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Coming Home

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Liam wouldn't say that he high-tailed it out of Dubai, per se. He liked the place, he really did, and he hoped that one day he could return there for a visit. In better circumstances.

But yeah, he may have already had all his bags packed before their concert and he may have hopped into the car with Paddy right after his post-concert shower and he may have told the driver to take them straight to the airport while he booked himself a seat on the red-eye to London.

How was the show? Zayn. He never failed to text as soon as their shows ended. Also right before they started. Also throughout. Really, all the time. It was a good thing they had an unlimited texting plan.

Liam smiled, opening up his messages and texting back furiously. Great. Loud. There was a sign about you. Zaynie in the Batman logo. ;)

Aha, really? That's wicked. Did you get a picture of it?

The fancam got it. You didn't see any vines? Liam wrote. Zayn sometimes stalked the Twitter hashtags for the concerts and then texted him what the fans were going crazy over. Are you home how?

Wasn't online today. Just getting settled in. You?

On my way to the airport. :D

"We're here," the driver interrupted and Liam looked up, startled. But indeed, they were stopped in front of the sliding doors of the international departures at Dubai International.

"Thanks," he said, sliding his phone into his pocket and digging out a couple of bills. The drivers were hired for them for the duration of their visit but he liked tipping them for extra services, like putting up with Harry's godawful jokes or Louis' ideas of fun and driving them to the airport at all hours of the night so they could avoid the crowd. It made them happy and willing to work with them again and Liam had learned early on that people's goodwill were the real currency in this business.

"Have a good flight!" the driver called out with a smile as Liam and Paddy got out and grabbed their bags.

Liam gave a jaunty wave and nearly skipped inside the airport.

"You're in a good mood," Paddy observed with poorly hidden amusement.

"I'm going home!" Liam said. He couldn't help bouncing a little in place while he looked over the flight tracker. On-time it said next to his flight. Yes!

"I know," Paddy said and Liam knew that if he looked at his security-slash-friend, he'd see the relief in Paddy's eyes. Paddy had been worried about him and made no secret about that. And yeah, Liam had been upset when the news went public. He was worried about how the fans were going to react. And he wasn't happy about what some of them (and the media) were saying about Zayn. But this was all work stuff, not personal stuff. And he had made a resolution to himself to try to separate his work life and his personal life, because there really should be a separation.

But in any case, Paddy had been worried about him and rightly so. Liam knew what was going to happen but he also knew it was one thing to think about it and another to have to live through it. It was especially hard when he and Zayn were used to living out of each other's pockets for the past four years. But they worked it out. It had felt weird and disconcerting at first, to be talking to Zayn via Skype instead of in person. But Zayn was really excited to be working on his solo stuff and that made Liam happy.

A couple of times, they logged into Skype and just left the video call on while they went about their day. Zayn would set up his laptop on a table in Shahid's studio while they were recording and Liam got to hear all their new stuff. Liam would leave his laptop on the bed while he wrote out lyrics to a new song or played Fifa with the others. He thought about keeping the Skype call going on his phone while they were onstage but he didn't think Zayn would be interested in hearing two hours of screaming. So sometimes he or Louis would take short videos of the show and send them to him.

It was a good enough strategy and Liam reminded himself that most couples don't work together and that their situation was actually less unusual now than it was before. But still. He'd be happier when he could be with Zayn again in the flesh. Which he would be in - he checked his watch as he and Paddy reached the boarding area - about seven hours, give or take an hour or two for London traffic.

Liam sighed and hoped he'd be able to sleep on the plane. He really didn't want to spend his first day back jetlagged, though he suspected Zayn wouldn't complain about spending the whole day in bed.

Boarding now. Liam sent as he and Paddy boarded and were directed to their seats. See you in the morning!

Have a fun flight home! ;) Zayn sent back immediately.

I'll try but I'll miss you too much! ;) Liam wrote. They hadn't thought anything of that exchange when it made it onto the movie but it blew up on Twitter and Tumblr and it became a bit of an inside joke for them. Though Liam really had been missing cuddling up with Zayn lately to really be able to enjoy their flights as much as he had before. Well, perhaps they could take a trip during this break. As the plane took off, he fell asleep to the thought of him and Zayn spending a week on a private island again.

+++

When Liam woke up, the plane was landing at Heathrow. He elbowed Paddy awake when the plane stopped at the terminal and they deplaned with the other First Class passengers. There was an aide from management waiting for them when they got through customs but Liam made her detour to the men's room so that he could splash some water on his face and gel his hair back. He eyed himself critically in the mirror - soft white tee under a soft black leather-accented jacket, beard neatly trimmed, birthmark in clear view. He was aiming for a Zayn Malik Cling but a sexy tear-your-clothes-off one, not a sleepy-cuddle one. He thought this was probably a good choice.

He left and saw that Paddy and the aide were directing people to use other restrooms so that Liam could have his privacy. Oops, he didn't realize that he'd be keeping people from being able to piss. He hoped no one had a bathroom emergency while he was inside.

"We need to stop for some photo ops before you go home," the aide said as the three of them made their way outside to the waiting car.

Liam sighed internally. Of course. He knew this was going to happen as soon as he saw her. Why send an aide unless there was going to be some publicity work to be done? "That's fine," he said mildly, determined to stay professional about this instead of throwing a fit. "But only for five minutes."

She made a small moue with her mouth but Liam resolutely ignored her and got in the car. Paddy followed and she sighed. "Very well."

Just landed! Gotta do a m&g with fans first tho. He wrote to Zayn. He didn't expect an answer because he figured Zayn would still be sleeping. So he was surprised when Zayn sent back Well, hurry up! Can't wait to see you! He smiled and tucked the phone away.

They drove to a supposedly random alley where there was a small group of fans and a couple of men with high-powered cameras. It was the usual crew of fans and Liam wondered if by now, they would be better considered unpaid interns than groupies. Or were they paid? He really didn't know.

He got out and went through the motions, acting surprised to see them all there when everyone knew the whole thing had been set up. He was able to give a real smile for the cameras though because he was genuinely happy to be back in London. And in a way, he was glad it was this crew that management had rounded up for him because they had been through this so many times, they didn't expect him to stay long for small talk.

"How was your flight?" one asked.

"Good," Liam answered brightly.

"What are you gonna do now?" another one asked.

"Just go home and crash for a bit, I think," he answered truthfully.

They seemed satisfied with that, if not a little bored by the mundane answers but what were they expecting him to say? He didn't usually have exciting vacation plans.

The aide kept her word and shooed everyone away after five minutes and they drove to Surrey. Liam wondered which Zayn would greet him - soft, sleepy Zayn wanting to drag Liam to bed so they could cuddle? Hot, sexy Zayn wanting to drag Liam to bed for non-sleeping purposes? Domestic Zayn wanting to have breakfast and tea with Liam? Hyper Zayn wanting to show Liam the new tracks he was working on? Artistic Zayn wanting Liam to pose for a drawing? (They did try that once but Liam was so self-conscious about it he couldn't stop giggling and Zayn had finally given up and took to inconspicuously taking pictures of him in random moments to use as inspiration. So he said, anyway. Liam wasn't entirely convinced that a picture of him eating a sandwich was going to end up being a good inspiration for drawing but who was he to judge? He liked taking pictures of Zayn sleeping. And laughing. And okay, one time, he had taken a picture of Zayn sticking his tongue out to try to get a hanging thread of melted cheese that was sliding off a slice of pizza he was holding. But that was cute!)

In any case, Liam contemplated the merits of each Zayn but hadn't decided which one he preferred by the time they arrived at his front door. He gave a mental shrug because really, any real live Zayn was better than Skype Zayn (sorry, Skype Zayn, but no matter how high quality the video and audio were, it just didn't compare to having real Zayn in his arms. He thought maybe Skype Zayn would understand. And maybe he should reconsolidate all the Zayns in his head before he saw the real one).

He waved the others away and watched them turn the corner before he started up the drive to the front door. The driver would probably drop Paddy off next and then take the aide back to the office. He hoped they were happy enough with the pictures that they would leave him alone for a bit.

He fumbled a bit with the keys but finally got the door open, moving his luggage just inside and setting them to the side. He was surprised to hear multiple voices from the back of the house. "I'm home!" he called out as he turned and shut the door.

"Leeyum!" Zayn exclaimed as he rushed in and threw his arms around him. Liam hugged back instinctively, closing his eyes and laughing. Zayn kissed him long and hard and welcoming and it didn't quite hit Liam how much he had missed this until he had it again. When the kiss ended, Liam squeezed Zayn to him and nuzzled behind his neck, relishing the feel of his hair falling gently against his face and breathing in that cherished familiar scent that was all Zayn. "I missed you," Zayn murmured against his collarbone.

"I missed you too," Liam sighed.

"M'family's here or else I'd drag you upstairs."

"Mm, maybe hold that thought for later?"

"Heh, yeah. This is a nice jacket."

"I thought you'd like it. You left your hair down," Liam said, carding the fingers of one hand gently through the soft strands of Zayn's hair.

"Mm," Zayn nuzzled into Liam's neck. "I wanted you to do that."

Liam huffed out a soft laugh. Then the crowd of voices from the back of the house got closer and resolved into a couple of familiar ones.

"Liam!" Trisha called out and Liam opened his eyes to see her and the rest of Zayn's family turn the corner, all bright smiles and laughter. "Dear, it's so good to see you again!" Liam pulled back a bit from Zayn who shifted over to his right side but refused to let go when she came up to hug him.

"Hiya, Trisha! How're things?" He side-hugged her and it ended up being a small group hug when she wrapped an arm around Zayn's shoulders too. "You have a good trip?"

"Would have been better with you there. This one wouldn't stop talking about you," she said, giving Zayn's shoulder a pat. Zayn groaned but kept his head tucked into Liam's neck, only turning it a bit to presumably give his mother a Look. Trisha just laughed. "How was your trip?"

"Good," Liam said, reveling in the warmth of having family surrounding him.

Yaser came up and clasped his shoulder. "Hello, son, you look good. You happy?"

"Better now," Liam beamed.

"Good. Did you watch the game yesterday?"

Liam shook his head. "No time."

"Me neither, but we've got it recorded. I was going to watch it later today. You should watch it with me. No one else appreciates a good footie game around here like you do," Yaser said with a grin.

"Yeah, that'll be awesome!"

Yaser nodded in satisfaction and he and Trisha moved back so he could greet Zayn's sisters.

"Hey girls!" he said as they crowded around him and Zayn and started talking all at once.

"Liam! How was Dubai? Did you take pictures?"

"Liam! It's been so long, how are you? Where's Loki?"

"Liam! I've been practicing swimming, I bet I could beat you now!"

Liam laughed. "Whoa! Let's see," he started, side-hugging each of them in turn. "I'm fine, Loki's at Ruth's but she's gonna bring him over soon. Dubai was great, we should all go someday and of course I took pictures! We'll hook up the projector later and I'll show you guys all the places we've been to, how's that? And Safaa, I'm almost a little scared to take that challenge. I haven't been swimming in months! You'll probably beat me hands down." He pulled an exaggerated pout and she giggled.

"Aw, don't sell yourself short, Liam," she said and Liam grinned fondly down at her.

"Let's move this back to the kitchen," Trisha called out. "Liam, are you hungry? We were going to do some grilling for lunch and eat on the deck."

"Sounds great! I'm starving," Liam said enthusiastically.

So they all migrated down the halls, voices loud and happy and bouncing off the walls and filling the house with a sense of family. Zayn, whose arm was tight around Liam's waist, murmured "Welcome home."

Liam, whose arm was also around Zayn's waist, squeezed gently and brushed a light kiss against his temple. Yeah, it was good to be home.