Nick’s in the kitchen rinsing out the mugs and dishes from breakfast when the intercom for his flat buzzes loudly down the hall. He’s not expecting anyone to come around, and he takes a minute to shut the water and dry his hands off on his jeans before strolling over and pressing the button.
“Nick, mate, it’s Niall Horan,” comes the bright voice over the speaker, laced with static. “Y’all right?”
“Yeah, m’all right, Niall,” Nick answers. It only takes a second for Nick to wonder what Niall is doing at his flat at half ten on a Tuesday, and as soon as he does a small lick of fear instinctively curls through his belly. “Is everything okay with Harry?”
“Everything’s fine as far as I know,” Niall says.
Nick breathes out, relieved. “Okay,” he says. He waits for Niall to say something more, but he doesn’t so Nick adds, “Because he’s not here, if that’s who you’re looking for. Harry, that is.”
“No, no, we know that.” Niall laughs, quick and sharp, and Nick pauses a second, because we? “But can we come up for a mo? Nothing bad,” he reassures. “Just…wanted to say hello and all.”
Nick releases the button and rubs a hand over his mouth. He’s not entirely sure what’s going on; why Niall and whoever else makes up the we is here when Harry’s not, and he’s still not convinced that something’s not wrong (though Niall had said everything was fine and Nick knows Niall; he likes him and he’s fairly certain Niall wouldn’t lie about something important) but there’s one thing he knows for sure and that’s that he really can’t leave them all standing in his lobby for the rest of the morning. Nick’s not the most well-known person in the world but people do know him and it’s just a matter of time before someone comes along and snaps a picture of Niall and his mates and posts it to The Sun with some horrible caption: Is Nick Grimshaw the newest member of One Direction?? or something equally terrible.
“Nick?” Niall says again, and Nick shakes his head and says, “Sure, sorry, come on up, cheers,” and presses the button to let them in.
By the time the lift reaches his floor Nick is standing half in, half out of his flat and he’s not surprised when the lift doors open and all of Harry’s band minus Harry step out: Niall and Liam in front with Louis and Zayn close behind.
“Morning, lads,” Nick says cheerfully. He holds the door open and they all file in like a parade of young, fit, well quiffed models. Or boy band members, he reminds himself and has to disguise his laugh behind a cough.
He closes the door and notes that Liam and Louis are already sitting rigid and proper on his couch, while Niall wanders into his kitchen and Zayn trails off into the TV room. He hears Zayn a moment later call out, “Sick telly you’ve got, mate. You have a place I can go out and have a fag?” Nick tells him to keep walking and he’ll eventually reach the balcony and a minute later he hears a distant, “Cheers,” and the slide of the glass door opening and closing.
Nick turns back to find Liam and Louis with their hands folded in their laps, staring at him awkwardly. “You lads fancy a cuppa?” he asks, because while he has no clue as to why they’re there Nick has his manners, at least. They shake their heads, though, and Liam murmurs a quiet, “No thank you,” just as Nick hears Niall banging around in his kitchen.
“Grimmy!” Niall shouts. “You got any biscuits or anything, mate? I’m starving.”
Louis rolls his eyes. “Bloody hell, Niall, I watched you eat an entire fry up an hour ago.”
“Right,” Niall calls back. “That was an hour ago, Lou, do you really think that I – oh, hey, Nick, can I have this pack of—“
“Sure, Niall, fine. Whatever you find is good, yeah?” Nick says.
“Cheers,” Niall says and wanders out of the kitchen with a full sleeve of chocolate biscuits. He sits on the arm of the couch next to the other two and Nick wonders again what’s actually happening, but whatever it is it’s apparently them against him so he sits on the loveseat across from the couch and tries really hard not to look as amused as he feels.
“So,” Nick says when it’s apparent the others are planning on staring at him instead of actually speaking. “What’s on everyone’s mind? Are you all here to wish me luck on my new show?” he quips. “Because you didn’t need to make a special trip; you could have just sent a fruit basket.”
Niall laughs so hard he’s doubled over and spilling biscuit crumbs all over Nick’s floor, but Louis looks slightly irritated and Liam flushes a deep red and mumbles, “Uhm, no, sorry, but, congratulations on the show.” He leans toward Louis’ ear and Nick can hear him hiss, “I told you we should have brought a fruit basket.”
And they’re amusing, really. Nick always likes spending time with Niall and Liam and Louis (and Zayn as well, though he seems to have sequestered himself from the proceedings for whatever reason) but he really is curious as to why they’re there and what they wanted to talk to him about. He’s ready to ask when Zayn shouts from the back porch, “Oi! Lads, I’m getting a call from—“
“Ignore it!” Louis shouts. “We already told you to—“
“Yeah, yeah,” Zayn calls back, sounding bored. “Keep your trousers on.”
Nick is swinging his head back and forth as the conversation volleys, and when they’re finished, Liam at least has the good grace to look a little sheepish. As if he knows they’re sat on his couch acting like mental patients, he acknowledges it, and is hopefully going to do something about it. Liam is the weakest link, Nick recognizes, and he narrows his eyes and zeros in on him.
“Liam,” Nick says slowly. “Is there a reason you lads are all here, on my couch, on this beautiful Tuesday morning?”
“Well, yes,” Liam stutters. “There is, in fact. Erm, because, you see, I was – well, actually, the lads and I were—“
“You and Harry are shagging, yeah?” Niall interrupts. Nick feels his eyes go wide as Liam chokes and Louis reaches over to hit Niall in the dick.
“Horrid,” Louis chastises. “You’re honestly the worst person ever at this.”
“Well it’s true!” Niall argues loudly. “And we said we we’re going to—hang on.” Niall stops talking and reaches in his pocket for his mobile, smirking when he glances at the screen and then shoving it back in his trousers.
“Was that--?” Liam asks.
Niall nods. “Yeah,” and Louis laughs a little.
“Most likely get you and I next,” Louis says, nudging Liam with an elbow, and really, Nick is coming to the end of his patience.
“All right,” Nick says, because this has all been well and good but honestly, are they really all there to ask him if he’s shagging Harry? “Enough of this, did you lot need to speak to me about something, or—“
“Ha!” Louis interrupts, waving his phone around in the air like a trophy. “He got me next!”
“That’s crap,” Liam says and frowns at the silent phone in his hand. “Why would he ring me last? I know when things are going on! I’m a person to be asked questions!”
And oh my god, are they all actually insane? Because Nick has some truly crazy friends but this might be the most bizarre conversation he’s ever been a part of. Then Liam’s mobile buzzes and he cries, “Yes! Finally!” and Nick effectively loses his mind.
“What is wrong with you all?” he says, staring from Liam to Louis to Niall and then back again. “What are you all bloody doing here? And why are you asking me ridiculous questions about Harry? And why are none of you answering your calls?”
“Because we need to talk to you, Nick,” Liam says.
“About Harry,” Louis adds.
“And he can’t know because, well.” Niall chews on another biscuit. “Well, because he’d be right pissed if he found out we were all here to defend his honor, am I right?”
“You’re doing what?” Nick asks. He can’t believe how confused he is right now. “How are you defending his honor? Why are you defending his honor?”
“We’re not defending his honor,” Louis says. “That was a stupid thing to say.” Niall smirks a little and eats another biscuit and Liam looks more and more like he wants to pass out or die. Nick knows how he feels. He’s borderline between those two emotions himself by now. “But we do want to find out your, er, intentions, I guess you would say.”
“With Harry,” Liam adds.
“And you,” Niall finishes with. “You know, like, together,” he tacks on, complete with hand gestures Nick would have been happy never seeing Niall Horan make.
The problem is (well, one of the problems, because today, Nick apparently has many) that when the three of them are talking they all almost talk at once, and then when they stop it’s silent and Nick is sitting there staring at their expectant little faces with no idea what to say. So he really shouldn’t be blamed when the only thing that comes to mind is, “Are you actually all here to make sure I still respect Harry in the morning?” He’s teasing but Niall claps delightedly and Louis nods and Liam looks so pleased that Nick’s eyes almost fall out of his head he’s so in shock.
“Yes!” Liam says happily. “That’s exactly it! We need you to respect him in the morning. So, now that we’ve got that out of the way—“
He’s saved from whatever else Liam was going to say by the buzzing of his mobile in his pocket. When he pulls it out he sees Harry’s face and number flash across the screen and answers as quickly as he can.
“Hi,” Harry says, and he sounds oddly confused.
“Hi, love,” Nick says. He can see the others fidgeting on the couch so he turns away from them a little for privacy. “You all right?”
“Yeah, m’all right. I just.” Harry huffs out a breath. “This is such a strange question, but do you have any idea where the rest of my band is? I thought they said we were meeting at the studio, but no one’s here and I’ve been ringing all of them and no one is answering.”
“They’re here,” Nick says, and he hears the three of them on the couch groan.
“Oh god,” Harry says. “Are they being complete twats? Why are they there?”
And oh, no. Nick is not having this conversation with Harry with an audience. “I’ll see you later, love,” Nick says breezily, and hangs up while Harry is still spluttering on the other end.
“You weren’t supposed to tell him we were here,” Louis complains. “We just—“
“We just love him,” Liam says, and Nick is amazed at how lovely Harry’s friends truly are. It’s a rare thing to have this many people care about you and he hopes Harry realizes how lucky he truly is. “Harry, that is. We want to make sure he’s happy and, I don’t know, taken care of, I guess.”
“I can understand that,” Nick says slowly. He looks at the three of them and makes sure to meet their eyes as best he can. “I can honestly say, since you came all this way to hear it, that I will do my best. I only want Harry to be happy as well.”
Everyone seems satisfied with that answer, and Nick breathes a sigh of relief when Louis stands up first and then Liam and Niall follow suit. Niall comes over and gives him a full-body hug and Nick flails a little because he’s not quite sure what to do with his hands or face, but then Louis comes in from one side and Liam from the other and the screen door bangs and he hears Zayn call out, “Oi! Are you doing a group hug without me?”
Liam chastises, “Well if you weren’t out on the veranda smoking the entire time,” and Louis shushes them as Zayn latches on and they all stand there in a weird little Grimmy Direction pile for another few moments.
“And then Louis - or, no, wait, I think it was Liam? I can’t even remember anymore – says, we need you to respect him in the morning and then they all stared at me like you were some blushing virgin before you met me and I went broke your hymen on our wedding night or something.” Nick is fixing sandwiches for lunch and recounting his tale from the morning for Harry who looks like he will only be happy once he’s dead.
“Oh my god,” Harry moans, and leans down on the kitchen table, his arms folded over his head and hiding his face. “This is so embarrassing,” he moans.
“Aww, it’s really not,” Nick says quietly. He pulls a chair up and sits next to Harry who promptly sits up and buries his face against Nick’s chest. “I think it’s sweet. They’re your boyfriends! They care about you.”
“They’re complete fucking twats,” Harry says.
“Well, yes, but they’re you’re twats!” Nick adds brightly. He pats Harry’s back and yanks his beanie off so his hair falls out, loose and messy. Nick combs through it with his fingers, trying to be careful of the knots and scratches his fingers against the back of Harry’s head and neck. “They’re worried, is all. I think it’s nice.” Harry mutters something unintelligible against his chest, and Nick tilts his head up and kisses Harry softly on the mouth.
“They don’t need to worry though, yeah? Because I’m not--” He trails off because he’s really not good at things like this; talking about feelings and declarations of anything. Harry’s friends were concerned enough to come and see him, though, and Nick takes that seriously no matter how mortified Harry was in the end.
Harry leans up and kisses Nick back, a little harder and just on the edge of dirty. “Aww, babe. Does that mean you do respect me in the morning?” he asks, but his voice is teasing and his eyes are crinkled at the corners in a smile.
“Some mornings,” Nick says. He lifts his shoulder in a lazy shrug. “Not the morning after you did that thing with your tongue that night and—“
“Oi!” Harry says and laughs. “Should I not do it again then?”
“Oh, no, you most certainly should,” Nick says, and stands up, pulling Harry up after him. “Just think; your mates will be properly scandalized if you do.”
“All right, I’m done talking about the rest of the lads, yeah?” Harry says, and yanks his shirt over his head.
“Right. Good plan,” Nick says, and follows Harry down the hall.