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life on the moon

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The first time Niall really notices that something is kind of off is when he texts Harry, asking if he wants to hang out for a bit, maybe grab some food from that place two streets over they both love. Harry doesn't answer, though. He tries Louis next, foregoing the text and instead just calls. It rings. Several times, in fact, but Louis isn’t picking up.

He tries to remember if Louis or Harry told him they were hanging out together today, because normally they tell each other everything – even things they know he doesn't want to hear about like 'you should have heard her moan, Nialler, when I gave it to her' or 'fuck, I puked yesterday for hours and it had this disgusting colour, like sort of green with some brown in it, and I'm never drinking again'.

To be perfectly honest, it's entirely likely that they might have told him but he somehow forgot, as he has to admit that he tends to forget things. Especially if said conversation had happened during dinner, or lunch; or breakfast; or when he had a snack during rehearsals. But still. He just can't remember and he doesn't have that vague feeling he normally gets when he knows that they told him something that he forgot to pay attention to.

It takes him less than five seconds to figure out what to do next, fingers pressing the buttons on autopilot, the number memorized by heart.

Liam's phone goes straight to voicemail, but Niall doesn't leave a message. Would be kind of weird… well, more weird than usual if he left a message asking Liam about Harry and Louis not picking up their phones. It would make him sound like he's being… nosey, maybe, or clingy, even.

But it's when he calls Zayn's phone that he gets suspicious. Zayn picks up the phone, or at least it sounds like he does. Zayn doesn’t greet him though, so Niall says 'Hello' like three times, shouting the last one for good measure when it seems like Zayn still doesn’t hear him. He stops in the middle of the fourth, and all that comes out is 'Hell', before Niall hears something from the other end.

The voices are muffled, like Zayn's phone is in his pocket or something, which would completely explain why he hasn’t heard Niall make a complete fool of himself for the last minute or so.

"Hazza," says a voice that sounds oddly like Liam’s, which completely fucks with his theory that Harry and Louis are hanging out together. But it's what comes next that really throws Niall off. A moan. Someone's moaning. And he recognizes that moan from months spent on the tour bus, sleeping in bunks so close. Louis. Louis is moaning and then Liam says something that Niall can't hear and he swears, for a second, that he can hear Harry laugh. He ends the call before Zayn realizes that Niall has heard anything; ends it before he embarrasses himself and says something that will make the others know that he's listening in on purpose.

He leans back into the couch and turns on the telly, channel surfing through every single one of the almost four hundred channels, twice, before he finally settles on a random news channel. He mutes it, and grabs the beer from the table. He drinks it so fast that he almost chokes on it.

"What the fuck," he says out loud, scratching the back of his neck, confused and slightly… hurt. His chest aches and he feels maybe a bit betrayed.

*

The next day at the studio, he tries to act as if he doesn't know anything. Maybe he really doesn't know anything, because maybe he got it all wrong. Maybe he misunderstood. But then Louis' hand lingers slightly longer on Zayn's shoulder than what is proper, even for them, and Niall can't stop watching.

It's not until Harry practically throws himself down onto Niall's lap and says, sweet as ever, "Sorry I didn't answer your text yesterday. I was hanging out with some friends and I forgot my phone at home. Forgive me, Nialler?" that Niall finally forces his gaze away from the way Louis is standing ever so close to Zayn.

Niall nods, absentmindedly, and finally looks at Harry. If he thought Louis and Zayn were distracting, what he sees next completely makes him freeze for just a second. There’s a love-bite just visible under the collar of Harry’s t-shirt, and he tries not to stare at it.

"Um," he says.

Harry tilts his head and just looks at him, the stylized yet unruly hair framing his face. "Nialler," he says, grinning. "You sleeping in there?" Harry taps Niall's head with his fingers, and Niall doesn't feel proud when he finds himself longing for a more tender touch.

"Yeah, sure, just didn't get that much sleep. Had some friends over, watched the game and had way too many beers," he lies, mentally hitting himself for going as far as including fictional friends.

Liam looks at him, like he knows that Niall is lying, so Niall has to continue, he just has to, "Ya know, some mates from back home. They stopped by. Boy was I surprised."

Liam doesn't look convinced, and even Zayn and Louis are looking at him now.

"Yeah?" says Harry, not sounding all that convinced either.

"Yeah," he says, and that's the end of that conversation when Paul steps in and tells them it's time to go. Bless Paul and his good timing.

*

The second time that Niall realizes something is slightly different is when they're all lounging on the couches in Harry and Louis' place. Their apartment is bigger than Niall's, though it makes sense, as two people live there. The couches, however, are not that big, which is why it surprises him to see his four band members practically cuddling on one of them while he has the other all to himself. He looks at them, one at a time, from Liam to Harry to Louis to Zayn.

"I can move," he says, even though he doesn't really want to get up. He's comfy, finally able to stretch his legs and relax his back after having done two interviews and a signing. Big crowds kind of freak him out a bit, so it’s nice to have space around him.

"But you don't want to," says Zayn, and Niall looks at him, wondering if maybe this is some kind of Jedi-trick. Because he really, really doesn't want to. But he would if they asked, except they don’t.

"No," he agrees, shrugging. "But it's hardly fair that you lot have to share, while I got this one for myself."

"Nah, that's alright Nialler," says Louis and throws his left arm around Zayn's shoulder and his right behind Harry's head. Niall can see fingertips touching the back of Liam's neck – Louis’ fingertips! – and for a split second, Liam's eyes close as Harry leans against Liam's body.

"Oh," he murmurs, mostly to himself, though from the looks he's getting he knows the others heard him.

Liam opens his eyes and looks weirdly at him, and Niall doesn't like the fact that he can't tell what Liam is thinking. Zayn, however, is easier to read. He looks at Niall as if he's daring him to say something. Niall doesn't. Just swallows, his mouth suddenly dry, and turns his head back to the telly.

He’s never felt uncomfortable in the presence of the others before. Until now. He forces himself not to look at them, though he can still somewhat see them from the corner of his eyes, and from the looks of it, Louis gets bolder by the minute. Or maybe it’s Harry. It’s difficult to tell when he’s not actually looking at them.

“Harry,” whispers Liam warningly, and though Niall had been acutely aware of them being right there, all four of them together like he doesn’t exists, Liam’s voice startles him. He knows that he will hate himself for it, but he still glances their way and sees that even though Harry’s body is still curled up against Louis’, he’s touching Liam’s thigh. Niall allows his eyes to wander; sees Harry’s hand flexes and squeezes Liam’s thigh, making Liam breathe out what sounds like a moan. Louis, on the other hand, is actually kissing Zayn’s neck, not even caring that Niall is right here. But it’s Zayn that makes him blush, their eyes locking when Niall finally looks at the last band member. Zayn smirks, tilts his head to allow Louis more space, which Louis seems to take advantage of immediately, if the way his tongue swipes over the tanned skin and he lightly nibbles at it is any indication.

Niall’s angry. They could at least have had the decency to wait until he had left.

He gets up from the couch, stretching his arms over his head and says without looking at any of them, “I should get home. I’m tired.”

He leaves before any of them says anything, grabbing his shoes by the door and doesn’t stop to put them on until he’s halfway down the stairs.

His heart is pounding away, beating against his ribcage and for a brief moment, it feels as if he can’t breathe.

He heads home, half expecting one of them to call him. None of them do, not even Liam.

*

Since the couch moment, Niall can’t help but look every time he’s around them. They seem to take his silence as acceptance, and the slight, almost innocent touches, quickly escalates into full-blown kissing sessions and he learns that Harry likes to touch, Louis likes necks and Zayn likes to push one of the others up against the wall and kiss them until their knees shake. Preferably close to where Niall is, almost as if he’s taunting him, which is so not cool, and it makes Niall both self-conscious and perhaps also a bit jealous at the same time.

Liam is slightly different than the rest. He still seems uncomfortable doing anything intimate when Niall is within watching distance and more often than not, Liam tells them to wait until later, which they usually don’t, but Niall appreciates that Liam even suggests it.

Unfortunately, this means that Niall spends more time alone now than he did before.

Being famous doesn’t exactly makes it easy to go out and get wasted, so Niall tends to stay in, drink until he can’t see straight anymore and then head to bed.

He wants to ask them how long they've been together. Wants to ask why they thought a polyamorous relationship was the way to go (and he totally had to look that term up on Google). And he really wants to know why he wasn’t included.

Niall isn't queer. He’s not. But it still hurts to know that they didn’t want him.

Interviews are getting more difficult to handle, too. He laughs too much; makes himself act as he did before he knew, but it just looks forced. Like he’s trying too hard and everything is just awkward. Though he’s sure he’s the only one who can see it, the space between him and the others on an interviewer’s couch grows larger and larger, until one interview where he’s told to sit in a chair because the couch isn’t big enough for five. True, it’s a small couch and it barely fits the others, but it’s still a blow to the face to be the one to not sit on the couch.

He knows that they're still his friends, knows that they didn’t do this to hurt him – though it sure as fuck hurts all the way into his bones – it still makes everything uncomfortable. He still laughs in interviews, but he doesn’t really listen anymore, which is why it doesn’t really come as a surprise when he hardly gets asked anything anymore.

And then the party happens. The party which Niall wasn’t invited to, because they sort of just forgot him.

It’s eight in the morning and they have to leave for a signing in less than an hour, and since Niall is already ready, he figures he might as well just head over to Liam’s place, which is where they'll be picked up by Paul and their driver.

He considers for all of two minutes before finally deciding to head over to Harry and Louis place instead, like he normally does so he can walk with them the rest of the way to Liam’s. He misses their early morning banter, where Harry is practically sleepwalking and Louis is way too cheerful. He picks up coffee from the place down the street, like he usually does, and heads to their place.

He’s walking to Harry and Louis’ door, his free hand just about to knock when it opens and two girls come out, giggling and drunk. They don’t even see him, just walk right past him and stumble down the stairs together.

“Best party ever,” says one of the girls, and then they are too far away for Niall to hear what else is being said.

He pushes the door open and walks in, hesitantly. There are beer bottles everywhere and empty pizza boxes stacked in the corner. The telly is on, though on mute, and there are people sleeping on the floor. He knows he shouldn’t, but like the masochist that he is, he pushes the bedroom door open. And there they are, sound asleep, all over each other. From what he can see, they are still wearing their clothes. Except for Harry it seems, but that’s normal.

He thinks about waking them, but he doesn’t.

He takes the coffees with him as he leaves and throws them in the first rubbish bin that he comes across as he heads to Liam’s place, intending to wait for Paul to come pick them up outside like planned.

Paul doesn’t come, nor does the driver. At half nine he calls Paul.

“Where’s the car?” he asks, irritated and so not in the mood for this bullshit.

“The signing was moved to two o’clock,” says Paul, sounding confused. “I told Louis. He was supposed to call you all and let you know.”

Of course.

“Oh right,” he says, and then before he knows it, he’s lying, “he did. I just forgot. Too early, ha ha. Ya know, I’m not feeling that well. Sorry I have to do this, but I think I’m going to stay home today. Be sure to let the fans know how sorry I am.”

Paul mumbles something about them needing to keep their timetable, and Niall hangs up before he ends up telling another lie.

He heads home and sits on the couch and doesn’t move until it’s ten minutes past two. No one has called him, though he’s beginning to get used to that. In fact, by now he would have been more surprised if one of them had called him.

He gives it a couple of hours and then he checks YouTube for videos. There are already three up. He watches them one by one. It’s not until the third one where the girl who’s holding the camera asks where Niall is, and it’s Harry who answers with a, “Sorry love, I can’t hear you. What’s your name again?” followed by a laugh in Liam’s direction. The girl squeals at being called ‘love’ and Niall’s whereabouts are forgotten.

That’s all he gets. The others are pretending that nothing is wrong.

He watches the videos again, looking for signs that he’s missed, but the others' banter is light and funny, and it’s like there wouldn’t even have been space for a fifth person at the long table.

Screw this.

He gets up, grabs his wallet and jacket and heads out the door. He stops at the first pub he comes across. The pub is quiet, and no one even looks at him twice as he sits down at the bar and orders a pint. One pint turns to two, then three and finally four. By the time he takes a break and heads for the loo, the pub is filled with people. He sways into a few, apologizing left and right as he tries to make his way back to his place at the bar. His seat is taken by an overly large man, and he thinks about saying something, but instead he just leaves. With his luck he would just end up with a bruised ego and black eye, which would be kind of difficult to explain to management as he’s supposed to be sick at home right now.

The fresh air is harsh against his cheeks when he’s finally outside. He feels his phone vibrate in his pocket and he pulls it out and checks the screen.

Two new messages: one from Liam, and one from his mum.

He checks the one from his mum first.

sorry you missed the interview. paul told me you’re sick. feel better sweetheart. – mum

He thinks about calling her, but knows that in this drunken state that he’s in, all he will do is end up crying, which will just worry her.

Instead, he checks the message from Liam.

we missed you at the meet-and-greet. Feel better soon. Xx

Finally, he dares to look at the message from Louis, which has been in his inbox since last night.

come over? x is all it says, and Niall could hit himself for not checking the text when it had beeped in yesterday.

He heads home and doesn’t answer either of them. He deletes the one from his mum, but he finds himself saving the ones from Liam and Louis.

*

They are shooting a new music video, so they are back in the States. The house they are staying in is huge; like a mansion huge. There’s both an outdoor and indoor pool. There’s even a tennis court behind the house, but none of them know how to play.

They put the indoor pool to good use though. The weather is kind of warm, so it’s nice to be able to relax and just swim a few laps whenever they want to, and as they play around, Niall kind of forgets everything that’s happening.

Louis tries to push him under the water and Niall accidentally swallows a bunch of water as he laughs so hard that he can barely breathe. Harry comes to Niall’s aide and together they manage to push Louis’ head under water. Louis tries to persuade Harry to help him get Niall back, but Harry just throws his arms around Niall’s neck and clings. It’s hard to swim like this, but Niall hasn’t felt this happy in ages so he lets Harry cling.

Zayn and Liam watch them from the chairs, laughing whenever Louis fails to get either Harry or Niall.

“Oi,” says Louis, “hardly fair that there’s two of you against itty bitty me. Liam, love, some help please?”

Harry just laughs, breath warm and pleasant against Niall’s cheek, as Liam gets up and jumps into the pool, splashing water everywhere. And then it’s two against two, which evens the odds, but kind of not, as Liam actually fights dirty. He swims under the water and pulls at Niall’s shorts, which makes him shriek and kick.

“Oi, Nialler squeals like a girl, let’s get him Haz,” screams Louis, laughing and suddenly it’s Harry and Louis against Liam and Niall. If Niall thought Liam was fighting dirty before he was wrong, because Louis fights even dirtier by grabbing Liam and kissing him. Niall momentarily forgets all about the water fight, which sucks, because Harry is on him in no time, ducking him under the water quickly.

Niall crawls out of the pool, intending to dive-bomb (preferably making a good one that will hit Louis and Liam), but tanned arms sneak around his stomach and suddenly Zayn is holding Niall, his dry, warm chest pressing against Niall’s cold and wet back.

“Having fun?” asks Zayn. Niall tries to remove Zayn’s arms, but Zayn just tightens his hold and laughs.

“Get off me, ya cunt,” he says, squirming in Zayn’s tight hold, a choked of laugh leaving his lips. Zayn doesn’t let go. Just presses his chin into Niall’s shoulder, making Niall freeze, completely forgetting that he’s trying to get free so he can splash water all over the others.

“Zayn,” he says, though it comes out as a whine.

“Look,” says Zayn and Niall looks.

Niall feels weird watching Louis and Liam make out in the pool while Harry just glances up at Niall with this peculiar look, like he’s trying to figure out a way to get Niall away from Zayn so he can have someone to snog as well. And isn’t that just awkward, standing in the middle of four horny lads who’s trying to get it on without even caring that Niall is right there.

“I’m hungry,” he says; because that’s something they will always believe, as he’s known for eating a lot. Though this time it’s not true. Still, it works and Niall is able to detangle himself from Zayn’s arms as the grip around his middle loosens up enough for him to slip away. He feels cold without Zayn’s body pressed up against his own, but Zayn just looks at him for a second, sways on his feet a bit before jumping into the water in the shallow end, as he isn’t that fond of swimming like the rest of them.

Niall can hear Harry and Zayn playing around as he leaves the pool area, and just as he’s about to close the door behind him, he hears Louis and Liam getting into the water fight as well, loud voices laughing. He’s tempted to go back, feels kind of ridiculous really for running away like that, but then he turns and sees that they aren’t missing him. Also, he’s not going to be bathing in that pool again, because he’s fairly sure that he can see Louis’ red shorts on the edge of the pool without Louis wearing them.

*

They all have their own rooms, but it hardly comes as a surprise when he walks by one night, heading to the kitchen for a midnight snack, and finds the other rooms open, dark and empty except for Zayn’s room where the door is closed. He stops at the door, and presses his ear against it. He doesn’t know why he does it, but he can’t stop. He wants to hear what’s going on. He needs to know.

He can hear Zayn’s voice, but he can’t make out the words except for the distinct sound of moans. He takes a couple of steps back and just stares at the door. Then he heads down to the kitchen.

There’s not much to eat that doesn’t need to be cooked first, so he settles for some biscuits and a glass of milk. It seems vaguely juvenile to be eating this, but he doesn’t care.

An hour or so later, he can hear someone walking down the stairs. He hopes that they are heading for the living room or somewhere else, but he’s not that lucky.

Liam walks into the kitchen, only wearing his boxers and a t-shirt. He stops when he sees Niall, looking like he doesn’t know what to do.

Niall glances away, offering Liam the chance to head right back to where he came from. Liam doesn’t, though. He walks into the kitchen and takes a couple of water bottles from the fridge.

“Couldn’t sleep?” he asks, voice sounding rough. Niall can’t help but wonder why his voice is rough, if it’s from sleep, or from someone fucking his mouth. The last one is probably more likely, he thinks, and then he can’t help but wonder who did it. If Liam liked it, if he begged for it.

Niall coughs, choking on a piece of biscuit.

Liam walks closer to him, hand touching his shoulder gently. “You okay, mate?”

Niall wants to say no. Wants to see how Liam would react to that, but instead he finds himself saying, “Sure. Just can’t sleep.” A pause, then he adds, “Jetlag,” even though they have been in the States for a couple of days now.

“Babe, what’s taking so long?” Zayn enters the kitchen, eyes going immediately to Liam’s hand on Niall’s shoulder.

“Just talking to Niall,” says Liam. Niall looks away and tries not to feel hurt when Liam pulls his hand away. It stings; it really does, to know that they have something going on without him.

“I should go to bed,” he finally says, when the silence gets too much. Liam protests and even Zayn looks as though he wants to say something, but Niall moves quickly around them and takes the stairs two at a time. He closes his bedroom door behind him and leans against it for a couple of minutes. He can hear Liam and Zayn out in the hallway, talking quietly. Their door closes behind them and it’s not until he can no longer hear them that Niall realizes that he’s been holding his breath.

*

Niall wakes up with a killer headache, which is just all around bad timing as they’re filming their new music video today. He drinks a lot of water, takes a couple of pills, and hopes for the best.

His headache is still there when they get to the set, and for once, he’s not all that angry about not having too many front scenes. He just has to be in the background most of the time, which suits him, and his headache, just fine.

Harry though, for some reason, doesn’t like this and says when the shooting is almost done, “Niall is just as much a part of this band as the rest of us. He should have front scenes too.”

The crew, as well as Niall, just looks at Harry.

“It’s fine,” he says, when the crew looks at Niall like they want to kill him for ruining everything. Which he didn’t, thank you very much. Harry did.

“No, I agree with Harry,” says Louis, stepping up behind Harry, placing a hand on Harry’s shoulder. Niall looks at the two of them, and then looks at Liam and Zayn who are standing not that far away, also watching him.

“It’s fine, you guys,” he says, and actually means it. He’s gotten used to being in the background now. Sure, in the beginning it bothered him, but recently, he’s come to terms with how it is.

“Great,” says the producer and claps Niall’s shoulder a couple of times. “Because it would take hours to reshoot everything.”

And that’s the end of that discussion.

He heads to the changing rooms and manages to change his clothes before the others get there. He’s tying his left shoelace when they stumble in, and they stop talking. He can feel their eyes on him, knows that they are watching him.

“We were thinking of going out,” says Louis. “Wanna come with?”

Niall doesn’t even bother to point out that they're in the States and therefore not old enough to get served beer anywhere. Instead, he just says, “No. Got a headache. You guys have fun.”

He heads for the door and Zayn grabs his arm just as he passes him. Niall looks up, and Zayn just looks at him, eyes slightly narrowed and lips parted as though he wants to say something. He doesn’t though, and in the end, Niall just pulls his arm free and leaves.

The mansion is insanely quiet without the others there. He uses the time to check out his Twitter feed, but there are no questions that he feels like answering. He’s tempted to call his mum and tell her everything, but he feels as though he’d be betraying the others if he told anyone, even his mum, about their secret. It’s not like they’ve even told him, not properly anyway.

Finally, he decided on going to the gym. Working out might help him clear his head. He gets on the treadmill and runs. He runs until he can barely breathe and by the time he gets off, his legs ache as much as his head does. And his heart.

*

“Niall, can we talk?” asks Liam. Niall opens his eyes and glances at the clock. It’s half past three in the morning. He’s tired and his body is hurting and he kind of hates Liam right now for waking him up. He doesn’t say anything; he just sits up and looks at Liam.

“I just,” says Liam, walking closer to the bed and sits down. “I’m sorry we didn’t tell you back when we first started… seeing each other. We just didn’t know how to explain it, you know?”

Niall doesn’t say anything, and Liam looks briefly at him before breathing deeply. “We didn’t mean to hurt you. Or exclude you in any way. We just…”

“I’m fine,” he says, but they both know he’s lying. Niall hasn’t been fine in weeks, if not months. If it’d been any of the other guys, Niall might have gotten away with saying that, but Liam is different.

“Niall,” he says, and his voice sounds broken, like he’s about to cry or something. Which Liam has no right to, because if anyone deserves the right to cry, it’s Niall. Because they left him behind. Because they didn’t want him. Because they didn’t need him.

“Really, Liam. I’m okay,” he says, though his voice sounds flat and he’s far from okay. “You guys fell in love and I’m happy for you.”

The worst part is that he actually means it. He’s happy for them. They’re great guys and they deserve to be in love, even if it means that Niall got left out of it; even if it means that there was no room for him.

He wants to ask why they didn’t want him, too, but he’s not sure if he’s ready to hear the answer. To be honest, he’s not sure if he'll ever be ready to hear the answer.

“It’s not… we didn’t… err, thank you,” says Liam finally, sighing, sounding a tad relieved.

Niall expects to be allowed to go back to sleep now, but Liam just crawls into the bed and manages to curl himself around Niall before Niall even realizes what’s happening.

“Sleep,” says Liam. “Sorry I woke you.”

Niall tries to lie down again, properly, but it’s difficult with Liam curled around his body like that. He manages, though, but it still feels weird.

He turns his head and notices that Liam is looking at him.

“What?” he says, but Liam doesn’t answer. Just places a sweet kiss at the corner of his lips. Niall can smell beer, and he wonders if Liam only came to talk to him because he’s drunk, which makes everything just that much worse as Liam is practically never drunk.

“Kiss me,” says Liam, nudging at Niall’s jaw with his nose. “I want you to. It’s okay.”

And Niall is so tempted to do just that, to kiss Liam until he’s gasping for air, but he doesn’t. “No,” he says, resolutely. “I don’t think the others would like that.”

Liam just looks at him for the longest time, before nodding like he knows that Niall is right, and none of them mention the fact that Niall hadn’t said no because he didn’t want to.

“I think you should go back to your room,” he says. He doesn’t want to throw Liam out, but he can’t seem to breathe properly with Liam lying next to him. There was a time when they could all fall asleep on each other without it meaning anything. But everything is different now.

“Right,” is all Liam says, and then he’s gone and Niall is alone in his room again.

*

Niall has gotten used to sitting next to Paul when they’re travelling, so when Zayn sits next to him on the plane back home, and asks if he’s alright, Niall doesn’t know what to say.

The first two hours of the trip is spent in silence. Zayn spends most of it leaning over the armrest to talk to Harry, who’s sitting on the other side of the aisle, and Niall has spent those two hours looking out of the window. He can’t see anything except the sky, but he doesn't know where else to look. He can feel Zayn’s knee pressing against his own, and no matter how he moves his leg, Zayn’s just follows. It’s unnerving and he’s tempted to tell Zayn to please move the fuck away.

“Hafta pee,” he announces, and turns to Zayn, waiting for him to get up so Niall can get out. Zayn just looks at him, a tiny smirk gracing his lips as his eyes dares Niall to do something about it.

“Could you move, please,” he says, when Zayn remains seated. “Unless you want me to pee all over you, ya hafta fuckin’ move.”

He’s tired and exhausted and so not in the mood for Zayn to act as though he has no idea what’s wrong.

“Can’t you just climb over me?” asks Zayn, one eyebrow lifted as he glances at Niall.

Niall sighs and unbuckles himself. If he pees all over Zayn, well, that’s not his problem. He manages to climb over using the armrests to keep his balance. Zayn just grins and says, “See, wasn’t that hard.”

Harry laughs and even Louis is looking at him now, smiling.

“Wanker,” says Niall, his tone a bit harsher than normal. He knows what they are trying to do; knows that they are trying to act as if they are all the best of friends again, but it doesn’t work that way. Sure, it would be bloody great if everything was like it used to be, but Niall is not the same anymore. Somewhere along the way, he changed. With a final glance at Zayn, he heads off to the toilets. He spends way longer than he need to in there, washing his face and staring at himself in the mirror. His face is flushed red and he blames it on the air in the cramped bathroom.

He doesn’t go back to his seat right away, but to be honest, there aren’t that many places he can go. After standing about for a couple of minutes talking to one of the stewardesses, who smiles and nods whenever Niall says anything, he heads back. Zayn looks at him, still kind of smirking, and Niall rolls his eyes and tries to climb in. For some reason, getting back into his seat is harder than it was getting out of it. Zayn’s long, delicate fingers reach out to keep him steady, fingers digging into his hips, and Niall just looks at him, surprised.

“Don’t want you to fall,” says Zayn, and Niall just nods, eyes narrowing somewhat as he gazes at Zayn. He has a feeling that they are talking about something else, but he doesn’t know how to respond to that. With Zayn’s help, he manages to turn and get into his seat properly.

His fingers shake slightly as he tries to buckle himself up again, and in the end, Zayn reaches over and does it for him. He can see from the corner of his eye that Harry and Louis are leaning forward to look at him, but he ignores them. He ignores Zayn too, and he ignores Liam when he stops by next to Zayn on his way to the bathroom.

“Okay there, Niall?” asks Liam, and Niall just looks out the window again, feeling like a complete ass for acting that way towards Liam, who’s just trying to be nice.

The rest of the plane ride is awkward, and not even Zayn tries to talk to him anymore.

*

It’s the beginning of September and there’s less than a week to Niall’s birthday. Last year he spent it with the guys, but this year, he plans on going home. He misses his mum terribly and he’s fed up with trying to not to say anything wrong around the guys. You’d think that he was the one who had forgotten about them for ages; that he was the one who had wronged them.

“But we were thinking of throwing you a party like last year, mate,” says Louis, looking confused when Niall announces at the unofficial band meeting in Zayn’s apartment that he’ll be going home for his birthday.

“Yeah,” says Harry, smiling. “Wouldn’t be much of a party without the birthday boy there.”

Niall knows that he ought to laugh at the comment, that they all expect him to laugh like he would have a couple of months ago, but he doesn’t.

“Yeah, well,” he says and shrugs. “You managed to have a party without me last time, so I’m sure that you can have my birthday party without me being there, too.”

It comes out meaner than he wants to and he knows he’s being unreasonable considering that he still has the message from Louis in his inbox, but he’s already said it and it’s too late to take the words back.

“Fuck,” says Louis. “We didn’t plan on a party. It just sort of happened and we meant to call you… Actually, I think I texted you?” Louis looks at him suspiciously but Niall just looks away, neither confirming nor denying that he got the text. Judging from Louis’ look, when Niall finally looks back, Niall’s silence says it all. Thankfully, Louis doesn’t call him on it, just looks at him like he feels sad for Niall, which is almost worse.

Liam looks at him with wide eyes, cheeks flushed red with shame and even Harry has the decency to look ashamed. They sit in silence for a couple of minutes before Niall gets up from the chair and heads for the door.

He’s just about to open the door when Zayn’s fingers curl around Niall’s hand on the doorknob.

“Niall,” he whispers, voice broken against the back of Niall’s neck. “Don’t leave,” he breathes, a huff of warm air teasing the back of Niall’s neck as Zayn’s other arms sneaks around Niall’s middle, hand pressing against his stomach, keeping him steady. Niall allows himself to relax and lean back, mostly because he's always wondered how it would feel having Zayn hold him like he's seen him hold Liam, Harry, and even one time, Louis.

Zayn sighs loudly behind him, shifting closer and Niall has to close his eyes for a moment to clear his head.

“Don’t leave,” murmurs Zayn, again, and Niall knows what he has to do. He steps out of Zayn’s embrace, grabs the doorknob once more and opens the door.

“I think I need to go home,” he says, looking over his shoulder. Zayn’s arms are crossed over his chest as he watches Niall, and he can see Liam, Harry, and Louis peeking around the corner at them.

*

He spends the first day home with his mum, talking about everything and nothing at all. He doesn’t tell her anything specific, but she knows him so well – too well, perhaps – because she doesn’t even look at him weird when she says, “Boy troubles? Maybe with Zayn?”

He stares at her, eyes wide and not sure how he’s supposed to respond to that. Because how do you tell your mum that you might just be crushing on one of your band members, maybe even more than just one, but they are all in a relationship together of which you are not a part of even though you kind of wish you were. You don’t.

“You know,” he says, shrugging. “Just band troubles, really.”

She makes an uncommitted sound and gets him another cup of hot cocoa.

“Want to tell me more about your band troubles?” she asks, half an hour later, just when Niall thought that he’d be able to get away with not saying anything.

“I just. I just don’t feel like I’m, you know, part of them anymore.”

His mum just looks at him, like he’s grown a second head.

“What?” he asks, not liking the scrutinizing look she’s giving him.

“Don’t be daft,” she finally says. “I’ve seen the interviews, I’ve seen the YouTube clips. I’ve talked on the phone with you and actually, I once talked with Liam too. I even talk to their mothers occasionally, gossiping about you guys and the latest news from your tours. They care about you and they want you as part of the group. You complete One Direction. They’d just be Direction without you. Or One Direct, your choice.”

“You’re nuts,” he tells her, laughing, and she smacks the back of his head, smiling.

*

He spends the second, third and fourth day back home going through YouTube clips over and over again, looking at their old interviews and fan moments and concerts that people have filmed and shared with their friends. He spends hours just looking, observing himself interact with the others and more importantly, how the others interact with him.

It’s unnerving to see Harry and Louis joke around, or the way that Zayn and Liam look at each other. For a moment it hurts so much that he forgets what he’s even looking for, which is trying to pinpoint when things changed. He can’t though, because judging from the concerts clips, nothing has changed. He’s standing maybe a bit further away from the others at times, fiddling with his guitar, but that’s all normal. He didn’t even know at the time what was going on. He checks the date of the videos, just to make sure, but it’s true. Most of the videos are from before he found out.

The interviews are pretty much the same. He laughs too much at everything, sounding weird and childish and he cringes at the way he nearly doubles over even though the comment hadn’t even been all that funny to begin with. It’s odd watching himself like that, but what’s even more odd is that at no point does it really looks like he’s been excluded from the band. Not even the interview where he was told to sit on the chair because the couch was too small for five lads.

*

He spends his nineteenth birthday getting completely wasted with his friends from back home. He drinks until he practically falls over, and then he drinks some more.

His phone vibrates in his pocket, and he answers without really looking at the screen to see who it is.

“Hello,” he says, laughing as someone tickles his side before grabbing his drink from the table. “Oi, that’s mine. I’m the birthday boy,” he says, trying to get it back, nearly falling down from the chair as he tries to reach for his bottle.

“Happy birthday, Nialler,” says the voice on the phone and Niall forgets all about his drink.

“Liam?” he asks, and checks his screen just to make sure. A picture of Liam’s face shows on the screen.

“Yeah. I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday, or rather, we all did. The others are here too,” Liam says, and he can faintly hear their voices saying happy birthday to him.

“Thank you,” he says, oddly surprised and touched.

“Is it okay if I call you tomorrow, so we can talk properly?” asks Liam, and before he even knows what’s happening, he hears himself agreeing to it. He blames the alcohol. Liam, however, sounds happy.

He tries to have fun after, but the call from Liam put a damper on things, and he’s slowly dreading tomorrow.

Still, he tries. And after hours more of just having fun with his friends, he feels better again. The thing he loves the best about his friends from home is that they don’t give a rat’s arse if he’s famous or not. If anything, they just think that he should buy them more drinks, which he tries to tell them is a shitty deal for him seeing as he’s the birthday boy and therefore shouldn’t need to buy anything at all.

He ends up buying most of the drinks anyway, no matter how much he tries to talk his way out of it, and he doesn’t even really mind. He throws in a couple of rude comments, because he can and it’s how he talks, and they just laugh and throws worse back at him. He loves his friends, and for the first time in weeks, he feels like himself again; he feels normal, feels like a normal teen, though now that he’s nineteen, he doesn’t really consider himself as a teen anymore.

*

He’s severely hung-over when Liam calls the next day. Niall groans and breathes deeply before picking up the phone.

“‘Sup?” he says, trying his best not to puke all over his sheets. His mum would kill him, plus, it would be completely disgusting and he’d be forced to get up which he’s in no state to do at the moment.

“Hi Niall,” says Liam, sounding amused. Niall just stares at the phone in his hand before he remembers that he had agreed to talk to Liam the day before.

“Kill me,” he says into the phone, his mouth completely dry and his breath foul tasting.

“Had too much to drink last night?” asks Liam, chuckling slightly. Niall would roll his eyes at the comment if he didn’t feel this sick right now, but instead he just groans, and Liam continues talking, “I know you’re tired and hung-over. So please, just listen, yeah? I hope you had a great birthday.”

Niall might have dozed off for a couple of seconds, so he’s not sure how much of Liam’s speech he’s missed when Liam ends the monolog by saying, “We missed you. I missed you. I have a present for you back here for when you come back. When do you reckon that will be?”

“Mm,” he says, trying to focus. “I’m sick, Liam,” he just says instead. “Dying, from alcohol poisoning. I’m sure of it.” And then he remembers all the times when he’s been hung-over that Liam has been there for him, pushing his hair away from his forehead with a wet cloth as Niall reacquaints himself with the toilet over and over again, chiding him for drinking too much, yet sounding all affectionate at the same time.

“I miss you, Liam,” he admits, whispering the words slightly into the phone but mostly into his pillow.

“Niall?” says Liam, sounding far away, way too far away for Niall’s liking. “I can’t hear you. You have to put the phone to your mouth, love.”

“I said that I’ll be home the day after tomorrow,” he finally says, not sure he wants to repeat his half-drunken confession any time soon. They talk some more, Liam making Niall tell him everything he did for his birthday, from what he got for breakfast to how he got home being as drunk as he was. He vaguely remembers a wheelbarrow and something about climbing a tree.

By the time Niall’s finished, he catches himself smiling like an idiot. His mouth is still dry, even more so now from all the talking, but he feels better.

“See you the day after tomorrow?” asks Liam, and Niall doesn’t even have to think about the answer before he says, “Yes.”

*

Zayn’s sitting outside Niall’s front door when he gets home, pressing away on the buttons of his phone, without doubt texting someone – probably Harry, Louis or Liam, Niall thinks – before he looks up and sees Niall standing in front of him.

“Howya,” Niall says, head tilting to the side as he looks curiously at Zayn. Zayn gets up, towering just a couple of inches over Niall and smirks, which makes Niall blush as he recalls that moment they had shared just before he left a week ago.

Zayn grabs Niall’s keys from his hand and opens the door for him. Niall, puzzled to see Zayn waiting for him, just walks in, looking over his shoulder to see if Zayn’s following him. Which he does, of course. Would be kind of weird if Zayn just opened the door and left after having waited for Niall to show up.

“I missed you,” says Zayn, biting into his lower lip, suddenly looking a bit nervous. Niall watches the movement, eyes tracking the way his teeth nibble on the plump flesh. He clears his throat.

“Yeah?” he turns away, intending to go put his bag in the bedroom, but Zayn’s arms stop him as they sneak around his middle, cuddling Niall from behind like he’d done just last week, and like that time at the pool Niall remembers. Zayn smells like cigarettes and like the cologne Niall knows Harry uses.

“Of course, you dimwit,” says Zayn, sounding like Niall is the crazy one here, which he totally isn’t, thank you very much, which he tries to tell Zayn but Zayn just shushes at him.

Zayn finally lets him go and Niall uses the opportunity to grab his things and go place them in the bedroom. He’s expecting to get a couple of moments of peace so he can think, but Zayn just trudges after him, leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest while he watches Niall turn around in the room.

“Um,” he says, and gives up on trying to put his stuff in the drawers. Zayn watching him is decidedly distracting and Niall forgets where half of his things are supposed to go. “Right, I’m just gonna do this later,” he mumbles.

Zayn follows him into the living room, sitting down on the couch and petting the space between him. Niall just looks and blinks.

“Sit here,” says Zayn, an amused smile gracing his lips.

Niall thinks about questioning it, but instead decides to do as told. The entire atmosphere in the room feels weird right now, and he can’t decide how he should feel. It doesn’t help with his awkwardness when Zayn puts his arm around Niall’s shoulders and pulls him close.

He feels as though he’s missed something vital here. Like, when did Zayn decide to hug him like this? Because they have certainly never been this close before, have they? Niall tries to think; tries to see if he can remember a time when they’ve been touching like this, but then Zayn’s hand starts rubbing his arm and he forgets how to think, let alone how to breathe properly.

“Um,” he says, again.

Zayn phones rings, and Niall can see from the screen that it’s Louis calling. Zayn answers, and Niall tries not to listen, he really does, but it’s so hard when they’re sitting this close.

“I’ll ask,” says Zayn and looks at Niall, “They want to know if you want to come over and get your presents now? Harry will make us some dinner.”

Niall kind of wants to say no. He’s good where he is with Zayn’s arm around him, but then he thinks of his conversation with Liam and how good it had felt to finally be able to talk without constantly thinking about how (and why) five turned to four plus one.

“Right?” he says, though it comes out more like a question. Zayn just smiles, hand squeezing Niall’s shoulder, and tells Louis that they will be over soon.

In the end, Niall convinces Zayn to go ahead as he needs to shower after travelling. Zayn just looks at him for the longest time, making Niall blush.

“You’ll be there, right? Not backing out now?” Zayn asks, and Niall promises that he'll show up.

*

Standing outside of Harry and Louis’ apartment is nerve-wracking. Last time Niall was this nervous was when he was standing in line for the X Factor audition. It’s been weeks since he last talked to Harry and Louis properly, and though he’s talked with both Zayn and Liam, he’s still dreading facing them as well.

He knocks, though, quickly before he chickens out and runs back home. Louis is the one who opens the door, and before Niall even gets a chance to give a proper greeting, he’s pulled in close and hugged until he can barely breathe.

“Air,” he says. “Oi, you muppet, I need air,” he says, laughing. Louis laughs too, but doesn’t ease his grip on Niall until Harry comes and manages to squeeze his way in between them, making Louis’ arms drop as Harry’s arms sneaks around Niall instead.

“Maybe you could do this inside instead of out in the hallway where everyone who walks by could see you?” asks Liam, looking at them with a fond smile.

Harry guides Niall inside the apartment, leading him towards the couches and pushes him down into the first. Niall half expects the scenario from last time, where he had a couch alone and the others shared one, but Harry sits down next to him, and Louis quickly takes the seat on Niall’s other side.

It’s still awkward, but it’s not until he notices how wary they look at him – like they are afraid that he’s going to break or worse: run – that he realizes that he’s the one who needs to fix things between them.

Taking a deep breath, he tries to figure out how to he wants to start with his apology (because he knows that he probably owes them an apology as much as they owe him one).

“Presents?” asks Liam, sounding nervous and Niall offers him a smile, big and wide.

“Before,” he says, folding his hands in his lap, not sure who he’s supposed to look at, “Before we start with the presents, I have something I want to say.”

“This isn’t a goodbye talk, is it?” asks Harry, voice all quiet and so unlike Harry. Niall laughs and just shakes his head.

“No, I just wanted to apologize, really. I mean… I wish ya guys could have trusted me to keep your secret. We’re mates, after all. Best of mates, and I love ya, and I admit that it hurt finding out the way I did. But being home made me realize that I’m not entirely without blame too, otherwise ya wouldn’t have needed to hide it from me.”

“Mate,” says Louis, and Niall wishes that he hadn’t looked at him, because Louis has these big puppy eyes that Niall can’t deal with right now. “You don’t have to apologize at all. We got too wrapped up in ourselves that we… lost sight of what was important, which is this band. And the band includes all of us, not just the four of us.”

Silence.

Niall looks around, finally daring to meet their gazes and what he sees blows his mind. They look just as wrecked as he does.

“How about those presents now?” says Liam, smiling apprehensively, and Niall is grateful for the fact that he’s trying to lead the conversation in another direction, as it was starting to get maybe a bit too much. He nods, rubs his hands together and tries to get excited for presents.

“Actually, I think we need to talk this through,” interrupts Zayn, getting up from the other couch and sits on the table right in front of Niall. “We should have done this ages ago, like I suggested, and I’m tired of beating around the bush.”

Liam makes a move forward and puts a hand on Zayn’s shoulder, clearly intending to stop Zayn from saying whatever it is he’s about to say. Zayn just shrugs the hand off.

“Listen,” says Zayn, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees, “we should have told you back when we first started. But everything was so confusing and for a long time, we – well, I didn’t – know what to say or how to explain it to you. It happened one night when we were out. You were hanging out with your relatives, Liam was back at the hotel and Harry, Louis and me got a couple of drinks too much. We were just fooling around, really, but then it turned into a rather extensively long make out session. Liam found us and well, at the time it seemed like a good idea to jump his bones and kiss him silly.”

Niall just stares, mouth hanging open, because he vaguely recalls that night he had returned home from spending the day with relatives to find the room he shared with Zayn empty. He hadn’t thought much of it at the time, but he can’t help but wonder now what would have happened if he had gone searching for the others instead of heading to bed.

“Waking up the day after was just embarrassing all around. But then it just sort of happened again a couple of weeks later, and we didn’t intentionally wait for you to leave, it just happened again. I think it started with a very drunken spin the bottle game that time,” continues Zayn, looking solemn, “and you were sick that night. Food poisoning, remember?”

Niall looks at the others and he can see Harry smiling as if he remembers that day fondly. All Niall remembers is that for at least an hour he thought he was going to die until the doctor declared it a mild case of food poisoning and that he’d feel better in the morning.

“What Zayn’s trying to say is,” says Liam, sitting next to Zayn on the table, his knee bumping against Zayn’s. “Our plan was always to ask you to join us.”

Niall snorts, surprised. They definitely could have fooled him.

“No, really,” says Harry. "All those times we fooled around in front of you was really to see how you’d react. To find out if you’d be interested. Why do you think Zayn always pushed us up against the walls next to you, seriously, mate.”

“I even asked you to kiss me, but you turned me down,” says Liam, voice no louder than a whisper. The others look surprised at Liam, then at Niall. Apparently they hadn’t known about what Liam had offered that night, and to be perfectly honest, Niall didn't remember it either.

“Yeah, well,” says Niall. "You were drunk and I knew ya guys were all together and I didn’t want to ruin things for you.”

“Oi, Nialler, mate, I didn’t know you were this noble. I could kiss you right now,” says Louis, jokingly, but Niall still freezes, eyes wide.

“Um,” he says, hand reaching up to scratch the back of his neck.

“Question is though, Nialler. Do you want Louis to kiss you?” asks Harry, suddenly sounding way more serious than Niall has ever heard him before. He swallows, confused and so bloody nervous that it’s not even funny.

“I, well, I… I don’t know,” he finally says, honestly. Part of him wants to, yet the other part isn’t so sure. He’s always been attracted to Zayn and Liam, but he’s never thought of Harry or Louis in that way. Not that he don’t find them appealing, he’s just never allowed himself to look at them like that. Maybe because he’s never really thought the possibility was there in regards to those two.

“What about Harry?” asks Zayn, eyebrows lifted as he waits for Niall to answer the question.

“Same as with Louis. I don’t really know. Haven’t given it any thought.” Harry is an attractive fellow, just as Louis is, and Niall supposes that if he had to kiss either of them, he probably wouldn’t mind it all too much.

“And Liam?”

Niall looks at Zayn, silently begging him to not go there. But Zayn just tilts his head to side, gesturing with his hand for Niall to answer. Niall just shrugs. Then nods, once. Because there have been moments where he’s definitely wanted to lay one on Liam. Liam coughs and Niall looks at him, embarrassed. Liam looks kind of embarrassed too, though, which Niall isn’t so sure how he should feel about as a minute ago they had been talking about Liam asking Niall to kiss him that one time during their stay in the States.

“And me?”

Niall blushes and he’s just about ready to go dig a hole in someone’s front yard and climb into it, and preferably disappear forever. However, the nearest place around here to dig holes would probably be the park, which is unfortunately ten minutes away. So that’s not really an option. Instead, he does the second best thing and hides his face in his hands, pressing his palms against his flushed cheeks and hopes a bolt of lightning will strike him.

“Err,” he says, behind his hands. Gentle fingers start prying his hands away from his face. He resists at first, but whoever – oh, it’s Harry – has pretty strong hands. And soft. And kind of feminine. Niall looks down at the fingers wrapped around his own, and part of him is happy that Harry is not letting go.

“Go on, Nialler, tell our Zayn here what you think about locking lips with him,” says Louis, sounding far too amused.

“Yeah, Niall,” adds Harry, “tells us.”

“Well, I suppose,” he says, daring a glance in Zayn’s direction. “I suppose, um, that I wouldn’t mind it too terribly. If you kissed me that is,” he adds, looking at Zayn, a surge of boldness going through his body. Harry's giving his hands a light squeeze, which Niall translates into ‘everything is going to be okay’. Zayn’s smirk widens, until Niall can see perfect white teeth flashing at him. He looks at Zayn’s mouth, captivated by the sight and he can’t help but thinking about how it would feel to kiss Zayn. Right here, right now, in front of the others.

“The thing is,” continues Zayn, and Niall’s heart drops, because of course Zayn’s not interested. “The things is,” repeats Zayn, looking curiously at Niall, like he knows what Niall is thinking. “I’d really fucking love to push you up against that wall over there and kiss you silly, but this is a package deal. A good deal, if you ask me. Buy one and get three for free basically. But you need to want it too; you need to want all of us. Yeah?”

Niall thinks about it, though he already knows deep down what his answer is going to be. Still, he considers his options. He could turn down the offer to join them, and life could go on as it was before, with him on the sideline. Or, he could agree and become closer to his band members. He could be with Zayn and Liam. And – he looks at Harry and Louis – he could be with these two as well. He loves Harry and Louis. Granted, he’s never thought of them in that way, but they are definitely appealing and sexy and Niall can already imagine tugging at Harry’s curls as he kisses him.

“Are you sure you guys want this? Because I really don’t wanna ruin things for you, or worse, only have you offer this because you feel sorry for me. Seriously, I don’t think I could handle that if that’s the case, ya know?” he asks. One thing is to hear Zayn saying it, but he needs to know that the others are on the same page.

Slender yet strong fingers grab his chin, forcing Niall to look at Louis who stares at him for the longest time ever. Niall can feel himself flushing under Louis gaze and he tries to move his head, but Louis’ fingers dig into his flesh, not painfully but firm. Niall kind of likes it. Louis has a very domineering personality and it’s easy to just fall in line and do what Louis wants.

“Kiss me,” says Louis, looking serious. Niall automatically looks down at Louis’ lips. “Don’t think, just kiss me,” says Louis, quietly, almost like a whisper. Niall leans forward and kisses Louis, planting an awkward kiss on soft lips quickly, before pulling away again. Louis just grins and gives Niall a look like ‘is that the best you can do?’ so Niall leans in again, pressing his lips harder against Louis’. Niall’s always been told he’s a good kisser by the girls he’s made out with (a couple of girls from home and some from the tours), so he’s determined to make Louis think that too.

“Me now,” says Harry, grabbing the back of Niall’s neck, making Niall move away from Louis. Before Niall gets a chance to even think about it, Louis’ lips have been replaced with Harry’s wet, soft ones. Harry is an amazing kisser and he can’t help but let out an embarrassing moan into Harry’s mouth.

Louis laughs though and pets Niall’s hair as Harry continues to devour Niall’s mouth, and fuck. Niall’s never considered being together with either of those two before, but right now he wouldn’t mind getting naked with them.

“Okay?” asks Zayn when Harry finally lets go of Niall. Niall just nods – too dazed and out of breath to answer – but Zayn apparently doesn’t mind because he just smirks at Niall and reaches out to pet Niall’s red cheek.

“You blush so prettily,” says Zayn. Niall would be offended that Zayn called him pretty (because men are not pretty but handsome), but he’s not. Because Zayn looks like he wants Niall, like he wants to lick Niall all over.

Liam takes Niall’s hands in his and makes Niall stand up, and fuck, Niall’s never really thought about it but Liam has big hands. The back of his legs bump against the couch and he can feel Harry and Louis’ knees touch the sides of his legs just so. Liam’s kiss is soft and sweet as he licks into Niall’s mouth. Niall’s breath hitches in the back of his throat. He’s never been kissed like this before; like he matters and that he’s cherished.

Zayn’s the last one to kiss him, big, strong hands grabbing Niall’s head, palms pressing against Niall’s flushed cheeks as he looks right into Niall’s eyes. He tries to lower his gaze but then he sees Zayn’s mouth and fuck. He tries to move forward, but Zayn doesn’t let him.

“Kiss me,” demands Niall, a slight desperate edge to his voice. “Zayn.”

Zayn walks Niall backwards, guides him slowly through the room, around the couches and table until Niall’s back hits the wall. He lets out a small sound, surprised as his bum touches the wall. But he knows what’s coming. Has seen it happened to Harry, Liam and Louis, and the mere thought of being able to experience it first hand soon makes him smile.

“Yeah,” says Zayn, and leans in. Niall tries to move his head; tries to participate, but Zayn’s hands are still holding his head still, and Niall quickly gets what Zayn wants: control. So Niall lets Zayn set the pace (even if he wishes that it would be harder and faster and more touching in general) and arches into Zayn’s body.

“You’re ours now,” says Louis, suddenly appearing next to Niall, looking with big, dark eyes as Zayn licks across the seam of Niall’s lips. Niall groans, desperate for something. A hand sneaks in between his and Zayn’s bodies, reaching under his shirt and scrapes over his stomach with blunt nails. Harry, Niall realizes when he sees Harry leaning against Zayn’s back, arms around Zayn’s middle and chin resting on Zayn’s shoulder.

“Yes,” he says, when Zayn finally lets him up for air. “And you’re mine now,” he adds, boldly.

Zayn and Harry just smile at him, and he can see from the corner of his eye that Liam and Louis are now kissing.

“My turn now,” says Harry, grinning and Niall can’t help but laugh as Zayn steals a kiss from Harry before stepping back to give Harry room to move in between them.

 

fin.