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(just like) starting over

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Zayn wakes up in Germany with the knowledge that he’s got no band obligations today, and it might be one of the best feelings he’s ever had in his life. The hotel bed is soft under him, the covers warm and fluffy and he’s got nowhere to be until his flight back to London this afternoon.

He’s got nothing to do once he’s in London either. His mum’s been asking him to come back home, but Zayn wants quiet, wants peace and to be able to sleep without his screaming sisters being lovable but irritable pains in his arse. So he’s probably not going to go home.

He sighs into his pillow and thinks about getting up, but that requires movement and full alertness and Zayn’s awake, but not that awake. He’s saved from it anyway, when his door clicks open and Harry comes in bearing gifts of things that smell like Zayn’s favorite tea and bagels.

“Got breakfast,” he says, uselessly, as he sets the bag down on the bed and waits for Zayn to sit up enough to grab his tea. “Up for a cuddle?”

Zayn moves on the bed, wary of Harry’s long limbs around scalding beverages. “Where’s everyone else, then?” he asks.

Harry shrugs, shoving half a bagel in his mouth and flicking the television on. “Think Liam went out for a run or something. Louis’s, uh, Skyping maybe? He was making faces at his computer when I saw him last.” He makes a satisfied noise when he finds Legally Blonde playing, burrowing closer to Zayn and shoving his boots off. “Niall said he’s got two weeks where he doesn’t have to see us, so he’s taking advantage of it. Won’t even open his door.”

Zayn snorts. Harry’s got him the cinnamon raisin bagel he likes, despite the fact that Louis says it’s for old men and not even Liam will touch the things. “What about you, then? What are you up to?”

Harry’s quiet, and Zayn’s metaphorical hackles go up. It’s a bated sort of silence, the one Harry only uses when he wants to get his way, and he almost always does.

“No,” Zayn says preemptively. “Whatever it is, no.”

“Okay, but I haven’t even asked you yet?” Harry’s good at playing innocent, like he’s not about to ask Zayn to do something that’s sure to be awful. “Can I at least ask?”

Zayn sighs and shoves a good bit of bagel in his mouth to keep himself busy. “Go ‘head, then,” he mumbles, and ignores the smile Harry gives him, the cream cheese stuck to the corner of his mouth because Zayn will undoubtedly say yes if he remembers he finds Harry endearing.

“So, I’m, uh, I’m going home for a few days while we’ve got a break? Like home with my mum,” Harry starts. “And, I, uh, it’s a bit of a funny story, but she, um, she’s been under the impression that I’ve been unbearably lonely?”

Zayn blinks, but his mouth’s still full and he’s going to say no to this anyway.

Harry moves closer, so they’re in a proper cuddle now and he’s cut off Zayn’s only means of escaping. “And so I just thought it’d be easier to avoid all her lovely concern and poorly disguised attempts to set me up with someone if I already had someone. If that makes sense.”

“It doesn’t,” Zayn tells him. “Actually, it does. But I’m definitely saying no. Ask Louis.”

“Louis’s going home,” Harry whines. “And I’d never hear the end of it if I told her I was dating Louis. I think she’s already bought a dress for the wedding, Zayn. I just can’t.”

Zayn sighs. “Why don’t you just tell her you’re perfectly happy not dating anyone.”

Harry ducks his head, settled under Zayn’s chin and he smells overwhelmingly like that strawberry shampoo he favors so much. “I might be a bit lonely. Maybe.” Zayn sighs again and Harry looks up at him, face imploring and needy and honest. “And I wouldn’t mind your company for a few days. I’ll make it fun for you, promise.”

“What would I have to do?” Zayn asks.

“Be my boyfriend, obviously,” Harry tells him. “Like, we have to make it believable.”

“Right.” Right. Zayn feels like he’s probably been halfway to dating everyone in this stupid band for almost three years anyway, so in theory this shouldn’t be much different from anything else they’ve done. “What do I get out of this?”

“Besides getting to date Harry Styles?” Harry’s such a smug shit, Zayn remembers, and he wonders why anyone bothers with him at all. “If you’re lucky I might snog you once or twice. That’ll be nice for you.”

“Oh my God,” Zayn simpers. “Is this real life?”

Harry smiles, bites Zayn’s jaw in retaliation and looks up expectantly. “Is that a yes?”

Zayn’s not really not got much to else to do over this break, and Harry’s good for making breakfast and snuggling and he is a great kisser, not that Zayn would ever tell him. He shrugs and gives up on pretending like he’s anything other than a sure deal. “Yeah, fine. I’ll go steady with you, Harry Styles.”

Harry kisses him then, sloppy and excited and silly. “I’m a great boyfriend, I promise.”

I’m a great boyfriend,” Zayn says. “Gonna woo you, you know.”

“Can’t wait,” Harry says, and yeah, this should be fun, Zayn thinks.


“That sounds like an awful idea,” Liam says. He’s just popped in to say goodbye, his bags trailing behind him and his carry-on digging into his shoulder. He peers at Zayn, his eyebrows all furrowed up and his mouth turned down. “You usually don’t go along with Harry’s ideas. I thought we all agreed Harry only has bad ones?”

They had, and he does, but this one’s simple and Zayn thinks it’ll be fun.

“I thought Louis had beaten all the sensibility out of you,” he says instead. Liam frowns even harder and he deserves a break, Zayn thinks, to get rid of the worry lines digging into his forehead. “It’ll be fine, Li. I’m not stupid.”

“I know you’re not,” Liam tells him. “Harry is though, sometimes.” He shrugs and pulls Zayn into a hug. “Just be careful, yeah?”

Zayn laughs, lets his head rest on Liam’s shoulder and squeezes his middle. “It’s going to be fine, Liam, stop worrying and just say you’ll miss me already.”

“I’ll miss you terribly,” Liam responds easily. He pulls away, patting Zayn on the shoulder with a trace of that awkwardness that still lingers with him. Zayn adores him, really. “I’ve got to go say goodbye to Niall now.”

“Good luck,” Zayn says. “He’s not opened the door for anyone yet.”

Liam raises his eyebrows. “I took his extra keycard when he wasn’t looking,” he says. “And I’m not half as annoying as you lot are.”

Which is true.

Zayn sends Liam off with another hug and promise to not do anything stupid, which he won’t, Liam, please leave before you miss your flight or something.

He thinks about taking the time to pack his own bag, but Harry’s just going to pack all his best jumpers and Zayn has plans to steal them all. Instead he just shoves a few t-shirts in his bag, his favorite beanie and two pairs of jeans. He actually has no idea when they’re leaving, but Harry has a penchant for early flights so Zayn’s sure they’ll be leaving soon.

He’s proven right, just an hour later, when Harry slips in his room again, bundled up in one of his designer coats and a scarf wrapped around his neck and his beanie tucked over his curls. “You ready, then?” he asks, and Zayn slips into his leather jacket and a scarf his mum made for him the last time he was home.

They’re completely mobbed at the airport, cameras flashing and paparazzi closing in on them and their security. Zayn hides behind his sunglasses and keeps his head down, avoiding the accusations and rumors and bullshit being thrown at him. Harry moves behind him, and Zayn figures now’s as good of a time as any to start their little charade. He reaches back and grabs Harry’s hand, tight and secure, and pulls him closer.

“Don’t let go, okay?” he says, and he waits til Harry squeezes back before he starts moving again, one hand on his bag and the other tangled with Harry’s. “It’s a fucking madhouse in here.”

Harry moves in close behind Zayn, close enough that Zayn can feel his body heat, can feel how tense and coiled he’s holding himself under all the scrutiny and Zayn tightens his grip. “I’m okay,” Harry murmurs, pushing in close so Zayn can hear him. “We do this all the time.”

“Hey,” Zayn tells him. “I’m trying to take care of my boyfriend,” and Harry laughs, startled and delighted, and Zayn relaxes once he feels Harry do the same.

They make it through all the people, manage to get to their gate on time and seated with relative ease. Harry is Zayn’s favorite seatmate, because he knows how to talk just enough until Zayn’s not on edge and not enough to set Zayn’s nerves on fire.

“Mum said she’d make something special for dessert since you’re coming over,” Harry says.

Zayn closes his eyes and grips his armrest, trying to stop his fingers from trembling and his breath to stop coming so fast. “Oh yeah?” he manages. “Have you told her why I’m coming?”

“She was, uh.” Harry laughs, low and quiet and familiar. “She said she was glad I’d developed such good taste, actually.”

Zayn leers, smug and obnoxious until Harry nudges him hard. “That’s my mum, you cretin.”

The flight’s easier after that, once Zayn has calmed down and Harry is still and quiet beside him. There’s a moment during lift-off, where the plane jerks and Zayn’s breath catches hard and fast in his throat and he thinks this is it, this is the end, and he’s going to die before they’ve even been nominated for a Grammy or sung They Don’t Know About Us live and that’s Zayn’s favorite. But then Harry’s reaching over and tangling their fingers together again.

He whispers, “’s alright, just breathe, it’s alright,” until Zayn unclenches his jaw and breathes and opens his eyes and it’s just Harry looking back at him, and they’re fine. “Okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” Zayn says. But he keeps their hands together, just in case.


Harry waits until their car idles in front of his house.

“Hey,” he says. He fumbles with his necklace, his long fingers catching on the clasp until it unhooks. “You should wear this.”

He slips it around Zayn’s neck, lets it settle until the tiny paper plane at the end sits just right against Zayn’s chest.

“You’re sure?” Zayn asks. “I’d much rather have your varsity jacket or your class ring.”

Heyyy,” Harry whines. “Are you just going to make fun of me for the next few days?”

Zayn laughs, thumbs away the wrinkle between Harry’s eyebrows and pecks him chaste on the lips once, then twice when Harry smiles. “Nah,” he says. “Just going to keep doing that.”


Anne fawns over them, predictably, when they walk in. She doesn’t say anything about their clasped hands, or Harry’s dopey smile, or the necklace around Zayn’s neck, but Zayn knows better than to take silence for ignorance.

“You’ve gotten even more handsome,” she says, and Zayn sticks his tongue out at Harry over her shoulder, when she pulls him in for hug. “I’m glad to see Harry’s gotten some sense and settled down with someone as lovely as you.”

Harry grumbles from behind her. “I’m lovely, too.”

“Of course you are, darling.”

She shoos them upstairs so she can bake. “It’s a surprise,” she says in response to Harry’s needling, which doesn’t stop until Zayn pulls him up the steps himself. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, boys,” she calls up after them.

Mum,” Harry yells, and he jabs Zayn hard when he laughs. “You said you wouldn’t make fun.”

“I’m done, I swear,” Zayn says. “C’mon then, show me your room.”

Zayn’s never been up here, despite how many years they’ve been best mates. Harry’s room is simple and neat, not like Zayn was expecting anything else. Harry’s probably the neatest of all of them, in that he’s always able to find his clothes the fastest, whereas Zayn gives up and steals everyone else’s and Louis waits for Harry to clean up behind him.

The walls are white and blue, the bed covers to match. Harry’s got posters up on the walls, album covers and magazine covers and newspaper articles. He’s got a little bookshelf by the window, and it’s filled, the books arranged alphabetically and Zayn fingers the spines, the creases that show their age.

“Those are all my favorites,” Harry says from behind him. “Might have to replace most of them soon.”

Zayn reaches to pull one out, The Grapes of Wrath, and stops. “Can I?” and Harry makes some noise of assent.

The cover is worn, soft and used. The pages are straight though, no creases or tears. “I thought you’d be the type to turn the pages down,” Zayn says, happy to be proven wrong, and Harry scoffs.

“’m not a savage,” and Zayn smiles and puts the book back.

Harry has probably a million CDs, if Zayn stopped to count them all. They’re stuck all over the place, on his desk and his nightstand and the top of his bookcase. Some of the cases are a bit dusty, the older ones. There’s rap and R&B and pop and that folksy shit Harry loves so much, with the guitars and the soft voices and Zayn won’t admit it but it’s not all so bad. Maybe.

Harry lets him snoop, pipes up with explanations when necessary

(“Second place in the mock debate,” he says, and Zayn’s eyebrows might fly off his face.

You debated?” He knows Harry’s almost unbearably knowledgeable, but he’s got a voice like honey that’s put to use best when it’s putting Zayn to sleep. “Huh.”

Harry huffs and knocks into Zayn. “I’m persuasive,” he says. “I got you to do this, didn’t I?”)

and there’s

(“Oh my God,” Zayn says. “You got Ed to sign his CD? You’re like his best friend, Harry.”

Harry snatches it away. “It went platinum,” he says. “That’s a big deal.” He slips it back on his desk, underneath some notebooks and papers. “If I kept it at my flat you’d all just laugh about it.”

“Well deserved,” Zayn mutters, but he smiles when Harry glares back at him. “It’s cute, Harry, I’m just playing.”)

and then

Harry’s got a picture of them on his nightstand. It’s in one of those fancy, expensive frames, the kind his mum buys as gifts. Zayn traces it. It’s after the Olympics, all of them giddy with adrenaline and excitement. Zayn’s got his hat on in it, the one the boys had all made fun of him for, but Harry had said it made Zayn look dashing, so he kept it.

“This seems like forever ago now,” he says, quiet. Harry’s smiling at the camera, got Louis and Zayn on both sides of him. Liam and Niall are holding up the ends, and Zayn laughs at how crinkly Liam’s eyes are with how wide he’s smiling.

Harry’s whispering something in Zayn’s ear and he’s laughing, they both are, both still looking shell-shocked that they’d just performed for the entire world.

“That’s my favorite picture,” Harry tells him.


Harry shrugs. “We all look really happy? I don’t know. I think Liam’s about to piss himself with excitement.”

Zayn huffs out a laugh, puts the picture back carefully and stands up straight.

Anne’s calling them downstairs, and it smells like vanilla and chocolate and cinnamon. Zayn moves to leave the room, but Harry’s right there, grinning and broad. He kisses Zayn, presses him up against the doorframe and kisses him until Zayn’s hands come to rest on his hips and Harry’s thighs move to slot in between his own. He bites at Zayn lips, bites the tender skin under his jaw and licks the red mark he leaves behind. Harry pulls back, smiling and his lips pink.

“You look properly snogged now,” he explains, and pushes away from Zayn, easy. “She’ll totally think we were up here being naughty.”

“Right,” Zayn says, breathless, and trails after him.


Anne made vanilla and chocolate swirl cake, and it’s fucking amazing.

Harry makes a show of eating, so it’s up to Zayn to fill her in on what they’ve been up to. He does a great job of it, really, since he usually relies on Liam or Louis to know the details of what they’re doing, or Niall if it’s something specific. He and Harry aren’t good for things like this, but they make it work.

“No, Mum, like, she was inside the trash bin--”

“--but then Louis poured too much detergent in and we actually thought we were going to blow something up.”

“We’ve been trying to convince Paul to let us have a dog while we’re on tour but--”

“--and then me and Harry snuck off to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower but he was so busy staring at Emma Watson that--”

“Hey, I paid more attention than you did. You just--”

until Anne’s red-faced from laughing and Harry and Zayn are shoving at each other to get their words out and Harry’s got a hand over Zayn’s mouth but he keeps talking anyway.

“You two are too cute,” she says. She takes their plates, and Zayn jumps up to help her clean up until she shoves him out. “Go entertain Harry before he starts all that whinging.”

Harry’s curled up on the sofa when Zayn walks back out, his jumper sleeves stretched down over his fingers and his knees pulled up to his chest. “I’m cold,” he whines, and Zayn kisses him, just because he’s a child. “More kisses, please,” he says, and Zayn obliges, pecks all over his face until he’s giggling and trying to hide his face.

Anne brings them out two cups of hot apple cider before she heads up to bed, kisses them both on the forehead and leaves them for the night.

It’s quiet. The fireplace burns and the cider tastes sweet on Zayn’s tongue and warms him up, from his toes, to his belly, to his fingertips. Harry is a solid weight next to him, his eyelids drooping and he slumps against Zayn’s shoulder.

“Wake up, sleepyhead,” Zayn murmurs, and Harry hmphs and shakes his head. “It’s started snowing.”

Harry’s eyes pop open at that, and he’s slinking off the couch and pressing his face to one of the windows, peering out. “D'ya think it’ll stick?”

Zayn joins him by the window, shivering a bit from the chill. “Think so. The roads will be closed if it does, right?”

Harry nods, breath fogging up the glass with how close he is. “We’ll be trapped in here,” he says. “We can bake cookies. Maybe finish that puzzle I was working on last time.”

Zayn roll his eyes and flicks Harry. “Cookies and puzzles. You promised me fun, Styles.”

“It will be fun,” Harry protests. “I think we’ve got sugar cookies. And it’s a thousand piece puzzle, Zayn, I have to finish.”

Zayn lays back on the couch and watches Harry stare out the window, enraptured by the snow.

“I really hope it sticks,” he murmurs, and Zayn pats the space next to him until Harry comes back. “It hasn’t snowed in ages.”

“Wear your jammies inside out,” Zayn mumbles, presses his face into Harry’s legs and shuts his eyes. “Keep your window open for Jack Frost.”

“Or pneumonia.”

Zayn swats him for being difficult, and Harry pins his hands down at his sides. “Be nice to me,” he says, and Zayn’s too tired to argue.

Harry drags him up the stairs and they change into thick pyjamas. Zayn nicks some off Harry, and they’re too long, all rolled up at the ends. The shirt hangs low on his chest and he looks ridiculous like this, he’s sure.

Harry’s like a clingy octopus when he sleeps, Zayn already knows, but add in the cold and Zayn thinks Harry might suffocate him in his sleep. He bears it though, because Harry falls asleep almost immediately, his pretty little mouth hanging out and quiet for once.

Zayn will take it.


Harry kicks in his sleep, Zayn realizes the next morning, when his leg’s throbbing and he’s more awake than he’d like to be. He blinks up at the ceiling, trying to orientate himself before getting up.

The snow’s stuck, he sees, staring down at it from Harry’s bedroom window. There’s a good bit of it, fresh and white and still undisturbed. Zayn pads back over to the bed, shoving at Harry until he groans and turns over.

“’m gonna kill you, Malik,” he mumbles, blinking his eyes open and squinting at the bright morning light. “What do you want?”

Zayn gestures towards the window. “You should get up,” he says. “We can go play in the snow.”

Harry shakes his curls out. He looks so grumpy in the mornings, and Zayn wishes he’d brought his camera. “Can we make snow angels?” he asks, hesitantly excited.

“I was thinking more like snowmen, but sure,” Zayn agrees. “Are you going to get up, then?”

Harry refuses to step outside with less than three layers on. He’s got these legging things on underneath his sweatpants, and he’s wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a hoodie under his coat. He’d found his snow boots in the bottom of his closet, and his scarf is wrapped all the way up to his nose. His hat looks warm and it’s fuzzy, Zayn finds out, when Harry dips his head and asks Zayn to put it on for him.

He shoves a fleece jacket at Zayn, because “You’ll ruin your leather, Zayn, obviously,” makes him put his scarf and hat on. Zayn bundles up dutifully, trudging out in the snow after Harry and sighing over his lack of gloves.

Harry throws himself on the ground, spreading out his arms and legs and he’s giggling, the idiot, like a six-foot child. “C’mon,” he yells. “Snow angels!”

“I said snowmen,” Zayn mutters, but Harry’s out there flailing on the ground by himself so Zayn joins him. He eyes the ground warily, thinks of how wet and how cold he’s going to be later. But Harry’s staring up at him expectantly and so he drops, just like that, flat on his back.

He’s not very good at these, never has been, but he and Harry lay out there for what feels like hours, until Zayn’s arms hurt and there’s snow seeping through his pants.

Harry gets up first, eyeing his work with a critical gaze and a satisfactory nod. He helps Zayn up, murmurs a soft, “Careful,” so Zayn doesn’t mess up his angel. “What do you think?”

“Very, uh, angelic,” Zayn replies.

“Yes, I think so, too.”

Zayn’s a master at making snowmen, so he rolls the three balls and has Harry stack them one on top the other.

(“Slow, Harry, slow I said. Otherwise it’ll get all smushed.”

“You realize that’s okay, yeah?”

“Do it right.”)

Harry runs inside to get a carrot for the nose, and he finds an old hat in the hall cupboard that they set on top too.

“D’ya like him?” he asks, and Zayn thinks hard.

“Seems like he’s missing something.” He unwraps his scarf and ignores Harry’s squawking about the cold. He wraps it carefully around the snowman, doing up the knot and straightening it out. “There. It’s a proper snowman now.”

Anne comes out on the porch and calls them in for lunch not long after, when Harry’s shoved Zayn down in the snow and is sliding clumps of it down Zayn’s trackpants. He stops when he hears his mother’s voice, grins all manic down at Zayn and presses their mouth together. His lips are chapped and his hands are cold where they grip Zayn’s face but it’s nice.

He glances up when his mum walks back in the house. “Think we fooled her.”

“Oh, definitely,” Zayn says. His mouth is tingling a bit, and Harry’s eyes look ridiculously green in the bright light. He can’t help but lean up and kiss him again, until his neck starts to hurt from the strain and the cold becomes too much.

“She already went back in the house,” Harry tells him.

Zayn shrugs. His hands are freezing and Harry looks playful and silly out here like this. “Just trying to make it convincing,” he says.


They make cookies in the kitchen. Sugar cookies, just like Harry said.

Zayn finds baking too time-consuming, too slow to hold his attention. So he spins around in the bar stool round the counter and watches Harry do all the work. Anne keeps peeking her head in, though, so eventually Zayn moves over to sit by the stove where Harry is, makes heart eyes at him until Harry can’t stop laughing.

He holds cookie dough out on his finger for Zayn to lick off, so he does, obscene and obnoxious until Harry’s cheeks are flushed red and Zayn’s mouth tastes too sweet from all the icing. They go on like that, teasing each other until Harry’s finally ready to put the cookies in and they’ve got nothing left to distract them for another twelve to fifteen minutes.

They watch something on TV with Anne, one of those really cheesy and dramatic movies that they always catch Louis and Niall watching on their days off. The storyline is always the same, so Zayn tunes out, lets his mind wander. He’s not thinking of anything in particular, but he catches Anne’s eyes on him, specifically where he’s been nuzzling at Harry’s neck for the past few minutes. Zayn pulls back like he’s been burned, and Anne smiles at him, that smug thing that Harry pulls all the time.

He jumps up when the timer goes off, pulling away from Harry and hurrying off to the kitchen. He feels out of sorts, now, which is ridiculous. This is what Harry wanted, wanted his mum to think he and Zayn were dating, and she does.

Even though they’re not.

Which is fine.


He pulls the cookies out, inhales the sweet scent of sugar and cinnamon and lets them cool on top the stove. Harry and Anne trail in after, and Harry squeezes his waist in greeting, kisses the back of his neck, and Zayn ignores Anne’s eyes because he’s being ridiculous and he knows it shows. He smiles at her instead, innocent and charming, and somehow manages to keep it there when Harry starts decorating the cookies with red icing hearts.


Dating Harry Styles is like dating an old man, is what Zayn comes to realizes over the next few days. And Zayn is helpless to be anything but hopelessly fond.

He demands to be kissed every morning. He pouts when Zayn doesn’t, refuses to leave the bed and frowns until his face seems full of wrinkles and Zayn can’t stop laughing at him.

“I deserve to be loved,” he grumbles, and Zayn rolls his eyes and obliges him.

“You do,” he agrees.

He smells like coconut. It’s-- well, it’s weird and it’s a bit like going to his grandparents house and smelling the air freshener, really. It’s the shampoo Harry uses. It sits on the ledge of the bathtub and it has his name on it and it makes his entire head (and the bed, and his hoodies, and consequently Zayn) smell like coconut.

“Thought you used that strawberry stuff,” Zayn says, squinting at the bottle.

“Only when we’re on the road,” Harry mumbles. He’s concentrating on his reflection, making faces in the mirror as he tries on Zayn’s glasses. “These don’t look very cool on me.”

“They don’t belong to you,” Zayn points out. “Maybe that’s why,” and he grins when Harry starts to pout, because that means he gets to kiss it away.

Just in case Anne might be watching, is what he tells himself. And what he means.

Harry slides the glasses back on Zayn’s face, smiles when Zayn blinks up at him a bit, disorientated. “Like you best like this,” he says.

“Like what?”

Harry shrugs, runs his hands through Zayn’s unstyled hair. “Rumpled a bit. You’re all soft looking with your hair down and your glasses. Cute.”

“I am not soft.” He’s not soft. But Harry’s not listening, too busy dragging Zayn down the stairs and showing Anne how cute he is. Soft, even.

Harry makes them do the puzzle. He dumps all the pieces out on the living room floor in front the fireplace, sitting cross legged in front of the mess he’s made.

“C’mon then,” he murmurs, and pats the floor beside him. “I promised you a good time.”

He pokes his tongue while he works, pink peeking through his stupid, red lips and Zayn wonders if he’s always been this fucking obsessed with someone else’s mouth.

The puzzle takes forever, because it’s a thousand pieces and because Harry is actually really bad at puzzles. Zayn pushes him out of the way and stares the puzzle down, his eyes roaming over every piece of scenery being depicted on the different pieces. There’s an art to this, a mastery that’s he’s determined to achieve, just so he can tell Harry to suck it.

He gets about a fourth of the way done with it before Harry’s gotten bored, but Zayn’s into it now, refuses to budge even when Harry’s headbutting him, pinching his arms and licking him.

“I have to finish this,” he mumbles, and his eyes are starting to glaze over from how long he’s been looking at this thing. “I have to win.”

“There is no winning,” Harry says. He’s getting impatient, Zayn can hear it in his voice, and an impatient Harry is a very unpredictable thing. “Stop looking at that puzzle and pay attention to me.”

Zayn doesn’t listen, obviously, because is that the cloud piece I need, oh my fuck I think that’s the last part of the cloud, I’ve found it and his attention is firmly elsewhere. But then it’s Harry throwing himself on top of Zayn and Zayn will swear on his Drake vinyl that he doesn’t squeal or squawk or scream.

Harry pushes him down on the floor and climbs on top of him, his thighs bracketing Zayn’s. Zayn is expecting something torturous, like tickling or losing his trousers or anything, really, but instead he gets Harry’s mouth on his, hard and rough and Zayn can hardly take a breath with how insistent Harry is. He tastes like sugar cookies and leftover cider and it shouldn’t make Zayn shiver when he pins his wrists up by his head, but it does.

“Better than a puzzle, yeah?” Harry asks, and Zayn’s nodding or something, maybe, because he’s a bit out of it and Harry’s crotch is sliding right over his own.

Fuck,” Zayn murmurs.

Harry lets out a laugh, something deep and intimate against Zayn’s neck. He kisses the skin there, then the other side, slides his mouth down ‘til he’s nipping at collarbone. Zayn tests the grip on his wrists, but that’s solid, and he wishes he could touch Harry, could touch the flush creeping up under the collar of his shirt or pull his curls just to see if--

Anne clears her throat from somewhere by the doorway, and Zayn freezes, but Harry hardly seems fazed.


For show.

“Am I interrupting something?” she asks, and Zayn would like to die. Would like this floor to swallow him up and deposit him somewhere far, far away from this place.

He pulls in a shaky breath, pushing at Harry’s grip until his hands are free and Harry lifts up off of him. He can’t meet either of their eyes so he mumbles, “Just need to use the loo really quick,” and he doesn’t care that Harry’s mum probably thinks he’s about to go wank off or something. He locks the door behind him splashes water on his face.

Zayn looks at himself in the mirror and tries not to notice how fucking turned on he looks. It’s fake anyway, this whole thing, almost like a game for Harry, and Zayn has to remember that. He attempts to fix his hair and he straightens out his glasses, tries to achieve some semblance of composed and not at all interested in pursuing a real relationship with his best mate.

He does a good job, he thinks, because by the time he leaves the loo his mouth is less kiss-swollen and he’s not half-hard in his jeans.

He’s fine. Everything’s fine.


He snoops through Harry’s book collection at night. Harry spreads himself out on the bed, limbs at every angle and Zayn’s usually not tired until late, so he reads.

Harry’s got a lot of the classics. He’s got Catcher in the Rye and Gatsby and A Separate Peace. Zayn likes running his fingers over the bent spines in the dim light of Harry’s room, because it’s quiet and he doesn’t have to worry about dating or pretend-dating anyone.

There’s a new looking copy of Don Quixote that Zayn finds on the bottom shelf. It’s one of his favorites, so he grabs that one, creeps downstairs and settles on the couch with the fireplace blazing. It’s comforting, reading through words he’s read dozens of times before, the warmth from the fire heating his arms and his face and the cider he nicked from the kitchen warming his throat.

Zayn’s not sure how long he stays down there, but it’s long enough that eventually Harry peeks his head in, looking rumpled and sleepy and confused. “What’re you doing down here?” he asks, and his voice is raspy with sleep and Zayn’s only human, really.

He shrugs, shifting over so there’s room for Harry on the couch. “I’m not tired yet,” he says, and Harry kisses him, lazy and slow.

“Missed you,” Harry murmurs, and Zayn sighs because everything is unfair and this is the first time he’s ever thought he should have listened to Liam a bit more carefully. “There was no one to cuddle with me.”

Zayn lays back and lets Harry clamber on top of him. He’s heavy, the arsehole, but Zayn doesn’t complain, because Harry is warm and sleepy looking and cute. “Alright?”

Harry nods, but his face is pensive and he won’t stop staring at Zayn. “Can I ask you something?”

Zayn shrugs, because the last time Harry said that, they’d ended up pretending to be boyfriends. So. “Shoot.”

“Would it make it weird if I want to get off with you?”


“I mean, like,” Harry cuts himself off. Kisses Zayn’s lips and then his nose until Zayn stops frowning and smiles. “That’s better,” he murmurs. “I just mean, like, if you were my boyfriend, which you technically are, I’d want to get off with you.”


Harry laughs, sleepy and slow, and bites at Zayn’s neck, runs his fingers up under Zayn’s t-shirt and holds him through the shiver. “I like kissing you,” he says. “And I would very much like to blow you.”

“Okay,” Zayn gasps. He probably looks ridiculous, pupils gone wide and his mouth hanging open in shock, but he starts fumbling with the waistband of his sweatpants anyway.

Harry might say something, but there’s white noise in Zayn’s head, amplified by the sight of Harry sliding down his body, mouthing at Zayn’s pants and leaving a wet spot over his cock and fuck, this is not what Zayn thought would be happening when he picked up Don Quixote.

Harry slides Zayn’s bottoms off, his sweatpants and his briefs and he strokes a hand over Zayn’s cock, like he’s not already more than halfway to rock hard. Zayn arches up into the touch, closes his eyes when Harry tightens his grip a bit.

“Want your mouth,” he says, and he should expect it when he feels Harry’s tongue on him, but he doesn’t, and it’s amazing. “Fuck, Harry.”

Harry looks up at him, and he’s all green eyes and dark lashes and those fucking pink lips and Zayn has to close his eyes, he has to. He can feel Harry licking up his cock, these little kitten licks that make Zayn’s hips jerk and his fingers clench against the couch cushions.

Harry gets his mouth on Zayn in earnest, his tongue flat as he goes down as far as he can, his nose almost pressed up against Zayn’s skin and his mouth is just sofuckinghot and Zayn bites his lip to keep quiet, to keep Harry’s mum from coming down and seeing this.

Harry spreads his palm over Zayn’s stomach to keep him down, to keep his hips from jerking up. Zayn struggles against it, especially when Harry chokes on Zayn’s dick, taking a bit too much and fuck if that’s not hot, so Zayn lets out this little garbled noise against the knuckle he’s got pressed up against his mouth.

Harry does it again, goes down far enough that Zayn’s cock is nudging the back of his throat, and he hums around it, this contented little thing, and Zayn feels his whole body trembling, coming apart.

“Oh my god,” he groans. “Oh my god, Harry, fuck--”

And Harry’s swallows, laps up the mess and licks Zayn’s cock ‘til he’s shaking and clutching at Harry’s shoulders and it feels like he’s swallowed his own tongue.

“Good?” Harry murmurs, and Zayn wants to kill him, really.

He kisses him instead. Hard. Shoves at his shoulders until Harry obliges and lifts up a bit, so Zayn can shove a hand down his pants.

“You don’t have to,” he says, and like, what.

“Shut up,” Zayn tells him, and he’s kissing away the taste in his mouth, kicking away the taste of himself and stroking Harry’s cock and wondering why they haven’t done this before, ever. “Oh my god, shut up,” and his twists his wrist a bit, smiles when Harry groans and drops his head down, muffled moans at Zayn’s neck.

“’m gonna come,” he says, and Zayn speeds up his hand, bites at Harry lips and his neck and says, “C’mon, I wanna see, wanna see you fall apart,” and Harry jerks in his grip, shaking and gasping and Zayn strokes him through it, relentless. Until Harry’s batting his hand away and breathing heavy against Zayn’s chest.

They both rest there for a bit, sticky and sated and Zayn wonders how he let this happen, really.

“Mm,” Harry sighs. “That was nice, right?”

“Nice. Right.”

Harry kisses him back, and Zayn doesn’t know if it’s meant to feel different, but it does. To him, anyway. Harry pulls back, heavy-lidded and a little smug. “You are my favorite pretend boyfriend,” he says.

Zayn clenches his jaw and tries not to, he doesn’t really want to acknowledge what he’s trying not to do, but his eyes feel tight and his mouth trembles a little anyway. “You’re mine too,” he manages, and Harry gives him that soft, sleepy smile, and Zayn wonders when this got so hard.


(They do the same thing the next night.

Harry finds Zayn on the couch and he slinks on top of him. He’s already got his shirt off this time, and it’s easy for them since they’ve done it once. Their bodies a little more familiar in this regard, so they can touch and tease and feel and it’s easy.

It’s easy.

Zayn manages to smile this time, when Harry calls him his favorite again. He kisses him and says it back, easy and casual, because that’s what he’s meant to do. Because that’s what Harry wants him to do.

They don’t go to sleep right after this time.

Harry brings a rag and cleans them both off. He settles next to Zayn on the bed where Zayn’s got Don Quixote, ready to read ‘til his eyes start to burn and his thoughts trinkle out of his head so he can sleep.

“Got that book because of you,” Harry whispers, quiet in the dim light with just the lamp on. “You mentioned it in an interview once.”

Zayn stares at him. He’s ridiculous, really. What a ridiculous boy. “Have you read it?”

“Haven’t had the time,” Harry replies. “You should read it to me.”

So they do that. Harry leans against Zayn and listens to him read. Listens to

“Remember that there are two kinds of beauty: one of the soul and the other of the body. That of the soul displays its radiance in intelligence, in chastity, in good conduct, in generosity, and in good breeding, and all these qualities may exist in an ugly man. And when we focus our attention upon that beauty, not upon the physical, love generally arises with great violence and intensity. I am well aware that I am not handsome, but I also know that I am not deformed, and it is enough for a man of worth not to be a monster for him to be dearly loved, provided he has those spiritual endowments I have spoken of.”

and he murmurs, “I think you are quite beautiful,” so quiet that Zayn almost doesn’t hear him.)


Zayn finishes the puzzle late on Saturday night.

Harry’s mostly ignoring him, too busy staring out at the fresh wave of snowflakes falling, the delicate way they land on the windowsill and crumple when they hit the ground.

Anne watches Zayn. He’ll deny it with his dying breath, but she’s the one who truly completes the last corner, sneaking her hands in and finding the pieces before Zayn can.

“Finished,” he announces, and Harry comes over from where he’d been writing H + Z on the fogged up window. “And it wasn’t fun in the slightest.”

Harry snorts, stepping carefully over the corners and kissing Zayn once, in congratulations. “You did it, babe,” he says, and Zayn ignores the weird swooping in low in his stomach.

“I did,” he agrees. “What do I get?”

Harry shrugs. “My undying love and affection?”

“You’re an awful boyfriend,” Zayn says, and his jaw clamps shut around the words. It’s not that he can’t say it, but it’s.

It’s not real.

And it feels like he means it when he says it now, which makes him want to go back in time and say no to this entire thing. Makes him want to hurt Harry, want to spit something awful at him until he understands what Zayn’s starting to feel.

“I’m gonna head to bed now, I think,” he says. He stumbles when he stands up, rips his arm away when Harry reaches out to steady him. “I’m fine. Just tired, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Harry says slowly. “D’ya want me to come to bed with you?”

No. “No.” Zayn blinks hard, stumbles out of the room with only a stilted wave at Anne and he doesn’t look at Harry, not once.

He lays in the bed but he doesn’t fall asleep, not for awhile. He hears Harry come in what feels like hours later, feels him hesitate before he gets in the bed, his body hovering near Zayn’s but he doesn’t touch.

“Zayn,” Harry whispers. It’s soft and hesitant and there’s a part of Zayn that wants to reach out and reassure him but he doesn’t. “Are you awake?”

Zayn shuts his eyes and evens out his breathing. Eventually Harry’s does too.

The bed feels huge with the amount of space between them. But Zayn doesn’t close it.

It’s not real.


Harry’s up before him, for once.

He’s flipping through Don Quixote, his eyes flickering over the words and Zayn thinks that this whole thing was an awful idea.

“Morning,” Harry says. He looks tired, and the smile he gives Zayn is half-arsed and fragile. “Mum’s making breakfast, I think.”


Harry sighs, and his curls are all mussed up, so Zayn reaches out and pushes them back, gentle. Harry moves into the touch, his eyes closing and he swallows hard.

“Don’t think this is working out,” he mumbles, and Zayn’s fingers still against his scalp. “The fake boyfriend thing, I mean.”

“Oh,” he says. Did your--” He frowns and tries to make sense of his thoughts. “Did your mum say something?”

Harry shrugs, and Zayn pulls his hand back, holds himself back and closed in. “No. It’s me. I just.” He looks over at Zayn and smiles tiredly. “This was a stupid idea, wasn’t it?”

“Was it?”

“Yes,” Harry says definitely. “I dunno why I cared so much.” He shrugs again, and Zayn could kill him, he could. “Guess we should break up then, yeah?”

“Right,” Zayn mumbles. It sounds hollow in his ears, but he’s having a hard forming any sort of words or thoughts. “So that’s it.”

Harry’s staring at him, like he doesn’t understand why Zayn isn’t playing along the way he wants him to. Zayn could, maybe, if Harry didn’t look so rumpled and soft and Zayn would normally be kissing him right now. Zayn could maybe play along if Harry’s lips weren’t so red and puffy, if Zayn didn’t know what they looked like around his cock.

Maybe he could play along then.

“I’ll just have to think of something to tell mum.” Harry looks fragile in the pale, snow-tinted light, like his skin’s gone translucent and paper-thin and Zayn wants to break him open. Wants to break him.

“Right,” he says instead.

They don’t talk much as they get ready to go downstairs. Harry throws on some sweatpants and a hoodie, and Zayn just walks down in his pyjamas. He doesn’t really care at this point.

Anne has breakfast waiting. She kisses both their cheeks, talks about how the roads are finally clear and that they could go in town if they wanted. Harry answers her, but Zayn’s not listening. He’s trying to choke down the eggs, but they taste rubbery and stick to the back of his throat, inedible. He drinks the juice instead, focuses on the acidic, bitter taste of the orange juice and forces himself to keep it together.

But Harry’s talking and he sounds like nothing’s happened. Like they haven’t been pretending this whole fucking time, even when Harry had Zayn’s cock shoved down his throat, when Zayn sat up and read fucking Don Quixote to him like they were in a goddamn movie or something and Zayn may be sick with how stupid he feels suddenly.

“I’m gonna start packing,” he says. Harry’s still talking, he realizes, but he says it anyway, forces the words out so he can get away from this table. “Think I’m gonna head back early. Maybe.”

Harry’s staring again. He’s always bloody staring and Zayn wants to hate him, he does, but he can’t.

He showers too hot and too fast, the water scalding on his skin and leaving traces of red. He can’t be bothered to care though, can’t be bothered to do anything but pack his clothes up, shoving shirts and worn-in jeans in his bag til it’s full of clothes that may not even belong to him.

He calls a car. Tells it to be fast because he’s in a hurry and he needs to make it out of here as quickly as possible.

Zayn leaves his hair to dry, the ends dripping onto a hoodie that definitely smells like Harry and probably is Harry’s, either way. He shoves his bag over his shoulder and he shuts Harry’s door like they haven’t slept in there for the last few days, like they haven’t been together for the last few days.

You haven’t, Zayn reminds himself. You haven’t.

He slips his glasses on and leaves his hair down and he doesn’t think about the fact that Harry likes him best like this.

He has, like, dignity, and shit. He does.

Harry’s bundled up on the couch when Zayn comes down. He’s in his comfy clothes and he’s soft-looking and ruffled and there’s a space on that couch for Zayn as usual, which is ridiculous. He blinks slow at Zayn standing by the door, his jacket on and his bags packed.

“So you’re leaving,” he says, and it’s not a question, really.

Zayn shrugs. The snow’s let up outside, the roads cleared and that’s a good sign, obviously. A sign he’s taking to mean he should get the fuck out of here. “Not much reason for me to stay any longer, is there?”

Harry winces at Zayn’s tone and he should calm down, probably, should stop acting like a spurned lover or something.

“Just miss home, I guess,” he adds. “Sleeping in my own bed.”

“Right,” Harry says. He’s slow getting up, stretching out his long limbs and Zayn doesn’t look at the sliver of belly that peeks out, doesn’t look at Harry’s sleep-hazy eyes or how small he looks, wrapped up like this, still vulnerable against the morning chill. “Let me walk you out.”

Zayn’s boots crunch over the snow. He bypasses the remnants of their snow angels, the snowman Harry built at the front of the yard and Zayn’s scarf still wrapped around its neck.

“You can take that, you know,” Harry tells him.

“Keep it,” he says. “He’s a Bradford bad boy now,” and Harry snorts and nudges him and Zayn really doesn’t want to leave.

He puts his bag in the trunk of the car that’s waiting, slumps against the door and stares at his snow-covered boots.

“So,” Harry says. He’s still got his blankets wrapped over his shoulders, the bottoms trailing wet in the slush behind him. “Bet you anything mum’s watching us right now.”

Zayn glances up at the house. Anne’s probably peeking out of a window somewhere. “Probably taking pictures, too,” he adds.

Harry laughs and his mouth is bitten raw. From the cold and from kissing and, “We should probably make this good then,” he says.


“The break up,” Harry clarifies. And, oh. “I’ve got to go in and tell her we’re over.”

“Why’d we end it then?” Zayn asks, because he’s a martyr and a masochist and a damn good friend, too. “Was it my fault?”

“Obviously,” Harry says. “You wanted to keep things casual.”

Right. “Right.”

“So, um, this is it, then.” Harry’s so stupid, Zayn realizes. He’s barefoot in the snow and his blankets are wet and it’s Zayn’s fault, apparently, that they’re breaking up. “I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work.

“Me too,” Zayn answers.

He’s got an armful of Harry then, all warm and he smells like sleep and the kitchen and Zayn inhales the coconut shampoo he uses in his hair, because Zayn knows the difference now. He knows that Harry uses the strawberry scent on the road but coconut at home.

Zayn doesn’t get to know that anymore.

“Thanks for doing this,” Harry murmurs, somewhere underneath all his hair and up against Zayn’s neck. He fingers the necklace resting against Zayn’s chest, the paper plane that hangs at the end. “You should keep this, if you want.”

And god, Zayn has to get out of here before he starts talking about what he wants.

“I’ll see you in a few weeks,” is all he says, and he sees Harry still standing in the snow as the car drives off. Watches Harry wave until Zayn can’t see him anymore.

It’s not a real break-up, Zayn knows, but it still feels like one.


He doesn’t get off his couch for three days. Okay, he does. To, like, shower and pee and to answer the door when his food comes. But for the most part he lays on the couch and watches How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days on his television's lowest volume in case the walls have ears.

He tries to avoid his phone. He’s not avoiding anyone, obviously. But he needs just a few days of space before he has to face the boys again, has to laugh and say guess what me and Harry did during the break and hope he can pull it off.

Zayn unpacks his bag finally. He realizes he’s definitely packed more of Harry’s clothes than his own, even somehow managed to leave his leather jacket and his favorite beanie. Zayn contemplates asking Harry to put all his stuff together. His clothes (his Nirvana shirt, even, and his Beatles shirt and about three pairs of underwear) and his hat and his phone charger and his scarf. Zayn thinks Harry could put all his stuff in a box and leave it in front his door to really make everything feel like a proper break-up, maybe.

He doesn’t ask for all that though, because he’s working himself into a proper sulk all by himself and he doesn’t need to add salt to his wound or insult to his injury.

He ends up texting Liam you might have been right and falls asleep on his couch again, alone.


Louis comes over on the fourth day. He’s got enough liquor to have them drunk for days and two tubs of french vanilla ice cream. “Liam told me,” is all he says when Zayn opens the door.

“You hate french vanilla,” Zayn says, when Louis pushes past and unloads the bags on Zayn’s counter. “Like, a lot.”

“It has its upsides,” Louis concedes. “Goes great with rum, for one.”

He hangs his coat up in Zayn’s closet like he lives there and grabs fresh blankets to lay over the couch cushions.

“Come along then,” he says. “I’ve brought The Dark Knight and Spider-Man.”

They watch The Dark Knight first. They do this sometimes, Zayn and Louis, pig out and marathon movies til they fall asleep laid all over each other. It’s nice tonight. Zayn’s bed has been feeling too big and too empty and it doesn’t smell like someone else’s ridiculous fruit-scented shampoo.

They turn on Spider-Man next, and Louis scoops out the ice cream in earnest, both of them cross-legged on Zayn's couch with sticky fingers and sticky mouths and eventually Louis lets Zayn slide down. Til his head's pillowed on Louis' thigh and he doesn't even complain when Louis' sticky fingers card through his hair.

"That Andrew Garfield's got a nice arse," Louis mentions. "He'd be a good rebound, maybe."

He does have a nice arse, is the thing. "I don't need a rebound." He turns on his back, looks up at Louis through sticky strands. "Since when does having a nice arse mean someone's a good rebound?"

And, oh. "And we weren’t actually together, remember? Fake, the whole thing."

"So fake," Louis says, flat. "Especially the part where you guys actually started dating."

Huh. "That never happened, actually."

Louis pulls his hair harder, smiling down when Zayn winces. "Don't lie to your Louis, please."

Zayn sighs. Louis's muted the movie, so Andrew Garfield's swinging round New York City, silent as the devil. He does have a nice arse. "I think I might have accidentally started dating Harry," Zayn admits. "Only he never started dating me back," and fuck, if that truth doesn't sting, a little.

"Idiot," says Louis. "Harry's half in love with everyone he meets. The foundation was already laid, Zayn."

"That doesn't mean he's in love with me," Zayn points out. "But I think I might be. With him. A little." He presses his face into Louis' soft belly and breathes in the familiar scent, nothing like Harry's. This is safer. Nicer. Less likely to break his heart.

"Oh, Zayn," Louis sighs. "What are we going to do with you?"

"Feed me more ice cream. And vodka."


Louis lets Zayn have the last of the french vanilla, scoops it out and tops it off with chocolate and strawberry syrup

("No strawberry," Zayn tells him.

"You love strawberry."


"Fine, no strawberry.")

and those cherries, the sweet ones that dye Zayn's mouth red.

He pours some rum over it too, because, “It’s like syrup,” he says.

Zayn goes along with it anyway, not caring when it burns his throat and chest and dribbles down his chin and Louis licks it off, licks Zayn’s nose for good measure, too.

“’m pathetic,” Zayn says.


Zayn nearly falls asleep on the sofa, full on ice cream and sugar and liquor and his own self-pity. His head’s swimming a bit and his limbs feel heavy but Louis’s right there, and Zayn doesn’t have to pretend to be okay. Not right now. “I was a good boyfriend,” he mumbles.

“Harry said you were,” Louis agrees. He’s full on petting Zayn now, laid all the way back with Zayn pulled up against his chest. “Think it’s time for you to go to bed, babe.”

Zayn goes easy, lets Louis strip his clothes off and wash his face and

“Open,” Louis says.

Zayn bares his teeth, lets Louis brush each one and he bites the brush, playfully, spitting when Louis instructs and rinsing his mouth out dutifully.

The sheets in his bed smell like smoke and Zayn’s favorite cologne and Louis now, where he’s rolling around on the mattress. He’s soft and warm, his scruff rough against Zayn’s skin. He flips off the light and they lay there, the two of them, breathing quiet and steady.

“I’m sorry,” Louis murmurs eventually. “We should have told Harry this was a bad idea, maybe.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Zayn agrees. “D’ya--” He swallows hard. He’s not even sure what he wants to say. He just knows that Louis’s here and it’s nice and warm and it feels good to sleep next to someone, but Zayn misses Harry, misses his heavy limbs at night and having to steal back the covers and his perpetual frown in the mornings. “Harry’s an idiot,” he whispers fiercely, and if he cries, just a bit, over how stupid they both are, Louis doesn’t mention it.

Louis is quiet, hands steady around Zayn’s waist. Zayn thinks he’s gone off to sleep until he says, “You can fake-date me, if you want. Make Harry really jealous.”

“Think I’ll pass on all the fake-dating for now,” Zayn tells him. “It’s a bit shit, if you ask me.”

“Yeah, a bit.” Louis sighs, pulling the covers up a bit more. “Go to sleep now, okay?”



Zayn’s got an awful headache when he wakes up, made worse by the light streaming in through the blinds and the banging coming from his kitchen which, uh, shouldn’t be happening.

The other side of the bed’s empty, which means that Louis’s out there attempting to cook and maybe Zayn is sulking, yeah, but damn if he’s going to let Louis cook any food in his kitchen. He’s a little shaky getting out of bed, his stomach rolling once or twice before it settles and Zayn takes a deep breath to steady himself.

He follows the smell of eggs and waffles and it’s suddenly and awfully clear that it’s definitely not Louis in there. Louis can’t boil water, much less cook a full breakfast. Harry can though, and Zayn can hear him humming along to something stupid, the radio on and he’s probably dancing around, like he does.


He makes a detour to the loo, empties his bladder, stares at his reflection. He wishes he had time to shower and make himself look pretty, just to spite Harry really, because Zayn’s apparently that petty now. He doesn’t though, so he just runs water over his face and brushes his teeth before he knows he’s been in here too long and Harry probably knows he’s awake.

Harry is dancing in Zayn’s kitchen, mouthing lyrics into a spatula and sliding across the tiled floor in just his socks. His side hits the edge of the counter, and he uses it as momentum to fall to his knees at the crescendo of the song, his arms spread wide and his head tilted back.

Zayn loves him, is the thing. The stupidest, most ridiculous thing.

“You’re an idiot, you know?” he says, and watches Harry startle, the spatula falling to the floor and two spots of red flushing bright and high on his cheeks. “What are you doing here?”

Harry gestures at the stove, where the waffles are probably burning by now and the eggs are surely turned rubbery and inedible.

(Zayn knows he will eat them anyway.)

“I was cooking you breakfast,” he says. He frowns at the smoke billowing up from the pans. “Yeah, I was definitely cooking you breakfast.” He turns the stove off and spins back around so he’s facing Zayn and he gives them this awful little smile, unsure and uncertain and wary.

“What were you planning on doing after cooking me breakfast?”

“Um.” It’s nice to see Harry flustered like this. Stupid in a way that Zayn has felt these last few days. “Apologizing. Like, massively apologizing.”

Zayn sighs and goes to put the kettle on. Harry takes a seat at the counter, his legs swinging back and forth and he looks so dumb and youthful here. Innocent, almost. “You don’t have to apologize, Harry.”

“Don’t be stupid, of course I do,” he says. “I hurt you and I broke up with you and--”

“You didn’t.”

“I did,” Harry tells him firmly. “I broke up with you because I’m kind of an idiot, apparently.”

Zayn doesn’t say anything, because he’s not going to refute that obviously, and Harry comes to stand next to him, their shoulders pushed together and Harry’s hand pressing tentatively into the small of Zayn’s back.

“You were a very nice boyfriend,” Harry mumbles. He wraps both arms around Zayn’s waist, so it’s easy for him to pull Zayn in. “And I was a very stupid one. ’m sorry for that.”

“I was a great boyfriend,” Zayn agrees. “Like, the best, even.”

Harry nods, and pulling back a bit, so he can look at Zayn. His mouth’s red, and he’s wearing Zayn’s shirt and he doesn’t smell like strawberries or coconuts. He smells like--

“You stole my shampoo?”

“You left it,” Harry corrects. “You took all my things and left your own.” He bites his lip and stares at Zayn and he looks so dumb and honest. “Mum asked why’d you left and she didn’t believe me when I told her you’d broken up with me.” He shrugs, grabs at Zayn and tightens his grip and doesn’t let go. “She said that was impossible, because she could tell that you were just as stupid about me as I was about you.”

Zayn kisses him then, because Harry’s so stupid, they’re both quite stupid, but they’re less stupid like this, together. He pushes til Harry’s back is against the counter and it’s probably digging into his skin, but Zayn doesn’t care because he is never letting him go.

They kiss ‘til the kettle starts whistling and Zayn’s lips feel a bit numb and Harry’s shirt is rucked up. “Just so we’re clear,” he says, “no more fake dating.”

“No more fake dating,” Harry agrees. “Can I actually make you breakfast now, though? It’s the only way I know how to apologize.” He tilts his head, frowning adorably and Zayn has missed him something awful. “That and sex.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Zayn tells him while Harry’s all, “no, please stop talking, of course I do,” so Zayn lets him go back to the stove eventually.

He’ll take him up on the sex later, because it’s still early and they’ve got nothing to do for the next few days and Zayn doesn’t have to rush anything. Because Harry is here, Harry wants him and everything is real this time, so Zayn will enjoy it.