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i should ink my skin with your name

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heart skipped a beat
and when i caught it you were out of reach
but i'm sure i'm sure you've heard it before

the xx


“You’re going to get me sacked, Styles,” Nick says, pulling his microphone back. Or trying to. Harry keeps a pretty firm hold.

Harry giggles, because sometimes he amuses himself and, well, he has to find some way to amuse himself while Nick talks to the late-night masses on the radio.

Nick’s playing a song now – Ed Sheeran, because Harry put in a request – so he’s free to talk. “I can’t get you sacked, you’re nearly finished with this show anyway,” he says, grinning.

“You’re not allowed on breakfast,” Nick says, trying not to laugh, “I’ll ban you.”

Harry picks up one of the scrunched up bits of paper he’d tossed at Nick earlier and throws it at him again in protest. “Tosser. Ban me then, but you’ve still got to play our single on your first show.”

“Harry Styles, always stealing my fucking thunder,” Nick says, tossing the paper back at him.

Harry ducks, laughing. “It’s your own fault. I’m gonna start counting how many times you talk about me on the radio, you know.”

“Oh, shut up.” Nick frowns, trying to re-position his microphone. Harry doesn’t really know why, though, he’s just going to move it again when Nick’s back on air. “Anyway, you love it,” Nick says, smiling wickedly.

Harry bites his tongue and stops himself from saying something really, really stupid like: I love you. He could get away with it, he knows. Nick would probably laugh it off, but. But he’s not up for taking that risk. Instead he pulls out his phone and texts Louis: We’re banned from Radio 1 Breakfast. :( x

“We’re still having drinks after this, yeah?” Harry asks, pocketing his phone and angling his chair closer to Nick’s.

“Yeah, ‘course. Only if you behave for the last half hour though,” Nick replies, nudging Harry’s leg with his own.

Harry raises his eyebrows, moving his hair out of his face. “Aiming too high, there,” he says, reaching for the buttons or dials or whatever they’re called.

Nick catches his hand in mid-air, laughing. “No, no, I don’t fucking think so.”

Harry tries hard not to focus on the feel of Nick’s hand around his, he really, really does. But, honestly, he’s pretty far gone at this point, so he gives it up and accepts his fate. He really needs Louis to text him back right now.

Nick flashes him a curious look, his smile half puzzled and half something else that Harry’s not sure of. Then he drops Harry’s hand carefully and says, “Almost back on, popstar, vow of silence in 3, 2, 1,” and Harry pouts a bit. Nick just rolls his eyes at him and talks to the nation.

Louis does text back then, and Harry pulls his phone from his pocket and reads: What’ve you done now? You haven’t got caught doing something inappropriate with the future host now, have you?? ;) x

Harry tries not to let his reaction show in his face and shakes his head. Nick makes a face at him – Harry likes to think because he’s sad at the sudden loss of attention – and Harry pokes him hard in the side in return; Nick very nearly loses what he was saying, his voice jumping a bit. Harry giggles silently then texts Louis back: Wanker. No, think I’m too distracting. x

Louis’ reply comes almost immediately: Bet you are. :P x

Harry sighs, putting his phone away. He doesn’t even know why he tells Louis these things. Maybe he’ll start texting Liam instead; he’d probably be more useful. Less derisive.

He spends the rest of the show pulling at Nick’s hair and tickling him.


They have to sneak out after. Harry mostly has to sneak in and out every time he’s here. He likes the secrecy of it though; the studios have begun to feel like the only real place – aside from his and Louis’ flat – where he can actually relax and chill out and not have to worry about screaming girls and fucking paparazzi around every corner. They’re getting pretty good at it too, the sneaking out. Harry sort of feels like a spy. Except he’d be a terrible spy and he knows it.

Nick grabs his hand tightly, grinning and linking their fingers, and drags him out of the back door before herding him into the waiting car. Harry bursts into giggles when they’re in, because his life is actually ridiculous and now Nick’s life is ridiculous just by association. Nick just barks out a laugh, his hand on Harry’s back as he shouts out the name of the bar. Harry looks up and Nick’s eyes are on him; he averts his gaze quickly, staring out of the window and trying to fight down the urge to just lean over to Nick and kiss his smile. Just to see what happens.

Nick takes him to an obscure bar where the lights are dim and he’s less likely to be recognised; it’s small and no one there looks like they’d know anything about One Direction other than that they exist. Harry finds them a corner table while Nick’s at the bar and texts his mum, because he thinks he might be on the verge of doing something quite inadvisable tonight: Hey mum, you like Nick, yeah? xx

Nick comes back with two bottles of beer and two glasses of a peachy liquid that Harry doesn’t recognise, but he takes it anyway and thinks idly that he could really do with getting plastered tonight. He’s back off to the US in two days; for the VMAs, Christ. He jumps a moment later when his phone vibrates and pulls it out of his pocket, reading: Of course sweetie, is this ur cryptic way of telling me something? :) x

“Who you texting?” Nick asks, elongating the last word and setting down the drinks. Harry takes a second to admire the fact that he managed to carry them all over in one trip. Or maybe he’s just admiring Nick’s hands. He can’t even be sure anymore.

“Louis,” Harry lies, because he has no legitimate reason to be texting his mother at this time, really. “He’s watching One Tree Hill and emoting over Chad Michael Murray. He’ll probably go bother Liam in a bit.” It’s probably not that far from the truth if he’s honest.

Nick laughs loudly. “The glamorous lives of One Direction.”

Harry grins fondly and texts back his mum quickly: No. But maybe. x and gets a more or less immediate I love you honey xx in return. It doesn’t make him feel any better.

“Our lives are completely glamorous: we play award shows,” Harry points out, smirking.

Nick makes a face and presses himself into Harry’s side. “Much more glamorous than The Wanted’s, then.”

Harry chokes out a laugh and takes a few gulps of peach liquid. “Whoa, whoa, I don’t have a problem with those lads, that’s all them. I think the fact we’re more successful than them upsets them a bit,” he says with a shrug.

Nick breaks out into a high pitched, ridiculous laugh that Harry tells himself is annoying, but he’s grinning and resting his head on Nick’s shoulder so he thinks he’s probably lying to himself really. He pulls himself away briefly, texts Louis: I’m well and truly fucked. x and downs the rest of his drink.

“Am I really banned from the breakfast show, then?” Harry asks later, sometime after he’s lost count of how many glasses of bizarre peach liquid they’ve drunk, his face buried in Nick’s neck. He can feel Nick’s small laugh vibrate in his throat.

“You can maybe come on,” Nick says, pointing an accusatory finger, and Harry notices his words are a bit slurred, “if, and only if, you promise to fucking behave.”

“Don’t make promises I can’t keep,” Harry mumbles.

Harry feels Nick’s fingers in his hair when he says, “Oh piss off, ‘course you’re not banned. I’d miss you.”

Harry smiles triumphantly and tries to half hug him, but it turns out he’s already mostly hugging him anyway. Huh. “Aww,” he says happily. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Nick says, and then he’s pulling away and dragging them both up and Harry’s a bit sad because he was quite comfy. “Come on, love, it’s late and superstars need their beauty sleep. Or so I’ve heard.”

“Shut up.” Harry pinches his side and Nick rolls his eyes and grins, grabbing at his hands and pressing them to his sides. They stay that way for a moment until Harry sways forward and shrugs his arms out of Nick’s grasp, grabbing Nick’s arm instead and swerving through mildly intoxicated people towards the side exit.

When they’re in the safe confines of the car, Harry all but falls on Nick, wrapping his arms around him and leaning in too-close. Nick doesn’t shove him away though, just rests his hands on the small of Harry’s back.

“Maybe we should just make you a feature on the show. D'you think?” Nick says thoughtfully. “Since you never leave, should put you to good use.”

Harry frowns, not entirely sure how serious he’s supposed to be taking this.

“We could call it, like, the Harry Styles’ 1000 Favourite Songs But He’s Sort Of In A Boyband So This Feature Will Be Sporadic feature,” Nick says, like he might actually think he has genuinely come up with the greatest idea in the world.

Harry smiles a bit, looking up, and Nick’s face is suddenly really, really close. “You just like having weird, long names for your features,” Harry says, trying very, very hard to not stare at Nick’s lips. “I could stop bothering you so much. If you want. I know it’s, like, breakfast and more serious and stuff.”

Nick frowns at him. “I didn’t mean it like that, you idiot.”

“Oh. Okay,” Harry says; that’s good, he thinks, because he really doesn’t want to have to stop pestering Nick. Ever.

“I’ll need someone to wake me up in the morning anyway,” Nick says, staring at Harry with something like— well, actually Harry’s not even sure what that is, it might be hope or it might be alcohol. “Not used to this earlybird, sunrise kind of bollocks.”

Harry blinks. “You want me to wake you up in the morning?”

“Not with that one man band thing though, or there’d probably be shrieking or something. I'd scare the neighbours.”

“Nick,” Harry starts, but he doesn’t really know how to finish the sentence because Nick’s right there and he wants Harry to wake him up in the morning and pester him on the breakfast show, and—

Harry leans forward without really thinking about it; the angle is awkward and the clasp of the seatbelt he’s not wearing is digging into his side, but it’s okay because he half expects Nick to push him away anyway. Except, well, except when Harry slides their lips together Nick’s hands move to his hair and pull him closer, and he opens his mouth against Harry’s, fingers tightening, and then they’re kissing, Nick chasing Harry’s tongue and Harry’s hands fisted in Nick’s shirt (partly for leverage, but mostly because he just wants Nick as close as humanly possible).

Harry’s just starting to snake his hands beneath Nick’s shirt, nibbling at Nick’s bottom lip, when Nick pulls away abruptly and lets out a high pitched giggle, resting his forehead against Harry’s. Harry thinks nononono, because he was just getting somewhere, and leans back in, but Nick turns his head away and giggles again.

Harry frowns and catches his breath. “You, Harry Styles, are drunk,” Nick says, pulling back completely so there’s enough space between them to breathe. Harry doesn’t even want to breathe, he wants—

“I’m not that drunk,” he mumbles in protest, his fingers still clinging to the fabric of Nick’s shirt.

Nick laughs, but it sounds dry this time. “Drunk enough.”

Harry lets go then and huffs, because oh, okay, that’s all this is. “Stop laughing at me,” he says.

Nick must hear a little bit of hurt in Harry’s voice, because his expression softens and he rubs gently at Harry’s cheek with his thumb. “Not laughing at you, love. Trust me.”

Harry leans a little into Nick’s touch despite himself. “Not that drunk,” he says again.

Nick sighs, deep and pained, and leans back. “Let’s just go home, yeah?”

“Need to go back to mine,” Harry says quickly, because suddenly his skin is on fire and he feels like he’s going to throw up. He can’t even look at Nick. “Got an early wake-up call tomorrow. Drop you off at yours?”

Nick considers him carefully, frowning. “Harry—” he starts, but he seems to think better of it and says, “Yeah, yeah okay.”

Harry stares out of the window for the duration of the journey, trying carefully to steady out his breathing and possibly not have a mild panic-attack, because he’s pretty sure he just kissed his friend Nick Grimshaw and got knocked back.

When they arrive at Primrose Hill, Nick pulls Harry into a clumsy hug and presses his face into Harry’s neck. Harry shivers a little, and Nick pulls away too soon, pressing a kiss to his cheek and saying, “I’ll call you tomorrow,” before clambering out of the car.

Harry sees his driver give him an incredulous look through the mirror and just mumbles, “Shut up.”


“You’re never home anymore,” Louis says with a pout, standing midway between the kitchen and the living room, mug of Yorkshire Tea in hand, when Harry walks through the door.

Harry throws his keys down into the bowl with a clang. “Drinks with Grimmy,” he supplies, shrugging off his jacket.

“Ohhh,” Louis says, grinning wickedly, “bet the paps were on it like a car bonnet!”

Harry frowns, then rolls his eyes. “Well, we are Heat Magazine’s highly coveted Bromance of the Year,” he says, and wasn’t that fun? Or, at least, Nick found it absolutely hilarious, telling everyone they know, and even know by mild association, that “I’m in the big time now, bromance with a worldwide popstar, you people are so below me,” in that ridiculous voice he does that Harry tries to hate but mostly doesn’t. At all.

Louis pouts again. “Don’t bring that up. My feelings are still fragile. Whatever happened to Larry Stylinson? I think it’s dying out," he says, voice mocking. "Quick! Hug me and instagram it.”

Harry laughs. “Check your twitter mentions, it’s definitely not dying out.”

Louis scrunches up his face. "I'd rather not. And yeah, tell that to Liam and Zayn,” he says wistfully, following Harry into the living room and falling into the sofa. “You’ve forced me to descend upon their bromance.”

Harry sighs and toes his shoes off and then curls up snug next to Louis. “Bromances are stupid.”

“No,” Louis says, carding his hand through Harry’s curls, “your bromance with Nick is stupid because you have messy feelings.”

Harry supposes he can’t argue with that one. Not that he wants to. It’s not like Louis’ not blindingly aware of the mess Harry seems to have found himself in. In fact, Harry’s mostly just taken to texting Louis his piney, ridiculous woes – which he thinks probably makes him a thirteen year old girl – whenever he’s hanging out at the studio with Nick (which tends to be every free night he has when he’s at home – though he’s sure it started out less than that). He texts things like: Do you think there’s any subtext in the song he’s playing right now??? x, or even: If I get his name tattooed do you think he’ll catch on??? x. Honestly, Harry’s not sure how this became his life, and Louis’ responses are generally mocking and unhelpful, or complaining about being forced to listen to Nick’s show when he’s trying to watch something (mostly One Tree Hill).

Harry stares unfocused at the telly – he’s not that drunk, but he thinks he’s had enough that he’s tired and probably a bit mopey. One of the Die Hard films is playing quietly.

Louis shifts beside him. “Mate, I can hear you pining. Do I, like, need to get out a couple of beers so we can have a good manly chat about your feelings?”

“No?” Harry offers questioningly. He really means yes, but Louis knows him well enough to figure that out.

“Okay,” Louis says, standing up and disappearing into the kitchen, leaving Harry’s side a bit too cold.

He returns not a moment later, two bottles in hand and a confused look on his face. “Hang on, why aren’t you crashing at his place? It’s a studio night.”

Harry shrugs, going for nonchalant. “Told him we have an early wake up call.”

“We don’t, that’s not until—oh,” Louis says, breaking off with a sympathetic grin and settling back down next to Harry, handing him a beer. “Oh. Harold, Harold, Harold, you silly lad. Did you finally locate your balls and plant one on him, or some such thing that you should have done possibly months ago?”

“Fuck off,” Harry shoots back, but there’s no bite to it. He takes a swig of the beer and laughs, a little bitterly, because: “No. Well, yeah?” He leaves off the part where Nick had mostly just laughed and told him that he’d maybe had a little bit too much to drink (which he absolutely hadn’t, thank you) and Harry making the fatal split-second decision to let him believe that. Because Harry, apparently, is a coward.

“Oh my god,” Louis says, amusement shining in his stupid eyes. “Wait— wait, I need to text Zayn.”

Twat,” Harry says, sulking and punching Louis lightly in the arm while he taps into his phone. “You are the worst best friend in the world, Tommo.”

Louis looks up and his expression softens. “You okay?”

“No,” Harry says dramatically, covering his face with a cushion. “He let me kiss him then laughed at me.” He feels Louis’ hand wrap around his arm and pull him closer, and he goes easily, letting go of the cushion and falling into Louis’ arms.

He half expects Louis to say something about how he’s possibly going to kill Nick in lots of interesting and imaginative ways. He doesn’t, though, but Harry can hear him thinking it.

“It’s okay, ‘m fine,” he says eventually into Louis’ shoulder, and he’s absolutely not going to cry, because he’s eighteen years old, not a pre-teen girl.

Louis pulls away, smiling sympathetically, and says, “Liam and Zayn are coming down. Probably Niall too.”

Harry frowns and thinks that he possibly needs to just go to bed and forget any of this ever, ever happened. Because he’s still not sure how his night went from throwing balled up bits of paper at Nick in the studio, to sitting in his car after a few drinks and kissing him.

“Great. Thanks, Lou, let’s just invite the entire band to laugh at my fucking misery. You should give Josh a bell too,” Harry says and thinks briefly: I need new band mates.

Louis just ruffles his hair and laughs softly.


Niall says, “Mate, you are so fucked,” and then offers Harry some popcorn chicken, which is as great a show of sympathy as anything, Harry thinks.

Zayn giggles into Louis’ side for a while until Liam frowns his very disapproving frown at the both of them; he peels himself off Louis after that and pulls Harry into a hug. “This is getting tragic, mate,” he says into Harry’s neck. Harry sighs, because he knows that.

Liam offers him a smile and asks if he wants a game of Fifa.

Liam is probably Harry’s favourite, honestly.

A game of Fifa turns into a tournament and Louis and Harry being completely cleaned out of beer. Liam gets more than a little tipsy – still something he’s not used to – and giggles into Louis’ neck for the most part of the night. The other part he spends telling Harry to follow his dreams and Harry decides that Liam isn’t just his favourite, he’s also his favourite drunk. Niall and Zayn take the tag-team approach, taking it in turns to try and offer him advice, which isn’t so much advice as it is a drunken repetition of “Just go for it, mate.” Even Eleanor calls at some point and tells Harry, on loud-speaker, to man up. It’s all so ridiculous that it takes all of Harry’s willpower to not laugh hysterically, because at what point did the rest of the world figure out that he’s a little bit in love with Nick fucking Grimshaw?

(Harry wins the Fifa tournament, but he suspects only because Louis let him.)

Later, when he and Louis are curled up in his bed – Liam, Zayn and Niall having squashed into Louis’ bed complaining loudly about it instead of just going home – Louis threads his fingers softly through Harry’s hair and says, “You should really tell him.”

“Maybe,” he mumbles, but he thinks he might be lying.


The thing is, well, the thing is Harry had kind of wanted to kiss Nick for a while. It’s not that Harry didn’t have the balls (thank you very much, Louis), it’s just. It’s just somehow – at some vague point that Harry’s not even sure he knows when it was – feelings got involved.

He’s at least 70% sure that Nick doesn’t have those feelings – because let’s face it, Harry’s eighteen and in a global-phenomenon-boyband and probably nothing Nick wants from life – but there’s that 30% that’s always nagging at him a little bit. He reckons that last night, in his alcohol induced haze, the 30% had probably won out.

Nick texts him mid-afternoon when Harry’s still curled up in bed and feeling mildly sorry for himself, Louis-less because he’s gone on one of his weird date-things with Eleanor and Liam and Danielle. He squints tiredly at his phone: If you’re not too busy superstar, wanna come round for (late)lunch?? Xx

Harry sighs and types out: Yeah mate, be about an hour? xx because let no one ever say that he’s not a masochist.

Harry shows up at Nick’s more or less an hour later after a rather extensive covert mission to get him there unseen. The last thing he wants is hoards of paparazzi descending on Nick’s doorstep. Nick buzzes him in and answers the door in an apron. With flowers on it.

Harry huffs out a laugh. “Great, what’re we having?”

“Uh, scrambled egg?” Nick offers, letting Harry through.

Harry kicks off his shoes and goes through to find the sofa, half lying down because his head is still kind of thudding a bit (get new band mates, he reminds himself). “Wow, you should consider doing Celebrity Masterchef sometime.”

Nick frowns and waves a fork at him that Harry hadn’t even noticed he was holding. “I’m not a fucking celebrity,” he says, “well mostly. Not your level of crazy celebrity anyway. When do you leave for the VMA thingys?”

“Tomorrow,” Harry tells him, and he tries not to focus on the way he’s sure Nick’s face falls just a little bit.

“Nervous?” Nick says eventually, abandoning the eggs to perch on the arm of the sofa next to Harry.

Harry shrugs, leaning into him automatically. “Fucking bricking it.”

Nick rolls his eyes and grabs Harry’s hand, squeezing once briefly. “You’ll be brilliant, superstar.”

Harry doesn’t say anything for a minute or two, just rests his head against Nick’s side and flicks the telly on. Until: “Think the eggs are burning, mate,” he says, wrinkling his nose.

Nick leaps up comically, exclaiming an “Oh, shitting bollocks!” and Harry laughs.

They eat mostly edible eggs (Nick scraped most of the burnt bits off) and toast at the table in Nick’s kitchen in comfortable silence, one which Harry is sure would be awkward if they were different people. Harry doesn’t particularly want to bring up the night before, not when Nick seems entirely happy leaving it be; Harry’s entirely happy leaving it be too if that’s their unspoken chosen method for not letting it affect (or ruin) their friendship, because Harry honestly can’t see a way to not have Nick in his life and be okay.

When they’re done with the eggs, Nick makes another two mugs of tea, Harry leaning up against the counter next to him. He briefly – very briefly – lets himself entertain the idea of this being a regular, daily thing, of living here in Nick’s flat, with Nick. It strikes him for a moment that essentially, he does. Even Louis’ pointed out how little time he spends at the flat when they’re back home. He frowns at that for a moment, wondering if Nick thinks anything of the amount of time Harry’s here, or at the studio.

Nick hands him his mug – he even has a mug, the blue chipped one with an elephant on, that Nick always gives him – and then starts to stack up the dishes.

Harry shakes his head. “Fuck the dishes,” he says, tugging on Nick’s jumper sleeve and allowing him to pick up his tea before dragging him to the sofa.

“You’re only saying that because you’re fucking leaving soon and you won’t have to help later,” Nick points out, but lets Harry sit him down and then curl up next to him anyway.

Harry grins, then sighs into his mug a little bit, because he really doesn’t want to have to think about his impending flight to the States. Or where it’s taking him and why and for how long. His face must be a little telling, because Nick pulls him closer and threads his fingers through Harry’s hair. Harry sighs into it and turns his attention to the telly.

“What we watching?”

“There’s a Cupcake Wars marathon on,” Nick says, turning it up a bit, and then lets out a little high-pitched laugh at himself that Harry can feel vibrate through his body. “This is horrible,” Nick says after a moment. “We’re like a bloody old married couple.”

Harry hums. “I like it,” he mumbles and lets his eyes fall shut.

Harry’s pretty sure he must have fallen asleep at some point, because when he opens his eyes there’s an entirely different episode of Cupcake Wars on and he has some vague high number of text messages asking where he is. He replies to Louis’ quickly (At Nick’s, don’t worry will be home in time for LAAAA. x) and shifts his weight a little.

Nick’s asleep next to him, one arm slung over Harry’s waist and his face pressed into Harry’s back, hair tickling at his neck. Harry nudges him gently.

“I should go,” he says.

Nick stirs quietly. “Who won Cupcake Wars?”

Harry laughs brightly. “No idea,” he says, pushing himself up. Nick’s hand keeps a gentle hold on his waist and it takes just about all of Harry’s willpower to pull away from it. “I should go home and probably pack.”

“Oh, right. Jetting off to more superstardom,” Nick says, sitting up too.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it, I’m a popstar,” Harry says, rolling his eyes. He tries to keep his face from conveying just how much he really, really doesn’t want to leave, and pulls himself up, Nick’s hand falling away.

“Hey, that’s my line,” Nick says belatedly and Harry just smiles. “You better text me when you’re gone. Try to remember your poor Z-List celeb friends back home.” Nick pulls him back down after a beat. “Or, you could pack tomorrow and come karaoke-ing tonight?”

Harry raises his eyebrows. “As long as you pretend to be terrible at singing for everyone else’s sake and self-esteem,” Nick adds.

“Fine,” Harry says, falling back against him, because Nick’s just going to push until he says yes; he was always going to say yes anyway.

(Mostly he was just waiting for Nick to ask).


Nick sings Crazy In Love on karaoke and Harry tries not to read too much into it. He drunk texts Louis at some point: Hes singing crazyy in love by beyonc WHAT DOES THT MEAN??? x and forgets to check for a reply for the rest of the night.


Harry wakes up in the morning semi-clothed and on Nick’s floor – there's a dull thud running through his head and the afternoon sun is filtering through the curtains and stinging at the corners of his eyes – to three texts from Louis, the first: It means you should go for it!! x, and the other two asking if he did and if he’s alive; a text from Liam: hope ur ok mate see you tonight xx; and too many twitter notifications, one of which informs him that at some point, Nick instagramed a photo of their matching trainers. With a sad face. (Harry has some sort of vague recollection of it being pointed out, and somebody possibly telling them how ridiculously married they are, but he can’t be sure. The rest of the night, including how he ended up on the floor, is a haze.)

“My head is fucking banging,” comes Nick’s voice from some vague upward direction. Harry sits up too fast and has to take a breath before casting his gaze to the sofa where Nick’s buried underneath a blanket. “Why am I on the sofa? I have a bed.”

“At least it’s not the floor,” Harry mumbles, pressing a hand to his head.

“You know, ‘m sure you were up here with me at some point,” Nick says, letting out a croaky laugh. “Think you fell on your arse and just kind of stayed there.”

Harry cracks his back. “Bad life choice. Fuck, what’s the time?” He blearily reaches for his phone again, glancing at the screen. It reads 14:46 and he lets out a sigh and says, “Gotta leave in an hour-ish.”

Nick looks down at him sympathetically, the corners of his mouth turning up into a small smile. “Have fun on that flight.”

Harry groans. A hungover flight to L.A. is absolutely the last thing he wants. What he wants is to crawl into Nick’s bed and never, ever leave. He shakes his hair out of his face and then stumbles through to the kitchen and gulps down two large glasses of water before bringing one through to Nick, who takes it, eyes half closed, with a thankful wave of his hand.

Harry makes them breakfast (or brunch, but he vehemently hates that word), eggs again because apparently Nick still hasn’t bought any food of proper substance, which is a shame, because Harry could really, really go for a fry up right now. He takes a shower after that, fully intending to be speedy because he has a plane to L.A. to catch because his band is performing at the VMAs oh god, but instead he ends up standing under the steaming hot spray for the better part of twenty minutes, only stumbling out when Nick pops his head in and says something about time.

When Harry returns to the living room – feeling clean but still mostly like the living dead – Nick’s sitting with the blanket wrapped around him, sipping tea and watching the Food Network. Harry leans over the back of the sofa, resting his head on Nick’s shoulder and says, “Gotta go.”

Nick smiles, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. He pulls something small out of his pocket and turns around, pressing it into Harry’s hand. Harry feels cold metal and looks down to find a key sitting in his palm.

“Um,” he starts.

Nick shrugs, like he hasn’t just given Harry a key to his flat. “You’re here a lot.”

Harry wraps his hand around the key. “Thanks.”

“I’ll probably be in bed when you get back from the US, seeing as your flights seem to be at the most ungodly of hours. So just let yourself in, yeah?”

Harry doesn’t think, just sort of grabs the back of Nick’s neck and pulls him into a soft, brief kiss. When he pulls away, Nick hums and says, “Knock ‘em dead, popstar.”


Harry gets a twitter notification an hour later. His stomach jumps as his eyes fall over it. It’s Nick: an instagramed picture of him holding a tub of Haagen-Dazs captioned with Send help. He lets out a little hysterical laugh and his heart kind of clenches a little bit. He gets a text not a moment later: Ice-cream is not a good substitute for you. :( Xx and then his heart clenches a lot.

He spends the flight to L.A. in a daze, and Liam casts him concerned little glances every now and then while Niall, Zayn and Louis play Monopoly and very nearly kill each other – Harry's mostly blocking out the screams.

Liam pulls him aside half-way through the flight and says, “Be careful,” and Harry’s not sure what he means.

“What?” he asks, frowning.

Liam smiles comfortingly. “Just, um, don’t get your heart broken, yeah?”

“I’m not. I won’t,” Harry tells him. “He doesn’t even—we’re just friends.”

“Okay.” Liam nods, but he looks sceptical. He pulls Harry into a hug, and Harry sinks into it for a moment, releasing the pressure onto Liam, because he thinks, really, that they are just friends, and asides from an (okay, admittedly drunken) kiss, Nick hasn’t particularly shown any signs of wanting anything more.

He texts Nick as soon as they land: Made it safe and sound, hope you’re not watching Cupcake Wars without me. :P xx, and Louis nudges him in the side, grinning, and says, “Your phonebill’s going to be brilliant this month, mate.”

“Piss off,” Harry shoots back, but he’s smiling.


Harry loves L.A., he really does. But right now he feels a bit like a clusterfuck of nerves and jetlag and something else he’s quite sure is related to the metal key that opens the door to Nick’s flat that’s hanging out with the rest of his keys.

He’s been texting Nick on and off since he’s been here; he texts inane little things, anecdotes about the people he’s met, or sometimes just odd, random photos of things he sees or the morning sky. Nick sometimes replies with his own photos, the most recent being a photo of the Radio 1 studio captioned with: It’s oddly quiet without your irritating face here. Xx

Harry tries to sleep some before the awards, but his body feels buzzed and his timezones are all over the fucking place and the key is weighing heavy on his mind. He misses Nick’s flat a little, and even the dark, suffocating Radio 1 studio. Mostly though, he thinks it’s all just a front for missing Nick. He tosses and turns for a while until Zayn mumbles almost incoherently from the next bed, “I can hear you moving,” so he huffs and resigns himself to no sleep and pulls out his phone. He scrolls through twitter for a while, and maybe saves the photo of Nick with the Haagen-Dazs, then tweets: So, I can’t sleep at all… Too much in the head. and maybe a small part of him hopes Nick will see it.


Later, Harry calls Nick from backstage before they’re about to go on.

“You’re calling me from backstage of the VMAs?” Nick asks, a little bit fond and a little bit confused. “Shouldn’t you be doing vocal warm-ups or something? All of that la la la la la la laaaa.”

Harry laughs and feels his heart slow a little bit. “If I do anymore, I’ll fucking over-warm-up and lose my voice in front of millions.”

“Oh, best talk to me instead then. Did you see Rihanna? Fucking magical.”

Harry frowns, his heart leaping again. “You’re watching it?”

“Yeah,” Nick says, in a sort of tone that implies why wouldn’t I be?. Harry beams a bit, and he can see Louis rolling his eyes. “Well, sort of, anyway, it’s dead boring isn’t it? Hurry up and get on stage.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Harry says.

“Congrats on the awards, superstar,” Nick says after a moment.

Harry smiles, pulling on his sleeves. Louis nudges him in the side and he nods. “Thanks, Z-Lister. Gotta go. On now.”

“On a scale of one to that night we drank all of the tequila the world had to offer, how much do you want to throw up right now?”

“Tequila,” Harry says, then: “I’ll text you later.”

“Go smash it,” Nick says, and Harry hangs up.


They’ve won three fucking VMAs and smashed the stage and Harry’s more than slightly drunk. His arm is leveraged on the bar, his head on Louis’ shoulder, and he’s absentmindedly tapping the key against his bottle, listening to the clinkclinkclink.

“What’s the key for?” Louis asks, sliding down into one of the bar stools and guiding Harry into another.

“Nick’s flat,” Harry says, shrugging; he runs his thumb over the groove in the cold metal before pocketing it.

Louis stares with glassy eyes, frowning a little. “He gave you a spare key?”

“Yeah.” Harry nods, downing some of his (Louis’?) beer. “I guess. Makes sense.”

“Harry—” Louis starts.

“Well, like, it’s easier,” Harry says quickly, because he really doesn’t like the look in Louis’ eyes. The look that makes him reconsider all of the reasons Nick might have given him a key to his flat. “Means I don’t have to wake him up in the middle of the night, you know?”

Louis barks out a laugh and slurs, “Are you hearing yourself, mate?”

Harry frowns, fingers finding the key again in his pocket.

“He gave you a key,” Louis says, like it’s a revelation. Harry thinks he means it to be.

“Yeah,” he says dumbly. “For convenience.”

Louis rolls his eyes so hard that Harry’s sure he sees them disappear into the back of his head, and he lets out a bubble of laughter. “You’re an idiot, Styles,” Louis says, patting him sympathetically on the back.

Harry shakes his head. “No. No, Lou, it’s not even—“

“He gave you a key,” Louis cuts in, and Harry’s relatively sure he’s already said that. Twice. “He gave you a key to his home. His home, which you are always at by the way. A key. Harry, fucking hell, that’s, like, a big deal.”

“I don’t—” Harry starts, trying not to entertain the notion, but. “You think so?”

“Haz,” Louis says seriously, resting his hand on Harry’s shoulder and looking at him with a sense of what might be importance. “You two’ve been dating for months, like, just without the sex bit.”

“That’s not even—” Harry protests, but Louis cuts in again.

“You two’re also apparently the only ones who haven’t figured that out yet,” he says. “You’re slow as shit sometimes, young Harold.”

“I think I need to throw up,” Harry mumbles.

Louis pulls him hard into a hug and says, “Nah, you just need another beer.”

Harry nods and lets everything wash over him. He pulls out his phone while Louis’ getting more beer and types into twitter: The difference between doing something and not doing something is doing something. because he can be a fucking profound drunk when he wants to be (Niall told him that once, he’s sure), and he resolves that, starting tomorrow – or maybe just sometime vaguely soon – he’s going to do something.

Two, or possibly three (he lost track of time somewhere around the vodka shots) hours later, Harry’s leaning into Zayn – well, really, they’re leaning into each other, because neither of them particularly have the ability to stay vertical right now – as they take the elevator to their suite. Louis and Liam are off somewhere with Eleanor and Danielle, probably, and he’s pretty sure the last place he saw Niall was hanging off Katy Perry.

Harry slides in the keycard and he and Zayn stumble rather gracelessly through the door and fall with a thump onto the closest bed. Harry pulls his clothes off best he can, and he thinks it takes a lot longer than necessary and, God, he really just wants to get into bed. Zayn makes no attempt to move or shed any clothing, so Harry shuffles in next to him and lies against his shoulder, thumbing through his phone.

He ignores the influx of congratulatory texts and notifications and finds a message from Nick in the chaos of it all: Told you you’d fucking smash it. Now come home soon, yeah? The studio misses you. Xx. Harry grins and sends back: Smashed it, your words are magic!! Miss you too. xx, and sets his phone on the bedside table, because he thinks in about five seconds he might just pass out. (He does.)


Harry’s idea of doing something is doing nothing. For now, anyway. But it’s all leading up to the doing something, so he thinks that’s possibly okay – or at least it’s okay until for now turns into for always and before he knows it he’s one of those celebrities who becomes a recluse and only surfaces in the papers again because he was wearing pyjamas and odd socks to pop down to the local newsagents.

He and Nick continue to exchange texts (Nick sends him a hilarious Cupcake Wars running commentary for the duration of Harry’s post-VMA hangover, and Harry’s chest aches a little bit because he misses Nick and his sofa) and Nick’s general nonchalant way of acting like this is all very normal and friendshippy is starting to drive him up the wall.

Nick asks him again (and again) when he’s coming home – Harry wonders whether home means England-home or Nick’s-flat-home but honestly tries not to dwell on it for more than an hour at a time – and Harry sends him the same text twice: Soon, promise. Still got busy popstar things to do! :( xx even though it’s a lie and he really has absolutely nothing to do. Louis and Eleanor have gone on holiday, Liam and Danielle, too (maybe they all went together, Harry’s not really sure, but it wouldn’t surprise him); Niall and Zayn have already gone back home, Zayn because he’s done something to his ankle he swears is horrifically painful, and Niall because, well, there’s probably a reason but Harry can’t remember it – the point is, though, Harry’s alone in L.A. and he’s mostly just stalling the inevitable. But he needs to get his fucking head together somehow before he goes back to Nick, and he thinks that’s possibly much easier to do when he’s in a whole different country.

Which is why, when Savannah Phillips calls him and asks if he wants to go shopping, Harry doesn’t really think before saying yes. Maybe he needs an outsider’s opinion, and Savannah seemed mostly nice at the VMAs, from what Harry can remember anyway – he was hammered, though. God knows what he told her.

Savannah, it turns out, is quite lovely, and she listens politely when Harry spills his woes – about someone, because he’s not entirely stupid and taken in by her loveliness – and he buys her lunch for her troubles.

Tell them. You’re going to have to go home sometime, hon,” she says to him gently, over paninis. And Harry thinks that’s probably the best impartial opinion he’s ever going to get on the matter.

Later, when he’s back in his hotel room, sipping on terrible American tea, Harry’s phone buzzes with a text from Nick: Is there a popstar club where you all get to lunch together or something? Xx

Harry grins and sends back: Jealous? xx

Definitely. Xx he gets back, and he feels wholly triumphant. His phone buzzes again a moment later with: Pretty please tell me you’ll be back in time for my last radio show!! In fact you better be fucking back in time. Gonna get some hip-hop karaoke going! Xx

Wouldn’t miss it for the world! xx Harry texts back, and then pockets his phone and squeezes his eyes shut because he is so, so fucking ridiculous. He fishes the key out of his pocket and then his phone again, because fuck this, he absolutely needs to call Liam. Liam’s sensible and logical. Mostly.

“Harry!” Liam answers after seven rings. “I’m at Disneyworld.”

“Do you think me and Nick are dating?” Harry rushes out in almost one breath.

Liam’s silent for a moment, and Harry can vaguely hear screams in the background. “Um,” he says eventually. "Are you not?"

"No," Harry says, frowning. "I told you that."

"Dani, just give me a minute, babe," Harry hears Liam distantly say, then: "I thought you just, like, didn't want to talk about it yet or something, mate."

If Harry had a blender, he thinks he might just put his head in it right now. "Well, we're not."

"Okay," Liam says carefully. "So this is why you're ringing me, to tell me you're not dating Grimmy?"

"No, just. I think I want to?" Harry says, which is a slight bend on the truth, because he knows he fucking wants to. Full on holding hands, signing cards with both their names, waking up next to him and having lazy morning sex wants to. "Sorry, I'm keeping you from rollarcoasers and funnel cakes, aren't I?"

"It's fine, we're just queuing for the Everest one."

"He gave me a key. Nick did," Harry says quickly. "To his flat. And Louis was like, oh, you've been basically dating for fucking months, just without the sex and um, like. Have we?"

"For about nine months, probably, yeah," Liam says levelly.

Harry takes a gulp of his shitty American tea and promptly spits it back out into his cup. “Ugh, fuck," he splutters, and then says desperately, "did he give me a key because we've been unknowingly dating for nine fucking months?"

Liam huffs out a laugh. "Yeah, mate, I think so."

"Right. Shit. I'm going to go call him," Harry says. He pours his tea down the sink in favor of grabbing a beer from the mini-bar. "Um, thanks, say hi to Dani for me, love you both."

"You're welcome, mate. Good luck!" Liam says, then hangs up.

Harry doesn't call him. Or, at least, not straightaway. He downs a bottle of beer, or maybe two, procrastinates on twitter for a while – because the internet is a fucking enabler – and he even watches a re-run of Criminal Minds and counts how many times they say unsub (it's a lot) as a distraction from his crazy brain. By the time he summons up some sort of courage, it's three pm and he realises he can't call Nick, because he's on the fucking air.

So Harry maybe listens.



After the show, he texts Nick: You talked about me again. xx

It's a compulsion, I'm seeking help...are you stalking my radio show, Harry Styles?? Xx Nick sends back after a minute, and Harry can almost hear the smugness in it.

Maybe... your voice is nice. I miss it. xx Harry sends, and then: Can I call you? xx

Do you need even need to ask?? Xx he gets back. So he takes a deep breath and hits dial.

“You gave me a key,” Harry says when Nick finally picks up.

“Shouldn’t you be carrying out popstar duties for the greater good, not listening to Z-listers who do radio?” Nick says evenly.

Harry shakes his head against the phone. “You gave me a key. You gave me a key and I’m a fucking idiot.”

There's a brief pause, and Harry hears Nick take a breath before he says, “Oh my god. Harry, you— are we having this conversation now? When you’re like, five and a half thousand miles away.”

“Yes," Harry says, more like a question than an answer. He doesn't know. He really wishes he could see Nick's face right now. And maybe kiss it. "No. I mean, we can?”

“On a scale of one to that time we drunkenly decided we were going to start a clothing line, how serious are you right now?” Nick asks.

"Clothing line. Also, I'm still deadly, deadly serious about that."

Nick laughs and then says, "Harry," all strangled and exasperated, and Harry's heart possibly skips a beat.

He sighs after a moment. “Okay, not now. That's fine.”

“Can’t believe it’s taken you this bloody long,” Nick mutters eventually, a fondness in his voice that sets Harry’s mind at ease a little.

“Shut up,” he mumbles, kicking his feet at his half-packed bag, and then: “I miss you.”

Nick’s silent for a moment. “Miss you too, love,” he says. “I’m going to make fucking horrible, horrible fun of you when you get back, you know.”

Harry laughs and then balances the phone between his chin and shoulder, sitting down on his bed and opening up his laptop. “You can," he says, "but I might kiss you first.”

Harry can hear the smile in Nick’s voice when he says, “I’m okay with that.”

“Maybe you could not, like, laugh at me this time?” Harry says, typing flights into google and hitting enter. Technically, he has people to do this for him – not that he ever asked for them – but he really, really just wants a flight home booked right the fuck now.

“Hilarious," Nick shoots back. "Okay fine, we can make fun of each other.”

“It’s a date,” Harry says, grinning against the phone and typing in his details.

“So the lunch thing with that Savannah girl, that wasn’t a date or anything, then?” Nick asks, but there’s a level of teasing to his tone.

Harry pointlessly rolls his eyes. “I spent two hours talking about you.”

"Come home?" Nick asks quietly after a beat, and he sounds like he's almost trying for casual but it doesn't exactly come out that way.

"Just booked the earliest flight," Harry tells him and if his voice shook a bit it's completely because he's tired. "Get in early-ish tomorrow morning."

He closes his eyes then and really, really wishes he couldn't hear Nick's relieved, happy sigh on the other end of the line, because that's just entirely fucking not fair.

"Bring me back some Lucky Charms," Nick says, "they cost the fucking Earth here."

Harry laughs. “Okay. I have to go. Need to finish packing and apparently find a supermarket.”

“See you when you get home," Nick says softly, and Harry tries not to get stuck on the way he says home.

“I’ll use my key.”


It's mid-morning when Harry's flight lands and he slept for at least 80% of it so he hopes he can mostly stave off the jetlag for a while. He lets himself into Nick's flat with the key and feels sort of buzzed, smiling as the key turns and the door opens and fuck, he's missed this flat. He's missed the sofa and the fucking Food Network and Nick.

He kicks off his shoes and slips into the bedroom; the light's streaming through the thin curtains and Nick's sprawled across the bed in a t-shirt and boxers, hair sticking up all over the place and the blanket half covering him and half on the floor. Harry shuffles across the room, shedding his clothes as he goes before crawling across the bed and lying across Nick's back, pressing a kiss to his shoulder.

Nick makes a sort of half-awake sound, turning over until his head is pressed against Harry's chest. "Ugh is that my super famous, popstar boyfriend?" he mumbles eventually, voice sleep-riddled.

Harry tries not to react too much to the word boyfriend and laughs. "You better bloody hope so, or there's a creepy as fuck burgalar on your bed right now."

"I was gonna to get up earlier," Nick mumbles against Harry's chest. "Set my alarm and fucking everything, but I think I ignored it."

Harry laughs. "Might wanna learn not to do that, you've gotta start getting up proper early soon," he says, shuffling down a bit so he can see Nick's face – his half-lidded eyes and soft smile.

"Mmmm, got you to get me up, haven't I?" Nick says, almost like it's a challenge.

"Yeah, you do," Harry murmurs, before closing the gap and pressing their lips together.

Nick's hands find their way into his hair, tugging gently, and then he's pulling him closer and sliding his tongue into Harry's mouth and kissing him so torturously slow that Harry actually quite wants to die. Except he's quite sure dying is counter-productive to his plans right now so instead he presses back matching him lick for lick and it's everything he remembers plus a lot more.

Nick groans and pulls away a little, shifting and hovering over Harry. "I fucking hate us for not doing this bloody months sooner," he says, his breath hot on Harry's lips. Harry makes a sort of vague noise of agreement – because obviously – before pulling Nick down and dragging their lips together again, because he just really, really needs to be kissing him right now. He needs to be doing fucking everything with him right now.

He kisses Nick hard and desperate, and Nick digs his fingers into Harry's shoulder hard enough that Harry's sure there'll be bruises tomorrow, but he really doesn't care, because Nick's got his thigh between his legs and is pushing up again and again and Harry can't help but arch into it, letting out a breathless, "Fuck," against Nick's lips.

Harry pulls desperately at Nick's t-shirt and says, "Off," because he's naked and Nick's still partially clothed and that's not fair on any level, Harry thinks. Nick laughs – Harry wonders whether he said that outloud – and then obliges, leaning back and pulling it off, shedding his boxers too. Harry mourns the few-seconds loss of contact, but then Nick's back on him and it's skin-on-skin everywhere and, "I missed you," he breathes, digging his nails into the small of Nick's back.

"Yeah, missed you too," Nick says, pressing down and sliding their cocks together. Harry gasps, rocking his hips up, and he can't catch his breath, like all of the air's been sucked right out of the room.

"Been fucking – god – fucking miserable to be honest," Nick breathes, one hand pressing into Harry's hip and the other snaking between them, fingers curling round to get a grasp on both of their cocks.

Harry half laughs and half moans, "Fuck, Nick," he manages, and then: "Really?"

Nick gasps out an almost "Yes," and leans down and catches Harry's lips in a desperate, searing kiss, hand speeding up steadily. Harry groans and covers Nick's hand with his own, adding extra pressure, and he feels so fucking close already. Nick breaks off the kiss, lips settling on Harry's neck and mumbling, "Fucking miserable," before biting and sucking on the skin from Harry's throat down to his collarbone.

"Fuck me," Harry says with a kind of dizzying breathlessness.

Nick lets out a soft moan and mumbles, "We can do that next," like a promise, and the thought brings Harry higher, so close, until he's mumbling words he doesn't even think are words and coming hard, spilling all over their hands.

"God, fuck, look at you," Nick breathes, and Harry makes sure to keep his eyes open to watch Nick's face when he follows a moment later, eyes half closed and Harry's name on his lips.

Nick sways forward, resting his forehead against Harry's, sticking to his damp hair, and Harry leans up to catch his mouth with his own, sliding their tongues together slow and lazy. When they pull apart, Nick rolls to the side, fingers still pressing gently into Harry's hip, and Harry shuffles a little, pressing his face into Nick's shoulder.

"What was it you said about fucking me?" he murmurs into his skin.

Nick laughs, breath still heavy. "That we can do that next. Haven't we got, what, months to catch up on?"

"Nine," Harry says, "according to Liam. Apparently we've been dating for nine months without our knowledge."

"That's a pretty impressive level of stupidity on our parts," Nick muses, fingers trailing back and forth on Harry's waist and elliciting tiny shivers. Harry nods, because it's entirely the stupidest thing he's ever, ever heard. Or done.

“You laughed at me,” he says eventually – because hey, they could have had this at least a week sooner if Nick hadn't have been ridiculous and moral, or whatever he thought he was doing – catching Nick's hand and holding onto it.

Nick groans and rolls his eyes. “Can we not just let that go?”

Harry shakes his head, grinning.

“You were drunk and kissing me and it was scary,” Nick supplies.

“It was scary,” Harry repeats, giggling. “Twenty-eight years old and scared of Harry Styles.”

“Yeah. Shut up,” Nick says, shoving him hard, but there’s a small smile on his lips. “I didn’t know if you were just doing it because you were drunk. And–”

“And?” Harry presses, flattening his hand against Nick’s chest.

“And I wanted you to want to kiss me sober too and I didn’t know if you would." Harry raises an eyebrow. "Sod off, okay, you're fucking Harry Styles, half the fucking population of the world wants you, and you were hammered and I thought maybe you'd mistaken me for someone better. So yeah, it was fucking scary, so I laughed at you. There. Happy? Tosser.”

Harry grins and then lets his expression soften. “Well, I’m sober now,” he says, pressing another slow kiss to Nick's mouth, "and you're an idiot."

"Well apparently we've been dating for nine months without even knowing it," Nick murmurs, sliding his fingers through Harry's hair, his eyes fluttering shut. "So that makes you an idiot, too, probably."

"Probably," Harry agrees. "But I'm sure we can find some way to make up for it for the rest of the day."

Nick hums an agreement then says, "Got work later, though, don't forget."

Harry smiles. "Good, I've missed throwing things at you."

"Me too," Nick says, and Harry kisses him again because he can.