"move your arms up a bit for me, yeah?"
liam frowns, his arms aching and he's terribly knackered. he's part nude and his hair's a mess; he's not even quite sure how he agreed with zayn when he saw him in the morning, down the main hall.
"my arms feel heavy," he complains, even though he's gotten quite used to it all by now; the itch on his nose (that only appears when he can't scratch it, of course), the ache in his arms and his legs, the burn in his calves and the cramp in his neck— he's more than used to it. "zayn, please can we take a real quick break?"
zayn glances up from where he's sitting — sitting, liam wishes he could sit too — and shifts the palette on the balance of his left palm, thin brush in his right. "repeat the last pose," he says, eyes locked on liam, and liam follows his order, groaning. "tilt your chin up a little," and liam does, "look at me."
liam looks, and zayn's standing up from his stool, lips curled and crooked, feet slow as he moves towards him. liam follows zayn's eyes as he gets closer, blinking, his muscles tensing. zayn raises his hand, thumb splattered with red—
there's a familiar moisture spreading on the width of his right cheek, liquid and rough. the pad of zayn's thumb gently slides along the soft of his skin, tracing lines, and he bites his lip as he feels it run down his face, and zayn wipes it from his chin.
zayn smiles, and liam fancies the way his forehead rids of creases when he smiles— just genuine and eyes crinkled at the corners. he says "you've got red paint all over your cheek, mate," to liam softly like it's a secret, like it's a forbidden secret and liam has to figure out what it means. "keep the pose for another five, babe, is that good?" he leans in and kisses liam softly on the forehead, then on both eyelids when liam shuts them. "and then we can take a quick break, yeah?"
except that's not the answer liam wants. his stomach clenches, jumping— and it isn't because he wants that break desperately, he just wants zayn, zayn's attention; wants him to stop thinking about art art art and think of liam instead. so, alright, maybe he's quite selfish, but they've been going at it for the whole week and they've got no time to themselves— zayn's portfolio is due by next wednesday at 3pm sharp, and zayn doesn't like rushing and liam doesn't want to rush him but. liam wants his boyfriend back.
(he keeps the pose, arms outstretched, legs crossed, head tilted. the paint drying on his cheek gets a little uncomfortable, hardening on his skin.)
but liam's spoiled; every time zayn's at work, he gets to see the furrow in his brows when he's concentrated, that quirk of his lips when he gets something right, that dark look in his eyes, focused yet wild, fixed on liam when he watches the way his muscles jump under his gaze. quite embarrassingly, liam can't say he's not at least half hard when their sessions are over.
and that's it. liam's spoiled. he's so spoiled and he just wants zayn.
he counts underneath his breath: one, two, three...
he steps off the podium, and zayn frowns, his mouth forming a "liam" that never gets past his lips.
liam steps close, cheeks red — quite literally as well — and his chest tight and bursting. there's a bit of paint left on his cheek, still wet, and he dabs at it with his forefinger, reaching out and pokes zayn's nose.
he smiles, pointing to his own nose, "you've got a little something here, mate," and zayn's looking at him with half shut eyelids as if to say: i can't believe i like you, you miserable twat, and liam just feels as if he's bursting at the seams and he wants to say i like you a lot too.
(i love you.)
zayn shakes his head, but he's hiding a smile and he grabs liam's hips and laughs into his collarbone, soft and tickling; liam wants to keep it like that.
(liam's not sure if zayn knows what he does to him. zayn's perfect— makes liam feel perfect, too, and makes him feel like he's special and worth it, worth this; and that's baloney, definitely. zayn's talented and good — great, unbelievable — at art and he loves liam which makes liam's insides curl and his blood pump in rhythm with his heart; telling him to just breathe, slowly, calmly, and that this, this is real.)
when he looks over to the canvas though, he thinks, maybe he's too spoiled.
(because zayn loves painting him — "the shade of your skin and the colour in your eyes; the light of your hair and the dips of your bones, li; you're you, and you're beautiful" — and it's no wonder he also likes painting liam during his own time, borrowing miss. jules' art room, admiring the skylight window that occupies the wide space of the ceiling.
"there's a secret to art," zayn told liam one day, his eyes focused and hair gleaming under the bright of the window: "sunlight.")
(that day, when they were alone in the art room on the very first day, liam asked zayn what's so important, special, about sunlight.
zayn's eyes are like mocha, chocolate, bittersweet and liam squirms under his gaze. he watched as zayn opens his mouth, hesitating, staring deep at his face like there was more to it; more to liam that he saw and liam didn't know about.
"you." zayn said, quiet even in the silence of the room. "you're my sun.")
liam still can't believe he fell for those words.
zayn loves how he can hold liam's hips in his hands, leaving various patterns of dotted paint on the pale of liam's skin, loves the way their mates ask why when they change in the locker room and liam flushes red (just the perfect shade of red, which has possibly become zayn's most favourite colour).
he also loves when they can be alone in the space of the art room (his second home), loves painting liam and painting liam, loves pushing liam against the glass of the windows and letting the sun cast shadows and contrasts across the bare of liam's skin; loves how he can paint liam's expression after a quick snog.
art is his world. his heart. but liam's his soul.
liam laughed and smiled cheekily, cheeks pink, when zayn first said that. his eyes were sparkling under the glare of the sunlight — as if it were jealous of zayn to be able to have liam to love and to be loved by — a brilliant shade of oak, fresh wood, a cup of hot cocoa, morning coffee (the kind that liam makes in the morning when he wakes up earlier, and zayn likes the way it's bitter even with two packets of sugar stirred in, likes the way it bursts liam liam liam as the liquid leaves a warmth down his throat); they remind zayn to breathe but sometimes it also makes him forget how, makes him remember that that's ok and this is his and zayn wants to hold on to catch his breath.
"alright, poet zayn," liam scoffed, rolling his eyes and lips in a tight smile, failing to hide it from twitching upwards. "got anything more to add?"
"yeah," zayn replied, leaned in closer and pulled liam's hips snug against his torso, mouthing at liam's collarbone and biting the skin there. liam made a soft "ah" noise and zayn loves that too. "i love you."
he doesn't have to look to know liam's tainted red (and it's not entirely zayn's fault that it became his habit to smear a lighter shade of vermillion on liam's cheeks), face heated and zayn felt a hot breath on the side of his ear.
"i love you too."
zayn knows it's hard to keep still for an artist to sketch a pose, but liam's complained but never complained seriously that he'd force zayn to stop working—
"reckon you'd be done in a few, zayn?" zayn would nod, smearing charcoal with the tip of his thumb. "alright if i move my arm a tiny bit lower?" zayn would laugh, ("sorry, babe, in a moment"); "can i shift my knee a little over to the right?"
sometimes zayn'd sigh, deep and long. but right when he stands up, liam'd say, hastily, "no, zayn, no no, mate, i was just poking fun. keep working, i'll keep my mouth shut."
and apologetically, zayn would return a small smile, "almost done, li. just hang on for a few, yeah?"
liam nods — "ah, sorry, sorry; i moved." — "yeah, it's alright, babe, take as long as you'd like. don't rush."
and that always makes something tug at the pit of zayn's stomach like strings are attached at the ends and just pulling until he felt guilty.
liam blinks up at him underneath his eyelashes when zayn feels the need to just show.
"it's just... you're lovely," he whispers, "i can't paint you enough." he breathes in the scent of liam's shampoo, his hair tickling his nose and his cheeks. liam nods into his shoulder, but careful not to move around too much.
"then paint me as much as you'd like."
zayn loves marking liam with showers of love bites anywhere he can, pressing bruises into those irresistible hips to claim as his, loves it as much as he can paint liam and paint on liam, stroking shades of peach and turquoise, raspberry and lavender on the dips of his bones, leaving coloured fingerprints of red and brown (chestnut, really, the shades are different), green, yellow, and light pink, coral— scattered across liam's back and his front, on his waist and his hips and the contours of his ankles.
"ah, you've got me all messy," liam always says, looking at himself, hair disheveled and nose crinkled. "i look like humpty dumpty 'cept i fell in a bucket of paint."
zayn laughs at that, because liam's silly and adorable and he's got paint on his clothes and his hair, on his chin and cheeks, everywhere.
he paints him. just like that.
"you've got a little something here," liam says, pointing at his own nose, and zayn can't help feeling as if he's died and gone off to heaven; can't help but want to crowd liam against the wall, thrust into him right here and right now, fuck him until he's as breathless as zayn is, mark him until he's realized how much zayn can't show with just words how much liam truly means to him. zayn wants to open the skylight hovering above them, staining them with sunlight; maybe climb into a plane and jump off, screaming (he's crazy, probably; but that doesn't matter) i love liam payne to the rest of the world; but he also rather whisper in liam's ear like a secret — i love you and it will always be you, li — whisper with low panted breaths to make liam understand.
but he can't voice out his thoughts, can't express his actions while his mind is running wildly, thinking, a mess, his chest tight and he doesn't think smiling is enough (it's a shame lips can't even stretch that wide) to convey everything liam means to him.
so he grabs liam's hips, pulls them forward until liam's between the v of his legs and buries his face into his collarbone, pressing his lips there and breathing.
zayn wants to keep it like that.
liam doesn't complain.
(because art is zayn's favourite thing to do, his hobby, life, heart.
liam's his sun.)