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and its seasons

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Liam can depend on the knock on his door like clockwork.

When Louis wants to go out, Zayn wants to go out, and when Zayn goes out, he gets drunk. Liam rarely goes out with them, but according to Louis, Zayn has two drunk phases: three-drink Zayn, who is a delight, and five-drink Zayn, who remembers his limit only when the nausea sets in. Five-drink Zayn is miserable and irritable and prone to falling asleep while waiting for a cab.

He also seems to hate being alone, so he comes knocking on Liam’s door when he can remember which room number it is. In the beginning, he used to give Liam excuses, like a misplaced keycard or a couple fucking in the room next to his, but those eventually tapered off until he was asleep on top of the sheets before Liam could remind him to take his shoes off. Liam doesn’t really mind. Zayn’s a quiet sleeper, and Liam likes waking up in the morning and knowing immediately that he made it through the night.

Liam’s brushing his teeth when the knock comes tonight, and he mumbles, “Just a minute,” around his toothbrush before they knock again, a bit harder. Liam manages to get to his molars when his phone vibrates.

ru in? Zayn asks.

Liam slowly texts back one-handed — bruhsing teeth — before he gives up the cause and spits. He stills gets another text as he’s drying his face, but Zayn seems to have found his patience; it just says k.

When Liam opens the door, Zayn leaning against the frame, quite close, and Liam takes a half-step back, says, “You’re in early.”

“Louis stopped having fun, so we came back,” Zayn explains, ducking around Liam to get inside. He makes a beeline for the bed, but he just sits on the edge. Liam’s a bit surprised. Usually he gets two words out of Zayn, at most, and they’re monosyllabic if Zayn can be bothered to enunciate at all. The surprise must show on his face, because Zayn’s posture suddenly goes stiff. “I can—”

“What? No,” Liam says. It doesn’t really matter what he was going to say; Liam hates the way he wears his uncertainty. “I’m glad you’re back. You just go to sleep, usually, is all.”

“Right, yeah,” Zayn says, with a shrug, and he wears his discomfort even worse. He suddenly looks very small, sat on the giant hotel bed, and Liam wishes he were better at pretending not to notice.

As is, he says, “Well,” in an awkwardly loud voice. “I was going to settle in for a Friends marathon, but you are welcome to join me.”

Zayn hates Friends for reasons Liam can’t comprehend, but he shrugs again, says, “Alright.” He even gives Liam a small smile when Liam says, “Great,” which Liam usually has to embarrass himself a lot more for at this time of day.

Liam can feel himself beam back without permission, and Zayn’s smile gets wider and a little more reluctant. Liam makes himself look away, then, gestures for Zayn to get comfortable and then he busies himself with the tv so he can do just that.

It’s hard to shut Zayn out of his periphery, though. Even with his eyes on the TV, Liam can see him take off his shoes, his socks. His jacket goes next, then his hoodie; he keeps his beanie on. Under it all, he’s just wearing a borrowed pair of Louis’ jeans and a vest that probably isn’t his, either. Liam exhales and suddenly feels sort of stupid over it. He seen all of them in every state of undress, but the sight of Zayn’s skin still feels like a surprise. He’s not weird about his body, but he’s also not open like Harry or carefree like Niall or intentional like Louis; sometimes even his bare feet feel like an intimacy Liam doesn’t know how to handle.

Liam shifts himself back against the headboard, and Zayn lazily follows him until they’re propped up next to each other. They’re not quite shoulder-to-shoulder but Zayn’s got his legs folded up, knee against Liam’s thigh. Liam presses against it to let Zayn know it’s okay, and Zayn’s weight shifts a little tighter against him. He smells like he always does, whatever cologne he’s using that week and cigarettes, but Liam can also smell the beer on his breath when he exhales.

Liam wants to ask him how he’s feeling, but it’s one of those things that Zayn gets crabby about, so instead he makes a quick excuse about wanting a glass of water. When he comes back, he leaves it within Zayn’s reach, though Zayn has seemingly given up any effort to sit up. He’s curled up on top of the sheets, his hands tucked between his knees. The only thing that tells Liam he’s awake is the fact that he’s making a face at the TV.

“I can change the channel, if you want,” Liam tells him, because he has seen this episode about a million times already.

Zayn tips his head back to look at Liam. “I don’t really care.”

“That’s not your ‘I don’t really care’ face,” Liam says, climbing back into bed. He slips his legs under the duvet and does his best not to knee Zayn. “It looked pretty annoyed to me.”

“Did it?”

“Mhm,” Liam says.

“I didn’t mean for it to,” Zayn tells him, vaguely apologetic. When Liam looks down at him, he’s still making the face. Liam pulls his beanie down over his eyes instead of responding.

Liam holds up for the first episode, but he feels pretty sleepy by the second, so he shuffles further down under the sheets. Zayn makes a disgruntled sound when he moves, and Liam whispers, “Sorry,” curves his arm around Zayn’s shoulder from under the duvet. Zayn mumbles something unkind against his chest.

Liam watches another half of an episode before he blinks and wakes up in near-darkness. The TV’s off; it takes Liam a moment to recognize the blurry, moving shape as Zayn shifting next to him.

“Hey,” Liam murmurs, briefly tightening his grip around Zayn’s shoulders. “Where you goin’?”

“Back to mine,” Zayn whispers back. “It’s too hot in here.”

“You can open the window or something,” Liam says, but it’s a half-ass attempt to get Zayn to stay. He’s never had to try before, and the way Zayn’s looking at him makes him feel clumsier than the haze of sleep already manages. He stretches, lets go of Zayn and tries not to let the absence unsettle him. “Feeling alright, yeah?”

“I’m alright,” Zayn says, propping himself up on his elbow and looking down at Liam.

“You sure?”

“I’m sure, Liam.” He sounds just exasperated enough that Liam feels defensive and fond enough that he can’t act on it, so Liam just lets his mouth slant into a sheepish smile. Zayn stares back at him in response.

“Just checking,” Liam tells him. He palms the bunch of muscle behind Zayn’s neck and squeezes. “Sleep well.”

Zayn hums a little in agreement, and Liam’s eyes droop closed for a long moment. When he opens them again, Zayn’s a lot closer than he thought. Liam goes a little cross-eyed trying to focus on his face.

“Goodnight,” Zayn says, and he drops down and kisses the corner of Liam’s mouth so briefly Liam’s not sure it happened until he turns into it. He pushes his fingertips against Zayn’s hairline, and Zayn tips their foreheads together for a moment.

“Alright?” he asks.

“Sure,” Liam says, a bit stupidly.

He can feel the huff of Zayn’s laugh, and then Zayn kisses him more firmly beneath his eye, on his cheek, against the curve of his jaw. There’s a moment of hesitation before Liam feels the sharp press of his teeth, and he suddenly stops holding his breath, turns his face away.

“Right, enough of that, I think,” he says.

Zayn just laughs again, and then he rolls away, letting his legs fall over the edge of the bed. Liam watches him put his clothes back on. He thinks he should say something, but time sluggishly passes him by until Zayn’s putting his shoes back on and nodding over his shoulder, and all Liam has is how drunk are you? because he's suddenly not certain anymore.