough sturdiness to withstand rigorous physical activity. They walked around a bit more, picking out a few more pieces of furniture like a wardrobe, beds for the guest rooms, a large sectional recliner sofa in white leather for the living room, a couple of one and two seater red leather recliner sofas for the cinema room before they decided to call it quits. They arranged for the delivery and assembly to take place on the same day management was removing the old furniture and then picked up a large pizza on the way back to their new home.

They ate at the kitchen bar, surveying their house and grounds and debating further redecorating ideas. They knew they wanted a closet system for their walk-in but hadn't determined what would work best for them. They decided that the bathrooms looked nice enough that they didn't need to be re-done, though they agreed that a coat of paint on the walls would make them feel more homey and less like a contractor's model.

"Those mirrors," Zayn said with a leer and a waggle of his brows.

Liam put on a serious face. "I bet they're angled so you can see yourself in them from all parts of the room. But it'll require a couple of trials to fully map it out. Are you down - or up, as the case may be - for that mission, Mr. Malik-Payne?"

Zayn nodded somberly. "I am indeed, Mr. Malik-Payne." They grinned goofily at each other, pizza forgotten about for the moment.

"Oh, you know what we should do?" Liam said suddenly.

"What?"

"We should fuck on that dining table."

Zayn barked out a laugh. "What?!"

"I'm serious! We're not actually going to eat off of it, it's just going to be used for publicity pictures and really, wouldn't it be a great memory to have when they release the holiday shots?"

Zayn gazed contemplatively at the dining table, still set for a dinner for eight, with candles and a bouquet of fake roses in the center. He turned back to Liam with half-lidded eyes. "Let's do it. I'm gonna make you so desperate, you'll leave scratches on the surface."

Liam shivered.

"Clear the table and I'll go get the lube," Zayn instructed, hurrying upstairs to their room where they had dropped off their suitcases.

Liam carefully but quickly stacked the place settings and wine glasses on their respective chairs and then pushed those away from the table, just in case. No sense in having broken ceramics on the floor if they accidentally knocked into anything. He also closed the curtains because even though this place was supposed to be very secure, he didn't want to find out they were wrong by seeing a video of them on the internet.

He was leaning against the end of the table when Zayn returned brandishing the small bottle of lube which he set down on the corner of the table in favor of cupping both hands around Liam's cheek and pressing up against him to lick into his mouth. Liam brought his hands up to rest on Zayn's slim hips.

"Clothes. Off." Zayn said, panting, when they pulled apart and the two of them separated just enough to quickly strip themselves of their shirts and trousers.

Liam hopped up onto the table and slid back to lie down in the center. Zayn climbed up gingerly after him and crawled over him until their hips were aligned, cocks brushing with little jolts of pleasure. Zayn leaned down to suckle on Liam's birthmark.

"I love you," he murmured against his skin.

"Love you too." Zayn could feel the vibration of his rumble against his lips.

He gradually worked his way down Liam's body, mouthing at the treasured expanse of skin before him and sucking on his nipples until they hardened.

Liam felt like he was slowly, slowly being driven mad. He arched his back and tried to urge Zayn to keep moving down but the other man wouldn't be rushed. When Zayn finally closed his hand around his cock and tongued at the slit at the head, Liam cried out and nearly shot his load except that Zayn squeezed down at the base of his cock. His other hand gently rolled his balls and Liam shuddered, gripping the edges of the table tightly.

"Zayn," he moaned. "Please. Stop teasing."

He felt Zayn's lips curl into a smile as he pressed a kiss to Liam's hip and then he disappeared. Liam whimpered. He heard the snap of a bottle opening and then seconds later, Zayn was back, shifting Liam's legs open and lifting one onto his shoulder. Then he started gently pressing in him, slim fingers covered in a generous amount of lube.

He teased him open, fingers crooking against the bundle of nerves inside that made Liam see stars over and over again until Liam was nearly sobbing with pleasure. His nails scraped against the table surface as he searched for something to hold.

Finally, he pulled his fingers out and started pushing in, gasping at how hot and tight Liam was. When he was fully sheathed, he squeezed Liam's thigh with one hand and set the other one down on the table for balance.

"Liam," he grunted, "open your eyes, babe. Look at me." Liam did so, not realizing that he had shut them, and met Zayn's warm brown ones smiling down at him. "You okay?"

Liam nodded. "Just move," he answered hoarsely.

Zayn did, pulling out a couple of inches and thrusting smoothly back in, setting a gentle rhythm. He picked up his pace and put more force behind it as Liam shakily demanded that he go "harder, faster, please." The table creaked under them and Zayn had a flash of worry that it would collapse but then Liam whimpered and he pushed the thought away.

"Liam," he said when they were both close. "Babe, you've gotta - I can't."

Liam looked at him, pupils blown and mouth open in a pant, and he reached down, taking himself in hand. A few quick pulls and then his eyes were rolling back, he arched up, and he came with a loud groan, spurts of come splashing against Zayn's chest.

Zayn followed quickly. After, he hovered over him, letting his leg slide down off of his shoulder. He pulled out slowly and nudged Liam over so he could flop down next to him and rest his head on his chest.

When they had caught their breaths and their heartbeats returned to normal, he rolled off and grabbed a couple of cloth napkins from the chairs, cleaning himself off before tending to Liam and then tossing the soiled linens onto the floor.

"You still with me babe? Don't fall asleep here, I'm too tired to carry you up the stairs."

Liam waved his hand idly. "I'm awake. This was good, yeah? Thought the table wasn't going to hold up."

Zayn chuckled. "No, I didn't either. Thought for sure it was going to drop us on the floor." He grasped a hand and tugged. "Come on, up we go. Let's get to bed. We can set this all to rights in the morning."

Liam sighed gustily but stretched and sat up, head slightly bent to avoid hitting the low-hanging lights. He moved to the edge of the table and hopped down.

They shut off all the lights downstairs and then went to their room and collapsed on the bed, snuggling together under the throw.

"This is a really comfy blanket," Liam murmured as they were drifting off. "We should get one like it."

"Yeah," Zayn answered softly. "But maybe in a different color."

The next morning, they tested the shower and learned to their delight that it was definitely big enough for two. And that the glass partition was quite strong and in full view of the mirror.

+

Liam's family arrived that weekend, with plans to stay for two weeks, through the Christmas holidays even though Liam and Zayn had to fly out to do a couple of events in the States before returning for a break. Zayn's family had decided to wait until his birthday to visit as Doniya couldn't get that much time off from work.

Ruth had brought Loki with her, intending to drop him off with them for the short time they had before their next tour, and he took off on a run around the grounds with Harley as soon as he was unleashed. Liam watched them with a grin, feeling so happy that he could finally give Loki the space he deserved instead of confining him to a flat or leaving him with his sister. He made a note to join them soon with a frisbee but first rejoined his family who were filling Zayn in on their journey in the kitchen. Liam's mother, to his bemusement was unpacking a bag full of small jars of what looked like assorted seasonings into one of the cabinets.

"Mum," he interrupted, "you know we have markets here, right?"

His mother grinned, unabashed. "I know, dear, but you boys hardly spend any time at home, you'll never use it all if we bought full sized ones. I just picked up these jars the other day - aren't they cute? - and took a bit of everything. Zayn said to put it all here. That's alright, isn't it?"

"Yeah, that's fine. I just didn't want you to go to any trouble."

"It's no trouble, hun. I'm your mum, it's part of my job."

"Just wait till my mum gets here. With what she's gonna bring, we'll be completely set for anything we decide to cook," Zayn piped up with a sparkle in his eyes.

"Oh Zayn, your mum is such a great cook. And she's so lovely. I can't wait until we can all get together again."

"Yeah, maybe we can try to do something later this year," Zayn said with a questioning look at Liam. He nodded.

Once his mother was done unpacking and made plans to properly stock their kitchen, Liam and Zayn took them on a tour of the house, beaming at their awed oohs and ahhs. They got his family settled in the guest rooms and then spent the rest of the night just catching up.

On Monday afternoon, a team of interns from their publicity team arrived bearing a decorated fake Christmas tree, several platters of food, and a set of cameras (both professional and phone cameras). Zayn supervised the intern taking pictures in every room, while Liam watched over the one who was setting up the tree by the wall behind the dining table and the one dishing out food and arranging it to look genuine.They also poured some sparkling cider into the champagne glasses, pulled the curtains shut, checked the ambient light levels of the room and took a couple of preliminary shots. It was all quite efficient, Liam had to admit. They didn't disturb his family, who were gathered around the sofa watching a game and they didn't try to make any chitchat.

By the time Sophia and her sister arrived with one of the senior managers, everything was set up and ready to go. He directed Liam's family to their seats around the table and instructed Liam to sit at the head of the table, ignoring his protests that it should be his father there (his father just laughed and said he'd happily cede all holiday responsibilities to Liam, including making the turkey; Liam's sisters frowned dubiously). Zayn leaned against the kitchen counter and watched all the proceedings with amusement.

They had taken a couple of pictures when the manager suddenly said, "Wait, something's missing." He walked around the table and studied it carefully while everyone was careful not to move anything or nudge anything out of place. "Napkins! Why are the napkins missing? Where are they?"

At that, Zayn burst out laughing and hurriedly excused himself, though his guffaws could still be heard as he made his way down the hall to another room. Liam flushed, hit with sudden flashbacks of their first night in the house and what they had done at this table.

"Well?" the manager asked pointedly. Liam widened his eyes and shrugged, trying his best to convey earnestness and innocence and please-don't-dig-any-further-into-this. Some of that must have gotten through because the manager just sighed and said, "I don't suppose you have any at all around here?"

"We haven't bought any yet, no. But we do have some disposable ones that we got when we ordered pizza a few days ago."

The manager shook his head. "That won't fit with the rest of the picture. Alright, let's just keep going. Hopefully no one will notice."

They took a few more group shots and then arranged for various selfie combinations. When they had enough for the planned Christmas social media release, Sophia changed into a different dress and went with an intern to take pictures in various rooms - nothing obvious but just enough to hint that their relationship was serious enough that she was staying over sometimes. Liam wasn't entirely happy with that kind of portrayal but it was, he'd often been reassured, the way the industry worked. And over the years, he had met enough people to know that that was true. There was one part of the music industry that everyone saw, and then there was the real industry. As far as he could tell, it was the same for actors and it was enough to give anyone a headache.

Once that was all done, the manager made a couple of calls and movers arrived, making quick work of taking down and packing up everything, stripping even the curtains and the rods from the wall, the chandeliers over the dining table, the rugs on the floor, and the lamp shades from the chandeliers in the kitchen and the wall sconces. Then the delivery trucks from the furniture shop arrived, right on time, and there was a flurry of activity for a couple of hours while they assembled the pieces of furniture and arranged them to Liam and Zayn's satisfactions. Liam's family went outside with the dogs to stay out of the way.

When everything was assembled and they'd tipped the deliverymen for their speedy service, they stood for a few minutes surveying the space. It was a little sparse as they only had the basics but it looked good and they could take their time decorating the rest of it to give it the right personality.

Liam slung an arm around Zayn's shoulder and Zayn let his head thump down onto Liam's shoulder with a tired sigh.

"Busy day, huh?"

Zayn nodded.

"And the contractors are coming in tomorrow to start work on the studio."

Zayn groaned softly.

"I know, babe. It's gonna be a hectic couple of weeks. You wanna do the tree now or wait till tomorrow?" They had bought a pine tree for Christmas a few days ago but had stored it in the garage until after all the official pictures were done.

"Um...let's do it tomorrow."

"Okay. This is a good starter house, yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Our next one will be just ours. No sharing of pictures with the public, no pretending that other people are staying there."

"That sounds nice."

"Yeah. You wanna go upstairs for a bit?"

"Yeah, I think so. Come nap with me?"

"'Course." Their lips met in a soft kiss and then they made their way up to their room. In their new home. Where they were going to be starting their new life together. Life was good. And getting better.