Nick gets the idea in his head as they’re about to leave for Reading. He receives an invite to Rita Ora’s show at G-A-Y that evening via an e-mail to his blackberry and promptly announces that they must go. Harry has Liam’s early birthday thing on, but Nick just waves him off, saying they’ll pop in at Liam’s and then head to G-A-Y after.
Nick’s plan suits Harry just fine. Recently Harry has begun feel like time not spent at Nick’s side is time wasted. The best part though, is how Nick doesn’t even consider the prospect of sending Harry off to Liam’s alone and meeting up after, as if maybe Nick feels that desire to be constantly together too. Harry hopes so.
Harry’s never been a person that does things by halves. He’s more inclined to throw himself completely into everything he does and Nick isn’t an exception. Not that he’s, you know, doing Nick. They’re friends, good friends. Harry is fantastic at being friends with Nick.
He tries to be at least. Being friends with Nick is difficult when it’s so clear Nick doesn’t think of Harry the way Harry would like him to. They’ve kissed once. No, twice. The first time was in the bathrooms at the Brits after party and Harry didn’t even really know it was Nick. He stumbled into the bathroom, almost falling flat on his face, and when Nick caught him Harry was drunk enough on the alcohol and the win that kissing Nick as thank you just seemed like the logical thing to do. The second kiss occurred as they shared a taxi on the way home from a bar. It was considerably less accidental on Harry’s part, deciding in his booze-addled mind that the first kiss needed a do over, Harry launched himself at Nick and kissed him sloppily. It didn’t last long before Nick pushed him away, just as he had the first time. Nick called him a lush and laughed like it was all a joke while Harry bit his lip and smiled like it was the alcohol that made him unable to keep his mouth to himself.
And then there’s the fact that Nick’s always setting him up. First there was Caroline, which turned out to be a disaster. It’s not that Harry couldn’t have loved Caroline, but in the few short months they spent together the public attention turned it stressful and toxic between them and made it practically impossible for them to give it a proper go. Caroline is too amazing to have to put up with the bullshit that comes along with seeing Harry and they’d both known it. When it came time to admit it to each other they’d both cried a little bit. One Direction kept Harry busy with the Big Time Rush tour about to launch and he got over it soon enough.
But Nick didn’t give up. As soon as Harry was back in London, Nick had him meeting other girls. They’d all been nice enough, but really could only be considered a string of failed dates. After the miserable, awkward fallout from setting Harry up with a close friend, Nick had picked from acquaintances more on the periphery of his social circle. Rumours printed about Harry having dated Georgia May Jagger, Caggie Dunlop, Emily Atack and Cara Delevigne were all Nick’s doing. Harry doesn’t even get a say in these setups, Nick just runs into these girls and makes the dates, and Harry’s too polite to even think about cancelling.
This obsession with Harry’s love life is probably the only thing Harry finds truly frustrating about Nick, aside from the fact he doesn’t want Harry to kiss him, but Harry can hardly blame him for that.
“What about Rita Ora, then? She’s lovely,” Nick says, starting in on his favourite topic. He’s lying on his belly, sprawled across his bed and picking at the last of their take away lunch.
They probably should have set off for the hour’s drive to Reading almost half an hour ago, but Nick doesn’t seem bothered so Harry doesn’t see a reason to be either. Harry’s yet to get dressed, still in his baggy workout gear from their trip to the gym that morning and Nick’s refusing to move until Harry picks him out a jumper to wear.
Harry groans as he rifles through Nick’s wardrobe, trying to figure out what Nick would find particularly festival-y. “I don’t even know her.”
Nick waves his fork at Harry dismissively. “I’ll introduce you then, won’t I? She already knows you, did a cover of one of your songs on the live lounge. I think she’s in love with you,” Nick says.
Harry grabs the first shirt his hand lands on, keen for a distraction. “Can I wear this?” he asks. Nick grins. The shirt he’s pulled out is a ridiculous hawaiian number, white with little islands printed all over, complete with palm trees.
“That would look excellent on you, and it’ll match your ridiculous hat,” Nick says and pushes his empty take away container to the side.
“Leave my beanie out of it.” Harry pats his beanie defensively. He strips out of his gym gear and leaves it in a pile on Nick’s floor because he knows Nick hates that. He fetches his jeans and a t shirt from his duffle at the end of Nick’s bed.
“I reckon Rita’d be up for it,” Nick continues and Harry sighs, shoving his legs into into his trousers and wiggling them up his hips. “Who wouldn’t? You’re well fit, aren’t you?” Nick says and Harry smiles at the floor as he fastens his fly. He chances a look at Nick but Nick’s just got his nose in his phone again. Harry purses his lips and considers an act of teenage tantrum. Perhaps if he threw something Nick would pay attention to him properly.
“You think I’m fit?” Harry asks and that makes Nick look up, finally. Harry tries his best to look coy, meeting Nick’s eyes from under his fringe. He rubs his fingers over his waistband in a way that could be perceived as absent minded, if Harry wasn’t totally doing it on purpose to draw attention to his body.
“I have eyes, Harry.” Nick looks at Harry like he’s thick as rocks and throws a pillow at him. “Get your shirt on you trollop, and find me something to wear for fucks sake. Rotten house guest, you are.”
Harry grins and pulls his t shirt on over his head and then Nick’s shirt over the top, leaving it hanging open. It’s big on him and Harry really likes how it feels to be in Nick’s clothes. He wonders if people will be able to tell it’s Nick’s shirt, if they’ll maybe think it means Nick’s laying some kind of claim on Harry. Harry hopes so, the thought buoying him as he returns to Nick’s wardrobe.
“I like this, makes you look like a pirate,” Harry says, pulling out a black and red striped jumper.
“I bet Rita Ora likes pirates,” Nick says and Harry throws the jumper in his face.
“Would you leave it, please,” Harry grumbles. “She wouldn’t be interested. She’s friends with Jay-Z and Beyonce.”
“Oh now there’s an idea,” Nick says as he sits up and pulls the pirate jumper on. His hair is all mussed when his head reappears. “Wonder if I can get Beyonce’s number off her for you.”
Reading is kind of a bust considering the point is to watch the bands and Harry and Nick spend all their time fucking around backstage before just managing to catch Florence’s set. That isn’t to say Harry doesn’t have a really great time. Nick keeps a beer in his hand and drags him around to introduce him to everyone he hasn’t met before. It almost feels as if Nick’s showing him off, the way he keeps his arm slung loose around Harry’s shoulders. They laugh easy and take a million stupid instagram photos with people. Nick doesn’t mention Rita Ora the entire time, either, except to tell people he’s going to her show later.
By the time they have to head back to London to get to Liam’s party, their clothes are soggy from the rain and Harry’s got a steady buzz going. He feels relaxed deep down to his bones and it makes him handsy, looping his arms around Nick’s neck and pressing a wet kiss to his cheek. They’re still vaguely backstage, wandering back to where Nick had left his car. Even through the alcohol haze Harry knows there’s a line he shouldn’t cross lest things get awkward, but the way Nick rubs the arm he has around Nick’s neck makes him a little reckless.
“Had such a good time,” Harry says and nuzzles his face against the side of Nick’s.
“Alright drunky,” Nick chuckles. He unwinds one of Harry’s arms from around his neck so he can get an arm around Harry’s waist to steady him against his side and keep them moving to the car. “Florrie loves you, you’ll have to sing on the next album.”
“That’d be nice,” Harry nods as he lets Nick lead him. He feels warm and light with Nick’s arm snug around him so he launches into a truly horrifying rendition of Never Let Me Go. Nick laughs really hard and Harry feels gooey.
Nick spends the entire hour’s drive back to his flat raving about how amazing Florence was and makes them listen to the two latest albums on the car stereo. Harry agrees, of course, he’s always liked Florence and the Machine’s records and they’d played an amazing set. It’s different for Nick though, he supposes, what with being so close with Florence. Harry wonders if Nick ever came to watch one of One Direction’s concerts he’d spend the entire trip home singing Harry’s praises to whoever his passenger happened to be. Somehow, he doubts it, unless of course he’s got a 13 year old girl in the car with him.
Harry feels considerably more sober when they finally pull up outside Nick’s flat. The sun had set during the drive so it’s dark outside as they climb out of the car and stretch out their cramped muscles. Nick jingles his keys, still humming a Florence song as he unlocks his front door.
“You have to wear something nice to meet your future wife,” Nick says and when Harry just looks at him, confused, he clarifies, “Rita Ora, you dolt. Dress to impress.” Harry rolls his eyes.
“Would you piss off with that shit,” Harry says. He toes off his shoes in the entryway and Nick palms his hip as he passes by.
“I mean it, look smart,” Nick says over his shoulder, disappearing into the kitchen.
“Won’t wear anything of yours then,” Harry mumbles under his breath and shrugs off Nick’s silly hawaiian shirt as he makes his way down the hallway to Nick’s room where his bag is.
“I heard that you ungrateful brat,” Nick yells after him.
Once Harry’s dressed, Nick appears in the doorway with a glass of red wine cradled in his palm.
“Are you changing?” Harry asks, running his fingers through his hair to try and sort it out after the beating it’d taken from the wind and rain all day.
“What’s wrong with this? You picked it, it’d feel wrong to change,” Nick smirks as Harry takes his glass of wine of him and sips from it. Harry wipes his mouth on his wrist. “When’re we leaving then?” Nick asks, looking bored and watching Harry’s mouth.
“Um, I’ll ring Liam, see where he’s at,” Harry says and digs his phone out of his pocket.
Liam’s already at Funky Buddha with Danielle, Andy, Maz and some of his family. He sounds excited when Harry tells him he’s bringing Nick and Harry feels a little guilty, considering the only reason he’s coming with him is so they can skip out early for Rita Ora.
At the club Harry hovers by Nick the entire time and Nick shows him a few texts from Rita. Nick’s been texting her about Harry thinking she’s hot and now she’s excited to meet him so when Nick’s bored enough to demand shots for everyone, Harry happily downs more than he probably should.
When it’s time to go they’re both a bit drunk, but then everybody is. Harry drags Nick over to Liam to say goodbye properly and also to make Nick do the dirty work of telling him that they have to go. Harry’s too scared of Liam’s disappointment to do it alone.
“Great party,” Nick says enthusiastically, slapping Liam on the back. Harry giggles into Nick’s shoulder because he’s the only one present who knows Nick well enough to pick up on his sarcasm.
“Thank you!” Liam’s face breaks into a squinchy smile and Harry feels even worse for skipping out.
“We’ve got to take off,” Nick says and Liam’s smile falls. Nick pats Liam on the arm consolingly. “I know, I know, I’d love to stay, but Harry’s got a date with destiny,” he says in a hushed conspiratorial voice.
“A date?” Liam asks, eyes going wide. Danielle makes her way over and slips her arm around Liam’s waist, pressing a kiss to his cheek.
“Don’t, Nick,” Harry groans and tugs on Nick’s arm. Nick ignores him.
“Everyone!” Nick shouts but the music’s loud enough that hardly anybody pays them any mind. “Harry and Rita Ora are going to be married.”
“Oh, I love her!” Liam exclaims. He claps his hands together and looks at Danielle with an excited grin. He breaks into the dorkiest rendition of How We Do to ever exist, probably. “I wanna party, and bullshit, and party, and bullshit,” he sings and wiggles side to side. Danielle giggles and joins in.
“That’s the one!” Nick says as his mouth wobbles from trying to hold in his laughter.
“I’m not going to marry her,” Harry says seriously to Liam and Danielle but they’re distracted now. Liam has grabbed her and they’re dancing together properly, Liam still singing, mumbling his way through the lyrics he doesn’t remember.
“Come on you horrible man,” Harry says in Nick’s ear and Nick finally lets himself snicker, his fist clutching the back of Harry’s shirt.
They stumble out to the taxi and the short ride to G-A-Y is particularly giggly. Nick spends the entirety of it threatening to send dirty messages to Rita so Harry is forced to jump on him to try and wrestle his phone away. If Harry sneaks in a few more gropes than is really necessary to accomplish the task he blames the alcohol, and besides, Nick started it.
They pull up outside G-A-Y and tumble out of the car. Harry feels flushed and wired from being all over Nick. Just touching him like that, just messing around, it’s so charged that it makes Harry feel like he’s been pressed into a wall and snogged senseless and he can’t carry on that train of thought or he’ll be in trouble.
They enter G-A-Y through the back as Rita’s about to begin her set. Nick disappears to collect a couple drinks for them and then rejoins Harry side of stage where Jeremy’s found him. Jeremy’s very excited about having Harry there and makes Harry pose for a picture with him and his dog before managing to convince Harry to let him tweet about him. It’s not a hard task, Harry’s drunk past putting up much of a protest against anything. On Nick’s return, Jeremy hugs Nick hello and then disappears again, busy doing running-the-club things, Harry assumes.
They watch Rita perform a set of six songs from side of stage, Harry brooding and Nick bopping along next to him, singing along with a huge grin on his face. Harry tries to not be in a strop, but watching Rita in her thigh-high leather boots with Nick at his side, he feels conflicted. Rita is hot, really hot and she sings so well, too. Maybe Harry should give it a go with her, if she’s really interested and Nick’s not just having him on. It’s what Nick wants, and Harry would like to make Nick happy.
During her last song, How We Do (which sounds all the better after Liam’s earlier mangling), Nick wraps his arms around Harry’s middle from behind and makes him dance along with him. Harry melts back against Nick’s body and smiles as Nick’s breath tickles his neck where he’s got his face tucked, singing along. After that, Harry can’t really entertain the thought of legitimately attempting to date Rita anymore. He’s so gone on Nick that he feels a bit sick about it. But he’s also pretty drunk and Nick’s holding onto him so he can’t find it in him to angst about it properly, maybe later when he’s all alone curled up on Nick’s sofa.
They wait backstage for Rita to come say hi, picking at the snacks and things that’ve been laid out. Jeremy brings them more drinks and Nick smacks him a kiss on the cheek in thanks.
“Babe!” Rita exclaims and spreads her arms for a hug as she bursts into the room.
“Rita Ora!” Nick practically squeals and they hug. Rita’s tiny in Nick’s arms. She squeezes Nick tight and rocks them back and forth, letting out a high pitched sound of delight. Nick unwinds one arm and grabs for Harry, pulling him in.
“This’s my friend Harry Styles off of One Direction,” Nick says, his hand warm on Harry’s back.
“You were really, really great,” Harry manages before Rita’s hugging him too. He hears Nick’s laugh but he can’t see him with Rita’s blonde curls in his face.
“Aw, thanks babe,” Rita coos and releases him.
A fair few drinks later a food fight breaks out. There’s rainbow kettle corn everywhere and Rita’s squealing, ducking Nick’s fistfuls of snacks. Harry’s doubled over on the couch, too busy pissing himself with laughter to really join in. Jeremy stands in the doorway shouting obscenities about popstars and charging them for the cleaning, his dog barking at his feet, but he’s laughing too. When Nick’s distracted Jeremy helps Rita dump a bucket of ice over him, causing Nick to shriek and demand Harry save him. They team up, then, Rita and Jeremy vs. Harry and Nick, but when Nick accidentally smashes a full bottle of champagne Jeremy seems to have enough and shoves them all out on the street. It is after 2am and Harry considers that late enough for them to turn in.
Nick has his arm around Rita, and is trying to convince her to stay with them, to move on to Groucho.
“I’ve got so much promo, Nick, can’t. Sorry babe,” Rita apologises as she climbs into her waiting car service. Her driver closes the door and she winds down the window. “I’m doing a show at Scala later this week, you should both come!”
“Definitely,” Nick nods and fumbles with his phone. He has one arm around Harry now and it’s not really clear who’s holding the other up.
The car pulls away, Rita blowing kisses out the window, and somehow they find their way into a taxi.
“Shouldn’t you have a car service,” Nick grumbles as Harry shoves him into the backseat gracelessly.
“I see how it is, you only like popstars with car services,” Harry says and slides in after him. Nick gives the driver his address and then slumps back in the seat. Harry copies him, feeling suddenly exhausted. Nick turns to Harry, his head tipped back on the seat and meets Harry’s eyes.
“It’s true,” Nick grins wide and lazy. Harry stares back at him with a fond smile. The way Nick’s looking at him, through half lidded, drunk woozy eyes, it feels charged. Harry’s mind slips back to the last time they were wasted in the back of a taxi, when he’d kissed Nick for the second time. Harry licks his lips and he’s beginning to think maybe he should try it again, just crawl over the space between them and make it stick this time. He’s drunk enough to think he’d be able to convince Nick if only he kissed him well enough. Maybe this time Nick wouldn’t laugh at him, wouldn’t push him away.
“What’d you think of her then?” Nick says and bites his lip. It snaps Harry out of it. He almost has to ask who Nick’s referring to and then he remembers. Rita.
“She’s really great,” Harry sighs and looks away from Nick.
“I think she liked you,” Nick says, lifting his hips off the seat to fumble his phone from his pocket. “I’m going to set you up on a da-ate,” Nick sing songs, already tapping at his phone.
“Please don’t,” Harry says and when Nick ignores him, he reaches over and covers Nick’s phone with his hand. “Nick, don’t.”
“Why not?” Nick asks and tugs his phone out of Harry’s grip.
“S’embarrassing,” Harry shrugs. “I can manage my own, you know. I do alright. Girl-wise.”
“But it’s Rita. She’s so pretty. She’s hot, Haz, and so cool, I love her,” Nick implores. “You’d make such talented little popstar babies together.”
“M’not interested, ok?”
“You’re not interested in Rita Ora?” Nick says disbelievingly. “Did you see her tonight? Even I’m interested in her after tonight.”
“Well, you date her then. I’m not.” Harry huffs and crosses his arms. When Nick starts up with another protest Harry cuts him off. “I like someone else.”
Harry watches the smile spread across Nick’s face and realises he’s made a terrible mistake.
“Oh my god. Harry Styles!” Nick grabs Harry’s arm. “Tell me who, tell me right fucking now.”
“No,” Harry says in a drawn out groan and frowns. “Just drop it, alright?” He tries to pull his arm out of Nick’s grip. “It’s just a silly thing, you know. It’s not a big deal.”
The car pulls to a stop outside Nick’s flat and Harry digs out his wallet. He pays the driver and Nick says, “if it’s not a big deal you should be able to tell me.” Nick pushes open the taxi door and stumbles out. “Tell me, bet I can hook you up with her. I know everyone.”
The arrogance that Harry usually finds amusing and charming and endearing, suddenly grates on Harry’s nerves. He pauses, half way out of the taxi. Nick may know everyone but he doesn’t know anything, especially not when it comes to Harry it seems. It makes Harry more sad than angry, that someone he feels so close to could be so completely and utterly clueless. He’s no fun when he’s in a grump, and he wouldn’t want Nick to regret having him around, so maybe it would be best if he went back to his own flat. “Think I’ll spend the night at mine,” Harry says, shuffles back inside the taxi and shuts the door.
“What?” Nick laughs, his voice sounding muffled from inside the car. “Come on, Harry.” Nick knocks on the window but Harry just shakes his head and leans forward to tell the driver his own address. He looks back at Nick standing outside the window as the car begins to pull away. Nick just shrugs and turns. Harry twists around in the seat to watch Nick’s back as he walks to his front door. He was hoping that maybe Nick would turn around to watch him go like a cliche in a movie but Nick doesn’t.
Harry’s face feels really hot. He’s an easy crier at the best of times and the pent up frustration has his eyes stinging. Maybe if he wasn’t such a fucking pussy cry baby Nick would see him differently. Harry scrubs at his face and his phone buzzes in his pocket with a text.
“come back you idiot” reads the text from Nick. Harry’s not keen on replying lest he make more of a fool of himself than he already has, so he shoves his phone back deep in his pocket.
Harry’s flat is only a few blocks from Nick’s and it’s still mostly unfurnished. He’d bought it on a whim and advice from Nick and Lou during the first few days home from America. He’d barely even been there since move in day. He doesn’t have a dining table or chairs, or even a telly. The flat he’d shared with Louis had come furnished so they’d never had to bother and there wasn’t anything to split when they left. There’s boxes everywhere and his lonely sofa is just sitting in the middle of the entry way still.
He acquired the sofa on a trip to an antique’s market with Nick, and now Harry just feels like kicking it. Nick fell in love with the thing and so of course Harry had tried to buy it for him, but Nick had flat out refused, insisting that he didn’t have a need for a second sofa and this one was overpriced anyway. So Harry bought it himself. Now it’s imposing dark wood and red velvet presence in his otherwise mostly empty flat seemed like it was mocking him. He doesn’t have Nick but he does have Nick’s bloody couch.
In his bedroom, his clothes are either still in suitcases or all over the floor. Since his return from the American tour, he’d only been stopping in to change or grab a fresh t shirt on his way to Nick’s, or somewhere else, but mostly just Nick’s. It serves as another reminder of the Nick-centered shambles he’s allowed his life to become.
Harry did manage to get his bed put together when he moved in, which is a relief now. He feels really lonely as he flops belly-first onto his big bed. The sheets don’t smell of him or anything really and it’s disconcerting. The loneliness prompts Harry to pull out his phone.
There’s four unread texts, one from Niall, the others from Nick. He opens Niall’s, “missed you at liam’s but i heard ur gettin married mate congrats!!”. Harry just rolls his eyes, opens the texts from Nick. “ignoring me?” reads the first, then, “let me know when you get home safe”, then, “you’re being childish”. Wow, Harry thinks, he’s being childish? Ok, well, if he’s being childish then he probably shouldn’t reply to any of Nick’s texts. He drops his phone off the side of the bed and falls asleep still in all his clothes.
He spends the next morning moping, mostly. He has to go out for breakfast as he hasn’t got anything in his own kitchen save for some teabags. Black tea just isn’t going to cut it when he’s feeling sorry for himself and slightly hungover. Waiting in the Mcdonalds drive through queue, he flicks through twitter and ends up on Nick’s instagram, scrolling through the pictures from Rita Ora and Reading, of him in Nick’s stupid hawaiian shirt. He feels ridiculous but he misses Nick. They’ve not been apart even a full day and Harry’s supposed to be mad at him.
He feels especially stupid about getting mad, he should have just made something up. Told him it was a girl in America or something to diffuse the whole situation. He’d been drunk though, and the booze combined with how dopey his brain goes just from being around Nick meant that he wasn’t in the best position to be making good decisions.
His phone rings as he drives back to his horribly empty flat with his greasy breakfast. When he sees it’s Zayn he pulls over to answer it.
“Hey mate, just checkin in,” Zayn says as soon as Harry puts the phone to his ear.
“Hi,” Harry sighs and shoves a few chips in his mouth.
“You alright? You sound funny.”
“M’eating,” Harry says and sips his milkshake, swallows, and tries harder. “Missed you at Liam’s last night.”
“Yeah, I know man, but you missed my girlfriend performing on national television.”
“Oh ok, we’re both shit, I guess.”
“Spoke to Niall, are you really seeing Rita Ora?” Zayn says and Harry leans his head on the cool glass of the car window.
“I dunno. I went to her show last night and met her. She’s really nice.”
“You should, mate. She’s hot, and she knows Jay-z!” Zayn sounds excited enough to make Harry laugh.
“I think she’s just signed on his label,” Harry says.
“I bet she’s touched him before, though. God, I bet she’s touched Beyonce even.”
“You think I should call her?”
“Why not, man. Did she seem interested?”
“I guess, I think so, I don’t know.”
“Can’t hurt, can it? Worst case scenario, you end up with a really hot friend who can hook you up with Rihanna probably.” Harry laughs, he can’t argue with Zayn’s logic.
“I miss you,” Harry tells him. He misses all of them and being together all the time on tour. It’s easy in a way it isn’t hanging out with Nick all the time.
“Aw, Harreh, you’re makin me cry,” Zayn coos.
“Shut up,” Harry laughs. “I’m gonna go now so I can text her.” Zayn makes an exaggerated ooooooooh sound and Harry hangs up on him.
If Harry was going to keep being friends with Nick he needs to get over his stupid feelings. Maybe going out with Rita would help that along. Nick was right, Rita is really great, and talented, and funny. Harry wouldn’t mind kissing her if she happened to want to as well. Nick seems really keen about the idea of them together so if Harry can please Nick by taking her out then that’s just an added bonus.
He texts her and her reply is surprisingly prompt. He compliments her on the show again and just straight out asks her if she’d like to get dinner together. It’s surprisingly easy to ask someone out when you’re caught up on someone else. Rita’s really busy but she’s keen to meet up so they organise to meet for dinner in her hotel’s restaurant that evening.
Harry spends the day cleaning his flat and unpacking a few boxes. It’s hard to unpack when there’s no furniture to unpack on to so it’s a bit of a pointless task. It keeps him busy though and with his ipod playing Rita’s album as background music the time passes quickly. He finds he quite likes the album, it’s upbeat. He’s almost excited by the time it comes to leave to meet Rita. He checks his phone one last time as he walks out the door and there’s text from Nick. He’d been doing so well, hardly thinking about him at all (except for cursing him when he’d had to try and move that stupidly heavy ridiculous antique couch out of the entryway).
“harry and rita sitting in a tree k i s s i n g” Nick’s message reads. Harry can see the one calling him childish directly above it and he has to smile at the irony.
“we’re not k i s s i n g. we’re going for dinner.” Harry sends in reply as he grabs his coat and keys and heads out.
“lol i know she called me. have sex with her!!! u need to get laid” is the message he gets in return. Harry feels annoyed and embarrassed. Rita called Nick? Does she really like him? Harry kind of hopes not, even though it’d be really flattering. Harry doesn’t bother replying.
Rita’s already waiting for him when he gets to the restaurant, in a secluded little booth in the back. She has a cocktail and stack of papers, obviously still working a little bit.
“Hope I’m not keeping you,” Harry says by way of greeting.
Rita smiles up at him, red lipstick and white teeth. “Hey, nah, it’s just some stuff for the video we’re filming soon. No biggie.” She snaps the folder of papers shut, shoves it aside and pats the seat next to her. Harry slides into the booth and when the waiter comes over he orders a beer.
Dinner is fun and easy. Harry had worried it’d be awkward, but they have a lot in common with their jobs and touring and both having an album due out soon. They also talk about Nick a lot. Rita adores him and Harry’s able to feed off that really easily, what with practically being in love with him. The food is good and Harry doesn’t even drink anything beyond that first beer. When Rita flirts with him, he flirts back.
It gets to about ten o’clock and Rita explains she needs to turn in, she has to be up early for a string of interviews beginning with a segment on Good Morning. Rita thanks him for a great time and Harry offers to walk her up to her room. She accepts with an arched eyebrow.
In the lift they watch each other in the mirror, it feels loaded so they both end up giggling. When they get to Rita’s floor and they’re standing outside her suite, she fists a hand in his t shirt and pulls him against her. Harry backs her against the door and they kiss. Her lipstick feels sticky against his mouth and he sighs when she tangles her fingers into his hair, scratches her long nails against his scalp. She pulls away and he licks the waxy lipstick taste off his lips.
“Wanna come in for a drink, then?” Rita asks and bumps her hips forward into his. She rubs at his bottom lip, smudging the red lipstick stain she’s left there.
Harry feels guilty. He wishes he wanted to have sex with Rita, he really does. He really likes her and she’s really beautiful and talented. He feels like the biggest idiot asshole in the world. Like, who turns down Rita Ora? But he knows, if he were to go inside with her and get in her bed he’d feel bad about it, the whole thing would just make him sad and Rita doesn’t deserve that. She deserves more than Harry can offer her, which is probably some halfhearted oral while his mind is consumed with someone else.
So he shakes his head and steps away from her. She pouts a little but doesn’t protest. “I’ll let you get to bed, it’s late,” Harry says even though it’s really not.
“Ok babe. Had a really great time, thanks,” she grins at him and then wraps him in a tight, one armed hug. She kisses his cheek and he promises to invite her to his next gig.
Walking to his car, he realises he really doesn’t want to go home. The boys’ll know something’s up if he turns up at one of theirs this late at night. He doesn’t really know anyone else in London well enough to just turn up at their door or text them for an impromptu hang out. He could go to Lou’s but she’s just off tour the same as him and he doesn’t want to interrupt what little time her, Tom and Lux get to be a proper family by themselves. He could go to a bar or a club but that would just end up making him feel more lonely. So before he really knows what he’s doing, he’s in his car driving towards Radio 1.
He listens to Nick’s show on the way, he’s only half hour into it but he’s on the top of his game. In between songs, he mostly talks about seeing Rita and Florence perform. He doesn’t sound any different and Harry supposes that’s because they’re only fighting according to Harry. He feels exceedingly stupid and out of his depth again, like he’s been acting like a bratty teenager. How could Nick ever be interested in him? He’s kidding himself. He still feels the pull though, to be around Nick even if it’s just so Nick can make fun of him and impress his friends with how he knows a really famous teenage popstar. Harry will take it if that’s all that’s on offer.
The security at Radio 1 are familiar enough with him to let him in, no questions asked. Harry hovers in the hallway and watches Nick through the little window in the door like the ridiculous, love sick, teenage puppy he is. It’s producer Clair who spots him and nods, catching Nick’s attention. Nick swivels in his chair mid-sentence and when he sees Harry he smiles. It’s a genuine smiles, like he’s pleased to see him. Harry’s relieved. Nick finishes the link and then he gestures for Harry to come in once the song starts.
“Shouldn’t you be giving Rita Ora some nice orgasms right now?” Nick asks, unhooking the headphones from around his neck. Clair raises her eyebrows at Harry.
“Tea, anyone?” She says. Harry wonders if he’s ever told Clair how much he really likes her.
“I couldn’t,” Harry says once Clair left.
“Couldn’t make her come? I had way more faith in you than that,” Nick says, distracted by the computer. Harry looks over and it’s twitter, of course.
“No," Harry groans, exasperated. "Couldn’t, you know, sleep with her.” He perches on the chair he knows is out of range of the webcams and glares at the back of Nick’s big, stupid head.
“Wasn’t she interested?”
“She was,” Harry says steadily. “I just, it didn’t feel right. ‘Cause of what I told you.”
“Oh,” Nick sighs and turns to look at Harry so he can see how Nick exaggeratedly rolls his eyes. “That person which you have a crush on.”
Harry just makes a face at him because he doesn’t want to get into an argument when the song’s ending and Nick has to start talking again. Nick doesn’t say anything about Harry being there but he does make a passing comment at his friend and Rita Ora getting along really well.
Clair returns with the tea and the rest of the show passes without much incident. Nick signs off at midnight and they exit the studio after each hugging Clair goodbye.
“I really think you should tell me,” Nick says and throws an arm over Harry’s shoulders as they make their way up from the basement studios. “I told the Guardian about my fancying Frank Ocean, I don’t see why you should have a problem telling little old me about your secret crush?”
“It’s different. Mine’s, like, a real person,” Harry says and shrugs at Nick’s arm, trying to get him to let go. Nick makes it so hard for Harry to keep in a just friends headspace when he touches him. Nick squeezes Harry’s shoulder though, refusing to let go.
Nick gasps, “How dare you! Frank’s a real person, our love is real.”
“Yeah, about as real as mine,” Harry says gloomily. Nick drops it as they exit, holding the door for Harry. They decide to take Nick’s car, on the off chance they’ll be able to dodge any paparazzi that might’ve followed Harry’s car there.
“You look miserable, Harry. Bet I can help,” Nick starts in again as they head across the carpark. “I won’t tell, I promise. I’m dying, Harry.I just have to know who the lucky girl is. There should be a parade or something. I want to send her a hamper,” he whines.
“It’s a guy, alright?” Harry huffs impulsively and then cringes, realising what he’s just done.
“Oh,” Nick says, he frowns and his mouth snaps shut. He comes to a stand still for half a second not unlike his brain has short circuited.
“Yeah, can we just go?” Harry speeds up to walk ahead of Nick and when they get inside Nick’s car, Nick pauses with his hands on his seatbelt.
“It’s not Liam, is it?”
“Oh god, no! It’s not Liam. Jesus,” Harry says, horrified. Nick laughs and slants Harry a smile to let him know he was kidding. Harry shakes his head and smiles too. They lapse into silence and it’s less tense. Harry can practically see the cogs in Nick’s head turning, processing this new development.
They turn into Nick’s street and Nick says, “I thought you liked girls.”
“I do,” Harry shrugs. “Just not only girls.”
“This is a real game changer, Harry Styles,” Nick says and Harry’s heart jumps into his throat. He’s just starting to feel hopeful when, “I know loads of nice, young, nubile boys.”
“Nubile, really?” Harry deflates.
Harry does feel lighter, though. It’s not like he’s come out or anything like that, he was never hiding anything. Truth is he hasn’t even decided on a silly little box for himself really, but telling Nick feels good. He feels closer to him, now Nick knows they share this thing. This, uh, having an appreciation for dick thing.
It occurs to Harry, as he follows Nick into his flat, that Nick’s never really talked about guys with him, or his love life or dating or anything. Harry had always been so wrapped up imagining himself in that part of Nick’s life that he’d never noticed the conspicuous absence before. He doesn’t even know if Nick dates. He must, right?
Harry recalls the recent article in the Guardian, when Nick came out proper. Reading it over breakfast Harry had been so engrossed he’d let his tea go cold. His tummy had flipped as he read the words, “One page of a fan website is given to trying to decipher whether or not he's gay –” and then his face had actually grown hot at the printed confirmation of Nick’s sexuality. He’d felt proud and excited, and wanted to drive to Nick’s place and hug him. Nick would never have let him though, most likely he would have pushed him off and told him not to go on about it. Harry had read that part of the article three times before moving on. Then, “I've just not met anyone that I thought oh, I really like you that much,” served as a reminder that Nick didn’t feel like Harry would like him to. Harry’s mood would have probably devolved into a funk if Nick hadn’t gone on go make Harry almost squirt tea out his nose when he referred to Frank Ocean as “a bit wet”.
The way Nick had done it, though, so off hand and casual, like it wasn’t even a thing, it made Harry feel good. He never spoke to Nick about the article but he kept it, he ripped out the couple pages and folded them up, but them in the little bag he kept his passport and other important things.
Harry notices his little bed on Nick’s sofa is exactly how he’d left it when he’d crawled out of it the previous morning and his things are still strewn about everywhere. It’s as if the night spent at his own flat never even happened.
“I didn’t sleep much last night,” Nick says, carefully not looking in Harry’s direction. Harry thinks, oh. “So I’m just going to turn in. You be alright?”
“Yeah, ok. Sure. Er, thanks.” Harry bites his lip. Nick hesitates a second longer and then leaves the room with a sigh. It’s weird and Harry feels confusedmore than anything. He’s never seen Nick like this, quiet and tired seeming. Usually after Nick gets off work he’s wired for a good two hours, and they’ll sit up and watch horrible late night television. Nick will even let Harry curl against his side as they share a bottle of wine or a cup of tea until Nick’s drowsy enough to press a kiss to Harry’s forehead and say goodnight.
Harry turns off the lamp and strips off his clothes slow and silent. He settles in the nest of bed clothes on the sofa in his underwear and tries to consider sleep. It’s not going to happen, thoughts buzzing through his head about telling Nick he likes guys and Nick’s weird behaviour. He reaches for the remote and switches the tv on. Perhaps the distraction will quiet his mind enough to let him sleep.
It only makes it worse though. The shows are just awful in a bad, boring way without Nick there to make stupid comments and turn them awful in a funny way. Nick’s absence and weird behaviour is emphasised by it. Harry lasts an hour before he decides enough is enough.
He’s tried not to do it, to make a connection between Nick’s behaviour and him admitting to liking guys. It’s in the back of his mind, though. There’s a tiny, terrible, hopeful part of him that thinks maybe it’s because Nick’s seeing him different all of a sudden, seeing him as attainable, as an option. It has to be, Harry thinks, because the only other explanation is that it’s made Nick uncomfortable. Harry just can’t consider that as a possibility, that his confession could change Nick’s opinion of him in any way, especially not for the worse. Harry knows Nick, he knows he’s not like that. The possibility of the former rather than the latter explanation for Nick’s behaviour makes Harry feel warm, makes his heart beat a little faster. Before he really knows what he’s doing, he’s switched the TV off and he’s up off the couch. It’s a quarter to two in the morning and Harry is sneaking into Nick’s bedroom.
It’s dark in there and Harry can hear Nick’s steady breathing. He crawls into Nick’s bed and squirms under the sheets, huddling close to Nick’s back. Nick stirs.
“Mmm,” Nick sort of mumbles. Harry huffs out a breath on Nick’s shoulder and feels positively sick about what he’s making himself do. “Haz?” Nick’s voice is rough and sleep thick.
“Yeah,” Harry bites his lip and places a hesitant hand on Nick’s side. “Are you sleeping?” Harry asks dumbly.
“I am,” Nick says and pats the hand Harry has on his side a little clumsily. “Y’alright?”
“Yeah, I just,” Harry sighs. He squirms closer and presses his nose against Nick’s back. Nick grunts in protest. Harry steels himself and his voice comes out barely a whisper when he says, “it’s you.”
“What was that?” Nick mumbles and breathes in heavily. He’s still half asleep and Harry feels so stupid.
“It’s you, that,” Harry coughs, clearing his throat. A little louder, he continues, “that I er, that I like.”
Nick doesn’t say anything for a few long moments, doesn’t move either. Harry’s considering taking his hand off Nick when he finally feels him stir. He rolls over onto his back, jostling Harry so he ends up with his mouth pressed to Nick’s shoulder.
“Can you say something please?” Harry mumbles.
“What would you like me to say?” Nick asks. His voice is suddenly so clear and awake, probably more serious than Harry’s ever heard it before.
“Dunno.” Harry closes his eyes. “Just make me feel less stupid, I guess.”
“You don’t like me, Harry,” Nick says.
“I do, though, like,” Harry sighs. “A lot.” Nick laughs at him and Harry wants to hit him.
“Are you insane?” Nick asks and reaches over to brush Harry’s hair out of his face. The touch almost makes Harry shiver, he’s so on edge.
“Think I might be,” Harry says and leans his head into Nick’s hand. Nick huffs out a laugh and tugs Harry’s hair for that. Harry swallows and continues, “I know you don’t, you’re not into me, like that. And it’s ok, you know, I’m not like, asking. For anything. I just thought you should know.”
“God, you’re a twat,” Nick says. He rolls onto his side to face Harry. Harry stares at the area just to the left of Nick’s ear until Nick takes his chin in hand and forces him to look at him in the eye. “Who the fuck wouldn’t be into you?” Nick says and Harry gasps.
There’s a moment where they just look at each other, all the pieces falling into place. Harry’s heart is beating so hard and Nick’s hand on his face feels so hot, as if it might burn him. “Can I kiss you?” Harry asks, breathless.
Nick just chokes out a laugh and instead of answering, he presses his mouth to Harry’s.
The shock of it is too much for Harry for a few long seconds, he doesn’t even move, doesn’t kiss back. But then it hits him, Nick’s lips, warm and dry and tasting of toothpaste from when he’d brushed his teeth just an hour earlier. Harry makes a sound, a rough inhale of breath, and kisses back, finally. Harry feels wobbly, like he hasn’t kissed anyone in years, even though he’d kissed Rita only earlier that evening. Nick hums, slides his hand around and spreads it on Harry’s back to pull him closer. His fingertips are like little electric shocks against Harry’s bare skin.
Nick kisses like he’s not in any rush, or maybe it’s the lingering sleep. In any case, Harry likes it. It’s nothing like the first two they’d shared. They’re sober for starters and, most importantly, Nick’s not pushing Harry away, he’s not laughing at him. This time Nick is pulling him closer.
It’s a lot to process and Harry feels overwhelmed but really turned on. Every horrible, dirty thing he’s guiltily imagined involving Nick and his smirking mouth and his long, thin fingers all come rushing back to him at once. Now that he’s allowed to think those things, to maybe even do those things, he doesn’t know where to start. Mostly he wants to show Nick how much he likes him, prove to Nick he’s not making a bad decision in letting this happen.
Harry pulls away from Nick’s mouth but doesn’t go far, brushes his mouth over Nick’s jaw to press kisses down his throat, scrape his teeth over where Nick’s pulse is strongest. Harry can feel it, Nick’s heartbeat, against his lips and the hand he has pressed to Nick’s chest. It’s coming hard and fast, not unlike Harry’s. He’s pleased, relieved that maybe this isn’t all him, maybe Nick finds kissing him just as compelling as he finds kissing Nick.
Harry presses closer still and tucks his thigh between Nick’s, shoving his hands up under Nick’s baggy sleep t shirt to stroke his side, his stomach, graze his fingers over the waistband of Nick’s underwear. He’s making it really obvious what he wants, especially with the press of his thigh against Nick’s dick, but he doesn’t care if he seems slutty or eager, because he is. He’d take anything Nick offered.
“Harry, wait,” Nick says, his voice jarring. Harry’s suddenly aware of all the places he’s touching Nick and how that compares with the lone hand Nick has on his back. Harry gets scared; maybe he’s wrong, maybe this is just Nick trying to be nice, trying not to hurt him, to let him down easy. It seems like something Nick would do, rejecting someone with kisses.
“You don’t want to?” Harry asks in a rush of breath, his eyes wide.
“I do, I really do,” Nick says, smile soft and fond. He presses a kiss to the corner of Harry’s mouth. “There’s no rush, yeah?”
“But I want you,” Harry says and Nick groans, presses his face into Harry’s neck and laughs low.
“Shouldn’t say that,” Nick mumbles with his lips pressed against Harry’s neck. Harry shivers and tangles his hand into Nick’s hair. “Will you still want me in the morning?”
“I’ve wanted you for months, I don’t think it’s going to change overnight,” Harry says and Nick bites down on his shoulder. Harry moans.
“I don’t want to fuck up,” Nick says. Harry understands, then. They should wait, at least until the morning, when they’re not all caught up in the moment, so they can think. The thought that Nick feels like this is important enough to want to be so careful with him is almost more thrilling than the thought of finally getting his hands on Nick’s dick. Harry’s hard but he can wait if Nick thinks that’s what they should do. He doesn’t want to fuck up either.
“Ok,” Harry breathes. “Ok, yeah. But you need to stop doing that,” Harry says and tips his head away from Nick’s, trying to crane his neck away from where Nick’s sucking little kisses.
“Sorry,” Nick says and presses one last kiss to Harry’s throat. Harry reaches for the hand Nick has on his back and rolls over under his arm. He pulls Nick closer by his hand and wiggles back against Nick’s body until Nick gives in and curls around him, spooning him properly. Nick tucks his arm warm and snug around Harry’s waist and chuckles into Harry’s hair. “I can’t believe you want to have sex with me over Rita Ora,” Nick says and Harry groans.
Harry’s surprised by how calm he feels. He’s patient, he can wait. When he falls asleep, it’s the best and easiest he’s had in weeks.
Morning comes, and when Harry wakes up, he’s alone in Nick’s bed. He stretches out and breathes deep, his nose in Nick’s pillow. Everything smells like Nick, even he probably smells like Nick and that’s enough to get his sleepy mind lazily drifting to a sexy place. He rubs his belly, low, near his waistband and breathes in Nick and thinks about kissing him again. When Nick gets back from whatever is so important he had to leave Harry in bed without waking him, Harry thinks he might like to suck him off.
He hears a noise and realises it’s Nick’s shower turning off. He’d been so wrapped up in waking up and sexy thoughts that the noise of it running hadn’t even registered. Harry’s pleased, it means Nick didn’t go far, and he’s naked which is convenient for what Harry has planned.
Nick comes into the room in his robe, his hair wet and flopping on his forehead.
“You’re awake,” Nick smiles and Harry smiles too. Harry feels giddy from the anticipation. He holds out his arms to Nick, makes grabby hands at him, but Nick just scrunches up his face at him and looks away. Harry watches him walk to his wardrobe.
“Are you-,” Harry starts and stops because Nick’s started saying something at the same time. It’s awkward so Harry laughs nervously. “You go,” he says.
“Sam and Lou want to meet for breakfast, I said you’d come with, do you mind?”
“Oh. No. Yeah, that sounds nice?” Harry frowns.
“We’ve got to leave in ten so you better hop up, sleepyhead,” Nick says and starts to shuffle through his clothes.
“Should’ve woken me,” Harry says. No sex then? he thinks, disappointed. He’s confused, too. Nick’s just acting like, well, nothing’s changed. It’s as if last night didn’t happen, or maybe Harry just got the wrong idea about what it all meant, what Nick was saying. There’s an edge to Nick too, the way he’s moving, and an uneasy sharpness to his voice. Harry wonders if he’s ruined things. His head is spinning from how fast he’s gone from elated to uncertain, and he almost has it in him to hate Nick a little bit for making him feel this way.
Nick turns to Harry, his clothes in his hands. “Gonna jump in the shower?” Nick asks and Harry’s face goes hot as he realises that Nick doesn’t want to get dressed in front of him. Nick must be uncomfortable with Harry seeing him undressed now he knows how Harry feels about him, and Harry feels sick.
“Yeah, sorry,” Harry says, his voice small. He slides out of Nick’s bed and slinks out of the room, pulls the door shut behind him so Nick can have the privacyhe’s never demanded before.
It’s not any less awkward once they’re dressed or in the car, even though Harry can tell Nick’s trying to act as normal as possible. His jokes fall flat and when someone cuts him off he swears at them loud enough to make Harry startle. Harry is miserable so he just stays silent in the passenger seat and refuses to play along with Nick’s game of make believe everything’s the same.
At the cafe, Sam and Lou have sat out in the back garden area to minimise how much they’ll get photographed. Harry’s pleased to see they’ve got Lux with them and picks her up, cuddling her tight as she babbles happily and sticks her fingers up his nose.
Nick sits next to Sam and that’s fine, Harry thinks, as sits next to Lou with Lux settled on his lap. He spends the time feeding Lux fruits and bits of egg and sausage off his plate as Sam, Lou and Nick catch up on gossip and talk about things Harry can’t find it in him to care about like a new antique place Sam’s discovered just out of London. They make plans to go and Lou spends a lot of time frowning at Harry, then at Nick, and then making eyebrows at Sam.
Lux spots some birds in one of the trees and squirms until Harry will let her down to go look at them. He stands to go after her, happy for an excuse to escape Nick across the table from him and the way he’s finding it so easy to laugh and chat. He stands under the tree with his hand in Lux’s, brooding while she makes chirpy noises and points at the birds.
“What’s going on then?” Sam says from behind him and slides a hand over his shoulder.
Harry’s sick of it, and he doesn’t need to hide shit from Sam, so he just says, “I told Grimmy I fancied him and then we kissed and now he’s being weird.”
She lets out a surprised laugh and her hand curls around Harry’s shoulder and squeezes. “Aw, Hazza,” she says.
“Yup, so I’ve fu-,” he pauses, remembering Lux. “I’ve messed everything up,” he says.
“Tell me what happened properly, then.”
“Well, basically, last night, we got home from the radio. And I’d uh, told him that I liked guys? And he got a bit funny so I thought, I thought maybe I had a chance,” he laughs. Sam squeezes his shoulder again, encouraging him to go on. “So I told him, like, that I liked him. And he said, sort of like, who wouldn’t like me back? And then he kissed me so I thought. I thought he liked me back, but I guess he doesn’t,” Harry says bitterly and looks at Sam. She looks equally concerned and amused.
“Grimmy’s a bastard,” she says. “He’s a real idiot when it comes to this stuff.”
“So am I, apparently,” Harry says and watches Lux hug the tree trunk like she wants to climb up to the birds.
“Nah, I think. Well. Remember that horrible thing you guys did on the radio?” She crosses her arms like she’s still grumpy about it.
“The call or delete thing?”
“Remember how easy I believed that he was in love with you?” She asks and Harry laughs bitterly. “No, Harry, he’s obsessed with you. When you’re not around, you’re all he talks about. It’s kind of a joke. With us. We call you his boyfriend,” She laughs. Harry’s face goes hot.
“Really?” Harry asks and then laughs as Lux screeches in frustration at not being able to scale the tree. The noise scares the birds off and Lux turns and runs over on her stubby fat legs to wraps her arms around Sam’s legs. Harry smiles and reaches out to stroke his fingers through her blond wispy hair, thinks he could never be properly miserable if he had a little kid around all the time.
“Yeah, and he gets really defensive about it, too, like he’s worried we might say it in front of you,” Sam says and bends to pick Lux up, rubbing her back as she sniffles a little over her lost chance at bird friendship.
“Well he wouldn’t want me getting any ideas,” Harry says gloomily.
Sam laughs. “No, you miserable twat. Like, Nick’s an idiot at this. He hasn’t been with anyone proper since Uni. I think you should talk to him. He’s probably freaking out. I mean, can you even imagine what it’s like for him? You’re so much younger, and the band’s so famous, right? He’s probably like, worried.”
“That’s stupid, though,” Harry frowns.
“You should talk to him.”
“I don’t wanna make things worse,” Harry says. He’s starting to perk up. He looks over his shoulder and sees Nick and Lou with their heads bent together, seemingly deep in some serious discussion. He wonders if they’re talking about him.
“What have you got to lose, Hazza?” Sam smiles fondly and bumps her hip into his.
They go back over to the table and Nick looks at Harry for longer than could really be considered casual. Harry smiles at him and Nick looks away but he’s smiling too. Oh ok, Harry thinks as hope bubbles back up in his chest.
The rest of the time spent at the cafe is a lot easier until Lux gets bored and stroppy. When even a rousing group rendition of her favourite One Direction song doesn’t cheer her, they decide to call it a day. Harry picks up the bill because he can and hugs Sam and Lou really tight as they stand next to their cars saying goodbye.
Buckled into the passenger seat of Nick’s car, but before he has a chance to start the engine, Harry goes for it. “Sam said I should talk to you.”
Nick grimaces. “Can we just not, do you think?”
“She might be mad if I don’t,” Harry says.
“Wouldn’t want that,” Nick says sardonically and sighs.
“No. So,” Harry chews on his lip, gathering the words together. “I thought, like last night, I thought it meant that you liked me back.” Nick groans and covers his face. “We weren’t drunk, so. I know it’s stupid to think you’d want me back, but. I did. And now I’m just scared because I don’t want things to change and I don’t want to have to stop being your friend.”
“I feel so ridiculous,” Nick says.
“I shouldn’t have told you, I know. I’m sorry,”
“Don’t be fucking sorry, Harry. Jesus,” Nick says sharply, looking at him.
“I can see it’s made you uncomfortable, though,” Harry has to look away, at his hands. This is all so miserable and awkward and he hates having to make Nick say the words, to reject him properly. He’d like to go on pretending, just take what he can get from Nick here and there to make it bearable, but his life is strange enough without adding that layer of messed-upness to it.
“Yeah, because I don’t want to ruin things for you,” Nick says.
“What do you mean, ruin things?” Harry asks, looking back up at him.
“It’s not exactly ideal for you career for you to be seeing some past it, haggard, old idiot like me,” Nick says.
“You are a twat,” Harry scoffs, and he can’t help but smile. His body wants to wiggle about happily in his seat, he wants to be really obnoxious and shout you like me you like me in Nick’s face. He doesn’t do any of that, though, he wouldn’t want Nick to change his mind when it only seems to be half made up.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with my career,” Harry says and leans across the centre console to curl his hand in the hair at the nape of Nick’s neck. When Nick looks at him he looks really tired and kind of scared. It’s a strange look on Nick, Harry’s not used to it and he doesn’t like it at all.
“Your fans, Haz,” Nick says and closes his eyes, leans his head back into Harry’s touch. “When you were with Caroline, they were so awful.”
“You’re worried about them being awful to you?” Harry asks, surprised.
“Not me, I don’t give a shit. Just, the band, and you, and your album’s coming out soon. It’d be bad. No one wants to see Harry Styles off of One Direction with someone like me.”
“I don’t care about that shit,” Harry says. “Seriously, and it’s not like I’m going to put an ad in the Daily Mail or something, it’s not anyone’s business. People can think what they want. They already literally think I’m in a secret relationship with anyone I look twice at.”
“Secret relationships don’t work Harry,” Nick says.
“It won’t be a secret. It’ll be whatever you want.”
“You’re making this really hard,” Nick says.
“Give in,” Harry says and grins. “Would it help my case if we kissed a bit?”
“Don’t you dare,” Nick looks at him and there’s heat in it. Harry licks his lips, maybe leans in a bit. He can’t help himself, as far as Harry’s concerned if they both want to kiss each other they should be kissing right now, they should be kissing all the time. Nick looks away before Harry can make his move. “I need to think,” Nick says and starts the engine.
Harry slumps back in the passenger seat. “Ok.”
“I’ve got to go to into work for a bit. What do you want to do?”
“I think I should buy some furniture,” Harry says.
“Without me? You know I love buying furniture,” Nick says, horrified.
“I know, that’s how I ended up with that awful couch. How am I going to find anything to match it?”
“Oh look at you, fancy interior designer man.”
“Shut up,” Harry says but smiles, things are beginning to feel kind of ok again, kind of like before. “Drop me off somewhere furniture-y, I don’t know any good shops.”
Nick takes Harry to somewhere really high end, where there’s a saleperson to follow him around and get him a cup of tea while he browses, the kind of place Nick would shop if he had the money Harry does.
“Don’t you need security or something?” Nick asks as he pulls up. He’s looking about warily as if there’s a mob hiding around the corner.
“Are you worried about me?” Harry smiles cheekily.
“Those thirteen year old girls are terrifying, I’m not joking. It’s like zombie apocalypse or something.”
“I can call for someone if I need, it’s ok.” Harry says and Nick seems satisfied at that. Nick pats Harry’s arm a little awkwardly as a goodbye and Harry gets out of the car.
Harry finds it hard to pick stuff out for his own place, he’s really indecisive and he doesn’t much care to be honest. He’s really rich, he could hire someone to do this for him, but he needs something to keep him busy so he doesn’t go insane thinking about Nick all day. Secretly, he tries to pick out the things Nick would like, what would look good in his flat. Then he gets caught up in imagining the kind of furniture they’d have if they lived together.
He could buy Nick a proper house, a big one with loads of bathrooms and guest rooms and a big kitchen Nick would never use. Harry has the money and he could fit it out properly too, buy stuff from the expensive boutiques Nick drools over or let him pick things from the interior design magazines Nick keeps stashed around his flat like porn. He’d like to do that for Nick, buy him all the nice things he’d like.
By the time Nick texts him to tell him he’s done with his meetings, Harry’s managed to pick out a dining set, a coffee table and a couple armchairs. They’re nothing exciting, safe choices. Harry organises to have them delivered and then walks up the road to a little patisserie to buy a couple of take away pastries and coffees for him and Nick while he waits to be picked up. As far as he can tell, no one’s caught on to where he is yet. There’s no photographers and no mass of giggly teenagers, so he’s more than happy to oblige when the girl behind the counter in the patisserie smiles shyly and asks him to sign his receipt for her.
Harry slides into Nick’s car and brandishes the pastries like a peace offering. He’s already finished half his coffee and Nick’s has gone a bit cold but Nick still seems pleased. Pleased enough anyway to lean over and kiss Harry quickly on the mouth as Harry fastens his seatbelt. It takes Harry by surprise enough that he doesn’t kiss back, and it’s not that kind of kiss anyway.
“Weird,” Nick says with his nose crinkled as he pulls away. Harry blushes and sips from his coffee because he needs something to do. “They’re in a strop about your car, we have to go pick it up,” Nick says as he pulls away from the curb.
“I don’t have my keys,” Harry says and Nick fishes them out of his pocket and hands them over, eyes still on the road. “You think of everything,” Harry says fondly.
“Don’t be sappy,” Nick says, and it could be about the keys or it could be about the kissing and the pastries. “Gells texted me to come down the pub for a bit,” Nick says and Harry can’t quite tell if it’s an invitation or a brush off.
Nick pulls up at Radio 1 and as Harry’s getting out of the car, he says, “give us a lift to the pub?” And Harry can tell that’s as much an invitation as he’s going to get out of Nick.
“Yeah, of course,” Harry nods.
Harry pulls up outside Nick’s house and Nick gets into his car, Harry has to ask. “Why’d you kiss me before?” It’s not accusatory or anything, he’s just curious, he’s dying to know where Nick’s head’s at after his declaration about needing to think earlier.
“You bought me a cinnamon scroll, only fair,” Nick says, shrugging.
“You can’t, though,” Harry says. “If you’re just teasing me.”
“I’m not going to be able to do this if we have to stop and have a discussion every couple minutes, I’ll get grey hairs.”
“Ok fine. No more discussing. Just one thing, though,” Harry says and Nick waves his hand at him like go on. “Why do you keep setting me up?” Nick laughs.
“I really don’t know,” Nick says. He leans his elbow on car door, cups his chin in his hand and looks stubbornly out the window. “I suppose I just wanted to make sure you were having sex with someone since it couldn’t be me.”
“That’s a bit weird, Nick. Controlling.”
“I am pretty weird.”
“I like it,” Harry says. Nick looks at him and laughs.
“Think that makes you the weirdest little popstar in all of London.” It’s fond enough to make Harry want to drag Nick out of the car and back into his flat, show him how weird he can get. This is on Nick’s time, though, by his rules, so he starts the car instead.
They sit outside the pub with a bunch of Nick’s blonde girlfriends and Nick spends a lot of the time with his arm draped across the back of Harry’s chair and it feels like before, like at Reading, when Nick was showing him off to everyone. It’s different though, a little bit, because Nick occasionally lets his fingers slip up under the sleeve of Harry’s t shirt and strokes the skin there. It sends shivers down Harry’s spine and when Nick’s mid-conversation he slips his hand onto Nick’s thigh and squeezes to get him back. It only registers on Nick’s face with the tiniest twitch of the corner of his mouth.
Harry wonders if Nick’s friends can tell something’s different. He wonders if Nick wants them to be able to tell. Nobody says anything about them though, about how close they’re sitting, so Harry doesn’t think so. Unless they’re being discreet. He’d like that, if everyone could tell and just instinctively knew not to tease about it, like it’s a serious thing.
They stay at the pub the rest of the day, until it gets to be about nine and Nick has to leave to be on the radio by ten. They stop off and buy snacks for Nick to take in for Clair like he usually does, and the paparazzi who’d found them at the pub follow them there. Harry just tries to ignore them and decides he simply needs a banana. He’s out of cash and it’d be stupid to put a banana on his credit card, so he turns to Nick.
“Feels boyfriendy,” Nick mumbles as he hands Harry the change he needs to pay for the banana. Harry grins at him and he wants to kiss him really bad but there are fans and photographers outside, watching through the windows, and Harry’s briefly bitter about it. What could be so thrilling about him buying a banana, anyway? He feels guilty though when one of the fans is so polite in asking for a picture with him. Taking pictures isn’t exactly the hardest thing in the world, all he has to do is stand there and smile, and it’s the least he can do when there’s people paying hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of dollars to see his band perform.
Nick grumbles about them being late, impatient and uncomfortable at the attention, so Harry apologises so they can leave. He wishes he could make some stupid comment about his ball and chain of a demanding boyfriend to the fans but he knows he can’t and his smile for the last photo probably comes across a little forced.
“What about that, then?” Nick asks on the drive to the studio.
“The fans and the pap, what if we’d kissed then? It’d be a big scandal, they’d all be horrified.”
“You wanted to kiss me?” Harry smirks.
“Yeah, I wanted to kiss you.” Nick says and Harry can tell without looking away from the road that he rolls his eyes. “Urge has passed now though.”
“I just think, if people really like me, they’ll like you too. And if they don’t then I don’t fucking care what they think, do I?”
“I would hate to be working publicity for you Mr Popstar,” Nick says.
“Yeah, it’d be unethical to want to fuck your client,” Harry grins and Nick laughs long and loud, like the tension’s draining out of him.
When they pull up in the Radio 1 carpark, Harry undoes his seatbelt and leans over the centre console. He tugs on the sleeve of Nick’s t shirt for his attention and when Nick turns to him their faces are very close. “Thanks for the banana,” Harry mumbles and he doesn’t mean to, but he’s staring at Nick’s mouth.
Nick laughs and curls a hand around the back of Harry’s neck to keep him close as they kiss properly, finally. Harry’s not fucking around this time, he’s greedy and he’s going to take what he can while it’s there. He slides his tongue past Nick’s lips and the taste of him makes Harry groan. He just wants more and he wants it now, but Nick’s got to go on the radio for two hours and he’s waited so long. He’s so close to climbing over the centre console and getting himself in Nick’s lap and making a real nuisance of himself when Nick pulls away.
“I have to go to work,” Nick says. He sounds a little breathless to Harry as he slumps back in his seat.
“You do,” Harry agrees.
“Pick me up after,” Nick says with his hand on the door handle. It sounds to Harry like a promise.
“We’ll see,” Harry grins and Nick rolls his eyes. It looks to Harry as if it takes Nick a lot of strength to force himself to actually get out of the car, and this time when Harry watches Nick walk away, Nick turns back to wave at him.
He’s buzzing on the drive back to Nick’s flat. He wonders if they’ll tell people, if he should tell the boys. What would he tell, is there even anything to tell? Are they in a relationship now? Harry’s not sure and he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
He’s not too worried about it, he finally feels like they’re on the same page, and that they’re going to work it out together. He trusts Nick. Whatever happens, he knows Nick just wants the best for him, and Harry’s totally prepared to convince Nick that he’s what’s best for him.