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*

There’s nothing worse than having the ending of what was supposed to be a really good bit of gossip fall flat. It’s horrible. It’s a bad as someone interrupting a joke with the punch line, or telling you who the murderer is before you get to the end of a mystery novel.

It’s crap and it’s disappointing and it bothers Nick whenever it happens because he likes his stories and gossip to have the full effect that he intended them to have, and his endings to achieve the grand flourish that they all deserve. He wants the person listening to be awed and amazed and speechless from whatever sordid secrets he’s managed to obtain, and tonight is no different.

He and Harry are sat at the corner table in their favorite café, splitting a bottle of white and sharing two pasta dinners. Harry’s in the middle of telling Nick about some of the questions from the last interview he’d been to and Nick can’t even contain himself; he thinks if he keeps the story inside much longer if might physically burst out from his chest.

“So I was talking to Aimee earlier today,” Nick interrupts.

Harry stops with a forkful of penne halfway to his mouth. “Okay.”

Nick pauses. He’s a big fan of the dramatic pause. “And she was telling me about her date the other night.”

“Oh yeah,” Harry says, stuffing pasta in his mouth and somehow managing to grin charmingly around it. “How did that go?”

Nick leans back in his chair and claps his hands together in glee. “Well, since you asked, dear Harold, I’ll tell you. And before you get all weird on me I asked her already and Aimee said it was fine for me to share details.”

“Details, huh?” Harry says. He finishes chewing and takes a sip of his wine. Nick feels Harry stretch his legs out under the table and hook his foot under Nick’s ankle. He leans back in his seat and shakes his hair around grinning at Nick slowly and Nick wonders once again how the hell he was lucky enough to wind up with Harry. “All right,” Harry says slowly. “Tell me.”

Nick grins sharply and says, “So the two of them went out for drinks first to that new place Pix was going on about the other night, remember? The one that she says has the entire wall made out of some kind of exotic fishtank?” He waits for Harry to nod and continues.

“Anyway, Aimee said the two of them were having a great time for a while. The DJ was a bit crap to start but then she said he got better and the two of them were dancing and drinking and were getting along really well so she figured: what the hell and invited him back to hers.” Harry nods a little but Nick can tell he needs to hurry up; Harry’s eyes are getting that glazed over look which means he’s about to start tuning Nick out to think about hair conditioner or what color trousers to wear the next night.

“Anyway, they leave the club and go back to hers and blah blah things are happening and then he asks – are you ready?” Nick waits for Harry’s nod before finishing with: “He asks where she has that he can tie her up!”

Nick claps as delighted as he was the first time Aimee told him—because honestly, who does that on a first date? It only lasts a minute until he realizes that Harry’s not laughing along with him at all. He doesn’t look upset or cross, but he also doesn’t look surprised or amused or shocked or anything. He just keeps looking at Nick with a blank expression on his face, like he’s waiting for Nick to get to the next part of the story, and that’s—

“Wait, did she tell you about it already?” Nick asks, because that would explain Harry’s bizarre non-reaction.

Harry shakes his head and withdraws his foot from around Nick’s ankle. He sits back up in his seat and keeps looking at Nick, waiting. After a moment he says, “And? Did she like it?”

Nick finds himself completely flummoxed. “What,” he says, leaning forward and widening his eyes. “Of course she didn’t do it,” he gripes, because of course she didn’t. Nick gapes as Harry shrugs and looks down at his plate, tucking back into his dish of pasta as if what Nick said means nothing at all, as if the news that their mutual friend almost got tied up on a first date a few nights before was rather dull.

“Oh pardon me,” Nick says drily. “I’d forgotten who I was speaking to. Harry Styles: sex god. Do that sort of thing all the time, do you?”

Harry swallows a bite of pasta the wrong way, and there’s a strange pause as he chokes a little and then gulps down some water, but it’s still not— Harry still doesn’t seem all that surprised and it is grating on Nick’s nerves. “Nah,” Harry finally says. “I just— I don’t know. S’not so weird, really.”

Nick slumps back into his seat. He rubs a hand over his mouth and watches Harry eat and drink as calm as anything and just— he’s confused. He wasn’t expecting Harry to be horribly shocked or anything but some sort of reaction would have been nice.

Something in his expression must give him away because Harry finishes chewing and swallows and says, “Well, I mean, it’s strange that she just met the bloke and he asked her, I guess, because things like that are usually more with like, I don’t know.” He tips his face down but then looks up at Nick, all wide-eyed and pink-cheeked and he looks so unbelievably sweet that Nick almost forgets that he’s talking about kinky sex. Harry licks his lips and says, “Someone you’re more serious with, or someone you do those things with all the time.” He’s looking up at Nick as if waiting for agreement, but Nick is too annoyed about his story falling flat to give Harry the satisfaction.

Nick laughs then, shaking his head. “Right. I always wait until I’ve met the parents before I tie anyone up. It’s a sign of commitment, really.” It’s times like this when Nick feels the gap in their ages, because somehow Harry thinks that being handcuffed to the bed is romantic, and Nick knows better, has strapped a few boys to enough beds to know it’s not automatically a sign of great affection.

“That can’t be true,” Harry says with a frown. “My mum’s practically adopted you and you’ve never tied me up once,” he says, and Nick’s glad he’s put down his glass of wine because it’s a very nice bottle and he would have absolutely spit it everywhere if he’d been drinking. Instead he narrows his eyes, taking in the way Harry’s acting, all outwardly calm and collected, but Nick can see how he’s gone flushed and fidgety underneath. It’s clearly an act, one of those times when Harry fakes a blasé attitude, like yeah our album’s done quite well, because as much as Harry is trying to downplay it, tying people up isn’t something Nick does every day and it’s certainly not anything he’s done with Harry.

And then Harry is shrugging again like the whole thing is no big deal and Nick hates feeling like the joke’s on him, like he’s missing something really important, that last piece to the puzzle he didn’t even realize he was putting together. Nick doesn’t like feeling like he’s on the wrong foot in any situation, and especially not with Harry. He feels particularly bristly at the implication, however slight, that there’s something he’s not doing perfectly in bed.

“Well I will now, won’t I,” Nick says, trying for nonchalant. “Going to take you home right now and buckle you to that horrid, itchy armchair you love so much. Leave you for days, you kinky little shit.” He thinks he misses by at least a mile if the way Harry is bloody smirking at him is any indication. His eyes are sparkling and he’s grinning widely, the tops of his cheeks flushed a bright pink. Harry raises one shoulder in an I’m not saying anything gesture and quirks his eyebrow as he grabs the bill.

“Maybe later, I’ve got to go now,” Harry says. “Promised the lads I’d meet them at the studio to go over some things for the album.” He hands the bill and his card to the passing waiter then scribbles his signature on the receipt before shoving the card back in his pocket. “I’ll come by yours when I’m done, yeah?” Harry says, and leans over the table to kiss Nick goodbye.

Nick’s still bothered, but he kisses Harry automatically, planting his feet on the floor and sitting up a little straighter when Harry licks into his mouth and turns the kiss more serious than Nick was expecting. He’s breathing a little heavy when Harry pulls away, and Harry leans in close to bite at Nick’s ear and whispers, “I’d much rather be strapped to your bed, though. Think about it,” and he walks away like he’s just said maybe we’ll order in curry tonight; think about it, skinny hips swaying like the inappropriate little sex demon that he is.

Nick falls back into his seat and stares into space until the waiter comes back over and asks if he wants anything else.

“Wine,” Nick says. “Definitely more wine.”

“I’ll bring you a glass of the same?” the waiter asks, gesturing at the table.

Images pop unbidden into Nick’s mind of Harry with his hands tied together, or tied behind his back, or tied to Nick’s bed and he wonders how it is that he’s never thought of this before.

“No,” Nick says slowly because this— this is something he needs to mull over for a moment. This is something that definitely needs time to digest. “Mate, you better bring the bottle.”

*

Think about it, Harry had said. Well it’s two hours after Nick’s been home from the café and he can’t seem to do anything but think about it. Nick just can’t— he can’t figure out how he missed this. Because sure, he and Harry haven’t been together for the longest time, but they were mates for years before anything even happened between them and it’s just— it’s crazy. Nick would think that at least one time in all the times he and Harry had hung out and all the dates Nick listened to Harry talk about the day after Harry would have, who knows, mentioned something maybe? Given some kind of indication that this is something that he fancies?

Nick wonders if that’s it, also. Like, is it just tying up or is there more? Is it gags and chains and blindfolds? Is there hot oil involved or wax or chickens? He really doesn’t think there would be chickens – Harry doesn’t seem much like the type – but who knows, is the point. Up until tonight Nick didn’t think Harry was the type to get off on being tied up and look at where Nick is now. Sat on his couch, waiting for Harry to come over and explain to him what exactly he likes to do that he and Nick most definitely haven’t done. Like, at all.

Nick had actually thought he and Harry had amazing sex up until dinner tonight— bloody freaking fantastic sex, if he’s being honest. Maybe some of the best sex of his life, not that he’d ever tell Harry that— but this. If this is something Harry really likes and wants then maybe Harry’s not been thinking the sex has been very good at all, which would be crap because they’re not on the same page, but also crap because the worst kind of sex is with someone who thinks it’s great when it’s not. Nick doesn’t want to be that person.

Thank god Nick hears Harry’s key in the door before he can manage to drive himself any crazier. He stands up and meets Harry in the hall, sliding his arms around Harry’s waist and Harry says, “All right?” against Nick’s ear as he kisses his cheek and runs his hands up Nick’s back.

“Yeah,” Nick says. “How was the rest of your night?”

“Eh.” Harry shrugs and kisses Nick once more time before slipping away and off into the kitchen. Nick hears the kettle banging around in the sink and the water running and by the time he gets there Harry’s got two mugs out and is grabbing the tea boxes from the cabinet. “Nothing special; got a few more things hammered out for the album. What about you? Did you watch the Nigella you taped this morning yet or did you save it for me?”

Nick watches Harry, moving around as calm as anything in the kitchen and he feels like maybe he hallucinated the part of the night where Harry told him to think about tying him up because Harry’s just acting so— so normal. He thinks about what to say and how to bring it up, and he must stand there a beat too long because the next thing Nick knows Harry’s right there in his space, pressing a mug of tea into Nick’s hands and saying, “Nick? Seriously, you all right?”

“Yeah, I am, just—“ Something must show on Nick’s face because Harry is rolling his eyes and dragging him into the living room, placing their mugs on the coffee table and pulling Nick down onto the couch with him close enough that their legs tangle together.

“Don’t be weird,” Harry says playfully, but Nick can hear an undercurrent of anxiety there. Nick throws an arm over Harry’s shoulders and pulls him so he’s pressed against Nick’s side. “It’s really not a big deal,” Harry insists. “Just forget I said anything.”

“I won’t,” Nick says, because he’s tried that already, frankly. He’s just—“And I don’t even particularly want to, if I’m being honest. It’s a massive turn on, you know, just thinking about doing that to you.” Harry’s cheeks turn pink, and Nick sees him biting down a smile. “I’m just trying to understand it, yeah? Not understand why,” he clarifies when Harry’s smile starts to fall. “Not why you’d want to. Sex isn’t a completely foreign concept to me. I just— I can’t understand why I didn’t figure it out on my own, is all, or why you didn’t tell me.” That’s the part that really stings, to be honest. Harry could tell Nick anything and he’d be fine with it; what’s bothering him is that Harry didn’t.

Harry’s quiet for a second, and then he picks Nick’s hand up and traces circles and lines against his palm. “It’s not like I didn’t want to tell you, it’s just—“ Harry huffs and Nick can see him blow the fringe back from his eyes. “It’s hard to bring up and talk about out of nowhere. It never seemed like the right time.”

Nick thinks about that and wonders if that’s some sort of cue. Is he supposed to ask Harry about it now? Is now the right time? Or is Harry still waiting for something maybe. Nick is confused in a way he hasn’t been with Harry in a long time and it keeps him quiet; freezes his tongue.

In the end he must hesitate too long because the next thing he knows Harry is sighing heavily, like all the weight of the world is resting on his popstar shoulders and he stands and pulls Nick up with him. Nick flicks off the lights in the flat and grabs his things to have a quick shower before he goes to sleep and by the time he’s done Harry’s already curled up and drowsy in Nick’s bed.

Nick crawls in under the covers and he’s afraid for a moment that Harry’s just going to lie there with his back to Nick and not look at him or talk to him at all. He’s knows he’s being stupid, but being stupid is pretty much Nick’s default reaction when it comes to Harry so he’s used to it. Harry doesn’t stay with his back to him though; the minute Nick gets in bed Harry’s rolling over and pressing himself in close to Nick’s chest, one arm slung over Nick’s waist and his breath a warm puff against Nick’s throat.

“Do you—“ Nick clears his throat. Maybe this will be easier like this, with Harry’s head down, not being able to see his eyes. “Do you want to talk about anything?” Nick asks.

Harry laughs quietly. “Not really,” he says. “Not yet.” And Nick’s almost relieved. He thinks that maybe he needs at least a night to let this kind of information settle. “But maybe you could—“ Harry trails off and huffs a little, and Nick runs a hand down Harry’s back, calm and soothing.

“Maybe I could what?”

“Maybe you could call Cazza tomorrow,” Harry says softly and Nick feels himself stiffen, because what? “Just— you guys are friends and she knows stuff and, I don’t know. She can give you the basics I guess and then I’ll tell you all the rest.”

Nick laughs a little and says, “Have you actually thought this through, Harry? Because you do realize she’s going to take the piss forever if I talk to her about this.”

“Ugh, yeah, I guess you’re right,” Harry says and sighs, long and overdramatic. “Never mind. We’ll just talk tomorrow or something, all right?”

Nick’s head is spinning. He can feel the warmth of Harry’s flushed skin against his, and he wonders if he should just flip them over, hold Harry down and see if he likes it, but the mood seems oddly delicate, and Nick’s not sure it would go over well. So he nods and strokes Harry’s hair and pulls the covers up higher tucking them both in and thinks: sleep. Sleep is what he needs. Maybe everything will make a little more sense tomorrow.

*

Harry’s still sleeping when Nick leaves for work in the morning so he sets up the kettle and a mug for Harry’s tea in the kitchen and leaves a note taped to the fridge: out after work, b home for dinner xxx nick xxx

He gets to the station early, every nerve in his body buzzing with a restlessness he’s not felt in a while. Nick’s been so calm about everything lately: his change in jobs, his increase in the media, Harry. He figures some sort of breakdown was due right about now, though the idea that the breakdown would be about Harry and the possible dirty things he wants Nick to do to him in bed never crossed his mind.

He makes it to the end of the show without too many major mishaps (and so what if he played Smack That, Let’s Get it On and Bump ‘N Grind all in a row until Finchy started throwing things at him and accusing Nick of bragging about his sex life. So what?) and he’s still twitchy and restless, too many thoughts and questions in his head from the night before.

He pulls his phone out and before he realizes what he’s doing he’s scrolling to Caroline’s number and tapping out the text he tried to convinced himself all morning he wasn’t going to send but kind of knew he was going to send anyway.

cazza my love! u free for lunch??xx

It only takes a minute for her to respond: grimmy! I happen to be free drinks in 1hr?

Nick bites his lip as they figure out a place and then sends off: cheers! c u in a few xxx, and wonders to himself what exactly he’s getting himself into.

*

Caroline looks ridiculously gorgeous as usual, and she’s already two dirty martinis in by the time Nick gets there. He leans down to kiss her hello and she smiles at him, batting her eyelashes at the maître d to get them a quiet table as far away from the window leading out to the street as possible. The maître d looks disgustingly charmed and Nick remembers how much of an event going to lunch with Caroline usually is. He could fucking murder Harry for even putting the idea in his brain.

They sit and fiddle with the menus for a minute before the waiter comes over. Caroline almost literally charms the pants off of him and Nick rolls his eyes so hard he thinks he sees the inside of his skull but then finally they’re ordering and making small talk and the waiter finally (finally!) comes back with Caroline’s third martini and a glass of wine for Nick and Nick takes a deep breath and looks up to already find Caroline watching him curiously.

As much as he loves Caroline, Nick hates that he’s going to discuss his sex life with Harry, or rather her sex life with Harry, rather than discussing it with Harry. Best get it over with, though.

He opens his mouth and the first thing that comes out is: “So Aimee had a guy want to tie her up the other night.”

Caroline raises an eyebrow and smiles as she sips her drink. “Did she? Well good for Aimee.”

And honestly, is no one ever going to give him even a semi-decent reaction to this particular bit of gossip? Nick’s half-tempted to call his mum just to try and get someone to show some bloody excitement about his news. It’s horrifying.

“Well she didn’t do it,” Nick says. Caroline rolls her eyes a little and shrugs. “And anyway, that’s not the point.”

“Oh, see, I did know there was a point to all this.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re so smart,” Nick drones. Their food comes and Nick takes a bite of his pasta as Caroline picks up her cheeseburger. “Anyway,” Nick continues, because if this keeps going the way it’s been going they’re just going to chat and eat and she’s going to leave and Nick will be no closer to figuring any of this out than he was before he met up with her. “I mentioned it to Harry last night.”

“Oh yeah?” she says, and raises her eyebrow. “And how’d that go?”

“Well. Quite strangely, honestly,” Nick says. He looks down and fiddles with the fork in his plate. “He wasn’t that shocked about it either and then he mentioned some things and—” Nick sips his wine and stares at Caroline hoping that he can mentally transport the words he’s thinking into her brain so he doesn’t have to say them.

“—And?” Caroline prompts and Nick huffs.

“He mentioned some things about, I don’t know, some things that gave me reason to suspect that this might be the sort of thing he likes.”

It takes Caroline a minute to catch on, but when she finally does she grins and claps her hands like a demented seal.

“Oh,” she says, eyes lighting up. “Had you not done that with him before?” she asks, and Nick’s heart beats wildly in his chest. This isn’t exactly the reaction he was looking for either. “He’s bloody fantastic, isn’t he? Christ, I remember one night…” she laughs quietly and downs the rest of her drink in one long gulp. “God, I lost a few good silk blouses to that lad, I’ll tell you that much. Not that I mind, obviously.”

“No,” Nick interrupts, before Caroline goes into any more detail. He pushes his dish away and drops his head into his hands. “No, no, no, no.”

“Oh. Oops,” she says, and shrugs, trying to look sheepish. “Too much?”

“No. I mean, well yes, obviously, Cazza, Jesus. No, it’s just that—“ The waiter chooses that moment to pass by with the wine and Nick waves him over. “No, no,” he says when the waiter goes to top off his glass. “The bottle, mate, just— that’s fine. Leave it right there.” The waiter gives them both a wary look and scurries away.

Nick sighs. Caroline is watching him, her arms folded and a confused look on her face. Nick decides that if he’s ever going to get anywhere he needs to just say what he needs to and get everything out in the open. “We’d not done it before, nor during, nor after.”

There’s a small pause, and then, “You’ve never?” Caroline asks sounding confused.

Nick shakes his head. “Not with Harry, that is. I didn’t even— I mean.” He huffs and spreads his hands out in the air. “I didn’t even know that that was even an option. For him, I mean.” Nick is suddenly irrationally jealous that Caroline knew this about Harry— that out there in the world there are most likely other people that know this about Harry and Nick didn’t. “How did you know?” he finally asks her. “You didn’t just whip out a bunch of silk blouses one night and be like, you fancy a go with these, mate did you?”

“No,” Caroline says and laughs. “I don’t even remember, Nick. We just were talking one night and one thing led to another and—” she shrugs. “We just talked about it and then I knew.”

“Do you think it means something that I didn’t know?” he asks her quietly. “That he never talked about it with me?”

Caroline thinks it over while she waves to the waiter for another drink. “I wouldn’t think so, Grimmy. Harry’s so gone for you you’d have to be a fool not to see that. You need to ask him though,” she says. She raises an eyebrow at him and Nick has to look away because he knows she’s right. “Hiding here and having lunch with me to dig for information isn’t going to solve anything. Ask him, Nick. What’s the worst that can happen?”

*

Nick thinks about it all through the rest of lunch, and all the way back to his flat and all the way through the front door and into the kitchen where Harry is sat at the table with a spiral notebook in front of him and a biro. He’s scratching words onto the page and tapping his fingers rhythmically against the table and his hair is falling into his face and he’s in one of Nick’s t-shirts and a pair of loose jogging bottoms and Nick is immediately struck by how much of a teenager he looks like at the moment, and how that makes Nick feel both fond and desperately turned on all at once.

“Hi,” Nick says as he goes into the kitchen.

Harry looks up and smiles at him brightly and everything in Nick’s chest seizes for a second because this— dirty sex is something that Nick knows, but this intensity of feeling is new, and he doesn’t want to mess it up. Nick can’t lose this.

“Alright?” Harry asks. He stands up and slides into Nick’s space, his arms hooking around the back of Nick’s neck as he kisses him deeply. Nick thinks about how much he needs Harry and loves him and wants him, and he pushes him away a little and drops down into a kitchen chair.

Harry sits next to him - his hand resting on Nick’s thigh - and Nick plays with Harry’s fingers, fitting his hand over Harry’s and says, “I just need to know why you kept this from me.”

“Nick,” Harry says quietly. He flips his hand over so their palms are touching, slides his fingers between Nicks and squeezes tightly. “Not on purpose,” he answers, and Nick can hear a tinge of desperation in his voice.

Nick shakes his head a little, because he’s not angry at Harry for keeping it from him, really. He’s more upset with himself for not even considering anything like this. It makes him feel selfish and silly and he doesn’t like it. He’d just assumed that things had been great between them, sexually and otherwise, and he doesn’t like feeling so out of the loop on something that Harry’s clearly into.

“It’s just that you obviously know and Cazza knows and I’m sure other people know and I don’t know why I didn’t know. I should know. I mean, being tied up or held down or, or anything is something you want or need, then I want to give it to you. And I can’t if I don’t know about it.” A new thought hits him and Nick pulls back a little because maybe this isn’t as easy as he’s making it out to be. “And it’s bollocks that Cazza had you like that—“

“It was easier with Cazza,” Harry says, cutting him off. That stings, an unexpected little jab to the heart, until Harry says, “I knew with me and her it wasn’t serious so I didn’t care if I messed it up at all. I mean, she’s great fun, but she was never it for me or anything.”

Nick nods, because maybe he’s getting it a little now. “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Harry teases. “I just— I didn’t want to freak you out or, I don’t know, ruin anything with us because it’s us, yeah? And you’ve never mentioned anything either and you and me are more important to me than any of that other stuff; it’s still what’s most important. So don’t worry or anything, all right?”

“Yeah,” Nick says after a moment. He kisses Harry’s forehead and closes his eyes. “I’m not worried; I’m just glad I know.”

“Good,” Harry says. His face is tucked into Nick’s chest; Nick can feel his warm breath puff against his chest through his shirt.

“I just can’t believe,” Nick starts. He feels Harry tense against him and he rubs a hand up and down his back to soothe him. “You like to be tied up, then, yeah?” he says, quiet and thick. Harry freezes for a second and then shivers, curling in impossibly closer to Nick’s body. “I bet you look ridiculously good all tied up, I’d imagine. Squirming and begging so prettily. I’d like to have a look at that myself. Mind if I have a go?” Nick asks.

His heart is pounding so hard he’s afraid it might beat right out of his chest. Harry’s fingers curl into his shirt and Nick can feel himself getting hard just from the way Harry’s reacting to him and what he’s saying. He never knew Harry could get turned on so easily by words and Nick thinks that’s a little unfair seeing as how words are kind of his thing.

“Cazza mentioned silk blouses,” Nick whispers against Harry’s ear. “I don’t have any of those but I do have some ties. You think those will do?”

“Oh god,” Harry moans. His breath is hitching fast in his chest and his voice shakes a little when he says, “Nick, you don’t have to. If you don’t want—”

“I want,” Nick whispers, “I promise.”

Harry pulls back from him a little and blinks. His eyes are so wide and dark Nick can barely see any green around the pupil. He reaches down and takes Harry’s hands in his, wraps his fingers around Harry’s wrists and squeezes. “I can finally get you to do what I say,” Nick jokes lightly, his voice cracking a little at the end. He doesn’t expect an answer and is ready to drop it if Harry doesn’t explicitly opt in, but Harry’s eyelids flutter closed and he leans against Nick’s chest and Nick can’t breathe with how much he suddenly wants this.

“God, please,” Harry whimpers, and that’s all Nick can stand.

“Come on,” he says, and pulls Harry up from his seat. “Up. Bedroom.”

Harry practically runs to do as he’s told, but first he pauses and kisses Nick’s mouth fiercely. “I love you,” he says, his lips curving into a smile. “I love you kind of a lot.”

“Good,” Nick says and turns Harry around and pushes him toward the bedroom. “I love you too. Now go get your clothes off and find some nice ties in my closet, all right?”

*

Nick finds Harry in his bedroom frozen in front of the open closet door. He’s standing there, staring at the rack of clothes with a faraway look in his eyes and Nick realizes instantly that Harry is starting to freak out. He crowds in close to Harry’s back and hooks his chin on Harry’s shoulder.

“You find a good one yet?”

Harry laughs quietly and leans back against Nick’s chest. “I don’t know why I’m acting like such a twat. I’m really good at this, I swear.”

Nick rests his hands on Harry’s hips and brushes his thumbs up under the hem of Harry’s shirt. He needs to get Harry out of his head for a second and back on board with the idea of the two of them doing this because he knows Harry wants it but is hesitating now and Nick doesn’t want that. It’s like one of those things that you never let yourself think about, but once it gets itself in your head it won’t leave, playing over and over again on a loop, burning images into the backs of your eyelids. Nick can’t stop wondering what Harry looks like when he’s strung out, unable to touch and only taking what Nick wants to give him. How hot and pink does his skin go and what does his voice sound like shot through and desperate.

“Here,” Nick says reaching past a rack of trousers and snagging a black and silver striped tie from the hanger. If they stand around much longer one of them is bound to start thinking about this too much and lose their nerve and Nick doesn’t plan on letting that happen. They probably should have done a few shots or something first but it’s too late to suggest that now. Next time. “This one is perfect. Come on.”

Harry touches the tie, his fingers sliding over the silk and Nick turns him by the hip and kisses him hard on the mouth. “I don’t quite know how we’ll do this,” Nick says and Harry groans, bites into Nick’s bottom lip and pulls away. “My bed doesn’t have any posts on it so I don’t have anything to tie you to exactly.”

“You can just tie my wrists together when I’m lying down,” Harry says as he walks over to the bed. Nick thinks, oh, is that all? Just tie your wrists together and that’ll be fine? and has to look away and squeeze his eyes shut because Jesus. “Over my head, yeah?” Harry adds helpfully. “That’ll work.”

It sounds like Harry’s thought this through, which makes Nick a little crazy inside.

Nick tosses the tie on the bed long enough to yank his shirt off and shove his trousers and pants down his legs with unsteady hands. He balls his fingers into fists and forces himself to breathe deeply, inhale and exhale, trying to remain calm and steady when every cell in his body is bouncing around, heating his blood and making his stomach flip and twist into knots. Nick breathes out and kicks everything across the floor and by the time he manages to look up Harry’s stripped off as well and is climbing into Nick’s bed, shoving the sheets and duvet down onto the floor.

“You’re bloody gorgeous,” Nick says quietly before he can stop himself, and Harry blushes, his face and throat going pink and warm looking. He bites his lip and plants his feet flat on Nick’s mattress looking slutty and wanton and so unimaginably beautiful it makes Nick’s chest hurt. Nick wants to press his fingers into Harry’s skin hard enough to bruise. He wants to suck a mark over every one of Harry’s tattoos, wants to connect them all with a line he draws with his tongue.

Nick keeps his gaze steady as he crawls onto the bed and settles between Harry’s thighs. He twists the tie between his fingers, watches his fingers go white with pressure then flush pink when he lets the tie go and when Nick looks up at Harry’s face he finds him grinning.

“You’re not chickening out on me are you, Grimshaw?” Harry asks.

Nick chuckles quietly. “Always a teasing little shit,” he chides and picks up Harry’s left hand where it’s lying in the bed.

Harry’s fingers are curled in a fist and Nick rubs his thumb over Harry’s skin, drags it down so he can feel the quick thumpthumpthump of Harry’s pulse and squeezes. Nick holds his thumb over each of the tattoos dotting Harry’s wrist; the lock and the arrow and the shamrock. He drags his fingers over the black letters inked into Harry’s skin and watches as Harry gasps and his dick twitches and Nick feels amazing. Just the thought of being able to make Harry react like this without doing hardly anything at all – that just the idea that Nick is going to tie him up has Harry strung so tight and aching for him is like nothing Nick has ever felt before. He feels strong and powerful and important and trusted. He can’t believe Harry made him wait so long to have this.

“Give me your other hand,” Nick murmurs and a sharp thrum of arousal rolls through him at how fast Harry does, how quickly he listens to him.

Nick holds both of Harry’s hands in his for a second and then he fiddles with the tie, trying to figure out a way to wrap them together without being too tight or rough or hurt Harry, but the more he fusses the more and more desperate Harry gets.

“Just do it,” Harry whines. He’s thrusting his hips a little and Nick presses down with one hand to keep him still on the bed. Harry breathes harshly through his mouth, and his voice shakes when he says, “Just a regular tie around them, nothing fancy, just — god — just do it, I don’t care how tight we’ll figure out how to get it off later.”

“Harry—“

Nick,” Harry warns, and then he kicks him, the brat, and Nick thinks: fuck it and loops the tie around both of Harry’s wrists, sliding the end through the knot and pulling.

“Thank Christ,” Harry mutters and Nick almost laughs because leave it to Harry Styles to try and be a bossy little shit even when he’s the one tied up in someone else’s bed. Nick watches as Harry struggles against the tie, trying to yank his wrists apart and failing and it’s almost confusing because it’s so ridiculously hot and makes Nick want to fuck him right through the bed but he’s also so fond of Harry and cares about him so much it makes him feel tender almost. It’s insane. Just another thing about Harry that confuses Nick and makes him want to take his own life or get bindingly drunk to deal with by turn.

“All right,” Harry says sounding pleased. He smiles a little and wriggles his hips. “Now come on and get to it.”

“Jesus, Harry!”

“Well did you think we were doing all of this to sit and watch the telly?” Harry says. Nick pinches him hard on the thigh and Harry yelps and tries to wriggle away but with his wrists tied together and over his head he just manages to flop around stupidly for a minute. “I hope you’re getting the lube,” Harry complains when Nick is leaning over to grab what he needs from his bedside drawer and he barely realizes when he mutters, “Maybe next time we should try gagging you, Styles,” and he hears Harry choke, his eyes going huge.

Nick leans back and cocks his head to the side and, “Oh,” he says slowly, because this is interesting. He’s finding out new things about Harry by the minute lately it seems. “You like that too, I take it?”

Harry nods, his throat and chest flushed, and moans, “Yeah,” really quietly, the teasing note entirely gone from his voice. He spreads his legs further, hitching his hips up and that’s fine with Nick, he’s not too keen on the idea of waiting much longer either.

He can’t help but lean over Harry though, get right up against his ear and ask, “And if I spank you? Put you on your belly and smack your arse until it’s red? Did Caroline do that to you, too?”

Harry is breathing hard, and he looks wrecked already, even though they haven’t even started. He’s shaking his head rather vigorously so Nick says, “No she didn’t spank you or no you don’t want me to?”

Harry swallows visibly and whispers, “She never did. Y-you can. If you want.”

“I can do pretty much anything I want, actually,” Nick says, rubbing his chin like he’s thinking it over. “Because you’re tied up. Can’t really stop me, can you?”

“Fuck,” Harry mouths, but hardly any noise comes out. He looks overwhelmed, but Nick knows that a little dirty talk isn’t going to break him.

“Christ, you’ve such a filthy mouth, don’t you?” Nick sits back and surveys his work, watches Harry’s arm muscles twitch at the strain. “Wonder if I should gag you with my cock to get you to shut up? Or would you rather have it stuffed up here?” He reaches down and strokes at Harry’s hole, watches Harry spread his legs wider, begging with his body.

“Nick,” Harry whispers. Nick covers his fingers with slick and crawls between Harry’s thighs. He doesn’t tease, just presses his finger right against him, sliding in slowly when Harry bears down urging him deeper. “Nick, please.”

“Yeah, sweetheart, I’ve got you,” Nick says and it’s amazing how easy Harry is taking him in. First one finger then two and each time Nick goes to move Harry’s pressing down, forcing him in deeper. “You really do love this,” Nick says, slightly awed, because he knows what Harry had said, and what Caroline had said, but hearing it and seeing it are two different things entirely.

Being able to see for himself the way Harry is moaning and desperate with every touch of Nick’s fingers and hands and mouth on his skin, the way Harry is straining against the tie on his wrists, the skin under the black silk going red and blotchy, it’s like nothing Nick’s ever seen before. He’s amazing and beautiful and all Nick’s and it’s that— the idea of blind possession and of having Harry all to himself all the time that has him hard and desperate, a broken moan ripping from Nick’s throat as he feels his own control slipping ever so slightly.

He pulls his fingers out and fumbles with the condom as Harry blinks down at him and Nick can see Harry instinctively go to move to help him and then whine a little when the bindings hold him back.

“Oh, you’re so lovely like this,” Nick mutters as he finishes with the condom and lube and presses Harry’s knees up and out almost blind with the need to bury himself inside Harry, to feel him tight and smooth around him. “We’re going to do this all the time,” he says, nudging closer so that his cock is snubbing at Harry’s hole. Harry throws his head back and all Nick can see is his chest and the pale line of his throat and his arms stretched high over his head skin marked with the stark black lines of his tattoos and Nick slides in in one slow motion, not stopping until he’s buried deep inside.

“Oh god,” Harry moans, and Nick has barely started moving, has only really held Harry’s hips up and thrust in two or three sharp times when Harry is straining against the tie and bucking his hips clenching around him, coming in long hot pulses against his belly. Nick blinks because Jesus Christ he’s never seen anything as hot as that in his life the way Harry was so hard and wanting and desperate for it, and Harry is shaking his hair out of his eyes and looks completely wrecked.

“I’m sorry,” he gasps, trying to apologize and Nick would think its funny how much Harry is misreading the situation if he could manage to think at all. “I couldn’t— it’s just been so long and it’s so good and I couldn’t stop myself.”

“Fuck, Harry, shut up,” Nick says around a choked laugh. “It’s fine, bloody perfect, actually,” he says and shoves up a little to kiss Harry’s mouth as he pushes even deeper inside him, Harry’s body loose and relaxed after coming. He awkwardly licks at Harry’s mouth and their teeth bump together their tongues tangling and it’s hot and wet and messy. Nick reaches up and covers Harry’s wrists with his hand, he twists his fingers through the top loop of the tie and tugs it and Harry gasps under him and his body shakes.

“Pull it tighter,” Harry moans so Nick does. He twists his fingers and yanks and Harry whines deep in his throat, little choked out cries that make Nick’s blood go hot, his vision blurry and stupid around the edges. “Harder,” Harry says, voice shaking, “Hold my hands down as hard as you can, Nick, please—“ and that’s so— it’s so hot, but it’s also so intense, the way Harry’s both given over control and then taken it back so suddenly, even with his arms bound he’s making Nick do what he wants, making Nick hold him down, making Nick insane with it. It’s not going the way Nick wants, he’s not in control any more but he grinds his fingers into Harry’s wrists and tries to take it back, tries to get Harry to just stop talking but then Harry whispers, “fuck me, like that,” and Nick realizes that he is, doing everything exactly as Harry says, and he can’t take it, just groans loudly and comes, shaking with the intensity of it.

It takes a minute for Nick to remember how to breathe like a normal human, and then he has to figure how to let go of Harry’s wrists and tie off the condom after he slowly pulls out and get them both settled somewhat in the bed and it just— it just takes a minute.

Nick scrambles around on the floor for the covers Harry kicked there earlier and then he’s pulling them both under the duvet and staring at the red marks on Harry’s skin as he undoes the knots and lets Harry’s hands go loose. Harry blinks up at him sleepily as Nick unwinds the tie and kisses Nick’s chest when Nick traces his fingertips over the red marks on Harry’s pale skin.

“’S’fine,” Harry says quietly as Nick touches the abused skin. “I’ll just wear sleeves for a day or so, yeah?”

“Mmm,” Nick hums, feeling like an utter shitbag, because this looks bad, this looks like he hurt Harry and he would never do that, but on the other hand, he’d rather Harry not do anything to cover up those marks. “Are you sure? It looks like it hurts.”

“It doesn’t,” Harry assures him. “You’ll barely be able to notice it by tomorrow, I promise. And anyway,” he adds and leans up to kiss Nick’s mouth, “It was amazing. I loved it, I swear.”

Nick leans over and kisses the inside of each of Harry’s wrists. “You’re sure,” Nick asks one more time but Harry’s already half asleep, mumbling a quiet assent against his chest as his breathing goes deep and relaxed.

Nick pulls Harry in and stares up at the ceiling, too many things going through his brain to even think about sleeping. He’d definitely enjoyed playing with Harry, but even though Harry’d been the one tied down and coming untouched, even though Harry had given himself over to Nick completely, somehow Nick felt completely out of control. Like he’d do anything that Harry wanted, without thought. There’s something there that makes Nick uncomfortable, but also, Christ, made him come so hard he’d needed to take a pause after. Next time I’ll be ready, he thinks. That won’t happen again. Before he knows it he’s drifting off, the sound of Harry’s quiet snore and the hot press of his skin lulling Nick to sleep.

*

Nick wakes in the morning to the sound of Harry banging around in his kitchen and the smell of coffee floating through the air. He tries not to think too much about the night before even though the stretch and pull of every one of his muscles reminds him, and he wonders how Harry is doing, worries that he’ll go out there and Harry will be acting weird or distant and quiet.

Harry is anything but. After Nick stops off in the bathroom to piss and clean his teeth he wanders into the kitchen in time to see Harry sliding potatoes and eggs and sausages onto two plates he’s set on the table, a cup of coffee already steaming by Nick’s seat and tea waiting for Harry. He looks up when Nick walks into the kitchen and beams – just full out smiles like it’s the best morning ever – and Nick’s stomach flips over and his heart bangs crazily in his chest.

“Morning,” Harry says and dips his head to kiss Nick before sliding into his seat. Nick smiles a little and sits down but immediately reaches over and takes Harry’s hand in his, flipping it over so he can see the inside of Harry’s wrist.

The skin is pink, there’s no question about it. It’s definitely a lot paler than Nick had expected it to be, though, not at all angry red and bruised looking like it had been the night before when they both fell asleep and Nick breathes out slowly, outwardly relieved but inwardly disappointed.

“Told you it would be fine,” Harry says and smiles brightly. He pulls his hand back and grabs a fork to start digging into his eggs. Nick sips his coffee, watches him and wonders if it could really be as easy as this. Harry chews and swallows then looks up and wipes the back of his hand over his mouth. “What?”

What indeed. There are so many questions going through Nick’s mind right now, it’s tough to sort out what he wants to know most. “So what else is there?” Nick finally settles on asking. Harry quirks his head and Nick starts eating because sure, this is perfectly normal asking the eighteen year old popstar who’s sat at your kitchen table what other kind of kinky shit he likes to get up to in bed. It happens to Nick all the time. “I mean, we have the tying up thing all right and last night I said something about gagging you?”

Harry nods and sips his tea. “Yeah. That’s. I like that too.”

Nick’s brain goes fuzzy thinking about it. Harry laid out on his bed, his hands tied over his head or behind his back and one of Nick’s ties or a handkerchief stuffed deep in Harry’s mouth. He wonders if Harry goes silent when he’s gagged or does he make choked off desperate noises around it. Does he try to speak or just gasp and moan and how long will Nick be able to stand it, sinking deep in Harry’s body, biting marks into his skin and not being able to hear Harry’s voice shake around Nick’s name.

“Helloooo?” Harry says and actually snaps his fingers in front of Nick’s face, the fucking brat. “So I take it you like the gagging idea then,” Harry says cheekily. Nick balls up a napkin and tosses it at Harry’s head.

“Wish I had one right now to be honest,” he mutters and Harry laughs and digs back into his breakfast. “So, all right. Ties, gags, apparently a first-time spanking experience—“ he watches as Harry flushes bright red, and then nods. “Anything else I should be ready for, young Harold?” Nick asks, because really, there can’t possibly be much more, can there?

“Uhm, I like blindfolds,” Harry says. His face is scrunched up and he’s half staring off into space, listing things as if they’re talking about the weather or what he’d like to make for dinner that night. “I’ve got some toys back at mine we could use one night.” Nick feels his eyes widen but Harry just keeps going. “I’ve got a, a little flogger that’s real nice and a few, erm, well some beads and stuff.”

Nick has to suck in a breath, surprised, because beads? Clearly when he’d been thinking he’d been giving Harry the shag of his life, he’d not even considered all of the things Harry would like. And while Nick had his own head up his arse, apparently Harry had beads in his own. Christ.

Harry, though, is chatting away, stabbing bits of sausage and potatoes with his fork and rattling things off like he’s making a shopping list. “I’d like to fuck you one night and then eat you out right after,” Harry says. “Lick my come out of you and then fuck you again maybe.”

Nick goes instantly, blindingly hard. His knee knocks at the leg of the kitchen table and Harry finally looks over at him, a slow, wicked grin sliding over his face when he sees how flushed Nick has gone and how tightly his fingers are wrapped around his fork.

Nick fidgets under Harry’s knowing gaze. “Tell me what you like about it,” Nick says after clearing his throat. “The— erm, not the licking and fucking bit, that’s fairly clear to me. I mean the whole being tied up, gagged, blindfolded bit.”

Harry bites his lip, pushes his food around on his plate for a moment. Then he says, “It feels good to be selfish sometimes.” And that is not at all what Nick had been expecting.

“How is letting me tie you up and do whatever I want with you selfish?!”

“Because,” Harry insists. “If I’m tied up, can’t move, I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to worry about if I’m doing anything right or wrong. If I’m supposed to be doing something to you, or anything like that. I can just—“ he waves his fork in the air vaguely. “I can just lie there and feel everything, you know?”

Nick— does not know. He’d been expecting Harry to say something about how he gets off on the little stings of pain he gets from the restraints, from being held down forcefully. He didn’t even consider that Harry got off on having his choices removed, but it makes sense. For such a young person, Harry has attention on him all the time, and it’s got to be a relief to just be able to relax and let someone else do all of the deciding.

“It’s even better when I’m gagged or blindfolded. Especially the blindfold. Not being able to see what’s coming next is bloody amazing. It’s like every other sensation is heightened.” His brows draw together for a moment and then he says, “Yeah, I think— if you wanted to try the spanking thing, I’d really like to be blindfolded. That’d be sick.”

Nick gulps down some air, noisily. “Right. Cheers,” he says. “Makes sense.”

“I could do you too you know,” Harry says quietly. His eyes are a bright burning green and Nick can’t look away. “I mean, I like being the one tied up but I can be on the other side one night if you want me to. It’s— I’m really good at it.”

Nick’s head pounds and his throat goes dry. He shakes his head because Nick doesn’t do that, he’s never done that. He just can’t. Nick wants to make Harry happy, he really does, but that’s a line he doesn’t think he can cross, not even for Harry. Nick likes to know what’s happening; he likes his control and likes being the one in charge and giving that up, turning that over to Harry even for a night seems like too much.

“I don’t think I’d enjoy that,” Nick says quietly, and Harry backs up a little, giving Nick the space he desperately needs. Nick just— he needs a minute.

“Hey, that’s fine,” Harry says. He curls his fingers over Nick’s and slides their palms together, fingers tangling. “You don’t ever have to; I just figured I’d mention it.” Harry grins brightly and adds, “I’m more than fine being on my side of things.”

Nick laughs then and squeezes Harry’s hand. “So is that all, Harry Styles?” he asks, voice carefully light and teasing. “Just some whips and gags and the like? No farm animals or filming ourselves or, I don’t know, pissing on each other or anything?”

Harry smirks and looks back down at his plate. He stabs a forkful of eggs and chews quietly and Nick boggles. “Uhm, Harry?”

“All right, no farm animals!” he finally says. He squints off into the distance and adds, “And no pissing on each other here, at least.” Nick feels his eyes go wide as Harry tacks on, “We’d have to go to mine for that, my shower is much larger.”

Nick is—he’s kind of stunned, actually. He’d thought he was ready to hear about whatever Harry wanted to do with him but this – this is a little much even for him. “Uhm.”

“Oh god,” Harry bursts out laughing and claps his hands together in evil glee. “You should see your face! Christ, Nick, I’m not going to just let you piss on me one day, Jesus.” And Nick hates him, he really does.

“I hate you,” He says, but Harry’s not even listening, he’s standing up and grabbing the plates to stack in the sink, running the water over them before loading the dishwasher. “You’re horrible; how about we try that gagging thing right now, just so I can get a bit of peace and quiet around here,” Nick says.

“Ha, shut up,” Harry says, and bangs the dishwasher closed with his hip. “You love it.” He wiggles his eyebrows at Nick and says low and throaty, “But let me know if you change your mind about the piss thing, yeah? I do have a really big shower,” and Nick throws a handful of grapes at him that were in a bowl on the counter just to watch Harry flail around and laugh and run from the room and just like that Nick realizes that no matter what everything will always be normal with him and Harry. Nick’s sure of it.

*

They never do make it to the piss thing, but over the next few weeks they try nearly everything but. Everything is even more amazing than Nick could have ever imagined. He’s happy and Harry’s happy and things have honestly never been better.

“So I went ahead and already ordered you a bottle of pinot,” Caroline drawls as Nick drops a kiss on her cheek and sits across from her at the table. They’re in the same restaurant as they were last time, and Nick has already recognized and terrified their waiter by wiggling his fingers in a jaunty wave and blowing him a kiss from across the room.

“Thanks, love,” Nick says, and spreads a napkin across his lap. He really has no idea what he’s doing here or why he thought calling Caroline and asking for her advice was a good idea at all. It’s true the last time they met she was slightly helpful but she’s also been taking the piss since it happened, sending Nick random links of sex toys with cheeky messages attached (saw this and thought of you and hazza! give him my love and a spanking! attached to a picture of a leather whip and gag ball is not helpful as far as Nick is concerned) When it comes down to it, though, Nick is looking for advice and Cazza knows he and Harry both and she’s honestly the best one to ask, as frightening a thought as that may be.

Nick barely glances at the menu before he orders the fish special and Caroline orders a cheeseburger again with a baked potato and another martini. The waiter fills Nick’s wine glass to the top – at least he’s learning, Nick thinks – and then disappears, leaving Nick staring at Caroline’s slightly curious slightly smug face.

“I take it things are going well then?” she says.

Nick rolls his eyes but he’s smiling and knows he’s doing a crap job at hiding how pleased he is. “Very well, yes. I mean, I’m not going to give you details or anything—“

“Well thank god for that,” she drawls and rolls her eyes to the ceiling. “I love you, Grimmy, but the last thing I need to hear about are details about your sex life with Harry.”

“No, no, I know. Your delicate sensibilities and all,” Nick teases, but it’s fun and easy, not weirdly shocking and awkward like the last time.

Their food comes and they manage to chat about things non-Harry related for a bit – the X Factor and Olly and the morning show – but suddenly Nick is almost a full bottle of pinot down and Caroline’s on her third (or forth, Nick has lost count) martini, and she smacks her hand down on the table causing a piece of fish to fall off Nick’s fork and back into his plate as he jerks in surprise.

“All right,” she says pointing a well-manicured finger at him. “Spill it.”

Nick tries his best innocent look and blinks. “Spill what?”

“Whatever it is that you want to ask me,” she says, clearly not falling for Nick’s innocent look at all anymore. Nick really ought to get some new friends. Having so many people know him so well is really quite inconvenient.

“All right,” Nick sighs. “I’ve actually been thinking.”

“Well someone alert the media,” Caroline drawls then giggles at herself, and honestly, Nick has possibly gone insane to think this was a good idea. Something about his face must give him away though because she’s pushing her drink away and leaning forward, hands linked together on the table. “Sorry, sorry,” Caroline says, and finally, a semi-serious reaction. “What have you been thinking about?”

Nick takes a deep breath. He can do this, he can. Talking about it is the first step to asking Harry about it and that’s— that’s kind of where Nick wants to be right now, he’s realized. “I’ve been thinking about switching things up a bit,” Nick says. Caroline cocks her head to the side and Nick realizes for as well as he knows her Caroline really doesn’t know all of Nick’s issues or anything at all about his and Harry’s relationship. “It’s just— when you and Harry were, you know—”

Caroline blinks. “Fucking?” she supplies.

Nick barks out a laugh then claps a hand over his mouth when he notices people at the next table over turn around to stare. “God, you’re amazing. Yes, Cazza, when you and young Harold were fucking, did you like,” he shrugs. “I don’t know, switch off, I guess?”

“Oh!” Her face breaks into a huge smile then, all gleaming white teeth and bright eyes. “We did sometimes, yeah. I mean, he definitely liked being the one to take it a little better, but yes, we switched it up a little. Christ, there was one night—” she shakes her head and downs the rest of her martini. “God, I don’t want to say too much but it starts with S and rhymes with strap on, and—“

“Ugh! Ahh! No details, please!” Nick covers his ears and Caroline bursts out laughing and kicks Nick under the table.

“Ok, sorry.” Her face goes serious for a second and she reaches out to take Nick’s hand, curling their fingers together. “I’m only joking. Well, I mean, I’m not joking joking, but I’m completely taking the piss for sure.”

“Thanks for that,” Nick says dryly. “It’s much appreciated.”

Caroline shakes her head though, her thumb stroking over Nick’s hand and he knows she’s being serious for the moment at least. “Nick, if you want something from Harry or want to do something different, tell him, yeah? Harry loves you. He’d do anything for you. There’s probably nothing you could say that would make him change his mind or think differently about you. He’s good for you,” she says one last time, and Nick knows she’s right.

“He is, yeah,” Nick says, but he thinks maybe now he finally believes it.

*

Between Nick’s schedule and Harry being away doing promo for the new album they barely see each other for the next few days. He gets about forty seven text messages from Caroline ranging from the innocent (how are things?xx) to the completely unhelpful (I just remembered I’ve got a few floggers and a hot wax kit if you need to borrow them, love! just let me know ;) ). By the time Harry gets to Nick’s flat late that Friday night Nick is half-convinced it’s best to just leave things be the way they are. Things are good now so there’s really no reason to change them, right?

“You alright?” Harry asks. They’re sat on the couch watching Cupcake Wars and splitting a bottle of merlot. Harry’s already sleepy and mussed looking, his hair a mess and eyes crinkled around the edges when he smiles. Nick presses a kiss to the top of his head and Harry curls in closer, throwing his leg over Nick’s lap and leaning against his chest.

“I’m good, yeah,” Nick says, because he is. He loves everything that he and Harry have and nights like this are great too. It’s just—

“Ugh, I can feel you thinking,” Harry says, pushing to sit up next to Nick and put some space between them. He plucks Nick’s wine glass from him and puts it on the coffee table then curls their fingers together in Harry’s lap. “Tell me what’s going on.”

And, Christ, there it is again. Harry making demands, giving him orders and Nick just— doing what he says. It makes him feel funny inside, but also really, really curious. “I’ve just been thinking a lot lately—“

“Oh, that’s never good,” Harry teases. Nick kicks Harry’s foot a little and they both laugh.

“No, I was thinking a lot about what you’d said a while ago.” Harry tilts his head and looks at Nick curiously. “About, you know, switching.”

Harry’s quiet for a second, thinking. “Switching? I topped this morning,” he says, confused.

“Not that,” Nick says. “Erm, the other bit.”

Nick can tell that he doesn’t get it at first but then he does and his eyes go wide, his mouth parting slightly as he exhales. If Nick weren’t so busy obsessing about it he would actually find Harry’s reaction comical. “Wait, seriously?” Harry asks.

Nick nods. “I just— I never have, you know. It’s not something I ever wanted, but—” Nick shrugs. “I don’t know. With you, I just— I might want to give it a go if you’re up for it.”

Harry is quiet. Completely, one hundred percent silent. Nick laughs softly and looks over at the telly focusing far too intently on the chocolate caramel cupcakes that are being judged on the screen because he can’t just sit here with Harry not saying anything at all. The buzzing in his gut gets even more uncomfortable, and he feels himself start to sweat.

“Or not if you don’t want,” Nick adds after another agonizing moment of silence because clearly Harry is not impressed with his idea, which is fine, it was probably a stupid idea anyway, and—

“How could you think I don’t want to do that?” Harry asks. Nick goes to answer but Harry cuts him off leaning over to kiss Nick fiercely on the mouth before pulling back. “God, Nick are you sure? I’ve thought about it so much but I didn’t want to push, because you said— But if you let me, I swear I’ll be so good for you.”

“I know you will,” Nick says quietly, because he does. He can tell in the way Harry is looking at him – like Nick has given him the most amazing gift he’s ever received, like Nick himself is something Harry loves and treasures – that Harry is probably the only person in the world Nick could give this to. No one else has ever felt about him the way Harry does, Nick’s sure of it.

“Come on,” Nick says and stands up, reaching a hand down to pull Harry up next to him. Harry curls his arm around Nick’s waist and presses his lips against Nick’s throat and Nick can feel his pulse beating wildly under Harry’s mouth.

“Yeah,” Harry says, soft and awed. “Let’s go.”

*

By the time Nick gets out of the shower he’s a bit of a mess, mentally. He stares at himself in the bathroom mirror, trying to at least school his expression so that he appears calm.

When he finally sticks his courage enough to head into the bedroom, he finds Harry lounging on the bed rather casually. Naked, sure, but otherwise fairly innocent-looking.

“I don’t see any toys,” Nick says, probably too loudly to over-compensate for how nervous he’s feeling. “Are you hiding a strop under the pillow?”

Harry smiles at him and pats the mattress. “I don’t need any toys,” he says in that slow, deep voice of his.

Nick lies next to him and leans up for a kiss. It’s soft and tender and does absolutely nothing to calm the butterflies in his stomach. “No?” he murmurs.

Harry shakes his head and rubs the tips of their noses together as he does. He strokes Nick’s jaw and smiles sweetly down at him as he says, “Don’t need any. Drank plenty of water.” He kisses Nick again as the words hang in the air. Nick’s just pulling away, brow furrowed, when Harry says, “I can wee on you whenever you’re ready.”

Nick snorts out a laugh, smacking Harry in the chest and calling him a wanker while Harry just continues to smile down at him, looking rather pleased that he’s gotten Nick to relax even the tiniest bit.

“So listen,” Nick starts, anxious and needing to set some ground rules before Harry starts— doing whatever it is that Harry is going to do to him. Only he doesn’t get very far.

“No, you listen,” Harry says, interrupting him swiftly. “This is not the time for you to make rules or give orders. It’s your turn to be quiet, and let me take care of you.”

Nick’s mouth curves into a helpless smile. “I know, but—“

“No buts,” Harry insists. “I’m not going to do anything you won’t like. And if I’m not sure, I’ll ask first, all right?”

Part of Nick wants to shout, No! That’s not all right! and run screaming from the room because that’s been his reaction for so long to anything resembling the idea of what he and Harry are about to do. But for the first time there’s also a part of Nick that doesn’t want to run. That wants to stay with Harry and let Harry do what he wants to Nick. It’s humbling, almost, loving and trusting someone this much. He forces himself to look Harry right in the eye and say, “Yeah, all right,” and Harry smiles like Nick’s given him every gift he’s ever asked for.

Harry drops one last kiss on Nick’s shoulder and then he’s crawling up, pulling a dark red silk tie out from under the pillows (and ha! Nick knew he must have had some things hidden somewhere) and then he’s curling his hand around Nick’s wrist, Nick’s pulse thumping erratically Harry’s fingertips. Nick licks his lips and looks up to where Harry’s hovering over him, his tongue poking out as he concentrates on looping the tie around Nick’s wrists swiftly with a practiced ease Nick hadn’t been expecting, and it’s ridiculously hot seeing Harry so competent and sure about this.

“I’ve always wanted to have you like this,” Harry murmurs, pulling the tie tight and yanking a little, testing its strength. Nick’s heart is beating overly fast in his chest, his breath hitching and a dull buzz thrumming through his ears. Nick can’t move – he literally cannot move his hands, can’t touch Harry, can’t push him away - and it makes Nick scared and hot and desperate all at once. As if all the air has been sucked out of the room and the only way to breathe is when Harry’s mouth touches his, when he whispers Nick’s name into the space between their lips.

Harry’s fringe is hanging loose over his eyes as he kisses Nick’s ear, bites the side of his throat and the curve between his neck and shoulder. “I’ve always wanted to be able to do whatever I want to you. To have you lying here not being able to stop me when I touch you.” Nick shakes from Harry’s words and squeezes his eyes shut. “Don’t,” Harry says firmly. Nick’s eyes fly open without him even thinking about it and that’s more than Nick wants to analyze about himself, ever. “Don’t look away from me.”

Nick doesn’t. He realizes then with a blinding clarity that while he wanted to try this with Harry it goes so much deeper than that. He wants to give this to Harry; wants to give Harry whatever he wants to take and not think about what he’s doing or if he’s being reckless and careless with his heart. Nick gets what Harry said now about being selfish because all Nick wants to do is lie here and watch Harry touch him, and at the same time know that everything that happens is what Harry wants. He can’t stop watching the way Harry’s skin is flushing as he kisses Nick’s chest, his hands steady as they shove Nick up the bed, fingers on the inside of Nick’s knees pushing his legs out.

“God, I can’t decide what I want to do first,” Harry says grinning wickedly. He lays his teeth into the inside of Nick’s knee and Nick’s body jerks. He plants his feet on the mattress and shoves up but Harry’s arm is there holding him down and Nick is suddenly blindingly hard. “I want to taste every inch of you,” Harry says. His mouth is hot and wet, lips and teeth dragging over his skin, biting the inside of his thigh, the thin skin over Nick’s hip. He feels like shaking and crying; he wants Harry to touch him so badly his body almost hurts but just thinking about it – imagining the heat from Harry’s mouth on his cock right now makes Nick’s head spin.

Harry dips his head and pushes Nick’s legs a little and then his mouth is right there against Nick’s hole and Nick thinks he might actually die from it. Harry’s mouth is always amazing but Nick is always able to shove him around, move him where he wants or push him off when it gets to be too much. This though – Nick’s arms are straining against the tie, his wrists rubbed sensitive and sore and Harry is unrelenting no matter how much Nick shivers and moans. He just keeps licking and fucking him with his tongue, his fingers dug so deep into Nick’s thighs he can feel the press of each fingertip in his flesh. Harry’s gasping and moaning against Nick, biting a little as he pulls back and laughing darkly when Nick breathes out a shaky curse.

“Do you want to touch me yet?” Harry asks, because he’s a demon, Nick’s convinced of it and the worst part is he doesn’t even know how to answer. He wants to touch Harry because he always wants to touch him but Nick isn’t sure he’s ready to give this up just yet. It’s confusing to Nick how much he actually likes this - having his choices taken away from him for the night - and when Harry lifts his head and his mouth is shiny and wet, his eyes gleaming wickedly all Nick wants is Harry to fuck him.

Nick doesn’t say anything – doesn’t actually know if he can tell Harry what he wants if he tried - but Harry knows him by now, he knows how to read every look and every expression Nick has and the next thing Nick knows Harry is fumbling around in the sheets and then he’s slicking his fingers with lube. Nick feels the tip of Harry’s finger against him and before he even has time to breathe Harry is pushing inside and Nick’s body responds instantly, bearing down to try and get Harry deeper.

“God, I love seeing you like this,” Harry says and his voice sounds wrecked. Nick makes himself focus because this is so insanely good he can barely see straight and when Harry speaks again he sounds almost awed. “You really like this, don’t you?” Harry pauses like he’s waiting for an answer but Nick doesn’t know if he can, like saying it out loud might be too much. Harry stops then and goes to slide his finger out and Nick almost cries in frustration.

“No, come on,” Nick whines.

“Come on what?” Harry asks, the cheeky bastard. Nick squeezes his eyes shut and Harry pinches him hard on the thigh. “I told you not to do that.”

Nick not only opens his eyes but he glares at Harry. “Don’t push it, Styles,” he says, but Harry just grins and twists his finger, pulling it out and sliding back in with two.

“Huh. Maybe I’ll just leave you here,” Harry says, looking off to the side as if he’s actually pondering it. “Go and watch some telly in the living room and leave you here all tied up and desperate for my cock. You think I should do that, Nick?” Harry’s eyes are gleaming and Nick can’t stop staring at him. “Or should I stay here with you?” Harry crooks his finger slowly and Nick’s almost lifts off the bed with how good it is. He want’s Harry so badly he’s near crying with it, his skin itchy and tight.

“Please,” Nick manages to gasp out.

Harry grins slyly. “Please what?”

Nick glares. He strains against the tie and when it’s unyielding vows in his head that as soon as his hands are free he’s going to choke Harry until he turns blue. “Please, Harry, put your cock in me and fuck me already.”

Harry laughs but he pulls his fingers out and then he’s sliding on a condom and slicking himself up, the head of his cock nudging against Nick’s hole. Nick arches his back and presses down and Harry slides in almost too quick, not giving Nick a chance to breathe or think and then Harry’s just there filling him up, taking Nick apart from the inside out.

Harry doesn’t slow down or stop, just leans down and kisses Nick’s throat, bites the side of his jaw. Nick is so hard it’s nearly painful, his dick trapped between their bellies and it’s too much and not nearly enough. He needs to touch himself or have Harry touch him but he can’t and Harry isn’t and Nick doesn’t want to beg but when he opens his mouth he’s almost shocked silent with the way his voice wobbles and shakes.

“Please, Harry, I need – you need to—“

“What?” Harry grunts as he fucks him harder. “Tell me what you want.”

“Oh god, just – just touch me or something - fuck.”

Harry’s fingers are rough and calloused and he curls them around Nick’s cock and strokes him roughly, a quick steady pace that has Nick curling up off the bed to try and get more from him. His arms ache and his chest hurts and Nick can’t take it anymore, having Harry so close and not being able to touch him. Harry bites down on Nick’s throat and Nick can’t hold it, he shudders and curses and comes between their bellies, his body vibrating with the force of it.

“God, you’re amazing,” Harry whispers. He’s going even harder now almost losing himself in fucking Nick and Nick can’t do it, he needs Harry too badly.

“My hands,” Nick gasps. He lifts them over his head and pushes Harry with the tips of his fingers. “I can’t do this anymore, I need to touch you.”

Harry braces himself with one hand on the bed and with the other he yanks and pulls on the end of the tie until it comes loose. His cheeks are flushed and his mouth is shiny and wet. Nick’s wrists feel hot; the skin thin and sore where they were bound together and his fingers are shaking as he slides them into Harry’s hair and pulls him down into a messy kiss.

“Nick,” Harry whines, and then he’s thrusting deeper, short jerky thrusts that shake the bed and bang the headboard against the wall over and over again until he gasps and comes, kissing Nick’s name into his skin.

Harry waits a minute to catch his breath and then he’s grinning and shaking his hair as he pulls out and ties off the condom. Nick just lies there. He can’t really think about anything too much; he’s hot and cold and desperate and turned on and shaky and can’t begin to think about what any of it means. All he knows for sure is that he’s happy he did it and he’s glad it was with Harry and he’s definitely not opposed to trying it again.

“You all right?” Harry asks, curling his arm around Nick’s shoulders and pulling him in close. He kisses Nick’s cheek and Nick turns his head so he can catch Harry’s mouth instead.

“I’m great,” Nick says, and he’s happy when he realizes he actually means it.

*

They’re sat at their favorite table in the café catching a quick dinner before Harry leaves on the red eye for Paris later that night. It’s been a few days since the whole tying up incident as Nick refers to it in his head, and other than a short discussion that night (You sure you’re all right? Yes, Harry, now stop yapping and go make me a cuppa) they’ve not brought it up since which is why Nick is surprised when Harry pushes his plate back and folds his hands on the table.

“All right,” he says, determined and serious sounding. Nick puts his fork down. This could be bad. “I let you have all your questions when this all started, yeah?” Nick nods and Harry continues. “So I think I get one of my own now if it’s okay with you.”

Nick raises an eyebrow and sips his glass of wine. He kicks his feet out under the table until they tangle with Harry’s and Harry smiles at him. “All right,” Nick says. “Have at it.”

Harry fiddles with his napkin a little, folding the edge back and forth as he chews on his bottom lip. Nick gives him time; clearly whatever Harry wants to ask is important and Harry takes a while to work things through on a normal day, Nick’s not going to rush him. When he looks back up though his smile is sweet, his cheeks flushed pink and warm looking. “I guess I just wanted to know why now. I mean, I understood when you said you didn’t think you’d want to be on my side of it and that’s fine; I was totally fine with that. Just – why did you change your mind?”

And, oh. Nick forces himself to keep looking at Harry, he doesn’t let himself look away because this – this has the potential to be even scarier than allowing Harry to tie him up. Admitting to himself how much he cares for Harry was hard enough, but saying it out loud? Nick never thought he could be that brave.

If anyone deserves it though, it’s Harry. Nick needs to at least try.

“I think,” Nick says slowly, making sure that every word is the right one to say, “that it was never really an option for me before because there was never a you,” he says quietly. Harry’s face softens at that and Nick realizes for the thousandth time, My god, he really does love me. “I’ve never been with anyone who I’ve trusted like you and I just figured if it was ever going to be anyone, well. It was never really a question, Harry. I’ve never had a question about you at all.”

Nick hopes he gets it; all the layers of everything he’s is trying to say. How there’s never been anyone like Harry for any of this – how Nick’s never wanted to try with anyone before him and he’s not sure he’ll ever want to try again after. Harry is pretty much it for him, Nick realizes, and if the way Harry’s looking at him, like Nick’s just hung the stars and the moon all for Harry all at once, he thinks Harry realizes it too.

“That’s good, Nick,” Harry says. His voice is thick and slow and he reaches across the table and takes Nick’s hand in his, their fingers linking together like pieces of a puzzle. “I haven’t got many questions about you either,” he says quietly.

Nick smiles. “Cheers, then,” he says. Harry’s thumb is rubbing circles over his skin and Nick can measure the space between them in kisses, in the way his heart stutters and trips every time Harry says his name. “I think we’ve got this.”

“I never doubted that we would,” Harry says, and Nick just grins.

 

-end-