Zayn hadn't wanted to play truth or dare in the first place—he'd only just got to the bungalow that afternoon and wasn't in the mood to tell anyone his secrets. But Harry and Niall had howled their approval once Louis suggested it, and only Liam had exchanged a worried glance with him, and then somehow Zayn was playing, even though he'd never actually said he would.
It was amazing how much the others actually wanted to have their goes. Harry's face was positively glowing. He was the type who couldn't wait to tell everything, Zayn thought. He'd pick truth every single time.
But after Harry had picked dare twice in a row, he'd leant forward and put his hand on Zayn's knee and asked him nicely to choose truth just once. "Everyone else has," he argued.
"You haven't," said Zayn.
"I will next," said Harry. "It's your go. Please?"
Objectively, the fact that Harry said "please" shouldn't have been particularly persuasive. Later, though, Zayn couldn't remember another reason he had said yes.
The day after that, they decided to get down to work, so they made a list of songs to practice without actually practicing any of them and then had a break to play water polo, whatever that was. Zayn watched from the side of the pool and decided he wasn't embarrassed about what he'd said last night, or at least no one could tell he was.
"Zayn!" Niall was yelling from the pool. "You should come in with us!"
"I'm gonna go and get a coke," Zayn called back. Inside the bungalow it was quiet and still. Zayn bypassed the kitchen and went upstairs instead.
"I'm checking on you," announced Harry, who appeared in the bedroom twenty minutes later, dripping onto the duvet. "You never came back."
"I'm good," said Zayn. He was on the bed, leaning up against a pile of pillows with weird patterns. He looked over the top of his book at Harry, who was wearing boxers now, damp and clinging. In the pool, Harry hadn't been wearing anything at all.
Harry beamed at him encouragingly. "You're not upset about last night, are you?"
"No," said Zayn. The boys had given him a stream of friendly tips, as if they were pleased Zayn had a problem they could help solve. It was well-meant, but Zayn preferred not to be a group project.
Harry plunked himself down on the side of the bed. "Virginity's nothing to be embarrassed about. Is it because of your culture?"
"Oh, for fuck's sake," said Zayn. "No, Harry, it's not." He would warn Harry not to get the bed all wet, but it was Harry's bed, wasn't it? As long as he didn't drip on Goblet of Fire.
"Good," said Harry. "Then just wait'll we get through judges' houses. Birds everywhere."
"I suppose," said Zayn. When he thought about judges' houses, about going all the way to Spain, he wanted to stay in the bungalow forever. He remembered the feeling he'd got at his audition, just before he'd started to sing: his limbs had gone shaky and his skin felt prickly all over. He'd thought, if I do this, everything could change. And when it had, when he'd been sent off to bootcamp to sing and dance and talk to strangers, Zayn couldn't quite tell if he liked it or not. This week felt like an island in between everything that had happened before and everything that might happen after.
Harry put a hand on Zayn's leg. "You didn't want to tell us, did you? I'm sorry."
Zayn shrugged. "It was Louis who actually asked the question."
"But I was the one who told you to pick truth. Should've left it alone."
"I'm fine. Can't all have a threesome at age twelve or whatever you got up to."
"Fourteen," said Harry, frowning. "Nothing wrong with that either."
"'Course not," said Zayn. When Harry had told the story last night—choosing truth when it was his go just as he'd promised—Zayn had only thought it was a bit unfair, the way it was so easy for some people. No complications. You liked somebody that anyone would expect you to like, and then they liked you back. Or, if you were Harry, so did their friend. "It's only natural," he told Harry, "the way you—" he made a gesture intended to convey some combination of curls, dimples, no clothes on.
Harry looked wary but also ready to be pleased. "The way I what?"
"I dunno," said Zayn, and looked longingly at his book. "Never mind."
"I'm just open-minded," said Harry. He rolled the words out so slowly and deliberately that Zayn could tell it was something he was proud of. "Anyway, you'll catch up to me in no time. Girls aren't gonna care you haven't done anything. And if you ever want advice—"
"No," said Zayn hastily. But Harry's eyes were still wide and earnest with pity. He was looking at Zayn the way Danny had looked at him after that mistake happened, so kind and sorry that Zayn added, "Anyway, I have."
Zayn dropped the open book on top of his face and spoke into the spine. "Done it. Just not with a girl, that's all. Louis only asked about girls."
"Oh," said Harry. "Right." He sounded awed, which was extremely gratifying for five seconds before Zayn realized he'd made the biggest mistake of his life.
He made sure his voice was steady before he said, "Are you going to kick me out of the band again? Because I want to finish this chapter first."
"Don't be daft," said Harry. "We were never going to actually kick you out. We were just worried, because you weren't there. It was brought up once, and then Louis started yelling."
"Twats, all of you," said Zayn, taking the book off his face and sitting up. "Except Louis."
"No fair playing favourites," said Harry. "I know you like Liam too."
"And Niall. You couldn't hold anything against Niall, could you? No one could."
"And you like me." Harry's voice was a little more high-pitched than usual. Zayn wanted to say something funny, but then his eyes met Harry's. Right away Harry picked up a blanket and rubbed his wet hair in it. "Why didn't you say, last night?"
"Why do you think?" said Zayn.
"It wouldn't have mattered," said Harry, without conviction. "What was it like, d'you mind saying?"
"Yes," said Zayn. He minded the whole conversation. What he did with Danny didn't even count as doing it properly. Their clothes had stayed on and everything.
"Was it good though? I've never done that. It seems like it would hurt."
"Um," said Zayn. They'd only used their hands, and it was accidental anyway, because they'd been smoking or whatever, and then Danny hadn't wanted to do it again, but Harry was looking at him with all this admiration. Like Zayn was experienced. "It's hard to explain," said Zayn finally. It wasn't his fault Harry had misunderstood.
Harry nodded respectfully. "Did you do it to him or did he do it to you? How do you decide?"
"Mate," said Zayn. "Is being annoying part of your culture?"
"I just like to learn things," said Harry. "I tried doing it to myself once, just to see. I told you, I'm open-minded."
"Right, right," said Zayn. He thought about Harry doing it to himself. There wasn't really a good way to ask for more details.
"Like if we kissed? I'd be cool with it." Harry wriggled a bit closer on the bed so they were sitting right next to each other.
Zayn tried to work out whether Harry was making fun of him. "Why would we do that?"
"Because I've never kissed a boy."
"That's your reasoning?" Zayn had never kissed a boy either. There had been a moment when Danny's face was so close Zayn thought it might happen, but then Danny had dropped his forehead to Zayn's shoulder instead.
Harry shrugged. "You're fit enough."
"Cheers," said Zayn, trying his best to sound jaded by all the gay sex he was constantly having.
Harry grinned and swooped in as if he'd been given permission. Because Zayn flinched, Harry's nose ended up banging Zayn's nose before his mouth landed on the corner of Zayn's mouth. Harry's lips were gentle and unmoving on Zayn's for the briefest of moments, and then he pulled back and said, "Thank you, I hope it wasn't too awful."
"I just—" Zayn closed his eyes. "I don't think everybody has to say and do everything that crosses their mind. Don't you ever just want to keep something to yourself?"
"Yes," said Harry. "But if you want, I can tell you something so we'd be even? Like, about me?"
"I don't need to hear about another threesome, thanks," says Zayn.
"You can just teach me stuff, then," said Harry, sounding relieved. He flopped over on the bed and arranged himself comfortably on his back. "Or would you feel like you were cheating on your boyfriend?"
"No," said Zayn. The thought of having someone he could call a boyfriend was too outlandish even to contemplate. Harry seemed to be waiting for him to say something sophisticated and interesting, though, so Zayn added, "We broke up."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Harry said.
"I'm over it," said Zayn, because Harry's niceness made him feel both guilty and exasperated.
Harry's face broke into a smile. "So we could mess around a bit! If you want to."
"Do you want to?" asked Zayn. It still seemed so unlikely.
"Yes," said Harry. "I think we should try the whole kissing thing again."
Zayn bit his lip. Harry looked so unprotected lying there with his arms behind his head. Zayn wouldn't have to move very much in order to touch him.
"Yeah, all right," said Zayn finally. If it was only meant to be a joke, Zayn would just start laughing too. He'd say he knew all along.
"Come on, then," said Harry, so Zayn bent over him. He tried to kiss him the way someone who'd had a boyfriend before probably would. Opening his mouth and everything, letting Harry slip his tongue in. It was so easy. Zayn had never known that kissing would be this easy. "C'mere," whispered Harry, pulling at him. He was trying to get Zayn down on the bed, or down on him, Zayn realized. The thought of having Harry's body underneath him sent such a wave of want through him that he sat up straight again immediately.
"Did I do something wrong?" asked Harry uncertainly. His cheeks had gone red.
Zayn stared at him in disbelief. "No." He tried not to be too obvious about looking down Harry's body. Zayn was glad he had jeans on. Harry wasn't even trying to hide his stiffy.
"Do you want to, like, lie down?"
"I—" Zayn broke off to listen for the sounds of the boys outside. Then he went to the still-open door and closed it before returning to the bed. Carefully, he lay down on his side facing Harry. "Okay."
"We'd hear them coming up the stairs," said Harry.
"Yeah," said Zayn.
"You can touch me," whispered Harry, but the problem with touching Harry was that almost every part of him was bare. His shoulder seemed like a safe place for Zayn to put his hand, but then Harry was kissing him again with his arm around Zayn's neck and they were so close together nothing was safe. Harry's whole body was moving against Zayn's and he'd started to make these little sounds that got louder when Zayn pushed his leg between Harry's legs. Then there was a loud clunk and they both froze.
"My book fell," said Zayn. "Just my book." He rolled away and tried to breathe normally.
"Oops," said Harry, and started to laugh. "That was amazing."
"Yeah, well." Zayn tugged his shirt down over the front of his jeans.
"You really know what you're doing."
"Pretty much," said Zayn, relieved.
"We don't have to stop," said Harry.
"Don't you think, like—it could make things weird?"
Like Danny, Zayn thought. After they'd done it, a whole week had gone by before Zayn saw Danny again, and he'd acted like everything was just the same. Like he'd never had Zayn's hand on his prick at all. It'd been two weeks before Zayn'd managed to say anything—"d'ya remember that thing we did?"—and Danny'd shrugged, like maybe, maybe not. He only seemed to remember when Zayn plunged doggedly, stupidly onward ("Do you wanna, like, we could—?") because then he'd said, "We can't," and "Where's Ant?" and "You're my best mate, Zayn," and they'd never said anything about it ever again.
"What if I touch you?" Harry asked.
"What, you mean—"
"Just under your shirt," said Harry.
"Promise not to unhook my bra?"
Harry grinned. "You're really funny." He slid Zayn's shirt up and spread his hand out on Zayn's belly. "And so warm."
"Because you're all cold and wet, ugh," said Zayn. Tomorrow, he thought, Harry would regret this. When Zayn came into the room, he'd say, "Where's Louis?" and walk away. But when Harry leant in again, Zayn kissed him anyway and then they were right up against each other again, Zayn's shirt rucked up around his middle, Zayn's fingers pressing into Harry's back.
"You're hard too," Harry whispered into Zayn's mouth.
"Shut up," Zayn whispered back. Harry's cock was so close to his cock. Just his jeans and pants and Harry's pants between them.
"Show me how to touch you properly? You know, like—" Harry pushed Zayn back gently until he was leaning over him, a hand at his flies. "You really are so fit."
Harry's praise made Zayn feel warm all over. "I thought I was only fit enough?"
"Now you're fishing," said Harry, and unzipped Zayn's jeans.
Zayn tried to be chill, like someone who did this too often to make a fuss about it, but his hips twitched helplessly anyway when he felt the tips of Harry's fingers against his prick.
"Tell me what to do," whispered Harry.
Zayn pushed his jeans and pants down a bit further, so Harry could get his whole cock in his hand. "Just…you know," he said, and lifted his head up to kiss Harry again so he wouldn't have to elaborate.
Harry kissed Zayn's mouth, his jaw, his neck, his hand working slow and dry and insistent on Zayn's cock. "I just wanna be good."
"You're good," Zayn choked out.
"What if I…" Harry took his hand away and licked it, tongue sweeping wet over his palm.
Zayn stared. Don't come, he told himself, don't come, don't come, don't come. He was still thinking it when Harry wrapped his hand around Zayn's cock again and wanked him fast and hot. Don't come yet, thought Zayn, and came.
Harry turned wondering eyes to his dripping hand. "It's like wanking, but better." He seemed weirdly pleased with the whole thing, so instead of sinking down to the bottom of the earth, Zayn reached for the box of tissues on the bedside table and thrust it at him. Harry wiped his hand and then arched his hips off the bed to push his boxers down. He was still hard and when he rolled to face Zayn his dick poked against Zayn's hip.
Zayn swallowed and reached down for it. Harry wriggled like a cat being skritched in just the right place. His cock was so thick in Zayn's hand. "Tell you something anyway, Zayn," Harry mumbled. "'M not just open-minded. 'M kinda, like, kinda…"
"Shh," said Zayn, but he didn't know if he was talking to Harry or to his own heartbeat.
"I mean," said Harry, "I fancy you." He put a hand on top of Zayn's. "Do you like me?"
Zayn had that feeling again, like he'd had at the audition right before he sang. Edge-of-the-cliff dizzy. All he had to do was jump, and everything would change.
"What you did with your boyfriend," said Harry. "I'd let you do it to me."
Zayn blanched. "I can't, I don't have anything, I—"
But an experienced bloke wouldn't just be tugging at Harry's prick like a, a virgin. All Zayn wanted was not to disappoint him. In desperation, he scooted himself lower on the bed. He didn't know what to do with a dick in his mouth but at least he wouldn't have to say anything or look at Harry's trusting face.
Down here there was just Harry's stomach and hips and legs and cock. His pale thighs smelt like chlorine. They made Zayn wish for the first time that he didn't have clothes on, so he could feel Harry's skin against his own skin. Zayn let his cheek drag against Harry's right leg and then remembered not to be a weirdo and put his mouth on Harry's cock instead. He let it slide over his tongue, heard Harry moan, felt his own dick start to harden again. He pulled back and took Harry's cock in his hand before sucking it in again, liking the fullness in his mouth, liking how it made Harry's body quiver. Zayn was just starting to find the rhythm to it when Harry squeezed his shoulder.
"Oh my god, Zayn," Harry was mumbling. "Oh my god, I'm gonna come—"
And he did, before Zayn could pull all the way off, shooting onto Zayn's lips and cheek.
"Fuck," Harry said immediately, sitting up. "Fuck, I'm so sorry, I'm an arsehole."
"It's okay," said Zayn, touching his mouth. His finger came away wet with Harry's come.
"I'll get it," said Harry, and grabbed a tissue. "Don't hate me." He dabbed carefully at Zayn's face. "I bet your boyfriend never did that to you."
"I suppose not," said Zayn truthfully. He licked his lips. The taste was still there.
"Next time I'll go down on you," Harry decided. "I probably won't be able to do it that good, though."
"Everyone has to learn some time," said Zayn modestly. He felt so good. He'd given what was probably the worst blowjob ever and Harry hadn't noticed. Harry was even talking about next time.
Harry grinned at him and tugged at his arm until they both flopped over on the bed. Zayn could hear Niall laughing from outside, and then a shout from Louis.
"Are you gonna be talking about this?" Zayn asked.
Harry squeezed his wrist. "Can I at least tell Louis? He'll be chuffed for us."
"Us," Zayn repeated tentatively.
"We can work that out later," said Harry quickly. "You never answered my question."
"No, before," said Harry. He curled into Zayn so that his hair tickled Zayn's face. "Tell me."
"You already know."
"Want you to say it," whispered Harry. "Come on, Zayn, please?"
Zayn blew Harry's hair away from his mouth and looked at the ceiling. "I suppose I like you."
Harry shrieked and bounced on the bed.
"Not as much as Liam or Louis or Niall, though," Zayn added.
Harry glared at him. "You're not allowed to kiss them."
Zayn grinned back. There was some more yelling and a loud splash from outside. "What do we do now?" he asked. It was like after the audition, when he walked off the X-Factor stage with a new life and no idea what happened next.
Harry shrugged. "Go downstairs? This doesn't have to change anything."
"But it does," Zayn said. He wanted it to.