Nick’s trying to do the Thirty Minute Meal where Jamie makes this seafood and veg bake, but the prawns actually look exactly like little aliens that would bore in through his nose and then control him inside of his brain like parasites, but evil parasites. Alien parasites. He doesn’t want to take them out of the bag.
“You saw what they looked like when Jamie made them,” Harry says, looking at Nick as Nick looks at the potentially threatening -- but also potentially, likely, dead -- lifeforms.
“Jamie’s so suave,” Nick says. “He just threw them right in. Touched them with his bare hands, he did. Do you think it’d be alright with only salmon?”
“They’re already in a bag,” Harry says. “You just have to dump them in; that’s not even really like touching them at all.”
“They’re still going to look like aliens once they’re cooked and it’s time to eat them, Harold. The legs and nasal probing whiskers aren’t just going to go away.”
It tastes fine with just the salmon. Jamie was right and the lemon does get all soft and jammy, which makes up for the random kicks of spice from where Nick didn’t chop the hot pepper finely enough.
“Did you miss my cooking while you were gone?” Nick asks, but what he means is, Are you going to miss it when you leave again? because Harry’s off to France tomorrow.
“This is the second meal you’ve ever cooked. For me and also in your entire life.”
“Hey now,” Nick says. “Third.”
“I made that omelette!” Harry says. “You don’t get credit for that.”
“Stern,” Nick says. “I like it. Imagine you’re the next Gordon Ramsay and I’m one of your kitchen wenches. We should do it in the kitchen. Using olive oil.”
“Using olive oil for what?”
“Lube!” Nick says. “God, we’re not going to drink it.”
“That’s not even that weird,” Harry complains.
“How weird do you want to be? We’re not doing anything using the prawns,” Nick says. “Here, I’ve got a white dish towel. Wrap that around your waist and pretend it’s an apron.”
He ends up pouring rather too much olive oil on Harry’s cock and says, “I’m sorry I burn the crepes,” while he sinks down slowly, riding Harry hard and ignoring the way he laughs when Nick says, “I just really think I could make it as your sous chef.”
“Harry hates this song,” Nick says while he’s having a drink with Henry on day two of Harry being gone and The Coolest starts playing. He gives the ceiling a long look.
“And you’re … offended on his behalf?” Henry asks.
“People are allowed to have emotions,” Nick says.
Aimee, Pixie and Alexa come over for X-Factor. They order curry and fried rice from the place that will deliver mango lassi in white styrofoam cups.
Harry texts while Nick’s stealing the last quarter piece of naan and Nick chews on the bread slowly while Harry’s message lights up the screen and then the phone turns itself back to black.
“What country is he in now?” Pixie asks, gently, which is how Nick knows it’s time to start drinking. If his friends aren’t taking the piss of out him, it must mean he actually looks too wretched for words.
“France,” Nick calls over his shoulder on his way to liberate the vodka from the freezer. He checks his phone, just quickly, before he starts passing the bottle around. It’s like every other time that Nick has gotten side swept by a pretty boy who wasn’t his except to borrow sometimes. His friends already know how this goes.
“How is it waking up in the morning?”
“I don’t live on a houseboat!” Nick says. “I can wake up with the alarm goes off just like anyone else.” He’s finally got the life he’s always wanted, where he is talking just shy of every single hour of the day. He doesn’t know why everyone seems so skeptical that he’ll actually be able to make it work. The club is packed and more than a little posh and Nick already knows like three-quarters of the people here. The world is his oyster and also his bitch.
“Aw, precious,” Aimee says.
“The problem with DJs,” Aimee’s new boyfriend says, “ is that they’re the kind of people who like being at parties without actually partying. Sober people hovering over a table in the corner of the room and occasionally flailing about.”
“We’re not usually sober, love,” Nick says. He’s going to have to talk to Aimee about this one.
Aimee’s hopefully-soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend starts to say something back, but his attention shifts away. There’s a physical presence to his distraction, and Nick turns around to see that Harry’s arrived, in his black henley, black jeans, copper chains.
“The problem with pop stars,” Nick says, “is that everyone wants a piece.”
The good thing about pop stars is everyone in the room is watching as Harry walks over, sidles up beside Nick and says, “There you are,” helping himself to the drink Nick’s got in his hand. If this were a party with Nick’s friends, no one would be too concerned with Harry, but this is more of an industry thing, full of the kind of people who give Nick attention because of Harry.
“Look, it’s my friend from The Wanted,” Nick says.
“What are we doing?” Harry asks.
“Was thinking about leaving,” says Nick.
“Cool,” Harry says, finishing the last of Nick’s drink. He passes back the empty glass and then turns back around, leaving as fast as he came.
“Didn’t mean immediately,” Nick says to Harry’s retreating back. But Harry’s been gone since last Tuesday and Nick’s already said hi to everyone he needed to, so really the only thing left on his to-do list for this evening is Harry.
They go back to Harry’s flat -- which might still be haunted, jury’s out on that. Harry’s bedroom is a well organized disaster of clothing piles, because he never has enough time to unpack before he has to leave again these days.
“How jetlagged are you right now?” Nick asks.
“Is today Sunday?”
“I think quite a bit jetlagged.”
“Come on then,” Nick says, crowding up behind Harry and walking him over one of the large piles of clothes on the way to the bed. “I’ll tire you out and then you’ll sleep no problem. You can be the Colonel and I’ll be Sergeant Pepper in the kitchen with a candlestick.”
“I think you’ve mixed your metaphors again,” Harry says. “Also -- what?”
“We should get some props,” Nick decides.
Harry leaves, comes back. Nick wins an Attitude award, which is both the first and most appropriate award that anyone could ever give him.
Harry’s bad with the dog, awkward like he never is around other people. Nick leaves Lex on the leash with Harry when he pops into the shop for diet Coke and apple juice and comes back to find Harry holding the leash tight with both hands, the length of nylon drawn taut.
“Give me that,” Nick says. “She’s not actively trying to run away.”
“I’m better with cats,” Harry says. “Once they gave us puppies during this interview, and mine spent the entire time trying to squirm away.”
“How could I forget,” Nick says. “Harry Styles, pussy whisperer.”
Harry doesn’t make even a cursory effort to hide that he’s sleeping around, except in that coy, pretending to be shocked but secretly delighted to be asked way that he has. Like, Oh, you mean every single person I meet wants to suck on this cock? This one that I’ve right here in my trousers?
Nick still takes home the guys he meets at events sometimes -- yes, they’re models, but Nick’s not going to start sleeping with ugly people just because people tease him about it -- and when he finds out that Harry’s slept with Pixie, he has one of the (but not the) most lackluster buddy shags of his life with Henry. They know each other too well; it’s terrible.
Once Nick feels like he’s suitably evened the score (as much as he ever can, anyway, being that he’s a radio DJ in his mid-to-late-ish twenties who needs to actively moisturize morning and night, and Harry’s that guy from that boyband) he’s kind of smugly, secretly pleased for Harry. He likes people who are good at what they do. He likes that Harry’s shameless.
God Is An Astronaut is playing at Heaven, and Harry hasn’t heard of them but that’s the kind of blatantly obvious irony that’s too delicious to ignore, so Nick drags him along. Sometimes Harry appreciates these things and sometimes Nick just had to enjoy them on his behalf.
“There wasn’t any signing,” Harry says after the show is done when they’re tumbling into the back of the car, and Nick has to put his fingers in Harry’s mouth to stop him from talking.
Harry narrows his eyes -- Nick’s fingers probably taste of spilt beer and sweat -- but he doesn’t bite. Harry’s got the car service tonight and once they’re far enough away from the flash of the cameras reflecting off the windows, he drapes his arm around Harry’s shoulder and whispers in his ear, “Pretend I’m paying you. Pretend you really have to work for it.”
Harry crawls down on the floor of the car. Nick is very, very quiet for the rest of the drive. He watches the back of the driver’s head and ignores the heat of Harry’s mouth. They get back to Nick’s flat and he wrestles his erection back into his trousers. Steps out of the car and says, “You’re going to have to try harder than that.”
He doesn’t know if Harry’s still playing along, but he works for it just the same.
Nick thinks of his weeks in events. He started the breakfast show and hosted the Teen Choice Awards and Nevermind the Buzzcocks and then filming for Sweat the Small Stuff and -- he always knows what day it is because he writes it on the top of his page of notes, but the days don’t mean anything. He works on the weekend and goes out on a Wednesday and meets up with Harry at three on a Monday afternoon because it’s the only time that they’re both free. They walk Lex and Harry goes in for milkshakes. Through the window of the shop, Nick can see the crowd of teenage girls forming around Harry, the easy stretch of his arms as he lets them wrap themselves around him one by one for pictures.
He’s finished half of his milkshake by the time he finally comes back outside, and the one he’s gotten for Nick is mostly melted milk.
“Sorry,” Harry says, but more like it’s a reflex than because he actually means it. Sorry, but also, What could I do? It’s, Sorry, but also, I love it.
They spend the entire day together. Animal Collective is playing at Roundhouse, and Nick watches Harry chase the thin plastic straw around his gin and tonic with his tongue while Avey sings, “This exploding young brain has gone and blown me out again and now I don’t feel the same.”
They walk back because Harry’s phone says it’s less than a mile back to Primrose Hill, except Harry’s phone doesn’t know how drunk they are and it takes the better part of an hour to make it to Harry’s new place, the two of them taking turns leaning on lamp posts while the other one complains about how long it’s taking to get back. Harry’s cheeks go pink from the cold even though he pops the black collar of his peacoat. Nick isn’t wearing gloves, and once they’re finally home, he slides his frozen hands under the hem of Harry’s jumper. The unthaw makes his fingers sharp and clumsy, like he doesn’t know how to touch Harry’s bare skin anymore, so he uses his mouth instead.
The world tour is eight months long.
“Pretend you’re a soldier going off to war,” Nick says. “I’m the boy from down the street that you’ve always had your eye on and this is our last chance.” He slides his hands over Harry’s shoulders, imagining a military uniform in the place of Harry’s soft t-shirt. “You’ve been wanting this, and now you’re finally making a move before they ship you off. Maybe your name is Frank --”
Harry says, “Stop, stop,” and takes his hands. “How about you be Nick Grimshaw and I’ll be Harry Styles.”
“What, you’ll just be the eighteen year old international pop star that I’ve been fucking for the last year?” Nick asks, and then he presses Harry down into the bed, holds onto the narrowest part of Harry’s waist.
He makes Harry come once in his mouth and then again with his hand while he feeds fingers into Harry’s ass -- one, two, three, and then he even gets the first tip of his pinky inside while Harry spreads his arms open on this bed, hands outstretched, on display for only Nick to see. Nick works him with both hands, takes him apart before he sends him away in the backseat of a black car, off to the airport, all fuck-flushed and sticky. Returns him to the world.