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Settle Down With Me

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Zayn draws a lot. Sometimes it’s a problem, to the point of distraction, really. He thinks in lines and angles, in colors and shapes. Zayn breathes in time to his pen strokes across paper and doesn’t let up until his fingers cramp and his eyes blur.

He draws landscapes and skies and sunsets and sunrises. He wakes up early so he can see the orange horizon, captures a new day with steady fingers and smoke in his lungs. He stays up late to watch the moon, to fill in the dips and craters and imperfections that mar the surface. He squints up at the sky and focuses on his pencil strokes, on the slick smooth slide of the charcoal against paper.

Zayn makes sure to be quiet on these mornings and nights. He slips out of bed early, careful not to jostle the blankets or the sleeping boy next to him. Zayn likes the mornings best, because there are sweatshirts littered across the floor, stitched with colleges and universities and cities he’s never seen. They’re too big, the sweatshirts, and they don’t smell like him. They smell like beer and sweat and cologne, like football and too many nights up playing FIFA with a group of wild boys.

They smell like Niall.

It’s fair though, because on the nights when Zayn stays out too late, he comes back to find Niall still awake sometimes, wrapped up in flannels and the cardigans he swears smell like a fucking fire, mate. And Niall will look tired as anything, hair mussed from being tucked under a snapback all day, but he’ll still tilt his face up when Zayn comes close, and that’s nice.

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Niall is all warm pinks and smooth edges and rosy red cheeks. Even more so when he’s drunk. When he’s emitting all that warmth and his laugh takes up an entire room. Zayn wishes he could draw his glassy blue eyes how they look now, dazed and wide and happy. Zayn wishes he could get the lines of his arms in his tank, tight and shadowed and rigid.

Niall is sloppy kisses on Zayn’s cheek and a murmured, “You want to go smoke?” in Zayn’s ear.

Niall hums Justin Bieber while he rolls a joint, all off-key notes and stupid dancing. He sings some of the lyrics at Zayn, sings

if I was your boyfriend, I’d never let you go

and laughs when Zayn shoves him hard. “Stop singing me shit songs,” he says, and Niall doesn’t, won’t, and Zayn doesn’t really want him to anyway.

Niall is heavy-lidded eyes and pink lips when he smokes. He inhales a long breath, his shoulders slumping with it even, his whole body relaxing. “Good shit,” he murmurs, holding it out for Zayn.

The whole room smells like weed, like beer and cologne and if Zayn concentrates hard enough he can smell paper and pens and the paint he keeps stashed in Niall’s closet. Niall smells like alcohol now, potent and strong and dizzying. Zayn leans in closer and inhales that instead, leans his head against Niall’s chest and feels the ups and down when he takes a hit. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

The music from the party drifts up the stairs, thrums through the whole frat house and settles into each of the rooms. Niall’s fingers tap out the beat on the back of Zayn’s neck, over his shoulders, down the rigid bumps in his spine.

Niall murmurs, “Come here,” just before he takes another hit, and Zayn manages to catch the smoke right out of his mouth. Breathes in deep when Niall breathes out. He takes his own hit and blows the smoke back at Niall, between his lips, his pink, pink lips and Zayn wishes he could draw him.

The smoke makes Zayn’s limbs heavy, makes his eyes flutter and his world slow down. He only feels Niall’s solid body next to him, only smells the bitter smoke in the hair and the lingering scent of cologne and liquor and boy. Next to him Niall finishes the joint off.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

“Do you want to go back down?” Niall asks. “Louis wants to try to get Liam to do a keg stand tonight. Should be sick.”

Zayn huffs out a laugh against Niall’s neck, lazily kisses the skin there and sighs when Niall shivers. “That’s never going to happen.”

“Probably not,” Niall agrees. His voice is syrupy slow and his accent is heavy. “Still fun to watch.”

He helps Zayn up, their fingers tangling together for a second before he lets go. Zayn trails him down the stairs, their bodies sticking together to push through the heavy mass of swaying, dancing bodies. Zayn would like to draw the lines of Niall’s back, the broadness of his shoulders, his gleeful grin when he spots Louis and Liam near the keg outside. He can’t though, not here, so he settles for pressing his fingers into the dip at the base of Niall’s spine and stays close.

-----

Zayn only gets to draw Niall on the mornings after he’s been drinking. When Niall’s head is pounding from too much cheap beer and he stays in bed with Zayn instead of hitting the gym or playing footie on the fields.

It’s usually Sunday mornings when Zayn gets to do this. The house is quiet, all the boys struck down by wicked hangovers and drunken sex and their hook-ups trying to slip out the front door undetected. Zayn can hear the faint hum of the vacuum from downstairs, knows that Liam is trying to clean up after them like he does every Sunday morning.

Niall shifts and Zayn goes back to his sketchpad. Niall’s hair shines like gold in the sunlight that slits through the blinds. It highlights his cheeks and the line of his shoulders and his eyes. He blinks up at Zayn but keeps still in a way that he usually doesn’t.

“Hope you’re getting my good side,” he mumbles, voice gravelly from all the cheering they’d done last night when Louis decided jumping off the balcony was a good idea and managed not to kill himself. Liam had been too drunk to stop him and Harry been drunk enough to encourage him and Zayn never regrets not joining a frat.

Niall loves it though. Even now, with his mouth twisted into a slight grimace from his hangover and his eyes squinting slightly in the daylight.

“You don’t have a good side,” Zayn teases, because he’s not nearly as hungover as Niall and he likes drawing Niall’s frown. “Need some paracetamol?”

Niall shakes his head and grunts into his pillow, says “I’ll wait ‘til you’re done,” and Zayn loves him.

Zayn concentrates on the black lines across the paper, on the angle of Niall’s nose, the rumpled waves in his blonde hair, the slight part of his lips and his lazy-lidded eyes. Zayn tries to capture the shadows that play against the sheets, the way the sun peeks over Niall’s skin and how he smiles when Zayn focuses on his mouth again.

Niall is easy to draw. All curved lines and wide eyes and positive energy. Zayn tries to capture some of that, tries to infuse the stark, black lines with Niall’s energy and make it something tangible and visible and real. That’s easy too, Niall’s easy like that.

Niall watches and thumbs at the end of Zayn’s sweatshirt. Another stolen one, grey and still a little too big. “This smells like you now,” Niall says. “Smells like smoke.” There’s disapproval somewhere in there, because Niall hates the smell of cigarettes, but he still keeps his fingers on it, running them over the material.

“You stole all my flannels,” Zayn murmurs. “I have to wear something.”

The no, you don’t is expected so Zayn doesn’t bother hiding a smile at that.

He finishes the drawing with his signature stitched at the bottom, small and unassuming.

“Food now,” Niall tells him. He brings the covers over his head, burrowing under them and hiding from the sunlight. “Tell Harry to make breakfast?”

Harry only makes breakfast on Sundays. Omelettes and toast and pancakes. The boys all gather in the living room to eat, mindless cartoons blaring in the background while they wait for their heads to clear and their stomachs to settle. Liam’s got the kitchen cleaned by the time Zayn and Niall make it down, and Harry’s at the stove, Louis stuck to his back like glue.

Zayn likes these mornings best. Niall looks ridiculous when he puts his sunglasses on in the house, but he complains about the lights hurting his eyes so Zayn doesn’t tease too much. He still shoves close to Zayn on the couch, shoving food in his face and laughing along to whatever story Louis is retelling. All dramatic hand gestures and a voice too loud for this hour.

Zayn would like to draw this part of Sunday mornings too, but instead he settles closer to Niall and watches stupid cartoons and eats Harry’s omelettes and waits for the rest of the house to wake up.

-----

Zayn likes the nights too, when he spends too much time behind the library with Harry. Lighting up and lazily sketching Harry’s curls, his red, red lips, and his green eyes that tell a million stories that a boy as young as Harry shouldn’t know. He comes back to his dorm and finds Niall waiting up for him, all expectant eyes and charged energy.

Zayn likes these nights, when his limbs are relaxed from the smoke and Niall kisses him too hard, bites his lip and laughs when Zayn goes pliant under him. Niall is all easy confidence and steady hands when he takes his hoodie off Zayn. Slides Zayn’s jeans down and presses him down on the bed.

“You good?” he asks, and Zayn nods, feels a lazy grin tugging at his lips and wishes he could draw Niall like this, too.

He’d like to draw Niall’s arms, sturdy and strong where he hovers over Zayn. Dark blue for his eyes, red for his kiss-swollen lips and the flush on his cheeks. Niall leans down and kisses Zayn again, rough and demanding and his fingers tangled up in Zayn’s hair.

Zayn knows those fingers. Has drawn them, painted them, had them press bruises into his hips and slicked up and pushed deep inside him until all he could do was shiver and shake and fuck down onto them.

He does that now, tries to catch his breath and feel more of Niall’s fingers. He tries not to get overwhelmed at the relentless way they press up inside him, nudging against that spot that makes Zayn curse and his legs tremble just a bit.

“You like that?” Niall murmurs, and he doesn’t need Zayn to answer because they both know he does. Can feel it in the way Zayn bites his lip and pleads for more, another, come on, Ni, deeper.

He’s a mess by the time Niall gets his own clothes off, sheds the tank and the basketball shorts and gets himself ready and slicked up, lines himself up with Zayn and pushes in until Zayn thinks he might stop breathing.

Fuck,” Niall murmurs. Zayn chokes out a laugh because Niall always sounds like this, amazed and awed and overwhelmed.

If Zayn could draw anything, it would be Niall right now. How he looks when he pushes into Zayn, smirks when Zayn can’t help but moan, can’t help but arch up into Niall and push back.

“Good?” he asks, and Zayn makes a silent promise to put on one of Niall’s sweatshirts when he goes out for a cigarette after this.

He’d draw the flush that starts on Niall’s cheeks, the one that spreads across his neck and travels down his chest. Zayn would draw the scratches he leaves on Niall’s waist and his back, the tightness of Niall’s stomach, the way it flexes when he presses in and pulls back out. Zayn would try and draw the shaky lines of Niall’s arms when he’s close. The sharp press of fingers into Zayn’s skin that leave darkened marks of ownership that he’ll thumb over for days until they fade away into nothing.

Zayn closes his eyes and tangles his fingers up in the sheets and takes everything that Niall gives him. Feels the nip of teeth on his neck and jaw and the fingers pulling his hair, forcing his head up into another kiss. Feels Niall’s murmured encouragement, the “come on, let me see you,” and the “fuck, you look so good like this, you know?” whispered against his sweaty, heated skin.

Zayn shakes and trembles through it, hears Niall’s laugh and the muttered, “that’s it, come on, that’s it,” before Niall comes too, his face buried in Zayn’s neck and his chest heaving.

One day Zayn will draw Niall like this. Sated and sticky and sleepy. But for now he just traces over Niall’s lines and angles and curves with his fingers, committing the dips and bumps and sharp turns to memory and breathing in the smell of faded cologne and cheap beer and smoke and sweat and Niall.

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