Chapter 1: let me down easy
Zayn wakes up at twenty til seven. He knows it’s early, that he could be sleeping and that he still has half an hour before he has to get up and get both him and his son ready for the day, but he’s not tired. He should be, what with him staying up a few hours past his normal bedtime. He’s not a child, and Zayn appreciates the fact that he can stay up for as long as he wants, but it’s become routine. He’s used to waking up every morning to the sound of his alarm clock. It goes off at seven thirty every morning and once he shuts it off, he gets out of bed, takes a quick shower and gets dressed before he wakes his son up for school.
But today is different. The only reason he had stayed up past midnight was because of the bills. Zayn had sorted them into three different piles: bills he’d paid off, bills that he hadn’t gotten around to paying yet but knows it should be at the top of his to-do list and lastly, bills he could probably get away with paying a few days late. After that was done, Zayn realized there wasn't much else he could do, so he opted for the warmth of his bed, knowing those flimsy pieces of paper that demanded so much from him would still be there in the morning.
So now Zayn finds himself staring at the cracked ceiling of his bedroom wondering when something in his life will change. He understands that the schedule he constantly despises is one of his own doing, but it wasn’t as if life was giving him any other options either. He’d only been a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday when he found out that he was going to be a father, and while at first he wanted nothing to do with the baby, his mother convinced him otherwise. If there was one thing his mother was good for, it was telling him that he’d regret not meeting his son the day he was born. From there, it was his own decision on whether or not he wanted to be a part of the little boy’s life.
He recalls the first day he held him, his son swaddled in a light blue blanket, face scrunched up and red from crying. Zayn was glad he’d been sitting down because when the baby he was holding opened his eyes, Zayn knew he was gone. He knew that there was no way in hell he’d be able to walk out of his son’s life and that revelation in itself was enough to knock him off his feet had he been standing. From there on out, Zayn had done what he could to provide for the little boy by taking up any job he could get his hands on. His mother had helped him out, claiming it was nice to have someone else in the house besides the two of them.
Seven years later, and Zayn is pushing twenty –six. Although the jobs had changed, life was the same - make sure he had enough income to take care of his little boy. That was fine though; Zayn knows better than to complain because honestly, he doesn't regret his son, no matter how shitty the situation was when he came into the world. Zayn knows that Ryan is his world and that is something he doesn't allow himself to think twice about.
Shifting around, Zayn sits up in bed. He figures if his thoughts are too much for him to handle this early in the morning, then he might as well get a head start on the day. He makes sure the alarm is turned off because really, there is no reason to leave it on now that he’s up, and he makes his way into the kitchen, which in all honesty is not really a kitchen at all; it just sits oddly within the living room.
He decides to make breakfast. Normally he’d fix Ryan and himself a bowl of cereal just before they’d rush out of the apartment, but today he needs to do something different, change up the morning routine so that he can at least say today was different than any other day. It’s not a significant deviation, but all the same, it’ll make him feel better.
He chooses to make eggs and toast. It’s easy enough; just crack open the egg, fry it and make sure the bread doesn’t sit in the toaster for longer than it needs to. Simple. And so he does just that.
When breakfast is cooked, Zayn sets both plates on the table and heads back down the small, slightly claustrophobic hallway into the second room of the apartment, which is adjacent to his own. He stands in the doorway for a moment or two and watches as his son sleeps peaceful, completely unaware of his surroundings.
Memories flood Zayn’s mind, back to a time when Ryan was just an infant. He’d been a quiet baby, almost too quiet for Zayn’s liking. He’d heard too many stories about babies passing away in their sleep, and no one had known until the next morning, and although Zayn figured that the chances of that happening to Ryan were about as slim as him winning the lottery, it didn’t stop him from worrying. The doctor had assured him more times than he could count that his son was normal and healthy.
Zayn knew he’d never stop worrying, regardless of what anyone else said or told him otherwise.
Walking across the carpeted floor, Zayn reaches the side of the bed and sits down. He places a hand on his son’s shoulder and carefully shakes him, attempting to wake him up.
“Hey, time to get up,” he whispers softly.
Ryan groans and swats his hand away. “No, I wanna sleep,” he mumbles. The kid rolls over onto his side, his back facing his father in a lame attempt to prove that there is no need for him to get up at this very moment.
A smile makes its way across Zayn’s face. He remembers all too well the horrors of being a kid forced to wake up at an unacceptable time in order to go to a school he really didn’t want to attend in the first place.
“Sorry buddy, but you have to. Plus, your breakfast is getting cold.”
At that, Ryan sits up and rubs his face with his hands before blinking bleary eyes at his father.
“Yes, breakfast. I managed to put something together. So, if you’re willing to get up and get dressed for me, you can join me in the kitchen.” Ryan nods before he gets out of bed and makes his way to his dresser. Zayn trusts him enough to pick out his own clothes without having to worry about whether they’re going to match or not. The first few times that happened, Zayn was reluctant to tell the boy to change because he knew the importance of being oneself. Although Ryan was only eight, and most likely did not care about those little things that set him apart from the rest of the world, Zayn wanted his son to have a better time at school than he did and if it meant that Zayn had to be a little strict on whether his son could wear plaid and stripes together, then by all means that was okay with him. Ryan would only thank him later on in life.
Zayn leaves his son to get dressed and goes back to the kitchen. He sits at the table and it’s not long before Ryan’s stumbling into the kitchen, clearly still trying to wake himself up. When he sits at the table though, his entire demeanor changes to one of pure delight. Zayn’s already eating now, but he knows that Ryan will finish before him.
“You’re going to have to stop hanging around Niall. You’re turning into him, eating the food the way you are.” Zayn smirks at Ryan, letting him know he’s only joking. The little boy grins but continues to wolf down his food, almost too quickly for Zayn’s liking. He motions for the boy to slow down, and he does so reluctantly; it’s as if he doesn’t hurry and eat, the food will disappear on its own. Which is highly unlikely, Zayn thinks.
They finish up breakfast, leaving the dirty plates in the sink and Ryan in front of the TV watching cartoons while Zayn gets ready for the day. He takes a shower, doesn’t bother shaving, and slips on jeans and a shirt. The only thing to be grateful about his job aside from the paycheck - if you could even call it that - was the fact that he could come into work dressed however he wanted and change into the uniform at the hotel. It’d be bloody awful if he had to walk the streets dressed as a maid – which consisted of different clothing than the typical outfits the women were meant to wear, mind you.
When Zayn is done getting ready, he heads back into the living room and tells Ryan it’s time to leave. He makes sure they have everything they need, including their coats, before they leave their home and begin their day.
“I’m nervous,” Ryan says.
His son is looking out of the bus window, and Zayn nudges him to get his attention.
“What for?” he asks.
Ryan looks down and shrugs.
“Come on now, you’ve got to tell me what’s the matter, otherwise I can’t help,” Zayn reassures his son. If there was one thing he could say that was the most frustrating about the boy, it was the fact that he didn’t express his feelings so openly. Zayn had to pry information out of him just to understand what the boy was feeling. Then again, Zayn was the same way and couldn’t really blame Ryan for taking on that less than favorable quality.
“About later,” the boy begins, “I’m nervous about my speech. I don’t think I can do it.”
Before Zayn can reply, the bus comes to a stop, their stop, and he takes his son’s hand and leads him off the bus. When they’re on the sidewalk walking towards the school, Zayn wraps an arm around the boy's shoulders and draws him in to his side.
“It’s normal to be nervous, Ryan. Trust me, I know that feeling. But I’ve heard your speech; you've even let me help you practice.”
With a few more steps they’re in front of the school, and before Zayn lets his son go into the building, he drops down on his haunches and looks him in the eye.
“I’m not gonna lie, alright? You’ll probably still be nervous no matter what I tell you, but if you tell yourself that you can do it, I know you can,” Zayn pauses, knowing that he’s never been good at pep talks. He usually leaves that up to Niall. “Plus, your grandmother and I will be there, so if you find yourself overwhelmed, then you just look for us, okay?”
Ryan nods, looking slightly better than he did moments ago. Zayn can still see the fear in his eyes, but he gives him a big smile and the boy returns it, hugging Zayn before whispering love you and see you later, and then he’s off, running into the school without a second glance back.
Something in Zayn’s chest aches. Not only is his son growing up, but he also feels like he completely let his child down by not encouraging him enough.
Sighing, he walks back to the bus stop so he can get to work on time.
When Zayn arrives at the hotel, he clocks in, collects his uniform and IDs and then heads into the designated locker room to change. The place is dingy and filled with lockers, of course, each one assigned to different employees that work at the hotel so there’s a place to put any extra belongings they bring into work. He opens his up and begins to strip off his jacket and shirt when he hears footsteps, possibly belonging to a co-worker, approaching the room, which he promptly ignores.
That is, until he hears that unmistakable Irish accent.
“Oi, what’re you doing here early?”
Zayn turns his head to acknowledge the blonde. “Woke up early.”
Niall’s eyebrows shoot back into his hairline.
“Really?” he draws out, not believing what his friend is telling him.
“Yes, really. I’m just as surprised as you are,” Zayn mutters. He turns back to his locker and continues to strip down until he’s only in his boxers and an undershirt. He hears Niall moving again, most likely to his own locker to get ready, probably having realized he was blocking the entrance to the room.
Zayn works on sliding into the dull grey pants and button up shirt the hotel had decided that all cleaning personal should wear. The outfit is really rather tragic, and he often wonders if someone deliberately chose it so that the hotel guests could have a good laugh if they were ever in a horrible mood. At least Niall’s get-up wasn’t too bad. Butlers wore black slacks, a white dress shirt and a deep green suite jacket.
When he’s done dressing, he sits down on the bench that rests just in front of the lockers and faces Niall, who’s already dressed for work and is currently stuffing the rest of his clothing into his locker. Zayn can hear a few cuss words come from the other mans mouth, and he smirks and shakes his head at how difficult Niall makes things for himself.
“Doya need some help there, mate?” Zayn questions.
“Piss off,” Niall replies back. He finally manages to shove everything into the locker and quickly slams the thing shut before anything else can escape. Huffing, Niall takes a seat on the opposite bench to put his shoes on too.
“So, I hear they’re replacing the assistant manager.”
Zayn looks up, and Niall is staring at him. He’s got one shoe on his foot and the other in his hand.
“Yeah, alright. So?” Zayn knows he’s not going to like this conversation. He slips both shoes on before he bends down to tie them, trying hard not to look at his friends face. If he knows Niall, which he does, this conversation will last longer than any of them would really like. He wouldn’t be surprised if his friend bothered him about it throughout the rest of the day. Niall has a good heart. He cares and that’s why Zayn had been friends with him since childhood, but sometimes that kindness tended to over exert itself into a kind of annoying, bothersome, won’t-leave-you-alone-until-I-have-an-answer Niall.
“So?” His friends face scrunches up in disbelief, like he can’t believe Zayn isn’t curious about what’s going at work. “It means they’re going to have to hire someone else for the job. And if they’re hiring someone for the job, that means they need people to apply, which also means they could end up hiring one of us…,” Niall pauses, and Zayn stays quite, knowing not to interrupt when his friend is thinking. “Well actually, they’d be promoting one of us, but anyway, it means they could hire someone who already works here, especially someone who’s worked here for several months and knows exactly what the hell they’re doing.”
Niall takes a deep breath to get over his long winded, semi-excited spiel and motions for Zayn to add something to the conversation. Impatient as always.
“You want to apply for assistant manager?” Zayn says, sheepishly. He understands where Niall is coming from and has a good idea what the other male is trying to pry out of him, but Zayn isn’t in the mood to be thinking about the future, especially now. Sure, he’s complained that things are too status quo for his liking, but that doesn’t mean he needs to get his hopes up about a potential job that Niall only overheard management might be hiring for.
Niall’s face falls into one of annoyance before he rolls his eyes.
“No, dumbass. You! You should apply.”
Niall’s pointing at him now. Zayn just smacks his hand away and shakes his head.
“What? Why not? You’ve mentioned plenty of times how awesome it would be if you were able to move up into management. Now the opportunity's come along and you’re refusing?”
They’ve both got their shoes tied now and their clothes on, ready, but not wanting to work. Zayn stands up and closes his locker. He turns around and leans against it before he replies, “Look, it’s not that I wouldn’t want the job, because I could use the money, and it’d be nice not to have to clean hotel rooms for a living. But you even said it yourself; you only heard that they might be hiring.” Zayn stops and looks at his feet, trying to gather his thoughts before looking back up at Niall. “Even if the position is open, and even if they do end up having people apply for the job, I don’t think it’d be in my best interest to do so.”
Niall opens his mouth to say something, but Zayn waves his hand, letting him know he’s not finished.
“I’m just a hotel maid, Niall. They’re not going to want to hire me to take over a position like that.”
Zayn shrugs his shoulders casually like it's not that big of a deal, and in an attempt to keep Niall from commenting further, he begins walking out of the room towards the break room where the rest of the staff have their morning meetings before they begin their day. Niall jumps up from the bench and follows Zayn, stepping into place right by his side.
The walk towards the room is silent, and Zayn can only be thankful that Niall hasn't tried to argue with him further. He knows that the blonde disagree's with his previous statement because that is just Niall - believing in the best of everyone, even someone like Zayn, who thinks so low of himself to begin with.
He figured he thought too soon though when Niall stopped him just outside of the break room.
“I think you’re wrong,” he said, looking at Zayn with a look of disapproval, before pushing open the door and leaving him out in the hallway, alone with his thoughts.
The entire staff is huddled into one large half circle, talking amongst themselves while waiting for management to arrive. Niall, although a butler, chooses to stand beside Zayn with the rest of the maids and away from the others in green suites. Zayn recalls a few comments from his friend stating that most of the butlers were twats and only bragged about which celebrities they had tended to during their stay. It was like a contest to see who had the bigger dick, as Niall so eloquently compared it to.
A nudge to his side pulls him out of his thoughts, and Zayn glances to his right.
“You’re still leaving early, yeah?” Niall asks.
“Around three o’clock. Ryan’s got his presentation about Presidents,” Zayn answers. He’s relieved that at least for now, Niall has given up on the topic of jobs and isn’t looking at him like he’s done something wrong. “Remember when I asked you if you’d come because it’d be great support for him, and you came up with that excuse that you had to take over my shift?”
“I wasn’t lying,” Niall states hesitantly. “I may not be covering your shift entirely, but I know they’re going to make me find another maid to cover for you, which means I’ve got to stay behind and make sure the job gets done, no thanks to you.” Niall’s grinning now, obviously not that pissed about working late. “I’d be there if I could, ya know.”
Zayn nods. He knows it’s true. Niall had been with Zayn through everything, even when things were tough, and Zayn had no life outside of Ryan. Niall had stuck around and had even toned down his partying ways because of it. The drinking on the other hand was the one thing Niall swore he wasn’t going to give up, and Zayn didn’t blame him.
A voice calls for the staff’s attention before Zayn can give Niall a reply and everyone in the room gives it to the two people who have just entered the room. The manager is standing just a few feet behind a woman who looks like she's in her late 50’s. Heather Finley, the assistant manager, Zayn recalls, is holding a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other.
“Before I start assigning which floors each of you will be on, I’m going to go over the guest list quickly. While most of the hotel is full of business men and tourist, we’ve got a few guests that will need some extra attention,” Mrs. Finley says. She glances at the clipboard before looking back up at the staff. “First we have a socialite by the name of Oliver Brock. His assistant has informed us that he has recently gone through a bad breakup, so let’s do everything we can to make him feel welcome.”
Zayn notices that several of the staff members look agitated. Most of the help hate dealing with the upper class, not out of jealousy, but because most of the socialites acted like they were entitled to more than their fair share and on occasion they tended to treat the staff poorly. Whenever an announcement was made that someone like Oliver Brock would be staying at the hotel, everyone - more so the butler's - hoped that they weren't the one's assigned to deal with the headache.
Seeing the looks, the older woman clears her throat and looks pointedly around the room before she begins speaking again. “We’ve also got those two Gregory sisters staying with us this weekend. Please keep an eye on your carts, and make sure they don’t steal anything.”
The room goes silent for a few seconds, waiting for Mrs. Finley to speak again. This time though, instead of looking nonchalant and laid back, her voice turns a shade darker, more serious than what the staff is originally use to.
“And lastly, we’ve got an international band by the name of One Direction staying with us for a few weeks.” At this point, Zayn can feel Niall’s eyes on him, and he glances at him for a moment. Zayn tries to muffle a laugh because the sight of the blonde’s face with his blue eyes wide and full of perplexity is a look he rarely sees. Nothing surprises Niall, but if anything could, it’d be the mention of anything from back home.
The name One Direction only sounds slightly familiar to Zayn, only because Niall had been talking about the band after coming back from a trip to Ireland to see his family several months ago. He claimed that they were decent enough, but the hysteria surrounding them was enough to get on his nerves, and he felt relieved that he lived in America so that he wasn’t experiencing the phenomenon going on back home.
Mrs. Finley’s voice cut his thoughts short, her tone still as serious as when she began. “From what I gather, they’re not popular here in the states, and it’s our job to keep it that way – out of the papers. If anyone asks you about them, simply say you’re not at liberty to discuss anything with them or refrain from commenting.”
Zayn nods his head along with the rest of the staff to give the assistant manager a peace of mind that everyone will adhear to her words regardless of whether they actually know who she is talking about or not. From the looks of it, no one gives a second thought about it (except for Niall who's now looking slightly uncomfortable because he knows the chances of being assigned the band's room, with him being from Europe and all) before Mrs. Finley begins calling out people by name, assigning them to a floor of the hotel they will be in charge of cleaning for the day.
By the time she’s finished, Zayn learns that he’ll be on the 15th floor, which is known to house some of the smaller suites, which he’s grateful for because it means he won’t have to clean as much. Niall, on the other hand, is placed several floors above him in the biggest suite the Beresford Hotel offers where he’ll be in charge of making sure that the international band will have everything their heart desires.
Before anyone is allowed to leave though, another voice rings out throughout the room. It belongs to Keith, the manager, who has now taken a few steps forward to stand beside Mrs. Finley.
“There’s also one more announcement that we have to make,” the man says. “There have been a few rumors going around - as I know how the staff likes to gossip - about a recent job opening within management. I can confirm that this is true. Our assistant manager, Heather Finley,” at this, he turns to the woman and smiles, “is stepping down and retiring, and we will soon need someone to fill the position. As of right now, we’re looking at different applicants.”
The older man looks around the room, expecting someone to protest, but when no one does, he asks, “Are there any questions?”
Keith looks around the room again, and Zayn is surprised when he calls on Niall.
“Yes Mr. Horan?”
“Well, if you’re looking to hire someone for the job, is it possible for any of the staff to apply?”
Zayn looks sharply at Niall, not believing his friend is really this adamant about Zayn stepping up in his line of work.
Niall just smirks.
The manager takes a moment to answer the question and shrugs. “As long as you’ve been employed here for at least year, then I don’t see why not. Keep in mind though you’d have to go through a year of training for the job before you can take on the position.”
Niall nods and thanks the man.
The room is now filled with soft chatter, and Keith dismisses everyone.
“I can’t believe you,” Zayn practically growls out at Niall. They’re in the stock and supply room with Niall helping Zayn fill his cart, despite the fact that he should already be up in the York Suite helping prepare it for the arrival of its future guests.
“Well I can,” Niall bites back. “Look Zayn, it was only a question and now that we have an answer, you can at least start thinking about applying for the job.”
Niall grabs several rolls of toilet paper and places them on the cart next to the small bottles of shampoo and conditioner. He turns back to his friend who is in the middle of removing the dirty towels out of the cubby of the cart and replacing them with fresh clean ones.
“You aren’t going to let this go, are you? Why is it that whenever you get an idea, you can’t let it go?”
Niall shrugs, feeling slightly guilty.
“I’ve got too much to worry about right now, and besides, once someone with a better resume applies, they’ll push mine aside without a second glance.” Zayn’s now standing on the other side of the cart, folding the hand towels, but looking directly at his friend.
“Zayn, you don’t know that. The least you could is fill out the application and see what happens. If they don’t choose you, then they don’t choose you, but what if they do?” Niall asks, wondering why and how he ever became friends with someone who is so hard headed.
Zayn huffs and nods, hoping that will satisfy the Irishman for the time being. “Alright, I’ll think about it, Niall.”
Niall whoops with excitement, causing some of the other maids to give him a weary look. He manages to look sheepish for a few seconds and after mouthing a quick sorry, he looks back at his dark haired friend with pure excitement.
“I said I’d think about it!”
Zayn’s face shows mild confusion at the blonde’s reaction.
“I know and that’s all I could’ve asked for.”
His friend is grinning from ear to ear and before Zayn can say anything more, Niall waves and heads off to do his job, leaving Zayn with a half filled cart and a decision he’d rather not be making.
Three o’clock rolls around quickly, which Zayn is quite thankful for. He’s cleaned all of the rooms and a majority of the guests have treated him kindly, like he isn’t part of the lower class. He’s become used to those who think he’s a lesser specimen, and when he first started the job, Niall had been the one to calm him down before he had to pick up Ryan, knowing that it was best not to go home angry.
Instead of leaving right away, Zayn searches for Niall to tell him he’s leaving and finds him in the York Suite almost losing his mind because things aren’t done yet and the band could be there any minute.
Zayn stands in the small foyer of the suite and waits until Niall finishes giving instructions to the rest of the staff. When he’s done, Zayn clears his throat, and Niall turns around to acknowledge him.
“Nervous?” Zayn asks. He takes a moment to sweep his eyes across the entire room and comes to a quick realization that it’s much bigger than his own apartment.
The other man nods and motions for Zayn to follow him into the kitchen. Niall moves to the corner of the kitchen and starts rearranging the little knickknacks sitting on the counter, obviously trying to keep himself occupied.
“I thought you didn’t like the band?” Zayn interrupts the silence.
Niall stops moving and looks at Zayn. “I never said that. I just… there’s too much craziness surrounding them is all. I’m quite excited they’ll be here actually, having more lads to talk to who are actually from Europe and not just people who’ve vacationed there.”
Niall pauses and moves the items back into their original positions.
“Well, that is if they’re not a bunch of cunts and prima donnas.”
Zayn chuckles and leans against the counter.
“Well, I just wanted to let you know that I’m off to…”
Before he can finish, someone barges into the room carrying a black garment bag and a worried look on their face. A maid by the name of Betty looks apologetic but informs Niall that Mrs. Finley would like him to take the clothes to the Park Suite before the guest he’s supposed to be attending to arrive.
“What? We’re not that short-staffed. She could’ve sent someone else!” Niall looks aggravated. “What else do we have left to do in here?”
Betty looks taken aback by the abrupt attitude change in Niall’s behavior, having always known him to be hyperactive but always calm in tone.
“Uhm, well they’re setting up the dog bed, for the dog, and I think we still have to vacuum the floors and dust some of the china.”
Niall runs his hands through his hair and looks at Zayn with a frown on his face.
“I’ll take it, Betty. Thanks,” Zyan says. She smiles at him and he moves from his position against the counter so that he can take the clothes. “You go ahead and finish cleaning.”
The younger woman nods and exits the room.
“You don’t have to take those. I know you have to leave,” Niall says, moving to take the bag out of Zayn’s hands.
Zayn shakes his head and pulls the garments out of reach.
“It’s okay. You’ve got enough on your plate at the moment, and I’ve got a few extra minutes to spare. I’ll just drop it off and leave.”
Niall nods, obviously grateful to have one less thing to do.
The two say their goodbyes and depart with Zayn heading towards the 22nd floor and Niall worried but excited.
When Zayn arrives at the Park Suite, he knocks on the door and waits for a response. It takes no longer than a minute for a voice to be heard through the door before it is being opened, revealing a man in his mid-twenties, who’s busy talking on his cell.
“Hold on, Claire, there’s someone at the door,” the man says and pulls the phone away from his ear. “Yes?”
“These were sent for you, sir, I came here to drop them off,” Zayn says. He holds up the black garment bag with the word Armani written on it in white.
“Oliver, not sir,” the man quickly corrects him. “And oh god, yes bring that in, and if you could hang those up for me in my closet, I’d greatly appreciate it!” The guest is practically smiling now and he turns sharply on his heel, obviously expecting Zayn to follow.
He does and closes the door before he continues to follow the man further into the hotel suite.
Oliver Brock, Zayn realizes, is now sitting on the couch in the suites main room. He points towards the bedroom, assuming that Zayn can find the closet on his own.
By the time he’s putting away the outfit that Armani sent over for the young man, the conversation on the phone continues and although he tries not to be nosy, he can’t help but overhear exactly what the man’s talking about.
“Our entire relationship was up and down. One minute we’re looking for rings and the next we’re in a fight, on the verge of breaking up. Only this time, he had the balls to do it.”
Zayn reemerges from the room and clears his throat, hoping that will gain the attention of the guest. It does, and when the socialite looks up he tells the person on the other end of the line to hang on a moment before he’s addressing Zayn again.
“Could you bring me the two outfits in the closet? The one Armani sent, and the other suit hanging in the closet.”
Zayn nods and the conversation continues.
“So, being the vindictive bitch that I am, I had my assistant accidentally forward my schedule to his email. Of course, there are a few added events in there… a couple of dates and dinner parties with my ex.”
Zayn walks out of the closet, grasping the hangers with both outfits on them, holding them up so that Mr. Brock can see them both.
“He’ll be furious, Claire. I’m hoping it’ll work. We can’t end this relationship like it did.” The man pauses and listens to whatever the other person is saying on the other line. He smiles at what is being said and then clears his throat, “Well, I’ll have to call you back later. I’m unpacking now. Yes, you too, bye.”
Zayn feels awkward standing there, but the socialite finally acknowledges him and asks for his opinion on the outfits. Before he’s able to get an answer out though, Oliver cuts him off.
“I can’t tell which one I should keep. They’re missing something.”
The man puts his hand up to his face in a cliché pondering motion, and Zayn can’t help but feel like he’s wasting his time. He knows he still has some time before he really has to leave the building, but this wasn’t exactly how he wanted to spend the last of his free time, helping out some pretty boy who only ended up rich because of his parent’s money.
“Shoes!” Oliver cries.
Zayn jumps, startled by the unexpected outburst.
“Excuse me?” he asks.
“Shoes, I need some shoes to go with it. Those black ones from the shop next door. Those will do.” Oliver stands and runs towards the dining table sitting across from the living room. “What’s your name?”
The question is directed to him, of course, but it takes a moment for him to process it.
“Uh, Zayn. My name is Zayn, sir,” he responds, resolutely.
“Zayn, right. Okay, well, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you go down to the shop next door and get me a pair of those shoes? They’re just the black ones with the rubber soles.”
Oliver, having crossed the room and is now standing in front of Zayn, hands him a card and looks at him with a smile.
“Sir, we have a concierge. They’ll be able to help you with whatever you need.”
“Yes, but things could get lost in translation. I normally don’t ask for things like this, but I just can’t make up my mind about these outfits. Besides, all you have to do is use the card and put it on my tab.”
Zayn blinks and stares at the outstretched hand holding the hotel card. He rearranges the outfits so that he’s holding both of them in one hand, careful that they won’t fall off the hanger. He extends his hand and takes the card from the brown haired man and nods his head in agreement.
“Wonderful!” The man claps his hands together and all Zayn can do is smile awkwardly in return.
He takes a step backwards and points behind him, letting the other man know that he’s going back into the bedroom to return the clothes.
“I’m just going to go put this up and then I’ll be off,” he says. He swivels around on his heels and heads straight for the closet. After hanging the clothing back in their original spot, Zayn takes a deep breath and makes a beeline for the suite door, only to hear Oliver call out his name again.
He leans his forehead against the door and closes his eyes, hoping the man doesn’t ask any more of him than what he’s already promised he’d do.
“Yes?” he questions. His hand is on the door knob and all he wants to do is leave. The younger gentleman has been kind but Zayn knows that he’s going to be late for Ryan’s presentation, or he’ll be cutting it short at the very least, and it’s definitely the last thing he wants to do, especially after this morning’s confession from his son.
“Could you send someone else to finish the unpacking? Thank you!”
Zayn holds in his groan, walks out the door and heads straight for the locker room to change out of his uniform.
When he gets back to the hotel, Zayn hands off the shoes with the card inside the box to one of the employee’s at the front desk and lets them know where to send it.
His mother is already waiting for him at the front entrance and together they walk down the street in silence. He pulls his coat tighter around himself, trying to shield himself from the cold when he hears a crinkle of paper.
Furrowing his brow, Zayn reaches inside the coat pocket and pulls out a piece of paper that reads “JOB APPLICATION” at the top with a list of questions and fill in the blank areas that take up the rest of the page.
“Fucking hell, Niall,” Zayn complains.
“Language, Zayn,” his mother scolds.
“Sorry,” he says.
Zayn studies the paper and scans over the list of questions. They’re easy enough to answer, but the young man still doesn’t appreciate the way Niall wants him to apply for management.
Honestly, he knows that it’ll only do him good. The worst they could do is reject him for the position, and he’d be able to keep his job as a maid. But that was one thing Zayn knew he was scared of. If he was rejected, then what hope was there for him to move up in the business world? What other options would he have in life? Sure, he was young and still had plenty of life to live, which meant he could still go back to school and try to get a degree, but if he was still struggling with paying the bills now, then that option was out of the question.
At the moment, life didn’t look too good. Yes, he was more than thankful that he made enough to keep a roof over his head and to provide for his son, but he also wanted better for Ryan and with what he was currently doing, it just wasn’t cutting it.
They arrive at the bus station quickly and board the vehicle. Because it’s nearing the end of the cities work shift, there’s no room to sit and so they opt to stand towards the front of the bus, making it easier for them exit quickly when the time arrives.
The ride is silent until Zayn hears his mother’s voice amongst many others throughout the crowded bus.
“So, what is that in your hand?”
As much as he wants to lie, he knows it’s no use. She’s always had a way of finding out the truth regardless of how good the lie was.
“It’s a job application that Niall insist I fill out.”
Zayn hands the paper over for his mother to read, and she glances at it before her eyebrows rise in slight shock.
“Well, why don’t you fill it out? It’s not like it’ll hurt you.”
His mother hands the paper back to him, and he takes it with reluctance.
“That’s the same thing Niall’s been trying to tell me, and while I appreciate the both of you trying to help me out, I’d rather you not.”
His mother doesn’t say another word after that, just nods, knowing it’s best to leave well enough alone.
They arrive at the school no more than ten minutes later, which Zayn feels quite relieved about; they aren't late. When they enter the building and find their way into the small auditorium, they find that the entire place is pretty much packed.
His mother notices two seats in the back and when they take their seats, the first kid is called on stage to give their presentation.
Three more students go before it’s Ryan’s turn and the boy makes his way hesitantly toward the podium. Zayn’s heart races, and he sits forward in his seat, hoping that the boy can see him.
Ryan stands awkwardly at the center of the stage. He looks small against the black curtains that line the back wall of the room. Adjusting the microphone, Ryan glances out at the crowd, and Zayn can see that the boy is trying hard to keep calm.
“You can do it. It’s alright,” Zayn whispers as if the boy could hear him from the back of the room.
The kid looks to the floor before looking back up at his audience.
“George Washington was the first President of the United States of America. He was also one of the founding fathers. Like many other Presidents, Washington…” the boy trails off, trying to get his thoughts back on track. “Washington was eventually succeeded by John Adams, the second President of the United States.”
A few murmurs break throughout the audience, and Zayn wrings his hands together. He can see Ryan on stage looking behind him, noticing that the other children are whispering and giggling.
Zayn see’s the boy turn around and glance at the crowd again before he bolts off stage behind the curtains. Crestfallen, Zayn stands up from his seat in order to follow the boy. He can hear the crowd quieting down and the next name being called so they can continue on with the program.
He finds Ryan, he's sitting on the stairs backstage, looking downcast and messing with the strings on his backpack. Zayn walks over and sits down next to him. He doesn’t speak, waiting for the boy to speak first.
Eventually he hears a small voice, and Zayn has to ask Ryan to speak up so that he can hear him clearly.
“They started laughing at me, and then I just forgot everything.”
Zayn wraps his arms around the boy and rest his chin on the top of his head.
“I’m sorry, bud.”
“I don’t ever wanna do that again,” Ryan says. He curls into his father’s embrace, burying his face into Zayn’s shoulder.
“Hey, don’t say that. Things like this happen to people all the time. You just got nervous this time around; you’ll do better next time,” Zayn reassures his son. He wraps his arms tight around the boy, giving him a hug before he pulls back and looks him in the eye. “We can talk about this later if you want, alright?”
The boy nods and shuffles out of his father’s grasp to grab his backpack.
“How about we go for some ice cream before dinner?” Zayn asks. He stands up and holds out his hand for Ryan to take, which he does. The boy looks up at him with wide eyes and a small smile on his face, showing his approval that yes, ice cream sounds wonderful.
Zayn smiles back and tells him they’ve got to find grandma first before they can leave.
It isn’t until later, when they’re full of ice cream and on their way home that Ryan properly thanks his father, to which Zayn response with a quick you’re welcome.
Zayn can only feel his heart swell with joy, and he realizes that even if he’s not the best father around, at least he tries, and that’s more than what many can say.
Chapter 2: the day before you
The day has only just begun, and Zayn wishes he could leave work. So far, today hadn’t started out too well, with Ryan waking up in a solemn mood, which only turned worse after Zayn had informed him that he’d be spending the weekend at the hotel with him because his grandmother had plans she couldn't get out of and wouldn’t be able to watch him.
He’d helped the boy fill his backpack full of toys and other miscellaneous things that would keep Ryan occupied while he worked, and he felt another small pang of guilt for not being able to hire a babysitter. Usually Niall offered to watch Ryan when he was free, but Niall was currently working, and Zayn couldn’t afford to hire anyone at the moment.
The only thing that had made the day slightly better was the fact that the rest of the staff adored Ryan; so much so that some of the seamstresses, who worked for the hotel’s shop, let Ryan hang around in the sewing room. Today, he’d left Ryan in the care of Lily, a young art student who not only went to school, but worked part time at the hotel. She always welcomed Ryan with open arms, but honestly, Zayn knew that part of the reason she watched the kid was because of the little crush she had on him.
He may have been a father, but he wasn’t blind.
She was cute, Zayn had admitted to himself, but it wasn’t what he wanted. He’d had a few random hookups throughout the years, but nothing too serious. The men and women he had tried dating had seemed very interested in him, but usually when they found out he had a kid, they hightailed it out of there. He figured he would’ve met at least one person who wasn’t scared of the responsibility of a child by now, but Zayn believed it had to do with not wanting that kind of a commitment at a relatively young age.
Zayn’s snapped out of his thoughts when he hears Niall walking down the hallway towards the supply room. The man’s practically skipping, by the sounds of it, and Zayn wonders what’s got him in such a good mood.
Maybe he’d be willing to share.
“’Ello,” Niall says.
“Hi,” Zayn draws out, unsure of Niall’s intentions.
“What?” the blonde questions. He’s smiling, and Zayn really begins to wonder if he’s taken something.
“I don’t know, you tell me.”
“Well, I just came back from seeing Ryan. I tried cheering him up, the poor lad. He’s miserable. I managed to get a laugh out of him, but not much else.” Niall shrugs a shoulder, offering an apology.
“Thanks for trying. I wish there was something I could do to make it better, but it looks like he’s going to have forgive himself first.”
Niall doesn’t say anything after that, just moves to sit on one of the dryers in the room while Zayn adds a few more towels and cleaning products to the hotel cart. He’s hoping it’ll last him the entire day, but because he’d been assigned the 22nd floor, of all places, he realizes that he might have to make a second trip to the room and stock up again. The rooms on that floor are known to house some of the bigger suites, which requires extra effort in cleaning and replacing products, something Zayn is not overly fond of because it takes him longer to do so.
“I’m gonna head up to my floor now. I assume you’ll be busy today?” Zayn asks. He turns to Niall and finds the man picking at his fingernails, obviously bored.
“No actually, I thought I’d help you out.”
Zayn lifts an eyebrow, a gesture he often does when he wants Niall to explain himself further.
“One Direction, you know that band…” Niall begins until Zayn cuts him off.
“Yes, the very one you were freaking out about yesterday. I remember.”
Zayn leans against the cart and cross his arms, waiting for Niall to continue.
“Turns out they’re not as bad as I thought they’d be. Technically I’m supposed to be up there now, but they told me they’d be sleeping in for the rest of the day and if they needed anything, they’d give room service a call.”
Niall hops down from the appliance and pushes Zayn out of the way so he can grab a hold of the cart to push it, leaving Zayn trailing behind him in protest. They walk down the hall and make their way onto the elevator, and Zayn presses the button marked 22.
It isn’t until the doors close that Zayn’s curiosity gets the better of him.
“What are they like?”
Niall’s drumming his fingers on the carts handles, clearly still in a good mood.
“Not bad, actually. They came in tired so I didn’t get to talk to them much.”
The doors to the elevator open. There are a few people waiting to board, and Zayn apologies to them while Niall tries to maneuver the cart off the elevator without hitting someone. The thing is bulky and the extra weight of the products don’t help when trying to guide it any specific direction.
Eventually though, Niall gets the cart past the group of people, all the while trying not to laugh his ass off.
“Do you really have to put up with this when you’re cleaning?”
Zayn motions to the first door in the hallway, and Niall moves the cart against the wall next to the door of the room they’re supposed to be cleaning.
“Unfortunately, yes. But it’s not so bad when you get used to it.”
Zayn walks over to the door of the hotel suite. He knocks on it and waits, and when no one answers, he grabs one of the universal hotel key cards he has in his possession and swipes it through the lock. He’s just about to open the door when a voice calls out his name from down the hall, and he turns to his right to see who is calling out for him.
Oliver Brock, with a woman by his side, is walking towards them. The man has a smile on his face and a bag draped over one shoulder. Zayn steps away from the hotel door and lets it click shut.
“Hello,” Zayn says. He looks at Niall who’s still standing beside the cart and is looking rather interested in how this man knows his friend.
“It’s a good thing I found you! I wanted to thank you for sending the shoes. I was able to choose an outfit, and now I really need to return the other one. Would you be a doll and do that for me please?”
Oliver is now standing in front of Zayn. A smile is still on the man’s face and it only gets bigger when Zayn shakes his head in agreement.
“Yes, I’ll get that taken care of right away, sir.”
The socialite slaps Zayn on the shoulder in appreciation before he continues on his way down the hallway towards the woman who is repeatedly pressing the elevator button, apparently thinking it’ll come faster the more she pushes it. Once the elevator doors shut and both Niall and Zayn are left alone in the hallway, Niall turns to Zayn with an accusatory, but playful look on his face.
“Did you sleep with him?”
Zayn sputters for a response before telling the blonde, “No.”
Niall grins and waggles his eyebrows.
“Niall, for god’s sake, I didn’t. We’re not supposed to sleep with guests.” Zayn gives Niall a pointed look, reminding his friend of the time he had to cover for his ass because Niall claimed he needed a quick shag and the girl in room 204 was willing to help him out.
“Oops,” Niall pronounces in mock apology, all the while trying to fight back a beam of pearly whites.
Zayn rolls his eyes but pushes Niall to move the cart so he can follow him down to the other end of the hallway where the Park Suite is. While walking, Zayn explains the reason the socialite knew his name and that although he was nice and even if he had the chance to sleep with the guy, he wouldn’t because he definitely wasn’t Zayn’s type.
When they get to the end of the hall, Niall moves the cart against the wall again so that it’s not blocking anyones’ path. Zayn opens the door to the suite and they both step inside the room. The place looks the same, like it’s not been occupied in days, but Zayn’s still going to have to clean it regardless.
He walks around the entire area, taking note on what needs to be done and steps out in the hallway, directing Niall on what they need to use in order to clean the suite.
Cleaning the room is easy, at least for Zayn. He notices that Niall takes his time, but Zayn figures that has to do with the fact that Niall is easily distracted by anything and everything, and Zayn’s been doing this for a long while now and has grown accustomed to cleaning an entire floor of hotel rooms by the end of his shift.
They both work in silence, wiping away nonexistent dust from all of the furniture and random pieces of china placed around the room, and when they’re done, Zayn goes back out into the hallway to grab the extra bed sheets and toiletries from the cart.
When he re-enters the room, Niall states that he’s changing the bed, and Zayn can deal with the bathroom.
Selfish prick, Zayn thinks, but he’s not angry. He knows he’ll finish cleaning the bathroom before Niall’s even finished making the bed.
When he’s done and his hands are properly washed, he steps out of the bathroom to find that Niall’s changing the pillow cases and fluffing them up, having a field day while doing so.
“This isn’t too hard,” Niall says. Although he’s done with messing the pillows now, he’s straightening out the bed comforter, making sure there are no wrinkles in the fabric.
“Don’t mock me,” Zayn advises. “It takes me longer to clean one room when you’re helping than when I’m by myself.”
Niall stops what he’s doing and places a hand over his heart.
“Ouch, dear. That hurts. You want me to leave?” The blonde tries to look offended, but he’s in too good of a mood to even try and pull it off.
“No, as much as it pains me to say this, I appreciate the help.”
Zayn gathers up the dirty sheets and takes them back to the cart so that they can move on to the next room. He re-enters the hotel room, prepared to grab the outfit Mr. Brock told him to return for him and heads to the bedroom, wondering why Niall is still messing about. It’s silent throughout the rest of the suite, but when he gets closer to the bedroom, he can hear Niall rummaging around, most likely getting into something he knows he’s not supposed to.
It’s a wonder how Niall has any boundaries at all.
“What are you doing?” Zayn asks when he enters room. Niall’s not in there, but the closet light is on, and he can hear his friend shifting around.
“Would you come look at this outfit, Zayn!” Niall calls out.
“Is it the one I’m supposed to return?”
The dark haired man walks over to the closet and finds that Niall has taken the Armani suite out of its garment bag and is holding it up against his body, examining himself in the mirror.
“What the hell are you doing?” Zayn snaps.
“Zayn, look at this suit!”
“Yeah, I can see it from here; it’s nice, now put it back.”
When Zayn makes a move to grab the suit from Niall, the blonde jumps out of the way and runs out of the closet.
“I am not playing tag with you, Niall. What the hell?”
Zayn walks out of the closet and finds that the suit is now lying on top of the bed, spread out with Niall running his fingers over the fabric.
“Just feel it, Zayn. It’s amazing.”
Niall’s staring at it like a long lost lover, and Zayn just scoffs. He walks over to the bed and pulls the sleeve of the suit up, trying to find the tag.
“Holy shit,” he whispers, dropping the sleeve like it’s a hot potato. Niall notices and grabs the sleeve himself.
“Holy shit is right. Five-thousand dollars for a suit?” Niall puts the arm of the suit down on the bed and flattens it out again. “Try it on!”
“What?” he cries. “What? No, no, Niall.” Zayn is looking at Niall like he’s some bizarre creature from another planet. “I can’t do that. It’s not mine and… and it’s expensive and something might happen to it and you of all people know that I wouldn’t ever be able to afford paying for any damages.”
Zayn’s breathing picks up, and Niall lays a hand on his shoulder.
“Listen, we’re not stealing it. It won’t even have to leave the room. And technically,” Niall stops, and Zayn knows he’s trying to word what he’s about to say carefully. “Technically, it doesn’t belong to anyone right now anyway. It’s not the stores because they think it belongs to Oliver, and it’s not Oliver’s because he asked you to return it.”
Niall’s turned him now so that they’re looking at one another, both of his hands resting on the top of his friend’s shoulders.
“It’s in clothing limbo right now. It has no owner!”
Zayn is trying to calm his breathing and while what Niall is saying is true, it doesn’t make it right to try on an expensive suit that most definitely does not belong to him.
“Okay, let me put it this way; when will we ever get another chance to try on a five-thousand dollar suit?”
Niall removes his hands from Zayn’s shoulders and all Zayn can do is look at the suit and then back at his friend.
Of course Niall would pull something like this. As much of a nice guy as he is, he's always been a trouble maker and the chances of someone actually finding out what they're up to is slim to none, but that doesn't mean that Zayn should do this.
He knows he looks like a pansy right now, but even growing up, most of the crazy things that he'd done had been Niall's idea. He'd been the type of friend who could get away with anything, but Zayn knew that if he had ever done half the things Niall had gotten away with, he'd be caught because that was just his luck. So he never bothered trying to be overly reckless and crazy and sure, maybe he was told several times within in life that he was a loser because of it, but he preferred not getting in trouble.
Especially with the law and even more-so with his mother.
Zayn takes one more look at the suit and caves.
He knows this is a bad idea, warning bells and red lights going off in his head, but then again, Niall is right. It won’t hurt if I try it on and then take it right back off, Zayn thinks.
He grabs the suit and changes in the bathroom.
When Niall had come down to say hello to him earlier, Ryan was happy. He loved his uncle very much and knew that he would try and cheer him up, especially after the sour mood he had been in all morning. He joked around with him and managed to get him to smile a couple of times, but when he had told him that he had heard about what happened at school, Ryan closed up and shrugged at the statement, not wanting to feel embarrassed again.
Although both his uncle and father had reminded him multiple times that it wasn’t his fault that he messed up his speech, Ryan couldn’t find it in himself to believe it. He felt terrible for what happened, especially after all the other kids laughed. But mostly, he felt like he let down his father. He’d been practicing non-stop for several weeks straight, with Zayn encouraging him every bit of the way, even taking the time to help him memorize everything he needed to in order to do a wonderful job come presentation time.
Instead, he ruined it for himself by stumbling over his words and looking like a fool in front of everyone.
He’s coloring now, in a color book full of pages with superheroes and puzzles that need his help in saving the day. Lily, the seamstress who offered to watch him today, is busy sewing a dress together, paying no mind to him.
Although Ryan feels lonely, he understands that his father is working, and he isn't too upset about it; he just wishes that it wasn’t so boring here.
Sliding off the chair, Ryan walks over to Lily and inspects what she’s doing. He’s curious how she sews, the needle going back and forth through the fabric, making perfect lines so that the dress will hold together.
Little things like that always fascinate him. Learning in general makes him happy, and so when Lily tells him he needs to sit down so she can finish working, he instead informs her that he’ll be going to the bathroom. Lily only nods and tells him that if he’s going to be walking around the hotel, he needs to make sure he doesn’t get in anyone’s way. Having grown up in and around the hotel, he knows his way around and is very aware that he doesn’t need to be bothering anyone.
Which is why he walks right past the bathroom and straight towards the elevators and quickly decides that he’ll go see his father. He knows Zayn won’t mind, as long as he doesn’t get in his way and doesn’t stay for too long.
Ryan enters the elevator with a group of people and lets them choose what floor they’re going to. His father had told him he’d be on the 22nd floor if he needed anything, but there was no rush to get there.
He stands in the back corner of the lift just watching people get on and off. No one pays any attention to him, either too busy trying to get where they need to be for the day or they're preoccupied by the technology in their hands to care about what an eight-year-old is doing on the elevator by himself.
They're back down in the lobby and a group of people enter the elevator. Ryan, having not seen anything interesting take place, only people trying to get through their busy day, decides that once everyone has exited, he'll get off on the correct floor.
Floor ten is the last stop and Ryan is the only person left on the elevator. When the doors begin to close, he shuffles towards the front of the lift and aims to press the button marked 22, but before he can do so, it's moving upwards to the 25th floor. When it stops and the doors open, Ryan moves so that he's back in the same corner he made his home for the past twenty minutes.
The first thing he sees walk onto the lift is a dog. Ryan grins and the dog goes straight for the boy, nuzzling into him, looking to be petted. The boy’s too busy giving all his attention to the dog to notice the other three people entering the elevator, and he pays no mind to them until the lift is moving down and a voice with an accent fills the silence.
“His name is Heath.”
Ryan looks up into the eyes of the stranger and grins.
“He’s awesome,” Ryan says. The dog is now sitting, and looking as content as ever now that someone is giving him attention.
“He likes you. That’s hard to say though. He’s usually picky, especially with these two over here.” The man gestures to the other two people in the lift, who are most definitely in their own little world.
Ryan only glances at them and gives them a curious look.
“You’re One Direction, aren’t you?” the boy asks, which snaps the two other men out of the daze they were in and puts them on edge.
One of them, Ryan notes, is wearing a striped shirt and is also looking at him with scrutiny.
“What of it?” he asks, in a much harsher tone than he probably should’ve been using towards the boy.
“Louis, he’s just a kid." The voice, much deeper than Louis's, belongs to a man with a mop of curls on his head. His face is angular, with green eyes and cherubic face being the most prominent thing to stand out. He's tugging on Louis's hand, trying to direct the man's attention onto himself instead of the kids'.
“So? We’re not supposed to be recognized, especially here of all places.”
Louis folds his arms over his chest and presumably pouts.
“I only know about you because of my uncle, honest!” Ryan states quickly. He can feel the tension in the elevator, and he certainly doesn’t want to be the cause of it. “He only mentioned you, that’s all.”
“Hey, it’s alright, kid. Louis is just being a brat. I’m Harry by the way,” the man with the curls says. He bends down and holds out his hand for Ryan to shake. The boy, ever hesitant, takes it and is met with a smile.
“Ryan,” he replies.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Ryan.”
Harry stands up straight and points to the last person in their trio that hasn’t given his name yet.
“That’s Liam,” he says.
Ryan nods in acceptance and continues petting the dog, ignoring the way Louis is now watching him carefully. He knows he’s done nothing wrong now that Harry has told him so, but he feels slightly guilty for even saying anything. His father had warned him plenty of times before about not bothering the guest and while Liam and Harry were nice enough, he now felt awful for making the other man mad.
The elevator is still moving, and Ryan takes notice that they’re only three floors away from the lobby.
“Are you taking the dog out?” Ryan inquires.
“Yeah, he belongs to a friend of ours but we’re keeping an eye on him until he has to leave,” Harry confesses, but he starts when his side is met with Louis's elbow. “Ow, what was that for?” Harry's eyes narrow at the blue-eyed blonde.
“He could be working for someone,” Louis retorts. “Are you working for someone? The press, the paper, a magazine?”
The man is looking directly at Ryan now, and he just blinks at him. Shaking his head his head, he answers, “No.”
“Louis, stop being paranoid. He’s…” Liam trails off and looks at Ryan. “How old are you?”
“Eight,” Ryan responds.
“See, he’s only eight.” Liam motions to the boy, like that’s supposed to add emphasis to the fact that he’s harmless because of his age. “Now stop being rude. We’ll get you a coffee, and you’ll be as good as new.”
Liam winks at Ryan, and he giggles at the tame insult. Louis can only scoff and shut his mouth.
The elevator eventually comes to a stop and the doors open. Louis is the first to move off the lift and doesn't pay any attention to the boy. Liam, on the other hand, gives the boy a friendly wave and exists with the dog trailing reluctantly behind him.
Harry is the last one to get off the lift, but before he does, he holds out his hand so that the elevator doors won't close.
"Louis and me were planning on leaving Liam so we could walk around the city and do some sight seeing. Knowing Liam, he may get lost or even lose the dog. I bet if you asked your parents, you could go with him. You're the first person Heath's really warmed up to since we got him."
Harry gives the boy a wink before he's off the elevator, and running towards Louis.
Ryan blinks and gets the sense that Harry's using him to only upset Louis further, but he dismisses it and stands inbetween the elevator doors.
“Yes?” the man replies. The trio stops walking, and Liam looks back at the little boy.
“If my dad says yes, could I go with you to walk the dog?”
Liam raises an eyebrow and looks at Harry, who looks back and shrugs. There's a glint in his eye, but apparently Liam's used to his antics. Ryan notices that they don’t pay any attention to Louis, who's mood has only soured with his question and most likely has a remark on the tip of his tongue and is refraining from saying anything, knowing that both Liam and Harry will scold him again for it, which if anyone hasn't noticed, he's definitely not in the mood for.
“Well, I don’t see why not. What floor is your father on?”
Ryan can only grin and informs him he’s on the twenty-second. Liam hands over the dog’s leash and tells them to go ahead and wait outside for them.
When they’re back on the lift, heading towards the correct floor, Ryan can only hope that his father will yes.
Now dawning the Armani outfit, Zayn steps out of the bathroom and looks directly at Niall. The other man wolf-whistles and grins.
“Well, look at you! You clean up nice.”
Niall walks over and inspects the suit on his friend. He’s got a smug smile on his face, and Zayn knows that any minute he’ll be shouting I told you so.
Stepping over to the full length mirror in the room, Zayn inspects himself and admits that Niall is right. He does clean up nice and although he doesn’t think he’s overly good looking, the suit definitely adds something to him that the hotel’s outfit certainly does not.
The contrast between the black suit against his skin is something Zayn thinks there should be more of in his life. It brings out the sharpness within his face, particularly within the jaw line area and his eyes and for once, Zayn feels important, like he means something to the world.
He has never looked this good in his life.
He’s in the middle of buttoning up the wrist of the jacket when there’s a knock on the door. Startled, Zayn looks at Niall, who only shrugs. Zayn can see the rising alarm in his eyes though, which only makes him realize that there’s someone at the door and if they somehow manage to get in, both he and Niall are completely screwed.
“Go answer it while I take this off,” Zayn whispers, afraid that someone will hear them, although they’re way back in the bedroom. Niall nods and runs out of the room, making sure to shut the sliding doors so that if anyone does enter the suite, no one will be able to see Zayn.
It’s only a minute later when Zayn hears Niall’s voice calling out to him, stating that it’s only Ryan who was knocking. Sighing in relief, Zayn removes his hands from the buttons on his shirt, having only managed to remove the jacket, and moves towards the bedroom doors. Instead of being in a rush to take off the clothes, he’s now curious as to why Ryan’s wandering around the hotel alone. For a moment, he wonders if something is wrong with his son, an emergency of shorts, but he figures Niall would’ve already informed him if such a thing had happened.
Placing his hands on the door handles, he slides them open, and while he only expects to be greeted by his son and best friend, he’s also graced with another presence in the room.
A man, about Zayn's height, is standing in the area where the foyer meets the living room. While he's busy looking around at the décor, Zayn can only look at the man with wide eyes. He doesn't bother looking at Niall or Ryan, and he feels slightly paralyzed; whether it's because the guy is simply good looking or Zayn is going to have to lie is way through this, he doesn't know.
Zayn studies his profile: a straight nose, full cheeks, pink lips and a jaw line that could kill. His hair is a dirty blonde, more brown in color than anything and is cut short, but not short enough because the ends have a slight curl to them, which only softens the man’s sharp features, rounding out his face to give him a child-like innocence. He's only dressed in a white t-shirt, grey jeans and probably some knock off brand shoes. The outfit is simple, but the clothes fit the stranger quite nicely.
The silence goes on longer than necessary and that’s when the stranger looks directly at him, and Zayn realizes he's been staring. He’s met with a set of brown eyes, although common, look brighter, better on him than anyone he’s ever seen before.
For a moment, Zayn feels like his breath has literally been taken away from him but again, he realizes he’s staring, far longer than what’s acceptable, and he breaks eye contact to look at his son for an explanation.
Ryan immediately starts talking, completely ignoring his outfit of choice, and asks him if it’s okay if they go with Liam to walk his dog.
“What?” Zayn furrows his brow. “What dog?”
“He has a dog, and although it’s not really his dog, he’s watching him – his name is Heath, by the way – and he said that if it’s okay with you, we can go to the park and walk him. Can we, please?”
Ryan’s out of breath from his long winded spiel and all Zayn can do is glance over at Niall, who’s already pale enough as it is, being that he’s Irish, but has somehow managed to pale even further, and it occurs to Zayn that Niall must know this man, otherwise he’d be doing everything he could to get him out of the room and away from here so that Zayn could continue to get undressed and slip out of the room without being caught.
Ryan pulls on at his sleeve, trying to get his father’s attention. Zayn grabs his wrist to stop the pulling so that he doesn’t end up causing any damage.
“I’m sorry if we’re interrupting something,” the man speaks. His voice is smooth and the English accent he has, Zayn notices, only adds to its charm. “I met your son in the elevator, and he took quite a liking to Heath, the dog I’m currently watching. He asked if he could accompany me to the park to walk him, but only if it was okay with you.”
Brown eyes stare into his, and while it's not unsettling as it probably should've been, Zayn can only feel the few flecks of some unknown emotion flaring up within his stomach.
Zayn clears his throat to speak, but the reality of what this stranger has told him stinks in.
“Wait, my son invited himself?” Zayn looks sharply at Ryan, who manages to look shamed at his previous actions.
The male snorts. “He’s eight and excited; it’s fine. I know he doesn’t mean any harm.”
Zayn nods, glad the guy hadn’t taken offense.
“Can we still go to the park though?” Ryan asks. He’s got his hands together in a pleading motion and as much as Zayn would like to say yes, he knows he can’t, that it’s not a good idea whatsoever and that he’s still dressed in a suit that does not belong to him.
He turns back to the man and addresses him. “Look, I’m sorry Mr.…” he trails off, not knowing his name.
“Liam. Liam Payne,” he says.
“Mr. Payne, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to-“
That goddamn mick, Zayn thinks. He looks at Niall, who’s not even bothering to look at him because he knows that Zayn is currently not happy with him.
And yet, he presses on.
“Mr. Oliver is completely free, sir. In fact, he was actually just about to leave the hotel for a breath of fresh air. Let me grab his jacket so you lot can leave.”
Niall excuses himself and goes back into the bedroom to retrieve the jacket. The room stays silent until Niall reenters the room. He helps his friend put the it on, and Zayn takes the opportunity to ask why the hell Niall agreed to this.
“That’s Liam Payne,” Niall whispers.
“Okay, I’m still not following.”
“Oh.” Zayn closes his eyes and breathes in.
Bloody fucking perfect.
When Zayn opens his eyes again, he notices that Liam is now talking with Ryan, and he sees a smile on the boy’s face that he hasn’t seen in awhile. Eventually, the view is blocked by Niall who’s buying time for them to talk by pretending to brush hair off of the suit.
“I can’t go through with this, Niall,” Zayn protests. “Trying on the suit is one thing, but actually leaving the hotel with it on? Add to the fact he thinks I’m someone else.”
“Don’t worry.” Niall glances behind him and looks at both Liam and Ryan before he turns back to his friend. “Besides, and not to guilt trip you or anything… okay, maybe a little." Niall holds up his thumb and index finger to emphasis his point. "But Ryan could really use this. I’ll take care of the cleaning. You go out and have a nice time. You deserve it.”
Niall gives him two thumbs up before he takes a step back from Zayn and addresses him like he’s one of the guests at the hotel.
“Alright Mr. Oliver, you’re good to go. I’ll finish the cleaning while you’re gone. You have a great day!”
Niall quickly disappears into a different part of the suite, making himself scarce so that Zayn doesn’t bitch him out for anything else.
“Ready?” Ryan asks, which Zayn is thankful for. He nods and points to the door.
“Lead the way.”
He’s careful to avoid anyone who might be able to recognize him (which is a bit ironic because Liam's the famous one, Zayn notes). He’s surprised Ryan hasn’t said anything and wonders if he will, but the amount of joy radiating from the boy has Zayn assuming that he’s too preoccupied by being able to do something other than sit indoors. The dog probably has a lot to do with it too.
There are a few photographers outside, not enough for Liam to take offense or feel like he’s being violated, and he tells Zayn and Ryan that he’ll him meet them at the park so they don’t have to deal with the small gathering outside the hotel. Liam excuses himself to give a few autographs and instead of leaving immediately, Zayn watches the man before him. He looks at the way his entire face lights up when someone asks for a picture with him or how he's doing. He's confident and charismatic, yet when someone within the small crowd compliments him, Liam turns sheepish and mumbles thanks, like he doesn't know what to do with the praise.
Zayn thinks it’s endearing, and before Liam can notice that he’s been watching him again, he grabs Ryan’s hand and heads in the direction of the park.
Although the boy has a hard time showing his emotions, the air around Ryan has slightly changed. It's not newfound confidence or anything like that, but it is happiness. He'd noticed it in the elevator, where Ryan had been busy filling the silence with random chatter and when Zayn nudged the boy to calm down and not speak so quickly, Liam only shook his head and told him he was fine.
Zayn was grateful his son's mood had changed and knew that when the moment came, he'd have to thank Liam for being part of the reason why.
And if this walk in the park only made Ryan happier, then Zayn knew they’d be taking more trips here in the future.
They’re walking down one of the bigger paths in Central Park, hoping that Liam will be able to find them easily. Zayn can feel his heart racing, terrified how this event will go. Worst case scenario: Liam finds out that he is not one of the guests in the hotel and is in fact, a maid and has him fired. Or, he continues believing that he’s of a higher social status and after this little adventure in the park, they’ll ever speak to one another again.
“Why are you wearing that?” Ryan asks.
Zayn looks down at his attire and the reality of the situation is close to making him drag Ryan back to the hotel and leave Liam here wondering what the hell happened.
It didn’t sound like that bad of a plan actually, but it's Ryan's voice that breaks him out of his fleeing thoughts.
“Niall convinced me to try them on, and I did, which I shouldn’t have. So, you can’t say anything, okay?” Ryan looks slightly startled at the outburst, but he only nods.
Zayn can’t believe he’s actually allowing his child to be a part of this ridiculous lie. Well, technically it wasn’t too much of a lie; it was all a big misunderstanding really, one Zayn hadn’t bothered trying to amend.
This is going to end very badly, Zayn can’t help but think.
“Sorry for taking so long. There wasn’t anyone outside the hotel yesterday when we got here. I guess word travels fast,” a voice calls out. Zayn turns around and finds that Liam is approaching them with the dog in tow. Ryan makes a mad dash towards the dog, who greets him with just as much enthusiasm. “It also doesn’t help that Harry and Louis like being dramatic. They think I can’t handle myself when I go out alone, despite the fact that I’m in a public park.”
“Harry and Louis?” Zayn questions. He recalls Niall mentioning something about them, but he doesn’t want to make it obvious that he does in fact know the basics about Liam’s friends.
Harry and Louis, Niall had said. The other two members who’re dating and one of the biggest reasons the band is still relevant. It gets people talking.
“Yeah, my band mates.”
Zayn lets the conversation die then, not really knowing what to say now. The only thing to fill the silence is the other people in the park and Ryan, who’s still petting the dog. Eventually, Liam hands over the leash and the dog pulls at Ryan so that they’re walking ahead of Liam and Zayn, leaving them both alone.
“So, uh, it must be nice, being recognized, I mean,” Zayn states, trying to start a conversation, although now he kinda regrets even talking.
“Yes, sometimes.” Liam shrugs.
“I don’t think I could deal with that to be honest. It must be crazy.” Zayn doesn’t bother looking at Liam for a reaction. His nerves are too wired, and he knows that if he looks at the man by his side, he’d stare, and staring is not considered a good thing, and Zayn thinks that even if he tried to explain himself in that setting, there was no way he wouldn’t come off as a creeper.
…which is definitely the last thing he wants considering the fact that this isn’t a date, and Liam definitely wouldn’t date someone like him anyway, regardless of the fact that Liam’s still under the impression that Zayn is someone entirely different than who he really is.
“Actually,” Liam starts, “you never really know what you can do until you’re placed in that situation, and even then, you don’t have much of a choice. You get used to it, and it’s not all that bad. There are plenty of benefits.”
Zayn chances a glance at Liam although he’s tried to convince himself otherwise. He’s lips are turned upwards in a half smile, and Zayn can’t help but think how soft they might fe—
What. No, hell no. Not the time or place.
Zayn furrows his brows and looks away and wonders what the hell has gotten into him.
“Uh, I just wanted to say thank you, you know, for inviting us out. I mean, I know it’s only walking the dog, but Ryan’s been feeling kind of down lately.”
“Oh?” comes the response from his right.
“Yeah, he had this speech he had to give at school yesterday, and I guess he got too nervous because he messed up and then ran off stage.” Zayn sticks his hands into his pockets. “He’s been pretty upset about it since and claims that he won’t ever make another speech again. This is the first time I’ve seen him this happy since it happened.”
“I know how that is.” Liam motions towards a bench, silently asking Zayn if it’s okay to sit down. He nods, and Zayn calls out to Ryan not to go any further so he can see him. After the kid acknowledges his request, Zayn turns back to Liam.
“You know how what is? Being nervous?” Zayn’s in slight disbelief. If the band Liam is currently in is as big as Niall claims it is overseas, then how in the world was it possible for someone as good looking as Liam to have stage fright?
“Of course. I may be able to stand in front of thousands of people and look like I’m perfectly okay, but trust me, it’s a lot more nerve-wrecking than what most performers are willing to admit. And that goes for Harry and Louis too. They’re both some of the most outgoing people I know, yet they clam up just before a big performance. It’s quite nice actually.” Liam chuckles and all Zayn can do is grin in return.
The silence that takes over them now is not like it was at first. Zayn’s more than comfortable, as much as he can be given the situation, and he takes a moment to look around the park, wondering why he hadn’t brought Ryan before. It’s beautiful, peaceful even, and Zayn makes a mental note that he's definitely going to be bringing Ryan here more often when he's off work.
Liam speaks up again, and Zayn gives him his attention. “He’s a great kid.”
Zayn’s entire face lights up at the compliment, glad that if anything, Ryan still has good manners. “Thanks. I’m very proud of him.”
“His mother should be too,” Liam comments, but when he glances at Zayn, he’s realized he said the wrong thing.
Zayn's face has turned dark and downcast, and he’s avoiding eye contact with Liam.
“I’m sorry,” Liam says quickly, trying to rectify the situation.
Zayn shakes his head and looks at Liam point-blank. “It’s not your fault, and you have nothing to be sorry for. She decided not to be a part of our lives and honestly, it’s better off that way.”
Liam nods as if he understands, but Zayn knows he doesn’t. He now feels terrible and quickly decides to change the subject before anything else can ruin the slight comradery that they’ve already built through decent enough conversation.
“So, not that it’s any of my business, but what’s your reason for being in New York?” It’s back to awkward conversation now, but Zayn realizes that he’d rather be here than anywhere else at the moment, and although he knows that this “date” will eventually come to an end, this is the longest conversation he’s had with another adult human being in quite awhile, and he finds that he’s actually missed it.
“Vacation mostly. We’re supposed to be doing interviews or something next week. Our management wants us to expand to the US, but honestly, the only reason they want that so badly is so that we don’t eventually fall of the face of the earth as artists.” Liam shifts on the bench so that he’s leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees. “Do you always stay at the Beresford when you’re in New York?”
The question is directed at him, and Zayn panics for a moment. He hopes that it doesn’t show on his face, but Liam doesn’t comment so he figures he’s safe for now.
Zayn clears his throat and answers, “Sometimes I feel like I live there.”
Internally, Zayn sighs at his quick remark. It’s too discreet of an answer, but it’s one nonetheless.
“What brings you to New York so often then?”
Liam is only being curious. It’s only right, and he honestly can’t blame the brown-eyed man for it, but he wishes that he could answer honestly, that this was something real. Zayn’s not foolish enough to think that even if Liam knew his real name, that he’d ask to see him again, but even then, at least Zayn would still have the memory of a pretty boy… who also happens to be famous, he adds, who is actually kind enough to ask him about his life and decent enough to care about his kid.
“Work,” Zayn replies. The answer is cryptic again, and he figures he’s gotten away with the harder questions, until Liam decides to ask the one he doesn’t know how to answer.
“What do you do for a living?”
Zayn’s breath hitches in his throat, and he quickly looks away from Liam’s face. Again, he doesn’t want Liam to become suspicious, because if he does, Zayn knows he’ll be forced to tell him the truth and while he should’ve done that at the beginning, he realizes that he actually likes Liam. Of course, it’d be way too early to know if they’d actually work as anything more than friends – and honestly, why is he even thinking about that, Liam’s probably not even attracted to men - but even now, they aren’t friends, and Zayn doesn’t want to ruin this illusion.
He doesn’t want it to end.
And so when he glances to his left and notices the man with the camera standing behind a tree, all he can do is look down and thank god for the intrusion. As much as he doesn’t want this afternoon to come to a close, he discerns the fact that this is his wake up call and that this charade cannot go on for much longer.
“There’s a man with a camera over there taking pictures.” Zayn stands up quickly and tries to point the guy out to Liam without alerting the photographer that they’ve found him.
“What?” Liam stands too, and when he begins walking, Zayn knows that Liam has spotted him too.
“His name is Aaron. He’s from back home and pretty much follows us anywhere we go.”
Liam rest his hand against the small of Zayn’s back, to which Zayn slightly freaks out about until he realizes that Liam is guiding him onto another path of the park, away from prying eyes. Zayn quickly calls for Ryan to follow them and once they’re all together, Liam explains that he knows a little area in the park they can go where there won’t be any paparazzi.
It takes less than a minute for them to get to the area that Liam insisted on showing them. It turns out that it’s just a bunch of huge rock formations, secluded by a circle of trees. Heath is the first to climb up the rocks and Ryan follows quickly. Liam begins to climb them as well, but he turns back and holds out his hand for Zayn to take.
Zayn stands there for a moment contemplating what he should do. The rocks aren’t that steep that he can’t climb them by himself and it’s not like he has to crawl to get up there, thank god, because then he’d end up ruining the suit he’s wearing. And while he’s about to say no, that he can get up there all on his own, a warm hand engulfs his and begins to pull him towards the rocks.
The sad thing is, he willingly follows.
The bright look in Liam’s eyes is enough for Zayn to keep his hand in Liam’s, and he follow the other man up on the rocks, ignoring the desire to ask Liam how he knows of this place.
They’re not high up off the ground, but even still, the view from where they are is still slightly breathtaking. It’s quiet and all Zayn can do is revel in the peace. He knows he’s still holding Liam’s hand, and that he should let go, but he wants the other man to do it first, seeing as how he’s the one who grabbed him in the first place.
The loss of contact is enough to make Zayn whine, but he doesn’t. He keeps that to himself and instead walks around the rocks, taking in the view around them.
They’re encompassed by green trees, birds chirping and the dull noise of city life around them although you can’t see it. The New York buildings stand out from behind the trees, never letting anyone forget that although they’re in nature’s territory, man still has its hold on the world.
He hears Liam talking, but he realizes that he’s not addressing him and when he turns around, the only view that has his attention now is the one right in front of him, the one where Liam is now sitting on the rocks talking to Ryan and explaining to him what he had just told Zayn moments earlier.
“You get nervous too?” Ryan sits next to Liam. His eyes are trained on the older man and something in Zayn’s heart shifts. Liam has been nothing but kind to him, and now he’s taking the time out for his son too.
Zayn really, really feels guilty right now.
“Absolutely, but the best thing to do is focus that nervousness somewhere else. Sometimes, when I’m on stage, I’ll fiddle around with a coin in my pocket, that way I can distract myself from all those people in the crowd watching me.”
Ryan is completely in tune with what Liam is saying, hanging onto his every word, which makes Zayn nothing short of surprised.
There's only been a handful of people in Ryan's life, aside from his family and Niall, and even then, he's never seen the kid so taken with someone before. There had only been a few people that Zayn had dated, that he thought would be decent enough to introduce to his son, but even then, he was picky. He didn't want Ryan getting attached to anyone only to find out that they were leaving and never coming back.
He'd dealt with that once before, an experience he didn't want to put Ryan through ever again.
The conversation soon comes to an end between Liam and his son, and Zayn can tell that he's in much better spirits than before. He glances at his watch and realizes that he should be getting back to the hotel right about now so that no one thinks he’s skipped out.
Ryan’s off playing with the dog again, and Liam is looking at Zayn.
“Somewhere you need to be?” he asks, albeit politely.
“Yes actually. We should really be going. I’ve got… previous engagements I have to attend to later.”
Liam stands up from his spot on the rock and opens his mouth as if to say something. Zayn glances at him curiously.
“Look," Liam begins, "I realize that we’ve only just met, but I’ve had a really lovely time. You see, there’s this charity event that the band is supposed to attend to on Monday night. It’s black tie and all of that and the only reason I’m required to go is because of publicity. It’d be nice if you could come along. I’d really enjoy the company.” Liam pauses, giving Zayn a second to process what he’s telling him. “The plates are $2,500 a piece, but I can cover it and get you in.”
Zayn feels like his brain might implode. He knows the proper thing to do is to turn down the dinner offer, but the only thing that ends up coming out of his mouth is the fact that the dinner plates are way out of his budget.
“It better be a nice meal, and I certainly hope you can keep the plate.” Zayn stops himself, and his eyes widen in surprise at his own words, not meaning for him to actually say his thoughts aloud.
“Wow, well, why don’t you tell me what you really think?”
Liam doesn’t look mad, in fact he actually looks quite impressed, and Zayn’s beginning to wonder why he couldn’t have met someone like this a long time ago.
“You really want my opinion?”
Liam only nods.
“Okay, well, first off, why even go to this dinner if it’s not where you want to be?” He has Liam’s attention now, and the brunette makes no move to interrupt him, so Zayn continues, “I understand you have obligations to save face and look like a good-doer, but if it’s really for charity, you’d think they’d take those twenty-five hundred dollar plates and actually give it to those that need it and for once, eat a little lighter.”
Zayn huffs in frustration and looks at Ryan who’s climbed off the rocks but is busy playing fetch with the dog with a stick he found on the ground.
“Then come with me and you can tell the hosts that yourself.”
It’s a statement, not a question, and Zayn closes his eyes and shakes his head. When he opens them again, Liam is standing in front of him.
“Monday?” Zayn asks. Liam nods. “I’m busy, sorry.”
“You’re busy or you just don’t want to?”
Zayn hesitates and knows he has to tread lightly. “It’s complicated,” he explains.
Liam doesn't bother making any other plea to keep Zayn there, and he's thankful that he at least as the respect to take no for an answer.
When he gets off the rocks, he tells Ryan that they have to go and although Ryan protest, Zayn tells him to hush and that they’ll be late.
Liam, having climbed down from the rocks as well, walks over to them and takes the leash from Ryan, who thanks him and gives him a hug.
“It was nice to meet you, Ryan,” Liam admits. He then turns to Zayn and offers him his hand, shaking it in a friendly gesture, before he lets go.
It takes a moment for Zayn to realize that they’re staring at one another again, and he flushes. Hurriedly, he says it was nice meeting you, Liam, before he takes his son's hand and together, they make their way towards the park exit.
Zayn doesn’t bothering glancing behind him.
But something within him tells him he should've.
Zayn buys Ryan a late lunch, skipping out on a meal himself, and leaves him in the care of Lily. He also warns him not to leave the room until his shift is over. Ryan agrees, but doesn’t say another word about it, too occupied with the food in front of him and possibly wore out from running around outside for more than an hour.
Praying that he won’t have to make a trip back up to the Park Suite, Zayn decides to check the break, supply and locker room for Niall. He’s hoping the Irishman was smart enough to grab his uniform so that he can change out of the suit he’s still currently wearing. Luckily, he hadn’t managed to get anything on it, and he’s rather relieved when he finds Niall in the stock room loading the washers with dirty sheets.
“Oh thank god,” Zayn cries out. He slumps against one of the washers, and Niall only gives him a look.
“A thanks Niall would’ve sufficed, but that’ll do.”
Zyan reaches down and picks up a pillow case, throwing it the blonde so that it hits him in the face.
“You cheeky bastard.”
Niall’s gone dramatic now, yelling out ew, gross, germs while Zayn’s busy laughing watching the blue-eyed blonde struggle to get the piece of cotton off his head. When he does, he chucks it in the washer and slams the door closed so that it won’t somehow magically come back to attack him.
“Who knows where that has been, Zayn! Someone could’ve had sex on these.” Niall’s face scrunches up in utter disgust. “Ew.”
“Yeah well, that’s what you get for sending me out on that date, except it wasn’t a date. I don’t even know what you’d call it. Did you get my uniform?”
Niall nods and motions towards his empty cart, his uniform sitting on top of it, wrinkled, but there nonetheless. Zayn grabs the clothing and heads for the door. “I’m going to go change.”
He’s halfway out the door when Niall tells him that he still better be in the locker room when he’s done filling the washers because they need to talk. Zayn groans but grumbles out a fine, we’ll talk and makes his way into the locker room.
By the time Niall enters the room, Zayn’s buttoning up the last button of his shirt, the Armani suit neatly folding on the bench next to him.
“So, how’d it go?” Niall takes seat on the opposite bench, which only reminds Zayn of their conversation about the management position Niall was so keen on him applying for.
Which if he’s honest with himself, he hadn’t thought twice about when he got home last night, partly because of the long day he’d had, but also because he didn’t want to think about it, and now he’s hoping that Niall doesn’t mention it for awhile yet.
“How about you tell me how Liam didn’t recognize you when he walked in the room?” Zayn quips, ignoring his friend’s curiosity. It’s not like he won’t tell him about his day, because he will; he has to after all because it’s only fair, but Zayn can’t even imagine the lie they would’ve had to come up with if Zayn had been recognized as a maid. Niall would’ve been held responsible too, and the hotel’s reputation would’ve been severely tarnished, which would eventually get back to the band, get back to Liam, of all people…
And honestly, why does Zayn even care about what they think? Scratch that, why does he care about what Liam thinks?
“Remember earlier when I told you that they were tired when they came into the hotel?”
Zayn nods, remembering the short conversation in the elevator earlier.
“Well, when they came in, they were jet-lagged and barely even gave me a second glace before they were off in their rooms. By then, I was dismissed and told I didn’t need to be in the suite until later today.”
“It was a close call though,” Zayn chided.
Niall only nods in agreement before he’s pushing Zayn’s shoulder in a friendly gesture and asking him to tell him what the hell happened after he left.
“We just went on a walk,” Zayn revealed. “And talked a little bit. Ryan played with the dog. If anything, I’m glad we went out. He seems happy now.” Zayn pauses and wonders if he should tell Niall about the dinner he was invited to. It still wouldn’t have been a date, but Zayn knows how Niall would react.
In the end, he does tell him, and now Niall’s staring at him like he’s lost his mind.
“And you told him no?” he deadpans.
“I told him I was busy. It’s not like I could’ve accepted. He thinks I’m Oliver! He thinks I’m a guest here in the hotel. I could hardly even go through with this.” Zayn waves his hands at the Armani suit, using that to explain the previous events. “I don’t think I could’ve put up with another night of lying.”
Zayn stops talking because he doesn’t know what else he should say. It’s obvious enough that he feels awful for lying to someone, and he has to keep reminding himself that he’ll never see Liam again. There’s a part of him that worries that Niall might let it slip when he sees the man later that day, but he dismisses those thoughts quickly knowing that although Niall has a big mouth and tended to over-talk, he wouldn’t ever say something that would put him in the wrong with Zayn.
Sure, there were times where they had gotten in arguments because Niall had taken things too far, but often times, it was the truth and something Zayn really needed to hear. The trust between the two went far beyond imaginable, and he knows that if anything were to happen in any situation, Niall would have his back.
Which is why he’s glad that Niall is the one in the room when he speaks again and states that Liam’s actually really sweet, and I’d hate to hurt him, because for one, he can’t believe that just came out of his mouth and two, Niall’s looking at him like he has four heads, which only confirms that yeah, he really did just admit that he feels something for Liam, a perfect stranger he only spent no more than two hours with.
And of course, Niall runs with it.
“You actually like him!”
Zayn’s cheeks redden with embarrassment, and when he tries to deny it, he gives up quickly because Niall knows him better than anyone and okay, sure, he may have a small-ish crush on Liam from One Direction.
Which is a band.
Which is famous in another country.
And where one member believes his real name is Oliver.
Who has no idea he’s actually a maid.
And is someone he will never see again.
“It doesn’t matter, Niall. It’s over.”
“Alright, okay, I get it.” Niall’s still got this brilliantly bright look about him, but he knows not to push Zayn any further. “Just, tell me what he was like.”
Zayn gives Niall a questioning look, knowing his friend has never been fond of hearing about his sexcapades with other men, and even though he and Liam hadn’t had sex, the same principle applied.
“Well, his eyes… brown and nonjudgmental for starters. The topic of Ryan’s mother came up, and he apologized about it. He, of all people, didn’t have to, but he did. He also helped Ryan out with speaking in public.” Zayn gets lost in thought for a moment, and he frowns when he can’t come up with the right word he wants to use to describe Liam. Niall apparently picks up on the frustration because he speaks and doesn’t bother lettings Zayn finish his thoughts.
“Tell me one thing though.” He’s holding up a finger, showing Zayn that he’s only going to ask one more question, and not anything more, so that they both can put this whole thing behind them. He’s grinning from ear to ear, and Zayn knows that what he’s about to hear is most likely going to be perverted. “Assuming you didn’t look at his feet, his hands… were they big?”
Zayn is slightly put off by the question, until his jaw drops moments later. Niall howls with laughter and claims he looks like a fish out of water and soon Zayn is smirking too.
The answer is on the tip of his tongue, but when there’s a knock on the locker room door, both Niall and Zayn look at it and then back at each other.
“Zayn Malik, are you in here?”
The voice belongs to a woman, and when she knocks again, Niall makes a mad dash for the Armani suit and stuffs what he can into Zayn’s open locker, completely ignoring the fact that the garment was already folded neatly, and he could’ve just placed them on the self. Zayn stands up and helps Niall by picking up anything that falls out of the locker.
The locker’s shut by the time the main door opens, and Niall’s just managed to make it to the other side of the room, out of site, hoping to hide from whoever is searching for his friend.
Mrs. Finley walks in and spots Zayn buttoning up the last few buttons on his shirt.
“What are you doing?” She's analyzing him and it takes a moment for Zayn to answer, with his mouth dry and heart rate still up at almost having gotten caught with a suit he knows shouldn’t even be near his being.
“Uh, I spilled something on my shirt and it left a stain,” Zayn explains and points somewhere along his stomach. “I was just removing it.”
He tries to smile, but figures he looks guilty when he does that so he shrugs his shoulders and waits for Mrs. Finley to speak again.
“Alright, well, Mr. Perkins needs to speak with you in his office right away.” She excuses herself, and Zayn waits until he can no longer hear the clacking of her heels as she walks away before calling out for Niall.
“I’m going to get fired.” Zayn runs his hands through his hair. “Management knows.”
“Now, don’t say that. That’s the worst case scenario.” Niall walks out from behind the lockers and gives a half remorseful smile to his friend. “You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Zayn groans. The stress he had before washes over him ten-fold.
“You better pray this works out.”
“I’m Irish, that’s all we do!”
Zayn doesn’t even bother arguing.
Chapter 3: dysfunctional family
As much as Zayn would like to say he’s not nervous, he can’t. He can’t even find it in himself to stop freaking out mentally because the manager, his boss, wants to talk to him, and Zayn knows he knows. He knows, and he’s going to get fired because he was an idiot and listened to Niall.
That stupid bastard.
See, this is why you don’t do anything drastic, because it always backfires on you, Zayn tells himself.
He’s currently standing outside the office, awaiting his fate, and it’s giving him plenty of time to think about things he’d rather not be at the moment. As much as he’d like to believe that being fired would be a great opportunity to find a job he’d actually enjoy, he’s only got as much as a high school diploma to his name and not much else. He figures he’ll most likely end up working at another hotel, if anything, and if that’s the case, he’s grateful because at least it’ll be a job to put food on the table.
He just hopes that Niall will feel extremely guilty and follow him over so he’s not alone at a new job.
Zayn can feel his heartbeat speed up and he tries breathing in and out to stead it. This really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. He should be able to take what’s coming to him with ease and move on, because he knows he made a mistake.
But he also knows that really, the fact that he’ll lose his job is not what he’s anxious about. It’s the way they’ll look at him that’s got him terrified. He can’t stand it when people look at him with shame in their eyes, and although he realizes that’s got to do with his upbringing, he’d rather be laughed at than have someone look down on him for not being good enough.
He sighs. It’s plain and simple. He never should’ve gone out with Liam. He never should have said yes to Ryan and now there were consequences for his actions. Zayn will take responsibility for them though. He’s not going to look for pity, and he’s not going to beg to keep his job, because ultimately, he definitely knows he’s in the wrong.
But then a question invades his mind and he’s not sure what to make of it. While he does believe his actions had been a mistake, does he really regret the decision fully?
While on the one hand he’d like to say that yes, he regrets his previous actions because now his job is on the line, Zayn realizes why Niall had been so eager to get him out of the hotel. It’d been the perfect opportunity for Zayn to have some time for himself and away from the building stress in his life. It’d been a way for him to see that the world outside was still alive, still spinning and turning on its axis. Niall had sent him out so that he could see that Zayn wasn’t the only one alone in his efforts in living life.
Maybe it was the wrong way going about it though, lying to someone and dragging a child into that as well, but he can’t find it in himself to say he’d take it back completely.
Sure, stealing the suit was wrong and making someone believe you weren’t what you appeared to be was wrong as well, but that hour that he’d spent in the park, just walking and seeing his son happier than he’d had been in awhile, put things into perspective. He realizes that even if he does get fired over a stupid decision on his part, it’d be worth it because although there are plenty of other jobs in the world – and Zayn knows firsthand about that, having tried to support himself and his son since he was a teen – there aren’t that many moments in life like this and he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life regretting everything he’d done because he’d been scared to take the chance.
And maybe it’s silly coming to this realization now, but if this thought process is the only way that’s going to keep him calm in the next couple of minutes, then he’s fine with that.
And then of course, those thoughts move on, and go straight towards Liam and he’s back at square one. He doesn’t really know what to think about Liam though. He’s an enigma really, and he’s having a hard time believing he’s even real. While he hadn’t discovered much about Liam and his life, he’s actions spoke a lot louder than any group of words put together and Liam was right on the money. He’d been the perfect gentleman and had even grown slightly alarmed when he’d upset Zayn, enough to correct that wrong in order to make him feel better instead of prying into Zayn’s life.
Zayn only wonders how Liam’s not taken already. Then again, he could be. He could have a nice broad back home, and he was just being nice to both Ryan and Zayn.
Which it’s probably best to stop those thoughts right there. It’s not like he’ll ever see Liam again. If anything, Niall will probably end up feeding him information about what Liam thought of Zayn because he’s nosy and can’t keep himself out of things that he should, but other than that, there’s no reason Zayn needs to keep thinking about him.
Zayn hears the door open to his left and when he turns to look, he sees Mrs. Finley. She doesn’t look upset or anything; Zayn’s worry hits him harder than he thought possible. So much for that mild pep talk, he thinks. He can feel his palms sweating, and he wipes them on the side of his pants.
“Mr. Malik, we’re ready for you,” she says. Zayn feels his chest fill up with dread, and he only bows his head and follows the woman into the lion’s den.
Liam’s never been the type of guy to chase after anyone, male or female. It’s just not in his blood, but mostly he’s just awkward about it. Harry and Louis tend to make fun of him for it too. And it’s not that he’s shy or scared of rejection, but ever since the X Factor had taken over his life, he’d had no time for relationships and instead chose to focus on his budding career. But now that things have settled down, and One Direction is dominating the charts all across Europe, and possibly America soon enough, he figures now’s a good a time as any to find someone for himself.
And it’s not like he’s out purposefully scouring the town for someone to date, and it’s not like he can’t go out and find someone either, because he can most certainly get laid if he wanted to. He knows the multitude of fans that would be willing to give him a hand if he so pleased, but that’s not what he wants. And he knows that a lot of it has to do with Harry and Louis.
Their relationship started the first day they met, Liam recalls. Both of them had started out as friends in the beginning, but Liam saw it first. He saw the growing relationship until one day, it just was. There was no need to say it, no need to label it. It just existed and it was always meant to be. And while Liam often thinks that love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, all he has to do is look at his two mates to remind himself that it did exist.
The rather unfortunate part about it though is the fact that you have to be lucky enough to find it. And if Liam’s honest with himself, aside from making it on a reality show, he’s never had much luck in his life.
But then he’d met Oliver, and Liam can feel the stirrings of something within his chest. It’s definitely not love, no, that’s way too much to say right now, but he can feel something, a connection of sorts. It’s there, and it feels warm and fuzzy and it’s something he’s missed, he realizes. He’s missed the feeling of getting to know someone, the way it feels to have someone stand by your side as an equal, who has an opinion, who has a mind of their own, who listens and someone that just accepts you the way that you are.
Liam’s not sure if he could ever have that with Oliver, but the man with the dark hair, hazel eyes and olive skin has left a mark somewhere on him, and all he wants to do is pick at it until he finds out what’s there. It’s an itch he’s willing to scratch and so when he gets back to the hotel after dropping off Heath at his owners place, and running a few errands, he decides immediately that he wants to see Oliver again.
He knows that the other man turned down his offer to the charity dinner, but he wants to give it one more try if he can. If not, Liam knows it’s best to leave well enough alone and that it’s not meant to be.
When he enters the suite, he finds that Harry and Louis are there too. They’re busy cursing over the telly and how it’s not working correctly. He spots another man in the room, squished behind the entertainment center and the wall, messing with various amounts of wires. Louis, being dramatic as ever now that he’s had his fair share of coffee and is probably excited that someone else is in the room aside from just the three of them, is busy yelling out at the poor lad whenever he sees some semblance of a picture on the tv.
“You almost had it!”
“Almost, it’s still fuzzy.”
“It’s turned to black and white static now.”
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“Oh, I see people. They’re still black and white though.”
“Got it!” he shouts.
Liam takes that as his cue to let his friends know he’s back. “What are you doing?”
His friends start and turn around to look at him with a look of annoyance for scaring them.
“The telly wouldn’t work and good old Niall here,” Louis begins, pointing at the blonde who’s currently busy trying to wiggle himself out from behind the furniture, “just fixed it for us. Cheers, mate!”
As soon as Niall untangles himself from the wires and gets his bearings from being squished for quite some time, he notices the three men in the room staring at him, specifically Liam and he tries his best not to look him in the eyes. He’s realized there’s a possibility of Liam recognizing him from earlier and while he could play it off as having multiple jobs within the hotel, which isn’t uncommon, he really doesn’t want to deal with any sort of questions the other man may have.
“You were in the Park Suite earlier, weren’t you?” Liam asks.
And Niall wants to damn it all to hell.
He nods, but makes no effort to speak.
“Perfect!” Liam holds up a hand, a gesture indicating he’ll just be a moment. He walks over to the desk in the room and looks for a pen and paper before he brings himself over to the couch to sit down. “If I give you this letter, do you think you could give it to Oliver for me?”
Liam’s busy scribbling down whatever he’s writing and Niall’s curious as to what Liam’s getting at. He’s slightly nervous as to what the letter will say, but knows he’ll have the opportunity to read it when he leaves the suite.
“What are you writing?” Harry asks. He moves from his position on the couch and sits next to Liam, looking over at the paper so he can read what it says.
“I want to invite Oliver over for lunch tomorrow since he turned down my dinner offer.”
Niall freezes. Well shit. That’s definitely not what’s supposed to happen.
“Mate, I think if he’s turned you down once, he’ll do it again,” Louis speaks up this time. His attention is now drawn to Liam, completely ignoring the tv that Niall had just spent the past thirty minutes trying to fix.
Liam frowns but shrugs. “Yeah, but if he turns this down too, then I’ll know for sure that he doesn’t want to see me again.”
Persistent bugger, Niall thinks.
Liam signs off on the slip of paper and Harry makes a grab at it so that he can read it fully instead of leaning over to do so.
“What’s it say?” Louis asks. Harry finishes reading it before passing it over to Louis. Niall’s not quite sure if they just don’t want to say it aloud or if they’re purposefully not saying anything because he’s in the room.
Louis takes his time reading it over, his facial expressions crossing the board until he looks up at Liam and smirks. “Why don’t you just tell him you’ll blow him? That’ll get him to come for sure.” He’s full on grinning now and Niall notices that Liam’s flushed red.
Harry grabs one of the throw pillows on the couch and hurls it at Louis. It hits him in the face and then before anyone realizes, he’s dropped the paper and running towards Harry before pouncing on him.
“You twat, what was that for?” They’re roughhousing, and Liam has to stand up so he doesn’t get hit by any arms and legs flailing about. He picks up the note that settled on the ground, folds it in half and hands it to Niall.
“Could you make sure he gets this?” The flush is still there across his cheeks, but his face has softened and Niall almost feels bad for lying to him. Zayn had said he’d been nothing but kind and while this is the longest he’s actually been in the room with Liam himself, he can definitely see what Zayn meant when he said he was nice. But Niall’s going to have to lie to him regardless of his feelings, so he takes the paper and nods.
“Sure, I’ll get this done right away, sir,” he says.
“Liam,” the other man corrects.
“Liam,” Niall repeats. He smiles at him, which causes Liam to smile in return.
They stand there for a few more seconds, contemplating on whether or not they should break up the fight that’s still going on between the other males in the room, but Liam decides against it.
He’s hoping that Oliver will say yes. He doesn’t know why, maybe just to see him, to get it out of his system, or maybe he was just good company. He doesn’t really know, but he’s surprised by his friend’s reactions. He’d expected someone protesting against it, and even if they had, he’d understand. They want the best for him, just as he does for himself and even though Louis had been bitchy earlier about being recognized by an eight-year-old, it was apparent he’d gotten over it just ask quickly, probably realizing he’d overreacted, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t give him a hard time about it later. Especially tomorrow if Oliver ended up accepting the lunch invitation.
“Sir.” Liam hears the Irish accent, and turns to the butler before raising his eyebrows. “Sorry, Liam, is there anything else you’ll need from me? Otherwise I’ll get this taken care of right away.” He holds up the note, showing Liam that it’s a top priority for him to get the letter delivered.
“No, Niall, thank you.”
With the dismissal, he leaves the room and walks down towards the hallway, making sure the maids are still doing their job and not messing about, before he takes to leaving the suite for the day.
Once he’s in the hallway, his mind reels, but he doesn’t bother opening the letter yet.
Although he doesn’t have the chance to stick around for the rest of the conversation that the lads will probably have later about Liam’s time with Zayn, Niall’s got enough information to connect the dots. He’s not quite sure what he should do now though. He knew Liam would’ve asked him questions about how he knew Oliver, but instead he hadn’t and while Niall’s grateful for that, it seems as if Liam’s more taken with his friend than either of them previously thought.
Though now, there is still a lingering problem. Liam believes that Zayn is Oliver and while Niall only had good intentions at first, he’s beginning to see that something else is taking place that he hadn’t planned on happening at all. The thing is it’s not like he could’ve planned for a sudden attraction between two people. How was he supposed to know that? The only reason he’d sent Zayn out in the first place was because his friend needed to get out. He rarely had time for himself anymore and although Niall knew that was because of Ryan and work, he didn’t blame him. Zayn has responsibilities that he doesn’t, but even now, he doesn’t want Zayn to become a slave to his past demons.
He never thought that one park date would somehow spark something between two people so easily, which is why he can’t deliver this note. For one, Zayn doesn’t stay in the Park Suite and if he were to actually deliver it, the wrong Oliver would show up, leaving Liam thoroughly confused and Niall knows that Zayn would only stress out more about the situation because he’d worry about Liam finding out everything.
And the whole point of going out to the park in the first place was to de-stress Zayn and this note would completely undo it all.
And Niall’s head hurts.
It isn’t until he’s in the elevator that he decides to open the note.
If you won’t have dinner with me, then would like to join me for lunch tomorrow, my suite? You can bring your son and officially meet Harry and Louis.
Niall sighs in frustration but he knows what he has to do, and he knows Zayn won’t be mad at him for it either. Once the elevator doors open, he finds the nearest trash bin and throws the slip away, so that if word does get back to Liam that Zayn... Oliver hadn’t accepted, then Liam would move on and all would be right in the world.
Liam will forget about Zayn, or rather he’ll forget about Oliver, and Zayn will forget about Liam.
It’s how it’s meant to be, but there’s still that lingering doubt in the back of Niall’s mind that he’s stopping something great from happening for his friend who deserves something good in his life.
But it’s all under false pretenses, he reminds himself. And that simply won’t do when you begin a relationship with lying. Technically lying.
He makes his way back to the stock and supply room so he can load the pile of sheets into the dryer, hoping that the washer’s gone off by now.
Zayn is standing in the center of the room facing a large, dark wood desk and two people from management.
His boss, Mr. Perkins and Mrs. Finley, the assistant manager.
There’s no defining looks on their faces, which makes them that much harder to read, and Zayn’s worry has only grown worse by the minute. Despite the little pep talk he’d tried giving himself when walking towards the offices and when he was standing in the hallway, nothing had helped. The room is silent and as much as he’d like to start the conversation, even if it’s an awkward hello, he knows it isn’t a good idea until the man sitting behind the desk, who looks like he could actually be someone’s sweet, old grandpa, speaks first.
“I’m assuming you know the reason you’ve been called here.” Mr. Perkins finally speaks, but his voice doesn’t give anything away and Zayn can’t win for losing.
“I believe so. Yes, sir,” he says too quickly, which doesn’t really help in making him look innocent. And it’s not that he’s innocent anyway, because he isn’t, but the way he’s acting makes him look like he’s done something far worse than what he really did, and this just isn’t a good situation to be in at all.
“You’ve been working here for quite some time, Mr. Malik.” Zayn nods. “So, then you know one of the key elements needed in order to have a successful hotel.”
The man phrases it like a statement, but Zayn’s pretty sure it’s a question by the way his boss is looking at him. He tilts his head to the side, slightly, not quite sure what the other man is getting at, but he suddenly feels stupid and answers, “Uh, location?”
“Loyalty and trust.”
Zayn has the sudden urge to snap his fingers and say “That’s what I meant!” But instead, he can feel his heart fall into his stomach and it’s not like he didn’t know what was going to happen to him coming in here, because he did, but it didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt any less. His throat’s gone dry and the only thing he can do is swallow down the dread that’s building up within him and clawing at his skin.
“Would you say those are qualities that you possess?” Mr. Perkins asks. He’s still staring (possibility glaring if you ask Zayn), eyes boring into his and he has to look away from the intensity of them. He can’t stand looking at his boss, knowing what he’s done and it’s all too much for him. He feels like he’s in an interrogation room and they’re waiting for him to bust out in a chorus of I did it; I did it. I’m guilty!
“I would, sir,” he answers. It’s past tense because how can he say that he’s trustworthy if he just broke that trust two hours ago by going out on a semi-date with a man he doesn’t even know?
Zayn glances back to find his boss looking at Mrs. Finley, who’s been quiet this entire time. Zayn hasn’t bothered looking at her, but when he does on the off chance, she’s staring at him too.
“Well, Mrs. Finley agrees,” the manager speaks. The man has turned to him again, and now Zayn’s not sure what’s going on. He’s not loyal or trustworthy. He just broke both of those codes of honor by hanging out with an internationally famous pop star.
He doesn’t voice his thoughts though, because this conversation is definitely not going how he’d planned it to go and while he thinks he should be grateful that they haven’t flat out fired him just yet, he doesn’t know what’s going on and that only worries him more.
“She’s urged me to consider you.”
Zayn’s completely confused now. “Consider me?” he inquires.
“We had no idea you were interest in management until now. Mr. Horan brought us your application.” Mrs. Finley is speaking this time, and Zayn’s trying his best to process her words.
Niall? He did what?
The woman moves from her spot, perched at the end of the desk, to grab a piece of paper off of it before handing it over to Zayn. He looks at it wearily, but steps forward to take it. She’s then handing him a pen to take and he’s got no idea what they want him to do with this.
He glances down at the paper though, and before him he finds that pesky job application sheet that Niall had handed to him the day before. It’s all filled out in Niall’s god-awful handwriting, but for the most part, every piece of information is correct.
Of course Niall would have this bright idea. Zayn’s not sure whether he should be happy or mad.
He decides he’ll sort his emotions out later, because Mrs. Finley is speaking to him again. “By the way, you’ve forgotten to include some information. So if you could just fill those out for us here and sign it at the bottom, then I can take it back and get started on the paperwork.”
Zayn glances back and forth between the woman and the paper he’s still holding in his hand, before he bends down over the desk and lays the paper down so he can fill out what needs to be done.
“Normally, you’d have to go through the entire management program and then train for a year as a butler,” Mr. Perkins states. Zayn continues writing, but it’s hard for him to concentrate. “But, given the circumstances of Mrs. Finley retiring and the hotel not having enough people on hand,” he pauses and waits for Zayn to finish signing the paper before handing it back over to Mrs. Finley before he speaks again, “we’ve decided to accelerate your application and move you directly into management after a six weeks training course.”
Zayn steps back from the desk and he’s already overwhelmed. They want him for the job. They want him for the job.
And yet there’s no smile on his face to indicate that he’s happy with this outcome.
“With the proviso that you pass a practical exam and you complete every requirement assigned to you, of course,” Mrs. Finley finishes.
Zayn can’t react to anything they’re saying, so he forces a half grin on his face so that they can see he’s grateful. He doesn’t want to seem rude, but what they’re telling him right now is… he doesn’t know. He can’t believe it and he’s got no words to describe it either. The only thought he’s got in his head at the moment is that Niall had gone out of his way to make sure he applied for this job although Zayn had told him to bugger off.
In the end, he decides he’s not happy, and he’s definitely going to have a bone or two to pick with Niall after this meeting is over with.
“Essentially what we’re saying, Mr. Malik is that when life shuts one door, another one opens.”
His boss stands up from his desk to reach over and shake Zayn’s hand. He takes it and hopes that his isn’t slick with sweat from the nervousness he’d had earlier.
He leaves the office with a quick thank you so much although it’s half-assed, before he sets his mind on finding Niall and asking him what the fuck he was thinking. As much as he should feel excited that he wasn’t fired and that he is now on the move to a higher paying job, it didn’t change the fact that Niall had butted into his life again and gone deliberately behind his back after he’d told him to fuck off and leave well enough alone.
He should be happy. He knows that. But he can’t find it in himself to do so.
Niall’s busy changing out the sheets from the washer and loading them into the dryer when Zayn walks into the room. He doesn’t bother looking up at him though because he can’t bear to see Zayn’s face if he’d ended up fired after all.
The room stays quiet while Niall finishes stuffing the wet sheets into the dryer before pushing the button to turn the machine on, and only then does he look up at Zayn to see that his friend is pissed.
Niall’s shoulders slump and he sighs, “Don’t tell me you’re busted."
“No, but you are,” his friend replies, and Niall furrows his brows, not sure what he’s talking about.
“What’s going on?”
Zayn huffs, but doesn’t move from his spot near the door. He’s still livid and Niall’s beginning to worry.
“You had no right to do what you did.”
Was this about the note? Surely Niall couldn’t have been mistaken having gotten rid of it. He knows what Zayn would’ve thought of it, and while it was a little presumptuous to throw it away without letting his friend see it, it was only for the best.
“What are you talking about?” Niall decides to ask. He’s treading very carefully here because Zayn isn’t one to anger quickly and something’s got him upset enough to take it out on Niall.
“You filled out an application for me!” Zayn snaps.
He knows he should’ve thought his answer through before he replied, but it’s already out of his mouth before he can stop it. “They’re considering you?”
Zayn's face only gets darker. “Yeah, and do you know what you’ve done?”
Niall pulls his face back in slight disbelief and things are now beginning to click into place. “I did you a favor,” he says.
“A favor?” Zayn raises an eyebrow. “If you want to do me a favor, then you let me make these kind of decisions.” Zayn points to himself, and Niall knows this conversation isn’t going to end well.
“Zayn,” he starts, but the other man cuts him off, “Don’t.”
Zayn turns to move out of the room, but Niall can’t let him get away without speaking his mind first and he’d rather not do it in the hallway where there’s a possibility of someone overhearing their argument.
He moves fast enough so that he’s gripping Zayn by the shoulder, forcing him to turn around and look at him.
“For two years you’ve been complaining about how you wanted something different, about how you wanted to get out of uniform.” Niall gestures to the offending piece. “And you’ve told me about all the ideas you have for the hotel, and how they could make things better here for the guest and the employees.”
Niall removes his hand from Zayn’s shoulder, but continues staring at him directly. He’s ready to make a hard point and while it might not be what Zayn wants to hear, he needs to listen to it regardless.
“You know, this morning I ran into Mrs. Finley. So I asked her if you had a shot at the job since you applied. And then she asked me who I was talking about, so then I responded, “Zayn Malik” and do you know what she told me?”
Zayn hasn’t calmed down, but his face has evened out so that the hate there isn’t as pronounced as before.
“No, Niall. What did she tell you?” He’s reluctant to ask, Niall notes, but he responds, “She told me that you never applied.” He looks at Zayn, challenging the other man to come up with an excuse. “So then I act like I don’t know what the fuck is going on, and then I ask if she’s sure. She lets me know that yes, she’s most definitely sure because she would’ve recommended you to management herself if you had applied.”
Zayn looks at the ground, and he feels bad. He does, but he’s in denial. He can feel Niall looking at him but he doesn’t bother speaking.
“And then I got to thinking. Maybe,” Niall pauses. He’s not sure if he should be as blunt as he’s about to be, but Zayn needs to hear the rest of this. He sighs and shakes his head as if he can’t believe he’s about to do this, but he does and says, “Maybe you’re just being a cunt because you’re scared. You’re scared of even trying out for something you know deep down you have a shot at. So, because I knew you wouldn’t do it on your own, I did it myself. I filled out that application for you and I turned it in.”
The room goes silent for several moments. Zayn’s busy biting his lip, and when he glances at his friend, Niall’s looking away from him.
“I figured if they considered you, you’d be happy because they proved you wrong, that you are cut out for the job. And even if they didn’t, you wouldn’t know the difference.”
Niall shrugs, but Zayn can see that he’s angry now too. Zayn wants to argue and tell him it’s the principle of the matter, but he knows it won’t get very far when Niall’s involved. The man was Irish; it was in his blood to fight if the need arose.
Zayn shakes his head and walks out of the room without another word. Niall lets him go.
He’s frustrated, but if Zayn was going to be mad at him, then so be it. Zayn had the opportunity of a lifetime right in front of his face and he wasn’t going to take it because he was too chicken shit to try. That in itself upset Niall more than anything, just because he knows how Zayn feels about himself. The inadequate feelings he has stems from many different issues in his past, but it didn’t mean that Zayn had to give up easily and it’s one of the reasons why Niall is in Zayn’s life.
Niall wasn’t going to be the friend who sat back and did nothing. He took matters into his own hands and while it would take time for Zayn to realize he was in the wrong, their friendship wouldn’t end because of this, and he knows that if Zayn doesn’t apologize, he’ll end up thanking him later for what he’d done.
If he’s honest, he’d rather Zayn be angry with him than have the man turn this opportunity away. His friend didn’t ask for handouts. He did things on his own and succeeded, but sometimes, Zayn didn’t see that and Niall felt like it was his job to prove it otherwise. And this time it wouldn’t be any different.
This time around, Niall’s shoving Zayn (figuratively speaking) forward so he can see what he truly has to offer; that he doesn’t have to continue on being a maid, and the fact that management is even willing to consider him and train him, only proves to Niall that his actions, despite going behind his friends back, were right.
“What we did today was wrong and never should’ve happened,” Zayn says. Both he and Ryan are on their way home from the grocery store, both carrying bags full of food. It’s helping keep his mind off Niall at the moment, and he’s glad.
“You didn’t really lie, technically,” Ryan counters, and Zayn’s wondering when he’s ever given his son the notion that it was okay to defend his father regardless of his actions.
Zayn shakes his head, “Don’t make that a habit.”
Ryan kicks a few rocks with his feet, scuffing his shoes on the ground while doing so. “I don’t understand.”
They’re approaching their apartment when Zayn abruptly stops in front of the steps to address the younger boy. “Look, letting someone believe something is true, without telling them otherwise or correcting what they assumed, is just as much of a lie as a lie is.”
He motions for Ryan go ahead of him, walking up the stairs until they’re in front of their apartment door. Zayn pulls out the keys out of his pocket and unlocks the door, ushering Ryan in before he lets it fall shut behind them. They place the groceries onto the kitchen counter before they both begin putting the food away into their proper places.
“So,” Ryan starts. He looks hesitant to say anything, but he’s got a smile on his face. “When Uncle Niall gives me ice cream, and then tells me not to tell you, is that considered a lie?”
Zayn shuts the refrigerator door and turns to his son to find him staring at him. He raises an eyebrow and asks, “Niall gives you ice cream?” he says it in mock disbelief, letting Ryan know he’s not angry. He then makes a move to tickle the kid, but Ryan takes off, both of them running around the apartment with Zayn claiming that when he catches him, he’s going to be tickled until he can’t take it anymore.
For the first time within the past few weeks, laughter fills the otherwise dead apartment. When they’ve both calmed down from their giggle fits, Zayn and Ryan spend the rest of their night making dinner together before they settle down on the couch to watch tv. Zayn takes it all in, as much as he can and he realizes that despite whatever trouble is going on at work, this is the happiest he’s been in awhile. Ryan’s always been able to put a smile on his face.
They end up watching The Lion King, Ryan snuggled in close to his father’s side and before the movie is even over, Zayn finds that Ryan is asleep, and so when he tucks him in for the night, and he gets ready for bed himself, he comes to a decision that he can’t stay mad at Niall forever and that his friend was only trying to help him out.
In the long run, this’ll be good for him; especially for Ryan, and Zayn knows he’d do anything for that little boy, and if it means he has to suck up his cowardness and actually go for the job, then he’ll do it. He’ll prove to Niall, to himself, but mostly to Ryan that even when life’s shit to you, you can still take it by the reins and prove that you’re much more than what it says you are.
Chapter 4: on the edge
When Harry and Louis first began their relationship, it was subtle. They kept things to themselves although they figured Liam had a growing suspicion, but for the most part, they kept it a secret because of the media and because of Liam’s advice.
Liam hadn’t directly told them to stay hidden. It wasn’t because he was ashamed of them or had any problem with the way they acted around one another. In fact, he fully supported it, but he’d warned them to be cautious because if the media found out, regardless of what anyone thought, they’d spin it as a scandal and none of them would know what it would mean for the band in terms of how long they’d be able to last with two members dating and the possibility of it hurting their career if they decided to break up.
Harry, at first, had been offended at the fact that Liam, who he’d grown close to during their X Factor days, didn’t trust him enough to make his own decisions on the matter. At the time, he thought he knew what was best for him and decided that whatever happened would happen regardless, and boy had he been wrong.
He feels like he should’ve known the ruckus his relationship with Louis would’ve caused. While to him it wasn’t that big of a deal, people wondered if the band would fall apart and rumors spread that they weren’t going to last much longer as a group. It wasn’t the fact that he was gay, or anything of the sort, but he quickly grew to realize exactly why Liam had been concerned in the beginning.
The news had sky-rocketed the band into super-stardom all across Europe. That wasn’t the initial tactic in going about cementing their name into music history, but it had helped.
The thing is Harry doesn’t want something like that to happen again. While both he and Louis had survived the media shit storm, he knows Liam wouldn’t be able to. It isn’t that Liam’s not strong enough to do so; Harry knows he’s a lot more sensitive than he lets on sometimes, and Liam would only feel guilty for dragging someone into the limelight just because they were dating.
So, when Harry had sat down this morning at the dining table to eat breakfast and flip through the morning paper (he normally doesn’t do this, but he’s in America and he might as well look into what the country is going through on this fine morning) and he’d come across an article directed towards Liam and his mystery man, as the media had now dubbed Oliver, Harry’s slight uneasiness grew.
He really has no right to be concerned just yet. Oliver hadn’t even accepted the lunch invitation, and by the looks of it, he wasn’t going to, but even still, Liam’s in the paper, an American paper no less, and there’s bound to be some sort of media rise back home once they got a hold of it.
Harry knows he’s partly to blame for it, having initiated the thing via an eight-year-old, and while Liam’s picture wouldn’t have given much cause for any sort of concern before, Liam had invited Oliver over just after he’d departed ways with the other man.
And Liam didn’t bring home people to meet the family after one meeting.
Which is why Harry’s wondering if he should talk to Liam about it. He knows the other male though, and he will only shrug it off and say they’re only acquaintances, but Liam had to have seen something in this person in order for him to want to see him again so soon.
Liam hadn’t dated much after he’d advanced through the first few stages of the reality show they were on. He’d told Harry that he wanted to focus on his career and not get caught up with someone when he didn’t have the time to spend with them. It wouldn’t have been fair to either of them and Liam’s focus was somewhere else at the moment. Harry understood that and accepted Liam’s decision, so now, this only leads him to also feel giddiness over the fact that Liam may just possibly have a crush, a sign that he’s ready to get back out there and date again.
Harry would like to see the other male happy. He’s in love himself, and he only wants the best for Liam and if his friend has the chance to have what Harry does, he wants to be the first one to support him.
He’s torn though. He feels like he needs to warn Liam before he gets himself in too deep, but he also wants to encourage him to go for it, and so in the end, he decides he’ll talk to Louis about it. It’s probably not the smartest idea around, given the fact that Louis is a straightforward kind of person and has no filter on what he does and says, but at least he’ll have a different take on the situation, a second opinion of sorts and that seems to settle his nerves.
Harry hopes that things will turn out okay, but even if they don’t, they got through it before and surely they can do it again.
“Do I really have to sit in here again?” Ryan asks.
“I know, Ryan, but it can’t be helped,” Zayn sighs. He hates having to leave Ryan again, but he’s late for work as it is, and Lily is the only one who can watch him.
Ryan doesn’t bother speaking after that, knowing his protests won’t do him any good. Ignoring Lily, who’s busy pulling fabric off of a shelf in order to start another outfit, Ryan makes his way over to the corner of the room where the desk is, the same spot he’d made his home just yesterday.
“Well, hello there,” Lily greets the pair, turning so that she can see them both.
Ryan continues to ignore her, and Zayn just shakes his head. “Thank you for watching him again. I’m really sorry about this though,” Zayn speaks up.
“It’s no problem, really.” She gives Zayn a smile before turning back to what she was previously doing, giving Zayn the opportunity to tell his son he’ll see him later.
Leaning down, Zayn draws the boy into his side, which he reciprocates, although half-heartedly.
“If there was any way I could change it, I would,” Zayn whispers. He kisses the top of his son’s head before he releases the boy. “Be good for me, okay?”
Zayn makes a move to turn so he can leave the room, but Ryan pulls at a stack of paper sitting the edge of the desk and Zayn gets curious as to what it is. He glances at it, and notices that it’s the newspaper, and while he doesn’t care much about the news, a picture in the bottom left hand corner catches his eye.
His eyes widen and he snatches it off the desk before Ryan has a chance to see it. Ryan’s startled at first, not knowing what’s going on, but Zayn mumbles sorry and smoothes out the paper as best as he can.
In the bottom left hand corner, under the picture of both him and Liam, the caption under it reads One Direction’s Liam Payne spotted with mystery man. See page 5.
Zayn has trouble breathing.
“Where’d you get this?” Zayn asks. He’s slightly panicking now and he knows that’s not a good idea, especially in front of his son. He’d rather not worry the kid.
“It’s the morning paper,” Ryan replies. He’s looking at Zayn warily, not quite sure what to make of his father’s reaction.
“Is it alright if I borrow this, Ryan?” Zayn asks. He looks at the boy, who only shrugs.
“I just wanted the cartoons.” Zayn smiles and flips through the paper, pulling out the section and handing it to Ryan.
“I’ll see you later, alright?”
He gives one more reassuring smile to the boy before he stalks out of the room, not bothering to let Lily know he’s leaving. As he walks down the hallway, he realizes he can’t find it in himself to turn to the correct page in order to read the article. He grips the paper tightly in his hand, searching for Niall despite the argument they’d had yesterday, hoping that the other male would have some sort of advice for him, although what advice could anyone give to him in this kind of situation? It wasn’t everyday that someone ended up with their picture in the paper.
This definitely wasn’t supposed to happen though, is all Zayn can think about. He never thought something like this was possible and while he had spotted that pesky cameraman, he hadn’t thought those pictures would be released. Well, he hadn’t thought those pictures would’ve been released this soon.
Naive. So fucking naive, Zayn thinks.
And then Zayn has a brief realization about how hard Liam’s life must really be. To be followed and hounded by the paparazzi for a picture just because he chose to have a career in music; it must’ve been tiresome, and although both Niall and Liam had led him to believe that the band wasn’t overly popular here in the States just yet, it turns out that they may have been slightly exaggerating. Sure, it wasn’t like Liam couldn’t actually leave his hotel room; the day out yesterday proved that, but he was famous enough – or at least well known enough for people to know him, follow him and take pictures of him regardless.
Which leads to the thought of how people will react to this across the pond. Did the media have their hands on this yet or had it only gotten to the local American press? Zayn’s not quite sure, but he can’t even begin to imagine what people might possibly be writing about him right now, and how in the world they could’ve gotten his identity.
And Zayn freezes right in the middle of the hallway and opens the article up to finally read it. He doesn’t care that the few people who were walking behind him are now asking what the hell is wrong with him; he just waves at them to move around him while he flips the newspaper to the correct page.
There’s a decent sized picture plastered at the top of the page. It’s not overly huge, but it’s enough to catch someone’s eye. From the angle, it’s clear as day that it’s Liam, but Zayn, on the other hand, has his head down and it’s hard to make out any distinguishable facial features, and he breathes in a huge sigh of relief. They don’t know who he is.
Zayn closes the paper without reading the entire piece written. He knows it won’t matter what it says, because he understands the gist of what they’re trying to point out, what question they’re trying to ask.
Is Liam actually dating someone, and if he is, who is he? What does he do? Where did he come from, and why is Liam interested in him?
Zayn knows the standard questions. He knows enough about journalism to realize they probably asked around to find out exactly who he is, and it looks like they’ve had no luck so far.
He knows he’s going to have to make a real effort to avoid Liam now.
Zayn runs a hand through his hair before he starts walking down the hall again. He can hear voices coming from the other end and realizes it’s coming from the break room. He’s already been late for work, but it looks like he’s missed the morning meeting too and he’s hoping that Niall was there to fill him in.
Opening the door to the room, Zayn can see everyone scattering about, trying to get to different places in order to do their jobs. He chooses to stand in the back until he spots Niall heading in his direction.
“Niall,” he calls.
The Irishman looks up at the sound of his name and immediately stops, causing a few people behind him to bump into him. He apologies and then moves out of their way, walking over to Zayn. He doesn’t smile, and he doesn’t say hi like he normally does and Zayn feels guilty for that because Niall’s usually so bubbly at this hour and he knows he’s to blame for his lack of good mood.
Zayn grabs the sleeve of the man’s shirt and pulls him further into the room, near a corner, out of the way so no one is within earshot.
“What is it?” Niall asks. He looks slightly curious, but Zayn can see that he’s trying his best not to have any sort of emotion when around him.
“Look at this!” Zayn hisses. He opens the newspaper and sticks it in front of Niall’s face.
“A newspaper?” Niall grabs it and holds it at an acceptable distance from his eyes so he can read it clearly.
“Read it,” Zayn demands. Niall glances up at his friend to find that he’s intently staring at him. “Don’t look at me.” Zayn pulls a face. “Just read it, please.”
Niall only raises an eyebrow but looks down at the article. He reads it over and Zayn watches as his face goes from completely uninterested to wide eyes.
“So you made the newspaper,” Niall comments.
Zayn groans. “Yes, Niall. I don’t think you understand what this means though.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“You are so dense sometimes. I hope you know that.” Zayn shakes his head, but Niall doesn’t look offended, rather he looks thoughtful like he knows it’s true.
“Well, then explain it to me-”
“What if someone from the hotel sees it? What if Mr. Perkins sees it?” Zayn interrupts, having gone from calm to something more elevated and although he told himself the article’s not that big of a deal… he’s in the paper, and it’s finally hitting home for him. He’s in the paper, and that doesn’t happen to many people, only important people; people who are newsworthy and while Zayn’s not newsworthy, it puts him on the radar.
Zayn hears the snapping of fingers, and he blinks to find Niall’s hand in front of his face, trying to get his attention.
“Hey, calm down.” Niall’s brow is furrowed. He glances at the paper again and then back up at Zayn. “You can’t even tell it’s you, and there’s nothing anyone can go on. No one’s going to find out.” Zayn only nods because that’s true. What Niall is telling him is true, and he hates the fact that he’s second guessing himself and like many times before, he’s glad Niall’s around. “Shit, you do one spontaneous thing and you think you’re going to hell.”
“Right,” Zayn agrees. “You’re right.” He takes a deep breath.
“Of course I’m right. I’m always right.” Niall grins. He’s definitely smug now.
The atmosphere changes around them; it’s one of silence and Zayn figures now is a good a time to ask Niall about yesterday. “Hey, uh,” he starts, stumbling over what he wants to say.
Niall looks at Zayn expectantly, wondering what more could be said.
Zayn looks at the floor and closes his eyes. “We’re good, right?” His voice is small and he feels like a child asking for forgiveness.
Niall’s entire demeanor changes; it slackens significantly, and he nods. “Yeah, we’re good.”
Zayn looks at Niall and the corner of his mouth quirks up. “Great,” Zayn breathes.
“Oh and by the way,” Niall interrupts the soft moment. He looks hesitant, sheepish to say anything, but he does anyway. “Since you missed the meeting, they placed you on the 22nd floor again.”
Zayn’s face pales and he grimaces, “Really?”
“Yeah, sorry mate.”
Zayn’s shoulders slump. Of course this day could only get that much worse.
Before Zayn could begin work, he still had to change into his uniform and fold the Armani suit that had been left in his locker. From there, he’d hid it in his cart full of supplies before making the trip up to the floor of the hotel he’d been assigned to clean.
Out of fear, he’d saved the socialites room for last, not knowing if Oliver was in there or not, but now it’s one of the few rooms he has yet to clean today, and he really doesn’t want to find out.
Taking a deep breath, Zayn knocks on the door until he hears a shout that les him know he can come in.
“Cleaning,” he says when he’s got the door open so that the guest knows who it is.
He can hear grunting and complaining and he’s not sure what the hell is going on until he fully enters the room and he finds Oliver and the woman from the day before on the ground, sweating and trying their best to do their own set of exercises.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I can come back later,” Zayn says, and he’s really hoping they’ll let him go.
“No, it’s okay. You can work around us,” Oliver replies. He continues on doing a set of crunches while the woman next to him falls back and breathes in the pain she’s obviously feeling.
“Actually, I need another towel,” she says. “Just bring us some more towels, por favor. Rapido.”
And Zayn blinks. What. The last time he checked, he definitely wasn’t Spanish or Mexican or whatever nationality this person thought he was.
He feels slightly offended, but then again he is in the presence of a socialite, and this is why everyone hates waiting on hand and foot for them. Although they were supposed to be of a higher class, they didn’t act like it.
Instead of commenting like he wants to, he moves out back into the hallway and picks up a pile of clean towels to carry back into the hotel room. He sets them on the floor, near Oliver and his friend so that they’re easily accessible to them both.
It’s not until he’s turned away to grab other supplies to clean the room with that he hears a god-awful sound and while it’s none of his business, he turns slightly to find that Oliver is now trying to hold himself back from crying, and Zayn’s wondering what the hell is going on.
He doesn’t ask what’s wrong; that’s not his place so he goes to collect what cleaning supplies he can, making sure to grab the Armani suit in the process so that he can return it to where it belongs. He figures he’d rather have Oliver curse him out for not returning it like he had asked than be caught having stolen it.
“Oh, honey. Is it Dan?” the woman asks. Zayn can hear them from the hallway and when he enters the room, he finds that they’re both sitting up, completely ignoring the fact that they were exercising before. Oliver’s still trying to hold in dramatic tears and the woman’s got a hand on his shoulder.
“Claire, he hasn’t even called!”
Zayn moves past the two people in the room and goes straight for the bedroom, making sure the doors are closed. The first thing he does is set the cleaning supplies down as fast as he can before going into the closet and grabbing the garment bag the suit belongs in so he can put it away.
“So I called him last night and…”
Zayn can still hear the conversation, although it’s slightly muffled because he’s that far back in the bedroom. He quickly zips up the black bag and makes his way back to the bathroom so that he can clean it first and get that out of the way.
“And when he answered, that bastard was with...” Oliver trails off again, and a sob escapes his throat.
“Well, go on. I’m listening,” Claire says. She pats Oliver’s back before laying down on the floor to begin exercising again. Oliver follows her motions, but doesn’t bother moving. He stares at the ceiling and while Zayn thinks this is the lamest conversation he’s ever overheard, it’s still juicy and well, he’s here and they’re talking, so why not listen?
Oh my god, I’m turning into Niall.
“Well, I don’t know who he was with exactly, but I heard him. I heard him in the background, laughing like nothing was wrong!”
“Really?” Claire asks in disbelief.
Zayn actually rolls his eyes. He can hear movement, but there’s not much of it and the place goes silent for the next ten minutes, which gives him plenty of time to clean the bathroom in peace.
When he’s done with that, he moves on to the bedroom, wiping at any of the flat surfaces so that there’s no dust anywhere to be found. He’s so busy concentrating on cleaning though, that a knock on the suite door startles him.
“Come in,” Oliver yells out.
“Butler service.” It’s a man’s voice, definitely not Niall’s.
Zayn finishes up what he’s doing before moving over to the mirrors in the room. A few of them have fingerprints on them, and Zayn’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to know where they’ve come from.
“I have a message from Mr. Liam Payne,” the butler sates.
Zayn pauses, his hand coming to rest on the corner of the mirror. He’s not sure if he’s heard that correctly and he doesn’t move from his position.
“Liam Payne?” Oliver asks. There’s a certain tone in his voice that makes Zayn think that Oliver knows the other man. But that couldn’t be possible, right? I mean, if Liam had known an Oliver, surely he’d have called Zayn out on it at the park.
Zayn blinks and draws his hand back. He sets down the towel he’d been using to wipe away any of the grim and shuffles towards the double doors in the room, hoping he can hear the conversation better. There’s a moment where he chastises himself for being too nosey, but they mentioned Liam and that’s incentive enough to listen in.
“You mean One Direction’s Liam Payne?” Claire asks.
Zayn tries to hold in any noise he wants to make.
“He’s staying in the York Suite, floor twenty-five,” the butler explains. “He was wondering if you had given a response to the lunch he invited you to?”
Zayn furrows his brow and wonders when that had taken place.
“What invitation?” Claire asks.
“The one I placed in your room yesterday.”
“Lunch? For the two of us?” Oliver questions.
“Where?” Claire chimes in.
“In his suite.” The butler sounds like he’s bored, and he can’t be bothered to repeat himself, apparently having expected the socialite to know exactly what he’s on about.
Zayn worries at his lip. Apparently Liam had wanted to see him again and invited him to lunch, but now Oliver is being invited because Liam’s still under the impression that Zayn is the one staying in the suite.
Fuck, Zayn curses. This is not good.
“Should I give him an answer?” the butler asks.
“Yes! Tell him yes. What time?” Claire is practically shouting now, and Zayn’s not sure if the woman realizes that the invitation is not for her.
“Around one o’clock.”
“He’ll be there. Thank you!”
The door to the suite opens and closes again, and Zayn just feels… shocked? Worried? He doesn’t know.
Zayn doesn’t move from his spot near the doors of the bedroom. He stands there and listens to the rest of the conversation, albeit half-heartedly. Zayn can feel everything unraveling around him quickly and while for the past two days he’s told himself that everything would work out and the only thing he could really do is stay calm, it seems as if things are going downhill very fast. Whether he’s being punished for a small lie or these incidents he keeps getting himself into are purely coincidental, it’s hard to tell because the white line that had been there towards the beginning, is now suddenly fading and it’s becoming harder to see the bigger picture.
“I didn’t know you knew him.” Claire’s speaking again, and Zayn just wishes the woman would shut up.
“Don’t you remember? That launch party they had for the band awhile back?”
The voices are getting closer to the room, and Zayn spastically retreats further into the room so he can grab the towel he’d been using before he rushes back into the bathroom.
The doors to the bedroom open and he moves about so that they know he’s in there. He’d rather not upset them, though at this point, Zayn’s sure they’re both spastic over the fact that Liam wants to have lunch with Oliver.
Well, rather, he wants to have lunch with Zayn, but that’s beside the point.
Zayn can see Claire move to the bed and sit down while Oliver goes into the closet and he’s glad the first thing he’d done was return the Armani suit. It puts him at ease.
“Oh wait, the one Dan was able to get you into?”
“Yes! Thank god he had connections. It was a huge party.”
Zayn gathers all the supplies he brought into the room and tries to exit the bathroom. He knows he hasn’t cleaned the entire suit yet, but he can always come back later, especially if Oliver and company will be leaving soon.
“Zayn!” Oliver calls out.
He was just about to walk out of the bedroom and he curses his luck.
Turning around, he smiles and pays no attention to the woman on the bed. She’s giving him the once over and there’s a grimace on her face.
“Thank god you’re here!” Oliver exclaims. “I need a favor.”
“What can I do for you?” he asks. He doesn’t want to do anything for the socialite. He just wants to leave and never show his face around here again.
“Could you run downstairs and get that outfit you returned for me yesterday?”
And Zayn tries his best not to look guilty.
“Actually, it’s still in the closet. I thought you’d probably change your mind and want a second look.” Zayn looks down at his feet.
“Really?” Oliver looks elated. “You are amazing. Thank god.”
Zayn doesn’t like the praise. He shrugs his shoulders.
“You should be a personal assistant,” Oliver remarks. He turns back to the closet to look for the suit.
“He’s a maid.”
Zayn snaps his gaze over to Claire, whose frown has only deepened with disgust. He’s become used to the snide remarks, but it’s been awhile since someone’s been this blatantly rude to his face, and he almost feels like crying from the emotional and draining day it’s been. No, not day. Days.
The past two days have been out of control and so far from normal that Zayn just wants to hide away for awhile so he can eventually get back to his life. His normal, mundane, boring life.
Although he can turn and leave right now if he wanted to, he’s not sure if Oliver’s dismissed him yet and it’d be rude of him to assume so.
“I can’t decide if I should wear the Armani outfit or the other one in here,” Oliver states.
Claire stands up from her spot on the bed, and Zayn visibly relaxes. While she’s out of sight, Zayn moves over to the bed and figures that if he can’t leave yet, he might as well try and fix the bed as much as possible.
“What brand is it?” she asks.
“No clue,” Oliver replies.
“Then don’t wear it.”
Oliver walks out of the closet with the Armani suit in his hand along with the other outfit. He stands in front of the full length mirror and holds both outfits up. Much like Zayn and Niall had done yesterday.
“Just go with the Armani. It’s better looking than this,” Claire says, pointing to the other outfit. “It’s probably some cheap knockoff anyway.”
Oliver purses his lips in contemplation.
“Zayn,” he says.
Zayn stops what he’s doing, fluffing up the pillows and making sure there are no wrinkles in the fabric of the comforter, and turns to look at the other man.
Claire snorts and gives him a look. “He barely speaks English.” She’s looking right at him, and she knows exactly what she’s doing, trying to get under his skin because she wants some sort of reaction from him.
Well, she isn’t going to find one here.
Zayn looks back over at Oliver. “Yes?”
“What do you think?”
Oliver holds up the suits, showing both of them to Zayn and while he’d rather not be giving the man advice on how to dress up nice for Liam, he can’t just not say anything either.
“Uh, mix and match?” he answers. He’s really not sure what to tell the socialite. It’s not like he knows what’s fashionable and what’s not and besides, he’s only going to lunch anyway. How fancy did you need to dress for something like that?
“That’s a good idea actually,” Oliver muses. He holds up the Armani dress pants with the tailored jacket of the other suit. It’s not as nice, just a plan old button up jacket that’s more casual and fits nicely with the other expensive assets. “This’ll do.” Oliver beams. “Thank you, Zayn.”
Zayn only smiles and nods. He finishes straightening the bed as best as he can before he makes a hasty exit. As curious as he is to find out about what’s going to happen when the real Oliver shows up to Liam’s suit, he pushes it to the back of his mind until he can clean the rest of the floor of the hotel.
He finishes in record time before he’s on the elevator and heading towards the stock and supply room to empty his cart full of dirty laundry, and he hopes that he can find Niall although he’s pretty sure the other male is actually up in the York Suite at this very moment.
Zayn tries to busy himself, changing out the sheets in the washer and dryer. He also reorganizes some of the shelves within the room because he can’t stop his mind from reeling at the possibility that Liam could still find out everything.
When he’d left the park yesterday, he figured that was the last time he’d see Liam. That was the last time there would ever be any mention of his name again, but today, he learns that Liam had actually wanted to see him again and he’s beginning to wonder what the hell this means for him.
Really, he knows that Liam can’t find him. He’s given him a false name and no other information to go on to try and track him down. Even Niall had told him to stop worrying about his picture being in the paper. It was no big deal and no one could see his face.
The only thing that would take place today in the York Suite during the lunch with Liam and the real Oliver would be Liam finding out he’s got the wrong man and nothing else. There’s no evidence of Zayn except a memory and the only thing that’s holding all of this together is the fact that Niall’s managed to keep his mouth shut and not slip up when saying anything to the band. And Zayn, who’s had good luck on his side, having not crossed paths with Liam within the hotel.
He’s being paranoid now; he knows that, but it’s always been something he’s done. Worry about the small things and it’s times like this he wishes he had Niall’s carefree personality. It wasn’t to say that his friend didn’t care about anything, because he did, but a majority of the time Niall gave no fucks about any situation unless it directly involved him and anyone he knew.
Zayn can hear footsteps in the hall and he holds his breath, holds out a small amount of hope that it’s Niall.
And he breathes again when he finds that it is.
“Niall,” Zayn starts, but Niall’s got a troubled look on his face, which makes Zayn snap his mouth shut.
“We’ve got a bit of a problem,” Niall deadpans. He’s normally not this hesitant to spill anything, which only makes Zayn doubtful that this conversation will be a good one.
“Management wants us to serve lunch in the York Suite in an hour.”
Zayn drops the roll of toilet paper he’d had in his hand and he pales.
Niall’s face grows dejected. “They said you had to accompany me because it’s part of your training for management. I tried getting you out of it. I’m sorry.”
Zayn’s previous thoughts fly out the window and now he’s not sure what he’s going to do. This could end very badly. There’s really no way around this now because not only is his job on the line, but Liam will definitely recognize him now and he’s not sure if he can face the other man when he’s flat out lied to him.
“Oh my god, Niall,” Zayn whispers. He’s in a slight state of shock and he feels sick.
“Look, Zayn, don’t worry okay? We’ll figure something out so that he doesn’t see you.”
Zayn’s not really paying attention to Niall now, but he nods regardless. He feels miserable and defeated and he’s not sure what he’s done in his life that warrants these kind of unfortunate circumstances to follow him around to screw him over repeatedly.
Of course, the one time he decides to do something different and out of his comfort zone, is the time that the universe decides to tell him in a huge way that he fucked up big time and he shouldn’t have done what he did.
Zayn can feel the yarn of life unraveling far too quickly for his taste, and he’s not sure how much luck he has on his side anymore.
Chapter 5: tangled
Liam’s a bundle of nerves. He’s excited yet scared because Oliver had said yes to his lunch invitation and he’s due to arrive any minute. He’s currently standing in front of the hallway mirror, not out of vanity, but he wants to make sure he looks presentable.
He feels like a teenager again. He’d spent the better part of his morning trying to decide on what to wear until Harry had come in and pulled random clothes off the hanger to try on. He’d ended up deciding that Liam looked best in a button up dress shirt and jeans.
“Are you sure about this?” Liam had asked.
“Yes, it’s not too casual and it doesn’t look like you’ve tried too hard.”
Liam had only nodded and accepted Harry’s decision.
There’s a knock on the door which pulls Liam out of his thoughts.
“I’ll get it!”
Liam hears Louis yell from the living area and he pauses for a moment, letting that sink in before taking off towards the front of the suite, determined to stop Louis from doing anything, especially answer the door.
He passes the living room, where Harry is still sitting, and the dining room, where he can see that Niall, the butler, has finished laying out the assorted dining pieces they’ll need to eat with, until he arrives in the foyer of the hotel suite and catches up with the other man, just as he’s about to grab a hold of the door handle. “No, Louis. I’ll get it,” Liam insists.
Louis steps back and grins before leaving the area. Liam’s grateful; it’ll give him a few moments to prepare Oliver for the chaos he calls his friends.
There’s another knock on the door, and Liam takes a deep breath before placing his hand on the doorknob and turning it so that he can greet his guest. He plasters a smile on his face and opens the door.
And Liam’s words get caught in his throat because whoever is standing before him now isn’t Oliver.
“Liam!” the man greets. He moves past Liam, into the hotel suite and stands at the edge of the foyer, waiting for Liam to lead him further into the room. He’s got a beam of a smile on his face and Liam’s not sure what the hell is going on, who this man is or why he just invited himself in.
“Having lunch together was a wonderful idea. I know it’s been a long time, but it’s so good to see you.”
“Oliver?” Liam says hesitantly. He’s trying to be subtle in figuring out who this stranger is because he doesn’t want to be rude, but then again, he doesn’t know this person and he has no idea how to get him to leave.
“Yes, don’t you remember?” Oliver laughs. He places a hand on Liam’s arm, and he’s pretty sure that’s a lot more suggestive than it’s supposed to be.
“You know, why don’t you jog my memory?” Liam tries playing nice although he’s pretty sure that sounded worse out loud than it did in his head. Yet, Oliver just shakes his head with a knowing smile on his face.
“That party you had when the band was signed. Oh, it was such a huge deal!”
Oliver still has his hand on Liam, and he only nods like he knows what he’s talking about until the pieces of that night begin to flow back into his memory.
Oh. That party. The one where Harry and Louis ended up so shit-faced drunk that Liam had to play chauffeur and drive them home. And the same party that anyone and everyone, if you knew the right people, were invited to, to welcome the new band to the record label. And the very same party that everyone who was there, took the opportunity to flirt with him and he had to try his best to remember everyone’s names because he was a nice guy and he knew he’d feel bad if he didn’t recognize them at a later date.
Liam looks up at the man before him and it dawns on him exactly who this person is.
Oliver Brock. Socialite. Life of the party and wanted all the attention on himself despite the fact that it wasn’t even his event to begin with. He’d also been the man that had openly expressed his feelings for Liam although he was drunk off his arse.
Liam bites his lip. He has a feeling that Oliver doesn’t even really remember what happened. He wonders if he should tell him, but then again he’s not that kind of guy and he knows what it’s like to be stripped of one’s dignity. It’s not a pleasant feeling.
“Right!” Liam nods his head in understanding and possibly a little more dramatically than necessary. He’s not good at lying, despite what people might think, and he’s pretty sure that Mr. Brock will eventually pinpoint the moment that Liam’s only playing nice. What he really wants is to figure out what this man is here for and why someone else isn’t - the one he invited. Surely there couldn’t have been a mix-up.
“Why don’t we go sit in the living area? I’ll get us a couple of drinks.”
Liam points in the vicinity of the main room before walking straight into the dining area where he finds Niall bringing in a vase of flowers to set as a table piece.
“Who is that?” Liam wonders. He waves his hand in the direction of the main room.
Niall moves away from the table and fixes himself into the proper posture.
“Your guest, sir?” Niall looks quizzical, not sure what Liam’s on about.
The brown-eyed man huffs. “The one in the living room, sitting with Harry and Louis.”
Niall slowly shrugs a shoulder and looks bewildered.
“Just… come look then.”
Niall only blinks in response, but follows Liam so that they’re both gazing through the doorway of the living room, trying not to be seen. The guest is busy shaking hands with Harry and Louis and they both look a bit vacant.
The blonde peers into the room but because the man has his back to them he can’t see who it is that Liam’s referring to. It’s only a few moments though before the man is taking a seat and Niall gets a good look at his face and suddenly he’s feeling faint.
Taking a step back from the door, eyes having gone wide and distant, Niall thinks back to yesterday and the lunch invitation that Liam gave him. He’d read it and he’d also thrown it away because this was exactly the thing that shouldn’t have happened. Oliver shouldn’t be here, in the same room with Liam, ever, but he is and Niall’s got a litany of questions he wants to ask.
It takes him a moment or two before the grave reality of what is currently happening runs through his veins, and he looks at Liam to see what the other man knows or if he knows anything at all. But judging by the complete crestfallen view of his face, it’s easy to see that Liam’s not dealing with this well and he doesn’t know much of anything.
And then Niall thinks of Zayn, who’s currently hiding away in the kitchen, and what all of this could mean for him. He’d told his friend that everything would be okay, and that nothing would happen to where Liam would find out anything, but it seems like they’ve both fallen into a bit of absolute despair because now Niall feels like he’s been screwed over, and it’s not even his ass on the line.
“I thought I gave you an invitation to give to…” Liam stops because he realizes he doesn’t even know the other man’s name, the one who was originally supposed to show up. “To the other Oliver.”
His voice is nothing but a whisper, but Niall can still hear it.
“Uh, sir, I did. I did what you asked yesterday and delivered the invitation to the Park Suite.” Niall wrings his hands together because he’s lying, and his mind is currently trying to find a way out of this for his friend. Zayn doesn’t deserve the ridicule he’d get if he were ever found out, so Niall knows he’s got to play this off as a mix up. That’s the only way to get through this lunch.
“Oliver Brock, sir.”
“No. No, it’s not him.” Liam’s shaking his head and he backs away from the door. He can hear Harry and Louis trying to keep up a conversation with the other man in the room, but he’s knows he’s going to have to let them know that there’s been a slight change in plans because he can only imagine what they’re thinking right now.
“Oh, I heard about that charity dinner! I’ll definitely be going.”
Liam flinches and realizes he’s probably spent way too long getting drinks for everyone.
“I promised drinks. I’ll help you get them,” Liam says. He turns to follow Niall into the kitchen, but Niall yells out NO and then he’s suddenly looking at Liam, peering at him to see if he’s really just said that out loud.
“Uh, I mean. No, sir. I’m the butler. It’s my job to serve you.” Niall laughs one of those nervous laughs. “H-How many do you need?” He’s trying hard not to stutter over his words, and he can’t believe he just practically yelled at a guest and he’s really hoping that Liam’s not thinking he’s weird or feels the need to report him to management because everything is escalating too quickly for his liking and he just needs to get away from Liam and get back to Zayn so they can form some sort of game plan.
“Well, four will do, Niall. Thank you.” Liam looks a bit put-off, but Niall’s pretty sure that has to do with Oliver and not himself.
The other man turns and heads into the room and Niall can hear how tight his voice is when he greets everyone.
“Drinks are on their way. Niall’s fixing them now.”
Niall takes a deep breath before walking into the kitchen. The door swings shut behind him and he finds that Zayn’s busy making sure that room service has brought the right food and that it’s still warm enough to eat.
“Hey,” Zayn greets. He looks up from what he’s doing and see’s that Niall’s quiet and biting the inside of his cheek. “What’s wrong?”
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it’d matter at the time, but we’ve got a bit of a situation.”
“What else could go wrong?” Zayn groans.
“Oliver Brock is here,” Niall professes. Zayn just blinks at him. “For lunch.”
“Niall, I knew that.” Zayn narrows his eyes. Didn’t Niall know that? Surely he must’ve given that fact that he’d been assigned the York Suite and it’s his job to keep up with anything that has to do with this room. Plus, he’d said he’d help Zayn out with not being seen, and Zayn assumed it had to do with the fact that Liam and Oliver would be in the same room together.
“You knew?” Niall deadpans.
“Yes.” Zayn nods.
“Okay, well then this doesn’t make sense, because I didn’t deliver that lunch invitation like Liam wanted me to, yet Oliver is still here,” Niall rants. He runs a hand through his hair, and tugs on it a bit.
“What are you talking about?” Zayn turns from the counter, fully facing his friend. He thought Niall knew all along whom the guest was and yet he didn’t?
Niall sighs, “Yesterday, I didn’t tell you because I took care of it. Well, I thought I took care of it, but anyway, Liam asked me to send you an invitation to lunch under the impression that you were Oliver. But instead, I threw it away so that the real Oliver wouldn’t show up, but we can all see how that turned out.”
Zayn closes his eyes and resists the urge to face palm.
“They sent another butler up this morning to his suite,” Zayn clarifies. “It explains why no one in the room knew what was going on.”
“It’s okay, Niall.”
“It’s not okay, Zayn. I feel responsible for this mess!” Niall admits. “We’re not directly lying anymore, but we’re being put in situations where this is getting out of hand.”
“What do you want me to do?” Zayn asks, and it’s a lot more stressed than he intended it to be. “You want me to tell him?”
Niall slumps his shoulders in an act of surrender. He doesn’t want to start fighting now, not when they’ll need each other in the next twenty minutes to get through this.
“No, you can’t do that and that’s not what I’m asking. I’m just not sure what to do anymore.”
Niall moves, realizing he’s been in the kitchen far longer than necessary and that the hotel guests are still expecting their drinks. He moves over to the cabinet and pulls out four champagne glasses and fills them up, knowing that won’t get them too drunk although he expects everyone’s going to need it.
Placing the glasses on a silver tray, Niall brings the drinks into the sitting area and finds that everyone is on the edge of their seat. He doesn’t bothering moving any further into the room. No one’s noticed him yet, but he can feel the tension, as palpable as it is, and he doesn’t want to interrupt, although he’s pretty sure they’d all be thanking him for it.
“It’s a last minute effort, but I thought it’d be a good place to show my face. I’m not even sure if people know I’m in town,” Oliver gushes.
“You know they’re not hosting it just so we can have our picture taken, right?” Louis comments.
Liam coughs. Louis smirks. Harry looks like he wants to excuse himself. And Oliver is laughing.
“Of course it is,” he counters. “Make a little donation, and use the event for publicity.”
Niall doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but after that remark, he can see that whatever the topic of conversation is, it’s a touchy one and Oliver might have just crossed a line.
“Why don’t we eat?” Liam suggests, ignoring the blatantly rude comment. He can see that Louis’s patience is running out and Harry has a hand on his arm in order to keep him calm.
“Yes,” Louis drawls. “That’s a good idea.”
Everyone stands and it’s then that they notice Niall.
“Thank you,” Louis says, grabbing a glass and downing the whole thing in one go.
Niall draws his lips into a thin line and wonders if the socialite is that bad.
As each of them passes Niall, they grab a glass and head into the dining area. Niall follows just after Liam, and moves around him, back into the kitchen.
“They’re ready for lunch now,” Niall states as he walks through the door. He moves over to Zayn to grab the first two plates of food. Zayn, on the other hand, takes the bottle of champagne Niall had used and wraps it in a towel before placing it in a bucket of ice to keep it cool.
“When we walk in there, there’s a dresser sitting against the wall,” Niall explains. “I’ve placed a pitcher of water and a few other utensils there so all you have to do is walk behind me, turn to your left and make sure you’re back is turned towards the table. Just set the bottle down next to the water and get back into the kitchen.”
Zayn nods in understanding, and takes a deep breath before following Niall out into the dining area.
Harry’s the only one who’s seated at the moment while the rest are taking their places at the table. Zayn stays as close behind Niall as he can before he quickly darts to his left and faces the wall in the room. Just as his friend had told him, there’s a dresser lined up against the wall with various things on it in case anyone needs anything while eating.
“You’re staying in the Park Suite, right?” Zayn can hear Liam ask and he wants to turn around and see his face, but he can’t risk that, especially now.
“Mhmm,” Oliver murmurs. He’s busy gulping down the champagne like there’s not any more to be found.
“Well, I wanted to ask you about the man visiting you the other day. He’s got tan skin and his hair practically black. He’s also got a little boy about eight years old.”
Zayn sets down the bucket of ice and champagne a little too harshly and he hopes he hasn’t just drawn unnecessary attention to himself. He can hear Niall lightly cough, definitely a signal to get back into the kitchen now, but Zayn can’t find it in himself to do so just yet. He’s stuck where he is because he wants to hear what Liam has to say and there’s a part of him that feels like he doesn’t care; he’ll damn it all to hell, turn around and announce to the other male that what he’s really looking for is actually right in front of him.
“Hmm,” Oliver wonders aloud. “Sounds familiar.”
Zayn can tell that Liam’s voice is strained and he’s got to hand it to the guy for putting up with Oliver for this long. It’s not like he’s a bad person or anything, but his attitude towards things is a bit more chipper than what most people in New York are used to.
“Would you be a dear Zayn, and get me another drink?”
Zayn goes rigid when he hears Oliver address him because for one, he recognized him and secondly, he used his real name. Plus, there’s the fact that now it’s going to look odd if he doesn’t turn around and do as he’s asked.
There’s a moment of pure panic that runs through him. He hesitates, looking down at the bottle of bub, not sure what he needs to do. He could turn around or he could square his shoulders and walk right out of the room and pretend like everything’s fine while leaving everyone else confused.
He’s in the middle of an internal argument, when he feels someone’s presence next to him and he turns his head to find Niall standing next to him. He breathes out a sigh of relief.
“What are you trying to do?” Niall asks quietly. “Get caught?” He nudges Zayn in the direction of the doorway and he takes that as his cue to leave.
It’s only a minute or two before Niall’s barging through the door, looking at him like he’s gone insane, and Zayn has half a mind to look mildly guilty but before he can say anything, Liam comes walking through the door.
Zayn stares at Liam, who obviously hasn’t noticed that there’s someone else in the room because his attention is focused on Niall, though Niall is looking at Zayn and giving him a look that says the fuck are you doing just standing there.
Zayn whips around to face the counter, busying himself by rearranging the little knickknacks on the granite counter. His hands are shaking and he’s having a hard time getting oxygen into his lungs.
“He’s about my height, dark hair, really handsome and has a kid named Ryan.”
Niall stares up at Liam, unblinking and subconsciously takes a few steps back so that Zayn’s shoulder is pressing into his back, making sure his friend is out of view.
“You were there yesterday in his room. You have to remember him.”
Niall licks his lips before he speaks, “Sir, I only have a faint idea what he looks like. After all, I was only filling in for a couple of minutes until another butler could take my place.” He watches Liam carefully, how his shoulders slump and the small bit of hope in his eyes dim.
“What the hell happened?” Liam says to himself. He runs a hand over his face, already tired from the day’s events.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Niall laments.
“Don’t be sorry,” Liam says softly. He looks straight at Niall again, making sure the other man is listening. “Just find him, please.”
“Oh, Liam, I wanted to congratulate you on the album.”
Oliver’s voice is heard through the door and Liam closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. When he opens them again, he gives Niall a small smile before he retreats back into the dining area.
“I should punch you for being an idiot,” Niall scoffs. He turns to face his friend, who now has a death grip on one of the salt shakers.
Niall wants to apologize properly, but he knows that now isn’t the time to do it. He still has to take the rest of the food out to the hotel guests and he realizes this is the first time he’s actually been shit at his job since he first started. He finds that he’s okay with that though, especially after all the trouble he’s put Zayn in. He can afford to take a little heat from management, but Zayn… he can’t and Niall’s finally letting the entire truth sink in. Before, all either of them had to do was avoid Liam, but so far, they’ve been too close to the edge, where everything could fall apart.
“This hurts more than it was supposed to, Niall.”
Niall doesn’t want to feel or think right now and he can’t even imagine how Zayn’s handling this. It’s not like someone’s died, but Zayn’s never gotten into this much trouble, for lack of a better word, in his life and it’s no wonder he’s scared out of his mind. He’s got a kid to think about too and this only makes Niall feel all the worse.
“Why don’t you go ahead and go?”
“Lunch isn’t finished-”
“I know, but they’re already eating,” Niall points at the plates still sitting on the counter. “Some of them are already eating and it won’t take much to clean up when they’re done. You go ahead and go and see if you can get a couple of rooms cleaned before you leave.”
“What about management?” Zayn protests. He doesn’t want to leave Niall here alone to do all the dirty work, but Niall is making a very silent point. If he stays, there’s a bigger chance at being recognized and he doesn’t need that.
“I’ll tell them you did a wonderful job, because you did given the circumstances. Now, you get out of here and I’ll fill you in on anything that happens.”
Niall winks before he’s walking out of the door to serve the rest of the food. Zayn takes that time to leave quietly, and manages to do as Niall had suggested: find a few rooms to clean to get his mind off of things until he can pick up Ryan and head home.
They’re outside of the hotel, standing beside the town car that’s promised to take them around town for the rest of the afternoon. Liam’s currently waiting on Harry and Louis to finish signing an autograph and posing for pictures with a few fans that have managed to spot them. Liam’s already had his turn with them, so he’s chosen to lean up against the car, waiting patiently for his friends so they can leave.
Liam takes this time to think back on what happened earlier that day and he feels ill. There’s really no other way to describe what he’s feeling because he’s just as confused as Harry and Louis, who had hounded him with questions after Oliver Brock had left. He’d shut the suite door after the socialite exited, went back into the living room and sat on the couch, debating on whether this was one of those times to actually get drunk. He’d pushed that thought out of his mind quickly given the fact that he didn’t like to drink much to begin with and Louis had chosen to sit right next to him and start asking the very same questions he was wondering himself. Harry had been the one to pull him away and convince him that Liam probably needed a moment to himself.
“Thank you!” a younger girl says. Her voice snaps Liam out of his thoughts and he looks over at his friends who are now holding hands and waving goodbye to those they just met. Liam’s about to call out to them to get in the car, when he spots the revolving doors to the hotel moving just behind the pair of lovers. He recognizes a familiar face and a woman tagging along behind him, exiting the building and Liam’s eyes widen.
“Get in the car,” he presses. He grabs a hold of Harry’s arm and pulls him towards the vehicle although Harry has a slow response and tries to get out of his grip.
“Liam, what-” Harry starts, but Liam cuts him off, “Just get in, now.”
He shoves both Louis and Harry into the car before he gets in himself and slams the door shut, locking it. He can feel his friend’s eyes on him, but he remains quiet until he sees that Oliver and his friend are walking down the street, away from them.
“Did he see us?” Liam asks. He’s still looking out of the window, and he’s silently thankful that they’re tinted.
“Did who see us?” Louis asks. He’s rubbing Harry’s wrist from where Liam had been pulling.
Liam turns to his friends. “I’m sorry,” he replies, noticing Louis’s movements. “Oliver just stepped out of the hotel, and I didn’t want him to see us.”
His band mates nod in understanding, and soon enough the car is pulling away from the hotel and heading down the street.
“I left you alone about it earlier, but I still want to know what happened.” The space that Louis had given him earlier is no longer there and Liam knows he’s going to have to be honest.
“I don’t know what happened,” Liam admits.
“Well, for starters, that definitely wasn’t the same person you wanted over for lunch,” Harry states.
“And how do you know that?”
Harry raises his eyebrow. “Because I know your type and that man is so far off from it. Also, he doesn’t look like the same guy from the newspaper. Their builds are different.”
“What newspaper?” Liam asks. He pales slightly and he can feel his palms begin to sweat. “I was in the paper?”
Louis looks just as confused and when they both look at Harry, his mouth forms into a small o like he just gave away an important secret he wasn’t supposed to. “Yeah, you were. It wasn’t a very big article though.”
“Okay,” Liam pauses to think, “So then his name must be in the paper then. I mean, the other Oliver I wanted to see.”
“You mean you don’t know this guys name?” Louis gives Liam a look, and Liam manages to look rueful.
Louis throws his hands up before he rests his elbows on his knees, leaning forward in his seat. “You’re telling me you invited some bloke over for lunch, without knowing his name?”
“It doesn’t matter now, does it?” Liam quips.
“Liam-” Louis begins.
“No,” Liam cuts him off. “I know what you’re thinking, okay? You want me to be careful because he could be a flake, or could be using me, but it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t matter anymore because he didn’t even show up!”
The car goes silent, and Liam briefly wonders what the driver thinks of them.
“You’re right, Liam, and I’m not going to apologize for looking out for you. You’re my friend, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Liam looks at Louis, and the anger within him fades.
“I also don’t want you to get your hopes up about this… this man. It’s apparent he didn’t want to see-”
“Louis,” Harry warns, but his boyfriend doesn’t stop.
“-you, otherwise I’m sure he would’ve shown up.”
Liam can feel a faint bit of animosity grow deep within his belly, but it’s not directed at his friend. It’s towards the words, the truth coming out of his mouth, because regardless of what happened, Liam had told himself that if nothing came out of this invitation, he’d leave well enough alone and take it as a sign that things just weren’t mean to be with the man he’d had a decent conversation with yesterday.
There’s times where Liam wants things to be fair, and he knows that the same thing is true for everyone, but for once, he wants his personal life to work out the way he wants it to instead of it being dictated by outside events he can’t control.
In the end, he knows he’s going to have to let things settle, and he’s going to have to get back into routine of waking up alone until hopefully one day someone comes along who can prove to him that he’s not going to be alone forever.
Liam sighs and doesn’t bother making any other remark. It’s pointless and there’s really not much else to say. Instead, he turns to look out of the window and watches the various amount of people who are walking down the street, trying to get to where they’re going. There’s all sorts of people he notices. Some who are walking with a group, others who are by themselves, some on their mobiles and others who look completely lost. And in that time, Liam wonders about their life and how they must be so different from his. It’s fascinating that no two people’s lives are the same, yet he believes they’re all connected in a way, which only has him wondering why he’d met a man who’d captured his interest with just one conversation.
And maybe it’s that logic that brings him to spot one particular person within the crowd, walking down the street with a little boy in tow, who’s smiling and presumably talking with the youngster about whatnot.
Liam feels his heart jolt.
“Stop the car,” he demands.
He can feel his friend’s eyes on him again, but the car is moving over to the curb, a few yards ahead of the man he’d been so desperate to see before, so that Liam can exit and wait a few moments until the pair is close enough for him to call out to them.
“Oliver?” he calls, and he watches as his head snaps over to look directly at Liam before his eyes widen. Liam’s not sure if the reaction is a good one or not. He hasn’t gotten to know this person like he’s wanted to, definitely doesn’t know him enough to tell what his body language means yet, but he wants to.
“Hi Liam,” Ryan says. He’s smiling up at Liam and he can’t help but return it.
“How are you?”
“Great!” The boy’s smile only widens further, and Liam turns his attention to the man before him. He moves closer to the pair, closing the distance between them so that they can hear one another better over the sounds of the cars and people talking around them.
“You want to hear something really strange, Oliver?” Liam asks. He’s staring directly at him and he can feel knots forming in his stomach.
“Uh, sure,” the other man says hesitantly. Zayn’s nerves are put on edge, but he plays along with Liam, wondering how in the world this is really happening. He’s beginning to believe these things are occurring for a reason, because it’s just too coincidental to be near this man as many times as he’s been around him in the past two days.
“I invited you to lunch today, but the thing is,” Liam explains, “you showed up… only it wasn’t you. So, uh, I was just wondering what happened?”
Zayn bites his lip, tilts his head to the side and says, “I don’t know what you mean.”
He’s getting too good at lying and his kid is standing right next to him and although Ryan knows the situation, he feels terrible for showing his son that this is the proper way to act in any given situation.
“Are you still staying at the Beresford?” Liam wonders.
He looks hopeful, Zayn notices.
“Oh no,” Zayn starts. His mind falters as to what to say next, and he’s not quite sure how in the world Liam hasn’t called him out on lying yet. “We moved uptown,” he says quickly. Nothing else is coming to him so he smiles and shrugs and makes it seem like everything’s okay.
“Really? Well, if you want, we can give you a ride there.” Liam turns and gestures to the car behind him and notices that both Harry and Louis are no longer inside but are leaning against it, watching the exchange. Louis gives him a pointed look, like he can’t believe Liam just suggested such a thing but Liam ignores him and turns back.
“Yeah, dad!” Ryan shouts. He’s excited and Zayn feels terrible, but they need to get out of here and Zayn’s going to have to come up with a very good excuse as to why Liam can’t drive them home.
Zayn glances down at Ryan before looking back up at Liam. “I’m sorry, but we’re on our way to a party just a few blocks away-”
“It’s not a problem, if that’s what you’re thinking. We can drop you off there too,” Liam insists.
“It’s okay, Liam. We’ll just walk,” Zayn answers, standing his ground. “Besides, we could use the fresh air, and it looks like you’re busy anyway.” Zayn nods over towards Liam’s band mates, reminding him that they are still standing there. He feels slightly uncomfortable when he glances at them. They’re both staring at him and Zayn briefly wonders what Liam’s told them.
“Alright,” Liam says, knowing it’s best to back off. “Is there any way to get a hold of you then?”
“His cell is 9-1-7,” Ryan begins, but a hand covers his mouth before he can finish and he’s looking up at his father. “Oh,” he finishes, though it’s muffled.
“Why don’t I call you?” Zayn offers. He removes his hand before Ryan gets mischievous and decides to lick it out of spite for telling him to keep quite.
Liam doesn’t look bothered, rather amused and nods.
“Okay,” he agrees.
He watches as Zayn pulls out his phone from his back pocket, and he recites the digits he rarely gives out to anyone. When he’s done, and Zayn confirms that he’s saved the number, Liam hears someone clear their throat behind him and he finds that Louis is suddenly next to him.
Zayn takes a step back while putting his mobile away, intimated by the presence of the other male. He can feel Louis analyzing him from head to toe and he feels put on the spot.
“Sorry, I’ve been rather rude,” Liam says. “This is Louis Tomlinson, another member of the band and one of my good friends.”
Louis holds out his hand and Zayn looks at it warily. He takes it though, shaking it and can feel Louis’s grip tighten around his hand.
It’s a warning.
Zayn quickly draws back his arm and moves closer to Ryan, wrapping an arm around the boy.
“I didn’t catch your last name,” Louis speaks. He’s still giving Zayn an intense stare, and while normally Zayn wouldn’t usually back down from something like this, he knows that Louis doesn’t know him and it’s probably in his best interest to be concerned over anyone new in the band’s life. Zayn doesn’t blame him one bit; he just wishes he wasn’t so excessive.
“Malik,” Ryan chimes in.
Zayn’s trying really hard to keep his cool, and it’s not that he’s angry. No, he’s far from that, but they’ve already been standing here too long for his liking-
“We need to go,” another voice calls out, interrupting Zayn’s thoughts, who’s now beginning a mental chant of oh thank god in his head because of the perfect timing.
Liam turns to look at Harry who’s gesturing to the car before sliding back in.
“It was nice to meet you,” Louis says. He gives a little nod of the head before he’s walking back to the car.
Liam doesn’t move yet. He doesn’t want to, but he figures it’s best to leave before things take a downturn or one of his friends decides to drag him back to the waiting vehicle.
Zayn gives him parting smile before moving to continue walking down the street, but a hand reaches out for his, and it’s suddenly wrapped in warmth and fingers and Zayn wonders how they would feel tracing his face or his body-
“Please use that number,” Liam urges. “You can call me anytime.”
Zayn looks down at his hand which is still in Liam’s and nods.
Liam’s smile grows and he releases Zayn, and it isn’t until Liam’s walking towards the car that Zayn finally lets out a deep breath he’d been holding and turns to Ryan.
“It’s still not okay to lie.”
Ryan giggles, which causes Zayn’s mood to lift considerable despite the little run in he’d just had.
Liam doesn’t turn around when he hears Zayn address Ryan, but his heart warms up and he only hopes that good things are being said. When he gets to the car, he climbs in, shuts the door and then they’re driving down the road again. He doesn’t bothering looking out of the window to glace back at what he was beginning to believe was a figment of his imagination.
No one speaks, but Liam doesn’t care. His spirits have just been lifted, especially after that horrible lunch he’d had with the socialite and he feels like a little piece of him is just right even though he’d doubted everything just minutes ago.
“He’s actually kind of cute, if you ask me,” Harry remarks.
Louis turns to Harry with a frown on his face. “Well, nobody asked you,” he complains.
Harry grins and leans over to kiss Louis right on the lips. “I’m not leaving you, darling,” he starts. “Liam already called dibs.”
“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?” Liam asks, not sure if he should feel offended.
Harry’s cheeky smirk only widens. “You fancy him quite a bit, Liam. In fact, I’d say he’s given you a hard on.”
Liam rolls his eyes and leans back in his seat to look out of the window. He can hear the other two males trying to muffle their laughter but are failing miserably.
“Laugh it up, but he’s the one I want.”
“Don’t make it sound like you’re choosing a pet,” Louis chides. He’s wrapped up in Harry’s arms, but he’s facing Liam, who’s wishing he had a pillow to throw at his friend’s head right now.
“You know what I mean, Louis.”
“Louis,” Harry whines, trying to pull his boyfriends attention back onto him. When Louis gazes at him, the smirk is back on Harry’s face. “I think Liam may be in love,” he whispers, but Liam hears him anyway.
Liam raises an eyebrow, showing Harry that he knows what they’re saying, but he doesn’t argue with them. It’s pointless because they’ll continue to make fun of him and how he made puppy eyes at Oliver just moments ago. The thing is, he’s certain about one thing, he doesn’t love the man, at least not yet, but he definitely feels an attraction there despite having only met him twice. Being the responsible one in the band for so long has made Liam aware of a lot of things in his life. He’s more on guard about things because of his fame and he’s a lot more careful with everything he does and this whirling, budding romance of a crush he has… he can feel it spiraling out of control and it’s a complete risk. Especially for someone like him but he knows he’s willing to take that chance.
His gut is telling him to do so, take a chance on this and see what happens. It’s the same feeling he had just before he auditioned for the X Factor. The one that told him that he’d make it through the first round, if anything, and that regardless of how long he’d be in the competition, it’d be a great experience.
He trusts that feeling, because it also helped lead the band to their first hit single, their first award, their first everything in the music business and while he doesn’t and will never take credit for all of those things because Harry and Louis are a part of it too, he’d always had a feeling in the back of his mind that things would turn out okay for them no matter what happened.
And now, he’s currently living his dream, and will soon be expanding that to America as well.
He may not love this man yet, not in the way that Harry is suggesting, but he has a feeling that it could lead to something more and he knows what he wants. This little run in on the street has just cemented his thoughts, put it in stone for him and blindly told him that this is right.
“I may have not told you everything that happened yesterday,” Liam begins.
Harry and Louis stop talking and look directly at Liam.
“What are you on about?” Louis nudges him.
“He isn’t a phony. I know that’s what the both of you are thinking, but I just know different.”
The boyfriends stay silent, waiting for Liam to continue.
“Yesterday, when I had asked him out to dinner and told him about the big event we have to go to, do you know what he told me?”
No one comments and Liam doesn’t mind.
“He asked me why I felt the need to go. I just told him it was for charity and publicity and then he told me that if it’s not where I wanted to be, then I shouldn't have to go.” Liam pauses, and he looks like he has a lot to say. His thoughts are running wild, but they finally settle on something that may just be a little too crazy for someone like him. “If you want me to go to that benefit tomorrow night, then he needs to go.”
Louis looks puzzled for a moment, and before he can say anything, Harry’s responding. “Liam, I don’t think you can do that. You have to go.”
Liam shakes his head. “No, I don’t. We’re told to go because it’s technically supposed to help our image, especially with the American media so that it looks like we’ve been involved with their politics, but Oliver’s right. I shouldn’t have to go to these things.”
Harry opens his mouth to protest, but he closes it just as quickly.
“Do you realize what you’re saying, Liam?” Louis asks. “Management isn’t going to happy with you, at all.”
“Fine, but I’m really not obligated to do these things. The only thing they have me under is for award shows and the like.” Liam shrugs.
“But it’s charity!” Harry’s looking at him like his lost his mind and maybe he has.
“Exactly; they threw this on us on our week off because they knew we were too nice to say no,” Liam explains. He feels like arguing all of a sudden and he’s not sure why. No one’s done anything to him, but Oliver’s words from their conversation in the park are sinking in quite deep. “Look, I said I’d go, but only if he’ll go with me.”
“Fine, we’ll see if he’ll go,” Louis consoles him. He looks at his boyfriend, silently asking him how they’re going to get this other man to go to a charity dinner that he wanted nothing to do with in the first place.
Although Louis’s wary of everything that could happen, and he still has his doubts, he’ll do this for Liam if it’ll get him to go. He may push management’s limits, but Liam’s usually the responsible one and has never so much as protested against anything, yet here he is doing just that. It’s a testament to Liam’s feelings, and while his friend can be rather adamant about things, he can be as stubborn as a mule.
Louis’s not sure how he’ll make this happen, but if there’s one person that can get things done, it’s him. He figures he’ll have to start where all of this began, at the hotel, and hopes that someone knows this Oliver character.
He’ll begin there, but he has a feeling it’s not going to be as easy as it sounds.
“Time for bed!”
“What? Nooooooo,” Ryan dramatically yells, falling to the floor and looking up at the ceiling.
Zayn chuckles, “Yes sir; you have school tomorrow.”
Ryan stands up and heads to his bedroom with Zayn in tow. He climbs into bed and settles down and Zayn takes a seat on the edge of the mattress, pulling up the blanket so that it’s covering his son. Ryan wiggles around, trying to get comfortable and when he does, he looks up at his father and grins.
Zayn returns it, but then his face softens and he bites the inside of his cheek. After that run in with Liam, it had given him some time to think and he’d concluded that if his plan to continue avoiding Liam were to work, he’d also have to inform Ryan of that as well.
“I know the possibility of running into Liam again is small, but with the review at work for this new job, we’re going to have to be extra careful.” Zayn pauses to make sure Ryan’s listening. “That means no coming up in the elevator to see me and no Liam Payne.”
Ryan scrunches up his face, not really understanding the logistics of everything that’s going on. “It’s not like you’re breaking any laws,” Ryan argues.
Zayn closes his eyes and sighs. When he reopens them, he looks at his son and wishes things were that simple. “Just… I mean it, okay? No more, and if you see him-”
“I’ll make like a tree and leave. I got it,” Ryan finishes.
“Thank you.” Zayn leans down and kisses Ryan’s forehead. “Go to sleep, okay?”
Ryan nods. “Goodnight.”
Zayn turns off the light before leaving the room. He keeps the door open, just in case, and heads into his own bedroom for the night.
He can’t sleep yet. He knows that much. There’s too much on his mind and it’s been a long day, physically and mentally. Not only had he been so close to Liam, so close to admitting everything, but just out of sheer luck, they’d met again only a few hours later on the street with the rest of Liam’s friends who apparently had no problem expressing how they really felt about him. They didn’t have to say it to his face, not directly anyway, but Zayn knows the look Louis had been giving him. He’d been kind to his face, but his thoughts were probably much more hurtful than anyone would like to admit.
And Zayn berates himself. Who was he to be presumptuous about these people? Just because everyone did the same to him, didn’t mean he had to lower himself to their standards. Besides, if Liam was able to find a friend in someone like Louis, then he couldn’t have been all that bad. Zayn realizes just how guarded they all have to be and just because they were in a country where many didn’t recognize them yet, it obviously didn’t mean it’d take the edge off of having to look over one’s shoulder every couple of minutes.
Zayn’s frustrated now. There’s no use in trying to analyze everything, because even though Zayn now has a link to Liam – his phone number – it doesn’t mean that he’ll ever see any of them again, which is what should’ve happened the first time around. He knows that he only has two options right now: if he runs into Liam again, he’s got to make it crystal clear that he’s not interested and finally put this thing they’re dancing around to rest or simply avoid Liam like the plague like he’d advised Ryan to do.
Zayn would rather go with the latter of the two, but if push comes to shove, he’s going to have to break it off completely.
Which he finds extremely funny because they aren’t even dating, but there’s something there; he can feel it and he’s going to have to put an end to it.
So, Zayn thinks. If I run into him again, that’s it. I’ve got to tell him that whatever this is can’t go any further.
The thought doesn’t help him believe that things are going to be easy, but it puts him at a slight ease, just enough for him to drift off to sleep.
Louis’s pretty sure he’s lost his mind. It’s Monday morning, which is a disastrous day all in itself, and really, he shouldn’t even be up this early because he could be in a nice big bed with his boyfriend no less, but instead he’s busy trying to figure out a way to find a seemingly non-existent man.
“Hello, love,” Louis says.
The woman behind the front desk looks up into Louis’s mesmerizing face and smiles.
“Hello,” she replies.
“I was wondering if you could do me a favor?” he asks. He’s playing up his charm as much as he can, making sure to smooth out his voice so that his accent is just as appetizing as the rest of him. Louis knows he’s good looking, and that’s not to say he’s vain, but when you’re able to capture several people’s attention just by walking into the room, you can’t be that sore on the eyes.
“I’ll see what I can do for you, sir.”
“Lovely!” Louis leans further on the desk so that he’s that much closer to the woman and not talking as loudly before. It’s not like he’s trying to keep a secret, but he really needs to get as much information as he can out of this woman without drawing too much attention to himself. “See, I’m looking for a guest here at the hotel and-”
“Sir, I’m afraid we’re not allowed to give out names,” the woman cuts him off. He tries to keep his face set as best as he can but he can feel the annoyance seep through.
“Oh, well, it’s not for me, actually. I’m staying in the York Suite and one of my friends-”
“The York Suite?” The woman’s eyes bug out a little and Louis looks a little startled at the fact that this woman’s interrupted him again.
“Yes,” he says warily. Of course the people working at the hotel would know of their important guests, but even then they’ve had a few odd experiences at the hotels where the staff had tried to hang out with them.
“Oh, well then if you could just give me the name and I’ll do a quick search.”
Louis notices that her entire demeanor has changed. Instead of being the stern receptionist who must follow the rules, her body has relaxed and she looks quite pleased to help him out.
“Right,” Louis mumbles. He licks the top of his teeth before smiling and says, “Oliver Malik.”
The woman places her hands on the computer keyboards and quickly types in the name given. She furrows her brow and types something else in but Louis can already tell that she’s not finding anything.
“There’s no one staying here by that name.”
Louis taps his fingers against the counter. “Okay, well, he said he had been staying here. So, is there anyone by that name who’s checked in within the past week or two?”
She’s typing again, but the lady shakes her head. “No.”
Louis furrows his brows and isn’t quite sure what the hell is going on.
“Alright then, maybe there’s someone that’s staying here with the last name Malik? Or their first name Oliver?”
Louis waits patiently for the woman to search the computer again, but she confirms that no one by the last name of Malik has checked in or out and that the only Oliver within the building is the socialite.
“Thank you so much for your help,” Louis says.
“You’re welcome,” the woman returns. She looks a little upset that she hadn’t been able to help him, but Louis just gives her a big grin to help her feel better.
Things are not turning out like he wants. He doesn’t have much to go on in the first place and if the people here at the hotel couldn’t even find who he’s looking for, then how did Liam expect him to find this stranger.
He’s about to turn and leave, but an idea pops into his head and then he’s addressing the woman again, who’d turn back to her computer screen, busying herself with work.
“Excuse me,” he interrupts.
She looks up at him again, obviously confused about what else she could help him with.
“Sorry, but uh, our room was assigned a butler and he doesn’t show up until around eleven o’clock today. Do you think there’s any chance you could point me in the right direction so that I can find him? I’d really like to speak with him.”
“All personnel and members of the staff go in through that door,” the woman answers, pointing at a door to her left. “I don’t know what room you’ll find them in, but that’s your best bet.”
Louis thanks her before heading off. There’s a brief thought in his mind that wonders if it’s always this easy to get what you want out of the hotel staff, but then again she’d probably been informed that he was an important guest and anything he said goes.
It’s special treatment, and while Louis’s not that big of a fan of it, it’s handy in times like this. He doesn’t and will never feel like he deserves better than everyone else, but he can’t deny the perks of being someone important.
When he pushes the door open and walks through the threshold, he finds that it’s just one long hallway. He’s not sure what rooms are what, but he continues walking, peering into each room. Most of them are empty and he passes a couple of break rooms, washrooms, and another hallway labeled as the kitchen.
He figures he’d come across another human amongst all of the rooms he’s passing, but it seems like they’re all empty. Although he’s willing to call it quits, knowing he hasn’t even really tried to look, he hears a woman’s voice down at the end of the hall and he can gather that she’s addressing someone.
Louis knows that’s his best bet in finding Niall, so he continues down the hallway until he comes to a stop in front of a closed door where he can hear the voice clearly.
“Tomorrow we’ve got a group of businessmen coming in from overseas. They’ll be here for a conference held at the hotel next week.”
Louis grabs a hold of the door handle and twists it slowly, hoping that it doesn’t creak, and slips inside the room. No one notices him; they’re all too busy paying attention to the woman in the front of the room who’s currently discussing the inner workings of the hotel and what’ll be happening. He stands in the back of the room, looking for the blonde butler because he knows he can’t walk through the mass of people gathered around him. He doesn’t want to interrupt anything, which would be rude no less, and he doesn’t want to cause unnecessary attention either.
He scans the crowd, but has a hard time seeing who’s who because he’s staring at the back of everyone’s head and there are plenty of blondes in the room. It isn’t until he’s looking over the small gathering again that he notices a movement over towards his right, where there’s a gathering of people in green tailored suits.
Louis knows they’re butlers and when he keeps his eye on the sudden movement, he finds a head of blonde hair heading his way, and he breathes in a sigh of relief.
“Niall,” he whispers.
The blonde excuses himself to get around the last few people in his way before he’s standing in front of Louis and motioning to the door he just came through.
“Is there something you need, sir?” Niall asks. They’re out in the hallway now and Louis thanks his lucky stars that he doesn’t have to search any longer.
“Yes, Niall. I need your help,” he replies.
Niall nods his head in understanding, waiting for Louis to give him his orders.
“Usually I’m the one to make things difficult,” Louis begins, “but Liam’s insisted on bringing this Oliver person to the charity event tonight.”
“Okay,” Niall says. He’s not really following along, but he knows this has something to do with Zayn and he’s wondering what Louis has planned.
“It’s funny because I’ve checked here at the hotel for an Oliver Malik, and he doesn’t seem to exist. Either way, you’re the only other person who’s met him, and I need you to find him.”
“Yes, you.” Louis reaches into his back pocket of his jeans and pulls out a small envelope. He holds it in his hand, brushing his thumb over the detailing on the paper before extending his arm out to Niall.
“Once you find him, give him this.”
Niall looks down at the envelope and takes it. He looks over it for a moment, noticing that the paper is an off-white color with a light embroidered design etched into all fours sides, giving the piece a delicate but classy feel to it. In the middle of the note the word guest is written in black cursive.
It’s an invitation.
“This is all?” Niall looks back up at Louis. His face is relaxed and absent of any emotion he may be feeling right now.
Louis nods. “Yes, thank you.” He gives a quick smile before he’s moving around Niall to walk down the hallway and back to his previous business.
Niall’s left standing in the hallway by himself, biting his lip and before he can give it much thought, he turns around and calls aback out to Louis.
Louis stops walking, having not gotten very far, but his interest are piqued and he wonders what else needs to be said. He only turns halfway, just enough so that he can see the butler.
“What if-” Niall starts, but he cuts himself off before he can finish. He hates having to ask this because technically he’s not supposed to question when a guest asks him to do something, but he needs to find out the answer to this question because this not only involves Zayn, but it involves his job, his son and everything else in-between. Whatever the answer is, Niall knows he’s going to have to talk to Zayn directly after the meeting and set things straight with him. Too much has happened and although Louis hadn’t found Zayn down here, Niall’s holding proof that things are being put into motion and his friend is going to have to be making a choice very soon.
“What if I can’t find him? Or he doesn’t want to go?”
Louis raises an eyebrow, and his lips thin out into a straight line. Niall thinks he should probably take a few steps back although there’s a considerable distance between them already.
“I’m pretty sure you’re good at persuading people,” Louis answers. He turns and walks away, not bothering to look back at Niall or waiting for any sort of statement from him.
Niall has a feeling that Louis is skeptical, and the only thing he doesn’t have is the information he needs to fill in the missing pieces. He doesn’t know the other man personally, but he wouldn’t put it past him to try and dig up any and all information he could about Zayn.
The only thing that Zayn has on his side right now, and the only thing that’s working in their favor is the fact that Zayn’s first name is still a secret to those involved. While Oliver had used it at the lunch yesterday, no one had paid any mind to it because it wasn’t important then.
Niall knows what he’s got to do now. Not for Louis’s sake, and not for Liam’s either, but for Zayns’. He wishes that things were different, but they aren’t and it’s time to settle this once and for all.
“What do you mean he gave you this?”
Zayn’s holding the envelope in his hand and staring at it like it’s got three heads. He hasn’t opened it, but he knows what it says. It’s only an invitation and one he’s very much inclined to turn down.
“I can’t go to this!” he says.
“You’re going to have to,” Niall counters.
Zayn looks at his friend through narrowed eyes, not understanding. They’re both alone in the locker room, which Zayn’s grateful for because he’s pretty sure they’re being louder than they should be about this.
Niall had found him after they’d dismissed everyone from the morning meeting and while technically he’s supposed to be up on floor eight cleaning the hotel rooms, the Irishman had pulled him aside instead and told him it was urgent.
“No, Niall. I can’t go to this. What happened to avoiding Liam so he doesn’t find out who I am and that I lied to him?”
“And that’s exactly why you need to go.” Niall sits on the bench in front of his locker.
“I’m not following,” Zayn stresses.
“Zayn, are you truly interested in management?” Niall looks up at his friend who moves over to sit down next to him on the bench.
Zayn nods, “Yeah.” He’s still not sure where Niall’s going with this.
“Then you need to go tonight-”
“-and end it with Liam.”
Zayn looks at Niall, eyes glazed with bewilderment and something akin to annoyance.
Niall sighs, “Look, we can’t afford for you to keep running into them. They’ll be staying here for at least another four days and you’ve already run into them more times than either of us could’ve counted on. Plus,” Niall drawls, “Louis seems rather incredulous about all of this. I wouldn’t put it past him to go digging for information he doesn’t need.”
Zayn moves his head so he can stare at the floor. He knows Niall has his best interest at heart and what he’s telling him is only the truth. It makes sense to him, and he really has no other questions to ask, but there’s a part of him that doesn’t want to go. He’d rather risk the chance of running into Liam again on his own territory than meet Liam tonight in a setting he knows he shouldn’t even be in.
Here at the hotel, Zayn’s in control. He knows the corridors like the back of his hand and he knows exactly what management expects of him. As much as he hates to say it, this place is like a second home to him. Everyone’s been kind and he’s familiar with it, but there’s something inside Zayn that knows that if he steps one foot into that building tonight, with the flashing cameras and fancy dresses and people who are undoubtedly rich, he loses that familiarity. He loses that control and Zayn doesn’t trust himself. There’s a good probability that Zayn might just be swept off his feet, and he’s not sure if he could deal with that heartache.
And then he tells himself he’s being stupid. It’s completely selfish for him to go on lying and hoping to run into Liam again despite the fact that he told himself and his son that they couldn’t do that anymore; that they had to avoid him at all cost. He doesn’t know what it is about the other man that’s got him so worked up, but all he can see right now is Liam, and he doesn’t want that to end.
He doesn’t want Liam out of his life for good.
But, he has a job on the line. He has a son too and while most people his age would be able to take such a huge risk, he can’t afford it. He’s not that sixteen year old kid who can go out and party and not give a fuck about what anyone thinks. And maybe it’s stupid to compare the posh life that Liam has to what was once his messed up, addictive past, but it’s the only comparison he has to make, because Liam makes him feel that way again. Makes him feel young and stupid and happy.
“Okay,” Zayn agrees. “I’ll go tonight, and I’ll tell him that nothing can happen between us.”
The tone of his voice doesn’t surprise him. It’s melancholy, and full of regret.
“I’m sorry,” Niall adds.
Zayn looks up at his friend and gives him a curious look. “For what?”
“If I hadn’t of been an idiot, you wouldn’t have to be doing this.”
“Niall, I don’t blame you. It’s not your fault,” Zayn tells the blonde.
And he doesn’t blame Niall. Not one bit, because if it hadn’t of been for him, he wouldn’t have met Liam, and Zayn’s not sure if he’d ever like to go back to a life where he hadn’t known the other man. Though the singer wouldn’t be a part of his life after tonight, he’s rather glad he’d had the opportunity to meet him, to know him to an extent.
“It’s not your fault,” Zayn says quickly. He grins and Niall returns it.
The moment of silence only lasts a few seconds, and Zayn’s not all that surprised. He watches as his friend stands up quickly and turns back around to address him.
“Well,” Niall starts, “we’re going to have to get you all dressed up if you’re going to go tonight.”
Zayn’s eyes widen. “What?”
“You can’t go looking like a hobo, Zayn,” Niall scolds him. He gestures to his outfit and while he knows the maids don’t have the best clothing, it’s not that bad….
No, Zayn thinks. They’re that bad.
“Okay then. What do you have in mind? I don’t have anything to wear.”
Niall’s mouth widens into a huge smile, and Zayn knows that look. That’s the look that his best mate gets when he’s got an idea that he thinks is brilliant and he won’t let it go until someone follows through with it.
“What are we going to do this time?” Zayn says cautiously.
“Trust me; I’ve got the perfect idea.”
Zayn can only hope.
Zayn takes one look at his surroundings and feels the urge to walk away.
“I can’t do this,” Zayn says, shaking his head. He attempts to take a few steps backwards but Niall’s right behind him, pushing him forward instead.
“Oh yes you can, and you will!”
“Come on, dad!” Ryan tugs at his hand, and Zayn feels like stomping his foot and throwing a fit in the middle of the store and shouting but I don’t wanna. It’s a bit of a dramatic reaction, he knows, but adults don’t always act like adults.
He rolls his eyes. Zayn can’t believe he’s arguing with himself right now.
“Niall, I can’t afford any this,” Zayn tries reasoning with his friend. “I’m not entirely sure why we’re here.”
After picking up Ryan from school and Niall finding someone to cover the rest of their shifts, they’re now currently standing in the middle of the hotel’s shop. It’s huge and expensive and everything Zayn isn’t. The last time he’d been here was to the retrieve Oliver Brock’s shoes and even then he couldn’t find himself to look at the price of them. As soon as they had rung up the shoes on the register, he’d handed over the card and told them that whatever the price, charge it.
The shops aim is for things like that though, and because the hotel garners a lot of business meetings and many travelers with expensive tastes, they hold just about anything and everything anyone could ever want; including clothes for men, women and children, along with a range of shoes and jewelry.
And Zayn realizes why he’s here. He may not be able to afford anything in the store, but Niall’s got a plan, and he figures he knows what it is.
“You called in some favors didn’t you?” Zayn asks.
Niall shrugs, but leads him over to an older gentleman who’s currently preoccupied with pinning different areas of a suit hanging off of a mannequin.
“Harold?” Niall asks.
The old man looks up at the site before him and smiles. “Niall! I’ve got what you asked for, follow me.”
The man waves at the trio to follow him and he leads them back further into the men’s department. Ryan still has a hold of his hand, but Zayn falls behind the two, taking in everything around him. It’s not like he hasn’t been here before, and it’s not like he hasn’t seen clothing before either, but it’s still surreal to him that he’s going to be wearing one of these tonight for the first time in his life, and he’s not sure how he feels about that.
Harold leads them back to an open area where a large mirror hangs down from the wall. Behind it, there’s an entrance marked fitting rooms, and the old man points to it.
“It’s first room on your right. All the stuff you need is in there. You go ahead and try the clothes on and we can get started.”
He’s staring directly at Zayn who only nods in response.
Ryan lets go of his hand to follow Niall to a couch sitting just a few feet away from the mirror. He knows how this’ll go. He’ll go in there and try on whatever ridiculous monkey suit they’ve picked out for him and he’ll have to come out to model it for them.
He’s very reluctant to do this already.
“Niall, are you sure-”
“Just go, Zayn,” Niall says. He gives him a pointed look, and Zayn resists the urge to say anything more.
Zayn heads towards the fitting room and easily finds the clothing they want him to try on.
The first suit on the hanger doesn’t look like it’s anything special. It’s black and not much else and it reminds him of Oliver’s suit he’d worn in the park. He dresses in it though, all the way down to the tie and shoes before he steps back out into the area where everyone is waiting for him.
No, no is the first thing Zayn hears when he slowly spins around so that everyone can see the first suit.
“You don’t like it?” Zayn asks. He moves so that he’s standing in front of the mirror and smoothes down the tie and jacket, pulling it down so that it sits nicely on his frame.
It’s Harold who’s shaking his head. The older man has moved behind him and is staring at him through the mirror with a concerned look on his face.
Zayn thinks he looks decent enough but he doesn’t have any time to say anything else before Harold is taking off and scouring the racks for something else. Zayn looks slightly startled and looks at Niall who only shrugs.
“He knows what he’s doing…” he trails off. “At least I think.”
Ryan giggles at that and shuts his mouth as soon as Harold walks back over with another suit in mind.
“Keep the shirt, but change the pants and the jacket. I think these will do quite nicely.”
He pushes the garments in Zayn’s hands and shoves him towards the dressing room, and he’s beginning to wonder if this is normal behavior or if the male’s just gone senile.
Zayn walks into the room again and hangs up the outfit he’d just been handed. He takes a step back from it, studying it on the hanger before he moves to pick up the sleeve of the jacket. This one looks different than the one he has on, and much more expensive in taste, so he debates with himself on whether or not it’s a good idea to look at the tag. He finds that it’s still safely tucked inside the wrist sleeve and just as his fingers go to reach for it, he drops the fabric and takes a step back.
He can’t look.
For one, the idea of wearing something this expensive is finally dawning on him and he suddenly feels itchy in the suit he’s wearing.
Secondly, this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. He’s just borrowing a suit… again, and then he can return it. It’s not that difficult, but Zayn feels like everything about this is wrong.
Which is funny to say because really, everything about this is wrong. He’s lied more times than he’s liked to have admitted in the past few days and now he’s going to an event tonight that’s way out of his league and he knows he’s going to look like the odd man out enough as it is. But on top of that, he’s going there so that he can break it off with a man he’s only met twice, and who he’s not even dating.
Zayn’s really beginning to wonder why he’s so emotional about all of this, but deep down he knows why. As cliché as he knows he sounds, this is more of a dream than anything. Things like this don’t happen to people like Zayn. He’s been the lower class his entire life and it’s only because he’s lied that he finally gets the chance to see what it’s like up top. It makes him feel worthless, and much more like a bad father for not being able to give more to his son. And while this shouldn’t even be about Ryan, it is. It has everything to do with that little boy because all of this has brought a brazen rationality to Zayn.
His feelings don’t matter. It’s always been about his son and it always should’ve been and Zayn feels selfish about this entire weekend. He’ll feel selfish and entitled tonight and it’s the driving factor for him to walk forward, take the suit off the hanger and put it on his body.
He stares at himself in the small mirror on the wall. It’s old and a bit wonky and doesn’t make anyone look any better, but Zayn just gazes nonetheless.
He’s tired and worn and sad and guilty and all these different emotions and for once, he wishes he could see happiness. He knows it comes and goes, whenever Ryan is around, whenever Niall is around too, but he wants a permanent glint in his eye because he knows it’s not there now. And tonight is surely the night that will take away that small amount of happiness he’s felt in awhile. He’ll see Liam one last time and then he’ll put his career ahead of himself like he should’ve done a long time ago and never see him again.
Zayn vows that once he’s in management, he’ll do things his way: make himself a life he wants to live, give Ryan what he deserves and then maybe just start dating again. It’s the best he can wish for right now, and he hopes that this time around, things turn out like they’re supposed to.
Zayn takes a deep breath before walking out of the fitting room and back into the store so that he can face his friend and his son to find out their opinion on his outfit.
Ryan’s the first one to notice him and he stares at his father with wide eyes until a smile breaks out onto his face.
“Dad!” he shouts. He’s excited.
“Just as I’d expected,” Harold murmurs.
Zayn had forgotten about the old man until he turns to look at him and furrows his brows. The other gentleman is gesturing for him to move in front of the full length mirror and without protest, Zayn does.
His back is facing his friend and his son, but he can see their faces in the mirror first. He’s trying his best not to look at himself because even though he’d already done that in the fitting room, this mirror’s definitely of a higher quality and Zayn’s not too sure if he’d rather see himself look worse for wear despite the fact that he looked decent enough in the first outfit.
Yet, when he pulls his eyes up to his face, it’s like another man is staring back at him, and Zayn doesn’t really recognize himself. Despite feeling slightly depressed moments ago, the man before him actually looks quite fitting. The suit fits him better than the socialites had and Zayn’s beginning to wonder why he doesn’t own one of these.
The color scheme of the entire outfit is a mix between black, white and gray. While the majority of the suit is black, the button up, long-sleeve shirt is white and rests just under the suit’s jacket. It extends past Zayn’s wrist, making it slightly longer than his arms, but he quickly fixes that by folding back the fabric over the cuffs of the jacket. The coat itself is black as well, but a gray accent is curved along the labels of the jacket, extending behind Zayn’s neck, which only adds to the off-set fashion of the suit. A black tie, one that’s not as traditional as most would wear, it being more rectangular than anything, holds the entire piece together. It fits directly within the center of everything and brings out a sudden sharpness in Zayn’s features.
It fits him quite well. It’s not the same as most penguin suits and it defines his character well enough. He feels clean, put together even and he’s beginning to see why Niall had told him to just go and try these on.
If Zayn had the money, he’d most certainly spend it on something like this.
“What is that I see?”
Niall’s voice snaps him out of his gaze and he looks at his friend in the mirror.
“Who’s being a bit egotistical now, hot shot?” the Irishman comments.
Niall stands from his seat, followed by Ryan, walking over to Zayn to get a closer look at the suit.
“I’ll have to make a few adjustments to it. Have it fit you in the shoulders more. It’s like it’s made for you, boy!”
Zayn glances over at Harold, who’s only waiting patiently to see if he’ll comment.
“It’s perfect,” Zayn says in response. He has to shoo Niall and Ryan away from him so that Harold can tailor the suit to fit his frame a little better. There’s not much work to be done to it, especially since he won’t be able to keep it, but Harold adjust it enough to meet his body.
“Now, you go take it off and be back here at 6 o’clock sharp and it’ll be ready for you.”
Zayn thanks the man, and he leaves the trio to their own devices.
He’s still studying himself in the mirror, not able to get over the simple change the suit has given him.
“You look awesome!” Ryan comments.
Zayn lowers himself to his haunches. “Do I now?”
Ryan nods adamantly. “Yup,” he responds.
“C’mere.” Zayn grabs the boy and kisses his face. Ryan laughs, moving his arms in front of himself, trying to get him to stop, and Zayn only relents when his son calls out for Niall’s help.
“That’s not fair,” he says.
“Yes, it is!”
“You’re ganging up on me; that isn’t fair at all.”
Zayn gives his son a scrunched up mean face, but Ryan just pokes him instead.
“Hey,” Zayn laughs.
When he settles down, Ryan’s busying running his hands over the lapels of the jacket, smoothing them down and feeling the fabric of the coat and Zayn notices Niall sitting on the couch watching the both of them. He wants to say something to him, but he’s not sure what, so he opts to direct his attention on Ryan again.
“I’ve got to take this off, but before I do, are you sure I look okay?” He has to ask one more time, just in case.
Ryan looks at Zayn and with the upmost sincerity Zayn wishes he still had sometimes and says, “Yes, and Liam will love it too.”
Zayn freezes and glances at Niall who doesn’t look any more startled than he does.
“What makes you say that?” Zayn asks. Aside from warning Ryan, he hadn’t really discussed anything else with his son about this situation. He figures he’ll need to do that after tonight because he’s too stressed out to do that right now.
“Cuz he likes you,” Ryan says. The kid doesn’t look phased, and he doesn’t look scared that he’s said the wrong thing. In fact, it’s said with such conviction that Zayn feels like he’s missed something.
“Really now?” Zayn murmurs. It’s not a direct question and he doesn’t expect an answer but then Ryan’s replying again and Zayn’s curious.
“You like him too,” he answers with a shrug. He shuffles out of Zayn’s arms to stand in front of him and Zayn doesn’t know what to say to this.
Instead, he stares at the floor, then at Niall and then he’s up, back on his feet and telling the two that he’ll be back in a moment because he needs to change. And he feels slightly bad about leaving abruptly, but he’s not sure he’d be able to take anymore of Ryan’s truths.
If they’re even truths at all. But Zayn knows they are, because Ryan’s smart and he can pick up on things that Zayn can’t sometimes and if both he and Liam didn’t like one another, then tonight wouldn’t be happening.
The weight on his shoulders that he’d managed to forget about in the past ten minutes is back and Zayn feels like complete shit. This isn’t only going to hurt Ryan. It’s going to hurt himself too, and regardless of how he thinks and feels now, there’s no way he’s going to be able to push these feelings aside later.
He’s not ready for the train wreck, despite the fact that he’s going to be the one initiating it.
“I’ve got to have what done?” Zayn says, exasperated.
“We’re not cutting it off, per se,” Niall mumbles.
“Like hell you aren’t.”
“Zayn, you need to look presentable, alright?” Niall turns the swivel chair so that Zayn can look at him directly.
They’re still in the hotel’s shop, but they’re waiting on the hair dresser to come over and make do with what Niall likes to call a mop on Zayn’s head.
“It’s not that bad.” Zayn scowls, swatting Niall’s hand away when he tries to pick at it.
“You need a trim, at least.”
“I’m not a girl,” Zayn remarks.
“No, but I’ll be damned if you show up to a press event looking like a drowned rat.”
Zayn just gives Niall a confused look, like he can’t believe that’s the best description he has of his best friend, but he doesn’t argue.
“Fine,” he says sullenly. “Just don’t have them cut it all off.”
“Trust me darling, I wouldn’t dream of it,” comes a reply.
Zayn looks over and is met with a pair of steely brown eyes, blonde hair and scissors.
“You’ll be looking good in no time.”
Niall smiles at the woman, obviously liking what he sees, but Zayn slaps him on the arm.
“Go sit with Ryan,” he says.
“I’ll do you one better. We’re going to find you some accessories.”
“You know maybe a nice Rolex-”
“Niall-” Zayn warns.
“You’re ruining the fun, Zayn,” Niall chides.
He’s doing his best to ignore Zayn’s protest because he knows exactly what his friend would say if he gave him the chance.
There’s no need for me to wear a watch, Niall.
It’s only for one night. There’s no point in wearing something this expensive.
Niall calls bullshit. He’s going all out for Zayn tonight because if his friend can’t have the one thing he wants - in this case it’d be Liam - then he’s going to make him feel like a million bucks.
And Niall has a feeling he’s becoming too sentimental for his liking over something that’s really not that important, but really, who has this opportunity to use the hotel they work for to their advantage, to show up at a press event and look like they’re rolling in dough.
Yeah, Niall doesn’t give a shit. He’s going all out.
He walks away from Zayn, leaving the other man and his hair to fate, while he takes Ryan and goes over to the jewelry display.
The woman behind the counter is only a few years older than Niall, but she torments herself with doubt far too much for his liking and when he approaches her, she’s worrying at her lip and fumbling around with a black case sitting atop the glass of the counter.
“You got it?” Niall asks. He feels slightly like a drug dealer because he knows the risk this woman is taking in letting him borrow such an expensive piece.
“Yes,” she responds.
“Can I see it?” he asks. Ryan is by his side, hands on the glass, trying his best peer over the edge of the counter so he can see.
The woman only nods and sets the black box down. She grasps the sides of it, lifting it open to reveal a Rolex. It’s a silver watch, with a light blue to accent the black hands that are currently ticking their way into a circle.
“Alright,” she breathes. “Focus, the both of you.”
Niall and Ryan look directly at the woman.
“This is the most expensive Rolex watch we own here, and I guarantee you it’s worth more than you will make in five years, maybe more, and if this leaves Zayn’s wrist at any moment-”
“We’re all screwed and we’ll end up in jail,” Niall finishes.
Ryan looks wide-eyed at Niall, not sure if he’s really joking.
“He’s not going to lose it,” he reassures the boy.
Ryan nods and watches as the woman closes the black box again and pushes it over to Niall for him to take. He grabs it and Ryan’s hand before leaving the area to go back and check up on Zayn.
“Just be careful,” she calls after them.
A good piece of advice we could all use, Niall thinks.
Zayn’s standing in the middle of the fitting room again, and he’s nervous. It’s just after six o’clock and he’s donning his new outfit and hairstyle and he has to remind himself to breathe. The nervous are just beginning to settle within his stomach and he’s supposed to leave in the next twenty minutes so he can avoid traffic and arrive at the event on time.
With one last sigh, Zayn steps out of the room and into the view of everyone who’s helped him prepare for this. He feels slightly abashed at the attention, but they’re smiling at him, which is definitely a good sign.
He turns away from them though, and looks in the mirror for the last time. The suit is sitting snugly against his entire frame, outlining his body and giving it a definite shape his normal attire seems to lack. His hair is clean-cut and styled into that of a quiff and he’s sporting the Rolex that only adds to the posh feeling he gets when he looks at himself.
If he thought he was a different man before, he certainly is now.
Zayn’s not sure what to think really. He likes the style and he can admit that he looks good, though he’s never had to dress up like this before. He’s out of place and he’s not sure if he’ll ever get used to looking like this, but within the next couple of hours, it’s not going to matter. The only thing he really has to do is show up at the venue, tell Liam it’s over, and leave.
He repeats that to himself in his head because it’s the only thing that’s keeping him relaxed.
“You need to get going,” Niall says.
Zayn looks over to his left and finds that Niall’s standing there right beside him.
He only nods his head.
“You’ll be fine,” he speaks again.
“I can’t breathe, not really, and I don’t know what I’m even doing here, Niall.” Zayn can really start to feel the panic coming in strong. The butterflies are in his stomach, he’s tapping his fingers against his thigh because he needs to get out some of the restlessness and he can’t bring himself to move. “This is all a lie.”
Niall shuffles over to him, standing in front of his friend. He snaps his fingers so that Zayn will look at him and not anywhere else.
“Hey, if anything, it’s a dream and you’re living it for all of us,” Niall states. “Well, sort of, I don’t swing the way you do, but you get the point.” He pauses for a moment but says, “Just... don’t think about anything but tonight and what you need to do, okay? You’re not a maid; you’re a man on a mission.”
Zayn laughs with a smile growing on his face. “Alright, Niall.”
He feels a tug on his jacket, and Zayn looks down to find Ryan standing before him with a grin on his face.
“Have fun,” he says.
Zayn lowers himself to eye level. “Okay,” he replies. “I’ll try.”
Ryan leans in for a hug and Zayn returns it, wrapping his arms tightly around the boy.
“You be good tonight and go to bed when Niall tells you to.” Zayn can feel the boy’s head move against his shoulder. “No negotiating and don’t stay up too late either.”
He gazes up at Niall at that, who tries to look innocent.
“He’ll be fine,” his friend comments.
Zayn lets go of his son and gives him a soft smile before standing up.
“I guess it’s time.”
Zayn bites his lip, gives everyone in the room a small wave and a quick thanks before he shoves his hands into his pockets. He then makes his way out of the building and to the car waiting just outside.
~ And because I like Zayn's look so much, I want you to know exactly what his outfit looks like despite my lame attempt at trying to describe it. Here's a gif of the suit he's wearing, and you can also go ahead and draw an idea as to how Harry will look in the next chapter from this gif too. x
Chapter 7: this is us
The building is lit up like a Christmas tree, with various amounts of white lights showcasing the front of the building. Even the water fountain that rests just to the side of the building is lit, water gushing over the cement and down into the basin. There’s also a red carpet along the front steps of the area despite the fact that there’s no one outside. Liam figures it’s all highlighted to let this area of New York know that something big is occurring and they’re not inviting.
Liam thinks it’s obnoxious.
He’s currently following both Harry and Louis up the various amounts of steps, making sure they’re on the carpet because it’s supposed to lead them directly into the main room where the party is taking place. And even though Liam doesn’t party much, he actually wishes he could say this is a party party and not just some get together to see who donated the most money.
And it’s not like he hates this really, because it is for charity, but Oliver’s words from the park just days ago, is suddenly quite clear to him now. The place is stuffy and too posh for him and he’d rather be anywhere else but here.
“Louis,” he hisses before they get to the main doors that will lead them inside.
Louis turns his head slightly, still walking next to Harry, hand in hand.
“Are you sure he’s going to show up?”
They arrive at the front doors and Harry’s the one who opens it so all of them can enter and it isn’t until they’re safely inside, where they can hear the bustle of people moving and talking in the next room over, when Louis decide to give Liam his attention and address him straight on.
“He’ll be here, Liam. Stop worrying,” he says.
“How do I know you’re not just telling me that so I’d show up tonight?”
Louis quirks an eyebrow and tilts his head slightly.
“Are you calling me a liar, Liam?” Louis asks.
Liam takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. He’d rather not end up on Louis’s bad side tonight, but he figures it’s too late for that because he’d nagged him ever since Louis had come back to the hotel room earlier to inform Liam that yes, Oliver would be coming to the dinner tonight.
Liam shakes his head, “No.”
It’s not very persuasive because Louis huffs and licks his lips. “Look, I tried, alright? You’ve got to give me that much, if anything. You’re already here anyway so you might as well do your job, and we can look for your boy toy tomorrow.”
He turns on his heel, dragging Harry by his hand who only looks over his shoulder and mouths a quick sorry towards him.
Liam’s wondering when Louis’s attitude had shifted in the months they’d been a group, because he’s not sure if he ever remembers the other man being so snappy. Then again, he’d been younger then too and probably didn’t notice as much as he is now. There's also the possibility that he hadn't gotten any in quite awhile and Liam shivers at that, not wanting to think about his friends' sex life.
Either way, he knows he has a pissed off Louis on his hands now and that isn’t going to go over well for him tonight. He just wants this over with already because now he’s very certain that Oliver isn’t going to show up despite all the conviction he had in his voice yesterday when he stated he wasn’t going to go unless the other man showed.
So much for that, Liam thinks. He knows he really needs to try harder when putting his foot down. He’s tried his best to keep people from using him, but he does notice that he tends to let people take advantage of him anyway because he’s too nice to say no and tonight is definitely proof of that.
Sighing, Liam follows after his mates into the awaiting ballroom, hoping that maybe he’ll be able to find a nice glass of wine to drown in.
Zayn steps out of the car and realizes just how chilly it is. Despite being wrapped up in a suit jacket, the slight breeze that passes through is doing nothing but giving him goose bumps and adding to the already growing worry he feels in his gut. He’s ten minutes late, which he curses, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. Traffic in New York has always been a bitch and it’s why most people walk everywhere they go. He’d thanked the driver before he left the vehicle, not only because it was kind and courteous, but he knew the man had tried his best to get Zayn where he needed to be on time.
Zayn follows the path, marked by a red carpet, which he thinks is quite over-the-top, but pays no attention to it other than the fact that he’s got to follow it so he doesn’t get lost. The first thing he notices when he enters the building is that there’s only a few amount of people lingering in the foyer, talking amongst themselves and that the majority of the people who’d ended up showing tonight are just straight ahead in a much bigger room than the one he’s standing in currently.
He feels out of place already, and he expects to feel that way the entire night. He knows the kind of people that are around him, the upper class who think they’re doing good for the community, but in reality are only here to show who has the bigger check book and what kind of gossip they’ll overhear that’ll last them for months on end until their next fancy event.
Zayn continues walking, following the carpet that’s still laid out before him and comes to a stop directly in front of a set of double doors that leads into the main room. The doors are wide open, so it’s not like he can’t be seen but there’s a part of him that wishes he had the ability to hide away, to walk through the crowd invisible and really take in his surroundings with people mingling about the place because regardless of how he feels about it all, it’s still something he’s never been to nor seen firsthand before.
He can see the mass of people scattered throughout the room, men in their suits and women in their dresses, all talking to one another like they’d been best friends for years. He even notices a few scowls on some of the guests’ face and figures someone’s had their fair share of gossip for tonight.
To his left there’s a long row of tables pushed together for people to sit at that also holds an array of drinks and quite frankly, he’d give anything to walk over there right now for some alcohol courage. He shakes that thought from his mind as soon as he’s done thinking it because this isn’t the kind of place you get smashed at, and he’d rather not embarrass Liam with his drunken self.
Looking over to his right, Zayn notices the array of cameras and lighting and comes to the conclusion that it’s some form of press there to take pictures and interviews. While Zayn’s not too fond of the idea of accidentally appearing in one of the different variations of media, he can’t be bothered to give it too much thought because as long as he stays away from that side of the room, he should be fine.
Zayn turns and finds a couple standing behind him waiting to get in, and he apologizes profusely before quickly moving to the side so they can pass. The woman hanging off of the man’s arm looks him up and down and then sneers at him before they move along past the doors and into the room.
Zayn doesn’t move after that. He can’t bring himself to walk through the doors yet, too scared out of his mind to do so now. He tells himself that everything will be okay once he finds Liam, but then again he’s not here to have a good time. He’s here to tell Liam that he can’t see him anymore and then leave. It’s important that he does this, so with one final deep breath, Zayn straightens himself out, squares his shoulders and passes through the threshold.
There’s another set of stairs that he has to walk down before he can get to the main floor and it’s there that he decides to stall for a moment, scanning the crowd once more, but looking for a familiar face. He’d rather not look like an idiot, pushing his way through everyone just to find Liam. He doesn’t even know if the other man his here yet and that thought actually makes his palms sweat.
Liam’s a celebrity, isn’t he? Isn’t it customary for them to arrive late at events because they’re big names and they can get away with things like that? Zayn really doesn’t know and before he can give it much more thought his eyes come across the one person he’s here for.
Liam, along with the other two members of his band, is currently in a circle of men and women, chatting about god knows what. Zayn’s not sure if he should head over there to let Liam know he’s here, but he doesn’t move regardless. All he can do is stare. It’s not hard to gather what Liam’s wearing. He’s in a suit just like anyone else, but he looks different, completely different than the man he’d seen before in casual wear. If Zayn thought he looked polished earlier, then he’d obviously been lying because Liam looks damn fine in a penguin suit, and Zayn admires what he can from the view he has, although he knows he’s going to have the chance to see it up close soon enough.
Zayn gathers the courage to walk down the first couple of steps. He has about five left, he notices, when he looks up towards the area where Liam is, and finds that the brown-haired man is staring at him.
Zayn can admit to himself that he wasn’t prepared for it. He figured Liam wouldn’t notice him until he’d walked over to their little group, but no. Instead, Liam’s halted any conversation he’s been involved in, staring directly at Zayn, which only causes him to falter and almost trip over his own feet. He hears a few snickers coming from around him, and he can feel he’s cheeks flush with color.
He feels like an idiot now. What kind of clumsy ass couldn’t get down a set of stairs? Obviously Zayn couldn’t, and he’d already made a small fool of himself, and before he wastes anymore time worrying, he hurries down the last few steps and stands on the floor below. He doesn’t bothering walking towards Liam although he can still feel the other man’s eyes on him. He’s not sure why he can’t go over there yet. It’s possibly because Liam’s still crowded around a group of people he’s not familiar with, but there’s also a little part in his brain that’s having a mental breakdown that won't allow his feet to move.
He suddenly feels a bit dizzy and while just moments ago he could’ve left with no one being the wiser, he certainly can’t do that now because Liam knows he’s here and no matter what happens he’s pretty sure Liam’s not letting him get away.
That voice sends a shiver down Zayn’s spine, and he finally looks up at Liam’s face. He hadn’t heard the man walk over, but regardless, he’s still startled by how breathtaking he really looks; which is also what Liam is telling himself about the man before him.
Harry had been the first to notice the other man standing in the entranceway, walking towards the mass of people, looking scared out of his mind. He’d nudged Liam subtly, and directed his gaze to the front of the room where he’s eyes came in contact with Oliver.
He’d actually shown up.
Liam’s first thought was to walk over to him and as much as he wanted to, he hadn’t just yet because he was still engaged in the conversation going on around him, but that didn’t stop him from glancing over at the other male any chance he could. Oliver looked fit with his attire different than what most of the party-goers were used to, but Liam knew he didn’t mind. He could hear Harry trying his best to answer for Liam whenever someone would address him but it was becoming blaringly obvious that Liam’s attention was elsewhere.
Liam also had the sudden urge to pull Louis aside and thank him profusely and apologize. Instead, he’d felt another nudge in his side telling him to move and go over to Oliver.
And now here he is, standing in front of the other man, waiting for his response.
“So are you,” Zayn replies. The corners of his mouth quirk up into a small smile.
“Thank you for coming,” Liam expresses. He rubs his thumb over his fingertips, trying to let out some of the nervous energy that’s flowing through his body. He can already feel it coming undone because Oliver is here, and he’d actually shown up. Liam’s having a hard time believing it.
Zayn looks over Liam’s shoulder for a moment, moving his eyes away from the other man’s intense stare. He can faintly see Harry and Louis as they continue talking with the various amounts of guests, gently brushing up against one another, silently reminding one another know that they’re there.
When he returns his eyes to Liam’s, he finds that he’s still staring at him. There’s a curious glint in his eye, like he can’t believe Zayn – Oliver – is really standing there before him and Zayn’s got the sudden urge to reach out for Liam’s hand, connect them so that there’s some sort of skin-on-skin contact.
But he refrains from doing so because that’s the last thing he needs and he finds that the words he has to say, spill out without any warning and it startles the settling atmosphere the two had just created, contorting it so that the slight fog of chemistry that they had just been feeling, fades around them.
“I only came to tell you that this…” he trails off for a moment and gestures between the two of them with his hand, “that you and me can’t go anywhere beyond this evening.”
Liam tilts his head slightly, continuing to stare at Zayn and bites his lips. His eyes then move down his frame and back up again before he’s replying.
“Well, then you should’ve worn a different suit.”
Zayn’s mouth parts the slightest bit because even without having known Liam for very long, he can tell that what he just said is probably the dirtiest come-on someone will ever hear from him. It makes the corner of his lip fall upwards.
“Would you like to dance?” Liam asks. He holds out his hand for Zayn to take, refusing the idea that Zayn might actually say no.
And Zayn doesn’t. He takes Liam’s hand and follows him out onto the dance floor.
The music is slow, some classical piece that neither man recognizes, but Zayn isn’t paying attention to that. Liam leads him over to a less populated area, away from the rows of cameras on the other side of the room. He turns, tugging gently on Zayn’s arm to move them closer together.
Zayn feels awkward at first, not sure what he needs to be doing with himself. This isn’t the kind of dancing he’s known for and it’s not like anyone else has ever bothered to teach him otherwise. This is definitely more black tie, more professional and he wonders if he’ll screw it up.
“I can’t dance,” Zayn declares, and as soon as that comes out of his mouth his eyes go wide and he tries to look anywhere but at Liam.
“It’s okay,” Liam reassures. Zayn can practically hear the grin in his voice. “The only thing you need to be aware of is trying your best not to step on my feet.”
Zayn only nods, and then he feels Liam’s arm wrap around his torso and come to rest against his lower back, pulling him even closer to Liam than before. He goes stiff in his arms, not prepared for this much contact, but then Liam’s swaying softly to the music, waiting for Zayn to follow. He eventually relents, resting his hand against Liam’s shoulder while taking his outstretched hand.
Zayn still feels uncomfortable, having never done this before, but the worry fades little by little with every sound of the piano playing and every move that Liam makes. He’s trying his best not to think about the way it feels to be here right now, the way his muscles are slowly relaxing, the way he can feel his body coming undone, just by being this close to Liam, and he figures this isn’t normal. It isn’t normal to be so caught up in someone else’s arms, to feel okay, to feel right. He can’t say he’s ever recognized this feeling before because he hasn’t had it with anyone else. Not any of the other men or women he’d tried dating, and certainly not with Ryan’s mother.
Zayn can’t put his finger on what this is, hasn’t been able to do that since he’d come back from the park Saturday afternoon. He’s not sure if he wants to, because even if he were to pinpoint this emotion, this feeling that’s now coursing through his body and slowly twisting his insides, it won’t matter within the span of a few hours.
“You have to listen,” Zayn disturbs the silence. “I know you’re used to getting your way-”
Liam interrupts him, “Not until I met you.”
Zayn bites back a smile. He feels like Liam may be trying a little too hard to persuade him otherwise, show him that he cares for Zayn so that he’ll stay and that what he had said earlier shouldn’t be brought up again. But Zayn can’t ignore this anymore. He’s already dancing with Liam, already feeling him so close to his body and that’s torture all in itself.
“Look, I’m pretty sure there’s millions of other men,” Zayn pauses because he realizes he doesn’t really know if Liam’s gay, and it’s not like he’s one to put a label on sexuality, but Liam does have a lot of fans, he’s sure, and they’re female and well, who wouldn’t pass up that opportunity? “And women who are dying to be with you. Plus, I’m pretty sure that number's going expand when you take over America.”
“Yeah?” Liam hums. “Then why are you making me work so hard?”
Zayn opens his mouth to answer but before he can, someone is calling out for Liam and their movement comes to a halt.
“Hey, there you are!”
It’s Louis and the edginess Zayn had been feeling before is back. He steps away from Liam and withdraws his hands to his sides just as Louis approaches them.
“They’re waiting on your interview, Liam,” Louis says.
“Harry and I have already given ours,” he continues, not waiting for Liam to argue. “It’ll take two minutes, tops.”
Zayn bows his head, showing that he’s removed himself from the conversation and that he’s not going to have any part of it. It’s none of his business and he remembers why Liam’s here in the first place. It’s publicity as much as it is charity and he has a job to do.
“I’ll take over here. You just go.” Louis points over in the direction that he wants Liam to go in, but before the other man does so, he turns to Zayn.
“I’ll be right back. I’m sorry,” he says, shrugging his shoulder slightly.
“It’s alright,” Zayn replies. He motions for Liam to go do his job and with a solemn look on his face, Liam turns and leaves Zayn and Louis standing next to one another.
The silence is brittle, and Zayn shuffles from foot to foot for a few seconds before he can feel a set of eyes on him.
“You’re a very hard man to find,” Louis speaks.
The reverence Zayn had been feeling around Liam before suddenly disappears when Louis addresses him. While he’d been slightly intimidated by the man yesterday during their brief meeting on the street, he doesn’t feel it now and he’s not sure why. If anything, Louis is the one to be scared of, not Liam.
“I’m here now,” Zayn states.
Louis turns to him and suddenly grabs a hold of his body, moving him close enough so that they’re dancing and not just standing in the middle of a huge crowd of moving people. Zayn immediately feels the difference, and he doesn’t like it. While Liam is warm and comforting, Louis is the opposite. That’s not to say he’s not that way for Harry, but Zayn can tell that he just doesn’t fit with Louis, that each of them are different puzzles pieces that just don’t fit together properly, and Zayn wants to move out of his grasp as quickly as possible.
“Indeed you are.” Louis smiles, with a bit of prudence. They continue dancing, but Zayn can feel his blue eyes penetrate him, looking for something else that Zayn knows he’s not going to find.
“Do I need to know something that I don’t know already?”
Zayn holds his gaze, refusing to flinch in any way least he give away something that needs to be kept secret. “I only came here tonight to inform Liam that I can’t see him anymore.”
Louis pulls his head back slightly, startled at the sudden revelation. His gaze grows curious. “Oh?”
“Things are complicated and…” Zayn searches for the right words to say. “We wouldn’t work out. There’s no need for you to worry anymore.”
Louis doesn’t answer him as quickly as he thought he would. Zayn can tell that Louis’s the kind with a quick remark on the tip of his tongue if ever the chance came about, but instead, Louis’s face holds less emotion than before and now Zayn can’t read the other man.
“Yes there is,” Louis begins, rejecting Zayn’s previous statement. “Because he may end up with a broken heart.”
Zayn’s façade of silence breaks and he’s abruptly despondent. Louis’s words have struck him harder than he thought possible, and he can’t even find it in himself to see what the other man’s reaction is to his because Liam’s suddenly there, halting any sort of response he has for Louis.
“Are you okay?” Liam asks, concern rising.
The question makes Zayn sober up, and he moves his face back to one of slight happiness.
“Yes,” he says. He studies Liam, hoping he’ll accept that as an answer.
While doing so, he notices movement in the corner of his eye, and he turns his head slightly, noticing that Louis is still in the vicinity, keeping his eyes on Zayn who has the sudden image of Louis perched on a branch, watching like a hawk.
“Did he-” Liam starts, “Did he say something to you?”
That’s all it takes for Louis to give him one last look before he’s disappearing within the crowd around him.
“He’s just looking out for you,” Zayn answers, turning his attention back on Liam.
Liam doesn’t look convinced and he narrows his eyes.
Zayn shakes his head, “No, everything’s fine, really.” He doesn’t sound very convincing, even to himself, which only makes Liam’s brow crease further before he’s mumbling that he’ll be right back, don’t move and fading from his view.
Zayn sticks his hand into his pocket and bites at his lip because now he’s alone and things are already getting out of hand and just when Zayn’s panic is about to really take off, Oliver is suddenly in front of him and Zayn can’t breathe.
He quickly turns before the man can get a good look at his face and Zayn doesn’t care what happens now. He needs to leave, needs to get out of here. He’s already said his peace and although this isn’t the way he would’ve liked to have ended it, he can’t stay here a second longer.
Zayn maneuvers around the dancing couples, excusing himself whenever he accidentally bumps into one of them. They don’t really give him the time of day, only a look that says to bugger off, which Zayn does as fast as he can.
Within the span of a minute, he’s already climbing the stairs and heading straight towards the double doors he’d been so hesitant to pass through just forty minutes prior. He doesn’t know how he’ll get home because the car service isn’t supposed to pick him up for another hour or so, and Zayn really can’t afford a taxi right now, especially since they’re pretty much within the heart of the city and it’d cost a fortune just trying to make it out of any ghost traffic.
Zayn doesn’t pay any attention to his surroundings. His only drive is to get out of the building and away from everyone, even if that means he’ll have to wait outside in the slightly cold weather.
There’s a voice behind him, but Zayn doesn’t know who it’s addressed to, and he figures it’s not for him, so he continues walking, heading straight for the buildings front doors so that he can escape.
“Excuse me,” the voice calls again, and this time Zayn can hear the padding of feet on marbleized floor. “Have we met?”
Zayn slows his movements, eventually coming to a halt just before the main doors to the building. He can see outside, almost taste the air, but it’s Oliver’s voice that is addressing him, and he can feel a sense of hopelessness begin to take over his mind. He’s not sure what to make of tonight, and he’s sure that this is only going to add more salt to the wound.
“I’m Oliver Brock,” he says. Zayn feels the air shift around him while the socialite moves to face him. “And you’re…?”
Zayn’s more than a little confused now and he doesn’t know whether Oliver is playing dumb or he really doesn’t know who he is. Regardless, he knows he’s going to have to say something now because the man is blocking the exit and it’d be rude if he were to walk right past him.
“Brock? As in Brock Enterprises?” Zayn asks, figuring if he turns the attention off of himself, it’d give him a slight window of opportunity for him to excuse himself and get away.
“Yes, I knew we knew each other!”
Zayn shrugs with a smile on his face, trying his best to act like his interested and that he’s just as excited to see the other man although he actually never did give away his name.
“And, if I do say so myself, you look quite good. You dress up nicely. And the watch, it’s exquisite.”
Zayn shudders and moves his hand with the Rolex into his pocket, not liking the fact that he’s being hit on, or complimented, or whatever the hell Oliver is getting at. Things are weird and he only wants to leave.
"If you don't mind me asking, did you come with Liam Payne?"
The topic of conversation has switched so quickly for Zayn he's not sure what he needs to do now and although he knows the man standing before him has always been slightly off, he detects a hint of jealousy in his voice and dawns on him that this man actually likes Liam.
"Can you keep a secret?" he questions.
Oliver nods, leaning in a little closer to hear what he has to say.
“Good, so can I!” Zayn says. It’s abrupt, but he can’t stay here any longer, so he pats the man’s shoulder condescendingly, gives the socialite a nod of the head and pushes past him and makes his way to the front doors. Once he walks through them, he takes in a long, deep breath that fills his lungs with the night air. It’s cold and it burns his insides slightly, but it’s nothing compared to what his heart and mind feels right now.
He ignores it and takes off down the stairs. When he gets to the bottom, Zayn looks around and wonders what the hell he’s doing. He’s got nowhere to go and it’s probably safer inside anyway. He could hide out in the bathroom if push came to shove; it’s not like it’d be one of those gas station bathrooms everyone’s hesitant to use because they just don’t clean it.
Zayn takes in his the view around him and although there’s the busy street in front of him and he’s surrounded by manmade buildings, he can’t help but think how beautiful it really looks on a night as disastrous as this. The lights, the sound of people walking and the blaring noises of car horns as they try and make their way to their destinations, all add to the idea that they’re alive and real. He’s too busy studying the place, knowing no one’s going to bother him or ask what the hell he’s doing, when he notices the fountain to his right. It’s nothing special, just a long slab of concrete built to hold water, while a majority of it escapes from the cemented angels that rise above it.
Zayn walks over to it and studies it although there’s not much to take in. There’s various amounts of coins sitting in the shallow water, tempting youngsters to actually reach into the clear, cold water and take them, possibly interfering with someone’s wish they’d made while throwing said coin into the fountain.
He doesn’t sit down, afraid the concrete might rough up the fabric of his trousers but instead chooses to walk along the side of it, peering into the water as if it’s made of a thousand secrets and it just might give him one. He takes solace in the reticence around him, but it’s an opening for his thoughts to drown out that stillness. They plague him, especially now and although he’d rather pick apart the night, piece by piece, he knows it’s no use because it will always remain the same. The words and the movements and the feelings will always be the same in that moment in time and no matter how much he’ll replay it in his mind, it will reside there until maybe one day it’ll become a forgotten memory.
Zayn closes his eyes and doesn’t turn around. He’s beginning to hate that name, because it’s not his. It doesn’t belong to him and it never will.
“Do you have somewhere else to be?”
Liam’s voice is soft and unsure of himself, and Zayn feels bad for leaving without a proper goodbye. His only thought when he’d decided to leave was to get away as fast as possible before his feelings crushed him, not taking into consideration how the singer would feel about his disappearing act. He also hadn’t thought Liam would follow him.
“I have to leave.” Zayn shakes his head.
“I don’t think you’re leaving,” Liam states. “You’re running.”
It’s an accusation and although Liam’s voice isn’t angry, there’s still a tinge of harshness in the words.
Zayn turns on his heel, facing the other man. He has the sudden urge to run his fingers through his hair and just as he’s about to do so, he remembers that it’d mess it up – not like it’d matter now anyway – but he quickly moves his hand to his neck, and rubs it, hoping to relieve some of the stress that’s building up within his muscles.
“Liam-” Zayn starts, but the other man is quick to interrupt him. His posture is tight, like he’s bracing himself, waiting for Zayn to shoot him down again like he’d done when he’d arrived.
Liam’s frustrated. Nothing about this should be difficult, but the man before him is so much more than that, and he can’t figure out why it’s so hard for things to just pan out naturally, why things keep getting in their way. Liam can understand if this is something he doesn’t want, but he’s not stupid either. He’s seen Oliver, the way he’d been when dancing and although these emotions have gone unsaid, it’s so palpable that all Liam really has to do is slot himself up against the man with raven black hair and show him what’s there. Instead, he only shuffles a few steps closer to the man who has managed to change how he sees things.
“You see, the thing is, and what I can’t figure out, is if you’re running towards something you want or if you’re running away from something you’re afraid to want.”
It’s a statement and it’s a question and Zayn doesn’t know how to answer that because what Liam’s saying makes sense. He drops his gaze down to the ground so that he doesn’t have to look at the singer, but he knows he’s not going to be able to stand here for very long before he cracks. The guilt is now there and this all plays a huge role because that remark and those inquiries lead to a much bigger story that Zayn shouldn't reveal.
He briefly thinks what if. What if he were to tell Liam right here, right now about everything he’d done. The way he’d lied and made him believe he was something he wasn’t, that the man before him is actually a stranger in abnormal clothing that doesn’t belong to him because in reality, he’s actually just a poor maid with an eight-year-old kid because he fucked up his life at an early age because no one had been there for him aside from his mother and his best friend.
And his eyes mist over and Zayn has to blink in order to keep his tears at bay. He finds that he’s drowning in a sea of pent up emotions right now and Liam doesn’t even have a clue. He’s oblivious to it all because the only thing he thinks is that Oliver, who’s actually really Zayn, is only running from him because he’s scared of a relationship, scared to get hurt. And while all of those things are true, they aren’t his main problems like Liam believes. They’re so far from it.
His voice trembles when he speaks up, but he doesn’t stop. “Look, I’ve made so many mistakes.” He stares at Liam, and he watches as the other man’s frame relaxes, that Zayn’s not brushing him off. “I just don’t want to make it worse.”
Zayn can feel the sob in his throat, but he swallows it down as best as he can because he can’t do this here, not in front of Liam. His emotions, his pain, they’re his to deal with and he’s not going to drag Liam into this any more than he already has.
“You won’t,” Liam replies. His eyes do not hold a trace of pity in them, but instead look troubled, like whatever Zayn is feeling is also weighing him down too and all Zayn can think is no, Liam you don’t understand and if you only knew the truth you wouldn’t be saying such things.
“There’s something you don’t know, okay?”
Zayn’s not sure where that came from. It slipped out and maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to lie anymore. Liam’s way too good to him, way too good for him and with him still standing here, acting like everything is going to be fine is enough to do him in.
Zayn lets out a breathy laugh, “Oh, god. How do I tell you this?” He looks at the singer, the way his eyes are too brown, his hair too shaggy and face sharp but soft and delicate at the same time.
“The first time you saw me, in the hotel suite-”
“You were mesmerizing.”
And then Liam’s lips are on his, and Zayn can’t think anymore.
It takes him a moment to actually figure out what’s going on, but when it clicks, he kisses Liam back with as much force as Liam had. His lips are slightly chapped, but still soft at the touch and his thought process isn’t there except for the occasional freak out of oh my god, this is really happening.
It doesn’t go any further than that though. No open mouth, no tongue, which Zayn thinks is quite nice for once. It’s not messy like it had usually been for him, like he thought it needed to be while growing up.
No, it’s nothing like that at all. It’s slow, practiced almost, the way their lips just move. It’s subtle and aerial despite the force, and Zayn knows that this is Liam. That everything about this defines Liam. Every word he speaks, his actions, his choices, the way he kisses, it's all Liam, all kind and warm…
Zayn pulls away just as quickly as it had started, and he can’t look Liam in the eye because he's not in a good state of mind right now and Liam isn't doing anything to help that. And while he's thinking of all the ways he can escape, those thoughts come to a stop when he feels Liam’s finger tips caress his jaw before slowly moving his head to face him.
“If there can’t be an us, and if tonight is all we have, then stay with me.”
Zayn feels a laugh bubble up in his throat, but it doesn’t escape when he studies Liam’s face.
Liam only nods and intertwines their hands together.
“Yes,” is all he says before he’s leaning down for another kiss. Zayn can feel Liam move in closer to him, and he lets out a slight whimper at the contact.
Zayn’s not sure of the exact details after that. It’s a bit unclear to him but he can faintly remember them releasing one another because someone needed air; Liam making a quick phone call and a car pulling up next to the curb to take them back to the hotel. There’d been a lot more snogging involved in the car, and the both of them had to watch themselves when they entered the hotel because they were pretty sure no one wanted to see the beginning of what was going to be a very long night.
They soon find themselves in Liam’s hotel room, in the bedroom, standing apart and admiring each other despite the fact that they're fully clothed. There’s a part of Zayn’s brain that keeps telling him that he shouldn’t do this, that he’ll regret this tomorrow because it’s better not knowing what you don’t have than knowing what you could have and never having it again.
Turns out he’s a masochist because all of a sudden, Liam’s pulling him in by his tie and forcing their lips together once more, and it’s not long before they’re stripping one another of their clothes, pressing soft kisses to fragile skin with fingers running over the smooth expanse revealed before them.
They waste no time walking over to the bed, Zayn falling back on it, fully undressed now while Liam moves to grab some lube and a condom. He sets them on the dresser, paying no mind to those objects just yet, not in any rush to have Zayn come too soon. He wants to explore the body in front of him, cover every inch of Zayn's tanned skin until he's breathing it.
Zayn spreads out before Liam on the duvet, waiting for him to come down to his level so that he can feel his lips on his again. He’s starting to feel slightly self-conscious because Liam makes no move to rest his body over Zayn’s like he wants, so instead he lifts himself up on his elbows and pokes Liam’s thigh with his toe.
“What are you waiting for?” he asks. He sounds shy, and he’s not sure where that’s come from. He’s slept with a decent amount of people in his life and being coy is the furthest thing he’s ever felt about himself when it comes to sex, but laying here in front of Liam, his heart flips and he wonders if he’s reconsidering everything.
“If you don’t want-” Zayn starts, moving to sit up
Liam makes a noise, something akin to a wounded animal while shaking his head. He pushes Zayn back and climbs over him. “Just admiring the view.”
Zayn feels Liam’s arm rest beside his head, holding himself up just enough so that he’s not fully lying on top of the other man. He then feels the other palm, calloused and rough, running its way town the side of his body, past his chest, past his lower abdomen until it comes to rest just behind Zayn’s left thigh.
Liam’s fingers wrap halfway around the limb, pressing into the skin so that he has enough of a grip to tug, urging Zayn to follow his movements. He does, moving his leg to the side so that Liam can nestle in-between him. Though Liam’s still hand is on this thigh as he scoots himself closer, he then pulls it straight back so that Zayn’s leg wraps around Liam’s waist.
Zayn doesn’t bother trying to move after that. He lets Liam dictate all his movements, not because he feels obligated, but because Liam’s in control right now and he can feel his dick begin to swell at the idea of Liam having his way with him.
“If you ask me,” Zayn says softly, “there’s not much to look at.”
It’s as much of a self-deprecation as it is a challenge, and Liam looks almost hurt, like Zayn had been the one to slap him. The hardness in Zayn’s eyes doesn’t falter though as Liam studies him. He’s beginning to really see what Zayn needs, what he’s looking for and the question he wants Liam to answer.
Zayn can feel Liam’s hand squeeze tighter.
“We’ll see about that,” Liam responds. As much as he’d like to say otherwise, he can’t debase the other man’s feelings. That’s not his place, but he can most certainly show him differently.
So he leans down, presses his lips against Zayn for what’s most likely the hundredth time, before he moves over to the rest of Zayn’s face, to his jaw and down his neck. He nips the skin with his teeth, careful not to hurt him, but pinching the skin just enough to get a small reaction out of Zayn. He can feel the man growing beneath him, his dick swelling with every lick and bite.
He’s soon moved down, closer to one of Zayn’s nipples before taking it in his mouth, causing it to harden. He fondles it with his tongue, playing over it although it’s tight. It’s only when Zayn lets out a breath that Liam moves on to the other, using the same course of action he’d used previously.
Zayn finally moves a hand, having stayed still the entire time and wraps it around Liam’s neck, stroking the area just behind his ear with his thumb. Liam keens at the contact before he’s moving down again, pressing light lips down Zayn’s chest. He doesn’t stop, going past Zayn’s belly button and even lower until he’s near Zayn’s half-hard dick.
Lightly tugging on a piece of Liam’s hair, Zayn gets his attention and looks at him with questionable eyes. Liam only smiles, before he licks at Zayn’s member and his eyes go wide at the sight and the fact that Liam's tongue, wet and warm, has just made contact with him.
Liam only takes the head of the cock in his mouth, feeling as it continues to swell because of his motions. His tongue grazes over the slit which has Zayn panting and curling his fingers against Liam’s neck, having not let go as of yet. Liam, on the other hand, continues what he’s doing, looking up at Zayn through thick brown lashes. He can taste the pre-come already, but Liam only licks at it so that he can taste it, smearing it against his lips.
Zayn tries his best to keep his focus on Liam, watching what he’s doing with his mouth. He hasn’t completely taken Zayn yet, and he’s not going to force the other man to do so. All he knows is that he’s enjoying himself, and most certainly enjoying the way Liam’s pink lips are wrapped tightly around his cock.
“Liam,” Zayn whispers, pulling on another piece of Liam’s hair.
Again, it gets Liam’s attention and he pulls away from Zayn, sitting up so that he can lean over and grab the condom and lube. They’re both hard now, and while Liam takes his time to uncap the bottle and slick his fingers up, Zayn studies Liam’s form.
He’s muscular, just like Zayn knew he’d be having seen him in the suit. It fit his frame a lot more snugly than the outfits Zayn had previously seen him in and he can only imagine what he looks like in a tighter t-shirt. He also has a nice set of abs. They’re not overly defined, but they’re enough that if Liam decides to keep working on them, he’ll surely have no problem gaining and shaping the extra muscle needed. His eyes then trail down to Liam’s member, bobbing ever so slightly with each movement the other man makes and Zayn tries his best to hold in a groan. It only reminds him of how hard he is now and how long it’s been since he’s actually been laid.
“Have you-” Liam starts, which causes Zayn to snap his gaze up and connect it to brown eyes. He watches Liam move towards his legs, though before he touches Zayn, he spreads himself open and nods.
“Yeah.” He doesn’t really know the question that Liam was going to ask, but if it was anything along the lines of being fucked before or if he’d simply touched himself, then regardless, the answer would still be yes.
Liam doesn’t move back over him, instead he goes directly for Zayn’s entrance, using his finger to circle the hole, but not pushing in just yet. His digits are lubed up and it’s slightly cold to the touch, but it’s such a stark contrast because there’s so much heat down there and he just wants Liam to fix it. Liam’s decided not to move his body forward, only his hand so that he can touch Zayn and see exactly what he’s doing to his body.
Slipping the first finger in, Liam’s surprised at how open Zayn is and feels slight relief fall over him, knowing that he won’t be hurting the man laid out before him. He enters another finger, moving them around, causing Zayn to slightly squirm and push down onto them further. There’s only a slight twinge of pain, but then Liam’s entering in another finger and it just feels too good.
Liam only watches as Zayn moves. He finger fucks him and although he’s pretty sure Zayn’s prepared by now, but he feels some satisfaction that the other man’s able to get a decent amount of pleasure just from his fingers.
Zayn doesn’t bother telling Liam to stop. He’s needed this for a good while and although it’s not enough to make him come, the little pulses of pleasure running through his nerves are currently taking away any negative thoughts Zayn had still held on to, though he’d liked to believe he left his worries at the door. His hands curl in the blanket under him, feeling the fabric become disoriented and messy just like Zayn is currently on the brink of feeling.
Liam eventually pulls out, removing his fingers slowly before he’s tearing open the condom package and slipping it on his dick. Zayn’s too busy biting at his lip and breathing to realize that Liam’s now climbing on top of him and position his cock at Zayn’s entrance, and it isn’t until Liam slips the head in that Zayn finally looks up at the other man with hooded eyes and gives him a kiss to seal the deal, silently telling Liam to push in and fuck him.
Liam doesn’t waste a moment; his hips snap and then he’s buried balls deep in Zayn, feeling the tightness and utter warmth surrounding him. He lets out a shaky breath when Zayn releases his lips, and then he moves, pulling his hips back before thrusting forward again.
They’re both in bliss, dazed with their vision a little hazy because of the over running emotions taking over their bodies. Liam just rocks his hips, unrelenting and Zayn takes it, takes each thrust, each movement like he knows he can, allowing himself to finally feel something other than misery. It’s only a temporary relief, Zayn tells himself, because tomorrow will come whether he likes it or not and all of this will be over with before he knows it.
His thoughts are swaying, coming and going like each of their hip movements, and Zayn pushes it away by wrapping his hand in Liam’s hair and bringing him down for a hard, teeth smashing kiss, because through the pleasure, he needs to feel the tinniest amount of pain; to know that this is real and that Liam is actually in him, on him, surrounding him like he never thought possibly.
Liam’s only slightly caught off guard, but he goes with it, kissing Zayn with a vigor they hadn’t felt all night. It’s rough, Zayn biting at his lip and raking his tongue over his teeth, but Liam somehow understands. If this is all he’ll have of Zayn tonight, he wants to leave something behind: a mark, a bruise, something in hopes that maybe the other man will notice in the following days and change his mind about leaving him.
Liam moves to Zayn’s neck and presses his lips against it, soaking up the taste and the sweat that is now slowly covering their bodies. They’re pressed together tightly, with Zayn’s legs wrapped around Liam, feeling the heat and the rubbing of skin on skin. Liam moans, continuing to thrust his hips and feeling fingers flutter up and down his back and his sides, taking in the lines of his frame and where the muscles align, creating crevices that soon disappear with every move.
Zayn’s content, feeling the fire licking at his belly and the burning of his muscles as his hips jut up to meet Liam’s. He likes the feeling of being so close, being surrounded, but he wants to see the other man in another light. If tonight is all he really has, then he wants to be able to say he had the ride of his life, as corny as it sounds.
He moves his hand against Liam’s shoulder, pressing into the skin, trying to get the other mans attention. Liam slows his movements, looking at Zayn, brows knitted in confusion.
“I want to try something,” Zayn says.
Liam only nods and untangles himself from Zayn’s limbs. He slides out of him, not sure what the other man wants until he sees Zayn sit up, moving closer to him and pushing at his chest, forcing him back down on the bed. He rests against the numerous pillows that are now scattered haphazardly across the place, moving over to Liam, straddling his lower abdomen before leaning forward and placing another kiss onto the singer’s lips.
Moving his hand back, Zayn grasps Liam’s slicked cock and guides it back to his entrance. When he feels the head of it slip in, he uses that as his cue to lower himself down on the member until he’s taken it all in again. Despite having already been stretched well enough, it’s a new angle and Zayn takes a moment get used to it. He squeezes his muscles tightly, and Liam lets out a gasp. Zayn only grins and props himself up by placing his hands on Liam’s shoulders.
He doesn’t wait for Liam to say anything more, knowing he’s fully in control now. He moves, rocking his hips just slightly, savoring the feeling of being so full of Liam and desire. He doesn’t waste any time, picking up the pace slightly, not wanting to go too fast. He’s encouraged by Liam’s little noises he’s making, the whimpers and the whines and he loves it; loves the way he’s able to draw them out of the other man, make him come undone by just one little movement.
He’s still bracing himself up on Liam’s shoulders, but moves his hands down to his chest, sitting up straighter so that he's able to move his hips a little more while Liam takes the opportunity to move his hands, resting them against the area where Zayn's hips meet his thighs. They don’t do anything but sit there against the skin, moving in small circles with every rock of Zayn's body, clenching and unclenching, and adding to the warmth Zayn already feels. He realizes he’s more in tune with Liam than he previously realized, most definitely the cause of denial and not wanting to admit that regardless of whether either of them is good in bed, they’ll both enjoy it immensely.
Zayn continues thrusting down onto Liam, but he slows his movements, which only causes Liam’s fingers to press deeper into his skin. He’s watches Liam, how his facial expressions change but they all have the underlying hint of pleasure; how his eyes are closed and the way his mouth is formed into a stead o.
Zayn suddenly feels like he’s corrupting the other man. He tells himself he isn’t though because even before Zayn had decided to ride Liam, he’d been pretty sexy all on his own. But Liam still has an innocence about him, despite the fact that he's already seen otherwise. He figures that's one of the reason he likes him so much. Liam may act innocent, and he may look it at times, but he understands the other side of things, more so than what people give him credit for. The brown-eyed, brown-haired singer understands the other side, the side of dirt and filth and Zayn’s seeing it; seeing something that many don’t get to see because maybe there’s a possibility that while Liam looks at Zayn as that darker side, he also see’s innocence within him.
They’re polar opposites in the business world, in their life choices, but it meets directly in the middle when they’re together and there’s no winner or loser; there is no favorites. Liam sees Zayn for Zayn, or rather Oliver. He hadn’t asked about his upbringing, his fake socialite lifestyle, and he’s got this burning question within the back of his mind: If Liam sees past all of that now, if he's able to pick him apart and see what others can't, would he still feel the same if he was to find out about Zayn. The real Zayn. Not the liar within him, but the maid.
Zayn changes his movements, forcing such thoughts into the back of his mind. He swivels his hips into a circular motion which leaves him gasping for air and moaning in pleasure. Within that time span, his eyes have fallen shut, but he reopens them to find that Liam’s looking at him with such affection, with such… love, and Zayn can feel his release building.
There’s a slight moment where he thinks he’s going to lose it, and that it’s way too soon and Liam might be disappointed in him for not lasting as long as he should've, but then Liam removes one of his hands from Zayn’s waist and grasps the other male’s neglected cock in his hand. His thumb rubs over the head of it, smearing the pre-come that’s leaking out of it while his fingers dance around the rest of the member.
“Liam,” Zayn murmurs. He’s losing his breath from doing all the work, and he’s not sure if the noises he’s now hearing are coming from him, but there are whimpers and groans in the air and then Liam is telling him to come and he can’t take it anymore. He feels his ball tighten, his movements becoming sloppier, his fingers curl and dig into Liam’s shoulder and then he’s coming. His orgasm takes over him, and he doesn’t take his eyes off Liam despite the heavy need to close his eyes and throw his head back in pure pleasure.
Liam’s still rubbing his cock albeit a bit more delicately now, drawing the rest of Zayn’s release out of him and onto Liam’s stomach, where it pools together in the areas of Liam’s well defined torso. By the time he’s ridden out his heightened pleasure, Liam has let go of Zayn’s dick, and he’s watching him closely.
“You can-” Zayn begins, motion for Liam to flip them over so that he can get off, but the other man is shaking his head before he can finish. Zayn raises his eyebrow, “Alright.”
He removes himself from Liam, settling in next to him, aware of how sensitive he is and how painfully hard Liam’s cock is as well. Liam, on the other hand, pulls off the condom and throws it in the trash can sitting beside the nightstand. When he’s done, he turns back to Zayn and looks like he’s about to ask something, but Zayn moves before Liam can get the words out.
“I’ll just-” he says, but then Liam’s telling him no and he’s not sure what to do.
“Lay back,” Liam responds, knowing Zayn is rather curious as to what Liam’s going for.
Zayn lies back against the pillows and Liam comes to rest just above him, positioning his cock up against Zayn’s thighs and it suddenly dawns on him how Liam wants to come. He smirks at the other man and wraps a hand around his neck to bring him in for a kiss. Liam understands the hint given and begins moving his hips so that his leaking member rubs up against Zayn’s thighs.
Zayn spreads himself a little more, letting Liam fully sink down between in legs, giving him more friction to rub up against. Liam moves his head between the juncture of Zayn’s neck and shoulder, sucking on the skin there and pressing a kiss after a few seconds. He can taste the other man on his tongue, which only gives him further motivation to thrusts his hips forward.
Zayn uses one hand to brush through Liam’s hair, feeling how soft it is and encouraging him to keep his lips against his neck.
“Come on, Liam,” Zayn whispers against his ear. He uses his other hand to run his fingers against Liam’s back, dragging his shortened fingernails against the taut skin. It’s not enough to cause bleeding, but it adds a little twinge of pain within the bliss. “Come for me.”
Liam kisses his way back up to Zayn’s mouth, still rutting in-between Zayn’s thighs and then he’s coming, hard. Zayn continues petting Liam with his fingertips, coaxing him through is release until the small shakes subside and then Liam’s lying down next to Zayn, staring at him with chocolate-brown eyes.
Zayn can only stare back, not bothering to say anything. They're breath is still heavy, chests rising up and down in visible movements, and Zayn studies Liam’s face, etching every line and angle of his face into his memory so that he won’t forget. It’s a bit masochistic to do this to himself, but he knows that as much as he’ll say he regrets sleeping with Liam, he won’t ever fully be able to mean it. Those words will die on his tongue before he ever has the change to speak them, and there will always be a little piece of pain that Zayn will feel when thinking of it.
He shifts, turning over onto his side so that he’s facing Liam directly. He can feel the sticky mess between his thighs, but he chooses to ignore it knowing Liam’s in the same predicament he’s in, chest covered in Zayn's come.
Liam brings a hand up to Zayn’s face, resting it against his cheek and stroking the skin so softly with the pad of his thumb. The moment is tender, and Zayn doesn’t dare break it by saying anything because he knows that if he does, Liam will stop him and ask him to stay and he can’t do that. He can’t risk that conversation coming up again and despite the amazing sex he’s just had, he can feel that sadness, the longing seeping back into his heart despite the fact that he’s right next to Liam.
He doesn’t understand why he can’t savor this moment with all the feelings he wants to. Maybe there’s a part of him that’s trying to reject this before what he’s really done sinks in. He knows that deep down, he’s accepted everything, but it’s a process that can’t begin until he’s out of Liam’s arms, and away from the man.
Zayn’s eyelids fall shut with Liam’s fingers ghosting over the skin on his cheek. He doesn’t know how late it is, how long they’ve been up for, but the movements are delicate enough to lull him to sleep.
Liam only watches as Zayn’s breathing deepens and the way his chest evens out with a stillness only sleep can bring. He can feel his own eyes trying close and the last coherent thing he notices before he’s under sleep’s spell is the way that Zayn leans in closer to him, curling himself unconsciously around Liam.
Liam doesn't hesitate to do the same.
Chapter 8: dangerous to know
Zayn’s eyes flutter open, and the first thing he takes notice of his how content he is. He’s warm, buried underneath a pile of blankets, and it’s enough to make him want to fall back to sleep. He doesn’t know where he is or the time, but he could care less. It’s been a long while since he’s woken up feeling this good.
The peacefulness of the morning soon demolishes though when something shifts next to him, and then Zayn feels a slight bit of panic envelop his bones until he remembers exactly where he is and why he feels as blissed out as he does. Small flashes of what happened last night come back through his memory and it leaves him slightly breathless to the point where he regains his senses and realizes that his head is resting on Liam’s shoulder with an arm wrapped securely over Liam’s waist.
Zayn suddenly grows uncomfortable. Liam has an arm draped around his side too, and he’s scared to move in fear of waking the other man up. For a moment, he berates himself for actually staying the entire night with Liam. What he should done was leave directly afterwards so that he wouldn’t have to face the situation he’s in now, but it’s not like he can change anything. The best thing he can do is sneak out before Liam wakes up.
He refrains from groaning out loud, not liking the idea of having to tip-toe around the suite in order to find his clothes. What he really wants is to get up, take a long hot shower and go back to bed, preferably with Liam in it, but he realizes that he can’t do that, that he’s going to have to sneak out of here somehow without the other man’s knowledge.
And he’s going to be late for work.
Zayn bites the inside of his cheek before removing his arm from Liam. The motion doesn’t disturb him, so he pulls back as best as he can, removing Liam’s arm from his side and whil trying his best to inch himself over to the edge of the bed so that he can climb out. He moves slowly and there’s only one moment where he has to halt his movements because Liam turned over on his side, but other than that, Zayn’s able to climb out of the bed, home free and sets about finding his clothes.
While picking up the remaining pieces of his outfit he’d worn last night, all thrown carelessly on the ground, he finds that he’s still a mess, not having cleaned himself up after they’d gotten off, and Zayn grimaces. He debates on whether or not it’s a good idea to use the bathroom before he leaves, but there’s still a possibility that he might wake Liam up. In the end, after he’s found all his clothes, and even picked up Liam’s, placing them on the dresser pushed up against the wall, he decides to risk taking a quick five minute shower, especially since he knows that he doesn’t have the time to run back home and change.
Zayn doesn’t pay any attention to the finer details of the bathroom when he enters. The only thing he does is close the door behind him when he goes in, throws his clothes down in the corner of the room to walk over to the shower so that he can clean himself up and be on his way.
Turning the water on, he gets in the minute it is flowing. It’s cold and Zayn jumps at the contact, but all he really needs is to scrub at his skin and quickly wash his hair, before he’s stepping out again and grabbing one of the clean towels hanging up on the rack beside the shower so that he can dry himself off. He has to slip back into the trousers and t-shirt because he’s got nothing else to wear, but as far as he can see, they’re clean and they’ll have to do until he can get back to his locker and change into his uniform.
Zayn opens the door to the bathroom carefully and is grateful when he finds that Liam is still sleeping. He doesn’t move through the threshold of the door just yet; he only gathers the remaining clothes in his hand and stares at Liam. There’s a part of his heart that hurts, aches to slip back into bed, to press himself up against Liam and close his eyes so that he can dream the reality away, but he gathers the courage to walk past Liam and over to the bedroom door, placing his hand on the handle and opening it so that he can walk out.
Zayn only gives Liam one last look before he slips through the door, down the hall and to the front of the suite. He’s cautious when he walks, not knowing if anyone else is up yet or if anyone’s even here at all, but he finds that the place is empty as far as he can see and it’s easy for him to slip out into the hallway of the hotel.
He feels the tightness in his chest loosen up a bit at the feeling of making it out here without any difficulty, but then it quickly coils around his insides once again knowing that he’s having to walk away from the one thing he wishes he could keep.
Pushing those thoughts out of his mind, Zayn turns the corner of the hall so that he can make his way to the elevator. There’s only a few people lingering about and while they glance over him, they don’t pay him any attention. He smiles and nods his head at the few trying to get into their hotel rooms, and eventually comes to a stop at the elevator. No one else is waiting for it, so he pushes the button and stands there as the digital numbers that rest just above the lifts frame climbs higher and higher. He’s too busy looking at the red digits and trying to keep the anxiety he feels down when he hears a gasp come from one end of the hall.
There’s a few whispers after that, and Zayn pays no attention to it at first, thinking it’s one of the random guests who are on the floor talking with one another or frustrated because their keycard is being difficult and won’t let them into their room. But then he hears the words I’m sure it’s him and Zayn grows slightly conscious of what’s going on.
He glances around him, to his left and right and it isn’t until he’s done a double take that he discovers Claire, Oliver’s friend, staring directly at him, on the other side of the hallway talking into her phone. She’s standing in front of a suite door, and it looks like she’d been about to knock on it, but that’s not really what holds Zayn’s attention.
No, it’s the fact that she’s smiling in such a way that makes him want to run like hell in the other direction, and Zayn can feel the floor almost drop out beneath him.
“It’s him,” she says into the phone.
The elevator door dings just as the woman hangs up and Zayn hurriedly steps inside, feeling like absolute shit because he’s pretty sure he knows who Claire was talking to, and he knows without a doubt that if Oliver doesn’t come find him and talk to him about it, there’s a good chance they’ll be taking it to management.
The doors to the lift close and Zayn chooses to stand in the corner, his back resting up against the wall. He tries telling himself that the woman hadn’t seen anything, but deep down he knows differently. She’d most likely seen him exiting the York Suite and called Oliver as soon as she had. Plus, the way she was looking at him before he left the floor was a pretty clear indication that something’s going to happen and he’s not sure what. Though whatever does take place, he deserves because he’s in the wrong and really, it was only a matter of time before someone caught him red-handed. He just hadn’t thought it would be that snobby woman who seemed to believe that she was better than him.
He spends the rest of the elevator ride trying to calm himself down.
It doesn’t work.
Zayn manages to get to work on time, his heart not fully in it, after changing into his uniform and returning the clothes and watch to the hotel’s shop. It takes him longer to clean the floor he’d been assigned, and he hasn’t seen Niall as of yet. He’d also managed to make a quick phone call home where his mother had answered and told him that she’d been the one to relieve Niall of babysitting duties and had gotten Ryan up for school, where he’s at now. She’d also told him not to stress too much, obviously sensing that something was off with him over the phone and that she’d be able to pick Ryan up form school so he wouldn’t have to. He had breathed a sigh of relief after he’d hung up, realizing that that little weight of worry was off of his shoulders.
It isn’t until his shift is almost over that he finally gets a phone call down in the washroom while he’s busy doing the laundry. How the hotel staff knew he was in here, he doesn’t know, but they inform him that the manager would like to see him, and Zayn closes his eyes and nods before he realizes he’s on the phone and answers with an abrupt sure. He hangs up, already feeling worse for wear because he can only imagine what’s about to take place. As much as he’d like to believe he’ll be scolded and told off for not following procedure when it comes to hotel rules, he knows different. He knows why he’s being called there and the thought of losing his job doesn’t surprise him.
It’s come down to this, he realizes, all because of a woman and his impeccably bad timing. There’s not much else he can do now, but walk down to the offices and hope for the best, despite all the evidence that’s piled up against him.
When he steps through the door, his heart sinks further into his chest because not only are Oliver and Claire sitting in the same room with his boss and the assistant manager, but Niall’s also standing there in front of the manager’s desk, and Zayn has the sudden worry that Niall will be blamed for this as well, and he can’t let that happen. Even if his friend feels responsible, Zayn’s the one who went further with the lie than Niall himself and it wouldn’t be fair if he lost his job over this too.
“Zayn,” Mr. Perkins greets, but there’s a brief amount of derision in his voice that makes Zayn flinch.
“Yes,” he acknowledges, walking across the room so that he can stand beside Niall. He gives his friend a brief glance, but Niall’s too busy staring at the floor.
“Mr. Brock has brought to our attention that you were seen leaving a hotel guests’ room, and while we stress the importance of confidentiality, we have reason to believe you’ve been lying, and possibly stealing.” Mr. Perkins points to a tv screen hanging on the wall beside his desk.
Zayn looks at it and realizes what it is. It’s security footage of him walking into the elevator with the Armani suit on, the day he went to the park with Liam and Ryan.
“I didn’t steal,” Zayn says quickly. He’s not really sure if it’s appropriate for him to speak right now, but he needs to defend what honor he has left.
Claire snorts, “Right, and how did a maid end up with a Rolex?”
Zayn looks down at his feet at the insult, but he doesn’t have time to reply because then there’s a knock at the door and Niall’s moving so that he can answer it though Mrs. Finley speaks through the interruption, “We’ve spent the past thirty minutes trying to persuade Mr. Brock not to press charges. I suggest you say as little as possible.”
“We have it all on video,” Oliver adds. He doesn’t seem as interested in the conversation as Claire is, and he hasn’t even bothered to look at anyone else in the room except for his nails.
“Was everything returned?” Mr. Perkins asks.
“Yes, sir,” Zayn replies.
The conversation goes silent for a moment two before there’s the sound of feet against the wooden floor, belonging to whoever just knocked. Oliver’s the first one to look up and over at the people who are now in the room, and when he recognizes who it is his mood dramatically changes to one of intense interest.
“Oh, Liam, I’m terribly sorry…” Oliver starts. He stands up from his seat to look past Zayn, who only feels his breath leave his body so quickly he has to think just so that oxygen will find its way into his lungs correctly. He doesn’t turn around, but his eyes go wide and his heart thumps quickly in his chest. His hands are at his side, curling into the fabric of his uniform, clenching it so tightly he knows he’ll leave an unfortunate amount of wrinkles behind, “-to interrupt your busy morning. We thought you should know what was going on as soon as possible.”
“What is going on?” Liam asks. He comes around the side of the room to stand near Oliver, though he looks as if he’s wary of doing so.
Oliver moves closer to him unaware of the unnecessary awkwardness he brings, all the while ignoring the other two men who had followed Liam into the room as well. Oliver only focuses on Liam, his voice growing a wave of sympathy before he states, “The man you thought was a guest here at the hotel is actually a maid. Aren’t you, Zayn?” His voice is filled with a hatred Zayn has only experienced a few times in his life, and he knows he’s being addressed and it wouldn’t do him any good to ignore the man scolding him.
So with a grown nerve, he looks up and finds that Liam is staring directly at him. His heart breaks all the more because Liam’s face goes from not understanding, to recognition and then plain old confusion.
“No, wait, his name is Oliver,” Liam counters.
“No, Liam, darling,” Oliver corrects, “that’s my name. He steals clothes, identities-“
“What the hell is happening here?” Louis speaks this time, looking just as confused as Liam. His face eventually changes though to one of seriousness. He’s determined and restless all at once, and the feeling he’s had all along about this situation is really taking over his thought process.
“Why are you dressed that way?” Liam asks, ignoring Louis. He’s looking at Zayn and his brain is not piecing together the information he has been given. He’s just spent the night with the man before him and now they’re telling him he’s someone else and all he really wants is an explanation; a clear explanation from no one else but the man apparently named Zayn.
“Oliver?” Liam repeats one more time just so he’s clear that that’s not the man’s name. “Is this true?”
Zayn knits his brows together and he can’t find it in himself to say anything just yet. It’s one thing to be confronted with the truth, but it’s another thing entirely to actually admit it. He’s told himself plenty of times that if this situation ever came about he’d be able to do the right thing and accept his fate, but now with Liam standing in front of him, he feels his words crumbling in the back of his throat, his mouth having gone completely dry.
It’s not until he feels Niall by his side who squeezes his wrist, that he finally licks his lips and hold Liam’s gaze again. It still takes him a few moments to gather the mental strength he needs to form the words he wants to say and in that time span, he can feel his eyes mist over and a whimper at the back of his throat.
“Yeah, it is.” He says it with as much creed as he can muster because while he feels ashamed and guilty, he needs to face Liam with determination so the other man knows that he’s able to take responsibility for his actions, that he’s not an all around bad guy.
Liam doesn’t say anything after that. He doesn’t move, and he doesn’t turn away from Zayn. He only looks at him with remorse.
“Shit,” Harry whispers, finally speaking. He runs a hand through his curls but looks around the room to see what’s going to happen next. He’s been quiet this entire time, but even he does not believe what he’s hearing. He feels uncomfortable and really has no idea what to do except stand there and hold his tongue while everyone stares at Zayn, like they expect him to keep talking.
Though no one else says anything for a good while until Louis decides to speak up because they can’t all just stand here doing nothing. “The press is going to have a field day with this one if they find out,” the man snaps.
“There’s no reason to involve the press,” Mr. Perkins speaks then. It causes Zayn to remove his eyes from Liam and look at the ground.
“Right, and how are you going to prevent him,” Louis gestures to Zayn, “from speaking?”
The manager doesn’t have an answer for him, but instead, Claire interrupts them all, despite the fact that she doesn’t have much to do with the situation going on.
“This wouldn’t ever happen at the Four Seasons,” she mutters under her breath.
“And I can assure you it has never happened here before either,” Mrs. Finley comments, directing her gaze to the other woman in the room.
“Well,” Mr. Perkins starts, clasping his hands in front of him and turning his attention onto the two employees before him. “Mr. Malik, you no longer work here. When we’re done with this meeting, go to security, hand in your passes, return your uniform and leave the premises.”
The manager then turns his attention onto Niall, who hasn’t spoken a word this entire time. “I’m inclined to believe you had something to do with this as well, and I’m still debating on whether I should fire you or not.”
Zayn feels Niall shuffle on his feet. He looks at his friend, who doesn’t really look bothered at all, despite the fact that his job is now on the line. He makes a move to speak, but Zayn knows his friend better than anyone else, and he realizes just what he’s going to say, so before Niall does answer, Zayn looks back at his former boss and confronts him. “Please, Mr. Perkins, Niall had nothing to do with this.”
He can hear someone whisper what, but he doesn’t know who it belongs to. He figures it could be Harry or Louis who’ve realized that he has lied again, all three of them knowing that Niall had in fact known about Zayn all along, but he doesn’t care. Niall can’t lose his job over this, and he isn’t to blame for all of Zayn’s previous actions.
The manager nods his head in agreement although he probably shouldn’t since he’s already fired Zayn for lying. Still, Zayn knows what they think of Niall, that he’s a good employee and it wouldn’t do them any good to let him go.
Mr. Perkins dismisses the both of them, telling them that they can leave. And it’s not until both he and Niall walk across the room to exit, when he hears Liam speak, though the door closes behind him before he hears everything.
“Wait,” Liam says. He holds up a hand to go along with his words and he looks at the manager. “Is that really necessary?”
“Liam, let the man do his job!”
Liam looks at Oliver and shakes his head like he can’t believe what’s just come out of his mouth. Maybe he’s a bit irrational about all of this because he’s slightly biased and that really, it’s only right to have Zayn fired, but he feels the need to argue about this decision that’s completely out of his hands until he has the full truth.
Liam moves, walking towards the door of the hotel suite, angry, at what, he doesn’t know, but hoping he can catch up with Zayn. He should be mad at him, but he can’t find it in himself to do so just yet.
Liam doesn’t stop walking, but he can sense Oliver is right behind him and it’s all he can do not to turn around and tell the man to shut the fuck up and go away.
“I can’t help but feel that this is partly my fault,” he states.
Liam stops then, just as he’s about to open the suite’s door. “It isn’t. Spare yourself,” he says a bit sarcastically.
“At least let me buy you lunch, after all, we’ve only got each other to get through this humiliation.”
And Liam wants to laugh. This is not how he pictured his day going.
“Oliver, the first lunch was a mistake,” Liam grumbles. “Another one would be complete torture.”
He gives a curt smile, before he turns to open the door. He can faintly hear a muffled laugh come within the room and guesses that it’s probably Harry. He doesn’t wait for them to follow him out. Instead, when he exits the room, he heads straight for the elevator, determined to find Zayn and actually ask him his side of the story.
Maybe it’s foolish of hi for wanting to talk to Zayn, but there’s a need in him to know that what they had last night wasn’t a lie. He feels like it wasn’t, and deep in his heart he refuses to believe it was some sort of game being played. What benefit would the man he’d shared his bed with have? As far as he knows, Zayn hadn’t taken anything physical of Liam’s, except a piece of his heart, but was that really stealing if he was willing to give it away?
Liam’s more than determined to find the truth, even if it’s not what he wants to hear. Harry and Louis and everyone else in that room may object to what he wants to know, but he’s not that kind of man. No, Liam needs to ask specific questions and receive the exact answers he may not know he’s looking for.
And then he wonders if he can even forgive the other man for his actions. There has to be some truth to the accusations, otherwise none would’ve been made, though it makes complete sense now why the socialite had shown up to his room for lunch and not the man he’d originally intended to see. He still needs to think over exactly what he wants from Zayn, because he can’t go in there blinded and ask him without preparing himself for the reality of the situation. He may end up saying something he may regret, and he may also end up forgiving too quickly.
His heart is already on the line enough as it is, and he fully acknowledges the fact that he’s purposely about to go break it.
Zayn’s dressed in jeans and a t-shirt while handing over his uniform to hotel security, along with the rest of his belongings that give him access to the hotel. He tries his best to avoid thinking of the events of the day because he knows that if he does he might just have a breakdown and this is neither the time nor place.
He doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings so when he turns around to leave he bumps into someone and apologizes. When he looks up, he finds that it’s Niall, who has a solemn look on his face.
Niall moves past Zayn and fishes his passkey and id out of his pocket to hand over to the security guards that are still standing in the room.
“God, please don’t tell me they decided to fire you over this too.”
Niall shakes his head. “No, I made the decision myself.”
Zayn moves his head back in disbelief. “You quit?”
It’d be a stupid thing to do, if you asked Zayn, because Niall’s worked hard to get to the position he’s at now. And if he wanted, he’s pretty sure they would consider Niall for management and he has no doubt that he’d do a much better job than Zayn could’ve anyway.
“Yeah,” he replies. “I couldn’t let you solely take the blame for this. Besides, serving people takes a kind of intelligence and dignity, and I know that with you working here, they haven’t shown you that at all.” Niall sighs and sticks his hands into his pockets, and Zayn’s not sure when the last time he’s seen his friend this serious about anything. And it’s not that Niall couldn’t be serious, but he’s usually the one to relieve the tension instead of providing it.
“They’re only people with money. We’re not their servants, and regardless of whether the hotel’s in the right or wrong for firing you over this, that wasn’t the only reason they did it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“That women who’s friends with Oliver,” Niall begins, but pauses and he looks hesitant to say anything at all now.
“What did she say, Niall,” Zayn questions. His voice drops, like he knows that whatever his friend will say isn’t going to be good for him and will only make him feel worse.
“I’m not going to repeat some of the things she said.” Niall shakes his head. “I’m just glad you weren’t in the room when she said them.”
Zayn gets it. She probably pulled the race card and while he suddenly finds his hands clenched into a fist, he soon relaxes them because there’s nothing he can do about it now anyway.
“Do you know how they found out?” he decides to ask instead.
“Yeah, Claire saw you come out of Liam’s room this morning,” Niall explains. “So she called Oliver and told him that she’d seen a maid leave the York Suite. Apparently Oliver was going to let it go until Claire mentioned that you were wearing a Rolex and then everything clicked into place from there.”
Silence takes over then. There’s nothing else that either of them can say, but then one of the security guards is clearing their throat and telling them that they need to leave.
Niall offers to walk home with Zayn, but he tells him that he’ll be fine and that he’s just going to go straight home anyway before Ryan gets back from school. His friend only nods his head and tells him that he’ll see him later so that they can go job hunting sometime soon. Zayn can only find it in himself to thank Niall and tell him goodbye before he’s making his way towards the front of the hotel so that he can walk outside and away from his past.
He can feel an old part of his life closing and a new chapter beginning now, and this whole experience, for lack of a better word, has opened his eyes to a lot of different things he hadn’t seen before.
First, he knows that he’s not incapable of feeling something for someone like he had thought was the case after Ryan’s mother left.
Second, it’s time he stopped catering to everyone else around him and put his own happiness before others occasionally.
Third, explain what’s happened to Ryan and hope the boy will forgive him because he definitely knows he’ll understand.
Fourth, he now has the chance to step away from his old work environment that he hadn’t been enjoying for quite some time.
And lastly, the fifth thing he realizes is that regardless of what you do with your time and your life, if things are meant to happen, they will happen no matter what you try and do to stop it.
Zayn may only be in his mid-twenties, but he’s still learning the lesson they call life just as much as everyone else.
He keeps walking down the street.
“Oliver,” the voice calls again, but Zayn keeps walking. “I don’t know what name to use.”
And then Liam’s in front of him, blocking him from continuing to go forward, and he stops dead in his tracks.
“Zayn,” he says, before pushing past Liam to keep walking. He’s got no interest in sticking around although Liam’s talking to him, even after everything that had happened.
“Okay, that’s good to know.”
Zayn can feel the other man at his side, keeping up with Zayn’s pace.
“But I don’t get what just happened.”
“What don’t you get?” Zayn retorts. He’s trying his best not to sound too angry because honestly, he’s got no right to be. Liam’s only looking for the truth, but he can’t help but be a little difficult when trying to explain it to him. “I’m the maid.”
“What was all this then?” Liam questions. “Some kind of bet? A game of what… sleep-with-the-guests?”
“No,” Zayn yells, furrowing his brow. He scrunches up his face when he realizes how harsh that sounded before replying to the other man. “I was trying on his clothes, then you were suddenly there and you invited me out and everything-”
And then Liam’s standing in front of him again, forcing him to stop in the middle of the busy sidewalk. There are a lot of people out right now with everyone getting off of work around the same time in the surrounding area.
“And you thought you had to lie to keep me interested?”
Zayn looks directly at Liam and he’s pulling a face that Zayn can only describe as the look of a kicked puppy. It’s not fair that Liam’s doing this to him, approaching him and asking him all these questions, but Zayn can’t really blame him either because he owes Liam this regardless of how he’s feeling right now.
“What?” Zayn shakes his head. “Who’s kidding who here; you think you would’ve noticed me if you knew I was the maid?”
Liam looks away from Zayn and at first he thinks it’s an agreement to his question, but then he hears a few clicks and he turns around to look at what Liam’s staring at. He finds that there are about three photographers standing behind them, trying to take pictures of Liam, and Zayn clothes his eyes and taps his fingers against his thigh nervously.
He doesn’t bother giving Liam any warning before he’s taking off again, moving past Liam and away from the paparazzi so that he can get home.
He doesn’t stop walking.
“Zayn,” Liam says again. “You didn’t give me a chance!”
“What, Liam?” Zayn snaps. He turns back on his heel so quickly that Liam almost runs into him. “With all due respect Mr. Celebrity, I don’t think so. You would have looked the other way.”
“Right, because you’re exactly right,” Liam bites sarcastically. “Yet you stand here and judge others because you’re so sure they’re judging you.”
Zayn snorts, “And you think they’re not?”
Liam can’t answer.
Zayn shakes his head and turns to walk but he then he hears Liam behind him again, and he knows that this conversation still has a ways to go before he can get out of here for good.
“Half the time,” he starts, not waiting for Liam to say anything else, “I’m the stereotype they make fun of, not only because I’m a maid but half the time they think I’m a Mexican who can’t speak a lick of English and the other half, I’m invisible; not even a human, but you know, maybe that’s the point.”
Zayn’s still walking but he’s using his hands to add emphasis to the point he’s trying to make. He can feel Liam brush up against his side every so often and it’s hard for him to concentrate on what he wants to say.
“Some people are always meant to be the lower class because others are too afraid to give them the chance to be something more.”
Liam circles around him to stop him once more, and Zayn’s patience is growing thin. He can still hear the camera shudders and it looks like the crowd has slightly grown, not only with other members of the press, but with random strangers from the street, trying to figure out what’s going on. Zayn doesn’t like it, but before he can say anything about it, a voice is calling out for Liam and Zayn just wants to damn it all to hell.
“Louis, not now,” Liam says, waving him off. He turns to address Zayn, but he finds that the other man has taken off without him again and he clenches his jaw and looks at Louis.
“Fuck off, Louis,” he growls.
“Liam-” Louis warns, but is cut off by the look he’s given by his friend. He doesn’t say anything after that, just watches as Liam takes off after Zayn.
Louis can feel the crowd trying to push around him while also trying to get pictures of him as well and he shakes his head and how much of an idiot Liam’s being right now. He decides it’s best to follow after his friend though, despite what logic is telling him to do because he’d rather be near Liam in a small gathering of people than leave his friend to fend for himself.
When he catches up to the pair, he can hear Liam above the sounds of the city around him and there’s a part of him that feels awful for what he is having to go through.
“I just want the truth,” Liam says.
It has Zayn slowing down one more so he can turn around to he can face him.
“You want the truth?” Zayn questions. He’s not sure if Liam really wants to hear it, and he’s reluctant to even give it to him.
“Yes, I do.”
Zayn nods, but finds that he can’t look at Liam. He’d had the courage earlier, but aside from all the strangers trying to crowd around them, it’s just him and Liam, face to face with the truth and that scares him beyond belief. The other man wasn’t to blame for anything that happened, and Zayn should’ve prepared himself better for this.
“Liam, it wasn’t my intention to hurt you, and I know it may seem that way now, but it really wasn’t.” Zayn believes he’s doing a shit job at trying to convince the man otherwise, but it’d be pointless to stop now. “I guess after that day in the park, I wanted to know what it would feel like to have someone look at me the way you did. You know, as equals, as someone worth talking to.”
Zayn stops speaking and finally looks at Liam who doesn’t look any better than Zayn feels at the moment. The only thing he can say is that it looks like Liam is taking this quite well. Then again, he doesn’t know if he’s actually holding out on his full emotions because he just doesn’t feel anything or if he’s trying to keep himself stable looking enough because of the cameras.
“And I’m sorry, truly,” Zayn adds. “If I could take it back, I would.”
He takes a step back, intending to leave but then Liam opens his mouth to say something before closing it again, and he figures he needs to stay and see this out.
“Was it real?” Liam’s voice is quiet and if Zayn hadn’t of been looking at him, he wouldn’t have known that he had finally spoken.
Zayn manages to smile, trying his best not to think back on the past three days for fear of losing complete control of his emotions.
“Yeah, it was,” he admits, and he does his best to say it as sincerely as possible because he means it. “And the entire time I wondered how I was going to let you go, but I had to. That was the plan because my job was on the line, my son, and then last night happened, and I was selfish.”
Zayn studies Liam’s face, but he can’t read it. It hurts knowing that he’s caused this much damage, and he can only imagine what Liam thinks about it all, how he feels about him now. So before Liam asks him anything else he decides it’s time to walk away, to leave Liam behind for good and never see him again.
Liam doesn’t go after him again. He lets Zayn walk away because he now has the truth he’d been looking for, but he’s not sure what to do with it. He can let it sink in, which it will over the course of the next few days, but there’s also going to be plenty of repercussions, not only with management, but with his feelings and everything he thought he felt and everything he still feels.
“Liam, we need to go.”
It’s Louis, and reluctantly Liam follows, slumping his shoulders and bowing his head like he’s done so many times before whenever there are cameras around.
His friend doesn’t say anything to him after that. He just wraps his arm around Liam’s shoulders and they walk together back to the hotel, escaping the small crowd of cameras, where Harry’s waiting in the lobby for them. He only offers Liam a half smile, but he can’t be bothered to return it. As much as he’d like to say something, there isn’t anything to say at all.
They make their way into the elevator, careful to avoid anyone in the lobby now that they’re pretty sure news is spreading fast overseas as to where they’re standing despite the fact that towards the end of the week they’ll be making all kinds of appearances for the band.
Liam keeps to himself, not even bothering to look at Harry or Louis and when the trio arrives back to their hotel room, Liam hides away for the rest of the night. His band mates leave him alone, not really knowing what to do now but worried for their friend.
There’s really no way of knowing how Liam’s going to come out of this. He feels a lot of things at the moment, and he lets those emotions consume him until he’s able to fall asleep in an empty bed filled with memories of the night before.
Zayn takes the subway home, and then walks the rest of the way because he just needs time to think. He needs some space away from it all, and he can’t go home yet knowing that his mother is there with Ryan. She’d know something was up and he’d have to tell her how much of an idiot he’d been and he’s not ready to hear what she’ll have to say. It’s not that he doesn’t love her but sometimes she’s a little too outspoken and says the wrong thing without taking people’s emotions into consideration.
It isn’t until the sun’s setting that he finally decides to go home. He knows for sure now that his mother will grip him out for being late and not coming home straight away and maybe there’s a part of him that wanted to avoid that for as long as possibly, but he can’t any longer. He wants to take a shower and spend some time with Ryan before his bedtime.
It’s the first thing he hears when he walks into his apartment, shutting and locking the door behind him.
“You were supposed to be here hours ago.”
Zayn ignores her for a moment, pulling his shirt off and throwing it into the washer before grapping a towel. He walks by Ryan, who’s sitting at the kitchen table doing his homework, and leans down to kiss the top of his head before moving on down the hall.
“Zayn, he told me what happened.”
Zayn pauses just before entering his bedroom, and grits his teeth. Of course Niall wouldn’t do something like that. He probably called to see if he was okay and instead his mother answered the phone and pried out any information she had wanted to know.
Relaxing his muscles and wishing the day was over with, Zayn throws the towel onto his bed before walking back into the kitchen where his mother is now sitting at the table by Ryan. He makes a move to say something, to tell her to leave it for another day, but she speaks before he can get a word out.
“What were you thinking?”
Zayn feels like a child again, reprimanded for doing something insanely stupid.
“Really, Zayn. Going out with someone like that,” she mutters.
Zayn narrows his eyes, not quite sure what she’s implying. “Someone like what, Ma?”
“A singer; someone famous, Zayn!” He knows she’s only trying to look out for him but he’d rather not do this now. “So, you had to pretend to be a somebody to go out with them, then, yeah?”
Zayn pulls his head back in disbelief. “Don’t make him sound like he’s superior to all of us. He may be rich, have a lot of things we don’t have, but that doesn’t make him any better than me or you or anyone on this block.” Zayn moves his hand to run it through his hair. “No, actually, it shouldn’t make him better, but it does, doesn’t it? Because we live in reality where things are never supposed to work out for us, and we aren’t meant to need, want or dream of a better life for ourselves.”
Zayn can feel an absurd amount of anger fill his chest and it’s not all for his mother. It’s mostly because of her opinion, his decisions, just for life in general and why it has to be so cruel.
“And what I don’t understand is the fact that you actually think that I don’t have the right to go out someone like him.”
Zayn’s face hardens.
“Ryan, go to your room and finish your homework, please.”
His son makes no protest, quickly gathering up all of his papers and crayons spread over the table before he’s rushing off to his room. Zayn doesn’t bother speaking until he hears the door shut, not wanting his son to be a part of this argument or have to listen to it either.
“What happened to you? When did you become so bitter?” Zayn asks.
“Don’t start with me. I’m not the one who lost their job today.”
Zayn closes his eyes and sighs, knowing that this is a losing argument.
“Yeah, I did. It’s all my fault, and I take complete responsibility for it, but you know what? It’ll be fine.”
Zayn turns to leave the room, really wanting to put this conversation to rest, but his mother stands up and follows him.
“It will. I’ve got some friends I can call-”
“What?” he says. He comes to a stop at the edge of the kitchen, just before the hallway so that he can turn around and face his mom. “No, I’m not taking a job from them. They clean houses-”
“Which there’s nothing wrong with-”
“Ma, I love you, okay? I do, but I don’t want to clean houses. There’s nowhere to go from there, not like there is in the hotel business.” Zayn realizes he’s pleading for her to understand and he’s not sure if that says more about their relationship or the lack thereof.
“Haven’t you learned anything from this, Zayn?” his mother counters. Ignoring what he’s trying to get through to her. “You have responsibilities. You have bills and pretending like they’re going to go away is not the answer.”
“Stop it,” Zayn growls. He’s frustrated and tired and he can’t deal with this anymore. “If anything, you’re right. I’m good at cleaning. It’s probably the only thing I’m really good for, but I’m not going to clean other people’s homes.”
He’s done and completely tired of just trying to get by in life. He doesn’t want to spend the rest of it not doing anything to change what he has now, and for the first time he realizes just how much of a blessing and a curse this entire weekend has been. He may have screwed up and lied and lost his job, but it’s also brought him to the realization that he wants more for himself, for his son and their life together.
“I’ll find some other job in a hotel, as a maid and after some time passes, I’ll apply for the management program,” Zayn states. He’s determined now, not only to tell his mother what he wants, but to prove it to himself, and he needs to say these words out loud so that he’s not just trying to convince himself otherwise. “They wanted me for once,” Zayn points to himself, “and I’m positive I can prove myself again, and when I get the chance to be a manager, because I will Ma, I know I will, I’m going to take it without any doubts or fears, and most importantly,” he trails off for a second, considering what he’s about to say before he shrugs and decides he will anyway, “-without your voice in my head telling me that I can’t.”
His mother looks taken aback, but she doesn’t say anything else, and he doesn’t comment either. He finally turns on his heel and heads to his bedroom so that he can finally take a much needed shower.
That night goes by very quickly for Zayn. Maybe it’s because of the long day he’s had or his wish of wanting the day over with has finally come true. Either way, it’s almost nine and Ryan’s still not in bed because he’s staring up at Zayn with big brown eyes and holding out his bottom lip.
“Ryan,” Zayn breathes, not understanding why Ryan’s pulling this now. He hasn’t asked for a story in quite awhile and it makes Zayn slightly anxious as to why.
He sits down on the edge of the bed and pulls the covers over Ryan’s body and tucks him in.
“Just one story, that’s all!” Ryan exclaims.
“Alright, one story and no more.” Zayn holds up a finger to emphasize that he means one story and one story only. “What would you like to hear?”
“Did you really get fired?”
Zayn blinks. He wasn’t expecting that.
“That’s not a story,” he counters.
“Yes, it is.”
Zayn’s lips thin. He isn’t really prepared for this, especially now, and he figured he’d been off the hook until tomorrow since Ryan hadn’t mentioned the argument with grandma earlier.
“Did you get fired because of me?”
“What? What makes you think that?”
“Grandma said that if you hadn’t of met Liam, you wouldn’t have gotten fired.”
Zayn scratches at the back of his neck. He knows Ryan’s only eight, but kids ask a lot of questions and this is a topic that branches off into much more than why he’d gotten fired, and Zayn’s not even sure how he should handle it.
“Ryan, none of this was your fault, okay?” Zayn ends up saying. He sets his palm on the mattress, resting his upper body weight on his arm. “I got fired because of a stupid decision on my part, and I don’t want you worrying about what’s going to happen. It’s my responsibility to figure things out, and you’re too young to feel like you need to be upset over this.”
His son only continues to stare at him, but it looks like he’s thinking over what his father has just told him. It’s probably a lot to take in, and there’s going to be a lot of things he’s not going to understand whatsoever because of how young he is, but Zayn swears that one day he will because it always does.
The issues his mother had growing up, he hadn’t understood at the time, but when he’d gotten old enough and looked back on those moments of life, he’d come to understand that being an adult is not as much fun as people would think. There are decisions and consequences and plenty of other things to go along with it, and despite the fact that every kid thinks it’s cool to be able to do what you want and stay up as late as possible, reality was always there to slap Zayn back into place.
There’s a brief moment where he wants to hide Ryan, and keep him away from all the bad in the world, shield him so much that he won’t know how bad pain is, regardless of whether it’s physical or emotional. But he can’t do that even if he tried. That’s not how life is and it wouldn’t do anyone any good, especially Ryan, if he were to keep him from the truth of the world. Zayn can only be thankful that his son is only eight and still has a few years left to be a kid.
“Now, I think it’s-”
“What about Liam?” his son interrupts.
Zayn looks down at the duvet, picking at the thread with his fingers. “We won’t be seeing him again,” he answers sadly.
“But I thought you liked him.”
“I do, son, but sometimes things just don’t work out.”
Zayn waits to see if Ryan will say anything else, but the boy’s only biting on his lip and Zayn feels bad for this.
“Hey,” he starts, nudging the boy to get him to look at him. “C’mere.”
Ryan sits up and Zayn wraps his arms around the boy, pulling him into a fierce hug.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, dad,” Ryan replies, albeit his voice is slightly muffled from the way his head is tucked into Zayn’s shoulder.
Eventually, he pulls back enough so that Ryan can look at him when he speaks, making sure the boy is paying attention to him and listening to what he has to say. “We’ll get through this. No more worrying. You let me handle everything, okay?
Ryan nods in understanding before Zayn leans down to press one more kiss to his son’s forehead.
“Now, you lie down and go to sleep. You have school tomorrow.”
Ryan groans, but does what he’s told, and it’s only after he’s tucked in and asleep that Zayn decides that he’ll call it an early night as well.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t take him that long to fall asleep because as soon as his head hits the pillow, he’s asleep soon after.
It’s only been about a week since everything’s happened and sometimes Zayn is still upset when he walks out of his house to find that there’s at least one or two people from the press that want to talk to him. The first day after he’d lost his job, and when he’d tried to leave so that he could get Ryan to school, there’d been a small crowd waiting for the moment to ask him whatever questions they left necessary.
Ryan had been beyond startled, not really knowing what was going on and Zayn had felt his heart drop because all of this was uncalled for, especially around his son.
He continues ignores them all though. He’d never be able to talk to any of them about something so personal, and he couldn’t betray Liam like that anyway. He wonders if this is what it’s like for Liam all the time, being bombarded and hounded for answers to very personal questions, and there’s a sudden pang of relief that for him, this’ll soon pass. He’ll just be another line checked off on a very long list of things that don’t matter anymore, where as Liam, he was sure to spend the next several years of his life in this very same hell, all because he decided to do something he loved.
“Did he know you were a maid?”
“How’d it start?”
“Are you a Beresford perk?”
“How long had this been going on?”
“Were you after his money?”
“Do you love Liam?”
Zayn pushes past the few that are still standing outside, not bothering to talk to them. He has a job interview today at the same hotel that Niall had been able to find work at and he’s scared. He’s terrified of screwing it up over the fact that his potential employer may have a prejudice against him because of what he’d done at his former job, if they knew.
And it’s not like people didn’t know because while Zayn had tried his best to keep himself away from the news, he’d been featured in a few segments on tv and several articles in the paper; though this time around it wasn’t a few pages back. They had made the front page with a picture of him and Liam splashes across the front with big, bold, black letters at the top that wondered what was really going on. Zayn had chunked the thing in the garbage the first time he saw it, not wanting to bring up unwanted memories, but also not wanting his son to see it either.
He’d also unfortunately come to learn that One Direction was back at work, doing various amounts of interviews and radio talk shows to get their name out there. They had also been premiering their single, which Zayn had tried to avoid like the plague. He didn’t want to hear it in fear of actually liking it.
Though that definitely wasn’t the main reason as to why he turned the radio anytime his name was mentioned.
He was scared to hear Liam’s voice again, no matter in what form.
Although Zayn had never heard the other man sing before, he didn’t want to now. He feels like his voice is something that’s off limits to someone like Zayn, that he’s not good enough to hear it because of what he’d done. He’s not quite sure why he thinks something that ridiculous but he feels like he’s lost his place to listen to something that must sound so good.
And it has to sound amazing; otherwise Liam wouldn’t be on the radio. He wouldn’t have won a singing competition, and he certainly wouldn’t be halfway around the world, here in America if he didn’t have the star power and potential to be something great.
Continuing to walk down the street, Zayn heads to the subway so that he can catch a ride to the city. It’s peaceful out today, and he realizes that everyone has finally left him alone.
He enjoys it while he can, savoring it until his nerves eat at him, and he just hopes that everything will be okay today.
Liam’s done nothing all week but lie in bed or move to the couch so that he can sit and watch tv for. Sometimes he can hear Harry and Louis within the suite, talking to management on the phone or just speaking to one another. Often, they wonder whether they should come and talk to him, but then they chicken out at the last minute in fear of upsetting him.
He knows he’s not that fragile, but he does feel a bit depressed, and he’s not sure why.
Or maybe he does know, but doesn’t want to admit it to himself.
He should be angry. He should be upset, but he can’t find it in himself to let that consume him. Instead, he feels miserable and all the while he tries telling himself that it’ll only get worse before it gets better.
So he’s decided to wait it out and sit in the confines of his hotel room, only leaving the space whenever the group has an interview. After that, he heads straight back to the van that’ll take them back to the hotel so he can continue his routine of moping and replaying the events in his head, over and over again until he becomes so distraught that he has to focus on the tv in front of him in order to drown them out.
It’s a sad cycle, and he can tell that his friends are more than worried about him. He’s not sure if they’ve ever seen him this way, and he feels bad for letting his friends worry about him this much. It’s not like he’s doing it on purpose though, or maybe there’s a small part of him that’s doing it just because he can, but the hurt in his chest is too much for him, or anyone else for that matter, to do anything about, so he settles on ignoring everything until he can feel the pain slowly subside.
Liam’s not sure how long that’ll take though.
“Are we going to have to make a statement about this?”
Liam hears Harry whisper to Louis. He’s not sure where they’re at within the hotel suite, but it’s close enough that although they’re trying to be quiet, he can still hear them.
“I don’t know. Management said they’ve got it under control and there’s not really much they can do if someone asks about it in interviews again,” Louis replies.
Liam closes his eyes, not wanting to think about that, but the memory comes anyway.
It’d been one of their first public interviews in America, just a few short days ago, and the first question that had come out of the interviewer’s mouth had surprised them all. He’d asked about Liam and what he’d been thinking going out with a maid.
Liam had been furious.
Harry and Louis had tensed up, not really knowing how to respond, and they sat there for a good twenty seconds before Liam finally decided to take control, like he’d always done in tough situations, and plaster a smile on his face like nothing was actually wrong.
He’d told them that it was just meaningless gossip, that none of it really mattered in the grand scheme of things because they were only here for the music and the potential fans.
His friends had relaxed after that, causing Liam to do the same, and the interview had gone smoothly after that.
But what Liam had been forced to say had hurt more than he was willing to admit, and he prayed that Zayn hadn’t been watching when he said that because Zayn wasn’t just meaningless gossip. Even after all the other man had done, he was still human and Liam felt horrible that he had dragged the other man into this nastier part of his life just because of their association with one another.
Liam doesn’t hear his friends speak after that. He supposes that they’ve moved into a different room, which he’s only grateful for so that he doesn’t have to hear any more of their conversation. He knows that all of this – the emotions, the pain in his heart – will pass eventually, but for now, he lets himself immerse in it, lets all of the guilt and everything in between swallow him whole.
He doesn’t know how long he’ll feel like this, and he’s not even sure how much more his body can withstand this kind of abuse, but he just hopes that it’s over with soon. It’s wearing him down and there’s a big part of him that wishes he could go back to not knowing anything at all, back to when he’d been happy and excited over the fact that he’d actually allowed himself to feel something for someone.
Liam closes his eyes and tries to hold back the tears.
They fall anyway.
Chapter 9: on the line
Zayn has a problem with the calendar. He tries his best to keep his attention away from it and if for any reason he needs to view anything on there, he waits until Ryan is around to asks him to do it for him. It sounds weird the more he thinks about it, making his son check the dates instead of himself, but he can’t bear to look at the numbers, at the days, or the weeks or the month or so it’s been since he’s seen Liam.
Nope; he’s not thinking about him if he can help it.
Which is a complete lie, though Zayn figures he should’ve learned that lesson by now.
“I’m going to be late, Ryan. What are you doing?”
Zayn walks down the hallway to his son’s room to find that he’s struggling to put on a long sleeve t-shirt, his hands and head having gotten lost in the fabric while putting it on.
“You are going to get yourself into some trouble one day if you don’t watch it,” Zayn comments, walking over to Ryan so that he can help him slip his arms into the correct holes.
Eventually Ryan’s head appears, and he’s grinning up at Zayn.
“Thanks,” he says.
Zayn only chuckles.
“You got everything?”
Ryan nods excitedly. “Yeah, I can’t wait.”
“Well then, let’s get going.” He nods his head in the direction of the door. Ryan leans down and grabs his backpack full of miscellaneous toys to play with and heads out of his room with Zayn in tow.
He has to drop Ryan off at Niall’s for the day so that he can play babysitter while Zayn goes into work. Niall had been fortunate enough to get Saturday’s off, and while Zayn had jokingly claimed that it wasn’t fair that his friend got one of the better days off to do as he pleased, he couldn’t complain because it worked out for him in the end.
Niall had been kind enough to offer to watch Ryan every Saturday that he could while Zayn worked, and he would be forever grateful. It was one thing less he had to worry about on his already full plate, and it made his life a little easier knowing that he wouldn’t have to bring Ryan into work with him only to leave him there because he had a job to do.
It takes no less than twenty minutes to get to Niall’s, which is located halfway to the city, and Zayn’s just grateful that they’re right on time. He’d done everything in his power to make sure he was on good terms with everyone at the hotel and watched his every move in fear of doing something to screw up again. Niall had told him that he needed to calm down and leave well enough alone, that he couldn’t spend forever and a day worrying over messing up again, but Zayn knew it couldn’t be helped.
Although the guilt had eventually ebbed away at one point, there were still moments where it would take over and completely engulf him to the point where he’d have to stop what he was doing in order to focus and tell himself that he couldn’t feel like this forever.
He’s just now starting to realize that; though being on time is something he tries to do his best on nowadays.
They approach Niall’s apartment building and Zayn can see that Ryan is overly excited to see him. He’s trying to get Zayn to walk faster than he already is and although he’s told the kid several times to slow down, he keeps power walking, hoping that will somehow speed his father up so that they can get where they’re going.
As they round the corner, they approach the building and Ryan’s the first one to the door, knocking on it before Zayn can give him the go ahead, not really sure if Niall’s awake or not; though the question doesn’t matter anymore because they hear a shout coming from inside before the door opens, revealing Niall dazed and blinking.
“What?” he mumbles. There’s still a tinge of sleepiness in his voice but when he sees who is at the door, he grins.
He opens the door wider and tells them to come inside which Ryan already doing by making a mad dash for the living room.
“What did you give him for breakfast?” Niall asks as he shuts the door.
“It’s nothing you can’t handle,” Zayn replies, grinning. Though he hadn’t given Ryan a sugary breakfast because he’s pretty sure Niall will give him whatever sweets he wants later in the day, he thinks he probably should’ve just to be a good friend.
Niall hits his arm before moving into the living room after Ryan, taking a seat on the couch, watching as the little boy busies himself by pulling out the gaming system while simultaneously trying to decide on which game to play first.
“Thanks for this,” Zayn says, pointing in the vicinity of his son.
Niall shrugs, “I told you to stop that.”
“I can’t help it,” Zayn counters.
“You can to. You know I love Ryan, and I’ve got no problem doing this so spare me the thanks and get going before you’re late to work.”
Niall chucks a pillow at Zayn, but he’s smirking at the insult.
“Just go before you’re late. We’ll be fine here.”
Zayn only nods.
“I’ll see you later, bud, okay?” Zayn tells Ryan. The boy only looks up to smile at him, nodding his head and letting his father know that he understands.
“Bye,” he says, and turns his attention back to the game.
Zayn takes that for what it is, knowing he’s not going to get anything else from the distracted child. He only shakes his, gives Niall one more pointed look that strictly says seriously, do not spoil him before he’s out the door and off to work.
“Niall,” Ryan says. He’s busy chewing a large piece of food in his mouth and Niall scrunches up his face because they’re not cows, regardless of what Zayn says.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full, please,” Niall reprimands.
It’s only around eleven, but then Niall had claimed he was hungry after they’d spent most of their time playing video games. The blonde had ended up joining Ryan on his conquest to defeat the various amounts of dragons within the game, all while trying to get as many coins as possible.
Now though, they’re busying eating a turkey sandwich because Niall’s been too lazy to go to the store for any real food, which really equates to various amounts of junk food because he can’t be bothered to actually fix himself a decent meal unless he goes over to Zayn’s and he cooks for him.
It’s a rather tragic thing, Niall believes, just because he likes food, yet he’s got a hard time cooking. And it’s not that he can’t either, he’s just not hard pressed to do so when there’s a good amount of convenience everywhere around him.
Ryan doesn’t say anything after Niall tells him to close his mouth, just swallows the food before he takes a drink of water to wash down any remnants of his meal.
“Can we go see Liam?”
Niall freezes, hands halfway to his mouth, holding his sandwich so that he could take another bite. He looks at the food in his hands one more time like he can’t believe he can’t eat the rest of it just yet, before setting it down so that he can properly address Ryan with a curious look.
“Ryan, I thought your dad talked to you about this?” He feels bad for the kid, he really does, because not only does he not understand, but Niall gets a sense that he’s finally coming to an age where he’s beginning to wonder why the important people in his life – mainly his mother - have left him. That’s enough damage all in itself, and Niall wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan took Liam leaving as another hit regardless of what Zayn had tried telling him, that it wasn’t his fault.
Niall also knows that Zayn’s been trying to spend as much time with Ryan as possible; he’s even managed to take on lesser hours with decent pay just so that he can spend whatever amount of free time he can with his son. But even then, he’s not sure what Zayn’s told Ryan. What he is sure of though, is that his friend has picked up on the fact that Ryan may start asking questions soon, and it’s a wonder he hadn’t already. Niall figures it has to do with the fact that he’s not only had Zayn in his life, his grandmother and even Niall himself, but now that there’d been a potential suitor for Zayn, everything could be clicking into place for the kid to begin realizing that he’s got a different kind of family than usual.
“He said it wasn’t my fault, but that’s not what I’m talking about.” He blinks up at Niall, who reminds him so much of Zayn when he was younger. It’s a weird since of déjà vu that passes over him, and Niall let’s a shiver run down his spine at the uncanniness and reality of it all.
“Ryan, even if I knew where he was I don’t think that’d be a good idea.”
“He’sintown,” Ryan mumbles, picking at the food on his plate. The boy moves his arm, resting his elbow on the table so that his palm is sitting against his cheek.
Niall narrows his eyes and his head tilts to the side.
“I didn’t hear you. Say it again?”
“He’s in town,” Ryan says again.
“What do you mean he’s in town?” The Irishman isn’t sure what to make of the statement that’s just been given to him. For a moment he wants to call Ryan out and tell him to stop making things up, but he can’t find it in himself to berate the boy that badly.
“I saw it in a paper.”
Ryan’s still picking at his food, tearing pieces of bread off the sandwich. It’s distracting, not only to the kid, but to Niall as well so he leans over and takes the plate away from him, setting it by his own plate before turning back to the boy and looking at him directly.
“Ryan, what’s going on?”
The boy moves his chair back, the legs creating an ugly noise as it slides across the floor, before he’s up and walking away from the table.
Niall watches him go, not quite sure what the hell just happened. He doesn’t know what to make of this short conversation and while he debates on being the bad guy and going in there and disciplining the kid for being overly moody, Ryan’s suddenly back, standing next to his chair with a paper in his hand.
He hands it over to Niall before the older man takes it and reads the front page. There’s nothing on it really, just some local story the news thinks is interesting when clearly it’s not, but then there’s a picture in the corner of the paper that Niall notices. It mentions One Direction, and he grows curious.
“Where did this come from?” He has to ask because this is the first time he’s heard Liam’s name used in a sentence for quite some time now. He’d tried to get Zayn to open up about it only for him to shut that topic of conversation down for good, claiming it was over with and he’d deal with it on his own time.
Niall drops the paper.
“That’s gross,” he chastises, though Ryan doesn’t look bothered. He takes the paper back and opens it to a page before handing it back to Niall. He’s hesitant at first, but Ryan nudges his hands with it, motioning for him to take it back.
“It’s not dirty because the trash can at home is filled with newspapers anyway.”
Ryan goes back to his seat, slumping his shoulders and staring at Niall.
“I still don’t see how this is relevant to anything you’re telling me.”
Ryan points at the paper, “Read it. I tried to but there are a lot of big words. It says Liam’s back in New York though.”
Niall looks at the paper and finds that he’s staring at an article for One Direction. There’s a page dedicated to the band with a picture of them on one side and an interview directly under it, though next to the picture in the top corner, there’s a list of dates and events that they’ll be participating in and one of them lists New York – Best Buy.
The blonde looks up over the paper and over at Ryan.
“I’m sure Liam’s moved on and probably very busy-” Niall starts, but Ryan continues to look at him until he interrupts him.
“He thinks I don’t notice, but I do,” he explains. Ryan moves his gaze to his hands that are resting on his lap.
Niall’s completely lost now. One minute he’s asked to look at the newspaper and the next, they’re talking about someone else. “What do you mean?”
The boy only sighs, “He’s sad sometimes, and I know he doesn’t want me to see.”
Niall’s heart flutters at that and a small amount of hurt runs through it. The kid is practically hunched over in his chair, curling into the feelings of not understanding the entire truth and just simply wanting to fix things for Zayn.
“I don’t think going to see Liam is going to be the answer. You know, you’ve got to give your dad some time and be there for him so that he’s not sad.” Niall reaches over to rest his hand underneath Ryan’s chin, moving his head so that he can look back up at him. He opens his mouth to speak, needing to make the kid understand that this isn’t the solution.
Dropping his hand, Niall stops himself from saying anything because then Ryan is looking at him with a curious expression written all over his face.
“But he made dad happy; that can’t be bad.”
And then Niall understands everything. Of course Ryan wants the best for Zayn; he’s his father and he cares for him and the simplest answer to the solution that Ryan can think of is talking to Liam. Niall had seen it plenty of times before whenever Ryan would get in trouble with Zayn and instead of his friend losing his temper, he’d sit down with Ryan and explain his wrongs.
There’s also the fact that if the singer had been able to make Zayn happy, why couldn’t he do it again? Sure, there would have to be a lot of talking going on before anything could go anywhere, but if they could just be on the same page again, then maybe Zayn wouldn’t be so miserable.
Besides, Ryan only wants to go so that he can see Liam, not Zayn. Yet here Niall was assuming they’d need to drag Zayn along.
It’s no wonder the boy had asked him. Ryan trusted him, could confide in him too, and the kid only wanted the best for the only family he had left.
Niall sighs. He knows what he’s going to have to do now, if not for Ryan, then for Zayn because he hasn’t even enjoyed his moody friend’s presence as of late, and if they’ve got the chance to see Liam again before he’s gone for good, then he might as well do what he can to make that happen.
And it’s not like Zayn needed to know about it if things didn’t go according to plan.
Niall bites at his lip, picking up the newspaper to looks at it again. The current date on the paper declares that it’s last weeks edition but he turns back to the page with the band’s interview on it to check to see if they might have missed the actual day they’ll be in town
The dates are all listed in big, black ink and when he scans the numbers and letters, stopping at their home town…
It’s today’s date.
Niall feels tired already.
“We’re going to have to leave now if we’re going to make it on time, and even then I have no clue how we’re going to get in.” He sets the paper down and finds that Ryan is looking at him with owl eyes.
Niall can see that the boy is trying his absolute best not to sound overly excited just in case his god-father decides to change his mind.
“Yeah, really,” Niall says, a smile eventually growing on his face. “Let’s get our shoes, and hope that we can make it.”
They do just that, and Niall’s beginning to wonder what the hell is wrong with him. There’s that little bit of him that thinks he really shouldn’t do this, especially with Ryan in tow, but if there was ever the possibility of seeing Liam again, to talk to him and see if he was willing to give Zayn another chance, then now would be the time.
It’s all or nothing now.
Because Niall already lives close to the city, it doesn’t take him and Ryan that long to arrive at the Best Buy the band should be at. Although he knows where he’s at, Niall’s pretty sure he knows of at least three other stores around the area and he just hopes they’re at the right one, because if not, they might miss the band and then he’ll feel partly responsible, again, for his friend’s sour mood.
He takes notice of his surroundings. It’s a Saturday, so it’s busier than normal and it causes him to pull Ryan in closer to his side, making sure the boy is with him. He’d rather not lose the child because that wouldn’t benefit either of them.
When they approach the store, Niall lets out a sigh of relief. There’s a line in front of the building. It’s not too long, but Niall’s already feeling anxious enough as it is. There really wasn’t any instructions written in the newspaper on how to get in – if there were passes or if this was just more free publicity in America, so instead of choosing think about it further, he gets in line while holding Ryan’s hand and he feels like an idiot.
A majority of the people in line are women and teenage girls. Niall’s sure they’re looking at him and he does his best to nod and smile and act like this is normal. They’re close to the front doors, and he assumes that not many have shown up unless they’re already inside and he’s just grateful when he sees the line begin to move.
When they get to the front, some guy, most likely an employee considering the blue shirt he’s wearing, hands them both a red bracelet letting them know not to lose it otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get into the signing. He also points behind him to a decently sized crowd, surrounded by a small stage and Niall realizes that the band is going to be performing and signing autographs. He tells them that they can find a spot over there and wait until things get started, so with Ryan in tow, Niall walks over towards the crowd and wonders how long this is going to last. He’s not a very patient person to begin with, and there’s also the lingering doubt that when they greet Liam, the first thing he’ll do is run.
Ryan doesn’t speak at all. He’s too busy looking around, so Niall has to guide them past groups of people gathered around talking, and he decides to stand near the back, away from everyone else, but with a decent enough view that they can still see the stage. It’s over towards the far left, and it’s not the ideal place that any fan would stand, but he reminds himself that they’re not here for anything but Liam.
It’s only another ten minutes before things are happening. Niall’s checked on Ryan to make sure he’s okay with standing and waiting, and who’d also eventually gotten annoyed at being asked if he was alright. So Niall had backed off until now, nudging the boy and pointing towards the stage.
Although he’s not sure Ryan can see, that thought fades from his mind quickly because all of a sudden One Direction is on stage and they’re speaking to the crowd, mainly Harry, and there’s a few shrieks and squeals and then it all goes from there.
Ryan’s got a smile on his face, and Niall can’t be bothered to do much else but stand there and wait. He feels like twiddling his thumbs together because the anticipation is only just now beginning to grow because it’s finally settling in what they’re about to do.
They’re about to see Liam for the first time in over a month, and while Niall’s pretty sure the man won’t turn Ryan away, he’s not sure how any of them will react towards seeing him. He’s also going behind Zayn’s back, and if he ever found out about this, things would get real bad between them, and right now, Niall’s really questioning his being here on Earth because he knows he’s not the only one that would kill him because of the kind of stupid decisions he makes in his life.
He’s not sure if he should be proud to say that this is definitely not the dumbest ideas he’s had, although it is pretty close.
Niall tries focusing on what’s going on around him. Most of the crowd have their cameras out or their phones and are somehow much closer to the stage than they were previously. He can see security guards up there, just in case, and he’s glad that Ryan’s not the type to be overly pushy and request that he be much closer to the stage, though he must realize that this part of the their brilliant idea isn’t really important at all.
Everyone in the room waits on baited breath while the band settles in their seats. Harry is then given a guitar, and he strums the string a bit before placing his hands in their correct positions. His fingers then move over the strings, finding the right chords until they blend together into what is the beginning of a song.
Niall’s not sure if Ryan’s ever heard any of One Direction’s songs before, but he himself has managed to catch it a couple of times in random shops all over Ireland and even here in America. It’s everywhere now really, with the radio stations playing it more often because people are requesting the tune and last Niall had heard, it’d been rising on the charts pretty quickly too.
Liam’s voice starts first, moving along the first versus with no help from the other two until Louis joins in with him for the last few lines. It’s then that Harry’s voice comes in, silencing his boyfriend and his best mate, obviously singing the chorus of what’s supposed to be this generation’s love ballad.
then you stole my heart
with just one look
When Harry’s finish, Liam picks it up again, and Niall’s really got to hand it to them. Despite the up roar back home, with the screaming fan girls and their names mentioned at least once on a daily basis, Niall can actually say that it all means something more than just good looks. He realizes now exactly what’s made them so popular, if not their looks, and that these three men sitting before him will most likely not be able to walk the streets of New York, or any major American city for that matter, for much longer.
Regardless of marketing and publicity, Niall can see just the three of them for what they are: singers, musicians, people who care and put the time into their music to make it their own.
He looks down at Ryan and finds the boy is just as enamored as he is. He’s still silent, and has been this whole time though now Niall’s not sure if it’s because of the performance happening before him or if he’s actually just as speechless as he is.
cuz there’s so much
that I want to say
All three voices come together, flowing and mixing into what can be accounted for as numerous rehearsals and practices just so that they sound right together, although now it flows so naturally you’d think otherwise. The guitar leads them out of the song and then there’s a huge amount of clapping coming from all over the room, and the band smiles before bowing and exiting the stage. It’s only one performance and a lot of talking on management’s part, but there’s still the signing to get through and it seems like they’re saving their energy for that.
Niall’s dreading what’s coming next.
“We gotta get in line,” Ryan speaks up. He points over to where everyone’s gathering now, a line forming on the other side of the room which only gets longer by the second because being in a crowd of people is completely different than being in a line of people.
Niall holds back on actually complaining and looks down at Ryan.
“Why don’t we wait it out a bit? I don’t think it’d be best if we go up to Liam just yet and surprise him.”
He feels like they’re undercover or something, trying to fulfill a secret mission that only he and Ryan know about. Niall still has second thoughts about doing this because if anything, this would definitely be something that would harm his relationship with Zayn, but then again it could also strengthen it.
There’s also the lingering thought of how he’d been talked into this by an eight-year-old, but one look at the kid and he knows. Ryan pulled at his heartstrings, which was never fair game to begin with.
Damn him and his emotions.
They wait it out, browsing through the various amounts of racks full of CDs and DVDs, while waiting on the line to die down. Niall’s not sure of the time that passes, doesn’t even know how long it’s been despite the fact that there’s clock on almost every wall in the room.
He soon begins to wonder how Ryan’s handling this. How he’s not complaining, but he supposes that his father’s happiness outweighs the complaint.
“Hey,” he says, nudging Ryan while they currently circle around the same isle for the seventh time.
Ryan looks up but doesn’t say anything.
“So if we’re doing this, what are we going to say?”
It’s a very good question and it’s probably something they should’ve discussed already because Liam’s probably going to be surprised enough as it is and it wouldn’t do any of them any good if they didn’t have anything planned to tell the other man. The band also has security on their side this time around and all the band really has to do is say the word and the two of them were out of there, ultimately blowing the chance to find out what’s going through Liam’s head.
Niall grabs Ryan’s hand, pushing him in the direction of the line that’s managed to grow shorter each time they’ve walked past it. They most likely will be the last in line and that’s okay with him because it means they won’t have to hurry through the cue without saying anything but a quick hello.
“I’ve got something already,” Ryan answers.
“Oh? Care to share?”
Ryan shakes his head, telling him no and Niall tries not to feel hurt although he’ll get the chance to hear it soon enough.
Niall’s growing antsy now so he let’s go of Ryan’s hand and wraps his arm over his shoulders, pulling him into his side. Whether it’s for Ryan’s courage or for his, he doesn’t know but they’re going to need it because Niall can now see the table where all three band members are sitting, signing autographs, talking into video cameras and smiling towards the fans.
It’s then that Niall begins to feel bad. Not only because he’s going behind Zayn’s back about this and giving into what Ryan feels like he needs to do for his dad’s sake, but he’s got a feeling that he’s about to ruin the bands good day, and he knows he’s going to feel awful about that later. He hates putting people in bad moods and it wouldn’t be fair to do this to them, but he’s sure that if he tries pulling Ryan away now, there’s no way the kid would willingly go with him.
No, Ryan’s a force to be reckon with sometimes and although he’s mostly a sweet natured kid, he definitely had his bad days, just like Zayn – which if Niall’s honest with himself, he can’t wait until Ryan’s older so that Zayn can finally get a taste of his own medicine – and would most definitely put up a good fight with his words if he had to.
The line grows shorter by the second and Niall prays that someone comes up behind them because he’d rather let as many people go in front of them as possible. He’s normally calm in these situations, usually goes headfirst and takes the first dive before anyone else, but he can feel the palm’s of his hands sweat, which is a good indication that he’s nervous as hell and he’s not even sure how Ryan’s even holding up himself.
They’re only a few steps away from the table and so Niall removes his hand from Ryan, giving the boy’s shoulder one last squeeze before he lets him go and pushes him slightly forward so that he can finally do what he’d been wanting to do.
Niall kind of feels again, like he’s hanging Ryan out to dry, and while that’s the last thing he wants for the kid, they’re suddenly in front of the table and Harry is the first one who greets them. He doesn’t seem to recognize them at first, with Ryan being shy and holding his head down and it isn’t until Harry’s brow furrows and he looks up at Niall that he realizes exactly who is standing before him.
He doesn’t speak; rather he looks like a fish out of water until he nudges Louis, who is sitting in the middle between Harry and Liam. He’s busy signing an autograph for the people standing in front of him and the nudge causes his arm to move while he’s signing his name. It smears the marker, creating a line all the way from the bottom of the album booklet to the top.
Louis growls slightly, although more in frustration than anger.
He doesn’t look up from what he’s doing. He discards the screwed up album and grabs another one for the fan in front of him. It isn’t until he’s signed it completely that he finally gives Harry his attention before looking at the next set of fans and that’s when his eyes widen as well only to look back at Harry with utter bewilderment.
Niall can see the two struggling to say something and Ryan hasn’t even bothered to look up yet. He can also see the line moving on and Liam finishing up with his set of fans, and it’s only when he tells them goodbye does Ryan start and move further down the table so that he’s standing directly in front of Liam, ignoring Harry and Louis completely and leaving Niall gaping for some sort of explanation.
Liam looks startled when he looks at the little boy standing in front of him. He really can’t believe his eyes and he can’t say anything either because he doesn’t know what to say or why Ryan’s standing in front of him and his first thought, his first instinct is to wonder how and why he’s here and if he’s okay.
“Ryan,” he croaks. He tries standing from his seat, but then he can hear someone from his management tell him he can’t move from his seat and that the line needs to keep going so that they can leave despite the fact that both Ryan and Niall are the last in line.
Ryan only gives a small smile, looking down at the table in front of him, biting on his lip from nervousness.
“Do you think everyone makes mistakes?” Ryan asks. He’s not looking at Liam still, but the other man can see the confidence growing until finally, the boy lifts his head. “I know I do, but Dad says he still loves me though no matter what I do.”
He’s got a hint of determination in his eyes and Liam can’t look away, can’t really process what’s going on so he only nods his head though the time to actually answer Ryan’s question seems to have disappeared.
“So, if everyone makes mistakes sometimes and we didn’t forgive them, then we’d be lonely because we’re mad at them and don’t want to talk to them anymore.”
It’s silent now; the only noises are from those around them, from various amounts of people still standing within the store. Harry and Louis are keeping their mouth shut, though Liam figures they’ve both got a remark for him, and he himself can’t even find the words to speak until he hears one of their security men shuffle behind him to lean over the table, directing his attention to Niall.
“Sir, you either need to have them sign something or move along.”
Niall only nods, grabbing at Ryan’s hand, though the boy doesn’t move right away. He stares at Liam in what he can only call a pleading manner, but for what, he isn’t sure though he’s got a vague idea as to what it might be.
He doesn’t want to be right. But then again, he does.
Ryan walks away, trailing slowly behind Niall and that’s when Liam’s mind fazes back into the present instead of the confusion he’d felt just moments ago.
“Wait,” he calls, standing up from his seat and pushing past the burly security guard. There’s a moment when the man takes a hold of his shoulder, not allowing him to walk away from the table, strictly management’s orders, Liam’s sure, but he doesn’t allow that to stop him from going after Niall and Ryan.
He can hear his friends protest; they’re calling out to him, worried, but they don’t follow him, and he’s suddenly realized just how fast these two must be trying to get away because they’re already at the front of the store, about to exit when he calls out for them again.
Niall halts his movements, looking back at Liam, not really knowing what else to do. It’s then that he can feel Ryan tugging on his arm, wanting to move back into the store instead of going outside like they should be doing right now.
“Niall, Ryan,” Liam says once he catches up with them. He’s hardly out of breath, but he feels like it because he realizes just how close they’d been to leaving, to disappearing out of his life forever and these two in front of him are his only connection he has to Zayn and even if there’s a part of him that’s still slightly mad, it’s been over a month and now his heart just hurts because every morning he’s waking up alone with no one to talk to about things that really matter in life.
It’d gotten to the point where he’d actually bitched Harry and Louis out for actually being a couple, which was something Liam never did because for one, Liam didn’t yell and rarely got angry, and two, he supported his friends with all his heart.
He realized he’d been jealous.
He’d also been mad and hurt and Louis just looked at him with sadness while Harry was startled. Liam swears he was drunk that night, and didn’t mean any of it, but Harry had only sat down with him the next morning and told him that alcohol manages to say a lot of things, especially the truth and it seemed that Zayn had still been on his mind regardless of what he’d said to his best mates, who decided not to take his drunk rambling to heart.
It was that day when everything began to clear. The fog in his mind of being lied to and betrayed had faded slightly until there were only remnants because everything else came flooding back. Not only the way that Zayn had looked, but the way he spoke with care and dignity. The way he felt under his finger tips the one night they had spent together and it all left Liam gasping for air and a need so deep that he felt his insides clawing at his chest, wanting to get out because he’d been an idiot and let the one thing he loved go.
And while that realization startled him the most, it also left a smile on his face and he’d been happy, something he hadn’t felt for quite some time, though it soon faded throughout the course of the day because he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get the chance to see Zayn again.
Yet Ryan’s here instead, standing before him for whatever reason. Maybe Zayn sent him? Or, Ryan’s here without his knowledge, Liam really doesn’t know or care, all he can feel and see is the fact that he’s got something special in front of him that will lead him to what he wants the most and he almost let that get away because he couldn’t process the reality of a little boy who had decided to come up to him, to speak to him with curiosity and wonderment and concern, who’d been describing the truth in such an innocence because all he really believed was what he saw.
Ryan had seen Zayn happy and that was the only thing that mattered to him the most.
The lie, the truth, the past, the argument… none of it mattered anymore because he’d given those feelings enough time to fester, to see where his heart would end up after the pain had gone, and he’s here. It’s all led him here, to this moment, to this meeting and Liam’s not quite sure where his life is going or what he’ll be doing in the next twenty years, but he’s not stupid enough to take this for less than it really is.
They’d travelled to different places in America, but it led him back here to New York, to a signing where a kid who when he’d first met had been shy and scared of speaking, found the confidence to stand up for what he saw, and what he believed, and what he felt was right.
And Liam can only return that favor.
“They say it’s a sign of character to forgive someone,” he says. “People in the media make a lot more mistakes because it’s captured on video. Yet somehow the public is still able to forgive us and support us for all we’ve done, and I’ve never known that kind of passion.”
Liam licks his lips, feeling his mouth go dry because both Niall and Ryan are staring at him. And of course that’s what he wants, but it’s making him uneasy.
“If they can forgive someone like Louis and Harry for all the crazy antics they pull, and if they can show me undeserved kindness just because they think I’m more than what I am, then why shouldn’t I be able to do the same for… I don’t know, a hotel maid?”
He shrugs, casually mentioning who he’s talking about though Ryan seems to understand immediately because his face breaks out into a huge grin and then he’s moving forward and wrapping his arms around Liam’s waist. Liam decides to pull him back, bending down properly so that he’s eye level with Ryan before he’s leaning in for another hug.
“Does he miss me?” Liam questions quietly. He briefly thinks that it’s a selfish thing to ask, but he doesn’t want to do this in case he’s wrong about everything and Zayn’s really moved on.
He feels Ryan nod before replying, “Yeah.”
“Good, because I’ve missed him too, and I think it’s time I talked to your dad.”
Liam pulls back from Ryan to smile at him. His cheeks pull up even further when Ryan returns it before he’s looking up at Niall for approval. “Is this okay?” he asks. He stands up straight, facing the Irishman.
Niall only raises an eyebrow.
“I guess we’ll find out.”
Zayn’s on his hands and knees, although he wishes this was different circumstances that called for him having some real use out of the position he’s in now. Instead, he’s busy scrubbing the foyer of a hotel suite. The lady staying in here is old, rich, and snobby and she thinks she can boss him around.
“You missed a spot.”
He holds in a groan and goes back over the area he just cleaned. It’s not like the hotel doesn’t have any mops either, but of course the one time he’d actually needed it, there weren’t any to be found and so he’d had to settle for scrubbing the floor the old fashion way and he’s really close to throwing the sponge on the ground, standing up and yelling I quit.
Though he can’t do that because he is getting paid for this and the faster he finishes here, he can get to the next floor he’s supposed to clean because someone decided to call in sick on the last minute which left the entire staff in a frenzy on who was going to clean the floor.
And of course Zayn got stuck with it.
He tried telling himself it was because of his excellent cleaning skills, but he’s exhausted and he wants to go home because today is just not his day. He doesn’t want to sit here on a perfectly squeaky clean floor that has no trace of dust or scuffs on it but the woman in the suite states otherwise.
It only takes him another ten minutes before the lady is convinced that all is right with the floor, and it makes Zayn wonder why she even cares so much. It’s only a hotel, and he’s pretty sure if she’s staying here, she’s able to afford to buy a house, and probably has one already somewhere within this great state.
Zayn shakes his head and snorts.
Either way, he’s done, so he packs up everything on his now empty cart and trails down to the employee area so that he can drop off the cart and go in for a late lunch. After, he’ll have to stock up his cart again and get started on the next set of rooms if he wants to leave early.
And he really wants to leave early.
The food is here is iffy. They’re not allowed to have any of the main courses as they’re only served for the guests, but the food is okay enough to eat and it probably taste a lot better to Zayn now that he’s sitting in the break room and finally getting to relax and put a decent amount of food in his stomach.
His slight headache he’d managed to accumulate earlier fades with every bit and through it all, he doesn’t allow himself to think. He makes random mental comments on the food, an inner monologue going on to keep himself distracted from anything else he may want to think about but shouldn’t.
Like Liam or Ryan. The bills. Niall. His mother.
He takes another bite of the salad on his plate, counting how many times it takes for him to chew down the leafy greens before he swallows, and he does it again and again until the food is gone from his plate and he’s left full and satisfied.
He stands from his seat, moving past the other tables in the room and the occasional people who manage to glance his way. He throws away the plate and heads out of the room so that he can finish his job, hoping against all hope that no guest will be there to pester him about little no nonsense things.
As he’s walking down the hall, he hears a bit of a commotion going on at the other end and he turns back to see what’s going on. There’s a slight scream, but other than that it dies down and Zayn mentally shrugs before turning back to walk to the supply room. He figures it’s probably someone important checking in who’d unfortunately been recognized.
He shakes his head because really it’s none of his concern until he’s the maid cleaning that room, but he doesn’t waste his time on those thoughts, because although he feels better after having eaten, he still has a job to do and he wants to get done so that he can leave and possibly go to bed really early so that he can sleep in tomorrow.
Moving quickly back to the supply room, Zayn ignores everyone he passes while trying to move around the shelves to gather the various amounts of supplies he’ll need for the trip back up to his floor. He doesn’t really consider these people his friends. More like acquaintances which he finds quite sad because most of them have kept their distance from him. He’s sure they’ve heard about him, either from the newspaper or maybe a news program and he figures that’s why they all keep their distance.
There’s also the possibility that they’re just difficult people that don’t let others in easily considering the fact that everyone else seems close to one another, but Zayn doesn’t waste time feeling too bad about it because he’s not here for them anyway.
Usually both he and Niall find themselves together more often than not because even Niall’s convinced that people are weirder than usually here. They try not to complain too much though because it is a job albeit a new one at that, and they’re just grateful that they’ve managed to luck out again and work together.
Zayn stocks the cart full, making sure he’s got enough so that he won’t have to make a second trip back down here. He’s already got enough work ahead of him, and he’d rather not have to drag the cart all the way back downstairs just for a few supplies.
He realizes how lazy that sounds of him, but he’s been working since eight this morning and his body hurts, and he’d like to take a nap if anything.
Zayn double checks the cart, just in case, before moving over to the handles so that he can push it out the door, down the hall and to the elevator. Though just as he’s about to exit the room, the cart hits something, stopping it from moving any further and also causing some of the items to topple over onto the ground.
He realizes a little too late just what he’s hit.
Another human being.
Trying to find a way out of Best Buy was a lot harder than Liam imagined. For one, now that their popularity in the states was growing, management always suggested they leave via the back door like they did back home in Europe. So this time around, Liam suggested they do the same thing, only to be stopped by Harry and Louis who said they were coming too and then they’d had to find their way out of the store without anyone from the security team knowing because they were sure sneaking away from an event this big wouldn’t have been good publicity for anyone.
They make it out though and are able to find their way back onto New York’s busy streets where Niall hails a taxi that’ll take them to the hotel. They don’t speak. Everything now can pretty much go unspoken, but there’s still the rising tension in the air of how things are going to play out and if this is really the right decision for everyone.
Liam and Ryan are busy talking though. They’re in their own world and it leaves Niall with the boyfriends who are looking at him expectantly, like he’s the reason for this impromptu trip. He really can’t read them and he thinks it’s because they’ve mastered keeping their face as stoic as possible for the paparazzi that manages to follow them everywhere they go.
But Niall isn’t holding a camera and he knows he’s don’t anything wrong – he’s sure that’s debatable though – and it’s starting to freak him out slightly.
“Was it hard for him to find a new job?” Liam suddenly asks, interrupting Niall’s thought process of trying to figure out something to say.
“Uh, not really,” he states. “We work at the same hotel. It’s my day off.”
Liam only nods in understanding before turning back to Ryan. He feels different; mildly excited but fearful too because there’s still a chance that things might not play out how he wants them to.
He’s worked through his problems. He’s able to look past what had been done to him to finally open his eyes and realize exactly what he’s had in front of him this entire time, but just because he’s made this decision for himself, just because he’s found what he’s wanted, doesn’t mean that it’s still going to work out. Zayn still has the option to turn him away thinking it’s best if they just leave one another alone, but Liam’s persistent. He’d shown that the day at the park when he’d invited Zayn to lunch, when he had found him on the street the day after and eventually that Monday night where Liam knew everything changed.
That night that still manages to bring a smile to his face because it wasn’t a one night stand like most people would call it. It was more, and it was beautiful and Liam wants it again. He wants to be able to wake up the next time around and actually be the one to study Zayn’s skin in the morning light, something he’d failed to do that one morning because it’d been Zayn awake first, leaving him because he knew his wrongs and he was only trying to make them right.
Liam shakes his head, clearing his thoughts, knowing he’ll have hell to pay for this decision later. Not only with Harry and Louis but with management too and possibly with the magazine articles asking what the hell he’s doing running back to a maid.
But he doesn’t care. He’s had time to think things over, to get his anger out and when it had dissipated all that was left was a burning sensation deep within him, a feeling of love, and he’s pretty sure that if he didn’t feel anything for the other man then that feeling of need and want and desire wouldn’t have eased the pain and anger away so easily.
He took it as a sign that he really felt something. That it wasn’t just a dream like he thought it’d been.
Liam doesn’t know how far away they are from the hotel. No one’s commented on where Zayn works although they’re still in a busy part of the city. He wonders if it’s healthy running back to someone who’s lied, and he knows the questions that will be asked of him later, but he can also see the intentions Zayn had as well. The argument out on the street in front of the press proved that Zayn actually had a heart, and he didn’t just lie for the fun of it.
The guilt in his eyes remained with Liam after all this time and someone wouldn’t feel that kind of regret if it meant nothing.
He knows people will argue about this despite the fact that it’s his life. They will tell him he’s stupid and wrong for taking someone back this easily, but he knows for certain that it’s not going to be easy. He had to live in more than a month of hell because he needed to get past whatever bitterness there was left that had managed to linger.
Liam breathes steadily, feeling his heart race pick up. The car is pulling over to the side of the curb now to let them out in front of a huge awning that leads to another one of New York’s finest hotels.
Niall’s the first one out, reaching back into the cab to help Ryan before the other three make their exit too. They’re still not talking and Niall ends up thinking it’s probably for the best.
They get inside with no problem. No one’s managed to spot the band just yet until they get into the hotel, where there’s a small group of teenagers sitting in the expansive lobby. One of the girls’ sort of squawks and the others just look on wide-eyed and Niall feels his heart plummet because my god, this doesn’t need to be happening now.
He ushers the group towards the back, near the employees entrance, telling them to stay there and don’t move so that he can find out where Zayn is, and he leaves them there for a good ten minutes before he’s back and telling them to go on through the doors so they can search for the other man.
“Did anyone else see us?” Harry asks, turning his attention to Niall before looking back over his shoulder at the doors, expecting someone to come rushing through to pounce on him.
Niall shakes his head. “No, I told security what’s going on. They’ll be keeping an eye on things. We’re good.”
Niall leads the way, making sure Ryan’s still with them and hasn’t gotten lost before walking through the various amounts of rooms that connect together.
The layout is different than the last hotel he worked out, as to be expected, but he’s still not sure where everything is because the rooms are built like a maze and he swears there had been a time where he’d taken different routes and found rooms he’s never even seen before. It’s like a treasure chest of doors, but with no actual treasure.
After a good few minutes or so of passing through empty rooms and the kitchen, Niall already feels lost and he’s about ready to just call Zayn so he can meet up with him until Liam makes a little protest of a noise before stopping where he is.
Liam stares into the room, scared to even move his muscles. He can see Zayn, moving about within the room, grabbing supplies off the shelf, avoiding everyone around him so that he can get done with whatever he’s doing. His face is passive, not really caring about anything at the moment, but there’s definitely a sense of determination there as well.
He wants to walk in there, but he can’t. He still can’t seem to find the strength to move, because Zayn’s right there. He’s not in a dream; he’s not something his mind conjured up for him.
He’s not crazy.
Liam feels a nudge at his side. At first he thinks it’s Ryan, but when he looks over, he finds that it’s Louis staring directly at him with a look he can’t place.
“Is this what you want?” he asks. There’s no judgment there, no sign of bitterness or hate because of what Liam wants to do. He’s not sure if his friend is mad at him, but if he is, it’s not shown.
Liam nods. “Yeah.” There’s no hesitation in his voice although he still feels scared and nervous.
It’s a demand and Liam’s not sure if he heard right.
“You’re not upset?”
Louis only shrugs. “We can deal with that later. Right now, I’m tired of you moping and hating life. Now go.”
And then Liam is pushed forward where he runs straight into something and then his stomach hurts from being run into or rather pushed into something.
“Oh my god,” a voice says. “I’m sor-”
And then it stops, mid-sentence and Liam steadies himself, rubbing softly at his tummy so that he can relieve some of the lingering feeling from almost being run over.
He drops his hand though just as he finds Zayn’s gaze, who’s staring at him because he doesn’t know what’s going on. His eyes are wide and hazel and they blink in confusion.
Liam can tell that Zayn’s trying to find a set of coherent words. He can see his lips move slightly, trying to form around the syllables he needs to use in order to speak, but nothing comes out and Liam takes that as his cue to push the offending piece that almost ran him over out of his way so that he can step closer to Zayn.
He doesn’t touch him yet. Liam just stands right in front of him and looks at the other man. He can see the ring of circles under his eyes and how overly tired he is, but he still looks manages to gorgeous and it brings a sprout of emotions to the forefront of his mind and then suddenly, Liam finds that his hand is around Zayn’s waist and he’s pulling the other man flush against him.
Zayn willingly moves into Liam, not bothering to protest because he still can’t believe his own eyes, and he gives Liam a look of uncertainty.
Liam’s only instinct is to respond by leaning down and pressing his lips against Zayn’s own, just so he can get rid of that look, to make the other mean feel certain about what’s going on, to show him that he’s here and alive and that he can feel him.
He wants the other man to be certain of everything, of himself and of their relationship, whatever that may be within the next few minutes.
Liam closes his eyes and presses further into the kiss when he feels that Zayn isn’t responding just yet. He’s not willing to give up just yet and it’s only then that he can feel Zayn coming to life beneath his hands around his waist, moving so that he can press impossibly close to Liam.
The kiss reminds Zayn of the first night by the fountain. When the air was too cold but Liam had been too hot and their lips moved with such a grace that had left him breathless.
Like he feels right now.
This isn’t too much and it isn’t too little. It’s just right and Zayn can feel the weight of today roll of his shoulders and sink into the ground below their feet. He leans further into Liam, wrapping a hand around the other man’s neck because he needs to feel Liam, skin on skin in its simplest form, which only makes him whimper at the contact.
Liam’s the first to pull away, only slightly for air until Zayn draws him in again.
It’s still sweet kisses, because that’s what Liam is and it’s everything that they’re trying to convey to one another.
Zayn realizes just how much he’s missed this now that he has Liam in his arms. It causes him to curl his fingers into the fabric of Liam’s shirt and run his shortened nails over the back of Liam’s neck.
He pulls back from the kiss, resting his forehead against Liam’s.
“Hi,” he breathes out, still not quite sure this is reality. He’s forgotten his surroundings, what he’s supposed to be doing because he only has eyes for the person standing in front of him.
He only has eyes for Liam.
“Hello,” Liam replies. He smiles and pulls back from Zayn so that he can see him clearly. “Do you think we could start over?” He’s still holding Zayn close to him, completely ignoring everything around him, including his friends, but he doesn’t care. He needs to hear this from Zayn, needs to hear that they want the same thing. “A second chance, maybe?”
Zayn purses his lips lightly, thinking over the request, but it doesn’t take him long to come up with a response because that isn’t how Liam should be feeling at all right now. Liam should have a few choice words for him, yell at him, do something other than ask for something like this. Liam’s not the one who’d done anything wrong and Zayn can’t fathom why or if he even believes that.
“I don’t think it’s you who should be asking that,” he finally says. The fact that Liam’s really here is beginning to settle in now, and while he’d finally managed to get over a lot of different emotions he’d been feeling the past couple of weeks, they all come rushing back to him within the span of a few seconds.
He pushes himself away from Liam because there’s a part of him that still feels like he can’t do this. He can’t allow himself to really have Liam because of what he’d done and even if Liam is here now, proving that he’s okay and has come to terms with him lying, that guilt is now back, eating away at his insides.
Zayn doesn’t want that to be the reason he can’t have Liam though and he’s growing frustrated with himself because his morals and what he wants are so conflicting for him, and he doesn’t know what to say or do. He can’t just choose this right now. It wouldn’t be fair, and then he suddenly thinks he’s an idiot for making things so difficult for himself.
“If you need me to say it, I will.”
Zayn snaps his head up to look at Liam with wide eyes. It’s uncanny how he’s able to pinpoint exactly how he’s feeling.
Liam closes the distance between them again, taking one of Zayn’s hands in his own and looks at him with such fondness that the other man has to look away. It’s then that he notices that Ryan is there, along with Niall and Liam’s band mates.
He wants to ask how they’re all here, wanting to dismiss what Liam wants to say, not because it’s not important because it is, but because this moment is for him. It’s not for Ryan, it’s not for his mother and it’s not for Niall or any of the other people that Zayn’s known in his life.
This little hallmark moment is for him because everyone’s always told him, Niall more than anything, that it’s okay to be selfish every once in awhile and this.. this takes the cake.
“I forgive you if you forgive me for walking away.”
The statement sounds like something a five-year-old would say out on the playground, but it means so much more than that to Zayn because it’s what he’s needed to hear to forgive himself for such a stupid mistake he made and what’s also needed to be said for him to finally put himself first for once and be that person who takes instead of gives.
Zayn doesn’t bother saying anything; he doesn’t shake his head in agreement, he only moves forward, which slightly even shocks himself, and then he’s in Liam’s arms again, pulling him forwards for another kiss, to feel Liam that close to him again and it’s a wonderful feeling he thinks he can get used to.
Liam’s lips are still soft and perfect, but there’s warmth there that’s curling into his bones and he wants to lick it up and explore it. He opens his mouth slightly so that Liam can take this further but then he hears someone clearing their throat before Liam’s pulling away and looking sheepish.
“There are people present, thank you.”
It’s Niall and while he’s looking at Ryan, it’s very clear that he’s talking about the other three adults in the hall as well.
Zayn only laughs and pulls back from Liam, straightening out his uniform before turning back to the man and holding out his hand.
“Zayn Malik,” he says. “Housekeeping.”
Liam looks down at his hand and then up at Zayn before sliding his own into the other’s so he can shake it properly.
“Liam Payne, singer.”
He takes Liam home. To his home. It’s the ultimate sign of trust he could think of for him to further prove to Liam that he wants this with him. He’s pretty sure Liam protested along the way, claiming that if he’s not ready then nothing like that needs to happen right now, but Zayn feels the need deep in his chest to do so, to show Liam his world, where he sleeps and lives and breathes and it’s important to him and he wants Liam there.
He wants Liam to walk through the halls he lives in, to brighten up the house, to take away the unsettling and unresolved emotions that still linger there from when Zayn had gone into a slight depression while he’d been gone. He wants to fill the place with new memories and maybe it’s wrong to do this now, especially since it’s only a budding relationship, but he’s driven to do this, to prove something he doesn’t know just yet.
There’s a part of him that wants to cry over this though too. Although he feels that this is right, he can’t imagine what Liam will think of where he lives. Liam’s probably way too good for it and has stayed in so many places better than this, can even afford better than where Zayn and Ryan stays.
Zayn knows it’s stupid. That Liam is not and will never be that kind of person to judge someone for anything. He’d shown that already by deciding to date a maid.
Zayn still can’t believe it.
“It’s not anything fancy-” Zayn starts.
“It doesn’t have to be,” Liam reassures, taking Zayn’s hand just as they pull up to the apartment. This side of town looks different than the city. It’s duller compared to the lights of the New York buildings, but it’s been his home for so long he’s used to it.
They step out of the cab and Zayn welcomes Liam into his home.
While Liam looks around, Zayn takes his time to study him, to watch his facial expressions and to see what he thinks of this place. Zayn can already tell the place looks different. It looks a bit more organized and it doesn't look as gloomy as he always imagined it'd been because Liam's standing in the living room, looking at past pictures of a life that has already been lived but that has come with plenty of memories and stories to tell.
Liam comes to rest in front of a picture of just Ryan and Zayn and he starts, watching as Liam's face changes to a smile.
"Ryan's an amazing kid," he says.
Zayn bites back a smile.
"I'm proud of him for today actually."
"I haven't asked yet, but what happened?" Zayn responds, his curiosity growing. He takes a seat at the couch and pats the seat next to him so that Liam will come over and sit next to him.
"He showed up at a signing-" Liam begins.
"What?" Zayn nearly shouts. He sits up straighter and his brows furrow, trying to understand why in the hell he'd been there in the first place.
"Niall brought him," Liam reassures, knowing a million and one thoughts are going through Zayn's mind about his son wandering the city alone.
It only manages to slightly calm Zayn, but he groans and apologizes on his son's behalf.
"He shouldn't have done that."
"No, I'm glad he did."
Liam stops speaking and takes Zayn's hand in his own. They're sitting in the barely lit living room, the sun already on the brink of disappearing, but Zayn can't be bothered to turn the light on.
The shadows that are cast about the room because of their figures and because of the various inanimate objects create an eerie glow, and Zayn stares at Liam's face. The dark creates a contrast against his pale skin and it's not until he feel's Liam's skin under his fingers that he realizes what he's done.
He's tracing Liam's face, putting it into his memory although he'd gotten the chance to do that before. He can feel Liam's breath against his hand, warm and alive.
Zayn runs his fingers over Liam's eyebrows, down his nose and over his lips, tracing them, feeling them pressed against his skin until he reaches over to connect their lips together.
They haven't taken anything further than lips on lips, Zayn feeling it might be too early for anything else just now, but he savors it all and he can feel Liam feels the same. He briefly wonders if he's suck in the honeymoon phase of it all, but they've already over come trust issues and while he's sure there will be plenty of more in the future, many more arguments over stupid little things, Zayn feels okay with that because he feels like they've both proven it to themselves that they want this, together, to make it work.
Liam pulls back and uses that moment to bring his fingers up to Zayn's face, copying his movements and tracing over the tanned skin.
He realizes he's got Zayn all to himself, but he doesn't press for anything further because they haven't even had their second date yet and Liam doesn't want to jinx anything. Instead, he's happy to sit in the too small living area, feeling happy and excited and loved.
They don't know how much time passes after that, but then Zayn's moving out of Liam's lap and pulling him up so that they can go to bed.
He finds an extra pair of clothes for Liam to wear and while he's changing, he takes that time to call Niall, checking up on Ryan, who's actually asleep already.
"I'm glad it's all okay," Niall comments.
"And don't do anything I wouldn't do."
The line goes dead and Zayn stares at the phone in wonderment before he's smiling.
By the time he sets the phone down and makes his way into his bedroom, he can see Liam sitting on the bed, looking around at all of his things that don't belong to him. Zayn only stands in the doorway, admiring the ordinary view because it's just that... ordinary, and simple.
It's just him and Liam and Zayn bites the inside of his cheek.
Zayn moves, walking over to the bed before crawling in and pulling Liam down next to him. They curl around one another, automatically and they spend what little time they have left of their consciousness, describing their day until Liam's the first to drift off to sleep.
Zayn only lays awake for another few minutes, watching the way that Liam's breathing is shallow, the way he looks so much more innocent in his dreams. HIs face is smooth, void of any kind of harsh lines and he can't find the words he wants to use to describe Liam because he figures there are no words for something that is already pretty amazing all in itself.
There's such a rush of feel-good emotions, something he hasn't felt in a long time, that takes over his mind and body and Zayn somehow manages to curl into Liam even more, feeling the heat that radiates off the singer. He finds complete comfort in it and eventually allows himself to fall into a good night's sleep.
Liam's the first one awake and it only takes him a moment to realize that he's not in his hotel suite, but instead in Zayn's home, in his bed, sleeping next to the man.
It brings an instant smile to his face.
He looks over, making sure the other man is still in bed, still next to him. He's not sure of the time or what course of events will be happening today, but he shrugs that off because it doesn't matter.
Zayn's sleeping right next to him and that's the most important thing. It causes a jolt of elation to course through his veins because it's become a definite possibility that now he'll have this more often than not. He'll have Zayn all to himself in the mornings, get to see him wake up with his hair roused and uninterested in getting out of bed for work.
He also realizes that there will also be some mornings where he'll probably wake up from the couch after they've gotten into an argument and Zayn decided he'd need some time alone, and it all feels so homey and comfortable and Liam really does believe, and most certainly can't wait, to get used to all of this.
It makes him cheerful and happy and a boatload of other things.
Liam moves out of bed, making sure he doesn't startle Zayn awake and takes care of his business in the bathroom before heading into the kitchen to make a late breakfast.
When moving around the kitchen, he takes in his surroundings again although he'd studied it last night. Now that the space is bathed in light, Liam can see how really small the place actually is but it feels a lot more like a home than some stingy hotel room he's been forced to stay in. It's not cold and empty. It's lived in and alive and it makes him miss his own home that much more.
Moving around the kitchen, Liam searches for what he's looking for before he starts making a stack of pancakes for both him and Zayn to eat.
It's not long after he's finished cleaning up that Zayn stumbles into the kitchen, making a beeline for the food. Liam tells him to sit down at the table before bringing both of their plates over to them. He's used to be served and he has no doubt that Zayn's always been on the other side of things.
He wants that to change as quickly as possible.
Settling in at the table, it's then that Liam studies Zayn. He's a bit bleary eyed and dazed because he's not fully out of his sleepy haze, but he looks quite adorable, not caring what he looks like, the way his clothes are rumpled on his body and the way he shoves the fork into his mouth before closing his eyes and savoring the taste of the syrup on his lips.
"You didn't have to do this," Zayn suddenly says, pausing mid-bite.
Liam only shakes his head. "Maybe, but I wanted to." He smiles and continues eating.
It's nice. The place is quiet; it's just the two of them and Liam knows it won't be that way for long because anytime he's allowed to say over, Ryan will be here and he can't wait for that. He's sure at times he'll feel like he's intruding, but he can't wait to be a part of Zayn's life, a part of his family and then he thinks he's rushing things far too quickly, but he's already over at Zayn's house, has already made himself home here and he just shrugs it off. All couples are different, he's different, Zayn's different and their circumstances are completely different as well.
To him, that just makes it all the more normal.
Zayn's finishing the last few bites of his food and he's not awake enough to actually think properly. He doesn't have work today, and he needs to check on Ryan, but other than that he's got nothing to do today and so when he looks at Liam to ask him what he'll be doing, he stops himself short of saying anything because he just can't speak.
He's not sure why he's this overjoyed and he's too afraid to question it in case something falls apart, but then that little inkling of doubt comes back to him and he suddenly asks "Are you sure you're ready for this?"
Liam finishes his food off before moving his plate away from him so that he can rest his forearms on the table, leaning forward and watching Zayn, waiting for him to continue speaking.
"I mean-" Zayn starts, trying to correct what he's trying to say. He doesn't want to question Liam's judgment on anything because that would be undermining him and that's not fair to someone like Liam, who he's pretty sure makes a lot of decisions all on his own. "-there's all of this." He motions to the house around him and he doesn't really know where this conversation is coming from fully; it's probably just a fear he hadn't confronted just yet, figuring he's strong enough to do it now because Liam's here. "And Ryan's only eight, and I know he's not your kid or your responsibility. He'll probably get attached easily and I don't want to hurt him more than I already have with all of this."
He shuts up immediately, realizing he's rambling and probably making no sense whatsoever.
Zayn looks at Liam, who's only expression is one of amusement.
"What?" he questions, licking his lips because now he feels self-conscious and he realizes how he's dressed and how he probably looks and now he's freaking out.
"Zayn," Liam speaks, calming his thoughts and soothing the worry. "You worry too much, you know that?"
"I'm a father," he replies just as quickly.
Liam only smiles and nods. "Yes, which is why we've got a lot of things to figure out when it comes to Ryan because whatever your decision is with him, it'll be your call first and foremost."
Liam waits for Zayn to process what he's said.
"And I know that being with you is a package deal, and I can't tell you that I'm going to know what I'm doing with Ryan, because I really don't, but I hope you trust me enough to try. It'll be hard, but I want this," he points to the both of them, "I want to make it work. I want us to work."
Zayn's nerves are settled after that and he feels a bit emotional because of it. His eyes slightly mist over and he tries to blink back a few tears because he feels relieved. There's still a lot of boundaries to be covered and things to be planned, and talking over things because of Liam's job, but Ryan is important to Zayn and Liam's kind enough to settle that issue once and for all.
He feels nothing but grateful right now because things like this don't happen to Zayn. He's young and stupid and things like this only happen to people who are better, who deserve it. He knows he's had plenty of thoughts wondering and questioning why this is real and why Liam had decided to stay here in his home, eating his food, already settling in here like he belonged.
Liam's here in his life willingly. He could be anywhere else, and he could be with anyone else because he's a celebrity, a singer, a star, yet he's here with Zayn in his two bedroom shitty apartment because he's Liam and almost perfect and he knows what he wants out of life.
And he wants Zayn and Ryan, and it all falls into place for him.
For Liam, he's just Zayn and with Zayn, Liam is just Liam.
Any time they've spent together, it's always just been them; two people, no labels, no nothing that defines them because of who they are and what they're status is.
To them, they're just two people in the beginnings of a relationship.
Two people in love who are only trying to make the right decisions because it's what they want and what they chose.
And Zayn, with all of his heart, knows that he's not going to let anything happen to this, to them. Whether it's Liam leaving to perform, or his inadequate feelings that get the best of him or it's the media or their friends...
Zayn's not letting it go. It may be too good to be true because that's what it seems like right now. It seems unrealistic and fake and a fairytale, but all of his attention is focused on Liam and that's the only thing he knows anymore.
Reaching over, he takes Liam's hand in his and feels the heat, the warmth resting in the palm of his hand and any and all worries fade from his mind in that instant. He stares at Liam, who only stares back with cheeky smile on his face.
It's then that Zayn decides to stand up, moving over to Liam's chair so that he can close the short distance between them so that he's standing right before the other man. Liam turns just in time to see Zayn leaning down before their lips meet and while Liam protests at first, claiming he mouth is sticky and gross, Zayn only ignores him, licking Liam's lips and kissing him profusely all the while savoring the taste of the syrup on his tongue.
There's no time between them right now, and it doesn't matter how long the kiss lasts because it quickly turns into something a little more filthy and deep that most certainly will lead to something more, and Zayn's not concerned about anything as of this moment.
When he pulls back from Liam, Zayn grabs his hand and tugs him up from his chair, pushing him towards the bedroom with a smirk on his face.
Liam's only watching him with raised eyebrows, but it's that moment that Zayn let's everything go. He revels in the feeling of pure bliss and recognizes the fact that everyone is happy for once, that things are just peachy, and his last coherent thought before Liam actually pulls him into the bedroom, quickening his pace, is that while he's content and satisfied for once in his life maybe, just maybe... too good is true.
some people say
we’re too good to be true
but they don’t get to be loved by you