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Zayn is perfectly aware that his life is beyond bizarre. Nobody gets a chance like this, gets this famous, this fast. Not in real life. And yet, fame isn’t even the strangest thing that has happened to him. So it’s no wonder that he keeps that one little fucked up thing about himself a secret. There are only two people on Earth who know, and Zayn would like to keep it that way. It’s not the easiest thing though, not with the band taking off. There are always people around, press, fans, security, not to mention the guys; who are around even when the rest of the crowd gets whittled down.

“Zayn, wake up.”

“Dude, how can you sleep that much?”

“What do you do while the rest of us are sleeping? Are you planning world domination or something?” “I bet he’s just watching some really freaky porn he doesn’t want us to know about.”

“I swear I watched you sleep the whole way from the hotel to the airport and then you just went right back to sleep after we got on the plane. How many hours of sleep can a person need?”

And so on. The guys are pretty good about the sleeping in general. Sure they harp about it and give him a hard time, but only when he’s actually awake. He hasn’t been the target of any stupid pranks any more often than any of the other guys, so he can’t really complain.

~*~

One morning, Zayn fills a plate with scrambled eggs and adds a piece of toast for good measure. He brings the lot back to the table and is about to dig in when he realizes that four pairs of eyes are staring at him enquiringly “Uh, what? Do I have toothpaste on my face or something?” Zayn asks, fork halfway to his mouth, trying not to get unnerved by the staring.

“You seem strangely vertical this morning.” Harry says and the others nod in agreement.

“You were up before me, mate.” Liam points out.

“We were trying to remember if it had ever happened before and then we figured it out.” Louis adds and points a finger at Zayn’s face.

“You are powered by sex.” Harry blurts out, grinning like a loon.

Even Liam and Niall are nodding along, as if that makes any kind of sense, and Zayn sighs before stuffing his mouth full of eggs. He needs a second to think.

Niall takes the pause as an invitation to continue expanding on their theory. “We actually counted the times you’ve scored on this tour. Like when you slipped out on your own, or ditched us at some club. And even that girl who used to work wardrobe while we were on the X-factor. It really does add up. You are always a lot more alert when you’ve been with a girl.”

“And you were definitely with that redhead from last night. I heard you slink back into our room at four am.” Niall added.

“So it would make more sense for you to be extra tired this morning, but no, you’re all bright eyed and bushy tailed.” Louis points out.

Liam nods. “Yeah, and when you’re on a dry spell you can’t seem to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time before you doze off. It’s actually pretty creepy when you think about it.”

Louis leans in closer to Zayn and tries to poke him, but Zayn dodges just in time. He wishes he could somehow dodge the insanity of the words coming out of Louis’ mouth as easily. “Are you some kind of a sexbot? And you go to power saving mode when you haven’t been used?”

Harry succumbs to a fit of giggles after that and buries his face into Louis’ shoulder.

Zayn hopes that the scene Harry is making will distract the others, but no such luck. Even Louis isn’t diverting his attention to Harry, which is akin to a miracle. They all just keep staring at him, even Harry, as soon as he gets his laughter under control.

“You do realise that you are all insane.” Zayn finally says when it becomes clear that the guys won’t let this drop.

Liam shrugs, “Well can you give us an explanation that makes sense? Are you part sloth or something? Because I don’t think it’s humanly possible to actually sleep as much as you do.”

Niall pipes in with an evil grin, “And I think it would be pretty awesome to know an actual android. Just ‘fess up, you can trust us.”
The truth is, Zayn does trust these guys. He knows they would stand with him no matter what, but even though they have cooked up these insane theories, it doesn’t mean they would actually believe the truth if he told them.

“And don’t even try to tell us you just get tired. We aren’t the press.” Harry says and gives Zayn the puppy eyes, which is definitely not playing fair.

“Alright, I’ll tell you, just not here. Tonight, once we get to the hotel.” Zayn capitulates and gets up before the protests begin. There is no way he’ll get into his issues in a hotel breakfast bar.

-*-

Luckily for Zayn, their day is super busy, as usual, and they guys don’t get many chances to pester him about it. Mostly it’s just Harry, who has apparently transferred his limpet act from Louis to Zayn for the day. Usually Zayn would find it amusing, because Louis actually looks pretty annoyed at times, but under the circumstances Zayn would be a lot happier if Harry wasn’t hanging at his elbow for the whole day.

They do press; get asked the same questions as always. They do a photo-shoot and then get driven to the venue. There is a small window of opportunity for the guys to ambush him before they are all whisked away by the hair and wardrobe people, but Zayn gets to sigh in relief as the only reference to that morning comes from Liam who just says. “Don’t even try to get out of explaining. We’ll go straight back to the hotel after the show and then we’ll talk.”

After the post show routine they do manage to get back on the road pretty easily. Easily for them at least. They only get mobbed by a smallish group of girls and nobody tries to stop the bus from pulling out of the lot once they finally get in. Louis asks Paul if they can just get some take-out and stay in for the night, which in turn makes Paul very happy.

So in the end they pile into Harry’s and Louis’ room with Chinese take-out containers and arrange themselves on the two beds. Liam takes a bite out of his stir fried vegetables and rice and then points at Zayn with his chopsticks. “Start talking. I’ve had all day to come up with some very disturbing things that might be going on and worrying about you.”

If Zayn wasn’t starving after the performance and everything, he’d definitely have lost his appetite, but now he just digs into his Kung Pao Chicken stubbornly. “Okay, but you’ll never believe me and after I’m done you have to swear not to pester me about this anymore.”

“Fine, but you have to come clean and we’ve got to believe you’ve told us the whole story.” Harry asserts and the others nod in agreement.

Zayn knows that’s the best deal he’s going to get, so he finishes his last bite and puts away his food. “So before the X-factor auditions I had this girlfriend. We were together for one semester and then I wanted to break things off, ‘cause things were getting a bit too intense for me.”

Louis leers at him so Zayn has to give him the evil eye. “Not like that, idiot.”

Then he continues, “She was just getting a bit too possessive and she was always super jealous. I caught her reading my e-mails once and I think she went through my phone as well.”

“Urgh, that must have sucked.” Niall says, grimacing in sympathy, and Zayn has to smile, feeling really grateful for his mates. They really have his back, no matter what.

“Anyway, I break up with her and she swears I’ll regret it, accuses me of cheating on her and so on. I just thought she was upset and this was pretty normal breakup stuff. It’s not like my mates hadn’t told me similar stories about their breakups.”

The others assent to this as well and Zayn continues.

“About a week after we’d broken up I start to feel really tired. Like, I can’t stay up in class, when I can get out of bed in morning at all. It gets pretty bad and that weekend when my parents took my sisters to see my grandparents they let me stay behind, because we all thought I had some freaky bug or something. So finally I wake up on Sunday and realise I’ve been asleep for almost thirty hours. I had pissed myself and was so thirsty, I can’t even describe it to you. I was seriously freaked out, but I didn’t want my parents to worry so I didn’t tell them anything once they got home later that day.”

“That is so messed up. I would have been scared out of my mind.” Louis says and all of the guys look properly serious now. Nobody even makes fun of him for wetting his bed.

Zayn shrugs feeling a bit sheepish, thinking back on his own freak-out back then. “That Monday I see this ex of mine at school and she comes over looking smug as hell. She asks me how I’m doing, how much I like single life. Of course I’m pretty much dead on my feet and thinking that maybe I have some kind of brain tumour or something, so I’m not very polite to her.”

Zayn shifts on the bed and hugs his knees up to his chest. “Then she just leans in and kisses me, like she always used to when we were still going out. I push her away and then the bell rings so I have to get to class before I can demand to know what she’s trying to do.”

Zayn looks at the guys who are all just sitting there, food forgotten, listening to his crazy story and not even interrupting him to demand to know where this is going. At that moment Zayn knows that he’s never had mates this good.

“I actually stay awake for the classes that day. And after school she’s waiting for me by the gate and somehow I end up going to her place, because she said she wanted to talk. Instead we snog on her bed and I think it would have gone further except her mum came back from work early. That day I feel normal for the first time that week. My parents are so relieved that I’m actually awake for once, and even though I had no intention of getting back together with my ex, I didn’t feel that bad about the snogging either,” he admits and offers a faint smile to the guys who chuckle at him.

“So the next day I see her again and I try to reason with her and make her see that we’re over. She doesn’t take it well and tells me that I’m going to suffer without her. I don’t really believe her, but then she asks me how I’ve been sleeping and tells me that I’ll get worse again if I’m not with her. She actually tells me with a straight face that she cursed me to suffer if I’m not with her.”

Harry looks pretty sceptical. “Are you saying, what I think you are saying? That she actually put a spell on you that makes you sleepy.”

Zayn shrugs again. “Pretty much. I didn’t believe her in the beginning either, but after about two months you do run out of options. By then my parents had taken me to a bunch of doctors and they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. And I did always get better for a while if I…”

“Had sex!” Niall blurts out and fist-pumps the air. “It was my theory that your fuel is sex,” he explains a bit sheepishly to Zayn when he notices he’s being glared at.

Zayn exhales exasperatedly. “Before I was interrupted I was going to say unless I was intimate with someone. Kissing works just as well, although the effect seems to fade faster. And my ex didn’t really do her cursing properly or something, because lucky for me I didn’t have to be with her. It works with anyone.”

“Did she try to do something else to you once she realised that?” Liam asks, looking worried.

Zayn shakes his head, “Not really, I mean she did spread around some nasty rumours about me, but I don’t think she did anything as weird as the spell thing, or whatever we want to call it. And then basically the X-Factor happened and well… I haven’t seen her since then.”

“Wow, okay. I really didn’t think there would be a story quite like that behind this whole sleeping thing.” Louis admits. “So you just have to snog a few girls; how often exactly, to keep functioning?”

“Every day would be the best. Then I don’t feel tired any more than is normal. But if I can do it at least once a week… well that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the whole time we’ve known each other. I get a bit groggy and need to nap, but I’m still functioning, as you eloquently put it Lou.” Zayn explains, feeling kind of skeevy about what he has been doing, now that he has to say it out loud.

Harry seems to agree with him, because he is frowning. “So when you go with some girl, it’s not because you actually like her. Just that you need someone to kiss and anyone will do.”

Niall tries to defend him, “Hey, it’s not like Zayn is doing it because he’s some kind of asshole who likes to sleep with girls and then dump them right after.”

“I get that Niall, but it still doesn’t feel right Harry argues and Zayn has to step in and speak for himself.

“Harry I get what you are saying and I don’t generally have sex with them. I mean the girls I pick up. Usually we just kiss and I only sleep with them when they know it’s just going to be that one time and they are okay with that. I’m not out to make any other girls hate my guts, you know? I think getting cursed once is bad enough.”

Harry looks mollified, and for a moment they all just sit there, not saying anything. It’s making Zayn feel pretty uncomfortable. “So, are we done talking about this now?”

“Uh, I guess so.” Louis ends up saying after they all exchange baffled looks among themselves.

Harry gets up from his perch and jumps over the space between the beds and glomp hugs Zayn, so that he ends up banging the back of his head against the headboard of the bed. “Ow.” he says, pointedly but it doesn’t help at all because before Harry has a chance to pull back the other guys decide to join in and the whole situation devolves into a group hug.

~*~

For about a week after Zayn’s revelation things are a bit odd. Zayn spots the guys whispering amongst themselves, and they always part very conspicuously when Zayn gets too close. It’s actually freaking him out a bit, because he’s never felt left out in this group before. Had it really been a mistake to tell his bandmates what was going on. Were they weirded out by him now?

It’s hard to believe that for long though, because the guys all treat him just the same as always. There are still hugs and arms thrown around shoulders or around waists. They still talk shit about each other and try to keep each other grounded among the crazy ego inflating carousel that is now their life.

Zayn has just flopped down on his bead after calling his parents on Skype when the door opens and his bandmates pile in, Harry leading the way. Zayn yawns and sits back up, because it seems this isn’t the best time to take a nap after all. “What’s up?” he asks. The guys look like they have something important to say and it’s making Zayn pretty nervous.

Harry climbs up on the bed and sits opposite Zayn and peers at him closely before saying, “We’ve talked about this a lot this week and we’ve finally agreed that we should help you out with your sleeping problem.”

“Uh, thanks I guess.” Zayn says, but then adds, “But I’ve been doing a fine job finding girls who’re willing to kiss me. I actually think you going and butting in might be more of a hindrance than a help.”

Louis laughs and comes to sit on the bed, and while he speaks Niall and Liam join in too, so in the end the bed is pretty overcrowded with five guys piled on top of it. “We don’t want to help you pick up girls. We were thinking about more of a hands on approach actually.”

Zayn frowns and looks at the guys. Liam and Niall look a bit flustered, while Harry is grinning widely, his eyes sparkling in a way that makes Zayn think this was his idea. And Louis? Louis would always get dragged into Harry’s schemes and vice versa.

“Ooh-kay, anyone want to tell me more about this plan of yours, because right now I’m thinking that it can’t be anything good.” Zayn asks cautiously.

“I think you should kiss us.” Harry explains proudly.

“What? Have you all lost your minds?” Zayn has to ask, which only makes Louis and Niall burst out laughing, while Liam just kind of shrugs and Harry just keeps grinning.

“I think it’s a good plan. You get your snogs, and we get to have a Zayn who is actually conscious all the time. Win, win, right?” Louis says.

Harry nods and says, “And we can be sure no girls get used and nobody is left with hurt feelings.”

“Also, it’s not likely that any of us would go to the paps and sell out a story about our sordid night with Zayn Malik, from One Direction.” Niall adds helpfully.

“Shut up, you nutter.” Zayn retorts and swats Niall with a pillow.

“We even drew straws on who goes first and we thought that snogs every few days would be enough to keep you upright throughout the days, right?” Harry continues to explain the plan as if Zayn hasn’t already deemed it insane.

Still, he has to ask, “So who lost?”

Liam lifts his hand up and does a dorky wave, but Harry has to add, “I’d say he won, don’t sell yourself so short Zayn. And I’ll get to go next, then Niall and Louis.”

“Okay, you are all insane and I won’t entertain this madness any longer. Just leave me be, yeah?” Zayn says and starts pushing the guys off the bed and out of the door, not caring about how much they bitch and drag their feet. When he shuts the door behind Louis’ smirky face he notices that Liam is still in the room with him, smiling kind of awkwardly.

“I’m also your roommate tonight. Awkward, right?” Liam asks and sits on the other bed.

Zayn shakes his head, “Nah mate. I get that Harry and probably Louis talked you into this. Let’s just forget this ever happened.”
Liam looks dubious, but nods anyway and Zayn is willing to take what he can get at this point. He climbs into his own bed and burrows under the covers.

“Are you going to sleep?” Liam asks and Zayn turns to his side so he can see Liam.

“Yeah, but you can watch the telly or whatever, it’s not going to bother me.” Zayn assures him, just in case he’s forgotten how this thing works.

Liam hesitates for a moment but then just blurts out, “Are you sure you don’t want to try the kissing thing? Now that I know it would be so easy to help you, I feel really bad about letting you suffer like this.”

Zayn is taken aback by the offer and it almost makes him choke on his yawn. “It’s not like sleeping is that hard. And I’ll go out with you guys tomorrow, I heard the plan about going clubbing. It’ll be fine.”

“Is it because I’m a guy? Because I’ve kissed a guy before and it’s not that different.” Liam says earnestly and it seems likely that Zayn is going to die from a heart-attack if Liam keeps saying surprising shit like this.

“When did you ever kiss a guy?” Zayn has to ask, incredulous.

Liam looks a bit flustered, but keeps talking, “At some party when I was still in school. Um… girls are really into that kind of thing. And um, he asked me to.”

“Uh, well I’ve never kissed any guys and I don’t think one should start for a reason like this.” Zayn says a bit faintly and is suddenly very grateful that he doesn’t blush easily.

Liam smiles at him and says, “I can’t believe I’m sitting here, trying to get you to kiss me, but it’s not like you haven’t kissed me on the cheek a bunch of times. How different would it really be to kiss properly?”

“You’re not going to let this go, are you?” Zayn asks and hauls himself back up to sitting with some difficulty. He’s really sleepy and has been the last few days, because it’s been five days since he’s kissed anyone and Zayn feels like he’s at a disadvantage when it comes to mental sparring, or Liam’s wily way of talking him into shit by making it sound so reasonable and looking at him with that patented Liam look that Zayn sometimes has great difficulty in resisting.

“Nope, so you might as well give in.” Liam confirms and comes over to Zayn’s bed and sits on the edge, suddenly very close.

Zayn bites his lip, trying to hold another yawn in, but it feels weird this time because Liam is staring at his mouth. “You sure about this?” He has to ask Liam, but he doesn’t get a verbal answer, just sees Liam duck closer and kiss him.

“Mpfh.” Zayn tries to protest, but doesn’t actually push Liam away, instead he just grips Liam’s arm for support.

Liam is framing Zayn’s face with his hands and is being sneaky again, peppering Zayn’s lips with soft and gentle little kisses, nothing you could really think of as threatening in any shape or form. And Zayn couldn’t really be blamed for answering those little kisses, it just seemed like the right thing to do. After a while the touches become more lingering, but the change is so gradual that Zayn can’t pinpoint the moment when it happens. He just notices after a while that Liam is kind of nibbling his lower lip and that it feels way better than it ought to.

When Liam pulls away, Zayn has no idea how long they have been snogging and that might be a bit of a problem. Liam is looking at him searchingly though and asks, “Do you think that helped? Do you feel any different?”

Zayn wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand and tries not to show how unbalanced he suddenly feels. “Yeah, definitely. I don’t feel tired at all. Thanks, good job.” And maybe that last bit was going a bit too far with the nonchalant thing, but Zayn doesn’t know what you are supposed to say to your mate, who just spent however long snogging you silly.

“I think I’ll go to the gym actually. I feel like I haven’t had a proper workout in ages and you know, no better time like the present.” Zayn adds and makes a hasty retreat out of the room with his workout bag in tow, leaving Liam sitting on the bed, looking like he’s worrying about him again.

~*~

After hitting the weights for a bit, Zayn is willing to admit that he might have overreacted to what happened with Liam. Sure the kissing bit had been new and still makes him feel a bit odd if he thinks about it for too long, but what this whole thing boils down to is that Liam and the other guys just want to help him. Not to mention that the plan had actually worked fine. After all, here he is, wide awake even though it is close to midnight.

Zayn grabs a quick shower at the gym and goes back to the room, ready to apologise to Liam for freaking out. When he opens the door though, he finds that Louis, Harry and Niall have gravitated back to the room and someone has hooked up the PS3 to the hotel tv. Harry and Louis are trying to kill each other on ‘Street Fighter X Tekken’ while Niall fiddles with his mobile, most likely on Twitter.

“What are you guys doing here again?” Zayn has to ask and can’t help but to notice a serious lack of Liam in the room.

Niall looks up from his phone and answers, as Harry and Louis seem to be way too invested in their game, if the trash talking is anything to go by. “We came to get Liam originally, I mean we thought you’d be asleep and poor Liam should have other things to do besides stare at you while you sleep. So colour us surprised when we get here and you’ve buggered off. So we just decided to stay and keep Liam company.”

“But he’s not even here,” Zayn has to point out, as he throws his gym bad to the corner of the room and flops down on the bed next to Niall, jostling him enough to earn a halfhearted swat on the head.

Before Niall can answer him, Louis lets out a whoop of victory as his character uses his finishing move on Harry’s, so it’s Harry who turns away from the tv and says, “I think he went to call Danielle.”

Somehow that makes Zayn feel like a terrible human being. He just snogged a guy who already has a girlfriend, not to mention that he didn’t even think about that at the time.

Niall lays down and rests his head on Zayn’s lower back and keeps texting whoever and says, “Danielle is great, I wish I had a girlfriend like her.”

“Yeah, she’s great. I mean she was fine with our plan and everything.” Harry adds, which makes Zayn blink a few times before he manages,

“You told her about your crazy plan?”

Now Louis is looking at him like he’s the crazy one. “Did you really think Liam would have agreed to do it if she hadn’t been okay with the idea?

Looking at it that way Zayn has to admit that there was no way Liam would ever cheat on Danielle with whom he is so totally and obviously in love with.

Luckily, Zayn doesn’t have too much time to ponder on the fact, as Liam chooses that moment to come back into the room, holding a can of Coke.

“Where’d you get that?” Niall perks up, seeing the drink and Liam has to explain that he’d just found the vending machines down the hall.

“I’m going to get a snack.” Niall announces and abandons Zayn alone on the bed. That peace doesn’t last long though, as Liam comes to sit on the edge of it and peers down at Zayn.

“You okay?” He asks, a bit vaguely to Zayn’s relief.

“Yeah, sorry about running off,” he mutters under his breath, hoping that Louis and Harry are too wrapped up in each other to pay attention.

Liam smiles, one of those small genuine ones that Zayn has never really paid much attention to before tonight, and suddenly he has a hard time meeting Liam’s eyes. “How was Danielle?” he asks to divert the attention away from himself.

“She’s fine. Lucky for me she was already up. I always forget about the time difference. But yeah, she had an early practice so no harm done.” Liam answers and he looks happy, like he always does when he’s talking about Danielle and right then Zayn doesn’t know how to feel about that.

“What are you two murmuring about over there?” Harry asks and rests his chin on the edge of the bed, looking way too curious.

Louis throws his arm around Harry’s shoulder and joins him in staring at them, “Yeah, have you talked him over to our way of thinking yet Liam? You could make out right now. I think it would be a good show.”

Zayn is pretty sure that Liam actually blushes a bit as he says, “Oh come on guys.”

“No, for real. You should show us how it’s done.” Harry joins in the teasing, his cheeks dimpling and Zayn wonders if this would be grounds for justifiable homicide.

The moment when Harry figures it out is obvious in the way his face lights up. “Wait a second! How is Zayn awake right now? Liam, you sneaky bastard ‘fess up, did you guys snog while we were gone?”

Liam almost chokes on his Coke and Zayn has to get up to slap his back, Harry and Louis crowing victory all the while in the background.

Of course this is when Niall comes back with a packet of crisps. “Oi! What’s going on in here? I go away for a minute and you go crazy while I’m gone.”

“Zayn and Liam totally got it on after Zayn kicked us out of the room.” Louis fills Niall in, gleefully, because Harry is still doing some kind of stupid victory dance.

“Just stop, okay?” Zayn tries to calm the situation down and supresses the urge to cringe as he admits, “And yeah Harry is right. Liam did help me with my… problem and can we just stop talking about it now, please?”

Instead of calming down, Zayn’s words only seem to make things worse as the three guys collapse on the other bed in a fit of giggles. Even Liam is smiling. “You did make it sound like I jerked you of or something.”

Zayn looks away from Liam in a hurry and instead bounces on the banes of his existence, so at least they stop talking about things while the bed turns into a wrestling arena for a while. Zayn thinks that he would definitely have won too if Louis and Niall hadn’t ganged up on him at the end, which is very unsportsmanlike of them.

Harry had escaped the whole thing somehow and is now sitting with Liam on the other bed and eating Niall’s crisps.
“Those are mine!” Niall protests and rescues the remainder for himself.

The topic of him and Liam kissing is abandoned for the night, for which Zayn is grateful, and instead they just end up watching some American late night shows before Louis drags Harry up and out of the room at around two. Niall had already fallen asleep on Liam’s bed and he just shrugs, “Let him sleep there. It’s not like we haven’t shared beds before.” and goes to the bathroom.

Zayn burrows under the covers in his own bed and tries not to think that if Liam is so okay with sleeping with someone, he might just sleep with Zayn instead of sharing with Niall. He won’t think that because that way lies madness and it’s not like Zayn is still a teenager who gets obsessed about every little kiss. No way. Liam was just being a mate and Zayn needs to get his head straight about this and quick. Pun definitely not intended, as he’s definitely not thinking about being straight or otherwise right now.

~*~

For a few days, Zayn thinks he’s off the hook as nothing out of the ordinary happens. Nobody makes jabs at how he’s able to stay awake like a normal person for once and Harry and Louis aren’t smirking at him more than usual. Zayn is especially proud of himself for getting over his freak out about Liam and has been able to act normally around him again. He might be staring a bit, but only when he already has an excuse, like when Liam is talking or singing. You’re supposed to pay attention at times like that anyway, so no one can fault him for it.

That night it’s Liam’s turn to get a room for himself and Zayn is sharing with Niall, so he’s a bit surprised when it’s Harry who’s in the room when Zayn gets out of the bathroom after a shower. “Huh? Where’s Niall?” Zayn asks, because they had talked about ordering pizza and Zayn has been looking forward to it all day.

“I think he’s in Liam’s room, they were talking about doing a twitcam.” Harry answers from the bed where he’s sort of draped himself over the covers. He’s looking at Zayn with what one might call a smouldering look and Zayn is fast becoming suspicious.

“You can just forget about it.” Zayn says and wishes he’d taken clean clothes with him to the bathroom, as he suddenly feels way too exposed, standing there in only his towel.

Harry’s grin is pure evil and the cheeky bastard even crooks his finger at Zayn, as he says. “Oh come on, I know you want this.”

Zayn shakes his head in denial and tries not to smile. “Nope, I think you’re confusing me with some other bloke.”

Harry sits up on the bed now and issues an ultimatum, totally ignoring what Zayn has just said. “If you don’t come here, I’ll just have to come over there. Your choice really.”

Zayn is pretty sure Harry is serious, so he tightens his hold on his towel and tries to back away. He really doesn’t want Harry to touch him while he’s basically naked… not that he’d want it even if he was fully clothed, but Harry only seems to get more into the insanity as he jumps off the bed and comes prowling after Zayn.

“Seriously, don’t.” Zayn says, because he’s already backed himself into the doorway and he’s not going to run out into the hall in just his towel, no matter how much Harry is leering at him right then.

Suddenly Harry looks perfectly serious and he says, “Zayn it’s not like I’m going to force you, but I thought you’d thought the plan over and agreed to it. I mean you already kissed Liam, so what’s the difference?”

Zayn has to answer Harry, and quick unless he wants Harry’s imagination to run rampant, so he says the first thing that comes to mind, “I had some clothes on then.”

“Oh well you should have just said.” Harry says, all smiles again. “I’ll even turn my back if you want? I dunno why you’re all coy all of a sudden now. It’s not like I haven’t seen you naked before.”

“When have you seen me naked?” Zayn asks, feeling kind of scandalized because he’s not one to go about in the buff like Harry or even Niall sometimes do. Still he doesn’t wait for the answer as he dives for his suitcase and grabs the first pair of pants he can get.

As he struggles to get dressed, Harry answers him. “Not like I’m some pervert who came around your house and peeked in through the windows, no need to sound so horrified. My feelings might get hurt. I dunno when it happened, must have been some time when you were changing or something. It’s not like I marked my calendar. Are you decent yet, this wallpaper is really boring to stare at.”

“Fine, you can turn,” Zayn says and feels like such a prude, which isn’t a new feeling to get when compared to Harry, but it still makes Zayn feel a bit self-conscious.

Harry is grinning again when he turns to look at Zayn, “Aw you didn’t even put on trousers. Is this the equivalent of second base with you?”

“Shut up.” Zayn says and walks up to Harry and kisses him, just to make him stop talking.

Harry isn’t even phased, just kisses back. They stand there, not really touching anywhere except for their lips and Zayn feels horribly awkward. Harry kisses with enthusiasm and has great technique, but Zayn just wishes he was somewhere else. When Harry pulls back with a final flick of the tongue Zayn has to sigh with relief.

“Wow thanks, could you try to offend me more? I don’t think my ego is quite shattered yet.” Harry quips and pokes Zayn in the cheek with his finger.

“Somehow I think you’ll recover.” Zayn retorts and retaliates by poking Harry in the abs.

Harry slaps his hand away and asks, “But it still worked, right? How sleepy do you feel?”

“Not sleepy at all, so you did good.” Zayn answers and then they just stand there awkwardly for a moment before Harry says,
“I heard Niall talk about pizza. Wanna investigate?”

And just like that they are good again.

~*~

After that Zayn just accepts his fate and resigns himself to being kissed by a bunch of blokes, even if they are his best mates and as such are very nice blokes. So it takes Zayn a while to notice that he’s getting tired again. The yawn surprises him during a routine interview and everyone turns to look at him, just making things worse. The interviewer seems a bit puzzled and Zayn has to apologise.

Louis, who is sitting next to Niall, starts to poke him and after a while the situation escalates into a mock fight. Liam tries to keep the interviewer on topic by continuing to answer the question, but is kind of undermined by how Harry is egging Louis on and Niall is swearing like a sailor. Some of that stuff will totally be edited out in post-production.

Zayn tries to appear alert after that, but somehow manages to fall asleep in the car on the drive to their next destination and when they wake him up, Niall looks kind of chastised and red faced.

“What?” Zayn asks intelligently, but to his own defence, he’s still more than half asleep.

“Everything is sorted out now. No need for you to worry your pretty head about it.” Louis teases, and before Zayn gets a chance to get back at him for that, they are ushered inside and to the next interview.

Once they have been looked over by the make-up people and released to wait until the microphones are set up, Niall grabs Zayn by the hand and drags him into the toilet, locking the door behind them. It’s a small room, meant to be used by one person at a time, so Zayn ends up leaning against the sink to make room for the both of them.

Before he has a chance to say anything though, Niall interrupts him by saying, “So, okay, I’ll admit that this whole kissing thing might have made me a bit nervous, and I might have been putting it off, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not your mate or that I don’t want to help you.”

Zayn blinks at Niall’s protests. “I never would have thought that, I mean of course we’re mates.” Then he feels the need to add, “And seriously we don’t have to kiss, I’ll just go out tonight and find someone who actually wants to kiss me and I think we’d all be happier.”

Niall looks tempted for a second, but then shakes his head, “Wouldn’t work, the others would find out and they already nagged my ear off in the car. I mean it’s just kissing right? You’re not going to grope me or anything, are you?”

Zayn rolls his eyes. “I’ll try to control myself.” then he just looks at Niall and they both end up fighting giggles.

Once they calm down a bit, Niall says, “I can’t believe what this band has done to me. We are all totally mental.” and then he takes the half step separating them and presses his lips to Zayn’s. After that the whole thing proceeds surprisingly easily, even though they have to break apart a few times because they can’t stop laughing. Kissing Niall is actually more fun than kissing Harry was, not that Zayn is keeping a tally or anything. It’s just that neither of them take this seriously and it’s obvious that Niall isn’t trying to show his ‘moves’ like Harry was, so it’s just easier in every way.

“Okay stop,” Zayn wheezes out, which only makes Niall laugh more and bury his head in the crook of Zayn’s neck, which in turn makes Zayn laugh uncontrollably as Niall’s breath tickles his neck.

“Urgh this is ridiculous,” Zayn adds and fights to open the lock on the bathroom door, so of course they end up stumbling out of the room and almost run into Paul, who doesn’t look amused but just ends up herding them back with the others. They are the last in and the interviewer quirks an eyebrow and asks them what’s so funny?

“Just life in general,” Niall answers breezily and sits next to Louis so Zayn has to make his way to the end of line where the only other empty seat is. Liam, who is sitting next to Zayn smiles tentatively and asks, “Everything okay?” and Zayn just nods, because yeah, things actually aren’t that bad.

~*~

Louis waits for three days after that before bouncing on Zayn one morning. They had all gotten private rooms the night before, but Zayn doesn’t bother asking how Louis got inside. Sometimes it’s just better not to know. Instead he tried to hide under his pillow, because it feels like it’s too early for this.

“Don’t be like that.” Louis corrals him and peeks under the pillow, his face suddenly very close, and from this distance his teeth look very big and kind of sharp. “I know you like to play hard to get, Harry told me all about your encounter, but do you really want me to chase you around the room before you let me lay one on you?”

Zayn groans and smacks the pillow into Louis’ smirky face. “You are such a berk.” but even as he’s saying that, Zayn sits up, knowing there is no way to repel Louis now. Or maybe there is? “I should wash my teeth at least,” he mutters and climbs out of bed.

Louis directs an exaggerated pout in his direction, but doesn’t protest so Zayn has a few minutes alone in the bathroom before he has to face the music. While he was gone, Louis has taken out his phone and seems to be playing with it but looks up when Zayn walks back into the room.

“Harry says morning, he was wondering how things went, but I told him he’d have to wait for the verdict a while yet. I think he’s kind of miffed that you didn’t melt into his arms while you were kissing, poor lad.”

Zayn offers a weak glare in response and climbs back onto the bed so that they are sitting opposite each other, their knees brushing. “Let’s just get it over with, yeah?”

“Ooh aren’t we eager now.” Louis teases him, but tosses his phone aside readily enough and leans closer. “Get ready to have your world rocked.”

Zayn wants to roll his eyes, but instead he just closes them and leans into the kiss. He’s pretty proud of himself at this point for not getting even a little bit freaked out about kissing his band mates and thinks about what a fool he made out of himself when he was kissing Liam.

Louis starts out with totally ridiculous and over the top kisses, like he’s in a porno or something, but mellows out pretty fast, and Zayn thinks this is the way he would normally kiss. To his surprise, Louis is actually pretty tentative and it’s easy for Zayn to take over the kiss, exploring Louis’ mouth and lips at his own leisure. When they part Zayn thinks he hears Louis sigh, but that might just have been a normal exhale. What he can’t chalk up to his imagination is the way Louis is blushing and pretty much avoiding making eye contact.

“Come here,” Zayn says, because he has some experience with the awkward feeling that comes after kissing one of your best mates. He pulls Louis into a hug, toppling them down on the bed.Now they are just cuddling in bed and that is much more normal for them and Zayn hopes it will help. At least this way it won’t be weird if Louis doesn’t want to look at him for a bit.

For a moment they just lie there, with Louis kind of fidgeting and following the patterns on his own t-shirt with his fingers, before he speaks. “I broke up with Eleanor two weeks ago.”

Zayn turns his to look at Louis, but can only see the top of his head. “That must have sucked, mate. Have you told the others?”

“Just Harry,” Louis answers and his voice doesn’t sound completely even.

Zayn doesn’t know what to say, so he just stays silent, hoping it’s enough to listen.

“I think we were growing apart anyway, there’s never any time to be together and she was really getting fed up by some of the fans harassing her. Didn’t seem like the relationship was worth fighting for. And then there is… I think I…” Here Louis falters and Zayn has to turn on his side and pull Louis against his chest because he sounds so small and scared all of a sudden.

“It’s going to be okay,” Zayn says, feeling stupid for the lame words, but at least they get a muffled laugh out of Louis
.
“Right. But it’s just that maybe they’re all right about me, the fans I mean. That I’m a poofter. Sometimes I can’t stop staring at Harry and I hate it when he’s not paying attention to me. I’ve thought about kissing him, you know? But then I thought, maybe it didn’t really mean anything, I mean people can be curious, right? But I liked kissing you, like really liked it and I don’t even fancy you.”

Zayn chuckles at that and after a beat Louis joins him. “Sorry.” he says and bites Zayn’s collarbone, but gently.

“So you fancy Harry?” Zayn asks.

“Pretty much. I hate being so predictable. I should fancy you or Niall, just to annoy those fangirls who think they know me.” Louis sounds petulant, but Zayn can sympathise.

“People are stupid.” Zayn agrees and pets Louis’ hair. They lay about in bed for a while longer, but eventually Louis’ phone starts buzzing incessantly and they get up. Zayn sneaks out for a smoke while Louis is on the phone. It sounds like it’s Harry and Zayn closes the balcony door to give Louis some privacy. He’s just wearing a t-shirt and the morning air feels a bit chilly, so he doesn’t linger outside. Once he gets back into the room Louis is gone but Zayn doesn’t really mind. He thinks there wasn’t really anything else they could have said anyway.

~*~

The tour is rolling towards its end. They have only five shows to go and then they’ll be able to go home, finally.

Zayn is going through his suitcase, looking for things to put into the laundry pile he’s gathering on his bed, when there is a knock on the door. When Zayn opens it he, sees Liam standing on the other side holding Lux. “Hey there, baby.” Zayn coos at the baby and offers his finger to her smiling when she automatically wraps her tiny fingers around it.

“Sorry, I hope we’re not bothering you?” Liam asks as he makes his way into the room. Zayn takes the diaper bag from his free hand so Liam can concentrate on holding Lux.

“No, you guys are always welcome. I was just sorting laundry anyway,” Zayn says and smiles widely at Lux, who smiles back. Lux is the best baby Zayn has ever met and definitely super smart.

Liam smiles too and carefully lowers Lux on the bed and offers her one of her toys to play with. Zayn happily abandons his chore and instead climbs up on the bed instead, because watching baby Lux is a much better use of his time. Liam takes some other toys out of the bag and lays them on the coverlet before joining them on the bed. They pen Lux in with their bodies so there is no fear she might fall and then just stare at her for a while.

She gnaws on a plastic ring and then offers it to Liam, making Zayn laugh. “Aw how is she so adorable?”

Liam’s eyes crinkle as he smiles down at Lux and it makes something lurch in Zayn’s chest, but he does his best to ignore it.

“Smart girl, do you want to put this through it?” Liam asks Lux who is poking at the ring with a small stuffed animal. He looks up at Zayn and answers his earlier question, “I have no idea, maybe all babies are like this?”

“I don’t think so,” Zayn says doubtfully. He was pretty small himself when his sisters were born, but he’s pretty sure there was a lot more crying involved. Lux is generally a happy baby and almost never cries without a reason.

They spend a happy afternoon entertaining Lux and when her mom comes to pick her up, it’s kind of sad seeing her go. Zayn kisses her downy hair and grins waving away the thanks they get for babysitting. Liam is saying the same thing, “No really we had fun. You deserve to get a few hours to yourself now and again. Seriously Lux was a perfect baby, no trouble at all.”

Finally, the door closes after them and Zayn slumps down on his bed. “Is it bad that after spending time with Lux, my puppy fever always gets worse?”

Liam smiles at him and comes to sit on the bed, leaning against the headboard. Zayn moves a bit so his head is resting on Liam’s thighs.

“I don’t think she’d mind,” Liam says lightly and cards his fingers through the short hair on Zayn’s temples. It feels heavenly and Zayn closes his eyes.

“What kind of a dog would you get?” Liam asks, his voice low and lazy.

Zayn hums before answering, “I don’t know really. The breed doesn’t really matter. Maybe I’d get a rescue dog or something.”

“I miss my turtles,” Liam offers, but it kind of makes Zayn feel weird because now he’s thinking about Danielle who is taking care of Liam’s turtles, and he really doesn’t want to think about Liam’s girlfriend right then.

“Do you know what polyamory is?” Liam asks him after a short lull in the conversation, during which Zayn had almost fallen asleep.
It comes so out of the blue that Zayn opens his eyes and looks up at Liam, “Uh not really? It’s something to do with sex though, right?”

“Well it can be about sex, but mostly it’s like a philosophy where you think it’s okay for a person to have more than one romantic or sexual partner at the same time. For example.” Here Liam pauses and looks kind of nervous, but then continues anyway.

“Me and Danielle are in love, but Danielle also has another boyfriend, Chris. And uh, well I could have another relationship if I wanted to. I haven’t wanted before, I mean Danielle is awesome and I was perfectly happy with her, you know? And then, well Harry and Louis cooked up the plan to help you and I talked it over with Danielle and she was cool about it…” Liam pauses again and Zayn is stuck staring at Liam with impossibly wide eyes, because Liam can’t be saying what Zayn thinks he is, can he?

Once he can make his muscles obey him again, Zayn sits up. He’s a little bewildered and he has to clear his throat before any words will come out. “What are you saying Liam?”

Liam looks so earnest and sincere, like always. It’s giving Zayn whiplash trying to think about him having some kind of rebellious view of sex and relationships, and he can’t believe they are talking about this, and nothing is making any sense.

“I was just wondering if you’d like to go on date with me once we get back home?” Liam asks and smiles kind of hopefully.

Zayn bites his lip and thinks that any moment now he’s going to wake up, or Louis is going to jump out of the closet and reveal the prank, but nothing is happening and Liam’s smile is kind of fading and Zayn never wanted to be the cause of that. So he blurts out, “Okay. Yeah I mean… I’ve never dated a guy before though.”

His answer seems to restore Liam’s smile and when he says, “Me neither, but I think we’ll be able to figure it out.” Zayn has to return the smile.

Liam scoots a bit closer and touches Zayn’s face kind of reverently. It makes Zayn lose his breath when Liam brushes his thumb over Zayn’s cheekbone. “Is it okay to kiss you now?” Liam asks and Zayn’s eyes flutter closed on their own accord even as he nods.

“I love your eyelashes,” Liam whispers and kisses his eyelids before moving to his lips. Zayn just sighs into it and opens his mouth, welcoming Liam’s tongue inside.

A knock on the door and Paul’s voice calling: “Dinner in twenty.” breaks them apart. Zayn has no idea how long they have been laying on the bed, or even when they moved to lay down. He’s panting and trying not to just hump against Liam’s thigh that is pressed between his legs and Liam doesn’t look much calmer.

“Uh, I should probably go change in my room.” Liam says but doesn’t move to get up.

“Right.” Zayn replies and loosens his hold of Liam’s hair. That seems to break the standstill and Liam sits up, flushed and obviously hard. Zayn looks his fill and when their eyes meet Liam offers him a sheepish smile,

“Was that okay? I mean I wasn’t planning on doing that, not yet anyway. I thought we might like to move a bit slower to be honest.”

Zayn grins back, feeling light and happy, “Oh, you thought I’d freak out again and need to be treated with care, didn’t you?”

“Well maybe. You did seem a bit off after that first time I kissed you.” Liam protested.

“That was then. But what made you want to date me all of a sudden? Did kissing me that one time really do it for you?” Zayn asks, curious now.

Liam shook his head. “Not just that. I always noticed you, even in the beginning. But before I met Danielle, I hadn’t really thought about my sexuality much and it was talking with her that made me realise there was no reason why I should limit myself if I felt attracted to someone. But at the same time I didn’t think I wanted another relationship and well, you seemed pretty straight to me.”

“Urgh, this is getting too deep for me.” Zayn says mock seriously and gets to his feet. “Explain it to me some other time when I’m not hungry and dying of blue balls.”

Liam laughs and gets up as well, but gives Zayn a serious answer. “We really do need to talk this whole thing through and I think you need to meet Danielle properly, to make sure we’re all on the same page. But that can wait until we get home.”

Zayn can't help but feel nervous about the prospect of talking to Danielle about dating her boyfriend. He doesn't think he'll ever be able to compete with Liam for her affections, and he's not sure how it will work, sharing him. Liam wants him, though, and that's enough for now. Zayn buries his insecurities and steals one more kiss before letting him go. After Liam has left, he collapses back on the bed and thinks about everything that's happened in the past few weeks.

And funnily enough, Zayn feels happy about the curse for the first time since it happened.